Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Under house arrest

I always thought Kyle would be a bit older before we bought a video game system. But there it is, sitting under our TV tonight, preparing to be used again. Kyle, though, has not yet touched it, and I'm happy about that because I'm not yet ready to see it smeared with remnants of his sandwich. The video game system belongs to the parents, a sudden purchase in hopes of avoiding a crisis. You see, right now Jennifer and I are entering difficult times, especially in the Kyle era. We have reached the beginning of the "Nothing On" season.

As television owners know (and I'm sure there are some of you out there), this past week was "finale" week. Each day, Jennifer and I just sat there helplessly and watched this tragedy unfold, as one favorite show after another came to its season's conclusion. Two of these shows, Lost and 24, have ended for good. Now, for a lot of people, this is no big deal. After all, it's just TV. Some people might even recommend that we use this opportunity to read more books, learn a language or do something constructive, like figuring out how to brew beer. But all of those activities require using the mind, which is something I simply am not willing to do after Kyle goes to bed. Listening to frequent whines and saying phrases like "Yes, Kyle, that's a tree" over and over and over again tends to turn the brain to mush by mid-afternoon, and I'm just coasting from there.

Those with sharper minds might use a TV-less night as an opportunity to go out, especially during the summer. Sadly, leaving is not an option for us, as the range on our baby monitor does not even reach the bar down the street. We just have to deal with one of those side effects of being a parent who has yet to find a good babysitter. Once we kiss Kyle goodnight and leave him wrestling his blanket in peace, we close the door and become trapped here.

So that's perhaps why I'm a little enthusiastic about our new Nintendo Wii. We were inspired to get one last month during our visit to Florida. Jennifer's aunt and uncle had one, and by using it I learned that I am, in fact, a very good golfer, despite what reality has told me. We got to thinking that this could be a way to have some fun during the "Nothing On" season, and it might help us break away from simply watching TV every night. It was much better than our alternative, which involved inhaling a lot of helium and singing "Hey Jude." So, with a few gift cards, we bought one. Since then I have learned that I can fly a plane, bowl well above 100, and win a sword fight. I still need to work on my ping-pong, though.

Perhaps, then, this is "Mission Accomplished!" and crisis averted. We'll see how the summer goes, and whether we start going crazy or fighting each other after a vicious game of canoeing. So far, though, everything is promising. If we cannot go outside, at least now we can pretend to go. Plus, it's a bit fun to revisit a little bit of our childhood... and not just because of all the juvenile jokes you can make using the word "Wii," though I must admit they still crack me up. Besides the computer, the last video game system I owned was a Gameboy, and that came out 21 years ago. It's about time we got a new one. The Wii is *slightly* more advanced than the Gameboy, but it still makes me feel like a kid at a time when a lot of things make me feel old. Playing with my Wii (hahahaha) definitely should make a fun and youthful summer... at least until I throw out my back.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Balloon boy

Yesterday was rainy and cold, the kind of day that's perfect for slamming your head against the wall, which is what you'd do if you couldn't find a way to escape staying inside with a hyper child. That's why I decided to take Kyle to the sing-a-long happening at a cafe about a block from our home. Of course, nearly everyone in the neighborhood had the same idea, so it was packed inside. A man with a guitar and a woman with a puppet sat on a couple seats in the corner, leading the sing-along. They were pretty good, but the crowd's own singing was a bit muffled because it's hard to carry a tune when you have someone else's elbow in your mouth.

The event was a nice little distraction for us, up until the last song. Kyle had just scored himself a chair and was planning to watch the remaining act from there, perhaps with a cup of espresso and a crumpet. But then, out of the blue, a one-year-old girl who was standing on the adjacent chair tumbled onto Kyle! She immediately started crying. I looked down at Kyle and saw his face crumpling, his eyes squinting, and his lower lip growing. Then came the wail. I grabbed my son, and the girl's father grabbed her. We both tried desperately to console our screaming children, rocking them and trying to distract them by pointing to objects or funny-looking people in the cafe. Through it all, we looked helpless as the wails drowned out a happy song about fish and bubbles. We did not exactly disprove our gender's reputation for not knowing how to handle children. But just as my son's face turned a deeper purple, he noticed something that instantly changed his mood: a balloon! A bunch of balloons, in fact. Red ones, hovering at the ceiling! Kyle smiled and grabbed one of the balloon strings. He was euphoric.

For the rest of the day Kyle held tight to that balloon, up until the evening, when the string had to be surgically removed from his fist. He did not want to let go of his new best friend. He held onto it as he played with other toys. He held onto it as he colored our apartment with his crayons. He even held onto it through lunch, since nothing goes better with grilled cheese than the sweet taste of latex.

Kyle's new best friend had, in fact, replaced a recently-deflated balloon he received at a local street fair on Sunday. Kyle loved that balloon incredibly. Sure, he enjoyed the fair with all its street vendors, music performances, puppet shows, and five - that's right five - bouncy rooms. But all the lights, noise, and bounciness still left Kyle rather unfulfilled. Instead he, like many kids his age, was attracted to a small fold-out table covered with several coupon books and a small sign touting the 7-Eleven chain. There were no frills, but there didn't need to be. 7-Eleven was giving out free balloons, and that's all that mattered. Kyle's face beamed as soon as he received one, and after that he gladly walked around with his floating advertisement for 7-Eleven stores. 7-Eleven knew exactly what it was doing by giving out free balloons to future patrons. Because of this clever marketing ploy, there's little doubt that Kyle will be drinking Slurpees and eating beef jerky by the time he turns five. Maybe if all these health-nut groups had their act together and took a few tips from 7-Eleven, they'd give out free balloons instead of the usual kumquats. Now there's a cure for our obesity problem.

Meanwhile, as I continue my brave march towards delirium (thanks to my child), I am actually starting to view balloons as valuable objects, just like Kyle does. I've been surprised more than once to find that people are actually giving these things away. People at the fair and the coffee shop must have been taken aback by how startled I looked when they told me I didn't have to pay anything or sign up for a credit card to get the balloon. I think they could have charged me up to 20 bucks and gotten away with it. Heck, I'd probably pay even more just to get that reaction from Kyle.

I'm glad, though, that balloons are insanely cheap. You can be sure I'll be getting lots of them for his birthday next month... so many that we might lose our dining room in the process. Believe me, it'll be worth it.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Cold blast

I did not get a full night's sleep last night. I'm not surprised, though. Full-night sleeps are hard to come by in the city. Loud patrons leaving the nearby restaurant at 2 a.m. have woken us up before. So have sirens, garbage trucks, and drunk Polish soccer fans. I once awoke to the sound of a man slamming his car into the iron fence in front of our 3-story building. I looked out the window, saw that everyone was okay, yawned and went back to bed. These things happen.

Recently, Kyle has been to blame for many of my restless nights. In his first few months, keeping us up was one of his favorite pastimes, along with finding creative ways to dirty the curtains near his changing table. We knew we were in trouble when he cried throughout his first night home from the hospital. We almost brought him back the next day, but then Jennifer reminded me that he was worth keeping because he'll be able to accomplish a lot of chores for us in about ten years. In recent months he has slept much better, but other factors related to him tend to keep me up. For example, I can barely sleep a wink when I know he has a fever, even if he's not making a sound. I also have trouble sleeping whenever I fear Kyle might be taken away in the night by pint-sized circus clowns, but this only seems to happen whenever I eat Chinese food close to midnight. Last night, though, I was simply concerned that our son was going to be too cold.

In case you haven't heard, New York is caught in the middle of a violent fight between summer and winter, with spring deciding to sit it out this year. Last week, New Yorkers could walk down the street wearing nothing but a thong, but this week only the visiting Eskimos are doing that. The sudden burst of cold air outside has been cooling down our apartment since Saturday. Our heat, which we do not control, had not been running because, as I've screamed at Mother Nature, IT'S MAY!

(Above: Kyle, seen here stealing my slippers, wears a heavy sweatshirt inside the apartment, just three weeks before the unofficial start of summer)

The nights have been awfully chilly, as was last night, when I woke up to a groan from Kyle, amplified over our baby monitor. I realized he might be a little uncomfortable, since he had only one blanket in his crib, compared with the seventeen blankets, comforters, and bearskins covering Jennifer and me. I got up, walked to Kyle's room, and quietly placed a second blanket on him. It was 5 a.m., which isn't too early, but it felt earlier since it was still dark out, and Jennifer and I made the mistake of going to bed after midnight.

Thirty minutes or so later, Kyle woke and found the blanket. I know this because, instead of snuggling in more and appreciating its warmth, the little guy noticed something new in his crib and thought it was fun to play with. Suddenly he was yelping joyfully and making karate-chop sounds. Jennifer and I awoke to the party going on at the other end of our apartment. We groaned and tried to hide more under our covers until the noise stopped or he called for us. Fortunately, the noise stopped about five minutes later.

About forty-five minutes later, the party began again. Woohoo! Extra blanket! Yippee! Based on the evidence, this is the most likely time when the party got a little bit out of hand. However, we did not know what was going on, so we simply waited for the celebration to end, and it did about ten minutes later.

Five minutes after that, the alarm went off. We threw it across the room and slept for fifteen more minutes. Then I went to the computer while Jennifer took a shower. Shortly afterwards, I heard Kyle again, but this time he was just talking to himself. The party, apparently, was over. I let him chat away, and at 7 a.m. I decided to say hello.

I opened the door to Kyle's room. He immediately said, "hi." He was lying down in his crib with a smile on his face. The blankets, as I had suspected, were not on him, but rather tossed off to the side. Everything seemed to be perfectly normal, except for the fact that Kyle was wearing nothing but his diaper.

"Kyle!" I shouted, and he cackled. I'm shivering in the cold, but he hardly seemed to notice. I'm guessing the clothes came off while he was making a lot of noise, about 45 minutes earlier. Yet, as I stood there, he was still basking in the glow of his extra blanket party, and proud that he was able to discard his clothing without help from any of us. He kept smiling as I quickly put his pajamas back on, still unaware that his toys had developed frost.

I learned today that, for Kyle, weather matters not. If summer's just around the corner, then Kyle feels it's time to act like summer's just around the corner, regardless of how cold it is. Have a great time. And, if you want to party, all you need is an extra blanket. You can have a blast with the simple things. Maybe this is a lesson for all of us.

Or maybe my kid's just crazy.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The special sauce

Our son is obsessed with apple sauce.

It all began a few months ago, at dinner time, while Kyle was quietly throwing his entire meal onto the floor. I pulled out a carton of apple sauce and asked him whether he'd like to try it. As it was, the little guy was already a fan of apples. Every time I try to eat an apple, Kyle grabs it from me. He likes the feel of the skin and how it glistens in the sun as it flies through the air. When I gave him some apple sauce and told him what it was, Kyle smiled and exclaimed, "AP-bul DAW!" It was love at first sight.

Now Kyle says "apple sauce" everywhere. As he plays with his toys, we often hear him repeat, "AP-bul daw. AP-bul daw. AP-bul daw." When we go traveling, he sits in the back seat and says, "AP-bul daw. AP-bul daw. AP-bul daw." Sometimes I even hear him over the baby monitor, repeating "AP-bul daw" as he tries to fall asleep. When he wakes up, instead of "Mommy" or "Daddy," we just hear "AP-bul daw. AP-bul daw. AP-bul daw." I often wonder if this is a healthy obsession.

Of course, Kyle's new love affair really is no big surprise. I was a big fan of apple sauce when I grew up, and I still enjoy eating it. Jennifer loves apple sauce, too. It has always been a treat in our family, as my grandmother used to make her own homemade sauce, and Jennifer's great-great-great-grandfather once used apple sauce to kill a grizzly. I know we are not alone, too. Most kids grow up eating and loving it, and around the world it is a favorite accompaniment to many fine dishes. Of course, we all know that apple sauce has a prominent spot in our global history as well, playing a key role in several pivotal moments...

Roosevelt: "We need your help to beat the Axis Powers."
Stalin: "Ha! The Soviet Union will never be allied with the United States."
Roosevelt: "Oh really? Well, maybe this will change your mind."
Stalin: "What? Is that apple sauce?"
Roosevelt: "I'm not saying it is, but I'm not saying it isn't."
Stalin (after a few slurps): "I think we might be able to work out an arrangement, after all."

But Kyle's love does not end with apple sauce. Over the past month or so, he has developed even more sauce names, which he also repeats often. His three favorites are "cookie sauce," "hockey sauce," and "happy sauce." Jennifer loves happy sauce the best, and I agree with her. Life could certainly use a little more happy sauce. Too much stress in your life? Have some happy sauce! Down because your favorite team can't win games? Have some happy sauce! Need peace in the Middle East? Feed them all happy sauce! Tired of gridlock in Washington? Well, I don't think there's anything that can help with that one. Still, in most cases, happy sauce would make the world a better place if it actually existed. The same goes for cookie sauce. Hockey sauce, on the other hand, might cause you to lose your teeth.

There is one thing that's a bit odd about this obsession, though: for all of Kyle's yammering about apple sauce and its sister sauces, the kid has yet to eat much of it. He enjoys saying it, he enjoys looking at it, and he enjoys dipping a spoon into it and splattering it on his tray. Yet, if apple sauce ends up on his hands, he will implore me to wash them. If even the slightest bit touches his tongue, he wrinkles his face in disgust, as if he had just heard Bob Dylan sing a Christmas song. If left alone, Kyle would quickly propel the container of sauce onto the floor with the rest of his food... before going into yet another cheerful chorus of "AP-bul daw." I guess you could call it a love-hate relationship. I'm sure, in time, Kyle will learn to love eating apple sauce, like every other kid in the world. Until then, it's going to require a little more persistence from me... and perhaps a small dose of happy sauce.