Wednesday, May 31, 2006

100 things: part 3, the lame sequel to the sequel

21. I'm really tired today because the baby has been up a LOT the last couple nights.
22. In fact, last night I woke up around 2am with him sleeping on my belly/chest, and I had no recollection of getting him out of the crib and into my bed.
23. So when I put him back in his crib at 2:30, he woke up several times between then and 5.
24. The night before last, he woke me up at least 4 times between 1 and 5am.
25. I don't nap during the day, so I'm pretty sleep-deprived right now.
26. Thankfully, Stu is currently feeding Daniel a bottle of pumped milk, so I get a teeny weeny little break.
27. I've started practicing piano again! Today I worked on a Mozart duet (for the fall doctoral recital) for about an hour. Daniel was an angel and spent the entire time cooing and playing with a blanket.
28. Keeping up a practice routine is really exhausting when I'm hauling him around, but every day that I practice, I feel like I've accomplished something worthwhile besides washing dishes and wiping up baby puke.
29. But it's worth it because I want to finish my D.M.A. If I don't, I'll spend the rest of my life convinced I wasted my twenties in grad school.
30. I'm too tired to think of something to write here. Sorry!

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

A year ago today...

...is the day I found out baby Daniel was on the way. I remember that I was about 3 days late and couldn't stand it anymore, so I biked to Walgreen's at 7 in the morning to buy a pregnancy test. When that second little pink stripe appeared, I think I uttered pure expletives for about 10 minutes. But I had been through it before.

Almost exactly two years before Daniel was born, I had a miscarriage. That pregnancy had been completely unintentional, the result of our ineptitude with the Fertility Awareness Method. Still, we were really excited about it. Unfortunately, an ultrasound when I was supposed to be 10 weeks along showed no heartbeat and two weeks later I had surgery for the "failed miscarriage" (what a terrible term). Physically I recovered very quickly; I didn't even experience any pain at all after the surgery. Emotionally, it took a little longer, but I came out of it all right.

I've decided to share this story with you, even though it's very personal, because I think it's helpful to get these things out in the open. Until now I haven't told many people about that first pregnancy, just family, a few close friends, and the professors whose classes I kept missing for doctor's appointments. Since then, however, I've heard similar stories from so many friends. The fact that miscarriage is so common doesn't make it any less heartbreaking when you experience it, but it's important to hear other people's stories so you don't feel so alone.

It may surprise you, then, to hear that Daniel wasn't planned either, hence the anxiety a year ago when I took that pregnancy test. I wasn't at all disappointed to be pregnant, but it took me the whole summer to accept the fact that I was actually going to have a baby. I think the reality of it finally sank in when I started to show.

It's amazing to think that in a year, he's gone from this (last July):

to this (last December):

to this (last week):

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Hot and Sweaty

Don't get all excited by the title of this post. Stu, the babe and I went on a short camping trip this weekend. A bunch of folks were there, and the majority of them, Stuart included, biked the 35 miles from Madison to New Glarus State Park. Since Daniel's too small for a bike trailer, I drove the car with all our camping stuff. It's a hot, sticky weekend with possibly record-breaking temperatures, so I'm not sorry that: 1) I didn't bike there, and 2) we only stayed one night. Some of the more hard-core folks have been there since Friday night and will stick it out until tomorrow.

Camping with a baby is a bit of an adventure. For one thing, I was constantly worrying that he was too hot and sweaty. And then there's the whole issue of sun protection. You can't use sunscreen on infants until they're 6 months old, so I was vigilant about staying in the shade and keeping a hat on his head and light blanket over him at all times.

Our tent is tiny, one of those lightweight "2 person" deals made for backpacking, so there's no extra room, especially in terms of width. He could not have gone between us without suffocating. We ended up putting a contoured sleeping pad at the end above our heads and the baby slept in there. Of course, it was the end of the tent facing the sunrise, so when it started getting light at 5, he was awake and rarin' to go. By 5:30, I gave up trying to sleep and took him on a little walk around the dewy (re: soggy) campground.

We discovered last night that baby Daniel can kind of sit up if he's in a Daniel-sized chair:


He didn't seem to mind its pinkness. Also, notice his proud papa carrying him around.

Once we got home, we took showers (ahhhhhhhh) and went out for desperately-needed double espressos. Not only did the baby get us up at the crack of dawn (I like getting up obscenely early when I'm camping anyway), but SOMEONE was blaring music for several hours in the middle of the night, keeping all of us awake. Not good music, either, but a hodge-podge of country music, including Johnny Cash's "Cry, Cry, Cry" over and over and over and, inexplicably, the YMCA song. We wondered why the park ranger didn't do anything about it, but then one of our fellow campers said he'd gotten up in the middle of the night to investigate and discovered that the music was coming from across the highway. Someone else posited that maybe it was coming from a dairy farm, and the music was entertainment for the middle of the night milking. I tell you what, sometimes I feel like a dairy cow in the middle of the night and I don't think the YMCA song would entertain me one little bit.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Sox


My first attempt at posting a picture! This is a pair of socks I made for Steph for her 30th birthday. Harry Potter fans, note the Gryffindor color scheme...

How I got to Madtown

Since there are a few new readers to my blog who haven't seen me in a long while, I'm going to do a quick catch-up post here. And I mean quick, because in a couple hours, I'm leaving for a camping trip (baby's first!) and I have to finish packing the car. It's amazing how much crap you need to go camping.

Anyway, Stuart and I met my freshman year at Bethel College (tiny, but excellent liberal arts school in Kansas) and got together my sophomore year after much Drama. We started looking for graduate schools together, I in music and he in Neuro/Bio/Psychology. He is as smart as they come and was not only accepted, but wooed everywhere. Since I'm in music, a field with lots of students and little funding, my choices were more limited. It was down to UW-Madison or UT-Austin. Both of us liked the programs at UW better than in Texas, so we came here. After living here for a year, we got married (the wedding was in Kansas). Lots of Madisonians came here for grad school and stayed because it's such a nice place to live (good schools, tons of parks, a dozen farmers' markets, great bike trails, thriving music scene, etc etc). We're kind of like that, but we're not sure if we're going to be here permanently, as the job possibilities for me are very limited here.

Stuart got weary of rat research after 4 years and dropped out of grad school for a job in computers, which he likes. He works for a healthcare software company here. After two masters' degrees and half of a doctorate, I'm still languishing in grad school. I like the music department, and they like me. The baby was a happy surprise, so it'll take me a little longer to finish than I originally anticipated, but that's OK.

Hope that's enough catch-up for everyone. Daniel is waking up from his nap, so I better go.

Happy long weekend, all!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Creating

I have always loved to make things. When I was a little kid, I got one of those potholder-making sets for my birthday. Mom got a lot of new potholders that year. When I was in second grade, the stage when every little girl wants a horse of her own, I settled for learning how to draw horses. I would finish my spelling quizzes before everyone else and practice drawing horses on the back.

When I was 8, my mother wisely enrolled me in 4-H sewing and knitting rather than teaching me at home. (Actually, she taught the knitting classes, but since there were other kids there, we didn't butt heads like we would have, had it been one-on-one learning.) The projects for the first couple years were horrendous. Everyone had to do the same thing, and the only creative flexibility allowed was in the choosing of fabric/color of yarn. The first sewing project was a skirt with elastic waist in a length and fullness flattering to no-one, not even an 8-year-old. I never wore it. The second sewing project was a jumper with a drop-waist, slightly less horrible than the skirt, but I didn't ever wear it, either. After that, things got better. By the third year, you could choose your pattern, so there was a small chance you'd make something stylish. Of course, most of us in 4-H sewing were too geeky to really choose a non-geeky pattern, but I somehow managed to slide by with a striped t-shirt and cropped pants that didn't look too bad.

The required knitting patterns were even worse. We had to use Red Heart yarn, which is 100% yucky, squeaky acrylic. (It's also very cheap and available at places like Wal-Mart, making the projects affordable for anyone; I guess there IS something to be said for that.) The first knitting project was garter-stitch slippers. Mine were yellow and they didn't stay on my feet very well. The second-year project was striped mittens and a beret that was at least 10 years out of date, even in the 80s. I don't think I finished mine. Again, with knitting, by the third year we could choose our own patterns (with guidelines) and yarn. I made a red vest, and it took forever.

In middle school I made dresses and skirts for my Samantha doll (from the American Girls by Pleasant Company; incidentally, Pleasant Roland lives in Madison and is a big supporter of the arts here), but I admitted it to almost no-one. Other kids my age were finding their first boyfriends but I was a shrimp with a bad perm who didn't even wear a bra yet, so it's no wonder I didn't get much male attention. Not the kind I wanted, anyway.

Now that I'm grown up, I still make stuff. My sewing abilities are, heh heh, so-so (pun abso-diddle-utely intended!!), but I've made a few quilts that have turned out very nice. Baby quilts are the best because I can actually finish those. And since my friend Autumn taught me how to make socks a few years ago, I am a knitting fiend. Of course, I was a knitter BEFORE it was cool, but I love that it's such a popular hobby now. New patterns and yarn shops are popping up everywhere, and the plethora of colors and fibers and creative possibilities makes me giddy.

I don't make much for myself, because I've discovered that I am a process knitter. The act of making an item is much more enjoyable to me than actually owning that item once it's finished. Before Stuart was my husband, I made him a sweater that he never wears, and it doesn't even bother me. I've made baby sweaters for people I barely know, just as an excuse to knit something to give away. (Plus, I feel less guilty about buying yarn if it's going to be made into a gift.)

I also have the problem many creative-types have: starting-more-projects-than-you-can-ever-finish-itis. It just comes with the territory, people.

I come from creative stock, mind you. My mom is a master of the fiber arts, especially quilting, and has made some gorgeous things, many of her own design. My dad has designed and made beautiful furniture, and even helped me (or rather, I helped him) make some pine bookshelves the summer after I graduated from college. My brother is an engineer and invented his own theramin. I have uncles and cousins who do original woodworking, and other cousins who write so elegantly it puts me to shame.

I've been reading the most inspiring book about knitting, called Mason-Dixon Knitting. This book will definitely be on my Christmas list. They also have a blog.
It's full of rather unusual knitted household items. I want to make linen handtowels, a lace bathroom curtain, and a garter-stitch log cabin baby blanket. There are also several wonderful stories about kids' interests and projects in knitting--a rug out of potholder loops, for example. It got me to thinking about my kid (to be plural in the future, probably), and how much I'll enjoy being creative with him (them) in a few years. Fingerpaints, cut-out cookies, play-dough sculptures, music-making, maybe even knitting...(or, my kids could be jocks only interested in kicking around a soccer ball. I'll just go with the flow...)

I could wax poetic about the creative process and the value and personal satisfaction of making things yourself, but many people have done that more eloquently than I. Besides, I think all you creative folks out there know it already in your hearts.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

100 things: part the second

If you're wondering what this is about, see this post.

11. I teach 5 piano students once a week at the home of one of the families.
12. Yesterday the last lesson was rather disrupted by the dog, the baby and a baseball bat.
13. See, I was teaching this kid, and we had to have the dog (a sweet golden retriever named Grace) in the room so he wouldn't bother the baby.
14. The dog is very friendly and came over to me to say hi.
15. I hate when dogs lick me.
16. I particularly hate when dogs lick me on the chest because they can smell my milk.
17. I REALLY particularly hate when dogs lick me on the chest while I'm trying to teach a pre-pubescent boy how to play a jazz piece.
18. It didn't help my self-consciousness when the baby was crying hard from being really hungry so I had to breastfeed him during the lesson (he was unaffected by the dog slobber, apparently).
19. Then the student's little sister came in and insisted that he find her baseball bat, which he had apparently misplaced. That made interruption #3 in a lesson that was turning out to be not so productive.
20. I think when this gig is up I should really not teach at people's houses anymore.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Baby!

My cousin Phil and his wife Andrea became parents today. As of about 2pm they have a daughter named Zoe. Now Daniel has a second cousin! Am anxiously awaiting emails with pictures, etc. Am also pumped that someone is finally having a baby girl so I can knit frilly things that Daniel can't wear.

100 things: first installment

Steph did this on her blog, which I WOULD link to all clever-like, but even the tutorial for dumbasses on blogger.com didn't make sense to me, so I'll just give you the url directly: http://sweetwaterjournal.blogspot.com/2006/05/i-celebrate-birthday-by-doing-this.html

Anyway, she said I have to do it, too, so here I go. Of course, I can't ever get enough time to list 100 things at once (see previous post about little D's mini-naps), so I'll do it in installments of 10.*

1. I have a son named Daniel who is 3 1/2 months old.
2. He poops once a week (or less) and naps about 6 times a day.
3. I'm waiting for those stats to change to 6 poops a week and 2 naps a day.
4. I think a lot more about poop than I did 3 1/2 months ago.
5. The last poop began with a squirt and ended with me using the following tools: rubber gloves (hereafter designated the "poop gloves"), a 5-gallon bucket, the spray nozzle attachment at the end of the hose outside.
6. I have about 8 pounds of baby belly left to lose before I'm back to my original size. I recently read that Brooke Shields only gained 23 pounds with her last pregnancy, and that Katie Holmes, who gave birth at the same time and same hospital as Brooke Shields (about a month ago) boldly appeared in public even though she hasn't lost all the baby weight yet. Ohmigod. Spare me, already.
7. It's a good thing babies are more resilient than plants, because I planted green peppers in 16 peat pots, and only 3 have survived. They have fared much better than my multiple attempts at tomato and basil seedlings; they all died weeks ago.
8. Evil bunnies ate everything I planted last year that wasn't a tomato, a pepper or an herb. This year, I put up a fence. Ha!
9. I do enjoy watching the bunnies eating dandelions. They slurp them down like spaghetti.
10. Madison probably has the country's best farmers' markets, so I don't know why I even bother to grow stuff in my own yard.

When will the next installment be? Well, I guess y'all'll just have to keep checking my blog to find out. Heh heh.

*Hey, I'm figuring out this link thing. Or rather, my husband is and I'm taking his instructions. I still don't get it, but whatever. Here's a link to that post on Steph's blog. Oh my gosh, that was so easy, I feel kind of dumb for not figuring it out before.

Naptime and recital planning

Right now Daniel takes short naps: 20-30 minutes apiece. Just long enough for me to spend a few minutes deciding how I want to spend that time, and start said activity before he wakes up. For example, it took three tries to do the dishes this morning (oh, I wish I wish I wish we had a dishwasher!). I just got him to sleep again, and I'm thinking, how shall I spend this valuable time? Shall I do yet another round of dishes? Shall I knit a few rounds on that sock I just started? Shall I post on my blog about how I don't know what to do with these glorious 20 minutes?

Obviously, I chose the latter option.

One of these days, Daniel will do away with his half dozen mini-naps and start taking two or three longer naps every day. I look forward to that time.

I've been planning my next DMA recital. I'm particularly excited about this one. I plan to do an entire program of piano duos (2 people, 2 pianos) and duets (2 people, one piano) with a friend of mine, great pianist, who just graduated with her MM in Collaborative Piano. There's so much repertoire it's hard to choose, but we've narrowed things down thusfar:

Mozart FM sonata (duet)
Poulenc sonata for 2 pianos
Debussy Six Epigraphes (duet)
Stravinsky's Rite of Spring (arranged for duet, probably just the first suite)
Dvorak Slavonic Dances (just a selection; there are a ton of these)

A program with all of this might still be too long, so something's got to go, but I just can't decide what. Mozart is spinach to piano players, really good for you but a lot of work to, um, digest. The Poulenc is so cool I have to do it. The Debussy is short but very advanced musically. The Stravinsky, well, it's Rite of Spring, need I say more? And the Dvorak would just be fun, something to balance the heaviness of Debussy and Poulenc (I know, you music types are thinking "Poulenc? Heavy?" But listen to this piece; it's not his lighter fare.) I also like that the only German thing on the program is Mozart. Schubert, Schumann and Brahms wrote some GREAT duets, but 19th German music is not my, ahem, forte. Not like French music and 20th century, anyway.

Ech, what a boring post. Basically, it's just me thinking out loud. Sorry, folks, that I don't have anything more interesting to say...unless you'd like to read about the baby's latest poop! But no, no, you really don't want to know.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Ann's Wedding

I went to a wedding today. Ann, my best friend from our painful days in middle school and slightly more tolerable days in high school, tied the knot. It was kind of strange for me. I haven't lived in Kentucky since I graduated from high school 10 (!) years ago, so I saw people at this wedding I haven't seen in a decade. It brought back lots of memories, like waiting at the bus stop with Ann when we were in sixth grade. Her older brother Everett waited for the high school bus across the street. I remember that we called him "Bubba" and that he sprained his ankle that year. In high school, I started going to church with her because I didn't fit in with the youth group at my parents' church. I went to church camp with her for two summers in a row, the kind of church camp with Bible drills and tent-revival-esque evening worship services and lots and lots of praise songs with guitars and overheads, the kind of church camp I would never, ever send my kid to today. I cringe to think about how immature I was at 15.

We sort of drifted apart at the end of high school. I am now more aware of some of the stuff she was going through, but I'll keep that private. Suffice it to say, I regret that I wasn't sensitive or understanding enough to empathize with my friends' problems at that time in my life. I hope I've improved in that respect.

The groom is from India, so the wedding was telecast to his family there. Ann looked beautiful. The ceremony was lovely, and it was also, to borrow a word from Anne Lamott, Jesus-y. There were many prayers, one even in the groom's native language, and they chose some heavy-hitters for Scripture readings, the evangelical-salvation-oriented verses like the one with the phrase "every knee shall bow." Still, there were some eclectic reminders that this was the same, goofy Ann I met at the bus stop. For one thing, the recessional was a recording of Elvis Presley's "I'm all shook up."

I wondered if I would see any other high school friends, and that made me a little nervous. It turned out that the only one was my friend Jennifer, who was one of the bridesmaids. She has a blog, too, and as soon as I get it together enough to actually put links on this blog, I'll put it on the not-yet-existent blogroll.

Tomorrow I return to Madison, to my own house with a high speed internet connection, and to my husband, whom I miss terribly right now. He went back home on Tuesday, and it's the first time he's been away from me and the baby overnight. Jennifer is a single mother of an 8-yr-old boy. I've always respected her for raising him on her own, but now that I have a child myself, I have to say I don't know how she's managed. Parenting is hard enough when you've got a partner to help you. I've only been alone with my child for a few days, and I have my mom and dad to hold him when I need a break, and I'm still exhausted. Kudos, Jenn.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Y'all will be relieved to know (or maybe you don't care...) that little Daniel finally pooped the afternoon that I blogged about it. Fortunately for me, he was with his Oma and Opa while I was out disc golfing with Stu and my brother Joe and his friend Marcus, so I didn't even have to clean it up! And I promise, no more daily updates on baby poop. I realize it's gross.

The weather was finally nice enough to walk to the library today. It's about a mile walk, and when you're carrying a 16-lb kid, it's a bit of a trek, but I really needed to get out of the house and breathe some fresh air. I've noticed that the houses in this neighborhood have a lot of tacky shit in their lawns. One yard had an assortment of plastic animals and a white madonna statue. A house down the road from my parents has fake flowers stuck in mulch. My parents' next door neighbors are, to put it mildly, white trash, so our view of their back yard consists of: a rusty shed, a broken-down van, one of those RV trailers you can pull behind a truck, and an above-ground pool with slimy green water. There's basically no lawn left back there. I think the house that takes the cake, though, is the one about a block down the street with an American flag painted over the entire fence, a good 15 ft long by 6 ft tall, complete with white wooden stars nailed on. They have a van in the driveway with a Nascar bumper sticker. I'll say no more.

Kentucky is breathtakingly gorgeous, especially at this time of year. I can't describe it without sounding overly sentimental, but I love just seeing the countryside. It's lush and green and there are black fences and stone fences and tobacco barns and beautiful tall horses grazing in pastures and old brick churches off the curvy two-lane highways. There are times my heart aches for this place, rednecks and tacky lawn decor and all.

Monday, May 15, 2006

My Old Kentucky Home, part 2

We've been in Kentucky for three days now, and I finally made it to the public library to check my email and update this blog.

We went to church yesterday. Going back to my old church always feels kind of weird. It's a Baptist church, but before all y'all recoil in horror, let me qualify this by saying that not all Baptist churches are scary, judgemental and fundamentalist. My parents wouldn't go to a church like that. Still, there are elements that I am not particularly accustomed to, like the invitation at the end of the service, where if you're ready to accept Jesus Christ as your personal savior, you walk up to the front to make that decision public. And the coiffed, made-up middle-aged ladies who gather around the new babies and say things like, "Oh little darlin', aren't you just so cyooooooote [cute]!" in heavy southern accents. Also, yesterday morning was the first time I had sung "Jesus Loves Me" with organ accompaniment.

Little Daniel has done pretty well this trip. I was anxious that he would fuss and cry during the flight down, but he did amazingly well. Our big concern is that he has yet to poop. It's been nine days, people, and I'm starting to get concerned. Breastmilk is a natural laxative and that's all he eats, so I don't think there's anything we can do other than wait. Stuart just talked to the doctor, who told him "it could be up to two weeks," so I guess we're OK. When it happens, I assure you that I'll write about it. It's going to be a doozy of a two-sy.

Friday, May 12, 2006

My Old Kentucky Home

I'm going to Kentucky for a week, y'all! I should hopefully be blogging from there. My parents have dial-up, so the connection is
S
L
O
W

...but I'll probably be going to the public library, so I'll blog from there.

I'm glad to be getting away from Madison, where the weather is craptastic. It's really cold and wet and windy and I hope it's nice and sunny down south.

In other news, I had a mole removed a week ago. Today, I went in to get the stitches removed and everything came back negative. That means it was benign. Not that I was worried, but it's still a relief!

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Knitting

I go to this knitting group once a week at a quilt/yarn shop about a mile from my house. I go because I just adore the other ladies in this group. Two of them are new moms like myself who bring their babies. The rest are women that could very well be our mothers, and a couple could possibly be our grandmothers, and they're all a delight.

Yesterday, while I was chatting it up with Cami (who spends as much time holding and talking to my kid than actually knitting), a jolly, buxom dame ambled up to look through the patterns. We got on the topic of who taught us to knit. "Well," she said in a faintly British accent, "my mum didn't have the patience to teach me, but my grandmother taught all of us, even the boys. She would set us all down with needles and wool and yell instructions from the kitchen: 'in, around, out and off!' We would knit little garter stitch squares and then we'd fold them in half and sew up one side and put ribbons on the bottom to make pixie hats. I wore mine to school. I suppose that was a bit daft, wasn't it?" We invited her to join us next week. I do so hope she comes.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Poison ivy

I'm having one of those "trapped inside with the baby" days. It's raining, raining, raining, which is good for the garden, but bad for my psyche. Normally on a day where I really have nothing to do but clean the house and take care of Daniel, I try and take a little walk around the neighborhood to 1) pretend I'm getting regular exercise and 2) prevent myself from going nuts. The rain, though, has pretty much done away with that idea.

The rain may also be doing away with the poison that Stu sprayed on the poison ivy a couple days ago. Remember how I had a conniption fit about the ^*%$ ChemLawn people coming to my door because I don't want their chemicals on my property? Well, my ideal of a pesticide-free lawn stops short of letting poison ivy grow willy-nilly. It's sprouting up in the front of the house and is practically carpeting the back of the backyard. If it were just me, I wouldn't worry about it, because I have yet to break out in a rash from poison ivy, despite having exposed myself to it many, many times. (Last summer I was pulling it up with my bare hands, thinking it was a regular weed, before I realized what it was.) But thinking ahead to when little Daniel is no longer a squirming, immobile infant but a mobile toddler motivated us to get rid of the poison ivy right now. So we broke down and bought some serious weed-killer with a sprayer. Oh, and we had to accessorize; by the time Stu was ready to go, he was decked out in thick latex gloves, safety goggles, and one of those face masks everyone in Hong Kong wore during the SARS scare. He's sure to set a trend.

I feel the same way about this poison ivy that Bush must feel about terrorists. I want to kill it wherever it's growing, and if some other plants are caught in the fray (or the spray!), that's just too bad. It comes up everywhere, running its insidious little vines all over any place with the littlest bit of shade. There are poison ivy "cells" growing under the porch, around the birch tree, and around the edges of the tarp and mulch I put down last year.

I feel the same way about poison ivy that I do about cockroaches: thou wilst be doneth away with my any means necessary. Our first apartment in Madison had a cockroach problem of epic proportions. At first, when I saw a roach, I would squeal, grab a tissue, squash it gingerly, and throw it in the toilet. Soon there were so many roaches that I only bothered killing the big ones, and I would do it with my bare fist, sweeping the carcass into the trash. I found a nest of cockroaches in an empty peanut butter jar. Once I found a litter of newly-hatched baby roaches posing as coffee grounds in the lid of the coffee grinder (fortunately, I realized what they were before brewing a cup). The worst incident, though, was when we were heating up leftover burritos in the microwave and saw a couple of roaches running around inside as if nothing was happening, like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (or however you spell it). It was truly biblical.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Newly inspired

Yesterday I played with a cellist on a recital. This wasn't my first performance since having a baby, but it was the first one on piano (I played harpsichord on the other two). We played a Beethoven sonata and the Shostakovich sonata, both quite difficult pieces, and both went quite well. And here's the honest truth: it felt GOOD. For all my waffling and confusion of the past few months (years), there are times when it is crystal clear to me that I am doing the right thing, and yesterday's recital was one of those times. Today, the prospect of choosing new repertoire for my next performance is exciting. Later this week I'm getting a pile of new music from a singer for a fall recital and I can't wait. So for right now, things are looking good.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Why you should never take your kid to cello class

This story is going to sound remarkably like the one where I took my kid to the anniversary dinner last Friday.

See, my boy is an angel...about 90% of the time. Whenever I leave him with my friend Rachel, he cuddles and coos and naps and causes no trouble. Whenever people stop by to say hello, he charms the stuffing out of them with his gurgles and adorable smile. Unfortunately, that other 10% of the time happens to coincide with times when it's Very Important that he be Quiet. Let's take Monday, for example. I was playing with a cellist in her studio class in preparation for a recital we're doing this weekend. I brought him with me because I figured oh, he's usually sleepy in the middle of the day, and after all, we're only playing for about 20 minutes. He'll be OK. Right. Baby Daniel squawked once during our rehearsal, but saved the big meltdown for later, when we were playing in front of the entire cello studio. He went from sleeping to full-out screaming in about ten seconds. He was obviously hungry (despite having nursed about 45 minutes before), so there was nothing to do but stop playing, re-arrange that day's schedule so that we would play last, and have me take the "shrieking sprog" out to the lobby where he at least wouldn't disturb so many people at once. Yeesh. Then, of course, he was cool as a cucumber from then until we resumed the piece in class an hour later; at least this time my friend picked him up to jiggle him a little and he was OK.

Everyone understands that three-month-old babies are unpredictable. No one blamed me. The cello professor was great about it and even gave the squirt a little Feldenkreis massage. But it still made me feel self-conscious and distracted. Boy, this parenting thing is going to be an interesting ride.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Stephen Colbert is my new boyfriend

If you haven't watched Stephen Colbert's speech at the White House Correspondents' dinner, go find it now. Google it, or go to ifilm or youtube or whatever you have to do. Colbert roasted G Dubya Bush while the man was sitting RIGHT BESIDE HIM and it was brilliant.

Enjoy your scrod, old buddy. Enjoy your scrod.

Following up on that last post...

I realize that when I write about my "career" or my "life as a musician," I often sound negative and conflicted. I don't mean to be whiny, I'm just trying to be candid. Today, though, I want to have an optimistic take on things and describe my ideal job, should the opportunity ever present itself:

I want to work in an academic setting. It's not just that you get your summers off; I'm also attracted to the intellectual environment. I would like to teach in a college prep program, or work as an accompanist and chamber coach for college students. Ideally, I would do a little of both. It's unfortunate that jobs like these are often poorly-paid adjunct positions that most pianists take just as a stop-gap until they find better work elsewhere, but I don't care. For now, it's what I'd like to do.

Sadly, Madison has no college prep school for music study, though I believe it's one of the long-term goals of the pedagogy program at the University. There are plenty of independent studios in this town, but the pay ranges from bad to terrible and the students are often of dubious quality. (I taught at a studio for four years, and while there were certainly some rewarding moments, I had my share of duds.)

I've also thought about Arts Administration. There's a cracking good MBA program in Arts Admin at UW, and I've considered applying. I even bought a GMAT study guide. I could see myself working for a non-profit organization, maybe in some form of arts outreach. But while I find such things appealing, starting yet another graduate degree seems excessive.

So there you have it. I DO have goals after all! Between having kids and finishing this doctorate, who knows when I'll get to them, but today, at least, I have hope that things will work out some way or another.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

What do I wanna be when I grow up?

When I was really little I wanted to learn ballet, but I never got lessons.

When I was eight, I wanted to learn all about horses, but it was way too expensive.

When I was nine, I wanted to become an astronomer or a mathematician, and when I was eleven, I wanted to be an electrical engineer, but I guess somewhere along the way I was swayed by society's subtle implications that girls don't do that stuff.

When I was twelve, all my classmates thought I would become a brain surgeon or find the cure for AIDS, but they didn't know I was way too squeamish for medical school. I wanted to be a writer, but my stories were terrible.

When I was thirteen, I wanted to be an actress, but, mercifully, I figured out I wasn't that good fairly early on.

When I was fifteen, I wanted to become fluent in French and be a translator, but our school's French program was not so great and I didn't practice speaking. To this day I can't understand a word of French that I hear.

When I was sixteen, I decided I wanted to be a musician. I played the flute and the piano, but I never practiced enough.

When I was in college I majored in music anyway and decided to be a piano teacher. I even went to grad school for it, but after teaching too many rich kids who really didn't care, it lost its appeal.

When I was in grad school for my first masters (in pedagogy and performance), I decided I wanted to be a collaborative pianist, so I stayed in grad school to study that instead.

Today I'm still a grad student trying to pass as a professional musician. I'm 27 and I've never had a "real" (i.e. full time) job (my 3-day stint at Shoney's doesn't count, and no, I don't want to talk about it), and I still wonder if I made the right decision. Perhaps I decided too early to pursue music; perhaps I was naive and should have considered other areas more carefully before ruling them out. How would I have fared in science or engineering? What if I had majored in math? Or languages?

I'm good at piano because I've been doing it for a long time and I'm diligent. I'm not gifted, but I at least have talent. I've noticed, though, that when people compliment my skills, they say that I am reliable, organized, articulate, competent and thoughtful. These are all good qualities, to be sure. Think of your favorite musician, though. What's the first word that comes to mind. Is it "organized"? I didn't think so.

I think I'm too old to start over, even if I wanted to. I have a kid, so when I feel discouraged, I figure I can just hide behind motherhood for a little while.

At the very least, I suppose I would make a kick-ass secretary.

Monday, May 01, 2006

How do you spell anal retentive?

Do you ever get caught up in a task that is seemingly trivial, mindlessly repetitive and yet find it oddly satisfying? I have spent a considerable amount of time untangling yarn to wind into balls. I know that sounds like the most boring thing to do, but once I get started it's hard to stop.

The same thing happened a few weeks ago when the baby had a bad case of cradle cap. That's basically just a layer of dry skin on the top of the scalp that every baby gets, kind of like severe dandruff. It's not at all harmful, but it's kind of gross. To get rid of it, you rub oil on the scalp, then shampoo it, then scrape off the dead skin with your fingernails and comb it out. The day I tried this, I became obsessed with getting every damn chunk of dry skin off of little Daniel's scalp. He hated it (wouldn't you get a little pissy if someone was constantly scratching your scalp and picking out the dandruff?), but I couldn't help it. I would wait until he was nursing, or taking a nap, and sneak up on him with my claw-fingers and a fine-tooth comb. It took a couple days of this, but I finally got it all.

Last Thanksgiving Stuart and I discovered that our wheeled office chairs were no longer rolling across the floor, just sliding. Why weren't the wheels turning? Upon close inspection we discovered the culprit: lots of hair had been caught up in the castors, preventing them from turning or rotating. We couldn't just leave them that way. So we set ourselves on the couch, turned those office chairs upside-down and began digging out all that hair and dust. We used scissors, pocket knives, even an ice pick and several pairs of pliars. Some of that hair was really stubborn. Does it sound disgusting? It was totally disgusting! Yet we couldn't stop until the task was done. Never mind that a pie needed baking and potatoes needed mashing. These office chairs were going to be hair-free come hell or high water. About two hours and many creative tools later, we finally finished. Oh, the satisfaction! The feeling of accomplishment!

Enough of this craziness. I have yarn to untangle and a sock drawer to organize.