Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Chronicles of Bad Parenting

Shef snuck in another double ear infection without spiking a fever or engaging in relentless screaming. This makes us feel guilty because it means we’ve let him languish in pain when we could have procured antibiotics days ago. Our Dr. Gold was nice about it, of course, but she was a little disappointed in me for not remembering if this was the third or fourth ear infection of the fall. To help me out, she wrote down the dates of the three infections and the antibiotics she prescribed for each on a little piece of paper. She told me to keep it in my wallet for future reference, which I thought was a good tip.

Although the kid didn’t display the classic symptoms, he was having an unbelievably hard time sleeping, and he did hit and kick me several times, as if to say, “Why the hell won’t you take me to the doctor, you heartless wench.” Still, I was blind to his needs.

I’ve been letting him watch unlimited Sesame Street to make up for my shortcomings. Also, I bought a pack of lollipops to dole out as needed.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

So Many Problems...

I’ve been buried beneath a heaping pile of final exams, and in addition to the incredible time crunch (I gave the tests on Thursday and Friday, and the semester grades are due on Tuesday), I’ve run into another snag. The sophomore essay topic seemed innocuous enough – James Baldwin once said that identity is shaped by experience and how one handles it, and the kids were to discuss the ways in which this holds true in The Odyssey, Black Boy, and in their own lives.

After reading fifty or so of the products, I find myself dreading the final paragraphs – the ones about the personal experiences. I've been completely blindsided by the deluge of scary, heavy, and heartbreaking stuff they're pouring into the Blue Books. I was expecting traumatic pet deaths, you see, and football losses. What I’m getting is far more weighty. In fact, I find myself feeling relieved for the kids who “only” have divorces and grandparents' funerals to overcome.

I’ve come to the conclusion that adolescence really sucks, and the depth of the suckiness makes it really tough to follow through with my plan to slap grades on the exams, skip the comments, and never hand them back.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Construction Report

There is the beginning of a family room where there wasn't one before! This photo taken from the middle of the old kitchen:

(There will be windows, so it will look less like a tunnel.) And here's a back view:

Per some asinine "code," the garage will be moving six feet into the alley to the tune of five (unexpected) grand.

They're still quoting March 1st as a finish date, which I do not believe for a second.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Brian and Kristi: A Lament

Way back when we were in childbirthing class, we met Brian and Kristi. Their son was due three days after ours, they were open and friendly, and Kristi’s third-trimester size, although considerably smaller than mine, was close enough that I didn’t feel completely humiliated when standing next to her.

Also, they were really funny. We both really liked them both.

In class, they were the only other pair who laughed when our teacher, during the very serious and “calming” guided meditation, directed the labor partners to “rub her buttocks,” and “rub her chest.” When a sweaty and topless mom in one of the birthing videos posed for a photo after achieving a drug-free extraction, Brian quipped, “Now, there’s their Christmas card!”

After our babies were born – hers on her due date and mine two long weeks late – we started hanging out. Kristi and I would march our strollers around Lake Como comparing stomach flab and swearing never to have more children; Brian grilled burgers for all of us and tolerated Dan’s love of Viking football. The kids will be in hockey together, we said. They might even go to the same school!

And just when we had our lives all mapped out, they broke the news that they were relocating to Wisconsin, to a town that’s a five-hour drive from here.

“I miss Brian and Kristi,” I said wistfully to Dan last weekend. We haven’t spoken to them in months, and I don’t know what made me think of them.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

The Truth of My Inferiority

Last night we hit the town with our A-list friends, Mike and Renee. Renee is my teaching pal who once told every single one of my 150 eighth-grade students that I sometimes pee in my pants if I laugh too hard, which you can imagine made for another really great day in the middle school.

Anyway, she and Mike are uber-hip in that they go out on the weekends, come home after 9:30, and wear shiny, high-heeled ankle boots.

The whole night, Dan and I sensed they had us out-classed and tried our darndest to keep up. We offered amusing jokes, discussed European travel and style, and kept baby shit almost entirely out of the conversation. After dinner, at the time we normally park on the couch and drool on ourselves until we fall asleep, we agreed to check out the half-price sake happy hour at a chic Asian restaurant down the street.

“It starts at 10,” Mike said, glancing at his watch.

PM?!” Dan gasped, before he remembered that we were supposed to be playing it cool.

When we got there, Mike greased the maitre d’ and shook hands with six or seven members of the Twin Cities social elite. I tried to blend in, but it was tough while wearing my clogs, the belt I bought in 1991, and a black t-shirt with only one, tiny bleach stain on the back.

On the way back to the car, we passed a very sophisticated-looking club with no street entrance.

“What’s that?” Dan asked.

“Oooh, that’s the Caterpillar Lounge,” Renee explained. “That’s where all the really cool people go.

It was intimidating just looking at it, I tell you.

“We were there last weekend with some friends,” Renee continued.

There was a pause wherein we raised our eyebrows and she realized her gaffe.

Every time I call her for the next year, I plan to say, “If none of your cool friends are free on Saturday, would you consent to pencil this B-list hanger-on in?” And this will be completely justified.

Friday, January 20, 2006


My students are making podcasts, and I’ve been surprised at how many are hesitant about recording their voices.

“Do I have to record today?” they ask.

Well, duh, of course you do, I say, and then they grudgingly tromp out to the hallway and whisper into the microphone.

I’m hoping they get more excited about this project next week when they add their music and effects, or I else I might start to wonder why I didn't just collect the written memoirs and be done with it.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The Dawn of a New Millennium

This morning, the three of us gathered in the bathroom to have a little family conference about the day’s agenda. I was getting ready for work, and Shef was pretending to put on make-up. This is a necessary hobby, although one Dan doesn’t quite approve. The kid likes to open up the compact and rub a little powder on his face. Also, he runs the eye shadow brush over his cheeks and eyelids a bit.

“I’m putting on make-up, Daddy!” he sings, and Dan has to breathe into a paper bag; but at least I get a chance to brush my teeth.

Anyway, I was discussing what Shef and I would do after I picked him up this afternoon, and I said, “I think we’ll go to the M-U-S-E-U-M.”

“Yeah,” Shef said. “Go to museum.”

It was a split-second before we realized that our game was up.

“What do you see at the Z-O-O, Shef?” Dan asked, testing him.

“Dolphin show!” Shef said, nodding. “Yay!!”

And so, it seems, we’re screwed.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Red Letter Day

In the mail today, I got the Suggestion book Lee blogged about a little bit ago. I bought it because I’m very susceptible to the power of suggestion, but this turned out to be a great purchase.

My favorite suggestion is, “Give me a break Irma.”

On top of this boon, my mom got the new People in her mail today. Since we live here, I’m allowed to get the mail, and on the cover of the mag, Ms. Jolie flaunts her “bump,” as they like to call it. I’m totally reading all about the Brangelina baby before I go to bed.

On top of all this good luck, tonight is a good night for two other reasons: 1) I turned in my paper this weekend, so that’s a huge load off; and 2) I’m watching Gilmore Girls. They’re so funny, and Sherilyn Fenn is on the show now. Also I love Kirk. He just never gets old. If you’re not watching GG, you should be. Tivo that stuff pronto – the WB, 8/7 central. Also you can Netflix the old ones or catch the reruns on ABC Family. Get going and catch up.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Toddler Genius

They know just how to time their cuteness, so as to help you recover from the seventeen public temper tantrums.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

I Wish I had Made Up the Dialogue in This One

I called my sister, The Supreme Babysitter, at 9:45 asking if it was okay for us to stay for the prize drawing at Dan’s office holiday party. I had originally said I'd be home by ten, but it was a casino night, you see; and the more paper tickets I accumulated at the blackjack table, the better chance I had at winning the spa gift certificate.

“The thing is,” I explained breathlessly, “you have to be present to win,”

“Uh, no problem,” she said, and I could pretty much hear her eyes rolling into the phone.

When we walked in the door at quarter to twelve, empty-handed except for the strings of mardi gras beads they gave you if you got “21,” I’m pretty sure she lost a little respect for us.

“So, what do you guys have planned for the rest of the weekend?” she asked politely on the way out the door.

“Oh, just chillin’ like Bob Dylan,” said Dan.

“Rollin’ with our homies,” I added, nodding.

Mary blinked. “Ok-ay,” she said. “Um... and now I really have to go.”

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

My Five Readers Deserve the Truth

Due to the trouble James Frey has encountered regarding apparent untruths in A Million Little Pieces, which I am heartily enjoying despite the controversy, I feel I should offer a disclaimer:

Anything I write regarding Shef is accurate because I don't have a baby book, and this site serves to alleviate a little of the guilt stems from this fact.

However, when I write about other stuff, I sometimes make up dialogue. Sometimes, I also change what people are wearing or who was there or how mean strangers were to me. And oftentimes I make myself sound more pathetic/ugly/haggard/self-conscious/neurotic/stressed-out than I think I actually am.

None of this is done with malicious intent.

Just so you know.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Status Report

I'm a little foggy because we were up with Shef last night. He had a nightmare, which was terrifying for all of us. He had a little seizure fit, throwing himself on the floor and wailing and completely unconsolable. I admit that after twenty minutes of it, the only logical conclusion I could come up with was that he'd developed some form of autism. I decided I had a lot of evidence to back this up, as Shef got his first sub-par report card from school yesterday. He was "having a little trouble listening," a sure sign of autism if I ever heard one.

Once the morning came, things seemed better, and although his teachers say his behavior is becoming decidedly toddlerific, I think he's going to be okay.

And now I'd like to assess my holiday break performance. Here is the list:

Finish the twenty-five-page paper that I ignored during the semester. Hmmm. I'm on page 18, so at least I made progress.

Grade eighty sophomore essays on themes in Black Boy. Done. Totally done, and they are handed back.

Buy new glasses before the 31st, so as to use my flexible dollars before they’re eaten by the powers-that-be. Yep.

Run most days. I'd say it was a satisfactory performance, given all the paper writing.

Stop eating frosting for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Nope. Can't do it.

Return and exchange the holiday gifts that won’t do for whatever reason. Check.

Take Shef to museums and the zoo. He's been completely spoiled, hence the behavior problems at school.

Now, just the paper, and I can move on with my life.

Friday, January 6, 2006


The part where you've poked holes in all the facades, dissolved all the meaning, uncovered all the inconsistencies, and you're left with nothing but an empty shell:

That's the kitchen today. And this is the bathroom, through the wall of what used to be Shef's room:

I've said it before and I'll say it again: now there's no turning back.

Thursday, January 5, 2006

A Joke Only a Middle-Schooler Could Love

As you may know, we’re staying at my mom’s during the destruction project at our house. This is my childhood home, and our rooms – my brother’s and mine – were left pretty much untouched when we left for college.

I cleaned mine out when we moved in to make room for Shef, but Kevin’s shelves are still covered with relics from high school, including two baseballs signed by some members of the Minnesota Twins.

For some reason, Shef is obsessed with the balls, and so he says things like:

“Touch Kevin’s balls.”

“Hold Kevin’s balls”


“See Kevin’s balls again.”

If you’re not laughing it means you’re more mature than Dan and me, which I guess might not be all that surprising.

Wednesday, January 4, 2006


Even though I swore I wouldn't, due to the horrible, painful theory paper I ground out last spring, I'm back to thinking and reading about deconstruction. The absence and the presence and the other and same-self and blah blah blah.

And so, I couldn't help but be reminded of my kitchen, which is currently under deconstruction. Kind of. I mean, it's certainly not a "mindful dismantling," I don't think...

Here's the before:

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And here's a shot from Monday:

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Today the room is empty, so maybe now construction begins? Of course, the time in between the moment I decided to write "now," and the time I actually typed it made it so "now" doesn't really exist.

I don't think there's any way to be sure.

I certainly don't want to be accused of privileging the product over the process. Binary = Bad.

Monday, January 2, 2006

Status Report

Suddenly, our cherub can mimic and string together long sentences. Lucky for me, there hasn't been any profanity in the sentences in the last few days. Here are some examples:

"Look at that!" Shef remarked yesterday morning. "There's another light up there!"

He accurately descibed the neighbors' inflatable Christmas yard decoration: "Santa and snowman standing by a Christmas tree!"

Upon getting his hands on our camera and pretending to take photos of Dan, he said: "Smile! That looks good. Let's do another one!"

He's also likes to have the following dialogue twenty or thirty times per hour (in the third line, he describes whatever he's doing at the time):

Shef: "Hi! How'r you?"
Parent: "I'm fine, thank you. How are you?"
Shef: "I'm eating pizza."

And just this very morning, he said to Dan, "I'm turning on the fan, Daddy. Watch me!"

Dan's hoping this verbal talent means he has an increased chance of becoming successful in rap battles, a la Eminem. Me, I'm just happy to communicate.