Sunday, November 28, 2010

Birthday the Second!

Hello, my angel!  It's your second birthday today.  We celebrated with the family yesterday in Spokane, and it was a wonderful time.  Thankfully, the stomach virus that caused you to throw up last night and then in the car on the way home waited until after the party.  That chocolate cake was probably better the first time, for which I apologize.  You'll hopefully be able to keep another chocolate cake down when we get together with all your favorite Seattle people on Tuesday.

So, every middle class parent thinks their kid is gifted.  You'll find this out as soon as you start preschool.  However, I believe I'm right in thinking that you're rather brilliant.  Because you're so bright, though, I tend to think that you're older in wisdom than you are, so I expect a great deal of you that is probably a little unfair to expect of someone who's only two. I need to reevaluate my expectations, I think.

In most other ways, you're a pretty typical toddler.  You hate to eat at times that we designate, you collapse to the floor when we even slightly furrow our brows at you, you draw on the walls and you throw books when you're tired. However, that's pretty much the extent of your misbehavior.  You're a wonderfully even-tempered child who is also pretty self-aware.  I can leave you alone while I shower, as long as Sesame Street is on, and I know that you won't swallow a nail or climb the cabinets while I'm gone.  That's been an unexpected perk.  I'm waiting for the really bad behavior to begin.  It'll be spectacular, I'm sure.

Viv, I love you. I say it all the time, I kiss you constantly, I ask for hugs more often than you would like, but I do it because I know the time is coming soon when you won't let me.  So, I'm taking it now when I can, because I want to make sure you know that you are my sun and moon, that you are my life, and I love you.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The first, surprisingly non-traumatic, haircut.

About six months ago, Viv's sparsely populated head suddenly exploded and she, seemingly overnight, grew a fro.  We let it go, wanting to see how it would grow and fill in.  Recently, though, she started to get crazy ends to her curls that would stick out in all directions and catch on clothes and rings and fingers and break off, so we decided it was time to get a trim.  As she despises anyone touching her hair (usually), I was dreading taking her to a salon, fearing a screaming fit in front of the very posh women who shop at U Village.  Imagine my surprise when she not only allowed the stylist to drape her in a cape but mist her hair and TOUCH HER HEAD:

We had rallied the support team (Shelly and Angie) to come with us, to witness the big event as well as provide distraction, but the phone provided enough entertainment to keep her occupied when the cutting started:
The stylist must be considerably more gentle than I am with a comb, so I took notes on her technique to give my kid some relief as well as prevent CPS from coming to our door during our comb-outs.  The screaming, oh God, the screaming.  Anyway, she seemed the find the end result satisfactory, as she wanted us all to see how she looked in the mirror, especially as the stylist had dusted her with pink glitter.  

To reward her for surpassing my very low expectations, we got her a chocolate cupcake, which she ate very sparingly, in her usual dainty fashion.  I mean, how many kids leave cupcake for later?   

I'm sure next time will be just as successful and easy.

Friday, October 08, 2010

And a well done to you, madam.

I don't buy a lot of things for myself, especially jewelry.  I'm really cheap and nice jewelry isn't.  However, when Viv was born, I very much wanted a pendant with her initial on it, and, because I'm apparently a huge snob, I got it at Tiffany.  I liked it so much that when my nephew A was born, I bought one for my sister.  However, the chain that came with the pendant was ridiculously fragile, and one tug from Viv broke it in two places.  As the same thing happened to Tina's necklace, I took both back to Tiffany to see if they could repair or replace the chain.  They took the jewelry and gave me a work order and told me to expect the necklaces in six weeks.  Months went by and I almost forgot about it, but the other day, I suddenly missed the necklace.  I found the receipt and called Tiffany's repair number and was told, very nicely, that they didn't seem to have any record of the repair order.  When I called the store where we took the jewelry, the manager was sweetly and genuinely upset.  She promised to fix the problem, called me back shortly and, in a very apologetic manner, told me that the necklaces had been lost somewhere between Seattle and New York. She assured me that she would make it right, even though she knew that the sentiment couldn't be replaced.  Still, I was surprised when I received a box today from Belinda, the manager, with three boxes inside, our two pendants and a gift.  Behold:

That's some unexpectedly remarkable customer service.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Day Twenty-Seven

Where did all of the other days go?  I have no idea.  Not a lot was done in the intervening days but the foundation.  However, the framers are here, and man, they don't let any grass grow under them.

 They had to take off a lot of siding and, well, other house-holding-up-stuff to add the supports for the new addition.

Holy crap, this is our new kitchen floor!  Well, it will be.  It's starting to seem like we're adding something and not just making our already trashy backyard worse.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Day Five

The inspection is done, so today, the concrete trucks arrived...

 pour the supports for the addition's basement floor:

And there goes the back door. The rebar on the concrete marks the center of the new walls.  Small addition, but huge to us.  And the stupid overhang?  Still waiting to be filled.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Day Four

The foundation crew arrived yesterday in the deluge to pound in rebar and lay forms.  And today, they removed the basement door to allow them to fill it before cutting a new door in the foundation.  

That will be the door that leads to the new area of the basement once the addition is complete.  We couldn't keep the existing door as it falls outside the new footprint.  Notice the left corner of the house?  Why in the name of all that is holy would the original foundation have been poured in this manner?  What is the purpose?  There's a little shelf in the basement, but that could not possibly have been the reason for this absurd little overhang.  So, the workers are drilling in for rebar installation and then they'll fill to stabilize the area.  Fortunately, when the mudroom was removed, the outlet remained, so the powertools can be plugged in outside without having to run cords through the windows:

I'm hopeful that the foundation will be done by the time we leave for Panama so we can get the structure up when we get back.  Well, by "we" I mean the construction team.  You know, the capitalist "we".

Monday, August 23, 2010

Laying the foundation for my dreams.

It has begun!  Years of wishing, months of planning, it all came to noisy, filthy fruition this morning.  The excavation has begun, the mudroom...


The hole is almost dug for the foundation for the addition and the bees infesting the foundation have almost given up the fight.  

The wood from the house and all of the concrete will be cleared away by tomorrow, and the foundation will be poured before we go to Panama.  I'm not quite sure how we're going to get into the hole to access the basement to do laundry, but Christian will enjoy the challenge.  He'll probably practice high jumping.

Speaking of Christian, honey, here's a picture of the concrete piled on the lawn:

My dreams, they might come true.  I'm still expecting something to go horribly awry, but for now, I'm hopeful.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Standards in America

I really wonder if we've ruined marriage in America.  Do romantic comedies and porn make it impossible to have a successful, realistic marriage that isn't expected to be a non-stop, sex-filled travelogue with few money problems and, occasionally, perfect, rosy-cheeked children?  According to some recent threads I've read on two very disparate websites, in which women were basically reviled as money-grubbing, duplicitous, lazy opportunists who want nothing more than to be validated by men who they then try to trap into marriages of misery and failure, the only type of happy man is one who is living the life seen only in those two kinds of movies.  The wife is supposed to be a fit, cheerful, sports-loving, sex-crazed executive who only needs the perfect average Joe to make her life complete.  There's no responsibility on the part of the man to elevate himself to the perfection of this mythological woman.  She's supposed to be merely grateful for his attention.  And, on the other end of the spectrum, girls who were raised in environments where they were denigrated in value because of their gender, given fewer opportunities than their brothers and taught that their only asset was their ability to put out, are treated as disposable commodities, not worthy of respect or consideration because feminism has supposedly given them the opportunity to choose this type of self-destructive behavior.

Awareness is a tricky thing, self-awareness even more so.  How do you teach people what is realistic and what is not?  I read an article recently in the NY Times that discusses how the current culture of non-criticism has left an entire generation without the ability to recognize their own limitations.  So, now, we have marriages that are expected to follow a profoundly unrealistic blueprint that doesn't allow for personal difficulties or preferences to muddle the perfect construct or be deemed a failure coupled with a generation who has been taught that everything they do or want is what should be.  And it's apparent to me that, at least regarding the people who read the types of sites listed above and comment on them and who seem to be of this no-fault generation, that those who don't fit in that construct must have chosen to do so without any cultural or familial influences on their decisions.  It's the laughable idea that anyone is truly free to make their own decisions, free from the influence of their society and upbringing that I see trumpeted in these threads.  My favorite comment from both was "Sluts will slut."  Such absolute knowledge from someone who most likely was taught that everything they did was perfect and worthy of praise and who never wanted for approval or validation.  So little sympathy, so little understanding, so little hope.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Channelling Mom

After we got home from our trying and fatiguing nearly five hour trip back from Portland, Christian went out to get pho and I made Viv her dinner.  I sat with her as she attempted to scoop beans out of her bowl with a too-small spoon, the only clean one in the kitchen.  She suddenly stopped scooping, looked at me and said, "Don't worry, Mama."  I thought I must not have heard her correctly, as she's never said anything close to that before, so I asked her, "What did you say, baby?"  She replied, "Don't worry, Mama," very seriously.  I paused for a second to let what she just said ruminate, and asked her, "Don't worry about what?"  She thought for a second and said, "I don't know," and started eating again.  Smart enough to relay the message, too young to comprehend, maybe.  Got it, Mom.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010


Viv had her 18 month appointment today. Her stats are:

Height: 32 inches (75th percentile)
Head circumference: 18.75 inches
Weight: 21 lbs 12 oz (15th percentile)
Teeth: 6

Apparently, she needs some fattening up. Still, she seems pretty happy:

She's perfect to me.

Friday, May 28, 2010

So far ahead...

Viv, you're 18 months old today. It's one of those baby measuring milestones that we stop celebrating once you hit two. No one gets excited over halves ever again, but 18 months is a big one. There are special shots still, and that always signifies a big day.

You're a toddler now, although you run a lot more than you toddle. You also dance and kind of jump, you spin in circles until you fall over and you can walk backwards all while telling us you're doing so, because kid, you're really, really smart. You're the kind of smart that makes other parents of toddlers disbelieving, as they simply cannot understand that you just said, "Airplane is in the sky!" or, "Thank you and you're welcome!" But you did, and you can say a great deal more. You have a truly incredible vocabulary, but the best thing about your mad verbalosity is that you actually speak in context. You're also able to form new sentences using the words you already know, which is especially impressive. I'm awfully proud, even though I can't take credit for your genetic predilections. Still, I've read Hop on Pop to you so many times that I can take SOME credit for your development, as I think Dr. Seuss is guaranteed to improve your rhyming abilities, at least, so maybe you'll become a rapper. That would make Stephanie happy.

You know, though, butterbean, while I love that you can communicate with us so well, it's not your talking that makes you the greatest kid on Earth. It's not that or your mean dancing moves or the way you stroke my hair when you're tired. You're just so WONDERFUL. All around. You're funny and sweet and perfect and lovely. I just love to hold you so some of the overburdening love I feel for you can maybe be shared by osmosis. As clingy as this makes me sound, I just despise being away from you because I miss the way you change the air in a room just by your presence. You make it that much more worth breathing. You have brought a grace to our lives, a fulfillment, and I hope you can see this in the way we tell you we love you, which is a lot. Thank you, my sweetest monkey pants, for being our daughter.

And I'm sorry I mess with your hair so much. I know you hate it. I won't stop, but, you know, sorry.

I love you, love you, love you.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Now, WHO could have taught her that?

And, while watching this video, she commented, "booyah, baby!"

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Starting Blocks

I've never, ever started anything new, be it role, hobby or lifestyle, without being utterly and implacably convinced that I was too stupid to do it properly or even at all. Knitting, singing, gardening, cooking, parenting, etc, I've always been sure that whatever I undertake will be a monumental failure. Why? No idea. Mom and Dad always believed that all of us kids could do anything, so it must be inborn. I also hate starting new things because the learning curve is so incredibly frustrating, which is why I make myself learn new things. I'm trying to cultivate patience, but I still suck at it. I hate not instantaneously understanding all related components to whatever it is I'm learning, and, even though I have yet to give up on a hobby I've started (as an adult-I mean, I only took figure skating for two weeks when I was twelve), nothing can ever convince me that the next thing I learn won't be the one that licks me.

Enter these socks. Socks, you say, incredulously? Feh. How can they be so difficult? Do you see that little window of color? That's not one yarn that is dyed to stripe or pool. That's a different strand of yarn for each single stitch. That's a bitch. I'm knitting these socks as a gift to Julie, and her PhD is almost finished, so I need to get off my dimply backside and get going. Failure is imminent, I just know it.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Geography Lessons

Viv calls every woman who looks even vaguely like my sister (and many people who absolutely do not) "Tina". She does this many, many times a day, and my usual response is, "Where's Tina?" She'll then point to whatever woman she thought looked like T at that moment, be she 80 or Asian. However, as we were leaving the house today, Viv looked over my shoulder and said the name. I asked the usual question, expecting her to point to someone walking her dog or to our crazy neighbor possibly up on her roof, but instead, she replied, "Spokane." I think she needed to prove that she really does, in fact, know who and where Tina is.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Whatever happened to Baby Vivienne Jane?

Christian has been telling me for months that Viv is a toddler now and not a baby, but I've been resisting the title change as her baby months went by too quickly, and I wanted to extend them. He's right, however, even though I'm still not able to say those words aloud.

Today, while standing dripping in the bathtub after all the water had been drained out, she adamantly refused to put her final toy back in the net hanging from the side of the tub after she had put away all of its mates. If I tried to hand her the toy, a little green car, she would hit it and back away. If I tried to put it in front of her, she'd turn around. She would rather have frozen to death (in the 80 degree bathroom) than put that toy away. It was our first true battle of wills. I mean, we've crossed spoons over certain foods, but she'd always eventually eat enough to satisfy us both. However, I have never asked her to do something that she then utterly refused to do, and she's never thrown a tantrum to prove to me how steadfastly she holds her opinion of my request. She's usually so good about bringing me whatever object she's illicitly purloined, like as tissues from the trash or the remote. I merely have to ask her for the object and then look at anything other than her and she'll bring it right over. In the tub, though, she discovered that she has a say in what she does. Or she THINKS she has a say. I finally resorted, after 10 eternal minutes, to putting the toy in her hand, holding her hand shut and putting her hand and the toy in the net. I even dried her off and put on her lotion and diaper, all while she was standing irritably on the rubber mat on the bottom of the tub, with suds swirling around her toes.

We knew the tantrums would be coming, though, as she's started doing a little ritual of annoyance, usually when she's in a car seat, shopping cart or high chair, that will escalate to a tiny eruption. First, she'll whine loudly. Then, she'll ask for a cracker,which we'll refuse to provide. She'll then clench her fists, stiffen her body, stick out her legs, grimace and howl through clenched gums. It's actually a pretty funny little display, but laughter annoys her even further. We're trying to respond to these moments with calm and rational conversations about using words and being patient, but I think we're forgetting that, despite her ability to speak in complete sentences, she might not actually understand the request to breathe deeply.

I miss my baby already.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Interesting Sartorial Observations

I started cleaning out Mom's closet today, just the one in the bedroom, as the clothes are getting dusty and seeing them hang there makes it impossible to not burst into tears every time I go into the master bedroom to answer the phone. I noticed something interesting. Well, interesting to me, anyway. Mom had conservative and practical fashion tastes, which I knew already, but what I didn't know what that she had started to purchase attractive, stylistically appropriate designer clothing. She had always shopped at Penny's and The Bon (nee Macy's), but everything she purchased was on the 70% off sale rack and usually the house brand or something similar (read slightly sad). However, I found a Kors jacket, a brand new pair of DKNY jeans and a whole panoply of highly colored button up shirts in jaunty hues from Ralph Lauren. Mom was making an effort. I guess the years I spent mocking her love of pleats finally wore her down, as I did find her two virtually identical pairs of boot cut jeans that I know she wore every day, because once, after she had returned home from a visit, she called to ask me if she had left the first pair at my house, as she couldn't find them and they were her "good" jeans. Hence the second pair.

Maybe in a few years' time, she would have flown to Vegas twice a year to shop exclusively at Versace. Well, if she could part stand to live without her 17 silk shells in an array of fetching beiges, purchased in bulk from the Macy's outlet.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Battle vs. The War

I should count my blessings and not complain, but that would defeat the purpose of having a blog. Viv really hates to nap. I've said it before, but I thought things were going better. It's not that she's napping any longer than she did before, but putting her in her own room made a huge difference in merely getting her to go to sleep. Her naps are still brief, 20-45 minutes at most, and maybe twice a day, but at least they were reliable. I could shower during the first nap and put in laundry or check email without having her press the power button on the laptop or slam it shut on my fingers. She really dislikes the laptop. Anyway, she napped a little. Now, she doesn't seem to want to nap at all. For the past week, I've been fighting with her at least twice a day in an attempt to get her to nap even a little. She will lie down with her binky and behave just as before the battle began. Five minutes later, when I'm downstairs cleaning or making calls or checking email, I'll hear the first howl. I'll let it go for the next ten minutes and then she'll escalate. So, I'll go upstairs, put her binky back in, lay her back down and leave. She'll be silent and then the wailing will turn into shrieking and then hysterical tears. So, after a half hour of all of this, I'll get her up, feed her and play with her for another two hours or so until she is fairly dropping to the floor with exhaustion. I'll put her down again, and, if I'm lucky, she'll sleep. However, I haven't been very lucky lately.

I know she's probably adjusting her own schedule to do away with one or both naps, but I don't deal with change as well as she apparently does. I don't want to war with my child over sleep, but I need a few minutes each day to myself. I think I'll get a treadmill with Elmo taped to the handlebars.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

As Viv stands wailing in her crib upstairs... I unsuccessfully try to get her to nap, I'm remembering her last year at this time, chubby and serious, still sleeping in the bassinet next to the bed, and finally ours. And now she's so tall and independent that I swear she's going to ask to take driver's ed so she can drive herself to work. I mean, look at the difference one year makes:

The day of her final adoption court hearing:

And now, at fifteen months:

Does every passing year bring changes this dramatic? I hope so.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A Mighty Big Difference

I think I finally understand the difference between my abilities as a musician and other singers' abilities. I have no master's degree and I've never attended a YAP. Before, these things really didn't matter, and I would get easily irritated with those singers who could only talk about which programs they attended. What does it matter, I thought? Where are you singing next, as that's what matters. Well, now I know why it matters. It matters because of Mozart.

You can't hide in Mozart. Everything is incredibly exposed. The quantity of recitative in Figaro alone would make up the duration of another composer's entire composition. Because I didn't study Mozartean recitative as an undergrad or in graduate school and I didn't have a chance to work out its difficulties in a YAP, I utterly suck at it. Apparently, my Italian isn't good and I have no musical flow. I am missing some key skill, consequently, that makes learning and rehearsing Mozart excruciating for me and annoying to those around me.

Since Mom died, I've been hugely struggling with focus. I simply don't seem to be able to concentrate for long periods and I have very little desire to do anything other than spend time with my family. While preparing for this role, I did something I've never done before: I missed four pages of music I should have learned. I didn't realize my mistake until our first music rehearsal, where my sightreading attempts when it came to those pages was disastrous, and I may as well have been unprepared for the entire show for how it made me look, even though the rest of the opera was off book. I'm ashamed of my unpreparedness, but I'm more alarmed at my response to it. I, of course, came home and immediately started learning, coached the missed music the next day and worked very hard to get it memorized, but I still felt out of sorts and incapable of setting my mistake aside and moving forward. I got sick, probably from the stress, and I lost my voice, and I would have far rather quit than keep going at that point. Now, every time I sing the music, I feel thick and unresponsive. I can't seem to get my brain completely around it and I just want to move on and come back to it later, but it doesn't work that way, so my incompetence inconveniences the other singers around me as we have to repeat my scenes. Now I'm tired and depressed and the plumbers are coming first thing tomorrow morning to redo our entire house, so I'm anxious about water in addition to everything else.

I have come to a realization about all of this from the last week. I wonder how much longer I will keep singing. My joy in it is fading greatly, but what I can't tell is if it's from grief or a true desire to move on. I'm hoping that will become clear as time goes on, so now all I can do is work harder than I have the energy to do and hope it all works out.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

You're not my, contractor.

We're going to remodel our kitchen. Yes, we really are. I mean it this time. After seven years, we finally have the money to address the cracked tile and expand the lone countertop. We also need to replace all of our plumbing, as, of course, we couldn't possibly have one catastrophic system failure at a time, oh no. I wanted to do all of the repairs and renovations at the same time as I thought it would save money (since we'll be adding a washer/dryer hookup in the kitchen for the remodel, may as well do all the pipes), but we may need to address them singly, as it turns out.

Of course, all of the proposed work is dependent upon finding a contractor who will work with us within our budget and allow us to do as much work ourselves as we are able, which is quite a bit. Now, you'd think that that would be no problem, wouldn't you, especially in a recession? Well, you'd be WRONG. At least, you'd be wrong according to the contractor I spoke to yesterday who, without having even seen our house told me, after whistling condescendingly at my budget, that I should consider refinancing to be able to afford a real remodel. Because he was also a banker? And, you know, loans are so easy to get these days. He told me that framing a 4x10 bump out of the back wall will take all of our budget, but he, of course, wouldn't be able to give us a REAL estimate until he spent $2,000 of said budget to draw up plans. Oh, and he also let me know that, again, not even having seen my house, I would need to address my deferred maintenance issues sooner or later. I asked him politely what he meant, which, really, I shouldn't have even answered as he had already told me that I was too poor to remodel, and he said that, since the plumbing was old, chances are there were many other problems we'd need to address. Because his magic 8 ball told him that our roof had moss. Oh, OH! and, when I told him that we were planning on doing all of our own tiling, cabinet hanging, painting, etc, and that we had a friend who was an excellent carpenter, he asked me why I needed a contractor if I had a carpenter friend. Um, because he's not an electrician/plumber/foundation pourer, etc and he's not magically able to complete all of our remodeling needs in a weekend, damn him. It was patently obvious that the contractor had absolutely no interest in working with us, as our budget was, apparently, thousands less than his strip club spendings every month.

Since that degrading call, which reminded me of the first realtor we worked with when buying our house (all problems, no solutions), several friends have come forward with names and number of recommended contractors, all of whom are said to aid homeowners in completing some work themselves. I am hoping that none of them will recommend hooking or selling a kidney to support my kitchen and plumbing habit.