Filed under: UncategorizedPosted: April / 28 / 2013

It’s been a while

I wandered away from the blog, then I forgot the password, then I forgot the proper address…
All has been recovered, and blogging will recommence soon.
But not tonight. Tonight is wine and Sherlock.

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Filed under: the profession, domesticityPosted: August / 25 / 2010

which generation is this again?

The administration brought a guy to speak to the faculty about how to use active learning to reach this generation of students. He called them “generation NeXt,” which I think sounds like a computer store that’s going to go out of business pretty soon. Anyway, he didn’t get to the “how” as much as we would all have liked, but he spent a fair amount of time on the generational thing, which was moderately interesting, even though he himself was rather annoying.
Anyway, he started with the Depression-era generation, which he characterized as motivated by thrift, loyalty, and a tendency to value the group over the individual. Then, he described those famous Baby Boomers, and we all know what they’re like. Then he skipped over the dip in the birthrate during the late ’60’s and the 1970’s, and moved on to these kids, whom he described as having been protected all their lives from everything, and thus believing themselves to be invincible. So, my colleague raised her hand and asked about that group there in the middle that he skipped, and he joked that he was going along with the rest of society by ignoring them. He described “Generation X” as the kids whose parents got them up and out of the house in the morning because both parents were working, the kids who came home and did their homework on their own and maybe even turned on the crockpot so dinner would be ready when the folks came home from work. These are the kids who grew up with widespread divorce. He said that they made great students, because they had a “Just tell me what to do and I will do it” attitude. Apparently, they don’t seek promotion at work, and, as the boomers retire, they may well end up working for whippersnappers. He didn’t come out and call us slackers, but that’s what he was thinking. The fact is, we aren’t really slackers; we just have other things to do besides work, and we want to be with our families more than our parents were. That’s my vague generalization, anyway. The fact is, we have more in common with those depression-era folks than we do with the Boomers or these new kids. We don’t expect external gratification, and I don’t think we are particularly optimistic. I think that one could make some relevant comparisons between the 70’s and the 30’s; we also grew up with some degree of economic scarcity, rationing, and the threat of war. (How we ended up with Reagan instead of FDR….)
Anyway, this was on my mind tonight as I hemmed up my son’s uniform pants for school. He wears out the knees of his long pants, so I cut and hemmed them to make shorts. I worked on the kitchen curtains, too. Later in the week, I’ll cut and sew some jumpers for Miss Baby to wear to school; with a coupon, the fabric for the jumpers is cheaper than storebought. Now, my jumpers aren’t as fancy, but she’s going to wear out and grow out of these within the year, and possibly before Christmas, anyway. She wears hand-me-downs, and their school sweaters are mostly handknits.
Not sure how this is going to help me teach my students, unless I bring in a needle and thread and teach them how to sew buttons on their shirts.

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Filed under: the professionPosted: August / 23 / 2010

academia and solitude

I’ve always been the kind of person who needs solitude. I was raised in a house where there wasn’t much of it — I was forbidden to close my bedroom door, my mother read my mail, etc. The only time I was allowed to be by myself was when I was doing my homework. I went to private school, so I had a fair amount of homework, but I will admit to sneaking a non-assigned book from time to time. When I was studying, I could go into a room, close the door, and tell people to go away with impunity.
That inclination towards solitude has always served me well in academia, and is certainly one of the things that drew me in this direction. I don’t think I’m alone in this; many academics verge on the misanthropic. However, as time goes by, less and less of my career in academia relies upon solitary activities. (Perhaps if I’d wound up in a research institution…) At any rate, I find that I spend a great deal of time teaching or working with colleagues. This weekend involved a lot of schmoozing with students and parents. I don’t dislike the teaching or the colleagues, but sometimes it is hard to find that solitude that drew me into the field in the first place.
(And, yes, I realize the fact that I have been having a running conversation with my son about the location of my scissors the whole time I have been typing this contributes to my sense that solitude is elusive).

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Filed under: literaturePosted: August / 13 / 2010

how to get dressed in the morning

Well, this is how Miss Baby does it, anyway.
First, strip off everything, and admire your naked self in the mirror. Dance, pose, and comment on how pretty you are. (This is the point at which your mother leaves the room because her offspring is reminding her of William Carlos Williams). Then, pick out some panties. This is the most important of your clothing decisions. Put them on, describing them as you do so. Then, find another pair of panties. Take off your first pair (this step is optional), and put on the new ones, describing them as you go. Repeat this process as often as you like, and in various locations throughout the house. Eventually, you will be ready for clothing. Grab a pair of shorts and a shirt at random — give as little thought to this as possible. It’s not like we’re talking about panties or anything. Pull on the shirt, backwards if possible. You earn extra points if you can get the shorts on upside down, with your waist in a leg-hole and the waist around a leg. As far as shoes are concerned, large, colorful boots are best — choose the purple fleece for hot days, and the red rubber ones if it’s cooler. Oversized winter gloves are also an excellent accessory. Consent to have your hair brushed only if you can paint purple stripes on your face with makeup. Do so with glee, pausing to tilt your head and admire yourself from time to time.
Whatever you do, it’s important to pause and admire yourself from time to time.

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Filed under: little peoplePosted: July / 16 / 2010

ponies and bullies

Miss Baby loves My Little Ponies. We have books ponies, tv ponies, and ponies (Miss Baby tends to put her adjectives after her nouns, as though she’s speaking French). Remember these inane pastel ponies? They have names like Pinkie Pie (Miss Baby’s favorite), Scootaloo, and Rainbow Dash. I figure, they’re better than Barbies, and much better than Bratz, even with the flimsy plots and characters. It seems that she likes them for little girl reasons: they are pretty and colorful, live in fantastic castles, sometimes fly, and are ponies on top of everything.
The odd thing is that the Little Guy likes watching the Pony cartoons. There are evidently various incarnations of the cartoon, and we’ve downloaded several from youtube. He always insists on watching them with his sister. We’re not bothered by the gender thing, but I have been wondering why he’s interested. He acknowledges that he likes the ponies, and is aware that it is a little unusual for a boy of his age to enjoy cartoons about dancing pastel ponies.
I have a theory, of course. Pony plots tend to focus on emotions: the unicorn whose horn lights up feels unhappy because she’s different, but learns to understand that her difference makes her special. The Little Guy is concerned with these kind of issues: he gets bullied at VBS, but goes back and makes friends with someone else and they stand up to the bully together. Substitute pink and purple ponies and add some cheesy songs, and there you have it.
It’s interesting; he’s the kind of boy who gets picked on by older boys, but he doesn’t just take it. When he got picked on at VBS, I told him to lie low, stay quiet, and they’d go pick on someone else. He responded, “I don’t want them to pick on someone else. I want them to learn their lesson.” Now he’s going to the Thursday events at church (fishing and the like); last week, he got picked on, but this week he made a friend, and they were silly together all day. Last week, the bully went after him by calling him stupid, and telling him he didn’t know anything about trains (the kids know what’s important to the Little Guy). He responded by telling him, “Stop it,” every time the bully said something to him. It’s interesting; he’s not a tough kid, but not a doormat either.
So, ponies all around.

Filed under: little peoplePosted: June / 26 / 2010

something joe’s

Payday = Trader Joe’s run.
The Little Guy and I picked up Miss Baby at day care and headed north. We told her we were going to Trader Joe’s, which she associated with Monkey Joe’s. That set her off: “Miss Baby go to Ponies Joe’s. Little Guy go to Train Joe’s. Mommy go to Trader Joe’s.” We asked about Daddy, who was at home working, and she said, “Daddy be right back.” Very cute. But she kept talking about “Ponies Joe’s” for the next hour, which became wearying. When we stopped for dinner at Waffle House, she burst into tears because it wasn’t Ponies Joe’s. (How on earth I was supposed to find Ponies Joe’s, I don’t know).
After some chocolate milk and bacon and eggs, she didn’t want to leave the restaurant, and had to hauled off. However, she recognized Trader Joe’s as “red carts” and eagerly pushed her little grocery cart through the store, getting two of everything and putting one item in her basket and one in the Little Guy’s. When we were almost done, I realized we had no rice, and we went back to look for it. We found it on a shelf on Miss Baby’s eye level, and she happily loaded up.
As we left, I complimented both of them, in very specific terms, on their helpful behavoir in the grocery store. Miss Baby was clearly pleased with herself, and added, “And Miss Baby found the rice.”
On the way home, she was very silly, calling horses “cows.” Then we passed a field with several trees, and she said, “Look, Mommy, cows!” I told her they were trees, and she laughed and called them cows again. We went back and forth like this for some time. She has a very eccentric sense of humor.
So: a mostly good trip, with some troubles caused by the absence of “Ponies Joe’s,” but exhausting overall. However, now I have wine.

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Filed under: little peoplePosted: June / 22 / 2010

bad behavior at vbs

Poor Little Guy — he was bullied at VBS today. He’s among the youngest in his rather large class, and the big boys picked on him all day. When the teacher said something, they lied to her and said they weren’t laughing at the Little Guy. He was bothered that they would lie to the teacher, and a little relieved when I told him the teacher hadn’t believed him. I know this, because the VBS director called us to discuss moving the Little Guy down to the K-1 class. The thing is, he thought he’d had a nice day, aside from the bullying, and it never had occurred to him to change classes or not go tomorrow. We’ve discussed how he can respond to the bullies tomorrow, and he seems sanguine about it. My Little Guy is definitely going to have to learn to deal with bullies in his life, but I wish he didn’t have to do it at church.
The thing is, one of the big themes of this VBS curriculum is community. Even the Little Guy could sense the irony in the fact that they discussed trust today.

Filed under: little peoplePosted: June / 21 / 2010

the big 4

Miss Baby had her big day today. She woke up to balloons tied to her chair at the breakfast table. She ran around the house with them, sharing eagerly and willingly with all of us. The sharing was not optional, btw; I ate breakfast while holding onto mine. She had worn herself out so much that she had a little meltdown during children’s church, but lunch and a “nap” settled her enough that we could celebrate as we’d planned. We took her to Monkey Joe’s (Mookie Joes, as she puts it), which is essentially a large room with half-a-dozen bouncy houses/slides. This is the smartest business model ever; keep it clean, pay the electric bill for all those blowers, and rake in the cash. They jumped for nearly 2 hours, then we left for dinner. She was eager for burritos, but spent the entire time at the restaurant going to the bathroom. Not actually using it, just visiting. She’s got this whole Lady MacBeth thing going on. She watched Brazil beat Ivory Coast on Telemundo, which pleased her. (My rules are simple: Dodgers in baseball, Brazil in World Cup; everything else is up to you).
We came home for purple birthday cake, which pleased her tremendously, even though she didn’t eat much of it. She did try to eat the candle, though. Then: time for presents. We had Father’s day presents and birthday presents. Miss Baby was delighted with everything; she played happily with the dolls and furniture she got from her Mammaw and Pappaw, identifying with the baby and calling the older girl “Cousin Jessa.” She shared the coloring book he gave her with her brother, and went outside to hit baseballs with her tee-ball set.
She was exhausted by bedtime, and fussed at the kitten when he wouldn’t cuddle with her.
It’s hard being four, and by the end of the day, she was insisting that she was three.

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Filed under: literaturePosted: June / 21 / 2010

why this world

I’m reading a new biography of Clarice Lispector. I love Clarice, and her biography has long been somewhat shrouded in mystery. That was largely her doing; she would lie about her age and ethnicity and all kinds of things in interviews.
That said, I’m having mixed feelings about this biography. He gives a lot of historical context, which is actually quite nice, but goes about it in an odd way; he’ll write about events in Clarice’s life, then spend a chapter on the Brazilian politics of that period in which he doesn’t even mention Clarice. Sometimes it feels like he’s alternating chapters between two books; one on Clarice, one on 20th century Brazil. He also quotes Clarice a lot, which is great. Sadly, his prose doesn’t stand up well next to hers. That’s not really a criticism of his writing; few writers can stand up next to her, in my mind.
All in all, I’m enjoying the book, but it makes me wish I were reading Clarice instead.

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Filed under: gender issues, little peoplePosted: June / 8 / 2010

silly old gender

Miss Baby is hitting the age where she’s starting to think about gender. When the Little Guy was this age, he took to vacuuming to prove his masculinity (my DH vacuums; I don’t).
Miss Baby delights in identifiying the gender of family members: “Daddy, boy; Little Guy, boy; Mommy, boy.” I’veexplained to her that I’m a girl, and she seems willing to accept that. Normally, she identifies herself as a girl, but tonight, she tried something else: “Miss Baby, half boy.”
Hmmm. To be honest, she is a bit tomboyish; we agreed that she’s got it about right. But a comment like that suggests that Miss Baby has some interesting ideas about what it means to be a boy or a girl.
She does like to vacuum.

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