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.