A Parent’s Guide To Middle School

We need a new scapegoat. Our classic villains were once American Indians, then Nazi’s, the Russians, followed by Wall Street tycoons and finally, terrorists. But we can no longer target a particular race if we want to be politically correct. So I suggest we target politicians.

They’re the perfect villain. They lie, steal and generally ruin everything – even corruption.

Case in point – Middle School.

I knew the day would come when my child would be entering Middle School. I also knew, no matter what, there was going to be a tremendous suck factor.

The choices were, walk to our neighborhood middle school and hope to squeeze in with 2,000 other students in a building meant for half that – or go to school on the moon.

They must have a space shuttle that goes there, right?

Of course, I’m kidding – I know we euthanized all the astronauts. But I kid you not, my son’s commute to school is further than his father’s commute to work.

That’s the reality today – to get to sixth grade, kids will have to travel to Cuba because no one had the insight that Middle School would need a place to exist anywhere near their preceding school.

Did I mention they built a new elementary school smack in the middle of two other elementary schools and are in the process of building another elementary school nearby?

Let’s not even get into full day Pre-K. Like we need to send a four-year old to school all day only to offer him nothing when he passes the fifth grade.

Maybe because middle schoolers aren’t small and cute anymore, they’ve been banished to a place far, far away.

Out of sight, out of mind – and I get to take mine there.

We chose his Middle School because it’s a brand new building, the teachers are young and enthusiastic and so far he loves it. But every morning since he started, I’ve been religiously offering incense to our shrine. I figured if anybody’s going to look over my son, it’ll be my father’s spirit. My dad, the man who thought the best way to teach me how to swim was to strand me in the deep end of the beach.

I can imagine what he’d say about the situation, “Just let him go – if he gets lost, what’s the worst that could happen? He’ll crap his pants? Run into those topless women in Times Square? Better make sure he has some singles.”

And I want to just LET GO. But I know my son has a tendency to get “preoccupied.” It takes him ten minutes to put on a pair of socks, for crying out loud. He takes out a pair from the drawer and within a minute, he’ll forget where he left them. Then he’ll suddenly feel compelled to comment on baldness and completely forget to put on the other sock.

And I’m supposed to unleash this puppy on the subway?

So we’ll be giving him his own mobile phone to call us when there’s trouble. Some kids his age already had their own phone since fifth grade, but it wasn’t our intention to give him one until he grew underarm hair.

He’s got the odor – that’s close enough.

Maybe that was the plan all along – throw us to the wolves so we’d be forced to buy multiple phones and cars. Mind you, the cars we have already, have no place to park. The phones we’re trying to add are running out of available numbers – and we have five known area codes. By the time we figure it out, we’ll be buried in litter and dog poo and talking to the ghost of Christmas Future.

And I’ll bet he’s a politician.

 

 

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Layover Brooklyn

After obtaining her idNYC, my mom went on a sightseeing spree. She visted four boroughs in four days collecting her free memberships like an urban senior Zelda.

For a week she was texting me pictures of giraffes and sculptures and I had to figure out where she was. I think she got the idea from that Free Range Chicken in those Geico commercials.

Along the way, she devised a bright idea to take us on a journey of her favorites. Not one, not two – but three jewels of Brooklyn within the time frame of a layover. Crazy right?

First of all, Brooklyn is big and before you can even get to the edge of it, you have to go through most of Manhattan. That’s already too long of a subway ride. Then – there’s a million stops once you get into Brooklyn – it’s like a train in the Twilight Zone – it never gets to your station (cue cheesy music).

Still, we managed and began at the Brooklyn Museum, followed by the Brooklyn Botanic Garden with a grand finale of Coney Island.

With 15 minutes to kill before opening, we enjoyed eating onigiri (Japanese rice balls) while watching the water works at the Brooklyn Museum. It’s amazing the effect water has on people, especially kids who are insanely unfocused. It must be like watching synchronized spitting. It’s more interesting than Teen Titans – not as noisy either.

Inside, we had time enough to go through the “Rise of the Sneaker Culture” and got caught for an hour playing pinball, video games and foosball in theThe FAILE & BÄST Deluxx Fluxx Arcade. Who knew? That was worth the suggested admission right there because my guys could easily blow $50 for half an hour of arcade mania.

We entered the Brooklyn Botanic Garden from the Eastern Parkway entrance and went directly to the Japanese Garden. It was serenity beyond measure. Well, visually. By the time we got there, an outdoor concert in the adjacent parking lot was booming very annoying music. Not appropriate music, but a monotone, rap-reggae-what-the-fuck-are-they-singin’-about music that even annoyed the Koi fish.

To keep our visit to two hours, we skipped the Lily Pool Terrace. Probably regretful, still we saw the Cherry Esplande, Rose Garden, Rock Garden, Herb Garden and though we wished we had more time, we made it through the Discovery Zone. When they begged to play the xylophone that magically can’t play a wrong note for yet another hour, we simply said, “Guess you don’t want Nathan’s hot dogs!”

They clutched their empty bellies like an alien was busting out and busted out the Flatbush avenue exit towards the Q train.

A half hour later, we beelined towards Nathan’s Famous on Surf Avenue. Who thought that six dogs, two fries, hot wings, three medium Root Beers and a large Coney Island Lager would cost only…sixty-two dollars!

Or that the boys would actually eat all of that (minus the lager, of course).

What amazed me the most was that the cashier knew to pour me a large beer. And that it was less than eight bucks.

It was the biggest bill for one item of the day.

A whole seven dollars and fifty cents. That was treated by my mom.

The senior citizen.

With an idNYC card.

And that’s Zoltar.

Zoltar

 

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Black And White Is Not Just A Cookie

Apparently, we can’t get rid of our cable because there’s nothing good on Netflix Instant Play. Everything we want to see is still on an archaic DVD, which we reduced to four per month plan because my thumb-head husband tends to leave the movie sitting around for two weeks before watching it.

He must think it’s wine. But no matter how long it sits, a crappy movie is still going to be a waste of time.

Since we’ve gone through every episode of “Family Guy” and “Bob’s Burgers” I suggested watching “The Twilight Zone” – it turned out to be the original series – in black and white.

After the opening scene, Zuki asked, “When is he going to open the door and go into color?”

“This is not the Wizard of Oz, buddy. It stays black and white.”

He crossed his arms over his chest and sunk back into his chair. “This sucks.”

By the third episode, both boys “appreciated” the show and it’s integrity. It was about the story, not the actors or the set or the special effects.

I never realized how much the actors sweat on the show. Good old fashioned sweat – not spray on.

Alas, the intelligence of the show was too much for them. When they couldn’t figure out what Rod Sterling had to do with the show – or what he was saying for that matter – they asked if they could watch something else.

And turned on “Family Guy”.

They will probably never go near a black and white movie or TV show again. If they do, their brain will automatically go into zombie mode because everything they watch on the screen now is over-stimulated. In high definition. With scenes and action for people with a three minute attention span.

The only thing they’ll ever desire in black and white – is a cookie.

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Need Some Help Here

I was searching for inspirational dinner music when my 10 year old requested Eminem.

Eminem?

Where did we go wrong?

It’s my husband’s fault.

He’s too forgiving when it comes to policing the quality of ethnically fused products that we don’t know much about like Rap music, Chi-Mex food, Keanu Reeves and Jello shots made by an adult-baby on Halloween.

Not only will he take Jello shots, he’ll insist – insist – that I do one or five of them, too.

Clearly, I should judge his parental judgements. After all, we had a 10 year old Wolverine and an eight year old Deadpool to bring home.

Ergo, I need some help here.

When the same 10 year old who requested Eminem dinner music, asked that I define the word “ergo,” my reply was that it was the same as therefore.

My example went, “The idiot wouldn’t stop his daredevil stunts, ergo, he wound up in the emergency room.”

Then he asked, “Does that mean he’s dead?”

“What? No – it means,”therefore, he’s in the emergency room!”

“Yeah, but is Ergo dead?”

Literally, my jaw dropped. As in, my mouth fell open – not as in, “Literally, I don’t know how to use the word literally.”

It occurred to me that one day – one of these days – I will take this boy of mine to Glasgow, Scotland. I’ll bet you, my bottom dollar, that he – full blooded Glaswegians – and my husband – will be in full fledged conversation.

They’ll completely understand each other.

Drink each other under the table, too.

And my head will (not) literally be spinning because I’m not Linda Blair, feeling I’ve spent the night with AWADDs (Aliens With A.D.D.) talking Scotch bubbles.

Ergo, this girl is still working on her career.

For the record, I did concede and told my 10 year old that Ergo was, indeed, dead.

His answer was, “Good. He sounds a lot like Samu.”

Need Some Help

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Post Mother’s Day

Before you become a mother, the only mother you really had to care about for Mother’s Day was – your own mother. After you join the team, however, you have to wish every mother and their mother’s mother a happy Mother’s Day.

How many times could I use the word mother in a paragraph? Eight, apparently.

So what do mothers do on their “special” day?

After taking an unofficial consensus, most moms cleaned the house with one hand. The other hand was either holding a beverage or a barbecued drumstick.

But seriously, cleaning was top on the list. What mom has time to battle other moms for brunch and have to pay for it to boot? And breakfast in bed? Not after seeing my boys attempt to make pancakes! Just add water, my ass.

As for gifts, my ADD son gave me his card a week early – lest he forget. Sure enough, on the actual day – he forgot.

My third grader showed me the progress of his card starting Friday and finally attached it with a Dove chocolate bar before handing it to me on Sunday morning.

Every 20 minutes or so, he’d check on the status of the chocolate bar.

“Did you open it yet?”

“No.”

“Well – when are you going to eat it?”

“I don’t know – when I crave chocolate, probably.”

His leg started shaking the nervous twitch he does when he’s excited and his voice quivered as he asked me, “Is it going to be today?”

Alas, I told him I’d share the chocolate bar with him when we were alone, just the two of us. God forbid I should give a piece to his big brother, after all it was bought with his own allowance.

We spent the rest of the day sorting through old clothes – putting away the winter gear and filling the donation bag with the items that were too small for the baby of the family. It occurred to me that I was pulling out shorts sized 8 for “the baby.” For my big boy, we’re putting away his father’s hand-me-downs.

Where is the time going?

Before I know it, I’ll be that mom who gets treated to brunch on Mother’s Day – by her own children. For now, I’ll just savor every bite of my special chocolate bar.

Chocolate small

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The One Track Mind

Our school just finished its third Read-a-Thon. What’s a Read-a-Thon? Well, it’s a fundraiser like a Walkathon only the sponsors pay money for reading rather than reenacting the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Over the past three years, we had on average a rather low number of participants. Of eleven-hundred students, barely one hundred turn in their collections. I’d give you the percentage but thanks to Common Core, I’m not sure standard math makes sense anymore.

After much deliberation, we decided that the prizes needed improvement. My allergic-to-reading son came up with a sellable top prize.

“I’d read for a Harry Potter wand!” He said.

So it was said. So it was done. That’s the beauty of serving on the panel. You kind of expect Yoda to show up and say, “Your ass it doesn’t seem you always think out of.”

Not only did we secure a Harry Potter Wand, it f*cking lights up. Even better than a vibrating broomstick!

End result? Out of 97 participants, 54 of them were boys.

Yep. Even without common core, I know that means more than half – were boys.

If you have one, you know the beauty of that – boys don’t like to read. A boy who does, couldn’t be bothered logging it. And if logging isn’t an issue, then I assume he’s only doing it because he’s smart enough to bribe you into being “paid” for it.

Boys have a one track mind. They’ll do what it takes to get what they want and guess what? They’re happy when they get it!

My son hasn’t brought home a reading log since the second grade – let alone made a ritual of logging reading sessions as well as he does his poop volume. For the Harry Potter wand, however, he logged every – single – minute.

When he finally got it, what did he do?

For starters, he tried to change a stack of looseleaf papers into a million dollars. Then he tried to change his brother into a bug.

After epic failure, his brother took the wand and tried to magically grow a beard.

Finally, their dad asked for the wand and demanded to turn the lights off. He shoved the wand up his nose and lit it up.

With a flashing blue nostril he turned to me and said, “Quick. Take a picture!”

Intelligence at its best.

Harry Potter Wand

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7 Costume Ideas for the Apathetic Halloweenster

My kids don’t get it – I hate Halloween. The memories I have of it are mostly…terrifying. Like that terrifyingly boring movie “Purge,” Halloween, in my time, meant dressing up in a costume enough to qualify for free candy – without being a clear target. The thugs, of course, wore their usual attire, to take off with your loot after they drenched you in raw eggs and Nair.

Like bachelor parties in Miami, bad things happen when you go all out on Halloween. Either you wake up with vague memories of doing jello shots with some serial killer or you realize the hard way that booze and prosthetic glue do not mix well.

That’s why simple is best – but not boring. This is New York, after all. Cat ears and a tail? A witch hat? Puh-leeze. People wear weirder stuff than that on any given day. Don’t look like a city mom wannabe!

Halloween is the one time, I wish I were a guy. If I were a middle-age rotund guy, I’d dress up like a woman every year. Contour my Moobs into a push up bra, flare skirt with boxer shorts showing off my hairy legs. Pumps. Red lipstick – and a tramp stamp.

I’d make my wife walk with me – no, have lunch with me – at the Thai restaurant on the corner of Queens Boulevard. Window seat.

But I’m not a guy – so it’s back to the drawing board.

Before kids, I could fit into outfits. Comic book characters. Bad ass women with guns, sneers and a belly button that wasn’t stretched into a smiley face. Now? Every accessory only emphasizes how tired I look.

Wigs give my eyes tremendous bags. Make up makes me resemble my dad and any outfit that’s not black, makes me seem like an emergency room escapee.

I stick with natural hair, dressed in black – no masks or black lipstick. Think, beer interference.

Oh yeah, and no boobs either. Wish I had those, too. If I had huge hooters, I’d tape a line of cotton across it, like one of those cocaine movies I can’t remember because I’ve never done coke. And I was probably hammered when I watched it – who makes movies about coke heads, anyway? You can’t understand them. Heroine addicts are way more fun to watch.

But back to the apathetic Halloweenster – my fifth grader is slowly becoming one. Compared to my half-assed costume ideas, his takes the slacker costume of the year. For the Halloween party, he was supposed to be Nick Fury of the Avengers. Since he rubbed off his goatee, he was to respond, “What’s in your wallet,” to the question, “Who are you supposed to be?”

To make matters worse, he lost his patch and because he was wearing an Iron Maiden t-shirt, people asked if he was supposed to be the singer from Journey.

Yeah, I don’t get that either.

On Halloween, the school paraded around the neighborhood in full Halloween spirit – and he was just too cool for it. While it’s okay to wear a Captain America helmet playing the drums, he couldn’t understand that it means nothing on it’s own. And no, a blue striped polo shirt nowhere near resembles the Captain’s uniform. “So I’ll go as nothing!” He said.

“I got it,” said Daddy, “how about wear the school uniform and go as a student.”

Eventually, we got him to dress as street clothes Rocky Balboa: fedora, gold chain, leather jacket and the piece de resistance: a blue punchball.

“If anybody asks who you are,” I coached him, “just say, Yo! Adrian!

He contemplated practicing his line but the slacker in him chose this excuse: “I can’t do an Italian accent, mom – I’ll sound Japanese.”

To him that made sense. Like Iron Maiden Steve Perry.

My advice, get yourself a long black coat – one that flares like a cape. Dress in black. After that, it’s just a matter of accessories. Of course, you’ll be a villain but who wants to be a good guy – they all wear tights.

  1. Heart shaped eye patch & sword: Stayne (Alice in Wonderland)
  2.  Sunglasses and boots: Matrix
  3. Horns and British accent: Loki
  4. Short white wig and black nail polish: Roy Batty (Blade Runner)
  5. Vampire teeth and padded butt cheeks: Underworld
  6. Clown make up and a stuffed crow: Eric Draven
  7. Split ends and a glowing ball: Balthazar (Sorcerer’s Apprentice)
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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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