Thursday, April 30, 2009


Another segment I like from that "Big Bag Pussycat" tape goes like this.

Sarah: Cut it out, you big slob!
Daddy: Who's telling this story, me or you? Do you want to tell the story?
Sarah: No, you tell it.
Daddy: Well, I don't know.
Sarah: No, please tell it! Please tell it!
Daddy: Well, I don't know if I should if you're going to call be a big slob.
Sarah: No, please! Please! I was just recording!
Daddy: You were just recording.

It's funny because I'm so shrill and giggly and whiny, and he keeps this deadpan, calm radio announcer voice the whole time.


Natalia's Watch and Mrs.Googa

Guess what I'm doing again??

Pumping!!!!! (hahahahaha!--that's maniacal laughter)

I've been really looking forward to taking Penelope to Disneyland, but several factors are delaying that. Penelope being 42 weeks old is one of them. The other, of course, is money. But I was thinking today how one of the best trips to Disneyland (certainly one of the most memorable) was one we didn't actually take.

I always used to torture my mother as a child by making her tell me stories. (Actually, I tortured everyone this way, and then I would make it worse by interrupting and demanding that the narrative include random details that had just occurred to me--usually these revisions involved eating a cheese sandwich.)

Well, when I was seven, the summer after first grade, we moved from San Diego to Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri. (Before we left California, we did go to Disneyland. I remember as we left California, one of the last things we did was go out to eat--at Denny's I think--with Aunt B and Uncle Jim who were visiting from Omaha. When we parted ways, they announced that they were going to see the Spruce Goose, prompting the then 20-month old Merry to sob hysterically almost the entire way to the Grand Canyon because our mean parents refused to let her go with them so she could see the goose, too!)

Anyway, when we got to Missouri we stayed at the golf resort where my dad was working for the first few weeks, moving from cottage to cottage and making a hobby of collecting the stray golfballs that usually missed us (and sometimes did not) on our walks around the grounds. Another thing we did was force Mom to tell us stories. In El Cajon, one of my best friends was a girl named Natalia Kubiak. I missed her, so Mom started telling us this series of stories based on the premise that a lavender unicorn named Turquoise granted our wish and made us twins, on the condition that we go live with Santa Claus and help him make toys at the North Pole. Merry, our little sister came along.

This led to years of Sarah and Natalia stories (eventually recorded into a tape recorder). Lots of details remained constant. On the tapes, Mom played the voice of Natalia and tried to imitate Natalia by using lots of slang, only unlike the real Natalia, she used slang that was current in the '60s, not the '80s. Mrs. Santa (also played by Mom) was always trying to make Sarah (played by me, of course) eat spinach. The girls had a magic sled that could be summoned and sent away with the magic word "Shut up!" (Of course, when we got in fights, we'd lose the magic sled!) And we also had this weird reindeer sidekick named Mortimer (who I think was originally borrowed from a Rudolph special but became very different under our influence).

We still have a couple of the tapes. I have the two best ones. In one, we win a vacation to Austin (recorded in January 1988 when we were actually living in the Marriott at the Capitol, (having just moved to Austin.) (This one has a great segment where the heart-ripping-out guy from Indiana Jones chases Natalia out a window of the Capitol Building on a sheet rope). It was fun because Mom taught us all these little facts about Austin and Texas, and we'd come up with material by exploring around the hotel and the downtown area, then coming back up to the room to record a few more minutes of the tape. (I wanted to work on it constantly. Mom sometimes needed a break. Merry was neutral.)

The other one is where the three of us take a trip to Disneyland. We made this in the summer after I was in fourth grade, when literally everyone else in our family was in California going cliff diving and getting in truck accidents, and we were at home in Austin. Mom pulled out an old Disneyland map (the ones they give you in the park), and we made up a story, using it to help us decide our itinerary. (Our trip was much more exciting because crazy things happened, like the Wicked Queen from the Snow White ride being out to get Natalia, and our hotel being haunted.) The best part was that on the second day, Natalia (played by Mom) won a watch as a prize for entering. Merry and I got a button. This was scripted. But Merry got so upset (for real) that she hadn't gotten a watch that she moped through the first part of the day and finally burst into tears on the Dumbo ride.

These are really good memories, and Mom gets the making up a story into the tape recorder thing honestly because when I was six and we had just moved to El Cajon from Plano, Grandpa and I used to do the same thing. (This was a great summer because Kindergarten in Texas ended in May and first grade in California began in September.) At first we stayed with Grandma and Grandpa in their mobile home while Dad wrapped up stuff in Dallas (and Mom sometimes was with him). While Mom and Grandma would go shopping, Grandpa would stay home with Merry and me. (Merry wasn't even one yet, so she did not contribute much to my entertainment.)

This was when Grandpa and I started our club, the Junior Detective Society. I was the chief, and he was the vice president, Grandpa Detective. (For some reason--I think because I was watching a gum commercial at the time--I decided that his code name was Big Red. We made up all these secret signals and handshakes and pass words, and never did anything but eat Twix bars and walk around the mobile home park, and peer out from the ol' lookout point (this tree that taught me about sap). Well, one day, we started making a tape of our adventures, and it was the most fun ever! Instead of one long story, we did several short segments. Grandpa would sketch out the rough details with me on a legal pad first. Then we'd improv the story. (It was like we were TV writers.)

(Also, one time, my cousin David James (then 15) took Grandpa's little tape recorder and disappeared with it. He returned several minutes later with a story he'd made up for me about Pewee Herman trying to thwart a robbery at the El Cajon bank and appealing to the Junior Detectives at the end. "Muggsie got you've got to get out there and find him, Sarah...and restore the name...of the El Cajon Bank." He played all the characters.)

My favorite of the segments was the one where we got invited to the costume party of this wealthy dowager originally named Mrs. Grugawk (played, with aplomb, by my Grandpa). Throughout the story, he kept forgetting her name and changing it slightly, until by the end, we were calling her Mrs. Googa--and she was the "man" in the Santa Claus suit! (Gasp!) "Well, you're right, Junior Detectives. You're too smart for me!" The voice he used for this was so funny.) I kept careful track of this tape for years and pretty much have it memorized, but I can't find it.

My Dad (the writer) also used to make up stories with me. When I was three he made up the story of "The Big Bad Pussycat." I have a recording we made of it later, when I was four-and-a-half. I'm very giggling throughout the recording, and I keep interrupting the story with silly interjections and cracking myself up.

Ex. Dad: Everyone in the thrown room was aghast!
Sarah: (giggling) Even the royal aligator!
Dad: (not missing a beat, nonchalantly): Yes, the royal aligator was aghast. He was waiting around to be made into luggage but because of this fiasco they had forgotten, and he was glad for the reprieve.

There's another time when I say of the Big Bad Pussycat "and don't forget, he peed on the floor."

My dad says, "Now, we cannot talk like that on our tape. We have to be nice on our tape. You never know when the President of the United States might drop by and say, 'Hey, let me listen to your tape.'"

I scoffed, "The President! The president could never come hewe!" (But I shut up about peeing on the floor.)

At one point he was like, "Who's telling this story, me or you?" And I was like, "You are you big, you big," and he was like, "Do you want me to stop," and I finish, "You big nice Daddy," and burst into giggles.

I was a crazy child!

Pippy Poppy Tail Pix

Pippy Poppy Tail

Merry's mobile used to play, "Here Comes Peter Cottontail, hopping down the bunny trail."

I just now got Penelope to stop crying and go to sleep using this variation:

Here comes Pippy Poppy tail
hopping down the bunny trail!
Pippity Poppity, she came Easter Day!
She's my little Pippy Pie.
Makes me sad to hear her cry!
Pippity Poppity Penny's mine to stay!

(Kind of a bridge--I don't think this tune is in the original song)

Cause she's my good girl,
my Penelope,
and I love her
hip hooray!
And when she goes to sleep
I'm thinking of her.
And when we wake up
it's time for us to play!

The Evil Spiderman

Like usual, Penelope was good for me all afternoon, and now she's screaming all over daddy. I think she got mad to be removed from our lovely cuddling session, and then Daddy made her diaper wet, and then he made her tummy feel empty (that mean Daddy).

When she woke up earlier, I took her out of the swing, changed her, and whisked her up to the nursery to admire the pretty dresses hanging in her closet (that Merry, our Cabbage Patch Kids and I also wore) and to listen to her happy animal mobile. Penelope loves her room so much. It always makes her happy. She listens to the music playing, looks up at the spinning, smiling animals overhead, and does the Penelope dance.

However she hates Grayson's room. I've walked her around in there three times now, to say, "See? This is your brother's room!" and she's burst into tears every time. I think I've figured it out. I'm pretty sure she is afraid of Spiderman because when I point out the poster to her, that's when she loses it. I guess I can understand that.

We kangarooed in the chair after I fed her, and I actually fell asleep for a few minutes, but when I woke up in a panic, she was fine.

I am worried that I've given her human nipple aversion. She screams if I even try to get her to latch on now. Another theory is that the nipple shields may now taste funny now that they've been washed and sterilized in the microwave bag. I may try with the Medela one we haven't opened yet. Actually, that could be it. It's frustrating. I really need her to latch on. I don't want to stop giving her the milk because it's good for her and has antibodies and stuff. If we used some of the frozen milk now, I could freeze some of the fresh, and then we'd have some three months from now, but it's not as magical frozen.

Oh, but names (I'll tell the story about Grayson later). I didn't finish with names in my last post. We're really in a pickle about boys' names. All my life, I wanted to have children named Margaret Rose and Gideon Michael. Well, Derrick's not all that crazy about Margaret, but he loves Gideon Michael, and that's become his favorite. Had Penelope been a boy (as I really thought she was until the day of the ultrasound) we were definitely going to call her Gideon Michael. But I had all this anxiety because she was due on the 12th of April, two days before my late Grandpa's birthday, and four day's before my late uncle's. Both of them were named James (father and son).

Now here's the thing. My dad's first name is Dennis, and Derrick's mom's maiden name is Dennis. My grandfather and uncle were both named James, and his grandfather and uncle were both named James Dennis. (Well, his uncle still is named that.) If we named our son James Dennis Rayburn, we'd be naming him after everyone in creation.

But we still really like Gideon Michael. (In fact, while I was watching all that Arrested Development, I thought I might just call him Gideon Michael, the way they always call the son George Michael.) Now, another thing is Grayson's name is Grayson Battle Rayburn, so for balance, maybe we should call him Gideon Jett Rayburn. (But I like Michael better.)

These are not pressing issues. We have tons of lists of boys and girls names (and I realized earlier that I still have Aimee's baby name book. I am thinking I should buy her a new one since hers is beginning to look like it was mauled by hyenas.)

Baby Names, Chicken Pies, Grayson, and Pimicio

Well, if I get half the stuff I thought of just now in a burst written down, I'll be doing well. I thought I'd post this excerpt from my fourth grade journal:

March 10, 1989
Last night I went to the Ollive Garden with my aunt Julia, and little cousin Ryan. I totally stuffed myself with pasta, 3 garlic loaves, salad, two glasses of Cherry 7-up and as always lots of fun.
Merry fell asleep right away, Ryan found his pleasure in crawling under the table and eating our toes, infact as soon as we went to our table Ryan blew our candle out. It was along wait because, there were lots of people there. Then we went in and ate our hearts out. Ryan gave out a babyish squeal of “We're going!” We left. Then we got balloons, went home, and had strawberries and ice cream. Ryan wanted to watch “Pimiccio” but Dad watched the news.

I've been thinking about two-year-old Ryan (the Pimiccio junkie--i.e., he liked to watch Disney's Pinocchio continuously throughout the day when he and Aunt Julia came to visit that spring) because we're trying to see if we still can afford to take a trip this summer that involves spending some time in Omaha and going to his wedding. I am happy to report that I am pretty sure that we can, one of the benefits of having a hybrid car. Ryan got so bored that night at Olive Garden. I'm not sure the journal entry makes it clear, but he was so delighted--elated, really--when he found out we were going. For him, the best part of our trip to the restaurant was going home so he could play (even though his mean Uncle Dennis apparently thwarted his plans to watch Pimiccio.)

Much later, when we were visiting Ryan (and the rest of his family) at their house in Kansas City, I remember being down in the basement with Merry, Ryan, and Dayna watching TV. (I'm trying to remember when this happened. I can't remember if it was my senior year of high school, just after Grandpa's funeral, or a few years after that, when we went up to Omaha for Rob's wedding (or maybe a totally different time). Maybe the second time because it seems like we were all pretty old. I was somewhere between 18 and 21, I'm sure of that much.) I remember Aunt Julia came down to make sure we weren't up to anything shady. She just wanted to make sure nothing too exciting was on the TV. And we were watching old reruns of The Electric Company (making us possibly the most boring unsupervised kids in America).

But the funny part is, before we finally found that, we watched this weird music video on MTV2. It was just this heavy guy with dreadlocks jumping up in down in various locations singing, "Alanis Morrisette," over and over again, almost in monotone. We were all like, "What is this crazy song?" and then, of course, when it got to the end, and the information came up on the screen, the song was called--obviously--"Alanis Morrisette." I have never heard it again.

But, anyway, Ryan is getting married this summer. The invitation, of course, was sent by his fiancee and managed to baffle Derrick and me until we opened it because we didn't know Megan's last name (but now we do--although not really because I put the invitation in a safe place and have now lost it--but I'm sure I will find it).

And onto thing #2--Chicken pies. That's an easy one. I just finished making one, and I'm about to go eat it if Penelope will cooperate and not wake up--which seems to be the opposite of what is unfolding.

Thing #3--Baby Names. I've just been thinking about them a lot. Everybody reacted so favorably to Penelope's name, and half of me wonders if that's why so many people seemed to take to her instantly when she was in the hospital--she had a sassy little name. Since she's been born, we've been toying with Elena, Beatrice, and Cordelia for a sister, but I think we just decided to use Madeleine Lily, which was what we had planned to name Penelope from about week 8 to about week 19 (nice and Eastery). (Our original name--Elowen Willow--provoked an immediate response. Derrick's mom loved it, and everyone in my entire family hated it totally.)
(This was born out of my desire to call her Elowinny the Pooh.)

Elowen really is a name. It's Cornish and it means elm, but then I got hung up on the fact that it wasn't a Biblical name in anyway (like Penelope ;) You all remember the Book of Penelope, right? It's a classic, right up there with the Hypostasis of the Arkons--that's a gnostic text they studied in the Creation class I writing mentored for last spring.). (But Jane is the feminine of John.) The word elm does appear in the book of Hosea, but it's in some unpleasant passage about dead prostitues (or something).

Penelope seemed better than Madeleine for this baby, possibly because I'd wanted Madeleine for the name of a younger daughter. (I just thought it sounded so Eastery, but then Penelope was like, "Surprise! I'm going to be born at Christmas, suckas!"

Uh oh! She woke up!

I Hate Pumping

I hate pumping. (Now in my mind, I'm singing that to the tune of "I Hate People" from Scrooge. "Little wonder/I hate pumping/And I don't care if it hates me!")

Penelope and I were having such a nice little kangaroo cuddle. She likes to use my breasts as pillows (which makes it hard to get pictures of the two of us together). I tried to get her to nurse, but she preferred to fall asleep on my chest. I took some pictures of her with my free hand, but she doesn't like the camera. Literally, the second that I turned it off and it made that lens going in noise, her face broke into a huge grin. (I doubt it's a coincidence, frankly. She was probably thinking, Oh good, that one-eyed guy went away, finally! I hate him so much.) Then she smiled for me like literally six times while I held her. Her eyes were moving rapidly under her lids, so I think she was having pleasant dreams.

I guess she forgave me for changing her clothes. I thought we were going to be enemies forever, for a minute there.

Maybe when she gets older she'll nurse? I don't know! I'm beginning to think that one day soon I'll be blogging, "Well, Penelope is six months old now, and she's currently working on a treatise about the ongoing ramifications of the Iran Contra Affair. PS She's still unable to latch on consistently and draw out the milk." I mean, she's such a smartie, but that's like the one thing she just can't seem to do.

Too bad breastfeeding doesn't involve peeing your pants. She's a whiz at that! (hahahaha--I'm so hilarious. I know.)

Novel Discoveries

I just found 75 pages of a novel I didn't even remember starting! The other good news is that I have two books finished and polished enough for publication, three others finished and possibly ready for publication but maybe requiring revision, and two technically finished with an ending I hate. (And then, of course, there's the second book of the trilogy, which is certainly well begun and completely plotted out already.)

Now the problem is, I don't know if now is really a good time to be working on these things or not. Certainly, trying to publish books is not the way to make money. (It's a great way to spend money--on postage if nothing else.) Sometimes I regret not applying to the MFA program at UT. I thought applying to both programs might hurt my chances of getting into either, and I hadn't made up my mind yet. Sometimes, too, I regret choosing to go ahead with the publication of Night of the Pompon because at the same time as Simon and Schuster told me they wanted it, another publisher wanted to work with me on revising a different novel, Show Me an Atom. I had to let that drop because the once Pompon was published, Simon and Schuster had first right of rejection for a long time. But Show Me an Atom was a much better book. It had more of a point than Night of the Pompon (which is funny but not terribly deep unless you do a psychoanalytic reading of it and know what was going on in my life, at the time). I also have about five other young adult novels completed, maybe more. But I'm not counting any of those because they probably aren't good. I wrote them such a long time ago.

We'll a minute Snoozorella needs to have her lunch. I'm just about to wake her and mix up her fruity vegetables. I called Dr. Nichols's office to see about getting a refill on the iron drops, so I'm waiting to hear back from them now. I'm wondering if we could add flavoring to the Prilosec now or if we'd have to wait until we got the next bottle? It must taste so nasty, but it is so expensive, I don't think insurance will even let us get a new bottle just to add flavoring. I feel so badly for Penelope that she has to take that nasty stuff. (She's probably in for an unpleasant surprise, too, when she first tries actual vegetables and finds out they don't taste like lemonade.)

Oh well, off to make vegetables. Hopefully, cutie pop will not use three diapers an hour today like she did yesterday. I don't know what could help us with that. (Adding flavoring to the diapers, for instance, will not help at all!)


I think Penelope is afraid in her bassinet because she can't see anything when she's in there. (Her bed in the NICU was shallow with clear sides.) This whole time, she's been sleeping in the swing just fine, and Derrick has been sleeping on the couch. I just finished putting the dishes in the dishwasher, taking the clothes out of the dryer (all bibs! an entire load of laundry! all bibs!) and sterilizing the bottles and setting them out to cool. I'm about to pump, then fill the bottles, then go up to bed. She's due to eat at 3:30. I'm thinking Derrick plans to wake up and feed her.

I don't know if starting all these blogging projects is really realistic right now. I'm like Penelope--my intellectually driven desires outpace my physical capabilities at the moment. I wish I didn't have to spend time sleeping, but if I don't, I'll go insane. (Isn't that always the way!) I wish I had time to revise and publish some novels, but trying to get anything published (particularly with the way the market is right now) is a full time job (a full time job that doesn't pay anything).

While she's so little and I'm pumping, I'm not sure I can do more each day than basic household things and stream-of-consciousness blog entries like this one, most banged out in twenty minutes while I'm pumping. I have lofty aspirations but limited resources.

Sanguinarians and Drugs

I'm rereading Sebastian's Mark, the horror novel I wrote the summer we got married. (Or maybe I wrote it the summer before we got married. Now I can't remember.) I may not have finished my dissertation, but in the past 3 years, I've written two horror novels, a novel-length memoir about discovering my bipolar disorder, and the first book and a half of a fantasy trilogy--not to mention all the stuff I've started but not finished. Maybe I need to focus on creative writing since it's what I do, anyway.

Sebastian's Mark was originally based on a nightmare I had back when I was on all these crazy psychiatric drugs. When I discovered that Depakote usage had been linked to PCOS (and I'd skipped a bunch of periods and taken Depakote for seven years at that point), my psychiatrist switched me to Abilify (which worked amazingly well--at a reduced dose). The original dose gave me tons of side effects (such as not ever feeling content--like the feeling that you have to move, but then you do, and it doesn't help. It's hard to explain, like a restless sense of urgency. It was awful, and is, honestly, the reason I didn't want to keep working in the writing center because between consultations I felt like I was burried alive in a coffin trying to claw my way out. It also made it hard to ride the shuttle to school and finish up Derrick's last little bit of RCIA because I could not sit still. It's not like just being restless; it's like you think you'll die if you don't move, but then you move, and it doesn't help.)

Have you ever been really, really sleepy--like to the point that you're almost asleep, but you're forced to stay awake? And you keep starting awake, and you maybe feel like crying because you're so sleep deprived? This feeling was like that. You feel, If I could just go to sleep, this awful feeling would go away. I felt, If I just didn't have to sit still, I could shake this awful feeling. But moving never helped. (I really don't know how I made it through the Easter Vigil that year, and Derrick was being baptized then!)

Fortunately, this horribleness only lasted for like two months. We didn't know at first if the problem was a side effect or that the Abilify wasn't working and I'd gone into a depression.

To try to solve the problem as quickly as possible, my doctor tried kind of throwing all this stuff at me at once. So I had some pills that were designed to minimize the side effects or other pills, which in turn required a new pill. I was even taking some kind of weird heart pills that I needed because the pill that reduced the side effects of the Abilify caused some kind of heart/blood pressure problem.

Then we took a family vacation to Northern California. On the first day, we were in Sacramento at a Pacific Rim Festival. I had all these pills I was supposed to be taking throughout the day. I accidentally forgot them all in the hotel room, and we were out all day. By the end of the day, I felt completely fine. So the problem was the pills. (And my Abilify intake got cut from 30 mgs every day to 5 every other day. Then it was like a miracle drug. But that's the reason I didn't want to take any medication while pregnant. My doctor said it probably wouldn't hurt to be on Abilify while trying because it was such a low dose, but my own opinion was, Yeah, but look at what the high dose did, and he respected that.

Anyway, I really like Sebastian's Mark. I tried (for like five minutes) to publish it and gave up too quickly because I had school stuff going on. With my luck, the person I sent it to was a practicing sanguinarian. (I'm afraid the book is probably highly offensive to earnest sanguinarians.)

Sore Nipples

Derrick said he would be down at 1:00, but it's already 1:18. I called him, and he didn't answer, so he must be exhausted. I finally got her to go in the swing, so I'm pumping now. It will only be seven times today, but surely that is not the end of the world. We have a whole freezer full of milk. I probably need to thaw some and freeze some fresh so it can last longer.

I'm not sure how much longer to keep pumping. I'd wanted to work on breastfeeding this week, but after that first promising try with the nipple shield she has wanted nothing to do with it.

Derrick just came down. Penelope is asleep in the swing.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Scarecrow

Penelope is asleep on my chest right now. She was due to eat at 11:30, but I gave her a snack about an hour ago, so we're going to wait until at least midnight. I'm watching Bolt (and really glad we ordered it last week).

Pen's noises (i.e. the crazy long noise combinations I've been using to ask her questions) reminded me of playing Legend of Zelda: Occarina of Time on the N64 with Mom and Merry. (Actually, Mom was the one playing. For the most part, we were watching with the occasional assist.) You can play these songs in that game by hitting various buttons on your controller. At one point, this scarecrow starts talking to you. He sees your occarina and asks you to play him a song. Well, Mom just started pushing buttons. She ended up with like thirty keystrokes, all at random. Finally, she stopped. Then, to our surprise, the game played back our "song" so the scarecrow could hear it.

Of course the song was awful--extremely long to the point of craziness, and extremely discordant. But the scarecrow--being preprogrammed--loved it! He kind of danced around on his pole and said, "Oh yeah! What a jazzy tune! I will never get enough of that song!" The "song" lasted for like two minutes (which when you're being literal, and the song sounds like that is a long time!) We were rolling on the floor, laughing so hard, we all had tears in our eyes.

And then the scarecrow said, "If you ever want to call me, just play that jazzy tune," and the game was like dadadada!!!! You just learned the scarecrow's song! (And there are times when you need the scarecrow to appear places so you can latch onto him with your grappling hook thing.)

So Mom had to write down that discordant, 30+ character random keystroke song so she could play it when she needed the scarecrow to come.

I think of that when I make those crazy sound strings to Penelope and ask her to repeat them as a way of communicating. If she remembers them long term (as well she might since that's how language acquisition works) I'm in serious trouble because I don't remember them.

She's being my little cuddlemonkey right now. I'm excited about this double feature review idea. The past three times I've taught 306 (freshman level rhetoric and comp), I've given a second paper assigment that asks students to pretend they've attended a film festival, a special double feature screening to celebrate the opening of a new theater. Every screening has a thematic name, suggesting how the two movies are related. I have them choose one of eight screenings (and one got "lost" so they can make up their own) and pick two movies to pair (one from Group A, one from Group B). Group A is 1915-1989 and Group B is 1990 (when most of them were born) to the present. This last time, I told them they could do two movies from Group A if they were made at least 15 years apart. (I give them a huge list of movies to choose from.) In class, we watch Do the Right Thing (1989) and Gone Baby, Gone (2007) to talk about how to write about movies and types of questions to ask yourself as you watch. (I also show them lots of clips of much older movies as part of class activities about rhetorical concepts.)

I suggest pairings to them, but it's also fun to see what they come up with. Last semester, someone did Sweeny Todd and The Maltese Falcon, which was such an interesting pair! Another one that surprised me by working was The Birth of a Nation and Blood Diamond. (Actually Blood Diamond and Guess Who's Coming to Dinner have consistently been the two most popular choices and have been paired successfully with everything under the sun).

The assignment asks them to do a lot of specific things--though they can choose which things to do. But I think it would be so much fun to pair up old movies for interesting reasons and give a little review of them. Some other pairs that worked well were Harvey and A Beautiful Mind, Casablanca and The Departed (because that one focused on visual rhetoric), A Clockwork Orange and Natural Born Killers, Tootsie and Boys Don't Cry, No Country for Old Men and The Birds (actually, the student had no success with that and was frustrated to the point of madness, but I came up with all kinds of stuff--maybe I should make that one of the double features on the blog). There were a bunch more cool ones, but I don't remember off hand.

Okay, I need to feed her now!

Crazy Pants

Penelope and Daddy are chatting in the chair. She's all excited. She's so cute. I swept over and said, "Hi!" and took her by surprise. Derrick said, "Who is that?" Penelope stuck out her tongue and went Blahhh. She's making ooo lips, and he's saying, "Ohhh," and when he says it, she kicks and gets all excited.

"She doesn't usually talk to me this much," he said.

"Maybe she thinks you're Nanny," I suggested, because he's making high pitched noises that sound just like his Mom.

"Well, throw me in the fryin' pan and call me a fritter!" he exclaimed. Then he's like, "I don't think that my mom has ever actually said anything remotely like that, but it sounds like something she would say."

Now she's staring at the wall.

"Well, I can see you've lost interest in Daddy," he said. "She's done with Daddy now. She'd much rather look at that wall."

Now he's saying, "I'm as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs!"

I said it back to clarify, but I heard "a three-legged cat." He was like, "A three-legged cat??? A three-legged cat would be nervous everywhere."

So somebody seems to be in a better mood--and it's not Penelope! She's really giving Daddy what for! She's wet. She literally uses three diapers every hour at minimum.

I realized earlier that I need to be careful when she made a crazy noise at me. She might have been trying to tell me something using a sound I'd made earlier. I don't remember them from time to time, but she might, so I've got to be more consistent.

Also, I'm going to start a blog where I review old movies as double features. I'm going to try to come up with unusual pairings. Derrick thought of that--except I thought of the double features part.

My Sad Husband

Derrick seems so sad, and I don't know what to do about it. We got our first batch of pictures back today. She already looks so little in them. Penelope has grown a lot since the first week. I'm guessing that she weighs about a million pounds by now. I'm supposed to go up and take a nap now, but I think he needs one more than I do.

The bunnies make me happy. Maybe if he'd seen all the bunny pictures I've taken, he'd be more delighted with life!

Bee My Friend

My genius baby

Oh and I forgot. Grandma and Grandpa were here today to witness Penelope's "talking." She was crying and crying. I asked her. "Are you wet? If you're wet say," and I made a noise. Silence. Then after a pause she made the noise. And even though the indicator strip said she wasn't wet, the diaper actually was. Grandma and Grandpa were very impressed.


Mommy's Girl

We got the birth announcements in today, so I'll be sending them soon. They're really cute! (Reminder: If you want one, let us know your mailing address by e-mail:

I'm currently trying to think of a way to get rich by eating barbecue flavored potato chips. (It hasn't happened yet, but I don't think I've done quite enough research.) Daddy went to a meeting today, and Grandma and Grandpa came over to cuddle the Pippy.

She's been easy today--until Derrick got home, of course. She screamed and screamed for him. I feel bad. He seems tired and unhappy. I am currently trying to convince him to take a nap.

I tried to put Penelope in her bouncer by me last time I pumped. It worked for five minutes--I even took pictures! Then she peed.

Some Pretty Fruity Vegetables

I just discovered that Penelope's "vegetables" are fruit flavored. The iron is lemon flavored and the polyvitamin tastes like orange--or so say the labels. I was looking at the bottles pretty closely because the prescription label is on the side. We've run out of iron drops, and we don't seem to have any refills, so I'll call Dr. Nichols and see if we're supposed to get more of them. Meanwhile, speaking of fruit, something is sticky all over my milking table, and I was thinking, What did Derrick do down here while I was asleep? Then I remembered that late last night I spilled a little cup of fruit cocktail that was empty except the syrup. (I'm glad I didn't know about the house thing until after I went to the grocery store because pumping makes me so hungry!)

(To clarify: I thought maybe Derrick had spilled soda.)

Anyway, I'm going to make a note of my pumping totals here so I can throw these things away. I guess a total for each day is enough.

April 18-19--total 533
right total: 322
left total: 329

April 19-20--total 533
right total: 264
left total: 269

April 21--total 514 (pumping 7 times)
right total: 233
left total: 281

The real April 22--total 504
right total: 228
left total: 276

The Second April 22--total 504
right total: 235
left total: 269

I have to finish this later because I need to feed her soon.

Thankfully, Mom and Dad are here while Derrick is out because I need to feed her soon and then pump again. Just a few days ago, Derrick's mom asked me what happens if I fill up the bottles while pumping. They're 80 mls per side, so that has never happened. But guess what, Mom? It almost happened this morning because I accidentally went for eight hours. (That is the upper limit of how long you can go without having it adversely affect supply.)

I was up with Penelope until 4:30, but I hadn't pumped since 1:30. Then Derrick took her, and I was going to sleep until 7:00. He woke me up at 9:20. My cell phone was open in my hand, and I had written part of a text to him. I remember waking up in the night crying and disoriented because I didn't know where anyone was, but I guess I fell asleep again.

Time for the fruity vegetables!

Do not Pass Go

I hate pumping, but I can't think of a better plan for the moment. I just got back downstairs about fiftten minutes ago. I went up to take a bath and nap around 10:30 but wasn't able to get to sleep until an hour later. Once we got the house thing straightened out, I dragged my heels about going upstairs because I hadn't seen Derrick all day, I hate leaving Penelope, and I get scared to take naps by myself in the night time because of all the sleep paralysis/fear of monsters. (Then I was reading an old e-mail from 2001, and I was having a lot of the same exact types of monster nightmares then, so I guess it has to do with sleep deprivation and stress.)

I don't even see why it matters if Penelope and I get our days and nights mixed up. (I'm going to end up like Jessica Lange and Drew Barrymore, surrounded by ferral raccoons peeing in the living room.) (I mean because I feel so safe in my house and never want to leave, like Grey Gardens. I'm sure they're not like that in real life. Well, I'm not sure. I've heard Drew Barrymore also struggles with insomnia, but I'm not sure if she dreams about Presbyterian monsters hiding in her master bath.) (By the way, that word is tricky to spell. I really thought, giving the reason behind the name that it was with a p, but a google search for actual churches says it is a b. Crazy Presbyterians!)

It's funny how our financial situation keeps changing. I mean, it's very crazy. I feel like we're playing Monopoly (which given the economic times and the origins of Monopoly (or is it Monoboly?--just kidding!), may be an appropriate analogy). We never just go steadily up or down in income. It always feels like we're rolling the dice and drawing a card giving us crazy instructions. We're either receiving some windfall or finding out we owe some huge hunk of cash to the winners of a dog show (for some reason). (Also, when we first got home after being gone all this time, things kind of smelled like we had been hopping around inside a giant boot.) I'm just scared one of these times we'll have to go directly to jail!

This is a lesson to save more, I guess. What we'd been doing is using Derrick's salary (which keeps spiking up and plummeting at unpredictable moments) to pay all the bills, and my salary (which changes depending on if and what I'm teaching) to have all the fun. I do have some savings, though not much because I spent a lot of it on wedding/honeymoon stuff, and then had to spend some again when we moved into the house. (We did it kind of quickly, and we didn't have some rather important things--like a refrigrerator and a TV of our own. We had just pared down completely to live with my parents, and then that ended up not working out. Luckily, Dad ended up with an extra set of furniture and was generous enough to give us their old furniture--which was only like a year old.)

But even during the brief period this fall when I was teaching an extra class and he was making all the money working contract, we still had lots of stuff to pay back and catch up on. In fact, I just paid off the TV in January, even though we still had no interest until December (because we had 24 months) because I was so furious at Circuit City. When we bought the PS3, we got 90 days no interest, and we already had 24 months no interest on the TV. I paid the Playstation off within the first 30 days, throwing lots of money at it to make sure we avoided interest payments, but Circuit City applied all those payments to the TV and charged me interest on the Playstation starting in January. I'd originally been afraid that something like that would happen, but Derrick said that they'd weight it and apply it appropriately because Dell does. (Maybe that's why Dell is still in business, and Circuit City is not.)

What keeps happening is that we imagine we'll have no money, then we get some unexpected windfall (but we ususally need it for something--just this fall I had to buy us a new bed and a brake job for my car), and then we get a surprising reversal of fortune or find out about some other huge payment we didn't know about. I'm sure these types of things must happen to everyone, but they seem to happen to us in a particularly dramatic way.

I'm very good at not spending what I don't have (or charging up more than I can expect to pay off in a reasonable period of time--like a set number of months with no interest is great because I can budget out how to pay it off before then), but I'm not so hot at not spending what I do have...because I like to do lots of stuff (particularly outings with Grayson). It always delights me that Grayson and Derrick almost invariably enjoy the activities I think up for us to enjoy. (This hasn't always worked out so well for me in the past.)

Finding out late in the fall that we'd be making less money going forward than we'd originally hoped, I rashly decided not to buy Christmas presents. (But that proved to be impossible for me because I love buying presents so much. What I did do was keep careful track of all that I spent, making sure that my expenditures for the month of December could all be covered by my January 1 paycheck with about half left over to put in savings.) (But then I also got the unexpected boon of another half a check a couple of weeks later. I'd forgotten that the weird half check is actually for the previous semester.)

Well, reading over my old journals from 2001 has convinced me of one thing--my life right now is really good. One reason I was such a basket case in 2001 was because I had such horrifically low self esteem and was genuinely convinced that there was something really wrong with me and that no one would ever love me.

I'm very glad that wasn't true.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Crazy notions

I wish I were famous because then my autobiography would be worth something, giving me an excuse to write it. (I've been reading over old journals and stuff while Daddy and Penelope take a little siesta in the chair. I'm also getting dinner ready.) My life has actually been pretty interesting (to say the least), but people don't really care if your life is interesting if you're not Lindsay Lohan or Paris Hilton. (Maybe I should make a homemade sex video while Derrick is sleeping and unable to supervise me--just kidding!) I was actually thinking of taking some footage of bunnies on night shot while the oven preheats, but they're not the kind of bunnies that sell, unfortunately.

My dad once suggested my mom start a pie making business. I don't think I could do that because I made an apple pie at Thanksgiving, and it took me seven and a half hours (and towards the end, I even roped Derrick and Grayson in to help). I'm not exaggerating on the time, by the way. It took me a really long time to peel and core all the apples and slice them thin enough. And don't even get me started on making the dough with the fork and the ice cubes. Thankfully, Derrick used to make pizzas for a living and knew how to get the dough all rolled out once I'd forked it to death. Of course, I was pregnant and did have a weird cold--or a cat allergy aggravated by mom vacuuming with our exploding vacuum cleaner.

I guess I could start a milk pumping business (or I could continue pumping until Penelope is 16, thus saving money on groceries).

I guess it's good we didn't know how much money we didn't have, or we never would have bought our PS3 back when Derrick was working contract, and I was teaching two classes and we were millionaires (for two months). I'm glad we have the Playstation. We all love it so much, and it makes even the regular DVDs look better. I thought I was so clever, paying off my credit card completely, paying off our TV so we didn't have that to worry about, making sure I paid cash for Christmas and ended up in the black in January.

I guess I'm like that guy in that parable who planned to tear down all his storehouses and build them bigger--too bad I can't remember how it ends except that in Godspell my senior year, it ended with Allison Sumrall throwing M&Ms at everyone on stage.

That's what I need...M&Ms. My Uncle Jim always thought Coke and M&Ms were a cureall for everything. He was one of the few people who didn't get the stomach bug that everyone else got the summer we were all hanging out together in California, around David Charlie's first birthday. (I didn't get it, either, but I'd already had something like it the month before--which might mean I gave it to everyone.) Merry had already had it, too, but she got it again, poor little thing. (Danny and I were really supportive. We kept making bets about where she'd puke next. He'd earned the right to make fun of her, though, because he'd gotten it the day we were in Disneyland. Everyone else was having some misadventure with the camper breaking down, but Danny, Uncle Jim, Aunt B, and I had stayed a second day. On the way home that night, I sat in the front seat with Uncle Jim, who told me to keep my eyes peeled for a Texaco. Aunt B was holding Danny's head in her lap in the back (it was attached). At one point, he sat up and puked everywhere. Uncle Jim was so horrified. "He threw up in my car!" (He really loved that car! Of course, he loved Dan much more, so it was all okay.)

I'd like to publish some form of that memoir I wrote about discovering my bipolar disorder at the beginning of college, but I'm afraid my ex-boyfriend might sue me. I'm afraid he's pretty recognizable. (Maybe I should blackmail him.)

We've actually been talking about writing a book about the NICU experience. Maybe we should write a book about parenting. Before my wedding, I read a self-help book called bonding with your stepchild that actually contained the disheartening statement, "Of course, ultimately, no matter what you do, your step child will never truly love you and will always resent you for being the reason his parents cannot be together." I was like, "I hate this book." (A priest had better advice: "Give him your time and your attention, and let your actions show him that you love and care about him.") I think I could write a better book than that stupid book.

I'm just rambling anyway. I'm not expecting to make money writing books. I certainly didn't with Night of the Pompon. That never even made up the cash advance. (So I guess I did make some because they didn't make me give back the advance. Watch they will now. And I'll have to pay interest, too.)

Good thing I've learned to love chicken pies. They cost $.72!


I've been thinking about it, and if things had played out differently with the house payments, probably a whole sequence of events would have changed, and we wouldn't have Penelope now. So maybe this is a blessing in disguise.

(Still, the county tax assessor's office is definitely not getting a birth announcement, even if someone representing them is reading this blog and e-mails me. I'm sorry for any mental anguish my decision may cause that imaginary person, but life just isn't fair.)

Birth Announcements

That reminds me...

What we didn't get in the mail (but will soon) are the birth announcements I ordered a few days ago. I tried to get a bunch of them, and I'm planning to send them to friends and relatives, but I'm not entirely sure who would like one. I keep hearing from Mom and Derrick how various people are reading this blog, so if you want a "coming home" announcement, let us know your name (obviously) and mailing address.

They're kind of cute, I think. I used the same picture that's the header on this blog. I hope they turned out well. I'm pretty excited about them. She was such a nice little present from the Easter Bunny!

You can e-mail (That's me.)

The Bunnies

We've had a really stressful afternoon since Derrick came home with the mail at 5:00. Derrick is screaming at Penelope. "You didn't know your daddy was Little Richard, did you?" I asked. (I mean, they're like shrieking back and forth.)

I don't know if Derrick will want me to blog about why we've been having such fun, but it involves our house payment and the county not telling Wells Fargo (or us) the right value of our taxes until now--even though we'd already gotten one revised statement last year. So we just got hit with a huge escrot payment (even though we'd tried to pay more last year, and they'd sent all the money back at the end of the year and told us we didn't owe it and they couldn't take it if we didn't owe it, so instead we paid off our refrigerator and some other stuff).

This all seems very ex post facto to me. I mean, we expected that the house payment might go up after the first year, but we'd already received a revised tax statement (with the wrong information). Why didn't someone tell us this sooner? I wouldn't have spent money so liberally back when I had a job! It's not really Wells Fargo's fault. It's the county tax assessor. But it was still really scary, and even though they're giving us 36 months to pay it off (instead of the original twelve proposed in the letter, which would have been completely impossible), our house payment is also increasing to reflect the right tax value, so it's kind of a shock to our already tightened belts. (Derrick said I could blog about it.)

I mean, we were amazed that our property taxes were so low, but they kept telling us it was the right amount. It's maddening.

Hopefully, Penelope will stay this size for at least two years so her clothes will continue to fit. (Just kidding! That is not what I hope!)

(Oddly I had just felt really empowered this morning, too, making a plan for buying groceries and paying off Babies R US and hospital bills, and getting all the car registration stuff straightened out.)

But everything is okay now. (Well, it's really not, but we don't have to go live in a shanty town--for now.) It's just frustrating. I mean, before Penelope was born, we figured out about how much she would cost, and how to adjust to me not working, and since then things have just been a cruel series of shocks and surprises.

But thank God she's alive. I'll pay off hospital bills for the rest of my life if I have to (and I will at the rate at which I'm planning to pay them off). She's such a pretty little girl. She and Derrick are making peacock noises back and forth at each other now.

PS The good news is, the bunnies came back to our back yard today! Yay bunnies! (I took some pictures. I took some video, too, but Derrick was on the phone at the time, so the audio will probably not be terrific for home movies.)

PPS The bad news is, I missed my nap! (And she was sleeping on me the whole time we tried to sort this out. At least so much tummy time did make her poop, so there is a bright side.)


My little sweetie is such a sweetie! I looked at her face just now because her eyes were open a slit. (She's still sawing logs on my shoulder.) I told her, "I love you," really softly, and her face broke into one of those enormous Fozzie Bear grins, and then she closed her eyes again!

She's stroking my shoulder while I stroke her hair!

Death by Nipple Sandwich

Well, I'm not sure what is wrong with Pip Pop, but to hear her tell it, it's pretty dire. She was gassy and (I think) refluxing, and she kept peeing. I thought maybe she has a bladder infection, but Derrick says she just doesn't like to be wet. This was all going on while we were trying to eat. (By we, I mean Penelope. Mommy is eating a snack now, and the finally sleeping Poppamel is draped over her shoulder.)

I bounced her over my shoulder to sleep singing, "Rickiticki tickiti tin" (because what helps a baby sleep better than hearing a delightful song about the gruesome murders of an honest girl who kills her whole family?). Then I kangarooed her for a while until she started rooting. She screamed at the bottle, and I couldn't find her paci. Finally, she flopped herself over to my right nipple and started licking it. I tried to make her a nipple sandwich like Valerie showed me back in the NICU, and she glared at me like I was Lucretia Borgia up to no good. Then she started screaming. (Come to think of it, my naked body has provoked that response in a lot of people! (No, not really--but only because a lot of people haven't seen it.))

I tried to take some video footage of her playing in the jungle, but when she saw the video camera, she started to cry. Then I got distracted because it sounded like one of the cats had gotten caught climbing up the chimney, but a flash photo confirmed it was just crazy wind from a brewing storm that has already passed.

Missing Aunt Merry

I was looking through old archived e-mails to find out if Heather was at that party. Instead I found a bunch from the summer before--certainly was crazy in 2001 (and very candid in e-mails. I can never run for president!).

I also can't find more milk bags. I wish I knew what the NICU did with all of our bottles. They stopped giving them back and now we don't have any. They used to fill up laundry bags with bottles that needed to be washed. When I was still giving her exclusively breastmilk, there was such a quick turn around. We got to the point that we had many bags lying around at home. I finally brought all the laundry bags back to be washed, and then they never gave us any more. I don't know what happened to all our empty bottles. (It seems weird that they'd stop giving us bags when I brought several back.)

These e-mails are making me miss my sister. (Maybe when Pip wakes up, I can try to nurse her. I'm pumping now, so half an hour from now, let down should still happen quickly.) This one cracks me up. None have salutations, but usually you can tell the addressee from context. This one, though, is a mystery. (If she wakes up right now, I'm going to screw a nipple on this milk and feed it to her while it's still hot.)

Mystery E-mail:

July 28, 2001

I'm so cold!

Merry says, "Well, take a shower!" She's pretending to care about my comfort, but just minutes ago, she was telling me how much I stink.

"You stink, too," I said. "You smell like old mouth stench."

"Well, excuse me," she said. "I've just had elective surgery."

I said, "Well excuse me! I've just been outside in the heat."

But now my sweaty shirt is starting to make me a bit chilly!

I tried to tell Merry the story of Simonetta Vespucci, but she doesn't want to hear it! That brat!

"Will you leave me alone?" she's whining. "I feel like ass!"

"Can we try to find another word, please?" said Mom.

Uh oh! Dad is burning the house down! Gotta go.

Isn't that funny? (She'd just had her wisdom teeth out, and I was working on an art history paper for my Eternal Cities class. That was a great class. We toured Greece and Italy for two weeks and then wrote a paper back home to get credit.) I don't know what Dad was doing--my guess would be either grilling or roasting peppers for homemade salsa. (Either option could have involved me going outside--to talk to him while he grilled, or to pick the peppers so he could roast them and make my throat close up--because that always happened when he roasted the peppers from that weird bush he got in South America!)

Holly and Fred and Joan and Blackbeard and Christina

I'm so disoriented I don't remember what time of day anything happens, but yesterday at some point while Derrick was eating a hot dog, I was bouncing Penelope around the house singing "Moon River." (My grandma never let me sing that song because Uncle Jim liked it. She also refused to hear "The Rainbow Connection" because Libby liked it. This sentimentality over our late relatives was a point. But then she'd get mixed up and also not let us listen to "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" or "I'm Always Chasing Rainbows," and then she'd also be very sentimental about favorite songs of dead people she didn't actually know. She was an interesting woman, my grandma.)

Anyway, that song reminded me of the time I threw a costume party the summer before my first year of grad school. I had just moved back to Austin, back in with my parents. I didn't really have any money, but my mom agreed that it would be a nice idea to throw my friends a dinner party. I was going to write a murder mystery dinner (I've done three of those now, and they're so fun), but it was too hard to know who could come for sure. My friends Amanda and Matt (who I first met in Greece and hung out with a lot my last year at school) were planning to come, but then Amanda couldn't. Matt did, though. I think that was the last time I saw him.

Sasha flew out to visit me from Tennessee. (I'm not sure how I roped her into that. I always seemed to pull off having her come to visit me somehow. This will probably be harder now that she's in a convent.) Lindsay and Mike, who were still living in the area, I think--or maybe they had just moved back to Dallas?--were going to come, and Christina decided this would be the perfect time to introduce us to the guy she'd recently started dating.

I didn't want to plan a murder mystery dinner if people couldn't come for sure (because I write the parts to fit the guests), so I was just going to have a regular dinner party. But then Christina suggested it would be so much more fun to have a costume party.

I talked to Lindsay on the phone, and then related the conversation to Sasha while we were shopping for costumes at second hand stores. I told her, "Lindsay is going to be Holly Golightly from Breakfast at Tiffanys and Mike is going to be Fred Flintstone."

Sasha said, "That's an odd combo."

I was like, "Yeah, I thought so, too."

Of course, the truth is that I'm an idiot. What Lindsay had actually said was, "I'm going as Holly Golightly, and Mike is going to be Fred." My crazy brain just filled in Flintstone (the most famous Fred I knew). She meant the male lead from Breakfast at Tiffany's.

The funnier thing was, by the time the party actually rolled around, Christina had completely forgotten the costume thing (even though it was her suggestion) and showed up half an hour late (because she had to wait for her boyfriend to get off work) in a sundress.

"I didn't know it was a costume party," she said.

"It was your idea," I reminded her.

"Oh," she replied. "Well, I didn't know you were serious. We can just make it a fancy dress party instead." This worked out pretty well for her, and for Lindsay and not Fred Filnststone. Matt was okay with it, too, because he was wearing an Einstein mask that could be removed. But Sasha was dressed as Joan of Arc, and I was a pirate! At the time, I was kind of furious, but looking back on it all, it seems really funny. (I'm sure her new boyfriend must have thought we were quite strange, but he's her ex-boyfriend now, so who cares.)

I've been thinking about Christina a lot because I missed her baby shower the other day. (I was worried she'd be mad, but she doesn't seem mad, so I'm relieved.) I'm kind of excited about her little boy (who is coming at the beginning of June, I believe, if he plays fair (unlike some people--I mean Penelope for being born early not Christina for coming late to my surprise optional costume party). They're going to call him James Arthur William Swan because James Asomething is Andy's family tradition, and Christina loves the name Will. (Funny how we had a big fight about who had the right to use Madeleine, and then neither of us ended up with a Madeleine.) This means that I get to shop for boy stuff, too! (I love Babies R Us and am currently hoping President Obama will offer a bailout to people who spend too much money there.) I'm wondering if anybody has gotten Will (aka JAWS) a sleep sheep.

Well, I'm scared Penelope will wake up before I can pump again. Maybe I should just pump a bit and then try to breast feed. But I hate to wake her. We'll see what I'll do.

**PS I just realized--I think Heather was there, too. But I'm trying to remember what she was wearing. (I'm now trying to remember if she was there that time or a different time.)

Thwarting Mommy's Story Arc

Penelope is in her swing, and I need to do some laundry. (She has millions of dirty bibs already--fortunately, we now have billions of bibs. I had to wash my clothes from yesterday. I should have done it yesterday. My pants were soaked.)

This spring (by which I mean winter up till now--I think in semesters) has gone so much differently than I planned. I was looking forward to a nice, leisurely semester off while I stayed off my feet as much as possible during my third trimester. I thought I'd get some work done on my dissertation (perhaps by role playing that I was the pregnant Mary, Queen of Scots). I definitely planned to finish the second book of the trilogy Derrick and I are writing. I was saving it for two reasons: 1) I was teaching two classes and trying to do at least a little work when in school in the fall, and 2) One of the major story arcs involves a character's pregnancy. I thought I'd be good and pregnant by that time, and I'd have the time home to sit and write at my leisure.

Not so.

I have been enjoying taking lots of hot baths, however. Maybe I need to start writing in the bath tub. I only bathe when Derrick can be with her, so it's a good time to be distracted. (Of course, I usually take the baths to wind down before a nap, so intellectually stimulating work may not be the best plan, then.)

Poppamel just would not sleep at all last night. I think part of the problem is that Kitty is a bad influence. He encourages her to stay awake and play with him because he never closes his eyes. Then when she loses her pacifier, she really lays into him if he won't fix it for her. Plus, she was over tired last night. Getting all the tummy time while we watched A Prairie Home Companion did help her to poop a little, but I think she's still got more saved up in there, another thing that may have made the night hard. I tried an experiment of taking Kitty down to see if she'd sleep better, but instead she screamed and screamed in absolute horror, so I had to put him back up where she could see him.

We just kept feeding her, and then once she'd eat like 20 mls, she'd fall asleep. (This would be less of a frustrating hassle if we could just get her to take the breast when she's hungry.)

She's sleeping in the swing right now. I'm wondering if part of the problem is that I was gone for so much of the time yesterday. When Derrick has her, he tries to get her back to sleep right after feeding and put her in the swing as much as possible because he has to work. I'm more into keeping her awake and playing as much as possible (with the rationale that she's not going to sleep all day and all night both).

I don't know how I would do this without Derrick. I was so exhausted last night at about 2:00 when we'd come down to feed her (after not being able to get her to sleep after the last time), that he told me to go up and get some sleep. So about 2:30, after pumping, I went back up to bed while he tried to get her asleep again in the chair. Unfortunately, we'd set our alarms for 3:15, and his is impossible to turn off. It just keeps snoozing forever. I hate it.

I wasn't sleeping well up till that point, anyway. More sleep paralysis. There was some kind of monster in the bedroom with me. I was afraid of it, so I started saying the rosary, but then I thought, What if the monster is a Presbyterian? Then a hail Mary won't work. (I realize that makes no sense, but it did while I was asleep.) So I switched to the more ecumenical Lord's Prayer. Then I realized the "monster" was Derrick, who was putting Penelope back into bed and telling me to be quiet. Then her diaper was wet again, so he had to go rinse her off in the bathroom, and he finally took her downstairs. But I could hear strange voices in the house. Derrick said, "No. The house is off limits right now," but these neighbors kept insisting that they needed to use the phone.

I thought, "What if they attack him while Penelope is in his arms?" I mean, if they just walked in after midnight, clearly they were not really there to use the phone. I struggled to wake up and found my phone to call 9-1-1. But then I thought (thank goodness), What if that last part was actually a dream? I walked out onto the landing to ask Derrick if everything was okay. I said, "What should I do?"

He was confused and replied, "Nothing. Go to sleep." (Then later I had to come back because I couldn't make his phone shut up.) At best, I got half an hour of sleep, and that was it until--when? Oh yeah. About 4:30. I slept from 4:30 (I think) to 7:30 while he was kangarooing her down here.

The funny part is, not only had the last part been a dream, but the entire thing had been a dream. When he came back up to the bedroom about 3:40, he said it was the first time he'd been back up!

And now to do a little more laundry!

Drink your milk, Mommy

Every time Penelope sees me eating or drinking, I say, "Drink your milk, Mommy." Right now, I'm eating lunch--V8, Mootopia, chicken pot pie, cottage cheese, and Daddy is holding Pip Pop, but soon he has to go to a meeting and run errands. I'm feeling energized because I just cleaned up the kitchen, did some laundry, paid some bills. (I should have paid back my student loans sooner--also, if Penelope would have had the courtesy not to lounge in the hospital for three and a half months, that would have been great! Doesn't she know I need all my savings to buy her cute bibs at Babies R Us?)

Hopefully Mommy will have time to get in some baby torture--i.e. breastfeeding this afternoon.

Fantasy Vs. Reality Vs. Charlton Heston

Derrick has some way of finding out all about what's happening in football before anyone else knows. (By anyone else, I mean me, and by some way, I mean the internet.) He told me two or three days ago that Michael Oher (the protagonist of The Blind Side, the book we taught in 306 last semester) is going to play for the Baltimore Ravens. Weirdly, I like the Baltimore Ravens--much against my will. I was just so impressed by Joe Flacco. It was only his first year, and this one time, they tried to sack him, and he ran all over the field for like half an hour. He definitely got my attention and made me enjoy watching his team.

Now this is truly unfortunate because my favorite team is the Pittsburgh Steelers. That may seem strange, but back when we were engaged, the first NFL game I ever watched was the first Monday Night game in 2006, when the Steelers played the Jaguars. I really had no idea how football worked at all. (I thought the highlight was going down to the snack bar for cotton candy and nachos or talking to people under the bleechers.) As a kid, I used to watch basketball with my Grandpa. That game was so much easier to follow. I remember, particularly, that one summer, for a whole week we watched the Lakers play the Pistons in great excitement while eating ice cream sundaes (until my mean mother made me stop having so many ice cream sundaes--ostensibly for weight control but more likely because we were eating them up in Grandma and Grandpa's bedroom and I kept getting marshmellow cream all over the sheets). It was the last year that Kareem Abdul Jabar played. I liked basketball because it was fast paced and easy to follow. Football, to me, always seemed like something that dragged on forever because they kept stopping for no reason all the time, and then by the time the show you were waiting for came on, it was already time for bed.

But Derrick hoped I would see how exciting football was once he explained more about how it worked. Well, like I said, my first game was the Steelers v. the Jaguars, and nobody scored a touchdown the entire game. Derrick was a bit distressed because that does not make for the most exciting first football game. But Ben Roethlisberger was not at his best. He'd recently had an apendectomy and been in a motorcycle wreck, but for some reason, he was still playing. (This always wins me over. I loved it one year when Michael Jordan won a game with a 103 degree fever, and I was in tears when Kerri Strugg vaulted the US women's gymnastic team to Olympic gold on a broken foot--which is really ridiculous because, actually, her first score turned out to be high enough, and she probably severely injured her foot for no reason. But in the heat of the moment, it seemed very patriotic.)

(My hero, I should mention, is Charles Dickens, who just wrote and wrote and wrote and wrote until he dropped dead. I was so impressed with him when I was fourteen and learned Great Expectations was published serially (though it did not occur to me that he had probably planned it out beforehand). Actually, Dickens died while performing a reading from Oliver Twist on tour. The reading was "The Death of Nancy," his favorite to perform, and, coincidentally, my favorite part of Oliver!, my favorite movie from way back when I was three and pretended to be Nancy for so long that my parents started to worry about my mental health--which turned out to be a sound instinct. When I say it is my favorite part, I mean because it's so moving. I also like the death scene in Bambi, but not because I think it's pleasant. It's just cathartic. The whole movie Rachel Getting Married has that effect on me.

I was distressed when my mom wanted to watch that (Rachel Getting Married) after Derrick got it for me as an early birthday present. I kept saying, "I don't think you'll like it," because it crushes me when they don't like my favorite movies (which is always--although Mom did like Doubt, which is funny because Merry is the one who wanted to see it, and Mom just went to hang out with her daughters). I told her over and over again, "I think it's good, but it's very intense, and some people think it needs better editing. That feeling of getting absorbed into the story works for me, but you might think it's boring. I love it, but that's because it's very cathartic." She insisted that she did want to watch it. And then, of course, she hated it. She was polite about it, but she still hated it.

"I thought it was going to be a romantic comedy," she said.

Exasperated, I was like, "But don't you remember? I told you it wasn't. I told you!"

She was like, "Well, you always talk about the movies that you and Derrick see. I can't remember all of them." (She told Rob on the phone one night that Derrick and I were off watching "Snoop Dogg Millionaire.")

I was like, "But I told you yesterday! I told you three times! I said it wasn't like Anne Hathaway's usual movies, and I told you pointedly that it was intense and cathartic."

Mom shrugged her shoulders and had to admit, "Well, you see, actually, I don't know what cathartic means."

Interestingly, the one person who always likes the movies I plan for him to like (other than Derrick) is Grayson. We always take him to the movies, and since we usually comment about what we find good about them instead of picking them apart (which is what I tend to do with everything, why I'm bad at assigning grades), he usually likes them all. (It's funny because he has such particular taste in music, and once screamed that a song was "hideous" and demanded we change it immediately. I wondered about that until I realized he usually watches American Idol with his mom, and Simon Cowell is more critical of music than Derrick and I are of movies, so it makes sense.)

Grayson even liked the movie Are We Done Yet, which was a terrible movie. (It's that Ice Cube remake of The Money Pit/Mr. Blandings Builds His Dreamhouse.) The previews made it seem so hilarious, but the timing of the actual film was all off (which made Derrick and me appreciate the editing category at the Oscars). Grayson, however, loved the movie. He called it The Happy Family Movie, when referring to it afterwards. What he got out of the movie was that the family was stressed out when living in their tiny apartment. The kids couldn't seem to get along with their stepdad, and the Mom was sick and pregnant. Then they started tearing up the house, and the mom had twins, and they were all a happy family.

This led to one of our most popular games. (We always play pretend games related to the movies we see, often in the car since we drive him around a lot.) Grayson wanted Derrick to be Nick (because he's frequently mistaken for Ice Cube) and me to be Suzanne. He was the older son, and we were all trying to figure out what to name the baby when it was born. (This was nice timing because I was eager to have kids as soon as we got married later that summer, and Aimee was just about to get pregnant with Jackson.) The point of the game was for the two of them to make suggestions (usually terrible), and for me to shut them down and to yell at Nick to "quit tearing up the house."

Ex. Derrick: How about Ezekiel?
Sarah: No! Not Ezekiel!
Grayson: How about Pizza?
Sarah: No! Not Pizza! Are you crazy?

Derrick likes to try to amuse me during these little games, too, so one time he randomly shouted out, "How about Charlton Heston?"

I reacted so much that Grayson got the idea that this was the funniest one--which it continued to be when he said it. "How bout Charton Hesson!!!!!!!?" It was extra funny because he said it so cutely and because he had no idea who Charlton Heston was--except, apparently, a punchline.

For months, at incredibly random moments, Grayson would just yell out enthusiastically, "Charton Hesson!!!" and we'd all burst out laughing. When Derrick and I were in London, we took a picture by Charlton Heston's hands outside the Odeon Theater where we saw Harry Potter 5.)

I don't know how I got onto movies again. I intended to be talking about football and how Derrick knows things (like Jay Cutler got traded to Chicago, which I think is the most inspired idea ever). Oh yes, and I used to like Ben Roethlisberger's look of agony (because I knew twas true) while he played, so I became a huge Steelers fan and now watch their games every week (during football season--though my favorite player is now Troy Polamalu.)

I think I wrote the title of this post because I was thinking of how my fantasy football season was destroyed when I was losing to Derrick one week (it was my turn to play him), and then at the last minute--literally, the last minute!--the Steeler's defense (the last "player" I had going), got a fumble recovery and a defensive touchdown, and I won. But then all of a sudden, in the last second of the game, they reversed the ruling, and I lost. And then later, they were like, "Oh, actually they made a mistake and that touchdown should have counted, but oh well, too late now!" I was so upset that night. It was the turning point of my fantasy season, all downhill from there.

But then I had my twenty week ultrasound and saw that I really was going to get a baby for real, and so I cared much less about Fantasy Football. Oddly enough, all the teams playing to get into the Superbowl this year are teams I enjoy watching, and of course, the Steelers won (with Santonio Holmes doing that signature falling on my tiptoes out of bounds catch he always seems to have up his sleeve, even though he can't catch the ball when he's five feet away and it's thrown right to him). Naturally, I was happy, but it was hard to get too into it because Penelope was in the NICU, and everything was so precarious in those early days.

I'm so glad we have her home with us (even if she did keep us both up all night).

"Penny, this is Grayson, Over!"

Another Bath

Bathed Beauty

Mommy's schemy plans

After some floor walking and some diaper changing, I handed the pippy potomus back over Daddy. We're trying to get her to go to sleep, so I can take her up to bed. I've definitely noticed that when she's crying, and I ask, "Are you wet?" or "Are you cold?" that if I guess right, she gets quiet and stares at me for several seconds. So I'm thinking that her ability to comprehend language is far ahead of her ability to form sounds. This makes sense because her mouth has lots of troubles (like not being much of a suckler, for example).

I mean, gestationally, she's only 42 weeks, but she's also almost four months old. According to my baby book, I talked at six months (and my mom swears up and down that I also made a huge effort and said "hi" to my dad at more like four months), so we're early talkers in my family.

I think right now she's frustrated because intellectually, she's figured out some things, but physically, she can't keep up. Derrick was saying earlier how he's noticed that she seems to recognize words we use a lot--bottle, bib, dinner, kitty, Mommy, Daddy, Penelope, hello, cold, hot. He said to her, "Time to burp," and she leaned forward into burp position and opened her mouth really big, like she was trying to let a burp out. (Perhaps she was hoping this would stop him from whacking her on the back.)

I feel bad for her because imagine how frustrating it would be to be trapped in a body that can't do what you tell it to. It would be like that guy in The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (or me, trying to play volleyball). I could tell she was really frustrated with the elephant today, and she gets really frustrated with the breast feeding, too. Once I picked up on that, I've been able to alleviate some of the stress (or at least stall the screaming) by giving her lots of words of encouragement and telling her she's doing a good job, and that it's hard.

I wonder if she feels like she's stupid or incapable. I hope not. I mean, she's so little, she may not have thoughts like that. But imagine, you see everyone around you doing things, and you try to do them, too, so that you can interact, and you find you can't do it. That's got to be no fun.

Well, I was going to post bath pictures, but I am so tired. Penelope is almost asleep in Derrick's arms, so hopefully we can take her up to bed soon.

Oh, I didn't even get around to my plans. One plan is to use Netflix to have a Robert Altman marathon (inspired by my recent private screening of A Prarie Home Companion). The other involves a cookbook.

More later. Suddenly I'm really tired.

PS I just realized it's probably that sleep sheep!

Meryl Sheep

While Daddy went upstairs to take a nap a little after nine, Mommy and Penelope cuddled in the rocking chair and watched A Prairie Home Companion. I love that movie so much. It tied with The Departed for my favorite movie of 2006 (and then that won Best Picture. I love the Academy Awards, and Derrick and I have seen all the nominated films and performances for the past several years (except Revolutionary Road this year for obvious reasons), but it so rarely happens that one of my favorites of the year wins Best Picture--although my favorite film of 2005, Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Wererabbit did win best animated feature.).

I think 2006 was a great year for movies (though you really had to work hard to see most of them). Little Children, Volver, The Queen, Blood Diamond, Little Miss Sunshine--we loved all of those.

It was also the year that Derrick discovered Mery Streep, who is now his favorite actress. When we watched The Devil Wears Prada, I pointed out that Meryl Streep had also been in A Prarie Home Companion. He was like, "That was the same person? She's really versatile. I think she's really a pretty good actress." (He's so funny. We were watching the Oscars, and he was like, "Hey, that guy is a pretty good violinist. What's his name?" And I was like, "Itzack Pearlman.")

Derrick just has good taste, I guess. When we started seeing previews for Doubt, I teased him, "Uh oh! Your boyfriend and your girlfriend in the same movie"--because Philip Seymour Hoffman is his favorite actor. (Not that he'a attracted to either of them. The one he had a crush on was Julie Christie in Away from Her. She did look really beautiful wandering around disoriented in the snow. That reminds me. I also loved the movie Doubt, though I've never seen the play, so I can't compare them. I thought it was riveting. My sister thought it was the most boring movie she'd ever seen in her life. She also hated A Prarie Home Companion. She thinks it's unrealistic that Meryl Streep's character would be hung up on Garrison Keillor. It's really such a funny movie. The Meryl Streep character reminds me of my mother, though I'm not sure why. She's not exactly like her. Maybe it's the part where she asks to hear her daughter's poems, and they're all about suicide.)

Meanwhile, Penelope is mad because I won't play with her. She was so good for me. We kangarooed happily all through the movie. Then I lugged her around with me while I went to the bathroom and got the bottle ready (separate activities--but we'd been sitting there for two hours, and Mommy isn't wearing diapers). She cried for like one second when I woke her to change her diaper. Then she started listening to the coffee jingle lady singing on the extras. She ate a ton for me, and she lay quietly on my shoulder while I washed, sterilized, and prepared bottles and sang to her.

Then Daddy woke up, and I needed to pump, so I handed her off. Nonstop screaming for ten minutes. Then he finally quieted her down, and I came over and told her, "That's Mommy's good girl." Tears again! Screaming.

Just now they were cuddling together in the chair--still are. Daddy is nodding off but Penelope is wide awake, looking around. I saw her little eyes, so I came over to chat and play with the monkey, the dragon, and the sheep. Then I left to make myself some food.


I was worried it was reflux, but now I think she just wants me to play with her. That mean Daddy seems to think people should go to sleep at night. He's asleep now. Penelope is staring up at his face going, "Aaawwwwk!!!" like, "Hey! Wake up!"

Daddy's like, "Don't worry. Daddy's right here. He's going to rock you to sleep."

I don't think she's worried. I think she's mad because nobody's playing with her.

I napped from about 5:30 to 8:00, and my nap is still working (though Daddy's seems to have worn off immediately. So I think when I finish this fruit cocktail, I'm going to go play with her until she gets tired out).

I'll post the bath pics soon!

PS Remember Meryl Sheep, who was on Sesame Street in the mid to late 80s when Merry used to watch it?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Can Penelope Talk?

The simple answer is, of course, no. No, Penelope is 42 weeks old, and she cannot talk. But here is what happened. We could not get her to quiet down. We just couldn't console her. Derrick and I kept handing her off while we were eating. We tried everything. She'd just eaten like half an hour before, so we were slow to try food.

Usually if it's reflux, she gets better when I carry her on my shoulder around the house. But this time she was screaming and screaming and crying and screaming. I asked her, "Penelope, are you hungry?"


So I said, half-jokingly, "If you're hungry, say," and I made this crazy noise with a high-pitched part and a "ooooo"ey part because I've heard her make similar noises before. (And, as we learned from the game with the elephant today, she is not able to speak in words yet, for sure.)

Silence again.

Then after a pause, she made the noise. It was not exactly the same, but it was really, really close. Then silence again. Then she made the noise again!

So I heated her up some milk. She drank some of it then went to sleep!

It could have been a coincidence, but I made sure to get her the milk because it really did sound like she was making the noise.