Friday, May 30, 2008

How To Know Your Son is Really Your Flesh and Blood

After a day in which he melted down because he wanted his oatmeal cold, then hot, and then not at all; in which he wrote on your linen shirt with black and blue markers not once, but twice; in which he broke objects on your desk at work beyond repair; in which he screamed loud enough to make your face melt like Dietrich's in Raiders of the Lost Ark because you put a spoon in his yogurt and applesauce and that mixed the two together; in which he stuck his stick in your fledgling tomato plants right after you asked him to stay away from them; and in which pounced on you right as you were falling asleep for a nap on the couch, you forgive and forget all when your son sits in your lap, snuggles down, and asks you to read him a story while looking up with those big blue eyes and smiling.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Big Boy Room - The Curtains

I mentioned that we decided to put a ceiling fan in Sam's room, and you probably thought that we were finished with his room months ago. You would have thought wrong. We were simply on hiatus. We've been thinking about curtains for his room for months while the day grew steadily longer, the sun poked Sam in the eyes earlier and earlier, and we got less and less sleep.

About a month ago, when the days began slanting towards summer, we began discussing curtains in earnest again. Back in January, when we moved Sam into the room, we settled on Roman shades for his windows and even bought a set on sale at Target. But the red didn't match at all and they were returned and the windows languished. Joy decided she would make some shades and found a woman online who made custom patterns for extremely cheap. She ordered the pattern, got the list of materials, and then life pushed those plans to the side.

Then on Sunday, Joy got inspired to finish the curtains. She went to the fabric store, found all the hardware, and discovered that buying fabric and hardware was as expensive as buying pre-made shades. Have I mentioned that we have a baby due in a week? Joy elected to take advantage of Memorial Day sales and went to Linens and Things and Target and found shades and a rod and even got an extra % off because she didn't have a coupon and the saleslady took pity on her. Sunday afternoon, I climbed up on Sam's bed and finally hung curtains:
The result? Sam played with them all Sunday night and didn't fall asleep until after 10:00. He seems to like peaking out from behind them at the figures and shapes passing by. But Monday morning he slept until 8:00. Tuesday morning and every morning since he's slept until 7:30, even with falling asleep at a reasonable hour. For our sleep-challenged son, that's a welcome step days before we stop sleeping with the new one.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Return of Mr. Fix-It

Ah, that magical time of year when flowers are blooming, temperatures are rising, and things in your house are breaking. That's right, this weekend saw the return of Mr. Fix-It to my house as on Saturday, several things needed immediate attention.

The first was the only one planned. As it began to heat up, we discovered that Sam's new big boy room was the warmest in the house. So while we were sleeping comfortably, he was getting hot and waking up more than usual. Since Home Depot was having their Memorial Day sale, we decided to get a ceiling fan for his bedroom. We went Friday morning, before the store was overrun so Sam could crawl over the lawn mowers as much as he wanted without being in the way too much, and picked out our fan. Saturday morning, while Joy distracted Sam, I took down the old light fixture, went into the attic to make sure the light box was firmly attached, and hung the new fan:
All of this was just in time as Sunday was almost 90 here and drippingly humid.

Having to hang a fan is not enough to occupy an entire day, so the downstairs bathroom decided to help fill up the rest of my day by leaking enough to transform the carpet into a mushy mud pit (yes, the former owners of the house put carpet in all the bathrooms - we've tiled the two full baths and are waiting on the half bath until we refinish our downstairs floors) Fortunately, after taking the toilet apart I discovered that the leak was only a failed wax ring, not a broken flange or toilet bowl. But between the open hole to the sewer and the soaked carpet, that bathroom smelled lovely for about a day and a half.

Water was also everywhere outside and my poor tomato plants were drowning because their containers weren't draining, so when we went to Home Depot for our second Memorial Day weekend outing for toilet parts, I also picked up new soil. Saturday evening as the sun went down was spent changing out the soil and getting arm deep in mucky soil. So far one of the plants is back in full force and I'm watching the other.

They say these things come in threes, so here's hoping we're done until after Noah arrives.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

We Have a New Friend At Our House

One of the most healthy things about this pregnancy has been how everyone has helped us keep Sam a part of the entire enterprise. Our doctor has welcomed Sam to visits, and it is a ritual now that Sam helps listen to Noah's heartbeat by holding the doppler and pushing the button to turn it on and off. Our church community has continually talked to him as the big brother, asking if he is excited. Our family has helped build excitement for him by telling him how special it will be to be a big brother. And many friends when sending gifts have included one for Sam as well.

Here's the latest and perhaps best big brother gift. A few weeks ago a dear friend posted about crocheting some hamsters from a book she received called Mr. Funky's Super Crochet Wonderful. With my love of all things retro-kitchy Japanese, Mr. Funky spoke to my heart, and I instantly wanted some for Sam to play with. I did not speak of this desire, but Jaime read my mind and crocheted Mr.Funky's Amigurumi monkey for Sam.

Sam immediately adopted the monkey and named him Rufus. Rufus now eats with us and sleeps on the red pillow for naps (and always the red pillow - no blue ones for Rufus!) and evidently enjoys playing trains. I'm sure that once Noah arrives, Rufus might even get to wear a diaper.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Can Your Piano Do This?

You're sitting, looking at your tax rebate check and wondering what you are going to spend it on to help jump start the economy. Well, wonder no more. Get 42 other friends together and buy the new Yamaha Mark IV Disklavier. For around $42,000 ($150,000 or more if you want a concert grand size) you can own the first internet capable piano. That's right, iTunes has come to the 19th century.

The Disklavier has always been an oddity in line with the old player-pianos that used piano rolls. It produces acoustic music with the touch of composers and master pianists without the owner having to do anything, not even hire a pianist. While player pianos and disklaviers have been a boon for composers interested in tempo relationships normal humans could never muster, for the general public they have remained the province of hotel lobby bars where ghostly fingers playing "Moon River" elicit as much notice as the pastel paintings of birch trees adorning the walls. But now, the possibilities are mind-blowing. Owners can download songs from the internet for their piano to play and can even set their piano to act as an alarm clock, playing their favorite melody every morning at 6:00. You can download piano parts to favorite albums so you can imagine Billy Joel sitting in your living room playing along to "Piano Man." It can even record your own voice and play it back in harmony with what you are playing so you have backup singers.

Ok, so some of the options are a little creepy, but still, the options for pedagogy are endless and might even get some early students to practice a bit more. Especially once they figure out how to download their favorite game and play it on the computer.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

How to Tell that Your Son Spends Too Much Time at Church

We have a few hard and fast rules about what Sam can and cannot play with in our house. Being 2 1/2, Sam naturally wants to play with those things. There's the antique metronome on the piano, the collection of instruments from various parts of the world, and there are the little plastic grapes adorning our dresser.

Sam loves to pick off a few of these grapes and then ferry them around his room in his dump truck and his digger. It makes sense; they are the perfect size and roll around satisfyingly. But the choking hazard is a bit too much for either Joy or myself feeling comfortable with his playing with the grapes, so they stay off limits.

This morning in the frenzy for getting ready for church, we left Sam alone upstairs for a little while. When I went to collect him for church, he had five grapes in his digger and was carrying one around in a bottle top. Joy bundled him off down the stairs, reminding him firmly that we don't play with the grapes, while I returned the grapes to their bowl. I overheard him protest that he needed the grapes, telling Joy, "But it is God's special will that I take this grape to church today for Cole to play with."

P.S. It's a Movie

Since I already posted on the chances of Indiana Jones receiving tenure (next to nothing) I thought I should follow up with one of the more bizarre news stories I've read about the movie. It seems as though Russian Communist Party members are calling for a boycott of the movie in Russia. Why? Because it represents Western anti-Communist propaganda that distorts history, that's why.

Read that sentence again - Indiana Jones distorts history. The St Peterburg Communist Party chief Sergei Malinkovich is concerned about the movie because "In 1957 the Communists did not run with crystal skulls throughout the US. Why should we agree to that sort of lie and let the West trick our youth?" I know our culture is not the most historically informed one on the world stage, but I doubt the movie will, as Andrei Andreyev has been quoted as saying, "provoke a new Cold War."

Want to know what might actually provoke a new Cold War? A Russian leader spreading the idea that the main goal of the United States is to destroy Russia. But maybe I just don't properly recognize the power of commercial art.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Oh yeah, Indiana Jones also Teaches

I'm a fan of the Indiana Jones movies having grown up on them along with Star Wars. But since becoming a professor, I see his activities as an academic in a bit of a different light. Thankfully, I'm not the only one. Ever wonder if Dr. Jones received tenure for his exploits? Wonder no more.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Celebration Time

We have cause to celebrate around here even before Noah's birth. Joy just heard the news yesterday that she's been named a Kindermusik Maestro!

What's a Maestro you may ask? Here's the official description:

The Maestro Program
Each year Kindermusik International recognizes Educators through the Maestro Program. Based on excellence in three categories—teaching, community outreach, and net sales—its purpose is to provide continuing support and recognition for this distinctive group of Kindermusik Educators.

In other words, Joy's program is in the top 5% of all Kindermusik programs in the world - that's out of over 5,000 programs currently. So, a not-so-small reason to rejoice.

(I'm just a little proud of her)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Let's Go Riding in My Car, Car

You may recall that these days, Sam is taking his Baby Noah everywhere with him. What you may not know is that his Baby Noah is a reconditioned Cabbage Patch doll.

I can tell that Joy is getting close to delivery by her breathtaking amount of nesting, which currently includes cleaning out our basement. In the course of that great clean-out, she's come across some of her old stuff (including her uniform from her one year as a cheerleader) and freed up several boxes. Thus was born the picture you see above. Sam declared that the box was his car, so we got out markers and began coloring it. You can see the red headlights and the racing stripes he put on in the picture - you can't see the wheels he drew on it. You can see that Sam likes riding in it along with Baby Noah (who, very unsafely, does not have a car seat) - you can't see that we usually go to the doctor's office to get stickers and lollipops. The car has become a staple in our house, even going so far as to serve as a car for Sam's other cars to get around in.

At least we don't have to pay the gas prices for this car!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Gregorian Chant's Comeback or Everything Old is Old again, but Hip

Have you heard the news? It seems as though Gregorian Chant is making a comeback in Catholic services. After being thrown out of many Masses when Vatican II said it was perfectly acceptable to hold the Mass in the vernacular, this cornerstone of Western music is experiencing something of a vogue. It seems as though there are two forces at work here:
  1. Catholics my age are growing tired of hearing the same music at home, in their car, at the dentist's office, and at church. They are longing for an experience that transcends everyday life and find that the unmeasured, unhurried, half-understood Latin lines of traditional monophonic chant accomplishes that transcendence. (The question as to why Gregorian chant has a mystical feel to it is best left for another post)
  2. It also seems as though listening to and performing Gregorian chant reduces stress. Hmmm, imagine that - prayer and meditation can reduce stress. But no one has done studies to see if Gergorian chant's use in Halo reduces the player's or the Master Chief's stress levels.
Looking back through history, these trends wax and wane between more traditional forms and newer forms and eventually, elements of both end up in a new fusion (so we don't sing Gregorian chant now the way it was sung 1000 years ago). Still, it is an interesting phenomenon. And since Protestants seem to follow their Catholic brethren in musical use, what's next, are hymns going to make a comeback?

Friday, May 16, 2008

What's Grosser than Gross

Can you tell that I'm done with school and working from home for a few weeks? All you get are Sam stories all the time. I have other interesting tidbits to throw up here in the coming days, but for today, a question: how do you know your son has come down with a cold? When he goes outside to play on the swingset and comes back in with snot trails over his face and arms clearly marked by layers of dirt.

Other identifying markers?

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Sam Had a Baby

Now that you know The Name, today's post will make a little more sense to you.

Since the Kindermusik semester is winding down, Joy is slowly putting away the props used by her teachers in class. By far, the class that uses the most props is Kindermusik Sign & Sing, a great class we did with Sam that engages children in many ways to help facilitate their acquisition of sign language. One of the best methods to captivate children is by the use of props, from bubbles to ball towers to musical games, that they want to see and use. Forget getting a kid to sign "milk" - they know how to get milk by screaming their head off. But bubbles? Crying just brings milk, not bubbles, so they want to learn that sign to get some of those precious, precious bubbles.

Joy has several baby dolls as props for the class, so they were sitting minding their own business, waiting to be packed away when Sam pounced. He immediately declared that the first baby he picked up was Baby Noah, the baby in Mama's belly. Joy and Sam then had to feed the baby, and change its diapers, and help it sit on the potty. All things that made us happy because we began to think that maybe Sam would be cool with his new little brother and was perhaps beginning to get excited about him coming.

He then declared that the second baby he found was Baby Andrew, the baby in Dada's belly. Ah well, at least he's getting part of it down.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Name

I realized the other day that, although we named our newest addition a few weeks ago, we hadn't announced it to you. So, since Sam is addicted to learning to write letters right now, I thought I'd let him show you our new baby's name:
In case you can't decipher Sam's cryptic writing, the baby's name is officially Noah Andrew. So now we're just counting down the days - a little over three weeks to go.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

What's the Matter with Kansas?

A few years ago, there was a famous book that rhetorically asked What's the Matter with Kansas? The book generated a lot of discussion, especially around here, as it proposed that the Republican party had tricked red state America into believing it was on their side when it was actually for the rich and empowered.

I haven't read the book, and so don't have an opinion on the author's thesis, but I was reminded of its title yesterday when Kansas Representative Todd Tiahrt halted discussion in the House on the spending bill by asking for a roll-call vote on House Resolution 1113. Never heard of HR 1113? It's a resolution to show that Congress celebrates the role of mothers in the United States and supports the goals and ideals of Mother's Day. Rep. Tiahrt wanted to make sure all the Representative's mothers knew that their sons and daughters loved and appreciated them.

I'm sure their mothers would be more excited if the House stopped wasting time and money, stopped taking and looking for kickbacks, and ate their lima beans. But hey, what do I know?

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Ant Man? Really

With the stunning success of Iron Man over the weekend, Marvel comics decided to let the world know what other superheroes you've never heard of will be making their way to the screen. Now, I was a fan of Iron Man as a kid, so his story being made into a movie didn't surprise me. And making a movie of Captain America seems like a no-brainer - who can argue with a superhero who embodies all that is good about the United States except large parts of the non-Western world. And I'll even buy a movie about Thor, a regular guy whose alter ego just happens to be the Norse god of thunder since it's directed by the same guy who brought us Stardust.

But Ant-Man? That's right, Marvel announced that in addition to those above projects, they also have Edgar Wright, director of Hott Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead, making a movie about a scientist who can shrink down to small sizes and control insects with his helmet. I'm not making this up, he really does control ants with his helmet. Does this strike anyone else as a strange choice? What's next, a movie about one of their earliest comics, Kathy, the teen-age tornado?

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

More Listening Journals for your Enjoyment

The last collection of Listening Journals written by my undergraduates is now up for viewing. These all cover music written since 1945 and represent a wide variety of music and musical styles. Most surprising to me was the reaction against minimalism I heard from these students. I must admit to a fascination on my own part with minimalism, stretching back into my high school years, yet in spite of that interest, since I started teaching the subject I've always found that students are, by and large, extremely drawn to the style.

Not this year. Not even Einstein on the Beach in Legos could persuade them to give minimalism a chance.

One student, though, wrote on, and enjoyed Einstein on the Beach, and I own him a debt of gratitude for finding a new, bizarre, and hilarious parody of the work by Emo Philips that proves my theory that everything is made better by the addition of ninjas. You'll find the video on his blog after his essay.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Potty Training Strikes Back

As many parents do when potty training their child, we have books galore on the subject littering our house. There's the classic Everyone Poops, the charming Once Upon a Potty, and Sam's current favorite The Potty Book - For Boys. We talk way too much about bodily functions at our house, and since we decided long ago that instead of using sobriquets for body parts (wee-wee being the most common in our books) we'd call them by their proper names, we've had some insightful and some downright weird conversations recently.

Nothing beats Thursday morning, though. Sam was sitting at the kitchen table, finishing a mid-morning snack while Joy was busy rearranging our random utensil drawer (or whatever else nesting-late-pregnancy women are compelled to do). Getting down to the bottom of his sippy cup, he unscrewed the lid to drain the last few precious drops of apple juice. Doing so, he became entranced with the bottom of the lid. He cocked his head to the side and looked at the strange apparatus hanging down from the lid and then declared:

"My cup has a penis! Look Mom!"

You don't even want to know where the poop discussions randomly come back to haunt us.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Moving the Classroom to Web 2.0

You may have noticed this semester that I've been trying to build community outside the confines of the 2 1/2 hours I get to spend with my students each week. There is only so much I can do in that time to open their minds and ears to all that is available to them today, to make new links among and between musics and musical cultures. I've been trying various ideas, but I recently stumbled across an anthropology profession at Kansas State who has moved this idea in an entirely new direction. In thinking and writing about our current mediated culture, he hit on the idea of visually depicting it for his students:

He then turned to his massive 200 student lecture hall and began using the internet to simulate many of the concepts he hopes they take away from class. I'm amazed by this process and my mind is firing with possibilities for similar ideas in my classes, especially in the large film music class I'm currently scheduled to teach next spring. Notions, ideas are always welcome.