Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The End of the Buttercup Sea

"The sea is gone, 
my sea of buttercups.
They mowed them down.
They took my loves.
Those buttercups were dear to me.
There is no more buttercup sea!"

--Penelope, today (the rest was less a poem than a chant about revenge)

Penelope took Pupcake on the walk with us today, and the whole time chattered excitedly to him about the beautiful buttercup sea, and how she would hold him up when we got there, so he could admire it.  But when we got there, the whole area had been mowed away.  She was like, "You're going to love them, Pupcake!  You won't believe your--OH NO!"  She was so devastated.

Fortunately, when I told her that nature's transience is part of what makes it so beautiful (in different words), she calmed down fairly quickly.  But she was still dismayed and made up another poem--though most of it was more like just a long vengeful rant. 



Spring Movie Diary: Mud

Date: April 29, 2013
Time: 6:50 pm
Place: Regal Arbor
Company: Derrick
Food:  Coke, candied almond things

Runtime:  2 hours, 10 minutes
Rating: PG-13
Directors:  Jeff Nichols

Quick Impressions:
Mud is my favorite film of 2013 so far, and it’s not even close.  This week, so many movies that looked intriguing came to a theater near me, but I picked this one for two reasons:  1) Matthew McConaughey impressed me so much last year in BernieMagic Mike, and Killer Joe, and 2) A one-sentence description of the film made it sound like the best coming-of-age-while-aiding-a-fugitive-on-an-island story since Huckleberry Finn (and despite its tonal inconsistencies and controversial content, I really love Huck Finn.  It is the great American novel).

To my pleasant surprise, the movie completely exceeded my expectations because it drew me into its rich, compelling world from scene one, held my attention throughout, and reduced me to tears on more than a few occasions.  (Full disclosure, I cry really easily.  In fact, I remember tears streaming down my face just the other night while I watched a cartoon with my four-year-old daughter although I’m suddenly remembering that was The Lion King, so never mind.)

The Good:
This is really just a good, old-fashioned, crowd-pleasing movie.  (In that way, it has a lot in common with 42, though Mud feels at the same time more real and more fantastical than that film.)  It really does share a lot of common ground with Huck Finn, including pretty dramatic tonal inconsistencies.  At some moments, we’re steeped in realism, palpable, relatable, gritty, familiar.  At other times—like the ending for instance—we feel like we’re watching a fantasy, something that ought to be true but probably wouldn’t actually play out that way in real life. 

Some people will probably find Mud too hokey and contrived to be a great film, but I think it’s aware of what it is.  It’s hard to believe it’s not to some degree modeling itself on Huckleberry Finn because it seamlessly blends realism and fantasy so effectively, presenting the entire story from the point of view of a fourteen-year-old.  The protagonist’s adolescence more than explains the tonal changes and uncanny coincidences.  Ellis is experiencing so many pivotal things for the first time, and he’s also clearly coping with his parents’ marital difficulties by exploring his feelings about what’s going on at home through a thematically related adventure of his own.

Like I said, some people might think this sounds a little too contrived and controlled, but I personally find the film extremely well written with both an effective story and memorable dialogue.  Several moments really resonate emotionally—at least, they did for my husband and me.  He particularly identified with the, “I ain’t no townie” line, and I spent the last twenty minutes or so bawling in sympathy, catharsis, and sheer anticipation.

Also to the script’s credit, most of the characters are inherently likable and compelling.  I’m always impressed when somebody writes and directs a film and ends up with a great movie, so I’ll be watching for more of Jeff Nichols’s work.  With Take Shelter and Mud under his belt already, he’s off to a most impressive start.

That Ellis is one amazing young man, and I love the way that the audience goes along for the ride, accompanying him on a life-defining adventure that helps him work through interior turmoil.  What a courageous kid!  He has tremendous character and a surprisingly strong sense of himself and his role in the world, even when he’s going through puberty and his home life is in upheaval beyond his control.  His willingness to punch bullies in the face with no hesitation really won me over (though I was also pleased that the movie followed through by showing the problem with taking these impulsive moves too far). 

And Neckbone is a perfect companion.  He’s incredibly funny, seems really genuine, and best of all, actually is Ellis’s friend.  At this point, I’m beyond tired of seeing movies in which the mild-mannered adolescent boy in the family is inexplicably paired up with the most obnoxious, borderline abusive best friend on earth.  I’ve seen that dynamic in far too many movies recently.  But Ellis and Neckbone really are friends.  They honestly like and look out for each other.  There’s no jealousy or treachery lurking beneath the seemingly placid surface of their relationship.  They’re just friends who hang out together because they enjoy one another’s company, and each treats the other with decency and compassion.  It’s a refreshingly simple and positive dynamic.

The cast is universally excellent.  The performances of the young actors playing Ellis and Neckbone are particularly crucial, and both Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland are amazing.  In fact, on the way home from the theater, I kept thinking, Tye Sheridan was really impressive as Ellis.  I haven’t seen such great, natural acting from a kid since The Tree of Life.  Then just now while exploring his filmography, I discovered that he was one of the kids in The Tree of Life!  So there you have it—Tye Sheridan is a great young actor!

And Matthew McConaughey—wow!  In the past year, my opinion of him as an actor has completely changed—and dramatically improved.  I never had anything against McConaughey, but I felt like his charisma and appeal somehow didn’t work on me, and most of his projects didn’t interest me much.  Recently, that’s all changed.  He’s very good as Mud, and it’s refreshing (and encouraging) to see him playing a nuanced “good” character since last year he played so many menacing types (some layered, some not).

As Ellis’s parents, Ray McKinnon and Sarah Paulson are so convincing in their characters that you want to strangle them both.  (Well, not really, but good grief, they need to take a parenting class or something!  They’re so self-focused and determined to undermine one another’s credibility as a loving parent.)  The characters are realistic and frustrating, and the actors turn in performances that seem effortlessly authentic.

Young Bonnie Sturdivant is charming, annoying, and very real as May Pearl.

Playing Neckbone’s cool uncle, Michael Shannon is barely in the movie.  (Presumably he’s in the cast at all because he worked with the director on Take Shelter.)  In the few brief scenes where he appears, however, Shannon is fantastic, both amusing and convincing in the character. 

Sam Shepard is great in a winning role, and Joe Don Baker manages to be convincing in his part, which is pretty impressive considering the character is practically larger than life. 

With so many talented actors and supporting actors, it’s all too easy to forget about Reese Witherspoon.  She’s quite good, too, though her role seems less challenging than some.  (I’m not trying to insult Witherspoon by implying that she’s playing herself.  I’m just saying that she’s a talented actress, and the role doesn’t necessarily require an actress of her caliber.) 

One thing that I do love about the movie, though, is the treatment of Witherspoon’s character.  Juniper is the kind of woman who could be demonized or marginalized (or on the flip side, idealized), but here she’s a nuanced, realistic, multi-dimensional character.

Best Scene Visually:
In terms of visuals, Mud is nowhere near as self-conscious as films like Spring Breakers or The Place Beyond the Pines.  To be clear, I’m not trying to insult those films.  On a visual level, both of them succeed spectacularly, but their carefully constructed scenes are trying to do more than simply advance the story.  Mud, on the other hand, takes a more natural, traditional, story-oriented visual approach.  The goal of each well-set scene seems to be total emersion in the world the young protagonists and Mud inhabit. 

And I have to say, this strategy really worked.  Watching the opening scene unfold, I was hooked immediately.  Watching the boys scramble around in the open countryside really made me wish I were there—with my camera.  I loved the contrasting colors of the junkyard rust and the green trees and brush.  Everything looked very realistic and ordinary, but at the same time, vibrant, unique, and full of life.

Visually, the most memorable moment is probably the part with the snakes.

Funniest Scene:
The conversation between Neck’s Uncle Galen (Michael Shannon) and Ellis is just priceless, particularly Ellis’s response when Neck asks him what they talked about.  The whole “Help Me, Rhonda” thing really works, too.  It’s a joke, but it’s not only a joke.  It’s also a very serious underlying theme.

Another scene that definitely gets your attention is Joe Don Baker’s group prayer.  Good grief!  It’s hard to know how to react to that.

Best Action Sequence:
The confrontation between Ellis and Mud blends perfectly into the heightened, breath-taking urgency of what happens next.  Also great, of course, is the unexpected way the last big scene at Ellis’s house plays out. 

Best Scene:
It’s pretty hard not to cry during the last part of this movie—if you’re me, anyway.  At my side, my husband didn’t seem to be crying, but he also found the ending thoroughly gripping.  For me, the whispered conversation in Ellis’s bedroom hit a high note that I had been waiting for some time to hear.

The Negatives:
Like Huckleberry Finn, the tone is all over the place.  By the end, you’re very aware you’re watching a fantasy of sorts.  For me that wasn’t a problem, but I’m a big fan of “a boy and his dog” type stories, and this is basically just a variation on that theme, “a boy and his fugitive.” 

I was thinking of writing, “It’s a lot like Huckleberry Finn except there’s less of an emphasis on racial tension.”  Then I realized—as far as I can remember, every single character who appears in this movie is white.  In fact, this is probably the least racially diverse cast I’ve seen in a movie all year.  I may be forgetting somebody, but it’s no one with any significant lines.  The boys are white.  Ellis’s parents are white.  Neckbone’s uncle is white.  His uncle’s girlfriend is white. Mud is white.  All his friends and enemies are white.  The girl Ellis likes is white, and so are all her friends (that I can recall).  Of course, Reese Witherspoon is white.  Now that I’m pointedly thinking about it, I’m pretty sure I do remember a couple of non-white people in the crowd at the hospital.  But I’m not positive.  I’m remembering the stunned face of one elderly African American man, but I’m half afraid my own imagination is just generating that now, trying to be helpful. 

I’m not sure that lack of diversity is a failing of the movie.  After all, it does take place in a very small, particular, insulated community in Arkansas.  Maybe that’s simply an accurate depiction of the community dynamic in that area, but it is unusual for a film made in 2013.  I do remember that early on Mud gives a speech about a guy, saying something like, “I called him Native American, but he was really Mexican.”  Other than that, it’s like different ethnicities don’t exist in this film.  Is that truly a negative?  Maybe not.  But it’s very thought-provoking, especially because of the debt the spirit of the movie owes to Huck Finn.

This movie also has a lot in common with Great Expectations (and not just in the area of feeding a man running from the law.  There’s also a whole big thing about doomed relationships and women who toy with men).  But the romanticization of the boy-befriending-convict scenario is worth pausing to consider.  In film or literature, any time a boy makes friends with a fugitive, it’s a relatively positive thing that leads to life-changing adventures.  (That’s not just true in classic novels.  The Kevin Costner film A Perfect World is another good example that springs immediately to mind, and there are many others.)  Fugitives in movies are always so benevolent.  How would young men seeking role models ever get along without their mentorship and guidance? 

In real life, though, should fourteen-year-old boys be encouraged to make friends with strange men who carry guns and are on the run from the law?  Surely not every real-world fugitive has a heart of gold, and this film is definitely guilty of perpetuating a myth that might lead gullible youths to put their lives in jeopardy.  (Okay, that’s definitely a more melodramatic statement than I’d intended, but I do think that continuing to perpetuate the fictional convention that everyone on the run from the law is actually a better person than the mundane regulars in one’s own circle is a bit irresponsible and problematic.)

Another slight gripe of mine is that the movie’s last act takes a bit too much time.  It really drags its feet as it seems to set up the ending.  The weird thing is, the ending doesn’t really need all the set up.  Surely the final third could be trimmed just a bit to pick up the pace a little.  For me, though, this wasn’t too big a problem since the end of the movie delivers such an emotional punch.  The last scene in Ellis’s house is so good that I’d forgive (and practically forget) just about any missteps leading up to that.

I really loved Mud, and so did my husband.  It’s not so much a movie you appreciate, as one you just enjoy, and those are always the best kind.  The film captivated me from the opening scene, and soon I was lost in the world of the story, compelled to watch on and on by vivid, authentic characters who quickly made me care about them.  Even though tonally, the film veers between realism and fantasy, the whole movie is pleasurable to watch and features a solid script, an interesting setting, and great performances by the two young leads, Matthew McConaughey, and the rest of the outstanding cast.  So far, Mud is my favorite film of 2013 by a mile.

"Do I Dare to Eat a Peach?"

The last several lines of "The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock" have been running through my head all day because of how often I have to stop to try to figure out Weight Watchers points.

I've been eating the same things over and over again because I know the point totals by heart.  Today, however, Mom threw me off by making french fries with ground beef and cheese just as I woke up.  Should I eat some of them?  I had no idea.

Fortunately, I figured it all out.

At about 2:30, Nellie and I took the quickest walk ever--considering all the stuff we crammed in, like bubbles, poetry, flower picking, swinging, climbing the wood chip pile, photographing dragon flies.  I must have been walking incredibly fast.

I had to be home by 3:30, so I could get ready to leave for the dentist at 3:45.  Unfortunately, we got home at 3:40, and I was much hotter and sweater than I'd planned.  Derrick was still on a call with the lawyers (that he'd been on for an eternity already), and the yellow skirt I'd washed was mysteriously covered in dark blue stains.  Still somehow I managed to freshen up in a flash, and even though we got behind a school bus dropping off through the neighborhood, and a car that was going literally nine miles an hour through the entire school zone, I still made it to the dentist just in time for my 4:15 appointment.

Apparently, flossing every day makes a huge difference.  The hygienist was done with me in like ten minutes--seriously!--and then I just had to wait on the dentist.  My mouth looks great, and there are no problems.

Mom and Dad are returning to the hospital in San Antonio tomorrow, so we had our date night tonight. After I finished at the dentist, Derrick and I went to The Thai Spoon, the place in Round Rock we've been meaning to try for a while.  The pad thai was so delicious.  We ordered it medium heat, which turned out to be perfect.  It didn't have crushed peanuts on top, and I wondered if it had to do with the fact that I ordered tofu.  (I love tofu and can't prepare it myself.)  The waitress asked me, "Is egg okay?"  So she knew I was not vegan.  Is there any reason a vegetarian wouldn't want crushed peanuts?  It seems like a vegetarian would want more crushed peanuts!  Maybe they just don't make it with peanuts there.  But anyway, it was delicious.

After that we went to the Regal Arbor to see Mud which turned out to be awesome.  But I didn't know what to drink there.  It hurts my brain to pay movie theater prices for a small bottle of plain water, and I can't drink Diet Coke because it tastes like flowers, so I got a regular Coke but only took five drinks.  And I also got the sugar roasted almonds, but I only ate twenty-three pieces.  So I think I worked all the points out right.  I hope so.  My new lower weight held steady this morning even though I didn't exercise all weekend.  I still have trouble believing I will lose much more than maybe five more pounds, tops.

Banana Who?

As we were trying to brush her teeth and put her to bed, this happened at least fifty times.  (I am not exaggerating.  If anything, I am underestimating the number of times.)

Penelope: Knock knock!
Me: Who's there?
Penelope: Banana!
Me: Banana who?
Penelope: Knock Knock!

Really, she's committing to that joke like no one I've ever seen.  After the first twenty times, it started to get like Sideshow Bob stepping on the rakes.  Suddenly, it was just really, really funny.

But then after twenty more times, I thought I would go insane.  (She's aware of how the joke goes.  She just thinks it's funnier never to get to the "orange you glad I didn't say banana" part.)

Unfortunately, I came home this evening with the worst headache in the world, and that crazy banana at the door really didn't help things!

Monday, April 29, 2013


I forgot.  Penelope said to Derrick, "I need to get my activity in."

He was like, "If there's one thing you don't need more of, it's activity.  You get plenty of activity."

She was like, "I know.  I have so many points--but I'm still so skinny.  Isn't that funny?"

He laughed and said to me, "It is funny," because it was.

She's so cute.  She knows we get "points" for Weight Watchers, but she doesn't really understand how all that works.


Tonight after dinner--and after Derrick finished up some work and Dad got home from work--we all watched Poltergeist.  Mom had mentioned to me that Amazon Prime streaming features quite a few exciting movie choices, and now that our internet is moved downstairs, the Amazon streaming works much better and almost never has any issues.  I found several movies that looked interesting to me, but once Penelope heard about Poltergeist, she wasn't interested in anything else.  So yes, for anybody shaking your head and saying, "You let a four-year-old watch Poltergeist?"  Yes, we did because the four-year-old enthusiastically picked it, watched it, and thoroughly enjoyed it.  (I'll readily grant that this would not be the case with every four-year-old, but Penelope is a little weird and extremely interested in anything featuring the paranormal.)

Derrick and I hadn't seen Poltergeist in years.  (In fact, the last time I saw it, I was a sophomore in high school.)  My parents had never seen it (which is odd considering that on the occasion mentioned in the previous sentence, I watched it with Merry in the living room of our condo in Laredo.  But their story checks out because I don't remember them being around for the movie--though I have no idea where they were instead.)  Just a few scenes in, my mom got concerned that it might be too scary for Penelope.  Penelope did not agree.

I thought she would be fine, and in fact, she was.  Of course, I forgot about that scene when the guy looks in the mirror and sees his face melting off (probably because I tend not to watch stuff like that).  At that part, I urged, "Penelope, look away.  Don't look at that."

Everything would have been fine, except that Mom threw her hand over Penelope's face to cover her eyes.  Penelope immediately started flipping out--not because she was scared by the movie, but because she was indignant at not being allowed to watch it.


I told her that I hadn't looked either.  Grandma told her she didn't want her to see it because it was so horrible.  Penelope wouldn't have any of that, though.  Finally, Grandma ended up apologizing and saying she wouldn't do it again.  Penelope probably should have apologized, too, but I let Grandma negotiate all of that because her beef was with Grandma.  When she asked, I did explain what had happened in the scene, and she seemed satisfied finally.

She watched the end very attentively.  She was so funny.  She moved over to sit with Derrick (probably because she was afraid Grandma would cover her eyes again), and she asked him, "Why would they build a house on the cemetery?  That seems dumb!"  That cracked us up.

At the end, she announced, "When the movie's over, I'm going to go" and then threw up her arms and made a monster noise.  Sure enough, when the credits had ended, that's what she did.

I asked her, "So what did you think of the movie, Penelope?"

She answered, "I liked it," then said, "Ask me about my favorite part."

When I did, she replied, "My favorite part was when the mommy saved the little girl."

I told her, "I promise I would save you.  That's the one thing I could make myself be brave about--if I had to be brave to save you."

Apparently this was the right answer because she ran up and kissed me.

Even my mom admitted, "Well, that wasn't so bad.  I thought it was going to be like The Exorcist."

I haven't even seen the Exorcist.  I won't watch that.  I don't really like horror movies unless they overlap with another category--good movies.

After that, Penelope wanted to watch a show before bedtime.  I begged her to pick Scooby-Doo, but she insisted on watching Bo on the Go.  As the show started, the protagonist asked the kids to clear a space to run around in, and Penelope single-handedly cleared the entire living room floor.  Then she ran around and around and eventually upstairs.  I found her up in bed between Mom and Dad, playing a game on Mom's kindle.

I was like, "Um, I thought you were watching Bo on the Go."

She was like, "I was, but I had to go!"

Grandma and Grandpa also had to go--to bed.  So I convinced Penelope (who at that point was running around in circles yelling, "Bo on the Go!!!!") to follow me downstairs.  As a compromise, we watched a couple of episodes of Power Puff Girls.  Then we went up to read some old blog entries as a bedtime story.  (She's obsessed with that lately, but we've been reading a lot of poetry while we take walks in the park, so I guess it all works out.)

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Beautiful Hill Country Day


The four of us had such a lovely day.  Because we'd heard there might be thunderstorms, we'd initially gone to bed Friday night tossing around the possibility of the museum.  But then today turned out to be so gorgeous we decided to go for a drive in the Hill Country.  Basically, we headed up through Llano to Willow City Loop, stopping to take pictures in the wildflowers whenever the whim struck us.  This was also the perfect opportunity to listen to lots of good music and have silly good fun in the car.

Of course, our first stop turned out to be somewhat of a disaster since Grayson got into some kind of weed that made his leg break out in enormous, itchy red welts--kind of like what happens to Merry when she tries to decorate a live Christmas tree.  After flushing his legs with water and taking a Benadryl, the skin improved a lot.  Meanwhile, Nellie got some ant bites, as did I, and at one point when I reached down to see why my leg stung, I brought up a hand covered in blood.  I'm not sure what happened.  There's blood all over my jean shorts, too, I guess from crouching with a wound.  Because it stung so much, I worried it might be a snake bite, but I didn't wipe the blood away to look until I had finished taking pictures.  (I mean, obviously, I would have to leave before I got all the photos I wanted if I wiped away the blood on the spot and discovered fang marks.)  Derrick made so much fun of me for this, but I stand by my logic.  Oh yeah, and after I got back in the car, he hopped out to see what Gray had gotten into, discovered the weed himself, decided to smell it for some reason, and got an itchy red welt on the tip of his nose.  

For some reason, I am strangely exhausted.  When we got home, Mom had made a wonderful dinner of lemon chicken, broccoli, french fries, home made apple sauce, carrots, corn, and other deliciousness.  While we ate, we watched Revenge of the Sith.

Oh, and I guess my diet is working.  When I walked into the house tonight, my jean shorts fell off completely.  I took a step and walked out of them before I realized what had happened.  Mom was in the kitchen and wondered why I was laughing so hard.  Then she was confused when I wandered into the kitchen with no pants on.  Derrick saw, too, from the doorway, and was also pretty amused.  Hopefully the neighbors didn't get a show!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

You're Going to Disney World!!!!

For me, this was the laziest day ever.  (Derrick's been quite busy, though.)  Nellie and I didn't even take a walk, and we didn't do her reading or anything because she did it pre-emptively last night (with the promise that she wouldn't have to today).  She, Mom, and I spent the afternoon comparing videos of Disney World resorts we found on youtube (some of us more enthusiastically than others). 

Once Derrick finally got out of his meeting this evening, we got Taco Bell and began our Star Wars marathon (which seemed like a good thing to do on a rainy weekend).  We decided to start at the narrative beginning with Episode One.  In the future, I'll always do it that way since it makes watching the prequels a much more enjoyable experience.  Tonight we got through The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones, and we plan to watch at least Revenge of the Sith tomorrow.

While the movies were on, I was also looking online at information about various Disney World resorts.  After a while, it stops being fun and gets stressful.  Disney World is so huge.  And I'm not sure why I'm preparing so meticulously since it's probably going to be less about the optimal choice and more about the selection we can afford in the end.

Now that the kids are in bed, I'm looking again.  After reading negative reviews of places online, I decided to cheer myself up by watching youtube clips of kids being surprised by trips to Disney World.  This seems to be a whole big thing.  There are millions of videos like this--kids at the airport or in the car suspecting nothing.  I don't know how the parents keep it a surprise.  In order for that to work at our house, Derrick would have to keep it a surprise from me, too.

In other news, I'm pleased to see that I'm now eight pounds lighter in the evening than I was before we started Weight Watchers in the morning.  But I expect to hit a wall pretty soon because I always do. 

Friday, April 26, 2013

"Char Gar Gothakon: The Beast That Hath No Name"

Penelope's been watching a lot of the new(ish) Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated on Netflix lately.  (In fact, we've already watched all that is currently available.)  And that zany, self-contradictory title--Char Gar Gothakon: The Beast That Hath No Name--has been stuck in my head all day.  It's quickly becoming my favorite title of anything ever.

Meanwhile, Nellie and I had a busy, action-packed day.  We both woke up late, but then after eating, we took another of our long, rambling walks.  This time, at select, scenic spots, we stopped to read poetry.  Dickinson's "A Narrow Fellow in the Grass" and Wordsworth's "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud."  We started off sitting side-by-side on the sloping concrete by the "sea of buttercups."  But then a kid with a skateboard game, so we moved because that's the perfect place to skateboard, and I'm sure this thirteen-year-old boy didn't want to listen to some weird lady read poems while he was skating.

Penelope said, "I know the perfect spot for us," and quickly moved us underneath the lone, towering tree (the spot I would have chosen, too).  We sat side-by-side on yellow, reading poetry and blowing bubbles, and then sometimes, we spun in the field.  At one point, I read, and Penelope danced was "tossing her head in spritely dance."

After that, she climbed the wood-chip pile, and then we decided to try to take pictures of ghosts.  Recently, I got this book about haunted places in Austin, and the author gave some tips for photographing ghosts (one being that you're supposed to ask them to appear in your pictures).  Now, we really have no reason to believe that the park is haunted, but we decided to give it a whirl, anyway.  Penelope got really into it.  She was so polite.  Trying to coax the ghosts out, she asked them to appear, assured them she would not hurt them, and then began softly singing "Me Tie Doughty Walker" in an eerie little voice.  (She told me, "I'm sure that an eerie song will do the trick.")

To my surprise, as soon as we asked the ghosts to appear, a cardinal flew directly into our path and remained poised for pictures for several minutes (though looking right at me.  Usually, they fly away when they see you).  Also, two ladybugs simultaneously began crawling on Penelope.

Probably the most likely explanation is that she was being very quiet and still.

Penelope's sure that ghosts had something to do with it, though.  She also said, "Our only choice is to go into that storm drain because that's where all the best werewolves must be hiding this time of day."

She was a little bit miffed when I vetoed that plan.

Penelope's Sentences

1.  Dinah had the flu, and she made her other friends get it just by sneezing into their face.

2.  Dinah met a goose.  She ate him all up to bits.  And then she said, "Burp!"  Then Dinah walked around having a goose butt on her toodlebutt all through the neighborhood.

3.  Dinah ate some fruit.  Then she played her flute.  Then she went to the playground, and she read some poems while she was under a tree, and she blew bubbles.  Then she ran back home.  The End.  [Dinah's day sounds remarkably like ours, except we didn't play the flute.]

4.  Dinah ate some fruit.  Then Dinah had the flu while she played the flute, and she got snot in the flute.  Then she tooted.  She said, "Meow! Meow!" to everybody, and then she met a friend who was a goose.  Then they tooted all over the world (not on the flute but with their toodlebutts).

Thursday, April 25, 2013


Finally I found some energy after hours of sloth after our endless walk this afternoon.  (The trouble is, both Penelope and I love exploring, and we both encourage each other to go farther than we probably ought to.)

After we watched Harry Potter 3, Penelope and I played a game of Fantasy Forest, two games of Candy Land (with Grandma's modified rules), and two games of Mickey Mouse Memory.  (It's really called Easter Matching, but the rules are the same as Memory.)  After Fantasy Forest, we took a break to do a little math.  I had her count all the playing pieces (of which there are now many since Mom keeps adding all the stray movers she finds, and  she just keeps right on finding them somewhere).  Then we did some basic addition, and then we counted back and forth first to fifty and then to one-hundred.  The second time, I had Penelope go first, so that I would always get the even numbers.  That made it much easier for her.  She always does okay with the evens until she mistakenly says, "One hundred," after nineteen.  But once I correct her, it's pretty smooth sailing again until we get to "thirty-ten."  Once she's been reminded that it's twenty that comes after nineteen, she usually remembers that at the end of the twenties comes thirty, but she often hesitates, forgets and stumbles when it comes to 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90.  One-hundred she knows (mostly because she likes to guess it every time she's not sure, and eventually she's right.

I've decided that we're going to spend some time counting to one-hundred a few times every day from now on.  And then once she gets that down, we'll move on to counting by twos.

In other news, Candy Land is so much easier when we play by Grandma's rules (i.e. you only go back once, and once you get past the yellow licorice, you don't have to go back).  Before our games of Candy Land could last up to forty-five minutes.  This change cuts it down to ten or fifteen.  It also takes less time when only two of us are playing.  Almost always she either wants her Rapunzel doll (whose name is Tangled) or Dinah to play.  Weirdly, Tangled has about the same luck as either of us, but every time Dinah plays, she wins.  Seriously.  Every single time.  It's very weird.  At first I started to suspect that statistics/probability held a sophisticated answer that I just didn't understand.  (Because when you actually study probability stuff, it's always so counter-intuitive.)  But Tangled doesn't win.  Just Dinah.  So maybe Dinah's just lucky.  Don't ask me.

While we were playing games tonight, the TV tray behind the chair mysteriously collapsed.  Penelope is positive that a ghost is responsible.  I said, "Okay, well, I'll take a picture with my phone, and we'll ask any ghosts present to please show themselves in my picture."  I was pretty sure it wasn't a ghost, but then there really was a strange orb in one of my pictures.  I mean, it's not all that strange, but I was expecting no orb, so Penelope is really much too excited about this.

She's also too excited about the idea of taking pictures and reading ghost stories in the cemetery one night.  (I think this would be fun--not like breaking into the cemetery, but pulling off onto the dark, secluded spot by the cemetery and telling ghost stories in the car, then taking pictures wherever we're allowed.  I'm not sure if the cemetery right by the house is gated.  I certainly don't want to cause any mayhem or desecrate graves.  I just thought this might be a spooky, fun, family activity.

Penelope, though, took it in an unexpected direction tonight when she asked, "I wonder if we'll find a werewolf sleeping there."

"I doubt it," I said.

"We probably will," she replied.

"I hope we don't," I said.

She told me, "Well, don't worry, because I'll hunt until we do.  I'll never stop hunting those werewolves, and then they'll know who the slayer is in this town."

I have this feeling Derrick is not going to be up for taking the kids werewolf hunting in the cemetery--though it would be much cheaper than a movie.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Our Walk Today

Our little rambling adventure probably went on longer than I realized today.  Ever since we got home, I've been totally exhausted.  I mean, I sit on the couch, and I don't want to get up.  We did sort of roam around everywhere.  We were supposed to get home, play Fantasy Forest, and do a little math, but instead, we've watched Scooby Doo cartoons, The Jungle Book, and are now watching Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.  

Mom made some delicious chili that we had for dinner.  I'm doing pretty well on my diet.  As of yesterday morning, I'd lost eight pounds since starting last Tuesday.  I didn't weigh this morning because we ate at Texas Roadhouse last night.  Basically, I filled up on bread, fried pickles, and peanuts and ate at most a third of my burger, but it's way more than I've been eating, so I didn't weigh myself today.

On days when we don't eat out--which is most days--I easily stay within my points and don't even touch the activity points I earn from walking.  But going out just once really uses up tons and tons points.

Penelope is more aware of my efforts than I realized.  Today on our walk, she said to me, "I hope you can loose some weight so you can stop taking your medicine and have another baby. We've been walking so long! I wonder how many points you have left?"

We don't really talk to her about any of that, but apparently, she's soaked it all up, nevertheless.