Oh. and did I mention the shopping? Did I mention how freaking weak the dollar is compared to the British pound? Did I mention how dirt cheap everything in America is? (apparently).
I am (as m'old Dad would say. A lot on this trip, actually) Bloomin' Knackered. I am also beginning to heartily curse the following phone conversation, which took place, oh, about mid-August:
Mum: "and this year, instead of main presents, I thought we could just do stockings for each other!"
Me (remembering Christmas past, and thrill of stocking crammed with gifts at end of bed...) : OOOh! yes! Good idea! Let's do it! What fun! Oh yes!
Let's just do stockings. Instead.
Let's wander aimlessly from store to store wondering what the frigging hell two grown men would want in a motherfucking stocking. Let's inflict joke books and miniature summer-sausages on them. Let's buy a six pack of Guinness as a last resort, coz that'll stuff a stockin' let me tell you.
Let's spend shitloads more than we would on a nice sweater, a power tool, and a book or two, and cram that motherfucker to the hilt.
OOOH! Yes. Let's make homemade stockings so we can have them "extra big" (for the children, mind).
Dear oh dear. I am being dead Ebernezery, I know. And I realize that in light of my previous post, my harsh reflection here makes me seem like the coldest daughter on the planet. And in truth I am having a blast. I've not seen my mother in a year, and we do tend to cram all the experiences that should be healthily meted out over that time into this one deeply concentrated period of Christmas frenzy. It's fun. I look forward to it all year (which might be part of the problem, I realize).
At the same time as I am utterly stressed out and somehow channeling all my mother's deeply complex expressions and mood swings so that I am the complete freak. My husband is taking the brunt and giving me "who the fuck are you?" looks as I fret over each and every meal and whether there are ample dog-defurring devices on hand. My high point was shrieking about the tree not being straight as I hurled lights and decorations onto it.
Love her to death. Love Christmas too (why?) But I AM... Bloomin' Knackered.
Whenever anyone posits a universal experience for motherhood, I resist the idea vehemently. I truly believe that in another culture or context my experience would be quite different. I am white. I am priveleged. I am well-educated. All this informs my role as a mother.
Sure, there are many experiences that bring us together--commonality of experience is what makes our blogging community so strong and supportive, I believe. But universals? No.
Except for that one unspeakable thing that transgresses all cultural and linguistic boundaries. The unthinkable thing that all parents fear totally--the death of one's child.
When I was a child, my baby sister, Zoe, died of SIDS. I was nine, my brother, seven. As kids, we suffered, we mourned, but we bounced back as children do. Now a parent, I look back on how my parents coped--especially my mother. Her breasts ached for weeks with unreleased milk. It's.... unspeakable.
She and my father strived to create an atmosphere of normality for us--especially that first Christmas, mere weeks after it all happened. Santa was unbelievably generous that year...
And now another Mother. Another Father. Another Family. Coping with what we all live in complete and universal fear of.
And yet still, a brilliant and vibrant little boy, Tanner, whose energy is bringing so many of us together.
This weekend, do take a little time to honor Tanner, and check out the auction ambitiously put together by the untiring Kristen of Motherhood Uncensored--all proceeds go to Muscular Dystrophy Research. If you cannot participate in the auction, then do consider a direct donation to M.D. Research in Tanner's name.
Yes, after 2-3 hours of pretty consistent crying and arching of back (is it gas? is it gas? is it gas????) I whipped of his diaper to reveal what dim-lighted, middle-of-the-night-changing did not--a big red sore bottom that would make a baboon jealous. This is new territory for me, and I must learn to shirk of the incredibly lax diaper changing habits instilled by impervious-bottomed firstborn. ("he's asleep? he's go poo in his diaper? uhhhhm. let sleep reign...")
God I am a filthy lowlife...
BTW. Does Desitin go off after 4 years? Hopes not.
(typing very quietly now....)
A few days ago I gave up. That sounds bad, and it's really not. What I gave up was thinking that I might actually get anything productive done during the sure-to-come long naps my son was sure-to-take. A couple of weeks back I reported that he was a sleeper. And he is. Except then the wretched "windy pops" (as my old mum likes to cheerfully refer to it) interfered with my plans. And by "windy pops" I mean unrelenting grimacing, burping, stomach gurgling and farting by my wee little chunk o' love, who is obviously not exactly rendered comfortable by the position. This means a lot of walking about, and soothing, and general motion to help him get back to sleep (which means I have broken golden rule #1 of the Baby Whisperer, "thou shalt not rock thy baby to sleep, or turn on vibrating baby seat, lest you create bad sleeping habits later on." whatever. I am now a firm believer that these first few months are a parenting style free-for-all. do what works. for now at least.)
But today and last night (mercy mercy) the wind ceased, and I can only come to the conclusion that my idle thought that "maybe I'll skip the milk products for a bit..." has some substance to it.
If they decided to crown the Dairy Queen, I'd be it. I love, love, love, the dairy products. I am not shy about downing milk straight from the gallon jug with real gusto (go on, try it--it takes some skill). I religiously have something nutritious and twiglike with milk poured over it in the mornings. Ice cream, milk shakes, malts.... sigh...
But mainly, my addiction to cheese would make Wallace look lactose intolerant.
Cheeeeeese. In all forms thankyouverymuch. Lately, I have become a connoseur of the cheesestick, thanks to my son's own love of them (Sargento far superior in my opinion. He prefers the Kraft twist, which is a packaging nightmare as far as I am concerned If mommy need scissors and teeth to open the wretched thing....).
But my real passion is for the good stuff they keep behind the high-quality deli counter. Chunks of aged cheddar. Aged Gouda. Aged anything emitted from a cow (or goat for that matter).
And 'tis the season! The season to whip up the parmesan and artichoke dip for that potluck. To whip up some cream for those lovely mince pies. To slather your bagel with lox and cream cheese. To cram stilton and port on top of your already crammed stomach as a civilized "after Christmas dinner custom..."
Yes, poor poor me. Deprived of my cheese. I wish I could say that my decision to give it up is purely for selfless reasons--for the good of my baby. Certainly, getting less broken nights would be beyond nice. But the thing keeping me going (and it's only been 24 hours, so give me time to backtrack completely) is that without all these pure chunks of saturated fat, I am sure to be sporting a tomboy flat stomach by, say, January.
Ha! Yeah. Right. Maybe my son will acquire an intolerance for bacon, salami, cake, and all refined carbs in general, and then we might be talkin'
For now, pass the chicken wings...
p.s. if anyone has any experience with this, feel free to dispense advice. Son is on about 1 or 2 bottles of formula a day, as well as breastmilk (nipple confusion, schnipple confusion...) Has anyone tried the soy or lactose free ones?
Only remaining is this item:
Let me hasten to add that this is a chocolate cigar. It is not for smoking.
Then Why Oh Why have I left this item untouched in the basket? Because Cigars are for Boys, that's why. This was not a conscious decision on my part. It's only today when husband asked me if I was going to eat it, and I asked "would you mind?" that I realized that I am not firing on all cylinders, ifyouknowwhatImean... "Would you mind if I ate your cigar? Will your manhood not be insulted? Is it *natural* for me to eat that thing. mmmm. I don't know..." (that all sounded way more phallic that I intended, which was not at all, actually.)
Must go, I've got some eating to do (and I'll thank you for refraining from the Monica jokes, k?....Cripes. I am grossing myself out with this post entirely too much)
Yes, yes, yes. I need to get out. But how??? Here's one of the shitty things about the C. No driving, and not lifting of heavy things. (hubs is at work all day). No taking off to the mall or Target Alternative. (yes, I am still on that band wagon, but as Christmas season approaches, I might switch to boycotting the pharamacy only). I can't even take a walk with the baby because it's cold and pissing down with rain. And I can't lift the stroller down the stairs and out of the house (I am sure I *could* but I am afraid I would pop open). Waaaaahhhh!
Oh, and once again, the wireless thing is confounding me. We've got the router installed. I;ve got the laptop. Laptop refuses to see wireless. It no likey. (appears that it's a networking thing from my workplace, so I've had my husband take laptop to my work and instructed him to stand drumming his fingers while the Sys Admin fixes it immediately!!!!). I am now so obsessed with wireless and how it will transform my world, that it's not healthy. But every time I get on this machine (in basement) Chunky decides to wake up (of course!)
I am quite convinced I can blog while nursing, if only I had wireless...
I am not used to this being at home thing. At all.
To cap it all, I stink. Personal hygiene. It's the first thing to go...
Hubs ain't half bad is he? Of course, he still overtly states that blogging is largely for geek-nutjobs (including me) but this is from the man who took me and and precious cargo home from the hospital sporting a Dad Gone Mad t-shirt, so I am not in the least offended.
Hands up who winced at the 10lbs 1oz news? I know *I* fricking did! I am just utterly relieved that they didn't let me go 2 weeks past my due date. That notion makes my eyes water.
So, how are we doing? Pretty F. Good Actually. Though I did not voice it before, I was actually harboring some serious anxiety over how we would cope with two kids--especially one who is an infant. As I've said before, our first son--though now a pure and golden delight--was quite, uh, spirited straight out of the womb. I don't think any of us slept for about 5 months, and waking hours were spent in fraught 'screaming management' mode. (and anyone reading this who is dealing with a colicky infant, Hubs and I are here to testify that it will end, and you will end up with the child of your dreams. Honest.)
This baby (and let me not curse myself here) does miraculous things like take long naps, sit and stare from his baby seat, and wake up only a few times a night. He even produces delicate burps on demand when we pat his back. It's early days for sure, but I've really enjoyed this last week in the baby vortex. Beats working for a living (ha! yes, because becoming a walking Milk Machine is not "work";-))
The C-Section. I have unattractively revelled in the flow of praise I have received about being so brave about that part of things. Let me tell you, courage had nothing to do with it. After about 9 pushes where he shifted not an inch and memories of 3 plus hours pushing last one out, I was all, like, "go ahead and cut me open lady!" I did encounter a few moments of sheer terror in the operating room, which was all so "E.R.-like," and well, clinical (I've never had surgery before). And also panicked when they kept pricking me and saying "can you feel this? this? this?"-- "YES! YES! YES!" But that only lasted about 10 minutes. And the alternative would have been pretty dangerous as it turns out, so... (can't think about that one).
Also, being someone who can compare the healing process of the two procedures--yes, C hurts like a mother the first few days, but compared to healing with the mother of all episiotimies, it ain't half bad. And (faint of heart skip forward here) at least the "wound area" is not in the vicinity of other functional areas. I could, for instance, go #2 without gripping the toilet bowl and fearing that I would be split once more in twain. Small blessings, but I'll take 'em thanks... And then, of course, there's the lovely lovely Vicodin. Adminttedly, some things are a bit of a bitch--stairs for instance. They do hurt a bit. I don't have wireless (remember) and so venturing downstairs to the basement to check email, and blog, etc., was a bit of a challenge. (yes, yes. Must get me some wireless. STAT.) But I am not one to look an excuse to sit on her arse and watch copious amounts of television in the mouth.
Anyway, I promise to be less remiss on the blogging front, and I am looking forward to catching up with everyone else. Thanks all again for the warmness--we really appreciate it:)
First, allow myself to introduce myself – I am the ginga’s gauche, somewhat Slavic-looking, intertextual husband (who loves his Dad Gone Mad T-shirt, BTW) here to tell you all, I must tell you all, that a new prince is born yea unto us all, on this Thursday past, 16 November 2006 at 10:47pm, by emergency C-section. We went into the hospital (which is now called a Health System, you know) to be induced at 2:00pm, and after Pitocin, a successful epidural (with Baby#1, Joy had two and neither worked!) breaking water, multiple episodes of Bringing Home Baby and Top Chef and some good pushes, the monitor showed consistent decelerations of the baby’s heart beat, which meant that the umbilical cord was probably pinched.
Let the wild rumpus start! In technicolor:
So the doctor came in (stinking of gin ... dadadada Rocky Raccoon) the room to say very serenely, “the baby doesn’t like it. It’s time we took you up.”
Next, a nurse came in and said very serenely, “We need to turn you over onto your back.”
Then another nurse came in and said very serenely, “I am here to shave you.”
Joy: “Can I have a Brazilian?”
(bedum ching! I thank you) .
After taming Joy's unruly mane, they then whisked momma down the hall in her bed to the O.R. while I was trying to put paper scrubs over my clothes; they entered some doors that I was not allowed to go through for prep. When I was allowed in, I was walked over to Joy, who was angled ever so slightly so that blood was rushing to her face. Her body was veiled from the neck down, much like a magician’s assistant who is about to be sliced in two; all the while faceless doctors and nurses were making noise and moving about on the other side. A chair was provided for me, and the anaesthetist insisted that I sit, but I preferred to stand, to which she replied that I had better not faint(!). She then started prodding Joy’s belly with what looked like tweezers, asking “Can you feel this? How about here?” (All very high tech you see at this health system) To each, Joy responded with yes, somewhat anxiously. Meanwhile, they were doing something new on the other side of the curtain, and Joy began saying a little more vehemently, “I CAN FEEL THAT!!” It was the only time I saw her actually a bit afraid. The anaesthetist then asked, “Is it worse than the contractions?” and that’s when Joy said she realized she would feel some things but not to worry.
Yada yada yada – twenty minutes later, I was asked if I wanted to see the baby being born; apparently, no one was worried I might faint any longer. I felt a doctor give Joy’s belly a bit of a shove, I heard another doctor say “I’ve got him!”, I looked over at my wife’s belly, which resembled something more akin to a dissected specimen from a highschool lab, and watched as the doctor pulled out one of the biggest purple babies I have ever seen: 10.08 pounds. 21+ inches long, and an equally massive head that was shaped like a pear. His umbilical cord was in fact completely wrapped around both legs. Joy’s doctor said it was actually lucky that his heart rate had begun to decelerate because had it not, we would have progressed with a normal vaginal birth, but because of his size and the cord position, there would have been many serious complications later (he was also face up, which means the birth would have been even more prolonged and complicated).
After all his vitals were checked and the amniotic fluid was sufficiently pounded out of his little lungs, they inked up his little feet and pressed them on my shirt – one impression makes it look like he has six toes on one foot, something I may use to embarrass him later. I then walked him over to Joy, who was still partially veiled, and she kissed his little head. When she spoke, he would turn toward her too. (squish squish) To this lovely scene of familial bliss, I add only that Joy commented that her brand new baby boy resembled Pruitt Taylor Vince, and sadly, he does ... for now ... we hope. (see image above)
Big brother announced his not-so-wee sibling is “so cute!” and brought him a Lightning McQueen balloon the other day (“actually, I will show the baby the balloon but he’s too little to play with it, so I will take it home”).
Momma and baby are doing very well, and although Joy has a new scar for show and tell, she says she feels better than she did with Baby#1: not nearly as exhausted and much calmer (I think it may be the vykoden). They return home tomorrow, Sunday, when the task of screwing him up really begins.
(Yawn...I am boring myself silly, so sorry to suck you into the ennui. I would really like to post about something else. Truly I would)
That said, it does not mean I did not spend most of Monday with some pretty serious contractions going on. Tuesday night up and down, up and down (oooh. this is it, this is it, this is IT!) and then by yesterday lunchtime back at the hospital for the third time, pretty sure this time it was it, only to be told....
Put on this robe.
Pee in this cup.
OK. Take a walk.
Jump up and down.
Uhm. Go Home.
And so here I am, although the end is in sight. The docs have taken pity with comments along the line of "maybe it's time to put you out of your misery.. there's only so long a person can go on having contractions 1-3 minutes and not really progress. And this here baby looks like a big 'un. Howzabout a bit of pitocin?"
So I am "pencilled in" for an induction tomorrow afternoon. (cripes!) I am really not at all sure how I feel about it all right now. I am excited, but also shitscared about the whole induction thing. Not that I've not sampled from the fake hormonal plate before--pitocin is what eventually brought my son into this world (along with forceps, vaccuum, and a whole lot of endless ineffectual pushing on my part). I think I was really hoping that with *this* one, the passageways would be cleared, so to speak, and after a few flutters of pain, a big fat epidural (that actually works thankyouverymuch-not-like-last-time-when-I-had-two-and-could-still-very-much-use-and-feel-my-legs-and-more-to-the-point-my-stomach-back-and-crotchal-region) then, say, a couple of delicate pushes, he would slither out smiling beatifically all ready to latch on and sleep through the night.
Actually (even though this should be the least of my worries) the thing I hate about the pitocin thing is the big ole IV needle shoved in the (wince) back of your hand. Although I guess you need that with an epidural too, so....poke me up.
OK. I am off to submit to so-far controlled urge to nest, clean, do laundry, and be general all-round freak for the next 24 hours or so.
Please send me "let your labor and delivery be filmed in soft-focus and accompanied by Enya" vibes;-)
Announcing that I am still very much rotund (not that I need to be pregnant for that). Still very much a plugless slut, but that's about all that's passed these here regions (cough...)
My due date is actually not til next Friday, and at this rate I think I might even end up running late. Of course, that does not mean I am not fanaticizing about my OB trip tomorrow and being informed "MY GOD! You're 8 cm and he's Crowning, are you SURE you don't feel any pain????" Ha! Right.
In the meantime, I am getting very used to this being a complete slob business. I have so far:
1. Knitted one baby hat (yes, I am *that* talented).
2. Made several Origami Christmas Ornaments (and that should be Orna-Gami, according to my instructions).
3. Made good headway into Christmas shopping (I am beginning to feel waves of resentment--don't be hatin' ! Remember, I am not going to want to brave the crowds with boob-demanding infant--especially as our delightful mall recently made a big fuss about women breastfeeding in public....)
4. Taken long hot soaks in the bath uninterrupted. With copious amounts of Burts Bees Oil (to try and stem the side of stretch marks that are beginning to spider out from my poor abused tummy button) and Spiderman Bubblebath for, well, bubbles.
5. Gorged upon unhealthy quantities of Cheez-its, Cadbury's Truffles, Jelly Belly beans (Juicy Pear). With an apple or banana thrown in, you know, for health.
6. Gorged upon unhealthy quantities of TLC, especially Top Chef and (god help me) Bringing Home Baby (which is much more sanitized and fluffy than the terror-inducing Birth Day).
7. Been reading this book, The Baby Whisperer, which is written in such an outrageously British "love-a-duck" accent (liberal references to the reader as "luv" and how "a nice cuppa can boost the spirits when baby is extra-demanding...") it makes me all warm.
Seriously, there is something very reassuring about Tracey Hogg's style. For now. If I were to read this book in another less hormonal state I would probably gag. But right now she's the next best thing to having my Mummy here... Hmmm. yes. Must be hormonal because typing that just made me well up. Best add to the list--
Welled up and often dissolved into cascades of tears over:
- Books that refer to me as "Mum" and "Luv."
- Oprah Winfrey's Dream Come True episode (aired Tuesday)
- Not being able to follow the fucking origami instructions!
- Sorting through teensy weensy baby clothes from when our son was a newborn
- Walking to into our bedroom and seeing cradle next to my side of the bed
- Christmas commercials of pretty much any variety.
8. Oh, and lest I turn into a complete blithering moron, I have also been reading this book, David Rakoff's Don't Get Too Comfortable.
Don't worry. I won't.
And then I was reminded of that line from Diego in Ice Age (the saber toothed tiger/lion?) where he says to the sloth-thing:
"do we need to get a newsflash every time your body does something?"*
And so now it's looking like my whole "it's STARTED! it's STARTED! thing was a tad, uhm, premature. And I feel a little sheepish about it, I must admit. But then there is also a bit of relief. Did I mention that I have taken the entirely selfish pleasure of two weeks maternity leave prior to my son being born? Just for me? (and yes, son #1 is in fulltime daycare still--I am hideous unfit monster-of-a-mother, I realize). I might not get my two weeks in, but lord do I need a rest. But methinks I need to ration myself in terms of unlimited access to daytime television--especially Discovery Health Channel and back-to-back episodes of Birth Day...
I am a sucker for those shows, and do not normally get to watch them being chained to a desk and all that. But YIKES no more Birth Day for me.
I switched on for 5 minutes on Friday and scared the shit out of myself: "After a relatively complication-free deliviery, the nurses on duty immediately discern the tell-tale signs of respitory distress, and whisk baby Juan to the ICU..." and "After laboring for over 32 hours, Luisa is showing signs of a fever and the baby's vital signs are showing distress. Surgeons prep her for an emergency C-Section..."
So tell me, how is The View now that Star is gone?
* yes. ze plug. it is gone. but that does not necessarily mean anything. except that you are mildy grossed out (once more) by what your body can excrete.
**And to any people who have lives and are not parents of Ice-Age obsessed preschoolers, I sincerely apologize. I, for one, can pretty much recite the whole of that fricking film verbatim.
Yup. I'm still where I was 48 hours ago. Knickers in a twist over nought, it seems.
Looks like I'm in for the long haul (i.e. "Weeeeell, it could be tomorrow and it could be in a several weeks, HAHAHAHA") And that's OK. Battlestar Galactica's on tonight and I'm now officially on maternity leave.
Now off to recline, eat bon-bons, and shamelessly exploit the "but I'm having contractions" aspect of this thing. I may never have to get my own damn water again!
November 1, at work. "Motherfucker. This "trapped wind" is giving me some grief..." "Nope, no. This is not labor. The pains are not in the right place. Books says so. And it's too early. And I'm not contracting. Am I? Hang on a minute...."
November 1, 4:45pm. (OB triage at hospital) "My doctor said I needed to stop by to check everything's OK, just to be safe. but frankly, I think I just need to (cough) have a good BM...."
"Oh, those are contractions, you say? Every 1-3 minutes you say? And I am 3 cm, and 50 % effaced (I am still not quite sure what that is, but if you say so...)?" Uhm. I'm hungry.
4 hours later. "Oh, those are contractions, you say? Every 1-3 minutes you say? And I am 3 to 4 cm, and 50 % effaced you say (I am still not quite sure what that is, but if you say so...)?" Uhm. I'm really hungry now. I can go home? How about after Lost is finished? Oh, OK. I'll go now. If you refuse to feed me, I think I have no choice.
3 hours later At Home. "Oweeee Oweeeee Oweeee. Two minutes apart! Call the neighbors and get a sitter, we're headin' on out. Oweee Oweee Oweee. Oh the pain. The agony. The Gore....
5 hours later At Hospital. "Oh, those are contractions, you say?Every 1-3 minutes you say? And I am 3 to 4 cm, and 50 % effaced you say (I am still not quite sure what that is, but if you say so...)?"
Oh, OK. I'll go now. If you refuse to feed me or give me fluids, I think I have no choice. No. I can walk. Thanks much... Tyelenol 3 with Codeine? Won't say no. Thanksverymuch.
Present: Sitting at home blogging. A contraction here and there. Feeling like a big ole faker at 38 weeks. Stay tuned for updates, which are likely to come all too frequently if I am as much not in labor as I feel right now.
(the woman is onto something, people. hands up of you think those fingerpaints are, indeed, for shit...)
Dear Haters of Mothers:
Please excuse the smudges on this letter, as well as the dropped words and barely legible handwriting. That's what happens after you touch a child that has played with your Color Wonder Fingerpaints. That and you can't open a bottle for 3 days.
Let's be frank. These are not paints, but a propaganda tool in your coup against all mothers. Is it really necessary for my child to end up looking shinier than a 14-year-old boy's palm after attempting to "fingerpaint?" And while I love bathing my child on a nightly basis, I'd prefer not to have to wrastle her like slippery hog and then soak her in Tide Free detergent for at least 30 minutes in order to cut through the grease that you try to sell as "paint."
I find the delay of color visiblity annoying, especially because my child feels the need to get more paints because her first attempt did not work. Sure. I can wait for the color to show up. But I'm 30. And I'm assuming that I'm probably not your target marketing audience.
You might try repackaging the paints as hair gel, door grease, or even chapstick. Heck. It might make a great night-time moisturizer and you could probably give KY Jelly a run for it's money.
But let me say this. I'd rather do 14 loads of laundry and wash paint off every single wall in my house before I'd buy your paints again. And I know why you called them "wonder fingerpaints." Because lord knows I wonder why anyone in her right mind would buy them. Except if she didn't have kids. Or happened to be my mother-in-law. Or satan.
So from now on, I'll just stick to regular old crayons.
The Mom Trap
Bio: Kristen is mom of Quinlan and one on the way, and spends most of her free time eating and on the internet blogging at The Mom Trap and Motherhood Uncensored (where Joy is today!)
Get more info on the blog exchange as well as links to the other participants here
So here's the dilemma. My boy is gifted with parents who both like to accompany him on his loot-getting trip. We love it. We both bicker over who should stay at home and give out candy. We both want to be there for those precious, precious moments when he says "trick or treat!!!" (and then complains bitterly and audibly over being given non-candy treat like a spider ring or someshit. we've raised him well, my people).
Question: is it ok to leave your house festooned with lit up punkins on the doorstep, but with NO light on to invite T and Ters? (last year we left a basket of candy with dumbass instructions of "please take only a couple!!!!!!!!!" on a playful little paper ghost notice. Yes. We're schmucks. And Yes, there was carnage on our front lawn that evidenced early-evening teen-frenzying of said basket).
I await impatiently for your sage advice.
(and yes...I need to stop stalking the YouTube quite so much and tell you something substantive about the state of my cervix or mucus plug or something very scintillating like that. Worry not, I will get to it....luckies... But for now....)
Be honest... Do I look fat in this?
Rest assured I do not leave the house in this get-up. Too much. The sight of my frighteningly taut stomach flesh, not to mention the monstrosity that is my tummy button--it could very easily scare small children. (I generously spared you a picture of my tummy button, more as a gesture to my fellah, who finds it just too disturbing to contemplate).
One thing that scares me about these pictures is that I have still have 4 weeks to go, and no fricking CLUE where I'm going to put it. I am someone who (despite having ample hippage) carries all "up front." And somehow I managing to put on a couple of pounds (plus) a week right now. When this was brought to my attention at last doctor's visit, I mumbled something about "did not take off my boots when nurse weighed me..."
But I know better.
My stomach is about a quarter of its normal size, and yet, I am managing to pack it away like there's no tomorrow. Even better, while I am in the process of packing it away I mumble to my husband between mouthfuls "I really should stop eating large meals like this. I feel full already. I should stop. I should eat smaller meals. I keep getting heartburn." (shovel. shovel. shovel. "are you going to eat that?")
And then, later that evening, I lay like a beached whale on the sofa whinging about heartburn and letting off burps that would make an adolescent boy blush. "Oooooh. My chest. Oooooh. BUUUUUURP. That feels better. BUUUUURP. Ah, yes. Much better. Hey, love? Is there any of that Chubby Hubby left? Can you get me a bowl? There's a love. I really can't get up. Really" (makes feeble gesture to show how "getting up" is physically impossible). "I need the calcium. Really."
He's a good man, my fellah. He even put my socks on this morning. (You've seen nothing more pathetic than me trying to put my socks/hose on right now. It involves much hopping around and whining on my part).
So. 4 weeks to go from today. Maybe.
This skit reminds me of quite why I love French and Saunders so much. Dawn French prancing around as a prima ballerina, explaining how she "just can't help but be petite and beautiful.. I even hold my cup of tea beautifully..."
Well...it just is beautiful. Seriously.
I grew up with these ladies, and a healthy dose of French and Saunders as a teenager in the 80s can do wonders for the self-esteem of a spotty girl. I wanted to be like *them.* To not give a shit, like *them.* 20 years on, and a bit of F&S can still restore the spirit and put a bit of perspective on life. And give me carte blanche demonstrate how a T-Rex (probably) bellows for my son, or do (drunken) robotics dancing for house guests. (those luckies).
French and Saunders--thanks for giving me the gift of no shame. Us ladies need more of that. xxxx.
What's a Monday morning without some pondering over existential questions about mortality, loneliness, and faith? Or a nice cup of tea?
Oh, and if you are thinking this video-blogging is a complete cop-out on my part you'd be completely right.
Must go, as I am about to have fleshly intercourse with the Evil One again.
(that's the end...)
However, being the gargantuan consumer of teevee that I am, someone who attempts to keep her finger on the pulse of what them there young-uns are digging these days (I am, indeed, proud owner of a Facebook Account) I like to think that I am still relatively good at connecting with these young minds I have been charged with
I like to think that... But I am clearly deluding myself.
Flashback to about an hour ago. My classroom. I have a student who is writing a research report on Illegal Downloading. (Hey, I know about that. I am hip, techno-savvy prof who knows aaaallllll about that).
Student: "Uhm, so I am finding research on how illegal downloading is a Bad Thing. So I am going to write about how it is a Bad Thing."
Me: "Interesting topic.... (insert part here where I ramble about "Audience" blah blah, and "Purpose" blah blah, and "balance" blah blah).
Me: "Also! (gives knowing look) Is illegal downloading ALL bad?"
Student: (blank stare)
Me: How about the argument that it's good for independent music and musicians? That it only hurts the corporations? Have you found any research that presents that perspective?
Student: (blank stare)
Me: For instance, what about that group? You know. The ones who became huge purely through making their music available for free via downloads. They got big. You know the ones. They're huge.
[yes. I know. and I am charged with helping these guys get artikalat].
Me, practically yelling to class: "Whoozat group? You know. The ones. The ones who got big off the internet. They had that song. You know. They're English. Uuuuuhm. "I think that you look good on the dance floor." That one. You know.
[resists impulse to sing it with authentic accent inflection]
Class: UNIFORM BLANK/PITYING STARES.
Me: You Know!!! (begins desperate clawing at laptop. googles lyric). AAAHHHH! The Arctic Monkeys! THEM! The Arctic Monkeys. You've heard of them, right? Right?
Class: UNIFORM BLANK/PITYING STARES. Slow shaking of heads. A few snorts.
(I give up).
Is it just me, or did everyone else (with a sizable arse) have the same schitzophrenic experience when watching that Gap commercial with Hepburn for the first time?
"I raaather feel like expressing myself, and I could certainly use the release"
(Me: "Huh? Whassis?")
Hepburn jumps out of frame; cue hard rock anthem "Back in Black."
(Me: Oh! Now that's different. I approve. I get the reference. I've seen Funny Face. I feel happy and smart. How creative. How fun.)
Kaleidoscopic Hepburn dancing to Hard Rock Anthem
(Me: Oh! How creative. How fun.)
Cue tag line, and fade: "The Black Skinny Pant"
(Me: Agh, Shit.)
I am simply not ready to give up my bootcuts, people. Though I knew its day had come (Project Runway is purely an educational experience for me) I am not ready. Trinny and Susanna have assured me that my body type demands a boot cut (dammit). Anything else will render me pear-shaped and squat. That is my truth.
Is this sign of age? Or of pure, primal fear over the return of the skinny pant, the skinny jean, of leggings? I fear that stirrup/ski pants will worm their way back before we know it, and then I am royally screwed. More countless hours hoisting up the crotch on my trousers, as the stirrups make my underfoot ache. Nice.
More importantly though... Will the bootcut become the highwaister jean of our generation?
Tune in, October 2007, to see if I've managed to squeeze myself into "a" skinny jean and a pair of fringed slouch boots, or if turning 36 means I have turned a fashion corner and become....my mother.
Yes, I am feeling my womanliness a great deal lately--both in terms of the biological hand nature has dealt me (yes, I continue to
Wait, don't go! This is not one of those theoretical wanker rants. Just a bitch session amongst us ladies (and enlightened males) OK?
I've been horribly negligent of all things bloggy lately, and this is probably compounding how I am feeling. Stressed, overworked, blobby and pissy. One of the main reasons I've been absent is because work has taken every last ounce of my energy lately, and even though a good blog can restore the spirits, so can a comatoze evening in front of Battlestar Galactica 2.5 on big Fuck-Off Television (and if you are *not* watching BG, you crazy).
I spent the main chunk of last week in Illinois at a conference/workshop that took up a great deal of my time and energy over the last month. I won't bore you with the details, except to say this was one of those meetings with a demographic that is largely white and male and overeducated.
And, it seems, ad hoc experts in all things prenatal....
Let me tell you, there is nothing like going to a reception populated by several dozen complete strangers, and realizing that the only other woman at the thing is the head-honcho's wife, and she's busy making sure everyone has napkins. She offers me a glass of wine, and as I think "uhm, HELL YES." and demurely request a "small glass" a nasal voice from behind inquires "Are you allowed??? Phnar-phnar-phnar"
It was one of those moments where you find yourself in the face of a complete stranger, fumbling over "uh, it's the last trimester, and uh..." "HAHAHA! I'm European! HAHAHAH" and "well, studies show....blah blah" and so forth. When instead what you should really say is "Mind your own fucking business, and go ask your colleague if all that cheese dip is good for his prostate health."
And I wish I could say that this incident was an isolated one. But judging by the number of times my choice of beverage or food was questioned, you'd think I must have made short work of poisoning my unborn right now. That Coke after lunch, the coffee at the 8am meeting, the tuna croissant. Poison I am telling you. I could now provide you with a litany of rationalizations--that I am not really a Coke drinker, but it was that or drooling slack-jawed at my seat; that I drink coffee in the morning, but not again in the day; that I eat tuna, but avoid it more than once or twice a week... I do drink wine now and then, not in the first trimester, and always with gobs of food to absorb it--But fuck that shit... It's my business.
One thing I love about being pregnant is how complete strangers can show support and kindness towards you. I am always delighted to tell the cashier, if she asks, when the baby's due and if it's my first. That it's a boy, and yes, he has a brother. I don't even mind if a fellow gal pats me on the tummy, and makes a kind remark about how I am glowing (even though I am not). In fact, at this conference, I met some women that I'd corresponded with via email, and their first response was to give me a hug and delight in my bump. T'was a nice and "bondy" moment.
One thing I loathe about pregnancy, and this is part and parcel with the above, is how you become a form of public property. How the control over your body becomes a collective process, in which everyone, it seems, has a stake. Or at least, people seem much more comfortable with voicing opinions about how you should, or should not, be behaving right now. For the most part I can let these comments roll of my back--I am pretty secure in myself, and am acutely aware that although the lore surrounding pregnancy might often have all the trappings of medical fact, it ain't necessarily so...
Sushi? If it's good enough for Japanese women, it's good enough for me. Fresh mozzarella and brie? (see above on "being European"). But that's me. I also know that for some women, peace of mind stems from knowing that they've done everything by the book--and I respect that. Whatever works for you, baby. And while I might like a bit of cabernet now and then, I do draw the line at getting good and lubed (see how restrained I am?) This latter fact might indeed account for some of my pissiness of late.
I fear this cavalier attitude will induce a nice bout of botchilism and a hospital stay in the next few weeks. And I'll be eating my words. But on the other hand, there's a whole cornucopia of angst to be had over "what might happen" that are related to things you can't control. And I don't have the energy to get worked up about them (much). No, instead these days I apparently prefer to direct my energies by losing it over the stupidest of things.
(like bursting into tears because the dishwasher's not been emptied, or spending the morning frantically looking for my sewing machine manual, because apparently I cannot even thread the fucking needle without poring over the "how-to" guide. Did I mention I am making curtains right now? Well, I have made 1 curtain of 6. Only more evidence of my insanity. This project was selected as a relaxing respite; but I now realize that the very act of measuring, cutting, and pinning the things to the right size on the floor while I lumber and sway on hands and knees is an athletic feat in itself. But 5 more are coming, so help me....)
So yeah, you could say I am a real gas to be around right now. It's nothing that 4 or 5 margaritas wouldn't help out, but for now I must channel my stress into the simple meditative pleasures of sewing. Or bitching. Online. Yeah, that'll work.
First off the bat. Reasons to be cheerful: A little earlier, Husband called, and uttered these beautiful words...
I would charge home and ravish him on the spot right now, if it weren't for the fact that I am at present physically repellent...which brings me to....
Suggestions for "What to Expect in the Eighth Month" chapter in that book.
Some of my observations of the "bladder-under-pressure" include (but are not limited to):
Fill a sample pot at the OB's office with the minimum of fuss? Fat Chance. When your flow has transformed from a healthy horse-like stream to a sort of sporadic and multi-directional spurting, then you'd better get on the rubber gloves and have your paper towel at the ready. It's going to get messy. Try not to look too shamefaced when you exit the bathroom leaving that "moist" deposit. They've seen it all before, and then some...
Nocturnal emissions (of wee, you pervs). These are frequent, as we know. This is well-documented, and commonly experienced. However, a recent development on that front, I feel must be shared. If you're like me, and like to give yourself an "airing" down there over the night (i.e. no knickers with your nightie, because your mummy said this was a way to "stay clean") then you might experience this also. The "sprinkler effect" combined with an ever-expanding stomach that makes a thorough "wipe" a slight challenge. This can mean that a return trip to the bathroom for a "second wipe" is in order.
Let me try and put this in plain terms. The wee spurts and leaves droplets all over the place--even right up your... (sometimes). You think you've got it all, and schlep comotose back to the marital bed, but by the time you get there, trickling sensations down the legs notify you that your technique was--yet again--off.
I will not get into the more commonly experienced, and already documented "issues" of wetting one's self at the drop of the hat--a sneeze, a laugh, a cough. We can take this as a given. Maybe keigels can save me. If I actually do one now and then.
Oh, and on the emissions front. This is not the only region "leaking." This morning I made the delighted discovery that breastfeeding might not be such a challenge this time around, because apparently these titties are good to go. I discovered this after reading that book and being informed that leakage could indeed happen. Being of the morbidly curious sort, I gave the left one a bit of a squeeze (as you do) and "voila!" Dinner's up! I was both thrilled and slightly grossed out.
And speaking of food...
Last week I regaled you with the angst of my cake-making endeavors. Let me say that "from scratch" at 9pm last friday night turned into "From a box....with homemade decorations." And it was a masterpiece, let me tell you.
Note the genius use of Candy Corn to represent "safety cones," the subtle verisimiltude of the zoning (chocolate sprinkles and yellow icing); And no, those are not bricks! I used caramels to cleverly render a roadside building under construction.
Yes, I am clearly going insane. The smell of chocolate fudge is still mildy repellent to me. But actually (and don't tell anyone) I rather enjoyed myself;-) And Boyo had a fabulous birthday, but even he is a bit "off" chocolate icing right now.
(I was protecting my unborn child, you understand...)
Sick as a DOG.
Enjoyed a few days languishing in my snot-infested, "my body is telling me to take it easy, let me recline in my bed, drink tea, and read novels." Then moved onto a few days of "OK, why am I not getting better? I am BORED of this already, and classes start in two days, and husband is finding this newfound role as single parent and nursemaid to Camille on her deathbed a leeeetle tiresome.
Then on to: "Fuck, classes have begun. I do not have syllabus. What am I teaching again? Did I order the books. FUUUCK!" (all this punctuated by much nose-blowing, and hacking up of phlegm).
All this, along with a myriad of others things:
--About 500 deadlines at work coming to a head.
--Community volunteer work--and yes, I'm a fucking saint. We're organizing our annual neighborhood Home Tour, and yeah yeah it is very rewarding, but it takes bloody FOREVER. And I could not get out of it, having bad habit of sitting at meetings in February and saying "hey, I can do that, and that, and that, and THAT. COUNT ME IN!!!" and then resenting the shit out of it when it's time to walk-the-walk.
--New semester at preschool for son. Transition of teachers, anxiety and teeth gnashing on my part, but not, thankfully, on his....
--Trying to work on own academic writing/publications. Whoring around on the other academic blog I threatened a while back in the process, and finding that that type of blogging is far more angst-ridden and less fun than this type of blogging (go figure).
--Looking--with nauseaus pit in stomach--at upcoming Job Market list and prospects, and do soul searching about all that shit (for another post, methinks)
--Planning for son's fourth birthday party this weekend. Dear LORD! gift bags? (where did the days of a balloon and a slab of cake go???) Invitations? CAKE?? Homemade??? Balloons? Pizza? "Healthful snacks??" On this score, I think we have been very wise, and arranged an offsite party at local kid museum--complete with a slime-workshop. Nonetheless, I am stressing like only I can when I have too much spinning in my brain. Mainly about the cake, which I have apparently selected as the sublimated focus of all my anxiety. Mommyguilt--uh, I mean, my creative spirit--has me making a cake from scratch. A "construction site" cake has been requested. I originally lept on this with whole hearted enthusiasm. How hard can it be? A bit of chocolate butter icing and some matchbox diggers, and we're done, right? But now I am vexing over the aesthetics of the venture. Will it just look like a bunch of vehicles chucked on top of brown cake with holes in it? Do I include white plastic male construction workers? (cheaply available at dollar store, but not reflective of gender and racial diversity I like to brainwash my kid with). I will keep you updated and post photographs of the final accomplishment. Even if it does look like a poo-poo cake with white boys and their toys on it.
OK--so now to the meme. I am notoriously bad at having to select "one" of anything in these things. But I'll give it a stab.
1. One book you have read more than once:
First Term at Mallory Towers by Enid Blyton. This was the first in a series of frightfully British "girls boarding school" books that she wrote, and I lived vicariously through them all. And let me say, they are fucking awful, and you should never let your daughter read them. They divide girls into two types--evil ones who hate school, and are spoilt, and do not do their work, speak their minds, and are generally either fat or whorish (if especially bad, they wear a hint of rouge and brassy jewellry). The good ones who are "jolly" and rosy-cheeked and become Head Girl. I wanted to be one of the good ones...
2. One book you would want on a desert island:
25,000 Crossword Puzzles.
3. One book that made you laugh:
Straight Man by Richard Russo (recommended by Neva, devoured by me and Old Man)
4. One book that made you cry:
Ayun Halliday's Mama Langa Ding Dong (The Big Rumpus) sent to me by the sweet sweetney. This book carried me through those first days of languishing in bed. I cried, I laughed, and I got even more snot-ridden in the process. If you have not read it, go and get yourself a copy NOW.
5. One book you wish you had written:
All those Harry Potter ones. I would be fricking rolling in it.
6. One book you wish had never been written:
The Bible. (KIDDING!)
The Baby Book, by William M.F. Sears.
(cowardly disclaimer: it's not so much that I wish it had not been written, as that I had not read it. It did a complete number on me, as some of you know...)
7. One book I am currently reading:
Oryx and Crake, by Margaret Atwood (weird-ass shit, but marvelous)
8. One book I keep meaning to read:
Ulysses, by James Joyce (my old man is a Joyce Scholar, so it would be a nice gesture on my part don't you think? But somehow I can only make it through Joyce's freshman fodder--Dubliners and all that.)
Oh, and The Devil Wears Prada. Equally challenging, methinks.
9. One book that has changed your life:
Jeez. This is a tough one. Uhm... I am not one for momentous life-changes in one sitting. This might indicate a shallow personality, I realize. Books that have had a profound influence on me: Margaret Atwood's Alias Grace, Jeanette Winterson's Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, Zadie Smith's White Teeth, Toni Morrison's Beloved.
Oh, and Delia Smith's Complete Cookery (I shit you not--and there is a whooole post brewing on Delia, let me tell you. Excited???)
Stay tuned for update on cake-making adventures.
Ubiquitous Computing, Or, Thoughts on Whether I Really Want My Laptop to Become Even More of an Appendage
On the agenda was "Ubiquitous Computing"--which, I've discovered, is more than just computers every-fucking-where, but the ways in which computing can be "liberated" from computers, per se, and embedded into everyday life. Other everyday examples of "ubicomp" include wireless PDAs, cellphones, IPODS, all these little handheld gadgets that are becoming our appendages, our instant means to communicate or access information--to be instantly and readily available at all times.
Oh Brave New World, right?
So, I do carry a cellphone. And for a year now, I have actually had it switched on for the best part of the day. And how often do I talk on it? About 2-3 times, to my husband, for 2 minutes, to check in on The Boy, what's for dinner, who's got the "good car" and all that. I could count the other calls to other people in a month on one hand. I can attribute this to me not being much of a phone-talker (and a lazy-assed friend) and also someone who is pretty resistant to being instantly and readily available at all times.
And part of this resistance comes from the fact that in my work environment, I sit here behind not one, but two computers and three screens, and communicate with many members of staff (and not a few friends) via instant messenger and email. And even though I know a more productive way to deal with email would be to shut it off completely and check it on a schedule, I leave it open, and can never resist the siren call of the "new message" ping. Whatever I am doing, I can't resist taking a look and "just quickly responding" (Which is why, if you ever write to my work account, you sometimes get an uncannily swift response. So swift, you might think I am a bit sad and have nothing to do. Which is both true and not true.)
It is mainly for this reason--the ability to step away from work when I go home--that I have consciously resisted putting a wireless router in our house. Yes, we have broadband, but accessing it means plodding downstairs to the basement study to fire up the PC and get online. It means a physical separation and a bit of hassle. I use it, of course, but it is not as convenient as having the networked machine right there at your fingertips. I do have a swanky laptop that is literally about 100 times more powerful than Old Faithful in the basement, but I use it for work and work alone (and by "work" I mean blogging and checking gossip sites during work hours, naturally).
But lately, on little lunch trips to CompUSA, I have taken to fondling the routers and thinking that for a mere $100 I could have all the access I want, all over the house.
I could listen to the BBC and catch up on This American Life while I cook in the kitchen
I could check IMDB when watching "that guy in that film. He was in? Oh what the fuck wazzit again?"
I could check t.v. listings, quickly pull up recipes, shop, pay bills, renew library books, and Google for dinosaurs with my son (this, as far as he is concerned, is the primary function of the computer).
I could blog more
I could network more
I could read more
I could email more
I could stay in touch more
I could work more
And herein lies the rub. First, I do not need my boss to expect Instant Messenger or email access to me at 9pm at night, because, believe me, there are those who do and for those people their workday never seems to be over. (And as far as I am concerned, it does not make anyone more productive. If it's *that* important, call me. And leave a message, because I rarely pick up. But this might be a rationalization because I am inherently lazy)
Lately I've been arguably pollyannaish about how maarvelous all this blogging is, and how rich and rewarding it is to participate in these communities, and how radical I think it all is. And I still stand by all that (as most of us do) but the last two weeks have seen not a few "dark side" posts many of seem to point to a more suffocating, all-consuming and even obsessive aspect to the whole enterprise.
And I do wonder, if I got that wireless and remained "networked" for many more hours of the day, whether I would begin to feel the same way, whether I would be posting more, commenting more, reading more--it would probably not hurt my own blog traffic at all to be a bit more consistent and ever-present. And I do suffer from feelings that I am not keeping up with people and being a "bad" blogger for not responding to every comment I get, or returning the favor. This could only help all that, right? right?
Yes, I am very transparent, because you all know where this is going. Along with all that access comes a burden. More obsessive checking of comments feed to see if anyone else has chimed in. More checking of stats. More "audience-building" and investment in "audience-building." More work. And as someone who is not making any kind of living or professional career out of this thing, there is no need for me to "work" this blog. And for those folks who do make an income from their blog, I wonder if for them--even though blogging reaps unique rewards--it feels like they never get to "punch out"--that the work of blogging is ever present, always there. Like a bunch of people in your house who won't go home, even though it's 2am already...
So even though that computer is separate from you, really the network is not--it becomes an ever-present part of your identity. Might as well be tattooed onto your arm (I so wanted to use the line "tattooed on your arse" there, but this would present distinct usability challenges).
And so this, for now, is why I am not getting that wireless. But I reserve the right to change my mind. Mainly when I am lactating 24/7 and in the baby vortex to come. When this time comes, though, I'm going to need to set myself some boundaries. Because though I would love to party hearty all night long, if I don't get to excuse myself for chunks of time, I am liable to hurl all over your carpet.
This has led me, as a form of elaborate digression, to take various "tours" of my own. Blogland tours. And on the agenda today is the erratic itinerary that is motherhood.
First, Her Bad Mother has me digging deep into my soul over how one articulates that deep, primal and physical affection we feel for our children. How do we find the language that works without venturing into "pervdom"? As someone who's got a bit of a thing about language and aesthetics (shut up. i mean reading it, not writing it...) her post appealed to the deeply repressed poet in me, and suddenly I was revelling in the inexpressible joys of snuggling my son in the morning when we are slugglish with sleep, and how there is a physical pleasure in that which is not easily transmitted in words (note use of term "snuggling"--I rest my case over the "not writing it" part.)
Catching up with Sweetney, I read her "stalkery" interview with Ayun Halliday, whose book I have not read, and whose site I have not seen, and I am asking myself "how the hellian did I miss this woman whose schitzophrenia so resembles my own???"
On weekends, we tend to loll around our tiny shotgun apartment much longer than we should, littering the floor with newspaper and toys, enjoying being in our pajamas, until this invisible switch gets thrown, the bitch switch, I guess it's called. Suddenly, (at around 10:55am), I am flooded with evil feelings, because our apartment is such a wreck and the breakfast dishes are covering a counter that should be filled with lunch preparations and none of us pajama-clad dullards have the gumption to get motivated, let alone dressed.
Meanwhile, move over, because Kristen and I are spreading. Like Kristen, the legs, the upper arms, the cheeks (both kinds) are softly inflating--remember that look of panic on Violet Beauregarde's face as she chewed that gum and took on the proportions of a dirigible? I empathize with that bitch. And today I am thinking the choice of a hot-pink maternity dress--which looked sassy and bold in a "I am big-ass woman, get over it and hear me roar" in the mirror this morning--now might now only add to the sense that all we need is some oompa-loompas to roll me right out of this joint.
Now entering the third trimester, my weight gain is gathering momentum, and when I look down at my already taught and itchy stomach I am alarmed that I still have three motherfucking months to go! [Case in point--just met with "fly-me-to-the-moon" client, and she commented "But Joy, you're already so HUUUUUGE!"] And yes, I know any empowered feminist diva worth her salt should revel in the expansiveness, in the unstoppable force that is her body, that is WOMAN, but right now I just feel a bit fat. And constipated. So, the thighs are getting reaquainted with one another, the term "back fat" returned to my vocabulary, and I am currently busting out of some of those hipper maternity clothes, and stepping to the billowing tents, the enormously gussetted capris, the shapeless t's---anything without SEAMS, please gaaawd.
Jozet? Well Jozet is sleep deprived. We all heard the glorious news that she popped out her baby boy on July 31st. Since then her personal blog has been relatively quiet...(what gives, Jozet? Sheesh!). Except that right now she has given us a post that returns us roundly to aesthetics, and poetry... the pleasure of the stream of consciousness that is borne of no sleep... Here I give you a mere taste of a post that at once had me tittering even while I was gripped with sheer terror over the eye-clawing tiredness to come:
wiping drool from corner of mouth
I am sitting up…
sitting up typing…
typing for my bog…
These stories went a bit like this:
"I went down to the bus station after school today to see if I could find you and give you a lift home. There was a young girl there, about your age, and I remember feeling just so terribly sorry for her mother when I heard the torrent of obscenities that came streaming out of her mouth. She had the lanugage of a guttersnipe. And then she turned around, and I realized It Was My Own Daughter...."
"I was driving home after school today, and I saw a young girl, about your age, walking up the hill, and I remember feeling so terribly sorry for her and her mother because this girl was so clearly disabled in some tragic way. She dragged her feet, her cardigan was sloppily hanging off her shoulders, the sleeves slouched over her fingers, her bag was trailing around her ankles, and her head was lolling to one side. I don't know how she could see with that fringe completely covering her eyes. And then, as I passed her, I realized It Was My Own Daughter..."
Clearly I was channeling Robert Smith or Morrisey in the latter scenario, but this miracle was utterly lost on my mother, who only saw a sloppy and foul-mouthed little urchin emerging into puberty. Although it was immediately obvious that these "stories" were fabricated for shock-purposes only (in both cases, I think I would have noticed my mother stalking me so closely) she won in the end. By the time I hit sixteen I had shifted from the carefully cultivated grubbiness of an altnera-chick to a new-wave "casual." I sported the permed-do and frosted lipstick to prove it. When I started wearing cameo broaches, 10 chains of plastic pearls, and silk floppy shirts over leggings, she audibly heaved a massive sigh of relief and then set her sights on my brother.
And there, in a nutshell, is one reason why I have not given my parents the link to this blog. My mum and I have a great relationship now, in spite of (or because of?) being several time zones and an ocean away. Despite her remonstrations of "blasphemy" when I uttered the word "shit" at fourteen (it turned out it was unwise for me to then explain that, technically, "shit" was not a blasphemous term) she now uses the term liberally when we chat about certain things. The other day when I chatted to her on the phone, she used the term "minging" at least 5-6 times (to refer to my brother's hallway carpet) which I actually found quite disconcerting--no, I was shocked that she would use such a base word so freely.
So in some ways it would be safe to pass on the link. I made it a policy to myself when I started this thing that I would never write a word that could potentially hurt or offend anyone in my life (although I think there's an early post in here somewhere where I recount my mother's sadistic "acne treatment" methods from around the same period--maybe she would see the funny side....).
For me, this is a public and completely open space where anyone has the right to access what I have written--but that's due to the nature of how and why I write. Different contexts for writing will change this for people--and I respect that. I am, of course, protected by my anonymity--although a lot of friends of mine log on and read to see what's going on with me. I have toyed with passing on the link to Mum and Dad--and I think for the most part they'd get a kick out of it. Even the swear words might not really phase them too much (case in point, the BBC, since my departure, has now Ok-ed the "f" word for usage after 9pm. So if the Beeb is saying "what's the big deal....?" then...)
But when I brought up the idea to my husband the other day, he simply said "don't...it will affect your writing, knowing they are out there..." And I realized he was completely right--it would affect me. Even stump me. So for now, gingajoy is just between us.
So how about you? Has there ever been a time when the discovery that a certain person was reading your blog gave you pause for thought. Is there anyone you protect your blog from? I should add, I also protect mine from work colleagues--but this was mainly because when I started, I was not sure if I would end up writing about the workplace. What I have discovered as I went on with this is that if I am posting on something that one day I could regret or come back to bite me--best to not write. A friend of mine recently commented on how "honest" my writing was--and I responded, "well yes and no...There's a lot I don't write about too." I suppose this is another way of saying that my writing is filtered--I work to be honest and open, but at the same time it is carefully directed. I am not writing a personal journal documenting all my thoughts, fears, hopes and frustrations--though there are many people out there who are doing just this who I find fascinating and enjoyable to read.
I'm curious to hear your thoughts about how your writing is affected by a sense of who is "out there" (if at all). Did you, like me, find that once you had a better sense of that audience or other bloggers that resonated with you that your writing style changed?
Or let me put this another way--do you let your Mum read your swear words online??
One reason I've been remiss in posting is because our meeting and a host of other stuff I've been reading and thinking about lately has had me chewing the proverbial cud over this whole blogging thing. (Yes, you've guessed it, here comes the obligatory post where I pontificate on blogging and its role in my life. I need to apologize in advance for both the length of this one, its potential to disappear up its own academic arse, and the possibility of incoherence. Like right now...)
Be warned, this one is a doozy--so feel free to skip Acts 2, 3, 4, and 5.
YES! This one has ACTS.
Act One: When Blogs Collide
Many of you guys might have had BlogHer, but I got my own little taste of real-life blogger-on-blogger action last Saturday when I hooked up with Elizabeth for ice-cream. The idea of ice-cream was that our kids could come along, and would be relatively occupied while we chatted. In reality, I found that taking my 3 (nearly 4) yr old to a joint that would ply him with pure sugar on an empty stomach was not exactly the ideal recipe for having a relaxing chat with a fellow mom and blogger. Yes, he was compliant for all the 3-4 minutes it took him to wolf down his kid's cone, but this was swiftly followed by some, let's say "spirited" behavior, where he tore around the place yelling "Hey, you guys CHASE ME!!!" to Elizabeth's well-mannered and funny boys (Elizabeth--as I said before, those boys are a real credit for you, and a ray of hope for me letmetellyou ;-).
Herding preschoolers aside, Elizabeth and I managed to fit a great deal of furious chatting into the 45 minutes or so we had (albeit punctuated with "hey, you do NOT whack that woman's butt with your spoon--now say you're SORRY!"). She filled me in a little on BlogHer, and her experience of it, we talked about people she met and I lived vicariously through her "oooh, is she as nice as she seems online?? ooooh!!! you met Amalah? ooooh!!!" We talked about our local school district and it's utter incompetency, about having boys, and we talked about blogging and what it means to us but not nearly enough. It was really quite fascinating how easy it was to just begin talking to her--we had a shared context, shared points of reference, shared friends and aquaintances...and we had never met.
So all this got me thinking. First, that I looked forward to meeting up with Elizabeth for lunch some time when Monkey-Boy was safely ensconced at school (I highly admire all earth-mothers who can integrate their kids effectively into their adult social lives--I am not always able to be one of those people. Especially when there's serious chatting to be done). The rest of it..well read on (at your own peril) and you can see what's been spinning around my brain for the last few days/weeks.
Act Two: Starting a Blog of One's Own
I started this little blog back in February. My motivations for doing so were simple--after reading and commenting on various blogs for a while, I found that I really wanted to join in the conversation more wholeheartedly. One of my early posts tried to articulate the impulse, but when I look back on that one I realize I was still pretty wet behind the ears (and probably still am). Those who know me are all to aware that I am a leeetle bit of an exhibitionist, and I do love to spin a yarn. So the blog was a space where I could "tell stories" and experiment with writing. While the thought of pursuing traditional publication routes tended to paralyze my creative flow, the blog offered a form of instant gratification and (very important to exhibitionist-me) an audience (even if only a couple of people—because that’s all I really need, I’m afraid).
A while back, Mom-101's take on this helped me process what blogging was coming to mean to me--that its the communal and interactive aspect of blogging that becomes the fuel for processing ideas, for writing.
"I'm not the kind of writer who can create just for myself. I have stacks of dusty journals filled with idea starters, creative sparks, writing germs that never went beyond that initial flush of excitement that conjoined pen and paper for a few brief moments. It kills me to admit this, by the way. To acknowledge that I'm not more inner-directed is like admitting I'm not a Real Writer. A Real Writer is angry and independent, free from social expectations. A Real Writer hates parties. (And she has bad hair anyway, so who would want her at their parties?) A Real Writer is reclusive and asocial; she will shut herself away in a friend's lakeside cabin, happy to see noone but the ashen-faced postman for weeks on end until she finishes her manuscript or runs out of Camel unfiltereds, whichever comes first. A Real Writer, or so I was led to believe by misguided writing instructors, doesn't care what you think about anything she has to say."
Yes, in this scenario, I am also most definitely not A Real Writer. And I say this as someone who has produced a dissertation, given conference presentations, even published a couple of articles. (though, let me say, the dissertation process is less an exercise in intellectual rigor than a test of how much you can persist, how much you can be inner-directed).
But it's not until this here blog that I have begun to consider myself as a writer. And I know I am not alone on this score. For many of us, blogging has been a powerful motivational force by virtue of the community that you gain with through the writing. This has even led some of us to think about how we can channel this energy into other types of writing. I have had all sorts of excited conversations with RL friends and my husband about where I might think about going next "as a writer." Kristen and I have chatted via email about this very thing. Kristen, as someone who is very productively (and entertainingly) exploring those opportunities to their full potential, offered some very generous advice and tips on venues to think about exploring for free-lance writing gigs (thanks, lady).
And this is something I am definitely considering delving into.. but there's this other little matter of my job, and the type of publications and research I need to be doing...
Act Three: Wherein I Get A Little Academic on Yo'Ass...
Most of you know that in my professional life, I work at a research center at a large university where I am actually paid to research and think about issues in Digital Culture--and sometimes I even get to teach. Ideally, I would be publishing in this field. In reality, I actually wish I spent a lot more time researching and writing, but I spend a great deal of time overseeing development of software and online content (mainly for educational and scholarly research purposes) . Sounds lofty, but this work often ranks on a par with herding up Monkey-Boy in an ice-cream joint in terms of intellectual fulfillment.
While I have been considering how to channel my writing into other creative outlets, there is the other pressure I feel professionally--to publish or to perish. I would not "perish" exactly in my job, but publications in peer-reviewed journals can take me interesting places if I want to go. It can also get me more credibility and better yearly raises in the place I work now. (Nice!) So yeah, publications would be good. And here’s where the blog has also begun to fuel a bit of creative energy.
Anyone familiar with Barabasi and his Social Network Theory? Me too!
In fact, in many ways we’re all familiar with it—we’re practicing it, for chrissakes. Just big guys like Barabasi get to theorize it for us (and I’ll return to the “guys” aspect here in a few…) For those interested, here’s the bastardized over-simplification of his theory according to moi: Websites (especially blogs) form an ever-expanding “scale free” network. Blogs are scale-free because they are intrinsically connected to other sites/blogs, and this connectedness is potentially infinite. A site’s “status” or degree of power is acquired through the volume of linkages to it (and links from comments are *not* measured in this paradigm—which you’ll see I think is pretty significant). The more a site is linked elsewhere, the higher the “competitive fitness” or “rate of attraction” becomes. Congratulations, you’re an A-list blogger!
Yep, yep—makes sense. And some of the reports from BlogHer indicate that many of the workshops dealt with how to boost one’s bloggy “rate of attraction.” (see how I cunningly slipped in some multiple linkages in this post—I want you to like me, see…)
But there’s something about the unfuzzy and rather neat math here—or rather the use of mathematical principles to create all-encompassing theories about online social networking—that does not quite capture the social. Yes, we can apply this theory and say, “yeah, there are A-listers in the mommyblogosphere, and yeah there is a certain hierarchy, ranking, or even (dare I say it) competitive streak to some of this”—we all love knowing we’ve got an audience, after all—because it means we’re more attractive.
OK--but there’s a whole lot more I see going on in the slice of blogosphere I float around (largely women, largely mothers, largely lefty-liberals with penchant for a drink and a good swear like me) that does not quite fit in this model. (And I am by no means the first to take umbrage with Barabasi’s application of mathematical principles to social phenomenon).
In fact, when I trawl through a lot of these theories, I am struck by how much the discussion is dominated by white guys (not that I have anything against white guys—some of my best friends are white guys). The terminology dominated by references to rank, power, and competition. It’s about the survival of the fittest. It’s about deleting the weakest link. It's all a bit "manly." But is it?
Liz’s mild discomfort earlier this week over discovery of this dark truth of the blogosphere—that “success” is all about linkages and technorati ratings--is just one indicator that there is still a great deal to learn about how our networks or communities reinforce one another. It’s not just about linkages (though this is a key part). The question (as Fred Stuzman and others have asked it) should be not how blogs attain hierarchical rank in the social network, but how we connect.
Act Four: Some Comments on Commenting
It’s connectivity and conversation that most defines our network (or networks). Especially in the female-dominated “mommy” blogosphere in which I participate. Obviously being linked by an A-list blogger can cause a flutter in any blogger-gal’s heart (hands up who is secretly hoping that you’ll turn up on Amalah’s Daily Dose? C’MOOON!) but we know that if you want to bring readers to your site, then you need to interact with other bloggers through the practice of reciprocal commenting. And remember, links from comments don't count in terms of ranking (mainly because then it would count as spam).
There is a whole (as yet) untheorized or unresearched politics of commenting that I am fascinated by (feel free to set me straight on this one). Reciprocal commenting strengthens and broadens our community—or, as Kristen puts it, comments are like blog-crack. In fact, the practice of reciprocal commenting is so central to our community of practice, that many of us in our darker moments have ‘fessed up to feeling a certain amount of pressure to always comment on a post, just to show support (even if you have not read an entire post).
Feed another’s blog-crack habit, so you can get you some in return...
And I don’t think there is anything wrong with that, per se (dear God, if you’ve made it this far through this fucking post, you deserve a medal—feel free to Pass Go, and click on “Comments” –or not!) No, commenting for the sake of commenting is not an empty act—it is a vocal gesture of support. (and I hope I am not offending lurkers here—hell, I lurk all over the place….)
Which is why, when someone abruptly stops commenting on your site, many of us can feel a bit slighted. Because it feels like a withdrawal of support. And this is also where the comment-fatigue begins to set in. While we want to support one another—there are so many great blogs and so little time--suddenly the networking and supporting that helped us feel like an active member of the community begins to feel like work. And suddenly you’re realizing that you’ve not posted in (cough) a week, and “oh my god people are going to drop you, and no one will read you, and you’ve spoiled everything you silly bitch.” I’ve weakened my link to the community; I am going to become extinct! Which I am beginning to realize now (seasoned 7 month blogger that I am) is not at all true. (Thank Christ for this article: Why Post Frequency Does Not Matter Anymore ).
But it’s hard to extricate personal feelings about relationships from this work of writing, because it is the relationships, the interactions, that help us write in the first place. Shit, it's those relationships that brought me and Monkey-Boy to that ice-cream parlor on Saturday.
A few weeks ago (like others before me) I uncomfortably discovered how much I was actually invested in the relationship aspect of blogging. I realized that someone who had been an active commenter (and email correspondent) in the early days of this blog had not only stopped commenting (even while I had blithely continued commenting on this person’s blog) but had deliberately removed me from her list of “friends” and even her longer blogroll. I took it really personally (feels stupid to say now) and spent way too much energy wondering what I could have done to be deleted like that. At the same time I was asking myself “why does this matter?” and "why does this feel like High School?" and "what does this tell me about this little writing gig I’ve got myself into?"
Though I did not enjoy the experience at all at the time—it made me confront some of my own insecurities and validation issues that I don’t like to dwell on overmuch--I am now grateful to that person for making me confront this aspect of myself and my blogging—the social aspect.
Act Five: In Which I Dodge the Larger Question (for now)
So the mathematical principles of Barabasi (a physicist) don’t quite account for the phenomenon (phenonemA?) that is mommyblogging, and, I am sure, many other contexts for blogging. In academic terms, we can say this is because social networks are governed not by natural (read “neutral”) laws of evolution and attraction, but instead emerge through communities of practice and their contexts. In other words--if you talk about "blogging" as one thing, it's a bit like talking about all books as one thing. It completely removes the question of context--and why the hell we are blogging in the first place. All of which, of course, begs the question "so what's different about mommyblogging? or women's blogging?" or? or? or? (as if even those terms can adequately account for the various communities within those "genres")
Right now, I can’t begin to answer this or a whole host of related questions fully (nor could anyone, ever) but I do know that I'm going to give it a stab. And some of it might make its way here. I am toying with making an alternate "research" blog--because social network theory bloggers--yes, there is such a breed--are writing some pretty interesting stuff. And I am hoping by having a space to process and write about my ideas will give me the impetus and communal support I need to hone some of those ideas into more "academically sanctioned" forms of publication. Right now "blog posts" don't get you very far in terms of tenure review (which though sucking big ones from a purely selfish perspective, does kind of make sense).
So I'll keep you posted (har har, no pun intended). And if you've made it this far, thanks for reading. Because without you folks I would not be here right now, and I am kind of liking "here" right now...
UPDATED to add: I should also thank Tracey, of course, because she was the one--back in January when I was uhm-ing and ah-ing to her over instant messenger about, "uhm, writing, uhm, a blog"--who told me something along the lines of "you can fucking write, go for it!" Which made me feel kind of warm and fuzzy. (and, Paula, if you're reading this, thanks also for the extra shove;-))