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Monthly Archives: November 2010

“We aren’t retake people.”


Last week’s NewYork Times had an article about the legions of school photographers offering retouching of school pictures on their order forms. Of course, I knew just what they were talking about because I checked the box next to “Retouching, $7.00” on my kindergartener’s picture order form. Maybe it was $9, I can’t remember, but before you judge me (as my own sister immediately did), let me explain.

The example shown on the order form showed a teenager with unfortunate acne.  The retouched version showed said teenager with pristine skin.  I thought back to a high school friend with horrible skin and I thought, what a great idea – money well spent. Let me be clear: my son is adorable, you would agree with me without doubt. He is also a lip licker or sucker or whatever it is that he does with his tongue and spit — invariably any time one would want him to look particularly cute, he has licked or sucked the side of his mouth until he has a giant red clown smile. All the Aquaphor in the world can’t fix it. So for $7, rather than worry about whether or not Jake had a “licking episode” the day before Picture Day, I only had to hope that he smiled and remembered to put his sweater back on before the picture. (Last year he removed his sweater and so my son, the little boy with the whitest skin and whitest hair in the whole school had his school picture taken in an almost white turtleneck:   if not for his blue eyes, you wouldn’t even know that he was in the picture.)

Phew, another problem solved , I thought to myself. His pictures finally came and I eagerly pulled them from his backpack, ready to quickly cut them up and send them off to family members across the country. At first glance, they’re perfect. Then I saw the big one (the big photo, definitely not the picture; this is definitely not a big picture issue):  what is easily missed in the wallet size photo is glaringly apparent in the 8×10 — Jake has “crazy eyes” in the picture — like a wild horse, perhaps. Or like the photographer is doing something so horrific that my young son can’t quite fathom it — intrigued and repulsed at the same time.

I quickly emailed my sister the picture for an opinion and she agrees, crazy eyes. I muse aloud about having the pictures retaken on retake day, in another week. She quickly points out that “we aren’t retake people. I mean, really, ” she continued, “I never had retakes, you never had retakes and none of my kids (she has 3) have ever had retakes.”  In order to reinforce her point, she quickly emails me her 16-year old son’s kindergarten picture:  he defined “deer in headlights.” So, two boy cousins, both in kindergarten 11 years apart, with school pictures not bound for the cover of a magazine — it must be a 5-year old thing. I have already mailed them to the grandparents and I can hardly wait to see his picture when he’s 6.

Filed under Parenting
Nov 30, 2010

I still love Thanksgiving


My kids were sad yesterday morning at the early morning departure of our holiday guests (two grown-ups and three kids):  yes, all were staying in our apartment with us! No, we don’t have that much room and yes, I had to buy pillows and blankets because who in NYC has space and supplies for five extra? Anyway, they left early so we had a whole day to re-acclimate to normal life and we all have a little bit of day-after-Christmas syndrome. We’re finished “counting the wake-ups” until the cousins’ arrival, I’m done planning activities and food and worrying that there won’t be enough space.  Ultimately, as far as we are concerned, the weekend was a success: we all wish the visit had been longer. And some day maybe we will have a bigger apartment! (Not likely, however.)

The dads took the kids to see the balloon blow-up on Wednesday night for the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade and the kids loved it. It looked like a mosh pit so I’m glad I could dispatch a spouse to bring the kids;  I didn’t have it in me to crutch through the throngs of people. On two good feet, I would have been game – next time. (Note I didn’t say next year.)

We got up at the crack Thanksgiving morning to get a good spot to watch the parade on Central Park West and again, the kids loved it.  While I don’t need to make it an annual event for our family, I felt satisfied hearing 5-year old Jake say, “Look!” with true excitement at each arriving balloon or float. And little Jenn is still talking about the Hello Kitty balloon, five days later.

Logistics here were important:  three of us went to secure a good spot at 6am and the remaining adult brought the kids along at about 8, for the 9am start. If the kids had come much later, they most likely wouldn’t have been able to make it onto Central Park West as the cross streets were jammed with people who wouldn’t let others through. If the kids had arrived much before 8, they would have been too cold and bored and would have probably needed a bathroom before the parade’s end.  We had a rare moment of perfect parental timing that morning and we were home in enough time to watch the last 30 minutes of the parade on tv. Next time we’ll remember to record it.

The rest of the Thanksgiving holiday included lots of snowflake-making by the under-8 set, the Detroit Lions losing another football game and burgers and fries ordered from the diner  – (although my husband ordered the turkey dinner) – a perfect NYC Thanksgiving.  I’m worried, somehow, that these children of mine are wearing down – first the Thanksgiving Day parade and what next? A Disney visit? I may keep these crutches of mine around for a while…

Filed under NYC
Nov 29, 2010

I love Thanksgiving


In my 20s, my friends and I would spend every Thanksgiving Eve roaming the Upper West Side bars, giddy, drunk and watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloons get blow up. It was a huge party and we wouldn’t miss it.  Of course, we were all too hung over to actually ever go to see the parade the next morning, but we were able to make it to our friend’s house for bloodys and the parade on tv while her mother, Donna, made us all dinner.

In my early to mid 30s, I’m quite sure I avoided the balloons and the parade like the plague, figuring I had been there/done that. We still went to the Thanksgiving hostess’s house for dinner, though she had triplets around that time so our visits were definitely shorter;  even just visiting three infants was so much work.  Then, in my late 30s, I was having kids and was quoted as saying I would rather light myself on fire than take a toddler and an infant to the mob scene of the parade.

Now, at the dawn of my 40s, (and hobbling around on crutches, no less), I’m apparently kinder and gentler. I’m absolutely thrilled to 1) bring the kids tonight to watch the balloons get blown up (without drinking a bucket of beer first) and 2) leave the apartment tomorrow at 6am to get an actual spot to watch the parade. Since we have family visiting, I will lead a few of the hearty to the mid-70s to lay claim for some prime viewing territory. The parade starts at Central Park West and 77th Street and travels south to the bottom of Central Park, down 7th Avenue until 34th Street, and over to Macy’s. The route map can be found here, and A Child Grows in Brooklyn has some great tips here for balloon and parade viewing.

Our hats and mittens are ready; the alarms are set  and with the hard core, will go to the parade. My family’s traditional holiday egg and cheese casserole will be waiting in the fridge to be baked upon our return; the DVR will be set to record the parade for when we give up, and after a busy morning, we will eat and drink with family and watch the Detroit Lions play Thanksgiving football. What could be better?   Hope we see you there.

Filed under NYC
Nov 24, 2010

Another low point


Sunday – 7:30 am.  I’m sitting at the table, enjoying the sunshine almost as much as the half and half in my coffee. I’m helping my son write a thank you note for a birthday present. If you have ever sat in this chair, you know how it goes:

Jake:  I want it to say “Cooper, thank you for coming to my party and for the present. You can come to my birthday party again next year and all the other parties. Love, Jake”

lamemom:  Well, you have a pretty small piece of paper and your letters (in fat marker) are pretty big so how about if we say, “Cooper, thank you for the airplane. Love, Jake”

Jake:  I want it to say “Cooper, thank you for coming to my party and for the present. You can come to my birthday party again next year and all the other parties. Love, Jake”

So on and on we go, writing very slowly and carefully. He asks how to spell the words and I tell him and he writes them and I’m a little ashamed to admit that I was half-heartedly cruising the front page of the newspaper. Eventually, he makes a mistake, mixes up the letters. He gets upset, I say don’t worry, we all make mistakes and markers are tricky because you can’t really erase. Then I hear myself asking him to pass me the paper and I said I could fix it, turning the capital letter d into an o.  But I’m not sure if at that moment, I was offering to fix it to make him feel better or if I was offering to fix it for some effed up reason so he has a nicer looking note, (fully cognizant of the awfulness, here), so it seemed “good,” and not “good enough.”  Was I trying to fool myself? Someone else? Will I be signing him up for a pageant next? (Though with that long blond hair of is, I’m sure he would win…)

Filed under Parenting
Nov 22, 2010

Daughter foils lamemom again


The daughter this morning looked like she had a nest in the back of her head. She’s three and I’m never that pulled together so Jenn with bad hair is not surprising or unusual, though my response was.  This morning, for whatever reason, I wanted to comb that hair and make it smooth like all of the little girls in her class of 3-year olds.  Her hair was even clean, so I don’t know what came over me, but I was determined that it look cute. Again, grain of salt here – I’m the head of the lamemoms. Cute at our house doesn’t mean bows or other paraphernalia (in great part because big brother hoards all the hair accessories), it just means not dirty and brushed.

So as surprised as I was with my hair response, imagine what young daughter thought as I lunged at her with my great big round brush? Yes, I went for the brush so I could quickly yank it through the snarls – a comb would never have worked with fine hair like we have. I tried to trick her into pretending she was the dog by brushing her arms and legs first and then I going fastfastfast at the back of her head.

Of course, we know where this is going. My lady screeched angrily, mixing English and Spanish, “Don’t peine me” and as fast as I got the brush through, she took her hands and  (I swear) started back-combing her hair in an attempt to re-snarl it.  Spiteful. But she was winning and I was furious because at that point I was fighting about hair with a 3-year old and suddenly my pettiness had become about power and winning, never successful parenting strategies.

Meanwhile, the husband was howling with laughter as he re-tied his tie for the seventh time to get the length just right and the son was standing in the corner where I had sent him after he SPIT ON THE FLOOR. (Which definitely deserves its own post.) I got a glimpse of myself (my hair was snarly in the back, too) and my coffee was gone and I put the brush down.  Jenn was still howling and could only be appeased by the husband – who thought he was the world’s best dad when he calmed her down in the elevator. His solution? Giving her his bike helmet. So Jenn, sporting snarls and daddy’s grey Giro bike helmet, rode the M104 bus up Broadway to school. She might have looked a little simple, but if she falls down, she’ll be safe.  And nobody can see the snarls under the helmet.

Filed under Parenting
Nov 19, 2010

Happy Birthday


My son Jake turns five next week and I have spent more than enough time wrestling with what to do about a birthday party.  Or maybe, it’s about how to make him really happy for a few hours – and that’s where I get stuck.

Of course, he wants a party at a NYC sports facility where he went to a party once for a classmate. When he returned, he (and his father) couldn’t say enough about it: two hours of gymnastics instruction, pizza, cake, party bags. What more could one want? Dreamy for the kids and dreamy for the parents – no mess, no baking, no child wrangling.  It costs a bunch – on the low end the party would probably be out $800 – but boy, is it easy: just give them your credit card and you’re in.

If you live outside of NYC — this will seem absurd but remember that we don’t have the back yard you have. Yes, Central Park is our backyard, but carting party supplies 5 blocks and trying to find a patch of vacant grass with a few picnic tables and some bathrooms nearby is different than mowing the lawn and throwing a cooler of juice boxes and beers out on the deck.  And most of us just don’t have the space – our apartment feels it when there are three or four additional people in it; it would implode with 12 more kids. (Or, my husband may argue, I might implode. Regardless, there’s no space.)

So what to do?  When I was growing up, my 4th or 5th or 6th birthday party would have been on a Sunday afternoon and would have included all of my family – cousins, aunts and uncles and grandparents; I don’t remember friends being included.  But we’re transplants so that’s not really our situation.  Some people use the formula: one party guest for every year you’re turning (so Jake would have five friends over), and that feels like a reasonable way to limit. Most people we know have parties for their kids every year, with too many kids, too much money spent and party bags filled with crap. And I’ll be the first to admit – parties are fun for the kids and easy for their parents, especially if there’s a glass of wine in it for me.

Even if I weren’t a little bit horrified by the cost of some of these parties, I might still struggle with it, because where do you go from here? How do we top it next year? Can‘t we make the birthday boy feel special with something low-key and at home? And if we can’t manage this when he’s turning five, how on earth will we ever swing it when he’s – gasp – turning six or eight or ten?

Filed under Family, NYC
Nov 18, 2010

It takes a village


As has been said, “It takes a village to raise a child.”  Never did I know how true it was until I had my son, and then my daughter.  Parenting, regardless of almost everything, is hard, especially when one is doing it without said village. My husband, kids and I live in NYC, far from our families. We are lucky enough to have friends that  our kids call Auntie and Uncle, but for the real aunties, uncles, grandpas and grandmas to be around us, someone (hopefully them!) needs to take an airplane ride.

So we create our own villages — full of friends we picked, friends our kids picked, neighbors we like and dislike, colleagues, strangers and Mr. Evans from the drycleaners.  It is these self-made villages that help us raise our children, consciously or not.  I hope can join your village, and your ours.

Filed under NYC, Parenting
Nov 14, 2010

What you’ve missed