The Five Rings Of Battling Homework Battles

There’s a new resistance party. It’s called Opposition Homework. The party members are not like anyone you’ve ever known, they’re uber defiant, unbelievably stoic and under five feet tall. You wonder how such little people go without snacks or water and produce enough tears and snot to require a change of clothes – all because it was time for homework. I’d rather deal with my period than deal with my kid doing math at home.

Before I came to terms that I wasn’t the only parent with a homework defiant kid, I tried everything. Kumon, using a metronome or classical music, Yoga – still, all those sessions ended with me as the FINISH-YOUR-HOMEWORK banshee.

Now with a fifth grader (who hasn’t brought home a reading log since second grade) I admit, I’m still losing the homework battle. I have made two important discoveries through the interim: one, teachers don’t consistently check the content. So the homework – while done – is also crappy. And the second revelation is, it’s not the homework that needs to be addressed – it’s the work ethic.

The poor attitude towards homework is baffling because as a kid, I did my homework – no questions asked. If I “forgot” to do it – I was shitting bricks the next day – frantically cramming it in before the morning bell. But my guy? He once walked the whole five blocks to school before he realized he forgot his backpack and then had his dad “text” me to bring it.

Seeing that he can’t hide under the excuse of being a child anymore, I did some homework of my own. Using the elemental structure from the “Book Of Five Rings,” this new “way of the warrior,” is in the works to construct the ultimate, Homework Jedi.

Ring 1 Strategy: There are planners – and there are strategists. One does weddings, the latter does revolutions. A plan’s factor is usually time, whereas strategy is anticipating the reactions of the other side. Believe me, getting homework done – without stress – requires strategy. Therefore, when your kid starts flailing on the floor, wailing like the fat lady in a Puccini opera, just start doing his homework for him. At first, he’ll think you’re the stooge, until he realizes that for his name, you wrote “Meat Head” and at the end of every page, “I secretly love Selena Gomez.” He’ll never trust a ghost writer to do his homework again.

Ring 2 Spirit: To have the right spirit, you need the right stance. It might be old school, but I make my boys sit up straight with both feet on the floor (or a step stool for Merry Legs) and make them hold the pencil properly. You’d be surprised how many kids, especially in the upper grades, think it’s cool to hold a pencil like a neanderthal. They write like they took dictation from one, too. I advised them that it’s not real “essay like” to write “Ha! Ha!” as a conclusion and they seriously asked me if I speak English. Spirit is normalcy and fluidity – it’s the element of water. So when their spirit of homework is down, challenge them to the ice bucket – but please – don’t post it on Facebook. I don’t really give a damn who freezes their nipples.

Ring 3 Environment: Examine the environment. I know a mom who sends her son to his room to do his homework. She comes back an hour later to discover he’s been tooling around for the past hour. Despite his distraction-free, ergonomic, Ikea p.o.s. study desk – he exercises his free will to – get out of his friggin’ chair. We do our work at the kitchen table. When I’m preparing dinner, which is during the blue moon, I find holding the chopping knife adds just the right punctuation mark to “finish your math NOW.” For my boys, the kitchen table has become their “station” in which my husband and I can no longer occupy – we take our dinner standing by the island, like outcasts. When I clean their “station” I find scrap notes tucked away that says, “mommy needs a nap”.

Ring 4 Speed: “The quicker it’s done, the more you’ll have fun,” said – no woman ever. Unless she’s the lunch lady. She says it all the time. Speed is superior. Speed and accuracy – that’s Jet Li. To get to “Jet Li” status takes practice. In this world of rebooting at every major obstacle, however, what kid has the mentality to practice? They don’t. As my mom says, “It’s not in their genes.” Did you know that there’s an actual DNA to practice and the current generation completely lacks it? Either you’re born with the knack to play golf, swim, build a spaceship – or not. The arts as we know it, is dead. Photoshop, Pro Tools and death have made mediocre talent sellable, while real talent have to whore themselves off to a mouse named Mickey. But the good news is – YOU have the “practice gene.” Even if your kids can’t, you know how to keep at it. Monotony does rub off – take U2’s new album for example. Don’t misunderstand speed as being fast. When it happens without you knowing when it happened – that’s speed. And that’s what he said.

Ring 5 Void: “…void does not imply something lacking, but rather the elimination of what is superfluous.” Of course, what’s “superfluous” is a matter of opinion. I think fifteen thousand Lego pieces that wind up all over the basement floor is superfluous. My kids think toilet paper is superfluous. That’s what underpants are for. In the case of homework, it’s the actual homework that’s superfluous. If void is virtue, then quality and attitude are the void. To obtain that, you really just have to know – when to call it quits. Focus on the things that will matter in their future: doing the work. Thoroughly, righteously – proudly. Like the brown stains on their organic, cotton underwear.

“Never stray from the way”

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17 Signs That You’re Crazy

Seriously, people – I could use the money. It’s not that we’re starving, but my boys – they think money grows on trees. Literally. They no longer believe in Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy or the Easter Bunny – but don’t be messin’ with their Money Tree. It’s out there somewhere – like my camera charger.

Thus, this post at content blogging because Legos are not free and neither are tap shoes. Or cheese for that matter.

17 signs that you’re crazy:

1) You eat when you’re bored: Technically, you should be doing laundry. Everybody has dirty laundry. Loads of it. But nobody likes to do it. So you avoid doing it by eating cheese and crackers. You sort your food but not whites and colors…and there it is. Laundry is racist. You’re crazy.

2) You forget your keys: In the car, in the house, in the office – doesn’t matter. Why’d you do that? Because you’re crazy.

3) You stubbed your pinky toe on an exercise dumbbell: That’s your body’s way of reminding you that you should be doing something with them. For the life of you, you can’t remember. Here’s a hint: put down that box of Ding Dongs and move that dumbbell out of the way, you crazy ass.

4) You called your mother for advice: Everybody knows that at your age, your mom is the only person in the world who will tell you the brutal truth. At any age, really – moms never sugar coat anything. They hate sugar. Well, the moms I know, anyway. Not that they won’t eat it themselves but they love depriving their kids of it. So yes, if mom got you depressed for giving you the cold hard facts about your character, just tell yourself it’s not true, you’re just crazy.

5) You bake and suck at it but still try to make cookies: The good news is, persistence is a good character trait. The bad news is, you’re wasting food – not to mention gas and electricity making inedible pieces of shit. I have two words: baking soda. Even though the recipe only calls for a tablespoon or four, doesn’t mean it’s optional. If you have friends who are really good at baking, then pilfer their stash. Everyone knows crazy people can’t bake.

6) You apologize to inanimate objects: Walls, trees, lamp posts and parking meters – it’s really their fault for existing. Stop apologizing, it’s just craziness.

7) You talk back to the news: Then again, you apologize to inanimate objects so, this is a given. It’s when the screen starts talking back that you – mi-i-i-i-i-ght wanna check yourself in.

8) You don’t understand bubble tea: And why should you? Imagine – a crazy person drinking bubbles. In tea, much less. If there’s gotta be bubbles in a drink, it should be grass flavored. Crazy people just do drugs. Right…crazy person?

9) You cry watching commercials: ASPCA, starving kids in Canada – Gatorade. Why you’re crying, nobody knows. You’re crazy.

10) You sing along to supermarket muzak: It must’ve been love, ’cause it’s over now. Only crazy people double shopping for chicken liver and kale chips with Karaoke.

11) You distrust anyone who wants to be your friend: After all, it takes one to know one – so chances are they’re crazier than you. The sane people are the ones who are always excusing themselves from you. They’ll say, “Oh, hey – good to see you. Gosh! I gotta run, my anus is calling me.”

12) You hear the phone ringing when it’s not: Okay, this could be resolved if you’d just change your ringer. If only there were a ring tone that shouted, “I’ll clean up for you!” or “Have a bag of money!” You’d never miss a call – or answer the phone when it wasn’t ringing and have people stare at you on the bus like – well, you’re crazy.

13) You think you’re lucky sometimes: There is no such thing as luck. Life is based on endowment. Tall, male, white-ish, with hair and a set of teeth that shows impeccable dental hygiene practice – they get first dibs. When you go all the way down the list, you’ll find your break. If you find yourself feeling lucky, look around for the other shoe before it lands on your crazy brain.

14) You stick with tradition: Did it ever occur to you that your great-great grandmother was bonkers? In her time, she didn’t have all the amenities society has now – for example: information. There is a difference between routine and tradition. Tradition is something that’s followed without knowing why – and that’s just plain crazy.

15) You don’t see life as a musical: But it is. The only reason we don’t break into song and dance numbers at the office is because of Local 802. There’s also the lack of really big fans to blow your hair back but as long as you have your tap shoes on, a musical number could break any moment. If you don’t see it, you must be crazy.

16) You have faith in sunscreen: It may keep you from smoldering but it does not work for vampires. Might do your craziness some good to get fried.

17) You find happiness in accidents: Because you may be crazy, but that’s why you’re happy. Have you ever met a happy control freak? Sometimes it’s better to be crazy than be the boss. If you are the boss and you’re crazy, think about the poor souls who work for you. They must be maniacs.

If you agree with any five of these signs, then indeed you are crazy. What you need to do now is see a bartender and ask for something special. Bring money with you but under no circumstances, should you offer the bartender sunscreen.

 

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The Boys of Summer

The air conditioner in our bedroom is a noisy piece of crap. Every time it kicked on, it woke me up. So, counting on a mild August night, I turned it off and hoped the fan setting was enough. In five minutes, the room was boiling. A far cry from the luxurious accommodation of our weekend in Philly. As I labored for sleep, I remembered walking past a woman on her cell phone saying, “Well, sure but it’s hot as fuck out here!”

The bed started to feel like a fresh pizza. Finally, my feet hit a cool spot that just might remain cool enough to drift back to sleep when the door creaked open.

“Mama?” Said a little voice.

“Go back to bed.” I said.

“My head hurts.”

“That’s ’cause you should be asleep.” I said, and groaned because the cool spot was now – hot.

“And I’m thirsty,” continued the little pecker-head, as he proceeded to climb into my bed.

My limbs were groggy as I ushered him out to the bathroom and when I turned on the light, I was astonished.

Samu must’ve grown three inches in his sleep!

Suddenly, I’m overcome by a wave of melancholia. Or terror. Either they’re growing overnight or it’s an invasion of the body snatchers. But I realize it’s really him and not an alien who busted out of an eggplant when he filled his cup with water – dumped it – filled it again – dumped it again – filled it again and took just two tiny sips.

“I don’t want summer vacation to be over,” he whimpered.

It hit me, too. “Yeah, we had a lot of fun this summer – didn’t we?”

My mind took a brief inventory: Track & Field, Golf, Baseball sleepover and let’s not forget sunburn. Nothing like walking the streets of Philly with Daddy looking like a leper.

Samu and I shuffled our way back to his bed. My steps just as heavy and sad as his. Our fun in the sun – was done.

For me, it was more than that. This summer just might be the last when my boys are “boys”. Next year, Zuki will likely be the same height as me. And Samu – should at least have a butt that’ll hold a pair of swim trunks bigger than 3T.

In the dark, I could hear his tears hit the pillow. I could tell he wanted to sing the theme song he created combining the “Titanic” and “Lord of the Rings”. He’d been humming it all summer when he was sad – when he lost an eyeball for his Mixel, when the frog at the beach got plucked by a seagull.

But his big brother was snoring away. And, that kind of ruined it.

“How’s your head?” I asked as he held my hand.

He sighed deeply and answered, “I want to go back to the hotel in Philadelphia.”

I did, too. The air conditioner was quiet.

Boys of Summer

 

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Doing The Right Thing in Underpants

You know you’re in the right, when you’re in the minority. People hate the truth. They’ll ignore it rather than face it, even when it’s standing right in front of them, blocking their way forward. I had to sum this up for my boys after they watched “Lord of the Flies” recently.

They were profoundly affected by the story, they talked about it incessantly. They pondered why all the boys left the reasonable leadership of Ralph to follow the maniacal Jack and chalked it up to Jack being blond.

With that settled, they went on to discuss whether it was necessary – at all – to wear underwear if they were the only boys stranded on a deserted island.

Amazing what boys focus on.

Regardless what portion of the movie they happened to recall, they always went back to the camp fire dance in their underpants. I asked them if they saw a similarity in their own behavior, and they gawked. “No mom, we NEVER act like that,” they said.

Oh, really?

As soon as I said it was time to do their summer workbook, they flailed on the floor like fish out of water. They were kicking and screaming how stupid math and English were, after all who needs it anyway – if they had some pigs blood and ashes, they’d have marked their faces with war paint. In their organic cotton underwear.

Little savages.

Ironically, the summer workbook assignment for the day was to write a commercial about integrity.

“What is integrity?” Zuki asked.

“It’s doing the right thing, all the time – even when it’s not popular or fun. Even when you’re dancing around in your underpants.”

He was quiet for a while, which meant he was either thinking about it or he had imaginary flies buzzing in his head. Finally, he said, “Like Ralph and Piggy.”

At least he got it. Unfortunately, he also connected how those characters with integrity wound up dead or battered by the end of the movie – but what could I say. It’s not the Lego movie.

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Don’t Worry A Troubled Mind

“Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.”
― Corrie ten Boom

“Worry Wart” was my middle name. I was born to worry. As a matter of fact, worrying was my main reason to become a parent. Parenting, I thought, was the perfect excuse to worry for every little thing.

Worry if the baby’s healthy. Worry if the child gets hurt. Worry if they’ll make friends and do well in school. Worry if my worrying is borderline psychotic and thus raise a serial killer with an unoriginal Modus Operandi.

That would be lame. Not even book rights. Oh my God, so much to worry about and so little time!

But like sleep and quiet moments, I soon learned that there is really no time to worry with kids. Shit just happens – regardless.

So I learned how to prepare.

There’s a distinct difference between worry and preparation. True, preparation is pretty much taking precaution on nothing more than an assumption; but to worry was just – immature. To give into it, gets you nowhere and actions based on it brings nothing but trouble. Just the thing worry was trying to avoid.

Ask anyone what they’re worried about and basically what they want to say is, “I’m worried that we’re gonna die.”

I didn’t want to worry to the point of becoming one of those moms. You know, the ones who are like, “Life? Oh no, that’s too dangerous for my children and I’m far too busy for that.”

It’s amusing how the modern mother became so irrational when the world became more accessible. They wipe everything clear of germs, pluck their children out of every challenging situation, fight their kids fights for them and then sit them down to a cardboard box of Chicken McNuggets because they forgot to pack a snack.

Their kids can’t eat fruit but they’ll eat mystery meat from a clown.

Okay, hungry children are demonic. Over time, we’ve accumulated a mountain of lunch coolers and water bottles to make sure my kids don’t “turn”. Our pantry is single-serving snack central and can city. All that’s missing is a Milky Way candy bar and we’d be ready for James Franco.

In all the years of outings with boys who are convinced we will resort to cannibalism when the subway stops, I’ve learned to be prepared.

While I can’t say that I never worry, I’m certainly not a wart anymore.

So, what are you worried about?

Troubled Mind

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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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Same Ingredients, Different Buns

It’s the seven year itch. Not the marriage – the boys. They absolutely can’t stand each other. From the moment they wake up to the moment they go to bed – they are kicking each other’s balls. Literally. It’s come to the point of adjusting schedules to keep them apart. Not surprisingly, they spend the entire time away from each other being preoccupied with what the other one is doing.

My afternoons alone with Zuki, he’ll ask me, “What do you think Samu”s doing?”

I’ll say I don’t know to which he says, “Probably playing Minecraft.”

Again, I’ll say I don’t know and then sure enough, Samu calls.

“Can I speak to Zuki?”

“What for.” I’ll ask.

“So he can play Minecraft multi-player with me.”

It’s about the only time they’re civil to each other – over the phone. Get them in a room together and all I hear is the Ironside siren music that reappeared in Kill Bill.

Every morning, when they’re supposed to be brushing their teeth and getting dressed, the actual routine I hear is this: chit chat, laughter, cabinet doors slamming, somebody saying, “Heeeey, that’s mine,” followed by running, chasing, thuds of punches landing and finally – wailing.

That’s when either my husband or I have to – intervene.

They stand there – the two of them, in just their underpants, huffing as if they just ran a marathon with a big red welt on their backs. This is the scene we walk into at least two mornings out of the week. The other mornings, we’re just too tired to break it up. Let them go to school looking like they just got out of jail, I need to finish my coffee.

Some afternoons my mom takes Zuki to her apartment and he acts like he’s in Vegas. He demands from her, an endless buffet of snacks, beverage after beverage, and she waits on him even though she complains about it later.

“Who does he think he is – my husband?” She’ll say.

When it’s time to go home, Zuki will stall and when all else fails he’ll say, “Baba, I don’t want to go home because I really hate Samu. He really gets on my nerves. I just wanna kill him. That’s why I choke him. Can I have another snack?”

Meanwhile, Samu pulls the same stunt but instead of choking, he’ll say, “That’s why I punch him in the balls,” and instead of a snack, he’ll ask to play Minecraft.

They are so different and yet they’re the same. It’s amazing how the same ingredients, baked in the same oven produced two different buns – onion and cinnamon raisin in my case. While there’s no secret ingredient to avoid sibling personality clashes, there’s none to guarantee compatibility either.

Even the closest of people have turned into distant ghosts or worse, formidable enemies. Then I guess a punch in the balls to solve a dispute isn’t that bad after all.

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