Monday, January 31, 2011

Lions and Tigers and Ponies, Oh My!

We took Little A to the children's zoo last week. Located in the middle of the urban jungle, it is called The Ark, since all the animals are kept in a smallish building in roomy areas behind glass (big cats), open ponds (fish, crocodiles, geese and ducks), pens (goats, sheep, pigs, rabbits and guinea pigs) or cages (small snakes, birds).

Since he loves ducks and fish, Little A spent plenty of time peering into the ponds. The eagles and owls tethered by their legs to wooden posts were slightly frightening as they had limited flight space and could hit or peck a small child. Keepers brought out an orangutan the same size as my son, but with hands and arms the size of Big A's. It was a friendly creature, but both Little A and I were hesitant to sit so close to him and have our photos taken.

A fan of horses, Little A ran towards the Shetland pony. A blanket was put on the horse's back, and despite the lack of anything to hold on to (no reins, stirrups, or rope of any kind), keepers told us he could be ridden. My little boy didn't want to, though, just yet.

We visited the second floor, where Little A fed the rabbits and large guinea pigs a carrot on a stick. He thoroughly enjoyed the swing in the recreation area, but when we went downstairs to head home, he decided he was brave enough to get on the pony.

Because there was nothing to hold on to, and I was afraid he'd pull the horse's mane too tightly, I stood next to my little boy to keep him balanced. The keeper led him once around the lower area with me walking alongside the horse, then Little A motioned that he wanted to go again.

Midway through the second round, another keeper came out of a side door. For some reason, this startled the pony, who kicked me hard in the leg and bolted around the corner, throwing off Little A in the process.

My son landed on his side on a rough concrete floor. He cried loudly, from shock more than anything else. Naturally, the few people in the building came running. Ice packs, a nurse's examination, and curious onlookers resulted. Little A seemed uninjured save for a scratch on his forehead, but I suffered a nasty bruise on my leg in the perfect shape of a horse's hoof.

Before going home, we encouraged Little A to get back on the pony, just so he wouldn't be afraid of horses in the future. He did, and went around the closed area once more. Despite his calm leave-taking, he does seem to harbour some sense of unease about the visit, as when he looks at the videos on my husband's mobile phone these days, he always chooses to skip the ones of the trip to the zoo.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Getting a Life

For about 2 decades, a book called Four Bare Legs on a Bed has sat on a shelf in my parents' house. My mum bought it on one of her trips to London, but it never seemed to appeal to me and was one of the few books in the house I never read.

My mother was mainly responsible for my love for books. She stocked the home shelves well, and still buys me great titles when she travels without my asking for them. And yet, in nearly 35 years of being alive, I have never once seen her reading.

This always perplexed me, for how can a woman with such great literary taste (to me, anyway), not read the books she carefully purchases? Then I became a mother, and then I understood.

Late last year, Helen Simpson's Getting a Life came my way via Bookmooch. I recognized it had the same author as the book sitting in my mum's reading room (one review says it is in fact the same book, retitled and rejacketed for the American market), and noted that the first book won a writing award. Still, it took a few months for me to pick it up and read it.

The book now sits on my shelf and in my mind as a true gem. Simpson writes beautifully, and strikes such a chord in me with these stories that I wish every mother had their own copy, and that every father could read it too.

The author is a mother herself, and knows whereof she writes. What makes this book so resonant is that it shows how mothers are all, in fact, in the same boat, and they know this, but cannot reach out their hands to each other for support, for these hands are too busy "running the domestic circus, functioning as the beating heart of the family".

"Their needs were what was set. Surely that was the logic of it. It was for her to adapt, accommodate, modify in order to allow the familial organism to flourish. Here she was weeping over her own egotism like a novice nun, for goodness' sake, except it was the family instead of God. But still it was necessary, selflessness, for a while, even if it made you spat upon by the world. By your husband. By your children. By yourself."

I share my mother's knowledge now of "the shelves of books on the wall loaded with forbidden fruit, impossible to broach, sealed off by the laws of necessity from (her) maternal eyes. During the past five years, reading a book had become (for her) an activity engaged in at somebody else's expense."

Simpson rightly and beautifully illustrates how the family unit is in fact "a seesaw", and in order for one to take time for herself, the other parent must take up the slack, something few men are willing to do, so blindingly oblivious are they to all but their own needs and desires.

Like each story's protagonists, I love my husband. But wish he would realise just how demanding running a family really is. Still, now I feel less alone, less helpless. I know that mothers and wives all over the world feel the same way.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Wakey Wakey

We seem to be reaching a scary point in Little A's life. The time when he starts giving up his nap. Scary for me, and for every one else in our home who needs those two or three quiet hours in the afternoon to rest. And breathe. And do the grocery shopping. And work.

Little A is unbelievably active. When he was tiny, Big A and I would say that we hoped he would get into parkour when he grew bigger. Boy, did we get what we wished for. His gross motor skills developed unbelievably quickly, and he was walking unassisted at 9 months. Running and climbing quickly followed. My sister half-jokes that Little A was never a baby, but was born and turned immediately into a toddler.

At 3 and a half, he is pure energy. He drinks no milk and eats no sweets, out of his own choice. I dread to think what it would be like trying to keep up with him if he liked sweets and caffeinated things such as chocolate.

Jumping off furniture is something he would do all day long if he could. He can get up places higher than his head with little more than one or two hand and foot-holds. Here he is on top of his play slide, which is about 4.5 feet high.

It took nearly two years to get him to sleep decent stretches at a time, so it seems too soon for my sanity for him to give up his nap. My mum says I stopped napping before I was three, so we should be glad Little A still naps regularly. With a little bit of luck, we'll reach his fourth birthday before he fully gives up these precious afternoon sleeps.

Monday, January 10, 2011

2011 in Books

This year, my reading challenge is simple - to read 50 books from what is now a huge - 70 book - TBR (To Be Read) pile. After the 50 are done, I carry on reading, and by the end of this year hopefully on my reading list will be 20 classics, 15 award-winning books and at least 5 Filipino-authored books. Plus a much smaller TBR (a dozen books at most.)

Big A is beginning to despair of ever getting his well-organized home back, and has already had the contractor in to see where additional bookshelves can be installed. He also gave me a Kindle for Christmas so I can theoretically store all further book purchases on one slim machine instead of all over the apartment.

The problem is, not all the books I want to read are available in e-book format. Plus, it's a machine. One spill of water, coffee or whatever liquid means my entire digital library is inaccessible, and I have to fork out far more than the cost of a replacement book to get it fixed. I will also be reliant on having a plug socket to keep it alive, though the battery life is amazing. Most importantly, I need to be sure my active little boy doesn't accidentally sit on it, step on it or drop it.

In my book (pun intended), the e-reader will never replace paper. They can, however, live harmoniously side by side. In halving my library between digital and printed formats, I do a little bit more to save the trees, plus keep my flat just that much further away from being submerged in books.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Happy Holidays!

This was Little A over the Christmas holidays. He loves the drums at his grandparents' house and plays them enthusiastically every time he visits - provided there are people to clap for him, of course.

He also discarded the cards on the My First Scrabble set soon after opening it, choosing instead to spell something without anyone's help. Straight from the shower, he ran to the tiles and when I came in to put his clothes on saw that he'd spelled a new word correctly and completely. Until now his favourites have been "duck," "musical ins" (short for instruments) and the usual "cat," "dog," and "Thomas" for the train.

His teachers at school don't believe he can spell, as he still hasn't shown them what he can do, given that the alphabet boards in the classroom only have one of each letter. Big A and I though are certain there are many more words he already knows, and we can't wait until he spells them for us.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Another Year Over

Hello, 2011. Here you are already. As a new year has begun, I look back on the one just gone.

2010 seemed to fly by, but within the 12 months, many things happened. Big A started a new job midyear and then resigned in November. Little A started therapy - twice a week OT, and in the last quarter of the year added a weekly Speech Therapy session and thrice a week sessions with a home behaviour specialist/ shadow teacher.

He still does not speak, but he now reads and spells many words. He still loves to jump, run and climb, but can now sit still in a restaurant and allow us to eat a quick meal. He tolerates noisy places and birthday parties and has become more consistent in following instructions.

We did not travel out of the country in 2010, a first since Little A was born. We did make several local trips, to the mountains and the beach. I read 200 books, and the little shop that started in November 2009 just celebrated its first birthday. I managed two exercise classes and a few more book discussions.

All in all, a good year. Looking forward to the new one, as at the end of this month, Big A and I celebrate 10 years of knowing each other and 5 years of marriage. We also have milestone birthdays to look forward to. Cheers to a bright 2011!