Tuesday, August 31, 2010


For me, academic summers are stretches of time in which I can reliably get from the parking lot to my office with a maximum of two phatic social interactions (admin. assistant, custodian) and can then engage in spirited conversations with myself for 5 or 6 hours before heading kidwards and back into "communicate with others" mode.

Yesterday I started student advising at 10 (a group meeting) and then met one-on-one with new freshmen about their schedules between 11 and 3 and then led a discussion about the summer reading (Catfish and Mandala) and then went to dinner at the college president's house with the author of the summer reading (Andrew Pham), and then went to the public reading given by Pham.  It was all a bit much talking to other people. Conversing.  The Lost Art of.  The art I've lost of.

Pham was fascinating, and appealing to me because he reached a point in the Q&A after his evening performance at which he seemingly decided he didn't want to answer some of our more impertinent questions, and didn't care whether that irked us.  Frankly, that's also what makes his book so good: the narrator's admission of unlikeable features of himself . . . and the implication that he doesn't care how we respond to his revelation.  Like him?  Not like him?  Fine.  He's doing his work for himself, not for YOU.

Thinking about this makes clear the difference between summer work (for myself) and semester (for YOU . . . which, in this case is the students).  Draining.

YOU guys, you make me tired.

Between you, Winton (who missed me last night at bed time and so woke me up at 4 to pat me smile and incant happily "Muh-mmeeeee") and Clara (who peed through the leg of her pullup and was already awake at 4, waiting for someone else to wake up so she could complain about her wet bed) I very much want to stay here in my office, lights off, door closed and mutter incoherently.  This does not bode well for a return to teaching tomorrow.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Yes, everyone's child is a prodigy

But mine are creepy-good with words.
Clara: "You guys are distracting me. I am not happy about that.  I'm going in the other room."
Winton (on trying to get a triangular peg into a hexagonal hole): "No.  That's not right."

Friday, August 27, 2010


Why my commute takes as long as my husband's even though I go 8 miles within the Baltimore area, and he goes from Baltimore to DC. From an email to said husband about trying to get to work today.  (The Cast: Mummy, who needs to be at a 10 o'clock meeting;  Clara aged 3; Winton aged 18 months; and Hardie, a bassett-type hound aged 3ish with a penchant for peeing on couches and vomiting when upset.)

Getting here was HORRENDOUS. Neither kid would co-operate with departure. Both said "no no no" repeatedly to the idea of going to school. Clara wouldn't go upstairs to pee until I forced her to, and then she wouldn't come back down. Kid screaming at rock-concert volumes, dog barking unsure whether we are playing or fighting. Me going upstairs to carry Clara down, Clara hitting me. Dog barking. Me trying to get my shoes on, Clara pushing Winton backwards off the second step. Me losing it and plopping her into the stroller (containment!) with a bit too much verve. Epic crying from both kids. Dog barking. Leave Clara inside and take Winton and bags to car, realise Winton has poop oozing out of his pants. Back inside. Diaper change. Everyone screaming, dog barking. Finally we leave. Me carrying Winton, and lifting still-screaming Clara by one arm out to the pavement where I set her down on the sidewalk like a piece of shrieking angry luggage while I put Winton in his seat. Clara flailing as I try to put her into her seat means she bangs her head on the doorframe. Intensified screaming.

Hardie suspiciously quiet once I had locked the front door behind the human members of our party.  I fear for our couch.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The American Party Beetle

My husband came home on Sunday afternoon with a book.  I, fresh from wiping ants out of the living room baseboards, misread "battle" in its title as "beetle."  Greatly amused, I threw my arms in the air, sang "DA-na-na-nah, wop wop, NA na wop wop, na nah," and tried to dance as I imagined "The American Party Beetle" would if it were enjoying itself, infesting our house as so many other creepy crawlies do, swinging at least 4 of its six legs in the air as it gyrated its stiff body in circles.  A dance style truly suited to the rhythmically impaired.  It reminded me I don't dance for joy much: frankly, I suck at celebrating.

I turned 40 today.  I have been mid-life-crisising about this for months as it caps off a year in which a got tenure (yay!) but admitted I'd be living in Baltimore permanently (boo!), and a decade in which I finished my PhD, taught an awful adjuncting job in Halifax, came to Baltimore, met and married my husband and had two children.  Whew.  It all makes me want to sit under the basement stairs and breathe into a paper bag. (Did I mention that I suck at celebrating?  "Oh there goes Doomy," the world says as I, cloaked in excessively good fortune, hyperventilate about how stressed it all makes me.)

BUT, perhaps that's all about to change.  For also this week, I got a letter from the Royal Bank of Canada saying that  MY STUDENT LOANS ARE REPAID IN FULL.  I can stop repaying them.  What a gobsmacking, flabbergasting, spine-straightening, jaw loosening, energyenergyenergy inducing thought.  My arms spontaneously shoot into the air when I contemplate it.  And I gyrate, unrhythmically, with triumph.

Perhaps this is the era of the American Party Beetle?

Monday, August 23, 2010

On Being Home

Oh, it's good to be back
and heft my backpack
to the hyundai full of crumbs.

I'm having a good first day back in the routine of getting the kids to preschool and daycare and me to the office.  Clara, having swilled poop water around the upstairs bathroom all weekend (rinsing out her potty: "Ill do it MYSELF, Mummy") conceded this morning to pooping directly in the toilet.  Winton, suffering an addiction to Trader Joe's High Fiber Cereal, pooped odiferously three times, but never once overflowed his diaper.  AND I went to the dermatologist to be told that in fact there is nothing cancerous at all about my skin, despite close to a decade of living on the equator and sunburning myself regularly.  Woo Hoo!

Plus, it's a relief that my trip to Vancouver went well.  My father did indeed want to swim in the Pacific despite air temperatures in the 60s.  And, though my first hours upon arrival involved shopping for enemas for my severely constipated mother*,  she is about as well as can be expected.

*This involved my hard-of-hearing father having a conversation with a soft-spoken pharmacist at Safeway.  Father [bellowing] "What?"
Pharmacist [quietly] "Microlax is an enema, not a laxative, sir.  She shouldn't use this every day"

Anyway.  I'm at my desk.  My computer (as always after being shut off) is working about as fast as a glacier,
but I could sing with contentment . . . which means I am in full-on denial about the meeting I am supposed to lead on Wednesday morning and haven't prepped for and the syllabi I have not even started for the classes commencing Aug. 30.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Misread (poop on the brain)

Roadway sign: "fecal boutique: bouquets only $24"
It's good to be home.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Overheard: Clara After a Week with Daddy

Daddy, you are a good friend for me.  But not when you are angry.  Then you are not my friend.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Separation Anxiety

We used to have a dog, May, who suffered from separation anxiety.  It was as if she knew she was being irrational, and as if she sought out dispensible items on which to act out impulses she couldn't control.  Left unchecked, she would raid the recycling and shred cardboard papertowel spools, or my closet and delicately remove all the labels from the necks of my sweaters.  It was as if she was a smartish dog who had impulses she couldn't control but tried to do what she needed to do somewhat discretely.

Sans enfants here in Vancouver, I know just that feeling.  My rational mind is utterly unconcerned about the welfare of my children.  My husband is home AND they are going to school/ daycare as usual.  In terms of impulse though,  I feel wild with wrongness.  I should be with them.  They should be in my arms, on my lap.  Especially Winton, the toddler whose babyhood I am totally unwilling to surrender.  (He for whom I pump twice daily in case he still wants to clutch his blue blankie and ask embarrassingly explicitly for "boob" when I get home.)

Neuroses come from this rift between what the brain decides and what biology wants.

Please pass me a paper towel spool.  I feel a need to shred coming on.

Sunday, August 15, 2010


Tomorrow I leave to visit my parents: my first time away from either of my children overnight.  I'll be gone for five days.  My brain is like a skittish horse, shying away from what I think about the impending trip.  It's easier to deal with pragmatic (symbolic?) details.
In my luggage will be:
a manual breast pump (because I can't decide if I want Winton to be weaned by the time I get back or not and am deluding myself that I have some choice in the matter).
Ishmael Beah's book about being a child soldier (because I am teaching a course on child soldiers in the fall--ha!  "in the fall" sounds so far away)
A bathing suit (still the shapeless shorts/ sports top ensemble I wore when pregnant as I can't seem to justify the expense of buying a new suit) in case my 78 year old father really does want to swim in the frigid waters of English Bay one afternoon.

Friday, August 13, 2010

The B*tch with Seven Heads: Recipe

2 parts children who woke up too early.
1 part preschool "concert" commencing when children normally want lunch.
1 part red-eyed screaming preschooler trying to get off stage area and onto my lap.
1 part screaming with pleasure toddler trying to get off my lap and onto the stage area.
1 part disparaging glances from other parent.
1 part menstrual cramps and headache.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Depress yourself

1)  Acknowledge that parallel parking during rush hour is NOT actually a triumph of grand proportions.

2)  Admit that you are not going to get Ch. 1 revised this week. (And next week you are away, and then.  Well then it's August 23 and the world comes to an end, so you and your chapter as well as your still uncontemplated syllabi are screwed.)

3) Recognize that the itemized, 26 point, list of household chores you made on the back of an envelope while the kids were smearing kidney beans on the dinner table is simply a distraction from #2.

Hungry Love

I'm the kind of mother that faces the prospect of being away for 5 days with absolute dread: what if they miss me horribly?  What if they don't miss me?  What if my plane crashes and they are too young to remember how much I love them?

I feel like this (but where Fertig writes "girl" I'd be thinking both girl and boy):

Hungry Mother (by Mona Fertig)

This little girl is ours, this little girl is beautiful.
I could love her to death.  Consume her like D'Sonoqua,
the wild woman of the woods.  But my feast would be gentle.
I would hug and kiss her until she sank back into my flesh.
Like warm honey and butter on toast.  Now I understand
why the witch wanted to eat Hansel and Gretel.  That was
no fairy tale.  Only the unfathomable side of my love.
My all-consuming hunger to be one again with you.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Poop Chronicles: Clara

"I'm done."
"You sure?"
"I'm done."
"You sure?"

"I'm done."
"You sure?"
"I'm done."
"You sure?"
"No, I'm still pooping a little bit."

Criminal Pedagogy

I taught Winton to say "stucco."

First Word

"Poop" is momosyllable of the week ("puke" was a close second).  Surprising given that my daytimer for the week says "Revisions Ch. 1" and "Pay income tax."  It feels as though kids and pets save their messiest problems for the first 17 minutes after we return home: yesterday was a banner day.  We got home at 4.58.  Both children had corn for lunch (at preschool and daycare, respectively) so there was a lot of child poop around 5.03.  The dog was thirsty, drank a bowl of water and then puked at 5.08.  At about 5.09, Winton (the 18 monther) found the vomit (clear, viscous, dotted with bloated golfish crackers) and sat down in it.  He and I had a quick, screaming bath in cold water. Everybody was back downstairs to admire the cat vomit on the wall by 5.15.  I did pay the IRS, by the way.  Chapter 1?  Yeah.  Hiding from that.