Sunday, March 30, 2008

I used to love flying. Since I didn't take my first flight until I was in high school, it had, by that time, come to represent something exotic and elusive, some kind of fancy big-city thing that other people did, but not me. It says something about the amount of flying I've done since then that I can't remember exactly what my first flight was--it was either to Colorado with my family for vacation, or to San Diego for a church convention. What I do remember is the feeling that most of us have experienced: the slow, plodding movements of the airplane as it taxies to the runway, followed by that unbelievable, rattling, rushing burst of speed. And then the moment of lift-off, a sudden, nearly imperceptable lightness of being.

Following that first flight (whenever it was), I was hooked. I wanted to fly everywhere, whether I needed to be there or not. I even remember researching the role of an air courier, but nothing came of that. I was, alas, on a college student's budget, so my dreams of ceaseless flight were not to be. But I made up in distance what I lacked in frequency, flying to Honduras, the Philippines (oh, the agony of the trans-Pacific flight!), England (twice) and California (twice, too) during my college years. And after college I flew a few times as well--to Seattle, from San Francisco (days after September 11), to and from Ireland, New York City.

I remember details from flights. My first big trip, over to England to visit Jeff when he was studying in Oxford, had the drama of a passenger fainting mid-flight. The "whump" of his belly-flop onto the carpeted aisle woke me from an already troubled sleep. He was fine, but the wheeled out the O2 tanks, just in case. I didn't sleep after that.

The flight to the Philippines was epic. Chicago to San Francisco, then San Fran to Taipei, then finally to Manila. Over 20 hours total. At one point I bargained with my seatmates in the five-seat center-plane section to allow me to lay on the floor under our seats. "You can put your feet on me. I don't care. I just need to lay prone," I begged. It didn't help much, since I was just a little too tall. I could choose which portion of my anatomy would be whacked by the passing drinks cart: top of my head, or my feet.

I spent much of the return flight devouring an enormous package of dried mango I'd purchased in the airport in Manila, not really thinking about the effects such mass quantities of dried fruit would have on my digestive system. Fortunately, I wasn't bothered by the return of the mango until we landed.

The flight from San Francisco on September 17, 2001 was strange. We had originally been scheduled to fly out on the 14th; fortunately my cousin Lisa and her husband, who lived in the Bay Area, were kind enough to let us stay with them when our free trip accomodations ran out. When our flight was finally rescheduled, the line to get through security wrapped around the check-in area. But no one cared. Everyone was respectful, quiet, reverent. People made eye contact and smiled just a little. On the airplane, the captain made a brief announcement before taking off, encouraging us to turn to our seatmates and introduce ourselves. I felt like I was in church.

No matter the flight or the destination, I loved the whole experience. I loved checking my bags, scanning my carry-ons, buying airport coffee, walking through the terminals. I loved the little plastic cups for beverages, the in-flight movies, even the in-flight magazines. I especially loved when we touched down, knowing I had covered such distance and was now someplace new, where no one knew me. An adventure awaited.

But somewhere along the line, that changed. Really, it's not that vague--I know exactly when it changed.

The first flight I took after I found out I was going to be a mother was in March 2006, from Columbus to Des Moines to visit my family in Iowa. I was almost seven months pregnant, just large enough to be uncomfortable, but not quite big enough that people knew I was gestating. Something was different on that flight. All the ingredients were in place: the bustling terminal, the airport bookstores, the jostling acceleration of the plane. But something else was in place, too: Charlotte.

I suddenly became one of those sitcom characters who grip the armrests, close their eyes, and wish away the flop sweat. My heart began racing when the plane began taxiing, and didn't stop until I deplaned. Charlotte flipped and swirled and kicked in my belly, and I had Braxton-Hicks contractions more fierce and un-ignorable than before. On the flight back, I swear she rotated from head-up to -down. Something dramatic happened, anyway--and boy, was I uncomfortable.

Then there was the first flight after Charlotte made her out-of-womb debut, again from Columbus to Des Moines, this time for my cousin's wedding. Jeff and I were the classic fumbling new parents. Underestimating the time it would take us to get ourselves plus a suckling infant into the car, to the airport, parked, checked in, and through security, we managed to miss our plane. That caused us to miss our connection in Chicago, putting us in Des Moines hours after our original arrival time. Charlotte didn't care, and was fantastic the entire flight. She was more than happy to nurse on every take-off and landing ("What's this? A nipple? Again? Why, certainly!") to help pop her ears. But I was a mess. Every little bump and shift of the plane convinced me we were doomed. We landed safely, but I had a tension headache for days.

Just weeks after that flight, I came home from school and listened to a strange-sounding message on the answering machine from my mom. She wanted me to call her at work. Before I did that, I went upstairs to change clothes, telling Jeff how weird it was that my mom wanted me to call her at the library in the middle of the day. Jeff told me on the stairs: "Carrie called this morning. Leslie Van Hemert died last night."

When my friend Leslie Van Hemert O'Bannon died in a small plane crash in Indiana, she left behind her husband, John, and their baby daughter, Ellie. That horrible, tragic accident cemented my perhaps fears: flying was dangerous. And now that I had someone other than myself to live for, someone counting on me for so many reasons, I wasn't interested in any danger.

Tomorrow I fly to Kansas to visit the university--by myself. I have never slept a night without Charlotte within a fifteen-foot radius. The longest I have been apart from her is probably eight hours. It goes without saying that I am nervous and worried. When I put Charlotte to bed tonight, I spent several minutes just rocking her after she fell asleep. It still takes a while to persuade her to sleep, but when she finally drops off, you know. Her round little face smooshes up against my shoulder. Her hand holding the stuffed animal du jour relaxes. Her chubby legs stop fidgeting and just rest.

I think that's what I'll imagine if I get nervous on the flight: that compact, rounded form, those softly closed eyes and slightly open mouth, the sweet curling blonde hair. I think holding her is actually the closest I've gotten to flying.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

New Charlotte Video

Lest you think things are always puppy dogs and rainbows in our house, here's video evidence of the anarchy that lurks just beneath the surface: Charlotte LOVES Chocolate.

Friday, March 28, 2008

So my dad "tagged" me to post six weird things about myself. Let's see...

1. I have to sleep with two pillows--one under my head, and one to grasp in a firm, yet not unaffectionate, embrace. In hotels with only a single pillow, I sometimes have to make do with a balled up sweater.

2. I have vivid dreams, and I almost always remember them, and remember most of the details about them. And then I bore my husband by telling him all about them.

3. I have an excellent memory for song lyrics. I only have to hear a song once or twice before I'll know most of the words. It appears Charlotte is inheriting this talent, as she is already able to sing many of her favorite songs verbatim (albeit in slightly adapted baby-talk).

4. I used to have only two foods/food groups I hated: melon (such as cantalope or honeydew) and bell peppers (any color). But after I had Charlotte, my aversion to these foods subsided. I have both cantalope and red bells in my fridge as I type.

5. I get into a zone when I read. If you try to talk to me while I'm reading, I probably won't hear you. This drives Jeff crazy.

6. I'm terrible at remembering names. I've tried all the tricks those books suggest, but inevitably I will forget your name within seconds of meeting you. Then I'll either figure it out later on my own, or go through life too embarrassed to admit that I can't remember your name. This makes introductions terrible. Usually, I'll just say, "This is my husband, Jeff," and hope you'll introduce yourself. So that I can forget your name again in thirty seconds.

Okay, Scott. Your turn. And how about you, Mark?

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Easter!

Friday, March 21, 2008


Tonight, when I was making dinner, Charlotte came up to me, expressing her hunger.

"Mama, soooo hung-ee," she repeated several times.

I reassured her that I was getting dinner ready. Then she looked at me seriously, and said,
"Charlotte hung-ee. Hung-ee in the BOOBS."

Wow, that's pretty hungry. Her hunger had surpassed her stomach and moved on to her chest.

I swear, I don't know where she gets half this stuff. Hungry in the boobs? I can guarantee that phrase has never passed through my lips, or Jeff's. Or anyone's for that matter. Who says that? Bizarre.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Charlotte is very generous. A few days ago, she was eating dried cherries when she spotted the moon in the sky. "Here ya go, moon," she said, extending her hand. "Wanna some cherries?"

And just now she offered the bouquet of flowers on the counter a bite of her oatmeal. Then she said, "Silly baby Charlotte give-a oatmeal to flowers!" At least she gets that it's silly to offer inanimate objects foodstuffs.

Things are slowly getting back to normal around here. I have now heard back from every school, so no more waiting and stalking the mailbox. After more than a week, I think I have finally kicked this terrible bug. And today Charlotte seems to feel much better, too. And yesterday I had exams for both of my classes, so now all I need to do is finish grading and file my grades, and I can wash the dust of the winter quarter off my boots. Ahhhh.

I hope you are all doing well, too.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Oh, man. The was bad. I think I might have been a little stressed out anyway, because it hit me like a ton of bricks. I started feeling a little squiffy on Saturday. By Sunday, it was in full force. And today (Friday) is the first day I've felt almost entirely okay. I still have a hacking cough, and my appetite's not quite what it was (voracious), but I feel like I woke up on this side of the grave, and that's an improvement.

Compare that to this: Jeff and Charlotte both got the bug, too. For them, it was a 24-hour flu. Time-table: Good morning, mama! I feel a bit fevered. Ooh, now it's mid-day, and I'm definitely sick. I think I'll take an extra-long nap. That's nice. Now I'm still a bit tetchy and fractious this evening, but nothing a dose of Tylenol won't cure. See you in the morning, when I'll be fresh as a daisy! And, the end. Flu over. What?! Totally unfair. I had lots of work to do this week, and no energy to do it. What did Charlotte have to do? Busy important coloring tasks and diaper-filling. Completely unjust!

Anyway, I'm back. I have lots of things to catch up on, including paper grading and planning my courses for next quarter. But today was the last day of classes for this quarter, so I have two weeks of class-free excitement to look forward to. What shall I do with my freedom? I think I'll deep-clean my filthy house.

We will also spend part of my spring break visiting Amherst, Massachusetts, a place I've never seen but might be living for the next four years. I don't want to leap into this blindly, so we're gonna check it out. And after that I go visit Lawrence, Kansas. Now, I just read an article about a woman in Kansas who hadn't left her bathroom in two years. Her skin grew over the toilet seat. (!!!) People, this kind of thing is not my cup of tea. Please make sure there will be no toilet-confined people about when I visit. Thank you.

I only have one school to hear back from: Iowa. What's up, Iowa? Get it in gear! Today I got an acceptance from Nebraska, via the website, so not very informative. Here's where I stand:

Yep: UMass, Georgia, Kansas, Southern Illinois, Nebraska, Purdue (with no funding)
Waitlisted: Ohio, Loyola
Nope: Minnesota, Indiana, Washington, Colorado
Still waiting: Iowa

Looking at that list, I have to say I feel very fortunate. I got into more schools than not, which is a pretty fabulous ratio at this level. Even though I was very, very disappointed about the top three rejections, I am so happy to have options. But having options means I have to make decisions. And having to make difficult decisions stresses me out. Did I mention I had the flu for a week? Yeah. I rest my case.

I'll be back soon with a little Charlotte TLC, plus an update on how she's turning into a whiny toddler and it's terrifying! TERRIFYING!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Flu

I got it. The flu. Senor Influenza. Young Master Lethargy. Dominie Van Shivers. Etc.

Looks like Miss C and Jeff might be coming down with it, too.


Wednesday, March 05, 2008

This has been a rough week. I got three rejections, from my top three programs: Minnesota, Washington U St. Louis, and Indiana. Monday, Tuesday, and five minutes ago.

I also got an acceptance to Purdue, but without funding. So, if we're using our wrestling ring metaphor, that's like a legless Boilermaker, I guess? In other words, no dice. Sorry, Boilermakers.

So it's down to this:

In: UMass-Amherst, Kansas, Georgia, Southern Illinois, Purdue (no $$)
Out: Minn, WashU, Indiana
Still Waiting: Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, Loyola

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Jana: Charlotte, time for bed! Go give dada a kiss!
Charlotte: NOOOOO!
Jana: Yep, give dada a kiss.
Charlotte: No! I kiss a-hug dada inna minute!