Thursday, April 30, 2009

Life in the Hexagon

I’ve written about our SuperYard playpen before, and in spite of looking like a plastic prison, it’s become a little oasis of comfort. Most of the house is fairly baby-safe, but the one room that is filled with trouble is the office. It houses computers, cables, electronics, Q-ster’s Lego, and all manner of things that have been evacuated from other places to remove temptation from the micro dude.

The problem with the office as an off-limits room is that we spend a lot of time there (computers and Lego, remember?), and we need a safe place for Buster while we’re doing quick email checks for work and such. Gradually, the Hexagon, as it’s come to be known, has become well furnished. I lined it with a few quilts, one handmade by my mom’s friend and the other decorated with friendly sealife. The best soft toys and his favorite books are strewn about.

Most of Buster’s time in the Hexagon is actually with a companion. I’ll climb in with him and read story after story while he points to his favorite pictures. Sometimes Q-ster sets aside his Lego and asks to be lifted inside, so that he can join the fun as well. The boys will giggle and crawl all over me.

Just before bedtime, when I’m trying to get Buster to settle down, we hang out in the Hexagon so that he doesn’t careen across the house in increasingly dangerous state of imbalance. I sing songs until he lies down and we snuggle for a bit.

Last week, I was so tired that I fell asleep in the Hexagon and SwingDaddy woke me up, pointing out that the baby was fast asleep in his own crib, and there was no need for me to be anywhere else but my bed. Ah, the confusing things one does when sleep deprived.

I’ll be glad when the micro dude past the extreme child-proofing stage, but I’ll miss our cozy hideout. Maybe it’ll be time to get that nesting couch for us instead.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Yes, The Hippopotamus

The micro dude has become quite passionate about books lately.

Here, he learns how to imitate a hippo.

(Lesson and nicely manicured hands courtesy of Grandma N!)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Words I Never Want To Hear Again

I’m giving it 110%.
No, you’re not. 110% makes no sense.

My head literally exploded!
No, it didn’t.

Blah, blah, blah . . . and I’m going to make him cry like a little girl.
If you insist on being sexist, can you at least come up with something original?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Frankie Manning, 1914-2009

It is with great sorrow that I note the passing of the magnificent Frankie Manning, star dancer, Tony-award winning choreographer, legendary teacher, and fine human being. He originated so much of what we do as Lindy Hop back in the 1930's, and spent his last decades traveling the globe, spreading the word and steps.

As one story goes, he had a job delivering ice for a shop during the Great Depression and was so friendly that customers placed more and more orders. The shop wasn't so happy about that, because the ice delivery was actually a front for their bookie business, but Frankie could do nothing but bring joy to his work.

I had the privilege of taking his classes and as the director of another Lindy Hop legend - Norma Miller's - 80th birthday festivities, the pleasure of working with him. You will be missed, Frankie!

Photo courtesy of his website, He's the fellow on the left with the great big grin.

By chance, Gilles and Cheryl danced a Lindy Hop on Dancing with the Stars tonight, with mixed results. I'm usually critical of the show's inclusion of dances like Lindy, Argentine Tango, and West Coast Swing, because they're not part of the standard ballroom repetoire and the judges don't know them well enough to give useful critique. The choreographers often don't get credit when they really capture the essence of the dance, and are even sometimes criticized when they get something right.

For instance, Kym created a Lindy number for David Alan Grier with tons of classic steps, but the judges didn't recognize that at all. Chelsie's dance with Ty even included a basic swingout, which is really hard to do - not one other couple has attempted it, even Cheryl and Gilles, even though it is the BASIC step of the dance. Mark and Shawn Johnson's number was critiqued as "too heavy," when it was the only Lindy we've seen that understood the grounded bounce of the dance.

I have no problem with adding different dances to the show - it makes it more fun - but the judges need to do their homework too. Nigel, on So You Think You Can Dance, does a good job of that. It makes him able to give comments on dances that he obviously doesn't perform, like krump, because he refers to classic performances, movies, and shows that he has seen and studied.

Anyhow, Cheryl choreographed a great number for Gilles, and he's clearly a good dancer, but they were out of sync for the first half of the number. And not one judge mentioned it. Very odd, because I usually agree with the judges (aside from the non-standard ballroom dances). Pull it together, Gilles! We want to see more of you looking fabulous!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

It Takes A Lot Of Balls

First trip to the ball pit - Buster, April 2009.

First trip to the ball pit - Q-ster, January 2006.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Hopelessly Geeky, Even in Bling

Mother's Day Gift Guide Taxes, bills, recession, economy, yes, yes. With tighter budgets all around, it’s more fun to browse online, where you can look at the entertaining trinkets without having to placate a hovering salesperson.

Today’s toys come courtesy of the Cool Mom Picks Mother’s Day Gift Guide.

I’m always a sucker for USB memory, especially in crystal.

Check out these beautiful laptop sleeves.

And finally, from an earlier Cool Mom Picks post, a cute octopus in scarf and hat!

Non sequitur baby story of the day: While feeding Buster his dinner tonight, I accidentally dropped a piece of casserole from the spoon onto his high chair tray. He picked it up eagerly, and I expected him to stuff it into his mouth.

Nope, he carefully placed it back onto the spoon and waited for me to feed him. Tidy child.

P.S. I’ve already informed SwingDaddy that I don’t actually want any of the shopping items mentioned above. The crystal heart is only 1Gb, which makes the piece not quite pretty enough to be regular jewelry and not enough memory at that price to be useful. I’ve already got a bag for my laptop, and well, I do kind of want the octopus, but we’re suffering from a serious overpopulation of octopi around here, so I’m holding tight on the sealife moratorium.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Teacher Tells My Son to be Quiet

This is huge. Q-ster’s preschool teacher reported that she told him and his pal to be QUIET during class. This is a child who can chatter non-stop at home, but turns off the sound in a crowd. During his first year of preschool, his teachers didn’t hear him say a single word out loud until he said “thank you” at a school party in January. Yes, school starts here in September.

Of course, I hope that he will follow the rules and be a cooperative student, but it shows how much progress he’s made, that he and his friend, the “quiet ones” in class are comfortable enough to be chatty. About something Star Wars-related, I’m sure.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Stay-At-Home Mommy – The Easy Life (Not)

I took the day off work today and got play with the kids all day. We hosted a playdate. Q-ster and his little friend ran around the house waving lightsabers, while Buster toddled around, weaving and wavering in direction, looking all the world like Captain Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean. We had a healthy lunch. We read stories, played with puzzles, cleaned up the playroom, and folded laundry. We made dinner so that it would be ready when my husband came home from work.

What are all the stay-at-home moms complaining about? It was an easy day!

Hahahaha. I was pretty excited when I saw SwingDaddy walk up the driveway and was the first to yell, “Daddy’s home!” I handed off the kids and was able to use the bathroom in peace. Small mercies. No matter how nutty things get at work, at least one can count on getting a few key moments of privacy.

It was a fun for all of us and I enjoyed perks of being at home, but I am more impressed than ever by the levels of endurance required of moms and dads who are 24/7 caretakers. Three cheers for you!

Our nanny is away for the next four weeks, and we are entering a barrage of alternate care plans. SwingDaddy’s taking tomorrow off work, we’re trying out backup daycare at the office for a day for Q-ster, and then we are rescued by a whole series of loving grandparents. Grateful, grateful, grateful . . .

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Madly Hatting

SwingDaddy’s dad and step mom sent these cute hats for Buster’s birthday, and of course I wanted to take a picture of them sitting side by side, behatted. Not a lot of luck with that.

I did get a shot of Buster, almost wearing his Little Brother cap.

Q-ster insisted on wearing his flipped around, so Big Brother is pictured from the back.

The Christmas picture is going to be a lot harder to take this year, I just know it.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Easter Redux

A few snapshots from Sunday. We did a better job of setting expectations this year (collect all the eggs first, then open SOME of them to eat, instead of opening and devouring the contents of each egg on the spot).

Buster found an egg too.

I love how the “being green” allows me to feel trendy and environmentally conscious for using the same Easter basket and plastic eggs for the last three years, instead of cheap.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Sandwich Roulette

I’ve been trying to pack lunch for work most days, since it’s usually so busy that I need to eat at my desk. I keep a box of saltines and jar of peanut butter in my cube so that I’m provisioned for long conference calls, but an actual sandwich is much nicer. Plus, running over to the cafĂ© does add up, even if I buy something inexpensive.

Sadly, we ran out of sliced bread a few days ago, so I’d been making sandwiches on hamburger buns. Then I ate the last of the sliced turkey and hamburger buns today, which would have left us with peanut butter and jelly on hot dog buns for tomorrow, except that SwingDaddy decided that was too ridiculous and went to the grocery store tonight.

The children are well stocked with organic vegetable puffets, yummy whole-milk yogurt, and special magic stew, but the adults in the household occasionally get left with highly random comestibles.

I picked out this plush picnic set for Buster’s birthday, and he loves to hold, throw, and squish all the pieces. The sandwich is held together by Velcro, and he takes great satisfaction in separating the bread, cheese, lettuce, and tomato and distributing them widely. Q-ster gets into the game too, rearranging the items to make silly things like a watermelon sandwich with the fruit between bread slices.

Tonight, I tackled a giggling micro dude and put the two slices of plush bread on his tummy – Baby Sandwich! Nom, nom, nom. Later I tried to get a picture of him, but the Velcro wouldn’t stick to his sleeper well enough and I decided I’d tormented him enough. So no picture of the Baby Sandwich. You’ll have to imagine.

My sister chose this plush flower pot for Buster, and boy, has that been a hit. His face lights up every time he sees the smiley embroidery, and they make nice gravity testers when he’s in the mood to drop things over the side of his crib.

Q-ster promptly appropriated the worm as a lightsaber, and I battled him with a pair of flowers until we had a truce over dessert. I tell you, you haven’t lived until you’ve re-enacted full movie fight sequences with a four year old wielding a plush worm rattle while you’re using “force hands” and martial arts with happy faced flowers.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Happy Birthday, Micro Dude

Has it really been a year?

One whole year since I arrived in the Labor and Delivery ward with only my purse, having called my husband from the parking lot of my OB after my 38 week appointment, telling him I'd be going directly to the hospital to fend off pre-eclampsia. This was followed by a call to my parents, who were staying with my sister and her newborn, to ask them to keep Q-ster company while we were otherwise occupied. Next, I called the office to alert the VP to the SVP's desire to discuss the decision on final product pricing, and then I was free.

I sat on my hospital bed, waiting for my pitocin hookup and actually started to get contractions while looking at the yet-unattached IV bag. I've always been suggestible.

Buster, you've had good timing from the very beginning. You were born in the same season as your brother, so you could wear his infant clothes and I could don all the same maternity gear. We watched Dancing with the Stars in the delivery room and you waited until the show was over before you were properly positioned for me to push. And twenty minutes later, we had you, beautiful boy.

As I see you wobble around the house, I know that you're technically a toddler now, but I will call you my baby forever.

Enjoy that chocolate cake!



Monday, April 13, 2009

Deep Reflections, Courtesy of the IRS

Other women have written that they sat at the dinner table and thought, “We’re not all here. There’s someone missing.” They know that they are meant to have another child.

I have always wanted only two children, just like my own family as a child. I have one sister, and with my parents, we were a happy foursome. As my husband and I juggle preschooler, baby, work, and the occasional attempt at exercise, we realize from a practical point of view, managing two is about as much as we can do.

Still, when I snuggle with the no-longer-so-small baby and think that I will never nurse a newborn again, that I’ll never again hold such a tiny being, fresh to the world, it aches a little.

Last month, I fired up Turbo Tax, imported last year’s data and then added a line for the baby. I felt unaccountably proud of the two children, tidily typed into the system. As I looked fondly at all four of us on that most unromantic, mundane, bureaucratic of forms, I recognized that we are a complete family. We’re all here.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Past Lives of Professor McGonagall

Is anyone else excited to hear that there’s going to be a Clash of the Titans movie remake featuring Liam Neeson as Zeus and Ralph Fiennes as Hades? There wasn’t actually a Hades character in the original movie, so the revision must have quite a number of changes, but it should be fun anyway. I saw a fan comment say something like, “Voldemort vs Qui-Gon – this is gonna be so awesome!”

(For those in pop culture isolation, Ralph Fiennes is playing Lord Voldemort in the movie series of Harry Potter and Liam Neeson played Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. I shouldn’t need to explain Harry Potter or Star Wars, I hope.)

After reading the casting news, SwingDaddy and I were inspired to dig up the 1981 original, made easy through the magic of Netflix instant download. It was as cheesy as we remembered, but really entertaining, and with a brilliant cast that I didn’t recognize when I saw it at age ten.

Laurence Olivier as Zeus. Ursula Andress as Aphrodite. Maggie Smith as Thetis, a sea goddess. She has a pivotal role, and it was fabulous to see her nuance and talent in a time capsule. I recall seeing a clip of Ian McKellen’s opening monologue as a guest host on Saturday Night Live where he reminisced about his theatre days with Maggie Smith and Anthony Hopkins. These days, Ian pondered, after all their years of stagecraft and Shakespearean work, he has his own action figure, “Tony” is known for eating people, and Dame Maggie is the “Harry Potter lady.”

I was also amused at how similarly irritated SwingDaddy and I are about the liberties the screenplay took with Greek mythology. Perseus was given winged sandals by the gods, not a winged horse. It was Bellerophon who rode Pegasus. Krakens are Norse, not Greek; the Titans were supposed to be handsome (and not rubber Norwegian monsters); but I’ll forgive the two-headed dog, because even the master Ray Harryhausen had his limits with doing stop-motion animation on a properly three-headed Cerberus.

Can’t say that I’ll be in the movie theater when the new flick comes out, but it’ll be worth a Netflix.

Photo credits: Perseus. Thetis. Professor McGonagall.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Friday, April 10, 2009

There’s No Place Like It

I’ve spent the last two days with my parents – enjoying their company, shopping to replace my increasingly archaic and shabby work wardrobe, watching their favorite television shows, singing a little karaoke, and sleeping uninterrupted eight hours at night. Pleasures indeed! Many thanks to my husband, who held down the fort in the meantime.

I’ve never spent an entire day away from Buster, so it was such a joy to get home this afternoon. Q-ster flung open the door, yelling “Mommy’s home!” and I got to hug him, hear about his latest triumphs (and refusals to take baths) and eat up the cute baby – nom, nom, nom. I put all three of us in the play yard and let them crawl all over me. Who needs Gymboree when you can climb Mommy?

Random travel thoughts:
I flew Southwest, and they’ve instituted an improvement over their cattle car, panicked mob scene boarding process. They’ve installed a row of numbered silver posts, and you line up next to them in boarding priority. It makes the standing-up time much shorter and people are more relaxed.

While I was waiting at the airport, the seat next to me was occupied by three consecutive women with Coach purses. Am I the only woman in America who still carries a Target special? Seriously, I've even tried, pre-baby, to "treat" myself to a nice purse. I went to Nordstroms, tried out a Dooney & Bourke and the cute Louis Vuitton bag by Murakami. They just weren't appealing. Leather bags are either too heavy or not roomy enough. So I went home with my little canvas tote and treated myself to a Jamba Juice instead.
Heard on the radio during the drive home: Britney Spears in concert this weekend! With the cost of tickets, parking, babysitter and such, it’s just too much. Hopefully, they’ll make a concert DVD, and I’ll just Netflix it. The hardest part would probably have been finding someone else who would admit to being a Britney fan anyway.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

The Lego, It Does Not End

Q-ster has suddenly jumped a level in dexterity and is playing with regular sized Lego. We're enjoying his creativity and admiring the symmetry in pieces and color. The robot and spaceship are both his original design.

We just need to get his little brother past the “ooh, these look good to eat” phase.

Sad news from the mom blogosphere. You may have seen beautiful eulogies to Maddie, daughter of LA Moms Blogger, Heather Spohr and her husband Mike. This one in particular brought a smile. I visited the March of Dimes site in her honor – here’s the link if you’re so inclined.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

They Didn't Really Name Him Oedipus, Did They?

Buster received the Leapfrog Alphabet Pal for Christmas, and by all accounts, it's a friendly enough toy. He's just started to play with it a bit more, pressing one of the many caterpillar legs and triggering letter names and letter sounds.

Just today, we noticed that when you press the little bug lying on the caterpillar's back, it says, "Hello, my name is (something)." That something really, really sounds like Oedipus.

Does anyone have this toy? I googled "Alphabet Pal Oedipus," and clearly other people think that it says Oedipus too. Is this a failure of audio chip clarity, a lack of classical education, or a bizarre sense of humor on the part of the toy designer?

Monday, April 06, 2009

Pondering Cupcake Conveyance

In the week preceding Q-ster's preschool birthday celebration, I planned what kind of chocolate cupcakes to bake and browsed dreamily over all kinds of clever cupcake carriers. I was thisclose to actually buying one. I love fun containers, and after all, with Q-ster turning 4 and Buster turning 1, we have years and years of cupcakes to carry to school!

There seem to be two main categories of cupcake conveyance gear. There's the "bake and take," where there's a cover for the metal trays, like the Oneida and Bialetti models:

Then there are the carrying-only cases, like the Wilton and Snapware:

If you're really dedicated, you can protect the cupcakes individually:

The top of the line seems to be the Cupcake Courier, available in many yummy colors and able to carry 36 cupcakes!

In the end, I couldn't really justify storage space in the pantry for such a specialized device. Yes, the supreme Cupcake Courier can even hold a layer cake, but how often do I bake a layer cake (answer: never) and then have to bring it somewhere (answer: never times two)?

I tucked the cupcakes into a flat plastic Tupperware and SwingDaddy carried them gingerly to preschool. Q-ster pronounced them delicious.

Maybe next year.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

The Fast and the Curious

Buster was pretty amenable yesterday afternoon, and I caught a few photos of him in the natural light. The first images captured the mess in our room, so I moved him to a more neutral backdrop in front of the bedroom doors.

That didn't last long. How'd he get the door open without being able to reach the doorknob?

By pulling on the door stopper. Time to add that to the child-proofing list.

C'mon, Mommy. Let's go!

And he's off.

Hey, come back here! Note how all lower bookshelves are waiting empty until the micro dude learns not to chew on everything within reach.

Captured, but still happy.

A few weeks ago, I finally got around to pulling out What to Expect the First Year, the sequel to the notorious pregnancy guide, “What to FEAR When You’re Expecting” – I mean, What to Expect When You’re Expecting. I flipped to the chapter appropriate to Buster’s age – eleven months - and shamefully realized that the last time I opened the book was before he was born. To see how we measured up compared to the book, wander by the Silicon Valley Moms Blog.