May 13, 2013

May 9, 2013

  • Strange Mamas

    It’s been weird living in an area of the country where babywearing hasn’t really taken off.  I mean, I’m not a hardcore babywearer or anything–I use strollers and grocery carts and car seat carriers and all sorts of means of separating my poor babies from myself.

    But I do use a sling in the early months and a backpack later.

    I can count on one hand the number of women I’ve seen using either in the two years I’ve been here.

    The sling (which, you’ll remember, I made myself for Theo) always prompted stares and questions and rather intense conversations with perfect strangers, whenever I wore it around here.  I switched to the backpack as absolutely soon as I could.

    The backpack still prompts stares (more oh-isn’t-that-neat than what-on-earth-IS-that-thing than the sling prompted) and occasional comments (usually of the oh-he-looks-like-he’s-having-fun rather than the what-on-earth-IS-that-thing variety).  But they’re fewer and less invasive, so I can put up with them a lot easier.

    I guess I paid all the stares forward, as it were, this past week at the grocery store.

    Evidently Monday morning is the grocery-shopping-time of choice for moms of infants, toddlers, and preschoolers.  And all of the infants and toddlers–I mean, ALL of them–were nestled into these . . . things.  My husband calls them cart condoms.  They’re these fabric doohickeys that apparently protect baby from germs and boredom and, like, having to sit in an uncomfortable grocery cart.

    I just . . . I couldn’t . . . I mean all of the moms were using them.  Except me.

    And I guess I had my old-lady-who-never-had-such-things-when-her-kids-were-little face on.  Even though all the moms were my age, more or less, and all the kids were within a year of my two youngers.

    I may have even sniffed at the fourteenth one I saw, although it was entirely inadvertent.

    My mom-friends have since tried to convince me that they’re not entirely ridiculous.  You know, babies mouthing the handle of the carts, or putting their hands where other people’s hands have been.  Okay.  Fine.  I mean, my kids never tried to lick the grocery cart, but I guess it is normal baby behavior.

    But it is weird living in an area of the country where cart condoms are all the rage and baby slings are nowhere to be seen.

May 8, 2013

  • Moving On

    Okay, for the first time in, like, three or four moves, I will only be working part time in the five weeks leading up to our move.

    I am not naturally organized.  (Stop laughing, Mom.)  I can, however, fake it for five weeks.

    So, I want your top five tips for an organized move.

    Go.  (Please.)

May 3, 2013

  • Your Professor Is Not Customer Service

    It’s the end of the semester, and along with the mad rush of finals grading comes the mad rush of emails begging for grades.

    Someone once upon a time told my students “It couldn’t hurt to ask.”

    Well, guess what, Skippy.  Yes it can.

    See, this ain’t my first rodeo.  And all the students that have come before you have tried the same nonsense and have clued me in to how it works.

    Also, I have children.  Boys.  I’m not an idiot.

    See, there was this girl who told me she needed an A from me, because otherwise she wouldn’t get to student-teach (:sob:) and then she would have to spend an extra semester in school to bring her grade up (:sob:) and she just couldn’t afford that so she would have to drop out of school (:wail:).

    I declined to raise her grade and suggested she speak with a financial aid counselor to figure out how she could afford to stay in school, because (:sympathetic look:) school is expensive, but it usually turns out to be a good investment.

    Guess who I saw the very next semester? Regularly entering a classroom just down the hall from mine?

    I always wondered whether she’d persuaded some other teacher to boost her grade or whether she was just a lying liar who lied.  I never wondered whether she actually followed my advice–that would be, like, crazy.

    I had another kid beg me not to get him thrown out of school by reporting his plagiarism.

    He didn’t get thrown out.  He was not remotely in danger of being thrown out.  I don’t think he was a lying liar who lied; I think he was just afraid that if one professor caught him in his habitual pattern of cheating, some other professors might catch on.  (To my knowledge, no one ever did.)

    I’m not cynical or jaded or bitter.  I don’t think all students are lying liars who lie.

    I’ve had some students in very messy, very difficult, very painful situations who–get this–get their work done anyway.  Some of them never even tell me about their difficulties.  I find out from other students.

    I’ve had some students who take responsibility for their academic integrity violations with a maturity that stuns me . . . and then go on to be some of the strongest, most engaged students in the class.

    I even had a student who dropped my class rather than take the grade hit that a minor integrity violation entailed, but as I was signing his drop form, he said, “Will you be teaching next semester?  I can’t let this tank my GPA, but I really want to take your class.”

    (Maybe he was just a lying liar who was lying, too.  Maybe he just wanted to know so that he could *avoid* me.  But he seemed genuinely disappointed when I said not.)

    So it’s not cynicism or burnout or apathy or even stubbornheaded bitchiness that makes me hold the line against all these beggars and and pleaders and importuners.  It’s a matter of respect for all those students who comport themselves with a little more dignity.  And an expression of hope–that encountering someone who genuinely wants the best for them, and is willing to tell them no to help them get it, will help them achieve adulthood before it’s too late.

May 1, 2013

  • Brothers

    Isaac’s first word was “Ca.”  It stood for Cookie Monster (his favorite toy), cracker (not his favorite food, but the easiest one to pronounce), and car (which, you know, y-chromosome).

    He started saying “Daddy” pretty soon after and “Mommy” when he was about two years old, but I don’t hold that against him.

    Do you know what Theo’s first word was?  Isaac.  (He pronounced it “Zaza.”)  “Dada” came a little later, and “Mommy” much, much later.  (I don’t hold that against him, either.)

    Do you know what Amos’s first word was?  Isaac.  (“Ahhhhhdza!”)  Happily, he did learn to say “Mama” pretty quickly after that, although Stephen alleges that “Daddeeeeee” came first.

    But, still.

    Older siblings are special.  Oldest siblings are especially special.  (Sorry.  That last dissertation push used up a good bit of my writing ability.  I’m hoping it comes back, but it may be gone for good.  Like all those brain cells I lost in pregnancies.)

    I don’t have much more than that to say.  No parenting advice on cultivating your children’s sibling relationships, no finger-wagging at grown-up siblings, no warning signs or things-not-to-do lists.  Just an observation.  One of the ways nature or Providence seems to give human society a little push in the right direction is to incline babies toward their older siblings.

    I’ve seen all three of my babies light up when I come in the room–the way babies look at their mama is special and entirely unique.

    But the way babies and toddlers look at their older siblings is special, too.  It’s an affection entirely unlike their affection for mama and daddy.

    That seems like a good thing.

April 25, 2013

  • On Second Thought, Leave The Hat On

    Nice hair, kid.

    No, seriously.

    I mean, man walks down the street with hair like that, people know he’s not afraid of anything.

    That’s good, kid.  Practice your pouty model look.  Hair like that, you can go anywhere.

April 24, 2013

  • Iron Chef Theo

    I proclaimed myself too tired to make breakfast the other day.

    Theo rather emphatically declared himself up to the task.

    It was a rather laborious process, although I wasn’t really allowed in the kitchen to check up on his progress.  (This photo was snapped rather surreptitiously.)

    His masterpiece (which, again, I was only able to photograph on the sly): peanut butter, jelly, and minced strawberry toast.

    It was very tasty.  A nice flavor profile.

April 16, 2013

  • Lullaby

    “Amos, can you please stop talking so I can sleep?”
    “Be quiet Amos Martin.  Shush.”
    “Amos, do you even know what shush means?  If somebody tells you shush, you STOP TALKING!  Stop talking now.”
    “People can’t sleep when you’re talking, Amos.  Just zipper your mouth closed and lock it with the key.”
    “Amos. Martin. STOP. TALKING.”
    “MOOOOOOM!  Make him stoooooooooop!”
    “Mommie! Mommie!”
    I’ve given up trying to explain that if he would stop talking, Amos would stop, too.
    I think this is going to go on forever.

April 13, 2013

  • Good Times

    My dissertation committee, minus the member who had to join us via telephone:

    Pretty splendid collection of theologians and ethicists there.  I feel very privileged to have had access to them for all these years.

April 12, 2013

  • In The Cards

    One of the first things you learn as a scholar is how to appropriate good ideas.

    A friend of mine recently mentioned her preferred chore/allowance-keeping system, and I ruthlessly made it my own.

    I sat down one Saturday afternoon while I was hanging with the boys, and I started writing down on index cards all the chores I would be willing to pay them for.

    I used a set of those garage-sale stickers to set the price.

    And I got a little bin to put them in.

    One bin for the unused cards, one bin for Theo, and one bin for Isaac.  (Amos will someday beg to do chores, I am sure.)

    So, all week, the boys can pick a card, do a chore, and put the card in their respective bins.  (McGee, personal correspondence, 2013)
    (See?  Scholars use good ideas, but they cite them properly.)

    On Saturdays, we have allowance.  I take away the four cheapest cards (“Because mamas should be able to ask their sons to do a handful of chores without having to pay them, just because that’s what families do”), and then I pay them for all the rest of the cards.

    Here’s the stroke of genius by which I made this system my own: They now have to pay for computer time.  A dollar an hour.

    Isn’t that brilliant?  Effectively, it means two things.  1) I don’t have to limit their screen time any more.  Their ability to work and their desire to use the money for other things limit their screen time far more than I ever could. 

    And 2) I can more or less use the same ten dollars to pay for chores for the rest of my life.   Because they always want to use their allowance to buy screen time.

    “Here, kids, here’s your money.”
    “Here, Mom, here’s some money for computer games.”
    “Are you sure you want to use all your money up today?  You won’t get money again until next Saturday.”

    And thusly the situation I wanted anyway–no screen time during the week, moderate screen time on the weekends–happens without my having to fuss at anyone.

    Isn’t motherhood grand?  What a vast untapped reservoir of brilliance and sanity are our nation’s mothers!