Thursday, April 13, 2006

Gabriel and Julian go to a rodeo

On this first non-rainy day in weeks, we drove to the San Francisco Cow Palace to see, well, cows! The rodeo is in town for a week, and another mom in my mom's group suggested it as a fun destination for kids. Rhoda and Justin (3-1/2) joined us, as well as Kristi and daughters Erin (3-1/2) and Kate and Allison (18-month-old twins).

We went during the daytime when most of the big rodeo-type events weren't going on anyway, so it was very mellow. Mostly, we went to see the animals and hopefully catch some early trials of sporting events.

And we did! We saw some sheepdog trials first, including visiting the penned-up sheep waiting to be herded. Julian was typically hesitant, but curious. Gabriel said that he didn't want to see cows (recall his toddler-years terror of cows), but he had no problem with any of the big animals and surprised me with how interested he was in them. That is, until a tractor came into an arena to set up for an event -- that trumped any animal!

We walked around the paddocks and saw horses, many varieties of cows; goats, and one animal you'd never expect to see at a rodeo: a camel. (Yes, a camel!) We walked by the "cow salon," where cows were being prepared for show: washed, shaven, fluffed and dried -- I've never seen such pretty cows! ("Mm, looks delicious!" joked Kristi, quoting politically-incorrect Southpark.) Then we went inside to the arena and saw horses "dancing," (really, being turned in circles and doing a choreographed pattern), then chasing a cow. Gabriel and Julian really liked watching the horse run after the cow. Some very nice judges gave all the kids ribbons, which they prized as though they'd won them for something other than being, well, little kids.

The boys' attention started to drift around noon, so we took one last walk through some indoor horse stables, then made our way home. I think they liked the beautiful drive as much as anything. It's been raining so much here that on the first clear day in weeks, the hills were green and lush, the air clear, and it was beautiful. Gabriel is really into "mountains" these days, as well as any body of water, so he had a great time shouting out "LOOK! MOUNTAINS!" as we drove down scenic I280.

As we were driving away from the Cow Palace, though, we drove through downtown Brisbane, a seedy suburb of San Francisco. I was struck by the urban feel of it; groups of people waiting by a bus station, liquor stores, bars on windows, people walking on crowded streets -- even graffiti on street signs. It brought back so much, a familiarity, a realness that I am now comfortably sheltered from in our sterile suburban Brady Bunch land. Or perhaps uncomfortably sheltered from. I've never liked how plain our neighborhood is, and I was fascinated by seeing such a real, gritty, different life, so close to where we live. Or perhaps having been holed up at home for two months having been so sick has made me hunger for any new sights. In any case, it makes me more determined to get out and see more of the world we're surrounded by, and beyond, despite our upcoming October limitation!

The boys were in a great mood when we got home after the rodeo, and so was I. Still, I was tired and took a long nap after Julian went down (agreeably), woken up by Gabriel having to show me his latest pile of rubble (still on the earthquake kick). I ran so late that we ended up going out to dinner, where I mused about how really good Julian is. Stacey was just telling me with great regret that she and Scott have to give up on going out to eat for a while, since Cassie (now 2) is just impossible. I relate to her regret, because it means no breaks from cooking and cleaning up!

We too have had our moments at restaurants, but after some initial testiness tonight, Julian sat quietly and ate his chicken penne with broccoli with a grownup fork from a grownup bowl, amusing himself with crayons afterward. Though Gabriel set a very high bar for troublesome toddlers in our eyes, still, Julian is really pretty darned good. That said, Gabriel has been a very very good 4-year old, we have virtually no issues with him, so we have nothing to complain about. He's been delightful lately -- rambunctious and very energetic, but asking a lot of questions and showing new signs of maturity.

I also mused that Julian has really never gone through a difficult period with food, nothing longer than a day or two. My happy guess is that he's not going to be like his grandfather or father when it comes to being very particular about food, which I suspect Gabriel could be (hopefully I can manage that...but how?). Julian is just more open and agreeable about food -- opinionated sometimes, certainly, but for the most part, he happily eats what's in front of him.

But, just as we were finishing up dinner, I noticed hives on Julian's fingers and hands, including on his palms. Where did this come from? Maybe it was some seasoning in his dinner, or maybe a late reaction to something he touched at the rodeo? They didn't seem to bother him, and had faded by bathtime. I guess we'll never know until we see it again, but hives don't show up out of nowhere. Still, it seems he's more skin-sensitive than his tough older brother, as there are other times I'll see red patches or small strange things that go away fast enough not to be of note, but I never see stuff like that on Gabriel.

Tomorrow, both boys will be at Tonya's for the afternoon and then for a sleepover. I think I'll take my newfound freedom from constant pain and talk Dave into going to the city -- we haven't been there in months!

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