Shocking the Librarian.

I have been working the reference desk more often lately, and it’s a task that I find enjoyable overall. I know that this may completely destroy my reputation as a serious cataloger, but whatever. I also comb my hair and have social skills, so my “serious cataloger” rep was already toast.

Anyhow, I have noticed that young men of a certain age seem to enjoy playing a game that I like to call “shock the librarian.” Usually this involves coming up to the reference desk and asking for something risque. (Usually it’s the Kama Sutra.) The transaction goes like this:

Patron: Hi, I am looking for a book.
Me: What can I help you find?
Patron: Well, I am looking for the (lowers voice to a whisper) Kama Sutra.
Me: Okay, let me see if we have any copies on the shelf. (Search, search, search). Here’s the call number.

Seriously, kids, if you want to shock the librarian, you’re going to have to up your game.

My favorite variation on this transaction? When all of the copies of the Kama Sutra are checked out, but the Kama Sutra for Dummies is on the shelf. I know it’s not November, so I can’t be part of that thankfulness meme that annoys me for the entire month of November, but I am thankful that our Collections Manager purchased a copy of the Kama Sutra for Dummies, because it allows me to say the following:

“I’m sorry, but all of our copies of the Kama Sutra are checked out. But we do have a copy of the Kama Sutra for Dummies available. Would you like that?”

There must be something about the holiday season that brings out our would-be librarian-shockers. In the last two weeks, I’ve experienced a lewd proposition via IM reference and a prank phone call! I won’t tell you what the lewd proposition said, because I don’t want the search engines to get the wrong idea about this infrequently-updated blog’s content, but the response I wanted to send was this:

“Sure! I’d love to do that! But first, I need to set down this gigantic Webster’s Dictionary…oops, I think I dropped that on your peen! Sorry to spoil the moment!!!!!!”

Instead, I just blocked the sender and closed the IM window, hoping that the other person working the desk, who was likely more shock-able than I, didn’t see the message.

The prank call started off like a legitimate request from a high school/college age boy. As in, “Hi, I need a book for my class/What are you looking for?” and then he starts giggling as he says, “the title is (laughs) vagina (laughs)…”

I’m thinking, “oh, he needs the Vagina Monologues, I’ll just start looking that up.”

Then he said “vagina” a few more times, followed by “ass,” while laughting uproariously, and hangs up.

Kid, seriously. I have a vagina. And also an ass. You’re calling a library. Most of us have both. Therefore, not shocking. Not at all. TRY HARDER.

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Hackles in full effect!

I decided that I wanted to get my hackles up, so I watched the vice presidential debate last night. Paul Ryan reminds me of those guys in college who would get drunk at shitty parties and hit on me with lines like “oh HEY I like Nirvana I know you’re all into ALTERNATIVE MUSIC I like that too want to go to my dorm room and listen to my Pearl Jam CD?” I would inevitably respond with something pithy and succinct, like “Fuck, no.” Because I may have made some questionable decisions in my youth, but I don’t think I ever messed around with anyone who had Eddie Munster’s hairline.

So one of the most irritating parts of the debate was when Paul Ryan started talking about the 7-week ultrasound pictures of his first child. I want to be pretty clear about this: I am anti-sharing ultrasound pictures of your fetus. They are literally something that only a mother can love. Everyone else only sees a blurry mess that may or may not be accented with arrows and call-outs. This blob is FINGERS! The thing that looks like a duck’s bill is LEGS! Congratulations, those are GIRL PARTS! If you have one of those newfangled 3D ultrasounds, it looks like your fetus is made of wax and it is partially melted. Yes, you can see the features pretty clearly, but they look like they’ve been sculpted out of Play-Doh by a hyperactive second-grader.

I had a crapton of ultrasounds when I was pregnant, and every time the techs would point out features that I could not have identified on my own. I still have my seven-week ultrasound pictures upstairs. It looks like a blurry mess with an arrow pointing at a particularly blurry area and a call-out that says BABY. Because really, that’s the only way to tell what part of this blurry mess is going to eventually develop into a full-fledged human that crawls around the house going “bwa bwa bwa” and chasing the cats.

So I don’t like routine sharing of fetal snapshots, and I don’t like people naming their fetus, either. Especially if the best you can do is “bean.” Could you get any more boring? “Bean” is one of the things that the ultrasound techs tell you so you’ll have an idea of the scale of the creature infringing on your ladyspace for the next eight months. The embryo is only “bean” for a short while. Eventually, it will be the size of an apple, a grape, an heirloom tomato, and a crenshaw melon. If the Ryans had their first ultrasound at 13 weeks, would they have saddled their child with the unfortunate nickname “medium shrimp”? Think about it:

You know, I think about 10 1/2 years ago, my wife and I went to the hospital for our thirteen week ultrasound for our firstborn child, and we saw that heartbeat. A little baby was in the shape of a medium shrimp. And to this day, we have nicknamed our firstborn child “Medium Shrimp.” Now I will never be able to enjoy Endless Monster Shrimp at Red Lobster ever again. It’s such a shame. I sure do miss those Cheddar Bay biscuits.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments Yay for angry mommies!

So there’s some new Facebook plugin thing called, and it’s supposed to hide baby photos from the Facebook streams of, well, people who don’t want to look at baby photos. Or, as some parents will have you believe, THE MOST HATEFUL UNCARING PEOPLE IN THE WORLD.

I have a baby. I think she’s awesome. Did you know that she has two teeth and poops in a diaper? No? Did you care? Probably not. Which is why I don’t constantly blather about my daughter. Nobody thinks she’s as amazing as I do, and that’s how it should be. After all, I gave birth to her, I take care of her, we share a significant amount of genetic material. While I could document her comings and goings on Facebook (or on this blog), I don’t–because nobody cares as much about her as I do. Nobody finds her as charming, amusing, and special as I do.

And I don’t expect anyone else to feel that way about my daughter.

I went through a long, ugly struggle with infertility before Lenora was born. It was three years of awful. And during that three years, I faced a constant barrage of pregnancy announcements, baby pictures, and cutesy kid photos in my Facebook stream. Was I happy for my friends and acquaintances? Most of the time. Did I want to see all of this stuff? Hell no. There were times when I was feeling extremely fragile (a rarity for me) and I would have loved to have something like that would replace all the baby pictures with pictures of cute fluffy kittens or bacon. Or maybe cocktails. Or cake!

I’m not an egregious baby-photo oversharer. I can count on one hand the number of baby photos I’ve posted to Facebook, and I don’t tend to lifestream my daughter’s every move. But I really wouldn’t care if my Facebook friends didn’t want to see pictures of my child. It wouldn’t hurt my feelings. In the words of the angry mom/militant vegan I linked to earlier, if you’d rather see a photo of a “dead animal carcass” than my daughter’s face, it doesn’t mean we can’t still be friends. It just means that you like bacon. And since I like bacon too, we are still friends.

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Random notes.

1. One of the items I cataloged today was a travel guide to Indianapolis written for fathers and their children. I thought it was a great idea, so I took a peek. Imagine my disappointment when I saw the following as awesome suggestions for fathers and children to enjoy together:

  • Applebee’s
  • Ruby Tuesday
  • The McDonald’s PlayPlace

What place would a person come from that these places would be exotic, exciting, or out-of-the-ordinary? Or even enjoyable?

My favorite thing: the annotation for the McDonald’s PlayPlace, which mentioned something about fathers who are unable to remove their children from the play area without the help of another child. Really? What is that supposed to mean? Does the author have a bone to pick with fathers who can’t manage to extricate their children from the unsanitary ball pit at the McDonalds? Just dive in, Dad. Dive right in.

2. There’s a bulletin board in the library’s staff lounge where coupons are often posted. Sometime in the last few weeks, a staff member kindly posted a coupon for King’s Island…from 1999. I’d take it down, but it amuses me every time I walk past it. It makes me think that I stepped into a wormhole that leads back to the late 1990s–the land of great music and bad boyfriends. Also, the thought of an amusement park being advertised as “1999′s best!” is really entertaining in 2012. As in, “yeah, back in 1999, we were the best, but now, not so much.

3. My child has two teeth now. She is taking this developmental milestone really well, and has not fallen victim to the issues that plague many teething infants (sleeplessness, crankiness, diaper rash, etc.). I sometimes wonder how I ended up with such an easygoing, pleasant baby.  Of course, just as I started typing this, she freaked out, and is writhing around in her egg-shaped swing like she’s trying to bust out of there. But mostly, she is very sweet.


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High and low culture.

I’ve been on a real science kick of late. Part of me wonders is this is my way of pushing my daughter into loving science. I was a science nerd for years, until a lousy teacher (and, probably, peer pressure) caused me to lose interest. I’d love for Lenora to be a science nerd, too. There are worse things to push a child into than an interest in science: child beauty pageants, for example. (I was busted watching Toddlers and Tiaras this past weekend. I had heard a lot about it but had never seen an episode. I have now.)

Of course, at five months old, Lenora is too young to have opinions about anything besides “I love Mommy!” and “Wet diapers are uncomfortable!” But still, we watch Nova together, and I’m planning to take her to see the transit of Venus when the local astronomical society hosts a viewing next month. We go outside to look at the stars. The night of the supermoon was the first time I ever heard Lenora really laugh–I’m not sure if it was the bright, shiny moon or the breeze in her hair or being held by her daddy, but she let out a beautiful laugh, the likes of which I have not heard since.

Anyhow, the dual tuners on my Tivo are currently hard at work, recording my two favorite shows: Nova and America’s Next Top Model. These shows may seem mutually exclusive, but I love them both. Weirdly enough, I learn from them both, too. The lessons may be completely different–Nova teaches me about scientific developments, and ANTM teaches me about how to pose for photos without losing my neck–but I learn from them both.

For the last three years, I’ve been mentoring a middle schooler. She’s a wonderful young woman who has grown more confident and poised as she’s progressed through middle school, and I love that about her. Middle school can be a real self-esteem killer, and she’s survived–or, more accurately–flourished in that environment. Like many young women her age, she’s a huge fan of the Twilight series and has read all of the books and seen all of the movies multiple times. We usually play Mancala and talk during our weekly meetings (and she almost always wins), but today she saw a chess board and wanted to play.

Neither of us have ever played chess before, but as she said, “it’s a teaching set, and the pieces have information about how they can move on the board.” I was surprised that she wanted to play chess, but as the game got going, I realized that her interest was likely spurred by her love of the Twilight books–one of which includes a pivotal scene where the main characters play chess. It’s a situation where something that is considered “low culture” (Twilight) spurs an interest in something that is considered “intellectual” (chess).

I’m sure the game of chess that we played didn’t follow the rules correctly. Anyone even remotely familiar with how the game is actually played would have been pretty amused by our attempt. But it’s a reminder that curiosity about the world sometimes comes from curious places, and that we can learn new things from unexpected sources.

Thanks to our viewing of America’s Next Top Model, Lenora and I both know how to “booty tooch” (this is a move involving sticking your behind out just so) and how to “smize” (which is smiling with your eyes). There’s no booty tooch in this photo, just some smizing, and Tyra Banks would be proud of my (ahem) gracefully extended neck.

Mom & Baby

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I’ll show you smut!

EDIT, May 16, 2012. Just to be clear, since this post (as well as my professional affiliation, which I don’t mention anywhere on this blog) has been made a lot more public than I could have expected: this is my personal opinion, and not the opinion of my workplace. Also, I did not write this while I was at work–it was all written on my own personal time.

Oh, and my last name is Donohue, not Donahue.

Now, on with the show.

(Note: I started writing this about a week ago, and am just getting back to it now.)

Approximately eight and a half years ago, I wrote a blog post on one of my old blogs about how much I hate library blogs. This was during the heyday of library blogs, when everyone with a library job was busy pontificating about boring library stuff or telling “funny” stories about the stupid things that library patrons do. It made some people surprisingly angry–I guess they were showing their hidden sensitivity or something–but it’s still true. For the most part, I hate library blogs.

But I’m not above an occasional post about library-related things, so here goes.

The big story in the library world today (at least, in the public library world–you academics are probably all aflutter about something related to scholarly communication* or whatever) is that the Brevard County Public Libraries** in Florida have yanked all of the copies of bestselling smut-lite book Fifty Shades of Grey from their shelves. I am not ashamed to say that I have read Fifty Shades of Grey. I have also read the second book in the trilogy. I know that it is Twilight fanfiction with the names changed. I know that it has been derisively called “mommy porn.” (As if giving birth changes a woman’s tastes in erotic literature.) I’d love to tell you that I read it out of librarian-ly duty, because I wanted to be aware of current trends in patron demand, but that would be a lie. I read it because it is purportedly a dirty book, and I am a sucker for a dirty book.

And you know what? It wasn’t that dirty, really. It was very tame. The language was very euphemistic (do recent college grads really refer to their genitals as “my sex”?) and the BDSM scenes–which are what has made the book such a media sensation–are downright tame. Yes, there are references to some sexual paraphernalia (Wartenburg wheel! Nipple clamps!) and kinky practices, but the hero and heroine really don’t get down to it in any graphic detail that goes beyond anything that appears in a typical mainstream romance novel. It’s not a work of classic literature by any means, but I was surprised at how compulsively I read that damn book. I knew it was awful, but I could not stop reading it.

I will even admit to reading the second book in the trilogy, which is just bad. It’s not compulsively readable, it’s just bad. I guess I was willing to forgive the first book because I was so swept up in the awful, implausible story (and perhaps because I was expecting something really dirty to happen), but the second book was just…bad. I finished it because I paid money for it and therefore felt that I should finish it, but I had completely lost interest by the time I was halfway through the book. I bought the third book and will eventually read it, but I am in no hurry. I can pretty much tell you what happens without reading the book:

  1. Ana and Christian will get married.
  2. There will be some sterile, clinical sex. With light bondage.
  3. Ana will bite her lip some more.
  4. Christian will brood until the power of love and vanilla sex cures him of his need to dominate women.
  5. Ana will, undoubtedly, get pregnant (without any problems, of course) and have a baby, because that is the default happy ending for all couples who are in love. Right?

In short, Fifty Shades of Grey is a romance novel with some not-particularly-graphic sex scenes (featuring milder language that what is found in most mainstream romance novels) and some mild BDSM. It is no more shocking than a lot of things found in your typical public library, especially a public library the size of Brevard County. The big difference between Fifty Shades of Grey and, say, anything from Kensington’s Brava line of erotic romances is that Fifty Shades of Grey is getting a crapton of media coverage, thus making it an obvious target.

So Fifty Shades of Grey is too hot for the readers of Brevard County. Okay, whatever. Communities have the right to determine which items to add to their collections based on local standards. But I wondered to myself if they owned books that I would consider hotter than Fifty Shades of Grey (which is pretty much most things with a few sex scenes). I decided to take a look at their online catalog to see if I could find some smutty stuff. I avoided the obvious targets, like nonfiction books about sex (e.g., The Joy of Sex or The Joy of Gay Sex) or boring-ass classic literature with sex scenes (yeah, they own Lady Chatterley’s Lover, but that’s tame by modern standards). I narrowed my list down to twelve authors, titles, and series, but I could find more. Lots, lots more. Go forth, administration of the Brevard County Public Library, and weed! Bowdlerize your collections! Make your library safe for readers!

Here’s my Dirty Dozen Books that Brevard County Library Hasn’t Removed from Their Collection:

  1. An e-book by Lauren Dane, who is one of my favorite erotic romance writers. I met Lauren Dane when I was in Seattle for ALA–my friend Katie knows her. I’ve been reading her books ever since.
  2. A novel by Lorelei James, a well-known author of graphic and non-clinical erotic romance. James’s novels are often recommended as “additional reading” for readers who liked Fifty Shades of Grey and are interested in exploring erotic romance with BDSM themes further.
  3. Most of the works of erotic romance author Robin Schone, whose first novel, Awaken My Love, includes a scene involving time travel via masturbation (I learned this on the first day of my Adult Popular Literature class in library school and purchased the book that evening). They also own The Lady’s Tutor, which was the first erotic romance I ever read (also when I was in library school).
  4. A copy of Around the Way Girls, an urban-fiction anthology that had some pretty high smut content. I know that urban fiction/street lit is low-hanging fruit when you’re looking for potentially “offensive” material in library collections, so this pick feels a bit like a cop-out.
  5. Most of the Zane canon, including The Sisters of APF, which made ME blush when I read it. I may not be a huge fan of Zane’s books, though I have read a few, but I appreciate the way she has built such an amazing brand for herself.
  6. Several installments of the Bad Boys erotic romance novella series, including Bayou Bad Boys and Bad Boys of Summer. These tend to be more graphic than, ahem, Fifty Shades of Grey.
  7. Anais Nin’s Delta of Venus and Little Birds. I suppose you could use the “classics” defense on these, but they aren’t classics of anything other than erotic literature. They are mostly just old. I read these in college when I was trying to be “cool” and “edgy.”
  8. Most of the Lora Leigh “Breeds” series, which are shapeshifter romances that consist of a string of sex scenes filled in with some weird futuristic fantasy stuff. I find these books almost uniformly awful, but I do have a game that I play with them. Whenever I see a new one, I try to open the book up to the spot where the buttsex happens. This is Lora Leigh, the buttsex is her trademark, and it’s usually between two-thirds and three-quarters of the way through the book. I am really good at finding it.
  9. A book called To Serve and Submit, which is probably more explicit in its depiction of BDSM than Fifty Shades of Grey is.
  10. For that matter, they have Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel series, which a co-worker suggested as a potential read-alike for Fifty Shades readers who want to know what BDSM is REALLY like.
  11. Herotica 2 and a 1990s edition of The Best American Erotica, which makes me wonder if the Brevard County Public Library selectors are sneaking into my personal library and poaching books from my shelves, because these are pretty old and I own both of them but can’t find them anywhere. If Fifty Shades is “pornography,” these should be illegal.
  12. The Smart Bitches covered this one nicely–Brevard also owns quite the selection of Longarm books, which are nothing if not FILTHY. I remember finding out how dirty Longarm (and Spur, too) are when I took Adult Popular Literature. My grandfather used to read those things like crazy. When I learned how raunchy they were, it was like a little piece of my childhood died or something. Not that I fault the guy for liking some raunch, but I thought he was reading about stampedes and cattle rustlers, not loose women and even looser men.

Now, I have no problem with libraries adopting collection development policies–as long as they stand by them and enforce them uniformly. If Fifty Shades of Grey is “pornographic” and your library isn’t going to purchase it (or, even worse, you’re going to BUY it and then pull it from your shelves, thus wasting money, because seriously, with all the media coverage about the stupid book, you KNEW what you were getting when you purchased it), that’s a-OK with me. But don’t present yourself as the gatekeeper of holy learnin’ and clean content, because you aren’t.

*I have threatened to start a blog called “Scholarly Communication is Boring” several times. But the idea of a blog about scholarly communication, even one that is a parody of scholarly communication blogs, puts me in an instant coma.

**I keep wanting to call them the Broward County Public Library. I think this is because when I think of counties in Florida that a) begin with “Br” and b) do not like filth-flarn-filth, I think of Broward County and the 2 Live Crew obscenity charges from the early 1990s.

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The Family in the Bubble.

Lenora started day care two weeks ago yesterday. We love her school, and she seemed to have a great time…then she got hit with RSV, which is a nasty viral respiratory infection that spreads like wildfire around day cares. This is actually the end of the RSV season, which runs from November-March, so we were just unlucky enough to get in on the action. She was the fifth in her class to succumb, so I’m guessing that a few others got sick during this last week. From what I’ve gathered, pretty much nothing will stop RSV once it gets going–it just spreads like crazy.

In babies, RSV causes a respiratory infection that leads nervous parents (like us) to the ER in “holy shit! the baby’s not breathing!” mode. In adults, it causes the worst fucking cold of a lifetime. I’m not kidding. I have been out of work for a week with this stupid cold. I haven’t been out sick from work or school for a week since I had chicken pox in first grade. And that was in 1980. My body is producing levels of mucus that I can only describe as “unprecedented” and “large.” We have gone through six boxes of tissues in the last five days.

Lenora has gone from “wheeze wheeze wheeze” to “cough cough cough,” and I’m hoping this means that she’s finally going to expel this virus from her body. Her appetite has finally recovered, which is good, but she’s not herself quite yet. Meaning…she is not smiling. She has not smiled for almost a week. I understand that it is hard to smile when you feel like shit, but come on, baby, I am doing my level best to entertain you, and it would be really kind of you to just humor your mommy just this once. For real. I feel nasty too, but I am willing to spend five minutes shaking your favorite “Lamb Baby” toy over your head and making up songs about your toes to help you feel better. You could do me a kindness and give me a smile–a half-assed one will do–to help me feel better.

So, to recap:

  • Someone has stolen my baby and replaced her with a living, sorta-breathing ball of mucus;
  • Someone has stolen my husband and replaced him with a sorta-living, generally-breathing, sweating, snoring ball of mucus;
  • I am full of mucus and I feel like crap.

I’d like to raise my middle finger to RSV! Let’s hear it for RSV! Scourge of my life!

Returning to work wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be. I’ve told everyone that the anticipation was far, far worse than the reality. I think I’m just a very routine-based person, and over twelve weeks of maternity leave, you develop plenty of routines that become normal. I liked maternity leave well enough, but I was glad to return to my job, which I really enjoy, and which gives me a feeling that I have actually accomplished something with my day. I am peeved that this illness has managed to regress me to the second week of Lenora’s life, where I was off the major painkillers and alert to the fact that the baby was, quite possibly, the most demanding creature in the world. Even worse than Grace, our tortie cat, who can communicate with very manipulative meows when she wants FOOD RIGHT NOW, and will proceed to jump on things, run around under your feet, and pester one of the other cats when she does not get what she wants RIGHT NOW. Grace: most loveable shithead cat in the universe.

I’m working on some book reviews for my crafts column in Library Journal, and I’m reviewing a scrapbooking book. I find scrapbooking really creepy, but it is popular, so whenever I get scrapbooking books of decent quality, I will review them. This one is a collection of pages that can be “scraplifted,” which sounds like stealing or plagiarism but isn’t. It is encouraged! Let someone else do the really creative work for you, so you can have fun taking 9000 pictures of your nine-year-old daughter’s first zit. (I’m not kidding. There’s actually a page layout featuring photos of a nine-year-old washing her face, along with a story about how her skin got “suddenly oily” and how she is too young to have a pimple. I fear for what will happen when this poor child gets her first period. I wonder if there’s a page design that can be “scraplifted” for such an occasion, or if you just use the “first zit” layout and replace the artsy photo of Noxzema face wash with an artsy photo of some maxi pads and tampons in a pretty basket.)

I totally understand parents wanting to scrapbook the big days in their child’s life. Birthdays, family vacations, holidays, important firsts, etc. But this process of scrapbooking the not-so-big days of your child’s life (first zit? the day your child annoyed you, so you felt like a bad mother? your trip to Jamba Juice?) creeps me out. Especially when they involve dimensional letters and chipboard shapes. A one-off Facebook update like “Today we took Hannah to Jamba Juice and she loved her smoothie!” is much, much less freaky than taking umpteen photos of the experience and then spending three hours and $50 in supplies to create a colorful two-page spread of the blessed event.

I hope all of these children whose lives are being scrapbooked to death become goths or Juggalos or whatever rebellious kids these days are becoming. I’d love to see a scrapbook layout of “Ben’s First Gathering of the Juggalos.”

Posted in How Babby is Raised | 3 Comments


I realized (in the middle of the night last night, of course) that I will be returning to work a month from today. A month is a really long time, technically, so it’s not like I have to start getting up at 5:45 AM tomorrow. I have a few weeks before I need to start doing that. But still, when you start with twelve weeks off from work and suddenly you’re down to four weeks off, it’s a little jarring.

The best metaphor I can think of is that maternity leave is like a really long vacation where your wallet gets stolen on the second day. You spend the first couple of weeks freaking the fuck out and wondering what you are going to do about it. You have to scramble to get everything replaced before someone steals your identity. You have no money, no credit cards, no ID, so you are losing sleep and the stress is killing you. Then everything gets resolved, and you start to have some fun. You see the sights and get active and do a bunch of cool stuff. After about seven weeks, you get lazy and start spending long hours sitting in your hotel room, happy to be on vacation but kind of bored with your surroundings.

And that is where I’m at. I’m happy to be on leave, but I’ve noticed a steady decline in how much I am able to get done lately. A couple of weeks ago, I’d spend the morning cleaning the house or cooking something interesting while Tim kept an eye on the baby (i.e., she was asleep in his office while he worked). Tim still keeps an eye on the baby in the mornings, but I don’t get anything done. I have cooked some good meals, though. Hopefully, I will get some kind of second wind or whatever during my last four weeks, because there’s a lot I’d really like to get done around here before I go back to work. I am convinced that my house will start looking like something out of Hoarders after I go back to work if I don’t get it cleaned now.

My big accomplishment today (thus far) is that I went to the grocery store. I think Tuesday must be markdown day at the grocery store, because I picked up a bunch of sale stuff to throw in the freezer for later. I also picked up some beer that had been marked down. Our local store carries a pretty decent selection of craft beer, and they recently started carrying beer from Flossmoor Station. As a native of the southern suburbs (but not Flossmoor), I wanted to try it, even though my opinion of Flossmoor Station was somewhat tarnished by a complete nutsack who was on the Three Floyds brewery tour with Tim and I last year. He kept going on and on about how he had just finished going on the tour of Flossmoor Station and how he tasted their newest beer and blah blah blah…while he was on the Three Floyds tour. Admittedly, Flossmoor Station Nutsack wasn’t as annoying as the father who brought his hyperactive four-year-old on the brewery tour and expected everyone to find his antics completely adorable, but still…ANNOYING.

I may be a parent now, but my attitude toward poorly behaved children hasn’t changed very much. I told Lenora that she can move into a cave and be raised by wolves if she wants to act like an ass in public. (Perhaps “move into a barn and be raised by donkeys” would be more appropriate.)

Posted in How Babby Is Formed | 1 Comment

What I Read: January 2012

Since I originally started this blog as a means of chronicling the things I was reading, I am going to make a valiant attempt at doing just that. So here is what I read in January 2012:

  • Superbaby by Dr. Jenn Berman (1/4/12): I started this while I was still pregnant, and finished it a few weeks after Lenora was born. This book ties in with the bit in my last post about Research Lady, because it focuses on all kinds of research on infant and toddler development. There’s interesting material here, and some of Dr. Berman’s points gave me some things to think about. However, some of her suggestions seem difficult to implement unless you’re in a stay-at-home parent situation or you have your child care provider completely on board with the plan. For example, I’d love to teach Lenora some basic sign language, but to make that work you really need to make sure all caretakers respond to the signs, otherwise the baby will give up. (Seriously, why keep signing “my diaper is wet” if nobody’s going to pay attention?)
  • Your Scandalous Ways by Loretta Chase (1/5/12): Loretta Chase’s books are always winning awards, so I decided to do some “light-duty” reading and try this one out. It was an entertaining historical romance about a courtesan who gets herself entangled in some intrigue and falls in love. Good stuff, I’ll read more.
  • Love and Louis XIV by Antonia Fraser (1/11/12): I started this in early December, but it was too dense/thinky to read during the post-birth haze, so it took me a long time to finish. Excellent historical biography of the women in Louis XIV’s life. It went well with Karleen Koen’s Before Versailles, which I read in December.
  • Wicked by Gregory Maguire (1/16/12): This is one of those books that I have been meaning to read for years, but never got around to finishing. I started it several years ago and abandoned it partway through, mainly because I’m an easily distractible reader. You probably know the story: it’s a re-imagining of The Wizard of Oz from the Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West’s point of view. I enjoyed this a lot–it was thoughtful enough that I felt like I was reading something substantive, but light enough that I could sneak little bits of it while doing other things. It was also a lot more political than I would have expected.
  • Son of a Witch by Gregory Maguire: I decided to read the entire Wicked Years series, since I enjoyed Wicked so much. This one focuses on Liir, Elphaba’s son. It wasn’t quite as good as Wicked, but it wasn’t awful. I’m not necessarily the sort of reader who has to connect with or identify with characters in order to enjoy a book, but I didn’t find Liir quite as engaging as Elphaba, which may have lessened my enjoyment.
  • Prelude to a Scandal by Delilah Marvelle (1/23/12): A recovering sex addict enters a marriage of convenience with a feisty young woman whose father has published some controversial research about homosexuality in the animal kingdom. Romance ensues! This was bathtub reading for a few weeks. The large type and giant margins made it a quick, light-duty read.
  • A Lion Among Men by Gregory Maguire (1/23/12): I’m now 82% of the way through the fourth book in The Wicked Years (thank Kindle for useless stats) and they are all starting to run together. This one focused on the Cowardly Lion, who is not so much cowardly as self-centered and overly focused on covering his own ass at the expense of others. Easily the weakest in the series, but I did love the parts about Yackle, who is probably my favorite character in the series.
  • Balance is a Crock, Sleep is for the Weak by Amy Eschilman and Leigh Oshirak (1/27/12): I read this hoping to get some good advice on returning to work after my maternity leave. Instead, I just got annoyed. Anything useful was eclipsed by the parts that irritated me, including all the stuff that perpetuates the stereotype of the uninvolved, hapless father who is more interested in playing golf than being a parent. It’ll probably be a while before I go on another business trip, but when I do, I don’t think I’ll need to provide Tim with a laminated guide to everything that Lenora needs. He already knows what to do. I know I picked a winner, but sheesh, are most fathers really that clueless?

Stats for the month:

  • Total books finished: 8
  • Fiction: 5
  • Nonfiction: 3
  • Review books: 0 (this is probably the first month in years where I haven’t read anything for review)
  • Books started but not finished: 3 (I’m still reading all three, so they’ll show up on next month’s summary)
  • Favorite book of the month: Wicked
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Week Seven.

I swear I don’t want this to turn into a mommyblog, but maternity leave is giving me way too much time to gaze at my own navel (as well as Lenora’s). And after childbirth, my navel is kind of gross. But here goes.

My house is cleaner than it’s been since we moved in. When we moved in, it was brand-new and empty, therefore clean. Then I filled it with all of my crap, then I added some more crap, then I lived in it and it became cluttered. Then I added cats and purple bath towels, and it became dusty and hair-y. (I will never buy purple bath towels again. Every time I clean the bathroom, I wipe up gobs of purple lint, and I’ve had these towels for YEARS.)

So I’ve been spending a couple of hours every day cleaning and organizing the house. My goal is to have things looking decent enough that I won’t need to spend several hours every weekend cleaning shit up around here. Tim helps out a lot during the week. Since he works from home, he’s willing to throw on a load of laundry or do dishes or empty the dishwasher when he’s on break. This is further proof that he is a better person than I am, because I would spend my breaks doing absolutely nothing useful if I worked from home. I am happy to vacuum and wipe down the bathrooms on the weekend, but I hate doing dishes more than most other things in the world, so I’m happy to pawn that off on someone else.

I’ve also been trying a lot of new recipes, and they have mostly been winners, with the exception of some really bland cornbread that I made a few weeks ago.

I’m enjoying my time off, and I love spending time with Lenora, but I don’t think I could do this long-term. My house would be immaculately clean and I’d eat really well, but I’d be spending an awful lot of time plotting my escape. I don’t do well with unstructured time.

I do my best to avoid online arguments. They tend to be counterproductive and annoying. But someone in one of the parenting forums (I know, gag) I frequent made a comment that not only got my goat, but tied a rope around its neck and yanked its poor goaty beard. So I responded calmly, and she came back at me with “WELL THE RESEARCH SAYS BLAH BLAH BLAH I AM RIGHT! YOU GAVE BAD ADVICE! SHAME ON YOU!”

One thing about consorting with academics (and most of us who live in college towns consort with a lot of academics) is that you learn, quickly, that research can prove many things, especially in the social sciences. (It’s a lot tougher to force your research to back up your dumbass, misguided opinions if you’re a scientist.) The research on parenting changes frequently and is often contradictory. It is also frequently used as a means of guilting people (especially women) into doubting their choices and abilities. As much as I’d love to follow all of the current research to a T in order to raise a Superbaby who will cure all the world’s ills AND be socially and emotionally well-adjusted, it’s just not feasible. I refuse to feel guilty about going back to work, giving Lenora a pacifier when she’s wigging out and nothing else seems to work, or watching TV while I breastfeed.

Besides, next week the research will probably change, and the best practices will include something completely different. All I can do as a parent is make sure that she feels secure and loved and do the best I can to keep her reasonably happy. I trust my ability to do what’s right by her, and that’s good enough for me.

I’m sure the research also says that Naked Raygun is not an appropriate musical choice for an infant, but that’s what I’m listening to right now. Surf combat!


  • Wet diapers
  • Gas
  • Boredom
  • Rick Santorum (Whenever he’s on the news, she loses it. I hope he drops out soon because it will help preserve my sanity.)
  • Hunger
  • Dirty diapers

Found on a sticky on my desktop, something I wrote while I was pregnant:

“If anyone ever refers to my cervix as a ‘baby door’ I am going to kick them square in the box”

Fortunately, nobody ever did, so nobody got kicked square in the box.


Posted in Food, How Babby Is Formed | Leave a comment