Merry Chris-Chris to you.

Hello, Luke!

Can we open presents NOW?!

The wheels are turning in Eliot's head as he watches cousin Luke crawling..."hmm...this is something I might want to try..."

Snow White relaxes with her princess sippy cup and new MagnaDoodle.

We had a very nice Christmas, celebrating Christmas Eve at my dad's and Christmas Day at my mom's. All day yesterday, Zayda was saying, "Merry Chris-Chris. And Merry Chris-Chris to you."

After I had unwrapped a new skirt from Mom and put it on over my jeans, along with two new dangling bracelets, Zayda walked up to me and exclaimed,

"Oh, Rachel, are you a princess, like me?"

Yes, indeed. Princess Rachel. hehehe. :-)



Correction: make that top FOUR teeth! He has four top teeth coming in all at once. Poor little puppy! His gums are so red. No wonder he's keeping all of us up at night.


All I want for Christmas.

Eliot is getting his two front teeth for Christmas! He's had the bottom two for a couple of months now, and today the top two finally broke through the gums. So that's why we've been so cranky lately! (I hope.)

Here's the tree, in all its glory:

Clearly, I am not a decorator, by any means. The garland is terrible! Oh well.

My prized 1988 handmade gold macaroni mitten ornament lives on, and that's the important thing.

'Tis the season, already.

Well, my grades are in and I've turned my attention to Christmas only to find that it's approaching WAY too quickly, once again. I think I'm going to try to do some Christmas baking this year--nothing too involved, but I'm definitely wanting to do some dipped pretzels and those cookies with jelly in the middle (haven't had those in ages).

So here's how I see my week shaping up so far:
today=laundry catch up day & house cleaning
tomorrow=frantic Christmas shopping
Thursday=baking day
Friday=back to work on spring syllabi & such

And somewhere in there we might have to make time for a doctor's appointment. Eliot is pulling on his ear and not sleeping well, AGAIN. I don't know what to do with that poor kid. I suspect that tubes are in his future...
Of course, it might help if I'd keep him in out of the weather once in a while. We went over last night to see Grammy for the first time in the assisted living. She was clearly thrilled to see us, so I'm glad we did go. Eliot had nothing but grins for her, which was fun.

Gotta go get some things accomplished whilst boy is napping...


Suddenly, I see.

I finally went for an eye exam last week, and apparently I have astigmatism. Who knew?
So last night I got my first pair of goggles. Brilliant!
(Eliot is quite thrilled about it, as you can see.)

Wearing glasses is very weird. When I first walked outside with them on, it seemed like the ground was at waist height. I felt like I was on drugs.
And, as an added bonus, I can see things! I honestly had no idea how much I WASN'T seeing until I got my glasses. So crazy. I can actually sit on the couch and read the guide thingy on the television. (Not that it matters, because Eli is constantly watching a)basketball, b)fishing, or c) ultimate fighting, which is completely and totally disgusting.)
So I haven't quite had time to adjust yet, but from what I can tell so far...
I can see = good.
I look like a chubbier version of Tina Fey = not good.


Smiley McGee.

I took this picture of Eliot yesterday morning as we were heading out to daycare. Have you ever seen anyone so happy and ready to go on a Monday morning??? :-)


The varied effects of sleep deprivation.

Early this morning, around 4:30, Eliot was up and making cranky noises, so I went to check on him and he had peed the bed. A colossal diaper leak had him totally drenched. So I went back and got Eli out of bed so that he could change Eliot while I changed the crib sheets. After all was dry and well again, we trudged out to the kitchen for a drink before going back to bed. Eli grabbed the milk out of the fridge and proceeded to pour it into an upside down coffee mug.

He just looked at it confusedly for moment and then muttered, "Oh my god..." Milk had pooled in the bottom of the mug and run down all over the counter. It was hilarious.

(evidence: exhibit A)

In his defense, the mug was a dark cobalt blue, so it would have been hard to tell in the dark. (The only light was shining from the still open refrigerator door.)

After we finally made it back to bed and were trying to get back to sleep, I kept giggling thinking about it. He was like, "Quit making fun of me and go back to sleep!"

The milk incident still wasn't as bad as my own sleep deprivation related incident, however. One night months ago, when Eliot was still routinely up in the middle of the night (I think he was around 2 months old), I went to the bathroom, sat down on the toilet, and peed without ever pulling my underwear down. Oops.

I thought something felt funny, but it didn't occur to me until I stood up what was wrong.

Yeah, I know, that's pretty gross, but oh well.

All part of the insanity that is new parenthood. These silly things are ones I want to remember. We've been SO stressed that sometimes it seems Eli and I are just constantly at each others' throats and both of us are cringing every time Eliot starts to cry again. (He's been sick and cranky FOREVER.)

But in between all the grouchiness are those funny moments, those times that we just have to laugh because there isn't anything else we can do.

And then in the morning, a little boy wakes up with a smile and slobbery kisses for Mommy, and I remember why it's all worth it.


Well, it ain't the Windy City, but...

Our Chicago trip was cancelled due to bad weather, but Adriane and I decided to take the day and do some Christmas shopping anyway. We had a nice lunch at Olive Garden and shopped around a bit before the freezing rain set in. It was really nice to sit down and talk without having to yell over the cacophony of little voices in the background! And now that we have proof that Matt can handle the kids without any major disaster, I've proposed that we make girls' day out at least an annual event.

So now I'm back home and it's just me and Mumford, watching one of our favorite episodes of Sex & the City. Eliot is spending his first night away from me, overnighting at Grandma Connie's house. It's very quiet around here...
I miss the little guy already.


Taking a breather.

Well, Grandma Connie is coming to spend the night and take Eliot home with her tomorrow morning. I'm going Christmas shopping tomorrow with Adriane in Chicago. I'm excited to spend time with her alone, sans kids, for the first time in probably ten years. I'm also looking forward to getting a bit of a break from my own little boy.

The poor guy has been sick with the same nasty cold that has felled all of us, so between my own coughing all night and his waking and crying, none of us has had much sleep lately. Last night I was on my own with him, as Eli is out of town, and Eliot just cried and cried. I tried to rock him and sing to him, but he wasn't even having any of that. There was just nothing I could do to help him. Finally I put him in his carseat so that he'd be more upright, and he slept three hours there. Then up for a bottle at 2 a.m. and back to the crib where he slept fitfully until 6:30. It's been pretty much like this since last Saturday. I hope he feels better soon or we'll be off to the doctor again. We're becoming quite familiar with that office, unfortunately.

Here's the only member of our household who HAS slept peacefully in the last week:

And that's MY bed, sir! My bed with the rumpled flannel cow jumping over the moon sheets! Every time I fling the covers aside and run down the hall to Eliot, Mumford takes the opportunity to steal my warm spot. There's no justice in the world. *sigh*

Winter wonderland?

We got our first snow of the season last night. This morning I was mentally cussing Illinois weather as I trudged through the slush to get Eliot to daycare and then drove around campus looking for a close parking spot. I drove around three different parking lots before deciding that I really wasn't meant to be in the office this morning. Then I came home and moped for a while at how much I hate snow and how little sleep I got last night, etc. I got online and checked out some of my favorite scrapbooking websites and blogs...and then I slowly started to recognize that my crabbiness wasn't getting me anywhere. All I was doing was slowly wasting away another day wishing I was somewhere else doing something else.
So I decided to go outside and take some snow pictures. I reached down and scooped some up to see whether it would pack. (You need to realize that I haven't voluntarily touched snow in years.) And sure enough--perfect snowball snow. And my mood began to change.
I realized that I can't wait for Eliot to get big enough to go sledding, make snow angels and snowmen, and come inside with rosy little cheeks to peel off all of those wet layers of clothes and settle down with some hot chocolate. It's just funny, because I really had forgotten how magical snow always seemed when I was a kid. And I know that Eliot has all of these great winter days ahead of him. Even though to me it's become a hassle, I think I'm ready to rediscover the wonder of winter through my son.
(FYI--baby mittens without thumbs are SO adorable! They crack me up everytime I get Eliot bundled up to go somewhere. He looks like his hands are wrapped in fleece bandages.)


Our fashionably late entrance into the digital age.

So we finally got hooked up with digital cable, DSL, and wireless internet today. I was dreading this morning, as I had to deal with the cable installers, get Eliot up, around, and off to daycare, go to a doctor's appointment and get to work. But everything ended up working out. The cable guy was only 30 minutes later than they'd said he would be, which isn't terrible. And he was actually polite, personable, and totally non-scary. I have this possibly irrational fear of having people in our home to work on things. I'm always convinced that they're going to be casing the joint or something. As if we have anything anyone else would actually want. I doubt whether my piles of clutter and cat hair tumbleweeds scream "rob me." But anyway, he was a very nice guy and showed me how to work everything and didn't make me feel stupid about not knowing how to work a TV remote. We've never had paid TV before, so this is all new and weird to me. I was actually surprised at how much can be done through the TV. I'm such an anti-television snob, I guess. But some of the features are pretty darn cool. I can check the weather, order a pay-per-view movie, check the movie times at the local theaters, read my horoscope, and even play games on my TV now. It's a strange transition, going from a snowy PBS and ABC reception to almost a hundred clear channels and all these extra features. I think I kind of like it. But Eliot still isn't allowed to watch until he's two.

Oh, and did I mention that I'm posting this from the comfort of my couch with my laptop? I'm SO loving my fast internet connections.

So in the spirit of fast connections and the ability to upload more info, I'm posting another picture of my boy. He's got a serious drool thing going on in this picture. I like the shots of him with a serious expression on his face, because he's almost always cheesing it up for the camera. He's such a smiley guy, which is absolutely adorable, and I wouldn't have it any other way, but the serious faces are great too because we don't often see them.


"I am a Christmas cutie."

I went to Wal-mart today to try to find a Christmas outfit to take Eliot's picture in, and lo and behold, there were NO boy Christmas outfits to be had. Christmas sleepers they had in abundance, up until size 9 months. Girls' Christmas dresses, t-shirts, tights, and other apparel were everywhere in all sizes imaginable. They had girls' t-shirts featuring ribbons and bows and lace and sayings like "I am a Christmas cutie," "I love Santa Claus," etc., ad nauseum. But they had not a single scrap of "boy" Christmas clothing.

Needless to say, I was disgusted.

Is my baby not allowed to be a Christmas cutie, simply because he's a boy? Is Christmas not manly enough? Do baby boys not love Santa Claus?

Apparently, once a boy child passes the clothing size of 9 months, Christmas is no longer cool and he must move on instead to manlier clothing choices like Spiderman, trucks, tools, and dinosaurs.

Give me a freakin' break. So anyway, I put him in a red shirt and his gender neutral Santa hat, and took a picture. Now, I invite everyone to look at this picture and I just dare anyone to tell me this child isn't a Christmas cutie! Humpf. Just another reason to hate Wal-mart. And the ridiculous culture of gender differentiation that begins before birth. So there.

A belated Thanksgiving list.

I'm thankful for my son, Eliot, who has both challenged me and brought an incredible amount of joy into my life in such a short period of time.

I'm thankful for my husband, Eli, who has stood by me as a partner through even my worst moments and given me the strength to keep going.

I'm thankful for my parents and in-laws, who have given us so much help and support, especially in caring for Eliot.

I'm thankful for Libby, even though her being a teenager scares the hell out of me. ;-)

I'm thankful for the fellowship we have with extended family and the time we're able to spend together.

I'm thankful for all of the delicious food that I shouldn't have eaten over the holiday, especially pumpkin pie, pumpkin roll, pumpkin cake...

I'm thankful for those who prepared all of that food, especially Mom, Elecia, Connie, Grandma S., and Pam. I still don't know how to make food that is not only edible, but mouth-watering. These women know something I don't. Okay, well, they know a lot of things I don't. ;-)

I'm thankful that Eli has taken on the role of cook at our house.

I'm thankful for pumpkins.

I'm thankful for rainy days.

I'm thankful for good books to read on rainy days.

I'm thankful for the naps I get to take with Eliot.

I'm thankful for the naps Eliot takes without me. ;-)

I'm thankful for our daycare provider, who takes such good care of Eliot and is always willing to listen to me rant/cry/worry over Eliot/work/stress/life in general.

I'm thankful for the everyday beauty I find all around me and the moments of sheer poetry I've experienced this year and in years past.

I'm thankful for the bad times that make the good times shine so much brighter.


Leftover pizza and half-empty glasses.

A full week of vacation spread out before me, so blank and beautiful. I'm loving it. I'm sitting in the office, listening to music and calmly, slowly working on getting lesson plans finished for the last two weeks of the semester, figuring up grades to this point, and straightening out and going through the many piles of paper and books on my desk. This is such a change from my usual stressed out, freaked out, frantic pace.

Here in a bit I'm going to go home and eat leftover pizza and possibly clean out my refrigerator.

Now that I think about it, this isn't exactly what a vacation used to represent to me. Actually, it's not even close. I'm so much more thankful now just for time to slow down and do the things that need doing. I have no idea what I did with my time before Eliot was born. Where did all those hours go? Hours that are now spent feeding, changing, playing, etc.?


I was telling Mom the other day about these last two weeks of classes coming up--what one of my colleagues calls "the slow slide into hell"--and how crazy it feels, like I'm running out of time and the semester is going to end whether I'm ready for it to or not. Anyway, Mom's general reply was that she prefers to see the glass as half full.
I told her that not only is the glass NOT half full, it's not even half empty either. Actually, all the glass has left in it is someone else's backwash.
We were on the phone, so I couldn't see her face, but she made that noise like she was thinking to herself (not for the first time), "Can this woman possibly be my biological daughter? And if so, what did I do to make her so negative???"
Then I felt kind of bad.

So the moral of that story is just to make a note to myself: When Eliot, as an adult, seems so foreign to me that I wonder how he sprang from my womb, remember that it probably isn't the direct result of anything I did or didn't do. He's simply a different person. Eliot does not = Eli + Rachel, just as Rachel does not = her mother + her father.
There, Mom. I hope you're relieved. Smile. I am.

Okay, now back to my vacation / work...


Thoughts to try to organize my brain in between student conferences...

Eliot and I went to the Bowen reunion on Saturday, where he was properly admired by all. He seems to be feeling better (finally), laughing again and playing on his own more rather than having to be constantly entertained and distracted.

Three more weeks of classes left in the semester...I'm counting down the days. We have the week of Thanksgiving off, during which I HAVE to shop for a new carseat for the little man, who's quickly growing out of his pumpkin seat thing-a-ma-jig. It's practically impossible for me to heft him around in it anymore.
He also needs winter clothes, so I'm planning on hitting the thrift store circuit during break. And speaking of clothes, I'm desperately in need as well. I'm sitting here with a long dress shirt on to hide the fact that my pants won't zip up all the way and don't even come close to snapping at the top. Sad, sad, sad. I should probably do laundry tonight so that I have some clean clothes that actually fit to wear to work tomorrow.

But instead I'll probably watch The Bachelor. I can't stop watching that show. It's like a car wreck. It's terrible, but I can't not look. I keep analyzing it and marvelling that 1) there are no shortage of women out there who willingly sign up to be on this show, who seem to honestly think that they'll find love, 2) the "bachelor" himself doesn't see a problem with the idea of pooling a bunch of women and whittling them down week by week while seducing them simultaneously and calling it "trying to find a connection" or "falling in love," and 3) people continue to watch this crap in the name of entertainment. But then again, I watch it, so...
But it's sociological curiosity, I swear.



Eli is quoted in an article in the school paper today. I have to say that I find the idea of a reverse glass ceiling for men ridiculous. Men, even in traditionally female fields of work like nursing, still get paid more on average than their female counterparts. This reporter doesn't seem to take that bit of information into consideration.
But I can't fault Eli for the oversight--she didn't even tell him what the article she was writing was about, just asked him about how it feels to be a man in nursing. In any case, I'm so proud of him. He's worked very hard and is a credit to his profession. Way to be, Eli! You rock.


"Tuesday's gray and Wednesday too..."

My women's studies class went well today. We're discussing domestic violence and rape this week--difficult subjects to tackle. For Thursday I'm having them read up on the term "gray rape." There's a recent article in Cosmo about it and it's a hot topic on the feminist blogosphere--see Shakesville and The Curvature, for example. I'm really interested to see what my students will have to say about it. Sometimes I'm dismayed to find how conservative they are and how seemingly anti-feminist. It's hard (and just plain weird) to see young women so convinced that they don't deserve equal rights. But I remind myself that that's why I'm here, after all. To get them thinking, questioning, musing about issues of relevance. I've seen the wheels turning in more than one head this semester, and that's a start.


Ah, Monday.

I started reading a book last night--The Thirteenth Tale. More interesting than the book itself is the fact that I'm actually reading something that isn't part of my course materials or a student essay. This is thanks mostly to Eli, who cleaned the house this weekend while Eliot and I were gone. I do love that man. I was so shocked to come home to a clean house with no laundry and no dishes to feel guilty about not doing that I settled down with a book. I like it so far, but it made for a weird morning. It's one of those books that suck the reader in. I was so transported that when Eliot woke up from his nap I had to remind myself what my here and now consisted of and that I wasn't in fact at an old woman's English estate looking out the window at a rainy garden landscape. And then I came to work. I can't really describe how awkward that transition is. Maybe it has something to do with today being a rainy, dull sort of day as well. So I'm looking forward to jumping back into the story tonight...though I shouldn't, because I have essays to grade--a new batch just today...
I feel like my life is divided between having essays to grade or not having essays to grade. They loom over me so.
I hate that.
I also hate Mondays, by the way.


T minus one day...

In less than 24 hours I will be strolling through Parke County Indiana's Covered Bridge Festival, otherwise known as my Christmas. My calendar year hinges on this event, when the women in my family get together for a day of kid-free, husband-free pure joy. Just thinking about chocolate dipped frozen cheesecake on a stick makes me deliriously happy. And it couldn't come at a better time--the past two weeks have been so hectic, with essays, student conferences, Eliot's allergic reaction to squash (we think), Eli working overtime, and me basically losing my mind. So, watch out cheesecake, here I come. Oh yeah, and pumpkin roll, and hot ham 'n' cheese, and blackberry dumplings, and roasted corn, and lemon shake-ups...


In the midst of an essay barrage.

Grandma Connie came to visit this weekend, taking care of Eliot while I graded papers pretty much all day Saturday and most of Sunday. I got a chance to get rid of some of the backlog of work that has been piling up on me, but I'm still behind. Oh well. I think if all goes well this week I might be caught up by Friday. One can hope.
Sometime Sunday as I was staring at the computer screen wondering why I was typing the same feedback over and over ("Your essay has no thesis statement. You need a thesis statement. Don't leave the introduction without providing a clear thesis statement for the reader.") I heard giggling...
Baby giggles and Grandma laughs were reverberating from somewhere downstairs. Needing a break anyway, I tiptoed down to do some spying and found Eliot helping Connie with the laundry. He was sitting in the laundry basket with clean sheets and pillowcases on his lap. He saw me and grinned that gigantic smile that takes up his whole face. What a goofball! I grabbed my camera and snapped what is probably the 3,000th picture of my little boy. If I knew how to post pictures I'd put it up here. Maybe later. Right now I'm sitting in my office wondering why one of the students whose essays I scrambled to grade over the weekend is fifteen minutes late for his conference...Argh. There is simply no justice.


What the hell is short'nin' bread, anyway?

So Eliot has this baby apparatus thing-a-ma-jig with dangling thingys that play music (yes, that's about as specific a description as I can make), and I caught Eli singing along with one of the tunes one day--"Mama's little baby loves short'nin' short'nin', Mama's little baby loves short'nin bread..." He claimed he wasn't making it up, that those were really the lyrics of an actual song, and as usual, I thought he was full of crap at first. He's always creating fictitious factoids and then laughing his ass off at me when I believe them.
So this morning, out of curiosity and procrastination, I got on "the Google" and looked it up, and I'll be damned if it isn't a real song. You can hear it and read the lyrics here. It's a somewhat disturbing little song, as I've come to find out most children's songs are.
When Eliot was just a few weeks old I was rocking him one day and trying to sing him a lullabye, but I quickly realized that I didn't actually know the words to any lullabies, so I just started singing "Fulsom Prison Blues" to him. (Eli and I had watched Walk the Line again a few weeks before he was born.) It was the only song I could think of at that moment that I knew all the lyrics to. Anyway, now I sing it to him all the time, but I'm fairly sure it puts him to sleep not because he finds it soothing, but rather because he has come to realize that sleep is the only means of escaping Mommy's tonedeaf, nasal voice. Oh well. Whatever works. We were in Walmart (otherwise known as hell) the other day and "Fulsom Prison Blues" was playing on their Musak. I was like, "Hey buddy, they're playing our song!"
Anyway, to make a long story longer, after I read the lyrics to the weird short'nin bread song I didn't feel so bad about my own choice of lullabye. Shooting a man in Reno just to watch him die might be sinister, but whatever the guy does with the gal making short'nin bread probably isn't any better.


Activity Analysis.

Today was the deadline to submit our "faculty activity analysis" forms at my university. The form asks faculty members to report approximately how many hours a week they spend working. I normally just mark 40 and turn the stupid thing in, but it always strikes me as incredibly pointless. How can I really be expected to give an accurate count of the hours I spend at my job? And which hours should count? Was I "working" today during my scheduled office hours when I was sitting here thinking about what I want for supper? Or was I "working" when I was running possible wording for new assignment prompts through my mind from 2-3 a.m. because I couldn't sleep? Am I "working" when I brainstorm new ideas for peer review while I'm washing the dishes? Or am I working when I'm showing a film in class? I planned my semester thinking that I could compartmentalize my life--work stays at the office and real life happens at home--but it's turned out to be impossible, and not even desirable after all. I never cease to be Mom/Wife/Sister/Daughter when I come to campus; neither does the teacher in me turn off when I pass through the door of my home...

A sneaky little scavenger.

As I was leaving the house this morning for work (after having dropped Eliot off at daycare and scurried home for a quick PB&J lunch), I disrupted a groundhog who was feasting on one of the seedpods from our passion vine. S/he scrambled for cover, and the only glimpse I got was his or her big furry butt as it splashed through a puddle in the driveway before finding a hiding place under the neighbor's car.
Funny little critter. I hope it went back and finished its lunch after I was gone.


I'm taking Eliot back to the pediatrician tomorrow for another consult on the ear infection. He's still tugging at his right ear, although his sunny disposition is mostly back. Over the weekend and all Monday (while I was home) he only wanted to be held and cried every time I tried to put him down anywhere or tried interest him in any toy or activity. Just wanted momma to hold him. He'd snuggle my shoulder and chew on his fingers and be content. Needless to say, this got frustrating rather quickly. I've loads of work to do that can't be done with a monkey on my shoulder, especially a monkey who weighs 16 pounds.

When I was just about at my wit's end I thought, "Wait a minute here. Let's take a different perspective on this. It won't be long before the little critter won't want to be held at all." It seems like yesterday I was rocking him to sleep, and now he adamantly refuses to lay back and rock--wants to sit up all the time. So I got to thinking that maybe I should look at this extra neediness the last couple of days as an opportunity to snuggle him close while I can--while he wants me to. After all, he won't always be my little man, and I won't always be able to distract him from all the hurts this easily. Guess I'll just keep holding him...

And then, he started smiling and laughing again. Go figure.


Here goes nothing.

What do you do when you have a cranky 5-month-old with an ear infection, dirty dishes piling up in the kitchen sink, an overflowing laundry pile, 60+ freshman composition essays to comment on and return, classes to plan, course materials to read, and a cat who poops on the porch? If you're me, you sit down and start your very own blog. It's about time.