Third Grade’s A Charm

Despite the fact that I had a HUGE fight with Zuki this morning, I’m writing this post to praise the progress he’s made in the third grade. If I don’t, he’s going to drive me insane with his scatter-brain. I’ve considered getting the boy a pair of blinders but he’s usually distracted by something else going on in front of him – like his little brother reading, me sorting out old receipts plastered to the bottom of my bag, even crumbs on the table – they all bellow for attention, don’t they?


Obviously, he gets it from me. I’m supposed to be filing our taxes. I tried to log in three times and f*cked up the password, so here I am blogging, until the twenty-minute lockout is over.


But back to this guy:



My FACE is a science experiment!



His first graded “Science Project.” Originally, he wanted to make a miniature version of Da Vinci’s giant crossbow. The science teacher said no – it’s a weapon. I should’ve figured. Although his “testable question” was more along the lines of engineering, they couldn’t get past the politics.

Seriously, how deadly is a crossbow made by an eight-year old gonna be? Not to mention, the kids weren’t allowed to bring in the actual project itself – they had to present it on a tri-fold board with pictures of it. What the hell? With two weeks of planning wasted – he went with something easy: torturing avocado pits. The variable was adding salt and sugar to the water and the result was kind of gross. Naturally, that pleased Zuki to no end.

And look, he got an 86. I swear, I did nothing but complain about how gross his “salted” avocado pit was – he really did it on his own.


May his report card look like this one day



On a final note (now that he’s forgiven for wasting the entire morning fooling around naked), I promised I would post his “Writer Of The Month” publishing. I happened to see it because his teachers met with me privately regarding his “promotion in doubt”. Yes, again – but it wasn’t as grim as I thought. Maybe I’m just used to it now. It occurred to me that I might see these notices every year – or maybe – Third Grade’s a charm. Just in case, I’m going to see what Amazon has for blinders.






Russo Does Rocky: The Family Trip to Philadelphia

What better way to spend President’s Day weekend but to leave the house a mess, do absolutely no food shopping and take the bus for a family trip to Philadelphia? Of course my husband’s biggest gripe was, “We’re gonna miss the new Walking Dead episode!” Once he checked and double checked that it would be recorded, he came off the ledge.


Usually, when I think Philadelphia, I automatically picture Bruce Springsteen, Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington in that order. Then I remember a time I planned an excursion – when I was about twenty – and my dad said, “What are you going to see in Philadelphia – the Riberty Bell?”


It occurred to me that my family spends a lot of time vacationing in Pennsylvania.


In comparison, it’s cheaper than a stay-cation in New York, where your average pub bill is about sixty bucks for two appetizers and two rounds of parental medication (kids get bar water because if it’s good enough for the dogs, then it’s good enough for midgets).


In Philly, it was twenty-four dollars for two rounds of craft beer, a basket of fries and also two hot chocolates (‘cuz I don’t trust tap water in other states) at McGillins Olde Ale House. On Yelp, the review said the place was not kid friendly but they must’ve been talking about kids who don’t eat real food. Accompanied by parents who drink soda – at a pub. No, it was very kid friendly. And the food was so good we went back the next day to watch Zuki polish off an entire Philly Cheese Steak sandwich by himself. With a bag of chips. And french fries.


He wasn’t as enthusiastic with the pulled pork sandwich at DiNics but I was all over it. Ever since my husband and I saw the place featured on Man vs. Food, we vowed we’d go there to try it. As soon as we got off the bus, we went to Reading Terminal Market and got lucky. The line wasn’t bad, the price was half of what we thought it would be (we were thinking Katz’s prices) and once we got it, we practically inhaled it. No foreplay, no nothing – just straight to business – and my God! It was The Best sandwich I ever ate in – my – entire – life.


If I’m ever on Death Row – and I happen to be in Pennsylvania – DiNic’s pulled pork with provolone and broccoli rabe is my last meal. With a beer, of course. That should buy me an extra six hours unless they have an express line for corrections officers.


We putzed around the streets of Philadelphia for an hour. It was friggin’ cold and the boys were pains-in-the-asses. All they wanted to do was go to the hotel – yet, they had no concept of time, let alone “check in time.” To kill the last hour before check in, we went to the Apple Store on Walnut street. The boys could put their greasy fingerprints on the store’s display iPads all they wanted while my husband and I fantasized about buying a new laptop. Oh, look! It’s only sixteen-hundred dollars…


At least the whole trip was pretty cheap: $197 for four round trip bus tickets and one night at Sheraton Downtown Philadelphia. I booked it through GotoBus but if you’re like my mom and skeptical about the odds of their buses crashing because the bus fare is so cheap, you can go with Megabus, they’re way more expensive. I don’t know how that improves the odds, but I do think it might have something to do with the departure location. On GotoBus, we left from Chinatown NYC and ended up in Chinatown PHL, which of course had Samu asking, “Why are there so many Chinese people around here!”


He’s Turrets Kid.


Finally, the highlight of our trip was running up the “Rocky” stairs, which are actually the stairs leading to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. You’d think with the Insanity workout killing us, it would’ve taken us less than forty-eight seconds to climb them. Even then, Zuki reached the top first and I don’t know what Turrets Kid was doing but luckily I wrapped up his face with my scarf so we couldn’t understand his complaints.



Gonna Fly Now!

Gonna Fly Now!



Almost there Turrets Kid!

Almost there Turrets Kid!



Room with a view

Room with a view



Hot Chocolate, round two!

Hot Chocolate, round two!





Where Ever We Go, Amigo

In my last post about my “Odd Couple,” Cheryl of Geek Girl commented that although my boys are opposites, I wouldn’t have it any other way. She’s right. No matter how unlike each other they are, they are best friends. Like my sister and I – like my mother and her brother. In my heart, I hope Zuki and Samu will always forgive each other no matter how idiotic the stunt is. Hey, if my mother and I forgave our younger siblings for up and dying, then really – what could be so bad other than denying the survivor the chance to have the last word.

Word. There, I said it.

Likewise, I constantly teach my boys to respect their friends. As a second generation American, I haven’t much family here – but friends – are my backbone. From experience I know that friends are the only people not obligated to respect you back. But if you earn their trust, you can bet you’ll never feel alone.

On the day off from school, we visited good friends who defected to Westchester. Okay, they just moved – but we never got over it. The older boys have known each other since they were babies and the younger siblings were just mere ideas. We still connect, the parents the kids and the gab in between – that’s a rarity and I cherish it.

All that said, my boys crossed the line during our last get together. They outcast the little sister (who’s the same age as Samu) by claiming their group for boys only. Things eventually got smoothed over, but I let them have it when we got home.

“Never, ever, ever cast out a friend or make him or her feel left out. Would you like it if someone did that to you?”

They hung their heads in shame. Samu said, “That would hurt my feelings.”


I told them if I ever caught them excluding their friends again, I’d make them sing the theme song for “Beaches” (a.k.a. The Wind Beneath My Wings). First of all, they’re afraid of Bette Midler and I understand, she looks like a drag queen. Second, the cheesy keyboard part is just too dated for them. They’d rather move like Jagger.

While I hope their own musical preferences improve, it’s not as pertinent as their keeping their word about respecting friends.

May they always be this happy together.


Brothers, The Odd Couple

Some years ago, I trudged through “The Shack.” The writing was…”meh,” and the whole time, I pictured the main character – a father who lost his little daughter to a serial killer – as “Larry The Cable Guy” simply because his name was “Mack.” So that made it hard to take the book seriously. Still, I came away with something: that parents can’t have favorites – not even God.

Neither of my boys have had the slyness to ask me which of them is my favorite. I find that amazing because I remember constantly asking my mother whether I was her favorite and she would just ignore the question altogether, which is an answer on its own. The boys have, however, each accused me of loving the other more when I served what seemed like an uneven portion of ice cream or uncharacteristically paid a compliment to one for not screwing something up.

Truth is, if they were similar, I probably would compare them. How could you not? Fuji apples taste better than Gala apples but they don’t compare to Texas watermelon because it’s a known fact that apples go better with wine while watermelon is strictly for vodka. And I’m Sorry, oranges just don’t do it for me – even in Screwdrivers.

So after Samu and Zuki’s “Open House,” where parents get to meet the teacher and see the classroom, listen to the curriculum and look into their desk – this is what I discovered: I gave birth to the Odd Couple.

Felix Unger

Neat, huh? Almost, O.C.D-ish. Definitely not something I’d expect from a First Grader or either of my sons for that matter. But it is Samu’s desk. And just to make sure it was him and not the teacher, I checked out his classmates desks. They were slightly worse – than Zuki’s, which looked like this:

Oscar Madison

Can these two knuckleheads grow up together, without driving each other crazy?


Education Pays

New York spends over $17,000 a year for a child to attend public school. Seventeen. Thousand. For one child.

On one hand, I look at Zuki and think, $68,000 dollars – for him to look at the clock and say,”It’s fifteen thirty.” Or “I runned in the cafeteria and falled down, so I didn’t ate anything.”

Which proves all the money in the world isn’t going to make somebody make sense.

And then there’s the other guy. Samu, who’s been working on his penmanship all summer long. Now that school has inspired him to achieve his goals, he’s putting his education to good use. “I need to make my Christmas list.”

Reserving the Vampyre Kastle

Armed with the Lego catalog he’s been studying every morning after breakfast, he wrote his list – neatly. Not only that, he estimated how much all the items would cost.

“Does Santa Claus have a lot of money?” He asked.

Well, nobody’s ever demanded that he show his tax returns, so I guess we’ll never know. Samu didn’t like that answer. He also didn’t buy that Santa runs a shop with elves making the toys because then it wouldn’t be “real Lego’s” but a generic copy. According to Samu, Santa collects money and orders everything. That’s why his list needed to get to there early. But just in case, Samu added a Metrocard to the list – should he have to pick it up himself.

Now that’s $17,000 worth of learning.



Welcome to the first post of “Namzola Goodness.” Trust me, I know what I think I’m doing.

This is my third blog spot and I’m truly excited that you’re visiting because I have nothing to give away – except phobias. For New Yorkers, each phobia is a merit badge of a traumatic experience that was narrowly escaped. Personally, my phobias are New Jersey, cops and Catholic school students. For this post, I’m giving away three general phobias: the exhibitionist homeless person with violent tendencies; Central Park squirrels and Hot Pretzels from hot dog stands.

All you need to do is climb a high mountain top and scream “Maaaaaize!” Just make sure someone takes footage of it. And don’t die in the process – either of you. The first person to YouTube this buffoonery will receive all three phobias…somehow. And I’ll replace the poor footage of this jingle that started it all, with yours – as long as you include the jingle.

Credit goes to Swan, whose band Almighty Love Noise, dubbed me as “Namzola, corn goodness” during my tenure as rhythm guitarist. Other than pushing me to my musical limits, recruiting my most prized guitar and oh yeah, introducing me to my husband, all I came away with was another nickname that stuck.

Hopefully, you like corn.

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