Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year!

2013 may have been an exhausting year--and one that passed in the blink of an eye--but it was certainly memorable for us. Although Severin made his appearance just before 2013 started, this was really our first year of parenting (we didn't come home from the hospital until 2nd January). He's proven to be the most delightful little person we could have possibly imagined and parenting him (while often tiring, undoubtedly time consuming and sometimes perplexing) is an utter joy.

Balancing work and motherhood has not been easy--corners have been cut and my personal time has shrunk to next to nothing--but I managed to write a new article, finish another, write and present three conference papers and, of course, my book came out. Although the latter was completed in 2012, it was nice to see my two babies emerging into the world within one year.

It's hard to imagine any other year living up to this one in terms of momentous and much wanted changes but hopefully we'll strive for something remarkable in 2014. I would love another baby, another book but don't want to be too greedy.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Joan Fontaine

I've always loved Joan Fontaine and felt that maybe she'd be around forever, if for no other reason than to outlive her sister.

Much as I love both Fontaine and de Havilland, I always preferred the younger, seemingly more fragile and angular star. I share that seemingly distinctive western interest in sister stars and understand that particular fascination with multiple female siblings seen in the silent era's Pickfords, Gishes, Talmadges, Mason/Flugrath/Dana, Mersereau and Marshes, amongst others, in Classical Hollywood's Lanes and Fontaine/de Havilland and today's-- Fannings, Olsens and even Kardashians. As a sisterless child, I look on wistfully from afar at the idea of feminine closeness yet difference such stars offer, even as I recognize how these two were unique in their open mutual dislike of each other. Such hatred has always seemed incongruous coming from these gentle, delicate and even fragile figures, but perhaps that added to their appeal. Certainly anybody who survives into their 90s, reaches the height of stardom cannot be weak--images are, of course, notoriously deceptive and seductive.

Fontaine's beauty and delicacy--as a figure, performer and presence--embodied the apex of a certain Hollywood glamour. Astoundingly lovely, this amazing performer had her own unique screen presence that will never be forgotten. With her departure--as she wanted it, evidently, quietly, alone and in her sleep--we lose yet another tie to Classical Hollywood. Of the adult performers of the 1930s, I can only think of two--Luise Rainer and, of course, Olivia de Havilland--who are still with us. Fontaine's parting seems all the more threatening as it represents the end of this last great sister act and points to the inevitability that soon, all the major adult figures of the 1930s and 1940s will be gone. In my early teens I could still meet the very old stars of the silent era--figures like Lillian Gish who worked at Biograph, representing an era of Trust Companies and the one- and split-reel programme. The entire history of cinema was somehow still present within living memory but over the last two decades, those last survivors have gone, and with them the stars of the 1930s and 40s. Even the child stars like Baby Peggy are now in their 90s. Where I once stood in front of Lillian Gish as an adolescent, asking for her autograph, I last year stood in front of Baby Peggy and shook her hand--a child star who may now be the last link to the silent era and almost certainly is the last person alive who was captured on film in the 1910s.

So farewell Joan Fontaine. I always thought you were underrated as a star and as a beauty, not that that mattered to you then or now.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


My second major milestone this year--and this was even longer in the making.

Sunday, December 1, 2013


I may be cursing myself and it may just be the a daily variation but today, I swear my clothes felt a little loose. I have a few signs that I could finally be losing some of the weight that gradually crept up on me over the last few years. I may not have put on much pregnancy weight but my body shape certainly shifted so clothes just don't fit as well. I've heard that breast feeding causes some weight to stick around. As Severin fast approaches his first birthday and enjoys other food, he is nursing less but still with vigour so it may be that the weaning process is beginning and, combined with my carb cutback, I'm getting back into shape. After all, this little boy enjoyed his Thanksgiving turkey and stuffing this year and is beginning to eat real solids as well as purees.

Of course, I may just have spoiled everything by eating a slice of Evan's mother's delicious lemon cake which I am sure contained 50+ grams of carbs. I vow that I will eliminate these late evening carb fests as hard as it may be. For my health, my baby boy and for the sake of any future children with whom I may be blessed.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Getting Adventurous

Severin's been crawling for a little over a month now and it looks like he'll be walking soon. Our little baby is becoming a toddler--he's going through one of those rapid stages of development where he gets more active, more dexterous, stronger and more fun each day.

At this point he's into everything. Favourite games include opening and shutting doors, climbing up against tables, our legs, book cases and drawers and pulling books off shelves, flicking through their pages and sometimes damaging them. He is more fun by the minute but I feel a little sad that my big beautiful boy is fast leaving babyhood behind. I am getting more and more broody by the day.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Getting Bigger

The nine month sleep regression is starting to abate and someone is busy crawling, babbling, standing against furniture, playing and pretending to read books. He's almost a toddler already and  it's only been 9.5 months. I can't believe how fast time goes--I am craving another already...

Sunday, September 29, 2013


There are many reasons for my limited postings this year but they all centre around a small human being. For the last few weeks, this once good sleeper has decided that it is essential for him to be awake at all times. He's nine months old today (or will be tonight), and I believe this is known as sleep regression. Whatever it is, he refuses daytime naps and has even stopped napping when out on walks, screams hysterically if placed in his cot while still awake, will only fall asleep if nursing (a pattern that may be my fault), screams hysterically until he falls asleep otherwise, wakes up for upwards of two feeds a night and can be awake for two hours at a time. I'm behind on work/publication deadlines due to sleep deprivation although I work for as long as I can when awake. Tiredness has led me to grab empty carbs (in the shape of chocolate) several days because otherwise I would not be able to function, even though I now have prediabetes and am supposed to cut back.

It's hard but all worthwhile. I am just hoping my dear boy starts sleeping properly again soon so I can complete some embarrassingly overdue work and get on with new projects. He's brilliant in so many ways but behind on sleeping.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Fashion Ethics

Like many people, I've been acutely aware of the problems of fast fashion--their exploitation of labour, environment and resources. I'm equally aware that many more expensive brands are guilty of the same crimes and realise that contemporary fashion is based on a system that exacerbates most of these problems and relies on exploitation and short term thinking. I don't have time for much recreational reading these days (even work gets squeezed when there's an infant around), but managed to read a few chapters of Lucy Siegel's To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out the World? when I was home. It compounded my guilt about my current situation--as a (relatively) new mum who has already been vomited on once today and is still breast feeding, what should I wear? I've bought from Zara and Club Monaco on sale (and I presume the latter chain, for all its higher prices/better quality, is still as culpable as other chain retailers, but I've done so because I don't have time to make clothes right now, can't fit into some of my older clothes, many of which are dry clean only, silk, don't unfasten down the front and are thus unsuitable for my current life even if I can wear some of them for work. I can't sit around naked and am only too aware that I'm exploiting someone whatever I do. Plus I'm not really back to my original shape even if the scales say that I'm close to my preconception weight, so many pieces just don't fit.

In writing this post, I am trying to absolve my guilt. I'm also eager to have new pretty things and sometimes just need a fix, which in itself is part of the problem. Having an overstuffed wardrobe or three is one thing but so little is appropriate right now. When I was pregnant, it was easier as I knew it would end but I have no idea how much longer my little one will be so deliciously messy.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

What we've been doing

Severin and I took an almost all-summer long jaunt to England. Besides my two conferences (where the papers finally came together very nicely as I start to master the new way of working as a parent), we saw lots of friends and family and Severin made many new friends. Evan came over for a week and helped us back (travelling with an infant literally involves a lot of baggage) and now I'm trying to finish some essays before getting into the swing of yet another new academic year.

And as you can see, Severin is a big boy now--and eating solid food. Pictures from home, from London and my conference in Glasgow.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

These Days

I'm coming up on my 6th month anniversary of being a mother and have been reflecting on some of the inevitable changes and adjustments. A year ago I was still in the throes of nausea, still debating baby girl names (believing that the sickness, heart rate and general intuition all pointed to this baby being a girl), worrying about test results and finding it hard to believe all this was happening. Now I accept and love being a mum, love my little baby boy, and love the family we've created, but I'm still adjusting to some of the changes. It's difficult, for example, to write papers when your baby needs you and he's not going to respect that this is your time to write: I have two conferences in a little over ten days and two very messy piles of reflections, notes, ideas that have yet to coalesce into papers.

It's nearly a year since I felt S. move for the first time--now I'm so familiar with his energetic kicks and aware of his frustrations that he cannot move yet as he's seeking to explore his world.

I'm finally adjusting to wearing breast feeding mum clothes. A couple of times I bought pretty silk dresses on sale (ICB online sample sale, I'm looking at you), but those are strictly for limited non-baby times (work receptions, conferences). Uniqlo has become a go-to store, with my Suno collaboration dress being ideal with its button front, stain masking pattern and relatively stain resistant machine washable cotton construction. I'm at peace with my options right now, and will be slightly sad when I'm no longer a primary food source and can get back to more stylish options. I even missed the Tocca sample sale this week, not because I didn't love the items but because I realised that there would be another one before I'd be able to wear any of my finds. I also suspected that most of the stock would be old, pre-Emma Fletcher, and thus not worth wasting time I could spend with my boy or work.

Thursday, May 30, 2013


As I've mentioned before, balancing practical and stylish attire for new mothers isn't as easy as I thought. It's arguably harder than finding suitable clothing for my dear baby boy--I hate the junior adult look (ties, combat pants, sports t-shirts and logos) and what I've dubbed the junior thug look (baggy jeans, proto-adult shirts and jackets that aspire to a kind of gangsta image), which basically rules out most clothing for larger babies and toddlers. As Severin is a big boy (he was 17.1 lbs and 26.5 inches at his 4 1/2 month check up, putting him in the 90th percentile for boys his age, he''s already grown out of most infant clothing. While he still fits comfortably into most of his 3-6 month gap clothes, some of the nicer pieces I've bought on sale for 6-9 month olds were too small from the start. Most clothing lines refuse to make the nicer baby boy pieces for any child over 12 months and, in Severin's case, this means that he has already outgrown most of these lines at 5 months old. Even the gap, who offer a mixture of what I deem nice and stylish baby boy clothes (striped rompers, more traditional tops and soft jersey pants) and the crappy junior adult/junior thug pieces tend to produce the nice baby boy clothes only in their smaller sizes, topping out at 6-12 months (the other lines run to 24 mos), which seems foolish as the larger sizes sell out fast. I'd buy larger versions of many of his current favourites but I'm either in the biggest size already or find that others think alike and the only sizes left are for newborns or babes under 3 months.

To me, Severin is a baby and as such doesn't need to be branded as aggressively or markedly male. I love traditional baby clothes--I'm fortunate enough that kind relatives and friends knitted him some beautiful items, but I can't keep going back and begging for more. I'd love more soft, gentle pastel and bright items. I love him in a little cotton knit onesie or jersey romper and fill his drawers with as many stripes, gentle colours, teddy, kitten, duck and puppy appliques and prints as I can find. British stores are a touch better than many of their US counterparts, but what will I do when this baby gets a little bigger and our options dry up?

Girls are so much easier and maybe one day I'll be able to indulge in traditional dresses and candy striped leggings but the limitations of baby and young boy's clothing seems so obvious--and so clearly shared by other likeminded mums--that I wish someone would fill it. If I had time and money, maybe it would be me, but I'm bereft of the training and already caught on my own mothering-work treadmill.

Monday, May 27, 2013


Last Monday was the day I had fruitlessly hoped would never arrive. My dear Peeps succumbed to renal failure shortly after her 18th birthday on the 18th anniversary of her adoption, I believe. Her decline was very fast--over the past few weeks, she appeared to be losing a lot of weight and was spending less time with us and more time asleep in a corner of the bathroom or behind a chair. There were no obvious signs of ill health until late last week when she suddenly appeared to have lost about half her body weight and had very watery eyes. Over three days, her body seemed to fail her, until she could no longer stand for very long and fell over when she attempted to walk. I could not leave my darling girl in that condition to suffer. Fortunately, we had a very kind vet who does home visits so she came by last Monday to see if anything could be done. While Evan had some hopes that something could be done to improve her condition, I was just surprised that she was strong enough to survive through the night. Unfortunately, the vet agreed with my fears and found that one of her kidneys had almost disappeared and the other one was huge. Even if we had caught it earlier (which would have been quite difficult), very little, if anything, could have been done. Kidney failure is a common cause of death among older cats and some key symptoms include thirst. Peeps was always a good drinker, however, and loved water more than food from her kittenhood, a good quality in terms of health, but not in terms of diagnosing kidney failure.

I feel so bad that I couldn't do more for her and that I was distracted during her last months dealing with pregnancy, renovations, the move, childbirth and the early sleepless days of parenthood. I know she needed me more than ever but I barely had any time to give and had hoped to have some quality kitty time with her later. I also feel bad that I misread physical symptoms as emotional reactions to the inevitable distractions we encountered over the last year. She had appeared to have neglected her beautiful long fur coat last summer while I was at home, which was the kind of thing she would do to show that she was upset, but the tangles never really went away and became far worse this winter and spring. Matted fur is a sign of kidney failure. She also changed her eating habits, moving away from hard to soft food, which again in retrospect was a sign of kidney failure. Looking at photos of her a year ago also reveals just how much she had declined--but it's difficult to see such change on a day to day basis. Only in the last week was it evident that she had just wasted away to nothing.

Evidently she was not in much pain. Kidney failure makes humans and animals (as far as we know) feel weak and mildly unwell which might account for Peeps' seeming surprise at not being able to walk far or reach her litterbox in the last hours of her life. But I feel guilt and pain that I missed the signs and couldn't help her. I really hoped she would live into her 20s and that Severin would get to know and love her, pick her up and stroke her fur. He did get to know her and while she was the most jealous of the three cats (she was a tortie after all), she was also the most interested in him and the most gentle towards him.

I cannot believe she has gone--I still see her around the apartment. I could not be there for her final minutes so Evan held and stroked her. I didn't have the courage to see her go and want to hold on to the illusion that she is still around. I think the truth will hit when her ashes come home. She was the best and most loving friend anybody could ever have and I just hope we will meet up again one day. Rest in peace, my dear little girl and thank you for all your love. I will love you forever.

Thursday, May 2, 2013


It's always nice to be at this point in the academic year: things are not yet over so the summer is intact but in sight, making the last week's slog more doable. It's nice to have the summer still ahead, a blank canvas where all the time is still unspent and not a minute yet wasted. My plans for this summer are suitably ambitious (two conferences, trip home with Severin, completing the second book proposal and a couple of other major projects) but I'm also scheduling time to rest and play with my adorable and not-so-little baby boy.

I can't help but think back to this time last year--newly pregnant, my morning sickness was just starting, helping relieve some of my anxieties about pregnancy loss and blighted ova, With a big, chubby, delicious baby in my life, I can look back warmly and nostalgically to that spring and early summer when I was still steeped in the fears and discomforts that accompany early pregnancy. I'm starting to regain my interest in clothes even though breast feeding makes it difficult to wear so many dresses and I have to watch out for dry clean only fabrics. My little boy also drools and regurgitates so the messiness of new motherhood has not elapsed but somehow I'm better at judging the signs and finding times where I can dress relatively well. I've bought a few bargain dresses (the ICB online sample sale was great, and Club Monaco's sale section tempts me still, especially when there is an additional discount), but shopping remains a largely digital experience. And I still feel large, unattractive and old (the result of seeing a baby's perfect skin next to mine) but right now, I'm not sure I'm that bothered, although I certainly don't intend to let myself go. I'm sure the change in hormones post-pregnancy have something to do with it--as my hair attests (it's falling out and finds itself wound around baby fingers and toes and all other surfaces, nooks and crannies).

Now it's spring, I'm really starting to navigate the world with a pram/stroller and realizing that the MTA isn't exactly designed for new parents and their offspring. Last week we set off early for an appointment with my endocrinologist and due to a mixture of factors (the layout of elevators, helpful fellow passengers and bad signage) I ended up taking a subway train the wrong way and landed in Flushing not Grand Central. Of course I recognized that I was on the wrong train the second the door closed and the conductor announced the next station, but by then it was too late. With four elevators on the entire 7 train, and only one of them--at the last station--ahead of me, I had to ride to the end of the line, increasingly realizing that I would never make it before they closed. One wasted afternoon, cancelled appointment and cancellation fee later, I realised that being a mobile parent in NYC involves more work than I had thought. For our next big trip to the USCIS this Tuesday, I used the Baby Bjorn, which I still don't entirely trust (fears of baby falling on the floor) but it made life easier for me, even though I suspect that my little poppet would have been a little more cosy in his pram. 

Given my recent adventures, I'm wondering what it will be like to travel internationally with my baby. As he is huge for his age (4 months and I'm predicting at least 27 inches and 18 lbs right now), it may not be as comfortable as I'd like but I can't wait for him to meet the rest of his family.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013


I've been a mother for a little over three months now and feel a little more experienced. Watching my baby grow is an amazing experience--he babbles now, smiles widely when he sees us and seems to find many things funny. He is also almost entirely nocturnal, something that we're trying unsuccessfully to remedy.

As I feel more confident in my maternal skills and my ability to feed my growing boy, I'm also starting to recover my interest in clothing and looking good. I've not lost all the weight I'd like (I'm 2 lbs heavier than at my post-baby thinnest), partly because of the lack of sleep, the need to resort to sugar foods to keep me awake and my relatively sedentary lifestyle since having Severin. Now that the weather is better, I'm taking him on regular walks (I'm the only one doing the walking--he sleeps) and feeling more like I'm part of the world. I don't really have the time to shop and am still limited by the same breast feeding dress restrictions, but somehow I'm beginning to come back into the world. It feels like I have the best of both worlds.

While I don't really have the time to shop for myself, I've been stocking up on baby clothes. The options for boys may not be so great, but I'm charmed by stripes, rompers and little knitted onesies on my baby boy.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013


Tomorrow--weather permitting--I leave for my field's big annual conference in Chicago. Given that there's a big storm between here and the upper midwest I'm not sure if I'll make it, which makes me wonder about the wisdom of scheduling anything in Chicago until later in the month.

For the first time since I've had a baby, I've had to juggle writing to a deadline and an infant. I have yet to adapt my working method (waiting until the last minute and writing crazily and ignoring everything else) to life with a newborn. I'm starting to see that what worked before won't work again until he's old enough to do his own thing without Mum worrying about him. Babies don't respect schedules and they want attention and S is going through a phase of eating more than his little tummy can take for hours on end and then spitting back up for the next few hours. He also doesn't want to sleep when we are around. I want to give him everything and perhaps dedicated days last week to him when I could have been working but I'm also aware that he needs that attention and that this process of balancing work/motherhood will take a while to fine tune.

So I'm here with an unfinished, unproofread paper that is far from my best work. My bags aren't packed. I'm tired. He's finally asleep and I have to leave tomorrow and run a rather time consuming errand before I go. I have no powerpoint, my clips are not edited onto a disc. Will this be the year I take my laptop and write on the plane and at airports? Given that I have to take my breast pump, I'm inclined to think I'll be jotting notes down on paper instead.

I love conferences but I don't want to leave my baby and I don't think it's fair on him or Evan. If only a family trip was possible but it might even be too early in my little one's life to take him so far, particularly in bad weather. At the moment, I just want to snuggle up in bed and cuddle him. If only cosleeping wasn't dangerous--I've not done it and won't do anything that might hurt him but it would be so lovely to sleep with my baby boy in my arms. At this point, I'm so tired that sleep appeals to me the most--not socializing, papers and academic politics.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Postpartum Dress

For the last few years, my mother has warned me that most of my wardrobe would be unsuitable for a new mother. Given that I wasn't sure if I'd ever be fortunate enough to have a child, her advice seemed more than premature. While pregnant, I thought how much fun it would be to revisit my old wardrobe after Severin's birth. To that end, I bought a few very heavily reduced items late in my pregnancy to supplement my old wardrobe ($30 skirts from Club Monaco, heavily discounted cashmere sweaters from J Crew), even though this involved guess work as I couldn't try these items on properly and had to estimate what size I'd be postpartum.

As usual, however, my mother was right. This last few weeks has passed in a blur of feed, sleep/sleeplessness and work, and the discovery that breast milk can ruin your clothes. Even though I'm barely producing enough milk, I had no clue that leaks and drips would limit my options to cotton jersey and super cheap items. Button up shirts, leggings and pajama bottoms, all those horrid stockpiled t-shirts that had faded, discoloured or just looked bad that I'd never parted with became suitable day and night time attire, often with little difference between both. I thought the baby would be the messy one but it's also me. I have already ruined one (cheap and heavily reduced) silk pleated skirt while feeding Severin, unaware that milk was flowing from more than one side. I learned a lesson that day. I used to wonder why mothers seemingly lost interest in fashion after having children and now realize that, at least for some, it's not a loss of interest but a realization that this is an intrinsically messy time. I still love clothes but it's not the best time to dress up.

Still, I'm back at work (which is insane in its own way), albeit only two days a week, and can't just live in pajamas and old t-shirts. For those days I'm trying to put together some kind of uniform that resists milk stains, allows for easy pumping access, and provides me with the style that I don't have elsewhere in my life. With my c-section site still sensitive/sporadically painful/numb, I can't wear jeans and skirts are probably easier than pants. Leggings are still decent, dark colours, patterns and colours are good, and cheaper items are my new friends. After my very last ob appointment before Severin's birth, I picked up a cheap Zara basics dress on sale (without trying it on as I knew I'd have no idea how it would fit within days) which has been useful. My Steven Alan, Rag and Bone, Acne and Madewell plaid shirts are staples but, overall, I feel that I am more restricted and less stylish than I was at 9 months pregnant. I am surprised--not complaining at all as I've rarely felt so calm. Like so much else about motherhood/pregnancy, I realise that this is a new world with its own shared knowledge. I'm happy to be introduced to this maternal wisdom, even if it is at the expense of relatively unlimited dress options.

Realistically, I doubt some items will ever come back into circulation. I've intended to prune my wardrobe for some time and as soon as time permits I will be posting some items here--shoes, dresses, jackets and blouses that I know I won't be able to wear (again--some are unworn). They deserve good homes rather than being locked in perpetual storage in my closet.

Sunday, January 13, 2013


This little boy gives me so much pleasure--I can't believe that he's here. He has such a sweet demeanor and is so beautiful and full of grace. At this age, of course, he sleeps and feeds most of the time and, in turn, I spend most of my time in a single chair breast feeding or pumping milk while trying to read and reply to work emails when I am able to free one hand. It's both an intense and mellow time--he's next to me most of the time he isn't in my arms, snug in his Fisher Price Rock and Play sleeper that Cindy so kindly bought me (thanks for the suggestion, Quinn--it is a lifesaver). Of course, I'm not so mobile right now either as a result of the emergency c-section, and I am also behind on so many professional responsibilities as a result (like the marketing questionnaire for the book and letters of recommendation for students for grad school which I'll be writing tonight).

Here's another picture of our little boy. As great as his pictures are, they really don't do this gorgeous boy justice.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Our Boy

So far, we are adjusting to the world of new parenthood. I love the way my little boy smells and he entrances us with his funny faces and sweet manner. Right now, we have a baby nurse (a gift from Evan's mother) which has meant we get a decent amount of sleep, something that I need after a long labour followed by an emergency c-section. But soon we will be on our own, with an even steeper learning curve. I cherish every second I spend with him, aware he will change all too soon. I can't imagine that he could be more perfect and love him more each day.

Friday, January 4, 2013