Sunday, December 14, 2008

our new place!

We have heard the requests-- well, demands really--and we're responding at last. Here are some photos of our new place. Oliver is talking to the ornaments and singing as he pulls them out of the box. Notice the ingenious location of the nativity!~
We very much appreciate all the light in our new place. And the kitchen open to the living area; people can hear me when I speak from the kitchen (I have to keep reminding myself). And there's the desk! Of course, all that light means that I can't actually see my computer screen for half the day; must borrow a tall ladder and put up curtains!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

What would YOU wear to a holiday parade?

Oliver chose to wear this tiger costume that Gramme made. The theme for this year's holiday parade was "Fairytale fantasies" or some such. Before we went we talked about what might be there--reindeer, knights, Santa, etc. Up pipes our dear son, "Well, I'm going to wear my tiger costume. Maybe some people will think it's for Tigger, but I'm not going to be Tigger; I'm going to be a tiger." Suffice it to say our little tiger lit up the evening with his very unusual attire. He had at least 25 verbal greetings/appreciations, including the aforementioned Santa Claus, who called out, "Hey, tiger. Merry Christmas. Grrr!" Many more people simply smiled as they passed us. OP's choice turned out to be creative, joyful, and warm. Nice work, young man!

Friday, December 5, 2008

(whispered) "Papa, come back"

WARNING: There will not be a photo to accompany this story. Attempting to photograph this episode in the new Esham household would have totally ruined the moment. Read on and enjoy conjuring your own images of our budding dramatist/artistic director/composer.

Our family has been reading a wonderful and rather long chapter book called _Dragon Keeper_, by Carole Wilkinson. Two nights ago Oliver decided it was time to mount a show that would tell the story. What a felicitous moment! I told him I had just been thinking it would be cool to tell the story in the style of Peter and the Wolf, in which each character gets their own tune. Another felicitous moment, as Oliver had just that day rediscovered his penny whistle following our move. (Yes, it is a nice place; you should come visit!) So Oliver arranged us: he would play the music, papa would operate the puppets (imaginary), and I would stroll our hallway (we have a hallway!), remarking on a poster advertising a performance of DK.

This I did, and I ended up on our couch with the musician and player behind. Oliver directed papa for each scene, then played musical accompaniment as Philip raised his hands over his head, making the puppets do the appropriate movements. I was spectator and narrator, parroting back the scene Oliver had ordered. Oliver decided when these scenes were finished and called out, "Papa, come back" in a most excellent and effective stage whisper. I'm not sure how long this went on--10, 12 scenes on the first night. Yesterday morning we finished the book, so we had to have another show to finish up.

Oliver says he's ready for the next book, _Garden of the Purple Dragon_.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Team Spirit

Saturday was the last soccer game of Oliver's first season. He had a great time, especially when he stopped thinking about saber-toothed cats and started playing the game! Two times we had to pull him away from kicking or trying to kick the ball when he was supposed to be resting. He has had a lot of fun.
At the team party the coach handed out trophies and certificates. Oliver was given the award for team spirit, which prompted him to quiz his coach: "What do you mean by team spirit?" The coach began a list: you're always cheerful, and when you're there you make others cheerful; you're happy to do whatever we're doing; you even came to practice when you were sick." At some point in the litany Oliver said, "Ok, I get it. I get it." That team spirit must have an off switch ;o)

the extra something that gets you out the door

Life can be rough--full of things we don't want to do. A certain someone I know once wore a tiara to a finance meeting she expected to be particularly contentious. Oliver, it seems, has similar sensibilities. Occasionally we are made to engage in a frantic search for the dragon mask before we leave the house. On the latest occasion, the dragon mask was needed for dragon church.

Delayed election coverage of Oliver's political hopes

Oliver chose to support Obama during the primaries in the Fall of 2007. It was confusing and frustrating to him to have to wait until November of 2008 to cast a vote. Occasionally he would get agitated by news reports on the radio in which Clinton or McCain said that Obama wouldn't win. These he took to be election results. Thankfully, they weren't.
This fall Oliver watched the main convention speeches and the debates and asked us quite a few questions about them. He was intrigued by the idea that people who love each other--family and friends--would have different political views. He wondered aloud one day whether I would still love him if he supported McCain.
It was clear that my ballot was at least half his, and I was glad for a ceremonial marker to my return home from a 5 day trip. Oliver asked about every single proposition--what it meant and why I voted the way I did. When we turned in our ballot he asked for two "I voted" stickers and wore his proudly all day. His TA reported that at lunch time he shouted out, "I voted for Barack Obama this morning." When some children asked for a story, he began to tell about the different political views of the characters from the Hundred Acre Wood. Since I wasn't there to hear it, I'll offer his summary: Roo, Kanga, Pooh, and Piglet went for Obama, whilst Rabbit, the gopher, and Tigger voted for McCain. (Just in case you're wondering, humans didn't vote, nobody asked Eeyore, and Owl was not allowed to vote.)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

a visit with Molly

This is going back a bit, but the photo and story are well worth the wait. Molly and her folks came to visit us in late September, soon after Molly's birthday. Here Oliver is reading Molly's present to her: _Do Unto Otters: A Book About Manners_, by Laurie Keller. The story is great and Oliver read with expression. Molly's joy gave us a gift! Surely you know about Molly's obsession with Emmet Otter's Jug Band?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

p&hc, part 2

proud and happy cousins!

Our first visit to Sequim. Nice to meet you, Gavin!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

yes! we have a baby book.

Okay, all right, it's been something like 4 & 1/2 years, but we finally have a baby book. Well, almost; it's on order. Thank you, Shutterfly, for special deals. In our defense, we have had a physical book since pregnancy. There are even a couple of pages on the shower and birth information. But the rest has been sitting in a bag waiting for couple cooperation (time, energy, artistic agreement) for a lllooooonnngg time. Surprising how much you can do in a limited amount of time when the word "free" is involved. So we're pleased. I've posted a flashback photo to celebrate. This was taken July 2004 on our back patio.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

knight of the pizza [box]

Oliver's most enduring obsession to date is with knights. Whilst with Nana and Grandad in Colchester, our collective brain fostered the synergy necessary to sustain Oli's obsession and fuel it with exciting twists and turns. One of the most fun projects came out of a pizza box. Knights need things like swords and shields, but 9 out of 10 parents and grandparents do not want them to actually be weapons. (Have you ever been struck with one of those plastic swords? Have you fallen on a wooden shield? Watch out vampires!) So, on the second day in Colchester we toured round Colchester castle. We walked out with two foam swords (Who could have just one? It would have been swordmaster and his family, the bloody pulp.) Our budding knight was happy with this situation until he realized he had no shield. For a couple of days he carried around papa's backpack or his neck pillow from the plane. Then we hit upon it: how about using some empty pizza boxes? Grandad made fantastic shields whilst we were away in London. And he bravely fenced with Oliver for hours during the rest of the trip.
Alas, said shields could neither travel nor be shipped, so we set our sights on a duplicate, albeit inferior, set to be made with boxes from Goleta pizza (not so inferior!). We learned a few lessons from grandad: rounded bottom and brad fasteners plus packing tape for handles. The end products are nowhere near as cool as grandad's but they sure do get used a lot.
Whilst in Germany, Krista and Oliver told a three hour story about "The Knight of the Pizza." Though neither remembers more than vague details at this point, it entertained them both through dinner, metro-ing, walking, and hang-out time at home. I'm pretty sure there was a lot of traveling, some meeting up with friends, quite a bit of eating or sampling food, and not very much use of the swords and shields after all. Just the way we like it!

Friday, September 12, 2008

loosen up

My love of the dictionary should come as no surprise. It's my favored object whenever I have to play that game about the desert island. Think about it: word games, spelling games, learning new words; the possibilities are almost endless. But I don't need a desert island to have fun with and benefit from my friend, the dictionary. For instance, and please excuse me if you know this already, but the word "analysis" means "loosen up." Isn't that great? I'm not quite sure what I've been assuming it meant this whole time, but I'm pretty sure it included a magnifying glass, tiny tweezers, and a whole lot of nits--you know, so you could nit-pick? At any rate, I'm quite high and free on this new knowledge--loosened up, as it were--and I think I'm gonna have a good day. I hope you do, too.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

winning attitude

Oliver had his first AYSO game yesterday. It's hard to believe he's that old already. Of course, it's not like these guys are hard-core pros yet. No one plays goalie, though somehow they find lots of excuses to stand around--often near the net. At one point Oliver and his friend, Mathias, were clawing on the net with their backs to the game. As he explained later, "We were pretending to be saber-toothed cats caught in the net." It's good to know that the Ice Age is still rattling around there somewhere with current obsessions of knights and soccer. (Conveniently, his team wears orange and goes by the name "Orange Knights.) Also rather conveniently, the field where they play is about a 15 minute walk from where we live. So they had fun, even though the other team "must have had some kindergartners." They were bigger and they kicked the ball--often in the goal. But our Knights never lost their good spirits against the Dragons.

Friday, August 22, 2008

...and then the night fell upon the three unicorns

Yesterday Oliver brought home a story he had authored whilst at school. Here it is:

One unicorn was up and out of his home. Then two other unicorns came. And then the night fell upon the three unicorns. The unicorns went back to their homes. The two unicorns that came to the one unicorn got to live with him.

This gem came on the heels of a particularly interesting session of textual exegesis that Oliver and I had performed together that morning on the way to school. "Mama," he said, "what does 'bruised limbs' mean?" It turns out that this relatively easy to exegete phrase was buried within a sentence that went something like this: "When he came to himself he found himself lying in a firelit room, aware of his bruised limbs and suffering from a bad headache." Yep, we had to exegete every phrase in the sentence. Gotta love it!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Red Knight

He waited and waited for the day and it finally came: OP turned 4 & 1/2 on the 18th of August. He was very particular about this day; he wouldn't let us tell anyone that he was 4 & 1/2 until he actually was. He would say, "I WILL be 4 & 1/2 in 11 days." Anything to teach them math!
It so happened that on this momentous day we had arranged to go to Medieval Times (kids free until Sept. 1!) with the CA grandparents. We spent much time perusing the website, learning about the story and the different knights. By profile (knight & poet), and possibly crest (horse), Oliver set his sights on the yellow knight. Alas, we were assigned to the red knight. But, he turned out to be the best of all! He was brave, strong, responsive to the crowd, and he had a great smile. He's our new friend.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

New Nephew!

I'm bursting with pride, happiness, relief, and airplane ticket anxiety: my sister and her husband have a baby boy! Hurrah!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Ick factor

Warning! This post may rate pretty high on your ick factor. I'm including this photo and story for several reasons: Oliver took it, some of you occasionally complain that I am never in the photos, it gives me a chance to challenge your ick factor.
So here it is--or rather, here I a guarderobe in Castle Hedingham. Just to be a little clearer, I'm sitting over a whole in a wooden board that opens onto a long shaft down to the castle basement. Oliver thought it would be really cool to have a photo of me on a castle toilet, so he took one. On the castle tour we saw where the shaft emptied into the basement--right next to the place for food storage. Ick!
My own personal ick factor was increased with the help of a book called "Castle Diary," which Krista checked out for us in Hamburg. The book tells the goings on of knights and castles from a page's point of view; it's really neat. Reading through the book, Oliver and I were pleased to find a drawing of the castle toilet. We learned all about the Gong Farmer, whose job it was to muck out castle toilets when they clogged. Descriptions of the GF's cart and clothing were very detailed--flies his constant companions, smells that never wash clean, castle residents begging for rain. Suffice it to say that by the end of the description I was queasy just from the thought of it.
Subsequently, my boys have enjoyed taunting me with my visceral reaction to the portrayal of GF. Whatever it takes for a giggle, I guess.
How's your ick factor?

Saturday, July 26, 2008

happy boy

Yes, yes, yes, I know: I should be posting the first of many installments that recount our adventures abroad. But, like my four year old son, the happiness about his most recent achievement is foremost in my mind, so you'll have to wait to hear about visits to castles, swordplay with grandad, and climbing Cat Bells with grandad guitar.
17 hours after our plane touched down we were in the doctor's office--no worries; it was a pre-planned visit to the audiologist to check out OP's hearing. He passed without any doubts and was advised that, with both ear tubes out of his eardrums, he could now swim! We made a pilgrimage to Target yesterday to purchase a very cool pool; photos to follow. In the meantime, OP very much enjoyed his first shower!

Friday, June 13, 2008

How do you do?

Oliver's class got to visit the nearby horse stables this morning. What good fun! They held onto a tether with colored circles and ambled merrily through the parking lot to the white fence, where they waited patiently and in great anticipation of a how-do-you-do? with a horse. Before they met the horse they got to see chickens and goats. When the big moment finally came, Lauren showed her grooming tools to the children and then groomed her horse in front of them. They also got to feel a horseshoe, knock on a helmet, guess the different parts of a saddle, and see the horse's teeth. Each child who wanted to got to come forward for a brief personal encounter with Jackie O., the horse. A fun time was had by all!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

belly photo

We enjoyed a great visit with Claire last weekend. OP anxiously waited her arrival. When we heard her approach he went cautiously to the door, then burst from it, proclaiming, "I love your fat belly!" Immediately he went to her to take her hand and bring her in. He was ready to bestow the gift our family had brought for their family: _Baby Bear, Baby Bear, What Do You See?_. It was meant for the shower the following day, but who could deny him in his enthusiasm? He gave Auntie Claire the book and proceeded to read the whole book to his new cousin, who currently resides in Claire's belly.
The next morning OP ate a huge breakfast in anticipation of the belly photo shown here. All weekend he enjoyed loving on his Auntie and her Baby Bear. It was fab!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Casting a Big Shadow

Oliver was recently given a digital camera, so we took it out for a spin after the recent chalk festival. He wanted to document all artwork with animals or superheroes. Here's my favorite--not because of the artwork, but because our little artist's shadow nicely complements his chosen image. When we pointed this out to him, he said, "No, that's my pop. Look how big it is!"

Thursday, March 27, 2008

"That's good, mama. Now papa..."

I know, I know; it's shameful. I haven't posted any new photos or stories in almost a month. You're not more sorry than I am, I can assure you! Nothing a dozen spring breaks in a row wouldn't cure! And now, a new entry, but no photo. How cruel. This story, however, is worth posting, even without a photo.

Mama and papa are quite proud of the little tyke--especially when he reads whole pages on his own. (It's quite astounding, actually. Sometimes we really have no idea of the extent of his capabilities.) I guess, in good educator fashion, we reward heavily with verbal praise, such as, "that's good!" (One receives oneself back in such fascinating ways from a child!) At any rate, in the car today, OP started asking us questions: "Now mama, is a killer whale a dolphin?" I answer dutifully: "Well, yes, Oliver, we just read in your new book that a killer whale is a dolphin." "That's good, mama! Now papa, what can you tell me about mammals?" Papa's turn: "They're warm-blooded, they need air, and they give milk to their babies." "That's good, papa!"

I guess it was his turn to be the parent/teacher/coach today. Philip and I were proud--and thoroughly entertained!

Sunday, March 2, 2008


Who knew I'd get two drummers? My boys come up with fascinating combinations--inspired by Bjork and general bourgeois anst, methinks. Only occasionally do I have to remind them, "Not so hard; it is a musical instrument!" Neighborhood friends, on the other hand, not so discerning. Nevermind. It's a welcome addition to the family--lots of fun and no mess!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Rock Legend

Yes, his shirt says, "Rock Legend." It was a birthday present from gramma and grampa. OP asked for it by description this morning: "I want to wear the black shirt--you know, with the pink writing. It's really cool."

Bang the Drum! It's Oliver's birthday!

Oliver turned four today. If you haven't seen him in awhile, you may be surprised to find a big boy looking out at you from a drumset, talking with you about Van Morrison, Cat Stevens, Robbie Williams, or Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. We gave in to his heart's desire for a drumset (with a lot of help; thanks, family!), and he is quite happy. Here he is directing mama and grampa while he tries out every conceivable combination of sounds. Sorry Paul and Michelle (our neighbors).

Monday, January 28, 2008

"I'm little grampa!"

We planned it for weeks--a much needed haircut for our dear son. Though crazy hair, especially crazy hat hair, is really fun, short hair is actually much more convenient for the parents. And short hair makes shampooing sooooo much easier. So we made a deal: haircut on Sunday right before bath. And, as long as we were cutting it short, we decided to cut it really short--"like grampa's." After the bath OP looked in the mirror and proclaimed, "I'm little grampa."

And the little grampa, when he's not pushing our energy to the limit and beyond, is quite sweet. Whilst cooking dinner last night I overheard an interaction between OP and his papa. They were working together on a writing activity. Papa looked at his work and announced that it was "excellent!" OP answered, "Excellent?! Thanks!" It was great to hear him understand, accept, and appreciate praise. Excellent!

Wednesday, January 2, 2008


Look at the photo and take a wild guess. Yes, sometimes we parents shout the aforementioned interjection amidst much noise, concentration, and frivolity, but more often it is our son, the budding drummer (or drummist, he tells us) who calls out, "quiet!" to settle things down before a performance. Since he did not receive the drumset he so dearly wanted for Christmas, we have fashioned a makeshift drumset for him in his corner. One must have cymbals to crash, after all.