Friday, June 16, 2017

Film Flick: The Seven Year Itch

It sometimes happens that a part of a movie- a great line, a costume,  a soundtrack- can outshine the overall product and become ingrained in our cultural conscience. Such is the case with a white, billowing skirt over subway vents. It helps of course that said dress is on Marilyn Monroe; the picture of her pushing down her skirt is instantaneously recognizable. But to only remember that does a disservice to the film that created such an iconic image.

The sweltering summer heat has people fleeing crowded New York City for cooler climates, if they can, or to air conditioning, at the very least. Richard Sherman (a role reprised from the play by Tom Ewell) sends his wife and kid off to the country, but stays to toil at his job. He derides those men who use similar situations as an excuse to go a bit wild. He promises to not smoke or drink.... but soon finds a bigger temptation when he meets his new upstairs neighbor. The Girl, played by Marilyn Monroe, is subletting an apartment for the summer, but, with no air conditioning, it is less than ideal. Sherman invites her into his air conditioned apartment and proceeds to daydream about seducing The Girl. His vivid imagination, which conjures up images of both delightful indulgences and scenarios involving a vengeful wife, are what makes for the base of this film. It is comedic gold, even if his daydreams never seem to become to reality....or do they?

So how did this story become the movie that, as its tagline boasts, tickled and tantalized? The Seven Year Itch began life as a Broadway play. When turning it from a play to a film, the playwright George Axelrod brought his playscript to his first meeting with Billy Wilder to use as a guide. Wilder famously replied, "Fine. We'll use it as a doorstop." And in reality, the film bears less of a resemblance to the play than director and co-writer Billy Wilder would have liked, due to movie censorship.

Wilder called the movie "a nothing picture because the picture should be done today without censorship . . . Unless the husband, left alone in New York while the wife and kid are away for the summer, has an affair with that girl there's nothing." However, I would argue that the story is funnier for that lack of consummation. The Girl (the Sherman character never learns the name of The Girl, but jokes that she "might be Marilyn Monroe") is so obviously is just interested in cooling off- not heating up. But the daydreams of a mild mannered, middle aged man allows him to imagine becoming a casanova. We get a peek at this ridiculous inner life- as ridiculous as all our inner lives are. Some might argue that the comedy is too stylized, too staged, but I liked it. Tom Ewell carries the show, but his bashful performance makes Sherman likeable even as he dreams of committing adultery. Contrasting against his more stylized performance, Monroe's breathy, natural way of speaking shines all the more.

So, where does the dress fit into all this? Less prominently than one might think! A full body shot of the dress billowing- the image that is so iconic today- is never even used in the film. We only see her legs; the full body shot came from stills used to promote the film. The scene is short, only a conversation as the duo exit an (air conditioned) movie theatre. However, it was to have big repercussions. Not only was it the image used to sell the movie, thus sending that dress on its way to pop culture fame, but it arguably broke up Monroe's marriage to baseball legend Joe DiMaggio. Huge crowds came to watch the scene filmed; an unsubstantiated but fun myth includes the idea that Wilder set up stands for people to watch from. Interestingly, a very similar scene can be found in the 1901 short What Happened on Twenty-Third Street, New York City, featuring actress Florence Georgie.

So, whether you are just seeking an escape from the summer heat or looking to heat things up with a sexy bit of comedy- The Seven Year Itch is one itch you just have to scratch!

Monday, June 12, 2017

Motherhood Musings: Getting Dressed

If you're reading this, it should come as no surprise that I love clothes (hey, it is a style blog, after all). But outfits and talk of clothes have been notably absent these past few months. For one very cute reason, of course! 
Okay. Not fair to blame that on the baby, especially when it is only half true. Having a baby means dealing with a changed body, a wardrobe that doesn't quite fit and new demands on the outfits you wear.


In all fairness, my body has returned to pre-pregnancy weight, thanks mostly to my diabetes, for both good (healthy eating) and not-so-good (hello, fluctuating insulin needs) reasons. But fitting back into the clothes I had had before wasn't as much of a relief as I thought it would be. What I needed my clothes for had changed.

I needed to be able to get down on the floor to play. I needed comfort. I needed everything to machine washable. I mean, I wanted all those things for my wardrobe before, but now its necessity.  There's a temptation to just roll out of bed and be in T-shirts and pajama pants all day, but that's not living. So here are some of the outfits I've been trying out as a mother. Documenting what both Ellis and I are wearing has been a reason for me to stretch my sartorial creativity just a bit more and wear clothes that make me feel like myself, while still meeting the needs of my new role as mama. 




Friday, June 9, 2017

Dog Eared Page: To Kill a Mockingbird


Maycomb was an old town, but it was a tired old town when I first knew it. In rainy weather the streets turned to red slop; grass grew on the sidewalks, the courthouse sagged in the square. Somehow, it was hotter then: a black dog suffered on a summer's day; bony mules hitched to Hoover carts flicked flies in the sweltering shade of the live oaks on the square. Men's stiff collars wilted by nine in the morning. Ladies bathed before noon, after their three-o'clock naps, and by nightfall were like soft teacakes with frostings of sweat and sweet talcum.

People moved slowly then. They ambled across the square,shuffled in and out of the stores around it, took their time about everything. A day was twenty-four hours long but seemed longer. There was no hurry, for there was nowhere to go, nothing to buy and no money to buy it with, nothing to see outside the boundaries of Maycomb County.


- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Father's Day Gift Guide

1. Carnivore's Club Subscription | 2. Tacos Cookbook | 3. Doctor Syn (book and film) | 4. Pour Over Coffee Maker | 5. Pocket Tool | 6. Tintin Memory Game


1. Carnivore's Club Subscription - Both my husband and father are very into barbeque, and, well, meat in general. This fun subscription is a gift that keeps on giving. 

 2. Tacos Cookbook  Do you have food in your marriage where one loves it and the other doesn't? Tacos are that for us (Yes, I'm the weirdo who doesn't like tacos!). This and permission to go crazy and make tacos to his heart's content might be a fun surprise for my husband. 

 3. Doctor Syn (book and film) - One of my favorite memories as a kid was my dad sharing a favorite series from his own childhood: Disney's The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh. So wouldn't it be fun to bring a new twist on an old favorite with not one but two different versions of the tale? The original book here is paired with a classic film of the same name. 

 4. Pour Over Coffee Maker- My husband loves to try new things and pour over coffee peaked his interest as there was a lot to learn. But he's held off, claiming we don't need it or that it would take up too much space. Maybe letting him indulge would be great! 

 5. Pocket Tool - What man doesn't love feeling like he's got the tool for the job. He'll always be prepared with this. And it takes up minimal room. 

6. Tintin Memory Game- Tintin is a perpetual favorite at our household, especially for my dad. It might be a few years off yet, but he could tackle his new Grandfatherly duties by playing a game of memory with his grandson if he had these. 



Friday, June 2, 2017

In June, Why Don't You...



Sign up for swimming lessons (with a little one in tow!)

Buy a new washer and dryer

Visit storytime at your local library

Donate to the ACLU

See Old Faithful erupt

Eat at a diner

Try a bath with rosemary and mint essential oils

Take your dogs to a dog park

Sample a new flavor of ice cream

Plant an herb garden

Monday, May 29, 2017

May 2017 in Review


New on the Blog
Blog posts have been light on the ground here this past month. Between everyone and the dog (literally) getting sick and my returning to work only for my position to be cut due to budget.... well, you can see how this affected any posting. However, most of my favorite series were updated this month, including the monthly Why Don't You... list, a sci-fi Dog Eared Page, a Gable/Day pairing for the month's Film Flick in Teacher's Pet, and an update on my son, Ellis. Plus, a gift guide for my first mother's day as a mom was written too (though, my handmade card with Ellis' footprints was the best gift of all).

New Finds

Are you a talker or a texter? 

Something I need to remember.

Nevertheless, He Persisted: Tales of masculine perseverance

Amazing bamboo structures

What do you think of the trend for restaurants to ban children? 

Female-only showings of the film Wonder Woman

Getting some game-changing advice on relationships

 Balloon Poetry

The Joy of Having Boys

The Birth of a Mother



Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Ellis at 4 months

This past month has felt both never ending and like it flew by. I went back to work; Ellis started daycare and everyone, including the dog, got horribly sick over the course of about 3 weeks. We've been on survival mode, but in between all the tissues and uses of the Snot Sucker (an item both disgusting and amazing), there's been huge developments in our little man!
STATS
Ellis is 4 months old as of this week! He weighs 15 pounds and 10 oz. and is 25 inches long. 

TEMPERAMENT
What a transformation! Our little man is smiling so much now.  He also is laughing this deep, slow laugh that sounds like one laugh at a time, almost exactly like if you read the words out of a book. "Haaa." he'll say. He can still be pretty serious, but now is mostly happy now, ready for the next joke. 

He is still our social observer though. One of his favorite things to do is watch the other children at daycare. He wants to face forward when carried or sitting on our laps, just so he can be in on the action. 

MILESTONES
Ellis is so much more aware. At birth babies' eyesight is typically 400/20 and by the start of month 4 it has improved to 40/20. They can see color and can track things across the room. We mostly see this in two ways. First, he pays attention to books with colored illustrations now. Secondly, he is much more aware of the dogs- his puppies we call them. He will follow their movements even from across the room. There is a pretty mutual interest too, as Stella likes to watch over her boy. My parents also have fox terriers, so when they came to visit, imagine his puzzlement over having THREE Stellas in the house. 


He is able to grasp things better, and this results in more playing with toys and things, but the craziest milestone he's met that involves grasping is that he can turn the pages of a book. And he always turns them in the correct direction, indicating that he understanding how books work (or at least how mommy always turns the pages). If it is a book he is familiar with (I Kissed The Baby is pretty much read daily, for example), he seems to know when to turn the pages too.  How crazy is that?!



LIKES
Music is still a favorite, especially Beatles' songs, or music from his toys. We have a strange musical tiger toy he loves, and a musical alien that only comes out to play when it is Tummy Time. Funny, how much longer Tummy Time lasts when the alien toy is out... His real favorite toy though is a balloon. We can tie one to his foot  and he would choose to play with that thing indefinitely, if we let him! It encourages him to move his little body around, and provides practice with tracking too. 

My sister came to visit, and she too is a new favorite. He finds her incredibly funny. Mommy and Daddy can do the same things and it is not funny, but Auntie is hilarious. Its pretty adorable to watch them play. Playing with Daddy is still  special though, and they have a new game where Ellis is lifted up by his hands and feet for a few seconds. That is a particular favorite, judging by the huge, open-mouthed grin it gets each time.

EATING
Ellis has taken to the bottle like a champ! In fact, he knows the sounds and steps of making a bottle so well now that he will stop crying when he sees or hears the kitchen faucet turn on. The amount of formula he is consuming at each feeding is larger too. He hit another growth spurt and is getting so big with little elbow rolls and baby chub that makes you want to eat him up with a spoon.  

I know that there were many factors to his colic resolving, but honestly, I would state the switch to formula as the number one biggest game-changer (the switch, for us, was doctor recommended.) For this baby, it has worked magic. We put him on Similac Gentle Pro which contains cow proteins that are more broken down and easier to digest, and also has probiotics, which also encourages better digestion. So for those of you in the trenches with a colicky child, please, please know that A) there is a light at the end of the tunnel.  Also B), if you are considering the switch to formula but are feeling guilty or face some social pressure about it, remember that each baby is different. All situations are unique.

SLEEP
This month has been a bit all over the place where sleep is concerned. His schedule is still quite varied, depending on the length of his naps. But he is staying up longer in between naps- two or so hours, typically! Night time sleep has been rough this month because we all got sick, and laying flat on one's back (as babies are supposed to sleep) was making him cough nonstop. Plus.....Say it isn't so, but... I think we've hit the 4 month sleep regression. Anyone have tips on helping their child learn to put themselves to sleep without sleep aids like the bottle or rocking? 

MOM UPDATE
The return to work has been very bittersweet. That's a common enough sentiment for many new mothers returning to work, though my own reasons might be different than others. I actually wrote a long blog post about returning to work, but then never posted it, as we learned the program I teach was being cut due to budget restraints. So the last month has been a temporary return to work only so that I can wrap things up and clean out our classroom. I'm not sure where things will go from here, but with summer I'll at least temporarily return to being a SAHM as we figure things out. Luckily Ellis is a pretty cool dude to hang with. 

Monday, May 22, 2017

Film Flick: Teacher's Pet

Teacher's Pet pits education against experience..... and Doris Day against Clark Gable. It's the star power more than the conceit of the story that draws you into this film, partly because it just seems like such an unlikely pairing.  Though both stars were big names, Clark Gable was nearly twenty year's older than Day. Cary Grant and James Stewart both turned down the role, citing the age difference between themselves and Day as the reason. Gable, older than either, took the role instead. To help accommodate their male lead, several changes were made to the film. Instead of a mere reporter, Gable's character Jim became the newspaper editor. Other changes happened too; in fact, myth has it that the movie was deliberately filmed in black & white in an attempt to disguise Gable's age and weight. The tactic doesn't entirely work. Gable is not the debonair man that made ladies swoon in Gone with the Wind.  He is heavier. He is aged. And yet, they turn that to his advantage, giving him a grizzly persona that is nonetheless very rugged and manly, and the script lampshades the topic by pointing out how boring a perfect man is. Perfect he may not be, but Clark Gable is still Clark Gable at any age.  Doris Day herself recalled, "I could actually feel the magnetic force of his personality. He dressed in marvelous tweeds. There was something very affirmative about him, and a directness that suggested great inner strength. He projected utter simplicity. A man who lived on the simple, down-to-earth scale. Very much like James Cagney.”

As compelling as Gable still manages to be,  he is only one half of the equation. At the tie of making Teacher's Pet, Day was in the middle of her career, just as Gable was heading towards the end of his. She was long established as good news for the box office. It shows in her assured performance. However, this film was my first exposure to the star, and the hype about this actress is not overrated!  She manages to be convey a sense of sexiness without ever venturing to kittenish or unintelligent personas. She's funny, but never too over the top. If the sizzle between herself and Gable isn't electric, it is still certainly present and the vulnerable moments we see between the two, when the characters really connect, is entirely due to her. 
Clark Gable's Jim Gannon is a newspaper editor who finds the idea of teaching journalism in a classroom ridiculous; real experience is what is needed. Unfortunately, he is made to eat his words! After sending a scathing letter that rejected the opportunity to come talk to a college class about journalism, he finds out his boss wants him to give that talk. Going to the class reveals that the teacher, Erica Stone (Doris Day), is a total knock-out. Before he can talk to her though, she shares the letter he wrote with her students- and proceeds to lampoon him, calling his kind an outdated type of reporter, not equipped to handle the changes in journalism as a field. Enrolling as a student under a false name, Jim can't seem to decide if he wants to prove the teacher is wrong, or gain her attention for some- ahem- one on one tutoring. Either way, he becomes the star pupil, but another professor enters the scene. A series of misadventures at a club follows; everyone gets jealous of everyone else. Some people's motives are revealed and relationships dynamics change- but things only end up more complicated after that! Can these two survive finding out the truth about each other? Can two opposing points of view find the middle ground? Can the Teacher's Pet score a date with teacher? Watch to find out! 

Friday, May 12, 2017

Dog-Eared Page: The Time Machine


I am afraid I cannot convey the peculiar sensations of time traveling. They are excessively unpleasant. There is a feeling exactly like that one has upon a switchback—of a helpless headlong motion! I felt the same horrible anticipation, too, of an imminent smash. As I put on pace, night followed day like the flapping of a black wing. The dim suggestion of the laboratory seemed presently to fall away from me, and I saw the sun hopping swiftly across the sky, leaping it every minute, and every minute marking a day..... I was still on the hill-side upon which this house now stands, and the shoulder rose above me grey and dim. I saw trees growing and changing like puffs of vapor, now brown, now green; they grew, spread, shivered, and passed away. I saw huge buildings rise up faint and fair, and pass like dreams. The whole surface of the earth seemed changed—melting and flowing under my eyes.


-The Time Machine by H.G. Welles

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Mother's Day Gift Guide

1. Clothes | 2. Books | 3. Glasses | 4. Photo Printer | 5. Phone Case


We are keeping Mother's Day pretty lowkey. With a tiny person, lowkey holidays just seem a given. However, a gift can help a new mama feel appreciated (or a Mom who has put in years of love and care, for that matter!) 

1. Clothes - A new mom may be feeling self-concious about her new, post-baby body. Give her something that makes her feel great. This skirt isn't currently in stock- but is coming back to sale soon! 

2. Books - Motherhood means time is at a premium. Along with a great book, give the gift of time and let her read it while taking a nice, long bath. 

3. Glasses - Okay, this is purely practical. But I need new glasses. 

4. Photo Printer - For all the photos you take of your kids! 

5. Phone Case- to protect the thing taking all the photos of your kids ;) 

Monday, May 1, 2017

In May, Why Don't You...



Purchase a silk kimono robe to lounge in on weekend mornings

Watch Star Wars for May (the Fourth Be With You)

Buy matching hangers for your closet

Organize your important papers

Make a home movie

Visit the Children's Resource Center

Bake chocolate chip cookies for co workers

Sign up for swimming classes- you and baby both! 

Update your social media accounts with new pictures and bios

Watch a Shakespeare play

Friday, April 28, 2017

April 2017 in Review

Spring on the Blog


Spring has most definitely sprung! On the blog, we suggested some ways to celebrate that with this month's suggestions of "Why Don't You...?" and a trip to hear The Wind in the Willows with our Dog-Eared Page. We celebrated Easter with some ideas for what to put in a baby's Easter Basket (p.s. See our very own Easter Bunny on my Instagram Page!). Speaking of babies, I got personal in sharing what it was like to have diabetes while pregnant and about our son's third month alive! If you wanted to know more about me, you could also see what was in my purse. We also got a bit hospitable and discussed what to do when guests arrive, and shared a great film to watch.

Spring Finds

Newest podcast I'm obsessed with? Malcolm Gladwell's Revisionist History

A daring new idea for a building

Knitters: Help premie babies improve their health with this!

Brilliant tips on spring cleaning (and recycling. Everyday can be Earth Day!)

Dressing like an Adult (The article linked is more layered than the headline implies, but it was the thoughtful comment section that really interested me!)

A favorite activity just got even better 

Vintage Girls (in a Modern World)

The most accurate map you've ever seen

 Growing you #girlgang (aka Making adult friendships)

 Planet Money and Fresh Air both take on the tax season


Friday, April 21, 2017

Rec Five: Things to put in a guest room


1) Wifi Password and contact information- Living in a digital age, the wifi password is often the first thing a guest will ask for. We have a print out that we provide and leave in the room along with other items in a tray. Also, consider including your contact information on that same sheet of paper, on the off-chance your guests don't have it and need you.

2) Towels and toiletries- These are the other items we include on a tray for the guest room. Sometimes you forget things on a trip, so a little collection of travel-sized toiletries can be a life-saver for your guest. Providing them with a towel just seems like common sense- that way no one ends up towel-less and wet in the morning!

3) Fresh Flowers- Guest rooms are typically not the most used rooms in your home, and can seem stale as a result. Flowers are living things that seem bright and welcoming.

4)  Bottle of water and snacks- Save a thirsty or hungry guest from the awkwardness of trying to hunt around your kitchen for a glass or midnight snack!

5) Universal Charger or a charging dock- After the password, a charger is the most often asked for item my guests request.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

What's In My Bag

Who doesn't love the voyeuristic pleasure of peeking into another person's life (we all read blogs here, after all?) For a woman, it seems to me, one of the best ways to see her day to day life is to look into her purse. So, I'm starting a new series that allows us to get to know different women through their purses. 
For my own, I'm pretty minimalistic and actually want to buy a different purse that can house a bit more. So comment below with what purses you recommend or what yours holds!

1) Pen and mini-notebook- for those moments you need to jot down a number, or directions or a really good quote, amrite? Plus, this pen has my glasses on the side!

2) Diabetic supplies- the two black pouches are my glucose monitor and my insulin pens. And, yes, the black is the most fashionable these carriers come. I literally never am without these.

3) Lip gloss- Although, I don't actually wear it very often? I need to become a real grown-up and learn to wear make-up better.

4) My wallet- I love the bright color and its real Roman leather from a trip there. The nostalgia factor is strong, but, like my purse, this probably needs to retire

5) The purse- I love clutches because they fit the diabetic supplies but don't feel huge.Plus, this one is very tongue-in-cheek with a Hello/Goodbye embossed on it. However, managing a baby and having this dangling from y wrist is less than ideal. Share your purse shopping ideas with me, please!


Monday, April 17, 2017

Ellis at 3 months


STATS
Ellis is 3 months old as of this week! He weighs 12 pounds and 3 oz.

TEMPERAMENT
He's still a serious, grump-prone little guy, but- dare I say it? We don't want to jinx anything!- he has outgrown his colic. Yes, there is still fussing, but it is fussing, not constant piercing wails of pain. Plus, it seemed like a light switched a week or so ago and he's so much more observant and alert! He definitely has his father's stubbornness, but he's also been very cuddly and wanting to be held a lot. He has the best smile when he chooses to show it. 

MILESTONES
That "light switch" moment that lead to more observation and awareness is a milestone, according to the Wonder Weeks, book (any other mamas reading about Wonder Weeks?). He's also discovered how enjoyable sucking on his hands can be. He's always noticed his hands, even very early, but couldn't quite figure out their use before. Clearly, their use is being tasty.  He's also started babbling and making sounds a lot more, both vowels and some constant sounds. He's got a lot to say! 


LIKES
Now that he's figured out he can suck on his hands, his fists are up by his mouth 24/7. He gets mad that he can't fit both in his mouth at the same time though! He still loves music, and watching the world with his little head popped over someone's shoulder too.  As you can see below, he merely tolerates walks in his stroller right now, but I think he'll like them more as it gets warm enough that he no longer needs a hat (hats are not his favorite!) 


EATING
This was the big challenge of the past few weeks- getting Ellis to take a bottle in preparation for going to childcare. We tried a lot of different ways to slowly ease into the situation, but nothing worked. Finally, Amos sent me away overnight, so it would be the bottle or nothing. I'm not sure quitting breastfeeding cold turkey is the best solution, but it was the only one that was working for us. 

My own feelings have been mixed; the decision to go a bottle or the breast was a tough one for us before we had our baby and every argument on either side has proven to be true. I did love the bonding breastfeeding provided Ellis and I, as well as the health benefits and even the convenience of it. However, I am really happy we made the switch to the bottle too. It has changed my and Ellis' relationship a bit, mostly because his Daddy was the primary food-giver for a few days; I definitely felt a bit second fiddle there! We now can both successfully feed him, (and so can our childcare providers) and that second fiddle feeling has gone away. It has been really special to see how it let Amos experience that closeness too. Most importantly though, we switched to a formula on the recommendation of our doctor and it seems to have really helped Ellis' upset stomach issues that were at the root of his colic. Less pain and a more cheerful baby, for the win! I know that bottle versus breastfeeding and mother's milk versus formula brings out a lot of really strong opinions, but, for us, this seems to be what works best for our family and our baby's health. 

SLEEP
We had a really good rhythm, where he went down at fairly predictable times and ate a predictable times throughout the night.... and then, bottle feeding happened. Parenting advice books seem to all say that once you get things down, something will come along to change up the schedule, and that certainly seems true. So, we are tired and all over the place on sleep, but that's okay. In fact it will likely continue because.... 

MOM UPDATE
I am back at work today! That's right- maternity leave has come to an end. I've mixed feelings about it.  I love the creativity and stimulation; I love seeing people at work. However, I love my boy. But, as the daughter of a working mom, I know that really, childcare is just a chance for more people to love Ellis. The woman who babysat me since I was 3 weeks old came to meet Ellis while we were still in the hospital. Those are some pretty great bonds. We'll see if it is the right fit for us, and there will be some adjusting on all sides, but my own experiences with childcare were pretty positive, so I'm hopeful it will work. 

Doesn't stop me from missing him like crazy though. 




Friday, April 14, 2017

Film Flick: A Night at the Opera


I'd never had A Night at the Opera- or any other night with the Marx Brothers- before now. Considered one of the most enduring and unique set of voices to movie comedy (or lack of voice in Harpo's case), the Marx Brothers are something unlike anything I'd ever seen before.  And despite the fact that A Night at the Opera was not the Marx Brothers first film, it was still  unlike anything movie-going audiences of time had seen before either.


A Night at the Opera was the brothers' first movie at a new studio, MGM, and it was also the first picture to feature only three of the brothers, rather than four. Due to these changes, A Night at the Opera would develop what would become the basis of all their following movies. When they had filmed previously at Paramount Studios, the plots to their movies were barely existent, and all who crossed paths with the brothers were sure to fall victim to their aggressive brand of comedy. However, MGM producer, Irving Thalberg insisted on a more coherent plot. He also sought to make the brothers more sympathetic to audiences, so, while the brothers' trademark chaos was still very much the center of the picture, that chaos was only unleashed on deserving bad guys. Instead, Groucho, Chico, and Harpo's characters would seek to aid the heroes of the story. Thalberg felt this way, they could get "twice the box office with half the laughs."

Still, Thalberg was taking no chances on what was comedic in A Night at the Opera. The film
underwent multiple rewrites with multiple scriptwriters. The first two were so bad all that remained of their work in the final film was two characters' names! Another scriptwriter was better, but got so fed up with the producer and brothers' constant hounding that, when they went to meet about the final script, they found the writer had left the building, leaving behind only a torn up script. According to Groucho's memoirs through, they were pleased with the work once they'd be able to piece it back together! 

Beyond just establishing the script, Thalberg also insisted that the Marx Brothers take the comic routines that would be used in the film to the vaudeville circuit to be tested before live audiences. Unless something got uproarious laughter, it was reworked or cut from the film. After the filming was completed, there was again extensive audience testing, and recutting of the film in order to make sure the pacing was perfect.

It is satire on a grand scale. The movie lampoons high society and Opera culture, while at the same time celebrating its beautiful music with multiple songs throughout. Obstinately, A Night at the Opera is about two young opera singers who are in love, and about a wealthy dowager bankrolling an New York opera production. While Groucho's character, Otis B. Driftwood, attempts to romance the dowager, played in the most elegant manner possible by Margret Dunmont, the audience is introduced to Harpo and Chico's characters when they stumble upon the young couple in trouble!  One is going to New York to sing, so, with help from the Marx Brothers, the intrepid hero sneaks on board the steam ship carrying everyone to America. Zany misadventures happen and their presence is revealed. Even more hijinks result as they attempt to evade justice and deportation. People are fired from the opera, and desperate measures are taken to ensure a happy ending. Nearly all following films would be modeled after this same formula:a friendship is established between the romantic couple and Chico, Harpo's character is always displayed as sympathetic,  the comedy happens amidst elaborate surroundings, and there is a fall from grace followed by grand scale chaos where everything is righted. The three brother's characters were also further refined and defined. Groucho- known for stinging one-liners- makes more sense. Chico's character gained a bit more intelligence to be able to have verbal tennis with his brother. Harpo's persona here- and in subsequent movies- take on more child-like behaviors (except when pursuing the ladies, that is!) 


Though some Marx Brother fans were not well pleased with the changes that came with MGM producing, the film never comes off as overwrought. Instead, it was a success, and one of Groucho's two favorite films they ever made (the other was A Day at the Races, also an MGM production). And there is good reason for it being a favorite with such moments as the famous stateroom scene (interestingly, this scene was nearly cut, and the version we see on the screen was a last minute ad-lib). In fact, A Night at the Opera is so popular that it placed at number 87 in the American Film Institute's revised list of Top 100 American Films. With that for a recommendation, don't you want to experience A Night at the Opera too?

Monday, April 10, 2017

Motherhood Musings: Diabetes and Pregnancy

I've written this post over several times. Each time it's scrapped because- well, it is a personal journey and it gets too easy to get bogged down in medical explanations and background knowledge. The thing of it is, is I have diabetes (You can read more here and here, if interested). Type 1, to be more exact, sometimes called Juvenile Diabetes though I contracted the disease as an adult. And the thing about diabetes is it makes everything more complicated. Including- and this should surprise no one- pregnancy. Pregnancy is already pretty complicated, despite the way movies on TV portray it, but, yeah, the disease instantly put me and our pregnancy into the "High Risk" category of pregnancies and that's what I wanted to talk about today.


Because you can't escape medical jargon completely when talking about diseases, here's what you need to know about Type 1 Diabetes. Your body makes this thing called insulin; it breaks down your food into a form of sugar or energy called glucose. This happens pretty instantaneously and you don't ever have to think about it. Anyone who is otherwise healthy who says they have low or high blood sugar levels (called hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia respectively) probably  (thankfully) has only the mildest forms of that, and their body can correct it typically pretty quickly. With Type 1 Diabetes, the body has stopped making insulin. So, we can eat food, but our body can't process it. We can literally starve to death, even while eating. Also- our blood sugar levels will soar really high. There is no cure for this disease, but it can be managed through medicinal insulin. It isn't as fast or as effective as the insulin made by the body, and it requires a lot of thought to manage, but it can help us. There is a danger that one can take too much insulin and get low blood sugar (low enough and it too can cause death). All of this is hard on the body, so there are a plethora of side effects.

Now, add pregnancy to the mix. That's when things get real interesting.

Needless to say, all this gets complicated. What it comes down to is management. I found out I was pregnant really early on (5 weeks, actually), and we were able to get in touch with doctors right away to get things locked down. Our regular doctor put us in touch with a specialist- A Maternal and Fetal Medicine doctor- who was in the nearest city to us. I also saw a diabetes educator who specialized in managing diabetes in pregnancies.

What they told us were the type of things that no soon-to-be-parents want to hear. The baby was at a higher risk for things like heart complications and spinal abnormalities. The baby's weight would also be a potential risk factor (because they get food from the mama, and it could have too much or not enough glucose in it. Meaning, the baby could grow too big too fast or alternatively be too small). After birth, the baby would also be at risk for several things immediately, the biggest of which was being at risk for hypoglycemia, because their bodies were producing enough insulin to deal with a high amount of glucose, but once the umbilical cord was cut, their bodies wouldn't be getting that much glucose and it could cause low blood sugar! Additionally, there were a lot of risks to me, mostly a heightened chance of getting preeclampsia, but we also found out my regular doctor had been mismanaging my diabetes, so my blood sugar levels were not where they ideally needed to be as a pregnant lady! Yikes!  Luckily, we had a great team of people. I saw them maybe twice a month throughout the first trimester and some of the second trimester. (Actually, frequent doctor visits will be a theme of this journey).

Being pregnant additionally had the strange effect of changing my sensitivity to insulin. Throughout the first trimester, even the smallest walk could sent my blood sugars plummeting, and I only needed a slight bit of medicine to process what I ate. As things continued, I became less and less sensitive and by the third trimester, was taking a unit of insulin for every 8 gms of carbs (this is roughly 4x the normal amount I would need to take!) Between the sensitivity and getting on different types of insulin though, my health was in the best place it had been since contracting the disease!

For us, the focus was really on the baby's health. We waited and didn't get the regular ultrasound at 20 weeks, because at 22 weeks, they needed an in-depth health screening that included both an ultrasound and a heart echo. This meant an hour and a half process first thing in the morning. We'd come up to Billings the night before, but I spent much of the night awake in the hotel, trying not to disturb my husband; I was that nervous about it. Once it became clear there weren't problems in the ultrasound, I had trouble keeping my eyes open, I was that tired!

Turns out, this would be one of many, many ultrasounds. Doctor visits for ultrasounds and stress tests increased until, for the last two months, I was in the doctor's office twice a week! I could have practically hooked myself up to the machine!

We had always planned on inducing at 38 weeks, on the assumption that the baby would be bigger (and that I was small). However, with the help of all these professionals, my pregnancy had seemed very much like a healthy person's, so our OBGYN was in favor of waiting until labor happened naturally. I'll be honest- I was very uncertain about this plan as our son had a HUGE head according to the ultrasounds (he still does) . As it turned out, what happened was what neither I nor the doctor expected. I did get some signs of preeclampsia and that necessitated the induction at 39 weeks.

I covered some of what happened during labor in Ellis Jerome's Birth Story, so won't retread that. However, I did want to touch on diabetes postpartum. First, it was really strange to go from so much medical support to almost none. I saw the OBGYN a few more times and that's it. I had to figure out how to manage insulin for a body that was flooding with hormones and whose insulin sensitivity was fluctuating wildly. Obviously, I know my body better than anyone, but it was a big change! Second was how the disease affected my body physically in postpartum. You see, I am one of those people who the weight just fell off of. And, yeah, I totally get how that could seem annoying to others who have had kids. Yet, this too was a result from the disease. Remember that part about starving up at the top? Well, what happens is, if your body can't process the food you are eating to make energy, it converts the fat. Since how much insulin I needed was changing so much, sometimes I missed the mark and my body couldn't get energy from what I ate, so it took it from the body fat. Silver linings, I guess, but trust me (since yes, someone once said they were jealous of this), I'd rather be healthy.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Dog Eared Page: Wind in the Willows



This was a wonderful thing, indeed, that the Badger should pay a formal call on them, or indeed on anybody. He generally had to be caught, if you wanted him badly, as he slipped quietly along a hedgerow of an early morning or a late evening, or else hunted up in his own house in the middle of the Wood, which was a serious undertaking.

The Badger strode heavily into the room, and stood looking at the two animals with an expression full of seriousness. The Rat let his egg-spoon fall on the table-cloth, and sat open-mouthed.
`The hour has come!' said the Badger at last with great solemnity.

`What hour?' asked the Rat uneasily, glancing at the clock on the mantelpiece.

`WHOSE hour, you should rather say,' replied the Badger. `Why, Toad's hour! The hour of Toad! I said I would take him in hand as soon as the winter was well over, and I'm going to take him in hand to-day!'

`Toad's hour, of course!' cried the Mole delightedly. `Hooray! I remember now! WE'LL teach him to be a sensible Toad!"
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame



Monday, April 3, 2017

Motherhood Musings: Easter Basket for a Baby

1. Books | 2. Clothes | 3.  Bunnies  | 4. Blocks

It's our baby's first Easter! Truthfully, Ellis wouldn't know or care whether he got a basket from the Easter Bunny or not, but it feels fun for our growing family to build these traditions just the same. Since very young babies (Ellis will be close to 3 months by Easter), are limited in what they can play with, I chose to pick less items, even if they cost a bit more. Books, clothes and useful toys were the order of the day! 

1. Books - Pat the Bunny is a delightful classic and perfect for even very young babies. The book is touch-and-feel, so it helps babies learn by activating their senses.  The simple illustrations make it easier for newborn eyes to be able to focus on the pictures. Guess How Much I Love You is another classic book. It has more sophisticated illustrations, but it has a nicely predicative set of words that will engage young children. 

2. Clothes- An adorable bunny ear hat and diaper cover may not be the most practical of items, but babies are this small for such a short amount of time! Use these as costumes for a photo you'll love forever. If you want more practical options, why not get an Outfit for Easter Sunday at Church, like this smart faux-vest outfit? A third choice is  a onesie, something you would probably get the most use out of. This one with Beatrix Potter's Peter Rabbit gives a fun nod to the holiday whilst still being something you can wear in the months ahead (till that next growth spurt, anyway!) 

3.  Bunnies - A stuffed bunny in an Easter Basket seems like a must, doesn't it? Yet, babies in their first year don't actually play much with toys, so are they worth getting? Though these two options are slightly pricier than a stuffy you might find in the Target dollar section, I'd contend they are worth it! The Wobble Bunny is great for kids in their third month on, as they beginning to develop the motor skills to grasp things and to reach for things. Even younger babies might enjoy the sensation of pushing the Wobble Bunny as they experiment with moving arms and legs.  This Blanket Bunny is another useful toy with fabrics of different texture and knots and "tags." These all have different sensations as baby touches. Plus it is easy to clear and you could even use it as a burp cloth if you needed (hey- no judgement. Sometimes things happen!)

4. Blocks- Peter Rabbit wooden blocks. Okay, my 3 mo. old won't be playing with these on this own anytime soon, but they make great decor in the meantime. The illustrations from classic literature also reinforces the importance of literacy. Being in a "literature rich" environment is key to kid's oral and written language development. You could probably make these with some decoupage, but if you don't have the time or inclination, why not purchase them at Etsy? 

Friday, March 31, 2017

In April, Why Don't You....



Get your taxes done

Visit a makerspace

Make National Secretary's Day special

Take pictures of baby being washed in Grandma's sink

Have your carpets professionally washed

Have High Tea with a friend

Change all your passwords

Build a robot

Wear red shoes

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

March 2016 in Review


New Plans
March was Women's History Month, so in honor of that, several of the month's posts were dedicated to celebrating women, including Links for International Women's Day; Rec Five: Females Leads in Kids' Books; and this month's Dog Eared Page.  And, since I am a woman who's recently entered a new phase of life, I started a new series called Motherhood Musings. Don't worry; this isn't becoming a mommy blog (though, yes, I realize the clothing posts have been light on the ground recently). This series will post every Monday and could cover a wide variety of topics; the only connection is they are somehow about Motherhood. This month's Motherhood Musings included: Breastfeeding Baskets; Babies + Dogs; and Ellis at Two Months. Don't worry about things changing too much though; my two movie post series are still going strong. Both this month's Film Flick and Cinema Style are about the Becall and Peck film Designing Woman.  I also got to share things you could do this month, and things you can do in 15 minutes or less. 


New Finds

Last Native Speaker Creates Dictionary

My Life Right Now

A Good Reminder

Iceland Makes Companies Prove Equal Pay! 

How Finland Teaches Coding

50 Reasons Why to Make Streets More Walkable- A mind blowing read!

A dreamy dress and photoshoot

How to Snore in Other Languages

Modern Life Art

I've loved the Finnish Baby Box program- and now it is in the US! 

Monday, March 27, 2017

Ellis At Two Months

STATS
Ellis is 2 months old! He's 23" ; that's 3" in 60 days! He weighed in at 11 pounds and 4 oz. at this last doctor's appointment (he got shots! Ouch!) 


TEMPERAMENT
Hey Mom-readers (and not-Mom Readers)! How are you doing? Are you like me, tired of everyone telling you about how their baby never cries, sleeps a solid nine hours and can go on vacation to France with nary a hiccup?  Don't worry. I'm not here to tell you that.  I am here to tell you, it is okay if your baby- or any baby- isn't the next incarnation of Buddha; that he doesn't sleep through the night at two weeks; heck, can't handle a trip to the grocery store. You are still good parents and nothing is incurable about your kid. 

Colic, we've discovered is a real thing. So, yeah, you've guessed it, there's a lot of crying and whimpering at our house. Our little Ellis' colic seems to stem from a digestive system that is still getting the hang of things. He's also pretty "high maintenance"  in that he knows what he likes and wants and isn't afraid to tell you about it. However, he is quick to find things funny, and he is so, so alert and incredibly curious. He has been since day one. He wants to be up where he can see things and on the move. When he's not having stomach pains, we've seen lots of smiles; I suspect a pretty funny guy is underneath all the tummy aches.


MILESTONES

Our little dude has a seriously strong neck. He can hold it up on his own for quite a few minutes. He also showing a lot of real, or "social" smiles. Mommy and baby both find it hilarious when Ellis manages to imitate her by sticking out tongues at each other too. He's starting to make some cooing sounds and will sometimes grip things (mostly my hair).  


LIKES
This guy loves his jams. He's a big Beatles fan; his favorite lullaby is "In My Life."  He loves to dance around the room, and, if that isn't possible, will try to move his arms to a beat (So Grandpa says, anyway!)  Ellis demands to be in the thick of things, and always wants to be carried so that he can see what is happening. It has to be walking about too; there is too much to see to stay in one place! Which is just like his daddy was as a baby, according to my mother-in-law. What is that saying about apples and trees? He is pretty friendly and content right now with other people. He wasn't sure of my dad's beard even a few weeks ago, but now seems to find it fascinating! Bath time is now tolerable but tummy time still is not.

EATING

We have been breastfeeding, but the doctor recommended trying formula to help with his stomach. He was taking a bottle up until he reached one month and has refused to since. This past weekend was when we started the hard switch to bottles. Wish us luck! 



SLEEP
Ellis sleeps in his crib now, swaddled. He's not a big fan of being swaddled, but it helps him immensely once he is asleep. Otherwise he will startle awake. His longest stretch of sleeping is usually about four and half hours, right after he is put down for the night. He typically has been fed 2-3 times at night; we shall see how night feeding with a bottle works out! 

MOM UPDATE
As I shared in Ellis' birth story, the labor was really rough on my body. In all honesty, the postpartum recovery was harder than the pregnancy on me physically. I finally feel mostly recovered and have lost all pregnancy weight (more on both of these topics in the coming weeks). Right now though, I'm dealing with insomnia (any tips, new moms?) and migraine headaches. This too shall pass, though, right?

What is upmost on my mind right now, though, is going back to work. My maternity leave ends this week! Things have been a bit stressful about work this year, as there are a lot of upheavals and budget cuts, but  I am excited to see my students again. Ellis will be going to childcare; who will this been harder on (pretty sure it will be me!) I feel so blessed to have had the time off for maternity leave, to get to know this amazing, tiny person and have the time heal. Wish us luck as we enter into these new journeys and Ellis' third month.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Rec Five: Children's Books with Strong Female Characters



Madeline- "They left the house at half past nine/ In two straight lines in rain or shine- /The smallest one was Madeline.” Nearly everyone will find, if they try, that they are able to recite these first few lines of the Madeline books. What makes Madeline so remarkable though isn't her enduring popularity, but that even though she is the smallest, she is still the bravest, saying "pooh pooh" to tigers at the zoo. She is kind, taking in stray dogs and stopping bullies, and a perfect example of what we want as a role model for girls and boys alike.

Oz books - Some people are surprised that that is more than one book about the magical land of Oz, but let me tell you something even more better- all the rest are far, far superior to the first. Part of that is the role that girls and women play in all of the books. L. Frank Baum was himself a suffragist, and purposely made his protagonists girls. Strong, and powerful women were sources of wisdom in his stories; girl rulers were nobel and kind; Dorothy- and other heroine's modeled after her- were plucky and had common sense. In one book even, two armies faced off and all the members of either side were girls! He did this because he felt it was important for women to be represented in literature, and tried to do just that when creating his "American Fairytales."

The Betsy-Tacy series - Another series that deserves far greater recognition than it gets, these books show the daily life of a two girls living in the early 1900s. Though technically fiction, the author, Maud Hart Lovelace, draws quite heavily from her own life to the point where it might be more accurate to say they are fictionalized memoirs. The first book starts when Betsy is five and future novels take her through childhood, high school, and eventually college, marriage and the world beyond. As she ages, the writing becomes more complex, allowing the reader to grow with the series. What I love most about these books is that all the women are individuals (since they are based on real people that is hardly surprising) with complex inner lives, and nearly all of them pursue jobs and dreams outside of the home, with the support of their families.

Eight Cousins and A Rose in Bloom- Louisa May Alcott's Little Women and its sequels are perhaps better known, but I love these two books. In real life Alcott was a feminist; she and her family had been part of the transcendentalist movement. Both of these facts put her in the same social circles as the likes of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. The characters in the books likewise espouse many of the same values and even quote some of her friends' works. Yet, it never comes across as preachy. Instead, Rose, other female characters, and the male characters are equally encouraged to make something of themselves, to have a purpose beyond that of leisure and family. Again, these are messages that I find very encouraging to young readers.

Emily of New Moon-  The whole world love's  Lucy Maud Montgomery creation, Anne of Green Gables. This book series is somewhat in the same vein, but here Montgomery draws more closely from her own childhood and young adult experiences as she chronicles the daily life of Emily. Like Montgomery did, Emily longs to be an author, a dream that sometimes put her at odds with society's expectations of women. Emily also deals with deep emotions as she and her friends struggle to find their right paths, a theme that I feel will resonate with readers.

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