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Happy Mardi Gras?

At my university, we had yesterday off, and we have today and tomorrow off as well. For me, though, these are just sick days that (thankfully) don't get counted toward my one sick day per month -- I'm hoping to bank as many of those as possible. I have a throat/nasal congestion bug. I called the doctor's office, and they said there was no need to get checked out unless I have a fever, which I don't. So that's good, but I'm still very tired. I'm getting work done, but not as much as I'd hoped.

Ill-Prepared

In a couple of days, I'll be 27 weeks along. Some people say that's when the third trimester starts; others say it starts at 28 weeks. At any rate, Jonathan and I have completely dropped the ball when it comes to getting ready for this little guy. We have done bupkis. We have not:

  • Filled out that pre-admission form for the hospital
  • Looked into taking any kind of class (Lamaze, childbirth, Bradley method, newborn care)
  • Read up on various models of carseats* in preparation to buy one
  • Bought any baby stuff whatsoever

Poor thing...he's going to be sleeping in a laundry basket, I guess. Not really, of course, but I so do not feel like doing a bunch of research and shopping.

* Just today I found out there's some kind of difference between a portable carseat and a regular carseat.

Survey of the scene

Here I am, 24 1/2 weeks along:

24 weeks, 2 days

and it's the beginning of the semester. As an administrator, I'm bombarding my departmental listservs with reminders and memos, and I'm planning meetings, workshops, and all kinds of stuff. I'm also toying with the idea of having all the meetings of the first-year writing committee (which I chair) be open to anyone in the department who wants to attend. Or we might just make one meeting open to try out as an experiment.

Instructors of first-year writing courses here are always wanting more events and meetings -- seriously -- so this semester we have planned out all the workshops in advance, with each one being offered twice. Here's what we've got, very basic, open topics:

Workshop One: Using Readers Effectively [this one is specific to our curriculum]
Monday, January 28 @ 3:30 or Tuesday, January 29 @ 3:30

Workshop Two: One-on-one and small group conferences
Monday, February 25 @ 3:30 or Tuesday, February, 26 @ 3:30

Workshop Three: The Research Essay
Thursday, March 13 @ 3:30 or Friday, March 14 @ 12:00 noon

Workshop Four: Effective Evaluation of Essays
Wednesday, April 9 @ 3:30 or Thursday, April 10 @ 3:30

Workshop Five: The Proficiency Exam [again, specific to our assessment]
Monday, May 5 or Tuesday, May 6 @ 3:30

I'm also thinking about organizing a group grade session, in which everyone with a stack of papers to grade gets together in a room and grades for an hour or two, without a lot of chatting and distraction. A friend of mine said that she used to organize these when she was an officer in her graduate student organization at the University of Alabama. Have any of you done these at your institution?

Also, again, I don't know if it's the administrative impulse or the maternal instinct, but my loves of frugality and life hacks have gone into high gear. When my mind races, as it does now and has always done, I start to think about the various things I could probably get away with never spending any money on again. These include:

  • nail polish -- actually I stopped using and buying it long ago after reading that the U.S. allows phthalates to be put into nail polish, chemicals that are banned in cosmetics in the European Union. It's probably been over three years since I spent any money on nail polish, and hopefully I won't have to buy any again.
  • perfume -- I don't even want to admit how much of this I have. I'm sure I could wear it every day and not run out until my son turns 18. At any rate, certainly I don't have to spend any money ever again on perfume as it isn't a necessity, but I truly think I have just about a lifetime supply this very moment.
  • makeup -- I almost never wear it, yet I have plenty, especially lip lard, as my beloved and unfortunately recently deceased cousin used to say. I have probably about five years' worth of makeup, and even if I didn't have any, I believe I'd get enough makeup in Christmas, birthday, etc. gifts to get me by, so that's another one for the list.
  • office supplies, specifically pens, pencils, and note pads -- (not including school supplies for kids) I'm well-stocked in these items, and I believe I will never run out of them. Think about it: textbook publishers give teachers this stuff all the time, and at most conferences, the hosts give you a notebook or note pad and pen or pencil. If you go to library orientations on your campus or other events like that, you may end up with office supply swag too.

I've also been grocery shopping (Fresh Market!) and cooking like a madwoman lately so that we don't go out to eat so much, and I've been going to the Great Harvest Bread Company* for bread for sandwiches and to have with soups. Today I made chocolate chunk blondies (from a Barefoot Contessa mix), tuna casserole, and a huge pot of chicken soup. Tomorrow I intend to make meatloaf, egg salad, and oven-roasted chicken in Jim Beam barbecue sauce. I thought of a little hack to remind us of all the meal possibilities we have in our kitchen, which is illustrated below (Post-Its on the freezer):

Food Reminder Hack

After posting that, I also thought of French toast under breakfast and celery sticks under lunch.

* Side note: I'll find out tomorrow when I go there next, but in St. Paul, MN, they had a Great Harvest Bread Co., and they had this terrific brown bread called Oregon Herb, with lots of onion and dill. Here, they have a bread that they describe as having "a taste of onion, dill, & rye," but they call it "Acadian Herb." I want some of that in roll form to have with soup, YUM.

Holiday Break Wrap-Up

Work done:

Syllabus for next semester basically finished

Proposal for article submitted

Bunch of administrative work (planning notes for next semester mostly) done

Two reviews of manuscripts for journals completed

**not as much as I had hoped to accomplish, but there are a couple more weeks until classes start, I suppose.

TV watched:

Mystery Diagnosis marathon -- a former student of mine from East Carolina U, when she was in my class, raved about that show. I hadn't seen it before, but I got sucked in and spent the better part of a day watching it. I love how formulaic all the stories are, and my favorite part is when the family meets the one doctor who finally gets the diagnosis right.

Jon & Kate + 8 marathon -- why yes, I am a fan of the Gosselins. And the Duggars, if you must know.

The Wire (seasons 1 and 2 on DVD) -- Jonathan has been trying to get me to watch this. It's pretty good.

The Unit (season 1 on DVD) -- another Jonathan pick, which I also like even though the women on the show are pretty uninteresting so far.

Gifts received:

Cash

Target gift card

Garmin nüvi

Food eaten:

Turkey
Collards
Mashed potatoes
Salad
Cornbread dressing
Cornbread
Yeast rolls
Peas
Chocolate cake
Chocolate pudding
Blackeyed peas with hog jowl
Chicken and dumplings
Cinnamon rolls
Steak
Ribs
Macaroni & cheese
Pork chops
Pears
Apples
Grapefruit
Buffalo chicken tenders from Zaxby's
Coleslaw
Chicken tortilla soup
Minestrone (which has become quite the craving for me! I could go for a big bowl of it now.)
Deviled eggs
Stuffed celery (celery stalks with stuffing made of cream cheese and Spanish olives -- something I've eaten ever since I first grew teeth to chew.)

Taking the Baby Plunge: Q&A

Nae left a comment on a previous post with several questions related to my pregnancy. I'm glad you asked, Nae, as others might have been wondering the same thing. I've decided to address them here in sort of an interview format.

Was becoming pregnant a hard decision to make?

No, it was pretty easy. I'm grinning right now at your assumption that the pregnancy was a conscious decision on my/our part. But there was no way I could have played that off with a straight face: "oh, wow, this pregnancy was quite a surprise, but we're happy and will make the best of this unexpected situation!" Nah. Academic woman falls pregnant, baby is due in early May, just as the spring semester ends. How convenient...

What, after what you've been through, made you decide that now is the right time?

To start at the beginning, I should mention that until I was in about my late twenties, I didn't want children at all. Then I still didn't really WANT want them, but I did kind of think that having them was slightly preferable to not having them. So that covers me until I was in graduate school (first starting my PhD program). Beyond that, the general consensus in academia, expressed in forums, blogs, Chronicle articles, etc., is that graduate school is the best time to have a child. That's great if the situation works out; however, I wasn't just going to "have kids in graduate school" without being in a stable relationship with someone else who also wanted kids. At that point I still wasn't old enough to be brave enough to cease waiting for a relationship and pursue single parenthood. If I hadn't met and married Jonathan, though, I certainly would've gone ahead and had a child by myself, probably by around age 34-36.

Anyway, while I did get together with Jonathan in graduate school, I was almost finished by that time, having finished my comprehensive exams. I could have slowed my dissertation writing waaaaaaay down to sort of see how things would play out with him, but then I'd have been prolonging the dissertation phase for four or five years: let's say two years of building the relationship and making a commitment, nine months of pregnancy, and then a year or two of the intense attention an infant requires. And keep in mind, our relationship was long distance for about the first year and a half. I think I made the right decision to not deliberately put off finishing just so that I could have a child in graduate school.

So that's why I didn't do it *then.* Why am I doing it *now*? For a few reasons:

1. I have a great marriage, so lack of a stable relationship isn't an obstruction.

2. When I was born, my mother was 35 and my father was 37, and I'm an only child. All the time, people thought my parents were my grandparents. I have always thought I would never want to be as old as they were when I had kids -- not when I *started* having them, anyway.

3. I'm an only child (see above). So is Jonathan. Our child, then, will be starting out never to have any aunts, uncles, or cousins. It's very important to us that he has siblings at least, and (hopefully) nieces and nephews. I wanted to start out having children before it's too late or too difficult for me to have more than one.

4. I'm 33 years old now. By the time I go up for tenure, if I go up for tenure here, I'll be 39. Confronting that fact, I put my foot down and said that come what may, I was absolutely never, ever going to wait for the tenure decision to try to have a child. Doing that, to me, would have been just absurd. I reasoned that if I'm going to try to have a child without tenure, I might as well go ahead and do it now, at age 33 (actually, 32 at the time).

As a newly married woman entering a career with much potential, how do you make the choice to have a child?

You might be surprised by this answer. I think it's because I'm more confident now than I have been in the past. I know I'm productive, I'm talented, and I have a strong work ethic. I make significant contributions, I have good ideas, and I'm collegial. I'm an asset, and I really believe the people in my department and university are smart and sophisticated enough to understand that that will not change and I will not suddenly become worthless once I have a child. And for the sake of argument, even if it turns out they did think that, I believe I would be able to find another job in a department that would recognize the work I do.

Is having a child something you can speak rationally about right now (in a pregnant state)?

Oh yeah. I haven't noticed any kind of "pregnancy brain" sloppiness; I'm not convinced that exists. I am a little more emotional than usual, but I'm trying to process it whenever I get all weepy and what-not. I think that mentally, I'm about the same as I always was, but Jonathan may come in here with a retort.

Is it really one of those things you "have to experience" before you can comment?

I don't think so. You can have empathetic speculation about how you think you'd feel or behave, or what you think you'd do. It helps if you have a lot of friends who are pregnant or who have babies/small children.

Does being pregnant "change" you? Have any of your outlooks/positions on life changed? Do you see the world differently?

Actually, right now I'm reading -- finally! -- Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution by Adrienne Rich. She has three sons, and I'm having a boy, so I'm starting to notice and think about things I wouldn't have otherwise, but I still have the same world view I had pre-pregnancy. Perhaps when he's born I will go through a significant perspectival shift.

Does your husband view/treat you differently now that you are carrying "your" offspring?

No, not really; he's wonderful, just like he has always been. I'm going to address your very last question in this answer too, the one about the yours/ours distinction. I think it's easier for me to think of our little guy as ours because he's a boy. Jonathan is going to be responsible for a LOT of key components of his upbringing because of that. I keep thinking about all these things I have no idea about and would never be able to teach him, especially all-male social situations like how to behave in a locker room, how to participate in rough play, or the finer points of urinal etiquette. If anything, and it may sound awful to say this, I kind of think of him as more Jonathan's than mine.

Do you think having a child will influence how you teach?

Not sure. That will be interesting to find out. It may also affect my approach to administration.

Do you feel you will have to sacrifice your career?

Not at all. In fact, given Jonathan's and my shared views about financial security, I don't think we'd be comfortable in a single-income household situation, no matter which one of us stayed home. I know I'm too risk-averse and debt-averse to stay home -- too concerned about earning potential over the long term and retirement savings. It's great to do generally, but not for me.

Will your husband share child-rearing responsibilities so that you feel free to pursue your career?

He'll be delighted to, actually. He knows how disgusted I would be with him if he failed to take on parenting responsibilities. Also, his political views would demand that he assume equal responsibility, and he isn't a hypocrite, so I think he'll do great.

And I don't think either of us will have to give up career plans, but we are going to have to make out a schedule and re-evaluate it periodically so that we are each getting an equal amount of time to work on research. I can imagine that uninterrupted time and access to it may be a source of many future arguments.

Are you comfortable allowing your husband to be a stay-at-home father if that is what is best for the family, knowing that you may not experience the first step your child takes?

Oh yes, but again, I don't know how financially feasible that is for us. Another thing to keep in mind is that, as unpleasant as it is to contemplate, I might die of a hemorrhage during or right after childbirth like Jennifer Lopez's character in Jersey Girl or get hit by a Mack truck when the baby is three months old. I might not be able to raise him at all. I have no choice; I simply must put an enormous amount of trust in Jonathan, my and his family members, daycare workers, teachers, community members, and all kinds of other people. That has been a big challenge for me, and I still don't know if it will be surmountable. First poo diaper and first steps aren't important to me when compared to the big stuff, like my son's physical and emotional safety. I get really choked up and sobby when I think about the possibility that anyone would violate his trust, especially when he's so little and so completely trusting.

No Room at the Torso Inn

Ugh. It's 1:25 in the afternoon and I haven't eaten anything yet today, but I still don't feel the least bit hungry. My abdomen shouldn't be this huge until, like, March. I went to a lovely party last night and ate a fair amount of food from the spread my friends had, and then upon eating it, I had a lot of discomfort, like I was about to explode.

So today I'm thinking that however yummy many different foods may sound to me, especially a pulled pork BBQ sandwich with hot sauce, a big salad from a salad bar, apples, pears, and more of those candy buckeyes from last night, I am SO UNCOMFORTABLE that I don't want to do anything that will result in MORE space being taken up in my torso.

For Christmas, I would like several more inches of skin, plz.

In Transition

I've been quiet all semester almost, huh? Well, as many of you know by now if you look at my photographs on Flickr, I have been in the family way for 20 weeks now. Our son is due to get here on May 2. It makes for sparse blogging, I guess, because while my mind has been racing, it's been with thoughts I doubt anyone would really find interesting, such as:

1. Are family members going to respect my birth plan, the first sentence and main point of which says that besides hospital staff, I want only Jonathan to be there?

2. I'm feeling movement, but not as much as I would like to feel.

3. I am terrified of gaining over 25 pounds, or too much weight that I can't lose or that would be very hard to lose. I write down what I eat every day just to be mindful of it and what I weigh every morning, and I dread looking on the scale and possibly seeing that I've gained more than the one-pound-per-week during the second and third trimesters guideline.

4. Am I going to be able to go to CCCC and do my presentation at 36 weeks? Certainly I wouldn't be able to if the conference were held anywhere else this year.

5. Will I freak out once he's born? Will I be put on anti-anxiety meds or antidepressants? My fear is not so much that I'll be put on meds, but rather that I won't get put on meds despite feeling that I need them.

6. Will I ever get over the paralysis of fear that I already feel? I already suspect that I absolutely will not be able to STAND it if other people ask to hold the baby. I especially don't want them to bounce him.

7. Will people, especially family, respect my requests regarding baby gifts if they want to give us anything? Will they stick to organic baby soap and lotion because I don't want to expose him to parabens and dioxin and junk just yet? Will they buy only toys vetted by this site or something like it? Will they get gender-neutral clothes and toys even though we know the gender, because we'll want to reuse them for subsequent children? Will they not buy any clothing with writing on it, since that's kind of a personal preference of ours?

Sigh. What we have here is a bit of a neurosis dump. Thanks for reading, but be warned that there may be more of the same to come.

(I really am very very happy about this! We've been wanting a child for quite some time.)

My hometown is awesome

Read all about Florence, Alabama in the NYT today. It really is a wonderful place, and I can't wait to go there for Thanksgiving soon.

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