Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Wolf or Baby?

I have been spending more time than advisable on Facebook lately, as I experience a motivational low due to fatigue and December. And that is how I came upon this blog, linked to by a college friend:

Is it a Wolf or a Baby?

I called David over and showed it to him.

"What IS it?" I asked, essentially begging the same sort of question as the blog itself, "Is it a blog or a joke?"

"Its a meta blog," he answered casually.

That is yet another reason I love my husband.

"Oh yeah," I murmured, "A meta blog."

What I really want to do now is create a blog called Is it a blog of a metablog?" and my first entry would be this Wolf Vs Baby blog.

But that would be taking procrastination to a new level.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Diary of a Wimpy Kid Like-a-Reads

A year or two ago, someone gave us the first three Diary of a Wimpy Kid books, and at that time, Primo was still struggling through Frog and Toad and a 200-page volumes, liberally sprinkled with the word "moron" seemed as appropriate for Primo as True Blood or Merchant of Venice. What a difference a year makes. A few months ago, Primo unearthed the Wimpy Kid books and devoured them, spending hours on end at bedtime reading them. So passionate was he for the fine literature that we were getting into arguments at 10pm when I realized he was still awake and tried to wrest the books from his anxious fingers.

"I just want to finish the book!" he'd protest, "I only have sixty more pages!"

In this way, he finished all six books in about two months.

It was sad to see it end because the Wimpy Kid books were the first that really hooked Primo on reading, and I got a little nervous that without anything comparable to dig into, he'd lose interest in the act of reading. So I posted on my handy, local list serve, Park Slope Parents, for recommendations of books like the Wimpy Kid series, which would galvanize the hearts and minds of seven year-old boys -- just in time for Christmas. Here's the list I culled:

Geronimo Stilton

Ellie McDoodle

Dork Diaries

Secrets of Droon

The Zack Diaries

My Weird School

Magic Tree House

Boxcar Children

We checked out a bunch of these last week and Primo was vaguely interested in them all but nothing life-changing. Then we happened upon Dear Dumb Diary, by Jim Benton, who Primo has been smitten with after devouring all the Franny K. Stein books he penned. A perfect choice! Acerbic, edgy, gross, with lots of drawings to make the pages fly. I guess for some parents the protagonist might come across little mean-spirited, and I might not let very impressionable Seconda read it but for Primo, who wouldn't use the word "idiot" without flagellating himself about it, I'm not too concerned. It got him hooked all right. And there's a bunch of installations too - enough to bring us to the next craze.

Happy reading!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Meeeeeeeerry Christmas!

An oldie but a goodie. Christmas cheer and love so intense its kind of choking.
Merry Christmas to all!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

For Appropriate Audiences

I took Seconda and her cousin to the movie Happy Feet 2 this weekend and we scurried in just as the previews were starting. The first preview was for the new Snow White (or one of them, I should clarify, since there is a slew of new takes on the old tale): the kids were into Mirror Mirror and dug Julia Roberts as the stepmother. Then came a preview for the Titanic sD. This seemed odd to me and I worried the kids would be frightened by the sight of the ship breaking in two and huge rushes of water flooding into the cabins. When the preview for the next movie announced that it was made by the people who made Bridesmaids, I started to get anxious. It was a movie about people having babies, and so, I reasoned, that might be why the movie people thought kids would like it, but the humor seemed way too mature for the four year-olds in my charge and at the end of the preview, when a Bradley Cooper-type said the word, "bitch," I gasped audibly.

"That's not a nice word," I volunteered.

"WHAT'S not a nice word?" the girls piped up.

The moviegoers in front of me laughed at this.

"Oh, nothing. Its OK. Forget it," I muttered, thinking. "What the fuck are the people at UA thinking today? Am I a prude of is this shit out of control?"

When the green screen popped up before the next preview, which was ok'ed for "appropriate audiences," my palms started getting sweaty. What would be next?

And there was a little boy, leaving a greeting on his family's answering machine which said, "Hello. Today is September 11th."

Oh no, I thought, not . . .

Yep. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. Featuring a kid, but not, in my estimation a kid movie.

"Did the daddy die?" my niece asked me.

"Um," I said shifting in my seat, "yeah."

"Ohhhhhh," she said, "that's sad."

"Yeah," I agreed.

Someone in the control booth is on crack, I concluded. Or I'm on crack. Either way, this little cinematic outing isn't going well.

Finally, after thirty five very stressful minutes of previews, the movie began and it was . . . New Year's Eve.

Somebody went to the manager to tell them they'd put on the wrong movie and in a few minutes, we were back on track again, watching animated penguins dance in unison, just as we'd intended.

I guess I should be lucky they didn't play the preview for Saw 14 or the re-release of Last Tango in Paris or whatever. The worst the kids were exposed to was a terrorist attack, the greatest shipwreck in the history books and the word "bitch." Not too terrible, I guess.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Hey Girl

OK, shut the front door. Breaking news, people: it appears that my boyfriend, Ryan Gosling, belongs to the Park Slope Food Coop. Which means I now have to do the unthinkable and join, so I can casually hang around the kale section until he happens in, asks me to grab him a bunch and realizes he loves me and wants to marry me, despite the fact that I am already happily married. But, in less insane, more entertaining news, this tumblr blog about Ryan Gosling and the Food Coop -- Food Coop Hey Girl -- is about the funniest thing I have ever read. My favorite is the picture of him with the far-away look where he muses about the double make-up policy. The internet has its moments, I'll tell you that much.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Education Before Chocolate

We're big fans of chocolate advents calendars in my house and this year, since I'm so on top of my Christmas game, I bought the kids theirs even before the first of December. They've been enjoying their chocolates in the morning on the way to school and this year, we haven't yet had the prob lem where Sec tears open all the windows one day in a frenzy of choco-desire and then cries the rest of the month because there's no candy left. Its been smooth sailing.

The other morning, Primo asked for his calendar (part of the reason we've avoided Sec's choco-frenzy is that I smartened up this year and keep them stashed out of reach, to help her fight temptation).

"Ok, " I said, "Just have Daddy show you how to tie your shoes and once you tie them, you can have your chocolate."

I was surprised to find that Primo was shocked and chagrined by this.

"Why are you making me have EDUCATION before I eat my CHOCOLATE?" he yelled.

I had to laugh. What else can you do?

Now that I see how anathema education is, particularly when it precedes sugar-consumption, I think perhaps that I won't point out to Sec that while she's looking for the right chocolate window to open, she's actually learning her numbers Don't want to upset her.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

What the Hell Are You Talking About?

Just read this hilarious, insightful piece on the Harvard Business Review (why do you look so surprised that I read HBR? I read it SO MUCH, in fact, that I have an acronym for it, something which the author makes fun of in this very same article.And by the way, I'm screwing with you. I try to steer clear of publications with the words "Harvard" or "Business' in them in general.):

I Don't Understand What Anyone is Saying Anymore

Reminds me of being in grad school getting my masters in English Lit. I used to keep track of all the meaningless words volleyed about incessantly during seminars, in the back of my notebook. They were so meaningless I don't recall any of them, except for one: slippage. This was a big hit in my seminar on James Joyce. It was "slippage" this and "slippage" that, and I'd nod my head in agreement, like, "Oh yes, now THAT'S an instance of slippage you just couldn't possible argue with, right there," but I basically had no freaking idea what they were talking about. Of course, I'd never let anyone in on that because I assumed everyone else understood perfectly well what that meant. Then, one momentous day, my friend Lena, who'd been an actress with me in LA and had also moved back to to NY to get her Masters in English, did something UNTHINKABLE. Seriously, it was so ballsy that I think I gasped audibly.

In the middle of a very intense conversation about "slippage" in Finnegan's Wake, she said, "Excuse me. Maybe this will sound really dumb, but what does that word mean?"

Everyone sat, speechless for a few seconds. And then I realized that NO ONE knew what "slippage" meant, probably because its some piece of theory mumbo jumbo that was invented to give you a headache.

The girl who spelled her very ordinary name in a very unusual way and always dominated discussions, piped up finally and offered some ridiculous definition which made no sense, like, "When we say, 'slippage' we are referring to the way in which the words slip in meaning, that is to say, the space, however large or small that may be in any particular instance, between the word and its meaning."

Gotcha. Totally. Loud and Clear.

I'm still proud of Lena for that 'fuck you' to academic nonsense speak. So follow her lead, shared by this business mastermind Dan Pallotta, and don't be afraid to say: "I've got no flipping idea what you just said, man. Was that English?"

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

My big brother's birthday

Primo's VIP Jekyll and Hyde Birthday Outing was such a huge success that Seconda wants one just like it. She had more fun than anyone there, including Primo, because she was getting a chance to hang with the big kids and proving her mettle. I genuinely marvel at how fearless Sec is -- even when one of the seven year-olds had to step outside of the restaurant to "get some air," Sec hung in there, watching the revivification of Frankenstein with interest.

The day after the party, she said, "Can we go to Jekyll and Hyde for MY birthday?"

"Maybe," I replied, "We'll see."

I find it best to be evasive about these sorts of long-way-off decisions. She'll forget about it by February and be on to the next thing whatever the hell that will be.

But Primo piped up, "You can't, Sec, because your friends will be too scared."

"But I won't invite my friends," she clarified, "I'll invite YOUR friends."

Nothing like a kid sister.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Birthday Outing, VIPS only

Last weekend was Primo's birthday celebration. This year, in an innovative move which has revolutionzed my birthday-celebrating-world, we decided not to throw our usual DIY, invite-way-too-many-kids, takes-me-three-days-to-recover-and-I-dread-the-whole-experience party, as has been our tradition. I mean, I WOULD have done it, since I am still trying to secure the martyr crown but it occurred to me that at 7, Primo was really old enough to try a VIP birthday outing where we invite just a few kids and take them somewhere fun.

We pitched the idea to him and at first he balked because he'd already decided he wanted a Harry Potter theme to his huge party and that I could make a Hedwig-shaped pinata and craft a cake in the shape of Hogwarts. But David and I kept spinning how cool it would be do take his best friends out to a special afternoon at the world-renowned Jekyll and Hyde restaurant, and eventually, we won his over. So on a recent Sunday morning, we collected our gang of six -- four friends plus Primo and Sec -- and headed on the subway for a five-hour-long adventure.

Despite my fears about being in charge of so many children on the MTA and midtown in December, the whole thing went wonderfully. It even approached enjoyable. Nay, let me amend that. It WAS enjoyable, particularly seeing all the kids hold hands and walk down 6th Ave together. All of them were genuinely impressed by the talking gargoyles and special effects of the restaurant and Primo had a real smile on his face the whole time. Then we returned home for cake, which was supposed to be a simple affair but which ended up taking me the better part of the day before. I made it out of a box, too, so that should tell you one of two things: A. how incompetent I am at decorating theme cakes or hard it is to make one.

Primo wanted a haunted house cake and I had the GENIUS idea to achieve this by building onto a gingerbread house. Would have worked perfectly if I had done what I usually do and gotten a gingerbread-house-making kit with all the stuff inside. Instead I was lured in by the super-cheapo kit I saw at Ikea which -- in typical form-- contained the gingerbread house walls but no icing or base to affix it to. That's how it was that I ended up making five tons of ineffectual mortar icing which couldn't hold two pieces of tape together. I gloped that shit onto the Ikea gingerbread walls but they just kept falling over, much like the real Ikea furniture when I build it.

"I'm going to use Krazy glue," I told David.

"No, don't do that," he cautioned.

"WELL THIS IS IMPOSSIBLE!" I shrieked, "It would be easier to build a REAL house to live in."

Then I had the brainwave to sink the gingerbread walls into the sheet cake I'd baked, to brace them. I sloped green icing all over the cake to make it look like a grass lawn and then sunk the walls in. It worked pretty well. I mean, the walls were slanted and the house was so crooked I could only manage to put one half of the roof on but that worked out to our advantage since it was supposed to be a haunted house. Then Primo had the great idea that since one half of the roof was missing and you could see into the house, he could make a zombie guy out of Swedish Fish and gummy parts and lay him inside the house. That way, it looked intentional. To cover up for any inadequacies, we put the remainder of their Halloween candy all over the cake, ala Hansel and Gretel.

When we were done, Primo and Seconda oohed and ahhhed.

"That's the best cake I've ever seen," they marveled.

God bless children. They are so easily impressed. It redeems them for being so whiny and obnoxious most of the time.

Primo's friends were equally wowed by our masterpiece cake even if, after sitting at room temperature all night wrapped in Saran Wrap, the gingerbread got so soggy that the roof caved in.

Plus, I got to hand out my favorite party favors ever -- easy reader versions of Jekyll and Hyde. Pretentious, yet accessible and -- most importantly -- theme-specific. Feels good when you achieve all three at once.

All in all, a resounding success.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Sleepover, Part DEUX

So, Sec decided there's no way she'd miss out of the fun of her brother's sleepover by having a sleepover of her own at her great grandmother's. As soon as she saw Larry put the paste on his brush she was ALL IN.

It was surprising because Larry comes over to play all the time, and though Sec is perfectly tolerant of him and the boy games he plays with Primo, its not like she's ever really wanted to be involved before. Mostly, she just complains and pitches a fit about how unfair it is that Primo's having a playdate and she's not and when that's through, she tries to sabotage their fun as much as she can (and don't underestimate her ability to sabotage fun).

But on this momentous occasion, Sec clearly felt a huge explosion of sentiment for Larry, so much so that she coined a diminutive for him: Laralina. Make no mistake: Sec's flood of affection is as powerful as her outpouring of rage and disdain. All night long, it was. "Oh darling Laralina! You forgot your teddy bear on the couch but don't worry, I brought it to you!"

"Oh Laralina! Would you like a cup of cold milk?"

"Here, Laralina! A flashlight for you!"

The boys were actually shockingly composed and low-key the whole night. By 9pm, they were happily settled in the top bunk reading How to Train your Dragon and drawing comic books and telling fortunes. Sec, of course, was right there with them, laughing even harder than they did at the jokes she didn't get and repeating everything they said, intermittently offering endearing comments to Laralina: "I'm having such a great time! This is a great sleepover, isn't it GUYS?"

But the heady novelty only lasted for so long and after a while, Sec tired of their 7 year-old games and could not resist the urge to screw with the boys -- tossing their pens down from the bottom bunk, hiding their flashlights, grabbing the books right out of their hands. You know, the usual kid sister shit.

By 10:30, I was ready for bed and so were the boys, but Sec was still going strong, with no signs of ever tiring. She was just too wound up. After a few warnings, we had to move her out of the bedroom onto the floor of our bedroom, where she screamed and shrieked in insulted agony for a long-ass time.

By the next morning, she was fully back in the throes of her love affair with the big boys and blissfully followed them around, inserting herself skillfully, into their games.

She played zombies versus aliens action figures.
She fought two-to-one in an epic Kung Fu Battle to the finish.
She cheered them on while they played Plants vs Zombies: "Great job with the cherry bomb, Laralina!"

Even though she wipes me out, I can't help but be in awe of the kid. She's a piece of work, that one, a force to be reckoned with.

Next sleepover projected for 2019.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Kid sister at the sleepover

Right after Kindergarten ended, we hosted our first kiddie sleepover. That was a year and a half ago but I still haven't quite recovered. So when Primo asked if another one of his friends could sleep over, I was hesitant. I mean, I knew it was time to go again, but that didn't mean I was ready. How can a mother of two young children, both colossally shitty sleepers, ever be ready for a night of even less sleep than usual, particularly when there's nothing for her to gain, aside from her child's happiness?

But, I reasoned, we might as well do it before the dead of winter sets in, and along with the cold temperatures, the non-ending streak of sicknesses. So I agreed to extend the invitation, and the next night, Primo's seven year-old BFF was deposited at our doorstep for the evening.

I wasn't at all surprised that Primo and his friend Larry were over-the-moon and heady with the thrill of what was to come. But I was pretty shocked to see Seconda so giddy with excitement. In fact, her excitement, while very sweet, pretty much trashed our plans.

We had counted on surviving the sleepover by sending Seconda to sleep at my grandmother's house upstairs, an honor which Primo enjoys every weekend and which Seconda has never enjoyed since it is very clear she will exploit my grandmother's indulgences to her full advantage, staying up all night and eating whole cartons of Breyer's ice cream. Primo gets spoiled, for sure, but he has the self-control to tell my grandmother when its time to turn off the video games or TV or put away the cookies. He polices himself.

With Seconda, there will be no one policing. This has struck a chord of terror in our hearts and we've told her she has to show us, first, that she can go to bed like a big girl before she earns the privilege of a Nonnie Free-For-All. But on the night of the Larry sleepover, David and I decided we'd give her the benefit of the doubt, mainly for our own sanity. We told her she could try a sleepover at Nonnie's -- a prospect which delighted her until she figured out WHY were were extending the invitation, which was that there was a way more exciting sleepover having at our place. One which, I should add, she had no intention of missing.

"I'm staying here!" she announced after Larry had cracked open his overnight bag and taken out his PJs.

"But what about the sleepover at Nonnies?" I asked, trying to mask my desperation.

"No, no, no!" she replied, "I'm staying here at THIS sleepover."

And that is how what might have been a peaceable, stay-up-til 10pm sleepover, morphed into Das Krazy Nachtmar. Because while I am fairly confident David and I can outlast Primo and every other seven year-old boy out there, we are no match for Seconda, even on a normal day, much less when she is excited about something.

To hear what happened after lights-out, you'll have to tune in tomorrow for PART TWO. Yes, folks, a real cliff hanger. TBC.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Crescent Moon

The other night, we were walking home from swim class and Primo looked up and saif, "Look! A crescent moon!"

We looked. It was. A lovely crescent moon.

"I can see the fisherman sitting on it," Primo exclaimed.

"Huh?" I inquired. I don't remember the man on the moon being a fisherman.

"From Dreamworks," he explained.

These kids make me laugh -- its why I keep these kids around.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Teachable Moments and Tenneesse Williams

The other weekend, David and the kids and I were eating burgers and discussing Streetcar Named Desire. This is the upside of having created precocious, high-maintenance, demanding children -- they are so voracious for stories, they don't discriminate about the source. Tennessee Williams is as interesting to them as How to Train Your Dragon or Ramona the Pest . And its a helluva lot more interesting to us. In the course of our mini seminar, both of my kids said something which was so quintessentially them and pretty much sums up how they couldn't be more dissimilar.

We got on the subject because of Marlon Brando. Sec does this funny voice sometimes which sounds like a damn good Brando, a coincidence because she's never watched any of his movies. So we were going around the table, doing our best Brandos and that led to yelling "STELLLLLLLLLLLLA!" and that led to the plot of Streetcar. I did just the broad strokes: this not-so-nice guy with no money, Stanley Kowalski, falls in love a sweet girl who used to be rich, and then her kind of cuckoo, fancy-pants sister visits them. Lots of fights ensue. One day, Stanley does something no husband or wife should ever do and hits his wife. She throws him out of the house, rightly so. But where she makes her mistake is letting him back in, just because he throws a big old temper tantrum in front of her window. Teachable moments, folks. I've got a daughter here to worry about and I don't want her thinking domestive violence is OK. My son, too, for that matter.

"So what happens at the end?" Primo asks.

"Well, its very tragic," I explain.

"Does Stanley die?" he asks.

"No, he doesn't. His wife takes him back and her sister gets shipped off to the hospital and Stanley isn't really punished at all."

"He's bad and he doesn't get punished?" Primo asks, incredulously. This is not how it happens in the middle-grade books.

"Yep." I reply/

"That IS tragic." he muses, "That makes me feel like when you hear someone scraping their fingernails on the wall."

David and I exchange shocked looks. My seven year old totally gets Tennessee Williams. Unlike the end of a Greek tragedy, where its just total bleak annihilation and grief, this is worse. This is endless discomfort, injustice, and little acts of quiet, unbearable misery that go on and on. Its nails on a chalkboard.

"Yes," I reply, "That is it exactly, honey."

Then Sec pipes up, "If bad Stanley did that to ME, if he hit me, you know what I'd do?"

"What?" I ask.

"I would take a real axe and chop his head off."

I guess she gets it too, in her own way.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

I've already celebrated Christmas, and its not even December 1st

David, the kids and I just concluded a jam-packed, whirlwind weekend of city Christmas events. Consequently, we will not be doing ANYTHING remotely Yuletide-ish for the next four weeks until Christmas Day actually hits. I've already done Christmas, basically. Done and done. Lest you think I'm premature, I'd like to point out that I waited until after Thanksgiving at least, which is more than I can say for the stores which have been playing Christmas music since HALLOWEEN.

The Christmas extravaganza began the day after Thanksgiving when the kids went to see the Rockettes with my sister. This is not part of our normal repertoire, mainly because it costs so much damn money. But this year, I found a half-price Groupon and my mother, who can't resist a great deal, agreed to foot the bill. The only catch was you had to see the show before the end of November. No problem for us, I thought -- it just kicks off the holiday season.

After Radio City, we walked down Fifth Avenue, checked ut the windows and stumbled right past the Plaza. Now, who can walk past the Plaza without taking a stroll inside? Five dozen pictures of the kids in front of the Plaza Christmas trees followed. These would have been perfect for my Christmas card this year had I not ALREADY MADE THE CHRISTMAS CARDS. Yes, people, I did my annual Christmas-card-photo-shoot two weeks ago, on a resplendent 60 degree Sunday morning, when the kids could go outside with no coats and when I could order the cards for half price off, courtesy of yet another Groupon. (Are you seeing a trend here? My life is dictated by daily deals). The Plaza was cool, though man, is that shit commercial now. Shops and shops as far as the eye can see. Its basically the Plaza Mall, but hey, I'm not complaining. they have delightful restrooms which are free to the public.

The next day, we took on the main event of the Christmas Season: Santaland. I probably have a half-dozen entries about Santaland, and if you check them out, you may glean valuable information about how to avoid the crowds and get in and out of Macy's with your sanity intact. But this year we OUTDID ourselves, sailing through Santaland in FIFTEEN MINUTES. We took my grandmother, who hasn't been to see Santa in literally three decades, and I told her to brace herself for some standing around on line. But when we arrived on the eighth floor, the entrance to Santaland was eerily abandoned. We walked right on to the train. In fact, David had dropped us off at the entrance to Macys and gone off on on his own to find parking, since there's always at least a 30 minute wait before you even enter the train. But though he found a parking spot immediately and raced up the escalators to meet us, we had already reached the front of the line and were waiting for him at the entrance to the private Santa chamber when he arrived. It was almost TOO fast -- we didn't even have time to marvel at the train display or the mechanized ballet bears.

A quick trip to my parents' place in New Jersey secured us our Christmas tree and decorations and once we had those in our possession, it seemed silly not to just put them up. Christmas music was played, and tree was trimmed, on Sunday afternoon.

So yeah, we're done with Christmas. Santa can take it from here.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Day of Thanks

That stunning specimen of babyness regarding his impeccably made-up mother with suspicion a mere day after being born -- that's my boy, born on Thanksgiving day five years ago.

I remember it took me 15 minutes to put that suit on him, I was so terrified to more his little appendages. But despite being terrified to the point of nausea, I was as happy as I look. And proud. My golden boy.

Seven years ago, he was a mystery lurking in my belly. And on his birthday, I like to look at his baby pictures and tell him the story of his birth.

During my pregnancy, I imagined many ways that my labor might unfold. I'll be honest: most of these scenarios involved candlelit deep breathing in the hot tub. What I did not imagine is being on all fours in my parents' living room, bellowing in agony as my family enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner. I didn't imagine childbirth as spectator sport.

After a long day of first-stage labor pains, I demanded that David take me to the hospital despite the fact that my contractions weren't of the proscribed duration and all that. I was pretty convinced that my doc would report I was at least 5, maybe 8 centimeters dilated. Instead, she told me I wasn't technically in labor.

"How is that possible?" I sobbed. I was very little concerned with being brace and even less concerned with seeming so. The disappointment was awful.

"Your make-up is still perfect," the doctor said, "Come back when your mascara is running?"

This is what passes for medical advice nowadays, I thought? Come back when your MASCARA is running?

Since I was already totally demoralized, I figured my parents couldn't make things much worse. And since the thought of returning to our apartment where I'd spent 8 hours laboring to no avail was so unappealing, I decided a change of venue was in order. To my parents' place on the Upper East Side, where Thanksgiviing dinner was in full swing.

My father harassed me with his cameras, documenting every grimace over anitpasto. My grandmother forced me to eat, against doctor's orders, maintaining I needed my strength. And my mother offered moral support, if by support you mean asserting that i didn't look like I was getting very far with this labor of mine.

Two hours later, by the time dessert was served, I was writhing around in the tub, buck naked, moaning and crying, while my grandmother, aunt and mother sipped wine tub-side and offered unsolicited advice.

I was really very regretful that I'd eaten a bowl of homemade cappelletti when I upchucked the lot of it over the side of the tub. I put on a pair of my father's boxers and instantly they were wet. I sobbed to my sister that I'd wet my pants and she pointed out that perhaps, seeing as I was in labor and all, perhaps my water had broken.

Oh yes! That's it! Good thing for sisters.

I got David, threw up on him a bit, bellowed in agony, sobbed a lot and gasped that we had to go to the hospital. If the doc said it wasn't time for an epidural yet, then well, I'd vomit on her until she changed her tune. But I knew it'd be time. My mascara was running.

My sister Melissa came with David and I to the hospital and since I was a very respectable 5 centimeters dilated, I received a big needle in my back. By midnight, I was fully dlated. At long last, and after a sizeable injection of morphine, here was the tranquil labor I had hoped for. As
I waited for this famous "urge to push," Melissa brushed my hair and David held my hand. We listened to the Beatles and I put on a fresh coat of lipstick. After nine months of wanting things to hurry along, I was finally in no rush. I had this keenly poignant sensation of being in the moment before, and I wanted to linger here, savoring the anticipation of the great encounter which was about to unfold.

When I couldn't resist the urge to push any longer, my doctor told Melissa and David to each grab a leg. I felt like a wishbone. Everything moved very quickly then and after only a few pushes, I was reaching down to feel the top of my baby's head, which was unthinkably soft and warm and so near. After that, I didn't need any encouragement. I pushed with a vein-popping force and within minutes, his head crowned. "Look down and see your baby," the doc said.

How can words encompass something this sublime? "Miracle" has never sounded so mundane. His tiny head was just wedged there - perfect, oblong, intricate beyond imagining. Nothing could have made me look away. I was roused from my wonder by my doctor's words: "Come on girl,
one more push!"

I bore down and as I watched, my baby's body slipped right out of me, in an enormous rush. He was revealed to me entire -- shoulders, arms, torso and legs poured out in a wriggling mass of life. It was then that I screamed.

Later David would tell me he'd never heard anything so animal-like coming from a human. My sister thought that maybe I had torn. But it was a the sound of release, of relief, of marvel.
There he was, my son.

They placed Primo immediately on my chest and he was heavy there and warm and wet. We were all hysterical, David, my sister and I, all of us shaking and crying, in the moment now, the great moment which had ruptured and was pouring over us. "My son," I kept repeating, "my
baby." I sobbed with my eyes wide open so I could drink him in. Every inch of him, all 20 of them, was a masterpiece, and so brand new. He reached for my face then, stretching his spindly fingers toward my chin in a jerky gesture that some might think accidental and I thought totally, perfectly pre-destined.

It was after midnight and I was a mother. The prayers I prayed each day for nine months, and for a long time before that, were answered all at once. The day of Thanks had ended about an hour earlier for everyone else but not for me. Not for me.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Watch where you step this Thanksgiving

Tomorrow, we head to the Thanksgiving Day parade. I love Thanksgiving in Manhattan, and I love taking the kids to see the floats, and having a romp in Central Park afterwards, climbing the big rock and visiting the Alice statue, then dining at my parents' place where I bring nothing but a measly pie and sometimes not even that. But last time we went to the parade, I had my single most revolting Ne York City experience. I have heard of other NYC experiences which are way more upsetting, surely. And I've heard of many which are equally revolting: my husband stepped in a pile of human shit in the subway a few months ago, for instance. But I'm not sure I've heard of any more revolting.

Because last Thanksgiving, while walking across the park at 57th street, which was closed to traffic, I stepped in something terrifically gooey. I slipped so violently I nearly hit the ground, much like the circus clown on a banana peel. My first thought was that I'd stepped inside a melted ice cream cone. But just as I was about to look down to check out what it was, my husband exclaimed, "Don't look!" And I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I had stepped directly inside the guts of a squashed rat.

So, this year, I'm keeping my eyes peeled. I'll be on the lookout for rat carcasses. And I suggest you do the same.

Happy Thanksgiving folks!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Youth

In celebration of my birthday, David and I had a night away, courtesy of my parents. In the midst of our romantic stay-cation, we caught a film, a little romantic indie called Like Crazy.When we left the movie, I told David, "Get ready to listen to an hour-long rant about the state of youth." I pretty much tired of my own rant after five minutes but the gist of it was basically that young people today have no stinking stamina or patience. The movie, which was well-acted and looked good and all that, is about a pair of recent college grads who fall in love - he's a California-born furniture designer and she's a journalist from London. They spend an idyllic summer together and then she readies to go back to England to get another visa so she can come back. But then she decides, oh screw it, I'll just stay here, overstay my visa and I'm sure it'll be OK. Of course, they're fucked from that point on -- relegated to live on separate continents. Except, not really. Because though the girl's got to stay in England, there's absolutely no reason whatsoever the guy can't move to London with her. No reason they can't stay on separate continents and just work it the hell out for a while. Or, I guess, there is a reason, and that being . . . they have no stamina and patience.

I went on for a while about how I blame texting and twitter and the like for making young people so incapable of a love worth fighting for. Man, I'm an old geezer.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Someone's been eating my candy . . . .

I have exercised what I consider to be a fair-to-middling amount of restraint when pillaging the kids' Halloween candy stash. I mean, I haven't DENIED myself or anything but neither have I glutted myself. I'm averaging one to two Fun Size pieces of candy per day - roughly the same amount as the kids, though my candy consumption usually happens after their bedtime, under the cloak of night. And really, recently, its been even less, since by this point, we've eaten all the good stuff. Now, its just Tootsie pops and red-and-white candy-cane mints and Lemonheads. Who likes Lemonheads, I ask you? Who? (And on a side note, I'm going to have to counsel the kids a little more next year on candy selection -- less lolls, more chocolate, people).

But, regardless of my moderate amount of moderation, and regardless of the fact that there is still at least a dozen to two dozen pieces of candy left in his bucket, Primo has been starting to voice suspicions.

The other day, when I handed him his bucket for candy selection, he looked at me intensely and said, "I think someone's been eating my Halloween candy. There was so much and now there's hardly any left."

I was not about to LIE to the child. Were he to ask me, point blank, "Did you, Mother, eat my Halloween candy," I would have confessed. But he wasn't asking any direct questions, just sharing reflections. So I just said, "Well, if you eat a piece a day, eventually you finish it all," which is true enough.

But I know he's on to me. Its all because I showed him that Youtube clip, "I Ate All Your Halloween Candy." Before that, he would have never dared to dream a parent would commit such a vile act of betrayal. But now that he knows such things happen, none of us are free from suspicion. Damn Youtube.

Well, maybe its a blessing in disguise.My ass doesn't need the calories. And there was no good candy left anyway.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Ikea takes me to my happy place

I haven’t been to Ikea in nigh on a year. That must be an all-time record since the Brooklyn store opened. About six to eight months ago, I had a major Ikea craving, but David refused to enable me and I decided to try and sweat it out, which I did. After about three weeks of really jonesing for a stroll down the marketplace, finished off with some 99 cent Swedish meatballs, the intense desire waned and I hardly thought about Ikea at all.

But a few weeks ago my mother gave Primo a super-comfy toasty-warm down comforter. We lay this brand-spanking-new comforter on his bed and within three days, it was filthy. I’m not exaggerating. Primo was having a string of nosebleeds thanks to the onset of cold weather and sudden radiator heat, and before we could do anything about it, there was a big, old, scary looking blood stain on the comforter. It was clear we needed a duvet cover. I posted on parkslopeparents for a used one and scoured Overstock for a slamming deal, but no dice. And then, inspiration struck.

“Doesn’t Ikea carry bedding for children?” I asked David, a gleam in my eye.

“I don’t know,” he replied uneasily.

A quick web search revealed a half dozen twin duvet covers, all of which were $20 or less, featuring adorable, sophisticated, kid-friendly graphics.

“This weekend is my birthday,” I told David, “And we are going to Ikea.”

Sure enough, on Sunday morning, we were pushing our cart through an endless series of perfectly-appointed, totally-irresistible model rooms and I was feeling positively heady.

“Let’s pretend this is our house!” I squealed to the kids, “And this is your bedroom!”

Something must be wrong with me.

The worst is always the walk through the marketplace, right before you get to the registers. I feel the trip ending and I am thrown into a frenzy of conspicuous consumerism before it does. I need EVERYTHING – power strips and gingerbread houses, extra Trofast buckets, clip-on lamps and strangely long orange post it pads. I just toss stuff into my basket like its all free and I’ve only got a minute left in my free for all.

“Mommy, you’re going crazy!” Primo reprimanded me, “We don’t need that!”

“Yes, I know,” I agreed, “I really am going crazy but I just LOVE IT ALL SO MUCH! I’ve got a bad case of the gimmes! Help! Don’t let me take anything else!”

Thankfully, the kids act so atrociously at Ikea that we can’t linger long, forcing me to cut short what could easily be a twelve-hour marathon session of shopping which would bankrupt us and fill our house with garbage.

But though the kids don’t get excited for the furniture, they do get jazzed for lunch.

“I want the Swedish meatballs!” Primo yelled.

“Me too!” Sec agrees.

“Pay the dollar and get extra!” David chimes in.

Once David and I went to a Swedish restaurant somewhere in the Hudson Valley and afterwards, with the check, the waiter brought a comment card.

“Almost as good as Ikea!” David wrote. We meant it as a compliment. We are cuckoo for Ikea meatballs.

A Mommy friend once told me she never lets her kids eat at Ikea.

“Why not?” I asked.

“The meatballs cost A DOLLAR,” she said, “Don’t you think that sounds suspicious


“Not at all,” I said, “Because I’m too busy thinking about how WONDERFUL it sounds!”

We stuffed ourselves silly with gross, irredeemable crap and then we discovered, with unimaginable GLEE, that since we spent over $100 (and how could you NOT?), the price of our lunch was deducted from our bill. Meaning we ate for free.

I heart you Ikea.

I really do.

I love Ikea so much that on this trip, I intentionally didn’t purchase the furniture system we needed so that I could justify another trip in a few months.

Yes, I have a problem. But it hurts so good.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

You know you're working too much

And complaining about all the work you do, when your kid starts worrying about your deadlines.

We were at the pediatrician's office the other day, taking Sec for a strep test, and before he left, the doc told Sec not to kiss Mommy on the face for a few days so she wouldn't get Mommy sick.

Primo piped up: "Oh, its Ok if Mommy gets sick because then at least she'll have a few days off from her deadline."

Maybe I'd better keep the deadline stress to myself for a bit.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Party Mama

I made the mistake many years ago of offering to throw a Halloween party for my kids. You don't realize, as a new, young mom, that if you offer to throw a seasonal party once, you will be required to throw it every year for the rest of your progeny's childhoods. Well, you're not required to throw the party but just try explaining to your kids that you're just too old and cranky and freaking tired to uphold what they have come to see as a family tradition. I thought maybe if I didn't bring it up, they'd forget about it. Fat chance. In early September, Primo started asking what was on the docket for the party this year.

"Oh, are we having a party?" I asked, innocently, "I mean, do you really want to?"

Well, that's a dumb question. What's not to want? Mommy does all the work -- buying plates and favors and materials for Halloween crafts, Mommy administers all games and lugs around dozens of juice boxes and bagels. Mommy cleans up. Kids have wild fun.

"Yes, I want it," replied Primo.

"Well, Ok, I guess, but let's keep it really small, just you and Sec's closest friends."

'OK, sure."

And we did keep the guest list down. Only that everyone has siblings, so whatever number you start with, you double. And then, once you're having four sets of siblings over, well, why not extend the invite to just one or two new friends from school -- it'll help build community after all, and improve the kids' at-school social lives. You can't very well not invite family, can you? So, somehow I'm throwing a regular old party, the day before Halloween.

You know what I'm going to say next time the kids mention a Halloween party?

"You're about to enjoy a holiday where you dress up in your dream costume and then stay up late so strangers can throw candy and chocolate at you all night until you can't eat another bite. That's enough of a party."

I have become a bona-fide party grinch.Convenient timing, just before my son's birthday.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Second Grade Science

Primo is learning about "simple machines" in second grade science. Sounds, well, simple, doesn't it? It may very well be, and if that is the case, then I have some deep pockets of total ignorance in my knowledge base, because I literally can not do his science homework.

Primo was supposed to play "I Spy" and identify, in his day to day environment, examples of the following:

incline planes
and other shit I can't even remember the names of

I mean, I'm not a total moron, and I know what a lever is. If you gave me a multiple choice bunch of answers, I'd probably be able to pick the correct one using the skills I learned at Kaplan SAT prep a hundred years ago. But forced to explain the identifying traits of a lever, I'm up shit's creek without a paddle. You jam it under something heavy. Or is that just leverage? You press it down and it makes something go. Its on a machine. Oh crap, kid, I don't know.

I went to a special parents' morning at Primo's class last week, where we get to see what they're working on and Primo was showing me the "simple" machines he and his group had made from Legos. The machine in question was a fan, built with two pulleys. It was operational, with a hand crank. I was, honestly. blown away.

"How did you MAKE this?" I asked, genuinely not knowing the answer, "You must have had to affix some kind of long piece through to make the fan go!"

"Its called an axle, Mommy, and a wheel," Primo explained.

These kids are GENUISES. Watch out, world, here they come.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

I Ate All Your Halloween Candy

I know its been circulating on Facebook and stuff but I didn't take a look at this compilation of Youtube clips where parents tell kids they've eaten all their Halloween candy, until yesterday. If you haven't watched this, you must, immediately, and if you have, go ahead and treat yourself right on a Tuesday -- watch it again.

Jimmy Kimmel is right -- it IS surprising how the kids' first reaction is to instantly burst into hysterical sobs. I, too, would expect more outrage at the injustice and once that peetered out, a good long cry. But these kids start to bawl before thier parents are even done breaking the news, and its the funniest fucking thing ever to watch other people's kids bawl when you know nothing is really the matter with them. .I love the little boy who rushes over to the bag to confirm, then collapses face down on the bed and cries with open-mouth, drool-producing unabashed anguish. Kid's so destroyed it makes you feel lousy for watching.

My favorite, though, is the last set of brothers, who are just so damn DISAPPOINTED in their mother's excessive and indulgent behavior. Its hilarious because the big bro is exactly like a parent, trying to work through the consequences involved. You can just see him weighing, "Now how am I going to deal with this? What am I going to do with this mother of mine?" And the little brother, clearly trying to keep up with his brother's admirable example, displaying the appropriate emotions of shock and indignation: "Oh you sneaky mom!"

Ok, I have to go watch it again, at least three times in a row.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Circus is Coming!

Its my family's favorite day of the year, next to Christmas and Halloween.

Circus Day.

Big Apple Circus Day.

Now, I concede that I may have an uncommonly robust love for the circus but I'm going to go out on a limb here and say there's no freaking way anyone, certainly not anyone under the age of 12, can NOT be enthralled by what goes down under the big top.

This year's Big Apple is called Dream Big! and it pretty much gets to the heart of what the circus is all about.

Its theater of the impossible.
Of the unimaginable.

Its people doing things people can't do, but there they are, right in front of you, really doing it, and its freaking enthralling. Its breathtaking. Its gasp-inducing.

The way I see it, anything that can make me genuinely ooh and ahh, anything that gets me wide-eyed after three plus decades of seeing and experiencing stuff, well that's worth the price of admission.

The big news is that its Grandma the Clown's last year on the road. This is big news, in our eyes, because all four of us are basically die-hard Grandma-lovers. We loved Grandma even before we watched, with bated breath, the PBS series "Circus," which gave you an up-close-and-personal view of Barry Lubin, the man behind the clown. As always, Grandma was a delight (you'll get your money's worth of spittakes, and for the record they were my son and husband's favorite "acts" of the whole show.) In addition, though, there was a fantastic new clown addition to the show, a curly-haired blonde, irrepressibly exuberant, naive, a perfect foil to clever, sometimes cranky old Grandma.

Highlights of this year's show:

The magic sub-theme in Dream Big! really delivers. Lots of really cool, but also funny, tricks where people gets sawed in half.

Animal tricks were cool, mainly thanks to the presence of a trained PORCUPINE and CAPYBARA. You know what a capybara is -- those insanely big-ass rats from Australia? Yeah, they've got one of those rodents in a funny little car and when he gets out, he marches right up to a mike and lip-syncs pop music. Its freaking HILARIOUS to six year-olds as well as their legal guardians.

And of course, the acrobats. The opening act was this elaborate jump rope routine which started innocently enough and ended in a human pyramid jumping rope. The times when they fail only makes it even more insane and incredible, reminding you that these people are, in fact, HUMAN BEINGS and not robots.

But my favorite, as always, was the trapeze artists. This year there was a set of super-high bars, fixed trapezes, above the flying ones, which added an extra dimension of insane impressiveness.And this show's troupe involved a little girl, which knocked Seconda's socks off. She left the theater royally pissed off that she was not invited to participate in the trapeze act since she could, of course, perform impeccably, with no training.

So, go stuff your faces with cotton candy and get thee to the circus, people!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Roughhousing: a conundrum

I grew up with two younger sisters and girl cousins. Until my son was born, there wasn't a boy child for an entire generation. Plus, my husband has two sisters and his sister has all girl children. We are just swarming with chicks in our family. Which is why I don't know anything about how boys play.

Of course, one cannot over-generalize. There is no one way that boys play, just as there is no one way girls play. The reason I know this is that my daughter is much more physically aggressive than her brother and likes bloody, spooky things even more than he does. Also, I've got a son who quotes Shakespeare. So I'm not putting anyone in boxes.

That said, I have noticed that when another little boy comes over to play, both the kids' first instinct is to make high-impact body contact with each other. The kids walk in the door, kick off their shoes and within a minute its WWW wrestling in my living room. I believe the official term for this activity is roughhousing. It is as foreign an activity to me as Mah Jong or wood whittling. I don't know how to do it and I don't know what's appealing about it to other people. But, unlike Mah Jong or wood whittling, which are perfectly pleasant pasttimes that do not harm anyone, roughhousing does, in fact, harm people. I don't mean that it has the potential to harm people. It ALWAYS does. inevitably. Sometimes it takes five minutes, sometimes half a minute and sometimes the kids can go almost 10 minutes without bonking heads or hurtling themselves into a nearby piece of furniture. But in the end, all roads lead to physical injury. What is pleasant or enjoyable about an activity where someone is guaranteed to be pained? I just cannot say.

But the real problem is that I don't really know how to respond to the roughhousing instinct.

Do I let the kids wrestle?
Do I forbid it?
Do I allow it, with parameters? If so, what the hell would those parameters be? The whole point of the roughhousing is to make contact, after all -- that much I can see. Its like a boy way of holding hands or hugging. It warms the cockles of their heart. It can't be simulated.

I am always left standing on the sidelines, ineffectually yelling "Be careful! Be careful! Oh hey, watch OUT!" or "OK, I think that;s enough! Let's stop before someone gets hurt!"

I mean, clearly its a consentual act, that both parties are delighted to engage in. Clearly, no one is being malicious or angry or bad-intentioned. And my instinct, as a parent, is as long as everyone's happy with the game and their heart's in the right place, well, let them do what they like. But then I wonder: do other parents allow the roughhousing on playdates? Is this DONE?
Of course, in a neighborhood where parents don't let their kids lick the spoon when baking cakes and boycott burger joints with TV screens in them, well, anything's possible.

Oh, males are so inscrutable. Which is funny, since they're so damn simple.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Missy Missing

My youngest sister, who I rely on to stay in-the-know about cyber-happenings and shit like that, sent me a link to the following website:

Missy Missingb

At first, I wrote her back, saying, "I don't get it."

She wrote back, "What don't you get? Its FUNNY. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA."

(She is big on All Caps, that one).

So I gave it another shot. It did require an investment in time - about five minutes to figure out what the hell I was reading. But once I got it, I died laughing, This guy is like the Sacha Baron Cohen of internet pranks. In fact, "pranks" isn't the right word. Basically, he just writes letters and emails to piss people off. They are very funny. Mainly because the people he's writing to don't know how to respond to someone who's such an asshole. All in all, a terribly fifteen minutes well-spent in laugh therapy.

Monday, October 31, 2011

October Snow

This is OCTOBER?

On Friday, Primo told me, and his sister, that it was going to snow tomorrow and my reaction was to get really annoyed that he'd gotten both their hopes up about something that would clearly never happen.

"I guess its possible but HIGHLY UNLIKELY," I assured the kids, "So don't get your hopes up. At all."

I have PTSD from the night last year when everyone said there'd be a blizzard and the next day would be a snow day and so my kids were so excited they stayed up til MIDNIGHT and -- guess what? -- it was a freaking dusting of snow and NO snow day. I can still hear the shrieks of disappointed anguish when I broke the news to them that there would, in fact, be school. The moral to this story is, don't let your children ever get TOO excited about anything, especially something as capricious as the weather.

But, lo and behold! Primo was right, big time. End of October blizzard, we had. The snow delivered. And the kids were ECSTATIC Plus, what's even better, it didn't interfere with trick or treating tonight.

Happy Halloween everyone!.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


The other morning, Seconda told me about a dream she'd had, featuring her new imaginary friend. T-Bone. T-Bone was doing some circus act and Seconda had to rescue her.

That night, when Sec was still awake at 11pm, darting out of her bedroom every five minutes to tell us something terribly important like "I don't like cheddar cheese," and "Don't forget to give me an umbrella when it rains." I told David about T-Bone, in order to boost parental morale.

"She may be a real pain in the ass," I said, "But she's so fucking cool. I mean, where did she even get the idea for a female imaginary friend named T-Bone? Its not like we ever told her about T-Bone Burnett or anything, who is a man, anyway. She is just INHERENTLY cool. Let's remember that."

Sec ran out at that moment to with my lipstick smeared all over her face: "And don't forget to put this lipstick on tomorrow, Mommy, so you can look beautiful like me."

"Coolness does not come without a price," I said unconvincingly to David and to myself.

Then a few days later, we were at a playdate and I was chatting with one of my dear, old Mommy friends and T-Bone come up.

"I don't know where she got the idea," I mused.

"Isn't T-Bone the dog character from one of those PBS shows?" my friend asked.

"What?" I said, somewhat malevolently.

"I don't remember the name of the show but I think on one of those PBS Kids cartoons, there's a dog named T-Bone."

"Oh, great," I grumbled, "Just go ahead and puncture the illusion, which I am desperately clinging to for consolation, that my daughter is inexplicably cool and wildly creative. I need to believe that the defiance and impulsiveness and inflexibility is serving some greater good, some long-term pay off and T-Bone was an important piece of evidence in my case. Which you just trashed. And now I have nothing to believe in."

"Sorry," she said.

I haven't told David that our child's brainchild was born from an unvetted TV show she probably watched at my grandmother's house. I'm sparing him.

Plus -- it occurred to me later that day, when I walked into Sec's room and found she'd pulled very single one of the books off the shelf and left it all in a massive, unapologetic far-flung pile -- it takes an impressive amount of coolness to even recognize a cool name when you hear one. She could have picked Wyatt or Dora to be the name of her new imaginary amigo, but she knew that was pedestrian. There is hope after all.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Draft Protection

The new Park Slope Reader has hit the stands, with a brand-spanking-new Dispatch from Babyville.

Enjoy a laugh at my expense: Draft Protection.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Apple Pie

I can't imagine how self-satisfied normal people must be because when I achieve even small feats of domestic goddess-dom, I feel so insanely proud of myself. The other day, after we went apple picking, David and I decided we would make an apple pie RIGHT THEN AND THERE, that VERY day. Usually we keep the apples around for weeks, vowing to make an apple pie and not doing so, until the sight of them feels us with such guilt that we come to resent them. We wish we'd never have picked the damn fruits in the first place. They are a slap in the face. We are lazy and the apples make this impossible to ignore. Sometimes we pull ourselves together enough to make the damn pie, but usually we screw this up in some way, like when after laboring to slice all the apples and get the pie in the oven, David forgot to put a tray under to catch the juices and the run-off dripped onto the bottom of the oven not only causing a COLOSSAL sticky mess but worse, setting off the fucking fire alarm after bedtime. Basically, my whole life after bedtime revolves around making sure loud noises, such as a blaring fire alarm, do not disturb the fragile fabric of my children's sleep. So, the apple-pie-mishap was a setback.

But this year, we decided why not avoid the weeks of guilt and resentment by making the freaking pie RIGHT AWAY!

David ran out to get the ingredients and a frozen pie crust -- indispensable to our enterprise -- and the kids even helped. Within a few hours we had a kick-ass, steaming pie cooling in the kitchen which made me feel like Mother of the Freaking Year. Then we ate the pie, a la mode, and the kids were raving about it. Poor souls, they are so unaccustomed to having freshly-baked homemade goods, even our little pie wowed tiier socks off.

"This is the BEST PIE IN THE WHOLE WORLD!" Seconda exclaimed.

"It is even better than the one you get at the pie shop!" Primo added and then, "Hey! we should start our OWN pie shop!"

I didn't want to dash his dreams by pointing out that it had taken us six year to work up the energy to make a decent stinking pie. I didn't think a baking biz was in the works. Still, it was nice to see their enthusiasm.And it was nice to feel like a domestic goddess for once.

The good - and bad -- news is that, even after making the pie, and eating a few apples every day for a week or two, we still have enough for like three more pies. So I haven't avoided the guilt and resentment altogether. But maybe we'll outdo ourselves this year and make a second pie. I can dare to dream.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Girl Time

David has instituted "boy time" with Primo every few weeks, and in response I have instituted "girl time," the which was enjoyed by myself and my daughter this past Sunday. What do the boys do in their testosterone time?

Take hikes.
Eat burgers.
Read "A Little History of the World."
Buy comic books.
Talk about Andrew Lloyd Weber, Dante, and lofty shit like that.

What do the ladies do in their girl time?

Well, it varies because we are much more fly-by-the-seat-of -our-pants, whimsical people. We're unpredictable, exciting. You can't pin us down. We make it up as we go along. But sometimes we:

Get manis.

And sometimes we

Go to puppet shows.

ALWAYS we eat cupcakes or lemon meringue pies or homemade eclairs.

And ALWAYS we liberally employ the phrase "No boys allowed 'cause its giiiiiiirl time."

This last girl day, we went on a quest to climb a tree. Most kids, I'd guess, have climbed a tree or two by the time they're four year old but Sec has yet to experience that milestone. To climb a tree in New York, you need to make it a real priority, you need to work for it. No one's just going to DROP a good climbing tree onto your front stoop. You won't just amble by a squat, accessible tree as you cross the woods to bring baked goods to your grandma who is sick in bed, the way I imagine kids in the suburbs or country do.

The quest began when a few weeks ago, Sec told me she'd like to climb a tree (OK, it sounded more like, "MOMMY I WANNA CLIMB A TREE RIGHT NOW!") So I put the word out that we were looking for a suitable tree to ascend. Eventually, my granola-ish, outdoorsy Mommy friend told me that she knew of one such a tree, and it could be found in -- no surprise -- Prospect Park. She told me precisely where I could locate it but this was useless information to me, since I am constitutionally unable to navigate myself through the park at all. Every tree looks the same, every path. I am outdoors illiterate. Once I step foot into a wooded area, I lose all sense of direction and am instantly lost. So unless this tree could be found next to a street sign, I was not going to visit it.

But on our girl's day, Sec and I found ourselves at the picnic house to pee and then found ourselves running around the field behind the picnic house pretending to be Cat-people and suddenly we found ourselves, quite by accident, at the climbing tree. Its not an obvious tree, like some of the big weeping willows you can't help by miss - its just a little tree, kind of obscured by some others but it was clear what we were looking at when we stumbled upon it. This tree was created for climbing.

Sec shimmied right up the thing. It was pretty amazing. She thought so too -- for a few minutes. And then she was like, "OK, what next?"

What was next was more Catgirl and Catmommy pretend -- a diverting game where Sec allowed me to lie down but forced me to eat grass. Real grass. It was worth it for the chance to stretch out supine for the better part of an hour but it did occur to me that bystanders might think I had passed out drunk or something, so insensible was I to obvious provocation from the child whose care I was charged with. What can I say? I was EXHAUSTED from all the tree-climbing.Watching the tree-climbing.

Eventually we headed home and read books in bed. A pretty perfect girl's afternoon, if I do say so myself.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Ryan Gosling is My Boyfriend

What, you don't believe me? Is it that remote a possibility that I, Mom Amok, would have a man on the side, and not just a man, but a bo-hunk member of Hollywood royalty?

I concede he is not officially my boyfriend but I do think the fervor of the love I feel for his chiseled face and shut-the-front-door chest is powerful enough to bring us together, someday, somehow.

My husband has had to hear this kind of one-way Ryan-Gosling pillow talk for the past few months since recently, every time date night rolls around again, there's a NEW Ryan Gosling movie to see. The movie world is so Ryan-Gosling-heavy right now that when we go see a movie he's in, we get glimpses of his upcoming performances in at least two previews. Crazy Stupid Love caused me to actually swoon with the shirt-off-a-poolza, and then there was Drive, and last weekend, we caught The Ides of March, where his (scripted) brain was almost as hot as his (professionally groomed) chest. Ahhhhhhh . . .

A girl's gotta dream.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Halloween Pre-Production

Primo always knows what he wants to be for Halloween by the start of the school year and he stands by his choice, no problem. He's a steady fella, that one. This year, its Harry Potter. Easy, cheap, very little effort on my part. A dream come true.

Seconda, on the other hand, is a major, incurable Halloween flip-flopper. Last year, I made her settle on one choice early on and guilted my grandmother into making an Evil Stepmother costume from scratch. then I set about securing a magic mirror, a suitable queen crown (you can't throw a stone without hitting a tiara but I dare you to find a golden crown for a little girl) and an amulet. The day before Halloween, Sec informed me she would not be wearing the costume. Period. She didn't want to be the evil stepmother anymore. She wanted to be Snow White. We compromised by letting her wear some old dress-up for the day before Halloween but on Halloween evening, I forced her to don the costume my grandmother had labored over. She got into it eventually but it was a major pain in the ass.

So this year, I've been asking her on a daily basis what she thinks he might want to be. I'm basically tallying up the responses and trying to see which one pops up most frequently, but though this plan seems sound, I know it won't work. Sound plans never work with my daughter. So far, the list includes:

Hedwig the Owl.
Snow White.
Sleeping Beauty.
A Cheetah.
A Bat
Girl Vampire

Whatever she chooses, I know she'll change her mind at the last minute and then I'll be forced to be the Evil Mother who yells "YOU'RE GOING TO WEAR THIS GODDAMNED BAT COSTUME FOR HALLOWEEN AND YOU'RE GOING TO LIKE IT MISSY!" and "DO YOU KNOW HOW MANY CHILDREN HAVE NO COSTUMES TO WEAR AT ALL AND DON"T EVEN GET SO MUCH AS A HERSHEY'S KISS ON HALLOWEEN?"

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Apples, apples everywhere

Say what you will about apple picking, I’m a die-hard. Its something we always did when I was a kid and now David and I take the kids every year. Part of the reason we're wedded to the tradition is that its one of the only organized, heart-warming Hallmarky-moment-type events that my parents agree to. We always went to Masker’s in Warwick when I was a kid, and that’s where we go still, though we did have one year, when Primo was a baby, where I insisted on trying to find a “better” place and we ended up in some tiny orchardwhich had been picked clean by mid-October. I am not exaggerating when I say that there was not ONE SINGLE apple left on the tree by the time we got there: since it was Primo’s first time picking, we decided to pick up apples off the ground and pretend they were hanging from the tree so he could have the satisfaction of grabbing one off the branch. A sad state of affairs. And no apple pie-making after, that’s for sure. So since that debacle, we head to the tried and true headquarters of picking and though it is admittedly a total freaking madhouse (almost reminiscent of a certain medieval festival, though with better parking), they always have apples.

My dad is an apple-picking nut. The activity allows him to activate his Macguyer instincts and every year, he sets about perfecting his technique. This usually starts the night before the pick with the re-designing of the mechanical picking arm. You know when you go apple picking and all the good apples are at the top of the tree and you think, damn, I wish I had a ladder or an extendable, mechanical arm? Well, my dad invents one every year and he’s getting closer and closer to a usable prototype. We always see a bunch of people whacking the upper branches with sticks, causing an avalanche of apples to fall to the ground, becoming bruised and ruine din the process. We laugh at these simpletons, now that we have the Turbo Arm. Behold:

Sure, I could tell you how to make one of your very own but how would that help you? I don’t want to just GIVE you the tools to catch the apples, I want to give you the tools to make the tools yourself.

This year, my grandmother joined us, for the first time since we were kids. She was a hilarious addition to the picking team, muttering the whole time about the epic waste of apples which had fallen or been tossed to the ground to rot. When we sampled apples to see if it was a good tree, she would eat the entire apple every time, being unable to take a few bites and discard the rest. Consequently, she felt pretty ill afterwards.

All said, a delightful trip to the orchard yielding some fruitful results. (You can take a moment to revel at my pun-ishness, go ahead.)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Little History

A few months ago, we paid a trip to the Strand – its one of our favorite weekend activities. We always find a treasure trove of cheapo reads: what I love about it is everyone finds just what their little hearts desire. Seconda stumbled upon the perfect fit –a Disney book with a bit of edge to it. It’s a series called “My Side of the Story” and each of the books are two-sided: you know the deal, where there’s one cover but when you flip over the book, there’s a different cover on the back. One side of the book tells the story of the protagonist – Snow White – and the other side tells the story of the villain – the evil stepmother. Pretty rad.

Primo found some cool bridge books – Franny K. Stein, Beast Quest. I found some memoir so forgettable I don’t even recall the title. David bought a half dozen books by authors I’ve never heard of, being the most voracious reader in our family. And, besides the books he found for himself, he stumbled upon A Little History of the World by Ernst Gombrich to read with Primo. Have you heard of this book (it is, apparently an "international best seller" so not such a long shot)? It is insanely impressive. There’s nothing little about this history, which chronicles human development from the cavemen to the development of the first World War (Gombrich, an Austrian, wrote it in 1930). Put aside for a moment the fact that reading even a few pages of it to your child will make you feel like Parent of the Year – YOU will feel ten thousand times smarter yourself. It is one of those books for kids that is really for everyone, and puts these far-off historical events in an order and context regular people can understand.

David has been reading it to Primo for about a month and so far, they’ve learned about:

Peloponnesian War

Alexander the Great


The Burghers and Franks

The Origins of Lutheranism

The Origins of Buddhism

He will tell me shit about the Huns or the India’s caste system that I had no freaking idea about. The kid is now officially smarter than me (although he probably was at the age of two, when he farted in the tub and announced, “Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble!”). I might also benefit from this little history except that David is very possessive of his reading time now that this particular book is involved, so I never get in on the action. He didn’t care a bit when we were getting through Runaway Ralph and How to Train Your Dragon but now its, “Oh no you don’t! I’ll read to Primo tonight. You do fairytales with Sec.” So the two of them are becoming little historical savants while my daughter and I launch an in-depth comparative analysis and close reading of various versions of the Snow White tale. Hey, I'm trying here. (As a side note, I just looked at the two pictures I uploaded at the top of the post and nearly died of horror. On one side is the Disney princess machine and on the other side if a history of the entire world. I'm having a guilt attack. Cinderella ate my daughter, all right, and I let it happen! What can I do? If I try to read Sec a history of anything, she shrieks like she's been torn in half by boredom.)

Go get this book. But be forewarned – there’s no pictures at all. This is hard-core history shit.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Get Ye Old Freak On

"Hey, guess what’s happening this weekend?” I asked David towards the end of last week.

“What?” he replied.

“The medieval festival!”

“Am I supposed to be excited about that?”

“Every year we want to go –“

“We do?”

“And every year, we have something else to do. But not this year. Should we go? They’re doing jousting and having a quidditch match and giving free costumes to the first 400 kids. I think we could be one of the first 400. It doesn’t start til 11:30.”

“Yeah, I guess, sure.”

On Sunday morning, we rallied the troops for church – more on that debacle another time. After church, we loaded into the car, encountered no traffic and were getting off the FDR near Fort Tryon Park at just about 11:30.

“This is great. We’ll be one of the first ones there/” I announced. Like an asshole.

Yes, this whole post is basically about how I am an asshole for thinking that the medieval festival is something so esoteric, hardly anyone would bother to show. When I made that assumption, I was forgetting several important considerations.

  1. the festival is free. No admission. No membership cards required. Just wide open to the public. And it isn’t some podunk free festival where the highlight of the event is getting a complimentary coloring book from TD Bank or watching a knife sharpener sharpen knives. This free festival provided a schedule jam-packed with entertainment you’d pay to see: jousting with real horses, acrobatics and aerialists, puppet shows of Robin Hood, not to mention the people-watching factor. Whenever there’s that much entertainment given away for free – doesn’t even matter what kind it is -- you will have crowds.

  1. People go nutty for medieval shit. Both normal people and nutty people. So between the normal people with a mild interest – knight-loving and princess-fixated kids and twentysomething hipster dilettantes nursing a hobby – and the diehards with a passionate obsession, you’ve got throngs of folks. Did I mention it was free?

  1. I assumed because it was way the hell uptown, it would attract fewer crowds. F course, not everyone in New York begins their days in Brooklyn and not everyone is as lazy as me.

There were 60 000 people there.

That is a real number. I didn’t make it up. NPR told me. Actually, NPR told David, while he was driving around the outskirts of Fort Tryon Park for TWO AND A HALF HOURS looking for a parking space after dropping the kids and I off at the festival. That is not an exaggeration, incidentally. My husband circled around the neighborhood in search of a place to leave the car for two and a half hours – and here’s the best part. He NEVER found one – not even in a parking lot, because those were all full by the time we got to the festival at 11:30. After two a half hours, I called him and said, “We’re done. Are you still in the car?” And he said, “Yep, I’m about to turn the corner – for the five thousandth time.” He got to listen to NPR report on the festival, however, and gleaned lots of useful information. The poor man had to pee like a racehorse and couldn’t move his right leg for a few hours after.

Enough with the grousing, you will say. How was the festival itself? It is hard to view it objectively, and not through the lens of battling hordes of crushed velvet-wearing super-buxom people while carrying my enormous four year-old on my back.

I’ll tell you one thing I thought was way cool. One thing I may never forget. The size of those turkey legs. Good GAWD, those hunks of meat are massive. Have you ever seen what I am referring to? What kind of a turkey do they kill for that meat? It looks like a damn dinosaur leg. Suck on this T-rex haunch, why don’t you? I thought it was amazing and really wanted to buy one for my carnivorous husband, locked in the car, but by the time we exited the festival the line for Ye Old Barbeque Shoppe was about 100 people long. Smelled freaking delicious, too. Anyone know where we can get some of those WITHOUT going to the medieval festival? Because I gotta get something for David for Christmas/.

It was also pretty cool to check out everyone in their Arthurian garb. These folks are not joking around, by the way. The gowns did not look like the variety I purchase from WalMart for Seconda, which adhere with Velcro on the back. They had details, loads of finishing touches, and accoutrements, like those double pointy hats with diaphanous veils attached. The men were just as finely appointed, plumes blowing in the breeze, ornamental swords and all manner of vests. I’m a sucker for dress-up and I like to see people getting their Ye Old Freak on. My daughter, who has a drawer full of princess dress-up which she insists on wearing to all sorts of occasions at which princess garb is not appropriate, decided that on this occasion where everyone else would be wearing princess gowns, she would be donning a full tiger costume. That’s just the way the kid rolls.

Oh hey, you know what delicacy stands the test of time? Ye Old Fried Dough. Delicious, across the centuries.

We watched some aeralists on the Spanish Web and some guys in suits of armor attack each other with fake weapons and ate zeppoli. We tried to catch the jousting but there were no seats. In fact, we couldn’t even peer in from the sidelines because the group of by-standers was four or five people deep. Everything was just crushed with crowds.

Would I recommend the festival? Sure, if you are a medieval nut or happen to have a stash of benzos you can avail yourself of. Maybe if you live really close and can pip over right when it opens and stay for an hour before it gets really insane, that would be OK too. If you don’t fall into that category, I’d suggest listening to the coverage on NPR.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Java, take me away

The other day on Facebook, a whole bunch of my girl friends had posted a link to this NPR piece about caffeine lowering depression in women. It seems a bit too good to be true, if you ask me, and I’m not about to up my intake though I will accept the offer of feeling less guilty and concerned about how much I already drink. And really, isn’t that how it usually works? I find “the recent study” – whatever it is – doesn’t often change my behaviors or habits, only makes me feel worse or better about them.

Enjoy that java and the good cheer that comes with it, ladies.

Monday, October 3, 2011

I fall in love too easily, I fall in love too fast

When I was single, I was constantly finding a new object of affection and recklessly, prematurely falling for them. I’m just that kind of an impulsive girl who likes to give her heart away easy. I don’t recommend it and I sure as hell don’t wish it for my own kids, who I’d like to assess a potential partner for half a decade before so much as holding their hand. Thankfully, now I’m married and the only person I want to date – and then, only sometimes – is David. But I still have a tendency to fall too easily, too fast, though not in the romantic sense. Now I have a tendency to fall for experts charged with the enormous responsibility of caring for my children, usually doctors and teachers, but sometimes even lunch ladies and CCD instructors – anyone, basically, who does something decent for my kids when I’m not there. September is an action-packed month for my heart in this respect and this September has been no different.

I should qualify that I don’t always fall in love. Sometimes, I fall into loathing. It goes one of two ways: either I’m immediately smitten and the teacher’s the Absolute Best, the Non-Pareil or I’m immediately discouraged and concerned and the teacher is the Absolute Worst, the Bottom of the Barrel. Rarely, I stumble upon teachers about whom I have no immediate opinion, who are later revealed to be Just OK.

Last year, I blogged about how much I loved Primo’s first grade teacher Jennifer and how I would have liked nothing more than to lock her into a contract whereby she would be our family’s educator ‘til the kids go off to college. And I feel a little like I’m cheating on her here but I have to admit I’m head over heels for Marie, his second grade teacher now. I know it’s a little reckless of me to judge someone’s character so quickly but I can’t help it.

When I read the welcome letter that arrived in August, I was optimistic, very optimistic. I loved the way she double-sided the letter and how savvy she was about formatting so that important info was highlighted with boxes and checkmarks. That shit shows devotion.

When I heard from one of Primo’s friends that his first grade teacher Jennifer had given her seal of approval on the new teach, apparently widening her eyes and gasping with excitement, before saying “Oh she’s wooooonderful!” – I began to wax rhapsodic out loud, to my husband. I had never met her but any friend of The Best Teacher Ever was a friend of ours.

So when Marie gave Primo a special three-sided pencil to help him perfect his grip on the second day of school and then offered to send one home as well, the deal was sealed. I loved her, irrevocably and unconditionally, forevermore. And when Primo said she made a homemade batch of Snickerdoodles for the class FOR NO REASON, I wrote a theme song for her. When I showed up at the curriculum conference, hoping upon hope she might provide some coffee and found not only steaming Starbucks but a heaping platter of homemade currant scones, my heart was whipped into a frenzy of love and gratitude that had me drafting gushy mushy thank-you emails to her in my head while she talked – dear woman – about how in her class, they’d do poetry every day, because if there are two words that should never go together its “poetry” and “unit.”

Marie is now the teacher to beat. In fact, she is such a superstar standout that it almost makes me uneasy, because I know next year, no matter who we get, it will be a crushing blow. It pains me to think of how far we will fall. But, the great news is, since I now have a younger child in the school, I have another shot at second grade with Marie. Its reason enough to keep procreating.