Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Mr. Music

Owen has always liked music, but now he REALLY likes music. He likes to have his Mozart Magic Cube playing in the background when he’s playing with other toys. When it shuts off at the end of a song, he pauses and whacks it again, restarting the music. He also loves the music from his Leapfrog Baby Counting Pal, and will drag his parents across the room by 1 finger to get help pushing the buttons and making the music play. To show his appreciation for music, Owen now claps and does his own version of dancing, which looks like a cross between directing an orchestra and flapping wings. It’s pretty cute, especially if you’re one of his parents.

Owen's Book Club

Our little dude loves to ‘read’. He turns the pages and has definite favorite books, that have changed over time.

His first favorite book was ‘Baby Says Peekaboo’ which has flaps that he can lift to see the baby hiding behind a towel, under a hat, etc. The last page has a mirror, which is especially pleasing to Owen as he loves to look at himself in the mirror.

He still enjoys BSP but his next true love was ‘Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?’, which Travis has previously written about. I have no idea why he likes this book so much. It has no plot and just stops with no conclusion. Fortunately, we no longer have to read it 8 times a day, but he still smiles and turns the pages with a single reading.

The next new great love of O’s literary life was ‘Dog’ which is a book of dog pictures with moving parts (like tails, legs, heads). We currently read Dog about 4 times a day and he’s loving it to pieces, literally. We’ve had to do some tape repairs to reattach one of the dog heads and a leg that was pulled loose (and maybe chewed on).

Eventually, 'Dog' was replaced, first by 'Tails', which is very similar to 'Dog', and then by '123' - a book I found at Joann's - the fabric and crafts store. It has parts that slide up and down or rotate, and this is O's current fave. His cousin Lili also enjoyed the book when she visited.

O welcomes new suggestions for his book club any time.

Monday, July 28, 2008

What to do in a traffic jam

The answer if you’re on the interstate (or Venezuelan equivalent) is….. go shopping! I witnessed this firsthand. When the traffic slows to a crawl, locals stand in the middle of the interstate (not in the median, not the shoulder, but between the two lanes of traffic) and sell things.
You can buy:
1. Food - cakes, cookies, chips, mangoes, other unidentifiable rainforest fruit
2. Household items - pillows (for sleeping in the car?), kites
3. cell phone car chargers (useful),
4. DVDs including Hancock and Wall-E (clearly pirated unless I missed some straight-to-DVD special deal for Venezuela)
5. Beer. Not kidding, when there’s traffic, people sell beer to the motorists.

When one spends hours a day sitting in traffic, one has plenty of time to peruse billboards in Caracas and other parts of Venezuela.

Most common billboards I saw in Venezuela:

1. Johnny Walker whisky – not just billboards, but buses, the side of a hotel or two. The most popular whisky in Venezuela.

2. Other whiskeys and scotches – my goodness these people love their whisky and scotch.

3. Beauty products, including ads for plastic surgery – there’ve been a lot of Miss Universe and Miss Worlds from Venezuela. Beauty is very, very popular.

4. Ham – They eat a lot of ham. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack.

5. Hugo Chavez – political ads (state and local elections are in a few months). Chavez smiling and standing next to a mayoral candidate. Chavez smiling and reminding everyone of the great things he’s done for a particular neighborhood. Chavez smiling next to an ad for one of the social programs.


It’s not a word I use particularly often, but it’s a good descriptor of traffic/vehicular transport in Caracas. It has the worst traffic I’ve ever seen, but when there’s no traffic, people drive as fast as they can. We’re talking 120 mph. Speed limit signs are very sparse and I never saw anyone pulled over getting a traffic ticket.

The first night I arrived, we had to take a detour because of a car wreck. I got a brief glimpse and it was the worst car wreck I’ve ever seen. At least I think the hunk of metal in the tunnel was car parts and judging from the view, the occupants didn’t fare any better than their car.

Everyone seems to have a car and people drive everywhere. There is a subway in Caracas, but it didn’t sound to safe, so I expect it’s not terribly busy.

Things I saw while riding in cars in Caracas:

1. Staying in your lane seems to be optional. When there’s traffic, it’s perfectly appropriate to use the shoulder, or to take a 3 lane road and make a 4th lane (somehow).

2. If the traffic is really bad, it’s ok to drive on the sidewalk. Even if there are people on it. I saw this in Valencia one evening, during a traffic jam. Things were very slow, so cars started popping the curb and driving on the sidewalk. Right by the entrance to McDonalds. Then more cars made a 2nd lane of traffic on the sidewalk. So 3 lane road with 4 lanes of traffic + 2 lanes of sidewalk traffic. Then buses started using the sidewalk to get around the rest of the cars. I wish I had a photo of a particular bus ‘rejoining’ the traffic, nosing in from the front of McDonalds at a 45 degree angle, blocking 1 sidewalk lane and 2 lanes of regular traffic. It was pretty impressive.

3. Stopping (or staying stopped) at a red light is also optional. Stop signs are also optional. One cab driver told me that it’s not safe to sit at a red light at night in Caracas, but this doesn’t explain all the daytime light – runners. Traffic lights are also optional if the traffic is bad. People just look for a hole and go. Everyone else will stop, right? At one point, there were enough cars trying to drive straight through an intersection (from all 4 directions) and turn left (from all 4 directions), that I could reach out the window and touch multiple cars (I didn’t).

4. Honking is extremely popular, as this is how I woke up most mornings. One Sunday morning I awoke to extra honking at 0730 to discover the traffic offender was a fun run, causing the road to be temporarily closed.

5. Parking anywhere is also ok. One lunch, we parked about 5 feet from the entrance of the restaurant, on the sidewalk, right by a pile of papayas.

Chavez, Si or No?

While I was in Venezuela, I only met one person who liked Hugo Chavez. Or, at least, I heard that this particular person thought Chavez was great, but she didn’t say anything about it while I was there. Everyone else I met – every doctor, nurse, clinic employee, driver, housewife, and other assorted people told me they didn’t like Chavez. All of them volunteered this information (I certainly didn’t ask). They don’t like his domestic policies, they don’t like the 32% inflation rate, they don’t like having Caracas be the murder capital of the world, and they don’t like the way he fights with everyone. A few people did comment that he and George W should go a few rounds in the boxing ring. But there was way more anti-Chavez discussion than any anti-American sentiment. Everyone was actually very friendly and interested in US culture and life.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Owen is walking

Owen started walking yesterday. Sometime in the afternoon, in fact. I'm not trying to be overly precise here; the change really was that sudden. As of yesterday morning, we'd seen him free-stand and take a step or two, once transiting from the coffee table to the ottoman. By the evening, he was repeatedly taking several steps on his own and walking to me or Kerry.

It was so thoughtful of Owen to delay this major milestone until Kerry's return; she would have been sad to have missed it. But that's just the kind of nice guy he is.

Monday, July 21, 2008

A place for every thing...

During the last week, Owen has taken to moving bits of food off his tray to somewhere other than his mouth. This is a deliberate process, not wild sweeping to the floor. I discovered just how deliberate the process was when I found a rotini tucked between his belly and left thigh. I thought he had dropped it earlier, so I fished it out and proudly put it on Owen's tray for consumption. He immediately grabbed it, not to eat, but to put back between his belly and left thigh.

Happily, not all food goes into storage, only some. And it seems that different foods have different homes. I've already mentioned where the rotini goes, but cooked egg goes on the highchair seat, outboard of the right leg.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Watching Watchmen with reckless enthusiasm

Watchmen is, in my highly unoriginal opinion, the best comic book ever. I've read it multiple times, each time enjoying it and terribly impressed by it. So I was quite nervous when I heard that a movie was being made of it.

Having seen the trailer, I've switched from nervous to recklessly enthusiastic. It looks fantastic. Admittedly, the main reason I say so is that I recognize the movie shots straight from the book. You (and I) may ask why bother making a movie that's just like the book, particularly when the distinguishing feature of the book is the way it uses the comic medium to tell the story? (OK, it won't be just like the book; there are some elements that don't make it.) But in this case, I don't care, because I'm so glad to see them holding close to a creative gem. At least they're holding close visually; hopefully the characters and plot do as well.

But did I mention how awesome the trailer looks?

Sunday, July 13, 2008


Scott and Carlie describe Liliana as being "crazed" when she's up too late relative to a nap or bedtime, and she starts getting all frantic and manic when she's, in fact, tired. Her cousin, Owen, sometimes gets crazed at night, getting all riled up, wanting to pull every book off his shelves, squirming and fighting mightily against the clean diaper, crawling about the crib as if the PJs were a swarm of bees after him, flipping switches on his music box, then collapsing into sleep.

With Kerry away, I've realized that I'm susceptible to the same thing. Being old, I don't express it quite so physically, but in spite of being tired and knowing myself to be tired, I find myself avoiding going to bed. It may be doing a bit of work, doing some chores around the house, or maybe writing a quick blog post. (OK, the (in)frequency of Hollerer posts puts the lie to that claim.) And then when I finally head upstairs, maybe I'll just read a bit. Just like that an hour or more goes by and, surprisingly, I still feel tired.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Birthday surprise

Kerry was back from Venezuela for the long weekend. This wasn't really a surprise to me, but it was to everybody else (maybe even to you, now, dear reader). I kept it on the DL because I didn't want to jinx it. Also, I thought it would be fun to surprise Grandad, AP and Dad in Belpre when Owen and I showed up for a visit, and Kerry popped out of the car. Don't know if I was right about the jinxing, but I was right about the surprise.

It was very good to see Kerry, and of course she was thrilled to be here for Owen's first birthday. I had been thinking that he would now be a toddler, but notwithstanding his age, he's not actually toddling, just crawling and cruising, so I suppose he's an ever-bigger baby for now. (Please, no need to comment about not worrying about milestones. I'm not. I only mention this because it was funny to me that I was thinking of "toddler" just as a title, not as a descriptor. Like an "ensign" in the navy - used to be the guy who held the flag; now is just the juniormost rank of officer.)

Owen had a good time on his birthday. He had the obligatory piece of cake, which went all over his face. (And in his face - stand by for pictures of blue frosting boogers.) And AP got some sparklers, so he was able to enjoy so extremely short-range pyrotechnics. He had slept through the neighborhood fireworks on the Fourth, but he liked the sparklers, as well as some relatively impressive amateur fireworks set off by another neighbor on the fifth.

Kerry is now at BWI, waiting to head back to Caracas. I was pleasantly surprised at how fast the first part of her trip went. This round is only a few days longer; hopefully it will pass at least as quickly.

Thursday, July 03, 2008


Owen likes to sleep on his face. Not his stomach, like a big person might, but with his feet tucked under, butt high, and arms at his sides, leaving the face as a load-bearing member. He doesn't stay this way all night, but he'll start out that way as often as not.

Last night the young gentleman had a crying jag around 2245, so I got to comfort him and watch him go back to sleep. He was agitated, so there was a good bit of wiggling around, sitting up, and trying to get comfortable. Owen's move from sitting to lying in the crib was pretty hilarious. He would sit almost cross-legged, then tip forward. His arms were pre-occupied with holding Brownie to his chest, so he would just fall onto his face like a defective Weeble Wobble. Of course, that put him in the preferred sleeping position, so it wasn't a bad move.

This was funny to watch, but I also empathized. I know the feeling he was experiencing, of being dog-tired, but so tired that you just can't get comfortable. You toss and turn, and in a final fit of frustration throw yourself flat on your face, convinced that you'll never sleep again. Lights out.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Reach for the sky

This weekend, I noticed Owen reaching upwards with one hand. It's not a wave bye-bye up high, nor a reach like you reach when you're jumping trying to touch the rim of a basketball hoop. His palm is turned somewhat upward, and his hand - almost always his right - is a bit of a claw. It's as if he were going to pluck an apple. Or if the hand were lower, as if he were a Marvel villain, indicating his strength and plan for world domination with a simple gesture.

I had no idea why Owen was doing this. Carla pointed out that he does this when he hears a plane go overhead. (When he's outside, he'll also look up for the plane.) But that's not the only time he does it, so I think there's something else going on, too.