Thursday, February 20, 2014

I'm hungover with longing from a weekend vacation with my family. I am sick and I am tired and our maid didn't show, but I'm nauseous with the "day after's" of too many cups of home brewed love to really care. I want it all back, the dizzying effect of the surf rushing out from beneath my feet, the poolside lunches and the family naps. I want to keep drinking in the awesomeness of my family every day at a speed I can comprehend.

We escaped the insanity of the fine weave of the schedules of five people; the very careful weave that holds us together tightly, like 700 thread count sheets.

I didn't miss lightening fast breakfasts or cold sips of coffee from our weekday hustle.

"Socks on! Socks on! Get your socks on! This is the last time I'm asking!"

The bus rumbles up the street.

"The bus is next door!"

"My lego vehicle isn't done!"

"You're going to miss the bus!"

"Did you brush your teeth?"


"Eat your eggs!"

"I don't like eggs anymore!"

"I need a pink juice! I need it now!"

"Shoes on! Bugspray on! Backpack on!"

"Kiss! Kiss! I didn't give Daddy a kiss! Oh no! I didn't give daaaadyyyyyy a waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa....."

Running up and down the stairs, banging on the sunroom glass.

"Bye Say-am! Bye Daddeee! Kiss! Kiss! Hug! Hug!"

"Daddy's going to be late! Hurry down and give him a hug real quick!"

He always comes back. He always says goodbye knowing he'll have to come back and say goodbye.

"Bye hewie. I love you."

In the wake of each morning, when the door closes and Sam is gone, I wonder how this became our life. I wonder how I could love it all so much, but feel like I'm missing it all as it speeds by so quickly. Crazy slow shutter speed, crazy fast early morning and evening traffic. Somehow I thought they'd all stay home forever. I never thought this far into their childhoods. Just stills of baby feet and baby teeth that have somehow turned into full length action movies: guns, races, transformers, shooters, lasers, girlfriends. What?

I wonder how memories of Sam's childhood will differ from mine. I walked to school, I cross country skied to school. I never rode a bus. Riding a bus was a field trip treat for me in sixth grade, a chance to hold hands with my boyfriend on a dare, sweaty palms and awkward silences. For Sam it is two hours of his day. Two hours of my day. Two hours I want to be a part of, but can't. Two hours of childhood slipping away throughout the streets of a city in India. India. No skis, no snow, no box turtles turning into pets no scuffed toes from absentmindedly kicking curbs.

He rides with big kids, they tell him things and I hope they are all nice and good. He tells me he has a friend who is 10 or 11 he can't remember, "a big boy." He blushes when he admits he has a girlfriend and that that means they are friends forever. I hope they will be, but I know better than that. She's leaving in a few months and I'm not ready for this again.  I'm not ready for this yet.

He sees monkey's on street-signs and his bus waits patiently while cows cross the road. I hope he doesn't bring one home someday and ask if we can keep it. I know this is his story and I know it is his to tell, I just can't wait to get my thumbs on the pages.

This weekend they were all mine, all weekend. No beautiful distractions from home. No dishes, laundry, time-outs, errands, grocery shopping, cooking or baths. No buses.

We drove an hour south of us and our driver took the car. He'd pick us up on Monday. We were trapped in a blissful island of not doing.

We slipped through shower spigots like transporters, from the beach to the pool and back again. We pushed two double beds together in one room and threw another mattress on the floor to be together. We slept four to a bed and one to the floor. We ate lunch by the pool and dinner by the bathroom light seeping into the hall. We ate dinner and drank wine one night alone on the bathroom floor. It was so insanely beautiful. We listened to the kids snore and we pulled them close without ever opening our eyes when they woke in the night. We ate long breakfasts of idly and sambar and we might have had french fries with every meal. We all napped together, sun kissed, our hair still wet. We woke up in that giant bed with afternoon light slipping between the blackout shades, still in that sleepy-dreamlike state that I know that heaven will feel like. Together.

We put back on out wet bathing suits and we headed back to the pool, the beach. We held tiny hands as the waves threatened to bury tiny feet and we danced in the waves.

And as hard as I wanted to hold on to every second, photograph every minute I held back, I wanted to remained present. I took just a few images here and there, but my heart was in polaroid images that we could post up on our wall and "remember how fun you guys!?" every day. But, those images came into our lives as quickly as these kids themselves. One night, 9 months, 3 painful hours, 6 years. I always try to hold on too tight. I slipped those little magic images within the pages of my unread book in the sun and slipped back into the pool with my kids. When we returned home, I slipped them back out of the book, on the very same page I left the house on and they had all turned black from the heat of the sun. All, but one.

A friend of mine calls these "God Signs." She swears they're everywhere. 

Some things aren't meant to be captured, they are meant to be loved like crazy and then let go.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Quiet Type

Pete is what will be labeled (by people who label) "The Quiet Type." Just like his dad. 

They will call them this to their face and they will write them off of social events and certain popularity contests, will not include them and then name them most likely to succeed, and they will.

Peter doesn't have a lot to say about a lot of things, but when he has something to say it really matters, it's well thought out and it's spoken from the heart. It's also usually worth a listen. When he doesn't want to do something, there is no amount of pushing or prodding to get him to change his mind, but when he does want to do something he does it well. Really well. Like his dad.

Yesterday Peter suited up in a tiny white polo shirt and shorts and the white canvas boat shoes I'd bought him at a local shoe shop. Without even getting out of my car, and for less than $3, I used India's finest curbside takeaway. You see has been training for "Sports Day" at school, something which we knew nothing about, only that it required him to march instead of go to the playground for weeks in preparation. I figured anyone brave enough to attempt to get fifty children under the age of four to march in an orderly manner deserved at least to try. Brushing my hands off on my pants, I walked out of the headmaster's office. 

"Ok Madame, I hope this is worth it for you and Pete's lost recesses."

"Oh and it shall be."

*ding ding* Tea time.

We showed up to one of the nicest clubs in the city, The Madras Boat Club, last Friday morning for the event. Both Paul and Sam had taken the morning off to show their support. We pulled up chairs overlooking a tiny field with lines drawn in colored rice flour and awaited the games.

Alongside the neatly lined field, among brightly colored tents labeled for each class, "Reception," "Nursery" "P1" and "P2," Peter sat in a tiny colored chair and waited patiently to be called to order.

Kids screamed and thrashed and ran wildly around the field. Peter's "purple ladies" were there, they always are. 

To be honest I have no idea what the "Purple Ladies" are called, but they are silent and seem to float around, legs hidden beneath whooshing saris as they walk. At school a bell dings calling them to the headmaster's office and they scatter like ants in the rain. They serve tea to teachers throughout the day and cut fruit in the kitchen for snack time, they sweep the playground and greet the kids at the gate each morning and Peter swears they don't have names. When I asked him if he thanked them when they served his snack, he said, "No. We aren't supposed to." But, Peter is. They are probably someone’s mother or daughter, their names are probably beautiful and so are their voices these Quiet Types.

During the opening chaos, one of them took a fist to the head by a small French boy. She never flinched. Neither did the child's mother. 

When the music began to ooze from the outdoor speakers, Peter got up like a star in front of a crowd of parents from all over the world, dressed all in white and performed, marched and shook pompoms like nobody’s business. He shook those pom-poms so precisely and to the exact beat in a way more precise than even the choreographer could have possibly intended. I could see him counting beats in his head. Jump. Spin. Pom. Pom. He beamed when he spotted us in the crowd.

When it was his turn to race he waited in his lane, raced halfway down the field where he stood confused, looking at the spot where his undersea animal baton should have been. Moments before he'd arrived the kid in the next lane had grabbed his. He looked down, gave a huge pout one that is usually a sign of a great storm rising, then shrugged and smiled. He grabbed a new squid from his teacher and ran on. He finished the race through the bedazzled finish line held taught by Purple Ladies.

When the father's were called to the field unexpectedly for a foot race, Paul's pant leg brushed by my head, where I sat on a step near the field as he dropped Clem in my lap and took his lane. 

In his suit and tie, diplomatic ID tucked into his shirt pocket, he took his mark and raced directly toward us. The Quiet Guy.

The Quiet Guy who issues visas all day with a smile on his face and a kind word for everyone. People tell him he's too “nice.” The guy who leaves people who’ve come so far sometimes to hear “no”  again with at least a vision of kindness when their experience at the consulate that day isn’t to be replaced by travel plans and postcards of the Statue of Liberty.

He may have been more engaged in keeping Clementine and Sam close to him and enjoying Peter's first big performance than engaging anyone in conversation about one of the many things people find to complain about here daily. Though when his time came to shine for his children, he was at the start line before the invitation was complete.

That is the kind of thing the Quiet Type is quietly listening for. Something Pete from his little colored chair and Clem from my lap and Sam by my side were quietly watching. Something that didn’t scream, but taught grand lessons in soft whispers.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

DC vs. Marvel

It is no secret that I love comic books. My brothers and I used to talk our mother into driving us to a seedy used book store, the Book Exchange, off of 45th Street in one of the worst neighborhoods in West Palm Beach once a week to buy a stack of comics.

My favorite is the X-Men. I remember buying my first comic book in 1981, Uncanny X-men #175, at a Circle K near my Aunt Jackie and Uncle Bill’s apartment in Park Place.

Today, the comic book is worth $15.00. Not a fortune, but I could use an extra $15.00. Unfortunately, my issue of Uncanny X-Men #175 is dented by trace marks. I put tracing paper over the cover and drew and redrew Wolverine, Nightcrawler, and Colossus in pencil.

Eventually, I stopped tracing and moved on to creating my own pantheon of super-heroes, and from comic books a love of drawing and writing started.

Most mornings over breakfast, Sam and Peter pour over a Lego catalog we picked up from the Lego Store in Phoenix Mall we visited shortly after we arrived in Chennai. The catalog is now in tatters. They fought over the catalog, and now the pages are ripped and wrinkled.

They have been obsessing over Lego Chima for the last six months. If you are unfamiliar with Lego Chima, anthropomorphic animals battle over a power-source called Chi. I have been feeding their passion with stories of tribes I’ve made up, specifically the Undersea Tribes, such as the Dolphin Tribe, the Shark Tribe, and the Octopus Tribe, and have been teasing them with made-up Lego sets that are all in my (and now their) head, such as the Lion Interceptor, the Shark Submarine, and the Dolphin Speedboat. When they ask me what they look like, I try to encourage them to imagine what they would look like and to draw it. That’s what I would’ve done.

They aren’t getting any new Chima legos any time soon. They know that, too, now so they’ve turned their attention to the super-hero legos, and now I get to describe to them how Spiderman’s web-slinging shooters work (you know, there is a reason he sticks out his index finger, pinkie, and thumb whenever he shoots a web) and that Aquaman talks to fish and dolphins and rides a giant seahorse. Sam was incredulous when I told him there was a Hawkman.

“A HAWKMAN?!?” he splurted.

“Yeah! A Hawkman!”

The excitement of super-heroes is infectious.

I am excited to share with my boys (and Clem, too) the things I loved when I was there age or a little older: the X-Men, Super Friends, Star Wars, and Dungeons & Dragons.

When we lived in Falls Church, Elise and I would take everyone for a morning run Saturday mornings. We would push two jogging strollers on the bike path to Starbucks and the farmer’s market, then walk home, stopping at a playground on the way home.

The playground we would stop at became known as the “Lion Park”, because there we would play, “Lion Man vs. Tiger Man”. Lion Man vs. Tiger Man is really just playing super-heroes. Sam’s alter ego (as you know from Halloween 2012) is Lion Man. Peter is Cheetah Man. And I am their arch-nemesis, Tiger Man.

I became hesitant to play the game after the boys showed an unwillingness to “wind down” when I was ready for the game to be over and an inability to know when the game was actually over. In other words, never play this game at home or indoors.

I am excited to go see the new Star Wars movies by Disney with my children when they come out and, eventually, share my collection of comics with them, but I am conflicted, as well.

Star Wars, by its very nature, is violent. It’s got the word “war” in its title. Luke Skywalker’s father cuts off his own son’s hand. The X-Men are a group of mutant teenagers who are ostracized by society because of their differences and must fight other mutants who feel they are superior and want to conquer the human race. Heavy stuff. This is not Jake and the Neverland Pirates. Nor My Little Pony.

I know they are perhaps still too young for this. I am conflicted, because I have trouble even using the word “gun” around them. There is enough violence in this world. I don’t feel the need to introduce it to them at an early age. Violence is so pervasive it will seep into their lives eventually and often in unsuspecting ways. Our babysitter lets them watch Transformers. It wouldn’t have been my first choice. Now, Pete and Sam are running around the house, shooting each other and yelling, “You’re dead! I killed you!” Pete calls himself Starscream. I liked Cheetah Man better.

That being said, my brothers and I used to play “Guns” with the neighborhood kids in our yard. Shortly thereafter, we got our first Laser Tag set. I played violent games as a kid, but I didn’t grow up to be a violent person. But I know not everyone who plays violent games as a kid can say the same thing.

I am just writing this to say I recognize I have a unique challenge of wanting to share my interests with my children while at the same time wanting to shield them from the violent aspects of those fantasies.

The challenge started last night. Sam pointed out to me that Superman can shoot lasers from his eyes, too.

“Those aren’t lasers,” I corrected him. “It’s heat. He has heat vision.”

“He uses it when he gets mad,” Sam told me.

“No. Superman never, ever gets mad. That’s why he’s Superman. He only uses his heat vision when he wants to heat something up. Kind of like the same way we use the microwave.”

A Dead Grasshopper and a Little Bird

Sam and I leave the house at the same time. I walk him to the end of our driveway, and we wait for the bus to pick him up and whisk him to school. 

This morning, as we stepped outside, a grasshopper jumped off the door frame and onto his backpack. "Look," I said to him. "A grasshopper."

He bent to look at it. Then quickly became distracted, pulled on his shoes, and grabbed his scooter for one or two quick pre-school, extra-curricular laps of the driveway. I walked ahead of him to the gate to keep an eye out for the bus. 

One doesn't actually have to keep an eye out for the bus. You can hear its deep diesel rumble from half a kilometer away, and as it rounds the corner and pulls onto our street, you can hear its distinctive horn bleat. 

At the sound of the bleating, Sam zipped up next to me. "Dad, guess what?" he said. 


"The grasshopper jumped onto my backpack and instead of shooing it away, Mr. Sundar when like this--" And Sam pinched is index finger and thumb together. 

Mr. Sundar is our driver. He's been known to kick small puppies and try to grab goats from behind. He has an...interesting...relationship with nature. 

Sam knew it was wrong to kill the grasshopper. I told him all of God's creatures are special. Sam added a caveat, "Except maybe wasps." 

"Well...wasps are different," I tried to explain. "Wasps are dangerous, but not all wasps. Just wasps by our house. Other wasps that aren't bothering anybody, we leave alone, too."

He stood next to me, and we watched the bus back up down our street. An airplane flew overhead. It caught my eye and I looked at it soar through the sky. Then, I saw two birds, a smaller bird flapping its wings vigorously and a larger bird, an eagle or hawk, following it. 

I kneeled next to Sam and pointed up into the sky, "Look!" I told him again. "It's a baby bird learning to fly and a mama bird following him." They wheeled in messy circles like that. Sam giggled. "It's just like when you were learning to ride your bike and I followed you around to make sure you didn't fall off." 

"Yeah...," he breathed, then the bus pulled up, the door opened, I kissed him on the top of his poofy head, and he climbed up the steep stairs into the belly of the bus. 

I saw him plop down in his usual spot next to one of his classmates, his eyes still focussed out the window, at the birds in the sky. 

He turned to his friend and pointed out the window, showing the birds to him. 

I feel a large part of my job as a father is to explain the world to him, to contextualize disparate experiences. I won two small victories this morning: Sam knows it is wrong to kill grasshoppers or, hopefully, any creature that is not bothering us, and to share with others, whether that means sharing or toy or the small wonders of the world, like a mama bird teaching its baby how to fly. 

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Hot Pink

Long before we came to India, Elise and the boys had identified dawn and dusk has being the color hot pink. I think it must have started in Brazil, as there were many colorful sunrises and sunsets there.

Everyone rises before the sun gets up. Elise to go to her 5:45 yoga class. Me to start the dishes from the night before, make coffee and breakfast and school lunches. Everyone else because they are little kids and that's what little kids do best...get up early. It's in their nature.

The other morning, me, Peter and Clementine were standing in the kitchen looking at Jetpack the cat through the window. He was waiting for his milk. It was dark outside, but not pitch. The nights are not too dark around our house. There are a lot of street lights, and the night is more orange than black. A light shining through the plastic corrugated roof of our carport shines blue on the house like we live in a Polynesian resort.

Pete pointed out the window and blurted, "The hot pink is coming!"

At dawn, the hot pink comes...and at dusk, it goes.

The week before last, a meeting at an IT company on the outskirts of town ran late. We stuck in traffic on the long drive back into town, and the sun started going down. Finally, we crossed the bridge going over the Adyar River to Bishop's Garden and, eventually, home. As we crossed the bridge, over the long, placid, unmoving river, and giant bleach-white egrets glided overhead, I could see the condominiums that line Elliot's Beach to my right and the sun to my left. It was absolutely enormous as it sank into the river, hot pink. And I never felt more like I was in India as I did at that moment.

Last night, Elise and I attended a reception where we had the pleasure of meeting businessmen and women from American and Indian companies and representatives from France, Singapore, and Australia. The reception was outside, and, again, the sun set quickly, hot pink. The mosquitoes coalesced in clouds above our heads, though we only minded for a moment. They went as quickly as they came, and Nalla, the bartender, was serving up mojitos that were mosquito-proof. The sky turned violet, and then the bats came out. They flew high overhead, yet gravity is not their friend; it tugs at their large, fox-like bodies and their return to earth is only momentarily arrested with every flap of their leathery patagia. They fly in sine-waves in search of prey.

Fortunately, the reception was next door to our house, and we had a short commute home. As we entered our garden, three tiny silhouettes started jumping up and down in the windows of the sun room. There was no telling how long they had been waiting at the windows for us, or perhaps they had been able to see us the whole time.

Doubtless, they, too, saw the hot pink.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Bird Man

Yesterday, after a morning photo walk, I finally ended up at a curious place: The Camera House. The Camera House had been pointed out to me early one morning on another photo walk, as a man who collects and sells antique cameras, he also (as described by a giant poster that adorns his building) feeds thousands of parakeets twice daily. No big deal.

"Come for the cameras, stay for the parakeets."

My "Uncle Ed" and I ascended the four stories of his building to his shop using the most narrow concrete staircase the world has to offer. When we reached the top, we knocked several times on his patio doors, and scoped out the parakeet feeding terrace curiously.

At about the moment we decided he wasn't home, an Indian man with an exacting and unbelievably dense pencil mustache opened the door and welcomed us inside.

We were there in hopes of having a look at his collection, to find a camera I have been searching for and to have a lens repaired. We slipped our shoes off at the door and we entered the foyer of his home.

The front of his home was a small cubicle-like space, two cubicles to be exact. As Ed scoped out the situation and talked him into showing us a few things, I scoped out the cameras. Surrounding the one small stool Ed had been invited to rest upon within one cubicle, were mountains of plastic shopping bags and black trash bags spilling with cameras and camera parts. To the left of Ed, to the right of Ed and in front and above Ed, were cameras. At one point, I saved Ed when he was nearly buried by an avalanche of cameras. The only semblance of organization I spied, a stack of lenses in a single neatly stacked and lighted display case.

In the well sealed cubicle behind Ed, smooshed up against the upper plexi-glass partitions, were several shelves of antique cameras: A whole shelf of Rolliflex TLRs, a whole row of 35 millimeter bodies, some lightly wrapped in dusty plastic and taped, and some still brandishing the torn cardboard film-box end that identified the film that still slept in them. I can only describe the scene as an episode of "Hoarders" on TLC. Rising nearly chest deep and filling in every cubic foot of the cubicle-turned closet were bags and bags, stacked upon bags and bags of cameras, camera parts camera boxes, dark room equipment and an entire bag of leather straps hanging over the top of the cubicle like tentacles as clues to the rest of the creatures in the deep.

I just wanted to help this man. I was overcome with an intense need to lighten this clearly overwhelmed man's load and to dive into the treasure trove he had buried himself into. I played it cool and let Ed take the lead.

At my first opportunity to sneak a word in between my new and very excited friends, The Camera Man's twin three year old daughters, as to the camera I was hunting for, he told me they weren't for sale. Behind the curtain that divided the "shop" from the house I spied floor to ceiling shelves, lined end to end with foldable tourist cameras each laden with at least an inch of dust.

"None of them?" I asked quizzically.

No response.

I didn't belabor the point, until Ed made a breakthrough and he began to show us photos, newspaper write ups and even a lens or two that Ed found interesting. Suddenly things had prices.

After assuring me that he didn't have the camera I was looking for, of which I saw at least fifteen on the shelf behind me, he proceeded to explain to me that it was too expensive and tried to sell me on something different. When I insisted that if he "dug up" what I was looking for in good condition and when he began to see that I really knew what I wanted and that I really wanted to "use" it, not collect it his tune changed.

"Ten days." He told me.

"Ten days and I'll come back." I said in muffled, antique camera tomb-induced hysteria.

Information received.

He never spoke of having taken a photo or showed us one photo of his own, only photos of the feeding birds and of himself surrounded by thousands of neatly arranged rows of identical cameras from his collection taken by various newspapers throughout the years.

After learning the names of his daughters, seeing their new school backpacks and meeting both his wife and mother, we politely excused ourselves, promising to return for his invitation to bring the kids to see the afternoon parakeet feeding.

I rushed home, grabbed our car (and driver),  I threw a tired Clem, a bag of snacks and our maid in the backseat and snagged Peter from preschool and Sam from Kindergarten, just before the bus did. We drove back across town and piled up the tiny staircase once again and onto the terrace of Camera House just in time to see him finishing laying out hundreds of tiny and perfectly measured mounds of rice.

Unclear as to the best vantage point, we asked if we could stay on the terrace. He directed us across the street to an apartment building and told us to watch from the fourth story stairwell landing, warning us that if we stayed the parakeets would be scared and fly away. He was right. Even he closed and shuttered his family within the apartment and made his way down the staircase to the street below. Where he stood, arms crossed, observing the sky.

When we arrived in the dusty dirty fourth floor landing across the street, the evening light had just begun to stream through the fretwork. Pete and Sam chose low peepholes, while I held Clem, my camera and Shanti, our snacks.

We watched as one, then two, and three parakeets made their way to the cable wire stretching from our building to theirs. The wire began to bob and sway under the weight as their numbers increased until finally one made the move. In moments, thirty then forty and fifty parakeets descended on the rooftop buffet.

A flock of large blackish-blue crows or the relentless TATA horns below spooked the sea of green and the early birds dispersed into the giant afternoon sky, finally settling in a number of large neighboring tamarind trees.

As we waited for the flock to return and multiply the kids became restless. After a long day at school, a hot and dusty stairwell and a keyhole view of parakeets, Peter and Clem were growing restless. A third floor neighbor befriended our maid and she returned with a bottle of water she'd filled for us to share. She then invited the kids inside and moments later had her brother headed down the street to buy them little chocolate bars while their crazy mom held them hostage in the waning afternoon light.

At 5:15, the very time the Camera Man had quoted, the parakeets returned by the hundreds to finish off what they had started.

Peter, always terrifyingly honest, gave up watching before the feeding even began and told me, "I don't like anything, not you or your birds." Reminded by his sour face, of endless, seemingly insane adventures my mom had tortured us with as kids and I knew I'd done the right thing by bringing them back. They may not remember anything from these two years in Chennai, but they will remember this.

When the feeding frenzy subsided we swooped by and picked Paul up from a nearby mall, where he waited out the insanity and Peter fell asleep on the way home at 6:00pm.

Nearly twelve and a half hours later, clearly refreshed, he emerged from his room with only this to say:

"I sleep hard, I eat messy."

Perhaps in another ten days I'll take them back to see round two..

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Pillow Blankie

In our infinite wisdom as parents, Elise and I bought Sam a blankie.

And we bought him a back-up blankie.

The idea behind the back-up blankie is that we would always have one blankie in rotation. If, for any reason, we had to wash primary blankie, back-up blankie could step in, and Sam would be none the wiser.

The stunt-double blankie was a stroke of genius, because Sam was our puker, and there were many a long or not-so-long car ride after which back-up blankie would swoop in to save the day, primary blankie (and the cover to Sam's car seat) making a beeline to the washing machine.

Today, Sam just has one blankie. I am not sure if it is primary blankie or back-up blankie that made it to six years, but one of them was chewed and loved and snuggled to ribbons. Fortunately, Sam's puking days are (mostly) over, and there is little need for a back-up blankie.

Peter has a back-up blankie, too. But Peter doesn't puke. At least not when he is not legitimately sick, as he was a month after we arrived in India and both Sam and Peter woke up in the middle of the night after eating bad ice cream. Bad ice cream?! I didn't even think that was possible, but it was.

One of Pete's blankies is definitely more worn than the other. But unlike Sam's primary blankie and back-up blankie, there is no benchwarmer. Both of Pete's blankies get equal playing time. For Pete, there is no primary blankie and back-up blankie; there is only cover blankie and pillow blankie.

Pete naps with both blankies. He lays himself down to sleep at night in a blankie sandwich, like an Oreo where he is the filling. The smaller and more worn of the duo is his pillow blankie and gets laid across his pillow like an extra pillow case. Then, the larger of the two is laid on top of him, his cover blankie.

Clementine has three blankies. Elise told me they came in a pack of three, and she can, at any point in the day, be seen carrying around at least two of them. All three hang out around the house. There is no back-up blankie. In Clem's opinion anyway, the more the merrier. 

Cars that Drive Themselves

Elise knows I am fascinated with the idea of self-driving cars. I can picture my father-in-law cringing at the thought.

I have nothing against driving, per se. I'd rather drive than ride. Maybe when the self-driving car finally comes to fruition perhaps I will wish it hadn't. And I am fascinated not only by the idea of reading a book or taking a nap while I "drive", or rather am driven, somewhere, but also by the societal implications of self-driving cars on the American roadscape. An entire freeway culture grew from cars as a new technology, and I am interested to see what new innovations a self-driving car culture will propogate or what staples of it will cause to become obsolete.

I recently read an article on that said the U.S. is one step closer to a future in which cars drive themselves. On Monday, the Department of Transportation announced they are close to mandating V2V technology--communication between vehicles that has the potential to mitigate 70 - 80% of crashes involving non-impaired drivers (no new technology yet for dealing with impaired drivers...I think that's where the self-driving car would come in).

I have no idea how it works, but the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration just finished a test of the technology using 3,000 cars in Ann Arbor, Michigan. A graphic depicting the way the technology would work is below:

Evidently, V2V uses the same technique Aquaman used to talk to fish and dolphins on the Super Friends cartoon:

Monday, February 3, 2014

Undersea Cheetah

Most kids call being underwater "underwater". Not Pete. To him, it is "undersea". Which makes it that much more mysterious and epic. Pete doesn't just go underwater, he goes undersea.

Up until recently, both Sam and Pete wore swim shirts when they went into the pool to protect them from the sun. They don't emulate me in many things. Elise may argue. Perhaps, they emulate me in more things than I know, but when I swim I don't wear a swim shirt. Maybe Pete and Sam noticed this, because they have started to strip off their swim shirts, too.

Along with Pete's swim shirt, off came his water wings, too. I don't think he even noticed he wasn't wearing them at first. He was literally swimming in the kiddie pool, his giant Matt Biondi (the Michael Phellps of my swim generation) flippers propelling him at impressive speed through the water. He even held his arms in a rigid, scarecrow-like pose, his forearm and upper arm at near-perfect ninety degree angles to one another, as though he still had water wings arm. In case you were wondering, it's pretty hard to swim that way, so I gently suggested to Pete he could use his arms, too, to swim.

A few minutes later, he beamed up at Elise and I and declared, "I'm swimming!"

Yes, he is swimming. He is also diving. So is Sam. And speaking of Sam, Sam is swimming with his arms out of the water and learning to take side breaths, too.

It didn't take long for Pete to go from swimming to pretending to be an undersea cheetah. I had heard of hippocampi, half-fish, half-horse beasts of burden ridden by mermen across the ocean floor, but I have yet to meet another mer-cheetah other than Pete. 

Sunday, February 2, 2014