Friday, July 30, 2010

Fancy poetry, for kids!

If you're a devoted reader of this blog you will know that I am more or less obsessed with this collection of children's poetry, Poetry Speaks to Children, which features a ton of amazing poems by heavyweight poets, many of which are not written for children but which have great appeal for the little ones. So you've got your Jane Yolen and Margaret Wise Brown an also Galway Kinnell, Shakespere, Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, and yes, Lewis Carroll. We've been listening to it in the car for years, and the kids' interest waxes and wanes but there was a period where they had me play The Jabberwocky on repeat play for WEEKS. They both absolutely adore the poem. Which led me to do something super-pretentious and get them air-brushed T shirts from Walmart, one which reads "Beamish Boy" for Primo, and "JubJub Bird" for Seconda.

Here's the thing with the Jabberwocky, and with much poetry and art and music in general. The kids have as good a shot at "understanding" it as we do. At first Primo asked me "What does it mean?" and I told him that alot of the words were made-up words that don't really exist so he can guess as much as I can as to what its about. They don't have all of the baggage that adults bring to reading poetry - the drive to decipher and the feeling ignorant when we feel like we can't -- and so they can enjoy it. Primo, and Seconda too, only two years old, got that it was a story about a battle with a beast, a boy hero, about a proud mother. They absolutely luxuriated in the language.

So I was DELIGHTED to read this article by Robert Pinsky on Slate which basically says that I was totally right all along, I'm Mother of the Year and my kids are brillant. Its actually a really great piece about what makes great kids' poetry and Pinsky -- dreamy dreamboat that he is -- makes a great case for reading kids poetry which isn't pat or mawkish but which has a respect for all that the childhood experience encompasses, including the darkness. I fully plan on reading the poems he recommends to my kids, especially the Lear which I know Primo will love. We will, however, definitely be skipping the Walter de le Mare, which are a little "Twilight Zone," a little too "Twin Peaks" for Primo's sensibilities. prompting him to be up all night pondering profound existential things wihch the kid doesn't need to think about quite yet.I know for a fact he'd be asking me over and over again if it is indeed possible to be disappear into a wrinkle in time.

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Kids enjoy to destroy

Have you seen this hilarious photo blog:

Shit My Kids Ruined

Basically, parents just submit pictures of the items that their children have broken, defaced or otherwise ruined forever. The site's subtitle bills it as "the best birth control ever," and I'm always on board with anything that gives parents a sense of commiseration and non-parents an accurate sense of what they're signing up for.

I could have a whole section on this website featuring the various lipsticks Seconda has gnawed on, despite the fact that she is now three and a half years old and should know better. And coming soon to my very own blog is a truly traumatizing tale of something ALIVE that my kid ruined. You'll just have to wait and find out . . . .

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

We're just not that kind of people, or excuses for slovenliness

I hate to lump all the members of my family together or to define the kids according to my terms, but I have to face the fact that the four of us are not elegant folk. We're not naturally polished people. There are several reasons for this.

A. I'm lazy and its easier not to brush your hair and iron your clothes.
B. I genuinely enjoy a new bohemian/ urban grunge look, and I think its more comfortable for the kids.
C. When the kids aren't perfectly groomed, I don't fret about them getting messy which is better for everyone because they are always messy.

And D. we're just not that kind of people.

Case in point: Seconda's hair.

I see girls in her class arrive at school with perfectly radiant and lustrous bobs, hair that belongs in a Pantene commercial, or lovely cascades of curls with well-placed bows in the front. Hair is swept away from girls' faces with headbands featuring large roses on the side or braided neatly down the back.

My kid always looks like a total ragamuffin with her hair literally sticking out straight from her head, as shown above. Its not for lack of trying. I do actually invest a laughable amount of time trying to pull her hair out of her face because, though I don't mind a slovenly appearance in general, it does drive me INSANE in the membrane when anyone - kids or adults - have hair in thier eyes. Its just one of my pet peeves. So I try to convince her to wear hairclips -- I've bought a tons of beautiful little barrettes -- but invariably, she tosses them on the floor somewhere when I'm not looking and that's that.

She does tolerate are braids, but seeing as she cut her own hair a few months ago, right in the front of her head, it is a challenge to braid it together, even in the French style, which as I think I've mentioned before, I am expert in. All I can manage is a thin, tiny braid on the side of her head, approximately the width of a piece of dental floss, and that ends up sticking straight out like I've put a wire in it

Today, I was pushing her in the stroller to school, looking at that ridiculous little Pippi Longstocking braid and wondering if I should take the time to stop the stroller and try to redo it. At that moment, we passed a little girl with the most impoeccable pigtails, exactly like the kid on the Coppertone bottle. I had preschooler hair envy.

But, as I said, we're not that kind of family.

"Fuck it," I thought, "She's just a friggin' kid."

And frankly, I love that ridiculous Pippi Longstocking 'do. Wouldn't trade it for Rapunzel's braid. So there.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Dinner and a movie

David and I have a decent track record of making it out for dinner together and an equally respectable one for sneaking out to a movie sans kids. But dinner AND a movie, well, now you’re talking three, four hours of adult evening entertainment and there are few people who can withstand the force of our children for that long, even when we pay them. So the only time we are able to score dinner and a movie is when we get my parents to take the kids overnight – which is precisely what we did on Friday.

Dinner at Resto, this delicious Belgian place that had the impressive ability to please David (Belgian beer! burgers!) and me (fancy sauces for my pommes frites! Wafels with chocolate sauce!). Plus it was restaurant week which is perhaps my favorite New York holiday ever, so three course ran us $35.

Movie was Inception, in IMAX. The great thing about when I see movies nowadays is that whereas before I used to hear all the buzz and read movie reviews and know what to expect, these days I don’t know jack. Which means when we’re choosing a movie David gives me a two-sentence sum-up, mentioning names of stars or directors, and the basic premise (we do get into trouble sometimes since David often has a different read of movies than I do; take, for example, his description of American Psycho as “not scary, no, comedic in a suspenseful way!”) Now, I show up to movies ready to be surprised. This is great because I don’t ever get disappointed when a movie doesn’t live up to its hype.

Consequently, I go to Inception, and I’m like, “Whoa, cool. It’s a dream within a dream!” and then I got to have my mind blown when it was actually a dream within a ream within a dream within a dream. I didn’t love it the way I did Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind but I give it major kudos for making some pretty thought-provoking existential ideas very mainstream and accessible, I did leave thinking however that the movie might cause an overly thoughtful or sensitive person to go straight to the looney bin. The subtitle could be, “Inception: recipe for insanity.” I will, for instance, never mention the idea to Primo, who frequently wonders aloud, while eating dinner or watching TV if he is, in fact, dreaming. Of course, there is the distinct possibility that he’s right and I’m the one who’s dreaming right now. Maybe in my waking life, I’m an accountant living in the Tulsa and this dream of blogging and drinking coffee in Brooklyn, is just mind-blowingly exciting.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

I Heart AC

Here’s how I know I am a grown up. .

I find it unthinkable that someone could possibly live in an apartment without air conditioning.

In my first apartment after college, a two-bedroom in which three of us lived above the taco shop, we had no AC. I keenly remember those summers, sleeping in my bedroom, which did not have a window. I set up two fans on either side of my bed, pointed at each other, directly over my body. Even with that shit turned up to super-high and the hurricane-level winds blasting my face all night, it wasn’t the slightest bit refreshing. Then I tried jumping in the shower right before bed and lying naked in my bed in an attempt to cool off. I was covered in sweat within 30 seconds.

Finally, I came to my senses and got, not an air-conditioner, but a boyfriend with an air conditioner.

Yes, I basically pimped myself out for free air conditioning. I am not even exaggerating, really. I was dating this investment banker who had a swank Chelsea pad with copious air conditioning and though it was clear by July that things weren’t really going to work out, I held on to late August because hey, you can forgive a lot when you’re sleeping with Hi-Cool aimed right at your head. I remember one time I offered to have him stay over my place, just for equity’s sake and when he said, “Where’s the AC?” I told him. “Well, I just eat a lot of Popsicles, then take a cold shower, get in bed sopping wet and blast my skin off with windpower.” Within 10 minutes, we were in a cab towards Manhattan.

By the next summer, I realized that perhaps trading sex for air conditioning wasn’t strictly necessary and I shelled out the $250 for a small unit in the kitchen, next to my bedroom. On really hot nights, my roommates and I would drag my mattress into the kitchen and all sleep there. It was such a divine luxury.

Today, the idea of sleeping without hard-core AC -- the kind that will cause frost to grow on my wet hair - is unthinkable. Having renounced casual sex, excessive booze, and drugs, I figure I deserve air conditioning. I mean, we don’t have tons of money but I will find the money for air conditioning, even if I need to sell every last item in our house on ebay. It’s a dealbreaker. Period.

Of course, in a few weeks we’ll be vacationing in Italy, where people aren’t so cripplingly addicted to AC (they don’t know what they’re missing). So I’m bracing myself for plenty of Popsicles and cold showers. Maybe I’ll tuck the kids in, with ice packs on their pillows. Any other suggestions?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Knots -- not fun for the whole family

Primo does not have the slightest idea how to make bunny ears and tie his shoes. He does know how to tie knots. Not just regular knots. My son knows how to tie irreversible, failsafe, crazy-tight little jugger-knots (like that? just coined the phrase right then); he is so good at it, in fact, that if I ever have to transport something on the top of my car, I am getting him to secure it on there.

I don’t know who taught him to do this. Perhaps it was the ghost of Blackbeard. It was, without a doubt, some semi-professional with seafaring experience. The kid could go to Knot-tying Olympics. He is fast and precise. Before you can say “No! Don’t” the knot has been secured and two things are permanently attached. Now that he knows how to tie knots, he can’t stop himself. The way that he goes around affixing items to each other with string, you’d think the sight of a world with free-range objects was an abomination to him. He is hooked.

Can you begin to imagine how annoying this habit is for me, his housemate? Every time I turn around, there’s a new blockade in my path. Chairs tied together, bedroom doors tied to closet doors tied to the toy-bin. The center of his tying universe is his bed. That bed has more shit hanging off of it than a chandelier, and after he affixes toys to strings and fastens the string to the top bunk railing, he encourages Seconda to swing on the twine like Tarzan. Wrong on a number of levels.

I can only hope that his addiction subsides before the advent of autumn when I begin wearing shoes with laces. Otherwise I’m expecting some serious face-plants in my future.

Monday, July 19, 2010

First Sleepover

A few weeks ago Primo had his first sleepover. I haven’t written about it til now because it has taken me this long to recover. The last sleepover I went to was when I was in junior high, freezing bras and wearing my retainer. I remember it being wildly fun. And I’m sure Primo will remember this sleepover the same way. I recall it as an experience I could only repeat with the help of booze.

Lesson number 1 of parenting: the amount of fun your child has is usually in direct proportion to how exhausted you will be.

The sleepover was my brainchild, incidentally. On the last day of Kindergarten, we found out that Primo and Leigh, his very best friend, will not be in class together next year. These things happen of course, and maybe it will be good for them and prompt them to diversity their friend base. But still it was a blow. To pick up the kids’ spirits (and mine, too, because frankly, I was as sad to know they’d be separated as they were), I suggested that the following week, since there was no school or camp, that Leigh come to our apartment for both of the kids’ first-ever sleepover! The children were thrilled. It feels good to make children so incredibly ecstatic, and perhaps I was so high from this that I neglected to brace myself for the insanity that would ensue.

Let me say, before continuing, that the whole affair would have been fine, fairly unremarkable, if we were to live in a normal-sized residence, with over 200 square feet allotted to each of the member in our household. When you add a fifth person into our modified one-bedroom, you get pretty crowded. Of course, I grew up with me and my sisters and cousins often tossed in a bed all together – that was how I preferred it – so I don’t mind crowded sleeping quarters. As long as everyone is actually SLEEPING in them. Aye, there’s the rub. Because no one sleeps at a sleepover.

We had dinner with my grandmother and the kids ate cartoon-character cookies that were as big as their faces which Leigh had brought over as a sleepover treat. I’d told Primo and Sec that we could eat the graduation cake I’d made a few days earlier for dessert so of course they wanted this as an after-cookie dessert and when I told them it was just a wee bit too much sugar for their little systems, my grandmother pointed out they could always have it for breakfast.

“CAKE FOR BREAKFAST!!!!” they shrieked. The amount of sheer joy was almost at Christmas-level.

Then the kids put on their PJS and we negotiated bedtime reading, not as easy feat for two kids, and less easy for three. Primo wanted Just So Stories. Leigh wanted Meg and Mog and Seconda, for her part, demanded to do the reading herself which nobody liked. Finally, the sleeping bags were unfurled and the lights turned off and the party really got started

I told them they could talk and tell stories and jokes and look at books but that they should stay in their beds. And I do believe they would have, since both Primo and Leigh are generally law-abiding citizens, had not the anarchist Seconda led the way to revolution. All I know is that when I went back in the room a half hour later, the girls were both more bedecked in jewelry than Queen Elizabeth. Not only that, but they had taken out the dress-up trunk and we wearing elaborate costumes – Spiderman suits, animal masks, Hawaiian leis. Meanwhile, Primo was making a major arts and crafts project which involved scissors, glue, chopsticks and construction paper.

I confiscated the craft supplies and had them take off the costumes. Then I tucked them back in and left the room. Ten minutes later, I repeated the process. Ten minutes after that, I removed Sec, the instigator, from the bedroom and put her on a palette on the floor next to my bed. It was 9:30, which in my book is two hours past the point that I have any patience or energy left for child caring, so I informed the kids it was really time to seriously think about winding down. Getting down to it.

“We’re going to stay up ALL NIGHT,” smiled Leigh.

“Yeah,” giggled Primo, lying next to her on the floor, “we are NEVER going to sleep!”

I laughed nervously, “That IS a funny joke, guys. Very funny. But of course now it is really time for sleep/”

With Sec out, they managed to stay lying down, but the noise emanating from the bedroom – the chortles and guffaws, the shrieks of “POOPY FACE!” and “BOOTY HEAD!” Did not indicate we were getting close to slumber. It was 10pm, the hour at which I get ready to go to bed myself. I went back in.

“We WANT to go to sleep,” said Leigh, “But we just CAN’T.”

“Yeah, we just don’t feel SLEEPY,” echoed Primo.

I sat down next to them and sang them a song – the whole time wondering whether Leigh’s mom sang to her, wondering if she thought I had a good voice, considering whether she’d tell her mom that I sang to them and whether Leigh’s mom would think I was a weirdo or an exemplar mom. After that, around 10:30, they did manage to fall asleep somehow, the two of them together in the bottom bunk. Then I worried that Leigh would fall off the bunk and not only hurt herself but wake my downstairs neighbor, so I lined the floor by the edge of the bed with pillows.

Then I joined David on the couch and teared up, so overcome was I with emotion at how much my baby was growing up. There he was, snuggled in bed with his first best friend, the two of them bed side by side, so big – old enough to read and tie knots and have bona-fide sleepover with silly jokes and staying up late -- but still such little kids, still in their kiddie PJS, still with the look of cherubim on their sleeping faces.

So, despite all my grumbling the next morning when they woke at
5:45am (!!!!) the truth is, I really enjoyed the sleepover too. What can I say, I am big old softie.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Parents hating parenting

I had the great pleasure to take a day trip to Poughkeepsie to visit my friend Amelia and her newborn baby, which meant an hour and a half ride each way on the Metro North train, with no kids. After my laptop's battery died, I was free to do some reading and checked out this article which has been stirring up a lot of debate, in the current issue of NY magazine, called All Joy and No Fun by Jennifer Senior.

Here's an excerpt from the beginning to give you a sense of her project:
From the perspective of the species, it’s perfectly unmysterious why people have children. From the perspective of the individual, however, it’s more of a mystery than one might think. Most people assume that having children will make them happier. Yet a wide variety of academic research shows that parents are not happier than their childless peers, and in many cases are less so. This finding is surprisingly consistent, showing up across a range of disciplines. Perhaps the most oft-cited datum comes from a 2004 study by Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel Prize–winning behavioral economist, who surveyed 909 working Texas women and found that child care ranked sixteenth in pleasurability out of nineteen activities. (Among the endeavors they preferred: preparing food, watching TV, exercising, talking on the phone, napping, shopping, housework.) This result also shows up regularly in relationship research, with children invariably reducing marital satisfaction.

Then Senior goes on to investigates why parents seem to love their kids but hate parenting – is it the pressure on parents to spend “quality time” with kids and groom them with enriching, scheduled activities, even when we are so overworked ourselves? Or the fact that parents are waiting longer to have kids, and actively choosing to become parents, so our expectations for how much we will enjoy it are higher. Pretty thought-provoking stuff.

What I came away thinking is, “who the hell said parenting was going to be enjoyable?” It seems, to me, to miss the point all together. If you’re in the market for a pleasant experience, let me recommend you hire a live-in masseuse. Definitely do not have children. Children are in no way pleasant or even that enjoyable. I guess it all boils down to what happiness means to you. And this is the point that Senior ends on:

But for many of us, purpose is happiness—particularly those of us who find moment-to-moment happiness a bit elusive to begin with. Martin Seligman, the positive-psychology pioneer who is, famously, not a natural optimist, has always taken the view that happiness is best defined in the ancient Greek sense: leading a productive, purposeful life. And the way we take stock of that life, in the end, isn’t by how much fun we had, but what we did with it. (Seligman has seven children.)

I always think of those characters in Chekhov, the ones who end the play crying, "Work! We must work!" I think of Kundera’s Unbearable Lightness of Being. These children weigh you down – they weigh you down more than you could ever imagine, and not just the work they involve, but the worry you have for their emotional and physical well being – but it would an excruciating life without them. It would be unbearable, for me, at least. Because as unpleasant as they can be, they do offer transcendence. It may not always be fun, but it is often joyous to be with them. It is often sublime. It makes the muscle of my heart strong in a way I would never have though possible. To me, that’s happiness.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

I'm Always Changing

Every night before or after he takes a bath, my son looks at his face in the mirror and he always says the same thing.

":I don’t look like myself.”

He is never happy about this fact. Rather, he says it in this very adult, disappointed, resigned way,

I used to reply, “What are you talking about? You look JUST like yourself. What do you mean?”

That, as you can imagine, was not a very constructive response. Its like telling a kid that’s scared to death of an ant, “Don’t be scared. There’s nothing to be afraid of.”

That’s an adult's instinctive response but its as effective a way to reduce their fear as is reading the dictionary backwards. When, in the history, have a child ever looked up at you and said, “By George, you’re right! What was I thinking, being terrified of a harmless ant? Thanks for restoring me to my toddler senses, Mom.”

Back to the mirror at bathtime. The other night, Primo looked especially unlike himself, at least in his opinion. His hair was really spiky from being ruffled by the towel and it dismayed him.

“Now I REALLY don’t look like myself!” he exclaimed, “I keep changing! Every day!”

I had to stifle my laughter because of course there was nothing at all funny about it to him. And really, this is a kid with an imagination so intense, so vivid, that he thinks metamorphosis is totally within the realm of possibly. We had to stop reading this kids’ version of the Metamorphosis because it was freaking him out that he might change into a tree or a spider or something. And we won’t be reading Kafka anytime soon, I’ll tell you that much.

So I guess in his mind, when he sees his hair sticking up in a strange way, he must think, “Great! My hair’s been changed. What’s next? A tail? The torso of a goat and the head of a lion? WHERE DOES THE CHANGE END?”

“But it’s good that you’re changing! That means you’re growing big and strong, just as it should be!”

He looked totally unconvinced.

“Actually, “ I said, “I know just how you feel. When I look at pictures of myself before I had kids, I don’t even recognize myself. I look completely different. And I don't really like it either.”

When all else fails, understanding’s always a good fallback.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Airport Security

I am always fearful that David is going to lose his temper when going through airport security in NYC, and that we’ll miss our flight, at best, and be locked up in some secret dungeon at LaGuardia, at worst. I don’t fault him, really, for getting so perturbed. When you’re going through security with two little children, one of whom is utterly unmanageable -- making sure your daughter doesn’t run down the up escalator while you’re taking off your shoes; remembering to remove laptops from backpacks; locating the boarding passes; explaining the liquids in your sippy cups – well, its stressful enough. Add to that downright unfriendly security people and you’ve got yourself a disaster-in-the-making.

David hates it because he always feels like he’s breaking rules that no one ever explained to him in the first place.

“Sir, you need to remove the laptop from the sleeve,”

“You. Again. You can’t put anything else in the bucket with your laptop.”

“And your belt. Gotta come off.”

“Sir, sir, SIR! You need to push the buckets through.”

That just about did it for David. “I have to push it through? Since when?” he muttered as we put on shoes on, “I have to do EVERYTHING now?”

When we flew back from Knoxville, however, it was an entirely different story. While I was busy collapsing the stroller (which incidentally, the security man offered to do FOR ME) Seconda dashed over to the X ray machine where Primo, who’d been paying attention at LaGuardia, was helping to push the buckets through. Except Sec was just sticking her hand in the machine.

“Honey, don’t do that!” exclaimed a security worker about my mom’s age.

At which point I reached over and yanked her back.

Then the woman APOLOGIZED to me for startling my daughter. Who was, incidentally, totally unfazed. It would take the Nimean Lion to startle this one. Still, the woman said to me, sweet as cherry pie, “I’m sorry. I didn’t want to alarm her, you know, but I was just scared since she was puttin’ her hands right on inside.”

“No need to apologize,” I replied.

Then the security worker on the other side of the machine suggested I have a seat while putting my shoes back on and told me – get this – to take my TIME. Toto, I don’t think we’re in New York anymore.

Did you know they have wooden rocking chairs in the airport in Knoxville? For your PLEASURE. Not only regular rocking chairs, but tiny kid-sized ones, too, and double-wides, in the event you want to snuggle with your loved one. They offer you rocking options, is what I’m saying. Free of charge. Take your time. Have a lulling rock. And a free refill of sweet tea while you’re at it.

I’m not saying New Yorkers aren’t friendly – hell, I’m a New Yorker myself and I’d like to think I’m compulsively congenial – but the man told me to TAKE MY TIME. Going through airport security. Amazing.

The South has its merits, I’ll tell you what.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Country Time

We've just returned from a week in the country. Summertime in Tennessee sure is sweet. I now know how Huck Finn felt. I mean, we found a TURTLE, a living box turtle just hanging out in the woods near my father-in-law's house. The kids didn't really care that much, but I was over the MOON. I was like, "Guys! This is some Bambi shit. We found a PET, a bona fide pet, not a water bug, just walking home." Then my father-in-law said, "Yeah, we eat turtles here. They taste good. Course we don't eat the littleuns like this; not enough meat on their bones."

We also spotted an owl that day. Are you getting this? Sec said, "Mommy, there's an owl." and I was like, "OK, honey, sure. I'll play, I see a Tyrannosauras Rex!" And DAvid was like, "There is a owl, up there in the tree." Insane.

The other thing we stumbled across, considerably less cute was a RATTLESNAKE. Man, can you imagine me coming across such a thing? While we were swimming in the river? Thankfully, I didn't see it and David and his sister didn't tell me about it til after they'd speedily ushered us out of the river. So, I guess that's what you get with nature - one day its a cute little turtle you encounter, the next a venonomous viper. Its why I try never to stray too far frm asphalt.

But, that's behind us now. Here's some highlights from our country holiday.

Catching tadpoles and feeding catfish in the pond:

Making elf houses:

For the record, 'twas I who made this house, not Primo and not Seconda, though they did scout for sticks and stones. I say this to point out how difficult elf-house-construction is. Or maybe I'm just a lousy naturalist. I mean, I never made a gnome home in my childhood. I read books and played Barbies all summer long. Have you done this shit before? It is freaking complicated.

What's NOT complicated is picking red ripe raspberries by the side of the road. Tasty little suckers. Sec went Blueberries-for-Sal style and ate all the berries up before they could land in her bag.

Playing with the garden hose. I know this doesn't sound thrilling to you but keep in mind that the only hose we have in our hose is the panty variety. Instant sprinkler!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Safety first

Its the time of the year when we're all hitting the beaches and pools and I thought I'd share a link to this article called Drowning Doesn't Look Like Drowning. I found it absolutely terrifying but was glad I read it. Here's the main idea:

The Instinctive Drowning Response – so named by Francesco A. Pia, Ph.D.,
is what people do to avoid actual or perceived suffocation in the water. And
it does not look like most people expect. There is very little splashing,
no waving, and no yelling or calls for help of any kind. To get an idea of
just how quiet and undramatic from the surface drowning can be, consider
this: It is the number two cause of accidental death in children, age 15 and
under (just behind vehicle accidents) – of the approximately *750 children*
who will drown next year, about *375 of them* will do so within 25 yards of
a parent or other adult. *In ten percent of those drownings, the adult
will actually watch them do it, having no idea it is happening* (source:
Didn't mean to bum you out at the start of the weekend but forewarned is forearmed.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

My daughter's weird, macabre obsession

My daughter used to be obsessed with Alice in Wonderland but now she’s obsessed with booboos, including but not limited to burns, scrapes, splinters, cuts, broken bones, blisters, bruises and burns. Oh, and animal bites. It is so macabre.

“Do you have any booboos?” she will ask upon greeting someone.

If the person does happen to have a booboo, she will ask to see it, and persist in asking until the person shows it to her, even if the booboo is located in an intimate location, like the upper abdomen or underarm area. She just won’t take no for an answer.

“Tell me the story of the booboo,” she will go on. And “I fell off m bike” will not cut it.

She will fire off a barrage of follow up questions, more thorough than a medical examiner.

“Did you BLEED?”

“Did your skin come off?”

“Did it hurt you so much?”

“Did you cry?”

And her weirdest, most pressing question, “Was there a hole?”

I think she’s referring to the epidermis but honestly, I’m not fully sure what she is talking about.

If you don’t happen to have a booboo, she will seem so disappointed that you will end up apologizing to her. At least my aunt did last week, when she couldn’t come up with anything gory enough for Seconda.

“I’m sorry Sec,” she said, “I don’t have any booboos. I can’t try to get some for you next time.”

At her parent teacher conference a month or two ago, her teachers mentioned that she was very fascinated by what they called “body integrity.”

“You mean, she’s obsessed with blood?”

“Yes, she always wants to hear the stories of everyone’s booboos.” Her teacher explained, “And it’s totally normal and in fact a very common thing we see in this age group. Kids who are 2 and 3 start really thinking about body integrity and are interested in hearing about how our bodies have the ability to heal.”

“Really?” I asked, “Because it seems so macabre.”

What really makes her booboo obsession seem cuckoo is that when someone does happen to have a whopper of an injury she is DELIGHTED. It’s like she’s hit the jackpot. A friend of her friend broke both her wrists, so both forearms were covered in casts, and Seconda was positively smitten. And recently my sister who’s in California, had a plate glass shower door fall and shatter on her. She called and said, “Put Seconda on the phone! She is going to LOVE this!”

“Hold on -- are you OK?” I asked.

“I have a whole bunch of cuts all over my hands and there was glass sticking out of m foot,” she said, “Let’s video chat! Seconda will be thrilled!”

“I’m not sure we should encourage her to revel over the fact that you’re a nutface and somehow managed to break s shower door all over you.”

But I allowed the video chat, and Seconda was, indeed, enthralled.

“Was there BLOOD?” she asked, breathless.

“Yes,” said my sister, “LOTS of blood!”

“Oh my GOD!” shrieked Sec.

I just hope that the kid will turn out to be a surgeon. Otherwise this fascination could lead me to worry.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

She never does nothing nice and easy

My new favorite pastime is to find musical metaphors for the behavior of my three year-old daughter. Besides being diverting, this also serves as a distraction for me from the growing level of frustration, dismay and panic I have about Seconda’s off-the-charts awful behavior. Because, really, why seek to ADDRESS the issue when you can DISTRACT yourself from it?

The other day, for some bizarre reason I was humming “How do you solve a problem like Maria?” from the incomparable Sound of Music and I realized, “Hot damn! This song is about my daughter!”


How do you solve a problem like Seconda?
How do you catch a cloud and pin it down?
How do you find a word that means Seconda?
A flibbertijibbet! A will-o'-the wisp! A clown!

Many a thing you know you'd like to tell her
Many a thing she ought to understand
But how do you make her stay
And listen to all you say
How do you keep a wave upon the sand

Oh, how do you solve a problem like SECONDAAAAAA?
How do you hold a moonbeam in your hand?

This afforded me great relief. “The problem is that I am trying to make Sec into a nun!” I thought, “when she should really be a governess!”

No, that’s not right. In any case, she is a MOONBEAM! You can’t expect a wave to stop running when she gets to the playground gate. Why not embrace the free spirit that she is? She will turn out all right. Maria did, although of course she’s a fictional character. But she did escape the Nazis, had perfect pitch and even hooked a rich guy. No need to worry!

Then a few days later, I was talking about Tina Turner to Primo (who knows why, but this is what happens with your firstborn, at least my firstborn – they indulge your grown-up subjects of conversation and even seem interested). That was when it occurred to me that my daughter is pretty much exactly like the song Proud Mary,

You know, every now and then I think you might like to hear
something from Sec, nice, easy
There's just one thing
You see, Sec never, ever does nothing nice, easy
She always does it nice and rough

And that’s what we WANT from Tina and Ike. I mean, the slow opening is great and all but it’s only because you know the fast part’s coming. Otherwise, it’d be a bust.

All of which seems to indicate that my intractable hellion is going to be great, better than great, legendary. And you should always trust musical metaphors to prognosticate.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Pipe Dream or Nightmare?

So we were in the car last weekend, listening to a song David wanted to play for me and the kids. It’s called “Spanish Pipedream” written by John Prine and performed by the Avett Brothers. Its not a particularly kid-appropriate song, but I only learned that just now when I googled the lyrics, which make it clear the song is actually about falling in love with a "topless lady" who is "on the road to alcohol" but you can't really understand what the hell those Southerners are saying until the chorus which is really funny and G-rated and it goes like this:

Blow up your TV

Throw away your papers

Move to the country

And build us a home

Plant a little garden

Eat a lot of peaches

Try to find Jesus

On our own

I said, “Instead of a pipe dream, this sounds like a nightmare, at least where Primo is concerned.”

Primo smiled, but he didn’t understand, “What?”

“What would you do if we blew up our TV, throw away all the papers you draw on, and moved to the country?”

“I wouldn’t like it at all!”

“I know. And what if we planted a little garden and made you eat a lot of peaches?”

“YUCK!” he yelled. As you may recall, Primo has a serious, abiding aversion to fruit of all kinds. It literally makes him gag, the way a ball of dog shit would make most people dry heave.

“And you can’t find Jesus!” he exclaimed, getting into the joke now, “because he’s dead!”

I could not keep from laughing. Of course he imagined that the task was to try and locate Jesus in person, a la

Where’s Waldo? What on earth would lead him to believe any different?

So I explained that the singers actually meant that they would try to find the spirit of Jesus, but this confused him even more, because of the concept of the Holy Spirit which he doesn’t fully grasp. So I said they were trying to act like Jesus, kind and forgiving and loving and that seemed to make sense to him.

“So that part of the dream is not so bad,” I said.

“Yeah,” he agrees, “But the peaches part is really bad. That IS my nightmare.”

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Don't repeat that joke

“Oh Mommy! Mommy! I have a good joke for you!” cried Primo the other day while we were paying for groceries at the supermarket.

“I want to hear it!” I replied. I really can’t ever say no to either of my kids telling me jokes, no matter no nonsensical, or singing me a song.

“There were these three girl sailors and they found a bottle in the ocean. And what should come out of the bottle but a genie! The first sailor said to the genie, “I want to be wise!” And the genie said “Poof!” and made her wise. Then the second sailor said, “I want to be wise,” and then genie said “Poof!” and made her wise. Then the third sailor said, “I want to be a THOUSAND times as wise as them,” and the genie said “Poof!” and made her into a BOY!”

He smiled broadly at me, waiting to hear my laugher.

“Who told you that joke?” I asked him, trying hard not to sound mad.

“Zoe,” he said.

“Zoe??” I asked, “Really?”

“What’s the matter Mommy?”

“Well,” I said, choosing my words carefully, because I know how easily Primo’s feelings get hurt and how much he wants my approval, “Let me ask you a question. Why is that joke funny?”

“Because you can’t be a THOUSAND times more wise than someone!” he smiled.

“Oh, is that what it is? What do you think the message is?”

“The message is, ‘everything in moderation.’ She doesn’t get what she wants because she gets greedy and asks for too much.”

The kid has a heart so pure and sweet I hated to even tell him what the real message of the joke was, hated even introducing such a stupid, offensive idea into a head that couldn’t even imagine something so mean.

But then I worried that he’d go around telling this joke to everyone, as he does when he takes a fancy to something, so I told him, “You know what honey ,sometimes people like to tell jokes which are insulting and I think that’s one of them. I think the message is that a boy is a thousand times more wise than a girl, and that’s insulting to me, and to your sister and to all girls, including Zoe.”

He was embarrassed and continued to maintain that it wasn’t the insulting variety of joke, but rather a cautionary tale about greed and immoderation.

“Yeah, maybe,” I said, “Just do me a favor and don’t tell that joke to anyone else.”