Tuesday, December 30, 2008

More Christmas Pictures

Remember Hungry Hungry Hippos? 

Of course you do. 

Remember how loud it is?

Probably not. Unless, like myself, you were stupid enough to give it to your own child for Christmas.

What is wrong with me? That is the noisiest game on the planet. I don't remember it being so noisy when I was a kid, but it's hideous. Much noisier than it looks in the pictures on the box. 

Zeke and Jake loved it and played it for at least an hour straight on Christmas evening. Never got sick of it. The adults in the room tried to talk over the racket, but it was impossible. Like trying to talk during a space shuttle launch (and I attend a lot of shuttle launches in my spare time). 

I don't remember what I finally said that got them to move away from the toy, but I do remember that it was a lengthy negotiation. Once they were gone, Shanti and I dismantled the evil plastic contraption as completely as we could and stuffed it into the box. 

Zeke asked for it the next morning and the next morning, and the next, but fortunately we had the "Grandma is sleeping...can't wake her up" excuse at our fingertips. Now that we're home I'm going to have to come up with some new reasons why we do NOT want to let the hippos come out again. That, or invest in some of those Bose noise-canceling headphones. 

I can see myself in the store now...

"Sir? Can you direct me to your noise-proof headphones?"

"Certainly. Do you travel often? Our products are extremely popular with frequent fliers."


"Oh. Well can I ask what you need them for?"

"Hungry Hungry Hippos."

"Ah, yes. We do a robust hippo-related business this time of year. We should really partner with the Mattel people to get more of those games off the shelves and into the living rooms of America..."

Monday, December 29, 2008

Christmas Dinner

The nice thing about pictures is that they capture a moment. And even if that moment is entirely non-representative of the moments that came before or after it, you have captured the moment, and you can present it to others any way you like. 

In this case, the camera has captured what appear to be two very well-behaved little boys. They seem to be waiting patiently for Christmas dinner to arrive. And if I were a big fat liar, that's the story I'd go with. In fact, I considered that option for more than a few minutes, but it turned out that I was too lazy to make up an appropriate lie to accompany the lovely photo (plus, there were a number of witnesses who would probably rat me out, leaving me to decide whether to pull a Blagojevich and just pretend that the evidence against me does not exist, or to apologize, beg for mercy, and resign from office, and that sounds like a lot of work as well--especially since I don't even hold an office), so I have chosen to go with the truth.

The truth is that Zeke loves Jacob and Jacob loves Zeke, but when the two get together they are squirrelly with a capital "S". If you look closely, you can see that the white-shirted toddler is about to lunge for the basket of rolls with his right hand--before he has eaten even a bite of meat or vegetables. Meanwhile, his blue-shirted friend is rotating toward the right, so he can roll onto his tummy, slide off his chair, and crawl around under the table. Impressed by this move, Mr. White Shirt will immediately replicate it. He will be captured and reinstalled in his seat, where he will again attempt to snag a roll while simultaneously protesting that he's not hungry enough for any turkey. Meanwhile, Mr. Blue Shirt has been extracted from his fortress beneath the table and announces his intention to skip dinner altogether and move straight to dessert. Mr. White Shirt seconds this motion. Dinner threatens to spin out of control. Fortunately, with the help of a wide variety of threats, cooler heads prevail, and the small dinner guests ultimately consumer their meals. 

And that is but one five-minute segment of our Christmas vacation. It was action packed to say the least. And dinner antics aside, Zeke had a wonderful time with Jacob. They are pallie-wallies of the highest order. Committed to squeezing as much running and jumping and squeaking into each and every one of their visits. No hitting, no biting, no fighting, no crying (except when the visit is over)--just lots of high energy fun. And that's a great thing. Can't wait 'til they get together again.

Thursday, December 18, 2008


The little train in this picture isn't actually a toy--it's a Christmas ornament. A really heavy one. I've had it for a while, but I always have a tough time finding a good spot for it on the tree because it weighs about a pound, and that's enough to make even the sturdiest branches droop. What's worse, this year we got a wimpy tree, and none of the branches were strong enough. So I left it off. Stuck it on the ground under the tree and thought nothing more of it. 

Of course, five minutes later Zeke found it, and instantly granted it "favorite toy" status. Brought it to school, zoomed it around his train tracks (in spite of the fact that the wheels are fixed), and told anyone who would listen what a big, strong train it was. 

I was fine with this because it was the most action this train had enjoyed in its entire existence. It went from being touched for one minute twice a year (on the tree, off the tree), to being the 24-hour-a-day companion for a small train enthusiast. And I wasn't scared he'd break it because I figured it had to be made of iron or steel or something similarly dense and strong. 

Turns out it's not. (Made of steel.) It's made of something white--I can't figure out what--that is in fact quite breakable. I only know this because I dropped the train on our kitchen floor and shards of it shot off in every direction. I guess you can't tell in the picture, but chips are now missing from the roof of the train and the cowcatcher in the front. 

Zeke was not amused by this incident. He asked me to fix the train. I told him I could not because the pieces were too small (they were--I swear). I also told him I was very, very sorry for what I had done. He seemed OK with this...didn't cry or throw a fit. But he must not have been as OK as he seemed, because at least twice a day since the accident he walks over to where the train sits on the kitchen counter, looks at it solemnly, and says "Mommy is very sorry for what she did to my train." Each time I agree that I am sorry and silently hope that one day I will be granted absolution for this heinous crime (all the while resisting the urge to point out that technically it's still my train--I was just letting him play with it). Alas, so far it does not look like forgiveness is in my future.

So what I'm wondering is: Do all toddlers naturally understand the power of guilt? Or is Zeke just a guilt-savant? A gifted student of the art of emotional manipulation? We shall see. In the meantime I've gotta figure out what to do to get his mind off this train.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Toddler Astronomy

Zeke and I were having breakfast a couple days ago, when he looked out the window and saw that the sun was coming up.

"Look, it's the sun!"

"Yes," I replied, "I like the sun. It keeps us nice and warm."

"The sun is hot," he corrected. "It is a ball of fire, and if you touch it, it will burn you and turn you to ash," (delivered with a very serious face that conveyed all kinds of concern for the things that would happen to Mommy if she kept up this frivolous relationship with the sun). 

"OK. I won't touch it."


Just another day with the Safety Toddler. Don't Forget your Seatbelt and Don't Touch the Sun. I'm betting that this latest edict is the result of Hua's recent efforts to teach the kids about the solar system. I'm sure she taught them more than the whole "sun equals fireball-of-death" concept, but my guess is that he wasn't listening, and that's the only part that caught his attention. 

That's OK. I'm pleased that he remembers any of it, and touched that he cares enough to pass his newfound knowledge along to his family. I was thinking about touching the sun today (because it was 48 degrees at lunchtime), but now that I know it's so dangerous I think I'll hold off and just grab a blanket instead. :o)

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Hey Santa!

"Santa!" Zeke chirped enthusiastically from the back seat as we passed Safeway on the way home tonight.

I looked over to see what variety of Santa we were dealing with.

Inflatable. Tied to the fence in front of the Safeway christmas tree display. Not even really Santa-shaped. The lowest form of Santa impersonation.

"That's not the real Santa Zeke. That's just a pretend Santa reminding us that Christmas is coming soon."

"Where is the real Santa?"

"He's in a very cold place, very far away."


"No, he's from a place called the North Pole."

"The North Pole is in Tahoe?"

"No. It's even colder and further away than that."

"Tahoe is very cold. And very far away. I think Santa would like it there."

Who was I to argue? "Yes, I bet he would."

"When Santa comes I will give him cookies and carrots and I will wash his reindeer and I will take him to Tahoe."


So there you have it. Santa is in for a treat when he stops by the Amagasu residence this year: Clean reindeer and a trip to the Sierras courtesy of Zeke the Animal Groomer and Travel Agent. Hope St. Nick has time for a detour…

Monday, December 8, 2008

Holiday Train!

Zeke was feeling a little better this weekend, so we decided to return to the scene of the crime and try to have dinner (once again) at Su Hong. I was hoping they'd forget about last week's debacle, but as they escorted us to the back of the restaurant, near the tables of weird people and old men dining alone, I got the distinct feeling that we were being punished.

I was actually OK with it. Don't do the crime if you can't do the time, right? Some of the wait staff came back to our table to secretly say hi, and give us apologetic looks. I appreciated it. I figure three or four more visits, and we'll be promoted to the front dining room once again.

Anyway, the best part of the evening was that on the way home we accidentally wound up seeing the annual Holiday Train. Yeah! Zeke loves the Holiday Train, but I had totally forgotten about it this year. Fortunately, when we were riding our regular train home, I saw a brochure for the Holiday Train on the seat in front of me. I snatched it up. Figured we had missed our opportunity, but checked the schedule anyway:


Amazing luck. Our train was due to pull into MV at 7:15--we'd get there right before the Holiday Train!

When we pulled into the Mountain View station, the crowd for the Holiday Train was already there--20 to 30 people deep the full length of the platform, held back by protective railings. They went nuts when we got off. Cheering and clapping madly. I'm not sure if they thought we were the Holiday Train or if they were just bored and looking for something to do. Either way it was fun. Zeke and I got to feel like rock stars for a minute.

And sure enough, the real Holiday Train rolled in five minutes later. It's really just a regular train with lights all over it--and a platform car where Salvation Army singers sing while Santa waves at the kids. Zeke loved it though. While the rest of the kids surged toward the middle to hear the singers and catch a glimpse of Santa, Zeke dragged me to the front, where the engine is, so he could pay homage to the real star of the show--the driver. Turned out we weren't the only ones hanging out staring at him like groupies. A small pack of old men was up there too, chatting him up and asking him about the train. It was cute--Zeke and the old guys basking in the glow of train driver glory, and clearly thrilled by every minute of it.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Just say no

I should have said "No."

Zeke and I had been planning to hop a train to Menlo Park on Sunday night for our now weekly mother/son dinner and bookstore visit.

Unfortunately, Zeke had been mildly sick all weekend, and as we prepared to leave for the train, I got a hint that his condition was deteriorating when he pointed to his head and said "huuurts." I felt his head (it felt hot) gave him a hug, and told him I thought maybe we should just stay home and snuggle instead of going to the train. He objected to this plan, insisting that he felt well enough for the train, so stupidly, I relented.

He seemed fine on the way to the station, and was happy as could be on the train ride, but as soon as we got off, again he gave me the "huuuurts" routine. I picked him up and told him no problem, a train would be along in ten minutes and we could go right back home where we would watch TV and rest.

Again though, he objected, insisting that he was fine and that, "dumplings and tea will make me feel better." So again, against my better judgment, I gave in. I figured there was no way to tell if he was going to get better or worse—sometimes he snaps back over the course of five minutes—and it would be a shame to abort our trip when there was a good chance he'd be just fine.

As it turns out, he got worse.

Every five steps on the walk to the restaurant he stopped, pointed at his head, and reminded me that it hurt. And each time, I bent down, gave him a hug, assured him that I felt his pain, and asked if he wanted to go back to the train.

"No. I want dumplings," was his steady refrain.

So on we pressed. Finally made it to the restaurant and placed our order, but I could tell things were going downhill fast because even in a room full of food and people, he was complaining about his head.

I told him to drink a lot of water, because water would make him feel better.

He did. And he rested his head on his plate. And when the food finally came, he got excited and seemed to forget about feeling sick. I was thinking we were in the clear. Then, just as he finished one dumpling and was contemplating another, he very casually turned his head to the right and projectile vomited into the aisle of the packed restaurant. No pre-announcement, no crying afterward, just non-chalant high-volume barfing.

Ugh. I felt so bad. For Zeke and for the restaurant staff that were going to have to clean up a big fat batch of hot stinky puke (from a carpeted floor).

I asked Zeke if he was OK, and asked the waiter to bag our food and prepare our check. We got out of there as quickly as we could. Of course Zeke felt better by the time we got home.

Bottom line though: Lesson learned. Next time Mommy will just say no.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Thanksgiving Turkeys

This is Hazel and she is an assertive young lady.

That's just fine with Zeke because he likes 'em bossy. The bossier the better. I can't tell him what to do. Shanti can' t tell him what to do. But apparently if you're three years old and wearing a pretty dress, you've got carte blanche (Shanti's friend Tim--who was at this dinner--theorized that this attitude will serve Zeke well once he's a husband.) :o)

Really I'm exaggerating. Hazel isn't bossy--she is a very sweet little girl who simply knows how she wants to spend her time. She and Zeke met at Thanksgiving dinner at the Sutherland's (she is Jeff and Stella's daughter), and had a fabulous time chasing each other around the house all evening. They'd play in the family room for a while (Bill's parents still have his Playskool toys from when he was a kid), then they'd tire of the toys and come thundering down the very long hardwood hallway to the other end of the house where the adults were chatting in the living room. Then they'd jump around behind the couch, squeak loudly, and dart back down the hall. I can't count how many times they did this. Ten? Twenty? Thirty? There's no telling. It went on all night. At one point they were both sweating. That's OK though. I'll take sweating over crying, whining, or arguing any day. And there was none of that with these two (wipeouts notwithstanding). They got along famously. For this, as well as the amazing feast and the generosity and warmth of the Sutherland family*, I am grateful.

*If you haven't spent a holiday with the Sutherlands, you really should try it some time. I know this may sound like a venture into hyperbole, but I don't know if there are nicer people on the planet. Each time we come over, they welcome us like long-lost family, shower us with lip-smacking good food, and dazzle us with intelligent conversation. The result, of course, is that we wind up lurking around long after the point when more polite guests would have gone home. Sorry about that Sutherlands! We promise we'll skedaddle a little earlier next time.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving

And all the families from Hua and Yang Duo's daycare descended upon the Sunny Buffet for a pre-holiday feast. In the picture above, Zeke is with brothers Yusuf and Joshua. Yusuf is Zeke's age and is one of his closest pals at school. Joshua is Yusuf's older brother, and as such, is worshipped by the two younger ones. There are six kids in the daycare total, and Hua invited all of their parents (and some of their grandparents and siblings) to come to dinner, so it was quite a gathering. And you should have seen this buffet--it was more or less Chinese food, but there were also oysters, octopi, squid, sushi, crayfish, frog legs, cheesesteak sandwiches, garlic bread--you name it. I stuck to the pepper chicken and fried rice. Shanti was a little braver, but not much, and Zeke had shrimp, pork buns, and garlic bread.

After we all ate, the kids stood up on their chairs and put on a brief performance, singing Home Home on the Range, I've Been Workin' On the Railroad, and a Chinese song about a cat. Very impressive work considering these little dudes are three years old, and one of them spoke almost no English four months ago. They literally knew each and every word. I have no idea how Hua does it. She is magical and I will be very sad if we ever have to leave her school.

Anyway, it was a fun evening, and a great way to start the long weekend. Tomorrow we're having dinner at the Sutherland's, and Friday we're going to Graeme Martin's place for a post-Thanksgiving get-together. In between we'll be putting up our Christmas lights and picking up a tree. Looking forward to all of it.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Reality Farm

Yvonne and I took Zeke, Duffy, and Hauk to Rancho San Antonio on Saturday to let them burn some energy and see some animals. For those of you who don't live here, Rancho is a huge nature preserve with miles of running trails and all kinds of wilderness. I've seen deer, bobcats, snakes, rabbits, and wild turkeys on my visits over the years. The great thing for those with kids though is that the first mile of trail is actually very wide and flat (parts are even paved), which makes it easy to push a stroller or ride a bike to the petting zoo that is right at that one mile point. (Really it's not a petting zoo because there is no petting. It's more of a watching zoo, which I guess is what most zoos are, but the scale and layout of this one suggests that petting will be part of the deal. Alas, it is not.)

So that's what we did. Zeke had his bike, Duffy had his scooter, and Hauk rode in the stroller. We got to the non-petting zoo without incident, and the kids were happily peering through the fence at the very fat bunny rabbits, when Duffy asked, "What's under there?" 

He was pointing to a big hand-painted wooden sign on the rabbit cage that said "What are rabbits for?" There was a handle on the outer flap of the sign, so I lifted it up to reveal the answers:


I shut the flap. 

"Open it! Open it!!" the kids implored (like I was hiding a map to a pile of free cookies).

"OK," I relented, looking nervously at Yvonne. 

"M-e-a-t," said Duffy, reading the letters of the first word aloud. "What does that mean?"

"Snuggling. Bunnies are for snuggling."

"But snuggling doesn't start with M."

"Sure it does. You can spell it a bunch of different ways."

"What do the other words say?"

"Petting and Companionship. Bunnies are for snuggling, petting, and companionship. Lets go look at the pigs."

You can only imagine what they said about the pigs. And chickens. The theme was definitely "The cold, hard, reality of life as a farm animal." I guess I can't really complain since it's not my farm and the visit is free, but geez, can they cut the kids a little slack? Reality will intrude upon their happy little lives soon enough. Shoot, I'm 40, and I still don't like thinking of bunnies as meat (or wax for that matter). 

So I spent the rest of our visit lying to poor Duffy (he was the most persistent), and probably permanently wrecking his fundamental understanding of the English language. Whatever. The kids had a great time, and remain more or less clueless about the fate of their furry farm friends. 

The picture I've posted has nothing to do with Rancho (I brought my camera to the farm, but am still not in the habit of taking pictures). It's just Zeke in the back yard today, playing in the sand...probably wondering whether I'm making him a rabbit sandwich for lunch.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Books rule!

In a very exciting development in the Amagasu household, Zeke now chooses books over TV pretty much any time he is given the choice.

That's right--the printed word over the electronic image. Active imagination over passive observation.

Yeah for the clever little boy!

And he has essentially done this on his own. Shanti and I have always read to him, but it's more of a weekend thing, when we've got all day to kill. On the weekdays, we usually close the day with a bath, jammies, brushing teeth, then a 20-30 minute snuggle on the couch in front of the TV. We've done this since he was an infant, and it's great because it calms him down before bed. Plus, we're exhausted, and it allows us to parent from the preferred horizontal position.

Lately though, the small boy has been lobbying for changes to the program. He now requests specific books at bedtime, and when the attending parent (in the interest of full disclosure) explains that "it's books OR TV, not books AND TV," he voluntarily forgoes the electronic entertainment in favor of the hard-bound variety. I'm feeling a teensy-weensy bit of shame over the fact that he found this path on his own and that I didn't exactly pave it for him, but I'm grateful all the same and happy to help him on his journey.

Current Amagasu book selections:

Ali: Paula Spencer (by Roddy Doyle) Excellent by the way. I recommend it highly.

Shanti: Even Brook Trout Get the Blues (unknown fish-loving author)

Zeke: Slinky Malinky: Catflaps (Lynley Dodd)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

What did you have for lunch today?

If your name is Shanti, the answer is: "arm-sized burrito."

Actually he didn't eat it today. He ate it Saturday. The picture is from this weekend, and let me tell ya, it doesn't do the burrito justice. It was enormous. Possibly the biggest burrito I've ever seen. And Shanti ate every last bite of it. I had some tacos. Zeke had a tamale. See? I promised minutiae, and minutiae you shall have.

It was another magical, gorgeous weekend from out of nowhere, so we did all we could to spend every minute outside. Funny, two or three times now it's seemed like winter was here and settling in for good, but then at the last minute it has chickened out and allowed sunshine and happiness to sneak back in for a day or two. We're talking 80 degrees Saturday and Sunday. So nice. Like a surprise tax return. Or finding an extra Christmas present when you thought you had already opened them all. So good. So pure. So thoroughly appreciated.

Here's hoping you scored a winter reprieve as well.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Chilly Willy

Awww...look at that. See the nice boy all snuggled in bed with his covers up to his neck? Looks cozy, doesn't he? I just put him to bed, and our house is ridiculously cold, so it would make perfect sense for him to stay in exactly that position, close his eyes, and go to sleep that way.

But that is not what's going to happen. Nope. In ninety seconds he will have those covers off and will be curled up on top of them. I will go in before bed tonight and pull his blankets back up to chest level, but when I come in the next morning I can predict with a fair degree of certainty that they will be off again. Tricky little boy. I'm scared he's gonna get sick if he keeps it up, but haven't figured out how to keep him sealed inside, and so far I've obviously done a poor job of explaining the upside of trying to stay warm.

Let me know if you have any tips! Right now I'm leaning toward duct taping him in there... :o)

Monday, November 10, 2008

Attack of the Mystery Irritant

Poor Zeke. 

We were hangin' out at home this past weekend, enjoying a lazy Sunday morning, when he started complaining that he had something in his eye.

I checked, but couldn't find anything. 

He kept complaining.

I checked again--very thoroughly. Still couldn't find a thing in there. 

Then he started going nuts--rubbing at his eye, swatting at it, and making whiny, panicky sounds.

I was freaked, but not sure how serious it was, so I told him to come to the couch with me and rest with his eyes closed because sometimes it hurts less when your eyes are closed.

So he did. For about 20 minutes, he lay with his head on my lap and his sore eye closed while he watched football with the open eye. I petted his hair and sang him songs to keep him calm, and it seemed to be working, but the next time I asked him to look up at me, this (pictured) is what I saw. 

Eeek! Now I was the one panicking. "This can not be good. What is wrong with that eye? Did something bite him? Is it swollen from rubbing? Does he have an exotic eye infection? How on earth would he get an eye infection? And why today? Why Sunday? Our doctor is very nice and very accommodating, but even she is not open on Sundays. Ugh. What to do, what to do, what to do? Hmm.  We do live across the street from a hospital. They must have an emergency room. I can take him there! Will I look like an idiot for bringing in a kid with a swollen eye?  I mean, isn't the ER for people that have been in car accidents or are having heart attacks? For gunshot wounds and unfortunate chainsaw encounters? Maybe I'll check his eye one more time before we get in the car."

And that's when I found the offending irritant. It was black and hard with sharp edges, like a dark and angry little piece of sand. I don't know how I missed it before, but this time when I checked, it was front and center. 

Zeke sat very still while I removed it, I rewarded him with a small dish of parmesan goldfish crackers, and the drama was over. 

The weird thing for me is that we take Zeke to the beach and he flings armloads of sand into his eyes all day, then massages it in there with his own sandy fists (in an effort to get the original sand out), and nothing like this ever happens. 

Anyway, today the swelling is almost entirely gone, and Zeke seems none the worse for wear. Whew!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Zeke the Safety Toddler

Long ago, Zeke appointed himself the Seatbelt Police for the Amagasu household. Actually he doesn't call himself the seatbelt police, but that's what he is. If you start the car without your seatbelt on, you can feel the judgement of a safety-aware toddler radiating from the back seat without even looking back to check. And if you are brazen enough to put the car in reverse and move it so much as a foot in your still-seatbelt-free condition, you are immediately and loudly reprimanded.

I've gotten used to this by now, and in fact I always thank Zeke for his vigilance. But I thought it was a seatbelt-specific quirk...I didn't realize he had a broader safety agenda.

Now I know otherwise.

We were out in the car a couple days ago, running some errands, and it had been raining, so the roads were wet. I thought I was being careful, but apparently I took a corner too fast for Zeke's liking, because next thing I know, I hear, "Mommy, if you keep driving that way we are going to slip on those leaves, and that is very dangerous." (This line is delivered in a very serious voice.)

How does he know about the problems wet leaves can cause? Or how centrifugal force combines with speed and reduced friction to create dangerous driving conditions? He's three years old! I do not discuss these things with him. Neither does Shanti. So is he hanging out with physicists in his spare time? Civil engineers? Weathermen?

I thought the whole thing was awfully cute. And I think I'll take his advice. Together we can be better Amagasus. He can help me become a safe driver and with any luck I will help him become a person who doesn't pick his nose in restaurants. Here's to personal growth.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Slinky Malinky

Have you heard of Slinky Malinky?

Zeke and I were hangin' at Kepler's bookstore last night, waiting for the train after enjoying a delicious dinner at Su Hong, when I ran across the cutest, most lyrical book series. The star is a cat called Slinky Malinky, and as the name suggests, the author likes to write in rhyme. I'd call the style high-brow Dr. Suess. I'm not sayin' that the Suess is low-brow (I would never diss the person who brought us the Sneetches, the Lorax, and the Grinch), I'm just saying that this author uses slightly more sophisticated language than the esteemed Doctor. Bigger words. Longer words. Words that a toddler may not be familiar with, but may be able to pick up in context. And words that are way more fun to read as a parent than much of what you run across in the world of childrens' books.

I wasn't sure if Zeke would like it, but in fact he loved it. Had me read it to him twice on the train and once again this morning.

So now I'm on the Slinky Malinky bandwagon and plan to start picking up the other books in the series. The author's name (if you're considering picking up some Slinky literature for yourself), is Lynley Dodd, and she's actually best known for the "Hairy Maclary" series (precursor to Slinky Malinky). She's sold more than 4 million books worldwide, so I'm guessing that you have in fact heard of her, but just in case you hadn't, I thought you should.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Big Boy Birthday Party

OK, I know these pictures are bad--even for me--but in my defense, they were taken with a cell phone camera, which just isn't fast enough to capture the cheetah-like toddler in action (he's the white streak shooting down the slide). Now that I'm doing this blog thing, I've got to remember to tuck the regular camera into my purse for events like these.

Anyway, my friend Erika has a son that just turned five last week (his name is Carter), and Zeke got to go to his party on Monday. For those of you who don’t have kids yet, when you’re three years old and you are invited to go to a five-year-old’s party, it’s roughly the equivalent of a socially awkward and unpopular high school girl getting asked to the prom by the quarterback. An unbelievable development. One you talk to your friends for days in advance, and brag about for months afterward. Such was the case with Zeke. In fact, he was so excited about this event that I was concerned it couldn’t possibly live up to his expectations.

Lucky for me, it did. The event was held at Pump It Up, which is more or less a warehouse full of bouncy houses. Not just the standard, square, get-inside-and-jump-around type like you see at car dealerships and home-based birthday parties, but giant bouncy houses with all kinds of functional variation. Some of them had obstacle courses inside, others had basketball hoops and balls, and one wasn’t a bouncy house at all, but a giant inflatable slide.

Up until two or three weeks ago, Zeke was generally frightened of these things. I don’t think he likes chaos—at least not the level of chaos that is pretty much inherent with inflatable playground structures—so he avoided them. But this time he jumped right in with the pack and went to town. Did the obstacle course about ten times, slid down the big scary slide (which seemed to have been waxed or something because kids were flying down it and shooting right off the end, like the finished products of some high-throughput manufacturing facility), and successfully participated in the “king-of-the-hill” game, where one kid gets up on an elevated section in the center of a giant circular bouncy house, and fights off all comers. It was fun to see him having such a great time, and hanging in there with much older kids.

Unfortunately, I didn't get any pictures of the birthday boy (he was very busy entertaining all his guests). Sorry Erika!

Friday, October 31, 2008

The Scariest Lions in Town

That's me with my favorite lion--getting ready to hit the streets in search of treats. Shanti and I agreed that as much as we'd both like to chaperone Zeke on his door-to-door travels, one of us needed to stay home and hand out goodies to other kids (because if all the parents were out on the streets, nobody would get any candy, right?). This year, Shanti generously offered to stay home. Next year it'll be me.

Everything went well. Zeke always remembered to say "trick-or-treat" (a happy improvement over last year when he created all kinds of awkward moments by knocking on the door, then just standing there silently staring at whomever opened it), and he only needed to be reminded to say "thank you" a few times. He managed to fill his treat bag almost all the way to the top, which, as it turns out, is waaaay too much candy.  I thought I had assigned him a pretty small bag (my pathetic effort at volume control), but by the time we were in the second half of our outing, it was so heavy that I had to carry it. And rather than go to the door with Zeke and let another adult put candy into a bag that I was holding (which just felt too weird), I gave Zeke my baseball cap and let him use that for primary treat harvesting. Once he secured the goods he ran back to me and deposited them in the larger bag, then wore the hat on our walk to the next house. He seemed to enjoy it, and the adults got a kick out of it (you need to imagine the boy in the lion suit showing up in a ball-cap, knocking on your door, then whipping his cap off and extending it to you in what seems to be a spontaneous display of trick-or-treating ingenuity). 

I have to say, the treat mix has definitely changed since I was a kid. Growing up, I could count on one hand the houses that handed out raisins or pencils, or any sort of non-candy reward, and I avoided them studiously. Now these kind of quasi-treats are all over the place. Rubber bracelets, plastic rings, a stuffed dog...we saw it all tonight. I'd say that about 20% of the houses are going that route these days. I have mixed feelings about it. On the one hand I totally get the point--childhood obesity and all...a fight which I am totally on-board with--but on the other hand, I couldn't help being a little disappointed each time we received a non-edible treat. Fortunately Zeke was a good sport. After the first one he asked me "Why that lady did not give me a treat?" before she even had the door closed, but then we had a discussion about graciously receiving things that we're not all that excited about (in this case an eraser), and for the rest of the night, he was fine. 

When we got home we stripped him out of the lion suit, helped him spread his loot all over the living room floor so he could marvel at the magnitude of his trick-or-treating achievement, and then let him have three pieces of candy before he went to bed. He's a little bit hopped-up right now (I can still hear him singing in his room even though we put him to bed 15 minutes ago), but I think he'll pass out soon. He put a lot of miles on those lion paws tonight, and I know he's got to be wiped out. 

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The pumpkin eating saga continues...

Can you believe these squirrels? I threw out the two bigger pumpkins a couple days ago because they were just getting too funky to keep in front of the house. There were flies, black rotting pumpkin flesh…all the unattractive happenings that come at the tail-end of the squash lifecycle. I didn’t worry about the smaller pumpkin because so far the squirrels hadn’t so much as laid a paw on it. I figured it must smell funny to them, or look funny, or in some way offend their squirrel sensibilities in a way that made it immune to attacks.

Alas, this is not the case. As soon as the big pumpkins disappeared, the formerly disinterested scavengers turned their attentions to the more petite gourd. And as you can see, they went to town. They not only ate from the outside-in, once they made a hole that was big enough, they had the gall to climb right inside and eat from the inside-out as well. Unbelievable. I guess I’m going to have to try a new Halloween decorating strategy next year.

Like Zeke said, these are very naughty squirrels...

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Saturday afternoon

A little butt scratch, a little flycasting practice, a couple of cold beers, and a squirrel trap. Just another Saturday afternoon at the Amagasu household. 

Sure, it sounds a little trashy, but really we're just trying to establish a pattern of non-elite behavior in case one of us ever runs for office. 

We're havin' the craziest weather lately. Chilly as can be at night...so cold you've got the covers pulled up to your neck and you're wondering if it might not make sense to put a sock on your nose. Then hot and sunny and beautiful during the day. Zeke and I both wore parkas on our walk to the coffee shop at 8 o'clock this morning, but as you can see, by lunchtime it was nothin' but wonderful outside. 

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Worst Pumpkin Carvers Ever

The neighbors haven't said it, but I know what they're thinking... 

"What is wrong with those Amagasus? They seem coherent. Yet they also seem incapable of executing even the simplest pumpkin carving project. Is there something wrong with them? A knife and a spoon--that's all it takes Folks! Why can you not figure this out? And don't you know you're hurting property values by leaving wounded produce on your doorstep?"

We do know neighbors, and we apologize. But the truth is that we're not the creative force behind this year's Halloween display. No, this year it is our good friends the grey squirrels. We blamed it on the rats at first (I know, I'm painting a tantalizing picture of our neighborhood), but then Shanti conducted a stakeout and discovered that the squirrels were the guilty party. 

Who knew they had such affection for pumpkin? It started with just a tiny hole, but now word has gotten out in the neighborhood that the all-you-can-eat buffet is open at our house, and we're seeing a steady stream of hungry, squirrelly visitors. Like tourists in Vegas. 

Every morning when we walk out the door on our way to the car, Zeke stops, points at the pumpkins and in a serious voice proclaims, "Those are very naughty squirrels." He seems to like it when someone else does something naughty. He'll bring up the incident repeatedly and discuss the magnitude of the mistake the person (or squirrel) in question has made. I don't think he does it so much because he's disgusted by the incident as because he admires anyone who has the chutzpah to brazenly break the rules (and eating the Halloween display is definitely against the rules). 

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Two blogs?!

OK, you don't have to tell me that two blogs for one kid might be viewed as excessive. I read the articles about the "helicopter" parents too. I know we're a generation obsessed with our progeny. Your point is well taken and totally legit. And yet...I simply must blog about Zeke the Magical Toddler. I can't help myself. I've been dying to since the day he was born. But then Shanti started a blog and I didn't want to horn in on it, and then time went by, and now it's three years later, and I just can't wait anymore. The nutty, goofy, clever things our small boy says and does simply must be reported. They're only gonna happen once, right? 

So if you're into reading about Zeke, feel free to stop by from time to time and see what he's up to. And don't worry about blog overlap, because this forum will be entirely different from the page Shanti maintains. Go to his site for near-professional-quality photography and philosophical musings. Come here to find out why Zeke called Shanti his "farty daddy" last week (ok, you probably don't need an explanation to figure that one out), which little girl he's got his eye on at the moment, and whether he had Corn Flakes or peanut butter toast for breakfast. Here, it's all about the minutiae, and I promise to be shameless in reporting it.

Hope you dig!