Saturday, March 27, 2010

Sometimes I do Follow Up on a Previous Post (But Don't Count on it).

One of the odd things about the mostly one-sided nature of blogging as a conversation, is that my side ends up with lots of dangling unfinished thoughts and beginnings. As an attempt to rectify this situation, at least in small part, I thought I'd mention whatever happened to the Book Group (remind to come up with an awesome name).

I decided after reading everyone's comments, and consulting with others, that we wouldn't have a book to read before our first meeting in March, but rather to have a simple planning meeting for the rest of the year, and go from there. We met mid-March at my house, and had quite a nice turnout - just about as many women as my living room can handle. We also picked hosts and people to pick books for their month (these two are separate, so that the host doesn't also have to lead the book discussion), and books for the next two months. Although, in the way of life everywhere, the book-leader for May is now on bedrest for her pregnancy, so we may have to go with a different book for that month.

To lead off, I picked the first book, and based solely on the number of recommendations from my own blog, I picked The Poisionwood Bible. After looking up summaries of it, Avram told me it probably won't end happy. Plus when I picked it up from the library, it had a nice built-in sticker on it, proclaiming it a part of Oprah's book club. Oh, well. Oprah had the bible on her book club once - she can have good taste, too. I haven't actually started the book yet, for our mid-April meeting, but Avram has been on Spring Break this week, so reading books has been at the bottom of my list of things to do, right after cleaning the house and getting dressed and showered in the mornings. Oh, and cooking. Basically I've been taking a vacation from life this week.

Monday will see us back in "normal" mode, whatever that is. I'll have piles of laundry to do, not to mention deal with the inevitable clutter build up and parent my children alone (so sad, I know.) As well, I will get back on my reading bandwagon, and start back up with worthwhile reading - I'm currently muddling through the beginning of Sir Francis Bacon's Essays, plus I was over a hundred pages into my highly abridged (it's only 900 pages, as apposed to the six volume original) Arabian Nights translated by Sir Richard Burton (I just love putting those Sirs into their names - it makes me feel high-falutin'), but then of all the audacities, it was requested back to the library. Who in the greater Columbus area, besides myself, could possibly want the Arabian Nights? Hmmmph. So now Avram is getting the book for me through his splendiferous Ohio Link run through OSU, that can get almost any book in Ohio. With The Poisonwood Bible added in, I foresee plenty of reading material for the near future.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Unseen-as-yet Academical

Once again my life has followed the axiom that the more my life is filled with bloggable topics, ie, the busier I get, the less time I have to write anything. Last Saturday (I realize on re-reading this, that this was two Saturdays ago) we had family arrive in town, Avram's brother Samuel and his wife Aleatha, then on Monday we had more family arrive in town in the form of Avram's parents and another brother and sister. I went shopping at thrift stores three times in three days, and we spent some quality family time at the Zoo. Then on Thursday Avram and I rose early and drove to Wisconsin, while his parents and two at-home siblings stayed with Lydia and Elisheva here in Ohio.

Avram had his first presenting conference, at a graduate student conference in the German and Dutch department, on "What is a German Department." He talked about the foundational German scholarship done in German in Biblical Studies, and how they still use this same scholarship today, thus necessitating the need for Biblical scholars to learn German. Therefore, beyond the Literature and Linguistics aspects of a German department, at least one aspect of a German department is to provide access to scholarship in other areas of the academy.

We stayed with our friends Matt and Sarah (If you go to this link, you'll see her post on the same conference, including a very academic picture of Avram, and also in the same shot an exciting study of the back of my head.), and spent lots and lots of time talking about intellectual subjects. Not to mention all the great food we ingested, including a free dinner provided by the conference for the presenters and their partners. Hey, I'm a sucker for free food - if you tell me that you're serving food at an event, you'll see me there.

It was the first time Avram and I have been away from our children together since we had Lydia - so, four years. And basically the first time we've done an multi-day getaway since our honeymoon. To me going to a scholarly conference, even at six months pregnant, definitely counts as a romantic getaway. I married Avram for his intellect, and how he made me feel alive intellectually, after all (I'm really not joking on this one. You can love lots of people. I certainly did in my college years. So I find marriage often comes down to other, less ethereal factors).

Despite the fact I have never studied German, I enjoyed the conference immensely. Almost every talk (except the German Literary ones, where the key aspects of the talk were usually delivered in German, and I could not follow the discussion of the paper) prompted thought and discussion, and after each session Avram and I busily discussed our responses and opinions of the topics covered, as well as the methods used in delivery. Along with discussing with the presenters between sessions and at other times their topics and academic interests, I was reminded how much I truly enjoy academia.

By Saturday evening when Avram and I attempted to stuff more free food in our mouths at the closing reception, wherein my body insisted that all its overfed pregnant self could handle was a strict diet of fruits and vegetables, so that's what I ate. Said party also featured lots of free alcohol. We were expecting to witness the wild parties we had always been warned of as youth, but by the time we left at ten pm nothing more exciting had happened then small chatting groups, and the departmental oddity known as the "homeless man" showing up {Avram's department is downright boring compared to the larger U of Wisconsin's German one}. No dancing on tables, no raucous behavior, and no shocking language, although I was detained by one graduate student Steve, who proceeded to detail out every last detail of the game Pinochle, including its origins and how he himself came to the game. I don't think he was drunk, though, but rather this is his normal approach to living.

Regardless, also at this party Avram and I were reviewing the weekend, and he told me how he was talking to Sarah (as I was talking to one of the presenters) that I do all the parts of academia he doesn't like. I love schmoozing with people, I ask questions about papers, I have opinions on presentations, etc. Then (and I'm just quoting what Avram reported that Sarah said, so sorry Sarah if I'm mis-representing you, or for that matter, I'm mis-representing Avram) Sarah said, "And she thinks that she can't do academia." (A sentiment I have expressed before)

When Avram told me this, the whole weekend came together in an epiphany, and I realized that I truly did love academia (well, not applications. Does anyone like applying for things?) I have always maintained that someday when all of my children are in school I wanted to go back to school and earn a masters (in Anthropology, the field that I love, but never cognitively knew existed when I was an undergraduate). Being at that conference, I thought to myself, I could perhaps do a Ph.d, as well. When I went to college for my undergraduate degree, I originally planned to obtain a Ph.d., but I realized by my sophomore year that the field I was in, Near Eastern Studies, but really Biblical Studies, was not one I wanted to pursue through to a doctorate. Nothing was wrong with the field itself, but rather to me languages are a means to an end of communicating with people, and it's hard to communicate with dead people. Also I never could figure out how to balance my desire to be a stay at home mom with my desire to do academics.

As Avram and I discussed me wanting to perhaps rejoin academia, whether with only a masters and just teach/publish with him (since I edit all of his papers with him, instead of making him rewrite paragraphs, I could just attack them myself), or with a Ph.d. I still don't think I'd aim for tenure track, since it is a very time consuming occupation, but rather just be an adjunct teacher. We decided that if I'm serious about this, instead of just always vaguely stating my intent to go back to school someday, we should actively plan for it, although it's years away. I still want a large(ish) family, so we figure if we have six kids, that when the youngest will be three, I can start back at school again, planning my classes for when she'll be in pre-school (I find with three girls, I know that technically this youngest could be a boy, but I find myself always thinking in the feminine when talking about future children). This will be in ten years, when I'm 37. I'll need to do two years of pre-requisites in Anthropology, basically taking the whole major, before I can do a master's in it. Then a masters for two years, and another five or so for a doctorate, if I decide to do that. Sure, if I get a doctorate I'll be 46 at the youngest, but people live a long time nowadays, and I'll have plenty of time to be a part of academia after this point.

I don't want to fall down on the job of parenting, nor do I want to be so busy that our family cannot think nor ever sit down all together. But I do think I can manage to do both activities, especially when I remember that for the first two years of doing school, I'll be doing undergraduate classes, which I do not think will be too time-consuming nor challenging (compared to the graduate work I see Avram do every day, and also considering that in college I also held down a part time job, plus a very active social life and managed to maintain a decent GPA. I think I can insert six children and no social life instead.)

I think in today's world, where running a house and cooking food for a family do not take full time work, but where many women desire to be at home with and raise their children, various women have found ways to find worthwhile ways to both expand their minds while still being the full time caretakers of their children. Some women develop time consuming hobbies and crafts, like quilting or sewing, which I think are great. Others homeschool their children. Others have spic and span shiny clean houses, which just is not for me. My skills as a homemaker are in reading. Lots of books, which I attempt to make most of them literature or worthwhile non-fiction (although the longer I live, the more I feel that the dream of being truly well read is a pipe dream). That and buying cool stuff from thrift stores so I don't have to sew. For myself, once my children are in school, I think that going back to school sounds the perfect way to expand my mind, and find my niche as a modern woman, both in regards to my raising my children while also pursuing my interests.

I loved returning home to my girls, and I do love that for these years when they are small and home all of the time, that I am home with them, and get to be their primary nurturer and trainer. Lydia is approaching the horizon of reading, and I love it when she acquires a new word she'll always recognize (there are only about six words in this corpus, aside from proper names in our family - the horizon is not too very imminent). I love teaching her this skill. And I also love Elisheva, and her grasping of the spoken word. Just the day after Avram and I returned, she said her first sentence, with the proper subject: "Uh-oh! I break it!" (In reference to the plastic tab for opening a bag of grapes that she accidentally broke off). We're still working on tenses, but this sentence made me so proud of her and her accomplishments (we're still working on tenses with Lydia, for that matter).

In other academical news, to tack on to the end of this, we now officially, officially know that Avram is presenting in the Sperry Symposium, the main religious LDS scholarship conference at BYU. He'll be going out to Utah this October for that, and talk on the Sermon on the Mount's discussion of the Old and New Law, and how there are hints of this New Law in the Old Testament from the Prophets. Also, we found out this week that he received the Melton Center for Jewish Studies's Levine Fellowship for this coming academic year. This means that, unlike this year's financial hiccups, we know that he has assured funding for twelve months, including through the summer, which teaching alone does not provide in his department. Although he had applied for it, we did not maintain great hope in obtaining it, so this was a very exciting surprise.

Overall, life is very good.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The '80s live again

Last week, in some real, quality bonding time, Avram and I had a discussion about '80s music that we liked. It turns out most of the music doesn't even make it on the same radar. (Ok, so I'm totally recreating the conversation based on the songs we talked about - everything else is made up).

Avram: I like Danger Zone (I'm totally making up this title) by Kenny Loggins. From Top Gun.[Avram just informed me this was the actual title. He also wants you to know that it's a great song. Great Album.]

Me:Boring. I first heard it on the movie Twister, and thought it was cheesy. I loved "Eternal Flame", by the Bangles.

Avram: What song? By the who? Speaking of the Who....

Me: Never really heard of them until we got married.

And so on. But as I was creating my made up mixed cd I would buy on i-tunes, we got the idea of looking up these songs on You Tube, so we could share the songs with each other. The first song we looked up was "Total Eclipse of the Heart" - the Bonnie Tyler version. We watched the original music video. Now, you need to watch this video, even if you think you don't have time to, or the inclination. It'll give a whole new meaning to the phrase, "Bright Eyes." If you don't want to watch the whole song, skip to 3:39 - but I'm warning you, then you'll miss the ninjas.

After that fun, we had to watch other '80s videos as well. None of them quite had us busting a gut like this one (mostly because it was not in any way what I expected from knowing the song), but we did enjoy our walk through the past. As we were winding down, Avram wanted to see a song from our shared (in style, but never in actuality) Stake Dances. He found "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)" by the Eurythmics.

We watched it, and yup, that was the song we'd both heard in our teenage dancing years. (And no, I don't know what a cow has to do with abused dreams). But then we were curious who the woman was, so Avram looked it up, and it's (ready for this?) Annie Lennox. Annie Lennox who sang "Into the West" from Return of the King. Wow, does that woman know how to...keep singing? Reinvent her image? Sing different styles?

PS - for the curious, here are my songs: They are in no way indicative of the best songs of the '80s - they are just the songs I grew up hearing on the radio in the '90s, and liked a lot.

"Forever Young" Alphaville
"Don't Stop Believing" Journey
"Eternal Flame" Bangles
"Break My Stride" Matthew Wilden
"99 Red Balloons" Nena (with the eternal question - German or English?
"Land Down Under" Men at Work
"Total Eclipse of the Heart" Bonnie Tyler (although I'll never think of this song the same again. The undertone of...well, pederasty is too strong of a word here, so we'll go with younger high school crush is just a little...disturbing.)
"One Night In Bangkok" Murray Head
"Jack and Diane" John Mellencamp
"Major Tom" Peter Schilling
"Take My Breath Away" Berlin
"With or Without You" U2

Avram's Songs:
"Don't Worry, Be Happy" Bobby McFerrin
"Danger Zone" Kenny Loggins (from Top Gun)
"The Touch" Stan Bush (from the Transformers)
"Storybook Love" Willy Deville (from The Princess Bride)
"You're The Best" Joe Esposito (The Karate Kid)
"I need a Hero" Bonnie Tyler (A Paramount Pictures commercial)
"The Last Unicorn" America (from the movie by the same name).
[Edit] From Avram--Thora and I were talking about this post, and Michael Jackson came up. I was an enormous Michael Jackson fan when I was kid (and still am, may he rest in peace). I loved "Bad" and "Smooth Criminal" "Thriller" and so on. I even used to watch Michael Jackson's egregious anti-drug movie Moonwalker because it had that awesome Smooth Criminal video. In fact, I once got in trouble with my Primary Presidency, because we were to make hand puppets of our heroes and I made Michael Jackson. It was a pretty great puppet, with the glove and everything, but apparently my teachers took my parents aside because they were concerned about my role-models. They had nothing to worry about--there is no way I could dance that well. -ARS.

Notice - I got my songs from the radio. Guess what Avram's exposure to the '80s came from?

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Stake Conference

This blog post is really more of a journal entry type, but since my physical journal now gathers cobwebs, and since I can type faster than I can write by hand, and since I like to post things on the Internet anyway, it's a blog post. So if at any point you, like Miss Piggy in the Great Muppet Caper wonder "why are you telling me all this?" you can know that's why.

This weekend was our stake conference. I got to attend the adult session for the first time since Elisheva was five months old (she's 22 months now). Mainly this was accomplished by bringing the girls, since we had no babysitter, and deciding that the minute they acted up, we would go home. Miraculously, they were both angels during the meeting, so we stayed for the whole time. Everyone seemed very positive about them being there, too - I didn't get any weird looks. I love how open this Church (the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) is.

Plus when I walked in the building I smelled a divine food smell like Pepperoncinis. Sure enough, there were some old High Priests in a room cleaning up Subway sandwich makings. I made a joke that I should become priesthood leadership, so I too could have yummy sandwiches. They then offered me a sandwich, since they were all done, and there was leftovers. Most polite people would have politely declined, but I, who love free food, plus I'm pregnant, which has to be an excuse for everything, went and dropped off a sleeping Elisheva with Avram (whom I met at the Stake Center, since he had to attend priesthood leadership - sans food - for being in the Young Men's), and went back and made myself a sandwich, complete with pepperoncinis. Avram even came back to find out where I'd gone (he in turn left Elisheva, still asleep, with our friends), and they gave him a sandwich as well. See all the blessings you get from being LDS?

During the session what struck me the most was the Stake Relief Society President reading D&C 38:32 "Ye should go to the Ohio, and there I will give unto you my law, and there you shall be endowed with power from on high." She was talking about her own movement into Ohio, and our Columbus Temple here in Ohio, where we can be 'endowed with power.'" As I listened, though, I realized that although there was some portion of the endowment received in Ohio, most notably in the upper rooms of the Kirtland temple, that the first complete endowments done in Ohio have been through the Columbus Temple, finished only 11 years ago. I love that my temple where I live completes this verse so perfectly - that Avram and I have come to 'the Ohio,' and here we are able to attend the temple regularly.

Then today our choir combined with another ward's choir sang. We sang "Be Still My Soul," which is one of my all time favorite hymns, and has been since I first went to college (nine years ago. Yikes, am I getting old). Today I didn't get to enjoy the delivery quite as much, since as I went to go up Elisheva started shrieking as I left her. Immediately around us were all the other choir members (Avram's in choir as well), so I could see no one I knew to leave her with, and so in the desperation of the moment I brought her. Unlike yesterday, Elisheva was quite fussy this morning already. Additionally, unlike our usual policy of bringing no food to church, we had baggies of cereal since the girls had missed eating breakfast since we left home so early. So Elisheva plus her baggie of cheerios came up to the front.

Of course, Elisheva had to be held through the whole song (it's a good thing I have the hymn memorized), and she was mostly content this way, except for the random squawk she let out, just to keep the musical piece interesting. Of course, I was standing directly next to the pianist, and Elisheva started sprinkling cheerios out of the bag halfway through the song, plus kicking her back once or twice. So, during the pianist's solo between the second and third verses, I frantically knelt down behind her, gathering up any cheerios I could, before bobbing back up in time to come in for the final verse. Looking back, I should have just not gone up to perform, since there were plenty of sopranos, but in the moment I didn't think of that option. As we were exciting the stand, and I wanted to crawl in a hole and hide with my loud offspring, the Stake Relief Society President, who was sitting on the stand, made some sort of positive comment about Elisheva, and smiled at us both, and once again, like yesterday, I felt the love of the Lord through his members. The SRSP (to shorten her title) was the stake's chorister, so I knew she knew good music, and yet she didn't judge me or my child, but instead just genuinely smiled at us. This sister is one of those women who lights up a room wherever she goes. She's at temple worker, and managed to remember me once when I was there, although she'd only met me once before at a Ward Relief Society meeting. I love people like her. Someday when I'm older, I'd love to be like her.

I took Elisheva straight to the cry room from the stand, and of course she settled perfectly in my lap and demurely ate her cheerios while I could listen to the speaker. Avram unexpectedly showed up and put his arm around me, asking me quietly if I was alright, and if he could help me. I realized that I hadn't told him I was leaving the chapel, and so for him I had just never made it back to the pew. I told him I was fine (since I was), and he went back to be with Lydia. As he left, tears came to my eyes, as I reflected on how much I can tell Avram loves me. He immediately thought of me, and went to find me at the opposite end of the church, guessing at where I might be, to do what he could to assist me. I love how Avram's first thoughts are always how he can help me, or the girls.

The rest of conference passed comparatively uneventfully, except when Elisheva was standing right in front of the stairs to the stand during the rest hymn, and the visiting authority, Elder Marriott was attempting to leave quickly for a drink of water (I presume), and I had to go and pick her up so he could proceed. So...I kind of met him. At least, I said sorry to him. I'm sure whatever else, Elder Marriott remembered my daughter from his visit. Good thing this is a gospel of eternal families. I chalk that up to the reason everyone was so kind over the course of the weekend with me and my children.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Take, Take, Take.

Today was one of those days that ended with me physically carrying a screaming Lydia to bed, without any stories, or songs. I had the audacity to get her off of playing Peggle when I had said I would. The Girls weren't horrible all day long, or anything - it just ended with me feeling emotionally drained from parenting.

I can see why people pick up abusive or unhealthy habits, because after the girls were in bed - and Lydia must have been really tired, because she only cried for thirty seconds or so - I just really wanted to take. Take, take, take, take. I was tired of giving all the time. Sometimes Motherhood rejuvenates me - often it does. I truly do love my vocation, and my days spent at home with my girls. But sometimes....sometimes after they're in bed (and Avram is gone on Wednesday's - at Scout activities), I just want to stop giving, and take without apology.

So, I had some peanut butter cocoa puff thingies, and read blogs without leaving a single comment. Yes, these are my abusive and unhealthy habits. But sometimes I realize this is one thing I like about the Internet - not that this is a positive aspect, necessarily. If I called someone, or wrote them, I'd have to come up with my side of the conversation, I'd have to think in semi-coherent sentences. But with reading blogs, even if I really ought to comment, I can just relax, and no one can demand anything of me, or even ask anything of me. I suppose this is the same reason people watch television to relax, or read novels. I find reading novels a very relaxing activity when I feel all given out, especially fluffy ones that I don't even have to think about. I do love the relationships that blogging has fostered in my life, and I certainly cannot, would not, only get on the Internet to passively partake of its various functions. But sometimes, I'm grateful I can.

Having had this out, and eaten the last of the cereal, I'm going to exit my little mental playground and actually accomplish activities that help me refill my emotional wells - scripture reading, book reading (I have to work on my New Year's Goal, after all), and such. Thanks for letting me take from you, Internet. I'll have to have more of this one-sided relationship again sometime.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Happy Birthday Lydia

Interview with a Four Year Old

What are you going to do now that you're four years old? Go ice skating. Jump up and down. Do a dance. Help other people.

What is your favorite color?
Pink and Red.

Favorite Movie, and why?
Robin Hood (the Disney Cartoon), because I love it. Favorite part of the movie - the circus (the archery tournament).

Favorite Food to eat?
Macaroni and Cheese. Pumpkin Pie.

Favorite Dessert? Strawberry and Chocolate Ice Cream.

Favorite Book? The Owl and the Pussycat

What do you like to pretend? Pretend to be a princess - Princess Aurora. Being a Kid Bear (Ewok).

What do you want to be when you grow up?
Princess, kid bear, ballerina.

What do you like to play with?
Dogs - real ones (I don't know where this answer came from--she's never touched a dog willingly in her life).

What do you like to do most with Elisheva? Nothing (I think she was tired of the interview, because she likes to play lots of things with Elisheva).

With Daddy?
Sing a song.

Favorite song - "Give said the little stream."

With Mama? Flap my wings. Poke out my tongue.

What are you scared of? Ghosties.

Sleep, Perchance to Dream

In honor of Lydia's birthday tomorrow, I share with you now a photo essay of Lydia and her weird sleep habits from the ages of two to three:

I love my girl. She'll be four, and I cannot believe how much time has passed since she joined our family - and how much Lydia herself has shaped our family into what we are today. If the stars align, I will also be posting an interview with the birthday girl herself.