Friday, November 30, 2007

Updates from dad

Since I missed my train tonight I have a few moments at work to catch up on my blogging. It's been such an adventure with two kids. things of note...

- when s turned 1 year old earlier this month I took the opportunity to test where her heart lies. It's a Chinese tradition to place several objects in front of a 1 year old and see what they gravitate towards. So we had s sit on the living room floor and I simultaneously revealed to her four objects. The objects included a plastic pen from Commerce Bank, a solar powered Casio scientific calculator from my high school days, a chinese red envelope with a $20 bill sticking out of it and a Hello Kitty note pad. After being distracted a bit with her nearby toys she finally focused on the objects and chose... the pen.

When her mom returned later that evening I recounted the trial and we proceeded to test here again. And sure enough she went for the pen again. Well actually she went for almost all the things individually this time but the pen held onto her attention the longest this time. So I'm declaring the pen the winner again. I'm not sure what that means exactly. Maybe she'll be bookish one day.

As a side note, my mother told me when I was tested at one years old I grabbed everything in front of me simultaneously. I'd like to think that it means I embrace all things in life...or maybe I'm just greedy.

- Since I've been working nights for the last year I've had the extreme joy of bringing g to the Little Gym weekly. For a while we attended a parent/child gym class. She really enjoyed my company running around with her. Then since she was getting older in September we decided to put her into a kid's class only of tap and ballet. Although I don't join her in the class she still clearly can see me outside the door or behind the big piece of glass. Well the last two and a half months have been difficult. G has never really warmed up to any of the other girls in the class nor the teacher. It's odd though since when she gets home all she does it talk about ballet and shows us her dance moves. It got to the point that last week I was already contemplating yanking her out of the class. It has become increasingly frustrating for me to watch her either stand by the doorway disinterested in the class or even throw a tantrum if I should walk more than 3 steps away from the door. But miraculously something in her brain clicked this Monday.

November 26th, 2007 - I had my usual pep talk with g at home before class where I encouraged her once again to pay attention and try to dance. Before we left for class I applied a bit of her new grape flavored chapstick to her lips. She seemed really happy about her new chapstick so I let her put it in her coat pocket and take it with us to the little gym. Once at the little gym I had a talk again with g and told her I wanted her to have fun today. As soon as class began, g went in willingly and started to do the dance exercises by the doorway. I saw that as a sign of improvement. Standing by the doorway myself I told her to get closer to the teacher and other girls...and she did. She spent the rest of the class at the front of the classroom holding onto the hands of the other little girls and dancing her heart out. She was talkative and engaged in everything. She became the crowd motivator and egged the other girls to dance when energy levels seemed down. Every so often she would run to the door where I was standing and tell me "See daddy, I'm not crying anymore." I was so proud of her that day. Little Gym comes around on Monday again. I hope she still has that same enthusiasm. But as an insurance policy I will bring the chapstick again.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

New Project - Scrapbook

I thought that creating a scrapbook for Gmom will make a nice Christmas/Holiday gift.

It is a work in progress but I have a third of my sketches done.

These are the pics I am using. Not all of them are winners. Some months, despite the preponderance of shots, there is a shortage of winners.

Amazing memory

I am amazed at g's memory. However, she seems to have a memory for odd bits of information that will not win her a scholarship on teen jeopardy.

Last night, she brought out our swiffer and was "cleaning". As she was cleaning, she said to G, "j's daddy has a swiffer too and it is purple." Mind you, we visited j and e at their home months ago when baby j was just a few weeks old. I didn't even remember that j was cleaning when we arrived. So G emailed j to confirm whether or not they had a purple swiffer and indeed they did.


g says the darnest things (part 2)

This happened last week but it was so funny.

Picture this:
Gmom, g and I were seated on the couch (in that order).

Gmom was telling g something. I have a working knowledge of some short Cantonese phrases but what they were talking about was beyond my meager comprehension. Gmom went on for quite a bit. g was looking at her and listening intently (or so I thought).

At a pause in Gmom's conversation, g turned to me and said, "what she talking about?"

Once again, hilarity ensues.

g says the darnest things (part 1)

I have a feeling that this is going to be a series.

Picture this: G had ordered some new bathing suits for Gmom. We are at the kitchen as G opens the packaging to check the items out. They were a little loud (in my opinion) but I kept quiet.

g says, "Papa, is that for the floor or for the bed?"

hilarity ensues....well, it took me a while to stop laughing as g looked at me, puzzled.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A thought on Thanksgiving

As everyone seems to be gearing up for the upcoming turkey day, I can't help but feel a little lost. I have much to be thankful for and I am profoundly grateful for it all.

The holidays seems to always be a rough one for theFamilyC because of conflicting expectations. Back home, we celebrated almost everything. When my brothers and I were younger, we celebrated Christmas, New year's, Chinese New year and birthdays (there were a lot of birthdays). Well, our version of a celebration really meant that we had a home cooked special meal or we went out to lunch or dinner as a family. Those were the times when we were allowed to have soda (or soft drinks). G's family is quite the opposite. They seem to celebrate nothing. I understand not celebrating the Hallmark holidays (ie made up ones like valentine's) or holidays that were more "american" like Thanksgiving. However they don't celebrate anything. After the death of G's grandfather, I can only remember once when most of the members of his small extended family gathered together. Even then, they gathered in shifts while we were at dimsum. The whole family was never together all at once. That seems really sad to me.

Aside from a tradition of celebrating, I like marking these holidays because it forces me to pause, to break from the rhythm of my usual days and acknowledge the people around me. A case can be made that this is something that should be done at all times but it is nice to have these days as reminders. More importantly, I think celebrating as a family reinforces a sense of family, a sense of belonging to a tribe.

I have my own selfish reasons for wanting to celebrate (I personally love the "feeling".) However I want to instill in my kids the same sense of excitement and more importantly, the same sense of family, a family that is beyond the nuclear one that they are exposed to daily). This is one lesson I will have a lot of fun teaching.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The original Sesame Street carries a warning label....HUH???

Apparently the old Sesame seems too "off" for today's kids. Hmmmm.....what does that say about me?

From New York Times' columnist, Virginia Heffernan:

Sunny days! The earliest episodes of “Sesame Street” are available on digital video! Break out some Keebler products, fire up the DVD player and prepare for the exquisite pleasure-pain of top-shelf nostalgia.

Just don’t bring the children. According to an earnest warning on Volumes 1 and 2, “Sesame Street: Old School” is adults-only: “These early ‘Sesame Street’ episodes are intended for grown-ups, and may not suit the needs of today’s preschool child.”

Say what? At a recent all-ages home screening, a hush fell over the room. “What did they do to us?” asked one Gen-X mother of two, finally. The show rolled, and the sweet trauma came flooding back. What they did to us was hard-core. Man, was that scene rough. The masonry on the dingy brownstone at 123 Sesame Street, where the closeted Ernie and Bert shared a dismal basement apartment, was deteriorating. Cookie Monster was on a fast track to diabetes. Oscar’s depression was untreated. Prozacky Elmo didn’t exist.

Nothing in the children’s entertainment of today, candy-colored animation hopped up on computer tricks, can prepare young or old for this frightening glimpse of simpler times. Back then — as on the very first episode, which aired on PBS Nov. 10, 1969 — a pretty, lonely girl like Sally might find herself befriended by an older male stranger who held her hand and took her home. Granted, Gordon just wanted Sally to meet his wife and have some milk and cookies, but . . . well, he could have wanted anything. As it was, he fed her milk and cookies. The milk looks dangerously whole.

Live-action cows also charge the 1969 screen — cows eating common grass, not grain improved with hormones. Cows are milked by plain old farmers, who use their unsanitary hands and fill one bucket at a time. Elsewhere, two brothers risk concussion while whaling on each other with allergenic feather pillows. Overweight layabouts, lacking touch-screen iPods and headphones, jockey for airtime with their deafening transistor radios. And one of those radios plays a late-’60s news report — something about a “senior American official” and “two billion in credit over the next five years” — that conjures a bleak economic climate, with war debt and stagflation in the offing.

The old “Sesame Street” is not for the faint of heart, and certainly not for softies born since 1998, when the chipper “Elmo’s World” started. Anyone who considers bull markets normal, extracurricular activities sacrosanct and New York a tidy, governable place — well, the original “Sesame Street” might hurt your feelings.

I asked Carol-Lynn Parente, the executive producer of “Sesame Street,” how exactly the first episodes were unsuitable for toddlers in 2007. She told me about Alistair Cookie and the parody “Monsterpiece Theater.” Alistair Cookie, played by Cookie Monster, used to appear with a pipe, which he later gobbled. According to Parente, “That modeled the wrong behavior” — smoking, eating pipes — “so we reshot those scenes without the pipe, and then we dropped the parody altogether.”

Which brought Parente to a feature of “Sesame Street” that had not been reconstructed: the chronically mood-disordered Oscar the Grouch. On the first episode, Oscar seems irredeemably miserable — hypersensitive, sarcastic, misanthropic. (Bert, too, is described as grouchy; none of the characters, in fact, is especially sunshiney except maybe Ernie, who also seems slow.) “We might not be able to create a character like Oscar now,” she said.

Snuffleupagus is visible only to Big Bird; since 1985, all the characters can see him, as Big Bird’s old protestations that he was not hallucinating came to seem a little creepy, not to mention somewhat strained. As for Cookie Monster, he can be seen in the old-school episodes in his former inglorious incarnation: a blue, googly-eyed cookievore with a signature gobble (“om nom nom nom”). Originally designed by Jim Henson for use in commercials for General Foods International and Frito-Lay, Cookie Monster was never a righteous figure. His controversial conversion to a more diverse diet wouldn’t come until 2005, and in the early seasons he comes across a Child’s First Addict.

The biggest surprise of the early episodes is the rural — agrarian, even — sequences. Episode 1 spends a stoned time warp in the company of backlighted cows, while they mill around and chew cud. This pastoral scene rolls to an industrial voiceover explaining dairy farms, and the sleepy chords of Joe Raposo’s aimless masterpiece, “Hey Cow, I See You Now.” Chewing the grass so green/Making the milk/Waiting for milking time/Waiting for giving time/Mmmmm.

Oh, what’s that? Right, the trance of early “Sesame Street” and its country-time sequences. In spite of the show’s devotion to its “target child,” the “4-year-old inner-city black youngster” (as The New York Times explained in 1979), the first episodes join kids cavorting in amber waves of grain — black children, mostly, who must be pressed into service as the face of America’s farms uniquely on “Sesame Street.”

In East Harlem and Bedford-Stuyvesant in 1978, 95 percent of households with kids ages 2 to 5 watched “Sesame Street.” The figure was even higher in Washington. Nationwide, though, the number wasn’t much lower, and was largely determined by the whims of the PBS affiliates: 80 percent in houses with young children. The so-called inner city became anywhere that “Sesame Street” played, because the Children’s Television Workshop declared the inner city not a grim sociological reality but a full-color fantasy — an eccentric scene, framed by a box and far removed from real farmland and city streets alike.

The concept of the “inner city” — or “slums,” as The Times bluntly put it in its first review of “Sesame Street” — was therefore transformed into a kind of Xanadu on the show: a bright, no-clouds, clear-air place where people bopped around with monsters and didn’t worry too much about money, cleanliness or projecting false cheer. The Upper West Side, hardly a burned-out ghetto, was said to be the model.

People on “Sesame Street” had limited possibilities and fixed identities, and (the best part) you weren’t expected to change much. The harshness of existence was a given, and no one was proposing that numbers and letters would lead you “out” of your inner city to Elysian suburbs. Instead, “Sesame Street” suggested that learning might merely make our days more bearable, more interesting, funnier. It encouraged us, above all, to be nice to our neighbors and to cultivate the safer pleasures that take the edge off — taking baths, eating cookies, reading. Don’t tell the kids.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Monster virus

TheFamilyC was struck. Well, at least the female branches of our little tree. It started with vomit, little s' to be exact. It was a hectic saturday. I had double-booked ourselves (many apologies for running out) and we went from party to party. After the first party at p and d's house, we had driven barely out of Q when s threw up. Now those of you who know little s know that she is pt no pot stranger to vomit. Tiny thing seems to specialize in it. So we thought that maybe her seat belt was on too tight. Maybe the avocados didn't agree with her although she couldn't stop eating them.

So we proceeded to party #2. She wasn't very happy but I thought that no one would be happy after losing his lunch like that. The next day she had another episode at lunch which I thought AGAIN that probably she just choked on a pumelo. She threw up the next meal again and this time she was becoming really warm. She was burning a 102.8 fever. Upon ped advice, we gave her tylenol which lowered the fever but only until the next dose was due. Sometime that night I started to feel queasy and proceeded to lose my dinner. So I fell sick Monday. On Tuesday, g said that she felt sick and promptly threw up on the kitchen floor. When she woke from her nap that day, she was 103.5. Against my own instinct, I took off all her clothes and dunked her into a lukewarm bath. That and a dose of tylenol, she was well within the day. I got well within the day too with lingering queasiness.

Poor s had it the worst. She had a fever teetering on 102 almost daily for a week. She barely ate although she must have been hungry. She would try to drink milk but would throw up each time. We did a load of laundry almost daily. It was so hard to see her that way since she could not afford to lose any more.

The fever finally abated after a spike of 103.8 in the middle of the night Thursday. At 2:00 AM, I was alone (G had gone to work and Gmom was also stricken by the puking virus) and s was burning up. I thought that she was going to go into convulsions. I took off all her clothes and dunked her into a lukewarm bath. She cried for the first few minutes and afterwards she settled down and began to enjoy it. She was intrigued by the liquid nature of water. She couldn't understand why she couldn't grasp the stream of water with her hand. She kept trying.

That broke the fever. Either that or the 4 days of tylenol. She has been fever free for the last 3 days and is beginning to eat again. We have to rebuild her appetite but at least I know that she is able to keep everything in.

This was an almost surreal experience with all of us being sick at the same time. An experience that is best recalled than relived.

to school or not to school

This is not a homeschooling issue although the thought has crossed my mind. Since g was born a few weeks after the pre-k cutoff for our fair city, she is not eligible to go to public pre-k. However we can pay for this out of pocket.

A compelling argument has been building for weeks and months largely surrounding g's slow-to-warm personality. G has shaped up naturally as a pretty shy child. Believe me that because of my own shyness, i tried my best to encourage her to be anything but reticent. However nature won against nurture and I have a child now who slinks behind her daddy whenever she is faced with new people. New people encompasses just about everybody that she doesn't see weekly. This includes other kids she herself calls her "friends".

This brings me to the question at hand. I had thought that maybe taking her to school would not be a bad idea. Yes, it will be like paying for a luxury SUV, but can I really put a price on her growth? My hope for school is that she will learn to be with other kids, learn to play with other kids and learn to deal with other adults giving her direction. Socialization is one aspect of her life that I cannot give more attention to. We do playdates but not regularly. She does a dance class but spends most of that attached to her dad so it almost doesn't count. It has come to this.

The opposing argument though is whether or not there is a need to rush. Can this socialization wait till next year? Will she miss anything by not having any peers at this point?

I am wholly undecided. I have expended a little effort to schedule some appointments but because I am still on the fence, I spend more time wondering than following up on forms that I need to fill out.

What do you think?