Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Is it still December?

I've been gone so long! I wish I could say I'd been doing something really cool and fun, like starting up a knitted ear cap business and marketing them online and they really took off and I've been knitting my fingers to the bone but it's all worth it, cause now Brad Pitt is wearing my ear caps while he rebuilds New Orleans... but alas, no. Only Chris has ear caps, and they are just the cut off thumbs of Cora's mittens.

And then there was the Mt. Everest of grading that I had to scale. It took a very long time, because I do not have grading-sherpas helping me out. Still, I managed to fit in a tea party or two.

And I tried to work with Cora on how to put a nice outfit together. She really likes to accessorize. Hat and bib? Grated cheddar? All look great on her!

And I found a new buddy for Cora, who I hope will help keep track of her when we are out and about. I would so rather have a real dog do this work, but our cats would band together and kill me if that happened. So, for now, this buddy dog will have to do.

But listen up, kitties! The day is coming! If they would just think it through, they would be scratching "Pleez get dogz" into the litter box because the PRESSURE TO BE PETTED would be off! The baby would chase the dog! The dog would be the one she pointed at and said, "Noooooooo!" to for no good reason.

And now, Christmas is coming (you know what that means for the geese), and everyday the mail brings these really cool little booklets, sometimes with pictures of babies, or dogs, or trees, or birds, and that is a lot of fun.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


There's really a lot to be thankful for, isn't there? A lot I could list here, a lot of people, a lot of circumstances, a lot of animals and vegetables and maybe a few minerals. I feel a certain pressure to be profound, without being too abstract, and sincere, without being overly earnest. And while I'm willing to make a stb at sincere, I do not feel up to profundity.

So, I'm just going to pick two things to publicly recognize with gratitude. First is family - and by family I mean the larger-than-biology sense, all the people we like and love, those related by blood and those related by years of friendship. Every sappy thing you can think of, I could totally say and mean sincerely. I'll leave it at that.

And the second thing is the telephone, the little plastic and wire contraption that lets me talk to so many members of our beloved and far-flung family pretty much whenever I want. I feel very thankful for that little gadget this holiday, as we reach out to CA, GA, NH, DC, and other fine states.

Okay, yes, you're right. How did you know I wouldn't be able to resist? There is one more thing I really want recognize:

I'm so very thankful for this goofy little person.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Another Mommy I wasn't planning on being...

Sometimes, what I really want is a baby monitor that is powerful enough to pick up all the feather-light breaths of my sleeping baby, a monitor that is small and has a little clip on the back and an input plug for a headset/earpiece so that I could walk around the house, do dishes, grade papers, watch TV, wrap up leftovers...all while listening to my sweet girl quietly dreaming.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Giraffe sighted in Twin Cities!

Last week saw several rare sightings around the Twin Cities of a small giraffe. This giraffe was sometimes accompanied by a small dinosaur, sometimes quietly grazing. WIldlife specialists at the U of MN speculate that the giraffe escaped from a secret backyard zoo somewhere in the metro area. People encountering the giraffe are advised to offer it snacks and milk and remain calm until Animal Control can be notified. While the giraffe is believed to be tame, do not attempt to approach the dinosaur!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Costumes, costumes, costumes

1. Cora in her new snow bib and jacket - both a little too big for her right now. Our little marshmallow girl! (Her other recent passion - digging up little jackets that no longer fit her and insisting on wearing them. With the zipper up and the hood on, effectively rendering her a neckless baby.)

2. Cora in the famous squirrel dress - there's a little stuffed squirrel tethered to the front pocket. Add in the matching shirt, the sweet ruffle, and the black shoes, and it really is too cute for anyone to stand.

3. Our Halloween giraffe in a pre-Halloween fitting session. She was much happier at the costume party last Saturday - she wore her black shoes for hooves, never took off her cap, and carried her bag of "Giraffe Snax" (cheerios, froot loops, little cookies, and goldfish) all around our friends' home, smiling at everyone.

Maudlin much?

Before ever thinking of having a child, even while pregnant with Cora, I was never more resistent to an idea than I was to that often heard cliche: "Having a baby will totally change you!" On the one hand, I would think, "Duh!" and on the other I would think, "Oh, come on, I'll still be me!"

Me, but me with a part of me loose in the world, sometimes out of sight, sometimes just far enough out of reach that I can't prevent the bumped head. Many times a day that line from Louise Gluck's Demeter poem (in her book Averno) runs through my head, the question the mother asks the daughter: "What are you doing outside of my body?"

This semester I have had new opportunities to observe what has changed. My class and I read The Handmaid's Tale. Still an amazing book, even reading it for what has to be the tenth time at least. But, for the first time it gave me bad dreams, all of which could be directly traced back to the narrator's memory of her daughter being carried away from her, growing smaller and smaller as she is carried farther away. There were many parts of the book I had to read with my eyes very wide open, very quickly, while holding my breath. Like the narrator, I feared falling too far into that pit of emotion. Now we are reading Beloved. I know! What was I thinking! Sheesh! And, again, still I am so in love with the story, the language, and yet do not want to fall too far in. Not now. Not in the middle of class prep!

But, really, the last straw came this evening, reading on line, in the New York Times, Dorothy Allison's essay on (are you ready?) GRAVY. It's called "Panacea" and it's in the Food & Wine section, and it is a lovely essay (I'll use it in class when we get to memoir). Go read it! But, I'm reading it online and getting all...maudlin. Teary. Who knew gravy could be so evocative? (Everyone but me.)

Tonight, what I see as having changed, is that I used to be able to kind of separate my reading, or rather my response as a reader. If I read for pleasure and was in the right kind of space (i.e. alone), I would indeed give in to the emotional pull and depth of what I read. But, if I was reading for class, reading just to pass time, reading with an eye towards future text possibilities, I could hold all that in abeyance. But now, that's harder.

And I have to admit - as a reader, a writer, a teacher and yes a mother - that is not really a bad thing. Not at all.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Days Off: or, why feminism will never be irrelevant

Hello! It is the year 2007 and in one of the many many many many papers I graded this past week, I came across the following two ideas:

1. The student's mother only worked part-time so that on her days off she could clean the house and make hot meals for the family.

2. Dads like to teach us hands-on things like how to fix things or do yard work, while Moms teach us other kinds of things like cooking and how to do laundry.

Where to begin? Clearly, in the first instance there should be some ironic quotation marks ("days off"). And, um, I find cooking to be very hands on. I find laundry to be very hands off, though, because my beloved husband takes care of the laundry for our family (hi, honey!). Though I did do my own laundry for many years, and my beloved mom did indeed teach me how to do it (hi, Momma!).

And yet, my students, by and large, continue to see feminism as something completely outside their lives, with no practical application in the enlightened world we live in today. Many of them see racism the same way, believing that the Civil Rights Movement cleaned up the very few vestiges of racial conflict left over after the South surrendured. Whenever that was. A sense of history seems to be largely absent in 80% of the freshmen I encounter these days. Often it feels as if every novel, memoir, poem and play needs to also be accompanied by a short lesson in historical context. I don't mind a little blurring of the disciplinary boundaries; I just wish I felt like there was some kind of foundation I was adding to, instead of building from scratch.

I feel this especially as we get closer to starting Toni Morrison's Beloved, a novel at the crossroads of many race and gender issues. Can I have one semester without hearing the argument that as they were fed and sheltered, the slaves really didn't have it so bad? Pure outrage, though in some respects the proper response to this argument, does not a learning atmosphere make. I'm launching a pre-emptive strike this semester and using some excerpts from slave narratives to try to provide the context my students otherwise lack. But sometimes I wish we could really focus on the literature and take for granted that everyone has a passing familiarity with the facts. I suppose this is why so many professors really prefer to only teach upper level or graduate courses. You can assume more in the way of basic knowledge.

This is the wish I wish tonight.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

October, Part One: A Photo Essay

This is kind of how I feel. Like someone stuck a camera with a bright flash right up in my sleepy face and just when I was trying to figure out what was going on SNAP!

The first weeks of October have flown by. I feel like I sort of catch my breath on Sunday afternoons, and then Monday goes by at a pretty even pace, but once Tuesday starts... WHOOOOOOSH! There goes the week! As I sit here with 16 papers graded and 45 left to go, 25 of which really need to be ready to hand back on Tuesday, and a half million other tasks that need to be accomplished this weekend, plus, please, a little fun, too, I feel...well...I feel too crazed and busy to actually know how I feel. I hate when that happens.

But, of course, it isn't all bad stuff. Not at all. Classes are going pretty well. A former student emailed me this week to say that not only did my classes last year convince him he actually liked reading, but over the summer he read several books and attended a play! And he wanted to thank me! Sometimes students thank me at the end of the semester, as they hand in their final, but no one has ever emailed me months later. And another good thing: Cora continues to be almost unbearably cute.

And I'm not the only one who thinks so. Cora has real potential for a future as a cult leader, I believe. She has all the preschool girls at her daycare under her sway. One day when I went to pick her up, the girls were ined up waiting their turn for the bathroom and the drinking fountain and I carried Cora past them to a high-pitched chorus of "She's so cute!" "I really like her!" "You're so lucky to have her!" And one girl stepped out of line to introduce herself, very proudly, as the one who gets to rub Cora's back at naptime to help her sleep. Did the other little girls look jealous daggers at her? You know they did.

Of course, despite all my complaining about the lack of time, the grading, and so on, I still managed to make chocolate chip cookies two weeks ago. And so Cora met her first homemade, warm from the oven, chocolate chip cookie. She approved.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Spoons are fun!

And so is a chocolate-vanilla swirl pudding cup.
Is this really what Bill Cosby had in mind?

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Project Pancake Entry #4

Sweet Potato Pancakes

Source: A Real American Breakfast; modification to the Pumpkin Pancake recipe
Circumstances: Weather forecasters predicted Saturday would be a perfect end of summer/start of fall day: clear, sunny, 74 degrees. We didn't have anything planned until about 6 in the evening, so we were able to have a really nice, kind of lazy start to the day. I'd mashed up the sweet potatoes the night before, too, which made putting the pancakes together really easy. Ever since our breakfast in Boston I have been thinking about sweet potato pancakes, and these were really close to my memory of the Boston cakes. After breakfast we set out for an apple orchard, so we also have apple pie and apple cake and baked apples and possibly another Dutch Baby in our futures. Fall is yummy!

Ratings (* to ***** stars)
Ease of Preparation: **** provided you remember to get your sweet potatoes ready ahead of time.
Taste: ***** (lots of gingerbread spices in these cakes)
Texture: **** (between the buttermilk and the potatoes, this recipe makes a very moist cake, which isn't perhaps the ideal texture, but if you know that's how it will be it won't bother you)
Cora's Verdict: See photo above. She ate about 7 little pancakes.

Monday, September 17, 2007

The End of the Third Week of Daycare, wherein all our hopes and anxieties turn out to be well-founded

Once we realized we really had to find a daycare for Cora, and once we found one we liked, and once we had visited, and once we had her signed up, I had a moment of awful realization. I liked and trusted the people involved, I believed she would make friends and enjoy her time there, I also believed that this would be good for her developmentally. But...she would also be entering her own world, one I would have very limited access to.

The smarter part of my brain told me this had always been the case. When Cora was forming, swimming, and grabbing her feet inside me she was in her own world. I might contain that world, but I in no way knew it. Even as we learned how to communicate about milk and more and toys and diapers, I really only knew the outer contours of her world. But now, three days a week, what I mostly know about her days are what and when she ate and whether or not she slept (mostly...not), if she went to the library, and maybe what kind of art project she did.

But what really has brought it home lately are the songs. She knows songs we don't! The other morning she was singing, Chris reported, first really high and then really low, "Row, row, row, row...row, row, row, row....whee!" She learns words like juice and the names of the other kids. She wants to hold and swing hands while she sings. She wants her snack at 10:00...she somehow knows when it's 10:00! Even though this confirms all those anxieties I had, I also love to see it.

And, last Thursday afternoon, when I arrived to pick her up, the kids were just coming outside for their outside playtime. What a thrill to see Cora, holding her teacher's hand, walking out the door. And she walked over to me when she saw me. Whew! Friday afternoon we went to a museum, and she walked from the parking to the front doors holding our hands - quite a distance for someone so new to the activity!

Sunday, September 9, 2007

The baby still has a better wardrobe than me

I mean, she is just so hip, isn't she? I could never get away with an outfit like this, but somehow if you're less than 3' tall (if just barely), you can make it work. And wouldn't this make the best outfit for her to wear to daycare? (Or, to school, as we call it.)


Because everyday at daycare she manages to get completely filthy, what with the playing outside, coloring with markers, and eating without a bib. It's all good filth, but nonetheless...we wear just plain clothes to school.

So classes started for me Thursday (for Chris the day before) and I talked all day long, but felt okay at the end of the day, except for my feet killing me, and my back from hauling around my stuff, and my thumb knuckle (my "thumkle" as my mother called it) from writing on chalkboards and whiteboards. Today, all those aches and pains are gone, but my voice has been slipping away all day. Good thing Cora likes her bedtime stories read softly.

As Cora's adjustment to daycare continues, I have the following to report:
- She won't walk at daycare, despite doing it almost all the time now at home.
- She is napping better at daycare, but not at all at home.
- She talks a lot more! New words: shirt, keys, Harry, Eva, juice, and a few we haven't decoded yet.
- She really likes the daycare schedule of eating something every two hours! She asks for crackers and snacks more often.
We also went to a MusicTogether class this weekend, which she really liked. This Wednesday we have our first Music & Movement class at the ballet studio. Another interest we discovered is tennis: she has watched part of a couple US Open matches and really likes it. This evening she was laughing at Federer and his opponent. She finds the serves especially amusing.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Another quiz? No, not the briar patch!

I found this through another blogger's posting - I am such a sucker for any kind of quiz. At this website you can take a quiz to determine your liberal breed (not that I don't already know my breed, of course). (Note to BrotherR: I don't know that this quiz skews left enough for you, but give it a try!)

My Liberal Breed: Reality-Based Intellectualist

I like the sound of that...even if it does sound a little gloomy and snooty, now that I think about it. A little ivory-tower reserved. But doesn't that just go to show how freakily accurate the quiz really is?

Monday, September 3, 2007

The best part of the new deck?

A baby can crawl on it without getting splinters!

A baby can play in a tub of water!

Plus, it isn't going to crumble away beneath our chairs.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Project Pancake #3

Recipe: Dutch Baby with Apples

Source: A Real American Breakfast
I have always wanted to make a Dutch Baby, but somehow never got around to it. I think I thought it involved using the electric mixer, which I hate to have to get out, but it really doesn't. So, here we are on the last Friday morning of the summer, the end of Cora's first week of daycare, and the day our deck will be finished! Seemed like a good day to make my first DB. Usually the DB is made plain and topped with sugar and lemon juice or preserves. We decided to first cook apple slices in butter and sugar, then pour the batter in over the apples. And I added cinnamon. It was really, really yummy, even though it may have been a tad overcooked on the very outer, upper edge. Still, we ate the whole Baby.

As the authors of Real American Breakfast note, though, it isn't really Dutch. If anything the more accurate name would just be German Pancake, but they also point out that this name is just not as cuddly. And we like our breakfasts to be cuddly, don't we?

Ratings (* to ***** stars)
Ease of Preparation: **** (The really important thing is that you leave enough time for the oven to properly preheat. Our dinosaur of an oven needs lots more time than I gave it.)
Taste: ***** (Chris said, "Now THIS is 5-star taste!")
Texture: ***** (Imagine having Yorkshire Pudding for breakfast, except it's a little sweeter and a little eggier.)
Cora's Verdict: ****** (Cora gives this breakfast an extra star because it is so delicious she ate almost a quarter of it herself! Also, who doesn't like pretending to eat a baby?)

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Why we love mealtimes: a photo essay

(Yes, in the last two photos she is being a total ham for the camera. Worse, she asked me to take her picture through a combination of pointing and syllables...and then smiling on cue, too.)

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Don't wanna be that mommy

Last night we took Cora over to a local dance studio to sign us up for a Mommy & Me Music and Movement class for the fall. The studio was having an open house, there were other kids and moms there, mostly older kids. They were getting new shoes, new tights, new leotards, having a great time in the big lobby running around. Cora immediately spotted the corner of toys.

It was a good thing the corner of toys was there because I and several other moms had to wait a good long while to talk to the studio director. We were waiting while another Mom explained (over and over) how she thought it should be okay if her daughter signed up for a class but missed half the classes so she could go to soccer practice because her daughter is good at both and loves both and she's only 10 and shouldn't have to choose between these two activities that are so complementary to each other and that don't interfere at all with her schoolwork. And the director tried, very nicely and perhaps too gently, to point out that she didn't think it was fair to the class for one person to be able to pop in and out, she'd miss stuff, and actually ballet and soccer are very different. The Mom wouldn't give up. Eventually she did agree to go home, talk to the girl, and call the next day. When, presumably, the director can doodle while listening to her instead of having to smile understandingly.

So we signed up for our class, walked around all the dance rooms, Cora had fun crawling towards and then away from the mirrors, I indulged in a little dance lesson nostalgia, and Chris watched us both indulgently. In the car on the way home I told Cora that she might, even at the tender age of 10, one day have to choose between two things she enjoyed. Or maybe just find a studio with classes that don't conflict with soccer.

(The good part was that once that Mom left, us other moms were able to be so much more patient and kind with each other - "oh no, you go" "oh, you go" - because we all wanted to prove, to each other and most of all to ourselves, that we were not that Mom, too. )

Monday, August 20, 2007

The Future's So Bright...

Project Pancake Entry #2

Recipe: Great Harvest Bread Company Pancake Mix with blueberries

Source: Great Harvest in Linden Hills
Circumstances: Our favorite pancake mix is Trader Joe's Multigrain mix. But TJ's is not close enough for really regular shopping – we go about quarterly. So, we keep trying other multigrain mixes and most of them turn out to be a little too aggressively grainy for us. Still, when I see a new one, I want to try it. So yesterday I spotted a mix at Great Harvest Bread Company. Though the package I could see there were rolled oats in the mix and that looked promising. At $4.75 a bag (with maybe 4 batches worth of mix in the bag), it's a little pricey for regular consumption, but we all liked it. I put in blueberries, cause we like those too, and the latest ones a little tart for just plain eating. Cora discovered the joy of just sticking her finger in the cooked blueberries and painting on her tray (this is why we eat outside!). But she also ate her cakes (eventually) and we liked ours, too.

Ratings (* to ***** stars)
Ease of Preparation: ***** (Well, it is just a mix.)
Taste: *****
Texture: ***** (This is where many multigrain mixes fall short for us.)
Cora's Verdict: ***** (Frankly, it is hard to find a pancake which does not get a 5-star rating from Cora. )