Thursday, August 31, 2006
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
Monday was the worst day of my year. It was the day Chris went back to teaching full time. The summer was like a long semi-vacation, with Chris's greater work flexibility and lessened responsibilities allowing much more family time (and, yes, I admit - more baby-free moments for me). Today he returned to his regular schedule, which is hard for all of us. I love having him around and appreciate the benefits of his active parenting. Chris misses seeing lots of Ada. We originally instituted the bath and books routine as "Papa-Ada" time to ensure that Chris got some interaction-heavy time with the girl each day.
And Ada misses her dad. Only half a day into this routine Ada is emphatically expressing her desire to see Chris. After an unprecedented 2.5 hour morning nap, Ada woke happy and refreshed. We read books, we played with toys, and then we sat down to lunch. All through lunch Ada kept saying "Papa" in what can only be described as an attempt to make him materialize.
When Ada wants something, like berries or the remote, she simultaneously asks for it and nods knowingly. It looks like she's trying to work some Jedi magic on us: "You WILL give me the requested item." At lunch on Monday, Ada was doing this, repeatedly saying "Papa" and nodding vigorously. I told her, "Papa's not here," "Papa is at work," "Papa is teaching." Eventually I did find a temporary cure for Ada's repeated demand. I turned the camera on her. Once the video camera was pointed on Ada acted like she'd never heard of her papa.
Although it is hard to hear her asking for Chris when he is not around, I love that Ada loves her father and wants him around. I do too.
Monday, August 28, 2006
Me: What does the cow say?
Me: Mooo, good! What does the dog say?
Me: Yes, woof! What does the cat say?
Me: Nice! What does the little bird say?
Ada: tee tee!
Me: Tweet, tweet! Great! What does the rooster say?
Ada: Ca ca!
Saturday, August 26, 2006
(or, A Post In Which I Use Way Too Many Parenthetical Comments)
Hey Portland Blogger Mamas:
Were you at the farmer's market on Saturday? Were you minding your own business when you were approached by someone who looks like this:
Ok, maybe not. Maybe that's a guy paid to stumble around in a bear suit to promote some new kids' movie. (But in my total dorkiness I felt like that.) But were you approached by someone who looks like this:
Slipping gratefully out of the third person... I had Ada on my back and told the woman she looked familiar and asked if I looked familiar to her. Apparently I did not look familiar. (Was that my imagination, or did she give me a bit of a "back away, crazy woman" look?) As I walked away it occurred to me that I might recognize her face from a blog. But which one? I didn't know (and still don't) and was too shy to walk back and ask if maybe that is how I knew her face. Because what if it isn't? (I'd be even more embarrassed, that's what).
So if it was you I accosted, let me know. I'd feel better having solved the "mystery." I have a great memory for faces, though a crappy one for names. So it is likely that once you reveal yourself I'll laugh and say "of course!" and then promptly forget your name the next time I see you at the Market.
By the way - do you know how hard it is to find a half-decent photo of yourself? (Wait, most of you are bloggers, so you probably do.) First, I'm the one toting the camera, so when am I going to be in a picture? Second, when I find a picture that has me in it, it is usually off-kilter or shot at an angle that gives me a double chin, or (like this one) suggesting I have the world's highest hairline. (THAT is typical me, by the way. Take the thing that you most worry people will say and shout it out first so that HA! beat you to it! Now no one else can declare that I have ugly toes or uneven eyes or whatever else.)
After much talking to myself, I settled on the above photo. We won't get into why I think it is a mis-representation, because I am not trolling for complements or support on this. Just complaining about how hard it is to get a decent picture for a simple blog post. (And don't get me started on how wonky blogger is being about allowing me to upload those photos once I've settled on them.)
Updated to add: I think I figured it out. I think she's not a blogger. I think she was in a focus group with me. A few months ago I participated in a focus groups for women who had given birth at Oregon Health and Sciences University within the previous 12 months. It was actually pretty fun, and it paid pretty well. Turns out that all the women in the room who'd used the midwives had very good experiences, even the woman transferred to OHSU from home when her labor got more complicated than her home-birth midwife could manage alone. In any case, that's who I think she is. See, I am really good with remembering faces.
Thursday, August 24, 2006
Things get pretty rough out here on the edge of the known world. Even playgrounds aren't exempt from trouble any more. Which is why I, for one, am grateful that Spiderman has decided to make our local park safe from evil-doers.
Take a look:
The best part was that all the other kids referred to the web-slinging kid as Spiderman. Not one kid broke scene to call out to Phillip or Leo.
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
"It's very hard to live in a studio apartment in San Jose with a man who's learning to play the violin." That's what she told the police when she handed them the empty revolver.
The Scarlatti Tilt*
*This is not an exerpt from a short story. This is the short story.
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
Sunday afternoon I got an email from one of my favorite college professors. He is on his way to Palo Alto for the year and is stopping in Portland for a few days first. This does not make sense from a travel-perspective (he now teaches in the southeastern U.S.) but makes social sense (he used to teach in Portland and has friends here). He emailed me and Ellen asking if we wanted to get together while he was in town. Reading the email, and then making arrangements with him on the phone, I felt nervous. Like a 20 year old talking to her professor about her paper topic. Like the junior I was in his "Origins of Totalitarianism" class, admitting that I'd not gotten further than the first chapter of the Habermas reading he'd assigned.
Really, I took this guy's junior seminar class in 1992, and I'm still scarred by the experience of reading and re-reading a single page of that impenetrablee stuff. It doesn't help that when I (and the 14 other people in the class) fessed up that we'd found the assignment challenging, he thumped the table, practically yelling: "If you do not understand the reading, you do it five, Six, SEVEN times!" Fourteen years later Ellen and I still joke about that moment. And after a decade and a half I still remember the feeling of intense pride when I got back a "review" paper from him (his word for the two page analysis we had to write each week), seeing "this is a very acceptable review!" scrawled in the margin. Despite his hard-core academic side, this professor is also personally very warm and sweet. He cares about his students, even years after they have moved on to other lives.
So yeah, I feel nervous about seeing this professor. He wrote me a reference when I applied to graduate school, and we have been in touch over the years, but I still revert to self-conscious teen when I think about seeing him. About five years ago Ellen and I had dinner with him and his wife in Chicago. Ellen admitted to him that she'd had an academic crush on him when she was his student. She admitted this in front of his wife, who was charming and lovely and thought it was funny. It is kind of funny, because this guy, with his cute accent, recedingg hairline and stereotypically awkward professorial mannerisms, is no matinee idol. But he is intensely smart and intellectual.
Part of my insecurity is tied up in the fact that I did not become an academic. Ellen and I attended a school from which a high number of students go on to earn PhDs, and at which academic prowess is greatly prized. I have a professional master's degree and have made my career working for and on government programs. I know Ellen (a super smart woman with a graduate degree and professional career) has had some of the same thoughts and once in a while talks about pursuing a doctorate. I know that isn't the path I'm on, and I am mostly happy with that, but there is part of me that thinks about who I might have been and whether that road would have been a better one.
The funny thing is that when the professor shows up for lunch this week, we'll talk about his kids, and ours, about life in Portland and his town. About how you still can't get decent coffee where he lives and how excited he is to be going to Palo Alto for a year. And about kids. I know we'll talk about kids because I know how important his family is to him. When I found his academic web site a few years ago, I saw his photo at the top. The picture he'd chosen? One of him crouched next to his daughter, smiling broadly.
So yeah, I worry about what this professor will think of my life choices, but only a little. As long as I can remember that I am happy with my life, with the choices I have made, it is easier not to worry that someone else will judge me for making those choices. My professor may haved hoped that Ellen and I would become academics, arguing about history, philosophy and political science. But that isn't the life for everyone, something most academics recognize even as they choose it for themselves. It also helps to remember that the judgment is something I am doing to myself, rather than something coming from him. Even more, I am excited for him to meet Ada, knowing that when he meets her he will love her. How can he not? When my professor meets Ada and sees her many charms, he will laugh and smile and coo. He might even read her a book. And if she does not like it the first time, he'll read it five, Six, SEVEN times!
Monday, August 21, 2006
I put Ada to bed and came downstairs to find Chris watching football. The final 10 minutes of a pre-season football game holds pretty much zero appeal to me, so I wandered out to start dinner. When I wandered back in, the end of "60 Minutes" was on. Andy Rooney was bitching about getting swag. People, Rooney's viewers I am assuming, send him stuff. And according to him, it's crap. He showed off an array of caps, shirts, books and paintings of his likeness that he'd been sent, complaining away about all of it. I know that complaining is pretty much what Andy Rooney does, but doesn't it seem like a bad strategy to bitch about the stuff you get from your viewers? Especially when the complaints are not just about the item as an item ("I never wear t-shirts") but also about the organizations and ideas expressed by the hats, shirts or books. On the rare occasions when I watch "60 Minutes," I have always found Andy Rooney to be grating and painfully un-entertaining. But here he seemed purposefully mean.
Maybe I'm just bitter because no one is paying me to be rude, insulting and annoying on television. (They should. I may be no Natalie Portman, but I'm a damn sight prettier than Andy Rooney.) Even when swag-collecting bloggers get something they aren't crazy about, at least they have the decency to be funny about it (or turn it into a contest prize). I'm into polite, but I figure if that is not possible, people should at least be funny.
I recognize that this post has veered into Andy Rooney-esque complaint essay territory. But to show that I'm no kin to that tired out old ass-clown, let me just say: anyone who wants to send me things, I promise not to insult them. Even if you send an oil painting of Andy Rooney wearing a bathrobe and union cap.
Friday, August 18, 2006
Or - That's not the last time we see that face.
Before we were People With Kids, Chris and I used to dance. We started slowly, taking a swing dance class as preparation for the numerous weddings we were attending one summer. After a couple of lessons we realized it was really fun. We kept at it, taking more lessons and going out to clubs to dance. We do not dance a lot these days, but we still grab the odd chance to stretch our legs when we can.
Earlier this week Ada and I came home to find Chris working in the back yard, music blaring from the kitchen CD player. Once we were all inside, Chris started dancing. I joined him as Ada looked on. After a couple of minutes of twirling around the kitchen I looked over at Ada, who was regarding us suspiciously. She was giving us a "Who do you think you are, contestants on 'So You Think You Can Dance'?" look. And then she started to cry.
Thursday, August 17, 2006
My recent bout of blue mood has me a bit worried. I am not concerned that I'm sliding into depression. After figuring out the root of my recent blahs, I'm back on more stable footing. But I am worried about the future. I am worried about what happens when my daughter figures out that I am a crier.
I am a very tearful person. I cry in response to a wide range of emotional stimuli, from sadness and frustration, to anger, nostalgia, and that particular annoying-but-compelling tug on the heartstrings that occurs during the string and woodwind-heavy moments of certain television programs and movies. This last reason for tears is incredibly embarrassing to admit, but it is inescapable. The sappy music gets me every time. I sat through the all but unwatchable Robin Williams vehicle What Dreams May Come, practically sobbing the whole time. I was not emotionally connecting with this piece of trash, and I kept thinking "this movie sucks, why am I crying so much?" Near the end of the movie I realized it was the music that had opened the floodgates and was keeping them flowing through the whole, sucky movie.
I know that many people cry (and cry easily). I can imagine readers commenting, "Me too! I cry ALL the time." "I'm the soggiest, sappiest, cryingest girl I know!" But I'm betting you don't cry as easily or as much as I do. I have cried in front of every single boss I've ever had. (did I mention I cry when I'm nervous or frustrated?) My friends, family, carpool, coworkers, strangers on the street - all have seen me cry. A person's tone can make me cry. I once watched a coworker chastise an administrative assistant and had to walk away to hide my tears. If I'm hoping someone can meet me for a walk and coffee and it doesn't work out, I well up. Ada wakes up after a lousy 20 minute nap? Tears flow. It happened Sunday. I cry in public, in private, with strangers and close friends. If you are sad and tell me about your woes, I'll cry foryou. Really, sometimes I think I should rent myself out to appear at funerals. A designated mourner, with business cards: "crier for hire".
At some point I looked up lability, and found a reference to involuntary emotional expression disorder. It freaked the crap out of me, in part because it is associated with ALS, which my grandmother had and which sucks spikey dog turds. Realistically, I don't think I'm developing ALS - I have been like this for as long as I can remember (and I don't have uncontrolled laughing fits), but let's just say that I cry a lot more than most people. But I do cry easily, and often tear up when I don't feel the level of emotion that would warrant tears. That is one of the most frustrating parts - that I cry when I don't feel sad, angry or frustrated. But something in my brain seems to have a hair-trigger for tears, going off easily and without warning.
Crying is something I have struggled with for a long time. I went to a therapist to see if she could help me rein it in. Why do I well up even when I don't feel consciously upset? How can I stop doing it? She didn't have much to offer, nor did my mother's psychologist friend, who suggested I pinch myself when I felt tears coming. Despite laughing at the suggestion, when desperate enough I tried it. It never worked, because by the time I felt the sting the tears were already there. The suggestion to "think of something happy" was so ludicrous that I didn't even try. If the tears are PRE-conscious, how can thinking something post-tear help stave them off? Or maybe she meant I should constantly be thinking of fluffy bunnies frolicking in a field of heather?
Many people, especially women, think they are unusually easily moved to tears, but mostly such declarations are like people telling me how bad their vision is. My myopia correction is -11.5, plus I'm astigmatic. My eyes are way worse than yours, trust me (unless you are my friend KJ, in which case I recognize our sisterhood of the crappy eyes.) Your eyes may be imperfect, but mine suck. Comparisons of tearfulness feel like this, with people saying how much they cry, and then me realizing that I still cry way more than they do.
In the past, my tearfulness was just my own problem. But now I have a daughter and I worry how my damp response will impact her. What will it mean to see mom cry so much? Will she resent my behavior, think (like a male friend once admitted to me) that I am trying to manipulate people with my flow? Will she think this is normal and purposefully emulate me? Since my tears are so instantaneous, so unplanned, I don't know how to keep her from experiencing them. I wonder already if her baby tantrums are expressions of her experience seeing me cry.
I know we all worry that our idiosyncrasies and interactional quirks will impact our children. I also know that being a crier is no worse than being so emotionally battened down that I can't express my love for my child. Biking with friends one evening last week we were talking about how we express frustration and anger. Al said she grew up avoiding conflict and pushing down any negativity. It took years with a passionate, volatile partner to be comfortable expressing any negative emotion. G talked about stoicism and buddhism and their goal of a disengagement from all emotional response. He described the idea that one could let emotion and experience flow over and not through you. I don't know that (even with meditation and other practice) that I could stem the flow of my physical response to emotional stimuli. Even more, I am not sure I really want that. I want to feel, and I doubt that I could train myself from a physical response without training away the emotional response. Even though I don't always notice the connection between the two, I believe that whatever triggers the tears is just a more sensitive response to outside stimuli than that noticed by my conscious mind.
I recognize that I can not change this part of me. But how do I deal with my fears about how this will impact Ada? Do other people worry about this kind of thing, whether it be tears or some other personal quirk that maybe seemed harmlessly odd or interesting before kids, but now takes on larger meaning? I'd love to hear your thoughts. And don't worry, it won't make me cry (at least not more than I already do).
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
You know, to live in Cuba we have only three alternatives, known as the three R's - robar, remar, or rezingarse." Robar is "to steal." Remar is "to row"-as in to take a boat to Florida. Rezingarse is a play on the word resignarse, "to resign oneself," but in Cuban slang zingar is "to fuck," so rezingarse means, literally, "to fuck yourself."
Jon Lee Anderson
Letter From Cuba: Castro's Last Battle
Monday, August 14, 2006
Do you know how many times I passed this? One of the mighty cheddars at my old employer decided that to encourage people to use the stairs, employees would be asked to paint the stairwells. Various divisions were in charge of painting the different landings around the building (3 stairwells, each with 5 floors). Somehow only one group got into it. Oh wait, I remember why. Work time could not be used for stairwell painting. It had to be done between 6 and 8 at night, on the employees' own dime. Not even a pizza thrown in for their trouble. So I guess I should wonder why anyone did this at all. In any case, a few people did jump in, paintbrushes and cartoon sketches in hands. They painted a series of 3 foot tall cartoon figures. They looked creepily enthusiastic about their fates, frozen mid-stride while "climbing" the stairs, or caught in various types of exercise (helpfully labeled for the less observant employees).
These figures creeped me out, and actually made me want to use the stairs less, not more. But stuck in an office building all day, I figured I'd tough it out with the stairs. Which is why this stairwell motivation grated all the more.
(How can I feel motivated when the letters are askew and of varying sizes?) Mostly I was motivated to never come back to that job once I had Ada. Great decision, by the way. I have never regretted it. I regret that I didn't get some better photos of the stairwell of horror, but not about quitting. And if I ever did wonder if I'd done the right thing, I could just take a peek at these little gems and I'd be completely reassured. Much cheaper than therapy, that's for sure.
Thursday, August 10, 2006
The fabulous Krista of The Silent K posted about a bunch of cool toys to use with Flickr. I tried the Hockneyizer on this photo of Ada from a few months ago.
The best part is that if you don't like the result you can reshuffle the photos. The first time I tried it I got a version without Ada's eyes. Reshuffling got me a much better result. See. If you use Flickr, be sure to check out fd's flickr toys. The Hockneyizer is just one of a bunch of cool toys at the site.
(and of course, be sure to take a peek at The Silent K's post, too!)
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
Miss J was with Ada today. Before Chris left for work, Miss J suggested that Chris show her how our washer works, in case J ever needed to wash diaper covers or some other Ada-accoutrements. Prescient, that Miss J.
At the usual time, Miss J put Ada in her bed for a nap. When she heard Ada cooing in her room ninety minutes later, J quickly scooted upstairs to pick up the girl. Apparently not quickly enough for the devious Ada. When J opened the door, she saw Ada sitting in her crib, diaper off. Hands covered with poop. Sheets spread with poop. Crib railing, yes, smeared with poop.
This is the first time the girl has taken off her diaper in bed, though lately she's shown some interest in trying to get diapers off. Chris and I learned that we can't put Ada to bed without something over her diaper. J got some practice using our washing machine. Ada had a couple of minutes of e coli packed fun.
Monday, August 07, 2006
Or, Why I am a Dumbass, Emotionally.
I've been in a bit of a funk, though I could not see why. Maybe the blog is clouding things a little. Am I in a regular funk, feeling low on general principles? Or am I actually feeling sad that I missed out on what looks like it was a really fun time in San Jose? Even though I can't really complain about how things are going here at Casa Nonlinear, that never stops me. But there isn't anything real bothering me. My complaints are more the result of my blue mood than the reasons for it.
Tuesday I did something I love. I biked over to our friends' house with their half of our organic veggie share. It is a quick bike ride through the neighborhood, and the weather was perfect at 8 in the evening. So why did I feel tears spilling out as I peddled down the street? Why wasn't the joy of doing something fun and easy and healthy enough to lift me even momentarily out of my funk? What the hell is wrong with me?
Oh right. That pink stain tells me what is wrong with me. And why I'm feeling better today. Here I was all ready to type up a heartfelt post about my fears about slipping back into a depression. I was probing myself for why I might be feeling so low. And here the answer was obvious. Never mind, all is well. Except for that part about me being a dumbass.
Friday, August 04, 2006
(Like that isn't the most common title for a post by a parent blogger.)
In any case, here's why I won't be winning any awards this year:
Impressively, this bruise is brought to you not by my parental neglect or carelessness. Ada managed her slip, crash!, scream, bruise just by misjudging the distance of a step. Luckily she was just starting to climb the steps when she smashed her head. And the injury? Yeah, it's no broken bone,* but the thud, followed by momentary silence and then ear piercing screams offered me one of those early glimpses into the sure knowledge that even when you are doing everything you know how to do, you can't always protect your child from getting hurt. Good lesson for mom, I guess.
The weird thing is that while Ada will wail ceaselessly if I put her down in order to (gasp!) make her breakfast, within 20 seconds of the head bonk, she had stopped crying and gone back to playing at the park. Plus, after I took that evidence photo, I snapped these pictures of her:
Ada's self-imposed pain has not taught her anything. At least, it has not taught her to lay off the boy-bashing. (If she's this good at it now, oh what a sophomore year in college she'll have!) On Saturday she whacked my friend's son Leo in the head with a plastic shovel. Today she moseyed up to Monkey Boy, who was happily investigating his mother's orange clogs. Neither Ellen or I saw how it happened, but there was a thud, and Monkey Boy was pretty unhappy. Unhappy enough that it almost made Ada cry. Which seems like a good sign. If she is developing even a shred of empathy, there is hope after all.
*I inserted that reference to MU not because I think Kristin is anything less than a stellar mother. I think she's great - one of those people who admits she's not perfect and is cosciously trying to improve her already impressive credentials in areas mom and non-mom. I inserted it because I knew that if I didn't, she'd stop by and comment that since nothing was broken I might still be in the running.
Wednesday, August 02, 2006
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
Seven years ago Chris and I got married.
We met in college, and though we moved in together after a couple of years, at the time I was too young to want to be married to anyone. Chris finished college, I finished college, he got into graduate school, I didn't have a job and decided to go to Chicago with him. He started school, then I did. After grad school, I got a job that included a fair amount of travel. In early spring 1997, I went to New Mexico for a couple of weeks. Rather than fly home for the weekend I decided to check out Santa Fe. For once I treated myself well. I stayed at a bed and breakfast outside of town, watched it snow in the desert, visited a foundry, got a massage, hiked and ate really well. Late on Saturday afternoon I started thinking about what a perfect weekend I was having. I thought about Chris, about the fact that I would be enjoying myself even more if he was there with me. I realized that I felt this way much of the time, and decided this was a good reason to marry him.
Chris was in Chicago, I was in Santa Fe. I was going to be there for another few days, but I could not wait to tell him that I wanted to marry him. I didn't want to do it by phone, which seemed somehow awkward and impersonal. I decided to send him a postcard. It read:
Sending the postcard on Saturday afternoon, I figured Chris would get the postcard on Tuesday or Wednesday. I imagined what it would be like when he picked me up at the airport Wednesday night. We'd hug and kiss and he'd tell me he loved me too and that he wanted to marry me. I finished the weekend in a haze, and concluded my work in Santa Fe excited to see Chris at O'Hare.
When I got off the airplane, Chris was there to greet me. We did kiss and hug, but he didn't say anything about the postcard, so I decided to wait and see what happened. We talked like two people in love who have not seen each other for more than a week. We said how happy we were that I was back, we talked about my trip, and his students and the bbq that he'd had with our neighbors. But he never said anything about my postcard. That's when it dawned on me that my whole plan had relied on a very weak link, the Chicago Post Office. I finally asked if he'd gotten my post card.
"What post card?"
So rather than fess up about my weekend epiphany or the post card or my desire to get married, I waited. The card showed up the next day. When I got home, I picked up the mail on the way in to the apartment.
"There's a postcard here for you."
He read the card I'd handed him, and then smiled up at me.
"I love you too, and of course I will marry you!"
Then we kissed and hugged like I'd imagined we would at the airport. But it was better, because there were no boarding announcements or W.E. Smith stands, just the two of us in our perfect little apartment. We didn't get married until a year and a half later, but when we did that was wonderful too. And though I sometimes get frustrated or upset with Chris or our relationship or my life, I never wonder if I did the right thing. Well, I do kind of wish I'd sent the message next day air, but other than that I know that I made a wonderful choice. Because I was right, everything is better when he is there with me.