Tuesday, December 01, 2009

In other ways, he's a pretty typical kid.

Every time we take Pete to the grocery store, he insists that we buy a cabbage.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

That's the spirit.

Pete is grappling with the holiday spirit for the first time in many ways, largely because he now has a clear sense that he should expect Christmas presents, but we're also hammering home whatever anti-consumerist social consciousness we can muster. So he careens among generosity, thankfulness, and covetousness. Somberly: "We are very lucky." (Beat.) "Because we get MORE and MORE TOYS!"

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Let's not even contemplate the kiss

Pete has revealed to Carolyn that he got a time-out at school today

Carolyn: Why?

Pete: Hugging.

Carolyn: ...

Pete: It's called a knockdown hug.


Pete, at night, walks from his bed to the bathroom.

Erik: You goin' potty?

Pete: Yeah. You guessed it, Papa.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Pete's further career advice for Carolyn

Background: Jackie Hutchison is the volleyball coach. Her son Henry is a little older than Pete. Pete and Henry often play together at the volleyball games.

Pete: Mom, are you going to be like Henry's mom?

Carolyn: How so?

P: Are you going to be a coach?

Erik: Pete, Mama's a teacher, and that's kind of like being a coach.

P: Except it's different, and I want her to be a coach. (Pause.) Mama, do you just want to TRY to be a coach?

C: Well, I don't know a lot about sports.

P: I could teach you!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Not you either, kiddo.

Erik, reading Space Heroes to Pete, comes to the part about Sally Ride.

Pete: Mama! There have been boys AND girls who have gone into space on rockets!

Carolyn: Yeah!

Pete: Though not you!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

We didn't even think to ask!

Pete has recently called a minor ruse "a dusty trick."

And informed us that when he was still in mama's belly, he wanted his name to be Braxton.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Wait'll you hear how we plays War--

Pete: After dinner, we can play 52 pickup!


Pete: When you have cards, and you drop a few of them on the floor, that's 52 pickup!

Carolyn (gently): Um, I don't think that's right.

Pete: Yes! You can drop one card, and it's 52 pickup!

Carolyn: I think that would be one pickup. See, a whole deck of cards has 52 in it, so when you drop the whole thing, you call that 52 pickup.

Pete (with pity): No.


Ecuador pictures

iguana | hatching Pete | the view from the house | same, at night | how we woke up | the twinkle in Pete's eyes | fantastic flower blooming steps 1 2 3

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Must be some fine teaching in the new preschool room

Last night, Pete asked us at dinner what poetry is. Carolyn got going on a good four-year-old-level answer, and then Pete volunteered,

"A poem is when you read something, and you see things that are different."

And we said, um, bwa? (As many of you will know, he's getting pretty close to a number of classic formulations of poetry's function.) I have no idea where this came from, and I don't mean that in a "Wow, this kid is an inexplicable genius" kind of way. I mean that we can't remember saying or reading anything remotely like this to Pete, and it isn't the kind of thing we think he'd run into at daycare. (Any of his preschool teachers or babysitters think you're the source?) And although we've read tons of poems to him, they tend, of course, to be rhymey, story-driven kids' poems, so it's hard to imagine him deriving such a definition from that. He has never said anything I found so mysterious.

In the moment, of course, I didn't tell him any of this. I did what any parent would do: I scolded him for wordiness, made him revise out the two needless "to be" verbs, and showed him how he could express the same sentiment directly as "poetry transforms vision." Then I explained how even better formulations might reflect the transformative power of poetry in their language, and sent him to bed with a copy of Shelley's Defence of Poetry and my lecture notes.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

If only it always worked that way

Back from annual college-friend reunion in New England. Outstanding. Pete walked across a bridge to Maine, and he eagerly awaits pulling a new state out of his US map to show he's been there.

Friday, June 26, 2009

No, seriously

preschool humor: completely fascinating. Pete LOVES this, and laughs right along with the other kids.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Maybe they weren't screwed in all the way yet

Carolyn and Erik are jabbering about something at the dinner table

Pete: Mamapapa, do you know what? I'm putting my listening ears on!

Erik: Really? What do you want to listen to? Do you want to listen to us talking?

Pete: What?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

One step from The Show

Pete has played his first "organized" "game" of tee-ball. "Organized" meaning a split into two teams, with everybody getting a turn to hit a tennis ball from the tee into a small mob of preschoolers who do not even pretend to spread out or play positions. "Game" meaning one inning, every batter and runner advancing on every hit, no scorekeeping. No mechanism for putting a batter/runner out, for that matter. Pete ripped the ball through the crowd when he had the chance and recovered ("caught" would be hyperbole) three or so of the other team's balls, though he afterwards lamented turning his head on one ball, letting his friend Will gather it. He'll now graduate to the "league"! With team shirts! I'm gonna go sharpen some teeny spikes.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Where did your parents go to grad school again?

Pete, unprompted: "When I grow up, I'm going to be Ben Franklin."

Sunday, May 24, 2009

I hope this wasn't the science lesson.

From Carolyn --

Pete [somewhat grimly]: Mama, did you know that there are people with arrows. And they PUT them in other people!

Me: [trying to figure out if he's talking about Indians or pirates or some superhero with arrows I'm not recalling]

Pete: And then they FALL IN LOVE!

We should probably avoid The Hindparts Album, too

From Carolyn --

Scene: I'm driving Pete and one of his friends to College Preschool. We're listening to a somewhat age-inappropriate song sung by a female friend of mine that includes, I confess, the phrase "James Marsters' buttocks."

Ezra [cracking up]: She said "buttocks!"
Pete [sternly]: You shouldn't laugh, Ezra. It's just a name.
Me: Actually, Pete . . .

So today, Pete learned what "buttocks" means. And I'm thinking we need to stop playing my friend's awesome Buffy tribute album and go back to Winnie the Pooh on CD. At least while other people's kids are in the car.

Under 50 inches? Gotta throw 'er back.

Pete: Mama, did you know that boys chase girls?
Mama: Oh?
Pete [reassuringly]: But not mamas. [pause.] Just kid girls.
Mama: What do you do with them when you catch them?
Pete: Just let them go. So we can chase them again.
Pete: When I was in Lambs [the name of a specific room at his daycare], I chased three girls. [He holds both arms straight out in front of him.] I had my pincers out!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Is this how Mark Fidrych got started?

Pete had his first organized sports event last night: Happy Feet soccer. It was a friendly, fun bout of kicking and running and flailing, and Pete loved it. This morning, he informed Carolyn that he'd like to eat the same dinner before future sessions of Happy Feet because the food made him run so fast.

As far as we know, he has never heard about lucky sports foods. So after his first 40 minutes of sports, Pete has begun developing superstitious rituals. He's got six years to build them up before Little League.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

In which sense of "your"?

From Carolyn --

Pete: "Mama? Do you know what your lips are called? They're called pork chops. They're called that."

Sunday, May 03, 2009

I think he had his thirteenth birthday while I was gone

Pete wanted to get up early today, so I made a deal with him: you can go downstairs and play, and I'll lie on the couch. This worked pretty well, and I dozed on and off. Then I woke up and realized that I didn't know where he was. I went upstairs to find him pressing his head next to the stereo in his room, listening to They Might Be Giants.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Yes, if you'll call me "fine young thing."

From Carolyn --

Pete: "Mama, when I'm seven, can you call me George?"

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Good jobbuh

Pete and I went to the community day at the observatory last
night. He had lots to say about it to Carolyn this morning,
including an almost verbatim repetition of Bob Cadmus's description
of the way the mirrors of the telescope work--I had no idea he was
listening at the time. Then this:

P: Mama, do you know what the man's name was?
C: What was it?

P: Bob! [Heavy emphasis on both Bs. Bobbuh.]
C: Oh, like Spongebob!
P: No. [Helpfully, with a touch of condescension] He's
not a sponge.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

From a recent trip, at my parents' house:

I walk into Pete's room and find him climbing up onto the bed,
which is piled with stuff and way too high for him.

E: Pete, what are you doing?
P: Getting on the bed.
E: Why?
P: There are some sheep behind it.
E: How did they get there?
P: I don't know.

[E climbs onto the bed]

E: I see the sheep, Pete. You must have thrown them there.
Please don't throw toys in this room, Pete!

[Carolyn enters]

P: I didn't throw them. I dropped them.
C: What's the word for someone who argues finely like that?
E: A casuist?
C: Yes.
P: Papa, you're a casuist!
E and C (in striking unison): No, Pete. YOU are a casuist!
P: But Papa's the one who's arguing!

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

One of us is cute, and one is wrong

Pete, feeling this morning's warm air: Papa, is today spring?

Erik: No, today is March fourth. Number four. Spring starts on
the twenty-first.* Twenty-one. That means 17 more days until spring.

Pete: Seventeen days? Oh, my heart!

* An alum pointed out that I was wrong: it's the 20th this year.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Like Dickinson without the creepy

Pete, on the way home from school, with pauses indicated by line

The pinkies
and thumbs
on my hands
love each other

Friday, February 13, 2009

Not that I would have done much better in the evening

This morning, I come home from the gym and bustle about getting ready to shower. I hear Pete starting to wake up. Then boom!--he realizes I'm in the hallway, and he's at full speed. As you read this, bear in mind that I have at this point had no coffee.

Pete: Papa, when I'm seven, I'll like scary movies.*
Erik: OK.
P: Or maybe six.
E: Sure, maybe six.
P: Or nine.
E: OK.
P [holding up two open hands]: Grownups are ten!
E: Well, ten is more of a big-kid age. Grownups can be more than that.
P: When you're a grownup you get all big and then you shrink [squeaky voice] a little bit [regular voice] and then you die.
E: Uh, yeah. [again: no coffee]
P: And when you get your head cut off, you die.
E: Um. I guess so, but usually people die because they get old and sick, and their bodies just wear out.
P: Because they don't have any medicine to drink.
E: Or because sometimes there's no medicine for the way you're sick.
P: But sometimes they get their head cut off.
E: Well ...
P [nodding vigorously]: Sometimes!
E: Uh.
P: And sometimes they get shot with a gun!
E: Uh, well, not usua...
E: Pete, hey, it's morning! Do you want to go see if Mama's awake?

*The scary movie he has in mind is one of the later, dumb Disney adventures of Winnie-the-Pooh. Not, say, The Silence of the Lambs.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Saturday, January 31, 2009

An old gag made new

Getting ready to play "volleyball" (i.e., the classic hippie non-competitive game of hitting a balloon back and forth, counting how many hits you can get) tonight, Pete said, "Papa, if we get to 17, I win. If we get to 12, you lose."

We're already regretting the storytime ritual

Ono: Pete figured out his first spelled word today (the name of his friend Jack). The Parental Spelling Code Era begins its fade into twilight.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Four more years!

Last Inauguration Day, we were in the hospital, enduring a second day of induced labor, finally going into surgery at night. Pete was born at ten o'clock on the dot.

Which is to say, today is Pete's fourth birthday. It's hard to believe that Bush was President for two of his lifetimes. Pete has been wonderful about the birthday, exuberantly pleased at passing the milestone. On Saturday, while getting his gifts from Carolyn's family, he said to nobody in particular, "I am lucky to get so many nice presents." We feel lucky, too.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

I suppose you have to like the enthusiasm

Pete had a huge day today. We had his birthday party at brunchtime, and he had a great time. Then he opened his presents from Carolyn's family, and he loved them. Then he played with the presents for a couple of ours. Fantastic. Then we went to dinner, and as it wound up, Carolyn said, "So, Pete, what was your favorite thing we did today?" Pete: "Going swimming!"

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Playing defense

Last night

Scene: Erik and Carolyn have received a lovely bottle of Greek red wine as a gift. Long after Pete goes to bed, and when we think he has finally stopped the questions and demands and dropped off to sleep, we open the bottle and have a little of the wine with cheese and crackers. Then Pete, sounding worried, calls Erik up to his room.

Pete: Papa, I don't want a fire alarm in my room.
Erik: Oh, it's OK, Pete. Those are just there to keep us safe. We have them all over the house. Nowhere I've ever lived has had a fire, and I don't think we'll ever have one, but they help us stay safe, just in case.

In the interest of full disclosure, I suppose I should say that the house next to me burned down in Philly, I had to call 911 when I realized that flames were all I could see from my third-floor window, and the firefighters chopped through my ceiling and windows to put the fire out, and it was all very scary, but that wasn't technically a fire in my domicile. I chose my words carefully.

Pete: Papa, if we had a fire, would you run out of the house and the firefighters would come and help me?

Erik realizes that Pete is genuinely scared and that this is therefore a Big Parental Moment. He lies down next to Pete on the bed.

Erik: Pete, I don't think we'll ever have a fire here. But if we did, the very first thing I would do is come to get you and take you out with me. And that's what mama would do, too, OK?
Pete: OK. But firefighters help kids in fires, too.

Erik and Pete undertake a brief conversation detailing the complementary roles of parents and firefighters in keeping kids safe.

Erik: So all of us would work together to keep you safe, OK?

Erik is, frankly, feeling pretty good about himself.

Pete: Papa, I smell beer. Were you drinking beer?

In retrospect, this is what I would like to have said: "No, that's wine, Pete. Remember Will and Giota? Giota's father makes wonderful wine in Greece, and Mama and I just opened it up to taste it. Isn't that cool?"

What I actually said:

Erik: No!

True! Technically true!

Pete: That's what beer smells like.

In a further gesture of defensiveness, I hereby attest that I drink maybe a beer a week in a fast month. And a glass of wine here and there. Carolyn drinks even less. This is NOT a kid who should have a highly developed sense of alcohol smells.

Anyway, I try the old change of subject.

Erik: I was eating cheese. Do you smell cheese?
Pete: No.


Pete: Was it beer cheese?


Erik: No, just cheese. It's time to settle down again and sleep, OK?
Pete: OK. Papa?
Erik: Yes?
Pete: Would you tell Mama to get me first if there's a fire?
Erik: Absolutely, Pete. Have a good sleep.
Pete: Good night, Papa.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Pete goes coastal

We went to San Francisco a couple of weeks ago. It was a working trip for me, but we all went. When we took a taxi from the airport into the city, Pete saw the bay and said, "Oh, a flood!" Ah, Iowa boy.

Other quotations from San Francisco:

In the hotel room, after seeing a cartoon kid singing cheerfully about going to school, I looked for a way to reinforce any positive feelings Pete has about education and said to him, "Hey, you go to school, too!" Pete gazed lovingly at the TV and replied, "Not in this world."

On seeing murals in the Mission District, many of them violent or sad, one with a prominent crying figure, and having Carolyn explain that they represent the way some people see the world, Pete mused, "If I saw that, I'd cry too."