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.