Wednesday, March 11, 2009

my Irish girl

I'm attempting to get ready for St. Patrick's Day - not that we are having any huge festivities or anything, but one of the most enjoyable perks of having a baby (aside from the joy of raising a child, having the most natural, amazing love for another human being etc. etc. - all the mushy stuff) is getting to dress the baby up in cute outfits, especially a baby girl.
So naturally, a holiday mandates a cute outfit, and normally the stores are full of overpriced onesies, t-shirts - the works. So it was much to my dismay to find nothing for St. Patrick's Day. I realize of course that not everyone is Irish, but it is a recognized holiday, and stores love to make a profit on baby stuff...
Plus, I must admit, I do have a bit of an alternative motive here as well. Being my daughter, she is Irish. Being my husband's daughter, she is Italian. I can almost guarantee you now that she will dote on the Italian side, just as I've seen my husband's cousins, with the same background do. Granted, the Italians have the upper hand with the constant family gatherings centered around all the fabulous food. My family has a hard time fighting that, but our tradition of hot dogs and mac and cheese (store bought, not even homemade) doesn't stand a chance. Plus, it would seem only fair that since Syracuse is proudly populated by both Italians and Irish that the heritages would stand on equal ground, but somehow, being Italian again gets the upper hand.
Why do I care? I shouldn't, I know, but it already bugs me that my in-laws put so much emphasis on their Italian heritage - perhaps because it's something I'm shut out of - as much as I'm there, it's not something I can really be a part of. I took an Italian class before my wedding so that I could give a speech in Italian to my in-laws at our rehearsal dinner. Still, I can understand some and speak even less, but my in-laws speak primarily Italian in their home, even when I'm there, and they don't often translate for me. My mother-in-law (whom my daughter is named after) takes care of her during the day, so no doubt my daughter will be bilingual - which is awesome. Still, it's a part of her that isn't a part of me, and that's difficult.

So back to my original line of thought - the St. Patrick's Day outfit. This is my holiday, and while my husband can't stand corned beef, he does at least appreciate the holiday. And his aunt is hosting a dinner on Sunday to celebrate St. Patrick's day, so all of my husband's family will be there and this is my one legitimate opportunity to remind them, subtly, through a super-cute outfit, that she's my daughter too, that she's part me, that there is life beyond being Italian.
So tomorrow, I'm off to Marshall's, outfit hunting... wish me luck (luck o' the irish, of course)

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


So in following my new teaching mantra of not asking the students to do anything that I wouldn't do, I had to follow some of my own Transcendental instructions yesterday. After dragging my students through some of Thoreau's quotes from Walden, (Okay, some of them are budding transcendentalists, most of them looked like they'd been injured) we discussed the concept of simplifying our lives. I asked my students if they could simplify their lives, as Thoreau instructed, to 10 details or fewer - ten things/people/passions/things to spend on.
So here's my list:
my daughter
my marriage (those these two are inexorably tied)
learning/my education
family (beyond the three of us)
coffee (& the newspaper, though that's covered under reading, technically)

I'm looking at my priorities, and I think I'm okay with my list. It speaks volumes (especially since I see where I put teaching - though I've been having a rough week, so that might creep back up a little higher later - but at least it made the list...)
I'm now trying to keep these things in mind as I'm really stressed out. I'm on overload right now: work for my grad class, regular school work, creating materials for the professional development workshop I'm teaching in three weeks, my curriculum revision meeting tomorrow (never a peaceful affair), becoming a mentor (was just asked today to mentor the new teacher), working on my department presentation for next month - not to mention spending time with my daughter and my husband, hands down my two favorite, most important people in the whole world.
So where do I find balance in all of this? How do I keep my head above water? This is something I'd better figure out if I'm going to attempt a doctoral program next year. And I need to keep contributing at school, and I do really like this new way of teaching I'm developing - but it's way more active, which means I'm getting way less done during the day!
My first step - I've started setting my alarm 30 minutes earlier and I'm doing some yoga first thing in the morning. Did I mention that I haven't really exercised (if giving birth doesn't count) since I became pregnant a year and a half ago? So that's something I can do for me.
Balancing the rest of it? Well, I'm still working that out...

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Working mother?

Working mother. Seriously? This is not so much a complaint with the concept as it is a dispute with the grammatical aspect, as this term is clearly an oxymoron. And while my feminist bearings would surely love the chance to rant about the hard, important work mothers do in being just that, mothers - that's not really where I'm coming from at the moment.
My issue is this. Look at the photo of my amazingly beautiful daughter. I've been home with her for nine wonderful days. And mid-winter break ends today and tomorrow it' s back to the grind at work. At my job that I love. That is to say, I usually love my job, except on the Sunday before going back to work. It's actually physically painful to leave her, and yet I know I have to.
I am a working mother and I'm working to find balance, it's just that often the pull is so much stronger from one side than the other. I mean, seriously, look at how cute she is. How could you not feel pulled in her direction?

Friday, February 20, 2009

First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes...

My husband and I have been married for nearly three years, and we've been together for nearly eight. For most of our relationship, we've been that couple to our friends - we have a great relationship, we compliment each other, we respect each other, and perhaps most importantly, we really like each other. Our relationship, and now our marriage, is one of things of which I'm most proud. I was (am?) a fiercely independent person, very strong-willed, and entirely capable of taking care of myself. My husband I are opposites in that regard - not that he can't take care of himself, certainly, but in that he's such a people-person, so ingrained in his family unit, in his friendships - he is a star in many orbits. He said I intimidated him when we first met in grad school, and I can see how that happened. I wasn't exactly shy in grad class - I went back to school for intellectual stimulation, and I wasn't missing out on any opportunities. My husband was quiet, but it was so obvious that he was kind, gentle - a curious but exact fit with the rough edges of my exterior. It didn't take us long after starting to date to realize that our relationship would become permanent.
My relationship and then marriage has been an interesting exercise in dualities for me. In many ways I still am fiercely independent, but I save that mostly for my professional life, as I no longer have that desire, or need, to be independent in my home life. Sharing myself, opening myself up to my husband is one of the best things I've ever done for myself. Quite unintentionally, we set up a bit of a continuum - I calmed down a lot after I fell in love with my husband, I became friendlier and funnier (my husband is hilarious and it rubbed off a bit) and he says I made him think more. My analytic nature and habit of looking at all sides of every issue gained on him, so in some ways, he became more independent as a result of our relationship, even if that independence mostly manifests in independent thought.
So I'm proud of our marriage, and while we're not exactly newlyweds any more, we're only a few years into the adventure as well. Our most amazing feat so far? Definitely our daughter, Marisa. She's nine months now, and every day she becomes more and more her own person.
We are no longer just a couple, we're a family. We take that really seriously, but of course that adds new dimensions to our relationship as well. We now have to learn to balance being husband and wife with being dad and mom - not that these are mutually exclusive things, to be sure.
It's a learning curve, though, as we realized when we went out to dinner for a belated Valentine's celebration this past week. It was only the second time we'd been out to dinner alone since we had the baby last May. The first was for my birthday in July, and we hadn't managed to carve out any other time for just ourselves since then. It was really nice to be just us- though of course we spent at least half the time discussing the baby, and well, missing her. So like I said, it's a learning curve, and a new duality to our marriage that I have every faith we'll figure out. Eventually.

Monday, February 16, 2009

First words

My daughter, Marisa, said her first word yesterday - "Mama"! She's nine months old, and has been happily babbling away for quite a while, with some "yum-yum"s while eating, but yesterday was the first time we heard a crystal clear "Mama" when she wasn't talking to her food. I was elated, to say the least. My husband is taking it well too - I tried to get the baby to say "Daddy" next, but my husband insisted we not confuse her, and well, he let me win for now. :)

When we told my mother-in-law, who watches the baby while we're at work, she said the baby has said "mama" before, to her, when we weren't there. I didn't say this to her (and feel safe posting it here since I'm completely confident that my mother-in-law won't be surfing the web for my blog any time soon) - but I decided it doesn't count if my husband and I aren't there to witness it. She may well have said mama before - but she didn't say it to me, and I'm her mama, so it doesn't count.

Here's a major binary, a major source of tension for me - I love my daughter. I love my job. Being good at both at the same time? Tricky. I want to be there for every important moment of my daughter's life, yet at the same time, I want to set a good example for her as a professional, as someone who contributes something to the world through her work. Finding a good balance - well, I'm working on it.