Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Coco Tuesday

Nothing particularly funny or charming, but we have new neighbors, right next door. Same floor. We share a balcony.
one of them is a five-year-old boy. (The other is his mom.)
So far he's a little shy, but he's already been over and the kids have been there and Coco is very excited about having a friend so close. As am I. This could be great.
Or very awkward.

But I'm aiming for great, which is why I'm taking my time about it and letting them settle in.

Speaking of great neighbors: Hey T-Bone, whenever you get around to it, go to www.playok.com and try to meet me in the gin rummy room. Better yet, go there to check it out and register, then let me know when you'll be there and we can play some virtual gin. Wouldn't that be fun?
The site is Polish, which means that the chatter is usually unintelligible, but what the hey.

Monday, September 29, 2008

More Madge, sort of

She has theater class in school now once a week. It is taught by an improv guy who invited the kids to a show this weekend. So we went, of course. Madge even got to be on stage. She did great, though she basically just giggled the whole time.
But the best moment was when a father and son were on stage. Their task was to watch the improvisers act out their lives and "comment" on it (influence the action) by "yays" and "nays" (indicated by a bell and horn, respectively).
When the actor who was playing the boy shouted out, "I like girls!" the dad rang a bell. But the boy honked the horn.


Madge Monday

Paul Newman, as you guys may know, passed away this weekend.
Since the kids haven't had much exposure to him other than as the voice of Doc in the movie Cars, Madge asked, "Are they still going to make the popcorn?"
Good question.
I think so.

Now the question is which of his movies they might be ready for? I think The Entertainer might be a good place to start.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

names, names, names

Yesterday, Coco had a playdate here with an African-American friend. The African-American bit doesn't really matter except to highlight my, uh, ignorance in the following.

The kid has a baby brother and an older sister, so I asked him the name of his older sister.
The answer I got was "uh-TOE-yuh." He's five, after all.
So when they came to pick him up, I was showing Latoya the apartment and the cat, to make her feel more at ease and not upset for having to come pick up her brother (some older sisters mind having to pick up a little brother from a playdate - no names).
Then, when they got into the elevator to leave the Mom said to the girl that she'd never been called Latoya before.
"What is your name?" I asked.
"Victoria," she said.
Then I asked the little brother to say his sisters name again.


Friday, September 26, 2008


From my anonymous mom, speaking of towel thwapping (I have two older sisters):

Oh, the memories of when you kids were small. Our rule was NEVER, NEVER above the waist, REMEMBER ????

I know that the concern was the proverbial eye-out-poking, but man, was this rule thought up by a woman in the company of women, or what?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

I'd post a picture, but I can't

The neighborhood we live in is great for many reasons, but especially for the quality of books that people discard in boxes in front of their homes for others to peruse.
Sure, there's a lot of textbooks, but you can pick up a Calvino along with Nora Ephron or an outmoded Dictionary of American Usage.
Or Homer's Odyssey.
I've bought a used copy of select works of Alexander Pope and can't decide if the seemingly random highlighting - the previous owner only paid a tiny bit of attention in class, apparently - is entertaining or hindering. So, not wanting to be surprised and annoyed by bad underlining - incidentally, the University of Chicago had the best highlighted books I've ever seen (not that I condone marking up library books, but, man was that stuff spot on) - I flipped through the pages.
And arrived at a bookmark of sorts that was about 3x5 inches and had a name and stats on the back. It was a baseball trading card of sorts, but the stats were all sexual/party girl. So, for instance, there was a 10-star rating system for various types of penetration alongside "backshots" and other licquor-holding abilities. Then I flipped it over and found that it was a photo of a girl kneeling on a bed in nothing but panties, but also with the picture cropped so that the face wasn't visible.

So now I walk really slowly whenever I pass the house where I found the book, to see if "Noel" actually lives there.

Mental Note: Remove all personal materials from books before discarding them on the street.

Mental Note 2: Especially this copy of the Odyssey, which I had to take home for Julie to see.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Coco Tuesday

Last night I perfomed one of special parent no-nos. I imparted wisdom.
Namely, on how to flick towels at people so that the towels snap at just the right moment. Don't use force. Timing and the flick of the wrist is everything. I showed Madge how to grip it and how not to get too close and how to wrap the towel for extra snap.
Really, I just wanted to flick someone with a towel and wanted an excuse.
And I did succeed in making Madge cry a few times, but she got over it because I told her that Mommy would freak out if she found out what I was teaching and that it's a fun secret.
Then we had one of those touch and go moments in which it turned out that Coco is quite a natural at the towel flicking thing and he, in contrast to some, does not cry when on the receiving end of a good thwing-ap.

And Coco's eye is fine.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


First Facebook takes away the fabulous Scrabulous, and now it has redesigned its look, taking away one of my favorite features, the Virtual Bookshelf.
It gave me a reason to actually finish books, just so I could keep track of them there, along with a short “review.” Now it’s gone, and I have to figure out another motivation to actually finish a book. It’s too bad that many of the books that I read don’t provide their own motivation, i.e., to find out what happens, but that lies in the nature of what I read. I can’t help but read books that are borderline homework. In other words, I heard about them somewhere and figured I ought to read them in order to be a well-rounded person. And because I didn’t come to the books on my own – whatever that might mean – it takes me a while to get into them. I know, though, that I need to give the books a fair shake, which means investing some time. The end result is that I have lots of books on my shelf with bookmarks in them.
I recently finished one, Labyrinth: Stoffe I-III, by Friedrich Duerrenmatt. I’m so proud. Ordinarily it wouldn’t be a problem because I love his writing and I whiz through his books. Or, rather, I love his thinking and sometimes make it through his writing fairly quickly.
This one, though, is a little tougher to get through because it is a memoir of sorts. And, being the writer he is, he acknowledges at the beginning that his finished writing presents a certain overview of his life: those parts of his life which he eventually figured out how to put into words. So his memoir is going to be an alternation of unfinished writing (or unpublished, rather, because they have beginning-middle-end yet lack something that lets him send it forth to survive on its own) and a biographical framework explaining why the various non-pieces have nagged at him all his life.

So why am I telling you this? Are you going to go out and read it for yourself? Unlikely. But it’s something to think about.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Madge Monday

I was able to have a rare treat today, some time alone with Madge. We hung out and played cards while Coco was on a playdate. I started to teach her gin rummy, but the two hands we played were unusual in being over quite quickly, so we'll have to try again. She might like it, I'm not sure.
I did enjoy the time, though. It was amazingly quiet. I guess Coco does add greatly to the noise level.
The result of the alone time was that homework got delayed. Finished, eventually, but kinda sorta late. At least she won't have to do it during recess.

Friday, September 19, 2008


After about two weeks of school, I finally realized that I could venture out of Brooklyn while the wee ones get their learn on.
Having read Schjeldahl's effusive piece on the Morandi exhibit at the Met, I decided to see for myself. So I did some shopping, packed myself a nice little lunch (smoked salmon with butter and lettuce on an Italian baguette and an apple, if you must know), and headed off to Manhattan.
I didn't pick up a map to the museum right away, so I wandered around for a while and smacked into the Turner exhibit. A nice surprise, though a bit of overkill since a little Turner goes a long way for me. (And there were so many early versions of the Houses of Parliament fire, I was starting to think he had burned the place down himself.) Also, I had loaded my iPod with 50s an 60s Miles Davis to get in the Morandi mood and it didn't fit with giant painted renditions of someone staring into a light source.
But I did pick up a map and wend my way to Morandi. I think I wasn't quite in the mood since I was more entertained by the people than by the paintings. I generally have a blast when the people take themselves more seriously than the paintings do. But in this case I wasn't so sure; something about the Morandi pieces seemed too precious.
But you're not here to read an art review (too much like a cross between di Chirico and Guston, both of whom I like better - in case you do want one):
When I picked up the kids from school, Coco's teacher told me about a little accident. Something about a finger getting pinched in a door.
And here's my problem with Coco accidents: I'm so freaked out about seizures that when it's not one - as today - I just say, "Oh, phew." But apparently it was bad enough for him to have to go to the nurse and succumb to the indignity of an icepack. (Only people who really know Coco know what trauma this must have been.) And he's been saying that he's not going back to school anymore because he'll just get his fingers slammed again.
Meanwhile, I'm just thinking, "Oh, phew. No seizure."
And at bedtime I realized we had a message on the answering machine: the school's nurse calling about an emergency.
The guilt.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

tough start

Today was a rough morning getting everyone off to school.
And Coco has this little brother habit of pointing out how well he's behaving when Madge isn't. Not that he says that she is behaving badly,

when she says that she won't put away her glass, for instance, he'll pick up his and take it to the kitchen and say, "I'm putting away my glass."
And the worst part is that I want to laugh at the transparency of the whole maneuver, but I don't want to acknowledge him at all at that point because I'm busy locking horns with her.
Putting glasses away isn't a good example, but it could be something as trivial as that.
This morning was a whole different bag.
We made it, but we had to tack a few extra minutes to the process in order to let her face be a bit less red (from crying).

der mitlaeufer - the, uh, goer-alonger

Oh. Conformist is the word I'm looking for.
I've gone ahead and joined the local food coop since I now have more time to try to cover the occasional shift.
The orientation was a test of commitment and a brainwashing session all in one and about ten minutes into the thing I found it very difficult to suppress my giggles. I managed, but the silliness of the feel-good pretentiousness was barely resistable.
Luckily everyone was sweet so it seemed unfair to laugh, which is why I didn't.
And the most endearing part of the presentation was that the guy couldn't decide where to put his glasses, and so they rotated from nose to bald pate to hands to table and back in an intricate dance. Two and a half hours later, I was signed up and ready to shop.
I feel so wholesome I might even attent a general meeting to decide what radio station to play during the mid-afternoon shift on alternating Thursdays.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Coco Tuesday

Coco is such a social animal.
He had a playdate this afternoon with his best friend. On the way home we walked with Madge's best friend and her little sister and Coco introduced them to each other. Properly.
"A, this is my friend B. ... B, this is my best friend A."
He didn't learn that from me, I don't think.

Oh, and then he made a face like a lion and went "Aaaaaaaaaaaaaa!"
So he is still five, in case you were wondering.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Madge Monday

I've thought about getting a tattoo for a while but could never decided what of. Well, I've decided and I got one this weekend. Madge was excited (Coco less so because of his fear of needles).
But she was so excited that she insisted I show it to her friend, whose mom was, let's say, less than impressed. So I had to tell Madge that not everyone digs tattoos and that I got it in a place you can't ordinarily see for that exact reason.
I think she just heard, "Blah, blah, adults are weird, blah."
And she keeps complaining of the weird smell I have because I'm supposed to take care of it with A+D ointment (a diaper rash cream).

Friday, September 12, 2008

Thursday, September 11, 2008


My song of the moment is by Johnny Adams, and it's called "Losing Battle."
Get it from iTunes or wherever. It's great.
I wrote down the lyrics in case you want them. Even if you don't, actually.
Doing so reminded me of one of my better moments as a creator of assignments for a college class in ethnomusicology, though I didn't work it out to its fullest back then.
The assignment is this: transcribe James Brown's vocals to "Cold Sweat," then write no less than 250 words justifying your spelling and use of punctuation.
Extra credit: Make your assignment at least 800 words, but you may not refer to ethnicity (or race) or class or gender or sexuality.

This is meant as an indirect excuse for the lack of punctuation and many line breaks. Listen to the song and you'll hear what I mean.

Losing Battle by Johnny Adams

You know it’s hard
To love another man’s girlfriend
You can’t see her when you want to
You got to see her when you can
You may be fighting
A losing battle
But you’ll have so much fun
Yes you will
Trying to win

-I thought it over
About what I should do
And I found out a one way love affair
Ain’t no good for two
You’ll only be fighting
Ooooh a losing battle baby
But you’ll have so much fun
So much fun
Trying to win

I watched the sun
When it rise
Until it fades away
I have nothing
But sleepless nights
And all I have is endless days

I axed my baby
Should I go away
Do you want me to leave
Or should I stay
She said you’ll be fighting
A losing battle
But you’ll have so much fun
Yes you will
Trying to win

I said
I watched the sun when it rise
Until until it fades away
I got nothing but sleepless nights
All I have is endless days
I axed baby I axed my baby
Should I go away
Do you want me to leave right now baby
Or do you want me
do you want me to stay
She said you’ll be fighting
Oh you’ll be fighting
You’ll be fighting
Fighting a losing battle baby
Fighting a losing battle


Found out today that Madge is tired of Coco always having friends over. To me, little kids are little kids, no matter if they're nine or five (it just occurred to me that I have a "nine and five" job).
But to Madge, little little kids are annoying and she'd rather just have big little kids (and Coco). Apparently, the other day got too panicky for her, when there were three wee boys and one older brother (but still wee to Madge).
I always figure, the more the merrier, since I don't need to be as much of a constant cruise director and more or an occasional referee.
So now we're trying to work out a playdate schedule. They each get a separate day and one overlapping one. Then there are two days "off." We'll see how it works.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Coco Tuesday

This morning Coco reported that bossing your dreams around works.
Who knew?

When I picked him up from school he was upset with me. He pulled me aside and lifted up his shirt. And there it was: an unbuttoned fly. Zipped, but not fastened at the top. Apparently I had overlooked it in the morning and a whole day of near exposure and shame followed.
Nobody noticed, of course. And he, himself, didn't notice until later in the day - presumably during a trip to the potty. But still. It was something to be upset about.

Later that evening the kids had dinner on the balcony since we finally changed the balcony's function from storage to balcony proper by getting rid of bulky Fisher Price toys and Barbie furniture.
Now I just need to wait for more rains so I can scrub the floor without the downstairs neighbors noticing the dirty downpour.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Madge Monday

Coco had nightmares last night and today he went on a cleaning binge, trying to purge our house of every scary thing. This irritated Madge because it involved making her Harry Potter calendar face the wall.
At one point she said to him, "They're just dreams. Just boss them around and make the bad things go away. That's what I do."
And I believe she does.

And I don't think she's seen Nightmare on Elm Street.

Friday, September 05, 2008

school not quite in full swing

Coco had an appointment to go to the neurologist yesterday, the first day that was to be a full day for him. So we got to sweat our heinies off on the subway platforms while the other kids were starting to learn their routine. Oh, well.
The visit was fine, though Coco hardly talked to her. Then she told us that the office is moving, at which point I said that it's a good thing neurology patients can handle new surroundings so well.
And she guffawed. Score one for mister insensitive.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

dance party

I don't know how to do it justice, but...
While Madge had a playdate with her best friend, the little sister was at our place, to play with Coco. She's half a year older, but a grade ahead, but mostly they get along and play well.
As often happens, my iPod was merrily playing away on its docking station and the kids were happily ignoring the boring old-fart music.

Until this song (Xica da Silva) by Jorge Benjor came on and the BestFriendLittleSister started dancing like oh-so-many stoned girls in Golden Gate Park's panhandle. Then Avril Lavigne came on and she stopped. I couldn't believe it, so I went scientific and experimented by repeating Xica da Silva. And, sure enough. She closed her eyes again, had a beatific half-smile and waved her arms over her head while gently undulating. And, to top it off, Coco started dancing, too. Some abbreviated breakdance moves, meaning that he indicated somersaults by kneeling and putting his head down and turning.
And when Avril Lavigne came up again, they stopped.
I wanted to a) laugh and b) get the camera, but I knew both would spoil it.
Maybe next time.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Coco Tuesday

Man, going back to school can be hard work. Mostly, it's readjusting to the schedule. Not easy.
Coco has been saying that he doesn't want to go to school and that he hates school, but last night he couldn't sleep because he was excited about learning to read and write.
This morning, again, he was very eager to learn to read and write.
This afternoon, he was a little disappointed that he didn't learn to read and write today.
Soon, young grasshopper.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Madge Monday

Thanks to the news about Bristol Palin (smart move on Sarah's part: she can't match McCain's age, but at least she can still be a grandmother), the Republican Party has indirectly made us have a conversation with Madge about condoms and birth control.

Answering Reader Mail

My friend Ben, a recent (but not so recent anymore, darn, how time flies) parent, wrote me a question, to which I have several kinds of answers. First, the quick one.

Do you think having a second child has made you a better parent…


… to the first?


Now, the more considered answer. Um. Uh. Well. Hmmm. I guess I’d say, “Yes, but not in the ways the first might understand.”
See, in general I think that more experience is a good thing and makes you better at what you do. But it only works in a straightforward way when you have complete-able projects. As in, the second time you make an omelet you’ll be better at it than the first. But this is more like starting a second banquet after serving the appetizer in the first. And the question is, how does the first meal fare in this process?
Any analogy, though, falls short of the mark, because the question centers around being a good or better parent, and who is to be the judge of that? Child one, child two, partner, self, outsiders? No idea.
Also, there are so many odd factors that are hard to take into account, the major one being the health of family members, which now has an(other) added element of surprise.
But I think the one think I can semi-safely say, in a more or less hedgy way, is that having another child makes you more of a unit. What adjective you use is up to you: self-contained or hermit-like. What I’ve observed in ourselves and others is that a single child is far more likely to be dragged into adult activities because adults outnumber him or her by two to one (or, in the case of a single parent, the numbers are even). And those damn “What to Expect” books play a very authoritarian role.
With a second child, the parental guidebooks remain unread and are seen from a deepened perspective. And the kids now dictate more of the family’s activities.

Anyway, back to my answer. Yes, it makes you a better parent (as I see parenting) to the first because you are more likely to make the first more independent and responsible and allow him or her a bigger voice in what happens in the family. But whether the first a) sees this and b) sees this as a plus, remains doubtful.

So go ahead and have another kid (if that's where your question is headed) so you can finally use all those other great names you came up with but had to discard.