Sunday, September 30, 2007

Sharing Our Secret

It has been so hard to keep quiet about this. Every night for weeks, I've wanted to tackle deep thoughts like Mir's post about merit and "gifted" programs in school, Bubandpie's essay on truthfulness in blogging, and other meaningful topics, but instead I've written a couple of quick lines while propping my eyelids open and then passed out.

Well now, I can tell you about the big project on which I've been working: A placenta!

SwingDaddy and I heard the heartbeat at the doctor's office on Friday, and "Swimmy" is due in the spring. We are one excited little family.

Now please excuse me while I head to the kitchen for another snack and then a nap.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

I’ll Never Have To Remember Where I Park Again

More signs that the little dude takes after his dad. While we were visiting SwingDaddy's sister in Boston, we took a family outing to the aquarium. As we walked out of the parking structure, his Granddad pointed to the parking sign and told Q to remember that we were on Level 6.

A couple of hours later, we returned to the garage and Granddad asked, "Where are we parked?"

"Six!"

Cool.

A couple of months ago, I'd taken Q to see SwingDaddy's bike race at the track, and we were leaving between two sets of races. I was hurrying a bit, hoping that he wouldn't notice that SwingDaddy wasn't leaving with us, so I was walking a little ahead of him. I turned right as I approached the parking lot from the sidewalk. A small voice piped up behind me.

"Mama?"

He had toddled left, towards the car. He looked at me quizzically and pointed at it.

Thanks, dude.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Babes in Danceland

Some of our best adventures have been the dance tours we've taken, performing, teaching and taking classes in Europe. There's always that thrill of seeing new places and making friends, trying new snacks, and figuring out how to communicate in other languages. SwingDaddy and I both speak a bit of French, so we got along fine in Paris, but we had to resort to English in Prague. The Czech language is um, really, really different, and it took us three separate trips to master "good morning, please, and thank you."

You think you have to pack a lot of nonsense when you travel with children? Well, it's right up there with packing costumes to cover a 150 year range of historical events. Ballgowns, hoopskirts, corsets, hair ribbons, fake hair, dance slippers for each performance outfit. When your normally shoe-scorning husband is required to pack seven pairs of shoes to match his costumes, you know that things are barely in control.

Just take our advice: Unless you plan on hiring porters, don't bring a steamer trunk. We saw more than one relationship crumble under the weight and bulk of a steamer trunk of costumes.

I imagine it will be several years before we head overseas again, but I'd love to bring our whole family. Friends brought their ten-year-old son on the last tour, and he was quite a hit with the ladies, politely asking them to dance. We'd want to spend daytimes on child-focused activities, but it'd be marvelous to share the grandeur of a live orchestra, beautiful 18th century architecture and an open dance floor.

Or maybe we'll turn into the kind of family that plans climbs up Mt. Whitney instead. Or builds houses for Habitat for Humanity. Or all three!

The Parent Bloggers Network is featuring Pick Pack Go this week – helping you vacation easily and comfortably.

Photo 1 from Prague.
Photo 2 also from Prague. I'm in the peach gown with cream lace, SwingDaddy beside me.
Photo 3 from the south of France.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

That Takes the Cake

There is a long-standing, well-documented history of food suggestibility in my family, from the "brain on drugs commercial" egg-craving, to the hockey-induced interest in shark soup, and other ice cream tales.

I think this week takes the cake.

As a precaution, SwingDaddy has forbidden me to read any more of the "Year in Provence" and "Bella Tuscany" travel-foodie books, because they usually result in me demanding some kind of obscure melon only to be found in the south of France or hungry for some other unpronounceable delicacy.

I've been reading military science-fiction lately, which seems like innocuous material. Not so fast. Even space-force commanders have to eat between battles, and when Captain Serrano had soup, our household had soup for dinner too. Even worse, a few chapters later, there was discussion of an alliance with the Federation of Crescent Worlds and all I could think was, "I want crescent rolls!"

They were delicious.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Why I'm Glad That I Work With Men

There are some days where I'm particularly glad that I work primarily with a team of male engineering types without a lot of fashion interest. Like today, when I realized I had arrived in the office wearing black pants and a navy blue jacket. No need to be embarrassed, since no one noticed.

Q would make no such sartorial errors, of course.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Check Your Expectations at the Door

A lifetime ago, SwingDaddy and I treated ourselves to season tickets at the San Francisco Symphony. We really enjoyed the experience, especially the pre-concert lectures that explained the hows and whys of the composers. We sat in our comfy box seats among the splendor of Davies Hall, and with two exceptions, the music was gorgeous.

The exceptions are always the interesting part, so here they are:

1) We saw the premiere of an Antarctic Symphony, complete with introduction by the composer/conductor. He had spent five days on an icebreaker ship on location to gather inspiration, and apparently there wasn't much of it to find. Most of the "music" was the bass instruments imitating the engine sound of the icebreaker and the rest was a box of gravel that was periodically rattled.

2) The Antarctic Symphony was unfortunate, but even worse were our shaken expectations for a suite titled Kindertotenlieder. Those of you who speak German, please hold your laughter to the end.

We didn't have time to read the program notes in advance, but it sounded fun. "Kinder" = children, and we knew that "lieder" means song, from all the liebeslieder (love songs) to which we'd performed dances. A cheerful evening of children's songs!

Well, the key missing word? "Toten" means dead. Yeah. Dead children's songs. Songs of mourning for dead children. Not so uplifting and fun. But I'll never forget what Kindertotenlieder means.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Be Prepared

Happy Autumnal Equinox (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 an earlier 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.


Just about everyone has been guilty of leaving a medication refill until the last minute, so that you end up racing to the pharmacy before the close of business hours. What if there were an earthquake, flood, or other emergency and you couldn't get your prescription for three days, a week, or even a month?

We're fortunate that we don't have a lot of medications to cover in our household, but for this quarter's action, I'm going to figure out how to get a two week buffer stashed away. I've read suggestions that say some insurance companies will cover refills every 25 days, so if you really keep on top of dates and hit the pharmacy as soon as you're eligible, you can build up an emergency cache over a few months.

A challenge for you: choose one thing to do to improve your emergency readiness. Store some extra gallons of water. Stash a few cans of food and a can opener. Make copies of key documents. Double check your homeowner's insurance. Or something like that!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Colorful Crossroads

Q navigates the maze at a playground.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Overthinking Again

Q's been just crazy over his Richard Scarry book, What Do People Do All Day? The illustrations are fabulously detailed, showing a "Busytown" of anthropomorphic animals as they go about their business, growing crops, selling automobiles, and constructing roads.

I loved the stories myself as a child, but upon a second visit, I realize that the gender roles are a bit . . . traditional. The builders, farmers, firefighters, and mail carriers are all male, leaving the females to tend house and sew dresses. Not that there's anything wrong with tending house and sewing dresses, because I do both (or have at some point, in any case).

Is this unbalanced role modeling going to have negative impacts?

My mom pointed out that the characters also use manual typewriters and rotary phones with big curly cables, so the whole of Busytown could use an update. I think we can safely say that with judicious reminders that the book is a period piece, it'll be ok.

After all, it was a favorite of mine too, and the lasting effect it had on me was that I decided that I wanted to be Bug-Bug, with my own bulldozer.

Monday, September 17, 2007

What's the Opposite of Nice?

There's been a lot of chatter from ladies receiving the "Nice Matters" award not being comfortable with the title of "nice." Somehow, it seems to imply namby-pamby or lacking in backbone.

Do you really believe that the nice guy finishes last and never gets the girl (or guy)? Is that what you want your son to learn? Your daughter?

I'd like to set things straight. I might be swimming against the tide of common thought, but here goes. The most powerful and creative people I've ever met are nice.

A nice person can be kind. Friendly. Assertive. Interesting. Strong. Fascinating. Formidable.

The opposite of being nice is being an a$$hole. Who has time for that in their lives?

(Off soapbox.)

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Defending Our Lemur Friends

A mom at the zoo, speaking to her young daughter: Look at the monkey, honey!

My two year old: That's NOT a monkey. It's a LEMUR.

Me (looking left and right, hoping he spoke softly enough to avoid detection): Yes, it’s a very nice lemur.

Our little local zoo doesn’t have much in the way of the classics (no giraffes, lions, tigers, or bears), but boy do we have our Madagascar natives down.

This happened a couple of weeks ago, but I thought of it Friday night when we saw the Jonathan Coulton concert. One of his most popular songs is about a mad scientist who is trying to woo an understandably reluctant lady.

I made this half-pony, half-monkey monster to please you
But I get the feeling that you don't like it
What's with all the screaming?
You like monkeys
You like ponies
Maybe you don't like monsters so much


I guess you had to be there, but it was pretty funny. After the song was over, someone tossed a homemade half-pony, half-monkey plush creature onto the stage. I noticed it's ringed tail though, and had to stop myself before I yelled, "That's NOT a monkey, it's a LEMUR!"

Thanks for the education, Q.

Here's a pro picture of a ringtailed lemur - the ringtails at the zoo are behind a mesh enclosure, so I can never get clear photos of them.

P.S. Thanks for all the interest in SwingDaddy's hair. He's on a trans-Pacific flight to Singapore right now, but I'm sure he'll be thrilled to have your input before our next hair styling appointment. :)

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Blowouts of a Different Kind

Q discovered the joys of this classic party favor at a little friend's birthday party today. I had no idea what they were called, so I had to look it up. Did you know the little toy noisemakers were called blowouts?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

What Happened to the Ol' Cigarette Lighter?

I wasn't cool enough to go to many rock concerts as a teen, but from watching movies, even I know the thing you're supposed to do to a favorite song – hold your lighter above your head and wave your arm back and forth to the music.

Times have changed. The tweenies wave their cell phone in the air now, screens all lit up like sparkles across the stadium, sharing the music with their friends outside who couldn't get tickets.

And now this: SwingDaddy reported that the geeky PAX concert was filled with dudes waving their Nintendo DSs and light sabers. Fitting, I say.

We might get a chance to see one of the clever songwriters this weekend, featuring tunes about DNA, Code Monkeys, and the Mandelbrot Set, for those of you who remember math fondly. For those of you who don't, Coulton is also famed for an adagio, acoustic version of "Baby Got Back."

Should be interesting. Anyone want a souvenir?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

I'm Never Quite Able to Be Wordless, But This Is Close

Keeping on yesterday's flapper theme, here's a picture from three years ago today. The five of us are about to perform at a Great Gatsby summer party. Five? Both the gal on the right and I were pregnant. Is there anything more cliche than a bunch of pregnant chorus girls?

I love the idea of Wordless Wednesdays. I suppose I can interpret "word less" as fewer, rather than no words. How's that for getting weasely with definitions?!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Having To Come Up With 1000 Words

Because I forgot to get the camera out this morning and failed to capture the ecstatic expression on Q's face as he looked out the window at the crew powerwashing our house and the water pouring down the glass. "So much water! So much water!" he chirped. "Paper towel, mama?"

I got him a paper towel and he rubbed away at the inside of the window. "Hmmm," he said, puzzled. I explained that the water was on the outside of the window. I'm not sure he entirely got it, but he moved along to the next window, where he could watch the washing continue. The crew will be back tomorrow with paint, so our house should look all nice and new soon. At least on the outside.

The inside of the house, however, is full of all kinds of nonsense, including approximately twenty-seven Roaring Twenties dance frocks. No kidding. I received the most tempting sale announcement last week from a historical and stage costumer who is cleaning out eighteen years of vintage and fantasy gowns.

And I'm not going.

Not only have I run out of closet space, but I've also realized that my life has changed enough that I don't need to have so many costumes of different eras on hand, just in case. The odds of being invited to a last minute Baroque Ball is rather low at present. These days, picnicking at the train station during rush hour is a pretty exciting outing, and I'm not being sarcastic when I say that.

Believe it or not, I'm going to tie the topics of house cleaning, costumes, and life changes back to yesterday's Britney Spears post, thanks to Her Bad Mother. As usual, HBM has an eloquence and way of expressing what I couldn't quite put into words yesterday. Seeing Britney try to fit awkwardly into her girlhood role reminded me a bit too uncomfortably of me and when I also try to reach for my pre-motherhood days.

It's lucky that most of us don't do it in front of cameras. Although, I sometimes do, and hope that I still look good enough to pull it off. At least I'm smart enough to save the bikini for moments far from photographers. In fact, I'm so accustomed to not recording imperfect evidence that I realized I don't have a "before" photograph of our dead lawn or the old paint on our house. Too late now!

So, let's look at a festive "before" picture instead. (It contains four of the previously mentioned twenty-seven flapper dresses.)

P.S. I guess I overshot the 1000 word mark, but who's counting?

Monday, September 10, 2007

You've Got to be Freaking Kidding

This woman has two children – a one year old and a two year old. And people are ripping her for a "mushy midsection" and being out of shape. I think her body looks fabulous. Her choice of clothing was pretty awful, and by all accounts the performance wasn't great, but I'm sad for Britney Spears.

She was a charismatic and really hard working girl who hit a lucky streak, and now she's got a lot of problems that are too well publicized. I hope you get the help you need, Brit. Get healthy, stable, take care of those kids, and maybe make another hit record.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Family-Friendly Gangsters

We've been talking about the challenges and expense of moving from our merely pleasant home to a bigger place with a dazzling school district. I remembered back to a dinner party a few years ago, where friends compared their hip urban neighborhoods and put our little dilemma into perspective.

Ara was saying that they had a resident gang, but fortunately, the merchandise of choice was merely stolen cars, not drugs. Also, they were a Latino gang, so the members were big on promoting family and community.

She reported that gang members don't carry their firearms, because getting busted with a weapon is a serious charge. Instead, they stash them all around the area, within easy reach in case of an altercation. After local children found a couple of guns while playing, their families felt compelled to take action.

They sent their mediator to meet with the gang. (I love it that there's an official neighborhood-gang relations manager.) The leaders got the point immediately – of course, they didn't want to endanger any children. They passed out new marching orders: "Stash your guns higher," out of reach of the children.

I just kept my mouth shut after that story. Our tame, dull suburban woes couldn't top that one.

And in a totally unrelated story, Q requested a Lego helicopter this morning and then rolled his truck up to it, making hissing noises.

"What are you doing?" I asked.

"Issa gas truck!"

The boy's after my heart, already working out infrastructure requirements at such a tender age.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

The Grass Is Greener Here, Darn It!

After many years of saying that we'd fix our back yard, we finally hired someone to do it.

A team of six arrived, tore up the poor struggling remains of a lawn, filled in the hole where we'd removed a giant tree stump, leveled the ground, and installed new sprinklers. At the end of one day, they left a perfect patch of dirt.

The next morning, the crew rolled out sod in tidy and perfect rows. They look like minty turf Hostess Ho Hos.

And now, we have a beautiful lawn! Just in time to sell the house, if we manage to find a new one.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

The Slim Difference Between "Tackle" and "All Fall Down"

This is what I saw when I got home from work today: SwingDaddy and Q in their Chargers jerseys. I was pretty impressed with Q's tackling ability.

When the ticklefest was over and they got up, he poked SwingDaddy. "Tackle! All fall down!"

"Buddy, you have to try a little harder than that!"



I'm totally exhausted this week. I've been reading your blogs every day and will catch up with commenting soon, I promise!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Telemarketers, Credit Reports, Octopi


Too incoherent to write much, but here are few things on my mind today:

1) If you registered for the "Do No Call" list five years ago when it originated, you need to resubscribe by September 15. Otherwise, you'll be open to telemarketers once again. (Thanks Dad, for the tip.)

2) If you haven't already gotten a copy of your free credit report, go to www.annualcreditreport.com. Since there are three companies, I order ours every four months to spread them out over the year. For example, January - Transunion, May - Experian, September - Equifax. It's easy to do, and lets you keep on top of any credit inaccuracies before they cause trouble down the line.

3) I've been mostly not alarmed with various reports of cancer-causing agents, because what doesn't cause cancer at this point? However, recent news is getting out of hand and it looks like I'm going to need to do some serious reading. I was planning to donate our old Avent bottles, but maybe they need to go into recycling instead.

4) To end on a cheerier note, Mom-101 has been sending me such cute octopi links lately. I'm trying not to go completely crazy over them. Thanks, Liz!

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

They Cried Wii, Wii, Wii, All the Way Home

SwingDaddy shows Q how to play a racing game on the Wii.

At tonight's preschool Back to School Night, the teachers asked parents to volunteer to "share their culture" with the class. I think they were thinking along the lines of Chinese New Year, Divali, and such, but SwingDaddy got a glint in his eye. Honey, I'm not sure if "videogames" counts as a culture, although the 40,000 (!) attendees at PAX might disagree.

Are You Really a Blogging Family?

Perfect Post Award for August 2007 Chris certainly qualifies. Check out the photo and caption of her oven catching fire here.

She wrote about it first at BlogHer, and I have to quote my favorite part:

Black smoke billowed out of the oven. . . . Ultimately we used the fire extinguisher. And by "we" I mean my 11 yr old son who ran and grabbed the fire extinguisher and put the fire out, while yelling, "Take my picture!" Ah yes, the son of a blogger.

"Take my picture, take my picture!" I see this in my future someday.

I'm awarding Chris a Perfect Post for this great source of laughter. It was lovely to meet her at BlogHer this summer and I'm looking forward to reading more!

More Perfect Posts are at Lindsay's and Kimberly's.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

The Origin of the Phrase

Sometimes, no matter how darling your children are, you completely understand why the following phrase was coined:

"What are you crying about? I'll give you something to cry about!" I haven't said it out loud yet, but it's crossed my mind more than once.

I mostly like to remember the happy stuff, but I have to log the frustrations now and again, so that if we have a second child, I don't look back and wonder why the first one was so perfect. Uh, it's called selective memory.

The little dude is generally very well behaved. It's worth noting though that "generally" is a variable term when someone is two years old. The latest fit was over the fact that his parents could see that he was so tired he couldn't walk straight and insisted that he nap. And he didn't want to nap.

NO NO NO NO NO! WAKE UP!

Fortunately, he pitched over and fell asleep a few minutes after that.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Give Us Our Daily Bread

A couple of years ago, in a fit of nutritional improvement, I read a book that had the mantra "better unfed than white bread," because the authors looked at the humble loaf as a poor source of energy. We mostly keep wheat bread in the house, but I took this statement sadly, because I do love a nice hot loaf of French bread, mmmm.

Fortunately, SwingDaddy noted my tendency to fade quickly without continuous nourishment and came up with a new jingle for our household: "Better white bread than dead."

Much better.

Photo: Q at a one-year birthday party for a little friend today, where even the birthday cake was perfectly healthy (and yummy!).