Tuesday, June 19, 2012

I Visited Cloud City and Lando Calrissian Didn't Even Kiss Me

Mommy Camp - Day 2

I would like to take a moment to thank the good folks at the Metropolitan Museum of Art for their suggested donation idea. (I would also like to thank the hipster working the cash register for curbing her eye roll when I only offered $3.) The Met is awesome for many reasons, but mostly because it allows me to feel like a Very Good Mother while letting my kid ogle mummies.

Kid: "So, mummies are real?"
Me: "Yes, but they're not alive."
Kid: "So they're not real."
Me: "No, mummies are real, but they're dead."
Kid: "So when do they come back to life and start moving?" (This is why I do not homeschool.)

I managed to spend a few minutes in the Temple of Dendur before the boy beelined to his favorite piece in the museum, a rather snoozy stone crocodile from the 1st century. (The 1st century!) Then we headed up to the roof garden to check out the newest exhibit, an awesome little number called "Cloud City," which is basically a giant set of hexagonal mirrors that you climb on. Unfortunately you have to be 10 or older to enter it, much to the heartbreak of EVERY CHILD THERE. (My offering of a soggy PB&J didn't exactly improve the situation.) Luckily, we found a very nice - and comfortingly geeky - museum educator who got Owen talking about dinosaurs and comic books and totally saved the day.

I'd promised Owen that he could see a real Jackson Pollock painting (I wish I could take credit for his art appreciation - they studied him in preschool) and his reaction was predictably adorable. I don't get what all the fuss is about,* but if Owen loves him, I'll muster up some interest, too. In other news, we both agree that Van Gogh is the greatest, along with this moody Seurat.

We managed to get out of there without a trip to the gift shop (phew!) putting our sum total at a measly $3 - or a glass of tap water at Fancy Camp.**

*Later, with Matt:

Me: "I could totally make paintings like that."
Matt: "But you didn't."
Me: "But I could."
Matt: "But you didn't.

** Based on very little research, I suspect this is the camp Snobby Mom from yesterday's post was discussing.

Monday, June 18, 2012

The one where I dislike rich kids.

I just read the most fantastic post on UrbanBaby. And by "fantastic" I mean "please let me punch this woman in the face." A lady of a Certain Income expressed some curiosity about summer camp - specifically whether or not they offer financial aid. You see, there's a boy at her son's private school who receives full financial aid. This boy is also going to be attending the same overnight camp as her son, which is fine - no really, it's fine! - but she can't see how he affords it because it costs $20,000.


I realize that New York City is full of rich folks and that people spend way more than $20K on stuff that's a lot stupider than summer camp, but come on - that's $1,429 a day. A day, peeps. A day.

I wish she had mentioned the name of the camp because I, for one, am dying to know what that kind of money gets a kid these days. Does Rachael Ray pop by to make chocolate chip pancakes? Are the s'mores made of mystic leprechaun gold? Because otherwise I want my damn money back.

Camp Mommy may not offer much in the way of water polo (fancy camps offer it. I checked) but it will have something. Something really - okay, moderately - good. My goal: Maximum awesomeness. Minimal cost.

Here goes...

Camp Mommy: Day 1

- Trip to Toys R Us to exchange some stuff for store credit. Exciting total: $34.00! Unfortunately, my boy found a Red Hulk action figure that he could not. live. without. Still, we're ahead $19, or roughly the cost of a dinner roll at Camp Fancy. Why yes I will take that undeserved sense of accomplishment, thank you!

- Impromptu picnic at playground. Preschool buddies + leftover pizza = lots of excitable screaming and only one fatigue-induced meltdown.

Total expense: $0.

Tomorrow: Who needs ponies when you've got splatter paint?

Monday, June 11, 2012

Who needs a vacation when you've got summer activities?

Quick: I need a list of summer activities I can do with my 4-year-old that don't require:

A) money*
B) a car, or
C) me pretending to be a superhero, jedi, monster, cat, melting ice cube, bird, or pencil**

To save you time, here are things I've already got planned:

- The Met (Educational! Plus, mummies!) 
- Central Park
- The library (I'm still a little squicked out about the potential for bed bugs, though)
- Possibly Coney Island, although the last time I was there I saw a pair of underwear floating in the water

Any other ideas for Camp Mommy? Because I've got three solid months to fill. 

*It can cost a little money, but none of that "Hey, why not go to the Intrepid? That place is fun!" Because while the Intrepid is awesome and totally worth a visit if you're new in town, it's also gonna cost me $32 to get in, plus an extra god-knows-how-much once my son makes a beeline for the gift shop. You try saying no to a 4-year-old who's convinced that his life will not be complete without a packet of freeze dried ice cream. Just try. No, go ahead. I'm watching.

** So far I have been all of the above, and school has only been out for 3 days.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The kindergarten post

Judging by the amount of time between posts, it would seem that I have fallen off the face of the earth.

Yeah, wow. Sorry about that. Life got a little crazy for awhile. (I'm not saying our former neighbor gave us bedbugs, but if I ever run into him on the street I will TOTALLY PUNCH HIM IN THE MOUTH.) We also moved into a (bug-free) two-bedroom apartment after only 4 1/2 years of waiting. Ready to envy? Check it:

- It has more than one bedroom, which means we are no longer sleeping in the living room like hobos.
- It has a kitchen. Yes, our last apartment had a kitchen too, but this one is better.
- It has two (2) bathrooms.

Have you picked yourself up off the floor yet? Great. Now here comes the big news: My son, the 4-year-old apple of my eye, has been accepted to kindergarten.

I know what you're thinking.  "But Ali, what's the BFD? Every kid goes to kindergarten." And to that I say, WRONG. WRONG, WRONG, WRONG, WRONG, WRONG, WRONG. (Wrong.)

See, in New York City, kindergarten is a privilege, not a right. Almost all schools have waitlists, and very few slots to begin with. Itching for a real world factoid? Out of the 20 kids in my son's preschool class, only six have a kindergarten to go to next year. Luckily, my son is one of them. And it's all because last January I made my just-turned-4-year-old take an hour long test in a room alone with a stranger to find out whether or not he is "gifted" and/or "talented."

Can you tell I still have mixed feelings about it?

I think we all agree that giving an IQ test to a 4-year-old is nutballs. (Want proof? How's this?) So why did I do it? Even worse, why did I spend months - yes, months - having my kid do workbooks and flashcards and play memory games and do puzzles and ask awkwardly phrased questions like this:

"Take a look a the pictures inside the boxes. These have been organized in a certain way, and there is an empty box at the end. Now look at the pictures next to these boxes and point to the one that would belong in the empty box."

I did it because I want my son to go to a decent public kindergarten.

Gone are the days of dropping your child off at the nearest elementary school, at least here in NYC. There are simply too many children and too few schools. I read a quote that they could make 182* full kindergarten classes with all the children that didn't get a space in kindergarten last year. If your local zoned school isn't up to snuff (ours is adorable, with capable teachers and small-ish class sizes - but it's also a 45-minute bus ride away and 85% of the children have English as their second language) or you don't have a spare $40,000, the only other option is to try and get your kid into one of the city's coveted gifted and talented programs. Which is why I spent an anxious Saturday morning waiting in an unfamiliar auditorium while my 4-year-old took an hour long test with a stranger. Did I mention that part yet? Oh good.

To say that there's a lot of pressure on this test is putting it mildly. (There was a woman praying on her hands and knees in the back of the room. I wish I was joking.) Perhaps you saw the recent episode of Nightline about parents who pay thousands of dollars to tutor their preschoolers. Turns out we're lucky - our kid loves tests. He also loves talking and impressing adults, which - combined with a much-hyped post-test trip to Toys R Us - made for a pretty decent afternoon. And - spoiler! - he scored well enough to qualify for one of the city's five coveted citywide gifted schools. Unfortunately, so did 1,600 other little brainiacs. Double unfortunately, there are less than 400 seats available for incoming kindergartners. You do the math.

So the Dept of Ed held a lottery. Names were fed into a computer and some children got seats, but most didn't. Our son got placed in a really great school, and for that I am crazy grateful and prematurely gray. I also completely understand why people move to the 'burbs.

(*I'm not 100% sure about that number, but I don't think it's all that far off.)