Thursday, May 28, 2009

Cupcakes for the cupcake

Sometime in the past couple of weeks, Jack has become an actual person who walks upright, can express his desires and preferences, and understands us when we talk to him. I am not sure exactly when that happened-- I could have told you the precise second Harry did all these things.

But Jack-- I just sort of rubbed my eyes and there he was-- a teeny chunk of humanity,with the fattest toes and the widest little foot slabs, who raises his little head from the Ugly Doll on which it lays and says "Night night" when we leave his room after reading his bedtime stories.

Jack, the wobbly zombie who runs away when we say we're going to get him, can retrieve Harry's pants from the next room when asked, makes the silliest little noise when we tell him to blow his nose, and thinks all animals say "Roar."

In the morning, if we ask him how he slept, he will lay his head on the floor and pretend to snore (he is very literal, that kid). When asked how HE slept, Harry always shakes his head sadly and says"I didn't sleep good, guys." Jack's optimism, though, is unbridled. He loves when Harry kisses him; when the garage door opens at the end of the day signaling Ben's return, he claps his fat hands and screams "DADA" while toddling as fast as he can to the top-of-stairs gate. He also gives the wettest open mouthed kisses when we request them complete with little lip smacking noises.

Everyday he gathers new words and figures out how to use them. He's happiest when we're reading to him, and at night, he still likes to be cradled in our arms while we hold his bottle for him, and he sticks his fingers in our mouths.

Trust me when I tell you he is sweeter than chocolate cake and stickier, too.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Zoo-- it was so fun we could be like official spokespeople

Except we only took 2 pictures of animals:

the sleepy tiger

and the free-range peacock. There were peafowl everywhere. By the time we got to the playground and one hopped through the fence, Harry was all annoyed and said, "That peacock is in my way."

This animal only got in the picture because Harry was riding it, and Ben was standing next to it. Jack did not get a pony ride because I did not want to walk in a slow circle dodging pygmy horse crap. Been there; done that.

The rest of the time, we just took pictures of ourselves because we are conceited like that.

We were not shocked to learn that Jack loves chicken strips-- that kid is processed food's biggest fan

Harry was cool with his Sponge Bob popsicle.

We waited in a massive line for the train

and were glad we did because the train ride was awesome

Moments after this happy shot,

disaster almost came to the carousel:

Panic makes the merry go round from sarah on Vimeo.

(ben almost fell off the carousel because he was unfamiliar, apparently, with the up and down motion of the ostrich. tricky merry-go-round. that's harry in the background urging his horse to ride like the wind).

The boys slept the whole way home, and we grilled a ton of pork product upon our arrival. Then we threw Harry and Jack in the tub, where they had a playful scuffle.

and now they are sleeping, and I hope we will be soon.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Deja Vu

Remember this guy?

Little barely 2 year old Harry on his first day of preschool.

His backpack (decidedly unacademic containing only an extra Pull-up, some wipes, and a spare pair of jeans-- in size 18 months) was so heavy, he couldn't walk while wearing it because he toppled right over (to reveal a pretty freaky looking baby who crapped through that little hedgehog outfit on the way to school, something I didn't notice until I took him out of his infant seat and carried him into class in my quest to be the perfect mother whose baby will never have a flat head but instead was the frazzled lady holding the dirty kid).

Today was his last day of school, and he is all grown up at almost 3 and can carry his own bag (which still holds the same teeny jeans-- good thing his love for his teachers makes him too nervous to crap his pants at school because those dungarees would be worthless). He was super excited about his end-of-year picnic even though I stalled getting cookies and ended up swinging by Whole Foods and grabbing some pre-packaged ones instead of ordering the elaborate pirate cookies he requested from our favorite bakery. Arrrgh, I suck.

Good thing the baby got cuter

Harry loves juice in dixie cups. Thanks, school, for effing up our juice-free zone.

Between the Cheetos (again, great healthy snack influence), the melty cookies, and the sand on the playground, Harry and Jack were filthy, so I figured what the hell and took them to the park.

At home, they had a bath that left a ring around the tub and so much sand I could have panned for fool's gold. For a minute, I thought I was going to enjoy the phantom simul-nap, but Harry never slept.

While looking for old pictures for this post, I noticed that we celebrated Harry's first day of school with a trip to that same park. Trippy.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

I've got the SAHM blues

Am I like the last person on the planet to figure out that being a stay-at-home mom freaking sucks?

And now that I said that, I have to disavow it, or apologize for it, or declare my love for my children because seriously-- who says that? Who does not wake up each day grateful for the 12-ish hours she gets to spend alone with her offspring before help arrives? Who does not treasure each nose and ass wipe? Who does not get down on her hands and knees and thank the powers that be for the opportunity to spend her day moving the sofa to dispose of the huge pile of snacks that fell behind it?

Back when I was a perfect mom-- you know, before I had kids-- I didn't think I would have any problem splitting the childcare and housework 50/50 with my perfect partner, dropping my lovely, non-snot-encrusted offspring at their super cool Montessori-based daycare center, and swinging through the drive-thru Starbucks on my way to work.

Did I forget about the woman I nannied for in college who worked her ass off to provide her girls with things like oh, I don't know HEALTH INSURANCE while her husband slept one off downstairs? How could I forget her and how beautiful she was, all held together with coffee and lip gloss and a weekly nail appointment that might have been the only 45 minutes she sat down or took a deep breath ever. How could I forget how fast she would come home if her baby had a fever? Or how late she was on the days she'd try to swing by baby gymnastics? Or how hard she worked to find the perfect show-and-tell object for her older daughter? The thing about this woman was, she didn't make it look easy-- she let me see how hard it was to be a juggling mom. But I was so self involved, so focused on squeezing in one last cigarette, a Frapuccino, and a pack of gas-station cinnamon rolls on my way to work that I didn't realize the juggling was hard for everyone. I didn't realize that when I called in hungover, this woman was SOL, had to answer to her younger, childless, male boss, had to work from her cluttered basement office with a toddler there to help. The cleaning lady used to leave pages and pages of handwritten notes detailing what she cleaned while the baby and I sat around and made new messes, and the mom would read these reports with a frown and some sighs and would sometimes re-clean something, muttering all the while. I thought she was nuts, and if my life were a movie, I would have been instantly transported from this uncharitable assessment to myself a couple months after jack was born stomping around my own house and calling Ben to yell at him so he could call and yell at the cleaning lady (who came to my house twice a week, not once every two). Because nothing was ever clean enough, because maybe I could control just this one tiny delegated task while everything else, my work, my body, my two-year-old's behavior spiraled out of my control-- but I even delegated the yelling.

The thing is-- I studied mothering ideologies and the work of mothering through history. I should have known what I was in for. I should have known that the work is never 50/50 because one person's job is worth more money, and one person has boobs that make milk. But the minute I first held tiny pink Harry, thoughts of tenure track jobs and daycare centers, and lugging my breast pump to campus flew out of my head. He was a baby-- my baby-- and how could I be away from him even for a minute? So I just wasn't-- not really. Same with Jack, even though I stupidly imagined myself teaching days after his birth.

The thing about these tiny pink people is that they grow up. Form opinions. Talk back to you. Make messes. Refuse to listen to what you say-- but actually store every single word, every syllable, every breath. They depend on us completely, and what if we let them down?

The part that pisses me off the most is that I am supposed to be grateful that I get to be there for them. Wait-- no, that's not it-- the part that pisses me off the most is that I AM grateful to be home with them. But I still think it sucks. No offense, guys, if you're reading this.

Monday, May 18, 2009

What? You don't let your kids roll around in the dirt in their pajamas?

I always thought that my dissertation was keeping me from enjoying my kids.

You know, because I was always thinking about it, worrying about it, feeling guilty for not spending time with it when I was with them.

If I just had more time to spend with them without the pressures of deadlines and revisions, I always thought, I would be the most awesomest stay-at-home-mom EVER.

I know it's only been one day that I have stayed at home without the shadow my dissertation, but so far, I am not the June Cleaver I thought I'd be. More like Peg Bundy. Or Roseanne.

Tomorrow, though. I have high hopes for tomorrow.

Harry asked if we could bake a pie, and I said sure. The only problem?

I don't know how to make a pie.

Saturday, May 16, 2009


I trotted into the official party robing room behind the graduation stage about ten minutes late, a little breathless, on hot pink satin stiletto heels. In the official party robing room, I found a crowd of serious big whigs. A nobel prize winning chemist. A scientist who founded mycology. THE preeminent gender historian. The chancellor. A whole bunch of deans. And some heavy-hitting professors picked to escort these super smarties. None of the people in the room seemed too keen on my "oh my gosh I am so silly and dizzy and kind of a flighty little mess" routine, but that's my default holy-shit-I'm-nervous-and-feel-very-self-conscious-and-out-of-place coping mechanism, so eff them, you know?

I might actually be getting a bit too old to pull this act off, now that I think about it. Compared to the REAL doctors (MDs), all of the PhDs looked ancient. When the med school students began to file across the stage, the dean sitting next to me said "Would you let any of these kiddos operate on you?" I cracked up because I had just been thinking about how creepy it would be to see one of their babyfaces peering at me between the stirrups, you know?

The secretary of the faculty was super annoyed that I was late-ish (I had to leap from the moving car and scamper into the Kohl Center waving my letter that told me where to go and asking anyone who looked official where the hell the platform party was assembling), but he found the time to squeeze in some quick onstage directions.

I measured my head with a downloaded paper tape measurer from the bookstore's website, but the measurement was (surprise, surprise) not accurate, so I couldn't wear my mortar board and instead had to wear a poofy hat. It was silly looking and a bit tight. Also, it smelled.

I was pretty nervous, but I felt so ridiculously out of place on the platform with all the important people that I just sort of leaned up against the dean of the College of Letters and Sciences and the fabulous historian who was escorting Joan Scott (the two people I was wedged between) and enjoyed the show. I was so excited to meet Joan Scott, by the way. I gushed, and I am not a gusher. As the ceremony progressed, several women crossing the stage stopped in front of Scott and said things like, "Thank you," and "You made my work possible," and she didn't even know them-- it was super cool.

Then the chancellor introduced me, and my stomach lurched.

Ben got some fantastically bad pictures of me on the jumbotron

But this one is really cool-- my speech was captioned on the jumbotron, too.

Another of me speaking-- this time with a few less chins.

The speech was fine-- I was a little wigged out because the mic sounded so echoey to me and I was afraid that I got the angle wrong or something, but when no one scurried up to fix it, I figured I was okay, but by that time the speech was almost over, and I was already to the dramatic part, so I kind of missed it.

When I got back to my awkward seat, I noticed that in a typically classy move, I knocked a stack of super lame doctoral candidate business cards all over the stage as I gathered my notebook on my way to the podium. When I got back from walking through the march line and getting my (empty) diploma folder, I noticed that either the nice dean or the famous historians had stacked them up for me.

Looking super pissy about something

My parents

Yayyyy!!! Finally off the stage!!!! (Although, I did have an excellent view of some odd and unsettling shoe/pant/maxidress choices as people filed past me across the stage).

My dear friend Maegan, who entered the program with me, came back from Seattle where she lives with her awesome husband Dave, for graduation. I love that we got to share graduation, since we shared a wonderful advisor, life as broke grad students for a few years, and all the ups and downs of dissertating.

I am not sure if these pictures show how HAPPY we all were, but oh my gosh-- bliss! I have been a bitch on wheels for weeks, and as soon as my speech was over, I felt so much nicer and calmer.

We went to a charming French restaurant and had a phenomenal dinner complete with personalized menus and a ton of liquor and just like college, my dad drove us home.

Ben put this huge sign on the living room wall-- he's the best.

Which is an understatement. He has been unbelievable this week. He got me a sweet mothers day gift, an absolutely fantastic birthday present (two actually-- one for each ear), and the most gorgeous graduation flowers. He took the whole week off so I could get my dissertation deposited, and he did all the house and kid work perfectly. He threw a party for Maegan and me at our advisor's house today, and he ordered my favorite cake (chocolate with buttercream icing that calls me a doctor).

It's hard to imagine a better week!

When I handed in my dissertation on Thursday, in between calling the graduate school in the early stages of hysteria and demanding to talk to the dean because I was concerned about my page numbers being off by a quarter of an inch, I had to put finishing touches on my document like a list of acknowledgments and the dedication page. Here's what I decided on for a dedication:
To Ben, without whom I'd have nothing to dedicate and to whom I will always be dedicated.

I thought I'd tell all of you since the chances of anyone ever opening my dissertation and reading the first page are pretty slim. Ah, the glamour of the academy.

Speaking of glamour, here I am ringing in my 31st by blowing out the candles on my breakfast cake.