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