Saturday, April 28, 2007


There are a few – OK, many – events in my life that still make me cringe when I think of them. Here are two.


The first and only time I have ever played Laser Tag was with Professor Lapp during our sophomore year in college. She invited me to go with her and a bunch of her friends, and I thought it sounded like fun. It was fun, too. It was fun right up until the point where I accidentally slammed my laser gun into Professor Lapp’s face as she rounded a corner. She tried to tell me that it was O.K., and not to feel bad. But it was hard for her to get the words out through the blinding pain.

Do you remember that, Professor Lapp? I imagine you do, as you probably still have a scar.


This one time in college, my friend Leah Lar and I were wandering the dormitory halls when we heard someone strumming a guitar out on the balcony. So we wandered on out to the balcony and struck up a conversation with him. The topic eventually turned to theater.

“Whatever you do, don’t go to any plays put on by the University Circle Players,” I told him.

“Oh, yeah?” he said. “What makes you say that?”

“I went to see their version of Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead last semester, and it was just about the worst thing I had ever seen. That is until I went to see them do Waiting for Godot. I didn’t know it was the University Circle Players until after it started, but damn! Trust me, you do not want to see a badly done Waiting for Godot. And boy howdy! Those University Circle Players couldn’t act their way out of a paper bag.”

At first thought the balcony guy was just chuckling at my clever witticisms, but then something struck me as off. He seemed to be just a wee bit too amused. “What is it?” I asked him.

“I’m a member of University Circle Players,” he said. “In fact, I founded them. I actually directed Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead.”

“Oh. Uh… oh,” I said.


Saturday, April 21, 2007

Grad Lab Adventures: Where are they now?

A couple of weekends ago, we had a blast from the past at the Grad Lab Household. Grouchy Guy came to brunch! He has completed his post doc in Switzerland and is now a professor at my undergrad alma mater. Incidentally, it is also his undergrad alma mater. By crazy coincidence, Grouchy Guy and I actually went to the same college and grad school, and ended up in the same lab in grad school. It's funny, because I don't think we exchanged more than three sentences in undergrad. Come to think of it, I'm pretty sure those sentences were, "Hey, Grouchy Guy! I heard you are going to Ivy League Grad School." "Yeah." "So am I!" Grouchy Guy was kind of reserved in undergrad. I didn't even know he was grouchy. (For the record, he also sported a hilarious moustache while an undergrad. I have our class picture, and this moustache* caused The Doktah great merriment indeed.)

But that is not the point. The point is that I got to hang out with Grouchy Guy for the first time in about three years. Living abroad must have been good for him, because Grouchy Guy is not particularly grouchy anymore. We had a very nice time at brunch. The Husband made omelettes to order, and I made a cheesecake and sangria. Also in attendance was Grouchy Guy's German girlfriend, whom I had never met, and my friend from high school, Loud & Cheerful. At one point, I had to excuse myself to feed Jack, and through the closed door I overheard the following conversation:

L&C (speaking to German Girlfriend): So are you planning to move to the States?
German Girlfriend: [inaudible]
L&C: Oh? What kind of visa issues?
Grouchy Guy: [inaudible]
L&C: What? Oh, I didn't realize! Well that's great!

There is a reason I nicknamed her "Loud & Cheerful."

At any rate, I didn't really give the conversation much further thought until I was walking L&C to the front door. "Why did you tell me German Girlfriend is Grouchy Guy's girlfriend?" she asked me.

"Huh? What do you mean?" I replied.

"They're married!" she told me.

"What? Grouchy Guy is married? But he told me she was his girlfriend!" I exclaimed.

"Oh! No, they got married. I guess it must have been recently." said L&C.

When I returned to the dining room, I confronted Grouchy Guy with this news. "Why didn't you tell me you were married?" I asked him.

"Oh, right," he replied. "Uh, we got married on Monday."

I offered my congratulations of course, but that Grouchy Guy sure is inscrutable. Because if I got married suddenly, I would probably lead off with that news. Maybe in response to, "How've you been?"

So, congratulations Grouchy Guy Who Is No Longer Grouchy and German Girlfriend Who Is No Longer A Girlfriend. I guess we know why the grouchiness has faded away!

*Confidential to Grouchy Guy: It is only hilarious in retrospect. It was perfectly normal at the time.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Monday, April 16, 2007

Double standards

I remember once seeing a newsmagazine show about how teachers favor boys over girls in school, usually without even realizing it. They filmed a fifth grade teacher for a few days and then showed her the tape. She was appalled to discover that she called on the boys far more often than the girls, and that, while she would usually give girls only cursory comments like, “Good work,” she tended to spend a few minutes helping boys with their work.

I also remember thinking, “That never happened to me.” Not once in my long academic career did I feel like the boys got more attention. I never even noticed favored male status during my many years as a engineering student. This could be because all of my teachers treated everyone equally, or it could be because I was a pushy student who asked millions of questions and constantly raised her hand. I pretty much demanded attention. I WON’T BE IGNORED.

So I never noticed a boy/girl double standard as a student, but as a mom? It’s hard to miss. Every Sunday, The Husband takes care of Jack during Mass while I sing with the choir. And because he usually sits in the same pew, he and Jack have developed a small fan club. On several occasions, some of Jack’s friends have told me what a fantastic job The Husband does with Jack every Sunday.

The Husband also told me about a recent errand he ran on his day with Jack. He had an appointment at the bank, so he popped Jack in the sling. A little girl in the bank spotted Jack and pointed him out to her mom. “Yes, dear,” said her mom, “that’s a baby! And that’s a great daddy!”

Now, I don’t mean to dismiss The Husband’s parenting skills in any way. He actually is a fantastic father. But do you think that if The Husband were in the choir and I were holding Jack during Mass that anyone would be particularly impressed?

Friday, April 06, 2007

The habit of sleep

The Husband and I have been spending the past few weeks or so worrying about how Jack sleeps. He is now five months old, well over twelve pounds, and supposedly ready to sleep through the night. And as far as going to bed is concerned, we have been doing our utmost to put him down awake pretty much since he was born because we are very paranoid about his getting “addicted” to being rocked to sleep. We have been regaled with horror story upon horror story of two-year-olds who will not go to sleep on their own, and we wanted to avoid that particular problem.

And it was working! With hard work and patience, we got him to fall asleep in the bassinet, and then in the crib. I instituted and then lengthened a solid bedtime routine, and he was going to bed four out of five nights with no drama whatsoever. (That’s a batting average of 0.800, and any baby or child who goes to bed with no drama 100% of the time has parents who lie.) Better yet, he was starting to sleep for longer and longer stretches at night and was typically waking up only once after I went to bed. The husband and I congratulated ourselves on our superior parenting prowess. We rocked.

I imagine you can see where this is going. All of a sudden, about a week ago, he stopped sleeping well. He wouldn’t go to bed unless I rocked him to sleep, and he started waking up three or four times a night once again. Worst of all, he stopped going back to sleep easily after nursing in the night, and instead kept me trapped in his room for upwards of an hour shhing and re-binking over and over. It was a very hard to resist picking him up, given that he’d fall asleep in about five minutes if I just rocked him. Usually, I’d give in anyway.

And then the naps! He had been napping like a champ for weeks – a story, a few songs, into bed awake, and boom. Five minutes later he’d be asleep. But all of a sudden he required the rocking chair or the sling to get to sleep during the day. What had happened? Where had our easy baby gone?

Needless to say, The Husband and I were concerned. Were we instilling horrible sleep habits? Were we dooming ourselves to a lifetime of middle-of-the-night feedings? Were we going to have to rock him to sleep until college?

But we could tell that something was going on in that little head of his. He was undergoing the four-month sleep regression, or teething or working on a developmental milestone of some kind, because the kid has been atypically cranky, clingy, and oh, so very tired. The other day, he took two ninety-minute naps and woke up after each one with bags under his eyes. So clearly, we were dealing with something unusual here. But we were still unsure of how much we should cater to his rocking habit. It’s not that we were actually worried we’d be rocking him to sleep at sixteen. It was not for his sake that we were worried. It was for ours. We were trying to avoid that two-year-old rocking addict horror story we had be warned about.

So last night, after rocking him to sleep at bedtime, I called my sister, Big Sister #1. “I need someone with kids to tell me to relax,” I said.

“Relax,” she told me. “Relax, relax, relax, relax.” And then she told me that of her three daughters, her youngest was the easiest to handle simply because she was too exhausted by that point to spend any energy wondering about things like sleep regressions. “If she was hungry, I fed her. If she was tired, I let her sleep. If she cried, I picked her up. I remember nothing about her babyhood; and believe me, if she had screamed for hours all the time I would remember.”

“I’m just worried that we are setting ourselves up for a horrible time later,” I said.

And then she said something that changed my and The Husband’s entire outlook. “Look, he’s either going to cry now or later. So why not just rock him now and worry about it later?”

My sister is clearly a genius. He’s teething or something now, so now is when he needs to be rocked and held. And even if we do decide to fight the inevitable and try to get him to sleep without rocking, that is no guarantee that he will not cry later as well. And since he only needs about five minutes of rocking to get to sleep now, and since I secretly love to rock him to sleep because few things thrill me more than watching him fall asleep in my arms, what the heck are we killing ourselves for? I can spend 45 painful minutes in his room hanging over his crib shhing and re-binking, or I can spend 10 lovely minutes singing and rocking in a comfy chair. So we’re rocking him for now.

You know what else Big Sister #1 said? She said “You probably will have to work at getting him to sleep at some point. You’ll get him into a routine, but then he’ll be sick and you’ll rock him, and then he will want that the next night too. Parenthood is a job, and even though sometimes the job description isn’t exactly what you want it to be, you still have to do it. So just relax and accept it.”

For the record, last night he slept from 8:30 to 5:00.

Life is good.