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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Willy Wonka Vigilante

It was fitting that we finished reading the last two chapters of Roald Dahl's, Charlie And The Chocolate Factory just in time for summer recess. What a wonderfully written story to show children the repugnance of being spoiled rotten. My boys absolutely hate it when we call them Veruca Salt should they start with one of their "I want it NOW" or "Gimme a drink," or "Why can't I have that's SO not fair" tantrums.

In these times of abundance and instant gratification, I think it should be a prerequisite that parents read the book to their children much like they would Cat In The Hat or Goodnight Moon. I realize the book is much longer - it took us a couple of weeks to finish with one chapter a night but the impact was phenomenal. Children are always more interested in what happens to other children and moms are always interested in chocolate.

But it goes back to the simple truth that the parents are responsible for spoiling a child. No matter how much the grandparents may dote on a child, what counts is that mom and dad have laid a solid foundation of knowing the difference between right and wrong.

Just yesterday, my mother confronted a four-year-old who was notorious for being rude. The sad thing is, he doesn't even know that it's a bad thing. He's not being taught to ask if he can borrow something before he grabs it and he's certainly not being taught to return it when he's done. I've seen him destroy another boy's car while his grandmother ineffectively told him to stop. And when he throws a tantrum because it's time to return something, what does she do? She asks the owner if her grandson can keep the toy because he's so distraught with parting with it.

Are you kidding me? We're not the Salvation Army here, lady. Go buy your own friggin' toy.
Inevitably, that's what happens to a kid whose parents haven't got the sense to teach him manners - he gets alienated. I don't let my boys interact with him, much less play with him when he's around either. I even go as far as packing up our toys and guarding them in front of me when he's in the park.

And about my mother's confrontation with him...she told him he couldn't have the items he was grabbing from her. He actually reprimanded her and told her she had to share.

Her response was, "Share? Sharing is I let you have something and you give me something in return - you NEVER bring anything so, don't talk to me about sharing!"

As he ran back crying to his grandmother, I pictured my mother in Willy Wonka's top hat and cane, commanding the squirrels to throw this kid down a garbage chute.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Summer Challenge

Four hours into Zuki's Kindergarten summer recess and I was already counting the days until September 8 - the first day back to school. The new graduates ran out of the school yard for the last time and as they started to enjoy the first few minutes of summer freedom, I was torn between singing Alice Cooper's School's Out For Summer and Thin Lizzy's Jailbreak.  They ran, scootered and tripped towards the park at top notch speed and I said to myself, Oh yeah...I'm so not ready for the Summer of 2010.

 Okay, so at least I've been working out - it should be no problem going toe to toe with them and be the "bad guy" when they're playing their pseudo tag-Star Wars-Iron Man-zombie game. But the summer homework is another story.

Am I prepared to have a "structured" academic schedule with a five-year-old who just wants to run in the sprinklers all day? There are potential stress factors here. I will have to remind myself that he's still only five. That I have to let go of that perfectionist, obsessive-compulsive standard I hold my own work to and let him hand in a summer reading passport of five books, a writing journal with three or more weekly entries and a published piece the way he wants to. And yes, that's how much homework he has over the summer.

Although, I find it encouraging that the school acts on its concern with keeping up the reading and writing levels - I'm also disturbed that in light of the subject, I don't think I even get that much work done. If I could just finish reading five books over the summer, I'd consider that an accomplishment. But that coupled with a blog entry at least every other day and a polished piece in two months? It sounds like a challenge - Mommy vs. Kindergarten homework.

Today, we're going shopping for his supplies to accomplish the work he needs to get done over the summer. That's when I'll present him with this interesting challenge. He's going to get his work done no matter what but if mommy fails to keep up and homework wins, then he'll earn four movie passes he can redeem on any weekend regardless of any offenses he may have committed.

And if I win? I'll earn four dinner passes that I can redeem on any four nights that I don't feel like cooking dinner.

Now all I can say is, BRING IT ON!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Five In The Morning

In my life, the only other period I had to get up at five am on a regular basis, was when I was in that God awful movie, Ishtar. It was supposed to be a one or two day gig but it turned into four days. The paycheck was nice, as was meeting Warren Beatty and Dustin Hoffman - but that was about it. The movie flopped and my part, which was a guitarist in a band, was cut from the much for that.

Now, I am forcing myself to wake up at five in the morning to do nothing other than write. After reading a blog entry at and yet another entry correlating the attention-divided-mommy topic on, it occurred to me that I was heading for disaster this summer if I didn't have a clear writing schedule. First thing in the morning seemed to be a logical choice.

Of course the first day I had set my iPhone to ring at 5:03 am, Samu crawled into my bed at 2 am and proceeded to puke - on the sheets, carpet, p.j.'s, the whole nine yards - until 4:45 am. Needless to say, I turned off my alarm and canceled that show.

The second day, I fared a little better. The alarm went off, I got up - which is a miracle in itself - stuck my contacts in and was surprised they didn't burn my eyeballs off, stretched and then sat down with my laptop and a glass of ice water.

Forty-five minutes into writing, I'm thinking, Hey, this is going really well. And then I heard it. A small body, falling off his bed and hitting the floor. Then the rapid footsteps towards the bedroom door and the telltale creak of it opening to release a mini-ogre who got up. Coming down one step at a time, I saw his feet followed by his hair.

My choices at this point were either bring him back upstairs to get another forty minutes of sleep or have him lie next to me and get no more writing done. I chose the latter. There will be other mornings, I convinced myself and relaxed. Though, he was worse for the wear.

Ever since that morning, Zuki's learned never to wake up early with mommy again. I learned not to waste any more mornings because there will always be setbacks. There are times I want to hit that snooze button and when I'm about to, I let the conjured Jewish mother in my head lay on the guilt trip until I can't take it anymore. The only thing that makes her go away is brushing my teeth.

As for sleep - I tell myself, one of these days. Yes, one of these days I'll have one of those jobs I can call out sick and just crawl back under the covers...or maybe not. For now, it's reveille.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Dads Are People Too

It's a shame but I only recognized my dad on Father's day when I was well into adulthood. Even then, it was really only a reason to crack open a bottle of wine.

Since my boys are a little too young to have a conversation over a glass of Pinot and a plate of cheese, they did the next best thing - they made a Father's Day card that would make any dad feel drunk with joy.

This is the Father's day card made by Zuki:

And this is Samu's:

I got the Dude the P90X 10 minute workout program on DVD. It comes with workout bands, meal planning tips and a bonus Ab workout so he can keep that studly figure and still his enjoy his beer while watching Man v. Food - a dangerous show to watch while dieting.

The other part of his Father's Day gift is, we're not spending any of his money today. I wasn't going to mention that we spent a lot of it last weekend but I guess I just did. Isn't that what are Dads for - well, for daughters, anyway.

So, thank you Dads across the world for being who you are. That you patiently waited for society to finally acknowledge that we can openly appreciate all you do for us without making you feel like a pansy in accepting your children's love. Although we may not tell you that we love you as much as we tell Mom - because she makes us feel guilty if we don't proclaim our devotion every ten minutes - we never, ever forget the little things you say. And being that you have to compete with mom for air time, it is very little...but, it stays with us for life.


Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Lost Symbol Review

I love the library. One, because I'm too poor to afford to buy the latest best seller and two, because the return due date pressures me to finish reading the damn book regardless of how much it's putting me to sleep.

At my sister-in-law's reccommendation, I recently finished "The Lost Symbol" by Dan Brown. I liked it better than "The DaVinci Code" but I still believe "Angels And Demons" was Brown's best work.

"The Lost Symbol" had its page-turning moments but if it weren't for the library's deadline it probably would have taken me another three months to finish reading it. Sometimes, the story got too caught up in surprises and mysteries that at times I felt like the lost symbol.

The character that kept me going was the Japanese CIA woman. Every time she spoke, I pictured Edna Mode, the super suit designer from The Incredibles. Two feet tall, big glasses and a bob cut was how I pictured Inouye Sato - I just couldn't take her seriously and perhaps that was the goal. The other thing is, Inouye is a last name but...whatever.

And then Peter Solomon's character, I kept envisioning Philip Seymour Hoffman. If you're listening, Mr. Ron Howard - it's just a suggestion. Because Tom Hanks ruined it for me as far as the Robert Langdon character goes. I can no longer read the books without picturing the Bosom Buddy and it's just awful. Just awful. Don't get me wrong - I love Tom Hanks. He was brilliant as the Captain saving a retarded Matt Damon but as a genius symbologist saving mankind...not so much.

Overall, the story and the writing were excellent - full of suspense as only Dan Brown can deliver. If they do make a movie out of this, all I want to see is the giant squid (read the book). I was expecting more of an enrichment when it came to the nerve of the story: the incredible power our mind is capable of commanding. But Mr. Brown didn't reveal anything that hadn't already been written by Crowley or Jung or Castaneda for that matter.

In a nutshell, "The Lost Symbol" is a good workout for your mind - a.k.a. the image of God.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

All Hitched Up And Ready To Go

It's true that change is the only consistent thing in life. Well, that and inflation...and dry Vodka Martinis and Dove chocolate bites if it's dark with almonds. But change is always enjoyable because the more it happens, the more things stay the same. Whereas inflation, martinis and Dove chocolate bites tend to add padding in the wrong places.

What changed over the weekend, you say? Oh nothing much, just a family member! My sister-in-law, Rachel was married to Joe in a charming ceremony conducted by a humorous Father Nick at the St. Thomas Church.

It was hard to believe the beautiful bride was posing in a picture with a whip and a package of Dicky Treats just two weeks ago. Here she is just minutes before being whisked away to church in the...Honda minivan.

Sorry, but I have no pictures of the actual wedding because I Was In It! Woo-hoo, my first Maid of Honor gig. I don't see any more in my future and thank goodness for that - I was ready to pass out wearing a corset. You don't realize how much you need your diaphragm until you constrain it. I have to warn you too, that if you drink wearing a tight corset, you don't feel drunk until it comes off - it's like releasing the Kraken from your liver.

I'm really proud of my guys - even Samu who was still bouncing on steroids during the ceremony. He didn't sprint down the aisle like he did during rehearsal, but he kept pretending to drink the wine as he brought it to the Alter. And Zuki almost tossed the Body of Christ crackers. It's kind of fitting since he's usually doing that with his cookies, the little Puker. Here they are looking Gangsta.

And though the Best Man escorted me down the aisle, here's a picture of him with his "companion" at the reception.

And finally, the Happy Couple. It's really an endearing picture if you can get past my husband looking like he's waiting for someone to bring him a cocktail.

Congratulations, Rachel and Joe. We wish you all the happiness and joy in the world. And - no pressure here - but if you guys have a girl, well, then I'm off the hook...I'm just sayin'.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Last Hair Bender

How do you reward a kid who just tackled his first bout with poison ivy with steroids and remained angelic throughout Auntie's full mass wedding? You shave his head.

Now he looks like the Last Air Bender or the Golden Child.

He wasn't happy. After Daddy shaved it off, I heard the little guy say, "Put it back!"

"Don't worry," I said, "it'll grow back."

"Tomorrow?" He asked.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Samu Rodriguez

What do Samu and Alex Rodriguez have in common? Steroids. It seems my three-year-old has to take Prednisone to clear up his poison ivy. Is it a good idea to put a child who regularly jumps off the furniture and talks a mile a minute on a drug whose side effect includes mania? Well, let's see...

As a precaution, I asked my mother to babysit him the first day of administering it. Being that Zuki had a half day of school and he and his gang were meeting up at the park, I didn't think adding a pumped-up three-year-old to a group of Boys-gone-wild was the way to go. My mother agreed to call  and see if we should hook up.

I received a voicemail message from her instead and as I listened to it, I was reminded of that scene in The Incredibles where Helen is listening to the increasingly alarmed messages from Jack-Jack's babysitter. My mother's message goes, "We're on our way but Samu is acting really, really he's pushing me - okay -okay he's biting me now and it hurts...WHERE ARE YOU?"

We never did hook up at the park - I wound up picking him up at my mother's house some three hours later. When I got there, he was running from room to room, dumping out toys, putting them back in their containers and dumping them out again. My mother's face was that of despair.

"I have to do the laundry," she said. "He pooped all over the sheets."

I heard that happens to heroin users - uncontrollable bowel movements. I wondered if it's the same with steroids. Then I remembered how Samu's a Pooper anyway. It was probably nothing unusual even though it's his second huge dump in under 24 hours.

What was unusual was his agreeing with me that it was time to go home. Well, he did cry at first but then he did a bipolar turnaround as soon as we gave him a Capri Sun: wah-wah-wah-oh-a drink! Then he bolted, and I mean bolted, out the door skipped down the hall and launched himself at the elevator button. He missed of course, but he thought it was hysterical.

Meanwhile, my mother gave us the Jehovah's Witness goodbye: slammed the door, bolted all the locks - loudly. No, I'm just kidding. I'm sure she wanted to but instead she followed us out and headed for the Bodega, no doubt to buy two King-sized Budweisers.

It's no wonder steroids are banned from sports. It really does seem to give people super-human powers. Later that evening, I watched Samu choke-hold my husband as we tried to finish our dinner and I decided that I would give the medication three days and that's it. One, I don't think our house is covered for body imprints on the wall and two, my mother wants me to sell her the rest on the black market so she can accomplish some Triatholon-type cleaning. What the heck - she might even sweep my garage at five in the morning.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Bones And The City

A job interview had me going through Midtown Manhattan the other day. It was sunny, warm and beautiful and the streets were packed with Yuppies hunting for their lunch. Falafel vendors were busy falafeling, Chop't was busy chopting and street cafes were packed with patrons dressed like ice cream cones.

It had been three years since I roamed the lunch hour of Midtown Manhattan and of all the changes I noticed the one thing that really stuck out was how skinny women are these days. I thought I was looking at a scene straight out of the tabloids with anorexic actresses. Everywhere I turned there was a broomstick in three-inch heels. Is every woman trying to be like Sarah Jessica Parker or something?

I passed by two women perched on the side of a water fountain, opening a snack sized tupperware containing their pasta salad. Is that all they're having for lunch? No wonder they're so skinny. As I waited for the light to turn green, I checked to see if they perhaps had a duffel bag on the side containing a whole turkey or something more substantial but no - they each held a little clutch bag in their laps, which suggested the bird feed portion of pasta salad is all they brought. Now that's sad.

Ever since I became a full time mom, I haven't had a proper lunch break. As a matter of fact, the six years prior to that - working full time as a manager - I hadn't had a regular lunch break. That's about ten years of lunchlessness. If I had the luxury of having an hour, even forty minutes of undisturbed noshing in the middle of the day - I would fix myself a banquet. Everyday. And if I blew up like Ann Wilson of Heart, so be it. At least I'm enjoying my lunch break.

I do miss the city lunch dates. My favorite was one I had with my dad at the Oyster Bar in Grand Central Station. We sat at the counter and had a bowl of New England clam chowder and an ice cold Bud draft in frosty mugs. Okay, we had two beers each but they were small by our standards. I can't tell you how many calories that must've cost, probably the same amount "bird-feed-pasta-girl" eats in a week but it's a lunch date I'll never forget and that's what dining in the city should be about.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A Zoo At The Zoo

What could be crazier than escorting a Kindergarten class to the Central Park Zoo? Going in 83 degree weather, that's what. I forgot how hot it gets in a school bus - the only cool air you get is the breeze that creeps in through the windows when the bus is moving. Too bad New York City traffic makes that virtually impossible.

Speaking of traffic, New York City is probably the worst city for wheels - nobody gets a break, not even school buses with children. On any given weekday, traffic doesn't move but to add insult to injury, you can't stop either. You know how people joke around about doing a jump and tuck from a slow moving vehicle - that's how you have to do it in New York. It's all part of the experience, I suppose.

Once we were in, we got right down to business. First we headed for the penguins. It's easy to see where they got the idea for the Penguins Of Madagascar - they are nuts. I can't believe how many of them are living in that glass ice box. No wonder they're always trying to escape.

Next we moved on to the "Analyze That" polar bear. Sure enough, he was swimming back and forth giving us a nice shot of his ass, like he's been doing for the past eight years. Then we saw grass because the leopard was hiding. Two attractions, one no-show and the kids were already complaining. Although, I really couldn't blame them - it was HOT.

By the end of the trip, we drank all our bottled water. So I broke down and bought a bottle at one of the vendors. I only brought three bucks with me and thank God I didn't buy a cup of coffee earlier because I wouldn't have had enough for water if I did. Two dollars and eighty five cents for a bottle of Aquafina. I knew they were going to rob me but that's outrageous! Who do they think they are, the Airport?

Zuki's friend, Rayn got a nice shot of the Insane Polar Bear:

This impromptu class picture was taken while we waited thirty minutes for our bus to pick us up:
You can tell we had a great time by the tired look on Zuki's face (he's the only one looking into the camera). If you plan to visit the Central Park Zoo, go in the morning, bring your own bottle of water and I guarantee you'll have a serene experience, especially after dealing with the zoo along Fifth Avenue.