our weekend so far

Saturday: Disastrous breakfast at MyCity’sName Diner due to the whiny Preschooler who refused to behave. Mama throws hissy fit and ends meal by huffing out to the car alone and nearly in tears. Trip to grocery store with playscape — Daddy and Preschooler play on playscape while Mama browses at nearby Bookstop.

Join friends for Muppet Movie at Local Movie Theatre. Mama has fried pickles for lunch and is happy. Naptime. Even happier. Preschooler and Mama go to crafty gathering, find themselves at newly open cupcakery. Yum. Dinner. Fairly easy bedtime. Daddy and Mama watch Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle; Mama thinks that maybe she should have watched that movie BEFORE adding it to her Asian American Literature and Culture syllabus, predicts major embarrassment at end of semester.

Sunday: Preschooler wakes up at 6:15, flops around in M&D’s bed for an hour before we all give up and get up. Church. I love being a Unitarian Universalist, I really do. It’s times like these that I feel proud to call myself a member of a denomination that’s grounded in thinking critically about religion rather than in blind faith and rote kowtowing to dogma.

Dim sum for lunch. Nothing’s cuter or more charming than when Preschooler crows “siu mai!!!!!” when the dumplings come. Delicious scallion pancakes. Preschooler announces need to poop, Daddy reports back that poop was looseish.

Emergency trip to craft store to replace missing box of stitch markers. Preschooler starts to complain that his tummy doesn’t feel good. Uh-oh. Major uh-oh. Preschooler has VERY smelly accident on the drive home. Sigh.

Attempted naptime. Daddy leaves to run errands. Preschooler has six explosive, runny, foamy poops in a row, says that he’s scared. Mama flips out and starts preparing to go to emergency room. Preschooler suddenly feels much better. Daddy comes home to talk Mama off the ceiling, then leaves again to go get Pedialyte and Diet Coke.

All Mama wants is a damn nap.

Potty update (among other things)

So this is what this blog has come to, is it? A buncha potty talk? Well, before I get into that, I will report that today I finished my last round of revisions (for now) on my first dissertation chapter! FUCK YEAH! Now I get to start a brand-new chapter from scratch. Boo. Let’s hope this one takes less than a year to write. But first, I must finish my syllabus and get my course packet ready for the start of classes next week.

So, last Wednesday, Aug 13, I wrote this email to my 05 mamas’ group in re potty training:

I have offered every bribe from the privilege of helping out with a favorite chore (making coffee — he loves to put the beans in the grinder), to M&Ms, to a special trip to the bookstore to buy a new book and NOTHING WORKS. I’m talking tears, throwing his body on the floor (this morning he did it while starkers — can’t have been comfortable), absolute outright refusal to pee in the potty.

Last week, he peed in the potty twice in the morning and once at big boy school, but then developed a real complex about it. His overnight pullup was bone-dry this morning and he STILL refused to pee in the potty. I am about to tear out my hair. And stop buying pullups, because those fuckers are a crutch.

Since then, Harry has started going peepee in the potty independently every single day, with ONE accident at school and two at my grandparents’ house this weekend (I blame total absorption in playing with the older cousins for those). He consistently announces that he needs to go pee-pee in the potty and does everything by himself, from putting the toddler seat on the toilet to unfastening his pants, to the final hand-washing.

Today he pooped in the potty twice — once at school and once at home, TOTALLY UNCOACHED. Wow. What a difference a week makes. I bought him a new Thomas train yesterday, and if he keeps pooping in the potty consistently, he’ll get another prize next Monday. After that, we’ll try for underpants at night. Wooohooo! My big boy is growing up! *sob!*


Did you know that you could take your American Girl doll to a salon and get her hair cut and/or styled?

If I ever voluntarily take Rex Boy to a place like that (or like this), please … punch me in the face.

Children of the scorn

Today I have been reminded that in many ways, grad school is a haven for the snobbish, childish, and oblivious. I have colleagues whom I fear may someday collapse under the unbearable weight of being the smartest person in the room and have somehow developed the sense that their shit does not, indeed, stink. I will confess to having some snobbish leanings, but some of these folks just take the cake.

And then there are those that schedule things like reading groups for 5pm on weekday afternoons. HELLO! Some of us have families that need picking up from preschool, feeding, nurturing, etc. I remember when I was getting my MA and 5pm on a weekday was just another hour spent drinking procrastinating reading studiously and crafting insightful criticism. I remember those days, sure, and I wish I’d spent them more productively. Now all I can think is, wow, it must be nice to have the hours from 5-8 or 9pm all to yourself without having to feed someone else’s craw or wipe someone else’s ass, available to sit around with your colleagues and think deep thoughts about the pastoral. I hate that those deep thoughts don’t extend to maybe picking a meeting time that’s amenable to EVERYONE, not just those who don’t have mouths to feed and asses to wipe.

Wow, I’m grouchy. Too many carbs at lunch, I think. Time for a nap.

The housing market

We are in it. Our house went on the market on Thursday, we had an open house today with largely positive feedback (although no offers as of yet). I feel a little sad when I see the For Sale sign in our yard and really wish we had kept our house as lovely as it is now the entire 3.75 years we’ve lived in it. When you get rid of all the clutter and do a fairly deep cleaning, this house rocks.

The house we were bidding on is still available. We rejected their most recent counter-offer, but may make another offer later this week, depending on how well our own house sale goes. We visited it again today during our open house and were reminded that we really like it, but there’s another house a few streets down that has 3 bedrooms, an office, and a mother-in-law room with a full bathroom and tons of closets (hellooooo craft room/office!). It’s about $30K more than the house we’ve already put bids on, but would be sooooo worth it for the extra space.

On Friday we looked at several houses in our neighborhood, including a cavernous one with 2200+ square feet and a hot tub/spa room. It was huuuuge, very antiseptic, and reeeeeeked of stale air freshener. And today, the price dropped from $299K to $285K. Matt’s very keen on this house, but all I can think of is the sickly sweet stench. And the pale-pink Chanel women’s suit hanging in the master closet.

If Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez were a student in my sophomore lit class…

…this would be my response to her attempted takedown of Stephenie Meyer and the Twilight series on charges of racism.

First off, I have to say that this will not be a defense of Twilight and its followups. In fact, I think that Breaking Dawn should be called Fucking Lame, and I have deep, abiding problems with the series’ slavish devotion to an especially conservative brand of heteronormativity that one might expect from the deeply religious.

That said, as someone who has devoted her career to the study of literature and someone who gets paid to encourage students to think critically — and carefully — about literature, I can’t let her sloppy analysis stand without comment. Yes, I might have dipped my toe into the commentroversy on that entry and peaced out with an “I think you’re full of shit,” which is totally trollish of me, but rather than continue the trolliness, I decided to post here with my objections to her analysis. And I’m not going to bring her own writing into it like I did in the comments; I’m just going to stick to what she’s turned in to the blogosphere.

So, deep breaths, here we go. **BEWARE OF SPOILERS** You’ve been warned.

After some cover-your-ass qualifications about what a breathtaking writer Meyer is (*snort*), AVR presents her thesis: “[T]here is an underlying racism to the books that deeply disturbs me. I believe this is also the influence of Meyer’s faith – a faith I saw in action when I had breakfast with her at the White House as part of the National Book Festival two years ago.”

Okaay. We’re going into some pretty touchy territory here, because if we want to crucify every writer in the history of literature based on their religion, we’re going to be throwing out some very valuable literature.

AVR writes,

Of primary concern for me is the treatment of Meyer’s main Native American character, Jacob Black. He is presented initially as a sweet, normal teen boy from the Paiute Reservation, but we soon learn that he is a werewolf, and that werewolves are the enemies of vampires. The vampires, at this point in the story, are shown to be European in origin, and as pale as pale can be – and friends to Bella, our human protagonist.

1. Jacob is Quileute, not Paiute. I don’t know how she could have read all four books and still gotten this wrong.

2. The ONLY vampires that are friends to Bella in the series are the Cullens. More on this in a moment.

In the final book, Bella must choose between these two boys. Naturally, she chooses the (white) vampire over the (brown) werewolf.

That Bella will end up with Edward is a foregone conclusion for the bulk of the series, although there are some of us who really wish Bella would have chosen neither, gone on to Dartmouth, gotten her degree, maybe had a few lesbian relationships, and established a career before settling down and making babies, but Meyer really leaves very little doubt that Bella and Edward will be fucking like vampire bunnies for eternity. That they get to do it in their little stone cottage in the woods is a bonus.

But you must consider that in the Book of Mormon 2, 5:23, God is said to have placed “the curse of black skin” upon the Lamanites, in orer to make them unattractive to the Nephites.

She’s citing her source incorrectly here. It’s Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 5:21. And I don’t disagree that Joseph Smith was one racist motherfucker, especially considering that Native Americans are indeed the Lamanites of the 1830 version of the Book of Mormon sort-of cited by AVR.

I should stop here and say that I am not conversant with the details of the Mormon faith, probably about as familiar with them as AVR is. Every rebuttal I’m giving here is the result of hasty web research.

The precise word used is “black,” the name Meyer chose to give her dark-skinned Native American character. The Laminites, meanwhile, are described in the Book of Mormon as being a wild, ferocious, plundering, robbing, and murdering people, and God punishes all Nephites who marry them by cursing their children with dark skin, too. Among the leading Laminites mentioned by name in the Book of Mormon is…Jacob.

Er … no. Jacob gave the aforementioned prophecy of marriage, but according to my research, Jacob is the brother of the prophet Nephi, inherited the title of prophet to the Nephites after Nephi’s death, and forbade polygamy among the Nephites. The most prominent Lamanite I can find mentioned in the Book of Mormon is the prophet Samuel the Lamanite. Also: spelling Lamanite — yr doing it wrong.

Again, I do not disagree that some of the teachings of the Book of Mormon are pretty gross. Then again, so are some of the teachings of the Bible.

Here’s an interesting article on the way the Lamanites are portrayed in the BoM. If you don’t want to read the whole thing, here’s a summary from the bottom:

1. The Lamanites as portrayed in the Book of Mormon are descendants of the combined Nephite, Mulekite, and Lamanite peoples who were spared on this continent at the time of the Savior’s crucifixion.

2. The Lamanites were a scourge to the Nephites to keep them faithful to the Lord.

3. The Lamanite people survived the Nephites because they observed the Lord’s commandments respecting marriage as predicted by the prophet Jacob (Jacob 3:6).

4. The main body of Nephites from which the elder Mosiah and his followers departed (Omni 1:12—13) were probably either destroyed or lost their identity by joining the Lamanites.

5. When the Lamanites understood the Lord’s word, they were very faithful and renounced their filth and their crude methods of living. Samuel the Lamanite was one of the greatest prophets of the Book of Mormon.

6. The promise of the Lord to the Lamanite remnant, our Indians, is that they shall yet receive the gospel and become a white and delightsome people.

So, yeah, kind of gross and doesn’t exactly put the LDS in the pro-Native American camp, but again, AVR is fudging the details to make her point.

Let’s move on.

No author with the skill that Stephenie Meyer possesses does anything in her books by accident. Therefore, it is safe to assume that the deeply Mormon Meyer did not accidentally name her sinful, dark-skinned boy Jacob Black. Nor did she accidentally have him turn out to be the less desirable of the two monstrous boys vying for Bella’s attentions.

Nor did she name Bella Swan that by accident. But if Jacob is a bad-ass Nephite prophet and Meyer is as devout a Mormon as AVR says she is, and Meyer also names other of her characters after loved ones (her sons, her sister, etc.), she’s bound to give Jacob a shout-out somewhere. So wouldn’t it actually be a mark of respect to name the odd man out of the love triangle after a bad-ass Nephite prophet?

Also, in what way is Jacob portrayed as sinful? I’d like to see her back that up with evidence from the text.

Just in case you doubt there is a conservative religious message to these books, consider that the hapless human boy who also adores Bella (but doesn’t stand a chance, being a total loser) is named Mike…Newton. As in science.

Or, you know, Fig. Maybe Meyer doesn’t like mass-produced cookies chock full of high fructose corn syrup?

mmm…. Fig Newtons….

Also of significance: In the movie, as with the book, the most evil of the vampires (the ones who are enemies to the white Edward) is dark Laurent. Unlike Edward and the white vampires, he is unable to resist hunting and draining humans.

Okay, this one really gets up my nose. Meyer has nothing to do with the casting of a black actor in the film. AVR defends herself in the comments by saying that Meyer writes Laurent as having “olive skin.” Last I checked, olive skin != black. People of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean descent are often olive-skinned, so I guess if Meyer was imagining Laurent as Iranian or whatever, AVR might have a point, but he could also be French-Canadian or Italian or Greek.

Also, Laurent is part of a three-vampire coven comprising James and Victoria. The actor portraying James in the film looks like a poor man’s Brad Pitt, and Victoria is written as having fiery-red hair. OMGeezy, MEYER HATES THE IRISH!!!! James and Victoria prove themselves to be far, FAR more vicious than Laurent, although they all meet similar ends.

Let us also not forget: the Volturi. Based in Italy. Eeeeeeevil. Even the other vegetarian coven in Denali, Alaska, led by Irina (OMGeezy, MEYER HATES THE RUSSIANS!!!), sells out Bella and her family. I repeat, the ONLY vampires that are friends to Bella are the Cullens. Yes, they are of European descent, but SO ARE ALL THE OTHER VAMPIRES IN THE BOOK.

I held out hope, until this last book, that the gifted Mrs. Meyer might actually do the truly moral thing, and make Native Jacob good, in order to take polite issue with a pathetically misguided Mormon teaching.

AVR is implying here that Jacob is portrayed as somehow bad in the series, which he’s not. Yes, he’s a rejected suitor and is frustrated by said rejection, but he finds his place in the family by series’ end and is loved and accepted by everyone (except maybe Rosalie). So, if AVR is going to argue that Jacob is “not good,” she’s going to have to provide a lot more support for that, especially considering that everything Jacob does is for Bella’s benefit, to protect her, to keep her from hurt and harm, and, eventually to love and protect her daughter.

Let’s also not forget that Bella endures much mental anguish over having hurt Jacob, and considers him an indispensible part of her life. At no point is Jacob written as bad, but he does suffer deeply. Much like the Native Americans in our shameful history, at the hands of European Americans.

In conclusion, I’m not saying that AVR doesn’t have a point. She does. But why not engage with what I see to be the glaring issue of casting the Native American boy as an animal? To me, that would be the first place to start, rather than base a shaky analysis on an inaccurate interpretation of the Book of Mormon.


I am Jack’s heart attack

So, I’m sitting on the couch next to the front door at around 9 or so last night, working on my dissertation, when I hear someone walk up to the front step and then TRY THE DOOR HANDLE. Fortunately, it’s locked. A pause, then a knock. I look out the window, we’ve not turned on the porch light and all I can see is the outline of a large man. I flip on the porch light, confirm that it’s a large man and holler MATT!!!! (who is annoyed because he’s on bedtime duty and Harry has just fallen asleep. Whoopsie.)

I explained to him why I was yelling and he opened the door with a gruff “what’s up?” Turns out it’s a delivery guy with a bag full of takeout food for our address, but we haven’t ordered anything. I watched from the hallway so that I could reassure H that everything was okay, but also waiting for the guy to jump Matt. Surely this wasn’t some elaborate ruse to case our (admittedly magnificent — ha!) house? And just an honest mistake? But why would he try the door first?

Maybe I read our neighborhood crimewatch reports too much, or maybe the timing was off — I’d had the woman who was just viciously raped in Hyde Park on my mind all day –but this was terrifying. I can’t even begin to imagine what would have happened if I’d been home alone or had chosen not to open the door (we’ve had a spate of burglaries that begin with someone knocking on the door to see if anyone’s home).

Time for a panic room?

The world according to Harry on his third birthday