Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Going North

David never ceases to be amazed at how long it takes a group of ladies to organize an outing. If where to go for dinner takes a 10 minute convo, it stands to reason that planning a weekend getaway would take ten times as long. So, for weeks, we went back and forth, mostly about location:

New Orleans?
Just went.
Next time.

And then someone suggested Montreal.

Speak a different language.
Serve French fries doused in gravy and cheese cruds.

It delivered on all those things. Except for the primary consideration. Montreal isn't what I'd call "close" to New York, unless you're comparing it to a drive to Mount Rushmore. I realized this as we sat in the car, on hour 9 of our raucous, wild girls getaway. Apparently, its only supposed to take six and a half hours but when its 106 degrees out and cars actually catch on fire on the highway, it slows the flow of traffic a bit.

We talked about sex.
We talked about careers.
We talked about the things we hate about our husbands and the dumb fights we have over and over again.
We talked more about sex.
We talked about kids and car seats and what to pack in a lunchbox and how long it takes them to go to sleep and whether or not they should have developed a conscience by age four.
We talked about old boyfriends.
We talked about our weddings and where we bought the dress and if we wore a veil.
We talked about our mothers.
And we were still only halfway there.

I'd say between the trip there and back, we squeezed in approximately 100 therapy sessions.

Montreal was charming - hotel was SWANK, the kind with zebra skin stools and toilets enclosed in glass stalls for no apparent reason. The endtable was carefully laid with large bottles of Grey Goose and Maker's Mark, the which probably cost a months' mortgage for a shot.

"Oooh look! A baseball cap with the hotel name on it!" my friend Miriam exclaimed.
"Don't touch that cap! Its not included! Its a trap."

The only real hitch was that our room was located directly, and I do mean, directly above the nightclub. I should have realized something was up when I saw the box of earplugs on the nightstand. Of course, I was too scared to touch the earplugs for fear they weren't included in the room and I'd find a charge of $32 EAR PLUGS on my bill upon checkout.

When we turned in at what I thought was an impressive 12:30am, the nightclub was just heating up and the bass was causing the bed to vibrate. I stuck the earplugs in, put my head under a very plush pillow and promptly willed my ears to cease functioning. That worked pretty well until I woke up a few hours later to a massive, white noise which sounded like our room was getting crushed in an enormous garbage disposal. It went on and on. It occurred to me that maybe something was amiss. But then I fell back asleep and when I woke up, we were still there, so I guess it was some rave-related incident.

The next morning my friend Gigi woke at 6 and went for a run before having a leisurely, European-paced breakfast with Miriam. I continued to sleep. When they rolled back into the room at 10:40, they were aghast to find me in bed. Ten hours? Sounds about right.

Once I'd had some coffee to shake off the post-sleep-binge fatigue, we were off to sight-see.

Notre Dame. Check.
Musee des Beaux Arts. Check.
Viuex Montreal.
Poutine. Check.
Canadian flags for the children? Check.

Another night of dreaming about garbage disposals while getting a bass thumping. Next morning, we were up and in the car by 9, ready for another marathon of talk therapy.

It wasn't how the boys would do it but it was just what the doctor ordered.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Girl Time.

A few months ago, I slept over my best friend’s house. She was almost nine months preggo and I wanted to squeeze in some extra bonding time before Baby Touchdown. This wasn’t some sweet idea I came up with all by myself but a result of my natural competitiveness. I was reading FB one night and saw my BFF’s OTHER BFF posted about how she’d slept over for bonding time and I thought, “Shit. I can’t let her get the upper hand. Not when there is a race for godmother about to begin.” Plus, I wanted a night off from the Torture-Mommy-By-Staying-Up-All-Night game my kids enjoy so much.

On my way over to my friend’s house on the subway, I realized something kind of pathetic This would be my first night away from the kids AND away from my husband. Ever. In six and a half years.

I get away from the kids for weekend or overnight trips with David plenty and usually, that’s how I want it, because we desperately need the time together, time without a deranged munchkin shouting demands and talking over us, with urgent, incessant observations about Harry Potter video game or Little Mermaid Two. I love getting away with David. But occasionally, I need to get away from him, too. And heretofore, I’d never done that. (Are you impressed by my casual use of “heretofore”? Whatevs, no big deal. That’s just how I roll, people).

The sleepover was a success. Since she was nine months preggo, we didn’t have to party hard or stay out late which, lets face facts, is the last thing I want to do. Her pregnancy made her as infirm as my default and routine exhaustion makes me, and we sat on her couch and watched a Real Housewives marathon while eating French pastry treats I’d brought from the Slope. Then, to mix it up a bit, we watched What Not to Wear. Then we got in bed and I told her scary stories in the form of “Here’s what is going to fall out of you after you have your baby” and “Here’s what you need to apply to your vag after you have your baby” and “Here’s what is going to happen to your nips after you have your baby.” Once I’d scared her enough that she couldn’t sleep, it was time to turn in. A perfect evening of sorority.

A few weeks later, I was out for drinks with my two tight Mommy friends and I told them about how I’d had a sleepover with my pregnant friend.

“What?” said the first, “We want to have a sleepover too.”

“Yeah,” said the second, and then upping the ante “Better yet, let’s go away. For the weekend. Girls’ getaway.”

Competitions never fails to get shit done. After months of planning, we did it. Left the men with the kids and took off for greener pastures, and lower temperatures. An international voyage!

It wasn’t quite Abu Dabi and we weren’t quite the Sex and the City gang but hey, Canada is a different country with colorful money that has ladies on it and besides, our trip, though it featured way fewer straight-from-the-runway looks, also featured way fewer aggravating puns. Not once did we use the word “Interfrention” for example.

Full report later. Right now, I have to post on FB about the getaway to get my other friends jealous so they’ll want to hang out with me more. Try it, I am telling you, it works.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Feels like 115

Once you get into the triple digits of temperature, its a bit over-the-top but "feels like 115" is just insanity. This is New York, people, not Death Valley. I half expect to pass rat skulls and the skeletal remains of other street creatures when I exit the house to walk the kids to summer camp. Within a block or two, we're all panting like dogs and ducking into supermarkets, gasping for air, the more processed, the better. Making matters worse, Primo's camp is au naturale, no AC, which was all very well and good for the past couple of weeks when the temperature hovered in the mid 90s but now that that the weatherman's begun issuing advisories and putting us on the equivalent of Orange Alert, I've grown concerned. In a panic, I emailed the counselor at Primo's camp, who made the terrible mistake of giving me her contact info, and asked her what were their plans for keeping the kids cool. She didn't write back, the which I take to mean: "My plan is to watch your fucking kid, thus doing my job, rather than to respond to overbearing neurotics. That OK by you?"

Got the message loud and clear.

I remember the days when I was in my early twenties, before I had the money for an AC, when I would take an icy cold shower at night, run into my bed and be sweating like a pig within five minutes. I remember waiting to break up with this guy til the end of August because he had a great, heavily-air-conditioned apartment in Manhattan. Those were the good old days I guess but I'm glad they are behind me. Now, I plan to sit my fat ass down in front of a pimped out AC unit and blast my old face with freezing blasts of air until I have goddamned icicles hanging from my eyelashes from the TEARS OF JOY I am weeping. Its me and my AC from now til the wheels come off. Or Con Ed turns off the electricity. Whichever comes first.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Faerie Tale Theater

You heard me.

Shelly Duvall’s 1980s brainchild..

You want all-star casts? How about Susan Surandon as Beauty and Angelica Huston and Natasha Richardson as her sisters?

James Earl Jones as the genie. Vanessa Redgrave as the Evil Stepmother. Jennifer Beals as Cinderella. Joan Collins as Hansel and Gretel’s stepmother. The list goes ON, people. And it’s all these stars when they were sick young. Elizabeth McGovern is like 15 when she plays Snow White.

I remember Faerie Tale Theater so fondly from my own childhood and now that I’ve revisited it with my own kids, I find the appeal still there. I mean, yes, its totally silly and often laughable and I’m not saying Jeff Bridges would win another Oscar for his portrayal of Rapunzel’s prince or anything, but it is a totally different league than Disney in almost every way.

I love that it sticks pretty closely to the original source and that all the actors take it seriously, not like they’re deigning to do kiddie theater. I love the language and the slow pace and the level of respect in general. When its over, you can discuss similarities and differences from other versions you’ve seen and whammo, you’re building cognitive skills and priming future comp lit majors.

In other words, if your kid is going to love fairy tales, better make it the good stuff.

I found nearly all of them in my local library, but I know for a fact clips are out there on Youtube and Netflix. Now go watch Joan Collins. You won’t regret it.

Monday, July 18, 2011

A big house just makes us louder

We spent the weekend at my parents’ place in New Jersey where I realized something. A big house does not solve all our problems. In fact, it creates some brand-new ones. For instance, the bigger the house we inhabit, the louder we are.

“MOOOOOOOOOMMMY!!!” comes Sec’s voice from somewhere below.

“WHAAAAT?” I bellow back.






All that to discover my daughter took a dump. Good God, it’s exhausting.

It also makes bedtime even worse than usual, because every curtain call requires us ascending and descending the stairs. I don’t enjoy dropping everything to attend to their bedtime needs under the best of circumstances and I like it considerably less when it requires me activating my tired, ineffectual glutes.


David gets up from the couch to fill the water cup. But just as he’s opening the fridge, the call comes again, because Primo doesn’t think anyone’s heard him. Primo is not accustomed to sending soundwaves across distances which exceed ten feet.





“Stop yelling!” I chastise David.

“He can’t hear me! Nobody can hear each other in this house!”

By the time he fills up the cup and gets up the stairs Primo has panicked and is screaming his head off -- emergency screams now rather than run-of-the-mill screams.


It’s like a three-ring circus. But I have to say, it does make me appreciate our tiny apartment where you never have to walk the floors in search of a family member, because they are always within your field of vision.

You know what they said? Mo’ rooms, mo’ problems.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Ja! Iceland!

Who, you ask, are those happy, carefree, outdoorsy people having the time of their life? What can I say? Iceland works wonders for the beleaguered soul.

Yes, that is me, readying to ascend the harrowing heights so I can climb INTO the cravass. You could call it a crack in the mountain, but I prefer cravass, or crevice, if you're slightly less fancy.

Not only do I enjoy the natural beauty and splendor of the smooth-faced black pebble beach, I also enjoy the fact that the pebbles make free souvenirs.

David and I were so impressed by this tiny little church in a little fishing village called Olafsvick. Typically, I go for classic and grandiose when I'm church-hopping, but I loved this church's sleek modern design.

Oh, did I hit the button on the camera while holding hands in romantic reverie with my husband? I didn't notice. It was purely accidental. Its not like I PLANNED this amazingly heartfelt picture to frame on my wall across from my wedding photo.

This is the helpful sign on the top of the world's highest cliffs, warning visitors not to fall off.

And this is the volcano. No matter where we went on the penisula, the volcano was there, looking effortlessly majestic. Oh, to be as kick-ass as a volcano.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Guess who just went on a weekend trip to ICELAND??

ME, people! Me and my husband. The morale of this story is: never give up on your dreams. Or, alternately: don't let a little emergency appendectomy stop your fun.

We were supposed to go in early June but instead, had a staycation in the hospital. I can now definitively say that I prefer Iceland.

I got the whole Iceland idea in my head a few months ago, when I realized, suddenly, that David and I haven't been on a real, plane-ride-involved, romantic getaway since Seconda was a baby and I pumped my breasts all over Mexico. I realized that since I'm not lactating now, it might be considerably more enjoyable to have an international escapade. Then I realized that my sister is having her third baby in a few months. This gave me the kick in the pants I needed.

"We need to book a vacation immediately, "I told David, "Before my sister has her baby and uses up the family's babysitting reserve. My parents won't be able to watch our kids when they have to help her. This is ON."

Our requirements were:

Cheap airfare.
A place where we'd see something seriously fucking amazing.

All of which added up to Iceland.

The kids were jazzed because I read them bit of our travel book, about how Icelandic people tend to believe in supernatural creatures like trolls, gnomes, fairies, and how they eat puffin and rotten shark meat and horse steak.

"What's a puffin?" Sec asked.

"Like a penguin," I repiled.

"AHHHH! MOMMY"S GOING TO EAT A PENGUIN!" she shrieked. And then: "Bring back one for me to eat, too, OK Mommy?"

Sec was also very taken by the photo of a man and a woman standing in the steaming geothermal spas near Reykjavik called the Blue Lagoon.

"Is that going to be you and Daddy?"

"Yes," I said, "Daddy and I are going to go to the Blue Lagoon and kiss, just like that."

"But aren't you going to be scared to go inside the Black Lagoon?" she asked, "What if there's a crocodile in there?"

"I think we'll skip the Black Lagoon and just go to the Blue one" I said, "I don't think the swamp creature likes that one."

The funniest part about the trip is that my grandmother can't figure out where the hell we went since neither of us knows the Italian word for Iceland.

"Where you going?" she asked, "Irlandia?"

"No, that's Ireland," I said, "We are going to Iceland."

"Island? What kinda island?"

"No, not an island. ICE-land. La terra di ghiaccio."

"Oh my God -- you going to ALASKA?"

So there you have it, folks. We came, we saw, we did not eat rotten shark meat. More details to come when I've recuperated from my terribly thrilling, oh-so-jetsetter-y intercontinental travel.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Mommy Power Trip

If you want to annoy your big brother, nothing does the trick like bossing him around.

From Primo’s perspective, he already has one Mommy, and he doesn’t need another, particularly a four year-old one with no flexibility, patience or impulse control.

“OK, OK, Primo, we’ll find your Lego figure,” she assures him, “Just relax, OK, just take a deeeeeeep breath and reeeelaa-“


“I know its annoying, Prim,” I say, “But the only alternative is her acting like a four year-old which is much worse.”

Sec is fond of using “Mommy” techniques to promote her own agenda. Her favorite is counting to three.

“Gimme a lick of that ice cream! PRIMO! GIMME A LICK OF THAT ICE CREAM! Do you HEAR me? I’m going to count to three and you better give me a lick of that ice cream cone, or you’re going to lose your dessert. One. Two . . . “

Its not how “1.2.3 Magic” suggests implanting the technique but, crazily enough, it works for Sec.

Primo sometimes gets on a Mommy power trip too, though he’s more apt to bargain, to incentivize rather than threaten:

“You want this shoe? OK, I will give you the shoe . . . If you play Harry Potter with me. Is that a deal?”

This, too, is surprisingly effective. In fact, I’ve noticed that the children’s imitations of my parenting techniques are more effective than my own implementation. Is that demoralizing or what?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Yes, I hate picnics in the park. What hot blooded person doesn't?

Maybe I’m a real big ole’ party pooper but I have to confess that I freaking loathe end-of-the-year park picnics. Loathe is a strong word. I don’t object morally or anything. I mean, theoretically, I’m all for it. But in practice, I am no fan. And really, I am wondering if there is anyone out there with young children who actually derives pleasure from these things

The trouble is, there’s just too much goddamned wide open space. I realize this may not be a popular opinion and the free-rangers will gasp in horror and string me up but I try to avoid ay all costs combining young children and wide open space. Ample, but confined spaces, sure, Smallish but open spaces, fine. But ample and open is a disaster, particularly if you have an impulsive speed demon on your hands like I do. In these wide open spaces, your speed demon can go anywhere in the time it takes to dip a baby carrot in ranch sauce.

Primo can be trusted to hang around the general vicinity and I don’t worry too much about him venturing off the grid. But if I turn away from my daughter for two seconds, she will be halfway across the meadow, so far I can hardly make out her tiny little shape, so far she is beyond earshot, so my embarrassing bellows COME BACK RIGHT NOW! are futile, so far that even if I was in shape, which I am most definitely not, and I sprinted, I would never overtake her. Then I worry that she will be lost in the park, like Hansel and Gretel in the forest, at the mercy of wild beasts and child-crunching witches and their urban equivalent. This worry prompts me to run, pointlessly, after her, panting and screaming, threatening her with loss of dessert the whole time. When she sees me running, she runs faster. And it is at that moment that I curse end-of-the-year picnics and the maniacs that decided to create wide open green areas in the middle of a metropolis.

The idea that I could actually carry on a conversation or ingest food or drink at this kind of thing is laughable. And there’s no way my kids eat dinner during them, wither. Sneaking a dozen cookies while I’m busy recovering from a heart attack, now that, there’s plenty of. So, at 7pm, when we finally head home, I’ve got two hungry, sugared-up, cranky kids and a thirty minute walk before I can hose them down and beg them to go to sleep.

Oh, but – you’ll say – they’ll be so tired out from all their running around, they’ll go right to sleep, at least.

Yeah, right. Sure. Of course.

Tell that to the clock which reads 10:30pm while they’re still performing duets from Mulan at top voice.

There is simply no upside to an end-of-the-year picnic. Except that the kids have fun. And really, isn’t that what it’s all about? She says, sarcastically.

I’m not saying I’m going to stop attending these freaking mixers. I’m just saying I’m going to complain about it. And maybe bring a flask next time.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Mother, how I (pretend) love you!

I have realized that the only way to get my four year-old daughter to show me affection is for her to enter the land of make believe. If we pretend that she’s someone else, preferably a princess, and I’m that someone else’s mother, she has no problem lavishing me with hugs and kisses and declarations of love.

“Oh Mother Gothel! Mother dear, how I love you! Mwah mwah mwah mwah!” Big show of kissing my cheeks and throwing her arms around my neck.

“Oh Rapunzel! How I love you, darling child!” Yes, I feel a little cheap, but a mama’s got to do what a mama’s got to do to make it through. Dignity is not a top priority for me anymore.

This wasn’t a problem with Primo. He’d show affection for his dear old Mama without incentives. But Seconda truly detests kisses and hugs, particularly from me. Its not that she doesn’t care for me or that she’s a cold-hearted child – far from it: these things just totally skeeve her. Every time I kiss her, she wipes it off with an irrepressible shudder of disgust, Sometimes, if she wants an ice cream or a treat or something, I can’t help but use her desperation to my advantage and ask her for a kiss or hug first. But then she looks so repulsed, I feel sorry for the girl and tell her it’s OK and give her the ice cream cone, In my desperate need for positive feedback, I don’t want to teach the kid to use kisses to get what she wants. Still and all, I did give birth to her and sometimes I want to cuddle the child. That’s when I pretend to be someone who the person she’s pretending to be loves.

“Mother! My daaaaarling little mother! You’re the best mother is the WHOLE WIDE WOOOORLD!”

I realize that she doesn’t really mean it, but it doesn’t matter. I’ll take it where I can get it: “Thank you! Oh thank you! Let’s never part, darling child!”

“Oh but Mother, I must! I must go! They are AFTER MEEEEEEE!”

And she’s off, fleeing across the playground from invisible pursuers. Still, she doesn’t forget her dear old Mother (the pretend one) and sporadically turns back, blooding frantic, passionate kisses through the air.

Primo watches this whole spectacle.

“You shouldn’t encourage her, Mommy,” he chastises me.

“I know,” I sign, “But I’m only human.”

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy Fourth: of Revolutionary Wars, and Pink Underwear

In honor of the Fourth of July, I offer you my favorite Revolutionary War book for kids:

John, Paul George and Ben.

You probably know Lane Smith from the mazillion books he's written and illustrated, but this is one of my favorites. In it, you see John Hancock, Pail Revere, George Washington and Ben Franklin (Tom Jefferson, too) as kids, writing their names extra-large on the blackboard, coming up with pithy phrases than annoy people on playdates and, of course, chopping down their Daddy's cherry tree (and then some).

It is freaking hilarious, and while he’s taken plenty of liberties with the information, its the best way I can think of to introduce your kids to American History.

Lane Smith, you rock. Who else would find a way to have Paul Revere shouting: “WE’VE GOT YOUR EXTRA LARGE PINK UNDERWEAR!”