Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Jingle bells, something smells

Sunday marked the beginning of the true Christmas season. That time of year when I head to the garage and pull out a mass of tangled lights and extension cords to decorate the outside of the house.

Each year, as I listen to one or both of the kids tell me they want to "help" (to which the only logical reply is one our own parents used: "If you want to help, go away."), I try to remember who took the lights down the previous winter. Because they're inevitably a tangled mess just chucked on top of the tubs of our indoor Christmas decorations. There's no HGTV-style organization to it. No heavy-duty twist-ties. No lights wrapped around Martha Stewart-esque circular things to keep them from tangling like creeping vines.

Since I can't believe that I could possibly just whip hundreds of feet of lights on top of the tubs, I always assume Mike did it. In a clinically insane way, it makes me feel better. Because I don't want to think I'm the one who makes this mess for myself every year. I NEED to be able to blame Mike.

Also, he's a legitimate suspect. Because I actually SAW him chuck the lights into the garage one March (yes, three months after Christmas) a few years ago. It was raining and he was fed up with looking at them and so he handled it in the calm decisive manner a lot of men do: "When are these lights gonna get taken down? It's practically spring!" Me: "Well, they've been buried under snow for the last two months, and now it's raining. I'm not dealing them now." Mike, "Well, I'm sick of looking at them." I told him to wait until it stopped raining, so he could take care of them calmly, wrap them from elbow to palm and tie them with a giant twist-tie thing. But no.

So, each year, I blame him for the aggravation that is the lights.

Ryan was with me as I started the process. Leaves had to be raked. Some plants had to be cut back. This was all boring to the him. He needed snacks, his bike, more snacks, drinks. Of course, this always speeds up the light process.

Meanwhile, Cara decided to invite her friend A. over. And it went (as it usually does) something like this: A. walks up to the house. Ryan follows her inside. Countdown....5, 4, 3, 2, 1--Cara starts screaming at Ryan to leave them alone. Ryan starts crying shamelessly and comes to tell me Cara a) hit him, b) called him a bad word, or c) took his snack away. Cara comes flying out to scream that she didn't do any of the above and A. is (surprise, surprise) agreeing with her. And I'm standing in a tangle of lights. Eyeing the car. And wondering how far I could get before someone sics family services on me.

Within 15 minutes, Cara and A. announce they're going to A.'s. Ryan starts wailing, "I'll miss Sissy!! Noooooo!"

Cut to Mike at the Jets game: "Hey guys, what's good at the buffet this week?"

The girls left, Ryan and I got the lights up, and I still hadn't resorted to drinking. Boo-yah. Since I can never figure out the light timer, though, I figured I'd have Mike handle that. When I brought it up with him, he was like, "You just have to do this and that (translation: blah, blah, blah)."

That's when I reminded him that "The Setting of The Timer" is his contribution to our Christmas decorating.

Happy %#! holidays.

--Catherine Schetting Salfino

Monday, November 29, 2004

A Gobblin' We Went

I can't believe it's been two weeks since I last posted, but there's nothing like a couple of school Thanksgiving parties, "real work" deadlines, a national holiday and a virus/possible food poisoning incident to throw things off.

Luckily, the "food poisoning" hit Mike, not me. Because, if it had hit me, there would have been no turkey on the table for Ryan to not eat.

Seriously, Mike woke up in the middle of the night on Thanksgiving sick as a dog. We had plans to go to the Macy's parade and I told him we'd just bag it. He was like, "Just let me rest here on the couch," in the basement, watching TV. It was 4:30 in the morning. At 6:30, he still was not doing well, but some dad gene thing kicked in, and he said, "We're going."

By 7:30 a.m., we were on Broadway--standing. Three deep in a crowd. Without folding chairs, which the Macy's web site said were not allowed, but I guess if 8 million people on the parade route bring them (and they get there at 5 a.m. to do so), what are the cops gonna do, bust 'em all? "Okay, granny, move it out. Arthritis, arshmitis. The chair's history."

So Mike, afflicted with some sort of stomach disturbance, had no chair. Or a bathroom within two blocks. But, he did have a Coke, so all bases were covered. When the parade started, the people in front of us invited Cara and Ryan to stand up front with their kids. It was a terrific offer, so hat's off to the people from Poughkeepsie. Cara hopped up there and had a perfect view of everything--the floats, the bands. She was high-fiving the clowns.

Ryan, meanwhile, must have been harboring fears that if he went up front, we'd finally get our chance to go out for a ride and never come back. He preferred to stay by us and see the back of everyone's butt (he's a short 4-year-old), rather than see everything up close standing by his sister. With us four feet behind him. But, hey, we gave him a break--he is a pre-schooler. So we ended up taking turns breaking our backs and arms holding him. Until Mike literally just couldn't stand anymore and went back to the car. When the parade ended, we came back to find him shivering in a hot vehicle. (It was 65 degrees in NY on Thanksgiving.)

So, Mike spent the rest of Thanksgiving in bed with a fever, chills, and a major league stomach ailment that doesn't need any further explanation. He blamed it on a bad hamburger from the night before. It was believable. Hey, the "Supersize Me" guy barfed out his car window before he even finished his meal.

Cut to Saturday night. I got together with friends from high school and we shot the breeze well into the night. I came home only to find Cara awake--with a fever. And chills. And a headache. And she didn't eat no burgers, neither.

It's not baseball season, but I'm currently waiting to catch the fever.

--Catherine Schetting Salfino

Monday, November 15, 2004

Dealing with these yo-yos

Yesterday was one of the mellowest football Sundays yet.

It started with a pool party given by one of Cara's classmates. Mike was going to the Jets game, so Ryan was coming along to the party, too.

The party was held at a hotel, and the kids got to swim in the pool for an hour and a half. I didn't bring Ryan's bathing suit because I didn't know if any other parents were staying, and then, if I did stay, if Ryan would be allowed in with the other kids, who are all 9 or 10.

After the kids were swimming for about a half-hour, the birthday boy's mom realized Ryan wasn't in the pool and said he should feel free to jump in. I told her I didn't bring his suit, but I could run home and get it--if Ryan wanted to go in. That began a happy little repartee between me and Ryan.

The birthday boy's mom asked if he wanted to go in. He shook his head no. "Are you sure?" No. But he didn't want to watch the kids swim either. Meanwhile, a friend I haven't seen in years, but exchange Christmas cards with every year, walked in with her family. We were busy catching up poolside, and Ryan wouldn't stop climbing on me, standing on my feet, covering my face with his hands. The kind of stuff you think ends when they're two-ish. He was bored. I said, "Let's go get a drink for you."

So, no sooner do we get into the party room, and he announces he wants his bathing suit. "Are you sure?," I ask him. "Yes, I want to go swimming." We go to get our coats, and he says, "I don't want to swim. I want a drink." Heh?!

Whatever, we get him an iced tea and a couple pretzels. We were shooting the breeze with the birthday boy's dad and grandma, when Ryan announces, "I want to go swimming." Time's up! Because, when you're a parent, you realize that this back-and-forth business is a game. I could see us leaving the party, getting his gear, getting him changed, and then him deciding he wasn't going to go in after all. For once, I wasn't falling for it. And frankly, even if I had brought his suit, chances are he would have pulled the same thing. He enjoys the challenge.

Cara had a terrific time. Swimming is her favorite sporting activity, hands down. She's like a fish and never wants to come out of the water. But our hosts had a lot of food and the birthday cake waiting, so the kids had to dry off. Since Ryan had eaten two pretzels and a chip, he was waaaaay too stuffed to eat lunch.

Meanwhile, Cara and her crew decided to delve into all manner of gustatory exploration--pizza with potato chips on top, pizza with french fries and ketchup. We parents kept our distance--it was safer for everyone that way.

The party wrapped up with a SpongeBob cake (mandatory cartoon character for 2004), and a yo-yo ball for each child. If you haven't seen one, this is a toy where a ball is attached to a retractable string with a ring on the end. You put the ring on your finger, throw the ball, and "It's the yo-yo that always comes back." Kids love 'em. Parents like them, because you don't have to re-roll the string with every yo-yo attempt, which could be about 30 times in two minutes.

Cara got a yo-yo ball, and then saw a kid with a purple one. Purple is her favorite color. "Just keep what you were given," I said. "But I want purple." She asked the kid to trade, but it was a no-go. "Can't I just see if there's another purple? I didn't open mine yet."

This is such a touchy situation for a parent. You don't want your kid to be or seem ungrateful, yet they're not asking for the world either. The mom was walking by with her bag of yo-yos, so Cara asked, "Do you have a purple one instead?" The mom was like, "Let me see. Oh, sure." Moms just want the kids to be happy. I was relieved.

Then, everyone started opening their toy. But Ryan's was in the kind of clear packaging that requires plastic explosives to open. The birthday mom heard me tell Ryan to wait until we got home to open in, and she came over with the bag again. "I'll give him one that he can open now." So she handed him one with a black bat design. I knew we already owned a yo-yo ball with a black bat design, but I didn't know if it was Cara's or Ryan's. The mom had already been nice enough to give us two exchanges, I didn't want to say anything else. She ripped open the package, handed it to Ry and moved on. He gave it a look and said, "I have this one at home."

Lord, help me. "I want the red and black one again. I'll just hold it until we get home," he said. I swear, it's too much. I could have started hissing at Ryan to be grateful, or just yanked him out to the car where he'd scream all the way. These were the options I was running through my head--anything but ask this really nice woman for yet ANOTHER exchange. "If it means that much to you, you ask her," I said to my brave four-year-old. "YOU COME WITH ME!," he yells.

In the end, he got a red and black yo-yo ball that could be opened at the party. The mom was super nice about the multi-exchange program we were on.

Ryan loves his new yo-yo ball so much, he slept with it next to him last night. And that's why, at not-quite-7 a.m. this morning, he mounted a search to find his old black bat yo-yo. H....E.....L....P.

--Catherine Schetting Salfino

Monday, November 08, 2004

Halloween Candy at the Christmas Show

That's right, I brought Halloween candy to the Christmas Spectacular at Radio City yesterday. Why were we at the "Christmas" show before Thanksgiving? Well, why not? By the way, next week we're exchanging valentines.

But yes, Mike and I have plowed through all 27 pounds of Ryan's Halloween chocolate (how fortunate for us that our son gets a rash when he eats chocolate--so he just leaves it for us. ...My diet starts tomorrow....)

Cara, meanwhile, has stuck her stash in a covert location--that I'll probably uncover sometime around March, which will be really appetizing. Nothing like a Baby Ruth covered in white film.

But, back to yesterday. I took Cara and Ryan to see the Christmas Spectacular with my friend B. and her daughter. Mike had the day to himself so he was happy. And the kids loved going to a big New York show.

Considering we're eight miles from New York, and the show was at 4 p.m., we really should have been able to leave here at 3:30. But, we live eight miles from New York and know better. We left at 2:15. And got to our seats at 3:59. I heart NY.

Ryan saw a twirling light toy on sale in the lobby as we were racing through. The begging began. I told him if he was really good, I'd get it for him after the show. He must have really wanted the twirling light thing, because he was pretty perfect. Of course Cara and her friend were, too. But you expect a 9- and 11-year-old to behave at a Broadway show. You expect it, but you don't always get it.

Take the crew in front of us. Three girls that looked to be about 12 started dive bombing into each other during the last half-hour of the show. Their "Poppy" just patted them on the arms in a strapping effort to calm them down. I swear, if Cara ever pulled that, she'd be watching the rest of the show on a mental tape that she conjured in her own imagination. At home. In her room. There would be no rest of the show! Shushing loudly had no effect. B. and I were like, "They think they're in their living rooms!" But, if Cara did that in our living room she'd be sent to her room. Yes, we got the usher, but the girls were quiet during that in-depth millisecond that he looked at them. Plus, there wasn't much time left in the show at that point, so his attitude was, what do you want me to do? I don't even want to get into what the three- and four-year-olds next to me were like. Let's just say, they don't know what the purpose of a seat is, and to them, inside voice/outside voice, live show/video--what's the difference?

Whatever, Ryan was thrilled with his twirling light toy. When he passed other kids on the street that had them, they'd point the lights at each other like midget aliens. Of course, his light was only amazing until Cara bought a souvenir light-up glass block sculpture thing for $5 (or, figh dallahs, in New York parlance) from a street vendor. Then, he launched into his "no fair" portion of the outing. Which lasted until I said I would call Mike and tell him to come get Ryan and take him home and he wouldn't be allowed to eat out with us. (Hey, to a four-year-old, it's a possiblity.) Problem solved.

B. and I decided to eat in the city. But NOT at TGI Friday's or Applebee's or Olive Garden!! You're in NYC! The greatest city in the world with some of the most interesting restaurants in the world. Why would anyone GO to these places?!? You can't blame it on kids. Because my son subsists on five items of food--and we can take him to any kind of restaurant--because they all have something he'll eat. A Chinese or Thai place--get him a bowl of noodles ("It's Chinese spaghetti, Ry."). Indian, give him rice, peas and naan bread--maybe force him to eat a couple bites of tandoori chicken. Under NO circumstances do you set foot in an Applebee's IN NEW YORK CITY!!!

B. got the idea to go to Ellen's Stardust Diner. It was a great idea on multiple levels: 1) It wasn't stratospherically expensive, 2) it has a kids' menu that included pasta, and 3) it was a place that WE all could enjoy, but that Mike would never set foot into in a million jillion years. Why? The wait staff takes turns belting out tunes on a portable mike as they roam between the tables. And not just show tunes. One waitress gave us her rendition of Pat Benatar's "Hit Me With Your Best Shot," (had Mike been with us, he would have been making a fast break for the door at that point). A waiter skipped around to "Under the Boardwalk." The kids dug it. The food was decent. And you can't get that brand of restaurant in Iowa.

We headed home (more traffic!), and called it a night. Cara said it was the best day ever and proceeded to fall into a heavy, happy sleep. Ryan took his light up toy to bed, and proceeded to get me up four times during the night. The bright lights of the big city were just too exciting.

I'm going to take a nap now.

--Catherine Schetting Salfino

Monday, November 01, 2004

Adieu, Halloween 2004

Well, except for the sugar buzz and the sick feeling I got after eating about a dozen or two mini, bite-size, fun-size, "The whole thing fits in your mouth in one pop so it doesn't really count unless you eat four of them-"size candy items, I've fully recovered from yesterday: Halloween football Sunday.

To make up for the heavy confection consumption, I had only coffee for breakfast (that's right, I had two Butterfingers and a Twix when I woke up--hey, they're fun size). Since my physical being isn't used to a sugar assault that early in the morning, and the coffee wasn't being absorbed by anything but sugar-coated sugar, I felt like a listing boat until about noon, when I downed some bat and pumpkin pretzels to settle my stomach. Then Mike gave me half of his chicken and mozzerella hero with hot peppers--that worked wonders for my system.

To make up for the big lunch, I had Shop-Rite sushi for dinner, with just-add-water miso soup. Since--shockingly--none of it was very good, I had a couple M&M mini packs and another Butterfinger to make up for my deprivation. Before anybody gets the urge to dial 911 on my behalf, might I remind you that these are FUN sized.

Halloween, needless to say, rocked. Of course, we had the usual fun before we left to trick-or-treat:

Ryan: "I want to get candy now!"
Me: "Nobody's handing out candy at 8:30 in the morning! Get back in the house!"
Cara: "When ARE we going trick-or-treating?"
Me: "When you finish your poster project that's due tomorrow."
Cara: "I don't want to go to school anymore."
Ryan: "Can I do a poster project?"
Me: "When you're in fourth grade you can."
Ryan: "Can I see her poster...."
Cara: "He's TOUCHING my poster!! Maaaaahhhhhm! STOP HIM! You little brat....!"

Oh, it was warm and fuzzy.

We also carved our pumpkins before we went out. This was Cara's first year carving the whole face out herself. She used the little carving saw that comes in a kit (I'm not THAT bad of a mom to give her a Henckel), and it turned out very well.

The kids put on their costumes--Ryan was Batman, Cara was Franken SpongeBob, and we got the show on the road. We didn't light our pumpkins because it was still broad daylight.

We went around trick-or-treating with my friend Barbara and her daughter. The kids sprinted from house to house like bats out of hell, and then needed to return home to dump off about 20 pounds of candy before resuming their mission. This is when I noticed one of our pumpkins was missing its lid, and there were little chewed up bits of pumpkin all over the steps. A rogue squirrel was boldly tearing up our Halloween decor!

Mike had been handing out the candy (believe it or not), and when I pointed out the squirrel vandalism, he looked up from the TV and said, "Hey, I'm dealing with candy, I'm watching the games--I can't do everything." A second later, he made a mad bolt for his basement retreat--as if we were back for the day. We'd been out for about an hour, it was 4 o'clock-ish, so, of course, I needed a caffeine infusion. We gulped down some coffee before heading out again. When I called Mike back up after 10 minutes to continue his candy duty, he appeared to go through the 12 stages of loss.

We hit up as many houses as we could on our way to my friend Annie's Halloween party. It took us another 45 minutes to get there. She lives about four blocks away. The problem with kids is, they get a little crazy on Halloween. They think EVERY house is worth a shot. Barbara and I were like, "GUYS! There are no decorations, no pumpkins on the porch, the lights are out and the shades are drawn. These are internationally known signals that scream, 'NO CANDY HERE!!' Stop wasting time and move on." But they're kids, and they have energy. They blithely ran up to the House of the 49 Steps. We were yelling from the sidewalk, "You're nuts. There's no car in the driveway. There are too many steps. Why are you bothering?" They came away with three treats apiece. They were like, "Jackpot. Losers."

We got to Annie's house, and the party was in full swing. Her logic on Halloween is, whoever is trick-or-treating can come in for food, drink, snacks. She and her husband John had the football games set up in the garage--chairs, tables, TV. The deck was bustling--the grill was going with steaks, which, inconceivably, weren't crisped, despite 50,000 people milling around, 100 different conversations distracting the chef--who's day job is that of a lawyer, not a short-order cook--a jillion kids underfoot looking to scare up a juice box or ice pop, and--and this is a biggie--the chef is Irish and he was right next to the bar area. (Mike's Note: Cath's Irish so she can say this.)

Annie approached us with her usual greeting, "Where've ya been? Whaddya want to drink?" This is how it goes at her house. Complete strangers leave her place weaving down the sidewalk, wondering who she is, where they've been and how the hell to get home.

After nearly two hours of wandering the streets of town, I was happy to kick back. But first Ryan needed an ice pop from inside--he doesn't care that the freezer isn't his own--he just goes for broke and starts yanking on the door; someone's child needed a costume change and for whatever reason, I fit the bill as helper; and a pine cone-throwing episode needed kiboshing. Finally, I got my wine, I went to sit at the deck table, saying, "Good, some real food, as opposed to candy," and someone said, "She's got a buffet going inside." Sure enough, for those of us who didn't kill our appetites on Halloween handouts, Annie and John had a spread going that could rival lunch at the Jets' training camp.

Of course my friend Sharon, who has lost about 30 pounds since June, putting her at a size 4 (if she asks me one more time if I think her arms look scrawny, I'm sluggin' her) only nibbled on some of her daughter's mac & cheese. "I'm quite full, actually," she says constantly, with her British accent. Which we all take to imitating once we've had enough to drink. Any strangers that wandered up Annie's driveway must have thought they stumbled into some weird Monty Python moment:

Sharon: "Do you think my ahms luk scruhlny?"
Us: "Dooo yew thank me ahms looook SCROWNY?! Do y' thank my yaaahrms looook scrouwny?" 
Strangers: "Holy cripes." They'd get their drinks and get the hell out.

The rest of us, we just poured ourselves another one, ripped open more candy to keep the kids humming and proceeded to shut the place down.

Well, I have to go now...I just noticed a half-eaten Baby Ruth that Cara left out. ...It's FUN SIZE, leave me alone.

--Catherine Schetting Salfino

Monday, October 25, 2004

Spooky times

Yesterday marked the not-even-halfway point of the 2004 NFL football season. To hail this non-event, we made a ceremonious visit to a pharmacy I shall refer to as Rong-Aid.

It went as it usually does: You go to pick up your prescription, one that you get every month for seasonal allergies, and it's not there, as usual. They ask your name, when you brought/called the prescription in, they check the computer. Calls are made to John Ashcroft to see if you really qualify for seasonal allergy medication or if you're just busting America's chops.

For the first 10 minutes at Rong-Aid, your kids are hopping around like Mexican jumping beans, from blue tile to blue tile across the floor of the store. Then they enter the, "What's taking so long?" portion of the visit. After five minutes of that, which ends with a lot of teeth-grated threats by the adult, the kids proceed into the, "He's touching that!," "She's pushing me!" experience. After LOUD admonishment by the parent, given to hopefully embarrass the children into behaving, they graduate to the "Can we get this--we'll share!" phase. That lasts for the remainder of the adventure. Of course, by the end, they usually DO get something because the parent, who has just dealt with at least two pharmacy personnel and multiple health insurance provider personnel via phone, is battered and broken, and a box of Fruit Roll-Ups just doesn't seem so bad, after all.

Yesterday was a low-key football Sunday, full of fun with Lincoln Logs--Ryan: "These are boring, Mom!! Can't you just get batteries for the SpongeBob video game?!?"--playing with puzzles--Ryan: "I'm done. You do the rest. And why don't you get the batteries for the SpongeBob game?!?"--and reading stories to Ryan--Ryan: "It's not nighttime. And I'm not tired for a nap. Buy batteries for the SpongeBob game!!!" Really low-key.

Cara, meanwhile, "worked" on a school project that's due Thursday. When I reminded her that she pretty much didn't do anything meaningful (read: anything) for the project, she informed me she had PLENTY of time to do it. And she would. Right after "Lizzie McGuire." And "Even Stevens." And "Halloween Town Part Quattro." All the Disney programming she can't cram in during the week. The TV got turned off and I left her typing up the 10 facts for her project while Ryan and I went shopping for new pants for him. At age 4 1/2, he's outgrown his size 3 pants. Whooda thunk it?

Anyway, upon our return, the TV was back on. Cara typed her 10 facts. "I'm done for the day," she announced. With two parents working at home, she's picking up on the workplace lingo. Next she'll be telling me what's do-able by Thursday.

The reason we didn't have a big day planned yesterday was because my bro Joe and his wife Jen had a Halloween party Saturday. For two people who don't have kids of their own, they sure know how to keep the little troops happy. There was a giant moonbounce thing on the front lawn when we got there. "All the juice boxes, soda and water bottles are in the cooler on the patio," Jen announced. Since all the parents were either inside or out front by the moonbounce, that meant UNSUPERVISED DRINK CONSUMPTION!! What every kid lives for.

After a while, Jen broke out cases of sidewalk chalk and bubbles with wands. Wait a minute! It's dawning on me now (I'm so fast...) these were all OUTDOOR activities. Joe and Jen have a newly furnished NEW HOUSE. AaahHA. They ain't no dummies! But, considering we don't even want our own children in our house, I give them credit for inviting not only the kids they're related to, (and therefore may feel an OBLIGATION to have over) but those belonging to friends, neighbors and acquaitances. They say bravery is when you know the danger, but plow ahead anyway. This Bud's for you, Joe and Jen--Mr. and Mrs. Halloween Party Throwers.

Mike and I went to the party as hippies. The fact that Mike had an actual costume on threw people. He got a hippie costume with a peace sign necklace. But he wouldn't buy a hippie wig. So he sported a Mr. Suburban Man Haircut with neon-colored hippie pants, a cheesy blue polyester shirt and a Fred Flintstone fuzzy vest. Like, far out and funky, man. After two hours, it didn't matter anyway, because he changed into regular clothes and pitched the costume into the trunk of his car, where it remains. Enough frivolity!

--Catherine Schetting Salfino

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Autumn in New Jersey

This past Sunday was spent shopping in a quaint Jersey town that gets a lot of tourists. It was a cool, breezy day in the Northeast, just right for saying "NO!" 50,000 times to Ryan.

We started the venture by eating at a diner. Which comes from the word "dine." Which was something that really had nothing to do with this establishment. When I asked for coffee and found part of a cracker wrapper floating in the cup after my second sip, we really should have bolted (like my mother suggested). But, no. We stuck it out, because, hey, when a place is overrun with cars and people are lined up out the door, it must be good, right? Wrong. It just means lots of people have lousy taste in food. To wit, Applebee's.

So we downed our "food" and then went out on the town. My mom said she saw a toy store in the town once before. Ryan heard "toy" and that became his obsession. We checked out arts & crafts stores that had candles for $100. We went to a little home decor/tchotke shop that had Halloween lanterns for $40 each. It's weird. I used to think of arts & crafts as some kind of hippie thing, where people would sell just enough of their wares to pay their share at the co-op or hostel. I either had a warped view of arts & crafts, or I'm hitting the wrong kind of arts & crafts places, or the hippies are now yuppies.

So we browsed. Cara got some sort of scarf/shrug thing. Ryan got jealous and amped up his toy store demand. We browsed in some more stores. Ryan declared that the store that had Halloween decorations, candy and teddy bears was boring. My mom tried to satiate him with some gum drops. He took one and then turned to me with a repulsed look on his face, the gum drop chewed up and hanging precariously off his tongue, and said, "I thdon't ike thith." They were spicy gum drops.

At this point, Ry felt pretty ripped off--no toy, bad candy. And Cara was flouncing her scarf all over the place, which just rubbed it in. So we decided to find the toy store. Only to find out that the toy store wasn't there anymore. My mom and I were developing nervous twitches, until we crossed the street and found a store that carried a winter hat with Ryan's name and trucks knitted into it. Ry was thrilled. We were relieved. Because, unless you have a four-year-old--much less one who learned to say "no fair" before he learned to say "Mom"-- you're constantly bracing for a fight, engaged in a battle of wills, or trying to explain that good things come to those who wait. Which means nothing to a four-year-old.

At this point, my mom and I needed refueling. We stopped at a tea house type restaurant. Which made up for the "lunch." After we walked out, we noticed a cute little candy store. It had all kinds of stuff in jars and barrels, from old-timey Sugar Daddies and Charleston Chews to Extreme War Heads and Nerds ropes. Smart store owners that they are, they put baskets up front. My kids each took one. Within 30 seconds, Cara's was half-full. I made them put most of the stuff back, including a $6 bag of Harry Potter jelly beans. Yet, in the end, I paid $13 for penny candy.

How many weeks left in the football season?!?

--Catherine Schetting Salfino

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Boo to you, too

We just got back from looking for a Halloween costume for Cara. It was a bust.

She was sort of interested in being a skeleton that had blood dripping from it's teeth--very sweet for a 9-year-old--or something that carries a giant sickle. She didn't get too far with that idea before I quashed it. And, since I don't want her to wear one of the "hot devil" or "pop star" outfits that show as much skin as Tyra Banks does in the picture that's been on the Yahoo! home page for nearly a week, we are currently out of luck.

Cara's informed me she doesn't want to be a witch again. She was a witch for two years, and then last year she was Hermione from Harry Potter. "WHO IS A WITCH! DUH!," she yells at me. At this point, I'm ready to cut up a white sheet and scrawl BOO on the front of it with a Sharpie. Which would actually have a kind of retro appeal...if you're lazy.

Ryan is Batman. Last year he was Superman. We're on track to run through all the super heroes. I just don't want him to be Robin, because, really, besides quotes like, "Holy popcorn, Batman!," he wasn't really a keeper.

One of my brothers and his wife are having a Halloween party the week before Halloween. They get really into it--decorating their house, getting really awesome costumes that cost more that $3, which is about how much Mike and I put forth. I'm into the Halloween dress-up, I just hate trying to figure out something to wear. And, given that I don't even like shopping for real clothes, shopping for a costume goes against my grain. Plus, there's all that pressure to wear something different each year.

I think if I were smart, I'd come up with one thing, and stick with it. And then every year, everyone would look forward to "Cath as the buck-toothed rat," or "Cath as the hard-boiled egg." After half a decade of this, people would anticipate Halloween just to see if I would show up in something else. There would be a kind of red-carpet excitement to it. "What will she be wearing this year? Do you think she'll blaze a new Halloween fashion trail?" And then I'll show up as the hard-boiled egg again. How very "Happy Days" it could be.

Mike, of course, can not BELIEVE that he even has to consider dressing up. But, as someone who never drinks ("why acquire the taste for alcohol when you can just have a Coke?") and prefers the company of his computer to real people, he can't believe he actually has to SHOW up, nevermind dress up. Every year he does the minimum required to gain admittance to the party. Like wearing his Jets jersey with my black eyeliner smudged under his eyes. Or wearing his black leather jacket with Elvis sunglasses that had cheesy sideburns attached to them. One of the sideburns has since fallen off, so I suggested that this year, he wear the Elvis shades with the one sideburn, his football jersey and a "Supa Fro" wig. Because if you can't be something identifiable, you may as well make a jackass out of yourself.

My friend A. is having a party ON Halloween. That could go one of two ways--either the parents catch a nice drinking buzz and end up trick-or-treating for 12 straight hours, or they get nice and ripped and bag trick-or-treating altogether. A., of course, is the one who had the pogo-stick party a couple of weeks ago. (See previous blog) Things always start out genteel-ly enough, but one thing leads to another, and then adults are prying pogo-sticks from the hands of disbelieving children in an alcohol-fueled effort to prove their youthfulness to a bunch of onlookers who couldn't give a damn. Halloween, for those of you who don't have kids and haven't been planning around the holiday for the last two months, is Sunday this year. A. has informed us that with the Halloween party, "Doors open at 12:30." That means that by about 3:30, kids can point and say, "Look, that guy's going as a pizza." Because sticking a pizza box on your head makes as much sense as any other costume when you've downed enough Milky Ways and margueritas."

...Yes, another misty, water-colored memory.

--Catherine Schetting Salfino

Tuesday, October 05, 2004


Since Mike is comissioner of his fantasy league, I've decided to abuse my rights and privileges as first lady (and I use the word "first" loosely) by employing his league's e-mail list whenever I need six or more people for a superstitious e-mail chain. You know the ones "Send this on to 10 more people or tragedy, horror and bloodshed will hit you in: 1 minute if you don't send it at all; 5 minutes if you send it to 6 people, 15 minutes if you send it to 9 people; never if you send it to 10 people." On the other hand, if I send these pieces of crap on to the guys in the league, we'll be waiting for THEM to unleash horror and bloodshed upon us. So...nevermind.

Well, this weekend's scarecrow making was cute. We paid $5 and the museum supplied all the material. Which included clothes that gave our scarecrow a "Crazy Bag Lady" guise. Or maybe it was the fact that we had two girls (Cara and her friend) and a four-year-old boy picking the ensemble. My kids had a grand time throwing hay in each others hair, making spectacles of themselves whilst the other children made proper scarecrows in a proper manner. The coordinators gave us donuts and cider afterward, anyway. They either decided to turn a blind eye to Cara and Ryan's shenanigans, or figured animals like mine would just upend the treat table and raid the donuts if they tried to turn them away, so why be judgmental.

The "Touch a Truck" event was pretty much over when we got there. My single-mom friend B (name has been abbreviated for the following reason) only wanted to go if it was called "Touch a Truck Driver." Since the coordinators inexplicably didn't factor that into the program, she took Cara and her daughter to Target after scarecrow making. Ryan and I were left to look at trucks on our own. Considering he didn't want to climb into the front loader or bulldozer, there was really no reason to continue looking at these vehicles that normally wouldn't garner a second glance from me, nevermind a feel-up. It quickly became coffee time.

Ryan and I went to the convenience store for my java, and he expanded his culinary explorations with a bag of Combos. That's pretty wild stuff for him--pretzels and processed cheese in one. He first sniffed them, then licked them, then approved them by actually eating them. Like Fido. It's ridiculous to watch.

From there, we took a walk around the neighborhood to see who was around and what we could do to kill time before dinner. As we passed one house after another with no friends, I tried pointing out things like-- a colorful leaf! and Ryan would crab, "Where's ____?" I'd point out-- a pine cone!, and he'd berate me, "Where's my friend ____?" We ended up at my friend S.'s house. She and her two girls just got back from a night trip. Eureka. Ry had a friend to play with and a snack to eat. S. and I sat to have a chat and about 30 seconds later, there was Ryan, "Can I have an ice pop?" We're like, "It's COLD out! What are you talking about?!?"

I think Joe Walsh wrote a song about this kid, "...Everything all the time." Next year, he's making four scarecrows and touching every truck they can throw at us. Or he'll be circulating superstitious e-mails to save his own rear end.

--Catherine Schetting Salfino

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Scarecrows and Trucks

Okay, today is the day we make a scarecrow. Not just any old scarecrow, but a Halloween scarecrow that will be one of many on the lawn of the local museum. Considering I've never in my life made a scarecrow, I have a feeling this will look more like a sad crow. But, we'll give it the old college try.

We signed up to make this scarecrow back in early September. It seemed like a great way to spend the afternoon. But about a week or so ago, we got a flier for yet another activity we can do today, called "Touch a Truck." This is where the town lines up all it's taxpayer-provided vehicles, and lets the kids climb on them.

We did this last year, and the most memorable truck is that which carries the garbage. Although empty, a vomit-inducing aroma still wafted through the cab. Mmmm, enticing. The cab has a window that looks right into the garbage part of the garbage truck. I'm not sure I would really want to have that view when the truck is in action, y'know? Who knows what could come squishing out of a Hefty bag when 50 tons of pressure is being applied.

But my son is wild for trucks of all kinds (little boy law), so we'll be heading over to touch some trucks this afternoon. After the scare/sadcrow event.

I actually forgot we had these two things lined up until this morning. It was a busy weekend. On Friday, I went with Ryan on a class trip to a zoo. We got there via a school bus that somehow passed inspection despite a lack of shocks. After we arrived, and while I was waiting to overcome my intense nausea, we went to the "educational center," which housed snakes, turtles and other rank-smelling things. The signs posted on the door said, "no food or drink," but they forgot to add "And no oxygen." Mike, either the very smart one or the "less interested in being in the finer moments of our child's happy memories" one, drove separately to the zoo, stayed outside the "educational center" to talk sports with another doting dad, and then drove home early to meet the washing machine repairman. Loser.

Then on Friday afternoon, one of our friends hosted a "happy hour." Which was more like happy "hours." By 10 p.m., the kids were camped out in our hosts' garage watching Jurassic Park, and us desperate-for-fun parents were dancing on the deck to radio disco, and pogo-sticking around the driveway. I should amend that: those who could MAINTAIN a bounce were pogo-ing. It's amazing how alcohol + age + decreased mobility = sad display. Actually, it equalled "very sad display." And, when the "very sad" level is reached, that's when the subtle snickering turns to outright mocking. Which leads to, "Hey, let me try!" And the process repeats itself among the adults until the kids step in to stop the insanity. It was great.

Then yesterday, my folks came down for a visit. Their first in a while, since we go up to their house all summer. Obviously, THEY have a pool and we don't. Our yard is small and pool-less, they have acres of land and a pool. The choice is clear. So, since they hadn't seen the house for a couple months, I felt it was a good time to break out the lawn mower, as well as indoor cleaning supplies. Of course, my son needed to have a friend over in the midst of this. Mike and Cara were out at Cara's Saturday morning activities. So, before I knew it, it was the afternoon, and they were here. We had a great visit wherein pizza, donuts, soda and salty snacks were consumed. They left, Ryan passed out on the couch for a bit, and then we went for Indian food at about 7:30. Nothing like lamb roganjosh on top of junk food for a gastrointestinal free-for-all.

During dinner, we were tossing around the idea of going to a movie today, trying to decide which movie, etc. And then this morning--like a bolt from the blue--I remembered the scarecrow making. See, it all comes back to me. I have a mind like a steel trap--that's rusty with corrosion.

--Catherine Schetting Salfino

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

The fun just keeps on comin'

It's Wednesday and I'm finally getting around to writing about what I did with the kids on Sunday. Should I have written about it Sunday night? Yes, of course. But I was wiped out from trudging around an apple-less apple orchard.

Okay, maybe it wasn't completely without apples--we did get 17 pounds worth, as my weak arms and wallet can attest.

But I'm used to the orchard we've gone to for years. The orchard that gives you a hayride to the trees, which are loaded with apples that everyone can reach. You get back on the haywagon, pay and leave. It's virtually stressless.

This year, I decided the usual place was too "usual." Let's live on the edge, kids, and drive an hour to a place we've never been before. It didn't have a petting zoo or live music like some of the others that were listed in the paper, but it was set in the countryside, so we would kill "Football Sunday" time getting there.

But first, we had to get a new picture taken. Because mom felt like she looked like trailer park trash in the first photo that went up on the site. (Why the old picture is STILL on the site is beyond me. Mike, get ready to rumble!) Then, we stopped to get money, then stopped to get gas. At this point, it was 2 in the afternoon and Ryan announced, "My belly's grumbly." So--FINE--let's get lunch. God knows it's dangerous to be hungry in an apple orchard--you might pass out from lack of sustenance.

We ate at a place that was actually great--good food served on an outdoor patio on a beautiful day . Other than the tarantula-sized spider that had to be taken out with a stun gun, it was perfect. We killed an hour there.

We got in the car and I remembered the newspaper advised to call ahead to to the orchards to confirm when they're open and that they have apples. I call the orchard, and get a recording. It runs through a list of 26 different types of apples that it has--just ripe for the pickin'--and then states place will be closing at 4:30. We were about 45 minutes away. It was 3:15 at that point (it takes a long time to listen to 26 different apple names), so that meant we'd have about a half-hour to pick apples. Who says my outings are poorly planned? But, in my defense, we should have been able to get plenty of apples in half an hour. THERE WERE 26 TYPES LISTED!! And the recording didn't end with a speed talker advising me that, "All 26 varieties are subject to availability, zero financing available, not applicable by law," or something. But it SHOULD have said, "Just how badly do you really want these apples?"

Whatever, we get there, and join the other unpaid migrant suburbanites who were wandering aimlessly in the orchard, desperate to contrive a day in the country for our kids. One romantic, childless couple joined us in the Jonagold section, where there were about 10 pieces of fruit left on the very tops of the trees. The guy, camera around his neck, nearly strangled himself climbing the tree to procure the elusive treat for his love. This, despite the "NO TREE CLIMBING" sign bobbing in his face. Of course, my kids see this and tell ME to start climbing the trees. I'm like, "He's just showing off so she'll fall in love with him. You guys are stuck with me. I have no reason to engage in derring-do. So stop crabbin' and keep walkin'." See, that's REAL love.

In the end, we managed to find a few rows of "I don't know what kind these are" apples. They aren't MacIntosh, Red Delicious, Golden Delicious or Granny Smith, otherwise known as "regular" apples. These had names like "Bruce," I think. I was stuck carrying mine and Ryan's bags, plus my purse, which, by mom-law, weighs in at about 78 pounds. By the time we got back to the car, it was 5:30, and past my coffee time. My arms were tired, my brain was cranky. And all that was nearby was a lousy Dunkin' Donuts. And by that I mean, a Dunkin' Donuts. I got a coffee, they each got a donut. The orchard got its trees cleared and we paid for the privilege.

Next year, I want a petting zoo and live music for my trouble. And maybe some hard cider....

Saturday, September 25, 2004

What, me crabby?

So, I'm writing a post, when what I should REALLY be doing is writing for the people who actually PAY me. Ahem, Mikey.

I actually feel pretty good right now. I succeeded in getting to the floor surface of my daughter's room. Because, since about April-ish, we haven't really seen her floor--what with all the T-shirts, socks and other clothes that couldn't walk their own way into the hamper. You can't train clothes like you used to, ya know? There was also a lot of "art projects"--things made from twisted up paper, paper clips, elastic bands--stuff that really didn't look like art so much as garbage can candidates. So, while she was at school this week, I logged about 25 hours in her room getting rid of bags of junk like really important worn-out hair elastics, crumbled notes with really important statements like "Clue #4" on one side and nothing else on the other, really important invitations to get a free Bratz tote when she buys another Bratz item, which should never EVER happen considering the "gently used" (read: never used) Bratz items she currently owns should all seem BRAND new.

Organizing--it's a tough job, and I'm not the best person to do it. "Mike, look at this toy from when Cara was three! We should keep it for the memories." In actuality, the toy lost the right to take up residence about six years ago.

But if left to Mike, the whole room would just be thrown in the garbage can. His idea of organizing is black trash bags at the curb. I, meanwhile, try to sort by what Ryan could still like, what Cara might still like, what can be given to friends, what can be put in a charity bin and what can just go in the garbage. What I call organizing, Mike calls a waste of time. But the last time I let him "organize" without me--which was years ago--we lost kid bikes and ride-on toys that were still IN HEAVY ROTATION! He was quite pround that the garage looked neater. Meanwhile, I nearly had an aneurysm in my effort to not actually strangle him. To this day, when something goes missing, he's knows he's guilty until proven innocent.

So, what's on the Sunday plan for this weekend? Well, with my organizing done (except for the basement toys, our entire attic and our garage) the kids and I will take some kind of day trip. This week's paper ran it's annual list of apple picking sites, so we'll probably do that as long as the weather's good. Some places offer just apple picking. Other's have apple picking and hay rides. And some have apples, hayrides, pony rides and a petting zoo situation. Or I can just base the choice on distance from our home. Because, with my kids, half the fun is definitely not "getting there." No, for them, half the fun is getting what mom planned to give them, and then begging and pleading for mom to give them more. At which point, the "fun" comes to a "pause" while I dissolve into a stream-of-consciousness tirade with the word "ingrates" invoked several times, Ryan crys, and Cara grouses.

...But it's all good.

Monday, September 20, 2004

On second thought

Okay, I know I ain't too quick on the uptake, but it dawned on me that Mike gave me this blog so I could complain online instead of to him directly. Ingenious. All husbands should take note. Wife: "Do you know how tired I am? Do you know what pains in the ass these kids were today???" Husband: "Honey, I'll tuck the kids in. Why don't you write it all down on your blog, and you'll feel so much better." To himself: "And leave me the hell out of it!"

I took the kids to the outdoor art fair Sunday. They were into it until we got there. Then, they complained bitterly until I got them each an Italian ice. Which actually worked out, because I wouldn't let them into any booths with their treat--"Stand right here where I can see you, but don't come in with that sticky mess!," and I got to look at a few things without them moaning. Of course, as soon as the ice was gone, they started in again. It's their job and they do it well.

By the end, my son told me his legs were tired and his feet were sore, so, "Can we go to the park now, Mom?" ...It all makes sense when you're four.

I had to hit up Starbucks first. After the park, where my daughter got nauseous because she was reading and swinging at the same time, we picked up groceries "for our dinner tonight. We'll have chicken. For our dinner tonight. This is what we're eating TONIGHT." We get to the parking lot and Ryan says, "Can we get pizza at Ray's now? I'm hungry." Is it me?? When I say no, he starts yelling wildly in his car seat. But isn't it great when you can just slam the car door and all that yelling just goes away. Until you get to the driver's side door, open it, and it's still there...."I'M HUNGRY NOW!! I DON'T LIKE CHICKEN!! I WANT PIZZA!" Then Cara chimes in, "JUST SHUT YOUR MOUTH RYAN! YOU'RE HURTING MY EARS! MOM! MAAAAHHMMM!"

Cut to Mike, on the sofa in the basement, TV quietly droning. "....and when we come back, it's Jets ball."

See, ingenious.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Week 2--The fun continues

My husband generously described this blog as being written with "sharp and witty" comment. I'm not sure where that came from. Probably just another attempt to keep me a-smilin' while he's holed up with his NFL Sunday Ticket, the computer and the phone.

There's an outdoor arts and crafts show taking place at a park nearby Sunday. I may take the kids there. It's a good place to find unique arty and crafty things if you're looking for arty and crafty things for under, say, $1,000. Well, MOST are under $1,000. I don't think it's actually billed as an arts & crafts show. That makes it sound a little down market. I think it's got an "Art in the Park" type title. So people don't choke on their Coke when they see the $200 throw pillow.

I COULD just keep the kidlets happy with a visit to a dollar store. I usually only go there when I need a gift bag for a party we're actually on the way to. Why I don't buy five at a time is anyone's guess. Perhaps because I'm not organized enough. But that's another issue--one that I'm usually not thinking about when I fly into the dollar store parking lot with the present in the front seat, price tag still on it, and an un-signed birthday card under it. If I could leave the kids in the car without getting greeted by a police office upon my return, I swear I would. So, as we head into the store, I drill them: "No begging. We're not here for you. I'm just getting a gift bag and then we are LEAVING!" Not two feet into the store, and I'm hit with dueling, "Hey, look at this really cool ___." It could be a pack of colored tooth picks and they'd be begging for it. As a result, I'm tossing around the idea of saving a lot of money this Christmas by just dropping $50 on a pile of junk from the dollar store. "Wow--a neon yellow vegetable peeler. Thanks, Santa!" It's an idea.

Soon enough we'll be doing trips to the country for apple picking, pumpking picking, corn mazes. Of course, each of these trips is done separately to keep knocking weeks off the football schedule. Before we know it, it'll be Halloween, which actually falls on a football Sunday this year. THAT ought to be interesting. Me: "Mike, the kids want to go trick-or-treating. Do you want to come with us?" Mike: "What are you, CRAZY?!?" Me: "Mike, I'm going to be taking the kids trick-or-treating. Can you give out the treats to the kids that come to our door?" Mike: "What are you, CRAZY?!?" I may as well plan now to buy extra candy--as the bowl will just be left on the doorstep all day with our homey, traditional "Happy Halloween! Help yourself!" Post-it note.

Well, they're fighting over the SpongeBob video game controller. Better sign off for now....