Saturday, October 29, 2005

The Inflatable Face

Lindsay, my internet friend, and I have known each other for more than ten years, but we’ve only met in person twice. The second time was this weekend, and the first time was in the fall of 2003 when I was five months pregnant. It’s important to know that five months pregnant on ME looks like seven or eight months pregnant on any normal person.

On Friday, I noticed Lindsay staring at my face while we ran around the lake. “You look different than I remember,” she said in explanation.

“Well YEAH,” I said, “I was pregnant last time.” And then I shuddered, just thinking of the horror of the inflation. “THIS,” I said desperately trying to explain myself, “THIS is what I really look like. My face… UGH! It’s really not that fat in real life.”

“It wasn’t fat,” Lindsay said. She’s a model of tact, I tell you. “But I think you're much more chiseled this time.”

And for that, I praise the Lord and breastfeeding.

Thursday, October 27, 2005


Tonight was a really good night for my graduate school career.

I finally won my advisor over on my thesis idea. This development is, quite frankly, a small miracle.

I’m not sure if she remembers the conversation we had last summer wherein she shot my research interest down out of the sky like a sick pheasant. In fact, I think she must not because tonight she acted like it was the most natural thing in the world to love that topic. “Well, after all,” she smiled, “you SHOULD be writing about what you’re interested in.”

Regardless, I was so psyched about this thrilling development, that I came home in kind of a frenzy.

Dan, being a good husband, pretended to be really happy for me, and then, clearly thinking ahead to the long-range implications of my academic zeal, which could last beyond the completion of my master's degree, tactfully mentioned that he thought you “got paid to do your Ph.D.”

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Terrible. F.

We’d reached the end of our flipping rope when it came to Shef’s sleeplessness. We were tired of getting kicked in the head at 1:30am, tired of sleeping on the floor in front of his crib, tired of drinking seventy-two ounces of caffeine during the day in a futile, desperate attempt to remain functional, tired of being awake when everyone else in the world is happily, blissfully asleep.

It’s been awful, and we weren’t going to take it anymore.

So, for the past three nights we’ve been employing all kinds of measures to drown out the crying: turning on the loud fan, throwing pillows over our heads, plugging up our ears with cotton and our fingers, yogic breathing, and tuning into Tivoed Gilmore Girls at all hours.

Eventually, we’ve told ourselves, he’ll give up and fucking GO. TO. SLEEP.

Today, unrelated to the hideous lack-of-sleeping, I decided I should take Shef in to see Dr. Gold for his lingering cough (which we’d been muffling at night with cough suppressant).

“Any other symptoms?” she asked.

“Well, he’s been crying at night,” I said, rolling my eyes.

“So, nothing new, then,” she concluded.

And then she listened to his breathing and looked in his ears and matter-of-factly diagnosed a nasty double ear infection.

And so, don’t we feel like total stinking assholes.

Monday, October 24, 2005

The Baby Displays an Interest in Domestic Responsibilities

Tonight he was really interested in washing his plastic vegetables in the sink of his play kitchen and then storing them in the oven and shelves beneath the cooktop.

Although he seemed a little obsesseive about it, I've decided to strongly encourage this type of activity.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

It Was Worth Missing the Baby, Especially Since I Slept All Night Two Nights in a Row

Jessie and I just returned to The Motherland from our trip to Lee’s.

There were drinks and laughs and The 40 Year-Old Virgin, which was completely transcendent.

Also, as you can see, Lee was the perfect tour guide.
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We learned about Benjamin Banneker, the Dunn legacy, and the Founding Fish, among other things.

As an added bonus, Lee’s darling Teen Daughter graded some papers for me while I ate at an authentic Hoosier establishment.

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On the way home I was feeling kind of sad, and I asked Jessie why I wanted Lee to live in Minnesota so badly.

“Because,” she told me, “you heart Lee very much.”

Yes, I thought. That must be it.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

I'm not ready to provide an official account of our weekend at Lee's, but I do want to mention the miniature books we saw at the Lilly Library.

I was skeptical about the actual existence of print on the mini pages, but a little internet reserach has more or less convinced me.

I'll stop short of joining the Miniature Book Society, but I will say I'm intrigued by those tiny page-turners.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Goody This and Brimstone That

Shef hasn’t slept in four days, which must be why, when one of my American Lit’ers tattled on another for swearing when I stepped out of the room for a moment during Act I of the Daniel Day-Lewis/Winona Ryder version of The Crucible, I told the offender that he would “surely burn in hell for that.”

I’m pretty sure I can blame the Puritan influence, but I think I best be careful, nonetheless.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Yet Another Reason We Have to Watch What We Say

We are so happy with almost everything Shef’s caregivers teach him at school. He can count to ten, he can sing most of his ABC’s, he can identify shapes; and I’m totally down with that preschool skill stuff. Well done, Pauls, I say. Bring on the colors and letter-identification.

He certainly responds well to their lessons and mimics most everything they say. For instance, one of the teachers calls him “Mr. Sheffield,” and he has taken to referring to himself that way, in the third person. “Mr. Sheffield,” he’ll say proudly, pointing at his chest and nodding. “Yep. Hmmm hmmm.”

It’s sweet, really. A good crowd-pleaser.

The other night, though, when Shef was grooving to some happening tunes (I think it was Raffi, the old stand-by), and told himself to, “Work it, Shef!” I wondered if they might just be a little too good at their jobs.

Sunday, October 16, 2005


Shef and I are staying at my mom’s house for a few days because I realized that it’s impossible to get Shef to school, which opens at 7:15, and myself to work, which is a million miles away and starts at 8:30, on time.

Dan is the usual weekday transporter, but he’s on a business trip in San Francisco, which, in my opinion, could be worse for him.

Anyway, at my mom’s house I’ve discovered one thing that’s good about watching television without Tivo: My paper-grading efficiency improves greatly during the commercials.

Saturday, October 15, 2005


Dan and I signed a contract this week -- we've given a sizable chunk of our livelihood to Joe, our new builder.

Joe is a friendly sort -- a little pudgy, a shy smile. He grew up in the same suburb I did, and he and my brother went to elementary school together.

Joe says that he’ll add a family room and nice little guest bathroom to our house. He'll also remodel our kitchen and existing bathroom. He says it’ll be really nice when it’s done and that he’ll try to save us money.

For better or worse, I believe him.

And regardless, I figure the remodel will be good for the blog.

Thursday, October 13, 2005


Today I ratted out some kids who were skipping their Russian class.

I felt kind of bad about this, but not overly so. After all, I AM a teacher, an authoritarian representative of the state, as Lee would say.

Anyway, when I was doing the ratting (which was easy since the Russian class convenes in my room while I’m madly assembling my American Lit lesson) I noticed a kid pulling out his phone to text-message the offenders.

I frowned at him, and he smiled impishly. “I’m telling them to run,” he said.

“Hmmm,” I replied. And it seemed like a sign of the times.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

New Frontier

I’ve taken the plunge and assigned blogging to my students in American Lit. There are twelve budding scholars in that class – just enough, I thought, to stage a little blog experiment.

I was giddy as I handed out the guidelines for the blogs. I told the students that it was my dream to do this assignment; that in starting their Crucible blogs they would be fulfilling my wildest instructional dream.

They thought this was pathetic, but they humored me – I felt a thrill when I logged in to my official teaching blog and saw nine new comments. They were instructed to post their URLs in my comments section, and sure enough, they have.

I think it’ll be a whole new kind of discussion we’ll have about literature out here in cyberspace. I’m sure of it, in fact.

And, just in case the discussion is altogether TOO new, I think I best get their usernames and passwords. I’ve decided that censorship is okay when it has the potential to save my job.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Tap Dancing

The Odyssey, it seems, is a tough sell.

“It’s archetypal!” I said at in the beginning. I showed clips of Harry Potter and Luke Skywalker. I was the opposite of a stick-in-the-mud. “See?” I said. “The Odyssey, like me, is very hip.” They rolled their eyes, but their interest was piqued, I could tell.

And then they had to read some. And they were, shall we say, disappointed.

“Don’t worry,” I assured them. “There’s a one-eyed monster and a blind prophet coming right up!” Still, their skepticism persisted.

“Look,” I said finally, after they failed their second quiz, “If you stick with it, there will be incest and lots of goddess sex.” They giggled, but, alas, they did not crack their books.

The dedicated among them scanned their Spark Notes, and for this, I suppose I should be grateful.

Saturday, October 8, 2005

Because You Don't Grow Out of Dorkiness

Dan and I have been teaching Shef "party tricks" of sorts. Little things; silly things; things that make us unreasonably proud and gleeful.

For example, here's a dialogue we repeat daily, if not more frequently:

Parent: Hey, Shef, what do dolphins do?
Shef: Jumping!
Parent: Right! What else?
Shef: Swimming in the water!
Parent: Thaaat's right! And Shef, [here comes the piece de resistance] how do dolphins find things under water?
Shef, proudly: Echo-cation!


Our son, he doesn't have the faintest idea what echolocation is, but man, it makes us happy when he says it.

Sunday, October 2, 2005

The Old 26.2

We are emerging from the haze of sickness, and Shef was well enough to spectate at the Twin Cities Marathon today.

Good pal Jess schooled him in the art of a good cheer, and we heartily applauded runners all morning.

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While urging on this year's crew, Jessie and I couldn't help but think back over our own marathoning ventures. Despite the obvious downsides to an hours-long run -- Jessie remembers telling her dad that she was "fucking dying" when she crossed the Franklin Street Bridge, for instance -- we both expressed a desire to sally forth from the starting line again someday.