Friday, February 29, 2008

A-Drumming We Will Go!

It's been a long week, ending with a drive home in tears today. There was a huge traffic pileup, making the usual commute into an hour and a half of achy back pain, accompanied by increasing internal drama as my mental state deteriorated from self-recrimination, hostile thoughts, re-thinking every major decision I've made in my life, fierce anger at any and all who have dared threaten my family – real or imaginary, to finally arriving home, eating dinner, napping, and then not-so-surprisingly feeling much better.

So, I guess it's good that the Parent Bloggers are hosting a nice positive theme for a blog blast today in conjunction with Jenifer Fox's new book, "Your Child's Strengths." Y'all won't have to suffer my temper.

Oh boy, a chance to talk about Q's strengths! As any fond parent would say, there certainly are plenty, but I'm going to pick rhythm for this post. Even as a pre-walker, we thought he bounced in time to the music.

His drumming has become darn good for an almost-three. He can keep time in whole notes with one hand while tapping out quarter notes with the other. He adds drum fills at the correct time in the music – those big splashy solo bits right on the ends of phrases. He watches Buddy Rich and other big band legends that we locate on YouTube and inspects their technique, showing us new skills the very next time he plays.

I love seeing how he can look at any object and decide how it could be an instrument. His round blue table has been designated a "tympani" because of its large size. Smaller stools are his snare drums. Longish items are guitars. Long live imagination!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

James Marsden Makes the Cut

Handsome action stars with musical theatre chops. It’s a short list featuring Hugh Jackman, Ewan McGregor, and now Mr. James Marsden.

Yep, we Netflixed Hairspray, and it was a pretty impressive translation of (movie-to) Broadway -to-movie. The whole cast was fabulous, with the possible exception of John Travolta, who took a little getting used to, in his fat lady suit. Marsden was an unexpected delight in his comic Corny Collins role, since I had no idea he could sing,

Now I need to see Enchanted, where he plays a cartoon prince (check out those sleeves!) and 27 Dresses (where he finally gets the girl). Are either of those films any good?

My newest Netflix selection is High School Musical 2, but it's beyond SwingDaddy's tolerance so I'm going to have to see if I can convince Q to watch it with me.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

That's Not Negotiable

Q is really into bargaining these days. If we offer him four goldfish crackers, he counters with five. If I tell him we have to go home after we see two more bike riders go by, he'll ask to wait for four.

We've been talking about his upcoming birthday and that he'll have a cake with candles. How many candles?

Us: Three, since you'll be three years old, sweetie.
Q: Four!

Dude, that's not a bargaining point.

Monday, February 25, 2008

I Wear Clown Pants

Yes, I do. I pulled another pair of pants out of the magical maternity box – size XXL men's sweatpants that I lopped off at the ankles. Absolutely not tight over my Swimmy-full belly. Ahhhh.

It's non sequitur night.

The Beautiful Confidence of Youth

We watched part of the Oscars yesterday, and during the presentation for Best Song, I explained to Q that this concluded the section of singing and dancing, which he’d been enjoying. The songwriters from “Once” came onstage to make their acceptance speech, and Q asked about them.

Me: They wrote a pretty song and they won a prize for it. We could write a song too.
Q: Ok.
Me: Where are you going?
Q: To get a pen.
Me: So that we can write our song?
Q: Yup.

Proud of My Alma Mater

They've announced that they will charge zero tuition to families earning less than $100,000/year. That's a terrific commitment to accepting a diverse student body.

A couple of weeks ago, SwingDaddy and I went back to campus to give a talk to students in the dance department about our experience with performances and running our troupe after graduation. We had an unexpectedly good turnout for a small department, but then I saw the table laden with salads, a variety breads and cheese and realized why. Free food – the certain way to attract students!

And free tuition (for some) – even better.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Hey, It Could be Barney or Dora

Q has been obsessed with the band OK Go for the last two months, in particular with their YouTube phenomenon, Here It Goes Again, aka the treadmill dance video. I think just about everyone has seen it, but if you haven't, it's worth a look. One could wish to be that creative.

Q has the whole routine down. Starting with the moment when the guy presses the remote to "start" the music.

Moving onwards to the kicks.

He turned a step-stool on its side to make himself a treadmill.

Please excuse the wreckage of our unpacking behind the artist. Sometimes the muse strikes and the photographer-mommy just has to shoot what she gets.

Another group, apparently known as "Nobody's Watching," did a parody of the Ok Go video where one member crashes off the treadmill (about 30 seconds into the clip). Q loves that part too, and will re-enact the crash over and over. Then he'll get up and whisper, "Nobody's watching!" to me.

We're a weird little family over here, but I figure there are far more annoying obsessions (read: Dora the Explorer) in the world.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Making Stupid Parenting Decisions Already

A pregnant friend was asking advice on selecting baby clothes, and I told her that it mostly depends on your style. One pal always had her infant daughter in beautiful dresses with matching booties, cuddled in hand-knitted blankets of pink and white. In contrast, I think I took Q pretty much everywhere in his footie sleepers until he started walking.

The main piece of advice was that under no circumstances should you buy something with buttons or snaps on the back of the outfit, since most babies are unhappy to be rolled around to get to the fasteners. We had a few items like that and ever used them. They were too much of a pain when there were easier-to-dress clothes at hand.

Well, tonight, I blew it. This is the back of Swimmy's new romper.

Three snaps. Why? Check out the design on the front. A Pirate Captain Octopus and his first mate, Pirate Crab!

There's a sailor starfish embroidered on the back too.

Even if Swimmy never wears it and I end up just sewing the fabric into a pillow, I don't care. Too cute to pass up for $7.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Portrait of the Young Artist

I unearthed some colored pencils for the little dude, since he keeps talking about the "colors of the rainbow." I think my parents bought these for me when I was in sixth grade!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Approaching Detente with My Maternity Pillow

The Snoogle and I have reached an understanding. After its initial attempt to strangle me in my sleep, I've worked out a pillow strategy to rest somewhat less uncomfortably, since actual comfort is difficult to attain in the last months of pregnancy: My nice soft regular pillow goes under my head, one end of the Snoogle fits between my knees, and the tail end of the Snoogle trails onto the carpet.

For those of you preggo ladies who are considering maternity pillows, I think it's worth it - you just have to be willing to stand (or lie) firm in negotiations.

In other news, I pulled another pair of maternity pants out of my storage box, hoping that they would be a bit larger than what I was currently wearing, and I was happy to discover that they were from an era when I actually bothered to hem pants, instead of letting the fabric just drag at my feet. Ah, the luxury of time.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Highly Erratic Internet Shopping

It shouldn't surprise any of you that I receive the monthly email newsletter from a Japanese cell phone charm company, so I'll just go ahead and share my favorite of their new trinkets: a mini plush squid.

Family Labels also sent their newsletter today, promoting their anniversary sale. I hadn't acquired pretty labels with our new address, since I was waiting to add Swimmy. The sale was kind of tempting, so I asked SwingDaddy whether I should go ahead and place an order, with a picture of a tadpole to hold Swimmy's place. Answer: no.

Q and I had a little fun over the weekend with a third product line - Lush Cosmetics. Kimberly brought me some goodies when we roomed at BlogHer, and I rediscovered them in the move. I've been using the lemon sandstone soap, which has both a yummy fragrance and exfoliating edge. Lush is also famous for their "bath bombs." From their website:

Pop a LUSH bath bomb in a pre-run bath and it erupts in a mass of fragrant fizzing, sometimes launching flower petals, leaves, natural butters, and even confetti into the bath water. After a mad frenzy it calms down and gently scents the water with natural essential oils.

I figure that I'm unlikely to get to enjoy a nice bath until postpartum, and at that point, I'm going to want clear water, not erupting confetti. So, I let Q drop the bath bomb into a sink of water, and we observed the effects. Fizz! Flower petals! All that was advertised and more. The little dude was pretty excited to sweep his hands through the water, observe the colors, and crunch the remaining soap between his fingers. Bonus - it's a piece of cake to clean up, since the bomb is meant for the tub anyway. Thanks, Kimberly!

Monday, February 18, 2008

The Downside to Tagless Clothing

I was thrilled when clothing manufacturers started making garments without those annoying, itchy tags at the neck and printing sizes and washing instructions right onto the fabric. No more walking around with a tag showing all day. No more cutting them out of clothes to protect sensitive skin.

Unfortunately, the printed info from the first tag-less items that I purchased, underwear from the Gap, has started peeling. I could feel this scratchy thing at my spine, so I pulled at the fabric and came away with a little iron-on label saying, "machine wash cold, non-chlorine bleach." Great.

And then of course, it's impossible to not keep pulling at the little sharp pieces, leading SwingDaddy to have to say something he probably never expected to tell his wife, "Stop picking at your underwear!"

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Choosing Favorites

The little dude is starting to understand the concept of “favorites,” both his own and those of others. A couple of weeks ago, we were standing in his bathroom, admiring our newly displayed sealife shower curtain, and he said, "You like octopus!"

Me: Yes, I do.
Him: I like shark!

Hmm, this is new. I asked if he’d like me to get him a toy shark, but he replied that “No, sharks are scary."

Later, he was imagining a whole aquatic zoo in the gap between his bed and the wall, describing all kinds of colorful fish and of course, a shark. After going on a while, he tells me he sees an octopus, because he knows that will please me. "It's your favorite!"

He's decided that green is his favorite color. He requests green Dots (a candy similar to gummy bears), and when we draw, he picks the green marker for himself and hands me the red one, since he’s noticed that I like red. Seeing him grow like this makes up for how he’s starting to pretend not to hear me when I tell him to pick up his toys.

Photos: from our outing to the Tour of California, which brought some of the biggest international names in cycling to town today. Q trotted alongside me for more than a mile total, encouraged by sips from his Jamba Juice, and we met SwingDaddy, who'd ridden there on his bike.

I'm disappointed I can't bring the good camera with us when we go on scenic jaunts, but I can’t manage the weight in addition to Swimmy anymore. We did see one photog who had jammed his head under the barricades, but by the time we returned, he was merely sprawled on the asphalt, peering through his cannon-sized lens.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Love on the Brain

With all the hearts and flowers circulating this week, I started thinking ahead to SwingDaddy and my ten year wedding anniversary this summer. During the move, we unearthed the videotapes that kind relatives had made of our wedding, and perhaps it will be the right occasion to play them for the first time. Yep, we’ve never watched them.

The day was so perfect in my head that I didn’t need to see it on tape. We’re too used to reviewing video to critique a performance, and we didn’t want to fall into that mode out of habit, so we tucked the tape away for the future.

So before VHS goes obsolete, we’d better take a look. Good thing we kept the old VCR! At least my dress won’t look out of style, since it was already dated, designed after an 1848 ballgown.

I also thought about having the top layer of our wedding cake recreated, since it was so yummy, but I just discovered that the bakery closed last September. It would have been a nice touch, but Q will be so thrilled about any confection (“Cakie, cakie, cake!”) that it’ll add excitement to anything we end up bringing home.

Someday, I want to host an elaborate ball again, but this is not the year. This is a year about babies and little boys.

*Photo from Home on the Fringe. I'm hoping that they're available to make a blog banner for me.

Friday, February 15, 2008

BlogHer with Baby

I'll have a three month old baby at BlogHer '08. A couple of years ago, I wouldn't have even considered doing a conference with a baby, but it's only 45 miles from home, and Liz, Kristen, and Christina were so inspiring last summer, all flying into Chicago with their little ones. I ought to be able to manage a two-day, semi-local event. Besides, how could I miss a chance to see my bloggy friends, many of whom are understanding moms themselves?

Early-bird registration prices end on February 28th. Are you going?

In an unrelated note, I enjoy reading Lisa Schmeiser's thoughtful analyses on consumer spending and luxe shopping trends. She wrote an entertaining rant today about the flush of recent articles that tell you how to make your whole budget balance by saving your Starbuck's money or some other absurd simplification:

Annoying cliché: " After you have kids, it makes sense for one spouse to stop working. You save day care costs, you'll save on transport to and from work, lunches out, expensive office clothing, dry-cleaning for expensive office clothing."

Exactly what in the hell do these people imagine being a working drone in America is like? We are not all swaddling ourselves in Loro Piana, taking the Hummer to work and ordering the foie gras as a 1 p.m. pick-me-up.

Hear, hear. Read more here.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Valentine Plagiarism, Gender-Specific Images

As a first-time preschool mom, I read the school newsletter very carefully for instructions on how to proceed with Valentines cards. We were supposed to bring enough Valentines for our child's small group (six children), labeled "To My Friend" instead of the actual names of the kids. Obviously, experienced minds were in charge, because someone must have spent a lot of time at previous parties sorting out which card belonged to whom for a roomful of toddlers who can't yet read.

I'm not particularly crafty, but Valentines cards are one thing I can do! Mrs. Longino, the aide in my own kindergarten class, made beautiful cards of graduated sizes of construction paper hearts in red and pink, glued together, and topped with a sticker. So basically, I've clumsily stolen her idea for the last thirty years, every time I need to make Valentines.

I cut out paper hearts and figured it wouldn't be hard to convince Q to "help" me stick them together, since he's fascinated whenever I need to glue something together. Nope. The pencil I was using to trace the hearts was much more interesting, so I was left to glue them myself. With a lot of coaxing over a few days, I did manage to get him to help place foam heart stickers on the top and scribble a bit of crayon to "sign" them.

When he brought his little bag of Valentines home from school, it was fun to see the creativity of the other parents. They hadn't gotten their kids to do much of the actual Valentine-making either, but one had included a decorated pencil and another included a tiny puzzle. I'm still getting the hang of this kid-level gift thing.

Tonight, I was wondering whether his disinterest in the heart stickers was the texture, color, shape, or something else, so I brought out a set of foam stickers in the shapes of footballs, soccer balls, and basketballs. Would Q be more interested in these? Yes. He immediately started placing them in different piles, asking me to help him peel off the backing, and making a picture with them.

Was it coincidence that he was disinterested the four times I brought out the heart shaped stickers, but the sports stickers were a hit? It could be, but I don't know. He's not quite three years old, but a lot of gender influences show really early. At least he still requested Riverdance as his DVD treat before bed, so I know he hasn't gone all macho on me yet.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

I Want My Own Ear of Corn

The little dude can really walk these days. Q and I strolled a farmer's market from end to end this weekend while SwingDaddy went on a bike ride. He's still fond of corn on the cob, but where we used to share an ear, now we need two.

Last January, at the same fountain, not yet tall enough to lean over the edge.
And munching.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Will Someone Take This Stamp Off My Hands?

US first-class postage rates are going up again in May, up a penny from the current 42 cents. Thank heavens for the "Forever" stamp, which doesn't expire, because although I mostly deny being obsessive-compulsive, this is one area where I can't hide.

I keep my stamps and address labels clipped with bills-to-pay, and there's one niggling item that annoys me every time I clean out the to-dos. An old stamp. I miscalculated the number of two-cent stamps I needed at the last rate increase, and now there's one leftover stamp, awaiting a particularly heavy letter that needs additional postage, or an international letter, or even a postcard.

It disturbs my sense of balance to not have completely used up my old stash of stamps. Yes, I'm weird that way. And since the article mentioned the last rate increase was May of 2007, I realized that I've been re-filing this one stamp every week for eight months. I'm tempted to keep adding cardboard to my next mailing, just so it passes the one-ounce weight limit and I can use this darn stamp.

Ah well, I suppose we'll have some fat envelopes going out at tax time, so I just have a few more months to hang onto it.

More on skating: Ilia Kulik performed with SOI yesterday, and while he's still a spectacularly clean jumper, I wish he'd hire a world-class choreographer (i.e not himself). Liza, his daughter with Ekaterina Gordeeva, is now six and completely adorable, almost muppet-like in cuteness. Pictures of Katia, her older daughter Daria, and Liza skating at another event here.

In the book-sorting for the move, I discovered that I have two copies of A Letter for Daria, the companion book to Katia's autobiography. Let me know if you want my spare!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Not the Last Time After All

It was going to be the end of a tradition. Every winter for the last ten years, SwingDaddy, Lady O, and I go to see champion skaters when Stars on Ice comes to town. It's been a fabulous show, but gradually, our old favorites have stopped touring, the directors and choreographers have changed, and I figured this might be our last time. After all, next year, there will be three little boys who will need babysitters (my sister is due a month before me).

Nope. We're getting babysitters. It was a great show. Through a combination of being returning patrons and fan club privileges, we had the best seats we've ever had before – on the ice, just a few feet from the center line.

SwingDaddy took some great photos. Yuka Sato was lovely as usual.

Michael Weiss, a new addition, has tremendous showmanship. No worries, he's not landing on his head – he's leaping upwards.

Sasha Cohen was headlining for the first time. She's a stunningly beautiful skater, although we hope to see her gain more connection to the audience in the next seasons.

Shen and Zhao had great throws and lifts. And what a difference a makeover and new wardrobe can make, if you've ever seen the eyebrow-raising gear of their early days.

Daring Kyoko Ina and hunky John Zimmerman were back again, being crazy as ever. They actually crashed during a particularly wild lift, but managed to recover before skidding into the audience. We got to shake John's hand this year, and SwingDaddy got to shake hands with Sasha as well.

My favorite group number: Throw-back rocker band with adoring schoolgirl fans.

A fun night!

Saturday, February 09, 2008

If I'd Known This, I'd Watch HGTV Every Day

The only shows that I've watched with regularity since Q was born are So You Think You Can Dance and Dancing with the Stars. People would tell me about all these cool programs about improving one's wardrobe, remodeling a house, and so forth, and my response was pretty much, "Yeah, yeah, that's nice." When is there time to watch TV?

This weekend, we took a break from major house projects, since the old house is sold and we had our new housewarming last weekend. SwingDaddy and I watched Superman Returns last night (pretty darn good, although Lois Lane frequently doesn't act mom-like. Wouldn't you at least check if your child was ok before stalking around the locked room being angry at the bad guys? I suppose this is not a movie to complain about lack of realism, since I've already accepted the idea of a guy stopping a jet plane from crashing into the ground with his bare hands. Anyway, back to the main story) and tonight, I though we should check out HGTV, a channel that my mom and sister say has cool home decorating shows. There are a lot of very blank walls in this house, and maybe we'd collect some ideas.

We caught the last five minutes of a nifty kitchen remodel, and then the next program was all about redecorating a playroom to look like it was UNDERSEA, complete with jellyfish lamps! I'm going to watch TV all the time, if the Home and Garden show exclusively shows sealife decorating projects.

The image at the top of the post is the "after" picture. Here's a close-up of the nubbly anemone bean bag chairs:

And the jellyfish lamps in the background: I think the plush octopus they selected was insufficiently cute, but of course, I liked the overall theme. Speaking of cute octopi, look what I resisted buying at Bed, Bath, and Beyond today:

Adorable, but really, how many octopus wastebaskets does a girl need?