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Monday, March 28, 2011

Fifty Questions First Date

He was the sloppiest, nosiest, bossiest date I had ever been with. On the other hand, he was funny, interesting and certainly the most handsome guy I've ever met  - but I would think that about my own son, wouldn't I?

Yes, it was one of those rare opportunities that I decided to take advantage and spend an afternoon alone - on a date - with my oldest son. No little brother in tow, no big Daddy to get in the way - just the two of us.

Our date started after art class and when I picked him up he was already a barrel full of questions.

"Where are we going? Are you going to spend money on me? Can I buy something really cool?"

"I thought we'd get some lunch first," I suggested.

"Lunch?" He asked as if I had invited him to look at furniture. "But I'm not hungry yet!"

"Good, because it's about a five block walk from here and we might have to wait."

Two blocks into our walk, he says, "Are we there yet because I'm starving!"

Any other day, I might have rolled my eyes and let out a grunt of frustration but this was our date, I just laughed.

We went to Grey Dog's Coffee in Chelsea for lunch. They have three locations, the original is on Carmine Street, another on University Place and the 16th Street one is the newest. I heard the food was awesome and the coffee, phenomenal so, that sold me. The crowd was young and hip, the music was loud to match and though it was a little intimidating at first, I coaxed my date into staying. It wasn't hard after he heard a large cup of Hot Chocolate was involved.

It was the steamed milk and real cocoa kind - can Mommy have a sip?

"Mom! You said just a sip!"

Resisting the hot chocolate wasn't as hard as picking out a sandwich, everything sounded so good. The B.L.T., the Grey Dog's Club, the Pulled Pork wrap - oh, the list was endless. We went with the Beef Brisket Press on Challah bread and got a mountain of fries to go with it. Needless to say, my date inhaled over half the fries and that coupled with the giant mug of hot chocolate, he was set.

The place got Mommy's vote - it was a lot of good food for nine bucks. The staff was friendly with the hip bus boys calling him "buddy" and the babes saying, "Awww, how cute." My date was in heaven.

We left the restaurant ready to explore and immediately, I was bombarded with the questions again.

"Where are we going next? Can I buy something for myself or will I have to share it with my little brother? Etc, etc."

I just watched his mouth go a mile a minute. Since he wasn't giving me a chance to answer, like he refused my offer to clean his face, I just listened to the sound of his voice resonate through the chocolaty ring caked around his mouth.

We made our way down towards the East Village and the whole time he talked about his imaginary friend, the talented Doctor Ripperts. Apparently, Doctor Ripperts was working on a new machine that was going to change the world. It's top secret, of course, so the work could not be discussed with an average citizen such as myself. But I told my son to relay my best wishes on the project and give Doctor Ripperts a hearty congrats on his new born baby who is only eight days old and is already eating baby food.

After an earful of Doctor Ripperts, I asked if we could talk about something else.

"Can I buy a toy?" My son asked.

I gulped because I knew the nearest toy store was either the excuse of a Toys-R-Us at Union Square or the absurdly expensive Toy Tokyo on Second Avenue.

You have to understand that the East Village and Manhattan in general is not really a shopping mecca geared for kids. Teenagers, maybe - young folks, definitely and even their babies, possibly if they are the eight-hundred-dollar-Bugaboo-stroller kind. But kids wanting toys are a reach. For a middle class kid like mine, there's getting Trader Joe's stickers from the cashier followed by a round of "Let's-Spot-The-Heroine-Addict," passing through St. Marks Place. So I lied.

"I know a really fun place where we can get you something," I said, knowing it was a long shot.

The Whole Foods in the Bowery had a section upstairs full of interesting items that a kid could want. Odd stuff such as chopstick trainers, cool water bottles and if that failed there was always the huge confectionery island right smack in the middle of the ground level.

As soon as we walked in, some dude who resembled Philip Seymour Duncan asked if we wanted to try a sample of designer flavored water. My date loves free food samples. He opted for the "red" one which was cherry-pomegranate.

"Do you approve?" Philip Seymour Duncan asked.

My date nodded, said thanks with an expression that basically said, "carry on."

Though the store was a dud as far as finding something fun to buy, my date loved hanging out in their huge cafeteria with the view of bustle on East Houston street. It was there that he decided he needed a new pair of sunglasses.

Rested, we made our way towards Broadway, where I intended to conclude our date at the Scholastic book store. Along the way, he paused for a photo by a wall of graffiti.

Then we passed by one of the street vendors who sold sunglasses and Bingo! A pair of really cool shades like the one Cyclops wears in X-Men was his, all for five bucks.

It was a good thing we made that find because we were not impressed with the Scholastic bookstore. I'm not crazy about their books to begin with but the layout itself was rather confusing. Was it a bookstore, a toy store or a party place? On the way in, nobody said hello and some chick in a mini-skirt and low cut blouse was throwing little bags of promotional Pirate Booty to the dude in the Pirate costume. They gave us each a bag on our way out, to which I thought - uh, thanks for the bag of White Cheddar crumbs.

Before our subway ride home, we entered our final destination: Dean and Deluca. To say Dean and Deluca is overpriced is like stating that Adrian Brody has a big nose. Thank you for stating the obvious, now can we watch the rest of King Kong?

As my date gawked along the endless counter of homemade cupcakes, mini-pies and cookies and the hand made chocolates, candies and breads his senses went into overload.

"I can't eat all of that, Mommy."

Guess he didn't realize I was offering him a choice - not the entire buffet.

"That's okay," I said. "How about this small box of chocolate mints?"

His big, bright smile was confirmation enough. Did he mind that I picked up a bar of dark chocolate with almonds for myself? Of course not, he helped himself to two pieces of it and stashed away his own booty - the good stuff.

"Do I have to share this with my little brother," he asked before he nodded off on the train ride home.

"No, Sweetie. It's all yours."

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Barber Mom's Tip

The sole reason I went to barber school, way back when, was to be able to cut my own bangs. Yes, it's like going to culinary school to learn how to boil a perfect egg but in the end, my license for overkill paid off. It happened last Sunday, after I gave the boys their haircut and my six-year old became unusually excited about his new do. He jumped off his chair and studied his reflection.

"Cool!" he said and took off into the bedroom.

Two minutes later, he strolled back to the bathroom and stood in the doorway. Feeling his presence, I paused in my obsessive-compulsive-hair-cleaning frenzy and acknowledged him.

He had changed into his I Train To Bring You Pain t-shirt and a pair of jeans. He was busy pressing his hair into his hands, molding the top of his head into a Mohawk and giggling like a crazy monkey.

"Ah, what did you put in your hair, mister?"

 "Huh? Oh, you know..." He cupped one hand and with the other pressed on an invisible pump. Obviously, he doesn't know that things have names.

 "You used the body lotion?"

"Uh-huh," he said, apparently forgetting how to speak a language at all. He confirmed his grunt with an exaggerated nod.

In his mind, he was styling his hair to look like one of the Japanese Power Rangers known as "Kamen Riders." Most of the actors in the show are ridiculously skinny young men - boys that would be mistaken for a waif in this country - tall, perfect complexion and highlights that must've set them back fifty-thousand Yen.

Fortunately, we can save on the expensive highlights since my son got Daddy's light hair genes. But with the wacky faces he was making, I was now staring at a miniature version of Ace Ventura.

On the bright side, at least he started to care about his appearance. Every morning, it was a battle to get him to tuck in his shirt, put his shoes on the correct feet, fix his underpants so they covered his frank and beans because he didn't care about how he looked. So, I was grateful for this baby step forward, regardless of its narcissist undertone.

Realizing how stiff his hair was, I figured he must have used a lot of body lotion. Although I saw nothing wrong with using body lotion it was the fact that it was the Aveeno body lotion that prompted me to ask him not to use that in the future.

"This stuff's expensive," I said. "It's not like Mommy's generic CVS brand for $4.99!"

I promised to pick up real hair styling creme for him that afternoon because I had an ulterior motive. An anti-aging cream that had been on my wish list, waiting for that elusive sale which finally came in the form of a 20 percent off coupon. It was now or never.

With the added urgency of my promise to get the midget his hair styling creme, it seemed nothing was going to stop me now - not even the whole gang tagging along.

I told my husband that I was just picking up two little items. With emphasis on the word "little" he probably calculated the spree would cost him all of ten the most.

I stood in front of the self checkout kiosk with my stuff. This is it...just make the transaction and the Fountain of Youth is MINE! Bwa-ha-ha-ha-haaaa!

 I forgot how loud that kiosk talks. "WELCOME! PLEASE SCAN YOUR FIRST ITEM!"

...blip...I scanned my little tube of miracles. "TWENTY-NINE-NINETY-NINE!" 

My husband - who was busy swatting the boys hands off the candy rack - spun around on his heels like Michael Jackson.

"What the hell are you buying?" He said.

"Oh, if you think that's bad, listen to how much this hair styling creme is," I said.


His eyes widened with disbelief. Two little tubes - twenty ounces of cream altogether. There was nothing "priceless" about this Visa purchase, at least not for him.

But for me, I can delude myself for eight weeks hoping this miracle creme will do what it says. Perhaps the splurge was a little over the top but I did provide a service for free - a service that would have otherwise cost us, not so much as the anit-aging creme - but close. Maybe I'll take up highlighting next.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Win Sum, Lose Sum

Think of all the addition equations that equal the sum of ten. That was the latest math homework my six-year old had to do. Not very inspiring, I know, especially if you're Asian as a Postal Office clerk was so keen to point out because I couldn't calculate the total of my transactions when her computer broke down.

"I'm more the Algebraic kind," I told her. "Give me an equation with X and I can figure out what the missing link is. Like "X" is your people skills, in this matter..."

I used to say that I just wasn't good at math. But after the latest parent-teacher conference about our six-year old, I've decided otherwise. He did horribly with the visual problems like producing the sum in a picture of blocks of tens and ones. But when it came to the word equations, which I think are harder for his age, he answered them all correctly. Guess all that time he spent reading really paid off. Wish I could take the credit for it, but he truly did it all on his own - sniff, sniff, I feel so...used.

If anything, at least I understand his relationship with math. Like him, if you threw me any random five numbers - even single digits - I'm more than likely to just make up an answer instead of figuring it out. That's why I'm so easy to con - that's why I can't be an avid sports fan - that's why I always have a boatload of change!

Numbers to me are place holders, like the ticket you get at the deli line. And that's about all I can handle at my age and post baby-brain. If we didn't have speed dialers or smart phones, I'd be calling 911 all day because it's the only phone number I could remember.

It's the idea of numbers I get, although I can't do much else with them. For instance, if you spewed out a bunch of numbers for no reason, you can sound smart. I noticed that when I overheard a construction worker call out a bunch of numbers and I thought, maybe he memorized the measurements to a room or a flaw in the architecture. But no, he was buying a lottery ticket. And if you can't come up with lyrics to a song, just punch in a phone Jenny. Recently, I taught my son how to memorize my cell number by singing it to the tune in "Rent." I have to say, I liked it better than the actual song.

Yeah, yeah - numbers are the universal language. They say it's infinite but really, it's just one through a hundred - everything after a thousand is followed by words: millions, billions, gazillions. Besides, when you get past a certain number, like the national debt, it all starts to sound like mumbo-jumbo.

In closing, the real inspiration for this post came about from my six-year old's math homework - you know, all the equations that equal the sum of ten. While there are only six addition equations (or twelve if you count the turn arounds) that add up to ten, there are an infinite amount of equations when you subtract. And right there, it summed up Life for me, albeit a defeatist one at that. While there are only so many ways you can amount to something, there are endless con artists, scum bags, taxes and Ticketmaster willing to subtract the number that brings you right back to zero.

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Retro Quote

I love the movie, Clerks 2. I may be the only one who thinks this but I actually think it's funnier than the first one. Lately, I'm reminded of a scene where Randal decided to take back a derogatory term - porch monkey - and make it a term of endearment. Of course it backfired in his face and it was hysterical but that's not the point.

The correlation is that my morning breakfast chant of "finish your breakfast," repeated fifty times can now be punctuated with that retro quote, "don't you know that there's kids who are starving in Japan." Like Randal, I tried to bring it back only this time, it would be true.

But the only person who ever got a reaction from that line was Weird Al - I should stick with the chorus - "Just Eat It!"

In this day and age and especially in America, starvation is a predicament that's worse than death itself. Throw in starving children and suddenly we have Band Aid, which to me seemed more like an effort to salvage the ailing careers of singers who fell out of the limelight.

Aside from the Red Cross and Lady Gaga, folks have asked me if I know of any efforts that are more direct or organized by local people to help the disaster victims in Japan. Oddly, I felt kind of embarrassed. Not because there is no effort that I know of but because there is a need for help.

Perhaps Asian people in general are wired that way. I couldn't rightfully say. But I know from experience that Japanese people are not prone to speak out or cry for help. Call it a code of honor thing handed down by Samurais or Kamikazes or sushi chefs who refuse to make a California roll because it's not authentic but either way, it's their way of life.

Despite knowing this, I did ask a friend over there if there was any way I could help to which the reply was, "how about sending a slice of New York pizza."

Regular or Sicilian?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

As We Know It

The day before the Tsunami hit Japan, I had started to write a blog entry - it was about my spleen of all things. After seeing the unbelievable images all weekend, however, I just couldn't bring myself to finish it - spleen issues will have to wait.

First of all, I have to say I appreciated the concerns from all my friends and acquaintances about my family there. Many people asked whether I knew if they were alright. Fortunately, I was able to answer that they were fine, although shaky - no pun intended.

Looking back at the tremendous Sumatran Quake of 2004, I'm not sure that I showed that same concern for my neighbors from those countries that were devastated by it and the resulting Tsunamis. That quake was so wicked that it is believed to have scarred the Earth's gravity field and shortened the day by fractions of a second. The natural disaster of 2004 is said to have claimed over two-hundred-thousand lives. And though it was only six years ago, I for one have already archived the event in some remote sector of my memory that only Google can jog free.

Who can blame us for moving on because Mother Nature gave us no other choice. There's no one to sue or wage a war against. No narcissistic governments, flawed foreign policies or terrorists to condemn. Maybe the Earth is old and falling apart. I can sympathize with that - hence my spleen.

But the sheer helplessness when nature acts up is unnerving. I makes me wonder if we are indeed approaching the end of the world. I'm not proud of the fact that I entertained the flaky and unrealistic notion of apocalypse but back in January, over dinner, we were discussing the Mayan Calendar. You know, it's that hoopla saying the end of the world is approaching on 12/21/12. One article I read went as far as to give an exact time. At 11:11pm, the Milky Way will align with the Sun...or something. What's it all mean? Well, I'm not a scientist or an astronomer or even a fan of Oprah, but I predict it will melt the caramel and the nougat.

I joke but it doesn't mean I don't take seriously the plight of disaster victims. I think my cousin summed it up best when I e-mailed him trying to find out if his family was okay. He confirmed - through Facebook - that everybody was fine. But the revelation was that his son, who had turned seven on that day, was so happy it was his birthday that he was happily "running around with no pants on despite the big disaster."

Nothing like kids to put life back into perspective. As long as they're around, it'll never be the end - as we know it.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Mommy Dearest

Spare the rod and spoil the child? I think the Bible should've stated the density of the rod - like is it iron or a Nerf rod? I'm not promoting child abuse here, but I noticed that action most definitely speaks louder than words. Like singing Stop, Look and Listen to the tune of "Shave and a Haircut" works better than screaming QUIET!!

When it comes to establishing order and instilling discipline, I'm no Joan Crawford. But I ain't no June Cleaver, neither! Now, don't get all hysterical - I don't "beat" on my boys. At least not senseless, anyway. I kid, I kid.

I do, however, smack the back of their hand when they excessively grab, pull or destroy and steal (oh yeah, both boys have "helped" themselves to candy on the store shelf once...whole other story).

I have whacked them upside the head when they fooled around on the edge of the subway platform.

And the other morning, the four-year old received a spank on his cheek when he thrust his finger in my face and screamed, "I am NOT listening to you because I. AM. NOT. YOUR. MOMMY. ANY...MORE!"

Well, initially I laughed - the slap came after he spat at me.

They can call me a "cocky-poo-poo" all they want but I won't tolerate being spat at.

Sometimes I wish I could be as ruthless as Eddie Murphy's mother - you know, the one who would whack her kids with a shoe from across the room? Growing up, I knew kids with parents like that. Of course, they didn't have the precision to accurately hit their kids with a shoe, so they'd use something bigger like a dustpan or an alarm clock - whatever was handy with the possibility of being aerodynamic including the cat.

Having visited many a violent households, I can honestly say - it was quite entertaining. If anything, it taught me the art of not over-staying a welcome and at the same time not leaving too early that I missed all the action. I'm not justifying being the dispassionate bystander but it was the times - it was the norm.

As removed as parenting was when I was a kid, it's almost overprotective now. I just can't get into this over-sanitizing craze. If Cholera or Ebola were going around, then I could possibly get into the habit of squirting sanitizer gel all over my kids every ten minutes. But the truth is, I simply forget.

It's not like I've had my hands up a cow's tushie all day - why would I think to sanitize them? I had never even heard of the custom of washing hands before dinner until I was twenty-four and my roommate from Georgia insisted I had clean hands before dining on instant ramen noodles.

Eating re-hydrated noodles packed with sodium in a styrofoam cup isn't going to kill me - it's those germs!

One thing that works in making me appear like a caring mother is that I've climbed on the "organic" milk bandwagon. At first, I resisted buying "organic" anything because I'm a skeptic. How do I know this stuff - which costs almost twice the amount of non-organic stuff - is really organic? And if it is better and healthier for you like they say, then why isn't all food produced that way?

I tried to boycott the organic market for as long as I could because I think it's discriminatory. Perhaps I could tweak my family's budget to purchase only organic products but can everybody? I purchased our organic milk at the local grocery and the cashier, who is a working mom with three boys - one who has asthma - commented that she couldn't afford to buy it regularly for her kids. Really, why does the average family have to eat Soylent Green?

Anyhow, I bought into the organic milk. The reason was, it didn't seem right that I should consume premium beer while my kids drank milk devoid of nutrition. I do realize my motive is questionable but at least the boys have milk. As a kid, I once contemplated eating breakfast cereal with water because milk was a commodity in our household.

Compared to my childhood, my two boys have nothing to complain about...but they do and it really irks me. Why can't they appreciate what they have whether it's chocolate Cheerios or some piece of crap from the 99 Cent shop? Do I have to copy Princess Di and cart the boys off to some Third World country for summer camp? It's cheap and maybe they'll learn something, like how to weave a basket.

Or how about boot camp in Israel - never mind Nerf rods or wire hangers, those guys practice with live ammo!


Some parents may think I'm over thinking this. I know my boys are good but they're still little. Judging from their daddy - let's just say I know there's plenty of time for behavior to go awry. So, I will use the rod - sparingly - and certainly not literally. All to avoid my boys growing up to be like Charlie Sheen.