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