Tuesday, September 02, 2014

August: What I read

Not only did I not read very many books in August, but I also kind of didn't enjoy reading very much.  I have tons of library fines.  I have let Crazy Rich Asians sit on the hold shelf for a week waiting for me and then be re-shelved-- TWICE.  Ugh.  I swear I will do better in September. But will I really?  We have a ton of stuff going on-- you should see the Google Calendar-- it makes me twitch to even look at it.

Still, I read a few books:

4.  Prayer by Phillip Kerr:  It took me a couple hundred pages to get into this thing, but then I did and it was creepy and tense.  A decent thriller.

3.  The Vacationers by Emma Straub:  I read her book Laura Lamont's Life in Pictures last year and really liked it.  This one was great, too.  A perfect, light summer read.

2.  Landline by Rainbow Rowell:  I LOVE Rainbow Rowell.  Both Eleanor and Park and Fan Girl are terrific.  This one was not quite as good as those two, but I still lapped it up.

1.  Shotgun LoveSongs by Nickolas Butler:   This book is the real deal you guys.  Funny. Sweet.  Wonderful characters, a great plot.  Very Russo-esque.  You should probably read it.

That's a grand total of 72 books for the year.  With only 4 months to go, I don't know if I am going to break 100.  7 books a month?  A little too breakneck for the time I think I'll have.  Cross your fingers.

Monday, September 01, 2014

Bloggy Hop

You have probably noticed by now that I am terrible with titles, and this one is no exception.  Still, the horrible pun (sort of pun) makes me laugh because in third grade I told my sweet music teacher that I couldn't do the bunny hop in class because it was against my religion. We were the only Jews in a good 20-mile radius, so she immediately fell all over herself apologizing and letting me sit out.  But really? I was just a fat kid who couldn't tell my right from left when the music played.

Virgina, who is also a Pekin native and speech team an drama club vet and who writes not one but 2 wonderful blogs, tagged me for a really cool blog hop to write about my writing process.  I love reading Virginia's blog Mea Cuppa, and I also faithfully follow her family blog, Elisablog.  Virginia is younger than I am, so we were not in school at the same time, but I wish she lived down the street so we could bake and drink coffee together and exchange recipes and let our tornado third children play together while we had wine and surveyed the wreckage.  Plus she totally has a middle school, which?  BABYSITTER.  Here's a link to Virginia's post.

(MINE IS 2 DAYS LATE.  I AM TERRIBLE AT BEING TAGGED FOR THINGS).

Okay, so here's the hop:

What am I working on?
A few years a go, I would not have been able to answer this question without crying, so acute was my total sense of failure, but now I can tell you exactly what I am NOT working on.  My dissertation.  The book it was supposed to be.  I just.  It's just.  Erm.  Not right now.  Instead?  You guys.  I am writing a novel. !!!!!  Ben thinks I should write a memoir, but I can't figure out the exigence for that one-- if any of you have thoughts on an angle for an autobiography, lemmee know.  I took a great auto biography class in undergrad from this guy, and as recently as 3 years ago, I would randomly run into people from this class, and they asked me if I published my book, which is flattering and sweet.  Unfortunately, not only was I ignorant about how student loan repayment worked when I toiled through 4.5 years at my private university, but I was also completely unaware of the ephemeral nature of digital scholarship.  And this was before the cloud.  I have NOTHING that I wrote in college including an hilarious autobiographical essay about the time I broke my nose that got the only A+ the English department chair had ever given.  Alas.  So, anyway.  A novel.  I am writing it.  I have a chapter on the page (only one, I know, so this is a bold declaration, but I also have an outline.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Erm.  It doesn't.  This story is fun, funny, conversational chick lit. My strengths as a writer are my voice and my ability write excellent dialog, so I am using am using them.  I also used to be really good at the poignant ending, so I'll let you know in about 350 pages if I still got it.

Why do I create what I do?
I blog here to remember these days-- the happy golden years.  Yesterday at the pool, it was a drink in the pool kind of day.  The adults were sloshed and the kids were high on terrible concession stand food, and it was like we were all at a great party only no one had to clean their house.  As I bobbed with my Lime-a-rita (snack shack out of beer), I was bowled over by an amazing sense of optimismFor a second, the years stretched out in front of me, and I was grateful for the monotony of the days that helps drag out this time when all of us are together, when the kids want simple things, when the pleasure of an unexpectedly easy time at a restaurant with real napkins is a rare treat, when we have bedtime routines and favorite blankies and they delight in the bedtime stories we read together.  I feel like this is the life I will always want to remember.

How does my writing process work?
I remember writing a paper about this in college.  It was a lovely, funny essay about cigarettes and ash trays and post-it notes.  These days, I don't have the luxury of a process.  I have abandoned pre-writing all together, and revision? HA! Ben and I have plans to look at the Google calendar and find me some hours outside of my work time to write.  One thing that has always been consistent, though, is the feeling I get when my writing is good.  It's hard to describe-- I just know that I have hit my stride and usually I make myself cry.  I get really proud of myself, what can I say? (Yes, that makes me roll my eyes, too).  I wrote my dissertation in Panera eating cinnamon rolls the size of my head, so if all else fails, I will head there for inspiration.  I still have the playlists I made to drown out the sound of mayonnaise sucking all around me.

And now I am passing the hop to 2 of my very favorite bloggers.


My Photo 

Sarah writes at Mama Sarahndipity.  I have been reading her blog since she was on bed-rest with her now-8-year-old.  We got to hang out at Blog Her '09, and we have a girls' weekend trip in the works for later this year.  Sarah is a former English teacher and a wonderful writer.  We share a love for books, and I cannot wait to hear her take on these questions.




Brooke blogs at By The Brooke, and she is a mom, an English professor, and another sensational writer. I have been reading her blog for years as well, and I am always excited when a new post of hers pops up in my feed. Here is the short bio she wrote: 






Brooke (on the right) divides her time between enthusiastically discussing feminist readings of Sandra Boynton books and enthusiastically discussing feminist readings of nineteenth-century literature, depending on her audience. When she's not actively parenting a two-year-old and a new baby or teaching college students, she dabbles in writing, bargain shopping, and convincing her husband they should DIY various household projects.

I am so excited to read what Sarah and Brooke have to say about their writing process and products!



Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Gah!

You guys!  Specifically, you guys who have kids and a partner and both partners work outside the home on the same day at the same time.  WHAT the FUCK?  How do you DO it? Thanks to the mercy of scheduling, Ben and I do not have to be in the classroom at the same time ever except for this week and holy shit it is hard to get up and dressed and feed the kids and have coffee and start laundry and dress the kids for their babysitter and make the house look presentable and get ourselves dressed.  And there's the dog.  OH MY GOD.  This morning, I paid about $100 in makeup for the chance to go to the bathroom.  Dorothy ravaged my eyeshadows in such a short, short amount of time.  Then she spent the whole time I flat ironed my hair and cut my 5-minute face routine to 3 minutes (I NEED THOSE FUCKING MINUTES BACK) filling a Costco-sized tampon box (you're welcome for all of the visuals that image brought with it) with hot rollers and dumping it out and filling it back up.  On a related note, all of the pins that go with my hot rollers are missing, and since the 90s are back this fall, I am totally screwed.  While all of this was going on, Jack and Cooper were completely unsupervised in the basement, and Harry was watching inappropriate Netflix selections and petting the dog.  But I did clean up breakfast!  The dog helped.  I cannot imagine going through this nonsense 5 days a week.  And having to take the kids to daycare?  WHAT?  How does that even work?  And then I come home at nearly 6 exhausted from talking and standing all day and rumpled and grumpy from my bumper-to-number commute and Ben is tired too and the kids are happy to see us and everything's a mess, and the laundry is a jumbled pile, and 5 little people/animals need to eat, and HOLY SHIT.  Then the next day we DO IT ALL AGAIN.  WTF?  One day, Ben was the SAHD, and that was almost worse because even though the getting ready was easier and the house was clean and the laundry was done and there was a hot dinner on the table, Ben was DONE DONE DONE with the kids and I had to be on them and didn't get the kitchen cleaned (I love cleaning the kitchen after dinner) until almost 10 pm.  The one real benefit is that I have been doing my hair and wearing dresses and heels everyday, and I love those things.  I love them so much that I have made Harry or Ben take my picture every morning and now I am going to post those pictures here.  Narcissism FTW!




Tomorrow, neither Ben nor I needs to go to the office.  Even though we have work to do, we plan to spend our days like this:

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The internet was out all night, so I had to wait to publish this and now I feel like it's not even relevant to my life because I have taken so many pictures since yesterday morning. Of nothing, BTW.

I haven't even gone back to work for the semester yet.

I have no reason to NOT be blogging.  And yet, these last days have been zooming by with Ben's return to work and the start of the PTO season.  A nightly soccer camp the kids did last week.  Foot ball practice, etc.

And next week is the big one-- the week where I work practically FULL TIME.  (9:30-4.  4 days. YIKES).  Plus the kids have meet-the-teacher/school-supply-dump conferences, and Cooper's teacher comes over to pay him a visit at home.  So NEXT WEEK you might not see me around, but this week should have been cake.

Part of my problem is that Ben went to work and I was the free babysitter for 2.5 LOOOOOOOONG days.  It is hard to get anything done with 4 kids and a dog around.  I mean I got housework, baking, cooking, and laundry done, and we squeezed in some pool time, but there was precious little else happening.

But big things happened this week.  The kids are officially registered for school that starts on September 2nd, the same day that Cooper and I also have our first days in the classroom.  A BIG DAY.  I got a haircut for the first time in 2 years and spent a whole day at Anthropoloie by myself and it was lovely.  I filled up the dressing room, tried everything on, some of it more than once, then went BACK to the sales floor and found MORE stuff and did it all again.  I haven't taken the time to shop like that in years.  Harry went to his first slumber party and had such a ridiculously good time that I said he can have a back to school slumber party in a couple of weeks.  because I am clearly an idiot.

Last week, we spent a ton of time in the back yard.

We went to the free geology museum on campus that has tons of dinosaurs-- who knew??



And we took advantage of the students being gone still to have a beery lunch at the union.



Before heading to the Children's Museum




And then it was back to the back yard,  What can I say?  It's a classic.
Dorothy loves Beatrix so much, and I think the feeling is mutual.

A ridiculous picture, but here's my hair after a couple hours of shopping in the rain.
Ah, pigtails.
I love pigtails.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

POOL

THE POOL CLOSES 2 WEEKS FROM TOMORROW.

So, I need to GO THERE every free second.  And our seconds?  Are getting less free everyday.  There are all these THINGS we have to do.  Dentist appointments.  Hair cuts.  Clothes shopping.  Soccer camps.  Lots of rain in the forecast.  Ben has to WORK starting this week.  Brutal.

Friday, I took Harry and Cooper swimming because Jack and Dorothy were home sick.  Cooper was happy to take some selfies with me while I waited to get hot enough to go in the water.  And it was worth it for him because I went in and we had SO MUCH FUN.  Harry and I worked on improving our somersaults-in-one-breath record.  We can both do 3 even though we get dizzy.  Harry can occasionally do 4.  I did 4 one time but sucked a ton of pool water into my sinus cavity on the last rotation and am never doing that again.  Harry did 5 but almost vomited when he surfaced.  Cooper floated a lot.








At adult swim, Cooper discovered the snack bar is out of plain M&Ms.  FOR THE REST OF THE SEASON.  As you can see, he immediately began to flail.


But then he BRAVELY-- so, so bravely-- deigned to try a single peanut M&M.

CRISIS AVERTED.  Peanut M&Ms ROCK.
 Remember how I said Dorothy and Jack were home sick?  They both had high-ish fevers, and Jack complained of a headache and sore throat.  Well, Friday night, I was up from 2:30 on because I felt so sick I thought I was not going to make it-- fever, chills, body aches, ad horrible, horrible nausea.  I watched Armageddon AND Beaches, though, so there was that.  Ben couldn't take my horrible moaning, so he went downstairs with the barking dog.  Just in time to intercept Harry, who threw up for 5 hours.  Harry and I spent all day Saturday lying in bed watching Big, Jaws, and Men in Black 3.  Separate beds are also awesome for sick days.  But I somehow found myself in charge of the children for an hour or so in the morning, and thankfully, Dorothy can get her own snacks because I was too wiped to even change the channel from the weirdo Saturday morning NBC offerings.  Worst cartoons ever.

 Speaking of wiped!  Ben took Beatrix for a walk before lunch, and she was too tired to make it all the way across the room to her LUNCH when they came back.  She took a brief stop under the table and then soldiered on the remaining 2 feet and PASSED OUT in front of her food.

 And then there was more pool.  If you need us this week, we will be at the pool. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Cognitive Dissonance

I think the reason the Mommy Wars touches a nerve for me is that I am so conflicted about my own feelings.  I think that Ben and I should be caring for our kids in our home-- I truly believe that this is the best model of care for my small children.  But holy hell do I sort of strongly dislike the actual daily work of this care when my partner is not around.

My core belief that the "SAH" part of parenting is important and my professional aspirations butt up against each other, too. For example, I really do think that my babies should be with me--like physically close to my body--for the first 12 months of their lives.  This has caused no small bit of havoc in my professional life and teaching schedule, but it has also led to a lot of growth opportunities.  I am doing some really cool shit with online course development, for example.  I don't regret a single meeting I attended with a baby in a sling, despite the impressions I may have made with people at every level in the university.  I actually am proud of the impression I made even if it doesn't make me the first in line for a promotion.  My children are the opposite of invisible, that's for sure.

So, OK, there's my belief that I need to keep my babies close to me and my amazing sense of accomplishment that Cooper and Dorothy never drank a single bottle because that's how with me they were-- and we breast fed in some pretty cool places, and you know what?  IT WAS FINE.  Especially because babies under 6 months are NO TROUBLE and so portable and generally cute and quiet additions to meetings and office hours.  I had a lot of help to make this happen with my full time job, obvs.  Like, for example, a course release Dorothy's first fall to develop an online class  (because a baby in a lecture hall strapped to the lecturer is much, much less professional than a baby in a wrap behind a desk).  Also a husband who enjoys an academic schedule.  And parents who were happy to come to town and watch a 5-month-old in a college classroom down the hall while I led a week of staff meetings last August.  (Cooper was born in September, so his juggle was easier-- I just took a semester's leave from teaching and used FMLA time during my August training which turned out to be unnecessary, but WHO KNEW-- he was SUPPOSED to be early, not a week late.  I was a grad student when I had Harry and Jack and making carny wages, so I cared a bit less about work and more about them and my writing, and we had an amazing nanny to watch them while I taught 2 mornings a week and then when she moved and they were 2 and 4, they went to a kick-ass preschool 3 days a week.)

I digress.  On the one hand, I really do think a daycare model is not best for us, and Ben and I are really committed to taking care of the kids in our home and sending them to part-day preschool and then elementary school.  We have both made professional sacrifices for this to happen, but the benefits outweigh the consequences by a million.  On the other hand, OH MY GOD IT IS SO HARD BEING  HOME WITH EVERYONE AT ONCE ALL BY MYSELF.

I wanted Harry and Jack to have the kind of halcyon summers I had as a kid-- bike rides and unstructured play with each other and neighborhood kids all day except for when we went to the pool.  Being BORED and having to figure out how to fill the quiet nap time afternoon hours.  Going to library and falling in love with new books to fill the gaps between playtime.  Staying outside all day and getting filthy. Being able to explore their neighborhood by themselves as long as they came home and checked in every now and then. So they were the only kids we know not in camps, and they have had the exact kind of fun I really wanted for them.  But OH MY GOD IT IS SO HARD BEING  HOME WITH EVERYONE AT ONCE ALL BY MYSELF I wish they had a camp or two, KWIM?

The only reason, though, that I am happy spending so much time supervising small kids is that my husband is doing it, too, usually at the same time I am. And the way we divide stuff, I usually do more housework and he usually does more childcare because he is really good at working with the kids in the room, and I SUCK at it.  In the school year, we divide our work time evenly (2.5 hours a piece) but for the most part, we are both home when the big kids get home or shortly thereafter.  And during the day, the big kids ARE NOT HOME, which makes everything so much easier to juggle.  The needs of 2 babies are easy to meet.  The needs of 2 big kids are easy to meet.  The needs of all 4 at once?  GAH.  If we have a few hours of all 4 kids between 3 and 6:00?  That's so much easier than a whole damn day.

Full disclosure:  I have only had 2 of those days all summer.  BUT 2 IS ENOUGH.

I told the kids yesterday that even prisoners are allowed to eat and use the bathroom.  They did not care.

While I do believe (and I say this as a PhD and a professional myself) that it is valuable for children to be cared for in their homes by their parents, I also AM NOT GOOD AT DOING IT FULL TIME.  If Ben had a corporate job and an 8-7 kind of schedule, I would be a SAHM because that's more in line with my core beliefs than another model of care, but I would probably have a nanny and a part-day camp for the children all summer and a Lexapro prescription because? DAMN IT.

The thing is I know lots of women and men who stay home with their small children and like it and are good at it, and I am jealous of them because they are better people than I am, more patient for sure.

I feel bad that I do not love the shit out of caring for my children in my home when I also believe that it's what I should be doing.  And I feel these things at the same time in equal measure.

So, there you have it.  Cognitive dissonance.

Ben went grocery shopping and got crazy shit we never eat like name-brand cereal with GMOs, salami (GOD I LOVE SALAMI and I wish it wasn't going to kill me-- I would eat it all the time), Doritos, and bologna (EW SO GROSS-- Jack loves it).  Harry and Jack used all of this forbidden bounty when they packed themselves picnic lunches yesterday.


 It's Shark Week, you know.  Or Sarkweek.  Whatev.

 I have really relaxed with these 3rd and 4th babies.  NOT EVEN IN THE CROSSWALK

Lazy Beatrix had to be cajoled the whole way, and she was still the last one to arrive.

 RETURN OF THE PICNIC MONSTER
 God I love this dog.  This what she did after the kids went to bed.  This is ALL she did after the kids went to bed.  (She is not allowed on the couches and was pretty stoked to get to lie on the ottoman).

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Weekend catch up

Almost time to go back to school, friends.

Not me, necessarily.  I don't teach until September 2, but my meetings start on August 25, so here I am blogging away while the photocopier prints 800 copies of a speech for the next 20 minutes.  I have been working from the copy room for 2 hours this morning making thousands upon thousands of rainbow-colored copies and sending eleventy billion (that's the actual number) emails. And YES there is someone who makes copies in this department, but I have a really idiosyncratic method of gathering my materials, and it doesn't translate well to instructions.

I want to go to the pool this week, so I am trying to cram a bunch of work into this 60-degree (WHAT THE FREAKING HELL?) day.

We had another sensational weekend, starting Thursday night at the pool where Jack and Harry dove and belly flopped and I lounged in the sun reading and staring at Facebook on my phone.


Thursday night, Beatrix discovered her preferred dinner spot.
But I am her favorite spot after the kids go to bed.
Friday we slept in and had a relaxing morning before packing up the kids and the dog and heading to my parents' house for a couple of days.

As you can see, Beatrix was super bad in the car.


So was Cooper.
And she continued her reign of terror when we got to Pekin.



On Friday night after the kids went to bed, we drank several French martinis, and I was tipsy.  So tipsy that going to bed, I woke up ALL OF THE BABIES including the dog.  Ben slept with the dog, and I slept with Dorothy and Cooper who were both very kicky.  But we discovered that the dog sleeps beautifully and doe snot need to use the bathroom and has no accidents if she is on Ben's face and shoulder.  SCORE.  I knew those separate beds were brilliant.

On Saturday, we bought life insurance from my best friend since first grade.

Dorothy thinks the rug in my parents' living room is the Big! Red! Mat! at the Little Gym.  Pretty cute. She banged her drums, galloped around the perimeter (a 16 month-old galloping is about the cutest thing in the world) and did a few forward rolls, too.


You know I love zoos, so on Saturday, we went to the Peoria Zoo, where Ben has never been, even though he went to college in Peoria.
Of course we enjoyed some zoo lunch because these kids have to eat anytime anywhere.



These things NEVER get old for us.



Jack has the hand of a gibbon.  Duh.
H and J fed the giraffe.  He's 17-feet tall.

Jack looks shirtless in this pic, but it's a cute one.
Dorothy and Cooper could not get enough of this wheel thing that they turned to make electricity.

Queen of the world!
SO SWEET.


 

Even though we went out to dinner with a friend, I went to bed much soberer and slept in the bed NEXT to this crib all by myself while she slept, too.  Ben, though, shared a bed with Beatrix AND Cooper.

Beatrix liked my dad and vice versa.  My parents' Chihuahua / Chinese crested (Gizmo) was not thrilled to meet her, though.
Dorothy had some breakfast cream cheese behind her ear.
We decided to go to Ben's parents' for lunch on the way home.  Beatrix was just so bad in the car.
I mean really, what are we going to do with her?
Despite a 2-hour car nap, she could not get her shit together to walk to the park.  The only thing she COULD muster the energy to do was to lie in the shade on some down-spout-dampened grass and snore.  I read my book.
Still, she maintained consciousness for a couple of pictures.
 This is what everyone else did while Beatrix lazed in the grass.
 She might actually be asleep here.


She resumed her mischief making as soon as we got back in the car. 

Dorothy got a little cranky, so I kept giving her Oreos (MOTY), but she is rear facing, so I had not idea the mess she made until we pulled into the driveway.
And then we took everyone to the pool mainly because we didn't want to make or clean up dinner.
Dorothy LOVES to go in the dog's bed.  The dog is cool with it because she thinks Dorothy is a 23-pound chewy treat.
Last night I made the word's best cookie.  Here's the recipe:  Picky Palate cookies and cream peanut butter cookie. You should make these.  Probably right now.  But you might have to make a store run for pudding mix and white chocolate chips and maybe some Oreos to crush up because you can't crush the Oreos that your kids are counting on being in the pantry, KWIM?
I was at work for 10 hours today and now I am finishing this up at 9:40 with a dog sleeping on my feet.

If fall semester started tomorrow (which it DOESN'T), I would be totally ready to teach it!