Monday, July 30, 2018


Are coming! My boys love to herald the advance of monsters from which we should all hide. Their favourite hiding spot is to stop and stand anywhere and burst out laughing, albeit sometimes they hide behind doors and under their bed covers.

They boys also love to simply run. Ready, steady, GO! They race each other in the park and in our hallway. 

The other night, M won his first race against his elder brother. L took this as a grand offense. He convulsed in a cascade of tears. M looked at L in surprise, proud that he had won for the first time. “I won!” M shouted triumphantly. We cheered. L erupted in tears. M then cautiously approached his brother and related his victory anew with a sombre tone, “I won L, I won”. Through undulating ululations, L described his feeling of “being so sad” that he didn’t not “come first”. 
L has trouble not coming first or getting answers incorrect. I’m trying to work with him through this, as I understand this can be a grave handicap. I’ve already noticed that if he thinks he cannot do something, he would rather not try then get it incorrect (for instance, he won’t attempt to mould a stegosaurus, understanding it’s too “tricky” for him and demands I do it, I would prefer he tries). I have not yet come up with a method to relate to L that winning and being correct is as important as trying (after all perfect is the enemy of good as some say). 

I have however come up with a way to calm L down. As in the other night, when he was riven with regret that he didn’t win, I ask him to imagine a beach, the waves flowing onto the sand and out back to sea. I had asked L to close his eyes, but he refused. He imagine it well enough with his eyes open. I asked him to breathe in with the waves flowing in, and breath out with the waves that flowed back to sea. This calmed him down a bit but he still continued to cry. I asked him to imagine what made him so triste as the waves advanced on the sand and he did, becoming visibly more upset. I then asked him to see his sadness flow away far into the sea as he breathed out and the waves took it away. After a few breathes in and out, L was calm. I asked him to wave to his sadness, which was still advancing to the middle of the Pacific, far, far, away. We both waved good-bye to his departing sadness. L then smiled and hugged me. “Thank you ma for taking my sadness away” he whispered. While I tweaked it a tad, waving goodbye to the sadness, I can’t take credit for this exercise. I read this in a book on mindfulness parenting, but unfortunately I forget the author (it was by a doctor). It really works!

M had his second year check up last week and loved being at the doctor as we had been reading about how Daniel Tiger (whom the boys love) went to the doctor. Now when M falls, he runs up to me and says “mama, kiss, kiss” pointing at his boo-boo and then my hypochondriac, not satisfied that his mother’s kiss was the cure, demands, “I need a check up”. 

The other day, we were eating chips, and L exclaimed, “wow! My chip is the shape of Australia!” Indeed it was. Both boys are excited to go to Australia. Luca is also really excited to explore Asia, and above all, Japan. So are we! They are also excited to get on a plane and fly to Europe in a few days. Recently, Luca understood, in a rudimentary way, thrust and lift for the first time and why planes need a runway. We discussed why helicopters don’t. He is fascinated by how things work and asks me questions now that I don’t know. “But why don’t you know?” is an exasperated retort I hear too often. I tell him we really don’t know anything except that we don’t know anything, which bothers him to no end - "but, why, ma, why?"

The big news is that M is now 2! He was very specific with his wishes. He sent us marching orders for a decadent breakfast of strawberry chocolate pancakes for brekkie, which his father dutifully made, a grilled cheese for lunch (which his father also dutifully made), to go the beach (where in true SF style we watched the beautiful bay cuddling up and zipping up our hoodies, turning away from the blasting wind- my kids are growing up thinking the beach is a cold, windy place and that swimming is something you do in a pool) and foremost, to ride the cable car. Rather than wait in line with the tourists at the first stop, we hiked up the hill and took a near empty cable car down 3 stops, which was sufficient time for the boys' adventure (L was also excited about riding the cable car and put it on his birthday list, reminding me that it was coming up). The driver was nice enough to allow both boys to ring the bell, which delighted them immeasurably. Best of all, a parade extended our experience by stopping the car mid-hill. Everyone else got off in a gruff, but we stayed and the boys got to run around the still cable car, exploring it. L did get impatient towards the end and asked, with an exasperate sigh and a furrowed brow, "mama, don't they know you walk only on the street?" I decided it was a suitable occasion to discuss permits and the First Amendment but the boys' attention was diverted by the colourful banners of the parade (luckily L's reading skills are not sufficient to read language respecting human rights abuse and to him it looked like a big party). 

M's latest friend is the younger sister of one of L's best mates from preschool. M is very fond of her (she is about 5 months younger) and after seeing her, as opposed to his other friends, proudly exclaims with an explosive smile, to all and sundry that C "held his hand". Ah, young love.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Boo Boo Butt

My boys have taken to the term “boo boot butt”  (learnt from one of their favourite books, The Book with No Pictures), in particular my younger son, M, who is a fortnight shy of two. I had wagered that as this entertainment began a couple of months ago, neither M nor L would favor it by now, but it continues to cause a riot. If I ask the boys to do something they are resisting, they respond with “mama, you are a boo boo butt” (L has also taken to calling me a "coconut head"  which I'm sure will be picked up by M soon) but they also simply love to exclaim it for no particular reason and M has even created a song. M is fond of composing ditties. His first, when he was twenty one months was “digger dig dig dig”, his second, a month later, was one he enjoyed even more. “L is a baby, a baby, a baby, L is a baby” he would sing gleefully. L preferred the former. 

Toilet humor is big in this house. If I ask what someone is doing, and M overhears, he volunteers “pooping” and then bursts into laughter. 

M continues to have accidents every so often, when he doesn’t make it to the potty in time and this distress him somewhat. He immediately flings off his pants in a dramatic flair shouting “yuck!” and then with a resigned sigh notes “accidents happen” and asks to be changed, “change me please mama”.

M started asking "why" at the beginning of the year, which somewhat perplexed me, and in the past couple of months he has ramped up his questioning with "mummy, what's that?" He likes to guess and is immensely proud of himself when he is correct. If he hears a motorcycle in the distance, he stops and asks, me "mummy, what's that? A motorcycle?" and if I affirm his analysis, he smiles ebullient. Sometimes, we have differences of opinion and he has tenaciously kept to his earlier and incorrect assessment. Very rarely he resigns himself to the fact that he is wrong. "Yeah, OK" he relents, his shoulders slumping and his brow furrowed.

As much as M loves congratulating himself, he loves to congratulate others. "Yay L!" he loves to cheer as his brother flips or does some acrobatic feat beyond M's agility. 

In the mornings, L is a stereotype of a threenager, putting his head under the pillow and resisting being woken. M on the other hand wakes up with the first dapple of the sun’s rays and rushes into our room, singing at the top of his lungs about nothing in particular. When he sees us, he smiles his explosive smile and says “good morning!”, snuggling up between me and my husband. He loves having the sole attention in the morning, his mum and dad on either side and then whispers his happiness to us, stating “mama, daddy, I love you too”, assured that the love is there. Recently, he’s taken to coming up to me and his dad and saying “I love you lots” and my favourite “so, so much” extending his arms as wide as he can. He, just like his brother, loves to hear how much we say we love them, beyond the heliosphere, beyond the Milky Way, to the edges of the Universe creeping out as it expands ( in this way, I slide in a lesson about the universe). 

The boys are starting to work together as a team. Yesterday, I had trouble getting them to bed as after book time, they pounced on me from either side, “prutzing” my arms (I believe the English term is blowing raspberries) until I was rescued by my husband who appears to have more authority, albeit I saw on the camera they gave him a run for his money too.

They both admonished me at the playground the other day for throwing their banana skins into the bin, reminding me that they should be composted. I agreed this was better and we resolved that henceforth, since there were no composting facilities in the park, I would bring a composting bag with us, so that we could compost our food waste at home. L cautioned me not to forget.

L can be super silly, but he has a distinctly cautious personality. When a bully hit him on the playground the other week, he firmly said “no thank you! Hit your own head” and walked away. When my husband offered him a blunt butter knife to cut his play-doh, he looked up at us with an elongated sigh and reminded us that he was a child and should not be given real knives, but only “toy knives” because he could cut himself and requested that we provide him a “toy knife” tout de suite. When he hears or sees fire trucks now, he worries that there is a fire and tells me that we should leave because it isn’t safe. Repeatedly, however,  he’s told me not worry because he will take care of his younger brother. 

When we were preparing for our flight to the east coast to see his grandparents earlier this month, L circled around us, reminding us not to forget anything and not be late for the flight. On the flight, he was a superstar. He read his books, completed his puzzles and watched Cars (his favourite), enjoying that the had the iPad and earphones and his own seat, indulging in his extended screen time. At times, he would crawl to the window seat to see the land below. I used the opportunity of embarking a plane to discuss thrust and lift, which to some extent L understood. He knows that jumbo jets have lots of thrust and both boys can’t wait to get on another jumbo jet. Albeit he is as avid as his older brother of taking another flight, M did not have such an easy time on the flight, needing to run around. We’ll see how our flight to London soon pans out. We have bought contraptions which apparently transform the seat into a bed, so we’ll see how the advertising pans out. 

The boys and I got quite ill on our trip. One second I was reading a book to the boys and their cousin, the next, M was throwing up a deluge of his digested food. He repeated this in the pool, to the distress of his brother and younger cousin. L followed soon thereafter, one second dandy, the next, doubled over, retching out his stomach lining. After throwing up, L would ask for water, but even a sip resulted in an eruption from his stomach, so I had to lull him to sleep without giving him any water as he cried for it. It minced my heart to deny him, but he was getting more dehydrated with every sip and I resisted his crying, simply repeating why I couldn't give him any more liquid. When he woke up the next day, he had a huge smile on his face, his system back in shape, and asked whether he could have water. I gave him water, he guzzled it down and kept it down and was fine. Children are hit hard, but they are resilient. Both boys bounced back in 24 hours, whereas it took my elder system more than a week of misery to get back to proper form. 

L’s teacher told me he is the most popular boy in his class and that everyone wants to sit next to him. He certainly has a tight crew of mates. When I came to the playground early, imagining that L and M would run to me and we would play together, I was surprised that they merely said hello and continued to run with their friends (they were being fire trucks putting out fires, at one time, I was included in the game as a house on fire, and was saved by the eager firefighters). In the end, I worked on the playground. M does his best to keep up with L and his mates. He adores his brother as well as his friends. When it was one of L’s best friends’ parties yesterday, M, full of concern, asked me whether he could come because he was friends with E too. I assured him we would all go together and for the whole day he kept singing about the party, he had such a ball. 

I was told that younger children pick things up quicker and easier, having the benefit of their older siblings for instruction, example and encouragement and this is evident from M and L’s interactions. L has been teaching M letters and numbers, helping me, so that M can count items in front of him and on his fingers up to 4 (he can count up to 10 otherwise, but can’t apply it in practice), while L is learning numbers in the hundreds. M recognizes more shapes than L his age, knowing his pentagons, hexagons, octagons etc, and a few weeks ago surprised me by being able to point to the continents on the map. I had been teaching L and I didn’t think M was digesting this information, but he pointed to Australia and informed us, beaming with pride, that his grandfather lived there, and so did Nemo. M is also enthusiastic about the big kid swings and eschews the baby swings, whereas L is only now getting used to the big kid swings (primarily due to its adoption by his friends). 

We have been into elaborate train tracks recently, covering the whole apartment (for this task it helps not have a large apartment). We came up with the idea of building “super tracks” to separate the boys so that they don’t crash their trains on the same track and avoid the bitter territorial battles that ensue. I didn’t realize how much fun I would have trying to build the windiest tracks with as many bridges and tunnels as I could make - I think I had as much as the boys. Every day, we try to beat our earlier efforts. At the redwoods the other day, after the boys had fund attempting to skin stones into the creek and run around the majestic trees, hugging each in turn, L shrewdly assessed the cathedral around him and decided it was a perfect place for a train track, pointing to the hollow tree which would make for a perfect tunnel. It seems the human itch to develop is ever present.