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!