Lasker Pool

Lasker Pool
Central Park, summer 2011

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.