Monday, February 28, 2011

Window Panels! 1.0

I'm playing with our windows lately. We have a lot of them in this new house. Which is good, because I love light.  The vast majority are facing south and west, with a few strategically facing east to catch the sunrise, so we have a nice warm sunlight every one of Denver's 300 sun days a year. (Check back with me this summer, when I'm sure I'll be complaining that we live in an oven. But for now, it's great.) The only problem with so many windows - in our neighborhood - is privacy.

As far as I'm concerned, not all windows require the same level of privacy, so different solutions for different windows are in order.

Upstairs in the loft area, I thought the right solution would be something like cafe shutters. Like the ones that were popular when I was a kid. Cafe shutters only cover the bottom half of the window, leaving the top open for light. None of our neighbors are higher than us, so I'm not really worried about anyone seeing in the top half of the window. The slats on those cafe shutters from my childhood are usually pretty small by today's (shutter) standards. It gave cafe shutters a delicate and charming look. But I haven't been able to find them in a version I like. And I didn't want to part with that much of our money. And I have a lot of windows. So, I started thinking about some sort of alternative that would cover only the bottom half of the window. Something less fussy might be better, anyway.

Then, I came up with the idea of a window panel. I would use a canvas frame - that was half the height of the window - and stretch some translucent fabric over it. I'd find some sort of hardware to attach it to the window frame.  It would be like the ceiling of the Cy Twombly Gallery. On my window! In Denver! (When you know me well, you know I recycle this inspiration from the Cy Twombly Gallery Ceiling every one point three years on some project. And I think of it as New! every time.)

Now, here's the thing about someone who is (admittedly) contrary in nature. You have to be really careful what you say to her. If you tell her that white window treatments look like underwear...her brain might start working overtime on that idea.  Next thing you know, she's buying pantyhose and stretching them over canvas frames.


But if your mother is a professional artist, then it probably doesn't seem too entirely weird that your wife does things like this. And maybe you even encourage your wife a bit, by telling her it looks kind of good with the "diagonal lines." Nobody will know what it is.

And it does look kind of cool. Did you notice how the double layer of fabric creates "depth" with shadows as well as a moirĂ© pattern in the photo above? That's cool. But the pantyhose? They're just not working at a macro level. I can't buy them big enough for the desired frame. And I don't have a solution for the pantyhose legs (yet? see photo below). I remember seeing some sort of knit tube material as a child. Decades ago. In an outlet in North Adams, Massachusetts. That's quite a drive from Denver.

(image removed)

And the canvas frame? Not working so well either - definitely needs to be painted white - and kept square. Somehow. Hmm.

I'm still upbeat on this experiment. I think there's something salvageable here.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

My favorite handbag

My mother-in-law gave me this bag a couple of years ago after she saw it at a trade show in Germany. I'm extremely demanding and picky when it comes to bags - I've never been one to simply go with the trends. Stylistically, (I believe) a bag should always be elegant and simple. And it MUST function well. For handbags, I look for functionality in adequate and appropriate compartments, as well as flexibility of use. Diapers and water bottles need to fit in everything I use.  

This bag LOOKS rather small. But it's got accordion folds on the side. See? It's genius...
They unfold to look like this:
Meaning there's plenty of room in this little bag for carrying around the piccolini's water bottles AND some more stuff. Even full, it still looks elegant.

Of course the beautiful, bold colors of the leather/suede are pretty nice, too. Especially if you're like me, and you love bold beautiful hidden color. No really, I'm serious, I love brightly colored insides. However, this bag is so thoroughly outside of my budget that I would probably never even look at it through a store window. 

But. If one is going to spend a lot of money on a bag, I really believe in supporting clever, original, and functional design. (As opposed to, say, a bag that uses a "special" leather foil embossing technique to cover the outside of its enormous surface area with its company initials. Ugh.)  It's called the Butterfly, you can find it at Hester Van Eeghen's US based website.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Imaginary Ailments

Kreislaufkollapse: collapse of the circulation system

Living in Munich, my American friends and I couldn't stop joking about this common German ailment. In Germany, a good bout of Kreislaufkollapse will easily get you a doctor's note requiring a week off from work. But really, a collapse of the circulation system? Shouldn't that get you a one-way ticket out? I mean, shouldn't you be dead? What is this imaginary illness?

Americans don't have imaginary ailments like that, I told Fritz.

The last few nights, Noah has woken up crying. "His legs hurt," Fritz frowns as he reports this to me. "I rubbed and rubbed his legs, but it didn't go away; it must not be in the muscle."

"Oh... growing pains," I say. If I close my eyes, I can almost feel growing pains from my own childhood. The sharp throbbing in my legs. Crying. My mother sitting on the side of my bed in the middle of the night. The memories of growing pains are more vivid than two unmedicated childbirths. I don't know if that's because of the magnitude of growing pains or the power of childbirth-forgetting hormones.

"Growing pains?" says Frtiz. "What's that?"

"Didn't you get pains in your legs when you were little?"


Oh. Erm. Hmmm.

I google growing pains and discover the actor who played Boner on the 80s sitcom-of-the-same-name went missing last year.

Okay. Somebody out there tell me that you, too, had growing pains. Is this an imaginary American ailment? Please tell me that I'm not imagining things!  (You can comment anonymously if you're worried about joining Noah and me in the Circle of Those with Imaginary Ailments.)

Monday, February 21, 2011

What Made that Spot?

Exhibit A

a) a paperclip
b) a black pen
c) a pencil

Exhibit B

a) a regular blue marker
b) a washable blue marker
c) a permanent blue marker

 Exhibit C

a) a NONwashable mini red marker for children
b) a permanent red marker
c) a washable children's marker

The marks on the stair trim were made with a black pen. The marks on the wall were made with the Sharpie. The mark on the floor was made with a washable red marker (thank goodness).

As I completed writing this blog entry, I let Noah take the quiz.  
Strangely, he didn't get a single answer correct.
I hope he doesn't get the idea that I approve of his artistry.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

How to have a Daughter

It's no secret among our friends that I was really hoping Mattias would be a girl. But you probably won't be surprised to learn that I love him like crazy and would never trade him. He manages to humble both Fritz and I on a daily basis with his determination and happy disposition. I'm 100% in love with him. So, anyone want an almost 4 year old?  Put your hand down, Mom, I'm kidding.

Here's an interesting Dutch study, published in Reproductive Biomedicine Online.  Abstract here.  And an easier-to-understand version here.  And in German, where I found it originally, here. Basically, out of 32 participants (who ate a diet low in sodium and high in calcium as well as timing of relations well before ovulation) - 81% had a girl.  I think the statistics in the general population are 49% girls - so 81% is a huge difference!

I asked Fritz to get me the full article, because it should be an easy (cheap!) thing for a scientist. I thought it would be good to know some more information about exactly how much - or how little - sodium and calcium. But apparently, it's not at the library yet. And since Mattias started cutting his molars last week - and the sleep situation around our house got even worse? Well, maybe, I'm not so interested in any more babies.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Last Chance

Samsung Solve for Tomorrow Contest
Vote for Springfield High School!  
Ends today.  

Many, many thanks!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

High Baroque for Babies

(image removed)
Neither of the piccolini are very fond of car rides.  We've had a lot of success, however, with high baroque (classical) music putting them to sleep.  Noah even calls it his "sleeping music." The allegro portions of Handel's organ concerts do wonders - which I find funny, because at 120-139 BPM, it's not exactly a calming tempo. Also, some Carl Bach and Haydn organ concerts. I looked hard to see if I could find the exact pieces that put Mattias and Noah to sleep (CD#2, tracks 2, 5, 8, isn't very helpful, huh?) but between the German CD and some mismatched naming conventions, I'm not able to be more specific.

Noah is also very fond of Bernd Wefelmeyer's adaptation of Handel's Messiah.  I've been listening to it for almost 4 years now, and I've become rather fond of it as well. We went to see another jazz adaptation of Handel's Messiah last year (Too Hot to Handel) - and were disappointed.  I think Wefelmeyer's adaptation is better - although we have yet to find a good recording of it.

I'm not a music person, and I definitely don't have cool or up-to-date taste in music; my knowledge ends there. And I should credit Fritz, who discovered the wonders of high baroque.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Sick days

One of my least favorite parts of parenthood is determining the severity of the piccolini's sicknesses. Usually, I see it coming and progress through the following hierarchy of questions. Is it not-enough-sleep-last-night sick? Is it take-a-nap-and-watch-a-video sick? Is it have-some-pain-killer sick? Is it call-the-doctor sick? If I ignore it, will it go away? If I go to the doctor will I feel like an over-reacting mother?

Tied up in all of this is my intense desire to be Right, not Wrong.  And I suppose when dealing with my child's health I should just swallow my pride and be Safe. But I still hate, hate, hate to think of myself as the over-reacting type.  (Because I totally am.) And I hate to think that I'm encouraging the piccolini to wallow in self-pity by fussing over their every little pain.

Noah bears every little pain very loudly. Until last month (that's 3 years and 9 months, dear friends) I felt compelled to acknowledge every little waah he made. I told myself that I was teaching him compassion, but not fostering whininess. In case you're wondering, compassion-without-fostering-whining sounded like this:

"Oops, Noah. You fell down. Pick yourself up. You're okay."

Or sometimes I'd translate to English what the Germans say to their Kinder, "ich hab' geshen, nichts passiert." I saw. Nothing happened. Upon several attempts at using this one, I decided that phrase simply doesn't sound very good in English - regardless of whether or not it's the culturally acceptable response in German or English.  So I stopped.

Then I read something about communicating with your kids that made me think I should try be a little less patronizing in my response. I stopped telling Noah he was okay - or that nothing happened - instead,  I simply stated what happened (so he knew that I knew), and then tried to move on.

Finally, around his third birthday, I decided that maybe it was HIS communication, not mine that was causing all the crying.  So we worked on his ability to tell me what was wrong.  It was all the rage at his preschool, too.  Use your words, say the teachers.  But, you know, Noah's ability to communicate is quite good - and has been for some time. Just yesterday he told me that he felt "distressed" when I stopped playing car mechanic with him to answer the phone. Please.

Well.  He's almost 4 and he's still suffering, not only loudly and dramatically, but also eloquently in two languages; so last month I decided to just do the old-fashion-thing. Initiate Project Zero Response. Ignore him completely (unless it's BAD). Running though the house and tripped on the rug?  Don't even look up from the computer. Dropped several board books on his foot? Continue loading the dishwasher. Mattias pulled his hair? Finish drinking my tea. Distressed because I need to answer the phone? Answer the phone. Zero Response.

And the vocal suffering is decreasing dramatically. In all honesty, it's downright embarassing that it took me this long to do what probably every other parents has been doing from day one.

Which brings me back to my original point about sickness. How sick is sick? And how to sort out the drama from the real thing.  Two weeks ago, Noah embarked on a Whine-A-Thon.  It began with a cold, that made him cough at night.  He'd cough (once!), sit up in bed, and cry.  Fritz has yet to subscribe to Project Zero Response, so he went and slept with Noah, to lull him back to sleep when he randomly woke up and coughed (once!) and then cried. (Didn't I just write about what a great sleeper Noah is?  Sheez.)

The next morning, the Whine-A-Thon and Project Zero Response were competing programs while Fritz got ready for work.  It was cold in Denver.  So cold, that Fritz planned to take our (only) car to work. From some reason, that encouraged him to leave later than usual.  So the competition lasted for about 3.5 hours. That's 3.5 hours of me ignoring a dull waaahhh while Fritz did what I can only call interference. After Fritz left, I sat Noah in front of his favorite show, Kipper, in a desperate attempt to stop the whining. He stopped. Hmmm. That's only question number 2 on the sickness question list...

Long story short? Noah's cold deteriorated into bronchitis by about 11am. I had the pediatrician on the phone suggesting that I call 911, since Fritz had the car, and I wasn't sure we could wait until a 3pm appointment, AND since the pediatrician doesn't work during the lunch hours. We didn't do that 911 stuff, thanks to a supply of breath-easy drugs and nebulizer paraphernalia that have accumulated over Noah's last three years of being a bronchitis "candidate."

They say that a mother knows when something is wrong. But there is the Moment when a mother knows.  Mine was at 11am. Until I knew, I didn't know.

So where does Project Zero Response begin and end? Will Noah ever stop whining? I plowed ahead with the project as soon as he seemed better again. And you know, it's going well. Just yesterday, Noah, Mattias and I went out for a walk. Noah was riding his balance bike, and I was pushing Mattias in the stroller, when Noah hit a small pocket of snow and ice and fell off his bike. I was about 20 yards behind - far enough that if I had a reaction, Noah wouldn't see it.  And I did have a reaction when he fell. Mattias and I sprinted towards him.  By the time we reached Noah, he was picking his bike back up and saying to me, "I'm okay, Mommy. I just fell and said, 'oops, I fell!' and I didn't cry." I was so proud of him that I could have cried!

Then, last night, his leg hurt. And I started to think: Is he just tired? Is it growing pains? Did he really injure himself when he fell? ...

This morning?  More leg pain - the other leg, however -  and he was hot.  Ah ha! A fever! The illness that doesn't require so much guesswork. Noah doesn't get a fever often. But the wonderfulness of the fever is... it's a number! It's black and white! I know what to do! Fritz looked at me wearily and reminded me it could be the flu and maybe I should call the doctor. But I know what fever means:

Give pain killer and if it is within 24 hours of school - no school.  That's the rule.

EVEN if you spent the last 3 weeks making Valentines for this very special day. Oops. I guess sometimes a little ambiguity would be okay.

And the leg pain?  Well, the Moment hasn't come yet, so I don't know.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

It began with some normal creativity...

(image removed)
I said magnets.  He said computer.

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I said blocks.  He said nest.

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I said baby walker.  He said sawmill.

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 I said fire engine.  He said fishing pole. 
 (Maybe I should be giving him longpointythings aka sticks?)

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 I said trash truck.  He said boat oar.

Why bother with representational toys at all?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Real Life on a Saturday morning at the Wyse Home

Fixing the leak under the sink.  Adjusting the dishwasher's level-ness.  Eating Second Breakfast.

(image removed)

Maybe the lamp above the dining room table looks okay.  Hmmm.

Thirty hours later the faucet - it's in the foreground - broke apart in the cabinet beneath. Noah took one look at the hose flying around the inside of the base cabinet, water shooting everywhere, and screamed uncontrollably for the next 10 minutes.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Reply-to-all Overreaction

For the past few weeks, I've been working on one of those mommy projects.  I took it on for the usual mommy reasons: I believed it was something that will benefit my children as well as others, I saw that nobody else was stepping forward, and I felt that I was somebody mostly able to do it (given my schedule and the ages of the piccolini, etc).

To this point, taking additional responsibility in the piccolini's activities is something I have avoided. I feel I spend so much time with them, that it's healthy for them to be apart from me. And I know that it's healthy for me to have some time apart. After about 12 hours of piccolini care giving, I'm tired of thinking about piccolini.  I want to think about myself. I want to indulge in writing something here, or watching a show on netflix, or drinking wine with Fritz, or just staring at the blank wall. I don't want to spend any more time thinking about piccolini. I realize this may sound harsh. It's the reality of my SAHMommyhood - I don't feel one iota of guilt about the amount of time I spend - or don't spend - with the piccolini. But I do feel an acute need to escape them. I feel it every single day. (And I'm ashamed to admit that, so go easy on me.)

On this particular project, like I said, I've put my escapist feelings aside. Because it's for the greater good...there's a need...the piccolini will truly benefit...nobody else is doing anything about it.

So I was rather upset yesterday, when upon completing my work, and sending out the information via email to all the other interested parties, one of the other parents replied to all - that, yes, thank you but here's why the plan was not good and they wouldn't be taking part.

Some people would handle this type of thing better than me. My first instinct was to debate in yet another (reply to all) email. I'm a little confrontational - and argumentative - and contrary by nature. What if her paranoia infected the whole group and RUINED my efforts? I had to stop this! My next thought was that, no, attract more bees with honey, keep it positive, keep your eye on the ball, Ann, you want this to be a success. People can make up their own minds.  The comments won't have that much influence. But then, I started thinking, whether or not I believe the criticism is legit, other people might have similar concerns. Therefore, maybe I should simply address it (reply to all) and move on. But my blood is still boiling, so I haven't done anything.

I'm feeling this on a personal level for reasons that I can't quite put my finger on. Something about the nature of the concerns feels like a commentary on my SAHMommyhood. I have to resist the urge to pull out my before-child resume and rub it in some faces. See, I can be professionally successful too!  I'm not dumb! And I'm not going to be your chump for this project, just because you think you have some sort of greater social value because you get paid money for what you do! See, I can wow you with my incredible ability to cite building codes while using keyboard shortcuts on outdated computer drafting programs! Yes, even I find my own reaction a little pathetic.

I had this editorial swirling around in my head last night as well. It didn't improve my mood. I was extremely bothered by the way the authors neglected to directly address REASONS why there aren't more women in positions of power in the business world.

Also, that stupid Reply-to-all command. In this particular group, I think there needs to be more communication, so I'm glad that there's at least discussion, if we can call it that. But it's so easy to destroy with dissent. Have you ever received an Evite - and you are excited thinking about the upcoming party - and then you go to the Evite RSVP and you see that, say, 10 out of the 16 people invited aren't coming because of blah, blah, blah and immediately, your heart sinks a little? I, personally, see this and feel the need to cheer a little bit louder. Yes! Yes! I'm coming, it will be great! Looking forward to seeing everyone!

This is a small, little blip in a big, huge world, but it kept me awake last night, just the same. I know it's silly. But I thought I'd share it with you anyways.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Hot Fudge in a Mug

Too much cold weather and endless on-demand nursing mean I'm starving.

Stop reading if you are trying to lose weight.  No, really.  Stop.

Hot Fudge in the Microwave for One

(Make it in a mug so your piccolini have no idea that you are eating yummy food while they are eating healthy grow-food. He he. Good for a quick chocolate fix when you aren't buying the store bought kind. Because you are trying to eat healthy. And you are trapped at home.)

Mix together in a mug, with a spoon:
  • 2 Tablespoons each: flour, unsweetened cocoa powder, vegetable oil, water
  • 3 Tablespoons sugar
  • drops of vanilla
  • dash of salt
Remove the spoon and microwave the mug on high for 60-90 seconds, depending on how strong your microwave is.  For a super yummy treat, put ice cream on top. Eat with spoon.

Why are you still looking at the screen?  Go get a mug!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Valentines Made by a 46 month old

Most of Noah's brilliant classmates have already learned their letters. And they can write their names. I know because Noah tells me they are practicing this in the "office." Basically, the "office" means the corner of his preschool classroom that became filled with computers, keyboards, calculators, and laptops about two weeks ago. Doesn't sound so different from our house to me. But apparently, its much more interesting when it's in his classroom.  Because until this week, he's had zero, zip, zilch interest in learning letters. Of course, I wasn't worried because his parents each have over 7 years of higher education.  If Noah has half of that, it should be plenty of time to learn his letters.  Maybe even his numbers.

So, when word came home that he needed to make valentines for 16 classmates, I seized the opportunity. Hurray! We'd write his name. Sixteen times. Then I started thinking about buying some Valentine cards.  And I thought about how Fritz always complains that Valentines Day was invented for a particular card company (let's not analyze that one, okay?) and I decided, No! We'll MAKE Valentines. Apparently I forgot that Noah HATES crafts and that I had already committed myself to getting him to write his name 16 times with letters he still doesn't know. Even Fritz smiled encouragingly and reminded me that since it was more than 16 days until Valentines Day, we could do One A Day.

That sounded totally reasonable.

And you know what? It has been reasonable. Except for the Valentine that I made him sign "Noah" so that I could post it on the internet. That's not his real name. I made little dots for the letters in his name and then he traced the dots. He figured out halfway through tracing "Noah" that it wasn't his name.  Good Boy. We only have 4 more real ones to go. Maybe he can write his name without the dots. We'll see.

I credit our success on this craft project with:

  1. Lowering my expectations.
  2. Having some old, red wall paper lying around.
  3. Using a variety of techniques on the invitations so he didn't get too bored. (painting, cutting, writing, punching) He could always be motivated to finish writing his name - or Noah's - with the promise of another technique.
  4. Self-made "stickers" using ribbon, paper, and double sided adhesive.  I had to make them myself, but Noah was able to apply them himself.
  5. Plenty of advance warning. We only work on it for about 5-10 minutes a day.

I think they are kind of pretty, in a crazy way. They remind me of our wedding invitations.

And now, do I need to put these in envelopes? I don't quite know how this class-Valentine-thing works...

Friday, February 4, 2011

Alternative Baby Gate

Let's talk about baby gates. Or I'll write, and you can read.  And it doesn't really matter if you don't want to read, because today, I just have to complain:

Baby gates are about the MOST HORRIBLE part of baby-proofing. Every single baby gate is ugly. There's no beauty in the design. There is only more offensive and less offensive. Generally speaking, they are installed for safety, so you can't just put them away when guests are coming over. That would be a lot of work: both uninstalling the gate AND chasing the baby while entertaining.

And then, as if the ugly factor isn't bad enough, there's the miserable functioning. I have yet to meet one that opens and closes well after being used for more than 2 days. After about 2 weeks of being used, not only do they cease to open and close well, but the connection in the wall starts to feel awfully flimsy as well. OK, maybe that can be fixed with some new screws. Or maybe if we Americans didn't build cardboard houses, they wouldn't be so flimsy. Or maybe it's not so simple and CRACK, the next thing you know, the baby gate has been pulled off the wall with drywall still attached. (Or in Germany, it would leave a huge, gapping crater spewing random crumbling pieces of masonry and plaster.) Of course, you really only need a baby gate for about 18 months. And maybe, like us, you think that 18 months passes pretty quick and you'll make do without?

With Noah, we managed to always avoid the need to have a baby gate.  Thank goodness for single level living! But in the new house, it just wasn't working. First, we put one at the top of the stairs.  Which prevented headfirst diving down the stairs. But we were still spending a lot of time looking at this:

(image removed)

Cute. But not very productive (for me).

My mother suggested we simply barricade the the bottom of the stairs with some furniture. Which at first, sounded like a bad solution. That was mostly because we didn't quite have the technique down. Furniture was falling over on top of Mattias (oh yeah, that's really safe...), or sliding/being pushed out of place, or creating a major hassle for us to get around. Then we figured out this set up:

(image removed)

Odd, I know, but I really do prefer this to a babygate. You what's so ingenious here? Adults - and Noah - can step right over the whole mess. I had Noah demonstrate:

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No stupid gate to open and close. And no holes in the wall. I think there's the kernel of a much better design idea here. An idea that would NOT hold up to any sort of building code whatsoever. But you know, whatever. I just don't want another ugly malfunctioning baby gate in my house.

Please, surprise me.  Tell me you know about a more elegant solution!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Return of the Toys

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It's cold. It's snowing. The piccolini have colds that are keeping them awake at night. I'm so tired. They never asked for the (taken away) toys to come back. I was desperate.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Use all your email addresses and VOTE!

Another shameless plug to vote for my cousin Mandy's school in the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow Contest. At the moment they are IN SECOND PLACE!!!  The school is a public high school in Springfield, MN, where Mandy teaches. Support the environment, support women in science, support public high school science programs.  Come on, you know you want to!