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.