spring cleaning


It’s that time of year that the head of any household dreads: the time when winter coats must be packed away, and summer clothes dug out from under the bed. Boots go on the top shelf of the closet, sandals come down. I have been putting off said tasks, not only because they will be enormous, day-usurping undertakings, but also because last week the boys were wearing shorts, and this morning, while waiting for the bus, I was upbraided for not having brought their gloves. April weather is like that.

Still, the time has come for seasonal rotation. Living in an apartment, as I do, makes it mandatory. There is just not enough room for all our shit. Or at least there wasn’t, until now:

Are you jealous? My five year old son is so talented that he spent a rainy Monday afternoon building an additional closet for his room. “Look, Mommy!” he said, once he had hauled the box to an awkward space behind his bed. “It’s a Secret Closet!”

“What’s secret about it?” I asked.

“It’s a secret,” he replied, calmly. I asked for that one.

He asked me to write out “Cooper’s Secret Closet” so he could carefully copy it onto his work. And once we got past our lengthy discussion of what an apostrophe was, he got to work with his markers.

“Look at my Secret Closet!” he called over his shoulder to his brother Fergus, while scribbling diligently. “It’s a Secret Closet, and you can’t look at it, because it’s secret!”

My head was starting to spin from the tautology of his logic. “I want a Secret Closet!” Fergus whined, urgently. Another box was found. Then, each of them put their very favorite toys inside their closets (all the while screeching “Don’t look Mommy!! You don’t see this Transformer helmet!” ) Then, several rolls of tape were used to secure the doors of these Secret Closets. And there they are, still in their room, three days later. Their room has never been so neat. Once in a while I am invited to gaze upon the outside of a Secret Closet, but this is only to reinforce to me that it is completely Secret and forbidden to touch. Apparently, by anyone.

I’m liking this system. The more Secret Closets we have in the house, the fewer Playmobil swords I have to pick up off the floor. Soon, our whole home may be made up of Secret Closets, with just enough floor space to maneuver between them. Bathing suits in one, ski parkas in another. Which is which? Well. That’s a secret.

but a cigar is just a cigar

This is some useful information I learned from my 3 year old son Fergus this afternoon. As a public service announcement, I thought I’d pass it along:

“Mommy. A hot dog? When iss by isself? Is called a SAUSAGE.”

ignorance is bliss

After managing to get out the door each morning to get my boys to school by 8 am, (and having recently made said feat even more difficult by adding a spoon-fed breakfast to Maddie’s morning routine), I treat myself with a Grande Decaf at the Starbucks near the school before walking home. I can always count on a group of regulars like me, other moms from their school, to sit and chat with for a few minutes. I never get out at night, so I figure I might as well get my social drinking done before those with actual social lives have even gotten out of bed. And if I’m in the mood, or a little bit pregmint, I often treat myself to a morning slice of Pumpkin Bread, or a Cranberry Bliss Bar. They’re not even that good, honestly, but it’s fun to have a nibble with the gals. And hey, I’m walking home! 20 blocks! So it’s not a problem right?

Trans-Fatty Goodness

Not so fast, Mrs. Johnson. New York City has recently passed an ordinance requiring any restaurant with more than fifteen locations nationwide, i.e. a chain, to prominently post calorie count and other relevant information for all their offerings, and not just in some pamphlet they keep behind the register. The regulation was just upheld by a federal judge, according to today’s New York Times, and while chains like McDonald’s are vowing to continue the fight against posting this information, Starbucks has decided to play nice and is already in compliance.

And so, when I walked into my local Starbucks this morning and glanced over the baked goods case, this is what I saw:

Chocolate Chip Muffin 480 calories
No-Sugar-Added Cinnamon Scone 410 calories
Iced Lemon Loaf 500 calories

I almost purged retrospectively, right there. The lemon loaf has 500 calories?? I would order that when I was being “good,” and skip the chocolate, and here I was ordering the worst thing in the place! No wonder I gained 40 pounds when I was pregnant. I’m lucky it wasn’t more! Plus they’re probably rounding DOWN! Even the sesame bagel has like 310 calories, and that’s totally lame. The mind reels.

The calorie counts are meant to fight the growing tide of obesity in New York City, and I’m pretty sure they’re going to work. I used to find Starbucks’ sweet treats benign and delicious. Now I find them horrifying, and my willpower is suddenly excellent. I want calorie counts on everything: my sons’ half-finished plates of mac and cheese, my 3 pm handfuls of Pirate Booty, my sneaked pieces of candy from their long-forgotten Easter baskets. If I could see in front of me the caloric ramifications of everything I was eating, I might just waste away to nothing. Or maybe I’d just start going to the non-chain bakery a block away. The one that doesn’t kill your buzz by letting you know you’re eating 19,000 grams of fat in that Magic Bar.

(photo from joelens.blogspot.com. she made those muffins herself, apparently. No actual calorie count, but I’m sure they’re delicious)

when did THAT happen?

Spring has sprung on the Upper West Side, and all up and down the avenues children are tripping off to Riverside and Central Park after school, to visit the many neighborhood playgrounds. The Upper West Side of Manhattan is very high in numbers of both young children and playgrounds; it is a wonderful neighborhood in which to raise a family. That being said, I have never really liked the playground. You have to be totally on top of the kids so they don’t fall off the slide, or the swing, or leave your eyesight for a moment, and while all the other parents are chatting away, I stand there feeling like I’m in the 8th grade cafeteria without a lunch table because I know no one. I have never talked to anyone at the playground.

Wait, there was one time when Laurie Berkner sat down next to me at the edge of the sandbox, and I got all star struck because I mean, come ON, and Fergus was playing with her daughter Lucy and I told Ms. Berkner that we loved her music and she was totally friendly. Super friendly, and that’s all the more weird because no one else in a NYC playground has ever been friendly to me. That was a magical afternoon (I called my sister-in-law as soon as LB walked away and breathed into her answering machine, “You would not BELIEVE who I was just talking to”) but other than that ONE TIME, the playground is not where I want to be.

Still, when the weather was 65 and sunny last weekend, I summoned my mommy reserves and told the boys we were off to Central Park. I hadn’t taken them to the playground since Maddie was born in October, so we were well and truly overdue. Maddie came along and napped in the stroller. Despite the mile-long walk to get there, I chose Mariner’s Gate Playground, which I remembered both boys loving in the past.

Then we got there, and I thought to myself: Who shrinky-dinked the playground equipment?

Cooper and Fergus just kind of stood there, staring at this totally lame jungle gym. “Go play!” I exhorted. They went down the 18-inch slide once or twice, and then said, “Can we go home?”

They used to get a whole afternoon of thrills out of this place. Somehow, in the six months since we had been there, it had become a “baby” playground.

Then Cooper had a great idea. “Let’s go to River Run!” he said. “Awesome!” his younger brother concurred. Now, that was another walk of nearly a mile, taking us back to where we started, pretty much, but I said OK. Why didn’t I think of River Run? I asked myself. They love that place. Then we got there, and I remembered why I avoid River Run at all costs:

The Merry-Go-Round of Death

I kind of can’t believe these things still exist on playgrounds anywhere. They should be called Merry-Goes-To-The-Emergency-Rooms. Every time we have gone to this playground, I have tried at all costs to keep this spinning-finger-breaker out of the boys’ line of vision. And then they see it, and run shrieking over to it, while I run up behind them saying, “Careful! Wait for it to stop! Stand in the middle! No now you can’t get off! Just hang on for dear life it’s too late nowww!” And I stand there, heart pounding, wound up like a spring, until they get bored, and jump off, barely avoiding grave injury. That’s usually around the time some other kid falls off or slips underneath and is whisked away by his or her nanny with a bloody nose.

It’s the big kids, I always told them. The big kids are too rough. The big kids push it too fast. You have to watch out for the Big Kids. Big Kids are the menace of any playground experience.

But there we were, returning to River Run after a half-year’s sabbatical, and suddenly, the merry-go-round was fine! Fergus climbed on without hitting his chin on the metal bars. Cooper WAS the pusher, and kept up a good pace without tripping and falling and getting kicked in the head. I was able to sit on a bench, ten feet away, and just watch. It was an amazing moment. My God, I thought. My kids ARE the Big Kids. When did that happen?

I would have been heartbroken, had Maddie not been at my side dozing in her stroller. Because I still have a baby, I was thrilled that my boys have become so independent. Dare I say it? The playground was actually enjoyable, even though I still didn’t talk to anyone. Once Maddie’s big enough to push the merry-go-round, though? THAT will be a sad day.

we’re famous!

My family has hit the big time: we are on a greeting card.

This is my favorite photo of Cooper and Fergus ever. Last year, when I was doing Mother Load in New York, I was contacted by the hot mamas at Motherhood With Attitude. They sent me a bunch of their fabulous, hilarious cards about motherhood, which were prominently displayed in our lobby. I loved their cards, and their priceless photos of Children Behaving Badly, so much that I sent Janalee and Tiffany the picture of my two hellcats, locked in their nightly death battle. My insensitive mothering (evidenced by my going to get the camera, rather than pulling Fergus off his brother) was rewarded by this moment being memorialized forever on a greeting card, and with a quote from my idol, Erma Bombeck, no less.

Here’s what Janalee has to say about their cards and why they’re making them:

I am continuously struck by the disconnect between what I am experiencing as a mom and what I see in greeting cards and gifts for mothers. Come on! We all sit around at play dates or moms nights out and talk about how hard it is! And yet, all the cards act like we’ve got it soooooo good.

True dat! Check out their stuff, you’ll love it.