Monday, May 31, 2010

Hot Delicious Cake

("Coney Island Melody" by Amy Nelder)

Despite coming home after midnight, we found ourselves waking up early to get out to Coney Island. In retrospect, it seems a little a random and crazy but it was Memorial Day, the last day of a long weekend, and the start of summer vacation season. After a harsh winter, we wanted to kick it off right. It didn’t matter that don’t normally go to Coney Island, we aren’t beach people, or that the boardwalk would be congested with people who did and were. We told ourselves the boys would have fun. How bad could it be?

But why Coney Island? Ok, fair question. My brother-in-law was playing in the 2010 All-Star Game at MCU Park, the minor league baseball stadium in Coney Island. It was the perfect opportunity to catch up with my sister and let the boys spend some time with their cousin Lucas. And so we trekked out to the downtrodden but historic landmark neighborhood.

Ismaeel was thrilled to drive on the Belt Parkway and point out the boats along the way. It actually took us more time to park than to drive there. Nevertheless, we soon caught up with everyone and started the day with some over-priced and over-greased fried food from the boardwalk. From there, we headed towards Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park. So far so good.

The boys were eager to ride the little helicopters on the Mini Enterprise. My sister raced to buy a book of tickets and the boys wiggled and waited for their turn. Ismaeel excitedly pointed out the blue one that he wanted to go in. And it was all ours but somehow (due to a lack of naps and waiting too long for the ride to fill) both boys started wailing before the ride even began. And so, four adults and one hungry infant were soon trying their best to wave and cheer up the two sobbing toddlers having “fun” on the helicopters. There is a particular pain point (when the ride becomes about 45 seconds too long) where the parents sadly mirror the very same wiggling their children had been doing to get on the now-traumatic ride. The ride ends and the moms and dads rush the gates to retrieve the broken souls formerly known as their children. The more voluptuous parents try to comfort their not-so-little ones with promises of hot dogs and cotton candy while the rest (with some 18 tickets to go) try to garner enthusiasm for the next ride. And so we set our sights on the Carousel, Big (Monster) Trucks, Sea Serpent Roller Coaster, and the Rio Grande Train.

All in all, the boys cheered up and enjoyed the rides (particularly the roller coaster) but a day at the amusement park can be an exhausting experience as a parent. Let’s just say Coney Island is not the most organized of places. Navigating crowds with a nap-deprived toddler is always tough but on the boardwalk you find yourself wading through more tattooed and exposed flesh (under the always classy and torn neon colored mesh “cover-ups”) than you ever imagined possible. But my simple priority was trying to help Ismaeel avoid being shoved from people who don’t understand the social norms of a queue or from receiving additional cigarette ash in his eye from the smokers who thought he was their personal ashtray.

My real favorite moment of our boardwalk crowd experience was when I became the freak, wonder, and human curiosity. A man holding hands with his ladylove (a near morbidly obese woman wearing more patches of sand than clothing) decided to heckle me for wearing a light cardigan and jeans saying “Mami, it ain’t gonna snow today”. My husband and I laughed at this - not quite understanding why it bothered him when he had his hands on so much hot delicious cake. And besides, my exposed toes and flip-flops were indeed beach appropriate. But I guess it doesn’t count unless your pedicure is chipped. Sigh.

We took this as a signal that we experienced enough early summer at Coney Island. We watched Lucas cool off with the palm tree sprinkler on the beach and said our goodbyes. As we packed up the boys in the cars, I texted my sister that we all had fun. And we really did. We just need to think long and hard before waking up early to head back…

Saturday, May 29, 2010

To Park or Not to Park

For those who know me, you are all too-familiar with the long-winded tale of how a totaled car brought about my wedding in under 30 days. For those who don’t, nearly five years ago a perfect parking spot was discovered as being not-so-flawless after all.

First of all, I don’t drive. Despite my parent’s deep love and affection for cars, I never learned how and have sincere doubts that I ever will. So, when my husband (back then fiancĂ©) wanted to leave his car in Manhattan, he was the one and only tasked with parking and re-parking (during late nights and early mornings) per the dictates of NYC street cleaning rules. He took particular pride in securing spots where cars could be left for days in a row. Much to his delight, he landed one on Riverside Drive that could keep the car up until the weekend. For the rest of the week, he slept in a bit later, and happily didn’t think once about his Mitsubishi Diamante.

Early that Saturday morning, we walked 4 blocks to the so-called perfect parking spot with our bags packed to spend the weekend in Long Island. But we couldn’t find the car. We laughed to think that we walked in the wrong direction and started to reconsider which coveted place we had actually left it. But my husband was absolutely certain it was “this exact spot” by “that very tree”. Was it towed? Was it stolen? We had no clue. We tried calling the police from the street but were told we couldn’t file a report for at least 4 hours to ensure that no one towed the car instead. We considered our weekend officially over and went back to my apartment to spend the next 240 minutes calling and re-calling each tow pound throughout Manhattan and the outer boroughs. We did our due diligence but no one had record of towing the car.

At this point, the police agree to meet us outside the apartment. They told us to hop in the back of their squad car so we could show them where we parked. As we drove past, the expressions on my neighbors’ faces were priceless. At this point, we were pretty irritated that the car was stolen. So you can imagine, we didn’t find it amusing when the police officer was laughing heartily as he stood where the car should have been. He eagerly waved my husband to join and almost tripped over as he remembered we couldn’t open the squad car doors ourselves. He came running, waving a note, and mumbling something about what are the odds. My husband examined the note which said, “Don’t worry, your car isn’t stolen. xxx-xxx-xxx” and shook his head. The phone number meant nothing to us. Who takes someone’s car and leaves behind a note with a number? What kind of sick joke is this? And this is where the police officer started in with another giggle fest. Noticing my husband’s seriousness, he quickly caught himself and choked out that the note contains the direct line to the local precinct.

Apparently a few nights back, an eager pre-teen and unlicensed driver had stolen her grandmother’s car, lost control, and created a domino crash of six cars on Riverside Drive. I don’t believe anyone was seriously hurt but our car was the end of the dominos and was totaled so badly – it would have been hazardous to leave it on the street. So in the haste to clean-up the aftermath someone left a note knowing that it might take days for the police to look up the car registration information and contact my husband.

It took us months to determine who is liable for the damage to our car. Obviously, we were parked legally and not at fault but the actual car that sandwiched ours was also parked (as were the cars who hit them). According to the police report, only 2 of the 6 cars actually had drivers behind the wheel. Throughout the liability squabbles, we became acclimated to the perks of not maintaining a car in NYC. So, when we received a generous insurance payment for our totaled car – it seemed odd to consider replacing it. Instead, we decided it was the perfect international honeymoon fund. We scrambled to arrange a wedding reception in NYC and a month-long itinerary of events in Egypt. Nearly five years and two kids later, we find ourselves aching for our own car.

To complete errands and momentarily taste a subway free life, we try to rent a car at least once a month. And even when we rent, my husband is willing to take LIRR to the closest Avis dealer in Long Island to avoid paying NYC or airport rates. This technique doesn’t usually bring us the newest or even cleanest models. However, today they gave my husband a 2010 Hyundai Genesis with less than 300 miles on it.

He called me on the way to pick me up just to say how great it drives and to ask if we have time to get it washed someplace nice before we go out. I reminded him that it is a rental and he retorts that this doesn’t absolve us of taking good care of it. I seriously don’t think I have ever heard him be this happily devoted and already know I have lost him to that V8 temptress. As he is already talking about extending the rental for a month, I know we are likely to head to the Hyundai dealership soon.

Let’s just hope he doesn’t expect me to learn to drive so I can park it.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Of All the Things We Do to Our Children...

From the early days of purchasing a home pregnancy test kit to watching the tell-tale lines appear – you immediately fall into a psychological netherworld filled with frequent bouts of hysteria and paranoia. Granted, there are the many tender moments of bliss but even when those angelic babes sleep – your mind will drift towards the macabre. It is as if you are always wondering when the other shoe will drop.

You worry about them being smothered by their personalized lambie blankets. Or that an unsliced grape is an unavoidable choking hazard. A flight of stairs might as well be engulfed with flames. Scissors become as dangerous as a loaded gun. And don’t even get me started on the toxic germs from those freaks who insist on kissing your baby’s face! Seriously, there is essentially nothing that you don’t fear. And you even begin fearing fear by worrying too much sheltering will turn them into a different sort of monster.

So… Overtime you realize you have to be vigilant and find a balance. For the most part, I try to accept the things that I can’t control, silence my nervous nellies, and pack enough Purell in my pockets to overcompensate for my endless need to protect.

However, some other parents seem to have a different approach…

Unbelievable. Unfathomable.

Why did Mohammad Rizal feel the need to give his eighteen-month-old son Sumatran Ardi Rizal a cigarette? Was boredom really his motivation? Because toddlers are pretty entertaining enough without having to subject themselves to cancer.

But perhaps it is unfair for me to assume that everyone around the world has access to understand the true dangers of addiction and smoking. So okay, let’s forget the emphysema, voice box, and drug habit bit – what crazy parent gives their toddler a burning stick !?!

But seriously, what do I know? I am just another paranoid mother trying not to let her kids play with a bag of glass…

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Ghetto Fabulous

I would like to avoid filling this blog with overtired and hysterical rants. However, the occasional good ol' fashioned ribbing at needless products seems to be a personal guilty pleasure both to write and read... Forgive my petty weaknesses (and please skip ahead to the next post), if you don't agree.

Today, I went to pick up some baby powder and found a brand new limited edition item on the shelves. (Drum roll please...)

Huggies Supreme Little Movers Jean Diapers !!!

Parenthood is indeed filled with many moments of irrational consumerism but even I find these absurd. And then there's the ad campaign. And no this is not a SNL skit...

Call me crazy but on even the hottest days, my boys wear pants. That's right - pants. A whole article of clothing over their diapers or underwear.

Seriously, who is buying these? What parent is thrilled to see jean diapers and rejoicing that their little ones can start dressing like a pantless Lady Gaga?

A dose of reality...
  1. Diapers leak.
  2. The dye on diapers tend to rub off on clothing when wet.

Let's say I become a "liberated" mama and have the boys go about their day sans pants - it would just be a matter of time for those blue overdyed "jeans" to stain my Maurice Villency couch. And if I had to choose between the boys or my buttery leather sectional... Well, maybe somethings are better left unsaid.

Related News:
NYT: Both Style and Substance in Diaper Advertising

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Seriously, Another Mommy Blog !?!

Ok. Before you start yawning and fearing the onslaught of gratuitous baby photos… I vow to make this a critically minded and relevant forum for all visitors.

As a Columbia graduate student trying to complete my masters in Strategic Communications, I have been tasked with trying to find my place in the blogosphere for the next nine weeks. And as a mother of two, it seems nearly impossible not to take my toddler and infant with me.

I am full aware that a quick search for “mommy” on Technorati yields 1,903 related blogs out of 1,187,661. Normally, I don’t aim for being the 1,904th person to arrive at any scene. But as I talk to my family, friends, co-workers, and fellow students, I realize that beyond the selfish need to preserve my children’s milestones or capture my adventures in Manhattan – parenthood isn’t an individual’s journey. With each birth, a collective exchange begins where stories of wisdom (however loosely defined), mayhem, and mischief are traded, if for no other purpose than to have a lifeline back to sanity. Hopefully, with this blog I can continue being in love with New York City (and my children) while also avoiding having to be fit for my own straightjacket.

So please, join me on as I embark on this digital adventure. And who knows, maybe in a just few postings you will be begging me for those baby photos.