Monday, April 28, 2008

With a knick-knack paddywhack

Well, we've been to Washington and back, and it was a great vacation, but it's always so hard to come back to real life once you've had a vacation. Erica and El Jefe were awesome hosts, cooking dinner almost every night and providing tons of distraction (bath toys! art projects! books!) for Nolan. Plus we had the whole upstairs of the house to ourselves - it was like our own little apartment in their house. We didn't do a whole heck of a lot, really. We went to the wedding of KB's friend Weissy (the ostensible purpose for the trip), and we made one other trip into Seattle to go to the Frye museum and of course Pike's Place market, but other than that we mostly hung out in Olympia. Erica and I got to have a girls' night out (which meant Nolan, KB and Jefe had a boys' night in, complete with steaks and bourbon) and it was soooooo nice to just hang out for a little while. We've been friends for over 20 years now (yipe!) and it's incredibly easy to fall back into our same rhythm of talking and laughing together. (The sparkling wine and gourmet food didn't hurt, either.) We almost didn't go out because we had all gotten sick (thank you, airplane travel) and we were kind of sniffly and sore throat-y, but again, the sparkling wine was a lifesaver. The girl-time binge made the return to Princeton a little hard for me - I'm once again reminded of my dearth of close friends here, and while I know things will get better with time and there's no rushing it, I still miss it.

So what else is going on, you ask?

Well. Our camera died, for one. The day of Weissy's wedding, right at the beginning of the ceremony. KB picked up the camera, pushed the shutter button, and it just froze, dead. So I am looking for any and all input into digital SLRs the four of you who read this blog might have for me - considering the Canon digital Rebel XTi, but willing to listen to other opinions. And that also means we have zero pictures of our trip.

And zero pictures of my seedlings, which I just planted yesterday. We had one of these indoor plant-starting kits that we, well, started before we left for WA, and while we were gone the green bean seedlings went berserk and pushed the lid off, they grew so fast. So I got the peas and the green beans in the ground yesterday, and I'm giving the tomatoes a few more days to get their strength up (and to hope the weather warms up a little) before I subject them to the same treatment. I put down chicken wire to keep the squirrels from digging up the plants (because I was told that squirrels aren't really interested in the plants themselves, they just like digging in freshly turned earth - who knew?) and think I probably killed more seedlings trying to get them through the holes in the chicken wire than the squirrels would have. Sigh. So we'll see.

Aaaaaaaand...what else?

Fiddle lessons are continuing. My teacher said something last week that really struck me, which was "Musicians are athletes of the small muscles." We were talking about the importance of practice and how there's really no shortcut or substitute for it. You have to tell your muscles the correct way to do things ("No, ring finger, for C sharp you're right next to the pinky, not the middle finger.") over and over and over again until they can do it from memory. Even if your brain can think it correctly, that doesn't mean your fingers and arms can play it correctly. So you have to commit yourself to practicing scales over and over just like a tennis player practices serves over and over. There's no other way to do it, to the chagrin of slackers like me who have a dream scenario in mind of playing in an Irish bar pick-up band but don't necessarily want to, you know, work to get to that point.

(And please, can someone explain to me why the names of the scales never have anything to do with the notes that are sharped or flatted in said scales? G major has one sharp, F#. A major has three sharps, F#, G#, and C#. Why? Why isn't a scale with only an F# called F#? I think I need to take a music theory class.)

I guess that's it for now. Nolan is good, KB is good, the weather sucks, the cats are annoying. You know, the usual.

Oh, and we still have no working washer-dryer set up. The new washing machine is installed, but the old dryer won't stack on top of it without a special stacking kit and new legs, so I've ordered those and when they come in I get to find out if KB and I can do it (stack the dryer on top of the washer and hook it up, that is) ourselves. So I'm washing clothes and hanging them on a clothesline I rigged last week. We're so eco-friendly, if not strictly by choice.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

The way I like it is the way it is

I know I bitch and moan a lot about how hard it is to stay at home with Nolan, but there are certain perks to having a small child around the house.

I have now conditioned him, my own little private science experiment, to yell out, "Phone's ringing, Dude!" whenever the phone rings, which is harmless and makes me chuckle.

And I know I have mentioned previously my history of replacing song lyrics with ones suitable to my immediate situation, and that hasn't changed (I've just stopped writing about it):

The other day I was getting Nolan down from the dinner table, which involves much squirming and thrashing and whining when I'm wiping his face (for some reason wiping the hands doesn't bother him, just the face) and to distract him, I started to sing. He was slumping down in his seat, trying to maneuver his face as far away from the washcloth as possible, and I kept repeating "Sit up. C'mon, sit up. Sit up!" so of course the song that came to me was James Brown's "Sex Machine," with its call-and-response "Get up! Get on up...Get up!" structure. So I started to sing it. And lo and behold, Nolan was interested. "What's that song, Mommy?" he said. (As a side note, we have now entered that phase of toddlerhood where he's constantly asking, "What's this? What's that?" and it's not so much driving me crazy as it is wearing me down slowly, question by tedious question.)

So I put it on the stereo for his edification, and we boogied around the living room for awhile, with Nolan doing his trademark arhythmic toddler seizure/dance. We let it play while we were cleaning up after dinner and getting PJs on, then put Nolan to bed and thought nothing more of it.

Well. Our little funkmaster has now made James Brown's "70's Funk Classics" (not even a real album, as far as I know, just a re-issued collection for those of us who want the Godfather's go-to hits only*) his favorite CD. We listen to it at home, we listen to it in the car...he can't get enough. The first time he asked for it, he said, "Mommy, can we play that Brown James song?" and after I got over my giggle fit I obligingly put it on. He listened intently, and each time a song faded out, he would say, "Is there going to be more, Mommy?" and when a new song came on, he would ask, "What's this song called, Mommy?" like he's expecting a quiz at the end.

We listened to it in the car on the way over to my mom's last week to do laundry (for yea, I say unto thee: the washer, it is still kerflooey) and after shoving a load in, I came out into the living room to see Nolan boogie-ing around by himself, mumbling/singing, "Shake your money maker! Shake your money maker!" It did my heart good, I tell you.

And he hasn't gotten tired of it yet. The other night when Nolan and I were snuggling in the rocking chair in preparation for bed, he said, "Where's the bridge, Mommy?" and I was like, "Huh? What bridge?" And he said, "You know, when he says he wants to go to the bridge." (Nolan often comes up with non-sequitors where he seems to assume I can read his mind, and he'll sometimes get mad when I genuinely don't know what the hell he's talking about.) So I said, "You mean James Brown? When he says 'Take 'em to the bridge?'" (and I do my pathetic James Brown impression) and he says, "Yeah! Where's the bridge?" So then we had a whole discussion about actual, structural bridges versus musical bridges. I relayed the whole thing to KB after Nolan was tucked in, and we just shook our heads in wonder.

You got to be careful what you expose your kid to, because you never know what they'll soak up. They're like sponges, they are.

Thanks for reading.

*Although, now that I think about it, it doesn't have "I Feel Good," which I would guess is the number one most well-known James Brown song. Alas.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Say no go


I got a whopping 23 out of 50 on this song lyrics quiz by Defective Yeti's Matthew Baldwin. And now my head hurts.

See, the catch is, he lists the lyrics in alphabetical order (eliminating any repeated words, like the chorus), so even though the song might be quite easy to guess if the lyrics were in the order they're sung in, when they're alphabetical...not so much.

Some of them are actually pretty easy if you can pick out the key words - how many rock songs do you know that have the word "Scaramouche" or "mulatto" in them? - but with the order all f-ed up, songs you really should know get harder to guess. The paradoxical thing is that the shorter the list of lyrics, the harder it is to guess, because there's fewer clues to distinguish one song from another.

And the (perhaps not so) shocking thing is how similar the lyrics are from one song to another. "Baby" and its variants show up about 75% of the time, and when you throw in all the "at"s, "the"s, "be"s and "you"s, it gets damn difficult to distinguish Aerosmith from Simon and Garfunkel. Which you would think would be not too tough.

Okay. Gotta go read a book with the words in an order that MAKES SENSE.

Enjoy. Tell me your score if you do it.

Thanks for reading.