Friday, December 22, 2017

Oh, Christmas Tree!

Decorating a Christmas tree is a Sisyphean task with two manic toddlers. As soon as we placed a decoration delicately on the tree, a small hand swiped it away and proceeded to characterize it as their aeroplane across the room until we rescued the ornament and returned it to its dendrological haven. In the end we dressed our tree with our children’s heights as the primary consideration for its design, so that it is all glammed up on top and indecently bare at the bottom where little hands could reach.

This is the first Christmas in which L, who recently 3, is really interested in. He has taken to shouting “Merry Christmas!” to all and sundry and is fan of Dickens’s A Christmas Carol.  M seems to be a right fan of the holiday too, albeit he is mostly interested in attempting to manipulate the Christmas lights to our constant panic.

Unfortunately for L, he expects it to snow on Christmas. He cannot remember snow and is keen to see it. His first Christmas was back in New York and he seemed mesmerized by the snowfall that shrouded the whole city in silence. I informed him our climate does not allow for snow and he seemed rightly insulted by this fact as if the Earth had just slapped him in the face. We will go back to Lake Taco (as L terms it) soon so that he can enjoy in snow, but unfortunately for L, there will be no snow in SF this Christmas.

A few months ago, L learnt the concept of “zero”. I was overjoyed at the time. Months later, my excitement is subdued, to say the least. As our rearing consists of the provision of limited choices (Do you want the broccoli or the carrots first? Do you want 3 more spoons of yoghurt or 5 more spoons? Do you want 3 more minutes playing trains or 10 minutes playing trains before we pack up?) , L has taken up resistance against our regime with “zero” as his weapon of warfare. I want zero! Zero! He exclaims. The one salvation in these times continues to be the timer and L has begun to even ask for the timer. We understand he utilizes our own strategy against us, employing it to garner more time for his current endeavour, but we have little choice but to succumb to the tyranny of its toll. If we tell L it’s dinner and forgot to put the timer on, for instance, he insists that we do so and so we must scourge for our phones and set it, but thankfully, L continues to heed its herald.

I admittedly have slight emetophobia. I believe I was scarred when I was younger by a Plinian eruption from my long dormant stomach during a particularly vicious viral attack. This year my older son threw up for the first time as we weaved our way up the serpentine road to Lake Tahoe (the increased altitude combined with the turns was a perfect concoction for emitting his breakfast). I was surprised that I had no qualms cleaning him up and cuddling up to him, believing at first that I would inevitably throw up myself during the experience. I recently had the pleasure of seeing how far this extended when L woke me up during the middle of the night, informing me he was sick in one cracked sentence and before I had the time to react, throwing up in my mouth as I was rousing from my slumber. Oh, the cruel caprice of the cosmos! Sleeping soundly cuddling a little bear one minute, swallowing vomit the next. That moment encapsulates motherhood. Your children will throw up in your mouth and you will not care. Nobody else can get away with that.








Friday, December 8, 2017

The Pookie Pookie Planet

My younger son, who is about to turn 17 months, is in to jamming big time. One of his favourite past times is to attack the piano and the drums, one hand lightening across the keys, the other thunder upon the drum. For a time, he exclusively devotes himself to one instrument in service to his constructed composition and then returns to the frenzy of concomitantly thundering out a tune as he batters through a beat. Invariably, he bursts into song. This is whether we are at home or out and about, to the amusement of passersby. His favourite rendition is Twinkle Twinkle Little Star in a most stentorian, basso tone. 

This frenzied musical show is characteristic of his charge through life. He he an intrepid adventurer that climbs the shelves to our constant distress and directs his will about the house. He has a very emphatic “da” (yes) that is always accompanied by a vigorous nod and his “ne” (no) employs a very distinct finger shake which he finesses with a loud “ah-ha”. Even our chaotic cub has periods of quiet contemplation, leafing through a book, constructing a new Lego masterpiece or drawing. 

It is interesting to see how your children reproduce your mannerisms. I didn’t know, until it was pointed out to me recently, that I tend to wisp away into a vacuous state now and again in which I become, apparently, oblivious to all around me. This was pointed out to me when I noted that both my sons tend to “zone out” and sit embroiled in a palpable ponder. My babysitter laughed when I asked her about this and said that they inherited this from me and that I inherited this from my dad (as she has noticed that he would also succumb to these solid stares into the ether). “You see!” my husband gleefully pointed out, “sometimes, we’re together and all three of you are zoned out” - we get drowned within our daydreams at times. 

We are now in the tumultuous temporal period of torrid tantrums. Both my sons started their “terrible twos” right after they turned 1, being their second year of life. I believe it’s because at this time they have formulated an understanding of language without being able to effectuate their communication of it, leading to intense frustration (just think of the times you speak in a foreign tongue and how difficult is may be to effect your intention). The fury of a toddler’s tantrums is ineffably astounding. Both my sons - during this period - snap in the slice of a second as a smile snaps into a snarl of which smite they strike upon themselves. My husband and I were startled into a panic when L would bite through his frustration, leaving a crimson ring upon his wrist. We were thankful when L’s tantrums subsided into shrewd negotiation and crying rather than self-hurt. M is now in that period where he effects his fury upon himself, banging his head against the wall or slapping his head until we pry his hands away from him and take him away from any wall. It is quite a distressing sight to see. These episodes subsided and then disappeared as soon as L garnered a vocabulary and could effect his intention and we hope the same occurs with M. Indeed every day he attempts new words and masters others, albeit the only ones we can discern, apart from yes/no and members of the family which he has down pat, including his brother, whom he affectionally calls “Lala” not being able to negotiate the consonants in his name; are "this" (his favourite word and first word, able to effect his dictatorial demands - this reminds of me of my father's supposition that Marshall Tito received his nom de guerre from directing people as in Serbian, "you, this" is "ti, to" but I digress), “done”, “da”, “ne”,  “um um” (food), “ mama” (synonym for milk), "ala" (water, probably due to the barrier presented by the consonants of "voda"), "gaga" (for "kaka" - accompanied by tapping the front of his diaper, a longtime signal that he desires a change - while he pees in the potty now, he hasn't yet mastered his mechanics for this task), "nana" (banana), “bop bop” (car, from the fact that they go “beep beep"), “plane”, “train” and “lego” and “woof woof” (dog) (one may note the pattern of what he is partial to). His partiality to the latter presents a problem at times. M has no fear - he simply approaches a dog, no matter the size or snarl, and we worry that even in this city of canines (not having a dog in SF is akin to missing an appendage), he will have an inopportune meeting with teeth. My husband took M to the beach the other day and he said that M approached a pit bull, snapped its stick form its mouth to the dog’s surprise and when the dog snarled at him, our son simply snarled back at him but in the next second felt sorry and tried to give the dog back his stick, with my husband whisking our son away in fear that the pit bull would not stand for his impudence, despite his owner’s attestation that he was “really good with children.” No owner in SF will admit that their dog is not “good with children” but as good as a dog is, in the end, they have teeth and we would rather our son is not in their path (having said that, we allow him to pat dogs together with us while we stand on guard).


Whomever came up with the term “threenager” knew what they were on about. Our three year old requests “alone” time in the dominion of his room which he at times defends with preemptive strikes against his younger brother’s deemed incursions. Brotherly brawls are becoming a daily occurrence. And yet as much as I have to separate them, they display increased affection for each other. L can’t wait to see M when he gets out preschool and M waits all day for L. Even when their imperial ambitions collide, they have garnered the shrewd realpolitik to understand that they must work together unless the bigger common threat of parental discipline conquers both their ambitions. My husband and I believe that the score card is somewhat skewed our way at the moment, but fear that this may be but a momentary gain as they grow up. 

L is becoming very astute in translation. At times his father asks him to translate a Serbian word, at times I ask him the Greek and recently he’s becoming a specialist in M’s dialect. A few weeks ago, I jokingly asked L what M meant when he said “bop bop” recursively and L rolled his eyes and exclaimed “it’s a car, mum”. A moment later, as if not satisfied that he had sufficiently evidenced his disdain of my exposed ignorance, he added, “you silly goose” before erupting in a laugh that embraced me into its mirth. 

There is nothing better than waking up to the whisper of “I love you mama”. L and M are cuddle cubs in the morning (M allowing me the opportunity only while he nurses, otherwise he absconds to explore his environment and conquer its challenges). Unfortunately, my husband and I have somewhat skewed our sleeping situation so that we invariably each sleep with one boy or together with M. When L wakes up, he crawls into our bed now unless I’m already in his room, sometimes having fallen asleep putting him to bed (this is a most soporific venture). Our plan was to put M in L’s room, but L has taken ownership of his room of late and is fond of stating to all and sundry that he would like “alone time”. We were intensely curious what this “alone” time was for and then realized that L simply wants to play with his toys protected from his brother’s marauding missions. 

The other week, L had a most fascinating conversation with my father. He quizzed him on all his likes - Deka, do you like cars? Do you like trucks? Do you like blue? Do you like pasta? Noticing that L was emphatic as to how much he too liked whatever my dad professed a like for, I shrewdly decided to utilize this opportunity to have my son eat types of vegetables that he had eschewed, only to have my father answer truthfully that it was not to his palate! (this was soon corrected). L loves to share his favourite things with people and is very fond that we both have the same favourite colour, blue (it is after all the colour of our favourite planet, our home).

L and M are both fascinated by drawing at the moment. L is proud of his illustrations (a rocket recently was quite expertly done, fire and all) and requests that his walls are adorned with his creations (I suppose he takes after my megalomania, since our walls are adorned with my unsold abstract expressionist pieces). M’s chaotic colorful concoctions have to be expertly taken from him once finished as he will invariably utilize his art for a prop to his next drama and tatter it to pieces. L is proud of his brother’s pieces. “It’s beautiful” he comments with an affirming nod (L loves the word “beautiful” - when he likes something, it is “beautiful” - the other day he said “mama, you look beautiful today” and I vowed  henceforth to always brush my hair). 

L’s reading is admirably progressing. His longest words are “CALIFORNIA” and “CROCODILE”. His first compound word is, naturally, "FIRE TRUCK". I believe he’s ready to a read a simple sentence. I’m so excited! Nearly every day he requests I provide him a reading lessons and I happily oblige. L is also intensely interested in space (and to a lesser extent, trucks, cars and dinosaurs). His favourite planet is Earth. I believe that’s a good choice but may not in the future be so solid (I’ve explained to him that while Earth is hour home, we may have to find another because we have treated it terribly, which I’ve had to tone down as this has caused him some distress). He is not allied to next choice, which vacillates from being Mars (because it has the tallest mountain in the solar system, the volcano Olympus Mons, as he will readily inform any ear around him), to Jupiter (because it demands respect simply because of its size, albeit I am partial to the abstract expressionist aesthetic of its clouds), to Neptune (distance is always exotic). I should elaborate that L was fascinated when I explained that Netpune, named after the ancient Roman God of the sea (which in a Greek family you cannot state without the addition that he was merely a Romanized Poseidon) because of its vibrant blue colour from its methane atmosphere. When L questioned further, I pointed out that methane is akin to “pookie pookie” (our euphemism for flatulence) and he thought this hilarious. “The pookie pookie planet” he exclaims and when we direct our space trips to Neptune, we ensure that we have further protection form its malodorous miasma.