Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Vanessa & Brad are hosting tonight for a good cause:

Please join me for dinner

at “The King and I”

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

for the 14th Annual

Dining Out For Life®

“The King and I” will be donating “25%” of your food and beverage bill to

Saint Louis EFFORT FOR AIDS (EFA). EFA provides education on the prevention of HIV/AIDS and comprehensive support services for those affected by disease.

Please call 314.771.1777 to make your reservation.

Bring family, friends, a great appetite and a generous spirit.

We're going early, as we have the Maryville Speaker Series tonight. Christiane Amanpour is tonight - CNN's chief international correspondent. We've already seen Steve Forbes and Peter Hillary. Peter was very interesting as an adventurer with wonderful stories; and Steve was interesting in that he lives almost entirely in an alternate universe of distorted truth - akin to bizarro Superman.


Friday, November 23, 2007

Sing to The Go-Go's Vacation:

Thanksgiving, all I ever wanted, Thanksgiving, have to get away…..

I can't wait for Christmas; I'll get two weeks off then. Lately, it's all about the time off with wife and child.

I left work early on Wednesday as Jes had called me to report her fever of 103. It turns out she'd gotten mastitis (sp?) – an infection in a milk duct. Don't worry, she and the baby are both fine. Her temperature is now normal – the fever broke Thursday at around 5:30 a.m. She's going to be on antibiotics for five days, but should be none the worse for wear.

Thanksgiving is in part about football, and I had the fun of watching my Packers beat the Lions. It's actually Friday now and I am at Mira & David's watching the Texas/ Texas A & M game. Texas still hasn't scored going into the half. I don't have a horse in the race, so I am only watching with one eye. We've now switched to the LSU / Arkansas game and are for Arkansas on the family (Mira) connection.

We spent yesterday doing the relative panorama, hitting Jack & Bonnie's (Jes' Stepmother's Stepmother) in Pontoon Beach Illinois for my first experience with a deep fried turkey. Jes' stepbrother Chris did an excellent job as chef. After our first full meal we headed back to St. Louis for an evening version of the same – except David did his turkey on the grill. Mira & David had neighbors Mack & Ann over, as well as Sharron, another David and Sarah.

Sharron has much to be thankful for, as she has been raising her granddaughter Sarah since Sarah was eighteen months old (she's nine now). Sharron was just recently able to formally adopt Sarah, after several years of trying. Also, Sharon's David is recovering well from the removal of a tumor from his tongue. Under doctor's orders, he had to eat as much as humanly possible to get his weight back up; a fun assignment with such a good spread.

I spent the morning today with Elliot, trying to let Jes get caught up on sleep. I've also been taking a stab at my home owner's to do list. I finally got the upstairs air conditioner in and stored for the winter. I am occasionally reminded as I type for this blog, that I don't really generate interesting stories like I once did. I was thinking about posting a picture of our pool table piled high with laundry to emphasize my surrender to domesticity.

I clean things. I fix things. I'm in bed before ten and out the door before six a.m. I get a few hours to be a husband every evening, but my life is mostly my work. Work is fine, but it's work. Maybe I'll have better classes next year. Maybe if I got more exercise, I'd have more energy. Maybe I'll win the lottery. I keep telling myself that the first year of teaching is the hardest, but this is my second year of teaching high school. True, I am at a new school with new classes, but even still - I am working way too hard. One should work to live, not the reverse. More than eighty percent of my time and energy goes to work. If we didn't get summers off, no one would do this job. I suppose the long dark night of the soul is typical at this time of year. Still, if I won the lottery and could stay home and write full time… how do I make that fantasy a reality?

One good thing about having a few so-so classes is that you get to start over. I only have three weeks left with two of my sets of students. The rest will have me for five more months and then it'll be summer.

Elliot is doing well, he's gotten much fussier then he was for the first few weeks, but he's still an angel compared with some other children of his age that I've known. We have a great deal to be thankful for this year. Being a father, having a home, and being a husband are all going well. Maybe I should throw a party. That always makes me feel better. New Year's Eve anyone?


Sunday, November 18, 2007

A blog from Illinois:

I am over at the Illinois grandparent's house for Sunday dinner. The Rams game is on in the other room. I watched the Packer game earlier, at home, and got my fill of sport for the day. Given the record, it's hard to maintain much interest in the Rams. Elliot was wearing his Packer jersey for the game, but is now in a button up sleeper more conducive to travel. He slept most of the way over here, unlike last time, which involved screaming from the highway exit ramp to grandpa's front door.

For the most part he travels well. Yesterday had gorgeous weather and so we took him up to the Botanical Gardens for his first artistic/cultural outing. We rolled him around in his all-terrain stroller and took him to feed to Koi in the Japanese Garden. We have a membership to the garden and try to get over there every few weeks. I was inspired by our trip to spend a little time on our plants. I finally dug the canna root up and put it in the garage to dry. I don't think it'll freeze in there just yet. Our Christmas cactus is blooming, I should post pictures.

Elliot had his third and fourth elevator rides while at the garden. We are still counting little things like that. He also had his first trip to a bar. After the garden we went to Dressel's Welsh Pub in the Central West End. Dressel's is a writer's bar, they do Day of the Dead celebrations and Bloomsday readings from Joyce; thus, it's a good place for Elliot to get his first taste of going "down the boozer".

We had his second pediatrician visit on Friday and all is going well. He is ten pounds now and still twenty one inches in length. We thought he was getting longer, but really he has just been filling out. His infant clothing fits him now. I guess he is at the 50th percentile for his weight and height, but he is in the 75th percentile for head size, which means he is taking after his father's huge cranium - "I'm not kidding, it's like an orange on a toothpick, it's a virtual planetoid, it has its own weather system".

I'm looking forward to Thanksgiving break. Work has been taking a lot out of me and I am still not really caught up from my maternity leave. As a side treat to myself I've been reading these young adult books: The Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud. I'm in the middle of the second one and it is quite a pleasure to take a break from my usual required reading. Though, I have been teaching good books. I just finished teaching Heart of Darkness, the August Wilson play Fences, and I am currently teaching The Catcher in the Rye.

I regularly wonder about returning to college teaching. The market is tough, and now that I am the main source of income and insurance for my family I can't pay any adjunct dues. I've aged out of the slave labor pool that smaller colleges rely on. One can make a living teaching at multiple institutions as long as you are willing to drive all over the place, teach more than a full load, and live without health insurance. Yeah, those are some of the reasons that I went for the high school teaching certificate.

Ah well, I am being antisocial sitting in here blogging. I hope you are all well. Jes has links to our flickr accounts on her page. If you need a recent Elliot picture, slide over there for the latest pictures. She did a shoot with a white tiger that is very cute and also there are some tattoo shots that are nicely framed. Oh yeah, there are lots of baptism shots as well.


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

We live in a city where crime and violence are part of the everyday fabric of our existence. A few weeks ago a young man was killed near our block. He was trying to steal a car, was confronted by an off duty police officer, he fired a gun at the officer and the officer shot him in the head in self defense. The kid was seventeen and died for the joy ride in the car that he’d almost boosted. That same week a student of mine had a sibling killed in gang violence not far from where we live. There have actually been four killings in two weeks within a one mile radius of our house.

I had to call the police last night (911) because of a domestic violence incident up the street from us. A man was screaming and trying to kick in a door. Stupid English teacher: the man was screaming “Rachel” and all I could think of was “Stella”. The police came with spotlights and were there for hours. Often the victim won’t press charges. Jes woke me at two in the morning last night as she’d heard the exchange of gunfire – multiple shots, back and forth. We haven’t heard what that was about yet.

I broke up a fight at school today. I stood in the middle and made peace. No blows landed. With the security lights, our alarm system, and the dog I feel like I am “standing in the middle” in my home. In America, at the highest and lowest levels, people have been taught that violence can be a solution to problems. Whether it’s smart bombs or dumb kids, violence begets only more violence. Gandhi said that eye-for-an-eye justice leaves the whole world blind. Makes you want to come over and visit, doesn’t it.


Saturday, November 10, 2007

Friday morning:

I have two days off this week, yesterday and today, ostensibly to go to the state teacher’s meeting – but I’m not required to go, so I am working from home instead. I do have mountains of paperwork nipping at my heels and little ambition to slay these paper dragons. Time enough remains of my four day weekend for me to procrastinate with a little blogging.

Such is the life of an educator: perpetually hounded by stacks of ungraded essays, worksheets, and adolescent inquiries into the good, the true and the beautiful. The rumor is that the better I get at teaching high school the less grading I will have to do. My assignments will be multi-layered and student centered so that they will work on them more and I will work on them less. Perhaps this is true. In any case, the first year of a teaching position is the hardest and I am very glad of these days off to ease some of the pressure.

I am hanging out with Elliot this morning, trying to let Jes sleep in a bit. Daddy/baby bonding is going well. I was talking to my friend Stephanie in Florida, who had a daughter Hannah just a few months ago, and she was wondering if I was looking forward to the first smiles. I was unaware that my frequently smiling son was ahead of the developmental curve. He can also hold his head up by himself; he could do this at just a few days old. Apparently that’s a milestone that is also supposed to be upcoming. Precocious man gets his super powers from good genes, good food, and lots of love.

We went on a little outing yesterday to buy me new sweaters for work. My third floor classrooms are either saunas or frozen depending on the miscalculation of the day, so I need to work on my layering skills. We went to Kohl’s and used his stroller as our shopping cart. We did our first backseat diaper change and are managing all the details of diaper bags admirably. The devices meant to ease our way in the world require collegiate logistical skills. How ever did people manage in the days before all this stuff? Just fine, I’m sure, but with less credit card debt. Though it is cool the way his car seat simply locks into place on the grocery store carts. Jes was out with Kelly’s mom last week, and she was struck by how nice it would have been to have that kind of gismo when her kids were young.

For those of you (Kim & Rob, Mike & Christy) heading into this insanity I recommend getting a Graco Pack N’ Play and using Pampers diapers – though we are currently experimenting with biodegradable Seventh Generation diapers, that are not as good as Pampers, but better for the earth. Both Pampers and Seventh Generation have the leg seal and the pseudo-Velcro fasteners down, but the Pampers are more absorbent. The Pack N Play is a bassinet/crib combo with a changing station – it’s our living room crib and when he’s not being held (which is most of the time) he chills out in the Graco and looks at his mirror. Oh yeah, get a baby mirror. Parents as Teachers are big on the importance of the mirror in self awareness and motor control.

My brother Andy is in town on business and we’ve had a chance to get together Tuesday and Wednesday evenings. He’s lived in California since 1983 and we occasionally have years where we don’t get to see one another. He’s on his way over now to get me so we can check in on our sister Sandy. She’s had the flu, so we are minimizing possible baby contagion by heading over there. We are picking up a baptismal gown that I, all of my siblings, and many of my nephews and nieces were baptized in. My maternal grandmother made it and it’s beautiful. She passed away from a heart attack when I was very small. One of my earliest memories is holding my mother’s hand by the graveside during her mother’s committal. I mention this to explain why we’ve made a certain ceremonial choice.

Neither Jes nor I are religious in any conventional sense, but I was raised Lutheran and I have a certain amount of cultural and family baggage that is prompting us to do a Lutheran baptism this weekend. Oddly, as it’s more them then for either us or Elliot, my parents are currently out of the country and won’t be able to attend, but a picture of the proceedings will keep familial relations rolling smoothly until such time as Sunday School starts to be an issue.

I used to argue theology with both my father and mother on the grounds that ultimate truths were at stake. As I got older I realized that as much as I wanted them to accept my thinking, I needed to accept them and their beliefs. I’ve ended up doing a fair number of oddly religious things in order to honor the people who gave me life. I chalk it up to a cultural heritage and roll with it on the existential premise that we all supply our own meanings. We’ve asked Beth and Brad to be godparents and I’ve charged them with talking Elliot out of any crazy cultish beliefs that he might become embroiled in.

Maybe the baptism is some kind of Pascal’s wager. Nope. It's just a gift to my parents and a slight moistening of our son. Actually, the ceremony will be redundant as the cat has already taken care of it.

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Written on Sunday:

Today, for the first time, Elliot reached out while I was holding him and tried to grab my face. Every day has firsts: first walk, first bath, first trip to Illinois (today), the first time he heard Sitting on the Dock of the Bay & American Pie on the radio, first visits with great grandparents (also today). It’s hard to go to work wondering what I’ll miss, and harder still to bring work home. Teaching is a difficult profession. I know a number of people who have left it because they couldn’t stand the feeling that if they were awake, they were at work. It isn’t at all yet clear that I won’t be one of them (again).


You want me to write about being a father, how things have changed. It might be too soon for that. It’s not really possible for me to talk about how things have changed for just me: more significantly, my relationship with my wife has been completely redefined. In our first year as a couple our things began to merge. She would sometimes joke about what great audiovisual equipment she got out our relationship.

In the first year of our marriage we filed our taxes jointly and opened shared accounts. We bought a car and house together. None of that togetherness prepares you for having a child that shares your faces. He has my brow line and chin and her upper lip. His nose is a blending of our noses. Evolutionary biology manifests itself in early resemblance to the father in order to establish paternity and assist in providing for the protection of the child; my features dominate for now, but several times I have caught Jes looking back at me from Elliot’s face.


Friday, November 02, 2007

Elliot eyes the approaching holiday with the honed skills of a dynamic athlete…

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He coils reflexively for a dynamic leap into action, all the while lulling the audience into a false sense of security….

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Go Crazy Folks – the child has won the pennant, the child has won the pennant!!!!!!!!!!!