Sunday, December 31, 2006

10...9...8...zzzzzz

What kind of people spend New Year's Eve renting a documentary and working a crossword puzzle?

No, wait. Don't answer that.

My God, we're lame. Even my parents are at a party tonight.

In our defense, we drove nearly 10 hours yesterday to get back to Madison, getting back rather late. Much as we would have liked to just fall into bed and sleep all night, the Danimal had other plans. At 11p.m., just after we got the car unpacked, he wanted to scoot all over the house, visiting his usual play places to make sure they were all there, pointing at everything to show us how pleased he was. He did go to bed eventually, but then he woke up so many times I think we all spent more total time awake then asleep, and then at 5a.m. he would have been up for good if I hadn't nursed him for about an hour on the couch. Is it any surprise we weren't feeling up to celebrating?

I suspect a lot of bloggers will be doing (or have done already) some sort of Year in Review, though they probably aren't pathetic enough to be doing it right now, as most of them living it up somewhere or other with champagne and cone hats and confetti. I can sum up my 2006 for you real quick: I spent the first six weeks of it in late-pregnancy misery, and everything after Daniel's birth is pretty much a post-partum blur of breastfeeding, diaper changes, the occasional performance, and learning to cope with that special kind of solitude that is motherhood.

I don't really do the "New Year's Resolution" thing, either, but I do have one major goal for 2007: finish my doctorate. Think I can do it?

Obviously, I'm too tired to be truly reflective or profound or even sentimental right now, so I'll leave you with a picture from this afternoon.

This is what happens when you leave the box of tissues within Daniel's reach:



Cheers, all, and Happy New Year!

Friday, December 29, 2006

Happy Birthday To Me!

On this day, twenty-eight years ago, I entered the world red-faced, dark-haired, naked and loopy from some pain-killers they gave my mom. Some babies are born squalling; I was not.

28 isn't a grand mile-marker like 18, 21 or 30. I'm not sure I'm ready to believe I'm now in my LATE twenties, whereas until midnight last night I could truthfully say I'm in my MID twenties...but that doesn't really matter. I'm 28 and I look it. I have some gray hairs on my temples and when I smile there are little wrinkles around my mouth and eyes, and I can usually be seen carrying around a small, squirmy child. I figure I've earned every single one of those gray hairs and wrinkles anyway. If you'd asked me five years ago where I would be today, I'm sure I wouldn't have said "Still in grad school, and with a baby," but that doesn't mean I'm unhappy with my lot in life. Quite the opposite, in fact.

What wisdom do I have to share with you on this day? What have I learned in my nearly three decades on this earth?

1. Always, ALWAYS wear rubber gloves when working with raw jalapeno peppers. I wish I could say one-trial learning took care of this for me, but I've ended up soaking my burning hands in cold water after making the mistake at least half a dozen times.

2. One should not chase a rolling basketball down the hallway when the length of one's pants exceed the end of one's foot. I acquired this little nugget of wisdom just last night. Ask me how.

3. A "four clubs" answer to a "2 no-trump" jump-shift is asking for aces according to the Gerber convention. If you don't play bridge, never mind.

4. Potty humor is always, ALWAYS funny.

5. I don't care what the books say, not all babies sleep 2-3 hours every afternoon. Some babies (ahem) think 40 minutes is quite sufficient.

6. A polyester potholder, when placed on a hot burner, indeed burns, despite its purpose to resist heat. I learned this secondhand from my brother.

7. A cookbook, when placed on a hot burner, indeed burns...this one I learned on my own.

8. The Ravel trio isn't impossible to play, but it's damn near it.

9. Collaborating with singers can be either the most rewarding, or least rewarding musical experience as a pianist.

10. A nearly 11mo child understands the word "nurse," necessitating that it be spelled when one wants to discuss but does not want to engage in said act.

Friday, December 22, 2006

J.K. Rowling is SUCH a tease

She's released the name of the last Harry Potter book, but nothing else. You're killing me, J.K.!!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

This and That

Happy Winter Solstice, everyone! For the next six months, the days will be getting longer, which is a good thing, in my book. I hate early winter in Wisconsin, when it's cold, wet, and increasingly dark.

Daniel is doing quite well. The day after his surgery, he acted like nothing had happened, and was up playing as usual. In fact, for the last few days he's decided that any and all naps are optional. Oh, he's a clever one, that Daniel, because he'll snuggle up in my lap to nurse and act all sleepy, but then get all giggly and playful when I put him in the crib. I let this frustrate me until yesterday, when I said to myself, "To hell with it. If he doesn't want to sleep, I won't make him!" and I'll be damned if he didn't refuse to nap the whole day except for a 20-minute snooze in my lap when I was at my Wednesday knitting group (the other ladies there are too polite to call it "Stitch 'n Bitch").

Just look at the little imp:



(Here he is modelling a sweater I made for him. I started it when I was preg-o and finished it when he was a few weeks old. I guessed pretty well on the colors, huh?)

He's sleeping right now, which I consider a Festivus miracle.

School-wise, everything came to a screeching halt after my orals. I have had the best intentions for, oh, about two weeks now, to get working on a lecture recital, which I have to do next semester. I don't really have a topic narrowed down. All I know is that I want to look at contemporary American song, probably pick one poet to center around...vague enough? Unfortunately, our music library is closed (#$*%&!!!!) the entire winter break for construction (whyyyyyyyyy couldn't they wait until summer?!!??!), so unless I get there tomorrow, all research that can't be done online will have to wait. I have no one to blame but myself for this serious lack of motivation.

On Saturday we're leaving for Kentucky to spend Christmas with my family. Yay!! My parents have dial-up, though, so blogging will probably be sparse. Boo. Like y'all are going to be waiting on pins and needles for my next post anyway, right?

Friday, December 15, 2006

My Brave Little Boy

Let's start off with some eye candy:



Yes, it's another baby picture, but today he truly deserves the attention. Today Daniel had surgery to correct an undescended testicle (I'm sure when he's 13 he's going to be thrilled that I told the world about this.) The condition is not uncommon; it happens in 3-4% of baby boys, and of those, only about half make it down to the testes satchel (I have Borat to thank for this term) on their own. The surgery is very routine, low-risk, and doesn't take very long, so our rational selves were not worried about this. But when it comes time to deny your baby food for many hours before packing him off to the hospital so he can go under the knife, rationality isn't such a game player...especially when the surgery is delayed for two hours because of an unforeseen complication in the surgeon's first procedure of the day.

In fact, the anesthesiologist gave him some Tylenol mixed with something similar to Valium to help Daniel stay mellow in the long waiting period before his surgery. When he stopped fussing and started grinning and clapping his hands together rather clumsily, pupils dilated, I wondered how many parents are granted the privilege of seeing their kid high on [medically approved] drugs before the age of one year...not that I'm condoning it or anything...

Unpredictable delays and our anxieties aside, everything went smoothly and quickly. Evidently there are only a handful of pediatric urologists in the country, and we are lucky to have gotten one of the best. Daniel was certainly in able hands. The recovery went (is going) quite well, too. Babies are often disoriented, cranky and hungry when they wake up after surgery, but Daniel just sat in my lap and nursed and slept for about two hours in the recovery room. The nurse said he ought to win the Baby Of The Year Award. She probably says that to everyone, but we agreed with her all the same.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Madtown Mama's Sweet Rolls With Potatoes and Honey

I came up with these last night, and they're quite tasty, so I'm sharing the love with y'all. I have found that it's really easy to impress people by making homemade bread. They think it's difficult or complicated, though it's actually not. Bread-making isn't nearly as tricky as other baking, like cakes and pies, where precise measurements and mixing times significantly affect the outcome. Sometime I may even do a bread-making tutorial with pictures and everything, if there's interest (though I know there are bread-savvy folks - Steph and Joe among them! - who read this blog.)

(Note: This recipe makes at least 40 rolls. If you don't want that many, just halve the ingredients.)

Ingredients:
2-4 mashing potatoes, like yellow wax potatoes
3/4 c. milk
4 T. unsalted butter (1/2 of a stick)
1 t. salt
1 c. water
2 T. yeast
2 eggs
1/4-1/2 c. honey (depends on how sweet you like it!)
bread flour - I honestly don't know how much, maybe 4-6 cups

Instructions:
1. Cook the potatoes in boiling water 15-20 minutes, or until soft. Let them cool, then peel and mash them. You ought to have about 1 or 1.5 cups mashed. If you prefer no lumps, you can stick them in a blender with some of the water.

2. Heat the milk and butter together until the butter is almost melted. Don't let the milk boil unless you like milk skin. (ew)

3. Mix the milk/butter mixture with the mashed potatoes and salt. Sprinkle the yeast on top, mix, and cover until it's nice and frothy, anywhere from 10-30 minutes.

4. Add the water, honey and eggs to the potato mixture and beat until smooth, about 1 minute.

5. Start adding flour. At first, just go ahead and dump in a cup or two, but once the mixture is less "liquidy" and more "doughy" you should add just a few tablespoons in at a time. This part takes a while. When it's too hard to stir with a wooden spoon or stiff spatula, get in there with your bare hands to knead it. This just involves turning it over and over, working it like a massage artist on a mission, punching, folding, whatever floats your boat. This is the fun part, and takes anywhere from 10-20 minutes.

6. When the dough is not sticky anymore, but still soft, cover with a wet towel and let it rise until it's doubled in size.

7. When it's doubled in size, punch it down and let it rise until doubled again.

8. Grease a couple of big cookie sheets. To make the rolls, pull off pieces of dough about the size of golf balls and place on the cookie sheets 1.5-2" apart. Let rise again (20 minutes?)

9.Bake in a 375 degree oven for about 15 minutes or until golden on top.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Wrong Number

You know how sometimes people call your home and it's a wrong number, and usually it's because your current number closely resembles a now-defunct pizza place or something?

Well, I just had my second conversation that went something like this:

Ring, ring.

me: Hello?

male voice: uh...Who is this?

me: Suze. Who are you trying to call?

male voice:
I'm looking for the Pagan Men's Alliance? (confused, seeing as how he is obviously talking to a female)

me: I'm sorry, you must have the wrong number. What number did they give you?

male voice: (repeats my home phone number, digit for digit)

me:
Sorry, man. Can't help you.

Curiouser and curiouser.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Naptime Victory

It's no secret that we've been having some Serious Sleep Issues here. Daniel has yet to sleep through the night, he almost never naps more than 30 or 40 minutes at a time, and the cumulative effect of all this makes for one frazzled Suze. I thought my only options were 1) nurse him back to sleep every time he woke up, or 2) plunk him in the crib and leave him to cry it out all night long. Option 1 was clearly running me down and I wasn't about to do Option 2.

A little over a week ago, I had had it. I was tired, frustrated, and most of all discouraged that things weren't improving. I was in a horrible mood and I was being absolutely beastly to Stuart and Daniel. Understand that I am blessed with an even temperament and am rarely in a truly bad mood. But when it happens, hoo boy. Stay out of my way. So anyway, after some stomping around and slamming doors and generally immature behavior, I left the house to run some errands and clear my head.

In my hour or so out of the house and away from my problems, I also broke down and bought a baby book: The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems. Despite the obnoxious title, it had two things going for it, namely 1) I've heard that it works, and 2) Dr. Sears didn't write it.

According to the author, we've fallen prey to Accidental Parenting (I hate her terminology, by the way), wherein parents do all the wrong things without realizing it's hindering their child's ability to sleep on his own. Things like rocking and nursing him all the way to sleep before putting him in his crib. Things like letting him nurse every time he wakes up during the night. Ooooops. Of course, if you've got a child who's 10 months old already with these problems, it will take a while to fix them because - tsk tsk!! - you should have nipped it in the bud when he was four months old.

This is why I hate reading baby books. They make me feel guilty and kind of stupid.

In any case, the sleep method is absurdly simple. For a child Daniel's age, you have a routine for naps and bedtime to help him wind down...in our case, we already had the routine. It was (is) the actual sleeping that was the problem...and when he's ready to sleep, you put him in the crib. Of course, unless he's totally konked out, he'll cry and get up. So you put him down. He'll get up again. You put him down. Lather, rinse, repeat until he's too tired to get up again and falls asleep. Same at night time. When he wakes up, don't pick him up, but put him down, whisper soothingly, put him down, put him down, put him down, yada yada yada...until he falls back asleep.

Last week I wasn't totally convinced it was working. Three days in a row it took an hour of putting him down before he took a nap, which only lasted 30 minutes. Yes, an hour of standing by the crib making my child lie down. I was going nuts; I felt like I was held hostage (didn't I use that phrase in a previous post?) at the cribside. Fortunately, things are going much better at night. For one thing, Stuart and I could take turns, giving me a bit more rest. For another, almost every time Daniel wakes up, it takes just a couple minutes to get him back to sleep.

I confess that several, though not all, of Daniel's naps in the past few days have taken place in the car. This can be a case of "Accidental Parenting": relying on a prop like driving around to get your kid to sleep. But I didn't care, as I really needed to get out of the house.

The state of things now? Yesterday it took only 20 minutes to get him to sleep in the afternoon and this morning it took -- drum roll, please -- about 5 minutes. We still have a ways to go. He's not close to sleeping through the night, and he still doesn't sleep for more than 30 or 40 minutes at a time during the day. (That may never change; some kids are cat-nappers and there's nothing you can do about it.) But we have a Method, things are finally improving, and everyone's a little happier for it.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Eye-candy Friday: my kid again




Why more pictures of Daniel?

1. Because it beats telling you how I was held hostage all morning by the new nap routine. (Seriously. It's 12:30 and I just got dressed.)

2. Because if I went outside to take pictures of week-old snow, I would freeze my tail off and all you'd get is, well, pictures of week-old snow.

3. Because he is pretty cute, if I do say so myself.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Christmas meme

Jenn made me do it, I swear.

1. Eggnog or Hot Chocolate?
mmmmmm...hot chocolate...Penzey's mix is the best.

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree?
I do the wrapping around here.

3. Colored lights on tree/house or white?
I think lights on the house are a waste of energy. But I do like white lights on a tree.

4. Do you hang mistletoe?
No, that's corny.

5. When do you put your decorations up?
Erm, we don't. Well, the last two years my family came here for Christmas, so we did a little bit. The first time we got the last tree for sale in front of the corner butcher shop for $5. It was about three feet tall, and the hardware store was out of tree stands, so we bought a plastic paint bucket and filled it with gravel from the driveway. It was sooooo ghetto. Not as ghetto as last year when we just picked up an errant evergreen branch off the ground, stuck it in a vase, and hung a couple ornaments from it. This year with a Very Curious Explorer (cough cough Daniel ahem) in the house, it's just as well we don't have any decorations up.

6. What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)?
Is there a holiday dish that isn't dessert?

7. Favorite Holiday memory as a child:
Most Christmases from my childhood are all blurred together in my memory. We always, always drove to Kansas to see all our relatives, which I was always very excited about. One year the weather was so bad they closed the interstates and there was no room at the inn, so we had to stay in an armory. There weren't shepherds and wise men, but I do remember a little dog who had his own styrofoam bowl to pee in.

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa?
I don't think my parents ever led us to believe Santa was real. They still left cookies out for him, though.

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve?
That's when we do our gift-opening, actually.

10. How do you decorate your Christmas Tree?
See #5.

11. Snow! Love it or Dread it?
Loved it when we first moved to Wisconsin. Now totally over it.

12. Can you ice skate?
Barely.

13. Do you remember your favorite gift?
Last year my brother gave me a guitar, which was great. I wish I had more time to play it, though.

14. What's the most important thing about the Holidays for you?
Fambly.

15. What is your favorite Holiday Dessert?
My mom always makes kick-ass Christmas cookies, all kinds. I can't really choose a favorite.

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition?
Singing carols and drinking wine...preferably at the same time.

17. What tops your tree?
Enough with the tree questions!

18. Which do you prefer giving or Receiving?
I suppose the Good answer to this one is giving. Can't say I mind the receiving part, though :)

19. What is your favorite Christmas Song?
Silent Night

20. Candy Canes! Yuck or Yum?
Yuck, but I eat them anyway.

21. Favorite Christmas movie?
Cheesy Christmas movies aren't my thing. I enjoyed "Love Actually," actually.

22. What do you leave for Santa?
Nothing. I guess we're not very hospitable.

Geez, this thing makes me look like a Scrooge. Ah, well. Maybe when Daniel's older we'll be more in the holiday spirit and do more holiday "things." We keep things low-key here. I know most people - women in particular, for some reason - get all in a tizzy about decorating and shopping and sending cards out and making cookies and knitting socks for everyone they know, and that just seems stressful to me. Hand me a glass of mulled wine and a book of carols to sing with some good company, and I'm a happy camper.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

I spent at least half of the day standing next to Daniel's crib trying to get him to sleep. This is part of our new Method of sleep training. The jury's still out on whether the Baby Whisperer knows what the heck she's talking about. If today is any indication, she gets a big Thumbs Down.

But I didn't intend to write about my kid's sleep issues. One way or another, we'll get through this, even if I lose all my hair and gnash my teeth down to the gums in the process.

What I meant to write about, ironically, was the fact that despite all my gripe-y, negative posts of late, my life is all right. I did pass my prelims, after all. And my social life had a little pick-me-up on Sunday when my friend Rob came over for lunch and then took me to see "Stranger Than Fiction," which was, by the way, a very good film.

I don't write a whole lot about my life as a musician on this blog, and when I do, I tend to focus on my insecurities, why I'm unsure of myself, where (and if) my life is going professionally. Yesterday's post is a prime example of that.

The truth is, I know I'm on the right path, even if I don't know exactly where that path is leading right now. How do I know? Because I get excited thinking about people I plan to collaborate with in the future. Because whenever I hear a new piece I like, I think "I want to play that!" Because I'm more confident every time I perform. Because every time I perform, I enjoy it even more. Because my five students, who range from 3rd to 7th grade, all love to play music. Because, heaven help me on this one, when I was studying all my old music history notes, I was concocting hypothetical lesson plans on various topics.

I'm not naive. I know that finding a decent job, even in collaborative piano - which is one of the more marketable areas of music performance - is extremely difficult. I may or may not find a dream job someday. As long as we have a young child(ren) to take care of (eventually we'll have another, but considering how things are going right now...well, let's just say I'm in no hurry), that "someday" might be a while from now. As long as I can play music I love with people I love to work with, I'm OK with that.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Thinking

I had my oral exams today. It was strangely anti-climatic. They were fine; I passed. I expected to feel a big rush of relief or elation afterwards, but I didn't. I just drove home and changed poopy diaper #2 of the day. Now I suppose it's on to the next thing, and the next...and eventually I'll be done. And then what? It all feels a little existential right now.

Once I'm truly on my own as a musician - and that time is nigh - I'll really have to "say" something musically. I should be "saying" something now, actually, but I know I often still sound like a student. The three keyboard faculty on my committee (the only ones who made it to the oral exams, in fact) are all very dear to me. Each of them has had a tremendous influence on me as a pianist, a harpsichordist, and a teacher of music. What would I do without them constantly affirming and guiding me? I suddenly feel like a little bird who's afraid to jump out of its nest and learn to fly.

Are you rolling your eyes at that metaphor? Me, too, but it's still apt (apt!) so I'm leaving it there.

My harpsichord teacher and I were chatting afterwards. He said something to the effect of "Good luck with all the parenting and music-making!" He's the father of two grown sons, and like everyone else here, has been very supportive of me. I replied that too often, the parenting thing has to come first, because you don't have a choice about that. You can't just take a semester off from your child. "True," he said, "but the second thing is incredibly important, too. I think you have a lot to say as a musician, and I hope you keep working at it."

Really?

Maybe it's because I've been a student for so long, holding onto my teachers' advice like a security blanket, but I need to convince myself of this. I was never fantasically talented. I was never a wunderkind. I've never been able to make myself practice eight hours a day or obsess over technique (and it shows!) There have been times (many, many times) that I wonder why I do it at all, when there are so many people out there who are better than I am. Understand that I'm not beating myself down here; I'm just trying to be realistic.

There's a violinist here (Pam, you know who I'm talking about) who can grasp in a moment what it takes the rest of us weeks to learn. She's amazing. She soaks up repertoire like a sponge. She plays like a freaking goddess. She's about to finish her DMA and she's only 23 or 24 years old. There's a part of me that says if I'm not like that, then what's the point? What do I have to "say"?

Still mulling over this one, I suppose.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Another List

'Cause I'm a list floozy.

5 Things I Want But Don't Have:

1. A belt. Dude, my pants are falling down. I didn't notice this before I got pregnant, and I don't think I'm smaller than I used to be; my hips certainly ain't. That a certain little boy spends a lot of time hanging off the legs of my jeans could be a factor. That + gravity = droopy-pants-mama.

2. A dissertation topic. I wish I could just skip all the work of preliminary research and just know what to do for my final project. Then I could slam through it and be done by the end of the summer. Usually I enjoy that process of slogging through recordings and browsing articles and the like (NERD ALERT! NERD ALERT!), but this degree has dragged on long enough.

3. Enough yarn and time to make myself a sweater. It's getting downright cold up here, and I haven't made a sweater for myself since I was in high school. Unfortunately, I have several other things to finish first, I don't have enough of anything in my stash for an adult sweater, I don't want to purchase more yarn until I use up more of what I already have, and I don't have a lot of time to knit as it is, so this probably won't happen. I have a few warm and woolly sweaters, but they're all gigantic. Comfy? Yes. Attractive? Not so much. Come to think of it, "comfy and unattractive" describes most of my clothes now...

4. A camera phone. We already have a nice camera, so I know it's silly. But they're just so cool. What can I say? I'm a bit of a magpie.

5. A really good recipe for tamales. I've never made them, but I want to. Anyone care to share?

5 Things I Have But Don't Want:

1. Our can-opener. It's the hand-crank kind that makes your thumbs cramp and leaves a jagged edge around the rim. This can-opener doesn't even work unless you turn it at a bizarre angle. Despite receiving several tutorials from Stuart on The Proper Use of Our Craptastic Can-Opener, I am somehow incapable of using it properly and end up with lids I have to twist and force off at my own peril. One of these days we should really pony up the $10 to buy a new one.

2. The book 25 Things Every New Mother Should Know by Martha and William Sears. A very well-meaning person gave this to me at a baby shower about a year ago. Now, where do I start with this one? Let's see. Is it the part where Mrs. Sears lays on the guilt about mothers who go back to work? Is it the part where she suggests that a new mother, if she must work (heavy sigh) find a job in a daycare center so she can bring her baby with her? Is it the part where she suggests that fathers don't have as good parental instincts as mothers? Is it the part where Mr. (oh, sorry, Dr.) Sears chips in to say that one way fathers can be just so very helpful is to make sure the new mama has time to take a shower once in a while? Is it the part where they try and convince you that breastfeeding and co-sleeping until your kid is three or four or five is guaranteed to make your child secure and not at all emotionally manipulative? Give. Me. A. Freaking. Break.

3. Class notes from every music history course I've taken at UW. I should probably hang onto these in case I ever teach a music history course, which I hope to do someday. But it's soooo tempting to chuck them all into the recycling bin. Or burn them on a pyre.

4. Nursing bra pads. Sadly, even though I don't want these I have to keep them because nearly ten months after giving birth I'm still leaking. TMI? Deal.

5. A stack of Dilbert cartoon books that used to be bathroom reading material. Now that special place on the back of the toilet is reserved for The Onion.

5 Things I Don't Want and Don't Have:

1. Mom Jeans. You know what I'm talking about: those high-waisted fashion monstrosities with pleats in the front and tapered ankles that wouldn't even look good on Heidi Klum (probably). I already have a Mom Haircut and have mysteriously lost my ability to match colors (you should've seen the two greens I put together the other day...frightening) but even I know better than Mom Jeans.

2. A spinning wheel. A lot of knitters like to spin yarn. I've never even been tempted. I guess it's because I know it would take lots of time and money and clutter to get good enough to spin anything worth knitting with, and I'd rather just usethat time and money and clutter on yarn to knit something nice out of nice yarn. Because the knitting part? I'm pretty good at that.

3. A back yard play gym, the kind made out of plastic in primary colors. Click here to see a variety. I hate tacky plastic shit, and I hate it even more when it's cluttering up people's yards. If Daniel wants to go on the slide, we'll just walk to the park.

4. A bread machine. Because if you don't get in there with your bare hands, it doesn't count as homemade bread.

5. A dog. I'm just not a dog person. Daniel really likes dogs, though. He gets really excited and kicks his legs and grins whenever he sees a dog, or whenever we read him books that feature dogs (we have several) or whenever someone makes doggie noises, like "arf arf" or "woof!" or "aaaaaaaaooooooooooo!" This could be a problem.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Just in case you thought I'd gone off the deep end...

...I came close...

You know, I often tell myself how lucky I am to have a kid as healthy and delightful and sweet as Daniel. Most of the time, I believe it. But days like yesterday when he boycotted not only naptime but solid food (resulting in many, many cranky wakings last night to nurse, undoubtedly from hunger) -- yes, those days it's really hard to appreciate him. Yesterday, when Stu got home from work, I dumped Daniel in his lap and said "If you don't take him right now, I'm going to haul off and hit someone or something." And I meant it. Then I went and took a shower and felt a teeny weeny bit better. Oblivious to my exasperation, Daniel spent an hour happily playing with his daddy, cooing adorably and looking at books.

Thankfully, today was better. Not by leaps and bounds, but he ate and slept enough to keep me from wanting to slam my head against the wall. This afternoon I taught piano lessons for three hours, and that usually puts me in a good mood, even when my students are flaky, so life is good again.

I also received a few sympathetic phone calls and emails after yesterday's post. You guys really helped cheer me up, so thank you for letting me indulge in a little whining.

I've never understood people that don't ever complain. I think if I didn't vent about something on a near-daily basis, I would just spontaneously combust or something.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

A Little Lonely

To say we had a full house last week is a bit of an understatement, though we managed not to get in each other's way too much. (It helped that the weather was gorgeous - 50 degrees and sunny - so we could take lots of walks outside.) But then everyone left on Saturday morning, and while the peace and quiet was welcome, I still had a small feeling of emptiness that I always get after a holiday with visitors. Actually, I got over that pretty quickly when we cleaned up the house and reclaimed the computer room and realized we could go from point A to point B without tripping over someone's suitcase/pillow/coffee mug/laptop.

Now it's cold and wet outside, and it's just Me and The Boy at home all day. I'm trying to figure out how to write about how I feel without getting all whiny (or "whingy," as the Brits say). My recital's done. My prelims are almost done; I have oral exams to go, but because finding a 2-hour block of time that 5 busy professors are all available is nigh impossible, orals won't be happening until finals week in mid-December. I have a lecture recital to think about, but I need a few uninterrupted hours in the library before I can really get started. As hard as it is juggling the "mom" thing and the "graduate student" thing, at least the latter gives me some direction in life and distraction from housework, which I find frankly unstimulating. But like I said, I don't have much going on school-wise at the moment.

It doesn't help that Daniel's naptime consists solely of two or three 30-minute catnaps per day. He should probably be sleeping two or three times that long, but there's nothing to be done about it. People, I've tried. I even talked to his doctor, who very sympathetically told me her son was the same way, and basically said to be patient, eventually he'll take longer naps. I've given up on the fantasy that I'll get an hour or two of naptime, at least for a while. Yesterday I spent the entirety of Daniel's morning nap on hold with the health clinic trying to re-schedule a doctor's appointment. Oh well. At least he goes to bed early.

The worst thing about this full-time mom gig is that I am starting to really miss my friends. The first few months after Daniel was born, I had plenty of visitors. Family came to town to visit and help out, and there were lots of people who wanted to drop by and see the baby. When he was just a blob in the car seat, it was easy to meet friends for lunch or coffee. Daniel took easily to the bottle, so as long as I had enough milk pumped, I occasionally went out in the evenings as well. Around the beginning of summer time, the newness wore off, and people didn't drop by as much, but that was all right, because I could spend time outside. I would plop him down in the shade and work in the garden or hang up laundry, or we'd walk around the neighborhood with him in the sling.

And now? I haven't been out past 7p.m. since I went to a book-signing at the end of September. Daniel's been refusing to take a bottle for several months, and while this is generally fine with me (I loathe pumping with the firey passion of a thousand suns), it means I have to be around at bedtime. It's just as well, since I'm toast by 9:00 and no one calls me anyway, with the single exception of my friend Rob, whom I haven't actually seen in ages, but at least he's good about checking in every couple weeks. Before Daniel was born, I had plenty of friends, mostly on campus, with whom I'd go out for lunch or coffee or music concerts or, occasionally, beers at happy hour (pre-pregnancy, of course!) I'm not particularly outgoing, but I am a fairly social person, so this has been a major adjustment for me. I suppose this is largely because I don't know many other moms around here. Once a grad student has a kid, she might as well drop off the face of the planet, so there goes my social network.

Oh, dear. I think I crossed that line. This post was not meant to turn into a Pity Party for Suze, because I'm genuinely content about most things. While Daniel's nap habits are frustrating, he's a delightful, playful child and I'm grateful that I have the opportunity to stay at home with him rather than sticking him in daycare full-time. (Note: I'm not judging anyone who uses daycare; it's just not right for us at this time.)

Before y'all jump in and once again tell me how I need to find Mother's Day Out (like where? some random church? "Hey, I don't attend here or jive with your mission or anything but could you PLEASE take my kid off my hands for a couple hours so I can have some peace?") or a playgroup ("Hey, I don't know any of you guys, but I would like nothing better than to discuss breastfeeding and baby poop for the next 90 minutes!") or begin some complex sleep-training method that won't work, let me stop you right there. All I needed right now was to unload a little, and I've done that, and now I better attend to the wailing child who woke up twenty minutes after going to sleep.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Gobble Gobble

Thanksgiving chez Madtown Mama:

Number of people staying in our house: 7 (the three of us, my two parents, one brother, and a friend who recently moved to Minnesota)

Size of our house: 900 sq ft

Number of objects broken by baby Daniel: 0

Number of objects broken by other people: 2 (my dad broke a bowl and my brother broke a mug)

Number of coffee spills on our living room rug: 2 (mom, Joe - who managed to combine spilling coffee and breaking a mug in one fell swoop)

(I'm thinking I should have gotten suction cup bowls and sippy cups for the whole family, not just little Daniel.)

Dinner: turkey roasted in beer sauce, cranberry salad, orange-coconut sweet rolls, roasted sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, vegetarian dressing, pumpkin pie, 3-buck Chuck (Daniel had his usual purréed carrots and peas with yogurt)

*Edited to add: There has been some discussion of 3-buck Chuck and Trader Joe's...for those who want to know more, click here.)

Number of roasting pans purchased at the last minute when the realization was made that the turkey breast was way bigger than any available baking dishes: one (thank goodness for Ace Hardware!)

Number of dollars spent at various grocery stores and co-ops in Madison: don't ask

Number of objects forgotten by overnight guests: relatively few - just a couple pairs of gloves, a glasses case, and two small cans of juice in the fridge

Number of loads of laundry done yesterday afternoon after everyone left: at least four

A good time was had by all!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Hoot! Hoot!

I just got an email from the graduate secretary that I PASSED both written portions of my prelims! That's a big relief. No more bitching and moaning from Suze for a while, I promise!

Wanna see some cute pictures of my kid? OK, here you go:



Saturday, November 18, 2006

I Luuuurve the Memes

Steph tagged me, for this, so here we go. Cause I know you want to know more about ME ME ME!!


1. When you looked at yourself in the mirror today, what was the first thing you thought?
It was too ungodly early to think anything.

2. How much cash do you have on you?
About $25

3. What’s a word that rhymes with “DOOR?”
snore

4. Favorite planet?
Hee hee, Uranus

5. Who is the 4th person on your missed call list on your cell phone?
My cell phone is terribly unreliable about actually recording people that have called. I know this because there will be messages on voicemail from numbers that don't show up on the missed call list. So #4 is some unidentified number, but it's surely more than 4 calls ago.

6. What is your favorite ring tone on your phone?
Meh

7. What shirt are you wearing?
A boring Land's End t-shirt and a huge flannel shirt I think I bought in high school. grunge was "in" then.

8. Do you “label” yourself?
I think progressive feminist eco-freak would be a fair assessment...don't you?

9. Name the brand of your shoes you’re currently wearing?
Not wearing shoes, but the ones I last had on were some trail shoes I bought at a hunting store a few years ago.

10. Bright or Dark Room?
Somewhere in between.

11. What do you think about the person who took this survey before you?
She rocks.

12. What does your watch look like?
Cheap-o digital thing with a velcro - yes, velcro! - band from ShopKo

13. What were you doing at midnight last night?
Sleeping. Baby boy didn't get me up until 2:30! (And then 3:30, then 4:30, then 4:45...)

14. What did your last text message you received on your cell say?
"Checked baggage is for chumps." From my brother, who just flew in to Madison today!

15. Where is your nearest 7-11?
Meh.

16. What’s a word that you say a lot?
Can we go with a phrase? How about: "No, Daniel. Don't put your fingers in the VCR/heating vent/Daddy's beer/poop bucket/trash can..."

17. Who told you he/she loved you last?
Hubbo, probably.

18. Last furry thing you touched?
The scarf I'm making that looks like cat barf, or shag carpet from the 70s, depending on the light.



19. How many drugs have you done in the last three days?
3-buck Chuck from Trader Joe's a couple nights ago, Pranqster beer to celebrate being done with phase 2 of prelims last night, and Essence of Life every morning (homemade latte...mmm...)

20. How many rolls of film do you need developed?
Hello? Stone age much? We're all digital, all the time.

21. Favorite age you have been so far?
Life is pretty good now, so I'll go with 27.

22. Your worst enemy?
I don't think I have enemies. Can't come up with anything clever here.

23. What is your current desktop picture?
Some random cute picture of my kid.

24. What was the last thing you said to someone?
“If you guys are going to watch football all afternoon, I'm going to go mess around on the computer."

25. If you had to choose between a million bucks or to be able to fly what would it be?
The money, fo sho. I'm afraid of heights, and then we wouldn't have to buy powerball tickets anymore.

26. Do you like someone?
I'm not harboring any secret crushes...oh, except for the latest Mr. Darcy. Yum.

27. The last song you listened to?
My little bro just barraged us with a bunch of 80s hits on his iPod...I think the last one was "Roam where you want to" by the B52s.

28. What time of day were you born?
mid-afternoon? Not sure. I was there, but my memory's a little fuzzy.

29. What’s your favorite number?
This is a really stupid question, so I'll pretend it asked for my favorite smell instead, which is currently lavender.

30. Where did you live in 1987?
small KY town.

31. Are you jealous of anyone?
I'm jealous of a lot of people for a lot of things, all of them petty: Musicians who are better than I am, musicians with decent jobs, people who are able to get out of the house without lugging a squirming child with them, people who get a full night's sleep on a regular basis, people who have dishwashers, people who can stay out after 7pm...ugh, this is depressing. Still, I don't harbor any resentment towards anyone. I just get wistful every once in a while.

32. Is anyone jealous of you?
Yeah, tons of people tell me how much they wish they could spend all day changing diapers and washing dishes.

33. Where were you when 9/11 happened?
At the UW School of Music. I was making copies for my piano class when the second tower fell.

34. What do you do when vending machines steal your money?
Curse.

35. Do you consider yourself kind?
I suppose.

36. If you had to get a tattoo, where would it be?
On my fleshy tuckus.

37. If you could be fluent in any other language, what would it be?
Oh, I forgot to put this on my "jealous" list. I have always regretted that I never learned another language fluently, though I've dabbled in German, French and Italian, all of which I can read fairly decently. I really want to speak Spanish, though.

38. Would you move for the person you loved?
Yeah, I would.

39. Are you touchy feely?
Not particularly. I'm acquainted with a certain singer who tends to pet people and it's very annoying.

40. What’s your life motto?
I've never thought about it before. How about "Look out for #2"? With a 9mo, this comes in handy more than you'd think...

41. Name three things that you have on you at all times?
My wedding ring, my kid, and clothes that rarely match.

42. What’s your favorite town/city?
In the US: Portland, OR. In Europe: Salzburg, Austria.

43. What was the last thing you paid for with cash?
Brunch at Lazy Jane's Cafe on Madison's east side after we picked up my brother from the airport. I had an omelet with artichokes, asiago cheese and whole roasted garlic cloves (MMMMMM).

44. When was the last time you wrote a letter to someone on paper and mailed it?
Not that long ago. I have a good friend in Minnesota with whom I like to correspond the old-fashioned way.

45. Can you change the oil on a car?
I could on a previous car, but they make 'em so compact now it's impossible to get to the filter without a professional car jack and special tools.

46. Your first love: what is the last thing you heard about him/her?
The first serious crush I had...last I heard he dropped out of college and couldn't even get promoted past busboy at TGI Friday's. Maybe he's doing better now, but I really don't care.

47. How far back do you know about your ancestry?
I think the earliest specific historical anecdote is that some ancestor of mine crossed a border into then-Prussia in the bottom of a hay wagon.

48. The last time you dressed fancy, what did you wear and why did you dress fancy?
My doctoral recital a couple weeks ago. I tried posting a picture, but Blogger - unsurprisingly - started spewing chunks when I hit the "upload" button. It was a simple, black two-piece dress with sheer sleeves and purty earrings. I also fixed my hair, a rarity.

49. Does anything hurt on your body right now?
My back's a little sore, probably from baby-holding and not doing enough stretching. It's not a big deal.

50. Have you been burned by love?
Yeah, but I'm over it.

I'm not going to tag people because I don't want to leave anyone out, so if you want to do this, leave a comment (me? begging for comments? Naaaaaw!) so I can go read it.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Slam Dunk

I had the second part of prelims this afternoon, and it went VERY well. Woohoo! Methinks I ought to celebrate tonight by not cooking dinner. Have a good weekend, everyone.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Thanks!

Just wanted to say a quick thank you to the folks who left encouraging comments and emails about my crap-o-rific test on Monday. I feel better. Besides, it's hard to dwell on it when I've got a 9mo to take care of. (His favorite thing lately is playing "peek-a-boo" behind the crib; he thinks if he's behind the bars of the crib, I can't see him.)

Also, there are two more parts to the exam, so perhaps I have a chance to make it up. Friday I answer questions from my major professor and my harpsichord teacher. (Of course, my harpsichord teacher hasn't told me what his question is, and I had to leave a phone message at his house to get him to tell me whether or not he was planning to give me a question in the first place...those of you who know him will understand how very typical this is, and that I'm not even that annoyed with him...) The last part of prelims is an oral exam, where my entire committee fires questions at me for 2 hours. Strangely, I'm not worried about that. I'm pretty good on my feet.

Andre mentioned in the comments from my last post that the questions like I had on Monday's exam are designed to make you feel like you're an idiot and unprepared, and he's totally right. My teacher hates this approach and calls those "penis" questions. (See why I'm not worried about whatever she's going to ask me on Friday?) I think prelims should be an opportunity for a student to demonstrate and articulate comprehension of broad musical topics (using specific examples, of course.) I also think that the test should be geared to the specific student because it is simply ridiculous to expect someone to know everything all at one time. I was expecting questions from the courses I had, including a seminar on the music of the First World War, a seminar that was taught by the very professor who made up my test. Instead I was given 10 essay questions that gave me very little opportunity to demonstrate what I know. Several were taken from courses I didn't take, and there were none pertaining to that seminar. They weren't entirely specific, but specific enough to be problematic, and nearly every one of them side-stepped the biggest topics in music history.

(If you're not trained in music, the rest of this post may bore you a little, but I"m going ahead with it because the Danimal is taking an early nap and ranting sounds more appealing than washing the breakfast dishes! So here goes...)

One of the questions that I stumbled through was this: "Discuss the history of the piano up to 1780, including repertoire and social setting." Now, you would think I, as a pianist, could answer this based on my own experience, but as it happens, most of the important piano repertoire was written after 1780. I'm pretty sure what they were looking for was a description of empfindsamkeit in the works of C.P.E. Bach and the rise of the middle class, but I was hard-pressed to come up with specific examples. Of course this topic isn't trivial to the Classic period, but by far the biggest topics from this era are the development of the opera, the symphony, the string quartet, the piano sonata. That's what I prepared for, and it was all for naught. Boogers!

Were I to make up such a test for myself, I would ask questions like:

-Discuss the development of sonata form. Pick a genre and/or style period and be sure to use specific examples.

-Pick a century and discuss the development of opera in that time period, using specific examples.

-Discuss the breakdown of tonality in the late 19th and early 20th century.

-Discuss the role of popular music in World War One. You may focus on a particular geographical area.

See? Those questions leave things pretty open-ended, allowing a person to demonstrate knowledge, ability to describe large topics succinctly, and it would still be pretty obvious whether or not she knows her stuff.

In fact, the question I answered the best was; "Discuss the music of the medieval Mass. You may choose to discuss monophony, polyphony, or both."

This post has turned out to be much longer than I intended...and Daniel's awake and grabbing at the mouse, so I'll stop now. At the very least, I know this will all be over soon.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Brutal

That's the only word I can think of to describe the test I took yesterday, the first of three parts of prelims. In fact, I'm not totally confident that I passed. I had to write essays on my choice of 4 questions, one of which was supposed to be substantially longer than the others. My long essay was good, fortunately, but two of the others were not and the fourth sucked. I'll spare you the ranting and raving I subjected my poor husband to last night, but I will say this: despite studying my ass off for two weeks (not to mention paying dearly for babysitting so I could read uninterrupted for a couple hours every morning) and feeling pretty well prepared, the questions I was presented with threw me for a loop. They were not what I was expecting, and I don't believe they were fair. I just hope that my one good essay and my academic record (which is stellar, actually) pull me through.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Eye-candy Friday: I'm a cheater...

...because if you read my knitting blog (and by all means, don't feel obligated!), you've already seen these, so forgive me for phoning this one in. (I probably wouldn't have even bothered to post, but I'm reviewing Mozart quartets, and it's just impossible to feel too stressed when you're listening to those.)

This is Daniel in the backyard a couple days ago in a new hat I just made for him. Ironically, the hat was made to be extra-warm, yet we were outside because the weather was unusually warm and sunny for November.



Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Some amusing things I've run across...

In Donald J. Grout's History of Western Music:

-Ives's borrowing of well-known songs and hymns for material in his own work does so "for their power to add punch to the message." Add punch? Musical quotations in Ives's music is a hugely important compositional idiom, a basis for the "Americanism" in his writing. Grout makes it sound like he tossed in a few familiar tunes like one would sprinkle herbs in soup.

-He uses the word "hillbilly" twice in his paragraph-long synopsis of the origin of country music. Really? Hillbilly? Is that a musical term?

In Robert P. Morgan's Twentieth-Century Music:

-Evidently, Harry Partch was a hobo for six years. That's right, a hobo. And he used some hobo writings in compositions after his hobo period.

-Finally, this:
Those two men are Ernst Bloch and his pupil Roger Sessions, two composers of the Twentieth Century. This picture appears in the book with no explanation as to why these two guys appear to be digging a grave with pickaxes.

Post-Election Post

I am pleased about a lot of the outcomes from yesterday:

1. Pennsylvania wiped Santorum off the Senate floor. (Loyal readers of Dan Savage will appreciate this; if you don't know what I'm talking about, google "Santorum" and "Dan Savage." WARNING: This is not for the faint of heart or children under the age of 18.)

2. The U.S. House of Representatives now has a Democratic majority.

3. The U.S. Senate may also have a majority. Come ooooooooooon, Virginia and Montana!

4. South Dakota defeated the misogynist, bass-ackwards near-ban on abortion.

5. Arizona defeated the gay marriage ban.

6. My own state of Wisconsin still has a Democratic governor.

7. So does Kansas.

8. John Gard lost his race (he's a nasty WI conservative who wants to ban birth control pills and labor unions, for starters.)

Unfortunately, these victories are tempered somewhat by the fact that Wisconsin also voted to reinstate the death penalty and passed the gay marriage ban amendment with a 59% majority. I'm so ashamed by these things. Wisconsin had the country's oldest moratorium on the death penalty. Why did they bring it up for this election? Probably to increase Republican turn-out; I don't really know. I believe the death penalty is barbaric and wrong, but even if I didn't, I wouldn't support this amendment. It's no secret that our justice system is deeply flawed and that there are people on death row who don't belong there, or who didn't get adequate legal defense because they were too poor, too black, or both. We shouldn't even be considering the death penalty when it's so far away from being meted out "fairly."

And then there's the gay marriage ban. Gay marriage already wasn't legal here, but Wisconsin voters decided to pass the first constitutional amendment in history that takes rights away from people. Not only are same-sex marriages and civil unions banned, but so are domestic partner benefits, the legal right to make medical decisions, and other rights that married heteros have. I refuse to understand the reasoning behind this. Homophobia doesn't even explain it satisfactorily enough for me. You've got a problem with gays and lesbians? Fine, that's something you need to work out on a personal level. But what's the point of taking civil rights away from them? Tell me, how exactly does legal gay marriage hurt your family? Will your marriage crumble because a couple of dudes tie the knot? Do you think gay marriage will make more people gay? Straight people are the ones having gay babies, after all. This amendment is heinous and bigoted, but it isn't going to change the fact that gays and lesbians WILL have relationships, WILL have families, and WILL otherwise be engaged, productive members of society. You can't make them disappear.

Finally, I've got a couple things to say to the Democratic party:

It's about damn time. Now don't screw this up.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Election Day

Go vote today, y'all. This one's a biggie.

If you live in Wisconsin, you have the special occasion to vote on two asinine constitutional amendments: one to ban gay marriage and civil unions, and another to bring back the death penalty in this state. I'll be voting a big, fat NO on both of those.

And if you decide not to vote? Shame on you. You have no right to bitch about the way this country is run.

That's all I'm gonna say about that. Between studying for prelims and scooting around after Daniel, I haven't had much energy left to think about the election, and I'm kinda grateful for that. I just hope there's a better outcome this time around.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Gonna bore you for a minute...

...but my head is swimming with all the music history I've been reading for the past several days and I've just got to say that I hate this book on Twentieth-Century music by Robert Morgan. Grout's even worse. As a pianist, a collaborative pianist, I play a variety of repertoire. Even though I don't play solo piano music much anymore, I know a lot of it from past recitals, repertoire classes, and my own teaching experience. As a collaborative musician, I've done many songs with voice, instrumental sonatas, concertos (where I play a reduction of the orchestra part), and a handful of chamber pieces (all trios, come to think of it). With a few exceptions, I have found that these types of pieces are largely ignored in general history texts. Enough with the operas and symphonies already. Grout, for example, doesn't even mention that Poulenc wrote songs, even though mélodies are among his most important output, and he's considered one of the most important French song composers of the Twentieth Century. It's a crying shame, in part because it means I have to study twice as hard, since the "important" (scoff, scoff) repertoire is mostly in genres I'm less familiar with, and in part because from reading these texts, you'd think that the more people involved in the performance of a piece, the more important it is.

My second complaint is that Morgan, especially, doesn't give much context for the pieces he discusses. He blathers on about key relationships and atonality or whatever theoretical innovation is presented in a piece, but gives little or no information from a political or cultural standpoint, which I think is just as, if not more, important. In any case, the latter is easier to remember and write about than, say, "Uh, Stravinsky starts off the Symphony of Psalms in such-and-such tonality and then there's a fugal section in movement X..." Puh. Leeeeeze.

Obviously, I'm in a bit of a tizzy because I have a big exam in three parts, and the hardest part - the music history part - is a week from tomorrow. (Whimper.) Would it be so bad if my musicology prof told me which questions would be on it so I could study more specific material? (Whine.) Of course, that'll never happen. (Sigh.)

Done with my rant. Back to hitting the books. (Literally).

Saturday, November 04, 2006

BLOGGER IS DRIVING ME INSANE!!

First, BLAHger wouldn't upload a photo, despite trying all morning. Then, BLAHger ate a whole post I put up this morning. And now, stupid %*(#ing BLAHger won't publish the photo it finally, finally uploaded. What's up, BLAHger?

Growl.

True Multi-tasking



What I'm getting accomplished here:

1. Knitting. Can't tell you what; it's a secret (to be revealed around Christmastime)!
2. Reading the second-most boring book about music history ever written: Twentieth-Century Music by Robert P. Morgan. (The top prize goes to Mr. Grout
3. Listening to works of music to accompany #2 on one of my new favorite websites: Naxos Music Library (I would link it, except you have to be a subscriber or go through the library website as a current student). There are thousands of recordings archived here, not just classical, but pop, jazz, Chinese and other genres. It's great for studying repertoire I'm working on, comparing multiple recordings, and now - preparing for prelims.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Eye-candy Friday: the last flowers of fall


These poor little scraggly mums are reaching for what's left of the sun.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Give a Little

Somewhere in Kansas there's a young, pregnant single mother who could use some help. Read about her story and how you can help out here. Afrindie Mum is throwing her an online baby shower. I don't know this woman personally (her blog name is alley), and I don't know that much about her situation, but it sounds difficult. I do know this much: she has two kids, she left an abusive husband, she lives in Kansas, she works nights to try and pay off some debt, she's expecting a baby in February, she's under pressure to place the baby with adoptive parents but she wants to keep him/her. I feel compelled to contribute, maybe because she's in Kansas, a state that is dear to me (despite its politics), maybe because her baby is due in February, which would be exactly a year after my little Daniel was born. Or maybe it's just because I think those of us who have a little more are morally obligated to give a little to those who have a little less. Anyway, I'm not going to do online begging on behalf of someone I've never met, but if this story touches your heart just a little bit, go click that link in the beginning of this post for more details. And then, if you like, give a little.

Prelim hell

Our little boy is evidently still adjusting to the end of Daylight Savings time. He woke up rarin' to go at 5 a.m., zonked out for a nap at 7:45 and here it is just after nine and he is still sleeping.

I have my preliminary exams in just under two weeks, so posting will be spotty. Were it not for this freakishly long nap, you wouldn't even be hearing from me this morning, but I had a whole hour to study medieval music history (tropes! conductus! Léonin! organum! organum purum!! aaaaaaaaand let's hear it for the Magnus liber usualis!!!) and I'm treating myself to some computer time as long as I can't get in there to get the dirty laundry.

Anyway, I finally heard from my minor professor yesterday, and it looks like the test will be, if unpleasant, manageable. It appears I will survive this after all.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Recital!

Yesterday afternoon I had another D.M.A. (Doctor of Musical Arts) recital. I have to do six total for the degree, and this was my fourth. I've passed the halfway mark! This was an especially important one to me because it was my first since Daniel was born. Can I swing this whole thing of having a kid and continuing with a performance degree? If yesterday was any indication, the answer is a resounding "Yes!"

Everything about that performance felt good. For those interested, the program was as follows: Two of Dvorak's Slavonic Dances (C minor from op. 46 and E minor from op. 78), the Mozart FM 4-hand sonata, Debussy's Six Epigraphes antiques
and Poulenc's 2-piano sonata. I think yesterday was probably the best performance of Mozart I've ever given in public, and that's a damn hard piece.

I have to give due credit to my piano partner, Ellen. We've spent a LOT of time together the past two months, and it turns out we're a very good fit. I felt perfectly confident going into the performance and we both had a lot of fun performing. That's really what it's all about, right?

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Ack

I should be in bed, but I'm freaking out a little bit instead.

I have a doctoral recital Sunday. That will be fine. I'm trying to write program notes and they are shitty, but they won't be by the time I take them to Kinko's or wherever for printing on Saturday.

I also have a little over two weeks until I start the process of taking my prelims. I say process because there are three parts to the exam: the portion for my doctoral minor, my doctoral major, and then the orals. While it's a relief to be past the mess of beaurocracy it took to get the warrant issued, it meant that I didn't know if I was taking the exams this semester and hence didn't know what to study. I'll spare you the nitty-gritty details, but DMA prelims are in transition now, and the upshot of it is that the exams are supposed to be a little easier for people like me who have taken a crapload of courses. I just got an email from my minor professor indicating that I'll be taking the old test, which I believe consists of a long list of essay questions and terms to identify.

Was that confusing? Sorry. I'll simple it up for you: I have just over two weeks to review 800 years of Western music history. Just typing that about made me crap my pants.

Remember that list of stuff that calms me down? It's nonsense, all of it. No amount of knitting or bread-pummeling will alleviate this situation.

I wish I could take the stack of term papers I've written for music history courses and seminars at this stupid school and place them in my already-too-thick file and say "Here! Isn't this proof enough that I have Sufficient Knowledge?"

Blech.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Dog Who Loved to Suck on Toads

You've got to listen to this NPR story from All Things Considered to fully appreciate it.

"I'm not not licking toads."
-Homer Simpson

Monday, October 23, 2006

Top Ten Zen

Pam? Were you reading my mind or something when you tagged me for this? This morning my head was spinning with all the stuff I had to get done, everything from cleaning up my messy house to making a dent in the laundry that's been accumulating for quite a while now to scheduling my oral exams for prelims and making posters so that someone will show up to my recital this Sunday (ack). So this here is a good exercise.

Ten things that make me feel more calm, focused and secure:

1. Making lists. Sometimes if I have a lot to do, it helps me just to write it all down, even menial tasks like washing diapers (it feels like I'm always washing diapers). Then I try to accomplish just one thing at a time.

2. Biking. I have precious few opportunities to ride my bike these days. When Daniel's a year old he'll be big enough for the Burley trailer, and I plan to take him on lots of rides around Madtown. As it is, I leave him at home with a babysitter twice a week so that I can go to campus for lessons and rehearsals, and like I've always done - even through the 7th month of pregnancy - I bike there. As long as the temperature is above zero and the streets aren't covered with ice or snow, I ride the bike eight miles round trip. I used to bike for practical reasons: parking on campus is expensive and scarce, the buses are slow and inconvenient where I live, it's good exercise. But now, on top of all those things, my twice-weekly bike rides are precious times of the week I have all to myself. Sometimes I think about the music I'm working on or contemplate life. Sometimes I plan dinner or future knitting projects. Sometimes I just zone out and let everything pass me by...even though I'm the one moving...but it sounded a little poetic, didn't it?

3. Making bread. It's simply satisfying to mix a few ingredients in a dough and then pummel the crap out of it.

4. Drinking hot beverages. This is especially good in times of craptastic weather. (Like today. Ice pellets! Yuck!) I like tea, hot cider with mulling spices, cocoa, and lately Stu makes a mean latte in the mornings. Aaaah.

5. Knitting. With a recital coming up, I have to be careful not to overdo this one, as it can occasionally be a little hard on the wrists.

6. Practicing gratefulness. I don't do this nearly enough, but when I do, it honestly puts me in a better mood.

7. Blogging. Occasionally (all right, often), blogging is more a means of procrastination than true relaxation, but writing about things helps me to put them in perspective and get them off my chest.

8. Gardening. Alas, the season for this is past, but oh! how I love to play in the dirt. My garden is like my house: small and a little messy, yet cozy. I get a kick out of fixing a yummy meal and saying casually to Stu "What you're eating now was growing outside in our yard less than an hour ago."

9. Walking/hiking. It's been a while since I've been on a serious hike. A few summers ago we climbed a 14K mountain in Colorado and it was incredibly exhilarating. Now we are fortunate to live very near a large conservation park, where we walk in the evenings in the spring and summer. Daniel loves being outside, riding along in the baby backpack, or, when he was very tiny, the sling. I'm a person who needs to experience Nature; it makes me think about life cycles and balance and it helps me keep a healthy perspective on what is truly important, and what isn't.

10. Talking to Stu. I'm not gonna get all mushy here, but my husband is just so good at listening and helping me work through stressful situations. Plus, we have the same odd sense of humor, and that's just fun.

D'oh! Ten already! I'm going to keep going...

11. Playing piano. Yes, I do this more or less professionally, so it's often a source of stress in my life. At the same time, I'm probably more focused when I'm practicing or performing than any other times.

12. Nursing. Parenting is not easy - understatement of the year - but breastfeeding my child to sleep is one of the sweetest parts of my day.

Anyone else care to do this? Consider yourself tagged!

*Edited to add: if you do such a list on your own blog, be a peach and leave a comment here letting me know so I can go read it, 'k?

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

A Big Sigh of Relief

After waiting on pins and needles for the last two weeks to hear from the graduate counselor at the School of Music, it appears that I will be able to take my prelims this semester after all. There were two potential problems. The first: I wasn't sure if the one semester of Italian I had was sufficient for the language proficiency portion of my degree. Collaborative piano is the only program I know of here - besides voice - where one has to demonstrate proficiency in the three major languages of Western classical music: French, German and Italian. Fortunately, my major professor approved that Italian class, so I don't even have to take an extra exam. The second issue was that two recitals I did the first semester in the DMA (Doctor of Musical Arts) never got registered properly. Let me re-phrase that: I apparently didn't register for them, though I turned in the grade forms so there is documentation that I did the programs. This was basically stupid negligence on my part but no one caught the mistake, so I somehow have to get those credits retroactively. This can be done. No doubt it will take a pile of paperwork and at least one hike up Bascom Hill, but it's worth it.

Of course, this means I need to alert my committee and schedule my oral exams and then start studying like there's no tomorrow...but all this means that the end is, if not near, at least in sight.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

A couple of random updates

The mouse situation (I would link, but I've had to write, like, four posts on this already...): We bought a couple more traps on Sunday, along with a plug-in thing that looks like an air-freshener, but actually emits sound undetectable to the human ear that is supposed to repel mice. Since then we've seen none, despite the warning on the package that we "may see increased activity" as the vermin is driven out of their hiding places (shudder, shudder), and we've caught none in the traps. I'm taking the optimistic, if naive, view that we are rid of them, for now.

The baby situation: I almost wish I hadn't published that last post. It was whiny and full of self-pity and it's not like my experience is unique. I won't delete it, though, because I was also being honest. Anyway, I went to studio class this afternoon, where Daniel was a little angel, even when I was playing and someone else was holding him. Immediately after, I went to visit a friend whose 3yo had just thrown a mammoth tantrum and whose sister-in-law was in town with her 2mo son (any friends of Claire reading this - baby Ben is really, really cute!) and Daniel was great there, too. He wanted to grab baby Ben's face but it was all well-intended and he didn't shriek or whine the whole time. Right now he's playing with Disco Daddy Stu and being very cute.

This mama's ass be draggin'

Damn, is this parenting thing hard.

Now, I realize I have many things to be grateful for. My child is healthy. My child is strong. Breastfeeding has been, by and large, a piece of cake. Stuart is an excellent father. He also supports us financially so that I have the option of staying home more or less full-time.

I fully appreciate these things.

And that makes me feel rather guilty and ungrateful for even bringing this up - but I'm feeling a little worn-down. Daniel's teething for real this time. I know, I know, just after I said please for the love of god don't tell me he's teething one of those chompers poked through on Sunday, and judging by his behavior the other one's not far behind. He wakes up every 60-90 minutes through the night after 11pm (though I just checked out the No-Cry Sleep Solution from the library, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that we can change that). He's clingy during the day, always wanting to pull himself up on my legs and Stay There. He's discovered a new sound he can make: a high-pitched shriek that literally makes my ears ring. He goes on random solid food strikes, accompanied by the shrieking.

I could deal with all this - I'm sure a lot of it can be blamed on teething - except that he can't stand it if I'm not with him every minute. Yesterday morning the babysitter came over for a couple of hours so that I could practice and he fussed and whined nearly the whole time because I wasn't physically attached to him. The separation anxiety is an even bigger problem while I'm teaching piano lessons on Thursday afternoons, probably because it's later in the day.

And yet absolutely everything I do is met with protest. If I pick him up, put him down, change his diaper, wipe his hands clean, try to give him teething gel, try to give him tylenol, try to feed him - it doesn't matter what it is, he screams like he's being tortured, arches his back, and wriggles away.

It's not that I never get a break from my kid, but all the times other people are taking care of him are while I'm doing something else that couldn't very well be described as fun. Stuart plays with him for about a half hour in the evening while I clean up the kitchen. My students' parents watch him while I teach piano lessons. A babysitter comes over so I can either practice here at home or go to campus for a lesson or rehearsal.

It's all just getting to be a little bit much.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Ten Things I Love, or at Least Really, Really Like

Steph didn't tag me for this list, but I'm pretending she did!

1. Hot cider with mulling spices. Last weekend we went down to an orchard not far from Madison with pick-your-own apples and came home with nearly fifteen pounds of them, and I also picked up a gallon of apple cider and some mulling spices in teabags. A steaming hot cup of spiced cider has become my evening treat, something to love about autumn.

2. The first hour after Daniel's gone to bed. This is the hour in the evening when I can relax with Stu, which we usually spend rotting our brains watching TV and drinking a glass of wine or local brew and I work on a knitting project or just zone out.

3. Oberon. We are unapologetic beer snobs and this is one of the best out there. It's also seasonal (sniff). Perhaps that fleeting quality makes this beer all the more precious.

4. Blogging. It's like crack to me.

5. The compost pile. Yeah, I know Steph already said it, but it's true! We eat a lot of produce in this house and as a result there's a lot of organic waste to dump out there. When we moved into this house a little over two years ago, building a compost site was one of the first things we did. The city of Madison sells composters for about $40 every spring, but we moved at the end of the summer and needed one right away. Not wanting to spend $120 to order a fancy-pants composter from a catalog, we went to the nearest hardware store and bought some wire fencing, a sledgehammer, and some thick staples. We fashioned a triangle-shaped enclosure using those materials and leftover posts we found under the deck and voila! We had a compost "bin." A few weeks ago I was cleaning out my sadly-neglected garden plot (I always lose steam sometime in August) and I decided to turn the compost pile to give it some air and see how it was doing. I saw beautiful black dirt and many, many earthworms. I also found a spoon we'd been missing for a while. Compost is such a simple but miraculous thing - you throw your apple cores, your vegetable peels, your eggshells and coffee grounds, and your autumn leaves in a pile and nature turns it all to good, healthy dirt. It's the ultimate recycling. It's as natural as natural gets.*

6. Daniel at bathtime. This kid loves baths. He loves being nekked and splashing around with his rubber ducky and the gentle massage of the washcloth and being wrapped up in a towel afterwards...it's all so damn cute! Unfortunately he doesn't love so much the putting on of the diaper and PJs immediately following, but that obviously doesn't belong on this list, does it?

7. Caller ID. This being election season, caller ID has been particularly handy. At least 75% of the time the phone rings before 7pm, it shows up as "Grassroots Campaign," "So-and-so for Congress," or a mysterious "Toll-Free" number. Now I don't have to answer the phone to tell them politely to bugger off. I just let it ring.

8. Wolf lieder. Forgive the esotericism, but if I had to pick one song composer to play exclusively for the rest of my life, I would have to choose Hugo Wolf (not that it would be an easy decision by any means.) I've had the opportunity to perform many of his songs, including the entire Italienisches Liederbuch and I don't believe anyone before or since so masterfully wed text and music. Never have I had to think so much about music I've performed. I probably spent just as much time thinking about the music as practicing it.

9. The Daily Show. It's linked on my news-roll. Jon Stewart is the only reason I can handle keeping up with the news these days. He's just so damn funny. Plus, he wasn't afraid of calling the U.S. House of Representatives a "bunch of insane jackasses," and that was before the Mark Foley scandal.

10. Digital cameras. I'm not much of a gadget girl, but I do love our DSLR. It was our big purchase last summer, and we've definitely gotten our money's worth out of it. Paying to develop the hundreds of pictures we have taken of Daniel would cost more than the camera. It's much better to have them taking up lots of hard-drive space as huge folders in iPhoto. Plus, it makes mo-blogging mo-fun:



*Stu just informed me that organic waste that ends up in landfills actually produces methane, a greenhouse gas! So you can either return to the earth what came from the earth in a completely natural way, or dump it in a landfill where it creates more pollution than regular trash. This one's a no-brainer.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Eye-candy Friday



Yes, that is snow.

Freaking Wisconsin.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Statement from the Nickel Mines Amish Community

Any school shooting is horrible, but for some reason the one at the Amish school in Pennsylvania seemed particularly evil to me. I wish I could understand why people do these horrible things, and why this phenomenon is unique to the United States; I wish there was something I could do to stop it.

In the meantime, I was struck by this public statement that I received via email from the pastor of the Madison Mennonite Church.

*Statement of thanks to the public and plans for use of contributions *

Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania – On October 2 seven Amish families in our
community experienced the unimaginable -- ten of their young daughters
were shot, five fatally, by a gunman who invaded the Amish school where
their children attended. The whole community, Amish and others, were
horrified and shocked that such evil could be done to the most innocent
members of our peaceful community.

Messages of condolence and care, financial contributions, and offers of
all kinds of assistance began to pour into the community almost
immediately from the local community and from around the world. We, the
people of the Nickel Mines community, are humbled and deeply thankful
for this outpouring of love. Each act of kindness, the prayers and every
gift, small or large, comfort us and assure us that our spirits will
heal even though the painful loss will always be with us. Thank you for
your generous kindness and for walking with us in this “valley of
death”. We wish we could thank each of you personally.

In those first hours and days we experienced personally the love and
care of our neighbors and the public and private service providers as
they responded tirelessly and selflessly. Specifically, we acknowledge
and thank the following: volunteer fire companies, especially the Bart
Township fire company; fire police; Lancaster County Sheriff’s
Department; Pennsylvania State Police and local law enforcement people;
ambulance and emergency response teams; hospitals and all the related
medical providers; coroners; churches; community volunteer groups;
transportation providers; and the Mennonite Central Committee, Mennonite
Disaster Service, the Anabaptist Foundation and the numerous banks and
businesses that are collecting funds. To all those we failed to mention,
thank you, and apologies for not naming you.

We thank people from the news media who sensitively reported our tragedy
to the world and in many cases wrote thoughtful commentary that helped
the world grapple with values that are dear to us -- forgiveness,
non-violence, mutual caring, simplicity and life in a community of
faith. Above all, thank you for the acts of kindness you showed us even
while you were doing your reporting work.

The Roberts family is also suffering. Please join us in showering care
on them, praying for them and in assisting them with financial needs
that they face.

We have organized the Nickel Mines Accountability Committee to receive
contributions and apply them to the needs that resulted from the
shootings: medical and counseling services, transportation for victims,
transportation and extra living expenses for family members attending to
the victims, rehabilitation, long-term disability care, modifications to
homes or schools if needed to make facilities handicap accessible, and
any other expenses resulting from the event. If adequate funds are
received contributions may be made to charity funds of health service
providers and to volunteer public service entities that responded to
this event without charging for their services. Funds received in excess
of what is needed to respond to the Nickel Mines Amish School tragedy
will be contributed, as the committee deems appropriate, to needs
arising from other tragic events within or outside the Amish community.

Thank you and God bless you.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The best part about waking up...

Remember that mouse? And that other mouse?

He had friends.

And they came looking for him.

Since those incidents, I found a dead mouse in the trap Stuart set in the basement. Then I discovered a package of noodles that had been ripped open. Only 1/4 of the noodles were left, and there was a healthy pile of mouse turds on the shelf by the package.

And then this morning. Oh, this morning. It all started when I was putting some dishes away and noticed suspicious tiny dark brown pellets in one of the bottom cupboards. "Are these mouse turds?" I began to ask, but before I could finish my query, I saw a shadow scuttling into the dark. At first I thought it might be a bug, but no, it had a tail.

To my credit, I didn't scream or even squeal, though I did slam the cupboard shut and jump onto a chair.

The events that followed made me completely lose my appetite for breakfast. Stuart set the trap in the cupboard, we heard it snap a few minutes later, and he had to drown the poor thing in a bucket because for whatever reason, the trap didn't kill it.

All this time, Stu made the espresso, brewed some coffee for the thermos, and I was feeding Daniel his breakfast of peach mush, banana mush and rice cereal flakes.

After the drowning, but before the coffee was ready, we caught Daniel drinking from the sippy cup all by himself for the first time. It may have been an accident, but we're still proud of him.

Then Stuart left for work and I was left to change the mother of all poopy diapers.

It's been an eventful morning.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Mama's boy

Thanks for all the support and suggestions on that last post. I want to address a few things:

1. Teething. Yeah, I guess he's probably teething. I've heard good things about the Hyland teething tablets, though I don't have any here. I do have some teething gel that I've given him already a few times when I've noticed him chewing hard on his fist, and it seems to help. No chompers yet, but that could happen any time now.

2. Co-sleeping. We have taken Daniel into bed with us. In fact, it happens nearly every morning between 4 and 5:30am, as the only alternative is to get up and nurse/comfort him every twenty minutes. I hesitate to keep him in bed with us all night because:

- we've done it before, and it makes it really hard for him to sleep in his crib later
- our bed is only queen-sized and it gets a little cramped when your kid likes to sleep with his arms straight out to the sides
- if I'm right next to him, he likes to nurse at least half the time we're lying there so I end up awake more than asleep and lying on one side with no circulation in my right arm. In other words, it's uncomfortable for me, and actually less restful than getting up and going to the crib frequently.

That said, I don't have issues with other people co-sleeping. There are some parents who put their babies in their own beds in their own rooms from day one and it works fine, and there are some people who co-sleep until their kids are in kindergarten and that works fine, too. So I'm not judging one way or another; we're just trying to figure out what works for us.

3. Swaddling. I hadn't considered that, actually! When Daniel was a wee newborn, we didn't swaddle him often, just when he had evening fussy time, which thankfully wasn't every night. Now he's wriggly and often flips over to his tummy as soon as he's put down for a nap or for the night, so I don't know how well he would stay wrapped in a blanket. It might be worth a shot, though.

4. Water. He's not able to drink by himself from a sippy cup, and he stopped taking a bottle a little while ago, so I think this might be a strategy a little down the road.

5. Keeping him up. I would love to do that, but in addition to frequent night-wakings, Daniel is finicky about naps. Yesterday, for example, he slept for a TOTAL of 45 minutes, and that was spread out over two naps, so keeping him up until 7:15 was already a challenge. Since he started crawling, the nap situation has improved somewhat, but not every day. When he has longer naps, bedtime is a little later and goes more smoothly, certainly, but that's something we have to take day by day.

Aside from the sleep issues, he's such a fun, sweet, sociable little boy, not to mention a bit of a flirt. He also loves to be with his mama. Now that he can easily move from one place to another, he is no longer content sitting just outside of the kitchen playing with his books and blocks, but wants to be literally underfoot "helping" me: