Monday, June 30, 2014

Friday, June 27, 2014

The book purge.

I've been staying at my parents' house for a few weeks because we rented our house out again. My parents opted to take a road trip, so that my mom and I don't murder each other from staying in such close quarters. This leaves me entirely in charge of the household.

My parents and I have different philosophies when it comes to housekeeping. Basically, they save everything, and I throw everything away. Every day I wake up here wanting to help clear clutter by renting a large dumpster and having Carrie come over and guide me through an organizational exercise. She would prevent me from falling down the sentimental rabbit hole.

BUT, Mom, I know you're reading this, and you should know that I have not thrown anything away.

The biggest thing I want to get rid of: books.

I know, I know.

When I was little, I would 'design houses,' thinking I wanted to be an architect. I'm not a detail person, however, so I realized early this would be a terrible career choice for me (e.g. I would accidentally leave out the bathrooms from my dream house designs). The one thing my dream designs always had: libraries. Floor-to-ceiling shelves with those fancy wooden ladders on wheels. Entire rooms for sipping tea and reading.

So it pains me that I'm so okay with getting rid of books (again, Mom, I'm not, so stop freaking out). I don't want to get rid of all of them. Just the ones that 1) no one will ever read again and 2) weren't memorable and 3) have no sentimental value.

I did a book purge at my own house last year, and it was amazing. I don't miss any of them, and my lungs are less full of dust now. I also have more room to put cute pictures of my adorable little boy.

Stop freaking out, Mom.

By the way, I totally did move the VHS tapes to a big tupperware bin in the basement. AND YOU CAN'T STOP ME BECAUSE YOU ARE IN WYOMING. We can fight about it when you get home. I love you!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Living car-free in Louisville.

I have taken a lot of crap from "friends" who give me the ol' "must be nice" eyeroll when they hear about some of my adventures -- mostly my addiction to Europe. Yes, I went to Europe for a month in March. Yes, it cost money. But 1) not as much as you think (i am the saaviest of travelers by now) and 2) it's about priorities. Today I'm going to talk about one of those choices we have made:

We don't have a car. 

Those of you in Louisville probably don't believe me, and those of you in big cities are probably not surprised at all. It is pretty strange for Louisville, however, for a middle-class family of three to be living car-free. We have a public bus system, but it can be sketchy and unreliable. My husband takes it for work, and he claims it's not that bad. I have had less-than-good experiences, but I understand supply-and-demand. But I digress...

Notice I said car-FREE and not car-LESS. There was a point, I suppose, when we were carLESS. When we first moved back from Scotland, neither of us was gainfully employed. Any income we could scrape up was used for health insurance and food. A car was just out of the question. Now that we are working, we've grown used to the idea of not having a car. It's become a choice: car-FREE.

You might think we are insane. You are not alone.

Our parents think we are nuts. I think it's a generational thing. I think it's crazy that my parents, who are both retired, have two cars.

For us, it's a combination of financial+environmental motives that keeps us car-free. You know we are both big into staying as green as possible (we have to makeup for my penchant for international flights somehow), but it's also absolutely absurd how much money it costs to maintain a vehicle.

I went to a Pecha Kucha night a few years ago where someone had done the math, figuring out that it costs an average of $10,000/year to own a car -- more if it's an SUV or truck (and my husband is from Texas, so we would obviously need a truck). This accounts for car payments, insurance, and gas. And that Pecha Kucha night was several years ago, so those figures are probably higher now. (Anyone out there want to calculate your car payment + gas + insurance rates per year for me? Some quick googling reveals an average car payment is $475/month, average gas is $300-400/month, and average auto insurance is around $80/month, and that is well over $10k a year, just for one car). 

This, of course, doesn't even begin to count the money you save by not going to Target (or Hobby Lobby. Or Sam's. Or IKEA. Etc.) just because you can. Yes, it's more expensive to buy toilet paper at the grocery store, but when is the last time you got out of Target without spending $50? (Or truthfully, $100, right?) 

Anyway, it's a choice we've made. I'm aware that not everyone in Louisville could make this choice. We happen to live right off of Bardstown Road, and I can walk to work. The wee boy is also not in school yet, nor is he signed up to go to a million activities. We sign up for the things we can get to on foot. We are1/4 mile from the nearest grocery store (yes, I have one of those old -lady-rolling-carts). David takes the bus or takes a taxi to the airport when he's traveling for work. If I have a gig where I have to haul a bunch of equipment, I can either take a taxi ($10k a year is $27/day left for taxis!)or borrow my dad's trusty volvo station wagon.

Now I'm not going to say we never drive (though it is rare, and I hate it). I mean, even Thoreau didn't stay in the woods as often as you think. We still have auto insurance, and my parents let us borrow a vehicle from time to time. We try to limit driving to days when the weather is below zero or above 100 (and we absolutely have to go somewhere that's not walking-distance or easy on the bus), or for that occasional trip to Target.

I'm finally writing about this car-free lifestyle partly because fellow bloggers have mentioned that should be an integral part of my blog marketing: car-free with kids in the 'burbs! you can do it too! Or something like that... but also because my parents went out of town (robbers: don't even think of it. we have several squatters about!), and they've left me with their cars. 

And I feel like a big lazy fattie because I haven't walked anywhere except Lakeside in a week. And I went to Target for no reason. And I went through the drive-thru Heine Brothers because I CAN. 

People, it's terrible. Parents, come back in town, so I can go back to normal. It took us a while to get used to the car-free life, and I'm afraid I'm going to become car-less again.
I don't have any car photos handy, so instead enjoy random pirate photo.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Tours and gigs and vegetables and the twitter.

Last week I played FOUR gigs. Seriously, people, that is more gigs than I've played in all of 2014 combined. They ranged from a 2000+ person show at the Palace Theatre with a musical hero of mine ... to background music gig at a garden party in a beautiful Victorian home. With a wedding and a small club show thrown in for good measure. I also somehow managed to do it while quasi-single-parenting (David was out of town) with the grandparents on vacation. Forgive me for boasting, but I feel rather accomplished in the time-management front.

Just don't ask me what's up with the laundry or how many vegetables my kid ate this week.

In other news, I'm working on booking a UK tour for Feb/March of 2015. I think. Anyone over there have a lead on a good gig? I love the Folk Club scene, but I know they book, like, 18 months in advance. But people ... talk to me about this. Force me to get these dates on the books, so I can have a real deadline for my new album. Want me to come play a house concert in your charming Cotswald cottage? (Sorry, been reading too many Agatha Raisin mysteries lately.) What about your family's castle (ahem, ahem, Lady D)? What about your off-the-beaten-path pub? I am so there! Let's talk.

Sorry my blog isn't so inspired. I've been saving my good stuff for the Twitter.

Friday, June 20, 2014

More about Elvis...

... except I wrote today's blog for a real, newsy-type blog: Insider Louisville.
Read it here.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Singing with Elvis again (again).

I thought long and hard about whether I was going to share this photo with the world. Believe it or not, I really don't just let it all hang out there on this ol' blog and social media sites. Most of the photos and memories I took last night, I am keeping to myself (sorry!), but this one just speaks volumes to how unbelievably cool this man is.

It's the third time I've shared the stage with him (twice in Louisville and once in Scotland), and it's the first time I asked for a photo with him. I hadn't wanted to bug him or seem too fan-girl. But this time I really wanted something to frame that wasn't a fuzzy shot of me with an accordion. Thanks to Jim James for taking the photo. (Like how I just name-dropped like that?)

Anyway, I always need a few days to decompress after playing a big show like that, especially when today is such a contrast: solo parenting to a 21-month-old. The tour bus rolled on, while I changed a diaper. Ah, the choices we make...

Here's a newspaper review of last night's show.

Here's a setlist.

Here are a few shots I collected from the interwebs:

Elvis Costello, Jim James, Brigid Kaelin.
Palace Theatre, June 17, 2014   photo by Laura Maguire Hoke
Elvis Costello and Brigid Kaelin
Palace Theatre, June 17, 2014. photo by Rick Redding.

And just because, here's a video from when I played with EC and the Imposters in Glasgow, Scotland, while I was seven months pregnant:

Thanks for reading my blog, for listening to my music, and for sticking with me on my far-too-long maternity leave from album-making. Time to finish that record and book those tours. (Europe March 2015 anyone?)

Monday, June 16, 2014

Finally ... that high everyone keeps talking about!

I don't know anyone who magically took to breastfeeding without any problems. I had it much better than most of my friends though. The wee boy latched on right away, gained weight, and, barring a couple of small things that were attended to by the midwives in Scotland (who come to your house to make sure feeding is going well and who also offer free weekly breastfeeding clinics in every neighborhood), I was able to nurse on demand because of my flexible self-employed schedule. It's pretty much the only thing that has come naturally to me in motherhood, which is why I was so steadfast and insistent on continuing.

I would have put a nursing pic here,
but I don'tseem to have any!
Several close friends raved to me about the oxytocin high they got when their babes latched on. One friend described it as "like that moment when the xanax kicks in." Let me tell you, I waited and waited and waited for that release, but it never came. Though I was nursing by choice, I resented having to sit still for 12-13 hours a day in the beginning, all the while reading post after post from other new mothers absolutely loving just staring down at the newly born loves of their lives and swooning with oxytocin joy. (You'd think I would have learned to just get off of Facebook already. Still haven't learned that lesson.)

My goal had originally been to make it to one year. I had horrible PPD, and nursing was the only thing I felt like I could do right. (I know, I know.) But by the time he was 12 months, nursing just wasn't instrusive anymore. His sessions were super-quick -- sometimes only 1-2 minutes -- and not nearly as often during the day. I also work out of my home office, so I was readily available.

Anyway, he's still nursing now, 21 months later, and I have no plans to stop.*

All this backstory is to tell you that something miraculous has happened over the past month: I suddenly get the oxytocin release. It's not quite like a xanax, but it's kind of completely amazing. I absolutely love our nursing sessions, which of course are super quick nowadays (unless it's between 5-7am, in which case they are marathon sessions because he's teething), but I just want to squeeze and kiss and cuddle that little boy so so much.

I'm also so so so sad that I missed out on that overwhelming love that all the Facebook posts lead me to believe every single other mother out there is feeling when she looks down at her newborn baby. (See my old postpartum depression post.)

But nothing to be done about that, right? I'm just so happy to look down at him grinning while he nurses. And, oh, to be able to talk to him about it!
"What does it taste like?"
"Chocolate milk, Mommy!"(giggles and giggles)
"Which do you like better ... mommy milk or chocolate milk?" 
"Chocolate milk!" (even more giggles) "Noooooo ... mommy milk, silly!"
So. Many. Giggles.

It's kind of the best.

*(If you are thinking that it's weird that I'm still nursing, I really really encourage you to do a little google search on the benefits of "extended breastfeeding," a term I really dislike, by the way, because it suggests it's nursing longer than what is normal, when, really, breastfeeding is very very normal.)

Monday, June 9, 2014

Baby Showers are out of control these days.

I am throwing a baby shower for a friend, and apparently, I have no idea how to do it. In my history of throwing parties (and I do think I throw a pretty good party), my priorities have always been:
  1. music and 
  2. the bar. 
Even at my wedding, that's what I spent my budget and energy on.

Well, thank goodness I've got a co-host on this baby shower because did you know that baby showers are supposed to not only have themes (what?? I thought BABY was the theme??), but colors? And decorations that follow said theme and colors? Like, you spend as much on decorations as you do on the food? And this baby shower's colors are the same as the mom-to-be's colors because moms-to-be, also, apparently are supposed to have colors. And party favors? Seriously?!

I mean no mocking of my dear friends here. They are great, and I love them, but man oh man, am I glad my kiddo was born in Scotland because he didn't even have a room, much less colors, much less a theme. Poor boy!

In all seriousness though, I have been to many a baby shower in the past, and I can't remember any of them having themes. Or cakes. I remember some cupcakes sometimes. And lots of cake pops. But I don't remember any decorations. Then again, I never remember anyone's wedding decorations either. I just remember whether there was a live band and an open bar. We each have our own priorities, I suppose...  off to Pinterest to find out how to make monsters out of old shoelaces. Anything for a friend:)

Friday, June 6, 2014

Petit dejeuner and daydreams and a little bit of Scotland.

Ah, travel. My favorite thing. I am spending my little one's naptime (he's a 30-minute napper usually, so today is a bizarre blessing) going through photos from our Paris/Edinburgh trip this spring. I had so many blogs to write, but I instead spent every waking moment meandering cobblestone streets and catching up with old friends. All the while, I took some photos.

Like this one, taken at the Patisserie Florentin, which sounds like it should be in Paris, but it's actually in Scotland.
Patisserie Florentin. Stockbridge, Edinburgh, Scotland.

It's simple, really, but it's one of the things I miss most about Europe. The idea of a simple breakfast -- this one cost £4 -- with coffee, a tiny cup of orange juice, a proper croissant, and part of a baguette. Carb-o-licious, obviously, but you walk several miles a day when you're there, so it evens out. David and the wee boy like the "Swiss Breakfast," which subs a croissant for several slices of cheese and some yoghurt.

I wish some place in Louisville (walking distance from my house, please) would offer up a petit dejeuner just like this. Or even just a croissant that has the exact right mix of flaky and crunchy. Constantly on a quest...

What say you, Breadworks? Please? Just let me sit there with a little notebook, write some nonsense, while you deliver me something just like this, and I pay a little premium for it.

Petit dejeuner at Patisserie Florentin. Stockbridge, Edinburgh, Scotland.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Tips on teaching your child to swim - Part 2: Practicing at home.

As promised in yesterday's blog, here are some time-tested and mother-approved tips for learning to swim that you can practice with your child in the bathtub or the pool. Have something to add to the list? Comment below. Enjoy!

1.     Blow bubbles. If your child can blow out a candle, she can blow bubbles. Tell her to blow in the water as if she is blowing on too-hot food. For older kids, sing “Happy Birthday” a few times, and lower the “candles” into the water a bit each time. Get a toy boat and ask her to blow it around the tub. Learning to blow bubbles easily and instinctively is key to being a confident swimmer. If you’re blowing air out, you’ll never inhale water in. We blow bubbles during every bath. I usually lean over into the bathtub, put my whole face in, and blow bubbles with my little boy. He thinks this is hilarious.

2.     Float. This one is easier if you get in the bathtub with your child. Cradle your child’s head so she feels secure and have her lie back. Some children like being able to lie over their parent’s legs. Even a short time on their backs (most children don’t love learning to float) is helpful. In the pool, I have my kiddos rest their heads on my shoulder, then stretch my arms underneath them to support them while they float. Don’t let go, even if they are basically floating on their own – this is about trust as much as anything. Older kids will enjoy pretending to be starfish and stretching their arms and legs into a star shape while they float and you sing “Twinkle, Twinkle.”

3.     Play with cups,watering cans, etc. Cups are the best bathtub toys. Pour that water over their heads. Get in the bath with them and let them pour water over your head. It’s always nice to have a phrase you use every single time (I use, “Graham, ready, go!”), so they will come to expect the water and usually close their eyes in preparation. It doesn’t take long for them to catch on – even when they are just a few months old – that when you say the ready-phrase, they close their eyes. For older toddlers, tell them they are flowers and when you water them, they’ll grow up big.

4.     Make spoon-hands, not forks. You wouldn’t eat soup with a fork, right? You wouldn’t paddle a boat with a pitchfork, right? Play pretend and have your kiddo make his hands in to spoons. Take scoops of imaginary icecream, soup, whatever. Then do arm circles with your spoon hands.

5.     Arm Circles. This is preparation for freestyle (crawl) arm strokes. The swim-team version of arm strokes is a bit more complex than the swim lesson version, but we stick to the idea of “arm circles” for simplicity.  I like to sing “Row, Row, Row your Boat” while moving my toddler’s hands in big circular motions through the air and the water. Have him “reach for the sky!”

6.     Kick, kick, kick. Kids LOVE to kick. Encourage straight legs and pointed toes. “Red Light/Green Light” is a classic for practicing kicks. In the tub, they can kick while sitting up, or they can roll over on their tummies and kick kick kick.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

8 Tips on Teaching Your Child to Swim (from a certified swim instructor)

Yes, yes, there are actually 8 tips here.
I added one after I made this pinterest bait.
The pools opened last weekend, and my newsfeed was flooded with articles about drowning (and secondary drowning). I don’t want to go into it because it’s a huge trigger for me, and that’s not the point of this blog anyway. What I want to do here is give you a few pointers on teaching your kiddos to swim.

Who am I – singer, songwriter, traveler and accordion player  – to give you  any advice about swimming? I also happen to have been a Red Cross certified Water Safety Instructor since 1997, and I’ve taught swim lessons most seasons since then. It’s not my main gig (that’s traveling, singing, recording, teaching piano, and being a mom), but it’s a gig I love. Swimming is not just a summer diversion, but it’s an important life skill that everyone should have, and I’m happy to know that I’ve taught thousands of people.

I admit that some of my teaching philosophy has changed since I became a parent, but most of the basics have remained the same. Here are some tips for teaching your child/baby/toddler how to swim:

1.    Get your hair wet. This is probably the biggest tip of all. If you don’t go underwater, how do you expect your kid to go underwater? If you don’t want to mess up your blowout (as if you actually had time to get a blowout – though if you did, I totally understand not wanting to mess it up!), don’t go swimming that day. Your child needs to see you blowing bubbles, floating on your back, doing arm circles, having an underwater tea party, and smiling about it. This is your chance to get your toddler to copy something good, and not just copying your four-letter words. My kiddo LOVES to push me underwater. Even when I really don’t want to get wet, I go underwater and attempt to smile about it. How is it fair to tell your kid she has to go underwater at her swim lesson if her parents don’t do it?

2.    Take a parent/child class. These classes are designed to be fun, not teach your child Olympic skills. You’ll sing songs, you’ll blow bubbles, you’ll play with toys. You’ll also learn techniques you can use to teach your child when you are not in class. Don’t expect your infant/toddler to actually learn to swim during these classes, but trust that they are helping acclimate your child to the pool --- to both its fun and its dangers. There’s also usually at least one kid in the class who goes underwater and loves it, and you want your child to see that kid having fun.

3.    Swim often. The best way to learn to swim? Go to the pool as often as you can. If your swim class is only once a week, go another day (or four) and “practice” in a less structured environment. Swimming is muscle memory, so give those muscles an opportunity to remember.

11-month-old swimming.
August 2013.
4.    Don’t let go. Take your child in water where he cannot stand up, but YOU can. Hold on to your kiddo, and tell him you aren’t going to let go unless he says it’s okay. Develop this trust, and stick to it.

5.    Let go. Got a splash pool where your child can stand up and have free reign of the pool? Great. Let him roam, explore, even fall down. Don’t hover, but don’t get too far away that you can’t grab him if he slips under. If he falls down and can’t get his footing enough to stand up again (all that baby fat is buoyant!), pick him up, and don’t act terrified. Be proud that your little one went underwater, and talk about all the different feelings he may have had. “Your eyes feel funny!” “Your hair is wet!” “Was that surprising?” (Try to avoid “scary.”) I like to act very happy and give lots of claps and assurances.

6.    Blow bubbles. Bubbles are the key to swimming. I like to sing “Ring Around the Rosies/Pocket full of posies/ Splashes, splashes/ we all blow bubbles!” My kiddo screams for “Ring Rosies!” every time we get near the water.

7.    Get in the pool first. This is a safety tip. Always get in the pool before your child, and tell him he must wait until his adult is in the water before he gets in. The idea is that this will prevent him jumping in the pool unsupervised.

8.    Avoid floaties. Arm-floaties. Puddle-jumpers. Lifejackets (unless you are boating!). Are you rolling your eyes? I saved this for last because I thought you might scoff. As a parent, I totally get wanting to lay out by the pool, grab a few moments of solitude, and know that your kid isn’t going to sink. As a swim instructor, I’ll tell you that floaties do multiple things that hinder your child’s swim skills. They give a false sense of security. They prevent your child from learning what it actually feels like to float. But more annoying and challenging is that they teach the child to kick incorrectly – like she is pedaling a bike rather than the nice straight-legged kick that moves you through the water efficiently. It’s really tricky to unlearn the bicycle kick that develops when your kid is used to wearing floaties. Floaties also prevent their faces from getting wet, and almost every child I’ve taught who was a floatie-kid can’t stand putting his face under water. Your child will learn to swim a lot more quickly if you can avoid the floaties. 

Here's a video of my wee boy 'swimming' to grandma and back last summer. By the end of the season, he would kick underwater about 4-5 feet to us or to the wall. He is 11 months old in this video.

Check back my other post on specific tips on practicing swimming techniques with your little ones at home. There are plenty of skills that can be practiced in the bathtub., and I’ve got a list going for you.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Wordpress will be the death of me.

I've been working on redesigning my website for approximately one hundred years. Nothing is as simple as it should be, and I am the prime example of "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing." I have to be able to update it myself, and I'm actually pretty good with computers, believe it or not. I even once won "Best in Show" in the Kentucky State Fair for a basic computer program that I wrote and designed when I was seven years old. Ergo, if you want an expert of 1985 Basic Programing, I am your girl. But things have changed, apparently, and even Wordpress makes me want to pull my teeth out.

I've got things almost the way I want them on the new site, but there are a few things here and there that just aren't perfect. Like an indent where I don't want one. A small missing bit of information. A photo that is just slightly askew.
Do you like piña coladas? I know, this photo has
nothing to do with this blog. But this one time, I
went to Havana Rumba and had a drink by myself
and it was kind of the most awesome thing ever.

Meanwhile, what I should be doing with my very limited free time is actually PLAYING MUSIC!

Tyra, will you just be my manager already? I can't be trusted with my career anymore.

Also, Steve, Peter, Dan, Andy, when are you guys available to play another band gig? Do you even read my blog? You've probably forgotten who I am because I haven't even played with you since that fantastically sold-out show at the New Vintage back in January. When can we record that new record? I'm ready to play.

Anyone with me?


Back to Wordpress.

But coming soon on The Red Accordion Diaries:
  • Tips on teaching your child to swim.
  • A fancy tea party I had a few weeks ago at a neat shop nearby.
  • Who stole my red accordion?
And probably some recipes because I've been cooking.