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Interview with an 11 Year Old

Me: What’s today?IMG_7310.JPG

11 year old: My birthday. August 23, 2014.

Me: How do you know it’s your birthday?

11 year old: Well I know that yesterday was August 22 and tomorrow is August 24, and according to my parents I was born on August 23, and because we are in between August 22 and August 24, it must be my birthday.

Me: How does it feel to be an eleven year old?

11 year old: Exactly as it was to be 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1.

Me: How did you spend your birthday?

11 year old: I went to this museum thingy [Sony Wonder Technology Lab] and I watched Guardians of the Galaxy. IMG_7171.JPG

Me: Did you like the movie?

11 year old: It was like a modern Star Wars.

Me: Is that good?

11 year old: Yeah!

Me: Do you think Star Wars aficionados might take offense at that?

11 year old: Why? It’s a great movie!

Me: Was it a good birthday?

11 year old: Yeah! I got a phone!

Me: What do you like to do these days?

11 year old: Computer programming. Learn Japanese.

Me: Can you be more specific on the computer programming?

11 year old: I like to program games in Unity3d. [Note: 11 year old fixed the spelling of Unity3d. Silly me, following the rules of punctuation.]

Me: What are your favorite books?

11 year old: Probably Lord of the Rings, Sparkers, Bakuman [manga].

Me: What are you listening to?

11 year old: Some K-Pop, bit of Hip Hop, bit of electro and dubstep. Martin Garrix, BIGBANG, Skrillex, Macklemore.

Me: What are your favorite things to watch?

11 year old: Big Bang Theory, Silicon Valley, Mad Magazine, Simpsons. IMG_7184.JPG

Me: Isn’t Silicon Valley inappropriate for your age?

11 year old: Yeah. Very.

Me: So why do you watch it?

11 year old: Because it’s funny.

Me: What kind of irresponsible person lets you watch it?

11 year old: My mom.

Me: Sounds like an irresponsible kind of mother.

11 year old: That’s you. You’re talking about yourself.

Me: Hmmm. What do you want to be when you grow up?

11 year old: Computer programer. Game programer.

Me: What are you looking forward to in 6th grade?

11 year old: No freakin’ idea.

Me: What do you think is going to be different this year?

11 year old: I’m going to a new school. I’m going to have to walk longer. That’s pretty much it.

Me: You’re going to middle school and the only difference is you’ll walk longer?

11 year old: I’ll walk longer. I’ll have my own locker with a lock. I’ll have a homeroom and separate classes.

Me: What are your goals as an 11 year old?

11 year old: To get to 12 year old.

Me: Any grand pronouncements?

11 year old: I’m awesome.

Me: What does “pronouncement” mean?

11 year old: Isn’t it like something like saying a big message. Right? Right?

Close enough. Happy birthday eleventh, Doodles!

[This blog post has been approved by Doodles.]

Clean Living the Hard Way

The kids come home this Sunday. Which means time is running out for my husband. Every night we have this conversation:

Him: What do you want for dinner? I can pick something up.
Me: Mega Stuf Oreos.
Him: Indian?
Me: Mega Stuf Oreos.
Him: We could do Thai.
Me: I want Mega Stuf Oreos. I will settle for Double Stuf if you can’t find Mega Stuf [and yes, “Stuf” has just one “f”].
Him: Maybe I’ll just make us pasta.

Why does he even ask me?

IMG_6877And of course, as those of you know me on Facebook, know that Adam and I had a weekend in New York. And while IMG_6911I can assure you that all of Adam’s posts about how inebriated I was were definitely exaggerated (almost), we had a lovely time. We had a fabulous lunch at Eleven Madison Park, spent time with the Tweedle Twins, rode bikes on Governors Island, saw the Degenerate Art show at Neue Gallerie, drank with friends, drank more with friends, drank a smidgen more with friends, and then I was forbidden from having a 2 a.m. “free conversation” in the middle of Cooper Square*, was appeased with pierogies from Veselka, and then felt a wee bit ill the next day.

As a result of my maybe overdoing it on Saturday, I declared this a week of “clean living.” Which Adam has been throwing back in my face. From yesterday:

Him: I can pick you up dinner or make you something.
Me: Mega Stuf Oreos?
Him: Clean living.
Me: Mega Stuf Oreos and a bar of soap?

I cannot believe I haven’t yet gotten my Oreos. I’ve gone since Saturday night (well, technically Sunday morning) with no booze, no sugar, and no coffee (I haven’t given up caffeine; I’ve just switched to tea because I have less of a tendency to overdo tea like I do coffee). And you know what? I don’t feel one iota better.

Bring on the damn Oreos.

*And just so you don’t think that this was some oppressive move by my husband, forbidding me to speak my mind, it was actually the work of my (free speech-teaching, political science professor, baby) sister.

We passed by and I said, “Oh, look, a conversation on comfy sofas in the street!” and the Tweedle Twirp said, “Oh no!” and I said, “Oh yes!” and the Free Convo person said to my sister, “She can join us!” and the Tweedle Twirp said, “No, she cannot!” and she led me away by the arm.

pink booby roomThe next day, I texted her to ask if I had hallucinated the whole thing (as well as the “booby room” in the bar–I asked, “Did we sit in a pink booby room?” and she said, “Actually the boobies were white, the walls were pink.”), but she assured me the conversation on couches in Cooper Square at 2 a.m. were most definitely real. I said, “I cannot believe I missed out on a free convo! Do you have any idea how much I have to say?”

She replied, “Yes, actually I do have some idea.”

As if! Tip of the iceberg, people, tip of the iceberg.

Sounds of Silence

With the children safely ensconced at camp, you’d think there’d be nothing left to annoy me. Ah, but alas, my husband is home.

Cleaning up, he opens our compost trash (the one waiting to be taken outside). Peering, in throws something in, closes it, and then says to me: “Wow, that’s a lot of mold growing in there.”

And then he walks away.

Seriously? Is he new here? You don’t announce mold and then walk away. And saying, “It’s only growing on the avocado” does not excuse you from going out right this instant, I don’t care if it’s raining, and putting the thing in the outdoor compost bin.

The children are at camp. Happily so, it appears. How would I know that it’s happily so? Because both my parents and my brother-in-law received letters from my younger child letting them know how much she enjoys camp. Did I get a letter? I, the one who was ordered to write her every day, even if I had nothing to say? I, the one she cried to all morning before I drove the hour and a half, unpacked her, made her bed, and took all the pictures she demanded? I, the one who scours the camp web site, blog, and Facebook page, searching for a glimpse of her, Adam messages such as, “I’m pretty sure that’s the back of her shoulder near that tree in photo #485.” No, I have not yet heard from that child. Nor the other child, although that’s a bit more expected.

Drop off was not the traumatic experience I was anticipating. Pie and I prepped. “Maybe you won’t cry this year,” I said.

“Oh, no. I’m going to cry!” she responded. We talked about how it’s okay to be homesick but to still have a great time. We agreed it was okay for her to cry, but she should try not to cling on to me. She asked me to contact her “camp mom” and let the counselors know she would have a hard time. I had e-mails and phone calls with the camp mom to give her ideas on how to distract Pie (“Ask her about her cousins. Ask her about dance. Ask her about her crafts.”) She decided we should unpack her brother first (I went solo this year, so there was no divide and conquer) and then take care of her.

And what happened? She couldn’t wait to get to her bunk (P: “Actually, let’s unpack me first.” Me: “We have a plan.” P: “Well, let’s change the plan.” Me: “We are going to stick with the plan.”) She immediately started chatting up the counselors. And then she decided to head over to the camp carnival. She turned to me, said, “I love you, Mom. Bye!” And ran off. The counselor looked at me with wide eyes and said, “I had been prepared for something difficult!” Stunned, I said, “Me, too,” and I ran out of there before Pie could change her mind. So far every photo has a smiling girl (or at least the back of her shoulder looks quite happy). And I’ve seen a not-unsmiling boy (he doesn’t truly smile, but he’s clearly happy in the photos).

So now, I only have one child to deal with (the 41-year-old child). I’m in the midst of catching up on paperwork (grant wrap-ups that were due), planning for the upcoming year (newsletters, Girl Scouts), writing (crazy, I know), photo sorting (oh, but there is a backlog), and all the other wild things that one does when children are out of the house. If you hear crazy noises coming from over here, don’t worry: It’s just me cleaning out the attic.

The Courage of Her Convictions

In early May:
Pie: I think I want to be a vegetarian to protest the treatment of animals.
Me: That sounds good.
Pie: Tab has been a vegetarian for two years because she loves animals.
Me: I know. She’s the only kid I know who turns down marshmallows on principle. So, what do you want for dinner tonight?
Pie: Chicken.
Me: I thought you were going to be a vegetarian?
Pie: Oh, I meant I’d start in June.

Later in May:
Me: So, you’ll be a vegetarian starting in June?
Pie: Yes, but just for a little bit.
Me: How come?
Pie: Because I’m going to want bacon on my birthday.

June 1, early in the day:
Me: What should we have for dinner?
Pie: Steak!
Me: But it’s June 1. I thought you were going to be a vegetarian.
Pie: Oh, I decided that instead of being a vegetarian, I’d just eat more healthy and try new foods.

June 1, dinner time:
Me: I made a kale salad. I made it with no tomatoes, no onions. It’s just kale and avocado, and you love avocado.
Pie: No, thanks.
Me: I thought you were going to eat healthier and try new things?
Pie: You know I don’t like my vegetables mixed.

Pie: Five Guys is the best. Oh my God, I would die without these hamburgers! But their bacon hamburgers are terrible. They tear up the bacon! Such a terrible way to treat bacon!

Where’s Waldo?

I have no freakin’ idea where Waldo is because I don’t have time to look for him, never mind time to blog about it. I don’t know where I am at this point. Despite that I’ve finished both the 5th grade yearbook and the school literary journal, I still have, between now and June 23: four Brownie events (a meeting, a bridging to Juniors, a trip to an animal shelter, and–help me now–an outing to a water park); finish the 5th grade slide show (you would think that by the 40th time I’d run through the movie, I’d stop tearing up; you’d be wrong); volunteer at field day; attend Doodles’s viola recital; host my monthly movie night; attend the 5th grade “Celebration of Learning” (don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t cry); attend a baby shower; get children to soccer games, movie outings, math class, laser craze; and, oh, my darling daughter said to me this morning, “I hope you don’t mind, but you know that trivia bee I’m organizing at school”–my daughter may have inherited a gene or two from me; she went to the town trivia bee, loved it, and she and a friend decided to put one on at the school for 2nd through 4th graders–“I hope you don’t mind, but I volunteered you to help out at it.”

Did I mention I’m rewriting my novel? Because, yeah, I’m doing that too.

So when you don’t hear from me until June 23 (last. day. of. school!!!!), you’ll know why. I owe you some good stories. I’ll make them up. Promise.

The Dangers of E-mail

In our house, the children were capable of earning e-mail once they were in third grade. The thinking is, if they are old enough to attend Hebrew school three days a week, they are old enough to earn the privilege of e-mail. The requirement to get the account is the child must demonstrate the ability to touch type. Nothing extreme. But if they can manage 10 words a minute without looking at the keyboard, they can have the account.

Doodles was motivated. He practiced and practiced and received his account within the first week of third grade. Pie was motivated, but not quite as focused. So she dillydallied. And complained. And said it was “sooooo hard.” And we were “super unfair!” But a weekend with my mom and she practiced and practiced until she hit 13 words a minute. And she has an e-mail account.

Which was fun for me on my trip to New Orleans. I sent the kids a ton of pictures. And they wrote back…

Me, to the kids:
“Pie, don’t look! I don’t want you to have an allergic reaction. Doodles, this was my afternoon snack. Way better than Goldfish!”

And my daughter responded, demonstrating her strong grasp of punctuation and grammar:
“looks yummy were you drinking don’t get too drunk”

And then I sent a picture with the subject, “The Mighty Mississippi,” and wrote: “It’s more muddy than mighty, I’m afraid.”


To which the response from the girl was: “you were in mississippi i thought you went to new warlands.”

Some might agree with her interpretation.

Of course, the boy wasn’t going to be outdone. All over New Orleans, music is played on the streets, in the bars, at concerts. Almost every group had a violin/viola and a bass, so I took photos to send to the kids. I pointed out that even Bruce Springsteen had a violin player. I wrote the boy, “So freakin many of these awesome bands have violin/viola players and upright basses. You guys could totally go rock or funk or blues…”

He wrote back: “I don’t wanna be a musician for a living. If you want me to you might just say hey, heres some ecstasy you wanna snuff it?”

Have I failed as a parent? How have I raised children who don’t understand the concept of apostrophes, capitalization, and an old fashioned map? How have I raised children who don’t see the value of the artistic life? Most importantly, how have I raised a son who thinks the best way to take ecstasy is to “snuff” it?*

Maybe I’ll send them an e-mail and find out.

*Confession: I Googled “how to take ecstasy” and the consensus is swallowing is the easiest method, sniffing it burns like hell, and the most effective way is to, no joke, stick the pill up your butt.

Adventures in Clean Clothing

Our house broke last week. Normally our house has this special feature, in which I place my clothes in a container in my closet throughout the week, and then on Sunday night, the clothes appear on my bed fresh and folded. That didn’t happen last week. I went to pack on Tuesday night for my trip and all I found were stinky, gross clothes.

On a completely unrelated note, Adam was out of town all weekend, not getting home till Wednesday morning.

I had this dilemma of what to do. I gathered the absolute clothing essentials in my arms and then wandered, confused, from room to room. Finally I discovered this strange box in our basement and I tossed my clothes inside of it. Sure enough, a bit later, my clothes came out of the box smelling better. It’s nice to know that this can be done, but I found the process so mentally taxing that I don’t think I’ll try it again.

Of course the entire process was an exercise in futility because within minutes of arriving in New Orleans, I was covered in butter, beer, and sweat.

And now I’m headed back and I
really hope the house is fixed. Because I’ve got a suitcase of smelly and not an extra brain cell to spare to figure out what to do with it.

Carbo Loading

Before every Passover I make a list of dinners I’ll make during the holiday. This year I had quite a nice list:

  • Baked flounder over tomatoes
  • Kale salad with Meyer lemon vinaigrette
  • Cauliflower-crust pizza
  • Cauliflower cous cous
  • Quinoa-stuffed peppers

Which would have been fantastic if we hadn’t ended up eating matzah pizza every night.

This may explain why, when we visited my folks in New York over April vacation, we overindulged in the carbs (but maybe it doesn’t explain–I’d probably have eaten the same way even without Passover just ending). Our first day there, the kids and I started with bagels from Murray’s.

From there, we had a very special lunch at Sugar Sweet Sunshine. (No, there’s nothing other than cupcakes, pudding, and cookies on the menu. Why do you ask?)


For dessert we went to Economy Candy.

And for a snack we had bialys from Kossar’s.
Adam wasn’t with us during the day, but that evening he arrived, we ditched the kids, and went out for pasta.

Luckily, I made up for it all by… well, not exercising. The kids ran around a lot. We are big playground explorers in New York. But as for me, I meandered. And I ate. And I ate a little more.

(And come someone explain this phenomenon to me? No matter how much sidewalk there is–note the photo below–my son is compelled to walk in the plantings. This happens on the walk home from school when the sides are covered in snow, in the rainy season when there’s mud in the side patches, in gardens where there are fresh fragile plantings, in the streets where there’s plenty of traffic. No matter how much I yell at him to get back on the sidewalk, he gravitates toward the sides. This photo was snapped right after I told him to get out of the newly budding tulips.)

So the food intake hasn’t been great. Although I did finally get the perfect Peeps. A friend gave me Peeps during Passover, which I put away for after the holiday. And then the Tweedle Twirp gave me some Peeps. The key is opening both so they are stale. While I can’t resist eating the first box before they get properly stale, by the time I get to the next box (the next morning), the Peeps are perfect.

The Duchess and I have sworn we’ll get back to our healthy eating. We keep track of each other. And we will. Right after I get back from New Orleans…

What I Have to Deal With*

*Yes, I know, that should read “With What I Have to Deal,” but I’m taking poetic license here because it just sounds too snooty the proper way and I’m going to be writing a snooty post as it is.

First, though, I’d like to ask why, given my love of baking and my fondness for my religion, no one has bought me one of these tzizit baking pans (it’s even nonstick!):
Bake Pan
C’mon, people! Get your game on!

Now, to the heart of the matter. As amazingly hard as it is for me to believe, in about two months, my Doodlebug is done with elementary school. Not really sure how that happened, but apparently it is so and there is nothing I can do about it.

We are considering–just considering, mind you–the idea of private school for middle school. Our town’s middle school is a fine school, and if it were Pie who were finishing elementary school, I’d have no qualms sending her there. But Doodles is a quirkier kid who needs different things than what our middle school may be able to provide. He’s asked a number of times over the years to be homeschooled, and while I’m not willing to go that route, I’m open to seeing what our other options are. He’s the driving force behind this and will have a large say in whatever is decided.

The process, however, is all me. Researching the schools, making the boy study for the tests, getting him to those tests, touring the schools, arranging for his visits, getting him to those visits, filling out applications, sending in fees, giving teacher recommendation forms to fill out, having transcripts sent. It’s not a quick process, but to be honest, it’s a lot more time consuming than I had originally thought it would be. So in the morning, when the boy has trouble getting up, and his father says, “You know you’re going to have to be up and out the door about an hour earlier if you’re in a private school,” and the boy responds, “That’s not going to be my problem,” I can be excused from smacking him in the head a couple of times.

His father, though, is not much better. This morning the two of us went to look at a school that is a significant commute away. However the classes are small; the math is differentiated so the boy could be exactly where he should be; they study Latin, which is something high on the boy’s list; they have a 40 book challenge to read 40 books a year in eight different genres; they have a campus on a gorgeous setting in the woods; terrific technology; and class sizes of no more than 15.

Adam and I got into the car to drive back home. “So,” he said. “What did you think?”

“I think there’s a lot to like there, but we’d have to weigh the commute against the advantages of other schools.”

Adam nodded.

“What did you think?” I asked him.

He hesitated a moment, and then he said, “Yeah, it looks good. But…”

“But what?” I asked.

“Did you notice,” he said, “that they were all drinking Dunkin Donuts coffee? I mean all of them! I can’t help but judge that.”

Getting to what’s really important. That man should be the poster child for Starbucks. Meanwhile, I’m not letting coffee selection dictate my child’s educational future. Coffee is a value that should be taught at home, anyway, and not in the schools. And I’m pretty sure I’m not inviting Adam along for the next school tour.

What’s Goin’ On*

*You must be humming Marvin Gaye while reading that, please.

Tell me what’s going on
I’ll tell you ya, what’s going on

My to-do list is a mile long, and while I’ve accomplished a lot, none of it has actually been on my list, so my new to-do on my to-do list is to add all the non-listed to-dos I’ve done just so that they can be crossed out. Only I can create more to-dos merely by doing to-dos. Did that make sense? How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood? Exactly.

The first order of business is I need to acknowledge the events of the past Saturday. Three momentous things happened on March 29. The first, in 1917, the magnificent Thoroughbred Man o’War was born. The second occurred in 1940, when my father, just as magnificent, but not quite so thoroughbred, was also born. The third happened two days ago, on this March 29, when my newest niece, hence forth to be known as Lalune, was born (brother-in-law, do you need me to explain that to you?). I’m sure you too, Lalune, will be magnificent.

The next order of business is to express my love for my town. Our town is run by a Town Meeting (and Selectmen), and my town meeting representative sent out the list of warrants up for consideration. Nothing gives me more pride than reading all of the important things my town is up to. This, my friends, is Article 42 (which means you can imagine how spellbinding the first 41 are!):

To see if the Town will vote to restore the phrase “Birthplace of Uncle Sam” on all applicable
town stationery, to appropriate funds not to exceed $500.00 for this purpose, to be implemented as
current supplies are exhausted; or take any action related thereto.

Personally I’m much more fascinated by this than I am of the consideration of rezoning for medical marijuana dispensaries.

Next, let’s turn to my son. Oh, my charming son. First off, my son has an e-mail account. We gave it to him in third grade after he had proven he could touch type. Note, the girl is now in third grade, but she refuses to learn to touch type, so she is e-mail-less. This causes many fights and tears. Learn to freakin’ type, girl!

Anyway the condition of the e-mail account is that I get to see every e-mail sent. It’s a Gmail account, so all e-mail is forwarded to me as well as appears in his account. I have the right, on demand, to see any outgoing e-mail I would like. So far things have been going well, and he’s proven to be responsible with his e-mail account.

Recently he’s decided he wants to build a web site with a friend. Adam set up a domain for him. The boy was testing out the e-mail (an info@ address that is forwarded to his Gmail account), but they weren’t getting through to him. They were coming to me, though. In one of them he wrote, “YOLO.” He was at the computer in the front room and I was on my laptop in the kitchen, so I yelled to him, “Do you even know what YOLO means?”

If eye rolling had a sound, he made it. “No, Mom! No one knows what YOLO means.”

“Huh, that’s funny,” I said. “Because I do.” I educated my son on YOLO [you only live once]. Do I get thanks? No. What I get is:

Boy: I can’t figure out how to make the e-mail work.
Me: Well, what seems to be the problem?
Boy: I’ll just wait for Dad.
Me: Why don’t you explain to me what the problem is?
Boy: Mom, it’s okay. We can wait for Dad.
Me: I had a computer before your father was born! [Perhaps a slight exaggeration?] What the freak is wrong?
Boy: I think we should wait for Dad.
Me: AAAAARRRRRRGGGGG! I can fix this too, you disrespectful dolt! [Or something to that effect.]
Boy: Okay, okay! I’m sending e-mails but they’re not going through.
I fuddle a moment with his computer.
Me: Do you think it’s because you’re sending and receiving at the same account?
Boy: I’m not! It’s the Web site and Gmail.
Me: Yes, but they both end up in Gmail.
Boy: Huh, maybe.

And that’s when my boy screwed himself.

Boy: Yeah, Mom, you were right! That was the problem.

I looked in my e-mail. And there is was. An e-mail forwarded to my boy. From my boy. FROM A SECRET E-MAIL ACCOUNT! I checked with Adam. It was unauthorized. And now I am ALL OVER that boy’s computer. Secret e-mail accounts MY ASS! He just guaranteed I monitor his every computer move from now until he’s fifty.

And to end this all, my dear friend Lady Chardonnay directed me to this fabulous site of Classic Children’s Books Retold for Adults. And so I leave you with a heartfelt tale from Frog and Toad.

Ta ta.