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Friday, October 28, 2011

Tea Party Crasher

Halloween 2011 is on a Monday. Really, who ever planned this - is an idiot. I realize that it's not the first or the last Halloween to land on a Monday but it's the first for me with two boys in school. The day is going to require advanced planning. I hate planning ahead because with boys, a plan is just for wrecking.

If you asked me two weeks ago, I'd say we were fine. The boys knew what they wanted to be in enough time to qualify for free-snail-mail shipping. The hubby and I figured we'd think of something for ourselves at the last minute. Now, normally, parents don't do costumes, but we have this maniacal friend who is absolutely retarded over Halloween. Every year, he has this party where he transforms his house into a spookfest adventure, which in my opinion is better than any haunted house I paid to enter at Coney Island - those just smell like pee.

Yes, it's so over the top, it's been dubbed "Swanoween". All the top ghouls are displayed there, from Jason and Freddy to Headless brides and zombies popping out of graves. My boys are TERRIFIED. But they love it. Monsters are as attractive to them right now as girls will be when they're fifteen. To me, it's a prelude. I'm a seasoned woman - I know they're the same thing.

Anyway, that's why the husband and I needed costumes and we were clueless. It made me wonder why we place so much heart into Halloween. Why couldn't we be like those half-assed revelers that slap on cat ears and a tail or devil horns? I mean, after a couple of beers, who gives a rat's tucas.

One year, we went as the duo from the Matrix. Well, my husband was Morpheus because he lacked Keanu Reeves' hair - but that's about as corny as we got, I swear.

There were a couple of ideas I never went through with. The pregnant nun when I was knocked up with our second guy; a Burqa with a Heineken and kitty heels - that would've went well in our largely Muslim neighborhood. This year, with all the rapes and assaults on women, I was thinking "vigilante" - it's a costume and a deterrent. Talk about multi-tasking!

But I couldn't decide between Charles Bronson or Bernie Geotz. Physically, I look more like Bronson: short and stubby with a big flat nose, squinty eyes, salt and pepper hair, oh...and the wrinkles.

As it turned out, the local 99 cent shop was having a Halloween costume blitz and Sarah Palin was on sale for $8.99. Vigilante or Palin? Well, they both carry guns so the kooky mama's close enough for me.

Before you label me, let me just state: I'm not making a statement here. I realize that a political Halloween get-up is an invitation to trouble, especially when it's a Republican trick-or-treating in a highly Democratic state. What am I, nuts? Actually, no - Sarah Palin is and like I said, the costume was on sale for 8.99! My choices were that or a Donald Trump wig, which would undoubtedly make me look like a Golden Girl.

If I don't get clobbered for tea or deer meat, I'll try to be a good blogger and actually post some pictures from this year. In the mean time, enjoy some of Swanoween's past.
Morpheus and Trinity escort Wolverine & Handy Manny

Hey! Who invited my mother?

I crapped my pants, did you?

My husband after one too many

I just saved 10 percent switching to Geico!

The Bar - AAAAhhhhh!

Swan circa Johnny Depp Scissorhands...and me

Do you go to P.S. 150, too?

Swanoween 2010 - War Machine, Natural Born Killers & Some Power Ranger

Stayne (Alice In Wonderland) & really mature guy

Swan circa Johnny Depp Mad Hatter
Wonder what Johnny Depp/Tim Burton character he's going to be this year...Rango?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Iron Fist Of The Lego Master

Every Fall for as long as I can remember, I get a case of laryngitis. In the beginning stages, it actually sounds sensuous, like Demi long as I stick to nonsensical sayings like, "Mr. Redford, I'm here for the million dollars you'll pay me to sleep with you."

But mostly, I sound like Joan Rivers or any drag queen with a New York accent. Even my cheeky four-year old took to mimicking me - repeating my orders to finish his breakfast with the raspiest voice he could muster. The little turd.

My lack of vocal projection has, on a good note, coerced my husband to accompany us on a play date at the park. Now, just so you know, my husband does NOT do play dates. The last time he did, he got a time out for not sharing his Star Wars Legos - yeah, he's a little possessive of those things.

Seeing that this play date was at the park, with no Legos involved, it seemed fool-proof as far as my husband's behavior was concerned. Besides, with me not having my voice range to yell every thirty seconds like I usually do, having him as back up was more of a safety precaution. After all, somebody needs to yell, "Quit playing dead in the middle of the playground," before they get run over.

All was going well - for two and half hours the boys played with their "dates" and various other friends who happened to have the same idea of enjoying a day at the park. Towards the end of our visit, they spread out their tiny trinkets of Ben 10 figures and those tiny ducks and frogs that feel like sticky snot. Among five boys, they played civil, trading and sharing as the Lego Master, a.k.a. my husband watched on.

Then the kids from the "Take-from-all-crew" showed up.

The crew, for the most part are cool - I know the kids and their parents we say hello, yaddah, yaddah, yaddah. It's just, well, those folks have been used to a government that "distributes the wealth," if you know what I mean - so in their eyes, nothing "belongs" to anybody. In my eyes, however, it's practically stealing. I've seen those kids hop on other kid's scooters, take other kid's balls, take toys from babies - without asking. To make matters worse, they can get very defensive when you ask them to return it. At times, you're like, "WTF?"

So when two of those kids crashed the little Ben 10-Snot-trinket party, grabbing a handful of toys and proceeded to walk away, well - you bet Lego Master was infuriated.

He told them they could play with whatever toy they wanted but they had to stay in the circle.

They didn't like that. So they dumped a few of toys back and figured they could walk away with a couple. Lego Master put his foot down, and they threw back all the toys. Except for one. The girl - who went to daycare with my 7-year old, actually hid one trinket in the palm of her hand.

"Little lady," Lego Master said, "you better give back their toy."

And she did.

Wow - I thought, that was effective. On the one hand, I respected his diplomacy. On the other hand, it pissed me off how kids will listen to Dads - any dad - quicker than they do any Mom. In any case, it got me thinking...I should lose my voice more often.

Humongosaur or Snot Frog?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Illiterate Tooth Fairy

I'm mildly obsessed with teeth. It's a fetish passed down from my father who undoubtedly got it from my grandmother who was very conscious of her teeth. According to my aunts, my grandmother was so embarrassed of her natural teeth that she was ecstatic about getting dentures. That's how I remember her; with straight, white dentured teeth like little Chicklets.

Though I can't say it was a big factor of our attraction, I admired my husband's teeth because I thought they had character. They don't look so much like teeth as much as headstones. Like really old headstones from say, 1892. I was told (by his side of the family) that not only do they have character, but they're really durable and cavity resistant as well.

As luck would have it, my husband's genes proved dominant when it came to endowing Zuki with his pearly whites. The tenacious buggers have only recently begun to loosen, which seems late but the dentist assures me there's nothing wrong.

The first tooth he lost last June. He shoved a mouthful of popcorn and chomped his tooth off.

Then the other day, he lost his second tooth. It was during lunch at school. He said it fell out because "the school uses bread that's a lot tougher than the ones I use."

On our walk home, he inevitably brought up the Tooth Fairy.

"I don't think she's real," he claimed.

"Oh no? So who do you think puts the money under your pillow in exchange for the tooth?"

"Mommy and Daddy."

"In that case, can I just give you fifty cents for that tooth?"

He thought about it and decided that perhaps there is a Tooth Fairy and he'll take his chances with her because "She leaves a hundred dollars."

What is she, Let's Make A Deal?

That night, he wrote the Tooth Fairy a kiss-ass note. Either he was still vying for the hundred bucks or he has her confused with Santa Claus.

"I lozed my tooth." He wrote. I told him he should edit the misspelled word to "lost".

He brushed it off. "She won't know the difference - she can't read."

"If she can't read, what's she going to do with your note?"

He paused searching the empty spaces in his head for an answer. "I mean, she can't read English."

I used to think that three-year olds were funniest age. Then, it graduated to four but I have to admit, seven is the year of the budding comic. What more could I do besides fold the note and enclose it in the baggie with his baby tooth and place it under his pillow.

The following morning, he was disappointed because the Tooth Fairy only left a dollar.

Guess she didn't get the memo.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

In The Name Of Fame

At the start of Kindergarten, my four-year old made a new best friend. I knew the kid and his parents in passing - we'd say hello on the street or at the park but now that the boys are school buddies, I've come to know a little more about them. Namely, their names. Well, the dad's name was new to me anyway. To my utter surprise, I found out that he was named after the King of Rock n' Roll.

Now, in a Quentin Tarentino movie it was fitting that the Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette characters would name their baby Elvis. It was a cute ending for a flick but I was curious how that panned out for the person named "Elvis" in real life. Well, according to dad-named-Elvis, the good thing is: no one ever forgets his name. The not-so-good thing: he's not a fan.

But I'm not one to talk. When I was preggers with Son #2, my husband and I searched for a Japanese name that was Westerner-friendly. The vote was unanimous and our baby menace was dubbed after a famous Japanese sculptor, Isamu Noguchi, whom I associate as the artist that slept with Frida Kahlo.

My own family had their objections. In Japan, Isamu is so outdated that my cousin e-mailed me, "it's a good thing you live in America."

Yeah, well - if I lived in Japan, I wouldn't have to worry about people being able to pronounce a Japanese name now, would I?

There's an unspoken burden to being named after a famous person. If for instance, we were psycho enough to name our son "Charles Manson" or "Adolf," I'm sure there'd be some credibility issues if he grew up to be a doctor or a baker. At least with "Isamu," there's only the pressure of making sure his girlfriends have memorable eyebrows.

Besides, I'm certain between my mother and the Air Head, Zuki there's no Western name that would've passed the test. The other day, Zuki announced the song he was humming was by Man Jackson.

Who the heck is Man Jackson?

"You know, he has those weird eyes - Daddy likes him."

"Zuki...that's Marilyn Manson."

And my mother, with her Paul Macatoni.

Who the heck is Paul Macatoni?

"He's in the Beatles!"

"That's McCartney. Paul Ma-CART-ney, ma."

She doesn't care. She's not a Beatles fan. Her love is for the King. That's why she was tickled pink when she found out Isamu's friend had a daddy named Elvis. She is the type of person, by the way, who expects a person named Elvis to look and sound like the King - obviously, she's unaware of the one with the last name Costello.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Seven Year Itch

Seeing that Zuki's become somewhat of a celebrity lately, a tribute seemed to be in order. He just turned seven years old and this was an "off" year, which meant no big party, just a good time with the family. Well, at least I know how to have a good time - at seven years old - he's on his own.

We asked him what he wanted to do on his special day and he asked for a trip to the Museum of Natural History, which was great because one: it's fun and two: it's one of those fabulous museums that have a "suggested" donation rather than the mandatory $20 dollars admission other museums charge.

I don't know about you, but for $20 dollars a person I expect a cocktail upon entering.

So for a whopping total of four dollars - because that's how we roll - Zuki got his fill of dinosaur bones, fossils, a giant whale and various other nick-knacks whose corresponding theme seems to be "natural". What wasn't so natural was the subway ride. It took three times the usual time to get there because the 7 train was under mysterious construction and I had a serious brain fart when it came to boarding the B train.

Just so you don't make the same mistake - the D train runs express from 5th Avenue. Don't take the D. I knew this and I must've told my husband at least fifty times that we have to take the B train not the D. When the D train arrived, what did I do? I put my family on it.

We whizzed past our stop at 81st Street and all the others in between until we reached 125th Street. Ironically, that was where we were heading for dinner but seeing that our reservation wasn't for another two hours, we made a U-turn and headed back downtown.

When we finally made it inside the museum, all the boys wanted to do was buy something at the gift store. Is it just my kids that think the gift shop is the highlight of a museum? As a kid, I remember thinking gift shop items were for losers. Back then, however, your choices were limited to magnets, pencils and t-shirts designed by the dregs of fashion. These days gift shop items multitask as ugly and somewhat useful. Still, I'm not paying $14.99 for a toy helmet - I don't care that the headlight really works.

Of course, the museum must've had a gift store on every floor. It was like Bloomingdale's only with dinosaurs. Seriously, each specialty shop had a huge sign, "DINO SHOP," "GIFT STORE," and arrows clearly directed the way. And yet, when we tried to find a restroom, every sign was as misleading as the calorie guide at Dunkin' Donuts.

After an hour and change of looking at dinosaur bones, wax wildlife and seafood, we made our way toward Harlem for some real meat. For dinner, we treated our little carnivores to lip-smacking ribs and brisket at "Dinosaur Barbecue."

I could try to describe the awesome food, the convivial atmosphere and the fabulous local beer on tap as well as any foodie but as they say, a picture speaks a thousand words, especially when the subject is the guest of honor.

Doing his best impression of "Man vs. Food"

Mauled by a Fossil

Dinosaur eating at Dinosaur

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Simple Machines

Homework is one of those butt-pains in life. It's like laundry or vacuuming - it's bearable if you can pay someone else to do it. Otherwise, all it takes is a little concentration and you'd be done with it in no time. For our second-grader, a little concentration is like saying, all you need is a Masters in quantum physics. Concentrate, according to him, is orange juice.

But he has his moments. From his Ziploc baggie of books he borrowed from school, we read a non-fiction book called "Simple Machines." It was about, well, simple machines.

"Some need fuel."

"Others electricity."

Still others required the dreadful, inefficient power of man!

Thank God I had three cups of green tea because I was falling asleep. Before you do, let me cut to the chase. The simple machines (as in the title) the information went into were pulleys, wedges and inclined planes.

Here, I pictured my friend Swan singing Beethoven's Fifth with the words "We're Not Im-pressed." Try it - you won't be able to hear the song without the lyrics next time.

Anyway - pulley's. I asked Zuki if he knew what a pulley was.

"Sure. It's underwear."

Under...wear? What's he taking...flashcard cues from his brother?

"No, silly - that's Pull Ups."

He laughed like it was a common mistake. Reminded me of that scene in "Dumb and Dumber," when Jim Carrey thought Samsonite was the name of the suitcase's owner. Man, I was WAY off!

Moving right along. The book went into wheels - you know, the best thing to come along since sliced bread? Well, if you attach a couple of wheels to an axle, you can make a cart! Who knew?

"I know what an axle is," Zuki said.

"You - you do...?" I asked skeptically.

"It's when you go-" Here he proceeded to inhale and exhale dramatically.

How he figures that wheels can be attached to breath is just too scary to think about.

Okay, last one. Wedge according to the Air Head Zuki: "It's when someone pulls your pants up and it goes "erk"(car break sound effect) in your butt."

"That's a wedgie - this is a wedge."

"Yeah, but it still goes up your butt, right?"

You know...I didn't even bother to answer that one.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Red Bull Crap Energy Think

I often bellyache about the cashiers at my neighborhood Foodtown supermarket because seriously, they are about as friendly as a hyena on the rag. God forbid they should smile or greet their customers, oh right, we're the untimely interruption to the important conversation they were having with a co-worker about Lenny, the delivery guy.

Perhaps they never got the memo. Maybe their managers never noticed that all other businesses from CVS and Rite Aid to the Greenpoint Fruit & Veggie shop, have been stepping up their customer service. Yeah Foodtown folks, it's a little thing called the recession. It makes people a little pickier where they spend their money. Not to sound all Tea Party or anything, but I'd rather shop at a place where they wear big Capitalist-brown-nosing smiles over Communist-deal-with-it sour pusses.

It's funny really because it's so cliche, but it's true: smiles are contagious. And what's more - they're free. You can give smiles away all you want and still have an endless supply. Oh sure, I'm being cynical and nit-picky with my local Foodtown, but that doesn't mean I didn't sincerely wish that bitch of a cashier to have a nice day. I even gave her a free smile.

Did she return the gesture?

No. But she did say "thank you," which was a feat because the produce stock boy was waiting to continue their conversation about effective energy drinks.

That's when I realized this little Gordian Knot: put energy in a little(or big) can and sell it upwards of three-dollars and people are tripping over each other to buy it. Project energy in little gestures like smiles and good wishes and people treat you like a Canadian Elvis fan. Go figure.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Mental Processing

The thought process of boys never ceases to amaze me. For several days now, I've been lectured by the second grader on the appropriate protocol when on the computer. Each time he recited the four rules, they changed. But inevitably - they had something to do with not being kidnapped.

At first, I didn't notice the pattern. It was like listening to the paranoid grandma of a former band mate, "Don't get on the Internet - they'll come and take you away!"

Coming to take you away, Ha-ha.

According to my second-grader, at school they taught students that you have to ask for permission before you go on line.

"Okay, that sounds reasonable," I said.

He continued with the Bible of Computer Ethics According to P.S. 150. "If somebody says he's a kid but he's not a kid, then that means he wants to kidnap you."


Yeah, I rubbed my chin at that one, too.

Then he continued, "If the person asks you for your name and stuff, you shouldn't give it to him because he wants to kidnap you."

It got fuzzy from there. Obviously, he was just picking out key words and not processing the rest.

"If you start a chat, you could catch a virus and then you would have to HIDE from any and every computer for ten days!"

"Ten days is a lot - it's two work weeks. Are you sure?"

"No, maybe it's twelve."

Did I mention he's still working on his numbers?

With his recount, I pictured computer class going something like, "Hey boys and girls, visit Sesame Street dot OWG(as Whoopi Goldberg says) but do NOT go to NAMBLA dot com because they might come and kidnap you."

First, let me save you from a Red Flag trace of Googling NAMBLA - it stands for National Association of Man Boy Love Affairs. I know this because, umm, I used to hang out with some really lazy dudes that would look up F'd up things during work hours...yeah, that's it.

Getting back to my lecturer, after a few more minutes of his kidnapping prevention techniques surfing the web, I asked him if they taught him any of the benefits of computers.


What. As if I asked him what are the benefits to being run over by a car.

What. As in, what else are computers for except potentially getting children kidnapped?

"Well," I stated, "they process a lot of information in a short amount of time - the work force is more effective, efficient and -"

His hands flew up ordering me to stop me talking - the file was too big to upload.

I'm sure his computer class went into practicing key strokes and using the mouse as well as exploring useful sights for research and games. They just went right over his head. He heard "kidnap" and froze there like an HP Compaq.

What can I say, it's the boy's mental processing - he's no Steve Jobs, that's for sure.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Words Of Wisdoom

I was lucky that my parents couldn't yell at me in English. Having been spared the "You're such an embarrassment, I can't take you anywhere," phrase growing up made it a new litany for me to use. I found myself repeating it many times on dates with my husband. To tell you the truth, he didn't have to work hard at it.

Sure, the boys embarrass me, too but seriously - where am I going to take them that would showcase me in that scorching spotlight of shame - Burger King? Besides, they take things for face value. If I said, "I can't take you anywhere," they'd bring that up as we're leaving for school.

Sometimes face value is funny, like when I told the four-year old that he'll grow taller as he gets older and his big brother the Air-head asked, "Are you older than Baba(grandma)?"

"Baba is my mother," I said, "how could I be older?"

"Well, you're taller than her."

The thought of explaining DNA to an air head was just too harrowing. I just told him that she's shrinking and they should be good to her before she disappears.

Boys will believe anything if it sounds magical.

And how it sounds is how it's spelled. They both have a diary, well, a composition book. On the front cover of the four-year old's are some symbols that are supposed to be his name. The Air-head's says, "Direy". It's not enough that he sees the "Diary Of A Wimpy Kid" DVD on the shelf everyday.

He told me his diary is private and I said, "Good for you."

"Do you want to read it?" He asked as he showed me his pages and pages of chicken scratch.

I am forced to read it. "Fire men are halping the fire is not cool. Fire men are halping the please men."

Of course fire is not cool and cops, as far as I know, never say "please".

Who could blame him, the English language is a cantankerous cacophony for many adults - imagine what it must sound like for children. After numerous corrections my boys still call their bed cover a "blanklet" and reply to their whereabouts with, "I hadded to go to the bafroom!"

If I left it up to our school system, this is what I look forward to. A teenaged kid was selling chocolate on the subway and his pitch went, "I'm not sellin' candy for any teams or nothin', the honest of the truth is, I'm sellin' it for myself, so I can do the right thing and not wind up in jail."

I know what you're thinking, "Wow, he speaks English bad."

Oh the jail thing? Yeah, he's right. He won't wind up in jail for selling chocolate on the subway - he'll get a ticket for soliciting.

On a final note, my four-year old was playing with sight word flash cards and got all excited when he figured out one of them. "Mommy, can you help me find "Where" like "where is my toy?""

With the one he found and the one that said "Where," he paraded around the house reading them aloud.

Yeah, the future of our English language is doomed - wouldn't you agree?

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Honeymooners...with Kids

Some parents go to great lengths not to fight in front of their kids. For others, it's Wrestlemania by the big bay window for all the neighborhood to see. Either way, I'm sure there's pros and cons to how it affects children's psyche. In my opinion, it's not the amount of fighting or not fighting parents have in front of their kids - it's how they resolve it.

In my household, the resolution is fairly easy - Mommy is always right.

Of course, Daddy is the worst offender of challenging that peace treaty and the boys will eagerly follow suit if I let him get away with it. But for the most part, they know what's good for them and will begrudgingly comply.

On the occasions I go ballistic, usually around that time of the month, I tend to explode at Daddy over a simple little thing like putting plastic dishware on the bottom rack of the dishwasher. Both boys watch silently and I know what's going through their minds. They're thinking, better you than me, dad. Perhaps in their eyes he's being a brave man but I've been in their shoes before. When I was a kid and my dad stepped over the line with my mother I thought, Gee dad, that was a stupid thing to say.

My four-year old has a better tactic. He'll say, "Don't make the mad face Mommy or you'll get wrinkles."

Not only does he diffuse the situation, he saves my forehead from being permanently engraved with angry lines. Smart for a little guy.

What I should commend my husband for is that he will apologize to me in front of the boys. My parents never reconciled after a fight - I think they held a grudge against each other from the moment I was born the wrong gender.

I often smile at the term, "The honeymoon is over," because I'm too old to believe in honeymoon's now. If I get vaguely excited over anything, I just think how Angelina Jolie might catch wind of my happiness and f*ck it up for me because she seems to hate happy people.

My husband and I are way past the honeymoon stage. We're at that comfortable stage of familiarity as Ralph and Alice Kramden were. They never had kids despite the fact that they had no distractions like cable in the bedroom. I guess, it's as if the audience were the kids watching their bickering. Perhaps it was all the brilliant talent of Jackie Gleason, or the writing or the times but it was so entertaining to watch. So considering I grew up with "The Honeymooners" midnight showings for my entire teenage years, it's safe to say, they did alright by the Russo's.