Two Years, Nine Months: [sound of spitting]

WHAT’S MAMA DOING? WHAT’S MAMA DOING? WHAT’S MAMA DOING? Well, my dear two-year-and-nine-month-old child, Mama is doing her goddamnedest to recollect the last month of your life, even though every month on (or near, ahem) the 28th, after four weeks of remarking “I’ve GOT to write that down for the monthly letter” after you do something ridiculous or classic and then definitely not writing it down (because who has time for that shit, I mean really), the 28th or thereabouts roll around and I BLANK THE FUCK OUT. Then I manage to dredge the primordial sludge that exists instead of my brain and think of a few things that you’ve been doing, and I feel like it’s been so woefully inadequate to capture your particular moment—but then one year (or two) later, when all relevant details of everything in my life have been flushed down the drain of my “mind” with the latest baking-soda-and-vinegar concoction you’ve discovered, I look back on what I wrote then and I am profoundly grateful that even a minute of what you used to be like is preserved. So that’s why I write these updates. I actually don’t care who reads them. They’re for you, someday (and possibly your prom date, if I don’t like him, her or them), but most of all they’re for me. This is the hardest time of my life I never want to forget.

In that spirit, I think I’ll do this monthly update in the form of dichotomies.

This month has brought many tremendous developments. With every wondrous advance there has been an equal and opposite regression; with every new terrifying thing you’ve figured out how to do, there’s been an equal and opposite luminosity.

SPEAKING IN OPPOSITES: Tremendous cognitive ability good; heightened propensity for mischief…not good (as you would say; we haven’t taught you “bad”).

This is only fitting, since you’ve recently decided your favorite way to communicate is in counterfactuals. There is nothing more you like doing than describing something by its exact and obvious opposite. On the multiple occasions you hurl entire puzzles, packages of straws, various and sundry foodstuffs or the entire contents of your (admittedly raggedy) crayon bin onto the floor, you shriek with delight and go: YOU MADE A LITTLE MESS! When one of us go, “Well, actually, that’s a BIG mess!” you insist: IT’S NOT A BIG MESS! IT’S A LITTLE MESS! When we remark that you’re getting big (and oh god, are you getting big), you respond: YOU’RE GETTING LITTLE! I wonder sometimes what people who don’t know you might think you mean, people who don’t know to assume that when your voice takes on a particular timbre, the “I’m fucking with you register,” everything you say should be assumed to be the direct inverse of what you mean, or what is true.

THAT EXTRA INCH: Great for your physical development, disastrous for the house

Two weeks or so ago, you took a break from your usual program of refusing to eat (you actually have nightmares where someone is making you eat something, and on more than one occasion I have had to wake you up as you sobbed in your sleep, NO HAVE TO! YOU DON’T WANT TO EAT IT!) and became temporarily insatiable. Literally two days later, as you pattered over to the other side of the kitchen island, I noticed that much more of your ridiculous little head was visible than before. We took out our extra scientific tape measure, and sure enough, you’d shot up an entire inch. (Maybe it’s all the spinach smoothies.)

And what a goddamned difference that inch makes. You can now reach everything you couldn’t before, which I found out by noticing about thirty seconds too late that you’d grabbed a GIANT kitchen knife out of the dish drain and managed to run halfway across the living room with it. Luckily I caught you in time, grabbed you around your little wrist and got the thing away from you (and also luckily, our knives are hella dull around here), but sheesh, kid. So we had to do yet another round of Fluffy-proofing this abode, including basically clearing out every drawer in the place, since you now regularly open them and root around until you find something to your liking. (We have thus far been unable to install any child-safety locks that stay in place; thanks a lot, yuppie lady with a grown kid who remodeled the kitchen before us!) Somewhat relatedly, part of this growth spurt has accompanied a heightened urge to climb shit, and these things coalesced in a renewed love affair with our kitchen stools. After weeks of chasing you as you clambered onto them (“Are you supposed to do this ALONE or WITH A GROWN-UP?” “You’re with a grown-up!” you’d cackle, meaning you were alone), we finally just had to sequester them away into your father’s closet (where all the forbidden objects in the household go to hide), and now we all eat standing up, because that’s preferable to having to chase you off those stools all the live-long day.

EVER-BURGEONING INDEPENDENCE: Fantastic for your sense of self, somewhat disheartening for those of us who don’t enjoy hearing YOU DON’T HAVE TO all day or waking up at 3 a.m. for a party

You continue to DOMINATE at preschool! Again, I am so sorry that I ever doubted you. (DAT’S OKAY! you’d say, and I thank you for your easy forgiveness and only hope you’ll feel the same way in about fifteen years.) You like to joke about baby stuff, and look at pictures of yourself as a baby—on our weekly jaunts to IKEA, you even like to climb into the crib and pretend to sleep there, which is especially interesting given that we have never owned a crib and you’ve literally never slept in one in your tiny little life.

You are way more willing to go out on the town with your father, your babysitter, and (when we’re lucky to have a visit, like today) your Babcia. Last time your grandmother was here we’d just moved to the loft and you were so spooked you wouldn’t leave; every time she tried to take you somewhere you lost it and I had to come and get you. Now your grandmother has essentially kidnapped you for the past three days, and you’ve barely even noticed. This is partly because you (CHOIR OF ANGELS!) are starting to wean yourself. They said you’d do it eventually and you are. It helps a lot that since you turned two, we only nurse at home (it also helps me avoid the stares of a VERY uptight city where almost nobody breastfeeds an infant, in public or otherwise, much less a ginormous almost-three-year-old). But right now you really only nurse in the morning and before you go to bed, with the occasional midday “nursing break” if you’re feeling sick or uneasy, or just want to make sure your mother knows who’s still fucking boss. The only downside of your growing autonomy is that you also want to make it VERY CLEAR that you do NOT HAVE TO DO most things. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a liiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiitttle bit over hearing the phrase YOU DON’T HAVE TO (your language for “I don’t have to”) seventy million times a day, but you know what? I’m glad you’re not a pleaser. I hope you never become a pleaser. I hope you continue to be the boss of every situation you enter, and that you get to have a life with minimal having-to-do inessential stuff. That said, when this particular turn of phrase is no longer so beloved, I can’t say I’ll mourn. Although who knows, maybe I will?

SELF-AMUSEMENT: You no longer require me or Daniel Tiger to entertain you in order to be entertained—but most of the games you’ve invented to entertain yourself result in property damage or near-certain death

BY FAR your favorite thing to do right now is pour liquids back and forth between cups and bowls. You would potentially do this all day long—so long as we allowed you to dump portions of that liquid onto the floor and then “clean it” (spread it around) with a towel for an indefinite amount of time. It also doesn’t help that your favorite liquid to do this with is rice milk. At this point, you can walk over to the refrigerator, open it, grab the rice milk carton out of it, walk said carton over to your little table, open it, and pour it. We usually (but not always) catch you before you start to pour. A fun variation of this game is the “spit and pour,” where you act like you’re drinking your milk or water, but instead you spit a mouthful into a bowl so as to have more pouring-material to work with.

This has also facilitated our first introduction into what I guess people call “discipline.” You are now old enough to know the difference between doing something by accident and on purpose (though because of your opposite-talk, you often say DAT WAS ON PURPOSE! when it was an accident, and vice versa), and also to know the difference between something that we want you to do and something we don’t. Ergo, when you spit or pour your gross water-milk concoction, for the first time in your little charmed life, you have “a consequence,” aka a “time in,” which is what progressive woo-woo parents such as myself do instead of a “time out.” A TIME IN IS A TIME! according to you; according to me, it is holding you on my lap and not letting you nurse or do anything else fun, and having a calm talk about Yips and Nopes and which ones we do and which ones we don’t. (DAT’S A YIP! is, of course, one of your favorite things to say whilst doing a Nope.) As it often does with little kids, usually the mere threat of “a consequence” or “being in big trouble” is enough to get you to SORT of cool it with the mischief, but also as it often does with little kids, the only thing we can really do is try to distract you with something slightly less messy and/or dangerous.

AGAIN WITH THE NO NAPS: This is sort of great because you go to bed earlier, but also WTF because you still manage to stay up until 9 most nights and then you also get up at 3 every night to have a deep conversation about Slippy the Cat that sometimes lasts for hours, because WTF?????????????????????

This one is kind of self-explanatory.

On a scale of 1 to 10, with a 1 being not having a kid at all and a 10 being the month I lost my shit at a guy in Whole Foods, I’d give this month about a 6 on the difficulty scale. Managing your new height, new interest in destruction and new extent of NOT HAVING TO has not been easy, but it has been fucking delightful nonetheless. Every month, you get older and your you-ness crystallizes further, and I could not be more in awe.

You dominate, you magnificent little fucker. Never stop being so irrepressibly, unapologetically full of life.

Love always,


Two years and eight months: THANK YOU

Dear Small Person:

You are two years and eight months old today. It is the first anniversary of when you broke me, and the second anniversary of when the internet broke me viz you breaking me with your sleep issues. If I were a believer in patterns, I’d say that the X + 8 months is a cursed time, but even with our new, improved, heavily regimented life (I’ll get to that in a sec), when it comes to you, there is only entropy and coincidence.

A few minutes ago, I asked you: “What is your favorite thing to say?” You answered: “THANK YOU.”

First of all, this is not true; currently your favorite thing to say, much to my chagrin and the possible enjoyment and also possible mortification of your preschool teachers (SPOILER ALERT), is: “SLURP URANUS!” Why? Well, part one: You’ve had a fixation with the planet Uranus for several months now (as well as all of the other planets, with Jupiter still running a close second; you have a thing for gas giants because they remind you of me). Part two: I checked out this book for you at the library the other week that is one of these twee Baby Lit books (you already own Frankenstein, Sherlock Holmes, Huck Finn and Sense and Sensibility thanks to your twee literary grandparents), and it’s a twee baby version of The Odyssey. You are obsessed with it (awesome!), but your favorite page is the page for Charybdis, which also contains the helpful onomatopoetic “SLUUUUUUUUUUURP,” which I guess is the phonetic of the whirlpool or whatever? I’m not a Classicist, those fuckers are insufferable (except my friend Debra, who rocks). Anyway, you have been enraptured with the word SLUUUURP, and ask us to say it over and over again. Your new way of doing this is to command: “TELL me!” followed, if we don’t comply, by “MAMA say it!” and then, finally, “MAMA say the WORDS!” Anyway, the only thing you enjoy more than your favorite words is putting those words together. Hence, the greater part of the City of Saint Louis currently wondering why a 2.5-year-old knows about anilingus. SHE DOESN’T, EVERYONE.

However. THANK YOU is actually pretty appropriate for what’s going on in our lives right now. Not only because you have recently (thanks in large part to your politeness-concerned babysitter, Regan) started thanking people all the time, but also because right now I am so very grateful, for everything that you have worked so very hard to accomplish in just one short month.

The first thing you have done — and this is the greatest feat of your little life — is that you have taken to preschool LIKE A FUCKING CHAMP. Here you are on your very first day, after many months on our part of talking it up (and up and up).

Sidenote: I can’t BELIEVE it was cool enough that day to put you in a long-sleeved dress AND SWEATER. Soon after you began school, St. Louis got a sweltering heatwave that has only recently abated (and the respite is short–OCTOBER will be coming in with high-80s temperatures because all deities hate me, and also global climate fucking change, which is a thing, no matter what your piece of shit president says).

Anyway, for the first week or so of preschool, you charged into that room like a fucking CHAMP, barely even looking back at me, and when you did it was often with pity, like, What’s this broad still doing here? Quit cramping my steez, lady. Some days have gone better than others, but no days have been hard enough that the school has called me to get you (which I feared would happen about an hour in to your first days), and some days you have just simply dominated the whole fucking time. This morning you were not too happy to be dropped off; you cried a little bit, and asked to nurse (which you know you can’t do away from home; it’s your general distress cry) — but then you processed your emotions like a LITTLE FUCKING BOSS, marched up to me, planted a smooch on my face and then took off to read the colors book with your little friends.

Every day they bring your class of 2 and 3-year-olds out in a little procession to be picked up, and it is the single cutest thing in existence. And every day that you go to preschool by yourself, and you get through it (even when you’re sad sometimes), I am prouder than I have ever been of anyone or anything in my entire life.

It’s funny; they often say you don’t know love until you have a child (which really pisses a lot of people off), and while the love you have for your child is certainly different (or can be) than the love you have for others, I would venture to say that the real emotion you don’t truly know until you have a child (if you do! you don’t have to! nobody has to!) is pride.

Honey, I am so proud of you, and I am so profoundly grateful to you for how hard you are working to gain independence and flourish.


On your first day, only one person cried, and that person was me.

I usually bike you to school in the CORT, and then at day’s end (which is 11:45 a.m.) you are starving and gobble down your lunch before we ride home. In other news, I am finally looking (and feeling) like a person who exercises ever, and this is a good thing.

The other major change around here — the second-biggest accomplishment of your young life — is that we have finally, finally, FINALLY, FINALLY, FINALLY, FINALLY, FINALLY, FINALLY, FINALLY, FINALLY, FINALLY, FINALLY, FINALLY, FINALLY, FINALLY, FINALLY, FINALLY, FINALLY, FINALLY, FINALLY, FINALLY, FINALLY, FINALLY, FINALLY, FINALLY, FINALLY, FINALLY, FINALLY, FINALLY, FINALLY, FINALLY, FINALLY, FINALLY, FINALLY accomplished a semblance of a “normal” sleep schedule in our house.

For us, the biggest impossibility to imagine with preschool was that you’d tolerate it at all — but the second-biggest was that you’d wake up for it.

AND THEN your dad had the single greatest idea of his life. He said, “I think that the artificial light is affecting her melatonin, and when it gets dark, we shouldn’t turn on lights in here.” Since you had heretofore been known to collapse into sobs and the directive to MAKE IT COOLER (ie “lighter”) every time it got dark, I was…erm, we’ll say resistant at first. We’ll say I had a total shit-fit. We’ll say tears were shed. Mine.

Then we tried it, and on the first night you went to sleep before midnight.

Then on the second night you went to sleep before 11:30.

Then before 11.

THEN 10:30.

Now, even on days you take a nap (which we are careful not to extend beyond 4:30 no matter how grumpy you get when we wake you up, which is AN INCREDIBLE FEAT ON MY PART because it means that I INTENTIONALLY disrupt your rest, which means I intentionally disrupt literally THE ONLY REST I EVER GET), you regularly conk out before 10.


You also now wake up at 7 when you sleep in…and 5:30 when you don’t. I am now living the life of a “normal” parent of a “normal” toddler/preschooler, and it is weird as fuck. And thank you, my sweetheart. Thank you.

Thank you for cracking me up by siding with the villains in the Cat in the Hat. Even though you can read that book backwards in your sleep, you require us to do it (MAMA do it! MAMA read the words!), and when we get to the page about the “big mess” you dissolve into giggles and run around the house, usually toppling whatever you can get your little mitts on. When we ask you what you’re doing — or, more often, you ask us what you’re doing — the answer is a deliberate opposite: “Up to GOOD tricks!” Even though you know you’re really “up to BAD tricks,” which you find hilarious. I’m pretty sure in that book you’re supposed to side with the nameless narrator boy — whose namelessness you remarked on the other day, a little literary theorist in the making, alas — but in our house, you’re definitely Thing 1 and Thing 2. “Is Fluffy up to GOOD?” you’ll ask, when you are very much up to no good.

Speaking of which, another thing you command “Mama TELL ME” is Larry David’s catch phrase from Curb Your Enthusiasm, which, like Will & Grace, incomprehensibly returns to television in a few days (I watched the re-boot of W&G and it was L.A.M.E. and thus late-90s Schuman had terrible taste in comedy). Anyway, you think it’s HILARIOUS to go pretty, pretty, pret-ty-, pret-ty, pret-tyyyyyyyyy good, and I can’t say I disapprove.

(HBO sent me this swag box of CYE-related stuff and I damn near cried. The box PLAYED THE THEME SONG when you opened it. It was nuts.)

Thank you for allowing me to take you to the Science Center every Tuesday morning (now we can do morning shit!), and letting me watch you as you learn and explore, and eat disgusting pizza which you inexplicably prefer to all other good food (including much better pizza).

I am still very far from having figured this business out. There are days I cry. There are days I lose it at your father. There are days you watch more YouTube than you should. But we worked really hard to get you in a place where you could go to preschool. Even as we worked, even as we pretended not to, we doubted you.

And you showed us.

Thank you.

(And please, please, please don’t take this missive as your cue to cross over into some terrifying nightmare phase of God-Knows-What, which is what you always do the second after I post an update about how Everything Is Awesome. Everything is still FUBAR, it’s just FUBAR in a way I like. Two grown-ass people have to hang out in the dark every night so that you will go to sleep. It’s still a thing around here. DO NOT FEEL THE NEED TO RETURN MY LIFE TO UNENDING CHAOS. Thank you.)

We’re all, for just this tiny second, pretty, pretty, pret-ty good.

Thank you.



Rate My JIL, Sept 22

These lists are dropping, like, in the middle of the afternoon on Fridays and I don’t know what to do with that shit, so I guess here’s a twofer?

Four new ones today:

  1. Baylor, AGAIN. Oh good, a non-tenure-track lectureship at a piece-of-shit right-wing propaganda factory masquerading as a university. Nein, Danke. What’s the deal, Baylor? Did you catch your department chair fornicating with the only member of the faculty and you had to fire them both (by “fire” I mean “cast into the fiery pits of Hell with all the gays but somehow no Trumps”)? I’ll never know and I really, really, really don’t give a shit.
  2. Reed. OOH DARK HORSE, MOTHERFUCKERS. That’s in my home state of Oregon, and if this were 2012 I would be crying and convulsing with longing. This is the kind of job that makes it particularly painful when people who aren’t familiar with academia are like, “Well, where you you want to live? What about Reed? Have you thought about applying there? I heard they are good. Just walk into the office and be like, ‘Hey, I’m good’ and [sound of me dying].” It was hard enough when there simply weren’t any jobs in the area where I wanted to live; it was somehow even harder when there were, because I never even made the first cut for them. That will happen again this time if Reed wins the contest, but at least now I won’t really care. BONUS: Up until a few years ago, Reed had a NOTORIOUS dean that everybody hated who was famous the world over for reducing job finalists to self-loathing goo. I heard they aren’t there anymore. Maybe I’m wrong. If I’m wrong, I HOPE I MAKE IT TO CAMPUS so I can experience it for myself!!!!!
  3. Southern Fucking New Hampshire University. Whoa, this is ballsy as fuck. SNHU is essentially a for-profit masquerading as a nonprofit (like Western Governors U), and here they are just advertising on the MLA list like it ain’t a thing. IT’S A THING. I see you.
  4. University of Rhode Island. Wait, I thought that was called “Brown.” But seriously, hoo boy kids, this listing is going to be super controversial, because it’s for a specialist in…BUSINESS GERMAN. This is SUCH a hot-button issue in German Studies. Once I was interviewing for a TT job for a big R1, and they had a German for the Professions minor, and at my interview, I was like, “Oh, this seems interesting and I have this super awesome course all planned and it is only MOSTLY about Aldi and not ALL about Aldi,” and they were like SCORN SCORN SCORN THIS IS A THING WE DO FOR PEOPLE’S DUMB PARENTS and I am pretty sure I blew the interview simply by being enthusiastic about a thing their department did. Anyway, I didn’t know there was a University of Rhode Island, but of course there is, and this is a German for the Professions position that’s gonna make some literary purists out there wail.


Rate My JIL, Sept 15 List:

Sup! I don’t have time to write an intro this week! You get this!

  1. Auburn. This is a perfectly good R1 job (though for R1s its 3-2 teaching load is “high”), and they want a “generalist” which is pretty much like saying “good luck trying to figure out what we want, fuckface,” but that’s fine too, I guess. My main issue with jobs like these is that anyone who teaches there will live the R1 Conundrum, which is that they’ll be expected to produce crazy amounts of high-quality research whilst teaching students who would rather be at the football game or are possibly already at the football game. This doesn’t mean that there are no dedicated undergrads at Auburn; I’m sure there are many. But across the big R1 spectrum I really think this duality persists, and for that reason, this is not a job that I, personally, would want (HINT HINT). Also, I’m guessing they will probably hire “too high” (i.e. someone from Princeton) who will use the place as a stepping stone and feel above it for however many (or few) years they’re there, and then we’ll be seeing this exact ad all over again in 2020.
  2. Baylor. Oh for fuck’s sake, I don’t want to deal with this piece of shit ad to work with ultra-right-wing Evangelical hypocrites, do you? Even better: This is an outside chair search. So, for all of you full professors of German who also happen to be right-wing Evangelical hypocrites, HERE IS THE JOB FOR YOU. Do these people know that John Ellis is 9000 years old? Maybe Rachel Fulton Brown can apply; Anglo-Saxon is basically German, after all.
  3. Columbia. Now this is an interesting job. This is a non-tenure-track more-or-less permanent lectureship that is essentially running the German language program. You see very few language-program coordinator positions at the tenure track level these days (unless it’s a PhD program in second-language acquisition, but sometimes not even then!), and this is because many years ago, the Literature People decided they were intellectually superior to the Language People, and marginalized the Language People, and administrations causalized their workforce, and then suddenly you have places like UIC offering $28,000 a year. This is not a bad job, but on principle it should be tenure-track. SLA research is no less important to the field than literature research—in fact, for many reasons I’d actually say it’s more important to the field. I know that the department at Columbia has no control over the types of hires they get (fun fact: that department offered me an NTT job once long ago, and I turned it down because I am a dipshit!), but it still depresses the shit out of me that even at the highest level possible, Language People can’t get their due. (Also, she said for no reason, I am not qualified for this job.)
  4. University of British Columbia. I preemptively congratulate the Canadian and/or native German who is going to get this job. Don’t make me waste my dumb-ass American time applying for this job, K?
  5. University of Chicago. Ooh, Cal, ooh. Guess there’s a new marquee job on the block this cycle, motherfuckers. And there’s no reason not to think this position won’t actually be FILLED (how’s THAT for as many negatives as one person can fit into one weird sentence?). Cal, ya burnt. Pros: David Wellbery, who is super-awesome and also, I heard, a sorcerer; hella prestige; you’ll get to live near my Aunt Sarah and Uncle Joe. Cons: Your new colleagues will include alt-right troll Rachel Fulton Brown, inveterate man-child Brian Leiter, and deans who like to make sure you know you’re NEVER gonna get trigger-warned (which is in itself a sort of trigger warning, sucka). Congrats in advance to the mid-career assistant professor with a Princeton PhD currently finishing their third book at a top-rated R1 who gets this job.

VOTE, BITCHES! And unless you’re German, you can tell everyone how you voted. too.


Rate My JIL, Week of October 18 (POLL ONLY, SORRY)

You guys. I have too much actual, paid work to do today to make fun of job listings, so I PROMISE I’m going to do a big catch-up on Friday, with extra ascerbic…ism? Ascerboscity? I don’t know. (After all, what better way to celebrate the Jewish New Year than in petty self-sabotage?).

For now, I leave you with nothing but this updated poll. First, some results. DRUMROLLLLLL….In last week’s poll, Colorado College CLOBBERED.

Will the addition of some dark horses this week change anything? I DON’T KNOW. Don’t forget to vote!