Monday, April 28, 2008

Like old times

I got together with my two best friends from high school over the weekend. I see Jennifer a couple times a week for walks and because our kids go to the same school. Jeanne, on the other hand, lives in Los Angeles, but was up for the weekend for her baby shower.

We went out to dinner at Fonda, then went back to Jennifer's house for a game of Scrabble. It was just like the good old days (minus the sleepover, acne and bad hair).

At Fonda, 2008

At a random party, circa 1989

I feel so lucky to have such wonderful friends from way back when.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Off to the symphony

Friday morning Lucas literally bounced out of bed, so excited for the big field trip to the SF Symphony.

The BART ride out was as fun as it gets with 15 five-year olds. There were lots of reminders to stay behind the yellow line.As we approached Davies Symphony Hall, we saw throngs of kids/teachers/parents lined up along Van Ness. We walked to the end of the line, which at that point was around the block, and as we waited, we saw more and more groups arrive and fall in line behind us. We still had more than an hour to while away the time.

Lucas' teacher tried to keep things as normal as possible, as much as you can when you have 15 kids waiting in line on a busy SF street. She handed out snacks to the kids and she told them they could start eating without their snack poem (which is usually, "Bon appetit, you may eat). But after the kids wolfed down their snacks, they started to get restless.One of the moms was courageous enough to read a story to the kids, as they huddled around her as best they could on the sidewalk.I'm not sure how others spent that hour, but Lucas went through almost his entire lunch waiting in line.

As it was most of the kids' first trip to the symphony, they quieted down and I think were in awe as we entered the large symphony hall. After some hurried trips to the restroom, the conductor walked up to his podium and the show was underway.

I have never been to a symphony geared toward kids before, but this was an awesome program. They must have done a lot of trials with kids before they got the program so perfectly tuned to kids this young. Benjamin, the conductor, really knew how to engage the kids. He introduced all the musical sections and someone would get up from each section and play a little snippet of something, Row Row Row Your Boat, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, etc. The Star Wars theme was by far the most well-received.

Then the symphony began. Before each piece, Benjamin would give a short intro to the kids and sometimes ask for audience participation, like "Raise your hand when you hear the music go from fast to slow", "Everyone shout out 'hello' as loud as you can", "Okay now whisper it very very quietly", etc. The kids were so into it!

The program was over in about 30 minutes, just as the kids were starting to get restless. After the symphony we headed over to a local park where we ate our lunches and the kids could run around and get their jollies out.

Then it was back on BART where the kids kept themselves busy by trying to keep their balance as the train started and stopped, and looking out the windows as we were in the Transbay Tube, looking for monsters I guess.

On the ride home, Lucas and I recapped his favorite parts about the symphony. His favorite piece was Prokofiev's "Love for Three Oranges", and now his favorite instruments are "all the percussions", the gong and drums in particular made quite an impression on him.

Lucas, of course, is eager for his next visit to the symphony.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Book recommendation - for rookie moms (and even not-so-rookie moms)

When I was pregnant with Lucas and during the first year of his life I immersed myself in all the books du jour for moms-to-be: What to Expect When You're Expecting, 1001 Baby Names, What to Expect Year One, The No-Cry Sleep Solution, The Girlfriend's Guide to___, Superfoods for Baby, Everything You Need to Know About Pregnancy...I had a ton of these books.

But while I was reading about the anticipation of the mucus plug, 101 ways to interpret your baby's cough, strategies to get your baby to enjoy tummy time, and other thrilling topics, I didn't have a good book of fun things to do during that first year.

After Lucas passed year one, my friends Whitney and Heather were both pregnant. When their kids were born they started a web site called Rookie Moms. It's a great a site that gives new moms ideas on what to do with (and without) your baby. And now Rookie Moms is a book. The activities are broken out into months, for the first 12 months. When I look at their site, and now their book, there are so many things I wish I had thought of back when Lucas was really little:

#22 - Go to a theater where crying is allowed
I don't know why we never ventured out to one of these movie theaters that have a designated baby night. Basically, you can take your pre-crawler and there's a lot of crying going on, but you can at least have a good back-up soundtrack and catch a movie before it's on DVD.

#66 - Enjoy modern art
I'm not a huge museum person, I mostly like to buy trinkets at the museum store and go to the cafe. But even those things...I could have done that with Lucas when he was still bound to the Baby Bjorn or stroller, and I didn't.

#195 - Host a board game night
Pre-Lucas, Kevin and I used to attend and host dinner parties that always ended up with some kind of game - Cranium, Taboo, or my personal favorite, Running Charades. I'm not sure why we stopped having these parties when Lucas was born. And now, he's old enough to want to participate.

I'm going to a baby shower tomorrow. I wonder what she'll get from me?

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The ULTIMATE lazy game to play with your child

Kevin and Lucas made up this game called "The Giant's Treasure" or something like that. This trumps my game, Bowling for Mommy, as the game you can play with your kid that uses the least amount of energy on your part.
  • You (the parent) lay down and pretend to sleep.
  • Your child puts some kind of treasure on or right around you, something like a marble or whatever your child deems as treasure-worthy at the moment.
  • Your little urchin tries to take the treasure without waking you up.
  • You can vary the amount of success your child has, depending on how tired or lazy you are.
Either way, your child will have fun because it's exciting if they can successfully steal the treasure without "waking" you, and it's exciting to get caught by the sleeping giant.

In fact, the other day I was looking at photos on my iPhone and came across this one.
I showed it to Lucas and asked him why he put his calculator and iPhone by me when I was napping (I napped for about an hour last Saturday). He said, "I was playing Giant's Treasure with you, and guess what? You never woke up! So I took a picture of you with your iPhone."

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Lucas gets his iPhone

At my new favorite store in SF's Japan Town, Different Things, I stood in line for 10 minutes to buy a $1.79 calculator for Lucas, which he quickly started to refer to as his iPhone.

As we headed down the streets of San Francisco to the Kabuki Theaters for more taiko drumming, people did double takes as they saw Lucas strolling down the street, presumably texting his friends and talking on his new iPhone.

On Sunday when Kevin and Lucas were getting ready for their bug hunt down at the waterfront, Lucas tried to make a case for bringing his iPhone.

"What if we get lost and need a map? Then I can type in our address so we can get home." (He's seen me use this feature numerous times.)

Leave it to Apple to make things so simple that even Lucas can sell someone on the iPhone's key features.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Spam and other "different things"

I was excited to go since I have good memories of going there as a kid. I think I won a goldfish at the Festival, many many years ago.

The taiko drummers started up soon after we got there. It was quite a show. Lucas was really into it, just sitting there watching the drummers, he barely moved. I thought he would watch the drummers forever, until quite suddenly he got up and said, "I'm hungry, time to eat sushi."So we headed off to this sub-par sushi place where we overpaid for some rather anemic pieces of fish. Yuck. I was sure that we would find something inside the Japanese mall to get rid of the bad sushi taste in my mouth.

But what did I find? SPAM, all over the place! Spam Musubi to be exact. I didn't buy any, but from what I could gather, it seems like the $1 store version of sushi: a bed of rice, with a piece of fried Spam on top, wrapped neatly in a strip of seaweed. Not that I'm a stranger to Spam. I remember eating it when I was little. I also remember traveling to Japan as a kid and ordering it because it was something I recognized on the menus.

Unlike my parents, I decided NOT to introduce Lucas to the wonderful world of Spam. Instead, I found these little things that I used to like and that my mom still loves. I don't know the Japanese name, but they're essentially pancake-like things, in the shape of fish, with various fillings in the middle. Lucas opted for chocolate, my mom likes the red bean paste in the middle.

We learned that there was a schedule mishap and the much-anticipated martial arts demonstrations had been moved to the following morning. To get in some more authentic Japanese entertainment, we stopped off at a little store called, aptly named, Different Things. It was basically a store filled with cheap things from Japan. More on that later.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Nude dude!

Lucas is usually shy around the camera, it's pretty rare that I can get him to smile on cue. This goes out the window when he's fresh out of the bathtub. And I mean fresh, sans clothes.
This was after his bath tonight. I had just finished blow-drying his hair and he ran out of the bathroom. I took all these photos within 60 seconds. He was freaking out and running around the living room.

What a nut!

Art evolution

I read an interesting article in the NY Times last month, examining single-sex classrooms. The story mentioned how girls and boys draw differently. Boys tend to depict action with minimal use of color, while girls draw more still lifes, but with lots of colors.

This has definitely been true with Lucas. I have tons of pictures like this. Basically, two stick figures fighting it out with their light sabers. The light sabers are usually the only colorful items on the picture (Darth is on the left, and Obi Wan is on the right, note the beard).

But this week Lucas has ventured out of his comfort zone. When I saw this, I first looked to make sure I had taken it from the right file, and not some other kid's. It's quite a departure from his battle scenes.When I asked him who he played with at school that day, he named two of the girls in his class. Perhaps he was influenced by the subject of their drawings and their use of color.

Lucas has been writing his own stories to go with his pictures for a while now. They started with his depictions of the Pixar movie, Cars, and have since evolved into the eternal battles between good and evil (Jedis and the Dark Side). So again, I was surprised by this. Kevin and Lucas have been playing Go, an ancient Chinese board game, and he's really into it.The caption at the bottom can be translated as, "This is a Go board. White lost by 12 points, black won by 12 points."

Frankly, I'm excited to see him branch out. There are only so many Star Wars light saber fights we need on our fridge.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Music appreciation

I love Lucas' school, I really do. Like any school it has its down sides, but Lucas has made some great friends there and has learned a ton, most of which has been chronicled in this blog at various points.

This month they're studying music, mostly classical, in preparation for their field trip to the SF Symphony at the end of the month.

At home Kevin has been playing classical music for Lucas at bedtime too. A few nights ago I cuddled in with Lucas for a little chat before he fell asleep.

Lucas: Mommy, what do you like more the trombone or the flute?
Me: I don't know, I really like both. What do you like?
Lucas: I love the trombone. I want to learn to play the trombone.

Then last night...
Lucas: I love the flute. Can I learn to play the flute?
Me: When you turn 5, you can choose an instrument and start taking lessons.
Lucas: I can't wait till I'm 5!

This was in his file today. See his musical notes? He also drew a picture of himself playing the trombone. Awesome!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

And just when we were getting along...

Dear Lucas,
The last couple weeks have been challenging between us. Lots of attitude that frankly, I didn't think I'd get until you're into your teens.

But thankfully, this week has been so smooth. I've actually been very sick, so I think I won tons of pity points with my hoarse voice and unusually lazy self. You have been super helpful around the house, always showing me that you can fold the napkins, set the table, pass out the plates, etc.

This morning to expedite the morning routine, we even made a special trip to Semifreddis for some breakfast (though I had a substandard hot chocolate, but that's for a later post). Things were going great, at least I thought so until tonight.

You were changing into your pjs in the living room, where we still don't have curtains up. I saw you look out the window, so I asked what you were looking at.

"Mommy, I looked at the window and I saw your reflection, but for a minute you looked just like Jar Jar Binks."

WTF??? I realize by the end of the day, I'm probably not looking my best, but Jar Jar Binks???

Feeling paranoid, I did a photo comparison:

Jar Jar - A Gungan, 6 feet and 5 inches tall, with long ears and eyes mounted on stalks.

Me - Korean woman, 5 feet and 5 inches tall, with relatively normal ears and eyes
(though admittedly, I do have a big head)

Well, I guess there are similarities. I have long hair, he has long ears, which could be mistaken for hair, especially if you are a Star Wars obsessed 4 year old, looking at someone's reflection in a mirror from 10 feet away. Jar Jar's eyes are bulgy, but I guess mine might be kind of puffy since I've been sick.

"Hmmm... yousa point is well seen." Whoa, I just quoted Jar Jar from Episode I.

But seriously Lucas, when you are old enough to read this I hope you really don't see a resemblance between me and Jar Jar. If you still do, we need to talk.

Mesa your humble servant (aka Mom)

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Guilty gastronomic pleasures - under $5

Sometimes, I feel the need to indulge. Here's my list of favorites - each for less than five bucks!
  • Cinnamon toast (basically, cinnamon and sugar on heavily buttered bread)
  • Jam shot - At the Cheeseboard, they have these little tiny things of homemade berry jam, just enough to spread on one roll. It comes in a little ketchup container, the kind they have in fast food joints. And it's only $0.25. (I'm not sure what they call them, I'm sure not jam shots!)
  • Svenhard's cinnamon roll - available at Safeway, individually wrapped, you'll find them right by the Ding-Dongs. Price around $0.79.
  • Poco Dolce Chocolates - These are tiny squares of dark chocolate with sea salt and some other flavor - ginger and aztec chile are my two favorites. One small square for $1.75.
  • McDonald's - I don't do this frequently, but my favorite meal from McDonald's is a Filet-o-Fish burger, fries, organge soda and an apple pie. Price is usually about $3
  • Hot chocolate at Sketch Ice Cream - They melt the chocolate, use whole milk and top it off with one of their delicious homemade marshmallows for $3.50, but it's well worth it. Actually anything at Sketch is well worth it.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Adventures in our own backyard, Part 2: Berkeley park tour

On Sunday Lucas and I started early on our quest for adventure. Our goal was to bike around to at least three new parks. Kevin armed Lucas with a compass and we were on our way.We usually go to the same 3-4 parks, but there are so many in this area. I found out that Berkeley has 52 parks - amazing!

The first park was over in North Berkeley. I had driven by before and have never seen anyone on this structure. And the whole time we were there, no one else came by to climb. We both had a great time climbing on this huge spider web, which we had all to ourselves.

We ambled up the bike path a little to a more traditional little park. Because he is so into climbing, he found new ways to interact with the regular little tube slide.
(Note: I do not make him wear his helmet when he climbs. But when we got to this park I asked if he wanted to take it off, he said, "But what if I fall down?")

Then we biked up to the Gourmet Ghetto and had to take advantage of all the yummy offerings there. It wasn't quite lunchtime, so we stopped in at Masse's Pastries, for a little snack of cookies and tea.

Our final destination was Live Oak Park. While we have been there before for cultural fairs, I count this as new since we have never actually played there, and they have a relatively new play structure for kids.

After playing on the structure, we went to the grassy area and ate our lunch and played some soccer. And because we were in Berkeley, Lucas took a break and did some yoga. Here he is doing his favorite pose, the Warrior. We rode back home, I was exhausted. Of course, Lucas wasn't. I was sacked out in the living room. Lucas asked if I wanted a snack and I said sure, but then I dozed off for a couple minutes. While I was sleeping he brought over the step stool to use as a little table, a little container of cashews and some tangerines.

Luckily I had my iPhone handy and captured this photo of him, so happy with himself for preparing me such a wonderful snack.

We're so lucky we have such an awesome little kid!

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Adventures in our own backyard, Part 1: Saturday at the library

This was more of an adventure for me than Lucas. Lucas goes to the library with his class a couple times a month. I, on the other hand, have a bit of a phobia about libraries.

Don't get me wrong, I love the idea of a library, I just don't like bringing home books from the library. I used to go all the time when I was little and I have fond memories of the library. I think this started to turn for me as an adult.

College: In the large library on campus, there was a section known as The Stacks. I'm not sure what was kept in the stacks as I kept a safe distance from that area. Rumor had it that people would perform illicit acts, leaving bodily fluids in their wake.

San Francisco: A few times when I lived in SF, I would hit the local libraries. However, I was totally turned off by the number and stench of homeless people who would basically camp out in the upholstered chairs while the library was open.

Until last weekend, we have borrowed a total of ONE book from the library for Lucas, which was just in the last six months. But only after I did a thorough inspection of the book. I've never had anything out of the ordinary happen to me with a library book, but my friend Lindsey sent me this little snippet of someone else's not-so-nice library experience, which totally confirmed my worst fears about library books. And if you read the comments, it gets a lot more gross than just a stinky book (blood, pubic hair, fecal matter and an uncooked piece of bacon).

Speaking of bacon, we had a nice lunch in front of the library. Lucas was so excited to go and get his first library card. After much deliberation, he found five books he wanted to check out. Prior to checkout, I started inspecting the books. Lucas asked, "What are you doing?"

Me: Um, I like to check the books before I take them home to see if someone left something behind so we can give it to the librarian.
Lucas: What kinds of things? Like a bookmark?
Me: Yeah, something like that.

Then, Lucas started looking in the books, seeing if he could find any 'bookmarks'.