29 December 2007

Christmas Times Seven

I would wish you all a Merry Belated Christmas, but when the final Christmas even went down (a fairly full glass of Bailey's while watching the HD Yule log on cable) I was officially done.

Don't get me wrong--As Christmases go, it was a good Christmas. There were no major breakdowns or crack-ups. Little Man was a perfect little traveler and did more than tolerate the gaggle of new people constantly thrown at him. But it was an exhausting Christmas, probably because we celebrated it at least seven time. Count 'em:

"Christmas" morning at home on the 21st.
Hubby's Dad's family's Christmas on the 22nd.
Brief Baptismal interlude on the 23rd.
Hubby's Mom's family Christmas Brunch on the 24th.
My Grampa's hardcore Italian Christmas Eve Fest on the 24th.
Christmas morning with Jason's parents--including Mass on the 25th.
Christmas dinner with my parents and grandparents on the 25th.
Gift opening orgy with my parents on the 25th.

Mix all of that together with being physically drained from traveling with a baby and emotionally drained from dealing with the idea that this would probably be the last Christmas back in Akron for a long while, and I was done. I love Christmas, but after all of that I was done. Finished. Finito. Kaput.

So no Merry Belated Christmas from me.

Here's the thing: it's all just a little too much. Maybe a lot too much.

As I stood Christmas eve, trying to pacify my toddler with cookies while my grandpa said the blessing, tears streaming down my face, I realized that he got it right in the midst of all the chaos of that event. It's not about the amount of presents you get anymore -- let's face it, most of them get returned anyway. It's not even about the stress of cooking and planning the perfect holiday meal. That's all just window dressing. But when he thanked us all for coming and commented on how important it is that we (all 26 of us- all 5 generations present) do get together and celebrate. How important it is to take a moment and think about those would couldn't make it--those who have jobs that have taken then far away and those who are no longer with us. I think that part of why I feel so weary now--so exhausted about the whole thing is that all the whoop-la of gifts and cookies and food and holiday perfection often makes us miss the real reason for it all. To be together. To create moments we remember always, rather than moments that seem like a hazy blur.

And so, despite having a lovely time at each and every single event. Despite enjoying seeing everyone who we saw, I find it strange and yet not unexpected that my favorite moments were the quiet ones. Women around a kitchen table. Talking softly late into the night around a lit tree. Christmas tea in gold rimmed cups. A doll-like infant snuggled on a couch, fast asleep in the midst of chaos. And a cup of Bailey's, straight-up over ice, when the house is quiet and the windows dark.

18 December 2007

A Holiday Ditty for Your Enjoyment

On the first day of Christmas break my toddler gave to me--
one nasty little cold.

On the second day of Christmas break my toddler gave to me--
two tiny sneezes and one nasty little cold.

On the third day of Christmas break my toddler gave to me--
three used tissues, two tiny sneezes, and one nasty little cold.

On the fourth day of Christmas break my toddler gave to me--
four boogers on my shirt, three used tissues, two tiny sneezes, and one nasty little cold.

On the fifth day of Christmas break my toddler gave to me.....
Five sleepless nights.

On the sixth day of Christmas break my toddler gave to me--
six hours of screaming about his ears, five sleepless nights, four boogers on my shirt, three used tissues, two tiny sneezes, and one nasty little cold.

On the seventh day of Christmas break my toddler cost to me,
seventy dollars for anti-biotics, six hours of screaming,
fiiiiiive sleeeepless nights,
four boogers on my shirt, three used tissues, two tiny sneezes, and one nasty little cold.

On the eighth day of Christmas break my toddler gave to me,
8 million conjunctivitus bacteria all over the house, seventy dollars for anti-biotics, six hours of screaming,
Fiiiive sleeeeeplessss nights,
four boogers on my shirt, three used tissues, two tiny sneezes, and (still) one nasty little cold.

On the ninth day of Christmas break my toddler gave to me, a nine hour car ride that should take 7,
8 million conjunctivitus bacteria all over the house, seventy dollars for anti-biotics, six hours of screaming,
Fiiiive sleeeeeplessss nights,
four boogers on my shirt, three used tissues, two tiny sneezes, and (still) one nasty little cold.

On the tenth day of Christmas break, my toddler gave to me,
ten hours of "Christmas tree mama, now mama, christmas tree, christmas tree, christmas tree!!!!!!!!!!,
a nine hour car ride that should take 7, 8 million conjunctivitus bacteria all over the house, seventy dollars for anti-biotics, six hours of screaming,
Fiiiive sleeeeeplessss nights,
four boogers on my shirt, three used tissues, two tiny sneezes, and (still) one nasty little cold.

On the eleventh day of Christmas break I gave up, packed it in, and hunkered down until all of the germs around our house have either died off or have mutated and begun eating us alive.

Merry Christm-achooo

16 December 2007

Bad Santa

After a long day of baking cookies and dealing with a toddler with an ear infection, I needed a good laugh.

15 December 2007

Snip, Snip, Snip

Other than wanting a healthy baby, I had only two requests for the powers that be about the baby I was carrying--dark eyes and dark hair. When he was born, I thought I had hit the jackpot. Not only was he perfect in every way (looking back, I realize that was probably the hormones talking) but he had beautiful dark eyes and a head of dark hair. I was so happy; my little Slovak-named baby looked so Italian (that, we learned later, was mostly the jaundice.)

A year and a half later, he still has his beautiful dark brown eyes, but that head of dark hair is long gone. It was somehow (and I really don't have the faintest idea when this happened) replaced by a mop of sunny amber fluff. Sometimes it's almost red. Other times, very blonde.

I've gotten over my disappointment at losing the dark locks and I've grown quite fond of his hair. It's so fine and light-- so unlike my own. I've watched it get longer and longer, finally covering over the bald spot in the back, finally long enough to sweep to the side and tuck behind his ear.

I've been thinking for a while now that it needed a trim, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it. I made one appointment a few months back and then "forgot" to go. But lately, it's gotten a bit out of hand, and he started to look a bit like Gene Wilder. So today, we finally had it trimmed.


It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. He wasn't feeling too well, so he just sat there in a bit of a stupor. Didn't move once the whole time. And I managed not to cry as small bits of the hair he's worked so hard to grow floated gently to my knees.

Looking a Bit Out of It-- but Not Unhappy

I think I was most worried that suddenly he wouldn't look like a baby anymore. He doesn't, but then again, he hasn't really looked like a baby for quite some time now. I'm not sure when it happened, that transition from infant to child, but it didn't happen with this haircut. Maybe when he started walking, or started babbling, or started putting together se
ntences. Maybe it was in the middle of some night, while I was asleep, unable to witness the transformation. Who knows.

Handsome Little Man

The haircut helped the process along, but it certainly didn't start it. It's just one more marker-- one more milestone in that long progression of missed transformations that will, God willing, end in his adulthood. But it's a tangible milestone, and no matter how much he changes, how much that soft downy hair transforms into something unrecognizable, I will always have a few snips of sun-colored strands to remind me of this small, almost intangible moment.

13 December 2007

Another One Bites the Dust

The exams and papers are graded, the final grades are posted and sent off, and now I can officially check yet another semester of my long and accomplished list of semesters-I've-finished-as-a-student.

And although I'm fairly sick and tired of still being a student, I have to say that the steady progression of 15 week periods is not all that bad of a way to watch your life pass. Unlike most American professions, where the five-day-a-week grind is punctuated only by a fleeting week of vacation here and there, the life of an academic is punctuated by a nice 1-3 month break between times when I have to officially show up somewhere. Which is not to say it's a vacation. Those weeks and months in between "fall" and "spring" are still work time, but they're my work time. No classes to get to. No papers to grade. No office hours to sit in, knowing that no one is going to stop by, at least not until I run out to get a cup of coffee.

The end of this semester feels different, though. I only have one more fall and two more springs as a "student." When I think about how quickly this last year has flown by, I wonder how it's possible that in just one year more it will be me sitting nervously, waiting anxiously for someone, anyone to want to interview me. That in just one year more, I will forgo Christmas Eve for pre-interview preparations. That in just a few months I will be drafting the application letter and teaching statement.

Being the good Virgos that we are, J and I talk about the next year and a half compulsively. We imagine what type of place we'll move into next. We wonder out loud together and silently to ourselves who will get the better job--the job that will be the deciding factor for the next who-knows-how-many years of our life. We talk through the various locations we are willing to move to--North Dakota, definitely out. This coming year has been a long time coming.

So another semester is done. But this one seems different. Semesters usually follow semesters without much difference. This ending feels like the end of something bigger. This is, for all intents and purposes, the beginning of our last year as students. With any luck, in just over a year, I'll be able to start watching a different type of semester come and go.

10 December 2007

Small Things

There are moments in life that take your breath away. Standing beneath the Sistine Chapel, flying over the Alps, finding out you're (finally!!) pregnant. Those are wonderful moments. They punctuate your life, creating a series of milestone that make your past recognizable as a coherent history.

But there are also moments in life that give you breath--that if you can stop for a moment and grasp them, you realize what it is that keeps you going on a daily basis. You realize why it is that you continue to unconsciously inhale and exhale your daily life. These moments are more rare than those big breathtaking events, because they are small and unconscious, and because they often go unnoticed. When you glimpse one, if you are lucky enough to take it in and realize what you are witnessing, you figure out what it is that holds everything together.

As I sat with Little Man in my grandmother's rocking chair last night, I watched J go about the same nightly ritual that happens every night. He handed me the binky, put down the side of the crib, located the wayward stuffed frog from within the sheets of our "big bed," put down the shade, and then asked if I needed anything else. This ritual started long ago, when I would need to nurse for twenty minutes or more to lull the baby into enough drowsiness that he would finally fall asleep, but now, putting Little Man to bed takes less than five minutes most nights. And yet, J still goes through the steps of making sure that I am ready to put him to bed. This is the kind of husband he is, the kind of father he has become. I watched him last night, making sure that everything was just so, dimming the lights and then finally turning them off. His darkened profile whispered a good night to the toddler in my arms, and Little Man responded by pointing at him-- his special way to tell his papa "I love you." The door shut, and suddenly, sitting in the darkness with the too-big body of my once baby in my lap, I realized suddenly and consciously all that I have.

All that my life has become.

And I took a slow and easy breath.

04 December 2007


It's like they want me to leave:

Today the New York Times reported that -
President Bush said today that a new intelligence finding that Iran halted its nuclear weapons work in 2003 had not altered his sense that Iran remained a danger.

Ok- so basically, they have no weapons. They haven't been actually been trying to obtain or develop weapons for 4 years. And they're still a threat?? How, exactly is that??

“I have said Iran is dangerous,” Bush said a day after the release of the National Intelligence Estimate, representing the consensus of all 16 American spy agencies, “and the N.I.E. doesn’t do anything to change my opinion about the danger Iran poses to the world — quite the contrary.

Because now we have no reason to bomb them?? How are they even more dangerous now that we know they don't have a nuclear program?? What are they going to do, drop some delicious Khoresht Fesenjaan on us and put Mickey D's out of business??

My God, this administration needs to pull its head out of its proverbial posterior before they kill anyone else.

03 December 2007

Losing Faith

I often wonder about humanity-- especially how it is that we've managed to make it this long. I like to believe that people are mostly good, but often, I have my doubts. In the last week I've encountered multiple reasons to lose faith-

  • I finally got to see Sicko-- It's absolutely heartbreaking and infuriating that people in the "greatest" nation in the world have to choose which finger to reattach or have to watch their husband die, not because there isn't a cure, but because the insurance company won't pay for it. Sickening. Absolutely sickening that our $*@& politicians are so deep in the pockets of the medical insurance lobby that they can't revolutionize our system the way that EVERY OTHER INDUSTRIALIZED NATION ON THE GLOBE has revolutionalized theirs. But it wasn't only the whole insurance racket that made me sick--it was the supposedly "good" people. In one of the first stories, you meet a middle-class couple who have lost everything because of medical bills, and so they are forced to move in with their daughter and her family. Get this-- the daughter makes them sleep in their extra rec room--refuses even to move the desk and computer out. Says something about getting them bunk beds. WTF?!?! The mother's still suffering from her illness and her daughter (who she put through college) doesn't even have the decency to give her a proper guest room??
  • We were discussing different types of discrimination in my writing class and, because we were talking about homophobia, the issue of the bible came up, which brought up the issue of how the bible wasn't literally written by God (like he has time for that) which made one of my students exclaim, "Why would he sit up there and let people write things that weren't exactly what he wanted?" To which I (stupidly) replied, "I dunno, why would he let genocide continue to happen in Rwanda?" to which another student quipped, "He has a plan." Whaa??!! really? Because if he does have a plan that includes the rape and murder of innocent women, children, and men, then I am certainly not at all interested.
  • I was flipping through the channels on Sunday night. We don't have many of them, so I settled on CSpan. Maybe it was CSpan 2, who knows. But Ann Coulter was on. (who, in addition to being a spawn of satan also has an enormous Adam's apple) I usually can't watch her-- she makes me twitch and feel like I need a good shower. But there wasn't anything else as interesting. Now I know that Coulter, herself, is absolutely off her rocker. Anyone who can, with a straight face and absolutely no irony, casually promote the killing of countless people in middle eastern nations is not really sane-- or so I thought. Because when she advocated bombing Iran (it would be fun, she said, to bomb them into admitting that the Holocaust happened), people laughed and clapped. And when she further advocating bombing them to the point that they couldn't even build a transistor radio, people applauded even more. And these people looked normal-- they were young, they didn't seem to have cloven hoofs or horns-- but they thought it was a jaunty little joke, and more than just a little bit of a good idea, to wipe a country off the face of the earth just because they don't agree with us.

I swear, if anyone out there can tell me how to find a nice academic job in Britain, or some other country that will unconditionally treat my husband's Crohn's, I'm ready to pack up and go. Not that I think things are magically better other places, but it sure seems like the level of humanity in this particular country is growing fainter each and every day.

28 November 2007

The Problem with Honesty

Or the one about weight....

As I was sitting in our university's nutritionist's office this morning, I suddenly realized that I haven't been completely truthful with myself lately. As I gave her one answer after another that sounded right, I wondered how honest I've been with myself lately.

Since Little Man's birth, I've been trying on-and-off to get back to my pre-baby weight. We knew way ahead of time when we wanted to start trying for a baby, so the year before, I had joined Weight Watchers and lost 18 lbs. I felt good then--I liked that I could go into my closet and find old clothes that my newly married euphoria had eaten me out of. I liked that I felt almost ok in a bikini at the beach. I liked that I felt healthier.

I was doing pretty well with trying to get back to that weight and trying to get back into those clothes. Until, at least, I stopped nursing. It seems like since late May, I've put on 10 lbs. I've been telling myself that I'm still practicing healthy eating habits, that I'm still living a healthy lifestyle, and that maybe my metabolism's just starting to slow down because I'm getting close to 30. I've also been telling myself that I am happy with my body and the way I look right now, and for the most part I'm telling myself the truth.

But part of my, I now realize, is lying...has been lying. It's no secret that I love food. No just food in the abstract, mind you-- really wonderful, delicious, and well prepared food. I haven't wanted to give up a bite of it. But yesterday, at a physical, I realized that my weight has now crept over the healthy BMI index into "Overweight." Sure, it's just a pound or two of overweight from Thanksgiving, but I don't want to make excuses about it. I want to do something about it. So, I made an appointment with the nutritionist, and as I answered her questions about my diet and my daily eating habits, I started to wonder just how honest I was being with myself.

It's not about looks--though, that does matter to me. It's about health. I come from a family where weight is an issue, but it's often an issue that no one wants to address or take action on. And it's not something that's talked about (except by my grandmother, who means well, but doesn't help with her comments). It's a joke that's made or an issue that's ignored, but my heart aches every time I wonder how much longer before that weight affects the health of someone I love in horrible and tragic ways. It's something that weighs on me, but I know that it's also something intensely personal, something that I cannot have an effect on, because I know--to a large extent--weight is a choice we make every single day, with every bite we take, and every meal we eat.

I can't do anything about the choices made by my loved ones, that much I know. But I can make the choice to do something about myself.

It's not much, those ten pounds. Ten pounds never is very much. Your clothes still fit, mostly. you still feel the same. But they can be a slippery slope. They can impact every aspect of your health. And as much as I would love to be back in a size 8, it's so much more important to me that Little Man never has to have his heart ache the way mine often does. I have a child to raise, and continuing to ignore this small issue, continuing to lie to myself about the reality of my daily choices is not going to give my child a mother who can run through a park with him or teach him to climb a tree.

But that's the problem with honest--it forces you to realize that the responsibility always was yours.

24 November 2007

Ho Ho Ho

One of the things that my parents got unequivocally right was the whole Santa thing.

Growing up, Christmas was a religious holiday first--no presents were opened until we went to mass on Christmas morning--but it was also a magical holiday. My parents did Santa like no one's business. My brothers and I all believed in the big guy until at least 4th grade or so. When all of our friends already "knew," we still were adamant in our belief.

It was easy to believe, in part, because Santa seemed so far out of my parents' realm. When we were young, my parents didn't buy random things whenever we asked for them. It just didn't seem like they could possibly come up with the mountain of gifts that awaited us each Christmas morning. But it wasn't just about the gifts.

To start with, Santa brought our tree. For about a month before Christmas, we'd wake up each morning and rush down the steps to see if the tree had appeared yet. Then, one morning about a week or so before Christmas we would start down the steps and the scent of pine would greet us. There it would be-- the biggest, fattest, Scotch Pine you could imagine, laden with ornaments and ablaze with colorful, old fashion lights. Somehow we never noticed the trees in the backyard waiting to be put up or that my parents seemed more tired the next day. To a 5, or 6, or 7 year old, a tree magically appearing over night seemed a magical feat.

We looked forward to visiting the mall Santas. We wrote him letters that disappeared from the mantel. We got calls and letters from the jolly old elf. We read stories about Christmas-- The Gingerbears, a book about Silent Night and a little mouse, and of course, the Grinch. We watched Christmas movies for a month--each explaining a little more thoroughly just how Santa managed his magical endeavors. And each Christmas eve, before bed, we would curl up with my dad and he would read us Twas the Night Before Christmas. It's really the only time I remember him reading to us--and it was his thing to do that evening.

And then, on Christmas morning, my brothers and I would sneak down stairs before dawn and stand amazed in front of a tree overflowing with gifts. The stockings were always filled, always with some sort of theme. And it seemed impossible that my parents the ones who were so cost conscious could have even begun to produce that mountain. Where would they have hid them all? How could we have missed them wrap them?

No. Santa was real and true and the best part of the holiday. It was the anticipation, the waiting and wondering that made it all wonderful. The butterflies in your stomach if you wondered if you were really good enough.

J didn't really grow up with Santa. When he was 5 or so--maybe younger-- he asked his mom if Santa was real and she said no. That was the end of it for him. I'm surprised and happy that he's on board with wanting to give Little Man Santa. I know that those memories are some of my happiest. And I know that something changed irrevocably the first Christmas that I was on the other side of the suit and beard. Sure, I finally got to help pick out the tree. Sure, I got to stay up to the early morning putting it up. But Christmas morning lost that anticipation. The sparkle was gone because the surprise was gone. There was no doubt that Santa would come, that there would be another mountain of gifts.

I know that Christmas shouldn't be about the gifts--I don't think Santa is. I think, though, that the magic of the season when you're still young and you still believe is important. Children grow up so fast. The world, with all of its realities and wars and horrors will be theirs all too fast. Santa holds all of that at bay for a while. It's an age old tradition, and in those few magical years, our 21st century children are no different, no more modern or grown up than their 19th century counterparts. They can be innocent for a little while longer.

23 November 2007

Truly Thankful

Yesterday, the in-laws drove almost 8 hours to celebrate the holiday with us. Although I missed having the craziness of my family, having a quiet and stress-free Thanksgiving was wonderful. Dinner was perfect--The turkey wasn't overdone, the vegetables were perfectly crisp, and the homemade rolls were almost better than any of the rest. And the wine....mmmmm. Such a beautifully delicious Bordeaux. Top it all off with homemade pies, a little Bailey's, and you have a wonderful holiday.

It was a bit strange to have such a small Thanksgiving; I'm used to big dinners with at least 12 people involved eating a 22 lb bird. But as we move into this Christmas season, I'm coming to terms with the fact that what I might have always known may not be what my own children know. This will be my last Christmas where the tradition will be what it's always been. But even this year it won't be the same. Things change, people change, and traditions change. I think that it's good to have a little change, even if it's hard to come to terms with. As each generation adds, subtracts, and adjusts traditions, the holidays become more meaningful rather than less.

I have much to be thankful for-- and I love this holiday less for the food than for the fact that it forces us to take a minute and realize what we are grateful for. Too often it's so easy to see only the clouds and disappointments that punctuate our lives, but I think it's important to realize how much we have. How much we are given. How much we have to give.

22 November 2007


Is a special night....

And thankful I am for so many blessings.

21 November 2007

7 Weird and Random Facts

I love these meme things, even if I don't have the foggiest idea why they're called memes. But MGM tagged me, so off I go- 7 weird and random facts about moi.

  1. I used to love peanut butter and balogna sandwiches when I was a kid. It all started with butter and balogna (because that makes more sense), and then one day someone threw on some peanut butter. I haven't had these in years, mostly because I can't really stomach balogna any more, but man did I crave them when I was pregnant.
  2. I made so many cookies for my wedding, that we had boxes left over. It was supposed to be this big Italian shindig, so we needed a great big cookie table. I baked for almost a month, and every time I'd deliver another couple boxes (we're talking file-size boxes) to my mom's house, she'd look at them and say, "it seems like a lot, but there's really not much there." So I kept on baking and baking and baking. And damn- they were gooood. There were just way to many of them-- that with the 12 cakes, and our guests had a serious sugar buzz going all throughout the night.
  3. I hate things jumping out at me-- seriously, I still can't even think about going through a haunted house. At Universal Studios, I closed my eyes or looked at the floor when the stupid anamatronic slow-moving shark appeared on the ride. Hate it-- makes me nervous just thinking about it.
  4. I used to dance-- tap and ballet mostly. When I was little I was convinced I was a ballerina and I dreamed of being a Rockette or a star on Broadway. Needless to say, I can't sing at all.
  5. I have this fantasy about someday opening a bead and breakfast somewhere. I don't really like housekeeping or anything, but I think it would be fun to always entertain people.
  6. I'm absolutely terrible in social situations-- I get panicky when I think about having to attend departmental events or meet and greet type things. I'm find in front of people-- public speaking isn't the problem, but I get nauseous even thinking about going to a reception at a conference when small talk will be necessary. I hate small talk- I'm not at all good at small talk. Even with people I know and like. I feel awkward and anxious trying to keep a small-talk- based conversation going.
  7. I love driving-- love it love it love it. At least I did back when I owned a little red camaro. That's long gone now, and I find that since I've been pregnant, I tend to automatically get into the passenger's seat even though half the time J's timid and polite driving drives me batty.

So there you do, 7 random, but not overly weird (apparently I'm surprisingly normal) things about me. I'm tagging the yellow dart, DS, mommy prof, and anyone else who wants to play.

19 November 2007

It's not easy being green....

especially when you're a pair of socks...

or a shirt...

or a tiny pair of Baby Gap jeans...

And yet, green they all were, because somehow a green Crayola crayon decided that today was the day it would sacrifice itself to the dryer gods.

Luckily, most of the clothes that are now sporting bright green spots were Little Man's. Not so luckily, all of them were his new fall clothes. Only a few of my clothes and Js were damaged, but now I think I have 3 pairs of socks left and no workout pants.

My hands now reek of WD-40. Apparently, that's the way you get melted crayon out of clothes. But so many were so green, so covered with crayon that they're now in the trash. In all the carnage was moderate- 3 of Little Man's shirts, two pairs of his pants, all but one of his pajamas (even the cute ones with little monkeys on them) and every pair of socks he owns, some of my undergarments and most of my socks, one of my shirts, and my only pair of workout pants.

It could have been worse. There could have been more our our stuff, that's much more expensive to replace, or so J says. Somehow that isn't helping me feel better right now.

18 November 2007


Out of the blue, my FIL got us a subscription to Gourmet magazine. Every time I visited, I would sit and compulsively read theirs as I simultaneously got my Food Network fix. (ah, how I miss Mario when we're not in Akron!) So I was surprised and really really excited when one of the magazines showed up in my mailbox a week ago.

Tonight J made one of the recipes out of it-- an Asian inspired babyback rib thing. It was unbelievably good-- Serve it at a dinner party good.**

The thing that I love about this magazine is that the pictures are beautiful, the articles are just intellectual enough to make me able to convince myself that I might be doing "research", and the recipes are so darn simple.

Ok, so that was 3 things.

But the recipes are ridiculously simple. Often they call for one odd or unusual ingredient, but the overall preparations and directions are so easy. And every recipe we've tried so far has been a keeper.

They're so easy and so good, in fact, that I think I'll go make us the caramelized chocolate banana splits that I've had my eye on.

**I should have taken a picture of them, like some of those wonderful food blogs I love to read and then never make recipes from, but they were gone--totally polished off-- before I even thought of it.

17 November 2007

Everyone's a Critic

Today I let J take the first shower and I got Little Man dressed. I put on his little blue sweatpants and a brown shirt that says, "Define good" with little candy canes on it. I thought he looked just fine.

Enter J-
Is that what you want him to wear?"
Me- Yeah, why?
J- "Where's his football shirt that matches the pants?"
Me- "I dunno, so I went with this one. I think it's just fine."
J- "Well obviously, it's not. I will go and find the correct shirt and rectify this fashion Faux Pas."*

J leaves and returns with blue and white "touchdown!" shirt, takes off the brown shirt and replaces it with the blue shirt.

Me- You've gotta be kidding me.

***ok, so he didn't really say this. But he did change his shirt

16 November 2007

The One about God (Part II)

Or-- the problems I have with Catholicism....

Ever since we moved out here into the land of corn, I've been wrestling with the issue of religion. To start with, we haven't really found a church community that doesn't either bore me out of any spirituality I might have had or make me boil with anger. Churches out here are super- conservative. They admonished people to vote for the Shrub because voting for pro-choice Kerry was a sin. I sat through one memorably homily where the priest told us this lovely story about how he saved a marriage by convincing the wife to go off of birth control--the husband wasn't happy, but apparently that doesn't matter. We finally found this tiny little parish composed mostly of Koreans that we actually liked, but then we had Little Man, and church with a 1 year old just doesn't seem worth it.

But as I've wrestled with trying to figure out where we belong, I've been forced to confront issues about the Catholic church that I find intolerable. For instance, we were flipping through the channels one day and came across the Catholic TV station. On it, two nuns were explaining how women's health care in Africa was nothing more than a euphemism for abortion services. They went on to explain that without all this (apparently unnecessary) prenatal care, the infant mortality rate would necessitate that women have more children. Wha?? Or the mass we attended in Ohio where the priest was rallying the congregation against electing congressman Sherod Brown by quoting Bush as a great protector of life. Huh?? In what flipping other universe??? And, I completely and utterly blame the stupid Ohio one-issue-catholics back in 2004 who elected Bush because he is against abortion. This is on top of the fact that the church does stupid things like cover-up for pedophile priests, refuse women a full measure in spiritual life, and tell people in Africa that condoms are useless because the sperm are small enough to swim through them. These, to me, are dangerous, ridiculous ideas and actions that do more harm and spread more hate in this world than good.

These things all make me question my ability to remain in the faith. If I have a daughter, can I really raise her in a religion that teaches women that they aren't worth as much as men, that even if they feel called to serve, they will never be able to?? Can I really give weekly offerings to a church that will fight against my reproductive rights even as its members abuse children? These things worry me. They bother me.

The problem, I think, is the difference between the religion and the faith. The religion has an awful, torrid history of conquest, domination, and intolerance. When you walk into St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, you can immediately understand why Martin Luther railed against the church--the sheer wealth that spills out before you is astounding. The Church is a government, a business, an economy-- after all, there's nothing in my faith that makes me understand why there's a souvenir shop on the roof.
What? You didn't believe me?? You can shop above the heads of tourists and crypts of saints for all of your religious goods. Don't forget the rosaries emblazoned with Padre Pio or Pope John Paul.

But splitting the religion from the spirituality is the hard part when you're trying to raise a child to have some sort of faith in something beyond himself. You can't explain to a child that "we're Catholic because we're supposed to be, because it's what our family does and because there are certain salvageable things about the religion. Even though we believe there's other ways to get to God, to believe, or to have faith. Even though we believe that everyone's faith is equally valid, because we believe that only God knows and can judge. Even though we believe that you can praise the higher powers without sitting through stuffy masses that leave you uninspired and with a noisy and angry soul. Even though we know that there are other gospels, that the Bible might have been divinely inspired but certainly was written by some men back in the days of yore. And that we believe you should and must argue with this one, "true" church, because without growth, faith is static and dead and useless. Even though we can't agree on what heaven looks like--or if there even is one. Even though we have so many reasons for turning away."

The council of Nicaea would not be amused.

15 November 2007

The One about God (Part I)

I was just about to leave the house today when the doorbell rang. It was two young men doing mission work for the Church of Jesus Christ and the Latter Day Saints. I'd seen them around the neighborhood earlier in the week, and to be honest, I was relieved that they hadn't come to our place yet. The last time a pair were in the neighborhood they just told us about a PBS program that was going to be on and went on their way. Today, they were a little more persistant.

Let me just say that I respect that these two young men have a calling to do this sort of thing, but I'm also uncomfortable having someone try to evangelize me. I remember when I was living at my parents house, once, a woman and her 8-year old daughter came to the door. She asked me if I knew whether I was going to heaven. I told her no, because I don't think anybody knows that. That's for God to know. She wasn't pleased and I finally had to shut the door on her to get out of the conversation. I felt bad shutting the door on her little girl as well, but I was in such an uncomfortable position that I didn't have any other way to end the conversation.

Today, the pair of Mormon missionaries told me that they believe that Jesus visited the Americas. They even showed me a full color portrait of Jesus with some lovely native Americans. Squanto might even have been one of them. They quoted some bible verses (which, for all I know were completely made up) and asked me if I'd like to know more--all after I told them I was Catholic.* The entire conversation made me extraordinarily uncomfortable. I understand the position these young men are in and that this mission work is what enables them to marry in their church, I respect their decision to believe that Christ skipped over all of Europe and decided to visit Utah instead before he was crucified, I even admire that they believe in it enough to want to convince me. But I'm not interested in being converted. I wasn't sure where the conversation was going, and I was running late, so when they asked "Would you like to set up a time that we could come back and tell you more about this?" I answered by simply saying that I didn't think so, because "I'm too devout in my Catholicism."

I could almost feel the angels cough a collective "bullshit" as I sensed the lightning about to strike me down.**

The truth is that I'm a horrible Catholic. I've gotten worse over the last few years. There are things about the religion that I love, but there are so many things about the religion that make me boil with anger that I often wonder if I should remain. I mean, come on, we now have an ex-Nazi for a pope. And Joey Ratz ain't the looker that John Paul was, let me tell you.

So claiming my devotion to a religion that I waver on was a surprise, even for me. It certainly wasn't the out I was expecting to use when I started to talk with them. This is something I've been thinking about a lot lately. As Little Man gets bigger and bigger, I wonder what we should do about faith and about religion. I'm not ready to leave it, yet. It's too much a part of my family culture, but I also have trouble supporting the church in much of what it's done. I hate its stance towards women and I think it needs to stay out of people's bedrooms--that's just for starters. But I think the church gets things right, too. I like that there's no biblical literalism, I like that it believes there are other paths to God. (although, I do understand that the church prefers that you use their own, private gilded path)

This is a hard issue for me. It's one that J and I struggle with and debate about fairly regularly. It's something that I think is really important, but I'm not ready to make any decisions yet. I'll write more about it later, but until then- what do you think?? Any moments of doubt or conversion that helped to show you the way?? Because the two guys at my door today apparently didn't work.

*My mom told me once that a good way to get rid of certain types of evangelists is to tell them you're Catholic-- apparently, there are some things worth than being a heathen.
**In case you aren't aware, Catholics are good at guilt.

14 November 2007

Dissertation? What Dissertation?

The bibliophile in me loves my newest way to waste time while still thinking that I'm doing something productive.

Check out Goodreads.

13 November 2007

I hate proposals

Hate them. Hate them. Hate them.
Maybe somebody could please explain to me why I need to write a 1,750 word proposal and then turn around and condense it to a mere 800 characters?? Can't they be bothered to read the longer one? And if they're only going to judge me on the shorter one, why do I have to bother with the longer one. Which makes me wonder--which will they read first? Which will be that crucial first impression that may make or break my chances of getting a fellowship? Can I be repetitive and use the same language in both? Or will they see that as laziness? I'm so close to being done, but the mind games you can play with yourself before you finally submit the stupid thing make me absolutely crazy. But, really, are two versions of the same proposal really necessary here? Uf.

What makes matters worse is that I'm stuck showing this stupid movie tonight to the class I grade for. It's the 3rd time I've had to sit through it, and I'm having the worst time trying to concentrate with the silly dialog and the giggles of undergrad girls smitten by the sight of Denzel Washington's buttcrack.

Ah, to be young.

12 November 2007

Committee-- check

I've finally got around to arranging a 4th member for my committee. With only a short break to sew up a new tree skirt (pictures to come later), I've been working fairly non-stop on catching up on reading and on this stupid %#%(!# fellowship proposal. God I hate writing these. My chair told me to "brag and be forceful in the first paragraph." I wish my project was just so obviously brilliant that I didn't have to figure out how to brag about its strengths. I have about 36 hours to figure it out.


11 November 2007

Holiday Road

The holiday's are approaching, it seems, at breakneck speed. It's taken me quite a while to get excited this year, what with some of the changes to family traditions and all. But slowly and surely, I'm starting to get more into the spirit. After all, I've already heard "The Christmas Song" at least 5 times this weekend--how could I not be getting into the Christmas mood.

We've gotten a good start on Christmas shopping, we have the Thanksgiving menu all planned out, baby bro has confirmed his New Years/Birthday visit with us, so we've started planning the menu for that. The one thing I can't get excited about is receiving gifts. My parents want their usual Christmas list from us, but I had the hardest time thinking of things to tell them. The thing is, there's a whole lot of stuff that I'd love to have, but it's pricey and upscale and unnecessary in our small house. And, I don't really feel like I have any right to ask people to buy that sort of thing. I drool over the monthly Crate & Barrel catalog, but I really don't need a set of matching tumblers just for mixed drinks or the hammered steel serving bowl I've had my eye on. And as much as I would love to go shopping for clothes, I don't really need any clothes. Having someone else pick them out takes the fun out of the hunt and the purchase. Plus, they've just opened a Banana Republic at the local mall, and I've gotta say, I'm in love. But even if someone was willing to buy me something from their racks, it wouldn't be as much fun as picking it out myself. That's the thing about living on the grad student budget--every purchase is scrutinized. No more happy day shopping trips.

So I'm having a lot more fun thinking about what others might like and planning menus for our holiday dinners. I have to say, the recipe for Roasted Baby Pears with Herbed Goat Cheese (wrapped in bacon) is getting me pretty excited about New Years.

10 November 2007

Why Apple Will Eventually Take Over the World

Last night, I threw my ipod nano in the wash by mistake. I thought my days of listening to music while I work out were over.

This morning, the little bugger turned on and works just fine.

Go figure.
Yay Apple.

09 November 2007

Time Out

At his 18 month check-up, the doctor told us that this was the age that we could start using time-outs instead of only redirection as a form of discipline. That was almost 3 weeks ago, and let me tell you, I haven't been looking forward to that first time out we have to give.

That first time out came last night. He threw a grape. I warned him not to do it again, and he threw it again. I've been dreading putting the time-out system into use, in part, because I know that it's going to take a while before he gets the idea. It's going to take many, many time outs, and during each of those, I know that we will have to continue to replace him into the designated naughty spot until he figures out that, yes, he really does have to stay there.

So I have to say, that I was pleasantly surprised that after replacing him in the spot only 4 or 5 times, he stayed. At first he thought it was a game. Then, he realized it wasn't and tried to escape. I'd set him in the spot and he would jump up and run for his little scooter, as though he was a rebel without a cause ready to set out for the open road. But the open road was only our hallway, and he's not that great at steering the thing yet, so he didn't get very far before he ended up back in the spot. Eventually he stayed, crying "I want mama" over and over in the short minute he was in time out.

I don't have any fantasies that time outs will continue to go this smoothly. I think it will probably get more difficult before he finally accepts them as a form of punishment for bad behavior, but I'm glad the first one it over. It's like taking the plunge in an icy pool and realizing that the water really isn't so bad.

08 November 2007

Rockin' On

Liz over at Mom-101 recently blogged about her antiquated knowledge of the music scene nowadays. Her "Old Fart Musical Creed" is witty and made me realize that my own musical knowledge is falling embarrassingly behind.

With my own little rugrat quickly approaching the age where he repeats everything he hears (note to self--stop saying shit so often), it's made me think a lot about my own music choices. In particular, I'm really not sure what to do with the fact that the station I listen to most often has a DJ whose favorite word is douche bag. But, damn it, I'm just not ready to be old enough for a mix station.

I like music that rocks. I was a child of the 90s alternative scene who bought CDs like some people buy cinamochanillafukachinos and went to countless concerts in college. I even went to Woodstock '99--that ill-fated one that disintegrated into a riot.

My mother was so proud.*

I think I had this idea that by liking hard, raunchy rock, I was making a statement about my own independence and strength. You would never catch me at an Ani Difranco concert. The only girl bands I would listen to were Garbage or Hole. I still like my rock to, well, rock. I loved that when I was pregnant, the baby seemed to react to Green Day and Metallica more than other artists. On the way to the hospital in labor with Little Man, and I saw it as a good omen that Bawitaba was playing and it was a little Rage that got me through hour 5.

Now that I'm older and a littler more distanced from that time in my life, I'm starting to wonder why I listened to some of the more misogynistic of the late 1990s bands. I'm also starting to realize I am hopelessly out of touch. You know you're getting old when you're pregnant and nauseas at a Foo Fighter's concert. Rock on.

So, in homage to mom-101, my own declaration of my transition into old-fartdom.

I accept that the world of hip (is that even what the kids are saying now?) music is swiftly passing me by.

I accept that I will probably never catch up with the musical trends, and I am becoming less and less likely to want to.

I accept that I am completely confused about what emo is and that I'm not even a little embarrassed that I think it sounds suspiciously like a type of muppet.

I accept that Kid Rock, Limp Bizkit, and Korn were all fairly terrible mistakes.

I accept that today's youngins only know who Gavin Rosdale is because he's Gwen Stefani's babydaddy. (Whatever that means.) And they only know Gwen from some terrible song about bananas.

I accept that I do not, and probably will not ever know what a milkshake is, care that London bridge is falling down, understand why someone would name themself Qtip, or say "fitty" when referring to 50 cent.

I accept that because of mp3s and the wonders of itunes, I will probably never again have a favorite song that is not already playing on the radio somewhere.

So what do you think? Anything to add to my musical credo? Post away--

So proud, in fact, that she wouldn't speak to me for days after.

07 November 2007

And suddenly, it's real

For the last 7 years, I've been working toward this far off date when I would finally be done, finally have this thing called a dissertation finished and on the shelf. It's been five years, then four years, then three years, then two years away. Now, it's just over a year.

I think I realized just how solid a reality that future is yesterday when I was looking over a proposal I was writing and noticed the title I've selected. It sounded so authoritative and real--like something someone would actually write. And then it dawned on me, I am writing it. Slowly and surely, the jumble of half formed ideas I've been wading through for the last three years is becoming a dissertation...the first draft of a book.

It's strange when you work and work and plan and plan, and then, suddenly, you realize that it's working.

06 November 2007


As I walked around campus yesterday, the wind had a certain bite that seemed to instantly bring to mind memories of falls past. Fall has always been my favorite season; with the musty smell of fallen leaves and morning nip to the air, it is refreshing without the damp squishiness of spring. When I was young, my family would spend fall weekends hiking the various metropark trails together, trying to earn hiking sticks that my brothers and I would inevitably use as ninja weapons during the summer. I love this seasonal rush, where one holiday runs into the next until another year has run itself out, and we have only February snowstorms to look forward to until spring.

Yesterday, though, the memories the chill wind brought to mind were more specific. For a moment, somewhere between the Quad and my car, I was taken back for a moment to that one fall in 2000 when J and I started dating. That fall is really the only fall I remember from college. I was a commuter student and could never really figure out how to get involved in the life of my university. My college friends didn't come from my dorm floor or some big lecture class, but were work friends, most of whom weren't college students themselves. My memories of the university are limited to getting on and then getting off campus, because I never really felt like I belonged there. At least until that fall.

Our first real date was during the halloween celebration that the quaint campustown area held each year. I had never been to this quintessential Kent festival until he asked me to go along with him. I wasn't even sure it was really a date, at first. But when he put his arm around me on a cold street corner, I realized it was.

Our relationship was never really supposed to work. I knew that I was graduating in December and would be going to grad school somewhere not in the state I drew up with. I wanted a city. I wanted to live out on my own--and no boy was going to get in the way of that. He knew that he would be doing a year or two stint for Americorps, and then he dreamed about grad school in Wisconsin (a place I categorically refused to go). We just said to each other, "let's see what happens," not really thinking that the relationship would go anywhere.

But things were easy, comfortable. Perhaps because we laid our cards on the table so early, we didn't play silly games and we didn't worry about where we were headed. That fall was one of my most favorite. That fall, in my final semester, I finally felt like a college student. He took me to campus events that I would have never known about on my own. We went to poetry slams in the African American studies building some evenings. We spent evenings at Ray's, talking with his friends, who became my friends. I went to flute recitals and student films. And I spent hours with him, just walking around campus.

It's strange to say now, but in my first 3 years of college, I never walked around campus. I walked through it--trying to get from my car to my class and back. I didn't have any reason to linger. I didn't really know anyone to linger with. But that fall, Kent finally became my school, too.

Yesterday reminded me so much of that fall. For a moment, I was taken back to that time when I was the girl with the little red camaro, driving over to see the boy I kind of liked who didn't have a car of his own. Suddenly, it was that moment when I would dial up to his apartment, butterflies in my stomach, wondering what would happen next.

05 November 2007

Early Morning Working

Daylight Savings Time is no fun at all with a toddler. Somehow, he didn't quite get the message that we were allowed to sleep for another hour. Nope-- he woke up at his usual time, right around 7:30, which translates to 6:30 AM during DST. Somewhere around 6:30 PM, J and I looked at each other and wondered when the day would ever end. The upside is that now I'm awake at 6:00 AM. I've gotten in almost 40 minutes of basic housekeeping work--sending emails to silly students and to my chair about this fellowship application I've gotta finish in the next 10 days, reading the NY Times, stuff like that.

In other news. It is apparentl National Blog Posting Month. So I'm going to start this contest where you post every day. I'm hoping that maybe by having something due every day, I'll get more of my own work done in the process.

01 November 2007

A decidedly non-hoochified Halloween

For your viewing pleasure:


30 October 2007

Hoochies Unite!

Tomorrow is Halloween. Little Man will be unveiled as Elvis, we will have our first real Halloween part, and women everywhere will put on the bare minimum amount of clothing.

I don't really get it, to be honest. Sexy is one thing. Slutty is quite another.

Apparently, if you happen to be a female, Halloween provides ample opportunity to whore it up a bit. For instance-

You can be a witch-

Apparently, the only thing that you need to be a witch is a pointy hat.

Or, if the macabre isn't for you... sail the high seas as a pirate!

The sword is really what gives the costume that certain something, don'tyou think?

And how can you not want to take a walk down a yellow brick road when you're stepping out as Dorothy? She's not from Kansas any more boys and girls...

I'm not even sure I understand this one-- and
gangster bunny. Since when do bunnies even
run liquor?

And just in case Dorothy was too tame-- why not dress up as
the kind of nun all little catholic school boys fantasize about?

Maybe I'm just jealous that this raunchy little trend wasn't around when my body might have possibly made one of those costumes work. But, really, how many people out there can make those silly costumes work? From the looks of the fairly average college girls trying them on at the local Halloween shop, not very many. You just kind of want to pull them aside and say, "Sweetie, no matter how you work it, that little bitty thing you think is a nurse outfit doesn't make you look sexy, it makes your completely normal and fairly average body look just exactly that."

But what I really want to know is when did Halloween become just a holiday for the guys? Sure, there's something exhilarating about dressing like the slut you (secretly) wish you could be. Inhibitions, be damned! But for what?

A student of mine said today that Halloween is the day girls can dress up and not be judged. Then what's the point of hoochin' it up? Don't they want to be judged? Isn't that the point?

Anyway- we'll be having a nice, tame little Halloween party. No body shots with toddlers running around. But I think it's better that way. After all, what hoochie out there is taking home both the King and the Wolfman home with them when it's all over? And I'm not even breaking out the garter belt.

29 October 2007

Why Little Man is Brilliant, Part I

I know that every parent thinks that their child is smarter, more talented, and cuter than pretty much any other child alive. I struggle constantly to recognize this propensity in parenthood, but every time I think I have the megalomania conquered, Little Man does something that puts me clear back to square one.

If it pleases the court, the people now present the following evidence:

Exhibit A-
You know those little pop-up toys that kids play with? You twist a knob or push a button or flip a lever and suddenly a little door pops up and shows the kid an animal of some sort. Great entertainment. Really.
Anyway, we have one and one day Little Man was playing with it. Out of the blue, and without coaching him, I asked which one the elephant was. Sure enough, the little booger pushed the right button. Thinking it was a fluke, I asked where the panda was. Right again. Somehow, he managed to memorize the entire board.

Exhibit B-
J was fastening him into the car seat tonight, and he suddenly exclaimed "elephant" (not quite that eloquently, but still). Look though he might, J couldn't find an elephant anywhere in the car. Then he realized that Little Man was pointing to a puzzle piece-- an upside down puzzle piece. No elephant was visible. He just knew, from the size and shape of the piece, that it was the elephant piece. Even out of context.

Every time I don't expect anything, he comes up with some new trick or piece of knowledge that he just picked up somewhere. Flippin' brilliant-- really.

28 October 2007

More (kind of) mindless fun!

Mommy/prof tagged me for this meme, and I figure if an almost tenured prof. has time to meme, than who am I to argue?? Although I'm still not sure about this

First, the rules:
There are a set of questions below that are all of the form, "The best [subgenre] [medium] in [genre] is...".Copy the questions, and before answering them, you may modify them in a limited way, carrying out no more than two of these operations:

You can leave them exactly as is.
You can delete any one question.
You can mutate either the genre, medium, or subgenre of any one question.
For instance, you could change "The best time travel novel in SF/Fantasy is..." to "The best time travel novel in Westerns is...", or "The best time travel movie in SF/Fantasy is...", or "The best romance novel in SF/Fantasy is...".
You can add a completely new question of your choice to the end of the list, as long as it is still in the form "The best [subgenre] [medium] in [genre] is...".
You must have at least one question in your set, or you've gone extinct, and you must be able to answer it yourself, or you're not viable.
Then answer your possibly mutant set of questions. Please do include a link back to the blog you got them from, to simplify tracing the ancestry, and include these instructions. Finally, pass it along to any number of your fellow bloggers. Remember, though, your success as a Darwinian replicator is going to be measured by the propagation of your variants, which is going to be a function of both the interest your well-honed questions generate and the number of successful attempts at reproducing them.

So, without further ado:
My great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandparent is Pharyngula.
My great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandparent is Metamagician and the Hellfire Club.
My great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandparent is Flying Trilobite.
My great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandparent is A Blog Around the Clock.
My great-great-great-great-great-great-grandparent is Primate Diaries.
My great-great-great-great-great-grandparent is Thus Spake Zuska.
My great-great-great-great-grandparent is a k8, a cat, a mission.
My great-great-great-grandparent is Monkeygirl.
My great-great grandparent is DancingFish.
My great- grandparent is Dr. Brazen Hussy.
My grandparent is Addy
My parent is mommy/prof

The best television series in SciFi is: Heros
The best cult movie in comedy is: Austin Powers
The best high-fat food in Italian cooking is: Fettuccine Alfredo
The best recent movie in comedy is: Knocked Up
The best romantic movie in comedy is: French Kiss

I tag: MGM, C..., Yellow Dart-- and whoever else can figure this out ;)

25 October 2007

Staying in the Moment

I just finished writing this rather depressing and sappy post about how I'm all stressed out right now. Then I got to the end of it, realized that writing it was enough, and decided that I couldn't possibly post it.

Instead, I thought I'd give you some random moments of joy in my daily life.
Before we went to DC, I showed Little Man some of the animals we'd be seeing at the zoo on the computer. The National Zoo has this fabulous website where you can watch live webcams of most of their animals. You can usually see an elephant and, almost always, the not-so-baby-anymore baby panda. Little Man loves it. Loves it so much that he wants to see the "eppugees" all of the time. "Eppugee," oddly enough is also his word for apple juice which is his word for any kind of drink. One night we were playing in the living room, and suddenly he took my hand, looked at me earnestly and said, "eppugee?" I asked, "Do you want a drink?" To which her replied solomnly, "ooo....eppugee, kiyyee kaa, oo-oo- ah-ah." Which translates, roughly, to "elephant, kitty cat, and monkey." How can you say no to a request like that??

To distract him from watching the eppugees all of the time--ok, really to entertain myself, because I can only look at the same #@^#^ elephant picture so many times in one week, I tried to find some animals on YouTube. Here's what my search came up with:
This is now Little Man's most favoritest thing to watch. And how can you not love it? Now, instead of eppugees, he wants the bock-bocks.

Oh- and he wants this too:

Can you blame him?

23 October 2007

Back on Track

I've been in a holding pattern lately.

After I finished the Fitzgerald chapter, I kind of stalled. I took a little break, then we had to do some traveling, then J got the weird opportunity to apply for a job we weren't planning for, and then suddenly it's the end of October and I have no third chapter done yet. Really, no third chapter even started.

Lately, I've been unfocused. With all the grading and running around, it's been hard to get back to a routine where I'm really getting something done. I've started waking up at 6AM to work, and I think that's helping a little. But I need to get cracking.

Lately, though, all I want to do is play with my new sewing machine.
It looks kind of like this (only blue) and it's so easy to use. The only machines I've ever used are older-than-sin-Singers, so I was a little unsure about not buying a Singer.

I really never saw myself as the sewing type. I'm not all that great at it, but it sure is a great stress reliever when the machine works. Bzzzzzzzzzzzzzip and you have yourself a table runner. Twenty minutes or so and there is actually a tangible finished product. In the midst of this interminable dissertation, having something that has a real end point--an easily attainable end point--seems absolutely delicious right now.

But I really do need to get started on something more in line with my real work. I have a bunch of things that I should start working on, so maybe after my meeting (finally!) with my chair on Thursday, I'll have either the inspiration or the impetus to start something.

19 October 2007

The One about Spanking

I know that some people have reacted and commented on the last post I made-- especially my own guilt about wanting to spank Little Man. I really appreciate those comments, because they always make me reexamine my own beliefs and my own decisions.

I think I need to clarify some of my comments though.

I think that we all have to make our own decisions about parenting and discipline-- only we live with our children. I know, in my own situation, that the moments I've wanted to smack my child doing so would have only made me feel better--and then very soon after, worse.
I know that developmentally, a child Little Man's age isn't really able to control his impulses-- it's why they do things over, and over, and over, and over, and over--until they can control their impulses, I don't think that a little (or big) smack can be effective. That urge to keep trying things is natural, and fear doesn't stop it. I don't think toddlers know what they're feeling half the time. Most of the time tantrums are just an overwhelming rush of desire and angst and fear all rolled into one. They seem so out of control because they, literally, are.

J and I have thought long and hard about the way we want to discipline our children. All I ever knew was discipline that involved a swat on the behind occasionally. I didn't really even buy into the whole time-out thing until somewhat recently. But as I think back over what I remember of the discipline of my childhood--and, really, I wasn't disciplined all that often-- I realize that spanking loses its effectiveness. I can remember the moment when it stopped being effective for me: my dad threatened to hit me for something and I thought to myself, "go ahead...I don't care." Maybe I said it out loud, I don't remember. But he didn't carry through. I don't think I was ever threatened with a spanking again...

The thing about spanking, I think, is that it is founded on fear rather than respect. I don't want my children to fear me. I want their respect, but like anyone else, like anything else, respect is something that has to be earned. I believe that parents earn that respect through consistency, stability, and the unconditional love they give their children. J and I decided that we want to think of discipline as a way to educate and guide. Yes, there will be punishments. Yes, it will drive me batty not to smack him sometimes. But in the end, I know that hitting him will make me feel awful--absolutely awful. I don't want to hurt the thing I love most. So, for me, I want to choose a disciplinary style that I don't feel bad about. I have no qualms whatsoever about sitting him in a corner or boring him silly. That I can do without guilt.

I like to think, in my infinite wisdom, that my instinct not to hit is the right one. But the American Association of Pediatrics backs me up on this. They state in their "Guidance for Effective Discipline":

Despite its common acceptance, and even advocacy
for its use, spanking is a less effective strategy
than time-out or removal of privileges for reducing
undesired behavior in children. Although spanking
may immediately reduce or stop an undesired behavior,
its effectiveness decreases with subsequent
use. The only way to maintain the initial effect of
spanking is to systematically increase the intensity with which it is delivered, which can quickly escalate
into abuse. Thus, at best, spanking is only effective
when used in selective infrequent situations.

They also say
• Spanking children ,18 months of age increases the chance of physical injury, and the child is
unlikely to understand the connection between the behavior and the punishment.
• Although spanking may result in a reaction of shock by the child and cessation of the undesired
behavior, repeated spanking may cause agitated, aggressive behavior in the child that may lead to physical altercation between parent and child.
• Spanking models aggressive behavior as a solution to conflict and has been associated with increased aggression in preschool and school children.
• Spanking and threats of spanking lead to alteredparent–child relationships, making discipline substantially more difficult when physical punishment is no longer an option, such as with adolescents.
• Spanking is no more effective as a long-term strategy than other approaches, and reliance on spanking as a discipline approach makes other discipline strategies less effective to use. Timeout
and positive reinforcement of other behaviors are more difficult to implement and take longer to
become effective when spanking has previously been a primary method of discipline.
• A pattern of spanking may be sustained or increased.Because spanking may provide the parent some relief from anger, the likelihood that the parent will spank the child in the future is increased.

Now I'm a scholar by trade. I know what goes into research and I know that when a study is published by a large scientific organization, I'm going to tend to trust it. I know that a mother's intuition is worth something, but I also know that there are a lot of times that it can be wrong.

Looking back over my childhood, the patterns that the AAPA discuss seem in many ways eerily familiar. I was never abused--never even close to being abused--not even in the same ballpark, but there is a point when physical punishment ceases to be effective. It's usually that same point where your kid has access to a car, access to friends with cars, and access to a whole other realm of dangers. That's not really the time that I want to be figuring out a back up.

I don't doubt that spanking works.... for a while. But then suddenly, your little man is 6'3" and the trusty old belt just doesn't seem like it's gonna do the trick any more. And then what??

For me, for us, spanking is not a discipline I'm willing to fall back on. I want to give my child the gift of a violence-free childhood. They do exist. J had one--and because of it, he doesn't have the slightest impulse to swat little man. For him, hitting seems so foreign, so strange, so unnecessary.

I want it to be unnecessary. We both know that it's much harder not to hit. You do have to repeat and repeat and repeat and repeat, because there is not immediate shock. It takes unending patience (something that I most certainly do not and will not ever have) to commit to this form of child-rearing.

I read once somewhere that Time-outs only work if there are also time-ins. But in a world of rushing around, stressful jobs, and limited patience, putting time in is extraordinarily difficult and exhausting. But it's work I'm willing to do. It's work that I believe needs done.

Do I think that spanking is wrong? Unequivocally, yes. Am I going to judge people who do it? Probably, but I'm sure they also think my time-outs are ridiculous. Such is life. Can I change people's minds about spanking? I don't think so. It's like J says, changing someone's mind about the way they were raised is like trying to change someone's mind about religion.

I'm just thankful for my own conversion.

17 October 2007

Random Bullets

I have a lot on my mind, and not the time or energy to develop any of these into a real post, so please excuse the randomness:

  • Dear plagiarizers, I am not stupid. Really. I promise. And even though there's not a thing I can do right now, I'm watching. Sincerely, Me.
  • I just got done re-reading most of my classes blogs for their mid-term evaluations. There's some really great stuff in there. As much as I'm now regretting the sheer amount I have to read, I like the opportunity to see them as complete people.
  • Did I mention that chocolate covered caramel popcorn is better than crack?
  • We just got back from a weekend in Ohio. It was so good to see everyone, and the visit (although short) was a good length. Sometimes I feel guilty for living so far away, but the truth is that I don't miss Akron at all. Sure, I'd love to be able to see my parents and grandparents more often or to have Little Man around the family more, but I like my little life out here on the prairie. I like that we don't have a lot to work our schedules around, other than our jobs. Retirement is coming soon, so hopefully Little Man will get more time with them all soon.
  • Little Man thinks he's 2. I thought we were supposed to get 2 years before the tantrums start. What do you do with a child who's having a meltdown?? He's been so good thus far that I am totally unprepared to deal with this new phase. Maybe it will pass quickly.
  • I hate people who tell me that I turned out ok after being raised in an environment where spanking was one form of discipline. Old school, ya know? I more and more realize that I can't possibly be ok when I have the urge to hit a toddler. There can't be anything productive in hitting a toddler. They don't have the ability to know right from wrong, predict consequences, or even control their own impulses yet. Hitting is totally and utterly counterproductive at this age (and really, at any I think). But the impulse I have is to smack him. And then I feel guilty about feeling like I should hit the most precious thing in my world. And then the guilt is just as exhausting as the toddler himself. I just can't win.
  • Also, he's started hitting. How's that for irony?
  • It's finally fall! Ok, it's almost 80 here, but at least the trees are starting to turn.
  • I haven't done anything on the dissertation for 2 weeks. Thanks to the hubby's last minute job application, the trip to Ohio, and my general urge to do something crafty rather than academic, I'm playing catch up.
  • Talked to Baby Bro the other night. I have no idea what's going on for Christmas this year. One minute I thought we had come up with a plan to get everyone together, the next minute it's not a good plan after all. Baby Bro's gonna have to figure this one out, because I'm off the case.
  • Did I mention that chocolate covered caramel popcorn is better than crack?

Ok- enough for now, but you gotta check out Mommy/Prof's random rants of bitterness. Priceless.

If You're on a Diet...

and you see a cute little Cub Scout with his dad selling popcorn, run the other way.

Nay, scream and run the other way.

Because the fine people over a Trails End make this chocolate covered caramel popcorn that is better than crack.

Not that I've ever had crack.

But who needs to, now that I have a big old bucket of that popcorn stuff in my pantry?

11 October 2007

The One about Boobs, redux

I wrote earlier about Bill Maher and the unending stupidity of people like him. The ladies over at the League of Maternal Justice are taking back motherhood by celebrating the boob.

Bravo to them. And here's to a world where mother's don't have to feel ashamed about the choices they make about feeding their children--whichever choice that is. Because, really, it's nobody's damn business. Motherhood is hard enough.

10 October 2007

Really?!?? (my appologizes to SNL)

Is this really news?

There aren't more important things happening in the world--you know, like the problems in Burma, the genocide in Sudan, the fact that Hillary just voted to call Iran and terrorist state and thus open a possible door to declaring war on them.

When I turn to the NY Times each morning for my daily dose of important headlines, I don't really except to see an eloquent, elegiac account of the death of Flower.

Yes. I understand that Meerkats are adorable. Even Nazi Meerkats are adorable:

I even understand that the massive response to Flower's death might constitute some sort of cultural event that scholars twenty years from now will evoke as some sort of postmodern existential phenomenon.

I maybe heartless and unfeeling for saying this, but WTF? This is what the NY Times calls news?


09 October 2007

As Promised....


Little Man as "The King" (the later years)

The Costume

Back View

Hunka-Hunka Burnin' Love

Thank you.... Thank you very much
Elvis has left the building.....

I'm usually fairly modest-- but is this not the greatest toddler Halloween costume ever??

07 October 2007

Elvis lives... but I can't say the same for the sewing machine

I have a ridiculous amount of work to do-- papers to grade, midterm grades to post, fellowship stuff to prepare. Oh-- and then there's that whole dissertation thing.

But despite the 90 degree October weather, I've been doing nothing but playing with Halloween stuff. Remember back when I said I was going to turn Little Man into Elvis? Mission almost accomplished. This weekend I got out the old sewing machine (and old is the operative word here. The thing is at least from the early 1960s) and got busy on those little scraps of white material I had cut out a few weeks ago. It turns out that I can actually sew. Not well, mind you--Elvis probably won't have the straightest seams--but I did complete one tiny white jumpsuit, complete with sparkley red bell-bottoms and one very small cape. I'll post pictures soon, but first I have to be-dazzle the thing with some faux rhinestones.

J is still in a bit of disbelief that it's done.

The sewing machine is also done. It's really my grandma's--an old Singer that weighs about 10lbs and only sews in a straight line. It's just too temperamental for someone who doesn't know a whole lot about sewing to deal with it. Just as I was only 3 or 4 seams away from finishing, it decided it was done. I wasted over an hour just trying to get it to sew something without the thread snapping. The Singer is going back to Ohio for Christmas and staying there for good. There's no way I am going to wrestle with it while I make the baptism quilt. The material was too expensive to screw it up with the old machine.

In a few short days, I'll have the brand new computerized machine that I found on Overstock.com. I can't believe that this is making me excited, but it kind of is. I have the baptism quilt to finish by Christmas, but before then, I need to finish Elvis, make myself a costume, and turn J into a Werewolf. With 80-some stitch patterns, I should be good to go. (Watch, I'll probably only ever use the straight stitch.)

Because Halloween is only a few weeks away and we are having a real Halloween party this year, complete with all the cheesey goodness that Halloween deserves. The kids in our two respective departments are just barely old enough for me to use them as an excuse. Although, at this rate, maybe we should have a luau instead....