Monday, December 28, 2009

Dressing Like Ladies

Piper: Pumpkin likes to kiss Ching Pao (this is in reference to two of Piper's stuffed cats).
Umberto: Aren't they both boys?
Piper: Yeah. But sometimes at night Pumpkin likes to dress up like a lady and kiss boys.

All said very loudly at Sub Station II.


Sometimes FB has its uses. I discovered last night my mentor, my friend, my hands down favorite professor died on December 26th. I had not spoken to her in many years. For numerous reasons an awkwardness had developed between us. But that did nothing to dampen my own feeling of love for Alice.

Alice was a magnificent presence. There are many people, too many as I get older, whom I have a hard time picturing without photos. But Alice is etched into my head. I can close my eyes, and see her standing outside whatever building she's teaching in, often with a gray cloak or sweater wrapped around her short, plump body. Her big old fashion glasses framing piercing eyes that knew how to pin an obnoxious student with one glare. She often wore long simple skirts, wool socks, chunky shoes. Her hair was gray, cut into a page boy. It doesn't sound like anything memorable but she was. She'd look at me and say in her husky voice "Let's have a fag." And then she's pull out her Benson & Hedges and scrounge around her entourage for a light. It always reminded me of one of those old 40s movies, the way we all scrambled to be the one who lit her cigarette.

In the classroom was where the magnificence really shown. I remember when we were reading Beowulf, and she fell backwards onto the desk at the front of the room in a swoon over the language. There was an uncomfortable laughter but from those of us who often swooned over language it was a permission to be in love with text. Alice's love, her passion, for literature came with her everyday to the classroom. This is a woman who taught for many years. This passion never dimmed in the entire time I was privileged to know her. She tolerated no disrespect for the literature, herself or her students. She did not know any trendy educational methods, and when she learned of them she scoffed. I am sure that her teaching methods were utterly boring to many students who took her classes but for me, and for many others, her teaching was an inspiration.

Alice had no tolerance for fools or complainers. She was by no means unsympathetic. She herself was the daughter of a working class man, and she brought compassion to her teaching. But she expected hard work and thought from her students. What this meant for me was someone who pushed me but who also encouraged me. Anyone who received one of Alice's typewritten notes knows what I mean. Often I received a little note stapled onto a paper, or slipped into a book. She would tell me what I was doing right, and offer pointers in what I could do better. I learned to read because of Alice. Really read. And I learned to not be ashamed of my words, my thoughts, or the excitement I felt when reading an excellent novel. Alice defended me, nurtured me, berated me.

She wasn't perfect which no doubt was part of her inestimable charm. She hated new things. Refused to touch a computer. Didn't like much literature written after Joyce. Was a total Anglophile with a sharp dislike of literature outside of that canon. She and I had one of our sharpest disagreements over the novel One Hundred Years of Solitude. I defended the novel against her attacks, and she finally snarled at me "Why don't you just read a book about butterflies." She hated feminism (even though I'd argue she was quite the feminist), and was not overly thrilled about my "defection" to religious studies. She had sharp criticism for those she deemed unworthy. She was often a sarcastic bitch in the classroom, and the sting of her tongue left many in tears (we became friends after she tried this method on me and I lashed back). Sometimes she was fickle. It was easy to fall out of her graces, and painful. She was uncomfortable with me as mother, and the last time I was with her was an uncomfortable dinner with U who was about one at the time. Her distinct disapproval of how I parented was apparent, and she ended up snubbing me for much of the night. It hurt but I loved Alice, and love stands those moments.

I hold all these memories of Alice. I don't just wish to remember her as the good, wise woman. She was more than this. She was not a character in a literary novel. As she often reminded her students, life is not literature. She was human, fallible with magnificent talents and faults. She lived too grandly to have minor faults. Her gift of friendship to me has left it's mark. I am a Bloom student. Her support of both my professional and personal life kept me going when I wanted to quit. I enjoyed lunches at her house in her wild English garden. I met her husband and her children. I enjoyed glasses of wine with her and her stories. I cherished those type-written letters, and the little gifts she offered me. And when it ended, as it should, I took away much more than I lost.

One day Alice and I were talking in the courtyard at UMF, inhaling our fags. We talking about teaching, literature, people we knew. It was a few days after a rather strange evening, the beginning of our distance. She had already forbidden me from taking any more classes with her ("I have nothing left to give you."). Any time I spent with her was now a treat laced with sadness. She looked at me after a few minutes of chatter. It was the look she gave when she had something big to say. "You remember in Beowulf after Beowulf defeats the monster?" (I always loved the way she said "the monster" in reference to Grendel....with a hint of malice and evil in her voice). I nodded. "What does Hrothgar give Beowulf." I had to think for a moment "Treasures, " I remember. "Yes," she said, "but there is something more important. Does he offer Beowulf a place to live?" "No," I answered laughing. "No!" she spits, "He gives him horses so that he'll get the hell out of there. He's not going to risk his throne to a young man. He gives horses so that he can leave." She's quiet again, and then she looks at me, and this time is gaze is as piercing but it's sad, "This is what a good teacher gives their students, horses." And with that she threw her cigarette down.

Thank you Alice for the horse. It's carried me far away but never too far to forget.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

It's True

I have neglected my poor blog and her little audience. I need to redo that commitment to write everyday for a month. Perhaps in January. I do miss writing here, and I know that the act of writing keeps me sharp both mentally and in terms of writing skills. I know this is something I need to maintain in order to complete my Ph.D. But...well I became readdicted to knitting. It's the knittings fault.

I'm a very tactile person and knitting appeals to that in well as my sad undeveloped artistic sense. I love hanging out in knitting stores, not actually buying anything, just lusting after the rows and rows of colors, textures, variety. Of course what's amusing is that I often buy skeins only to have them sit because I don't want to use them. They're almost too pretty. This was the case with two skeins of Italian ribbon yarn I bought on sale. They sat in my basket for over two years. Seriously. I'd look at them often, and imagine what they could be but could never quite bare to actually use them. I was afraid that my paltry skills would create something not worthy of such beautiful yarn.

In fact, my fear of being less than perfect is what lead to two years of having yarn sitting about but me doing nothing with it. This fall, I finally, decided to just knit, regardless of the consequences. I made a couple of very simple scarves for the girls. They were okay. Nothing spectacular but the girls liked them and they didn't look horrible. And me being who I am, I jumped into some deep knitting with an "easy" lace pattern baby blanket. Initially it didn't look too bad. I could see my mistakes but to H's untrained eye, it looked great. However as the weeks went by, the bottom started to swirl out like a skirt. At first, I just attributed this to it needing to be blocked but then it occurred to me that I had some how dropped a lot of stitches and the bottom was much longer than the top. I finished it then, and gave it to the girls for their stuffies. Now I'm finishing up the world's biggest scarf for H, and I just finished up two purses from that lovely ribbon yarn for the girls. The purses were my own design (very simple as befits such a luxurious yarn) and I'm proud of them. Next on my project list are a papoose, a kimono type sweater, and a hat for the baby, a scarf for Umberto, and hats for the whole family. I'm going to try socks soon.

As for other news, I am hugely pregnant. My plans to keep thin with a tiny cute belly blew up...literally. The blueberry kicks a great deal now to the point of hurting me sometimes. We are highly anticipating our water birth even though our insurance is threatening to not cover much of the expense. But I can't imagine giving a hospital birth at this point, and we'll eek out the money somehow.

Umberto had his EEG and his MRI. We won't know the results until Thursday. I'll update on his blog at that point.

We brought home a little something extra with our xmas tree. The place we were always buy our trees was offering free kittens. The kids fell in love with an almost pure black kitten with a little white spot on his chest. We caved to their pleas so now we have a new member to our family. It's nice having a cat again.
We had a simple Christmas this year. We decided to not buy nearly as much, and while we didn't get that same level of giddiness with the kids that we've gotten before, we did get kids who were ultimately much more satisfied with what they did get. In addition, we got toys we thought they'd all use, and that's been true so far. We'll definitely being doing more of this as the years pass. I don't see the point in going broke to accumulate more stuff that none of us really need. I know that Umberto felt it a bit more than the girls did. His friends were all getting Wiis, I-pods, etc. and he is old enough to feel that pain of why not me. We pointed out that he did get an X-box in September as an early gift, and we also pointed out that with the money we saved from buying too much stuff we can do things like get treats at Amelies (a French bakery in our neighborhood), go to B &N, go on small trips, etc. He was able to see that and accept it.
Happy Holidays everyone. I'll be posting a bunch of pictures later one, and will likely resume my one post a day in January so stay tuned....

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Back and Forth

Our big news this semester is that we pulled the kids out of school at the end of October. Again. I know, I know. Initially it seemed like things were going great. For the first month, there were no mornings fights about getting ready. The kids went to be fairly easily. They talked about school, seemed to be making advances, etc, etc. I hated it. I hated the schedule. I hated not being able to do anything unless it revolved around their school was made doubly harder by being pregnant but they were happy so I dealt with it.

Then things started to slowly turn back into what we had experienced before. Umberto complained bitterly every morning. He was starting to talk about not being able to do the work, and it was apparent that he was falling behind and that his esteem was suffering. Camille was starting to act out again, hitting Piper being rude and having emotional outbursts with us. And it was a lot to deal with coupled with a four year old and a pregnant body. I appreciated their teachers' efforts but the reality was that the kids, both of them, needed a lot more one on one. Something that is pretty much impossible in most class rooms. H and I talked about it a great deal. I talked to my mom about (she had them on Tuesday and Thursdays). Both were counseling me to pull them out which was a big deal. Neither of them had really been 100% behind the homeschooling so for them to say "Pull them out" told me that my instinct wasn't off.

And fueling much of these thoughts was the fact that I missed them. When I had them home in the Spring I was going through some stuff. I was influenced by some people that I think really thought that kids should be out of sight for most of the time. They made snide comments frequently about how we spend so much time with our kids. They certainly thought homeschooling was crazy and one of them made many comments about how lazy homeschooling mothers were. It's hard to home school when that is your support system. It made me doubt my choices. And I wasn't doing much with them! I was so wrapped up in myself and not fully in a good way. Yes I was finishing up a thesis which was a big deal but I was also spending hours on Facebook.

We decided to pull them out at the end of the year. We were hoping Umberto would start reading at that point. But he continued to not only not read but to actually digress. And then my friend, M, started up our old group. We skipped school a couple of times to go hang out with our homeschooling friends. One time we went to the pumpkin farm. The kids had a lovely time. Umberto ran with his old friends, laughing and happy. Camille followed M's oldest daughter around, and played with the animals. They were joyful and carefree in a way I hadn't seen in a long time. At the end of the day as we driving home, Camille said to me "That was the best day EVER!" And i knew that we had to go back to this lifestyle. That it wasn't just me that yearned for those unstructured days. It was the kids.

At the end of October we pulled them out. It was the best decision we made. Umberto's reading has improved dramatically in the last few weeks. His love of books had returned. We spend hours reading chapter books together. Camille is about as chilled as Camille ever gets. She continues to great academically perhaps more so because she doesn't have the social pressures that I think pressed in our her.

I don't think they'll ever go back to least not until college, and this suits us as a family just fine.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


Last night, U had a seizure.

I knew I loved my children but did not realize the depth and power of that love until I thought that one of them was dying.

Piper came into our room at about five. I heard the bed squeak in the children's room and told H that "U is going to be scared without Piper." Then I heard a thumb, and a kind of rhythmic beating on the floor. I must have known at some level what was going on because I got up and ran in. I wish there was a way to convey the terror of seeing your child, so tiny and vulnerable on the floor, their body arching in rigid movements, eyes rolled up into their head. There was a part of me that knew he wasn't dying but it didn't stop anther big part of me from thinking that he was. I screamed for H to call 911. He was really right behind me. I was kicking stuff out of the way, and H was on the floor beside U. I ran upstairs and called 911.

Then I couldn't go back into the room. For a few seconds, I stood terrified at my open door, talking to the dispatcher, trying to hold it together but knowing deep inside me that I was not sure I could mentally survive U dying. And there was dark terror that one could love another human being to that level. To love something as fragile as a human takes such an enormous risk.
All this went through my head in seconds.

When I walked into the room, at the dispatcher's request, H was sitting on the floor, holding a non responsive U, and crying "Please Goosey come back." "Is he breathing?" I cried. "I don't know." H said his voice hoarse with panic and that same despair that had settled deep inside me. He was breathing. H moved with him onto the bed while I paced on the phone with the dispatcher waiting for the medics to come. At first, Umberto was unconscious. When he came back to us, he didn't appear to recognize us, and then he finally looked at me and whispered "Mama."

I felt detached at this point.Almost as if to feel would take him from me. Maybe if I could shelf some of this intensity the pain would be less. I ended up driving him to the ER. Trying so hard to chat like everything was okay. Inside I was crumbling, terrified that he was going to seize in the car or that he would die before I got him to ER. Once in ER, he quickly came to himself. He was reading, talking to me, responsive, not shaking anymore. He only lost it when they had to draw blood.

They don't know what's wrong with him if anything. I guess it's fairly normal for children to seize without reason. We were told to watch him basically to see if it happens again. Living like this is a bit scary. I didn't dare go to sleep when we got back until I knew H was going to be awake watching over him. I find it hard to let him out of my sight. I have broken down a few times today, leaning into H and sobbing. This love is scary and painful. To know that to lose someone so fragile could be so devastating is a frightening prospect to look full on. And there is no longer the option of distance. This is the child I carried in my body, that I pushed into the world, that I nursed. He is like my own body but not...even more of a wild card than my own body. But I can not not love him. Not have him buried deep inside me.

Love is a wild and dangerous thing. Unpredictable. But for today, on this day where we are supposed to give thanks, I give thanks every time I see my little man. Knowing that he is alive.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Four Months...Give or Take a Week

Apologies. Still awaiting that glorious second trimester when the world is wonderful. Where I am fertile pregnant goddess with thick, silky hair, and boundless energy and patience. Currently, I am still sick. Two months of being congested, plagued by awful headaches, and an itchy chapped feeling face have left me exhausted, grumpy, and a bit bitter. Tonight I am riding the worst spell yet. Headaches that are so painful that I literally can not move for hours on end. I am attempting to sleep in the recliner because I am unable to breath laying on my back. It's all quite dreadful.

The blueberry seems utterly unaffected (of course one could argue he's a damn parasite sucking my life energy away but we won't go there will we?) His (no I have no clue about the sex) kicks grow stronger each day especially when I lay down at night. His nudges are reassuring as I plod through this fog of illness. H has felt him a bit which is pretty exciting. This pregnancy seems to be flying by....soon to end with my last baby. Funnily it feels so complete that I don't have any sadness over this image. With Piper I felt a bittersweet emotion every time I imagined her as my last one. I knew, I guess, that I wanted one more.

And Piper. I am sad about my baby girl. I find myself cuddling her, holding her on my lap, nuzzling her soft fat cheeks, her little neck. She squirms, eager to get away, to run and play with her siblings. It makes me sad to think that she's not the baby in so many ways. Sometimes, she still creeps into bed with us at night, and I relish the feel of her little body against mine. I bury my nose in her hair and inhale her scent. I know that when day comes, she will break from me to assert her own self into the world. When we go to the park, she runs with the big kids now, and I find myself panicking a bit but then remembering that Camille ran with these kids when she was four.

The other ones are home now. I will write more about this decision on their blog. Maybe tomorrow. But we are all happier and at peace. I love waking up to them! Not waking up to the dread of having to get them up. Umberto's already making more and more progress in his reading. Camille is nearly fluent. They act liked freed birds.

And I finally have a place to give birth. I had given up on my home birth, and had decided we couldn't afford the birth center. I didn't feel like I had in me to fight my insurance over this. Then about two weeks ago I got an email from the midwife who works at the birth center. It was about insurance, and I felt like it was a sign. While the OB practice I was going to was was just fine. I didn't feel happy about my decision. It was impersonal and no matter how much they tried to hype it, I was going to give birth in a hospital. I called her and made an appointment to meet. Of course we didn't have an auspicious start. H took my keys to work along with my wallet so I had to cancel about a half hour before I was supposed to be there. She was wonderful about it and we re-scheduled.

On Tuesday, I loaded up the beasties (they get to come to these visits) and we head to South Carolina. The center didn't look like much. A brick office building, bleak on a cold rainy day. I bundled up the kids, feeling discouraged. Did I want to give birth in an office building? But then we walked in, and Damaris came to greet us. I knew immediately this was the place and that she was the one. The inside was peaceful and simple. There was a quiet waiting room with a big TV (much to the joy of the beasties), two lovely rooms (Camille wanted the purple one) with big friendly looking beds and a birthing pool (I can have a water birth!!!!). The exam rooms were not doctor like at all. Damaris was wonderful. She spent a lot of time talking to me, getting my birth history, getting to know me and my concerns. She also talked to the beasties, and explained them to every step of the exam. She let them hear the heartbeat, and I will never forget the awe in their eyes. The way that Umberto sort of visibly melted. She understood that this was our baby not just my baby.

I have no idea how we'll afford it if the insurance doesn't cover it but we'll figure out something. I simply must give birth here. It's the closest thing to home.

Hopefully I will be back to write more. I have many things to write about. I have finally begun to read Proust and am now consumed by memory.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Early Nesting and Nurturing the Anit-Social

Pregnancy makes me a lousy friend. Or maybe being pregnant gives me an excuse to be a lousy friend. Or at least this pregnancy does. I'm honestly not sure if it's the pregnancy or me. My anti-social nature did kick in around the time we knew for sure. But it was there even before. Of course it's only gotten worst as I've gotten further along. Lately, I'm happiest just hanging out at home, with the family. I don't have any urges to go out without the kids. I am not really into entertaining parties, or even having people over.

There are some things I don't mind doing. I like going to the park and meeting up with people. I don't mind exchanging pleasantries with people when I bump into them. It's not that I hate people or hate everyone that we hung out's just....

Maybe it's because I felt like I lost my way a bit in the spring. And now I feel like I'm home again, back where I want to be, happy, content, passionate about my life again. I just want to roll decadently in my life as it is. I want to be with H and the beasties. I feel like I'm rebuilding something here. And it's important to create this with just the family.

This is not an unusual feeling for me when I'm pregnant. I'm just used to it coming later. My nesting instinct usually comes in the third trimester. I only want to be with my family, in my home, getting things ready. Preparing for the new addition. But never has it come this early. And that's where I am. I find myself nesting. And it's not a space that I feel safe in sharing. I think it's why I am more inclined to go outside to see people. I don't feel so vulnerable out there. And if you asked me what I felt so vulnerable about, I am not sure I could put it into words. It's just there...

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


If there one thing a pregnant woman knows how to do its nap. These naps used to make me feel so guilty. I hated feeling so tired all the time. Perhaps having insomina has softened my attitude toward napping. When you don't sleep half the night, naps are often what helps you function. And you know I am growing another life inside my body...seems like one rather needs the energy to do such a feat. Now I relish my naps, don't begrudge myself them, and try not to beat myself because my house is a mess and I'm behind on my reading.

Today I really needed the nap. Camille was up on and off all night with a very high fever and a headache. Plus I had to get up and go pee a hundred times. The joys of pregnancy. And since Camille was in bed with us, I had a hard time settling down when I was finally able to go to sleep. I got up this morning to get the boys off, and then spent time puttering around the kitchen. I cleaned up a bit, and started to bring trash out, started on our dining room. By ten I was drained. I took a nap with great joy despite playing girls. I had the strange vivid dreams I only seem to have with pregnancy. This time we were in Mexico and I was so upset because Horacio had decided rather last minute to stay for an extra week. I kept explaining to him that we didn't really have the money to pay for this change. And then in the process of arguing with him, I realized we hadn't packed yet! I realized there was no way any of us were going to be able to leave that day.

I woke up though with an added bonus...a story idea all formulated in my head. This hasn't happened in about a year. It was very exciting to make my coffee planning out a story. Imaging the characters, figuring out the plot, and designing the stage.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Three Months! Three Months!

I'm sailing into that lovely second trimester where hopefully my energy will return and my "evening" sickness will abate. I was kind of stunned to realize that I'm 12 weeks already. Time doesn't usually fly for me during my pregnancy. And with this one, I am in such a different world space. I am in some ways not nearly as busy as I was with the other pregnancies, and in other ways I feel much more burdened. With the first three pregnancies, I was pretty much doing something full time: either school or work. This time, I am working part time, have all the kids in some kind of school, but yet I am more tired and more drained than before. I have a hard time trying to motivate myself to do anything. Yesterday I clean the fridge and that pretty much did me in for the day. I'm way behind on my course correcting. My house is a disaster area.

But for some reason, it's just not driving me crazy like it would normally.

A lot is not driving me as crazy as it normally does or did with my other pregnancies. My mood swings, as just one example, are off the wall. I alternate between a kind of earth mother serenity, sobbing over anything, and irrational anger and irritability. Before, the irritability particularly bothered me. I was upset at what I perceived as my demonstrable lack of patience with the children. This time around when these moments sweep over me, I have the good sense to go to my room, lay down until it passes while just allowing myself to indulge in the feeling. I know that it is not a reflection on me as a mother but more of a reflection of hormonal shifts.

But best yet is the simply being fairly okay with my body. I am not gaining the way I planned. I was going to gain as little weight as one of those fairly small woman with a "bump." Alas this has not come to be. Instead I am getting bigger each day. I gained about 5lbs in a month, and continue to climb. I do exercise everyday but my eating is not the best. I eat what I can and what I crave which isn't honestly always salad. Sometimes the thought of salad makes me want to vomit. Instead of lamenting, however, I am just accepting my body as is. I'm remembering that this a body I can be confident in...and honestly despite some typical aches and pains, I can't remember pregnancy ever feeling this good. I feel strong, and yes even earth mother like. I feel like I always thought I would during pregnancy but never did.

About two weeks ago, I felt that first quickening....just a tiny flutter of life. And today bending over, I got that dreadful cramp that comes from a fetus being balled up in one spot. There is life in there, and instead of freaking me out as it normally does, I felt this sense of peace.

I need this this time around. Gossip abound in my department. There are hints that this is going to cause me to lose a chance to teach in the fall. Due to some unforeseen circumstances (having nothing to do with baby) we are holding off grad. applications for another year. Of course this is already being attributed to my suspected pregnancy. I haven't told anyone in my department with the exception of Sean and a friend. But I am showing, and so people are talking. It had me in tears the other night. I feel as if I have more than proven I can do this with children but yet I am still continually doubted. It seems that as a woman there is nothing I could do to prove myself. I will always be seen as having burdened myself with children.

But when I feel those little things that let me know there is life in there, I don't care. My children are not burdens. They are the enrichment to my life. They are the completion I have spent a long time seeking.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Ginger Drops the Ball

Getting knocked up in the middle of a month long blog promise does not work so well. I always forget that during the first trimester I am utterly unable to function. It gets worst as I get older. Now I'm kind of stunned that I managed to work full time as I did. I do remember that upon getting home from the full time job, I just kind of collapsed into bed. And this time around is no exception. I'm tired. I'm trying to juggle two different schools for the beasties, volunteer somewhat at the big beasties' school, and feeling guilty for not even making parent meetings at the younger beastie's preschool. I'm also teaching two classes (one filled with slackers and whiners gifted with a strong sense of entitlement), and having to drive Piper 45 minutes out of my way to where my mom teaches. My mom who rocks then takes Piper with her to pick up the other two beasties. H picks them up on his way home. It's a hot mess. And top this all of with applying for Ph.D programs, and trying to fit in learning Spanish somewhere into the mix. It's not been relaxing.

Thus my blog writing has fallen to the wayside. And yeah I'll admit to FBing. It's easier really. But I am spending much less time there. I'm there but always offline, trying to avoid the inane chatting which too often sucked up too much of my time. Maybe I'll just scrap it. I've thought about getting rid of all my friends in Charlotte because hell they can see me, or call me or whatever. Then I'd just have those people who are in Maine or where ever. But I haven't got to that point yet.

But the second trimester is coming up...about four more weeks, and then I'll feel wonderful. I'm looking forward to having more energy. I need it.

And of course I'm struggling with all my weight issues. I was so determined to not gain a ton of weight this time around. I had this vision where I wouldn't even be showing until like my fifth or sixth month. I kept picturing myself as one of those skinny bitches with their little baby bumps. I continued to exercise regularly, watched what I ate....for about two weeks. I'm still going to the Y nearly every day, and when I don't do that, I walk for an hour or so with H. But the eating...I'm hungry quite literally every two hours. And if I don't eat, I feel sick to my stomach and dizzy. I'm already showing. Had to buy maternity clothes a couple of weekend ago since nothing fit me. It's very depressing for me to see myself naked and find this huge belly leering out me. It's not just a baby bump either but bump and fat. I know I'm going to get lectured by the Dr. when I go in on the first. I dread it. And yet I'm struggling to not be so neurotic about it. H adores me and finds me beautiful. My kids love my belly with the "blueberry" growing inside. It's all me. I know.

Hopefully I'll be on more. Writing. Sharing. Connecting with my friends.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Piper Bird

Yesterday at Harris Teeter, we heard a bird. I looked around and finally spotted it high up on a rafter. The kids LOVE it when a bird is inside a store. There is something so incredulous about a wild bird being inside, I think. After admiring the bird for a bit, (Piper going on and on about "Oh the cute birdie!"), we started shopping again. Piper, however, kept making these high pitch twittering noises. Amazingly enough the bird kept answering here, and if we got to far away would fly to a closer rafter. H asked Piper what she was saying to the bird. Piper responded: "I'm saying 'Hey, hi birdie.'"

Saturday, August 22, 2009


We were warmly greeted by a clean cut Hispanic man dressed neatly in khakis and a button down blue dress shirt. He pointed out a row of folding metal chairs to us, and we made our way to the seats. Those already seated (or standing in front of their seats) watched us with frank curiosity as we settled in. The music was upbeat with electric guitars and drums. Some people were starting to dance a bit, and more than half the audience had their hands in the air. When the fast song ended, the praise leader began a slow song, and more hands went flying up. The man next to us knelt down in front of his chair, speaking quietly under his breath, and then began to cry. A woman in back of us kept shouting "Oh Senor!" And more than a few people watched us closely to see what we do. A hand in the air would have marked us as insiders. Standing stiffly with our hands at our side showed that we were definitely outsiders, most likely in need of salvation.

But in that moment, I existed in some nebulous state between outsider and insider. The song they were singing, even in Spanish, was familiar to me. And the movement of the congregation was something that my body knew. It would have been easy, maybe even comfortable to raise my hands up during the worship service. Even when people began to speak in tongues, I recognized the moment. I knew when to sit, when to stand, what was going to happen before it was announced. But I also felt a repulsion to what was going on around me. Deep down there was an anger that always sat beneath the surface, that threatened to break out of the calm exterior I managed to show on the rare occasions I stepped into an Evangelical church. Part of the anger was aimed at the message of the church. I was angry at the way this church had shaped me when I was younger. Angry at the guilt and fear it had placed on me, and forced me to carry for many years. I was angry at the damage I felt the message caused the world in general.

The last time I had been in such a church, I had gone with my mom. I had, until that point, found it difficult to say no when she pleaded with me to attend. So I had gone. The pastor, an Indian man, who had converted in his early twenties, gave a sermon in which he denounced the false gods of his youth. I found the sermon said and repulsive. Listening a man drag his culture, his past, all that had shaped him through a filth bad of insults and ignorance. And I left shaking with anger. It was the last time, I went to an Evangelical church. Until now.

And now I was not sure why I was engaging on this journey. Part of the desire to put myself into this place as a scholar came from a desire to deal with my past. I had realized many years after that dreadful sermon that I too often dragged on my own religious upbringing through the same filth. I wondered if it would be possible for me to come a kind of intellectual understanding of this religion. The other part was a need to put to rest my religious past. To bury what the damage it had caused once and for all. I felt that if I could somehow make out of the Pentecostal experience an intellectual engagement then perhaps the fear and attraction I felt for religion could be understood and perhaps laid to rest.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

First Days of School

Well I meant to update on Monday evening on how things went but I plead life.

So far so good. Camille hopped into the van Monday afternoon, acting a bit grumpy but then she yelled "School is AWESOME!" She told us she played with a friend J, which we weren't sure how to take. Camille has a habit of lying about her friends as in having them when she doesn't. But we received confirmation from J's mom that they had played. She didn't talk much about what else was going on but we knew she had played (something called "Unicorn Attack" according to her). She hasn't been acting stressed at home like she did last year. I'm hopeful that it's going to be a good year (her teacher really responds well to her and even picks up her anxiety cues! Hurray).

Yesterday afternoon, she was bit quieter. She didn't seem like she wanted to talk, and I didn't push it. Later she said she claimed to have a run in with a boy she knows (but again who knows), and she seemed a little more hesitant to talk about friends. She did mention becoming friends with a boy whose names she doesn't know. When I walked in with her today, she wasn't playing with her friend J, but was playing blocks with a boy. She wandered around a bit but seemed happy and perky.

Umberto has also settled in wonderfully. The last few days he's been excited about what's going on at school (he's a gossip like his mom so I get to hear all the news amongst the kids). He's also talked more about what he's doing academically than we did last year. He seems excited about it and confident. He's quite proud to be a "big" third grader and this seems to have given him a bit of independence.

Of course today was kind of a catalyst day for him as well. When I went to say good bye, he had his head on his desk, looking miserable. He told me the morning work was too hard. I resisted the urge to kneel down and help him (not that Piper would have let me). Instead, I whispered 'I know you can do this if you try." And left. It was very hard to do but I know that he needs me to back off and let him work through this stuff. He's too used to me sweeping in and rescuing him. Sometimes I think we need to learn to rescue ourselves. It doesn't mean that I'll never help him but I need to find a balance between letting him work it out on his own, and being there for him when he needs me.

Basically today was tough. I think the beasties are tired, and ready for the weekend. They've had an extra long summer vacation. Hopefully a weekend of refueling will inspire them to keep up the great momentum they've developed.

Birthday Post

Yesterday was the actual birthday but I plead time spent with my family (including my mom who brought me a yummy cake), coupled with feeling kind of ill early in the evening. Today is just as good right?

So what did last year bring? As always a mixture of pain and joy. But the joy was definitely the overwhelming winner as it has been since I meet H. This summer I let myself surrender to my life. I embraced the joy and walked into the light that is my family. I stopped being afraid of being happy. I stopped worrying if it was "weird" to have my husband be my best friend. I fell in love again with H...with his humor, his intelligence, his love for me and the beasties, and of course with his handsome self. I relished every moment we had together, and took deep pleasure in the simple moments of just holding hands at the pool, or catching each other's eye across a room. And I slid into the joy that comes from the crazy, intense, subversive, brilliant family we've created with the beasties.

I finish my MA on my terms. I wrote the thesis without compromise. And I lived to tell the tale. I learned to value my adviser as I should have valued him before. He was amazing, and his guidance gave the room to create. That's a pretty special gift to give a student.

And this year, I come to my birthday (which is nothing but a beginning and an ending) with a new life growing inside me. It's only a tiny spark right now but soon it will be a person. Another beastie to grow up. Already the year ahead is filled with promise, and dare I say, joy?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

More on My Body

Being pregnant always brings me in touch with my body in what I find to be an ultimately disturbing way. I'm not one who is totally comfortable with my body to begin with, and being pregnant ups this discomfort. Perhaps some of it has to do with my multiple issues about control.

I waver between being utterly out of control of such things as eating (this is when I pretend I don't have a body to care about) and then I swing the opposite way where I obsess over every bite I put into my mouth, and work, almost frantically, to be thin. Over the last few years, I've worked on coming to sort of middle ground with this body. Thus I exercise because I've discovered I really love it (I'm not going to lie and say that I don't mind the tone body that comes with that exercise). It makes me feel good to push my body, to feel it work hard at something. And I eat healthy because I love the taste of real, whole food, and because again it feels good. I've come to the point where I do this not to control my body but because I want to listen to my body. I'm starting to get to a place where I don't feel this urge to control. Sometimes I feel like I can almost imagine that there is no separation between my mind and my body. That they are one, they are me.

But with pregnancy I always feel this distinct loss of control, and it panics me. My body does not feel like it belongs to me. There is so much that happens that I just can't do anything about. Unpleasant things like constipation. My wrist start to hurt. My TMJ kicks in. I am exhausted even more than normal but I can't sleep (yeah I always have insomnia but this is worst). I am exercising but I feel like I'm slowing down, unable to do what I did before. I feel like my food cravings are beyond my control. And right now I'm having a hard time finding a way to surrender without feeling like I'm losing something of who I think I am.

Perhaps it's all about embracing. With my other pregnancies, I either gave up and just went vacant for a few months, or I fought the changes, pretending they weren't there. But this time I want to work on embracing the changes. I've made a commitment to keep exercising, and to start doing Yoga. I'm hoping this will cointinue to bring me into a space where I feel like I know my body. I'm eating the things I crave, but also making sure I get the other good foods that I need and that taste so wonderful. I'm surrendering to those things I really can't change in my body but trying to devise ways to make them easier to deal with. I'm wondering if this time around maybe I can love my body through this pregnancy. If maybe this love, this love during a moment when I feel so chaotic, will be that moment when I can finally manage to not separate myself into those Western dichotomies.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

School Tomrrow

Today I'm feeling a fit a bit apprehensive. Tomorrow school begins for the two older beasties. I have a hundred worries. Will Umberto be able to handle the academic work? Can he start to act more independent in the classroom? Will Camille be handle the anxiety and stress? Will she make friends? So while I'm acting excited, getting things ready for the morning, I'm a bit churned up inside.

The beasties for their part are excited. Once we get home from dinner, I know there will be an orgy of preparation. Clothes to pick out, back packs to pack, lunches to make. Camille, like me, tends to launch in organizational mode when she gets nervous. And I know the nervousness will hit as we get closer to bedtime. Umberto will be utterly blase of course. If he stresses, he doesn't really show it. He is always the picture of laid backed chill.

And even though I have all this worry, I am still convinced that this is the best decision all around. I know that no matter what decision I make I'd worry. It's the nature of being me. I worry about everything and parenting is no exception. In fact, parenting may be the thing I worry the most about. It's one thing to fuck up things for yourself another to fuck them up for you kids. But I am secure in that they are going to a good place. I know that the teachers they have are warm and caring. Both of my children respond well to these adults. Still I'll have the rest of the evening and most of thenight to worry about the little things that could wrong. And then spend a slightly anxious day worrying about how they're doing. By tomorrow at this time, I'll be fine...maybe not as chilled as U but certainly not as high strung as today.

My Body?

"The gaze is no longer reductive, it is, rather, that which establishes the individual in his irreducible quality. And thus it becomes possible to organize a rational language around it. The object of discourse may well be a subject, without the figures of objectivity being in any way altered. It is this formal reorganization, in depth, rather than the abandonment of theories and old systems that made clinical experience possible; it lifted the old Aristotelian prohibition: one could at last hold a scientifically structured discourse about an individual"(xiv). The Birth of the Clinic--Michel Foucault writing on the "advances" of medicine in the early 19th century.

With the movement to a more "rational" view of medicine, doctors, scientists, etc were able to make the body knowable--inside and out. The body as part of a human was able to occupy a space that allowed it to become both object and subject. The individual became definable because one could cut inside and look upon the organs. This in turn opened a discourse, medicine, creating a science that was able to define the individual. And this opening turned the subject into object. This discourse that finally looks at the human body as an individual thing is precisely the discourse that enables groups of human bodies to be thought of as numbers. If we open enough human bodies, we can create a language about a normal anatomy, and this is precisely what every other body opened should resemble.

In a way this bucks what I suspect many of us like to think about ourselves as individuals. We imagine ourselves as subjects. And we do not take well to be coming objects. But in the context of medicine that is too often what occurs. How many news shows, articles, etc have been written about why Drs need to spend more time with their patients. There is a call for a discourse that acknowledges each subject as a subject. However, modern medicine does not seek to create subjects rather is seeks to turn subjects into objects. A body that does not fit in with other bodies is interesting in it's abnormality.

Think about this in the realm of birth. In a hospital, there is a preset system in place. When you enter the doors, and go to the maternity ward, you hang your subject self at the door. There is no room in this space for a subject who is not an object. The nurses have a script so to speak about the proper procedures. At some point, your body is deemed to not be proceeding in a normal way. You are now about to enter the realm of an abnormal birth. The goal from this moment on is to bring your individual body into line. You are not an individual. You are a body gone wrong. A body that is not conforming the way it should. Your body will undergo procedures all designed on a rational discourse created from the data and statistics of thousands of other female bodies.

Of course the other side of this coin, of course, lies another discourse that is based on a cultural assumption of what it means to be natural. In some senses, this idea also has much to do with making certain assumptions about groups of bodies: Women's bodies are designed to give birth.

Saturday, August 15, 2009


With the birth of Piper, the nurse asked me if I wanted a mirror. I was confused: "Why?" She looked at me a bit surprised (maybe because I already proved our alternativeness by asking for the lights dimmed...asking if it was okay to play music, etc). She answered: "Well some women like to see the birth." I decided I wasn't one of those woman. Honestly, it never occurred to me that I would want to see the children being pushed out of my vagina. In fact, it freaked me out a bit. I wasn't sure if seeing what was happening was going to be might send me into a panic. Because I knew that something really big was coming out of something small. And that something was my vagina.

But H has been through all three births. He's watched each of this children slip into the world. Has held them when they were still wet from the womb, and even cut the cord on one of them (the other two were whisked away from us). With Piper, he was the one who told the nurses "Ummm....I think that's the baby's head." Unlike many men though he doesn't have any funny stories about being horrified. He's always seemed very moved, and has never had any problems returning to sex afterwards. No repulsion, etc.

When we watched "The Business of Birth" I found myself cringing at the scenes of birth. They were often quite graphic. But after the first couple, I started to marvel at that moment when the women's bodies just opened up and brought forth a living creature. I knew it wasn't a simple opening. It was an opening that came through waves of pain, pushing and work. But I also knew that moment felt like ecstasy. It was like the world blew apart the moment your child came out into the world. And I wondered why I had been squeamish about seeing my body do this amazing feat.

H said something last night that I think answered my query. He pointed out that with the creation of hospitals as the norm, we've sanitized our lives. We've put our sick away. We've covered the bloody guts of life. We go there to be born and to die. We go there to be sick. People who visit us, often see the cleaned up sick us. They're not going to see the Dr. sawing an arm off, or cutting opening the chest (although the advent of the surgical theaters for civilians may be changing this). There is a part of me that welcomes this sanitation. After all, I do not want my family to see the insides of my body during surgery. That seems like an intimacy that perhaps is too deep. Nor do we necessarily wish our families to see our suffering.

On the other hand, we have taken a way a part of life. Suffering is not something that is always visible. And not only that but we've turned rites of life into something no longer shared and I'm not sure if this is such a great thing. By moving birth and death to the hospital, we've denied ourselves and our children the face of these two important moments of life. The movement to bring these passages back into the home strikes me as a potentially good thing. Perhaps death is not so frightening if we leave in the comfort of what we know surrounded by those who love us. And for those watching, we get to see a model of our own future.

With that said, H and I are strongly considering a homebirth. There are a few reasons for this. First, we feel more comfortable here in our space. I suspect that this comfort would make birth a bit easier. Second, I do not want to be forced into medical situations that make me uncomfortable or those that go against my wishes. Third, I want the other beasties there. I want them to welcome their new sibling into the world. I want them to see birth as something beautiful and natural. And I think they can handle it. When we watched the documentary, they were enthralled. They watched birth after birth with rapt attention. They were not scared or grossed out. Just utterly amazed at the process. They haven't yet learned to see this as something horrific, unnatural, or sanitized.

And yes there will be a mirror at this birth.

Friday, August 14, 2009


Trying to put into words, or better yet, trying to provide a rational explanation for why one wants a baby when already has a few kids is nearly impossible. There is really no convincing anyone who just decides you're crazy. I'll admit to having thought those same kind of things when I've heard other people with already large families having more. And of course I feel bad now that I'm in the same position.

H and I didn't just jump into this one. In fact, this is the one that has garnered the most thought. We started talking about another one a year ago. I wanted one more, but H was unsure. Well it wasn't so much that he was unsure, it was more about timing. He kept saying well when we finish our Ph.Ds but I was unwilling to commit to having another baby in my 40s. Then time went on, things happened, and I stopped thinking so much about that other baby. I found I could hold babies, and not yearn for one. I enjoyed the new found freedom, we had as Piper got older. I liked having my boobs back. I liked being smaller. I enjoyed going out and drinking with friends. And the desire just slipped away.

And then a few weeks ago, while looking at baby pictures, H turned to me and said "Let's have another baby." My initial reaction was "Hell no!" But he planted a seeded. For the next two weeks, we debated back and forth. We both wavered from yes to no to maybe. But there was nothing rational in the debate. It wasn't as if we could draw up a list. If we did the rational choice would so clearly be no. But the thing is that having a baby is not always about rational choice, and maybe it shouldn't be in the long run. Maybe it's okay to go ahead because it feels right, and that's where H and I were.

The turning point came for me when I realized that I was hesitating because I didn't want to gain weight. I was scared of being seen as merely a mom again. I really wanted another baby. I wanted that fourth one to round out our beasties. This is my last chance, and I knew if we decided no I wouldn't even entertain the debate. And I also realized that the reasons that held me back had much to do with desire. They had to do with wanting something that was not real...that mythical childless life, or at least a life where you simply drop the children off once or twice a week so you can go out. I made a step away from that desire. A step back towards my family, the family that sustains me and makes me whole. And I knew as soon as I saw this connection that we would be having that baby.

Because really we love the beasties. We love being around them listening to their crazy ideas, their rich worlds, their keen insights into life. We love going to Barnes and Noble and hanging out together. We enjoy lazy pool days, and autumn park afternoons. We thrive in the chaos that is our home, and it seems so right to bring beastie number 4 into this world. We'll find a way to pay it forward. H wants to foster or adopt and we may do that. But we will do something that thanks the universe for the good fortune we've been shown.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


I didn't manage to do a blog entry this morning or afternoon. We had a busy day. Lots of running around. We moved my desk into my new office. I registered the kids for school. Then we brought Umberto see G. I. Joe (horrible horrible movie) while the girls stayed with my mom.

But I did find out why I'm so tired.

I'll write more tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

For the love of stuffed animals

Camille and Umberto were never really into stuffed animals. They had tons of course because people seem utterly unable to resist those fuzzy toys. But they were not the first things that those two went for when it came time to play. Camille's always had one or two that she grows attached to...(her Puff dragon and her dog "Exit.").

But Piper....Piper loves stuffed animals. She doesn't really like dolls but she loves her animals. She babies them. Feeds them bottles, tucks them into bed, and lately has even started to dress them up. She names them: "Ching Po aka the Chinese Kitty." "Jack." "Baker Maker." "Fluffy." Most of them are stuffed cats. She carries them everywhere. We can get out the door without at least two. You see me walking in Charlotte, 9 times out of 10, there will be a stuffed cat with its head popping out of my pocketbook.

So even while the growth of stuffed animals drives me crazy (we've already got two containers from Ikea filled to overflowing), I think they're a good toy. Why? Because Piper creates with them. She makes up stories, adventures for the animals to fall into. She sings songs that she's made up about them and their travels through her imaginary world. And she brings Camille and Umberto (as well as other friends) into her games. They'll spend hours not watching t.v. but creating new worlds. It's the kind of old fashion play that everyone says doesn't happen anymore. I figure they need to come down to my place and check out the adventures of Chinese kitty and his pal Baker Maker.

Posting at Night

Here I am again...11 p.m. I've realized that this time is not working for me. I'm too tired lately to do any kind of good thinking this late at night. I've started half a dozen posts only to delete them as being inane or just not as thoughtful as I wanted them to be. Tomorrow, I'll start working in the morning and see if that brings anything more fruitful to the screen.

I have two writing projects I've been thinking about for the last year. One is about angels...although I suspect it would work better as a graphic novel. Need an artist for that project and as I don't know anyone off hand, I might try my hand at making something else. The other is that memoir I brought up awhile ago. I'll need to some mapping with this one.

In addition to all this knocking around my head, I am getting my Statement of Purposes ready. Yes plural. It's not really possible to write just one and send it out. Sigh. Plus I have to retake the GRE. And I'm going to step up on my study of Spanish (I suck at languages so it's difficult for me to get over my fear and get started). I have two classes to teach but it still seems like a light load.

Maybe tomorrow, I'll be able to lure you all in with something smart...and maybe just a bit beautiful.

Monday, August 10, 2009


Today I'm piggy backing on a friend's blog. She wrote a great post about independence and children. Basically, she's thinking about how things have changed, why, and is it really a good thing? I'm stealing her idea but it's something I've been thinking about for awhile. Maybe because Umberto is nine, and he's starting to want some more freedom. Maybe it's because I live in a neighborhood where kids run wild like I used to when I was nine. And while I did run like that I still find myself a bit aghast when the eight year old is riding his bike down the Plaza at nine o'clock at night.

And yeah I did run wild. In the summer, we would get up early, eat breakfast (which we prepared for ourselves) and then we were gone. We'd come in sometimes to eat some lunch or we'd just hit up on a friend's mom. Sometimes we'd not come until nine or even ten. We rode our bikes all over the town. Miles and miles. And I was doing that from about the time I was seven. But I'd rather die than let Umberto, who is 9, ride around on his bike. Now yeah some of it is that I lived in Skowhegan, Maine which is not Charlotte, NC. Nor was my neighborhood a place where it was common to hear gun shots as we do here. But I have asked myself if I'd even be willing to let Umberto live this life in Maine? I honestly don't know.

But we have been trying to give Umberto more independence. He needs it. At school, his teachers all have the same comment: "Umberto needs to take more imitative. He needs to be more independent in the classroom. More confident." And I suspect this comes from us not letting him be nine. At least not nine in the way both H and I were nine. I'm not willing to give him that kind of freedom (H has told me some horror stories about his youth) but I am realizing I need to give him something more.

So the other day when my mom called to ask me if it was okay for Umberto to stay alone at her place when she ran to the store (he didn't want to go), I swallowed my fear and said yes. He was fine. I then let him stay here with his sisters while we walked around the neighborhood. I was totally over protective about it. Made him call our cellphone twice to make sure he could do it. Asked him a dozen what if questions. Finally we left him. He called once. We didn't get to the phone in time. I called back but he didn't answer (as I had instructed). We hurried home. We were five minutes away. I was trying to not panic. When we got to the front door, Umberto meet us with a big grin on his face.

I tried to call! I told him.
It's okay. he answered. I took care of it. Piper was upset because she wanted you but I got her a movie going on Netflix, and she was okay.

Umberto was proud. And he had creatively taken care of a situation on his own. Maybe it's time for this mama to start letting him go.


Now that I'm on my birth obsession, I found myself falling the usual Foucaultian trails. I picked up "The Birth of the Clinic" for a reread, and am already onto a path of thought that is going to take a few days to settle. But on another side, I also began to thumb through books on home births and those who give a kind of history of birth in the U.S. A lot of new reading for the fall.

But one of the books, one by Ida May (perhaps one of the most famous midwives in the US), lead me onto a whole other trail (there seem to be many tributaries in this thought craze I'm embarking on). She begins the book with personal tales about births on the Farm (where Ida May practices). As I read through the stories, the same therm kept reoccurring. Natural. This way of birth was natural. It felt right. This is what nature intended for birthing, etc. And as always when the term "nature" gets thrown around, I start feeling a tad uncomfortable.

What is natural? And can we really do something naturally? I mean as humans is it possible for us to even be "natural"? Is there anything natural about home birth? I'd argue no. One doesn't give birth in some kind of vacuum. Instead we give birth with all the cultural baggage we've inherited. Any woman who gives birth goes into that experience with some kind of idea about what giving birth means. This means that for woman who think that birth involves a pain that is unnecessary and that a woman would only go through this with help, than it's "natural" for that woman to ask for help. Whereas a woman who believes that childbirth should be done without drugs, etc, her choice is going to seem natural. Judging one as natural because it doesn't involve drugs, is still not a case for the natural argument. One could argue that having a midwife there involves a certain artificalness.

So another personal anecdote to tie this together. I was utterly unprepared for birth with Umberto. I was clueless really. I didn't really read any books on birthing. I stumbled onto the message boards via the Internet fairly late into my pregnancy. I remember being utterly stunned and confused by the debates on the board. Epidural? What was that? When I asked my Dr. she just gave me a disgusted look and said "We don't have that here in Farmington." All I knew about birth was what I had learned from my cousins which meant you got drugs. Thus when I went into labor with Umberto, I assumed that drugs were going to be the norm. When I asked them for them, the nurse was rude to me and suggested that I was being rather wimpy (I know an utterly different attitude than found in my other births). She hooked me up to an IV and then checked me. She ran to get the Dr. who came rushing in. I was ready to push. I remember thinking that if it was this painful with drugs I'd hate to do without them. And after I finally pushed him out, the nurse cried out "You did it without drugs!!!" It was only then that I realized that birth could be and was done without drugs. It was like a whole new world opened up to me. But it was never natural.

Sunday, August 09, 2009


I'm only on day 9, and I already am at an utter loss at what to write. Normally I have all kinds of things floating around in my head. All kinds of stories, things to tell. When this happens at any other time, I don't write. But because I have this challenge, I am sitting here, on my bed, writing. Nothing. I suppose that anything is not nothing but this feels utterly banal.

I wonder if it's from my lack of reading anything of substance. This summer has been an orgy of really bad novels. I mean, they were good and fun but they were not...inspiring. They didn't lead to other places. They didn't push me into thinking about anything. But that said, it's been a lovely summer...sort of mentally relaxing. But I know that I need to snap out of it.

The mental vacation is coming to just an end just as summer vacation is coming to an end. Maybe tomorrow will be more fruitful.

Summer's Almost Over

Well at least summer vacation is almost over. We have until Autumn Equinox for the official end. And if one went by weather maybe until the end of October. But for us the summer is winding down. Next week, H has one day at work, but we have the rest of the week to hang out at the pool.

The kids actually seem ready. Lately they've spending more and more time hanging around while we do things in the living room...a sure sign that they're bored. They've asked for things to do, complained bitterly when we have no out of house plans, and basically follow us around looking morose. Umberto has taken to asking every few hours how many days until school as if an hour passing will result in a whole day gone.

But Camille..despite being bored....seems to be getting a bit more apprehensive about the idea of school. She asks me a few times about friends: will there be girls in her class? Will they like her? She's been trying on clothes, I think, to pick out outfits for school. But even while this nods to excitement, she's also started to grow more frustrated. If she's working on a worksheet, and she messes up, she starts to cry even though no one has said anything. She yells at Umberto and Piper more something they all do but she has taken it to a new level. Any thing they do that annoys her, no matter how little, results in a screaming in your face attitude. I recognize these small signs of stress, and am trying hard to assure that all will be okay.

It's difficult to watch your child stress. She seems so young to worry about these's an awful burden for such a small girl to bear. But I know that deep down she is happy, and mostly content. I can only hope that we guide her well. Today, she half wanted to take the swimming test at the Y. She told me, she wanted to, and I wavered. I was afraid if she failed, she would lose it. We talked to her about what she would have to do, but then we both told her we believed she could do it. We told her we'd cheer her on as she tired. She decided not to after a few walks over to the area but she wasn't upset at not trying (normally she would be). She knew, perhaps, that we believed in her no matter what she choose to do, and throughout her life, all of their lives, I want them to know this.

Saturday, August 08, 2009


We watched Rikki Lake's "The Business of Birthing" last night. I mean, we, as in H, the kids and I. We didn't plan on a family viewing but the kids were utterly fascinated with watching babies being born. And it was an extremely interesting documentary. I'd say I knew most of the information but it's always good to get a refresher. Combined with Moore's Sicko I'm not real confident about the US health care system. But that would be a whole other post/rant.

Mostly what I thought about through and after the movie was the implications of birth in terms of feminism. There is an argument for drugs/painkillers and convince. Why should women be made to endure such horrible pain (and it is horrible I assure those who have never experienced it). There is a case to be made for the choice to use drugs/interventions to be well within the rights of an independent woman. But on the other hand, there is the problem of how much a choice a woman really has in such circumstances. Are they honestly being informed? Are they being manipulated by the system? Is there not also something amazingly powerful and feminist about giving birth without those things? Does it not give a woman a sense of strength and accomplishment to see and feel what her body can do? But if we give that kind of birth power than doesn't that in turn make women who really didn't have a choice or who make other choices feel less? These are tough questions all of which I think about a great deal since having had my three children.

Here's my Camille birth story. I use her story because Camille's birth was the furthest from what I wanted. I saw a nurse midwife throughout my pregnancy with Camille. She was a wonderful care-giver. She spent lots of time with me. But she was definitely an establishment person. She worked in a OB/GYN office as the only midwife. She scoffed at breastfeeding beyond a year, and was more than okay about pushing an epidural. She did respect my choice to go natural but she was clearly skeptical of that choice. Still she was better than any of the OBs in the office. I detested all of them and hoped desperately that I wouldn't get them when I went into labor.

My water broke three and a half weeks before my due date at five am. We had nothing prepared. I took a shower, packed my clothes, stripped our bed, and spent some time reassuring Umberto that all would be good. We called the office and they wanted me to come right in as my first labor had been very quick. In we went. My water was continuing to leak, soaking through my pants. When we approached the nurses' station we were sent to a room where I changed into the night gown I had brought. First, the nurse fought me about the nightgown. It was going to be inconvenient she insisted. I refused to budge. Second, she refused to believe my water had broke because the test strip wasn't come up with a strong enough result. She accused me of peeing myself. I felt humiliated and angry.

After four hours of not progressing, they hooked me up on Pitocin. Pitocin artificially speeds up contractions. I asked them for some more time but they refused, offering me horror stories of what could happen to my baby. At this point, I was discouraged and tired. I had been up for awhile, and was not delivering as quickly as I expected. For five hours nothing happened. I insisted they take the fetal monitor off my belly so that I could rock. I wanted to move to try to make things happen, and from my own study knew that lying on my back was going to do nothing.

After the five hours, they upped the pic to the highest level. This is when I fell into my own personal hell. The contractions were nothing like the ones I had with Umberto. They fell one top of each other with no breaks. It was the most intense pain I had ever felt. I was curled up on my side wrapped around my stomach while the nurses were trying to insist I lay flat so they could put on the fetal monitor. I yelled at them to leave me a lone. H was rubbing my back, and trying to tell the nurses to leave me a lone. They gave up on the back position but started in immediately about the epidural. The nurse had a real bug up her ass about me being on the epidural. I wasn't yelling. I was moaning softly through the pain. H explained to them that I was afraid of a needle in my back. But they kept trying to talk me into it. They were trying to reason with a woman who could think of nothing but the horrible pain she was in. I didn't want to listen to them. I started swearing at that point, and the nurse scurried away.

She kept coming back though saying "It's just killing me seeing you in this much pain." I finally agree to take something. They gave me a drug, which did not take the pain but did allow me to sleep in the few seconds before contractions. H says I was snoring in those moments of sleep.

Finally my midwife showed up and made the nurses stop pestering me. She also deduced that I was ready to push. The nurses tried to roll me onto my back but I refused to move from my side. I think I told the nurse to get her fucking hands off me at one point. The midwife gently told them she could deliver the baby with me on my side. And I did. Three pushes later Camille was out. They whisked her away not even telling the gender which we hadn't found out before birth. H had to go over and ask them. Finally they gave me my little girl, and I was so doped up, I could barely enjoy my new baby.

What this birth showed me was that I had no choice in it. The nurses overrode all my decisions, and vetoed my say in nearly every decision in that birth. The fear they had for Camille came because of the pictocin they had given me not because something was wrong from the beginning. I had to fight when I was in an incredibly vulnerable position. My power was utterly taken away from me. There was absolutely no respect for my own knowledge of my body and what I knew my body could do. I ended up being a kind of hero in the maternity ward afterwards because I didn't have epidural while on pictocin. Nurses were coming in to see the woman who refused the epidural. I found that so sad that I was this famous just for denying something that freaked the hell out of me.

When I look at my other two births, it's astounding how little say I had in what was happening to my body with Camille. With both Umberto and Piper, the nurses and doctors listened to me and took what I said to heart. For example with Piper, I told the nurse I would start yelling for an epidural when I was ready to push. Sure enough when I was ready to push, I started calling for the epidural. When one nurse ran to get the anesthesiologist , the older nurse, said "Wait, let me check her." And I was ready to push. She remembered what I wanted and what I had told her. She had already apologized to me when she hooked me up to a monitor. And she let us play Glenn Gould during the delivery, dimmed the lights for us, and made sure H was comfortable. Umberto's doctor sat with me through 2 hours of pushing, and wet my perineum with wash clothes so I wouldn't have to be cut. These women empowered me to have the birth I desired rather than taking away all my power to get things done the way they thought things should be done. With Camille, the nurses saw me as a number not as a person.

The Pain of Four

Normally, I write about the joy and beauty of life with the beasties. I realize that at times it may seem like we live an overly idyllic life. Today, I thought, after an entire day of dealing with Piper,it would be nice to reminisce on the unsavory aspects of raising the beasties. I mean, I call them the beasties for a reason.

Right now we're in the midst of four. Four is the age that I think might be the hardest for me to deal with as a parent. I know it's supposed to be two but I've always found two to be fine. Yes, they're needy but they're babies! They're supposed to be needy. And I can understand how it's tough to be two. You're starting to be independent but you still can't full you express yourself. You want to do big kid things but you're not quite able to yet. It' frustrating.

But four...well four is what makes me feel like having a few stiff drinks to just start the day. Four is the age where you are already a big kid so you can reason, you can do almost everything you imagined, but still you're miserable. I'm not sure why. I've thought a lot about it. Perhaps it's because you are a big kid but you're starting to realize you've still got to go through these big people, aka your parents, to do anything. And really that is part of what the problem is...the misery that is. Whenever people talk about how happy children are, I always snicker. Four is not a happy time. Here's a day in our life with Piper (and the other two were the same way).

Piper gets up late because she refused to go to sleep at a decent time (this involved tons of misery and whining as well..."I cannnn'tttt slllleeeepppp!") She was well-rested. Ten hours of sleep should do a girl fine. But she immediately started whining "I'm huuunnnggggrrrry." I, still patient at this point, say "I don't understand whine. Can you tell me in your big voice?" "I wannnnttt waaafffflees." She whined back. We were out of waffles. This lead to a ten minute breakdown which was only relieved when we offered peanut butter and jelly for breakfast.

She played okay for awhile, and then decided she needed to do her workbook, right now. She didn't care that H and I were both in the middle of preparing food for the other two. No now was the time to do this worksheet. I suggested she start on it herself but that lead to another ten minutes of sobbing. We finished the other kids' breakfast, and I set up her worksheets. She was fine until my mom showed up to get Umberto. This lead to a 15 minute breakdown while she sobbed for Umberto. This was happening when we were trying to get everyone out the door to go help work on the garden.

We finally got Camille and her in the van, headed out, everyone happy. Then Piper realized she had forgotten her stuffed cats (she carries no less than three). She sobbed broken heatedly (interspersed with yelling "GEEETTT MMMYYYY CAAATTTSSS NOOOWWWWW!"). We finally get to the school, where she was overjoyed at seeing the garden, the school. Life was so fresh and interesting now! She forgot about the cats. About five minutes after rediscovering the joy of life, she began to sob some more because it was hot. H took the girls to the coffee shop while I weeded. It was actually a pleasure to weed. At least it was quiet.

I get home. I shower. H and I decide that we would like some alone time. Piper abhors this. She bursts into the bedroom, we beg her to leave, we bribe her to leave. She leaves but sobs about a foot away from our door. And there were a hundred other such incidents throughout the rest of the day.

This is the life of a four year old. All my kids at four have just been miserable little beings. They seem to hate the world. They often look for things to throw a fit about. Nothing is quite good enough for them. They're like those people who realize that 90% of the time life just really sucks, and they're going to drag everyone else down with them. There is very little joy at this time of life. When there is it is a beautiful thing, don't get me wrong. They still maintain that sense of wonder and newness but it definitely comes out less than it did when they were younger.

My mantra is "Five is just around the corner."

Friday, August 07, 2009


I told a friend a few weeks ago that my biggest fear about schooling was that my kids would lose the closeness they have with each other. If they're in school away from each other all day will they still be the best friends they are with each other? Will it kill the bond they have?

Lately, I've noticed the close-knit relationship my kids have with each other. Umberto is super social but when it comes to his sisters, he'll stand with them against even his closet friends. And the girls adore him. While the girls fight each other, present an outside force, and they stick together. It's an amazing thing for me to witness.

I am not close to my brothers. I love them but we don't talk on the phone, don't hang out, and never really had a close relationship. I would not call my brothers my friends. Even when faced with outside forces we scattered rather than stuck together (with the exception of something awful that befell my brother, I stood by him through the whole sordid mess). When I meet H, I thought his relationship with his siblings was odd. I'll admit that it bothered me. I think now because I was a little jealous. H talks to his siblings often--through chatting and phone calls. His siblings send us postcards from their travels. When we went to Mexico, they whisked him away for a sibling only weekend (of which I was intensely jealous). They really are friends in a way that I didn't think was possible between siblings.

Now I see this same kind of relationship between my kids. We have the space for separate bedrooms (something I longed for when I was nine as Umberto is) but they choice to share a single room. The girls can't sleep when Umberto goes away for overnights, and cry longingly for him to be home. They play together, watch movies together, invent games to play. They are a forceful unit of three. Umberto watches over Camille at school for example. He was the one who made us aware of Camille's difficulty in making friends.

I wonder if this closeness comes from how close we are as a family. H and I appreciate a night alone but we've never let having children stop us from doing things. Our kids have been to shows, to coffee shops, to book stores. They join us for our rambling walks in neighborhoods. We've never thought of them as having separate lives from ours. Our lives are mingled together not just because of blood but because we all genuinely like each other. This is what I imagined a family could be when I was younger but never quite believed could happen. Now we're living that imagining.

Solitude and Togetherness

I'm pushing it with my post for the day. I didn't even really think about what to write as I normally do. I'll blame on it busy day mentality. I worked on my syllabus, brainstormed ideas to get Piper into some kind of preschool, finished a brochure for my mother's husband, and cleaned some in the kitchen. After all this flurry, we packed up beasties and headed to the pool. After a few hours there, we went to eat, headed over to B & N, and just basked in being together. I love days like this, almost simply in their everydayness but complicated in the emotions they bring on.

Sometimes, I often long for friends outside of my family unit, but then I have a day like this one, and I just sink into the contentment that comes from being with my favorite people in the world. It was calming after a day spent feeling bitchy and rushed and slightly over-whelmed. I sank into the quiet simplicity of just hanging out, looking at books together, sharing what we found.

My family is really my center. I realized today that some of the feelings I felt a while ago came from not having enough solitude. I didn't take time out as I used to because I felt guilty about it. With the kids in school, and H teaching, it felt like much of my time was away from them. But I was also with Piper during most of that time, or with classmates or with students. I needed to take the time to just be a lone sometimes and I didn't. It's not a mistake I'll make again.

Life is a balance that way. I'm a person who values being a lone but I am also a very social person who enjoys times spent with people. But sometimes I over-whelm myself with both ways of living. There were times in my past when I was very much a lone, and I was miserable after awhile. I would go out to the local bar, the Granary, just to be around people even if I didn't really know them. I'd go to parties that I didn't really enjoy just to have some other human beings around. Of course there were other times when I was always surrounded by people: roommates, friends, etc. And those times drove me slightly insane as well. Now I feel like I have that balance. The people I'm surrounded by all the time, my family, complete me in ways I never imagined possible. But they also don't resent those times when I need to go out to a coffee shop and just be myself. It's a wonderful to way to live. And now that I'm aware of being okay with what I need I don't feel like I need to change where I am. I am in the space that makes me full.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Playing With the Beasties

Today was an errand running day. I hated wasting a sunny day and could hear the pool calling but sometimes you have just to have to run around. I needed to sign my contract, had some things we needed to pick up from Target, etc. So we bathed dirty beasties, got them dressed, buckled into booster seats, and off we went. It was pretty hideous. Lots of moaning all the way from the parking lot to my office. Panting for water, they dragged their little feet down the path. They threw tantrums when we walked by the soda machines. They complained bitterly for the five minutes it took me to sign my contract. When we left, Piper sobbed all the way to the crossroad, bellowed while we waited for H to bring the van around, cried and tantrumed all the way to Target.

They proceeded to fight throughout Target. Umberto teased Camille until she exploded. When we finally got him calmed down, the girls started in on each other. We were asked to be interviewed for Fox news but I just pointed at the kids. I mean, really did she think we were going to be interviewed with two girls pulling each other's hair? Maybe it would have made good news. By the time we got back to the van, they had stopped fighting but they had transferred into uproarious playing with each other.

Headache. I ended up yelling for silence which resulted in about ten seconds of silence.

Thus our homecoming was tense. Too much yelling, too much stress. A lot of apologizing and hugs.

After dinner, we made up for it. We gathered our beasties back into the van. We parked on a little side road off of North Davidson. The rest of the next two hours was spent roaming through NoDa. We ran, played, talked, and took pictures of each other. We laughed at the Smelly Cat, while we ate our treats. We made plans for the future. We chased cats down allies, and sometimes were blessed with a chance to pet soft fur. We were surrounded by enormous, friendly, New Foundland dogs, who licked the kids. We saw a violet sky---the backdrop for a glowing skyscraper and some Spanish moss. In those twilight moments, we let go of the stress, the loudness, the headaches, and just lived.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Nothing Brilliant

I think I just used my tiny bit of good thought on the beasties' blog. Thus those who come here for the daily post are only going to get an update, chatty post. That's what I feel capable of tonight. I'm tired. I'm trying to get off using Advil PM to sleep at night. There's a variety of reasons why: liver, hate being so dopey in the morning, etc. But it means that I'm functioning all day with no good sleep. Couple this with a hot day at the pool, and Ginger has just about reached her end.

Overall, I've had a lovely week. The kids have been enjoying our daily pool trips. I've done a little work on hammering out which grad schools I'm applying to and what I need to do for each application. I've gotten some good advice from my ex-advisor. I found out my job is secure and I even have a contract. Of course I also have a lot of work piling up that going to the pool is not putting a dent in. I wish I could past this thing where I do better work when I'm under a tight deadline.

H and I are making a big life choice. I'll tell more about that at a later date but it makes me happy that we hammered it out. I'm just dreading the gossip fall out that will surely follow. And there's another thing I wish I could past: caring what other people think. I'm working on it.

The last few days though, I've just so reconnected to my family. Sitting in the wading pool, while the kids swim around me, has made me feel content in a way I haven't felt in a long time. I think for a while I pinned it on not homeschooling. But then when I started to home school again, I still felt this strange disconnect, like I was a hundred miles away. Looking back, I think it was a big identity crisis. I wasn't sure what I wanted in life, where I was going, if I was happy where I was. I'm not sure what brought it on...does one ever really know what brings these moments on? But it was a struggle. I remember reading an article about a month ago about mothers who left their children with their exes and had their own lives. And I think that maybe that was something that was flitting through my mind. It broke my heart to even admit that to myself. But I pulled away from that...I knew that this what not what I wanted deep down. That I was just tired. Tired from the Master's, tired with dealing with four, tired period. When I really forced myself to imagine a life without H and the kids it was so dark and bleak. I didn't want to be with anyone else. I knew without a doubt that I adored and loved H, and I also knew I felt the same way about the kids. Perhaps it was the readjusting to a different kind of life. A life with the kids and H gone a lot more than I was accustomed to. And some of it was a big fear that I was getting old. That the young years were behind me. Today at the pool, I basked in my family and being close to H., blowing him kisses, teasing him, just feeling him close to me. I didn't feel trapped, old, or tired. I felt a live and blissfully happy. This is my wonderful life, I thought, and nothing, absolutely nothing, can touch this. It was a good feeling.


Today I am going to rant. You've been warned ahead of time. For those who know me, you know what I'm like when I rant. For first timers, hold onto your seats.

Today's rant involves parenting. It involves the wars that happen in the mommy world. I'm used to some extent the dogmatic attitudes that divide people into camps. In the academic world there are always camps. There are those who think there are certain ways to use theory and if you use theory is any other way, you're a heathen. I've straddled that line as a scholar, and it irritates me but for some reason the parenting wars really get under my skin. Maybe it's because it involves these little humans I have been given the responsibility of raising. Maybe it's because every decision I make concerning them comes with a great deal of agonizing thought. I don't take parenting lightly, and I don't take even the smallest decisions I make in terms of my kids' life lightly. And yet every decision I've made always seem to entail an enormous amount of judgment from other mothers.

When I started working when Umberto was two and a half, I was actually kicked off email boards for attachment parenting. I didn't have a choice in working. We needed to eat. I had the ability to make more money than H at this point in our lives, and it was only logical that I would get a job. Working didn't get us a new car, or a pool or a big house in the suburbs. Working put food on the table and clothes for my kid. It provided him with health insurance, etc, etc. And it enabled H to finish school so he could get a better job. But the moms on these boards only saw that I was putting my child in daycare, and thus abandoning him to strangers. It never occurred to them that there were people in the world who simply couldn't afford to stay home. It had nothing to do with wanting stuff but with having the basic necessities these women took for granted. And it never occurred to them that a woman could work and still be a good, attached mother. They never looked at how they did the only parenting in their families as their husbands often worked huge amounts of overtime so that their wives could stay home. When I went to work, it was to feed us but it also enabled H to be as much a parent as I was.

The second wave of judgement swept over us when I had to supplement Camille on formula. I couldn't pump enough milk to feed her during the day when I worked. I tried. I tried until my nipples were bleeding and cracked. By the time she was four months old, I was lucky if I slept four hours a night before going to work long days. She didn't eat at daycare so I was up all night feeding her. I cried the first time I had to send formula to daycare. I felt like a failure. And not many of the moms I knew helped alleviate those feelings. Instead I faced nasty comments about how they didn't have to supplement why did I? The insinuations were that I was some how not good enough, not trying hard enough, not willing to sacrifice more to keep her only on breast milk. For a long time, I lied about how old she was when I began supplementing.

The latest wave has been about educating. I've faced this one no matter what choices we made. When I home schooled, I had a barrage of mothers who were horrified. When I sent them to the school, I faced another barrage of criticism. On one hand were the people who accused me of sheltering my children, abandoning the public system, on and on. When I decided to send them back to school, some mothers acted like I was sending my kids to prison.

What bothers me is the kind of self-absorption these attitudes represent. I've tried very hard in my public life to be supportive of other mothers' decisions. I'll be honest in that there are times when I thought that the choices made did not appear to be best for the children involved. But I've never voiced those opinions to the people. I didn't feel like it was my place. I don't profess to understand what the best decisions are for any given family. Many of the parents I know do what they have to do. They try to make the best world for their children. And I am willing to accept that even if I disagree with the decision. But too often that same kind of empathy just doesn't seem to exist among mothers. Too often it's easy to think that our parenting choices are the end all period. We don't stop to think that maybe other families have to make other decisions. Or that just maybe they're not willing to make the same decisions as we do.