Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Hump Day Help! The Little White Dress

Its Wednesday again and that means irrepressible hump day style at All Kinds of Pretty. Last week in my desperate shopping spree, I not only bought shoes, I bought a bunch of dresses. The first three were so credulously ill-fitting and awful I refused to even snap a photo of them. Suffice it to say that one of them was a modified halter top TIE-DYE toga dress. Can you even begin to imagine? The other was decent enough – a green floral number whose over-done furbelows I was ready to forgive except that it was really just too short.

The last from Urban Outfitters was gorgeous, cream-colored, racer-back, with netting cut-outs and lace and I LOVE IT but sadly it was way way too tight in the bust. I knew this when I bought it but I bought the damn thing anyway.

However, it appears I was honing in on my ideal dress because the day before my reading, I found the right dress at a local boutique. I present to you: the little white dress.

I wished at first it had a little something more to it – some color at the hem or floral trim at the empire waist. But really, sometimes you shouldn’t screw with simplicity. I love the neckline of this dress, I love the skirt, and I love the fact that you can go crazy with jewelry, or a vibrant colored cami underneath or a crazy pair of shoes.

Plus, as my cousin pointed out when she saw the dress, it is not unlike the dress Maria wore in West Side Story, without the gorgeous red sash. And without me being Natalie Wood. Yes, I think I must be half mad to put a picture of myself next to a picture of Natalie Wood. But fashion makes us do crazy things.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The End of Summer Loving

Summer issue of the Park Slope Reader is out, complete with a new Dispatch from Babyville about my love-hate relationship with summer in the city. Click here to read The End of Summer Loving

Or, if you're too damn hot and lazy to click over, well, I'll reward you by pasting the essay below.

By Nicole Caccavo Kear

Every June, I start a hot and heavy love affair with Summer in the City. I'm smitten with his seemingly endless sunlight and the opportunity he gives me to wear open-toed shoes. I can't get enough of sitting on the stoop while the kids play hopscotch and blow bubbles. The jubilation that comes with no more pencils, no more books is infectious, because even though school is out, I've shelled out the cash for a few weeks of summer camp. The sprinklers are on! There's an ice cream truck on every corner! Fish are jumpin' and the cotton is high.

In July, the honeymoon comes to an end. The novelty of sprinklers has worn off and I begin to wonder what's in that soft serve my children are consuming in large quantities. The kids don't blink an eye at the sight of an available swing at the playground. Noses get burnt because I forget to re-apply sunscreen. The flame between City Summer and I is still very much alive but it does require some fanning. So I take the kids to fancy Manhattan playgrounds with sculpture gardens and unconventional climbing apparati. We step up our playdate game. We launch a lemonade stand.

Then comes August. When August hits the city, the living is not easy. Your daddy's not rich and your mama's not good-looking (though, for the record, she could be, in a season with less humidity and fewer bikinis). Camp is long over and I am on Mommy duty all day every day with a pair of tired, overheated whiners who regard everything with the bored expression I imagine Louis XIV had after he built Versailles. I realize that toddlers crap in the playground sprinklers and there's probably a raging case of cox sackie on the way. I want to throw Mr. Softie and his infuriating jingle into the East River.

Yes, by the first week of August, the passion that once burned so hot, so bright between City Summer and I is utterly extinguished. I know, for certain, that it's not going to work out. I just don't feel the same way about him anymore. Everyone else has walked out on him, to their country houses and vacation destinations, and now I see why.

All I really want is a trial separation in the form of a beach getaway, but since I have no money or connections to people with Hampton houses, I am trapped. So I agree to give my relentless beau one last chance. I plan a stay-cation.

Like deciding to move in with a boyfriend to save the relationship, the stay-cation seems like a good idea, but it isn't. The behavior that annoyed you before becomes intolerable, your few remaining stores of goodwill are quickly depleted, and you end up with a really nasty breakup.

Which is precisely what happened between City Summer and I last year. The breakup took place in the climactic moment of our stay-cation, when David and I took the kids, 4 and 2 years old, to the Statue of Liberty.

I feel a special affection for Our Lady of the Harbor. My grandmother immigrated to America 52 years ago, and she has described many times the way her heart was seized with joy when she caught sight of Lady Liberty as her boat pulled into port. Whenever we cross the Brooklyn Bridge, the kids yell "Hello!" to the great green girl. We have a large, artsy print of her hanging in the front entrance of our apartment. We know all sorts of trivia about her construction, gleaned from watching Ken Burns documentaries as a family. So we were genuinely jazzed to set foot on Liberty Island.

The good news is, I gained newfound appreciation for how my grandmother felt on that boat squeezed among sweating hordes with her two hot, hungry, tired children. In particular, I now have a real understanding of those famous words inscribed on Lady Liberty's pedestal, "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free."

"I always thought it was 'be free,'" I told David.

"Me too," he replied, "But now it makes sense. After riding in that boat I am actually yearning to breathe free. It really smelled like crap."

The stench and the heat were only the first of many nails hammered into the coffin of my love for City Summer. There was also:

The pulling of a double stroller up crowded ferry stairs, provoking expletives in every language, just so the kids could stand on the deck and feel the bay breeze in their hair.

The wrestling with a toddler who, inspired by said breeze, wants to jump overboard for a little dip.

The consoling of a terrified preschooler after he is forced to walk through a high-tech security gate that blasts him with puffs of air (how can you be sure it isn't poison, the kid wants to know).

The breakdown of all sanity when after arriving to blazing hot, overcrowded island of Liberty, both children report that they are too tired to walk up any steps and demand to be carried.

The epic quest to secure a photo of all four of us in which we are not yelling at the kids or the kids are not yelling at us, so that we can always remember this glorious day (a big thanks to the stranger who snapped the one decent picture horizontally so that the only glimpse of the magnificent icon is about a quarter of her pedestal)

All of which culminated in my yelling, like I had an important announcement for all to hear: "I AM NEVER HAVING ANOTHER CHILD!"

And that was when I broke up with Summer in the City.

There was a week left in August, but we spent it in our air-conditioned apartment, reading books, drawing pictures and watching PBS. Finally, Labor Day arrived, and City Summer agreed to give me some space, which was convenient seeing as I'd started a dalliance with autumn. Could you blame me? September, that hunky stud, puts my kids back in school. He's downright irresistible.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Graduation time: do you have a tissue?

I am a crier. Not in the sense of someone who makes announcements for the town but in the sense of a person who weeps often, especially for joy. Yep, I cry for joy a lot, so much so that when Primo was about 3 years old, I remember he went to school and saw a picture in a book of a woman crying and the teacher asked what she doing doing and he said “She’s crying for joy.”

When it comes to baptisms, weddings and graduations, I am like a woman preparing a shitload of French onion soup. I realize that in can freak my kids out when I start to publicly bawl, and it’s pretty damn embarrassing for me too, so I try to restrain myself but I am a highly emotional creature and sometimes I just can’t cut off the waterworks. Since it is graduation time, there has been a lot of tearing up lately.

At Seconda’s graduation, I was all kinds of choked up. The two women that teach the two and three year-olds at their Montessori are actual saints. They are the very pinnacle of teacher-dom; kind, caring, and firm, they really embrace each child for who they are, exactly who they are, faults, idiosyncrasies, peccadilloes, the whole kit and caboodle. I mean, I can’t even afford the same level of acceptance and generosity to my own husband and they afford to every kid in their class. You honestly get the sense that EVERY child is their favorite child, and that they genuinely love their jobs, that they enjoy spending their days with a room full of 2 year-olds. And frankly, they manage the kids so impeccably that I enjoy spending time in their room of 2 year-olds. Outside of that classroom, I can’t take more than one two-year old around me at a time without wanting to pull my hair out but in their little Xanadu, the kids are kind, helpful industrious. They share. They work quietly. They say please. I don’t know what those teachers have coursing through their blood that makes them so calm and supportive but if I could buy it on the black market, I would.

I’ll put it to you this way. I am not the only parent who told them that I’d consider having another baby just so I could get to come back to their classroom.

So when it was time to say goodbye, Seconda was totally fine and I was wiping my eyes like a sap, giving the teachers over-long hugs like a weirdo. I love those guys. It is the end of an era now that my baby’s been through their classroom.

Primo just had his Kindergarten graduation, too, and although it’s not been as smooth sailing this year for him, thanks to a few persistent playground bullies, I nonetheless started to tear up when he walked over with his official diploma.

“Mommy is so proud of you.” I wept, “You’re such a big boy.”

In these graduation moments, I can’t help but see how quickly time is passing. I remember with a keen clarity the very first time I saw my baby boy, I remember pinching his toe to make sure he was still breathing and being too scared to change his diaper. And now he’s finished Kindergarten. Next year, he’ll be in an official, numbered grade with no “Kinder” to indicate that he is still a little boy. Next thing you know he’ll be packing the car to drive off to college and I’ll be making a huge, ridiculous scene with my mascara running, chasing after the car, yelling, “You’re still my baby! You’ll always be MY LITTLE BABY!!!!!!”

So not cool.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Global Cooling

Ok, so its officially hot. Its you-can-fry-an-egg-on-the-pavement, can't-take-my-ring-off-my-finger, heatstroke hot. And you know what I like to do when the going gets hot?


Yeah, I'm a real sucker for a popsicle and the like. And since I live in the greatest city in the world, I don't need to settle for Mr. Softie. I do, 90 percent of the time, make no mistake, because who has the money or stamina to do otherwise, but still, for that 10 percent of the time when you want something special, you can avail yourself of an ice cream from some far-off part of the world, right here in New York. I just wrote a piece about international ice cream for the current issue of Time Out NY Kids which you can read here, and believe you me, this was my kids' favorite article I've ever written.

They are still talking about the shave ice with marshmallow fluff. Ahhhhhh . . . . .

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Desperate shopping

You know its’ been a hell of a hump day when I don’t even get around to posting my Hump Day Help on All Kinds of Pretty til the next day. With my daughter out of school, the hump has been more steep than usual and it took all of my powers to get over it. But here I am, better late than never, and as it turns out I’M the one who needs help. Fashion advice, I mean.

This past week, I went on a shopping spree, in order to find something I could wear to a reading I did on Tuesday night. It was desperate shopping. You know what I mean -- when you have an event to go to and nothing to wear and no time to really get into it, so you just madly dash around, paying way too much money for shit that doesn’t even look good on you? My favorite is when I buy stuff that I know FULL WELL requires a super-specialized undergarment which I do not own, but I hand over my credit card anyway because I’m desperate and I think maybe I’ll have the time to undertake a NEW search for the perfect undergarment to go under this overpriced, unflattering dress. I don’t know why I think I’d have the time to do this if I don’t have the time to head to a store where I could actually find a dress in my price range that looks good on me. And of course, I am not able to procure the necessary strapless/ racer-back/ seamless bra and so the dress remains in the bag and I end up wearing some old number that I’ve worn a hundred times, my back up dress. And then when the event is over and it occurs to me that I have a bunch of expensive dresses that I can have to return, I realize that since I bought them at little boutiques near my house, I have already gone over the week grace period for money-back returns and now much accept store credit. Which wasn’t part of the plan.

So this week I bought three dresses that looked just perfectly AWFUL on me – didn’t even fit, actually, what was I even THINKING? In addition to which, I purchased a new pair of shoes which I like, I really do, but when it came time to put them on for my reading, I opted not to. I just didn’t like them ENOUGH. I didn’t like them better than my back-up shoes – the pink satin Bottega Venetas I always wear. And as I still have four days left before I am stuck with the shoes permanently, I’d like your advice.

To keep or not to keep?

You're looking at the Chelsea Crew Carla Dance Class Heel, $69

What prompted me to buy these is the color also the heel, which gives you a nice lift and the feeling of wearing heels, but is low enough that I thought I’d be enticed to wear them even when I didn’t feel like making the full commitment to stilettos. The website calls it a “dance heel” which sounds about right. The cons – I don’t really have $69 to spend on a shoe I didn’t even wear for the occasion I bought it for. And also I am worried the criss-cross-edness will give me insane blisters. These ain’t no Saltwater sandals (which incidentally I am wearing right now and they feel positively dreeeeeamy).

I was thinking of exchanging them instead for these adorable little shoes, same price, which are more casual and which I think I might get more use out of. They even have them in red, and you know how I feel about red shoes in the summer.

What say you, readers?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Oh no he didn't!

The kids have had a rough week sleep-wise. There was the day Seconda decided to wake at 3am and start her day nice and early. And I don’t know what’s in the air but the nightmares have been turned on full-force, and one or the other child has woken up at least one a night screaming from bad dreams. Poison! Fire! Monsters!

Over the weekend, Primo woke at 4:45am, and I quickly ushered him into our bed, because if he’s awake alone, there’s a chance I can get him to go back to sleep, or at least watch TV while we sleep but if he wakes his sister, we are not only up shit’s creek without a paddle but without a boat. We will DROWN in shit’s creek if both he and his sister are awake. So I brought him into bed with us and he did doze off but slept so fitfully it was really hard to tell he was asleep.

“NO!” he yelled in his sleep, “DON”T LET SECONDA GET IT!!”

I find it hilarious that he spends his sleeping hours worrying about the same thing he does while awake. Must keep the prized possessions away from ratty kid sister. This is the stuff that (bad) dreams are made on . . .

So, what with all this, I woke this morning dog-tired. You know when you get so tired that nothing can wake you -- even the children jumping on you in bed and screaming as they kick and punch each other and reporting to you that their brother or sister is eating an entire box of cookies. That’s how tired I was.

David came home from his workout to find me still in bed. He brought me a cup of coffee and I slowly began to join the land of the living.

“I am just SO TIRED.” I moaned, “I don’t know why.”

Which was just something to say, not true at all. Of course I do know why, precisely why and the reason for my fatigue is my kids wake me up all night with piercing screams of pain and agony.

But instead of assuring me that I had plenty of good reason to be tired, my husband, issued a highly ill-advised reply.

“Well’’, he said, “You’re not as young as you used to be/”

Gasp. Horror. Not even employing the courteous “we” as in “we’re not as young as we used to be.” Just a

balls-out announcement before 8am, before I’ve even gotten to the half-way point in my coffee, that I am OLD.


He then continued on, in a perfect example of adding insult to injury: “And your metabolism is slowing down.”

“WHOA!” I cried,“Whoa now! Why do you need to bring my METABOLISM into this? I don’t see how that’s material whatsoever. There’s no call for that, no call for that at all.”

“I just mean –“

“Maybe you just shouldn’t say anything else, while I ponder on those nuggets for a while.”

Has this man never met me before? Is this our first time at the rodeo?

I think it was a teachable moment. For him, the lesson was, never throw around the word metabolism without serious forethought and certainly not in the same sentence as “you’re not as young as you used to be.” And for me, maybe a little less complaining, much as I do cherish it. I was born to kvetch. But, I guess, that’s what blogs are for.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Freaky. Franky Father's Day

On Saturday morning, I asked David if he wanted to go to Home Depot before I headed into the city with Primo for the exciting conclusion of the avant-guard Pinocchio theater workshop for children.

“So I guess you haven’t planned an exciting getaway for us this weekend, then?” he replied.

“What?” I asked.

“Here I’ve been thinking you’ve haven’t said anything about what we’re doing on Father’s Day weekend because you were busy planning a big surprise,” he said, “And actually we’re just going to Home Depot."

“Oh, wow, sorry to disappoint,” I said, “We don’t have to go to Home Depot if you don’t want to. But yes, by now it must be apparent, no getaway. However, I have left tomorrow WIDE OPEN and we can do anything your heart desires!”

I’m not sure if it was everything his heart desired but we had a nice Father’s Day in the great Island of Coney.

We missed the Mermaid Day Parade which was on Saturday, but Sunday was a beautiful beach day – slightly overcast, not too crowded. We beat the crowds at Nathan’s by eating at 10:30am, indulging in what David has termed the hot dog breakfast – not an “everyday treat” I told the kids, but since it was Father’s day . . . Then off to the beach where the kids played merrily together for a half hour - incredible! I guess the universal appeal of sand can bridge all sibling difference. It took at least that long to get the sand off of Seconda, who is fond of doing headstands in wet sand. Then off to Deno’s where the kids got to ride Dizzy Dinosaurs, the flying elephants and – my personal favorite – the motorcycles! The sight of those motorcycles, the lurching sound of them, the feel of the scorching metal, takes me way back to my childhood days.

And then, as a special Father’s Day treat, Seconda agreed to ride the Wonder Wheel with David. This is momentous. We are a couple who love the Wonder Wheel, but our kids have never been old enough to take a ride. Or they were old enough, like Primo, but were just too freaked out to take the leap. We couldn’t convince Primo to go on this time either, so I stayed earth-bound with him and David and Sec took to the skies.

Oh, dear sweet island of freaks and franks! One-stop shopping for summer fun.

Then, in the evening, I did take David on a mini-surprise date, out to dinner at this new gastro-pub he’s been wanting to try. It wasn’t a weekend at the Riviera but the burgers were tasty and we got to hold hands on the walk over.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

True Story

You may recall the night, a few months ago, when my kids woke to start the day at 4:30am. Well, my daughter has beaten that record. And I hope her brother doesn’t try to outdo her.

She woke at 3am and DID NOT GO BACK TO SLEEP.

I can tell you think I’m exaggerating. I’d think I was, if I wasn’t there in the room watching her wriggle around and sing softy for THREE hours in – literally—the middle of the night. I thought to myself, “There is no way the child won’t go back to sleep. It’s not a borderline situation, the kind that occurs at 5am, where some people might actually consider it early morning. At no point in the year does the sun EVER consider 3am to be morning. And the sun is a morning expert."

. I tried to point this out to Seconda. I showed her the darkness that lay around us. I kept repeating the phrase “middle of the night.”

She was unconvinced. And I know why. Primo was also awake at 3am -- in fact I think it was his blood-curdling nightmare scream which woke her. And when Sec sees that Primo is awake, she will not stand down. She does not want to be duped into sleeping when he is awake. This is why she dropped her nap just after turning 2. So while Primo was coaxed back to sleep, she was not.

To her credit she stayed pretty still and quiet, but I knew she was awake because sleeping children do not sing all the words of “Whole New World” on repeat play,

It's pretty awful when you know, at 5:45 am that how you are feeling, after having been awake for three hours, is the best, is the most well-rested you will be feeling all day From that point on, your perkiness will only get more and more degraded, not only because you will have been awake more hours but because you will be taking care of a three year-old who STARTED HER DAY AT 3AM! A child who is intractable on a full night’s sleep does not grow more manageable after half a night’s rest.

But I did manage to do two things which saved my ass. A. I sent her to her Nonnie’s at 5:45 for two hours and got to sleep then (Nonnie had been up for hours, incidentally, and already cooked a pot of marinara sauce).And B. I miraculously persuaded her to take an hour nap at 2:30pm by telling her I would not take her to the end-of-the-year class party if she didn’t. I literally can’t remember the last night she napped in a place outside of the car, but I guess that’s what waking at 3am will do to a gal.

The only upside to these abysmal sleeping habits is that it affords me more of an opportunity to feel like a martyr. And I’ll have better baby stories to regale her with when she’s grown and brings boyfriends over for dinner.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Holy Grail of Sandals!

It is Wednesday and I'm stepping up to the plate at All Kinds of Pretty. I’m scrambling to meet a deadline with my daughter at home because her school’s already over (way to have my back, Montessori). My son’s been up half the night with a hacking early-summer cough, and when he’s up, you can guess who else is, too. I need two things: coffee and something to wear that makes me pretty and requires absolutely no effort.

Thankfully, I can get the turbo-dose of easy pretty I need. On Saturday, I found the Holy Grail of sandals. Yes, the quest is over. Call off the dogs. I’ve got the shoes in my possession; in fact I’m wearing them right now.

Saltwater Sandals.

Why do I wax so rhapsodic? Glad you asked:

1. They look great. In the five days since I bought them, at least half a dozen ladies have stopped me to ask me where I got my sandals. They come in a few colors – my local store carried navy, brown, silver and red. Silver is super cute but I could not resist the bright red. I generally feel that just the way a bride needs something blue, a woman in general needs something red on her person at all times. It’s bold. It’s unapologetic. It says, “Watch out suckers ‘cause here I come.”

2. They cost $39.99. I defy you to find a pair of sandals much cheaper than that: even at Wal-Mart.

3. They are the most comfortable sandals that have ever graced my foot. Now this is a big deal. I dread buying sandals because the people who design them usually have sadist leanings. Either that, or they are in cahoots with the Band-aid manufacturers. The straps that burn! The criss-crossing pieces of leather than saw at your soft foot flesh! The endless blistering! And while we’re on the subject, can anything ruin the aesthetic appeal of a beautiful pair of new sandals quicker than having all your toes wrapped in band-aids which inevitably became dislodged and then flap around in a filthy state of decrepitude? All I have to say is, I have no t had a single blister with these shoes. It’s a sandal miracle!

4. You can wear these shoes in the water. Let me rephrase that – not only can you wear them in the water, the company encourages you to do so. Get them wet in saltwater and they will customize to your foot. I’m not sure precisely what that means or why its’ so great but it is a big plus if you find yourself frequently in the sprinkler area, as I do.

And, oh, one last thing, Saltwater make kids’ versions too so you can, were you s o inclined, buy matching shoes for your child. The kiddie ones are even cuter and more irresistible although I do confess that I don’t spend over $20 for kid shoes so I may have to wait to score some hand-me-downs for the little one. Besides, he already has triple the number of shoes I do, that little fashionista. Sometimes, even a mother had to take care of number one.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Lord of Bats and Lady of Darkness

Though it is delightful and fulfilling to have the experience of mothering both a son and a daughter, there are some challenges to having a child of each gender. One problem is that they have trouble finding a game they both like to play. Not that my son is an archetypal boy or that my daughter is an archetypal girl – far from it, really – but still their interests are different. She likes to play twisted princess pretend – "EAT THE POISON APPLE MOMMY! EAT IT!!” and he likes to draw figures from Greek myths for hours at a time.

But, at long last, my children have found a game, one single solitary game, that they both enjoy. It is called “the Lord of Bats and the Lady of Darkness and Thunder Game.”

They both put on sunglasses and as many other weird accoutrements as they can find – tablecloths draped around their shoulders, sweatbands on their arms and underwear on top of their clothes. Then they run around shouting about how they are going to wreak havoc on Earth.

As far as I can tell, this game relies heavily on announcing their titles over and over again.

“I am the LORD OF BATS!!”



“Wait, Primo, I have to do peepee! Don’t rule the Earth until I come back, OK?”

“Ok but hurry up.”

When she gets back from the bathroom, they announce their titles again and their master plan for world domination. They’ve never gotten much further than that because it takes so long to get into their outfits, and what with a break for peeing and all, it’s already been five, six minutes by the time they reach this point. And six minutes is an absolute record for playing nicely. After six minutes, tops, someone inevitably says, “That’s MY evil SCEPTER!” and it’s all downhill from there.

But still, its reason to hope. Maybe one day they’ll learn to stand each other’s company long enough that I can load the entire dishwasher or write a whole email. I dare to dream.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Three-Legged Race

On Saturday we went to an old-school kiddie birthday party in Prospect Park, full of field-day type games and races, including the three-legged race. The children were not familiar with the concept of the three-legged race and it took them a while to catch on, though they had a lark of a time in the process. Primo’s leg was tied to that of his best friend Leigh, the girl who got his first mix tape, and with whom I once heard him comparing the work of Roald Dahl and Walt Disney. They hadn’t figured out yet hoe to move their shared leg at the same time so one or the other was always on the ground while the other one dragged the fallen one around by their ankle.

As we stood there watching this spectacle, David observed: “This, right here, is a metaphor for marriage.”

“Yeah,” I said, “They’ve tied themselves together and as a result, one or the other is constantly falling down, while the other one forcibly drags them against their will forward.”

“Sometimes the falling down is fun and sometimes it painful,” said Leigh’s mother, “And there's no prize at the end except having made it through without serious injury."

Yep. Sounds about right.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Be Nice

I do not have “nice children.” My children are often kind, and sweet: they are affectionate and loving and they are funny as hell. They are – and lets be honest here – stunningly beautiful and also smart. But they are not very nice.

I am thinking of this because of two incidents that happened recently, neither particularly notable (rest assured, though, I will detail them both for you).

Yesterday I was waiting for some copies at Staples and while I consulted with the man doing the copy job, I let Sec explore a bunch of little bins filled with tiny erasers, rubber band balls and mini markers, keeping an eye on her from a few feet away. When I was done, I walked over to her and a man working at Staples, noting that I was the mother who belonged to this kid, smiled and said, “She is very rude.”

He didn’t say it in a mean or critical way, just as though it was a matter of fact. And strangely, I wasn’t at all offended. It is true, she is rude. So I simply asked, “What did she go to you?”

“I told her not to make a mess and she told me to go away.”

Yep, that sounded just about right.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” I replied, and then turning to Sec. I said, “That was very rude. You shouldn’t say such unkind words to people. Now let’s pick up this mess and get out of here.”

And that was that.

Today, I was dropping Seconda off at school. We were running late and I was trying to move drop-off onto the fast track. Except Sec did not want to get out of her stroller. She was too tired.

“But you don’t have to walk ANYWHERE,” I said, “We’re already here. We are at your school. You just have to walk into the classroom/”

“I am too TIRED,” she whined.

“Maybe you shouldn’t have woken up at 5:30 in the morning!” I pointed out, not terribly nicely myself.

Then one of the dads of her classmates saw us and, trying to be helpful, said to Sec: “Hey, will you do me a favor? I forgot to give Max his cup. Do you want to bring it to him, in the classroom?”

“No,” she said immediately.

He looked at me, and started, “I thought – “

“I know,” I replied, “And it would work with many children. But my daughter is not enticed by the idea of helping anyone or handling responsibility well. She has zero interest in doing people favors. Thanks anyway.”

So I picked up my three year-old and carried her into the elevator which takes us to her classroom.

In the elevator was another little girl and boy, just Sec’s age. I stood there, carrying my enormous preschooler because she was too tired to ride in the elevator on her own legs and the little girl riding with us said to her friend,

“I love you, Jack.”

And little Jack said to her, “I love you too Layla.”

“I love Jack and I love my sister. My sister is my friend. She always plays with me. I love her!”

And the moms oohed and aahed.

Then the elevator doors opened and Layla said, “I want to hold the door for my friend, Jack,”

And when Jack had gotten off, too, they held hands and walked to the classroom together.

“Is this shit for real?” I thought. I got a Twilight-Zone feeling but it was clear that I was the only one experiencing the creepiness, all the other moms acted like it was no big deal, and perfectly normal for their children to say they loved their friends and that they loved their sisters and to speak in appropriate tones in an enclosed area like the elevator and to walk to their classroom rather than be carried there.

Are children really this nice? And why are mine missing the nice gene? Aren’t I nice? Don’t I say “thank you” to my kids and remind them to do the same? Don’t I smile at strangers and hold doors for the people behind me and give up my seat for the elderly? What gives?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Fashion in a fantasy world

A million years ago, when Sex and the City was in its prime, I used to have viewing parties at my apartment every Sunday night. Cosmos abounded as did commentary on the fashion. The clothes – the wild successes and fall-on-your-face failures — were always the best part of the show. That and the fact that I did once star as an extra in a scene shot at the Cowgirl Hall of Fame.

So my girl friends and I were eager to take in SATC 2. Though we had managed our expectations about the merit of the film itself, we knew it would be fashion porn. And oh, was it ever. I’ll save you $12.50 (and yeah, I know movies probably cost less outside of NYC but please don’t tell me about it, just like you shouldn’t tell me how you bought your entire five bedroom house for $100K). I’ll save you, and all the readers of All Kinds of Pretty, the price of admission and sneak you some peeks into my favorite fashion from the film.

Because most of the movie takes place in Abu Dhabi, there was lots of drapey-style dresses. Swaths of deliciously-colored silky fabrics flowing and falling in a wildly casual but so-so way. My favorite was this peachy Halston Heritage Stretch Jersey One Shoulder Mini Caftan:

Then there was a duo of pleated Halston dresses which I swooned for – one floor-length orange one which SJP wore on the beach and another, an electric blue stripe cocktail one which she wore in a NYC scene.

If I had an extra couple hundred bucks and no concerns about my children eating and one day gong to college, I’d buy these. Of course then I’d have to retain a personal trainer to get my arms and legs to look like hers so I could actually wear these dresses. And then we’ve lose our apartment and be homeless. So unless these looks show up at Target, edited for the everywoman, I guess I’ll have to go without.

All of these are fairly tame pieces which one could actually wear (in a fantasy world where suitcases full of money were left next to my bed every morning by elves). But there was one outfit that I totally loved which was, I realize, completely ridiculous. It was what SJP wore in the Abu Dhabi karoake scene and it included a gold and silver lame Chanel dress and overskirt which, according to NY magazine cost $47,190 and a pair of bejeweled jeans by the Blonds which cost $4000. It is insane but rocked my socks off:

And there you have it. What the fashionista inside me wears on a Wednesday while I sport my Keens and a floral skirt I bought at Old Navy two years ago. Anyone else see the movie and have any favorite outfits?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Kids shouldn't share imaginary friends

My kids will fight about anything. Now they’re fighting over what their imaginary friend is doing.

A few weeks ago, I was putting Primo to bed and he told me to tell him that the Airman was coming,


The Airman is not a character I've ever heard about before -- not from a movie, not from a book, not from any prior narratives emerging from Primo's amazing mind.

“It makes me feel better if you tell me that the Airman is coming,” he informed me, “It makes me feel like there are more people in the room.”

“Ok,” I said, “The Airman is coming.”

Who am I to argue?

So, after hearing us announce the arrival of the Airman every night for a few weeks, Seconda decided she wanted to get in on the action.

“The Airman is coming and he is going to sleep in MY BED!” she shouted.

“NO HE IS NOT!” Primo yelled, “MOMMY!!!! Tell Seconda that the Airman is going to sleep with me!”

“Too late! Too late! He is in my bed now and he says he won’t go with you!” Sec yelled.

“MOOOOMMMY!!!!” Primo wailed.

“Honey,” I said as I walked in, “You know that Airman is not real, right?”

“I know,” Primo said.

“Then he can be doing whatever you want him to,” I said, “And besides, Sec doesn’t even know what he looks like.”

That consoled him.

To Sec I suggested, “You now, since imaginary friends are free, you don’t have to share with your brother. You can make one up for yourself.”

I'm just bracing myself for the arguments that Airman will have with Sec's imaginary friend. Good times.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Weekend in the West Village

I take the kids all over these five boroughs, and we certainly pound a lot of Manhattan pavement. But we never end up in the West Village, Its just one of those neighborhoods we tend to overlook for some reason, though in my pre-baby years, I clocked some serious hours there -- working, shopping, rehearsing, and drinking. This weekend, though, we had a full-immersion West Village program.

On Saturday, David and I decided a little divide and conquer action was in order and I took Primo to a free avant-guard children’s theater workshop on Hudson Street. Yes, you heard me right. A college friend of mine is developing a show for kids based on Carlo Collodi’s Pinocchio (the which audiobook we have listened to at least 4 million times in the car) and is enlisting the help of children ages 5-8 to do it. If you feel like having your kid join in on the fun, you can find more info on the website of their theater company, Immediate Medium. Both Primo and I were totally jazzed about it though I think Primo was a tad disappointed because I learned later he was expecting to make toys out of wood, a la Santa’s workshop.

“No, no toys, but you’re making a PLAY!” I said cheerily.

Pinocchio workshop was fun, enriching and left me feeling like a model parent. Then I took Primo to lunch at the Cowgirl Hall of Fame, which is among the most kid-friendly eateries in the city, boasting an old-fashioned candy shop in the restaurant. It also holds the honor of being the location where yours truly appeared as an extra in an episode of Sex in the City. I told Primo the story of how I got to dress up as a cowgirl-themed waitress and how I walked veeeeery slowly across the frame so that you’d be sure to see me when the episode aired. It worked, incidentally.

Then I dragged him in the sweltering heat down Bleecker Street, singing the eponymous song by Simon and Garfunkel all the while, until we got to Magnolia Bakery where we ate some pretty sub-par, dry and crumbly cupcakes. Not at all as glorious as I remembered from days of yore.

And that was only Saturday.

On Sunday, David and I decided to continue the west-village-wonderland experience and bring the kids to the World Science Festival -- free! totally free! -- in Washington Square Park. I can’t even recall the last time I stepped foot in that park but I’d be willing to wager it in high school and I was making out with someone. The kids were not terribly impressed by the super-high-tech robotics tents but thoroughly enjoyed the offerings on the far side of the park. Primo and Seconda made oil- and-colored water-and-alka seltzer volcano bottles. They learned about Bernoulli’s principle by making paper helicopters. They got these plastic bouncy straws that when pressed down on the ground, build up some terrific kinetic energy and then shoot off into the air, provoking shrieks of delight and wonder. They learned that veloceraptors did not fly but had feathers to keep warm. And they got temporary tattoos.

All of this was fun. But it paled in comparison to their experience in the fountain.

They had a total ball. Even when Primo appeared to be kicking his sister facedown in the grumy filth of wateriness. And it felt amazing to sit down with David for 15 minutes and watch the kids frolic, unfettered, with 20-30 other tiny strangers, in the park that Henry James wrote about and where I made out with boys in high school.

I love New York.

Friday, June 4, 2010


Its been hot this week. Not comfortably warm. Oppressively hot. Your fingers swell up and you sweat like a pig kind of hot. So hot, in fact, that I've been bringing Primo's bathing suit to pick-up, having him change in the bathroom and then heading straight to the sprinkers. While at the sprinklers, I ran into my best friend from high school who is now my neighbor and mother of a 10 month-old. Its her first season of sprinker fun and the baby was there, splashing around, having a ball with all the other children who were soaking wet.

Meanwhile we mothers stood on the periphery, gasping for breath in the sweltering heat.

"When I got him dressed to come here, I thought of putting my swimsuit on, too," said my friend, "But I didn't know if people did that. I guess not."

"In my many years of sprinker-frequenting, I have yet to see a parent or babysitter in a bathing suit," I reflected, "But I'm guessing if you did show up in a swimsuit tomorrow, on the next day EVERYONE would be doing it. I bet every grown-up here has been debating the same thing for the past week."

Then I remembered that the only kind of bathing suit I own are string bikinis, because I used to look really good in them, and now that I don't look really good anymore, I figure its more appealing to show skin, even very pale somwhat flabby skin, than to cover that flab with very close fitting lycra. In any event, would not be appropriate for a playground, even one in Europe where people are more open-minded. Not that I'm not sill considering it. Check in with me in August and we'll see how far my dignity has fallen.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

I wish having a baby were that easy

One of the biggest benefits of having gone through childbirth (twice) is that I now have a rich appreciation for how ridiculous the birth scenes are on TV and in film. You know the routine.

First contraction hits. Amniotic fluid gushes all over the expectant mom's feet. She grabs her belly and yells, 'I'm having the baby!" Expectant dad has a full freak-out, running to the car but foretting the keys, pulling away from the house without his wife in the car.

Then speeding off the the hospital, running red lights. They leave the car at the front door of the hospital (This is my favorite part. There's no VALET service at the hospital). Mom is screaming. Dad is sweating. She barely makes it into the delivery room and she is bellowing now, cursing at her husband and everyone around her. It has been five minutes and the baby is crowning. When the dad sees what's happening, he faints. Nurses revive him, causing more cursing from the mom.Then the baby pops up, perfectly clean with no umbilical cord.

Done and done.

If you are a fan of yelling at the TV, "Give me a BREAK!" during these scenes, you'll like Babbles' list of the
Top 5 Totally Unrealistic Movie Births

Any of your own to add?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

My kid can read

This won’t seem so exciting to you. I am aware of that.

But for me, this milestone is momentous.


Witnessing him learning to read is exactly like witnessing him learning to speak. I talked a blue streak to him for months and months and it was clear that he understood, sure, but still the day that he uttered “boo” when he wanted me to read him his bedtime story, well that changed everything.

Yes, “book” was his first word.

David and I are book people. It is the one passion we have deeply, truly in common. Reading stories are a kind of religion to us, and if you think I’m overstating the case, let me share with you the fact that I often worry what would happen if one of my kids turns out not to love books. It is an INANE thing to worry about. Of all the things to waste your concern over, it is surely one of the most idiotic, I know. But if it turns out they won’t crack a book for pleasure, it would be like them refusing to come to church with us on Sundays. It’d be their prerogative but it'd be a blow.

So, to see Primo crack the code of words – breaking down the strings of letters to produce meaning – makes me wildly happy.

I’m not saying he’s very keen on it, though. I sort of figured that he would be the kind of kid that taught himself to read at the age of 3 and would keep himself awake til the wee hours reading the dictionary by Kindergarten, and that is definitely not the case. I don’t blame him really. It’s a pain to learn to read. Its hard to sound shit out. It takes patience and there’s precious little pay-off at first. When you’re used to hearing Roald Dahl and Lewis Carroll read aloud every night, its kind of anti-climactic to read “The cat sat on the mat.”

I’ve had to remind myself to back the hell off of the kid and let him take his time with this. I figure the most important thing is to keep him loving literature, to keep him hooked on stories, so that he has ample incentive to trudge through the perplexing phonetics system to learn to do it himself.

The kid is reading. So it won’t be long before we get to discuss the finer points of The Sound and the Fury. Just a matter of time.