Friday, November 20, 2015

Owen Flotsam

Owen decided I needed a lesson in manners last night.  We were playing with his Thomas trains, and when we do so, he tends to be a bit bossy about which train I get to play with and what I can make it do.  So sometimes I buck a little at the restraints of all his train rules.  This does not go over well with the three year old CEO.  After multiple times of making the train do something not proscribed by Owen, he asked me if I would apologize to him, because I “was being a little mean.”  He told me, “You say, ‘I sorry’” and then I say, “I forgive you,” and then you say, “Jank joo.”  Harrumph!

Owen has also been a big proponent this year of thinking Christmas decorations are out too early!  If you bring up this subject, he’ll immediately start ranting:  “No stockings on the chimney!  No Christmas trees!  No Santas!” and he’ll go on and on.  He’ll also say, “Goodbye, Halloween!”  And if you ask him what decorations SHOULD be out now, he’ll say, “Turkeys and corn!”  Indeed.

His language is pretty good on the whole - -he tends to impress strangers in stores with his vocabulary, although I imagine that is typical of an only child who spends most of his time around adults!  He has trouble with his “v’s” – the trains Victor and Oliver are Dictor and Oliber.

I think he will be a scary movie aficionado as he really liked to watch Halloween cartoon songs on my phone, especially the ones that scared him a bit.  He would ask for the one with the “scary girl” (a cartoon toddler dressed as a vampire), and when he was feeling particularly brave, the one with the gumbies (zombies).

Owen often goes with Susan to Barnes & Noble, since they have a well-stocked train table, with surrounding chairs for the caregivers to use.  For awhile he called it “The Bookstore”, but as of late has been called it “The Bookstoble.”

I was at the track with Owen the other day, and was trying to lure him off the bleachers and towards home by telling him that I bet Daddy was playing with his trains.  He replied, “No he isn’t.  He’s cutting fruit and putting it on a plate.  With a spatula.”  All righty then!

We were talking about Christmas, Owen and I, and I told him that soon we would start buying Christmas presents for people.  And Owen replied, “Like for the ladies at the bank?”

Owen's first selfie:

I was putting on some shoes to go to work the other day and Owen said to me, "Those shoes are a little old for you, Mom."  No they are not!  

Cute oxfords that are clearly also very youthful:

Owen went to a class at a local nature center today, and the theme was Thanksgiving.  When the teacher asked, "What do we eat at Thanksgiving?"  Owen yelled, "Cheese sandwiches!!"

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Fall Artwork

Owen and Susan often spend time at Susan’s house, where there are more art supplies than there are in our own home.  Susan is crafty and also an accomplished card and stationery maker, and Owen reaps the benefits.  Often Owen will make a special card or letter for one of us, and then mail it from Susan’s house to ours.

For awhile there was much talk of a robot they were working on at Susan’s, and the other day the robot was finished and came home to our house.  Isn’t he handsome?

Owen has also been working on projects at nursery school and has lately been pleased with what he brings home.  Here are a few Halloween specimens that he was particularly proud of:  a mummy, and a fence with pumpkins.

At his insistence, we started taping up the Halloween artwork on our mantel, or as he calls it, “the ceiling.”  The trouble with acquiescing to these demands, is that now he wants to tape up every list he makes – and he is very prolific with his list-making.  And the lists aren’t very, shall we say, decorative.  His favorite are grocery lists, in which he has a paper and pen, and asks us what we need, and then jots down what we need on the list.  However, he’s also a bit tyrannical, so half of what we say we need at the store, he says no to.  What mostly gets allowed to stay on the list are dog treats for Dorothy and cat treats for the kitties.  Don’t ask me why.

Look out, Martha Stewart!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

No Grooming for Plum

Towards the beginning of October, I finally made and kept a grooming appointment for Plum.  He was very clumpy again, and although I had made resolutions to brush him every other day in September – and actually stuck to that schedule – I still thought that one of the reasons why he became so clumpy in the first place is that he was just overall rather dirty and needed a bath.  And I certainly was not going to attempt to bathe him myself – I would leave that task for professionals.

But easier said than done!  The problem is that there aren’t cat groomers near me that I know of.  There’s one about 45 minutes away but Plum gets very carsick (or used to, at any rate) and I figured that if I got him cleaned that far away, then he would probably sully himself on the way home – for that is how these things work.  One of our vets recommended a nearby grooming and boarding place, and so I made an appointment there with the one guy who “does cats.”  And this guy, Miguel, was very nice, except that he warned me when I dropped Plum off that the bath might not happen, since he had no restraints for cats, and was only able to bathe those who wanted to be bathed.  Which struck me as a little optimistic of him – do any cats “want” to be bathed?  I certainly couldn’t think of any.  At any rate, I wished him luck and went on my way, and then felt sure that Plum had okayed the bathing, since I didn’t get a call from Miguel until 3:00.  But no, he had tried three times to bathe Sir Plum, and each time Plum had said, Surely you jest? And so there was no bathing of the purple cat.

He did give him a good brushing and a “deshedding something or other”, and did not charge me very much, so there’s that.  But I have had to give up my notion of a sparkling clean and sweet-smelling lilac British shorthair in my house, and Plum continues to clean only where he sees fit – his privates, his paws, and his face.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

C Is For Cookie

We ended up getting a cookie monster costume for Owen for Halloween, after much thought.  He doesn’t particularly like to dress up – except for the occasional hat he’ll wear while playing – and so I figured that if the costume didn’t appeal to him he wouldn’t wear it.  He doesn’t watch Sesame Street much, if at all, but he likes to sing the song “C is for Cookie” and will watch Cookie Monster sing it on my phone on occasion.  And when I asked if he wanted a cookie monster costume, he seemed very enthusiastic about it. 

Another plus is that the top of the costume was a hood, so he could either wear the hood part or just have it hanging from his neck.  He had multiple occasions on which to wear the costume, the first being a birthday party in the middle of October.

Then we went to the Philadelphia zoo on the 24th, a day on which kids were supposed to wear their costumes, and then they had trick or treat stations by the animals.  We had stumbled upon it by chance last year, and decided to go on purpose this year.  Owen wore his costume and rode around in his blue car and had a good time – it’s fun to see all the kids dressed up, and a lot of the parents!  Owen also didn’t seem interested in the trick-or-treat stations, so we could skip that part of the celebration and concentrate on the animals, or the statues of animals:

He then wore the costume to school on the 30th for the Halloween parade.  There was a bit of drama:  he was happy to wear the costume to school, but when he arrived immediately wanted to take it off so he could get down to the business of playing with the school toys.  We left him sobbing angrily with a teacher, as she tried to convince him to leave his cookie monster suit on.  Fifteen or so minutes later, he paraded past us three times, holding the teacher’s hand, and was Not Pleased.  I had expected that there might be problems when he saw us and wasn’t allowed to go to us, and I was right.  The second time he paraded by though, the teacher did let him stop for a “mom hug”.

Then he went inside for Halloween fun and games and all seemed well.  His friend, Mason, didn’t enjoy the parade either, and Owen is still talking about how Mason had tears “all over his face” and the teachers wiped them off.  He says “Mason didn’t like the parade” and then shakes his head sadly.  It’s the new “Mary Spilled Her Juice” story from yesteryear.

Then of course he wore the suit on Halloween for trick-or-treating and had a great time.  He kept asking Sean if they could go to one more house.  He was then also pleased with the kitkats (he breaks them apart and says “one for me, and one for you!” and hands one to me), and the Reese’s.  He doesn’t eat much of the rest of the candy, as he doesn’t like the ones that have “honey” in them (caramel), or “crunch” (most everything else).  Strange kid! 

Sunday, November 1, 2015

October 2015 Book Reviews

The Martian by Andy Weir.  I kept reading good things about this book, and got it on my kindle many months ago, but then when I saw it was about to come out as a movie, I decided I had better read it before I inadvertently heard what happens at the end.  And it was a really good read!  The kind where I was a little depressed when it was over, and also wished that it would have gone on for 100 or so more pages with some follow up (although it certainly doesn’t need extra).  For those who don’t know, it’s the story of an astronaut, Mark Watney, who goes on a mission to Mars (the US’s third, I think) and gets left behind by his fellow astronauts when things go wrong and they think he is dead.  Watney is a funny nerd with MacGyver tendencies – he’s an engineer and botanist by trade – and when he realizes his situation, he sets about trying to see how he could possible stay alive until the next scheduled Mars mission.  The majority of the book is in diary/log format kept by Watney, but then we get NASA’s point of view interspersed as well.  I’m told that Weir posted most or all of the book on a blog as he wrote it, and got scientists to help him fix the technology until it was as accurate as possible.  I can’t speak to accuracy, but it was fascinating to read about how Watney thinks of solutions and then puts them into motion.  It’s a much better book than I had been expecting.  The writing is a bit on the utilitarian side, but it fits with the subject matter.  It’s a really enjoyable and fun read!  Have at it!

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff.  I have mixed feelings about this book.  I kept reading that it was one of the top five books of the Fall, and I had mostly enjoyed her previous book, Arcadia, but for the first half of it, I was at best indifferent, and mostly grumpy at its turn of events.  It is the story of a couple, and I suppose a marriage.  The first half of the book is from the man’s point of view – from birth through death.  That’s the part I didn’t much like.  I didn’t enjoy Lotto, and didn’t find him interesting.   Then when Lotto is dead, Groff goes back and starts over with the story of his wife, Mathilde, and I found this part more readable.  She’s a rather prickly, hard to like character herself, but what was fun about the second half of the book is that you can compare her depiction of events with Lotto’s, and it’s interesting to see how they differ and how they fit together.  I also found Groff’s writing to be a little bit too everything-but-the-kitchen-sink.  There are tons of Greek play references, and myth references, and Shakespeare references, plus author asides, and play synopses, and I kept waiting for there to be an overarching purpose that would become clear, but when it did not, it just seemed to me like she was trying to throw in everything and see what worked.  I usually really love an authorial aside “dear reader” moment too, but the author here was all-knowing in a way that I just couldn’t quite work out.  So in summary, I disliked the first half, liked the second, but thought it didn’t quite work as a unified whole.

In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware.  This book was a recommendation for a good scary read that I read about on a blog, and I have to say that it was not quite that.  I eagerly read it on the train for a week, and I wanted to find out what happened, but it was pretty thin, on the whole.  The narrator is an older twenty-something who is herself a reclusive mystery writer, and gets an invitation for a “hen weekend” (thus clueing me into the fact that this is an English book) from a childhood friend she hasn’t talked to in a decade.  She sees that another old friend is invited, and contacts her, upon which they decide randomly they both will go if the other does.  The hen weekend is in a glass house in the forest, and Ware does do a good job making the place very spooky in its open-ness, as well as assembling a strange cast of characters.  For it’s not the jolly, alcohol-filled party one would expect.  There’s the bride to be, the friend who is hosting the party in her aunt’s house and who has recently suffered a mental breakdown, a normal woman who leaves right away, and a man who was friends with the bride in college.  So basically almost no one knows each other, and we soon learn that there is a reason why the narrator hasn’t spoken with the bride in ten years.  Where the book fails is that the characters remain very one-dimensional:  we don’t know much about them, and they don’t seem like real people.  There is no fleshing out.  I was drawn in because of the unchronological narrative – the book begins with the narrator in the hospital after a bad accident in which someone else died, so I read on to find out what happens, but it just wasn’t very impressively constructed or written.

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert.  This is an interesting little book that I believe came from two TED talks that Elizabeth Gilbert gave in the past year or so.  I admit, too, to being fond of Gilbert (I loved her first three books before Eat, Pray, Love, and liked the two after, as well), and finding her almost always delightful, both on the page and in interviews.  So I was happy to start Big Magic, a self-help book telling people to give themselves permission to live a creative life.  Gilbert made a vow as a young girl that she would always write, and she has remained true to that vow.  She believes if you want to create, you should create, and create daily, and also don’t expect your creativity to be your meal ticket.  She has this interesting theory of creative ideas being out there floating about in the ether, and they will end up with anyone who is receptive to them, but they will also leave if you don’t use them.  It’s kooky, yes, but intriguing.  I thought it was an enjoyable read, although I’m not sure I ended it feeling hugely inspired.  She does a good job extolling the virtues of daily work on a craft, and is also wise to instruct that you should divorce your craft from your paycheck.  I disagreed with her a little when she wrote of how she doesn’t think a creative degree from a university, or grad school, is necessary.  And whereas I agree that it isn’t necessary, I think she overlooked the main benefit of such a degree – which is the time it affords you in which to write, or paint, or otherwise create.  Gilbert is clearly a very energetic person who could work four jobs and still come home and sit down and write for hours, but that isn’t necessarily feasible for everyone!  I haven’t read yet how the book has been received, and I’m curious as to what other people think of it.  I think it is fun, and conversational, and raised interesting questions.

Thursday, October 29, 2015


We don’t have leaves yet to rake, but we’ve been doing a lot of work outside, especially because the weather has been so nice and the mosquitoes are finally on the wane.  Owen’s back to playing on the porch, and doing things in the yard with sticks, most of which cause me to constantly chorus “Gently!”

A few Sundays ago I also planted tulip bulbs for the first time!  I had three bags of different kinds and I’m hoping that I planted at least a small proportion of them correctly.  We shall see come spring!

This next picture sequence occurred when I found a few of the weed vines attacking some of our lilacs and hydrangeas.  I told Owen, and he stood for awhile and spoke of the incident, troubled:

Susan told me about the following exchange she had with Owen during the day, when while playing with play-doh she cracked one of his plastic cups:

Susan:  Oh no!  I broke your teacup!
Owen:  And I sat here and watched it happen!
Susan:  I’m so sorry, Owen.
Owen:  I forgive you, Nanny.

Owen learned how to play the harmonica the other day and he is actually quite good.  He plays with vigor and flourish and performs little marches and dance moves while he plays.  He likes to go up in the attic and play while Sean plays his guitar up there, and Owen enjoys being bossy about the playing -- telling Sean to play quietly or loudly, or to continue or to stop.

Tomorrow he has his Halloween parade at school and we shall see how it goes!  I hope to get a few pictures!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

An Apple Picnic

Like everyone else in fall fruit mode, this past weekend we went to a nearby farm to pick apples!  This was the first time picking apples for both Sean and Owen, and both enjoyed the experience.  It took us awhile to find the apple row approved of by me, as I am a very apple-picky picker, and did not want to arrive home with a crate of macintosh apples, or the equivalent.  After a tiny bit of trudging, however, we found the rows marked Stayman Winesaps (my mother’s favorite apple!), and got to work.

Both Sean and I were rather amazed and dismayed at the amount of apples that end up lying and rotting under the trees!  But perhaps on a farm they eventually get used for something?  Or maybe they fertilize the trees themselves?  At any rate, the trees were chock full of apples, both on the branches and on the ground underneath, and Owen had a very good time picking apples and putting them into the crate for Sean to carry.

He gets the word “picking” and “picnic” mixed up, so as he walked down the rows of trees he kept talking about how we were on an apple picnic – but then we tested out a granny smith so made his words come true.

We then headed over to the pumpkin festival side of the farm, where we sampled some cider donuts, ignored the funnel cakes and deep-fried everything, and Owen got to experience his first pony ride.  He was a brave and willing cowboy.  Owen and I also went on a little train ride:

And an added bonus:  Owen, who no longer naps, fell asleep in the car on the way home!  So although we made a wrong turn and ended up going the long way, all was well, because Owen slept and then woke up happy.

Now we have a crate of apples, and a lot of plans of what to do with them.  I’m going to try some apple granola, and a recipe I’ve wanted to try for years – Rosie’s apple caramel casserole, and Sean has plans to make his first ever pie.  It turns out that someone else likes apples as well: