Monday, November 29, 2010

Pulling strings in East Tennessee

Primo woke up at 4 in the morning complaining of ear pain, the day before Thanksgiving. Within five minutes, I'd come up with an emergency earache investigation plan.

Normally, a little ear pain doesn't alarm me, but we had to get on a plane in a few days and I know just enough about pediatric medicine to worry about a perforated ear drum (and not enough about it to talk myself down). I also know that I couldn't take him to be seen by anyone on Thanksgiving or the day after, so I mobilized for pre-emptive action. When we woke the next morning, I called my doc in New York first thing, and he informed me that since he was not a virtual doctor, he would not be able to treat an ear infection in Tennessee, from New York.

"Have him seen by someone over there," he advised.

"Ok," I grumbled, "But just tell me what you'd do, and what you'd prescribe, so that I know if they're doing the right thing."

The reason I love my pediatrician is that he did so, with no complaint.

Then I called my sister-in-law to see who she brings her kids to locally and she referred me to a general practice, walk-in clinic run by - what a small world -- one of David's friends from the Boy Scouts. David hadn't seen this man since he was 12 years old -- in fact, the doc was going by an entirely different first name nowadays - but nonetheless, there was the link.

"Ok, here's what we do," I told David, " You call them up and see if they take our health insurance. Then you tell them you are a CLOSE PERSONAL FRIEND of the doctor's and that we need to see him, and have them squeeze us in -- anytime is fine, whenever opening they have."

"Ok,ok," David complied dialing the number. I listened to him explain the situation and refer to his close childhood friendship with the doctor and I heard him "uh huh." "uh huh" "huh uh" a few times and then he hung up.

"Well, what did they say?"

"Come anytime after 12:30," he said.

"Great!" I exclaimed, "We'll get there early, beat the rush, cut down on the waiting room build up."

With two young kids, you spend a lot of time in pediatrician's offices and you learn some tricks. You learn to strategize.

We get to the walk-in clinic at 12:30 on the dot and find the waiting room empty. There is no pre-Thanksgiving rush, no like-minded strategists, it seems. I gave David a nudge, and he recited the words I'd prompted him to say.

"Hi, I called earlier about my son, who we think has an ear infection. The doctor and I go way back, we were boy scouts together, so I'd love if he could see us today."

"Are y'all from out of town?" drawled the middle-aged woman behind the front desk.

"Yes," I said, "What gave us away?"

She was kind enough not to reply: "The neurotic way in which you try to control everything, and the obnoxious habit you have of trying to throw your weight around and how damn seriously you take yourselves."

Instead, she said, "Y'all just look BE-wildered! Come on, I'll help you fill out this paperwork."

I instantly took umbrage at this assessment, wanting to retort, "I'm from New York and I don't GET bewildered. Being from New York means I'm bewilder-proof. I'm the one who does the bewildering. Capisce?"

But of course, that'd just be me, getting more bewildered. Instead, I filled out the paperwork, tried to bite my tongue when the nurse practitioner looked inside Primo's ear and said it looked "dark" (of course its dark, that's why you use one of those nifty lights) and made a minimal amount of fuss declining the Z-pac she wanted o prescribe and pushing for the more appropriate amoxicillin.

We did see David's long-lost close childhood chum on the way out though, and he gave the kids a sucker. We call them lollipops but I didn't quibble. I can be flexible like that, you see.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

We're going to make it after all

We're in Tennessee. Its only an hour and a half flight, which sounds like no big deal -- smooth sailing -- but if you've been on any airplane with two young children, you'll know there is no such thing. I mean, it was a helluva lot easier than our recent red-eye flight to Italy, memories of which still haunt me in my dreams, but that's not saying much. This time, I was prepared to face heightened airport security, including pat downs and full body scans but neither of these presented themselves (what? I'm not hot enough for the full body scan?) Instead, the trouble came in the form of unexpected delays. Which were totally our fault.

Yeah, we got lost driving to the supercheap off-airport parking near Newark. And when you get lost near the airport, you're totally fucked -- one wrong turn, and you're stuck driving through the the entire airport, which'll easily cost you 15 minutes. OK, so maybe you wouldn't be fucked if you were the sort of persn who gave yourself more than a 15 minute cushion, but we just don't roll like that. When we finally found the parking spot, we saw the airport to the shuttle pulling away, which meant we'd have to wait another 20 minutes. We raced through check in and baggage drop off and the Air Train over to the terminal and through security, where no one was patted down or full body screened, as far as I know.

While lacing up our boots after security, I said, "I think we're going to make it after all." Then, I repeated it again, but more slowly and sagely, so that it would be clear to all who happened to hear that I was referring to more than just the flight. Then, realizing I sounded like I was in an episode of Grey's Anatomy, I had to laugh out loud. All of which made me sound like a nutjob.

We did make it after all, onto the plane, that is.

I'll tell you what didn't make it. Our Maclaren stroller, which we checked at the gate, the way you have to when you fly with a stroller. When we landed in Tennessee, the stewardess handed us our stroller, except that one of the front wheels had been mangled beyond recognition. The rubber had been ripped off and the steel or aluminum or whatever the hell they use to make the hub was twisted and bent all out of shape.

Now, I should note that we came by this stroller in the following fashion: my mom brought it over one day, looking new as can be, with no explanation. When I pressed her as to why she'd decided to get us a stroller, suddenly and for not apparent reason, she said that she had been leaving work one day and saw a poor, pitiful young mother trying to sell it on the street for money for her baby and so she bought it from her, for charity. I didn't buy this bullcrap, not for a second, so I kept pestering her and pestering her to explain where the hell she got this nice stroller and she finally confessed, in a very irritated tone: "I found it on the street in front our our office, OK? Some kid had vomited in it and those assholes, their parents, just left it there even though it was PRACTICALLY NEW! All that was wrong with it was a little VOMIT!" So that's how we got our swank Maclaren stroller, and really, when I saw it mangled up, I should have thought, "easy come, easy go." But I didn't.

"Do you see this?" I asked the stewardess, "My stroller's all mangled. I can't use it."

"Yes I see that ma'am, but unfortunately, there's nothing we can do about it." she replied stiffly.

"Can't I file a damage claim or something?"

"Unfortunately not, because stroller wheels are not covered by our damage claims."

"Ok, here's the situation. I gave you this stroller in New York and it was fine. Now you give it back to me and its un-usable. So I need to talk to someone about this."

"Yes, I do understand that ma'am, but unfortunately, my supervisor is not here on Saturdays."

I'll spare you the rest of this edifying convo. After a few back and forths, I realized I wasn't getting anywhere and tried the airline ticket counter at the front of the airport only to find there was no one there. So I went downstairs to get David who was claiming our luggage, and cleaning up Sec, who had shit her pants on the airplane. She's going through a phase where she's too scared to poop and sometimes this results in shit-in-the-pants. Meanwhile, Primo's screaming about how he refuses to stop at the International House of Pancakes for lunch because the chance of rain today is over 0 percent and he wants to go straight home, since he is currently terrified of precipitation.

So with my two crazy kids, both of whom are crying and carrying on, I head BACK up to the ticket counter to see if, perchance, someone's decided to actually WORK even though it is Saturday and I do see someone but unfortunately, its the same stewardess who was totally useless at the gate.

I caught her looking at the door behind her when she saw me coming but I was walking too fast and she was caught, at the counter.

"Yeah, its me again."

"I see that ma'am."

"Ok, look, I'm not being unreasonable here. I had a stroller and now I don't and I need one for my daughter and I need your airline to take care of it because you broke it."

"But I can't do anything about it so why don't you tell me what you want to do."

I love Southeners because this is about as mad at they get. Snippy. In Newark, we'd be slinging four letter expletives back and forth by now.

"What I want to DO," I retorted, "is leave you this stroller, because I sure as hell can't use it, and I want to leave a note taped to it for your supervisor when he gets back on Monday. How about that?"

Which is precisely what I did. And not only did the stewardess not get more irritated and irate, she actually told me, as I was writing my little note, that she understood how I felt and she sure did hope I got my stroller fixed because she was a mom, too.

Makes you feel purty good to have a civilized exchange like that.

So we're here in the Smokies. Looks like we made it after all -- onto the plane, that is. As for the rest, that remains to be seen.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Dreamboat Teacher

Primo’s first-grade teacher is a dreamboat and I have succumbed to full-fledged love for her. She did – and this is a fact – hang the moon. I want to give this woman a Staples gift card worth $100K. When she leads the class out for dismissal, I want to scream in adulation like teenyboppers did at Beatles concerts in the 1960s. After a rocky year in Kindergarten, she has laid the groundwork for Primo to have a fantastic first grade, and for this I am eternally grateful. She somehow manages to be warm and friendly and fun while demanding respect and lawfulness in the classroom She doesn’t abide no fools and she makes those kids work hard but she also showers them with compliments when they deliver, and then rewards them for their hard work. She celebrates the kids for who they are. And her hair is preternaturally bouncy. She is (sigh) just dreamy.

Of course all of these attributes would be meaningless to me if she didn’t understand how cool my kid is. But she does, she gets it. So parent-teacher conferences were great because it was essentially like me winning 15 minutes with my favorite rock star, to talk about my favorite subject ever. But in the middle of the conference, it almost all went terribly wrong.

The kids are writing stories about small moments in their lives, and Jennifer was reading some of the stories Primo’s been writing. If I was helping Primo brainstorm possible subjects, the list would include: “Going for a midnight dip on Ferragosto,” “Getting caught in a big rainstorm,” “Having a tea party with cousins.” Instead, for his first story, he chose to write about how Sec pretended she was going to fall off the balcony. I found this choice of subject matter strange for a number of reasons but mostly because it was a highly uneventful moment – Sec basically just sat on the balcony and said to him, “I’m going to say. ”Oh no! I’m going to fall off the balcony!” and you say “No! Don’t!” OK? OK?” Then I told them that was a lousy game and they should stop. But he told the story somewhat differently:

“One day Sec almst Fel! Off! The! Balkany!” it begins. His illustrations show me, eyebrows angled down like an arch-villain, shouting “NO!” and Primo yelling “STOP!” It is a very gripping story.

As Jennifer reads it aloud to us, I really want to explain that this isn’t what happened so she knows that I am not the sort of mom which would be too busy to notice her child almost falling off the balcony, but then I think that’ll sound like I’m protesting too much and anyway, she must know that the kids take poetic license with these “true” stories.

Then we move on to another story he has written about when he was little in Italy and fell in a piazza and scraped his face.

“One day I wos litl and I wos rning in the peaza and oh no! I fll! Dere was blod! Mamy gav me a banddad.”

Jennifer read this and David and I were smiling, so proud, so delighted. Then her voice halted suddenly and we looked at the words she was supposed to read next.

“Fac you Mamy!”

I gasped. David choked. Jennifer said, “Oh!” stuttering to recover, “oh, I don’t think that says what we think it says.”

And I say, “Because it looks like Fuck you Mommy!”

“Yeah, I don’t know what it is . . . “

Instantly, I am cursing myself for cursing so much at home, thinking that finally, my trucker mouth has rubbed off on that sweet child, imagining the days of detention ahead, when David exclaims:

“No! It’s supposed to be a “th”! He gets “Th” and “F” confused! It’s “Thank you Mommy!”

Huge communal sigh of relief. We all laugh. Then Jennifer jokes. “That’s a good thing, because between his sister almost falling off the balcony and Fuck You Mommy, I was starting to worry.”

Yeah, she’s funny, too. Sigh. For Christmas, I’m thinking about buying her a pony.

Friday, November 19, 2010

What's your secret, happy camper?

I'm writing an article for a parenting mag on the secrets of happy moms and dads, which will include tips from real parents of things you can do throughout your day to stay happy and manage the stress of parenting a baby or young toddler, and I need your input. I mean, do you really want ME, a mom amok, coming up with these helpful tips myself? What do I know about it? So chime in with your ideas and stories about little things you did when your kids were little (0-18 months) that made your day more enjoyable - could be anything from practical solutions like "Have a good breakfast" to the emotional "Forgive yourself for not being perfect" to everything in between. If you don't feel like commenting publicly, you can send me an email to amomamok [at] -- just let me know your name, city where you live, and ages of your kids. And hey, don't skimp on details!!!!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Going Down

Hey, you say, isn't it about time for another one of those delightful Dispatches from Babyville from that powerhouse of a local mag, The Park Slope Reader? As a matter of fact, it is.


I used to complain constantly about what a pain it was to live in a walk-up with two small children. But since moving into an elevator building, I have come to see that the pain in my behind was from the kids and not the stairs. As it turns out, it’s still a three-ring circus whenever we enter or exit our house, although for entirely different reasons. In fact, the elevator, which I’d counted on as a cure-all, has created problems of its own.

Don’t get me wrong: I love our elevator more than it is reasonable to love a steel box. But while it has liberated me from the physical burden of being a pack mule, it has saddled me with a mental strain. Walking up stairs is simple, one foot in front of the other, but riding an elevator, like any other situation in which you must share a confined space with strangers, requires your behavior to adhere to certain unspoken rules. Of course, there are always individuals who shrug off these conventions: on the subway these are the people that eat stinky, messy food or tell detailed stories about their sexual exploits or sing to the music on their headphones at full voice On the elevator, these people are my children.

It works like this: as soon as the doors close on the elevator, a signal is released in my 3 and 5 year-old’s brains to say something odd, inappropriate or just really god-awful loud.

This might just be the uncouth sound of a bodily function, or the announcement of future body functions, as in, “I NEED TO DO A HUMONGOS POOP!”

But usually the off-putting words are spoken directly to our fellow passengers. The best case scenario is that Primo, my sociable son, will be friendly, super-friendly, so friendly it is almost an assault, like the time we stumbled upon a pretty middle-school girl in the elevator after-school.

“What’s your name?” Primo asked, instantly interested.

She was busy looking at her cell phone and didn’t hear him.

“What’s your name? What’s your name?” he repeated.

“GIRL!” shouted Seconda, “Say your name, girl!” My kids have a serious good cop/ bad cop thing going on.

“Lauren,” she mumbled, staring at the elevator doors.

With this, Primo fired forth a barrage of questions, leaving nary an opportunity for her to answer: “How old are you? What school do you go to? Where’s your mother? What’s the number you live in?”

This last question, it was clear, was the most pressing, and he asked her again “What’s your number?”

“SAY YOUR NUMBER GIRL!” Seconda shrieked. .

Lauren, clearly wishing she’d taken the stairs, asked me, the official Crazy-English translator: “What do they mean?”

“What apartment number do you live in?’ I explained.

“Oh,” she answered as she stepped out on the 3rd floor:”3B.”

The doors closed again and Primo announced: “I am going to write that girl a letter and bring it to her house!”

I tried to dissuade him. I tried to distract him. But at the end of the day I walked him over to 3B and helped him slide an anonymous letter which read “her is a pictr av the sun. you r nis,” under her door, if that was, in fact, her real apartment number.

As elevator behavior goes, friendly advances from a five year-old, no matter how persistent, are generally beyond reproof. Where I get into trouble is with my daughter.

Secibda looks like she just stepped off the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel: golden hair, rosy cheeks – the whole nine yards. But when she opens her mouth, it’s a different story.

“What beautiful eyes!” people on the elevator often exclaim.

“I don’t like you!” she snaps back with venom, “Go away!”

This response usually works to paralyze her appreciators, but if they persist in making conversation, she’ll pull out the big guns: “You can’t talk to me!” “This is my elevator and you can’t be in it!” “You’re annoying!”

It’s not that she’s cranky or upset. In fact, she’s at her happiest when she is berating and scolding others in a small box from which there is no escape. I know this because of the grin which spreads over her impish face afterwards.

I’ve come to accept the fact that my daughter is, at present, just really, regularly unfriendly. Ok, hostile. Ok, more belligerent than a drunk who’s been cut off.

This is shocking to me because I’m a people person. When I board an elevator (and I’m not doing damage control for Sec) I make light, palatable, diverting small talk, the conversational equivalent of muzak. I’m as amiable as a Southerner except I know when to stop talking. Yet, as with so much in parenting, this friendliness has caused a backlash in my daughter.

I’ve grown so accustomed to Seconda’s gnarly, snarly elevator bit that when I see children who are perfectly nice to others for no reason whatsoever, I can’t help but conclude that they are either cuckoo for cocoa puffs or under the influence of Children’s Benadryl or a similar mind-altering substance.

One morning last week, I was rushing Sec off to school and we got on a crowded elevator. Among the many riders was a brother and sister, about Seconda’s age, with their pregnant mother. I smiled at the children. The children smiled at me. The children smiled at Seconda. Seconda growled at them like a rabid dog. Then she informed me, “Betsy doesn’t like them!”

Betsy is Sec’s imaginary sister, and frankly she’s a bad influence. Where Seconda is mischievous, Betsy is nefarious. Betsy has a lot of opinions about things and they all fall under the “I hate it” category. I am currently filing paperwork to have Betsy excommunicated from the family.

The little girl on the elevator had a nicely-maintained black bob and was wearing an adorable flower-print sundress, making me have second thoughts about how I’d allowed Seconda to dress herself for school in pink penguin pajamas. She had been wearing a fetching frock this morning, but only because she’d put that on to sleep. She’s like an infant with her days and nights switched, only with wardrobe. But I’ve learned to pick my battles with this iron-willed child, and the battle at hand was over Sec’s habit of saying “Go away! I hate you!” to each and every person she encountered. She was under strict instructions not to direct the word “hate’ at anyone, period.

So now, I stood in the elevator, holding my breath and hoping we could make it to the lobby without an incident. But Seconda said nothing, Instead it was the girl who spoke, turning to her brother and saying: “I love you, Jack.”

And little Jack said, “I love you too, Pearl.”

Everyone on the elevator, including me, oohed and ahhed. Who wouldn’t? It made your uterus hurt, it was so cute.

Encouraged by the response, Pearl went on: “I love Jack and I love my Daddy and I love my Mama!” she said, flinging her arms around her mother’s legs. Then she put her hand on her mother’s pregnant midsection and said, “Hello little baby! Hello! I’m your sister!”

Seconda squinted her eyes and cocked her head, which I knew from experience did not bode well.

“Do you have a baby in your belly?” she asked the mother, innocently enough.

“Yes, I do,” the mom replied with a smile.

“Oh,” Sec answered thoughtfully: “I hate that baby.”

Every passenger on the elevator, including but not limited to Pearl, Jack, the mother, me, and probably the in-utero baby – gasped audibly.

“Seconda!” I exclaimed.

To make matters worse, my daughter broke into a huge grin which stretched from one blond pigtail to the other.

Thankfully, at just that moment, the doors of the elevator opened and I bounded through them, exclaiming, “Sorry! So sorry!” over my shoulder.

Wasn’t the first, and won’t be the last time I have to make a hasty exit after a doozie like that. Though I’m inclined to make a big show of being shocked and aghast – you know the show I mean, where you exclaim loudly, “I don’t know WHERE you learned to talk like THAT! You know BETTER!” in defense of your parenting skills — I’ve learned it only fans the flame of bad behavior, so I try, whenever possible, to just let the mortification roll over me and subside, before reminding my daughter that it is not kind to tell a mother that you despise her fetus.

But it does make me remember fondly the days when we lived in a walk-up, where the only people who suffered in the freak-show of my family getting in and out of the house, was me. And so I’ve decided that until the reigning Mean Queen of the Elevator can soften that razor-sharp tongue of hers, we’re hoofing it up the stairs. Not only it is rehabilitating, it’s good for the glutes.

Monday, November 15, 2010

High School Reunion at Duane Reade

I was in Duane Reade with my son the week before last, trying to locate some construction paper. I looked like shit. In my defense, I felt even worse than I looked, so in that respect, I was making an effort. I was in the process of getting over a nasty virus and if I had my druthers, I’d still be in bed, sleeping. But swim class waits for no man, so I’d had to get out of bed, throw on some clothes and take care of business. When I say ‘throw on clothes” I really mean, toss on whatever raggedy, threadbare, ultra-comfy shit I had lying on the floor around my bed.

In fact, when I got dressed, I did have a moment where I said to myself, “Really? You’re really going to wear this out of the house? I mean, I know you’re sick but are you willing to set this precedent?” And myself said back, “Yeah, we’re doing this. New low.”

So there I was, in my sweatpants and this peasant-y synthetic shirt which is one size too small from Target which, despite all reason, has been a preferred item in my wardrobe these past few years, making it faded and threadbare. My hair, unwashed, in desperate need of highlighting, was pulled back into one of those ponytails where half of your hair has already fallen out on the bottom. And t his is how I looked when I noticed this woman down the aisle checking me out. She was about my age with a little girl about Primo’s age but that was about all we had in common, by the looks of it. This woman was put-together. She was wearing a Sergeant-Pepper’s-type red woolen coat with a super sharp pair of black glasses, and her hair in a fetching, stylish bob. I didn’t know this person and honestly, I didn’t want her to know me, in my current Slob of the Slope incarnation.

But not only did she continue to look at me, she walked right over and announced cheerily, “Hi Nicole!” like I was definitely supposed to know her from somewhere.

“Heeeeey!!: I gushed, way too enthusiastically.

“You don’t know who I am, do you?” she smiled

“No,” I conceded, “I’m sorry/”

“Well I remember you. You had the best tits in high school!” This she sang out, with nary a note of apprehension or hesitation to use the word “tits” in front of both of our five year-olds.

Thsnkfully, this choice of language clued me in immediately to who she was.

“Jenny!” I exclaimed.

Jenny was this loud-talking, hyper-energetic balls-to-the-wall girl I knew in high school. And now that I knew who she was, I saw she hadn’t changed that much, except she was hotter and better-looking despite being 15 years older. This is when I started regretting in earnest the choice to surrender all claims to attractiveness.

We exchanged a few squeals of excitement at having discovered each other and realized we were neighbors, and then Primo’s patience ran out and he started yanking me away, which was totally fine by me because this was not my most shining hour.

But when I told this story later that night to David, I said, “She lives just a few blocks away which means I’m going to run into her again. And next time I can’t look like a washed-up charity case.”

Except that that’s EXACTLY how I looked the next week when I saw her entering my son’s school to get her daughter. And this time, I didn’t even have the excuse of illness. But the precedent had been set, and once that happens, you don’t even bother to strive for dignity. This time, I felt compelled to disclose how amazing I thought she looked, only in a crazy way, which is how shit usually comes out of my mouth.

“WHY do you look so GOOD?” I shouted, like I was back in high school again. “You look AMAZING! Your haircut! Your coat! Shit, you’re so SKINNY! And I am basically right out of The People of Walmart!”

“Its because you have a husband and I want one.” she laughed.

Note that she didn’t contradict me.

So this morning, I forced myself to upgrade every time of clothing, forsaking the stretched-out underwear the stained Old Navy pants, and the torn winter jacket which I can’t zip up all the way. I dragged out my kick-ass Last Tango in Paris cream-colored coat with the furry cuffs purchased from Screaming Mimis over a decade ago. And I put on lipstick. Two can play at this little game of making an effort. Failing all else, I’ve still got the tits.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Bowl Lane Time Machine

I didn’t realize when we took the kids bowling last week that I’d be getting into a Bowl Lane Time Machine, but I will say being transported back in time to 1985 was not an altogether unpleasant experience. The kids were off from school for Election Day so I decided to invite Primo’s BFF Leigh, and her peeps to go bowling. Primo and Seconda had never been, and the last time I put on a pair of bowling shoes was at Bowlmor Lanes, in high school. Before I was old enough and cool enough to bowl in the city though, I’d go to this small. kinda rundown joint by my grandmother’s house and I swear that’s where we ended up last week with the kids.

Nothing had changed since I was 10 years old – not the machines, which groaned and moaned like it took their last gasp of breath to spit out that ball; not the balls which were more sticky and filthy than the floor of a movie theater after a Saturday night blockbuster; not the staff, who were literally my grandmother’s age and hobbled, bent over to get the balls that the kids had only managed to roll half-way down the lane; and not the music, which consisted of Beat it! Smooth Criminal, and Living on a Prayer.

Wait -- there was one thing they had which I don’t remember – gutter bumpers. Are you familiar with these Godsends? They are little rails which pop up and block the gutter, totally eradicating the possibility of a gutterball. They are meant for children, but I find them indispensable for myself, as well. That’s because my bowling style -- just like my foreign-language-speaking style, and my dancing style, and my cleaning style – relies on raw power and enthusiasm, with almost no consideration for accuracy. This means that though I can throw the bowling ball at 70 miles an hour, I will throw it straight into the gutter. But not with those gutter bumpers! Genius invention. I guess the past 25 years haven’t passed in vain.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Don't know much about history . . .

“Did you know that New York was really bad in the 70s?” said Primo this morning as I was making his lunch.

I don’t know about your six year-old but mine has never before referred to a decade with such breezy authoritativeness. His historical perspective doesn’t have that level of specificity, where it can hone in on a decade at a time. Usually the periods in history he refers to are vast, like “ancient times” or “revolutionary war times” or “when Nonnie was a little girl” – and sometimes he thinks all three of those periods happened at the same time. So, this casual cocktail party talk about “New York in the 70s” was a departure.

“New York was really bad in the 70s?” I repeated: “In what way?”

“There was a lot of garbage on the street.”

This is why it’s good to ask leading questions of your child, rather than reply to their vague questions right off the bat. I was about to launch into a speech about how Bronx was burning, while he was just imagining a bad case of litter.

“Yes, I’ve heard,” I said, “Who told you that?”

“Mark, from school,” he said.

Ah, yes, it all makes sense. I’ve found you can always tell which kids have older siblings by how much they know about history. The other day, we were having a playdate with one of his friends from school, and he was chatting on and on about Hitler. Guess whose fifth grade sister had just finished a report on World War II?

I’d rather have a talk with my first grader about New York in the 70s than Hitler any day.

“Not only was there garbage in the streets,” I said, “But you should have SEEN what people wore. Have you heard of bellbottoms?”

Monday, November 8, 2010

Weekend Getaway

The following conditions contributed to a fan-freaking-tastic weekend.

1. My parents watched the kids.

2. Dinner at Chesnut, complete with plentiful house-made pickles (gratis, served with foccacia) and the SINGLE-MOST DELICIOUS dessert ever -- something they call the Bubino, which is a flour-less chocolate heaven topped with --wait for it -- peanut butter mascarpone mousse. Boo-yah.

3. Followed by watching Due Date, with a flawless performance by Zach Galifianakis and starring the still-super-hot Robert Downey Jr.

4. Traffic-free drive up the Hudson Valley, where we stayed in a converted rectory from the early 1900s.

5. Flight to Sweden menu at Da/Ba, including herring prepared three ways and elderberry sorbet.

6. More-than-reasonable amount of sex.

7. Traffic-free drive back to NY where kids, and mother were blissfully happy to see us home -- mother waiting with her jacket on, by the door; children full of hugs and accusations about the things Nana did wrong.

Ahhhhh . . .

Friday, November 5, 2010

Cop's Wife

Not to be confused with the Crying Wife, of whom I am also a fan (or at least stunned speechless by). This wife doesn't cry, but she did make me want to, with this kick-ass blog post about her son's unorthodox Halloween costume.

Rock on, Nerdy.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Election Day

Besides the fact that they know how to cook and save all your childhood shit, you know what’s great about my grandmother and her generation? They totally rock the vote. They never, ever need to be reminded to show up on Election Day. I don’t know if it’s the immigrant in her, or the fact that she’s several generations closer to the days of the suffragettes or what, but my grandmother doesn’t take that ballot box for granted.

Now that she lives in our building, we can go vote together, along with my darling children, and if that doesn’t add up to a three-ring circus I don’t know what does.

“We have to vote AGAIN?” Primo complained, “We just got a new president.”

“I don’t want to go!” Sec yelled, “IT’S BORING!”

Heaven help this bunch of apathetic vagabonds.

“Oooh, you betta be quiet or da policeman gonna arrest you,” my grandmother contributed.

“WHAT? But, Mommy, you said kids can’t go to jail!!” Primo yelled.

I squinted my eyes closed, shook my head at him and made the “she’s loco” gesture towards my grandmother. She always knows just how to get the kids on board.

The panic was short-lived though, since we were just passing the Bake Sale Table at the entrance to the school where we vote.

“Ooooh, cupcakes!!! I want a cupcake! Cupcake! Cupcake!”

“Yeah! Yeah!Yeah!Yeah!”

“No, no, no, we’re about to eat dinner,” I said. I almost always say yes to the Bake Sale but it was 5:30pm and I do have a sliver of conscientiousness in me.

So we rolled into the voting area with two screaming kids, a humiliated great-grandmother threatening them with time in the clink and me, wearing this defensive look on my face which I get when my kids are really being a public outrage and I can’t do anything about it. It’s a look which says, “Yeah, I know they’re a hot mess. What you gonna do about? I’m here, aren’t I? This is my democratic DUTY, motherf&$%ers! I’m ROCKING THE VOTE!”

I managed to calm the rugrats down by giving my IPhone to the little one and letting the big one fill in the ovals on the paper ballots. This gave my grandmother a heart attack: “Jesu mio! Watch what you doing! Makea sure you coloring in da right person!”

Then the voting people directed us to those computer scanners and Nonnie had another heart attack.

“What da hell is dis?” she exclaimed.

“Just put it in like it’s a fax,” the voting helper instructed her.

Seriously, guy? You think THAT is going to clarify the process for my 79 year-old grandmother? She doesn’t know a fax from a falafel.

I slipped her ballot in and then I read the screen to her: “Your vote has been counted.”

And I will admit, saying that out loud did get me a little misty. Your vote’s been counted. Rah rah, democracy.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Don't cry over spilt M and Ms

When you’re hot and heavy at the start of a love affair, you might imagine you and your beau getting married, but you don’t imagine being married. You don’t imagine going to Costco, much less buying a freakishly huge bag of M and Ms there, much less fighting over the huge bag of Costco M and Ms. Because if you did, the love affair would end right there.

The other night, when I couldn’t sleep, in between scanning through my mental calendar and remembering all the Evites I’d forgotten to reply to, feeling guilt-ridden about how I’ve never bothered to teach my daughter her ABCs while my son knew the whole freaking alphabet at this age, and worrying about how I’d locate different elements of the kids’ Halloween costumes, I also managed to squeeze in some recalling of fond memories from the start of David and my love story. I recalled specifically one beautiful night, right at the very start of it all, in college, when he was dating someone else and we’d been forbidden to talk, but he picked me up in his car anyway and took me to a Greek diner off-campus for a heart-to-heart. I remembered how I rolled the window down, and cried my silent, cinematic tears, and how I felt compelled to empty my pockets while we were driving home, and throw everything that was in them out the window of the moving car. We didn’t kiss, we didn’t have sex – we just pined for each other. Ours was a love that could never be! It was tragic! It was the stuff of novels.

Then, immediately after playing this scene in my mind, I played another scene, from earlier that night – the scene of the M and Ms. David, family man that he is, usually handles our monthly trip to Costco, with Seconda in tow. On one such trip, he came home with a mammoth sack of M and Ms, which must have held at least four million M and Ms.

“Why’d you buy four million M and MS?” I asked.

“Oh, I told Sec she could pick something out and this is what she wanted.”

Now, I try not to surrender to the harpie hag instinct in me, which is why I didn’t voice my extreme annoyance at having to find a place in our teeny, tiny kitchen for four million M and Ms, which would go uneaten for months since none of us really eat M and Ms. I mean, I COULD eat them, and I have been tempted to, just to get them from taking over an entire cabinet, but the last thing my ass needs is four million M and Ms, so instead, I’ve just been silently seething over them.

Finally, I found a way to get rid of some of the candy. We were having a few kids over for pre-Halloween festivities and I thought. “GREAT! I can unload some of these space-sucking M and Ms onto the kids. Perfect!”

I went to pull down the sack off the high shelf where David had stashed it. What I didn’t know was that the two-ton bag of candy-coated chocolate had not been sealed all the way. And when I yanked it down, the entire bag of M and Ms poured from the high shelf all over the kitchen.

If you haven’t heard the sound of four million M and Ms hitting the floor from a high altitude, I highly recommend it. It’s something quite extraordinary The sound was so thunderous, in fact, that it caused the kids to run out of their bedroom, to see what all the fuss was about.

There I was, standing in a sea of rainbow candy. There were M and Ms all over the floor and the counter, inside the pots and pans on the butcher block, behind the stove, under the stove, EVERYWHERE. I just stood there, stunned, exhausted. The kids headed back to their rooms, chuckling heartily.

David ran in, too, and gave me what appeared to be a, “Oh, come on, not another huge mess” look.

This triggered the fight.

“This isn’t MY fault you know.” I pointed out.

“I hope you’re not implying its MY FAULT!” he said, “since I was no where NEAR YOU.”

“But you put the M and Ms back without CLOSING THE BAG!! WHO DOES THAT?”


“AND you bought the STUPID, insanely-big bag in the first place!”

I’ll spare you the rest, mainly because it just went on like this, with more and more four- letter words for another ten minutes Then I spent an hour cleaning up the mess, and David helped, too, and then I went to bed and stayed awake, juxtaposing this scene with the First Blush of Forbidden Love scene from years ago.

In the morning, I told David about how depressing it was to replay the scenes back to back. I tell him whatever cockamamie, hysterical thought pops into my mind, without editing, and to his credit, he’s very good about handling it. Later that day, I got an email from him, which was titled. “Don’t cry over split M and Ms” and the message went something like this:

Of course we fight over stupid shit like spilled candy, he said, because that’s the dumb, mundane crap that tired, frazzled people fight about. It doesn’t mean our love isn’t as true and deep than it was oh-so-many years ago when the only Coscto-sized item we needed was a super-sized box of Trojans. In fact, he said, check the nightstand, and you’ll find just that, purchased along with the M and Ms. Because while we may be older, and tired-er, and haggier and craggier, we’re still in it to win it, which is to say, lovebirds.

It was a hell of a love letter. And I slept like a baby that night.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Halloween Hangover

I was talking to my Mommy friend this morning, and she said, "I am so wiped out from this Halloween weekend, I feel like I have a hangover - I woke this morning and didn't know where my wallet was, or where my phone had ended up. My house is trashed and my voice is all hoarse."

The Halloween Hangover. I've got it bad. Pounding head. Ravaged by fatigue. Having Halloween on a Sunday added up to a 72-hour Halloweenapolooza. If I see one more jack-o-lantern, I may very well be sick. But I will say, I got a big kick out of seeing my kids in full regalia on Sunday:

Sec was so evil as the Snow White Stepmother that your blood ran cold when she gave you her patented icy stare, with those blood-red lips pursed. And Primo was a stone-cold freaky zombie. Every time he said "Trick or Treat" he'd do a quick show of shooting himself with his peashooter, complete with zombie wails or agony -- thus giving those people thier Almond-Joy's worth of entertainment. Final analysis: despite Halloween overkill, it was pretty damn fun. Thank God I don't have to do it for another 365 days.