Stefanella's Drive Thru

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The Birthday Bailout November 25, 2009

Last week myself and another set of parents co-hosted our sons’ 2nd grade birthday party .  It was an ordeal.  To say the least.  The hoopla was originally scheduled to happen at a local museum but due to logistics, the venue tanked.  So the other parents and I scrambled at the last minute to find a back up: the local bowling alley.

As the date approached, my son fell ill with fever as did his co-host.  We held off, hoping for health and instead, three hours pre-celebration we postponed.  Thank goodness for SMS, email and cellphone technology.    It all makes last  minute change tenable.

We re-grouped and re-scheduled for the following week and luck was to be on our side:  The celebration happened as planned.  But not without incident.

Let’s just say that when you invite 35 kids – thirty-bleedin’-five – there’s bound to be a “hiccup” or two.

And so, the post-party day after was devoted to ME-chill out-time.  I needed it.  To regain my voice – lost as I attempted to out-shout the background music (score! on Lady Gaga), video arcade din and general bedlam.  I also needed to relax after the tension of all that last minute hiccup stuff.

While chilling at home, I emailed my dear friend Keith with a party re-cap. I had to share it with someone.  His reply: “I laughed out loud.  Then I read it again and laughed again!” – prompted me to share it here.

It’s post-birthday party chill day.  My friend D just showed up impromptu and we went to a French brasserie for coffee/food together.  I also briefly met with a graphic designer for a project.  Otherwise, NADA else on the schedule.

The party was slightly hectic – 35 kids.  And honey, let’s just say these littl’uns  DID NOT grow up playing in the local league.  They was throwin’ the ball backwards into the spectator area, bouncing it from lane to lane, rollin’ it down the center panel between lanes. . .EVERYTHANG!

I was certain someone would get killed or lose a foot.

And of course, the “active” kids are the ones whose parents dropped them curbside and screeched away out of sight, leaving only tread marks in their stead.  Bless their little hyped up souls.  I went hoarse coaxing them NOT to throw balls the wrong way, drop balls on other kids’ toes, roll balls  down the lane while the machine was wracking or take them to the toilet á la “this is mine!”…It was a job.

And let’s not forget the crying:  One inconsolable who arrived as dinner was starting and missed the gaming, another who sobbed that his lane-mates were robbing him of his turn and another who DID NOT want to bowl – he had come for the video arcade!

But it was fun and my son had a really good time as did the other kids.  And he got tons of gifts.  And truth be known, it was the easiest party I’ve ever put on in terms of personal involvement.  I merely had to buy party favors, email invites and shell out $$.  Not too tough.

But, as the co-host-mom said the on the phone when she rang to check in:  ‘It’s sort of like the Last Supper.  Good thing it happened because it was the last time.’

I would have to vote an ‘Amen, sister!’ to that.  Less is more & mass invite parties are passé.  Even if it was my first.

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Cake Catastrophes November 17, 2009

My soon-to-be 8-year-old put in a special request last week for his impending birthday party:

Please Mom.  Can someone else make the cake?  Or can we buy it?  Please?  You’re..uh…it’s just…You’re not good at cakes.”

He was being incredibly diplomatic and I had to laugh at the request.  And then I reflected.  

I’ve become a Cake Wrecks.com Candidate.  Lord have mercy.

I used to bake killer apple cinnamon crumbleHeavenly bittersweet chocolate, brownie and mint liqueur squares. To-die-for créme brûlée .

But everything seemed to slide southward when I started baking party cakes circa my son’s arrival into the world.

The first failing was for fête #1.   To the naive, the chocolate-iced buttermilk cake appeared okay.  But glancing around the living room of my San Francisco apartment, I noticed the guests toying with it.  Sliding it around on their plates but not really putting it in their mouths.   I sampled it myself and my cheeks went flaming red.

4th birthday lollipop cake

 

Quickly dashing down the hallway and into the kitchen where my dear friend Jo, rest her soul, was pouring herself a glass of wine, I moaned:  The cake’s terrible! Nobody’s eating it. It’s awful!”

Jo burst into boisterous laughter and advised: Go back in there and let everybody off the hook!  Tell them they don’t have to eat it!”

Which I did, much to the relief of the dozen or so invitees who let out a collective sigh and promptly set down their plates of untouched, inedible brick.

I had added too much of je ne sais quois and the cake was wrong.  Simply wrong.

The next cake wreck was in honor of my son’s 5th birthday, served to his kindergarten class.

At the time, he was way into the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  And because the Turtles eat pizza to rev them up, I figured it would be brilliant to make “pizza cakes” for the class.

Starting out by baking two thin, round white cake “pizzas”, I topped them with red tinted icing a la “tomato sauce” and grated white chocolate i.e. “mozzarella cheese”.  Next, scattered Cherry Twizzler bites served as “sausage” and bananas were …uh…bananas.

pizzacake

To complete the concept, I picked up Dominos pizza boxes to serve them in.

On the day of the party, I presented the “pizzas” to the teachers who delighted over the concept.  The kids, however, were dull and disappointed.

Nobody ate it.  It was plechs,” my son later reported.  “I threw up when I tried it.

YOU DID NOT! I protested.

But he swore he had been sick and assured me several of his comrades had been ill too.   To this day he stands by the story.

So no, I won’t bake any cakes this year.

But I want to know:  What happened?  How on earth does a person go from créme brûlée to plechs?

 

Matthew the Bully July 24, 2009

In the car driving home from summer camp this week. . .  

Mom, there’s this kid at camp.  His name is Matthew.  And …well…last week my friend Kenny made a joke about Matthew and I laughed.

Now Matthew says that because I laughed I have to pay him two dollars.

Pay him two dollars or what?  What is Matthew **f**k** going to do? I muttered under my breath, gripping the steering wheel tightly.

What mom?  What did you say?

What did Matthew say would happen if you don’t pay him? I asked, all sweetness and light.

He’ll hit me.

He’ll hit who? I internally raged.  We’ll see who’s going to get hit.  Threatening MY BOY??  Uh uh.  No.

Sweetheart, I reassured, You don’t owe him anything and you didn’t do anything wrong.  Laughing isn’t a crime. What do you want me to do?

Could you talk to Matthew or to the camp counselor? he asked.

Sure doll.  And don’t worry about it.  It’ll be okay.

I later consulted with a level-headed male friend who confirmed that  since my son doesn’t live here or see Matthew on a regular basis i.e. he doesn’t present an ongoing threat, it would be best to bypass the bully – unless I want to add legal implications to my troubles – and consult with a camp counselor.

So I heeded his advice.  And so far, all is quiet on the Matthew Front.



 

Damn! That’s Funny! June 6, 2009

“From the Mouths of Babes”….

“Kids Say the Darndest Things”

“Yada Yada Yada”

As the proud mother of a 7-year-old, I’m often privy to some of the freshest humor around.  Delivered, of course, by my cutie pie/sweetheart/oh-so-squeezable offspring.  Scroll down a bit for the shares.

Single, non-parent types probably think this is downright boring.

Oh God.  There she goes on one of those Mommy Blog tangent things

To which I reply:  Perhaps. Sue meTake a commercial break and go make yourself a sandwich or something.

To my fellow parent-types:  Enjoy.   To the non-parents:  Can I get you a soda water with lime to go with that?

___________________

#1 – I host monthly Writers Meetings in Tel Aviv for ..um..writers and each session is addressed by a lecturer on the chosen topic of the month.  We’ve had prize winning authors, network television correspondents, NY Times writers and business bloggers host meetings; last month our guest lecturer was a columnist and editor for Israel’s national Haaretz Newspaper.

Due to a list minute babysitter cancellation, my unfortunate son had to tag along with me to the meeting.  He threw a fit – rightfully so – raging about the unjust ways of the world and evil mothers therein.  Cajoling and bribery on my part got us into a taxi and to the meeting with not a minute to spare where I greeted the guest and welcomed the group.

My son calmed down and sat quietly drawing and doodling beside me for about an hour.

Then, during the Q&A part of the evening, he  suddenly raised his hand.

Ah.  My sweet precious child is curious!

Unabashedly he asked the guest: When will you be finished?

__________________

# 2 – At the pharmacy checkout counter :

150 Shekels! (the equivalent of about U.S. $42) You’re spending 150 Shekels? my son exclaimed.

The cashier and I chuckled and shook our heads in that knowing “Wait until he gets older and finds out what spending really is” sort of way when he blurted:

And it’s for Dreck!

__________________

#3 – En route home at the end of a long grueling day my beloved only child ducked into a toy store.

I went in after him.

“Come on!  Let’s go home!” I called impatiently.

He turned on his heel and glared at me squarely.

You don’t get it, do you? he huffed, hands on hips.

I’m a kid, mom.  This is what I’m supposed to do.

 

Homeless Teens? April 2, 2009

Late one afternoon last week, my 7-year-old and I set out on a wee bicycle jaunt through Tel Aviv to mark the official start of Spring Break.

Crossing one of the city’s main Boulevards – Ben Gurion named for Israel’s 1st Prime Minister – we passed kiosk cafes, juice stands, parents with toddlers playing in mini-playgrounds and other cyclists also enjoying the mild weather.

As we neared the beach we heard strains of live music – mostly drumming really.  Exciting!  We neared the source and discovered a percussionist and trumpet player whooping it up, the trumpet case open at their feet exhibiting a fair amount of donated coins. We paused to listen and watch.  The spectacle was a rarity in the city.  A treat.

“Mom, do you think they have homes?  I want to give them some money,” my concerned son queried.

I guffawed out loud.  Because this was the two-man band:

musickids1Honey, they’re okay I reassured.

Clearly the formative years of his life spent  in “teeming with homeless” San Francisco have shaped some of my son’s notions.

 

No Hurting Kids Allowed! September 17, 2008

My son started 1st grade this month; I blogged it here a few weeks ago.

As we now settle into the routine of week three, my petit jewel is revealing a penchant for learning: he is eager to come home and complete homework assignments and he asks permission to skip ahead in his books.

I’m, on the other hand, recovering from the shock of observing MY child, less than a month into formal education, reading text.  MY BOY IS READING!!!… IN HEBREW & ENGLISH!

I know.  No biggie for those of you multi-lingual old timers.  So indulge me for a minute, okay?  Thanks.

I also blogged about how the whole school in Israel (Holy Land Central or HLC) thing is a no-reference-point situation for me because I didn’t grow up here. So buying books, getting “uniforms” (tee-shirts bearing the school logo) and even being told by the headmistress that yes, we parents of English speaking kids can bring in a private English tutor for our kids during regular school hours without going through bureaucratic hassle or paperwork is all new and wondrous for me.

One aspect of the school experience, however, is oh-so-universal…

1st Grade Son, casual-like, while playing with Legos: Oh mom, when I was on the playground today a big kid threw a ball in my face and he and the other big kids laughed.

Stefanella, putting down Newspaper: Did you get hurt?

Son: It felt like my nose would fall off.

Stefanella, steam rising: Lemme see…  How big of a big kid?  Did you cry?

Son: I think they were in 3rd or 4th grade.  Yeah, I cried.

Stefanella, through clenched teeth: Was there a playground teacher out there?  Did anyone help you?

Son: Yeah.  She said she would tell the boys’ teachers later.

Stefanella, pondering: And it wasn’t an accident?

Son: No.  They laughed when the one boy did it.

Stefanella: You’re okay?

Son: Yeah.  Can I play computer games?

Stefanella, seething: Sure, honey.

Stefanella, Internal Dialoguing: I’ll show you what’s funny.  Hurt MY BOY?  MY BOY?  The one with a halo ’round the back of his Head?  Ooh, you all don’t KNOW what hurt is!  I’ll come over there and show you.  NO ARMS, NO BALL THROWING!  Picking on MY little boy?  Uh Uh.  I don’t think SO!

But of course, I did nothing.  Because that wee story shot me back a few decades.  And a schoolyard is a schoolyard is a schoolyard.  T’ain’t a thing I can do.  Make it worse, maybe, by storming the kids or talking to a teacher.  Unless it gets bad.  Otherwise, this is what proving ground is all about.

And as a mom, it sorta sucks.

Stefanella, in a calmer state: Honey, if the boys throw balls at you again, let me know.  Sometimes kids just do stuff like that.  Okay?

Stefanella, internally dialoguing: Just do stuff like that.  Just do stuff like that? *#*%@ I’ll just DO SOMETHING LIKE THAT! #@*% *sigh*