Thursday, July 31, 2014

Meal Planning for Beginners/ How to Meal Plan.

My lovely friend Brigid Kaelin recently tapped me for a guest blog. This was pretty easy to ignore until she called me out publicly on her birthday week! I guess I have a knack for entertaining. Although as a working mom of two, I do far too little of it myself, I get enlisted all the time to help plan couples showers, birthday bashes, and (most recently) a heart-healthy, kid-friendly, vegetarian-friendly barbecue. That last one is probably deserving of its own blog. Today, I’m going to write about something a little more mundane. Meal planning.

So this is MY fridge (Brigid's fridge). It's a mess.
I'm hiring Colleen to meal plan for us all.
by Colleen M.

“What do you want for dinner?” “I dunno, what do you want?”

Apparently, a lot of people struggle with this. I think the key to meal planning -- like so many things – is striking the balance between not making an effort and not trying too hard. I’ve definitely been guilty of both at one point or another. It always amazes me, though, that the moments when I seem to impress people the most are those when I am barely trying.

I remember a certain red-headed friend gushing when I served her vegetable stir fry with Ramen noodles and frozen pot stickers. Ramen noodles! In her defense, it had been a busy week and it was probably the first home-cooked meal she’d had in days. Also, I took the time to arrange all of the pot stickers facing the same way (really about 40 seconds, but it made it look sooo pretty!) and throw together a house dipping sauce (Thai peanut salad dressing out of a bottle with soy sauce mixed in).

So what’s the proper balance?


Make an effort.

Don’t try too hard.

·       One of the biggest complaints I hear about meal planning is that people end up throwing things away. So, don’t over-plan. Plan meals a week at a time, and go shopping for ingredients every week. This is the only way to eat fresh produce.

·      Aim for a little variety. Brainstorm lists of Asian dishes, Italian dishes, soup-and-sandwich combos, cook-out menus, and the like. Then, choose one from each column and save the rest for another week.

·      It has been said that cooking is the only art which involves all the senses. Food should look good. Stop serving things out of pots and pans (if you do that). Get out a serving bowl. Arrange the pot stickers. Take the extra minute or two to make things pretty. It’s worth it.

·      If you want to eat in five nights a week, plan four meals. I don’t know about your family, but often something comes up in ours and we accept a last-minute dinner invitation or have a late night and order pizza. Sometimes, we have a lot of leftovers and make a meal of those. 

·      As a last resort, have a couple of pantry meals on-hand or go with the old B for D routine (breakfast for dinner). One of the biggest excuses complaints I hear about meal planning is that people end up throwing things away. So, don’t over-plan.

·      Yes, I know how to make tortillas from scratch, and pasta, and gnocchi, and amazing Naan. Yes, it tastes better. No, I don’t do it all the time. Are you kidding? I’d weigh 300 lbs. and never get anything done!

·      Limit yourself to one new recipe a week. Stick to what you know and expand your repertoire slowly. You don’t run a 10K without working up to it. If you try three new recipes in one night, you’re bound to over-extend yourself and get burnt out.

Apparently, I don’t take very many food pictures. Here’s another easy (but pretty) fruit dessert:

Brigid here: I've already tapped Colleen for several more foodie posts, so look out for more from her. How's that for calling her out publicly??? Good thing I've known her forever, or she might defriend me. Now to attempt a meal plan...

Monday, July 28, 2014

Adult back flips and Watermelon Fruit Monster ideas.

I've had so much fun the past two weekends, I don't even know where to begin. I have a whole blog in draft about Forecastle with a Toddler (I also see a pattern here with my zillion blogs-in-draft ... must find time to actually finish them), but today I'm going to write about all the festivities we had.

Friday was my birthday, as you can tell because my Klout score is pushing 70 (surely that qualifies me for a free suite in Vegas, right?) thanks to the gazillion Facebook posts from my wonderful friends wishing me "hbd." David took a vacation day, got up at 6 with the Wee Boy, while I slept till -- get this -- 7:30!! After a hedonistic day, David organized a small gathering of just a few friends that night just in time for us to go to Lakeside for the biannual Adult Twilight Swim.

It was a fun event that included cake, watermelong, and back flips. LOTS of back flips. I think we were the only crew of the evening to hit the diving boards, but I think the rest of the adult swimmers enjoyed watching us smack our bellies, make huge splashes, and slightly over-rotate on our flips. The high dive at 36 is a little higher than it was at 35, my friends. But I can still do a back flip and an inward off the 3.5-meter board, so TAKE THAT, AGE!!! Here's a friend of mine doing a gainer aka a reverse flip.

 In OTHER news, the baby shower went delightfully well. I was in charge of the food and games, while my co-host did the decorations and invitations and cake. It was a perfect balance because we all know I can't decorate or deal with details. I can, however, make watermelon fruit monsters*. Well, MAYBE I can. I don't know for sure because as soon as I was about to start carving, David steps in and goes all Michelangelo on the melon:

I already knew David was not only the handiest person on the planet, but also the craftiest (just watch him wrap a present sometime), so I don't know why I was so surprised by the result. I'd just shown him a few google images of watermelon monsters, and then he went to town. I have to say I'm most impressed by the pineapple top ponytail. I didn't see that on any of the Pinterest pages, so I'm gonna say that David invented it. The apple core ears/horns are pretty adorable too. I'm mostly impressed that he managed to make this little guy look completely cuddly and adorable, rather than disturbing and frightening. We also managed to finally make good use of the gorgeous big platter we got for our wedding, heretofore known as the "fruit monster platter."

Go ahead, friends, feel free to pin this baby on your "Fun foods that I'll never actually make" boards on Pinterest.

*The shower theme was Monsters. I always thought the theme of baby showers was, um, BABY, but apparently I was wrong.

Friday, July 25, 2014

A day to celebrate: a day out of time!

I am one of those weird adults who is really into birthdays. I think it's because I am a history nerd and revel in historically significant dates. I like to think back about what was happening exactly one thousand years ago (or exactly thirty-six years ago in today's case). From what I know about my own birth, July 25, 1978 involved an old-school doctor, lots of drugs, and most of the hospital staff watching Pete Rose break some record rather than paying much attention to my mom.

My dad has clearly spent some time on Pinterest!
In the last year, however, I learned something even cooler about July 25. It is known now in some circles as the "Day Out of Time." 

Natural time.

It makes total sense to me, but I swear it's not just because it means I was born on the most auspicious day of the year (really, I swear). Natural Time a way of organizing the days of the year based on the 13 lunar cycles of 28-days each, and it's based on the Mayan calendar.

Obviously it's a nod to the feminine, but it's also just kind of an obvious way to keep track of time. The Gregorian calendar that we use in most of the world doesn't really make a lot of sense when you think about it; it's disorderly and uneven, with months being different lengths and the full moons coming and going with nothing to do with the months (and named after a Pope, at that!).

Anyway, I don't actually know much about Natural Time. A new friend schooled me on it during a Christmas party last year, and I have done some light Googling this morning. Here's the gist:
28 days (the lunar cycle) x 13 months = 364 days

See how nicely our weeks fit inside there? 52 x 7 = 364

So this calendar is 364 days, running from July 26 to July 24 (it has something to do with Sirius, but that's a little too in-depth research for me right now).
But our year and sun cycle is 365 days, you say!

That's where the "Day Out of Time" comes into play. As new year begins on July 26, this makes July 25 a "day out of time." A day to reset... a day off from TIME! A day to reflect, recharge, renew ... 

Around the world, July 25 is celebrated as a day of harmony. It's for peace and art and all that good stuff that gets a bad rep.

And that's pretty much how I feel about birthdays anyway. It's just coincidental that I happened to have been born on the Day Out of Time.

Have fun celebrating this day of harmony, my friends. Thanks for reading and for putting up with my crazy ramblings. Now I'll aim to bring you some new music over the next year.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Crafty party ideas that are NOT mine because I am so not crafty.

I've got all these parties to plan, and Pinterest is making me feel bad about myself.

I'm sure you all know by now that Kate and Wills didn't mess around with George's birthday party (Happy birthday week, Georgie!), which was Peter Rabbit-themed. The wee boy is pretty into Peter Rabbit himself, so maybe we can just recycle George's party decorations this year. Kate, if you're reading this, I'll paypal you the money for shipping. xoxo.

Anyway ...

This weekend I'm hosting a baby shower. My co-host is definitely a Pinterest person. Thank goodness for that because I wouldn't even think about spending as much money as we are spending on gift bags and making monsters out of tissue paper and various other decorations that I can't even dream up. If it were up to me, we'd spend the entire budget on food and drink and maybe then get a live band.

But it's not up to me, and, apparently, baby showers do not have live bands (why not, I say??? I'm for hire to play baby showers!) and there is a great need for laundry lines decorated with various baby clothes pinned up around the house.

I may not understand it, but I am always impressed by my talented and design-blessed friends. Yes, I LOVE my Pinterest friends. In fact, I think most of my friends are a gazillion times more crafty than I could ever be, even in my best attempts. Today's blog is dedicated to them. Check out the cool things they have done:

How amazing is this? Seriously. Hank's daddy BUILT this wooden school-bus. I think I heard him say it was 8x4, if you're attempting to make your own. That's all I know about the specs though. I do know it's got working windshield wipes and a long bench for plenty of kiddos on the inside. (see below)
Check out those wipes, and that STOP sign! And the bench on the inside so the kiddos can look out the windows... I sang and led a little song circle at this birthday party, while all the kiddos
cuddled inside the bus. It was possibly the cutest thing ever.

This "treasure hunt" was from a Pirates and Princesses-themed birthday party. My friend, aka SUPERMOM, had the most fun activities all around the yard and house. Our favorite was just one of those metal bins filled with sand and various little toys -- rings and gold coins. See how the wee boy and David were both riveted:

And my friend Colleen, who is probably the craftiest one of all, served these amazing fruit-in-a-cone treats at a barbecue a couple of weeks ago. Seriously ... how does she think of this??? I'm trying to convince her to do a guest blog entry on here, wherein she creates meal plans and activities for us all. Are you in, Colleen? Yes, please?

Here is about as crafty as I can get... another cute setup for a song circle. Do not leave the saw unattended:

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Oh, you left me a voicemail? LOL.

I have thirty-four unheard voicemails. I honestly just want to delete them all and then completely disable my voicemail.

I know, I know, it's horrible. It's unprofessional. It's annoying to the two friends I have left who don't like texting.

You probably saw this tweet floating around a few months ago:
Yes. Yes. Yes.

You see, I do not like the phone. Oh, it is a wonderful invention, and I am rarely without mine. But I would much rather people knock on my door unexpectedly than call me unexpectedly. Also, it's impossible for me to be on the phone while on baby duty, and with a kiddo who rarely naps, what am I to do? The phone is pointless. My ringer is never on. I can text you when I'm rocking the boy to sleep, but call you? Sigh.

I don't like making calls, though I will happily meet you at the coffee shop. I can't believe I used to have a job that involved cold calling potential interview subjects (back in my CBS days). I do remember the absolute fear that would envelop me every time I had to pick up the receiver. Somehow I got over it back then, probably creating my own sort of cognitive behavioral therapy, wherein I gave myself a pep talk every time and tried to convince myself that, much like the snake, the callers were much more afraid of me than I was of them.

That just doesn't work anymore, and I pretty much want to throw my phone into the sea, complete with all those imaginary post-its.

Before the Wee Boy was born, I was better about the phone. The Phone Fear got me good after he was born, however, and it's pretty much the biggest remaining symptom of my PPD. I really need to do something about, as I know I've angered people and probably lost some gigs because of the fear.

Anyway, I am trying to address this, but it's much more daunting than the, um, 364 unread emails. I think it's probably easier to just delete them all and really, really, really try to be better about future voicemails.

Ugh. Boo to Brigid!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

And the verdict on early shows in Louisville...

I played a 7:00 show back in 2011 that was completely packed, standing-room-only by 6:45, and still my opening band said, "So we're not going to actually start until 7:15 or 7:30, right?" You all know that I'm a stickler for punctuality -- Kaelin is SWISS, after all. Avant l’heure, c’est pas l’heure, après l’heure, c’est plus l’heure -- so you obviously know that show started by 7:01.

Still, lots of people, particularly musicians, told me that my 6:30 start time at last weekend's show at the Great Flood Brewing Company was absurd and that I would not see a full house for such an early show.

Yeah, there were a LOT of you there on Saturday. Thanks!
Wrong, wrong, wrong.

I am a terrible guesser at number of people in a room, but I do know it was standing-room-only before we played the first note.

Musicians of Louisville: there is a market for early shows.

So, yes, thank you for asking: Saturday's show went really well. It was great to play with Steve Cooley and +Dan Canon, both of whom are remarkable musicians and wise people too. It was wonderful to see so many friends out and about. It was even better to have two hours to catch up with friends after the show and STILL be in bed by 11pm.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Let's talk breasts! And that nonsense about "Discretion."

First, a funny story:

Usually, when the Wee Boy goes to sleep (around 9:00), so do I. Especially when David is out of town, I have no one to play with, and I'm super-tired. On Wednesday, however, I decided to get a little crazy and go back downstairs for a snack, a glass of wine, and some alone time with a book.

The only thing to eat was an old bag of Trader Joe's vegetable dumplings, so I tossed them in the microwave. Three minutes later I proceeded to burn the hell out of my fingers from the steam on the covered bowl. I ran water over it, sucked my fingers, and nothing helped. Then I remembered that I make this magical elixir called "breastmilk," and I squirted a few drops on my fingers.

Immediate relief, people, IMMEDIATE!

Well ... for about two minutes. Then they started to burn again. I instinctively shoved them in my mouth and then was all, "Why do my fingers taste like ice cream?" And then, aha!!! No wonder The Wee Boy loves nursing so much. It's like ice cream all the time.

I don't know why I'd never tasted my milk before. I mean, I have tasted the milk from several other species, which seems a lot more gross than milk that came from a human.

Anyway, so that's a funny story about breastmilk.

Now a not so funny story that you may have heard about if you're in Louisville and have spent any time on Facebook:

It's gotten 151 shares (so far) because the policy is offensive and illegal.

The story behind the post: a woman was asked to go to the bathroom to nurse (Yes, he said "bathroom" to her, even though KK has special nursing rooms for women who want privacy. That is a nice gesture. I wouldn't use them because it seems unnecessary, but I understand not all women are comfortable nursing in public. Again: choice.) The bizarre thing about this situation is that the woman was actually wearing a nursing cover. There's a photo of her floating around Facebook that I'll post once I get permission (not because of indecency, but because of copyright).

I tried to wear a nursing cover a few times -- it's awkward and the baby hated it. I also can't imagine wearing a blanket over your head in 90+ weather. I mean, what they did was illegal either way, but it's truly odd that they targeted a woman who was using a nursing cover. (Maybe that just goes to show you that nursing covers actually draw more attention to it than just lifting up your shirt slightly.)

Some of you are now going to say, "But private business, but private business!"

You can read Kentucky's law here (text copied below): 
211.755 Breast-feeding permitted — Municipal ordinances not to prohibit or restrict — Interference prohibited.
(1) Notwithstanding any other provision of the law, a mother may breast-feed her baby or express breast milk in any location, public or private, where the mother is otherwise authorized to be. Breast-feeding a child or expressing breast milk as part of breast-feeding shall not be considered an act of public indecency and shall not be considered indecent exposure, sexual conduct, lewd touching, or obscenity.
(2) A municipality may not enact an ordinance that prohibits or restricts a mother breast-feeding a child or expressing breast milk in a public or private location where the mother and child are otherwise authorized to be. In a municipal ordinance, indecent exposure, sexual conduct, lewd touching, obscenity, and similar terms do not include the act of a mother breast-feeding a child in a public or private location where the mother and child are otherwise authorized to be.
(3) No person shall interfere with a mother breast-feeding her child in any location, public or private, where the mother is otherwise authorized to be.
Effective: July 12, 2006
History: Created 2006 Ky. Acts ch. 80, sec. 1, effective July 12, 2006
And yes, asking someone to "use discretion," as KK is doing in their embarrassingly ignorant Facebook status, is interfering. No mother I know "whips it out," like so many people offensively suggest. I have nursed in public since the first week my boy was born, and I've never encountered any problems from onlookers. Honestly, most people don't even notice I'm doing it because it's really not very revealing -- certainly less revealing than some of the dresses I've worn. When people do notice, most have smiled, even brought me water, or thanked me for breastfeeding my child. I don't do it in-your-face because, I swear, it doesn't even occur to me that it's controversial until some business does something dumb like KK did.

It seems completely ridiculous that we are even having this discussion.

The sad thing is that they could be using this whole situation as a way to step it up and be a good company -- to inform their young staff (benefit of the doubt here -- it was surely just a young staff member who didn't know any better, right? Which, of course, says a lot about our Puritan society, but that's another blog...) of what is natural and beautiful and wonderful and really just a little baby HAVING LUNCH!!! They don't patrol the splash park asking girls and women to wear less revealing bikinis, do they?

Just a couple of days ago, Barnes and Noble issued a statement that their stores are supportive to nursing mothers. "We’ve provided safe environments for women to breastfeed since we opened our first store,” a representative for Barnes & Noble said. “Regrettably, a woman was asked to cover up while breastfeeding in one of our New York stores. We have addressed the situation and have taken to steps to reinforce our policies.”

See? It's not that hard to admit that an employee doesn't understand the law.

Also, this male-owned establishment clearly does not understand the power of the Mama community in Louisville. I'm in several Facebook groups, totaling thousands of members, and I guarantee you most of those women will not be patronizing Kentucky Kingdom until an apology and new policy is issued. You have no idea the ire that this situation provoked.

And the publicist for KK -- or whoever is running their Facebook page -- is doing a really great job ... of blocking women from commenting and then deleting posts that disagree with their statement.

UPDATE: At 9:00am the owner of Kentucky Kingdom, Ed Hart, issued the following statement:
A message from Ed Hart, President and CEO
As President & CEO of Kentucky Kingdom, it is my responsibility to set policy which is in the best interest of all our guests. To that end, I want to make it absolutely clear that Kentucky Kingdom totally supports the benefits that accrue to mother and child from breastfeeding. We have absolutely no restrictions on breastfeeding at the park, and will leave it up to mom to determine and know, when and where she desires to breastfeed – whether publicly or privately (in the several buildings available for that purpose). Regarding displaying “discretion,” we will leave it up to mom to make that determination and in no way will our staff interfere with mom’s decision. We have instructed our staff accordingly. I am sorry for any confusion this issue has caused, and I personally apologize if we have offended anyone.
Ed Hart

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Wee Boy's Favorite songs -- great songs to sing to toddlers.

He sings. Thank goodness he sings.

I've been joking that I want him to go to business school (no MFAs for this boy please!), but I think I would have been sad had he not had any bit of music in him. Obviously I'd still adore him (I mean, I love him even though he's not a ginger), but it would be tragic if he couldn't participate on impromptu Jesus Christ Superstar performances in the kitchen.

He's been coming to music class with me pretty much weekly for a year now, so it's not surprising. But it's so fun to hear him singing to himself like he has been the last few months.

Like every milestone he's hit, it came pretty much overnight. One night he just woke up at 2am -- typical, as he's pretty much up 3-5x a night every night anyway -- and started singing "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star." He hasn't stopped singing since. His pitch needs work (#stagemom), but he'll get there.

I've studied enough early childhood development to know that, yes, the littles are always listening. They understand long before you think they do. But it was still mindblowing to realize that The Wee Boy knows the lyrics to SO many songs. It's like he's been paying attention in music class all this time, when I thought he was just shaking eggs and eating other kids' snacks.

I see all kinds of little kids at my Family Music Jam classes at Mama's Hip, and I love watching them grow up, take first steps, and say first words. Now I'm waiting for that moment when they suddenly burst into song.

Because they are listening. They truly are.

Songs The Wee Boy won't stop singing:

"Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" -- his first complete know-all-the-words song. Though he's since changed the words to "Now I understand what you are." Apparently, he doesn't wonder, he knows.
He reeeeeeeeeally likes the "diamond in the sky" part. Sometimes he'll get fancy and do a "Like a Diamond in the Sky/Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" mash-up. 

"Old MacDonald Had a Farm" -- This one surprises me because it's not one I do at music class very often. It's not one of my favorites, but apparently The Wee Boy loves it.

"Bumpin' Up and Down in my Little Red Wagon" - Every. Single. Lyric. I mean, the kid remembers more lyrics than I do.

"Yellow Submarine" -- More often than not, the first thing he says when he wakes up in the morning is "WE ALL LIVE IN A YELLOW SUBMARINE!"

"Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed" - I think this song does more to actually encourage jumping on the bed than to deter it, but it sure is cute when he jumps up and down and shouts "NO MORE MONKEYS JUMPING ON THE BED!"

What are your kids' favorite songs?

Edit to add: The Wee Boy keeps reminding me of other songs I need to add to this. I'll start posting setlists or full lyrics to the classics soon:)

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Scottish independence, Braveheart, and Outlander.

I avoid politics on this blog because I get WAY too passionate about things, particularly readers' comments (I know, I know... don't feed the trolls) and then stay up all night fretting. I may seriously regret this post, but I suspect most of my readers are far enough removed from the Scotland Question that this is a safe place. I mean, most Americans already think Scotland is its own country. Which it is in some sense. But not in the same sense that one US Post Office worker meant when she told me recently that I had to write "Scotland" instead of "United Kingdom" on my envelope because the letter was "going to Scotland, not the United Kingdom" kind-of-way. (I tried correcting her, I swear. And no, she wasn't a Jacobite. She was just American.)

For those of you who don't know, there will be a vote in September -- a referendum among the people of Scotland to decide whether to declare independence from the rest of the United Kingdom. It probably seems very 1776 to you. Let's think back to history class and all those countries that England colonized and once ruled: India, the United States, even Ireland. The US, as we know, declared independence on July 4, 1776. Ireland and India only got their independence from Great Britain in the 1940s. Some people in Scotland -- definitely not all -- still feel colonized in a sense and want their own independence. It's a source of contention and debate.

And so the people will vote. Our Scottish friends are polarized on the issue.

One of our favorites said that he thought the Vote would come down to whether the television networks showed Braveheart that week.

He was joking -- sort of.

The people of Scotland aren't dumb, by any means, and I'm not seriously suggesting that a bad Mel Gibson accent would inform a huge historical choice. BUT I can absolutely see how watching that movie can bring about deep resentment and national pride. I watched it a few nights ago (again), and now I dislike my English friends. (Kidding, kidding, people. Sort of. I mean, KIDDING!!!) You have to admit, though, it's hard to be reminded of going on a thousand years of oppression (I should probably choose a better word here) and not get a little bitter.

I've been thinking for a few months, however, about this new miniseries that airs this fall, Outlander. I think maybe this is the pop culture phenomonon that will tip the vote to YES. It's set during the Jacobite Rising and is about a 20th Century time traveler trying to prevent the Battle of Culloden.

The books that inspired the miniseries are tomes, but somehow, most of my close friends have read them. Yes, even my MBA husband (he's actually read more of them than I have). The novels are historical fiction with a touch of romance (but they don't have a Highlander holding a swooning maiden on the cover). I love them, though by book four or five, I started to zone out a little bit. Anyway, the story itself has the making of being the next addictive television drama, with spoilers on your Facebook feed, and suddenly lots of people all over the world talking about Scottish independence. And with the star of the show, Sam Heughan, who plays the dreamy Jamie Fraser, coming out recently as a YES-supporter, well ... who knows.

I'm abstaining from taking sides right now, primarily because, um, it's none of my business. I admit that I pretend to be pro-independence, but again, I'm too far removed these days to have a researched opinion on it (ask me 18 months ago, and I'd spout facts at you).

Selfishly, independence might make emigration to Scotland a little easier -- the Wee Boy was born there, after all. Maybe Texas will vote for independence too, and then our whole family can have all kinds of passports.

Anyway, I don't see an airdate for Outlander on UK television. If I were a conspiracy theorist, however, I would suspect the British government of not allowing that show to air in the UK until after September 18. Same goes for Braveheart. Maybe we Americans can offer sneaky links to Outlander episodes, kind of like we can get sneaky links to Downton Abbey.

There's my lighthearted political post of the year.

Anyone read the Outlander books? How many did you get through?

Monday, July 7, 2014

The escape of the newspaper.

My favorite thing about staying at my parents' house: they get the New York Times. It's only on Saturday and Sunday, but it has made for the most luxurious few minutes -- a glimpse of life pre-baby, when sipping coffee and reading were as blissful as watching the wee boy dance to the busker at the farmers' market.

A slight difference in my newspaper strategy, since having a child, is that I no longer have the patience to read all of the front pages. It's terrible, I know, especially since at one point in my adult career, I wrote network news in New York City. The grief of war news is too emotional now, and I tend to go straight to my favorites: the Travel section and the Book Review. I read the Arts section too, but not with the fervor with which I embrace the others.

I know, I know, a psychologist would tell you it's a quest for escape. What's wrong with that, really, though?

The Storybook London article from a few weeks ago had me wanting to wake the wee boy up from his nap, purely so we could read Harry Potter (or maybe just Beatrix Potter at his age) together. And of course, I had to daydream of designing my own literary tour of the United Kingdom.

Don't even get me started on what the Book Review does to me. Just THINK of all the books there are out there that I must read, from the new JK Rowling/Robert Galbraith mystery (I actually really enjoyed The Cuckoo's Calling) to the new book in the Outlander series (another blog on those books later this week). Yes, yes, I'm in a pattern of novels. Again: escape. If I'm not traipsing about foreign soils, at least I can read about it.

What's your newspaper strategy?

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Followup to "Parenthood, Identity Crisis, and Guilt."

I got a lot of responses -- both private and public -- to Tuesday's weepy blog about the guilt of being an artist. One of my favorites was from a childless artist, who commented that the guilt is there whether or not you have a kid. That is so so true. I really don't feel guilty when I hire a sitter to go to a gig or teach a piano lesson because I'm earning an income when I do those things. It's knowing that creating art does not generate income (immediately) AND knowing that it's not something I need merely "once in a while," that makes me feel bad.

That said, I've been thinking a lot about art v. craft lately. In the songwriting workshops I've taught, it's a big part of my lectures. I'll skip to the good part: basically, you need to have perfected the craft part so that the art has a solid outlet. In other words, if you don't practice writing, even if you yield lots of crap, then you won't be ready to write when the good ideas hit you.

I used to be able to wake up, make a pot of coffee, and start writing. Not all that I wrote was good, of course, but I wrote. Daily. And when I got a great idea for a song, I was ready.

I know binders full of women writers (#binders) who can wake up two hours before their kids do and start writing. They also write during their children's naps. A high school friend managed to publish a novel this year by doing just that. (I bought said novel, and you should too.) They make it seem so obvious.

But my struggle is:
  1. My kid still doesn't sleep through the night (he's 21 months old), and his naps are short, unpredictable, and sometimes non-existent. I've gotten used to it and stopped complaining about it, but that doesn't make me any less sleep-deprived.
  2. I'm so out of practice with my craft that it takes me about three hours away from the Wee Boy before I can wind down and start to write. 
  3. Ergo, I need to hire a babysitter for, like, 10 hours a week or something, so that I have time to wind down and get my craft-groove back. 
  4. I feel guilty hiring a babysitter for so long, when my art income isn't as much as she earns.
I know, I know, I shouldn't feel terrible. Thank you all for that support. Maybe it goes back to my Jewish mother and Catholic father. That's, like, the guiltiest combination of all, right?

Anyway, enough pontificating. Thanks for sticking with me. As a reward, here are some cute pics of the wee boy, along with some cute things he has said this week:

1. "I'm so tall ... like Notre Dame ... in Paris." (said while standing on Daddy's stomach)
2. "May I have nursies now, please, Mommy-o?"
3. "I swim underwater to you!"
4. "I want to go to Renaissance Fair. In Colleen's car!" (We went to the Faire a few weeks ago. Another blog about that.)
5. "We're cooking scrambled eggs for breakfast."
6. "Twinkle, twinkle, little star, how I understand what you are."

He may not sleep, but he is advanced in the chatterbox department (shocker!).

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Honeymoon in Belgium.

Me: I'm going to write about Belgium today in my blog.
David: About how much Belgium SUCKS???
Me: No.
David: Watch out. I think it's a fairly dangerous environment to say anything good about Belgium.

Yes, that game was brutal. I have learned to suppress my competitive gene, but I still got pretty worked up yesterday. In an attempt to feel better about the outcome, and to focus on the positive rather than be angry, I'm going through my photos from our honeymoon almost three years ago ... in Bruges, Belgium (yes, I have seen the movie). No real depth here, but Bruges is a completely fairy-talesque city, complete with gabled edifices, towers, cathedrals, and a stone wall surrounding the town.

Le sigh.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Parenthood, Identity Crisis, and Guilt. So much guilt.

It's not a secret nor a surprise that I've had something of an identiy crisis since The Wee Boy was born. Every parent suffers from something similar. I definitely thought I would be better at adapting to it, however, as I've always been good at handling new situations. I mean, I've been a self-employed artist for 12 years. Artists are pretty good at handling chaos (and believe me, I've dealt with chaos ... I spent a summer touring with Days of the New, after all).

To be honest, though, I think that's part of the problem -- the art. Every parent has trouble balancing a career, I know, but the what I find challenging is making time to do the art

(I also teach music lessons. This part of my job has not been a challenge, other than when my babysitters are out of town, and I have to scramble for childcare or cancel lessons and lose income. To be honest, it's pretty easy to disappear several hours a day and go to that job: a job that begins and ends at a certain time.)

I actually discussed this with a musical hero of mine recently, how I feel terribly guilty hiring a babysitter so I can, um, play the piano. It feels self-indulgent and self-righteous. It's one thing to hire a babysitter to go get a massage (which you should totally do, and you should not feel guilty about it, even though I know you probably will because everything in parenthood is about guilt). It's another thing to hire a babysitter to write music.

You see, things have changed since I released my last record, um, six years ago. People don't buy stuff anymore. Six years ago, I could write a song, record it, and know that I'd at least break even on my cost and time input. (Is that a business term? I used to know my business terms. David? Another MBA? Someone tell me what word that should be, and I'll edit this and credit you.) Nowadays, I know I'll sell some CDs, but I have no idea how many. Six years ago, I printed two thousand copies of West 28th Street without thinking twice about it. The song I recorded last night? You'll hear it on Spotify or Pandora rather than your CD player (do you even have a CD player anymore?). If I'm lucky and I make the ASCAP survey sample, then I might make a few hundred bucks. 

Babysitters make more than that.

But the identity crisis, people. 

I wish that I didn't have this other thing I need to do, this art thing. I really, truly wish that the only thing I had any desire for deep in my soul, was to be a parent. Or to go to a job that begins and ends and doesn't bother me at 3am with an idea that I should write down, but that I'm just too exhausted to put pen to paper because I haven't slept more than 3 hours in a row in I-can't-remember-when (until last night, when I put earplugs in and went to another room because my husband is a saint).

I know, I know. This is more journal material than blog.

Yesterday I went to Peter's house, recorded a song, and then managed to get a drummer to come over and throw a drum track on there. This is a HUGE start, people. It makes me feel a little more human, but not any less guilty.

Oh, parenthood, the pinnacle of guilt!

Remember this? It was, like, almost two weeks ago. Who IS that woman up there?