Wednesday, April 29, 2009

20 things

1. A couple of weeks ago, Anya decided that walking really is the best way to get around after all. She's very pleased with herself and reserves scooting for getting down steps. She's also getting pretty good at climbing up playground equipment.

2. Fortunately, it's been warm enough (mostly) to enjoy playground equipment!

3. The sort-of warm weather got me thinking about swimming, and I decided to take the plunge (hee) and join a pool this summer and get the kids into lessons.

4. This meant I had to buy a swim suit, so I went to Lands End a few weeks ago when all their swim stuff was on sale and tried some things on.

5. I'd rather have my teeth pulled than try on swimwear.

6. At least I found something suitable (hee again).

7. I got swim stuff for the kids, too. Daniel is VERY excited about going to the pool (even though it doesn't open for several weeks).

8. Daniel can spell "pool." He can also spell our names and at least 40 or 50 other words on the computer or with his alphabet puzzle.

9. He can write his own name, too, and likes to practice drawing letters outside with sidewalk chalk.

10. You'd think he'd be ready for preschool.

11. I'm certainly ready for him to go to preschool a couple mornings a week.

12. Unfortunately, he's backtracked so far on potty training that we're basically back to square one. It's incredibly frustrating and makes me wonder what on earth I did wrong.

13. Please don't give me potty training advice. I've already been bombarded with advice and none of it has worked. TRUST ME ON THIS. Right now I'm keeping quiet about it and trying to wait patiently for him to decide he's ready.

14. Though I'm convinced right now he'll be wearing pull-ups to college.

15. At least he call spell "pee" and "poop."

16. The swine flu has me a little freaked out.*

17. I don't know if that's because I should be freaked out or if it's because that's all I'm hearing on the news. And the only news I manage to hear in between trips to the park, the grocery store and what-have-you is about 10 minutes of NPR in the morning and 10 minutes in the afternoon.

18. Somehow, I've been pretty rational and calm all the other public health crises of the past few years, like E. coli breakouts and SARS and bird flu, but this is different. Maybe that's because I have kids now so my general anxiety level is just higher.

19. Thank goodness for knitting. I've been doing a lot of knitting lately, and it really helps me feel productive and centered.

20. Gratuitous pictures!

*I just read this and am feeling somewhat reassured.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

practice break

It used to be exciting to sit down with a brand spanking new piece of music, full of potential and not yet covered in scrawling, penciled reminders not to rush, not to drag, remember to count, use third finger, this is a first inversion g diminished triad. The first read-through would be a fun challenge: what will this sound like? Can I play it up to tempo yet? What sections will I have to work on?

Nowadays I hate that first practice session with a new piece. It's just so stressful to look at all those notes I can't yet play and try to calculate how many hours it will take to learn it well enough to get by. Do I have enough hours on the weekend to learn this? I stumble through page by page, trying my best to ignore the messy house around me, the dishes that have not been washed, the lunch that has not been fixed, the laundry that has not been done, as my Saturday slips away.

Clearly, I am having this problem right now or I wouldn't be blogging it. Earlier this week at a rehearsal I ran into a composer/singer/conductor friend of mine who asked me to play a set of songs he wrote. I said I'd look at them. When I got them, I said yes because he's a fine composer, a fine singer (a fine musician all around, really), and he's my friend. And the songs are all settings of random quotes by George W. Bush - they're really good songs. And the concert is a benefit for Human Rights and Peace organizations. It was hard to say no.

I am starting to regret saying yes, though, because now I have to spend every free minute I can find learning these songs, and they're not easy. Since the concert is in two weeks, we may cut the hardest one, so that helps, but I am still in full stress mode and feeling really overwhelmed.

Will I ever stop feeling ambivalent and torn about every gig I agree to? When I have nothing to work towards in my professional life, I get ancy and resentful of all the housework and childcare I do around the clock. When I do have music to learn, I berate myself for piling on the extra stress and I worry about learning it in time and playing well. It sucks that I can't feel satisfied either way.

In about two minutes I will go back to the piano, look at those songs, and allow myself to feel completely overwhelmed for a moment. But only a moment. Because I have to learn them and I can't let myself or my friend (or our audience) down. One song at a time. One page at a time. One difficult passage at a time.

Somehow I will get it done. I always do.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

her grandmothers' genes

One thing my mother and my mother-in-law have in common is a dislike or intolerance of spicy food. Each has her own way of showing it. If a dish is too spicy-hot, my mother-in-law will eat what she can and choke discreetly with sips of cool water. My mother will sigh dramatically, take large gulps of water, flap her hand in front of her mouth, then ask politely "How exactly did you season this?"

This is not the case for the men they married or the children they bore. My dad, my brother, my husband, my father-in-law, my brother-in-law and I all share a liking for spicy food. My BIL will go into a Thai restaurant, order the hottest thing on the menu, then get sriracha on the side in case it's not hot enough. I've seen my brother dump spoonfuls of habanero pepper onto his tacos, go red in the face, sweat profusely at the collar, and claim "it's really not so bad."

This incongruity in spice tolerance means whenever there's a family meal, the dishes are made to suit the delicate palates of the elder ladies, but generous bottles of hot sauce and chili powder are provided for those of us who have killed off more capsaicin receptors than we like to admit.

Tonight when I was making egg curry for dinner, I must have spilled some cayenne pepper on the floor. I get almost all my spices from Penzey's, and I've noticed that their cayenne is much more potent than anything I've gotten at the grocery store or even the bulk spices bin at the co-op. Anya spends a lot of time on the floor, and she obviously scooted her way through that dusting of cayenne because out of the blue, her face turned red and she started wailing with pain. Stuart saw red powder on her fingers and immediately rinsed her hands, but it was too late. The damage was done. For the next 20 minutes, my poor baby girl cried and cried and cried. She refused to be held. She refused to nurse. She refused to have a drink or water or milk. She refused a cold wet washcloth to suck on. She just bounced around the kitchen with her fingers in her mouth, crying pitifully, with her eyes watering, her nose running, drooling profusely.

There was nothing to do but wait it out. After several minutes of misery, Stuart managed to distract her by taking her to the window and playing with the blinds. Eventually, her sobs abated and she happily ate some goldfish crackers and shredded cheese for dinner. After a few bedtime stories, all was forgotten.

She's got a long way to go before she sets a world record.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

easter eggs and child psychology

Because Daniel is three years old, his answer is always "Noooo!" when I ask him if he wants to do something. This is the case even if it's something he would like to do. I am slowly but surely figuring out how to present potentially fun activities in a way that makes them as enticing as possible.

Yesterday, for instance, I decided to dye Easter eggs. I remember doing this as a child and really enjoying it. I knew Daniel would get a kick out of it, but I also knew that if I said "Hey, Daniel, would you like to dye some eggs?" his answer would inevitably be "Nooo, I don't want to." I picked up one of those Paas egg kits you can get anywhere for $1.49; you know, the kind with dye tablets and stickers and little plastic egg wraps. I lined up 6 coffee mugs, one for each color, on the table and put a few tablespoons of vinegar in each one. "Daniel, I need your help with something!" I called. He saw the cups lined up on the table and was instantly intrigued.

From then on it was easy. I brought out crayons to scribble on the eggs. I let him drop the dye tablets in the vinegar, and we watched as they fizzed and popped into bright easter colors. I think his favorite part of the whole process was dropping eggs into the cups and later when they were dry, peeling tiny stickers off the sticker sheet and sticking them to the dyed eggs.

It's hard to remember sometimes that when it comes to little kids and creative projects like dyeing eggs or painting a picture or what-have-you, the fun is the process. The end product has very little to do with it. When Daniel paints with his little watercolor set, he almost exclusively uses black and brown. He takes the brush, squishes it into what's left of those colors, smears a few poop-colored lines onto the paper, and he's done. Sometimes he'll mix black into another color like purple or red and paint a few stripes, but mostly he sticks to what he knows and likes. I have to stop myself from trying to make him use more colors or paint something representational. He's only 3, after all.

Of course, when it comes to cookies, very little coaxing is needed. Daniel helped me for at least an hour this morning cutting out pieces with the cookie cutter and choosing icing colors. He wanted to use brown, but I'm sorry, cookies with brown-colored icing (that's not chocolate) is where I draw the line. He happily made due with golden yellow instead.

Happy Easter!

Thursday, April 09, 2009

we might need a new place for the dirty laundry

*scooooot, shoooove, grunt, scooooot, thump*

"Mooooom, where's your Dan'l?"

This morning I heard him reading (reciting, really) Good Night, Moon to himself in there. The strange things kids do...

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

moving on

Last week at my knitting group, one of our number announced that her husband got a new job, so she and her family will be moving to North Carolina before the summer's out. Today, another knitting friend of mine told us that she and her husband sold their house the day they put it on the market and will be moving somewhere south (perhaps Indiana where her daughter lives, or perhaps Kentucky to a nicer city but still close to her daughter) by the end of June.

"Why are you all leaving me?!" I want to say. Of course I know why. New jobs, proximity to family. Warmer weather is a plus. (Dude, Wisconsin SUCKS right now. It got up to 50 today and felt downright balmy compared to the miserably cold temps we've been having.)

When Daniel was born, I kind of lost my footing, socially. I was still a grad student, but hardly ever on campus, and I lost touch with most of my friends. Shortly after Daniel was born, I was wandering around a local yarn shop in a postpartum haze and stumbled upon an informal knitting group. They invited me to join them, so I did. I kept showing up, and they didn't seem to mind, and by now I would say some of them are my closest friends.

These women, it's not like their friendship with me would keep them here. I know they're happy to have these life opportunities, even if they'll be sad to leave Madison. But I will certainly miss them. For the past three years, the women in my knitting group have been an anchor to my sanity. They are funny, smart, capable, caring people who somehow find me interesting.

I'm not moping just yet. It's not quite time to say good-bye. Not everyone is leaving, and I still have a couple months with A and J before they move. We'll have to make the most of it.