Monday, March 30, 2009

Accents, Hypercorrection, Neologism

For the most part, I leave Professor Mimi at the door when I parent. I just don't know how much good it does Munchkin to have a professional wordsmith/media theorist/lecturer preparing toast for her or tickling her belly. She CERTAINLY doesn't need Professor Mimi testing her IQ (as my mom did to me when I was three) or flipping flash cards at her or working on her alphabet. Mama Mimi is much more lackadaisical about achievement and is much less 'edu' and much more 'tainment' at home.

Still, sometimes, that PhD will have its way and I make note of stuff.

Accents: Munchkin speaks Spanish words ("Hola! Soy [Munchkin]!") with no discernible English accent. She mutters in French ("Bonjour! Je m'appelle [Munchkin]!") with no discernible English accent. She does recognize that some words are not in English, though, and sometimes she'll tell me she can't say them--she's getting an ear for it, and knows that English is 'her' language. I find that interesting.

Hypercorrection: Munchkin does have a 'Canadian' accent, though. We Canucks tend to drop some inner consonant sounds from our speech: thus "interested" is pronounced "inneressed", and "Toronto" is often "Trah-nah". Munchkin has this habit, to something of an extreme. For her, "mother" is pronounced "muh-er", for example, and "doudou" sometimes becomes "dou-ou". More inneressing (ahem) is that sometimes she hypercorrects--'hypercorrection' is a term that designates a self-conscious correctness that overshoots the mark, as when someone says "She went to the store with Daddy and I"--the correct form would be "Daddy and me" since that phrase is the object of the verb rather than its subject (whan-whan-whan-boooooring). So I notice that when Munchkin is trying to be precise, she overcorrects her consonants, such that "doudou" become "doutou" and "Daddy" becomes "Datty". Innnnnnnn-teresting.

Neologism: This morning, Munchkin told us she was a 'fast princess' and was going to "scanter" all the way down the hall. That's "canter" (like a pony) and "scamper" together. She does that a lot, makes up new words, or portmanteau words.

Professor Mimi just wanted to put that out there so that Mama Mimi can go back to scantering down the hallway without a thought in her head.

Hey now! Less thinkin', and more goofy!

*as a gesture of good faith in goofiness, I'm letting the improper parallelism stand ...

Friday, March 27, 2009

My girl, early spring

Do you ever stop and really look at your kids? It's funny how Pynchon and I can be with her so much, talk about her so much, and still I sometimes miss the big picture. I get caught up in the details, caught up in the moment. I see her in snapshots and glances. Think about how I write here, even: do you have a sense of Munchkin the girl?

My girl, early spring, 2009.

She's a silly kid, and what we hear most from daycare is how she's always cracking up the teachers. We also hear a lot about how she can be very stubborn and a little wily. Overall, I think she's a joker, a strong-willed girl, whip-smart, curious, full of hugs, imaginative. Like lots of kids, but still to us she seems to be so fully herself. How do you write that?

She likes raisins. She likes cranberries. She can't tell them apart.

She narrates a lot, which probably comes from reading a million books every day, thus: "The baby pony said, 'WAAAA, Momma, I WANT you,' and the mommy pony said, 'Go back to sleep,' to the baby pony." She can name all the books on her shelf, and knows most of them by heart. She knows a million nursery rhymes and likes to singsong them with me. She likes us to leave her "door open a little bit" when she goes to bed, so she can read her book. She prefers to lie in bed in the morning, and to get us in there with her, rather than get up.

Every night after her bath she pulls the plug out, puts it on the head of her toy seal, and says, "Mommy seal is a baker and she is baking muffins, said Munchkin". Every night after her bath she barks ("Yarf, b-barf ... AROOOO") and I wrap her up like a puppy and dry her off. Usually, I have to ask her to use her "inside puppy voice." She streaks down the long hallway to her room, laughing, a steamy naked thumping toddler in full flight.

She loves: Dora, Toupie and Binou, My Little Pony, some tiny cat toys shaped like mice. She loves: jumping in puddles, climbing Mount Daddy, creating snuggly 'puppy nests' in the living room and in the guest room bed. She likes pretending all her animals are sick and need to go to the doctor. She likes to comfort them and wrap them up and scold them for making noise.

She can: look at upheld fingers, cheerios on the floor, or a scattering of books and tell you, without counting out loud, how many are there. She can: do 'yoga' and dance like crazy, put her own pants on, get her jacket on, her own boots. She negotiates her outfits every day. She is always asking if it is the weekend, if she can stay in her pajamas all day. She likes to play in the yard, and she likes to putter around the house. Upstairs for a while. Downstairs for a while.

She gets out of bed, out of her room, stands at the top of the stairs and shouts down, tentatively, "Moooommmmeeeeeee .... pick up my book ..... it fellllll on the flooooooor."

She stands on the stepstool and helps me make toast every morning. She carries it to the table, and puts it on the placemat she has arranged all by herself. Pushes up her own sleeves and asks for her bib. She interrupts the grownup conversation whenever she feels it applies to her. And sometimes when it doesn't.

She has a wicked temper that, once set off, will not be quelled until it has run its course. She is very very attached to me and can be very stubborn about being near me. She is also a very sweet, affectionate girl, full of "I love you" and "Would you like a kiss-o?" She surprises us with compliments: "Daddy, you look very handsome!" and "Mommy, you look like a princess!"

She hums to herself whenever she walks down the stairs. She pauses at the top before descending, trying to figure how to carry a doudou and a 'friend' but still hold the railing. This process can sometimes take awhile.

Her favorite food is grilled cheese. She would prefer if we served it to her, also, with "cheese on the side of the plate, too."

Just a kid, but my kid, as I'm always telling her. "Mommy loves you!" I remind her, a hundred times a day, "because you are .... ?"

She tucks her chin into her chest and states, sure as anything " ... your precious daughter."

Yes, she is.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

WW: Now that's more like it

In answer to what I had indeed been hoping was a rhetorical question ...

Ahhh, spring! You came! Soggy and grey, just like I remembered--but we've got the sun on our feet and held up above our heads

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Friggin' Twilight Books

Friggin' Twilight books. Lessee: Auntie Soo-See handed over all four of them to me on Sunday, and today is Tuesday, so, yeah, I'm on the third one.

Friggin' Twilight books. That is all.

NOPE! Not all! I cannot stop reading them: they are page-turners. I simply must know what happens next. And yet, what happens next is sometimes (old papery-skinned European underground cabal of vicious vampire overlords?) what happened a long time ago in some books you might have heard of by .... Ann Rice? And! The opening chapter is always a little too Sweet Valley High in its recap of what's going on in the series? (I'm pretty sure about that: I've started three books in three days, and I'm getting familiar with the pattern.)

And worst! BELLA SWAN IS A ZERO! I had hopes for her. Strong-willed, pissed off and moving to Forks, perfectly willing to be miserable. Smart girl, reads a lot, not a looker, really, kind of a dork, seems interesting. But then, by page 50 of Book One, she turns into a zombie. Not the zombie she describes herself as in New Moon, affectless and hollowed out by loss, but a zombie from the get-go: after her Nancy Drew sleuthing with young Jacob Black and her dream-epiphany that Edward must be a vampire? HER WHOLE FRIGGIN' PURPOSE IN LIFE IS ... TO BE NEAR HIM. Consider all the conniving--street assaults, cliff-diving, motorcycle riding--she does in New Moon, willfully endangering herself just to hallucinate his precious undead voice.

Girlfriend needs hobbies. Something beyond cooking dinner for Charlie and throwing herself perpetually at Edward. She likes to listen to music ... oh wait, that's just to show how her taste is the same as Edward. She reads books ... oh wait, that's to show off Stephanie Meyer's English degree and to mark formal parallels between Twilight and Shakespeare. She likes horror movies ... oh wait, she's just trying to avoid watching romcoms that will remind her of Edward. I think she might actually like the truck. That's a pretty pitiful set of interests.

Bella! Damn you! Like a Disney princess, you are torn between the custody of a weak, waffling father and the perfect man. Your mother has been infantilized and moved to a purely offscreen role. Somehow, she is blameworthy and banished. Like a Disney princess your whole sense of self revolves around your sense that your love object loves you back. You will give up anything to be with him. Like a Disney princess all of your creative energy is devoted to securing and maintaining this relationship. You've got a little more nerve in expressing your sexual desire, but other than that (and the fact that you don't like to dress up all beeootiful-like) I don't see much difference. Between you and the Disney princesses, whose boxed set of books spent one day in this house before Pynchon and I, horrifed, made them disappear.

And yet. Can't stop reading them.

Am appalled.

Also, fascinated. Still, very very appalled.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

WW: And now ...

... for something completely different. Behold, the 'clown b00b dance'. Special thanks to my husband, the inimitable Pynchon, for allowing me to share this with you:

Monday, March 16, 2009


I was so angry I could hardly see straight. My breathing had become shallow and I could hear a ringing in my ears. Tears were springing to my eyes and my arms and legs jangled, looking for something ... to kick? to punch? I stormed into the house, trying to hide my anger from Munchkin, a blameless bystander to this emotional storm. I hugged her, kissed her, took off her boots and patted her off by the bum in the direction of Daddy.

"Where's Auntie Soo-see?" he asked, innocently.

And that's when I had to leave. She was an hour and a half late, and I thought I was angry because I had made her a hair appointment with my own stylist and she was due in the chair in five minutes. I jumped in the car and went to have my own hair cut in her stead.

But that wasn't it.

In my heart, it was 30 years ago. My sister and I were dressed in matching outfits--maybe it was pink frilled Easter dresses, little white socks and shiny patent leather shoes; maybe it was rubber boots, jeans, and thick hooded sweatshirts; maybe we had suitcases or maybe we had just a picnic lunch packed. My sister had her blankie close by. I had my bunny. We were sitting on the couch in the living room, trying to stay neat, looking out the front window for the brown two-door Bronco. Then we were sitting in the window itself, peering up and down the street, down to the corners. Then we were in our coats sitting on the stone fence flipping our feet out over the sidwalk, looking further still. We ran further and further up and down the sidewalk, drawing away from home, from waiting.

For Dad. Who usually came, but never on time. Never close to on time. To bring us to his house. To drive us eight hours on a trip to the grandparents'. To bring us camping with his family, our family. Never less than an hour late.

We were full of beans, my sister and I. She naturally had ants in her pants, as my mom always said, but the wait was one fidget among all the others in her day. I, on the other hand, was made desperate by these situations. I was always so anxious to see him, my Dad--Dad!--who loved me best, who called me his Hoper, who saw in me something special. I could hardly wait for the appointed time, much less bear those way-longer minutes of his continued absence.

Tick-tock. Mom's frown deepens. Tick-tock. My sister is getting sillier and sillier. Tick-tock. My joy is turning to anxiety. Tick-tock. I don't feel special anymore, I feel, with every passing minute, abandoned. Abandoned again and again and again. A childhood of infrequent visits that meant so little to him that he never bothered to show up on time. A man so selfish he never considered what those minutes, those hours, meant to us, the daughters he saw maybe twice a year even though he lived quite literally at the end of our street.

Tick-tock. I need to love him and so I push it down, keep smiling, keep looking up and down the street. Because he will come, if my own desire can make it happen.

Tick-tock. Auntie Soo-see is coming, Munckin! When? After breakfast. Is she here now? Where is Auntie Soo-see, Mom? I want to see my cousin! Is it the weekend? Is she here now?

I get anxious and annoyed and after sitting on the couch, and after looking out the windows, and after getting dressed and walking up and down the sidewalk, we run into the backyard. Munchkin is happy to be playing with me, and quite honestly, she's sort of forgotten Auntie Soo-see at this point. But I haven't. I'm looking up and down the street, craning to see around the neighbouring houses. I lift my head quickly every time I hear an engine.

And this is why I burst into tears driving to the hairdresser.

I never let myself feel this pain, this disappointment, all those years ago, for all those years. He died 9 years ago this month. We didn't go to his funeral. In a hushed conversation over the telephone, two provinces separating us, my sister and I admitted to each other we were relieved to hear the waiting was finally over. You don't expect birthday cards from the dead, nor Christmas cards. You don't expect the dead to call you, to wonder what you're doing. It's okay if the dead don't love you. But I could never tell him how much he hurt me. I could never hurt him back, insulated as he was in his various addictions--alcohol, cocaine, women. He didn't care enough about anything to know anything of the feelings of those who did.

And so I'm irrationally angry with my sister, who was trapped behind a terrible accident on the highway, who came late, Munchkin already asleep, but stayed late too so we could all go to the park together, a happy, wonderful outing. It was a great day, and Munchkin, being a toddler and not literate, can't tell the difference between 'tomorrow' and 'five minutes from now' so I don't think she's been hurt.

But I have been hurt. And my sister has been hurt. We've talked it over, now, and I explained why I was so viciously angry when she finally dashed into the hairdresser, with one minute to spare. We talked it over, and she felt it, too, that abandonment all those years ago, that continuing sense of panic when a happily awaited visitor is more than five minutes late.

It's okay now. Pynchon knows the story and my sister lived the story and I understand my own feelings a little better now and we're working on harm-avoidance for the future. A little bit of reconciliation today from a wound inflicted 30 years ago. There's hope in that, I think.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

He's practically a midwife!

My husband. He makes me laugh. Last night he told me the following story, the kind of story that makes you choke out a strangled laughing, "Oh, I'm soooo blogging that!" He said okay, because that's the kind of good sport he is.

So. As we're loading the dishwasher and rehashing our days, Pynchon says, "Hey, 'Christina' at work is pregnant again" and I offered my usual response, which is to snort and say: "Sucker!"

"How pregnant is she?" I asked.

"Well, I don't know. She's showing and she told everyone at work today. But she says that you show right away with the second one." He paused. "I've known for a while, though."

"Oh," I said, "you didn't tell me that! When did she tell you?"

"Um, she didn't actually tell me. I sorta knew. Urr. I mean. Um. I noticed a while ago that her boobs got REALLY BIG."


"Ahhhh, 'Christina' is not, like flat-chested or anything, you know, if she wears a good bra, like you, you'd never really notice she's got big boobs. But then, like, all of a sudden, they were CLOWN BIG." (Here you have to imagine him doing the song and dance 'clown boob' routine he developed when I was pregnant.)


"So I thought she was pregnant, but obviously, I wasn't going to say anything. And then she started to look fat, so I was pretty sure. And then today she announced it."

This is the part I almost died laughing. I'm actually kind of proud that he is looking at coworkers' chests mostly to determine how far along they are. He's practically a midwife.

And I laughed and laughed and laughed. Ha!

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Date night, post kids

I'm finally well enough that we felt safe to book the babysitter Friday night, so that we could go out, as a couple, on a civilized date.

We brushed our teeth, spruced ourselves up a little, and decided to eat dinner at a nice restaurant nearby that just opened. We sat in the gimmick seats: a dining bar on a pass-through into the kitchen. We watched the clang and clatter of food prep, held hands, ordered drinks, flirted. We bantered with the staff, laughed, nuzzled each other like newlyweds. It was an eventful week and we had lots of catching up to do. Pynchon had an interview for a FULL TIME! PERMANENT! GOOD JOB! ON CAMPUS! so that was something to rehash. As for me, I had six and a half hours of high-impact meetings on Friday, with lots of news to share. We jabbered about work, and potential work, and stuff in the news, and things we'd been thinking about excitedly while clutching at each others' fingers and cooing.

As we giggled and oohed (somewhat obnoxiously) through dessert, our (somewhat obsequious) waiter slid up close and noted conspiratorially, "I guess you guys would like the cheque, because it looks like you're in a hurry to get home" (nudge, nudge).

It's almost like we could hear that sound effect of the record needle dragged across the interrupted conversation. SCREEE!

We looked at him, in bon's words, like he was speaking Swahili.

I blinked. Considered. Replied, aghast: "Oh, GOD, no. The BABY'S at home."

Now that we have kids, if we're having a flirty, sexy, fun, grownup time on a date? The last thing we want to do is go home. Parenthood. It really is the great divide.

Saturday, March 07, 2009


Tonight, I'll set all the clocks ahead by an hour before my Magic Bag and I retire to bed, all snug and cozy against the pounding rain. I guess it's spring.

I've never liked spring, really. Half-melted snowbanks, sand-crusted and full of dog shit, do not inspire euphoria, in me, at any rate. Chill rains and grey skies do not lift my spirits as much as a crisp winter sun reflected off endless white snow does, even if the chill rains are tepid and I can leave the house without a shudder of cold. It's cool and dark and rainy here, and I've been feeling a little glum. We stayed in this morning, exhausing our options, and Munchkin settled into a three hour nap during which I actually ran out of things to do.

And then delight: trying to lift my own mood, when she woke up, I presented her with a surprise. New rain boots--a wild pattern of white, fuschia, green, yellow--and, even better, an umbrella. She was astonished. She thanked me over and over and assured me it was the best present anyone ever got her. She dressed as fast as she could and raced downstairs to don last fall's hot pink splash pants and rain jacket. She could hardly sit still as I got her boots on, put her umbrella in her hand.

She clutched that umbrella over her head all the way to Starbucks, splashing "like a duck" in every puddle we passed, quacking maniacally. She was so proud, so silly all at once. Urban pedestrians hunched tight against the rain lifted their heads as she approached, a vision of glee in day-glo nylon and rubber. They smiled.

I smiled too, wrapped up tight in my grey windbreaker, hood up, hands in pockets, a damp cloud in contrast to the brilliant rainbow my daughter streaked across the sidewalk. Suddenly, I wanted my red coat, my chequered scarf, some wild rubber boots of my own. To smile and sing with the joy of new puddles, the freshness of a season returned that was barely remembered.

She had the very best time. On the way home, I let her jump over and over and over in one particularly ferocious puddle. She soaked herself thoroughly and when I dragged her finally into the house, water poured from her boots when I removed them. "Thank you, Mom," she said, snuggling into me as I wrapped her up in a towel and held her close to me. It was as near to perfect happiness as I've ever really experienced as a parent.

What's it about, this post? It's just a little piece of time, really. I want, I guess, to revel in the particularities of my own experience of her delight, my own witnessing of her wee toddler joy, to remember. It's okay, sometimes, I think, to be particular. To just be in a moment. To want to hold it tight to my heart, a very personal bit of sunshine carved into words that I'll share with you, if you want to enjoy them too.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

WW: Will winter ever end?

A study in mother-daughter simililarity of habit ...

Sunday, March 01, 2009

And so on and so forth

UPDATE! It's acute sinusitis, with developing secondary bronchitis. Doctor told me I looked terrible, and suggests in future I stay away from sick people ... okey-dokey then.

Academics have more speaking tics than other people, I think. Maybe it comes from spending so many hours of every work week filling the air of the classroom (and, it is to be hoped, the minds of the undergraduates seated therein) with the sounds of our voices. Conscious, perhaps, of hogging the floor in so many of our verbal interactions with others, we seem, we professors, to self-deprecatingly indicate that we know we ramble. We tend, when speechifying among ourselves, to interrupt our own monologues and trail off, hands waving, into "etc, etc, etc" or "and so on and so forth" or in my own decisively pop-culture-attuned way, "blah blah blah" or "yadda yadda yadda".

What I've got, lately, is a whole lot of "and so on and so forth", which is why I've not been around.

I've been sick for a month, cancelling more classes this year than in the previous four combined, while working on two fantastically busy committees, sleeping 14 hours a day if I can, yadda yadda yadda.

I miss my family, because I'm always working or sleeping, and they're so adorable, and poor Pynchon is doing the work of both parents and it's not like he's not busy, etc etc etc.

Because I'm only operating--at best--at about 60% capacity, when I can drag myself upright at all, all my work is either half-assed or desperately tardy, so now we can add panic attacks to the litany of problems above, blah blah blah.

I've become so weak that I got winded walking to the end of my block and had to go back to bed. And so on and so forth.

I'm too tired to read and too bored of my own life to write. I'll see you all again if I ever, FOR FUCK'S SAKE, recover from the five constant weeks now of flu-cold-shakes-snot-coughing-exhaustion-feel-like-shit routine I'm boring myself to death with. I'm angry and bored: it's no longer fun to cuddle under the duvet in a cough syrup fog, and I want my life back.

Tell me: are any of you routinely sick for six or seven weeks in a row every winter? What the hell can I do?