Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Books After Babies

(Cora in her "new" chair - a higher perch in the kitchen and a place to keep her cheerios and puffs)

Right now my book group is reading My Sister’s Keeper, by Jodi Picoult. The plot hinges on the fact that one of the family’s daughters has an acute form of leukemia, and the other daughter was "designed" and conceived to be a perfect genetic match to her sister (the son of the family, unsurprisingly, has issues of his own). While I don’t think I would teach this book in the future, I am really enjoying reading it (in fact, I’m far ahead of where I should have stopped before the group meets next), and I would recommend it as a good read.

Although you might not want to take my recommendation, depending. After church last Sunday I was talking with another mother and the book came up. I was holding Cora, the other woman’s son was sitting on the floor at our feet. She looked at Cora and asked, "Don’t you find it really hard to read that book now that you have her? I couldn’t get past the third chapter!"

(Bath time! With ducks! And toys! So cool!)

I’ve heard other parents (okay, mainly mothers) say similar things about other books, movies, etc. And I understand this reaction, even though I don’t really share it. I think it is partly a kind of superstitious thinking (if I think about it too much, it might happen) and partly a kind of overwhelming empathy (if that were me and my child...). Both of which I would be more subject to if it were a real story, a story of people I knew; but within the pages of a book...that’s a different enough world for me.

I also thought of this today as I taught the first classes of the new semester. This semester the class focuses on poetry and drama and, as I often do on the first day, I used Seamus Heaney’s poem "Mid-term Break" - a poem which really works some emotional magic by incorporating a huge dissonance between the title associations and the actual events of the poem. And as I discussed it in class I wondered if I would still be using it when Cora is four, or if I would skip it that year.

How much, the question is, does/has/will Cora change me? Am I the really just the same as before? What shape might those changes take? For others it seems to have changed what they find bearable to imagine, to enter into in the world of literature or entertainment. Maybe I’m just not able to see the changes, being myself within them. Certainly Cora has rewritten my priorities and my habits, but I feel like I am mostly the same self I was before. Perhaps it is still too early for me to see the difference.
(This sweet pose lasted just long enough for me to get a picture.)

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Books, Marvelous Books!

Cora really likes her books - sure, they make a tasty snack, but they also have great pictures! And some have really cool textures! Here she is with her That's Not My Robot book - one robot's ears are too prickly, one's feet are too squashy, etc. Books with pictures of babies are another big hit. Baby Faces is standard after dinner reading.

I doubt that anyone is surprised to hear that she likes to look at books, as both Chris and I also enjoy looking at books. While it is beyond too late to start keeping any kind of useable list of our books, it isn't too late for Cora! Especially not with the help of LibraryThing.com! Cora's library is online there, well, most of it is. There is still one shelf of her books and a few shelves of my childhood books to be entered, but as far as boardbooks go this is fairly complete. LibraryThing is just really cool, too, and people should know about it!

Friday, January 19, 2007

This is really cool, isn't it? Want one of your own? Go to this page and you can make your very own catalog card! If you are a library geek like Chris, yours will probably actually have a real call number.

Over the last couple days, the length of the pre-nap cry has been decreasing bit by bit. But today was something all new! Just a few minutes of crying, following by about 10 minutes of talking to Mr Waddles, followed by about 5 minutes of intermittent grumbling and thumbsucking which I hope is leading (soon) to actual napping. She's also roamed all over the crib. Unfortunately I think she is starting to get ideas about pulling up on the crib rails.

Monday, January 15, 2007

A Good Nana is Hard to Find and other holiday pictures

Actually, if you are a Kirby girl, a good Nana (Great-Grandma) is fairly easy to find! I had a fabulous Nana, and now Cora has one too. As you can see, they already share a sense of humor. Next thing you know they will be doing crosswords together while nibbling peanut crunch from See's Candies. Splitting bottles of chablis. Reading Agatha Christies outloud to each other. Trading newspaper sections. Sounds pretty good, doesn't it?

And here's a picture from the week after Christmas of Cora with her Grandma Jan, and one with Grandpa Dave, too. They're all completely smitten with each other.
But now we are back to just being the three of us and gradually getting our routines set again. Cora went through about a week of not wanting to be in the saucer, not wanting to be put down, not wanting to be by herself. After two nanny weeks and then a week of grandparents, and also getting a kind of grandparent-timeshare with her friend Eva's grandparents, it has been a while since Cora has had to entertain herself! But now we are back to normal and she will even sometimes take a nap or two for us.

However, now nap time has an additional excruciating element to it - the cry-a-thon that precedes the falling asleep, interspersed with mumbling crying around the thumb. Sometimes she cries for as long as ten minutes! I know this would be considered mere entry-level crying by many babies, but it is kind of a long time for Cora. Maybe she could cry for longer, but I’m not willing to wait more than ten minutes for her to fall asleep. And then, she could sleep anywhere from 15 minutes to two hours. But you never know which. Long enough to blog? Long enough to grade a few papers? Long enough to get the reading done?

We may never know. Sure there are papers to grade - review/analysis papers of monster movies - and there is reading to be done - 70 Dracula pages and a short essay on zombie movies and their cultural significance (zombies and Freud, a match made in...well...I’m not sure where, actually.). Why is it that every time what I really need to do is just skim and review, I get sucked into the reading (no pun intended!). This happened last night with Dracula. I really meant to just crawl into bed with my book and quick get reoriented and instead I’m just meandering happily through Jonathan Harker’s verbose Victorian descriptions of the Carpathians and the picturesque peasants.

The papers aren’t even an option. I sorted them from least promising to most promising and the next one up appears to be about the music in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. I’m thinking about banning Disney movies from this assignment. I’m wondering how music can be the focus of a paper that is supposed to analyze what the monster shows us about our culture. But my curiosity is not strong enough to send me downstairs to the papers.

No; what I’m really hoping is that this nap lasts long enough for me to get downstairs, heat up some leftovers for lunch, and eat them! Then we’ll talk about papers and reading and class plans.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Exciting new development!

Even as I sit here typing this, Cora is sitting in her room, on the floor, a whole 3 yards away, happily playing with some toys. Well, actually it sounds like the toys are being given a real dressing down. What Mirror and Fishy did to deserve such a harsh tone I'm not sure, but I hope I never do the same. Everyonce in a while she looks over at me and does her new face-crinkle smile and kind og bobs up and down on her butt a few times and then goes back to her business. Pretty sweet.

Unbelieveably, I am halfway through the J-term class - we've already dealt with the creature monsters and the human-made monsters and have just begun the undead monsters. The students looked at me skeptically when I was talking about how the zombie appears to be the monster most used not only for horrorific effect, but also for social commentary. We watched the first 30 minutes of Shaun of the Dead, but I'm not sure they really saw the connection.

Frankly, when college students can't be depended on to know what a mnemonic is, I'm not sure what to expect anymore. Much of the time they look skeptical. To be more accurate, the boys look skeptical but willing to listen while most of the girls look faintly mortified to even be listening. I can only assume they chose the Monsters class because they don't like Bob Dylan or literature of the Vietnam War much (two of the other J-term choices this year). These are the same students who choose to write papers on such monsters as Disney's Beast from Beauty and the Beast, or Shrek, or the little mermaid. Uh huh.

Today also brought me evaluation forms from last fall's classes. While no one has yet topped the comment "Great class but poetry still blows" from two years ago, there were some nice things said and bubbles filled in. Out of 38 students, only one disagreed with the statement about the professor creating an environment where students felt free to share their views. On the other hand, out of 38 about 32 thought they had earned an A in the class (off by about 12). This was the first year there was a question about time spent doing homework for this class, and I had answers from both extremes ("2 hours or less" and "8 hours or more") and everything in between. Not a big surprise.

Nope. The only big surprise is that, 30 minutes later, Cora is still amusing herself. Now by pulling her arm into her onesie and then trying to get it out again. Fun times!

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Long time, no update

Here is Cora on Christmas morning, once we finally got around to all eating breakfast. Clearly her Daddy is about to do something fabulously silly.

Oh the holidays! Once again they have rushed past in a blur of delicious dinners, fabulous friends, and beloved family...plus oodles of baby fun!

Cora's favorite Christmas treats? A ball, some blocks, some soft stuffed doggies, lovely books and clothes. And a tooth! She seems to also be working on a second one. She's also moving up in the food world - crackers became a special treat in the new year.

Bedtime is once more something of a challenge. We had such a beautiful routine with the bassinet, and it worked so well. The crib is more problematic. Once she falls asleep she is 93% sure to sleep through the night. But if I'm putting her to bed she is about 110% sure to scream if I set her down unless she has truly been nursed into oblivion. (Not ideal! I know! The baby is supposed to be drowsy, not asleep, so she learns to fall asleep on her own! It worked great for the bassinet. Not now!) She seems more amenable to Daddy putting her down for the night, but that isn't always possible. Alas.

I'll come back and write more later. But, for the record, here is one of my favorite recent pictures. Not only do I love her expression, and her toes, but I really like the composition.