Monday, March 29, 2010

Thanks for the Hyacinths

Spring in a new house means flowers pop up when you didn't even know they were there! When the first little green leaves sprouted up I thought they looked a little like the purple hyacinths we had at my house growing up. They are hyacinths, but pink ones! We have three little patches in the yard. As each patch bloomed I thought about the older couple, now deceased, who owned this house before us. We've been getting to know them by what they left behind. We bought the house from their daughter who told us she was raised in the house so they must have been here a long time.

Blooming hyacinths mean they planted bulbs some years ago. Did they plant them together? Did they anticipate enjoying them for many years to come? Or did her frail knees shake when she bent down with the shovel, hoping she'd enjoy them for a few more springs?

Did he stop at the neighborhood garage sales, picking up old tools and knick-knacks, hoping to use them for something someday? Did he buy them just like the older gentlemen who stopped at our house to buy the rusty pipe wrenches and containers of nails we offered at our own yard sale? Two sheds full. Did he realize the day to use those treasures might not come?

When I sit down to sew I think about her, all the nails in a board on the wall could have only meant one thing: thread. Lots of it. Did she fix pants for her boys just like I am? Did she sew the curtains we tore down when we moved in? Did she collect fabric to use someday and realize it was getting too late to use it all?

Were they excited about their new brown sculpted carpet? Just like we're excited for our new carpet, which means tearing out theirs? And patching their nails holes to paint, tossing the old dishwasher for a new one, selling the rusty shed treasures at a yard sale and even tearing down a shed to make room for more grass.

We'll enjoy the hyacinths every spring we're in this house and I'll think about ones who planted them.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Jump Rope for Heart Needs your help!

Hey Everybody!
At school I am jump roping for "Jump for Heart." Please donate at my site. The money goes to the American Heart Association. We're going to jump every day this week. Thank you for donating.


Mr. Baseball

Mr. Baesball's Jump for Heart Donation page! Check it Out!

(Dad says: this is like a twenty-first century version of when my mom used to take to work the box of candy bars I was selling for baseball and set them in the break room--Mr. Baseball's school is doing this fundraiser to help the American Heart Association and they've made it really easy to participate, so if you're interested, click on the link above. Thanks.)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Planning for St. Patrick's Day

I really love St. Patrick's Day for some reason. We always celebrated growing up since my maiden name is very Irish and I hope to keep up the tradition.

Menu for tomorrow:

Green Pesto Pizza: Think spinach, basil, green onions and lots of cheese!

Cabbage, of course!

These cute Irish Soda Bread Scones from Smitten Kitchen. Like she says, the combination of raisins and carroway is amazing!

For dessert: Green mint dipped Oreos! See them here

In anticipation of all things green tomorrow, I let the boy play with a spray bottle of water and green food coloring in the bath. I think their skin is a little green, which I suppose means I can't pinch them tomorrow morning before they get their clothes on! We'll likely have green pancakes and green eggs, ala Green Eggs and Ham.

I don't have much in the way of St. Patrick's Day decorations, but I'll have to get my crafty act together for next year.

Shamrock Garland from Minutes to Spare

Luck of the Irish blocks from Curly Q Crafts

So fun! Anybody else have some cute ideas?

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Don't get pinched

Monday, March 15, 2010

All over the country today the sun is shining...all over, that is, except for right here. You see that red spot on the map? That is a huge thunder storm floating directly over lubbock, directly over our house.

And it's the first day of Spring Break.

And we have delusions of grandeur about working in the garden and painting rooms and spring cleaning.

And it feels like Christmas Break.

So we're going to the library.

As for you, Lubbock weather, consider yourself raspberried...


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

What is a graduate degree in English good for anyway?

My doctor friends get asked all kinds of random health questions. At church someone might come up and say, "You know, I've got this pain in my side," or "Would you look at this boil on my thigh." Accountants get asked for free tax advice. I've asked lawyers I know for their opinion on everything from traffic violations to the broken fence that separates the neighbor's yard from mine. My craftsman friends--mechanics, plumbers, carpenters, bakers--regularly take questions about their areas of expertise.

I love a good professional because I know I'm going to get an experience-based answer backed up by education.

Graduate students in English are like semi-professional athletes. We're training to be really good at a few, highly specialized skills that will be helpful in our line of work--mainly showing other people in our line of work how smart we are (conferences and publications), and showing other people how to imitate our line of work (teaching)--but outside of our little bubble, most of what we do is pretty irrelevant to what the rest of the world needs.

For instance, no one has ever called me up and asked for help analyzing a line of advertising copy, or applying Marxist theory to their rose garden.

No one has ever casually asked my opinion about the role of film in literary studies or the value of the graphic novel in a discussion of narrative.

Most of what I do in graduate school, and will do in the academy, is completely useless to my philistine friends . . . er. ..gentile friends...shoot!

The one exception is grammar and usage. In fact, grammar and usage are THE subjects people expect me to know everything about.

Not that people usually want help. I've never had someone stop me on the bus and say, "Hey, you're an English Major, right? What's the difference between effect and Affect, or "Hey, is it really okay to split an infinitive?" (it is, by the way, especially if you're Captain Kirk).

Far from wanting help, people tend to want a guarantee that I won't call them on their grammatical mistakes.

Still, an advanced knowledge of grammar is the one tangible, semi-practical skill that English majors can and should wear on their sleeves. It's one of the few concrete measures of our education, the closest thing to a right answer most of us ever had to produce in four, six, maybe ten years of post-secondary education.

That's why I'm glad I'm taking an editing course this semester. It's helping me put a name to all the "rules" and grammar principles that I've learned organically over the years, and now when I talk about why a student's writing is so bad, I can sound like a professional when I'm doing it.

Can't get enough grammar? Check out Grammar Girl! Her podcast is bodacious.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Temptation at the Door

There's a tempting box outside my door. But I'm going to write:


on it and send it back. After an outing this morning, half of which I spent sitting in the back seat of my van nursing my nearly 1 month old I was not amused by the box of baby formula delivered to my door.

Even though I'm an experienced breast-feeder and can rattle off nearly every benefit to mom and baby about breastfeeding that formula is still tempting. Don't get me wrong, I am very grateful that formula exists, I was a MUCH happier baby when my parents discovered soy formula for my anti-milk tummy. But it's not fair to tempt us moms in the early weeks when our breastfeeding relationship is still young. I could name off lots of reasons why it's tempting, but I think most moms who have breastfed can think of their own. But I know we'll keep breastfeeding and that it's best for both of us even when I'm ready for a break or I'm on antibiotics for mastitis again.

It frustrates me because those formula companies know that breastmilk is the best for mom and baby, but they still try to 'convert' us to increase their profits. So Not Fair!
I could go on but I'm done venting now.

And Formula Company who dropped the box off at more door, expect a letter!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

on sleep, and choosing satisfaction

The Little Bruiser

LB likes to sleep. a lot. Just not at the same time that Mom and Dad like to sleep. This is nothing new for us. We are not, as we were with Mr. Baseball, daily amazed at the lack of sleep, at the number of times we get up in the middle of the night, at the baby's uncanny ability to sleep soundly right up until the moment we decide to lie down ourselves (or the moment we sit down to post something to the blog...he just woke up and now I'm typing with one hand...I'll see if I can set him down...worked for now...we'll see)

The entire month of February has been a blur. I've been able to get to school (thanks, initially to the help of Nana Fitzgerald who came for a week) and I've even gotten some work done there, but we're definitely in "survival" mode.

Maybe survival mode is too severe a term--it makes it sound like we're barely hanging on, which is not true. More like we've got a firm grip, but trying to do anything else beside hold on makes things difficult.

Take the other day, for example. I woke up early, showered, made breakfast and helped Mr. Baseball get off to school and then came home with plans to walk the dog and then catch the bus up to campus. But when I got home, the QB--who does most of the late night work with LB and is often exhausted when she wakes up--needed to go back to sleep. So I took both kiddos and she went to sleep for an hour. I did a little work on the computer and picked up the house a bit and played some Legos with the Monkey. After the QB woke up about an hour later I left to catch the 10:15 bus to school.

Except there isn't a 10:15 bus. The bus comes every half hour up until 9:45, and then switches to every hour.

luckily it was sunny outside and relatively windless (Lubbock is always a little windy), so i just pulled out my book (Reality Hunger) and sat down on the sidewalk beside the bus stop sign to wait.

Now, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't frustrated that I'd messed up on the bus schedule, and frustrated that my delusions about getting out of the house early were just that--delusions. It was one of those moments where something doesn't go right and I want really badly to find someone or something else to blame, but in the end only chance and my own lack of planning emerge as possible targets. But after a moment I calmed down and decided that the best thing to do would be to go with the flow, to be satisfied, content with whatever gets done, rather than frustrated by what doesn't.

I remembered something the QB had said the night before. She'd been commenting on how tired she was, on how she didn't feel like she was getting much done around the house and that for a little bit she'd been feeling guilty about it. Then she told me that she decided she wasn't going to worry about it because this time with LB being so little really won't last that long and that we ought to just enjoy it.

great advice.

Especially when I consider that its coming from the woman who has to get up and feed the little guy three, four, sometimes five times a night. I change diapers and get burp rags and drinks of water and anything else she needs, but I'm always stumbling through blind sleepiness, bent on getting whatever she asks for as quickly as possible so that I can get back under the covers.

She, on the other hand (and I know this is a slightly idealistic view of her) seems always pleasant, no matter what hour of the early morning--talking sweetly to the little boy who has woken her up for the sixth time, who just wet through his entire outfit, never a hint of frustration.

She really is enjoying it.

And I am too. He is very cute. And the QB swears that she's seen him smile, though, I have yet to really see one (then again, I'm not the one feeding him, so why would he smile at me). These three weeks have felt strange, like life as we know it has come in to land for a refuel and to pick up new passengers. We're all suffering from jet lag and airport food and sometimes the crowd gets to be too much, but for the most part we are excited about the prospect of where the plane is going, and now that we've got this new fragile cargo along with us, the trip some how seems a little more urgent, a little more exciting.

LB is this giant third variable that changes every other part of the equation that is our family, and I've felt a little bit like a groggy co-pilot and I'm doing my best to follow orders and to stay awake for my portion of the flight.
(fragile Cargo)

The QB is a hero. Plain and simple.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

What I love/hate about David Shields

So the QB and were are lying in bed last night, talking about David Shields's new book, Reality Hunger, and I was trying to put my finger on what is bugging me about his outrageous claims about literature, plagiarism, truth, and reality:

First, the book's epigraph includes Walter Benjamin's famous line about great works of literature either dissolving a genre or inventing one.

As an epigraph to any book I might write, such a line would feel, to me, pretentious. But I've met David Shields and pretentious he is not. So it must be doing something else.

Second, the book 618 fragmented clips that all circle around ad discussion of how society reacts to and what society expects of "true" stories. A vast majority of the fragments contain at least a few tidbits pulled from other works--sometimes the entire fragment is lifted from some one else's work. None of this "borrowed" language is sources and none of it is captured by quote marks.

To me, the magic of collage essay has always been the surprise and delight that a reader feels when they get to see how the different fragments work side by side and we get to see how the author has interpreted, commented on, or otherwise placed caveats upon those fragments. Without quotes marks, without the reader being able to tell what language belongs to Shields, and what he has borrowed, we don't get the surprise of that juxtaposition and, worse, my brain, by default, labels all the great stuff in the book as the original creation of the author.

And that's a problem because when I read an un-sourced, unidentified quote from John D'Agata and think to myself, "Wow, David Shields is so smart," I have done a disservice to D'Agata's work.

The problem is, I know Shields knows all of this, and he still thinks its okay, so he must be up to something else.

David Shields is definitely up to SOMETHING ELSE...

What that something is...I don't know yet. But I know that i love him for it and I hate him for it. Still, I'm not done with the book. When I get done, maybe I'll have something more articulate to say. Mostly I think Shields is getting people who care about truth and memoir and nonfiction and art and literature to start talking--a lot.

New York Times

Seattle Times

The Oregonian

Book Forum

Monday, March 1, 2010

Birth Story (Long!)

My due date this pregnancy was February 12th, although several ultrasounds put the date earlier and since my last two had been 7 days and 10 days late I really had no idea when Little Bundle (LB) would actually arrive. The first weekend in February I felt he was coming really soon, every night that weekend and after I went to bed early so I might get some rest if he decided to show up in the middle of the night!

On Tuesday the 9th, I had contractions all day, very mild ones and not really regular but noticeable. They continued and by dinner time they had started to come about every 10 minutes, although still not strong at all. I happened to have a doctor’s appointment that afternoon and mentioned the contractions. I was dilated to 4cm and pretty happy, although I joked that maybe I would already be at a 7 and have to head right over to the hospital next door!?

After dinner we decided to go for a family walk around Walmart (where else do you go walking in February!?) to see if the contractions continued or decided to make any more progress. We came home and put the kids to bed, The Student cleaned up the house and about 9:30pm I felt sleepy enough to go to bed. I felt like this was it, but I didn’t know when exactly and decided to rest while I still could. Sure enough about 10:30 several contractions in a row woke me up and I said I’d like to head to the hospital. I had originally planned to stay home longer during labor but after a lot of thought we decided to go early enough that I could get very relaxed and used to the surroundings before contractions needed all of my focus.

So we called a nice friend of ours to come sleep on the couch, called our doula Sara and then my doctor, who had given me her cell phone number and also happened to be on-call for her clinic that night.

We arrived at the hospital with what one of the attendants later called “the biggest hospital bag I’ve ever seen” and got right into a room since I had already had an exam that day and our doctor was there when we arrived. I was thrilled to not have to wait around to be admitted!

In the room the nurses looked over my birth plan, I had a band put on my wrist (4 actually, ick!) and blood drawn (double ick!) and about 15 min of monitoring and then quiet. Joey, Sara and I were pretty much left completely alone in the dim room. We turned on my noise mask I sleep with at night, had a few drops of Rescue Remedy which really calmed me down, and happily walked around the room in my cheery pink night shirt. Things were very pleasant between contractions and they were much stronger although manageable unless I was strapped up the monitors again for 15 min of each hour. LB was moving around so much anyway that it hardly picked up any reading at all, ha ha. Oh well. The Student and Sara took turns taking a short rest and I even fell asleep for 7 minutes between two contractions (that must have been the little rest before transition!) I woke up feeling pretty refreshed and wondering if things would really pick up after that.

Sure enough, the contractions got longer and stronger and closer together. Before I knew it the doctor and nurses were in the room and I had them attach the squat bar to the end of the bed. I had been turned facing the back of the bed, kneeling and leaning on a pillow on top of the head of the bed. I turned around, a nurse checked my dilation (for the first and only time at the hospital). I was pleasantly surprised to find I was at 9.5 cm dilated after what seemed like only 5 or 6 contractions.

We decided to break my water even though before hand I had said I didn’t want to. At the time it felt like the right thing to do and I was glad because we discovered some meconium staining and the NICU folks came in to help out if needed. I used the squatting bar to lean on while I continued to kneel upright on the bed. The Student and Sara stayed on either side of me and continued to encourage me to stay calm and relaxed while I pushed. Just as I’d asked, the nurses and my doctor didn’t say a word while I pushed, just patiently waited while I alternated breathing between contractions and bearing down when I felt like it. I sat down on the edge of the bed just as LB came out. Whew! Pushing had been so intense, but only lasted 10 to 15 minutes. It was 4:38 am and I was thrilled to see my cute and blue faced little boy come out.

The Student went over with him to suction out the meconium while I tried to convince my legs to stop shaking! And as soon as they were done The Student brought him back over for some kisses and tears from his mom. For some reason I didn’t quite put it together that LB was posterior coming out, even though I saw his face come out first. A few days later it dawned on me that the few extra stitches I’d had and the bruise on his forehead were from coming out “sunny-side up!” Surprisingly I didn’t have any back labor and pushing went fairly smoothly considering his position, I’m very very grateful!

We cleaned up a little and got settled before The Student went home to wake up the boys. They came back with him, breakfast in hand, to meet their new brother, only hours old. They were very sweet and took turns holding him and kissing him. We snuggled, nursed and rested (sort of, as much as we could with a newborn) the rest of the day and night before we took him home the next afternoon.

In the midst of transition, I remember thinking "What!? Why did I think I wanted to do this again naturally". But only minutes later I was glad I had, and nearly 3 weeks out now, I think LB's birth was very satisfying and went perfectly for him. It's hard not to compare births, just like it's hard not to compare children. But each one is unique just like each of my boys and I'm grateful for the unique things each birth has taught me.

I'm especially grateful for my cheerleading team this time, The Student and I agree that having Sara there as our doula was a HUGE help, everything ran more smoothly with her there. The Student was a superhero, I'm thrilled to have such an amazing husband.