Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Way the hell up north

We're off tonight--after an early dinner / bath / bottle routine for Munchkin--headed north on the highway for my parents' house. We'll arrive just before the late news, well after my mom's and dad's usual bedtime, but they will be up, waiting, and the lights will all be on. We will be staying longer than 17 hours, partly because it will take at least that long for Munchkin to discover all the surprises Gram and Gramps have laid out for her: new Christmas tree! ducks with decorations on them! outdoor lights! new pyjamas! party dress! library books!

For my part, I will be sure to check the state of the ceiling fans.

It's our first real break in a while: I'm handing back all my student papers and assorted grades in about an hour, and then it's blessedly blank time until the grad papers and the final exams all come in together next Friday. Pynchon will gladly let my mom push he and I out the door for time by ourselves, will gladly accept the cookies and beer and fancy-cable-TV they will press on him.

We're going to go up north and just be, just play, just drink tea, just hang out in our jammies, enjoying the grandparents enjoying our daughter.

But first we have to get the car packed get the tank filled get the class taught get dinner made set the thermostat down strategically turn lights on heat up the car snuggle Munchkin into a stupor get the driver some caffeine remember to refill the diaper bag head out into the dark night of late rush hour and possible winter weather.

After that? Then we'll relax. See you when we get back on Sunday.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Christmas baking by the numbers

[edit: now with 100% more babies eating chocolate from spatulas!]

Well! My sister and her oldest son (R, 12) came on Saturday to kick off Our Fun Old-Fashioned Family Christmas on the Breach. We pooled our resources, divvied up the recipes, lugged provisions home from the grocery store, and marked off our sections of countertop. We baked. All day.

Break it down!

84: dollars spent on sugar and fat and sprinkles and candy canes
3: number of dollar store reindeer aprons my sister brought with her
2: dollar store aprons proved to be defective in craftsmanship
4.5: pounds of butter consumed in our baking frenzy
6: varieties of seasonal treats created
84: number of Russian teacakes each dipped in icing sugar, hot from the oven, by me
2: hours it took for my fingers to regain feeling
5: hours spent standing in the kitchen, whipping softened butter together with icing sugar
4: packages of caramel Chipits melted in the soup pot
1: rolling pins destroyed by being used to pulverize candy canes and almonds, for bark
2.5: length in hours of Munchkin's nap, while baking was going on
13: number of months since Munchkin last had a nap of similar duration at home
7: number of Christmas CDs loaded into my iPod and shuffled on the kitchen stereo
27: years I have been making Russian teacakes
4: recipes provided by our mom, that we ate every Christmas in childhood
76: kilometres travelled by sister and nephew to use the Big Kitchen to cook in
9: time when, exhausted and sore, I went to bed that night
2: secret hiding spots where cookies are kept from Pynchon's midnight raids

Phew. All that typing made me hungry. Now, where did I put those cookies ...

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Wordless Wednesday

Spot five differences between the two following photographs, one carefully retouched:

Monday, November 19, 2007

2T or not 2T?

Last week I made a wonderful discovery: Old Navy makes diaper shirts in size 2T. I grabbed four long sleeve varieties, and a pair of pyjamas. De-tagged, and washed, and soft, they snap neatly under Munchkin's bottom without pulling down hard at the neckline; they cover the ends of her wrists and stop neatly just past the last roll of pudge that separates baby arm from baby hand; they curve softly over her belly without leaving impressions of seams on the skin at her ribcage.

In September, at her 15 month well-baby visit, Munchkin was inoculated and weighed and measured. At 29 pounds and 34.5 inches, she fell squarely into the 50th percentile. For two year olds.

Munchkin is big for her age--nine months ahead of the curve!--tall and full, and with a wild load of hair she more or less patiently allows me to pin up in little bobbles, pull back from her face, hold with barrettes, twist into pigtails. She counts, "One! Two!"; points out "Purple [Puh-poh] car!"; hops like a bunny and pats her dolly to sleep; tips her head and looks at me with mischief in her eyes as she reaches for a store display. "Backup! Backup!" she anticipates. People think she's older than she is and, while proud, sometimes I feel I'm losing my baby faster than I'm supposed to: she's only just 17 months old and she's almost too big too carry, and far too alert to coddle.

This year's hand-me-down snowsuit is size 18 mos: the arms are already on the verge of too-short. Long-in-the-torso like her mother, she still fits her 24 month pants, mostly, but the diaper shirts strain buttons and credibility alike. Renewing her wardrobe yet again, it was with shock that, at my local Bonnie Togs, I discovered that, to them, Munchkin is no longer a 'baby' at all. No. Now I shop for her at the front of the store, dismayed and aghast at the Brats-bedecked, sassy-messaged, glittery / spangly / beadazzled overdecorated mess of 'girl' clothing I am not supposed to outfit her in. But she's just a baby, a baby who still crawls and rolls and flails and needs diaper shirts to cover her belly, who needs sturdy and washable clothes. My baby! Wearing size three snowsuits and size three long-sleeved shirts and size 8 winter boots! It took me two trips to actually buy something, I was so unprepared for this shift from infant to child.

How silly to be upset about this! She's healthy and strong and growing and ... she's perfect. Just perfect. But I just wasn't ready to move out of the baby section and into this new girl world. Not yet. Not when she's just 17 short months old. Not yet.

2T, according to Old Navy, fits toddlers 30-33 pounds, 33-36 inches in height. 2T is stocked in the baby section. There are short- and long-sleeved diaper shirts, there are jumpers and cardigans, there are footie-pyjamas, and there are fleece-lined jeans, and corduroy pants with tiny, useless little pockets. With luck, she'll wear these clothes until the Valentine's chocolates hit the shelves. With luck, I'll still be carrying her close to me, her heart against mine, my bigger-than-baby, my not-quite-little-girl, wet boots staining my coat, wet nose burrowed in my scarf, comforted. My baby, my girl. Big, sure, and clever, oh yes, but still so new in this world, still mine.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Hi there, all 3000 of you

Edit! Now with fewer math errors!

Can someone tell me what the hell happened that I got 3000 hits yesterday and today? People, generally, if I'm lucky, I'll break 30. That my traffic has increased by a factor of 100 is a little surprising.

Still. Hi ... err, it's nice to meet you. All six-odd thousand of you. Can you take your shoes off before you come in? I'll try to find the biiiiiiiig teapot.


My parents visited us this week. For 17 hours! Yes, they spent more time asleep at my house than they did awake! To put this in perspective, it took them six hours to drive home, and presumably six hours to drive here. We were expecting them to stay for two nights, but they were itching to get back home. They arrived at suppertime and left before lunch. Afer the whirl of their in-and-then-gone-again trip, Pynchon and I sat dazed on the couch, and calculated that we had, in fact, spent more time cleaning the house in preparation for their arrival than they had spent, actually, basking in the soft wind created by our now-dusted ceiling fans.

Seriously. We dusted the ceiling fans. They were here for 17 hours.

Still, that was enough time for Munchkin to fall under the sway of Gram and Gramps. My mom is some kind of baby-whisperer. Generally, Munchkin makes strange with new people, but as soon as she laid eyes on Mom, it was all about 'Gram! Gram! Gram!' This morning, it was Gram she called out for when she woke up. But they were already gone home, Way the Hell Up North, putting up Xmas lights in anticipation of our visit there in two weeks.

It's nice to see how well they get on with each other, nice to realize that we are three generations of women now together, nice to feel my relationship with my mother maturing and changing now that we have grown our hearts to accomodate another daughter, a new mother, a grandmother.

But what a lot of housework! Any of you want to come visit, so I can pretend my house is this clean all the time (dusted the ceiling fans!) and get some mileage out of the sparkle before, inevitably, everything is once more covered in peanut butter and cat hair?

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Sleep like a baby

Oh, Sleep -- you crazy, feels like heaven, sweet oblivion, daily necessity, uncontrollable state, you. Sleep, I will love you always, but we're on a 'break' right now, trying to sort out our differences. I want more of a commitment from you, but you have concerns about my fidelity, my unpredictable fits of leaving you for the computer, the bathroom, Munchkin, or a guilty interlude with my own conscious mind. I know you're probably going to break my heart, or make me crazy, Sleep--I've seen what you've done to The New Girl and Bubandpie--but you feel so good, I can't give you up. I stray, but I always come back, even if you don't want to take me.


I want to sleep like a baby.

Last week, crushed under a pile of grading I couldn't seem to find the time to get out from under, I finagled a free pass from Munchkin's bedtime and headed out to Starbucks, exams in tow. As I tied my shoes and hefted the big backpack on my shoulders, I asked Pynchon if, in addition to bathing, dressing, combing, bottling, and bedding our little girl, he could possibly remember to pull her laundry basket out of her room for me?

He forgot.

He only remembered as he creeped softly down our old and creaky stairs from her room, empty bottle in hand, toddler tucked in and kissed. He pondered his options as he stepped over and around the squeaky boards we taught ourselves to avoid by reflex. Laundry? Sleeping baby! Promise to wife? Sleeping baby! Sleeping baby! The situation was dire, though: it was possible Munchkin might have to go to daycare in pyjamas if laundry was neglected for yet another day.

With manly resolve, and tossing oaths to the wind, he marched back upstairs, fully prepared to wake Munchkin up and start the bedtime routine all over. He opened her (squeaky) bedroom door. He strode across her (squeaky) bedroom floor. He fumbled open the (not quite square) wardrobe door. He pulled out the laundry basket, and, not realizing that an empty one was nested under the full one, heard one clatter to the floor. He picked it up and put it back in the wardrobe. The door got away from him and banged shut. On the way out of Munchkin's room, he bumped the full basket on the change table.

All to the accompaniment of stone silence.

Munchkin had been put down awake, and in the time it took Pynchon to get to the bottom of the stairs, make a decision, and climb back up again, she feel so soundly asleep that his Keystone Cops laundry basket retrieval exercise failed to elicit from her so much as a soft sigh.

How far we've come! We spent months trying not to breathe when she (please dear god please) fell asleep. For awhile, we made sure we were both upstairs when she went to bed, because we didn't want to risk walking past her door. We shot angry glares at each other for such transgressions as sneezing-during-the-baby's-nap. Now, we are coming to grips with the new information that we can make a ruckus not three feet away from her and she will either sleep through it or ignore us roundly.

I want to sleep like a baby. And start conversing above a whisper after 7pm.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Na! Blo! Po! Mo!

Now, with even more backdating! :-)

How behind am I? Well, the lovely Bon sent me some questions--questions that I asked her to send, mind you--more than three weeks ago, and I haven't answered them yet.

Whoops. They're great questions, too. So I'm going to answer them now.

1. what is your favourite book/work/text (choose whatever word is appropriate) to teach these days, and why?

Hmmmm. I'm teaching a literature class this semester, a graduate course in 'literary dystopias'.' I'm really enjoying it, because my students are just so bright and engaged. But, you know, the books are depressing and scary: Nineteen Eighty-Four, Brave New World, Player Piano, Stepford Wives, The Handmaid's Tale. I don't really enjoy the books all that much.

You know my honestly favorite book to teach? Really? Cheaper by the Dozen. As you likely know, it was recently-ish made into a terrible movie starring Steve Martin that related to the original text only by sharing its title. Shudder. The original details the true story of Frank and Lillian Gilbreth, and the home they shared with their eleven children (a twelfth died of typhoid fever before the action of the book begins). I teach the book in a graduate class on 'narratives of technology in the twentieth century,' because, in addition to being wonderful, funny people, with loads and loads of adventures in parenting to recount, Frank Gilbreth was a pioneer of motion studies, a science he and Lillian developed in order to increase the number 'happiness minutes' that people could fit into their lives. They figured that by making spaces and processes more ergonomic, people could do more work more easily and more quickly, as this work was measured in 'therbligs' ('Gilbreth', backwards-ish). Frank died tragically early, and with 11 kids to support, Lillian became a 'domestic engineer' and wrote books on how to design kitchens to reduce strain on homemakers, and made diagrams of the most efficient, least-difficult ways to make beds, for example. The three-station kitcher? Lillian Gilbreth.

I like the contrast between these kind, hilarious, loving, child-friendly people, and, say, Fred Taylor, the time-studies guy whose idea of efficiency was to take a stopwatch to the biggest strongest guy who shoveled coal, and then holding everyone else to that standard or threatened to fire them.

And the book is sweet, and funny, and humane. Did I mention funny? It's not a story my students think of as being about technology, but it kinda is.

2. you've posted pics from your hardcore days, though your aesthetics are more mainstream now...what will Munchkin find in you to rebel against when she hits teendom?

Oh geez. You've overheard us all the way from Atlantic Canada, talking about this? If she wants to hit me where it hurts, she will become boy-crazy and conformist. She will stop reading and pretend she is dumb. I honestly don't care what she looks like--I'd prefer more youthful piercings to tattoos*, because the nose rings come out when you change your mind. I would be heartbroken, though, if she plucked and dieted and mall-ed her way into super-conformity and looked like one of those interchangeable longhaired blond Ugg-wearing undergrads I can't tell apart from one another.

3. if you could apply a theme song, in hindsight, to your twenty-year old self and who she was and how she wanted to live, what would it have been?

Oh yeah baby! I had a lot of angst. It was a lot of Smiths, with a dash of Ministry. That is to say I was both lonely and looking for love, and defiant and aggressively defensive.

4. what makes you angry?

Incompetence and apathy. I nearly FREAKED OUT at Quizno's yesterday. Pynchon and I went for lunch, and it took us twenty minutes to get our sandwiches, and the order got fouled up. At one point, I actually stepped into the conversation between the hapless, whispering, probably new, definitely not a good English speaker girl at the cash, and the irate customer about to lose it. Finally having extracted from her the Caesar salad he had paid for, he had to come back again to get dressing. She was trying to explain to him that a Caesar has cheese on it. He asked for dressing. She talked about bacon bits. Pynchon sent me away to sit at our table. Two other employees lounged in the background, rolling their eyes.

Stuff like that: so simple, so really WRONG to get angry about, really, and yet? I lose it. Not a one of my better qualities.

5. if Munchkin had been a boy, did you have a name chosen? what would it have been, and why?

Ooooooh. We always joke about how it was lucky she turned out to be a girl, because the day she was born, we still hadn't settled on a name. And she was overdue, so really ....

We always wanted 'Jasper', but it rhymes with Pynchon's last name, and euphony is important to me. I liked Henry and Charles but Pynchon totally vetoed those as old-fashioned dork names. Our compromise name, actually, was Finnegan. So my heart leapt, Bon, when you asked: your first born was Finn, and every time I read about him my heart leaps because it's a name that was already in my heart, my if-it-was-a-boy, instead of my Miss Baby. Finnegan was our compromise name because it was stodgy enough for me but current enough for Pynchon.

So. That's that. There's 30 days in November, right?