Thursday, July 30, 2015

Mr. Owen

I need to be better at writing down what Owen says daily, because he is still very funny these days and I’d like to remember.  In general right now he is very into talking about emotions, specifically being grumpy and/or angry.  If we ask him if he wants to do something, he will often answer, “No!  I want to be grumpy right now!”  To which I often reply, “Well it seems as if you’ve met your goal.”  He is often grumpy, although that will change on a dime.

He still gets very angry if things do not go his way, and Sean has started taking him to the steps to have a little talk (usually after he has tried to hit me).  They sit on the steps and Owen counts to ten, and then takes three deep breaths.  Then they might talk about anger for a bit and how you shouldn’t hit, etc.  Then he’ll come to apologize to me with an “I sorry I hit you Mommy.”  It’s not so much a time out or a punishment, but more just a way of resetting his temper.  He will now ask to go sit with Daddy on the steps right at the beginning of his anger, so I suppose it is working!

And then he later likes to ask us to tell him a story about when he was angry earlier in the day, and he still will also ask us, “Did you get a picture?”

He’s also fascinated by when we are angry, and when I start to get exasperated at him for something or the other, he will say, “Are you angry Mommy?”  And then he will insist that I “Be happy, Mommy!” 

He went over to Sean’s iced tea the other day and started to take a sip.  When Sean told him to stop, he replied:  “I not listening to Daddy.”  And then when he had finished what was left in the cup, he said to Sean, “You’ll have to go buy more, Daddy.”

He will want toys when we go to the store, and doesn’t understand why he can’t just take what he sees.  We’ve been telling him that we have no money for that or that it’s too expensive.  Yesterday when he was helping me change the sheets on the bed, he didn’t like the clean ones I had picked out, and brought them back to the closet telling me as he went that “These are too expensive.”

As we were driving in the car the other day, Sean was quizzing Owen about traffic lights, asking him what red means, what green means, and what yellow means.  After replying correctly, Owen asked, “What does brown mean?”  After a bit of thought, I told him brown meant chocolate.  As it so often does to me.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015


At long last, we were able to coordinate a visit to our local Parks & Rec office to get the picture ID’s needed for all three of us if we were to visit our community pool.  The office is only open from 9-5 and I spent all last summer not being able to muster up the wherewithal to coordinate both of us leaving work early with necessary paperwork in hand, etc. etc.  But last week’s heatwave gave me a much-needed kick in the pants, and we are now the owners of three hilarious picture IDs.

On Sunday, then, when it was supposed to reach 97 degrees, we were there two minutes before the pool opened at 11:00, armed only with sunscreen and bath towels.  The pool was even better that I had expected.  It was three pools actually.  There’s a baby pool with a whale slide in the middle:

Then, there’s something I hadn’t seen before – a medium pool that went from 2 feet to, I think 3.5 feet.  Owen could stand at the shallower end and have the water come up to his neck.  After initial surprise, he enjoyed that very much – walking neck-deep in cool water.  And then there was a big pool with a diving board and triple covered slide at the deep end. 

We stayed about an hour and a half and had a lovely and refreshing time.  There were a lot of people there by the time we left, but it wasn’t too crowded.  And there were trees here and there for shade.  We are looking forward to making many more pool excursions!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Terror In The Yard

We’ve been experiencing a bit of weirdness with Dorothy over the past few weeks.  To recap first:  I had problems with Dorothy during her first year getting her to walk.  A walk was not her idea of a good time, when she was a puppy.  But then we moved to a house with a yard, and Dorothy fell in love.  She liked nothing better than to spend hours in her yard, chewing sticks, herding her balls, exploring the perimeter, etc.  Once the summer would get really hot, she didn’t want to stay out there long, but the minute things would cool off she’d go out there again, a happy yard dogge.

Until about two or three weeks ago, when all of a sudden she didn’t want to go off of our little deck and down into the yard.  And in fact she would put on all four brakes and do everything she could not to be pulled or pushed into the yard.  When she absolutely could not avoid it any longer, she would go down to the bottom of the steps and do her business about a half inch from the steps, turn around, and run up and bark to be let in.

What had happened to Dorothy in the yard?  At first I thought maybe she had a run-in of sorts with our resident woodchuck.  But that didn’t really seem possible to me since after three years, they have their routines down pat.  If Dorothy is sunbathing on the deck and the woodchuck comes out for a snack, Dorothy will just watch her and won’t even feel the need to go down and check things out.  So a woodchuck run-in although possible, seems improbable (plus she didn’t have any wounds or scratches or anything like that, so it would be more an issue of hurt feelings.)

My second guess was that maybe Dorothy got stung by a bee while out in the yard?  I don’t have any evidence to prove this – she has no sores or bites or anything like that other than her usual rashy bits.  But I still think this might be it. 

Then the other day, Owen and I filled up a little pool we had gotten for Dorothy to use on very hot days, and while tugging and pulling her down the steps and over to the pool, I realized she was walking as close to the house as she could get and seemed in particular to try to be keeping away from another blow-up pool we had for Owen.  We had dragged that pool over to the side of the yard near the deck steps when we weren’t using it, and maybe it moved in the wind once when Dorothy was passing it?  Sean did notice that it was near a bush where bees seem to live, so it could be both a pool and a bee sting scenario.

Anyway, we  moved the “scary” pool (as opposed to Dorothy’s private pool, which she treats as a walk-in water dish), and Dorothy does seem a bit more willing to at least go down and do her business a little farther off than a half inch from the steps.  But I’m  still not 100% sure what is going on.  Perhaps there’s a rabid animal nearby?  Could a dog sense that? 

At any rate, I’m hoping Dorothy’s cowardly lion phase ends soon!

Updated to add:  We threw the "scary" pool out and Dorothy seems more inclined to go out in the yard now, and when she does go, she doesn't glue herself to the side of the house like she had been doing.  So, progress!  However, she does tend to "disappear" to a new spot under this decorative grass-like plant where she has also moved her stick stash.  See below!

Thursday, July 9, 2015


The whiplash that is an almost 3 year-old!  It’s like living with a tiny teenager.  One minute Owen is all sweetness and cuddles, meeting me at the train station with a hug and an “I lub you so much,” and an “I missed you terribly,” and the next he is all spitfire and slaps, and telling me to “Go back to work.”

I need to get out the 3 Year-old book and start reading to find out when it will end and if there is something in particular we should do about it all.

A colleague at work told me that when his daughter was 3 someone told him that they realize then that they can control four things:  what goes into their body, what comes out of their body, what goes on their body, and when/whether they sleep.  And this seems to be true of Owen.  He still doesn’t eat hardly anything – and that is still a battle we are postponing, other than to keep offering him foodstuffs.  He’s toilet trained completely (yay!) but will put off taking time out of his busy schedule to use the toilet for as long as possible – and it is pretty long.  The boy has a bladder of steel.  He doesn’t care about his clothes, but he likes to control when he gets dressed in the morning (We hear a lot of “5 more minutes!” and “I want to be a nudie”).  And his naps are down to about 2 or 3 a week, if we’re lucky (although he sleeps well at night, if you call sleeping from 8:00 – 5:45 well, which I do at 8:00 and I don’t at 5:45).

He doesn’t like to leave a place – be it the playground or Target, and in the past three weeks I have several times carried a squealing squirming boy horizontally towards our car, trying not to get hit by flailing limbs in the process (he has a knack for knocking off my glasses).

So that is the bad.  And I’m hoping it gradually dissipates.  The good is the sweetness mentioned above, and the general enthusiasm for anything new (except for food), and the willingness to be a helper for anything we are doing – from inside chores to gardening to errands.  Owen wants to help.

I’ve found that he is very good at helping with baking – he likes to stir, and he likes to add ingredients to the bowl.  And he’s actually quite good at mixing and adding, as long as I don’t mind a bit of spillage.  We made cupcakes the other day when faced with a car-less rainy Saturday, and then last weekend we made corn muffins, which he wouldn’t eat, but did an excellent job concocting.  He also helps me make a dutch baby almost weekly for dinner, although he is not very pleased at the part where we put the baby in the oven to cook (he doesn’t like to stop the mixing). 

 Owen got to choose what color we made the icing.
He chose green and yellow!

He also loves to do any kind of yard work, although it is hard to get him to stop watering things once we start.  There’s always a lot of tears when we have to turn off the hose.

He does this odd thing now where he'll stop sometimes in the middle of a fit and ask us if we want to take a picture!  Or he'll do so after the fact -- if we are talking of how he was in a bad mood before, he'll ask, "Did you take a picture of me grumpy?"  Um, no, we didn't want to capture that particular moment, Owen!  On the way home from the playground the other day, he was having a tantrum in the car and asked me to take a picture of him.  See below.  

And then when I was later showing him the picture of him having a fit, he asked me, "Did you get the part where I was kicking?"  NO!  NO I DID NOT!  Which brings me full circle to the fact that almost three year-olds are strange creatures.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

June 2015 Book Reviews

The Dinner by Herman Koch.  I didn’t like this book.  Two couples meet for dinner at a restaurant, and at first the “plot,” such as it is, goes course by course.  That is, the book is broken into sections, such as “aperitif”, “salad”, etc.  But although this remains the format, it doesn’t really stick to this structure, as we start getting flashbacks from the narrator, which end up being longer than the dinner parts.  What I liked is that you start out thinking one thing about the narrator – he seems a stand-up guy, if a little curmudgeonly – but it gradually becomes obvious that he is at best a sociopath.  So this was sort of “fun”, although I don’t think it was particularly well done.  The whole book seemed rushed to me, like Koch had the idea and gave himself a set time to execute it.  The version I read was translated from the Dutch, though, so perhaps in its original language it was a better book?  I found it sloppy.

A House In The Sky by Amanda Lindhout & Sara Corbett.  This is an excellent book, albeit not for the faint at heart.  It’s the memoirs of Amanda Lindhout (written with NY Times writer Sara Corbett), who was kidnapped and held prisoner in Somalia for 15 months.  They very wisely begin with Lindhout’s childhood in Calgary, and how when things were difficult she would readNational Geographic magazines and dream of traveling to other places.  And in her twenties, she did just that, working as a high-end waitress in Calgary for four or five months, and then traveling the world for seven or eight months.  She eventually wanted to figure out a way that she could make travel pay, and tried to become an international journalist and photographer.  Since she didn’t have the usual established credentials, she first went to Baghdad and got a job working for an Iranian television station there.  She traveled to Somalia in 2008 with an ex-boyfriend, the Australian Nigel Brennan, despite the fact that it was very dangerous to do so.  She had a security team, but she and Nigel were still kidnapped by kidnappers who thought they were taking twoNational Geographic photographers who were there at the same time.  Anyway, the first 40% of the book is Amanda Lindhout’s travels, and the remaining 60% is about her kidnapping and the horrors she experiences there.  And what happens to her is very, very horrible – she and Brennan nominally convert to Islam, in the hope this will keep them from being killed, but it doesn’t keep them from being separated, and Lindhout from being repeatedly gang-raped and tortured.  Perhaps oddly enough, it’s still a very hopeful and inspiring book.  Lindhout is much better than I would be at seeing how her captors were controlled by their own horrible circumstances.  It is fascinating and very well-written.

The Furies by Natalie Haynes.  I enjoyed this novel well enough but wasn’t hugely impressed by it.  It’s Haynes’s first novel though, and I think I came to it via blog recommendation.  Basically the chapters are in two voices – the main voice is Alex Morris, a young drama teacher and director who has returned to Edinburgh, where she went to university, to teach drama/counsel at a school for troubled youth.  She was an up-and-coming director in London, when her fiancĂ© was murdered on the street.  Her old drama teacher gets her the Edinburgh job, and as you would expect, it is sort of an “in trying to heal the kids, the kids heal her” kind of story.  However, the other chapters are the diary of one of her students, who becomes obsessed with the death of Alex’s fiancĂ©.  And eventually the trajectories of the two characters collide.  The writing was okay – not wonderful, but not bad either.  I get a little cranky about non-linear story-telling when I feel it is being used as a crutch, and occasionally this novel came off that way.  There’s something to be said for telling a story from back to front and I think it is often easy –and unnecessary – to start with a tiny snippet of something horrible to come and then spiral back from that.  Grumble grumble.  An enjoyable aspect of the novel was that she teaches Greek tragedies to her students and some of the scenes in which the kids (not intellectuals, per se) begin to understand and relate to the actions in the plays were entertaining.

Wait for Me by Deborah Mitford, Duchess of Devonshire.  I am very fond of reading about the Mitfords, as is my sister, Martha, and am happy to read any Mitford tidbit she might pass along.  If you too are a Mitford dabbler, then these memoirs, written by the youngest, Debo, who went on to become the Duchess of Devonshire, will not disappoint.  Several of her famous siblings were teenagers by the time Debo was born, but she was raised spending all her time with “Decca”, aka Jessica Mitford.  She seems to have been a lot calmer than the majority of Mitfords as well; she was athletic and enjoyed the outdoor sports of the English well-to-do, and then married Andrew Cavendish, the second son of the family, who became the Duke of Devonshire when his older brother (who was married to Kick Kennedy) died in the war.  DD, as she calls herself, has written a lot of memoirs before this one, and so this is a bit rambling in nature.  She vaguely follows a chronological timeline, but seems to be concentrating on things that were perhaps overlooked in previous books.  She writes in depth of how they turned Chatsworth and all the other properties into estates that were able to open to the public and thus pay for themselves, while also still remaining private residences.  I enjoyed reading it slowly, a chapter here and a chapter there, despite the fact that I do not share DD’s politics, to put it mildly.  (For example, she mourned the ending of the traditional fox hunt in England, and campaigned to keep it going).  Ah well!  Still an interesting read.

Euphoria by Lily King.  This is a wonderful book and a way-too-short read!  It is the story an English anthropologist, Andrew Bankson, tells about meeting and working with two other anthropologists, Nell and Fen (based on Margaret Mead and her companion) in the Territory of New Guinea in the 1930’s.  Nell and Fen are passing through having left their study of the Mumpanyo tribe early, and Bankson, lonely and feeling an immediate rapport, both professionally and emotionally with Nell, convinces them to study the Tam, a people who live a few hours up-river from the Kiona, who Bankson himself is living with.  Nell, who has written a best-selling book, is an anthropology prodigy, and Bankson is awed by her methods and drive.  He also immediately sees the tension between her and her husband, Fen, and the problems between them are gradually revealed to the reader, as Nell and Bankson grow close.  Throughout the narrative we also get to read a quick diary Nell has written about her study with the Tam and her interactions with Bankson.  It’s one of those novels where even though the setting is not the “usual”, the reader is immediately drawn into the midst of it and happy to figure things out as the novel progresses.  It’s a really tight, compelling and heartbreaking novel that you will not be able to put down.  Lovely!

Early Warning by Jane Smiley.  This is the second book in her trilogy, and goes from 1953 to 1986, with each chapter a year.  It is still following the same family – the Langdons, from Iowa – but now there are grandchildren and thus a much wider cast of characters.  I liked the book, but didn’t love it.  Partly I think it’s that as a reader, you are spread too thin – you don’t spend enough time with a character to care that much about them.  It seems more interesting a book to me as a portrait of the times and how the people change with the decades; I just wish that the people were more likeable.  She does seem to make each character a type more than an individual.  For example, one woman is an alcoholic who in the sixties gets caught up in going to Freudian therapy daily; one teenager is susceptible and dissatisfied and ends up in the Jonestown cult; etc.  Again it is more that she is using the characters to demonstrate a trend and she doesn’t always do so artfully enough.  I’ll read the third when it comes out and will be happy to do so – I did look forward to my nightly chapter from this book.  It’s just I was a little underwhelmed on the whole.

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton.  This is a book that was on my kindle and whose provenance was forgotten by me.  I think a blog I read recommended it, but at any rate, I started it “blind,” not knowing anything about it or the author.  And it’s been a fun train read; as such, I recommend it.  It goes back in time between 1941 in wartime London, and 2011.  The main characters are a mother, Dorothy Smitham, who in 2011 is dying, and her daughter, Laurel, who in 1961 witnessed her mother kill an intruder.  Laurel, an Oscar-winning character actress, has a vague memory (she was 16 at the time) that the man said her mother’s name when he first saw her; she decides at long last to try to find out whether her mother knew the man and what the story is behind it all.  So we go from 1941 when Dorothy is 19 and living in London and working in a munitions factory to Laurel’s sleuthing in 2011.  As I said before:  it’s fun.  Dorothy gets herself into a muddle, and Morton does a good job at slowly unfolding all that is going on, without resorting to gimmick.  She takes her time – it’s a meaty book in a good way.  There are perhaps a bit too many coincidences at the end, but it’s a very enjoyable read.