Wednesday, November 26, 2008

As a feather? Not quite yet.

When I started this blog in July of 2007, I knew next-to-nothing about blogs, but I had started reading a few and feeling excited about the prospect of doing some non-academic writing. My brother Boo (The Intern) was living with us that summer and helped me come up with the name. "Not to brag . . ." is a phrase in frequent use amongst our family members and close friends, and when he suggested it, I knew it was the perfect name.*

Having chosen the name "Not to brag . . ." I started envisioning the blog. I imagined I would write about my daily triumphs and foibles. I imagined posting a "before" picture of one of my messy, cluttered, claustrophobia-inducing closets (or shelves or basically any flat surface in my home) and then an "after" picture of an orderly, peaceful, organized space. I thought I could post about my culinary endeavors and success stories. I thought I would teach myself how to thread and use my sewing machine and use the blog to show off the pillows I have been wanting to sew for years now, oh and that t-shirt quilt I have been intending to craft out of the two plastic bins of my husband's and my old t-shirts. I thought I would challenge myself to open up my craft cupboard (yes, I have one) and start using the materials inside, wowing you all with my hand-made greeting cards, ribbon belts, and use of scrapbook materials (though I threw in the towel on scrapbooking years ago, I still have all the funky scissors, patterned papers and crap). I also thought I could read one of the several unread books on my shelf--the titles that have moved with me to four different homes and still not been read. I thought I could visit museums, attend lectures, try new restaurants, and in general use the blog as a way to make the most of living in Chicago. In short, I thought the blog would be a great motivator for me to start doing some of the things--big and small--that I had always been meaning to do.

I also thought, back in July of 2007, that when and IF I finally finished my dissertation, it would be the ultimate occasion for a NTB. It sounds kind of silly, but that thought really delighted and encouraged me even though the finish line seemed far, far away. Wouldn't it be funny, I mused, if I posted on a Tuesday about how I color-coded my underwear drawer, NTB, or took all of my loose change to the bank, NTB, and then casually mentioned in my next post that week that I had earned a Ph.D., NTB.

I always imagined that as soon as I finished, I would be at the computer, crafting this post: the ultimate NTB. But here I am, five days after successfully defending, NTB, my four hundred page dissertation, NTB, trying to express how I feel and feeling a little stumped. Yes, I am proud of myself. Yes, I am relieved. I have been enrolled in school in some part of every single calendar year since 1978. Every single calendar year! And now, I am finished.** I thought I would feel light as a feather, but I feel a wee bit numb. I think it is still sinking in. I have more to say about how and why I feel so weird, but I have some sorting to do first.

One thing I feel for sure is grateful. I am grateful for my parents who are amazing pep talkers, cheerleaders, mind-readers, hands-on helpers, and models of generosity, kindness, and positive thinking. I am grateful for my husband who did not let me drop out of graduate school when the stress of my Ph.D. exams had me lying on the floor and crying, claiming that I wanted to quit because I was probably going to fail my exams. My hubby has encouraged me even though this academic endeavor kept us living a thousand miles apart for two years; strained our household finances (and I quote from earlier this year before Bub started (pre) preschool, "I guess I never thought we would be paying your tuition and the Bub's at the same time."), made parenting two young boys even more challenging, and made me difficult to live with at times. The chair of the English department congratulated me after the defense last Friday and then turned to my husband and wisely congratulated him as well.

Without turning into an Academy Award winner, I also am grateful for my beautiful, healthy, joyful boys; my awesome, hilarious siblings; my helpful and kind in-laws, my hard-working and patient professors; and all my friends (who encouraged me even though I fear my examination of female friendship in nineteenth-century America has made me kind of a shitty friend in twenty-first-century America, especially these past few months).

This post is not quite what I wanted to say, but I felt like I had to say something about the dissertation before I could start posting regularly about other things, which I plan to do. Please stay tuned because I am also grateful for all of you. Thank you for enduring the bragging, the rambling, and all those really lame posts about making soup. Thank you for your comments, which mean so much to me and which have brightened more of my days than you might think. Thank you for making me feel heard.

*The nuances of when and how to incorporate a NTB in conversation deserves its own post, and I believe LAP is the one most suited to write it.

**Finished except for re-formatting my dissertation, but that is more busywork than "thinking" work.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Talk Amongst Yourselves

I started crafting a Retail Beat post earlier this evening, but with a major dissertation milestone approaching on Friday, I just cannot concentrate on a blog post. Here are some things I am thinking about, that you may be thinking about as well . . .

My growing conviction that I am addicted to the internet, but in a positive way. I think blogging, facebook, and email enhance the quality of my life.

The new season of Top Chef . . . I'm excited and, as guided by the editors or my own patriotism, already annoyed by the European chefs.

I have considered a personal boycott of Target for the sake of my own self-respect and pocketbook, but I have decided that it is unrealistic in that Target is the most convenient place for me to buy some needed household items (for example, a humidifier shaped like an elephant and a portable heater, both purchased this week). However, I do think I can stop "Targeting," which is a new word I have coined to describe my habit of buying things I do not need in a temporary burst of heady, hopeful optimism that these things will improve my life/children/waistline/appearance/household, etc. I need to refine the definition, but that's a start. Just to be clear, I don't think "Targeting" only happens at Target. I do a bit of "Targeting" at CVS as well.

What I can do with the huge bag of potatoes I purchased at Costco. I'm thinking some kind of potato soup, but I want to make it in my crock pot . . . I also saw a recipe for crock pot German Potato Salad that may be worth a try.

The jeans I just purchased with my 30% off friends and family coupons . . . are they "mom jeans"? I didn't think so when I tried them on, bought them, and ripped the tags off, but now, I am worried. I know my hubby will give me an honest answer so I haven't asked him to weigh in yet.

Speaking of "weighing in," how might I drop the rest of this baby weight? I suspect eating less and exercising are options that I need to investigate.

Why do so many of these thinking points have to do with things I have purchased? Is that all I think about? Am I a mere consumer? Actually, you don't need to discuss that. The answer is "no," but that's all I have the clarity of mind to write about right now, that is unless you want four hundred or so pages about female friendship and democracy.

Okay, that's all I got. Discuss amongst yourselves.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A Little Bit about Our Little Bit

Our Little Bit is four and a half months old now, and here is what we know about him. He smiles often, melting our hearts. He laughs out loud, filling us with joy. He slobbers a lot or, as the Bub would say, "a lot, a lot." He is a cuddle bug who until recently (as in, four nights ago when the hubby finally moved the crib out of the danger zone of Bub's room so Little Bit could start sleeping in it) did his best sleeping in bed between mommy and daddy. Whether he is wide awake and curious or ready to be soothed to sleep, Little Bit likes to be held facing outward. Little Bit loves bath time, especially when mommy lets him slurp on his wash cloth a little. Not to brag, but he loves his mommy (daddy too, of course) and will light up when he hears my voice or sees my face. His fingernails grow at the speed of light, and I am sad to report that, despite my clipping efforts, he pretty much always has some scratches on his face (and I, thanks to his affection, have scratches on my neck). He loves to grab my hair and hold on tight. He is not overly fond of bottles, but will take one in a pinch if the bottle-giver is willing to be patient and persistent. He very rarely cries in an inconsolable fashion. In general, he seems happy and content, far less restless than his older brother was at the same age. Little Bit will almost always fall asleep in his infant seat if you take him on a strategically-timed car ride or stroller walk. He adores his big brother and looks at him with pure admiration and enthusiasm, as if to say, "Whatever you say or do buddy, I'm with you." He laughs and smiles when the Bub gives him any kind of attention at all.

In short, Little Bit is so, so sweet.

Of course, there's still much we don't know about our Little Bit. There are the long-term unknowns--his passions, talents, dreams, goals--that my husband and I will delight in discovering and nurturing. There are near-term unknowns as well. For one, nights are still a crap shoot around here. We had a good stretch a couple of months ago wherein he woke up only once per night. That's no longer the case, and I am often feeding him two and even three times a night these days. Though he naps far better than the Bub ever did in his first few months, his naps are not yet long, regular, or taken in his crib. Other questions are still unanswered: Will his eyes remain bright blue like daddy's or turn hazel like mommy's and big brother Bub's? At what point will he begin sleeping through the night and taking regular naps? Will he be an early crawler yet late walker like his big brother? Will he like rice cereal when it's time or make a big mess of it? How long will he be nursing? Will he eat Gerber baby food lasagna as frequently and enthusiastically as his big brother did? Will he jump out of his crib before we are prepared for it (also like his brother)? Will he too become a master of the code brown? Will he one day resent us for comparing him to his big brother all the time?

These unknowns are less scary this time around. I don't find myself scouring parenting websites, consulting sleep books, and interrogating other moms as I did last time. It's not that I have all the answers, far from it. Rather, I think that I understand, more than I did with the Bub, that everything is a process and that what works for one child and his mom may not be right for another pair. When the Bub was an infant, I found myself frustrated when I did not know the answers and spent far too much time feeling like an inadequate, incompetent fraud of a mom. This time, I know to be patient with Little Bit and with myself. Everything will be okay, and the most important things are already okay and are even pretty wonderful, especially when I just let myself enjoy the journey. Whatever mistakes are made, I know that Little Bit will always know that his dad and I love him "a lot, a lot."

Little Bit's preferred "get to sleep" hold. Daddy (aka The Sandman) excels at this one.

Did I mention how sweet Little Bit is? NTB, but how can you doubt his sweetness when looking at this photo?

Bub loves to jump up and down so Little Bit loves to jump up and down (with Daddy's help).

And now, let me share a few lines from the Supertramp song I've been singing to myself since I heard it on the radio last week:
"Give a little bit / Give a little bit of your love to me / Give a little bit / I'll give a little bit of my love to you / There's so much that we need to share / So send a smile and show you care / I'll give a little bit / I'll give a little bit of my life for you . . ."

And of course, for my Little Bit, I want to replace "little bit" with "a lot, a lot."
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