Tuesday, December 25, 2007


That's my age as of today.

My in-laws invited themselves to our house for Christmas so I spent my birthday cooking, cleaning, serving, and cleaning again. I did get a birthday card.

Tonight, I'm tired. And feeling old. I want to go to bed. And yet, I feel like I should continue my practice of using my birthday to reflect upon the previous year and to think about how I would like the next year to unfold.

Here are my wishes from last year with updates:

That I find the will to finish the text. No. But I found the will to pull the plug which was major.

That the publisher is nicer. Sadly, no, she is a rotten flower.

That my daughters are healthy. Yes!

That daycare is more traumatic for me than for Baby M. I think so. She adjusted easily, but overall, I think that I would prefer a nanny if we had the funds.

That E figures out the potty training thing. Yes! She worked this out around 30 months or so.

That J and I have time to reconnect. We need to continue working on this. It has been a rough year, but I think we are doing better.

That I can breastfeed M until she is one or until I feel good about stopping. Yes! I bet my 38-year-old-self would have been surprised to know we would still be doing this.

That I lose the baby weight. Mostly, yes, though I think I have gained weight with this week's baking and feasts!

Peace on Earth. Is it more peaceful this year?

That I become better organized. Woefully, no.

That I keep writing in this space for therapy. Happily, yes.

That fewer hairs show up on my chin. Sigh.

That I give more to worthwhile causes and charities. I could do better.

Here are my wishes for the next year:

That I step up my research efforts.

That I make getting more sleep a priority.

That my girls are healthy.

That I find ways to deal with my children's tantrums without losing my cool.

That J and I continue to work on better communication.

That we have another healthy pregnancy.

That we are able to retire our debt and start saving beyond what we are putting into retirement.

That I work on becoming better organized and home and at work.

That I take time to take care of myself.

That fewer stray hairs show up on my chin and jawline.

That my growing-out hair gets past the awkward stage quickly.

That I see my friends more often.

That I keep writing in this space.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Stick confusion

After over 15 months of breastfeeding*, I finally started cycling again around Thanksgiving. Yesterday, I used an ovulation prediction test and thought it might be positive, but I couldn't be sure. This morning, I repeated and it was definitely positive (yes, I know you aren't supposed to do them in the morning, so sue me). I was so excited to have a clearly positive test stick that I walked out to show it to J.

I handed it over and said, "maybe you can come home during lunch." He looked at the stick and and then gave me an awkward little hug and kiss with an "Oh, wow!" I thought it was a slightly odd response to an LH surge, but it wasn't until I walked back to the bedroom that I realized what had happened. It had not occurred to me that J, not counting cycle days or fertility signs, might assume I was handing him a positive pregnancy test. I walked back to the kitchen and told him about the stick confusion and we both had a little smile over it.

So, yes, I guess we have decided to try for one more. I'm going to be 39 in a few days and I have high FSH; I know our chances are low. I refuse to chart, obsess, or do anything more than use an OPK to pinpoint days, but here we go again.

*Still, breastfeeding now, but barely.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


Sometime in the mid 90s, I flew to Seattle with my mother to attend my cousin J’s wedding. I hadn’t seen J since we were children, but my mother wanted a traveling companion, the trip was free, and I was curious about Seattle and the four cousins who I perceived as being quite glamorous. At the time, my aunt and uncle lived in Bremerton where they had views of Puget Sound from their small horse farm. I remember it being lovely and picturesque, but what I remember most vividly is the smell of evergreen and moist, cool air.

The trip must have taken place fairly shortly after the suicide of Kurt Cobain because I recall asking my cousins if they had been to a Nirvana show before the band hit big. They all looked at me blankly and said they knew nothing of the Seattle music scene. I soon learned that not only were my cousins not into the grunge scene, they did not approve of it. Though they were raised Catholic like me, three of my four cousins had recently been born again and were now nondenominational, evangelical, conservative Christians. In other words, they were just like much of the population I had happily left behind in South Carolina. It was disappointing to say the least. If my references to non-Christian bands didn’t already set me up as a sinner in my cousin’s eyes, my casual mention of how J and I lived together for a year an a half before we were married certainly did the trick. For the rest of my visit, my cousins kept a polite and wary distance from me, which meant I ended up hanging out with my elders.

My aunt, who is quite thrifty and skilled in the kitchen, decided to bypass a caterer and cater the wedding reception herself. It was a significant undertaking, but with all the extra hands in the kitchen, she made it work. For two days before the wedding, al the women of the family cooked and then decorated the church. While I was somewhat bemused at the time, I’m glad we had the opportunity to stay in that kitchen for as long as we did. Bonding was had by all, except, of course, by the cousins who were keeping their prayerful distance.

The wedding was interesting. The preacher explained how it is a busy and confusing world and that cousin J, being a woman, just couldn’t be expected to process it all. Her new husband’s duties would include explaining the world to his bride, shielding her from its harsh realities, and leading her through it.* As the preacher intoned, “As God is to man, husband is to wife.” I developed an inappropriate set of giggles and was pinched, HARD, by my mother and an aunt.

The morning after the wedding we again congregated in my aunt’s kitchen. Along with coffee and pastry, photos were passed around the kitchen. Vacations, children, home improvements—there was no theme. Eventually, my mother pulled a set of treasured photos from her purse. There were oohs and ahs as the pictures made their way through the room. Curious about what my elders were so excitedly viewing, I waited impatiently for my turn. As I held them at last, I realized that rather than show photos of her home, husband, children, or vacations, my mother selected photos from her recent colonoscopy for show and tell. Yes, my mother not only kept the photos of her first colonoscopy and polyps (a full decade before going on to develop full blown colon cancer), but she carried them across the country. To breakfast. And no one objected. What does this say about my mother? About my extended family?

Today I noticed that my doctor had included photos of my “normal colon” with my discharge paperwork from my Monday colonoscopy. I briefly considered filing the images in my medical files. However, upon remembering the breakfast of coffee, pastry and polyps, I decided to toss my colon pictures into the trash lest I suddenly be tempted to pull them out during Christmas dinner.

*They divorced after only two years, which tells me that cousin J must have wised up.

Monday, December 17, 2007


This is the first time I’ve had a chance to post or catch up on my favorite blogs in nearly a month. I feel like I have run a marathon–make that an ultra marathon- what with the end of the semester, with neurotic seniors working frantically to complete their practicum research, with J’s two weeks of travel, with final exams, with meetings, with conference papers due, with letters of reference to write, with Christmas to plan, with in-laws acting up. It has all been a bit much.

It feels good to be back.

I should give a real update, but a brief run down will have to do for tonight. I’ll post about each of these separately now that I am finally on a two-week break.

-M was assessed and diagnosed with a speech delay. In theory, she will start speech therapy after the holidays. I’ll know more after meeting with the service coordinator this Thursday.

-We are cohosting, with J’s brother and sister-in-law, a 50th anniversary party for J’s parents. It is out of control. I’m dreading the party.

–More than dreading the party, I’m dreading Christmas Day. J’s mother invited the rest of the family to my home for Christmas. Which is my birthday. Today when she asked about my Christmas menu, she informed me that my brother-in-law can’t digest the shrimp in my main dish. Much more on this later.

– I could never be a single parent. Two weeks without J during the last week of school and the first week of exams convinced me of this.

–I had a colonoscopy today. Preparation: horrible. Procedure: tolerable. Results: excellent.

–Grades will be released to students tomorrow and I know that I will receive angry/ frantic. bewildered email messages from students who performed poorly or failed my classes. Am very worried for and somewhat scared of one senior who failed my practicum.

–E is out of preschool for almost four weeks. This means that she will have to accompany me to my office as I prepare for the new semester. Four weeks scares me a bit.

–I’m about to take on an administrative position in my department as program director for my discipline (we are a two-discipline department).

–I’ve been watching Season One of Heroes on DVD for a few nights. Perfect escapism after a lousy month.

How have you been?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Gym Rat: Part II

Did I mention that the shower at the second gym is awful? I went by today and asked to check it out. One of the girls walked me back and showed me that, yes, one of the two stalls does have enough water pressure to rinse shampoo out of hair. The other shower has no water pressure, but it has hot water. So, if I join, I can take a shower with just enough pressure to rinse my hair OR I can stand under a trickle of hot water, but I can't have water pressure and hot water at the same time. Bummer.

I spoke to the manager and asked him if he was aware of the plumbing issues. His responded that yes, he was well aware of the issues in the women's locker room and that they have had plumbers out several times. Furthermore the owners are aware of the issue. He then told me that the showers in the men's locker room are "perfect." Somehow that was not reassuring though I think he meant it to be. Despite this, I'm 99 percent sure I'm joining. While the family center would be nice for the swimming pool (and swim lessons), it is too easy for me to make excuses not to go.

Now I have to decide between a two year contract that is $29 a month or a one year contract that is $39 a month.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Gym Rat

Okay, I'm not a gym rat yet, but I plan to join a gym. Believe it or not, this doesn't have a lot to do with vanity or not being able to find jeans that fit. It is about health. My bones' health, specifically.

Nine and a half years ago I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. It was really no big deal. I had surgery to remove my thyroid and radiation to kill any lingering thyroid or cancer cells. Since then I have been on a fairly high dose of thyroid replacement hormone. The idea is to suppress the production of TSH which can fuel any cancer cells that escaped radiation. The problem with long-term suppression of TSH is that it can lead to accelerated bone loss and osteoporosis. The problem with not doing long-term suppression is that thyroid cancer can be tenacious and come back even after 15 or 20 years. A definite balancing act is in order.

Unfortunately for me, I have risk factors other than thyroid treatment for osteoporosis including my build (small boned and thin*), family history of osteoporosis (my father has a hump now), and European descent. Even nursing can leach needed calcium and lead to bone loss. Because of my risk factors, I've had three bone density scans since my initial thyroid cancer treatment. The first, my baseline, came soon after treatment and showed that I already had comparatively low bone mass for my age. My second bone scan was similar to my first; I still had ostepenia, but it looked like I was holding my own. My third test, done last winter, was dismal. I had lost bone mass in both my hips and my spine. In fact, I had lost over 20 percent of my already low bone spinal bone mass in just four years: I'm closing in on osteoporosis.

At my appointment a few weeks ago, my endocrinologist/ oncologist said that she was alarmed by my results. She wants me to think about using one of the bone building drugs and to increase my calcium intake (my blood calcium is always a bit low which is common for thyroid cancer patients, particularly if the parathyroid glands were traumatized during surgery, which mine were). She also backed off my thyroid replacement dose a bit with the stipulation that if my labs change (protein cancer markers), then they will have to be amped up again.

I'm not wild about the bone building drugs. I've pored over the research, and it seems that this class of drugs is not the best idea for premenopausal women. Instead, I want to make a concerted effort to increase my calcium and vitamin D intake. I also want to get religious about strength training and weight bearing exercise, both of which preserve bone mass. Thus, my desire to join a gym.

I have narrowed my gym search to three facilities, but I'm having a hard time choosing among them.

The first is a family wellness center not far from our home, but about six miles from my office. We were members there for a year, but we let the membership lapse because we weren't using it enough. The center is large, has a pool, and there is a free nursery. There are free weights, two sets of nautilus equipment, plenty of cardio equipment, and a wide range of classes. The problem with this center is that to use it, I will either have to drive to our downtown campus to drop E off and then drive back out to the gym or try to leave her in the gym nursery. She used to flip out about the gym nursery so I'm just not sure if this will work.

The second facility is only a block from my office. It is sleek and new. The cardio equipment is awesome and the weight equipment is easy to use. It is incredibly clean. There is no pool, no childcare, and fitness classes are limited, but that doesn't concern me too much because of the convenience. With it so close to my office, it would be easy for me to work out several mornings a week. The biggest negative (and possible deal breaker) is the shower in the facility. I signed up for three free visits over the summer and was horrified at the shower situation. There was no water pressure and the water temperature was unpredictable--lukewarm one day and scalding hot the next. Those were the worst showers I have ever taken. I told the staff about them, but an acquaintance told me that nothing has been done. I'm not sure that I can join a gym where I can't get a decent shower.

The last gym is a few blocks from my office. There is no childcare and no pool, but there are yoga and pilates classes. The facility has a ton of cardio equipment as well as free weights and nautilus. The showers appear to be functioning well. However, there are several problems with this facility. First, it is the most expensive of the three. Second, the cardio equipment is situated along a window that overlooks a busy sidewalk and street--to exercise there is to be on display. Third, it doesn't seem like they are fastidious about making sure the machines are wiped clean and disinfected. Given the surge in nasty superbugs, I prefer a clean gym. Finally, this gym is very popular with the student set and I'm not sure that I could work out there without feeling self conscious and old.

So I'm stuck. I just can't make up my mind. Will I really use the family center if I have to take E downtown to campus and then drive all the way back? Will I use the beautiful center a block from my office and just deal with the trickle of water and unpredictable water temperatures? Or will I take stock in purell, get over my self-consciousness and join the gym where there a lot of student types? What would you do?

*Yes, yes. I have been complaining about my weight, but extra pounds on a small frame make a difference.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Public Service Announcement

Is it possible that those pounds I have lost have all come from my chest?

I ask because I spent much time trying on new jeans this weekend. Twelve pairs to be exact. None fit. None flattered. While my weight is back near its prepregnancy state, my hips are not. I've decided that jean shopping is a close second to bathing suit shopping on the things-to-do-to-feel-completely-demoralized list. Bra shopping runs a close third. As it happens, grading senior research papers is up there. *

The jean shopping made me realize that 1) my weight loss may not be proportional and 2) my chest is going to win my body's biggest loser-a-thon. You see, M is barely nursing anymore; she likes a quick nip at bedtime and when she wakes, but she isn't getting much. These days it is all about comfort and not much about nutrition. My boobs have responded to the decrease in demand by doing the incredible shrinking tits act. I have gone from a 36DD just two months ago back to my prepregnancy size of 34 C. I suspect there may be more shrinkage once we are truly done with the comfort nursing. I don't really mind the shrinking-- after all, exercise is easier with a smaller chest--but I do mind that my nipples aren't pointing the right way.

That's right. You heard me. My nipples can no longer be counted on to point straight out (remember the headlight jokes in middle school?). Nope. They tend to point to the sides a bit. Sometimes they stare at each other, cross-eyed. Other times, they look away from each other as if repulsed by each other. It isn't pretty. In fact, I find it somewhat alarming. My friends warned me that after nursing I might droop or sag; in fact my sister-in-law had implants after nursing two children left her with "two empty tube socks." But no one told me that nipples can end up out of alignment.

S0 here is a public service announcement. In addition to shrinkage, droopage and stretch markage, nipple misalignment is a very real possibility. Consider yourself warned.

*Holy Mother of God, whose class have they been sitting in all semester? Why can't they write? Did their English teachers give them multiple choice essays? Why can't they form simple hypotheses? How am I supposed to grade these? Why me? Why me? Whaaaaa.

Monday, November 05, 2007


Do you remember how in old movies the passage of time is shown as a the whirling hands on a clock or as the pages of a calendar flipping by in staccato? October went by like that. Supersonic. How is it already November?

November is OK. It's no October, but the month has its charms. The cool weather is lovely, and wearing flannel pajamas is delicious, if not sexy. I don't much care for the shorter days and for getting home after dark, but I do like the smell of wood smoke from neighbors' chimneys and sleeping under a pile of quilts. In November, my impulse is to hunker down and ready myself for the long pause of winter. This November, I'll fight that urge.

Last month, I vowed to lose weight. The baby pounds were getting old, and I felt disgust every time I pulled on my fat pants. My weight loss plan was simple: eat less and exercise more. I stayed away from sweets and tried to take walks whenever I had a few minutes to spare. By October 30th, I had dropped six pounds and was back in my favorite jeans.* Yes, I overindulged a bit around Halloween,** but I'm back on the wagon and I'm hoping to drop another three to four pounds by the end of the month and to be back at my pre-fertility treatment weight by year's end.

As silly as it sounds, my confidence was boosted by being able to reach my weight loss goal. I've had a down year professionally, my three-year-old has started copping serious attitude, and my 14 month old isn't speaking; it's all been a bit much and I've been feeling downright glum, out of control, rudderless. Losing the weight reminded me that I do have some command over my life. And that is a good thing.

I've decided that setting one manageable goal a month may be just the thing to keep my outlook more sunny, which is why I'm declaring November the month of the FROG. For those of you lucky enough not to live in suburban hell, that is Finished Room Over the Garage.

My FROG is the dumping ground for the entire house. It is supposed to be my home office, and indeed, my computer, printer, fax and other office gear are here. But it isn't a peaceful office because there are boxes, scattered paperwork, toys, books, and various odds and ends. It is so disorganized and cluttered that I have put off having the roof fixed because workers would have to pass through the FROG to get to the trusses. For about a year, I've been promising myself that I would clear it out, but I've put it off. It has just seemed too overwhelming.
I'm ready now. By the end of the month, I want this to be a peaceful and organized office/ playroom. My plan is to spend at least 15 minutes every day until I get it in order. I hope that I can chip away at the task bit by bit until I can report mission accomplished.

*OK-they are still a little tight, but it isn't scandalous.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Mommy Confessions

Over the weekend, E attended two birthday parties (add those to last week's fall carnival and it quickly becomes apparent that her social calendar is much fuller than my own). The first party was for a little girl from E's old school. While our children were bouncing merrily in the giant Dora jump castle and getting sugared up*, the moms ate cheetohs and chatted.

At some point between a discussion of potty training [pullups at night or panties?] and a comparison of toddler food likes and dislikes [ranch dressing is a miracle food], one of the mothers asked about E's new school. I told her that while I like it, it isn't year-round so E will have a summer break with me. I mentioned that I am "freaked out" by this. As soon as I said it, I felt like taking it back. What kind of mother am I not to welcome two months home with my firstborn? I braced myself for another skirmish in the mommy wars and waited for the other mothers to react.

I quickly learned that I wasn't behind enemy lines. There was a moment of silence, a slight pause, and then the other mothers jumped in. The first, a nurse, said, "Oh, that would freak me out, too. I am so not cut out to be a stay-at-home mom." The second, an architect, said that she was glad I had said something because she often feels guilty that she enjoys her job. The third, a stay-at-home mom since the birth of her second child a few months ago, said that it has been far more draining than she imagined, but rewarding too.

I've been thinking about the other things I keep to myself in fear of being considered a bad mother. Here is a sampling.

  • I miss having disposable income.
  • I get bored playing with my kids.
  • I have no tolerance for repetitive sounds (Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy).
  • Whining makes me crazy.
  • I feed my three-year-old quesadillas every other day because it is easier than fighting with her to eat her veggies.
  • I raise my voice at times.
  • I miss performing bodily functions in peace and quiet.
  • I fantasize about sleep.
  • I sometimes let the girls watch TV so I can catch a breather.
  • It doesn't really freak me out that my 14-month old likes to scavenge for random food (mostly things she has flung form the high chair) off the kitchen floor.
  • I once hid in the bedroom closet so the girls couldn't find me (J was close by).
  • I plan to steal E's Halloween candy.

I'm sure there is more to add to the list, but that is a start.

*E was wild that night and didn't fall asleep until close to 11:00. Good times.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Maybe November is the New October?

A few weeks ago I wrote about how much I enjoy October. I was so looking forward to crisper weather and blue skies that I suppose I neglected to consider global warming. With the exception of a few days a couple of weeks ago, it has remained hot--still muggy enough for us to run the air conditioner many days-- and hazy. So I'm thinking that maybe November is the new October and that I'll be able to pull out some sweaters soon.

On the bright side, I have lost almost five pounds. It has been fairly easy. I have given up much of my snacking and have been very sparing with the sweets*. I've been trying to walk more often and most days I am able to get at least half an hour of exercise. I would like to spend that half hour running instead of walking, but I keep pulling random muscles. Two weeks ago, I turned and badly wrenched my neck. That took about a week of heavy doses of ibuprofen and massage (self massage--my budget no longer allows for professional help) to clear up. Then, about the time I was ready to lace up my running shoes, I pulled another muscle. This, I think, is a groin injury, but maybe I'm wrong about what it is called. Whatever its name, it is a muscle between my (now perkier!) rear end and my inner thigh. I forget about it until I stand up and --ouch!-- am reduced to hobbling. Once it warms up, it isn't so bad.

Babies have been on my mind a lot lately. Maybe it's because my high FSH diagnosis came two years ago this week. Maybe it's because my friend, B, is in labor right now.** It may be because I feel like my body is gearing up to start cycling again. There are lots of little signs, but I am still waiting for that first postpartum cycle. We still aren't completely weaned, but my prolactin levels must be dropping as M has greatly curtailed her nursing. She still nurses when she wakes in the morning, but it is very quick. She also nurses just before bed, but that seems more like a comfort measure than nutrition. I think she'll have herself weaned in the next month or two.

So babies. . . I keep thinking them. I know I should be happy with two, and I am, but the mental snapshot of my "ideal" family that I have carried around since childhood has always included two parents and three children. I suppose this has something to do with being one of three.***

J can take it or leave it, so the decision to try for one more or not is going to be mine alone. Right now, I think I'm just going to take my chances without using any contraception. Seeing as how my FSH was 25 two years ago and how I'll be 40 in a year, having another baby is a long shot. Still, I'm not quite willing to say that we are done.

*Walking through the Halloween displays has been a bit agonizing!
**I just sent an exercise ball over for her to use during contractions. Her contractions are strong but still 7-8 minutes apart after 20 hours.
***Clearly my family is crazy, but I do love my brothers who don't have guns, unsafe pools or other hideous problems.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Why I Didn't Go to My High School Reunion

My 20th high school reunion is this weekend. Earlier tonight, my classmates attended the homecoming game. Right now, they are probably having drinks in one of the two bars in my hometown. Tomorrow, they will have a cocktail party and dance.

I'm not there.

I wish I could say that insecurity about my short hair/weight/melasma/wardrobe/wrinkles were the reason I chose not to attend, but I'm just not that vain. Sure, I regret chopping my hair off last fall,* but my high school classmates are the people who witnessed me puking my guts out in a cornfield, vomiting on a security guard,** and peeing myself a bit when I couldn't get my overalls down fast enough; they've seen worse.

So why am I home tonight? I'm home because of The House of Death, aka the family home. I haven't stayed there in nearly 15 years and I won't let my children be there without me by their sides. It is a miracle that my brothers and I survived to adulthood. I'm not taking chances on my children.

You are thinking that I must be exaggerating, but I assure you, I'm not.

The House of Death has:
  1. Plenty of second-hand smoke. My father is a chain smoker. He is 68 and dying of heart failure, but he keeps smoking. In bed even. My mother insists that he only smokes in the bedroom, but there are ashtrays throughout the house and the smoke hits you the moment you walk in. Suffocating.
  2. A swimming pool that is not properly gated. And door that can't be locked leading to the pool from the sunporch.
  3. An attack cat. Seriously, I'm a cat lover, but this cat is a psychopath.
  4. Clutter everywhere. My mother is well on her way to being a guest on Dr. Phil. Let's just say that she has a hard time parting with things. The last time we visited for the day, I threw away old tubes of Mary Kay foundation samples. These were at least 29 years old. I am sure of this because her days as a Mary Kay "consultant" ended before my youngest brother was born.
  5. Dangerous stuff scattered about. Take the sunporch as an example. When we were there for Christmas, there were shards of glass from a broken and forgotten votive holder scattered about the sunporch floor. My mother never noticed the glass, nor did she notice that we threw the remains of the votive holder away. There is a gas heater on the sunporch that is missing its safety grate leaving an open flame for little hands to discover.
  6. A handgun. Loaded. On my father's bedstand. My father was an FBI agent in the 1960s. He left the bureau to become a prosecutor, but kept his gun and badge. He frequently wears the gun in a worn out holster (I'm fairly certain that he doesn't have a concealed weapons permit) and insists on sleeping next to it. Last time we were there, he pulled J aside for some in-law bonding. "Want to test its action?" he asked. J declined.

I hope you get the picture.

My friends were urging me to come to the reunion and not tell my parents, but this would not work. First, it is a small town and my parents have many spies. If they were to learn that I came into town and did not bring the girls for them to watch, I would never hear the end of it. Never. Second, I just don't have the emotional energy for a confrontation with my parents right now. Call me a coward, but I can't handle it. I've been through my whole House of Death list with them and they have blown me off and dismissed my concerns. At some point***we will have it out, but I don't have the emotional energy just yet.

*PSA for all pregnant/ newly postpartum women out there: Do NOT cut your hair off in some hormonal wave of insanity. Trust me on this.

**These incidents all occurred the first time I ever drank alcohol. I filched Wild Turkey from my parents' liquor cabinet and, not understanding the properties of alcohol, I filled a 32 ounce cup about half full with the rum and added a few ounces of coke. After the security guard incident, one friend whisked me away in her car (police had been called), begging me not to vomit in it. She took me to my house where she pushed me through the front door and then ran back to her car, peeling out so my parents wouldn't see who had brought me home. I was the talk of the school for the rest of the school year.

***Perhaps in time for the 25th reunion?

Sunday, September 30, 2007


I love October, I truly do. The air lets go of its summer sluggishness and perks up. It smells good. It feels good. The nights turn crisp, but not cold.* The summer haze gives way to a sky of marvelous blue. The beach, no longer overrun with tourists, is perfect with water warm enough for barefoot walks. There are other things I like about October. The pumpkin patch. The fair. Halloween. Jeans. Sweatshirts.

October makes me feel hopeful. In October, I can do anything.

Which is why I've decided to lose weight. I'm ready, and this baby weight is getting old. It isn't the only reason I am skipping my high school reunion, but it is one reason. I need to lose seven to ten pounds to be back to my pre-pregancy/ pre-fertility treatment weight. Ten would be lovely, but seven would get me back to my favorite jeans.

Here is my plan: Eat less. Exercise more.

This is easy to say now after a day of face stuffing (E's birthday party), but I feel like I'm ready. I feel bad about myself. I've gone soft and my rear end is drooping. May face is full. My thighs touch. Ew.

It is going to be hard. I'm busy at home and at work and this doesn't lend itself to thoughtful eating. I tend to go a long time and then eat too much. I need to pack lunches and remove temptation from the house (bread, crackers, and candy** that means you). I am trying to plan the week's dinners now. Lots of brown rice and veggies and lean protein. This is how we eat when we have time for meal preparation so the trick will be to find that time. I need to cut my snacking, too.

As difficult as eating correctly will be, I think the key will be getting exercise. I used to be a runner. Then I had children. When I was running, I ran marathons. I wasn't fast, but I wasn't embarrassed by my efforts, either. I need to start running again. (Walking doesn't do it for me because I am an endorphin junkie.) Once again, time is a huge problem. I'm going to be running at night, I guess, because mornings are just too full and already-harried around here. I may look into a membership at the gym near my office so I can have a shower if I want to run during the day.

Tonight I told J about my desire to lose weight. He has agreed to not be the food police, but to be supportive. We'll see.

My goal for the month is to lose five pounds. I'll report back.

*Excellent for sleep if the children are cooperative.
**I have a well-developed sweet tooth.

Friday, September 28, 2007


All day yesterday (Thursday) I was convinced it was Friday. In fact, I told students who had stopped by to talk about projects that I would see them on Monday. I told colleagues to have good weekends. I cleaned my office fridge. When I eventually realized* I had a day to go, I quickly cycled through the Kubler-Ross five stages of grief.

Anyway, Friday is really here and I am relieved because it is been a brutal week. I'm too tired to write a proper post tonight, but I think I'll follow Suz's cue, embrace my inner coward, and post a quick update.

Since I last posted:

1. I have made an effort to curse less often around E.

2. E. turned three. A friend gleefully told me that three is worse than two.

3. I read yet another self-help type book.

4. I decided to have a big party for E's birthday (to be held this Sunday).

5. M started saying "Mama" appropriately. She is also able to understand more than I gave her credit for.

6. I decided against attending my class reunion for reasons that will be the subject of a forthcoming post.

7. I overindulged in too much TV-- Top Chef, The Office, some of The War, bits of Survivor, and some of the Bionic Woman.

8. I took a day to stay home, alone. I danced around with my iPod, and alternated grading tests, cleaning the house, and sorting through the girls' clothes.

9. I told my mother that no, I would not tell E that "nana is going to be sad and cry" if E won't talk with her on the phone. My child is not responsible for anyone else's emotional state. The guilt stops here.

10. Had wild fantasies about sleeping more than six-seven hours.

*A very hopeful student asked, "So that means we don't have class tomorrow?!"

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

My little parrot

As we were driving home in stop and start traffic, I heard a little voice from the back seat:

"Goddammit, cars. Move! Go faster! We need to get home."

I'm hanging my head in shame. I've obviously had a few moments of road rage as of late, and E is apparently a parrot.

Consider my act cleaned up.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Worry and Guilt

I grew up Catholic and was thus well acquainted with worry and guilt before I became a mother. Still, nothing prepared me for this.

At 12.5 months, M still isn't talking.

No "Mama" no "DaDa. " No signs, except to wave bye-bye. No pointing. At times, I'm not even convinced she recognizes her name. Each day that passes and that she doesn't talk, the knot in my stomach twists tighter. I've been scouring the Internet and I'm not at all pleased by what I'm finding. While a few sites say that some babies don't say their first words until a little later, it is pretty clear that she has missed a milestone.

On the bright side, she is extremely affectionate and gregarious. She laughs at funny sounds and interacts well with her family. She knows how to turn the TV and air purifier on and off and she can work the remote control. She walks around with the Leapfrog Farm Magnet farmhouse like it is a baby boom box. She babbles constantly. She lights up when she hears the start of the Signing Time video, and she dances to its songs.

But no words and no signs.

I know you aren't supposed to compare children, but how can I not compare her to her big sister, who WAS saying Mama, Dada and duck by now and who WAS signing some basic words by now? How can I not compare her to other children at her daycare or the children of friends or my neighbor's grandson, or my niece and nephew, or the children of other bloggers? How?

So why the guilt? At some level, I am convinced that it is my fault that she is behind. Maybe it is because I had to put her in daycare at such a tender age. Maybe it is because she doesn't get as much one-on-one time as her sister did as an only child staying home with me or a nanny. Maybe I ate something I shouldn't have while pregnant. Whatever. All. My. Fault.

I did speak to her pediatrician on Friday. The doctor seemed somewhat concerned but thought that we should give M a few more months before a formal assessment. At the time, I agreed that we should just wait a little longer, but now the second-guess chorus is singing and I'm no longer sure that waiting is a good idea.

I've decided that I need to clear one day a week to stay home with her and to work with her one on one. I don't have a clear Tuesday or Thursday for two weeks, but I'll try to get at least a half day this week and next. I'm not sure exactly what we'll be able to accomplish, but I'll feel better knowing that she is getting my undivided attention for a little while.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007


Consider my ass kicked.

With the start of the new semester, my life has gotten busy. I'm taking my children to two different centers, teaching two sections of a new course, experimenting with student blogs in an old course, trying to sustain my research, attempting to exercise, planning (if not always delivering) nutritious family meals, packing lunchboxes, keeping a clean house, planning a double birthday party and attempting to find a little me time.

I'm tired.

At the same time, after a year of self-imposed maternity and sabbatical exile, it is nice to be around other people. While my colleagues and I spend a good bit of time complaining about our tone-deaf administration, we do manage to have intellectually stimulating conversations. When that fails, we talk trash about our most annoying students.

E's new center is very, very good. Because it is on campus and --bonus!-- across the street from my office, I am able to observe her class rather frequently. She doesn't know I am there because of an ingenious one-way mirror, but I love having a window, literally, on her day. She seems content at the new center and the teacher seems quite competent. The second guess chorus has quieted down.

My courses seem to be going well. The new practicum is quite a lot of work, but the students have not been complaining or freaking out which is good for my stress level. I decided that my social issues students should each create a blog rather than write a term paper. I'm not sure if this was a good move or a really bad idea. Their first entries are due today, so I will soon have a better idea of how this is going to play out.

We are having a double birthday party for the girls this weekend. We've just invited family and one close set of friends who know my family. We'll have a party with other little kids for E's real birthday in a few weeks, but I thought things would get too crowded with family (17 people) and little kids. Plus, my family is sufficiently crazy that I am at a point where keeping my family and friends separate seems a really good idea.

I have lots to write about, but not much time. I'm hoping to find a little time to write this weekend and to catch up on the blogs I like to read. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Monday, August 20, 2007

The second guess chorus

I tend to agonize over decisions. The red shirt or the black shirt? Spearmint or wintergreen? Crest or Colgate? Then after a decision has been made, I second guess myself.

A sampling of the second guess chorus that is on constant loop in my head:

Maybe I should have kept my hair long.

Maybe we should have gone with a station wagon.

Maybe law school would have been better.

Maybe the red shirt would have looked better.

I already torture myself with most decisions, but when it comes to decisions that will impact my children's lives, watch out. The volume of the second guess chorus increases until all I can hear is doubt.

On Thursday, I received a call from the director of the preschool that Little E starts this week. I had already agonized over the decision to change schools* and had just made my peace that I was doing the right thing to move her. So when the director called me to offer a choice of whether to place E in the two-year-old class or in the three-year-old class, I got brain freeze.

The preschool uses the public school calendar to determine class assignments. In our district, September 1 is the cutoff date. Children born on or before that date go into one grade level and children born after that date go into the next. Because Little E's birthday is in September after the deadline, she was slated to start with the two-year-old class despite being nearly three. I was somewhat worried about this because, when I asked, the two-year-olds teacher let me know that Little E would be the oldest by about four and a half months and that most of the children in that class are younger than her by at least six months. Now, I don't think she is a genius or anything, but she is bright and inquisitive and occasionally lets loose a sentence like this one from yesterday, "Mama, the condensation on my sippy cup is very frustrating." (Of course, she was racing around the house tonight waving a pool noodle in the air while shrieking, "Squirt the little tango! Squirt the little tango!" Huh?)

The center director called after a spot came available in the three-year-old class. Normally, she said, the center won't move children up. However, they were willing to do so in our case because the two-year-olds teacher also had concerns about the social and developmental gap between Little E and the younger twos.** Of course, moving her up to the threes wouldn't be without issues. For the threes, she would be the youngest by two months. Also, because of the public school policy, we would likely have to hold her back at some point.

So, I had a decision. Leave her with the twos or move her to the threes.

Ultimately, I decided that I would rather not have her regress by being with a younger cohort. I want her challenged intellectually, and I want her social skills to continue to develop. So tomorrow at 8:30 a.m., she starts the three-year-old class. And at 8:31 a.m., the second guess chorus will start its crescendo in my head.

I hope I've made the right decision.

*Pros: NAEYC accreditation, affiliated with School of Education, on campus near my office, healthy snacks, teachers with masters in early childhood ed
Cons: Tearing her from the teachers and friends she loves, having the girls at different centers, out of the way for J which leave me in charge of all transportation.

**She had assessed all the children slated to start her class, so I'll have to take her word for it.

Sunday, August 19, 2007


Can my year long break from the classroom be ending? Can my baby be two days from her first birthday? Can little E be starting preschool? Already? Really? That went too fast. I wish I could slow time down just a little and linger. Of course, slowing down and lingering would just make me feel a little sadder/ more nostalgic than I already do so maybe that isn't a good idea.

It occurred to me tonight, as I was baking cupcakes, that the last time I was teaching, I had a nanny.* When we had a nanny, I didn't have to worry about corralling children, dressing children or dropping off children; didn't have to worry about tidying up after breakfast (the nanny did some light housework); and often didn't have to cook because the nanny, a culinary school graduate, loved to cook during E's naps. I was spoiled. Broke, but spoiled.

I am hoping to fall into a routine that works for all of us, but I am guessing that keeping the balls in the air is going to get intense. My working plan is to do as much in advance as is practical and to be as organized as possible. Toward these ends, I've baked and frozen the cupcakes for M's nursery party three days early, I've created a menu and done the weekly grocery shopping, I've laid out outfits for the girls and me, and I've assembled M's school bag a few days in advance. I am sure there is more I could be doing for preparation, but at least it is something.

On the bright side, I've made a good bit of progress on my list. Of course, I'll still be scrambling this week.

  • Decide on schedule for practicum
  • Determine grading scheme for practicum
  • Put practicum readings together in WebCT
  • Put practicum project handout together
  • Test software in lab
  • Write lab exercises that utilize software
  • Write first week of lectures for practicum I have these planned, but not written
  • Put finishing touches on social issues syllabus
  • Determine grading scale for social issues
  • Investigate pedagogical implications of requiring student blogs in social issues
  • Find a peanut-free food that E will be able to carry for lunch at new school
  • Get E’s hair trimmed S
  • Get my hair trimmed and brows waxed Have made appointment for hair
  • Meet grad student about our neglected project
  • Get pedicure Perhaps this will be a treat after surviving the first week of classes
  • Call electrician about the short in living room overhead light
  • Lose five pounds Working on it! Less chocolate and more exercise!
  • Try on my professional clothes to determine what will fit until I lose five pounds
  • Keep trying to wean
  • Determine guest list for joint birthday party
  • Order invitations
  • Order cake
  • Start running
  • Keep running
  • Update college web page to reflect office hours
  • Find out when my faculty committees/ department meetings are scheduled
  • Bake something to take to Baby M’s nursery the day of her actual birthday
  • Throw away student tests that are more than three years old (we are required to keep work for three years)
  • Put together WebCT pages for social issues
  • Find shoes for Baby M
  • Find out if I am already president of state association (the fact that I don’t know if my term has begun is embarrassing)
  • Get email list for April 2008 conference I am organizing; talk to last year’s organizer
  • Set up state association web site
  • Get E's immunization records
*I've been on maternity leave or sabbatical leave since last May. E started daycare last June. The transition to daycare was eased by my flexibility during maternity and sabbatical leaves.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Finally! A good hair day

Way back in the fall, when Baby M was just a few months old, and when I was very tired and very pressed for time*, I decided to cut my shoulder length hair short. Very, very short. Just so you know, I didn't go into this blindly; I've had very cute cropped hair before and I assumed that this would be equally cute and easy and fast. Unfortunately, my stylist botched it, and it has been the source of much grief since.

I was feeling too guilty to leave her (she had a baby in June and I know she was worried about finances) so I kept going to her and I kept getting bad cuts. I was so loyal that I even went to someone in her salon when she was on maternity leave (he was also pretty bad). Two weeks ago, I received a call informing me that she was back from maternity leave. I dutifully called to make an appointment and was told that her first available slot was August 23, a day after I start classes. That, my friends, was the proverbial straw. Not to be able to get a cut, even a bad one, before classes? No way. So I finally let the guilt go and looked for another stylist.

May I sing the praises of Kate, a master stylist at a top salon in this city? I had the choice to go with a "master" stylist or an "apprentice" and decided to spend the bucks on the shear genius. Why haven't I done this before? It is the best money I have spent in a long time. I'm serious. My hair looks fabulous. It is still short, but cute. Super cute. But still professional. And it should be easy to style. I also had my brows waxed and they look awesome.

So there. Call me shallow, but I am ridiculously happy that I am looking better.

*OK, I'm still tired and pressed for time, but I hadn't found my groove yet then.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

A Good Day

Clearly there are things on my list that I will not complete by next week. That website for the state association? It will have to wait. Writing all my labs in advance? Not going to happen. However, I feel like I can get everything done that MUST be done by Wednesday. The rest will happen when they happen, and no one but me will notice.

I was feeling so confident and in control that this morning I decided to keep Baby M home from daycare so we could run errands and hang out. I often feel guilty that Baby M doesn't get enough attention from me. This is somewhat ironic because when I was pregnant with her, I spent a fair amount of energy worrying that big sister, E, would get lost in the shuffle. As it turns out, E is quite good at staying at or near the center of attention. Whether she is eating fluoridated toothpaste straight from the tube, or commanding me to sing Itsy Bitsy Spider yet again, or begging me to let her help cook, she is impossible to ignore for both positive and negative reasons. Plus, she is awake more and longer than her baby sister* so we get alone time in the evening.

Baby M, on the other hand, is non-verbal and easily dominated by her big sister. Because Baby M can't yet express her desires, the wishes of her sister-- from which Signing Time video to watch to which tub to bathe in tonight--are generally granted. Baby M doesn't seem too grumpy about it--she usually seems quite content to be a part of her big sister's general orbit-- but I worry. This is probably just an expression of guilt for not being able to give her my undivided attention, but it is there, a steady undercurrent.

All this is to say that I was excited to be able to take a day off with Baby M. We went to my office for a while, but mostly we just hung out at home and cuddled and nursed** and practiced taking steps and worked on signs and took long naps and flipped through books (can't really call it reading) and ate yogurt and laughed at the dogs and waved to the garbage collector and tried to crawl into the washing machine (her, not me) and took apart the diaper bag and cuddled some more.

So, it was a good day. It occurs to me that I had a lot more days like this with E, but I didn't realize how important and good they were. I wish now that I had understood just how quickly this stage goes by and had let myself enjoy it a bit more.

On Monday, I'll have E alone for the day. She will have to accompany me to a department meeting because I can't find childcare, but otherwise the day will be ours. I can't wait.

*Actually Baby M is awake far more often at 4 a.m., but that isn't what I consider quality time.

**Yes, yes. I am supposed to be weaning, but it makes her happy. I'll get more serious about it when classes start next week.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


Thank you, Nico, for the technical help!

I'm making slow progress on this list. I was feeling less panicked until I realized that I don't have any childcare for Little E Monday through Wednesday next week because there is a gap between her last day at her daycare and her first day at her new preschool. J is going to take off on Wednesday because that is my first class day, but she'll have to come to work with me Monday and Tuesday. Joy!

Here is my updated list.

  • Decide on schedule for practicum
  • Determine grading scheme for practicum
  • Put practicum readings together in WebCT
  • Put practicum project handout together
  • Test software in lab
  • Write lab exercises that utilize software
  • Write first week of lectures for practicum I have these planned, but not written
  • Put finishing touches on social issues syllabus
  • Determine grading scale for social issues
  • Investigate pedagogical implications of requiring student blogs in social issues
  • Find a peanut-free food that E will be able to carry for lunch at new school
  • Get E’s hair trimmed Scheduled
  • Get my hair trimmed and brows waxed Have made appointment for hair
  • Meet grad student about our neglected project scheduled
  • Get pedicure Perhaps this will be a treat after surviving the first week of classes
    Call electrician about the short in living room overhead light
  • Lose five pounds Working on it! Less chocolate and more exercise!
  • Try on my professional clothes to determine what will fit until I lose five pounds
  • Keep trying to wean
  • Determine guest list for joint birthday party
  • Order invitations
  • Order cake
  • Start running
  • Keep running Three days in a row!
  • Update college web page to reflect office hours
  • Find out when my faculty committees/ department meetings are scheduled
  • Bake something to take to Baby M’s nursery the day of her actual birthday
  • Throw away student tests that are more than three years old (we are required to keep work for three years)
  • Put together WebCT pages for social issues
  • Find shoes for Baby M who, while not walking on her own, likes to hold onto my fingers and walk
  • Find out if I am already president of state association (the fact that I don’t know if my term has begun is embarrassing)
  • Get email list for April 2008 conference I am organizing; talk to last year’s organizer
  • Set up state association web site
  • Get E's immunization records Should be able to pick these up tomorrow

Monday, August 13, 2007

A Technical Question

It would be very helpful for me to be able to strikethrough my depressingly long to-do list. However, when I try to cut and paste from Word, Blogger loses my formatting. I do not see a strikethrough button on the Blogger editing menu. Can anyone tell me how to get strikethrough formatting? I know I've seen others bloggers using it.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Nine days and a list from hell

My classes start on August 22, I am not entirely prepared. Actually, I am not at all prepared, and I’m starting to panic. Sure, I’ve had months to do all this. Many months. Yet here I am, Dr. Procrastinator. It happens that Baby M’s birthday is also on the 22nd. I would be more panicked about that except that we plan to hold a joint party with her sister in September giving me a few more weeks to procrastinate.

This semester I'm teaching two sections of a research practicum and one section of a social issues course. I'm not at all worried about the latter as it is fun and relatively easy to teach.* However, this is my first time teaching the subject matter in this particular practicum, and I find myself struggling with it a bit. I am also on two college-wide committees that are fairly work intensive and I am in the middle of two reserach projects. Things are about to get busy.

In the interest of attempting to organize myself, here is my get-ready for-school list in no particular order:

  • Decide on schedule for practicum
  • Determine grading scheme for practicum
  • Put practicum readings together in WebCT
  • Put practicum project handout together
  • Test software in lab
  • Write lab exercises that utilize software
  • Write first week of lectures for practicum
  • Put finishing touches on social issues syllabus
  • Determine grading scale for social issues
  • Investigate pedagogical implications of requiring student blogs in social issues
  • Find a peanut-free food that E will be able to carry for lunch at new school
  • Get E’s hair trimmed
  • Get my hair trimmed and brows waxed
  • Meet grad student about our neglected project
  • Get pedicure
  • Call electrician about the short in living room overhead light
  • Lose five pounds
  • Try on my professional clothes to determine what will fit until I lose five pounds
  • Keep trying to wean**
  • Determine guest list for joint birthday party
  • Order invitations
  • Order cake
  • Start running
  • Update college web page to reflect office hours
  • Find out when my faculty committees/ department meetings are scheduled
  • Bake something to take to Baby M’s nursery the day of her actual birthday
  • Throw away student tests that are more than three years old (we are required to keep work for three years)
  • Put together WebCT pages for social issues
  • Find shoes for Baby M who, while not walking on her own, likes to hold onto my fingers and walk
  • Find out if I am already president of state association (the fact that I don’t know if my term has begun is embarrassing)
  • Get email list for April 2008 conference I am organizing; talk to last year’s organizer
  • Set up state association web site

Oh my! This is a big list and I know there is more that I am blocking. I guess it is good that I tend to do best working to deadlines (except for in the case of that dreadful text).

*I have taught it often enough that I think I could do it note-free for the entire semester. Still, it needs to be updated lest it feel stale.
**Despite taking bottles at daycare, she throws bottles and sippy cups at me when I try to give her milk (even breastmilk) in them. Then I break down and give her a boob. Help!

Thursday, August 09, 2007


It is 10:30 p.m. and 85 degrees (F) outside. It is 81.9 degrees inside. Today when temperatures climbed into the high 90s and the heat index hit 117, it was 84 degrees inside. Oh yes, our air conditioner sucks (hot) wind. As a result I am cranky, sweaty, and unable to think.

When J left dirty dishes out, I almost exploded. So commenced a short personal journey toward a better understanding of the positive correlation between temperature and homicide rates.

So, anyone know how to sabotage an air conditioner? Ours is covered under our home warranty. However, each time I have called it in, the repairmen have come out and declared it in good working order, just a little low in freon. They charge it and go. It works better for a few days and then we are back to slow baking. The unit is undersized for the house which explains a lot, but still. It must die (and look natural). I can't afford to replace it without help from the warranty company.

Ooh. The CNN man is broadcasting live from downtown. CNN came here to talk about the heat. We are so screwed.

Friday, August 03, 2007

She's having none of it

Do you like milk in cups?

I do not like it, Mom-who-must-be-nuts.
I do not like milk in cups.

Would you like it here or there?

I would not like it here or there.
I would not like it anywhere.
I do not like milk in cups.
I do not like it, Mom-who-must-be-nuts.

Would you like it in a house?
Would you like it with a mouse?

I do not like it in a house.
I do not like it with a mouse.
I would not like it here or there.
I would not like it anywhere.
I do not like milk in cups.
I do not like it, Mom-who-must-be-nuts.

Would you try it in a box?
Would you try it with a fox?

Not in a box.
Not with a fox.
Not in a house.
Not with a mouse.
I would not like it here or there.
I would not like it anywhere.
I do not like milk in cups.
I do not like it, Mom-who-must-be-nuts.

Would you try it in a cup of blue?
Would you try it if I try some too?

Not in a cup of blue.
Not if you try some too.
I do not like it in a house.
I do not like it with a mouse.
I would not like it here or there.
I would not like it anywhere.
I do not like milk in cups.
I do not like it, Mom-who-must-be-nuts.

Would you try some from your daddy?
Would you try some in a paddy?

Not from daddy.
Not in a paddy.
I do not like it in a house.
I do not like it with a mouse.
I would not like it here or there.
I would not like it anywhere.
I do not like milk in cups.
I do not like it, Mom-who-must-be-nuts.

Would you? Could you?
Try some disguised in milk that I’ve expressed
From that place that you like best?

I would not, could not try some disguised in milk that’s been expressed
From the place that I like best.

You may like it.
You will see.
You may like it, my darling pea!

I would not, could not.
In milk that’s been expressed.
Not from daddy.
Not in a paddy.
I do not like it in a house.
I do not like it with a mouse.
I would not like it here or there.
I would not like it anywhere.
I do not like milk in cups.
I do not like it, Mom-who-must-be-nuts.

A straw! A straw!
A straw! A straw!
Could you, would you, with a straw?

Not with a straw.
Not in milk that’s been expressed.
You are making me depressed!
Not from daddy.
Not in a paddy.
I do not like it in a house.
I do not like it with a mouse.
I would not like it here or there.
I would not like it anywhere.
I do not like milk in cups.
I do not like it, Mom-who-must-be-nuts.

You do not like milk in cups?

I do not like it, Mom-who-must-be-nuts.

You do not like it.
So you say.
Try it! Try it!
And you may.
Try it and you may, I say.

Mom! If you will let me be, I will try it.
You will see.
You were wrong and I was right.
This milk in a cup tastes just like tripe.

Friday, July 27, 2007

She loved it

The batteries on the camera died as we were trying to get shots of Little E in front of Thomas. You'll have to use your imagination. Here are a couple of shots from our ride (which came complete with Deliverance-style mountain folk waving from rickety homemade platforms overlooking the Tuckasegee River).

Thursday, July 26, 2007

On vacation

We are on vacation. With children!

What were we thinking?

J and I decided it was time for a short get away. We live on the coast, but by this time of year the heat, the tourists, and the incessant hurricane talk (Are YOU prepared for another Hugo? Do YOU have enough insurance? Have YOU stocked your hurricane survival kit yet?*) get to us, and we feel the desire for a short escape. So what do we do? We head to the mountains for our turn playing tourists.

We left last night. I had a brilliant plan. Leave after dinner and baths so that the girls would sleep the five hours. It was a great idea in theory, but it didn't work out quite so well in reality.

First, I never should have told Little E where we were going. Especially not the part about seeing Thomas the Train. Looking back, that was a bad idea. Very bad. You see, children two and three quarters years old do not have a well-developed sense of time. So by saying, "We'll ride on Thomas on Friday," I may as well have told her "All aboard!" This meant that she didn't dare close her eyes on the trip up (until the last 20 minutes). If she had been happy to be strapped to her carseat that would have been one thing, but after the first two hours, she was pissed about the whole thing, once telling J, "J, turn this car around NOW. I want to go home." Yes, she called him by his first name. That went over well.

Second, if one child is up throwing wild tantrums, the other child is hard pressed to sleep well. This means that Baby M was awake and not happy for the last two hours of the trip. We had stereo wailing in the back seat.

Finally, the girls were wired after we finally checked into our hotel. So wired that they were both up until 1:30 a.m. No amount of nursing, walking or singing was going to help Baby M go to sleep. Little E stayed up in solidarity.

This morning we went shopping for a fan to produce white noise (I can't sleep without it-how we left mine, I don't know) and a sit and stand stroller.** Why we have waited until 11 months for a sit and stand, I don't know, but Little M can't walk as far here so a double stroller was definitely in order. Coming from the Lowcountry, she is unaccustomed to hills and we have lots of walking planned. After their nap, we are going up into the mountains to see the house my in-laws are building. I have mixed feelings about their vacation home (a place in the mountains-cool! more time with the in-laws- Ugh!).

Tomorrow is Thomas Day. I'll post pics.

*Our answers are no, no and no.
**And a big bottle of wine. For the whining.

Friday, July 13, 2007


M will be 11 months next week. My breastfeeding goal was to make it to a year, and I do believe we will do this (no thanks to lazy lefty). I am planning to commence with day weaning after we take a family vacation to the N.C. mountains at the end of this month. Thanks to my frozen stash, M should be able to get breast milk during the day right up until the one year mark when I will switch her to whole milk and start night weaning. The photo at left doesn't do my stash justice: the entire bottom shelf of a stand-up freezer is full and there is more in the house. How did that happen?

Why I look forward to weaning

  • I am tired of being hooked to the pump three times a day. My inner heifer is rebelling, I suppose.
  • When I go to my office, I look like a bag lady.
  • Nursing bras aren't sexy, cute, or even sporty.
  • I dress for nursing and pumping access, not for fashion.
  • I'm still hanging onto eight extra pounds, and I blame nursing.
  • I smell like maple syrup from fenugreek consumption.
  • My DD girls need their own zip code.
  • Eight razor sharp baby teeth and more where they came from.

Why the thought of weaning makes me sad

  • After a disastrous nursing experience with E, I feel a certain sense of accomplishment this time.
  • Some days it feels like the only quality one-on-one time I get with M is while we are nursing.
  • M doesn't seem ready. She is very much a boob baby, crawling at breakneck speed to find me when she wants to nurse. The cadence of hands and feet on hardwood signals her intent. When I lift her to me, she buries her head in my chest and starts protesting at the clothes that are in her way. How am I going to say no to that?
  • I'm not quite sure how to go about weaning. Drop one feeding a week? Every few days? Switch to a cup or stick with the bottle? Nurse for comfort? Find another comfort object?
  • Because, despite all my anxiety about not being able to meet her needs, I did it, I enjoyed it, and I found it life affirming.
  • I know that she is probably my last child and weaning closes a chapter of my life.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Priorities in order

Is it pathetic that, given a choice of long weekends to take a quick mountain vacation, I said no to the weekend that the last Harry Potter book will delivered to my door?

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Recipe Swap

Nico is hosting a recipe swap for quick and easy recipes that are good as leftovers and/or easy to prepare. Here is one of my favorite summer recipes that is easy and doesn't involve heating up the kitchen. This can be served as a side dish, but I think that it is hearty enough to be a main course if served with a whole grain roll.

Marinated Black Bean Salad
3 cans of black beans, drained
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 Tbs grainy dijon mustard
salt/pepper to taste
1 medium red onion, chopped
2 medium tomatoes, diced (use one can of diced if you don't have fresh tomatoes)
1 red onion sliced for garnish (optional)

Mix tomatoes, black beans, onion.
Mix oil, vinegar, salt/pepper, mustard and drizzle over bean mixture. I don't usually use the entire vinaigrette.
Place sliced onions on top.
Chill overnight. Serve cool.

Back to the office

For the better part of a year, I have avoided my campus office like the plague. I cleared out last June and did my level best to stay away through family leave and then a sabbatical. I can't point to any one thing fueling my desire to stay away and to work from home. The baby was a huge part of it, course, but there were other reasons.

Rats, for instance.

My office is located in the attic of a building on the historic register (or so I'm told). It is old and dusty. In the recent past it was infested with rats the size of small house cats. Oh yes, office vermin! Such an authentic link to the past! We should put it on the campus tour. I was so afraid of my rodent invaders that I would knock on my door before entering the office so they could scamper back to their hiding places in the walls. Getting rid of them was a comedy in three acts. First, the maintenance guys brought traps over and baited these with peanut butter. In the mornings before I would enter, I would send someone else into the office to check the traps. There were never any bodies to dispose of. Instead, all the peanut butter had been licked off and there were often little peanut butter rat tracks back to the bank of cabinets lining my office. One maintenance guy was so certain that the traps were malfunctioning that he tested one. With his finger. The traps were in perfect condition. His finger, alas, was not. This incident confirmed my fear that the rats were, in fact, smarter than people. When it became apparent that traps wouldn't work, the college contracted with an outside exterminator who baited the office with rat poison. The rats ate the rat poison, but it did not kill them. I suspect this is because they were super rats for whom rat poison was the equivalent of Popeye's spinach. What finally worked was putting a new roof on the building. Apparently there were holes under the slate of the old roof which provided an on-ramp for the rat super highway that ran through my office.

All this is to say that a healthy and sustained fear of rats is one reason I stayed away. You never know when they'll be back.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

A Terrible Method for Putting Things in Perspective, Part II

Most evenings after feeding the family, bathing the children and getting M to bed, I leave J and E to read stories, and I take a walk. Most of the time, I walk to a nearby river to watch the dolphins feeding and to take in the setting sun. On Monday, I departed from this ritual and opted instead to walk an urban trail that runs between my neighborhood and one of the main thoroughfares in my city.

I set out around 6:45 and walked for about half an hour before turning around. The trail was fairly busy with kids on mountain bikes, runners, and couples getting in their evening exercise. When I was about half a mile out, I noticed a sickening chemical smell and wondered if someone had burned some household trash. It was unpleasant, and it burned my eyes, but the smell only lasted a few hundred feet and then was gone. I put it out of my mind.

When I turned around after a half hour to head home, I immediately noticed a thick plume of black, black smoke rising in the air in the distance. The meaning of the chemical smell became apparent; it was obviously a structural fire. With sirens—fire, ambulance, police-- wailing in the distance, I walked back toward the source of the smoke. The closer I got, the clearer it became that this was a massive fire.

I exited the trail and started walking toward the sirens and bright lights. I was not alone. As if led by the Pied Piper, a line of us walked toward the commotion and the heat. Motorists rolled down their windows to ask what was happening. Kids on bikes excitedly raced past.

I was awestruck by the fire. A warehouse was aflame and it was the most intense thing I have ever seen. Flames were shooting into the air. It sounded like that cereal that snaps, crackles and pops. It smelled hot. Waves of heat enveloped the crowd that had gathered. Firefighters on ladder trucks aimed water over the top of the structure. I felt self-conscious taking pictures with my cell phone camera until I noticed that others were doing the same. The impromptu gathering took on a carnival atmosphere; I think those of us in the crowd shared the assumption that all firefighting efforts were taking place from a safe distance outside the building.

Imagine then, my horror upon learning later that evening that maybe two to three fire fighters were missing. Imagine then, the horror upon learning the next morning that nine firefighters had lost their lives in the inferno.

To get out of my neighborhood, I have to pass the store and warehouse that burned. It has become a shrine of sorts. In front of the police tape and ATF trailers, someone has placed nine white crosses. There are flowers. Teddy bears. Notes. People stop and cry. Their grief is captured by the national press which is out in force. It is surreal. It is sad. I didn't know any of the men killed Monday, but I still feel a deep sense of loss.

Saturday, June 16, 2007


Thanks for the kind comments on my previous post. We all survived the week.

My mother's cancer had not spread and she will require no treatment beyond the surgery. The growth the surgeon removed form her liver was just a cyst and the enlarged ovary was the result of a benign condition. She'll have an annual colonoscopy to monitor for recurrence, but she is considered cured at this point. She is still hospitalized, but she should be out by Monday or Tuesday.

Here are some highlights from the week:

Thursday morning, the first morning after the surgery, I was the child on duty to visit my mother first. I left M with my sister-in-law and borrowed a car from my sister-in-laws' father which I almost wrecked on the way to the hospital by stalling during a left-hand turn. In my defense, I have never driven a car with a clutch that tight despite a great deal of experience with manual transitions including my current car. After I arrived at the hospital, I could not figure out how to get the key out of the ignition. Then I couldn't find the owner of the car or anyone who knew how to remove it. They had to page my brother out of a meeting so he could tell me the trick (a latch that you slide as you turn the key). All I can say is damn you, Ford. No wonder you are losing market share.

I have seen the future and it isn't pretty. My mother's whining and complaining do not bode well for how she will handle aging. She already complains bitterly about everything, but the surgery just exaggerated these tendencies. I guess it would be different if she complained in a nice way, but that didn't happen. I witnessed her harassing two nurses when they couldn't find her veins: "I'm going to write the hospital a letter telling them that there ARE better ways to do this."*

Speaking of which, I'm not cut out for nursing parents. I fed my mom ice chips, brushed her teeth, brushed her hair and tried to help her out of bed, but I felt anxious the whole time especially when I realized she was going commando-- I thought I might need intensive talk therapy, if not drugs after that. How do people care for their parents for extended periods of time? Does it get easier? Do my parents have the finances in place for long term care?

Baby M and I stayed with my brother. He and his wife are on the fence as to whether to have another child** so they keep a crib in the spare bedroom, but not a bed. I learned that I am too old to sleep on air mattresses. By morning, enough air had leaked that parts of me had sunk to the ground and other parts were buoyed by air pockets. I will bring a sleeping bag next time and just sleep on the floor. It will be better. Despite a somewhat uncomfortable night, it was nice to stay with my brother's family.

E came home (she and J stayed with my in-laws) and promptly developed another mystery fever that has lasted two days thus far. This makes three in the past 8 weeks. I'm starting to get concerned. Except for the high fever, she has no other symptoms. Strange.

M is about to cut a new tooth and has been cranky. I can see the tooth, her third, under the gum so I think that the misery will end soon. Of course, there are many more to come. Sigh.

I've decided to move back to my campus office (I've been on maternity leave and sabbatical since August and have been mostly home-based.). I'm looking forward to more of a separation between home and work. More on that later next week as I move my base of operations.

*I have the same skinny, temperamental veins, so while I understand that being stuck four times for one blood draw or IV is not optimal, I have never harassed a nurse about it. Especially not one who is responsible for providing my pain meds and emptying my bladder.

**I'm guessing they will have another and that I'll experience a certain amount of baby envy before giving over to total delight to being an aunt again.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Just shoot me

Quick! Someone find me a therapist (and not that bitch from the Sopranos). I have mother issues.

My mother has been diagnosed with cancer and is about to have surgery and I am feeling. . .


Resentment. When I reach deep and try to identify the dominant emotion that is gripping me these days, it isn’t fear or sadness or anxiety that rises to the top of the stew. No, it is resentment. My hospital-phobic brother called me this afternoon to complain about my mother's complaining and stream of orders. It seems that he is feeling resentful too.

Nearly a week after her diagnosis, my fears have come true. My mother is in full-blown crisis mode. She is panicked, mournful, bossy, controlling, and eager for attention. Her energy to complain and whine and complain some more seems limitless. She is a force of nature.

So far she has:
  • called everyone she can think of to share her “very sad news.” I guess she doesn’t trust her social network to get the word out. I asked if I could tell a mutual acquaintance here (we live in a city a few hours from her). She informed that she had already called and had a "very nice chat" with the acquaintance.
  • asked a church acquaintance who is battling Stage 4 colon cancer to accompany her to her appointments. As if she needs to spend what's left of her time in more hospitals and doctors' offices. The woman had the good sense to demur.
  • asked a friend to spend the night in the hospital with her despite my brother and my offers of hiring a night nurse.
  • called to tell me that the CT technician hurt her hand with the IV used in her scan. So she cried (literally) and demanded a supervisor take over.
  • arranged for her prayer group to be at the hospital during her surgery.
  • demanded that my brothers and I are at the hospital during her procedure. I was planning to do this, but my especially hospital-phobic brother is none-too-pleased.
  • told me she expects me to hold hands and sing Kumbaya or whatever with her preacher and prayer group. She knows I am an avowed agnostic and perhaps an atheist, but she doesn’t care. When I told her that I would be respectful of the group, but would not be holding hands and praying aloud, she started crying. Oh yeah. Maybe guilt will help me find God.
  • demanded that I bring the children and stay with her when she is released from the hospital. I'm not doing this for reasons I'll have to write about later.
  • told me over and over that she is feeling sorry for herself, but that it is natural to feel sorry for herself because this is just so tragic.

As you are reading this, perhaps you are thinking that we are jerks. Ungrateful children. Selfish. And maybe we are.

However, our response to our mother’s emotional outbursts, machinations, and directives is conditioned upon a lifetime of trying to manage her emotional outbursts, machinations, and directives. I guess a cancer diagnosis isn’t enough to overcome this.

Saturday, June 02, 2007


Tropical Depression Barry, I love you.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Perfect Storm

A few observations about my mother: First, she is a drama queen who is happiest in times of crisis. Second, she oversteps boundaries, especially those of her children. Finally, she is a score-keeper. I offer a few illustrations of each of these.

The Drama Queen
Example One: In the months preceding my wedding, my parents separated. Every day, my mother would call me with the latest round of complaints about my father. She found a way to make sure that everyone from the caterers to the wedding guests knew about the separation and how she was doing her best "to put on a happy face in this difficult time." For instance, when I sent my photo to the paper and asked that my photograph be labeled "Ms. B" instead of "Mrs. JM" (I did not change names), she called the editor and told her that I was absolutely changing my name and was just reacting to my parents' very sad separation. *
Example Two: When anything happens to one of her children---from fender benders to surgery--she immediately calls her prayer groups and prayer lists and whips everyone into a frenzy. When I was about to have nerve damage caused by E's vacuum birth surgically corrected**, she put that on the prayer list. Some things--and I include my hoo-hoo as one of them--just don't need to be the subject of strangers' prayers.

Boundaries, Schmoundaries
Example One: When J and I were fairly newly married, my mother brought her handyman to our house. He was supposed to fix the bathroom floor which was sagging. She decided she may as well have him paint the bathroom while he was there without so much as a "Hey, how would you feel about having your bathroom painted Smurf blue?" We were not amused.
Example Two: When I was in the hospital after having E, my mother resdistributed the furniture in my house, rearranged my kitchen and reorganized J and my drawers. I had a hormone induced meltdown upon discovering this.

Keeping Score
Example One: At Christmas, she spends precisely the same amount of money on each child and grandchild. Sometimes, we'll get an odd check for the $7.63 , but more often she makes a stocking and fills it with hideous items from the dollar store to make up the difference in what she has spent.
Example Two: She keeps a list of what each child has done for her lately: My brother M mowed her lawn when we were in town. However, Brother S cleaned her pool for her the week before. Therefore, it was my responsibility to do all the dishes during our visit on Sunday.

So there you have it, my mother is an attention-seeking-knows-no-boundaries-scorekeeping-drama queen.*** Who has just been diagnosed with colon cancer. It is the perfect storm. Stay tuned.

*They reunited shortly after my wedding. I did not change my name.
**I had a vestibulectomy-very painful, but effective.
***I know this sounds harsh. I do love her, but she makes me a little nuts.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Time to start a conversation

It doesn't seem right to complain about your marriage the same week a friend has lost her husband. It feels a little like when I complained about pregnancy after experiencing infertility--shouldn't I just be grateful already?

J and I have been together 17 years this summer, and we celebrated our 14th anniversary in February (by celebrate, I mean that we traded greeting cards). We've had rough patches here and there and there have been times that I've wanted to run away, but things have always gotten better. Things aren't bad now. They just aren't great.

So what's wrong?

When we were first together, we had to be in physical contact with one another. Sitting next to one another. Holding hands. Touching in some way. It was probably sickening. Last summer I bought a king size bed so there would be less physical contact. It isn't as if I expect to sustain the passion that we had earlier in our relationship, but I'm not sure the embers are even warm anymore.

Speaking of which. What about sex? What about that? We had a decent, if predictable, sex life right up until we were in the midst of trying to conceive. That pretty much killed it. Now, two children later, I am actually annoyed when J tries to start things. Once I saw a show on the animal channel in which the female large ferocious mammal almost took off the head of the male large ferocious mammal when he attempted to mount her. She looked pissed and annoyed. Like me! He looked bewildered. Like J. I cackled in delight. Take that, Mr. Horny! I totally get that the whole lack of sex thing is all my fault (though I do think that breastfeeding and being dog tired contribute to my decided lack of enthusiasm), but I don't care enough to do something about it. How sad is that?

Then there is the communication. Or lack thereof. We don't talk anymore. At least we don't talk to each other. We tend to talk at each other and then get pissed when we are ignored. For instance, J asked last night if a friend of mine is pregnant. Weeks ago, I had gone into great detail about how she was pregnant. I didn't realize it at the time, but he was giving me the "great, honey" treatment:

Me: Friend A is pregnant! I was right! I suspected this for at least a month. Isn't it great. Our kids will be close enough in age to play.

J: That's great, honey. [while watching The Simpsons]

I'm sure I give him the "great, honey" treatment, too.

J: Wow. The Braves, blah, blah, blah. Home run. Blah, blah. Pitchers. Blah, blah. Yankees. Blah.

Me: That's great, honey. [while reading blogs]

There is more. Bad attitudes. Annoying habits. Some disagreements over the best way to discipline a certain headstrong two-year-old. But nothing is toxic about our marriage.

I'm at a loss as to where to start to make things better. I think it would help to have a date night once in a while, but that is very expensive and we are already spending what we earn plus some. I think that as the children get older and less demanding that we may have more time and energy, too. In the meantime, maybe it is time to start a conversation about this. I love J too much to let things stay like this.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

A terrible method for puting things in perspective

Last week's underwhelming Mother's Day, E's terrible twodom, M's refusal to eat anything that hasn't been pureed just so, the roof that is a structural disaster--all of these are just ant hills. I wish it didn't take tragic news to remind me of this.

Last week, I made plans to take the kids to the aquarium with B, a French adjunct with whom I am friendly. It is impossible not to be friendly with B; she is seriously peppy. It would probably be annoying, but the French accent makes it rather endearing. "Bonjour! Bonjour!" she greets me each morning as I huff and puff up the steep stairs to my office. B and I were pregnant at the same time, and we both had girls. We aren't close, but we do get together for coffee and our girls attend one another's parties and are slated to be classmates in the fall.

When I last spoke to her last Thursday, B was as happy as ever. She was looking forward to her husband's return from an extended business trip and was hoping to fill the time with beach trips and play dates. Her husband, E, is Filipino. I can't remember the story of how they wound up in the U.S., but I'm sure they told me. Their daughter looks exactly like him. In fact, when I visited after the birth, she proudly held up her little bundle of joy and told me, "I made an Asian baby!" Did I mention she is peppy?

Last Friday, I tried to call B to get her cell phone number because I was concerned that the baby's nap would make us late to our Saturday aquarium date. Her cousin answered the phone. I remembered B telling me that her cousin's English was "very bad, very bad" and considering that my French is worse, all I could get out of her cousin was that B was out and would not be home until Saturday. Given our difficulties speaking, I assumed that she misspoke. I called back Saturday morning an hour before we were to meet at the aquarium. Once again, the cousin told me to call later. It was odd, but I thought that perhaps B had made a quick trip to see her husband and had car trouble.

Later that afternoon I received an email from another friend, "I just received word that B's husband, E, was killed in an automobile accident yesterday."

I had a physical reaction to the news: my stomach clenched and my heart pounded wildly. Pure shock. It was just unreal. It is still unreal. And so very unfair. She is in the U.S. alone, save for a cousin who happened to be visiting. She will raise a daughter alone. She didn't get to say goodbye.

I've not seen her or spoken to her. No one I know has seen her yet. We are all giving her space until she is ready for visitors. However, she has been sending emails. Late at night. They are full of rage and pain. She sounds furious with the driver of the car* (he "is intact and E is dead.") She speaks of being full of regret for not having joined him on this business trip as if she could have stopped this from happening. She speaks of their recent decision to have another child. She sounds so grim. So raw. I have to have a box of tissue handy when opening them.

Sometimes when I hear of someone who is losing or has lost a spouse to a lengthy illness, I think that it might be easier to lose your loved one suddenly. But I'm not sure. Maybe a long, slow goodbye is better. There is closure. Time to plan. I don't know.

This weekend, B will bury her husband in the Northeast where they lived before coming here. When she returns, I hope she will feel up to receiving visitors. However, I think it is going to be a long while before I hear a joyful "Bonjour! Bonjour!" again.

*I googled a newspaper account of the accident. The driver lost control of the car and the car went down an embankment, hit a tree on the passenger side, spun around and hit another tree on the driver side. In an email, B said they had been attending a "function" so I would not be surprised to learn that alcohol was involved.