I moved!

Inspired by Inktopia but also the fact that I’ve never managed to get comfortable with WordPress, I moved my blog to here, where I’ll be able to use all my favorite widgets, like the self-updating blogroll.  I’m not quite finished with the new site yet, but it’s getting there.

See you there!

Why? Just Why?

You know, it really feels as if any small victory has to be immediately undermined by something awful happening.  During Toby’s nap, I got to watch some Foyle’s War (and there was all this antisemitic crap in it so it was nice to see the Nazi sympathizers get carted off at the end, but that is neither here nor there) and then, after feeling like I had finally gotten something for myself and was able to regroup, started reading The No-Cry Potty Training Solution, getting to page 45 before Toby came down the stairs wanting to watch “Ralphie” (Christmas Story).  Impressed by the book’s insistence that this learning process can be fun, I was all patience and took Toby into the bathroom and had him show me the steps.  At first, he was pretty resistant.  But I just hugged him and distracted him with funny faces and eventually got him to go through all the steps, except for the actual peeing or pooping.  At this stage, I just want him to have good associations with this process, forgetting whatever happened at the old Montessori school and any freakouts or bad things that he’s picked up at home.  When I’m patient, which is practically never, I’m a pretty decent mom.

Proud of myself that we had both managed a potty “practice” with no tears or anger on either side, I came downstairs only to find a message that my car basically needs a new transmission and engine, which means investing in it a lot more than it’s worth.  We can’t afford a new car — we’re still paying for this lemon.  And I’d already been lamenting that the savings account that I’d been building up for the last three months to a whopping nine hundred dollars was draining fast because of Christmas.  There is simply no way we can afford to repair the car.  I have no idea what to do.  I do know that Toby is due back at school on the 3rd and I’m due back for a meeting on the 5th, then classes start the following Monday.  I need a car.  What a nightmare.

Update:  And the hits keep coming.  In the time it took me to write this and check Facebook, Toby managed to take a cassette tape and pull the tape pretty far.  He came to me dragging the long squiggle of tape behind him.  These are Lionel’s audio cassettes that are kept right where Toby now likes to eat — behind the couch.  Toby’s been in trouble for dismantling the cases before.  I told Lionel to move them already, that partly it was his fault that this problem continued, but he didn’t move them.  He believes, somehow, that Toby should be able to just keep himself from playing with them.  Right.  I didn’t have the patience to get the wily tape back into the cassette, but I did move the audio cassettes en masse.  There will be no more problems.  Score one for mom.  I can’t wait to see how Lionel reacts to his Garbage tape being unraveled.

Lionel’s coming home to collect us so we can pick up the car.  Then I’m supposed to go to the CSA pickup spot, but I think that I may ask Lionel to do it.  I’m too dispirited and don’t want to have to make nice conversation.  Plus Toby likes to play with their son, who is five, but somehow they almost make it work.  I don’t have the patience to deal with the wildness of nitro and glycerin coming together now.

Toby just dragged the backgammon set up the stairs, a pretty impressive feat for how big and heavy it is.  I better go focus on him now.

Notes from a Housebound Mom

So today is Toby’s first day off from school — the start of a nearly two week-long vacation.  Lionel is at work.  We spent this morning taking my car into the shop for a seriously bad-sounding rattling noise.  The shop is closed tomorrow and on until, I’m guessing, Tuesday, so they’ll diagnose it today and then it will be declared drivable or not drivable.  I may not have a car for the long weekend.  How will I get to the North Pole to talk to Santa?

Right now, we’re watching Bob the Builder’s Christmas special.  My eyes glaze over the minute the opening credits begin.  I don’t have a crochet project right now — I finished crocheting a blanket for Toby (while watching the entire Inspector Morse series), but I still need to weave the ends in and that sort of stuff.  You know — the nonfun part.  I should get on that, because I could do that and watch Bob the Builder Christmas special.  I have left over yarn and want to make Toby a hat, but I’ve never made one before so it’s not something I could do without total attention on it.  In the next two weeks, I’ll be lucky to have any time to do anything with total attention.  I wonder if I’ll even get to watch my library rentals of Foyle’s War.  Sigh.

Toby found the peanut butter I bought for him to try out (made by the same company that makes his seed butter, which is pretty much all he eats just now — for breakfast, lunch, and dinner if we’ll let him), decided he wanted some, and declared it good.  He ate a quarter of a sandwich.  I would consider this a major victory because one of the things I want to do with him over the next two weeks is expand his repertoire of foods so he can have some variety in his lunches.  (Current lunch looks like this:  seed butter sandwich, cashews, Elmo crackers, and blueberry Yobaby yogurt.  If he’s very lucky, I include a banana or a homemade low-sugar banana muffin.  The last few days I’ve included some carrots and/or celery, but this is purely for show because I know he won’t touch it, but his new school recommends fruits and vegetables — and it’s weird being the organic mom who can’t manage to get her kid to eat vegetables.  He used to eat sweet potato and squash organic baby food religiously — way past the age when he should be eating jars — but I can’t get him to eat homemade versions of the same, even pureed as best as I can without a food processor.)  But, of course, anything involving peanuts or nuts in general is a mixed blessing because so many kids are allergic that bringing that into a group environment is often dangerous or even outlawed.

In order to keep myself from going insane today (I’m feeling under the weather and that’s a recipe for a very grouchy day here at the homestead), I might post outtakes of the day here.

Here’s one:  what damn fool bought all these wooden train whistles?  Toby just came at me wanting to do dueling whistles.

Here’s another from earlier:  who gets so much mud on their car that everyone who steps into it ends up with muddy pants, then says it doesn’t matter if we wash the car because it’ll just get muddy again from the dirt road he takes to work?  A dirt road that is entirely optional, I might add.  I’m doing laundry, including my only non-holey jeans and Toby’s sweats.  We are not amused.

I’ve Done Plenty, Just Not “Work”

Thank you all for sharing your ideas about organizing your work.  I’m still stuck on what exactly to do, though.  I think I’d lose papers — both my home desk and my work desk are a mess of papers.  I do use the little computer post-its and have some to-do lists there, but I’d like something more than that — something more detailed, a sheet on each project so I can keep myself organized.  I don’t know.  I know that the main thing here is that I should just choose one and get on with it.  I’ll probably go ahead and use some lists on the blog (and then keep more detailed pages on the computer), because the idea of public accountability may get me to be more diligent.  But it’s hard to get my mind on it right now.

This morning I went to the supermarket and to the butcher’s after I dropped Toby off at school.  So now we’re pretty much ready for Christmas — by which I mean Christmas dinner, not presents.  (It was important that I get this done now because tomorrow I take in my car for repair and who knows when I’ll get it back.)  And then I came home and chatted on Facebook with a friend, which was totally and completely worthwhile.  I also just did some needed paperwork and emailed a friend who came back into town who I’d like to get together with before Winter quarter eats me up.  I really just want to connect with friends right now, not work.  I’m ready for merriment!  Which is not, I’ve noticed, conducive to getting work done even as the countdown to 2 weeks of Toby keeps on going.

So now the difficulty is getting my mind back engaged with my elective (which I was thinking about this morning before I got Toby up) and my article (not so much).  Hmmm.  Maybe, instead, I’ll make those lists.  Perhaps the lists will help me get back into it.  Or I’ll hit a wall with the lists and procrastinate by working on the elective or article!

I hope your countdown to the holidays is full of merriment and relaxation, not the rush and crush of mall shopping.  (Unless you like that.)


Trying to Blog My Way to Working and Getting Organized

11:30 am already?  Facebook sucks.  Or, more accurately, I suck on Facebook, where I’ve spent way too much of my time this morning.

Toby is at his new school.  We had two good ones to choose from, and it was tough.  Parenting sucks because there are so many decisions, and I never know if I’ve made the right one.  The good part is that Toby’s a trooper and will likely thrive anywhere — after all, the kid’s been in daycare since he was 15 months.  But I feel bad, especially because I really liked the teacher at the school we didn’t choose, but I really do think he’ll have a broader education — including peace education! — at the school we chose.  I hope I’ve made the right decision.  And rather than waste more time wringing my hands about that, I better move on.

Toby has two more days at school and then he’s home for two weeks, so I’m supposed to be making the most of these two days!  I have tons of work to do!  And then there are all sorts of home things I could be doing.  Oy.  What is wrong with me?

So here’s the work I’ve got going:

  1. Article due for collection Feb 1
  2. Article due for collection Mar 15
  3. Subset of Mar 15 article for Mar conference paper
  4. Prep winter elective
  5. Prep winter class
  6. Prep winter independent study (why, oh why did I agree to this?)
  7. Department service project
  8. Department service pilot project
  9. University service short-term project
  10. Department service ongoing project

I really do think that I need to have some kind of list or page for each of my projects so I can keep up with them.  Also I need this list to look at regularly so I stop wasting time due to not being able to manage the transition times very well. What would work?  Putting them in files on my computer?  Or having actual pieces of paper?  Do any of you do things like this?  Please feel free to comment with your organizational tactics.  Because I need some.  Physical calendars and things just don’t seem to work for me.  (Or I don’t work well with them.)

The good part of this terrible long list is if I can knock out these two articles and they’re ultimately accepted by the publishers and get published, then I will have the requisite number of publications listed in the tenure guidelines.  (Of course, this doesn’t mean I can just stop working on scholarship at that point but it does mean I can stop worrying over the numbers.)  So I imagine a challenging January and February.  So I better get to work!

How do you keep organized, especially during the holidays when everything is start and stop, start and stop?


Why I’m Dreaming of Montessori at Night

Grrr.  Where do I start?

Winter quarter is right around the corner, and it’s shaping up to be one of the busiest on record:  I have not one but two articles due to editors before it’s over, I’m teaching an elective (granted, that I’ve taught before, but I’m changing it up — this is the last time I can teach it as a special topics course before I have to add it to the curriculum in order to teach it) and another course I wanted to revise a bit, and I somehow got suckered into agreeing to an independent study with a student who is smart but not independent enough.  And now this.

So on Friday, we had our parent-teacher conference with Toby’s Montessori teacher.  With no warning, she told us that we have the rest of the month of December to potty train Toby or she won’t let him back into the school in January.  As if that weren’t bad enough, she gave us a ration of BS about how at 32 months he hit the moment where he was ready to be potty trained and now it’s harming his psychosocial psychosexual development and it’s all because he’s overprotected.  She said that now that he’s behind he’s likely to be holding his feces and manipulating people and the school by refusing to go in the potty and that he cannot go on in his cognitive development until he’s potty trained.  She also mentioned that “I’m telling you this because I know you’re “natural.””  She recounted her degrees and brought in Erik Erikson and Freud (that crackpot!  How much clinical work did Freud have under his belt?  okay, I don’t know) then told a long story about a girl who was dripping poop all day and it turned out she was being sexually abused.  When I asked Lionel later what the point of that story was, he posited that she was trying to explain why she didn’t want the liability of touching kids’ privates anymore.  (There is a bit of a cultural difference that definitely affects communication in this case and makes it difficult to understand the subtleties.)

Now, I know they had a big blowout with a child who ended up peeing on the floor “in retaliation” for being upset about something (this child has slight autism) the day before.  But I don’t think that she can realistically say that Toby is trying to “manipulate the school” by using diapers.  In fact, during her long diatribe about all this, she didn’t mention any actual thing that Toby did.  Just that he’s definitely going to have problems because he’s not potty-trained by this point (about 38 months).

I immediately went home very upset and began a big potty-training propaganda campaign with Toby.  But later when Toby said he had to poop (he runs into his room and closes the door in order to poop alone in his room), Lionel and I had to drag him to the bathroom.  He sat there looking at books for a long time, but no go.  Later on, he said he had to go again, and I dropped what I was doing to rush him to the bathroom and Toby was screaming no.  Lionel mentioned to me that he was worried that Toby’d end up constipated if we kept on dragging him to the bathroom when he didn’t want to go.  And I was pissed at Montessori B**** because everything I’ve read says that you shouldn’t make a big deal out of potty training because you do more harm than good in pressing them before they are ready.  I don’t know how it’s good for his psycho-whatever development to be dragged to the bathroom and develop a kink in his colon (a Potter quote from M*A*S*H — you know Harry Morgan died last week at the age of 96).  I asked Lionel what he thought, because he’s been wanting Toby to get himself potty-trained for ever and really tries to talk up potty-training and talks down diapers (which I wish he wouldn’t do because I also think shaming is counterproductive).  And he said he thought that Toby just wasn’t ready.  And so we defied Erik Erikson and this B**** in favor of going “natural” (GAHHH!) and now have to look for a new care situation for Toby now, in December, because it’s not like I have time off in January.  And of course lot of places may not even have space for him.  I changed my work schedule around for this place, so we’re stuck with full-time care.  Oh I am so pissed.  I even dreamt about it last night.

But I am slow, you know, in the head, because it wasn’t until yesterday when I saw her Facebook message saying that kids need to have “fully mastered” potty training by the time they return to school on Jan 3 that I realized she was kicking us — and the three other kids in the class still in diapers that she had, I guess, mistakenly let into the school — out.  There’s no way that we can fully master potty training in the three weeks she gave us.  There.is.no.way.  All of her BS about how children progress at different rates, and it’s the American parents who push push push in order to see that development?  BS.  I totally respect that she has the right to say that she doesn’t want kids in diapers in her small school.  She wants to change her policy.  Fine.  But she did it, as Lionel said, totally without tact, making it sound as if it were me and my “natural” parenting and how I’m really harming him somehow by. . .what?  not dragging him to the toilet?  Not strapping him to the toilet?  What?   And in doing it the way she did it, she is totally f***ing us over, because this is a very bad time of year to be searching for a new situation.

I have gone from upset to angry to totally raging pissed.  I have actually prayed to God to help me stop thinking and obsessing about this.  We’ve already figured out which places we’re going to call — I hope they have space.  That’s my big worry, besides the usual ones.  There are tons of daycares, but we’d prefer a Montessori that has a toddler program.  Switching daycare is just the worst because, you know, he’s my son and I want him to be well-cared for.  I’m hoping that maybe we can find a Montessori that isn’t quite as strict as this one, because it occurs to me that Toby really may need to bond more with his caregivers rather than the colder atmosphere of strict Montessori.  Since we don’t have family here and Toby doesn’t have that many people in his life, a little more love would be great.  The great thing is that everyone adores Toby wherever he goes.  He’s pretty adaptable.  But I hate putting him through this.  I hate it.  And I hate that I need to work so much in the next two weeks (note to self:  get things done early because the last minute is not going to be available anymore because that’s when the sh*t hits the fan though really some of my work could not have been done early:  committee meetings and trainings and things that I didn’t schedule) because I’d really like him out of that b****’s care, and I can’t imagine how I’m going to be nice to her when I drop him off and I know she’s going to explain it again and again and I’m going to have to say something, when I really want to say that I wouldn’t let Toby stay there if he spontaneously potty-trained himself overnight because she’s really shown her true colors about how she feels about respecting children’s development in her copious explanations rather than just saying that she’s made this new policy and she’s sorry but this is the way it is.  I’d like to say: “I can’t stay to talk because I’m too busy looking for better daycare situations,” but I want her to take decent care of Toby for the next two weeks and pissing her off is not conducive to that.

We’re getting a Christmas tree today and hoping to have nice family time.  My obsessing about all this is not helpful at all, especially as there’s nothing to do over the weekend and we already have our plan.  I suck at mind management.  I’m just pissed at her and would like to tell her off.  I’m working on it.

This must be a blessing, right?  An opportunity to find a much better place for Toby, who is all that matters in this equation.  Still, I didn’t need this right now.  If she had done this last month, it would’ve been better for me.  I wonder what the other parents are doing.  I can’t help wonder what one of the helpers (a mother of two Montessori students there who helps out who really adores Toby and has told me so though she’s not supposed to and the B**** told her not to talk with the parents about their kids) thinks about all this, especially as I saw that B**** is advertising on FB for a helper who is “dependable (not a parent of a student).”  Is there fall-out to this decision?  I can’t believe I’m going to drop him off there tomorrow morning.

Those of you who are moms:  am I courting disaster by not pushing potty-training more?  (When Toby said he had to poop just now, I said what about going to the bathroom and he bellowed “no.”  But I was four.  Four, when I finally was potty-trained.)  I’m getting the no-cry potty training book from the library.  Sigh.  I’m full of hate.  How do I transform the anger and fierceness I feel into family love and togetherness?  I just want to growl at the b****!

Comments, ideas, thoughts welcomed.

Handmade Home

So I’m baking.  I have the cornbread for Toby’s school Thanksgiving celebration next to me.  I’ve got pumpkin wedges cooking up on the stove.  I’ve got pate brisee in the fridge.  This is my first all-homemade pumpkin pie.  Since most pumpkin pies from canned pumpkin are actually from butternut and other squashes, this may be my first real pumpkin pie.  I’m looking forward to it.

Julie and Julia is on in the background.  Yes, there is a movie for everything.

Last night I wove in the ends of a huge crocheted afghan I made for the family.  It’s big enough to get all three of us under it at once.  I’ll take a picture when I have a chance and post it.

Garden update:  I’ve pulled the arugula and planted garlic, then got organic straw to cover it.  (Though I read that one should cover it with straw after the ground freezes, and we’re not there yet.  But I have the straw, and that’s the way it’s going to be because it’s just too messy to move around all the time.  We don’t have access to the shed here.)

We got an extra trash bin for composting.  I just need to nail all the little holes in it, and we’re in business.  Lionel is the sweetest because he went out and got it and found out what six penny nails means and he’s been game for everything, even with the kitchen scraps started to smell.

I don’t think I’m going to get the pumpkin pie in the oven in time for it to cook before I have to pick up Toby.  We’re going to the library, his favorite place because they have a train set to play with, then Target, because it’s close by there.  Maybe pumpkin pie tonight???

When Children Get Sick, Parenting Steps Up Ten Notches

Toby got sick with this horrible cough and I even thought Wednesday night that I heard a “whoop,” so I kept him at home from Montessori on Thursday and Friday.  On Thursday our drive-through pediatrician (got to replace that guy!  Not only does he look at my kid for three seconds, doesn’t talk to him at all, and treat me like an idiot, dismissing anything I say, he also calls me Mrs. Hardcastle, Lionel’s and Toby’s last name, when I’m Dr. Homesteader.  Even Lionel, who can be pretty traditional, says it’s pretty stupid in this day and age to assume a woman’s last name) said that he didn’t “think” it was pertussis, but here’s some broad-spectrum antibiotics anyway.  In fact, I realize now that I was just worried — and that his cough was really more of a bark (croup) than a whoop.  Though I was fully vaccinated as a child, I got whooping cough as an adult about ten years ago — and the coughing and chest ache is just unmistakable.  But the Montessori teacher told me that two children were assumed to have had pertussis and treated as such, though it wasn’t confirmed.  Since Toby hasn’t been vaccinated, I immediately worried in the pertussis direction.

Other than full-time day-and-night parenting, I’ve been crocheting, trying to figure out what to do with a half-bushel of Gala apples while the family is at home, and working on BAP, all in fits and starts only.  I lost a couple days on the conference paper I’m delivering next week.  The usual.

When I have an interesting thought in my head and the time to pursue it, I’ll blog.  I hope Toby’s going back to Montessori tomorrow.

Happy fall back, everyone!

First Frost

Becoming a gardener means becoming obsessed with the weather.  Two days ago, I brought in the rosemary, thyme, sage, parsley (yes, the whole song, though the parsley is half-yellowed and is really just in to make it easier to harvest what’s left and then, I hope, put it in the compost bin I still have yet to build), and my beloved potted nasturtiums.  I also brought in the pea and arugula seedlings, especially after half of the arugula seedlings died.  But yesterday I spent all day on campus and came home irritated and irritable, more focused on how far my working life is from what I want it to be than the weather and its effects on what is already around here.  I guess one does not need to read a bunch of books on mindfulness to know that one should pay attention to the present and stop worrying the future and the past and whatever else is not right in front of you, but I’m a slow learner and was brought up to appreciate the lessons of books over the lessons of experience.

When I woke up this morning at 6am, it was 29 degrees, as in 3 degrees below freezing.  The lawn was covered in frost, and there was a heavy fog.  Today at Toby’s Montessori, the children are having a Halloween celebration, going to school in costumes (which is why I bought Toby a Thomas the Tank Engine costume at all), going trick or treating (Toby’s first time), playing games, and having a communal lunch.  I realized early that I had forgotten to buy milk, my appointed task — a failure coming too close on the heels of my failure two days ago to put away the meatloaf all night.  (Am I going to recook it and pray?  Quite possibly.)  After getting Toby to school, and running to get the milk, then going to the store to get things we needed, I finally was able to check the raised bed:  the arugula looks fine, the kale seems to be hanging limply with beads of water on them (I bet they’ll be fine), but the nasturtiums are all wilted.  Goodbye nasturtiums, except indoors.

Nasturtiums might be my favorite plant:  they grow in any old soil, are beautiful enough to naturalize anywhere (my ex-mother-in-law had gorgeous white calla lilies with orange nasturtiums winding their ways under them and filling the world with their orange flowers and silver dollar leaves), and taste wonderful.  I know that many people are not adventurous enough to eat the flowers (long ago, a friend of mine who loved pepper refused to try the nasturtiums that I bought and put in the salad especially for him and his peppery tastes and then never let me forget that I “put flowers in the salad” — dork!).  I prefer the leaves actually.  If nasturtiums also smelled good, they’d be perfect.

Very soon I have to be at the Montessori to pass out goodies with the other volunteer parents.  I can’t blow that.

Out of Step with the Typical Academic Calendar

I’m scheduled to present at a localish conference in two weeks.  It snuck up on me as I’ve been sick (again!), and doing mom things like buying Toby a Thomas (naturally) Halloween costume and volunteering to pass out goodies at Montessori, making a carrot cake and things like that (Toby’s birthday was last weekend).  Also, crocheting, which I’m completely addicted to.

I really want to do nothing but snuggle up on this dark grey day and crochet while listening to my new audio book,  The Dirty Life (borrowed from the library, of course, because I simply couldn’t listen to Animal, Vegetable, Miracle one more time, because though I love it, the more informational parts of it make me scream and rail at this stupid world and industrialized food system of ours).  What’s a shower or a meal or scholarship next to sitting and listening to a tale of a New Yorker who used her oven as a bookshelf transform into a farmer while I crochet a ripple afghan with autumnal colors that will keep my family warm?  Even poems seem like nothing next to that, though I am finally, occasionally, reading poems again.  Mary Oliver’s poems now seem luminous to me; I used to think them. . .sort of boring.  (I’ve never mentioned that I write poetry, have I?  I haven’t written poems in several years.  I went to grad school in poetry, then turned away from the PhD in poetry because I was too concerned about being able to support myself afterwards.  As I did my PhD in something marketable, I lost writing poetry along the way as I watched some of my writer friends win awards and publish books.  It’s taken years for me to turn from pea green with envy to happy for their accomplishments.  Of course, such envy says more about how I’m betraying myself than anything about how I feel about my friends. After so long, I feel nervous and hesitant about even starting to write poems again.  Not like a beginner, because beginners have that naivete to see them through, that belief that they can do it because they don’t yet know how hard it is.  But I do know.  But I’m not planning on reading or writing poems today either.)

I have to go on campus tomorrow also, and find a way back to inhabiting the self who cares about universities and scholarly agendas.  I worked for ten minutes or so on the conference paper, just to get a start.  (I’m lucky because it’s on a subject that I’ve done a lot of work on, so it’s just a matter of actually writing it or even cobbling it together from other things.)  But that’s all I’m doing with the prospect of putting in a full day on campus tomorrow.

Sometimes I just don’t care, just don’t care at all, about scholarship, tenure, the future of the university.  I need to recuperate from a hectic academic year, step completely away from it and come back, renewed and refreshed.  Normal academics do this, perhaps, over the summer (though from your blogs you seem much more productive and focused to me).  But I can’t, unfortunately.  This is why I hate my academic calendar.