Monday, December 28, 2009


My mom got my Dad R2D2 for his birthday. We took the kids to see Aunt Ruth and Uncle Rolf which left my Dad plenty of time to train the druid. This is a man who has written international tax policy and just informed us at dinner that he met the chics in Charlie Wilson’s office when he worked on the hill. It’s good that he worked in tax law and not technology. So far R2 dances and answers in beep beep talk when you ask it if it remembers C3P0. The kids meanwhile continue to shout a variety of commands at it usually in chorus—Jonathan reads something from the directions and Eli repeats it louder and slower. Rebecca talks to it in the teenage voice she uses when she’s most frustrated with me—the one that comes with an eye roll and very slow speech. The robot will likely have a psychotic break before we leave. Maybe Amazon has robot Prozac.

The kids who have been relatively charming by their standards for most of the trip became wretched at Aunt Ruth’s house. The backpack with diapers and toys was left at home. Of the 500 books in the apartment not a single one was satisfying in any way to Jonathan. He was smack in the middle of “Great men of Greece” and nothing else would do. Finally at the end of the visit the gemelli discovered the encyclopedia and looked up China. This kept them busy for a while and we now know all about Buddha. They also looked up butt and found nothing—very disappointing. Apropos of butts Eli’s was positively disgusting since we had no diapers.

The missing backpack liked a good teachable moment in collective responsibility. The general sentiment when something is left behind involves “Mommy forgot. For example as we left cville on Thursday I told Frick and Frack to put their jackets in the car. Nothing happened. We arrived in Alexandria and I heard “Mommy forgot our jackets; Bonnie forgot the kids jackets…..” I’m thinking this sort of collective responsibility can be used to plan my courses. Music 101 needs a tune up and the kids are now big Fantasia fans so they can take care of that. The Jefferson and Music Class needs everything and all three kids think he’s still alive and a good friend so they can use their ouiga board to handle that one.

Friday, December 25, 2009

X-mass birthday

By 7:45 the kids were wrapping Manuel’s birthday present and Rebecca had begun planning to make a birthday cake. She was pretty sure that this year she could do the whole thing by herself and has chosen a flourless chocolate cake from her new Italian cookbook. (As it turned out she needed a bit of assistance) This b-day takes care of the inevitable question of what to do with your Jewish kids on Christmas morning. As my friend Moira’s four year old said to Manuel “you’re the same age as Jesus”

Thanks to the birthday boy and my Mother I had a personal day yesterday. I slept until 9:30 which may be the latest I’ve slept in years. Manuel took the kids to the zoo in the afternoon without me. This makes an excellent Daddy/kids activity. I hate the zoo and going there on a cold day is my idea of family hell. For one thing since the zoo’s all went politically correct and tried to make things better for the animals the wildlife has become essentially invisible to the visually impaired. Not to mention that I don’t do well in the cold—my fingers turn blue etc…. I got to go to the gym and run really fast on the treadmill which I think can only be good for the collective—I admit it I’m addicted to running and the blizzard has cramped my style. And I’m a sucker for nice gyms with saunas and shower products. About the running vice; as it turn out a profession that requires hours on your butt in front of the computer requires some intervention for the hyperactive.

Eli slept with the big kids in a big boy bed. At home he should probably stay in his crib until her turns ten or so. He feels he needs to get up every so often to gather stuff such as a gun “just in case” Apparently grownups sleep with guns by their beds. (I’m not sure what grownups he’s cavorting with). He’s now running around with a bicycle helmet on using a cane as a weapon and making shooting noises. Jonathan looks dapper in pink tie-dyed pants and a pastel tie-died shirt and Rebecca is carefully making pictures of pandas and Shakespeare.

Hopefully I can claim some of those hours today to write the paper that was due last week. I’ve been reading everything I can get my hands on about disability studies for the last two weeks to produce this now embarrassingly late document. It should give me a chance to address Cecilia Bartoli’s problematic album that features giant pictures of scissors and knives. My personal day yesterday involved a little time on goggle books exploring the new “cultural history of the penis” and a history of castration. The birthday boy has already cautioned me to be extremely careful. The last time I did some frantic internet research I infected my computer with a virus that took him three hours to exterminate and he already said he’s not doing it today.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


Five days of uninterrupted family bliss is just a bit too much for me and if I don’t get a good fast run in soon there’s going to be trouble. When our fabulous friend Cynthia offered to baby-sit last night, so we could escape to dinner she earned our unending love. The down town mall never looked so good. We started our blizzard experience with a slumber party with our friends Liz and John and their three kids—yup that makes ten in one house. Needless to say that by the time latkas were consumed and candles were lit the snow the roads were too much for the flame van. Jonathan didn’t as it turns out have quite the proper gear. He had come strait from violin which he’d been so tantrumy about going to that I had to sit on him to hold him down while my friend Grace and I both put his shoes on him. (Yes it sometimes takes two tenured professor twin moms to outfit one six year old) He didn’t quite have the gear. He was apparently an angel at violin and earned an elaborate knight sticker. The snow was pretty magical in the morning and all five big kids were outside by 8 with snow pants over pj’s. Liz got so jazzed by frying that she did it again the next morning with pancakes. At some point I announced that anyone who potty trained Eli would get anything they wanted at Toys R Us. The adult wishes aren’t fit for public domain. The kids embraced this and set about writing boys and girls all over everything so that when he goes to school he’ll know which bathroom to go to. The kids all got along incredibly well enabled partially by my expert ipod tutorial that occupied the ten year old for much of the time. We finally got a lift home from a neighbor on Sat afternoon just in time for me to cross country ski around the neighborhood. As it turned out it was not a moment too soon as Eli was up all night puking about every 23 minute—that would I’m sure have done the slumber party bliss in.

Meanwhile the Christmas hegemony has set in with full force. The kids are asking me if I think we can attract Santa this year and if not maybe we should give someone else some cookies so they can give them to him. They are fixated on the whole cookie thing. So I explained that thanks to the Macabes 8 day hold out they already got 8 days worth of things they did not need and now we wouldn’t get more from Santa. (Since having children I’ve often wished the whole festival was a mere four nights) In the process I realized I’ve basically convinced my kids that Santa is anti-Semitic since he doesn’t come to Jewish houses---it’s sort of Passover meets pagan ritual. This seems impolitic at best. We had an inkling of this last year when I had the kids gather up toys to donate to kids whose mommy’s and daddy’s couldn’t afford holiday gifts. Without missing a beat Rebecca and Jonathan announced that we should just give the toys to the disadvantaged Jewish kids since poor Christian kids would have Santa. (In central Virginia impoverished Jews are not the problem) My friend thinks I should just tell them Santa isn’t real; but I don’t want them blowing it for the rest of the first grade. She also was quick enough to suggest I burst this bubble after we’ve left cville….. My niece by the way when told that if she was naughty Santa would bring coal announced “that’s ok I’ll just throw it in my mommy’s face…..” She’s going to be trouble later.

In the middle of this I got a love note from one of the Deans reminding me that if my grades are not in by midnight tonight something terrible will happen. After much cursing and three phone calls I figured out how to enter my grades on the hateful SIS. I haven’t yet gotten a similar love note about a paper that was due last week but I suspect that will come at any moment.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

One More from Rome

Even though we are back in cville settling quickly into Hanukkah fatigue here is one last missive from Rome. (It's a move into the synagogue kind of weekend)

I was struck by how many people I’ve been seeing off and on now for a decade. Not the friends or even the librarians but the people in shops and in neighborhoods. We went to the burnt bakery in the Jewish ghetto and I asked one woman if a kind of cookie had nuts. (noce) and she said no. But then the other woman looked at me and said “no no no it has almonds and she has an allergy she can’t eat them” We don’t even know each others name and I haven’t been there in almost two years and she still remembers. ( I temporarily forgot that one has to list every possible nut when explaining a nut allergy in Italian) She’s also the one who when Eli was 17 months old explained how thrilled she was that I was raising him bilingual—at the time he had about six words and three were machine, latte, and pizza. The bakery had a poster advertising a chabad event for Hanukah in the piazza Barberini—slightly incongruous?

We also saw a familiar face at the Borghesi gallery where Manuel had as it turns out never been there even though his kids have been twice. So we took the 116 electric bus up to the villa to see Dafne turning into a tree. And there we saw the mean museum lady who I had a giant fight with the last time I was there. For some reason she insisted that Eli who was then 19 months could not ride in a soft back pack. I kept telling her that everyone would be happier if he was locked up. She finally said I could put him on the front. He was having none of it so we let him loose and as I predicted he spent a good teal of time trying to slap Dafne and Apollo five and screaming at the “Hatu’s” in the ceiling. Hatu meant helicopter and I still haven’t found one up there but whatever. Jonathan was by then impressing our friend and now his violin teacher with his descriptions of various mythological figures. He had a funny way of explaining the rape of Proserpina which alas I can’t remember. In any case Manuel made me give my ticket to the other person. I think he was afraid I’d start fighting with her again as my little obnoxious Italian phrases were already sneaking out of my lips. As always I was moved by the liveness of Bernini’s statues; you can see Dafne in the process of turning into a tree—an self in motion. Those who fell in love with statues seem not that crazy when you look at these. They also had a Caravaggio and Francis Bacon exhibit going. Caravaggio was excellent but the juxtaposition turned into curatorial overzelousness. I couldn’t quite get into it—but maybe that’s just me.

I noticed an exponential increase in the number of gemelli in Rome. When we first started brining the kids to Rome not only did we notice the very low birthrate but twins were incredibly rare. Ours hanging out in the double stroller were sort of neighborhood celebrities and came off as slightly freaky. I think in three months we saw one other set. This time we stopped counting after we saw ten sets. And all of them were under three.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Rome Senza Bambini

Rome Senza Bambini

We had what the New York Times recently referred to as a staycation. This seems to involve staying at home and doing stuff you wouldn’t usually do. I have not been to Rome in twelve years without trying to both use every possible moment to get archival work done while still spending good time with my kids, my husband and mother who have both made these trips possible. It’s amazing how much easier to navigate the place is when you’re not pushing a stroller or worrying about a cranky kid. Rome literally did our double stroller in at one point and by the time we left its major apparatus was duct tape. It is of course much easier to enjoy a slow late and delicious Roman meal without kids who need to be in an out in well under an hour before turning into mini volcanoes.

We had very good karma the whole time. For example every time I stuck my bank card in a bank machine I received both the card and cash back—this is not a foregone conclusion. Every time we attempted a mode of transit other than feet it worked—also not a forgone conclusion. And no one got hit by a motorino—always a miracle in my mind. I should say that Manuel and I navigate Rome quite differently. I do it totally by feel—oh I think the river is that way, if we go down this street we’ll get to the bookstore with the old guy and the baroque books, and then eventually it will spit us out at the pantheon. He prefers the map.

As always I’m amazed by the way in which Rome still sports a piazza and spectacle culture that I don’t think we really have in the states. Tuesday night after dinner over a drink just to the right of Bruno in Camp di Fiori we saw a fire eater/breather/dancer. This is not the crunchy fire cancers we have in Charlottesville. It’s more like my 17th century puking Frenchman whose ability to puke up wines and lettuces astounded. The guy managed to swallow fire and then blow it out his nose. He also danced with is up and down his arms. There must be a trick but I don’t know what it is. P:iazza Navona at Christmass time is either a nightmare or a spectacle depending on how you look at it. It’s covered with booths of crappy toys surrounding the newly refurbished Bernini fountains. They are by the way stunning at this point in their whiteness and sense of life. To me they represent Bernini at his best with animate marble moving water. Meanwhile the kinky finger puppet guy still comes around in the afternoon and does his show that involves finger puppets dancing rather sensually to some cheesy music.

When we were here in 2005 when Rebecca and Jonathan were two and a half they were absolutely terrified of the “big red man” That would be Santa Claus. Every time we saw him they screamed. Meanwhile Rebecca loved the carousel and would have spent the whole month on it and Jonathan tried desperately to like it. Ever time he turned pasty white, and once he even puked. But he didn’t want to miss out on anything.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Pope

Il Papa at the Spanish Steps

Manuel and I got a very slow start on Immaculate Conception of Mary Day. This is for the record the day celebrating Mary’s Immaculate Conception—she had to be without sin to bear Jesus. I was despite very good training in Catholic ritual at first confused and trying to work out the 17 day gestation. When I was in Italy for that event four years ago the entire city shut down so I saw no compelling reason to rush us out of the apartment.

As it turns out Rome has become more capitalist and you can do just about anything except go to a museum. I had read on Wikepedia—my favorite source—that “they” line the Spanish steps with flowers in honor of Mary. So off we went. The steps themselves had no flowers but we wandered over to the giant obelisk with Mary on the top of it and encountered a stunning display of flowers attended to by nuns in various habits. Meanwhile a service with relatively decent music was being blasted out into the piazza and people seemed to be lining up for something. So we did the obvious thing—lined up with them. A group of about 50 people in wheel chairs had been brought up to the front just across the piazza so it seemed whatever it was couldn’t be far off—who would park the infirm outside on a rainy day for a long time? I started hearing murmurings of Il Papa but it seemed unlikely since security consisted of a group of municipal police wandering around aimlessly in the center of a blockade. Finally I asked and yes indeed Il papa was on the way but not for two more hours. After some debate about whether or not to stay and a few field trips out for cappucina and pizza, we embraced the event. Given that I’m writing a book largely devoted to spectacles sponsored by the pope it could count as field work and my experience of seeing John Paul say New Years Mass at St Peters about twelve years ago was truly remarkable.

Predictably the spectacle started a good 90 minutes before the grand arrival. The security got tighter and tighter with municipal police, followed by Carabinieri, followed by terrifying dudes in long black coats scanning the crowd, followed by swiss guard higher ups with purple capes. Meanwhile a variety of priests wandered around. They were all incredibly good looking as I have found are most priests in Rome. (I’ve always had a thing for Roman priests which my to which my husband remains quite tolerant) The priest guards were just as fine. This little fantasy started when we went to St Peter’s and my sister and I were totally enamored of the French priests. That fascination prompted my father to say over and over “girls!” in that stop it tone that even at the ages of 41 and 38 we still receive. This event also involved a new kind of fashion police—higher up Italian police women who made most American models look sort of frumpy. I have no idea where they hid their firearms but clearly if one is to acquire some of those boots in shop windows at the Spanish steps being law enforcement is the way to go. (The aesthetic involved gorgeous hair not bothered by the rain, ravishing boots over painted on jeans, and very dramatic coats and scarves)

Meanwhile the crowd was getting bigger and bigger and tighter and tighter and we were making all kinds of friends. About twenty minutes before Il Papa appeared security got very intense with helicopters over head and men on roofs with guns. Meanwhile a service began which involved saying a particular “Ave Maria” ten times multiple times. One of the odd things for me as a Jew is that in these circumstances I always know all the words—that’s the Renaissance musicologist part. (I believe I’m not the only one with this particular cognitive dissonance) I did somehow feel that belting it out along with the crowd wouldn’t be quite kosher. If there is one thing that distinguishes Jews from Christians it is after all the Immaculate Conception. Meanwhile the crowd was roaring and a cardinal was blessing the infirm. He only got through about ten of them before Il Papa came up in his Pope mobile. We were about ten feet from him and Manuel spent much of the time holding up the cameras belonging to short Italians so he could take pictures for them. Meanwhile the sunset had turned Mary and the buildings around her into a stunning kaleidoscope of colors that were so real they looked unreal. The juxtaposition of his slow moving bullet proof vehicle surrounded by security guys surrounded by Renaissance piazza and a flower display to trump all others seemed surreal. There was even a floral SPQR. Most people around us seemed to experience the whole thing with a mix of reverence and humor. One woman was pretty convinced that the pope could stop the rain. When it started to pour the umbrellas went up causing a spectacle of it’s own which mixed loud laughter with ave marias.

The pope then did a service. It turns out he still comes with very good musicians. I noticed an instantaneous jump in quality when the choir connected with him took over from the choir who had been on duty for the previous two hours or so. I have to admit that having just come from giving a paper on Castrati in the service of the Pope I couldn’t help but think of what the fate of those talented boy sopranos would have been in the seventeenth century. The Pope himself speaks a very slow and heavily German accented Italian. He had me convinced when he talked about the difficult place we’re in and the business of being kind to everyone, which I took to directly slam Burlesconi’s fascist policies towards otherness of any kind. But he got impressively conservative relatively quickly and it was clear that the striving for purity of body and soul that he has in mind is rather puritan at best and not at all good for people of my gender persuasion.

The whole experience to me felt like a cross between a rock concert and a southern Baptist revival. There is an element of spectacle that Jews simply do not do and I recalled why every time we’ve been to Rome I’ve thought that the kids might convert. When they were two and a half and I worked at the Vatican library they used to come and meet me for lunch and were absolutely fascinated by the pope, the churches with giant ceilings, the cardinals in red dresses, and the “mommy’s and the babies” everywhere. There is a collective zealousness involved in a ritual observance for thousands of people that I have not seen anywhere else. And in a way it does count as fieldwork. I look all the time at pictures of processions and documents about them and I try very hard to imagine the soundscape—I can’t quite get it. But this with the incongruous mix of cell phones going off, boy sopranos, a german accented Italian orator, helicopters from above and the occasional speaker reverb, must approximate some of the feeling. It also occurs to me that part of my infatuation with spectacles and with giant stadium concerts must be exactly this sensory overload—what you actually see becomes only marginally important in the experience itself.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Conference extravaganza

This conference turned out to be quite the shindig, and perhaps one I ought not to have attempted without an entourage. The featured singer, Anna tarina Antonaccie came with one. She has a, a pianist, a few fans, some sort of handler. I luckily had a talented friend with me who was able to mend the tights I ripped at breakfast the morning of my paper. My getup might have made me at least approximate European chic had my little knee not been poking out all day. The paper was fine. I had a panic attack at two in the morning based on the idea that I had decided to give the wrong paper. The cultural mix has provided some hilarity. Trying to herd a group of Academics through a conference, when half of them are on German time, and the zone is clearly Italian makes for some cultural dissonance.

The event included tons of food. Most notable was an incredible banquet in the palazzo that was bought by JP Morgan in 1920's. Dinner was preceded by basically a house concert in the music room of this 17th century palazzo. The singer, one wit the entourage, is an amazing Italian operatic soprano. I know that's how they heard music in the 19h century but I've never heard that kind of voice in that kind of space. It was truly a ravishing assault on the ears. The whole room vibrated with her sounds. The only comparison I could think of was when our friend Kathleen let an aria rip in Rebecca and Jonathan's room when they were babies which stunned them out of their 13 month old fits. The dinner was a sort of five course affair and a nice older waiter looked out for my nut needs, which involved making from scratch two pasta dishes. The hotel was also ironically exactly the site of my worst running accident ever. The day before we left Rome in 2005 I went for a run and tripped on a hanger on the cobblestones and fell face forward hitting my head and a knee cap. Since I spent the entire next day on the plane the whole leg swelled up like a balloon.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Rome Tomorrow

It never fails that the lead up to international travel comes with drama. This may result from the spazziness that accompanies the inevitable compulsion to do everything that has not been doe for the last two months. In addition to various medical crises that left me working way more at the last minute than I’m comfortable with my computer had its own brush with death. While innocently looking for images for my power point I got onto a porn site and downloaded some virus from hell. I was looking for images; of eunuchs, fireworks, and vocal cords. Somehow this got me to a fairly obscene site. I was hoping that when Manuel got home from the soccer game he’d taken the kids to that the conversation would involve phrases like “oh it’s so hard to be married to a humanities professor let me push this button and fix it.” Instead there was lots of cursing and “I hope you’re backed up. No you can not use my computer ever.” So there I was saying in front of the kids saying. “Ok I promise I will never click on any sites with penises or breasts again” And no I can’t put the kiddie controls on the computer because it blocks my own book—Renaissance musicology is racy stuff. And for the record one of the images is owned by the Vatican. There is a certain irony in someone with a visual impairment getting zonked by a porn site bug—talk about an audience for whom the visuals are irrelevant. Three hours and much cursing later Manuel had fixed the computer and felt like a total stud. (he is of course)

Meanwhile the kids are not thrilled about my going away for a week. This is the first time I’ve been to Rome without them since they were born so although I have a heavy dose of maternal guilt and will miss them I am mostly itching with excitement. Eli is expressing his opinion by throwing things. Rebecca is asking over and over again, when will you be back, how many days? Jonathan has proclaimed he’s not sure he can get out of bed without me. The big ones have also put in special orders. Rebecca would like a picture of a fountain made by the man near the church in Trastevere and a couple of cookies with apricot in them. Jonathan wants a “model of a Roman poem” I have no idea what he’s talking about but when I asked if he was talking about Sapho I was told “no mommy that’s greek” He thinks if I go to the store in piazza navona I’ll find one—I have no idea what store.

It’s not by the way entirely logical to go away for the week at the end of the semester. But my students are bearing with me. Or at least so I thought until the grad students requested that we read Lacan. Somehow at the advice of various hirer authorities I determined that Zizek would be easier and after frantic emails to friends entitled “Zizek emergency” I got the text and struggled through it. For a low pedagogical moment I actually told them to please go ahead and read the wikepedia sites on Lacan and Zizek. But in the end I’m glad they made me read it. I learned a lot. (wait aren’t they supposed to say that about me”?)

The paper by the way features my usual cast of castrati, fountains, fireworks, etc.. One of my friends who kindly read and edited for me pointed out that she associates my work with puking, exploding, gushing and other such images. This is clearly a project that was nurtured while taking two reflux babies to Rome. Not only were they still puking but we spent much of that sabbatical looking at puking lions, spitting ladies, peeing men, etc…..

Ok now it’s time to continue obsessively puttering around, printing crucial documents, finding hidden Euros, and maybe try to sleep!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

SIx kids and a dog

Just a few highlights from the first two days of six kids under 7. My sister and I each have three. And for the record we are both done—all Gordon girl kitchens are closed. Eli and Ethan, aged 3 and 4 are having a slumber party in one room while Hannah and Jonathan and Rebecca aged 5 and 6 are in another. Their room looks like a tornado ran through it. Jacob bunks with his parents.

1 Dinner is not a peaceful affair but my 18 month old nephew does LOVE gingerbread pumpkin trifle and ate his weigh in it.

2. Rebecca finger knitted a pink bracelet for her grandfather which he was kind enough to wear. She’s slowly redecorating her grandparent’s house with pictures, pipe cleaner sculptures and quite a bit of furniture rearranging She’s also secretly teaching her cousin to spell words she things are bad “Butt” “Boodey” (That’s booty) It’s secret in a sort of shout it from the roofs kind of way.

3 Let me apologize to the patrons who paid good money to see the terra cotta soldiers at National Geographic on Thanksgiving. Yes that was my kid wearing a bright gold yarn colored necklace and squeezing his tiny body up in front of everyone to read the text. And yup he was also the one sitting on the floor of trying to find the statues in his book. The one who thought the barrier in front of the chariot was some sort of punching bag was also mine. And no the one I carried screaming out of the gift store wasn’t mine—that one belonged to my sister. It is tall, blond and coordinated so you know it’s not mine.

4. Jonathan managed to get his grandmother to make six Roman family costumes. Yes she is super crafty grandma which is part of the reason I have a complex—I make nothing. Jonathan is of course a senator and is feeling rather thwarted since his whole plan for how this would work fell apart when the other two boys insisted on being soldiers. Rebecca has announced that she is vesta. I’m not sure about how I feel about my daughter aspiring to be a vestal virgin and a cleaner of hearths but whatever…….

5. For after dinner entertainment the two girls were doing ballet to folk music, the little boy were riding around on their battery operated vespas saying they’re “gonna shoot the girls” “bang bang you dead” The oldest boy was begging for his favorite song Streets of Loredo—and no I don’t know what that says about my son but it can’t bode well for junior high. The littlest baby was just trying to get in the way.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Rebecca's adventures

Rebecca’s teacher emailed me last night to ask if she could do anything in our time of need. Jonathan had spread the news of Rebecca’s adventures through the first grade. Note that Mr. “I don’t know what I’d do without her” began to tantrum the moment the words head injury were uttered because he so hates to ride the bus alone. He explained in details to his class that his sister had a bad concussion but not a brain hemorrhage and that she had enjoyed the catscan where she got to ride a bed on wheels into the tube and a donut took a picture of her brain. (this was all information he gleaned from his twin) He forgot the part about how she was totally fine the next day—tired but bouncing around as good as new talking on the phone to her cousin, redecorating the house, and torturing her baby brother. She took great pleasure in telling her cousin in one of three 30 minute phone calls that her parents had made her go to Sunday school despite her dire condition. It’s true that we interpreted the concussion behavior as exhaustion, sulkiness, and perhaps another bug. But once she puked, had trouble speaking and sitting up we knew something was up.

Rebecca also told Jonathan that Mommy thought the doctor was an idiot and that the doctor didn’t know how to answer any of Mommy’s questions. It’s important to remember that little pitchers not only have big ears but extraordinarily big mouths. The doctor earned my wrath by first explaining that 50% of kids who have catscans before they are 18 months don’t graduate high school. (Rebecca had one at 9 months so she’s already sunk) It went down hill from there when he next got down in Rebecca’s face to try to get her to talk and then repeated over and over “so you didn’t know where she was for fifteen minutes” Are you sure you didn’t hear her for that long. I explained repeatedly that we have three kids, had an extra kid around, and one playing the violin so no even with my nearly supersonic ears I heard nothing. As for what happened our best guess is that she fell going up the stairs and blacked out at least for a little while. As for the dorky doctor his information was totally incorrect and he didn’t even know there was such a thing as a pediatric dose of radiation so clearly he was ill-informed and gets an F in bedside manner. Once again I’m amazed by the fact that getting good health care for your child depends so much on your own advocacy and yet some people don’t think we have a problem.

As Rebecca fell asleep on me I couldn’t help but flash back to the last time she had a catscan which was when she was nine months old and had an absence seizure—the kind where the kid turns blue and stops moving. What I remember from that time was total terror at watching my baby being wheeled into the tube. And I also recall that they finally sent us home when the doctor came to check on us and she was crawling around and I was sacked out in the pediatric crib. Despite the chaos, the exhaustion, my extreme desire to cancel class, and yet another day without a Rome paper written I did take a moment to look at our 6 and half year old miracle babies and marvel at how well they’ve done. And I took another moment to think of how thankful I am for the support we’ve gotten from friends and family over the last years of family building.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Do Not Bring Your Child To class

I learned about the Eva/Ave and Virgin/Whore dichotomies in my first college class. These oppositions actually fail to plague most adult women I know but the super mom/disaster mom problem seems more vexing. Yesterday fell on the super mom end. Despite a failure to acquire any child care it included an efficient run with fabulous female friends, smooth transfer of sick daughter from husband, acuqring of plane reservations for said husband to join me in Rome, completion of three letters of recommendation, entertaining of child with delicious sushi lunch, practicing with gemelli, reading of 17th century pamphlets that have languished on hard drive for two years, making train cake for Eli’s b-day and cookies for book group, buying birthday present and sending husband to Bodos for nutritious bagel dinner for all.

That by the time I arrived at the trailer this morning I was soaked to the skin by the incoming monsoon and my purple tights had already ripped should have suggested that the brilliant plan for Eli to join me and my women and music students for a discussion of Eminem and Tori Amos’s discrepant versions of Bonnie and Clyde might not comprise the set up for mother of the year. Since teaching prevented either Manuel or I from going to the Thanksgiving lunch at the public school, we have failed to plan an elaborate birthday party for Eli, and Rebecca’s hair is so dirty it features it’s own ecology, the reasons for not being mother of the year already seemed impressive.

The birthday boy looked incredibly cute tromping into to class in his fireman rain coat. Though we were done with the specifics of the various “I used to love her but then I had to kill her songs” He must have picked up the vibe of violence and immediately started prancing around with a six foot umbrella saying “hut to fwee fo hut to frwee of….” Then came a long discourse on power rangers and motorcycles while the students attempted to discuss their final papers and a little bit of a fit because he wanted to go to Daddy’s work. He’s in one of those phases where despite the fact that Daddy neglected to say Happy Birth Day, Daddy is still the favorite. His next act of rebellion involved a full on tantrum because I rudely refused to allow him to turn off the switch that turned off all the lights in the basement. This culminated in me carrying him under one arm with his legs kicking, and the two bags of toys and snack Manuel had delivered with him on the other arm, up the stairs screaming through the library. The whole escapade likely sent my teaching evaluations for a serious nose dive and served as very effective birth control for the students. Manuel I'm sure got sensitive new age guy points for walking around campus with "miniwell" while I'm sure I confirmed the patriarchy's worst fears about female professors and their unruly tendency to reproduce.

Back in my office during office hours he managed to send an email to a colleague and empty out a book shelf while I helped students with papers. But his real coup came while I was engaged in a “feel my pain” conversation with a co-conspirator on the my cell phone and Eli was on the office phone telling the “train master” how to “dwive the twain to the twaila” To my glee this involved ten minutes of turn right, go up the hill, look at the ecscavator, go down the hill, look at the construction site, stop for a snack…… Eventually I head someone saying through the phone “Is Bonnie Gordon there” Yup the genius little three year old had dialed 3333 which got him the parent help line. The poor woman had done some research to find out who the hell I was and was trying desperately to get off the phone with my son.

The birthday boy finally cooperated by taking a long enough nap for Rebecca and Jonathan to do a stunning job of decorating the train cake It involves multiple gummy bear families, twizzler train tracks, and a special birthday statue of some sort. It’s shockingly minimalist for them and for once does not involve more sprinkle than cake. He had previously promised to be potty trained by the age of 3 but so far no luck.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Post Conference Haze

Jonathan came out of his room to ask me to check Rebecca’s forehead. He was worried because she had fallen asleep faster than usual and “I just don’t know how I’d go on if something happened to her” They are such an old married couple…... His anxiety probably came from Eli’s current illness which involves an overnight fever of 104.4 followed by a day time with motrin fever of 101 and a kid that has more energy than the rest of us combined. Since he puked the second we put him back in his crib we let him sleep with us but since he insists on sleeping with the lights on and literally kicked his father out of bed I at least didn’t sleep all that well last night. His two throats, located on either side of belly button hurt, and he announced to the doctor “I am not sick you do not check my ears” (Since the AMS 75h birthday gala kept me up quite late Saturday night that makes for two nights of very little sleep and that I am definitely too old for. Despite the pig flu quite a few musicologists were wiling to share my flask of high quality cognac. The flask says “mommy’s first Chanukah”)

I had planned to write about the fun filled American musicological society meeting in Philadelphia but I’m afraid most of my thoughts could be taken the wrong way so I’ll keep them out of cyberspace. And since I got home I’ve been attempting to juggle schedules to accommodate the above mentioned illness and the babysitters impending trip—note to self do not teach on the same day as husband ever again. Nevertheless One of my favorite moments at the conference involved walking to the elevator very slowly with a nice guy who retired from Duke 20 years ago and has been a member of the AMS for over sixty years. He informed me hat my very white colleague who gave a fine paper on Haydn’s Scottish songs “orates like Obama” and that we have “a nice looking young faculty up at UVa.” I seem incapable of remembering the guys name but heard from said colleague that he wrote an article on the French horn fifty years ago that was so definitive that no one will ever have to write on the French horn again. As always I appreciated the uncanny ability of many scholars to ask questions that in fact had nothing interrogative about them but simply involved restating their own articles and books. I managed this year to insult only two people and at least one of them was almost deliberate. The inability to read name tags every so often gets me in some sticky situations since I inevitably end up saying something slightly catty about someone I’m standing next to. I try never to speak in elevators about anything but the weather and the quality of the food.

I can not find on my computer the abstract I wrote for the conference I’m going to in Rome in two weeks. This whole conference has me quite nervous. I’m hoping the missing abstract gives me a viable excuse to simply write what I’m thinking about now instead of what I told them I was thinking about two weeks ago. I’m attempting to have those thoughts relate to fireworks fountains and castrati and not to fevers, babysitters, and piles of mail.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

If you give a mouse a muffin

Why does going on a trip so quickly morph into a Herculean endeavor or at least the grown up version of the book, If you give a moose a muffin….. This week’s trip prep began by attempting obsessively to listen to manic Mondays and finding that itunes 9 had gotten itself onto my computer; the new version took 15 minutes to figure out. Then the babysitter innocently emailed a picture of Eli. But since my phone serves as the official communication mechanism of the geriatric technological challenged short sighted people it can not get pictures. This led to a ridiculous amount of time attempting to view the photo on the Verizon site which proved almost impossible because they still think we live in Long Island. While on hold I learned that the person who is slowly sabotaging my research program by recalling now TWENTY ONE books added three more this week which resulted in an office clean. The office clean turned up info about an upcoming trip to Rome. So I tried to make the plane reservation late at night but managed enough type-o’s to make it for utterly random dates. I promptly called United Airlines and explained that I’m visually limited and made a mistake resulting in a need to change my nonrefundable non changeable ticket—quaint typoes can be expensive on the airline website. The nice young man from India was not able to change the reservation but did ask if I’d thought about laser surgery--wow what a great idea..... Ultimately he cancelled the reservation and I made another one and then the credit card got put on hold because they couldn’t figure out why we were making so many plane reservations. And note to self before launching into a tantrum at the PTO be prepared to solve the problem probably the day before you go on a trip. During a dispute about whether or not we should donate raffle tickets for free to the children receiving free and reduced lunch (living below the poverty line) I suggested that it was a no-brainer and that I’m sick of buying $25 coupon books which raise exactly $2 is then quickly funneled into programs that enrich my kids who already plenty enriched by things like violin lessons, piano lessons and sabbaticals in Rome. Now I’m the parent on the committee that deals with these issues. This involves among other things helping to plan a Saturday field trip to UVa geared for children from the housing projects. (This is a great cause and I’m excited about it and UVa readers you will be hearing from me) None of this includes the regular make sure that all of the minute logistics like planning babysitters, making a handout reminding the kids to practice, ordering online groceries, and attempting to engage in scholarship ever day.

This weeks scholarly discoveries of note involved decided that contrary to popular belief Jefferson was probably not a very good violin player; none of his music was ever played and it would have been much to hard for him to play after his hand injury. And I found a nice little anecdote about a set of festivities that started to go belly up because of the rain and the cold—the thunder and firework machines didn’t work well in the cold and the soldiers were to cold to make loud noises. (the discoveries are mostly notable because they could be made in tiny snippets of time).

Meanwhile the kids have been in bed for an hour and the little one is singing This Land is Your Land at the top of his lunges and the big two keep coming out with pressing questions like, will there be music at your conference:? will you email us? Can you take a picture of the liberty bell? Did you email my kindergarten teacher and tell her I miss her? Will you show your friends the video of my piano recital? My friend Gabriella who visits once a year on the way to this conference probably thinks we're all totally crazy.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Go with the Flow

Go with the flow. Yesterday despite at least 73 things that needed to get done turned into a go with the flow sort of situation. That meant sadly that I never found out what happened to the Roman woman who in 1652 lactated wine. She probably wont make it into my book but still I wanted to figure out how it all ended. As late as bus pick I still had the well oiled machine model in my head and had planned to write a letter of recommendation while Rebecca worked on art with Eli and Jonathan played with his knights. But while orchestrating this afternoon I failed to notice that a birthday party for the stuffed animals was in the works. The first grades bring your favorite stuffed animal to school day set the creative juices in motion. By the time Jonathan went off to soccer practice, tantruming the whole way, Rebecca had decided we needed to make birthday cupcakes for Leopard. And no “cake in a box” would not do she needed the “chocolate kind where you use the sifter, the mixer, the fractions cups, the microwave and a little bit of cappuccino” Leopard had more elaborate birthday cupcakes than most of my friends and family get. Rather than worry about getting them in bed on time and doing everyone’s practicing I just went with it. Manuel took a while to warm up to this plan, which is a role reversal since usually I’m the one trying to rush things along and he’s the one trying to get me to take a chill pill. This going with the flow involved waiting to start Shabbat until each animal had been elaborately clothed in paper costumes including sir blue bear of Charlottesville with a blue crown and green cape, the toga wearing giraffe with a happy birthday neck wrap, and other festive outfits. There was also ohming as Eli set the table with EVERY SINGLE spoon we own and took a swig of my wine. All animals sat at a hand made table with plates of grated cheese, pretzels and sausage because animals eat meat. After dinner Jonathan explained to his siblings that sir blue bear of Charlottesville had risked his life by slaying a penguin without a helmet. The animals also performed some ritual involving cutting of the leg of something or other “to see if he really had a curse because in ancient Rome if they had a dead ox a priest would slice open it’s let to see if it had a disease and if it did they knew that bad luck was coming” Rebecca announced very seriously that “This is a matter of life and not of power” Bedtime slowed down as well. The actual cupcakes were the bribe for taking a bath which meant everyone had to truck downstairs and we had to sing before desert. And then the animals had to be tucked into their slumber party and set up perfectly. The reality is that on most school nights we don’t have an extra hour in our schedule to accommodate birthday festivities for a stuffed Leopard but when it’s possible to simply slow down life to the pace of the children’s bizarre minds it’s much more pleasant. The wine that Manuel and I consumed of course helped the situation. But this marked a nice contrast to the night before when Eli was so mad about bed time that I actually said to him “what’s up your butt” prompting him to say “poop you need to change my diaper” Today I’ll write that letter of recommendation and find out what happened to the lactating lady—my sense is it probably didn’t end well for her. This whole spectacle might also explain why my research has moved more and more towards bizarre and ephemeral events.

Thursday, November 5, 2009


Not a single one of my undergraduates had heard of riot grrrrrls, Anita Hill or the Promise Keepers. “We live under a rock called college” an especially sassy one explained. But when after watching some Bikini Kill videos I asked how many of them identified as feminists, instead of the eye rolling and groans that this generation gives to such a question they said “well do you mean before this class or after because I guess now I am” I’d like to think they did not say this simply to make me happy as it was one of those rare moments in the classroom when it felt like progress had been made. The two male students also admitted to thinking at least six out of the ten sexist statements addressed by the riot grrrl fanzine. (men move beyond sexism, you are just inventing the problem because you are bored), A for honesty. By this point we had dissolved into me trying to explain why wearing lipstick doesn’t necessarily destroy your feminist credentials. (Just to add to the bizarreness of the moment I had dropped my favorite mac lipstick on the floor while fidgeting with my purse and was trying hard to look for it without the students knowing what I was doing) No I’m not making this up. Somehow the whole thing got reigned back to theories of subculture and networks. Rebecca meanwhile has been greeting me with the phrase “man up” which makes no sense but can only be bad for feminism.

Advising week here brings its own kind of chaos; the idea that we the faculty care deeply about the individual programs of our students tends to seem better when it’s not advising week and doesn’t coincide with teacher work days for the public schools. Mine are also reproducing; every time I look at the list I seem to have two more. But I did learn that you can take PE for credit and I’ve been encouraging all my students to take yoga. The one who seemed most zealous about the PE option is the frat boy with a heavy southern accent who is going to play ice hockey. I didn’t know we did that down here and said things like “you mean like on the ice, as in the ice rink.” He informed me with a strait face that he needed to reduce his efforts to tank up on econ courses for com school grooming in order to accommodate rush. He was thinking of stress relief but seemed moved by my suggestion that it could only help to increase his cool capital. My other favorite student had long dread locks and is very involved in global development. It’s hard not to find captivating a student who uses the words dude and capitalist machine in the same sentence but after 40 minute of talking big ideas inspires the phrase “um do you want to write some of this down”

The children have survived Halloween and though they are limited to one or two pieces of candy a day for rewards for various useless tasks I’m slowly turning into a tootsie roll. Parent teacher conferences, which occurred in between my two classes on Tuesday revealed that both are doing fine. Jonathan did write the teacher a note saying that he would like to “do research on ancient Rome and Greece” They are apparently going to see if they can accommodate that. Rebecca, who can be a monster at home, seems to be an angel teachers pet at school. Supposedly that means she’s well adjusted. Rebecca came home from school today with a lovely new t-shirt she’d picked up in the nurses office. She had a nose bleed (as in a nose picking injury) which resulted in a speck of blood and a new shirt. Nurse Brown said she could keep the beautiful black shirt with silver glitter on it.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Hotel Rooms

The highlight of the Folger symposium for me was the earnest grad student who very earnestly suggested that I might want to get in touch with Bonnie Gordon because my project sounded so similar to hers. She was pretty sure Professor Gordon would be accessible on email. (She obviously had not seen the inbox with at least ten unanswered student emails in it) There is something refreshing about being at a conference for another discipline and being largely anonymous. Only twice did I have the urge to jump up and down and say “hey I’m a tenured professor too………” I forgot how much I love the Folger—it was a real haven for me in graduate school.

But the real highlight remains of course the large and lovely hotel room alone which seemed delicious enough that I dodged dinner invitations last night. The morning Eli and I left for our great adventure on the train did wonders for making the solo morning seem even better. See below for the short version of thurs morn in dialogue.

Eli I’m goin on the twain twan twain (in a song) I’m gonna stay with Joyce and Papa all by myself.

Jonathan omg I can’t take it I’m going to die. Kick kick scream scream. I can not go to school today I am too devastated.

Rebecca Mooooommmmy get me dressed. I have nothing to wear. You promised I could have another playdate with Haley. I will not practice the piano with anyone but you.

Eli I’m going on the twain twain twain. I got my chocolate milk in my packbak

J Noooooooo this is the wrong brand of cheerios…….

R Mooooommy Jonathan is tamtruming too much. We need to take him back to his therapist. (She means occupational therapist)

Me Jonathan I am putting you in your Tupperware until you turn 7. Rebecca you have a closet full of clothes put something on the law says you can’t go to school naked. Eli stop talking now.

Pause for three seconds

All quietly eating the wrong brand of cheerios. Rebecca is getting dressed. Jonathan is reading.

Eli Jonathan is reading to me………

Are all children bipolar/?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Twains and Hotels

Tomorrow night I will be in a hotel room in Washington DC ALL BY MYSELF. To be sure I look forward to an intense few days of talking about theater and space in early modern Europe at the Folger. But there is nothing better to a mother of small children than a hotel room with a bathtub, a tv and a nice cozy bed. The room does tend to need the trusty “Mommy’s first Hanukah” flask and chocolate. Before the hotel Eli and I are taking the “twain” together and he will stay with Joyce and papa all by himself after “mommy stays and chats a while” He also plans to get a hair cut, go to a "restawant", play fire trucks and do some fighting games with Papa.

The Last time I braved the train with the children alone was during the winter holidays. The highpoint was Rebecca asking every African American person if they observed Kwanza, which she had just learned about in school. Jonathan then informed the people on the train who by then were wondering who had let me reproduce that “we don’t celebrate Christmas because we do not believe that Jesus Christ is our savior” In theory Halloween ought to cause us less problems. Manuel and the big kids have a handout that ought to get them through my absence and the gemelli look forward to being in charge of Daddy. Apparently if they see the words homework and practicing written down they actually do it as opposed to when I’m here and it involves titillating dialogue like “no the violin bow is not a sword” “yes playing the star wars theme on the piano is a sign of genius but please play your five finger patterns,” and no neither dim wit nor butt are first grade site words. Last nights round of dim wit and butt following on the heels of advising ten undergrads most of whom want to go to the useless comm. school pushed me to stuff the boys in front of the History channel and plunk myself in a bubble bath with Ann Sexton poetry. Manuel came home with Rebecca to this scene and busted out laughing.

Monday, October 26, 2009

good twin bad twin

Rebecca and Jonathan have been perfecting the good twin bad twin performance since the womb. This involves one twin acting like Satan’s love child and the other performing perfect kid. Tonight’s iteration of this old pattern involved a 47 minutes tantrum from Jonathan about not wanting to eat dinner; it featured kicking, enraged screaming and pathetic tears which are always particularly dramatic on an underweight kid. “No one understands my pain,” “I just can’t resist kicking” And the trump card of “you know mommy I have a sore throat, head ache, muscle ache and stomach ache and must have the H1N1 flu” This prompted Rebecca to very aggressively eat her roast chicken “it’s the best chicken ever” She even ostentatiously sampled steamed mustard greens. “Aren’t I being helpful by eating new foods and cleaning the table” “Do you think we need to take Jonathan back to the feeding Therapist” “Don’t you think we’re a little old for this sort of behavior…..” I was not in the best place for this little performance having spent the entire day attempting to write a grant proposal that is due in a week. My new approach involves leaving myself exactly a week to get things done; as it turns out bibliographic control of Thomas Jefferson may take longer than that. Thankfully I have very smart friends and at least three of them wrote me sentences today. I’m assuming this counts as collaboration not honor code violation. And if anyone can think of a way to talk about fiddling that doesn’t end up sounding obscene that would be helpful as well. TJ is taken very seriously down here.

I set my running watch to clock the amount of time I spent dealing with work email and at 63 minutes I am still not caught up. This does not include any of the fun stuff like snide remarks to friends and family, or attempting to figure out exactly what time on Weds four women with 9 children between them and multiple jobs can run. We’ve settled I believe on 8:35 at last check. My husband finds these efforts worthwhile as he sees running as key to my sanity and thus his—he said this weekend he lives in fear of a knee injury for me.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Darth Duckie Big Books and Gravity

My mom’s high school friend asked why I would write on a blog if I have no time. It gets ten minutes and it counts as writing warm up. No book this week thanks to an entire week in special collections. That I only figured out I had to do this talk a week ago turns out to have been a good thing. My favorite moment involved the 15th century choirbook. The special collections librarian and I had to crawl under the table to place it in the middle of the floor so all could see it. Since I regularly stand on the table to turn on the projector in the music seminar room I’m used to undignified postures.
In addition to working on this talk this week inaugurated the 10 days of Halloween which features in our house Darth Duckie, Cleopatra, and Blue Jedi. Thankfully Clopatras head dress covered up the fact that her hair had not been washed for a week. She has ordered up a lite saber too and is apparently not plagued by the allergy to anachronism that prompts her twin to go nuts when I strategically places batman in a cage in his play mobile coliseum.
Darth Duckie was utterly fearsome at the school costume party at Barnes and Noble until he saw anyone with a mask on and dissolved into a blood curdling “Someone is trying to kill me scream” and insisted on being carried with head buried in my shoulder and lite saber in my purse. Darth Duckie also doubles as a rock star and after a rousing round of This Land is Your Land complete with guitar slapping and rock star gyrating informed us that he does not sing We shall Overcome because “that’s for girls” (another victory for feminism)
Darth Dukie’s operatic demise was followed for me by an undergraduate Opera Gala in which our industrious and talented singers managed to stage about five opera scenes and got over 50 people to spend $70 a plate for the event. (My colleague and I got comp tickets) The nice Wagnerian soprano who has sung at Bayreuth wanted to know which of the students singing “is yours” We claimed the one that would be genetially impossible, the six foot tall blond one.
In addition to being totally blown away by their talent and indusriousness I was fascinated by the undergraduate boob. They all had on amazing dresses with very little fabric across the chest and no room from bras. Their boobs stood strait out. Anyone who has nursed understands that twenty something boobs defy gravity but they also provide insulation. By the end of the evening I had on my dress, my sweater, a scarf and my colleague’s suit jacket and was still cold enough that my fingers started to turn white at the tips. The undergrads were not cold.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Kid sized Tupperward

My friend Liz tells me I can become the richest Tupperware lady on the block if I market my elementary school sized bin. I use the bin to put Jonathan in when he starts warming up for a tantrum. It is big enough that his little head sticks out the top and he can stretch out. It stops everyone in their tracks and he starts to laugh. If you want such a bin you merely have to order grocery delivery from Charlottesville’s new amazing retail relay which can bring organic vegetables, Trader Joe’s brownie mix and a child container. They do not yet have a bin large enough for husbands. Rebecca meanwhile continues on her search for a “real” magic set. She remains extremely disappointed that the one she received as a gift does not allow her to turn her brother into a rabbit. She knows that with the proper props and outfits this can be done and has been working sort of obsessively on acquiring thing to get the job done. She seems to have missed the memo that people like Kircehr started sending out in the seventeenth century which explained that magic involves TRICKS. My showing her pictures of 17th century illustrations of such tricks did nothing to ease her pain.

In other news my undergrads gave me a disdainful scoff when I admitted I was not familiar with Beyonce’s “single girls” This followed somehow from a discussion of timbre in performances of Schuman’s Frauenliebe und Leben” (A 19th century male fantasy of a woman’s life) They seemed to think that Beyonce enacts the modern version—not sure how Clara would feel about that. The fact that in preparation for my talk on Friday I have acquainted myself with the delightfully boring music of Campioni seemed not to impress them. They were equally unmoved by my delight over Thomas Morley’s part book format musical examples.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Light saber two arrived today. Nothing warms the heart of a feminist mother like seeing her two sons duke it out with large plastic weapons. It’s especially becoming on a three year old who is shorter than the phallus itself. Of course his older brother recognized talent in the blood. “Eli I wish to train you in the jedi arts……” The little Jedi punctuated their training duel with a rousing chorus of “Go down light sava way down in Egypt land tell old phawo wet my people go…..”

Meanwhile Rebecca’s piano teacher had the very sweet idea that she and I should play a duet at her recital. La princepesa tends in our “rehearsals” to channel a cross between the yelling Cuban piano teacher I had as a child and the scowling Israeli viola teacher I had in College—both of whom specialized in thug pedagogy. Imperious does not begin to describe the tone of ,” MOMMY ONE TWO THREE FOUR”

Jedi 1 and 2 and their commanding sister seemed to be smoothly in bed by 8 allowing me to work on my talk for Friday. The talk goes down on record for me as the first academic gig I’ve negotiated by Facebook chat. I was so happily thinking about Kircher’s pictures of echoes and trying to figure out what Thomas Jefferson was doing in a pleasure garden in London that I didn’t notice Rebecca sneak by my little study nook. Luckily super Dad was on the ball and after finding her empty bed located her in our bathtub with a pile of cotton balls, Q-tips, a pad, crayons, lipstick, and a silk scarf. She claimed she was doing NOTHING DADDY. Back to Kircher, Thomas Jefferson and The Castrato.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

calculators and spread sheets

Yesterday required a calculator and a spread sheet: road race for the oldest boy, soccer for the middle boy, art for the girl, gymnastics for the girl, birthday party for gemelli, one twin out for slumber party, other twin picks up another six year old boy to replace missing sister, oldest boy out for... man birthday party with lots of scotch, extra set of twins in and out for the day, littlest boy being three yikes!!!!!!!!!!

Remarkably by 9:00 pm Rebecca had gone of to her slumber party with sub zero sleeping bag and pink hello kitty hair brush in tow. (Her parting words were, "ok guys you need to hold it together while I’m gone”) Manuel was ensconced in a bar with his man friends and the boys were all asleep having eaten very blue cake and watched the classic Batman meets Scooby doo. The guest refused to sleep in Rebecca’s bed claiming it was too girly for him. My suggestion that his sleeping bag might mitigate the potential gender bending was met with scoff worthy of a teenage girl. The young man was not too manly to agree with Jonathan that soccer games are better than practices because “we can feel the breeze moving freely through our hair....” This warm fuzzy feeling about the breeze suggests that our kid, despite his facility with a Light Saber, does not have the killer instinct on the field. He scored two goals yesterday thanks to a coach who I’ve already decided without meeting that I love. Jonathan explained that his goals were scored “with the assistance of another player, Santiago. Santiago is the coaches son and his Dad told him that if he passed the ball to me and I scored he would get a piece of chocolate”

The shocking smoothness of the evening allowed me to think about my surprise appearance on Friday as part of a series about primary sources. I’m feeling a little ambivalent about primary sources these days since the between the complicated schedules of the offspring, the students, and the committees I don’t actually encounter them frequently enough and am pondering projects centered on google and youtube. Last week’s intimate encounter with one involved a gross misreading. Let’s just say that when you’re really hungry and fantasizing about dinner it’s best not to spend too much time trying to figure out why in the middle of the seventeenth century the Pope would hold up a fish in a procession. No it’s not a bizarre twist on fertility rite which would have been clearer had I not read the word spada as fish instead of sword. To be fair the fact that the stage machines also involved boobs that spit out wine did get me thinking about fertility and my three days of research on such rites in 17th century Rome were certainly interesting—just totally irrelevant for my own project.

Friday, October 16, 2009

21 Reasons why the book is not done

This is from an email I wrote to some friends almost two years ago in which I simply started jotting down the things standing between me and productivity. I was on leave at the time.

1. Spent hours fretting about how to replace two babysitters, who are going on spring break next week (which I forgot about because I’m not teaching) while my husband is out of town. Note: we love these sitters, but no one shared their upcoming travel plans until now.

2. Tried to figure out where, on one week’s notice to have a birthday party for our five- year-old twins and their preschool class of fifteen. The only requirement is that it must involve minimal effort from me and satisfy their passion for weapons, yoga, princesses, knights and Pharaoh. Preferably, this should not involve small choking hazards, like Batman’s head, which my 18-month-old ingested this morning. I emailed all possible sources about this crucial matter hoping to gain at least bibliographic control.

3. Spent 40 minutes offering advice on sleep training a baby to the wife of a colleague from another department who had an unfortunate encounter with another wife is now desperate enough that even when I said I was really trying to work while my sleep trained baby was napping she begged me to chat.

4. Explained to at least four bewildered first-year students that I have no idea of the whereabouts of the political science colleague whose office is next to mine, and that I would not know how to find him even in the event of a natural disaster.

5. Tried to figure out how not to spend the kids’ college savings on dried mangoes without any sugar added to them. Couldn’t the feeding therapist have introduced dried apricots or raisins?

6. Became obsessed with trying to remember the source in which Bertolt
Brecht claimed that he and Gallileo were spiritually connected. I found a nice quotation in a German book, and after fighting with the translation for a while decided I didn’t like either guy very much.

7. At husband’s request, wrote an email to the pediatrician asking if we have to worry about the aforementioned Batman’s-head-ingesting incident. I explained that the head has not emerged, as best I can tell, but I’m pretty sure he chewed it up since I saw little pieces emerging from the sides of his mouth. The Doctor has not yet replied. I also spent some time trying to replace batman so that the older son will not figure out that younger son ate the prized possession.

8. Read and wrote over ten short emails about job candidates in Persian and women’s studies. I write on the Italian Renaissance and the unfinished book is on castrati so neither search helped my general productivity. Luckily a nice colleague took care of most thinking about the latter so I had only to read. Leave is apparently a flexible concept on a campus without enough female faculty.

9. For an article tried to figure out what music Marlene Dietrich played on the piano in the movie where she encoded messages from Russian enemies in a score. First I had to remember the movie’s name—this involved too much time with Google; my new favorite research tool.

12. Debated the worth of sneaking into the grad student office to heat my soup up in the microwave against the risk of encountering the lurking grad student whose email I was pretending I hadn’t gotten. I ate the soup cold.

13. Put off writing three letters of recommendation for students from my old job but did waste some time looking for old letters, most of which seem to have gotten lost in the move. One is for a fellowship in media literacy, which I think means listening to NPR.

14. Unpacked one of the ten boxes of files in my office, which I moved into eight months ago. I was hoping to find folders from my last research trip to Rome, since the Pope has now closed his holy library and I need to revamp my entire research agenda—no luck on the folder. I did find one fabulous picture of a castration from a 16th-century medical book. I also found some cute postcards with which to decorate my office walls. My office is in a trailer in my husband’s parking lot--embodying my status as spousal hire, and the walls are great for hanging since they take pushpins so well. I resisted looking on ebay for Elvis posters.

14. Spent way too much time on Craig’s List Rome attempting to find an apartment for less than my annual salary that can accommodate, me, three kids, my husband, and my mother who will be my co-parent when my husband goes back to work. No luck.

15. Despite serious feminist theory chops including, an apparently useless graduate certificate in women’s studies, I failed to explain to my daughter why the Barbie her father bought her at Goodwill will lead to her ultimate demise. Luckily my son explained that Barbie is “sexist” and really “not good for women”

16. Attempted, twice, to gain cosmic points for calling my grandparents on the phone. I failed twice: first because they didn’t want their dinner to get cold, and the second time because they were watching the presidential debate and told me I should be watching it too.

17. Tried to back up documents, since good friend lost all of hers. I realized that, in fact, the days when you accomplish nothing are the hardest to replace should my ancient sputtering lap tap with keyboard that can not type w’s or s’s chose to die—I failed after 20 minutes of fighting with mean computer and at a low point called it a tootie butt.

19. Laughed, when my husband responded to my conclusion (after countless phone calls to venues and emails to noted experts) that the only solution to above mentioned birthday-party conundrum was to have it at our house with a rousing “Let’s do it.”

20. Allowed husband to redeem himself by successfully backing up precious documents for me while I watched TV. He has also started plans for buying me a new computer which will allow me to email and back up at the same time.

21. Spent five minutes writing the first eight items on this list and a few seconds every time something else ridiculous came up. This, I believe, means two fewer pages in my book for the year.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Three Year Old From Hell

I should know by now that when my chair jumps three feet in the air it’s not an earthquake but is an SUV crashing into my trailer. I’ve been in more car accidents sitting at my desk than most people have in their life time. And I should know that it’s going to be a long day when I get to my office, look at the poster that’s been on the wall for a month and realize that it says I’m giving a talk in a week—oops. This moment of truth would have been easier swallow had it not been the morning after the attack of the three year old in desperate need of a light saber. Mom if you’re reading this let’s not ever send one lightsabrer to the house; clearly we need at least two if not three of all divine weapons. Jonathan’s new “holy grail” prompted my previously very sweet three year old—the one who wakes up singing and smiling spent most of the afternoon face down on the filthy kitchen floor screaming "I need a puple litesaba to shoot down the dawk side....." I’m pretty sure Anakin was out of diapers and could say R’s before he got a lightsaber …Jonathan was meanwhile huddled in the corner crying about Eli ruining his litesaber and hitting him--yes the big brother is starting to get beat up by the little brother. I give il picolino an A for sophisticated drama and vocabulary and for pushing his close enough to the edge that when Manuel arrived home to three screaming kids and asked me why I was sticking my tongue out at Eli. I actually responded "he started it...... " This may explain why at the talk I went to about Kant last night every time a nice French guy I was talking to lapsed into French I responded in Italian……And it may explain why the plan to come home after said talk and write a page of the book went out the window!