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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Real Men Don't Fear Queer

A strange thing happened to my husband and I while the kids stayed the week at Grammy's - we had nothing to talk about. We did chat about our day and people who got on our nerves but other than that, there was not much else. To fill the quiet during dinner, we inevitably started reminiscing about the boys...the boys. Sigh. Four nights of romantic possibilities and what did we do? Watched a video of the boys' ballet recital.

"Wait a minute, did you say...boys...ballet?"

Yes. Our boys take ballet lessons. They do not dress in pink or wear a tutu. And since our four-year old is quite an exhibitionist, his last exposure revealed all his boy parts were intact.

Why ballet? Well, I confess, sometimes I do things for shock value. But opting to teach them ballet, as opposed to a more typical boys pursuit like Karate, was not to shock people. The method to this madness was to expose them to a classic art before all the misguided preconceptions by ignorant influences had a chance to set in. So far, it's worked.

Zuki, our six-year old, has been taking dance lessons since he was three. You'd think he'd be some kind of Nureyev but no - he's kind of goofy. Actually, all the boys in his class plie, coupe and Pas de chat more like the Marx Brothers - boys will be boys. They all enjoy it nonetheless and work hard when it's crunch time. As a result, they gave a stellar performance at their last recital. Yes sir, there was no nose-picking, fart noises or wayward tongues - just cleanly executed steps. I was one proud parent.

I'm also proud of my husband who never once questioned their ballet endeavor. Those who know him, know he can be quite the barbarian. Who do you think taught the boys how to pick their nose with circus-like fanfare or fart-quake the floorboards? Yeah, my man is about as sophisticated as a pro-wrestler with a truck driver's vocabulary. He's gross - but I love him.

He could've raised a stink about it like some dads I know. But I trust that my husband is comfortable with who he is. He couldn't care less what other people think about him and if the boys get their confidence from his example, that would be a good thing. There are enough people in the world willing to judge, criticize and shove them around - why be one of them.

So, allow me to wrap this up with those last words commemorating my husband before he does something disgusting and makes me change my mind. I'm glad that in this household, homophobia is not an issue. The after-effects of taco night, however, is another thing but I won't get into that.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Hide Your Annoyance

Today might be a good day to march up Greenpoint Avenue and sign up with the Jehovah's Witnesses just to keep myself from going postal with a BB gun. If you think that sounds unstable - I actually checked my horoscope this morning. Yup. I was looking for a moment of clarity like reading a Chinese cookie fortune that coincidentally summed up the obvious, "You are going to have new clothes".


My horoscope did fare better. For today it said, "it's probably a good idea to hide your annoyance."

Makes sense. And this is the best I can do to hide it.

Regardless if it's true, I consider myself to have a very high threshold of patience. I could go days without throwing something heavy or blunt at my husband for his snide remarks and my yelling is restricted to in the mornings only. I'm even considerate enough to make sure the windows are closed so the neighbors don't have to hear how one is supposed to brush their teeth.

But seriously, until now, I've been pretty tolerant about a personal situation and I decided I'm not taking any more crap. You may or may not know what I'm talking about; you may be going through the same pile of garbage yourself. If so, then on a metaphysical level, let's just say it's time to move on.

My dad always taught me not to say something I might regret; my mom taught me never to hold a grudge and right now, I'm trying to practice both. Because at the same time, it's not a good thing to keep it all inside until it becomes cancerous. I lost my sister that way. My boys are not going to lose me, even if it means losing others.

"It is what it is," my former boss used to say. He also commented with envy, "You don't get stressed out, do you."

Nope. I try not to.

This is my secret: I only allow one person to thoroughly push my buttons and get away with it scot-free. That's my mother.

Everyone else can go jerk themselves a soda.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Y'all Need To Slow Down

About two years ago, I received a speeding ticket. I was going fifty miles an hour through an underpass on Queens Boulevard. The speed limit is thirty-five. There are no crosswalks because the underpass goes under a highway and the cop was obviously baiting. But whateverrrrr. I paid the hundred and fifty dollar fine (yes, that's $150 U.S. dollars in NYC) and moved on.

It did piss me off. But you know what? I stopped driving in such a hurry - lesson learned.

In light of the Raquel Nelson Jaywalking story, speed was the killer. Drugs were an undeniable factor but it doesn't matter because we are focused on the wrong thing...again.

If you haven't heard about her case, Ms. Nelson is the mother who was obscenely convicted of homicide, when her four-year old child was killed by a drunk driver.

It's really ridiculous. I can't understand how the law lets Casey Anthony walk, while convicting Ms. Nelson on a technicality. Don't take this personally, but there are a lot of Yankee fans and New Englanders who are thinking, "The South is f*cked up!"

But let me get back to my point and that is the driver who killed Ms. Nelson's four-year old child should not have had a license. There are a LOT of people who should not have a driver's license. I'm not just talking about those people who are blind in one eye, too old or too young - I'm talking about the morons.

You know who they are. The Death Race 2000 drivers: old man equals 20 points...with cane, bonus 10 points!

Why does the Department of Motor Vehicles give these folks a license to drive? My theory is because we need to sell cars. It keeps our economy going. Like obesity and global warming, it's a problem born out of selfishness. We'll only address it when it stops making money.

When does it stop making money? When it kills all the people who buy their junk.

Yes, I am on my high horse again because I don't own a car. And when I do find myself in the driver's seat, I drive the speed limit - retarded as it is. At one time, I was pissed off at my speeding ticket. Now I'm pissed off that speeding drivers get away with it.

Am I being unreasonably biased against drivers? Probably; but look what I have to deal with. Delivery trucks, taxi and limo drivers - there's not a single decent operator on the road in a big city. And out of the non-commercial drivers, women are the worst. Yes, women. You'd think our calm, nurturing instincts would automatically make us safe drivers but in this city, it's quite the contrary.

I can't tell you how many times I've nearly been plowed over by a car making a turn. Nine times out of ten, the driver was a woman and she sasses me! You'd think my pushing a stroller with a sleeping kid in it would've caught her attention - made her slow down. But no, she's looking for other cars. Not pedestrians. At least not ones you don't hit.

Death Race 2000.

So here it is in a nutshell. It's not neglectful to fail to report your child missing after 31 days but it is homicidal to cross a street without a crosswalk when towing children. Since we cannot stop chickens or mothers trying to get to the other side of the road, can we at least slow the hell down? I mean, you're in a car for crying out loud. That's practically commuting in your living room on wheels - how arduous can it be to take a few minutes longer?

As for Ms. Nelson, I hope she's acquitted of those asinine charges. No mother should ever have to face what she's going through. I hope the prosecution and the judge get hit by a bus.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Truck Stops Here

That time of the month. I thought it would be a subject that I wouldn't have to discuss with my boys until they started dating - and that's why she's being so bitchy. I've been lucky. My friend had to deal with her son asking what she was sticking up her butt whenever they were in a public restroom situation but I was spared such embarrassment. My luck ran out last weekend, when I took my four-year old to the bathroom with me during a road trip.

Since it was a truck stop, I had him share the stall with me. Usually, I look for the roomier handicapped stall so he can be mesmerized by the garbage in the corner while I go, but time was of the essence. I settled for a regular one, cramped and very public. Every word reverberated like a belch at a wedding.

I asked him to turn around, as if that were going to do any good. He turned around - in a circle and faced me just in time to see everything.

"Mommy, why is your pee red instead of yellow?" He said in his high pitched voice that could cut glass.

I should've said something - anything - but all I could think of was, "Uhhhh, because."

"Because why? Is that - blood!"

Now I was getting flustered. As it is, I hate nature during that time of month and having to explain it to a squeaky four-year old in a truck stop bathroom was too much. Without thinking about my answer, I said, "Yes, honey - that's blood but I'm not dying."

I don't know why I added the "dying" part. Perhaps because when I was a child asking my mother the same thing, it was the first thought that entered my mind - I thought my mother was dying.

Naturally, my four-year old became a little alarmed. The drama queen that he is, his eyebrows burrowed up his forehead in a state of panic. "You're dying?"

"No. I'm NOT dying."

"Then why are you BLEEDING?"

"It's okay," I said and ushered him to the sinks to wash our hands and get the hell out of there.

Again, he asked, "Why are you bleeding?

An older woman getting paper towels smiled at us and chuckled to herself.

Yeah. She's no help.

"I'll tell you all about it in the car," I said and escorted him out the door.

Out in the main area, amongst drivers, passengers, shoppers and diners the four-year old ran towards my husband.

"Daddy! Daddy!" He yelled, "Mommy's bleeding!"

It was one of those moments in life where I wished I came with my own sound effects. What would it be, the record scratch? A truck collision. The hecklers at the Apollo theater in Harlem - perfect.

They say bad things happen at truck stops. Look what happened to Sandra Bullock's character in "The Vanishing." In comparison, I kind of wished that I could vanish at that moment.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

45 And Still Disorganized

"For every minute spent in organizing, an hour is earned." Words to live by. The only problem is, it's hard to get organized when your thoughts are all over the place. I try to jot them down so I could put them in some kind of order but this is what I find when looking for a clean page.

The six-year old's lunch request: french fries w/catsup, ham, ?, ?, ?, lobster, Chinese broccoli, ?, SOS, ?

Finding a clean sheet of paper in our household is about as easy as locating where that "smell" is coming from. It's my fault really. I've always urged my little guys to write and draw just as much as to sit and read. Besides, it's nice to come across a page that's scribbled with "I love mommy".

Oddly, they never write little love notes for daddy. Perhaps they know it would be met with a comment like, "Dude, that's gay," and so they refrain, choosing instead to show their affection by using him as a daybed.

Daddy could stay in this position with a monkey on his back, look at the computer and drink a beer. Guess the Yoga workouts really helped.

Speaking of Yoga, I haven't been doing it but I am running in the morning while the kids are off at day camp. I'm not patting myself on the back, however, as vigorous exercise will be put on the back burner just as soon as the kids are out of camp and in my hair again.

Wish I could say I feel great but the truth is, when you're old like me, working out is just a way to get to know the deteriorating parts of your body through excruciating pain. My knee caps feel like they're going to pop right off and my leg muscles are so sore I can't get off the toilet - other than that, I'm just peachy.

There's really no good reason for torturing myself this way, I suppose it's just a mid-life crisis. Men buy fast convertibles to sport around a new girlfriend half their age, and I run as fast as a convertible - parking at Stop and Shop.

To celebrate another year towards menopause, my husband took me out in style. A half crispy duck and dried sauteed sting beans at Nice restaurant on Bayard Street truly hit the spot. It's your typical, no frills, great-food-rude-service restaurant where the waitress yells at everyone for everything.


So, the German couple behind us ordered the crispy duck, like their waitress suggested, and the large table of French tourists ordered a plate of shrimp Lo Mein. I know this because she brought it to their table and announced it like this, "SHRIMP LO MEIN!? SHRIMP LO MEIN!? SHRIMP LO MEIN!? SHRIMP LO MEIN!!!"

I don't understand why she couldn't find a small open spot on the table full of food and just rudely shoved it in. Perhaps, she's not as rude as I made her out to be.

Dried sauteed string beans in green glory!

Crispy half duck - enough food for you!

The restaurant from the outside - scary
Finally, nothing settled the score finer than a pint at our favorite Shark bar. It's actually named the Spring Lounge but locals call it the Shark Bar, as do I for the stuffed sharks on the wall.

It's the perfect "people watching" spot with a view of Spring and Mulberry streets. My husband spotted a group of teenage kids, one was walking with his hand down his pants. When he withdrew his hand, he promptly smelled it and grimaced.

Should've used soap.

The Shark Bar or Spring Lounge

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Fly Upon The Wall

My six-year old, Zuki, came home with a "Camper Of The Week" button last week. His division leader called me to say the vote was unanimous because he goes out of his way to do good.

"Really?" I thought. "Are we talking about the same boy, here?"

Then I asked, what kind of good...exactly?

Apparently, there's an autistic child in their division and Zuki instantly became his best friend.

"They're always together," she said.

She explained how difficult it could be for kids with special needs to adjust to other kids and vice versa. It doesn't always go smoothly and to find this kind of bond is special.

That night, I looked at my little man and wondered what I'm missing. I mean truly, what am I missing looking with these eyes that's focused solely on being a mom. Could I see him as a person, other than my son who needs to stop sucking his thumb? Is it possible to watch him play with his friends without worrying who's going to get smashed in the face with the G.I. Joe sword first?

It made me wish that I could be a fly upon the wall. Inconspicuously spying on him to see what he's like when mom's not around. I thought I had a good idea of how he might be interacting with the world outside but now it's clear, I really have no idea.

Why am I surprised? How many times have I done things my parents know nothing about. I can honestly say though, none of them ever earned a button actually celebrating it. For the most part, I'm lucky nothing seriously caught fire.

But who knows - there's still plenty of growing up to do. It's just nice to get good news once in a while. When you get news like this, it makes you believe - for a little while at least - that everything you've been trying to teach them, good manners, sharing and putting on clean underwear is actually sinking in.

Friday, July 8, 2011

So Not Gonna Happen

On a scale from one to ten, one being disagree and ten being totally agree, I'd say I'm a four. The statement: I follow through on my plans.

The problem is I don't usually have a plan. I should. But I don't even have a "To Do" list. If I did, it would be on top - #01: Have a plan.

That's not to say I don't get things done. On any given day, I'd say a good forty percent of chores are completed - but it's the tasks that I think are important. Namely, eating and having clean clothes. Everything else, like vacuuming and emptying the dish washer are subject to my whim.

The other night, however, I planned out morning lessons for the boys for the month of August. Yeah, I know - ambitious. I mean, who am I kidding; they barely cooperate to do their assignments when it's due at school - what makes me think they're going to read, write and do their math during their Summer break?

I agree. It's so not gonna happen.

Then again...this first week of day camp, they've been getting their butts kicked. In a good way - in a good way. Two more weeks of fun, swimming, going on field trips and I'm sure they'll be exhausted little zombies.

Come August, when they're in Mommy camp because that's what we can afford - they may actually look forward to sitting down and having a quiet morning with books. And, Mommy camp offers air conditioning and snacks because the camp director is pre-menopausal.

As camp director, I realize it's less likely to go smooth if I don't plan it out. If every morning, I'm looking through their activity books saying, "Hmm, how can I torture you today," then they're not going to take me seriously.

The torture has to be planned.

Spelling test every day for the six-year old, letters, numbers and psychiatric art for the four-year old and math is a group lesson consisting of dice throwing with tally marks, Memory with a deck of cards and Math Bingo on my iPhone.

Have you noticed that the math themes revolve around casino paraphernelia?  I'm targeting the gambling DNA that they've hopefully inherited from their dad's side.

By the way, if you have an iPhone, iPod touch or an iPad, I highly recommend the Math Bingo app. It's .99 cents and you can find it under "Education" games. The "Easy" level is perfect for my six-year old to practice addition and subtraction. The four-year old benefits from it too for number recognition - I give him the answer and he hits the number. For fun, I play the "Hard" level and have my husband use his calculator when I'm stumped. Can't lower my overall score, know what I'm sayin'?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Mommy's Independence Day

It isn't a coincidence that Summer camp started right after Independence day - ahhh, the smell of freedom. Although, this morning I was a nervous wreck and woke up forty minutes before my alarm was set to go off. Instead of falling back to sleep, worries clouded my mind. Will they remember to bring back their swimsuits? What if they get hit on the head by a baseball? What am I going to do with myself?

Looking forward to entire kid-free days is like being plunged into the Twilight Zone. Yes, I have a list of a gazillion things to do but to check them off and have time for seems so unreal. I am pinching myself as I write.

Of course, the routine to get ready for camp was not unlike a typical school morning: sleepy heads, fuss over breakfast and the fighting - geez, does that ever stop? It's specifically why I enrolled them so soon into their summer vacation. If I let them go any amount of time leisurely lounging about, I'm sure they'd digress into little orks - self motivated only to watch TV, eat Salt and Vinegar potato chips and use their brother's limbs as a chew toy. 

No need to prove that boredom is the root of all evil. Apparently, camp agrees because the bus showed up on time. Off to a good start.

Two lovely young counselors climbed down from the bus to greet us. Already, my six-year old is falling in love. He's all smiles as he hastened towards the bus doors to climb aboard. The four-year old, however, put on his "I'm shy" act. Head hung and facing the ground, he moped along until one of the bus counselors helped him up. I'm thinking he'll coax her into sitting him on her lap for the ride there - he can be such a player.

As the bus drove off, we waved goodbye. We, being a sending party consisting of Daddy and my mother as well, proving that I'm not the only worry wart. It's not like the boys were off to college, though one day in the very far future, that time will come and I contemplate the similarities. For now, it's just day camp and day one of Mommy's independence day.

Dreaming of revelry on the first day of Summer camp

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Expedition: The Brooklyn Bridge

The other day, a good friend and her kids invited us to take a hike with them across the Brooklyn Bridge. Her six-year old son had been asking to do it and we had talked about it for months. There were so many routes we could've taken: start from Brooklyn, have lunch in Chinatown or start from City Hall and have lunch in DUMBO. But in the end, we decided to go Brooklyn bound and picnic at Pier Six - a newly developed portion of the Brooklyn Bridge Park with a water lab, swing park and mountain slides. It was Fantabulous!

The morning started off a little shaky when my six-year old literally crawled into my bedroom complaining that his feet hurt. He's been wearing orthopedic ankle braces to correct his flat feet and I assume they were beginning to work. I gave him acetaminophen and packed the scooter to ride in case his feet were too sore to walk.

Once our group of kids got together, however he was like, "Pain? What pain?" The trooper walked the whole day. Friends are the ultimate placebo.

Like any typical day in New York, there were a couple of skirmishes but my friend and I are seasoned New Yorkers - we just stored them in our memories to bring up for entertainment purposes.

Like the Triatholon Wannabe - basically, he's a jerk on his bike. Taxi drivers are rude, truck drivers are crass but bikers are just assholes. Many of them ride their bikes with such apathy towards the human race they make Johnny Rotten look like Forrest Gump. But I understand why - their mode of transportation is neglected and disrespected simply because there's no room for them on the road. This isn't Asia or Europe where riding a bicycle is a standard, this is New York f*cking City. You ride a bike here, you're the Wicked Witch of the West.

Then we ran into the cornflower waif who thought the bridge path was a fashion runway to sport her new summer dress. She got a little flustered when the kids erratic walking pattern caused her to stop in her tracks. Obviously, we annoyed her - I loved it.

In all my life, working and walking in the city, I have never known foot traffic in New York to move smoothly. You have people who talk with their arms in tight spaces, you have a homeless man camping out on the corner of Park Avenue, you have old bats who stop in the middle of a staircase because senility is setting in - you maneuver and move on.

But the best was the fight we witnessed on the Number 5 train home. It was between a white dude who talked like Eminem verses a group of Latino women. The fight was about who bumped into who and lasted between Union Square and Grand Central station. Eminem dude was outnumbered. His argument was weak. He should've let it go but his ego got the best of him and he tried to get the last word. In the end, he got off the train with his tail between his legs.

I turned to my boys and said, "Let that be a lesson to you. Never, ever fight with women, much less Latino women, especially if you're on a Bronx bound Number 5 train - you will always lose."

"Yes, mommy." They answered in unison. If they don't learn it from me, they'll find out when they get married.

But getting back to good times, Pier Six of the Brooklyn Bridge Park is a beautiful, fun spot for kids - although, a bit chaotic. The Water Lab is filled with lots of activities: dams, sprinklers and pumps but the layout of the whole place is nerve racking. You're hard pressed for a place to sit and there's no overall view, so you spend a lot of time trying to locate where your little ones are.

I wouldn't recommend it for little babies because of the rocks and do bring a plastic baggie to stuff your smartphone in because there's no safe spot from trigger happy water guns.

The Swing Valley had awesome rope swings akin to a tire swing, that's something you don't see in the city. And the Slide Mountain area had two super long slides that looked like miles of fun. Of course, you had to get over the metal searing your skin as you went down but when you're a kid, it's all gooooood.

A rest stop on the Brooklyn Bridge - who knew?

Where's the snack stand?

The Water Lab

Bugs looking for bugs

Climbing boulders

Lifting the dam

The sun baked Mountain Slide