Sunday, September 11, 2022

Bottles & Cans

 M had hernia surgery this year and he strutted through it like a champ. I was enveloped in insomnia the night before, urging ill thoughts away as I was riven by risk. Still mandating quasi-quarantine, one parent was allowed prior to surgery, another after. The nurses cautioned me that as waking up from anesthesia was disorienting for kids (for whom isn't it?) and that a sizable sector woke up violently. I was allowed to enter before M woke up. I was armed with his three favourite books, two of which involved the shenanigans of animate food and read through them as he roused, thinking that waking up to familiarity would smooth his reentry into consciousness. M opened his eyes in a most lackadaisical fashion. I immediately informed him that his surgery was over in order to allow him to better register his surroundings. M, registering his mother, was however, not in the least bit interested in the fact that he had woken up in a completely different room to his pre-op. He was focused on his hands. He spread them out in front of him as if he were registering the ability to control his limbs. He looked like he had dropped some acid. Then he looked at me and winked before proceeding to attempt to count to 10. He got 1 and 2 right but then his counting was all over the shop. Yet, he persisted. M likes completing what he starts. He had been asked to count to 10 on the administration of anesthesia and not having completed it, he went right back to the task. He was a champ. He was in pain, hunched over and knew he could milk it. "Mama" he addressed me, his eyes reaching for my soul, "all I want to do today is watch Dino Trucks". This was a show I did not appreciate, despite my boys praising its didactic purpose as if they were pitching development  of the property- "it's about team work and problem solving but in a fun way for kids" (I imagine the pitch meeting to rather have been something of the like of, "well, kids love trucks and they love dinos- so is anyone thinking what I'm thinking here? And just think of the merch we could sell"). M watched Dino Trucks for a solid period that day he otherwise would not have gotten away with unless he were on a plane. The doctors had advised that on the first day, you could give pain medication liberally. Yet, M didn't complain about pain until well into the evening so we gave him a tad as a night cap so he could sleep through the night. Perhaps Dino Trucks had some analgesic effect. The next few days, M would walk like Quasimodo, but with a cheer and still enjoys showing off the small scar he has on this torso from his operation, proudly proclaiming it it is his "surgery" and commenting that surgery is not so bad, because you get to eat a popsicle for breakfast. 

M asked me what consciousness was and why he lost it during his surgery. I explained that the brain does some things consciously - things that require awareness and intention, such walking, eating, speaking - and other things automatically, such as breathing. M was intensely interested in how this process occurred. I told him that he was provided medication that rendered him unconscious. He wanted more details. I explained that not only am I not an anaesthesiologist, nor any type of doctor or medical professional but that even the specialists don't understand the mechanics of consciousness. We may know how to turn it on and off, but we don't know exactly why. Both boys found this aspect incredibly fascinating. "So is that what death is like?" M asked. He seemed petrified. Accepting that our consciousness will end in one zap as with surgery is a difficult concept to digest. After all even the most modest person has themselves at the centre of their universe. "I don't know" I admitted to the boys. "I don't think so" I added. I told them that throughout my life, I've experienced things that don't make sense if our visceral beings were confined to our corporal states. There's something else (though one could readily argue that such sensation is neurological). "But I don't want something else, I want my life" M pleaded. "I don't want to die." At this point, I eschewed relating the cruel uncertainty of our existence and calmed him. "You don't have to think about it at least until you are 103". Then we can talk. "Mum, if we are 103 and 104, wouldn't you be way, way,  way too old?" L asked. That seemed like a good finale for that conversation.

We always want to provide our kids with what our parents couldn't. One thing I distinctly remember is my parents not being able to relieve themselves from work to volunteer at school events. It probably seems like a trifle thing, but I didn't want my boys looking around and seeing their friends' parents and not seeing their own. I also wanted to see them at their school event (they are usually loads of fun!). The Fun Run was true to its name. The kids ran around the school for about forty-five minutes and we cheered like mad. L and M had smiles that leapt out of their hearts. Midway through, M looked a tad cross and came up to me. I had been cheering from L and M and every kid and teacher I knew the name of. "Mum" M began earnestly, "you have to cheer for everyone!" I was admonished for not being inclusive. I explained I didn't know everyone's names. M said, "that's OK, just cheer for G[the school]". So I did. Then I heard a familiar cry. L had fallen and had a bleeding elbow. "I want to go home!" he cried. I looked at his scrape and decided he could do it. I told him if he couldn't run, he could walk. L was hesitant at first, but I told him I would walk with him and that eased him into the idea and off we went. He held onto me tight the first round and we crawled through it. The second round, he softened his grip, went faster and by the end was smiling and cheering his friends on. Midway through the third round, he began to run again. 

M has my habit of doodling. My exercise books during school (a term some of my American friends thought referred to physical education rather than schoolwork) were covered in little characters. It was how I could pay attention in class. I needed a distraction to concentrate (this persisted- when I was at uni, albeit I adore and devour books, I was uncomfortable in the quiet of the library and preferred the din of a cafe as a working environment). Hence when M's kindergarten teacher was struggling with his frazzled focus, I understood his mind was as peripatetic as mine. M likes to animate his letters and numerals (he has inherited my over eager sense of face pareidolia). Eight plus three equals a smiling tree. Then M entered a phase in which smiley faces turned into male genitalia (this particular phase escaped me). Every mathematical equation ended in a penis. We discussed some issues he would face if he did that at school. He seemed to understand. When M was asked to trace "horse's hair" he avidly did so and with glee inserted BUT in front of "hair". I corrected his spelling, lectured him again on the whims of polite society and explained homonyms to him which seemed to have piqued his interest until I asked him if he had a question. M earnestly nodded. "Why do girls have front butts?"

Parenting is a great life lesson because it teaches you how to suffer loss of control and acts as a check on your actions. It also teaches you patience. These are courses you are permanently enrolled in. As soon as you pass one exam, you have another challenging one. I hope to be the perfect parent, guiding my kid in a soft manner through emotional experiences and teaching them intellectual and practical skills such that, for instance, the morning routine, is effortless. It's rather a war zone. "Mum, you are being such a hippo" my older son remarks in his soft, laconic drawl. "It's such an aggressive tone you are using" he continues (no, I do not favour in the least being compared to a large, wild, territorial animal by my son). Meanwhile, my younger son shouts back "you are not the boss of me! My brain is the boss of me! And my brain says to finish my Lego submarine!" Right. It all starts so civil and then rapidly disintegrates into  combat. There are only so many times I can support politely asking my sons to put on their shoes within the strict time limit allowed to get to school on time, before my decibels elevate (and then rapidly escalate). I trust some parents have a mastery of this, but I distinctly have a lot to learn in this department. My boys even have a nickname for me,"Bossy Woman", and a song to boot. It contains lyrics such as "bossy woman is always telling me to brush my teeth, bossy woman is always telling me to eat my veggies, oh she's so bossy". Charming. I am continually telling my sons that I would rather just be their friend and have fun, but then I wouldn't be a good mum. Sometimes we have to be stern. 

My older son is an avid bookworm. He will read for hours a day. He will sneak books to his bed to read them at bedtime. I get it, I was him, walking with a book in my hands, my mind immersed in the narrative world - until I hit a pole. That happened to me a fair few times. Arguing with my son to stop reading, something I cherish, is not something that I ever perceived could eventuate ("But mum, I need more knowledge! Give me knowledge! I devour knowledge!" L shouts). Yet here I am, pleading with my son to not ruin his eyes by reading in the dark. His retort: keep the light on. Then we argue over bedtime. Reading has its benefits, but so does sleep. In the end we meet in the middle - L goes to sleep a tad later then I would prefer and he reads (with the light on) much less than he'd prefer.

Winston Churchill once commented that English and Americans are "separated by a common tongue" and certainly even after living more of my life in the US, I still have some translation issues. Earlier in the year I asked my kids to play "scissors, paper, rock" and they laughed at my mistake. I, in turn, assumed they had mistakingly heard at school. Turns out, that antipodeans have a different term for this game to Americans (and even the British). It's completely inverted - "rock, paper, scissors". I remain flummoxed. Fortunately, my boys have a keener understanding of Australia as they spent a month there this summer - being Australia's winter. They were amazed by the Great Barrier Reef (they loved that we flew to Cairns and then began to call Sydney, "Bottles"), the Daintree and the Blue Mountains - which I had banked on, to get some sense of Aussie pride instilled in them so the pending passport wouldn't seem abstract- but I didn't expect how much they would love Sydney. They were enamoured by the birds most of all. Lorikeets, kookaburras, cockatoos, even the ibises. They thought the Blue Mountains looked like a Jurassic Park. They were amazed at the different constellations in the sky. M decided that he was going to move to Balmoral when he's older, L, a town close to the Great Barrier Reef. They picked up the Australian inflection and still have tinges of it a month later. 

Watching my boys in full-on rain gear negotiating the deluge in the CBD was quite a trip. I grew up in Sydney during our drought, when the dam was only ever 1/3 full and we had strict water restrictions. I remember winter being pleasant (one of my good friends reminded me that I think this, because Sydneysiders have a habit of forgetting that winter ever comes- but that must mean it's short and calm enough to be forgotten) and was shocked to find it so crisp. They are now growing up in drought in California while Warragamba Dam overflows, much closer to my own childhood experience.

M's 6th birthday was cold and wet, but wonderful. M is quite upset that his birthday is in the summer. "We're always somewhere else" he complains. "Last year it was Rhodes, this year, it's Sydney" he grumbled. I tried to explain that is a privilege, that he gets to spend his birthday in different places around the world. "But my friends aren't here" he explained. He notes how his brother, L, has a party with his friends and also gets to celebrate at school. M gets neither because his birthday is during the summer break. M's summer birthday also means he's one of the youngest in his grade. Most of his friends are nearly a whole year older. The standing theory today is to hold your kid back, particularly if your kid is male, to increase their confidence (I find it interesting that we seem to address men's confidence more -is that because we deem them to be more fragile or as we still subconsciously determining that their leadership is more important?). We made the decision, based on multiple factors, including that he was bored at preschool and that it made financial sense to move him to kindergarten rather than hold him back. While he struggled somewhat in kindergarten (the last day of school was so emotional for M, he cried in the morning and was so proud he was going into first grade and the "upper yard" playground), he seems to have found his way in first grade and I couldn't imagine him a year behind. 

L has inherited my klutziness and my keen ability to get trapped. I have been locked inside bathroom stalls in a number of cities throughout the world, none of which was a very pleasant experience to say the least. L had recently graduated to going with me to the bathroom, but going to his own stall. He preferred it and once we had practiced the lock a few times successfully, I allowed him to go. Just passed single digit stall use, L confidently walked into the stall next to mine at a Greek restaurant in the CBD on M's birthday. When I was washing my hands, I asked L if he was OK. He explained, his words, tinged with terror, that he couldn't get out. I told him not to worry and that I would walk him through it. While I did that, I examined the gap and determined that there was absolutely no way he could crawl out of it, which would have been my plan B. After several failed attempts at coaching L to open the door, I told him that I needed to get help. He asked me not leave him. I explained that he shouldn't worry, because I would be back in a few minutes and that as he was locked inside, no one could approach him. He would be safe. The manager came down and asked L what was going on and if he was ok. "I'm stuck and I'm terrified" L responded. The manager got to work, attempting to pick the lock. By that time, we had a small gathering in the bathroom as our family members came to provide support (fortunately no one else wanted to use the bathroom). In the end, the manager had to get a screwdriver and take out the faulty lock. "I don't know what I did" L said, confounded, to the manager as he opened the door. "It was the lock" the manager explained and apologized. 

M and L adore each other. They fight, it's true, but they are best friends. As an only child, I cherish seeing their relationship blossom. It's patently evident that nobody's light shines more brightly for M, than his elder brother, L's. When we were on Green Island, eating our lunch, L was attacked by a bird. L, in shock, erupted in tears. M immediately went on the alert. He quickly determined the culprit - who had a piece of seaweed stuck on one of his legs - and targeted the bird with a determined stare. As soon as the offender approached our table, M aggressively approached the bird, yelling at the bird to stay away from his brother, as we tried to keep M away from the bird (partly to protect M and partly to protect the bird). M will always have L's back. 

M has decided he wants to be a submarine engineer. During "free Lego" time, he has designed elaborate submarines where he has keenly outlined where the ballast tanks go, where the escape hatch should be and the like. We had not planned it, but in June and July, M was able to tour a submarine in SF, one in Pearl Harbor and one in Sydney at the Maritime Museum and became even more enamoured with them. At the Maritime Museum, he dragged me to rewatch a video of a WWII naval battle and when I was texting with some mates scheduling a dinner, he took my phone from me and admonished me. "Have some respect and listen" he commanded. I was astounded. I wasn't sure that watching a naval battle was appropriate, but then they have snuck in numerous videos about WWII which they are equally fascinated and horrified by (and they don't even know a scintilla of the real horrors). They can describe the different Allied planes and their bombs and they have replicated these in their "free Lego" time. I admonished them for making weapons. They earnestly told me that their weapons are in fact, weapons of "love". "It's not a nuke, it's a fluke - it erupts in flowers" L declared. "And my torpedo bursts into love hearts" M proclaimed. I wavered. I knew what they were up to, but their designs were so intricate and exemplary from an engineering standpoint, I wasn't sure whether to discourage it and in the end I let their imaginations run free. The boys play "war games" they imagine (M also adores Battle Ship) and can use weapons they craft in them (sometimes the weapons are natural and simple, M was fire and L was water: L shouted to M that he would "extinguish him" while M remarked that he would "evaporate L") and we fear that this may instill violence in them or render it natural. However, kids are keenly aware that their imaginative play does not actually harm anyone and I wonder whether forbidding the imaginative play could rather have the opposite effect? Nevertheless, I see a distinct difference between imaginative play with inanimate objects and shooter video games, the latter which I forbid as I see no benefit to their development and characters and which attempts to render violence realistic, which I see as inherently problematic. 

L and M love to sneak out of bed and put on weekend morning cartoons as well as documentaries and lectures. I was pleasantly surprised one day to notice they choose an MIT lecture on aerodynamics. I wondered if they were able to comprehend and digest what they were intensely watching. A few days later, L was cold in the park and without any layers, so I advised that he should run around to warm up. "Ah, friction!" L declared with great confidence in his velocity, but for good measure, rubbed his palms together.

Friday, March 11, 2022

Titanic Endeavours

When my five-year old professes with an acute glint in his eye that he "has a better idea" I know that he has prefaced a plan by which whatever I have attempted to achieve has been resolutely challenged. "The kids get to choose [insert particular activity of choice] and the parents just DEAL WITH IT!" he shouts. His brother, depending on whom he needs to curry favour with at that precise moment either allies with his brother or diplomatically argues my position. This is a perfect encapsulation of their characters. L negotiates, expertly utilizing guilt to achieve his ends, whilst M charges in, guns blazing, shouting “you don’t control me, mum! I do what I want!” Sometimes he intersperses “penis head” as an address, which is not my favourite to say the least. Nor am I a big fan of his new address, "machine gun", which he uses as a term of endearment that nevertheless retains his inherent rebellion. L confirms I rattle orders, “please do this and that, then you’re done - simple”. I have been told that I am strict, but isn’t that my job as a parent? I continually tell my kids "I can't just be your friend, I have to be your mother" (I am unfortunately prone to repeating such stock phrases,"bacteria and viruses love humidity" , "I love you, but I do not love your choices now"- I can see my boys later in life having a beer and rolling their eyes as they repeat them). Do we expect kids to discipline themselves or outsource it to their exasperated, over-worked and under-appreciated teachers? Of course, being too strict results in mutiny and rebellion, which some may argue is what has caused M’s mutiny, but it could just be a visceral part of his character. After all, the eponyms of his name and his birthdate both resound in rebellion. M is of course very fond of rules when they apply to others. He has numerous times walked up to people on the street and accused them of ruining their own health and as well as that of others around them if he spots them smoking (or appearing not to pick up after their dog). "Stop smoking!" he insists and most admit he is right and nervously walk away. 

Discipline a fine line. There is concrete evidence that I have not achieved resounding success with my tactics, but I hope that they will be fruitful long-term. After all, I want to instill a certain suspicion of authority, which in a democratic society, has to be earned and continually questioned. Yet, conversely, I do not intend to rear criminals (then again civil disobedience has proven necessary throughout history to move it along to more just ways, such as the civil rights movement). The issue is inherently complex and requires a distinction between abstract ideals and practical decision-making that may not be well digested in young children. 

M is fast learning that the best tactics are disarming and not escalation through utilizing humour – at least, where it works and at home, it does. A case in point – we were again butting heads over some trifle that I merely insisted on to retain some sense of discipline – when M stopped and with a wry smile that beguiled, he commented on my millenary. Pointing to my beanie, he complimented me on it. “Nice beanie, mum." This took me by surprise and I thanked him. “You look like a penis head. A walking, talking, penis head” he laughed. I should have had discipline, but I did not. I erupted in laughter and lost all leverage. This occurs frequently. I should have more discipline, particularly because his teachers, for instance, will likely not see humour in it, nor can they. On the other side of the coin, I would much rather he attacks with humour than anything else. 

 L's harnessing of diplomacy is impressive. He long ago realized the power of coalition building and advocating for its causes rather than his ends individually. He also has realized the power of compliments and guilt and when to utilize each. For instance, he has remarked to me, seemingly untethered to his later request, of which temporal spacing was another calculated move, “mum, I know you are 39, but you look like you are 25” (so can I have that Lego set?). His harnessing of guilt, a family tradition, is being steadily developed. One day, when I was in the passenger seat and pensive, L, who was a direct line of sight to me from his diagonally placed back-seat, asked me what I thinking. I didn’t want to divulge what I was saying nor did I want to lie, so I explained it was private. “But you look sad, mum- and I’m concerned.” I then lied, breaking my earlier resolve and told him it was about work and confidential to which he immediately retorted, “that sounds like an excuse” with an accompanying look that imparted his conclusion that I was deceiving him. I reminded him it was private, without mentioning work. “OK, fine, have it your way” he said, turning away and looking out the window. Then, he twisted in the knife. “Just know that I’m going to spend all night without sleep, thinking about what made my mother sad… but that’s fine”. I crumbled and told him that I was thinking what a beautiful gift we had received, how thankful I was for it and more importantly, how grateful I was that we had such wonderful people in our lives - but that I couldn’t help noticing a grammatical error and that there was no way I could point this out and that I felt sad both for noticing the error and not being able to fix it (such are my thoughts). 

L is not always so calculating. He's very empathetic (which allows him to harness his political skills) and an incorrigible romantic. There is one girl in school he is particularly infatuated with and has declared that he “shoots hearts into her eyes”. I suppose all true romance is inherently painful. She seems to welcome the attention from him in turn. I'm told they are betrothed.

One day, L was racing down the street after I picked him up from school, down our neighbourhood promenade, “gliding” (fanning his hoodie out), calling out his colour powers, “blue power!”, “red power!” he yelled. I froze when he ran past a crowded cafĂ© and yelled “white power!” I wonder what conversations that unwitting comment inspired. I told L not to say “white power” as he glided home. “Why not? I’m playing my colour power game” he innocently asked. “White isn’t a colour” I retorted. This did the trick and he continued forth heralding his colour powers home. “Rainbow power!” he yelled past a bemused group of adults. You have to pick the right time for serious discussions- that wasn't it. 

One day during the holiday season, L came shopping with me. He asked for a lolly at the counter. I told him he couldn’t have it. Later, walking home, I discovered the lolly. “What is this?” L looked down, silent, his cheeks incarnadine. “Is that the lolly that I told you, you couldn’t get?” L continued to stare down as if he wanted to bore a hole through the ground. “How did you get it? Speak to me”. L looked up and timidly said, “I thought they were free”. I told him we were going straight back to buy it and that we would give it to his brother. We couldn’t return it tattered and I couldn’t reward him. He looked aghast. “Please don’t. I’ve… learnt my lesson” he stammered. I held his hand as we walked there and his stance slowed and then stalled. “Please, mum, can I just wait outside?” I shook my head. “No, you took what was not yours and now you are going to make amends”. While I wanted L to own up to what he had done, I didn’t want him to further embarrass himself in front of his peers, so I did a quick reconnaissance to ensure that no one from school was inside. Then I took him to the manager. He immediately knew what was going on and became flushed and more embarrassed than L. Before L had a chance to explain, he started to say “it was OK” and before he could say L could keep the lolly, I cut him off and directed L to explain what happened. I had given L some of his pocket money at home to buy the lolly for his brother and watched as L timidly apologized, while still maintaining he thought they were free (which could have been a possibility, I suppose) and the manager graciously accepting his money while all the while appearing more embarrassed and uneasy than L did. When we walked home, I hugged L tightly as we went and explained that this was OK, he made a mistake, we all did, but we have to own up to our mistakes and make amends. We also have to learn from them and not repeat them, to which he shyly nodded and hugged me back. Perhaps it was harsh, at least the manager thought so, but I nevertheless believe it was the right thing to do and the incident has not been repeated. 

It's easy to tell your children what they should do and difficult to model it and the latter is perhaps the most important thing we can impart. We teach our children what we hope to be and often, we don’t measure up to our own ideals. I am still ashamed that when I saw L attempting to comfort one of his friends in a deluge of tears, who was avidly rebuffing his attempts at consolation, I immediately assessed the situation as L attempting to make amends for something he did (knowing that L is accident prone and causes numerous unwitting injuries to those around him). I was wrong. L was simply being kind, comforting a friend. I apologized to him. I was wrong. He did a beautiful thing and I immediately accused him of doing harm. I told him that was the problem of assumptions. We jump to conclusions and generally, when we jump, we can fall and sometimes, flat on our face – just as I did, failing my own son. I make many mistakes, but I always try to own up to them in front of the kids. I cannot model being perfect, or even being great. I am a mess of imperfection, but I can model recognition of my mistakes, my attempts to amend them and my attempts to not repeat them. 

The state of surveillance in our society is so pervasive, that children are readily recognizing our panopticon. M can walk into a place and immediately register all the security cameras as if he is scoping it out for an impending heist. His leprechaun trap has numerous security cameras, which are plastic wobbly eyes that he pasted onto cardboard, "we have to watch the trap, don't we?" he maintained. L and his mate at after-school care were building reconnaissance planes that would spy on all the kids and relate to them who was breaking the rules, which they would then impart to the teachers. M, on hearing this explanation, scoffed. His motto is not to get others in trouble. That certainly has its merits, but then again, M likes to take his battles into his own hands, and at times, quite literally. If he breaks the rules in class and is asked what occurred, he retorts, "I don't remember", straight from the playbook. Before he settled for months past on being an engineer and a musician (why not?), M went through a period when he would proudly tell all and sundry that he wanted to be a “trickster” when he grew up. Whether he meant a comedian or the architect of an MLM scheme was never entirely clarified. 

M can be wily. When I noticed he was scoffing at people and calling them "idiots", we had a BIG TALK. He seemed to understand. Next, I heard him calling people "iddies". We again had a BIG TALK. He seemed to understand. Presently, I heard him call people "iddy biddy spiders" (evidently utilized in a pejorative manner). We again had a BIG TALK. He seemed to understand. I realized we weren't getting anywhere. I had to try another way. "What's 12 multiplied by 13?" I asked. M looked flummoxed. "I don't know" he finally responded. "156" I said. "Now, if I called you an iddy biddy spider, how would you feel?" He was crestfallen and didn't need to audibly respond. "That's how other people feel when you remark on their supposed ineptitude. And you're only 5, you haven't been taught multiples of 12 yet. Not knowing something does not mean you are not smart." I also told him I didn't even know all the multiples of 12, I just added 12 to its square. "We are always learning new things in life" I informed M, "and if you've had the opportunity to learn something before someone else, impart it. Knowledge is to be shared." M loves to help, so framing instruction in terms of him aiding someone has thus far worked a charm. 

If L is upset, he withdraws and is sad. If M is upset, he is enraged. I noted that M likes to perceive himself as strong and that perhaps his initial response is a defense mechanism. I imparted some advice to him (couching it in generality) that when people get angry, we try to hide our sadness to shield ourselves from vulnerability and in an effort to project strength. I told him that exposing our vulnerabilities takes courage and strength and he seemed to respond to that by going up to his brother and explaining how he felt L was not listening to him during their game. 

M has a real knack for how things work and is intensely interested in the mechanics of any mechanism. He has already developed an understanding of how things work that is sometimes more advanced than mine (which I suppose says as much about his talent as my lack of it). The other day, we were sitting at lunch and heard a noise. "What's that?" M asked, directing his attention to the fridge. Before anyone in the family could respond, M proudly proclaimed, "it's the fridge making ice". 

M is continually crafting songs. While has some trouble focusing, any thing that relates to art, music or engineering engrosses him. The boys love to jam, with M mostly directing the composition of their songs. "I know how to build, yeah yeah, I know where to place the piece" M sang after a long Lego session. He can compose songs and play on the keyboard for hours. If he likes a particular song, he loves to play air guitar to it. 

L has an obsessive tick to his personality. He fell in love with marine biology and orcas in particular, when he was three, and it has stuck. Last year, he found out about the Titanic and its demise into the depths of the sea and that is all we heard about for months. L can inform you of the eleven things that went wrong that ensured its demise. He has spent numerous hours concocting alternate scenarios in which the Titanic safely reaches New York ( in one fantasy, a pod of orcas come to the rescue). He is extremely fond of James Cameron and has watched Cameron's documentary on the shipwreck an indecent amount of times. For Halloween, he was the Titanic and I was cajoled into being the fateful iceberg. M was a skeleton for the second year in a row. "It's educational" he proclaimed. "I'm teaching everyone about anatomy" he retorted, as if he were a 3D infographic. 

When we all fell ill in December (with what seems like more than half the world in company), M and L became acutely interested in anatomy and in the immune system in particular. L read numerous books on anatomy (L loves to take books to his bed and spend hours voraciously digesting book after book). M started calling leukocytes "jail cells". During a particular febrile episode, his diaphanous eyes droopy, M stammered through coughs, "why do white blood cells eat 3 viruses a day?" I shrugged. "Breakfast, lunch and dinner" M smiled and then soon fell asleep. 

The boys learnt how to ski this winter. M took to it like a pro. He sped down as fast as possible so he could show his command of the hockey stop. L kept falling at first, but was a true champ at getting back up again. By the end, they were both hooked on skiiing and were imagining SF covered in snow and discussing where the best places were to ski. Perhaps we will see snow in SF in some years. Historically, it's snowed every 50 years and we're due for another but we missed this season (although the Bay Area got snow). 

You never know with life. You could get fire, snow or just a breeze. I meant that figuratively but typing it out, we live in a mercurial climate in which the frequency and intensity of stochastic events are the new norm. The sky is not always blue and the sun doesn't always rise ( or rather, you cannot see it do so). Perhaps there's a bug in the code. M declared his acceptance of the simulation theory. "Mama, maybe we're all in a computer game and black holes are when your game is shut down". Maybe.