Thursday, October 29, 2009

One year ago, I was wearing this:

And tomorrow, I'll be trying to recreate this with some of my grad school friends:

I'll be Stacey McGill.

I could write a rather long entry on the formative role the Babysitters Club played in my upbringing, even going so far as to offer a second-year doctoral student analysis of the ways this series works to indoctrinate young girls into their socially acceptable gendered roles as caregivers while simultaneously encouraging capitalism and individual interprise. But it's 11 p.m. and I gots freshmen to teach in the a.m.

Instead, I'll leave you with: hot pink leggings WOO!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

It's late, and I'm tired, and I still have a handful of student papers to grade before I can hit the sack. So I leave you with this fantastic Charlotte-ism that Jeff recorded today:

"There's so many orphans! In the Annie movie. There's like hundreds. Hundreds and hundreds. Remember at the end, there's fireworks? What was the doggy's name?"

Jeff, of course, didn't remember the doggy's name, so when I came home I was able to bust into a top-of-the-voice rendition of this song. Sam loved it. Jeff was mildly horrified.

(By the way, how fantastic is the girl who chimes in at :15?)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Sam turned 10 months old today. To celebrate, Charlotte pushed him down the stairs.

Okay, okay. We have no proof C was a perp in this instance. In fact, I wasn't even witness to the event. I came home from school this afternoon, all cheerful and happy to see my family, and Jeff shamefacedly broke the news to me that: 1. Sam only took a one-hour nap this afternoon (after an equally short nap this morning); and that 2. Sam fell down the stairs.

A few days ago, I ducked into the bathroom for a minute to wash Sam's fecal matter off my hands and he kicked it into overdrive, belly-crawled at light speed over to the top of the stairs, and proceeded to hurl himself down them. I came out of the bathroom just as his chubby diaper butt rounded the corner and lunged for him, just barely grabbing his fat left ankle.* He thought it was pretty hilarious. My heart rate didn't settle down for a good 20 minutes. I made a mental note to: 1. not leave Sam unattended in the upstairs hallway...or perhaps in the entire upstairs; and 2. to procure and install a baby gate.

Of course, number 2 hasn't happened, and number 1...well...

In Jeff's defence, he was being diligent. The kids were playing fort or something under my desk, which is right across from the top of the stairway, and Jeff had been acting as a human baby gate, blocking the stairway with his body. He got up for a second to grab something off his desk, just a few feet away, and...well, in his own words, "As soon as I heard the first big thump I knew what was happening."

Sam landed face down in the corner of the landing, tumbling down eight carpeted stairs before doing so. He cried for a second, but was fine once Jeff picked him up. He appears to be completely unscathed, without even a bruise or a carpet burn. I have the baby monitor turned up full blast so I can hear every breath he draws just to make sure he continues to draw breath, but I think we're in the clear.

We were both sitting at our respective desks earlier tonight when a though occurred to me. "How did Charlotte react when Sam fell down the stairs?" I asked. "She was fine," Jeff responded. "She really didn't seem too worried or bothered by it."

Pause. Then we looked at each other and, in unison, said, "You don't think..."

In general, the sibling rivalry has been okay. Charlotte's affections are sometimes a bit too forceful, her hugs around the neck a bit too much on the far side of throttling, but most of the time she's delighted by Sam, and he by her. Most of the time.

So, what do you think? Did precious little Charlotte push Sam down the steps like a tiny blonde Damien? Or do we have a little Evel Knievel in cloth diapers on our hands?

*His right ankle is also fat. It's not like he has one fat ankle and one bony one or anything.

Monday, October 26, 2009

My first memory that I can pinpoint to a specific time is the night before my brother was born. What I remember is not the cute story told about when I met my brother for the first time the next morning (when I saw him, I said "he's ugly" and started to cry...sorry, Scott). What I remember is going to my cousins' house, and getting to sleep in a sleeping bag on the floor of my cousin Angie's room. They had a little padded floor mat thing that I was to put my sleeping bag down on, and the vinyl-covered mat had one red side and one blue side. I remember thinking that I held the power to decide my future sibling's gender based on which side of the mat I chose to sleep on.

I chose blue, of course.

Charlotte is now older than I was when my brother was born, which means it's possible she's forming some permanent memories now. There are days when I don't think about that at all, days that probably don't go as well as they could, days that I hope don't get archived away.

Today, though, was one of those days that I wouldn't mind finding out is filling that first-memory slot. It wasn't anything special, just a normal Monday. I went to school, and then she went to school, and then we all went for a walk. There was music, and dancing, and sunshine, and giggling. And a fair amount of whining and begging for candy (oh, Halloween season, I love you so). But when we put the kids to bed tonight, I thought "this is one day I could do again." Nothing special, but special in its own way.

A couple things I'll remember from today: Charlotte saying "Oh, Sam's just devouring his hands! He's having a hand dinner!" and, while dancing to Run DMC, "I sure do like these beats!"

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Why haven't I been writing?

This is a question I have been asked, and that I have asked myself. And the answer is: I don't know.

I think I'm going through a bit of a dry spell creatively. It may seem strange to refer to this blog as a creative outlet, but it's true, in many ways. Writing here is a different kind of writing for me than the kind I do for school.

So I'm feeling uncreative right now. It's not that there's nothing going on--quite the opposite, in fact. Our lives are packed full, and that's reflected in the lack of writing here, too.

I think rather than taking a hiatus, which is my inclination, I will do the opposite. I will try to post something here every day for the next thirty days. Some days it might just be a picture, or a Charlotte-ism. But there'll be something here. Hopefully it'll prod my creative side back to life.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

I have two things primarily on my mind, two things that I want to write about. These things will probably not be linked by any kind of coherent, unifying narrative arc, because it is the eve of fall break and I've, my thinker? What's that thing called? Ah, my brain off for the duration of break. To that end, I have been reading a best-selling book for pleasure, a book that was a best-seller in this very century! I enjoyed it, as I am wont to do, but found that I enjoyed it with a different part of my brain. The part that doesn't multitask as I read, firing up synapses that trigger thoughts of relevant critical articles or essays or cultural and historical context. It was lovely.

So, anyway. Brain: off. Blog: on.

The two things:

1. Sam can talk!

When Charlotte said her first word at ten months, I was pretty surprised. In fact, I was so surprised that I thought I was hearing things, and ignored it for a few days. But then she kept saying it, and saying it in the appropriate context, so finally I just shrugged and got out the baby book and the nice black ink pen. "Charlotte's First Word: Duck. April 2007." From there, it was the veritable language explosion one reads about. Within a month she had an arsenal of a dozen discernable words, and just as many signs.

Sam suffers from second-child syndrome in many areas. I am not as diligent in updating his baby book. I randomly noticed that he had another tooth (his fifth) poking through at dinner yesterday, an event that would have been much anticipated with Charlotte. I haven't put together a single photo album for poor Neglecty Sam.

And it follows that I haven't been as hypervigilant about teaching Sam baby signs, about carefully using language and reinforcing the language use with a visual. I am really sorry to say that I hardly ever read just to Sam, although he frequently benefits second-hand from the reading we do with Charlotte.

So if you asked me to predict, I would have said that Sam would probably talk later than Charlotte, since by all accounts Charlotte's language acquisition was so early as to be kind of freakish. And yet, last week, Sam said his first word.

The situation mirrored Charlotte's first word quite closely. There was the random noticing of "hey, he seems to be saying something, and saying it appropriately." Then there was the setting up of test situations, where we would show him random other objects, and then the favored, named object, to see if all objects ellicited the response, or only the correct object. I wish, in hindsight, that we had videotaped these tests, perhaps in a plain, windowless room, with Sam seated in a folding chair under the light of a single dangling light bulb. In other words, it felt very scientific. And the test results proved the hypothesis: Sam is talking.

Of course, I have yet to get out his (dusty) baby book and the black ink pen, to record "Sam's First Word: Ball. October 2009." Maybe I'll get to that this (glorious long) weekend.

2. Charlotte's Skin

Oh, this part is painful for me to write. I'm getting emotional just thinking about it, which is really kind of ridiculous. But I am a woman, and I know what it's like to be a female in this world, and I also know what it's like to be a female in this world who is (overly) sensitive about her appearance.

My daughter is a beautiful, lovely girl. Her eyes, her hair, her smile, her sweet little hands and feet, her round you think I can get through this without crying? If you said yes, you don't know me. I get choked up thinking about this lovely, amazing creature and that I was privileged enough to contribute some DNA to her manufacture.

Charlotte has sensitive skin, and always has. She has a skin condition called Keratosis Pilaris. I also have KP, although much less severely, and only on my upper arms and occasionally my thighs. Charlotte has these little bumps all over her upper arms and (sob) her cheeks. It comes and goes on her face, and sometimes is better than others, but frequently she has these pimply bumps on her pretty little cheeks that just make me sad to look at them. Why? I don't know. I mean, I do has to do with beauty standards and not wanting Charlotte to be self-conscious of her skin the way I was growing up (and even now, to be honest) and wanting people to be able to look past the KP to see her beautiful face and eyes and smile.

Charlotte's also suffered from eczema on occasion, particularly in the winter months, although we've found we can keep that in check with the liberal application of eucerin lotion. She also has a tiny wart on her thumb that I made the mistake of pointing out and asking if she wanted mama to get rid of it for her. She hid her hand behind her back and wouldn't look at me and said "no, I wanna keep it" all ashamed like she had done something wrong. I wanted to kick myself. I explained that that was totally fine, and I just don't want it to bother her, but I also don't want people to look at my little daughter's sweet hand and see a wart and think "Gross" or something. So now I gave my poor little girl a complex about a stupid wart.

And then, this week Sunday, she woke up with a weird red splotch about the size of a quarter near the right-side corner of her mouth. Over the course of the day, it got worse and more pronounced, and eventually developed the distinct blistery appearance of a cold sore.

It was huge, and really nasty, and we kept her home from school Monday in part because cold sores are contagious, but also because I wasn't prepared to send a three-year-old off to school looking like she just ducked out of the Particularly Grody Skin Lesions ward of the leper colony.

Jeff and I talked a bit about the cold sore, about what to do to treat it (not much we can do with a three-year-old, unfortunately), and our reactions to it. And, of course, Charlotte heard us. I noticed her acting a little strangely, kind of hiding her face, and at one point looking at herself searchingly in the mirror. It clicked at that moment: What am I doing? What kind of an idiot would talk about someone's owie in terms that made it sound gross and perhaps like it was her fault or something?

So after that point, I made sure to just call the cold sore her owie and to treat it like I would any other scrape or bruise, with, of course, the added care a contagious sore requires. Today she went to school with a little band-aid over the cold sore, which apparently lasted almost the entire day, and helped keep her from touching it, checking to see if it was there, and then smearing her germy fingers all over her poor unsuspecting classmates.

I hope I didn't ruin her self-esteem already. This parenting thing is really hard sometimes.

Like I said, no tidy ending or satisfying conclusion that ties up loose ends. If I were grading this blog entry like I grade my freshman comp essays, I would give it a C+ at best.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Wow, two and a half weeks...I think that may be my longest break since starting this blog!

I hardly know where to begin. I've been bogged down for the last...oh, two and a half weeks, I guess. That's when I got my first batch of student papers. And, lo, the grading, it was painful. And time-consuming. And painful. Did I mention painful?

I like teaching. I think I would love it if it were my full-time job, and I didn't have to do this in addition to my own coursework and research. Add to that the additional flaming chainsaw of being a wife and mother, and suddenly my juggling skills simply aren't up to the task. It's too much. Forty student papers are too many to grade.

I am feeling disjointed and fragmented and unable to write a coherent anything. What I really want to do is go downstairs and drink a pumpkin beer and watch a movie with Jeff. So that's what I'm going to do.

We'll be back to our scheduled programming tomorrow, with pumpkin patch and homecoming parade pictures and stories of Charlotte and Sam's latest adventures.