Monday, October 29, 2007

Professor Mimi, limited time only!

Hi. Sorry for being such a crappy blogizen of late. Ms. Munchkin continues her sleep strikes (also known as 'teething') and, after all getting up at around 4:45 this morning for not the first time this week, we're all feeling, well, awful.

As a member of the waking dead-tired, I'm not too smart at work lately, so the deadlines approach and the tasks pile up and the grading does not go away on its own, and as I work on it all late into the night and then get up way too early in the morning, I start to feel that I'm burning out.

I do get a real lift, though, from posting and from reading your comments--as much as I enjoy reading your blogs too, which I've been trying to squeeze in here and there.

Anyhow. I wanted to post something, but I really don't have the energy or the time to craft something other than another pitiful list, so here's a proposal I've been writing for a paper I want to give at the 1ntern@tional Aut0bi0graphy conference in Hawaii this spring (it's getting harder to feel sorry for me now, isn't it?). I'd actually really like to know what you think--I'm only going to leave this up for a couple of days, because I'm sending the proposal off and I don't want to be traced.

So! For a limited time only ...

‘Mommy blogging’ is a phenomenon of the blog world, attracting vast numbers of authors and readers; its participants are increasingly hailed as a group by advertisers and aggregated as a definable ‘community’ in social networking sites like Maya’s Mom. Mommy-blogging is seldom a solitary or isolated activity, comprised as it is of tight networks of commenting, reading, and authoring.

However, to describe this space as a monolithic community is inaccurate. From a rejection of the generic label ‘mommy blogger’ itself to more serious disagreements about shared politics or experience, the ‘momosphere’ sees its denizens engage in a complex multimedia dance that steps into and out of community, asserting solidarity and individuality by turns. Blogrolls, ‘linky love,’ memes, sidebar buttons, and consistent and frequent commenting show affiliation and common-feeling among bloggers. Independence, by contrast, is often asserted in individual posts in which a blogger may express her anxiety about being subsumed into the larger group; such posts are usually sparked not in reaction to the immediate community of practice a blogger finds herself in, but rather in response to broad-brush characterizations of the ‘the contemporary parent,’ ‘SAHM’ (‘stay at home moms’), ‘working moms,’ or even the ‘momosphere’ itself in more traditional mass-media venues.

As Viviane Serfaty suggests in her analysis of blogging as an autobiographical practice, this genre is distinguished by practices that reflect this tension between self-assertion and community-belonging. Her notions of co-production, in which a text’s audience responds and thus collaborates in the diarist’s project of self-presentation or self-construction, and of blogging’s doubled self-reflexivity, by which a blogger investigates not only her own reasons for writing but also assesses the operations of the genre and the community it fosters, offer a rubric by which to understand this tension. Focusing on the momosphere’s response to its characterization as such in the mass media, this paper examines the strategies by which ‘mommy bloggers’ both act within this community, and assert their resistance to being entirely covered by this label.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

How many kids?

... can you fit into the back of a Toyota Echo sedan? Three, at least!

(Munchkin, you can see, is very very pleased to have the company of her cousins R, twelve and 'practicing looking annoyed' and H, six and obsessed with the baby toys just from the sheer novelty factor. We're on our way to an early morning parade, and my sister turned around and took this from the passenger seat as I was backing out of the driveway.)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Wednesday Weirdnesses

It's been one of those weeks where the little details seem significant or funny or weird, and so I offer you a grab bag of them. These little moments that stuck with me, I offer you in homage to Crazymumma, who is the queen of the vivid moment.


Yesterday, I finally unpacked a box of books that's been sitting unopened in my office since we moved here in 2004. Unsurprisingly, nothing in it was essential, and I decided about three-quarters of what was in there could, actually, go. So I put out some 45 books--romantic poetry, restoration drama, 1990s postcolonial fiction, some novels from a queer studies course, some theoretical takes on human sexuality, duplicates of classics of twentieth-century literature--out on a table in a common area, and asked the graduate secretary to send out an email. "Free books!" the email exclaimed.

This morning, the neat rows I'd laid out were completely undone. There were only about 15 books left, strewn about on the table like so many fallen soldiers on the field of a fiercely contested battle. Grad student buzz is all about the free books.

I feel good: I let go of a part of my past I don't need, made a lot of poor grad students happy, and feel a little more like a mentor and a little less like a student myself.


Munchkin, last night, got up at: 10:45, 12:15, 3:00, 3:40, and then at 4:00 she decided we had to come downstairs to play. For an hour. She went back to bed at 5, and we all got up at 6:45.

There's better be a whole mouthful of teeth in there the next time I manage to pry her jaw open.

"Meh-meh-meh," she says, grogglily, crankily, with a little bit of hopefulness in her voice as she rubs her eyes violently against the hallway light. Meh-meh-meh translates to me-di-cine, as in, give-it-to-me-now!


f the non-perverse Google paths to this blog, the very top of the head in terms of frequency and my page ranking are: the every-popular 'baby ate philodendron,' and all the variations of questions you can ask about misspelled foot-first fetal presentations--that is, 'breach' babies.

I think I'm going to put a link to the philodendron posts on my sidebar: I get about one hit a week from this search. What do you think?


Crazed from tiredness this morning, our little family lurched around sluggishly. While I tried to find pants to wear to work, Munchkin pinned Pynchon on the floor and sat on his chest to make her domination clear.

"She looks so much like you," he remarked.

"Why?" I asked.

"Because she's frowning."



Two coffee shop stories:

A. I went to the resto-café closest to campus to work yesterday, and the woman at the table next to me asked if I could watch her stuff for a minute. No problem! You know what she did? She went to the grocery store, and came back twenty minutes later with two full bags of food. I thought she was going to the bathroom. I must look very trustworthy.

B. In my haze this morning, I drove to coffee shop I used to frequent daily when we lived in an apartment near to the university. The owner, despite my new hairdo and despite not seeing me for at least two years, immediately recognized me, and commenced to chat. "You moved to a house," she remembered, "you teach at the university" and "you were just married then."

Wow. And all I could think was: "Geez, I wished I washed my hair or was wearing nicer pants or something."


Did I mention the teething? And the no-sleeping? It's been going full-tilt (and lurch, and slump) since Sunday night, and Monday we ran out of 'meh-meh-meh'. At 10pm.

Even if you lose the coin toss, and even if you are on your way to bed and even if it's really dark outside and even if you're really cold and even if you've been lulled into a stupor by two hours of watching Amélie in front of a roaring fire with the man who's now making you go to Shoppers Drug Mart? You still should not wear this to go out:

In my defense, I did in fact swap the Crocs for running shoes. But I don't really think it made much difference to the resounding don't-ness of this outfit, which consists of flannel pj pants with glittery stars on them, a massively oversized grey jersey from my undergrad days, and a grotty pink fleece that actually belongs to my sister. The mascara rings under my eyes from rubbing them all night are not evident in the photo, but they are there.

You may, though, admire my kitchen: I will disabuse you of your misplaced fondness for this room later.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Various idiocies, committed by me

Pynchon read my last post, and suggested I had possibly inadvertently adopted professor tone: "I liked your post ... it was a little, um, heavy at the beginning but the picture was nice."

In case you get the idea that I'm some rarefied genius, I'm going to share with you today two stories that reveal me in my much more mundane incompetence and social awkwardness.

Episode 1: Unintended sexual innuendo, double-double

Remember the daycare dis? I asked if any of you had said anything stupid while distracted by children. You were not forthcoming (I'm still happy to hear if you've got stories ...). So I open with this conversation, with the part of the fool being played by me.

The scene: Tim Horton's coffee shop. Six-year-old nephew and I are just dashing in from a full car of family after a snow-playing excursion in a big park. We need hot chocolate.

The players: Me and some random dad dude, supported by two hyperactive snow-suited children pulling at our pants and running around like maniacs. R, my nephew, opens the scene by running directly into this man's butt, catching both unawares.

The conversation:

R: "Bonk!"

Me: "Omigod, I'm so sorry." [to nephew] "R! Watch what you're doing." [to man] "I'm so sorry, we're just all hyper from going sliding."

R: "Bonk!"

Other child: [runs into R] "Bonk!"

Man: "Don't worry about it--I've got five kids."

Me: "Oh! Well, then, you must get bonked all the time."

[end scene]


Episode 2: Hearing voices

I tried to go to the track last night--it's at the local hockey arena, which, as it turns out, is closed to the public for a special event. So, all decked out in my track suit and runners, and with my water bottle and iPod at the ready, I came home. I checked my email, filed some bills, and then picked up the phone to call the babysitter to arrange for tonight's parental escape.

As I lifted the cordless phone from its base, I could hear, very faintly, a man's voice, talking. I brought the phone to my ear. Nothing. I turned the phone on. Dial tone. I turned the phone off. I don't hear anything any more. I turned in my chair to check the date on the wall calendar. I heard a very faint man's voice, talking, in a kind of 'public voice'. I put my head down near the computer. Nothing. I rolled my chair away from the computer. Nothing. Then, suddenly, the faint voice. I rolled over to the stereo: it was not on, and I couldn't hear the voice. Then I could.

I freaked out.

I called Pynchon over from the living room, where he had been sitting on the couch watching, bemusedly, my crazy behaviour, rolling and leaning and listening and poking at the electronics. "I hear a voice," I told him. "I can't figure out where it's coming from."

Pynchon investigated. He could hear it too, intermittently, but not as clearly as me. I have great hearing, and he, well, he worked in a glass recycling plant without hearing protection. "Hey!" he offered, "this happened to me last night--I was in the guest room and I could hear it, too."

We freak out quietly for a moment. We contemplate sharing our house with ghosts, or, possibly, needing to have all of our old mercury dental fillings replaced with the newer, non-broadcast models. We wonder if we are insane.

Then suddenly Pynchon burst out laughing and pointed at me. "You moron! That's your iPod in your pocket!"

And it was. I had bumped it and turned it on, and Bob Garfield of NPR's On the Media was expounding on the most recent torture scandal and how it was (under)reported on network television. It was faint, obviously, because the sound was coming through the earphones, in the pocket of my hoodie.

Pynchon had just remembered that his phantom voice came out of the earphones plugged into the laptop where he had been watching a DVD, but had put it aside go get a snack without first pausing the playback.

I think that makes us both dummies, don't you?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Brave New Boobs: A Post for the League of Maternal Justic

Last week, I taught Brave New World in my graduate seminar. You've probably read the novel--maybe you studied it in high school, or read it during your angst and cynicism phase. It opens, you will recall, with a disorienting and powerful scene, a tour of newly graduated junior professionals on a tour of their future workplace. As the chapter proceeds, it dawns on us that what they are touring is a factory that makes babies, concocting them in tubes, gestating them in bottles, and 'decanting' them into large peer groups raised 'scientifically' by professionals.

The nuclear family has been abolished, and even the idea of 'viviparous' reproduction sends shudders of titillated revulsion through all who so much as contemplate it. 'Mother' has become a swear word, a particularly smutty taboo utterance.

In the brave new world of the novel, hypercapitalism and rampant promiscuity are the guarantors of the economy and political stability respectively. "Everyone belongs to every one else" is the motto governing sexual behaviour, but this general sexual license has been totally and completely evacuated of its reproductive function: no mention, of course, is made of what might be done to the men of this world, but it is made clear that the vast majority of women have been sterilized even before birth, and that those who haven't are rigorously protected from pregnancy. The idea is that to have every sexual desire sated at the very moment of its awakening is to cut short the potential for strong passion--strong passion that might be directed, in its frustration, to ends more political than libidinal.

To sum up the lesson so far: in this projected future, sexual titillation and license is the norm, and the reproductive consequences of this act have been forcefully denied, both chemically (sterilization) and culturally (the creation of taboo against mothering). It is a sign of orthodoxy and good behaviour in a woman to make herself sexually available to anyone who asks, and an unforgiveable, even disgusting, fall from grace to become pregnant or to carry a child to term.

How startled I was to hear echoes of Huxley's dystopian vision in Bill Maher's insane proclamations about what kinds of boobs are acceptable for public viewing! How amazed I was to hear that Facebook has been labelling 'obscene' users who post pictures of themselves feeding their infants, deleting photos and cancelling accounts. My surprise soon gave way to a kind of strangled, helpless anger. It seems so obvious, doesn't it, that breasts are for feeding infants? That mammals--that category of animals in which humans are classified--are in fact defined by this very trait, this capacity to produce milk for offspring born small and helpless and very very hungry? When the League of Maternal Justice offered buttons, I put one up. Now they're asking for my boobs, and I offer them gladly:

Here I am, nursing Miss Baby (and apparently, rocking out) at a crowded, privately-run waterpark in my city last July. Miss Baby was 7 weeks old. She subsisted on nothing but breastmilk from early June, when she was born, until early December, when she turned six months old. In that time I breastfed her: at home; in three different shopping mall food courts, benches, and parking lots; in the breastfeeding room at Sears; at Movies for Mommies; in the park, on a bench next to the jogging trail; in my husband's office; in my office; at my sister's workplace; at my parents' house and the houses of various friends; on two airplanes, to and from Edmonton; in the local coffeshop/restaurant; in a local pub, on the patio.

She was eating anywhere from every 45 minutes to every three hours. I fed her in public because otherwise I would have never been able to leave the house, and I felt trapped enough, isolated and alienated enough, without that extra burden. I fed her shamelessly and happily: she was hungry, it was easy to feed her, and for GOD'S SAKE, THEY'RE JUST BOOBS. I never put a blanket over her head, because it was awkward and uncomfortable, and because she was a nibbler and a sprayer, and it was, all in all, much more discreet to just keep my eye on her.

I nursed Miss Baby until she was nearly 11 months old. It broke my heart to stop, to no longer feel her little nibble-nibble, to no longer be able to comfort her and feed her with just my own body, to no longer have that biological feedback cycle that keyed my milk production to her need, her desire. Too 'obscene' for you Facebook? Too icky for you Bill Maher? That's your hangup, not mine. I only wish I had more photos, more videos, to commemorate that special relationship.

Babies need to eat. And boobs were made for feeding babies. Anyone who wants to believe that breasts are only for the visual consumption of adult males? Maybe they should just stay home. They're offending me.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Snap! The daycare dis

I think! I may have had! My first run-in with a competimommy! I'm still reeling!

This morning, when I arrived at daycare with Munchkin, A--'s mom was just arriving too. I put Munchkin down and she ran over to her friends while I put her lunch in the fridge, filled out the log, and chit-chatted with the caregivers and with A--'s mom. A-- only recently started at the centre, and has been having a hard go of it, but today she seemed happy as she made eye contact with me, so I tickled her under her chin. As she smiled her big smile at me I noticed her shirt.

"Oh, isn't that funny!" I said to A--'s mom, "Munchkin has that very same shirt and she almost wore it today--see? She's got one on that's the same colour, but doesn't have the flowers on it."

"Really?" asked A--'s mom, with a near total lack of interest, "Yeah, I got this at Bonnie Togs. I bought A-- a bunch of cheapie clothes, you know, just for daycare."


I didn't quite know what to say: the reason Munchkin wasn't wearing her identical shirt was that it was so cute I wanted to save it for the weekend? that I bought pretty much all her clothes at Bonnie Togs? that I wonder what kind of baby has two wardrobes, with the 'cheapie' one reserved for the place she spends the overwhelming majority of her waking hours?

Maybe she thinks I'm rich or sophisticated or something and that I have two wardrobes for Munchkin, too. Or maybe it was totally a dis.

To be fair, it's possible that, as she walked out to her car and replayed the preceding five minutes in her head, A--'s mom felt like a total arse. It's possible that she's so stressed from A--'s difficult adjustment to daycare (no naps! no eating! no drinking! clinging and crying!) that she's too shell-shocked to make grownup conversation. It's possible she was just exchanging a personal detail from her daughter's wardrobe for the detail I offered from mine. It's possible she feels that I'm competing with her, because our daughters are two months apart in age, and mine is ten pounds heavier, several inches taller, and clearly very well accustomed to daycare (I did, in fact, note that Munchkin's shirt rides up over her belly, even though I bought it 24 mos size. A-- is wearing 12 mos, I am informed).

Still. "Cheapie clothes for daycare"? When I just told you Munchkin has the same shirt?

How about you? What do you think? Has something similar happened to you--or did you say something dumb to someone? Share your disses!

Wednesday, October 03, 2007