Monday, December 22, 2014

The kids have my number all right

After many years living under my care. my kids can pretty well anticipate my answer to a request. They know me, they know my criteria for things like video game usage and move selection. And they've gotten really skilled at pitching their requests to me.

This morning, Seconda asked if she could watch a movie called How To Build a Better Boy on Netflix. I've really cracked down on the content she watches because she's recently become obsessed with teen TV shows, much of which is filled with hideous sarcasm, toxic amounts of boy-craziness, nasty 'tudes and  reprehensible stereotypes. Did you get how strongly I feel about these tweeny shows? 

So when I heard the word "Boy" in the title, already I was skeptical. 

Sounds boy-crazy, is what I was thinking, like a mom circa 1952. Sometimes i think that the older my kids get, the more old-fashioned I get in my thinking. 

Seconda could tell she was losing ground so she moved right into the hard sell.

 "Oh, it doesn't look like it has anything inappropriate in it!" she explained,"The girls in the picture look really nice. They're wearing glasses!"

I had to laugh and hug the shit out of her immediately. 

From looking at the Netflix movie poster, she'd synthesized the following info, without even being aware of it:

The glasses made the girls nerds
Being nerds made the girls nice and wholesome
The girls being nice and wholesome made them likable to Mom

I figured we'd address the flaws in these deductions later. 

"I'll look it up on Common Sense Media," I said. It's my go-to screening resource despite the fact that it is (can't believe I'm saying this) a bit liberal in its judgements. Don't even get me started on our difference in opinion about the show Jessie. Seriously, you don't want to hear it. 

An hour later, Primo came to me to ask if he could play Civilization on the iPod. 

"What's that?" I asked. I don't bother to mask my doubt anymore - it's a timesaver I adopted when I had the third child. 

"Oh, it's very historic! It has Ghandi in it and Napoleon and Cleopatra!" he gushed.

It cracks me up that they are already such good marketers, pitching their little hearts out, thinking about the needs of their audience. Mommy needs educational value and wholesomeness. Give Mom what she wants.  

I said yes to both. I'm a sucker that way. 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Are you smarter than a fifth grader? Because I am not.

I don't usually help Primo with his homework. This isn't a philosophy of mine or anything. I don't have much philosophy as a parent anymore; the longer I parent three kids, the more I see my carefully-constructed philosophies, the ones I'm really very fond of, go by the wayside. Life sends Philosophy to the chopping block.

The reason I don't usually help Primo with his homework is he usually doesn't need it. He's a self-starter, and he's really good about tackling his homework right away and finishing it all. This is one of several reasons I don't sell him to roving gypsies.

But occasionally, he encounters a problem that stumps him, and then he comes to me for assistance. Unfortunately, now that he's in fifth grade, I am finding that I can't always help because, while I am well-educated and of reasonable intelligence, I do not belong to MENSA and thus, am not qualified to do fifth grade math.

Do you have a fifth grader? Have you looked at their homework lately?

Holy mother of Euclidean geometry. It's HARD.

Last week, he came over to where i was working on my laptop and told me he needed help with math.

"Let me see it," I said, full of brio. It feels good to show off your many years of education and experience to your children, to wow them with your shocking intellect.

Within two seconds, I was having heart palpitations.

"Wow," I said, "This seems hard. But I'm sure it's easier than it looks. Let's just read it over again, nice and slow."

There are 120 students in Granville Elementary School. 66 2/3% of them volunteered to help with the collection of cans for a food drive. How many students volunteered to help?  
Step 1: Change percentage to equivalent fraction.  
You know what to do. 
"Is this last part supposed to be a joke?" I asked my son. "Or are you actually supposed to know what to do here?"

"It's not a joke, Mom," he said. I could tell I was compromising my standing as Head Homework Helper and Math Mastermind.

What got me was the fraction INSIDE the percentage. Is that even allowed? Can you even have a fraction of a percentage? I feel like such a thing will create a hole in the space time continuum. So my first piece of advice was to ignore the percentage sign. To aid in this endeavor, I crossed it out.

"What are you doing?" Primo asked.

"It's just making things too complicated so let's just get rid of it," I advised. "For now."

"You can't do that," he protested.

"Are you sure?" I asked, genuinely: "Because it would make the problem a lot easier. Let's just TRY it like that."

We tried to solve it my way, which is to say, the wrong way which totally alters the question being asked and makes it utterly impossible to arrive at the right answer, in the process robbing the student of the chance to practice the skills they have allegedly learned in school.

The problem was, we couldn't solve it my way either.

Who the hell remembers how to find a FRACTION of something?  Or a PERCENTAGE? Much less both at once!

So I did what people do nowadays to learn stuff. I googled it.

"How to find percentages"


"How to find a fraction"

But we still couldn't get an answer that made sense.

We moved over to scrap paper, and we started to employ wild renegade math strategies. I sporadically got VERY excited, sure that I'd cracked the whole question wide open. I felt like I was Albert freaking Einstein. In truth, I was a more like Russell Crowe at the end of A Beautiful Mind - the part where he's gone loco. My scrap paper was filled with wild mathematical equations, numbers crossed out, division symbols and parentheses and fractions being cross multiplied.

"THIS IS IT!" I yelled: "We've got it now!"

We played out my genius ideas and we got answers like 3.876.

"I think that's right," I told Primo.

"Mom," he said, "How could 3.876 be 66 2/3 % of 120? How could 3876 kids help with the food drive?"

"You're very smart," I told him. Not that my opinion counted anymore.

That was about when David came home.

"DADDY!" I yelled: "Thank God. We need you!"

He looked at the problem and the first thing he asked was why the percentage symbol was crossed out.

"I didn't like it," I said.

"Move over," he told Primo.

A half hour later, David had gotten us nowhere.

"I will write a note and tell your teacher that we don't get it," I said, "Just leave it unfinished."

"No!" my son protested, a chip off the old stubborn block. "We have to figure it out."

That was all I needed to take things to the next level.

I called my father. He was my go-to math help when I was in school and he LOVES this shit. It's been years since he was a deus ex machine for someone's pre-cal problem set and frankly, he's missed it.

And, just as I expected, Babbo saved the day. He knew just what to do and he explained it clearly. We solved the problem and the answer made sense.

Sweet victory.

Until Primo's teacher corrected his homework and we found out the answer wrong.

I still don't know how to find out 66 2/3% of 120. And honestly, I can't say I give a shit.

As for my son, well, that's what his teacher is for.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Bound to Tradition

I'm an ambitious gal and as such, I tend to over-do things. The upside is: I get a lot of shit done. The downside is I'm exhausted and occasionally resentful of my own over-exterion and also, I drive my family crazy because I never let them just veg out. But taking the baby apple picking with a double ear infection, well, that was just stupid. Read all about it in my new essay for the Park Slope reader:  Bound to Tradition

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Who's in the mood for a HOLIDAY GIVEAWAY??

Do you like books?

Laugh-out-loud funny books?

Make-you-appreciate-life, laugh-out-loud funny books?

Books that may perhaps over-use hyphens?

Then you will probably like THIS BOOK. The one these adorable readers in Santa hats are checking out.

I like it a lot. It'a one of my favorites. But I'm totally biased. I wrote it.

For the holidays, St. Martin's Press is giving away TWO autographed copies of my memoir NOW I SEE YOU! To enter, go to my Facebook author page, and either  share the giveaway post, leave a comment or like the page, if you haven't already.  I'll be choosing two winners tonight!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The four letter C word

You know which one I'm talking about. Don't make me spell it out for you. The way my kids did.

I'll never forget when my son, who was about five years old, ratted out my mother for saying it.

"Mommy. Nana used the C word," he tattled.

"No!" I gasped. "I don't believe it."

I was thinking, I know Nana curses like a truck driver but come on, the C WORD? Even Nana doesn't get that foul.

He nodded his head sadly, as if he was gravely disappointed.

"Yes," he confirmed. "She said --" he hesitated before giving himself permission to whisper it -- "crap."

I couldn't help it. I busted out laughing.

"Mom!" Primo was scandalized. "It's not funny!"

"You're right," I said, "it's not. Bad Nana."

Seconda, too, is fond of telling me that so-and-so used the "c word" and we shake our heads, judgier than Judge Judy herself, even though I've been known to go blue myself, from time to time.

And then last week, when I was rushing about trying to get the kids out the door for school, I was looking for Terza and I bellowed, "Terza??!!!" and she, little dear, was right at my side the whole time, so my sudden bellowing startled her and she said:

"Mommy! You scared the crap out of me!"

Crystal clear. Like she'd learned to enunciate from the Royal Shakespeare Company.

I was just thankful it was THAT four-letter C word. That's how low my parental expectations are right now.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Does this ever happen to you?

I'm so used to there being a mirror above the sink in a bathroom that when there is not a mirror, and I look up from the sink and see a white wall in front of me, I momentarily think I have disappeared.

Does that ever happen to you?

Monday, December 1, 2014

My two-year-old sounds like an extraterrestrial

Two-year-olds can be a real pain in the ass. Which is why I think it is very important to occasionally stop and appreciate how damn cute they are; the rationale being, the moments where you are hyper focused on their adorableness really helps to keep you from selling them to a roving pack of gypsies.  Seeing as Terza has been incredibly difficult lately, a solid 8 to 9 on the My Kid is Impossible, Calgon Take Me Away  spectrum, I have been trying extra hard to linger on her adorableness, which is thankfully, also very plentiful. She is abundantly adorable.

A critical support beam in her scaffolding of adorableness is the fact that she sounds like a robot. I don't remember my other kids sounding like this when they were two but, if I'm being honest, I don't remember much of the details of their toddlerhood -- those got wiped away by the flood of exhaustion, and that was as it should be, because you've got to have that euphoric recall to have the next baby and much of the terrible twos are, well, not euphoric. But as far as I can recall. they didn't have the robot thing.

What makes Terza sound like animatronic is not the fact that she Speaks. In. A. Monotone. She does not. In fact, she's unusually expressive. But she has this hilarious way of breaking her long sentences into shorter little phrases with strangely placed pauses which makes her seem either like a robot or an extra terrestrial. I think part of it is that she talks so damn much, and in such long sentences, that physically, her lungs just can't keep up with her mouth. Unlike her older siblings, she has not yet perfected the art of blabbering on and on without ever stopping for air. She still needs to breathe occasionally. So her speeches tend to go like this:

"Oh Mommy, remember when we when pumpkin picking and we saw that" pause "donkey who was so cute and his name was Dominic" pause "the donkey. I liked that Dominic the donkey because I got to ride on" pause "his back and it was SO bumpy and I laughed and I said Oh no, Dominic! You naughty donkey you!"

She reminds me of a print-to-speech translator. It's like when I ask Siri on my iPhone to read my text messages aloud and she gets most of the words right and occasionally the inflection, too, but what she doesn't get right is the pauses and the tempo. Because Siri is a robot.

Soon, Terza will have nailed down the skill of talking-without-breathing which is oh so important in our home because if you take a breath, that might serve as an indication that you are done talking, which might another family member might misinterpret as an invitation to begin talking themselves, and the one thing my children all agree on is that nobody else in the family has anything near as important to say as they do, and so they never stop talking.

I don't know where the hell they get it from.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Teaching kids to be thankful

You may be shocked to discover this, but I have a pretty vast aptitude for complaining.  I  come from a long line of Lamenting All Stars, and I could go all night. Weirdly, I am also a generally, and deeply, optimistic person, which counteracts my ability to complain endlessly about petty details.

Still, the complaining gets annoying. I have learned this from listening to my daughter. She's a Master Kvetcher, a real chip off my mom's block. A few months ago,  I started working with her on being less negative - focusing attention on the positive parts of the picture, finding silver linings. The simplest and best strategy we've used to achieve this superhuman feat is a listL A Things That Make Me Happy list, or alternatively Things I like or Things I'm Grateful For. It's been an edifying process which has served as a fantastic reminder for me to linger on the positive, to savor the good stuff.

So I feel like we've been in Thanksgiving mode, and are ready for the one day a year officially devoted to such an endeavor. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I thought I'd share Seconda's list. Every one of these are things which also make me happy. Who wouldn't smile at a guinea pig?

Seconda's Things that Make Me Happy List

Whoopie pies
Guinea pigs
Days when Daddy's off
Smell of leaves in fall 
Stuffed cats 
Doing handstands on the couch 
Running into friends on the street 
Warm baths
Playing with my little sister
Playing with friends
Getting a new frog
Petting dogs on the street 
Finding marbles
Barber shop swirling sign 
Seeing bugs
Squashing berries
Hanging out with nice teenagers
Making chocolate cream pie with Daddy

Monday, November 24, 2014

The dreaded Santa question

"Is Santa ---" my seven year-old Seconda started to ask. I knew what was coming.

She would ask me if Santa was real. When Primo was her age exactly, he asked me this, and I was unprepared. I stalled for a few months by asking him if HE thought Santa was real and then when that no longer held him off, I asked if he REALLY wanted to know the answer, which I thought was pretty much an answer in and of itself. And then when he insisted yes, yes, he was ready to hear it, he was strong enough, I told him the truth.

This time, though, with my second-born, I was ready. Except she didn't ask the question I thought she would.

"Is Santa dead?" she asked instead.

Buy time, my mind strategized.

"Who told you that?"

"Marion." she replied, "and Harry and Chloe and a bunch of other aids."

"So what you're saying is there's a rumor going around school that Santa Claus is dead?" I asked.

I have gotten proficient at the stalling-by-asking-questions strategy.

"Yes," she said, "Is is true?"

The problem with my ingenious stalling tactic, though, is sometimes the extra time does not buy me better ideas. I'm right where I starred.

"No it's not true," I said, and then I tossed in a really forced over-loud peal of laugher which is my specialty. "Of course not."

"But a lot of the kids said it was true," she said dubiously.

"Well let me ask you this," I pressed on, "What do they say is the cause of death?"

I was thinking she'd say he got hit by a car or developed cancer or slipped and fell off a roof one night or got trampled by an unruly reindeer or maybe he drank himself to death or took one too many painkillers or maybe he was murdered. None of those responses would have surprised me. These are city kids, after all.

"He died of old age," Seconda replied.

Then I laughed for real.

"Seconda, that's ridiculous," I replied, knowing full well that the whole Santa mythology was ridiculous, that the entire tale was a kind of insanity, an insanity which I was, now, fully committed to perpetuating.

"I mean, Santa is already thousand of years old." I went on, "so why on earth would he die of old age this year? It's like he was fine on his 1,564th birthday but the 1,565th one just put him over the edge? That is really silly."

She looked at me skeptically. I felt a bit uneasy. Primo did not take the truth about Santa well. He is STILL pissed at me for "lying" to him. Whenever I tell him something that he doesn't quite believe, and he questions the veracity of my statement, I say "Have I ever lied to you?" --  idiotically thinking he will agree that the answer is no.

"Yes," he invariably replies, "You lied to me about Santa. For years. So you're a liar."

"I just wanted to give you THE MAGIC of Christmas that I loved when I was a kid!!" I retort. "It's a STORY."

"It's a lie," he says. Case closed.

I don't know if Seconda will hold the Santa story against me like her big brother does. But there is no turning back now. Confirming Santa is dead won't rectify the first "lie", it'd only add another one to the pile.

So, no, I refuse to kill off Santa. Call me old-fashioned.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

If your house is a mess, read this and you'll feel better

When I saw this photo in the Huff Post, I thought, "Hey, my dresser. Why is a picture of my dresser online?" and then I had to read on, because I wanted to know more about the person who has a dresser that looks as deranged and ransacked as mine, and who feels comfortable posting that picture on the world wide web. So I read What Normal Looks Like, and now I'm sharing it. You're welcome.

Too often when I read pieces about parenting, they give me either a headache or a panic attack.  This one, however, did neither. It made me laugh and it made me feel relieved. It injected a healthy and much-needed dose of sanity into my day. Because I am the person who greets you at the door, wildly apologizing for the state of my house, except my house is not immaculate, it's actually filthy. Guests will actually brush crumbs off my bar stools. They will step on tiny Legos and cry out in pain. They will need to wait for a glass of water while I wash them a cup from the overflowing pile in the sink. They will not be able to stop themselves from taking a paper tower and just wiping down the counter because it will only take a second to dispose of the dried Rice Krispies and then they can focus on the conversation.

My apartment is so frequently such a sty that my husband and I refer to it as Das Messen Haus which is  in no way correct German, but a term we invented to add some humor and tension relief into the air because when we look at the state of our house we are, basically, always horrified.

I've written about having people over at my messy house before -- My House is A Pigsty, anyone? It's a problem I can't solve until I  A. have less kids living in my tiny apartment or B. have  enough money to pay for a housecleaner. So, what I really need is permission to let myself off the hook, and assurance that other people are in the same filthy boat. I need this:

"Normal: There is a room in your house that always stays cluttered and messy, and much like Lady Macbeth's hands, will never be clean.

Normal: Your kids' bath toys are right where they left them after the bathwater drained

Normal: Cups and cups and cups. Everywhere. All the time."

Elizabeth Broadbent, you are cordially invited over to play at my place. Just don't wear dry-clean-only clothes.

Monday, November 17, 2014

De-cluttering with a second grader, and other oxymorons

I don't know what came over me yesterday. Maybe it was the cold that kept me at home all morning. Maybe the extra 30 minutes of sleep gave me vaulting ambition. But whatever combination of well-intentioned but woefully delusional forces contributed to the lunacy, I decided to get Seconda to de-clutter. I told her we were going to go through her toys and edit. We were going to downsize. When none of these euphemisms rang any bells, I told her we were going to give away some of her toys.

"NO!" she shrieked, "I need them."

"You couldn't possibly need all of them," I said. "Let's just take a look and see."

I started with her stuffed animals. In fact, I started and ended there because it took over an hour and by the time we were done, all my ambition was used up and I was dying to flee the apartment, no matter how cold the temperature.

Seconda's a stuffed animal person. They just never did it for Primo, but they hit that sweet spot for Seconda. They are the only kind of toys she ever really wants and she wants them, passionately, desperately. She carries a stuffed animal with her wherever she goes, including in her backpack at school, and grocery shopping and swimming and playdates and airplanes and EVERYWHERE.

She currently has three good-sized Ikea boxes full of stuffed animals and lately, there's been overflow. I'm not getting any more boxes to house any more stuffed creatures. So some of them have to go, I told her.

But which?

I held up a white Beanie Boo of the feline persuasion.

"Not Bianca! She's the only Italian cat I have!"

"Can't any of them be Italian?" I ask.

She didn't even dignify that inquiry with a response.

I held up a filthy brown cat we got at a toy swap five years ago, It was old and filthy even then and being carried around constantly and left in a burger joint in New Jersey for two weeks didn't not make it any less worn.

"Mom! That's Siamesey! It's the only Siamese cat I have!"

Incorrect, actually. I held up another Siamese cat as proof, but she just replied that THAT was a long haired Siamese and the other was SHORT HAIRED. Duh.

"What about this?" I asked, holding up one of at least four white fluffy non-named cats with no particular ethnic origin or sentimental backstory.

"But you gave me that!" she protested.

"But I gave ALL of these to you!" I protested back.

We couldn't give away the ones from her grandparents, or the ones won at the festival, or the ones her friends gave her for her birthday. We couldn't even give away the one she found in a giveaway box on the street.

"I just found that one!"

"Two months ago! And you haven't even played with it once!"

In the end, she OKed the release of one Beanie Boo penguin who she had covered in duct tape before learning the lesson that duct tape never comes off plush animals, ever. Who would want such an animal, I don't know. He looks like a penguin POW. It's pretty disturbing.

So, the fall cleaning was not a success. Except that my daughter's reconnected with all her beloveds. And I've learned that next time, I'll have to de-clutter when she's not looking.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Our Mommy Problem

I read a fantastic, very insightful essay in the NY Times yesterday, called the Our Mommy Problem;  it speaks to a lot of issues, really, but mostly, it reflects on the extent to which motherhood has become an identity, one which, it's assumed, defines and consumes us to the exclusion of everything else. I love this bit:
"We are outclassed at every turn. We are outspent and out-helicoptered and outnumbered. It used to be good enough just to keep your house from being coated in a thin layer of dog hair and human feces."
Yes! Yes! A thousand times yes!

But this is really the bottom line:
"Somehow, as we’ve learned to treat children as people with desires and rights of their own, we’ve stopped treating ourselves and one another as such. But that’s not hard to understand when the reigning cultural narrative tells us that we are no longer lively, inspired women with our own ideas and emotions so much as facilitators, meant to employ at all times the calm, helpful tones of diplomats."
As a mother who beats herself up about her seeming inability to employ those calm, helpful, diplomat tones, I'm grateful to Heather Havrilesky for opening up a discussion about what motherhood means, and what it doesn't necessarily.

To paraphrase one of my favorite songs from the late 80s:

"My first name ain't Mommy. It's Janet. Miss Jackson if you're nasty."

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Mo' potty, mo' problems

 The good news is: we've finally gotten Terza to use the potty.

The additional good news: the kid is very intent on cleaning up after herself.

The bad news: that involves her emptying out her own potty. Which is the grossest mess ever.

The word shitstorm comes to mind.

It's tough because I don't want to discourage my self-starter from following through, flexing her independence muscles and aspiring to good hygiene. Nether do I want to have a Slip 'N Slide: Piss Edition experience every time I enter my bathroom.

She's so terrifically proud of herself:

"Mommy, I used the POTTY!!" she shrieks, running pantless into the kitchen.

I freeze in place, usually in the middle of draining the pasta for mac n' cheese.

"That's great, honey," I manage positively enough: "Let me come see."

The Jaws soundtrack plays as I follow her down the hallway to the bathroom, silently repeating the mantra, "Please let it be pee. Please let it be pee."

"See Mommy?" she announces: "I put it in the big potty!"

By which she means, she deposited 10% of whatever was collected in the potty into the toilet. The rest is scattered all over the floor, running down the front of the toilet and, somehow, splashed over the side of the adjoining sink.

"Honey," I sigh: "I've told you already. Mommy needs to empty the potty. Thank you for your help but you are not allowed to empty the potty. Mommy does it. Mommy. Not Terza. Mommy. Got it?"

Then, as I mop bodily fluids off the floor, we role play what she'll do next time she uses the potty and she obligingly pretends to call out, "MOMMY! You have to empty the potty!" and I think she's got it. And then an hour later, we repeat the scene all over again.

Clearly, she needs more supervision in the bathroom. Clearly, I cannot provide it. There's homework to help with and dinner to make and emails to respond to and the other messes Terza makes to clean up.

What I should do is build her gross motor skills so as to improve her accuracy. Have her practice pouring cups of water into a bowl, until her percentage in/ percentage out ratio tips. or else just cover the bathroom in garbage bags.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Sexy Chucky: or, I had a rage fit at the Halloween store

A few weeks ago, I took the kids to our local pop-up Halloween store. We already had a costume for Terza -- Max from the Wild Things, handmade by my grandmother years ago. Primo had decided to make his own costume, as he is won't to do. Seconda had decided on her costume, too -- Princess Bubblegum, the royal scientist from Adventure Time, which I OKed. We popped into the pop-up store because she'd seen the costume in their window but alas, they were sold out, and we'd need to wait a day or two for them to replenish their supply. I was ready to leave, but the kids, of course, wanted to browse. They wanted to see what was on offer.

Since this isn't my first time at the rodeo, I know what'll be on offer. For the boys, there'll be all manner of monsters and homicidal maniac costumes, lots of blood dripping and exposed brain matter and demonic grins. For the toddlers, there will be animal and princess costumes. And for my seven year-old daughter, there will be a large assortment of shit.

Because she's only seven, her store-bought costume options are not exclusively shit yet. They are mostly shit, with a slim selection of non-indecent choices, like Princess Bubblegum, or the Athena costume we got last year. She rocked that floor-length number, swinging a large silver foam sword (Athena was the goddess of battle strategy, in addition to wisdom, you know). Since she's big for her age, and likes her apparel loose and roomy, she wears size 8 or 10 and when you get to size 8, and definitely size 10, you are staunchly in sexy costume territory. Lest you think I am exaggerating, check out this piece on the Huff Post which compares the "child" version of costumes with "tween" versions.

So, walking in the store, I know what'll line the aisles. There'll be the popular cartoon character costumes, lots of My Little Ponies and a whole bunch of Monster High ladies (don't get me started on these, just refer to this piece I wrote for Babble last year about the dolls). There'll be a few select historical options, like Cleopatra. There will be a handful of animal costumes, though these won't be full-body plush suits, of the ilk available for the two year-old; instead they'll be headbands with animals ears adhered, leotards and adorable, tutu-style mini-skirts chockful of furbelows. I've never seen a mouse wearing a tutu, but that is clearly beside the point.

And then there's the rest. Seconnda pretty much aged out of the regular princess category - Cinderella ate my daughter when she was three and then, at about age six, she spit her out. Princesses are still an option for her at Halloween time, though in her size, we are faced mostly with Sexy Princesses. To make a Sexy Princess outfit, you just take a regular princess gown and hack off three feet of material so that is reaches to the child's mid-thigh. The knee-high boots don't come included of course, but the packaging suggests they'll be the perfect accessory. The packaging also shows you how to rock the sexy princess look - a hand on the hip is good, hip cocked up is even better. Don't forget the alluring smirk, the hallmark of all sexy princesses.

But wait! It's not just princesses! You can be a sexy ANYTHING. Just elevate the hemline and stick the hooker boots on and bam, Minnie Mouse is now . . . Streetwalker Mouse. 

Look, I was prepared for the shockingly over-sexualized girl costumes. But being prepared did not prevent me from being mad. I was irate. I fantasized about grabbing all the floozy kid costumes and flinging them to the floor screaming to no one in particular: "YOU ARE SELLING STRIPPER OUTFITS TO CHILDREN! FOR THE LOVE OF GOD! HAVE YOU NO DECENCY?? REMOVE THIS APPALLING SHIT IMMEDIATELY."

Then Seconda interrupted my fury reverie by gasping: "Oh, Mommy, look! It's a Sexy Chucky Costume! That is SO inappropriate!"

I thought she was joking. It's the sort of thing that I'd thought you could only find on SNL or, maybe, Jon Stewart (did you catch the segment last year with the vagina costume? Hilarious). But, no, in fact, she was right. There was a package clearly featuring a very buxom woman with a I'm-going-to-devour-you-by-which-I-mean-your-dick-of-course look on her face. She was sporting a kind of apparel that I'm not sure there's a word for -- an overall dress so short it barely covered her ass. Knee-high stockings, obviously. And stitlletos. Oh, and the ax. 

It wasn't a kid costume (not yet, at least) but the sheer ridiculousness of a sexy Chucky costume just whipped my fury to a climax. The thing about parenting though is, you can never have the rage fit you want, when you want it. You annoyingly have to pull your shit together . . . until such a time, at least, as you can write a blog post about it.

So I laughed, and said,"Honey, that's inappropriate in so many ways I don't even know where to start." I didn't want to make a huge deal, didn't want her even paying too much attention, cluttering up her beautiful brain with so much fucking noise.

But as we walked out the store - me fuming, my daughter laughing - I thought: "How dare you, costume company? How dare you suggest to my seven year-old daughter that the thing that makes a woman of interest, what makes her worth paying any attention to is a pair of tits and a pair of legs and a hideous leer that, frankly, is going to give me nightmares. Go to hell please -- and take your abhorrent, piece-of-junk costumes with you."

This Halloween, I think I'll dress us as something really scary. I'll dress up as "Enraged Mother Costume Shopping for Her 7 Year-Old." Hell hath no fury like that, I tell you. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Chekhov's Ace Bandage

Primo fell hard on his wrist while playing ball the other day so I bought him an ace bandage. As soon as I opened the package and found those two sharp metal teeth that secure the bandage in place, I had an uneasy feeling.

There is no way these do not end up embedded in the sole of my foot, is what I thought. The possibility of them sticking into Terza, or Seconda or Primo's foot is also pretty high, and it's also perfectly feasible they'll end up somewhere worse, like our cheeks -- either the ones of our face or ass.

"When you're done with this, make sure you put these teeth somewhere safe," I instructed Primo.

"Sure," he said. By which he meant, "What you said."

When I woke the next morning, I found the ace bandage in a tangle on my desk with absolutely no metal teeth anywhere in sight.

"Primo!" I said, "Where are the metal teeth?"

As if that was a fruitful inquiry.

I had him move the couch and move the desk and look under all the furniture and his search revealed nada. Then I took the cushions off the couch and removed everything from my desk but, alas, the metal teeth were totally MIA.

"It's like Chekhov's gun," I told David. "I know those metal teeth will re-appear. It's only a matter of where and when and what part of my body they'd adhere to."

That's kids, for you. Adding a touch of spice and anxiety into your every day.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Tyrannical two year-olds

Two year-olds are tyrannical. You can set limits and collaboratively problem-solve and you can over-ride their protests, lifting them out of the playground kicking and screaming. But that doesn't change the fact that they act, nearly all the time, like overlords.

Last week, I was carrying Terza home on my shoulders while Primo pushed the empty stroller beside me. This is a near-daily occurrence. Terza doesn't like riding in her stroller but she also doesn't like walking. She's big enough that I can't carry her for more than a few blocks, so I frequently end up putting her on my shoulders. Of course, sitting perched up high opens up a whole new world of temptations for her. One of her favorite is grabbing the sunglasses off my face and hitting hem about the head with them. Because I'm the kind of person who likes to learn from my mistakes, whenever possible, I now remove my sunglasses from my face when she's on my shoulders, and I place them handing from the collar of my shirt, where they are, presumably, more safe.

So there we are last week, with Terza craning her neck and leaning over to grab my glasses, and finding them missing. Then she locates them hanging off my collar and is full of questions. Well, only one question, repeated with an impressive amount of persistence.

"Do your sunglasses hurt you, Mommy? Do they hurt? Do they Mommy? Do they? Do they hurt you?"

"Are you asking me if my sunglasses are hurting me?" I ask, because, you know, it makes absolutely no sense.

"Yes. Do they hurt you?"

"No." I answer, glad that it's a simple question with a reassuring response.

"NO, MOMMY!" she wails.

I repeat my reassurance because I think she hasn't heard: "Honey, it's OK. They do not hurt me."

And she wails, "No, Mommy! I want your sunglasses to hurt you!"

There is only one thought a mother could possibly think when hearing such a thing, and that is: "What. The. Fuck?"

"MOMMY!" she wails, as if I've really disappointed her.  Since she's sitting on my shoulders, she is wailing directly into my ear and it is unbearably loud.

I consider doing the whole "Cut that out right now or I'm putting you down" thing where I put her down and she cries for 10 minus on the street while my big kids whine about how they are bored of standing on the street watching Terza scream and then eventually she calms down, so I put her back on my shoulders and within 30 seconds, she resumes whatever infernal behavior got her in trouble to begin with. I calculate that we are only two blocks from home and decide I don't have the time to "address" her shitty behavior. Instead, I will use the shortcut method which involves just telling her whatever the hell she needs to hear to make her stop causing adult onset hearing loss in me.

"OK, ok, fine. My glasses hurt me, ok? They hurt. Are you happy?"

She considers for one blissful quiet moment before crumpling up in hears over my head, throwing my balance off.

"Mommy!! I don't want your eyeglasses to hurt you!"

"Are you saying you WANT them to hurt or you DON'T want them to hurt?"

But at this point, she is just saying WAHHHHH and AHHHHH and MAHHHH.

Meanwhile, Primo, behind the empty stroller, is cracking up.

"She is one crazy baby," he concludes. I have to concur. This much, at least, is very clear.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Bionic eyes and one hell of a love story

When I see a video with a headline like:

Bionic Eye Helps Blind Man See

I think two things:

1. Oh my God, amazing! It's a miracle. A miracle of great personal use to me.

2. Of course, it's probably bullshit.

Being an optimist though, my first response usually wins out, and I press Play because while chances are it's some inflated miracle claim that will just give sad sacks like me false hope, there is a remote chance that it's the real thing, and I'm a hopeful sort of girl.

The video is a clip from Fox News about a totally blind grandfather, Harry Lester, in North Carolina who used the Argus II, a prosthetic retina, and has had some sight restored. I won't attempt to explain how the Argus works -- you can read this if you want to know -- but, right now, it's results are pretty crude. Its users perceive flashes of light, not colors and dimension and shapes and clarity. But here's the amazing thing that makes this bionic eye the real deal -- it doesn't matter how crude the approximation of sight restored. As you'll see from this interview, the fact that Harry Lester won back any light at all is a huge, unimaginable victory for him. The gratitude that pours out of him and his wife, Jerry, is something you just can't be cynical about (trust me, I tried).

The thing that had me crying here, though, wasn't that Harry gets to perceive flashes of light when his grandkids cross the room, where there used to be just darkness. What got me was how much he and his wife love each other. I was sitting on the couch next to David, watching on my laptop with him and I said in my weepy voice: "He got the bionic eye because he wanted to see her blue eyes again."

And David said: "Of course he did. Otherwise, he probably wouldn't have done it. You have to have a reason. You have to have something worth seeing."

It made me terrifically grateful in my own right to think that David would get a bionic eye to see me, even past-my-prime, had-three-kids-and-don't-wear-makeup-and-forget-about-goig-to-the gym saggy, haggard me. And I'd do the same to see him.

Check out this video, shed a tear or two and have your faith in humanity and the power of love re-affirmed. Well worth the minute or two.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

If you want something done (at all), do it yourself

I am good at a whole bunch of things. I tell kick-ass customized bedtime stories. I am excellent at packing suitcases. I am talented at filling awkward silences (awkwardly). But I am no good at baseball.

There are a few reasons for this. Perhaps the biggest reason is: I'm legally blind. I don't know about you, but I feel like that suffices. I have little to no peripheral vision so the ball, when in motion, has a tendency to, you know, disappear.

Since I'm not a big fan of baseball, the fact that I highly suck at it doesn't perturb me. And since my kids have never showed the slightest interest in baseball (in fact, they've shown the opposite, as in "Ugh! Baseball? No! Why would I want to play with a ball when I can invent comic book characters and watch TV and concoct Dynasty-type dramas with my Barbie dolls???") I haven't given my ineptitude for baseball a second thought.

Then we went to my parents' place in New Jersey and they have a garage and in the garage is a box full of sports stuff, including several baseball mitts, a baseball and a toddler-sized bat.

"Does anyone want to hit this baseball with a bat?" I asked.

I'm not sure whether it was the fact that we were in Jersey and thus, suburb mode, or because I positioned it just the right way, but they all said, "Yes, sure, why not?"

And then I taught my kids how to play baseball. Sort of. Where did I get my expertise?

Well, about twenty five years ago, I watched Field of Dreams once

The first obstacle was giving counsel about how to hold the bat and swing the bat and other bat-related details that I know less than nothing about. Then there was the problem of pitching the balls decently enough that they had half a chance to hit them. But they sort of got it - it's not rocket science, after all -- and they actually were not-bad at it, which DELIGHTED them. Then I suggested we play a "real" game of baseball (the great thing about kids is they don't know how little you know about stuff because they know even less about it) and I set up "bases" (that's what they're called, right?) and I explained the concept of running to bases.

And then my three kids and I played baseball. I was the pitcher, and the baby was the outfielder and that was our team. Seconda and Primo were batters. We didn't switch off since having the kids pitch and the baby bat would have been pure madness. I just tossed balls at them and the baby fetched the balls and they scored five hundred home runs.

"We're winning! We're winning!" Primo yelled, when the score was about 26-0.

"Yes," I said, "But please consider that you're playing against a blind woman and a BABY."

All in all it was a wickedly fun time and it's inspired me to force David to throw the ball around with the kids sometimes. He may know even less about baseball than I do, but he's at least not legally blind, and he's probably a touch better than a baby.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The secret to staying married

David and I were in the kitchen cooking last night while the kids ran around screaming and whining and being colossal pains in the butt.

Me: "These kids will be the death of me."

David, hopefully: "Any idea when?"

Me, silent, glaring.

David:  "I mean, do you have an ETA? Ballpark?"

Quite a comedian, that husband of mine. Wouldn't be surprised if he got his own HBO special one of these days.

Sometimes, the secret to staying married is just not getting divorced. Feel free to embroider that on a throw pillow.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Picture-Perfect Parenting

One of the things that I absolutely can't stand is the fake-booking effect, especially as it relates to parenting. That's because I'm the kind of weak-minded person who is extremely susceptible to it. I"m the person who looks at a friend's photo of the family making meatballs together and instantly spirals into self-flagellation. WHY don't I cook more with the kids? WHY don't I cook at all? WHY, on the rare occasions when I do cook with them, does it end in tears and shouting on all sides? (And now we're right back at square one, since this is precisely why I don't cook with the kids).

I look at carefully-curated snapshots of smiling children and parents and I think, "Look at how EASY it is for them? That it's not for me must mean something is wrong with me or my children or -- more likely --  both.

This is why I totally cracked up while reading this hilarious photo and caption series on  It's Like They Know Us. My favorite is this one of the three kids at the supermarket because, of course, that's one of my most chronically hellacious experiences as a mother. Here's the caption from the site:
"I love going to the store with multiple children! My toddler always goes right into the cart and never desperately clings to anything within reach like a cat being put into a bathtub only to then chuck all of my groceries across the store like a demented Donkey Kong while my two oldest get into a fist fight because one of them got to put an extra thing on the check-out conveyor belt. Wheeee!"

Friday, September 26, 2014

Swag: or how I discovered I am old, and I sound old, too.

Primo used the word "swag" for the first time a few months ago.

"Honey," I said, with terrific condescension, "the word is schwag. And you're not using it correctly. It means free promotional stuff."

"No, Mom, it's swag," he replied, "And it means cool."

I looked at my nine year-old and had to smile. He thought he was so grown-up but sometimes, he was totally unfamiliar with the most basic of terms.

A few weeks later, Primo used the word again.

"I know you THINK that means cool, and really, it sounds like it would, but it just doesn't mean that," I said.

"Mom," he laughed, "it totally does."

And so it went on. All summer, he said, "This is so swag!" and I'd smile my little patronizing smile and shake my head.

Then, I took him shopping for a new T-shirt to wear to the first day of school. Lining the walls were a rainbow-array of T shirts with band logos and movie logos and pop culture references. There war no less than a dozen "Domo" T shirts and I had to ask, "Who is this Domo they speak of?" Primo said I wasn't missing much.

And then I saw a T-shirt which said, "Swag!" which featured aforementioned Domo with a hoodie half-zipped and aviator glasses. No matter what manner of man or beast this "Domo" was, it was clear that in his current iteration, he was meant to look cool. At first, I thought, What a coup! My nine year-old son has invented a slang word and it's taken off like gangbusters, enough that T-shirts featuring his invented vocabulary are being mass produced.

Then I realized the explanation was a lot simpler. I was just an idiot.

It's the beginning of a whole new chapter in my life as a mother. My son's surpassed me . . .  at least in terms of slang.

Swag on, baby (yeah, I know that's probably not how you use it).

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Hilarious and super creepy moments from kids' books

Are you ready to laugh? Prepare your diaphragm. It's been a while since I busted a gut reading anything on the internet but I got my giggle on perusing this:

19 Unintentionally Disturbing Moments from Kids' Books 

The Dr. Seuss illustration is damn hilarious because it's the sort of thing you might not notice while reading the book to your kids for the four millionth time but then once you see it, it is impossible NOT to see.

The anatomical picture of the horse? WHAT THE FUCK?

Also, I think every child should learn it's not OK to be coerced into touching a cow. "Do it now"? One can't get so aggressive when writing in the second person to toddlers.


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

How To Make People Like You

I saw this book by the register at my drugstore and I thought this:

"You don't need a whole book to teach you how to create people that are just like you. It's easy. I've done it three times. In fact, it's kind of backfired. The kids are TOO much like me. In fact, I'm not sure this is even an advisable course of action. Really, people should think long and hard before they make someone like them. It's a little like the Golden Touch. Seems like it'd work out great but it has a lot of pitfalls."

And then I realized that of course, the book was trying to teach readers how to be like-able, not create mini-mes. Though I am expert in the latter, I know jack about the first.

But my takeaway was: I now have proof positive I've been making too many babies. I feel like if you mis-interpret the title the way I had, you should get an automatic appointment for birth control counseling.

On an unrelated note, I'm wondering if the author might consider a sequel marrying the two subjects: How To Make People Like You, Like You. Just spitballing.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Take a sick baby to a hotel? Yes, that's a GREAT IDEA.

One of the perks of running a blog is you can take two days to tell a story about your children getting sick at the precise time you are supposed to be leaving for your beach vacation. I'm fully enjoying that perk right now as I conlcude the exciting story of . . . Coxsackie Family Vacation!!!!

Terza's high fever broke after twenty-four hours. We decided that we should wait another night just to be safe and also because staying in a hotel and driving ten hours would probably not be terribly fun with a still-sick-though-no-longer-feverish child. We decided we'd spend the night at home and then get an early start in the morning.

And then, after listening to the baby scream for thirty minutes on the couch, we changed our minds. We decided to get the hell out of Dodge.

Terza was clearly going to be miserable for at 2 to 3 days. Her throat was covered in ulcers and after having a 103 degree fever, she felt like shit in general. All she was going to do was watch Caillou and Clifford and Daniel Tiger for 72 hours, with brief breaks only to sleep restlessly. By the time she felt fully better, our vacation would be over. And we'd have spent it in our tiny, messy apartment, listening to her howls.

I explain this part so you understand why we thought it was a good idea to take the kid, with two other kids, in the car and go to North Carolina. It was obviously an idiotic idea. But the alternative was pretty heinous, too.

We figured that since her mouth ulcers had appeared, her diagnosis was confirmed. There was nothing you could do about Coxsackie and once the fever had broke, it wasn't dangerous really, just a pain in the ass. We were going to be miserable either way - it was only a question of whether we'd be miserable on our way to a beach or whether we'd be miserable at home. The beach called.

So, at about 5pm, in a snap decision, we grabbed all our stuff, which was packed and waiting, and got in the car, bound for DC, where we'd spend the night, en route to North Carolina. It being a Saturday, we enoucntered no traffic, which was one huge, glorious mercy. Because had we encountered traffic, I think one if not all of us would have jettisoned ourselves from the vehicle.

As soon as we secured the baby in the car seat, she started howling. Poor thing, who could blame her? I mentioned before, there is regrettably no such thing as Pediatric Percoset Mouthwash, so she was stuck with Motrin for pain relief. If she'd known about morphine, I'm pretty sure she would have asked for it.

We did the unthinkable and gave her the paci. That, along with endless cartoons on the iPad, bought us about 15-20 minutes at a time of Non-Screaming. This was useful because the other children needed a chance to vent their problems where were, as always, plentiful. But eventually Terza had to swallow her saliva and when she did, she bellowed. Which, not to put too fine a point on it, probably didn't help her throat any.

Every so often, I turned around in the front seat and tried to give her a sip of water or juice or milk and every time, she batted it away, snarling and angry, like I was trying to kill her. Frequently, this sent liquids flying all over the car. Oftentimes, it caused David to yell at me to stop forcing drinks on her. Always, I yelled back at him that if the baby did not drink anything, she'd surely get dehydrated and then we'd be forced to bring her to the hospital. Which prompted me to investigate what medical facility we should bring her to in the DC/ Maryland area, should push come to shove.

I think that when you start lining up hospitals for possible dehydration, you can probably admit that you're not having a great vacation.

At about 9pm, we got to the hotel and there, David redeemed himself with a genius idea. He thought to offer the baby water from the sygrine we used to administer her Motrin. Shockingly, this worked and I was able to squirt a sufficient amount of ccs into her parched body.  She went to bed really late and the big kids didn't fall asleep until even later. David and I enjoyed our usual Bathroom Date Night -- we retired to the only room not filled with sleeping children, to stream Netflix on my iPhone. And about midnight, I decided to turn in. At that EXACT moment, the baby woke up. It couldn't have been my footsteps since a ninja could not have treaded more softly. It was just rotten luck.

She woke up and started crying and didn't stop for about three hours. There were lulls, to be sure -- periods of time where her crying subsided to a whine, and then even a soft sniffle, like it was near extinguishing, but then it would renew itself and grow in strength until it was a full-fledged sob.
It was not the most pleasant way to spend the hours between midnight and 3am. Esecialluy in a room was paying over a hundred bucks for the pleasure of "sleeping"in.

I turned on all the lights.

I turned them all off.

I played her Caillou and Clifford and Daniel Tiger.

I told her stories and sang songs and tried to pick her up and took her in bed with me and nothing worked at all.

Finally, I realized that she was bothered by the throat pain, sure, but she was also terrified. It occurred to me that she probably had no earthly idea what a "hotel" was or what we were doing in a totally unfamiliar space. She kept looking around with wide eyes and scurrying away from my arms, into the far corners of the room.  She was wildly disoriented. And the piercing throat pain didn't help, either.

So I tried my hand at toddler whispering and basically narrated what had happened that day in excruciating detail, like I was trying to convince her with a barrage of details that I was her real mother instead of some impostor. Then I described what was going to happen in the morning. She still wouldn't let me pick her up but at least her crying slowed to a soft moan. Then I lured her in with photos on my cell phone and eventually, she let me scoop her up and bring her into bed with me where we scrolled through pictures of things we'd done and places we'd been for another hour until finally she was quiet and I could drift off to sleep too . . . for about two hours, at which point she'd decided enough was enough and it was time for Round 2.

David and I had the foresight to bring an air mattress which we put in the "living room" where the kids were sleeping on a fold-out couch. Normally, I'd have fought David tooth and nail for that air mattress but seeing as he'd be driving us five to nine hours the next day, I figured he needed the sleep.

In other words, I was a Christian martyr. It was not fun. I do not recommend it.

Eventually, we arrived at our destination and eventually, the baby cheered up and we all had a pretty wonderful time near the stunning Atlantic ocean.  We were glad we'd powerhouses through.

But next year, come vacation time, I'm putting everyone in surgical masks and gloves. We're battening down the germ hatches. One Coxsackie Family Vacation makes for a diverting story band blog post, Two? That's just wrong.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Coxsackie Family Vacation!


That's the number of times I've had to cancel a trip because a child fell ill the day we were supposed to depart. We don't take a lot of trips, so this is a pretty high percentage of total trips ventured. The most memorable of these trip cancellations was when Primo got appendicitis the night David and I were supposed to leave for Iceland. The car service came to take us to the airport but instead we had it take us to the ER where my son got an organ removed. Fun times.

Of course, all's well that ends well. And the most distressing thing about that cancelled trip was that, had my son grown sick just a few hours later, we'd have been in Iceland when he was taken to the hospital. Thinking about him in pain and me far away, waiting for hours for a flight to take me back to him, fills me with tremendous dread. It's enough to make me never plan a vacation again.

But that's no way to live! So we plan. And we inevitably cancel, too. Because, guess what? Kids get sick all the damn time and very inopportunely, I might add.

Two Fridays ago, we were all set to drive down to North Carolinw for our annual family vacation. We meet David's parents and his sister, with her all kids, and grandmothers and family friends and it's a rollicking good time. Sand and surf and sweet tea. We look forward to it all year. The vacation can never come quick enough.

We were all packed. Swim diapers and thermometers and reading material and sunblock and snorkel masks and everything you could possibly need was organized into suitcases and the suitcases were zipped up. Sandwiches were made for the ride down and wrapped in tin foil. Reservations had been confirmed at the hotel in DC where we stay to make the trip a bearable two-day one, instead of an intolerable blur of misery that is concluded in one day.

We were all set. All we had to do was attend the kids' culminating performance at theater camp at 1pm and from there, we'd stick the kids right into the already-packed car and zoom off. But about a half hour before we had to leave to see the performance Terza did something profoundly disturbing.

She fell asleep.

Whenever my kids fall asleep without a fight, I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that they are sick. It happened when Primo had appendictisu and it was the deciding factor for us to take him to the ER.

"He doesn't have fever or vomiting or the other symptoms," I told David. "But he says his stomach hurts. AND HE JUST FELL ASLEEP. At 7pm. Without a struggle."

"Shit," David concurred, "You're right."

So when I looked over and found Terza lying in the middle of the living room carpet, on her stomach, dozing off, I knew. I knew the trip was a goner. I shot David a panicked look and then he knew too.

But we deluded ourselves because sometimes life requires a little delusion.

"It's not THAT weird," I reasoned. "I mean, it's nap time and so she fell asleep. Kids DO that. I've heard they do that."

David nodded. But he didn't looked convinced. Sure, kids do that. Just not our kids.

A half hour later, after slinging the diaper bag over my shoulder and slipping my sunglasses on the top of my head, fully ready to go to the kids' show and then after that, DC, I picked the baby up from where she'd been sleeping on the living room floor. And of course she was blazing hot.

Now, I don't usually call the doctor immediately after the kids first spike a fever because I know they are going to tell me to wait until they've had the fever for three days or until other complications arise. But in this instance, I needed a prognosis, in order to ascertain if we'd be able to leave for NC soon. So I brought Terza into the doctor who took one look at her throat and made an educated guess that I did not want to hear.

"Looks like Coxsackie," she said/ "Everyone has it. It's going around big-time."

I pumped her for details and as soon as I heard them, I regretted it. High fever for up to 3 days? Ulcers all down the throat making eating and drinking very difficult? Blisters forming afterwards on the hand, feet, mouth and BUTT? Oh, and yes, highly contagious.

"But she might NOT have that, right?" I clarified.

"Sure, she might not," the doctor replied. "But she probably does."

Terza is a very charming feverish baby. She gets positively luminescent. She is super chatty, not unlike someone on coke. She talks about a mile a minute and runs to and fro, until suddenly, she'll crash and then she lies on the couch, eyes all glassy, and says stuff like "I love you my darling." And you just want to beat the germs senseless and send them packing. So she did that and we consoled the kids who were positively miserable that our trip was on indefinite hold. You can say, "Think about your poor sister for God's sake!" but, come on, they're kids.

So we watched TV and ate ice cream with chocolate syrup and waited-and-seed. The inevitably of waiting-and-seeing is the number one reason I will never be a doctor. There are many other reasons, but that's top of the list.

And just about twenty four hours after she'd fallen asleep on the floor with a fever, her fever broke. Mercifully. We would have definitely luxuriated in relief had that not been the exact moment that the mouth ulcers began to bother her. Did I say "bother?" Hmmmmn. There must be a more exact word I can use to communicate the effect of the sores on my daughter. "Tormented" gets a bit closer.

Because while Terza is a dreamboat Fever Baby, she is a nightmare Mouth Ulcer Baby. Not that I blame the poor kid. If there was some kind of morphine mouthwash I could safely use on her, I'd have used it. Interestingly, the pharmacy doesn't have Pediatric Percoset Mouthwash over the counter. So we were forced to go it the Old-School-Suffering route.

And, we figured, since we were all already suffering at home, why not take the show on the road? With her fever completely gone, and a diagnosis fully confirmed, we decided to take Coxsackie Baby on a ten hour drive to the beach!

 . . . . Tune in next time for the exciting conclusion of the Coxsackie Family Vacation.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Coxsackie Mouth

I have thought of the best ever band name. Are you ready?

Coxsackie Mouth.

It would have to be a death metal band, involving MUCH SCREAMING AND HOWLING.

Yes, this is the work of genius, born of much suffering.

More Coxsackie Family Vacation story to follow.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Yep, he's mine all right

On a recent lazy afternoon, I asked the kids:

"So, should we go to the playground or the library?"

"The library!" Primo piped up.

"You like the library, huh?"

"Mom, of course!" he exclaimed,  "I mean, can you believe someone invented libraries? A place where you can get books for free? As many as you want? That's, like, the best thing ever,"

And I had one of those, "Yep, he's mine, all right" moments.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Potty training: not for the faint of heart

I wasn't the one who started the potty training experiment. It was Terza. She's a real self-starter like that. Mainly, it's because she's in day care part of the week so she sees her school friends using the potty and she thinks, "Hey, that looks fun. I wanna give it a whirl." And she comes home and says, reasonably enough, " wanna use the potty Mommy."

What Mommy would stand in her way?

But here's the problem with Terza's potty training. It's spotty. Really spotty. Her success rate at present is near to nil. Now, obviously, I understand this isn't a pass/ fail thing, I understand there's no "failing" that whatever she does is great and it's all a learning process and a journey and the journey is beautiful.

I get that.

Here's what else the journey is: messy.

You could nickname our apartment Urinetown. I'd be insulted but I wouldn't dispute you. Th skid pisses EVERYWHERE. Her favorite place to pee, though, is my bed. And her favorite time to pee in my bed is riiiiiiiiight after I change the sheets from the last pee accident. Those sweet-smelling, crisp linens must be a siren song to her, whispering, "Coooooome. Do you have to go pee-pee? This is the puuuuuurfect place. Just sit on down and let it all gooooooooo."

The best part is she will run to me, all proud, and announce, "I went POTTY Mommy!" My heart sinks and I ask, "Where, honey?" and she proclaims, 'On your BED! Like a BIG GIRL!"

Occasionally she will even clap her hands, gleefully, as if she's a prompter and I forgot my line.

Then I will sigh, suppressing the urge to reprimand her, because hey, she's a baby after all, and yes, it's all a learning process. And I'll strip the sheets and the mattress paid, AGAIN, and wonder how do you wash a quilt and calculate whether I have enough time to launder all the bedclothes before I have to go to sleep, and I will consider canceling potty training.

Because the Urinetown aspect of this experience isn't even the shittiest part, no pun intended.

One day last week, she was wearing her diaper and she said, "I have to go potty" and a minute later, she had - the stink was unmistakable -- and she rushed over and announced, "I DID IT!" and to prove it, she pulled down her underwear and showed me. I was confused, because I'd thought she was in diapers, just a minute ago, but she explained that she had changed into her underwear so she could poop in there, "Like a big girl."

That's when I said to David, "I feel like she's not getting this."

So, I've removed the underwear from the drawers and reverted to Pull Ups. I've run out of detergent, to say nothing of patience. I figure once I replenish both, in a few days, we'll resume.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Tips for the (Secretly) Blind

Some helpful advice from my new memoir, Now I See You, on bookshelves now! To hear more tips, watch the book trailer!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

And then THIS happened . . .

In the July 7th issue of People, on stands now!!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014


At long last, the day has arrived -- you can find Now I See You at a bookstore near you! Go buy a copy, or just gaze as it's beautiful cover. And don't forget to tell your friends!

If you'd like to whet your palate, check out this excerpt of the book in New York magazine's The Cut!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Milestones they don't tell you about

There's a lot of milestones you expect: seeing your child off, at her first day of pre-school, taking pictures at Kindergarten graduation, and many other Hallmark moments I haven't encountered yet. But there are so many other little milestones that amaze and humble me, like the day your son has bigger feet than you.

We passed this milestone a few weeks ago, when I slipped my feet inside the work-a-day black faux leather shoes by the front door. Except that they felt really loose. So I took a closer look at realized they were Primo's shoes and they were too big on me.

Holy shit, I thought with wonder. Then followed a bittersweet combination of feelings. How could time be passing so fast? Will I blink and he'll be leaving for college? Was I doing a good enough job of being a mother? Was it too late to do better?   How wonderful that we've made it this far together! How happy I am, and grateful, to have a kid who's turning into a person i really like and want to spend time with.  How soon, I'll be gray and wrinkled and in a nursing home. Remembering the day my son was born, the first time I saw him. Sort of wishing he was a baby again. Sort of wishing he was graduating college, Wanting immediately to go kiss his big tousled head and admire his gargantuan man-sized feet.

Crying, in the foyer, near my front door, wondering what I came her to do in the first place.

These are the little moments that creep up on you.

Holy shit indeed.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

That little word "don't" just makes all the difference

Terza is a wunderkind as relates to verbal expression; she's quite a talker and it's no surprise why, coming from this family of borderline pathological chatterboxes.

But she hasn't grasped one shockingly simple word and it's making life rather aggravating for me. Her lexicon doesn't appear to include the word "don't."

Let me be clear. She expresses the sentiment of "don't" - very, very frequently. She is all about NOT wanting something, NOT being on board. That's kind of her thing now. It's a shitty thing to be your thing but not altogether uncommon for a child of two years old.

She just doesn't know how to express this sentiment verbally. She's nailed down "No!" as well as "No way, Jose!" and, even "It's not fair!"

But, often, she says "I want it!" when she actually means, "I don't want it!" or even "I absolutely don't want it" or even, "There is nothing on God's green earth I want less than that abhorrent abomination of a thing you are offering me."

Yet, what she says is, "I want it!" This leads to some very confusing, and equally frustrating, interactions.

Case in point: she wakes from a nap, cranky as all hell, and I ask "Do you want some milk?" and she replies, in a snarl: "I want it!" and I go get it and when I give it to her, she slaps it out of my hand, hard, like I've just mortally insulted her, handed her a steaming pile of cow dung to ingest.

"I WANT IT!!" she shrieks.

"So, I"m giving it to you!" I reply.

"I WANT IT!" she reiterates, swatting at it again.

"You want it?" I confirm.

"NOOOOO!" she bellows.

"So you DON'T want it?" I try again.

"I," she starts, and I'm paying attention, really rapt here, "WANT. IT."

"Mommy doesn't understand," I say, "You want it or you don't want it?"

"I want it!" she screams, shaking her head.

This is the point at which I want to scream: "I AM LIVING IN CRAZY LAND!" Usually, I suppress this instinct though not always.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

10 Ways Toddlers Are Like Drunks

The wildest my Saturday nights get lately is rocking out to Wheels On The Bus with Terza while making a dinner of the raviolis she threw on the floor. Still, when I stop to think about it, my new Saturday night companion isn’t all that different from my former ones, those late-twenty-somethings clutching cocktails and shouting to be heard above the music. There are (usually) fewer F-bombs dropped and more imitations of farm animals, yes, and there’s no doubt that my current date is a helluva lot cuter than the old ones, but still, when all is said and done, my toddler, like all toddlers, acts a lot like a raging drunk. Perpend:

1. They fall down constantly

2. When they talk, it frequently makes no sense

3. They trash your house

4. They’re prone to shouting and belligerence.

5. They cry for no good reason

6. They like to pull all-nighters

7. They’re always taking their clothes off. .

8. They piss themselves

9. One minute you’re their best friend, the next, their worst enemy

10. They fall asleep with a bottle in their hands.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Pantyhose can traumatize a child for life

I don't frequently wear pantyhose. Never been much of a fan really; just couldn't ever really understand the utility of the nude ones. I did go through a black fishnet phase - which I'm kind of still in, to be honest, my feeling sort of being that if I'm going to go through the trouble of wearing them, better make them not just visible but impossible to ignore. This is by the way, the same approach I take with lipstick. I don't have time for barely-there, and to tell true, it just was never my style anyway.

But recently, I had occasion to wear pantyhose. I was presenting at a conference and wearing a blazer. You kind of can't wear a blazer without wearing pantyhose. It's like the PB without the J. Plus, I figured it'd make me feel more professional.

I pulled on my black dress and struggled with the the control-top sand-colored pantyhose (and, by the way, I get their utility now that I need control-top. I TOTALLY GET IT) when Primo walked into my room. He did an old-school double take and then he stared at my legs. The look on his face was both perplexed and horrified.

"What," he ventured, "are you wearing?"

"What do you mean?" I asked, "You don't like this dress?"

"Not the dress," he pressed, "The other thing."

"These?" I asked, pointing to my legs, "These are pantyhose. You've never seen pantyhose?"

He scrutinized my face intently for a minute, trying to decide if I was joking, or if I'd gone totally out of my fucking mind.

"Why are you wearing that? What is it for?" He was waiting for a reasonable explanation.

I didn't really know myself, but I said something about "evening out the skin tone."

"But it looks exactly like your legs without them on," he observed.

"Sort of," I conceded, "Only, you know, polished."

He stood silently looking at me with his eyebrows raised for a few seconds. Then he said: "Mom. You look REALLY creepy." And he left.

I now suspect he suspects I'm a high-functioning lunatic. I guess I can never tell him about Spanx.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Official Now I See You Playlist!!

My memoir, Now I See You, comes out in just under a month, and I've gathered together all sorts of bonus features to enrich your reaching experience or to just elongate it, in case you're not ready to part with my story just yet (I mean, you can always just tune into this blog or read any number of a million essays I've written but, if that's STILL not enough, you'll have these bonus features). They also make the PERFECT fixings to toss into making a kick-ass, epic, BOOK CLUB MEETING!!!! For Nonny's (formerly) secret recipes, and a complete book club discussion guide, go to the special page I built on my website, and to get your groove on, here's the definitive Now I See You playlist, featuring a few songs mentioned in the book, a few songs by blind musical artists and a ton of songs that relate to the very vast theme of light, darkness, blindness, and eyes. (seriously, you'll be shocked by how many there are). Plug these babies into Spotify and you've got yourself a whole night of tunes. . .


Blinded by the Light, Bruce Springsteen
Hit the Road Jack, Ray Charles
I've Got A Woman, Ray Charles
Sir Duke, Stevie Wonder
My Bionic Eyes, Liz Phair
I'd Rather Go Blind, Etta James
Isn't She Lovely, Stevie Wonder
Shady Grove, Doc Watson
Oh Yoko, John Lennon
Ne Me Quitte Pas, Nina Simone
Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain, Willie Nelson
Con Te Partiro, Andrew Boccelli
Love Is Blindness, Jack White
Dark Eyes, Bob Dylan
Everlasting Light, The Black Keys
I See The Lights, Mandy Moore
I Wear Sunglasses At Night, The Valiant Thivees
I'm Beginning To See The Light, Bobby Darin
I Can See Clearly Now, Johnny Nash
Amazing Grace, Sufjan Stevens
This LIttle Light of Mine, Bruce Springsteen