Chat-o-meister

Not many parents would tell a baby to shut up, but we did – constantly. After endless hours of his blabber we’d say, “Shut up, Samu,” despite ourselves. His jibberish was beyond cute and oh, kids say the darndest things – it was literally, “can you just shut up for five minutes? Just five minutes!”

It never hurt his feelings – quite the contrary. It got to the point where he’d respond, “No I can’t – I’m a non-shutter upper!”

As he got older, the Chat-o-meister got worse. What, with school and all, he’s armed with a bigger vocabulary. He can articulate now and give visuals. Way to go, level P reader! The other day, in a crowded elevator, he said to his friend, “My mom washes her hair in the bathtub, so sometimes her hair is in our bath and it’s irritating. And gross.”

Which was better than his explanation of an altercation at school that went, “Nicholas said the “b” word – you know bitch -,”

“Samu, you’re not supposed to say the word. You just call it the “b” word.”

“Yeah, but you might’ve thought I meant bastard.”

Thank you, Samu. Thanks for being so – thorough.

He has yet to ask me for his own Facebook page or email account so he can spread the word. He does, however, want my old camera so he can make his own movies. I’m assuming the storyline will be something along the lines of “Bad Piggy finds the box of tampons and decides to launch them at the stray cats in our community driveway!”

Don’t worry – you won’t be subjected to his nonsensical movie marathons. First of all, I have no intention of sifting through our boxes and boxes of junk just to find our old camera, only to sift through the same mess to find the battery charger. Second, it’s inevitably going to be me who has to edit all his hapless footage and upload it to Youtube.

Speaking of which, he hasn’t figured out that he would need his own Youtube account. Unlike his buddy at the schoolyard, who has that all covered. This kid, Shane, is only in Kindergarten but he’s as tall, if not taller than Samu. He comes up to me and says, “I’m getting my own Gmail!”

So I say, “Great! Tell me – who would be emailing you?” Because seriously, who emails a letter of the alphabet or just sight words?

Shane says, rather curtly, “Not E-mail – G mail. G. G. G – mail! Not E!”

Now I’m thoroughly confused and tell him so. My understanding is that Gmail is an email account, so why would he need it – was the question I posed to him.

He replied, “For my Youtube!”

And he rolls his eyes like he’s just had the most idiotic conversation, ever.

Of course, when I recounted the story to Zuki he sided with Shane saying, “Mom, you know, you are old.”

How does that even make sense? Then again, why am I surprised – Zuki, who’s in the fourth grade, says, “Mom, I think I’m getting a boulder.”

A boulder?

He opens his mouth and points to one of his back teeth, “See – this one is loose. I think I’m getting a new boulder.”

For the record, his molar is fine – it’s his brain that’s loose.

Me: “He doesn’t look like an ‘Andrew'”

Samu: “Maybe he draws a lot.”

Shut up, Samu.

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Houston, We Have A Behavior Problem

Every parent at one point, faces some form of behavior problems in children, but nothing – compares to the complexities of a boy turned nine.

They’re bi-polar, I swear. One minute, they’re cursing you out under their breath because you won’t “leave them alone,” and the next minute they’re clinging onto your leg accusing you of abandonment when you’re fetching the laundry.

At least once a month, the teacher waves me over to address his “bad day”.

Is it that time of the month – for him? I think to myself.

Well, the truth is – it’s not just my guy. There are other boys among his class – his friends – and even in his Pack who sprout these demonic wings. It’s not boyish mischief – it’s adolescent rebellion. The, “I’m gonna push buttons until someone starts screaming at me so I’ll have a reason to lash out,” route.

To my nine-year-old, everything is stupid. Breakfast is stupid. Homework – oh, homework – is stupid. Practice, bathing, sleeping – even pooping is stupid. Everybody in the world is stupid, starting with his little brother all the way to Jaime Shupak, the traffic anchor on NY 1 News.

Excuse me, are you fifteen? Yes, apparently – nine is the new fifteen. And for girls it’s seven – according to my friends who have daughters.

After the last report from his teacher about his deplorable behavior, I did some research and found this helpful article.

It’s “The Three Skills Every Child Needs For Good Behavior” by James Lehman.

“Skill #01: Reading Social Situations” seemed simple enough. As a matter of fact, I assumed my boys already did that. “Look at someone, anyone, and try to guess how they’re feeling,” I said during our walk on Sunday morning.

Zuki promptly replied, “That’s stupid.”

But then he asked, “How am I supposed to guess how strangers feel,” which made it obvious that he hadn’t been “reading” situations at all – just reacting to them.

Inevitably, he ticked me off later that day to which I simply asked, “Look at my face and tell me how I’m feeling.”

Something clicked in his mind – it was clear. “You’re mad,” he said, “because I’m not doing my chores.”

Then he calmly picked up his clean clothes and put them away.

Eureka! Is this how Anne Sullivan felt when Helen Keller finally grasped communication? Not to compare our measly milestone with that historic moment, but there are times I wonder if my boy isn’t deaf and blind.

I just have to remind myself that it’s all a phase. For now, it’s the back talk, the rebellion, holding a breadstick like a cigar and sassing like Wolverine. He’ll find his calling. The next thing I’ll know, he’ll be turning eighteen, which would be too old for a behavioral problem, so that would make it the new – midlife crisis?

 

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The Cramp About Summer Camp

Summer camp is not the Jim Croce sing along it used to be when I went. Kids today are just too sophisticated. As it is, my boys pack two Nerf guns and five thousand Lego pieces just to play in the backyard. I can’t imagine what girls need – a suitcase of band looms?

Camp is also way more expensive than what I remember. Two weeks of full day camp for my kids cost what my parents paid for one month back then. It’s ludicrous.

Of course there are cheaper city camps. They’re great if you’re content with paying for semi-attentive hipsters to take your kids to the park all day. I already do that – be semi-attentive and endlessly drag them around the hot streets to a sweltering park with deplorable bathrooms. The hipster thing, I’d have to work at.

The way I see it, summer camp is worth the money as long as the kids do things that you can’t deliver. Like play baseball with a team of kids all the same age or do crafts with an adult who isn’t afraid of glitter or drive around with hipsters who can listen to Nikki Minaj without throwing up.

For two years, I enrolled my boys in World of Discovery camp, which was ideal. They were picked up by 07:30 in the morning and dropped off at 5:30, stinky, exhausted and thoroughly played out. They were completely different people when they arrived home – like cyborgs who looked, smelled and talked like my kids – but didn’t act like them. They were behaved. Taking a bath, doing their homework packet without a single tear and they were famished enough to eat salad. Salad!

It was paradise until it ended and the “camp glow” was gone as fast as it came.

Next challenge will be sleep away camp. If Day Camp seems expensive, wait until you hit the sleep aways. Granted, they’re chock full of activities you’d get arrested for doing. Archery, BB guns, rock climbing, throw-them-off-a-pier-and-see-if-they-can-swim-back, but at seven hundred dollars a week, I might risk the heat.

As for academic summer camps – personally, I don’t think the brain absorbs any book knowledge once the snow thaws. There’s probably a scientific study out there to prove it but for now, I say it from experience.

Ever since the State standardized tests were done, the kids academically went on vacation.

“Homework, schmomework!” They would say. Even the second graders – and they didn’t even take the damn test.

To avoid summer learning loss, the Summer Bridges Activity Workbook helped us a great deal last year. Each day is designed for twenty minutes of ELA and math study with bonus science or Social Studies and physical fitness. That, coupled with forty minutes of reading was about all my boys could handle without taking them to court. At the end of the summer, they weren’t any smarter than in they were in June – but didn’t forget how to open a book.

With boys – that’s the most you can hope for.

So if you’re looking to stick your kid in an expensive summer camp, my suggestion is – go with a friend or a sibling. They may not be in the same division – but they’ll be on the same bus. Because we all know that the school bus is the cul-de-sac where bullying thrives.

And while it might be too late now, go to the Open House. They usually set them up from February through May when they do the early bird sign ups.

If you are too late and the camp is all booked, don’t fret. Go on their waiting list – people always cancel. Last minute. Trust me.

Whatever it is you scope out, think long term. You don’t want to enroll them in a group they’re going to be too old for by next year. Ideally, you’d like to get them into a situation that could eventually mean summer work.

My boys could possibly start work next summer – Samu started learning guitar and Zuki’s been practicing drums on his own. They could ride the subways singing Bad, Bad Leroy Brown badly like I did in summer camp. Who knows, they could collect enough small change to pay for sleep away camp by August.

 

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Eat Me, Drink Me

Ziploc sandwich bags filled with white sugar were lined across the table. The boys couldn’t stop touching it, holding it, letting it drape across their face. It certainly wasn’t the point of the exercise but it was an eye opener for the adults about the power of sugar.

At the Scouts meet the other day, the Pack conducted a presentation on sugary drinks. It was a “Healthy Unit Patch” activity to show how much sugar was packed into Coke, Gatorade, Sunny D and Capri Sun. For each drink, we dumped the amount of sugar in a plastic baggie. They actually saw the seventeen teaspoons it took for a 20 oz Coke.

They gawked at it. So much sugar. Their eyes lit up like Tony Montana facing a mountain of cocaine. One boy placed his finger on a bag of sugar and asked, “Can I take it home?”

“No.”

“What about the Sunny D?”

While they all knew that water contained absolutely no sugar, there were a couple among them that commented, “Blech, water. I hate the way it tastes!”

It’s not the only time I’ve heard kids say that. They’re usually the kids who have a crushed bottle of generic water in a warm lunch box. How could warm, plastic toxin tasting water compete with an ice cold Snapple in a glass bottle?

It can’t.

And that’s the sad truth, it’s really not their fault they diverge from water. Most kids who drink a lot of sugary drinks have parents who drink the same, or parents who dispense it like – well, water. And if you really think about it, a hundred years ago, all people big and small, drank rum or ale because the water was too filthy to drink. So who’s to blame, right?

Although I was told that the cheapest vodka run through a Brita water filter will taste like Grey Goose, I’d still suggest using it for water and serving that to your kids.

It is worth experimenting, however – for research purposes, obviously.

The main soda drinker in our house was Samu but he rectified that situation on his own by developing a taste for Taki’s. It’s a corn snack flavored with chile and lime and it’s amazing. Not the taste but the fact that it shuts him up and gets him to guzzle water. Currently, it’s all the rave among his classmates and I’m sure that’s why the school aides are smiling. Why didn’t Frito Lays see that coming?

In closing, I’d like to add that respect for water has always been upheld by brewers and distillers. My father always preached that he’d rather I drink beer than soda. Of course, I was four years old at the time and probably the only pre-schooler served a glass of beer simply because it was Canadian.

I just remember it was delicious.

At this stage, especially after all the attempts at home brewing, I see that quality water is the “umami.” It’s the crux of life, booze and authentic New York pizza. While my dad gave me a glass of Canadian beer, I gave my boys a sandwich bag of white sugar to prove the point. And in their future of proving that water is holy, they have – the Brita filter.

Samu drink

 

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