Category: New York life

Love letter to New York #2: Central Park

For the second installment of my New York series, I chose our ‘garden’. I have tried to write how I feel about Central Park but I truly lack the words and the prose. The thing with Central Park is that I thought I knew everything about it because of my addiction to Sex and the City reruns: the horses, the bridges, the rocks, the ponds, the hot dog carts, the cartoonists drawing your portrait while smoking a fag, the bike renters following you until you rent a bike…

I was SO wrong. The truth is, all this stuff is just the pretty and funny veneer. Other words that non New Yorkers may not connect to Central Park include:
Shakespeare’s Garden
Woodlands
Streams
The Great Hill
Skateboarders in the summer
Snowboarders in the winter
Reservoir
Swedish Puppet Theatre
Petting zoo
Rollers disco
Acrobats training
Lesbians conventions
Sprinklers

Central Park has many twists and shades. It moves, dances, it is like a human being. This is the only way I can explain how a park can still surprise the urban ‘I hate trees’ girl I am. After all these years, I still stop in my tracks asking myself: ‘how come I have never seen this rose garden before?‘ in the Summer, or ‘have the trees always been that red?‘ in the Fall, or ‘Did the ice make that pond bigger than it usually is?’ in the cold Winter.

I have too many memories to share all of them but I will give you one of my first and one of my last:
–  Thor, Archibald, DH and I packed a picnic in 2 seconds after a sudden thunderstorm interrupted a classical music concert and fled the park alongside a thousand New Yorkers and their thousand colorful umbrellas. Of course we were the only morons without an umbrella. Very dramatic, Very convivial, Very New York.

– my heart dropped because we had just lost G (again) in the Park. We called out his name to no avail and I kept thinking: ‘it is Central Park, nothing bad can happen here. It is Central Park, it is your haven, nothing bad can happen here’. And yes, he eventually came back appearing behind hundreds of tulips. Safe. 30 minutes later, it was pouring down with rain and we fled the park with 3 tots in tow and NO umbrella…again. Almost got run over by a stroller. Very Over the Top, Very New York.

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A day in the life: Greenpoint, Blackmail and Dexter

Note: I have been MIA for almost 3 weeks and have a lot of catching up to do!!! Looking forward to reading some of my fave bloggers. You know who you are 🙂

7.00am The Screw Up
The day started by a sobering realization: I gave our nanny her Friday off so she could have family time with her young kids. But DH was not working and I had to work…I gently warmed DH to the idea of having to mind the kids on his own. I started to say things like: ‘I have the meeting during the kids’ napit should be quick and nice’.

‘Where’s your meeting?’
In Brooklyn…’
He raised his eyebrow it is just the second largest borough in New York so I vaguely say: ‘I think it is somewhere in Greenpoint’.

I.e. 3 transfers, 3 boroughs Manhattan – Queens- Brooklyn = there is not a fucking chance that I will be back before the kids wake up from their naps. I am now trying to hide the IPad so that DH does not check Google Maps.

8.00am The Breakfast
We get ready to eat and of course I forgot to buy Nespresso refills, sliced bread, jam,…basically I had shopping amnesia. Facing me, I have an understanding silent DH who starts mumbling in his head (oh yeah DH, I can hear you we are practically twins…) and three tots who do now pretend to be starving. I mean they were perfectly content poking each other’s eyes a la Kill Bill for a stupid toy pocket light that is (seriously) the size of a quarter coin. Morons.

This until they heard the ‘we have no food, we have no coffee’ lineIt was just what they needed to start shaking the kitchen gate and scream ‘Moooooom, I am hungryyyyyy!!!!‘Terrorists.

So I dash to our local hipster coffee place the Double Dutch looking like and smelling SHITE, in my PJs and see on my way some neighbors with their 2 young kids all dressed up (obviously smelling nice shampoo) strolling away to enjoy the sunny day. I am a fecking failure 🙂

8.45am The ‘I am choosing my battle’
I get the kiddos ready and decide to skip our usual tooth brushing routine that sounds like this:
Me: Please open your mouth so I can brush your teeth
Them: No!!!!
Me: C’mon or your teeth will be broken like Mama’s and I don’t have money to get then fixed. Note: I really don’t.
Them clinching their teeth: No!!!
Me: C’mon!!! Forcing the toothbrush in their mouth seconds before getting whacked in the head by an hysterical tot.

So yeah, I have no time for this crap. Not today.

10.30am The Me Time

DH takes the 3 musketeers to the building common yard to play with their scooters. I finally have my coffee and start cooking the kids’ lunch because the deal was:

I’ll watch the monsters but you feed them. If you leave before, they won’t eat’ This blackmail works EVERY time.

That is the main difference between DH and I: food. He is of the school ‘you play with your food, you don’t eat. You complain about your food, you don’t eat.’ I am more like ‘OK I’ ll hunt you down with a spoon until you eat’. That is my Lao fiber, that pathological need to feed people.

11.30am The Rat Race

I am still not showered and running after my kids riding their scooters with a spoon of chicken pasta. My Lao grandma would be proud. Meanwhile DH is rubbing his forehead; he is probably thinking that this day cannot finish soon enough. Of course, the kids refuse to eat. DH is happy to eat the leftovers; the man is depressed.

12.30pm Finally

I am out of the house (showered) and I stop feeling guilty. I am even excited by the idea of doing a transfer in Queens. I am pathetic.

3.45pm Rad Greenpoint

My meeting is finally done, I met with 2 beautiful and bright women entrepreneurs. I am fully energized. It occurs to me that people in Greenpoint are hip in the right kind of way:  they are super friendly, talk slow and smile like a LOT. I also learn a new word: ‘rad’.  I think it means ‘awesome’, ‘cool’, ‘out of your mind amazing’. Everyone is Brooklyn seems to say ‘rad this’, ‘rad that’. Somehow I don’t think I can pull it off. My skinny jeans are not skinny enough.

4.15pm The Psychopath

As I am on the train, I am checking out what the guy next to me is reading but cannot find out because the guy is actually Michael C. Hall with a sports cap on. I have been obsessed with Dexter for a longtime and still think that Season 4 with John Lithgow is one of the best things I have ever seen on TV. So I remain speechless feeling both giddy and scared shitless. Michael C. Hall was so good as Dexter that as I am sitting next to him, I am catching myself looking around to see if we are alone in the train carriage…I freak out. For real.  I am teleported to Miami and am wondering if I am going to be the next Dexter victim…

4.45pm The Bouncy Castle

I get home and the kids are about to go ballistic inside the bouncy castle that DH is now setting up in our living room…Where’s the beer?

5.15 pm The Playground

I hate playgrounds. I always end up bickering with 4 year olds and always seem to be searching for one of my kids. Too much stress; so I dial my friend Emma: ‘Fancy a Harlem tavern with all our 5 kids?’ and I am counting the minutes.

6.00pm The Tavern

aka the place where kids eat chips and listen to Jazz while their parents get plastered with beers and mimosas. It has a very high ratio of staff and usually half of them likes children so B-I-N-G-O,  they will always stop your kids in time before they stab themselves with a knife. Awesome for outnumbered parents.

10.00pm The Bedtime

Somehow we bought wine and ended up at Emma’s and while the 5 kids watch something on the TV…the 4 parents kept sipping wine. Eventually every set of parents has to deal with their responsibilities. Denial is coming to an end: it is passed bedtime and one way or the other you have to clean them and put them to bed. As the kids are yawning under their blankets, for a second I am thinking: ‘What an ass I have been, they should have been in bed hours ago..‘ But my thoughts are interrupted by P.:

-‘Mom, why could I not stay at my girlfriends E. and M’s?

– Well you are only 3, a little too young…

-OK, when I am older, buy me a phone and I will call my girlfriends and I will stay at their place even after it gets dark. I am not scared, you know’

I smile. The apple did not fall from the tree. Atta girl.

 

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Mood of the day: Blah

I had a working session today with a Fashion entrepreneur/Fashion designer. I love meeting with creative people because they are often extremely good looking and being near them is like eating La Duree macarons while listening to Bach. They have an air about them, an halo: is it the fitted cashmere coat, the biweekly facials or the lighting of the places where we meet? Who knows but I often find myself longing after their freshly pressed silk blouses (90% of what I own has never been ironed) or the neat stitching of their cuffs: all evidence of wealth, savvy shopping or at the very least general good taste.

I am enchanted and inspired; their glow touches my face. When I get home, I want to eat Quinoa, I promise I shall remove my make up every day before going to bed to have better skin, and I am adamant about tidying up the book case in my living room which generally looks like trash compactor units piled on top of each other. I am so random, I know. But after 1 hour, I realize that I am truly starving because I had only a faro soup (which really was a broth with some spinach leaves and few faro grains) in a 5 hours meeting when really I wanted to order the burger. I thus end up sandwiching some cheese in between 2 home made cookies baked by Thor…That’s when I know the spell has been broken. Oh well.

Anyway, when I meet with fashion people I tend to be overly self-conscious about what I wear because I know that their professional eye and brain will notice and know everything about my outfit: how many times they saw me with the same pair of boots, what fabric my jacket is made of, which brand it is, etc. It gets worse when these people are women because I am a woman who loves to dress to impress women rather than men. I get stage fright. I thus decided today to play the ‘comfort’ card. If you cannot look nice, look like you are comfortable. People will always envy that 🙂

In the end the whole outfit was kind of meh: partly comfortable, kind of ‘unfinished’, a tad too safe..So bland that even an attempt of a Bowie inspired hair do failed to spice it up. I guess you can’t always get it right.

Cardigan from Joie, Gap body black dress, golden brooch found in a crazy Antiques barn in Barryville (I pinned it on simple canvas tote bag), a golden belt, a faux fur russian hat which ended up not working out (either the hat got smaller -unlikely – or my head got bigger -worrisome) and Celine boots.

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Love letter to New York #1: West Chelsea

If you have been reading my blog, you know that I have never shined away from professing my love of this city. This series just makes it official 🙂

After a rather traumatic return from the twins’ first dental visits, and two hours of non stop tantrums today I was…Well, let’s say that even a glass of red wine could not take the edge away. But as I lay in my bed and everyone around me is snoring, I remember that when things get tough, it always helps to think about someone you love.

Tonight I am thinking about our walk through West Chelsea last Saturday where beauty and ins/aspiration elevated me. Art galleries and design showrooms cannot stop mushrooming in this area. We lived right in the heart of this hood…that is until G & P started to crawl and our 650sft apartment by the Highline thus became a bonafide nursery.

I love the warehouses, the cobble streets, the brick walls, how street art coexist with expensive sculptures or furniture…and I love imagining what the hidden lofts in these old buildings could look like. What do people hang on their walls when they have so much beauty at the bottom of their stairs? Do they sleep in silk sheets on the floor with just a gigantic glass chandelier floating above them or some shit like this?

Anyway, I got glued by the windows of Beyond 7, a retail store for a designer showroom. Dummies were decorated with hundreds of brooches, pearls, ornaments, you name it. Insanely quirky, insanely stunning. I managed to snatch a couple of shots but a real visit to this place is now on my ‘to do in New York before I die’ list.

A gallery owner then invited us 5, our 2 dirty strollers, our scrappy outfits and dirty faces (runny noses have lately become our middle names) to come inside and check out paintings by French Artist Laina Hadengue including a beautiful Frida Khalo inspired piece. I am grateful that this sophisticated lady showed us around so that our kids could see Art. And I am grateful about how she gently smiled when they eventually begged to go to the park. Unbeknownst to her, she made DH and I feel like humans again, humans who can appreciate air light brush strokes or ingenious collages. Without any prejudice.

5 minutes later, our 3 kids literally spent 2 hours throwing blocks of ice into the Hudson River while P had to pee against a tree and wipe her bum against her dad’s trousers 🙂 Days like these make me feel complete; that’s what I need to think of as I am nursing my left wrist that P scratched earlier today (it actually really hurts!) and as L is waking up just now to interrupt my middle of the night blogging/therapy…

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J’adooore!!!! Gaultier exhibit

Two months ago I went with BFF Natasha to see ‘The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk’ exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum. The genius and talent made me shiver; it almost made me sick to the stomach. I swear my heart beat faster than when I saw Matt Bomer/Neal Caffrey’s abs in the first season of White Collar. Natasha and I could not help caressing with the tips of our fingers one of the dresses and got (rightfully) scolded by the security guard who then followed us during our entire visit. True schoolgirls in a candy shop or at a boys band’s concert

I have been meaning to share this experience with my readers who cannot go to see the exhibit themselves so we can all sigh together in awe and pleasure. I’ll shut up now and let you enjoy. Apologies for some of the lousy shots and my inability to short list among these wonderful works of art! 

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Mood of the day: Post Apocalypse shorties

There are a couple of things I learnt in the last two weeks:

– the meaning of ‘polar vortex’,  a persistent, large-scale cyclone located near one or both of a planet’s geographical poles. Basically, an almost apocalyptic end of the world during which your brain seems to be freezing while walking and during which opening your mouth on the street could probably kill you if the cold air was getting into your lungs. New York is the worst place for that type of polar cyclone because you can no longer curse bad drivers and have to instead resort to roll your eyes from behind your winter burka.

– my immune system is actually stronger than I thought. How else can I explain surviving through nursing 3 sick children and serving as a human facial tissue for their mucus? I am IMMORTAL. Yeah!!!

This week marks a return to sufferable temperatures so silly me decided to flaunt season appropriate clothing such as…my Calvin Klein black shorties and a vintage light teal blouse hum 🙂 Of course, I ended up adding layers, here a Hydraulic faux-fur vest, a Pea in a Pod grey coat and a black knit beanie, to actually be able to go out. Got slightly over zealous. I also stopped combing my short hair. Jury’s still out on this one.

Note for the future: always check the state of your feet nails when wearing tights in case a sharp nail cuts into the nearby toe, which is atrociously painful. It is especially important if you are wearing a super super super tight body shaper, super super tight tights, super tight leggings, tight shorties…and a belt. That would save you a lot of time and lots of sweating!!!

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I have read somewhere that the first week of the year is a good snapshot of what the rest of your year will look like. Or I am totally bullshitting this one because I needed to find a smartass way to frame my first blog post of the year. I could talk about my resolutions except that I haven’t made any resolutions…OK; I am lying. There are still two things on my ‘I swear to god this year I will’ and these are:

– I will lose the extra 15lbs I still carry around. One of my mates overheard me talking about these 15lbs and thought I had actually gained them in the last month or so…It was the wake-up call I sorely needed.

AND most importantly,

– I will stop saying ‘No, this does not make any sense…’ to every single suggestion DH makes about…basically anything. More recently, he was talking about living in the mountains breeding sheep or something like that (what does a city girl like me know about life in the mountains anyway?) and I started to say ‘It is impossible because a)…b)…c)…blablabla and z)…‘To which DH retorted:’Can you not put my ideas down like this? I haven’t even finished talking yet…It’s not a big deal; I know you, you’ve ALWAYS been like this but it is annoying.’ OOPS. He was not even angry, just resigned. That’s not good enough. It is actually terrible. So yes, I decided to bite my tongue before talking for the rest of the year. Even when DH starts talking about our crew of 5 spending a 2 weeks vacation in a RV in Middle America…See, biting my tongue.

Besides these 2 pledges, I have no resolutions worth detailing. I thus thought about the past week trying to decipher what this could seriously (and not seriously) tell me about what 2014 has in store for my family and I. Drum roll!!!! In no so specific order:

– Better ‘me time’ for everyone

The cold weather in NYC has proven really challenging. Cabin fever and the sober realization that this year we are slowly but surely going to outgrow our current living space led me to accept the plain truth that the 5 of us needed to sever our umbilical cords to each other. For years now, we have been doing everything together (including taking a family shower to save time sic) per choice as well as per sheer necessity. ‘Me time’ was for me something like doing the laundry and for DH, going to the bathroom.

Note: he does go 4-5 times a day equipped with his mini IPad while I almost NEVER go because I am just a mutant freak. Nature is seriously unfair! On bad days, I would nudge him to get out by tagging him on a Facebook update such as ‘DH, get out from your hiding spot right now!!’ (Worked every time by the way) or I would time him to count how much alone time I was owed. I am a petty, petty wife.

Anyway, I can see that things are changing – slowly. P has started to voice some preferences when it comes to seeing ‘her’ friends (the girls) as opposed to her twin brother’s friends (the boys). Meanwhile, G has been timing himself out in his own room quite often just so he can be on his own, I guess. L now plays on his own for a considerate amount of time without hanging onto my butt or tit. DH started a biweekly guitar/singing jamming session with some neighbors in the building. As for me, being stranded home because of snow, icy rain, or kids’ colds made me realize that I wanted to create, cut, pleat etc. MORE. But unfortunately this week-end, I stared at some chiffon fabric for about 2 hours and then tried to make a cape which actually made me look like a freaking black giant cocktail umbrella pick.  Not a good omen for my creativity.

– Wilder parties

Most our friends with kids are now, like us, at a stage where screen time is no longer felt like guilt but perceived as a socially acceptable survival tactics. Besides, PBS kids on the Ipad is kind of awesome right? What this means is that everybody is now ready to catch up on the last 2 years of no hard partying because of pregnancies, breastfeeding, fear of hangovers (TV in the morning makes those way more bearable) etc. And if our NYE party is a snapshot of what lies ahead of us, the year will be fucking wild:lots of Champagne, kids dancing surrounded by drunken parents, masquerade masks, split legs on the dance floor, choreographed Karaoke and so on. Yeah!!!

– Bolder decisions
Since we found out we were pregnant with L, we have been living in a temporary mindset: staying in the same not entirely furnished apartment because we did not have any energy to look for something else, DH staying in the same job because we could not afford for him to work 15 hours a day to impress a new boss while I have been sporadically freelancing because I was unsure about whether our fragile family equilibrium would sustain a potential return to a full-time job etc. But this can no longer last: no more savings, no more space, too much stress. We need to make our life easier NOW. And I started to commit to my life as as a New York mom to 3 kids by…going onto containerstore.com to buy: pegs rack to hold the kids’ scooters so I stop sliding on them and a shower basket for my shower products (3 years in the apartment and I am still hurting my stiff back by bending down to get my fucking Burt’s and Bees shower gel…). 2014 is looking productive, people.

On this note, I wish you all a Happy New Year and if you live on the US East Coast: STAY WARM!!!

Below some fun moments of our first week in 2014 including a video of how to let your kid crash (almost) into a pole while trying to figure out how to take a video with you IPhone…

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Christmas in Harlem

‘Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
Five hundred twenty-five thousand moments so dear
Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure, measure a year?

In daylights, in sunsets
In midnights, in cups of coffee
In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife
In five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure, measure a year in the life?’

Seasons of Love, Rent musical

I have been, in a very sadistic way, enjoying reading my fellow bloggers’ meltdowns about Christmas’ preparations because it was another testimony that I am not alone in this world (sorry guys but it really made feel better). I hoped (maybe even prayed a little) that days would suddenly last 30 hours and that my kids would grow into civilized human beings, helping us out in this stressful Holiday season. I hoped they would give us a break when we were already down in the gutter rather than ganging up on us like some unruly teenagers. Recent (parent) bullying includes G & P reenacting a scene from ‘Boyz in the Hood’, blasting my guts out for no reason whatsoever. They created this Mortal Kombat twin act, taking turns to yell, point their fingers at me and pretend to shoot at me… And when I could not help but crack up, P sternly told me:‘Why are you smiling? I am not smiling…’ and bang, she then shot me. I seriously need to check whether they understood how to operate our Netflix account and switch from their ‘Kipper the dog’ program to ‘Reservoir Dogs’ or something like that, behind my back.

Anyway I am digressing. This year, we didn’t have any relatives or friends sharing Christmas’ Eve dinner with us (we are spending Christmas Day with friends). It was a first for us and it was a little sad. DH and I both come from large families with a penchant for drama prone reunions so Christmas is always an entertaining affair. But alas, this year it was just the 5 of us. I guess it was a first that I should start to embrace.

Regardless, I realized that staying put for Christmas offered some positives such as going to see cool Christmas shows, besides avoiding the ‘mind boggling kill me now’ transatlantic flights. However, the best is probably how Christmas in Harlem makes me feel I am part of some kick ass musical.

Indeed, a few days before Christmas, something wacko happened to me. I was at my local post office trying to find excuses for how I managed to fuck up yet again my Australian godchildren’s Christmas gifts. I mean, they live on the other side of the world and here I was queuing on 18th December trying to mail their presents. Considering that they have Christmas something like 24 hours  (or is it 36 hours?) before we do…yeah, I needed a Christmas freaking miracle for them to get their stuff before February. After queuing for about 1 hour, I and other fellow customers started to feel fidgety. An old man (Soul Man) in front of me was singing and was watching me closely. After a while, he offered me his spot in the line probably because I looked like I was going to pee on his shoes while in fact, I was still trying to figure out whether my amateurish sealing of the package would actually hold during its transit.

I gently declined after much hesitation (after all, he was older than me for heaven’s sake); that’s when Big Man from the end of the line  started to go straight to one of the counters jumping the whole queue. Oh boy, he got heckled good, Harlem style!

Crowd:’What the fuck you think you are doing? Boo, boo, get your ass back at the end of the line’

Big Man: ‘Chill out people, I thought there were were 3 lines that got merged for no reason’

Me thinking: yes because we are all idiots who want to cosy up against other sweating and stressed out customers.

He continued: ‘No need to shout. You think this whole thing is problems to me; it’s no problems. Believe me, I have real problems in my life, believe me.

Me thinking: please do NOT share more.

Soul Man gets involved: ‘Yes man, this is real life in here; we are not in a freaking movie’, before singing again.

The whole incident prompted 6 ft tall 70 year-old Mrs Doubtfire to leave her ranks and holler at the post office clerks. She lashed into a gospel-like monologue about the poor level of service and about how she had to do their job for the last hour by telling fellow customers which counter to go to and when. As the commotion was reaching its climax, she continued her paranoid preaching:‘I am sick of people thinking I am trying to jump the queue, I am standing here to make our rights heard. I was done with all my postage hours ago but I cannot leave without saying what I think. Do you feel me people, do you feel me?’

People started to cheer and Nicer Version Kanye West queuing behind me gave her a loud high five. Everyone started to laugh, whistle and show off some swagger while Big Man was yelling on his cell and repeating :‘Dude, people are getting nuts in here, they think they are a problem to me but Man, I have real problems, you know, real fucked up problems’.  Some people just can’t let it go, can they?

I swear, we were very close to break into an ensemble rendition of ‘Season of Love’ from the Rent musical. Meanwhile, Goody two-shoes White boy with a prepaid package got dragged to the front of the line by Mrs Doubtfire:‘Boy, you gotta understand that there is no need to queue if you have prepaid. You get your ass to this window in front of ALL these people, lift the glass, put your package, push down the glass and go enjoy Christmas. That is how it works in here’. Livid Goody two-shoes White Boy obliged and ran out of the Post Office probably thinking he was going to get his ass handled to him by crazy crowd because he believed a lunatic old woman. He must have been a tourist…

When I finally left the Post Office, I felt full of energy, ready to listen to Rent Soundtrack, and very proud of myself for standing up, with the help of Nice Kanye West, against an older lady who decided to ruffle my feathers out of the queue because supposedly, she did not see me. I actually yelled at the old lady. Me Mrs I Get Screwed Over All The Time When Queuing In General, I yelled and held my ground.  If only now, I could be as ballsy and firm with my 3 mini sociopaths at home…

Happy Holiday everyone!

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My black son

‘I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character’  

Martin Luther King Jr.

Something that has been happening with G in the last few weeks got me thinking about self-identification and got me to revisit my own past struggle with my diverse identities. Basically (not) G thinks he is a black boy. And not in the cheesy Vanilla ice ice baby but as a boy with ebony skin and curly hair…My Manga faced boy sees himself as the 6th member of the Jacksons Five. Indeed, in all the books, IPad games, etc. if there is an illustration of a black boy, G points at the little boy and assertively claims: ‘it’s me, it’s G!!!‘ Every single time!

My initial reaction was: ‘Oh fuck, he is really really color blind’ (Note: he is struggling to identify primary colors). But as I started to study his big smile while proclaiming his ‘blackness’, I realized that his odd thinking was more complex and actually more beautiful than simple color blindness. The kid may flunk his public school ‘Gifted and Talented’ program entry test but he made me proud – a lot –  in the last few weeks.

He reminded me that for a long time, I could never identify myself as Asian because I grew in a predominantly white neighborhood and thought I was just the same as my then fair skinned best friend Mariel. I remember studying for hours my face in the mirror of my parents’ old wardrobe and would not ‘see’ that my eyes were slanted, my hair was blacker and thicker than anyone else in my class (bar my sister), that I did not have any nose bridge (despite pulling my nose for an hour every night in bed and if you want details: yes it hurt and yes I felt stupid doing it…crazy girl) and that there were many reasons why my name could not be Stephanie or Adele. I would not ‘see’ but I knew I was different.

He reminded me that it took me almost 2 decades to reconcile my various cultural and ethnic identities and a lot of resilience to overcome the abuse from French kids calling me ‘Chinetoque’ (French racist slur for Chinese people) and from the Lao people calling me out for being a ‘banana‘ (no comment).

Because of all this, I wanted my kids to grow up in a place like Harlem so they can see and understand things such as:
– people of different colors besides your parents can fall in love and have kids together
– or white women are not necessarily the adoptive mothers of dark skinned children but can be the nannies paid by dark skinned parents
It became a kind of obsession to promote diversity in our family life; obsession obviously rooted in my own childhood insecurities.

But my kids seem to have taken their very own journey about their understanding and experience of race and class.  G showed me something really new to me. He showed me that a boy with a caucasian dad and an Asian mom sees himself as a proud and happy black boy. And I will blast anyone who try to correct him and force him into boxes. I will blast them – Manga style.

What do you see when you look yourself in the mirror?

PS: meanwhile my daughter P is adamant she lives in the ‘Park’, I am at loss about what she means by this…I shall investigate and report to you soon 🙂

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Love, God, the Knicks and (losing my) marbles

This is an unusual post because it is trying to skim through what has been a helluva two weeks. It feels as if I had been fleshed down to the bones. And as I am slowly putting back my (protective) layers one after the other, I cannot help but feel slightly at loss. I realize that I sound as if I have smoked some crack or started moonlighting as a call girl. What I am trying to say I guess, is that I have been striping bare my emotions’ barricades and this uneases me. It seems totally paradoxical since I am writing a fairly voyeuristic blog (with its own load of family pictures and dirty secrets). But in real life, I like to keep my emotions in check or at least I try, when there are people watching. And I totally failed to do so last week.

Here was the context: a one week long celebration of 2 joint birthdays (your very own redlipstickmama and her ‘twin’, DH), 3 joint Catholic baptisms (G, P, L), a reunion with BFFs from Australia after almost 3 years apart and a reunion with FiLs (Folks in Law) from France after a somewhat intense last encounter this summer. Can you already see a meltdown in the making?

So many raw feelings…And now that all is done and has gone, I feel empty. I thus have a total writing BLOCK. I really started to freak out and thought:‘is that it? Is this all I got in me? Am I getting sick of ‘hearing’ myself talk/rant?’. I also wondered: ‘If Natasha lived here, would I need redlipstickmama?’.

I feel purposeless. Not unlike my basketball team actually, the New York Knicks, who have an atrocious start this season: they are uninspired, lazy, tedious, and I bet frustrated. I thought I would do a recap of my last 2 weeks a la NBA game recap. And maybe the Knicks and I can then both get out of this streak.

FINAL SCORE: 2 and a half baptized children, 2 (at least) birthday celebrations, 1 karaoke night, too much way too much food and booze, 60 candied almonds boxes handmade, 60 people lifting us during the kids’ christening, 7 handmade flower arrangements, 4 hours of sleep a night, 1 screaming fit, …and tears, enough of them to last until…the next round of sleepless nights I guess.

KEY FACTS : 

The catholic church in Harlem where our kids were baptized is still standing and did not burn despite the fact that:

– 2 godparents are gay men,

– 1 godparent assured she was baptized somehow somewhere in Papua New Guinea,

– the children’s mother cursed something like 50 times in her first 5 minutes inside the church

– and the baptized children tried very hard to strangle each other during the pastoral sermon…over cheerios.

Also, L might not be completely baptized because I had to flee with him after 1h45 of religious service. The poor child could not take it anymore. Turns out that unbeknownst to us me, he thus missed the lighted candle part i.e. the promise to renounce evil. This is slightly worrying since out of of our 3 children, L is the one who most displays the traits akin to an underworld kingpin: chubby, charismatic, remorseless, bully etc.

Finally, Natasha and I should still never be allowed to get dressed together. Both our DHs would agree to put a lifetime ban on this.

THE LEAD: 

The friends. You think you have some and then you know you have scored great ones when they slave all day to cook a stellar birthday dinner from scratch, clean your house, set a beautiful table and treat you with a spa massage (childcare included). Yep I teared up a little a bit.

QUOTABLE: 

During a wild karaoke night at Thor’s and Archibald’s, the doorman, after probably some complaints from the old cranky neighbor below, called in and said:

‘Hi it’s Dominic from downstairs. There’s some loud music apparently on your floor. Is it you guys?

To which, Thor (genuinely) replied: ‘No, we did not order Domino’s pizza. Thanks.’ before hanging up…

No comment on the amount of Cosmopolitans and Lychee-tinis consumed that night.

TURNING POINT:

I guess I was simmering deep down: the stress about the upcoming baptism as the list of attendees was growing and growing, the anxiety about our Aussie friends soon leaving to go back to their sunny skies, swimming pool and of course beautiful kiddos, and the energy required not to react to some of my in-laws’ comments about the kids. And then of course in the middle of the week, I snapped like a demented woman, as I do…occasionally.

It all started funny: Jacques my father in law (FiL) was having a childish argument with his 19 month old grandson, L. It became snarky when FiL made an off the cuff remark about how apparently ‘in ‘this’ house, children are allowed to touch EVERYTHING, anyway…’. It then became awkward: I started to bark ‘oh yeah, what does this mean???? You know what, you are right I am going to freaking put these kids in CAGES, all of them in freaking CAGES!!!’. It ended completely crazy like a scene of a Tarantino movie when bullets are fired super quickly and then explode in slow motion making a whole bunch of Yakuzas bleed to death. In other words, I lost it like a tot having a tantrum and I threw some kind of cubes on the floor except that it was not the floor I hit …but my freaking MiL (mother in law). That’s right, my MiL! And I used to be their favorite ‘brought into the family’ person. God knows what they’ll say behind my back now. Oh well…At least the air got cleared out. Everyone was whispering after my outburst – scared to death I might stab someone. Very quiet house.

QUOTABLE II: 

‘You are sooooooo boring!!!’ dixit Natasha who refused to leave the dance floor of the Red Rooster downstairs club. We were all drunk and all tired but she was adamant:’You are so boring; just leave me here!!! I’ll find my way home.’ That’s when I looked at Anthony, her DH, and told him: ‘Do you think we can smack her so she loses consciousness and then carry her into a yellow cab?’ I got worried when he thought about it for 5 minutes before cooly stating:’Not sure we would get away with it.’

Can I set the record straight right here, right now? I am many, many things but no one has ever called me boring. EVER. Crazy woman that Natasha 🙂

HOT: 

The amount of love we felt when parading our children down the aisle in the church. I did not get married in church so I must admit I got overwhelmed about the waves of positive energy, the known and unknown friendly faces popping up here and there, the soft touches on our shoulders as we passed by. Our (or should I say DH’s and the kids’) local catholic community is actually awesome! So Harlem too: full of laughs, humor and energy!

NOT:

6 (then sober) adults standing (2 parents and 4 god parents) supposedly minding both spiritually and practically  3 kids in the Church but somehow L managed to fall flat face on the marble steps, cut his eyebrow and bled a little right just before receiving the Holy water…Did I mention L also being the one half-baptized? In the eyes of some, this kid is probably screwed. Attaboy 🙂

THINGS TO WATCH: 

I might have developed a crush on old Pastor Nolan. He is such a sweet and simple man and did not seem to mind that I am not a Christian and swear like a truck driver.

NOTABLE:

In the midst of all this drama, I had two notable encounters with the glitzy crowd of New York that you might find funny and/or obnoxious of me. But hey…I am in the middle of a writer’s block, so yep I am going to do some name dropping. So, at the Red Rooster, handsome and brilliant chef Markus Samuelsson went out of his way to congratulate Natasha and I on our style and to welcome us personally to his restaurant. He served as guest chef for the first state dinner of the Barack Obama presidency. His hand that touched my hand touched the hand of BO! Completely dork-ed out by this fact. That was my VIP moment of the month.

My second encounter was less glamorous and more VAP (Very Awkward Person). During a work meeting, I created a commotion by banging my forehead against the marble bar countertop (what is it about the marble and my family???) leading the barman to apply some ice on my head and all this witnessed by a very calm Meg Ryan casually eating a soup behind me…Meg Ryan=laid back, Redlipstickmama=prima donna

WHAT’S NEXT:

1- Devise a plan for Natasha and Anthony’s family to move over here. Maybe when their children get over their ‘we love the sun and the space’ phase and get New York brainwashed by all those shows and sitcoms claiming that a shoe box studio here is way better that a sunny villa with swimming pool…hum.

2- Find what religious materials my in laws left in our apartment to guide us guide the kids towards God. So far
we have: a nativity scene (very cute one by the way), a bible for children, a book on baptisms, an Advent calendar…I am so going to check under my bed for a statue of the Virgin Mary.

How was your week?

Below amazing pictures from talented Helene, our photographer for the day who captured so beautifully this special day. Check out her stunning work on her site.

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