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.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Dark Tales

Sunday night we watched Coraline with the beasties. They have seen it several times--once at the theater with H (I was working on the bloody thesis), and than multiple times once we received it from Netflix. But they were more than willing to watch it again with me. I was excited as we had started reading the book, and I was curious to see how they did the movie. It was brilliant. Gloriously dark but with joy at the end. Coraline was a perfect heroine--resourceful and brave but quite human. She was the kind of heroine I want for my daughters, strong and resilient, saving the day. But even more than this lesson was the unflinching darkness of the movie, a darkness found in the book.

Gaiman is one of my favorite writers for this reason. His children books are deliciously scary. They capture the fantasies and fears of childhood that one rarely finds in contemporary children's literature. The Disneification of fairy tales is a sad thing. I remember reading the Blue Fairy book when I was ten, and being utterly horrified, fascinated, and excited by the dark tales in those pages. I can still see the cover in my mind, and how I devoured those stories, going through all the colors and then starting back with the Blue book. But the fairy tale books I find for my children are too often devoid of the darkness that fueled my nightmares and fantasies.

Gaiman doesn't shy away from those tales. He captures those feelings we have as children. Those dark scary feelings that lurk in our minds, that we hardly dare give voice to. And he also turns those longings we have into something nightmarish but seductive. How many children haven't wished for other mothers who cooked their favorite foods all the time, gave them whatever they desired? How many of us haven't wished we could trade our fathers in for anything other than another father? What Gaiman does with those fantasies is really just brilliant. He shapes them into something that is as beautiful as it is terrifying. And to me that just seems like what the world is like when you're a child. New, lovely, seductive but also filled with dangers, fears and unknowns.

Good fairy tales remind us that the world is beautiful and dangerous. That darkness lurks around every corner, and that sometimes what we need to survive is a bit of luck, pluck, and cleverness. Not a bad lesson over all.


We meet at a football game. Neither of us were the types who went to football games but by the accident of being born in a small rural town there wasn't much else going on Friday nights. We didn't have our licences so cruising the one main street through town was out. So both of us were dragged by friends to a football game. We stood out which is no doubt why our friends figured we would be a great couple. He was dressed all in black including a black trench coat with fingerless leather gloves. He had a habit of shoving his hands into his pockets, lowering his head, and then looking up at you from what he thought were hooded eyes. I was also in black, had half my hair shaved off, wore a sliver hoop in my nose, white make up, and dark red lipstick. We were freaks too weird and freaky for even the freaky kids. And we were damaged. Our dating was no doubt inevitable.

But he and I were no good for each other. For a few weeks, we lived out the pretensions of how we wanted other people to see us. Then there was a blissfully two weeks were we relaxed and started to act more naturally. Like this he was goofy and funny. Charming. He wasn't trying to be dark and seductive. He stopped trying to be something of an Anne Rice novel. He made me laugh. Sometimes he'd be serious and we'd talk about our childhoods and religion. We both wanted desperately to be witches even though neither of us was really sure what that meant. I decided to fall in love with him during those weeks.

And then the fighting kicked in. We argued over everything. The big fights were over things like him cheating on me (something he did frequently and without any seeming concern). He complained bitterly about my lack of trust while I ranted about his inability to keep his cock in his pants. He had a way of quietly provoking me until I exploded throwing things across the room, slamming doors, punching walls. He would cry sometimes, whining about how cruel I was to him. He sulked moaning about my lack of compassion. He told me I was mean to him, and that I couldn't really love him. And I thought that maybe he was right.

While it would have been wise to just break it off, we didn't. We suffered through a couple of years of him falling in love with half the women he cheated on me with. I used to cry but eventually realized that in a few days, he'd be begging me to come back. We were sick together. He craved my cruelness, and I craved his accusations and emotional abuse. Eventually, I moved away which is what it took to separate us. But he was that guy who never really left. We continued to screw for years after the final break up. And oddly enough those moments were okay for both of us. Having sex as friends, using each other for a quick fix, was more meaningful than our relationship had ever been.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Sex, Love and the Long Haul

Today at 11, I gave an interview to a person doing a book on women in long term relationships and desire. He didn't have a particular Lacanian view of desire. Desire was all about sexual attraction. Still it was interesting to be on the other end of an interview of this sort. We covered a lot of ground, and I was quite open with him. At the end of the interview, he said "Wow, you seem to have a great sexual realationship with your husband. If someone asked you to give them advice what would you say?" This is a question I've been rolling around for awhile. A friend joked that H and I should write a book about keeping marriage alive in the age of cyncism, and several others have made comments about how we do it. It seems that we have sex a great deal more than many of our friends--both married and unmarried.

But in all honestly I don't know. Whenever I try to answer this questions I feel like I hit deadends. It's not as if I'm not good with words, I think I am, but rather that there are some many elements, so many threads that overlap, that it is difficult to pinpoint some kind of formula. So here's what I do know:

1. H and I are friends. We talk about everything together. There is nothing that I don't feel comfortable sharing with him including some rather uncomfortable feelings, attractions, etc. H has listened when I told him about things that must have hurt him but he heard me until the end. He was open and receptive. He never censored me. And I like to think I've done the same for him. This openness defintely affects our sex life. We talk to each other about pleasures, fantasies, and experimentation.

2. We are still physically attracted to each other. How could you not love a man who has thought you were utterly hot through three pregnancies and years of breastfeeding? And there is no denying the intense phyiscal pull I feel for H. I still catch my breath sometimes when I see him from afar. We hooked up, really based on phyiscal attraction, and while we stuck together for other reasons that attraction has always been there.

3. We're open about being attracted to other people. We've never tried to pretend that we don't feel attraction to others. It's just that we both trust each other enough to know that one doesn't have to act on the attraction. That was a tough one for me. I always felt like my "desire" was so out-of-control that I had to act on it if I admited it. I'm learning that sometimes that attraction to other people can fuel the attraction I feel for H. And I'm not so insecure that I feel like H will act out on his own attractions.

4. We don't give to each other with the expectation that something will be given back. We give to each other because we love one another, and we want to demonstrate that love.

I don't know the way these things blend to keep us having an active sexual life (some would say over-active but bah to them). But they do. They make us not just a stronger couple but stronger friends, stronger lovers, stronger parents. When these things harmonize for us, it's all about the pleasure. There's work involved in this maybe but it's a work that is always pleasurable.

Mama's Girls

We spent the day at the pool. Now that summer vacation is winding down into the final two weeks, we plan to spend every sunny afternoon pool side. It's a good way to tire us all out and to soak up the sun. Today I watched as the kids played with each other and occasionally with other kids who happen to float into their radar. Piper was her usual bitchy self--snarling at any kid unwise enough to get within a foot of her. She'd yell, push away, turn her head, and if you had the misfortune of being born a male, she would stick her tongue out at you. Camille alternated between slapping wet handprints down on the side of the pool, and bumping into everyone, utterly oblivious to the presence of other humans. When she knocked someone, she gave them a cool glance, and moved on. Umberto was pretty mellow. He played with the girls mostly but wasn't rude or aloof to the other kids. He was just shy and didn't make much effort to get to know anyone.

A pretty typical day at the pool (including a Piper meltdown involving having a stuffed animal at poolside).

I told H just a minute ago, as we reminisced about the girls' personalities: "It's funny because Piper has my in the face bitch attitude; while Camille has my slightly aloof, I think I'm better than you personality. Wow you really lucked out and got two girls just like their mama." He laughed and said: "Yeah. It's kind of like they split up your two different personalities." And he's right. I totally embody both aspects of the girls. There are times when I'm really in your face, mouthy, loud, etc, but then there are times when I'd just rather pretend you don't exist. A lot depends on my feelings and relationship toward/with you. But the girls have managed to split that personality into separate entities. Neither possesses both of these aspects.

It's one of those funny quirks of having kids. The thing that really throws my whole cultural constructivist self into a tail spin. Yeah it can be argued that they learned this from me but why do they each have a such different aspects of me? It's a funny thing to have kids and watch them develop into beings that are so familiar yet so foreign at the same time. They always have pieces of us but they never are us.

Sunday, August 02, 2009


Today, after a tasty Mexican lunch, we decided to hit the stores. We were going to be thrifty and wait for the tax free weekend but we ended up choosing sanity. I'm not my best in stores period, so add a crowd and I metaphorize into something quite nasty. We also weren't going to buy the kids new school clothes. After all, they have a large wardrobe (thanks to their parent's own love of clothes), and really it seemed rather unnecessary. But they did need shoes and book bags. And in the excitement of picking out things for them, I got caught up with them having to have at least one new outfit for the first day.

Likely, so many things, this boils down to my own childhood. There were times when we were lucky to get one new outfit for the first day of school. We usually didn't know if we'd even get that until the last minute. Sometimes my uncle would come through and we'd hit K-Mart or Ames to pick out some new jeans. And I hated it. I hated looking at the cheap jeans, rummaging through them, hoping to find a pair that everyone wouldn't immediately label as "gay" (I know horrible term). It didn't matter though. Teens have some kind of sixth sense concerning department store jeans. I'd be mocked right away, and labeled immediately as a poor kid.

And no I don't want my kids to go through this. H and I will skimp on our own clothes but we buy nice clothes for the kids. It's unnecessary on some level because CCS is wonderfully unpretentious. One woman I liked right off because sometimes her girls' came to school with their hair uncombed just as Camille often does. There's a definite mixture of clothing styles. And I am certainly not the parent who spends the most (there are kids in Sean John, Baby Phat, Hannah Anderson, etc) but we are definitely in the middle range.

As Camille was trying on jeans at Old Navy, I felt guilty. I consider myself a socialist. I definitely am engaged in class ideology but yet there I was engaged in making sure my kid looked good. No Old Navy isn't quite the Gap or Macy's but the intention was the same. I was participating in an act of consumerism in order to protect my child from being mocked as I was...a mocking that likely would not even happen at CCS. It's hard to not bring the pain of the past into the future.


I never missed church until recently. Let me be clear that I've never missed Christianity. I went through a brief spell when I wondered if I could actually leave it behind but other than that there's never been a moment of doubt for me. It's not that I think Christianity is a total evil. Like all religions, and most cultural expressions, it has been used in multiple ways. In many ways, Christianity helps some people just as it hurt others. As someone who studies religion academically, I've learned to not make fast and loose judgements about such things. But there was something I missed.

I didn't notice missing it until about two months into my fieldwork at an Hispanic Church of God. After the service, a food truck came loaded up with tamales, tacos, etc. Everyone would hurry out, buy their food, and stay around to chat. There was always a huge crowd, and one day after a rousing condemnation of those who take advantage of their community, I noticed a great warmth among all the people gathered to eat. These people cared about each other, took care of each other. There was more than just handshakes and hugs. People took care of each other's children, exchanged business cards, and offered heart felt advice. This group, whose beliefs I found utterly repugnant, had something I didn't have: community. I knew a lot of people who thought the way I did, shared my ideologies, etc but we didn't care about each other. We didn't have this sense of mutual obligation to help one another out.

After this, I began to feel the longing even more intensely. I noted how the people always greeted each other before the service began. How people would slip little gifts to each other. How someone in need was always taken care of. None of my liberal groups had even a hint of this kind of community connection. And I know there was a bit of idealization going on...nothing involving humans in groups is ever prefect. I am sure that there was tons of in-fighting, of struggles to be in the "inner circle" etc. But there was also this appearance of community that in many ways worked. Where as in the groups, I was part of there wasn't even an appearance. No one gave a shit about taking care of each other. It was all about what you were going to do for the cause, and who was going to get to have the last say.

And today, I went to church again. My mom asked us to go. Normally, I would have refused. But she has switched to a Methodist church, and I felt that I could handle the moderate message. Plus her husband was participating in the sermon, and she wanted us to come see him. "It will mean a lot to him if you're there." she said. So we got up early (for us), dressed everyone, drove about 45 minutes to see this church. And again I thought how nice it was that these people had a place to go and be with others like them. It's a much bigger church than the Church of God, three services throughout the morning, all filled. But there was again that sense of community. People talked to each other, smiles were exchanged. I know my mother and her husband have felt welcomed, and have even made friends. They've become involved in charity work as well as prayer groups. And again I felt this wash of longing, of wanting something like this, a community where people looked forward to seeing me every week.

I thought early on this year that I was informally creating this community. It didn't really work out the way I envisioned. Perhaps having that link of common faith, belief, goal, or something is necessary for that connection. Today as we drove away, I wondered if my longing for that community and connection is something that comes from my early years as a Christian. Did spending all those years in various churches create in me a desire to always have some kind of community? Perhaps. But the real thing I have to struggle with is whether that longing is necessary for my life. Is it enough to have H and the beasties with the occasional casual friend? I don't know. Right now I'm healing my wounds in the love of my family but I still wonder about the day when I'll want to open again.

Saturday, August 01, 2009


Lately, Piper has been sleeping with us, again. We had a brief rather wonderful period when she slept with Umberto. Sometimes she would be the only child in the bedroom when morning woke us all. But a few months back, we had a "family sleep-over" where we all slept upstairs, watched a movie, had popcorn, and ice cream. End result being that Piper moved back into bed with us. We tolerate it because I believe that children need that kind of security.

And maybe because I'm feeling a little guilty. H and I got involved in something complex (that ended up being icky). I felt that for those couple of months I neglected my family. Not badly, not the kind of neglect that results in hungry, dirty children. I took care of everyone as I always had but there was a certain intensity missing. We have cultivated a deeply intense life with our children and with our family. Not a sick kind of intensity but a vibrant energy that fuels our togetherness. We spend time talking and listening to each other--not just H and I but with the children as well. We spend most of our time together doing things, being out. While H and I enjoy those nights away we spend most of our time doing things that we can all do together. It's created a bond, a bond not just of blood and care-taking but a bond based on genuine affection for each other.

When we got involved so to speak, that intensity ended up, at least for me, being turned elsewhere. It was quite disastrous on many levels. It involved an enormous shift and upheaval. There were times when all I wanted was for them to go to bed, to leave me a lone so I could focus on this other thing. One night in particular was quite awful. I not only wished for them to go to bed, I put intense pressure on them. Anyone who knows kids knows what happened. The more I pushed, the more they resisted. It became a huge battle, something I always swore I'd never let bedtime become, and in the end, I was angry. Not at them but deep down at myself.

So now that Piper is sleeping with us, I feel I almost owe it to her. I turned away from my family for a brief time. And we were all hurt from that turning away. We're slowly rebuilding that relationship but I can see the lack of trust in every one's eyes. And it was all me. I ran from the commitment, the closeness, towards a life that I used to have, that I thought would be good. But now I long for the insulation of my family, for the little hugs from the kids, the kisses, the love they feel for me despite my stumble. And H has been kind, forgiving even though he didn't need to be. It was as if they all stood back while I tried out a role, waiting to see if I would embrace that or come back to them.