Paper Dolls and Christmas Elves

Owen’s Grandmum has given him a digital advent calendar (Jacquie Lawson) for the second year in a row. These things are fantastic. They provide hours of wholesome entertainment. Owen has even started playing Chinese Checkers on the computer. Anyway, this year’s version is an Edwardian Christmas. It’s basically Downton Abbey – you can imagine my delight! I’m about as excited as Owen is. One of the days recently featured a set of Edwardian paper dolls to dress up. They have day clothes and night clothes and outdoor clothes… well, except for the servant, who can be a housemaid or a nursemaid, and apparently never sleeps or leaves the house. In any case…

Owen was really taken with these paper dolls, possibly because we had been talking about one of my childhood memories, which was wandering next door to visit our neighbour Ellen. Ellen always gave me orange juice and homemade cookies when I came over. If that wasn’t enough, she let me go into a spare room and play with old fashioned paper dolls. I think they were from her childhood, though their clothes were (as I recall) childish versions of 19th century ballgowns. You’ve heard before that I was obsessed with the 19th century before I knew historically which century it was – when it was the “olden days” (which, incidentally, according to my students, is now as recent as 1998. Some of my students saw fitting to tape creative projects about a play from 1998 in black and white, for a “back-in-the-day” effect). Ellen’s paper dolls had lush curls, and their dresses were  decorated with rosebuds and ribbons. I must have spent hours in that room.

My mother and I made paper dolls at least once, and I mentioned this memory to Owen, too. So with these stories and the prompting of the Edwardian Advent Calendar, behold! We made some, too:

20131215_114932I drew the doll, but Owen drew the face. I love the combination. The fact that Owen included a line for the forehead makes him remind me (in a really good way) of Charlie Brown. Owen also drew the fire truck on his shirt.

Here he is in his Doctor’s costume. He’s been christened Jim.

20131215_114558The scale indicates that Dr Jim’s patient has a temperature of “thirteen-ten.”

Next, meet Pirate Jim, a friendly pirate who uses his sword only for operating on patients. It’s a sword-scalpel?

20131215_114416The hat and sword are entirely made (and cut out) by Owen.

Here’s the boy himself, being good for a change. Sorry. Did I write that? 20131215_114124

The notion that elves are watching all the time used to work for me (I think). This form of persuasion has not had much of an effect on our boy. However, over the weekend, we did make a surprising discovery. We attended a local Santa’s breakfast. The only spaces available were next to another family, so we sat with them. Owen struck up a conversation with a man called Mark, who showed Owen his drawing of “two turtledoves” and his Christmas wish lists. After a while, someone came to get Mark, and he put on his elf’s hat and went off to join Santa.

Owen looked at me, wide-eyed. “We didn’t know we were sitting beside an Elf! They really are everywhere!”

Here is Owen, with Santa, and Mark, the elf:


If I don’t get a chance to post again before Christmas, Happy Holidays everyone!

On Redressing and Undressing

Our son is usually a pretty good kid. Like all good people, though, he has his moments. What has surprised me lately is his capacity for rage. Duncan and I showed up at daycare a couple of days ago and he wanted to continue playing. “Go away!” we were told. But we persisted. So he picked up a rather large truck and threw it on the floor, breaking its door off. Wow. I never know what to do if my child misbehaves in the presence of teachers. Who does the disciplining? In this case, I thought it was me, since it was my presence that had caused the upset. We explained to him how his behaviour was unacceptable and made him fix the truck and apologize to his teachers.

Another time, Owen was getting ready for bed. He wanted to keep drawing, but we said that it was time for a story and then bed. He refused (usually, storytime is the best time, so this night was unusual!). Then, when we insisted, he pulled up his shirt with a kind of guttural grunt/shriek. And then… he pulled down his pants. Duncan and I weren’t quite sure what to do. It was so funny to see him so mad AND naked. He’s done it since, but now we laugh about it.

“Owen, if you’re so mad why don’t you show us your belly?”

So what is this? The throwing things I totally get. I have, in fits of frustration, broken furniture. I have thrown books. I don’t get that mad often, but I certainly have it in me. But what about the nudity? Is it some kind of primal return? Take that, civilization? See my naked rage? When he starts beating his chest, I’ll be worried.


Sneaky Jack

The latest exploit of Sneaky Jack:

“He is so bad. He draws on pictures that are already drewn!”

We have to look out for him in the evenings, when we come home.

“Oh oh. Sneaky Jack is hiding in the shadows. We have to get into the house quick!”

Sneaky Jack sleeps at the Magic Circus Fair, we are told. Only he and Owen have beds there. He is even making appearances in our little oral storytelling sessions.

“Can you tell me the story about how Sneaky Jack stole all the presents of the children at Christmas?”

Sneaky Jack is sometimes a lot like our son:

“Do you know why Sneaky Jack is so bad? He picks his nose and eats it and doesn’t even say he’s sorry!”

When we point out that a certain someone we know sneaks into corners to perform similar activities, we are met with a look of innocence.

“But I always say I’m sorry.”


Nostalgia at Four

Owen woke up in the middle of the night last Sunday, crying. “I miss my friends,” he wailed. Since it was Sunday, I comforted him, but was also chuckling. “You’ll see them tomorrow,” I said.

It wasn’t until half way through the week that it dawned on me what he meant. He wasn’t eager to see his friends the next morning. He misses the fact that his three best friends are no longer in his class. He misses the fact that he is no longer part of a triangle of boys, but is instead the odd one out. The other two boys, from whom he was inseparable three months ago, seem to have moved on. They have each other. A couple of times, they have told him that they don’t want to be his friend anymore. Even though he occasionally still plays with them, he senses that they are no longer “safe” friends. Rejection is hard, and the worst part about it is it can rob you of your trust.

I know this is only a small setback, and I know that he will have to start all over making friends next year, but I wish someone had thought of this before they took all is friends out of his class. I think I know why they did it, too. Owen is so friendly, it looks like he could make friends with anyone. He’s also apparently sensitive, and very much my son. Rejected once, I will retreat forever in shame and humiliation. I’m that crazy person who thinks (thought) that if I never talk to someone again it’s like he or she never existed.

It doesn’t seem to be getting better, either. I was called in today to pick him up early because he was weeping into his lunch. He has a cold, granted, but I don’t think that was the problem. There needs to be a way to make the daycare safe and happy again. I just don’t know how to help it happen.

Extra Vision

Mummy, if you ever need to find something in the dark, you can ask me because I have extra vision!

If you ever need to find something outside, ask me. I have extra vision! I’m good at my extra vision, my extra vision, my extra vision (he breaks it down).

I use my extra vision for finding things that are lost. And that’s all, OK, Mummy. OK? ok. OK? ok.

The Magic Circus Fair, Revisited

I’ve written about the Magic Circus Fair before. It used to be that this place was accessed through a wall in the bathroom of the daycare. Now, Owen tells me, the magic circus fair is entered through a hole you dig in the ground. I’ll try to tell you about the Magic Circus Fair as Owen does.

“You dig a hole and then you find a man to let you in to the Magic Circus Fair. And then he gives you a coin and you give it back to him and that is how you get inside. And at the Magic Circus Fair, they have air bounces, and roller coasters, and bumper cars, and even benches for sitting on and having a conversation! And they have stores where you can buy things like vehicles. The vehicles cost one dollar and everything else costs two dollars. Everything costs only one coin. And you can buy bicycles, and you can buy lots of food at restaurants. And it’s really big and you can walk around. And the benches have backs on them.”

He keeps asking us if we can go there. The other day, he said it was in Vaudreuil, which is not very far away. We’d take him if the place existed. It seems like a child’s paradise (well, our child’s paradise). I love that you are given the coin that you must pay for admission. I love that there are benches (with backs) for having conversations. Owen is known at his daycare for sitting down with his teachers and having long chats.

Today, he told me, he was sitting with a friend who missed his Mummy. Owen said he sat with him because his friend felt sad, but that he also felt sad. Owen wanted to play Fire Racer, but his friend was too sad. He stayed to keep him company, anyway.

There have been some social adjustments to changing classes at daycare recently. Owen’s two best friends (he actually called them a triangle of friends today) were placed in a different class. A couple of times, he’s come home saying that they won’t play with him because they’re in a different class, so, he said, “I walked around feeling lonely.”

Another of Owen’s good friends, a girl, is also in the different class. He’s made some new friends, but you can tell that he’s still finding his way a bit.

Lately, a lot of his games at daycare seem to involve playing superhero or rescuer. He tells the teachers that if there’s anyone in trouble, he will help. I wonder whether on some level this is an attempt to avoid making new friends, or to prevent himself from being rejected. I am probably reading too much into this, but I remember being separated from friends when I was in elementary school. The schoolyard is a desolate place if you don’t have a friend (a safe friend).

He’s resilient, and even his speeches about “walking around feeling lonely” seem only mock-sad. Still, I am glad that Owen has his Magic Circus Fair to create magic in surroundings where, at least for now, he is no longer certain of his place.


Owen came into our bedroom this morning, eager to talk. Maybe because he has been visiting with his baby cousin Welf lately, he had babies on the brain. He asked me,

“Are you trying hard to make me a baby brother or a baby sister?”

“We’ve been trying, sweetie. But to be honest, we’ve kind of given up. It’s just not working.”

“Don’t give up, Mummy. Have you been doing the half and half?”

Now, a while back, when Owen asked how babies were made, I said that a baby was made up of half the mummy and half the daddy, all mixed up together. Right? Owen has apparently decided that this was called the “half and half.”

So I said, “Yes, Owen, we’ve been doing the half and half”

“But have you been doing it all the time? In the morning and at night?”

At which point I just laughed.

“Have you been making the hands and Daddy makes the feet? You try, Mummy, because I want a family like yours, with brothers and sisters.”

We have just had a great weekend. My brother Adam has married the most wonderful woman imaginable (we love you, Val!). We were all together. My sister Erin was here from Germany with her husband and son, and for the whole weekend, we were a huge family, my three siblings, our partners, our kids, and my parents. Val comes from an even bigger family, with three sisters and a brother, plus her parents.

Owen and I talk sometimes about how we have a small family. Owen has named our family a “triangle family,” with the three of us connected together. Yesterday, we went for breakfast at a café together, and he asked me to draw him all the shapes I knew on a napkin. I obliged. I drew triangles of all sorts, a square, different kinds of rectangles, a parallelogram, an octagon… Then Owen asked for a decagon, which kind of floored me. (Apparently he learned the word from a video). He wanted more and more shapes, with more and more sides.

This weekend, our family blended with Val’s family, and yesterday, we were about twenty people around a brunch table. Two decagons. OK. I looked it up. A twenty-sided polygon is called an icosagon. (Thanks, Wikipedia!) What does this shape look like, more than anything else in the world?


A circle.

At their wedding, not only did Adam and Val exchange vows with each other, but they asked their family and friends to take a vow to help them and sustain them. We will. In exchanging rings, they nestled a circle of family around themselves.


Sometimes, with Owen, we talk about his extended family. He likes this idea. He likes us to name all the people in his extended family – grandparents, aunts, cousins, great-grand-aunts, second cousins twice removed. Sometimes he asks how many cars it would take to fit all of his extended family inside. A couple of school buses, I say.

So, Owen, even though your immediate family is just a triangle, and even though your parents are struggling with the math of half and half, please know that you are surrounded, encircled, with a network of family that verges on infinity.

Owen, the ring bearer


I am so behind on this blog right now. Avid readers (and I know there are some of you!) I am so sorry. I don’t have any proper excuses other than I’ve gotten out of the habit of posting, and so it has loomed like a chore. And, of course, when I wasn’t writing, I also wasn’t paying attention to things in my life to write about… which is kind of sad. I need to make writing here part of my routine, and I will try to get back here, and stop trolling pinterest. Though I did recover my dining room chairs…

Love is a subject we talk about a lot in our house. Today at daycare, Owen reportedly said to his teacher, “B____, do you have a lot of love in your heart? I do.”

When we’re in the car, Owen declares that his love fills up the whole car. “Isn’t there a lot of love in this car?”

At night, after our little ritual (bath, teeth, books, story-of-his-day, two songs*), he’s taken to calling out sweet nothings after I’ve left his room to go downstairs.

“I love you all around space!”

“Don’t let the bed bugs bite!”

“Or any other bugs bite!”**

“Have a nice night!”

“See you in the morning!”

Some nights, though, if he’s really tired, he’s taken to saying, “All that stuff I told you last night!” At daycare, too, he uses shorthand, “all that stuff I said. I still love you that much.”

Another day, recently, he had his back to me. He put his arms in a circle and threw the circle back to me: “There you go. I threw a hug back to you!”

SO: Taking inspiration from my child, I will try to keep communicating (through this blog), even if my posts occasionally resort to shorthand, OK?

xo Anna

* The two songs are “A boat, a boat” and another one “The Miller’s Fair Daughter” (both of which I learned at the Gaiety School of Acting in Dublin in 1996 and neither of which appears if I search the lyrics on google!)

** Those bites that I wrote about in May? Remember them? Well, he still has clusters of them. We’ve tried calamine lotion, antibiotics (oral and topical), hydrocortisone, tea tree oil, and oral antihistamines. The latter was making a difference for a while, but a stubborn patch is still itchy and red. Bug bites are the one reason I am excited for the first frost.