Monday, January 31, 2011

I Hate Sledding: or thanks to global warming, now I’m the bad guy?

Here’s the deal: sledding, like ice skating, or apple picking or trick or treating, is something I do exactly once a year. It is a terrifically fun activity but only if every instance of it is separated by roughly 11 months. If I have to go sledding more frequently than that, I get cranky. I thought EVERYONE felt the same way about this. But, no, now it appears that people genuinely enjoy sledding which leads me to believe that perhaps something is terribly wrong with me.

Its all global warming’s fault. Snow should be something which falls all at once in a big blizzard, about twice a year. But thanks to the world heating up, I guess we’re just going to have to get used to it snowing all the freaking time now. If you want to hear the myriad reasons this excessive snowfall annoys me, they are plentiful and persuasive. But I’ve just discovered another reason I hate the increase in snowfall which is that people are constantly inviting me to go sledding.

When I was picking Sec up from school we asked her friend if she wanted to play and the friend’s babysitter said, “Oh, we’re going sledding, Do you want to come?”

I all but yelled, “But we did that ALREADY!”

It is exactly like when I tell Sec to go to the bathroom before bed and she says “But I just did peepee YESTERDAY!”

Except that, unlike sledding, one HAS to urinate on a regular basis.

Look, don’t get me wrong. I LOVE being invited to do stuff (and when I’m not , I bitch about that) but I just end up feeling like a royal Scrooge, a real Grinch whenever I demur and that doesn’t jive with the way I like to see myself, lover of adventure and brimming with joie de vivre.

The main reason I’m so sledding-averse is that I’m really lazy, and getting to Prospect Park involves a thirty minute tromp through the snow, straight uphill. Not only am I lazy, but my children are as well, and after a block of jubilant shrieking and running, they instantly become exhausted and collapse in the snow. In order to get them to the park, I then have to drag them, stick them on my back or pray fervently to God. Getting there, and getting back, is just no fun at all.

So the next time someone invites me to sled, I’m going to reply, “No thanks. But if you want to join US, we’ll be wandering around outside our building, making ineffectual snowballs, eating handfuls of the build-up, and rolling around on the snow-covered ground like a bunch of drunkards. No hill required.”

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Its official -- Snow Day.

Does the NYC Dept of Ed care nothing for my deadlines and general state of happiness?

My survival plan:

Put the Netflix DVD of An American Tail on for the kids, maybe on repeat play, so I can work.
Let Primo play Angry Birds to his heart's content.
Let Sec soak in the tub as long as she wants.
Force the children to listen to Farmer Boy, the next installment in the Little House on the Praire series.
If things get bad, I'll bake some chocolate chip cookies.
If things get good, we'll make a pinata for Sec's upcoming birthday.

Oh, and yeah, we'll make a snowman.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The imaginary extended family

When my daughter had one imaginary friend, it was charming. Now that she has created an entire extended imaginary family, it’s a different story.

In the beginning, there was Betsy. Bad, bad Betsy – impulsive, pleasure-seeking, lawless Betsy. Soon, however, Seconda started mentioning Betsy’s sister Tipi.

“Her name is Tipi?” I asked, “Is she Native American?”

Seconda nodded.

“And she is a statue which came to life. And she has a bug body.” she elaborated.

“Let me get this straight. It turns out that your imaginary sister, Betsy, has another sister, a half-bug, fully Native American, imaginary girl who used to be a statue?”

Seconda nodded, “And she is VERY naughty.”

Big surprise.

I heard a lot about Betsy and Tipi and their unending rivalries, fistfights and terrible shenanigans for a while. Then Sarah entered the picture. I’m not sure how, if at all, she is related to Betsy, Tipi and my daughter, but the good news is that she is NOT a bad seed imaginary friend. She is actually a very good influence on Seconda. Sarah is honest, kind, law-abiding. Sarah puts the needs of others before herself. Sarah plays well with others. Sarah is a dream child and I’m proud to claim her as my imaginary granddaughter.

Of course, the poor girl doesn’t stand a chance with the rest of the brutes that populate Seconda’s imaginary world. You wouldn’t BELIEVE the injustice she’s subjected to.

“One time, Betsy took all of Sarah’s cookies and all them all up and she didn’t have ANY!”

“One time, Sarah was playing with her favorite Barbie doll and Tipi and Betsy grabbed it right out of her hands and then they TEASED HER and said, “You can’t get us, na-na-nany-pooh-pooh.”

“One time, Tipi cut Sarah’s hand off!”

“One time, Sarah’s head got cracked open and her BRAIN FELL OUT!”

Oh, the window these imaginary friends give to Seconda’s soul. I wouldn’t mind putting some curtains on it.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Overheard at bedtime

Last night I overheard the following exchange in my children's bedroom:

Sec: “AHHHHH! I just stepped on something! I hate this! I hate this whole world! I hate my bed! My foot hurts! Primo, can you heal it?"

Primo: "Let me see . . well, your body is pumping blood into your skin, to form a scab, which is a band-aid your body makes. Maybe it will have princesses on it."

“My scab will have princesses on it?”

“I am only joking about the princesses.”

“Hey, let’s pretend I am Sleeping Beauty and I touch the spindle and when I do you make a big noise and then I DIE!”

“No, no, lets do the original one when you dance so fast you melt!”

“NO NO NO! What do you think this is – Snow WHITE? I am SLEEPING BEAUTY and I touch the spindle and THEN I DIE!”

“Whatever you want.”

I have three thoughts:

A. You wouldn't have stepped on anything if you were lying down, like you're supposed to.

B. What a wise man my son is becoming to learn so early the power of "whatever you say."

C. Sorry, I was under the impression that this was BEDTIME, which entailed soothing activities like counting sheep, not changing into dress-up and launching elaborate and thrilling pretend play scenarios. My mistake.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Passing for Manhattanites

Nothing like moving on up to the East Side, and staying at my parents’ apartment when they’re out of town for the weekend. Sure, we could subway in and out from Brooklyn, but there’s something about waking up walking distance from MOMA which just makes me feel more sophisticated. Plus, I’ve been promising Seconda that I’d take her to have a proper pot of tea at Alice’s Teacup, and there’s one a short walk from my parents’. Nearly every time we stay there, we pop by old Alice’s to grab some scones, but it is always so mobbed, we take them to go and wolf them down in a highly uncouth and un-Manhattan-like manner right in front of the restaurant, getting covered in crumbs and miserably attempting to apply clotted cream and jam onto the scone bite with nary a surface to rest any of it on. It’s just so terribly Brooklyn of us. For once, I wanted to eat INSIDE the restaurant, to have a pot of fancy schmancy tea, a pot featuring one of those ceramic whats-its that holds the round spout-sponge in place. But scoring a table for brunch at Alice’s Teacup is no small feat, it turns out.

Saturday morning, we rolled in around 11am, and it was a thirty minute wait. Undeterred I put my name down on the list. The front entrance was so crowded, however, there was no room for me, let alone my whining, havoc-wreaking children, and my beleagured husband holding the stroller. So I left my cell phone number with the hostess and took the fam to a pet shop a few blocks away where we pretended we were in the market for a dog so that Seconda could pet all the animals, while staying warm. After about twenty minutes, I consulted my phone and realized Alice’s Teacup had tried us. Horror of horrors -- we missed the call! I rushed the clan back over to claim our table but the hostess regretfully informed me that she’d given our table away and we could go back on the list, but it’d probably take another hour.

I stared at her, incredulous.

“Do you want to wait?” she asked.

“I AM BORED OF LIFE!” Primo yelled pounding on the glass counter.

“I WANT FAIRY WINGS RIGHT NOW!” Seconda bellowed behind him.

“NO!” I yelled at everyone, including the hostess, “No, I do NOT want to wait/”

She looked incredibly relieved.

“Who do you have to screw to get a table at Alice’s Teacup?” I asked David, outside/

“Well, maybe next time you should make sure your ringer’s on,” he pointed out, helpfully.

“OK, OK,” I grumbled, “Lets go downtown. Who needs the upper east side anyway?”

Downtown we went, to City Bakery, and to Books of Wonder, to the City Treehouse and to the Strand, where I spent a shit-ton on literature for the kids and one Robert Bolano book.

“You spent SEVENTY dollars?” Primo asked, incredulously, at the register, when I handed over my credit card.

“Are you the voice of reason?” I replied, “I thought we didn’t have one of those in this family/”

In the morning, I mobilized the children early to try Alice’s Teacup again. By 10:30, we were there, and less than a minute later, we were sitting down to some very fragile teacups.

“Success!” I exclaimed to David.

The children shared a small pot of “Hawaiian Paradise” tea, which Seconda found “sour! Needs sugar!” and we had a nice tasty pot of heavily-caffeinated Alice’s Tea, Scones were slathered in cream and jam in a highly civilized fashion and the Eggs Benedict were sinfully, disgustingly delicious. I forced the children to talk about high society subjects like the vocabulary coined by Lewis Carroll and the role of the witches in Macbeth. A perfect tea time. There wasn’t even a spill – that is, until Primo put his coat on and knocked the teacup over, dousing his chair. But we were on our way out, and after waiting an hour on line, I’m guessing the poor shmucks behind us would be grateful to sit down, even if it was on a wet seat.

Then off to Sony Wonder Lab and FAO Schwartz, for some free diversion. Free in the monetary sense only, however, because watching the Big Piano show at FAO did cost me my dignity and wrestling the life-sized Rapunzel doll out of Sec’s hands took a few weeks off my life, at least.

All in all, a good weekend. But I sure am glad to be back in Brooklyn.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Disney Princess Makeup

When the New Year started, David and I took a good, long look at the state of our children’s behavior (not that a long look was necessary) and realized it was basically crap. Please be clear: I’m not saying, ala Amy Chua, Tiger Mother, that my kids are crap, only that their behavior is. You know the way adults sort of slack off on their diets over the holidays and then, come New Year’s decide, they’ve got to do something about the unmistakable bulge that’s developed? This is precisely what happened to my children, except that instead of gaining weight, they gained gall, attitude and anarchic leanings. All those presents and candy and cake and time off from school eroded their already questionable devotion to rules and order.

So, in order to aid our return to discipline, we resuscitated the old sticker charts. Primo’s sticker chart is specifically targeted to reward brave behavior, because he’s Achilles Hell is worry. It was more difficult to decide what issue Seconda’s sticker chart should address since she has a few areas that need drastic improvement. We settled on a “listening chart” to acknowledge and reward instances of good listening and cooperation. It has taken a long time, but she has finally early the requisite 25 stickers necessary for a small reward of her choice. And what she chose was . . . Disney princess makeup. I will pause as you throw up in your mouth a little.

Disney Princess Makeup.

Each of these three things taken separately are not so objectionable – I certainly appreciate Walt’s contribution to the cinema; there are a lot of stirring and compelling princess narratives; and hey, I enjoy body art of all types -- tattoos, nail polish, facepaint, whatever the hell floats your boat. But put together Disney and Princess and Makeup and you get a total abomination. The kit she selected contained some stick-on nail tips, a tube of lip balm, a pot of lip gloss and one bottle of sparkly nail polish, everything covered in pastel images of Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty’s smiling faces. The thought of my daughter applying cheap-o, probably toxic makeup in the hopes of making her sublime, perfect face more closely resemble those of the anemic, moronic women who contain absolutely no chutzpah, cojones or problem-solving skills, fills me with agony, However, I keenly remember feeling the same irresistible pull to the princess crap. Hell, if I’m being honest, I STILL do, in part, You see those ruby red lips and the perfect bows sitting atop their shiny do’s and you’re hypnotized. You are rendered powerless under the spell of pretty. So I wasn’t about to put my foot down and ban princesses, especially since I know that’ll only make her want it more.

So, I paid for the makeup, all the while reminding Seconda that it was fun to play with makeup but that she didn’t NEED it to be pretty, that what makes her pretty is her free spirit and her kindness and big glittering eyes and her sense of humor.

“OK,” she said, “Now can I have the princess makeup?”

I was worried that she’d fight me to wear it to school but that turned out to be a moot point. After a half hour shrieking and squealing and ooohing and ahhing, Seconda got quiet and disappeared. This was suspicious but I didn’t want to look the gift horse of peace and quiet in the mouth so I did not look for her. Then, as I was crossing my legs at the table where I sat typing, my foot banged into something soft. A child. My child, hiding gunder the table.

I knew whatever she was doing was going to be bad, that’s how quiet and well-hidden she was. So I took a deep breath before pulling up the tablecloth. There was Sec, buck naked, her body smeared in Disney Princess Lip Gloss, and the stick of lip balm chewed down to the nub. Not only had she covered herself in pretty, she’d ingested the pretty. That kid never does anything half-ass.

So, just like that, we were rid of the Disney Princess Makeup. Sometimes letting them glut themselves can do the trick.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Snow, it is OVER between us

It has officially happened. The love affair between snow and I is over, for this year at least. And I do mean completely over: not waning, or ebbing, but freaking kaput. Its slightly ahead of schedule – usually I can last til end of January -- but with global warming making it snow all the freaking time starting in December, it was inevitable.

Yesterday’s ice-and-slush-apooloza was the final straw. I didn’t know you could have ice and slush simultaneously, but apparently, it’s possible and it is the worst of all worlds, because with no warning, you go from sliding around precariously to sinking ankle-deep into freezing puddles of melted snow mixed with dog piss. Also, you can’t push a Maclaren stroller through that shit. So, yesterday morning, after taking three steps outside into the gall-inducing street conditions, I was forced to about-face with my stroller, bring it right back home and take Sec on foot to nursery school.

I am aware that this doesn’t sound so awful. Many almost-four year-olds are capable of walking 15 minutes to school, If you ask my father, he did it barefoot and with joyful abandon. My daughter, however, is a Non-Walker. This means that although she CAN walk, she WILL not. Whether it is sheer laziness (probable) or the deep-seated delusion that she is a princess who should be carted around in a gilded carriage, she can’t go for more than half a block without collapsing in a pile, whining like an injured animal. At her age, Primo walked everywhere, mainly because he was so insanely tall, he wouldn’t fit in the double stroller anymore. And also, we forced him. With Sec, we are old and decrepit and lacking stamina. We are no match for her supernatural tenacity. It is just so much easier to push her ever-growing form up the hill than to beg, plead, threaten and cajole her to walk. It also takes approximately one tenth of the time.

But yesterday, there was no choice. She had to walk, holding her umbrella, and it took us a full 30 minutes to get to school, not to mention I sustained what is probably irreversible damage to my cardiac health.

By the time we got to school, her boots were soaked, her socks underneath were soaked, her pants under her snow pants were soaked and I was dripping, not just with rain, but rancor. There has GOT to be an easier way, I thought. This weather is not just inconvenient; it is an affront to reason. It is an OUTRAGE. That is when I fell out of love with snow. Snow can come back, but I’m not going to receive it with open arms, I’ll you that. I’m not going to cross my fingers for a snow day. And over Feb break, I may just go to Florida.

Monday, January 17, 2011


Primo came home from school last week and told me he’d learned a poem by Langston Hughes. “What is it?” I asked him. He made his face very solemn and then recited:

Hold fast to dreams

For if dreams die

Life is a broken-winged bird

That cannot fly

Hold fast to dreams

For when dreams go

Life is a barren field

Frozen with snow

I’m not gonna lie, I tore up,

Happy Martin Luther King Jr Day, dreamers,

Thursday, January 13, 2011

When Parents Text

Lordy me, have you seen this site, When Parents Text? It is pretty freaking hilarious. I find that I can equally relate to the young'uns and thier parents, being in the no man's land in between the two -- not a Luddite, but still, I can't quite make texting an instinct. Fortunately for me, texting is the one communication means that my parents do not avail themselves of to torture me and provide you with endless entertainment. Hopefully no one will ever teach them how to manipulate that function or I'll end up with exchanges like this one. called "Morton/ Norton/ Nottingham" from the WPT:

Me: I feel sick
Mom: Take a Nottingham
Mom: Take a Morton
Mom: Norton
Mom: Mortin
Me: Did you get an Iphone?
Mom: How did you know?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The thanks we get

You know what's great? When you hear your daughter laughing hysterically at the The Little Mermaid in the other room, and are so overwhelmed by the love for her that you cannot restrain yourself from rushing in, taking your darling child's angelic face in your hands and saying, "I love you more than anything in the world!" To which breathless declaration, she issues the reply, "GET OFF Mommy! I'm watching the MOVIE!"

Let's just say we don't get into the mothering racket for the thanks we get.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Paging all happy mom! Report to me please!

I'm writing an article on the secrets of happy new moms, and as I certainly don't have any useful advice in this arena besides "birth a kid that doesn't cry and drive you nuts," I need you to share your wisdom. You'll help me out and show the world how smart you are, by being quoted as an authority on parenting and happiness in a national parenting mag. I'm looking for moms of kids 0-2 years old who do any of the following:

Find time to pamper yourself – get a massage or manicure?

Rant in a journal?

Order in your fave food or cook extra and freeze it?

Stay in your PJS all morning?

Exercise during baby's naptime?

Sing off-key with your little one?

Go on date-night with your husband?

Take friends up on the offer to watch your baby?

Make life easy by leaving stuff where you need it?

Find ways to see the big picture?

Try not to compare yourself to other moms?

Have a glass of wine at the end of a long day?

If you have a personal experience doing any of these, or if you have another great tip to share of something small you do during your day to stay in a good mood, tell me about it. Please include your full name, hometown and the ages of you kids. You can email me off line if you'd like at amomamok {at}

Monday, January 10, 2011

When winter's got you down, buy new hats

Or knit up some yourself, if you're the crafty type. One of the best perks of having youn children is that you can force adorable haberdashery on them. I remember one afternoon when Primo was a baby, I met up with a Mommy friend who told me her husband had banned infant clothing which worked like an animal costume, and had vowed to cut kitty ears off of any hat that crossed his threshold. I pointed out to her that one of the ways nature repays us for the pain of childbirth and postpartum is by giving the babies no ability to fight back when we dress them up like cute animals. Fair is fair.

Although my kids are no longer babies, I do like to get them to wear crazy hats whenever possible, particularly after January, when the winter begins to seem interminable. And now that I've discovered Etsy, there's no looking back.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

My avant-guard mermaid daughter

Sometimes when I have conversations with my 3 year-old, I have to wonder if I’m hearing her right. The shit she says is so odd and random, the points often so unrelated to each other, that if you transcribed it and handed the script to Richard Foreman, you’d have one hell of an avant-guard play.

Part of what makes it all so odd is that she has taken to spending most of her free time in the bathtub, soaking in water, like Daryl Hannah in Splash! Whenever she’s got a minute, she asks to take a bath, and I don’t protest because frankly, it’s the safest and least stressful option for fun as far as Sec is concerned., If she’s not in the tub, with her goggles on, searching for Disney princesses she’s tossed to the bottom, she is climbing on top of the dresser, tearing up her brother’s artwork, writing on the wall with my lipstick or terrorizing the fish. The other morning, she was laying on her belly in the tub, propped up on her forearms like a mermaid, when I came in to the bathroom to brush my teeth.

“Are those your pajamas you’re wearing Mommy?” she asked, smiling under her shark goggles.

“Yes, I just woke up. So I’m wearing my pajamas,” I replied, putting toothpaste on my brush.

She tilted her head back a la Marilyn Monroe and began to giggle: “Oh you rascal!!!”

I was left wearing the quizzical look I often don when interacting with my daughter in the morning: “What are you talking about?”

She titled her chin back down and looked serious: “Ok, Mommy, why don’t you tell me all about it?”

It is like some computer program generates random catchphrases for her to use in response to what I thought was a regular, logically-progressive, content-oriented conversation.

I rather like the eccentric quality of her verbal volleys but its not for everyone. It drives Primo flat-out crazy when she gets goofy like that.

“What are you TALKING ABOUT? That doesn’t MAKE ANY SENSE! You are so ANNOYING!!!”

Isn’t it just like a man to want a strict linear narrative?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


Remember my amazing friend Amelia, who was pregnant in Port-au-Prince during the earthquake and miraculously survived? She told me her story, and its featured in this month's issue of American Baby magazine: I Survived Haiti's Earthquake

Here's to counting our blessings.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A New Year's Revolution

I don't know what will keep me going when the kids get old enough that they no longer make these insanely loveable slip-ups with big words. Occasionally, the kids' misspoken words are not just adorable but also poetic, as was the case when Primo and I discussed our New Years' "revolutions."

Primo's revolution is to try and hold his temper when his sister talks over him, a fantastic commitment if ever there was one.

My revolution is to eat more spinach salad. Its good for me.

David's is to work out another day a week.

Sec doesn't need the New Year to launch her revolutions. She's a bona fide rebel queen already.