Thursday, April 30, 2009

Mama PhD

I know I should be using my time at work to prepare for my defense, but I am not sure exactly what I should be doing. My advisor mentioned that I might want to be prepared to answer questions about one particular area of research that I know absolutely nothing about. So, yeah. That’s reassuring. I have been spending some time reading current literature and trying to bring myself up to speed, but then I start thinking it is silly to try to master an area in the less than two weeks (holy crap) before my defense, so I just sit at my desk and twitch.

Today I worried about swine flu and then ate 2 lunches.

Time well spent.

I have been reading for pleasure for the first time since Jack was born, and when I saw Becca mention Mama, PhD, I rushed to the library to get a copy. It’s a collection of essays written by women academics who have kids/have contemplated kids while getting their degrees and trying to land tenure-track jobs and secure tenure.

At first, it really was a pleasure-read. I started it at the gym on the elliptical, and I worked out for over an hour because I was so engrossed in the essays because I could have written them. Being too unwieldy to sit in desks or slip between shelves in the library! Yes and yes! Feeling joyous that the baby I carried was a little boy because I was swept away on a tide of joy and affection emanating from my rowdy male undergraduates who suggested I name my son after them? Yes—that was so sweet! Wasting precious dissertating time daydreaming about being a mom and letting myself become consumed with household projects? Oh my gosh—that one was so fun I did it TWICE! Killing myself scheduling night classes, writing in coffee shops, and scraping together snatches of childcare so the baby could stay at home and stay with me as much as possible? Oh yeah.

But there the similarities and warm fuzzies started to fade. A lot of the authors are now divorced, and in veiled (and not so veiled) ways, they laid blame for the fate of their marriages at the base of the ivory tower—its sexism, its obstinate imagining of the ideal worker as an unattached man, its ability to painstakingly theorize the body while simultaneously refusing to acknowledge real bodies, real people, real women struggling to juggle research, writing, babies, husbands, the simultaneous ticking of the tenure clock and the biological clock. Many of the authors carried resentment toward departments who turned their backs on pregnancy, wrote off women with families, and just generally made pregnant women feel like interlopers. Some women left academia all together for jobs in the private sector, or freelancing work, or staying home and raising more children. None of them was happy, really, in the way I always thought all academics were happy—fun job, flexible hours, supportive colleagues, fascinating work, outpourings of professional respect, you know THE LIFE OF THE MIND.

After reading the book, the first thing I wanted to do was quit my job and get a new one at the mall because I have always liked retail and those women understand the realities of work and childcare in practice and never in theory (because nothing could be more removed, more ridiculous, more asinine than theory at the mall) and that’s just the way I like it because I am a critic after all.

The second thing I wanted to do was hug everyone in my department—and that’s saying a lot because if you know me, you know that I am so not a hugger. My professors and fellow graduate students have never written me off because I have babies, and they have been nothing but welcoming, understanding, and helpful. Need to bring your baby to a staff meeting? Awesome, let me push the stroller. Need to nurse your infant in a staff meeting? Creepy, but whatev. Coasty sitter crapped out and your kid needs to come to our conference panel practice? Rock on—oh watch out, he’s got some scissors in his mouth. My office wall is literally papered with kid pics, and the credenza in my office is full of teething rings, baby wipes, and diapers in a too-small size, and that’s okay with everyone. When I bring Harry and Jack to campus, everyone’s arms are outstretched, and everyone beams. When Harry and Jack are not with me, my colleagues just talk to me like a grown up, not like that girl in our department who is a mommy. But it’s not like they’re purposefully avoiding family talk or that entrance into the scholar club demands that you check your family commitments at the door, as some of the authors in Mama, PhD lamented.

Until I read the book, I thought this supportive climate was the norm. After I read the book, I realize I am so lucky. Or, maybe I am just oblivious, and the baby-wearing and breastfeeding freaked everyone the freak out but they didn’t want to get sued?

When I wrote my graduation speech, I was shocked to discover that it was a speech about love. I came here for school, but I found love everywhere. I fell in love, too, with this place, its people, its ideas. With my building and its audiovisual classroom equipment that was cutting edge in 1986. With the graduate library and its echoing stairwells, dusty stacks, and seriously effed up call number system. With the Starbucks by the parking garage that I’ve been going to for 6 years and still can’t remember to avoid immediately before and after undergraduate lectures and where Maegan and I used to occasionally split a cigarette, back when we were young and stupid and could smoke indoors.

I’m not sure how I will juggle scholarship and childcare as my career progresses. Someday, I might want to have another child, and I’ m not sure how that will fit in. Because I am married and my husband has a career outside the academy, I am not sure if I’ll ever go balls-out on the job market because I might not ever be able to move just anywhere. I do know that I love my life—maybe not everyday, but definitely today. And not just because I am not home with the kids today—although those stay-at-home days get on my last nerve. Yesterday, I told Harry if he didn’t stop ramming the chaise into the wall, I was going to be really mad. He said, “No you won’t. You’ll be sad and call Dada.” Touché, little man, touché.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Home Crap Home

Two years ago, our townhouse did not feel like the upside-down albatross it does today. Two years ago, we only had one child-- a 9-month-old baby, and we were so darn proud of ourselves for joining the ranks of homeowners. We were shocked, really, that we could buy this place, and we had so much fun painting the walls and picking out floors.

When we moved to this town, we were b-r-o-k-e. The week before we moved, Ben won $900 on the gambling boat in Peoria, thereby tripling the amount of money he had to his name. I was pulling in 4 figures as a first-year doctoral student, and Ben was armed with an MA degree so new the ink hadn't yet dried on his diploma. We moved into an apartment complex that in retrospect was really scummy but that charmed us at the time. (We really dug the two skeezy pools and the stagnant swamp in the middle of the grounds that masqueraded as a pond. We were stoked about the goose-crap covered tennis courts, too.) The day before Ben was to start a job as a suit salesman at a department store, he got hired as a marketing assistant to a local insurance salesman. The day before THAT job started, he got his first real job-job as an admissions counselor at an online college (that has since become an online university and still employs Ben as an assistant professor in his spare time) and left the insurance guy high and dry. (I will never forget the snarky email he sent scolding Ben for his unprofessional conduct. A real people person, that guy).

Slowly, things got better for us financially. Ben traded up jobs a few times, and I began to collect a salary in the mid-teens (LOL). We moved to a less scummy apartment complex for awhile, and then we took advantage of the ridiculous mortgage programs that eventually broke our country and bought our first house, erm, condo.

And there, or here, we sit. How long we'll sit here is uncertain. Until the walls bulge out from the pressure of all the freaking toys we have crammed inside? Maybe. Until we say screw it and take a hit on the sale of our very first house? Hope not. Until the market rebounds and we can maybe break even? Who knows when that's gonna be.

I really do feel bad complaining because I know our situation could be a billion times worse. But ever since we got the bad news postcard from the tax assessor's office last week, I have sort of hated my house. Which is unfair, I know. It's not my house's fault that there are too many people and not enough bedrooms and too much crap and not enough storage. And knowing us, the amount of people and crap we sustain would just grow to fit the confines of a new house. Then we'd have to buy a bigger house and amass more people and things. We're like goldfish, growing to fit the size of our tank.

Except these guys. They're like monkeys.

Chalk-hoarding monkeys

Monday, April 27, 2009

Pointless (now there's a title that makes you want to read more)

Oh this kid.

On the one hand? Awesome and hilarious. The other "morning" he woke up at 3:30 and trotted downstairs (where yes, we were still sleeping in our living room). Ben was like, "Dude, Harry. You can't come out of your room until the sun comes up." Harry looked at Ben, put his fat little hand on his hip, and said, "Dada. I don't think the sun is accurate."

On the other hand? Total pain in the ass. Constant bullying of his roly poly brother. Constantly querying "Where's my milk?" or "Can I have some more black bears on the couch?" (his name for Teddy Grahams). Constant demands to "watch tee-ee downstairs on the big tee-ee." And the tantrums. Oh, the tantrums. He also uses his Buzz Lightyear laser all the time (Note: this is not a real laser. He crooks his arm like Buzz in the Toy Story movies and pushes an invisible button while screaming "Dooodododododoooooo." It's more annoying than I can articulate.) At Little Gym last week, I said, "Harry, we don't laser our friends." Then I felt like a ginormous douche bag for saying something like that out loud.

Then there's this guy.

He has a mad crush on phones these days and clamors to talk whenever one rings. He is also talking more, and he has a really deep voice for a baby. He says Harry, Jack, Dada, no, yeah, baba, night night, ball, book, down-- but NOT MAMA. He is also still sleeping in the master bedroom. All by himself.

He hates to have his diaper changed but loves a good poop, and he is a voracious reader (Seriously. He tears books UP).

It's funny because all of our friends keep asking us if we're going to have another baby soon, which is not an odd question considering I got pregnant with Jack right around Harry's first birthday. But, um. NO FREAKING WAY. Maybe in like 3 or 4 years. But that's a huge maybe.

You may be asking yourself Sarah, what the hell? Does your post have a point? The short answer: No. The long answer: No. No it sure doesn't.

Oh! I finally bought a graduation dress. It's nothing special, but it does have my two favorite characteristics: it fits me in a stupid small size, and it was on sale. What it looks like is totally immaterial.

OH MY GOSH! My little brother Jon just called me, and he is speaking at his law school commencement!! How cool is that?? Yay Jon!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Real Estate Rant

Look at the extreme caution and distaste Harry displays while retrieving his ball. He likes playing outside as much as I do.

The other one?

Really liked crawling around in the mud like he was Harry's puppy. Also liked the slide.

And his car. Sort of.

Trying to fly off the slide?

Not the best idea he has ever had

Notice all the mud and the destroyed yard and the Bobcat tracks going up our hill and the missing hunks of sidewalk? Yep. Me too. Know who else noticed them? The really cute, young, pregnant couple and their round little realtor who were looking at the townhouse 4 doors down from us. They smiled and said hi on their way too look at the place but after touring the complex for a few minutes, they beat a hasty retreat and made no eye contact as they were leaving. Awesome.
See, the thing is, we'd really like to sell our house and buy a new one. With another bedroom. A place for all the freaking toys. And extra garage stall for the Power Wheels. A yard big enough for a really ostentatious swing set and a dog I could constantly bitch about.
The mud field that currently surrounds us is not really helping the old curb appeal, you know? Oh! And you know what else isn't helping our upward mobility? THE RECESSION. THE COLLAPSE OF THE HOUSING MARKET. THE BUBBLE THAT BURST ONLY DAYS AFTER WE SETTLED INTO OUR HOME SWET HOME which we outgrew about thirty seconds after that.
Give us your best home buying/ selling tips? Please?

Sorry it's so ranty. Now that I am on hiatus from complaining about my dissertation, I need something else to find fault with. Am I a peach or what?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Cheesy Backgrounds? We Never Get the Cheesy Backgrounds.

We even got the black backgrounds which we also never get because they look a little velvet Elvis-y to me (no offense if that's your thing) Also, we bought some of the black ones only because of his resemblance to Chris Farley.

I'm a sucker for the sad ones. He was sad because we removed his shoes

Standing on the block made him happy again

So did the teeny chair

Trust me when I tell you there are more where those came from.

Ben and I left Harry with my parents, and we took Jack to get some pictures at a photo chain store, and while we were there, marveling at how easy it is to care for just Jack, we realized that we had never before taken just Jack anywhere. Well, one time when he was a neonate, the three of us lunched at TGI Friday's, and Jack nursed in the booth the whole time, but that hardly counts because he wasn't really Jack yet, you know?
How awful are we? NO time for just Jack. Ben and Jack grocery shop every Sunday, but that's it for his one-on-one time. He naps when Harry is at preschool. I guess there's a 45-minute Little Gym class a week with one or the other of us. But no time with Jack and both of us.
We would try to rectify the situation by getting a babysitter for HB and taking Jack out more often, but if Harry gets any more jealous of the J-man, we're going to have some fratricide on our hands.
Excuse the abrupt ending-- there's a repairman on our roof who has seriously compromised nap time.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Happy Birthday Jack: The Grandparents Edition

For me, the party can be summed up in three pictures


Sweet baby gluttony:

35 pounds of what-do-you-mean-the-majority-of-those-gifts aren't-mine-rage wrapped up in balloons

But there was other stuff, too.
Like favor bags for Harry and Jack and their cousins (who had a nasty stomach flu and couldn't come to the party)

Little Monster cookies

Little Monster cookies wrapped up in bags tied with Little Monster tags

A cake with Little (frosting glop) Monsters

And of course a little monster

and his older brother, the holy freaking terror

Harry spent some serious time being Balloon Man

Jack played with his crown

And was adorably dainty with his smash cake

Although he did put so much frosting in his ear that it made him cry

But he posed for a couple of pictures

Harry tore through his big brother gifts

and opened most of Jack's

He even commandeered Jack's new motorcycle

and called Jack Robin and made him ride on the back

Harry has been doing this thing lately-- he must have his hands wiped every time he touches anything squishy or crummy or slimy. He demands that we wipe him off even when he has a napkin on his lap. He sticks his hands in the air and yells, "Who's going to wipe my hands?" Today, I was a teeny bit annoyed with the constant request, so I wiped his hands. On his face.

Luckily, he liked it.

I had a bad moment after everyone left and Harry fell asleep on the couch and Ben and Jack went grocery shopping and I was all alone in the boys' room cleaning out their closet. Jack has outgrown so many teeny pairs of pants and small shirts. He's getting so big, so sweet.

Replacing Jack's outgrown jeans and polos with rows of Harry's jeans and polos from last year, I was surprisingly sad that this could be the last first birthday party I throw.

A year.

It's gone in a blink.