Tuesday, December 15, 2009


Several years ago, my husband and I heard a Sandra Tsing Loh commentary about what she called "treasure chum" -- the useless things that accumulate in the house. The term has proved to be so useful, especially after having kids, that we now just say T.C. We giggled through the skymall magazine during plane rides, marvelling at all the T.C. We wrestled with the challenge of finding appropriate favors for C's third birthday party last summer; "No T.C.!" was our guideline. We opted for personalized cookies.

This past week, I was presented with a new category of T.C.: a menorah that C. made at preschool. I do think it is lovely. But we will never use it. So what am I supposed to do with it? Do I put it in the top of the closet forevermore? Will he be hurt if I chuck it? Is there any way to recycle it? I'm truly conflicted.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Theater first

C. has a big day today, his first time going to see a play. Although it is a production for children, the reccommended age range starts at 4, which C. is still over six months away from. But Grandma S. is enthusiastic about getting his arts education started, and his attention span is pretty good already, so there he goes. Last night, I was giving him a preview, trying to prepare him for the experience, and I realized that it was a big deal: his real introduction to the world of theater. Soon, Shakespeare plays with Grandpa F.!

So much to learn...

The other morning, C. was playing in the living room, after having put on his own underwear. I didn't even notice the problem from the front. It was only when he turned around that I started laughing...

Monday, November 16, 2009

On Fear

I just read a fantastic memoir by a Southern California writer with a terrifying, heartbreaking, fascinating story about surviving a plane crash that killed his father, his father's girlfriend, and the pilot, when he was 11 years old. The father had made him conquer all kinds of fears when he was tiny: skiing and surfing in conditions that are hard to imagine in any case, let alone trying to envision going through that fear as a young child. A parent these days would most likely go to jail if they subjected a kid to the conditions his dad inflicted on him. The irony is that the balance, instinct and confidence that he developed are what allowed him to escape that deadly crash.

C. (3.5) is going through a "Fireman Sam" phase. But of the six episodes currently available On Demand... only two of them can be viewed without a screech of, "I don't like this one! Change it!" He doesn't like it when someone gets hurt, lost, or if the story is otherwise too scary. He's a sensitive little guy. This morning, I was thinking about what it would have been like for C. to have a parent that made him confront and tolerate intense fear. As it stands, he has two pretty indulgent ones who don't like to scare him... perhaps to a fault. Some fear is clearly good, at least in the confidence that he gains from getting past it. (Case in point: preschool.)

He starts soccer tomorrow, which he says he doesn't want to do, presumably because he is scared. He'll go anyway, any probably like it a lot. But that's about the speed of my tolerance of having him confront fears. Now I can only hope that he won't be in a situation where he would need to be able to scale down an icy mountain solo in a freak accident...

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Boarding the Bribe Train

C. is pretty smart. However, he does not excel at everything. One particularly weak skill has proven to be… potty training.

His preschool teachers have been supportive. Relatives have had their opinions. Hubby and I have done our best. But the kid is stubborn. And he hasn’t wanted to do it. It had not gone well. That is until… Teacher Susan said to C., “C! You like playing with Gordon? I’m going to put him up in this cabinet. If your mommy tells me that you went pee in the potty, I’ll let you take it home and keep it for a few days.” Next time we were at school he was able to take it home; finally, he was interested (and motivated) in using the potty. And today, when he took Gordon home for a second time after some more sporadic practice, he really was on a roll, using the potty on his own for the rest of the day. I am cautiously optimistic that we are rounding the PT bend…

I had been against bribery. It sets up "things" as a reward, rather than the satisfaction of accomplishing something… it just seems so capitalistic. But at this point, with C. knocking on the door of 3.5, I’m genuinely OK with a little bribery to neutralize the stubbornness. I even told him that if he continues to try to use the potty over the weekend, we’ll buy him his own Gordon. Peep peep.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Bonjour, la classe

C. had his first French class. It happens to take place within walking distance of our home. The owner of the Lango Kids company came to the meeting, and she participated while a young, enthusiastic, impressive instructor led the group in songs, dancing, stories, and rhythm games, all in French of course. I did not expect to join in the lesson, but she invited the parents at the beginning, so we hopped, sang, clapped, and repeated along with the kids.

At the end, the owner approached me. “Are you French?” she asked. I admit, I get a kick when people ask this. I told her no. “Moroccan? Canadian? Swiss?” She went on. “Just a long-time Francophile,” I shrugged. “Did you live in France?” I told her yes. She complimented my accent. Then she said, “Do you work full time? Maybe you could work for us!” I smiled, and told her we could talk. On the walk home, I laughed at myself. Could my ego take going from teaching French phonetics in French at a major university to teaching preschoolers the names of animals and body parts? Perhaps. The draw is that I whole-heartedly embrace the mission of the company, to create better world citizens. On va voir.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Little shot of horror

Fresh from a visit with a good, very sane friend in Minneapolis over the weekend, I braved the OC moms at mommy & me today with G. I put in my contacts, pulled together an outfit, even put on some make-up... Towards the end of the class, I chatted with a fashion shoot-ready mom whom I had talked to the meeting before. She was asking me the same questions we had already covered (where we grew up, where we lived now, our other kids, etc.) Then, out of the blue, she said, and I quote, "A friend of mine just got Botox, and now whenever I talk to anyone, all I can think about is where they need Botox." Zap. And sigh.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Littlest Literalist

C had an appointment with a pediatric urologist for a minor issue, to see whether surgery was necessary. The doctor needed him to exert himself in order to evaluate the problem. "Knock down the wall, like this," he said, posing with two palms on the wall, and pushing. C looked up at him skeptically, put his hands on the wall, looked up at him again, and you could see in his mind, What is this guy thinking? I can't knock down the wall...

The doctor recognized that this approach wasn't working. "OK; never mind." He opened the exam room door. "Close the door." The doctor held the door halfway open. C's eyes lit up, and he reached with one hand for the handle, and another for the door, and the doctor said, "No, both hands on the door-"

"But, you have to take your hand away!" he insisted. Hubby and I were chuckling pretty heartily in the background at this point. Ah, our little literalist. (And, hopefully it wasn't due to suboptimal evaluation circumstances, but the verdict was no surgery.)

Friday, September 4, 2009


G., at 18 months, is officially a late talker. Of the few words that he does use, only two are nouns. The rest are not: yes, no, hi, bye, beep beep… What is funny is when he copies his older brother C., twice his age. I hear him, in the exact same tone of voice saying, “Okay,” “Mine!” or… to my amusement and horror, “Why, why? Why!”

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Check-up freak out

I brought C. to his three-year well-check visit yesterday. I was hardly looking forward to it. I talked about it casually with him the day before, reminded him the pediatrician was a friend of Dad's, etc. But the kid is too smart; he freaked out anyway. The drama started when the nurse asked him to get on the scale, and continued in the half hour that we had to wait for the doctor after that. Tears, thrashing, screams of "I want to go home! I want to take a nap! I want to get back in the car!" -- Quite the little salesman, working to find the right pitch to close the deal.

When the doctor finally walked in the door, he said immediately, "I don't like you!" I was mortified, but she seemed unfazed. She was great with him, and by the end, she got him to give her a hug.

Then came time for the shots. I told him, "The nurse is going to come back, and to keep you healthy, she is going to give you a couple of shots. They'll hurt a little bit, and then we are going to go home." I held my breath and waited for a new round of grief. Instead, from his crouched position on the floor, he looked up at me and said, "This is an airplane." He dragged the toy airplane he had found under the chair out and continued talking about it until the nurse came. He simply looked at the tray with the vials and syringes and cotton and let her jab him twice, and then reached for my hand to go.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Crimini justice

I have already bemoaned the gaps in my husband's palate. My three-year-old son has a similarly narrow range of foods he'll eat. So imagine my delight when I offered a bite of the mushroom-in-citrus-vinaigrette-with-parsley offering that comes with the bread at our local Italian restaurant. Usually, I am the only one who eats any of it. But G. loved it! Together, we finished the plate. Now maybe it's worth flagging the good mushroom recipes that come along, as I apparently have someone to share them with...

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Personalized, schmersonalized

C. received recently a very thoughtful gift: a cd with children’s songs, personalized with his name in each song. It includes his favorite, Old MacDonald. Only, in this version, it goes: “Little C. had a farm…” It drives him crazy every time it comes on -- because the song isn’t right. “I want to hear the real EE-AYE-EE-AYE-OH song, Mommy! Turn it off!” Sigh.

It made me remember Girl Scout camp one year, when a counselor tried to teach us the song “When all the raindrops were lemon drops and gumdrops”, and I complained loudly that she wasn’t singing it right. Alas, I can relate…

Monday, May 25, 2009


A family barbecue at my in-laws’ yesterday was crashed by a movie star – sort of like that great scene from “Notting Hill”, but not as dramatic. She is a friend of my sister-in-law, someone I had met briefly once before at a party. Yesterday, I got to talk to her at length, and I was charmed. Although she is much-celebrated, having been nominated for Tonys and an Oscar, and winning a Golden Globe, I was not familiar with her work. Her husband is lovely too. It was a welcome, random, “only in Southern California” thing. She dropped names like “Lily Tomlin” and “Jamie Lee Curtis”, made a reference to the time Arnold Schwarzenegger asked her out on a date (pre-Maria; this woman had the sense to decline the invitation). At the radio station, I met plenty of famous people, but that was a different dynamic. In that case, it was you: important guest, me: employee. This playing field was more enjoyable, and we got to know each other a little, just as two women with different life experiences.

Monday, May 18, 2009


The magnitude 4.7 seismic event last night made me think back to an enrichment segment offered in middle school about earthquakes. It provided detailed information about everything from plate tectonics to interpreting the Richter Scale and different kinds of waves. My study of earthquakes until that point was limited to hiking the Earthquake Trail in Point Reyes, and having a second grade teacher say that in some very large number of years, Disneyland would be in San Francisco, because of movement along the fault. It sounded not so bad at the time. But the “expert” leading the mini-course felt inclined to pepper his lectures with comments like “the question isn’t ‘if’ the Big One will hit, but ‘when’.” He went into great detail about all the damage that would occur, the number of people that would be killed, and said that the side of the Golden Gate Bridge that was not on bedrock (I don’t remember which one) would collapse into the Bay. I stopped listening at that point. I was already a moderate hypochondriac; he made me an earthquake-phobe too. I was a nervous wreck driving across the Bridge, in underground parking garages, and I didn’t enjoy roller coasters anymore, because I spent the whole time worrying, what if we have an earthquake and the car gets derailed mid-corkscrew? Maybe it’s my over-sensitivity, but tempering this information with a discussion of risk analysis, or even foregoing the most sensational details to simply talk about disaster preparedness, to actually empower us, might have been a better way to go.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Room with a (new) view

Our babysitter asked, "What color are your neighbors painting their house?" as the painters and ladders and tarps, buckets, and trucks assembled. Their house physically abuts ours, half of a duplex/condo. "Green," I told her. "Uh-oh," she said. I looked at her. What could be wrong with green? I pictured a muted sea foam green, assuming it would be like the several other such shades on our street. I was not sad to say good-bye to the tired, blond-stained shingles that were not aging well, with a large discolored swath right where their wall met ours.

However, once the primer was up and the color was quickly spreading across the house, I realized the prescience of her comment. It was not a delicate green that they had gone with; rather, it was an "ick" green, a camouflage green. I don't care for it, but I am able to overlook it (even as I look at it, alas, multiple times a day...)

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Fort Cave

I came home from running errands yesterday to find that my son (with the babysitter's help) had collected all of the dining room chairs in the living room, and draped two big blankets over them. The memories came flooding back... I used to love building "forts", with the light filtered through the dark pastel mix comforter I would use, where friends and I would make up games. To make the fort bigger, we would stack books on the coffee table on top of the seams where we put two blankets together... fine, until the books inevitably fell on one of us when the other inadvertently yanked the blanket with her head at a low point in the "ceiling". And once I cleverly added on to our structure by using masking tape to secure a sheet to a painting, which my mother was NOT happy about. Thankfully, she is artistic (and forgiving), and "fixed" it herself.

One thing, though. C. called his construction a "cave". I almost corrected him, until I stopped and thought... and realized that I liked his word for it better.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Question

We know that there are as many different paths to acquiring English as there are speakers. Along the way, C. was an enthusiastic reduplicater, (maymay for raisin or airplane, didi for cd, etc.) and he went so far to avoid making the "y" sounds that he said es for yes, and orange for yellow. Of course, we are all enjoying the typical over-production of -ed verbs: goed, builded, doed. Another stage I had heard about, and looked forward to (It will be great! I will be patient; I'll get to explain so much to him!) is upon us. All preschoolers seem to converge on one key point, whatever path they are on: the "Why?" stage. Now I know from experience, as cool as it is that he is curious, it gets old fast. For example, he asked us why it was dark outside. Russ pulled out a globe and a flashlight, and gave a full mini-lecture: the rotation of the earth, the concept of a day, the whole deal. When he was done "...So that, C., is why it is dark outside," all he got for thanks was, naturally, "Why?"

Sunday, April 5, 2009


The headless helmet over there is now just a memory, fading fast. Two days ago, G. and I said our farewells to the outstanding clinician who guided and supported us through the last two helmets. For the first helmet-free day, G's head looked naked without it; I kept taking a second look. And, I would have feelings that maybe the improvements weren't as good as I'd hoped, that his head was still narrow and long, that he might always stand out -- even after surgery and ten months of helmets. But today already, I'm getting over it, starting to focus on more exciting things (walking, talking, music making...) And G., for his part, has shown no signs of regrets about leaving the thing behind. Ciao, clever but cruel contraption!

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Age of reason(ing)

All of a sudden, C. (who turns 3 in May) has started making counter-arguments. He woke up first from his nap yesterday, and I asked him to be quiet, so as not to wake up G. "But Van isn't being quiet," he said. Easy to defend (but difficult to explain to a nearly 3-year-old). And when we were at a party at a house with a big yard out back on Sunday, C. tried to tell his dad to go inside. "The other kids don't have their dads outside with them." True. But the next-youngest kid was twice his age, and most likely had enough sense not to try to drag a big toy with wheels up a ladder and send it down the slide, or some such stunt C. was sure to have on his clever but judgement-impaired/developing mind. I love when he exposes his thought process through these arguments. It makes me anxious for G. to get beyond "cat" and "banana".

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Singles' night

OK, I know we are hardly the first to have this problem. But do we get a gold medal or something for the rather extreme extent of the collection? A growing, increasingly frustrating, and surprisingly colorful mound of deserted socks. Loners. I have searched high and low. And let's not talk about the adult socks pile; they deserve a montage of their own. Forget the obvious and oft asked "Where do they go?" question; I would love to know, but the black hole theory seems the only real possible answer. That, or a finicky, hungry drier. More importantly, what to do with all of these dear, but now useless, socks?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Cause for applause

G. learned to clap yesterday. He started doing it, and basically kept doing it all day long, he was so proud. It gave new meaning to the phrase "one hand clapping", though. He would hold his left hand still and move his right hand back and forth, while bouncing up and down with excitement. This morning's efforts are already more symmetric.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

English vocab asymmetries exposed!

I went with a tabloid title to counterbalance the post, which is a little dorky. My dissertation focused on what I claimed was a deep-rooted asymmetry in a word-formation process (reduplication, to be specific). So I loved a couple of recent C-isms that show more asymmetry; he made these mistakes, and by figuring there had to be a reason for why he made them, both times, the answer was, "Duh".

- Mommy, can you buckle me out? (cf. buckle me in)
- Daddy, can you put me upside up? (cf. upside down)

Long ago, when e-mail was new, I remember getting a list of conundrums about English ("Why do we park on a driveway and drive on a parkway?"), and these reminded me of it.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Desperate measures

I've been working the food processing wand thingie that I got as a wedding gift years ago. It's coming in quite handy, as I puree up a storm, embracing the vegetable-sneaking tricks endorsed in The Sneaky Chef. It's a commitment, and a scary one (what if I go through all this and C. still won't eat it?), but desperate times, as they they say.

It's off to a rocky start. But still, starting from near-zero, there's plenty of room for improvement. It gives me gratification to see him eat just one bite. I have to be careful, though. The author warns to start off using smaller amounts of the puree and to build up to larger amounts. I made the stuff, I want him to eat as much as possible! my mind screams as I pour. But I don't want my enthusiasm to thwart my efforts. Using a light hand may have been the key to my success adding a hint of carrot/sweet potato spread to his grilled cheese today...

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Spinach: 0, Marshmallows:...0

Carter has a nose for vegetables. Anything green is out, and anything with too many vitamins is an automatic "no", unless it's an especially sweet fruit. We are having to learn to be stealthy. On the other end of the equation, he offers a hearty, "yeah!" when he is offered something new and nutritionally vacuous to try. Today at a birthday party, it was a marshmallow, his very first. It was a big fluffy, sugar-coated square, almost the size of a tennis ball. I cut him a strip. Upon fingering it, he turned skeptical. "What's coming out of it?" he asked, handing it back to me. I thought for a moment, and then realized that he was experiencing the special marshmallow sticky ooze for the first time. Just as well if it repulses him; less work for the toothbrush tonight.

Monday, February 16, 2009

No real insight

Flipping channels last night, I came across an episode of the "Real Housewives of Orange County" that promised to tell, among others, the tale of culture shock experienced by one Housewife and her daughter as they traveled to Berkeley. It sounded interesting at the time; perhaps it would give me insight about my culture shock in Orange County, as I feel much more at home in Berkeley? No such luck. Nothing deeper than that the "bums and hippies" weirded them out, wheat grass smells funny. Too bad. But what did I expect, really?

A friend from my writing group lives in "Coto". I really like her. OK, so she's a republican, but she's clever and funny, and college-educated... which, she pointed out to me once, is something that none of the "Housewives" is, alas. But at least the daughter is enrolled in UC Berkeley, (and talking about transferring to UCLA, where I guess the bums and hippies are fewer.) Party/study/shop on.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Love and fromage

My friend M. recently joked that her husband's hatred for cheese was potentially grounds for divorce. It made me laugh, but I could relate. On all the important things, we're good. But on food, once you get beyond our shared eggplant aversion, we diverge pretty drastically. He dislikes mushrooms, olives, and artichokes, all of which are on my top ten, (somewhere behind cheese). For him, licorice and cupcakes are two important food groups, ones I could do without (the first more readily than the latter, admittedly). I doubt taste in food is ever a real "deal-breaker" for a relationship, and yet, it strikes me that it is nonetheless important, something I confront every time I sigh and turn the page in a cookbook past a great recipe that is half mushrooms.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Looking good

I had a dentist's appointment recently, just a cleaning. The dental hygienist introduced herself and explained that the woman who usually cleans my teeth was not there that day. The hygienist was in her mid-forties, pleasant, and had a vibe of taking her job very seriously; she was so professional and methodical. What made me laugh was that when she was cleaning my teeth, after she got started and made some progress, she began talking to herself. She said things like,"Oh yeah, that's much better. There we go. Looking good." It was under her breath, not for my benefit. But I didn't mind hearing that she was pleased with her work. Certainly better than other possible mutterances.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

On Declawing the baby

So many times I have been scratched, bruised, banged, bitten by one of the kids, and of course it is just par for the course. Nothing major, even though getting whacked in the face by Gavin's helmeted head can smart for a bit. The worst lately is scratching. And it's not because I've fallen behind on his manicures. The kid has my nail growth genes, i.e. very speedy, but I've been good lately about keeping them short. In spite of this, he got me good yesterday, in the face. I knew right after it happened that there would be lasting evidence of the scratch; I could tell it had broken the surface. All today, I have had to walk around with a one-inch scab on my lower right cheek. Not fun! Tonight, he did it again, on my forearm, grasping the skin so tightly that the tips of a few fingers sunk in deep enough I know I will have more fresh scabs tomorrow. I was moaning to myself about it and briefly had the thought of "declawing" him... Obviously won't happen, but the thought of being tickled rather than torn is a pleasant one.

Monday, January 5, 2009


Two classic Carter-isms:

1) "Eiffel Towers", as in "There are Eiffel Towers over there." I looked around for what he could possibly be talking about, as we headed north on the 405 toward Long Beach, and found power lines.

2) "Airplane stars". Of course. What could he possibly think a star was, beyond a small, bright light in the sky? The airplane ones move; the other ones don't. Makes perfect sense.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Cheese gene

It is quite clear that C got the cheese gene from me. Every morning, when we ask him what he wants for breakfast, he enthusiastically says, "cheese!" "How European of you," we say, before cutting him a banana. But my husband knows as well as I, he can't help it. This love for cheese runs deep.

My earliest memories are from Sonoma, where we lived across the street from a cheese factory. I vaguely remember drawing pictures for the guys who worked there, and also receiving samples of the cheeses. My mom made fondue occasionally for dinner when I was growing up. During my year abroad then, I was ready to sample some excellent apres-ski fondue in Grenoble. I also grew quite fond of the regional cheese of the Juras, comte, of which my host family was rightfully proud. And even in Orange County, there is superb raclette in the winter months, if you know where to look. I can't wait to take C when he's older; that will certainly make him say cheese.