Oh blogosphere, how I have missed you on my trip! And how many stories I have to tell you! But me voici en train de writing an academic paper pour a discours I'm giving tomorrow to the French department--my French was always bad mais c'est deprimant to find that the more French I write the worse my English gets. Je suis all messed up. And I used up the good picture from the trip yesterday so I should compose quelque chose plus consequent.
How about some random but insightful observations about campus life ... um, like, urrr, on university campuses you can easily find 18 year olds reading deeply and carefully in public? Or how about how campus is great because it's a well-landscaped pedestrian utopia, where everyone gets everywhere on foot? How this is very cheering to a 34 year old cynic?
That should do. Et je me penche encore a la tache enorme de composition ... and trying to remember how to type all the accents.
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
Oh blogosphere, how I have missed you on my trip! And how many stories I have to tell you! But me voici en train de writing an academic paper pour a discours I'm giving tomorrow to the French department--my French was always bad mais c'est deprimant to find that the more French I write the worse my English gets. Je suis all messed up. And I used up the good picture from the trip yesterday so I should compose quelque chose plus consequent.
Monday, February 26, 2007
We're back from our trip to Gramma and Grampa's house--the drive there was beautiful: we did 410 km in just under four hours, barely any traffic, not a speck of snow. And Miss Baby slept the. entire. way. there. with. no. squawking.
The drive back? Straight into snowstorm hell around Barrie, traffic compressed into one lane on the 407, and bumper to bumper crawling past ditched cars all the way home along the 401. White knuckle driving in an overheated car, just trying to keep the windows clear while our tempers frayed and we feared for our safety. But we made it, and Miss Baby was so profoundly asleep that we lifted her from her carseat to her crib, all the way upstairs, without so much as a stir. So she slept in her snowsuit last night.
As for what happened in between drive there and drive back, well, I'll need more sleep before I can tackle that, and my snowstorm headache is just now receding.
So for now ...
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
Gluttons for night-time winter-driving punishment, we are loading up the Family Truckster for a fun, good ol' fashioned family Reading Week vacation with my parents in Way The Hell Up North.
I was going to entertain you with the packing lists I had prepared for me and for Miss Baby, but even contemplating how much stuff we need to bring for her tires me -- comic genius or not, I can't even start to type it without hyperventilating.
We'll be heading into a winter storm watch sometime after having bundled Miss Baby from her bedtime-boobie into the carseat, in the hopes that she'll sleep through the trip, which is of a good 5 hours duration. In non-snowstorm conditions.
I just can't wait to get on the road again ... anyhow, we'll be back on Monday. Happy blogging!
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
Beck's recent litany of household absentmindedness, including, as she says, "blowing up small appliances, letting the kettle boil dry, forgetting my keys, locking myself out of places" has me itching to make her feel competent by reference to my own thoughtlessness.
This summer, I locked us all out of the house. We had to wait for a locksmith. On a Sunday night. In the dark. It cost $130. I'm a moron.
Ah, July. Such nice evenings for hanging out in the driveway, waiting for the locksmith, watching the traffic whiz by on your regional-road street.
Here I am, trying to look contrite and pitiful so that Pynchon will forgive me: who remembers to put the camera in the diaper bag, but neglects the house keys, for goodness sake? Just looking at this picture brings me back to that summer evening. Look at me wearing my maternity jeans, grateful that (unlike late in my pregnancy) they actually fit! Look at that big blue lump, sitting on top of the brown lump that is my postpartum belly! That's Miss Baby there--that blue lump in the sling. She's asleep, having had her fill of open-air diaper changes and open air nursings and several marchings around the block. Thank god the sling had come to the grocery store with us. Again, I remembered the sling, but not the house keys.
We are beginning to be able to laugh about this--we were lucky enough to find ourselves squatting in the best of conditions: a clear night, a trunk full of groceries (we opened some pop), a garage through which we could forage for camping chairs, and a bag of warm clothing that we kept meaning to bring to the Goodwill but never had. Club Monaco sweatshirt from 1989? Yeah, baby! Warm me up! We were also though, obviously, unlucky enough to be locked out of our house, with no spare keys in existence, with a 7 week old baby, on a Sunday night, with a cell phone with near-dead batteries, that allowed us about 5-8 minutes of call time. Did you know that it's not easy to find an on-call locksmith on Sunday nights in July? And that when you do, he will make you wait nearly two hours on your front lawn? While your cellphone dies and you have no way to contact him or he you? And then when he finally arrives, tell you you should get some spare keys made?
Yup. I'm a dummy. This was 100% my fault: I packed the sling, the diaper bag, the grocery list, the wallet, the camera, and the cellphone. But not the keys to the house, even though it was totally my job. Now that's thoughtless, um, not that there's a competition or anything ...
Monday, February 19, 2007
'Doudou' is the French word naming what in English we would call a 'comfort object' or 'transitional object': a 'doudou' can be a special toy, a blankie, a pacifier, whatever it is that a child will not go to sleep without, or in which she invests a special emotional energy.
Here is Miss Baby with her doudou, a cotton diaper. Her love for this tri-fold, blue-serged, deeply prosaic rectangle has only blossomed recently, and is manifest in the delighted kicks and squirms and smiles she can't help but indulge in when this precious object is dangled near to her. She reaches for it, pulls it tight to herself. She chomps down hard on one corner of it, pulling just as hard in the other direction with little clenched fits, her nose wrinkling with the effort. She rubs it against her closed eyes, against her ears. She holds it by one side and shakes the bejesus out of it, just to watch it fly. If doudou is draped over the shoulder of The Dada, she gratefully settles herself into it, a brief quiet pause before she rubs her face violently against it, fortified again for fun and games.
It seems an unusual object for her to fasten her affections to, perhaps, and certainly my mother imagines this to be due to some lack of planning or provisioning on my part (surely, surely! she has nicer blankies or a nice soft bunny or maybe a soother to which she might be directed?) but we might easily enough have seen that this rapprochement has been long in developing. Way back in September, even, we can see the two lovers entwined. This is a love of opportunity, an opportunity provided by the sheer abundance both of cloth diapers and of breastmilk, and cemented by Miss Baby's inattentiveness at mealtimes. Something of a messy eater in her early infancy, Miss Baby's mealtimes were rendered all the more exciting by an extremely active letdown reflex on my part: the conjunction of these two trends led to very frequent washing of the nursing pillow cover, and of similarly frequent post-meal outfit changes for Miss Baby. Finally, we hit upon the strategy of 'setting the table' before putting her down to eat. That is, I wedged a cotton diaper under her chin to protect her outfit, and under my boob to protect the nursing pillow. (Cotton diapers were in plentiful supply, as we were signed up with a service. Let them wash it, I say!) As it happens, Miss Baby regularly fell asleep while breastfeeding, and the process of moving her from nursing rocker to crib often resulted in the diaper remaining tucked under her chin.
This habit has developed into a fondness, an honest-to-god preference for these bits of cloth over all others. You have to admit, it's pretty practical: keep enough of these around and they can go into and out of the wash without anybody panicking over the loss; they are interchangeable and thus easily replaced if lost; they are of a convenient size to tote around; and in a pinch, they are very absorbent. Still, I never really imagined tucking my baby lovingly into her crib for the night, making sure to provide her with ... a diaper to snuggle. But I've put this objection aside when I realized the implied compliment: what distinguishes this bit of rag from everything else is that it smells like The Mama.
Sunday, February 18, 2007
I've been thinking today that not all of parenting is active, and that not all passivity is inert. I've been thinking about the idea of resistance, and its part in my role as The Mama.
Miss Baby has long had a somewhat annoying habit, of pushing her legs very hard against my upper arm while she is breastfeeding. Her reach, push-wise, exceeds my capacity to move my arm out of the way, so I usually just try to find a way to pin her leg in my armpit in order breastfeed in peace. She started this so young I used to tell myself that she didn't know what she was doing. But it is clear that now, at least, she does. She is pushing deliberately. She has recently taken this habit and extended it throughout her day: she pushes herself standing off my legs, she pushes hard with her arms against my chest when I carry her. The corollary to this habit is the pulling: my glasses off my face, my arm while she feeds, my ear while we snuggle, my nose when she is examining my face, my hair whenever she is able. Do not discount, either, the flailing, the lunging, and the bucking: with her arms, legs, and torso so unpredictably thrown around, there are headbutts and face-smacks and near-drops aplenty.
Her strength and speed and will astonish me. Slamming her heels hard into the change table, lunging head first from my arms into a wall, flapping her arms onto the breakfast bar, and bucking her head onto the floor while playing, she is delighting in her own physicality, but at the cost of some painful bumps. And so I hold her, let her push against me so that I can catch her if she flails too far. Let her bang her head into my nose, because I'm a more forgiving surface than the bedroom carpet. The resistance my body offers her helps her learn the limits of her own strength: it helps her know where she ends and the world begins, from the safety of a mother's embrace.
Of course, the resistance I offer to her is not all absorption of blows. No. I find delights of my own in the meetings of her body and mine. She's becoming something of a snuggler, and it's a different sense of mass and form I share with her when she melts into my shoulder, absentmindedly picking at a mole on my neck. It's another kind of resistance entirely when she sinks into me when she nurses, a different sense of the relation of her body to mine, of what it means to be distinct but enveloped. Safe.
We have begun the dance that will surely define our relationship for as long as it endures: a pushing away and a pulling closer, a friction and a joy at the boundary between me and she. And so I add 'resistance' to my The Mama toolkit. I learn something new every day.
Friday, February 16, 2007
As you know, I'm back at work full-time, since December. Since about the middle of January, we're really hitting our new groove as a family comprised of one career woman, one stay at home dad, and one baby.
But I'm worried about the distribution of labour.
Parenting-wise, I have it pretty easy of late. I'm up with Miss Baby first thing in the morning (usually a very reasonable 7-7:30am), when we snuggle and breastfeed and get the house ready for the day: we open blinds and make the beds, refill the wipes or the diaper basket. She smells like a baby and I sniff her head and hold her close while she takes her time coming into her more active daytime self. We wander into the kitchen for breakfast, Miss Baby on the counter in her Bumbo chair, and me reading her the headlines from the breakfast bar while she coos at PCK and the cartoon dude on the Mini Wheats box. Recently, we've begun to have breakfast at the dining room table -- she, munching somewhat inefficiently on Cheerios in her high chair, and I, sucking milk through my Mini Wheats and reading the paper. I remove her from the high chair, and we make a game of 'find the escaped Cheerios'. More snuggling, and usually some laughing: this is the best and happiest part of her day.
By the time The Dada is done showering and shaving and dressing, I'm basically off-shift until I come home from work at about 5:20-5:30 ... or 5:40-5:50. Then I play with Miss Baby and feed her some supper and play some more, and Pynchon helps with her bath, and I breastfeed her to sleep and tiptoe out of her room by 7:45. It alternates between high-energy fun and silliness, and more sedentary activities that she enjoys. She goes to sleep readily and easily. She rarely wakes at night anymore.
In sum, my weekday shift is pretty easy: no naps, no long stretches alone in the house, no staring at all the cleaning and renos that need to be done, no major outfit changes or numerous diaper changes. I get the happy morning snuggle time, and the activity-filled and also snuggle-intensive supper-hour to bedtime shift.
I'm skimming the cream from the parenting milk bucket (urr, wait, I am the parenting milk bucket. Poorly chosen metaphor ...). It's hardly fair. Come the weekend, The Dada is, as you might well imagine, a little burned out. And yet here we are on a Friday evening after a long week of cold and shoveling and plumbers and more, and Pynchon sends me -- me! -- off with my friends for dinner tonight. So, just to be clear, he was on shift all day, and then fed her, bathed her, and put her to bed tonight. While I was out carousing.
I started here to write a sentence about how guilty I feel, but that would be about me: what I want to write instead is what a good man Pynchon is, how very very generous he has shown himself to be, as a husband and as a father. It is my goal as this marriage proceeds to model more of my behaviour on his. And to let him know just how much he means to me.
Thursday, February 15, 2007
It frustrates me to no end that my mother has so little detailed recollection of my infancy--indeed, she asked my sister, on the occasion of my most recent birthday, just how old I was, exactly. In her defense, she doesn't want to remember how old she needs to be in order to have a 34 year old daughter, and this forgetfulness is likely one I too will develop as the years pass.
Still! It's not much help, when Miss Baby is red-cheeked and crabby, for me to ask when I cut my first tooth and be met with: "Well, it was before you were one, because we can see your teeth in the photos from your birthday." Umm, thanks Mom.
So. I'm not going to let the milestones get past me! No sir! But I'm going to try to focus on the really important stuff. Yada-yada, teeth (2, both at once, on November 17), yada-yada rolling over (December 1, both directions), yada-yada solid food (December 12, and chronicled right here!). Phooey. I'm sure Gramma, making up for the deficits in record keeping in my own youth, is charting all this quite carefully.
Here's what I want to remember:
Miss Baby learned how to splash in her tub,
deliberately, for effect, and to her great delight.
Anyhow. Pynchon and I were bathing her together on the kitchen counter. We got to yakking away to each other, as we do, when our attention was summoned by some truly vigorous giggling and squealing. Miss Baby drew her left arm straight up. Miss Baby smacked her left arm right down. Much water was displaced, largely onto her own face. Laugh. Repeat. And repeat and repeat and repeat.
We were just entranced--our baby daughter learning cause and effect with such evident pleasure. It's like we could actually see her getting smarter. And the laugh. You know, you know how once you hear that laugh, it's in your heart forever. I don't need to tell you.
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
I was lying in bed this morning, right about when my eyelids just sort of popped open of their own volition and before I had begun to move around, wondering how I feel about Valentine's Day.
On the one hand, it is in fact a fairly outrageous cash grab holiday, a misery amplifier when you're single, a guilt-provoker if you're not, and a sure-fire wallet emptier if you try to eat dinner anywhere other than your own home.
On the other hand, Pynchon and I are romance idealists: we like to do kind and silly things for each other, just to proclaim how much we're in love.
More particularly, now that I'm married, my feelings have changed.
On the one hand, love is so much more than carnations and paper hearts, so much more than red lingerie and gaudily packaged chocolates, so much much more, in fact, that to emblamatize love with these symbols is to do it the strong injustice of cutifying the most powerful force in my adult life.
On the other hand, isn't it nice to have a chance to reconnect with your inner romance idealist, to pretend you're dating your dear love again?
But today is not a day for musing. Soon, I heard Miss Baby stir, and discovered, as I turned my head preparatory to getting out of bed, that I had pretty seriously buggered up my neck and shoulder in my sleep. Yup. I injured myself sleeping. I can't really lift stuff or turn my head or gesture without squeaking in pain. Next, it transpires that a massive snowfall landed in and around our yard last night: it took Pynchon and I together to shove open the backdoor, mired in a snowdrift, so that he could go out and spend an hour shoveling the drive and the walk. Now I'm hobbling gimpily around with Miss Baby, trying not to turn my head. After a nice round of amateur turd catching, I attempt a flush and discover that the toilet is no working. Not clogged, mind: just not working, as no water is entering to refill the tank. Then cold water disappears from all the faucets in the house. Did I mention I'm still in my jammies when I'm usually at work? And that I can't turn my head?
So. I got to work a good solid two hours behind schedule, and teach a graduate seminar in which it seems fairly clear no student actually comprehends what is going on. And I dash off during the break to pump, only to find that the bottles are still in my bag in the classroom in another building. And Pynchon calls to say we have to cancel our dinner plans because the plumber is going to show up between now and never, and he can't leave.
As I say, not a day for musing.
But what I'm left with is this: I'm in love love love, and no neck-pain-broken-toilet-confused-grad-students-late-for-work-plumber-hostage-situation-massive-snow-dump general bad day pissiness can take away from that.
And just thinking about the contrast between my love and my day is making me feel pretty good about life. But I'd still feel better if some serious muscle-relaxant medication was involved.
Happy Valentine's Day, momosphere! May your driveways be shoveled, your toilets operational, and your children well-behaved!
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
I've been thinking about the discussion over at Bub and Pie's today. It links, I think, to something that I've been trying to work through in my head for a long time, namely the boundaries between me and she, The Mama and The Offspring, Mimi and Miss Baby.
Here we are in matching outfits -- not unlike the mocked mother/baby pair in the Time article B&P linked to. For the record, Pynchon dressed her that day, after I'd got ready. And for the record, I found it absolutely adorable. In some measure, procreation is about extending our own selves into the future: who will care for me when I'm old? who will carry on the family name? who will remember me? who will bring forth this prominent shnoz into the future so that our sinuses may honk out in perpetuity?
She, that is, is in some way a handcrafted extra me. This is why people name children after themselves. Miss Baby is a mini-mimi, as AlphaDogMa would have it (great phrase, btw). And so I can dress her the way that I like, send her to French school if I like, try to foster a left-wing perspective and a love of cottaging if I like. This is at once completely self-serving and, well, the job of parenting. If everyone is always lamenting about the lack of parenting in our culture, about television and the internet raising our children for us, what else is the alternative? To make an effort to raise our children in what can be seen as our own image is just another way of understanding what you might also call the active instilling of values. If I raise my baby to know all the lyrics to all The Cure back catalogue and to become a Fluevog afficionado and a chopstick-wielding vegetarian, how is this different, really from raising my baby to (say ...) go to church, be polite to her elders, and be seen but not heard? In both cases, values that are important to the parents are carefully instilled in the children. That's called active parenting no matter how you slice it. You may call my values shallow or inconsequential, but they are my values and it is my right to attempt to pass these on to my children. Maybe I want my little girl always to wear pants because I think they're more stylish and also practical. Call me a hipster doofus. Maybe my (ex) sister-in-law won't let her daughters wear pants at all, for religious reasons. I'm to be mocked because I'm an urban ideologue? And she's a 'traditional parent'? The differences are of content, not form, here.
The article's author may take issue with what he sees as hipster parenting. But it's parenting. And in any case, sooner or later, the kids will speak for themselves, and the negotiation of boundaries and beliefs will begin. Maybe Miss Baby will turn out not to be a jeans and black turtleneck kind of gal. Maybe she'll vote Tory and listen to Celine Dion. I can't help but try to raise her to believe the things I believe, to hold dear the things that I hold dear. Otherwise, what will she rebel against as a teenager and return to in her twenties? :-)
I'm being a little flip. But I think the basic point still holds. Making fun of stylish, affected, and opinionated parents is really to pick on the values that they are aiming to instill in their kids--but really, parenting is all about making these attempts. And unlike the author, I applaud the parenting energy and attention that goes into the attempt, even if I may disagree with some of the values transmitted.
Monday, February 12, 2007
Did you know that if you Google the words "baby ate philodendron", this very blog is the number three hit? I know this because Sitemeter reports that today some similarly hapless parent to myself undertook this very search, and came here for succor. At least briefly. So, to you, Massachusetts parent of plant-chomping child I say: Everything is going to be okay! But don't call the 1-800 number in the photo, because I think it's for Canada only ...
Anyhow, I called Pynchon to tell him of this latest proof of the Internet's moving in mysterious ways (you know, how we were doing this very search on Friday, and are now the target of this search) and he said, self-consciously, "Great, now the whole Internet can find out about how I almost poisoned our baby."
But I'm thinking: doesn't this just point to how very very normal we are?
Sunday, February 11, 2007
I think Miss Baby and I are finding our weekend groove, by which I mean that each of us is getting, more or less, our needs met without conflict.
To wit: we have taken two major excursions in two days, both wildly successful. Saturday was our once-monthly mommy group lunch, four ladies and four babies, and a potluck feast. In the past, we've had to come early or leave late because of naps and moods and generally I'd resigned myself to just gritting my teeth for the car yelling and the snowsuit protesting and the strange-making that seemed necessarily to come with a nice hour with the ladies and the babies. But yesterday! No yelling! No too-tired meltdowns! No car freakouts! I think--holy smokes!--I think, by gum, she had fun. And so did I. Who knew?
Today, we drove to Nearby Town to see one of my best friends and her family. The last time we went, with Pynchon, Miss Baby screamed for most of the 45 minute drive there and back: I cried, Pynchon cried, there was not enough Tylenol in the house for everyone. This was the incident that provoked our car trip moratorium and led to our abandoning mobility in favor of quiet lo these many months. Apparently, now we can have both: she slept 35 minutes on the way there, and the rest of the drive quietly talking to herself and her toys. On the way home, she slept 60 minutes, a milestone unmet for at least three weeks. In between the going and the coming, she charmed friend and family and was a general treat to be around. I caught up with my friends and felt my soul enlarge as a result.
To repeat: Miss Baby and I have left the house and come back to it, without incident. We have socialized with ladies and babies and dogs and cats, without incident. We have bundled into and out of snowsuits, into and out of car seats, without incident.
If this is life with a baby, I'll take it. Gratefully.
Friday, February 09, 2007
By the time I got to school this morning, I was a little frazzled. It was 11:25. I was starving, I had to go to the bathroom, both boobs were rock-solid painfully full, and I was meeting a student at 11:45 and another at 12:00 before a major meeting at 12:30.
So I dumped hats / boots / mitts / coat on the floor, popped open the computer to prep for the meeting, and shoved a fistful of almonds into my mouth while pumping, having stuck a 'back in 5 mins' sticky note on my door in case either one of my students came early. I thought I had the situation under control (don't you think?). Then the phone rang. The cell phone. In my coat pocket. I knew it must be Pynchon so I put down the almonds, but remained tethered to the pump while digging around for the phone. The line popped out of the machine. I found the phone. I rehooked myself. I answered.
Miss Baby tore a chunk off the philodendron on the kitchen counter and, possibly, ate it. What to do?
Hold on. I'll call you back. Lemme look online.
Google offers many eBay auctions and nurseries. I refine my search terms. Twice. Philodendron, it appears is poisonous. I call Pynchon back right away (I'm still eating and pumping and watching the clock for my first student meeting.)
Sweetie? How does she look? [angry and upset, and she's drooling like ten babies] Did she swallow any? [Can't tell] Call the doctor and then call me back.
Now my first student is knocking on the door, and I'm trying to disentangle myself from the pump and put it all away. I hide the bottle of milk under my desk. Student A enters. Pynchon calls back. Doctor's office closed for lunch.
Hold on (I say to my student). Let me look up the number for Poison Control (to Pynchon). Call me back.
Student A gets her concern addressed. Leaves. I try to pump a second bottle before Student B comes. Pynchon calls back. Philodendron is poisonous in the sense that it is a strong irritant. To the mouth. Miss Baby will be fine.
Student B comes by and I hide a second bottle of milk under my desk. By the time she leaves, I can just barely nuke a cup of soup, which I bring to the meeting with me. Maybe tomorrow I'll go to the bathroom.
Thursday, February 08, 2007
I don't mind telling you that since Her Bad Mother tagged (and linked) me yesterday, my traffic here has increased. It has, in fact, more than quadrupled. So lots of you have never been here before, so I wanted to say: WELCOME! I know that whenever I follow links from a site I like to a new site, and there's an archive and what seem to be continuing conversations, I feel a little awed and a little awkward, so I just thought I'd tell you were just folks over here.
In fact we're a little embarrassed.
If we'd know you were all coming over, we would've at least brushed our hair ;-)
Wednesday, February 07, 2007
Ow! Her Bad Mother just whacked me on the forehead with the meme stick, so now I'm compelled to tell you six weird things about me, if the concussion hasn't wiped my memory clean.
Um, where were we?
Oh. Right. Six weird things. This is surprisingly easy. Uh-oh.
1. I have been struck by lightning. Yes, that's right. The year was 1995. The location? York University. In the midst of a massive rainstorm Vampire me and Goth boyfriend were tussling over our (obviously) giant, black, Victorian style umbrella--the kind with a big long metal spike sticking out the top, kind of like, oh, I don't know, a lightning rod--when we ducked under the metal staircase at the back entrance of Curtis Lecture Hall when GRZZZZZTTZZAPP! Big blue flash of light, umbrella suddenly twenty feet away, boyfriend and self uncharacteristically circumspect and very hungry. Twenty minutes later, over panzerotto in York Lanes, we deduce that numb hands and foggy brains and, um, big blue flash and crashing noises indicated likely lightning ricochet. At least it hit the staircase first, right?
2. I appeared in an episode of Kids in the Hall. Still at York. I have an agent, and I go work occasionally as an extra. This story could be about how I played a (non-speaking) drug dealer on Top Cops, but Kids in the Hall is much cooler, non? Anyhow. Kids in the Hall. Filmed at dawn at an outdoor cafe somewhere in Rosedale. It's the 'short' where Bruce McCullough is playing a wannabe film director trying to impress a girl, and the film within a film shows two people who might meet, but never do, and Bruce-the-Character laments to the girl that he really needs a crane shot to do it right, as a crane shot pulls back on the cafe. I'm the Goth in the Siouxsie and the Banshees shirt 'drinking' and 'eating' directly behind Bruce. I saw the episode at 2am on CBS about a year later, at my summer job working nights at a group home for developmentally handicapped adults. I was folding laundry and watching TV and then I was all, "Hey, is that me on TV? Huh."
3. I have a club foot. Yup. Byron has a club foot and I was an adult before I knew that. (Q: How many English degrees do you need to get before you discover a canonical poet has the same birth defect as you? A: Three.) An evil dude in The Birth of a Nation has a club foot (Thaddeus?). And David Lynch. And Josef Goebbels. And Dudley Moore. My people, well, the world might be better off without us. Except maybe for Byron. I'm just saying. Anyhow. If you look closely (and past the swelling), you can see that left foot and right foot might as well be from different people, for all they resemble each other. And they're different sizes. Left foot: size 9. Right foot: size 7.5. Weird, eh? I mostly can't wear open toes or really delicate slip ons. Mary Janes are my friends. Boots, even better. But you'd be surprised. Also, my calves are different sizes, and my right leg has a kind of sloppy scar from the (mangled-ish) ankle-bone up to the widest part of my calf. But surprisingly few people ever notice this. This is how I learned the difference between right and left as a child: right side is small-foot side. Beat that for a mnemonic.
4. Everything--everything--makes me queasy. I get motion sickness watching Pynchon spin Miss Baby in his arms. I get motion sickness looking down to do up my seatbelt in the car. Boats? Only the horizon line is my friend. I have to sit at the front of the bus: back is burfy. And I have to face the front on the subway. Always. I will never be an astronaut.
5. I made a Cabbage Patch doll. In enrichment class. Ah, northern Ontario. So pedagogically advanced, so rich in resources for the nurturing of 'gifted' children. My fellow girl-nerds and I, from grade four to grade seven, suffered a once-every-eight-days course of enrichment sewing. I mean, Cabbage Patch dolls were all the rage. But enrichment sewing? (The boys did enrichment shop, if you were wondering.)
6. I once wrote a word processing program from scratch in BASIC. This was in high school. I was the only girl in grade 12 computer programming. Everyone else made video games, and I wrote a program that let you enter text, create and rename files, do find/replace on words or phrases, and print stuff. Seriously. I was a writer masquerading as a programmer. If we'd had the Internet, maybe I'd've programmed a blogging application :-)
7. I put sugar on my peanut butter toast. People tell me this is weird, but I find it tasty.
14. I hold myself accountable to my inner six year old. That is, I have a very clear image of myself and what I wanted at that age for myself when I became this age: in a lot of ways, six-year-old Mimi is my WWJD? Do other people do this? Think of themselves at a younger age, in the third person? As a going concern?
Phew. I'm going to tag Not So Sage, who, having eloquently described for us what is 'normal', will surely be up to the task of 'weird.' I'm also going to tag Jenifer G. at Rosebud and Papoosie Girl, because I want to know what lies under that so-reasonable demeanor ...
Tuesday, February 06, 2007
No really, this is a post about poop. The faint of heart should turn away now. It's gonna start cute and then veer into ... ewww. Seriously. Don't say I didn't warn you. After all, I did blog this, too, so clearly I have no sense of decorum, poop-wise.
Here's the cute part:
Yes, it's part tee / part iPod, and yes, it says 'iPood' and the button on the clickwheel says 'Change Me'. Ha! Pynchon bought this shirt for Miss Baby largely to make me laugh: I'm a Mac devotee, and I'm obsessed with Miss Baby's poops.
And now that I have such a gosh-darned cute photographic pretext to raise the subject, I can finally tell you the awful, hilarious, gross, does-this-happen-to-other-people-? truth.
Miss Baby is a fresh air pooper.
That's right. She only seems to really, um, do the job, once her diaper is off and she's been wiped and prepped for a fresh one. She waggles her arms and talks to her toys. She sings. She puts her toes in her mouth, enjoying the ritual that my mother always described as 'airing it out,' and we call 'nudie bum time'. But then. WHAMMO! Her capacity to drop a major turd in the three seconds it takes to dump Diaper A into the bin (back necessarily turned) is becoming the stuff of legend in our house. The turd fairy drops some fairly hefty, unexpected gifts in that brief and apparently magical moment of non-surveillance.
Tired of these messy surprises, we began to wonder if we might see signs ... signs of an impending poop that might allow us to, urrr, put a Kleenex under it or something. And signs we have discerned. I won't go into detail here, but I can tell you the hallways around here ring with terrified cries of "It winked at me! I'm a goner for sure!" And so, sure of the poop to come, we stand at the change table. Kleenex at the ready. Waiting. For the turd (or four) that is so resoundingly certain soon to make its presence known. And then we march a series of heavily laden Kleenexes into the bathroom. We know better than to flush the first one. And Miss Baby continues to sing, and to play, interrupted occasionally by turning completely purple, or getting a look of terrible concentration, or sticking her legs straight out. The venue seems to suit her, and she's happy to stay on the table indefinitely, even if the whole process leaves her parents a bit icked out.
Sigh. Amateur turd catching. Do you think it'll ever make it to Olympic status? Exhibition or medal?
Sunday, February 04, 2007
This was The Big Weekend--an overnight trip to my sister's house in Exurbia. The plan was to drive there during Miss Baby's first nap on Saturday, then my sister, S., and I would drive into the Big Smoke to buy me some cool boots as a consolation for having suddenly become one year older. Pynchon would stay at S.'s and watch Miss Baby, and then in the evening, Pynchon and I would do dinner-and-a-movie while S. played 'Favorite Auntie'. After a no-doubt romantic night on the pull-out couch, we would head back home around the time of Miss Baby's first nap.
Got that? In retrospect, the plan seems a little ambitious. And, indeed, it all went to hell rather quickly.
Of course, I did in fact jinx it on Friday night, writing about Miss Baby's new and improved sleep habits. Like Her Bad Mother just wrote, I too have been waking up around 3am, baby or no baby, and just lying in bed worrying until I finally fall asleep. So I woke up at 3am, and then at around 3:30, Miss Baby began to talk to herself, intermittently but audibly, for an hour. An hour! So I listened. When she started hollering at 4:30, I was ready for the ten minutes of breastfeeding: it was actually a relief to have to intervene, to do something.
So I started the day a little tired. The drive was great, and S. and I made it into the city later than expected, but happy. We hit every shoe store on Queen and a good number (in desperation) in the mall. No worthy boots to be found. Apparently, it's spring. Did I mention we were both frozen to the core and dashing blindly from store to store in a biting wind? Ultimately, we left the city without a new pair of cool boots for me but with a raging tension headache from hunching up my shoulders for three hours.
Pynchon, meanwhile, had a something of a trying day, made more trying by a baby who wouldn't sleep, and an insufficient lunch. When we finally headed out on our date, an hour later than expected, he was crabby and starving and I was tired and headachy. In the background, Miss Baby was yelling her head off because her bath was too cold. Auspicious.
We drove to The Big Mall, twenty minutes away, where we were unable to find the restaurant S. recommended and couldn't find anywhere else to eat. We cashed in our pre-purchased movie tickets, and headed back out. We drove around Exurbia looking for a place to eat: grumpiness, hunger, tiredness, and headache increasing apace. We happened into a Chain Place that turned out to be so loud and bright and uncomfortable we abandoned our just-arrived drinks, settled up and left. Happily, there was a family-run Italian restaurant about 10 parking spaces away, and we were relieved to get in there.
You'd think this is where the fun part of the evening starts, wouldn't you?
It's not so easy to halt crabby/tired/headachy/starving in its tracks and it looked like the evening was going to go right off the rails, the kind of evening that makes tax preparation look like a more enjoyable time. I'm not going to lie to you: we had to grit our teeth and work pretty damn hard to be pleasant to each other. Tempers were short. Feeling were hurt. It got worse before it got better. And, amazingly, by the end of the night, it did get better. Better enough that we could describe the evening as a wonderful time: we were giggling and teasing each other and felt lighter and freer and younger and more a couple than before. We ran like children from the restaurant to the car, screeching in shock at the cold, and then laughing and bouncing in the car in desperate effort to warm up. We had fun.
When we moved to Ontario and got engaged, Pynchon always used to tease me by saying "There's going to be a MARRIAGE!" where you might instead expect to hear, "There's going to be a DIVORCE!"--you know, when somebody eats all somebody else's special snacks, or when somebody doesn't push the driver's seat back and somebody else bangs their knees on the steering wheel getting into the car. I've always really loved that idea: that we might be annoying each other now, but we're in this for the long haul.
So much of my marriage is sweetness and light--but significant parts of it are headache and grump, tired and hungry. You work with what you have, and you try to make the best of it.
And I have found that our efforts as a couple in this regard have paid nothing but dividends. Our ill-fated date was no exception. The ill-omens may have knocked us down, but they did not drag us out. To have managed to rescue the evening into something as pleasant as it turned out to be was, I think, a testament to the goodwill that Pynchon and I both try to keep at the forefront of our marriage, as much as it might slip during the occasional perfect storm of childcare frustrations, lack of sleep, physical discomfort, and rumbly tummies.
There's going to be a MARRIAGE: boots or no boots, pull-out couch or no pull-out couch, could there be a better birthday?
Friday, February 02, 2007
Well, it's Friday and I'm tuckered out. I think instead of a new and exciting post ... a post of updates to prior material! Woohoo!
1. I've been walking home from work all week! Woohoo again! Thank you all for your advice about how to manage all the gear that modern careers and modern mommydom seem to require schlepping around. The solution is: I can carry the laptop, but now I leave the breast pump at work, and only bring home the bag of bottles. This is a load I can actually manage. It feels great to be out in the fresh air.
2. Winter coats -- many of you suggested sharing this story with my mom. I thought about it. But you know, she's a dear and lovely woman and I love her to bits, but she is not much given to this sort of reflective nostalgicizing, if you will. She regularly snorts at me and calls me melodramatic when I muse in these ways in front of her. So it's a story that the collective you and I have enjoyed more than she would. Or perhaps I'm just afraid of her laughing at me.
3. CIO: it's a miracle. I have to say at the risk of a jinx that Miss Baby seems to be getting the point. She's been going to bed either with no fuss at all (because she's passed out while breastfeeding and being moved didn't wake her), or, more miraculous, a tiny fuss very soon given up. Tonight I bungled the drop (she woke as I put her in her crib) and she 'cried' about as long as it took me to leave her room and walk downstairs. One night last week, she cried her heart out. For one whole minute. I think we've turned the corner, at least until everything changes again, but I feel vindicated that a) she's obviously not scarred, b) it worked, and c) whatever crying she does now is simply token and quickly quickly self-soothed. SELF-SOOTHED, people.
4. I had a birthday this week. Now I'm 34. My sister and I are going into The Big Smoke to buy me some cool shoes and then she is watching Miss Baby while Pynchon and I go on a date! Hurrah!
Have a great weekend!
Thursday, February 01, 2007
This morning, after my usual comedy routine of getting ready to finally leave the house 45 minutes after I'd planned to go, I stopped to say hello to my neighbour, Bill. Yes, I was running a little late, but it would have been rude not to stop. Because he was shoveling my driveway. Again.
When we moved into our house in the summer of 2005, we joked that the most onerous aspect of the propertied life would be the shoveling, come winter. And we made sure to beat the rush to Canadian Tire in October (sigh) to procure our very own, our very first, family shovel. The occasion of the first snowfall saw both of us head out: one to shovel, and one to take pictures.
In our zeal, we did our neigbours' sidewalk as well; after all, they were very kind people, with children older than we were. It seemed a nice thing to do. We soon discovered that Bill and Helen were also zealous shovellers, usually out together, one of them sweeping the steps and the other clearing the driveway (they are rarely seen apart, and we like to think of them as a model for our own marriage in their quiet companionship). We also soon discovered that, if we didn't get out quickly enough, they would shovel our walk, too. Not wanting to look as though we expected this, we tried to repay the favour as often as we could, and to get out there to shovel first--it was mostly Pynchon, though, as I got pregnanter and pregnanter, if you will. Keeping up with the Joneses meant keeping an eye on the Weather Channel and always keeping the shovel at the ready!
This year, with Miss Baby being the handful that she is, we let the first couple of snows go by without shoveling, hoping that it would just melt. But if you live in Southern Ontario, you know it's been pretty snowy, pretty much every day for the last three weeks or so. And Bill or Helen has shoveled our walk and cleared the base of our driveway without fail every single day, pretty much. And our shovel sits unused.
Their kindness is simple, daily, and material: it is a help that we didn't ask for, but for which we are profoundly grateful. And so, this morning, I stopped Bill as he cleared the debris left by the plow from our driveway, expressing both my thanks and my sheepishness as Pynchon and Miss Baby waved at me from the front window. Bill cut short my effusions, tut-tutting that it was a simple little thing and he was out anyway. So kind.
So this is real life.
But real to me also is this blog and those who comment on it, and those blogs that I read and comment on, too. I've been spinning in my head all day a response to a newspaper article on a Calgary professor's new book on blogging; the article, also taken up today by Bub and Pie, indicates that the author disparages blogging as somehow less than real. The headline in my local paper ran "Bloggers removed from reality" and the article begins "Bloggers are living in a world where emotions may be real but everything else is makebelieve." There's a lot I could take up from this piece (for example, the idea of a monolithic blogosphere, rather than the numerous genres that all make use of a particular publishing format, as if novels and technical manuals were to be analysed together, because both took the form of books) but it's this question of reality that's most sticking in my craw today.
Does the blogosphere shovel my driveway? No. But does that make what I get out of writing and reading here any less 'real'? I started reading mommyblogs in desperation as a new mother--the blogosphere had answers my books weren't giving me, about exhaustion, and feeding, about isolation and desperation in addition to joy and comedy. The blogosphere, I wrote in my second post, allowed me to participate in a social arena at a time when circumstances denied me pretty much every other avenue of interaction. For a long time, nobody read my blog, but I loved writing it--it was a little something just for me, a chance to think and to write, and to think about writing. A dream venue! As I have gathered in some readers (if Bub and Pie can fill a small worship room with her regular readership, as she humbly writes, mine would fit into one of those vans that makes runs to the airports. You would all fit in with your luggage. You are few but you are lovely!)
Like Bub and Pie, what I've given up to blog is television and some less-worthy magazines. What I have gained is a new set of interesting acquaintances I feel might become friends, I have gained a new confidence in my writing voice, I have a fantastic venue for bragging about Miss Baby (!), and I have got lots of good advice!
My neighbours who shovel the drive because we have a new baby are real. But my digital neighbours who laugh at my jokes, tell me how cute Miss Baby is, and lead me to their own interesting stories are real, too. Both make my days a lot more pleasant.