Tuesday, May 27, 2014

A Whistle Pig or a Woodcharlene?

I’ve been enjoying the little tubby presence of our backyard woodchuck.  He’s out a lot in the evenings chomping on our grass, and at the slightest sound will run back to his den underneath our shed, his rolls of fat rippling as he skedaddles.  He’ll also sit up like a prairie dog and sniff for signs of danger.

Our neighbors told me that there is a difference between a groundhog and a woodchuck, and what we had was a groundhog, but I looked it up and they were wrong.  A groundhog and a woodchuck are the same beast and are occasionally known as a whistle pig, since they will whistle to alert other woodchucks of impending danger!  Now I want to hear our guy whistle!

One article I read also pointed out that a woodchuck has nothing to do with wood (and therefore a female is NOT a woodcharlene, much though that made me snicker); their name comes from “wuchak” which is what the Algonquins and Narragansetts called them.

Although this article admonished the reader for wanting to call a female a woodcharlene, the author did say that it was correct to refer to a male as a he-chuck and a female as a she-chuck.  However, since I have no idea what the gender of our tenant is, that doesn’t help me much.  I’m keeping an eye out for the appearance of cubs, which would clue me into realizing my moppet is a she-chuck.  But then I’d worry about Dorothy getting ahold of a cub, and whereas Dorothy doesn’t seem to have a big prey drive, I don’t want to put that to the test with a little brown bundle of furbaby. 

In the meantime I am enjoying peeking out my window in the evenings and watching the fellow enjoy his salad.

Friday, May 23, 2014


Owen is very into cheering these days.  He will raise both hands in the air and triumphantly say, "I did it!" or he will clap and cheer.  When I walk down the stairs in the morning or after changing out of my work clothes, he claps and cheers.  When Sean sings him the spiderman theme song, he claps and cheers.  When we read him his favorite book, Little Owl Lost, he claps and cheers when Little Owl is reunited with his mother.

He’s an enthusiastic fellow.  The other thing he is these days is chatty.  We go on a lot of walks with Owen in the bugaboo (he is pro-walk at the moment), and just in the last week these walks have become filled with non-stop questions.  He points to every car and bird he sees and will query, “Car?” “Truck?” “Bird?” And answering with a simple “yes” will not do; I have to instead say, “Yes, a white car.” “You’re right, that’s a big truck.” “Yes, the bird is looking for worms to eat.” “Yes, that is water; it’s a puddle.” Etc., etc.  He wants a full conversation.

He also likes to test to see if the Don’t Step On The Flowers rule is still in place (it always is).  He will pantomime stepping on the daffodils by raising his foot up high above them and looking at me, and when I say, “Don’t step on the daffodils!” He says something about daffodils, although his version of the word has 10-20 syllables and is something like “daff dum dilly dilly do doobie daff doobie….”

I overheard this conversation the other day between Sean and Owen while they were watching Curious George:

Owen:  [laughing loudly Ho Ho Ho!]
Owen:  What’s that?
Sean:  A KITTY!
Owen:  Yes!

Owen enjoys laughing heartily, and will join in with strangers if they should laugh anywhere near him in a store.  He has a fake jovial laugh he reserves for such hilarity:  Ho Ho Ho!  A laughter drive-by, if you will.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Kate Moss of Bulldogges

As dogs are wont to do, Dorothy has several quirks:  for example, she hates plastic dinosaurs, she is incapable of dropping a frisbee once it is grasped in her jaws, and if you give her a table scrap, she has to let it touch every tooth before swallowing.  But the thing that I find strangest about Dorothy is that she does not care that much about food.  Since my pug, Tulip, lived to eat, I find Dorothy’s kibble nonchalance quite odd.  She’ll walk by her full food bowl many a time before deciding to eat a bit from it, and she will rarely eat more than half of her bowl ever.

Now she has a healthy appreciation for meaty foodstuffs that come from our table, so perhaps it is just that we have never found the right kibble for her?  The vet thought she might have food allergies at one point, and since we knew one of her biological sisters was allergic to fish, we cut that out of her diet.  As recommended, we gave her venison kibble (first Science Diet and now Natural Balance) and whereas she liked it at first, after a month she had had enough.  We switched to duck, which she really liked, but it made her start licking her paws.  And the other day we switched to a mix of Natural Balance venison and Natural Balance lamb.  The addition of the lamb kibble piqued her interest…but only for a week or so.  Now she is back to not eating much of it.  We’ve tried adding some Natural Balance wet food to the dry, but she will really only eat that when it is warm and fresh from the can; she doesn’t like it after it has been refrigerated.

And thus, she is skinny!  Looking at her I’m reminded of a quote from “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” when Mrs. Santa scolds Santa for not being plump, saying, “Who wants to see a skinny Santa?”  Exactly!  And who wants to see a skinny bulldogge!  It’s not right.  Here is Dorothy looking not unlike Kate Moss:

Dorothy thinking, Like Kate said, 
“Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.”

I asked the vet about Dorothy’s weight at our last visit, and she thought Dorothy’s weight was ideal, but to be honest, I’m not quite sure that our vet – excellent though I think she is – really understands that Dorothy is not a pitbull mix but a pedigreed Olde English Bulldogge.

So I’m not sure what to do.  Should I continue serving her a kibble she only eats about a third of?  Should we try different foods?  Does it matter if she is ribsy?

Dorothy says:  my mom is just jealous of my hourglass figure.

Thursday, May 15, 2014


Down:  At the Walgreen’s across the street from where I work, they seem to have adopted a new slogan:  Be well.  When you buy something, the cashier will say, “Thank you!  Be well.”  As will the pharmacist, and the person who might direct you to a certain aisle.  So basically “Be well” is the new “Have a nice day.”  That problem that I have with this (not counting the problem of sincerity, which is a sentiment that doesn’t seem to parallel the phrase) is that it sounds bossy to me.  A bullying command if you will.  BE. WELL.  Like if I should dare to walk in there with a cold, they might beat it out of me.  Hearing the phrase raises my ire and makes me want to reply similarly snippily: No, YOU be well!  

I think perhaps I should just walk a farther distance to the CVS on the next block.

Up:  A pair of housefinches are building a nest in one of the birdhouses we hung up in our front yard tree.  I keep seeing them fly in with nest-building materials.  It pleases me, although I also worry a bit about their success.

Down:  Since my pregnancy, my once very straight hair has become wavy.  Now growing up in NJ in the early eighties, I always had a secret desire for curly or "big" hair.  But having spent well over forty years with straight hair, straight hair is what I know how to style.  I know what haircuts look good, I know how to blow it dry, etc.  Now all that know-how has been thrown for a loop:  when I get up in the morning and look in the mirror, my hair, formerly always going down, now goes this way and that.  I lift up a hank to blow it dry and underneath is a veritable mishmash of strands zigzagging hither and yon.  WTF?! I’m too old to learn how to wrangle a new hair texture!  And don’t even get me started on the gray strands which appear and like to stand straight up on the top of my head.

Up:  Owen is still very entertained by peekaboo and all its accompanying variations.  The funny thing he does now is that when he “hides” behind a tree in the yard, and I run through the litany of saying things like – “Where’s Owen?”  “Did he go inside?” “Is he with Dad?” etc. – He will answer, “No” in a very small voice from behind the tree.  So I say, “Is Owen taking a bath?” and the tree replies, “No.”  “Is he inside getting a snack?”  “No,” says the tree.  It cracks me up, as apparently it does Owen too.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Trying To Run Owen Ragged

Three Sundays ago, Owen took a long nap on me, and didn’t wake until I insisted he get off me at 3:30.  Because that is a good deal later than he usually naps, we decided to take him to the nearby lacrosse field, not in use on Sundays, to tire him out.  This was more difficult than I had thought it would be, since although he was happy to cover all four corners of the vast field, his idea of the perfect such tour was up in my arms while I hoofed it hither and thither across the greenery.

So I finally had to put him down and then run from him to get him to jog after me.  He found a stick and that made him happy. 

Thursday, May 8, 2014

No Drawer Is Safe

Owen is very fond of going through the bottom three shelves of our pantry, taking down what is there, and bringing it elsewhere to make a sculpture.  I am often coming across masterpieces such as these:

Sadly, he is not as enthusiastic about putting the food back.

My sister, Martha, helpfully sent us a step-stool that belonged to her children, so that Owen could begin to think about climbing onto the toilet.  He has not started to think about that yet, but he has been very pleased to use the stool to get access to my two bathroom drawers that he couldn’t reach before.  Here he is going through the drawers:

And then looking up at me, saying cheese, and returning to his debauchery.

I’m thinking of moving the stool to his bedroom, because my friend’s physical therapist says that stepping up on a stool with one foot and then leaning over is a better way to put an almost thirty pound toddler down without further straining my sore back.  Since my means of getting Owen in his crib as of late have been to kind of gently flip him in as one would turn a pancake on a griddle, well it is perhaps no wonder we’ve been experiencing some sleep regression lately. 

Owen writing the great American novel in Dorothy's bed on bed.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

We Deserve It

We’ve had great weather on the weekends lately – sunny and in the sixties, which is my idea of perfect, and after the winter we had, I do think we deserve this nice goldilocks climate.  It is also so much easier to tire out a toddler when said toddler can spend hours outside (although really, he tends to run more in the supermarket or Target; outside he likes to focus on sticks or pebbles and just sort of moseys about).

But it is nice these days, which are still pre-mosquito, to have the back yard as an option in which Owen can mosey and I can follow behind as he does so.  Often while we are being aimless, Sean is busy doing yard and garden work.  He was moving some of the many flowers in our front yard to our back, and Owen came up to him and started a frenzy of greeting:  he kept saying, Hi Dada! Hi Dada! over and over, and even when Sean repeatedly said hi back, the repetition continued.  Finally we realized his “Hi Dada” really meant, “What are you doing?”  And so when we told him what Sean was doing, he said “Yes” as if he had known all along, and then a few seconds later wanted us to tell him all over again.  Asking and hearing the same answer seems to be how Owen processes information these days.

Owen and I played a lot of peekaboo:

In addition to hiding behind a skinny tree, he also stood in the middle of the yard and covered his eyes with his hands, and then cackled wildly when I would ask where Owen was.  That never gets old, apparently.

Dorothy often gets barked at by two little dogs who live next door, and she generally ignores them and does not bark back, although now Owen will imitate the sound of the two little dogs guarding their perimeter.  Dorothy did bark at me to try to get me to play with her and the large stick she had found, and eventually Owen started imitating this too.  So now when we all go outside, the two neighbor dogs start to shriek, Dorothy will bark at her stick, and Owen will start answering Dorothy with a Woo(f) Woo(f).

It’s not a quiet place, our yard.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Cats On a Hot Porch Table

We have a “four season” sunporch, but I use quotation marks there because the porch is really only habitable in winter and summer if the built-in heater/air conditioner is turned on, and although it seems to heat and cool the room quickly, we can’t help but feel like we are also heating and cooling our back yard with the same unit…and that is not really cost effective.  So on sunny days in the winter, and on cooler days in the summer it is a comfy room to inhabit, but in general it is a fall and spring kind of place.

In the afternoons, when the sun pushes the temperature into the sixties, we’ve been opening the windows and enjoying the room, and whereas Dorothy and Owen are always game to go in there no matter what the weather, now that it is temperate, Plum and occasionally Posy will use the room as well.

Here is a picture of Plum reclining on the scratch pad next to my bin of birdseed.  He likes to watch the birds at the feeder and widen his eyes at the particularly juicy specimens.  Occasionally he’s been on the verge of spending the night locked out there, but I have noted his absence during my evening headcount and rescued him before he realizes he has no access to the litter box or food and starts to complain.

Posy too will come out to see what is going on.  They both seem to like it when the windows are open and they can sniff the breezes.


Plum will curl up on the couch and go to sleep, which is rather brave of him since Owen will walk up and pet him and then start touching his nose and whiskers and laughing.  Luckily for Owen’s tender limbs, Plum is still being very gentlemanly towards Owen, and an all-around good sport.  What Owen likes best is to join Sean in calling Plum with a “psss psss psss” and then laughing when Plum meows.  Apparently Plum’s a real borscht belt comedian for a twenty-month old's sense of humor.

Plum thinking, take my wife, please!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Tantrum Loop

Sunday morning Owen got stuck in a terrible-twos tantrum loop.  He took my hand and wanted to bring me someplace, but when I stood up to go, he got mad at me for following him.  Then when I stopped he got mad and came over and asked me to lift him up, but then when I stooped to do so, his body went all boneless and he sunk to the ground to prevent the lifting.  And then when I didn’t lift him, he got mad and stood up to take my hand to bring me someplace.  Etc., etc.  During this time he had tears spurting out of his eyes and racing down his cheeks, he kept saying his angry, oooo, ooooo, and every few seconds he would try to bite me on the leg.  Fun times.

Owen thinking, well she wouldn't do what I wanted.

Of course, it was hard for me not to laugh when this was happening, because the whole nonsensicalness of a terrible two tantrum is ridiculous.  Plus he was obviously so mad!  And he didn’t know why or about what, yet kept the rage going.

Peekabooing in happier times.

I kept trying to distract him out of the loop, but it didn’t work, so finally I went on a Trader Joe’s run and Sean took Owen up to the attic to play guitar.  When I came home, I met the two of them leaving the house for a walk to the nearby campus, so I joined them and found this spring lovely in the forest.

Those are pansies, right?  Which reminds me of a pansy story…years ago when I was young and lithe and living in Boston, a friend of mine stated that he didn’t like pansies because they were such an “old lady” flower (why that should be a negative thing is not as clear to me now as it was when I was 22).  I protested, but then a few days later I was walking behind two such old ladies, when one said to the other, “I just love pansies!”  And the other replied, “Me too, I just love their little faces!”  Humpf.