Sunday, November 1, 2009

Whirlwind Romance

It could be the sugar. I hope it's the sugar. Because Zeke did consume an astounding amount of sugar today. Normally of course we don't let him, but it's the day after Halloween, so we decided to roll with it and let him eat all he wanted...for just this one day. You'd think we would have learned our lesson after the Easter debacle, but no—we did not. So he freely gulped Tootsie Pops, 3-Musketeers bars, Smarties, and M&Ms all morning. And for the most part we didn't see any side effects. But then in the early afternoon I was unpacking a box from the bottomless garage, when I ran across a giant stuffed fish that someone gave me in college (I think—I honestly have no idea how I acquired the fish, but feel like college is the most likely scenario based on the other items in the box).

Zeke immediately spied the fish and asked if he could have it.

“Sure,” I told him.

So I went back to unpacking and Zeke spent some quality time with the fish. He took it for a ride on his trike. Ate lunch with it. Bounced on the couch with it (yes, we allow that). And bounced on the bed with it (we allow that too). It was much like the turtle courtship of a couple weeks ago, but somehow more intense. And by the time I went to put him in bed for his nap, he proclaimed that Fishy was his “favorite friend ever—even better than Catty.”

“Better than Catty?!” I asked, astonished (since Catty has been his best bed buddy since he was born).

“Yes, better than Catty.”

He then went on to clarify by explaining that “Catty's heart only goes to here” (arm extended as high as he could reach), “but Fishy's heart goes all the way to outer space.” (If you've ever read “I Love You This Much,” you know the significance of how high someone's heart goes.) This was different from the whole turtle thing because the turtle was a play friend, but there was never any discussion of him unseating Catty as the king of the stuffed animals.

I was stunned. In the space of three or four hours Zeke and the fish went from being total strangers to a committed and seemingly exclusive relationship. Now that is a whirlwind affair if ever there was one. Even pop stars have the decency to let a new romance percolate for five or six weeks before dumping their previous flame and running away to Vegas, but not Zeke.

And the weird thing is that this fish is not appealing in any way whatsoever. It is not cute. It is not soft. There is no fur. It is just a fabric fish. A bass to be specific. It's appeal is entirely inexplicable. Unless it's all just part of the massive Halloween sugar high. Maybe he comes back down to earth tomorrow and re-installs the cat as his one-and-only (assuming that the cat is willing to overlook the dalliance with the fish). I hope so. I'm rooting for the cat. Something about the whole fish thing feels a little rushed.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Now We're Just Tacky

Last year we were the lame people who couldn't carve pumpkins properly...or more accurately, didn't carve our pumpkins at all, but instead put them on our porch entirely uncarved, where the squirrels promptly went to town on them and brought holiday shame upon our family (for details see last year's Halloween entry).

This year, in an effort to avoid holiday shame, we just gave in and bought plastic pumpkins. I know they're kinda tacky. I feel like I'm betraying Martha Stewart in some way...even though I never made any kind of specific commitment to upholding her level of tasteful, labor-intensive handmade decor. But you know what? Plastic pumpkins are squirrel-proof and I kinda like 'em. Furthermore, Zeke likes them a lot, and I figure that if I use them for the next 15 years I am going to accrue a lot of savings in deferred real pumpkin purchases. "No Zeke, no need to go to the pumpkin patch! Let's go dig the box of fake pumpkins out of the garage--it'll be fun!" I'm going to have to make a game out of it if he's going to buy in, but I think he will. He was at Grandma's house last weekend, and when she plunged his hand into the pumpkin guts so he could pull them out as part of his very first pumpkin carving attempt, he puked. Didn't just gag or make a face, but actually vomited on the floor. Shanti thinks this is amazing, but I think it makes sense. Pumpkin guts are uniquely slimy and disgusting. I've never puked when touching them, but I've certainly felt like it.

In other Halloween news, we found out that the people on our street don't subscribe to the standard wait-at-your-door-for-the-kids-to-arrive candy distribution system. No, these folks actually set up long tables at the bottom of the street on Halloween, line up all their bowls of candy on the tables, then kick back with pizza and wine behind the tables while the kids come by and retrieve their loot from the candy buffet. The people who live at the house in front of the buffet buy the pizza and wine. The other neighbors just bring side dishes. I'm pretty sure this goes in the "plus" column of any evaluation of life in our new neighborhood.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Truth Hurts: Round 2 (or 3 or 4...I don't remember)

Last night I was racing back and forth between the kitchen and our bathroom, trying to get ready for dinner out with friends and serve Zeke his dinner at the same time.

It seemed to be going well, but just as I was dashing out of the kitchen for the tenth time to finish my hair, Zeke stopped me. “Mommy, that isn’t good,” he said in his most solemn voice.

I had just served him a very recently-frozen tamale, so I assumed that’s what he was referring to.

“Honey, you love tamales. You eat them all the time. Is it too cold? Too spicy?”

“No Mommy, it’s your shirt. It’s not good. You should pick a different one.”

I looked down at what I was wearing. A ten-year-old triathlon shirt and gym shorts. Fair enough, not appropriate for an evening out. Probably not appropriate for an evening in either. However, in my defense, these were not the clothing items I was planning to wear to dinner. They were just prep gear so that the REAL outfit would not be covered with dog fur and wayward tamale sauce before I even managed to get a foot out the door. Odd that he didn’t mention the shorts though…

“The shorts are OK?” I asked, just to clarify.

“No. They’re not nice either. You need to wear better clothes when you go to dinner.”

So there you have it. I now have a live-in fashion advisor. I never dreamed I could afford such an extravagance, but this particular purveyor of the trade works for Cheerios, grapes, and yes—tamales, so I’m going to keep him on the payroll. Plus, he is unflinchingly honest, and so far at least, accurate in his assessments. This is good news for those of you that go places with me. Although it was not my plan to wear a t-shirt and shorts last night, in the past there has always been a pretty solid chance that I would show up for an event wearing something significantly more casual than I should. Now that I have to pass preschooler inspection though, maybe you’re a little safer than you were before (safe from my bad clothing decisions). Maybe.

Or maybe I’ll just start putting Zeke to bed earlier.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Karate Kid!

I don't know if there is anything anywhere that is cuter than little kids in karate uniforms. And Zeke Amagasu in a karate uniform is downright ridiculous. Cuter than the law should allow.

He was in a karate uniform on this particular evening because tonight was his very first karate lesson. Ever. He may do this for ten or twenty years and earn all kinds of fancy and important belt designations over that time period, but he will always be able to look back and know that today was the day his martial arts journey began. I hope that's the case anyway. Of course he might hate it and quit next year, but I don't think he will if tonight's results are any sort of indicator. Zeke is a follower, and karate is all about following. You do what the sensei says and do it as accurately as possible. For some kids this is a very difficult undertaking. Not for Zeke though. He knows he'll be praised if he does something correctly, and he's naturally competitive in this kind of environment. I can't explain why, but so far he seems to prefer individual sports that you learn about in group settings much more than team sports that you participate in together. When we took him to soccer classes in Spring he'd play for a few minutes, then look at us with sad eyes the rest of the time and whine about wanting to leave. But swimming classes in early summer were entirely different. He loved them. He paid attention, was totally engaged, and was doing everything he could to outshine his fellow classmates. Same with karate. At least tonight anyway. He did exactly what the teacher asked and seemed to have a great time doing it. Check out the video. He's definitely smiling as he punches his little fist out and yells “Aayy!” I hope that doing it and learning to do it well will give him a little more confidence in other parts of his life. We'll see. One way or another we're off to a good start.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Thank You for the Turtle Grandma Mira!

You never know with kids. That is what I am learning.

Zeke turned four on Tuesday, and we had a party for him yesterday. Shanti and I gave him a scooter. Knew he would love it, and in fact he did love it. Grandma Martha and PopPop Bob gave him a giant fire truck with all kinds of remote control ladder-raising and water squirting capabilities. Knew he'd love it. And of course he loved it. But the rest of his gifts were a toss-up. Very thoughtful offerings from his little school friends and our other family members: Legos, blocks, a Star Wars logic game (which Shanti and I are enjoying), a puzzle, an outfit, some books, a mini computer mouse, some origami, and a small wooden turtle from his Grandma Mira.

And if you had asked me to rank the remaining gifts in order of popularity, I'd probably have put the puzzle and Legos at the top of the list, followed closely by the blocks and the books, the Star Wars game, the origami, the mouse, the outfit (which is adorable, but which Zeke automatically dismissed as a non-gift because it cannot be played with), and then bringing up the tail end would be the wooden turtle. Not because it wasn't beautiful, but because it seemed more like d├ęcor than a toy. Something we'd put on Zeke's shelf and smile at when we looked at it.

Boy was I wrong. The turtle was the sleeper of the gift parade. The come from behind story. The seventh round draft pick that winds up in the Pro Bowl. For reasons that I cannot explain, Zeke loves that turtle. He pets it. He cuddles it. He brings it over to the fire truck so it can enjoy the lights and water squirting magic with him. It accompanied him to breakfast. It watched Dora with him before bed. And I am just amazed. It is a wooden turtle. No fur, no lights, no electronic sounds. But he loves it and seems to want to parent it. And I love him all the more for being such a complex, wonderful, imaginative little human being. Way to go Grandma Mira! Great gift.

Monday, August 3, 2009

The End of the Bowl Cut Initiative

(After shot on top; Before on bottom)

Goodbye almost-bowl cut! It was nice having you around. You were cute most of the time. Oh, sometimes you made Zeke look like some kind of street urchin that may or may not have a home, but that was the exception. As a rule, you were an attractive, throwback kind of haircut, and I liked the statement you were making: (“Zeke's mom can put down the clippers if she wants to. She normally chooses to cut his hair every 4-6 weeks, but she doesn't have to. She isn't compelled to. She simply chooses to. And right now she is choosing not to. And it's not driving her crazy at all. She loves disorder. She's totally cool with her kid looking kind of rumpled from time to time. It's not like she's obsessive about his hair...”)

And really, I thought we were going to make it from almost-bowl to full-fledged bowl. I mean I hadn't cut you since March, and it is now August. I figured by the end of the month we'd be there. September at the latest. And I was looking forward to it. But then last week Zeke told me that his hair was bothering him.

“It's touching the back of my neck Mommy. Can you please cut it?”

“Cut it? We don't need to cut it—it looks fine,” I replied with all the conviction of a dieter turning down a cookie.

Ten minutes later I had the scissors out and gave him a quick trim. Five days after that I dug out my clippers and, well--you can see where that went. The almost-bowl was history. 

Guess I'll have to try again next summer. 

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

More on Cake...and Cousins

Most of you have probably heard that my brother and his wife just had a baby.

Landon Wallace Cunningham rolled into town on July 1st and was warmly welcomed by his parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and family friends. Pretty much everyone even remotely connected to our family was thrilled to welcome this new little life to our world.

Everyone but Zeke, that is.

When we told Zeke that Uncle Billy had a baby and that the baby was his cousin, he asked what cousins were, and we made the mistake of explaining that being cousins meant (among other things) that they had the same grandma.

“Same Grandma?!” exclaimed Zeke with disbelief. “Grandma is my grandma. He does not get to have her.”

“Well she'll still be your grandma, but she'll be his grandma too.”

“I don't like Landon.”

And that was that...for the time being anyway. We decided to drop the subject since we had clearly bungled it to that point.

Today however, I am pleased to report that long-term prospects for the Zeke/Landon relationship are looking up. Zeke and I were in the car yesterday riding home from preschool and talking about who he was going to invite to his birthday party (because as far as Zeke is concerned, any time is a good time to talk about his birthday and how we might celebrate matter that it isn't until September).

“Who are you going to invite Zeke?” (Talking about his guest list is his second favorite party planning topic, trumped only by speculation about how delicious the cake is going to be.)

“Owie (his best friend Owen), Ryan, Jacob, Katie, Carter, Duffy, Lucas, Matthew, and Blake.”

“Anybody else? (I was worried, because at least half the kids on that list live in the Bay Area and it's a safe bet that their parents are not going to subject their children to a six-hour drive just to attend a birthday party.)


“What about the nice little girls from your class?”


“Are you sure there isn't anyone else you'd like to invite?”

“Well, cousin Landon can come...”

“He can?!” (I was thrilled. I didn't think he even remembered Landon's name since we'd spoken about him exactly once.) “That's very nice Zeke.”

“He can come, but Uncle Billy needs to keep him in a basket under the table.”

“Under the table? Why?”

“So he can't get the cake.”

“But he's a baby—he can't walk. He won't be able to get anywhere near the cake.”

“Well, we'd better put him there anyway—just to be safe.”

Sigh. It's not perfect, but I'll take it. A contingency-laden birthday invitation from a jealous little 3-year-old boy to his newborn cousin is better than no invitation at all. That said, I will not at all be surprised if Landon surfaces in Zeke's nightmares as the newest cake-thieving antagonist.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

He's a Keeper!

I don't know what I was thinking asking the greyhound rescue for a dog. What do I want with a new dog? More poo? More fur to vacuum? More lawn damage? I definitely did not think out the consequences of this request. All I knew was that I wanted Zadie to have a companion. Somebody to snuggle with on the dog nest and play with while I worked.

But then the greyhound lady actually agreed to let me have a dog (or at least test-drive one for a week). I never thought she'd let me have a dog. Never. I just asked because it is my nature to ask for things that I have already been told I cannot have (and due to the fact that I have a 3-year-old son, a greyhound was allegedly something I could not have). But it turns out that I caught the greyhound lady at a vulnerable moment. She had a lot of greyhound inventory, and one of them was a greyhound/husky mix that she thought might be more likely to do well in a home with young kids than most greyhounds would. His name was Conner.

So last week we suddenly had a dog. A very sweet, very energetic young dog. Affectionate. Silly. Eager to learn. But also prone to hopping up on the couch (which we don't love), chewing on Zeke's stuffed animals (which he doesn't love), and going completely nuts when he sees another dog on the street. Add to that the fact that he was entirely unfamiliar with regular dog commands, and that he had/has no sense of personal boundaries (if you leave the bathroom door open he'll follow you right in and put his head on your knee while you're going), and we knew we were going to be in for an interesting week.

Seven days later, the dog has prevailed. In what can only be called a triumph of canine charisma over human good sense, Conner has convinced us that his faults are negligible and his upside is huge. He's still stealing Zeke's toys, and he is definitely a pain to walk, with all the craziness that ensues each time he sees another dog, but he's learning general obedience commands quite quickly and Zadie really does seem to like him (which is saying a lot when it comes to Zadie). Plus, he spends most of the day just sleeping at my feet in the office, which is nice, and he has given up on the idea that dogs should occupy the couch.

As for personal boundaries...we're still workin' on it, but have discovered that you can get used to being watched in the bathroom if you try.

Saturday, July 11, 2009


Most kids have nightmares about monsters. Or scary dogs. Or getting lost. I know this because I have a lot of friends with small children and this is what they tell me.

So when Zeke woke up crying hysterically the other night—his very first real nightmare--Shanti and I ran to his room and did our best to comfort him. We couldn't understand a thing he was saying, but we stayed with him and held him until he quieted down.

When we went back to our room we speculated about what could have been stalking our son in his dreams. A mean kid from school? Something scary he had seen on TV? Monsters? We felt horrible that he was so frightened and upset.

So when we got up the next morning I really wanted to ask him about it. I didn't at first, for fear of re-traumatizing him, but by the time we sat down to breakfast, curiosity triumphed over willpower, and I carefully submitted my inquiry.

“Zeke, do you remember waking up last night?”


“You seemed pretty upset. Can you tell me what made you so unhappy?”

“A very mean girl took my cake.”

“Cake? You had a nightmare about cake?”


“But you don't even have a cake.”

“I do have a cake. I saw it.”

From there the conversation degenerated into a debate over the nature of dreams, with me trying to explain that your brain tells you stories while you sleep, but they're not real and therefore the cake cannot be real, and Zeke stubbornly clinging to the “But I saw it!” defense, while repeatedly explaining to me that brains cannot make cakes because they don't have hands and you need hands to stir cake mix and spread frosting.

I eventually waved the white flag. Not because Zeke had convinced me that brains don't have hands, but because Shanti had hopped on the Internet during our debate and learned that parents aren't even supposed to question the legitimacy of their childrens' dreams. Apparently you're supposed to arm your child against the next nightmare by providing suggestions as to how they might combat the monster/bully/cake-stealing-girl. Chagrined by this, I shut up, and thought we were finished.

Two days later however, Shanti was putting Zeke to bed, when from out of nowhere Zeke announced, “I am going to wrap my cake in plastic, put it in a box, and hide it in the back of the refrigerator so the bad girl can't get it.”

I just loved that. Not that my son was still upset, but that his nightmares are about cake and that he had spent 48 hours plotting his defense of that cake. That is my boy.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Another "Living in L.A." Update

First of all, I should clarify: I don't live in L.A. Not even in L.A. county. I live in Thousand Oaks, which is about 45 minutes north of L.A., in Ventura County. The only reason I use “L.A.” when describing where I've moved is that usually I'm talking to someone from the Bay Area, and most of them have no idea where Thousand Oaks is, but can roughly approximate the location of Los Angeles.

I think I've been fair in my descriptions of my new habitat so far. Critical of its insanely fast drivers and its relentless promotion of 80s music, but appreciative of its superior customer service and fashion sense.

Today I add two items to the “Living in L.A.” plus column: Low prices and large parking spaces.

Oh, sure you know about the low real estate prices (at least compared to SF), but did you know that pretty much any service you can think of is cheaper here? Example: My gym membership in the Bay Area (YMCA) ran $70/month. Here my gym membership costs $33/month. I didn't join the Y, but if I had (we've got one right up the street), it still would only have been $42. And it's just as nice as the one I belonged to up north. Same thing for highlights. Partial highlight + tip at Aveda salon in Mountain View: $150. Here (also at Aveda salon): $75. Bay Area pedicure: $20. Here: $12. And on it goes. It's like living in a half-price sale, and it rocks.

As for the parking spaces...

I alluded to this in an earlier post, but never said it outright, so let's call out the elephant in the room: people in southern California love their SUVs. In Thousand Oaks in particular, the giant black Escalade seems to rule the road. Most of our neighbors have at least one, and some have two. Oh they're not all Escalades, but a lot are, and those that aren't are at least close cousins from the GMC family: Tahoes, Yukons, Suburbans, you name it. If it's giant and black and you can put 22-inch chrome wheels on it, someone in our neighborhood is driving it.

The happy side effect of all this large vehicle driving (for those of us driving smaller vehicles anyway) is that the parking spaces at the malls and supermarkets around here are enormous. Not only can I sling my Prius into any space I want as carelessly as I please, I can open the doors all the way without the slightest fear that I will ding the car next to me. I can push my shopping cart right up next to my passenger door and put my groceries in there instead of in the trunk. I can even let Zeke open his own door, which he was never ever allowed to do in the Bay Area. I know that giant parking spaces are a poor use of open space and another step on the path to us paving over the entire world, and I do feel guilty about that, but right now I have to admit that I am enjoying them immensely.

P.S. Shanti and I were thinking maybe the City of Thousand Oaks should consider replacing the oak tree on the city seal (because really, how many of those are left?), with a big ol' shiny Escalade; replacing the silhouette of Ventura county with the VanHalen logo; and replacing the bear (how totally non-creative were the people that cooked this seal up? “I know—we're in California—let's use the bear. You know, because it's on the state flag. No one else will think of that!”) with an elephant—because although I haven't touched on this yet in this blog, the place is loaded to the gills with conservatives. We'll talk about that another day (or not...if I know what's good for me).