Thursday, June 30, 2011

Reading Freud

1)  I am writing a book of literary criticism.
2) I live with a 4 year old girl and 2 year old boy and the two bathe together meaning we frequently discuss genitalia.

Freud writes that "the little girl" compares herself "with a boy playfellow" and "perceives that she has 'come off short,' and takes this fact as ill-treatment  and as a reason for being inferior.  For a time she consoles herself with the expectation that later, when she grows up, she will acquire just as big an appendage as a boy."  She also thinks, according to Freud, that at some point "she had a member which was just as big and which had later been lost by castration" (Collected Papers II).

Now, Freud could really have done with some more time hanging out on the rim of the bath tub, 'cause he's a total ARSE about this for the following reasons, if you take my children as representative:

1) Winton (the boy) thinks Clara may have had a penis (or indeed that I may have had one) and has, once, asked if we lost them somehow.  Clara has never asked this question.  
In other words, the little boy perceives the girl as lacking.  The little girl, however, feels just fine and perceives no lack.  It is the boy, folks, who assumes things about how the little girl must feel (and then some little boys grow up and write psychoanalytic theory, projecting their assumptions onto little girls).  Clara in fact thinks Winton's penis is an object of ridicule.  I have had words with her about not teasing her brother, and especially about not thwacking him in the crotch with bath toys.

2) "just as big" is an interesting choice of phrase there, Freud, for little boy penises are little, as both Clara and Winton have pointed out. Eg, as Winton would have it, "Mummy, Hardie [our dog], has a big penis.  I have little one."  AND Clara is aware that she will one day likely have boobs, which tend to be bigger in terms of overall size/ weight/ conspicuousness than penises.  And, hello!  Have you seen a pregnant woman?  HUGE.  So, if we must do the size thing.  Well.

Righto.  Back to work.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Parental Language and Conduct Fail

I think Husband came home just as I was screaming "J*sus H. F*cking Chr*st" as Winton peed into the carpet by his sister's bed, mere moments after upturning the bathroom footstool, climbing into it and peeing in there.

I was busy cleaning the footstool as he started calling "Hey, Mummy.  Pee pee.  I'm peeing."

He's now in bed yelling "Swiper, no swiping!" at his sister, so he doesn't seem to be traumatized.  But I'm sure the potty training books caution against vehement, explicit language at high volumes.

Husband hasn't emerged from downstairs yet: he's probably afraid.

Sometimes I really really suck at this parenting gig.  So it's good they're at daycare, right?
Hah! For, But.
There's a big, permanent, festering sliver in my heart about my life's fiscal limits (I think I should be home with the kids, should always have been home with them, but never could afford to be).
 I am, if you'll pardon my language, completely f*cked: heartsore AND incompetent.

Claraism du Jour

[wielding small cat toy and satin baggie that once housed a necklace]
Mummy, this kitty wanted to sleep in a bag.  But she's been scratchy all night, because the bag is scratchy inside.  I'm letting her out now. 
If she's naughty today, she'll have to go back in and scratch scratch and cry.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

What Winton, Age 2, Said

To me, in the car this morning:
"Mummy, stop thinking."

To his father most nights at bedtime:
" I want to tell you a story!"
"OK, Winton, go ahead."
"Uhh.  Bumblebee!"

To his sister:
"No!  It's My Dora Band-Aid.  Don't Touch it!  [and with tiger paw hands] Grrrrrrrrrrr!"

To Pepita the cat, with love:
"Oh!  Hi Black-Cat.  Hi Blackie-o.  Awwwww.  Black Catty-o"

Monday, June 27, 2011

Anxiety Redux

I have weaned myself off the little notebook in which I kept track of Clara and Winton's hours at preschool and daycare.  I used to write down exactly when I dropped off and picked up each child. At the end of the week I'd tally their hours.  For Clara (older) I aimed for about 36 hours or less per week.  For Winton (younger and at a daycare much closer to my work): 33.  Somewhere in my heart I believe(d) that every minute under 40 hours per week made them less of a daycare drone, and more able to bond with me.

I have to let that go because the clocks are killing me.  I can't live every day with the ominous belief that what is ticking away is my children's well-being.  I have a job.  I have to deal with it.

AND it is summer, which means that if there are an extra 10 minutes under a school sprinkler here or there, they are relieved by extra holidays (July 4 coming up!) which mean entire days at home.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

I'm lousy at feeling lousy

Yesterday: headache, heartburn.
Today: just heartburn.

Just heartburn?  Yegads!  I feel, for a second day, as though I've misguidedly been eating batteries for an "energizing" breakfast.

I find the minor discomfort robs me of a sense of humor.  How on earth do parents with major, real, big, important health issues manage?  I find myself arguing against the children's desire for more bath toys just because I don't want to stand up again.  But what if I had backpain (as a friend of mine does) or angina (as my mother has had for her whole life) or arthritis (another mother friend) or Crohn's (still another friend/parent)?  No bath toys ever?  Really, there are parents out there made of far stronger stuff than I.

This is a good week, actually, now that I've washed the cat pee smell out of everything, for Husband's DC office is closed for the week because of an air-conditioner malfunction.  Since Tuesday afternoon he has been working from home.  Lovely!  We've had dinners together, and he mowed the lawn.  He also took Winton to the Dr. today.  Idyllic.

(This is how it should be always, dammit. But without heartburn.)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Spa Feminism

What I'd really like to see, instead of spas that make women look better (hair styling, mani-pedis, dermatological peels) is the advent of spas that are 100% dedicated to making us feel better.
It would signify a substantial improvement in valuing femininity if there were menstrual spas, places where one could go and have massages, sample new "hygiene" products, sip teas designed to reduce bloating and balance hormones, sit in darkened rooms specially designed to ward-off headaches.
Apologies if that's too suggestive, but really.  Wouldn't that be a terrific use of  a spa day ? (Says me, who has had one spa day ever, and that was in 2004.)
I'm tired of menstruation (irrelevant now that I'm done having kids.  One should be able to just turn the whole mechanism off).
I'm also tired of it being such a shameful irritant.
If I'm teaching Julia Kristeva and the abject, menstruation and possible leaks are my go-to examples (the body exceeds the individual's control of it).  I'd like to shift from abject to pampered and indulged, and have the pampering/indulgence have nothing whatsoever to do with how pretty I am.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Two more holiday reflections

1)  It's nice to stay in someone else's house when it has plumbing problems even more intriguing than your own house  does (the house in the Poconos had a downstairs half bath in which the toilet filled only with piping hot water!).  Makes our problems feel smaller.

2) Grandfathers, 2 year olds and escalators are a bad combination (Granpa tipped over and rode up an escalator on his back, holding Winton aloft while the rest of us fumbled to get the cover off the emergency "stop" button).  Rescue of Winton effected by Husband.  I dragged Granpa around a bit, probably doing more harm than good and, eventually, Granma got the escalator to stop. Terrifying and, for Granpa, painful.  Winton was calm until he realised his Grandpa was in pain at which point he repeatedly, worriedly, asked "Granpa OK?  Is He?  Granpa?  He OK?"  Rushdie was right to have a character in his short story "The Courter" refer to escalators as "escaleaters."

Why I might throw Winton's shorts away

1) Because I had to take Pepita to the vet today for a booster shot and on the way home she peed, copiously, in her crate.
2) Because when I braked at a red light, her pee slopped over the lip of the crate, through the front mesh and into my backpack, drenching the contents (glasses case, wallet, cell phone, spare diaper and wipes, a zillion napkins pens and paperclips, orange, nalgene, daytimer, journal, file folder).
3) Because when I got home I had to wash all of the above, including the cat.
4) Because the dog then threw up (twice) and Winton peed on the floor (in both the small downstairs bath and the bigger upstairs bath).
5) Because I'm tired. 
6) and finally, I might throw Winton's shorts away because they have been poop-encrusted and wrapped in a plastic bag since Maria (his daycare provider) stripped them off the boy's butt several hours ago.

Back at (near) work

So.  The clock is ticking.  By the end of this summer my book about third culture literature needs to be finished.  That means a substantial re-write of chapter two and the introduction and the writing from scratch of a forward and a concluding fourth chapter.  What?  You say you don't care? 

Well, fine.  It seems you are in concert with the universe for my daytimer for the next week features the following:
Pepita to vet for booster and re-scan of her microchip because the number I got last time is, apparently, wrong.
Hardie to vet for vaccinations and to figure out why he is chewing the base of his tail so vigorously.
Winton to vet, I mean DOCTOR, for shots and to have preschool health forms filled out.

Lots of time driving around, hanging out in waiting rooms, and having small things cry/ shed/ bleed on my lap.

Not so much time thinking about the convolutions of what happens when writers grow up expat.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Holiday Round-Up

We're back.  I missed you.  How have you been?

Here are some holiday snippets:

This is the second time I have rented a house for a holiday (first time, VA; this time PA).  This time, like last time, we arrived to discover that the water pump wasn't working.  What is it with me that I book holidays involving arduous travel on hot days to destinations without showers or flushing toilets?  This time, like last time, we put sweaty kids to bed and waited, uncomfortably, for someone to come and fix things. 

This waiting period gave us ample opportunity to muse on a second co-incidence.  House in PA, like house in VA, had a singing deer head (both named Buck) prominently mounted on the wall.

By comparison the rest of the holiday was lovely, if you don't mind small living rooms and sky lights that resonate like drums when it rains.  9 days of vackay at the Pocono lakes; 7 of those 9 included thunder and torrential downpours.

Still, the lake we were at had lovely little beach areas and we spent two idyllic mornings outside with the kids.

Bonus: a community center with a nice indoor pool and well-equipped but never crowded games room for the preschool set.  This kids room was the location for the Claraism du Week: "Mummy, look.  A dead caterpillar.  I hope it grows up to be a dead butterfly!"

Hardie threw up countless times, but my mother-in-law got her grilled hamburgers and s'mores one damp evening so everything was OK.

And now we are home, re-discovering the smell of cat.  One must get habituated to it, but we've been in fresh "mountain" air and our lungs are no longer accustomed.  After a week and a bit of three (THREE!) cats in a small row house with the windows shut, the smell is overwhelming enough that I feel like we are parting thick clouds of airborne dander every time we cross a room.  Whiffy.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Road Trip Plans

Let's see . . .

Hyundai Accent?  Check.

Two children still in bulky car seats that take up the whole back bench? Check.

Two adults?  Check.

Small trunk filled to capacity with pack'n'play, sleeping bag, linens and towels for our destination, diapers, wipes etc? Check.

Some essential item, as yet to be discovered, left out of trunk?  Check, probably.

Elaborate, illegible note left for catsitter?  Check.

Bassett hound prone to barfing, with nowhere to sit in the car except on my lap?  Check.

100F weather? Check.

I think we may be just about ready to go.  Asssuming writing as much doesn't jinx our departure, ciao to you all.
See you back here around June 21.


There is a bumper sticker I covet: a white oval in which there is a black silhouette of a rat and over which the word "Baltimore" is superimposed.

There are indeed many rats in this city.

This morning I caught young Pepita, still learning she doesn't have to be "street" anymore,  on the kitchen counter.
She had chewed through a plastic lunch baggie and was nibbling the english muffin and cream cheese inside it.
Euw euw!

Hatin' it

Sarah Bryden-Brown of Momoir made the following observation this morning:  "We love our kids but not so much the job of looking after them.  Was it always this way or are we just ok with sharing the reality?"

Bold question, no?  

I'm having a crap morning.  It's HOT.  Winton has a cold.  Clara's school is having its last day so she is freaked out by impending routine changes (read: prone to hysterical weeping).
At work I am also trying to finish a major chapter of the book I'm trying to write: my shoulders hurt as though impaled on a rusty javelin.

Daydreamily I think it must have been easier in the days of yore when women just did one job (mothering).  But when I turn my brain on, I can see that's bullcakka.  Women have always done more than one job.  We've mothered while running households when households didn't have electricity or plumbing or disposable diapers.  

I feel ripped down the middle most days by the unmeetable, infinite needs of my children as they run up against the unmeetable, infinite needs of being an academic who should always be trying to teach better and research more.

My 1800s counterpart probably felt ripped down the middle by the needs of her children and the need to cook, do laundry and mend socks.  AND her husband would have considered her to be his property.

Miserable, unending, despair inducing demands now?  Oh yes.
But then too, and with no hope of recognition or autonomy.

At least now, if I can make it funny enough, people read and empathize with how torn I feel.
1800s Momosyllabic would have just had to suck it up.


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Getting Dressed for the Day

Me: Winton, what shorts are you going to wear?  Grey ones or chocolate-coloured ones?
W: Chocolate shorts!
Clara: OH, chocolate shorts!  I'm going to eat them up!  Nyum Nyum!
W [crying]: No, Clara!  No!  Don't eat it!
C [growling]: Nyam!  Nyum!  RrrNyam!
W [wailing]: Mummy, tell Clara STOP IT.  She's eating my head!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Another Good Way to Curse Someone

Have their son develop an obsession with Dora the Explorer.

eg He slept with a box of bandaids last night because it featured a picture of Dora.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Bad Behaviour

So, have you noticed that people, like animals, behave less than optimally when under duress?  It's counter-intuitive: when most in need, people, like animals, tend to repel their possible sources of help, comfort or solace.  When most in pain, exhausted, scared, upset, demoralized, at sea, or distraught, people, like animals, are most angry, defensive, vicious, sullen, dictatorial, combative, or withdrawn.

I am living with a small, angry, new cat who glares at me, hits the other animals and will only eat pancakes (scared, at sea).
And a toddler too excited by life to sleep (exhausted).
And a Husband who recently had dental surgery and still has a raging infection (in pain, exhausted).

Friday, June 3, 2011

Summer Curses

So, let me add this to my list of ways to curse someone (see ideal curse):
Have them try to prepare kid breakfasts in the midst of an ant invasion, ideally involving an open bag of raisins in an overstocked pantry and approximately 4000 ants trekking to the open bag from a mysterious tiny but new hole in the kitchen wall.
Damn ants.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Blog Confessional

Dear blog, I have sinned.  For I have had another crappy Clara preschool drop-off.  A really bad one.  One of the ones where she clings and I shove, and she cries, and I groan, and she wails and I flail, and I ask the teacher to intercede to help and then I leave, guilty and ashamed, with Winton pressed loudly against my head.

From Whence Did Such a Bad Morning Arise? You ask.
I dunno.

Perhaps the eclipse?  For it has been an odd enough week that astrology may hold some water.

Perhaps yesterday afternoon's dance class#3?  For that was a festival of resistance, again, with Winton hiding and Clara laying on the floor with her blanket on her head.  The teacher left in tears this week.  I think we'll stop trying.  The bad post-class mood persisted into bedtime which was itself a dramatic tour de force of yelling and crying only calmed by letting both children climb into my bed and intermittently snuggle and hit each other.

Perhaps from my tiredness?  For Poor Husband had an abscessed tooth and couldn't get a dental surgeon to see him yesterday, so he went to bed, miserable and hopped-up on vicodin only to wake me at 2 AM insisting that I feel his chest to check if his heart was beating irregularly.  He finally got a surgeon to take him this morning at 8 and had, with only local anesthesia, a wisdom tooth, abcsess and CYST removed.  He's certainly having a more painful morning (and more painful week) than I.

But, oh Blog Confessional, this is all about me, so let's resume the narcissistic catalogue, shall we?

Another "perhaps" for the bad morning is my emotional hang-over from yesterday's effort to take Little Cat to the SPCA.  I failed.  I sat in the admissions waiting room for half an hour and then wept, profusely.  Then I took LC to the vet, and pleaded to have her checked even though we didn't have an appointment.  Wept.  Named her "Pepita" for her vet records, had the vet declare her free of diseases that could transfer to our other pets, and then took her home.  She's only six months old.  She's now terrorizing the dog (who outweighs her by 40 pounds but cowers, shivering, when Pepita is in his vicinity).

And then there is Chapter three.  I would just like to finish it.  I would like life to get out of the way so I can write it and stop thinking about it.

Winton has also been screaming for two days about wanting to listen to "scary music" in the car.  I finally figured out that on Monday, when Husband was home with the kids, they must have listened to his new Streets cd in the car.  So today, triumphant for having figured out what "scary music" is, we listened to inside outside the whole way to his daycare.  Winton has unorthodox tastes. (Are you impressed, btw, that I finally figured out how to do links?)

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

What Not to Wear

Winton and Clara are both very particular and like to pick out their own clothes in the morning.

Today (another in a string of 95F days) Clara, sensibly, chose to wear a loose-fitting cotton dress in pale blue and pale pink sandals ("I look like a robin's egg!").
Winton picked out a stylish but impractical ensemble: black shorts, a black long sleeve T-Shirt, green and white striped socks, and his heavy winter shoes.

We made it less than a quarter of the way around the dog walk (currently reduced to the circuit of one city block) when Winton stopped and lifted his arms (universal toddler speak for "carry me").

Me: "What?  Carry you?  The rest of the way?  But you're a big boy.  And a heavy boy."
Winton: "No.  Not heavy boy.  Hot boy."
and then,
Clara [chirpily, taking off at a run]: "Haha!  And I look like a robin's egg flying!"

What follows: Me running behind Clara the rest of the walk, carrying Winton and hauling a truculent hound. 15 minutes of walk like that and it doesn't matter at all what I am wearing: all anyone will notice is the sweat stains, frizzed hair and pong.