Monday, December 04, 2006

Lock Down

Mike may finally get his Christmas wish this year. No, not trading me in for Scarlett Johansson. No, he may just get some long-hoped-for peace and quiet. From me, anyway.

See, over the weekend, somewhere between taking the kids to the Museum of Natural History and the tree in Rockefeller Center on Saturday, and Christmas shopping on Sunday, I came down with lockjaw.

Before you worry that I contracted tetanus by brushing up against a rusty barbed wire fence while chasing a pheasant for Sunday dinner (as I often do), that's not how this happened. I have a bite problem called TMJ dysfunction. And I'm not supposed to chew gum, eat bagels or snack on pumpkin seeds. But c'mon. Who really listens to a doctor anymore? That's so yesterday.

I have an occasional bagel. Pumpkin seeds, not so much. But I like chewing gum. Normally, I chew gum in lieu of snacking. Or if I'm thirsty and don't have a water bottle on me. Or if I need to concentrate for work. Or, and this is a biggie, if I've eaten a head of raw garlic for breakfast. I enjoy it with coffee. Or with a glass of wine (Orbit Wintermint with a glass of white wine. Now there's a sparkling taste sensation for ya). I suppose it's like a cigarette habit, only less disgusting so long as I don't spit the gum into my palm before giving a handshake.

Anyway, I woke up Saturday and my jaw was locked on the right side.

Even though it took me 45 minutes to eat a bowl of cereal, I thought, "No prob. We'll just go to the city as planned and it'll fix itself." People go to school for a long time to achieve that kind of medical insight. Cut to us eating lunch at the museum and there's me with a strawberry yogurt, trying to macerate the heretofore unnoticed chewy berries, without moving my mouth.

We continued on to the special gold exhibit, and an Imax movie about cowboys, which kept Ryan entertained enough that he stopped trying to talk to me for half an hour, giving my tired jaw a break. Then we took the C train down to see the Christmas tree. We were met with a massive amount of humanity, and I was grateful we all escaped without a cracked rib incident.

By then, everyone was getting hungry so we walked to John's Pizza in Times Square. Never does a thin-crust slice seem so monumental as when you can't open your mouth. Who knew?

I went to bed thinking I just needed a good night's sleep and my jaw would fix itself. It was a sad hope that I was clinging to. Because Sunday came and both sides of my jaw had become stuck. As of right now, I can only open my mouth about a half-inch.

And if I had any sense, I'd hang on to this condition until after the holiday calorie explosion.

Catherine Schetting Salfino

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Game Time

Well, this was nearly it: the weekend that I, the Football Widow, became Cath the Real Live Widow.

I went out with two of my friends from high school, Pat and Steph, and we were having a high ol' time Saturday night. We were drinking, laughing, talking about the old times, forgetting about the stresses of the holiday season, work vibes. We were just chillin'.

I come home, and tell Mike, "Man, did we have a good time."

To which he replied, "Well, I almost died."

Which ... is kind of a damper. But, I'm a nice person and didn't want to seem selfish. So, instead of ignoring him and telling him about my night, I compassionately asked, "What the HELL?!"

When I left the house, he only had Ryan with him. Cara had spent the day with Alex and Barbara, going to the mall, and going to dinner with them. When she came home, she and Ryan decided to play Connect Four, the game with the checker-like red and black chips.

Well, Ryan apparently figured out a way to beat his big sister on a consistent basis. And then she figured out a way to block him. Then Mike, apparently, decided to help Ryan develop a new strategy. Which got on Cara's nerves, apparently. So, there were Mike and Ryan, having a high ol' time developing Connect Four strategem, laughing at their ingenuity, when Cara just grabbed a bunch of the chips and chucked them at Mike, who for some reason had his head thrown back in laughter, so it was in just the right position to catch a playing piece, which lodged in his throat. Apparently.

Now, the parenting magazines I lived on when Cara was a baby always advised that if you come to find yourself choking to death in front of young children who aren't capable of administering the Heimlich, you're supposed to save your own life by launching your abdomen against something like a chair or the back of a sofa. Mike (who was never one for the baby mags), instead, stood up, and then fell to his knees and turned three shades of blue and then somehow coughed it up. It was all very avant-garde.

Me: "Did Cara even try dialing 911?"

Mike: "I don't know."

Me: "How long were you choking?"

Mike: "Twenty seconds. Ten seconds. I don't know."

Me: "Were they upset, or trying to help?"

Mike: "I think they were laughing. Until I fell down."

Oh, yes. While my friends and I were yukking it up, Mike was chuckin' it up. Buon appetito!

Catherine Schetting Salfino

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Birthday Pie

When it came to Mike's birthday this year, he requested that I NOT spend anything on him because he was feeling old -- and old people don't spend money, I guess.

But whatever. As the birthday grew closer, his list of possible gifts grew. To the point where I was reminding him that he didn't want ANYthing to begin with, and at the rate he was going, we'd be putting Amazon on retainer.

Besides the usual book, DVD, and CD choices, Mike came up with something completely different -- pizza. Pizza is his and Ryan's favorite food and many a road trip has been made by our family in search of the perfect slice. Mike's birthdays usually revolve around going for pizza, so this didn't seem like that big of a request. Until he mentioned which pizza he wanted. He'd seen a show on the Food Network that spotlighted a place in Chicago -- that delivers deep dish pizza to your door!

He filled me in: It's the best deep dish pizza in Chicago. The place has been in business for forever. The sausage pie is unbelievable.

All right, already. I went online to buy it.

Well, guess what happens when the Food Network broadcasts two brothers on a road trip to Chicago and they use their Southern drawls to gush over the sausage pizza? THE ENTIRE COUNTRY TRIES TO BUY IT!

So, we were wait-listed three weeks on the deep dish pies.

Meanwhile, a new Uno Chicago Grill, formerly the user-friendly named Pizzeria Uno, just opened two minutes from our house. Ryan suggested we go there for Mike's birthday, but Mike was like, "We won't destroy our tastebuds on pedestrian deep dish pizza. We shall wait for the best this nation has to offer! Silence!"

A week after his birthday, the wondrous box appeared on our doorstep. The cardboard was pried open and we gaped at the miraculous frozen mist as it escaped from the package. Gently, ever so gently, did we lift the mesmerizing pies to the counter. We prepared the oven, prepared the table. And then... we feasted!

And can I just say, the disappointment was staggering.

Ryan kindly offered, "This pizza sucks."

Cara just left half her pizza sitting on the plate.

I didn't want to be mean, since it was Mike's special birthday pizza (obviously an Italian concept), so for once I kept my big mouth shut.

...We're lining up at Uno's this week.

Catherine Schetting Salfino

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

I've Been Punk'd

A few weeks back, we decided to take the kids pumpkin picking. I called my folks to let them know we were coming up by them, and asked if they wanted to meet us at the highway robbery store, I mean the farm.

I grabbed some denim jackets and we headed up to the farm. Where we froze our asses off in the 42-degree temperatures of the bucolic countryside. My parents, who were bundled for the Antarctic, met us at the place -- which was overrun by 50,000 people looking for cheap pumpkins (reality: $25 per) and a hayride -- then conveniently "remembered" they were meeting friends later and were overcome with an extreme need to beat it the hell outta there.

We all left, with nary a punky, and went to a dollar store. My mom got the kids some little trinkets and candy while Mike and I recovered from frostbite and considered our options: find another farm nearby that's not impersonating Grand Central Station, or take the kids for a rollicking ride to the supermarket, where they could pick pumpkins out of a giant cardboard box in the produce aisle.

We said good-bye to my folks, and were seriously heading back to the highway home, when I remembered another, smaller, farm. A little pick-your-own place. We pulled in, and it was set up with the hay rides, the barbecue, the farm store--but no Times Square-like crowds.

With our frostbite re-commencing, we climbed on the free hayride. I asked the driver where we could get pumpkins. "I'm driving you to them," he replied, amiably. One long bumpy ride later, we were in a field with all the pumpkins still attached to their vines. We were cold and hungry so we wanted to pick the perfect pumpkins as fast as we could. Cue Ryan and his bathroom dance.

Me: "Why didn't you go when we were up by the farm stand?"

Ryan: "I didn't have to go THEN."


He ran to the end of the field behind a pile of logs, did what he had to do, and ran back out, unable to do his snap with his jacket in the way. I bent down, got him fixed up, and we re-joined Mike and Cara. Four or five pumpkins later, we got on the hay ride back, and our thoughts turned to thawing out as the sun sank into the western sky.

That's when I realized I didn't have my sunglasses. I tried to appear calm as I frantically patted every pocket of my denim jacket, checked down my shirt and rummaged through my purse, all while balancing pumpkins between my feet. My Maui Jim's, my favorite shades. A classic style that was just discontinued this summer!

Me: "I have to go back to the pumpkin field."

Mike: "Have you been drinking?"

Me: "I lost my sunglasses in the pumpkin field."

Mike: "The sun is going down, the field is full of vines. Did I mention I was tired of this day about three hours ago?"

Well, we ALL got on the next ride out to punkin' patch. We ALL trampled around the vines and pumpkins. Mike and Ryan went to where Ryan relieved himself, but came up empty. Mike was like, "We have to leave. It's getting dark. This is a bust." He started railing about sunk costs and recovery probability.

I was like, "I'm checking that log pile one more time."

And there they were, right near the pile of logs. Frankly, I have no idea how Mike and Ry didn't STEP on them.

I was so grateful that when Ryan said he wanted to do the pumpkin bullseye when we got back to the farm, I was like, "Fine, do it."

...We couldn't just leave, could we?

The pumpkin bullseye was $1 a pop. You put mini pumpkins in a slingshot cable, pulled the cable back as far as you could, and let it rip, seeing if it could hit a board in the middle of a field.

Well, since the frost bite had gone to our brains, Cara and I decided we'd join Mike in pulling the slingshot. Mike goes, "We let go on 'three.' One (we strained backwards), two (we strai...)...." BOOM! He let go. Cara and I hit the ground. Every one of my fingernails was shredded. Cara was reeling with hay and dirt in her hair.

Me: "If that isn't a signal to get off this farm...."

We immediately headed to the nearest restaurant, with a bar.

Catherine Schetting Salfino

Friday, October 13, 2006

Apple-y Days are Here Again

The last couple of weekends have been busy. Busy seeing friends (and eating), busy visiting family (and eating), busy going apple picking (and then making apple-related treats) and then EATING them. I need a personal intervention from a Zone Chef or Jenny Craig.

A couple weekends ago on a drizzly Saturday, we went apple picking with my mom. The Windy Brow Orchard in Sussex County, NJ. When I grew up up there, there was no such thing as pick-your-own anything. But the small farmer must persist somehow. And by getting customers to clear his trees while cleverly letting us think we're being all ol'timey is one cash-cow way of doing it.

My mom, who does not believe in partaking in the migrant worker experience, normally just goes to the Windy Brow store, buys her fruit and leaves. It's very quiet and peaceful. But these pick-your-own opportunites bring out the mobs.

We had to go into the farm store to buy our empty bags and then head to the orchard. But the place had a line a mile long --people cramming into the store for anything they could get their hands on--baskets of apples, pumpkins, donuts, an errant piece of straw. The place looked like the floor of the stock exchange when one of the unassuming workers came out from the back with fresh pies. People started shouting and waving their fingers in the air, "Two, I'll take two!" "There! She's got the pies, grab one!"

My mother, who was raised in kick-ass Hudson County, is fully vetted in the bucolic Sussex County life after 30+ years living there. She was like, "Holy.... What is this insanity?!" She surveyed the scene with displeasure, and then elbow-cocked two old ladies for an apple pie.

Actually, except that she was there with her grandchildren, she would have gone right back into her car and bailed on the whole scene. But she made it as far as the orchard. Where we were told we needed to "walk that way about a half-mile to get to the good apples." My mom walked about 25 yards when a pain kicked up somewhere in her body and, like anyone with half a brain, left the drizzle, poison ivy and gnats for the comfort of her warm, dry car.

Not us, though. We paid $16 for our empty bag and we were determined to fill it. But not all the trees were labeled, so we had to do a lot of tasting before deciding which apples to pick. Now, it's been a few years since Mike's gone apple picking with us. So I forgot to rail off the list of reminders like:

Don't eat pesticide. It's not good for you.
Don't eat anything you don't recognize as being AN APPLE!

Mike would chomp right into a pesticide-covered piece of fruit. Cara and I were like, "YOU HAVE TO WIPE IT OFF ON YOUR SHIRT, AT LEAST!" Mike: "Whatever. Is that how Al-Qaida's going to get us?" Always the funny man.

A few rows later, Mike was suddenly violently spitting something out of his mouth.

Me: "What's the MATTER with you?!"

Mike: "What are those berries? They're disgusting!"

I looked up at the apple tree to see orangey-red leaves winding up the trunk with purplish berries hanging off them.

Me: "Apple trees don't grow BERRIES! What the HELL?! Are you trying to poison yourself?"

Mike: "Well, why would they let berries just grow up an apple tree? Any kid could pick and eat that."

Me: "Small children know better than to put weird things in their mouths! You're making cracks about Al-Qaida and meanwhile you're sticking any old thing in your mouth! It could be poisonous! At the very least you could end up with a massive rash in your face! JESUS!"

I still don't know what he sampled--Virginia Creeper berries? "Jersey Best" Poison Berries? It's a mystery. Because apparently, Mike spit it all out before any negative effects could take hold. His face has yet to swell up and fall off. And he was able to eat dinner that night, so there was no stomach issue. No nausea, or even a loss of appetite. ...Too bad. Because after I realized Mike wasn't going to die, I thought maybe I could save myself a call to Zone Chefs. ...Just being practical....

Catherine Schetting Salfino

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Did I Seriously Say "Organized"?

Well, the fictitious garage sale is no longer a part of Salfino fiction. We took part in the town-wide garage sale last Saturday. And due to cloudy skies, mixed with a downpour, not to mention "damaging winds," as well as competition from everyone else on my street, the Saturday sale was s....l....o....w.

So, Sunday, I wake up at 7. The weather was calling for more rain. But it was sunny. And I was desperate to clear out the 8,000 things I got as far as the driveway.

Me: "Cara, we're having another sale today."

Cara: "I'm in!"

See, I let the kids keep the money from anything they sold. Considering about 99.9% of what we were selling was theirs, they had an incentive. Of course, when you're selling your stuff for between 10 cents and $1, there's only so much profit to be made. However, it speaks to how much they had to get rid of that they EACH made about $40. And we still have a ton of stuff in their rooms, the basement, the garage.... We need to hold another sale.

Except I won't get much support from Mike, whose only contribution this time was downloading and then blasting the theme from "Sanford & Son," for half and hour. It was embarrassing and hilarious at the same time.

Of course there are some things that aren't pleasant about garage sales (and Mike was quick to remind me that the letter "b" is the only thing separating a garage sale from a garbage sale--thanks for more high quality input, Mike). One is dealing with cranky old-timers who've logged a lot of time watching "Antiques Road Show, " "Cash in the Attic," "Don't Throw Away That Bic Pen Because It Could Spell Your Retirement in 50 Years," etc..

Cranky Lady #1: "Just a bunch of toys, huh? No ceramics?"

Cranky Lady #2: "Wow, I can't believe how many toys! I'll bet their rooms are clean now."

No. And you should have seen what I've had the Vietnam Vets truck pick up for the last three years!

Cranky Lady #3: "So spoiled! So much more than they could ever need!"

By which time I felt like screaming: "Sorry I don't have that rare vase to sell you for 50 cents so you can get $5,000 for it somewhere. But the Little Tikes playhouse, the pink girl's bike and the Step2 climber out front should have given you a head's up that this wasn't going to be a tour through a memorial to Gustav Stickley!"

Instead, I gave her the finger and kicked her out of my driveway. Ahhhh, if only.

--Catherine Schetting Salfino

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Dancin' Days Are Here Again

I wanted to post a column about what a great time I had Saturday night with my friends. Only, apparently, when I asked my friends to go out dancing and drinking, they forgot about the DANCING part of the equation. ...Pack o' bums.

Oh, they were perfectly content watching me make like the dancin' fool that I am. Because, frankly, I'll dance to a clock radio, I don't care. But here we had a perfectly good band and they wanted to go to the downstairs bar -- to talk and drink. What are we, middle-aged?!? Don't anybody answer that.

I can have a chat anytime. But opportunities to groove to live music, other than Ryan's constant cacophony, are few and far between. Only Melissa had the nerve to join me for a song and a half. So only SHE is not a total bum. And Barbara's not a bum because she has long told me she doesn't dance -- unless she's rip roaring wasted and, as far as I can tell, those days are behind her. But the rest of ya's....Sharon, Annie, Jay, Nancy -- bums! (I'm leaving out Tom and Matt because Tom's new-ish to the group so he gets a pass, and Matt showed some liveliness in playing air bass. Next time, Matt, we fully expect you to be air-jamming and jumping from table tops).

Actually, I had to be clean and sober the next day because I'm preparing for something I've been wanting to take on for years. Something that involves a lot of discipline and hard choices. A lot of time is sacrificed. And the rewards are meager. I'm talking about...a garage sale.

That's right. Hold your applause. Just greet me with awe and admiration. I'm finally tackling the Holy Grail -- my attic and garage together. Oh, the impressiveness of this undertaking is staggering, I know.

See, I brought this on myself. I'm a keeper. I'm a sentimentalist. I pick up a Mega Bloks Lego and and am transported back to when Ryan was at the crawling stage, and I think, "Aww, that was so cute. I can't give this away." So now -- YEARS LATER -- I have 5-HUNDRED Mega Bloks. I've held onto cribs, strollers, playmats and play yards. Why? I don't know. We're certainly NOT having more kids. I have bikes, bubble cars, pink roller blades. There's also a door (you read correctly, a door) a clock from the '70s, which I don't even want to get into.

Maybe there's some laziness mixed in with the sentimentalism. I needed to just get sick of looking at it, and get struck with a severe need for more space, before I could unload it.

But to really push myself to have this garage sale, which I've been talking about since last year, I needed to sign up for the Rutherford Town Wide garage sale. I needed to pay the $10 (they'll put our address in a booklet for people to find our house) to stop my procrastination and just get it done.

Mike, meanwhile, regurgitated his "We just need a Dumpster!" mantra. I'm like, "Mike, we can sell things to people who really want them. And we'll make a few bucks on it. The kids can keep the money from whatever they sell." Mike: "Right, we'll just be rolling in it when this is over. GET A DUMPSTER!" I reminded him that his father is a garage sale junkie. Mike: "My father buys old watches and clocks. Not umbrella strollers and booster seats. GET A DUMPSTER!"

Well, this "topic of conversation" will be over soon. Because this Saturday is day the Salfino household will have a whole new look. We will be clutter-free. We will be completely organized. WE WILL BE READY FOR OUR CLOSE-UP! Then, then I'll be doing the happy dance! ...Just don't mention Christmas to me. ...DON'T!

--Catherine Schetting Salfino

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

...And we're back

So, summer's over. The kids are back in school. Cara's joined the Y swim team for the first time (cost: $50,000). Ryan's joined rec soccer for the first time (cost: $25, plus cleats, plus shin guards, plus soccer shorts, plus soccer socks). At this rate, I need a full-time job to pay for the extra curriculars.

Anyway...I haven't posted eh-neh-thin since Super Bowl. So I figured before I put something up, I'd give the old site a quick glance. And that's when I noticed that all the Google ads on the Football Widow page are for things like, "Are you by any chance under surveillance by Family Services because you SUCK as a parent?!" and "Is your marriage one matchstick away from H-bombing?!" And I think to myself, what have I been writing that's bringing these types of ads to the site? C'mon. I don't think it's THAT bad.

I mean, we all have our moments. But I don't think I'm any worse than the next woman who has two kids up in her grill yet giving her the hand from the second they wake up to the second pass out again at night. It's called venting, and I don't really think I need ads asking "Are Jack Daniels and Jim Beam guiding your parenting?" next to my blog.

But anyway, I digress. We made it through yet another summer. The kids were in camp for six weeks of it, which helped. But then there was that last month. Those four weeks between when camp ended and school started. Where they were not signed up for anything. And I hadn't planned a vacation yet (so sue me Travelocity). It was like looking down a long dark tunnel -- and I was a-scaired. But there was no turning back. The first day of summer vaca without camp involved a lot of bribery, followed by a lot of threats of taking away the bribes. Followed by door slamming. And, finally, toilet cleaning (by Ryan), dusting (by Ryan), and vacuuming (by Cara). They were punished with chores. It was gulag time.

Actually, though, it was just a first-day-of-being-around-each-other freak out on all our parts. The summer ended well. And school began well. Other than Ryan waking up each morning for the last week saying he's sick. Very sick. He was up sick all night. "Why won't you believe me?!," he demands. "I barfed. All night."

So we have some work to do getting back into the swing of things for fall....

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Hell hath no fury...

It's been an extremely busy post-season for me. Post HOLIDAY season, that is. Boat loads of writing assignments, crap loads of pediatrician visits (and the bird flu hasn't even struck yet). There hasn't been time for all the warm and fuzzy parenting moments I usually write about.

But today I'm feeling good. Mike and I accomplished a major milestone in parenting last night. We agreed to slap parental controls on all the TVs in the house. That's right--lock down.

For years, YEARS!, I've been after the kids to shut off the TV. Talk about feeling like your parents! Daily, I've had flashbacks of my father shouting at us to "Turn that thing off! Get outside." To which we'd complain that there was nothing to do outside. To which he'd retort, "Go see a friend. Get on your bike. Move your bodies!"

Cut to 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 and just replace my father's voice with mine, with Cara and Ryan playing the parts of the whiny, lazy ass kids. Man-ischewitz!

Mike grew up with unlimited TV time. Hey, he was an only child in a single-parent household. TV was his friend. As an adult, he found all the Pediatric Association advice to limit your child's TV viewing to be rhetorical. Not me. When Cara was little, I subscribed to parenting magazines, read "What to Expect -- The Suicidal Years," and studied all the flyers from the doctor's office. I became a fierce monitor of her TV time.

Me: "Mike, Cara has already watched 47 minutes of TV today. She can't put on Cinderella now! That will put her 17 minutes over her outer limit."

Mike: "You've got issues."

Cut to the Ryan years. As I became busier taking care of the kid's things, house things and work things, Ryan figured out how to work the VCR, DVD and DirectTV -- before he learned the alphabet. That's actually not even a joke. As a second child, whose older sibling is five years ahead of him, he learned all the ins and outs of electronics, and how best to sneak it in. If I was busy making dinner and told him to turn off the TV and go play, he'd promptly go to the basement and click on the Boomerang Network, making sure to keep the volume on low. If Mike was working in the basement, he'd just slip up to our room and make himself cozy--him, the remote and Boomerang. Life was good.

I'd be like: "Mike, these kids are watching waaaaay to much TV. It's got to stop. They're going to be atrophied, brain dead sloths! Back me up on this!"

Mike: "Mmmmmmm, yeah, whaaaa? The game's on. What?"

Me: "Nevermind!"

Mike: "Wait. I care about this. What were you saying?"

Me: "The kid's are watching too much TV!"

Mike: "Hold on until this play is over."

Well, the whole party came to a crashing halt last night. Daddy got p.o.'d, so now the hammer's coming down! Somebody overrode the TiVo. And cancelled the recording of "24." Nobody messes with "24" and gets away with it.

For some reason, Cara thought a "That's So Raven" rerun was important enough that she should cancel the upcoming recording of "24" that I had scheduled on the mainfloor. So there she was, chillin' with Raven when Mike told her he needed to check on a football game (the Colts-Steelers that he TiVo'ed), so he kicked her off that TV. Cara went to the basement TV and turned off MIKE'S backup TiVo recording of "24." Ooooooohhhh. Bad move. Flagrant foul.

Pretty much everything in the basement is not to be touched without Mike's approval. The TV, the TiVo, the stereo, our computer, Cara's computer, the Easy-Bake oven. It's his domain. He will let everyone know whether or not he's in the mood to let people use the stuff.

Cara committed multiple infractions!! There were flags all over the play! She touched his TV on a football Sunday. She purposely cancelled a program set to record on MIKE'S TiVo. (They cancel my stuff on the mainfloor TV all the time because they know I'll never get around to watching anything.) And then she said it was an accident when, over and over, she pushed the button that kept asking "Do you want to cancel this recording?"

If she was a mouth breather, that excuse may have flown. Mike wasn't buyin' it.

So now, they're LOCKED OUT. Of everything but PBS.

Only problem is, if I walk in a room and see Teletubbies on, this withdrawal is going to be a whole lot harder for everybody.

--Catherine Schetting Salfino