Friday, June 29, 2007

Around the Sun Again

Happy Birthday, SwingDaddy! To the best guy a girl could want – you're my partner in every way, whether it's dancing, teaching, running our household, investigating technology, being parents, or eating candy until we're sick. I want to keep sharing those things with you, always.

Please keep feeding me so that I don't pass out from hunger. I also really appreciate those driving directions. I'll tell you what time to arrive and why to go, if you get us there. (In the space-time continuum, SwingDaddy is in charge of spatial; I'm in charge of temporal. It works out well.)

Q and I love you very much.

Lady M

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Licking Knees is Not Part of Any Dance I Know

The Roaring Twenties and nearby decades gave birth to some excellent dance moves that involved impersonating farm animals (pecking like chickens, hopping like bunnies), agricultural activities (picking cherries), and just plain being weird (Black Bottom). Some of them do involve the licking of thumbs, but I haven't seen any historical references to the licking of knees.

The little dude has moved from licking park benches to crawling all over me and licking my shoulders and knees. He followed up with hugs and kisses today, so it was fine, if a bit damp.

We've been a little nuts this week, between teaching dance classes, preparing lesson plans, and performing last night. I also served as producer of the concert, so that included a whole lot of juggling, especially figuring out how to arrange the dances so that the costumes changes worked out between five troupes and twenty dances.

We skipped out on the informal dance gathering tonight and instead trekked over as a family to the neighborhood outdoor music and food event. Q became very attached to the large bag of kettlecorn we brought home. Hug.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Not Just for Sweeping

Argentine Tango with Broom. At the dance workshop where we're teaching this week, one of the other instructors performed this clever number, which would have been Q's favorite dance at the concert tonight, had it not been past his bedtime. The show went well, and now it's time for bed.

Monday, June 25, 2007

A Little OCD, Perhaps?

Lisa at the Rage Diaries wrote about voyeurism and grocery lists a few weeks ago, and the comments detail the amusing things people do to keep track of what they need to buy. My habits are notorious among our friends.

We keep a preprinted sheet on the fridge with our most commonly needed grocery items listed by aisle, as products are arranged in the Safeway nearest our house. When we're out of something, we circle it on the list, or write it in the column corresponding to the aisle, if it's an unusual item. That way, the shopping trip is really efficient, with no doubling-back.

I did have to do a big update to the master list when they did a remodel last year, but the system has worked pretty well for us. Now and again, I replace items (like 2% instead of whole milk, when Q got old enough to switch).

Are you weirded out or do you have similar habits?

P.S. The Nap came back, the very next day! Whew.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Look, Don't Lick

We're going through a licking phase here. Q licked a park bench this morning, before I could stop him. Oh well, I suppose he's working on improving his immunity system.

Aside from that, Q and I had a splendid day strolling and playing in fountains. We came across an accordionist who played a Hungarian czardas dance for us, after seeing Q's Budapest t-shirt. He followed up with some waltzes and we danced a bit, clapped along, and ate a lot of corn on the cob. The little dude attacked the corn with vigor, so I had to move quickly to secure my share.

We had a second napless day. Totally hoping this is a fluke.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

I Can See Clearly Now

Happy Summer Solstice (a little late)! It's time for another quarterly emergency readiness check, and I've run out of ways to rephrase its purpose. Instead, I'll rely on a quote from the last one:

Sometimes emergency plans look so daunting that it's easier to do nothing. So, my goals are modest. I'm going to do a few small things each season to put us in better shape to handle an emergency.

I've written about the "Go Bag" before, the sack you grab on the way out of your house during an emergency. It should hold some warm clothes, local maps, flashlight, cash, something to eat, and copies of important papers. I got a start on the bags a few months ago, but they're definitely incomplete.

For this quarter's check, I'm going to make copies of our passports, birth certificates, and some other key documents, like our home owner's insurance policy, seal them in a Ziploc to protect them from water, and stash them in the Go Bag. More great info at

I'm also making one change that isn't really an emergency prevention action, but is aimed at reducing waste. I've gotten a few reusable grocery bags, in the hopes of halving the number of plastic bags that come into the house this month. Next month, we'll try to reduce that further. I'm leaving the cloth bags in the car so that I don't forget to take them to the store.

On an unrelated topic, I got my car washed for the first time in about six months and I hadn't realized quite how dirty it had gotten. I was actually stunned, looking through the windshield at how sharp and clear everything looked. I'd been peering out of my safe cocoon of a car, not realizing how much my view was obstructed by dirt.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Killer Vegetables

The ears of corn must be showing particularly aggression lately. And you thought going to the supermarket was boring.

Let's give equal time to the friendlier vegetables. Q's tomatoes are doing very well!

It's time for the quarterly emergency check, but due to schedule craziness, I'll take care of that this weekend. (Updated)

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

In Which I Repent For Previous Costco Smugness

I had cracked the Costco code. I was so pleased with myself. I figured out how to get in and out of the warehouse of temptations with exactly the items on my shopping list and not one thing more.

The trick is to go solo and not use a cart. If you're forced to carry everything in your two hands, the trip gets very efficient. We made a family trip yesterday, momentarily lost focus, and the whole plan fell into disaster.

We did indeed pick up baby wipes, paper towels, and toilet paper. We also got about 4000 miniature macaroons (yum!) and a glamorous new computer monitor (very well priced!) for SwingDaddy. Sigh.

He installed the new monitor and I got one he used to have, so I'm now looking at a nice flat panel, instead of the troubled one for which I kept pair of pliers on hand to turn on, since the power button had snapped off. And I'm eating macaroons.

Next time, no cart.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Parents of a Formerly Shy Child

I was a shy child and SwingDaddy was a shy child, so it's not entirely surprising that Q has been pretty shy too. We've certainly spent our share of playgroup time on the sidelines, with Q hanging onto a leg or arm, watching other children cavort. I've worried that he wasn't socializing enough, but since he usually warms up to a group after a while, I figured he'd outgrow it.

Well, last weekend at my parents' house, he did. Q came out of his shell. In a classic case of "be careful what you wish for," we learned exactly how exhausting it is to chase a small, exuberant child all over a garden party. He waved at guests, explored the vegetable platter, and displayed handfuls of rocks. He had an audience, and he was going to milk it.

Those of you who have been parents to spirited children all along, hats off to you!

I expect that he'll move in and out of his shy phase for a long time (perhaps forever, like his parents). There are some times, for instance airport security, where it's pretty convenient if your child decides to stay close by, instead of performing kung fu to the waiting line of shoeless passengers. Not that that has happened to us or anything.

What I'm Hiding Under My Sk*rt

It's not hard to convince me to post about clothes, especially costumes, so when the Parent Bloggers Network floated a topic titled, "What You're Hiding Under Your Sk*rt" in honor of the new social bookmarking site for women, Sk*rt, I had to answer the call.

You already know all about what goes under those big fluffy Victorian gowns, so this post is about little swing dresses. As you can see from the first picture, skirts often fly up when you spin, so it's important to have pretty (or at least functional) dance pants underneath. They're like cheerleader briefs, or really conservative underwear that you wear over your real undies.

For that particular number, I arranged blue pants for the red dresses and red ones for the blue dresses, just to be whimsical. I didn't realize that anyone would particularly notice, but we actually got comments back from some of our fans when we switched to match (red with red, blue with blue) for one show.

I also have some bold stripes that I wear under one of my more acrobatic outfits. When you go upside down, you want to look good.

And here are a pair of dance pants for social dancing. There's a tiny pocket to tuck your ID, since most dance dresses have nowhere to put anything, and you don't necessarily want to ask your date keep your ID.

One more quirky story. The gown below is my favorite 1930's frock, and I started out wearing a body stocking underneath, since it's so sheer that other undies wouldn't be seamless. However, we learned in rehearsal that people got so distracted trying to figure out if I was wearing underwear, that it was better to wear something that showed just a little bit, and let them relax. People.

If you want to play too, see here for more details. And check out Sk*rt! My story is there too.

In other news, we ate a healthy, home-cooked dinner today. Fresh corn on the cob, fish, and rice. You would think we were trying to set a good example or something.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Not in Your Ears Either

Flexible parenting is all about being able to make quick shifts in plans, right?

I was going to take Q to the farmer's market this morning while SwingDaddy joined friends on a Father's Day bike ride, but the little guy was distinctly uninterested in being separated from the tools and old vacuum cleaner in the garage. So he spent most of the morning waving vacuum appendages around, making vacuuming noises. Instead of locally grown, fresh produce, we had PB&J.

New skills:
- Opening the door to the cage of Lady O's pet rats.
- Climbing into his crib himself, with a nifty dive over the slide, followed by a giggle. The clock is ticking on crib usage.
- Wrapping presents, although we must admit that SwingDaddy is a highly tolerant recipient of wrinkly gift wrap.

Mama: Take that out of your mouth. Not in the mouth!
Q: In the eyes? In the nose? In the ears?
Mama (stifling laugh): Don't put it in any of those places either.

Q discovers a relic of the twentieth century. A pay phone!

Hope you had a great Father's Day!

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Ten Years, Five Things, Many Parentheses

What were you doing 10 years ago?
I was working for a major consulting firm on a project that was (wisely or unwisely) burning a million dollars per week at a high tech company here in the Bay Area. SwingDaddy and I were dating, considering moving in together, and about to embark on several choreography projects. I was living with a friend in a cute apartment that lost power when it rained. Taking a shower by candlelight is kind of weird, but I kept votives around for that purpose, just in case.

Five Snacks You Enjoy:
· Goldfish crackers
· Cheese crunchies from Trader Joe's
· Baked Lays
· Double Chocolate Milanos
· Nectarines

Five Songs That You Know All The Lyrics To:
· Walking on the Moon
· Star Spangled Banner
· Baby Mine (which I thought was from the movie "Beaches," but is originally from "Dumbo")
· Surrey with a Fringe on Top (which is really kind of challenging to remember and sing, but I sang it to Q for months while rocking him to sleep as a baby, before I realized that nursery rhymes are a lot easier, and I should learn some)
· My Favorite Things (actually, I know everything, even the scene change music, from The Sound of Music, since I played in the pit orchestra in middle school)

Five Things You Would Do If You Were A Millionaire (revised for Billionaire, since you can just about put a down payment on a house around here as a millionaire):
· Lots of visits with family
· Roomy house with space for a grand piano, library, and heck, a modest ballroom
· Housekeeper
· Exercise/nutrition trainer
· Fund cancer survivorship and poverty projects

Five Bad Habits:
· Going to sleep too late
· Procrastinating
· Too much focus on tactics, not enough on strategy
· Temper
· Low tolerance for disorganization

Five Things You Like To Do:
· Sleep
· Dance
· Read
· Go to the theater
· Engaging conversation with family and friends

Five Things You Would Never Wear Again:
· Fluorescent orange fishnet stockings
· It's hard to come up with others. Fashion fluctuates so much that things we think are hideous come back later. I don't think that I'll wear a perm or shoulder pads again, but who knows? Anything could happen, especially on stage.

Five Favorite Toys:
· Camera
· Serger/power iron (when I used to sew costumes)
· Costumes/ballgowns
· iPod
· Plush sealife

Five People To Tag:
· Anyone who wants to play!

Instructions: Remove the blog from the top, move all blogs up one, add yourself to the bottom.

A Beautiful Life
Absolutely Bananas
Smiling Mom
Freitas Family
Lady M

SwingDaddy's answers to this meme are here.

Friday, June 15, 2007

One of These Things is Not Like the Others

We got corndogs for dinner tonight (Whee! Celebrating healthy eating every day at Chez M). One for each of us. If you look at the picture, there are two empty, fully eaten sticks and one half-eaten dog. Given that you know Q is two years old, who do you think was the family member who didn't finish dinner?

Yeah, my son out-eats me already. Have some more lemonade, dude.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Police Tickets - The Good Kind

You know you've been eating at airports too often when the cashier tells you that it'll be $11 for a hotdog and water, and you think, "Hey, that's not too bad."

Lady O and I went to see the Police in concert last night and had a grand old time. Public transport actually worked out well. The air was pretty stuffy, but I never felt unsafe. Of course, Cha regularly takes BART to and from Oakland Raiders games, so it isn't like aging rock fans would be more rowdy.

After acquiring those hotdogs, we shouldered our way through the crowd to our seats, checking out the t-shirts from a distance. They had shirts featuring the design of their last album (Synchronicity, 1983), and I thought if they were truly enterprising, they should sell the new ones at one price, and also sell ones that looked vintage at double price. We did see at least one fan in a very faded original.

We sat through two opening bands, one good (Fiction Plane) and one mediocre, and had time to chat about a few overdue memes. I haven't forgotten about them, Smiling Mom, Momma to LG, and Solo Mom!

The Police had already broken up before I started listening to rock, but as a Sting fan, I faithfully bought their old albums (on tape and LP, good God), so I knew all the tunes. Good songs, good performers. With just the original power trio on stage, it's quite a contrast from the lush orchestrations and soul backup singers with whom Sting toured as a solo artist.

We were sitting in front of some highly enthusiastic fans who sang cheerfully along, off-key, the whole night. One guy in particular was so happy that I couldn't be annoyed. I remembered the lyrics to far more songs than expected (not so difficult, given that the early Police songs have about twelve words in them), so I've been reminded of more repertory at my disposal when Q requests another rock song.

SwingDaddy sang "Cherry Pie" one time after a bout of Guitar Hero, and now the little dude specifically requests it. I'm trying to get him hooked on "Message in a Bottle" instead.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Even I Can Be Shocked

Someone please agree with me that a newspaper ad for a “Great Starter Home” should not be followed with a $679,000 list price. I can’t believe I’m still shocked at housing costs after two decades in California.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Sniffing Butts and Picking Noses – The Other Side of Motherhood

A couple of days ago, I succeeded getting some major boogers cleaned out of Q's nose. I'm talking about this as an accomplishment on the order of - if not exceeding - pride in that big project commit at the end of May. The little dude can breathe again – woohoo!

As a bonus, since I was letting him play with the TV/universal remote while I tended his nose, I saw the look of utter joy on his face when he managed the set of commands to turn on the TV. There are at least half a dozen adult visitors with engineering degrees who haven't been able to figure that out.

Before I became a mother, I didn't ever think I would sniff-test a baby to see if he was poopy. I definitely didn't know I'd become obsessed with clean noses. It was all I could do to keep my hands off my colleague's dirty nose the other day, but I didn't think the marketing staff would appreciate my efforts.

Watch out, I’m looking at your nose.

Monday, June 11, 2007

300 Photos, Full Tummies, Good Memories

I'm home after nine days on the road – the first half for work, and the second half for fun, when SwingDaddy, Q, Lady O & Cha gathered with friends to celebrate my parents' 40th wedding anniversary. (Trivia question: 25 years is silver, and 50 is gold. What's the tag for 40 years? Answer at the end of the post.)

Q had the time of his life, attending Tai Chi classes with my folks, demanding they sing "wock and woll" songs for him to accompany on the guitar, and eating up a storm. The rest of us had a good time too. There were some pretty funny, unbloggable moments that I'll have to tell y'all in person, involving poorly timed photo requests and large rocks.

My parents are the most amazing and supportive people a girl could ask for. Congratulations!

P.S. 40th is the Ruby Anniversary.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Slipping Backstage Again

For those of you not already sick of concert pictures, here’s one more look behind the scenes.

A box of Holy Grail candidates from which the protagonist must choose wisely.

Juggling, a fine way to pass the time between acts.

Regency ladies, group hug. It takes focus to maintain our collective IQs when we're dressed like floaty little girls.

We learned long ago not to pose two ladies in these lovely cut velvet 1890’s gowns directly side by side, because the pattern makes them look like cojoined twins. Much handsomer this way, with SwingDaddy presenting them.

I think that’s all from backstage. Hopefully I’ll have action shots from the photographers next week.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

In Twelve Years He’ll Be an Insufferable Teen

Some mornings, Q will lounge about in his crib, arms under his head, stretching his feet against the walls, looking all the world like a slothy teen avoiding high school. “You want to get up, cutie?” I ask.

“No.” More lounging. I see where this is going. In a few years, we’ll be working second jobs to keep up with his appetite (already larger than mine) and prying him out of bed to attend American History class. In the meantime, I’ll enjoy his giggly, sweet self. Yesterday, at a particularly fractious moment, he hugged me, patted my shoulder, and said, “Good job, mama.”

Bedtime arrangements have gotten more elaborate too. Accessories include his Cars pillow, pup (pacifier), Big Blankie wrapped over him, and by a new special request, Little Blankie has to go “over eyes.” Is this a toddler sleep mask? Maybe we need to think about dimming his nightlight.

Sleep well, Q.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Where Does The Time Go?

It used to be that I would watch the clock and wonder how I was going to fill the 45 minutes before Q’s bedtime. How many Boynton books would he listen to before he started fussing? Would I really go insane by singing one more rendition of the alphabet song? Maybe I could help him learn how to roll over or sit up (and bark, for that matter).

Now the little dude is two, and I can’t believe how inventive he is. A quick rummage through his toy bin produces guitars and drums for everyone nearby, and he gives orders for his accompaniment. Next, we’re all to stand up and join him for a round of martial arts, complete with stern facial expressions. It’s bedtime before we know it.

On a day-to-day basis, I spend too much effort focusing on just getting through the list of tasks – change him out of PJs into daytime clothes, serve milk, read a morning story, get shoes, hat, sunglasses, and diaper bag together for an outing – so that we can spend time together, having fun.

It’s good to remember that we’re spending time together during those tasks too. The getting-ready minutes are just as important, and can be as memorable as the officially-having-fun minutes. A tickle-fest here, peekaboo there, and we’re out the door, more or less on time, and already happy.

(Not that we don’t have the occasional monumental melt-down, but hey, who’s perfect around here?)

If you’re looking for other ways to improve your time spent, Parent Bloggers Network is promoting Light Iris, a new website aimed at helping moms find what they need on the internet. Write about where your time goes, and enter in their contest to go to BlogHer!

Q says, There’s always time to see a fire truck!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Petticoat Storage, Always a Challenge

Concert photos have been trickling into our email boxes in the last week, including this shot of us from HB.

Most of the post-show costume work is done. Gowns are airing out, camisoles are washed, and petticoats are stuffed into overhead storage with ribbons to keep them from tumbling down and startling unsuspecting closet-openers with a cloud of fluff.

Bubandpie wrote a comment on yesterday’s post about “the movement away from adult values and didacticism (in children’s literature), toward child-centred entertainment (i.e. farting).” That’s a good point. The values currently promoted in media and school are also a shift over time, not only different due to cultural reasons. I have many fond memories of reading Louisa May Alcott and similar books, which are full of morals and lessons.

“Little Women” made me think about how to “work on my faults” like Jo and Beth. The girls in nineteenth century tales always had their hands busy – sewing, knitting, never slothful, even when they socialized – except for the rich, spoiled characters.

That’s carried over to me today. I don’t watch a lot of TV, but when I do, I try to get through our mail, fold laundry, or pay bills at the same time. SwingDaddy has pointed out that it’s a bit distracting and wonders why I can’t focus on just enjoying the activity of entertainment. I’m going to need to think about that for a while and figure out how to be a good baby in the 21st century.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Not Quite American Pre-Schoolers

Q was singing tidbits from his Mandarin music class, and I pulled out the songbook to read the rest of the lyrics in translation. Many kiddie songs are universal – series of animals, rides on the bus, lullabyes.

To me, this song seems distinctly Chinese. I have a hard time imagining a class of American two-year olds singing this verse:

I am a good baby
Everyday, I go to school
When I see the teacher, I am polite
I also get along with classmates
I study hard, can draw
Sing, play, and exercise
Good baby, good baby
I want to be a good baby.

I think that it’d be more likely to hear something about being “unique” and “special.” Being polite, hard-working, and unique are all important traits, but it’s interesting to see which cultures promote which values.

I help with the laundry too!

Monday, June 04, 2007

Sports Involving Twacking Things with Sticks

Q’s favorite activities in his toddler sports class? Hockey and T-ball, of course. What could be better than a sanctioned opportunity to play with stick-like objects?

I took him to class last Friday, since we’d formulated some complicated childcare plans to cover the dance concert week. SwingDaddy and I each took two mornings off work, Nanny J came for the afternoon and evening, and Madame A, Titanium Guy, and my ever helpful parents covered the late evenings. Whew. Four nights in a row was a little challenging, but it came together successfully.

Anyway, back to sports class. Q has really picked up skills since I last took him to an organized exercise group. I used to move his arms and legs as the instructor called out steps, but in the last few weeks, he’s learned the ropes.

Reach for your toes.

Stretch up high.

Proud mama.

Thanks, Dad, for taking the photos!

In a completely unrelated note, I was listening to old Police albums in preparation for going to see the band later this month, and I remembered hearing a college acapella group singing "King of Pain" long ago. I’m generally fond of acapella music, but it was ironic to hear a tune about loneliness and solitary despair performed in 16-voice, 4-part harmony. I’m looking forward to seeing the original version live.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

What’s Black and White and Red?

People are usually familiar with the idea of a costume “reveal.” For example, a performer might pull away a long flowy skirt to show a short one underneath. Certainly, everyone remembers the reveal gone awry several SuperBowls ago with Janet Jackson. Do any costume experts out there know what the opposite is called?

The big Charleston number features the single most stressful moment in any of our dances, a costume “add,” as we’ll call it for lack of another term. The boys distract the audience for a few measures with crazy steps and when the girls turn around, we’re all wearing full length red gloves. The stress is my fault, since I wrote it that way, but it’s worth it. Time and again, people come up and say how much they love that surprise and comment on the effect of the sudden red across the original palette of black and white.

Here’s our crew carefully preparing gloves in the dark felt covers that hide them onstage. Each lady has her preferred way of folding them so that they can go on in an instant. There are various stories of mishaps where someone ends up with floppy fingers from not quite getting a glove in place, but we’ve mostly made it on cue.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

A Boy and His Robot

Visits to the post office are so much more exciting, now that R2D2 is helping out.

Many backstage and onstage photos, thoughtful commentaries, and brilliant insights on are their way. Just as soon as I get a chance to sit down and compose them. Really.

Hope you're having a great weekend!