A bit of a sad day for the folks here at P.h.D. (And by folk I mean me.)

After three long years of writing Pretty Hard, Dammit on, I'm moving.

I spent some random precious hours for a few months attempting to tinker around with Blogger’s very limited templates, and I utterly failed to successfully edit the html on the template I did find that I sort of liked, (I could never get rid of that stock picture of the stupid highway above) so I gave up in complete frustration. Then I started looking around for other blogging options and found WordPress. Woah. It’s like a Mac - easy and intuitive. Why I didn’t I switch over there years ago, I don’t know. Anyway, so far I love love love it. It’s fancy and schmantzy and smells like newly mown grass. Well, maybe not that last part. But is is cool.

I’m hoping I don’t lose anybody in the switch! I won’t get rid of the old blog here at Blogger and I migrated all of my old posts so you can catch up on old times in the shiny new format, but I won’t be adding any new posts over here anymore.

So Fabulous Readers, Please Please PLEASE update your links, bookmarks, bloglines, etc. to the new URL:

Was that too needy and beggy? How about sensationalistic and tabloidesque? --

Be sure to update because you know you won’t want to miss a minute of the crazy antics of Stewgad (Is she writing? When will she finish?), Spousal Unit (Is he cooking? When does he start teaching?) and The Gadlet (Is she walking? Is she talking?), be sure to come on over to the new site!

So long, Blogger, and thanks!

I guess in life sometimes we get exactly what we deserve, right? And, of course, payback, she is a bitch. But particularly in matters of childcare I often think that the ironic gods of parenting reach out their dry twiggy fingers and deliberately pinch so as to protect us from our own hubris and hence our children from our grandiosity.

Well, yesterday, they struck me but good.

For the past few months I’ve been gleeful with pretty damn near everyone about The Gadlet’s pooping prowess. Inevitably in conversations, whether with people I see every day, folk I hadn’t seen for a while or even strangers I had just met, something in me felt strangely obliged to tell them within the first few moments of conversation that MY Daughter poops in a potty at 10.5 months. “Have I told you about the Gadlet and the Potty yet? No? How, you ask? WELL, let me tell you, that WE are so IN TUNE, she and I, and we are SOOOO in Sync that I can ALWAYS tell when she’s pooping, and so I ALWAYS rush her to the potty before it happens and, eh, voilá! Poop! In a Potty!! It’s so much tidier and neater -- it’s brilliant. You HAVE to try it. Eh? No kids? Oh, well, when you get them, get them a potty RIGHT AWAY.”

Yes, pride cometh before a fall.

So yesterday, Spousal Unit went out to run some errands, leaving me making curry chicken salad with pecans and fresh cherries and the Gadlet having a nice lunch of blueberries, cheese, pasta, and zucchini. Well, I was kind of distracted, what with making curry sauce, chopping chicken, and cherries, so I was giving the Gadlet only about half of my attention. At one point, however, I heard a tell-tale little grunting sound. Aha! I thought. She’s firing off a warning turd. Excellent! “Good girl, Gadlet! Let’s go to the potty!”


We go upstairs. I get the potty out of the bathroom and put it on the floor of her bedroom next to the changing table, as per usual, and put the Gadlet on the changing table, chattering about the potty the whole time. Alas, when I take off her diaper, I find that that warning turd had actually been the whole shebang. And it was a pretty big bang. There was a TON of poop, and it’s pretty much everywhere. So much for being SO IN SYNC. Well, I swallowed my pride a little bit, and decided that I’d persist with the whole potty thing just to keep the rhythm of it for her. Plus, I was worried that maybe she wasn’t done pooping. So I left the diaper on the changing table, and plunked her on the potty.

At which point she proceeds to reach down and grab her little poopy bottom with her hands, getting the stuff all over her fingers.

“AAAK!” I shriek, “STOP! STOP STOPIT STOPIT!!” I grab a diaper wipe and wipe her hands. That got rid of the worst of it and she seems slightly cleaner, but I’m still feeling like her hands could be cleaner. Then I got a Brilliant Idea, that I confess was partially prompted by concern with cleanliness and partly prompted by the increasingly pungent smell wafting gently from the diaper on the changing table. It was so gross it was forcing me to rethink my indignation when the other day Spousal Unit had lovingly compared the smell of the Gadlet’s shit to a very busy Chicago Public Restroom. My Brilliant Idea was to very quickly run into the bathroom, drop the diaper into the toilet to soak (it’s cloth) and grab a wet washcloth to better clean off the Gadlet’s poopy fingers. I look down at her. She’s sitting contentedly on the potty “reading” the cute little book “More, More, More, Said the Baby.”

So I ran in the bathroom, plunked the diaper into the toilet, grabbed a wet washcloth, and returned to the bedroom.

Big Mistake. Huge. A Mistake of Epic Proportions.

In the 20-30 seconds it took me to do that, The Gadlet, newly mobile and reveling in her own mobility, had peed, liberated herself from the potty, kicked it over, spilled the pee, traveled a few feet, and plunked her poopy butt onto the WHITE CARPET. (Installed in the room long before it was a baby’s room.)

I think that thus far I have neglected to mention that the Gadlet’s meals the day before had mostly consisted of blueberries and, sigh, beets. I’m sure that those of you out there who aren’t parents have never closely examined any poop produced after the consumption of such intensely colored foods, and so let me tell you that the deep purple of blueberries and the deep burgundy of beets make a magical color wheel combination that the Pottery Barn might creatively call “Deep Cloak,” “Midnight Iron,” “Coal Mine,” or perhaps “La Brea Tar Pit.”

Before she could spread anymore Midnight Iron shit anywhere, I swooped her up, and ran her into the bathroom, stuck her in the bathtub, and turned on the water. I pulled the lever for the shower massage/hand spray thingey and grabbed it, and her, and started to hose off her butt. At which point she dove forward, trying to clock her head as hard as she could on the side of the cast-iron tub, so I dropped the shower sprayer and grabbed her before she connected head to tub. I’m sure you can imagine what happened next. That shower thing started acting like a greased snake writhing away from intense danger, and sprayed water EVERYWHERE.

So there I was, sopping wet, holding a now wet and slippery, yet still poop-covered baby, with a diaper full of blue-black crap soaking in my toilet, and a perfectly ass-shaped indigo stain and a puddle of pee on the bedroom carpet.

But here’s the worst part.

I managed to get the Gadlet clean and in a new diaper and in bed with a basket full of toys so that she would be marginally entertained and isolated from the shitty floor while I dealt with this situation. I made a solution of OxyClean (that stuff ROCKS), and grabbed a pile of rags, and started to clean up the carpet. The Gadlet, clean, slightly damp, and cute as can be, pulled herself up to standing in her bed, craned her head over the edge of the rail, looked at me sweetly and said:



TWSNBN Update:

I'm a few sentences away from finishing the composition part of the article. I'll be done with the revisions (and hence this draft of the article) by the end of the week. (She says confidently!)

Dr. Horrible

I'm sure you've all caught this by now, but it's only going to be around for a few more days, so if you haven't seen it yet, go get it now.  

I laughed, I cried, it was much better than Cats.  I'm going to watch it again and again.  

Even if you're not a big crazy Joss fangirl like I am, Dr. Horrible was totally worth the $4.  

Back to work now...


Since the last blog post, I've survived a number of milestones:

1. My Birthday (July 2) -- 37.

Urgh. I hate the -7 birthdays, because that is when it hits me that I'm closing in on the next decade. I totally freaked out when I turned 27 because it meant I was Almost Thirty. So turning 37 means that in my own mind I'm Almost Forty. Which is, as we all know, the end of everything youthfull. I mean, at 40, I'll practically be an Old Lady. From here on out things will only sag, and droop, and crease, and cease to function more. I also freaked out a little because I realized that when my mom turned 40, I was 16. So she was in her 40s when I was in college. I'll qualify for the AARP before the Gadlet is in college. Worse, when she turns 40, I'll be 76. Math just wasn't working for me this birthday.

Despite my manic calculations, it really was a good day I worked some, hung out with my great little kid and went to a park for a picnic with Spousal Unit, the Gadlet, Innana, and her guy. (I forget what she calls him on her blog.) We got take-out from the cajun/fish place and hung out in the grass, playing bocce and watching the Gadlet eat her favorite food -- Cheerios. Plus, our town put on a fireworks display. Just for me! No, really, like most towns, it can't afford the fireworks for the 4th, which is ok with me because the 2nd is the more historically accurate day of independence anyway and then I get fireworks on my birthday. (By the way, what cities DO get to do fireworks on the 4th?) This year, though, we crapped out and went home to bed before it got dark. That's how you KNOW you're getting old, when you can't stay awake for the 9 p.m. FIREWORK display.

2. Vacation (7 days) with Divorced Parents who hadn't seen each other in years (15).

Normally, vacations are relaxing. And, it turns out, this one was, mostly. But, there was a BIT of tension around the start of it. Here's the story. Last Christmas we gave my mom the gift of a week at a lake house with us and the Gadlet and both of her kids. Unfortunately, my brother and his wife couldn't make it after all, so it was going to be just 3 adults and one baby in a house with beds for 6. Then, I get a call from my Dad and it turns out the only week he had off this whole year was last week, so he could either not see the Gadlet for a whole year, or be here at the same time that my mom was. Fortunately, my mom is really cool and graciously suggested that my dad should just join us at the lake house. It was nice in theory, but how would it really work? It was totally crazy. They got along like a house on fire. They didn't stop talking for the first few days -- sharing stories about long-forgotten relatives and gossiping about the scandals among their long-lost friends. It was wonderful and funny. They seemed to really enjoy each other's company, which was nice for all of us. It was so nice, we've booked the place for the same week next year for all of us again. I'm kinda scratching my head over this one, but also thanking my lucky stars and whatever gods of forgiveness there are out there.

3. Gadlet Urine Project -- The Specialist Edition

We finally got in to see the pediatric urologist this week. By now, that UTI that the Gadlet had is a long-forgotten memory, except for the preventative antibiotics she's been on since then. So we went to the Big City Hospital, where they did the catheter-dye-xray-pee test, which they managed to do successfully. The worst part for the Gadlet was being held down totally immobilized for 25 minutes. She screamed on and off pretty much the whole time. She was able to calm herself a few times by tugging on her hair while her hands were pinned above her head, and also when Spousal Unit sang to her. When it was over she just hugged me and sobbed. Then I gave her her favorite toy -- a stick with jingle bells attached. She got this huge grin on her face and started shaking the thing and dancing, which was sweet given her blotchy face and red eyes from all the crying. This kid clearly has a sweet short memory and easy disposition. Then we had some lunch in the cafeteria of the hospital. (A nice grilled Cubano Sandwich for me and Spousal Unit, kale and yogurt for the Gadlet.) Then we got to see the specialist. He came in, looked at her films, and pronounced her just fine. Then he took a peek at her coochie to check out the labial adhesions (or strings as Spousal Unit keeps calling them). He was utterly unimpressed and said so. Apparently, they'll go away after puberty, which is when she really needs the thing anyway. So, all's well that ends well. It's funny, though, all of these heroic measures from the Pigg-o-Stat onward just because the kid had a fever. And while I'm absolutely thankful that there is nothing wrong, part of me wonders if just because we HAVE the technology to do all of these things, whether we actually SHOULD do them. I don't mean that I want to neglect my daughter's health, but maybe we should have waited for her to get another infection before launching down the extraordinary measures road. The specialist did apologize for making us come all of that way, and did say point blank that had the medical care providers in our town been, ahem, better at inserting pediatric catheters, then we wouldn't have gone through all of this. Poor little local hospital.

4. That Which Shall Not Be Named

Still shall not be named. I'm inclined to clam up a bit on this one, but that probably isn't too healthy. So, I'll share. I got quite a bit done while my folks were here, but things have slowed down in the past week -- mainly because I lost one of my daycare days to the doctor adventure. I'm starting to feel the looming semester breathing down my neck, but will try to keep my chin up and get a lot done in the next couple of weeks.

Hope you're all having a great summer.

Go Figure

I woke up at 5:30 this morning (the Gadlet's usual wake-up time) to a quiet house.  But my brain was buzzing -- with ideas about the article.   So, I got up and wrote two pages of notes about the stuff I was thinking about -- good material that will enhance both the chapter and the article.  

Isn't the love-hate relationship that we have with our dissertations so funny? 

Thanks all for your great comments.  I took a lot of the advice -- I chilled out a little, started taking it in little chunks, and working in little bits of time.  I got my butt out of the house, which is usually the number one most important thing for me.  I just don't work well at home.  I like to work in crowded, noisy places where I'm alone with a lot of people near me so that I'm not lonely and where I can get food, coffee and/or books at a moment's notice.  This week I've been at the big box bookstore with internal evil corporate coffee shop.  Yeah, I know, it's evil, but they have free parking.   But, it is pretty generic and soul-less.  Funny story from Tuesday -- A woman sat down next to me in said evil cafe.  Her phone rang, and she said "Hey.  Where are you?  I'm in the cafe." Pause.  Looks around.  "I don't see you."  Pause. "Oh!  You're at Borders???"  She was in the Wrong Evil Corporate bookstore.  She turned a little red, and then popped up and headed out the door.   It would have been really funny if it wasn't such a sad commentary on the homogenization and gentrification of America.

Anyway, working there the past couple of days, I realized a couple of good things:

First, I realized that I don't have to make this article into something it isn't.  I think I've been feeling like I have to gather EVERY POSSIBLE BIT OF INFORMATION out there on this subject or else the article will be shite.  But, that just isn't possible this time around.  It will be something very nice I will do for the book.  For now, I just need to work with what I have.  

That led to my second realization -- that I didn't actually know what it is I have.  So, I did a bunch of organizing of my sources and have been taking notes on them for the first part of the article. It has been a HUGE help.  I'm feeling good about what I'm finding and even enjoying it a little.  Imagine that.  

Plus, I decided that the quality of my life just isn't worth the freak-out.  That I could choose to be insane and worried and stressed-out about this whole thing, or I could opt for calm and a degree of sanity and health.  Maybe it is the wrong choice, but I think it is a better one for my long-term life, really.  I don't know how long I could sustain the level of stress I was generating.  My guess is not that long.  Besides, both Spousal Unit and the Gadlet like it better when I'm less tense.  

In the interest of the quality of life question, we're going "camping" with some friends this weekend.  "Camping" in the sense that we'll be away from home, and sleeping in sleeping bags, but not camping in the sense that we're going to a nice place with a kitchen and bathroom and a lake.  I'm going to take the computer and get up early each day and do a couple of hours of work both mornings, but I'm also just going to let myself have some down time.  I think it might help. 

Thanks again for the support.   I'll check back in on Monday.  Happy weekend!  

what day I'm on in this horrible countdown, definitely don't want to know how many days are left!

Personal note to Mom -- the rest of you can skip it if you want to: 
(Before I write this, I just need to put in a disclaimer for my mom because she reads these things, freaks out, and the calls me immediately, sure that I'm either on the verge of offing myself or on the edge of going postal at the post office or something, and then her worry adds to the whole pressure of everything, cause, you know, she's my mom, and I don't want to worry her.  So, Mom, chill.  I'm ok.  I just need to vent.  I'd recommend that you don't read this post. If you do, I'm gonna regret telling you about this blog!)

I'm sitting at home in a panic.  Serious panic.  I keep getting these nagging emails from the editors of this volume that I've agreed to do, (What?  It's only 2 years late, sheesh.  Can't they just Chill?)  and I'm totally panicked about this stupid freaking article.  So much so that I'm becoming paralyzed, a little paranoid, and having a bit of a wig out today. 

I realized that it is really hindering my progress on the dissertation -- I'm so worried about Getting It Right for this article, because god knows, the world is going to see it and judge it so I can't make ANY mistakes because it is the first real thing I will have published and it is going to be a pretty important volume in my field, so it must be right and perfect and not totally stupid and fucked up.  

In the face of this need for total perfection (OH, and perfection really freaking FAST!!!) I just shut down.  I spent the morning hiding in a novel and the afternoon staring at the computer in a bit of a tizzy.  It sucks.   And, the strange thing?  I kind of just want to write the freaking chapter and forget all about this article. 

But before all the well-meaning folk out there tell me to do just that, I have two important reasons for doing it, one selfish and one selfless.  

Selfless reason:  If I don't do this article, the volume won't be published.  There are an unspecified number of other historians depending on me to do it.  And they're all done, it is just down to me.  So if I fuck up, I fuck up other people, not just myself. 

Selfish reason: I don't have any publications, really, so I need this for the tenure track.  If I don't publish, I'll lose my job. 

But in a gordian knot-like situation if I don't write this article, I'll lose my job.  If I don't finish my dissertation, I'll lose my job.  But if I spend all of my time working on this article, I won't finish my dissertation, and I'll lose my job.  But if I spend all of my freaking time reading novels because it is one way of handling a crippling panic attacks, I won't finish any damned thing and I'll lose my job.  

How's that for pressure?  Shit, no wonder I'm freaked out.   

Plus, to add insult to injury this morning I sat on my glasses while on the couch reading said stupid novel, so I've been walking around all day squinting like Mr. Magoo from those old cartoons that you can probably find on YouTube because everything is on YouTube, although I prefer Hulu, myself.  

Where was I?  Oh yes, in a rant. 

So here is where I stand.  I have 23 pages of stuff that will probably work in the article with a little tinkering.  They are also the bulk of Chapter 5 and as I tinker with them, I'll still be tinkering with chapter 5.  On Saturday I wrote a rough draft of an introduction to all of this material and then spent Sunday ripping it apart.  Hence the panic, I think.  I now find myself with not much to show for a whole weekend's work.  Oh, and plus today.    ARRGHH!!! 

And, I've got all this other shit to do, right?  Class prep for the fall (I'm teaching a new freshman class) committee stuff for this group I'm working with, not to mention the hundreds of emails that people have sent me that I haven't replied to because every new email feels like the last little straw that just might kill me.  

Well, thanks for listening.  I appreciate the forum in which to vent my worst fears and to confess my deepest weaknesses.  I'm going to try to calm down and do a little work before I go get the Gadlet.  Who, incidentally, learned to sit up from a lying down position all on her own little self in the middle of the night last night.  She let out this huge cry at 3 a.m., so Spousal Unit went in to check on her and there she was sitting up in the bed!  I think she'd gotten up there by herself but couldn't figure out how to get back down.  It was adorable.  Even if it was 3 a.m.  

She's the one thing right now that isn't making me panic.  Isn't that funny, since I spent 9 months panicking about her, absolutely sure that she would bring all of this stress to my life? 

Day 38

Well, there it is.  I sent off Chapter 4 to my advisor just this moment.  I guess it is an accomplishment, but since I did most of the work on it months ago, it feels rather anticlimactic. Less of a victory and more like one less chore on a very, very long list.  And since I'm pretty terrified of him in general, just because of what he is, not because of who he is, I suppose it is a pretty significant accomplishment. 

Even though it may feel a little like it is adding a bit more stress - since it takes me one more step to the defense which I dread almost as much as, if not more, than childbirth and/or death (in that order).  For those of you new to the story, I was pretty badly scarred by my oral exams, during which I was basically terrorized by a former advisor.  (Which was confirmed for me years later by one of my committee members who sat silently on the sidelines as it was happening.  Yeah, thanks a ton, dude.)  Anyway, since then I've been really really really afraid of the defense.  So much so that I think that I just may have perhaps been dragging my heels on this whole thing just a little bit (ha!) so that I wouldn't have to go through something like that again at the defense.    I suppose, though, that since I survived childbirth, and hey, in my memory it wasn't even so bad (what is up with that hormonally induced craziness???)  maybe this will also be not so bad.  And, also, I am so fucking tired of being afraid of this, I think it is time to just get it over with.  

I guess that's a good enough reason for going on as any, eh? 

So tomorrow I'll be back to working on that article, after I drive to campus and attend an important meeting.  Oh yeah, and unload a whole trunkfull of books and crap into my office. Since I cleaned all of my junk out of the room formerly known as my office now known as the Gadlet's room and moved my "office" into a 2'x3' corner of the upstairs hallway, there's a lot of junk that no longer fits into my new revised office space.  (Which is working pretty well, actually!) 
Gadlet Update:  Blueberries make for blue poop in the blue potty.  

Yep, she's a-shitting in the potty at nine months.   It goes like this:  

Gadlet: Staring off into space with great concentration.  "Ba."  

Stewgad:  "Hm. Whacha doin', Gadlet?" 

Gadlet: Grunting and Straining.  "Ba."

Stewgad:  "Oh!  Pooping!!"  Grabs Gadlet, runs upstairs, pulls potty into bedroom, strips down baby with lickety-split, plops kid on small potty. 

Gadlet: "Ba."  Poops.

Stewgad: "Huzzah!! Well Done Gadlet!  No poopy diapers to wash!" 

Gadlet: "Ba." 

The End. 

Yep, two weeks and counting since I had to clean poop out of a cloth diaper.  The kid is a very precocious pooper.  I wonder if I can put that on her preschool applications? 

Cheers, y'all.  I'll check back in tomorrow. 

Day 39

Daily Report: 

I finished the text of the fourth chapter.  I had a draft of the conclusion done yesterday, but re-read it today and tinkered with it until it worked a bit better (I hope.) 

I've worked through most of the citations, although they're kind of fucked up right now because my Bookends is kaplooie.   But I'm working on getting the newest version of Bookends, (Anybody out there using it now who wants to comment?) so that should help tomorrow.  I'm going to go ahead and send the chapter to my advisor first thing tomorrow morning regardless of the state of the footnotes, I just have to go in and remove those nice notes to myself that say things like "what the fuck are you talking about here?"  And "Hm. I don't have any evidence for this but I'm going to make the claim anyway."  I figure he doesn't need my help finding things wrong with the chapter, he can probably do it by himself. 

Tomorrow, I'll get back to the article.   So, I guess I kind of am on schedule, right? 

Thanks all for the wonderful generous encouraging comments!!  They totally made my evening when I checked email tonight!  I'll respond more personally tomorrow.

Little Gadlet Health Update

So we've got the appointment to see the urethra doctor on the 16th of July.  Meanwhile the Gadlet had her 9 month checkup and the doctor took a closer look himself at her little coochie.  Apparently she has something growing in there that is fusing her labia together.  Spousal Unit (who took her in because I was working) called them "strings."  And this from the scientist.  Nice.  Anyway according to S.U.'s interpretation of the doctor's comments they're not uncommon, they'll go away with some estrogen cream, and they could have caused both the UTI and the difficulty with the catheter.  So maybe this is good news.  I don't know, it sounds pretty icky to me, although the Gadlet seems pretty unaffected.  Ah, parenthood...

Cheers until tomorrow!

I'm sure that every dissertator (especially those Very Special Dissertators like myself who are on the, ahem, Longerish Path to completion) can relate to what I'm about to say.  OK, here it is: 

I absolutely hate this whole dissertation thing.   I totally hate my work.  What made me think this shit was interesting anyway?  I completely hate my job because it requires this dissertation.  I hate the writing. I hate the research. I hate the summer.  I hate the pressure.  I hate how terrible I am at this and how inadequate I am to the task.  I mean, if I was really good at this, wouldn't I be done by now?  Hate. Hate. Hate.  And, by the way, uh oh.

Yep, just filled to the brim with a huge helping of self-loathing topped with a lovely misanthropic sauce, with a side order of bitchy sauteed in smelly fear over here in Stewgadland.  (looking back at that extended metaphor makes me think I must also be a bit hungry...)

Here's the dealio -

I've got until September 1 (the day when classes resume) to finish my degree.  FINISH.  Not just finish the damned dissertation but finish the whole kit and kaboodle -- have had a defense and have submitted the stupid thing to the graduate school.  Done.  Fini.  Complete.  

And unlike my other nice little deadlines of the past that I could generally ignore in the interest of mental health, course preparation, baby having... etc. this one is final.  Or else I lose my job. Period.  Which seems pretty explicit.  

Oh, and meanwhile, I have to finish an article THIS WEEK that I promised a bunch of folk I'd have done TWO YEARS ago.  

Yes.  I suck.  And the worst part is that I don't really want to do it.  All I want to do is hang out with my kid.  Because she is the cutest damned thing ever.  And so much fun.  She shakes her little booty whenever she hears music.  She's starting to get enough hair that it is curling. She eats Cheerios by the fistful.  During naps she whacks her binky along the bars of her crib like a little prisoner with a tin cup trying to annoy the jailers.  And she lights up when I walk into the room like I'm the second coming or maybe like I'm chocolate and springtime and dolphins and flowers and puppies all rolled into one.  How on earth could anything else compete? 

Nothing can, of course.  So let me tell you the only thing that is motivating me to finish. Seriously, this is the only thing.  I had this thought that if Spousal Unit kicks the big one and I'm stuck without him I have to support the Gadlet.  In that case, I'm going to need a job.  So, I might as well keep the one I've got, because I'm not going to find a better one anywhere.  So, there it is.  I'm going to finish so that I can keep my job for the just in case scenario where my husband dies and leaves me without a means of supporting my baby.  How's that for twisted?

(In saner moments I remember that I actually love my job and that that is also a good motivator.) 

Where do I stand with this whole bunch of shit that I have to do?

Intro -- Written, Approved by Advisor, Ready for Committee
Chapter 1 -- Unwritten.  But the chapter is synthetic, not original, so requires no challenging research.
Chapter 2 -- Partially written, needs revision.
Chapter 3 -- Written, Revised, Approved by Advisor, Ready for Committee.
Chapter 4 -- Written, Revised, needs 1-2 concluding paragraphs before being sent to advisor.
Chapter 5 -- Written, needs revision. 
Conclusion -- Unwritten

25 pages of 35 written. 
Clean-up research partially done. 
No idea how to come up with the additional 10 pages. 

Well, that's not true, really, I've got some ideas, but it needs work.  The only good news is that it is a component of chapter 5, so any work I do on it can be translated into revisions for the final chapter. 

I figure I'll defend the third or fourth week in August, with the draft of the dissertation going to the committee the first week in August, so let's make that August 1st.  Hm.  Maybe I better think about the timing of this whole thing...

It gives me: 8 weeks.  Which given that I only have 3 day care days a week plus weekends is 40 days.  Shitity shit.  40 days.  Gulp.  Double Gulp. 

OK here is a Schedule: 

Week 1: (this week) -- Finish Chapter 4.  All that is left is a bloody paragraph or two for fuck's sake.  Do that today.  Send to advisor.  Finish clean-up research, finish article.

Week 2:  Really finish article.  (hey, I know myself, ok?)   Apply changes to Chapter 5.

Week 3: Really finish Chapter 5.   Send to advisor on June 28th.

Week 4: Revise chapter 2. 

Week 5: Finish revising Chapter 2.  Start on Chapter 1.

Week 6: Finish chapter 1.  Write Introduction.

Week 7: Revise, revise.  Footnotes.  (Oy vey, they're a mess.  When I started this fucking thing I was using a prehistoric version of Endnote.  Then I switched to a prehistoric version of bookends.  I need to choose one, fix it up.  Oh god.  I'm going to die doing this, aren't I?

Week 8: Do all that other stuff that I thought I could do but didn't until now. 

Well, I thought that would help.  Maybe it did.  Maybe it just made me more panicked than I was when I started this post.  But hey, panic drives away ennui, right?   In fact, I think I better stop blogging and get my sorry ass back to work.  I'll resume daily update postings to keep myself honest and working during the days of the week that I have working time.  So, tune in for the next few parts where I drag my sorry ass across the finish line with my fingernails while the Gadlet dances on the sidelines.  

Dear Anonymous

I was writing this as a response to a comment I received on my post Final Foibles '08, Part 1, and thought that it should make the main blog pages. Mostly because I'm curious about what the rest of ya'll think.

anonymous said...
Is this even appropriate? I wouldn't want some idiot teacher posting parts of my paper without my permission.

10:57 PM
Dear Anonymous,

I don't usually respond to people who call me idiots, (and, by the way, thanks for that) but I feel inspired to so today.

First of all, I could see your point if I had posted the names of the students who wrote these sentences. However these sentences, like your comments, are anonymous. Their identities, like yours, are protected.

Second, and you could not know this, but I tell all of my classes before they turn in any papers that I keep a file of funny sentences to use in later handouts as examples of problematic writing. They are fully aware that what they write may be later distributed to others (again, anonymously).

Third, and you could also not know this, but I spend a LOT of time working with my students' writing to help them become better writers. If I was simply reading, making little checks in the margins, and then handing their papers back with a letter grade, it would be cruel and heartless to then make light of any errors. However, I spend about an hour with each student's paper that I read. Each paper. Every time. So, you do the math and decide how seriously I take student writing.

In view of these facts, I think a little harmless fun at the end of the semester is, well, harmless.

Thanks, though, for your concern.


p.s. The blog is under a bit of construction right now, so don't mind the mess while I tinker with this new format to see if I like it. :)

Whew.  Another semester finished.  All my grades are in and apparently I have survived my first foray in the the professor-mom experience.  Yeah me.  

Grading this time, I have to admit, was much much more fun because I spent the whole time looking for doozies for the Final Foibles Contest.  

The Greatest Anachronism Prize:
"After the [American] Civil War... women were being admitted to higher education institutions, participating in medical training and other science-related fields, such as astronomy and the space program." 

It is a little known fact that many people in the North considered colonizing the Moon after the end of the Civil War as the next step in Manifest Destiny driven expansion.  Yes, it's true. Abraham Lincoln, that visionary, began the oh-so-secret Union Army Women's Space Program, where steam powered rocket ships fueled by coal were being developed to colonize the moon. With women. 

Bonus points were given to this entry for the next sentence in the paper:  "Post-Civil War technological advancements allowed women more freedom and leisure in terms of organizing and participating in community activities."  Hm.  Technological advancements like Rocket Science?

The Three Strikes and You're an "F" Award
(Or the Alas, Poor Martha Ballard Award)
1. "Martha Ballard's community was unhindered by astringent ideas of what it was to be a woman."   

I did not know that they had this stuff way back in the 18th century.  And, while, yes, the secondary definition does apply here and can make sense, harsh or strident is not the first definition that springs to mind when I hear the word "astringent." 

2. "Martha Ballard was a marvelous woman who persevered through harsh colds, and endless deaths of others."

Yes, the common cold is terrible.  As is death.  Endless death, though, that is definitely the worst.

3. "Martha Ballard had no information on this [newer ideas about womanhood], nor was she a simple housewife pruning her children and calling on her husband's every need." 

Please join me in sending money to the American Association for the Prevention of Baby Pruning. (AAPBP)

The Could You Vague That Up A Bit For Me? Award:
(at the start of a paragraph)
"More modern historians disagree with this notion.   These new age authors argue that both sides had the same feelings." 

Yes, we new age historians often consult our crystals while we sit under a pyramid in order to be fully considerate of the feelings of people in the past. 

And finally, without further ado...
The Spring 2008 Grading Extravaganza Grand Prize Winner:

"There is also scholarly evidence of suggestions made by historians asserting their belief that the war was in a result a direct result of the establishment of transportation which then in fact led to the westward expansion of a nation which was severed at the hip."  

In the grand old tradition of attempting to enjoy oneself while grading, or at least not poke one's eyes out with the red pen, I offer the following fabulous sentences from this round of student papers.

In the I'm Never Going to Travel Again category:
"Many soldiers received sexually transmitted diseases from traveling overseas." 

In the Badly Overstating the Obvious category: (with bonus points for the insanely repetitive use of semi-colons.) 
"Abortion is a two-sided argument; both sides have drastic views about what is right and what is wrong.... those who believe that abortion is murder belong to the pro-life argument; those who believe in the right to choose thus belong to the pro-choice argument."

In the I Do Not Think That Word Means What You Think It Means category:
"When the differences were set aside, the regions could collaborate and work together in harmony, but the amber of the fire never truly died, it simply mustered until it had room to ignite."

Stay tuned for Final Foibles '08, Part 2.  I get 45 more papers tomorrow. 


I don't know what was worse.  The testing or Spousal Unit's reaction to the testing.  

OK, I do know.  It was the testing.  And the lack of an outcome.   And the possible scary consequences. 

Here's the story:

We got up at the crack of dawn in order to get to the 8:00 a.m. appointment at the hospital. These days that isn't so unusual since the Gadlet wakes up at 6:00 a.m. every day.  This means that she usually needs a nap at about 8:00-8:30. (This fact will become relevant later on...).   But, since she dozed in the car for the 10 minutes it took us to get there, I was hoping that that would tide her over.  Yeah, right. 

The first set of tests were relatively easy.  They were simple ultrasounds.  They squirted some goo on her belly and back and took a peek inside at stuff.  The Gadlet wiggled and played with the toys I brought while we tried to get her to stay relatively still, but it was pretty simple for the tech to get an image even if she was moving around.  All-in-all that took about 20 minutes.  It turned out she did have a full bladder, good little eldest-child Virgo that she is, she was following the rules. (Which they amended when they realized how young she is.  And, yes, breastmilk is categorized as a clear liquid.  Go figure.  But, phew, what a relief!)   So I think they got some pretty good images.

Then came the hard part.  We knew that the catheter insertion would be the least good part of this experience, but still.  It was awful.  For more reasons than one.  

When we got to the radiology lab, the nurses were very nice and introduced themselves and told us about the procedure.  They were going to insert a catheter into her urethra, then shoot some dye in there and take pictures.  Pretty simple.  Then they asked if I was pregnant.  "Gasp! Dear God, I hope not!!" was my response.  They said, "are you sure?"  I said, "Well, since I haven't gotten my period yet, I don't know, but I really don't think so."  But I guess that wasn't sufficient.  They kept pressing and pressing, which ultimately prompted Spousal Unit to exclaim disgustedly, "I'm Sure!!"  I chuckled, but the nurses looked aghast.  I think they were feeling like that was TMI about our sex life, or lack thereof, and so got embarrassed.  But they stopped asking if I was pregnant.  Regardless, they decided that I'd have to stand outside anyway when the x-ray was on, just in case.  So Spousal Unit had to wear the lead dress.  Since his job was to be hanging out with the Gadlet during the x-ray process.  My job, therefore, was to help her get through the catheter.  

They got everything ready, we stripped the baby down, and put her on the table.  At which point it was almost 11:00 a.m. and the poor little kid hadn't yet had her morning nap.   Not surprisingly, she started screaming and waving her little arms to be picked up even before they did anything.  I put my face next to hers and talked to her and tried to calm her down, but then the nurses pinned her legs down and started with the catheter.  At which point she promptly peed.  After a bit of tinkering, Nurse #1 decided she couldn't get it.   In steps Nurse #2.  She can't get it in either.  Meanwhile, the Gadlet is belting it out at the top of her lungs.  She is pissed, as well as covered in piss, and was letting us all know it.  So, we take a break.  The nurses decide to send for a pediatric nurse who specializes in this kind of thing.  I held the Gadlet, nursed her a little, and got her calmed down.  Spousal Unit lurked at the edge of the room and started asking questions about the x-ray dosage she was going to get and how many kilojoules or metaohms, or whatever measurement they use, and why she needed this intense of a dose. In the midst of this chaos, that guy, the damned x-ray scientist, had read the side of the machine and was doing some complicated calculations to compare it to the x-rays that he works with at the Big Science Thingey.  I was worrying about her tiny private parts, he was worrying about her radiation exposure.  I didn't give a shit about her potential x-ray risk, I just wanted someone to get the catheter in right so that we could get it all over with. 

Before Spousal Unit got any answers that made him satisfied, along came the pediatric nurse and so we recommenced the process again.  Gadlet on table, screaming, sweating, freaking out --me holding her head gently and telling her how proud I was of her -- one nurse on each side holding her legs down, and the nurse in the center trying to thread the needle, as it were.  

She couldn't get it either.   This did not bode well for the test.  Or for the Gadlet, I was beginning to gather, as the nurses started to exchange grave looks.

They called our pediatrician.  He happened to be at the hospital, so stopped on by.  At this point, Spousal Unit was in a high state of anger.  He was just ready to walk out and take our baby and never return.  I think he was worried that the doctor would come in and attempt to show his superiority by doing what the nurses could not.  Instead, our doctor, who I love, came in and called the whole thing off.  But not for a good reason.  Apparently, the problem they had getting the catheter in can be an indication that there may be something wrong with her urethra.  So we have to go to the pediatric urology specialists in a Big City 2 hours away and get them to check it out.  And if there is something wrong, she's probably going to need some surgery to fix it. 

We walked to the car with heavy hearts and an exhausted, angry, sweaty and unhappy baby.  When we get everybody squared away in their seats, Spousal Unit looks at me and said, (and I quote exactly): "It really upset me that all the women in that room constructed the experience as traumatic." 

Gnuh? Constructed the experience as traumatic?  Where the hell was he?  Was he watching the same baby that I was?  It wasn't CONSTRUCTED as Traumatic, it just WAS TRAUMATIC!!  

Anyway, I guess he was feeling left out of the experience because I had been the one to take care of her through the catheter -- remember, he was going to be the point-parent for the x-ray and dye thing itself, so had it all gone well, he would have had his fair share of head holding and muttering through the screaming.  But because the test never happened, he wound up kind of not getting to participate and he was feeling a little left out of the loop.  So, I guess I could see his point, but I was little pissed that he thought that it was traumatic because all the "women" in the room had decided that it was.  

So, while we had a big fight about this, the Gadlet slept and we drove to Target for toilet paper.  I left the two of them in the car and engaged in a little retail therapy,  buying the Gadlet some new toys:  The Fisher Price talking retro phone

And her first set of Tonka Trucks

Bad parenting at its best, no?  Bad experience?  Here kid, have a toy.  I swore I'd never do that. But, she really loves the phone -- she's been playing with it nonstop since I got it home.  

So, really, I guess what was most interesting about the experience was to see our very different reactions to the stress.  Spousal Unit opted to use his expertise as a scientist and get grumpy about what he had knowledge about, and then he decided that the whole thing wouldn't have been a bad experience if it weren't for the adult (read "female") emotions in the room.  I just freaked out.  Was freaked out.  And still a little am freaked out.  I dreamed last night that I drove my car off of an icy road into a lake and as I was going over into the water I realized that I couldn't get the Gadlet out of her carseat in time before she would drown.  (For those of you who don't know, it is pretty tricky to get a kid in and out of a carseat.)  I think this was a clear metaphor for what is going on -- we've slid off course and I can't save her from what is looking like it might be a very bad experience.  I guess this is a normal part of parenthood -- always worrying and always having a terror that something will harm your child and knowing that you can't save them from all of the bad stuff that will come down the road.

In the schema of the bad stuff that CAN happen, this is probably nothing really major.  But it could be something unpleasant and scary for her.  And scary for her is really, really scary for me.   Just when I thought I was managing my global fear of disasters, along comes a potentially deformed little urethra to gum up the emotional works.  Poor little Gadlet.  Although she, of course, seems totally fine.  She has gone back to normal -- dancing when she hears music, cackling at all things even remotely funny, exclaiming "Ah!" when she discovers something new, and adamantly refusing solid food.  I suppose if I can keep from killing Spousal Unit, we'll all survive what ever comes next.  

This week the poor little Gadlet went through some terrible stuff. Not as bad as it could be, thank the stars, maker, Gods, God, whoever and whatever, but deeply unfun nonetheless.

She started off last week with a low-grade fever and serious grouchies. Horay, I thought, Teething! Um, no. The fever persisted for days, so I took her in to the pediatrician. At first pass, they thought it might be pneumonia, so the Gadlet had to have a chest x-ray.

How do you x-ray a squirmy infant? Funny you should ask.

They stuffed her into this thing:

I don't know what kind of baby happy crack they put this kid on to get this picture where he looks all calm and normal except for the vacant look in his eye, but the Gadlet did not like this thing AT ALL. She screamed her little tiny head off. Worse, she looked at me the whole time going "mamamamamamama!!!" in between sobs as if I had betrayed her in the vilest way. Which in a way I had because it was my job to stand there HOLDING HER ARMS ABOVE HER HEAD watching while she screamed, so clearly I was in on this torture that she was undergoing. It was horrible. All the while, the X-Ray technician was swearing to me up and down that it was actually better if the Gadlet screamed because then they could get a clearer image of her lungs. But you know she had to be lying just to make me feel better.

I just found out while looking for this thing on the internets that it is appropriately called, and I shit you not, a "Pigg-O-Stat." I don't know if that means it is a way to make a pig static, in which case I'm deeply offended that my infant is deemed a pig in medical terminology, or if the poor inventer's name was Pigg. Either way, it did not bode well for the little Gadlet.

Well, the X-rays were fine, she did not have pneumonia. So they sent us home and told us it was viral, but to check back in a couple of days if her fever persisted.

It did, of course.

So then we had to go back on Friday. In the fun baby luck of the draw we got the rookie PA rather than the doctor, and she thought maybe ear infection. So she spent 40 minutes trying to look into the Gadlet's ears while I held her immobilized. After 30 minutes of violent screaming and even more violent squirming, I almost wished I had the Pigg-O-Stat.

The PA finally gave up and called in the Doc. He took literally about 10 seconds to look, got a good view of her ears, and said, "Nope, not an ear infection." That meant worse. He said, in a very loud voice to overcome the Gadlet's screams, "Sorry, but now we have to take a urine sample and that means sticking a catheter into her urethra. Do you consent?" Once again, I became Mama the Vile Betrayer. And she thought the ear exam was bad. Woah. Add to this very rude intrusion on her internal private parts the to the fact that she never actually stopped screaming from the bungled ear-checking, and boy, was she one pissed-off infant. And then of course she peed everywhere as soon as they took it out. So she was wet, cold, mad as hell, and probably in some pain. By this point she had been crying nonstop for about 45 mintues solid. She screamed so hard that she did that sobbing breathing (huh-huh-huh haaaa, pause, Huh-huh-huh haaaaa) afterwards for half an hour even though she fell asleep. Poor little cookie. It broke my heart. Next time they stick some tubes in my baby or decide to plunk her in any thing O-Static, Spousal Unit has to come along and be Papa the Vile Betrayer. I'm not doing that one again.

Except, I think I am. It turns out that she's got a urinary tract infection and is on antibiotics. The bad news is that there has to be more testing on May 8 at the hospital to make sure there isn't anything wrong with her bladder, urethra or kidneys.

And what are my instructions for before the testing? Get this -- we have to: not let her eat after midnight, and then make sure she comes in with a full bladder for the test.

Uh, yeah. Right. The fact that they are suggesting this prepratory process for an 8 month old (it will be her 8-month b-day on the test day) does not inspire my confidence in the hospital that has requested such a thing. Don't you'd think they would know that you can't tell babies not to pee and have it work?? I mean, hello, hospital? Dealing with babies all of the time?? And not nurse her after midnight? Do those foolish hospital workers want to come to my house and deal with my screaming baby at 2:00 a.m. and 6:30 a.m. when I refuse to nurse her? I'm guessing probably not.

Oh, and did I mention I've got 36 papers to grade this week, 25 to grade next week, and get another 50 on May 12? And I got another scolding email from the volume editors reminding me (as if I could forget...) that I'm a year behind and delinquent on this article I'm supposed to be writing? Add to this the fact that Spousal Unit is at his hardest point of work for the next 6 months (Overheard phone call from the Lab today -- Spousal Unit "It blew up?" Pause. "How loud?" Pause. "He should really report this, especially if he is still hearing ringing in his ears." Pause. "O.K. Well, how much got out?" Pause. "Hm...that's not good." At which point I was so freaked out, I left the room.) I think we're both feeling like we're stuffed into in the Academic equivalent of the Pigg-O-Stat.

I guess at this point all we can do is hope that the Gadlet doesn't have another Pigg-O-Matic, (oops! Static, Stat, whatever...) in her near future.

Academama tagged me for this meme, (Thanks Academama!!!) which is funny because I'd just been thinking about this idea because I'd heard of the book that sparked the meme.   

This is actually really challenging.  It is really hard to sum up your whole entire existence, which feels enormous, in 6 little words.  As I try to do it, I keep thinking about two stories -- one from reality and one from my alternate reality.  Which is Buffy, of course. 

When my grandfather was just starting his trip down the Alzheimer's Superhighway, he once told me that he was working on writing his memoirs.  I was intrigued.  This was a man of few words.  He was a quite, tense kind of a guy who seemed to carry a lot of anger around inside but who didn't really express himself very frequently.  I knew that when he was younger he had done some painting and drawing, so I knew he had a creative streak.  I thought that maybe this memoir project was a new direction for his artistic interests.  Intrigued, I asked him to tell me about it.  He said that he hadn't written much of anything yet, but that he had hit upon the perfect title:  "Don't Come Back Monday." He started to explain that the title was because he had been fired from so many jobs, he couldn't even count how many.  I guess this bottled up anger he lived with would occasionally escape its containment structure and burst out at inappropriate moments.  Usually at work, and usually directed at his boss.  Papa said that that phrase, "Don't come back Monday" was one he heard repeatedly, usually preceded and  followed by cursing.  As a 4-word memoir, it isn't bad, I think, for describing this man's work life.  As his life's work, well, I don't know, maybe it isn't bad for that one either.

The other thing I keep thinking about when I contemplate this 6 Word memoir is in Buffy, Season 3.  A new character has appeared in the group, Faith, and the group is trying to explain to her  all of the varieties of folk they have in their group. In particular, they're trying to reveal that one of their own is a werewolf.  Somebody says,"Oz is a werewolf, but oh, it's a long story..." Then the said stoic werewolf, Oz, tells his story: "Got bit."  And Buffy says, "I guess not so long..."  "Got Bit" pretty much sums up the whole thing. 

So, somewhere between "Got Bit," and "Don't Come Back Monday" are the six words that sum up my whole life to date.  I've got to admit that I'm struggling to find them.  The best one I've come up with is: "Just working on overcoming my fear."  But, I'm not sure it is really THE one. I'm going to keep thinking about this one, and if I come up with a better one, I'll pass it along.

I did come up with a good 6 Word Birth Story: "Who's that screaming?  Oh, it's me." 

I'm much happier with this one, a variation on the theme that I saw at ParentDish.

:) Let me tag the academic mamas (Academama, Mimi, Nik) (and any other great mamas who are reading this!) out there to come up with their 6 Word Birth Stories!  And, let's see, Innana, Amanda,  and Ragey for the 6 Word Memoir.) 

And in the meantime, back to grading. 

That's a good one, huh?  Maybe that is my REAL 6 Word Memoir: "In the meantime, back to grading."

Yeah, so you know it has been way, way too long since you've last posted on your blog when the only comments you've gotten in months are spam advertisements in unknown Asian characters.  Worse, you know it has been way too long since you've blogged when you're insanely happy that some Asian automated spam program found your blog since you assume that just about everybody has given up checking it for new posts, except for perhaps your Mom.  (Hi, Mom.) 

So, in the interest of returning you to the state of Stewgad, I'll give a little update on my world. 

Hi everybody, I'm Stewgad.  I'm an x-th year grad student, a 2.5th year untenured professor, and a new mama.  I'm working on raising a kid, staying married, teaching classes, finishing a dissertation, and having a life.  (Pretty much in that order.)  I'm finding that my new life with baby involves a lot of cross-identity stuff each day.  I'm never just a Mama, or a Wife, or a Professor or a Writer at any given moment, I'm usually trying to be all at the same time. Like Professor Mama Writer Wife.  And I'm finding that it doesn't usually work all that well. 
Well, maybe that's not true. I guess after 7 months of this juggling act/highwire walk/escape artist trick (or pick any other arcane and never seen circus performance metaphor you would like, I mean, are there still circuses, anyway?) I am getting a little better at managing all that I have to do in a week, at least better than I was at the start of this semester.  But, I do feel like I always have 10 things to do and that I'm really only able to do about 5.5 of them, and only 4 of them well.   I'll let you guess which ones I opt for. 

Anyway, things here in Stewgadland have settled in to a pretty nice little routine if I really think about it.  I get up, I feed the Gadlet, I pack her up, I drop her off at Darby's Fabulous Home Day Care, I go to work, I teach, I come home, I pick up the Gadlet (on most days, some days Spousal Unit fetches her), we cook, we eat, I feed the Gadlet, I go to sleep.  I wake up, I feed the Gadlet.  I sleep.  (Repeat the last 5 steps 2-4 times a night, depending.)  So we've got things down a bit.  And if I'm a little jealous that Darby gets to spend most of her time with my baby, that's reasonable and normal, right?  And if I'm a lot jealous that she has the time (and Magical Martha Stewart-esque skills) to do things like whip up some homemade felted Babylegs from an old sweater when my kid poops on the ones I sent her to daycare in, then that's just my own cross to bear as I suck it up and am deeply happy that the Gadlet has someone so absolutely amazing in her life. 

Right now, there are only 5 weeks left in the semester, and although I haven't even graded my midterms, (and I'm supposed to be doing that RIGHT NOW) I think I may survive it.  Really much to my own surprise. 

I spent the first half of of the semester agonizing about how terrible I felt that I had to go back to work and how all I really wanted to do was be at home with the Gadlet.  In fact, I bitched about it a lot to anybody who'd listen.  (Except, oddly enough, the blog... perhaps the most appropriate forum for such feelings.)  I was unhappy to be back at work, I felt so behind on all things academic and/or intellectual, and I hated leaving my daughter every day.  But mostly, I think I was annoyed that I HAD to work at all.  I mean, isn't there a life somewhere out there where all I had to do was be with my baby and play with my great new Mama friends and read novels and buy stuff?  Couldn't I have that life if I wanted it? Well, yes.  Maybe.  But Spousal Unit made it clear that if I wanted that life, which incidentally required us to give up half of our income, then I'd have to first finish the dissertation and then give teaching another year before I made a decision.  Damn him and his reasonableness.  I guess I'd kinda hoped that giving birth got me out of that whole dissertation thing.  Well, the man called my bluff.  So, I trudged along for a while being pissed at my whole horrible situation.   

Yes, you say, horrible?  Come the fuck on, Stewgad, you spoiled princess, you.  And, yes, I finally came to this realization myself, after probably spending far more time complaining about having to work than I was actually working.   A few things helped me snap out of this self-pity spiral.  

First, I was bitching and moaning to another friend of mine who is also a professor and who is also on maternity leave with her first baby.  She listened politely, smiled, and then said, "Stewgad, honey, this is the best job you could ever have with a baby.  You only teach 30 weeks out of the year, and you only have to go to campus 2 days a week.  The rest of the time is your own to work on what you love and to be with your family."  Hm.  Well, since you put it like THAT.   

And while I was chewing on this idea, a different friend of mine reminded me about Buffy.   No, no... really, wait... don't go away yet.  Hear me out.  She said that Buddhists have a saying about the return of normal life after amazing life changing moments: "After ecstasy, the laundry."  She pointed out that Buffy, who dies in the 5th season and is sent to heaven, returns in 6th season to feel that her world is hellish -- that the normal stuff of everyday life is torture, compared to heaven.  But then the Truthsayer on the show, Spike, reminds her that everyday life isn't supposed to be bliss, it's just supposed to be lived.   I think for me that having a baby and getting to stay home with her was the ecstasy.  It was this amazing, transformative time when I was so happy and felt so fulfilled.  But, it couldn't last forever.  There is still work to be done.  My own intellectual laundry.

So between Spousal Unit reminding me that I still had work to do, my friend reminding me that of all the work I could do, this one is great, and my other friend reminding me that life isn't always bliss and that I still had some laundry that needed seeing to, I started to feel better about my job. 

Then came Spring Break and I spent a week at home alone with the Gadlet.  I was totally psyched to spend the week hanging around and staring deeply and adoringly into my infant's eyes.  Well, she apparently, had other plans. 

Funny thing about infants.  They start to become real little humans -- babies -- and they stop wanting to gaze into your eyes all day and start wanting to do things like gnawing on anything dangerous they can get their tiny little hands on.  And it turns out, the Gadlet is developing actual Opinions and Ideas.   These Opinions and Ideas render her somewhat less adorable at times, actually.   For example, she does not like to put on clothes.  Naked is her ideal state. And, in fact, if you attempt to put a shirt on her without giving her something to do with her hands while you do it, she bitches and moans and wiggles and does this funny thing with her hips that is a spot-on imitation of Elvis as she attempts to squirm away from the torture of clothing.   Likewise, she engages in substantial bitching when I sometimes attempt to do something personal in the bathroom in the morning for which I would rather not have company, ahem, and so put her down on the play mat in her bedroom and walk 2 feet away into the bathroom.  Bitch, bitch, bitch is all I hear the whole time.  My response?  "PLEASE calm down, Honey, MAMA HAS TO POOP!!"  She's usually unimpressed by this argument and grumpily continues her bitching.

But the Gadlet reservers her top quality #1 bitching for mornings when I'm trying to get her ready to go and to pack up the 10,000 things that are required for a baby when you leave them with someone else for a day and to get ME ready to go and to pack up the 10,000 things that I require to be a professor in a different city all day.  That's when she really lets it rip.  Like this morning.  I think that kid griped at me for a good hour because I couldn't hold her AND pack the frozen breastmilk, (a.k.a. The TitMilk as a friend of mine calls it), fold the cloth diapers, pack up an extra set of clothing for Poop Explosion Emergency Contingencies, track down the diaper rash ointment, the snowsuit in case it is cold, the sweater in case it is only a little cold, a sun hat in case it is sunny, a warm hat in case it is snowy, pack up the breast pump that tediously extracts said TitMilk, find the million tiny parts belonging to the breast pump and clean them (I think Spousal Unit is afraid to touch that thing and since he's The Cleaner in the relationship, those darned parts are never clean), find the papers I was grading, pack up the laptop and the book I was reading for class, find extra pads to insert in my shirt so that the TitMilk won't leak and make an embarrassing stain that reminds my students that I have Tits that make Milk, make green tea so that I can drive without falling asleep, prepare toast so that I have sufficient calories to produce the TitMilk, and stuff all of the above into the car, all the while listening to an ever-escalating chorus of baby bitching.  And what does baby bitching sound like, you ask?  "NNNNGGGGGNNNNN!!!!!!!"  Or occasionally she varies the consonant sound to "MMMMMMM!!!!"  But the Gadlet mostly sticks to the NG range of things.   

Don't get me wrong, I love her more than I ever thought I could love anything.  But, lately she's more interested in exploring her world than in being adored by me.  Which is all right and proper and good and will only increase with time.  Which makes me heartily grateful that I didn't quit my job in February when I really, really wanted to.   

And, um, so what about the dissertation?  Oh, That.  The whole raison d'etre for this bloggy business.  I finished (almost ... like I've got one paragraph or so and a little tidying to go) a chapter over break, but haven't had time to return to it since then.  I'm hoping that by the end of May I'll finish this one (really finish) and revise the next one.  Then, by the end of June I will have finished drafting the next one and revised the last one, leaving only a conclusion.  That's the rough plan, anyway.   

I guess in general that I'm just trying to do the laundry of my life.  To remember the ecstasy, and to treasure it and my time with the ever-changing Gadlet, but to also work on enjoying the work of my life and to appreciate the process of getting things clean, both metaphorically, mentally, and literally.  So, now I'm off to wash some diapers.   

The Obama Obsession : A Drama in Three Acts 

Act One: Preparations

The Scene:  Spousal Unit and Stewgad are at home when the phone rings.  A friend has invited them to tour a historic house that he has just purchased and is renovating.  Spousal Unit hangs up the phone and our heroes start to prepare for the journey.

Stewgad: I wonder what the weather is like today, and consequently how warmly will I have to dress the Gadlet?  Have you heard?

Spousal Unit: Nope.

Stewgad: OK - I'll check. 

(click, clickety, click, tap, tap.)

Stewgad: Oh - a bad cold front is moving through along with some snowfall for the whole [region we're in].

Spousal Unit: Wow.  I hope it doesn't hurt Maine. 

Stewgad (utterly bewildered):  Maine??  

Spousal Unit:  Yeah, a storm could really impact the turnout.  

Stewgad:  Maine?!! Your first thought was Maine???  We're about to go out and take our child into the tundra and your first thought was Maine??? 

Spousal Unit (sheepishly):  Yes, well it is a caucus state, so it is really important for Obama to have...

Stewgad: (Rolls eyes and groans.)

Act Two: The Tour

The Scene: Historic House Under Renovation

Friend:  So this is the house.  Here is where the historic kitchen was.  Now we'll move through the hallway into the upstairs apartment.

Spousal Unit:  Wow, this apartment sure is great.  What a great view!  From here you can even see the Obama headquarters!!  (Turns to Friend) Can I witness for you about my feelings for Obama?  

Friend: (Mumbles uncomfortably and changes subject.) 

Stewgad: (Groans and rolls eyes.) 

Gadlet: (Takes opportunity to spit up into her snowsuit, onto her mother's wool coat and, splat, onto the newly refinished historic oak floors.)

Act Three: The Drive

The Scene: Our heroes have just gotten into the car.  It is quiet until Stewgad speaks.

Stewgad:  Wow, that was really a great house. 

Spousal Unit:  I don't think Friend likes Obama. 

Stewgad:  Oh. My. God!  Is that all you think about?? I don't think I can survive this election season!  Can't we talk about anything else???

Spousal Unit:  Yes, we can. 

The End. 
This little drama was brought to you today by Obama Obsessed Anonymous (O.O.A).  Please contact us if you suspect that you or someone you love has a problem. 

The Grading Meme

Oh. My. God. 

I had totally forgotten how much I hate grading.  I am currently sitting on 50 some short (1-page) preliminary assignments and every fiber in my being shouts out that it DOES NOT WANT TO GRADE THEM.  
So, in the interest of procrastinating this fun task, I'm reviving my "Five Things I'd Rather Do than Grade" Meme, updated for the New and Improved Parental Stewgad. 
5. Listen to the Gadlet shit knowing full well what has to happen after that. 
 (Especially since the little critter saves up all her poop for a week and then gets it out in one fell swoop.  Usually at the most inconvenient moment possible, of course.)
4.  Attempt to extract a squirming, grumpy 13-lb human out of shit-infused clothing without enabling that human to ingest some of the shit.  
(After one similarly explosive and uncontained poop the husband of a friend of mine suggested as a solution to this dilemma that they just "cut off" her daughter's onesie. She was not amused.)  
3.  Remove all of said shit from the back, arms, legs, knees, toes and various other tiny nooks and crannies while small squirming human attempts to roll over and/or play with aforementioned shit.
(Who knew babies had so many crevices in which to hide small morsels of shit??)
2. Clean the encrusted baby shit out of the gussets of the elasticized leg openings of a cloth diaper wrap with a toothbrush. 
(Yep.  Toothbrush.  It's the thing that works best to get that shit out of there.  And yes, cloth.  Given that I lie awake at night and worry about where all of the trash goes, this seemed to be the only solution.)
And last, but not least, the # 1 thing I'd rather do that grade.... 

Listen to Spousal Unit wax poetic about Barack Obama WHILE attempting to accomplish #2-5.  

And now, back to my regularly scheduled workload. 
Thank you all for stopping by.  
Feel free to share the 5 things you hate more than grading.  

Obama Drama

I feel that it is only fair for me to tell you that Spousal Unit has fallen in love with someone else.  

I am trying to be open-minded and fair about this new relationship and at the same time hold on to the husband I know.  But it is hard because he won't shut up about this new love.  Worse, he expects me to follow along and to be happy that he has found this new person who gives purpose to his life.   Frankly I'm a little jealous. He's devoting all of his time and emotional energy to his new love interest.  I even caught him ignoring the Gadlet the other day while he was on-line with his new honey.
Yes, my man has fallen hard for Barack Obama.  

And let me tell you, he is absolutely head-over-heels obsessed.  It's a leetle insane.  I keep catching him obsessively perusing the internet for spin and information and polls.  He brings 
his computer to bed every night so that he can follow the situation.  I feel like I'm sharing a bed with Barack Obama.
Now don't get me wrong, I'm a huge fan.  I happily voted for the man yesterday and waited in a long line to get to do it.  The first time I saw Obama speak, I got the chills -- I knew I was watching our first black President.  I just knew it.  Whether this is his moment or not, I don't know.  I have hope, but I don't know.  Regardless, he moves me.   (And speaking of hope, if you haven't seen it, go and watch this tear-jerking video.)

But Spousal Unit is over the top.  Yesterday morning he was in the foulest mood I've ever seen him in.  He was grouchy with me, short with the Gadlet, and stormed around the house all morning with a dark cloud lurking over his head.  I decided to remedy the situation by leaving. Then last night when he got home he was all sunshine and light.  What had caused his bad morning mood?  He finally confessed that he was stressed about Super Tuesday.   Yes, politics is controlling his whole world.

The beautiful thing is that he is putting his obsession into action.  He has been hanging around the local Obama campaign headquarters making calls and canvassing.  The other day he took the Gadlet while she was sleeping and she hung out there in her stroller and he made calls.  It is really cool and admirable.  I'm way to shy to do things like that, so I'm really impressed that he's so into it.  Plus, the Gadlet will get to say someday that she campaigned for Obama.  

The best part for me, though, is that I get to tease Spousal Unit with the poetry of the Gadlet's favorite book -- Llama Llama Red Pajama.  It's all about this baby llama going to bed whose Mama has stuff to do and doesn't get to him as quickly as he wants.  And as you may expect, there is a lot of rhyming.  Whenever the Gadlet sees this book, she smiles.  It is adorable.  But anyway, there's this line in the book when the Mama returns to the baby llama as he has a tantrum: "Little llama such a tizzy, sometimes Mama's very busy.  Please stop all this Llama drama and be patient for your Mama."   In our house I've adapted it: "Spousal Unit, what a tizzy.  Sometimes politics are busy.  Please stop all this Obama drama and help the Gadlet's patient Mama."

Ok, so maybe the joke doesn't translate into written text so well.   But it is very funny to those of us who have to repeatedly read the same book to the kid over and over so much that we've got it memorized. 

Anyway, I don't usually post about politics - there are far smarter and more engaged folk out there doing it for me -- but I wanted to share this Drama with you all since yesterday was a pretty good day for all of us Obama Llamas.  And because finally for the first time in weeks, Spousal Unit can relax with the Gadlet's mama. 

Dreaded D:

I've got an article to write that is due by the end of the month.  Since I've put these folks off for about a year (Gasp!) I really, really, really have to do it this time.  The good news is that it is a good chunk of one of my chapters, so hopefully by working on this article I'll also be making progress on chapter 5.  I'm a little nervous since I haven't been at this for a while, but hopefully it will be OK.  I'm going to hold my nose and dive right in.  Wish me luck!

Well, we survived the week. Barely.

On Monday I suited up for the role and put on something other than jeans, spit-up stained shirts, or pajamas for the first time since the Gadlet was born. I donned my new button-down shirt and fancy work pants, which were only made possible by the control-top tights that held in my postpartum gut. As I tugged those things on I fervently hoped that the "control-top" helping me hold in my flabby belly would also help me hold in my flabby emotions. But for some reason that wasn't one of the benefits advertised on the package.

I gathered together the million and a half bags it takes to get a baby and a returning professor out of the house, packed up the Gadlet and drove her over to Darby's. I brought her in and kissed her goodbye and was thinking I'd make it out without tears until Darby asked me how I was doing. I got a little weepy then and so bolted out the door before I had a total breakdown.

Then I was free. I thought it would feel awful. I had fully prepared to weep in the car. But I didn't. In fact, it was great. I felt so good. The Gadlet was safe, cared for and happy and I could work uninterrupted for HOURS at a time. The last few weeks it had been really challenging to feel like I had to be working on my dissertation, prepping for classes AND taking care of the Gadlet. Monday I just had to do one of those three things. Life had gotten much, much simpler.

The only less simple and slightly crazy thing was making sure the Gadlet had enough milk for the next day. In the interest of multitasking, and since I have an hour commute with nothing to do in that time period, I had decided to pump while driving. To facilitate this bit of automobile gymnastics I bought this insanely overengineered bra for "hands free" pumping. It looks and feels like an unholy cross between my grandmother's knickers and a Madonna video. So in the morning along with my control top undergarments, I put this contraption on underneath my shirt, then put in half of the pump part (the part that covers my boobs), and stuck it through the convenient hole in the bra leaving exposed the hollow pipe that hooks up to the valves, etc. I looked exactly like a femmebot with guns sticking out of my jubblies. After I dropped the Gadlet off, I got in the car, hooked myself up and pumped while I commuted. I don't love pumping, but I love the Gadlet so I kept at it. I was simply terrified the whole time, though, that I'd get stopped by a cop for something and he'd look down and I'd be hooked up to the milking machine. But at least I was "hands free." I mean, if there's laws about cell phone use while driving, what about pumping?

Fortunately I was not arrested for indecent exposure while driving on my first commute. I got a lot done on Monday to prep for teaching on Tuesday. I printed out a bunch of stuff and got my syllabi and handouts ready. (I'm one of those profs that handout out a million pieces of pieces of paper the first day of class.) Then I headed home to the Gadlet.

When I got to Darby's, apparently the Gadlet had been crying or grousing for about an hour. Poor kid. I think she was ready to go home, because as soon as I put her in the car she started chattering a mile a minute -- like she had to tell me all about her adventures of the day. Then at home she got very quiet and subdued and wanted to be held all night. I was worried that she was trying to show us how good she could be so that we wouldn't take her back to day care. But Spousal Unit said I was being ridiculous.

The best part of Monday, though, was coming home. I walked in the door and the house was clean and all lit up and it smelled wonderful. The table was set and there was a beautiful salad waiting. While I admired all of this and unpacked the Gadlet, the oven timer beeped and Spousal Unit pulled out homemade enchiladas. It was so amazing. I felt so cared for and supported. The only thing that might have made it better was if he'd been buck naked except for an apron. But since we live in the North and it is January, I can understand why he decided to keep his clothes on. But lack of nakedness aside, let me tell you, I don't think I've ever been so happy to come home and find dinner waiting.

Tuesday's commute was a little trickier because I had to drop the Galdet off and then pick up my commuting colleague. But it worked fine. Then I taught again for the first time in ages. It felt great. Well, after I got over that gut-wrenching nervousness of the first class. Within a few minutes I remembered how much I love teaching and how much I love my students and how much I love history and how much I love my colleagues. It was such a good day. I was totally high and as I left work I felt really ready to launch into the Dreaded Dissertation on Wednesday.

Then I picked up the Gadlet on Tuesday night. Darby said that she had been coughing so desperately badly all day that she had made herself hoarse. It was terrible. My baby was sick. This ocean of guilt crashed into me. I had left her and she had gotten sick and she felt bad and didn't have her mama all day. I was the worst mother ever to enter into mothering. How could I have been so cruel? I was never ever going to leave her again. Tuesday night she was so full of phlegm she couldn't sleep because she kept coughing herself awake. So I took her to the pediatrician Wednesday morning. They stuck this pipe cleaner looking thing up her nose and sucked out a booger to test it for RSV, a respiratory virus that little kids get. Then they tested her blood-oxygen levels to make sure she was getting enough oxygen. The scariest thing was that they wanted to know about a family history of ashtma. (Maternal Grandmother, Mother, Brother, and me a little when encountered with molds.) But she was negative for RSV and they didn't think she has asthma. Just a cold. Phew. But oh did I feel terrible. Oh, and best of all? The pediatrician said that she couldn't go back to day care because she might make Darby's baby sick.

I deflated like a little balloon. So much for feeling liberated and like I had time to do my own work. Dammit. I had to stay at home with the baby. But, wait, isn't that what I wanted to do all along? How confusing. Then I felt all guilty because I felt bad that I had to stay home with my sick baby that I wouldn't have wanted to leave anyway because she was sick. See the conundrum? It wasn't fun.

Anyway, I lost Wednesday's work time because she just wanted to be held all day. Back to being a Mama and feeling like I had to do other stuff also. Thursday was Daddy Day so she got to be at home with Spousal Unit and I got to go to work guilt-free. Then Friday I caught the cold so we just lazed around together, me blowing my nose, the Gadlet squirming and screaming while I used that bulbous thingeymabob to suck the boogers out of her nose. Good times, my friends, good times.

So all in all, a complicated emotional roller coaster this week. With mucus. But somehow we survived and are poised to try it all again next week.



I haven't updated my blog list in forever and I really want to apologize for not adding all of the new readers that have been coming by lately to the sidebar. It isn't personal at all -- believe me! Also, I've been a bad blog citizen and haven't commented on ya'll's blogs. Thanks so much for all the support and comments -- I love them. I'm just swamped and haven't had a chance to reciprocate. But I will do someday soon, I promise.

Also I have two giftlets waiting for addresses from that gift meme a while back. If I don't hear from the two people who ostensibly won them but never sent me their addresses, I'll give them to the first two folk to send email to Delurk and drop me a note and I will send you a cool little thing that has been cluttering up my desk since October!

Leaving La Gadlet

So I have a bit of a confession to make.

Before the Gadlet was born I got a bit obsessed with a joint-authored parenting blog and I spent quite a bit of time reading all of the posts about lead paint hazards and celebrity births and fun games for toddlers and single parenting and tips for travel. I think I was really trying to figure out beforehand what parenting would be like. (As if one really could?) I was particularly interested in the posts by one author whose baby had been born a few months earlier. I think I figured that her experiences would parallel mine and that I could see what I'd be going through in advance. But this is not my confession. My confession is this: A series of her posts were about how devastating it was to her to go back to work. She wrote about sobbing hysterically because she had to leave her child at daycare and return to her office. When I read this I got all snarky and superior. I mean, come on! Hysterics? The kid was going to be three blocks away from her office. How ridiculous to be so emotional and so obsessed. It's not like she was leaving her kid forever, she was just going back to work. At a career she chose and liked. Sheesh. And I confess I think I even sent a link to Spousal Unit mocking this woman's pain.

Yep. Karma's a bitch.

I spent most of the day on Sunday in hysterical weeping because I have to go back to work next week and leave the Gadlet in Daycare for three days a week. I was snorting, sobbing, and moaning and Spousal Unit was supremely unsympathetic. Didn't he understand that MILLIONS OF YEARS OF EVOLUTION were telling my in the strongest possible hormonal language NOT TO LEAVE THIS CHILD! Apparently not. Nor did he understand that telling me that I Absolutely Had to Finish My Dissertation RIGHT NOW did not help AT ALL. Although to give him a little credit, reminding me that I actually had something pretty important to do while the Gadlet was in daycare may have seemed like a somewhat reasonable response to my Extreme Reluctance to part with my child. It was not. I would not be appeased. It was a pretty miserable day.

While I know intellectually that the Gadlet will be fine and I know that she'll really enjoy her new situation (it is at the house of a woman -- Darby -- with lots of nanny experience and only 1 other kid, her 6-week old little boy) and I know she'll love Thursdays with Daddy, it still feels really hard to think about this special time we had together coming to an end.

To help myself make this transition and to make next Monday "easier," I went over to Darby's yesterday equipped with a box of stuff for the Gadlet to have there, like extra clothes and diapers and stuff. At the suggestion of a friend, I also toted along an extensive typed list of things that Darby may possibly need to know about the Gadlet. This list contained vital, critical things that only her Mama knows and that I was sure Darby could not figure out on her own -- things like "she likes to be held upright rather than flat" or "she only poops every 4 days so don't freak out if she hasn't pooped." I carefully detailed her favorite toys and how she likes to roll over and how we're handling the cloth diapering and when she sleeps each day. Darby very sweetly listened to me yak about this for an hour or so, nodding with great interest. We talked a lot about her baby and mine and what it was like and what she wants to do with the two of them. And then, as I was making a move to leave, she gently asked me to write down who the Gadlet's pediatrician was and what my emergency contact numbers were.


Yes. I had carefully explained how often the Gadlet needs to excrete but had not written down my cell phone number.

Clearly I do not want to leave this baby.

Last week it also hit me that there were going to be lots of things that I was going to miss. I was thinking that I wouldn't be around for some really important milestones like rolling over and sitting up on her own and crawling and walking and talking... the list goes on. But as I was sitting there worrying about it as I sent some emails, the the Gadlet, on her play mat beside me, started a strange grunting. So I looked over at her only to find that she was on her belly. Yes, she had rolled over for the first time while I wasn't looking only moments after I had been worrying about missing her rolling over. I leapt up and grabbed the camera and took this:

I'm sure she rolled over because she was dressed in what I like to call her "My Daddy is a Physicist" shirt. But, anyway, in that moment she taught me a really valuable lesson, that wily little kidlet. I was sitting right there next to her and I missed a major milestone. So maybe going away won't be all that different. Plus, her milestones are hers, not mine. They're important to me, sure, but even if I miss the first one, I'll catch the second:

Or the third or the fourth. She'll do it again. And I'll be there for those moments.

In addition to the hormonally induced hysteria (H.I.H) and Fear of Missing Something Big (F.M.S.B.) I think I am also really reluctant to end my leave because of what it means for me. Maternity leave has been just great and I think the first six weeks of her life were the happiest of mine. I was the least stressed, the most fulfilled, and the most calm that I've ever been. I mean, I didn't have to worry about anything at that time. I set it all aside to just be with her. I can't adequately describe what it felt like to put down all of my self-imposed pressure, all of the academic pressure, all of the crap I've been carrying around for a decade or so and just Be. Just Live. It was indescribably special. So I guess I'm not only mourning the loss of my uninterrupted time with the Gadlet, I think I'm also mourning the loss of that happy self who didn't have anything else to worry about except feeding her baby.

But if I'm really honest with myself, I haven't been that person for a while. (In fact, since November 11. Blogs are great, huh?) And lately, I've found myself resenting the Gadlet sometimes when I'm trying to get something done and she wants my attention. And then I resent myself for resenting her. And then I get stressed that I'm not getting anything done
AND I'm not fully being present with the Gadlet and I resent the universe that structured it this way. So maybe it will be a really good thing for me to have some uninterrupted time for my own work and then when I'm with the Gadlet, I'll really be with her and can enjoy that time because I won't also be trying to do a million other things.

At least that's what I'm telling myself today. We'll see what I tell myself on Monday morning as I walk away from Darby's house without my baby.

Dreaded Dissertation Update

I've spent the last couple of days getting things together that I needed to do to go back to work, so the DD has taken a back seat. But, I'm feeling hopeful that next week's daycare will buy me more time. The rest of this week will also be consumed with prepping for the semester. (I haven't even started on my syllabi!!)

The only good news is that I tried on my work clothes yesterday and my pants still fit. Shirts are a different story, but those are easier and cheaper to replace than the Ann Taylor suits. :)