Wednesday, August 29, 2007


Today, after I dropped Munchkin off at daycare, I drove right back home. I staggered up the stairs yanking shut the curtains as I yanked off my skirt, grabbing my earplugs and shuffling over to Pynchon's side of the bed. I have a terrible sinus infection, you see, and all. I. want. to. do. is. sleep. And Pynchon's side has the alarm, which has a nap function to assure I don't sleep longer than two hours. I set it. I crawled in on this not-my-side of the bed and snuggled myself down.

And felt immediately, unbearably sad. You see, I'm forgetting things I thought were etched in my memory forever, acid-burned grooves on the brittle tin surface of my consciousness that are, it seems, rusting over into something softer, less distinct.

Pynchon and I change sides of the bed every six months or so, mostly because he has a tendency to sleep on top of me. On his back. If we change sides, it takes a couple of months for his subconscious to change direction. Since Munchkin's been born, we've changed spots a couple of times, and the first night that I sleep on the 'wrong' side I'm struck hard by a sense memory of my last tenure in that location: "Wow," I'll think to myself, "last time I was here was the night I went into labour," or, "When I was on this side of the bed, I had to get up twice every night in the cold to feed her? Do you remember the screaming?" It wasn't a recollection, not like I was thinking back. It was more a forceful collision of the now with what my body had come to expect from a certain sleeping position, on this side or the other, near to the window or near to the closet. Like both now and then were real and coexisting, like suddenly Munchkin was six months old and a newborn.

Today, though, today I lay down and I just felt ... tired. Sick, and headachy. The pillow and the sheet smelled like Pynchon. The quality of light was a little different on this side than on mine. But Munchkin was still a toddler, and I was assaulted by no overwhelming physical sense of a different time for us. No suddenly being in the moment of going into labour, no sense of those first three months, no shiver of long and dark winter nights, sleeptraining and sleep-deprived.

I'm losing that time. I can feel it slip through my fingers, time that was so raw and intense and all-consuming. I don't really remember what it was like to be pregnant. I don't remember what it was like to stay home with my newborn Miss Baby. I look at the pictures now and they seem to be of other people. I wonder, "What did I do all day with her?" and think, "Gosh, she sure was cute." I know (in part from what I've written here) that I felt housebound and desperate, and that she cried a lot more than the photos suggest, but I don't feel it like a punch in my stomach the way I used to. The way the four-song rotation on her travel mobile used to make me anxious and nauseous, even if she wasn't in the house? It's all gone. I'm forgetting.

You know how I really know? The one really clear memory I retain from those early months is my incredulity when people would fondly pat Miss Baby and say wistfully, "Ahhh, it goes so fast." "No it doesn't," I wanted to shout. "It's terrible and long and gruelling and terrifying and dull and isolating and nervewrackin and I've never slept so little and done so much." But now? Now I kinda feel like it's gone so fast. And it's never coming back.

Mama? Wake up! Let's go play.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


I heard today that a friend, colleague, and mentor of mine died yesterday, after a longish fight with cancer. He was a 'computer' friend: that's what we had in common, and although he didn't know about this blog, I think he would have liked it. Among other things, he was a passionate parent as well as a dedicated technophile. As a tribute to him, I'll cast out into cyberspace the note I've just written to send to his family.

Dear K--,

I am so sorry to hear that Terry has died. I received the news from P-- C-- today: I haven't seen Terry since I moved away from Edmonton in 2004, although we have exchanged emails, and that the news of his death has hit me so hard is a testament to the strong influence Terry has had on me, and how very much I have valued his friendship. He is already missed.

You may remember me from the O-- Project parties? Skinny, pale, black hair? I also worked for Terry at the T-- lab for several years, and taught for H-- Program, and worked under his direction on the C-- Project. Terry was an intellectually rigorous, but silly person, a joker with a mind like a steel trap. I learned so much from him: about databases, and XML, and all kinds of computer tics and tricks. But I also learned a little more about how to be a decent human being. Terry's curiosity about life, his very strong affection for his family, his zest for travel, and his enthusiasm about computing left a lasting impression on me. More, he was a friend, a trusted confidante to share a beer with, with the gang at Remedy, or at a conference.

I can't imagine the pain and loss you must be feeling, but I wanted to write to tell you how very sorry I am, and how much Terry meant to me. I am so glad to have known him: it has enriched my life immeasurably.

Terry is on the far left, in the white shirt. I'm in the sunglasses. This is in Edmonton, at the very best café for lovers of espresso, at the end of a long day of XML encoding training for workers on the C-- Project.

The world is a sadder place for your absence, Terry.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Window ledge of kitsch, and other business

You know, if I posted a little more often, I wouldn't need to cram everything into these giant posts ...


Mad's (was) asking us to show our kitsch--once I saw her mad stash, and Cinnamon Gurl's, well, I knew I had to share too.

We have a window-ledge of kitsch, and punnily enough (if you will), it's in our kitchen. Kitschen?

From left to right: a brass toothpick holder from Panama, a gift to me from Pynchon's parents after their cruise there last year; a terribly ugly cow clock, thoughtfully and expressly left behind for our use by the former owner of our house, who thought it matched too nicely with the kitchen for her, in good conscience, to deprive the kitchen of it; a bar of soap from the University of Victoria, where I go to teach workshops and stock up on tiny bars of soap; a tiny Beefeater figurine, a gift to Pynchon from an uncle (I think); my very first academic award, the French prize for the morning junior kindergarden class in 1977-78. I was obviously destined for great things.

(I feel a pang about the french prize. The JK teacher is my godmother. But! I still speak french, and just today spent the day placoter avec une amie qui vit pas loin d'ici. So while the circumstances surrounding the award may have been dodgy, it turns out all right in the end.)


You know what I didn't put in my list of ten things that silence my inner critic? That I really wanted to put in? But forgot? I'm really good at folding fitted sheets so that they look like regular folded sheets, not some rumpled elastic disaster. The latter outcome was my standard until one bright morning in Saskatoon, when I was visiting the same friend who now lives in Chicago and put Sage and me up for BlogHer. Anyhow. I was visiting her and sleeping on the futon that was the daytime couch, so every morning I folded up all the bedding. All of a sudden, I just knew how to fold that fitted sheet. A miracle! The rest is history. I can even sometimes manage a decent fold of those sheets that are elastic all the way 'round.

This, people, this right here, is what makes the blogosphere so compelling ...


Commenting on my last post, Oh The Joys offered to exchange me her weather for mine. I then made a crack about my roof leaking. Because the camera was on the fritz, I could not then show you what I can now, which is my roof leaking all over Pynchon's Dell and soaking my daycare file as well as my newly purchase (sob!) copy of Jurgen Habermas's timeless classic, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society. Worse, the book is not destroyed, but simply warped. Now people are going to think I was reading it in the bathtub. I may be a complete nerd, but, well, I do have some standards. And Habermas in the tub is a level to which I will not stoop!

(Habermas, suffering some structural transformation, the grey triangle underneath the computer's power supply. Sigh.)


Pynchon is the main pedagogue in our little family unit: Monday morning, after breakfast, but before daycare, he taught Munchkin the answer to the following question--"What does a duck say, Munchkin?"--"QUACK!"

Feel free to quiz her on the major barnyard fauna, as well as domestic animals. She can match sound to species for: cow, pig, sheep, duck, and dog -- and also monkeys, but I'm not sure how to classify that. Surprisingly, considering we actually have a cat, Munchkin can't seem to nail the meowing bit--when asked what sound a cat makes, she invariable moos. No wonder Poor Crazy Kitty is in a huff.

By the way, what on earth possible purpose does it serve to teach a deeply urban baby how to moo and baa? This is not a vocabulary that can be of any use to her. I'm trying to teach her to say 'grande nonfat latte' but she finds the barnyard so much more compelling ...


Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Many different things, really

What a day. It's been raining and raining and raining, and all the kids in the Faculty of Arts day camp have been in my building at work, and making a hell of a racket which would account for why I visited so many of your blogs today. I'm trying to get an article finished, one I've been working on all summer, and I want to send it away for review by the end of the summer. It's currently 40 pages long, but it needs to be about 25--while nevertheless requiring the addition of new material.

If yer innerested, here's a sample of my deathless academic prose:

"As When Harry Met Sally progresses, the characters drop out of history, from carefully marked coeds of the 70s, with big hair, blue eyeshadow, and cynicism to match, through the go-go yuppie early 80s (“Five years later”), all power-suited, shoulder-padded, and briefcase-toding, before beginning their own coursthip story yet another “five years later” in a curiously unmarked and un-named 1987—we would expect, for example, more stirrup pants and asymmetrical haircuts, giant Sony Walkmans, and such. We move from an explicitly referenced problematic period in the history of romantic comedy into … achronicity, the blessed timelessness of fated love. The whole troubled period of the nervous romance is visually ridiculed, its promiscuity and individualism a tacky fad, as outdated and irrelevant as knee-socks and high-waisted shorts. Unshackled from historical referent, the characters are as free as if their story took place a long time ago in a galaxy far away, as Star Wars would have it. History as social and political context disappears as this movie progresses at the same time as history as musical and filmic reference gains narrative traction via the deliberately nostalgic and old-school jazz soundtrack (or its simulation, by launched-to-stardom newcomer Harry Connick, Jr.)."

Just to be clear, my merit pay this year will be based, largely, on whether I can say that this article is 'accepted for publication', or 'forthcoming', or 'published'. For that to happen, it needs to be reviewed, and this can take several months at a minimum. And for that to happen, I need to send it away. Which means it needs to be finished. Which I can't do when there are 20 eight- to ten-year-olds screeching up and down the halls. When it turned out they were all taking over the classroom that's 1.5 paces from my office door, and that they had indeed pre-booked this room, I freaked out. My department just fought a protracted battle with the bookings people to declare that room offlimits for anything other than teaching during office hours.

Anyhow, I was so frustrated and worried, I got mad. I called the woman in charge of the camp and freaked out on her voice mail. I believe I may even have said "I pay a lot of money to put my own child into proper day care centre so that I may come to the office and get my job done." I believe I may also have said, "Please call me back so that we can discuss this. Don't call me on my office phone because obviously I can't stay here and my workday is ruined."

Frustrated and worried. And now a little ashamed of myself.


Speaking of frustrated and worried, I imagine I'm not the only one to have a scare about the big Fisher-Price / Mattel toy recall? In particular, the words 'Elmo Tub Sub' struck fear into my heart, as Munchkin has an item we might (and do) describe in just such terms. Here, in fact, is the toy in question, along with its owner. Notice the little wake created by its possibly toxic, possibly lead-painted little propeller.

However, this is the tub sub being recalled:

Not the one we have. Pynchon has declared we will buy no more toys from China. I defy him to locate one currently in the house that is not, actually, made in China. Worried.

Speaking, once more, of frustrated and worried, did you, oh observant reader, notice that Munchkin seems to be holding onto ... doudou? In the tub? Yes, that's right, she brought her security blanket into the tub with her, because that's just the kind of day she's been having lately. The kind of day where she sits in the tub pointing and wailing and pointing and wailing until she is provided with both doudou and sucksuck, and right now, dammit.

That's just one more reason why we've got three doudous.

Omaha Mama tagged me for the '10 things that silence my inner critic' meme. That's a doozy, because you have to say nice things about yourself ... I have to say nice things about myself. Nice things that will interest you, hopefully, and not show me to be too too puffed with pride.


1. I'm clever. This I know for sure, and have always known, and it's the one thing about myself I can honestly say I've never doubted for one minute. Sometimes I think I'm pretty, but often I don't. My fitness level alternately impresses and depresses me. I vacillate wildly in most areas of self-regard. But not about my brains.

2. I'm an excellent brunch-maker. You should come to my house. I can do fluffy pancakes, with raspberries or blueberries in them, with butter and real maple syrup. Crispy browned veggie sausages. Fluffy scrambled eggs, with a little bit of parmesan and some fresh basil cooked in. Fruit salad with perfect little melon balls. Coffee or tea, latte or espresso. Everything ready at the same time, everything hot, the table nicely set. I'm an excellent brunch maker.

3. I am becoming manifestly more politically radical as I age. I like this about me. I used to say stuff like "It's illegal to do crack. Why would anyone even start that? Everyone who does bad drugs should go to jail. How hard is it to just get a job and not do drugs." [pauses while you all collect yourselves.] Really, as I get older, I become aware much more of nuance in the world, and I temper my tendency to rush to judgement accordingly. Most of the world gets more conservative and judgmental as it ages. Not me.

4. My mom used to say that I have feet only a mother could love--this was not very nice of her, but she was probably referring to my lopsided club foot, and my uneven calves, and well, I've a tendency to cellulite on my quite bootylicious self. Loathing and ambivalence! But: I have beautiful big blue eyes, a long neck, square and delicate shoulders, and a tiny ribcage blessed with good boobs. Go, upper body, go! (We won't talk about my nose ...)

5. I am a good wife. I love Pynchon the best I know how, and learn more and more what it means to be in a partnership every day. I like that. It makes me humble.

6. I'm a pretty good writer of academic prose. Fellow grad students, and my dissertation committee, and my professors ... now my colleagues, blind reviewers, and audiences, uniformly note that I make complicated things understandable, and have a clear and even entertaining scholarly voice. Which you might not imagine from how I write here ...

7. I'm an awesome talker. I'm not afraid of public speaking, of giving talks, or teaching, or leading workshops, or whatever. People can always hear me, I don't hem and haw, I get to the point.

8. I have a strong sense of fairness. Reciprocity and probity (in addition, apparently, to pedantry) are my watchwords.

9. Ageing. I'm pretty good at it. I'm enjoying each year as it goes by, and while I'm sometimes surprised--and not pleasantly--that I seem to have wrinkles, I really don't mind getting older. Wrinklier, a little hairier, a little slower, not terribly interested in popular music. There are rewards to age, and I'm enjoying them (ask me again when I pass this obviously very advanced age of 34. I'm a good talker now ...)

10. I know most of my own faults, can call them out by name, and am actively working to rehabilitate most of them. I don't imagine it would be easy for you to surprise me by calling me on a fault: I have probably already accused myself of worse.

I'm going to tag some new friends I made at BlogHer: Moosh in Indy, and Assertagirl. You're on, ladies.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Style, maybe

*edit: goth photo removed because of disturbing number of daily Google Image search hits and downloads (???)

I have been thinking, lately, about what I wear. Specifically, I have been wondering when I became someone who tries on a shirt, and if it fits, buys 4-6 identical ones, in different colours. Then two identical skirts, two identical pairs of pants, and a pair of jeans and a pair of cords in the same cut. And four identical turtlenecks. It all matches. In fact, I have one belt that I wear with everything in casual settings, and three necklaces for all settings that all match with everything. Actually, absolutely everything absolutely matches everything else: it's all shades of grey, brown, off-white (winter), white (summer), chino, and black. It's all, further, machine washable.

I'll tell you, this makes packing for trips very easy.

In my defense, I did try to jazz it up by buying a giant, be-buckled mustard yellow purse, which you saw if you met me at BlogHer or if you came to my house for Mad's Bloggy Weekend, because I always use it when I want to appear less ... beige-brown-black-white-grey. Which is pretty much always.

Any-hooooooo. Mad can tell you I used to be hip. She knew me in my Louise-Brooks-bob phase, my skull-buckle boots and stretch black skinny jeans paired with a pirate shirt days. My PVC and fishnets with army boots to the office years. Blue lipstick. Special eyeliner effects achieved with a Sharpie (doesn't run ...). People used to stop me on the street and admire me. I got what my sister calls the 'nice face discount' but what was in my face more likely the 'nice freak' discount. I had a wardrobe that I would riffle through in my mind before bed, trying to pick out the best thing to wear, the coolest new combination of the gazillions of items. Then in the morning (okay, who am I kidding? in the afternoon) I would try a bunch of stuff on before settling on ... leggings under a floor length lace skirt, combat boots, bondage collar, sleek hair, and saucy 'vampire sex bar' t-shirt. Smokin' hot!*

[ photo removed ]

Now I don't really think about it at all, which is why I buy the mix and match multiples: when I went back to work, Munchkin wasn't sleeping through the night yet, and I needed clothes I could pump in, clothes the barf would wash out from, clothes I didn't have to think about.

But I miss that part of me. Still, I don't really have time or money right now to pursue my love of, as Pynchon calls them, 'shoes with accents.' Everything will be mix and match and machine washable for a while, I think, and when I find t-shirts long enough to cover my new mommy-tummy and my just generally incredibly long waist? I'm still going to buy four.

I'm engaging now in a little style by proxy. I've just been out to buy Munchkin her fall clothes at the neighbourhood Bonnie Togs (seriously, I walked there. It took about 5 minutes). Everything matches everything else. Check it out:**

I feel competent when I buy her clothes that mix and match like this. I miss being fashionable and unique, but I really really like that my baby has cute, practical, unfussy, and ... timeless clothes. It occurs to me that what I'm doing is dressing Munchkin much the way my own mom dressed me. Cute. Practical. Unfussy. Am I nostalgic for my own seemingly-simpler 1970s childhood by de-hipstering my baby? I'm sorely tempted by Bumper's AB/CD shirt and Wonderbaby's cholo 'Muthasucka' onesie still elicits a chuckle from me. I once bought a faux-leather biker jacket and a little velour tuxedo sleeper for my first nephew, way back in 1995. But I don't think I could dress Munchkin like that now--I would feel like a faker, I think. A little self-conscious. Me, who was troubled not by the idea of a bondage collar and a lace skirt to wear to work at the computer lab, but rather boggled at the choice of which collar best matched the skirt. I'm happier with my little kiddo in lavender onesies with embroidered leaves, with contrasting track pants.

Last summer, I used to really enjoy shopping for clothes for my then-Miss Baby because I was ambivalent about my new body, about the slow gradation between post-partum and back-to-self, and everything about shopping for her was simpler and more satisfying than shopping for myself. Pressed for time, I tended to go out size-by-size and just get everything at once, and usually all at one store: all the fall clothes, then the winter, then the spring. Tonight, I've bought all the 18mos-24mos clothes she'll start to wear in the fall. Everything matches everything else. Nothing fussy--cute stuff in corduroy, and jersey, and denim, and cotton, all of it machine washable.

When I went back to work I was still pressed for time and I started to shop like that for myself. Like the fashionable me was too much work. Or was maybe irrelevant. I don't know. It's not any issues I have with my body--yeah I've got a bit of a tummy (hello? I grew another human being in there!) but I'm just as thin as I was before. I'm still not sure how I feel about this change in ... my attitude.

Still, I kind of suspect that if I dress my baby like my mom dressed me, I might turn to her for tips on stylish motherhood, too.***

Have any of you noticed your sense of style changing after your kids were born? Or your practice of style? I'd love to hear about it.
* I know! But it's totally me! At a Nine Inch Nails concert at Molson Park the day before I got my navel pierced. The flannel shirt is my friend P, who bought me my first Barbie in JK. We got married, in the same dress, within three months of each other, and gave birth within three months of each other, and were born within three weeks of each other. Our mothers went to teachers college together. Did I mention we have the same giant stroller? But she went flannel and I went Goth. We! Are! Individuals!

** Do you think I have a problem? Do other people do this?

*** BTW, she made these clothes herself. I'm 15 months old, and she's six months pregnant with my sister. Yikes.