Lasker Pool

Lasker Pool
Central Park, summer 2011

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


It's been way too long since I've blogged, but with the holidays, work insanity (don't ask because I will tell you) and the onslaught of school-related stuff (chorus performances, holiday parties, and homework, homework, homework) I haven't been able to think straight.
So, just a couple of recent small moments:
Kyle's comment on my aunt's most delicious Thanksgiving repast: "This gravy is a work of art!" He was also quite thrilled with the crab salad appetizer and the marshmallow-topped sweet potatoes, as well as the turkey.
Jesse's happiness and NOT getting his name on the board at school for talking too much. He even gets stickers when he's particularly quiet. He's been dutifully pasting the stickers into his very own personal at-home notebook, so he can record for posterity the evidence of his self-control.
Jesse organizing the left-over Halloween candy (I brought most of it into work, but there's still a big bag hanging around the house). Every couple of days he takes the big bag out and sorts the candy by type (ie; mini-Butterfingers in one pile, mini-Peanut M & M bags in another), then places each type into its own Baggie. He is quite pleased with his organizational skills, though I'm not sure what this says about his future.
Seth getting annoyed with his teacher for some unfathomable reason: "Mom, when it's my birthday at school, Mr. R is NOT getting a cupcake!"
And, of course, endless holiday lists. Seth started his in September. Guess I better get on it.

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Shy Boy--Not!

Several times a year, my kids' teachers throw what they call publishing parties, where the parents all gather in the classroom so the children can present their written work. The always quiet and reserved Jesse starts his, um, masterpiece off in typical style. Thanks to Rich for taking this!

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Young Dr. Freuds

The girls in Jesse's second grade class, or at least a couple of them, are light years beyond my guy in terms of emotional maturity. And they are using their wisdom to keep my little wild man in line.
Two girls, let's call them Bridget and Elizabeth to preserve their anonymity, are employing behavior modification techniques.
To wit, if Jesse doesn't yap too much in class each morning (and these young ladies know because big mouths get their name on the board), he gets a cookie.
So now, instead of asking Jesse if he behaved in Miss M's class, we only have to ask if he received a cookie.
Neat, sweet and perfect.
Today, Jesse chit-chatted too much, the teacher added his name to the list of boys' names on the board and did not, he reported sadly at 3 o'clock, earn his cookie.
Don't worry girls,  he'll learn.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Candy Critic

In case you're interested, Jesse told me last night that "personally, Milky Ways are my favorite candy."

Hippies and Mohawks

Do you not just love it when your kids get language and/or concepts totally wrong? Here are a couple of my guys' recent misadventures with words.
Seth: I want to be a hippie when I grow up.
Me: What does being a hippie mean? What do hippies do?"
Seth: They drink a lot of root beer. A lot, lot.
Me: And then what happens?
Seth, with a sigh: "Mom, root beer? They're drunked."

Next conversation, following Jesse's forced haircut--which itself followed Jesse's mangling of his bangs with kid scissors.
Jesse: My hair is too short. Why did we have to cut it?
Me: Because you cut your own bangs and they looked ridiculous.
Jesse: But now I look more ridiculous. I look like I have a mohawg.
Me: A mohawk?
Jesse: No, a mohawg, like a hobo has.
Me: I have no idea what you're talking about.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Wishful Thinking

Seth: "Kyle, come here! You've got to see this! I'm getting underarm hair!"
Kyle, examining Seth's hairless and pale underarms. "I don't see anything there."
Seth: "No, there's a hair! Really! It's awesome!"

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Shoe is on the Other Foot

I've spent years trying to get Kyle to get out of bed in the morning, get dressed and to school before the bell rings, and complete his homework in a timely manner. So I know all too well the stomach-churning stress of dealing with a practiced procrastinator.
Suddenly, Kyle's become oddly responsible. Hence, I suppose, his latest habit, which is bugging me endlessly to fill out trip forms, submit fund-raising money and check off his Scholastic book club choices the moment such requests come home in his backpack.
Since my schedule is a tad overfilled, I do these things when I can--generally before the deadline.
But Kyle, who has never before had any seeming awareness of time passing or of deadlines, doesn't find that acceptable.
After asking me three times last week if I submitted the orders yet for the fifth-grade gift wrap fundraiser (which is not actually due until early next month), he sighed and shook his head.
Then he turned into me: "Mom," he asked. "Why do you always put things off?"

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Punishing the Unpunishable

I have no idea if most pairs of seven-year-old twins are as ungovernable as mine, but a story my sister Deb told me does make me feel better about my wild things.
A friend of Deb's, with adorable little boy twins, took everything out of their bedroom except for their beds, bedding and one dresser outfitted with kid-proof drawer locks. And the remaining heavy items--beds, dresser-- she nailed to the ground.
Otherwise, the little guys would simply go wild when left to their own devices, turning the room into a maelstrom of toys, clothes and, um, dresser drawers.
I remember those days, when my then-preschoolers would rip the mattresses from their toddler beds and turn them into bouncy slides, when they'd remove every item of clothing from their drawers, when they'd empty the contents of the big wooden toy box on the ground and then crawl into it. Sometimes in the morning I'd find a twin asleep inside the toy box, clutching a blanket.
One day, in a stunning example of teamwork, S and J pulled over a bookcase, spilling their board books everywhere and trapping a howling Jesse underneath.
Not our finest hour.
They're in second grade now and reasonably mature, at least in comparison to their preschool days. But there's something transformative, apparently, in being alone together in their bedroom at night that can, on more occasions than I'd like to admit, turn Seth and Jesse into screaming demons.
So, long after bedtime last night, when their fort-building, Nerf-wielding, stuffed-animal hurling energy was inexplicably not yet spent, my husband and I simply lost it.
After threatening the boys with: loss of Game-Boy time, loss of TV privileges,  and no dessert for three days, Mick resorted to the unthinkable: removal of all the stuffed animals from their beds.
That changed the tone immediately, setting off cascades of tears and deep, shuddering sobs. "No daddy, no! You can't take our stuffies away. We can't sleep without them! We'll be good! We promise!"
A few minutes later, with the boys flat on their backs and covered by blankets, we had a discussion. "You don't like to get yelled at our punished, right?" I asked.
Seth shook his head woefully. "No, mommy," he said.
Jesse shrugged. "I don't really care," he replied.
Doesn't care? What seven-year-old says he doesn't mind discipline?
"But it makes you sad and upset when Daddy yells or takes things away, right?" I pointed out. "You cry."
Jesse pondered this. "Well, when I lose TV or Game Boy, I get a little sad, but it's not a big deal," he explained. "I know I'll get it back. But when I lose them for a few days, I get more sad and then I cry. But I'm not a lot, lot sad. Plus, we're only bad at night, so we're good a lot."
"Not the point, Jess," I said. "But you guys were so bad tonight that you almost lost your stuffed animals. That seemed to make you sad."  By now, Seth was asleep.
Jesse shook his head and actually rolled his eyes a bit, as if to suggest that I was badly misreading the situation. "Taking my stuffies? Mom, that's just wrong."
I surrender.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Hip Hop Hipster

Two things:
1) Seth does not wish to be called TJ anymore. What he actually meant to change his own lovely name to is DJ. Because he would like to be a DJ. As in, a hip-hop playing funkmaster who is moving to the groove. Those are his own words.
2) Seth says, and I quote "I'm so cool, I'll make you drool. Remember that, Mom!"

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Growing Up?

Something very strange is going on with my ten-year-old.
Kyle might actually be maturing, just a bit.
The other morning, while I was scrambling to get the three boys fed, dressed, brushes and book-bagged, and then to school before late-pass time, he offered to TAKE THE GARBAGE OUT!
But wait, there's more (don't I sound like an infomercial?)
Then, when Jesse spilled his milk, Kyle said "I'LL CLEAN THAT UP."
He's been organizing his backpack the night before school, getting up with only three gentle reminders--instead of the bed-shaking, tickling and singing I used to do last year--and is, more often than not, the first one ready to go on school mornings.
I mean, shoes on, wearing his maroon sweatshirt, hair neatly combed ready to go.
Now, Kyle still wants to snuggle with mom, would prefer to sleep in our bed than his own and uses the phrase "No fair!" way too often.
But after approximately 10, 000 repetitions of "Clean your room, do your homework, get ready for bed" and my other favorite phrases, perhaps a few have sunk in.

Dog Hair

This morning, Seth informed me that when he is a grownup, he will not only have a dog ( notice the continuing dog theme in his conversations?), but he will give the pooch a  mohawk.
"And I'll have a mohawk too and we'll be walking around (Seth struts across the living room in his best seven-year-old approximation of a cool guy, elbows swinging and chin held high) going 'Yeah, we got mohawks! Yeah, how do you like that?'"
Just thought I'd share that.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Fear Factor

Just when you think your kids have figured out all the myriad ways they can push each other's buttons, a new strategy emerges. 
Usually from Jesse. 
Seth came out of his room last night at almost 10 pm, whimpering. 
"Jesse's scaring me," he moaned. "He says he saw my green dragon (a stuffie) move." 
I stroked his hair. "Your dragon is a stuffed animal," I explained. "And stuffed animals don't move." 
"But he saw it move! He said!" Seth insisted. "And he said he heard a noise--a huuuuuuuush," (Seth is whispering this in a low but spooky voice, a few tears trickling down his cheek).
"It's probably the washing machine," I said. "Jesse is only trying to scare you. Now, back to bed." 
Dutifully, Seth climbed back into his loft bed and I covered him with his striped blanket, hoping that would be the end of the fear-mongering. 
By 11, we'd had a few more visits from my fearful boy, culminating in a two-day electronics ban for his button-pressing brother. 
It brought back for me all the fears of childhood, the monsters under the bed, the branches scraping against the bedroom window, the creaking floors and doors that surely spelled doom. And none of it, of course, anything real. 
But the next morning, I found the green dragon in the bathtub. 
No idea how it got there. The power of the mind, perhaps?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A Boy in Mourning

A word of caution: Skip this post if you're feeling sad. 

My mom died back in early July and since then, Jesse's been very vocal and verbal about his grief. He talks about his Nana almost daily, and cherishes a blue, shell-shaped bowl she made and a framed photo of her. 
His twin brother, Seth, has said little about Nana's death—but that seemed natural to us since Jesse is the family motor mouth and Seth usually deals with his feelings by crying about seemingly-unrelated issues or drawing.
But today, Seth fell off the stoic bandwagon. In the playground after school, instead of doing his usually galloping romp around with his buddies, he plopped down next to a tree and stared into the sky. 
For many, many minutes. Maybe 20 minutes.
A long time for a seven-year-old. 
When two mom-friends approached Sethie, wondering why he was sitting out playtime, he began weeping. "I miss my Nana," he sobbed. 
(Thank you mom-friends, for hugging my little guy). 
He wept all the way home (I know this second-hand, via our babysitter--so my stomach is currently knotted up with guilt because I'm still in work), asking some unanswerable questions of poor Juana: 
"Is this what life is?" 
"Mommy only has her two sisters now; will Mommy and Daddy die and then we'll only be the three brothers?" 
(I'm crying a bit just thinking about him trying to ponder such an unfathomable topic.)
In our building lobby, James, a neighbor's child, came up and spontaneously hugged Seth and asked him why he was so sad. 
He began crying anew. "It's my Nana, she died and I can't stop thinking about her. My heart hurts." 
Our nice neighbor mom scooped Seth up and brought him to her apartment for a playdate, which seemed the perfect antidote to his attack of grief. 
I can't leave work just yet, but my mind is with my boy, enfolding him in my arms and telling him it will all be just fine. 
But I can't alter the unalterable: Losing those you love is part of life, a lousy, crummy part—and I can't take my little boy's pain away. 
I can only help him walk through the emotional fire. 

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


With three boys and two working parents, along with activities, doctors' appointments, playdates and middle-school tours for our big guy, our family schedules are always sort of ragged.
Yesterday, Angie, our backup babysitter, was on duty with the little guys after school, while Mick took Kyle first to the doctor (yes, he's coughing, but his lungs are clear) and then to Tae Kwon Do. Our regular sitter, Juana, was in Rhode Island, overseeing the delivery of her new furniture with her fiancee.
"Did you tell Angie that Jesse has flag football this afternoon?" I asked my hub mid-morning. "And does she know exactly where it is in Central Park?"
"Don't worry. Jessie knows how to get there," Mick replied.
A little warning bell rang in my head, but I foolishly ignored it and dedicated myself to editing the article on my computer screen.
Later that afternoon, Angie called Juana in a bit of a panic. "Why didn't you tell me they had soccer? I thought it was football! Now we're going the wrong way and we're late and I'm lost!"
"Soccer? They don't have soccer. Put Jesse on the phone," Juana said.
"Jesse. You know you have football. Why did you tell Angie you have soccer?" Juana asked.
The little imp giggled. "Oh, yeah," he said. "I do have football!"
That night, he literally crowed in triumph.
Jesse punked the babysitter.

Doggie Talk

The moment I walked in the door from work last night, Seth was on me--literally and figuratively.
"Mom, is there any kind of dog you're not allergic to?"
"I don't know," I replied.
Then, the litany began.
"Are you allergic to hairy dogs?" he asked.
"Yes." I shook off my shoes and hung up my jacket,
"Are you allergic to skinny dogs? Like hot dog dogs?"
"Yes." I walked to the bedroom.
"Are you allergic to really little dogs? You know, those small ones that can sleep in your bed?"
"Yes." I picked up the ringing phone and shushed Seth.
He put his face less than an inch from mine.
"Mom," he whispered. "I know! What about smooth dogs?"
Persistent, isn't he?

Class Act

Nobody can say that we don't expose our kids to high culture. We spent Saturday playing Wii and slopping on scary makeup and participating in the Asbury Park Zombie Walk with about a thousand other people in similar makeup. Then, Mick took Kyle to the roller derby! 

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Really, Really Hungry

We have a system at our school, where parents can be automatically billed for lunch.
My kids all bring what we local parents refer to as "home lunch."
That means, either mom or dad throws together the PB and J sandwiches, cuts up the fruit and packages the cookies/popcorn/health bars every day.
I keep the automatic system in place in case we lose our minds one morning (always a significant possibility) and shove the kids out the door sans lunch boxes.
Seth has figured out  way to game the system.
When he sees something appealing on the lunch line, say, potato chips or cake, or his very favorite, salad with Chinese dressing (still haven't figured out what that is, but it got the boy to love lettuce), he goes for it. I assumed it was an occasional dip into school cuisine, sort of like the Friday pizza tradition.
But lately, I've been getting billed daily--which I thought was an error.
But no.
Seth, it turns out, has been eating home lunch AND school lunch every day.
"Mom," he explained patiently when I queried him about the double dipping. "You know I get hungry. Really, really hungry."

Henceforth, Your Name Is...

Seth has decided that he no longer wants to be called Seth.
Instead, he'd like us all to refer to him as TJ.
A couple of days ago, Seth (you notice I'm still calling him that) asked my hub how he could go about changing his name.
When he learned he'd have to wait until he was a legal adult, then go to court to request the change, he was not deterred.
Instead, Seth (that name again) asked if we could go to court and make the request for him.
I have no idea why he wants to be called TJ, and when asked, my skinny little guy has no answer.
He simply launches into his astonishingly good robot dance moves, grooving to the beat in his head and rapping.
"Call me TJ, Call me TJ, man."
TJ it is.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Nerf Wars

My kids must be just about the easiest targets for marketing tactics around. When they find something compelling, they REALLY find it compelling.
A few years ago, Kyle, my 10-year-old, was obsessed with the TV ads for Floam--a sticky, icky low-rent version of Play Doh that's apparently made only in colors that are not found in nature.
Every time a Floam mini-informercial came on, he'd run to the phone and dial the 800 number.
But, of course, the poor boy had no credit card with which to pay.
When we finally gave in and ordered some Floam (suckered, no doubt, by the bonus of a free, extra-large container of chartreuse), it was a colossal flop. The stuff stunk so badly of some unidentifiable chemical that Kyle and Jesse ran from the room, crying.
The Floam ended up in the garbage.
Since Floam, we've been through the Bakugan thing, the Star Wars thing, the Pokemon card thing and about a dozen, interests.
Right now? For Seth, it's all about Nerf Guns. He knows every model and price, apparently, and talks with great insight about the differences between them. For those who care, the newest and most coveted Nerf is the Rapid Fire-Raider SC-35, and Seth is excited enough about this one to stop begging for the Nerf Tommy 20. (He's been talking about that one at least three or four times a day--literally--for months. It's a bit hard to take.)
Seth has taken to watching Nerf gun videos on You Tube, making his own Nerf-fascimiles out of toilet paper and paper towel tubes and drawing his own vision of a Nerf-filled future.
There are flowers, apparently, and many, many Nerf guns.
Yesterday morning, I woke up to a most peculiar noise: the sound of a soft little Nerf dart hitting a piece of paper.
I peeked into the living room to find Seth, wearing his goggles and shooting at a paper target he'd drawn and taped up on the bookshelf. Luckily, he missed hitting our wedding photo.
His latest idea is a Nerf party, where all the kids (27 of 'em) in his second-grade class will come to our New York (read: small) apartment and attempt to whack each other with Nerf darts. Seth has it all set up in his mind:
"Mom, we can turn the table on its side and some kids can hide behind the table and shoot," he told me as I rushed the boys to school this morning. "Some kids can be in our bunk beds and shoot into the living room. I'll be under Kyle's desk, blasting. We'll have goggles for everyone and bags of extra ammo!"
He hasn't brought up the idea of a Nerf birthday cake yet, but I'm thinking that's next.
Of course, next month, we'll be on to something else.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Habanero Peppers Do NOT Belong in the Microwave

Question: Why in the world were my little guys sitting in a pizzeria last night, in their pajamas, at 10:15 last night? 
Answer: Because Mick, my chronically sleep-deprived husband, had exploded the microwave with Habanero peppers, filling the apartment with noxious fumes. 
Mick loves hot food; craves it and must have it. His idea of heaven is a late-night slice of pizza heaped with Habaneros and slathered with "Harry's Death Sauce of Fire." 
He especially loves his peppers dried, so they're crackly, crunchy and paper thin. The better to irritate my nasal passages.
Since the peppers in his latest bag of dried Habs were a little moist, Mick decided to dry them out in our brand-new microwave--which we were forced to buy a few days ago when our not-so-old micro started emitting a strange smell and then gave up the ghost entirely. 
Here's how our night of excitement unfolded: The kids were in bed, I was straightening up the living room and Mick was doing his pepper-pizza thing in the kitchen. 
My throat started burning a little, but it often does when Mick takes over the kitchen, hotting up one food item or another. 
But the throat-burn didn't subside as it usually does. Instead, it intensified.  
"Hey!" I called. "What are you doing in there? That's horrendous."
The burning sensation grew hotter; I started coughing.
"Hey! That's really bad, honey. What's going on?" I yelled. 
"Nothing," Mick called back. "Just a little fire." 
I hurled open the windows and cranked up the a/c. By now, I felt as if someone were poking a lit match down my throat. 
I began coughing violently, uncontrollably, my airways feeling like they were about to clamp shut. "Get the kids," I croaked. "I can't breathe. We've got to get out!" 
I grabbed Kyle, while Mick shoved open Seth and Jesse's door, and we sort of dragged the kids down the stairs to the front door--me coughing and gagging, the kids staggering and still half-asleep. 
Our live-in super, Louie, was at his usual post, hanging out in front of the building with his father, the now-retired Louie Senior. "Is there a fire?" he asked as we emerged from the lobby, gasping. 
Since I was coughing so wildly that I couldn't speak, Louie opted for quick action--quite a rare state of affairs for him, I'd like to point out. He raced up the stairs, while the kids and I plopped down outside on the building stoop, trying to compose ourselves. 
Actually, the boys were fine; I was the one who was, to put it mildly, a little freaked. Seth leaned his head against my shoulder, trying to get a little shut-eye. Kyle was thrilled that he'd finally have something exciting to write about for his fifth-grade essays. And Jesse? He ran up and down the block, leaping with the sheer joy of being in the middle of a late-night adventure. 
Mick came downstairs a few minutes later, sweating and at least reasonably contrite about the fact that he'd nearly sent us all to the emergency room thanks to his peculiar culinary habits. 
I wasn't feeling sympathetic. 
"Honey," I hissed. "Habaneros in the microwave? What were you thinking?" 
"I've done it a bunch of times before," he replied. "But only for 30 seconds. And nothing ever happened.  This time I did it for a minute. I wanted to get them really dry." 
We agreed that the dried Habanero habit had to be broken immediately. "I'll just sprinkle pepper flakes on from now on--I won't heat them up," Mick said. 
Good idea, no? 
"Mom," said Jesse, tugging on my arm. "I'm hungry." 
"Me too," said Kyle.
I shrugged. The pizza place next door was only a few feet away from our stoop. So at 10:15, there we sat, eating pizza and watching America's Funniest Home Videos. 
Then we all went to bed. 
And the microwave? Amazingly enough, it survived. 
For now. 

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Getting from Here to There

Navigating the streets, subways and event spaces of New York City with my three boys is always an, um, adventure.
And the number of questions they can ask along the way is staggering.
Here are just a few of the queries I heard this afternoon as we walked maybe half a mile from our apartment on the Upper West Side to Riverside Park for the West Side Country Fair (no, that's not an ironic name for the fest, though it certainly should be. The only thing 'country' about this fair are the bags of apples for sale.)
And, go!
As we cross the street, heading west...
"Mom, remember when that taxi hit the subway station?"
Yes, I remember. It was two weeks ago.
"Why did that happen anyway?"
"Look, isn't that Max from camp? Didn't he always have stinky breath? Is that Max's mom? Why do you think her sunglasses are so big?"
As we pass the diner...
"Does that dinner have blueberry pancakes?"
I'm sure they do.
But are they, you know, really good blueberry pancakes? The kind we like?
"Do you think they give whipped cream on pancakes?"
Again, dunno. It's not "our" diner. As we cross the street again, making our way into Riverside Park...
"Who's that lady again?"
Eleanor Roosevelt. They ask about the statue every time we pass it, which is pretty darn often.
"What was she famous for?"
A very smart, unusual woman who had great ideas about how people should treat each other and help each other.
"Is she dead?"
"Why did she die?"
She was old.
"Was she the most famous person then? Or was that blind and deaf woman more famous?"
You mean Helen Keller? I don't know who was more famous; they were different kinds of people, but both brought a lot to the world.
"But which of them were more famous?"
Walking down the hill to the Hudson River waterfront, past the dog run...
"Why is that dog pooping there? Doesn't the owner know that dogs aren't supposed to poop on the grass?"
Yes. He's cleaning it up.
"Can we go into the doggy park and play with the dogs? They're so cute. Why do they need their own park?"
No, we can't go into the dog park because we don't have a dog. Dogs have their own place to play so they don't poop all over the park.
"Can we get a dog? Just a little one?"
Not today.
Discussion of what kind of dog/cat/lizard/frog/fish/snake might make a suitable pet continues as we walk down the hill, with the kids asking every five seconds what kind of pet I might okay in the near future. ("A rabbit, Mom, can we have a rabbit?"
Standing and looking into the waters of the Hudson River...
"What would happen if we fell in?"
I'd jump in after you.
"But what if this fence broke and we were almost going to fall in?"
I'd grab you.
"What if you couldn't reach us?"
Remember the jumping in part? I'd do that.
'Why are there big logs in the water?"
Dunno, dunno. Becoming my mantra.
"Why does this river have waves? Rivers aren't supposed to have waves, are they?"
Because it's a tidal river and tidal rivers have waves. I might be making part of this up.
"Is it deep?"
"Is it over your head?"
"Is it over your head like ten times?"
No idea.
"But why don't you know?"
This is when I propose the idea of ice cream sandwiches for the boys.
And a cold adult drink for Mommy.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

I'm Speechless Yet Again

I was lying in bed this morning, sipping coffee, reading "The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit" and essentially ignoring the mayhem around me. I had all the bed's pillows plumped up behind me and I was pretty darn comfy.
I knew that wouldn't last more than a nanosecond.
Kyle leaped into my bed and promptly banged his head against the wall where pillows normally cushion such blows.
"Why do you have all the pillows?" he said, tears streaming down his face. "You shouldn't! Why didn't you tell me I was going to hit my head?"
"Because I didn't know you were going to jump into my bed," I said calmly.
"Don't you even care?" he yelped. "It really hurts."
"Of course I do," I said, not quite as calmly.
"I know," Kyle sniffed. "I know why you don't care. You only think of me as a friend."

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Discovering Tuna Fish

Sadly, my kids are picky eaters. I'm fairly sure it's a genetic trait, passed on by my husband--who douses everything with hot sauce and has a repertoire of about 15 foods that he'll eat.
Many of them are carb-laden: bagels, rolls, baguettes, pizza.
You get the drift.
So Mick called me at work the other day with some exciting news:
"You'll never guess what Seth and Kyle ate for lunch today."
"Okay, big guy, shock me," I replied.
"Tuna fish!"
The mind reeled.
Previously, my children have recoiled in horror at the very sight of canned tuna (though Kyle did go through a brief but obsessive toddler stint of eating sushi).
Ah, but this was special tuna.
$9.99 a can tuna from Spain, packed in extra virgin olive oil.
The boys went tuna-wild, chomping down two whole cans of the pricey seafood on toast points and begging for more.
So, the good news is that tuna is now on our menu regularly.
The bad? It's the priciest tuna in town.

What Seth Wants

All my boys clamor for toys, food, vacations and anything else they see on TV or pick up in the kid pop culture air...all the time.
But Seth always has a running list in his head of items he desperately desires. Sometimes, it's like the universe just pours itself into his little brain, and then pops back out with no filter.
This week alone, he's asked for:
*A car he can drive, though he'll settle for a motorcyle
*The Tommy 20 Nerf gun
*A pizza party for his entire class
*Surfing lessons
*Pokemon cards
*A shirt like Tony Hawk's
*A skateboard (like Tony Hawk's, presumably)
*A fish
*A frog
*A pet mouse or rat
*A very small dog that would sleep with him; he would name it Woofie
*Sword-fighting lessons
*Army lessons
*A new Beanie Baby
And I'm sure there's more.

Where Do Babies Come From?

Question of the day from Jesse: "Did we come out of your bellybutton?"
Now that Seth and Jesse are seven years old and in second grade, I can't dissemble anymore when it comes to the topic of babies and their origins, right?
So, here's how skillfully (not) I handled it.
My reply: "Um, no."
Jesse: "Where, then?"
Seth (whispering to Jesse): "I think it's her privates."
Jesse: "Did we come out of your privates?"
Me: "Um, yes."
Jesse: "Did you have to pull your pants down?"
Me: "Um, yes."
Jesse: "Now I'm going to faint." Falls on floor in a heap.
Conversation over.
I'm off to Barnes and Noble to get the right books. Then my hub can take over.

Friday, September 4, 2009

My Night in the ER, Part II

When the night-shift pediatric ER doc recognizes you, it's time to take stock of your life. Well, now Doc Eileen, who used to lived in New York City and misses it, but also enjoys a quieter life near the beach now (and I know these things because we've met previously), has met two of my boys in the middle of the night. While we've been on vacation at the shore.
You know, relaxing.
Kyle had been coughing and complaining for a few days. The first is not so usual, the latter an everyday occurrence.
But this was a sort of barky cough, which I've not heard from him before.
I tried to wait it out, treating the cough with a humidifier and lots of water, and giving him kiddie ibuprofen for a mild fever.
Then, two nights ago, while we were watching Food Network (Kyle's favorite these days), Mick and I both noticed that he was breathing rapidly and shallowly. With a sigh, I dialed our pediatrician in New York. We were in New Jersey, far from familiar doctors.
Dr. S. gave me the bad news: "You've got to take him in to the hospital. He's never had a breathing episode before and I'm just not comfortable waiting until tomorrow."
Which is how I found myself and my oldest son, at 10 pm, doing the ER tango.
By 1:00, he was in one of the little ER rooms, getting treated for constricted airways. Four of these treatments and a chest X-ray later, they decided to admit him for the night. "Just to watch him," the attending doc (not Doctor Eileen, who was apparently off eating dinner at the improbable hour of 3 am) said. "He's still breathing too fast."
"Sleeeepy," Kyle moaned. "Must sleep."
I felt a migraine coming on.
Then, Doctor Eileen returned from dinner and we reconnected: "You're the mom with the son who hit his head on the rocks last week! Wow, you brought in another one. Quite a summer you're having."
My head throbbed so that I could barely crack a semblance of a smile.
By 4 am, we were in a room, but not, to both our dismay, sleeping. Instead, the nurses had to repeat the same vitals tests they'd already done downstairs in the ER and chart Kyle--which essentially meant answering the same 20 questions we'd already answered five times that night.
Among these queries were:
"How much did Kyle weigh at birth?"
"Was he full-term?"
"What is your office address?"
Nothing urgent, to say the least.
We slept--if you consider reclining in a lumpy chair listening to your son alternately snore and cough sleeping--from about 4:30 to 7:30 am.
That's when the morning tests began: blood pressure, temperature, etc. And more treatments to open up Kyle's overly-tight airways, poor baby.
Then one of the five or six doctors who paraded through that morning put her hand on Kyle's back and frowned. "I hear some crackling in his lungs," she said.
Umm, pneumonia?
"Could be," she replied. "We have to do some more tests."
One excruciatingly painful blood test later, for which I bribed Kyle $8, and we were back in the room with the looming possibility that my child had somehow contracted a peculiar bacterial infection that causes walking pneumonia. The kind of pneumonia that doesn't respond to typically-used antibiotics.
I'm beginning to bore myself, so I'll wrap up this wretched little tale.
We were discharged at about 4 in the afternoon, with our very own portable nebulizer (which I'm hoping insurance will cover, since it's $265), and a handful of prescriptions--including one for a lesser-used antibiotic that should kill off the mycoplasma bacteria, in case my boy should be harboring it. We wouldn't know until the following day, but unlike most doctors, those at the K. Hovnanian Children's Hospital are perfectly willing to administer antibiotics without clear evidence of bacterial infection.
We dutifully visited a local pediatrician the next day, who called the hospital and told us that Kyle did indeed have pneumonia and added a prescription for Pulmicort (a steroid) to help further relieve the barky cough.
It's been quite a vacation.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

From the Mouths of Babes

Picked up one of Seth's friends the other day.
"So, does your Mom work?" I asked, trying to make conversation with a seven-year-old boy who appears to only be interested in Nerf Guns and plastic soldiers.
"No, she does Pilates," he replies.

No, Apparently, He Can't Wait Two Minutes

Kyle is hungry.
No, he's starving.
"I'mmm starving," he's moaning. "Need food. Must have it now."
The current object of his focus is a Vita Muffin--a sort of healthyish chocolate muffin top.
He can get a Vita Muffin for himself, but prefers it warmed up in the toaster oven, which in our cramped New York City apartment, is on a shelf too high for him to reach.
"Two minutes," I promise.
He waits at least ten seconds. "Now? Will you make it now?" he asks hopefully.
"No, in a minute and 50 seconds," I reply, feeling my shoulders begin to tense up.
You know how this goes, right?
Every ten to fifteen seconds, Kyle repeats his request for a warm chocolate Vita Muffin, as my shoulders continue to rise toward my ears.
Even my threat of, "Every time you ask about it, your waiting time gets longer!" fails to clamp down on the begging.
As he begs, I scurry around, making the bed, picking up towels from the bathroom floor and giving the sink a quick wipedown. Still, the broken-record that is my ten-year-old continues.
Finally, I snap. "Two minutes! That's all I ask for! Is that too long for you to wait?"
He looks at me wide-eyed. "No, Mom, that's fine," he says, suddenly speaking in a most reasonable tone. "Sheesh, you don't have to get so annoyed."
He glances at his little brother Seth. "Watch out, Mom's really cranky tonight," he said. "I don't know what that's about."

Monday, August 24, 2009

My Night in the ER

Our beach has some big, rocky jetties that attract kids like, well, the whole fly/honey thing. The jetties are prime real estate for crab-catching, funky pieces of oceanic detritus and occasionally a find such as a starfish. But they're also slippery, covered with scratchy barnacles and totally off-limits.
Except when they're not.
So last Saturday, while 15-foot high waves had the lifeguards momentarily distracted, the elementary school set took over the jetties. I was on duty with Seth and Jesse, who spent the day either squabbling with each other ("Mom! He's being annoying again!") or hunting for crabs.
Yup, on the darned jetties.
I let them for a while, then, as the storm-fueled tide was beginning to rush back in, decided that jetty-time was up. "Off the rocks, now!" I ordered Seth (Jesse was already back at the blanket, digging a new home for his crabs).
After a few minutes of negotiation, he complied. But making his way toward me, Seth slipped on one of the barnacle-covered boulders and went flipping over. Wham! He hit his head--hard--on a rock and began emitting a high-pitched, unearthly wail that I'm still hearing in my sleep.
I knew we were heading for the hospital, but figured I'd have 20 minutes to get ready. So I dragged Seth, wailing away, up to the lifeguard stand for an ice pack, eyeballing Jesse to make sure he was still digging near our blanket.
No ice pack, so I headed for the beach office, another 100 feet away. With Seth settled with an ice pack and a lifeguard/EMT soothing him, I ran back to the beach for Jesse.
Nowhere in sight.
With what I can only describe as the hot flush of fear cascading throughout my body, I ran back to the beach office. "My other child is gone," I blurted out, feeling terrified and foolish.
The beach patrol and police were duly summoned as I repeated the description for the various authorities: "Shaggy brown hair, yellow beach shirt and blue bathing suit."
Meanwhile, Seth slumped on the bench, moaning and vacant-eyed.
Within ten minutes, my little runaway was found, paraded down the boardwalk in tears. We hugged hard, cried together and had a brief but very stern discussion.
Then, back to my head-bump boy. I wrapped Seth in a towel, grabbed our overloaded beach cart and began walking the boys back to our house. I had my plan: I'd drop Jesse with my father-in-law, shower the sand off me and Seth, grab my handbag and head for the hospital.
Then Seth proceeded to puke...copiously.
Not good.
I ran for one of the summer cops who were relaxing nearby, who turned pale and said "I'll get first aid."
"You mean an ambulance?" I asked.
He nodded. "Calm, calm, calm," I whispered to myself.
My older son and father in law met us on the boardwalk with my handbag, everyone at this point either crying or near tears.
The EMTs placed my pale, skinny Seth on a stretcher, I hugged my two crying boys and climbed into the ambulance.
Then we sat, in a hallway of the ER, for the next six hours. "We've all climbed on the jetties as kids," said the doctor."It's a rite of passage. He'll be fine."
The plan was: an evaluation, a CAT scan and home.
But then Seth drank a glass of water.
And...yup...proceeded to vomit, in great arching arcs. All over himself and me.
"Hmmm," the nurse said, frowning. "You know he'll have to stay overnight now, right?"
And so, Seth and I shared a room, him on a hospital bed and me on a too-short cot within hand-holding range. And there we stayed for the next 20 hours, unchanged, unshowered and...thankful just to be safe and be together.
And the jetties?
Mostly, anyway.

The Thing About Ants

So, we have a rule. If an ant gets inside the house, it's dead meat. Ants that are outside, bothering no one, get left alone. So, a recent invasion of ants had my kids trying to pinpoint exactly what in and out mean and what the rules of ant-killing are.
Jesse: "What about ants on the porch?"
Mom: "If it's only one or two, leave them alone. If there are tons, call me and I'll spray them with the vinegar bottle."
Jesse: "Can I spray them?"
Mom: "That's a grownup job."
Jesse:"Please. I really, really want to spray them."
Mom: "Why? It's not like it's a fun thing to do."
Jesse (jumping in the air): "It is! It is fun! They stop moving!"
Mom (wondering if she should call a therapist): "Just let it be."
Jesse: "Well, what about if I think an ant is on the porch but wants to go in the house?"
Mom: "If it's not in the house and there's only one or two ants, LEAVE THEM ALONE."
Jesse: "What if it's walking toward the door?"
Mom: "ALONE! ALONE! ALONE! What is so difficult to understand?"
Jesse: "What if I accidentally (on purpose is what he really means) bring one inside in my pocket?"
Mom: "Ants don't just accidentally get in your pocket. Do not bring ants inside!"
Jesse: "OK. But what if an ant is on the screen? It could squish itself through and get inside. Can I kill it?"
Mom: "Go upstairs. You're giving me a migraine."

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Bye Bye Nana

Haven't posted in a while. My mother, who has been battling a slowly deteriorating heart/circulation condition for about a year and a half, was critically ill throughout June.
She passed away, at home in her bright, picture-filled bedroom, and reasonably peacefully, on Wednesday, July 1, with my sister Deb and I next to her.
Losing a parent provides enough emotional fodder to fill up the blogosphere.
But this one is really about my kids' reaction to the loss of their beloved Nana.
At my mom's aide's suggestion, we brought all three boys to see her the Saturday before she died. I wanted her to see them, in the hope that it would bring her some joy. And, frankly, though we'd talked about how sick Nana was, I wanted to the boys to get a visual picture.
Nana looked pretty good to me, but she was in a hospital bed, with oxygen tubes in her nose (Yes, I'd explained this all to the boys beforehand). She was alert but clearly weak.
Kyle, my 10-year-old, took matters in hand right away. He walked up to Nana, leaned over the hospital bed to hug her and said, "Hi Nana, It's Kyle." He stroked her arm gently and murmured, "I love you."
Jesse left the room quickly, choosing to sit on Mick's lap in the living room and think things through. I knew we'd hear from him later.
Seth pulled out some Legos and sprawled on the floor of the bedroom, allowing his grandmother to watch him play. She smiled as he created a complex Lego army and flew his Lego planes through the air.
On our way back to Manhattan, Jesse leaned into me and whispered, "Mommy, I have a secret to tell you: Nana looks like she's going to die!"
"I think so too," Seth said, grabbing my hand.
Kyle nodded. "I agree," he said.
I grabbed Jesse and hugged him hard. What a brave little guy, to give voice to those thoughts. With that, Jesse, my little toughie, burst into tears. "But she's our only Nana. I don't want her to die."
Mick scooped him up and carried him, crying and talking, down the steps to the bus stop.
I spent much of the next few days at my mother's apartment, watching over her, trying my best to comfort her (soft music, soft lights, a medication protocol that actually worked, thanks to hospice) and, frankly, waiting for the inevitable. It was a time of intense awe and deep pain.
My sadness was only compounded by the knowledge that my boys would lose so much.
I explained to them ahead of time what would happen at the funeral: Nan would be in her coffin but it would be closed and they would not have to see her. People would tell stories about Nana and why they loved her. Then we would all go to the cemetery, where Nana's coffin would be placed in the ground.
"I want to say something," Kyle said. "She was my Nana."
"Of course you can," I replied, thinking he'd never be able to summon up the courage to speak in front of a large group on such a difficult day.
I was proud of my trio that day, with their black dress shoes and their button-down shirts. They sat and endured as the Nana speeches went on. They were present, they were engaged, they were there for their grandmother.
After I finished speaking (I was last, as the youngest child), Kyle strode up to the podium and took the microphone. I was so stunned that I don't remember exactly what he said in his high, pitchy voice, but it went something like this:
"My Nana was a wonderful person. My brothers, Seth and Jesse, and I loved her very much. And we're very sad that she's gone." With that, I held Kyle in my arms and walked him back to our seat.
Sobs filled the room.
My overwhelming feeling was one of pride. That he'd stepped up for his Nana in such a profound and loving way, one that I'd thought would be way beyond his years and emotional maturity level.
It was at once a loving goodbye and a glimpse at the man he would be, thanks, in part, to the steadfast love of his Nana.
Bye Mom. We'll always miss you. But clearly, you've passed on some of the best of you, by loving my boys and teaching them how to express their love. It is a wonderful gift.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Better Left Misspoken

You know how kids sometimes get phrases wrong? And how cute that is? Here are couple from my seven-year-olds:
*Seth: "Mom, can I have more spaghetti and neatballs?"
*Jesse: "When can we go to Toys Near Us?"
*Jesse: "Is Kyle going to Twai Kon Do (Tai Kwon Do) today?"

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Another Ploy Blown to Bits

Walking home tonight, Kyle said to me, "Mom, you don't really have eyes in the back of your head, do you?"
I smiled; telling me kids about my "other" eyes was a remarkably effective ploy for years, but I'd ditched it recently in favor of time-outs and other more punitive strategies (no Game Boy for a week! Or perhaps ever again!).
'What do you think?" I asked, as Kyle leaped and wiggled behind me, doing who knows what.
"Well, you can't see what I'm doing right now," my almost-10-year-old replied. "So I eyes back there."
"When did you figure out that I don't have eyes in the back of my head?" I asked.
Kyle shrugged. "About four years ago," he said.
I explained that people often say Moms have eyes in the back of their heads because they always know what their kids are doing. "Like I always know what you guys are doing," I said.
My fourth-grader flashed me a sly little grin. "But you don't know what we're doing in the cafeteria at lunch," Kyle said. Teaser.
You know, I keep my kids pretty close at hand. Living in New York City, where space is almost unbearably limited, makes it easy to keep tabs on your children.
But I guess the rope is getting stretched now. Because I don't know what they're doing at lunch, what they're talking about in the playground. And the three of them have secrets now, jokes they tell only to each other, games that don't include me or their dad.
But we'll always have time-outs.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Toddler Talk

From time to time, my kids ask for another sibling. With a pack-rat husband (hi honey!) and three boys already inhabiting our too-small New York City apartment already, the likelihood of another child joining the mix is about as great as the chance that Bernie Madoff will be lauded with a parade in Palm Beach.
Lately, they've been asking for a toddler, instead of a baby. I'm not sure why, but perhaps they're thinking that a toddler will be less trouble and more fun.
So, this morning, Seth cuddles up to me and whispers in my ear, "Mommy, I hope you're adopting a toddler soon because it will be so much fun to play with."
For the record, I have no idea where he learned about adoption, or got the idea that we'd be adopting anything other than a fish.
"What's a toddler?" I asked.
"I know," said Kyle, my almost-10-year-old, with great authority. "A three or four year-old."
"No way," said Seth. "Toddlers are three."
"Toddlers are babies, silly," retorted Jesse. Except he used a more objectionable word than "silly."
My hub patiently explained that toddlers are kids who have recently learned to walk and that they need a lot of care and attention.
"He can sleep in our room," Seth said. "You'll have to get a little bed."
"And little pillows and blankets," Jesse said.
"We'll give our toddler all our old clothes," Kyle added.
Before this toddler talk went any further, I felt like I had to put the kibosh on the bigger-family fantasy.
"Umm, yeah, there's not going to be a toddler, guys," I explained. "We just don't have the room. Just not going to happen."
The boys stared at me for a moment, silent. Then Jesse shrugged. "So can we get a pet lizard?" he asked.

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Force is, Apparently, With Me

Mother's Day is pretty great when you have two seven-year-olds and a nine-year-old, uber-annoying daily kid squabbles aside.
Of course, my impulse-driven children can never wait until the actual day of Mother's Day to give me their handmade goodies. So, over the years, during the week before Mother's Day, I've gotten gifts like the giant bead necklace Kyle made in preschool, so heavy that it bent my neck forward; personalized note pads with my name spelled wrong; handmade Popsicle frames and this year, a sweet little bracelet composed of a rather attractive jumble of beads.
And, inexplicably, the letters "I," "M," and "A" in the middle. My name is Diane, so I have no idea where that choice arose, but I love the bracelet anyway.
My very favorite item this year, though, actually arrived on my pillow on Mother's Day itself.
It was a card, bearing the inscription "Mom, The Force is With You." in childish scrawl. Inside, was Seth's drawing of me, holding what I can only determine is a light saber and clearly beating Darth Vader to a pulp.
"Wow, Seth, cool drawing," I say, not sure how else to respond to my child's fantasy of me as a Star Wars character.
Seth beams. "Do you love it?" he asks as I draw him in for a hug and kiss.
"Of course," I answer, cradling his impossibly skinny little-boy body.
"Oh Mom," he sighs. "You ARE the Force."
And what could be better?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Going to Juvie

Just when I'm ready to toss out the board books, Duplos (those big Legos that take up scads of room) and other toys that the boys seem to have grown out of, the inevitable happens. 
Yup, you know it: they develop a new passion for their more babyish toys. 
We've had a pile of Cars (as in the movie The Cars from several years back in time and maturity) in Seth and Jesse's room for months while we ponder who to give them to or where to donate them. The boys haven't looked at this stuff, never mind played with it, in at least a year. 
Star Wars is far more compelling.
So last night, as I'm in the midst of trying to get Kyle to finish his reading homework, pack lunch for the next day and find out who's getting the boot from American Idol (I mean, catch up on CNN), I hear strange noises from the little guys' room. 
They're honking and beeping and chattering away in these oddly mechanical little voices. When I pop open their door, I am dismayed to see Cars toys and buildings strewn all over their briefly-not-a-complete-pigsty room. My annoyance with what looks like a miniature multi-car freeway pileup is all too clear to the pajama-clad munchkins. It's 9:30, on a school night for Pete's sake.
"But Mom, we made a whole town," Jesse tells me. "We had stores and everything." 
"Yeah," Seth piped up. "And Juvie." 
"You know, where the bad cars go," Jesse explains with exaggerated patience, as if the word "Juvie" was a regular part of our family vocabulary. "They have to stay there for as long as well tell them." 
I have absolutely no idea how to respond to this one. I mean, where the heck did they even hear the term Juvie? 
"Yeah, two of Jesse's cars are in Juvie," Seth adds. 
"Teen Juvie," Jesse says. 
"Mine are in Kid Juvie," Seth says. "That's the best Juvie of all. They get to go skiing." 
It's almost 10 pm at this point, and I'm in no mood to discuss Juvie any further. So I force a lightning round of cleanup on the guys, then hustle them into bed and threaten dire consequences for any further noise. 
We'll discuss this in the morning, I think, as I return to my next-day lunch prep work. 
But I'm bothered. Seth and Jesse seem so matter-of-fact about the notion of imprisoning their wayward vehicles, ski trips notwithstanding. Do my seven-year-olds somehow think they'll be sent to elementary school Juvie for mistakes on math homework or Nerf gun battles? Is there some deep, dark twistiness around their interest in this thing called Juvie? 
At 10, exhausted, I climb into bed. And start giggling as I think about my little guys and their strange game. After all, they built their little world together, in tandem, in harmony. Without adult intervention, supervision, or a tamping down on where their dreams and imaginations take them. 
And that, I think, more than the content of their play, is the essence of what brotherhood at its best can be.
Plus, I can now threaten them with Juvie when they misbehave. 
Score one for mom. 


Friday, April 17, 2009

Tony Hawk is the Bestest Skateboarder

We went shopping for spring/summer clothes yesterday. Mostly for my big guy, since the littles, Seth and Jesse, have more hand-me-downs than they can handle.
Somehow, Seth, happened upon a line of clothing from Tony Hawk, skateboarder extraordinaire.
Seth has never talked about skateboarding or been on a skateboard.
Yet he was drawn to the skater-boy styles like moth to the proverbial flame.
"Tony Hawk," he whispered in awe. He picked up a black T-shirt awash with red swirls (20 bucks before the 30 percent off) and hugged it to his chest. "I love, love, love this, Mama," Seth crooned.
My skinny little non-skater was beside himself with joy. He grabbed a pair of brown baggy knee-length shorts, pulled a bright crimson T shirt laden with skateboard graphics off the rack and held tightly them both, along with his original choice."Please, please can I?" he begged.
Given the 30 percent off, I plopped them all in the shopping cart. It was, however, a little mystifying, this sudden turn toward clothing consumerism.
Seth happily modeled his cool new duds for us at home this morning, then informed me of his future shopping plans. "Mom, can we go back to the Tony Hawk store today? I want Tony Hawk hats and shoes, and definitely Tony Hawk underwear (marketers, are you listening?)"
"So Seth," I asked. "Who is Tony Hawk?"
"Oh, Mama," he replied dreamily. "He is the bestest skateboarder ever. I love him."

Monday, April 13, 2009

Happy Passeaster

We're a two-religion family: I'm Jewish and my hub, Mick, was raised Catholic.
That said, neither of us is particularly religious. Mick likes to refer to himself as a Secular Humanist, which essentially means that you treat other people the way you'd like to be treated yourself.
Sounds good to me.
But with three kids the questions and answers quickly get difficult.
They start simple (ahem, that's an ironic simple): "Mom, who is God?" (That was Kyle in preschool)
"Mom, do we believe in God?" (Jesse in Kindergarten.)
"Mom, Henry says that if we don't believe in God we'll go to a place called hill. What's hill?" (Kyle in first grade)
We've actually had some good conversations around these issues, explaining that everyone has different beliefs and no one person's or group's beliefs are better than anyone else's, and that we need to be kind and respectful to everyone and everyone's ideas. And we enjoy the holidays for their traditions: the food, the song, the togetherness with loved ones.
Well, bully for us, right?
Because come the big holidays (Christmas, Hanukkah, Passover, Easter), it all falls apart. Christmas is more fun and more renumerative than Hanukkah. Passover, with its endless gloom and doom tale, is little competition for Easter's egg hunts and candy-filled baskets. And my mini-materialists are willing to use any tradition for what they can get out of it.
"Mom, why do we eat Matzoh on Easter?" Jesse asked recently.
"Because we have a few boxes left over from Passover," I reply--a bit testily, I might add.
"Where are our Easter presents?" asked Seth. "Can we go to Target for Legos?"
"Absolutely not. We don't get Easter presents," I answer, teeth gritted. "We get Easter baskets with candy and a couple of little toys. That's it."
"But we got money on Passover," he said, with a bit too much innocence for my liking.
"That's part of the tradition," I say. Switching to patient mom mode, I explain the tradition of hiding some of the matzoh and allowing the kids to find it, then rewarding said finders with a bit of money or a small gift. "Because without that special piece of matzoh, the afikomen, we can't finish the seder."
It's a strange and wonderful story and my children listen, open-eyed and open-mouthed.
There is, I think smugly, a place for fables in this life.
I smile at my kiddos.
Perhaps we're giving them the best of both worlds.
"So Mom," says Jesse. "Next year, can we put the money from the seder and your money from Easter together? And buy a toy at Target?"

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Seth the Songwriter

Seth has fancied himself a mini-rocker for about a year now. He came home from one playdate last spring singing Green Day's "American Idiot" and hasn't stopped singing it since. He wears his "Heavy Metal Rock" T-shirt at least once a week and swaggers around the living room, yelling "I'm a rock star! I'm a rock star!"

He even came up with a stanza that may have some rock-anthem potential, at least for the under ten set: "You can't tell me what to do! I do what's right for living."

He singsongs that at least half a dozen times a day.

So, we gave the wannabe musician his very own little guitar for the holidays. Seth likes to strap it on, sneer like Billy Idol and strum away. He even wrote a song (well, we actually wrote it together). I'm not sure it has any commercial potential, or whether it displays an abnormal interest in gore, but here goes....

Popping Out of the Graveyard

Popping out of the graveyard
Looking for some monsters
Shooting them all up
Watch them blood to death
Kicking them out of the way

Popping out of the graveyard
Watch out, monsters
We'll do karate on you
Then you'll really be hurt

Popping out of the graveyard
(repeat ad nauseum, until Mommy loses her mind)

Monday, March 30, 2009

Ganging Up

Even numbers of children, I've learned, are easier than odd. So, four kids is simpler than three, in a bizarre way. With three boys, all close in age and emotional maturity (even though my oldest, Kyle, is three years older than his munchkin brothers), the competition is fierce and constant.
And the allegiances shift like, well, the wind.
Lately, it's Kyle and Seth against Jesse.
So, this morning, over breakfast (eggy bread for Jesse, buttered bagel for Seth and cereal for Kyle), Seth said, "Mommy, Jesse called me the F word."
I gasp in feigned horror. Kyle leans into me. "He did, Mom."
"No!" Jesse howls. "They're just trying to get me in trouble."
"They wouldn't do that," I say. "Right, Kyle?" This is accompanied by the piercing, laser-beam, no-nonsense Mom look.
"He did say it, Mom," Kyle insists.
When I demand context, Kyle continues, "I can't say the context. It's too inappropriate (one of the favorite words in my house)."
A moment later, as I'm threatening Jesse with a penalty, Seth giggles: "You fell for my trick!"
He and Kyle fall on each other, howling their victory laugh.
Jesse scowls into his eggy bread. "I told you they were just trying to get me in trouble," he mutter.
I pat his still-tiny hand. "You'll get your chance to get even," I promise.

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Negotiator

So, my husband made a deal with Jesse: Behave for a certain period of time and we WON'T cancel his upcoming birthday party.
"A week, right?" Mick says to Jesse. "No arguing, no whining, no fighting."
Jesse nods his head. "I can do a week," he tells his dad.
Deal done, Mick returns to his magazine.
A few minutes later, Jesse pokes his head back into the living room.
"What, Jess?"
"I think we'd better make that four days."

It's All About Legos, Except When It's Not

My kids tend to be a bit, oh, obsessive, about their interests. When Kyle, my nine-year-old, was a toddler, he immersed himself wholeheartedly in the world of Thomas the Tank engine. He knew every one of the dozens of trains, their characteristics (cheeky, naughty, fussy, brave, really useful) and gave us all train names.
Mine was Percy.
Every day, he watched Thomas tapes and built elaborate train tracks.
He slept with at least one train and more than a few of the pricey wooden creations made their way into the bathtub.
I had the preternaturally chipper and chirpy "He's a Really Useful Engine" song ringing in my head for years.
Then one day, it was over.
Hurrah! (As they say in Thomas-Land.)
Or maybe it's Huzzah!
A new obsession emerged quickly: Legos. Or, more specifically, a robot cum monster cum alien known as Bionicles.
Kyle embraced the whole complicated back story with joy (good guys, bad guys, interplanetary travel, unintelligable names and language, a wide variety of weapons, masks of power--a real boy-fest).
There followed years of Bionicle birthdays, Bionicle Halloween costumes and thousands of Bionicle pieces strewn about his room, secreted into his school backpack and carpeting his bed.
At least the Bionicles didn't sing chirpy songs.
That Kyle happened to be unusually good at building was a bonus; nothing delighted the little cutie more than a new set with a loooong instruction booklet. We loved peeping into Kyle's room to watch his little fingers hard at work, putting complicated sets together.
It was his happy place, profoundly so.
All kind of other Legos made their way into the mix as well. Even the bigger (and presumably more babyish) Duplos held magic for Kyle, and for his little brothers.
Other items held sway for a while—second grade was the year of the Pokemon—but Kyle always returned to his Legos.
Until early this school year, when it seemed like his Lego lust had finally been sated.
The Legos sat unused for months, as Kyle and his little brothers turned to video games and Bakugan, a rolling monster/card game that held the kids at school in thrall from September onward.
I suggested we donate them all, just to get the thousands and thousands of itty bitty pieces littering our home the heck out of there. (Have you ever stepped on a Lego piece? It's shockingly painful.)
My husband, AKA Pack Rat Man, refused. "What if the boys get back into them?" he asked.
And he was right. Because, for reasons unknown, Legos once again rule in our home. All three boys now beg for Lego sets, build legions Lego armies (the Star Wars Legos are particularly good for combat, they tell me) and create everything from forts to robots to animals from the little bricks.
The floor is once again covered; my feet are dimpled with Lego injuries.
And all is right with our world.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

And They Call It...Fluffy Love

I was not a stuffed animal kid. Didn't have a roomful of squishy creatures to snuggle with at night and didn't care.
My kids, however, are passionate about their stuffies, including (shhhh) my 9-year-old.
In fact, he still talks about the two-foot-tall stuffed Pokemon stuffy we tossed a year ago. "I can't figure out where my Charmander went, mom. It's so weird."
Can you say trash bag?
But Seth, one of my first-graders, is particularly attached to Fluffy, a small, cute black stuffed Labrador. Cute it is, but what's most hilarious is that Seth makes clothes for the little creature.
Fluffy has hats, jackets, vests and what I can only describe as canine leg warmers--all created out of construction paper.
Each morning, Seth dresses Fluffy in the seasonally appropriate attire and off he goes in the backpack to school.
Seth's teacher, Ms. M., is fine with Fluffy being a constant visitor. And now all the kids in Seth's class know Fluffy too, and take turns hugging and cuddling him. It's all very cute in a first-grade kind of way.
Recently, Seth decided that Fluffy needed to become a bit more fashion-forward. So he begged my husband, who is rather crafty, to make Fluffy a vest. Mick obliged him and now on his forays to PS 199, Fluffy wears a white vest.
But, get this: The snuggly, cuddly little security object's vest is adorned—at Seth's request—with several black skull and crossbones drawings.
Because while my little guy still needs his stuffed animals, he is growing up.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Trick or Treat

Our babysitter (hi Juana!) is planning on an extended visit back home, where the weather is warm and the shrieking children are not her problem.
So, like the responsible person she is, Juana has lined up a substitute. She seems lovely and sweet and I hope my kids don't send her off shrieking into the night.
Jesse is already taking control. The other day, the sub sitter (let's call her Brenda to protect the innocent) met the boys and brought Jesse and Kyle home, while Seth went off to art class with Juana.
Like any reasonable human being, Brenda asked the boys a question or two, like "What do you do when you get home from school?"
Kyle disappeared immediately into his room to work on one or another of the giant Lego creations that have taken over his space.
But Jesse? Oh, the little peanut was sooo helpful. He showed Brenda where the bagels, cream cheese and grapes were for after-school snack. He took out his homework and set it out on the table, in preparation for actually doing the work.
And then, he TURNED ON THE TV!
When Brenda expressed surprise, Jesse said "Oh, we always do our homework with the TV on. Every day."
A bold and bald-faced lie, of course.
Later, Brenda said to Juana, "I couldn't really keep Jesse focused on his homework. He kept getting distracted by the TV."
To which Juana replied "TV? What TV?"
"Oh, Jesse said you turn on the TV every day as soon as they come home from school."
Busted! At least it gave us all a good laugh. Jesse most of all.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Like Coals to Newcastle

While none of my children are quiet, Jesse is the main mouth in the house. The kid can talk endlessly.
I mean, all day, every day. From the moment he opens his eyes until waaaay past bedtime.
Question after question after question: "Who makes water?" ""But why do have to eat my peas? I'm strong without them." "How come Kyle stays up later than I do, when he's tired and I'm not?"
It doesn't actually matter whether we respond or not; the Peanut (one of his nicknames, along with Jesse Bear, J Bear, Baby J and DJ J Bear) natters on. Loooves to hear the sound of his own voice.
Jesse's often also asking to be signed up for this class or that: baseball, karate, chess. So this morning, while admiring himself in my bedroom mirror, he makes his pitch for yet another activity: "Hey Mom? Can you sign me up for speech class?" (He's actually referring to the fact that the school offers speech classes to kids with speech issues, language issues or the like)
Mick and I are rolling our eyes, of course. 'Cause the one thing this kid doesn't need is more opportunity to flap his gums.
I ask Jesse, "WWhat do you think you might do there?"
Jesse shrugs. "I don't know. Talk, I guess."
I can't wait to tell J's teacher of his latest request.

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Year of Living Hideously

Sometimes I think back on our first year of twin life—with Seth and Jesse as skinny little infants and Kyle a wild child at not yet three years old—and I'm amazed that Mick and I still talk to each other with any civility, much less share a home.
We were positively psychotic from the stress, sleep deprivation and the constant crying (mostly mine).
I have absolutely hideous (favorite word alert!) memories of times when Seth and Jesse were squalling and Kyle was sobbing to climb onto my lap with the other two. Holding three wailing kids under three at once is not all it's cracked up to be, believe me. Especially when they launch into the arched-back version of baby tantrums.
I couldn't quite get a grasp on what would set the little ones off. Hunger, a poopy diaper, exhaustion—these I understood. But sometimes Seth and Jesse would get hysterical (in the bad way) when they just looked at each other.
I remember one of my rare forays into simultaneous twin breasteeding—rare because it was always such a hilarious and complete failure. But this time it worked. I sat proudly propped up by pillows, nursing my little munchkins, their eyes closed as they blissfully fed. It would only be minutes before they both sank into sleep, I hoped, so that I too could nap.
Suddenly, Jesse's eyes popped open and he realized that Seth was nursing only inches away from him. He shrieked like a banshee, Seth shrieked back and the baby screamfest was on. Feeding over, nap cancelled.
After Kyle's birth, I'd sip my herbal ice tea and eat lovely chicken salad sandwiches before nursing. I'd cook up veggie-laden stir fries for my husband. He'd make cheese and broccoli omelets for me in the morning, with lightly buttered whole-wheat toast.
But once two more were added to the mix, we ate more like starving animals, chowing down on whatever was in our reach. I recall once my mother gently suggesting that I consider a vegetable or piece of fruit as I was hurriedly wolfing down something unsatisfying and unhealthy in between diaper changes. I think my reply, with the profanity bleeped out, was something like "I don't have %$*&%$*&% time for produce!"
We yearned for order and we yearned for sleep. Craved both like drug addicts and got little of either. So many, many times we'd think we'd found success. All three children sleeping, we'd leap into bed and fall asleep within seconds, only to be yanked from blessed slumber ten blasted minutes later with that dreadful sound: "Wahh!" It was our very own horror movie and it never ended.
We found respite in brief showers, in cups of tea and even supermarket runs. And if you've ever shopped at Fairway on Manhattan's Upper West Side, where agruments routinely break out in the overcrowded aisles, you'll understand just how desperate we were for time alone, for a respite from the crying...for simply not having small, grubby hands pulling and tugging at us.
Somehow, neither of us ran away. Or lost our minds completely, though I have all the sympathy in the world for anyone who deals with a poor sleeper or a colicky baby.
And when I look through the photos of that time, we look like any happy family, smiling, hugging, content. But that year of living hideously? Never again.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Bizarre Things Kids Say

Overheard a couple of days ago:
Jesse to Seth: "Wanna go out on a date? You look hot."
Seth to Jesse: "Eww. Gross."
Both collapse on floor, laughing.

Potty Mouth

We're experiencing an explosion in potty mouth in our house. It started last year, when Kyle was in third grade. He came home, giggling and whispering the four-letter word that he'd learned on the playground.
But really, he's not the major potty mouth in the family (I love that term, don't you?). He even cringed the other day when he heard the M-F word, saying "I never knew there was such a dirty word in the world. I shouldn't be hearing that."
It's my first-graders, Seth and Jesse, who have really embraced the profane.
"You're a dick" is one of their favorite expressions, followed only by "You're a dumb dick."
Nice, huh?
A couple of months ago, one of Jesse's friends, the angelic boy who lives down the block (you know who you are, little man!), taught Jesse the F word. They subsequently spent an all-too-long trip back from a birthday party repeating it ad nauseam.
Except, to be truthful, he already knew it.
In fact, Jesse dropped the F-bomb last year. Yup, as a kindergardener, he unloaded that lovely bit of language on Kyle's sweet and mannerly former teacher, Miss M. Not a clue where he got it from.
Some strategies we've used in a vain attempt to clean up the language:
1. Ignore. Doesn't work, because they have each other to giggle with or get annoyed at. "Mom! He called me a dick!" "But HE called me a dumb dick!"
2. Explain to them that only ignorant people without imaginations use this kind of language. "But Mom, Daddy said the damn word this morning!"
3. Punish. A time-out for every four-letter word. The result: Twelve time-outs in one day for Jesse (the main offender), which interfered with homework, bath and bed-time.
For now, we're trying a combo of all three strategies: ignore the first time, explain the second and move on to time-outs for the third. And it damn well better work.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

That's Entertainment?

I love taking the boys to the movies. We make popcorn at home and sneak in big bags of it, along with sandwiches and assorted treats. The lights go down and one or more climbs onto my lap for an hour-plus snuggle.
And now, we've reached a movie milestone. For the first time in oh, nine years or so, we're watching at least the occasional movie that doesn't inevitably star an animated mouse, dinosaur or dragon.
Think of the possibilities.
Nonstop Adam Sandler.
Kids who fall in like with each other while they heroically rescue dogs. Dozens of them (dogs, that is).
Endless loops of Paul Blart, Mall Cop.
Oh. That.
I know it will likely be years until family movie dates mean flicks that Mom actually likes. Something with real humor, political underpinnings, a deep message that speaks to the humanity in us all. Or just a logical through line.
But it's getting better. I think my boys might actually be too mature for Space Chimps. But Mall Cop is right up their alley.
And so, for now, it's up mine as well.

Friday, January 30, 2009

A Few Words About Gas

Three boys and one bathroom can make for real excitement, but that's a støry I'll save for another day.
Jesse, one of my almost–7-year-olds, is—much like my father was—a real gasbag. Think jet-engine-propelled farts (we do try to say passing gas in front of the kids). As I type, in fact, I'm listening to a veritable Verdi of gas-passing coming from my little one. He's obliviously playing Game Boy as he toots away.
A couple of weeks ago, Jesse's teacher, the young and sweet Miss Rabbit (name changed to protect her), complained about the emissions my little gasbag was creating in class.
Ridiculous, you say?
Me too, though based on what he's capable of at home, I can well imagine the distraction his not-so-tiny toots might cause among a bunch of first–graders.
We assured Miss Rabbit that Jesse would curtail his gas-passing.
I spoke to the little culprit that night and he said (with great excitement), "Mommy! I figured something out today! When I push my farts out, they're big. When I don't push them out, they're soft."
After a few words of warning, Jesse agreed to opt for the soft approach.
The next day, Miss Rabbit, reported, Jesse excused himself from class, went to the bathroom and did his farting in privacy.
Now that's progress.

May I Take Your Order?

Motherhood has made me a short order cook. A good guesstimate tells me that between my three boys, they eat a total of about 20 items, with frighteningly little overlap. Except for sugary foods, pizza and bagels with cream cheese, peanut butter or butter, which are universally our little universe. A sample of their wonts:
Seth: Pancakes, cereal, chocolate milk, broccoli (yippee!), meatballs under protest, macaroni and cheese, bagels(especially, oddly, everything bagels loaded with garlic, sesame seeds and poppyseeds), chicken, grapes, French toast, corn on the cob, watermelon, turkey.
Jesse: Milk, milk, milk, yogurt, cheese (in flat and stick form), grilled cheese, cereal, peas under duress, raisins, cereal, French toast, watermelon, eggs in various forms, meatballs, turkey,macaroni and cheese.
Kyle: Smoothies, cereal, omelets, hamburgers, blueberries, bananas, apples, cheese and crackers, meatballs and hamburgers, nuts, coconuts, calamari (except when he remembers that it's squid, which I accidentally revealed to him in the Italian restaurant around the corner and will never forgive myself for.)
Pretty depressing, isn't it? And sometimes, even the things they all love pose problems. To wit, pizza: Kyle and Seth will eat any pizza (though they're sure that Tibor downstairs at City Pie changed his recipe recently to a less kid-friendly one; Tibi tells us it's just his lousy new pizza guy). But Jesse can't stomach pizza with red sauce.
So we have to hunt down the places that make white pizza for him. Which, even in New York City, are not all that common.
But wait, there's more to the insanity. Jesse adores the mozarella cheese on white pizza. But he WON'T EAT THE RICOTTA that peppers his slices. So we carefully cut those parts of the slice out before presenting his pie to him. And when we're out at a restaurant, I nibble the ricotta off.
I do. Really.
I can't tell you how foolish I feel just committing that to paper.
The minute variations in what my three ridiculously picky eaters will and won't put in their mouths makes dinnertime a fools paradise in my home.
The peas are too small.Unless they're too big and gag-inducing. The cheese isn't the right color; it should be paler or darker. The smoothie isn't quite sweet enough, but if I add a few grains of sugar too many, it's too sweet.
It wasn't always this way. I remember when Kyle was a toddler, eagerly chowing down on grilled salmon, sauteed spinach and squash, wowing relatives and waiters with his curious palate. I basked in the glow, smug in my assurance that I'd done a perfect job at introducing him to the joys of a widely varied plate.
Ah, but like Icarus, I flew too close to the sun.
And now, hot dogs and bunny pasta reign where grilled asparagus was once king.
And for lunch, I'm making grilled cheese (Jesse), smoothie with cheese and crackers and apple slices (Kyle) and bagel with cream cheese and grapes (Seth). Can I take your order?

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Meet our High Emotions

Emotions run high in our house much of the time, thanks to our three rather excitable boys: Kyle, Seth and Jesse. Hence the blog name. They're excitable in different ways, which I'll get to later, but all three of them seem to me to be unusually highly emotional. So my husband and I, who I dimly remember being pretty mellow BK (before kids), are pretty excitable ourselves much of the time. Except when I'm using my fake-soothing voice to try to calm everyone down. It's amazingly effective, but I can only sustain the forced sonorous tones of "Let's all relax and discuss this in a family meeting..." for a short period of time. A brief description of the trio:
Kyle, 9 years old and hyper-sensitive and hyper-aware of everything around him (sounds, smells, people), except when he's completely oblivious to what I'm saying. Which he always is when I'm asking him about homework, picking up dirty underwear and finishing his peas. On the flip side, the kid can make Lego creations that are twice his size. And he loves his mama.
Jesse, almost 7. Not a sensitive bone in his body. He'll make a great MBA someday. As our babysitter, Juana, likes to say, "I hope Jesse will be kind to the people who work for him." Clearly, she's got his number. Jess, by far the shortest one in the family--which he complains about endlessly--may not be sensitive, but he can whine with the best of them. And his whine? Think of a gnat buzzing in your ear all night. Yeah, THAT annoying. Still, he's got the gift of keeping us all laughing.
Seth, Jesse's twin, is the sweetest of them in many ways. Artistic, creative, loving...all good stuff. But should he lose a board game or stub a toe, it's weepy time. Profound waterworks. And his response to frustration of any kind, from being unable to complete a puzzle to dropping a baseball, is usually "I'm a big loser; I can't do anything right!" Sigh.
I love 'em, couldn't live without them, can't imagine what the heck they'll be like as grownups. But whew. It's a mighty big job keeping all the feelings under control. And that's what this blog is about. I think