Friday, March 30, 2007

Random Stuff

"Between two evils, I always pick the one I never tried before." -Mae West

- I've decided to start every post with a quote from Mae West, one of my personal heroes, though I've never seen any of her films. I just plain like what she had to say and wish I'd come up with it myself....and it makes me happy! (Now let's hope I remember to do this!)

- Hubby and my oldest daughter are going on a YMCA Princess Guide camp out this weekend (don't get me started on the name of this program), so baby E and I will have the whole weekend to ourselves - cool! I think we'll visit our university's annual plant fair and see what strikes my fancy, as I've been up to some planting. I'm still looking for a lemon tree. They're really pretty, and you just can't believe how great the fragrance is - even when the lemon is just beginning.

- I haven't talked to my mom in over a week. This is really rare. I'm wondering why she hasn't called, but I'm guessing it's b/c she assumes I'm really busy since I haven't called. I think she thinks I need her too much. I'm not sure what the "too much" is... She's the only real parent I have b/c my natural father isn't in regular contact w/me, and my stepfather is happy to just be that. My mom's my best friend. I talk to her about everything except sex and some financial stuff. But, true to my mom's nature, she's most concerned w/getting me (as her child) to an "independent" state of life. One in which I'm emotionally and financially secure enough that I'd be okay if she died. Now isn't that a lovely thought? What a mom!

- I'm calling a the manager of a local grocery store today to report a problem I had with a checker yesterday. Since I was unable to continue breastfeeding baby E, I had to switch to formula, and following wwwmama's advice, I signed up for WIC (totally eligible considering both hubby and I are broke grad students). So, I go to the store to get groceries, which includes the monthly WIC items: milk, cheese, eggs, juice (I skip the cereal). Usually, I go to Store A to get my groceries, but I was on the other side of town - close to home - so I just went to Store B on the way home. After getting my stuff, I place each order on the belt: regular money stuff, WIC items, baby WIC items, each separated by one of those little sticks. The checker lady - Mary - courteously scans my first set of items, rings me up, and I pay. Then, I let her know that the next two sets of things are mine also, but they're WIC. PRESTO CHANGO!!! I've now become the scum of the earth apparently!

She tosses the pen to me, saying "Sign em" and looking irritated. She starts with the milk, which, for some reason, won't ring up properly. She mumbles something about it being skim and then just leaves the register w/out saying anything to me. She goes over to customer service, where she finds a young woman who explains something I can't hear as she's walking off, and then returns to the register and sets the milk aside. Still, no word on what the hell the problem is. She rings up the eggs. Fine. She rings up the juice. Fine. She tries to ring up the cheese. Problem. Now, keep in mind, I've been using WIC coupons since November, so I know the routine. I know what products are allowed, and I get the same thing from Store A all the time, with no problem, and no attitude. As Mary continues her efforts to ring up the 2 lb block of store brand, least expensive marble cheddar, she continues to mumble under her breath. I can't hear what she's mumbling, but it's an obviously uncomfortable position to be in. Still no go with the cheese. So what's she do??? She leaves again. No explanation, no nothing. Just takes my cheese and milk and starts walking to the back of the store. Doo, de, doo, doo, doo..There I am, with my baby in the carrier and a line of people behind me at the register. I've been spotlighted as the obvious welfare mom, and this just happens to be the freakin day I didn't wear my wedding ring, so I'm thinking that everyone's now convinced that I'm a single mom "milkin the system wit no baby daddy."

Mary returns with some other brand of milk and 2 packages of sliced American cheese. WTF?!? I don't care about the milk; it's the same thing, different brand. Whatever. But the cheese?? I say, "What's the problem?" She says, "I don't know, it just wouldn't take it." No apology, no nothing, despite me telling her "I'll go just keep going to Store A from now on, since I never have any problems with this there." She holds up the packages of sliced American cheese, and I just shake my head and give her the "why the fuck would I want that shit, when I obviously was trying to get something else" look. She puts it away. I ask her what the store manager's name is, and she says "last name." I say, "Is there a first name?" She gives it to me and watches as I write down the manager's name next to hers on a slip of paper. As the kind, obviously-feeling-sorry-for-me, brand new Sacker Boy puts the last bag in my basket, Mary says insincerely and monotonously, "Sorry for the confusion." Sacker Boy nicely says "Thank you, ma'am, you have a nice day." I ignore Mary, and look Sacker Boy in the eye, reciprocating his farewell. I walk out of the store with tears in my eyes, my face turning red and hot, my brain already churning through the plots for calling in a complaint (how it should be worded, how to get Mr. Manager to understand my situation and empathize, etc.). I silently vow in the car that I will never, no matter what, ever ever be on WIC again. I vow that no circumstances in the world will prevent me from breastfeeding a future child, so as to avoid having to depend on WIC for formula. I cry a few tears, just to let them out, then I go home to my husband.

I explain to him what's wrong and forbid him from ever shopping at Store B again - for anything - ever! He hugs me and says he's sorry that I had to go through that. And I'm sorry too. I'm sorry all over again for not being able to keep breastfeeding baby E. And I'm sorry for all the mothers and fathers out there who get judged by grocery store checkers and humiliated in front of others simply b/c they're using a system they need in order to provide for their children. A system for which they qualify and for which, very often, their own tax dollars are used to pay. When I walked out of that store, I hated Mary. Today, I forgive Mary, because she just doesn't know any better. I'm hoping my call to Mr. Store Manager will help rectify that situation.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Food for Thought

My advisor has told me before: "If you spend all your time in graduate school comparing yourself to everyone else, you'll never get a job." This came as a result of my anxiety about several peers who've already been published (as 4th yr. PhD students). I've had my work solicited for publication before - a conference paper I presented was solicited by an editor of a good journal in my field - but I would've had to develop it further before it would be ready. I was willing to do this though. But, my advisor told me not to focus on that..not to get distracted away from my dissertation by things that ultimately wouldn't really do much to help my job efforts. The problem is, I still feel the competition. Nobody is doing anything to make me feel this way; it's just there. The fact that I'm aware of what my peers are working on - even if they're not in my area of study - makes me constantly self-conscious of the "best" factor. I want to be the best at what I do in this place at this time. Is that possible? Is it a juvenile fantasy that doesn't (never?) existed in the first place? Am I immature for thinking in such terms?

Remember When?

Remember my first post? This all started as a result of one of dissertation committee member's suggestions to write soon after my oral exams in order to reflect on the experience, etc. Well, I'm still reflecting - on all kinds of crap. I've just had two of the best days in terms of academic progress that I've had in a while:

- I produced real, actual dissertation writing!! I officially have a chapter in the draft stage, and I've started adding on to my proposal, as my director has told me it's absolutely suitable for becoming my dissertation introduction.
- Another graduate student and I have now co-founded a working group for Early Modern Studies, for which many faculty members and graduate students have already signed up! We'll have funding from several sources to support bringing in outside speakers, in addition to presenting works-in-progress of our own.
- I was invited by my dissertation advisor to speak (as the Centlivre expert) in her Fall class on female British playwrights of the Restoration. Not really an expert, but I'll have lots and lots of Centlivre knowledge to contribute, and it's a line on my CV!
- I got another line on my CV by volunteering to act as the Graduate Student Representative to the faculty on the hiring of a job candidate--just finished that presentation by the way--whew, I still get nervous in front of all those faces. So many people who are so unbelievably smart!!
-Aaaand, I just had a meeting with my advisor about some of the primary sources I'm using for my dissertation and some of the initial reactions, claims, questions, I'll be including in my current chapter. The meeting went very well!! She said that I'm finding all the "things" I'm supposed to find....I'm asking all the right questions...and I'm making straightforward arguments that will be even better supported once I read more material in the area. (Note: I don't think I've ever mentioned what I'm actually writing my dissertation on/about. I'm studying the ways in which women in the late 17th & early 18th centuries participated in various discourses of credit [like paper credit, which would include bank notes, bills, accounting records, letters that function as IOU's, all kinds of stuff]).

Long story...well, still long, it's been a great past couple of days, and I'm thankful for it. I'm still in a really good "zone" in terms of my dissertation work now, and that's a feeling I haven't had in a while. Now if I could just get the funding awards that I'll need to do the needed travel to England in the Fall and buy the books I need, I'll be in fan-freaking-tastic shape!! (I just realized I used the word "need" way too many times in that's all I can do not to edit it...)

Friday, March 23, 2007

Something's Gotta Give

An article from today's Yahoo page describes another new detrimental consequence of Cowboy George's misguided attempts to balance the budget. Take $ from Medicaid program = Medicaid can no longer afford to give discounts to college health center on oral contraceptives = many college girls will opt for more affordable but less reliable methods or worse - just do without. This is further proof that his line of thinking is something along the lines of "Ooh, ooh, I know...let's take some more money away from the Medicaid program. Nobody will notice except the poor people." Thanks Mr. President!

I'm living this problem now as my current OC isn't even available from my university's health center. And, when I went to fill my Rx on Monday, the total bill for 3 packs: $162.99!! My doctor had switched my OC brand after I had the baby, and I didn't even realize it until then. Something's definitely gotta give, b/c there's no way I can afford $54/month for birth control!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Catching Up is Hard to Do

So, things actually got a bit worse...and a bit better.

The better:
Baby E is finally 100% healthy! YEAH!! She had a fabulous time at Nana's and spent Spring Break making major leaps: she started laughing, she started reaching out with both hands to grasp an object in front of her, she finally enjoyed some baby food (a whole jar of sweet potatoes!), and some of her hair filled in (she's pretty much bald).

And, I got to see my friend in rehab.

The worse:
I got sick -- yes, again! We were supposed to come back home on Saturday to avoid the Spring Break traffic, but I woke up at 4:00 a.m. puking my guts up, with fever, chills, the works.

I'm sooooo far behind in everything. From balancing the checkbook and laundry to re-stocking the grocery supply and getting some dissertation work done. I've decided that if I haven't produced what I feel is an adequate amount of writing in the next 30 days, then I'm going to ask my advisor to start giving me deadlines. I really don't want to have to do that, but I keep letting other things take up my time: runing errands during the work day to avoid being away from the kids in the evening or doing house chores during the day (for the same reason). This really has to stop because I only get 2 full work days a week to work on my dissertation. The other 3 days are mainly spent working at the office where I'm funded through my department.

Catching up is hard to do, but I've gotta get to doing now.

*Editorial Note: yes, this post has been edited. I've got reasons.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

The ER, Mucus, and Home

Yes, I know...what the heck is up with the title?? Well, Wednesday found my hubby and I taking baby to the Dr. with pink eye. She's also had a horrible cough for more than two weeks, and since it was combined w/a fever, the Dr. was tempted to put her on antibiotics, but didn't. He just wanted us to keep an eye on her-- hello?- like we do this 24 hours a day! That night, we were up 5 times w/a coughing, hacking, choking miserable baby E. Nothing we could do. The next morning found baby E choking on her cough, which caused her to spit up most of her bottle. Cough got worse throughout Thursday, and her breathing started to seem labored and more rapid. Fever of 101.5. At 10:00 p.m., she and I head to the ER at the suggestion of the on-call doctor. After 2 hours of waiting, the ER Dr. examines her, hears her cough, and says "That sounds like RSV." The nurse takes a booger/snot sample and adds, "I'll be shocked if this doesn't come back positive. This just screams RSV." ... Then, they leave. They leave me alone with my child, imagining all the horrible consequences of RSV. I've heard horror stories of babies being constantly in & out of the hospital, on almost weekly breathing treatments, complications that lead to pneumonia.. I finally break down and start crying hot tears right on my baby girl's head as I hold her and rock her, trying to help her get just a few minutes of sleep.

We were there until 1:00 a.m. The results....negative! Those assholes had me freaked out! Note to ER docs & nurses: Don't say s*#t until the tests come back!

Mucus. Baby E & I have lots of it. I had an ear infection that started last week, but my doc is stingy w/antibiotics, so he prescribed them for me, but said not to start them unless I got worse. Yeah...I got worse. By Friday my ears were burning, throbbing, and aching, and my equilibrium was so off that I was getting dizzy when I stood up. The infection spread to my sinuses as well. Needless to say, I started the antibiotics. To make things even better, the ER nurses kindly showed me how to use the bulb syringe (nasal aspirator) on Baby E's throat! Yes, her throat! She coughs up the phlegm, then gets choked up b/c she can't get it out. So, I have to suck it out with the booger sucker by shoving it to the back of her throat and sweeping it across. Can you just guess how much she's freaked out by this??!!

Home. I'm home now.. Not home w/hubby, but home with Mama. Because my oldest daughter had scheduled visitation w/her natural father in neighboring state, and my mom hasn't seen the baby in a month, I packed up BOTH girls (8 yrs. and 4 months) and headed out for the 6-hour drive. Well, it used to be 6 hours. We made it in 7 hours and 20 minutes yesterday. Yes, that's yesterday...after the ER visit until 1:00 a.m.! Me, the girls, and a ton of Spring Breaking college students on the very busy interstate. With my aching ears, a coughing baby, and a human garbage disposal that wants to eat every hour, I made the trip back to my hometown. No better place than Mama's house to convalesce I suppose. And hey, my stepdad is a pharmacist, so that's good :) And, since I'm in town, I can go visit that friend of mine who's in rehab (if she wants to see me, that is). If all this doesn't sound like a helluva Spring Break, I don't know what does.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Raising Confident & Courageous Daughters (and Sons)

After my first child was born, I often relied on the book Your Baby & Child: From Birth to Five Years by Penelope Leach. It's a fabulous book for a number of reasons, but one of the main ones is that it doesn't push a particular "style" of parenting. Leach offers a variety of options, and usually describes the pros/cons of several of them, and then leaves it up to the parent to figure out which one works for them. So, what was I thinking once my first child turned 5?? That I would no longer need help? Advice? A book? Many books on parenting??

Given my total brain lapse, and still present memories of what it was like to go through adolescence and my teenage years with my mother, I recently went in search of "raising daughters" books. Normally I would simply search for "parenting" books. But over the years, I've come to realize that there is in fact a different dynamic between mothers and sons & mothers and daughters. Neither is good or bad or better or worse than the other - they're simply different. And, as much as I am a firm believer in the constructed nature of gender (and to some extent sex), one cannot live outside one's culture. [Note: this is the one issue/disagreement I have with the book.] That said, I've just finished reading Girls Will be Girls: Raising Confident, Courageous Daughters (2003) by JoAnn Deak and Teresa Barker, and I have to recommend it to all the moms I know (even if they don't have daughters).

Supadiscomama's post (and M's related comment) on praising children reminded me to blog about this book and the absolutely logical, common sense approach that the authors discuss taking when praising a child. The author basically explains that our culture has taken the idea of the importance of giving children praise to "Mt. Everest heights." We've come to a point where we praise children for, well, everything! As a result, a variety of things can (and do) happen: 1-children come to expect/demand praise for everything they do, warranted or not; 2-children become needy and can't function w/out this praise; 3-children become complacent b/c everything is given equal positive response; 4-children become confused or angry as they learn that the outside world doesn't respond to them in the same way as their parents have. I read this passage nodding my head and saying to myself "Yup, this makes absolute sense! Why didn't I realize this?" Constant (and generalized) praise is the equivalent of giving your kid a brownie for doing something he/she is already expected to do (clean their bedroom, brush their teeth, etc.)

Deak, who has spent almost her entire career working with girls of all ages, explains the importance of 3 key concepts in a girl's upbringing: competence, confidence, and connectedness. These concepts are where the strength of this book lay for me because I think they are requirements for emotionally healthy daughters and sons; they are gender neutral. Another big plus is the "checklist" of tips offered at the end of each section, which provides specific suggestions for practical application of the ideas discussed in each chapter. Now that my oldest daughter is 8 - she's officially a "tween" -- God I hate that word! But, I know that I need to understand what it means to be a "tween" (and a parent of a tween) in today's world, not that one I grew up in. This book helps me to do that.

Just like when you're pregnant and reading all those pregnancy books...and then baby comes and you're reading all things baby...I realized I can't stop there. I have to keep learning about this other girl in my house. This girl who could potentially start her period this year or next (yes, the age of puberty is quickly lowering)! This girl who has just started asking me when she'll get hair "down there," when her breasts will grow, and when she will be old enough to have a boyfriend (never? :)). She has 2nd grade classmates who wear training bras and hold hands with boys at recess. I have to know how to answer her questions about both and all things in between. But first, I have to instill in her the trust and confidence to bring her questions to me, not her classmates.

My question for the day...the one that wasn't addressed in the book is: When your child asks you about your own past (childhood or teen years), do you tell them the truth? (i.e. Admit to kissing a boy at 8 years old (not me, I promise)? Or drinking alcohol at 13? or whatever horrible thing it is you might wish you hadn't done..)