Friday, January 30, 2009

How I Used My Furlough

This is how I spent my time while my dear husband took the kids camping:

Tidied the kitchen.
Put little baggies over the 22 seed pots that my kids planted.
Went to see Revolutionary Road.
Returned a totebag I had purchased from Barnes and Noble.
Used a gift card to buy the following:
  1. The English Civil War: Papists, Gentlewomen, Soldiers, and Witchfinders in the Birth of Modern Britain, Diane Purkiss
  2. The Book of Air and Shadows, Michael Gruber
  3. Our First Revolution: The Remarkable British Upheaval that Inspired American's Founding Fathers, Michael Barone
  4. My Life in France, Julia Child
  5. The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey, Candice Millard (this one is for my husband)
  6. Goodnight Nobody, Jennifer Weiner (Yes. I did. I bought it.)

Came home to eat turkey chili dinner while watching BJD
Decided to read the Weiner book while eating strawberry rhubarb pie.
Realized one paragraph into the book that I'd already read it. Bah.
Started on the Julia Child book. Very fun.
Slept well.
Woke up and read, and even let the dog on the bed so I'd have company.
Tidied and made a chai latte.
Sat and read some more until the family came home around noon. Total luxury.

The kids and the dad had a wonderful time, but unfortunately this story does not have a completely happy ending. My poor husband now has an unbelievably awful case of poison oak on his arms, all over his face, and in other really terrible places on his body. It's so bad that he says this is the worst thing that has ever happened to him. And I believe him.

The good news is that, so far, the kids have no signs of it. But I'm not sure how ready he'll be to take them back to that spot. . .

Awash in Independence!

About an hour ago, my husband left with the kids to take them camping. This is the first time since I gave birth to my son that I have had a night in the house with no husband and no kids. Alone.* Since I'm sick, my options are a bit limited. I'm think of going to a movie, but I am afraid I will offend other people if I have a coughing fit. I might do it anyway.

Mostly, I'm just terribly afraid of misusing this afternoon, evening, and morning. And that fear is paralyzing me to some extent. I have so much work and cleaning to do. But those things seem as if they might be the exact kind of "misuse" I'm worried about.

*Granted I have sometimes been elsewhere (in Wales twice, at a conference once) without the husband and kids, just not at home.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Quasi-Existentialism and Digital TV

Readers beware: You are about to enter a long, angsty, confessional post. This is your chance to quietly slip away before you've been seen.

Still here? Okay, so this thing with all T.V. airwaves going digital has brought on both an existential and a parental conflict because there is, indeed, a difference between who I am (as a person and as a parent) and who I wish I could be.

I have always wished to be a cool, hip, alternative kind of chick with great vintage style. I have wished to be a writer, a folksinger, and other hip things like that. I have wanted to drive cool cars that reflect my internal hip self.

But instead, I have always been rather loosely put together, usually in something cotton and comfortable, and I only wear comfy shoes. It turns out that I don't write fiction well, and though I was decent as a budding poet, I didn't feel as if I had the confidence or know-how to keep it going (I mean, how does one know if she's broken the line in the right place?). So really, I'm just an academic--not so creative after all. And I didn't start playing guitar until I was thirty, so I never got very good, and I really don't sing that well. So much for being a folksinger. And now, after kids, I hardly play guitar at all. So, instead, I have a very "establishment" kind of job--and I have always had these jobs.* Truth be told, I have craved the security of such jobs because I have always feared becoming a bag lady in old age.

As for the cars, in my adult life I've driven a pick-up truck (not a cool one), a Toyota Corolla wagon, and a Honda Odyssey. These are not cool cars and did not reflect any kind of hip self. But I will tell you a secret: I have loved all of these cars because all of them offered me the option to sleep in my car if need be--something that has always been very reassuring to me, perhaps because of my bag lady issues.

We do, however, have one cool car: a Westfalia Vanagon. I don't drive it often because I always forget to ask my husband if it's running or not. But when I do drive it? Dude. I feel like the me I've always wanted to be. Especially when I drive it with sandy feet. It's like freedom on wheels. And it has two beds!

So this brings me back to TV. I haven't had cable for most of the last 13 years. I get three channels, and I have been happy with them. But this whole switcheroo has got me in a bunch. See, I would like to be one of those people with no T.V. One of those people who has dinner by candlelight every night with her family without having the Newshour on in the background. One of those people who reads every night instead of watching T.V. One of those people who cooks organic, fresh meals everynight instead of heating up soup or frozen pizza (okay, that's not related to T.V., but it's part of the overall picture if you see what I mean).

But the reality is that I like the Newshour. And I don't like to spend hours in the kitchen except when I have hours to spare. And in the evenings? I'm usually watching T.V. as a way of proscrastinating on my grading and prepping. Without T.V., I think I might just feel the need to work every night. And I would miss TV's friendly noises. Because I was single for so long, I got used to the T.V. being my roommate. Maybe that's not cool, and it's certainly not hip, but that's the way it was. And now, I like sitting with my husband, while we're both grading quizzes or prepping, watching American Idol or House or 30 Rock or Frontline.

On the other hand, when we're on vacation, and I don't have grading and prepping, I'm fine without T.V. I like to read or watch a movie, and I can get by without the news. But my life, my hectic, establishment life, means that in the evenings, I want to be passive. I don't want to be stuck with just me and 60 freshman comp papers. I want to be able to work a bit and then just turn on and tune out.

But as a parent, I would like to be the kind of mom who parents without T.V. I mean, that has to be the better path, right? But I haven't been that kind of mom. Not completely. I mean, I don't plop them down in front of it very often, but if they're in the mood to watch one of their DVDs, I'm okay with that. Frankly, I don't know how No-TV moms ever get anything done. Even though I'm sure their kids will be much cooler than mine.

So. Here I am. Stuck with this dilemma, thinking that we're probably going to get one of the smaller satellite packages because then, at least, we can record stuff and have some control over viewing times. But it's giving me pause because it feels as if this is one of those moments when I could choose the road less taken and that it would make all of the difference, that it would be the road of the cool, the hip, the better mom.** But I'm not sure I'm up to it.

I guess it comes down to this: Having no TV is clearly the better thing--perhaps even the right thing--to do. But I don't think I'm going to do it. So I feel guilt, shame, and existential angst.

But I still have about two weeks to come to terms with all of this, so for now I'm going to go back to bed because I have laryngitis and feel terrible. I will take four books to bed with me: Nam Le's The Boat, an autobiography of Martha Fowke Sansom, and a book by Phillipa Gregory (which I'm somewhat embarrassed to admit), and Beowulf.

*Although I did once have a fantastic part-time job at a very hip used bookstore when I was in grad school. In fact, that was probably the most hip time of my life.

**And it would also allow me to make more progress on my dissertation, I'm sure.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Dear Campus Bookstore

Dear Campus Bookstore,

Why do you require that I submit my spring semester book orders in October if you do not plan to order them until halfway through the first week of said spring semester, thus leaving me and the students to scramble our way through the first 3-4 classes with no texts?

Good Enough Woman

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

We Are Not Ready

Medieval Woman put up a post asking if everyone is ready for the switch to digital television, and I'm here to tell you, "No, sports fans, we are not ready for the switch."

Okay, so I'm putting it out to the blogosphere. What should we do? We currently get three channels: NBS, PBS, and Fox.

a. give up TV
b. get converter boxes
c. buy a new TV
d. get satellite
e. get basic cable

Back to Business

Getting back into the swing of things after sabbatical is going to be tough, but since my teaching and office hours are crammed into three days per week, I'll have parts of Monday and Wednesday to still work at home with the dog at my feet. That is, until committees get going and start pulling me into the office like tractor beams from one of Darth Vader's ships.

At the moment, today feels normal, as in "sabbatical normal," because I played with my daughter in the early morning, then volunteered in the boy's class, the took the girl to my mom's, then took the dog for a hike, then stopped by the grocery store and filled up the car with gas. Then home for a shower and superfood green smoothie, and here I am at the computer. The difference is that I need to do work for my online class (responses and grading short assignments) and prep for tomorrow's lit classes, which is kind of tough since I know my students don't have the books because the bookstore doesn't have them yet (what's up with that?), so many of them won't have done the reading. And I still don't have the syllabus finished for the comp class that I got assigned at the last minute.

And I want to write 1000 more words this week for the dissertation. Hmmm.

And I want to make dinner and fold laundry while I watch Oprah before I pick up the poos. That might be getting into the realm of fantasy.

Sorry for the boring post, but I figure I might as well let the blog serve as my "run through" for the day. I like Girl Scholar's idea of picking just three things to do each day, but I'm not sure how one can always make that work . . . Let's try:

  1. Take care of business for online class
  2. Prep for the two lit classes (is that two things?)
  3. Make dinner and fold laundry (again, two things)
Not sure I have the hang of it yet.

Monday, January 19, 2009


At dinner tonight, I was trying to explain why Mommy and Daddy might cry tomorrow as Obama takes the oath of office. I was explaining that Obama will use the same Bible that Lincoln used, etc. I confessed to them that I understood they couldn't register what I was saying, and so on. But then I started talking about how Obama was the first person with darker skin to be President, and then my three-year-old girl says, "And white people told black people that they couldn't use the same bathrooms or the same restaurants." I looked at her. And then the boy chimed in with a similar point of fact. Color me surprised.

Okay, so then my husband and I started to recite parts of the oath of office of the presidency, and I said, "to uphold the constitution," and the girl (who is three, mind you) said, "to protect the constitution." And, of course, she was right.

Okay, so she actually said, "to protect the continents," but still.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

A Great Day, Part Deux

This morning, as we had bagels and watched Netflix DVDs--Barbie and the Diamond Castle, followed by one episode of Man vs. Wild (I'll let you guess who requested which)--we got a call from a friend, and she told us we could come up to her place, which is on two acres about 30 minutes away. We had no scheduled plans, so we packed up, headed out, and even took the dog.

It was fantastic. The weather was perfect. The kids played outside, ate lunch, and played outside some more. The boys hunted for bugs and found (drum roll, please)--SALAMANDERS! After this incredible luck, my boy said, "This is the best day I've ever had in the entire universe."

Then, we went down to feed the neighbor's goats, which would have been great except that my dog found a way into their pasture and proceeded to herd them. Fortunately, after he had them all in place, he left them alone and came back to me. I knew he had herding dog lines in him (he's a pound dog), but I had never seen him in action. Aside from being mortified that he was chasing a stranger's goats around a pasture, ignoring my calls, I was quite proud of his skill.

After some grape juice and Cheetos for the kids (and hot buttered rum for me!), we loaded up and headed up. Now the girl is asleep on the couch, the dog is asleep on the floor, and the boy is drawing pictures of salamanders.

Not too shabby.

And now, after two glorious days with my kids, I will spend some of tomorrow prepping for class but most of it, I hope, working on the dissertation. Not a bad way to spend my last three days before classes start, eh?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

A Great Day

OMG, I had the most amazing day with the kids. You know, sometimes when the hubby is gone, it's a chore to keep the kids occupied all day. But with today's beautiful weather, it was, literally, a breeze.

First, we had breakfast while we watched Star Wars. Yeah, Roo might be a little young for it, but the first one (from the 70s) is pretty tame. Anyway, then we went to Roo's dance class, during which she was very cute and during which the boy drew and fawned over a little book he made (which is so cute). Then, a trip to the health food store for snacks.

Then we went to the beach, and it was so awesome. The weather was perfect. Little Roo ran around in the water and was so cute. Schmoo looked for crabs and other creatures in the sand.

Then, off for fish and chips. And the kids did not even cry when I told them they couldn't get ice cream because we were heading to a party later, during which I knew they'd eat tons of cookies.

Home for their bath and my shower, then off to the party. Not a kid party mind you, but a party for grown-ups that had LOTS of kids. Which is the perfect kind because I get to talk to my grown-friends while my kids run around with other kids.

I took jammies and toothbrushes to the party so the kids would be ready for bed in case their conked out on the way home, which the little one did.

At home, they went straight to bed. No fuss. Just a lot of kisses and SO many "I love yous" and "you're the bests." Maternal heaven.

And now I'm watching Sex and the City: The Movie because my husband is gone for the night.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Which Came First?

Roo (the girl, age 3.5): "Mommy, why are cherries round?"

Schmoo (the boy, age 5.5): "That's how God made them."

Roo (with great anger and indignation): "No, God didn't make them . . . they come from SEEDS!!!"

Enter Mommy who is both a bit both amused and impressed by the profound undercurrents of their exchange and who averts a crisis by being simplistic and reductionist in the face of such profundity.

Mommy: Actually, you're both right. Who wants more?

Crisis interruptus.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

What Have I Gotten Myself Into?

Writing a dissertation is really hard. And time consuming.

Or at least it WOULD be time consuming if I were to hit the friggin' books AS I SHOULD.

Roo Explains Creation

So, the Girl (a.k.a. "Roo) says, "Mommy, how did the world become the world?"

Me: That's a very good question, Roo! People have different answers to that question [and I go on to explain the Big Bang Theory and the Creation Theory in brief].

Roo: Well, I think when it all exploded everything was all burned, and then seeds were dropped down, like House seeds and Tree seeds and Sidewalk seeds. And then it all burned again. And then the seeds were dropped again. And that's how it was made. And then the sky exploded and all of the birds came out. And then . . .

She went on until we got to dance class, but since we were in the car and I couldn't write it down, and since it was all so detailed, and since it was last Saturday, I can't remember all of the rest.

A good theory she has there . . .

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Gleeful Purging

Okay, I'm back in the office after my sabbatical. Oh, and have I told you that sabbatical rocks? Well, it does. We'll set aside the question of how much I got done.

So, here I am, avoiding my dissertation by cleaning out my office and prepping for classes, one of which might get the ax because of low enrollment, thereby creating chaos in my schedule and prep plans. But let's think positive, shall we?

Anyway, here I am, cleaning the office. Now, that might sound like a nasty chore, but it includes me gleefully tossing out (read: recycling) the hundreds--no, thousands--of pages of accreditation drafts that I generated last year as the editor of our accreditation report. It's is a joy to rid my office of these stacks.

Mom Guilt: Scene One

Scene: Three-year-old is on the toilet while I keep her company.

The Girl (a bit weepy): I don't want another day like these days.

Me: What's wrong with these days?

TG: Um, um, um. I didn't have fun.

Me: I thought you had fun playing with Mommy's old Barbies.

TG (still weepy): Yes, but it was kind of boring.

Me: Did you have fun at school playing with your friends?

TG: Yes, but . . .

Me: What's your favorite thing to do?

TG (thinking a minute): Playing with grown-ups.

Me: Playing with grown-ups? Why grown-ups?

TG: Because then I don't have to miss them.

Me (almost weepy): Oh.

TG: And I don't want to have to hear "Wait a minute."

Me: Oh, Do growns-ups say "Wait a minute" a lot?

TG (even weepier): Yes.

Me (feeling very guilty): It's hard that sometime grown-ups have to do chores and things when you want to play?

TG: Yes. And I want to be at home sometimes when [insert brother's name] isn't hear so he doesn't mess up my games and come over and yell "Raaaaaa!!!!"

Me: You want more one-on-one time with Mommy and Daddy?

TG (still kind of weepy, but getting better): Yes.

Me (thoroughly chastened): Okay. Are you done going potty?

TG: Yes.

End scene. Begin my feelings of inadequacy as mother.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Vomit Fear

Has anyone else experience this fear? The fear that comes when your child says, "I want to sleep with you. I really, really do," right after she has vomited several times in the previous two hours? I experienced this fear last night. My little sick cherub, curled up next to me, with her forehead touching mine--and me worried that she would pull a Linda Blair right in my face.

But there was no fear necessary. She proved to be a well-controlled vomiter who was committed to the toilet and the throw-up bucket.

And all of this occurred at a hotel in Mesquite, Nevada*, the night before the last leg of our marathon car trip home. Oh the joy of it all.

*I highly recommend the Falcon Ridge hotel in Mesquite, NV if Mesquite is one of your frequent travel stops. It's not as cheap as the casino places, but it's super nice, it allows pets, it has a hot breakfast, and it has a good pool. And the trash bin makes a great throw-up bucket.