Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Beginning of Summer

Owen finished up his last days in his “3-Day 3’s” nursery school class at the beginning of June, and we attended a “closing ceremony” which was similar to the Christmas performance – all the kids sang songs on risers in the front of the church.  Owen did not sing.  He happily went up with his class and got into place on the risers (towards the front; he’s short), and then did not open his mouth once for the twelve or so songs.  Nor did he do any of the many hand movements.  When I congratulated him afterwards, he informed me that “I didn’t sing.”  I said no, you didn’t, but maybe you will next time.  And he certainly was not the only boy not singing, although it seemed like most of the girls did.  Why is that, I wonder?  I wouldn’t say I was the performing sort as a child, but I did love to sing, and furthermore, it wouldn’t have occurred to me that NOT singing was an option. 

But so be it!  School is out for the summer and Owen is pleased about that.  Even though he enjoyed nursery school very much, he often didn’t seem to enjoy waking up and finding out it was a school day.  And three weeks later he is still asking me if he has to go to school today and then being very pleased when I say no.  The boy is a homebody at the moment, apparently, and very much enjoys his one-on-one time with his beloved Nanny.

Owen’s class of kids got on very well, and so a lot of the parents and caregivers email the entire class if they are going to the park or some other local activity so that others can meet up there as well.  Yesterday they went to a new splash pad in the area, and from all accounts had a lot of fun.  Here is Owen at the splash pad and with his favorite friend, Sheldon:

Last weekend was the Abington Hospital June Fete, and Owen was at a prime age to enjoy it.  We got there soon after it opened on Saturday morning at 11, and spent several hours enjoying all the rides.  Owen loves the rides and once again didn’t mind going on them by himself.  Sean and I noticed, too, that he was very chatty with his various seat mates; we wondered what he could be saying:

I went on a few rides with him, including the merry-go-round, which, for the record, goes much faster than the one in our local mall.

They had no food trucks there this year, which seemed to me like a missed opportunity, since the food trucks in this area are excellent.  So we just had the choice of carnival fare (and then a tent that was making omelettes.  Omelettes?  In the 90 degree sun in the middle of the day?  Is that not odd?), and happily shared a funnel cake.

And that is what we have been doing lately:  we spend the majority of our weekend out on the front porch enjoying the breezes and lining superheroes up in a row; and then we do some gardening and some errand running.  And Plum cries at the window to come out on the front porch, while Posy scratches at the door.  Neither are allowed out, of course, unless I am holding them tightly.  But they still try mightily to expand their domain.

Thursday, June 16, 2016


We were all outside doing weeding in the garden in the backyard, and after a few minutes Owen lost interest and went to play.  He was standing in the very back of the yard and called out to me:
Owen:  Mom!  There are weeds back here!
Me:  Well pull them out!
Owen, after a pause:  But that’s not my job!
Me, muttering:  It can be.

Owen came into my bed in the middle of the night and snuggled close.  All of a sudden he said with terror in his voice:
Owen:  Mommy!  There’s something furry on the pillow!
Me:  That’s my HAIR, Owen.  Now go to sleep.

Posy was not making her usual VERY LOUD meows the other night:
Me:  I think Posy has a frog in her throat.
Owen, excited:  A frog?!  How did it get there?
Me:  No, it’s just an expression, not an actual frog.  It means that she is a little hoarse.
Owen:  A horse?!
Me, struggling:  Let’s just say that Posy has temporarily lost her meow.

Sean and Owen are always playing a rocket game ship in which they blast off and explore some region of outer space.  The other day this happened:
Sean:  Owen, can you go over there and get me a piece of lego?
Owen, setting off across the room:  Okay!
Owen, halfway there, and turning around suspiciously:  Wait, why?
Sean, nonchalantly:  Oh, I just need it.
Owen:  Okay, but don’t blast off without me.
Sean, a minute later:  3!...2!...1!
And Owen hurtles across the room and dives headfirst on the couch, their ship, so as not to be left behind. 
Now all Sean has to do is say, from somewhere in the house, 3!...2!...1!..., and Owen is off like a shot.

Me:  I need a shower.
Owen:  Yes, you don’t smell like a flower anymore.

All of a sudden I realize it is a little quiet and I’m not sure what Owen is doing.
Me:  Owen?!
Owen:  I’m in the bathroom.
Me:  Are you pooping?
Owen:  No, I’m just thinking on the toilet.

Owen and I were going over the alphabet and what words start with what letters.  I pointed to an “O” and reminded him that:
Me:  Owen starts with an “O”.
Owen:  Yes, and so does Target.
Me:  [wondering how to explain that the Target “O” is their bulls-eye logo.  Gave up.]

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Book Reviews May 2016

The Distant Hours by Kate Morton.  This was the last book of Morton’s that I had yet to read, and it was a bit disappointing.  It’s her usual format, so I won’t waste time talking about that.  I think the problem was that the characters weren’t fleshed out enough.  There are three sisters who live in a castle, and when the main character, Edie Burchill, meets them, they are elderly, but we also see them young in many chapters.  Their crucial actions didn’t ring true to me though:  I don’t believe that they would act the way they did.  There’s also a crazy father who has written a best-selling children’s fable, The Mud Man, and then Edie’s mother, to me the most interesting and sad character in the book, who stayed in the castle for a few years during the war as a 10 year-old evacuee.  It was entertaining enough but not well done.  I’d rate it along with The House at Riverton as one of her lesser books.

Bridget Jones:  Mad About the Boy by Helen Fielding.  I had no intention of reading this novel, so mad was I that she killed off the Colin Firth character.  It seemed, as of course it was, just a cheap way of getting another novel out of Bridget.  But then Martha read it and said it was enjoyable and so she loaned it to me and I had a go.  And it was rather fun to spend time with Bridget again on the whole, although one really only needs to read the first book and call it a day.  In this one, Mark Darcy has died from a land mine, and a few years have passed.  Bridget is raising their two young children, Billy and Mabel, on her own (financially quite comfortable).  She doesn’t have to work, so spends her time mothering, and working on a screenplay—a re-write of Hedda Gabler.  Her friends convince her to start dating again, and the book consists of her dating misadventures.  I’d say too much of the book was in twitter format, but then again, I don’t tweet, so perhaps I’m just immune to its charms.  If you are missing Bridget, it’s a fun enough read; Fielding is witty and good at writing slapstick.

The Black Path by Asa Larsson.  This is the third “Rebecka Martinsson” mystery and it was as good as the first two, if not better.  I really love Larsson’s writing, and I can’t really parse why I think it is so good.  It’s spare—not for her the coffee-making detail of The Dragon Tattoo – but she manages to write the perfect amount of description and character development.  In this one, Rebecka has stayed up north in Kiruna after her second trauma; it took a while for her to recover, and then she was convinced to work there as a prosecutor, instead of returning to her big law firm in Stockholm.  We also once again spend a lot of time with the wonderful Anna Maria Mella and Sven-Erik Stalnicke, the police duo.  Anna Maria Mella is a delightful character:  she’s smart, and has good instinct, and a good work/life balance.  A murder occurs in an ice house in Kiruna and Anna Maria starts to solve it, and gets Rebecka to help with some of the corporate twists and turns.  It is suspenseful and interesting and extremely well done.  Larsson is really adept at having multiple threads and storylines continually veer apart and come together; she’s able to keep the intrigue going without leaving the reader feeling manipulated.  It’s excellent!

One and Only:  The Freedom of Having an Only Child and the Joy of Being One by Lauren Sandler.  This was an interesting look at the stereotypes of being an only child – that only children are self-centered and/or awkward around their peers, etc.  Sandler, herself an only child who mostly enjoyed being one, first locates and pinpoints the original studies done in the fifties of the negatives associated with being an only child.  Such studies generally started with a thesis that it was bad to just have one child, and then supported that thesis even if the stats did not.  And the stats did and do not:  there is no discernable difference between only children and children with siblings when it comes to social skills.  The main difference between only children and siblings is that only children tend to be more successful and happier in later life.  When Sandler researched and wrote her book, she had a daughter who was around 4 or 5, and was in the process of deciding whether or not to have more kids.  So many people told her that she needed to have another kid “for her daughter,” and this made her want to investigate the notion.  She interviews only children, and did come across some who hated not having siblings; however, most of these people had unhappy childhoods or were in odd situations to begin with.  It was an interesting read.

The Vacationers by Emma Straub.  The Vacationers would be a good vacation read, unsurprisingly enough.  It’s a light, relatively entertaining novel about a family who goes to spend two weeks in Mallorca and once there deals with all the many underlying tensions that confront them.  The parents, Jim and Franny are trying to decide what to do after Jim had an affair with an intern only a few years older than their daughter; their son, Bobby, is there with his older girlfriend, with whom he – and certainly his family – do not have much in common.  Sylvia, the daughter, is about to embark on her college career at Brown and is ripe for an affair with a young Spanish man.  And then there are two family friends along for the vacation, a married couple, Charles and Lawrence, who have been trying to adopt a baby for several years and might just be about to get their wish.  It’s a fun enough read – each of the 14 days has its own chapter –and on the whole seems like it would be a good film.  I was underwhelmed but amused.

We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas.  I found this novel very moving.  It is about three-generations of an Irish-American family, and begins by concentrating on Eileen Tumulty’s childhood in Queens with alcoholic parents.  Eileen has drive and wants a better a life for herself, although she feels that as a woman her options are limited, so becomes a nurse.  She meets and marries Ed Leary, from a similar background, who is a scientist who studies the brain, yet remains teaching at a community college in the Bronx to help students from poor backgrounds.  They have a son, Connell.  In midlife, things begin to go wrong with Ed, and the reader figures it out long before Ed and Eileen do – that Ed has early-onset Alzheimers.  He is in the full throes of it by his early fifties, and the novel shows how Eileen deals with it, and her rigorous care of Ed, and then how Connell backs away.  I think Thomas gets Ed just right; Eileen doesn’t always ring true to me.  I don’t think he was able to make her as human as she should have been—she wants to do the right thing and help Ed keep his dignity, but Thomas isn’t able to really portray her in the depth that the novel deserves.  I also didn’t like Connell so much and was always a little exasperated when I got to a Connell chapter.  But perhaps that is me—I find it hard to muster much enthusiasm for teenage boys.  It’s a sad book but also very well done.  And towards the end Connell finds a letter from his father which will turn you to mush.  It is a novel that is well worth reading.

Wilde Lake by Laura Lippman.  I came late to Lippman, and I’ve never read her much-praised “Tess Monaghan” mysteries, although I have vague plans to do so.  I’ve read her last seven or so mysteries that aren’t part of that series, and she was really the writer who made me realize that a good mystery is a good novel.  She is a really good writer, and her mysteries are all over the place scenario-wise; well, most take place in Maryland, but you never know what kind of person she is going to create, and all are so realistic and interesting.  In this one, the main voice is that of Lu Bryant, a newly elected state’s attorney who is presented with her first murder of this job.  The chapters are interspersed with the present day and her work on the case, to first-person chapters of Lu growing up in a single-parent household with her father and brother.  Eventually the past and the present intersect, and Lu has to figure out what to do with the collision of personal and professional.  There are several incidents in her past which become relevant to this investigation, and my one criticism of the book is that at times I had trouble keeping them straight—but that is in part because Lu, who was 8 years younger than her brother, didn’t understand things that are clear to the reader.  It’s a layered mystery and a good read.