Monday, February 28, 2011

Just another Mandeville Monday

Mandeville's "The Grumbling Hive"  (1705) describes
"A Spacious hive well-stock'd with Bees"

I feel like that hive is in my head today (part of Mandeville's point: the brain's view of the outside world is all about perception and he contends that one winds up, too often, imagining the world as "a vain/ Eutopia seated in the brain": in my case I seem to excel at mental perceptions that create dys-, rather than u-topia ). 

Constitutionally, I am ill-suited to community life that revolves around time.  Time-pressures stress me out.  I am frantic at the possibility of lateness.  I would love nothing more than to be free of the tyranny of the digital clock in my car, the one in the lower right hand corner of this screen, the people (students, children) who need me to be on time, and need my time--always more of it than I have.

Constitutionally, I am especially ill-suited for juggling teaching (which requires absolute punctuality) and children (who desire time to fuss with hair clips, hug the dog dangerously close to his genitalia, and admire the new growth in the garden before actually getting in the car to get to school/ daycare in time for me to get to class).

Compounding factor: On Mondays (tired from the weekend, reluctant to part with my tow-headed offspring) I don't want to go to work, so the children's tarryings and mine are in concert.

By the time I get to work, I have less than 5 minutes to scramble upstairs to the classroom, and no time to deal with the headache occasioned by the bees in my head.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Outgoing Mail

1) To my Father:

Hi Pappa,

I'm just back from the pool and am at my desk eating lunch (black eyed peas and collards!  Very southern).  Wanted you to know that swimming always makes me think of you.  I always take a few moments after swimming laps to goof around in the deep end (why don't more people do that?).  The goofing around reminds me that the swimming has been for pleasure and not for Work.

Clara has been to the Goucher pool once now as well: she loves it even though her lips go blue after 10 minutes of me holding her up in the water.  We'll go together again when she finally gets over her ear infections.

OK, I must get back to work now.  I love you and I think of you (both) often,



2) My squash colleagues

Hi  __and __,

This semester is testing my time-management ingenuity and musculo-skeletal systems (yes, those issues are definitely related!).  I'm going to take a squash"sabbatical" until one of these things happens: work suddenly seems to fit into a work day, my children stop getting ear infections/ fevers, or the nasty egg shaped lump of tangled muscles under my right shoulder blade finally relaxes and goes away.

Hope the two of you are much more "on top of your game" than I am (and __--I hope your talk went well yesterday!).


3) Unsent, to future Clara and Winton

I am assuming that nutritionists will one day tout pickles (especially nice ones from the farmer's market) as a miracle supplement that improves immune function etc. etc.  That's why I have been letting you eat them at breakfast instead of fruit.

Love, Mum.

Monday, February 21, 2011

You know your children are different genders when . . .

On Saturday, Clara insisted I draw Angelina Ballerina for her so she could colour her in.  I did.  Clara coloured her orange.
And then Winton attacked the picture with a black pen, scrawling wildly and laughing: he added a nest of black lines to indicate "Butt!"  and "Poopy!".

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Claraism du Jour

Now, who's ready to dance to a song?  Clara will sing it.
This one has a dragon and he eats a ballerina.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Claraisms du Jour

Clara was home sick this afternoon, so we had more time than usual for tete-a-tetes:

"Mummy, when I'm 7 or 6 I'll drive myself to the Drs."
and, after my rebuttal,
"No, Mummy.  Accidents only happen to other cars."

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Losing it

It's never OK to lose it and yell at one's kids, is it? No. I know.  In my gut.  It's not.
I made Winton weep and wail this evening when I yelled "Stop it stop it STOP IT!" loudly at him for flushing the toilet repeatedly and dipping his stuffed frog's feet (accidentally?) into the toilet bowl while I was trying to clean his sister's vomit out of the bathtub/ bathwater.
Is it excusable if I add that he had been busy peeing on the bathroom floor while she had been in the bath vomiting?
(The other bad thing I did was swear audibly when 20 minutes later Clara had a largeish pee pee accident on the recently cleaned bathroom floor.)
I suck.  I'm off to wash towels now.

My Dog May

I dreamt about her last night (she was euthanised a little less than a year ago after 6 weeks of bladder infection, pinched spinal nerve, constipation and ultimately sepsis).  In my dream, she showed up at an animal shelter and I was able to adopt her: "That's my dog" I said, as a plexiglass enclosure rocked manically with the force of May's enthusiasm to be with me. 

I wish I could have that second chance with her.  There's some guilt around what I did to her life:  I adopted her (then aged 1) away from her mother with whom she was tightly bonded.  Perhaps that led to her nervousness, which may perhaps have led to her chronic and oft operated upon anal gland issues.  And then I had two children and she all of a sudden got so much less attention than she did before. 

I walked today over the soccer fields in which May used to run in circles with glee, tail fluffed up like the tails of the deer she would chase off those fields into the adjacent woods, and missed her horribly.  I also caught myself incanting "I'm so sorry, May." 

There's a whisper of ridiculousness in the depth of my grief:  How does one dignify the death of a pet when so many much more terrible things happen?
Is there a way to atone for shabby treatment of a now deceased pet?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Claraism du jour

C: Mummy, do you teach Barack Obama?
Me: No.  He's not in college right now.
C: But he must be old enough.  He's 7 or 8.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

de Sausurre

So, Clara (age 4) has led me to a new understanding of semiotics (concepts I remember of which are: word and thing word represents become indivisible; idea that perhaps thought is impossible without language). 

By waking me repeatedly in the night ("I'm itchy, Mummy!"  "Mummy, I need to pee!"  "Mummy, I'm scared there are ghosters!") and interrupting many dreams, Clara let me observe that in my dreams semiotics rupture: there IS thought outside of language.  That apple stem surrounded by yellow light?  It does not mean the word "apple" or "yellow"  or "stem" but rather evokes a more general emotion: apprehension, anxiety, discomfort.  That emotion is part of a sequence (a narrative of emotions)--all happening outside of my waking language. 
Sign, signifier and signified are not in concert.

Perhaps it's sleep deprivation, but today I find that revelation fascinating . . .  Maybe a nap is in order.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Requirements at Bedtime

Winton: At least one copy of "Thomas the Tank-Engine: The Big Race" to press against the side of his head in the dark.

Clara: PJ bottoms that do not ride up around the ankle ("No UP pants, Mummy!") or bare legs.  Three blankets, symmetrically placed one atop the other.

Both: Five kisses blown from doorway.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Waiting for the Train

It's 6.30PM and both my kids are in bed.  (What?  They get up at 6AM, so 6.30PM is a perfectly FINE bedtime oh ye modern world that currently lets small children stay up til 10PM).  Anyway,  Husband caught the 5.35 from DC to Baltimore, as he usually does.  It should get him home by 7.  Winton is in his crib screaming "Daddy Kiss":  utterly inconsolable.   It's going to be a long half hour.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Surprised by Sin . . . I mean snow.

Every Sunday we go to the same bookstore cafe, eat the same treats, go down and play with the same train set and devastate the same collection of plush toys.  At some point during the devastation, Husband breaks ranks and heads to the adjacent grocery store to provision us for the week. 

Because we do the same thing week after week, we are now on speaking terms with a number of other folks who live by routine, including a man who hails, as Husband does, from Illinois.

This morning Husband and Illinois Man discussed the weather here.  Bottom line: Yes, Chicago and its  surrounds are colder BUT no, one does not experience snow as a civic trauma.  Here in Baltimore, 10 days after receiving 4 inches of snow the side roads are still hummocked with ridges of ices and mined with trenches in which snow has melted and refrozen: they are still treacherous.  Still.  Despite the fact that it is 43F outside today, and yesterday we had RAIN.

And every year it as if the city is surprised we have snow, and launches into ineffectual, and short-lived milk and toilet-paper purchasing panic without adding a road-clearing routine.  And every year we have snow.

Our family routine on Sunday mornings is very predictable; how odd that being surprised by snow is a predictable Baltimore city routine.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Urgent Needs

Clara (in car during rush-hour yesterday afternoon, after being constipated for 3 days):
"Mummeeeeee!  Hurry!  The Poopy is starting to come out!"

Winton (crouching and peeing in corner of bathroom, wedged behind toilet, post-bath, naked)
"Mummy!  Peh-nis!  Look Mummy!  I DID it!"

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


Finally, I have found the perfect word to describe that tingling feeling stress produces in tight shoulder muscles: they fizz with tension.  Poet friends, take note.  This description works.  Really, it does.

Why so fizzy today, you ask?  Well, it's only the second week of semester and I've already had 2 snow days to schedule around.  Tomorrow (my big prep day for Friday morning classes, Friday afternoon 3 hour seminar AND, ideally, Monday morning's classes) campus is unexpectedly closed because a major electrical cable needs replacing and there will be no electricity.  That must suck for the students that live in residence.

Add to this Clara, a savvy child, who wailed today that she didn't want another long day at school ("I can't do it, Mummy!  I'm too tired!") and demanded to know, when we reached the doorway of her school building, "But what time are you coming to get me?  Four or four thirty?  I want four."

Also, at some point today I have to discuss whether or not I will be next department chair with the current department chair.  Chairship is a three year term that goes alphabetically here and comes with no financial compensation.  Understandably, no one wants to do it, especially not me.  But it's my turn.
et voila: shoulder fizz.