Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween traditions in Scotland.

I'd written a blog about the Top 5 Worst Halloween candies, but then noticed this morning that several of my friends had already shared a Top TEN list (it's good -- read it here). So I'm deleting that post, and instead I shall write about how Scotland started Halloween.

Well, that's not entirely true, but since they pretty much invented everything else, I'm going to just go with that, okay? Most scholars agree that Halloween has its roots in Celtic harvest festivals. The word "Halloween" is itself derived from old Scots, so there you go.

When we were living in Scotland (through two Halloweens), we learned that trick-or-treating probably originated there (or Ireland or Wales, depending on whom you talk to). The practice of "guising," meant going door-to-door in disguise.

Rather than simply dressing up and demanding candy, however, in Scotland, there is a bit more expected of the children: You have to perform for your candy.

Last year, in our tiny, adorable flat, on our tiny, adorable cobblestone street, we had the cutest little trick-or-treaters knock on our door and TELL JOKES!

My favorite was a little girl, maybe 8 years old, out by her lonesome and dressed like a witch who deadpanned:

Why didn't the skeleton cross the road?   Because he didn't have the guts!
 immediately followed by
Why didn't the skeleton go to the dance?  Because he had no-body to go with!
She got a LOT of candy.

Really, though, I love the idea that you must earn your treats.
The wee boy last year ... and this year.

Another factoid you probably didn't know (unless you are one of my many Scottish readers, obviously), is that before there were pumpkins, there were turnips. Yes, little Scottish kids would hollow out a turnip and go guising in search or coins or treats which they would collect in their turnip. Somehow Americans must have gotten greedy and decided that a turnip wasn't big enough and went for pumpkins. And we wonder why we have a childhood obesity problem...

Then again, we used to use pillowcases when I was a kid, so who am I calling greedy?

Tonight, I hope you get lots of trick-or-treaters, and I hope they do a song or dance or tell you a great joke.

Scottish friends, what else am I missing?


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Some entertaining and useful links.

I've come up with a lot of genius ideas that have been stolen by gnomes (I mean, seriously, didn't we ALL "invent" the Snuggie™ at some point in our twenties?), but I admit that sometimes other people get to the good ideas first.

Here are a few of my favorite websites:

Is Mercury In Retrograde?
I used this last week when I had three no-show piano students in a row. Shocker! Mercury in retrograde.

Should I hang my washing out?
I wish I'd known about this when I was in Edinburgh. Though with all our cloth diapers, it's still useful here in Kentucky. This site also has a good sense of humor, so beware.

Have You Had That Baby Yet?
For all you pregnant women, this is the most useful site you'll find. Forward your personal website to it. Create an automate email/text response sending people the URL. They will get the picture. Maybe.

Happy Wednesday, y'all!

Follow me on Twitter! I say more things there than I do on this blog.

Some hilarious and perfect additions from Randi, who left this comments:

Here are two more awesome ones: - because it often is - for those annoying FB friends who rather ask you what an unfamiliar term is, rather than just google it themselves. :)

Monday, October 28, 2013

Screen time and missing it all.

I have always struggled with the work/life balance, mostly because I've been self-employed since I was 22. As my grandfather once told me, "At the end of every gig, you are unemployed." Laptops and smartphones are the saviors of the self-employed, allowing us to always be available for work, whatever the gig. For me, who hasn't released any new art lately, it's important that I stay active on social media or my blog, lest you all forget who I am.

I say all this because I find it very challenging to

Thursday, October 24, 2013

It took me thirteen months to get here.

Yesterday, for the first time, um, ever, I felt like a good mother.
Not a great one, by any means, but a good one.

You see, yesterday I decided I didn't care about my work emails or phone calls. I wanted to play cars with the wee boy. I wanted to snuggle with him and let him nurse all morning since that what he seemed to want. I cooked three full meals for him, all from scratch and with lots of vegetables. He ate most of what I made, and I didn't get frustrated when he threw precious avocado pieces on the floor.

I did disappear to the basement to teach for three hours while his grandparents watched him. But while I was down there, I could hear them all reading Dr. Seuss books and laughing. That made me feel less guilty about leaving him for a few hours.

And when I was finished working -- get this -- I was really happy to see him. I didn't mind when he grasped my trousers and shouted, "Up! Up! Up!" I didn't mind the extra nursing sessions he insisted on even though I know he wasn't hungry. I didn't mind reading "Little Quack Counts" six times in a row or skipping directly to the black sheep page of "Brown Bear."

This is good, right?

I'm relieved to be feeling better. But it also makes me unbelievably sad that so many mothers feel this from the beginning. It makes me wonder what I've missed, and it makes me angry and guilty (guilt guilt guilt!) that it's taken thirteen months to get here.

Still, it's a good start.

You may also enjoy this far-too-personal explanation of what PPD actually feels like.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Back in my own bed.

I'm back in my house after about two weeks crashing with my parents. I know, I know, I vascillate between oversharing and being far too secretive. Though I would like to keep some shred of privacy, I've come to realize that this blog is a lot more interesting when I just lay it all out there.

This isn't my bedroom. It's some
Anthropologie bedding I covet. But
being back at home gives me the same
feeling I imagine having an Anthro
bedroom would elicit.
Anyway, David and I have been renting our house out for short-term rentals, vacation rentals, and the like, for a while now since money has been tight. Now we are kind of addicted to it and can't seem to say no when we get requests. Part of it is probably that we did some research on college planning for the wee boy, and now we are terrified that our kid will end up a musician or something equally horrible if we don't have the cash to send him to Harvard, where he will obviously be attending.

The point of oversharing is that I have to tell you how happy I am to finally be back in our house. It feels soooooo good that I can think of nothing else to write about this morning. Last night while the wee boy was eating dinner, I just waltzed around my kitchen fantasizing about all the pumpkins I could roast and bread I could bake. I fondled my KitchenAid Stand Mixer, and I cleaned the stove, though it was already clean. I poured a glass of wine, cut a wedge of brie, and a few slices of granny smith. I took them all up to my very own bed and read a book about living in Paris.

I'm not a domestic, by any means, but I do love home (and Paris).

Monday, October 21, 2013

Craft stuff I will never do, and every day is costume day.

I know I need to get out of the house more when I start to care about things like throw pillows and candlesticks. When I'm home all day long, however, things start to get all out of whack in my head -- perspective, priorities, pinterest. I haven't even browsed plane ticket prices to Europe in, like, a week. It's time to get out of the house.

I'm also getting pretty excited about Halloween. I normally don't care about the holiday, as I think people should be able to wear Batman costumes any old day of the year (and not be deemed weirdos). But I've got a baby now, so Halloween is, like, the best holiday there is. I won't be doing any of these creepy Pinterest things because in my head I know -- I must repeat -- they are not important. But I am going to get my kid a costume, and he's going to wear it as often as possible.

In fact, I'm thinking the rest of the month will be costume day at Mama's Hip for Baby/Toddler/Parent Music class I teach on Tuesday mornings. I teach that class because it's super fun, but mostly because I need a good reason to leave the house. Otherwise I'd be at home tortured by the fact that I am not making ghosts out of bananas and jackolanterns out of clementines.

If you would rather sing silly songs than make deviled eggs look like pumpkins, come join me and the wee boy at Mama's Hip on Tuesday at 10:30. I think I'll put him in costume tomorrow. Just because. ($10/family)

Thursday, October 17, 2013

A change in the weather and so much music.

Last weekend was a perfect autumn weekend in Louisville, despite protests from everyone's sinuses. I played three gigs in twenty-four hours. I taught a songwriting workshop to some really smart people. I walked a few miles down the middle of Bardstown Road. I saw a bajillion people I haven't seen in ages. It was wonderful and completely exhausting.

But the music part was energizing. So much so that I said yes to playing in someone else's band (a gig that requires my least favorite thing: rehearsals!). And I made a call to someone about signing a record label contract I was first offered about five years ago to see if the offer still stands. I really want to record a few new albums, so I can move on to other songs.

Feeling inspired.

Here's a video of the wee boy stealing some buskers' tips.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Postnatal care in the UK: clarifications on home visits, plus more details.

Before I move onto discussing the home health visitor part of postnatal/postpartum (same language, different word) care in the UK, I wanted to clarify a few thing about the midwife home visits. I've gotten loads of emails from people who had questions and concerns.

1) The midwife brings a scale with her during each visit and weighs the newborn. If the newborn has lost too much weight, they first suggest feeding her more often. If it's a significant amount (I think beyond 10%), they do suggest supplementing with formula.

2) They are pro-breastfeeding, if that is what the mother wants to do. If the home midwife isn't able to solve any nursing problems, she suggests going to one of the many free nursing clinics around the city. In Edinburgh, there are multiple clinics several times a week, where anyone can go to get one-on-one help from a certified lactation consultant. (I used this service once, and it was wonderful. Will save it for another blog.)

3) Yes, they do the hearing tests and vitamin K shots (though you can opt out if you are very insistent).

Terrible, blurry photo of our midwife doing heel-prick test
in our living room. Check out the new-parent messy house!
4) Yes, they offer the "heel-prick test" for various genetic disorders, and our midwife drew blood from the wee boy's heel while David held him on our living room couch (and I hid myself in the bedroom).

5) There are also various "forums" throughout the city. The one in my neighborhood was on Tuesdays from 11:30-2:30 (I think). It was part drop-in doctors' office and part moms' group. Several rooms of a large community center were available to parents of babies 0-6months (there are other days/times set up for older babies) with playmats, changing tables, baby scales for weigh-ins for nervous/obsessed parents, and -- get this -- several health visitors (essentially nurse practitioners) or midwives available to answer any nagging questions.

It was an easy and wonderful way to pop in, make sure your baby is gaining weight, and ask a question that wasn't exactly an emergency, but was a concern. You know ... the ones where you aren't sure if it warrants a visit to the doctor, but you'd like to get it checked out.What is this rash? Is this the right color poo? Why are his eyes crossed? Listen to this noise he's making. None of us is sleeping ... what can we do? It's actually at the forum where a health visitor first suggested that my "baby blues" was lingering a bit too long.

If I'd been mentally up for it, it would have also been a great way to meet other new mums in the neighborhood, as the forum was always packed. Childbirth made me shy, however, and I usually cowered in a corner while David chatted up the nurses with questions.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Birth in the UK: Postnatal care. Home Visits!

Previously on Birth Story (click for the link)
So when we last left off of birth story, I had had the wee boy, and we went home via taxi from the birthing centre, about twenty-four hours after delivery. If you're shocked that it was so soon, know that there was absolutely no reason to keep us in the hospital, as we'd had an uncomplicated natural delivery, and he was nursing great. We would have actually preferred to go home the minimum of six hours after he was born.

The next morning, there was a knock on our front door. It was our midwife, Emily, coming to check on us.

Read that sentence again.

Seriously -- that happened.

Emily wanted to know how David and I were feeling, how the baby was feeling, if he was looking jaundiced (he was, and she prescribed a walk in the sunshine and to keep him near a window), how many dirty/wet nappies he had, what color his poo was, if he was feeding well, making sure we were keeping his crib in our room, without blankets, that we knew the signs for hunger, and if we had any questions. She checked the temperature in our flat, suggesting it be between 18-20 celcius. She asked how my lady parts were feeling, and if I'd passed any blood clots larger than a 50p coin. (If I did, I was to save them in a container and show them to her, so she could examine and make sure it wasn't leftover placenta bits.) She warned us that I would shortly start to feel "weepy," when my hormone levels dropped. She smiled, she cuddled the boy and checked him over, and she went on her merry way.

And she came back off and on for two weeks postpartum before deciding that the three of us were recovering well and discharging us into the hands of the Home Health Visitor -- also a medical professional who makes house calls.

More on that in another blog.

I've been reminiscing about those early days, as two of my good friends have had babies in the past week. It's a beautiful time, but it's also extremely challenging. I'm incredibly thankful to have had the home visits, and I really wish more was done for new parents in America. There are so many details to consider, so many things most people have never even heard of (counting diapers?!), and it's hard enough to take care of your own postpartum body, much less a little creature.

If you know a new parent, stop by their house (call first!). Bring them some croissants or a quiche or a six-pack of Guinness (it's good for nursing!). Take the baby for a walk, and tell them to take a nap or have a shower. Don't stay long.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Daydreaming of the perfect Parisian breakfast.

You all know I wouldn't mind going back to Scotland, but this recent government nonsense is strengthening that urge. The rest of the world has been laughing at us for years, but now they are just writing us off as total idiots. If we had EU work visas, we'd be on the next plane.

Instead, I'm daydreaming about European breakfasts. I, like most white women in their thirties, very much enjoy taking pictures of my meals while on vacation. Today I'm missing Paris, of course, but also the Patisserie Florentin, a charming cafe in Edinburgh that served inexpensive and perfect continental breakfasts.

The closest thing I've found in Louisville is Ghyslain, which is delicious and charming and has droolworthy chocolates, but doesn't offer much in the way of vegetarian Euro-breakfasts. I paid $8 for a egg & croissant sandwhich because I didn't want the ham that comes with it.

What I'd really like is what I used to get at Patisserie Florentin: pieces of fresh baguette with butter and jams, various cheeses, a yogurt, and a fancy coffee drink, all for about $6. The ultimate continental breakfast.

Le sigh.

 Perfect menu (for sharing):

A fresh baguette and croissants
Various jams
Freshly squeezed Orange juice
Tea or fancy coffee drinks
Cheese slices: muenster, swiss, and gouda
Drinking chocolate, if you're feeling extra fancy.

Don't be lazy and try to economize your dishes. Get out the tea service, the goblets, the saucers, the butter knife, the cloth napkins, the sugar bowl. It's an experience. Savor it. Every minute.

Ok, now who's coming over for brunch?

Friday, October 4, 2013

Great gift idea for new parents.

Have y'all seen this cool website? I know that totally sounds like a spam email, but seriously, this is a good idea: Take Them A Meal.

Some good friends just had a baby, and now all of their friends are joining forces to make sure they have meals delivered to their home for three entire weeks, all coordinated by this website (and one very good friend who set up the account). How amazing is that?

I'm pretty sure we ate toast for the first week after our boy was born.

In thinking about what to make for the new parents, I realize that I don't think I've cooked a proper meal since our wee boy was born. What do people eat, anyway? David and I are masters of one-pot-meal -- a giant vat of soup that we eat for every meal for days until it's gone.

 I mean, what is a side dish?

I think I'm going to use this opportunity to start cooking real meals for myself.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

A lot of public appearances (and a few private ones).

Friday, October 4, for the Trolley Hop. I'm playing at the Local Speed 822 East Market Street. There's a new exhibit, a cash bar, and me playing some music smack dab in the middle of the room. I might be solo. I might bring a friend with me.

Saturday October 5, at Mama's Hip. I'm leading the Family Music Jam, a parent/child drop-in class ($10/family) at 10:30am where we'll sing some fun kids' songs and maybe some Beatles' tunes or John Denver tunes or something besides "The Wheels on the Bus."

Sunday, October 6, I'm playing The Great American Lesbian Jewish Wedding (their words, straight from the invitation) that you may or may not be invited to.

Friday, October 11, at the Bard's Town for the InKY Reading Series, I'm playing a solo set at 7:00.

Saturday, October 12 at the Writer's Block Festival (Green Building), I'm leading a workshop called "The Story of Song," in which I'll be talking about songwriting, art and craft, melodies, harmonies, and why "Strawberry Wine" is a good song, even if you hate country pop. You can register to attend here:

Saturday, October 12 at the Belknap Fall Festival ... Full band show! 4:30-5:30 pm. It's free, outside, and for the whole family.

So my next two weekend are busy.

I'm pretty sure I just typed all that out so that my husband knows where I am.

 See y'all out and about?
I probably won't wear my
wedding dress to this
weekend's gigs.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

A rant, a whinge, a new album. Well, 2 out of 3.

I try not to post a lot of whinges* on here, unless they are funny. No one wants to read constant complaing. At the same time, I feel like if everything is sunshine and puppy-dogs, then I'm being exactly the kind of person I called out on that PPD blog. Can't win.

To be completely honest, I still feel like I'm going insane. We aren't at a point where we can afford child care just yet, so I'm only ever away from the baby when I'm teaching lessons or when he's napping (briefly, ever so briefly, and I throw in a load of laundry, cook a pot of soup, or write a quick and obviously unedited blog for you because it's my only connection with the outside world and because it's the only therapy I can afford on my current health insurance plan).

Whinge*, whinge, whinge (I really do love that word!).

When I was in the depths of PPD, I had no urge to play music or create anything. Now I'm feeling a bit better, and I finally have an urge to record a new album, to write new music, even to finish up that novel, but I'm going mental. I make lists, I plan which new song will be my Track 4, I think about who I want to produce it, and how I will tour it. Then I cry because how the hell am I going to record anything when I'm on pretty much full-time baby duty?

I know I'll figure it out eventually. I know I've got to make the time, or I'll go insane. I also know I'm supposed to be enjoying every single minute of my baby because apparently he'll be graduating from college next year or something.

I'm gathering lots of rosebuds, I really am. I completely adore the wee boy, and I'm pretty sure he's the cutest, smartest baby every to live, with the prettiest blue eyes that ever were. He's the best cuddler with the softest skin, and his laugh is the most perfect music I've ever heard.

But man, I really want to make a new album!

British. informal
verb: whinge; 3rd person present: whinges; past tense: whinged; past participle: whinged; gerund or present participle: whingeing
  1. 1.
    complain persistently and in a peevish or irritating way.
    "stop whingeing and get on with it!"
noun: whinge; plural noun: whinges
an act of complaining.