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Monday, November 29, 2010

It's Constipated

My family thinks I'm obsessed with crap. Not crap in my house or crap on TV or even the crap that spews out of my husband's mouth. No, it's literally crap, feces - POOP! I routinely order my older son to go poopies during bath time - every...single...night. Not only that, I gauge the quantity and quality. If it's not enough, I order him to sit on the throne and give a King sized turd. I can tell he thinks I'm crazy and the rest of the family gives me the stink eye for it - no pun intended.

But after reading an article about the rising chronic constipation problem in children, I thought to myself, "See! I'm not such a Poop Nazi, afterall!"

The three main causes, the article states, is lack of physical activity, low fiber diets and insufficient water intake. I think water intake should be the first item to consider but I agree that all three play an equally important role. Kids just don't drink enough water. But who can blame them with the vast array of beverages available in every form, color and hypocritical nutritional claim to fame. From "flavored" water to Gatorade, it's all the same and just about as nutritious as soda, in my feeble opinion.

I've taken a similar stance as many of my fellow parents around here and decided to offer my boys two choices: milk or water. They'll undoubtedly have their opportunity to indulge in juice, soda and other sugary drinks when they go to birthday parties and other kid gatherings. But at our table, the beverage is either clear or white - no exceptions. If they don't like it, I'll Waterboard them...or Milkboard, which ever.

Physical activity is hardly a problem. C'mon, they're boys! All I have to do is clean the living room and tell them not to mess it up - they'll be climbing all over the sofa and stacking pillows higher than their heads in no time. High fiber in their daily diet, however, is trickier to manage than a push up bra.

My mother had no problem feeding me high fiber as a kid because a lot of Japanese food is actually a front to clean those pipes. Roots, seaweed, pumpkin, beans - where isn't there fiber? But cooking Japanese cuisine takes time and talent and my culinary repertoire consists of various forms to shape ground beef for consumption. Besides, the last time I served brown rice to my husband he swore he crapped out his spleen.

So as a result, I sneak in fresh veggies whenever I can. It's about the only piece of advice I'd ever taken seriously from Rachael Ray. Only, I try not to smother it in processed cheese, cook them beyond recognition or drown them in ketchup - thank you very much. My secret ingredient is good ol' bacon! Hey, if it works for dogs, then why not kiddies?

Spinach, kale, collard greens - it's all edible when sauteed with bacon. Not a whole lot, mind you. Just enough to make them search for the yummy bits. Like trail mix.

All this covert operations to induct nutrition into our childrens meals makes me wonder where our diets went awry. You never saw anyone on "Little House On The Prairie" wondering if they were drinking enough water, getting enough exercise or eating enough fiber. Although, I don't remember much at all from that television show except something about tetanus and Laura falling in love with "Manly."

No, it's just me again, standing on my soapbox and spreading the word against junk food and soda. If I drove a car, I might see Pepsico's headlights in my rear view mirror a la Silkwood but that would mean we were making a difference. Take back the health of your children, people. What goes in, must come out - otherwise, we're just full of sh....!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

About That Fare Hike

Our little friend, Emmett, is one of those kids who has that intense fascination with trains. We joined him again this year in visiting the New York Transit Museum to celebrate his 6th birthday.

The Transit Museum truly is a fun place, especially for New Yorkers like me who grew up riding the subways. As an adult, I get to visit my past - the faded baby blue and grays of the old Number 7 Line; the criss cross seats that could comfortably sit one whole adult of the old C Line - it showed me just how crappy it was back then. But the best part is, you can always get a seat on them here.

Emmett and Kazuki have been friends since they started walking. They've known each other longer than they've known their younger siblings. Consequently, Emmett's younger sister, Lark is the same age as Samu. Technically, they've known each other since before they were even born!

But they're all monkeys, if you ask me. Just look at them.

Okay, everybody make a Funny Face!  

Okay, now how about a nice one?

Um, Lark...we're doing nice faces now.

Looking at all the old signs and displays, I realized that the subways were always a mess. The only time they really got it together was when the Metrocard really kicked in. With its Fun Day pass and unlimited weekly and monthly cards - the offers which are being brutalized the most for the next fare hike - riding the subway used to be a true value for the money. Now - nobody's happy.

Emmett is the Courteous Bus Driver

Samu is the Crazy Bus Driver - Don't get on his bus!

Lark is the Distracted Bus Driver
Can someone get this monkey off the side of my bus?

Yes, I remember when the fare was a was not that long ago.

Although it was only my second visit with the boys, they remembered everything from last year. That's pretty amazing considering Zuki has already forgotten what we got him for his birthday last month. Would I be considered extremely mean if I said that this is probably the only positive impact the Transit Authority ever had? You might think so for about two minutes because that's how long the fare stays the same.

The Number 7 Line when I was a kid

Diane and Samu check out the old ads

Lark finally gives us a pretty smile

This must be Zuki's stop

Samu and Emmett check out an old Subway map while Zuki poses.
Getting to the museum is a breeze and Brooklyn Heights is just gorgeous - so, I guess what I'm trying to say is, visit the New York Transit museum even if it's not Emmett's birthday. And with fare hikes going into effect like every year, it's just a matter of time before riding the subway is for the elite.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Travel Agent Within

You can take the girl out of the Travel industry but you can't take the Travel Agent out of the girl. It happens every time I have to do anything remotely like a tour guide. Such as escorting First Graders on a field trip to Windmuller Park to collect leaves.

The field trip notice did say "Walking Tour," so I don't know why some moms thought that there would be a school bus to transport us. Yes, the park is fourteen blocks away(twenty city blocks is roughly a mile) and though it was a little chilly, it was a beautiful day. It was perfect running weather and run I did. Round trip, even. Thank God, I wore my sports bra! Did you need to know that - probably not.

Zuki's class was the first to depart and so we lead the entire First Grade to the park. That's when the "tour guide mode" kicked in and by default, I was appointed Traffic Guard duty. That meant I had to stand in the middle of the street, hold my hand up in an effort to stop crazy livery drivers from running over our kids while they crossed. After the last kid was safely across, I had to run to the front of the line and start the whole process all over again. For fourteen blocks.

Was I grateful I had that extra cup of coffee that morning. It was Coffee Shop coffee, too - the elixir of the true New Yorker.

Once we got to the Park, Ms. Luizza handed out Ziploc bags and told the kids to collect leaves. After they were done, they would be free to play in the playground. Here's where the "all work" separate from the "all play." Some kids were feverishly looking for bright colored leaves, whole leaves, leaves of different trees, even. And then you had kids like Zuki.

They placed the mouth of the bag at the top of a pile and shoveled in as many leaves (and garbage) as fast as they could. Then they zipped up the bag, handed it to the teacher and said, "Can I go play now?"


Finally, when leaf collecting reached a satisfactory amount, the kids were allowed to play. They ran into the playground, screaming with glee, bouncing off each other as if they only had thirty seconds to play at every station. I turned to the other Mommy-escort.

"Like they've never seen monkey bars before, eh?" I said. She laughed, stuck her hands in her pockets and made her way to a bench where she parked herself for the rest of the outing.

I should've done that. But, nooooo. Once again, the Hospitality Personality emerged and I found myself at the swings.

One of the teachers, in order to divert chaos and injury, decided to organize a system for the four big swings at the park. The kids would have to form a line and wait their turn, which would be delegated by the teacher. As she formed the line to the left, kids ran in on the right and jumped on a free swing until the teacher shooed them away and told them to wait on line.

Don't ask my how, but I found myself standing guard at that opening. My arm was the velvet rope that halted kids trying to steal a swing.

Yup, I was the Swing Bouncer.

I'd done a lot of odd jobs before, but Swing Bouncer was a first.

"Hey, where do you think you're going?" I asked kids who tried to bolt past me.

"I'm with him," they'd answer pointing to another kid on a swing.

"Yeah, right...get back in line." I said, my thumb pointed the way out. Too bad the kids didn't have sense enough to slip me a bribe. A piece of chocolate could have earned them a ride - I was starving. At least it was something to do, plus, I had a great vantage point to watch Zuki play with his friends and completely ignore me.

That's the thanks I get for putting myself in front of moving vehicles, policing the swings on an empty stomach and basically running a mini-marathon.

So Here's The Plan...

My Bag's Full 

The Line For the Swing Club

Zuki gets his turn

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Requiem In Ewww Minor

Perhaps comparing the death of a pet to the death of a family member is just wrong but that's exactly what I did when the kids were told that Frank, the exalted Hermit Crab from Wildwood had finally expired.

I broke the news to them this evening, even though I discovered the gruesome carcass this morning. Somehow, telling them before a planned attendance to a birthday party seemed like a bad idea. Let them have fun, enjoy their pizza and knick-knacks and surely they would take the news better.

So, they thoroughly enjoyed the day at the Transit Museum in Brooklyn Heights. Running through the defunct trains and turnstiles that I rode and passed through regularly when I was their age. Of course the cars in the museum were actually clean and devoid of graffiti but it was nostalgic for me just the same.

Maybe that's why I chose invoking my father's death to explain the facts of life and pets to the boys. "Remember when Gigi went to the hospital and didn't come home because he died?" I asked them. They looked apprehensive and curious at the same time. Without saying a word, they both nodded yes.

"Well, that's kind of what happened to Frank," I told them outright. "Frank is dead."

Samu looked pained. Zuki let out a whimper. Oh no, I thought to myself and braced myself for tears. Instead, Samu broke out into a smile and asked, "Does that mean I can get a new pet?"

A new pet? Now that's just cold. Even Zuki's expression changed from anguish to ambition as he waited for my answer.

"Don't you feel sad?" I asked.

The boys shrugged and took some time to answer this. "Yeah." They answered.

"Well, do you want to see him and say goodbye?"

They both nodded in morbid agreement and I set the tiny plastic tank in front of them. I don't know what I was expecting them to say - I mean what do they know about death, really? I wasn't expecting a eulogy or a requiem, I wasn't even expecting a few parting words...just goodbye.

But Samu pointed to the stiffened cluster of legs and claws that was once Frank. "Ewwww." He said, as if I presented them with a moldy peach. I felt so bad for the little Hermit Crab. All those times he patiently endured Samu's curious fingers yanking him out of his cage, thrusting him into screaming faces of preschool children and the last words he gets is ewww.

I'm going to miss the racket he made at night. The annoying rustle of him pushing the gravel in his plastic box for hours on end. And my morning ritual of checking his cage to see if he's dead yet will have to be replaced. But right now, my biggest problem is throwing him out. Since Hermit Crabs have this nasty habit of dying outside of their shell, I have absolutely no desire to pick him up. Echk. So gross.

Goodbye, Frank.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Birthday, Bowling and Beer

You can always judge the success of a party by the size of the hangover. Mine wasn't bad but Zuki and Samu had an awful time getting up the next morning. That's what they get for losing control at an open  juice bar, I suppose.

Looking back, I don't know why I stressed out at all. The celebration of Zuki's 6th and Samu's 4th birthday party at Bowlmor Lanes was pretty much handled by Jessica, the event coordinator. All we had to do was show up, eat, drink and make sure the little people threw the bowling balls at the neon colored pins - not their little sister.

It was glorious mayhem that was as much fun for the adults as it was for their minions. Beer makes any event go down in the most delightful way. That was until Joy's baby brother, Lenox started running down the lanes. Dodging bowling balls chasing after a two-year-old is not easy with a beer in one hand. All the while, I was thinking someone needs to make a "Baby's Day Out" starring this kid. Thank God, there weren't any rude frogs and Samu added to the mix.

Crazy Samu takes a picture of himself
Lark contemplating a spare

Keeping score with Saiki & Louis

Juice, Lemonade or just Punchy?

Guests in one of the five lanes

Aedan sees something that made him happy

Taiichi goes for it!
Black lights and Bowling ramps
Zuki and Christian wrestling at a Bowling Alley
Joy, the bowling pool player

Setting up the Birthday Cake
A birthday cake hides amongst goody bags and juice

And though the picture is a little dark, here is the Grand Finale - Baba's duet with Mitsuki's grandma. A performance induced by the unlimited pitchers of apple juice, no doubt.

By the way, thanks for the beer, Mikey!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Scorpions, Sagittarians and Turkeys! Oh My!

Four days in November and already we've had freezing cold weather followed by two beautiful days and now rain. Yes, November is volatile and busy, busy, busy.

First of all, birthdays - other than February, I think this is the only other month that I could literally fill every single day with a birthday of someone I know - some days, even two. Scorpions and Saggitarians, how dull would life be without them? If you thought about all your best friends and all your best enemies, you'd find at least three Scorpios on each side.

To say that Scorpios are intense is an understatement. I'm learning just how much with Samu. There are times when he's having a Samu Moment, that Zuki and I just stare at each other, shrug and inch our way towards the exit. Like when Samu's pooping and his own crap is making him nauseous. Especially the stinky ones - he goes ballistic as if I released the odor like Zeus released the Kraken.

"Take it away Mommy!" He yells between his gags.

"All you gotta do is flush it, Samu!"

"No, it's too's too -"

Who throws up at the sight of his own turd? Apparently, Samu does.

Now maybe it's just him and it has nothing to do with the fact that he's a Scorpio. I'm sure every Scorpio would agree. And all the other people who know a Scorpio - they're just shrugging and inching their way towards the nearest exit.

Technically, Samu was supposed to be a Sagittarius. The happy-go-lucky, drug experimenting, hell raising sign of the Archer. Everybody can't help but love one. I think I know why they seem undauntedly optimistic - it's because they never hang around in one place for too long, including Earth.

You can't blame them. A person can't be positive all of the time and yet most of the Sagittarians I know are. I've worked with a few and every once in a while I'd thank them for always giving me a smile and being in a good mood. Sometimes I'd ask, are you high? But then I'd tell them I'm just kidding.

Once we're past the birthdays of November, there's Thanksgiving. In my opinion, it's the perfect holiday. Thanksgiving is what Christmas wants to be: warm gatherings, sharing the wealth, cops showing up for a domestic dispute down the block.

"No officer, that's not blood on the's cranberry sauce from the Missus throwing a plate at me."

Of course, when I was growing up it was soy sauce, not cranberry. But no matter how you celebrate Thanksgiving, whether it's a big party or just by yourself, there's no long as you're not the turkey.

Quite the opposite from Christmas. Which just goes to show you that commercialism can strike a deal with Santa but nothing better come between an American and his turkey dinner.