My Costanza Moment

A few months ago, I volunteered to be “Class Parent” at Em’s school. I figured, I’m not busy enough making candy, going to culinary school, and being a pregnant mother. I needed to add something to my schedule. But what?

CLASS PARENT!

So, I volunteered for the job. And for the most part things have been going just fine. (Plus, I get to pawn off my homework onto the kids and make it seem like I’m the BEST CLASS PARENT EVER! Because, what kid doesn’t like cake, cookies and croissants?)

Then the holidays rolled around, and I got the bright idea of arranging a group gift for all three of Em’s teachers. We (Toby and I) figured 20 bucks from each family meant each teacher would get 100 bucks. We thought 20 was a decent amount—not too much, not too little. I sent out an email saying, “Let’s do this! I’ll buy three cards and have an envelop waiting in Em’s cubby at school. Sign and drop off cash. Interested?”

What teacher doesn’t like cash?

The first response I received was positive. Something along the lines of: “YES!! Sounds great. That’s one less thing I have to deal with!”

Awesome.

Then the second one came in. It read: “This is very nice of you! But, listen, [insert daughter’s name] has been going to this school for 3 years, and while group gifts are nice and all, this year I’m opting out. One teacher likes my daughter’s lunchbox, so we’re going to give her that. The other teachers are getting the equivalent in cash. But thanks for the offer! We’re out.”

So yeah. The second response? Not so good.

“Is it too little?” I asked Toby. “Maybe it’s too little. Maybe I should have suggested 30? Or 50! What if they all think this is stupid?”

He told me to stop being an idiot and wait to hear from the others. He then said something like, “There’s always gonna be one person who fucks shit up.” And I calmed down a bit.

By the following day, every other family had responded and everyone thought it was a fine idea. I decided that we would cover that family’s 20 bucks. It’s worth it, after all. We love Em’s teachers.

So yesterday, I gathered everything together, got some C notes and began to finish off the card. That’s when I had a Constanza moment.

Wait! The teachers won’t necessarily know that there was one family that opted out of the group gift. They won’t know I covered her non-conforming ass. OMG, I need to let them know this!

“From everyone but So-and-So’s mom. Because So-and-So’s mom is kind of bitchy and had to go and fuck shit up.”

How’s that for holiday spirit?

WORST CLASS PARENT EVER.

NaBloPoMo: Four Little Birds.

Toby Joe and I have been stressing out about our living situation again. We live in a tiny apartment. We pay a lot of money for a tiny apartment. And the rent is set to go up 200 bucks in December. Between that, the size of the place, and the fact that we’re about to become a family of 4, we’ve been stressing out a bit.

Where do we go? What do we do? Do we pay the extra amount until we figure it out? Do we move? Do I want to move while 8 months pregnant in the dead of winter when our lease is up? Not really. We’re just not sure what to do. We feel stuck and we’ve been stressing out about it.

Em is in school three days a week. He loves it. He loves it so much he wants to go every day and tells me this often.

The school is in our neighborhood. We can walk there in under five minutes. It’s one of the main reasons we feel tied to this area. We are very, very happy with the school. So is our son.

A couple of weeks ago, while I was there picking him up, he came out singing. I didn’t pay it much mind at first because Em is almost always singing something. But it seemed oddly familiar.

“Em, are you singing Bob Marley?” I asked and I hummed a little bit of what I thought it was.

“No. It’s just a song we sing.”

“Oh, OK.”

He continued singing it all afternoon. At the playground, he sang it loudly. It sounded an awful lot like Bob Marley. Had he been singing Bob Marley in school?

When we got home that evening, I decided to dig out some Bob Marley. Only I guess one doesn’t really “dig out” music all that much anymore. No. Instead one fires up the computer that hosts one’s thousands of MP3s. One turns on the Playstation 3 (or whatever), the receiver and the TV. (Wait! What was that? I just heard something from inside the closet! Why, it’s the sound of my vinyl collection sighing! And, OMG! What was that?! The dust made my one-of-a-kind, pink-pressed vinyl of Sonic Youth’s Evol cough! And that’s the sound of me sighing.)

I flipped through the list of MP3s and found “Three Little Birds”.

“Emdash, is the the song you’ve been singing?”

I could tell immediately from the look on his face that it was. He began to sing and dance around the room. I sang and danced along with him. It was impossible not to. Our apartment roared with noise and laughter.

Later, Toby Joe came home from work and I showed him what happens whenever you play “Three Little Birds” in front of Emory. Em immediately began to sing and dance again. Toby Joe started to as well. And just like that, the whole family began to move around our small, overpriced apartment.

“Singing:

Don’t worry ’bout a thing,

‘Cause every little thing gonna be all right.”

This is my message to you: The space we call home may be very small. And it’s most definitely overpriced. We may be seen as a little stupid for putting up with it all, but the sound and joy that fills it up is monstrous.

And it’s just gonna get bigger.

And you can’t put a price on that.

NaBloPoMo: It’s Not The Voting That’s Democracy; It’s The Cocoa.

I voted yesterday. I brought Em with me and we voted together. I thought we’d turn it into “A Thing”. I’d teach him what it means to vote; take him into the booth with me; introduce him to democracy. We’d share an American moment—mother and son.

So we set off at 8:15 AM. But I quickly realized that I had no idea where I was going! (It’s true what they say, by the way. Each pregnancy makes you dumber. I’m amazed that women with multiple children aren’t walking about the place, flinging poo, clapping for shiny objects and laughing at bare walls.)

I called Toby (aka my brain). He isn’t yet stupid from having a second child. He informed me that we failed to update our address. So our polling place was actually a mile or so away.

It was a brisk morning, a scant 38 degrees. And I could have driven but I needed the walk. I mean, I really, really needed the walk. I need about 100 walks. You see, on Monday I had a check-up. I hadn’t been to the doctor in over six weeks. And even my doctor raised an eyebrow whenever she saw the scale. My doctor is a friend of mine. She’s seen me through some of the best times of my life and some of the worst. She’s pretty forthcoming with me at this point. And I’m pretty OK with that.

So I got a (albeit sweet) lecture. Things like, “You should start going on more family walks!” and “How about visiting the gym?” Or (my personal favorite) “You should probably lay off the pastries!”

I’ve put on a lot of weight. Too much. My body is failing and I’m only a little over 25 weeks along. I have trouble walking up stairs. My knees ache. My hips hurt. I’ve got those little purple veins. (Varicose? Or are they different? I’ve been told they’re different from the ones on the inside of my right knee. Either way, they’re ugly.) On Sundays, after standing for 8 hours at school, I feel completely blasted. I remember feeling this way with Em, but it didn’t happen until I was 36 weeks along. I have 10 more weeks before I get to that point! That’s insane.

But I digress.

We walked. I pushed the stroller. I even took the long way to get there, the scenic route through Greenpoint. It was a lovely morning overall. I’m not complaining. Em and I discussed what it means to vote. And I promised him that after we were done, we’d get hot cocoa and hit the playground.

“What’s hot cocoa?”

“Hot cocoa is awesome.”

“I want awesome hot cocoa.”

We arrived a little after 9 AM. There was no line, but the place was full. I was a little surprised at how smoothly it went for me get signed in especially considering I no longer lived at the address listed. But it worked out well.

Some of the volunteer ladies cooed over Em asking if he was there to vote and who he might be voting for. He just nodded a lot, unsure of why we were spending our morning in an elementary school basement.

I tried to keep him apprise of everything we were doing, but it’s hard doing several things at once when you’re getting dumber.

Whenever it came my time to vote, I brought him up to the booth with me.

“See these bubbles?” I asked him. “I fill them in next to the person I want to vote for. And that’s it!”

He nodded from underneath his winter hat.

I filled out my ballot and then flipped it over to vote on proposals.

“These are proposals.” I said. “I’m not voting for people here. I’m voting for ideas or laws.”

He nodded from underneath his winter hat.

“Ok, I”m finished!” I said. “Now we have to go over here and feed it into a machine.”

A volunteer welcomed me up to the feeder that would accept my ballot. “Do you want to help, Em? It’s just like our shredder at home, only this won’t shred the paper—at least I hope it doesn’t shred it!”

“Yes, that would be a very, very bad thing.” Said the volunteer. “We don’t want to shred your votes.”

Em helped me feed the ballot into the machine. We thanked the volunteer and moved along.

“Did you have fun?” I asked him as we were exiting the school basement.

“Not really. It was kind of boring.”

I laughed. “I guess it is a little boring.”

“But hot cocoa isn’t boring. It’s awesome.” He said.

“That’s true, little man. That’s very true.”

_____________________________________

Title comes from a quote by Tom Stoppard. “It’s not the voting that’s democracy; it’s the counting.”

Sunset Tonight.

Tonight’s sunset blew my mind. It wasn’t there and then BAM! It was.

You see, I had a terrible day. This morning I nearly passed out twice a block from home and Em was with me. I had to sit down on the sidewalk and tuck my head between my knees. Twice. And then it took every last bit of effort to make it back home. I’m not sure what Em would have done had I actually passed out. Would he have panicked? Would he have run off? We were on a busy street after all, cars zoom past at intense speeds even though they’re not supposed to. It was early and there were a lot of people out, my hope is that someone would have stopped to help us/him.

Anyway, it was a difficult day.

I also felt bouts of rage at certain points. I found I was ready to pounce on anyone who did something even remotely uncool. The city and its people really got to me today, more so than ever before.

I’m not proud of my role in today.

But then we returned home and I was greeted by this sunset and it took me back and made everything seem OK again.

So here’s to hoping tomorrow is better—that the sunset was a promise of some sort. :]

8.4 Million New Yorkers Suddenly Realize New York City A Horrible Place To Live

Y’all, it’s just me and the kid these days, so time has been limited, hence the lack of updates. I’ll be back shortly. (He starts school soon!) In the meantime, I just had to share this amazing article with you.

It’s hysterical on so many levels, I don’t even know where to begin. Enjoy!

8.4 Million New Yorkers Suddenly Realize New York City A Horrible Place To Live

NEW YORK—At 4:32 p.m. Tuesday, every single resident of New York City decided to evacuate the famed metropolis, having realizing it was nothing more than a massive, trash-ridden hellhole that slowly sucks the life out of every one of its inhabitants.

Scenes From A Movie Theater

We saw Inception last night. But don’t worry, this post has nothing to do with the movie. There will be no spoilers.

It was a sold-out show. This happens frequently in NYC. People still go to theaters to see movies. Theaters are often full weeks after a film’s release date. I love this about living here. I enjoy a full theater.

So, we all hunker down with our popcorn and buckets of soda readying ourselves for the ride, a great adventure. That’s the thing with great films: if it’s good, time stops entirely. Nothing else matters. The outside world is forgotten. The city falls away. The only thing that matters—the only thing that exists—are the people around you and the world you’re about to enter together. This is why I see films. To exit life for a while.

I even love the coming attractions. They’re appetizers, whetting our appetite in preparation for the upcoming feast. If the production company does it right, the coming attractions become a part of the overall experience.

And last night they did it right.

The first preview drops us off inside the lobby of a busy office building.

The typography reads:

ON ANY ORDINARY DAY

OUR LIVES ARE FILLED

WITH CHANCE ENCOUNTERS

AND RANDOM EVENTS

A man rushes toward the closing doors of an elevator. There are four people inside. Another man interrupts the doors with a slide of his hand. Pleasantries are exchanged.

The screen goes black.

We enter from above, through the air vents of the roof of the same building, down, down, down into one of its elevator shafts.

Type reads:

BUT TODAY

EVERYTHING

HAPPENS

FOR A REASON

Suddenly the elevator starts to shake. The lights flicker. Everyone looks worried. Concern grows. The screen goes black. We hear people shrieking. A woman’s, terrified voice says, “What’s happening?” She gasps. No one knows what’s going on. When the lights come on again, her back is bloody. The woman has been bitten. Or so she says.

Someone suggests they search pockets. Trust falls away. The woman grows increasingly more agitated.

The theater—all of us—are captivated. You could have heard an M&M drop. No one says a word.

More type:

ONE OF THESE FIVE PEOPLE

Sounds boom! Lights flash. Music soars! More loud noise! The woman who is bitten lashes out, “Don’t come near me—any of you!”

IS NOT

WHO THEY APPEAR TO BE.

I look over at Toby with a huge grin, a grin that has come to mean, “I can’t wait to see this movie!”

Screen cuts back and forth between blackness and scenes of people screaming, crawling around terrified. More screams. The music builds. Everyone us is silent. Anticipation. Goosebumps.

I think: I wish we were seeing this film! RIGHT NOW!

FROM UNIVERSAL PICTURES

(I’m listening!)

COMES A NEW NIGHTMARE

(OMG YES! YES! NIGHTMARES ARE AWESOME!)

FROM THE MIND OF

M NIGHT SHYAMALAN

It’s as if someone poked a hole in the theater’s collective bubble of anticipation, sending our minds zipping through the aisles like a thousand erratic balloons.

Everyone lets out one long, collective groan. This could not have been planned or choreographed better.

And then, just like someone accidentally farting during sex, the theater erupts in laughter—big, boisterous laughter. The end of the trailer continues, but no one is paying attention.

Nobody cares.

This is why I go see movies.

The iPhone 4 and Its Camera

Sunday is our long day at pastry school. We go from  9 AM until 5 PM but we do get a 20-minute break. Whenever lunch rolls around I pull out my iPhone to check email, Twitter and the like. Well, this Sunday it wasn’t working. The little ATT icon showed up but the 3G icon did not. I figured the entire network was down.

I looked around the room and saw another woman was using an iPhone. I asked her if she had service. Her’s worked. I restarted. When it started up again, nothing worked. The ATT icon was gone as well as the 3G icon. It read “No Service”. I no longer had a working phone.

Toby’s iPhone died several weeks ago. So he’s been living without one since. And that’s been hard for us especially since we don’t have a landline and haven’t since November 2001. For weeks we’ve been using the DM service through Twitter to communicate. (Why not email, I’ve no idea. But it did keep our correspondence to the bare minimum and there’s something to be said for that sometimes. You get to the point when dealing with 140 characters!) So he needed a new phone. He went back and forth on what to get, whether or not he wanted to switch away from ATT altogether or sign another contract. (Toby hates contracts more so than most people.) But in the end, given his job an all, he decided to stick with Apple.

I didn’t really need a new phone. Mine works, albeit rather shoddily since Emory gave it a sponge bath. But it does work.

But here’s the skinny: I need a new camera for school. We were told on day one that we’d need a small, but decent digital camera to document our work. At the end of our time there, we’ll need a photographic resume of everything we bake. I don’t have a small digital camera. My camera is a massive Nikon D200. And since we already have so much to carry with us to and from class (knives, a bag of pastry supplies, towels, a scale) there’s no way I could include that in my repertoire. So, I would need a new camera at some point. And I told Toby this in passing one day. It was such a non-comment, I kind of forgot mentioning it all.

Well, Toby apparently had an idea and his idea traveled uptown and entered my head right as I restarted my iPhone for a second time: my husband was, right at that very moment, buying me an iPhone 4 as well.

(Thank you, lovely husband!)

You’ve probably read all about the controversy surrounding the iPhone 4. And I’m sure by now you’ve heard that Consumer Reports basically said DO NOT BUY THIS PHONE. And they have to; it does have a problem. And Steve Jobs was less than accommodating when it came to responding to the backlash. He went from suggesting the user not hold the phone that way, to offering up free bumpers to fix the problem. Consumer Reports suggested duct tape. Another user suggested buying an Ove Glove. All those perpetually drinking the Apple Kool-Aid responded to the naysayers and critics by holding their hands over their ears and repeating, “LA LA LA LA! I CAN’T HEAR YOU!”  The whole mess was quite entertaining for those of us in the middle.

Straight up: I don’t use the phone part of the phone very much. If I were a heavy caller, I’d probably have taken my iPhone back. But I use it to browse the Internet, check email and Twitter, as well as text people. I’ve used the actual phone application maybe four times since Sunday and thus far I haven’t had any dropped calls. I know it will happen and probably at the most inopportune time, but for now I’m really pleased with my new phone.

A FEW THINGS TO NOTE:

The Screen

The screen is amazing. It’s just beautiful. Whenever the very first round of buyers got a hold of it and my Twitter stream lit up with tweets about the screen, I rolled my eyes. But you know something? They’re all right! It’s really wonderful. So much better than what I had been using.

The Speed and Ease

The applications run so much faster and smoother. I use the New York Times application every single night. I fall asleep reading. At least three times a week for over a year I have complained to Toby Joe about how buggy that application is. It takes forever to load, if it loads at all. It crashes. It crashes the phone itself. It spins and spins and often times you can’t scroll through the article. With any other application, I’d have trashed it on day one. But I like reading the NYT, so I put up with it.

That’s all in the past. It’s fixed. It runs supremely fast. Other applications run better as well. It’s just faster all across the board. No joke. And noticeable for even us laymen.

The Camera

But, guys, the camera. Holy shit! The camera. The camera is outstanding. It will definitely do the trick for class. And I’ve been inspired again! A phone has inspired me to take pictures again. I just want to snap everything I see, which is totally mihow.com circa 2002. For those who haven’t been around since the beginning, that’s how this blog began. I took pictures of my everyday life. I snapped hundreds a day—to an from work, during lunch—all over NYC and beyond. I loved doing that and often miss it. It was super easy to do because I had a Canon ELPH back then. I shot from the hip and most of the time my subjects didn’t even notice me.

Well, this phone has me doing that once again. I’ve taken dozens of shots in the past few days. I just can’t get enough of it. And with the added application Hipstamatic forget about it. I’m a photo-taking machine.

So, yeah. I’m really happy with this phone. No regrets at all. We’ll see how I feel with the first dropped call, but I super pleased with the phone’s camera ability. I haven’t even used the video yet!

That’ll be a post for next week.

For now, I’d love to share some more of the pictures I’ve taken in the last couple of days. I hope you enjoy!

I’m so enjoying this, my friends. And you know there’s going to be a whole lot more of this. It’s like I’ve met NYC and 2001 all over again.

On Soccer Camp.

I am constantly learning new things as a mother. For example, last week I learned that getting a 3-year-old to listen to a soccer coach for three hours in 90+ degree heat is impossible. We tried. I had high expectations, but it went just about as smoothly as Mom and Baby Yoga. The good news is we didn’t end each class lying on our sides, breastfeeding our kids. The thought of doing that in direct sunlight in 95 degree heat makes me want to puke.

He’s not ready to pay attention for that long. I was silly to think otherwise. Motherhood has been one learning experience after another. For example, I’ve learned that the more you spend on an activity, the less your kid’s gonna get out of it. And the more excited you are by said activity, the less excited they’re gonna be. So, should we ever have a second child, that kid’s gonna be ignored until age five or so, particularly where extracurricular activities are concerned. Sorry, kid. It’s nothing but flour and water for you. Maybe some paint. And we might take you to the playground.

(Wait, I’m a second child. This explains a lot.)

But all was not entirely lost. We had two great days. He followed instructions, had fun and we stayed the entire time. I won’t talk about the other three days; the days I had to take him home kicking, screaming and spitting. (Picture Linda Blair from “The Exorcist” only without the company of The Devil. Because, seriously, had The Devil been there I’d have asked him or her for help.)

I won’t mention those days. I won’t start talking about how age 3 is ten bloody times worse than age 2. If I start talking about all the timeouts we’ve had lately, or the fact that it took him 1 hour, 40 minutes to eat pancakes this morning all the while he sat screaming at the table, I’ll never stop talking. Plus, I’ll develop a stutter and start drinking. And I haven’t had a drink in a very long time.

I will say this: the closer we get to three, the rougher our days become. I’ll leave it at that for now. But soon I’m gonna need some companionship, a gentle shoulder to cry on. Because this has been hard, really hard. It’s kind of like breaking in a wild horse, not that I’ve ever done that. But if I ever apply for a job as cowboy, I’m putting this on my resume.

I’m convinced this is why siblings aren’t often 4 years apart. Who in their right mind looks at their husband after a day spent with a three-year-old and says, “Hi, honey! Let’s have unprotective sex so we can have ANOTHER ONE!”?

Anyway… SOCCER CAMP! The last class went off without a hitch. And I managed to get this short video of my boy following instructions, giving high fives and receiving his final award.

So, we won’t be back next week. But we will be back next year. Because the gentlemen from United Soccer Academy who were in charge of these 3-year-olds were amazing. I’ve never met two Brits more deserving of an award for patience. In fact, everyone pooled together a hefty tip at the end of the week to show how sorry we felt for them. A pity tip! A pitippy!

We’ll be back next year—you know, after three is over.

(Three does end, right?)

Channeling Devo? Or Playing For the Dutch?

I am in the middle of a longer post about soccer camp, which we began on Monday, but it’s slow going because I’m slow going (and without any childcare this week). So for now, I’ll leave you with a picture.

It poured today. Em didn’t care. He loved it. And at some point during the rainstorm he put this outfit together.

My little boy has some issues following orders and rules of any kind, but he’s actually a pretty damn good little soccer player! The coach took me aside this morning and told me he’s really quite good at dribbling, uses both feet to kick the ball, and isn’t afraid of getting in the way of it or falling down. But he needs to start following directions. He’s still 4 weeks shy of three, so I’m hoping we have some time to work on this. ;]

Anyway, more on that later! Hopefully with a video.