Thursday, March 31, 2011

I'm Pregnant! (It's FB official even)

So this is the first time I've had big news to share since I joined Facebook, and I was a little unclear on the etiquette. How long do we wait after informing immediate family and some friends of the news? Is there a grace period? Is it like the 3-5 days of waiting like calling for a date after getting someone's number?

In the end, it was at least partially dictated by the fact that the Big Sister shirt from Cafe Press arrived in the mail today. I'm sure there's people I should have informed before I told all of Facebook. So, if that's you: I'm sorry. I just don't have a lot of time/energy these days.

Eleanor absolutely refused to let Keith take her picture, until he bribed her with a Reese's peanut butter cup egg (yum). Then she was all smiles! But really, she does seem quite excited about the prospect of being a big sister. She talks to "Little Sib" (since we're not planning on finding out the gender), and rubs my belly every night, telling Little Sib goodnight and that she loves him/her.

I'm also excited, but very intimidated. Being a mother of one has been a challenge. But two?!? I just don't know about that. When I think about how much fun it will be to have two kids .... the scene I imagine always takes place in about 5-7 years, when the kids are potty-trained, reading, and as excited about visiting museums and historical places as I am! (Dream on, all the experienced parents smirk.) I have to confess: I really don't think my strength as a mother is taking care of a newborn. At least the first time around, I found it to be incredibly stressful, and I don't deal well with sleep deprivation. That pretty much says it all about the first 3 months!

But I suppose I'm getting off track here. We're all very excited. Little Sib is due to arrive in early October, which seems far off or just around the corner, depending on my mood. I know that Eleanor will be a wonderful big sister, and I'm sure that all of my fears will be allayed as soon as we meet this amazing child.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Photo Challenge: Purple

The photo challenge this week was another color: purple. (Last time it was white.) Eleanor is a big fan of purple, so we have plenty of purple options around our house. But Keith, of course, is never satisfied with what's around the house. Usually, he's looking for an excuse to get out and go on a photo adventure.

Our adventure took us ... to my parents' house! Crocuses are just starting to bloom around here, and we've seen a lot of purple ones. So Keith took his camera when we went over on Sunday, hoping to get some good, Spring flower pictures. And it was a sunny day, but my parents live just one block from Lake Erie, which means their yard stays cold longer in the Spring, with the cold winds coming off the still-frozen lake. No such crocuses.

Instead, Keith took pictures of the purple flowers my mom had inside the house: living violets, and some cut flowers in a vase. The sunlight on the flowers was nice, but he also had a sneaking suspicion that flowers would be a very common picture for this week's challenge.

So on Tuesday night, as per usual, he was still prowling for that perfect picture. He had an idea for a very abstract picture, to ensure that the focus was truly on the color and not on the object. The necessary ingredients were: a flashlight, decorative purple glass vase filler gems (not sure if that's a real term, but that's what Amazon called them), and a piece of white paper.

It took quite a few attempts for Keith to get the light to really bring out the color of the gems, instead of them looking washed out. The key was that he actually took off the top of the flashlight, and put the gems inside the flashlight, completely covering the light. Then he taped a piece of white paper to the flashlight to catch the reflected light. Here's the set-up:

And here's the final shot. When choosing it on the computer, he said, "I might not do any processing with this picture! I know I say that every week, but it looks really good as is ...." And, of course, he changed his mind. He darkened the overall image so that everything else really dropped away except the purple. I like that, even if you had no idea what the photo challenge was, there's a good chance that "purple" would be the first word that comes to your mind to describe this image. I also like that it's so different from many other pictures he's taken. He's really utilizing the opportunity to expand his abilities. Next week: Circle!


Friday, March 25, 2011

Student-Inspired Haikus

We were talking about haikus in class the other day, and I watched this one student play with his phone the ENTIRE time. It was very .... inspiring.

Cell phone still in hand,
Despite many warning glares,
He blithely texts on.

Is there a teacher
Anywhere in the world, who
Doesn't loathe phones out?

He texts with intent,
Warmed by the small screen,
As the rest of the class learns.

The flower in bloom
Becomes a butterfly, but
The texter missed it.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Talk Me a Tinkerbell!

Talk me a Tinkerbell!" Eleanor demands from her car seat.

I ignore her for 30 seconds, trying furiously to convey the entire contents of my day to Keith as succinctly as possible.

"Talk me a Tinkerbell!" she bellows. Any hint of begging is gone now, and there's steel in her gaze. She means business.

I sigh, giving up all attempts at normal adult conversation. I turn to her and sing-song, "One morning, Eleanor woke up. And pouf! Who showed up?"

"Tinkerbell!" she cries with a huge grin on her face. And so it begins.

All parents have their own personal parenting tasks that are a little more ... challenging. Some of us are fine with reading stories at bedtime, but can't stand playing tea party. Others are happy to run around outside all day, but get twitchy at the thought of craft projects.

In my opinion, one of the most difficult yet rewarding tasks is storytelling. We have made the parenting decision to limit her exposure to electronic media as much as possible (meaning as much as we can handle) for as long as possible. She didn't watch TV until she was 2 years old. Now, at 2 and a half, she watches some Dora and Sesame Street, and an occasional Mickey Mouse clip on YouTube. On a rough week, when time (or my patience) is particularly short, she watches close to 4 hours of TV. On a better week, like when I was on Spring Break, she watches next to nothing. She doesn't play video games or see movies, except for an occasional family movie night.

I know we'll only be able to keep her away from all of this for so long, and eventually it will intrude into our lives more. But for now, I want her to have an imagination. To make up her own games and characters and interactions. To learn how to focus on one activity, instead of trying to constantly multitask as we all (myself in particular) are so guilty of doing.

And this is how I end up talking Tinkerbells. I talk Tinkerbells in the car on the 10-minute trip to the grocery store (one or two stories, max), or on the 4-hour trip to Kentucky (too many Tinkerbells to count). I talk them in the living room, in the attic playroom, and in her bedroom. I never know when the demand, "Talk a Tinkerbell!" is coming. But I can be certain that there is always one looming on the horizon.

I wish I liked it more. Maybe I need to work on my storytelling style. But for now they're repetitive. She likes to do things in the stories that we already do all the time. We go to her friends' houses, to Grandma's, to the park. She bakes cookies and plays dress-up and goes down the slide. If she has a particular plot device that she decides she likes, whether it be a phrase or activity or character, it finds its way into every Tinkerbell from that point forward, until being replaced by another favorite. She always calls it a "Tinkerbell," but sometimes Tinkerbell is there and sometimes not. Sometimes she brings her fairy friends that Eleanor made up: Ningamell, Ninkamell, and Pinkapell. Sometimes the star is Belle or Grandma or a friend, and sometimes it's all about Eleanor! (But isn't everything though, really?)

I find it very difficult to come up with these stories. Under normal circumstances, I consider myself a creative person. I love to write! But to try and find new and exciting twists to the same story, already told countless times; it's a special challenge. At the end of a long day, when my brain just wants to shut off and watch the TV that I'm working so hard to keep her away from, talking a Tinkerbell is usually the last thing I want to do.

But it's important to me. I was pleasantly surprised on our most recent trip down to Kentucky. We did talk many, many, many Tinkerbells. But it didn't feel like as much work, because Eleanor did a lot more of the talking. She told me who was there and what they were doing and what people/fairies said. It gave me hope that talking so many Tinkerbells really is helping her build her imagination. I look forward to the day when I demand that she "Talk me a Tinkerbell!" and I can just kick back and listen.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Dear Red Minivan

If you're in such a hurry that you must creep forward, 10 feet past the stop line, throughout the red light .... why do you then drive consistently 3-5 miles below the speed limit?

Also, please tell your friend, white sedan, that turn signals are meant to be used prior to sitting in an intersection waiting to turn left. I've already figured it by now, thanks.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Photo Challenge: Past


This week's photo challenge was more on the abstract side. I'm getting the sense that Keith really likes the concrete words, like "curve," and he gets a lot of solid ideas for them. Past? That's a bit harder to pin down.

Or rather, it's hard to convey to complete strangers, without using words. We were down in Kentucky over the weekend. Does he take a picture of something from his own past? Except it probably wouldn't mean anything to most people participating in the Photo Challenge, only resulting in a lot of shrugged shoulders, scratched heads, and quick clicks to the next photo.

But it's hard to find a picture of something clearly Past without being too over the top. I'm always drawn to the idea of triptychs, like 3 pictures of Eleanor, starting from the day she was born to today. But is that cheating? To convey past through multiple images?

In the end, Keith and Eleanor took a trip to an old schoolhouse in our city and snapped a few shots. It's a little more spelled out than some of the other photos, with the sign and all .... but how else to do it? It's a difficult concept to convey in a single image.

Before he added some effects in Photoshop, the light was very flat since it's another cloudy, drizzly night. (You know how I knew it would rain tonight? Because it's Tuesday, and our trash pick-up is on Wednesday. So it seems like it rains every Tuesday night!) He warmed up/deepened the colors and added a blurred effect. I guess technically he "de-colorized" because the whole photo is more brown in tone, but to me that made the color that's there more prominent.

Yes, the picture does make me think of the past. But looking at the sad, naked bush and patchy brown grass really makes me think, "Man, I'm ready for Spring!"

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Photo Challenge: Curves

Remember way back when, I talked about how Keith wanted to go out over the weekend to take lots of fun, inspired photos for the Shutterboo weekly photo challenge? And that happened, like once? Most of the time it's a last-minute choice or the weekend is just too busy and it doesn't happen.

But this weekend, it did! I felt crappy on Saturday, so I didn't go. But Keith and Eleanor set out to take some pictures of "curves." They headed downtown first, but for some odd reason there was nowhere to park. So they headed to Keith's more preferred choice: The Frank Gehry building (technically identified as the Peter B. Lewis Building), part of the business school on campus at Case Western Reserve University.

This building has been a definite feature of Cleveland architecture since it was first built over 10 years ago. I saw it a few years ago in the Parker Posey movie The Oh in Ohio and it's pretty hard to miss when you see it in real life. So it was a natural choice for Keith when the subject was "curves."


He took a lot of great shots but, as he discovered once he got home and we started looking at them, the reflection off the metal had a tendency to wash out the colors. So after playing around with the balance for awhile, he just changed it to black and white to maintain a sharp contrast with the sky. There are curves from every angle with this building, but we both liked just how many curves were in this picture, particularly once he cropped it, and how they seemed to shoot off in every direction.

This coming weekend we'll be in Kentucky, so we'll have to see what the next challenge is. Maybe something about bare feet? (I kid, my lovely Kentucky family, I kid!)

NPR Music

I always listen to NPR in the car during the day, which is mostly discussion shows. But lately I've been listening to a lot of NPR music podcasts at home. Cheaper than actually committing to buying a new album, and very eclectic. I've been listening to:
  • Over the weekend I was listening to several Adele recordings, her Tiny Desk Concert and a live performance on World Cafe. Her amazing voice felt like a great soundtrack this weekend, while I was feeling sick and watching it rain while I was curled up on the couch.
  • Right now I'm listening to Ben Ottewell: A Familiar Voice, On Its Own . One of the lead singers of Gomez, Ottewell has recently put out a solo album, and he gave an interview/concert to WFUV 90.7 in New York.
  • I also like the Gomez concert from 2009 on World Cafe, when A New Tide came out.
  • The Black Keys concert from All Songs Considered is a favorite, too.
  • I told Keith about the All Songs Considered podcast "The '90s Are Back, Or Whatever...." which he listened to and enjoyed .... but I still need to hear it. I think it will bring back some memories!
I'm feeling the need to add more strong female singers to my current playlist. I think KT Tunstall has a new record out, and, based on what I've heard, I want to buy Adele's. Let me know if you have any other suggestions!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Spring Break! ... in Cleveland

Today is my first day of Spring Break, and this is what it looks like. Keep in mind that, as of yesterday afternoon, all of the snow had melted. It had been raining for two straight days and the backyard was a total mudpit.

So, on the plus side, I won't be spending my week off wiping down Beckett twenty times a day and occasionally throwing him in the shower.

But, on the downside, SNOW!! More freakin' snow. It doesn't feel much like Spring. Or look like that. Oh well, no matter what the weather does, it's still a week off from classes. So the "break" part holds true.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

The Happiness Project

I've had a lot of ideas swirling around in my brain lately (and clearly, not making it into the blog) and I feel like they are coalescing into The Happiness Project. Or my own quirky version of it.

My Mom has had this book for a while, and apparently I pick it up every time I go over there. My Mom actually bought another copy for me because she saw me eying her copy all the time. It just seems so decadent. A whole entire year spent devoted to finding my own happiness? But when would the grocery shopping get done? And how could I sleep?!? I feel like I spend so much time just trying to make it to the next day that it's hard to imagine devoting much, if any, energy to The Big Picture. I'm stuck looking at my feet instead of down the road.

Which is related to another blog post I started composing in my head and never actually finished. How much time do I spend making myself miserable RIGHT NOW, with the hope/promise that my life will be easier later? And how often is it actually easier later? Or do I just find something else with which to fill the time that I struggled so hard to free up?

So of course, I'm up late to grade papers. And instead, this is the time that I choose to step back and think about The Big Picture. Because I have been miserable lately. I want to be happier about my choices in life and instead I feel the stress levels building again. Last night I dreamed that I had a new job. It was still part-time, in a small office, and was incredibly laid back and low key. No late nights here!

So in this dream, I was explaining to my new co-workers why I quit teaching. Even though I enjoyed it and felt passionate about it, I also thought it was very stressful and didn't feel part-time at all. It felt like I was teaching full-time and taking care of Eleanor full-time and the rest of life—anything else I needed or wanted to do—was fit into the little bits of time left. As I explained the situation to them, it was as if a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders. I suddenly realized how light and relieved I felt.

And then I woke up.

And Eleanor woke up, an hour ahead of normal. And then we dove into another frantic, crazy, out-of-control day.

It gets back to what I said before about having margin. I don't really know what I need to do to fix it, but I know something needs to be done. So I'm signing up for the 2011 Happiness Challenge, and hoping desperately it doesn't just become another item on my to-do list.