Friday, September 30, 2011

Fly Away Home

I went home to Ohio for four days, without benefit of the boy or the husband.  My goal was to clean my Mom's house and clean I did.  Of course the sidewalks get rolled up at night on a trip like that so one of the things I did to pass the time was go thru my phone's picture files.  I found this stash of photos from our last trip to the toy lending library.  Donovan insisted on wearing this ladybug costume even tho it was just small enough that it sort of acted like a neckbrace.  We were there about 3 hours, if I'm remembering correctly, and he was a ladybug the whole time.

I love that kid.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Art Imitates Life

This is NOT our car and NOT our house.  It is, in fact, the house next door to us.  And, believe it or not, the lady who was driving the truck apparently walked away.  When we got home that evening, we got out of the car and thought, "Oh, the neighbors are up late working on their house."  They were, of course, tarping over the damage and doing emergency work to keep everything standing.

Donny was impressed with the idea of a car crashing into a building and that scenario has been creeping into the stories he's been telling.  Our friend, Kirsten, babysat him for a few hours today and she said that his building of complex houses with his architectural blocks has now been enlivened with reenactments of the car crash using any variety of cars from his toychest.  "Imitative play!" was her assessment--and with all due respect to the neighbors and the driver, I'm ok with that!

Kirsten also said that Donovan was telling her about his brothers and sisters.  I did'nt get a chance to ask if he included any info on his cats (Gwinty and Linto) or his babies (Lil' Baby MoMo Charnival Shanley or Maestro Faestro Shanley).  Tonight he drew a picture of his baby, me when I was a baby, and himself.  He was much bigger than either Lil' Baby or me and he had alot of hair.  We were all smiling, which was a nice change.  I'm hoping the Frown Period of his artistic career is over.  I was starting to wonder if CYS was going to come ask why our child only drew sad and angry people.

*Photo by Zak Orszulak, who posted it on Facebook, but I stole it from here without asking anyone's permission. Let me know if I need to take it down and I will.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Try Not To Squeal...

...but there are major developments here at Chez Donovan.  We ordered a pizza tonight (too much rummage sale prep=me, make supper? You are insane...) and when it came Mike asked Donovan to wash his hands.  Donny's response was, "I'll wash my hands after I go to the bathroom standing up."  And he did.  This is the FIRST TIME EVER he has voluntarily and of his own accord walked into our bathroom and peed in the toilet. 

And here I sit up in the office, listening to my son practice his left hand work on the piano.  Piano may turn out to be a dude thing--Mike can get him to practice and I have yet to figure out how to do that.  Nevertheless: voluntary bathroom usage and piano practicing without tears.

If I had champagne in the house, I'd be tempted to break it out!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


I don't want to jinx it or anything far this week, Donovan used the bathroom at school on Monday and today.  Today, apparently, he used it twice without any prompting or coercion from outside forces.  We still have miles to go on this issue but this is a major development.  And also a major relief!

We are gearing up for a huge yard sale this weekend.  Its been years in the making but was not the type of thing we could ever tackle with both of us working full time.  Not having a job has been great for finally getting this all together.  There is still much work to be done but today was the first day that I could actually feel the arrangement of the house changing and opening up.  And, frankly, it will be nice to have a little extra money.  I thought that when I left my big adult job I would easily take the veil, so to speak, and become the type of frugal hausfrau who is so savvy with home economics that she actually saves as much money as she was making.  Oooooh, that was a good one!  This past month saw very little change in my spending--and, yes, the kid did outgrow the majority of his winter clothes, but still.  I guess I've got a long way to go in my training as well.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Wherein The Apple Falls Right Next To the Tree

Today was my first day volunteering at Donovan's school.  His room already has a lovely and capable "room parent" so I offered my services in the school library (yes, I'm not a librarian, but some of my best friends are...).  It was just a Get to Know The Place sort of session and I was done quickly.  Mike and I had lunch together and when we got home there was a big box on the porch, a box addressed to Donovan sent from his uncle in Denver.

It was a record player.

When Mike's nephew, Jack, was born, lo, these 14 years ago, Mike found a "phonograph" for him and sent it to Denver along with some Herb Alpert records. So now the phonograph is back in Pittsburgh along with some Read Along records, Snoopy and the Royal Guardsmen and (inexplicably) the soundtrack to Easy Rider.

On the way home from picking up the kid, Mike wanted to stop at Paul's CDs in Bloomfield. All three of us went in.

Four of us if you count the monkey.

Donovan made himself at home by running laps around the huge island of CD bins.  One of ploys to slow him down was to say, "Donny, LOOK--now that you have a record player, you could play ANY OF THESE RECORDS on it!"  He liked that idea and immediately started handing me albums, "I think I would like this one.  And this one.  And this one..."  Luckily, the nice guy who worked there pointed out the Bargain Box and we diverted Donny's attention there.  He chose a Count Basie album and a 12 inch single of an instrumental on Motown.  I forget what and who it is but all Donovan really cared about was that it said "Motown Sound" on the front.  I think he liked saying that. 

So the vinyl torch has been officially passed.  Soon, once we get the skinny room cleaned out enough to stand in, I will make a sweeping gesture towards the shelfset that holds my and my husband's massive merged record collection and I will get to say those words every matriarch/patriarch dreams of saying: "Someday, son, this will all be yours."

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Chocolate Pie and Birdseed Cakes

Yesterday, Donovan was a whiney little brat.  Today he was a loving and enjoyable angelchild.  So goes it in The Land of the 4 Year Olds.  Today started off a little dicey as we went to church, which we havent done in a few weeks.  If we can manage to go for a few weeks in a row, he's fine with Sunday school.  If we miss a month or so, its back to clingy, weepy square one.  I stayed with him until it looked like he was involved enough not to "need" me and I left.  I don't think he cried in class but he was wearing the Pagliacci face when we went to get him. 

Mike had to run off to work so it was just me and The Boy I'd Done Wrong.  I apologized for making him sad and we had lunch.  By then, everything was better.  I'd thought we'd go to the fancy playground in Regent Square but Donny wanted to go home.  So we did and we made a chocolate pie.

The chocolate pie is very specific: Donny is still obsessed with Down At The Zoo and one of the songs on it we all like is called, "We Are The Tigers." Its a song about how tigers like to sleep, roam around and eat chocolate pie. It was a rare moment that we had graham crackers in the house for the crust and damn, if we did'nt have all the ingredients! So we made a Chocolate Chiffon Pie in a Graham Cracker Crust.

 That is the crust.  I forgot to take photos of my child beating a bag full of graham crackers with a rolling pin
The recipes for both crust and pie filling were from The Fanny Farmer Cookbook.  Its one of those cookbooks where you can find a basic recipe for basically anything.  The filling had a custard base to which you add...
 ...6 TABLESPOONS OF COCOA!  Notice the glee with which my son is anticipating making a mess.  Actually, he did quite well with the spooning, which is good because cocoa is pretty easy to scatter.

After we got the filling into the crust, we cleaned up a bit and made some new birdseed cakes.  This is a little craft Donny and I started doing over a year ago and its been a really great thing for us.  For a boy who is pretty freaked out by animals, feeding the birds and watching them thru the window is a nice way to make a connection to animals.  This is a recipe that is NOT in Fannie Farmer so I am providing it here.  I stole it from somewhere off the internets but tweaked it a little bit so hopefully I won't get my ass sued:

Recipe for Basic Bird Seed Cakes

• 3/4 cup flour

• 1/2 cup water

• 3 tablespoons corn syrup

• 4 cups bird seed, any type

In large bowl mix all the ingredients together.

 To mold, pack into small bowl and turn out onto parchment paper lined baking sheet.

Put in warm oven for a few hours—remember to turn heat off: you're not baking them, just helping them to dry out. Also, you should flip them after a couple of hours so the bottoms don't stay damp. Hang in plastic mesh bags (they type used to bag lemons etc.) so the birds have a place to hang from while they eat.

I asked Donovan what the birds would say when we put these out, and he said, "'Thank You! We needed that!'"

Mike got home, we had dinner et voila! We unveiled the chocolate pie! I will confess to thinking it would not work structurally. The crust was not easy to shape and it seemed like it needed one more binding ingredient: it did not. I should have known not to doubt Fannie Farmer. She's always right.


And, if I do say so myself, the pie was much better than I thought it would be.  It was seriously good.  Plus, it was a dream to cut and serve, which is not something you can say about alot of pies. 

So it was a wonderful, sweet Sunday with the added bonus of pie.  Now the kid is taking a bath to get all the pie off of him.  Good end to a great day.

Monday, September 5, 2011

And So It Ends...

...Summer, that is.

Today is Labor Day and here in the Burgh, its raining with no signs that it will stop.  That's fine with me--I'm not a summer person by any stretch--but it does mean that I need to find one more day of stuff for Donovan to do here at home.

Mike's been out of town at a conference so its just been me and the boy since Friday.  For the most part its been a good time but Saturday night I suddenly hit a mental brick wall.  Part of that was the aftershock of getting stuck in Oakland for THREE HOURS, first because Pitt closed one of the streets in Oakland be did'nt bother to put up any signs at the bustop where our bus would'nt be stopping and, second, because it was so hot all the buses kept breaking down.

But today, all I have to get thru is today.  And I'm trying to come up with good things for us to do, landlocked as we are.  In case you find yourself in a similar situation, here is a list of Youtube videos that Donovan asks for on a regular basis:

The Little House, Walt Disney.
Anyone who knows me knows I am violently anti-Disney.  This is one, however, for which I will make an exception.

The Water Babies, Walt Disney
Please see above.  Also: early Disney humor is largely butt-based: Discuss.

Bring On the Dancing Horses, Echo and the Bunnymen
Good song, good video AND, if you know your history, you can play Hey, Is'nt That Sort Of Like All Those Dadaist/Surrealist Theories and Games?  Yes, that's what I'm foisting onto my 4 year old.

I Spit Roses, Peter Murphy
Speaking of foisting... Donovan likes the octopus that changes color and he likes "The Bad Guy."  The Bad Guy does not refer to Peter Murphy, who I am trying to get Donovan to refer to as, "Petey."  So far, no luck.

Weapon of Choice, Fatboy Slim
No Donovan Top 5 List would be complete without, "The Guy."  The Guy, of course, is Christopher Walken, and about a year ago Donovan would insist on watching this multiple times in a row.  It was a good set up when I needed an extra 20 minutes to fold laundry but I have to wonder about the long term implications of letting Christopher Walken babysit my child.

Here's hoping this list will provide you and yours with some new things to look at and think about.  Especially if you are held captive by Dora.  We have thus far been able to escape the Napoleonic like Dora invasion but many of my closest friends have not been so lucky.