Saturday, May 29, 2010

Beach Trip

We were supposed to go to my 20th college reunion at Brown this weekend. After the late unpleasantness with the SUV and a long hard semester for all of us that seemed like too much of a trip so I decided we’d pile in the car for a family beach trip. (My sister did make an appearance and informed me that the 20th reunion was packed and that I would have had a really god time…..) My plan involved all of us sleeping late and reading lots of fiction. By a little after 8 and Rebecca and I had already been for a beach run and she was ready something with a code on the computer so that a child in African can have a free computer. This is the kid who usually has to be dragged out of bed even on the weekends and stands as an argument for adding caffeine to morning cheerios. The run may be connected to the lovely running skort and jog bra shirt ensemble that Aunt Pami bought her last year which resembles mine very closely. So there we were in our matching get ups running along the beach. The big kids seem thrilled to be at the beach and had their feet in the ocean within minutes of getting here. I’m not sure they actually remember the beach in Long Island but they claim to and it’s true that we went to the beach about every other day when we lived there. Jonathan has reconnected with his wet suit style bathing suit and face mask and is ready for a dip and Eli turned the sweet little plastic digging toys into guns and has already shot most of our neighbors.

Rebecca has taken to singing all the time, sometimes in a very loud and annoying way. She did it this morning with some little French songs which turned out to be fortuitous. The nicely dressed French couple across the way assumed she spoke French and left us with a beach umbrella and two beach chairs. Eli’s loud chanting of the four questions at the fried fish emporium where we ate lunch earned us nothing but some odd stares. The beach fashion here seems by the way to involve string bikini’s not the lands end skort type of suits sported at the pool in cville.

It’s now 4 in the afternoon and Rebecca is back at the beach with Manuel while the boys cuddle up together watching nascar. I think this is a terrible parenting move as I think that while I was at the pool with the big kids Manuel told Eli that he couldn’t go to the beach until he attempted nap. I have now rewarded him with terrible tv in bed.

I’m choosing between reading a romance novel by a Shakespeare scholar friend or writing an abstract. While doped up on narcotics I mistakenly promised someone an essay on Women and Print Culture in Late Renaissance Italy. I have nothing to say about this at this particular juncture so have to think up something I might actually want to write about. I also promised to advice a few undergraduate thesis projects while on leave. I’ll have to get myself out of that.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Vandals and Tune Ups

I am installed in a coffee shop attempting to warm the brain up for scholarship. Of course the first task is the overdue and useless annual report. Since according to the newspapers no one in the entire state of Virginia will get a raise this year I’m not sure why we are bothering and yet it’s time for the inevitably depressing exercise of the annual report in which you have to justify your existence preferably with lots of newly published materials. My sabbatical officially begins June 1 and my goal is to have my desk cleared of crap by then.

Rebecca and Jonathan had their seven year old tune up yesterday. These things used to torture us. They required multiple people to handle the screaming babies and talk to the pediatrician who was always full of dire predictions and dumb advice. My favorite dumb advice involved the insistence that we start the family meal when they were six months old. This time they pretty much ran ahead of us and joyfully chatted up the doctor with. The underweight speech delayed kid has exceeded our wildest dreams for size and is now at the 25th percentile. So much for the various doctors who informed us in serious voices that those kids who didn’t catch up by 3 don’t ever catch up. Rebecca meanwhile explained to the pediatrician that he could not possibly in a million years imagine the depths of annoyance involved in having not one but two brothers. She also took an opportunity to discuss the fact that she has lost lots of teeth and her twin has lost none—tooth loosing is a serious power dynamic in our house.

I’m meanwhile feeling a little bit like Harry Potter. The spot on my forehead that had the giant knot on it seems to start to hurt for no reason. My family tells me they see a very faint lightening bolt scar there. Between its location and the optics of my glasses I actually can’t see it so I have to assume that their warnings about the presence of Voldemot in our house ring slightly true. While he’s here if he could get rid of the dizziness and headaches and do some cleaning it would be fabulous. Last night’s headache was courtesy of the first grade concert which concluded with one of those mind numbing events involving over a hundred kindergarten and first grade children hyped up on their triumphant singing performance and ice cream in a not so big school cafeteria. When we came home the big kids launched into a project of putting their imaginary friends Africa and Marc through some sort of standardized reading testing. They had a whole series of levels the friends had to go through and a reward structure involving special activities. Marc has been gone for a few years but seems to be back. I have no idea where Africa came from but Marc is linked to my friend Celia’s husband Marc who when the kids were two lived in California. Celia spent a great deal of time on the phone with “ Marc” and talked about him all the time which led them to think of him as rather ephemeral.

Below is a little dialogue written by Manuel about a morning with the kids last week while I was in New York.

Date-12 May, 2010
Time-7:50 a.m.
Cast- JGJ, an overaware and undereating 7-year old who is reading the crime report in the newspaper
MTL, an overtired and underslept 46-year old who is trying to get spawn ready for school

JGL: Daddy, what's 'vandalism'?
MTL: What do you think it is?
JGL: I don't know.
MTL: What word does it sound like?
JGL: Vandals.
MTL: What are vandals?
JGL: (exasperatedly) Not "What" daddy. Who were the Vandals?
MTL: Ok, who were the vandals?
JGL: (with the condescending tone of one who is speaking to a complete idiot) They were the people who sacked Rome.
MTL: Ok, so what do you think vandalism is?
JGL: (now almost stunned that his father is so dumb) Vandalism is the crime of sacking things.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Singing to the Mole

Manuel just left to walk the kids to school. I realized that if I walk a mile to school and then back home that I will not be able to go on the hike or rather walk in pretty place that Manuel and I have planned for the day. A few months ago we decided that we should take some Friday’s off and do a hike without the kids. We managed it exactly once. The fact that a month ago I ran ten miles in an sub 8 minute pace and now a two mile walk seems to much especially in the wake of recovering from a failed attempt at a few downward dogs two days ago is slightly depressing. But on the I am now done teaching for an entire year and in about a week I’ll be fully justified in sticking a message on my email that says “I am on sabbatical island until August 2011” The goal for the sabbatical is to finish what I’m starting to think of as “the silly castrato book.” Given that the only intellectual labor I’ve managed since being hit by the truck is writing eight pages of opening remarks about Thomas Jefferson which were largely conceived by brilliant graduate students, this seems like a tall order. But luckily I have a couple of weeks of make up work to do before I can attend to the book.

The kids meanwhile are getting back to normal as well. Rebecca and Eli had a highly moving burial for a mole. Yes really a mole. The cat brought it as a present. Rebecca dug the grave herself with a five foot shovel—she is about four feet tall. She wanted to know what prayer to say over a mole and seemed to be asking me to say kaddish for it. I have to admit to being unwilling to go down the road of saying kaddish over every animal the cat brings in so she very seriously sang a few Hebrew songs to it. This all seemed well and good until she made it a tomb stone that said “god bless you mole” somehow that made us think we’ve been in Virginia too long and it’s time for a sabbatical either in China or a north eastern city. I’m thinking the mole may already have been exhumed by the cat but….

We have a busy weekend of spring festivities beginning tonight with the mother son spring prom. Jonathan demanded a tie and asked me causally at breakfast “mommy do you have a frock to wear” I don’t exactly have my own but I do have a fabulous dress that my grandmother wore to her 25th birthday some time in the 1940’s for which I’ve never quite found the proper occasion. Both kids also have recitals. Rebecca is playing the highly dissonant fanfare which she does with all the flare of a concert pianist. She has been composing alternative endings which sound lovely when she plays them but which as she has notated them turn out to be utterly unplayable. Needless to say that when I actually try to play what she’s written I’m immediately told that I didn’t do it properly and that it doesn’t sound the way she wants. Apparently she will need some classes in notation. She also sketched little pictures of Monteverdi and Mozart so I’m not sure where she’s going with this…… Jonathan is playing Lightly Row. If you’ve ever heard a 1/8 size violin you can imagine what this sounds like. While for the most part neither kid is especially impressed with their parents I earned great respect from both when I successfully improvised a piano accompaniment to lightly row. “wow mommy you figured that out all by yourself. We should call Jomama and Joyce right now and tell them.” My statement that if I couldn’t manage a few A Major triads UVa would be justified in revoking my tenure luckily did not diminish their sense of awe at my little musical marvel.