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.