Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Thought on What Happened, through my tears

I am reading What Happened against a backdrop of books I have been tearing through for my class next spring.

Specifically, right now, I am reading Cheryl Glenn's brilliant Rhetoric Retold which is a journey through rhetoric's history teasing out the influence of women from classical Greece through the Renaissance.

In grad school, I learned about Republican Motherhood, an idea put forth by feminist historian Linda Kerber, who argued that at the formation of our country, women could only be citizens through their mothering of future citizens.  So, women didn't get to have rights, but they needed to know about rights and they needed to possess the moral and intellectual qualities of people with rights so that they could teach their sons who would someday inherit the earth.  This idea helped women (upperclass white women) get educations because to raise future leaders, they had to know what they were talking about.  And it was this idea that women were only useful as mothers of men that Elizabeth Cady Stanton was rallying against in her brilliant speech "Solitude of Self," which put forth the radical idea that women were valuable people with souls and desires worthy of rights because they were PEOPLE in isolation, not just in relationship to men.

What I didn't know and what Glenn makes clear is that this same kind of idea governed the great Greek and Roman thinkers, too, who understood that educated women were better mothers, able to produce better classes of future men.  Women could be educated in the service of the children they'd raise, if , of course, they were raising the right kind of children.

Historians are quick to note that Republican Motherhood is a specific idea linked to a specific historical moment, but as a rhetorician, I have always understood that it left its stain on discourse.  If you think about it, it's an idea that still lingers in pop culture.

Republican Motherhood does a lot of important ideological work.  It romanticizes the backbreaking labor of mothering, putting it in the service of a greater good. It holds up some women's mothering as more useful than other women's by focusing on the product of love's labor, calling forth notions of who gets to be a citizen, who get resources, whose bodies matte, etc.  It makes motherhood central to women's worth; no matter what else a woman is, being a mother is still her most important job in a way that father is never a man's defining label.  It professionalizes motherhood in really interesting ways.  Motherhood becomes a vocation that requires skills.  Experts get to lead the discourse about mothering.  At the same time, shadow mothers are marginalized, not paid a living wage, etc because women who don't devote themselves to mothering are still traitors to their gender (and their race and class if these women are white and wealthy).  We can trace all of the ideologies that followed Republican Motherhood back to it-- scientific motherhood, intensive motherhood, etc-- in a Thomas Kuhn style paradigm revolution.

While you could argue MAYBE that the social imperative to reproduce has lessened a little, I think that women are still valued in relationship to/ in service to others more than we are valued as women qua women.

So, I am thinking about this as I read What Happened.  I am also thinking about Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's We Should All Be Feminists, a pamphlet adapted from her TED talk about how we remake the world in a feminist way.  Hint: it involves the way raise our daughters and our sons.  And, of course, I am thinking about bell hook's Feminism Is for Everybody, which I will probably always be thinking about for the rest of my life because the way she explains patriarchy and feminist movement is so dispassionately passionate.

All of this is to explain why the part of the book that has made me cry the very hardest-- and, honestly, I cry every time I pick the darn thing up-- is Clinton's discussion of why she started wearing pants.  She said she had some issues being seated onstage as first lady and having up-the-skirt photography angles, which made her think of Nancy Drew who did her mot serious sleuthing in slacks in case she needed to climb into any dangerous places.

So here's Hillary Clinton, a woman who grew up in the same patriarchy we all did, who gathered these quotidian feminist breadcrumbs and turned them into the most spectacular life.  And then here's our entire misogynist culture telling her to go fuck herself when we should all-- men AND women-- be united shoulder to shoulder telling patriarchy to go fuck itself instead.

I think I am also crying for me because I am reaching the age when my last best hope for anything approaching a great life (great in a big sense, not great in a happy or satisfied sense because I am both of those things) is to have children who are brilliant, successful people.  And of course this is what I want-- it's what we all want, right?-- but I think that I live in the shadow of Republican Motherhood more than I thought I did.  We all do.  Even Hillary Clinton.

No matter how much we love our children and love being mothers, we have to give away some of ourselves to do it, have to make choices that men don't have to and probably never will have to because even the most feminist-minded man benefits from patriarchal structure in ways he probably doesn't like to think about.

Not only did I think about reading Nancy Drew when I was a little girl (and not picking up on the pants detail as significant but wondering how in the hell she survived being hit over the head with a gun every other book) and how cool it was that Hillary Clinton read those same stories, but I also thought about Audre Lorde.  Dismantling patriarchy with an understanding of the world born of Republican Motherhood and steeped in the kind of misogyny that's fluoride-like-- it's just in the water, man--is most assuredly a master's tool/master's house situation.

Here's to a world where our leaders don't have to waste years in the makeup chair and where our daughters don't have to mark their path to greatness with crumbs of resistance guiding the way.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

It feels like December in the ivory tower but July outside

I took zero pictures yesterday, I think because for the first time since school started, I found my groove around the house.

Before Harry got up for breakfast at 6:35 (hot apple pie à la mode), I had completed all of the work I needed to do for my adjunct online class.  I fed Harry and got him off to the bus, switched the laundry so I was on the second full load before the other kids got up, refereed a walk-the-dog fight, made and cleaned up everyone else's breakfast, etc.  By the time Cooper and Jack were ready to walk to school and Dorothy was ready for Ben to take her, all of the bedrooms and bathrooms were cleaned up and wiped down, and I had already cleaned up breakfast. Plus I was reasonably sure that everyone brushed their teeth, and I know that at least 2 kids brushed their hair.  I spent the first 45 minutes or so in a quiet house catching up on emails (I like to zero out all of my inboxes on Monday mornings and then try to keep them at almost zero for the rest of the week).  Then I had to work out, get dressed, fold and put away laundry, and pre-make a skillet dinner for Ben and the kids (didn't have to do this; just a GIVER).  I had just enough time to read  some of a book about the re-gendering of ancient rhetoric before it was time to get Dorothy and do the lunch time scramble, which included packing myself a dinner to eat at work.  I read my book and responded to student emails off and on until Ben got home.  By this point, the kids were only like 10 minutes away because all of the boys get out early on Mondays.  So, in a fit of domesticity, I hung around and read my book at the kitchen counter for a little longer so I could pack lunches for Tuesday before even going to work.  I also helped Harry with math homework-- meaning he explained how to do stuff and I reminded him to write neatly.  ALL BEFORE GOING TO WORK.

I got home late, but the big kids were still awake, so we all watched American Ninja Warrior (LOL, I know) before Ben and I fell asleep to The Vietnam War, which is GREAT and you should watch it.

It was actually nice to come home last night and not have to make myself dinner 2 hours late or pack lunches or any of that.  I did have to wash the skillet from the dinner I cooked, empty the dishwasher because the sink was full of dirty dishes, and put away all of the clean dishes that were drying in the sink when I left as well as all of the clean dishes that SOMEONE just added to that side of the sink without putting away the dirty ones-- ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME.

But.  I have so much work to do at work, too.  Now, I need to find my groove there.  I kind of hate lecturing so far-- it makes me feel dumb.  And!  I have an amazing offer for help on the big class I am creating for the (rapidly approaching) spring semester. But this person wants to help me NEXT MONTH.

So.  The time has come to demolish this reading list.
And I have to start observing my TAs every free second that I am not in the classroom, and have we talked about all of the meetings?  So many meetings, you guys.  

Tonight is so ridiculous that we have to have a babysitter come help because we have-- between 4:30 and 9-- the following:  baseball, cub scouts, another cub scouts (different times just for added fun), back-to-school-night, condo board meeting, and hockey pre-season practice.  Ben and I hope to rendezvous on the couch by 9:30.  I hope to make it home in time to feed the kids and clean up dinner and re-pack lunches before the babysitter gets here, but I may have to collect some of the children from the baseball field.  Yikes.

See you on the flip side.

Monday, September 18, 2017

APPLES! And another broken wrist. Yes, seriously.

Listen to our most recent podcast here or here.  We talk about DRINKING LESS and explore an excellent piece in Ravishly that takes down mommy wine culture and led to some really good Facebook convo.
Sometimes, we eat dinner topless.  And also we have donuts.  WE ARE FALLING APART AT THE SEAMS HERE PEOPLE.
Dorothy and I are having the best lazy afternoons before the boys get home.
And!  She has made a triumphant return to the BIG! RED! MAT! and The Little Gym, our favorite favorite kiddie activity, and we have more than a decade of kiddie activity experience.
She's pretty happy.
We kicked off a tradition that I hope we will be able to stick to: FAMILY MOVIE FRIDAY!  Every Friday night (or maybe some Saturdays because LIFE), we are going to watch a move and have some kind of pizza.
This first one was Power Rangers and frozen pizza nd Harry had a sleepover so we are already kind of screwing it up.
Saturday morning, Harry lost a tooth in a donut at his sleepover and the mom sent me a picture of him holding a donut and smiling so big I could see his molar-- or where it used to be-- so I thought I should get the other kids donuts, too.
Dorothy brought some munchkins home for her dollies.
When I was cleaning out the fridge before grocery shopping, Dorothy helped and then adopted a motley crew of condiments (plus a blueberry on top of a jar or cinnamon for the baby) to play house with.
My brother sent me this amazing sticker:
I sneaked away on Saturday night to see IT with friends-- it was not scary, but it was sad and creepy.  MY FAVORITE.
Then! Sunday!  We went apple picking at a totally perfect orchard I heard FB friends raving about-- and they were right to rave!  We had donuts and coffee/cider to start
and then headed out on a tractor to pick a bushel of apples-- INCLUDING HONEY CRISPS!!
The kids were just really into the basket.
Ah, boys.
Wow!  We look more alike than I thought.
Dorothy was totally freaked out.
Not Cooper (who lost his second tooth on movie night in a cookie and ate it.  The second tooth in a row that he has eaten).
She loved the low hanging fruit.  Not a metaphor.
Jack was obsessed with tracking down the best apples for pie.
Ben was just happy that there weren't any "NO CLIMBING" signs like at the orchard we usually go to
So! Many!  APPLES!
She was raising her hand because she, too, was excited about honey crisps.  But not as excited as I was.
Peak fall!
Surprisingly, this was NOT how Cooper broke his wrist.
Family photo AFTER the wrist incident.  Should have stopped here sooner.

Ben splinted it with a wad of rolled up baseball line ups and some hockey tape because the soonest we could get into urgent care was 4 pm.
So excited to celebrate his bday with Legos and a Toys R Us gift card and also a chocolate milkshake.
She was SO JELLY that Cooper got presents.  Birthdays are tough on her.
Look at those APPLES!!
I took Cooper to the doctor when we got home, and saw this fish with a person face.  I love him.
Here he is proudly brandishing his splint.  We see a pediatric orthopedist this week for a cast/brace.
Subway.  Why not?
This pie is SO UGLY.  I had a major crust fail, and I am still not sure why.  I had to piece the top one together an droll the bottom one out in the pan.  But oh does it taste amazing.
Arm story:

As if I wasn't going to tell it?

After we picked apples, Ben and his dad walked the baskets to our cars, and Ben's mom and I took the kids to the playground.

The playground was PACKED.

I stayed with Dorothy and Ben's mom stayed with Jack. Cooper started agitating to go in the fence maze, but I told him to wait for his dad.  He started to pre-tantrum, and I was like oh no because that was the last thing I wanted to deal with, so I sent him in with a reluctant Harry.

Dorothy and Jack climbed on a crowded play structure and then Jack and Ben's mom went in the maze, and Dorothy ran over to join a hoard of kids playing in these cute little play houses set up to look like old town buildings.

I happened to glance over at the maze to see Cooper balancing on top of a 5-foot fence and Harry standing sort of near him waving his hands at me.  If I could have sprinted over there, I would have been able to get Cooper down.  But I couldn't lose Dorothy in the playhouse throng, so I had to bring her with me, and she didn't want to go.

 By the time we got there, Cooper was filthy and screaming because he fell off the fence onto the hard dirt and hit his right side and arm and the side of his head.

Harry had apparently  freaked because he couldn't figure out the maze and hopped the fence.  When Cooper tried to follow him, he fell.  Ben's mom saw the whole thing happening, too, but she and Jack were stuck in the middle of the maze and couldn't get there in time, either.

We could tell from the crying that his right wrist-- and maybe forearm-- was really badly hurt, and since we have been down the broken wrist road with both Jack and Dorothy, we suspected the worst.


Such a bummer because his flag football season has come to an early end, and he really liked flag football.

Here he is getting a first down:

Friday, September 15, 2017

Scared skinny?


I am FOR REAL THIS TIME getting my nutritional shit together.  I SWEAR.

I am not happy with how I look lately/with how my clothes feel.  Part of me just wants to say eff it and buy bigger clothes, but the other part of me thinks that my clothes might seem brand new if they FIT BETTER.

I haven't weighed myself since the Whole 30 ended, but I am sure those 8 pounds (and more) have crept back on. The jacket I wore yesterday was so tight in the arms that a single mosquito bite near my shoulder would have made it unwearable.  I go to the doc next week for my annual physical, so I'll see the numbers then.  WHICH IS SOON ENOUGH.

Ben and I talked about this Ravishly piece on our podcast this week (It'll be out today or tomorrow.  Or maybe it came out yesterday.  I want to keep you guessing.  If you are an Apple person, you can listen and subscribe here, and you can also listen on our website), and I cannot stop thinking about it.

I definitely drink too much.  Too many drinks at a time and too many days of the week.  It's just what people do in Wisconsin, and it;s what we expect moms to do all over the place.

I sometimes feel like I need some wine to slip into the second shift at night, and as one of my really smart Facebook friends pointed out, wine is the kind of vice-masquerading-as-self-care that you can take advantage of with your kids in the room.  I might need kid-watching help to take a jog or do some yoga, but I can parent WITH wine in my hand,

Anyway, it's bad for me, and it's making me fat.

I woke up to a slew of pictures from the speech team even on Facebook today.  And while some of them were cute
This one made me cry
This is what I look like?  It's like me peering out from a shiny fat suit.

As of now, I am back on the My Fitness Pal, and I am not going to drink.  Tonight for sure.  Thinking about the Weight Watchers bandwagon.  Or another month of Whole30.  Keto? Intermittent fasting?  NOT CRAMMING ALL THE SNACKS INTO MY FACEHOLE?  I am still working on a plan.

Thursday, September 14, 2017


Can I just say that yesterday was LOVELY up until the very second it was NOT?

Ben was the at-work parent for the day, so he took Dorothy to school and I sat hunched over the kitchen counter in my pajamas writing until about 10:50 when I looked up in a panic and realized that I had to take a shower and make all the beds and leave to pick up Dorothy in less than 30 minutes.  So, I did all of those things really fast.

Dorothy and I stopped at Target because I needed to send in like $20 worth of green grapes because it;s color week in kindergarten.  I also finally managed to get her some shoes that are not high heels (high tops with Trolls fur on the tongue which is already kind of funky from just one sandbox sojourn).

We had lunch (note: when the only salad green you have is kale, a taco salad is not your best use of salad greens-- yuck.  Luckily I packed a kale, craisin, and chicken salad with lemon and balsamic for lunch today-- packed it WHILE having lunch yesterday because I knew that shit was about to get real).

Dorothy watched Wally Kazam and I watched Gilmore Girls while I cleaned up the kitchen and prepped the grapes (I realized that just sending in a bunch of unwashed grapes was not super helpful so I washed them and put them in snack-sized ziplocs-- hope that's OK).  We put the laundry away.  We played Zingo.  We went to the library.  It was lovely.

Then.  We got home from the library at 3:20 and waited in the car in the driveway for Cooper and jack because shit was about to get real.

They got home at 3:28, and we peeled out of the driveway to take Jack to his tutor.  We dropped him off and ran home to start feeding the kids snacks and get Harry, who ran off the bus and immediately changed into his baseball uniform.  I stopped the little kids mid-snack and loaded them back into the car to take Harry to baseball where Ben-- the head coach of his team-- was waiting for him.  We skidded back to our house, and I washed lunch boxes and packed them for the next day while the kids finished their snacks.  Jack met us at home (he walked from the tutor's house, which was a great idea) and changed into his gymnastics clothes.

Jack and Dorothy went to their respective gymnastics classes while Cooper and I watched.  Then I took all three of them to a welcome party at Dorothy's school.

FINALLY at 7:30 we were all at home at the same time and we had dinner.  That ended in screams, not surprisingly.  Because ALL of us were hangry.

It was just a brutal afternoon.  None of us (except Harry and Ben) were in the same place for longer than like 45 minutes (unless you count gymnastics which I don't because it's impossible to get anything done there, although I tried really hard to read a book). We were all too tired.  Dinner was too late, but we didn't have any other time to eat.  It was TERRIBLE.   It's actually been our second stressful Wednesday in a row.  If we have a third, we are going to have to reschedule gymnastics because DAMN.  Next week, Dorothy will also have dance on Wednesdays, so I'm sure that'll make things go more smoothly.  Eye roll.  ALL OF THE EYE ROLLS.

She likes really well done toast.
 A little jump rope.
 Poser. (Also she beheaded all of those marigolds and sprinkled their petals all over the driveway and called them fairy dust.  Erm).
 She was like Oh my gosh I know those guys!  And then she posed by them.  Like a flamingo.
 Gymnastics.  That also make her cry.  I LOVE signing a kid up for an expensive activity and then having them decide they hate it and want to quit.  (We're totally quitting-- I really don't care AT ALL, but I did care in the context of last night when I had to take all of the kids and had no entertainment packed for her and needed the time to read for class.  It was my fault for needing the time, not her fault for hating it.  I'll keep you posted.)
 bell hooks' feminism is for everybody.  YOU SHOULD READ IT.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Fall's false start

It was supposed to be fall.  Like, all of the weather forecasts were for chilly air, and we saw the leaves start to turn.  The last day of the pool was so cold I was the only mom in a suit.  And I ran out and bought Dorothy a bunch of sweaters and tights and the boys a giant Old Navy bag full of athleisure pants. I ordered fall coats for all, and Dorothy and I got galoshes.

And then in turned 80 and humid and all the mosquitos came back.   GAH.

But, I mean,  have the premature forecast to thank for our MATCHING rain boots, so there's that. I hope to get her into Target this week to buy some shoes that are not high heels, so maybe there will be more matching styles in our future.
 Harry has been eating a green smoothing in the morning before school.  While it's been a little disruptive to my morning writing routine, I genuinely love how happy and excited he is before school.
 Speaking of before school.  It's really hard to get everyone out the door on time.  I actually forgot just how hard it could be.
 But darn if they aren't so CUTE all ready to go.
 So far, Ben and I have tried to help out the work-at-home parent by also doing preschool drop off on our out-of-the-house mornings. This is nice because the other parent can stay in their jammies and keep working (since we are still both waking up before the kids to get a jump start on the day).  But our work volume is creeping up with each passing day, so who knows how long we'll be able to keep that up.  Le sigh.

It's fall almost, temperature be damned, so I have been baking my fall faves.  Like granola bars!

 I am slow to adjust to new routines, and this semester is no exception.  Yesterday, I went to work and banged on my office keyboard wondering why nothing was happening on the screen for a good 15-20 seconds.  BECAUSE MY COMPUTER WAS STILL IN MY BAG, and that screen is just a monitor.  Duh.
 Last night, I got home from work at about 3:30, just as the boys were all getting home.  Dorothy was a total freaking wreck as she has been after school every day since school started (see: slow to adjust to a new routine), and Ben was ready to walk out the door to take Jack to baseball as soon as Jack changed his clothes.  They went to baseball.  Dorothy and Cooper tried to kill each other. I helped Harry with math homework (and by help, I mean, I tried to talk him out of right answers and asked him to use neater handwriting.  I suck) and supervised snack (they ate almost an entire pan of brownies, which is why on Monday night I baked 2).  I made dinner while Harry went to a friend's house and Dorothy and Cooper continued to brawl. The kids ate, and I cleaned everything up. Then Ben came home for like 20 minutes to collect Harry for hockey.  Jack changed from his baseball jersey to his Cub Scout t-shirt (which frankly pairs better with sliding pants and tall socks than does the button-down), and just as Ben and Harry were leaving, the Webelo Den came over for their meeting. Cooper joined them.  Dorothy did not, but she sure did join me in everything I was doing because she is an excellent sidekick.  The Scouts finished up their meeting with the other pan of brownies and trip to the school park.  Dorothy and I joined in for that despite the literal swarms of mosquitos.  Dorothy fell down and hit her head and chin on a metal balance beam, so we had to leave early for an ice pack.  Meanwhile, Ben dropped Harry at hockey and went downtown for a speech team meeting, leaving that a bit early to pick Harry up and bring him home.  Dorothy and Cooper fell asleep with no fighting or hijinks, a rarity since school started that I hope was due to an extra trip to the park and not a head injury.  Jack and I watched Gilmore Girls while we waited for Ben and Harry. And it was pretty much 10 pm before tBen and I got to see each other at all.  We sat on the couch with the TV off and dozed until one of us woke up enough to prod the other one into starting our nighttime routine (take the dog out, take the little kids to the bathroom for a sleep-pee, muck out Harry and Jack's bathroom after the wreckage of their showers, etc).

Dorothy enjoyed some bubble hat and mutton chops time in the tub.

And now I am up before 6 am ready to do it all again.  Woo-hoo!