Saturday, September 29, 2007

language: the end of an era

“Hey, baby boy, whatcha doing?”

“Me not baby.”

“Oh, that’s right. You’re bo.”


It doesn’t so much tear at my heart that he doesn’t want to be called a baby anymore, but, forever and ever, like almost half of Isaac’s life, before all the other words he can say now started popping out of his mouth like fake snakes from a can, “Big” has been “Bo.”

It has even taken on the status of family language – you know, those weird distortions that are only understandable to an intimate group of people. Mike and I had begun routinely saying things to each other like in serving pizza - “I want the bo piece.” Or in throwing away a poopy diaper - “Bo poop!”

It’s the end of an era. It’s the end of bo.

If you don’t hear from me after this for about a week, it’s because we’re headed to Vancouver (although, I think I’m bringing my laptop so we’ll see.). Isaac asked me where we were going on our trip. And then on receiving the answer he tried out his favorite new construction replying with, “Me like Van-oo-er.”

Usually the efforts to be a big boy and the parrot repetition that has grown exponentially in the last months are amusing and endearing – e.g. exhibit A above, and e.g., below:

Isaac and Mike are in the bedroom getting Mr Iz dressed.

“Can you take off that shirt yourself?”


“You almost got it.”


“Keep going… You did it! You’re a regular Houdini.”


“Yeah, he was a guy who could get out of lots of shirts,” says Mike.

But there are times when it just isn’t cool:

We are driving in the car with the radio on NPR, as usual, when the news comes on to report, as usual, a suicide bombing. “The Taliban took credit for the incident,” the news anchor says. “Tal-bon!” my two-year-old calls from the back seat. Mike and I exchange a glance before I quickly punch the button for the bad 80s compilation CD. Somehow, I’d rather end up hearing “Me like Jesse’s Girl!” more than some other possibilities.

It’s the end of an era. It’s the end of oblivion.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

controlling the environment

We live in a world where meteorologists apologize for weather that does not comply with expectations or weekend agendas.

Whenever possible, if our environment doesn’t suit us, we change it. We play sports under domes - the rain delay only a fond memory, killed off is its spontaneous song and dance put on by soaking wet idiots in the nosebleed section. We burn holes in the ozone with big, climate-controlled SUVs. We cut down trees that block our view and build dams to divert water from where we want to live. We hose the shit out of what should be desert until it snaps to at our heels, growing a lackluster shade of green.

Luckily for me, as a renter, I get to enjoy old-fashioned helplessness when it comes to my surrounding environment. Once upon a time we lived as renters in a condo complex where we were actively disregarded and left uninformed. We never quite knew what we’d wake up to – chainsaws in the live oaks, power washing on our patio. Finally, when the condo association entered our patio to rip out a young acacia tree that had happily started up on its own outside my kitchen window, all bets were off.

We had friends around the corner having some work done on their house and the craftsman just happened to leave his sledgehammer there for the night. Mike smashed up one of the squares of cement on our patio to make way for a 3’ x 3’ water garden. While the sledge hammering was in progress, a neighbor passed by. “What are you doing?” he asked Mike. “Gardening,” said my husband, resting the sledgehammer on his shoulder and wiping his forehead. We carried the crooked pieces of concrete to the dumpster after dark.

But even when we are gentle in our campaigns to mold our environment to our liking, things can get ugly. This summer, my garden was the site of The Great Aphid Festival. Aphids moved in with their tiny little aphid suitcases, greeting long lost cousins with relish, hosting aphid raves, where they would swing from vines, trees, flowering buds, make out on the underside of leaves, and generally go wild. (I think I might have spotted teeny-tiny little glow sticks, but it could have just been the slant of the sun.)

And where there are aphids, there are ants – big bully bouncer ants standing at the doors of the biggest raves with their arms crossed over their tee shirts that read “Security” across the back. Some of you may know about this symbiotic relationship – the aphid generates a substance called “honeydew” that the ants dig. Apparently, if you’re an ant, this stuff is so way yummy that you actually protect aphid eggs to ensure their buddies and future generations will stick around. And it goes on from there…

Like a good organic gardener, I went out and bought ladybugs to spread around that would hopefully dine on the partying aphids. I decided to put them in the garden while Isaac wasn’t around still concerned as I was about creating the kind of scene I witnessed when Isaac was around a year old… (I need a “Wayne’s World” flashback sequence sound here.)

We were with friends at a local organic farm for an Earth Day celebration that included food, entertainment, a train for the kids to ride on, and a woman dressed as a giant ladybug who was supposed to take the kids out into the field to release real live bugs.

So, the key phrase here is “out in the fields.” You, see, the giant ladybug didn’t really go out into the fields, but rather stood on the edge of the field. Four- and five-year-olds swam at her feet as more and more real ladybugs crawled out of her bag, onto the ground and the people there for the spectacle. It was a tickly, joyous atmosphere until, lo and behold, the train came around again and everyone who could stepped out of the way.

You’ve probably guessed what came next – Yup. Sobbing preschoolers fretting at the wheels of the mini-train, beside themselves, crying, “You’re killing them! You’re killing them!”

(Return from flashback.)

Not wanting any unforeseen massacre to jar Isaac, I went it alone – just me and the bugs.

Everything was smooth, I thought. I went out into the garden a couple hours later to check on them and found them here and there, though their numbers seemed a little thin. Then I noticed an ant who seemed to have hold of one of the ladybug’s legs. Odd. Then I noticed several ants who, if I didn’t know any better, seemed to be ganging up on a ladybug, like, kind of, attacking it. By the evening, I could only find a couple of my spotted friends hunkered down in the crook of a calla lily leaf.

A little research confirmed my fears. Ants actually protect aphids from predators, organizing to fight them off. (“You’re killing them! You’re killing them!”)

I guess we aren’t the only ones that manipulate our surroundings to suit us better.

I have stopped killing bugs since Isaac was born, fixated as I am on teaching him to respect all life. I have even stopped hurling snails into the street, which if you know me at all, is huge. (Isaac likes to transport them in his bulldozer to the shabby patch of vegetation in the island of our street, from where, he believes, they “go home to mama.”) But these freaking ants are testing me – invading our pantry, swarming whenever I water – carrying their eggs frantically to higher ground, coming in with garden bouquets to jog across the coffee table, and – for godssake – killing my ladybugs?? while the aphids party hard.

And after the domes can help us no more, and the dams kill off the river life, and the SUVs kill off the ozone layer, you thought it was going to be the cockroach that survived.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

party games

So, Isaac went to a real live kid party the other weekend. With games and cake and favor bags.

Alright, I confess: This is actually his second. Mike took him to one while I was out of town this spring, but that one doesn’t count, since I wasn’t there. This time I got a chance to have a complete panic attack in the middle of it while talking to a couple I don’t know very well about where they got their daughter’s little backpack – you know, world changing stuff – and suddenly needed to leave immediately as I realized, the energy level rising, the backpack talk coming into focus, a four-year-old racing a dump truck by my feet at mach speed, that I was the adult at a kid party.

So, as I was saying, I went to a real live kid party the other weekend.

The first game was pin the balloon on the fire truck (?) Isaac did not participate.

The second game was throw the water balloon at the drawing of the house on fire. Isaac was slow to participate, but managed to get to throw one balloon before the other kids trashed the rest of the bucket. (“Where more?”)

The third and final game was the fire truck piñata. Isaac held back until all the other children had two turns each. Then, without warning, he swooped in on the action claiming his turn and hammering on this piñata like a star student of anger management class (And then, mama wouldn’t let me have ice cream. (Wham!) And then, daddy told me to come inside. (Whack!)) He so far outstripped the feeble attempts of the other children that parents started turning to look at Mike and I, while I slunk backwards through the crowd pretending to be interested in a toy helicopter.

And then came the logical conclusion to all this whacking…Welcome to California: where the blonde-haired, blue-eyed kid smacks the hell out the piñata and runs back to his mama with pride gleaming in his eye and an organic fruit leather clutched in his sweaty little fist.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

can’t argue with that

I’ve always felt that logic was way overrated.

You’d think, then, that living with a two-year-old would be easier for me than it is. We aren’t anywhere near logic, being some four years away from the “age of reason” as they tend to call it. Isaac is safely immersed in imagination – his own. We don’t watch TV; he’s never seen anything produced by Disney.

So what do I do when Logic shows up with its pesky tentacles reaching, getting all up in Imagination’s face and has the nerve to wrangle with Safety, that prim little witch with a permanent scowl?


Isaac is dropping pebbles from the yard from as high as he can reach. “Rain! Rain, Mama! Come down! Weeeeeee!” Handful after handful spatter the driveway in a musical twinkle, the energy with which they are thrown growing.

“Isaac, you have to be careful with those. You can’t throw those. You shouldn’t land them on your head. They could hurt you or they could get in your eye, or they could get in Mama’s eye.”

He frowns. “Mama, not rocks. Rain. RAIN. Get WET, not hurt.”


Isaac is playing train. He asks me to be the car behind him. We choo-choo around the front yard until he approaches the end of our walkway and announces,

“Go in weet.”

“We can’t go in the street, Iz. We don’t go in the street, you know that.”

“Me TRAIN. Train go in weet!”

Sometimes I get scared that it’ll be my kid with the pillow case tied around his neck jumping from the roof, invincible.

Monday, September 10, 2007

the signs were all there...

Halloween 2005.
(see entry below regarding vocational directions)

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Isaac’s career paths – part III

Here we go again. More possible vocational directions for Isaac.

- Deep sea explorer. (The daily mantra: “Mama, Mama, me sea lion. Me go down deep. Wawa right dere! Me have f’ippers. Splash!!!”)

- Songwriter. (Commonly heard at our house: “Brannew song. Um, ‘Starwish.’ Come see? (starts to sing) Starwish, starwish, starwish. La la la. Starwish. All done. Otay. Brannew song: ‘Wain.’ (sings) Wain. Wain. Dome down. Turn aroun’. Rain.” etc.)

- choreographer for “So You Think You Can Dance.” (“Mama, jump up n down? Watch.” “That’s great, Isaac.” “Mama?” “You want Mama to jump up and down?” “Yeah.” (I jump.) “No. Like dis.” (repeats his jump) “I think I did do it like that, Isaac.” “Mama, dant?” “You don’t like the way I jump, but you want me to dance?” (takes off into a dance not unlike Elaine on that “Seinfeld” episode) “Mama do?” (I attempt to mimic him) “No! Like dis.” “I give up, Isaac.” “Like dis.” (dances in circles, down the hall and throws himself on the floor of his room).

- Finally, I’d like to replace my previous suggested occupation of underwater cave dweller. I wasn’t really tuning in to my son’s tendencies when I said that. But now, after observing him repeat each morning, “Mama, the sun is out!” like some kind of accusation while crossing his arms over his eyes and retreating like he’s been actually struck by a fireball, I’d like to enter the option of vampire for my son’s future job.

save the children

from this world of quick fixes and dubious charity.

I’m in the vitamin store hunting down powdered colostrum for Isaac, which we’ve given him as an immune booster ever since the only two ear infections he got (within two months of each other) and seems to be working.

The saleswoman bustling around in a would-be efficient manner accosts me with the week’s sales flyer – a glossy thing printed, I’m sure, in the millions. I reject it. She’s confused, momentarily thrown off balance, until she recovers and says to me, like she’ll say to the next 250 customers that walk through the door, “Let me know if I can help with anything.”

I then proceed to stand waiting at the check out counter while she flits like a garden bug around her shelves of sealed white caps.

Ultimately, she does see me and propels herself toward the cash register. I’ve take vague notice of the green circles taped to the counter denoting “Vitamin Angels” when she asks if I’d like to donate a dollar to their cause. “Not today,” I tell her.

“Well,” she counters, “one dollar will save the eyesight of four children in developing countries. Something you might want to keep in mind for the future.” She reaches for a bag for my palm-sized, self-contained purchase.

“I don’t need a bag, thanks,” I hurry to get in. Then, mumbling into my inexplicably long receipt, add, “One fewer bag can save the world unknown amounts of fossil fuel. Something you might want to keep in mind for the future.”

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