Monday, November 22, 2010

Our Middle School Saga

Frances is in search of a middle school, which means Brian and I have spent a lot of time in the last week touring middle schools all over Charleston County.  So far we've only been to public schools.  We're still in the process of determining if private school needs to play a role in our decision making.  We have learned a few things though.
  • A new building makes a huge difference.  Brian and I have a profound disagreement about the role aesthetics should/does play in one's feelings about a school.  This may have something to do with the fact that Brian has really fond memories of his run down inner city public high school, while I really loved my small town, well-maintained, decidedly middle class public high school.  Whatever the source of this difference of opinion, it is now clear that Brian believes"it's pretty" is an illegitimate reason to like a school.
  • Frances is full of opinions.  This wasn't exactly a secret before (she's not really shy with her opinions), but it has been interesting to take her around schools and find that what she's thinking about is in many ways very different than what we're thinking about.  it's also been interesting to note that she has opinions about stuff you'd think she wouldn't.  At the single gender school we visited, the teachers kept telling us how good single-gender education is for girls because girls are more cooperative learners and are conditioned to be passive and without boys, girls can learn in peace.  Frances' response to that was a complaint that with single-gender education you lose out on "learning opportunities" because you might be a girl who learns like a boy and if you're in classroom full of girls, then you're out of luck.  Also, Frances says, people should realize that not all girls are alike.
  • Public schools are eager (*eager*) for involved parents and good students.  Frances is a good student, an athlete, and a musician.  Every place we've been to so far has treated her like some kind of superstar.  The school that seems to have the smallest chance of getting her was the school that did the most to treat her like a superstar.  I thought that showed some desperation on their part.  Brian read it as dedication.
  • Eighth grade boys are big and should clearly be nowhere near my daughter.
  • Frances will probably ride the bus to middle school, which makes me cry a little.  She will, however, get a cell phone (because the idea of her getting dropped off at the wrong stop or too early or some other catastrophe makes my stomach hurt), which makes her happy.
  • I'll be glad when this middle school saga is done.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

I Blame Skittles

I love candy.  I really love it.  And not fancy chocolates from exotic places or weird concoctions people discover on vacation.  I love plain old grocery store checkout candy--Skittles, Gobstoppers, Twix, Airheads, KitKat.  Apparently I am a 9 year old in disguise.

The consequence of this love (and living without health insurance for most of life, until I was old enough and gainfully employed enough to pay for my own) is that I have had, over the last few years, quite a few cavities.  And yesterday I had an emergency root canal because in the middle of getting a cavity filled everything went wrong.

And here is what this post is really about--the endodontist I went to for the root canal was super nice and cute and friendly.  And when I interrupted his explanation of what was about to happen to ask if there would be nitrous involved, he offered me instead two tiny glorious blue pills. He good-naturedly listened to me babble about how bright and shiny and space-agey his office is.  And he was dutifully impressed that I am a college professor.  As root canals go, it was terribly pleasant experience (though, truth be told, those blue pills mean that I remember very little of it).

Friday, October 29, 2010

Anti-Social Grump

Morgan (a regular reader of the blog [though she never comments] who now owes me a shiny nickel) hinted that it has been some time since I updated.  So here goes:

  • Shoe update:  I didn't get new shoes (well not these shoes;  I got other less expensive but equally cute shoes) with my royalty check.  Instead, we bought camp chairs for soccer.  Frances has played soccer now for five years (maybe six?) and we've always stood or sat on the grass throughout the game because I refused to buy chairs.  In my mind it was a decadent expense (really, sitting on the ground is not going to kill you; it probably builds character).  But free money suddenly appearing in my mailbox apparently signaled to the family that camp chairs were in order.  Camp chairs instead of cute shoes: was there ever a clearer sign that I am somebody's mother?
  • Kid update: Here is where the anti-social grump comes in.  Frances has reached an age where she doesn't really need or desire my presence when she plays outside.  Consequently she spends hours (literally, from 1 until about 6 or 7) outside on the weekends doing lord knows what.   She has made tons of new friends and now they want to come here and play Guitar Hero and eat cookies and drink juice.  Before I had kids and even when Frances was very little, I imagined that I'd love that kind of house, the house where all the kinds want to hang out.  I find, however, that I kind of hate it.  I need kids to go home.  I want to sit down in my uppity negro t-shirt, braless, eating banana bread and reading Dean/Castiel slash in peace.  But now, instead of kicking off my shoes and collapsing on to the couch when I get home, instead I have to run around making sure the bathroom is clean and that I remembered to pick up my underwear from the middle of the floor and that the more racy romance novels I've been reading for my new project aren't just sitting on the dinner table.  That's a lot of pressure, which wouldn't be so bad if Frances actually participated in keeping things neat.  But clearly that's too much to ask.  And what do you at dinner time?  Do you just kick kids out of your house?  Am I supposed to feed everyone that comes over?  Exhausting.
  • Work update:  It was suggested recently, by someone whose opinion I trust and value, that I should take myself and my job more seriously.  Not that I'm not serious about my work, but that my work, particularly on my campus, is important and that importance is noted.  That's paradigm-shifting for me.  I still feel like goofy 19-year old me.  To really let it sink in that for a good portion of the day I'm actually professional, super-competent, respected 37-year old me feels new and a little strange.  I think I like it.
  • Finally, romance project update:  I'm wrtiting an article about Zane right now and will be doing an academic book on AA romance and erotica (hopefully!), but I'm thinking I want to do something with black romantic film.  I'm trying to generate a list of films that have a black romantic love (rather than parental or filial or racial love) story at its center.  Anyone have any favorite love stories?

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

We Get Paid For This?

Today I got my first royalty check for Conversations with Octavia Butler.  Completely unexpected and considerably more than I suspcted a royalty check might be.  It definitely put a good spin on what was threatening to turn into a crapoy kind of a day.  Most of it will go to responsible adult things, but I clearly I deserve a new pair of shoes.  I have my eye on these:

Friday, August 27, 2010

Strategic Parenting Plan

I have been in strategic planning mode for work.  The African American Studies program is in the process of proposing a major and doing other (hopefully!) exciting things and that has necessitated a writing out a deliberate plan of action.  Apparently I talk about this strategic plan a lot because here is a conversation Brian and I had this morning after dropping children off at school.  But first the back story:

Last night, after being asked repeatedly if she'd done all her homework, Frances decided at 8:00, her school night bed time, that she had to redraw a picture of Abraham Lincoln.  She had drawn Lincoln at Gettysburg (complete with RIP headstones in the background as he delivered his speech), but decided she wanted to draw him getting shot at Ford's Theater (she ultimately drew a picture of John Wilkes Booth with a gun in his outstretched hand chasing Lincoln across the theater).  She spent an hour whining and groaning in her room because she couldn't get the picture right and she was tired and just wanted to go to sleep.  I was deeply annoyed.  And then this morning she informs us at 6:45, when none of us are dressed or fed, that she wants to get to school by 7:30.  She normally gets to school at 7:45 and with advanced notice can get to school at 7:30, but of course there was no advanced notice and so she got to school at 7:45.  She grumped away from the car, letting her pout indicate her extreme disappointment in my parenting. 

And Cate decided to wear flip flops to school today (because you need to wear open toed shoes with dresses), despite the fact that the new rule at her school is no open toed shoes on the playground.  A huge fight ensued, with Cate insisting that she couldn't possibly where sneakers with a pretty dress and ending with flip flops on her feet and sneakers in my hand. And remember that this is happening while Frances is pacing up and down upset because she wants to get to school at 7:30.  When we got to Cate's school her teacher saw the sneakers in my hand and said it was great that Cate would have an extra pair of shoes to change in to when she played outside.  Very happily Cate replied, "Yeah! That's a great plan!"

It was a challenging parent morning.  And so here's the conversation:

Brian:  I'm going to email you and schedule an appointment.

Conseula:  For sex?  Why are you always talking about sex?

Brian: No not for sex.  We need to write a strategic plan.

Conseula: A strategic plan for what?

Brian: A strategic parenting plan.  The mission will be "preventing Consie from strangling children through a deliberate program of equitable co-parenting."

Thankfully for all of us Brian continues to stick around.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Insert Snappy Title Here

I've been inspired by this post over at She Writes.  In it Kamy Wicoff discusses the five ways blogging has helped her writing.  Most useful for me in that post was the reminder that blogging is a useful way to exercise the writing muscles on a regular basis.  There's something to be said for forcing yourself to sit down and churn 500 or so intelligent and intelligible words about whatever happens to be on your mind at the moment.  Plus, people keep asking me when I'll post something again and it seems so lame to say that I'm just too lazy tired to actually write anything other than a syllabus.

But what to write is the question, isn't it?  Going back to the reason I started this blog in the first place is a good place to start.  I felt and still feel that there are too few afrogeekmoms speaking their truth in the world.  I'm convinced our numbers are legion (surely there's nothing special about my love of comic books and Star Trek and the Jonas Brothers [I totally blame that one on my children] or about my blackness), yet too few of us speak up and demand to be counted.  And so here I am to be counted.

I'll try to post regularly about things that are foremost in my mind lately:

(1) Our oldest kid is going to middle school next year and our youngest is starting kindegarten.  That means, for those of you doing the math, that Brian and I will spend this fall touring and applying to tons of schools.  In a perfect world, buckets of money would fall from the sky so that we could send Cate to a Montessori school and Frances to an all-girls prep school.  But since I decided being an English professor at a public university was a good career move, that seems unlikely to happen.  The entire process, which I haven't even begun yet, makes me want to crawl in a hole and cry. 

(2) I am working on a project (the shape of which has yet to be determined) on contemporary African American romance and erotica.  I'm currently writing an article on two Zane novels and trying to figure out why no one has written a book on African American romance in film (if I'm wrong about that, please please tell me).  I have many thoughts on black women and sexuality and depictions of black love that will probably never find their way into a book or article.  I should share them here.

(3) There should be more geeky stuff in a blog that features the word geek so prominently in its title.  I'll try to fix that problem with tales of my geeky adventures.  For instance, last weekend I watched, for the very first time ever, an entire episode of the original Star Trek (several episodes actually).  I alternated between unadulterated giddiness at the sheer greatness of the storytelling (why didn't anyone tell me how great original Trek is?) and utter horror at the incredible, unapoolgetic sexism (have you seen "Who Mourns for Adonais?" and don't get me started on Uhura's outfits).

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Still on the Road in Louisiana

from Afrogeek Princess, aka Cate
I love staying here long.  I played princesses with my cousin Morgan.  I've been a sneaky rascal in Mimi's room.  And I hate the smell of crawfish.

from Mommy
In other Louisiana news, Frances got her ears pierced.  This is her before:

And this her after:

The ear piercing went off without a hitch.  No drama at all.  My mother says it's because she was completely in charge and laid down the law. She said I'm too emotional and that Frances takes her cues from me.  No one was allowed to be emotional.  We went to the store, Frances sat in the chair, the slightest inkling of a tear appeared in her eye, my mother said that we weren't having any of that, and we didn't.  So now we have piereced ears.  I totally deny the too emotional charge, by the way.

We've eaten a lot of food, but most of it is food at home, which is so specific to my childhood and so filled with nostalgia that it loses a lot in translation.  But trust me, there's a lot of food being consumed.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

On the Road In Louisiana

Guest Post by AfroGeek Daughter, aka Frances

We have been traveling across the country to see our relitives. It's going to be sooooo fun in Louisiana. We are staying for two weeks. Oh I almost for got about a party we went to today. I had my first crawfish! Well I acually had three, but my dad ate my fourth one. At that same party I got my face painted to look like a dalmation with it's tounge sticking out. After that we went to my grandmather's house(we call her MeMe). Tomorrow or some other day this week I'll get my ears pirced with MeMe. On our way out of Louisiana we will go the Audubon Zoo. We have a song about that in the car. This is going to be the best trip to Louisiana ever!


                                                                                                                              Frances McCann

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A Post about Sensory Integration Dysfunction That Won't Make You Cry


For the three of you regularly reading this blog, you've probably not had any occasion to read anything about sensory integration dysfunction (or sensory processing disorder), so you've probably shed no tears over SID-related posts.  But out there somewhere is a parent roaming the internets looking for something, anything, about SID, hopefully something from a parent's pov, hopefully something that doesn't make you want to roll up in a ball of despair.  This post is for you.

On the latest episode of NBC's Parenthood, Adam and Kristina, parents of Max, a little boy who has Asperger's, struggle with the question of when to tell their son about Asperger's.  Though many people quibble with the show's portrayal of Asperger's (some say the child actor gets the mannerisms all wrong, some say the writers are treating Asperger's like a death sentence), what I've been enjoying is watching the parents navigate their way through all the therapies and information and advice, trying desperately to make the right decision, trying to hold on to the knowledge that, above all else, Max is a really great kid.

Cate is only four so there's a lot of stuff about sensory integration dysfunction she just won't get (like needing a lot more proprioceptive sensory input than other four year olds in order keep her nervous system modulated enough to do seemingly simple tasks like get getting dressed in the morning).  But I still think about how much to tell her, what information does she need.  Since she's already a fluent reader, I went in search of a kid's book about SID and found Why Does Izzy Cover Her Ears?: Dealing With Sensory Overload.  From the hiding under the table, to the hitting of other kids, to the feeling crazed up, to the love of being beneath a really heavy blanket--this book was all about Cate.  And her little face as she read aloud about Izzy to her sister--it was the face of recognition, of  "Wow.  That's exactly what it's like inside my body."  This book does an excellent job of narrating the experience of someone trying to navigate SID, of explaining the difference without pathologizing or exoticizing it.

If, like me, you're looking for a childern's book to share with your child or with other children about SID, I can't recommend this enough.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Re: Iron Man Parte Deux

Conseula is currently seething in a stew of her own making due to the incaluable wrongness of her take on Iron Man. (Actually, I'm not exactly sure what her position is. I'm just poking it with a stick. [Don't tell her])

At this point do I actually have to post SPOILER ALERT? If you haven't seen the movie, and if you're a person who hates to have any portion of the movie revealed before you see it, then I suggest that you leave the room.


Are they gone? Okay, Conseula was excited by the appearance of what seemed to be a partially constructed version of Captain America's shield. I agree. The parts are clearly if not the shield, then they are components of a shield. My problem is that what we saw on screen is clearly not in keeping with the continuity of the Marvel 616 universe (616 is the main Marvel universe in which most of the comic books are set.)


Okay, those of you who know, know that there have been several incarnations of the shield: at least two kite-shaped ones, like this example from Captain America No. 1.

However, the one suggested in the movie is the round, convex one that most people are familiar with. According to Marvel lore etched into the brains of fanboys (and girls) the world over, Cap's round shield was created accidentally in the 1940s by Dr. Myron MacClain out of a vibranium/adamantium alloy.

This shield was presented to Cap by FDR as a replacement for the last of the kite models that was destroyed in battle.

That being said, the shield in the movie does not match the 616 universe's description of Cap's shield. In the first place, there is a problem of the shield's construction. According to canon, Cap's shield was molded in one solid piece, with the star, stripes, and blue field subsequently painted on. The Iron Man 2 shield is not solid, but seems to be made of several components.

A second problem has to do the Iron Man 2 shield's origin. If the movie's Cap actually fought in World War II, did he have the circular shield, or didn't he? If he did have it in the 1940s, then what was Howard Stark doing with an unfinished copy of it? If Tony Stark is close in age to Robert Downey, Jr's 44, then his father would probably be in his sixties or early seventies, which would have made him a child during the war. The government is not in the habit of giving contracts to children, even exceptionally bright ones. This is all to say that I don't believe that the shield the movie shows is Captain America's shield.

So, while I doubt that the shield in the movie is Cap's, there is no doubting the shield's evidence. How do I explain its existence? It's possible, that in keeping with canon, both Cap and his shield are lost in the North Sea in 1944. The shield that we see in the movie could have been an attempt by Howard Stark to duplicate Dr. MacClain's results. However, this raises an difficult question, without a Captain America, why build a Captain America shield? If Stark could produce an unbreakable metal, couldn't he have made countless other objects that would have been more useful than a shield?

It is possible that the Marvel movie universe differs in some ways from universe 616. The movie Cap of the 1940s may never have wielded the round shield, or any shield at all. It's even possible the either S.H.I.E.L.D. or the US government might have been in the process of producing another Captain America while Howard Stark was alive.

In any case, for the record I'll state that the movie shield is not Captain America's shield. We'll have to wait for the movie to for any further explanation.

Until next time, Face Front True Believers, and Excelsior!

Random Quote from Brain Child*

Catherine Newman's article in the latest issue of Brain Child is about evolution (I think...I haven't actually finished it yet).  I love Catherine Newman.  Her essay, "Why I Will Not Marry" teaches remarkably well in freshman comp (mostly because it freaks them out so much).  Her recipes from have delightful descriptions like "Feeds 4 (as long as one of those four people is a child who won't eat itl)"**.  And her essays include delightful paragraphs such as this defintion of "reproductive success":

"...the term 'reproductive success' has nothing to do with foreplay, Tantric ecstasy, or simultaneous climaxing.  It's about whether particular traits help a particular organism live long enough to produce offspring.  Your husband could do you from behind while you were bent over to sort the Tupperware drawer.  And if you got pregnant and passed along your organizational skills to your offspring?  Evolutionary Bingo! Reproductive success."***
* This was supposed to be a review of Iron Man 2, but Brian and I are having a disagreement about what the review should say.  Stay tuned.

** Brian has suggested this is not really as funny as it is in my head.

*** Brian is similarly unamused by this.  I think he's grumpy because he's wrong about Iron Man 2.

Monday, May 17, 2010

It's Not All Bad

So some of you are concerned that I seem really sad and/or miserable and/or on the verge of throwing myself in front of a bus.  No need for alarm.  While things certainly could be significantly better, I can easily name a number of people whose lives are signficantly worse.  So, you see, the universe balanaces itself it out.

Things that help:

1) Cate never ceases to amuse and amaze with her wit and charm.  Overheard recently from Cate--in response to me insisting that maybe tights in 90 degree weather is not the best idea, "Mommy, stop it.  You are parenting all over me."  And upon receiving a Goosebumps book in a kids meal at Popeyes (home of her new favorite meal, red beans and rice), "Oh no.  Oh no.  This is levels of inappropriate."  And in the car, two days after swimming in the pool, "There's something lucky about adults.  Their feet can reach the bottom of the pool everywhere.  I wish I could do that."

2) Brain Child Magazine--I'm not really a fan of mommy blogs and I have learned recently that special needs blogs and newsgroups just make me more anxious than I already am.  But I love Brain Child ("the magazine for mothers who think").  I love that many of the experiences of parenting I encounter there (a mother whose kid's special needs are so vast and all-consuming that she wishes she never had him, parents who advocate spanking, parents who feel guilty about not taking their kids camping) are nothing like mine.  I love that the magazine is not about me while still managing to be exactly about me at the same time.  Does that make any sense?  It's smart and well-written, often times funny, and just as often hreatbreaking.  I love it.

3) Guitar Hero World Tour and Trombone Shorty--I got this game and this cd for Mother's Day and they have brought me no end of joy for the last week.  Sure, Guitar Hero is really bad for my carpal tunnel and Trombone Shorty's "supafunkrock" makes Brian and I homesick, but still, a good time is being had by all.

Monday, May 10, 2010

But She's So Smart, and so Special

Yes, there has been a long long silence here and I could provide a long detailed explanation of the financial and personal and professional crises that have resulted in my absence here (some of them still on-going), but that would just depress everyone. 

So, moving right along (to a rant of sorts--how unsurprising)...

Our youngest daughter is being treated for sensory processing dysfunction, which is not to be confused with sensory processing disorder, a lifelong condition.  She has particular kinds of developmental delays that may "correct" themselves as her nervous system develops, and occupational therapy is being employed to give her some strategies to deal with the delays until then.

This sounds perfectly reasonable to me (clearly, since we trek to and pay for OT every week), but I have been amazed, and annoyed, at how unreasonable this sounds to other people.  Admittedly, other people don't live with Cate.  They aren't up with her at 3 in the morning because she can't sleep until she's read all the books in the room or she's weeping because she's listened to Springsteen's version of "We Shall Overcome" five times in a row and it's made her sad.  Other people don't have to deal with the anxiety caused when we park the car in a different spot or we insist she wear weather appropriate clothes.  Or the fear we have that she will leave the house in the middle of the night or walk off at soccer because she's trying to get to a place where she feels less "crazed" up.  When other people see Cate, they see a happy, healthy, smart goofy kid who is slightly "out of sync."  All kids have their quirks.  We all feel "crazed up" some times, they say.

Well, yeah, but also no, not at all.  What would be nice is a little faith that I'm not making these things up, that I'm not overprotective and paranoid, that I know my kid better than other people.  It would be nice if people stopped insisting "but she's so smart, I'm sure she'll be fine," and started celebrating the fact that there's a professional out in the world who has been able to figure out that Cate feels less "crazed up" when she literally gets to hang up side down or get a big bear hug or fall down from something.  It would be nice for people to acknowledge that being able to read at 2 and add at four doesn't guarantee life success, especially if you're terrified of the PBS logo or the computer screen suddenly turning blue when it comes on.

Other people tell me Cate is special.  They mean, "yeah she's a little weird, leave her alone."  My reply is this:  She is special, more special than other people can even comprehend.  And it would be a shame to let some of the things that make her special limit all the things she might be and accomplish in the world.

Monday, March 01, 2010

When Are We Going To Start Telling White Girls to Date Outside Their Race?

Laurel, Md.: Isn't it funny that almost all of biracial children are beautiful? It's almost like God is trying to tell us something.

Karyn Folan: I agree 100%!

Let me just start by saying that I've been married forever, so I don't have a dog in this fight.  No, let me take that back.  I am the parent of two one-day-to-be black women, so I actually do think about these things.

The Washington Post featured yet another article suggesting that black women have sad and sorry lives that can be made better if we just find ourselves a good white man. Karyn Folan, author of new book about interracial dating (by which she clearly means black women dating white men) offers all sorts of advice and insight from her research in response to reader questions, including the exchange above.  Her responses to questions reminds me a lot of the kind of conversations in interracial romance groups (as I continue my research into contemporary AA romance).  The notion very much seems to be that somehow readers of IR romance are more progressive and open-minded and just plain smarter than readers of AA romance.  Folan seems to think the same thing.  Because she's gone and gotten herself a white husband, she somehow has figured out something the rest of haven't. 

But the thing is, she's not special.  Nor are IR readers.  Snagging a white man doesn't make you smarter than the rest of us.  It just means you snagged a white man.  And counseling interracial dating for black women does nothing to address the systemic problems that lead to discrepancies in the education and economic status of black men and black women, nor does it do anything to address the fact that being single and 30 doesn't make black women special.  Not every "problem" that black people have is a pathology.  Not every problem is an actual problem.

Sunday, February 21, 2010


Courtesy of Postbourgie

Dear World

I appreciate that you are excited about black people.  It is February after all.  I also appreciate that you want to include me in your excitement.  It is part of my job as the director of an African American Studies program.

But could you see fit to spread some of that enthusiasm to other parts of the year?  Trying to learn everything you can about black people in 28 days is a tall order, an impossible one even.  Plus, I'm exhausted.

So let's make a deal.  Save some of that enthusiasm for March or April or October even.  And I promise to help you out.

(An incredibly tired) Conseula