March 31, 2010

Sugar Bugs

It all started with the best of intentions. I got tired of Alex biting the toothbrush and clamping his mouth shut every night. I remembered how the dental hygienist that cleans Jonathan's teeth always talks about "sugar bugs" to explain the importance of toothbrushing. So I told Alex that he had sugar bugs on his teeth and that we needed to brush them away, before they made holes.

Well, that certainly brought his bug phobia roaring to the forefront. He looked absolutely horrified and asked "I have BUGS on my teeth?!" I told him yes and, to my delight, he said "Quick! I better brush them off!" He dropped his toy cars and ran to the bathroom, then opened wide to let me brush. I told him to "Spit the sugar bugs out!" and he spit his toothpaste for the first time ever! I thought this tactic was clearly a great success.

However, the next night, his mouth was clamped shut again. I told him, "Alex, don't let the sugar bugs eat holes in your teeth!" And then inspiration struck. I couldn't show him the bugs, but perhaps I could show him the holes. I asked him, "Do you want to see what the sugar bugs did to my teeth?" He nodded yes, so I opened wide and let him see my filllings.

He very seriously peered in, angling his head to get a better glimpse. Curiosity quickly turned to revulsion. He turned away and said "Maybe Daddy can read me my stories tonight."

A week later, and Alex still asks about the sugar bugs and my holes every day. Each time he sees my fillings, he tells me he likes Daddy better. On the plus side, he remains very enthusiastic about brushing his own teeth. I may not get quite as many kisses, but the ones I do receive smell minty fresh.

February 20, 2010

Two perspectives on our vacation

We visited Solomon and his family in California for five days - leaving Michigan for a part of February is a necessity. We all had a great time, but the boys experienced things a little differently than Chris and I.

Mom and Dad: Wow, the Golden Gate Bridge! How beautiful as the mist rolls over the far end!
Jonathan and Alex: Look, pigeons!

Mom and Dad: What an amazing view from the Coit Tower. Look, there's the Transamerica Pyramid.
Jonathan and Alex: How come there's pennies in the window well?

Mom and Dad: Check out the historic boats on Fisherman's Wharf!
Jonathan and Alex: Can we have a cupcake? Look, seagulls!

Mom and Dad: Mmmm, a chance for real Vietnamese pho.
Alex: Want noodles!
Jonathan: I want to try the salty plum soda! I PROMISE I'll drink it all! Please? Pleeeeeease?


Mom and Dad: Oh, Afghan food, how wonderful, we've missed it so.
Jonathan and Alex: Bread and rice! Yummy!

Mom: Cannery Row! Here's the site of Lee Chong's store, and the Palace Flophouse, and. . .
Dad: $25 per person to look at some fish?!?!
Jonathan and Alex: Look, pigeons!

However, we all had the same reaction driving up and then down Lombard Street:

January 01, 2010

A Happy Nother Customer!

Grandma and Grandpa usually bring their laptop when they come and visit, and set it up in the dining room. Alex loves to sit on Grandma's lap and "play cakes." It's a freebie game from Microsoft where you move a cake down an assembly line, trying to build it to the specifications the game give you. Alex tells Grandma the shape, cake color, frosting color and decors. If you make a mistake, the cake goes into the trashcan. But if everything is right, it's boxed up and set in the delivery truck. Grandma says "Another happy customer!" And Alex echoes "A happy nother customer!"

For Christmas this year, Chris's big gift was a new computer for the kitchen. We got a touch screen, and for the past few weeks, this struck me as a gimmick without much use. However, today we realized that the computer comes with the cakes game. And the touch screen starts to make a lot more sense.

Alex has us move his chair over to the computer desk. At first, he had a hard time with the touch screen - he'd point with all five fingers, or keep pressing on the screen instead of just a light touch. He'd beg us to come over and help him: "I cannot do it!" he'd cry. But when I'm in the middle of cooking dinner, I'm not going to wash onion juice off my hands just to move the game along. We told him he was on his own.

Ten minutes later, the kitchen was echoing with his happy shrieks. "I got a CIRCLE!" he'd shout. Expertly, he flicks that cake along the assembly line, applying the "dropgums' with a final flourish. It's amazing how fast these kids can leanr when they're truly motivated - it only took him one demonstration to learn how to recognize and choose the "New game" button at the end. Meanwhile, Chris learned there was an expert level, and after Alex went to bed, he set out to master it. We are making nother customers happy late into the evening.

December 31, 2009

The Santa Concept

Jonathan has never really "gotten" Santa. He knows who the jolly old elf is, all right, and spends a lot of time talking about Santa this time of year. He's decided that Santa is the only person in the world who wasn't born, because he has magic. So the Santa story is well-absorbed. What Jonathan has never gotten the hang of is making his wish list. We'll ask him what he wants for Christmas from Santa, and the answer is invariably some free-associative random thing. If you ask him while he's eating lunch, he's likely to say "A sandwich!" Or if he's playing with Legos, he'll say "I want more Legos!" But I've never been able to get to the deepest desires of his little heart.

Alex has had absolutely no problem grasping the Santa concept. I took him with me to The Toy Company this year as we shopped for Zach and Chloe. While I wandered around the store, Alex set up camp at the train table. One low shelf was full of toy cars and trucks. Alex soon had an entire squad of matching police cars lined up and ready for action. He kept one clutched in his hand as he moved back and forth from table to shelf, pulling out school buses, ambulances, and other vehicles. The folks at The Toy Company are great. I discretely picked up one police car and added it to my purchases. They knew to hide it out of sight in a stapled paper bag. I helped Alex put all the cars away, but he was kind of sad to let the police car go. I told him "Maybe Santa will bring you a police car!"

That was early in December, but Alex never forgot it. Every day, several times a day, he would announce "Santa maybe bring me blue pleece car! With red and blue lights, and black tires, and WHEELS! And windows and doors!" Jonathan decided he wanted a plice car from Santa as well, but Alex told him quite firmly that was HIS idea, and Jonathan was once again left asking for cheese and socks.

Well, Christmas came, and Alex and Jonathan ran downstairs to see what Santa left them. Alex was delighted to find the exact specified police car in the toe of his stocking. Jonathan read his letter from Santa, which explained that his new bicycle is waiting for him at the store, once he tries it out to find the proper size. Both boys inhaled the blackberries Santa left in the stockings, and took off to play with their new toys. Alex still carries the police car everywhere. Like children all over the world, he's learned that the anticipation of Christmas is really the best part. Falling off to sleep tonight, he murmured "Santa might bring me pleece car."

November 29, 2009

Alex's Secret Diary - A week in the life

Day 1
I love tomatoes!

Day 2
I have a lot of cars in a bag. They driving with wheels! Make a big crash. Red car and red car - make a match!

Day 3
Preschool today. Underwear - no, diaper! Sing "Hard Day's Night" and "Eight Days a Week" in car. Miss Becky come get me. Mommy walk me to my classroom! Give you a hug and a kiss.

Day 4
I playing with cars. Doc and Lightning McQueen! Jonathan ask "Alex, will you give me Doc?" "Hmmmmm - No." He say "When will you give me them? Never?!?" "Yeah!" Jonathan cry and push me. MOMMMY!

Jonathan in time out.

Day 5
Raspberries? I love raspberries! Make rings on my fingers. Tomatoes? I love tomatoes! Pretzels? I love pretzels! Tofu? No want tofu! Take the green off! I just take a little bite. I love tofu!

Day 6
Read my books. This one has trains! Now I want popcorn book. Where's Goldbug? Read in Joanthan's room?

Day 7
No take my jammies off! Put my socks on! Give me vitamin - orange one! I do hiding! Want to walk to the car! Want to climb in my car seat! I do the buckle! No want a nap! Give me a napkin! No you brush my teeth - I do the top! Need to go potty! I make the flush! I wash my hands! I dry my hands MYSELF!

Snuggle, Mommy!

October 06, 2009

Currently on our Playlist

We've decided that the evenings between dinner and bedtime are now designated "Family Time." Having Miss Becky stay while we get dinner on the table means the parents are much less frazzled, and the boys are reaping the benefit. Jonathan pushes away his plate, shouting "Family Time! Yay!"

We don't watch TV on school nights, but by common consensus, playing Beatles Rock Band doesn't count. Chris plays guitar, I sing, and Jonathan and Alex take turns on bass and drums. We don't plug their instruments in, but you have to be careful sitting next to Alex, who gets pretty enthusiastic with the drumsticks. Our scoring chart looks kinds of strange. We have super-expert level high scores on "Yellow Submarine," "Hard Day's Night," and "I am the Walrus." But lots of the other songs have never been attempted, because the boys request their favorites over and over again. We're all excited for more songs to be released so we can try "Love Me Do" and "Lady Madonna."

Duck duck goose is another favorite around here. We make it a rule that the basement needs to be picked up before we start, so it is useful in that regard. Alex is so sweet as the ducker - he gets up behind someone and a huge grin spreads over his face. He reaches out and says "Goose!" Then he stands there and giggles, waiting for the goose to get up. Jonathan routinely asks Alexs "Pick me!" and Alex always obliges.

Jonathan recently taught us how to play "Doggie, doggie, where's your bone?" We had to explain that three chances to guess who's holding the bone doesn't work well when only four people are playing. Jonathan will hide his eyes and Alex will say "Here! Put the bone in my pocket!" Then he'll stand there trying to take it out of his pocket, or out of our own hiding places, so Jonathan's got a pretty good track record, even with only one guess.

Sometimes we want a quieter form of play. That means it's time for tea. I got Jonathan a small china tea set at the Korean store. He keeps it on a special low shelf. He has a big selection of herbal teas, his own honey bottle, and a hot plate. I boil the water and pour it in the pot. He picks out the tea bags and drops them in, setting the timer for six minutes. He pours tea into cups and drops in honey with amazing restraint. Alex isn't fond of the fruity teas, although they're Jonathan's favorites because they are such pretty colors. And Alex doesn't care for any honey in my tea. But he's happy when Jonathan makes brown Chai tea and I stir in some milk. We all sit around and sip our tea, then head off for bed. Jonathan's planning on how he'll brew hot cocoa with marshmallows as the nights get colder.

September 28, 2009

First month of school

School started this month. Alex is in the Upper Toddler room. After his first day of orientation, he was so excited to go back that he refused breakfast, sitting by the door with his shoes chanting "Preschool! Preschool!" However, our first dropoff was a different story. I walked him to his classroom and he burst into tears. I've gotten a lot better at this than I was with Jonathan at age three. I handed him to Ms. Margaret, waved goodbye and took off. He settled down pretty quickly. Dropoffs remained hard for the first week, with Alex sobbing into his breakfast "No classroom! No classroom!" We developed a variety of ways to cope with this. Some kids take comfort objects, like a photo or a snuggle blanket. Alex decided he would feel better if he picked some of his tomatoes and brought them in a baggie.

And Jonathan was a huge help! I've been really proud of him. I started parking the car but waving goodbye to the boys at the door. Jonathan walks Alex to his classroom, where he helps him hang up his coat and backpack. Jonathan especially likes making the door chimes jangle loudly. Alex is pretty happy to follow his big brother down the hallway, his purple backpack reaching down to his knees. Jonathan then backtracks to his own classroom. At the end of the morning, both classes meet on the playground. Jonathan and Mac have been nice enough to let Alex tag along. I haven't learned the names of any of Alex's classmates, but he loves to say "Hi!" to Mac and Arden in the mornings.

Jonathan is thriving back in his school routine. He lays out his clothes "like Flat Stanley" the night before. His alarm clock wakes him up at 6:30. With encouragement, he's getting dressed on his own and coming down for breakfast. We need to help him by pre-opening cheese sticks and yogurt cups, but if we do that, he can get breakfast ready for himself and Alex as well. I drive them to school, playing Beatles songs the way there. Alex requests "Hard Day's Night" and Jonathan's current favorite is "Lady Madonna." Alex likes to check two or three times "Miss Becky come get me?" and I assure him that she will. His teacher is thrilled that he knows his shapes, letters and colors already. And Alex loves the songs they sing at school. Both boys are doing well. It's nice to be back into a routine.

August 25, 2009

Ode to Alexander

No brownies, just some berries,
sweet and juicy, blue and red.
No sugar on the berries!
I'll eat them plain instead.

No blanket as I fall asleep,
No pillow for my head,
In fact, I do prefer the floor
I won't sleep on my bed.

I'm two years old and I know best
What I like and what I don't.
And if you try to make me
I'll shout at you "I WON'T!"

I don't like things all fancy
I like my sandwich plain.
I like my shirts one color.
I don't need boots for rain.

So Mommy, just give in right now
And let me have my way.
I'm awfully cute and stubborn too
And I will win the day.

July 26, 2009

Our trip to Science and Industry

Can you believe it, we've been here almost two years and the only trip I've had into Chicago is when I took my boards. Today was a nice day so we packed up the kids and took a drive down the Chicago Skyway. I thought Alex would fall asleep in the car - he was yawning and blinking every two seconds. But he saw Chris and I peeking at him and was kept himself awake by drumming his feet on the seat. It wasn't until we were to Gary that he finally dropped off - good call on his part.

The Skyway drops us off right at the museum, and we got a great parking space. The big Harry Potter exhibit was open and we got tickets for later in the afternoon. I hadn't been there in years so we hopped on the elevators and set off to explore.

What a great museum. Our first stop was the Factory Farm - it wasn't called that, it was sponosored by John Deere and it was all about how everything we eat is made from soybeans and corn, isn't that great? I kept my organic locavore self quiet and snapped pictures of Jonathan who was having a terrific time climbing into a combine. Those machines really are impressive. They had a huge TV screen in front of the harvester so it looked as though you were really driving through a field of corn. They also had a whole exhibit on cows, from feed to milk to poop. Alex especially loved pointing out the mounds to me and shouting "That's poopoo!"

We made our way through a few other exhibits and the boys were having a blast. It was crowded but everything was accessible if you waited a moment or two. We found the playroom for younger kids and Alex was in heaven. He found a place where he could pick up plastic balls out of the water and feed them into a pneumatic tube. The tube blasted the balls up through a pipe to the other side of the room, where they dropped in the water and floated back to the starting point. Alex kept those balls in rotation for twenty minutes and would be there still had we not pulled him away.

Jonathan started shouting and running when he saw the giant locomotive. He really was very good for the whole trip and somehow managed to wait his turn to get into the driver's box. Alex refused to step over the threshold - "No, not me!" He had seen the enormous model train layout and couldn't wait to get there. Both boys had a wonderful time running around the model trains - truly the size of a soccer field and meant to represent the journey between Chicago and Seattle. Alex loved the little cars on the streets of Chicago and it was only with difficulty that we dragged him away.

We killed the last few minutes watching baby chicks hatch, and then it was time for Harry Potter. I answered one of the trivia questions right (What is Snape's mother's full name?*) but alas there was no prize. We filed in and Jonathan was immediately taken with the moving portraits. The Gryffindor Fat Lady was trying to break a wine glass by singing high notes - she eventually gives up and smashes the glass against the wall. Jonathan thought this was fascinating and we eventually had to pick him up and carry him away.

I can't wait until they're old enough to read the books. Jonathan is still asking about the ins and outs of Hippogriff handling, since I told him he has make unblinking eye contact and bow, or he'll get bitten. All the way home, we had questions. "What if that eagle-horse called? Is he nice? What if you wink? What if it's nighttime and you have to go to sleep? Does he like hugs? What does he do?" Alex enjoyed the wiggling dragon egg in Hagrid's hut. "Something inside there! There! Go see it!" He was much less fond of the Dark Arts corridor. "No like it! Go back home now. Scares me!" I carried him through it quickly but he refused to shut his eyes - he kept flipping his head from one shoulder to another. I told him he was safe and he said "Oh, oh-tay."

We drove home and beat the dinner rush at Silver Beach Pizza. Alex went straight to bed after that but Jonathan stayed up a little while longer. He wanted to watch Harry Potter but settled for Mario Kart with daddy. I believe we've added some more adventures to our repetoire!

* Eileen Prince, of course.

June 15, 2009

Now THAT's a block party.

I throw a mean block party, if I do say so myself. I can't take credit for the perfect weather - 72 degrees, light breeze, no bugs, blue skies - but I do take credit for postponing when the thunderstorms rolled in Saturday. We put a sign on the garage asking people to come back the next day and huddled inside, counting the many bags of hot dog and hamburger rolls.

Fotunately, Sunday dawned as previously described. Our neighbors were wonderful, hauling over tables and chairs. Chris started up the grill just in time for lunch and "Cheeseburger in Paradise" played as he flipped the burgers. We received six entries for our inaugural Pie Baking Contest, and I carefully placed the baker's names in security envelopes. After burgers and hot dogs, along with lots of salad and fruit, everyone was excited to try out the cotton candy machine. Chris became quite expert at whirling fluffy blue clouds and the kids demolished them quickly.

The early afternoon started with a bike parade around the block. I used the bullhorn to make sure everyone knew we were starting. Jonathan quickly ditched the tricycle for Olivia's motorized Gator and he and Alex drove around and around on the sidewalk for a good hour. The inflatable waterslide was also a huge hit. There were twenty kids climbing up and sliding down, over and over, as parents grinned and calculated exactly how long their tired children would sleep in the next morning.

Alex was too little for the waterslide, but enjoyed splashing in the puddles. He would periodically drift back to the tables for more food. Early on, I tried to police his intake, but after telling him "no more Tootsie Rolls" I found him with half a cherry Roll in his hand - paper still on. After that I let him loose. Jonathan would run over to bundle up in a towel for a minute, then run back for more sliding and Capture the Flag. The water balloon toss and free throw shootout were nice diversions.

Chris was a pie judge along with two other men from the neighborhood. They really enjoyed tasting each slice and the kids quickly demolished the remainders off their tasting plates. The Red White and Blue Pudding Pie won the rotating trophy rock and most of the pies were eaten quickly. Alex pulled up a chair and was carefully devouring a slice of Double Crumb Apple long after the rest of the kids were back on the slide.

Then we sat around for a few hours, drinking beer and sodas, chatting, and laughing at the kids. We'd go over to graze on salsa or watermelon now and then. The weather stayed perfect. Alex snookered most of the girls into pulling him around in the wagon and Jonathan got the older kids to pick him up for airplane rides and piggybacks.

When dinnertime rolled around, we realized we still had lots of food, so we started the grill and cotton candy machine going again. People who had left for a softball or soccer game came back to find we had barely moved. Alex found the leftover half of the winning pie, which was filled with fresh blueberries and strawberries, and stood on tiptoe to shovel it into his mouth, one handful at a time. We asked him what he was doing - he mumbled "Licious!" through a mouthful of pudding and kept eating until the pie pan was clean.

Everyone pitched in to clean up and we then moved next door for a bonfire. They had to go get a second bag of marshmallows when it was discovered that most of the first bag had disappeared down Jonathan's throat. The kids had a conga line and a dance party, and Jonathan climbed up on the deck railing to sit next to Drew, looking cool as he managed the stereo. Alex finally had had enough - he was covered with scrapes and chocolate - and Chris took him in for a bath and bedtime. I stayed out long enough to toast a marshmallow for Jonathan's first s'more, then carried him home. He said "Mommy, we spent the whole day outside! I'm so happy." I asked him if we should have another block party next year. He lit up and said "Tomorrow?"