Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Kind of Mom I'm Not or Please Pass the Milk, Please

I know that in my profile I mention that one of my three jobs is counseling breastfeeding moms. Between jobs, I have also been doing quite a bit of nonproductive blog surfing as a response to my post "Blogging about Blogging." I decided that if I ever want to gain a following as a blogger, I should probably be doing a bit more following of my own. Where to start? How about women whose interests are similar to mine? So, I searched profiles that mentioned breastfeeding. Inevitably, almost every mom who stated an interest in breastfeeding also incorporated buzzwords like "attachment parenting," "baby wearing," and "veganism." This is the part where I interrupt my current stream of thought for a disclaimer: please do not stone me for what I am about to say. I think these are great, altruistic mothers. They are clearly very involved and concerned parents. I do not relate to them.

I have heard the phrase "attachment parenting" before, but I have never really investigated what all "attachment parenting" entails. If it means having a two-year-old who has to touch you all night and drink a sippy cup while you're sleeping, count me in. If it means that you have to like it and admit that it stems from anything other than your parental apathy, count me out. My two-year-old still sleeps with me because I'm too darn lazy to get up in the night and deal with his tantrums. Period. End of story.

My kids don't eat organic foods and I have to admit there are some nights when they have had Pringles and fruit snacks for dinner. They eat a lot of candy on Halloween, too. They like McDonald's chicken nuggets. I guess I'm not in the "organic foods/ vegan" mom category, as so many breastfeeding moms seem to be.

I'm not sure about the term "baby-wearing" either. I am assuming it has something to do with slings. I used one once: when I took my 6 week old to Disneyland. (By the way, did you know, the "It's a Small World" ride is a great place to breastfeed? But I digress). I think I might be into baby wearing, but not in the sling sense. There is generally a baby attached to my arm, and often another trying to climb my leg. Once again, not my favorite situation.

I don't reuse plastic grocery bags, bake wholegrain bread, or knit. I probably won't storm a business rumored to have employed someone who gave a breastfeeding mom a dirty look. I am comfortable breastfeeding in public, but I wasn't at first. I do own a Shu Uemura eyelash curler (which I use daily); I love how I look in heels. I would carry a Coach bag. I am even guilty of reading BabyWise (don't gasp. Once again, I was much too apathetic for Ezzo-ism).

Sterotypes aside, I think sometimes women choose not to breastfeed because they feel they don't fit "the mold." In my line of work, I hear all too often, "I'm afraid to breastfeed; I'm just a teenage mom." Or, "I'm not sure I can breastfeed; no one in my family could." Breastfeeding extends beyond stereotypes and race. For me, it's not about politics. It is about uniting mother with child and mother with mother. I am a woman and a mom, so I breastfeed.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Social Experiment: While the Cat's Away

For the first time in our six year marriage, my husband is going to be gone for an entire week. Not that I won't miss him; I'm sure I will. However, I'm wondering how life will be different while I'm alone. In my mind, I'm imagining how perfect everything will be when he first steps into the house after his travels: the laundry all neatly folded and put away, the floors freshly mopped, the children peacefully reposing in their beds and the intoxicating scent of chocolate chip cookies with notes of pinesol wafting out to greet him as he opens the door. A simultaneous display of love and my independence. Yeah, right!

The reality is I am further behind than ever. He'll be lucky if the acrid smell of dirty laundry and stale bacon doesn't knock him out when he arrives home. Because the real question is, how will I be able to get anything done with just me and these kids? But hey, I'm up for the adventure; this test of my independence. So to prove my own daring, I have arranged a checklist of things I am going to attempt while he is gone just to prove that I can make it on my own:

1) Hit the Clinique counter at Dillard's for Clinque Bonus Days with whatever kids are in tow. (I'm not sure what this proves except that I know how to use the debit card. But, he probably already knows that.)

2) Go grocery shopping with the kids by myself (gulp.)

3) Make a giant shoe cake.

4) Find and hang new kitchen curtains. (OK. I might have to find someone else to hang them. It doesn't matter, I just want them hanging there when he walks in.)

5) Clean(ish) the house. (I have three kids under the age of six so yes, this is a goal . Besides, it will show off the new curtains better.)

6) Organize the home office (this is very low priority. Dillard's or home office cleaning? See what I mean?)

7) Learn how to open the gas tank on our minivan.

Hey, it could be worse, right? He could come home to find our bedroom made over to look like Forks, Washington or that new Coach handbag I've been coveting hanging on the doorknob. So, I think he's getting off rather easy.

I'll report back on the completion of my check list one a week from now.

Update: So far my husband been gone 2 nights and the most fun I've had was staying up till 1:00 AM laughing hysterically by myself over cake wrecks. I'm not complaining; that really is my idea of a good time. What would you do if your husband were away?

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Blogging about Blogging

I once edited a literary magazine. It was a small production so my staff and I couldn't afford to be too choosy about which submissions we would accept. Because our magazine considered submissions from all literary genres; we did have to be somewhat discriminating. Anyone who has ever worked on staff for a college literary publication knows all that post entails: occassionally striking gold with some refreshing, unexpected submission, but more often than not, slogging through manuscript after manuscript of overwritten, cliche. . . crap.

Poetry is definately the greatest culprit for crap contribution in the annals of rejected college submissions. Some of my college chums and I have a running joke about our most hated poetic theme: dead babies. There are a surprising amount of dead baby poems submitted to college literary magazines for some unknown reason. (Though I must defend Elizabeth Bishop whose "First Death in Nova Scotia," I am quite fond of. There are, as we know, always exceptions). Dead babies aside, our second most hated poetic theme was writing about writing (which actually William Carlos Williams pulled off with aplomb; also an exception, but hey, it's William Carlos Williams, so are we surprised?)

So even though I know I am breaking my own rules, I am going to blog about blogging because I ate hotwings last night (a big mistake) and, as a result, am not sleeping. Instead, I am obsessing which is something I am prone to do in the wee hours. So like all new bloggers, I ask, "Where is everybody?" "Is anyone actually reading this?"

Admittedly, I perused several popular blogs during my nocturnal foray on the internet. I discovered that some of them are better than mine. Some are not. Some are, as Tracy, my blogging consultant, pointed out nothing better than really bad reality television. So I ask myself, is there a place for me in blogging? Can I build a fan base beyond my own friends and family? (and by the way Mom, could you please disguise your name with something like Annie Dillard or Edward Gorey or Carolyn Keen so people don't know that I have to recruit family members to leave comments?) Anyway, whether there is or not, I have staked my claim on this little slice of cyberspace and, like all squatters, I am not going anywhere without putting up a good fight. Ignore me if you will. See if I care.

Having voiced my blog insecurities, I now realize why people HATE reading poems about writer's block and I now present the final quesion "publish or delete?" "publish or delete?"

Friday, September 19, 2008

Re(inventing) the Wheel

I have always been guilty of making my life far more difficult than necessary. This is largely due to a tendency to hold myself to impossible standards. In some ways this has served as a motivator, however, more often than not, my conviction has landed me in a few overwhelming messes.

I think my problem is that I keep trying to reinvent the wheel. For instance, in college, my professors, trying to encourage their pupils' sprouting creativity, would assign essays with a list of topics or, inevitably, the wild card (make up your own.) For some reason, it made perfect since for me to make up my own. There was always the clause attached to this option that our topics had to recieve instructor approval before we wrote on. My professors never shut me down (though I wish they would have). Professor Aton let me go ahead and try that essay in which I compared Huck Finn's narrative voice to Daisy Miller's. It wasn't an easy topic and what he failed to mention was that it was plain stupid. Once again, Professor Cook let me take on my great topic, "The Invention of Childhood" as if I would actually do the months of obvious research this would entail and write a mini Masters' thesis. I ended up dumping the topic altogether and scrambling to write anything on Jane Eyre the night before the paper was due.

Obvious failures aside, maturity (what little I have) has taught me a few skills (which is only fair because I have paid dearly for them.) I have finally learned what 99.9% of all the other students I attended school with already figured out: you can write a darn good essay on teacher-assigned topics. There is nothing wrong with exploring irony in Huck Finn, again. There's always something new to say or at the very least a fresh light in which to cast it. It may even be worth risking cliche in order to save oneself the punishment of reinventing the wheel.

Perhaps the trick is learning to accept one's own limitations. I no longer feel let down by all that I can't do; instead I feel liberated by knowing that I probably shouldn't even go there.

Friday, September 12, 2008

For the Love!

You know you are seriously a nerd when you are previewing the curriculum for a high school English class you will be teaching and you find yourself having a really enjoyable time doing so. Great literature has always been like that for me; it's my idea of a good time. I suppose that is why it more than a hobby for me; I have made it my sustenance. Trite, huh?
During my teaching experience, I have learned a couple of truths about what makes literature great, great. The first, I heard about from my senior high school English teacher, Mrs. Peterson . Our class was just finishing The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn when "Ms. P" told us that we should read that book at least 3 times at different stages in our lives (presumably during our youth, middle-age, and old age) and that, each time, it would take on not only greater significance, but that it would be a different novel.

Later, when I landed my first teaching contract and taught Huck Finn to my students, I remember loving it more than ever. It was suddenly the funniest book I had ever read. How had I missed the irony in its tone, before? How had I overlooked the hilarity of the King and the Duke? More importantly, I had just graduated from college and had learned how to approach a book in a whole new way. As I was trying to come up with a gimick for engaging my junior Honors English class in Huck's misadventures down the Mississippi, the book fell into astounding clarity and I realized that Twain had written an epic and that Huck, like Odysseus, was on the hero's adventure. Nerd that I am, I was so excited about my discovery that I lost sleep over it that night. My junior class, as it turns out, was not nearly as taken with my approach to Huck Finn as I was and it is possible that they are still sniggering at my unfettered enthusiasm.

The next truth I learned about great literature also comes from my experience with teaching. Simply put, to teach literature is to become enamoured with literature. To this day, my favorite Shakespeare play is Romeo and Juliet. I know that isn't the most erudite selection from Shakespeare's canon, but I love it the most because I probably taught that play 15 times during my career as a Sophomore English teacher. It feels familiar, yet I am still amazed to discover each time just how eloquent and flawless the language is. It has, on me, the effect that all timeless literature does. Instead of getting fatigued with R and J, my enthusiasm for it increases with each new reading and, in turn, with each new teaching.

Just this week, I read a Browning sonnet. Sonnets have never been exactly my favorite poetry. They are so structured and so preoccupied with unrequited love that I suppose I have found them to be a bit um. . .well. . . corny. However, I gained new appreciation for Elizabeth Barrett Browning as, her Sonnet XLII, took on shape and focus when, after a couple of readings, her words became more than pretty fluff. Oh, don't get me wrong, it was STILL all about true love, but I feel better for figuring that out and I feel like myself again, having read it.

Ahhh, won't it be great to be 55 and reading Huckleberry Finn all over again for the first time?

Friday, September 5, 2008

I'm such a "pun"k

My favorite college professor, David Lee, talked about puns with affection. I remember he told his Milton class that Funk and Wagnalls encyclopedia listed the pun as the lowest form of humor. As far as we English scholars were concerned that (and the fact that Funk and Wagnalls Volumes A-J were available for 10 cents to a $1.88 at the local grocery store) discredited them entirely in our eyes.

If you tend to be in the Funk and Wagnalls camp, consider this, the brillance of Shakespeare was largely his use of the pun as a literary device. For instance, the character Mercutio, from Romeo and Juliet, jokester until the end. Who didn't love the moment when on his death bed he states, "tomorrow you shall find me a grave man."

So, why puns? I woke up this morning to find this amazing article on the "Peterman's Eye" blog. Please read. There's nothing so great as waking up to something that makes you laugh tremendously hanging out in your e-mail inbox on a Friday morning. I can tell this will be a great day unequalled in jocularity.

I consider myself quite the punster on occassion- some deliberate, some accidental. Here are some highlights from my life.
My husband and I have a running joke. Occassionally, he will come into the kitchen and commences the following dialogue,
Brett: Hun, You know what I'm craving?
Me: No, What would you like?
Brett: I could really go for a nice tall Metamucil right now.

Once my sister, Miriam was visiting and witnessed the nature of our discourse.
Brett: (to Miriam) I like to think of Metamucil as a delicious orange smoothy.
Me: Only I prefer to call it an orange roughy.

Here's another great one. As I have stated in previous entries, I babysit for a living. One day my daughter, Katie, rather suddenly and inexplicably hit, Allan, one of or daily "guests" over the head with a battery. Thankfully his mother, Sarah, is a dear friend of mine.
Me: I'm sorry about the bruise on Allan's forehead. Katie, for some reason, decided to hit him with a battery of all things.
Sarah: Was it a little one like a double A or did she go in for a big one? Like a D?
Me: Oh no, she went in for a big one. She got him with a D. You might say she committed assault and battery.

Finally, and I swear this was an accident, back when I was teaching Junior English, I made my class read, Arthur Miller's, The Crucible. In The Crucible, Miller inerrupts the action of the play a few times with running editorials. In one of these, he makes the point that the puritanical rejection of sexuality and diabolism only serves to those "forbidden" topics even more curious and interesting. I was trying to figure out how to present this idea tactfully to a room full of 16 year olds.

Me: So you see, even in the time of the Puritans people were still interested in topics of sexuality even though they were forbidden. (I'm feeling like this is going pretty well so I start getting into it.) You know, sex sells! Just like in our modern world. (I should have stopped there!) I mean, look at television commercials and the images of sexulaity advertisers use. (Nope, I'm still talking- fool that I am) You know, if you show it, they will come. (Oh, dear!)

OK, so I'm no Shakespeare.