Thursday, August 31, 2006

Things I didn't need

From my day on Wednesday.

Something I didn't need to see:
Walking to get some lunch, I passed by a storefront where some contractors were working on the interior. One quick glance was all I needed to figure out that the closest contractor was wearing white boxers with red maple leafs (Oh, Canada!). And he was either wearing them backwards or they were ripped along the back seam.

Something I didn't need to find out:
The cost of health insurance, required for international students and their dependents, has skyrocketed. Mine is covered by my funding package, but the cost for my wife and son has increased almost 90%. That's 90% in a single year. The consolation in their thinking is that they will allow me to pay for it in installments instead of all at once. As I explained to the person who was giving me this 'upside,' "Yes, but I still have to pay nearly twice as much as I did last year."

Something I didn't need to feel:
I applied for an extra TA position. It's not through my department, but an affiliated one, and I am definitely qualified. I made sure to apply for the semester I wasn't already working. It would be a nice chunk of change and, given recent expenses we've discovered will be incurring unexpectedly, quite helpful. Yes, it will be a lot of extra work, but my schedule allows it. I found out that I have been offerred the position, but I found out by means of my graduate advisor telling me he doesn't think it's a good idea, it's too many hours for a year (whereas I was looking at is I'll have two equally committed semesters). So now I'm doubting myself and my ability to handle my life, instead of feeling proud that I stood out in a pile of applicants.

On the plus side, I found out one happy thing on Thursday. Our son will be in junior kindergarten next year, and I thought we would have to pay out-of-pocket for public school because we're not Canadian citizens or permanent residents. We've been hoping to keep him at his current preschool for half days (since jk is only half a day itself), but the combined expense would have been too much, even more than any of the private schools around here. But it turns out there's an exemption for children of full-time students at publicly funded colleges and universities. Yeah for something in our budget not skyrocketing!

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Blogging and the subconscious mind

Rather than staying up late and cramming in some more studying last night, I decided to go to bed at 9 pm. My theory was that I wouldn't retain much, as tired as I was, and that a full night's sleep might mean I didn't doze off in the student lounge the next morning.

So of course my sleep was fitful and I had some truly bizarre dreams.

The one that stuck with me was very convoluted, but the core of it involved blogging. I was desperately trying to pump out post after post, each one a carefully thought out response to something I had read on another blog. What has really stuck with me was the sense of urgency that accompanied all of this. Perhaps this reflects on the fact that I've semi-composed about a dozen posts in my head but don't have the time right now to commit them to paper (or screen, as the case may be).

And then I found myself on a grassy lawn that was teeming with roosters, most of them looking bedraggled and beat up, a few of them dead. Next thing I know, a large black rooster is coming right at me. I duck, it comes back at me, and I have to squash it. Then I woke up.

Not sure what that was about.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

My constant companions

In response to my post on my reading habits, Bub and Pie asked about recommendations from the sci-fi/fantasy genre. I mentioned my favorite author (Robin McKinley), but then realized the comment would be way too long if I kept going. I have a whole slew of authors I love, too many for a navigable post, so I thought I'd start with a list of the authors and books I love to reread.

As I said in the previous post, I like rereading books. As an impulsive reader, voraciously devouring new books, and therefore missing details, rereading allows me to discover nuances and to appreciate an author's style. I also find that my favorites speak to me more with each reading. Suspense grows each time; if I cried the first time, I absolutely bawl the next.

These are the authors and books that stick with me long after I have read them. I lose myself in their worlds and must surface slowly. They work their way into my daydreams and nightmares. Just writing about them, I start to slip under their spell.

1) I must start with Robin McKinley. Yes, I already mentioned her, but she is my go-to author. When I'm dying to read a little fiction, but don't have anything on hand or know that I might have to put it down to take care of things in the real world, I pick up one of her books. Many of her books are retellings of fairy tales (including two very different versions of "Beauty and the Beast"). Her ability to situate the familiar in a world of her own creation, to interpret details from the original in a way that had never occurred to me, to make me worry about how things will turn out--even when I know how the story ends--all of this keeps me coming back. Of course I have my favorites--Deerskin and the Damar books (Hero and the Crown, Blue Sword), in particular--but I can pick up any of the others and am immediately reminded of what an amazing writer she is.

Now many of her books are intended for teen readers, particularly her earlier fairy tale retellings and the Damar books, but she has aimed for an older audience with Deerskin and Sunshine. I'm pretty sure that Sunshine is her most recent novel--2003. With all the craziness in my life (moving, going back to school, parenting), I missed this when it first came out and only found it last year. Of course I immediately bought and read it, despite the pile of work I had. It's now taunting me to reread it, something I'm trying to hold off on until after my deadlines next week.

2) Another favorite is Sheri S. Tepper. I have not read all of her work at this point, but I reread The Gate to Women's Country about once a year. It takes place in a post-holocaust society where there is a general segregation of women and men (though male children and older men who so choose live with the women). Dystopias and post-holocaust books have always interested me (Brave New World, On the Beach, Postman), so I was interested in that aspect. Having read a decent amount about the Trojan War and having always sympathized with the plight of the Trojan women, I was drawn in by her interweaving of her plot with the production of a play entitled Iphigenia at Ilium. It's powerful and thought-provoking.

3) Joan Slonczewski's A Door into Ocean is another one I read yearly. A young boy travels to an ocean world and lives with the slightly-alien, all-female population. There is much meditation on individuality and commonality, love and interconnectedness. The author is also a biology professor, so the ecology of her ocean world is believable--and her writing truly makes it come alive.

4) I have not read Orson Scott Card's Ender's series, his best known work, but frequently reread Songmaster. In it he tells the story of a songbird, a gifted singer, who is sent to the Emperor of the Galaxy. I also read his Enchantment, a story that takes "Sleeping Beauty" as its departing point, last year and want to buy a copy so that I can immerse myself in it repeatedly.

5) Tanith Lee's The Silver Metal Lover tells the story of a "plain" Jane who falls in love with a robot who isn't quite right (that is, he experiences true emotions). I think I come back to this story again and again because of how much I empathize with Jane, who transforms from a quiet and reserved girl who had always subjugated her will to her mother's to a confident and determined woman.

6) Finally, there's Harry Potter. I bought the first one when it came out in paperback, officially because I was going to be teaching junior high-aged kids and thought this would help me connect with them. I finished the first book and immediately bought the second one in hardback and have snatched up each one upon its release. I reread the series regularly, sometimes picking out a single book, sometimes reading them through in order (a must for me before a new one comes out). I had figured out the death at the end of Book 6 when I finished Book 5, and yet I cried for a good 20 minutes when I read of it (being vague to avoid potential spoiler)--though I kept reading through the tears because I needed to know what happened next.

I'm not entirely sure what this says about me, though I see a few patterns emerging. At any rate, I'm now itching to crack open a few books.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Five little things that say a lot: My Reading Habits

1) My favorite genre is and has almost always been science fiction/fantasy.
2) I tend to devour a book in a very short amount of time, usually within a day or two.
3) I often miss details in my first reading of a book due to my desire to find out what happens next.
4) I reread favorites regularly, discovering new details, interpretations, and levels of meaning each time.
5) After immersing myself in a new world, I require some time to ease back into real life.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Five little things that say a lot: How I Met My Wife

1) We met in a class that was required for my major and tangentially related to hers.
2) Neither one of us was comfortably out at the time, so it took us a while to figure out if the other was truly interested or just friendly.
3) Our first kiss was the night before our first test.
4) My wife still thinks I planned things out so that we ended up in her private room instead of my very public residence.
5) I still haven't lived down the fact that her grade suffered because of our 'studying,' especially because I got an A.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

My carpet is a mosaic of toys and Cheerios

As I wrote my post last night, I seemed to be laboring under the illusion that I had the whole "temporary single parent" thing completely under control. My son has been properly dressed each day and fed at every meal. I've been keeping up with the laundry and dishes. I've even managed to get a little of my own work done.

But I was ignoring a few things.
  • My son's breakfast has included cookies on several occasions. Note I said included, he has also had Cheerios and juice at the least. But my usual stony resolve on "no cookies for breakfast" has completely crumbled this week.
  • The toys have not been put away. Tonight or any night this week. On the days he was in preschool, it didn't get too bad, but today...
  • And that's ignoring the Cheerio, cracker, and cookie bits that decorate the living area floor. I'm thinking it might be time to get out the vacuum.
My wife comes home tomorrow, as long as the weather gods are appropriately appeased. Fingers crossed.

Should I be concerned?

I occasionally head over to StatCounter and check out the "Keyword Analysis." It's been interesting to see what combination of words it takes to land my blog high enough on a search page that somebody actually clicks through. Mostly, I suspect that the results are disappointing.
  • "make a cube school project" probably wanted to know how to make a cube, not that just such a project stands out as how my art education failed me.
  • "mouse nest" and "mice nest couch" likely have an infestation problem. Note to the latter: ditch the couch, you'll never get the smell out.
  • I have no idea what "supid, insurance" was after, but I doubt it was my random complaints.
While it's amusing to contemplate the above, I find one of the other searches unsettling: "i pooped on his chest." Because, really... I mean, wow. At the time this search was performed, my blog came up as the 9th site.* I believe it resulted as a combination of my reference to poop in a post that meditated on a morning with my son and a mention in my ode to my love for my son of how "I would watch the rise and fall of his chest and inhale his ambrosial scent." According to the stats (because I felt compelled to research this one further), that person spent no significant time on my site. Needless to say, I'm glad my blog didn't meet those expectations.

*Luckily the addition of a post or two has taken care of that since the two posts referenced no longer show up on the first page.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Missing her

This is a hard post for me to write. While I am open about many things in my life, I guard others very closely. Even with this supposed cloak of anonymity, I hesitate to put this out there (especially as I'm pretty sure that I've compromised my anonymity in at least one case; if this person hasn't figured it out yet, I'm pretty sure it will become screamingly obvious soon). But it's been weighing heavily on me, and I think that I need to express at least some part of it before I'll be able to accomplish anything productive in my studying.

I've alluded before to the fact that my wife and I have been experiencing some bumps in our relationship of late. This is not something I admit to easily. So many people in our lives have complimented us on our perfect partnership. Out of pride, embarrassment, sheer pig-headedness I say nothing to disabuse them of this idealized image.

And I recognize that it is not a bad relationship. Far from it. When I think of my complaints, I'm reminded of a scene from Bridget Jones: Edge of Reason: Bridget sits in a Thai prison and complains about how awful her ex-boyfriend was to her. The other women start talking about the horrible things men have done to them, such as forcing them into prostitution and drugs and beating them. They then ask Bridget what her ex did to her. Her real answer would have been something along the lines of, "He wasn't openly affectionate and didn't stand up for me," but she realizes how petty this is in comparison and so lies by parroting back what the other women said.

And my complaints wouldn't even match up to Bridget's. My wife and I are amazingly compatible, mind-blowingly so. And even as we work through things, there is always a part of me that knows we'll stay together.

And all of this is what makes it so hard to admit our struggles. I cringe to write the next sentence.

More than once, our discussions have toyed with the idea of a Trial Separation. And often the conversation died after this. The last time the topic came up, I was finally able to express how I feel about it. I realized that I'm not ready to divide up the household, even for a few months. What I wanted was a chance to get away for a couple days, with the hope that that's all I would need to know that I missed my wife. A trial separation with imminent return.

Apparently Goddess Fortune heard us and also noticed that my plans to head off to a hotel never quite materialized. So she sent my wife out of town suddenly. And so the experiment is off and running.

I miss her so much. It's not just a parenting thing. My son and I have our routine and rhythm; I'd be lying if I said it wasn't any harder than when my wife is here, but I can do it. I miss her.

And that's what I needed to know.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Five little things that say a lot: My Son

1) My wife and I decided on our son's name years before he was born--and it definitely fits him.
2) When he was a baby, people would go out of their way to tell us how beautiful he was.
3) Most of these people assumed he was a girl, based on his eyelashes and curls.
4) I don't think he would ever have initiated weaning.
5) He has loved vehicles of all types for as long as I can remember.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Blood sings

So much for the whole "no long posts until I get some serious studying done" plan. Even as I pore over primary sources, blog-worthy thoughts keep bubbling up. And this one has been screaming to be written for over a week.

When I first read Her Bad Mother's "Of a Joy Which Can't Be Words" post, a song started playing in my head, completely unbidden. I had to stay very still, let it work its way out of my subconscious, grapple for the words, as it had been a very long time since I heard it:
When blood sees blood of its own
It sings to see itself again
It sings to hear the voice it's known
It sings to recognize the face
Suzanne Vega's "Blood Sings" from 99.9 F (1992--really? I've owned this CD for 14 years?).

Even as I wrote my response to HBM, the song was on continuous loop in my mind. Now for anyone who hasn't heard it, it's a very slow, almost mournful song. Like so many of the songs on this particular album, most of the verses are about being disconnected, recognizing the distance, knowing that you don't quite fit. And yet, these verses capture, in a way that I'm not sure my much longer original post did, my connection with my son.

Stopping to smell the roses

As so often happens when I carefully lay out my plans, something unexpected has thrown them into disarray. Although I can't go into details right now, the result is that the time I can devote to studying and working on my paper have been cut. I was already stressed about getting everything done on time, so has just wound me a little tighter. And so yesterday afternoon and evening, I was much less patient and relaxed with my son than I normally am.

Once he was in bed and asleep in only 10 minutes (proof that he too was worn out from events that included messing with his nap), I scolded myself. Deep breath. Time to focus on his endearing qualities, to remember how wonderful he is and how much joy he brings me in all the little ways.

And so, I consider our morning and how it embodied so many of the things I love in him:
  • His cuddles. As he does most mornings, he came to my side of the bed a little before my alarm would go off. I lifted him into bed, and he snuggled into me for a while. He likes to trace the contours of my ear (and my wife's nose) with his fingers; it usually drives me nuts, but I just cuddled some more this morning.
  • He's stubborn and persistent. Once he decides it's time to wake up, he announces this and then insists that I get out of bed. If I don't immediately stir, he peels the covers off of me, starting at my arms and working down until my feet are uncovered. He then grabs my hand and pulls, uttering encouragement the whole time. But he will not stop until I am vertical.
  • His desire to help. He had pooped in his overnight diaper. After he had been thoroughly wiped, I went to get his clothes for the day. When I came back, he had emptied the contents of his diaper into the potty since I hadn't gotten around to it yet. Sure, I needed to clean a little around the seat as a result, but he was taking the initiative to help out.
  • He enjoys singing. He watched a "Mighty Machines" DVD as we got ready. He sang along to the song in the middle of one of the episodes. He doesn't quite know all of the words and is never quite on key, but oh how it makes my day to hear that.
  • His sense of humor. This morning, it was physical humor. Just as I was about to put his shoes on, he slipped away from me and darted down the hallway. I did the usual, "Oh no, where did he go? I can't find him!" thing, and he came running back, giggling the whole way. Repeat. Get shoes on, and take off again. Pretend he'll give me the kiss I requested and pull away at the last second. Laugh at my pout. Finally give in and throw himself into a big hug.
  • His desire for precision. Last step before heading to school is the sunscreen. He doesn't particularly like it (neither do I, it's the feel). I tell him he needs his lotion, honestly not trying to trick him. He looks at it and announces, "That's not lotion, that's sunscreen."
  • His amazing memory. As I put the sunscreen on him, he says, "It's like an umbrella." I realize that this must be something he heard at school. All it takes is hearing something once and he stores it away. It can be a liability at times (if we promise him ice cream when we get home, even if it's hours before we return, he reminds us as soon as we're in the door), but I love how he soaks everything up and then is able to recall it at the appropriate time.
And now I must hit the books again and cram in as much as I can so that I will be able to properly enjoy him again this evening.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Five little things that say a lot: My Family

1) I am the oldest child in my immediate family.
2) My siblings and I have strikingly similar facial features, but have chosen very different lives.
3) My parents were married for almost 30 years before my father passed away.
4) When I was in sixth grade, my parents were one of only three couples still with their first spouse.
5) My mom claims that this alone is enough to disqualify our family from the label 'dysfunctional."

Monday, August 21, 2006

Five little things that say a lot: Introduction

1) My last couple posts have been long and involved.
2) Each took a very long time to compose.
3) I really need to be studying and working on my paper.
4) Plus, this is a challenge to stay brief and yet still provide some insight into who I am.
5) I'm planning on a theme a day until I hit a lull in my schedule.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

The fear of the (other) mother

Not too long ago, Her Bad Mother posted a request for help in writing about a mother's physical love for her child. Soon after, she wrote about an email she had received. It came from a non-bio lesbian mom:
As the "Other Mommy" in a two mommy household I have to say that I could NEVER write such a post. I would be too damned afraid of the authorities coming and taking my child from me. Ever since he came into this world the one thing that has terrified me the most is that someone might come and take him from me - because of my sexual orientation, because I'm not the "real" mommy. I lay awake nights thinking about it even though I am on his birth certificate and have adopted him... I am constantly censoring myself to make sure no one can say I'm not a fit mother. Am I touching him for too long? When I change his diaper am I wiping for too long? Don't linger with that kiss on his cheek, etc. Every scratch or bruise he gets because he is an extremely active young one, I obsess over because someone might call Child Services to report the "evil lesbians".

I love my son more than I can adequately express but frankly I would be afraid to even try. Losing him would kill me and I just won't risk it.

As I commented, a series of thoughts went through my head:
1) Just reading this feels like a blow to the gut.
2) I wonder if my wife has felt (still feels) this way.
3) I wonder if my wife wrote this.
4) Wow, I would feel awful if this is how my wife feels and I didn't realize it until just now.

Since my wife also reads Her Bad Mother, we had a short, but enlightening and interesting, conversation on this topic that very night. As it turns out, the email pretty accurately reflects my wife's feelings. Or how she used to feel. Or somewhere in between.

It was the worst when our son was very young, before our second-parent adoption went through. There was this scary juxtaposition of emotions: a sudden, intense love that went beyond anything she had ever experienced before set against the knowledge that there were people in this world who might make it their business to take this away. The adoption and amended birth certificate eased the fear slightly. Time and geography have helped even more.

At first, I thought about this as a difference between being the bio vs. non-bio mom. But then the memories started to come back, the fears that had seemed simultaneously overblown yet only too possible. And the truth is, they only recede when we're in our comfort zone--a liberal area in liberal Canada and a very few select places in the States.

While most of our family has been wonderful, there are a few members who are overly religious in a way which includes viewing homosexuality as damnable (in the very literal sense) and a danger to the young and impressionable. Moreover, there are some states and localities where judges still feel it is in a child's best interest not to be in a gay household, regardless of who that means the child ends up with; in some cases, a complete stranger can decide to challenge gay parents' rights to their kids. Likewise, some states have passed laws that say they don't have to recognize gay adoptions from other places. And yes, we have family in some of those places. As a result, it feels like a crapshoot when we do visit such family members--and even those visits are rare.

And then, there's the pressure to be super-parents, overcompensating to avoid having our kid's stumbles and problems attributed to his 'unnatural' living situation. At the beginning, we were always aware of it. Out in public, we would scramble to stop his cries, change his diaper, clean him up. Don't draw unnecessary attention, paste on a smile, never complain. We have relaxed noticeably; you just can't keep that up for very long. There's still some external pressure to make sure he has appropriate male role models (thank you preschool with multiple, yes more than one, male teacher), but we worry much less that his issues will be blamed on having two mothers.

Some of the comments about the above email talked about how sad it is that a mother might feel she has to restrain her physical affection. My wife admitted to me that this was something she felt when we would be out in public. I don't think I particularly noticed; I did most of the carrying when we went out, but it was a natural set-up since he was still nursing. And it never stopped her from holding, kissing, hugging, cuddling, comforting, and generally expressing her love for our son at home.

I don't know that the fear will ever go away completely--I don't think we'll see such sweeping societal and political change in our lifetimes that we can fully relax. In the meantime, my wife and I try to minimize the big fears through our choices for our family and keep our fingers crossed that some changes will come sooner than later.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

My missing piece

My mother has never been good with physical affection. Not that I can remember how she was when I was a baby, and maybe my recollection of how she was with my younger siblings is colored by this belief, but I have distinct memories of her shying away from all hugs, saying it was too hot or her hands were full.

When I contemplated having kids, I was afraid that I might feel the same way about my child. I knew I wanted to breastfeed, so there would be at least some required physical contact. I also hoped that being aware of my fear would make me actively confront it. If all else failed, my wife had promised to shake some sense into me if I started to act like my mother.

The fear was unfounded. Nothing felt more natural than to cuddle my son close to me. He would curl up in a ball on my chest and fall asleep to the rhythm of my heart. I would watch the rise and fall of his chest and inhale his ambrosial scent. We would fall asleep in this position after nighttime feedings; as much as I feared losing my grip or him wiggling off of me, it was such a perfect fit that neither one of us would budge an inch.

Although breastfeeding had its difficulties at the beginning, it quickly became a comfortable and comforting habit for the both of us. As we sat there, nestled together, gazes locked, I would find myself thinking, “This is what I need.”

Co-sleeping created the same feeling. All night long, he would maintain physical contact whether he was stretched along my back or folded into my arms. I quickly realized that we had a sixth sense about each other; our wakings were nearly simultaneous. When he was hungry, he would barely reach out for me and I was already getting in position.

My favorite purchase of his early days was our sling. As a baby, it held him close to me; I could even nurse while walking around with him. As he got a bit older, it supported him on my hip. I would tighten it, drawing him closer, and he would sink into the embrace. He would never fall asleep in his stroller, but frequently dozed off in the sling.

Even now, as he runs and climbs and does so much more for himself, we maintain a lot of physical contact. When I pick him up from preschool, he runs to me and throws himself into my arms. Several times a day, he announces, “I need to sit in lap.” When he is tired or stressed, he leans heavily against me and snakes his arm up my sleeve, seeking the comfort of my skin.

I know that there have been many scientific studies demonstrating the importance of touch in raising happy, healthy children. I know that my son feels safe and loved when he is in my arms. But most of all, I know that when I hold my son, I have everything I need.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Dorkus Malorkus

Really, truly, I understand computing and could almost qualify as techno-savvy (though my wife definitely deserves the title more than I).

But I kept myself somewhat ignorant of blog technology on purpose. Time suck and all of that. Obviously I gave in to some degree.

I say "to some degree," because apparently I didn't quite understand my Blogger settings.

So here's the deal: comments were set to "moderate." I did not enter an email address. I did not realize that there was a tab I needed to be checking so that I could approve comments.

Instead, I looked at the commentless state of my blog and thought sad things like "I guess nobody's reading" and encouraging things like "it's not about the comments, it's about the writing" and "you've only been doing this for a few weeks, it takes a while for people to find a new blog."


So anyways, thank you very much to those who have commented. I have approved all comments and fixed my settings so that things should proceed much more smoothly from now on.

But don't hold your breath.

In a crunch

I sat down and mapped out a study and writing schedule to get me through my current paper and exam deadlines. Staring at the paper, I see that it can be done, but it's going to require a relentless pace and a level of dedication I've had real trouble mustering over the summer. But then, that's the way this always seems to go, whatever it is that I'm doing. I hit crunch time, put it into high gear, and come through just fine. (Feel free to add other inane cliches.)

The funny thing is that most of the people around me--the ones at work or school, not at home--often tell me that they admire how organized I am, how together I seem. Somehow I manage to hide the flustered mess and project calm, cool, and in control.

If they only knew.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Night of the writing dead

A sleepless night last night--son ended up in our bed and spent more than an hour poking his fingers in my ear and my wife's nose before falling asleep, our building's alarm went off not quite two hours before the time I usually get up, hard time getting out of bed.

A promise to my supervisor--significant new content and rewrite of several pages by tomorrow. And, oh yeah, I'll fit in a bunch of that studying I need to do too.

The clock ticks on and the little voice in my head: "I didn't commit to a specific number of pages." "How much exactly is 'significant'?" "You have technically rewritten a couple pages--sure only two and they were already the cleanest pages, but that's some rewriting."

9 or 10, I tell myself. 9 or 10 and get them printed off tonight. Then you can go to bed.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Our co-sleeping history

My wife and I did not plan on co-sleeping before our son's birth.

We had set up a Pak 'n Play with bassinet insert in our room, right next to my side of the bed for nighttime feedings. For as long as it seemed necessary, we would keep him near us, eventually transitioning to the crib in his room.

But, as so often happens with babies, what we planned did not match what worked for our son.

He was a healthy nurser and was up every two hours, just as the books said. I didn't find it that hard to get up whenever he cried, but I would have to concentrate very hard on fighting off sleep during each nursing session. I find it very ironic that breastfeeding is connected to the production of prolactin, a hormone that, yes, creates a feeling of contentment, but also induces drowsiness--and new mothers just don't need help in that department.

And then, although my son would quickly drop off to sleep in my arms, he immediately woke up whenever I put him in the bassinet. I would sit in bed and hold him, trying to wait until he was completely asleep, so that I could gently lay him down without waking him. But, oh, the exhaustion. I often fell asleep with him on my chest. My main fear was that I would drop him, yet I found that if I slid back down into bed and settled him on my chest, just so, he seemed quite safe and the two of us slept for longer periods of time.

My wife and I finally made a conscious decision--or admission--that we were co-sleeping. We rearranged our bed a little bit, and our son took over the middle of the bed.* He started most evenings in his bassinet, but moved into our bed at the first feeding and stayed there. Everyone slept much better.

But we rarely shared this information. When I either mentioned that our son still woke up frequently or even hinted at our 'unusual' sleeping arrangements, I got all sorts of unsolicited advice. The crowning moment came when I was at lunch one day. A colleague asked how my son was sleeping. I admitted that he rarely slept more than 3 hours at a stretch;** I may also have said something about him sleeping best in our bed. My colleague immediately began extolling the virtues of crying it out. My principal latched onto the bed thing and began lecturing me: "You just can't take them into your bed, because once they get in there, they never leave." I nodded mutely, deciding that was the easier course than arguing how it all went against my parenting philosophy.

As my son got older, we moved him to his crib for the first part of any evening and brought him into our bed when he called for us. That became his only waking of the night. When we switched him to a toddler bed at age 2, he would walk to the baby gate at his door and ask to be picked up. Sometimes he's make it through the entire night in his own bed. Our move to Canada a few months later brought a short term regression; he slept in our bed exclusively for a few weeks. But then a funny thing happened--he actually refused to come to our bed. If he woke up in the middle of the night, one of us would go to comfort him, but he preferred staying in his room. All within 2 1/2 years, not the 5, 7, or more the detractors of co-sleeping all cited.

In our new place, he pretty much sleeps through every night. And when he wakes up in the morning, he pads into our room to tell me. Sometimes he wants to climb in bed with us, but really it's to cuddle and get us up. On the rare occasion he truly doesn't feel good, he will sleep with us, as he did one night last week. And you know what? We all slept better, my wife and I since we didn't feel the need to go check on him, my son since he had the extra comfort he needed right there.

*I know that a number of resources suggest that the baby sleep between mom and either a wall or rail with the bed snugged up tightly to it; this is due to the concern that mom's partner may not be as aware of the baby as mom. This arrangement, however, wouldn't work very well with our particular furniture and the space in our room. In addition, my wife was always aware of where our son was--I don't know if it's a gender thing or not.

**This was actually a breastfeeding issue. My son consistently refused a bottle during the day, and so he continued to nurse all night long.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Healthy preschooler, sick mommies

My son is mostly recovered from his illness. It's unfair to say he's completely healthy, as he still gets into a cough-cycle several times a day. But WOW! was he happy to back at school.

The creeping crud, however, is claiming his mommies. Not in an all-out-sick way, but in the throw-you-off-balance way, literally and figuratively. Little moments of vertigo come upon me with no warning, and nothing is making my throat better. I should be poring over bibliographies and reading through some primary texts, but I'm just too tired (and dizzy) to focus on a printed page for too long, much less comprehend the material and recast it for my own use. And so my pointless ramblings of the evening...

Only 9 more hours before I start a new day; I usually sleep 6-7 hours, but the bed beckons.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

It's a magic carpet ride

In order to celebrate the beginning of Sesame Street's 37th season, the Lovely Mrs. Davis is asking:

What television, music, movie or book from your childhood are you excited about sharing with your own children?

For me, the list is a mile long. But as a nod to the inspiration for this question, I've decided to reflect on what it has been like to rediscover Sesame Street with my son.

During my maternity leave, as my son and I both recovered from the stress of birth, I found that I liked to have the television on, especially mid-morning and mid-afternoon. Nevertheless, it felt wrong to turn on most of what passes for daytime programming. When I discovered Noggin, a channel that plays shows aimed at pre-schoolers for most of the day, it seemed to be a good compromise--noise for me, but nothing too disturbing for my son. Most of the time, I managed to tune in when Noggin was showing either Sesame Street or Play with me, Sesame (a shortened version using Sesame Street muppets, some recycled bits from the original, and some new material).

When my son was around three-months-old, I realized that he was smiling or laughing every time Ernie came onto the screen, specifically Ernie. He already recognized the character. Now it so happens that Ernie was always one of my favorites, something about the way he brings humor to everything and you just know you're going to laugh when he's on-screen. I started singing "Rubber Duckie" at bathtime and bought a bathtime book featuring Ernie.

My son soon became enamored of Elmo as well. Now, Elmo was added well after my Sesame Street days and even after most of my babysitting days, so I viewed him as something as an interloper. Annoying and unnecessary. Until I stopped and watched him through my son's eyes. Here is a little kid in muppet-form, experiencing and explaining a world that has so much going on in it. The "Elmo's World" part of Sesame Street episodes looks at a whole range of things, set in the sort of structured routine toddlers crave. Elmo helped us through the transition from crib to bed and has been present for our potty-training struggles.

We don't watch as much Sesame Street now as we used to, since we don't get Noggin in Canada and DVDs are our primary form of television entertainment. Our two DVDs of "Elmo's World" are occasionally picked out, and several Sesame Street books make the cut at bedtime. But when we do happen upon a channel that is showing an episode, we inevitably pause for a while. Just a couple days ago, we all had a laugh over the "Put down the duckie" song, in which Ernie is instructed that he has to let go of his rubber duckie in order to play jazz. Moments like that are priceless.

Looking ahead a couple, or many, years: My wife and I were discussing Monty Python's Spamalot earlier this week, quoting lines from Holy Grail, and generally revelling in our nerdiness. In the midst of this, she stopped short and, in all earnestness, asked me, "What do we do if our son doesn't like Monty Python?" I stood there, dumbfounded for nearly a minute, until I uttered a single word, "Inconceivable!" (Yes, I pulled from Princess Bride for that one; it's another household favorite.) I'm counting on my genetics and the sense of humor my wife and I share to influence him on this one!

Friday, August 11, 2006

Things I want to write about...

...when we finally conquer the coughing/vomiting/runny-eyed virus.*

1) Breastfeeding. I've been wanting to write about this since reading about the recent uproar making the blog rounds. My favorite take on this so far includes gratuitous man-nipple.

2) Co-sleeping. Not so much to engage in the arguments for or against, but to reflect on how it became a part of our routine and what it meant to me.

3) Sesame Street. This is in response to the Lovely Mrs. Davis' desire to celebrate this show's 37th (!) season.

4) Thoughts on my current favorite show (although new episodes don't begin until October): Battlestar Galactica.

5) The fact that I regularly watch a reality show now (Workout on Bravo), despite being generally opposed to the genre.

6) My love for Joss Whedon, particularly Firefly and Serenity. I am not so obsessed that I'm watching these all of the time, but little things pop up to remind me of how much I love this crazy sci-fi/Western 'verse. Just yesterday, it was Bub and Pie's brilliant post entitled "A Hogwarts Guide to Infant Care." Her Buffy/Angel reference sent me into my Whedon reverie, but I'm still really chewing on her Harry Potter analogy.

*The doctor pronounced our son's nastiness as a virus. No infection--beyond the conjunctivitis that suddenly developed yesterday afternoon. Luckily, he should be able to return to school on Monday, as long as we give him eye drops a mere 4 times a day. A fun weekend ensues.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Stupid Blogger, stupid insurance

Many, many things swirling through my brain today. Had finally settled down a little and started a post on breastfeeding. Then Blogger ate it when I tried to save a draft. And I just don't have the energy to recreate it right now. Argh!

Tomorrow I will be spending my morning at the doc-in-the-box. The boy's cough remains deep, there has been an additional incident of vomiting, and his eyes are getting goopy. The goop always means we've moved into an infection.

And that throws me back into the mess that is universal healthcare insurance here. To be fair, I very much approve of the idea of everyone having access to health care without the concern of affording it. But it just doesn't meet my idealistic expectations. Sure, the visit to the doctor itself ends up being free, no co-pay. But prescriptions still cost, less than in the US, but it still adds up. Most employers offer supplementary care that often takes care of this, maybe some dental, and a little physical therapy, but that part is wholly dependent on one's job. An additional limitation for us is that our insurance is private insurance through the university; while it officially matches provincial coverage, most providers won't take it. Or at least they won't submit the paperwork for us, and we will need to pay them up front and wait for reimbursement, if we can submit the paperwork with everything filled out properly and the correct signatures (sound familiar?). So we feel rather restricted to the list of providers who have agreed to handle the private insurance. And the list is completely devoid of any child-specific providers, so we're left with doc-in-the-box and the long waits in waiting rooms full of even sicker people (though they did hustle us back immediately the time we brought our son in with pink eye).

Our longer term plan is to find a family doctor who will handle us all, suck up the payments, and then make sure we know how to do the paperwork. Or convince the provider's office to handle the paperwork for us. It could happen. They are Canadian, after all, and not nearly as rude as most places I've been south of the border.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Chicken soup for all

It has not been a good school week for my son or me. Over the holiday weekend--Canada celebrated a Civic Holiday* on Monday--we all felt a little punkish, but my son, in particular, developed a nasty cough that sounded like it came from deep in his lungs. So he stayed home from school on Tuesday; I left the house just long enough to pick up the copious notes my supervisor wrote on my first draft. By early Tuesday evening, the cough was better and sounded more superficial, like a slight tickle in his throat. We took a walk to go listen to some buskers and watch trains, and the boy was full of energy.

So he seemed ready to return to school. The wife and I also had an ulterior motive, as we had made plans for a date afternoon a couple weeks ago. In any case, the boy was happy to see his friends and quickly settled in to playing when I dropped him off. When the wife and I went to pick him up, however, we were informed that he had thrown up after snack. Obviously not too badly, as they hadn't called us, but it was enough to make us feel guilty about sending him to school.

On the whole ride home, he sat in my wife's lap (public transit, not the car). After we got back to our place, he sat next to me on the couch and even fell asleep sitting up. He woke up long enough to get into his pjs and slide into bed. My poor sweet boy. We'll be cuddling for most of the day tomorrow.

Of course, between the sick days and my goof-off day, I have done next to no work this week. Deadlines loom and the next semester is upon me. Argh!

And I believe I've now left my lunch sack in the department refrigerator for a week.

*Seriously, this is the holiday's name, this is how it appears on calendars. It is celebrated the first Monday of August and is intended as a day of leisure. So really, it's a holiday simply for the hell of it. I believe that a few provinces and municipalities have officially given the day the name of someone deemed worthy of the honor, but it still appears in most places as "Civic Holiday."

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Is that a train in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?

As responsible parents, we kept all loose blankets and other 'hazards' out of our son's bed when he was a baby. As he got a little older, we allowed him to take a single stuffed animal to bed, hoping to cultivate it as a lovey. Once he could express his preferences, however, he began sleeping with wooden trains from his Thomas the Tank Engine set. That's trains, plural. For a long time, eight of them, and he would immediately notice if one went missing. Recently, he has asked for different trains and, occasionally, different toys altogether. But always some sort of vehicle. For a recent nap, a bulldozer and a backhoe, two significantly larger toys than usual--but as he's been feeling a little down, how could I say no.

Most of the time, I just wonder how comfortable it could be to sleep with plastic and wooden toys. He tosses and turns a lot in his sleep, and so he regularly ends up on top of them. But he doesn't seem to mind, so I figure, "Why not?" Of course, on those occasions he ends up in our bed, I end up minding, as the trains come with him. And I know from experience that James leaves a nasty bruise in the middle of one's back.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Food confession #1

I really like cabbage.

I forget this from time to time, as my wife abhors the stuff. And as my son is a picky eater, he's not much help either. So I just don't get it instead of letting it go bad.

My absolute favorite is sauerkraut, especially piled up on a veggie dog with mustard. But again, given the relative infrequency with which I have a hot dog, there's no reason to keep it around. Instead I take advantage of the fixings every time I get a dog at a cart.*

I also enjoy a good cole slaw--my mother-in-law makes an excellent one with ramen noodles as a crunchy extra. Whenever it comes as a side with my wife's meal, I get to eat it.

Although I've eaten both sauerkraut and cole slaw for as long as I can remember, my first distinct cabbage memory comes from junior high. We were reading some book in a class that made reference to the smell of boiled cabbage being pervasive since it was the main food the characters could afford. In order to illustrate this for us, our teacher stuck shredded cabbage in a crockpot on high in her classroom when she arrived at school. By the afternoon and our classtime, the smell had invaded the hallway. Walking into our room was an experience unto itself. We understood.**

* I was never the type to buy a hot dog from a cart until we moved up here. And yet now I do every couple of weeks. Something about walking the city streets makes it very appealing. Plus, the carts around here grill your dog when you order it, no sitting in bacteria-infested water all day long. And there are all sorts of choices, including veggie dogs, at every cart.

** Nonetheless, when she offered to let us taste the cabbage, I was one of a handful of students who tried it. And despite the smell, yes, I liked it.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

How to make a cube

I have always had a desire to express myself creatively, but did not pursue visual arts as such an outlet for most of my life. I enjoyed the feel of drawing with colored pencils, oil pastels, anything that leaves a mark on paper and found working with clay to be a calming, sensual experience, but felt I had no natural talent and, therefore, was discouraged from trying much in that realm. Still I've always liked working with my hands and the feeling of accomplishment that comes with completing a project.

I continued to consider myself artistically inept until I had a conversation with an art teacher at one of the schools where I taught for a while. I believe we were at lunch, and I said something to her about how impressed I was with the school's art program. The kids were always working on some interesting project, and the results were consistently spectacular. I believe I finished by saying something along the lines of, "I couldn't manage even half of what they do." The art teacher smiled and told me that the success of the program was based on their philosophy--every student is an artist, they just need to be equipped with the proper skills and tools to dicover this. She went on to remark that she knew of so many places where the approach was to cultivate only the students with 'natural' talent and generally to ignore the rest.

Epiphany! That was my problem. Nearly every art 'lesson' I'd had in school had served to beat me down. With our regular classroom teachers, we did some freehand work, but only representational work was praised. And most of our 'art' time went to coloring in worksheets. Sometimes I'd work hard to accomplish the laudable 'stays between the lines,' but it was boring and took forever. We also did a whole slew of projects involving cut-out shapes that were filled in with tissue paper squares placed over a pencil eraser and then glued down--pumpkins, turkeys, hearts, shamrocks, name the holiday, we made it. Then the 'real' art teacher came about once a month. The one we had for most of my elementary school years was a short, skinny man who didn't seem to particularly like us. Since he visited all of the grades in something like 5 different schools, he never remembered the names of any of us beyond the most obviously talented. I am able to recall the details of three projects in total that I did for him: 2 because I was proud of the outcome, 1 because, really... this is an art project?
  1. Creating a royal portrait. We were told the basics of drawing faces, but the real fun of this project was the glittery gold and silver paint. One baseball-obsessed guy painted a player from the Kansas City Royals. I painted a princess and was quite pleased with her proportions and the judicious use of the special paint (so that it wasn't garish).
  2. Making a ceramic animal. One of the few pottery projects which I've had the opportunity to fully finish, including kiln and glaze. I was so happy mine didn't crack in the kiln, having been careful to avoid the dreaded air bubbles. I was also elated that several other students thought my design was so cool that they decided to make the same animal--and mine still had the best detail.
  3. Making a cube from cardstock. It may be that we decorated them, but the bulk of the project was taking our piece of cardstock, measuring out prescribed distances with our ruler, creating right angles with our protractors, and then cutting out and folding something that, if executed properly, would match everyone else's. It seemed more like a project for math class.
I didn't take any more art classes once it became a choice--those classes were non-academic, thus a waste of time, especially for someone without any talent. I occasionally did little craft projects on my own, and once I became a teacher, incorporated such projects into my lower-level classes. But I refused to think of it as art or of myself as having any artistic ability.

Until my discussion with the art teacher. After our conversation, she invited me to help out with a winter term project. Along with helping her set up and control the middle-school aged students who had signed up, I had the opportunity to plan and execute my own project. She sincerely, I think, complimented my eye for composition, and I took away additional tips from watching her help the students refine their plans. I helped with the same basic project over a few other winter terms, and usually completed another project for myself each time. A couple hang in our place (or hung in our last place and will hang again soon), and I've sent out a few gifts as well. Since those experiences, I have attempted a number of different media and now have the confidence to share them, at least with friends and family.

It's amazing what an impact, for better or for worse, adults' words can have on us as kids. And it can take a long time to question their validity, especially when it's about what we CAN'T do. (And if you're lucky, I'll break out my old traumas about singing and handwriting.)

Saturday, August 05, 2006

A few random questions

1) Why must my son immediately shuck his pants upon taking a crap, leaving them in whatever room he happens to be standing?
2) Why can't he do this in the bathroom?
3) Regardless of where the pants come off, why can't he then inform one of his mothers that he needs to be wiped?
4) Where did he get the idea that the best thing to do with the poop is to dump it on the carpet?
5) And then roll a truck or train through it?
6) Did Trevor* then really need to travel around all of the track on the Island of Sodor?
7) Why is Spencer's* face the only part of him covered in shit?
8) And seriously, what has this child eaten that resulted in three spectacular dumps in the span of 4 hours?

* Both Trevor and Spencer are wooden trains from the Thomas the Tank Engine set.

Friday, August 04, 2006

The paper, she is done

Or at least the first draft. Without a conclusion, but everything else is there. Except for the illustrations, which I need to futz with electronically. And then, of course, there's the fact that this paper is not an end point, but really a springboard to additional writing.


Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Sweating it out

When we woke up this morning, it was a whole degree cooler than when we went to bed. Property management informed me that it would take 24 hours before we would notice a difference--not the couple hours or 10 pm that had been promised to us before. But I will stop complaining, as the A/C is finally starting to catch up, and instead switch over to a couple others who are feeling the heat:
And on the informational side:
Now off to assemble our new Ikea shelving unit. They had air conditioning, cheap breakfast, and some things we could use, so they benefited from our discomfort.

Update: Mombian also has some hot weather ideas, and Her Bad Mother links to an article about the Canadian heat (it gets hot up here too!).

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Requisite bitching about the heat

I recognize that the heat is insane all over, but somehow still feel justified in throwing a few of my own complaints out there. Even if I wanted to write something profound, my brain is unable to think of anything more than, "I'm melting."

It's been 24 hours of record heat here, and our air conditioning quit working. Last summer, we had an apartment in a divided house that officially had air conditioning; in reality, the cool air never reached us, but we made do with fans and a window unit. After moving into our current place in a brand new hi-rise (first occupants even), we crowed about the fact that we have central air with dual zones. Of course, it doesn't seem to run for more than a few days before the air heats up and a notice goes up on the bulletin board that "oops, A/C isn't working, we'll get it running soon." Since this is a modern facility, built with the expectation that we would rely on our A/C, it is very hard to get any air moving through the apartment using the windows. And while the A/C was back online as of about 5 pm--we ran into the manager posting the notices--apparently it takes a very long time to catch up. The wife went down at 7 to find out why the vents were still blowing warm air and was informed that the cold air has to work its way down; as residents of a lower floor, it would take another 2-3 hours to feel the difference. More than 3 hours later, we've cooled down a single degree (Fahrenheit). I'm melting!