Monday, January 31, 2011

A question

I have a cryptic question, and I'm sorry, but I can't offer any more details at this point.

If you're concerned that a loved one's illness is beginning to have a serious and prolonged negative impact on their children, at what point do you step in and point this out to the loved one?  Is there a way to do this tactfully without making the loved one feel like s/he is failing her/his children?  Is it acceptable to say, "You need to focus on yourself right now.  Perhaps it would be best for you if the kids stayed with X for a while"?  Or is this something that is impossible to do with any kind of tact?

Sunday, January 30, 2011

It's official . . .

I have deleted Pita from my friends list.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

It gets better. . .

Yesterday I posted about Pita's passive-aggressive behavior on Facebook.  Well it gets better.

Yesterday afternoon she posted the following on her wall: "LORD grant me strength to accept what and who I cannot change - it amazes me that the people you love most in this world can be so clueless - and more amazingly still always self-absorbed." This is clearly meant for Archer (I'd say it was also meant for me, but I don't qualify as one of the people she loves most in the world.)  He ignored it because, really, what else was he supposed to do?  Archer is the kind of guy that will walk out of restaurant rather than be seen having an argument in public.  He has a clear sense of public and private.  He was not pleased with the comment, but given that she didn't specifically put his name in the post, he could over look it.  

Last night, Pita may have taken it too far.  She posted "Clueless" on Archer's wall.  Archer saw the post when he was up with Bear, who is cutting molars, at 4.  As she posted on his wall, he responded with "Apparently."  When I woke up a little while ago to hang with Bear so Archer could go back to sleep, he showed me the post.  And I felt compelled to respond with "What a great movie!"  Hey, I figure if she's going to be the pain in the ass that she is, I'm at least going to have a little fun.  In fact, I'm tempted to start posting titles of Alicia Silverstone movies on her wall, but I am fairly certain she wouldn't get it.

In all seriousness, she is beginning to piss me off.  It takes a lot to upset Archer--a lot.  Primarily because he is accustomed to his family's penchant for drama.  More often than not, he refuses to engage with them when they are like this.  But Pita is making it increasingly difficult not to engage.  I have no idea what is going to happen, but something tells me it will involve a very loud phone call and that I will have to figure out how to explain to Wild Man why his father is yelling at his favorite aunt.

Friday, January 28, 2011


I just sent out another essay to a journal.  This isn't a top tier journal, but it is a reputable, interdisciplinary journal that often publishes on topics in my area of expertise.  I think this essay is much stronger than the last one I sent out (which, in case you forgot, was rejected).  The argument is solid, and it establishes a clear theoretical framework for my reading.  I'm optimistic, but cautiously. 

Facebook is annoying; or a family drama of sorts

In the next few weeks, Archer is planning to return to Mexico to finish the research he started in August.  To complete the project (for which he received a grant from CU), he has to travel to several sites, look at some documents, and photograph a bunch of buildings.  He'll be gone about 5 days, and he has planned the trip for Spring Break.  I would love to go.  I could use a vacation (who couldn't?), but I'm in the middle of two articles.  The week off from teaching will give me the time to finish these articles and get them out.  I need this time for my own work, so Archer will be going alone.  In the past few days, Archer has been contemplating Wild Man with him.  He wants to do this for two reasons: he thinks taking Wild Man will make my parenting load lighter, and he thinks this would be a cool trip for them to take together.  Wild Man is interested, but he's also a bit nervous about not having me and Bear with them. 

Last night, Archer posted something on Facebook about trying to decide if he would take Wild Man with him.  His sister immediately commented, writing: "So can't miss school to see his aunt or come to [home state] but go to Mexico - yeah I am putting u on facebook blast - how about some family proirities world traveler? Yeah I mad!"  Now, I really, really hate this kind of passive-aggressive statement.  Really.  And frankly, this statement encapsulates why I'm happy we don't live in Home State.  

Seriously, is it necessary to try to initiate an argument via Facebook? And I believe that is what Pita is trying to do.  There is nothing in this statement that suggests she want to have a conversation.  In fact, she is explicitly accusing Archer of not valuing his family, something she repeatedly does.  What she fails to recognize over and over again is that every single decision we make is for the benefit of our family, the family that we created together.  Do we consider Pita in every aspect of our life?  No, much as she doesn't consider us or our children in every aspect of her life.  I also really hate that she thinks she has the right to question Archer as a parent in such a public way.  I could go on and on, but instead, I'll just say that I understand she misses the boys (no, there is not a single part of me that thinks she misses me or Archer).  I understand that we don't get to Home State that often, and I understand that upsets her.  Hell, it upsets me.  I can respect and even validate those feelings if they are presented in a coherent way, in a way that invites conversation, in a way that is expressive without being combatant.  But don't try to call us out on Facebook and expect that we're going to engage in that kind of conversation publicly.  Grow up, Pita.  Now I will go back to work.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Archer's dad

Today would have been Archer's father's 64th birthday, something that both Archer and I completely forgot.  I was only reminded when I randomly logged into Facebook to ask a friend a question and saw Pita's post.  When I got home, I reminded Archer, not because I wanted him to feel bad, but because I don't want him to deal with the shitstorm he's likely to get from Pita and Yetta if he didn't call to ask how Yetta is doing.  So he called, and Yetta was out.  Pita said, "How are you doing?"  He said, "I'm sick.  I have a fever.  I feel awful."  She said, "No, I mean about the other."  Archer gave a long, long sigh, and said, "I completely forgot.  I only remembered b/c M said you posted it on Facebook.  I'm fine.  His birthday doesn't bother me."  Pita didn't say much, but Archer told me he felt like he upset her. 

These phone calls happen on every significant holiday you can think of, and the implication is always that Archer is a horrible human being because he isn't weeping over his dad on Christmas/Father's Day/Valentine's Day/his dad's birthday.  Here is the thing for Archer. He misses his dad every day, and it hits him at the oddest moments.  Like when's he found his dad's camo hat that he didn't know he had or when Wild Man asks a question about animals or nature (Archer's dad was a hunter and loved hiking).  The "big" days aren't hard for him.  The little, every day moments are.  He's explained this to his mom and sister several times, but they just don't get it.  I have no idea why.

A question about men

So can anyone speculate why men are so difficult when they are sick? 

And for the record, I know I'm perpetuating vast generalizations about an entire segment of the population, but given that almost all (if not all) of my commenting-readers are women, I'm okay with that.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Mothering a Stubborn Child, an update

After Monday night's trauma (ok, so I'm a bit dramatic) of forcing Wild Man to take Motrin to bring his fever down, Archer and I had to do the same thing again on Tuesday morning, Tuesday night, and Wednesday morning, only this time with cough medicine as Wild Man's fever was gone.  Both times, however, we gave him 2 chances to take the medicine on his own.  After the second time he refused we did what has quickly (and a bit alarmingly) become routine.  Archer hugged Wild Man in a bear hug, pinning his arms to his sides and holding his head steady, while I pried his mouth open and shot the medicine into the back of his cheek (a tip from a friend, who said that doing this makes it harder for the child to spit the medicine out, and she was right).  Each time Wild Man cried like his heart was broken, and each time I became more resigned to this method.  By yesterday morning Wild Man actually admitted the cough medicine made him feel better but that he didn't like it and that he didn't want to take it.  I said, "I know, lovey.  I don't like taking medicine either.  But sometimes we have to take medicine to help us get better.  Until you decide to take it on your own, Daddy and I will have to give your medicine this way, which upsets everyone."  As further inducement to get him to take it, Archer and I had not allowed Wild Man to watch his allotted 30 minutes of television a day or to play any of his many puzzle games on my iPod touch.  I thought this would have encouraged him to take it, especially as Wild Man got sent to his room while Bear watched Sesame Street.  No such luck.  This kid is stubborn.

Yesterday I had a thought.  Medicine does suck.  I don't like taking it, but I'm an adult.  I take it because I know it will make me feel and get better.  Wild Man doesn't get this.  All he knows is that we're forcing him to take something that tastes yucky (and I don't care how much artificial flavor, sugar, or corn syrup the manufacturers add to medicine, it still tastes like crap).  Further, we're forcing him to do something he has had absolutely no say in.  So yesterday I took a risk.  When I picked Wild Man up from kindergarten, I took him directly to the drug store without telling him where we were going.  I led him to the kids' medicine section, and I explained he could choose the kind of medicine he wanted to take.  I did explain that I had to read the box to make sure it was the appropriate kind of medicine for his cough and to make sure it was for his age.  He said, "You mean, I get to choose?"  I said, "Yep, you get to choose.  But if you refuse to take it Mommy and Daddy will have to hold your arms and squirt in down your throat just like with the other medicine until you're better."  Something clicked, and suddenly he was interested.  He pointed out a cold medication with an elephant on the box, so I told him what it was.  Then he picked out a nifty kind that melts on the tongue, and he was really interested in this one.  Unfortunately, it is designed for kids 6 or older, which I told him.  He was disappointed, but he picked another one.  After about 15 minutes he had selected a fever medication (chewable, grape-flavored tablets), a cough medicine (grape-flavored liquid), and chewable vitamins (what I didn't say in the previous post is that he was also refusing the chewable vitamins I picked out, ones high in vitamin D b/c, you know, we live in the land where the sun disappears for winter and we're all vitamin D deficient).  He held all three boxes while I paid, and as soon as we got to the car, he asked for a vitamin.  He had selected these vitamins because they have hippos on them, and as many of you know, Wild Man loves hippos.  Coincidentally, they also have the highest amount of vitamin D of any of the children's vitamins in the store, which made me happy.  As soon as I handed it to him, he happily chomped it down.

At bedtime, I told him he needed to take his cough medicine.  He was wary, even after I reminded him that it was the kind he selected.  As I handed him the medicine cup, he looked at me skeptically.  I said, "Remember, you said you'd take it.  It's your choice to take it on your own or not, but if you don't take it, we'll have to squirt it down your throat again."  He looked at me again and then at the medicine, and then he took it, saying afterward, "Hey, that didn't taste so bad, Mommy."  Archer and I both told him how proud we were, and I am.   I'm also proud of us.  I proud that we did what we had to do, and I'm also proud that we figured out a solution to the problem--for now, at least.  The next time Wild Man needs medicine or vitamins I'll happily take him shopping with me so he can choose.  It seems he wants to be involved in the process, and that's fine by me.  But I'll also be prepared to squirt it down his throat if I have to.

And as a bonus, he took his vitamin this morning without incident.  In fact, he asked for it.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Mothering a Stubborn Child

Wild Man is smart, funny, adventurous, daring, artistic, dramatic, polite, and kind.  Wild Man is also stubborn.  Archer and I have experienced many difficult parenting moments as a result of Wild Man's stubbornness, and we generally get through these moments with a modicum of disruption to our routine, our parenting styles, and our daily lives.  We constantly remind ourselves that we are both stubborn and that our stubbornness has served us well in life as it has led to determination to accomplish the goals we set for ourselves. 

I am the kind of mother that wants Wild Man to ask questions and to understand how things happen and how they work.  At times, Archer feels I allow Wild Man too much room to question and to discuss, but generally Archer agrees with me.  This means we spend a fair amount of time talking about things like why we wear snow boots in the winter.  Despite my belief that this is the right way for us to parent, there are moments when I really just want Wild Man to be quiet and to do as I ask him.  You know, when we're 20 minutes late and I have to be on campus for office hours.  At those moments I'd really just like Wild Man to do as I ask him rather than telling me that Morton, his imaginary pterandon, doesn't have to wear snow boots or that Morton's mommy also said Wild Man doesn't have to wear snow boots. 

For the past three days, Wild Man has been running a fever between 101 and 103.5.  Wild Man is rarely sick, so this is a bit unusual for us.  On Saturday, when he began complaining that the fever was making him uncomfortable, I said, "Well, let's take some medicine.  It will bring your fever down and make you feel better."  Wild Man hasn't had Motrin in a long, long time, but he has seen us give it to Bear, who generally takes it without incident.  So I poured the correct amount in the medicine cup and gave it to Wild Man, who proceeded to drink it down.  And then he proceeded to hold it in his mouth for 15 minutes until he gagged himself.  I told him he couldn't watch any TV until he took his medicine.  He was feeling really crappy, so this wasn't an issue for him at all.  In fact, he curled up on the couch and went to sleep for 2 hours.  When he woke up, his fever was up to 103, and he finally agreed to take some Motrin.  He was feeling better within 15 minutes.  He said, "You were right, Mommy!  The medicine did make me feel better."  I thought we had solved the problem.

Fast forward to yesterday evening.  His fever had returned accompanied with a cough.  I prepared a dose of cough medicine and Motrin.  I reminded him that he had taken both in the past and that both had made him feel better.  He point blank refused to take either one.  Archer and I discussed it with him.  We explained the entire process, reminding him that he would feel better.  We went against every parenting principle we have connected to food and offered him candy as a reward.  I offered to take him to McDonalds today for lunch (Wild Man learned about McDonalds during our trip to the States to attend my grandmother's funeral, and he loves it).  He refused.  So we sent him to bed without the usual stories and told him he couldn't watch TV or play any games until he took his medicine.  An hour later he was crying in his bed because he was so hot (his fever had spiked up to 103 again) that he couldn't get comfortable.  I took him into the bathroom and sat him on the floor.  I told him we would sit in the bathroom until he took his medicine.  He cried that he was tired, but he still refused.  We sat there from 8:30 until 9:45.  Archer came upstairs, and we had a quick consultation.  Wild Man was flushed and glassy-eyed from the fever.  He was barely staying awake, but he continued to refuse to take the medicine.  Archer picked him up and held his arms down, while I squirted the Motrin in the back of Wild Man's throat.  Wild Man cried, and I cried.  I hugged him until he calmed down, and then I put him to bed.  10 minutes later he was asleep.  I checked on him 30 minutes after that, and his fever had dropped. 

I know he needed the medicine, even just to make him sleep more comfortably, but I felt (and feel) horrible.  I feel like I violated some part of our relationship by forcing him to take the medicine.  As crazy (and as academic) as it sounds, I feel like I took away Wild Man's agency.  I did to him what my parents would have done to me--I said, "I am the parent, and I know what is best.  You are not allowed to have any control over your own body because I know what is best for you better than you do.  Now you must do as I say without asking any questions."  I do not want to be that kind of parent.  I do not.  I do not want to have to physically restrain my child to get him to take medicine.  But at the same time, I am the parent, and I do know that sometimes he is going to have to do things he doesn't want to do to get and/or stay healthy.  He is only 4, after all.  And as smart as he is, he doesn't understand illness or medicine. 

I know he needed the medicine, and I know there will be times in the future (like tonight) when he will need medicine.  I may have to do the same thing over again.  That said, I do not feel like I did the right thing at all, but I also don't know what else I could have done. 

Thursday, January 13, 2011


I've started the process of weaning Bear, who is almost 19-months old.  Prior to my trip, he was only nursing once a day, right before bedtime, and he was rarely nursing to sleep.  I assumed, given my experience weaning Wild Man, this would be fairly easy.  The moment Bear saw me on Sunday evening, however, he began screaming, "Nigh, nigh," his phrase for nursing (as he was only nursing right before bed for the past few months, he has come to associate nursing with going "night, night.").  I was able to get him to sleep Sunday and Monday night without nursing him, and Archer put him to bed Tuesday night.  I did nurse him early in the morning Monday and Tuesday, but he didn't nurse to sleep either time.  Last night was difficult, though.  He is getting over a bad cold, is teething, and is going through some major developmental changes (he's added about 20 words to his vocabulary in the past 2 weeks).  He screamed (and I mean screamed) for an hour before finally falling asleep, and he woke up in the middle of the night screaming "nigh, nigh."  Archer and I took terms calming him down, and while I did nurse him at 1:00 am, I only did so after he calmed down. 

When I finally nursed Wild Man, it was fairly painless.  He was the same age, and he was only nursing right before bed.  He seemed to understand it was time to stop, and when he asked to nurse, I firmly and gently said no.  He cried a bit, but nothing serious.  Certainly nothing to match the screaming fits Bear is having.  I'm doing all of these things with Bear, but to no avail.  And while there is no real need for me to stop nursing, I'm done.  Since February of 2006, I've either been pregnant or nursing, aside from a 4 month respite between weaning Wild Man and getting pregnant with Bear.  As selfish as it may sound, I want my body back, or I want as much of it back as I can have given that I'm a mother of two young children (I mean seriously, I'm not going to be able to go to the bathroom by myself for years to come, so I'd like to have my breasts return to being decorative rather than functional). 

I'm also at the point where I no longer enjoy nursing.  I know Bear is still getting some benefits from it, but he isn't getting much nutrition.  And, frankly, he's barely getting any milk at all.  It is mostly comfort, which I get, but it actually seems to distract him more than it relaxes him.  Instead, he plays with my hair, plays with my earrings, breaks off the breast to talk to me, and then returns to it, giggling.  It's very difficult to get him to relax, which has been the primary reason to continue nursing at bedtime.  But given his reaction, I'm more than a bit conflicted.  The easy thing to do is to just keep nursing him.  But I think that will only prolong the problem.  It isn't as though one day Bear is going to wake up and be willing to stop.  For now the plan is to stop nursing at bedtime so at to end the association with sleep.  I'll continue to nurse as needed in the mornings, but I plan to delay him as long as possible.  Neither Archer nor I are convinced this approach will be easy.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Waiting Game

I am back in CU Land after a quick trip to MLA for two interviews.  I think both went well, and I think one went particularly well.  As I told Archer, I feel as though I answered all questions to the best of my ability, that I engaged with the interviewers, and that I demonstrated my knowledge of their individual programs.  I think I did the best I could do in both situations, and now I wait.  I've given it my all, and now, it is out of my hands.  I have already sent follow-up emails, along with copies of my course syllabi.  Both interviewers indicated that they hope to work quickly (one person specifically said their school had been burned in the past by waiting too long to make offers), so I hope to know something by the end of next week or the first of the following week.  It would be lovely to get an on-campus interview, especially as I think that would make some impact on negotiations at CU.  But it would also be really good for my ego.

In the meantime, I wait.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Minor Problem

The more research I do on one of the school's I'm interviewing with the more I like it.  It is a SLAC on the east coast of the U.S., driving distance from Home State (which actually makes it less attractive in my mind).  But it has a really compelling mission statement that seems to be taken seriously in every department.  The course offerings are really interesting.  There is a significant emphasis on interdisciplinarity--which is a key feature of my work.  It seems to produce really smart, community-oriented, and aware students.  I could like this school a lot.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

MLA bound

Tomorrow I leave for MLA.  I have two interviews, both of which I've spoken about with the heads of the departments in which I teach at CU.  Both of these lovely people have told me to email them the minute I know anything, as they are working together to secure a permanent position for me at CU.  That would be wonderful, but I go to these interviews feeling a bit dishonest.  I will not focus on that, however.  I have lots of information to read on the flights tomorrow to prep for the interviews, and I will get to see lots of friends at the conference.  This, and actually having interviews, makes me very, very happy.

A lovely trip

We've returned from our Italian adventure, and in spite of a few tense moments (including almost missing our connecting flight home and rude pilots), we had a wonderful time.  Here are some highlights of the trip.

We attended mid-day mass on Christmas Day at St. Peter's Square in Rome, which was an amazing experience even though it was raining and we're not Catholic.
We saw many, many Nativities, like this one from St. Peter's Basilica.  
Wild Man was fascinated by them.

Wild Man loved chasing the pigeons.  Here he is doing just that in San Marco Square in Florence.

Bear spent lots of time napping in this lovely carrier I bought before we left.  It is, in my opinion, better than a Baby Bjorn because it can be worn on the parent's front or back.

Wild Man, who is a bit claustrophobic, made it to the last landing before the top of the Duomo in the Florence Cathedral.  Then he refused to go any further.  He and Bear played with our iPods while Archer and I took turns going up the rest of the way.

A happy Bear

The view of Florence, with the mountains of Tuscany barely visible through the fog, from the top of the Duomo

Happy New Year!

Life has been a bit crazy, as always, so I haven't had any time to post in 2011.  To remedy that, Happy New Year!