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.