Monday, February 28, 2011

7 Facts: Music Edition

Amy from A Chase After Wind, whose blog I very much enjoy, tagged me in a 7 Things meme last week. (I'm trying to remember how I first found Amy online; I think she left some gracious, gentle comments about a difficult faith issue on a very famous blog we both read and I really appreciated her perspective. And she lives in St. Louis, where all my extended family lives!)  I do so love me a meme, and it is rather a dreary day around here with Grace having strep throat and Violet being worrisomely fussy, so here are seven facts from me.  Amy did hers with a theme (her feet!) and a theme seemed like a good idea to me, so mine will be all about music.
  1. I have been just FULL of nostalgia lately for 90s music, for some inexplicable reason.  I turned 12 in 1990 and 22 in 2000, so obviously this was an important decade musically for me, but really, I just love so much of that music-- grunge and women singer-songwriters and Smashing Pumpkins and Achtung Baby and Nirvana...  NPR agrees with me. (Related, I also am full of nostalgia right now for the fashion of the 90s; I really want to wear long flowy skirts with Doc Martens.)
  2. I have a deep and abiding love for subversive use of the banjo. I believe this is born out of my dad's banjo playing, although he is more of a traditional banjo player with straight-up bluegrass and whatnot.  I just loooooove people using the banjo in unexpected ways, though; Bela Fleck and Blind Pilot and Sufjan Stevens come to mind.
  3. I have been playing piano at our new church here for a few months now, which has been really fun.  It's downright amusing how DIFFERENT it can be to play at different churches; people come to church music with such a variety of backgrounds and levels of training and whatnot.  I consider myself very lucky that all the communities I've played as part of have been nurturing and positive and Christ-centered, but even so it takes some adjustment to get used to such unique musical cultures.  Why, WHY don't guitar players read music?
  4. I feel sort of ready to own a piano, at some point in the not-too-distant future.  I don't know if it will happen because gosh, pianos are expensive. And heavy. And I'm not sure where we would put it.  But I'd really like to live in the same house with one again sometime (I haven't since living with my parents in high school) and I would be pretty happy if eventually our kids learned to play.  We'll see.
  5. One of the most shocking musical experiences of my life came when I turned on Austin City Limits one evening and realized that I liked Willie Nelson.  This was back in the pre-DVR days (I was in college, I think?) and I don't believe it would have even happened at all if I'd been using a DVR at the time; I would have seen that the episode had Willie Nelson and not watched it.  I generally define my tastes in country music as "yuck"; my stance on this has softened over the years as I have realized that it is actually contemporary pop/country that I don't like, but at that stage in my life I was utterly convinced that Lyle Lovett was the exception that proved the rule and that country music was not for me.  I had never really even heard Willie Nelson's music to my knowledge but was utterly convinced that I disliked it.  But I was WRONG! He was WONDERFUL! It's kind of fantastic to realize that something you had dismissed is actually really great.
  6. The next live show that I would really really REALLY like to see is the New Pornographers; I just love them so. This song, and this song, and this song, and this song...  And have you seen this video?  HAHAHAHAHAHA...  Actually, that might not be that funny if you don't know much about this band; those are all comedians playing the people in the band.  They (the actual musicians, not the comedians) came to Salt Lake City last summer for a free outdoor concert series, like the second week we were living here, and things were just too crazy and we didn't have anybody we knew for babysitters and we DIDN'T GO.  Oh, the humanity...  They need to come back to Utah sometime in the next six months or so before I have this new baby and then I can't do anything fun for a year.  (That is an unfair exaggeration, of course, but nighttime rock concerts are really not an easy option for a good long while, at least the way my babies live their lives.) Actually, how about all musicians I like come to Utah in the next six months?  I need to get in all my nightlife while I can.
  7. We have one concert on our schedule at this point; the Arcade Fire is coming to Utah in early April and we have actual tickets and everything.  Hooraaaaaaaaaay! (Note to self: get babysitter.) I still can't over the fact that they won one of the big Grammys this year.  Don't get me wrong; I think their new album is fabulous and all but I still think that was a crazy win.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


We went skiing for the third time yesterday, and gosh, was it ever beautiful.  We had gotten fresh snow the day before (over 20" of fresh powder up in the mountains) but the clouds had cleared away and it was this sunny day of blue skies and all this fluffy white gorgeousness, both in the clouds and on the ground.  I really wish I was better at skiing so I could somehow manage to take some pictures with my phone or something, but navigating around still takes all of my concentration and I don't think I can take pictures at the same time, much to your loss, I am sad to say.  I still am spending my time on the bunny slope, which I now can ski down without looking too ridiculous or falling down.  I tried an actual green slope yesterday with Rob, and I reverted to ridiculousness and fell down three times trying to get back down to the bottom.  I am not sure how many weeks of skiing I have left in me this season.  Either my ski pants are just going to get too uncomfortable, or my balance is going to be compromised too much for me to manage it anymore.  We'll see which happens first.  Supposedly in most years you can ski in Utah well into May or even June but I'm not sure how many more times I'm going to make it up there.

Yesterday was enormously beautiful, but it was also insanely busy up there.  It was a holiday and long weekend for some people, and a fresh powder day, and this month is apparently the peak of the ski season here, and you should have seen the traffic getting up the mountain.  It took us an hour to drive up there when it usually takes 30 minutes and our day started with stress over missing the beginning of Grace's lesson (her first one!) and sitting in terrible traffic in the midst of NATURE and so forth.  Things worked out as far as Grace's lesson and all our other plans, but wow, there were a lot of people.

This was Grace's very first time up there with us, as she couldn't start the group lessons until after her fifth birthday.  She went through several phases while there.  First, excitement at finally getting to ski after hearing us and many of her friends talking about it since November.  Then, panic and saying that she didn't like skiing after discovering that it is kind of hard and you have to work at learning it and falling down is scary.  (At one point, she was standing facing a tree refusing to make eye contact with her teacher and crying about how she wanted to stop.)  And finally, after some convincing, perseverance tempered by barely-controlled panic as she started to get the hang of it and did actual ski down the bunny slope.  She is not a fearless shredder but at the end of it all she said she liked it and I think she will do well.

Violet came up with us this time as well and we put her in the childcare at the ski resort.  She seemed to have fun but she would have much rather come skiing with us.  She desperately, desperately wants to ski.  We have had utter freakouts about Grace's skis, which Violet wants to play with and drag around and have as her very own.  If she sees any skis at all, she declares, "I NEED SKIS!" and tries to run over and grab them or catapult herself out of my arms toward them.  We're going to have to come up with some other skiing plan for her that doesn't involve waiting until she's five for group lessons.  Unfortunately, neither Rob nor I are skilled enough to really teach a toddler/preschooler to ski, so we're going to have to pony up for private lessons or bribe a friend or something.  Because she NEEDS SKIS.

Violet is just full of hilariousness right now, come to think of it.  She has somehow confused our front doormat (which is about as clean as you would expect after being our doormat for the better part of a year) for a blanket and likes to take it and spread it over herself or others if anyone happens to be laying on the couch.  She announces herself to be "REALLY HUNGRY!" or "REALLY TIRED!" or, most commonly, "REALLY STUCK!"  Toys or objects are also often "REALLY STUCK!" Gosh, she has somehow developed a voracious appetite all of the sudden, being "REALLY HUNGRY!", as stated before, and also often proclaiming "I NEED FOOD!" or "I NEED SNACKS!"  And yes, she does always speak with exclamation points. It's just how two-year-olds roll.

Thursday, February 17, 2011


So if you have children of your own, you probably know this, but this is the time of year for thinking about what you are going to do for school for the coming fall.  It does seem early, doesn't it?  But this is when all the preschools have their registration days and want all your paperwork and money and so forth.  The ante has been upped this year, because although it seems nearly impossible, Grace will start KINDERGARTEN in the fall.  Kindergarten! How can this be? Anyway, our little neighborhood school seems really nice and sweet and nurturing and I think it would be a perfectly acceptable option.  Then there are a couple of ELP magnet schools that seem good and aren't too far away, so we had Grace do the assessment for that last week.  I had a hard time describing to Grace exactly what we were going to do when we were driving there because she hasn't ever taken a test in her life.  They didn't allow parents into the testing room so afterwards I was trying to get Grace to tell me what it was like, with minimal success.  Apparently there was addition and reading and fill-in-the-blank stories and puzzle-type things. The school district here tests 4-5 times as many children as they have kindergarten ELP spots so I have no confidence whatsoever in Grace getting picked. In fact, I feel sort of uncertain about if I even want her to get a spot.  Our neighborhood school is very nice and a really short walk and she could do half-day kindergarten there (which I see as a good thing for her personality and our family; the ELP programs are all full-day); the magnet schools are not far really, but they would involve a car drive.  And also I am currently annoyed because we have to rank the magnet schools we would want 2+ months before we even find out if she gets a spot (those letters get sent in May), which means I have to visit and go to open houses and think and ponder and decide which one we like the best without even knowing if she's qualified. Blech. Nothing makes me think more longingly about homeschooling than all the logistical details and waking up in the morning with an alarm clock and packing lunches and driving to and fro and all that.

And then there's Violet, who I am also full of uncertainty about for the fall.  We are thinking about putting her in preschool for two mornings a week.  I know she would love it, as she currently thinks pretty much any group setting with kids is the super most fun thing ever.  I have put her on the list for a little preschool at a Presbyterian church close to us, but that place is known for filling up fast and it is hard to get a spot.  I should hear back from them at the end of March, I think? The other main option would be the Jewish Community Center where Grace is now, which is fabulous in many ways but is pretty expensive and further than I would like to drive in an ideal world and also has a drop-off/pick-up schedule that would conflict with Grace's if she ends up doing half-day kindergarten.  We could definitely get a spot there because we are a currently enrolled family but I think the logistical challenges are insurmountable and I'd rather have her in no preschool at all than there.  To top all of this off, I am trying to accurately picture myself doing all this given the schedule of this impending baby.  My due date is September 3 so all this oldest-baby-off-to-kindergarten and first-day-of-preschool is going to be happening with me either one zillion weeks pregnant or with a 3-day-old baby.  Or heaven forbid, in the hospital.  AAAAACK.

Speaking of the new baby, I had my first dream about her/him. (Well, it's really a her, as we all know, right?)  I dreamed that the baby (who was a girl in the dream) came early and although had no health problems because of it, was very small, the size of the baby dolls that we have.  We had to come home from the hospital almost immediately, like within hours of the birth, because I had to pick Grace up from school, with this tiny baby in a sling.  Also, we hadn't decided on a name yet and Rob and I were having these big fights about what to name her.  He wanted to name her something really flowery with some wacky alternative spelling (HA!) but I was having none of it. So hopefully none of this actually happens, although gosh, I really have no idea what we're going to do for a name if we are having a third girl. Also, my subconscious is pretty obvious about its concerns, no?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Five Years of Grace

Blue-eyed girl

Today is Grace's birthday and she is five years old. She is all arms and legs and curly hair and intense single-mindedness and vivid radiance. She spends vast quantities of time with markers and paper and scissors crafting intricate creations, and is forever making inscrutable objets d'art to bestow as gifts.  She loves her social circles at school and church and whatnot, and gymnastics and ballet have been huge hits this year.  When she gets over-excited, her voice does this crazy thing where it goes up several octaves (impressive, given its normal little girl range) and yet at the same time gets grating and guttural as if she's been smoking. She is a sensitive soul. We tried to watch Star Wars with her a few weeks back and did not get past the opening scrolling text because it was all just too scary and dramatic.

She is more competent and capable every day but sometimes she still very much wants to be little and cuddled and taken care of.  We have been getting some baby talk and other regressive kinds of behaviors recently but I also see her being brave and adventurous. She expresses worry or anxiety about new situations more often than when she was smaller; I think her ever-increasing forays into the outside world have made her more aware of how wide and unknown it is.  She doesn't have the watertight confidence of a fearless clueless toddler, which I think is just part of getting bigger.  My heart sometimes aches a bit when I see her independence and curiosity clash with her realization of how big and uncertain the world is.

Birthday cupcakes

We had a fun birthday party for her yesterday and wow, it was a crazy one.  It was bigger than her 4th birthday party; we invited her whole class from preschool along with church friends and a few others.  It may have verged on too big and and I'm wondering if it's time to stop inviting her whole class to these things. Or maybe to stop having parties at our house. Or maybe both.  It was a good time, if a bit crazy and messy, and I do love a big party where all the toys end up on the floor and half-eaten cupcakes litter the furniture and everyone does lots of chatting.  We continued our tradition of asking for no gifts (although of course she is getting gifts today from family) which still strikes me as one of my best party-planning ideas ever.  Seriously, the toys multiply every year as it is and we don't need 15 more presents from people who may not have the same values when it comes to toys and possessions that we do.  Anyway, we played some simple games and ate cupcakes and batted balloons around and it was fun. Today we'll have a family dinner (she requested spaghetti and meatballs, which is kind of funny since I'm pretty sure she's never eaten that) with leftover cupcakes and then open her presents.  I feel so, so lucky to be celebrating my biggest girl and who she is on the eve of her fifth year in the world.

Happy birthday, my beautiful, vibrant, sensitive, growing-up girl.


Tuesday, February 8, 2011


I am struggling through a cold right now and am feeling kind of rough.  We've been pretty fortunate on the illness front this winter but this little virus has found us and is making its way through the residents of our house. I am feeling particularly low and wretched this morning after a troubled night.  I think I am the most sick from this particular virus of all of us, either because I lack moral fiber or because I am with child and this virus is exacerbating the normal nasal congestion I get while pregnant. (Yet another of the weird, very common, largely inexplicable symptoms of pregnancy...) I don't think about my nose that frequently when I am not sick but boy, it sure is important, isn't it? Especially at night.  I can barely breathe through my nose, I've gone to bed before 9pm for the last three nights, and gosh, I just feel generally AWFUL.  I have in the past day broken down and started taking some OTC medicine.  I don't like to take anything when I'm pregnant (because heck, it turns out that even Tylenol, which is like the ONLY THING they say it is OK for pregnant women to take, can make bad stuff happen to your baby) but I am just too miserable without it. It is kind of ridiculous that a mere cold has flattened me so thoroughly and I know Rob wants me to pull myself together and function; hopefully I can do so soon.

I definitely need to be a little more functional by the end of the week because it is Grace's birthday on Sunday!  The actual thing that will require some functioning on my part is the party we are having for her and her little friends on Saturday. I still need to do a bit more planning.  Games? Cupcakes? Balloons?  I am going pretty low-key so I think that is about it.  Anybody have any great resources for party games for 5-year-olds?  I was going to let myself off the hook on the cupcakes and buy them but it turns out that cupcakes from a non-grocery-store bakery are quite pricey.  I am normally someone who bakes everything from scratch so I had no idea-- $2 to $3 per cupcake, or more, and I think I need 2 dozen. Oh well, it's not that much work.  I think I'm going to do these cupcakes with a cream cheese frosting.

My red hair is holding up quite well.  I am going on 3 weeks now and it still looks pretty good; I think I'm going to try to make it to 4 weeks before going over it again with more red.  This is an improvement over the other times I have done this when I had to put more Manic Panic on every 2 weeks.  The stylist who did the color said that she thought the brand she uses lasts longer, and then also I have stopped washing my hair every day since the last time I did this so I'm sure that helps.  I used to be a shampoo-every-day-without-exception kind of girl, but I started the baking soda/apple cider vinegar routine back in 2009 and it helped me not wash as often.  (In case you're curious, during our move and unpacking and all that, I went back to regular shampoo because it was too hard to mix up stuff or travel with the baking soda routine but I did stick with not washing everyday and just used conditioner on the other days.  After things settled down here in our new house I went back to baking soda and cider vinegar.)  I am still a shower-every-day-without-exception kind of girl, though; not even newborn babies can keep me from my daily shower.

I think I am about a week away from being in maternity clothes; my belly doesn't look particularly pregnant but my waistline is definitely disappearing and clothes are getting uncomfortable and tight.  This is about when I started wearing maternity clothes with Violet (11 or 12 weeks), and about a month earlier than I did with Grace, which is all normal and typical and whatnot (getting bigger faster with not-first pregnancies and whatnot).  I am happy that I started this pregnancy 15 lbs slimmer than I started Violet's, although of course I would have been happier if I'd gotten all the way down another 15-20 lbs to my pre-Grace weight.  Not that it matters at all as far as maternity clothes go because I GOT RID OF ALL OF IT before we moved to Utah.  So yeah, I'm not sure what I'm going to wear in another week.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Carbs! I Need Some More Carbs!

Someone bring me some carbs!  I swear that nothing brings what I eat more in line with the Standard American Diet healthy types are always bemoaning than pregnancy.  This has 2 main reasons: a) nothing is as soothing to a miserable tummy than some nice refined carbohydrates and b) I cannot manage the energy or stomach to do much cooking so nice packaged prepared food it is for us.  I now chuckle at my plan to start 2011 off on a super healthy eating kick.  I can hardly face a vegetable or legume and white flour is my friend.  (I am eating a lot of fruit and dairy, so that's something, I suppose.) We have turned into a short order cook kind of house, where Rob cooks and eats his food (he is sticking with our grand healthy eating plan) and we make something easy the girls will eat and then I pick at whatever sounds like it might not be disgusting.  Usually carbs.

I was so cheered by the responses of our friends and family to our surprising news.  I wasn't expecting people to be mean or judgmental or anything, but everyone being so warm and encouraging really put me in a happy state of mind about circumstances.  I felt especially nervous about telling some of the adoption-minded people in my life and they were maybe the most gentle and understanding.  It's good to have so many people in one's life who are reassuring and positive and supportive; I am really grateful for the gift of so much kindness and all these relationships.  So, thank you.  Really.

So far, this seems more like the first trimester of Grace's pregnancy than the first trimester of Violet's pregnancy, which is a good thing because man, I was a MESS when I was pregnant with Violet.  This time it is the same kind of stuff but not as extreme.  Of course, I am typing this after a particularly rough morning (the nausea! the headache! the nearly irresistible urge to lie down somewhere!) but no, it is true-- I am not as badly off this time.  We are splitting hairs here though, because pregnancy has once again managed to turn me into an emo hot mess.  Ugh, I think this may be the part of pregnancy I dislike the most-- the mental/emotional craziness and just how foreign the inside of my head feels.  I can just feel the craziness welling up inside of me sometimes and I know I am not going to make it through whatever conversation I am in without utterly losing it.  For example, things that have made me cry big hot blubbery tears in the past few weeks have included:
  • telling people that probably we're not going to adopt this year,
  • this video about being Muslim in America,
  • the funeral episode of How I Met Your Mother, and
  • this bit from The Daily Show about a community in Mississippi.
GAH, when humorous satirical news shows have you doing the ugly cry, you know you have issues.

I've had a couple of people ask me why we are pretty sure we are having a girl this time around, so I shall share.  Have you heard about the whole fast sperm vs. slow sperm thing?  On average, girl sperm are slow but live a long time while boy sperm are fast but die quickly.  When Rob and I were in the stage of, "What?! How did this happen?" (the answer, of course: the usual way) we were going back through our schedule and calendar and all that and the only thing that makes any sense is a slow sperm situation.  So there you go! TMI! We'll see if we're right in, oh, 10 weeks or so.