Saturday, December 31, 2005


As many of you know, my husband has spent most of this fall trying to find gainful employment at one academic post or another for next year. The plan is that he will spend the Spring doing the job thing and finishing his diss and I will be the primary caregiver for the D-unit.

Many of you may NOT however, know what a huge pain in the butt the academic job application process is. It starts with applications, which include carefully crafted cover letters, CVs (academic resumés), teaching portfolios, and writing samples. These are sent out and if one is lucky, one might get a phone interview or an interview at the big languages conference (held every year, for some sick reason, from Dec. 27-30). This is the “we’re trying to see if you’re worth the cost of bringing you to campus” interview. This is the phase Daddymatic just completed: he had several interviews at the conference in Washington, DC over the past few days. He asked me to go with him, and this being his hour of need, I could hardly refuse, but we both knew that academic conferences routinely appear on the list of 10 places your 11-month-old will like least, so we—well, I—agonized for weeks over what to do with my somewhat clingy offspring while we were on the trip. Bee-bee (my mother) had offered to watch him, but I was afraid he’d overwhelm her either with his anxiety or the sheer volume of his active energy, so I wavered, waffling back and forth for several days as Departure Date drew closer. My anxiousness was not eased by the requisite Holiday Family Drama that seems to visit our household each year, but at long last my mother announced that if I wanted to stay in Charlotte while Daddymatic went to his conference, that was fine, but I was not going to be staying in her house. I capitulated but with the stipulation that I was allowed to call every few hours and check in on them and that she would call me if things seemed to be going badly.

I’d like to say I really held it together for my husband’s sake and was cool and everything as we pulled out, but you’d know I was lying. I sobbed and sniveled even as I assured my dear hubs that I would soon be getting a grip and that we’d have a good time. I sat on my hands for 3 hours so I wouldn’t call and bug the caregivers, and when I finally did call, D was napping and Bee-bee sounded fine. They had an active afternoon and evidently he slept pretty well—only woke once for a feeding around midnight. The next day was, by all accounts, a bunch o’fun, too, except maybe for Grampy, who was left alone with a sweet, sleeping baby that suddenly woke up as a wailing, poopy baby. According to Bee-bee, Grampy has never actually changed a diaper before this day, but he took one for the team and stripped the kid down, hosed him off and got him redressed in time for Bee-bee’s arrival home. He regaled us with descriptions of diaper contents that would have killed a lesser man. What a hero.

As for us, I played shuttle service, driving Pops around to his interviews in some of the finer DC hotels, went to the mall to remedy the fact that I’d apparently been so nervous about leaving the baby that I’d forgotten to bring any pants, save the ones I was wearing, and got to eat Ethiopian food in a decidedly un-toddler-friendly restaurant. On the way out of DC, so desperate to see the kid that we were kind of humming along with the engine in an attempt to get us home faster, we realized we’d left Daddymatic’s laptop hidden in our hotel room. After fighting back through midday traffic, giving up 9 forms of picture ID and a blood sample to get the computer back, and scrambling back through the city, we were on our way, slogging as we’d done 2 weeks earlier through the heavy holiday traffic on I-95. It took us 11 hours from the time we first left the hotel until we touched down at Chez Bee-bee and Grampy. I went in to feed the Little Bit at midnight and gawked at how much more hair he seemed to have and how tall he seemed to have grown in the mere two and a half days since I’d seen him last.

Today he’s been a nut, kind of all over the place and, as usual, extremely active, and there were a few times while he was fighting his nap that the  (sing it with me) “Reunited”-esque afterglow seemed to fade, but I realized that while there may be lots of moments with D that I can do without (fighting diaper changes, kicking and thrashing to avoid the nap, whining), being with him always feels Right whether or not it always feels Great.

And feeling Right again really rocks.

Friday, December 30, 2005

A boy and his tiger

Okay, back before the image of Calvin peeing on stuff became the redneck family crest, I really liked Calvin and Hobbes. I had a pretty outrageous imagination as a kid, so I loved watching the world this little boy created with his fuzzy friend who, to the rest of the world at least, was merely a stuffed toy. His imagination tinged with cynicism reminded me of, well—me!

Up to now, though, our little man hasn’t shown much interest in stuffed animals, except for Lambie, his nightly companion whose once-white ears are now black with love-grime. Lambie is a true lovey, though—not so much a toy per se; I rather think the D-unit sees her as an extension of himself.

And then the little fella went and met his first stuffed tiger last week and the whole world changed. Daddymatic’s sister, the formidable Aunt Katie, is quite the collector of stuffed animals and is probably the main reason The Disney Store has been able to open so many new locations. She gets a stuffed Simba every year to replace last year’s model, which has had its head sniffed so much that it no longer sports any fur on its head. Simba, however, is the only one of her legion of stuffed animals that she actually plays/sleeps with, and so it came to be that Shere Khan, the tiger from the Jungle Book, was relegated to the guest room, which has become the overflow lot for parking stuffed critters that won’t fit into Katie’s room.

Well, Heavy D took one look at that tiger and shrieked with delight. Here was a soft, cuddly kitty who a) didn’t run away when D pulled its tail b) let him slob all over its fur and c) didn’t mind being slammed on the floor and having a large baby’s head rammed into its gut. A true find indeed. For three days, the D-unit frolicked with Shere Khan, dragged him all over the family room and cuddled with him any chance he could get. Gramma and Granddaddy managed to convince Aunt Katie that it might be okay to let Nephew D ‘borrow’ her tiger for a little while (Katie’s catalogic memory is kept busy keep track of all her stuff, so despite the fact that she never actually played with Shere Khan, she can tell you when he was bought, how much she paid for him and the other locations in the house he has been stored.) and so it is that the terror of the jungle Himself now lives with us and makes our baby smile and coo.

Which I’m thinking is a good thing. I don’t know if this attachment is just temporary or will evolve into a complicated relationship whose tenderness and devotion will be the yardstick against which all future relationships are measured. I don’t know if the D-unit and SK will have the good times that, say, my childhood bear-friend Barney and I had, but one can hope. I just know that sometimes a little boy needs a tiger.

Friday, December 23, 2005

(All) Day Tripper

It's the holidays, and the Familymatic has taken their show on the road, so to speak. Namely, we've just finished a 4-day stint in the lovely Fayettevile, NC (known to its detractors as Fayettenam) visiting daddymatic's parents and we've just arrived at Chez Bee-bee and Grampy for a multi-day stay.

And, as you might expect, I have a few thoughts to share on car traveling with an almost-toddler. Namely, do not attempt a 13-hour journey AT ANY TIME. Anyone who says it's not that bad is not your friend and is probably harboring some resentment issues about you that you don't have time to unpack--so just walk away. Anyway, if you must travel with said child on said marathon journey, here are my tips:

1. Travel with a nice baby like mine. Like I said, I am hoping to NEVER have to do this again, but the D-unit really came through and was awesome for 98% of the trip.

2. Leave when it's naptime. We made sure Heavy D was thoroughly exhausted before we started our journey and once we got in the car, he and I promptly collapsed into our respective 90-minute naps.

3. Two words: McDonald's Playplace. You are welcome to your righteous Morgan Spurlock-esque blather about childhood obesity, the agonizing death of the Slow Food Movement and the Satanic force that is the double cheeseburger, but at Chez Familymatic, we are ALL ABOUT the Play-Mcfriggin'-Place!! What a masterstroke for parents who have to travel with high-energy kids in the dead of winter when your places-to-exercise-your-offspring options consist of a) the floor of the gas station bathroom--uh, EW!! and b) the vending machineiquarium at the rest area. For those of you who don't know, the Place de Play (sorry about that distinctly non-French use of place, Kat) is an indoor gym-thingy attached to certain McDonald's establishments that is free for you to use for the price of a cup of really bad coffee or an order of unholy good fries.

I will admit that the quality of the Playplace is QUITE variable--the first one we stopped at was clean and not too much of a nasty germ factory but daddymatic dubbed the second Playplace "the petrie dish" and let D crawl around for a grand total of about 3 minutes before the heebie-geebies got the best of him. I vaguely recall something about there being a big life-sized plastic statue of Ronald sitting on a bench and Heavy D apparently attempting several times to grab at some nasty substance that had congealed all over Ronald's thighs, but I have enough Clown Issues without thinking of my baby crotch-diving Ronald McDonald, so I've opted to repress that particular memory. Suffice to say that yes, the quality control on these places is a bit iffy, but hey, I'll take my chances as my child slept for about 6-7 of the 13 hours we were in the car together--an act I lay wholly at the big red feet of Ronald and his minions.

4. Don't try to drive through Washington, DC during rush hour on a Friday afternoon. Duh. If you aren't smart enough to know this, you probably shouldn't even HAVE children, but hey--our learning curve is steeper than most.

5. Bring lots of toys and rotate them out during carseat play. Sing. Share car-appropriate snacks, like cheerios and graham crackers. These things don't actually entertain your child, but you'll feel like you're making some kind of effort which--at least in my case--mitigates the boredom and guilt a little. I would also be willing to lay down the dollaz for some inflight DVD action, but since the videos D watches are only 30 minutes long at most, it seemed silly to drop so much money on a couple hours' respite from the tedium. In hindsigt it seems less silly, but there you are--we were able to make it through without our favorite electronic babysitter.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Christmas cards and cheating

Okay, so I am going to be unoriginal (shocker! a mommymatic first?) and say that I hate those stupid newletters people put in their holiday cards. I am sure there are funnier rants on this than the one I've been doing in my head, so I'll move on to say that while I hate them, I AM starting to understand why people do them. Even adding a couple of sentences to the 30+ cards I have to send out is mind-boggling, especially now that all my time appears to be taken up with chasing an 11-month-old, endless laundry, making baby food and, of course, blogging. And reading blogs. And commenting on blogs.

Anyway. I toyed with the idea of a mass letter this year but Daddymatic vetoed it, and since he rarely uses his veto power, I admitted that it was probably a lame thing to do and ditched the idea. But how can I tell everyone what's been going on? How can I catch them up without sacrificing even more sleep and getting a writer's cramp to boot? Then I thought, well, hey, I could just give them the url to the blog! But I feel that's gotta be more tacky than a newletter--it sorta says, "hey, I couldn't even take the time to do a newsletter!"

But I did it anyway, mostly because I am at the time in my life that when I can cheat and turn in the same paper for two assignments, I'm gonna do it. For instance, some of the pictures I've saved over on flickr are becoming cool gifts, thanks to qoop and lulu (thanks to ieatcrayonz for this idea!). The way I see it, my writing might suck, but this blog IS a record of what's going on in our lives, and shoot, if people want to know what we're up to, they can read it.

To ease the pain of the social gaffe I'm sure I committed by doing that, I *did* include a cute picture of the D-unit. What do you think?

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

What's the word?

As a linguist, I find the world to be largely an experiment in sociolinguistics—from my friend Kat’s insightful posts about interesting things she hears to fellow blogger Wood’s Thursday morning daycare report update, transcribed verbatim from her Vietnamese day care provider’s unusual—if not downright whimsical—use of the English language. And of course, parenting is no different, except that in addition to observing my own interesting use of language, I have been—no pressure, I promise—looking forward to my son’s first words since waaaay before he was born.

And I think he may have made actual verbal contact with my husband the other day. So of course the next natural question is, “what was that first word??” After much hemming, hawing and arguing, my husband and I have negotiated an answer.

We’re pretty sure it was broccoli.

Yeah, broccoli. Not mama, or dada or even no! We are pretty sure what we heard was intended to signify D’s favorite part of lunchtime.

You see, the D-unit LOVES broccoli and eats it constantly, sometimes twice a day. So lately, since he clearly knows which food is which by its label (“apple” gets a grin, he dives for “chicken” or “peaches” when they are put on the tray, but “cheese” is always ignored, unless it’s on a “cracker”) we’ve been telling him what we’re giving him so he can choose what he wants to eat when. So Daddymatic gave him some broccoli and said “broccoli!” To which D smiled and said “buh-guh.” Daddy wasn’t sure he’d heard right, so he repeated “broccoli!” and got another, slightly more impatient “buh-guh.” (as if he was saying “um, yeah, isn’t that what I JUST SAID?”). Apparently, he said it several more times while enjoying his floreted friends, so we’re hoping that’s what it meant and not “Cripes, people, can we get another green veg in here sometime? Ever hear of spinach?”

Of course, he hasn’t done it since, but I’m wondering if it’s because he’s confused as his OTHER favorite thing right now is “buckle” (as in the buckle on his high chair) and to him, “broccoli” and “buckle” probably sound remarkably the same, what with the B, K and L sounds all squirming around in there together.

As an aside, I wish they made a Dapper Dan (did you ever have one of these as a kid?) whose outfits consist of nothing but buckles, the scratchy/hook side of Velcro, and, if possible, two tiny wooden doors that slam as nicely as the ones on our entertainment center. Then the baby would have all his favorite activities together in one toy.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

It's the most wonderful time of the year...

Okay, since my next-to-last post was about church and the previous one was about Christmas, you might be thinkin' I'm something of a Holy Rollah or at least, in the words of Anne Lamott, a "vaguely Jesusy bon vivant." And I am and I'm not. Much, I’m sure, to the chagrin of my academic peeps, I confess that I do love the Lawd, I really dig my church and I think Jesus was, well, a pretty swell guy. But I don't care much which flavor of religion one chooses nor do I think the whole heaven/hell racket is something God condones. I take the view of Quaker pastor Phillip Gulley, which is to say that if you're gonna believe there's a God, it's just plain silly to think that She (or It, if you will) wouldn't want to--and be able to--spare Its offspring from whatever concept of hell one buys into.

But I digress. This post is about Christmas, about being generally stoked about the season and about being so, so, so excited that it's the D-Unit's first holiday season. While fellow blogger Dutch is probably right that the 10-to-11-month-old set is probably not going to be into caroling, chestnut-roasting and finding the most Griswold-Christmas-esque light displays, I must say I'm amped about the amount of holiday spirit the Boy Wonder has shown thus far.

Since he's mobile now, we figured the big tree was out, but since he loves, as I believe I've mentioned, the fiber-optic lights in the Baby Einstein videos more than anything in the world (other than the kitties), we decided to get a small, completely tacky fiber-optic tabletop tree. I was responsible for procuring this monstrosity, and I must say, I outdid even myself.

It is fourteen inches of faux-evergreen goodness. Not only does it flash through a dizzying amount of colors in a minute's time, it has what the box generously called a "designer gold-tone base," which to the rest of us means it's plastic but has been painted to look like metal. Classy, non? The best part is that it kind of squeaks and groans when it rotates on its base (that's how the lights work). Our pagan cat, M, has decided that this sound is the tree crying out against its servitude to its Christian Overlords (M gets a little touchy around Solstice). But you know, its awfulness is totally worth it because every time Heavy D sees it, his eyes light up in wonder and he sits, transfixed by the wonder of lights.

He seems to dig Christmas music, too, which he'd have to or Daddymatic would probably trade him in for another model. (Okay not really, but seriously, daddymatic loves all Christmas music, from hifalutin' oratorios to 40's jazz vocalists to the Chipmunks, almost more than he loves me and the baby combined.). D is a particular fan of "the twelve days of Christmas" which has replaced "the wheels on the bus" as the official Familymatic Diaper-Changing Distraction soundtrack. Unfortunately, we have to make up as many lines to this one as we did to TWOTB, but hey, it just means we get to throw in Eddie Izzardesque lines like "twelve..monkeys mating."

So we'll see. The fact that D's first birthday is a mere 3 weeks after Christmas means that all the junk he's gonna procure will probably be overwhelming, but I'm hoping that being with our nutty but wonderful families for 3+ weeks will show him that it really ain't about The Man with the Bag anyway...

Friday, December 09, 2005

"I love it when ya call me Big Poppa..."

I gotta admit, this time of year, I always think about Joseph. I really feel Mary and the babe get their due this time of year, and with good reason--what better package for the Messiah to come than in the form of a baby and a nursing mama?

But Joseph? I mean, what a hero. First of all, the baby’s not even his and you know that even though the Big Dude totally went over the whole situation with him, that explanation ain’t gonna be cutting it on the corner with the fellas. And I can only imagine Mary at the Inn, “Oh, you have GOT to be kidding me. You didn’t make a reservation? Everybody and their brother is here to be taxed by the Romans, and you didn’t think your knocked-up wife might deserve a room? Oh great, and now my water’s broken.”

But my man persevered and found a place for this woman to birth this child (“Hay, you said? I did mention that this child is supposed to be the Redeemer of Mankind, right? Still nothing? Not even a rollaway in the parlor? No?”) and even swooped them off to Egypt when Herod went ballistic like some ‘roided up boxer before a fight. What a GUY!

People go on and on about how much Mary must have loved and trusted God to give birth to this kid and do everything she did for him. I certainly believe that, especially now that I’m a mother. But Joseph, it seems to me, had at least as hard a job, and he often gets forgotten. Dads too often do. I think my generation is one of the lucky ones, since dads get to be so much more involved than in my parents’ day. But the daddies—at least in our house—are what make the world go ‘round.

I thought before I got pregnant that I couldn’t love my husband more. Then I got pregnant and I thought before I had the baby that now, this was really it: I was all full up, maxxed out on spousely love. Then this wonderful creature came into our lives and whole new apartments in my heart opened up and were immediately rented by this expansive love for daddymmatic. Sometimes it’s the sexy, romantic love of our early years together, other times I’m just tearfully grateful that I’m not doing this baby-rearing stuff alone. It’s corny, it’s cheesy, but it’s true: thinking about Joseph makes me a sentimental sap for my beloved.

Frankly, it makes me sentimental for all the big poppas out there, so let me be the first to send a big Holiday Holla to all the mommaz fellaz.

Monday, December 05, 2005

This post didn't start off being about church...

It started with my asking "why isn't there a rent-by-the-day nanny franchise?" I asked because this past week, Daddymatic and I were both sick-sick-sick on Thursday night and Friday was declared Familymatic Day of Limited Mobility, which was fine for the adult (and, frankly, the feline) members of the household but was one to which the Wee One gave a big juicy "pphhhhbbbt!"

So I wondered, as I feasted on the requisite Day After Vomiting meal (saltines and ginger ale), why isn't there a daily nanny rental service? If both family caretakers are incapacitated, it would be perfect to be able to call in one's Nanny Temp agency, order up a nice nanny for the day, and go back to bed. As it turned out, we did manage to finagle something of this ilk out of our devoted church members. Remember these people? I think I've mentioned in a previous post how totally adorable the people from my church are: how they fight about who gets to keep D in the nursery, how they invite us over for lavish meals and pass on family heirlooms to our child? Well, true to form, the first person I called literally dropped the project she was working on and came over to watch the baby for two hours. Not only would she not let us compensate her in any way, she brought SOUP for the ailing parents and acted like we'd done her this huge favor for getting her out of the house. And the thing is, I have no doubt if I called anyone else from this congregation, they would've done something similar.

I have no idea how to even begin thinking about leaving these people if my husband gets a job next fall. I know there are other churches, other people who will like my child. But not like this. This is the kind of love you only get from your family--and that's if you're lucky. But I guess that's what church SHOULD be--your spiritual family, right? It just seems to me that so few churchgoing folk live the stuff they preach. It's nice to be in a church where I'm surprised constantly at how often and how consistently and how graciously the churchfolk do walk the talk.

Of course, it's even more surprising that they let women like me even join, but that's a whole different post.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

commenting and trackback have been added to this blog.

Yo, where'd everybody go?

commenting and trackback have been added to this blog...I'm still not totally sure what trackback means, but I will tell you that it LOOKS like the comments from all three of my readers have disappeared. They haven't. Comments on old posts can be seen by clicking the time stamp that follows each post. I copied Emily :) and Dutch's comments on the most recent post into Haloscan, but dude, I have a lotta posts and I don't think I'll be able to copy the old comments over to the new system.

But feel free to comment away--I think Haloscan is easier to use than Blogger's format, especially for those of you who aren't bloggers!

Less administrative posts coming soon...just wanted to let everybody know I hadn't deleted their kind words, sweet thoughts and insightful musings.