30 December 2010

Santa Claus Has Left the Building

That was quick.

Just yesterday it was Thanksgiving (hell, it was summer) and now it's almost New Year's Eve. All that build-up, all that anticipation, and in the end, Christmas came and went in the blink of an eye. Or more like a blur, of rich food, reams of wrapping paper, twinkling lights, and as the Grinch himself might say, "Noise, noise, noise!"

Most of that noise being the shrieks and squeals (of delight, for the most part) from a two-year-old boy adrift in a sea of new toys. Yes, Santa Claus was very good to the Doozer this year.

Sure, he got his toothpaste. But that did not prove nearly as wondrous or distracting as the carton of Goldfish crackers that he discovered midway through his stocking. Being something of a Goldfish addict myself, I can understand the salty succor that can consume you upon tasting them. But for it to overtake you completely, so that you want to do nothing more than snack contentedly while a mountain of gifts sits nearby under the tree, untouched and still wrapped?

The Doozer is one weird kid. I know I keep coming back to this, but I do find it amazing. Are other kids this weird?

Then, in a moment of distraction (perhaps it was the Santa Claus Pez dispenser), the Goldfish crackers were whisked away to the kitchen and the project of unwrapping all the new goodies could commence. I say project, which seems appropriate, but marathon is also a good word. We may have gone a bit overboard with the presents this year, the wife and me. So much so that the Doozer actually lost steam--lost interest--in unwrapping new toys. New toys! His wary expression suggesting an inner monologue along the lines of: This is a lot of work. What is wrong with you people? Get me some breakfast--hey, wait a minute, where did those Goldfish crackers go?

So, this year we sought out toys without bells and whistles, simpler things that we hoped would fire the Doozer's imagination. Of course, one set of grandparents did get him Alphie the robot (at our suggestion, we fully admit), a golden oldie from our own childhoods, reissued for a new generation. A robot who helps you learn, Alphie is a toy with two volume settings, which are apparently LOUD and LOUDER.

The Doozer discovered Alphie through one of the various toy catalogues that cluttered our living room in the weeks leading up to Christmas--his favorite being the ones from Target and Toys "R" Us. He made a lot of discoveries in those pages. Lego Harry Potter allowed him to learn all the names of the characters in that franchise--seriously, all of the names (proud parenting moment that). Including the dreaded Death Eaters (yes, we taught our son the term Death Eaters, what's wrong with that?). He also developed an affinity for a Bigfoot robot and something called Stinky the Garbage Truck, which, thankfully, did not translate into a serious desire on his part to see these ridiculously expensive monstrosities actually brought into our home.

Perusing those catalogues also allowed me to introduce him to one of my favorite things: Star Wars. Apparently a big item this season was a Boba Fett mask. Unless you're as big a nerd as I am, I'm not sure I can adequately describe the sheer awesomeness of hearing your kid say, "Boba Fett!" Or the fact that he recognizes on sight the galaxy's most notorious bounty hunter. Of course, he soon pointed between Boba Fett and Darth Vader on the page and asked, "What are they talking about, Dada?" How do you answer that, exactly? Hunting down rebel scum? Hardly seems appropriate.

The Doozer also discovered Marvel superheroes, learning to recognize Spider-Man and Iron Man, giving me the opportunity to get this:

Yeah, I got my two year-old a miniature version of a reckless, self-destructive, alcoholic arms dealer as a toy to play with--what's it to ya?

For the most part, though, heeding the wisdom of our old friend Charlie Brown, we tried to steer clear of commercialism, opting for things like this wooden castle from Melissa & Doug. Again, a toy without batteries or lights or sounds, something to encourage him to use his imagination. Two knights, two horses, a king, a queen, a bed, two thrones, and a treasure chest.

Let the adventures begin! And use his imagination he did--leading to some interesting scenarios. Soon after it was open, a horse took a nap in the bed (flashes of The Godfather), then one of the knights was in the bed with the queen. My wife and I looked at each other, having the exact same thought: the king is not going to like this very much . . .

Soon after, the queen was in the castle's dungeon. Coincidence . . . ?

Eventually, a whole bunch of new toys got piled on the couch and the Doozer just sat in the middle of them. Like an old movie or cartoon, where a hobo gets rich and takes a bath in money.

Again, how weird is this kid?

Note to self: scale it back next year . . .

21 December 2010

All I Want For Christmas . . .

This is too easy.

As the Doozer's third official Christmas approaches, he is more attuned to the trappings of the season than he was even a year ago at this time. And he's beginning to grasp the concept that Santa Claus is a figure who brings presents (usually toys) to good boys and girls. So, when my wife and I asked our son what he wanted Santa to bring him for Christmas this year, his response was swift and rather simple.

"New toothpaste!"

Cue double-take.

We asked again. And got the same answer. For weeks we've inquired now and for weeks, the Doozer has been unwavering in his response.

The kid really wants that toothpaste.

Obviously, we've explained to him that it's customary for Santa to bring toys as presents. He seems to understand, he appears to follow this logic. Yet still, he persists in asking for toothpaste.


Now, I'm not complaining, mind you. A two year-old who values oral hygiene over cheap plastic trinkets? Who wouldn't want that? I'm just starting to rethink all the wads of cash we've already dropped on toys for the little guy . . .

Certainly, in years to come, he will become focused like a laser beam on stuff he will get for Christmas (as most kids do). So for now, I should enjoy the fact that his primary preoccupation this holiday is actually lights, instead of presents. That's right. Lights. The ones on neighbors' houses and our own tree and lining the main thoroughfare of our town.

You might even say he's obsessed with seeing Christmas lights. Whenever we leave the house, he asks about seeing them. Even in the middle of the day (he hasn't quite figured out why daylight and outdoor Christmas lights don't mix).

He's even become a big fan of the light on the nose of that immortal holiday character, "Red Nose-Off the Reindeer." What? That's what he told us the reindeer's name was. Okay, maybe he invented an entirely new character there.

He also discovered Frosty the Snowman and the Grinch (by discovered, I mean indoctrinated by his parents), so he now knows the true meaning of Christmas: cartoon specials.

I'm kidding. It's toothpaste.

Happy holidays . . .

( . . . is what terrorists say. Merry Christmas!)*

*The author must tip his hat to Jack Donaghy for this, his favorite 30 Rock quote of 2010.

15 December 2010

Doozer's Kitchen

This can't possibly last. There's just no way.

My wife and I have found ourselves with a two year-old who eats better than I do. A real foodie, open to a wide array of cuisine and types of food. It's unreal. Exhibit A: a sample menu of items we have recently served the Doozer, that he has consumed and enjoyed:

Butternut squash risotto
Pumpkin polenta
Lobster mac-n-cheese
Chicken paprikash
Roasted parsnips
Falafel with hummus
Fish tacos
Coq au vin

No, really. I'm not kidding. The kid ate (and loved) coq au vin.

And what really blows us away is his passionate feelings toward fruit. Passionate is really the only way to describe it. One night, shortly after Halloween, we offered him chocolate candy for dessert. And he replied that he wanted grapes. We reiterated: Just to be clear, we are offering you chocolate candy and you are opting to eat fruit. Just so we understand each other.

"Grapes!" came the swift, enthusiastic response.

Shortly after that occurrence, my wife was out to lunch with the Doozer one day and he chose a hamburger. And with it, he had options for a side dish, including french fries and a fruit plate.

Once again, the kid went for the fruit. My wife again made clear his options: salty, greasy, delicious french fries or a bowl of fresh fruit.

"Fruit!" the Doozer exclaimed in the middle of the restaurant.

Who is this kid? Seriously, who doesn't want the french fries?

At home, it's been a culinary world tour. We've fed him Italian, Mexican, Chinese, Greek food. Hungarian food. We have a kid-friendly French cookbook. We even got him to eat brie once. And his reaction was unequivocal.


We've heard stories about kids who reject everything that's put on the table, who respond only to things like chicken nuggets or pizza. Who won't drink milk, who fiend for soda at a young age. When I asked my wife recently when he's allowed to have soda (I was legitimately curious about the subject, but in absolutely no rush to actually give it to him), she thought for a moment and then responded, Never? Seemed reasonable enough to me.

The flipside, the negative to the Doozer's healthy appetite and insatiable interest in all things food-related is the fact that he wants not only everything that's on his plate, but what's on yours too. And so it really makes you start to think about what exactly you're putting on your plate. And into your body. You start looking at the pantry shelves or the different sections of the grocery store and wondering, Do I really need that? What's in those? I should skip these.

Apparently I'm a role model now. Crap, how did that happen? I'm not cut out for this. But honestly, I could really stand to eat better. But also, I really like food. Mostly, the kind that isn't good for you. All of those things. But I guess I'm saying the Doozer makes me want to be a better person. A better dad. Cool dad. Interesting dad. Healthy dad.

Good example dad.

Right after I finish this pint of Ben and Jerry's . . .

02 December 2010

Imagine . . .

Did you know that scrambled eggs look like dancing robots? Really? Neither did I.

Oh, the things you learn when living with a two year-old . . .

As time progresses and the Doozer grows up (more and more every day), we watch in wonder as his little personality develops. The kid who once pointed at ceiling fans and said, "Ba!" is now capable of some pretty involved, complex strings of words. Actual sentences and questions. His vocabulary is extensive and varied, his curiosity unending.

Up until now, for the most part, his experience and engagement with the world has been pretty literal. Straightforward. Abstract concepts don't land when we put them out there. Visible, tangible things are his stock-in-trade. But slowly, that's beginning to change. And lately, we've been able to witness his imagination as it takes flight, as his worldview expands and he begins to think outside the box. Sometimes, way outside the box.

And it's pretty amazing.

It could be seen in his invention of a new game, "Picnic." The Doozer would make my wife spread a bandanna out on the floor and he'd arrange a bunch of toys on it (not just people or action figures, but blocks and cars and other inanimate objects) and improvise what happens when they all hang out with each other, enjoying a picnic.

He's begun to have his animals and people and other toys talk to each other. Conversations. Out of thin air.

And then, suddenly, it kicked into high gear. With the "Elephant" game. We were cleaning up after dinner and he was still in his high chair and out of nowhere, he made an elephant noise. My wife had her back to him and acted surprised. She pretended that there was an elephant in the kitchen. And began to look around for it. We'd ask the Doozer if he heard the elephant and he'd say yes. We'd ask if we should check the dishwasher or inside a cabinet or under the table. And he'd say yes. And then he'd make the noise again and we'd wonder aloud where that elephant could be hiding.

"Check the paper towels, Dada!" the Doozer exclaimed. I did. No sign of the elephant. This continued for several minutes as the Doozer would alternate between making an elephant noise and joining in the search for said elephant. Eventually he determined that the elephant was hiding out in the ceiling above us.

You're kind of weird, kid. But also a lot of fun to hang with these days.