Friday, February 25, 2011

Priority Check

Last night I logged on to Facebook to wish a couple of friends a happy birthday (even though their birthdays were mostly over). As usual when I log on to Facebook, I decided to scroll down the page to see what everyone was up to.

I don't know why I do this, any more than I know why I keep eating Ritz crackers after 11:30 at night. But I do. Though I'm admittedly getting better (about Facebook, not about Ritz crackers).

Anyway, I was reading status updates I (mostly) wasn't interested in, many of them written (mostly) by people I don't know that well, when I felt Miss Anne's little hand patting my leg. I looked down at her. She had a book to read. Another book.

"Wait, Miss Anne," I said as I clicked "Like" or posted some two-word comment to someone's status update. "Just a minute."

Thirty seconds later, she patted me again.

"Just a minute, Miss Anne. Right now, Mommy's ..."

And I stopped. Looked up. Right now Mommy's ... what?

I closed my laptop. I picked up Miss Anne and hugged her. I apologized. Told her she's so much more important to me than stupid old Facebook.

She didn't understand what had just happened, but I did, and I felt so bad about it I almost cried.

What I hope she did understand, ultimately, was that she was more important than whatever Mommy was doing on the computer. Even if it took Mommy a minute to realize it.

And then we read her book. For the three hundred and twenty-first wonderful time.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Toddler Tuesday

My darling toddler is waking up between 2:30 and 4:30 every night. Some nights I'll feed her. Some nights I'll lie in bed and beg her silently to go back to sleep. Every once in a blue moon she'll do that, but not usually.

Last night was a 2:30 wake-up. I wasn't surprised, as she ate very little for dinner. So I asked if she was hungry, and she patted her belly, which is her way of saying, "Yes, Mommy, I'm hungry." So I nursed her ... and once she finished her milk, she started crying again.

And she cried. She cried so hard she threw up. Milk-vomit, all over her, all over me, all over our sheets. At 3:00 a.m. Again.

She's such a sweet boo, but this up-in-the-middle-of-the-night-every-night thing has got to come to an end. Tonight, and every night until we get into a new routine, we're having spaghetti for dinner. Spaghetti is the only food she'll wolf down. Everything else gets picked at. She's finally beginning to eat like her picky parents ate when they were kids. I knew it was coming. It had to.

But if we give her spaghetti, she'll get a full belly. And if she has a full belly, she'll sleep through the night. Right? We'll see.

I never went back to sleep and instead did some writing from 4:30 until now (6:15 or so). I'm supposed to run three miles after work tonight. We'll see how that goes.

Anyway, here are a few pictures of Anne from the past couple of weekends.


Taking a hike with her daddy

Loving the swing


Playing with Daddy (and the cat)

There aren't many "new" things to report this week. She still weighs her usual 17 and a half pounds, though she's gotten a bit taller. She babbles constantly but isn't saying any actual words yet, other than "Dada" and "Mama" and the occasional bark or moo. She knows just about all of her body parts.

She's still book-crazy, to the point that I actually worried a little this weekend that she's spending too much of her life with her nose in a book. Yes, I have an M.A. in English and taught English and am always reading at least one book and own upwards of 1,500 books. But I'm wondering if Anne should show just a little interest in something other than books. Puzzles, for instance. Or balls. Or MEGA Bloks.

I won't complain, though. I've probably spent too much of my life with my nose in a book, and I don't think it's hurt me too much. And I do love having a little bookworm. Like Mommy, like Daughter. :-)


Reading at the library one Saturday
 
On the kitchen floor

In her rocking chair

Monday, February 21, 2011

Multitude Monday #13

My mind feels so foggy this morning that it's hard to focus on gratitude, or lack thereof, or anything other than the task immediately at hand. I'm on a short work break and am feeling anxious. I need to get back to work. I need to finish up an article and edit another one. I need to get the information I need to build a software update set to be released this afternoon. I need, I need, I need.

I need time. I feel so desperate for time. I am starving for time.

Not the best state of mind for embarking on my 41st year of life.

While I had precious little time to myself this weekend, I did have some wonderful moments with Anne and Dan--visiting Anne's old sitter, having a picnic at Standing Indian Campground, rocking my sleeping baby in the middle of the day ... things like that.

Here are a few things I was thankful for this past week:

211. a home so close to the Appalachian Trail, and National Forest land, and campgrounds

212. watching her maneuver her baby steps over dead leaves, rocks, and sticks

213. the opportunity to volunteer for Compassion International on February 18—my birthday, and the birthday of my Compassion child, Consuelo

214. 40 or so new children sponsored Friday night at the Compassion event!

215. old songs that bring back good memories

216. falling asleep while she nurses

217. that he washed all five loads of clothes this weekend

218. books, books, books

219. writing for 30 minutes on Saturday morning, and making more progress than I normally make in an hour or two of writing

220. working out a particular conflict in my novel, trying to pinpoint the exact nature of the conflict in my head, and then reading about the same type of conflict, much more masterfully articulated, in Anna Karenina a few hours later

221. great writers like Tolstoy and Shakespeare, who teach me more about myself by holding up the mirror of my own humanity

222. hiding with baby in a game of hide-and-seek with daddy

223. the fact that we play hide-and-seek all the time now

OK, I'll stop. I'm honestly struggling with thoughts of gratitude today. When I wrote #221, I couldn't help but think, "but I really hate bad writers, specifically ________ and _________." When I wrote #215, I was tempted to add, "even if the old songs aren't very good."

See what I mean?

Gratitude goal for this week: to focus more intentionally on the gifts—something I admittedly haven't done for a couple of weeks.

In fact, my friend Audra's post today (specifically her third paragraph) pretty much sums up my life for the past couple of weeks.

Let’s end on a happier note. Can you see the joy in this child’s face? I think my baby likes to be outdoors!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Toddler Tuesday ... on a Wednesday

It's early Wednesday morning, and Dan has already left home, Anne in tow. He has a meeting in the vicinity of Anne's sitter, so he's dropping her off today.

Absence is making this mommy's heart grow ever fonder. I'll see her at 1:00 this afternoon if Angela decides to take the kids into town. If not, I'll see her when I pick her up after work at 7:45 tonight.

I hate missing my sweet daughter, but I'm thankful that, at the end of the day, always, she is there: waiting for me, grinning, happy to see her mommy again.

Anne turned 14 months old on Saturday. This past week, she gave me a "kiss" for the first time. We've been working on this for a while. Then one day I said, "Anne, can you give Mommy a kiss?" And she walked over to me and rested her lips on my cheek for a couple of seconds.

Can I ever describe the joy that overcame me in that moment? You'll just have to take my word for it.

And later, when Dan was in the room, I said, "Anne, can you give Daddy a kiss?" And she did the same to him. Made his day.

This whole weekend was a series of similar sweet moments; I wrote about some of them (and posted a few pictures) yesterday. It was my first "free" (non-working) weekend since September, and I made the most of it by spending every moment I could with my family. Anne and I read books, played with toys, and nursed to our hearts' content. We went with Dan to the playground both days. We went grocery shopping together. We went to the library. We just had fun.

Oh, and Dan built her a bookcase Sunday afternoon. That's something she'll be able to treasure for the rest of her life.

Here are a few more memories from the past week:

- At home, when I said, "Anne, would you like to go to the playground?", she squealed, ran to the front door, and began banging on it. (Let's go, Mommy, let's go! Now, Mommy!")

- Her favorite food is spaghetti. The other night, when she ran out of pasta in her bowl, she pointed to the big bowl of spaghetti that was on the table, and then tapped her finger in her bowl.

- She's begun trying to say words. She said something like "Anh" and patted her chest. She's also said something like "please" ("pee").

- She's demonstrating the cutest little sense of humor. She likes to hide from us (always in the closet). We'll go around the house calling, "Anne? Where's Anne? Has anyone seen Anne?" And then she'll come out of the closet, grinning.

- She'll pretend to offer us something--her toothbrush, a Cheerio, etc.--and then snatch it back, grinning, just as we're about to take it. She doesn't know how to say "Psych!" yet, but she definitely has the idea.

- She loves the slide at the playground. This weekend, I noticed that she's no longer falling back as she slides. She's now able to keep her body at a mostly 90-degree angle when she goes down.

- She's still a huge bookworm. She loves her new bookcase and takes 10 or 15 books off of it each night for us to read.

- She's begun waking up in the night again. I can't tell that she's teething, but I know something must be going on. Three nights in a row now, she's been up between 2:30 and 4:30. I'd hoped to start getting up early (around 5:00 a.m.) to write. Needless to say, that hasn't happened.

- She was coughing a lot last week, so we took her to the doctor. He said she had the beginnings of bronchiolitis and gave us a prescription for an antibiotic. It's the first antibiotic she's ever taken, and Dan and I weren't crazy about giving it to her. But she's no longer making a rattly noise when she breathes, and her coughing has diminished, so we're glad she's better.

- She weighed in at 17 pounds, 9 ounces at the doctor's office. Still a little bitty thing!

- She's begun to run. It's an awkward toddler-run, but it's a run. And, as you might expect, it's unbelievably cute.

- Both nights this weekend, my face hurt from so much smiling.

That's all I can think of for now. If I think of more, I'll update this post accordingly.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Multitude Monday #12 ... On a Tuesday

Yesterday morning, Dan went with me to the courthouse.

Yes, quite the Valentine's Day gift. Good thing we're not big on that holiday.

But I needed his presence there more than I needed flowers or candy. (Definitely more than I needed candy.)

Yesterday, we watched as Mary's killer pleaded guilty for taking Mary's life on March 31, 2009, when he hit her head-on. He was in a truck, she in a sports car. His blood-alcohol level was through the roof. She was on her way home from a wake.

Every time the judge said "March 31, 2009," my chest tightened a little. How I wish I could rewind time to the day before and plan things differently. Do things differently.

I wanted to throw up when the sheriff's deputy who'd been first to the scene described what he'd found. The deputy himself, a seventeen-year veteran of law enforcement, looked pretty sick himself. "It was some of the worst I've seen in 17 years," he told the judge.

Mary's killer was sentenced as expected. The laws of the state don't allow more than 38 months in jail. That doesn't seem enough for snuffing out a young woman's life, does it. But he is behind bars now, and I hope that, now that this day is behind us, Mary's family can get some degree of closure. Whatever that means.

That morning of tears and reliving the ugly past came on the heels of what was probably the most joy-filled weekend of my life since becoming a mom. So I'm feeling a weird mix of loss and gratitude.

A weird mix of loss and gratitude. That's pretty much what I've felt regarding Mary, ever since March 31, 2009.

Thankful thoughts for this week:

191. that we can grieve together

192. that, on Mary's last day alive, I got to spend more time with her than I ever had in our young friendship

193. that there is always work do, people to care for, life to tend to

194. that, as far as we know, Mary didn't suffer

195. mild February days that Mary would have loved--pale sky, wispy clouds, with just a hint of a breeze ... perfect for hiking

196. a two-day weekend, after almost five long months of six-day work weeks

197. family time: Dan, Anne, and me, just being together (Do other families really do this on a regular basis? It's hard to imagine.)

198. crying out "Weeeeeee!" with my daughter as we go back and forth on the swing


199. a little girl riding high on her daddy's shoulders


200. feeling, at a moment, that I am as happy as I've ever been

201. little leather shoes that fit her just right

202. receiving my first-ever kiss from my daughter

203. "yes" answers to prayer (there are the "no" and the "later" answers, which I am also thankful for ... but it's nice to get a "yes" every now and then)

204. front porches

205. a new, Daddy-built bookcase, and


206. lots of books to fill it, and

207. room for more books

208. when opportunity knocks again. persistently. daring me to ignore it.

209. justice - that it is real, and the need for it is wired into our brains

210. mercy - that God forgives

Have a good week, everyone. To read more bloggers' thankful thoughts (or link your own), just click the banner below.

holy experience

Monday, February 14, 2011

Saturday Links & Ramblings ... On Monday

I had to step away from the blog world for a while last week; responsibilities at work and home required my attention, so I haven't been able to update this blog, or read others' blogs, for a few days. I can't promise that I'm back for good, but I am happy to announce that the higher-ups should be reducing our work hours in the next few days.

Just a few links for this week ...

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As a new mom, I appreciated Mark Altrogge's list of ways that we can provoke our children to anger. Here are just a few that made me think:

- By being offended at their sin because it bothers us, not because it offends God.
- By failing to ask their forgiveness when we sin against them
- By self-centered reactions to their sin (How could you do this to ME?)

Read the rest at The Blazing Center.

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In another good post for new moms, particularly those who have (or are planning to have) more than a couple of children, mom-of-five Allison Horton offers Tips & Tricks From a Mom of Many.

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On an entirely different subject, I was saddened and moved by this story about child-author Barbara Follett, a talented writer who mysteriously disappeared as a young woman, and was never seen again. Her first novel, The House Without Windows, was published when she was barely twelve years old.

Years later, after her father left her and her mother, Follett had to take a secretarial job. About that experience, she wrote something that resonated a bit with this creative-type-turned-technical-writer:

“I thought [my dreams] were all safely buried, but sometimes they stir in their grave, making my heartstrings twinge. I mean no particular dream, you understand, but the whole radiant flock of them together—with their rainbow wings, iridescent, bright, soaring, glorious, sublime. They are dying before the steel javelins and arrows of a world of Time and Money.”

Follett's story is a sad one, but so worth the read. You can find it here.

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This post by Greg Lucas had me in tears, and I don't even like dogs.

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Dana Huff recently reminded me of a reading challenge I meant to join but forgot about. For the 2011 Where Are You Reading Challenge, you basically use Google Maps to mark the settings of books you've read this year.

My reading progress has been abysmal this year; I haven't finished a single book. I'm about halfway through both the Bible (in 90 days) and One Thousand Gifts. Poor Anna Karenina is my third priority. I've barely kept up with the Bible and manage to read just two or three pages of One Thousand Gifts a day. It's very frustrating not to be able to read more, but I'm just so tired in that tiny window of time I get to myself (usually after 11:00 pm). Once they cut back our hours at work, the reading should pick up.

Here's my map so far. I'm probably cheating because I haven't technically finished any of these books, but it helps me feel less discouraged to see the locations marked.


(As a post-Saturday aside, Ann Voskamp, author of One Thousand Gifts, has an article in The Huffington Post today.

That's it for Saturday Links and Ramblings on Monday. If all goes according to plan, I'll publish Multitude Monday on Tuesday, and Toddler Tuesday on Wednesday.

Have a good week, dear readers!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Sonnet 27

I'm trying to make more time in my time-starved life for poetry. Why? Because poetry pulls me in and stops time ... or seems to. And lets me breathe.

Yesterday, in the 30 minutes I was able to grab for lunch, I pulled out my trusty Norton Anthology of Poetry and opened to Shakespeare's sonnets. When I read the familiar Sonnet 27, I thought of Anne, and how thoughts of her throughout the day--when I look at her picture on my desktop, or when Angela e-mails me about something cute that she did--really do bring me "such wealth/That then I scorn to change my state with kings."

Enjoy!

Sonnet 27

When, in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries
And look upon myself and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possess'd,
Desiring this man's art and that man's scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven's gate;
For thy sweet love remember'd such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Toddler Tuesday

Somehow, miraculously, Anne seems to be a happy, well-adjusted little toddler, despite all the time away from her mom, and despite her mommy being so exhausted after work that our "quality time" is of questionable quality.

It's been a rough week for me, but Miss Anne is her cheerful, curious self, toddling away, reading and learning and amazing us with her capacity to understand things.

The big milestone for this past week was the nose-blow. Yes, she blew her nose. She really hates the suction-bulb, so I guess she figured she'd better learn to blow or else have her nose suctioned for the rest of her life.

The first few times, we held the tissue to her nose and said, "Blow your nose, Li'l Boo." Now she goes over to the tissue box, gets her own tissue, and wipes and blows her own nose. She still needs a bit more dexterity in her fingers to do this well, but I'm proud of her all the same.

Now, if only she would change her own diapers ...

She actually got to see a "Potty-Training Boot Camp" in action this past weekend when we went to visit Megan (my sister) and Ella (her daughter, and Anne's cousin) in Brevard. They were at a friend's house, and Ella and Marlee (who is Ella's age, almost two and a half) were going through PTBC together.

Long story short--Anne got to see lots of potty-going that day. Since then, she's crawled into her own potty several times a day. (Yes, you read that right. She's less interested in sitting on the potty than she is in putting her feet in the bowl and sitting in it.) (I am talking about the baby potty, not the grown-up potty ... just in case you were wondering.)

We've sat her on it a few times, just to see if she would leave a "gift" in there, which would of course prompt us to clap and cheer and encourage her to make a habit of using the potty, but she hasn't done anything yet. We're not planning to start potty training anytime soon, but if she decides she wants to start using the potty ... who are we to argue?

Anne continues to be a bookworm. We read for an hour or so every night. After each book, I lower her to the floor and she picks out another book. Then I put her onto my lap and we read some more. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Last night, Dan and I read her Doggies, by Sandra Boynton. It's a really funny book, where most of the "words" are actually dog sounds, like "Arf arf arf," "Yap yap," and "Grrr!" So Dan and I were taking turns making the dog noises, when, out of nowhere, Anne let out a big "Woof!" of her very own.

Our daughter can bark. I'm so proud.

She's also begun to use some of the sign language we used with her ages ago (as in, six months ago). We haven't done any sign language since then, but I guess the signs were planted like seeds in her brain and eventually grew to fruition. She's suddenly doing the "all done" sign when she's full and the "hungry" sign when she's hungry. Go figure.

I don't have any pictures for today, but you can scroll down to yesterday's post to see one from Saturday's PTBC. We also have some adorable pictures of her sitting in the baby potty last night before her bath, but those aren't going to make it to the Internet. Sorry.

My sister did post a few pictures from the weekend; you can find them here.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Multitude Monday #11

Feeling angry and bitter and hate-filled today. Ah, lovely. Definitely not in a state of mind for feeling gratitude. I feel more like writing a list of gripes.

It seems like time has been my enemy these past few days; I've consistently been 15 to 30 minutes behind on everything. We were late for Dan's work banquet Saturday night, late getting to the babysitter's, late visiting my sister, late visiting my brother, late to Deborah's, and then late to church yesterday. I can't stop feeling behind--on work, e-mails, responsibilities in general. I just got back from lunch, which I spent frantically running errands and making a too-long list of the things I still need to do today. I meant to go home to see if I have fever (I feel kind of like I do), but I ran out of time. So here I am.

Anyway, enough rambling. Here are a few things from this past week that I felt thankful for:

173. my health--I am blessedly healthy for an almost-41-year-old

174. a husband who continues to be patient with me. If I were he, my patience with my insufferable wife would have run out long ago.

175. long roads for long runs

176. Anne's first efforts at blowing her own nose

177. half a dozen small bags, full of clothes she's outgrown

178. a closet no longer stuffed full of clothes she's outgrown!

179. finger paints

180. myrecipes.com - how did our mothers and grandmothers plan meals and shopping lists without online recipe sites?

181. being able to visit with both my brother and my sister in the same day

182. cars that work

183. friends who babysit

184. a game of hide-and-seek between one-year-olds (in the church sanctuary, no less)

185. the end of football season

186. a friend with whom I don't have to pretend to be someone I'm not

187. an impromptu visit with Cousin Ella


Ella and Anne, Saturday afternoon

188. Chopin's Op. 10, No. 1 Nocturne in B-flat minor

189. a visit with Deborah, who was my piano teacher before I had to quit in 2008

190. time to write this list

Hope everyone has a good week, and enough time for what's important.

holy experience

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Saturday Link, with Nary a Ramble

Don't miss this week's Saturday Review of Books, hosted by Semicolon!

No Saturday Links and Ramblings on this blog today ... I've had an atrociously busy week and haven't even had time to read my "daily must-read" blogs, much less jot down URLs and post thoughts. I'll post links for the week soon, but it might not happen for another few days.

Hope everyone has a great weekend!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Book Review: Clare Beaton's Mother Goose Remembers

Mother Goose Remembers (with CD), by Clare Beaton
Published by Barefoot Books (September 1, 2006)
Recommended for ages 4 - 8

Clare Beaton’s Mother Goose Remembers was first published in August 2000. At that time, I was in Vermont, just 500 or so miles into my southbound hike of the Appalachian Trail. I was 30 years old, single (with no plans to be married ... ever), and childless (with no plans for children ... ever).

Ah, how things have changed! Now I’m enjoying this very book with my sweet daughter, who insists that we read it at least once every single night. Here she is, reading it with my mom:

Anne Megan at one year, reading with her "GG"

The book, a collection of Mother Goose rhymes (some of which were new to me), has a homey, old-fashioned feel to it; this is due to Clare Beaton’s original, hand-sewn designs. She uses felt, lace, buttons, bric-a-brac, and who knows what else.

The pictures are a lot of fun to look at, and I appreciate them more with each dozen times I read the book. They're simplistic but not boring; there’s always something new and intricate to discover, such as the bric-a-brac used to represent the ground, or the buttons used for flower petals. Every page (or almost every page) has a little floating feather hidden somewhere on it, and that’s something a child can look for with each rhyme.

I really like the wording of the rhymes, as they haven't been modernized or much changed (that I can tell) from when I learned them as a child. There are a few differences, but they are minor, and most likely common variations on the rhymes. In case you're wondering, here are a couple of differences that I can think of right now:

- In "Hey Diddle Diddle," I learned "The little dog laughed to see such sport," while the book has "The little dog laughed to see such fun."

- "To Market, To Market" is missing the final two lines as I learned it ("To market, to market, to buy a plum bun / Home again, home again, market is done").

See? Nothing major. I never really knew what a plum bun was, anyway. (Though I do wish she'd used "sport" instead of "fun." Somehow, "sport" sounds so much more properly English.)
Mother Goose Remembers is recommended for ages 4 – 8, but, in keeping with her mature reading tastes, fourteen-month-old Anne loves it; it’s a hands-down favorite for her. We read it from front to back every night, and then from back to front, and often from front to back and back to front again. Anne turns the pages herself and stops on the pages she likes most. Her favorites have changed over time; at the moment, she’s digging “Sing a Song of Sixpence,” “Pat-a-Cake,” and “Ring Around the Rosy.”

The book comes with a CD of the rhymes being sung. I must admit, I haven’t listened to it more than a couple of times; not that it’s bad (it’s actually quite goodnot annoying like a lot of children's music CDs out there), but because our CD player is in our living room, and Anne and I typically read in her bedroom. I keep meaning to download the tunes to my iPod so we can play the rhymes for her in the car.

Oh, and Anne loves to open and close the plastic CD holder at the front of the book. :-)

Though I'm sure she'll eventually tire of the CD holder, I think Anne and I are going to enjoy this book together for years to come. It’s a rare children’s book that, after 100 or more reads, can continue to be engaging for both the parent and the child. For us, Clare Beaton’s Mother Goose Remembers is one of those books.

(As an added note: Like The Hidden Alphabet, Mother Goose Remembers gets my creative mind going. I’m not an "artsy-craftsy" person at all, but I can’t help but think of how fun it might be to have Anne, when she's a little older, try her hand at making art similar to Beaton’s—when we're not out hiking the trails, that is!)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Thuddy Thursday: From the Piano Archives

Wouldn't you know it: The day after I decide to post weekly on my piano progress, I get a deep cut on the tip of my right index finger and can barely type with it, much less strike piano keys. The finger is healing, but I had only one day of practice this week and am hoping to make up for the lack of practice in the coming week.

I don't want to miss my second "Thuddy Thursday" post, however, so I'm going to post one of my favorite "piano posts" from my old blog. I wrote this in 2004, not long after I started taking lessons again. Enjoy!

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"Beautiful!"

That's what my pianner teacher wrote as her assessment when I played the Bach Sinfonia today at my pianner lesson.

Beautiful! I done went and played that dad-burned Bach beautiful-ly!

Now, let me 'splain sump'n here. People who know me know that I, on occasion, have indeed played beautifully. Not braggin', just statin' a fact. But Bach's a feller that I have avoided like the plague for much of my pianner-playin' life. OK, so I avoided the feller's music, not the feller himself.

Here's why:

When I was a wee little punkin' of a girl, not knee-high to a grasshopper, my pianner teacher would put all us students in pianner festivals and what-not. Basically, this meant stressin' over ... um, I mean preparin' ... a couple of pieces of music appropriate to our respective levels. I hated to practice when I was little, so I always made these festival stress ... I mean preparations ... a whole lot more trouble than they shoulda been. You know, I was one of them students who wouldn't practice and wouldn't practice and wouldn't practice then suddenly would practice like crazy to have the pieces ready in time. And they were always ready, might I add. (I'm pattin' myself on the back right about now.)

An' then, for the festival, all the little pianner students in the gret stet of Lou-zee-ana would descend on Ella Shoe and go into little rooms in the esteemed MVSIC AND DRAMATIC ARTS building and play for a judge.

Now, I don't know 'bout you, but there are two things I love most 'bout playin' pianner:

1. Playin' fer myself
2. Showin' off fer other folks

There is one thing I most certainly do NOT love 'bout playin' pianner:

1. Playin' fer one other person, 'specially when that person is (1) better than you and (2) hidin' behind a stupid clipboard on which to mark every dumb mistake you make, and it don't matter if you played it perfectly at home yesterday or not. Ain't no showin' off factor to it a-tall. An' you don't git points for learnin' it in flat under two weeks.

Despite my dislike for these here festivals, I usually earned myself a "Superior" ratin', which was the A-1 highest ratin' there was, thank you very much. If you got a "Excellent," that meant you did "so-so." If you got a "Good," well then, buddy, maybe you're playin' the wrong instrument. 'Least that's how I saw it, as a seven-year-ole.

'Cept for that dad-burned Bach Festival. It was all Bach, nothin' but Bach. I think it was in December every year, though I could be wrong. I prob'ly blocked it out of my memory, kinda like you do with nightmares.

Every year I'd stress ... I mean, prepare ... fer the dreaded Bach Festival. I didn't like Bach so much as a kid. OK, well, I liked some of the Minuets and I loved sump'n called "Musette in D," but there was this one called "Bourree" that I just could not stand, no way, no how. I had to play it for the Bach Festival one year.

I think I played in that Bach Festival for four years. Or five. And do you know what?

They kep' givin' me a "Excellent." Even though I was the best pianner player there.

Well, maybe I wasn't near the best (sheesh, I was only a kid), but those "Excellents" sure do a number on your pianner-playin' self-esteem.

I don't know why I got "Excellents." One judge wrote I played too robot-o like, an' another said I played too emotional-like. Cain't have it both ways, judges. An' if I'm too emotional, well, I cain't he'p it if I was born to play Beethoven. Sheesh.

Or heck, maybe all that last-minute learnin' just didn't cut it. (I know, I know, I know, all you pianner teachers are noddin' with vehemence right now, thinkin', "yep, that's it, you annoying little pianner student brat who never practiced," but what do you know.)

But I just sort of accepted that I'd never be more than "so-so" at playin' Bach.

And I put Bach's music on my black list and avoided it like the plague for many a year. And when I did hafta learn Bach, I struggled an' fought with it 'till I got to where I could play it "so-so," an' then I'd plumb give up.

(I'm a "all-or-nothin'" kinda girl, as they say.)

So it was a big ole deal when my pianner teacher wrote "Beautiful!" in my pianner notebook today. Done brought a li'l ole smile to my face.

But I sure am glad she didn't write "Excellent."

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Toddler Tuesday

Lately I’ve been feeling more angsty than usual about missing my sweet girl on weekdays. We’re working long hours these days (as we always do at this time of year), and there are some days where I see Miss Anne for only three hours. It just makes me sick to think that I’m not raising her, and that she’s spending the majority of her days with someone else. While I’m very happy with the woman who watches her all day, I’m well aware that this is not the ideal situation. Ideally, I would be at home with Anne.

I’m not even what I think of as the traditional “stay-at-home-mom” (SAHM) type. But it just seems so wrong that I’m not functioning as the primary caregiver in my own daughter’s life.

“But you’re doing this for her,” a well-meaning SAHM told me.

Uh, no. I’m doing this because our pre-baby bills were perfectly affordable as long as we both worked. But, unless one of our two houses sells (that’s right, our first house still hasn’t sold, and it’s been on and off the market for two and a half years) or we win the lottery (which we probably won’t, since we don’t buy lottery tickets), I need to continue my full-time job.

Ah, well. I do like my job, and I’m glad to have it. I love the people I work with, and I often love the work itself. Things could be much, much worse. But I feel like a part of me, and maybe a part of Anne, is atrophyingor just not developing rightbecause we get so little time together.

But enough of me and my angst. It’s Toddler Tuesday, so I’ll talk about that sweet toddler of mine.

Anne is now 13 and a half months old. She's too big for her infant car seat, but she's only 17 and a half pounds, so we have her in a rear-facing toddler car seat. I’m kind of glad she’s so small—it’s still easy to carry her with one arm if I need to. It’s pretty funny, though, to see her walking (and even running!) as well as she does, since she looks more like a nine-month-old than a thirteen-month-old!

At the playground

This weekend, Anne and I met my sister and my niece, Ella, at the park in a town halfway between our two towns. We had a great time! The weather was sunny and in the sixties—a perfect day. The ground was wet, and there was still some snow here and there, but we didn’t let that bother us.

Crawling through the tunnel

Looking in the mirror with her cousin, Ella

Anne loves to swing!

One night last week, we were reading her favorite Mother Goose book. When we got to the “Pat-a-Cake” page, she began clapping, and then she started rolling her hands like we do in “Pat-a-Cake.” I sat there gaping. When did she learn to do this? We’d done “Pat-a-Cake” a few times, a few weeks before, but hadn’t done it since. (She turns the pages of the book, so some pages get skipped every time, and “Pat-a-Cake” was one that got skipped a lot.)

“Very good, Anne!” I exclaimed, and she just grinned. She knew she’d done something impressive!

One sweet thing—whenever we’re reading, sometimes she’ll turn and look up at me and just smile. Then she’ll look back down at the book. I love that smile. It like she’s saying, “Isn’t this fun, Mommy?”

She’s also begun giving me knee-hugs. I love knee-hugs more than anything. She runs to me, wraps her arms around my knees, and just holds on. Knee-hugs are the greatest thing in the world.

Several of my December 2009 mom-friends have been posting about the tantrums their thirteen-month-olds are beginning to have. Anne hadn’t thrown any full-fledged tantrums ... yet. She has had a few unwarranted crying fits, though, and always when one of two things happens: I take away her book (if it’s time to bathe, or put her coat on, or something like that), or I take away her toothbrush. Yes, her toothbrush. Next to reading, her favorite activity is brushing her teeth.

I could go on ... and on. I’m so in love with this child. Here’s a picture of the two of us, from a couple of weeks ago:

Nina, Anne, and Froggy

Happy Tuesday, everyone!