Sunday, May 27, 2007

Travels, Research, and More Sickness

Just a quick post to let everyone know I'm still alive.

We've returned from our marathon trip to the Northeast, where we visited old friends and met C's mom and sister. I'll write more about the family aspect of the trip later as I still have to process that part myself. Seeing our old friends was good, if a bit surreal. We left Northeast College Town over 4 years ago to move to Southern College Town so I work on my doctorate while C finished his from distance. Most of his friends in NCT were affiliated with his program, and most of mine were through the museum where I worked. I made some great friends, probably the only friends I've ever had whom I didn't meet through school. As nice as that was, it made life complicated when we moved. Visiting 4 years post-move was odd. We now all have babies, and I have little to talk about with them except babies. I love these ladies, 2 in particular, but we just don't have a lot in common. They politely asked me about my work, but it is very far outside their realm of experience as are their lives to me.

When we left NCT, we traveled to The Berkshires--BEAUTIFUL! We spent several days in Lenox, MA, and I got in three lengthy visits to The Mount, including a 2 hour chat with the librarian. They had nothing in the way of archival materials, but seeing the space was so helpful for my topic. I was also able to see copies of the architectural plans, which included some changes that Edith Wharton ordered. I now have to finish reading several books, go through all my notes, get familiar with the Beinecke's website, and figure out if I need to make another research trip to Indiana. I arrived home feeling energized and ready to do some real work.

But S arrived home with an awful ear infection, which made him miserable, which made C and me miserable. Luckily he is feeling much, much better. He can go back to school on Tuesday, which means I can get back into the groove of work.

Monday, May 14, 2007

(Rethinking) Gender . . .

. . . is the title of a compelling article in this week's Newsweek. Gender is something I think about a lot, both professionally and privately. Professionally, my dissertation focuses on the way American women writers of the 19th century approached space, both literally and metaphorically. Implicit in my argument is the idea that men and women approach space differently. I argue (or I will argue) that the differences are largely due to cultural and, thus, learned differences. I firmly believe that most aspects of gender are learned, although I am beginning to think that some are biological.

Privately, I think about gender mainly as it pertains to my son. Although many of my family members disagree with me, I don't believe S's gender is fixed. Sure, he is a boy, and he has a penis. But aside from that, S has no idea what that means. What he learns about gender he will learn from C and me. We've spent a lot of time talking about gender construction and what we want to teach him about gender. After reading this article, I started considering some of our more unconscious decisions. Does he have a lot of "boy" toys, for example? He has a few, and some, like his hammer that lights up, are his favorite. But as I thought about this, I also realized that rather unconsciously, C and I have only bought S toys that are gender-neutral. He has blocks, an activity center, lots of books, a few stuffed animals, and that is about it. He does have a few trucks and some "tools," but all of those things were purchased by relatives and friends. We both play fairly rough with S--he loves to jump and to be tickled. He throws himself at C and tries to wrestle. But I do think we would have treated a girl the same way as we both played this way with our niece. I will admit that we dress S in "boy" clothes. He has lots of blue, and there are not dresses in his closet (although I've thought more than once that dresses must make for easier diaper changes).

I want to raise my child in an environment that is welcoming of all genders--and, as Anne Fausto-Sterling among others suggests, I do think there are more than two genders. I want S to choose his own way and to understand that he doesn't have to do things the way his parents have. I want him to have the freedom to explore his body and his sexuality and his gender. But in all honesty, I am not entirely sure how to accomplish that. And as much as I want him to make his own way, I'm also wary of the real world. What is acceptable in our home won't necessarily be acceptable in the real world. And as progressive and liberal as I like to think myself, I have no idea how I'll react if my little boy announces one day that he wants to be a girl.

Happy Belated Mother's Day

Since most of the people who read my blog are mothers, I wanted to extend a Happy, albeit belated, Mother's Day to all the mothers in the blogosphere.

My first Mother's Day was mellow and low-key, which is exactly what I needed and had requested. C took care of everything all day, which was so fabulous. I plan to return the favor next month on his first Father's Day. That said, I feel blessed to have a husband who thinks Mother's Day is silly (although he happily celebrated it with me) and does wonderful things for me on a regular basis.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Doctor Frustration

S has had a relapse, and I find myself somewhat frustrated with his doctor, whom I actually like a lot. Yesterday afternoon, he started running a fever again, and then he developed a rash. After a phone call to the nurse on-call (who was actually helpful for a change!) and one to my sister-in-law, who has 2 boys of her own, I determined that S likely had a sinus infection and could even have strep throat. I resigned myself to the fact that I couldn't do anything about it until this morning as the doctor's office was already closed.

Skip ahead to 1:00 am. My baby boy wakes up screaming and is on fire. He had a temp of 104.2. I realize that isn't so high for a baby, but fevers scare me. My older brother had viral meningitis at 5 months old. He had a fever of 105 for over 24 hours before doctors were able to bring it down, and as a result, he is profoundly deaf. He leads a happy, productive life, but his "disability" (I hate that word, but I digress) is a result of a fever. Needless to say, I wanted to take S straight to the emergency room. Luckily C's cooler head prevailed. He convinced me to give S a dose of Motrin and wait 20 minutes; if the fever hadn't come down, he promised we would take him. The fever came down in 20 minutes, and S finally went back to sleep. We got him to the doctor first thing this morning, and he has a sinus infection. It seems his nasty cold (which he has had for almost 3 weeks) turned into a sinus infection.

I am frustrated with his doctor and my health insurance for several reasons. First, I don't feel like she listened to my concerns at his original appointment for the cold 3 weeks ago. That said, I know I am likely responding to my irritation and frustration at his being sick for so long. Lack of sleep probably doesn't help anyway. I'm irritated with my health insurance because I can only go to one clinic in town; none of the doctors in the practice (and they are all good doctors; I have few complaints about them) are on call after hours. If I have a question I have to call a nurse on-call. In the past, said nurse (it isn't always the same nurse) has been less than helpful and not at all reassuring. There are times I long for a practice that relies on an answering service. I want to leave a message and have a doctor call me back, especially if I think it is an emergency. My vet uses this method, but not my pediatrician. As I said, I was able to talk to a helpful nurse last night (only because I located a different phone number for the nurse on-call), and C was even able to get this nurse back on the phone when we had another question about an hour later. I could launch into a tirade about the poor health insurance graduate students have to put up with, but that isn't the case. I like my insurance, and I like our doctors. I hate the nurse on-call system. I'm hanging onto the "good" number and calling that one from now on. I'm so glad I've gotten into the habit of asking people their name because I plan to ask for the helpful nurse the next time I have to use the nurse on-call system.

Now S is happily playing, and I feel better knowing he feels better.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Final Drafts, Illness, and Travels

C mailed what we both hope will be the final draft of his dissertation off to his advisor on Friday. He will most likely be unable to make the deadline for a May graduation, so we're settling for an August graduation. The act of mailing it has relaxed C considerably; we even allowed ourselves some real fun on Saturday. We're in the market for a glider, so we drove to a nearby city and went shopping. Of course, all day shopping excursions are no longer as much fun as they once were now that we have S, but he was a trooper.

We had our first experience with an extended illness last week. S ran a fever from Monday until early Thursday morning, and he threw up a few times as well. I took him to the pediatrician to make sure everything was ok, and it seems to have only been a virus. After two sleepless nights, I'm glad my little guy started feeling better by Thursday. He is back to his old self already, and it is a wonderful thing to have a happy baby again.

The end of the semester is approaching, and we're making plans for another trip. We've traveled more in the past year than in the past four. This time the trip is for me and about me, with a short side trip to meet Cody's dissertation advisor. We're going to Lenox, MA so I can do research at Edith Wharton's home, The Mount. I've spoken to the curator there, and while they don't have a lot in the way of archival documents, I will be able to photograph the house extensively and look at some architectural plans, which is important for my dissertation. I can't express how excited I am to finally have the opportunity to get to do some of my own work. C is assuming all responsibility for S, so I will be able to get some real work done. On top of that, C will be assuming the primary responsibility for S over the summer so I can continue to get work done! In his words, he is returning the favor for all the time I've sacrificed on my own work in the past year so he could finish his dissertation. I'm hoping to get a draft of my Wharton chapter done by August, so I can move on to a different chapter this fall.