Monday, March 30, 2009

Assistant to the B-Boy

It’s been harder to write lately, and I think it’s mostly due to exhaustion. This was the first weekend where we’ve been kind of “normal” in a long time. Both of us were healthy enough to field the boys, we had fun activities for Q-ster, and even a quasi-social gathering for SwingDaddy and me. I’ve realized that there is another issue though.

I’ve been thinking about each of Q-ster’s stories and whether they belong on the blog. He’s four now. A year and a half away from entering school and all the record-keeping and bureaucracy that it entails.

Just about any story about Buster is still ok to share – everyone gets their first tooth, takes a first step, learns to say “bye-bye” or eat solid food – these are very universal tales.

Q-ster, though, is growing into his own person, and his stories are becoming individual, unique to him, and some should be private. He has glorious strengths to share and his own challenges to overcome, and we’ll learn together which events to showcase and which will stay off-stage.

I’ve never been a Big Event and drama-trauma writer anyway, and I’ll be keeping it that way for the foreseeable future, even if it means I never launch a thousand tweets or Facebook alerts to a new controversial post about breastfeeding/CIO/corporal punishment/Angelina Jolie’s newest babies.

With those thoughts in mind, here’s an on-stage tale:

A few weeks ago, Q-ster was dancing around, doing cartwheels and balancing on his head (briefly). He arrived at my chair without a shirt, explaining that his dance number required him to remove it. A few questions later, I confirmed that he was recreating the amazing Quest Crew style-decathalon from America’s Best Dance Crew, and we watched the YouTube video together again. The whole number is terrific, including “tutting,” “threading,” and krumping, including the doffing-shirt part at 1:50.

He asked me to help him put his shirt back on and went off to dance some more. He returned, shirtless. “Mommy, Can you help me with my shirt?”

I put his shirt back on. Dance. Return. Shirt request. Repeat.

Dude, you’re doing a great job with this rough and tumble krumping number, and boy are you cute, but it undermines your street cred when your mother has to help you get dressed again.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Rarely Sighted Fluffalo

Q-ster’s plush buffalo has a place of honor in his bed, next to Blankie, and lately he’s taken to carrying Buff around the house. The other creature in the photo is also a gift from SwingDaddy’s parents, and we’ve never been entirely certain what it is. It has a bill, but its coat is awfully extravagant for a duck. A platypus, perhaps?

Q-ster settled it for us this evening. He put down his soft friends and announced that they are Buffalo and Fluffalo. Fitting, we agree.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

My Own Hot Potato

Two weeks ago tonight, I was lying in bed, just about freezing to death. This amuses SwingDaddy to no end, as he points out that’s impossible in our current California weather, but whatever. I shivered and contemplated my options. SwingDaddy was scheduled for surgery the next day (surgery? Oh, I never told that story, did I? Need to get around to that.) and wasn’t feeling comfortable, so I couldn’t snuggle with my top choice.

Next, I thought about my two heat-bomb children, the ones who practically drip with sweat when they nap. I could fetch the baby and curl up around him to stay warm, the way the pioneers would heat bricks in the fireplace and wrap them in towels to tuck by their feet in bed. A living hot water bottle, and extra cute for bonus points. Mmmm.

Then I came to my senses and realized that I would be a complete idiot to retrieve a sleeping baby who was slumbering peacefully in his own crib. I steeled myself to the cold, cold air and got a thicker sweatshirt and socks.

A totally unrelated photo of my favorite Easter snack dipped in chocolate. Hat tip to Mighty Girl for the link.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Picking My Dancing with the Stars Pro Partner

As I was searching for news on Dancing with the Stars, I came across an online quiz: Who is the Perfect Professional (dance) Partner for You?

It looked like fun, so I overcame my usual reluctance for quizzes and started clicking on answer buttons. I chose performance songs, costume preferences, personal style, and then on the very last page, the site demanded my full name, mailing address, and all kinds of demographic information before it would reveal the answer. Not a chance. I abandoned the page and figured I’d never know the answer.

Afterwards, I had a good time discussing the idea with SwingDaddy, and we carefully considered who we’d prefer as partners, if we were to go on Dancing with the Stars.

For SwingDaddy: Cheryl and Julianne both have the championship track record and phenomenal choreography. We also think Kym is great, but too tall to match him. Chelsie has been turning out great work, but has less experience. Overall, he thought that Chelsie might be more fun to work with, but Cheryl would have a better edge for winning, especially since she’s shown she does a good job incorporating her partner’s talents.

His lineup:
1) Cheryl
2) Chelsie
3) Julianne

For me: So many people say Maks is the sexy hot one, but I never got over how unpleasant he seems to his partners. I think I’d end up clocking him with a chair at some point. Tony teaches his partners to dance timidly (we’ll see if Melissa can overcome this – he’s her only handicap this season, since she’s a beautiful dancer). Mark and Derek both have the championship track record, striking choreography, and a good body match for mine. I think I’d get along better with Mark, and I loved how he worked with Kristi Yamaguchi. Dmitri is also doing well, but he’s a little taller and also not as experienced.

My lineup:
1) Mark
2) Derek
3) Dmitri

Do you have a favorite? If you’re watching this season, do you also hate the “dance-off” where we have to fast forward through the two worst contestants repeating their performances?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Finally, Some Sleep

I missed finishing this post last night because I lay down to rest for a moment and both children slept through the night. Mmmmm, sleep. So, I’m postponing the dish on Dancing with the Stars for another post.

One thing I did get done – booked flights for BlogHer 09! When I checked on prices a few months ago, I swear tickets were running around $600-700. The price last night? $355. No kidding. All the businesses cancelling travel and families dropping vacations are really affecting the airlines. I’m feeling lucky to be able to take this trip.

And speaking of BlogHer, I’m determined to work my way through last year’s swag before picking up another bag.

I have a spare T-Mobile HotSpot card for “7 continuous days of unlimited Wi-Fi service.”

Would you like it? I don’t see an expiration date, so it should still work. Leave a note in the comments and I’ll do a random draw if there's more than one of you.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

A New Business

I like how the boys look like a pair of art dealers, solemnly evaluating some new work.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Sushi that Comes in the Dark of Night

Q-ster has been cooking up a storm with his new gear and toy food. We’re thrilled to have intermittent breaks from “shooting bad guys” and “let’s fight!” We returned from work on Friday to find him presiding over an elaborate banquet, complete with a layer cake made from wooden blocks. When I asked him about it, he noted that there were four place settings, one for Mommy, Daddy, Buster, and himself.

I picked up sushi for dinner tonight, and the little dude chowed down. He’s started to want to know the proper names of things, so we pointed out the ninjin (carrot), kappa (cucumber), kurumi (walnut), and so forth, and he carefully paid attention, munching along with the clever little practice chopsticks that my folks sent up last year.

Later in the meal, “More ninja rolls, please.”

You've been warned - be careful of that stealthy sushi!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

This All Ends in a Full Sized Plush Replica of Alien Vs Predator Someday

Q-ster and I were playing Indiana Jones earlier this week when he handled me a pencil and told me to hold the “torch” for him.

I value his imagination and love how he repurposes his toys and everyday objects. A couple of flashcards have become the “plates” for his cooking set. Wooden blocks have become entrees. I sewed lightsabers and the whip out of a sense of self-preservation – to prevent bodily and furniture damage from the substitutes he’s invented.

He’s asked me to make him a blaster, but I’m not going to sew a gun, especially when he so easily creates them out of the drill from his toy Black and Decker set, or the lower case “r” from the wooden puzzle that spells his name. His teachers tell me that the children have designated the carrot and the banana from the kitchen set at school as guns and have been gently redirected to play otherwise.

I love that imagination (although I’m not crazy about guns). I don't intend to build him a jeep, giant boulder or the Ark of the Covenant, but maybe a few more things. Today, I felt like making something, and I thought, “Hey, a torch would be easy.”

Q-ster was so delighted with his new toy.

Then he handed me a basketball to be the idol. Uh-oh

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Non Sequitur Theatre

A short attention span today . . .

. . . remember how Q-ster has been flooded with birthday events this month? The festivities have continued for classmates at school, so much that he told me this morning,” I’m tired of cake.”

. . . Buster has an endearing habit that I adore. As soon as he sees us mixing up a bottle, he sticks his thumb in his mouth. We call it “warming up his sucker.”

. . . at the dentist earlier this week, I realized that the appointment was the most relaxing hour I’ve had in weeks.

Hope your week is going well.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Little Drummer Boys

Q-ster has always turned everyday objects into his drums, and how his little brother does too.

Did you notice that the micro dude is standing up, not holding anything but drumsticks? He can balance for a few moments now. Walking is in our future!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Arms Dealer to the Pre-K Revolution

Following the natural arc of fandom, Q-ster now loves to pretend he's Indiana Jones. He's a bit too young for the movies, but just like with Star Wars, he sees the Lego game, likes the catchy name, and wants to adventure wearing cool gear. We co-opted the vest from a Christmas gift, and he borrowed SwingDaddy's hat. What's not to like?

Well, there is one thing missing.

That's right. The real Indiana Jones has a whip. In the top picture, you can see that Q-ster's holding something in his hand. It's the end of a rubber snake, which coils up nicely and acts as his whip. (Yes, it's pretty ironic, given that we all know Indy hates snakes.) The snake is a decent whip substitute, but it's heavy enough that I'm afraid that he's going to break either something or someone sooner or later.

You see where this is going. The plush lightsabers were a hit. And today, we made a plush whip.

It's stuffed lightly and kind of quilted, so that it bends like a whip, but is soft on impact.

Somehow, I have become a plush weapons specialist. Instead of sewing tutus and hair-ribbons, I am the arms dealer to the pre-K boy crowd. When Plusha-geddon comes, our household will be prepared.

I'm biased, but I think he's rockin' the Indiana Jones look.

Friday, March 13, 2009

I Must Catch My Breath

because in between moments of "I doan wanna!" and wheedling for treats, he stuns me with how he's grown from baby to boy.

We are in the midst of a highly eventful week, so much that I haven’t processed it enough to write. Plus, we decided to Netflix Pirates of the Caribbean 3 tonight as a way to blow off steam and had a great time, but there is so much plot in that movie that my brain is completely full.

Hug your loved ones.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Darth Easter

A couple months ago, I wrote about Halloween getting weird and skanky, and now we move on to another holiday transformation.

It would never have occurred to me that a cute Darth Vader bean bag toy had a place in an Easter basket, but clearly I'm behind the times. It goes perfectly in one's Star Wars Easter basket, of course.

This is a nearby movie theater that Q-ster has christened the Death Star. Magic in our ordinary world.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Ready, Set, Rocket

Having fun with a birthday gift from Fi.

Monday, March 09, 2009

The Bar Has Never Been Set So Low

I won a costume contest at work today.

The projects in my business unit are named after movies featuring a actor/director who got his start in westerns, so to celebrate a successful software release this month, we had a loosely cowboy-themed party and raffle. In the spirit of recession-era frugality, the raffle prizes were leftover company logo items from previous events and the food was potluck. We were encouraged to dress up, and well, the office crew is just not that into that kind of thing.

The costume prizes were pretty good - insulated lunch/picnic bags with speakers, so you can plug in your iPod. The three costume awards went to (1) a guy wearing a cowboy hat and bandanna, (2) a woman wearing a western string tie and star-shaped sheriff's badge on her black shirt, and (3) me.

What was my gimmick? I changed my regular shoes for cowboy boots, dug out of the closet that morning. To illustrate how ludicrous it feels to win a costume prize for boots, here's a photo from a couple of years ago, at a ball where we weren't even close to being the most dressed up.

Still, I'll happily take the prize!

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Balloon Mania

Whew, we made it! There’s nothing quite like a pack of preschoolers on a cheerful rampage with their balloon lightsabers. The Star Wars party was a success and Q-ster told me he had a really good time, especially with the running game the kids made up.

They started charging from the living room through the foyer into the playroom, cutting across the kitchen and dining room, and back into the living room, taking turns running laps with the balloon bouquet bumping along behind and a trail of friends in hot pursuit, brandishing their lightsabers. It was a riot. A definite traffic hazard, but a happy riot.

Q-ster got shy during the cake and candles ceremony, so we didn’t get to see him blow out the candles on his Millenium Falcon cake, but the guests consumed it enthusiastically, and the little dude told me that he was pleased with how it looked. I thought he might expect more detail that I can execute with frosting, but the cake passed muster with the Jedi Master.

A quiet moment, resting up for more lightsaber duels. (Thanks for the photo, Des.)

May the Force Be With You.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Four Trips Around the Sun

Dear Q-ster,

Happy Birthday, my big boy!

Your father and I are so proud of you. I treasure your hugs and “I love you’s.” I ‘m tickled at how you’ll feed teething biscuits to your little brother and keep him occupied so that I’m free to get you a second serving of something tasty. You can scribble your name and sound out some words. You like to cartwheel and try standing on your head. I’m amazed at how many Star Wars characters you know in great detail and how you can drum along to Rock Band with style. There’s so much more to say, but I’ll never be finished, so I’ll stop there.

Since we’ve just about tapped out Star Wars-type gifties for a while, we gave you cooking gear today, and you’re having a blast imitating your favorite Food Network chefs. SwingDaddy is a bit envious that your toy set includes a pretty high quality saucier pan (“Hey, we don’t have a saucier yet!” For $14 at IKEA, we found a whole set of beautiful, gender-neutral pots and utensils.

And ok, ok, we did give him some new Star Wars underwear, because it was impossible to pass up such tiny underpants decorated with Obi-wan Kenobi.)

I can’t wait to see you grow, learn, and play this next year and many more! Love,


This also marks my three year blog anniversary. It’s been great getting to know so many wonderful people, you long-time and new blog pals, and keeping in touch with friends and family we don’t get to see nearly enough in real life. Thank you for reading!

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Now is When I Curse the Girl Scouts, Plus a Sewing Lesson

I took delivery from a colleague’s daughter today. Half a package of Thin Mints later . . .

Amber and Damselfly both asked about the serger I mentioned yesterday. For those who haven’t heard of them before, sergers are kind of like sewing machines, but very intense. One usually uses them to simultaneously cut fabric pieces and sew them together. If you turn a t-shirt inside-out, the stitching that wraps around the seams is almost always done by a serger.

I love mine! It makes projects really, really fast, which is important if you’re impatient like me. For costumers who do period-accurate gown reproductions, a serger is too modern to be useful. For costumers who are trying to whip out 8 matching flapper frocks in a weekend that will only be seen from an audience twenty feet away, a serger is a godsend.

Photo credit: Charlie M

Hemming on a sewing machine can be very time consuming, since you need to fold and sew, and then repeat to keep the edge from fraying (or something like that. I haven’t done a proper hem in, uh, years? Ever?) I just serge off the extra fabric, and the thread lashed around the edge will prevent fraying. If it’s supposed to look nice, I can turn it under once and sew.

Careful crafts people measure twice and cut once. I kinda size it up by eyeball and go for it.

That’s not to say that you can’t make incredibly detailed and precise things with a serger, but you’d need to ask someone else about that.

I bought my simple Kenmore sewing machine about fifteen years ago when I needed to make a Victorian ballgown, and it’s served me well. (Aside from a potholder in sixth grade and a stuffed tomato I made a bit later, the ballgown was the first real sewing I did. How hard can it be? It’s just geometry!) SwingDaddy got me the serger seven years ago when Costume Conspirator and I were in the throes of dressing dozens of dancers for our show. If you’re thinking about getting one, consider a Baby Lock – that brand has a fabulous self-threader that makes life much simpler.

Time to wrap up - I think I’ve been too stressed at work and either not stretching my arms enough or using the mouse too much on PowerPoint. My arms are sore, so it’s time to rest them. Good night!

Photo credit: Dave Wong

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Yes, Our Social Life Entirely Revolves Around Fourth Birthday Parties

If you think it sounds like the only thing we do around here is attend and prepare for four year old birthday parties, you would be right. No, just kidding. It’s only the main thing that we do. Besides, even if I wrote about work here, you’d be bored to tears with the minutia of rephrasing, rewording, and rewriting the messaging and positioning statements for technical features to be announced and how much x, y, and z it will all take.

I spent a little time rifling through my fabric stash and found a pile of colorful cotton scraps with which to make little party favor bags for Q-ster’s birthday. With the serger, it only takes an instant, and maybe the bags will be entertaining as toys themselves. The little dude certainly enjoys making sacks of his treasures and hauling them around.

My worry is that since there are a bunch of different fabric materials, there might be some random reason that every child wants the same bag (say, sunflowers or firetrucks), but most likely, they won’t even notice and will be digging inside to see if there is something good to eat.

The plant in the photo above was the party favor from Fi’s birthday – how clever! Q-ster has been very excited to water it every day. Even with our abysmal history of plant maintenance, SwingDaddy and I are feeling confident that we can keep it alive until the weekend, when she comes over to our place and can observe how her gift is doing. Four days and it’s still green.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Selectively Quiet, but Never Hungry

At yesterday’s Tinker Bell-themed birthday party, the little dude hung close to me and watched the action, while quietly decimating the fruit platter stationed nearby. I worry that he’s feeling shy so much, but notice that when he really wants something, there’s no hesitation. He observed the magic tricks from afar, refused face painting, and skipped the limbo line.

On the other hand, when the call went out for who needed a slice of cake, his arm shot into the air immediately. He wouldn’t stand under the piñata with the other kids, but as soon as it broke, he patted my hand, said, “Follow me!” and hustled forward to gather loot with the rest of them.

I asked him afterward what he liked best, expecting a reply to center on cake. Instead, he said the piñata was his favorite, followed by “the fairy.” He thought a trick that Tinker Bell had performed with rainbow scarves was pretty nifty and described it to his grandparents the next day. I just need to remember that Q-ster does things in his style and at his pace.

Last weekend, we met his friend J at the “Monkey Gym,” and I came prepared with knee pads, as he usually insists that I crawl with him through the tunnels, up the ladders, and down the slides in the big indoor playground. Instead, he and J bounded off together, chirping about what to do next, negotiating whether the rope bridge was sufficiently steady, and helping each other climb the taller levels.

J’s mother and I stood, watching on the observation deck, and I exclaimed, “Hey, this is what OTHER parents do!” They chat with each other while their children run off and play instead of sticking to their sides like glue.

Q-ster definitely likes playing in smaller groups more, so we’ll do playdates whenever we can, and enjoy his snuggly company in this “glue” phase before he grows up and demands his own space, privacy and car keys.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Cake to the Left, and Cake to the Right

SwingDaddy took Q-ster to Fi’s birthday party yesterday, and I took him to LG’s party today. Looking at the preschool calendar, I’m realizing that they are celebrating a child’s birthday on Monday and another on Wednesday. Thursday is Q-ster’s actual birthday, which will then be celebrated at preschool on Friday and with a party at home on Saturday. The result? The little dude has a sanctioned opportunity to eat cake every day this week besides Tuesday, which was the day I was considering baking a test cake, to see if the Millenium Falcon would be a dramatic disaster or a tasty spaceship.

I sense much sugar vibration in our future.