Thursday, August 30, 2007

Paying Attention Whether We Want It or Not

Of the seven people in the United States who can name the reigning Tour De France champion, my son is one of them. This should prove useful should he embark on a career in playing Jeopardy with other two-year-olds.

While looking at a photo of SwingDaddy riding bikes with Lance Armstrong (background story here):

Q (pointing at the picture): That's Baba. Who's this?
Me: Lance.

Q: Who's that? (pointing at another cyclist, wearing a yellow “Tour of Hope” outfit)
Me: I don't know, sweetie.
Q: It's Con-ta-dor.

I froze. What did he say?
Q: Con-ta-dor.

Me: Why is that Contador?
Q: Yel-low

Holy cow.
Alberto Contador is the young Spanish rider who won the Tour de France last month. He’s definitely not the person in the photo, but he did spend a week on the news wearing the yellow jersey. I checked with SwingDaddy later to see if he’d coached Q on Contador’s name (like certain unnamed guilty parties who taught Q to say, “Go Chargers!” last football season), but he said he hadn’t.

I'm considering what other information I should try to get him to absorb. If we turn on CNN, maybe the little dude can learn the positions of all the political candidates and save us some time come November 08.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

It's Called Parenting

SwingDaddy was on the road most of last week, so I had a stint at what some might call “being a single mom.” My BlogHer roommate, Kimberly (Solo Mom), spoke about how it drives her nuts when people appropriate that term.

To paraphrase: Sure, you might be doing all the hands-on childcare for a period of time, or even most of the time, but that’s not being a single mom. Is your partner coming back home later this week? Do you still have a partner to call when you have a big decision to make? When you need to take your child to the hospital? Are you the sole source of financial support for your child? The only person keeping a roof over your heads? Taking on the bulk of the child-care duties is in no way the same thing as being a single mom.

Of course, Kimberly was much more eloquent than my words above, but I certainly gained perspective on the responsibilities of parenting, and how fortunate I am to have a full partner in raising Q.

Speaking of partners, the phrase that drives me nuts is when men talk about babysitting their own children. Mom-101 and Gunfighter have written about similar situations, where the father is addressed as "the mommy" or "the babysitter" when he's out with the kids. Frustrating and incorrect. He's "the dad." It's not that complicated.

There are certain more traditional fellows at work who say they’re being “Mr. Mom” when their wives are out of town. I've made several pointed comments in return about “being Mrs. Dad" when SwingDaddy was traveling, and one of them seems to have replaced the phrase with saying that he had quality time with his kids instead. Progress!

In any case, it’s called “parenting,” and I’m glad to do it.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Full Mommy

The Full Mommy I’ve joined Mayberry Mom and five other lovely ladies for a review blog at The Full Mommy. There, you can learn useful things about sunblock, red wines, and educational DVDs. As for me, I’ll provide insight on items critical to your well being, like cheesy dance movies with pitiful acting.

In the last months, I’ve carefully gathered pearls of wisdom on “Stomp the Yard” and “Step Up.” If I get through “You Got Served” next week, I’ll make it a three-fer. Just what you what you needed to continue living as a fully culturally-enriched person, I’m sure.

In my intro profile, I explain who I am and my essential products:

1) Spray & Wash Stain Stick. Pre-baby, I was one of those people who didn’t spill anything and never got a stain on her clothes. Ever. Well now, haaaa, I love me some Stain Stick.

2) Memory. Since the memory in my brain gets pretty full, I’ve been counting on a 2GB USB stick, a 2GB photo card, and my iPod.

Q says: I'm going to go visit The Full Mommy. You come too!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Nonsensical Project Names

As is the practice with most tech companies, each project at my office gets assigned a code name, and as product manager, I get to try to be clever choosing the names. In a former business unit that followed a music theme for names, I selected my favorite waltz composer. When it came time to internationalize for French and German users, I named that project after the composer's multi-lingual opera star wife.

There was a sarcastic period too, where I dubbed a project "Phoenix" because it was rising from the ashes of a previous mess, and another one called "Sisyphus" because it was re-doing work we'd previously completed.

Then there are those times when the thematic and symbolic elements are completely missed. One particularly high profile endeavor was titled "Lincoln," a fine and respectable name. It would make sense to call the follow-up project "Washington," "Kennedy," or some other legendary president. Unfortunately, the new manager didn't quite have the same poetic sense, and the theme got morphed from Great Leaders to Cities in Nebraska instead. Like North Platte, or Omaha. Yeah, very inspirational.

When "Omaha" was announced as the Phase 2 name, my work buddy and I schemed how we could take the Phase 3 project name to new heights of tangential theming. After much thought, I came up with "State Farm." It's a tenuous connection, but can you figure it out?

The answer is after the unrelated photo that my dad sent of Q chirping, "Cakie, cakie, cake!"

A: The Mutual of Omaha and State Farm are both insurance companies. It's about as connected to the original Presidents theme as Cities in Nebraska.

Project names have been changed to project the innocent (and guilty).

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Spelling Lessons

The little dude was examining the letters on my t-shirt this morning and started spelling them out.

Toddler: M-O-M
Mama: (smile)

Toddler: I-N-A-T-R-I-X
Mama: Hmmmmm.

Toddler: What's that?
Mama: It's a picture of, uh, bracelets.

Toddler: With a key!

Thanks, Kristen (a.k.a. The Mominatrix), for both the shirt and for making life just that bit more exciting.


For everyone who asked, here's a link to the Zoo & Park from yesterday's post. The animals tend to be on the small side (lots of lemurs and meerkats, no bigger creatures like elephants), but it's a good deal for a $6 admission fee plus parking.

And if you really want the minutia of the day, I've written another guest post at SwingDaddy's. He's coming back tonight. Yay!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Child Labor at the Park

Q decided that he really liked this "Viking boat" at the Zoo & Park this morning, and we spent a good long time pretending to row. I think I can rent him out for crew duty now.

The weather was terrific, and we got a pretty good view of Q's favorite animals. While we walked down the entrance ramp, he was chirping away for "capybaras!" which are the first creatures you see when you arrive. The zookeeper was washing and refilling their pool (apparently, the giant rodents are slobs and get a lot of sand in the water), so we watched the pool fill for a while. More exciting than watching paint dry, but I'd probably do that too, if Q were sufficiently fascinated.

He begged to go into the petting corral, which I'm never crazy about, but we went in anyway. "You can pet the goats if you like, sweetie." He would get close and pet them in his fashion, which was more like tagging the goat to be "it" in a schoolyard game. Much handwashing afterwards, which I think he enjoyed even more than the goats.

After lunch, we saw a puppet show, rowed the boat, giggled through a maze. . .

And rode the Dragon train.

That was fun, Mama!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

It Can't Be Said That We're Insufficiently Geeky

Some couples have solo time with boys' bachelor parties and girls' spa retreats. We're not quite like that.

As you know, I went to a blogging shindig, and this weekend, it's SwingDaddy's turn. He's at PAX, a videogaming conference, complete with consumer electronics expo and techie contests. Yeah, we're a little weird. I'm totally sure that it's not rubbing off on Q.

Tonight, Q and I took sandwiches to the train station, made ourselves comfortable and watched seven trains go by. To be precise, we heard seven but only saw six, as one northbound express was obscured by the southbound train in station.

When we first settled in, there was a man in a wheelchair nearby, and eventually I heard his cell phone conversation with a taxicab company. He was trying to get them to send a cab from the other end of the parking lot, well within sight, to pick him up. I couldn't tell whether the drivers weren't comprehending the instructions relayed by the dispatcher and truly didn't see him waving at them, or whether they were dodging him. Perhaps they thought the wheelchair was complicated. I wouldn't think our neighborhood would have any issues with ferrying an African-American man, but maybe that played a part too. It's hard to know.

After checking with the fellow and asking him to keep an eye on our sandwiches, Q and I strolled over to the taxi drivers and specifically pointed out their fare, waiting patiently at the handicapped ramp. To their credit, a cab quickly drove over, followed by an extra driver to help the man get into the car and load the wheelchair.

Before I had a son, I wouldn't have been sitting restfully, with no agenda. I would have racing between events, just like my insane day at work (meetings in five different buildings within six hours), and wouldn't have noticed a really simple way to make someone else's day more pleasant. That's a side benefit to being a parent that I really enjoy.

The man gave a friendly wave as the cab took off, and Q and I returned to the serious work of watching trains go by.

I posted our Choo Choo Haiku at SwingDaddy's blog today.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

We're Going on a Trip in Our Favorite Rocket Ship

Can I tell you how much we've been enjoying Little Einsteins around here? Yes, I do mean we, because the musically-inclined quartet (conductor, singer, instrumentalist, and dancer) has replaced Dora in household supremacy. Hooray! If I had to hear that freaking "I'm the Map" song one more time I think I would have gone looking for Dora in a dark alley.

In each episode, the foursome sings their catchy theme song while launching an adventure in their highly capable Rocket. I still like the tune enough to belt it out with Q, although I'm not going to share the video I took of us. There's featured artwork, ranging from Monet's water lilies to a modern paiting by Keith Haring to traditional African masks, and the story always involves a piece of classical music. Again, way better than hearing "I'm the Map, I'm the Map, I'm the Map, I'm the Map, I'm the Map.

Favorite parts include patting our hands to the beat of the music to get Rocket to speed up and raising our arms (and an occasional leg) to indicate that the music notes get higher and higher up the scale.

We also love the curtain call at the end, where the characters cheer for all the artist elements. In the episode featuring excerpts from Peer Gynt, they finish with a delightfully loopy "Let's give a big hand . . . to the composer of the beautiful music we played, Edvard Grieg! Edvard Grieg! Hooray! Yaaay, Grieg!"

June, the dancer, could be interpreted as Asian (she has dark hair and is voiced by an actress with a Chinese last name), which is always nice and inclusive. And best of all, in a vast improvement over Baby Einstein, all the characters have arms.

Note: I received no compensation or free product for this post. I'm just grateful that I haven't had to talk to Dora's Backpack for two weeks straight.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Little Rocker

Our XBox is down for the count, and SwingDaddy has mailed it back to Microsoft for (free) repair. Q misses Guitar Hero desperately.

Photo from Lady O - thanks!

Monday, August 20, 2007

The Most Important Word, Plus Bloggy Love

Baby sign language is filled with cute hand gestures for "apple" and "bunny," but what is the single most important word?

It's MORE, because it allows a small person to demand more anything while his mouth is still full.

Q has stopped doing signs for almost all words since his speaking vocabulary has grown, but MORE is the one he's kept, because it's too darn useful. I discovered how hard it is to photograph a rapid gesture, but here's my attempt. It looks like he's flipping me off, but I assure you that he's not.

Cute picture alert: If you make it through this next self-indulgent section, there's a snapshot of Q at the end of the post.

In other news, the fabulous Mamacita Tina has awarded me a Power of Schmooze Award. I've enjoyed reading about life with her two adorable kids for a long time, and hope that Q and I get to join Ian and Laurel on an outing to the fire truck museum someday.

The definition of this award: Good schmoozers effortlessly weave their way in and out of the blogosphere, leaving friendly comments, happily making new friends along the way.

The rules are as follows.

1) If you get the The Power of Schmooze Award, write a post with links that schmoozed you into submission.

2) Link to this post and Mike so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme.

3) Optional: Proudly display the “Power of Schmooze Award” with a link to the post that you wrote.

Aww, thank you, Mamacita Tina! In turn, I'd like to pass the honor to Mayberry Mom, Kimberly at Solo Mom, and Karianna at Kari's Couch. I think of them as my good neighbors in the virtual world, always ready with a kind word or funny anecdote.

And if I wasn't blushing enough already, the lovely Lara has presented me with the "Nice Matters" Award.

“This award is for those bloggers who are nice people and good blog friends - those who bring good feelings and inspiration. Also for those who are a positive influence on our blogging world. Once you’ve been awarded, please pass it on to 7 others who you feel are deserving of this award.”

I'm going to enjoy this as a reward for those moments where I didn't choose the most witty or cutting phrase and instead protected someone's feelings. Making entertainment out of crazy situations is what we bloggers do, and it's important to me to make Kind Blog types of choices. Thank you, Lara!

In turn, here are some Nice writers who definitely finish tops in my book:

Ewe are Here
Jenny at The Bloggess
Kittenpie at The Life of 'Pie
Mamacita Tina at Carpe Diem!
Mir at Woulda Coulda Shoulda
Sandra at Blog Chocolate
Betty at WAYA

I could write so much about each (and many more writers whom I'd like to honor. Does anyone else hate the feeling of leaving someone out with these cute button things?), but it's getting late and I need to be responsible about the office work I still need to do. Congratulations, ladies!

As promised, here's Q with his new lunchbox.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Motorcycles, Messerschmitts, and Dead Tree Media

Q looked over my shoulder at my magazine and saw a photo of Matt Damon in The Bourne Ultimatum.

Q: Motorcycle!
Mama: That's right, he's riding a motorcycle.
Q, quizzically: Where's his hat?

Helmet safety, drummed into their little heads already.

I'm madly trying and failing to catch up with the magazine stack and doing a better job with the Entertainment Weeklies than the Newsweeks, sadly. I did run across this cartoon which sums up our travel this year:

And in a third dead tree media update, Q's current favorite bedtime story is The Airplane Alphabet Book, a gift from SwingDaddy's dad and stepmom. It starts with A is for AT-6, progresses to M is for Messerschmitt, and onwards to P is for Piper Cub. The long passages of text are beyond his age level, but the art is gorgeous and he surprised the heck out of me by identifying the Navy Duck and Osprey. If you have an airplane fanatic, it's worth a try, even if just for the entertainment value of hearing a two-year-old say, "Messerschmitt."

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Splash It, Baby!

It was a good day, full of splashes and naps. The Qster initiated a "stop and go" game in the wading pool, which had us racing around furiously. It took me a moment to figure out what he meant by yelling "top!" and freezing, but I got it after a few more rounds. I'm wondering if they're playing the game at preschool, because it's a new one.

My parents brought some pretty terrific books that he's enjoying, but there's no question that the best toy ever is the empty plastic Coffeemate container that they saved for him. It's got a narrow handle, perfectly sized for a small hand to hold while drumming.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Is Sabra Your Favorite Dancer?

First let me say that if you're going to promote a dance performance by your host and resident judge over and over again, before every commercial break, you'd better deliver. No, a stupid bobblehead animation doesn't count.

Now that that's out of the way, I can say that SwingDaddy and I were pleased with Sabra's win. She's a great dancer with a lot of personality that always came through. I didn't feel like I had a big stake in who won though. All the finalists were so good, and since Benji won last year (woot!), I didn't feel like it was super important to show that a ballroom dancer had the chops to be #1.

We wondered if Neil, as "the cute boy," would have the power tween vote, but perhaps judge Nigel's statement about how it'd be nice for a girl to win this time had some influence. My mom made a tongue-in-cheek comment that perhaps Hillary has a chance in November if Sabra won tonight.

It was a good, good season. I'm going to miss the show!

Plus, I've decided to stop being annoyed with Wade Robson for the recurring zombie themed dances. As seen in tonight's "best of "performances, he's turned out a whole variety of intriguing numbers (hummingbird, anyone?), and the zombie ones had great movement too. If Picasso could have a Blue Period, why not a Zombie Period?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


Q at the window, patiently waiting for Ama and Agu to arrive this afternoon.

Thanks for all the lovely anniversary wishes! Bubandpie commented that we looked as though we'd come through the years better than her wedding bouquet, which reminded me of a story about my flowers.

When we left for our honeymoon, I hung the bouquet upside down to dry. We returned a week later and were shocked to see it looking exactly the same. A magical or vampirical, never-aging set of flowers?

After a little prodding into the construction, we realized that the florist created that perfectly spherical shape by cutting the stem of each rose so that it was only three inches long and sticking it into a round ball of water-soaked foam. The bundle of stems that I held was only tied in place below the flowers – they weren't actually attached to the blooms!

The flowers had been getting water from the foam all week, and still looked great when we returned. I made an attempt at potpourri with the petals, but I think they've all gone the way of lost things by now. Best remembered in pictures.

Nine Years

That would have been an ideal post, just the single image. But you know me, I can't leave things alone. Instead, I'm compelled to explain that we call that photo the "wedding magazine cover shot" where the bride is pictured with her accessories - her groom and veil. We loved the way it's framed, but chose another picture, with the two of us centered, as the more traditional image we copied for friends and family.

Here's us last weekend, stopping at Carl's Jr. on the way to see the hilarious Broadway show, Avenue Q. Because we're classy like that.

I love you, sweetie.

Photo Credit
(for the first image, of course. We won't blame our cool photographer for the self portrait.)

Monday, August 13, 2007

Not Even Pretending to Have Related Topics

1) What soap or body wash do you recommend for toddlers?

Now that our standby, Johnson and Johnson's Baby Wash, has been called out as having cancer-causing petrochemicals (indignation and worry best expressed by Jenny here), I'm looking for a new soap. I know that just about everything can be linked to toxic substances in some way, but baby soap is definitely one item I want to replace with something safer.

2) The live tour of "So You Think You Can Dance" hits the Bay Area on November 25. Who's with me?

Unfortunately, that's Thanksgiving weekend, so we're going to have to figure out holiday plans first.

3) Happy preschool update!

Nanny J and I dropped Q off at preschool today. Big tears when we left, but we waited out of sight for a while, and another mom who came outside ten minutes later said that he was already playing.

At pickup time, I wish I'd thought of snapping a picture of all the parents peeking in the window, trying not to get caught and seeing the little folks dancing happily to music. They bring the children to the door one at a time so that the classroom doesn't become a madhouse. Eight or nine children trotted out and hugged their parents before Q made his appearance. He treated us to a kung fu routine complete with push-up, and then grabbed our hands to head for home.

Sniff. I'm so proud . . . his first day at school solo. He did great. And I didn't melt down either. That was probably the more risky part.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

It's Alive!

SwingDaddy is my hero.
Especially after he battled the dust demons inside my machine.
See that furry gray section? That's a quarter-inch thick layer of dust. Oops. I already have monthly data backup reminders in my calendar, and now I've added bi-annual clean-the-computer-innards reminders too.
Q was particularly patient, sitting on his stool and watching the vacuuming of my PC. He was really itching to help with the cleaning, so we let him wipe the outside of the case.

I am really tempted to say that I lost all my files relating to BlogHer, the Boston trip, being video "talent" for a 3D demonstration (unrelated to BlogHer), dance movie reviews, and deep thoughts on guiding children towards future careers, because I am so darn behind in blogging. However, I didn't lose one single file (thank god) and I had my notes file backed up anyway, so I'll just have to get to it.

After a nap, of course. A long one that lasts until morning.

Here's hoping that everyone else's PC troubles get resolved soon.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

This is One Trend I Could Have Skipped

My home PC is down. I feel like I'm missing a limb. I guess it noticed that all the cool kids were struggling with their PCs and wanted to join the party. Hopefully, my super home tech support will be able to revive it today.

In the meantime, if you're not my parents, check out the fun video MommyBlogs Toronto put together to promote their new H&B column. Many of your favorite bloggers are featured, saying, "Hi, I'm MamaBlogger and I'm Hot and Bothered!"

Don't worry, Mom and Dad, I didn't say anything naughty, and I said I was Lucy Liu anyway. The Toronto ladies were convinced I look just like her, and who am I to complain?

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Why PreSchool Now?

*Updated because I forgot to add the juicy stuff.

We'd planned to hold off taking Q to preschool until he was at least 3, because it seems a bit early to start on the school track. However, as you know, he started a program this week, for "mid-twos." Here's our thinking.

It's a chance for him to play freely with other children. He's fond of his music and gym class, but those are more structured and don't provide opportunities for him enjoy kiddie company, as well as learn how to negotiate the sharing of toys and such.

Focused one-on-one time is a great benefit of having a nanny, but he doesn’t yet have those social skills that daycare kids get early. I’ve read some moderately hysterical articles (if that’s possible) about how kids will never catch up if they don’t practice those interactions early, but I don’t buy it. It would imply that the Stay At Home Mom, gold standard of momhood, is neglectful, since one would assume that her toddlers are mostly with her instead of with a passel of peers. A balance of group time and solo time seems more reasonable to me.

A number of families from our playgroup have also selected this school, so it's also a lovely time to catch up with them. At only two and a half hours, twice per week, this seems like a gentle way for Q to taste school and friends. We're hoping it works out well.

*Updated: Ok, I was blogging when I was too tired to remember the goofy part of the story. Another reason we started preschool now? We learned that it's hard to get into a good preschool here at age 3. Because the classes are filled with graduating 2's. No kidding. Is it like that in your neighborhood? The academic grind begins now!

I also cut a phrase about the ghetto snack bag that we brought because I didn't want to offend anyone, but hey, we found something nicer for the little dude to bring to school on Monday, so I'll leave that be.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Monday, August 06, 2007

A Measure of PreSchool Success in Three Words

They Have Brooms!

We made it home with only a two hour delay in the Dallas airport, way better than the 34 hours on the trip out. Weather at ORD slowed our connecting flight (again! I guess that Chicago was just determined to have the last word, after all those pre-Blogher travel complications), and then there were various mechanical issues. It's a grim statement about travel today when passengers are thrilled to have merely a two hour problem. I remember taking shuttle flights like hopping on a bus, expecting to arrive just before a meeting and usually succeeding. It wasn't that long ago.

We took Q to his first day of preschool, and he did pretty well. Really well, after he discovered that they have a toy broom and mop set. Next week will likely be tougher, when the parents don't stay through class, but for now, I can be content that he had a good start.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Actual Sharing Exhibited In This Household, News at Eleven

Q tends towards shyness in new groups and his cousin, Little Rugger, is more exhuberant. Play sessions have been heavily moderated, particularly after LR grabbed toys out of Q’s hands and Q whacked him on the head in return. We had a serious chat after I caught Q in an empty room taking practice swings with a ruler, preparing to defend his possessions. No hitting, little guy!

They’ve started really playing with each other in the last day or so. Giving each other toys, listening together to Granddad read a story, coloring pages side by side. All the parents are still on high alert, but I think the boys learned something new about being pals.

Wish us luck for our return trip tomorrow. In a fit of paranoia, I’m packing many extra diapers, in case we get trapped en route, like SwingDaddy and Q last weekend.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Somewhat Skeptical of These Local Customs

On their way into town, Q’s grandparents had a layover in Wisconsin and were compelled to purchase native garb.

The little dude tries it eat it, but it doesn’t taste very good.

He shows skepticism when Mama takes a self portrait.

And then he gets Daddy into the game. Who knew cheeseheads had this much fun?

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Hopeless Ham

Proud parent: Q recognized the national anthem at tonight’s outdoor symphony concert and with a brief reminder, put his hand over his heart.

Slightly embarrassed parent: He proceeded to pretend to hold a microphone with the other hand, because isn’t that how you always see people sing the Star Spangled Banner?

There were many sponsors to the concert, including a pet rescue clinic and a Brain Injury Association. The latter group provided a booth with safety information and how to prevent falls that most commonly cause brain injuries.

I wondered if it was coincidence that they’d set up their station next to a crooked sign admonishing those playing active sports.

After a picnic dinner and brief stroll alongside the Charles River, we headed home, where I once again was too tired to write more than a quick blurb. Ahhh, vacation.