Sunday, August 29, 2010

Born to Run

On Saturday the family visited the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, one of those places where people in the city can admire flowers that are not surrounded by concrete or whatever a dog left behind.  The city's buildings mostly disappear beyond the front gates, and for a brief time a person could escape all the noise and traffic and truly appreciate what nature has to offer.  Kyle liked the Garden because it gave him an opportunity to go running after girls.

This was not at all surprising.  These days, it's Kyle's trademark move.  Why bother with conversations or dinner drinks when all you need from a girl is the rush of running after her at full speed?  The chase wasn't unprovoked, either.  Jennifer says the girl had asked Kyle to run after her, and there was no way Kyle was going to pass up an offer like that.  Within fifteen minutes, the run was over, and both went their separate ways without exchanging numbers.  There was no awkwardness or stress of figuring out the right time to make that first call.  There was no frustration, no drama.  In the world of a two-year-old, playing hard-to-get simply means running slightly faster than the person chasing you. 

Right now, all of Kyle's relationships are very much like this one.  He usually meets someone, says "hi," and then starts running.  Often it's around the playground.  Sometimes it's at somebody's house, or occasionally at church.  He practices a lot, too.  Last Wednesday, he took a run at Jennifer's workplace.  Kyle wasn't chasing anyone then.  He just wanted to sprint down the hall, towards the closed office door of one of Jennifer's superiors.  Had he burst into that office, a multi-gazillion-dollar deal could have fallen apart, Jennifer would have been fired on the spot, and I would have had to go back to male modeling to pay for Kyle's diapers.  Or, perhaps, Kyle just would have created an awkward and embarrassing situation.  I didn't want either of these scenarios to happen, so I immediately darted after the little guy, realizing that he was moving faster as I was gaining on him.  This kid could run!  And he's only two!  I might have to join an exercise club just to make sure I could catch him when he turns five.

Now I know just how much of a feat it is to run away from him and not get caught.  Kudos to that girl at the Botanic Garden.  Kudos to those kids Kyle has chased at the playground.  Then again, it's probably not much of a feat for them, since their own legs are also turbo-charged.  As I wrote nearly two years ago, we need to find a way to harness the energy of children.  The kids at our local playground probably could keep our neighborhood lit throughout the night.

There's really no rhyme or reason to all this running.  I could understand kids running away from Kyle if he were carrying a hatchet and wearing a ski mask, but that only happened once when he was overtired, and since then he generally has been his smiley ol' self.  The running is just something the kids like to do, and they do it well.  As a parent, it's fun to watch, as long as I can watch from a nearby seat.

Someday all this running may lead to a friendship or two, but, as it was with the girl at the Botanic Garden, it's not happening just yet.  The kids tend to go their separate ways after a pursuit, even after one manages to beat the other in the race.  Like so many things in life, the run itself is more important than the finish.  Usually whenever Kyle catches up to someone, he doesn't exactly know what to do.  Often he just smiles or laughs or says "hi" again.  If he takes after his father, this is how he will deal with girls well into high school.  Better to just keep running.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

One Happy Island

It was a simple solution to a simple problem: my parents had chores they needed done, and we had cheap labor.  So, as Jennifer and I sipped on sparkling chardonnay and watched Kyle shine our shoes, we thought, "Why not lend the little guy to his grandparents for a week and give ourselves a break?"

My parents were overjoyed to have Kyle visit them, and they certainly made use of his talents.  Our son did a fine job mowing their lawn as my dad sat poolside and worked on his tan.  My mom then used him to clean up her classroom at the school where she works.  I also hear he helped clear some brush and paint a side of the house.  Yet, there were some moments when our son showed that his talents still have some limits.  He was unable to wash their cars properly, and his cooking ability remains sub-par.

As for Jennifer and I, we needed something to do that week.  Last year, during a similar labor exchange with my parents (Kyle had yet to learn how to walk, but built them a tool shed nevertheless), Jennifer and I ran off to Chicago. We were the envy of all our friends and neighbors.  Chicago was the trip of a lifetime.  This year, we just settled on Aruba.

Unlike the paradise that is Chicago, Aruba is, in many ways, very similar to New York City.  It's an island with rocky shores, its weather is very hot during the summer, and it's crawling with all sorts of strange creatures.  There are tourists everywhere, and taxi cabs charge them way too much for a trip downtown.  The similarities continued to strike us on Wednesday, when we took a ride in a small submarine.  We didn't have much room in the cramped vessel, and it felt very much like riding on a crowded subway train under the East River, except the submarine has windows looking out into the water, and the water itself has more fish than bodies.  There was a big guy sitting next to me who apparently forgot to wear deodorant.  The place smelled like home.

Despite all this, there were some perks to going to Aruba, especially without a two-year-old.  The flight, believe it or not, was a lot more relaxing without a screaming kid ramming his head into my face.  I actually watched the in-flight movie and didn't need to share my snack.  Once we were in Aruba, we were able to sleep past 6:30 every morning, and when we did wake up, we did not have to do anything.  There was nobody demanding that we pick him up or read him a book.  We could be as groggy as we wanted to be.  And speaking of reading, I read a REAL book last week... for the first time since early 2008.  Cover to cover.  No pictures.  Sure, it was the final book in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series, but to me it was Pulitzer material.  I found it so fulfilling to be able to read something that didn't have anything to do with curious monkeys, cats wearing hats, or little blue trains with brains of steam.  And, on top of all this, I was able to finish a long conversation with Jennifer... in the middle of the day!  Who knew that was even possible anymore?  All these things made it a magical week. 

Oh, there was that whole surf and sun thing, too.  I suppose most people go to Aruba for that.  Yeah, it wasn't so bad, either.  By looking at Jennifer and me today, you wouldn't be able to tell that we spent nearly a week along the shores of the Caribbean, and that's a major feat.  We worked hard on our "pale."  There's no such thing as tanning with us; our skin sizzles like bacon under the hot sun.  So, we covered ourselves in sun block twice a day and spent much of our time resting beneath thatch umbrellas or hiding under rocks with the iguanas.  The sun still managed to severely burn our shoulders.  By the end of the week, we were majority owners of a small company that produces aloe gel.

Kyle was thrilled to see us when we returned home, and about five seconds after our reunion he began bossing us around again.  Truth be told, we're actually Kyle's cheap labor, and not the other way around.  Since Kyle was tired of barking orders at us, he orchestrated this vacation (see my previous blog entry) so that he could have an opportunity to boss my parents around instead.  My parents were happy to see us return, too.  They had a lot of fun with the little guy, but were awfully tired by the end of the week.  For every project they had him do, he made them do a dozen more.

So now we're back in rainy New York, readjusting to the old routine.  We're waking up to Kyle's noises, and I'm back to reading picture books (a new "Thomas The Train" magazine arrived this week!  Oh boy!  Oh boy! I'm so excited!).  It feels right, though.  Our vacation was a blast, and it was very much needed.  Yet there's always something comforting about being back in our apartment, together as a family, even when the little guy's throwing food and screeching at decibels that could make my ears bleed.  It's home, and I love it here.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

On the Road Again

This week, our family is taking a summer vacation. I certainly hope we're enjoying it. Kyle was rather forceful with our demands when he called our travel agent a few months ago...

I'll let you know how things went when we return. Enjoy your week!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Cruel and Unusual Pizza

If you want to torture our son, there's an easy way to do it...

... just stick a slice of pizza on his tray. I prefer pepperoni, but you can put any topping on it you like. It really does not matter to him. The pizza itself drives him batty. Just place it down, and watch him yell.

"No pizza!"

Of course, if you're like me (and probably like most Americans), you hate seeing an entire piece of pizza go to waste just to watch a two-year-old scream as if his stuffed bear came alive and chewed on his foot. Fortunately, all you need is just a little bit of cheese and crust for the desired effect, nothing larger than a dime. Just sneak it into Kyle's regular food, and wait for the magic to happen:

"More puffs please"
*crunch* *crunch* *munch* *munch*

And then there's this:

Yes, this is my son, my own flesh and blood, digging his face into his stroller as he refuses an ice cream cone. On a hot day, too. In this instance, he's refusing the most basic of ice cream flavors, soft-serve chocolate and vanilla, but, as it is with pizza, flavors don't matter. With the same kind of intensity he has refused chocolate peanut butter, cappuccino chunk, apple pie a la mode and squiddy-licious. Some of these flavors, like chocolate and peanut butter, are things he enjoys often, but hates in ice cream form. While other kids scream for ice cream, Kyle screams against it. He calls it by name, shouting, "NO ICE CREAM!," so we know he's not just confused and thinking we're trying to give him broccoli or anchovies (we'll save those for the pizza).

Not too long ago, during a walk outside, I tried forcing ice cream on him. Kyle was in his stroller, and I pushed my cone into his face, thinking that maybe, just maybe, I would get some on his lips and the taste of it would suddenly make him sing with joy, proclaiming that he does like ice cream. But I was wrong. Instead, with ice cream smeared on his lips and nose, Kyle let off a horrific cry, his face turning purple as he pushed all the air out of his lungs and commanded everyone - even from blocks away - to turn around and stare at us. What they saw was a grown man, leaning into a stroller with his fist by his child's face (the ice cream cone in it wouldn't be visible). They might have thought I was giving him a noogie, or doing something worse. Considering the intensity of Kyle's cries, over ice cream!, I'm surprised a cop didn't try to break it up by tackling me.

Something might be seriously wrong with our child. As I mentioned before, Kyle has been a difficult eater for quite some time. His doctor has said the pickiness will get worse before it gets better. Yet even he was shocked during our last appointment, when I revealed that my son refuses ice cream. After scribbling something down in his notepad, the doctor suggested that we take him to a shrink.

No pizza. No ice cream. Two of my all-time favorite foods. Jennifer loves them, too. So, how come Kyle won't even touch them? Is he really our kid? Makes you wonder. He still loves doughnuts and cookies, so I'm thinking we might just be dealing with some sort of food texture issue. That doesn't mean our kid's not a freak.

So I'm going to keep trying these foods, in part because, truth be told, I get a kick out of his reaction. Is that wrong? Am I really torturing the kid for my own fun? I guess that all depends on what your definition of "torture" is. Let's just say it's a good thing Kyle is too young to know any good national security secrets. The bad guy armed with a Meat Lovers and a carton of Ben & Jerry's would have him crying like a baby.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Budding Artist

I know it's probably too early for me to speculate on my son's future, but I like doing it anyway. There are so many things my son could be. He could become President, or the head of a Fortune 500 company, or a successful movie and television star. Heck, if he just wanted to simply be a professional athlete, I'd have no problem with that. I will support Kyle in whatever he wants to do, as long as he makes enough money to support Jennifer and me and our future addiction to spaceflight. Right now, I think he's going to become a wildly successful artist. An artist with a wicked fastball, but an artist nevertheless.

Kyle's been practicing his artwork for quite some time, using whatever materials he has at his disposal. It's often easy to trip over one of his masterpieces, since Kyle, being the postmodernist he is, will sculpt at any location he feels inspired. It's as if the art forms itself, and Kyle is merely guiding it. Sometimes inspiration strikes a shelf or the dining room table, but most of Kyle's creations find a home on the floor. Several times I have accidentally kicked a piece of his Classic or Colored Bowl Series, and more than once I've tripped over his Tribute to the Ancient Druid Masters, crafted with DVD cases. He has created some magnificent Rorschach-like images using his magnetic drawing board, and I'm still trying to interpret the meaning behind the sculpture made with Mr. Potato Head parts. I'd be remiss if I failed to also mention the beautiful impressionist works spread across our dining room floor each night, made with pieces of Kyle's dinner.

Yet, one may argue that Kyle's magnum opus does not lie on the floor with so many of his other works. In fact, those familiar with the artist's works and method would say his greatest creation is this:

I call it "Scribble on a Window Sill," an abstract expressionist painting depicting the modern strife of a two-year-old boy. Kyle has spent months working on this creation, and, as far as I could tell, it still remains unfinished. Inspiration can strike him at any point in the day, and that's when he comes to me and says "cray" (Kylese for "crayon"). He then sorts through his bag of crayons, runs to his bedroom, and draws on this one particular window sill. He goes back and forth from the window sill to the bag, grabbing a new color or two until he is no longer in the moment. Then, having completed his work for the day, he'll move on to his other hobby, which is throwing his two blankets on the ground and smashing his face into them.

The beauty of "Scribble on a Window Sill" is in the artist's ability to mix various colors together on one platform, much like the struggles and tribulations of a two-year-old boy are often intertwined. For instance, the blue and green scribbles may represent his prized possessions: the aforementioned blue and green blankets. Kyle yearns for them to be together, as the colors are in parts of this painting. Yet, the fierce strokes made with these colors show how the blankets cause much anger and frustration, as Kyle's cruel parents won't let him sleep with both of them, especially on hot summer nights, and he is forced to choose one. Kyle also shows similar frustrations with his use of orange. I believe it is meant to represent an early sunrise, as in "HEY! THE SUN IS UP! WAKE UP, YOU PEOPLE, AND GET ME OUT OF THIS CRIB! QUIT STALLING!!!"

The brown probably stands for the chocolate chips that cover the cookies he loves so much. The red represents the color his face gets when his parents deny him such cookies and try to get him to eat new foods. The purple must represent the girl he longs for, while the black is there because he mistakenly thought he was using the purple crayon (they look very much alike). The yellow, of course, represents his wet diaper. However, these are simply my interpretations. I'm sure other scholars will uncover more.

Kyle obviously is very proud of this work, and this past weekend, during a trip to Wave Hill in Riverdale, he tried to recreate it through a family shirt-making event. As other kids haphazardly put splotches of fabric marker on their blank shirts, Kyle was asking those around him for specific colors and carefully applied them to his shirt. While the other kids laughed and messed around, Kyle was serious throughout the exercise, for a master artist must remain focused. At least until lunch.

The shirt, now complete, may lack some of the sheer emotion contained in "Scribble on a Window Sill," but it is still a quality minor work. We just might have to convince Kyle to do more of these. After all, what good is an artist's talent if he can't share it with others? These originals will go on sale sometime soon, for $295.95. Place your orders now.