Friday, January 29, 2010

If you follow me on Twitter, you may have noticed a little announcement yesterday, that Sam was "walking." I use that term as loosely as I used "crawling" back when Sam was first writhing his way across the carpet with anguished cries of exertion. Sam has taken three unassisted steps, but those steps were as wobbly as those of a rum-soaked sailor, and they ended, dramatically, with a face-plant into the carpet. Despite these inauspicious beginnings, Sam is filled with exuberant glee at the thought of forward movement on his own feet, so much so that that very glee turns him into a maniac with no thought to balance. Shrieking with joy, Sam falls over--that's how walking goes most of the time. But still: January 28, 2010, Sam walks. Ink pen + baby book.

In other news, boy, parenting is an exercise in extremes, isn't it? My children enchant me and exasperate me in equal parts. They are delights; they are horrors. We go from "Oh, look how adorable Sam/Charlotte is" to "PLEASE for the love of all that is holy and right STOP THAT INCESSANT WHINING" more rapidly than I would have thought possible, pre-kid. It's all "mama mama mama mama LOOK AT ME LOOK AT ME mama mama mama mama" until I feel like my brain is going to liquify itself and run out my ears just for the chance to escape, and then suddenly it's bedtime, and I walk out of their rooms with an audible sigh of relief, sit down at my computer, and find that I want nothing more than to wake them up and hold and kiss them, or at least squeeze their fat little thighs just a little.

Nine nights out of ten, Jeff and I go to bed recounting little anecdotes about the children that the other missed during the day--funny things Charlotte said, crazy stuff Sam did, etc. And then the night speeds by like a time-elapse film and then it's (barely) morning and we start over again with the "mama mama mama mama" and the seemingly endless cycle of feeding and clothing and washing and playing and reading.

It all seems so monotonous and yet so unbelievably vivid and varied, too. How can these children be the same children we had a year ago? Three months ago, even?

With apologies to Whitman: Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself. (They are large, they contain multitudes.)

They do. They contain everything, express everything, surround and hold and promise everything.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The kids, January 2010. Man, I love these monkeys.

Friday, January 22, 2010

This has been a pretty good week. And that's a relief, because it is the first real, full week of the semester...the semester which, you might recall, was supposed to be light-years better than last semester, which was in the toilet (to put it mildly). And if the rest of the semester goes approximately like this week went, then I think this academic year will redeem itself.

I'm busy, but pleasantly so, not to the point of feeling overwhelmed. I love love LOVE my Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, where I have several hours of work time in my office at school. This Tuesday, I actually got to participate in some of the on-campus events for a job candidate, one whose interests intersect with mine a bit. I mean, I realize that's the kind of stuff a PhD student is supposed to do, but last semester, my coursework and teaching load and home duties didn't allow for anything extra.

The real boon this semester is the enrollment of my classes that I'm teaching. I teach two sections of the second sequence of composition, and the classes are capped at 20 students for first-year GTAs. That's nice of them to limit the enrollment like that, but 40 papers is a LOT to grade each time, and 40 papers x 4 writing projects + daily activities + lesson planning = Jana going crazy. So I was hesitantly optimistic when I noticed that my enrollment at the beginning of the semester was relatively low, and I grew increasingly happy and more nervous the closer we drew to the last date to add classes without an instructor's permission (yesterday). Now that the date has come and gone, I can speak the wonderful news aloud: I have a total (TOTAL) of 22 students enrolled. Ten in one class and 12 in the other. Oh, happy day! That's half the grading! HALF!

Of course, a little voice in the back of my head is whispering "perhaps the word has gotten out that you're a horrid teacher," but I think the truth of the matter is that I teach early in the morning, a rather unpopular time for many students, and my second class conflicts with a big, required chemistry course. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

In addition to my teaching, I'm taking a grad seminar, which is my Last Class. I'm also working on my comprehensive exam lists, and...hey! WAKE UP! I know, this isn't terribly exciting, but some of you must be interested in what I'm doing, right? Hello?

Fine. More adorable kid stories coming soon. Geez.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Scene: Dinnertime at the Tig house. The family is gathered around the table.

Jana: The funniest thing happened to me at school today. I was walking into Wescoe, and...
Charlotte: Mama? Mama? Mama? I wanted chocolate milk. Is this chocolate milk?
Jana: No, honey. It's just milk.
Charlotte: But I wanted chocolate milk!
Jana: Chocolate milk has too much sugar, honey. Milk is good for your bones, remember?
Jeff: So, what now? You were walking into Wescoe?
Jana: Yeah, I was walking...
Sam, pointing: Dis? Dis? DIS!?
Jana: You want some water, Sam? Here you go.
Sam takes drink, spits half of it out onto his highchair, screams.
Jana: More cheese, Sam? Here you go.
Charlotte: Dada? Dada? Dada? Dada?
Jeff: What, Charlotte?
Charlotte: you know what "bleeepurptabut" means?
Jeff: No, what does it mean?
Charlotte: I don't know! You tell me!
Jeff: I don't think it's a real...
Charlotte: Dada? Dada? Dada?
Jeff: What, Charlotte?
Charlotte: I think it's maybe a kind of small animal thing.
Jeff: Oh, really?
Sam: DIS!!!!
Jana: What do you need, Sam? Another bite?
Sam: Mmm.
Jana: Okay, so, I was walking into Wescoe, and I saw one of my students from last semester, and...
Jana: Oh, an animal?
Charlotte: I think it's an animal that says "SKREEEEEEEE!"
Jeff: Oh, that's too loud, honey.
Charlotte: SKREEEEEEE!
Sam and Charlotte, laughing: SKREEEEEE!
Jana: Okay, guys, okay, let's try to use our inside voices.
Jeff: So, a student from last semester?
Jana: Yeah, and she looked lost, so I...
Charlotte: Mama? Mama? Mama?
Jana: Yes, sweetie?
Charlotte: Mama, I tooted on my hand.
Sam: Dis? Mmm. Dis? Mmm. DIS?!
Jana: What do you say, Charlotte?
Charlotte: Excuse me!
Sam, dropping food on the ground: Uh-aaaaaoh.
Jeff: No no, Sam.
Sam shakes his head "no," drops more food.
Jana: Are you all done, Sam?
Charlotte: I don't like this food. I want some waffles. I'm not hungry. I'm tired.
Sam: Uh-aaaaaoh!
Jana: Do you want...
Jeff: So what were...
Charlotte: I wanna go to bed!

Goodnight, everyone.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

It is time: posting again at TigBlob!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

As much as I've enjoyed this break, the time it afforded me to laze around and play casually with the kids without the looming deadline of grading/reading/writing hanging over my head, I've missed the structure that the academic year forces on my life. Like a toddler, I respond very well to structure. Also like a toddler, I get cranky when I don't get my snack. But that is beside the point.

The point is, school started today. I teach MWF, and have my (last!) major grad class Wednesday afternoons, so Tuesday and Thursday afternoons are reserved for office hours and my other class, a teaching practicum, which meets for just one hour a week on Thursdays. This is almost the same schedule as last semester, except that for "night class" read "afternoon class," and instead of going to class all afternoon Tuesday and Thursday, I will be in my office, getting work done.

And while two three-hour stretches of uninterrupted (I mean, unless a student actually visits me during office hours) time might not seem like the lap of academic luxury to you, it sure does to me. So much so that I feel almost guilty about it. But when I think of all the work I am going to try to cram into those few measly hours, then I realize I really need them.

Speaking of work...last weekend was an exciting one for us. Jeff got a call Sunday night informing him that he'd won the Langston Hughes Creative Writing Award for poetry. This is a local award, sponsored by the Lawrence Arts Center and The Raven bookstore. There is a monetary prize, and he gets to read at a reception in his honor at the Arts Center on February 1.

This is very exciting, of course, but what really made me pause was how timely it all was. Because Jeff isn't enrolled in a grad program or plugged in to a community of writers in some other way, it often seems like he's working in a vacuum. Since his first title right now is stay-at-home dad, his writing frequently takes second place. Days go by with little time for him to work except at night after the kids are in bed, after he's exhausted by the constant demands of a baby and preschooler. And I am often his only sounding board, and I rarely have the time or energy to give his poetry the careful attention it deserves.

It seems like whenever things are particularly difficult for Jeff, for whatever reason (a number of rejections in one day, several days with no time to work, etc.) something like this happens. And I have to say that I think it's pretty amazing that a guy with no "formal" training or instruction in poetry has won an Ohio Arts Council grant for individual excellence, has published and had poems accepted for publication in well-regarded journals (he'll have one out this spring in Natural Bridge), and has now been recognized for the Langston Hughes award. Part of it is his work ethic. He's incredibly committed to his writing, and is almost always thinking about his poems that are in the works, or the ways he can tweak little elements of his daily existence to speak something to something larger, or more absurd, or more funny. It's inspiring.

Several of you have inquired whether you could read Jeff's poems, and whether we could post something to the blog. Well, the thing is, many journals are funny about publication of work, including on a personal website. So as not to jeopardize any poems that are published or could be in the future, he doesn't really want to put anything up here. But if you're interested, you could try contacting Jeff directly (jefftig AT hotmail DOT com). Or, even better, you could pick up a copy of Natural Bridge (number 23, due out this spring) or Margie (number 8, available online now) and support these publications as well as Jeff.

I have two favorites among Jeff's poems that I keep hoping will be picked up by some journal so they can be shared with the world. One is about Metallica, the other deals with men and their love for trucks. Enough said. Let it be known that the second either of these two poems are available in print, I will encourage you to run, not walk, to your nearest independent bookstore.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

I know. I haven't been posting lately, at least nothing of import. I guess I've just fallen into that hazy, low-speed mode that characterizes my academic breaks. I always have grand plans for my free time, things like organizing the closets and reading for fun and baking with Charlotte and sorting Sam's outgrown clothes, but instead I somehow end up getting from sunup to sundown without doing much more than loading the dishwasher and playing a round of Candy Land, the world's most inane game, with Charlotte. Then somehow I'm tired and just want to while away the evenings watching something humorous and not too taxing in the internet. Today I managed to summon the energy to place two important phone calls, one of which was to make an eye doctor appointment. I'm about to confess something very shameful to you, something that is really embarrassing in that it tells you quite a bit about where "taking care of my own health" ranks on the scale of Important Things in my life: I have been wearing the same pair of contact lenses since before Sam was born. These are disposable lenses, meant to be worn about six weeks at max. My son, Sam, you might recall, celebrated his first birthday last week.

Now, granted, I don't wear them very often...only when I need to leave the house. Because I have glasses, but the prescription is old. Very old. As in "unsafe to operate my car, really, wearing these old things that make my vision only slightly less blurry" old. So I wear my glasses around the house, squinting to read the print on things like the microwave and book jackets that are more than a foot away, and I "save" my contacts (which, let's face it, are beyond saving at this point, they're so old) for "special" occasions like days I need to teach or go to school or grocery shop. And they are so old and scratchy that I am inevitably red-eyed and scratchy-eyed after I wear them.

So! The eye doctor! Long overdue. And I hope (fingers crossed!) that I can also find a pair of specs that I find moderately attractive to replace my current glasses, which are, 2000? I think? And I hope that these glasses are really, really cheap, so that they will be affordable to me and I won't have to suffer from crippling guilt for spending money on myself, for something that most people, I think, would find to be essential. You know, seeing? It's important.

Well, let's stick with the rambling thing I have going and move on, pell-mell, with no transition, to my next point, which is: the children! Aren't they delightful? Yes, they are. But...can I say this without calling down wrath upon my head? I love being on break, but being home with my children all day is...rather boring. I try to be game about it, because I know it's what Jeff does when I'm in school all the time, but still...I have to admit that I told Charlotte that I needed some "mama magazine time" today when Sam was napping to preemptively strike against another request to play Candy Land or Chutes & Ladders or Memory*. It bought me twelve minutes of time to sit in a chair and read the same page of a six-month-old magazine over and over while Charlotte asked, at thirty-second intervals, if my magazine time was over yet. Totally worth it.

Sam is adding some new words to his verbal arsenal. He now "meows" when he sees the kitty on the cover of his Baby Animals book, and his meows sound exactly like his sister's do in this video, when she was about the same age. He started making monkey sounds today, a shrill "ee ee" that he emits with enthusiasm. He's started saying "uh-oh" within the past couple of days, and now deliberately drops food from his high chair just so he can coo "uh-aaaaaaaaooooooh" in response. He waves, he kisses, he combs his own and others' hair. He likes to hold a fork when he eats, and even attempts to stab at food with it on occasion. He likes to drink water out of a cup, but despises a sippy cup.

Charlotte is every bit of three-and-a-half. She spends every waking moment, it seems, talking and singing. Her entire life is a musical theater event. Inaniminate objects are personified and talked to and about. Clothing has personality. Her toys have feelings. She has feelings, an inner life to which her father and I are not privy. When we were at my parents' house over the holidays, she asked my mom to get down the photo my mom had up on her bulletin board of Charlotte and her preschool class. She spent a chunk of time studying it, quietly, carrying it around with her, remembering her friends she hadn't seen in a couple of weeks. I wondered what she was thinking, then realized that was something I'd be wondering for years to come.

Monday, January 04, 2010

The annual end of the year wrap-up! Previous years: 2008, 2007, 2006

1. What did you do in 2009 that you'd never done before? Ran a 5k; parented two children (at once!)
2. Did you keep your New Year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year? Once again, my NY resolution was to get in shape. I did great through April, even shedding quite a few of those baby pounds, but my summer and fall were insane, and exercise was the thing that fell by the wayside. This year's resolutions: 1. to exercise regularly, in the form of running and (gulp) that 30-day shred DVD; 2. to eat more fruits and veggies.
3. Did anyone close to you give birth? Yes, but I am sure I'm going to miss some. Let's see. Two friends back home--Kelly had her fourth (Ava) and Tena her fourth AND fifth (Macey and Madelyn). My friend here in KS, Keri, welcomed her son Elliot (wait, am I spelling that right?) in November. I can't think of anyone else.
4. Did anyone close to you die? If so, I can't remember.
5. What places did you visit? Not a ton of travelling this year due to having a new baby. We visited Iowa twice and Michigan twice. There's the possibility of more travelling on our docket in 2010.
6. What would you like to have in 2010 that you lacked in 2009? A bit more of a manageable schedule, please. A clearer idea of a research direction for my PhD.
7. What dates from 2009 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? My children's birthdays (June 23 and December 27).
8. What was your biggest achievement(s) of the year? Getting through this fall, and maintaining my 4.0 whilst doing so. Running that 5k in April.
9. What was your biggest failure? I really am disappointed that I didn't keep my running up, but something had to give, and running was the only thing that seemed disposable.
10. Did you suffer illness or injury? A couple horrible bouts of mastitis.
11. What was the best thing you bought? Hmm. Plants and seeds for my garden this summer? Cloth diapers?
12. Whose behavior merited celebration? This annual award goes, once again, to my husband. Honorable mention to the kids, who have turned out to be great sleepers, THANK YOU GOD.
13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed? I'm a little irritated that we can't figure out a way to get everyone in this country access to affordable health care, but knowing who to point my finger at is beyond my grasp of politics.
14. Where did most of your money go? Rent. Food.
15. What did you get really, really, really excited about? Finishing my fall semester. Charlotte starting preschool and ballet. Sam starting to talk.
16. What song will always remind you of 2009? Read My Mind by The Killers (story to be posted regarding that soon)
17. Compared to this time last year, are you: a) happier or sadder? Happier, I think. No baby blues now! b) thinner or fatter? The same, but this time last year I had just had a baby. This year I have no excuse.
18. What do you wish you'd done more of? General down time. Exercise.
19. What do you wish you'd done less of? Grading papers, THE HORROR.
20. How did you spend Christmas last year? At home with Jeff and the kids, in our PJs all day, snowed in.
21. Did you fall in love in 2009? I continue to fall in love with my kids and husband. They are rad, you guys.
22. What was your favorite TV program? LOST captured me again.
23. What did you do for your birthday in 2009? My mom was down for the weekend. She watched the kids and Jeff and I got to go out together the night before. I made myself cupcakes for my birthday proper.
24. What was the best book you read? I read O Pioneers! and couldn't believe I had missed out on it before.
25. Who was the best new person you met? I like alot of the new grad students.
26. What was your greatest musical discovery? Sam's drumming and Charlotte's singing.
27. What did you want and get? A baby who actually sleeps.
28. What did you want and not get? I can't think of anything here.
29. What was your favorite film of this year? UP and Sherlock Holmes were both great, great movies.
30. Did you make some new friends this year? See #25
31.What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? Financial security and additional free time.
32. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2009? I tried, okay? But I'd have to say I'm still a t-shirts girl.
33. What kept you sane? My family and my type-A personality.
34. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most? Robert Downey Jr. Rawwr.
35. What political issue stirred you the most? Health care reform.
36. Who did you miss? My friends from Ohio.
37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2009. In the inimitable words of Dory from Finding Nemo: Just keep swimming!