Word count

For writers, journalists, and people who traffic in words, word counts are important little things. For me who fancies herself a writer, a word count has become a symbol not only of my child’s development, but of my family’s blessings and good fortune in a time when so many others have so little.

First, I’m writing this on a new computer in a new (old) house- seems like a fitting way to bring in the new year, right?

November and December were great and crazy but left no time to sit down and write. I have almost been overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude and good fortune the past few weeks, particularly since we closed on the house. My life is not what I planned right now, but maybe it’s better than I could have anticipated. We are so fortunate: two beautiful children, good(ish) health, a warm (okay, maybe a little chilly) house, plenty of food, and a steady paycheck. Even with all the quirks in our world right now, life is good. Really, really good. 

One moment that put a lot of this in perspective was the condescending, “I’m sorry to hear that,” I received from a woman at an academic conference in November after giving her my two-cents on having a family as a graduate student. I’ve traveled the path, I know what it’s like, and clearly she didn’t think she’d have the same experience as me. Fine. I’m trying to let that bitterness and my sense of, “We’ll see where you are in five years” go, but that disconnect between those in and out of academia may have been a turning point in my desire to be an academic. Let’s just say, I’m okay if I stay out of it…for now. And it largely has to do with the people and the politics- not the idea of or the philosophy behind academia. 

I’ve been reading a book about debt lately, and it’s thought provoking, but it may be why taking things into account has been at the front of my mind. So hours before the new year, I can think of no better way to tangibly count my blessings than to take a census of all the words Zuzu is saying. Six months ago, she had no words. Now, she says:





“baby” (she won’t call herself “Zuzu” these days)








No (of course)




one more (“oo-no?”)

cheese (for pictures)

please (or, peeez)

Elmo (“Elbo”)

And I think last night she put two words together, “You, Mama.” This is HUGE and different from “one more.” Using “you” and “me” is a pretty big deal, too. 

As Zuzu’s language has increased, so has her development in other areas. She walks the vast majority of the time now, barely crawling at all. Her personality has exploded over the past months, though she is still so much (I mean, SO MUCH) milder than her big sister in mood extremes. If everyone had a two year-old like Zuzu, they’d be renting them out as happy pills. We flirted with potty training…but that may be on the back burner for awhile.

As the coming year yawns in front of me, there’s more in store for us: Katie begins kindergarten in August (holy shit! I can’t believe I’ll be registering her for kindergarten in a few weeks). Zuzu will begin pre-k/PPCD in October (another holy shit is in order there). As you can tell, though, my milestones are now measured by my children. Not by conference deadlines, tenure reviews, publications accepted or rejected, by semesters ending or classes beginning. And for now, that’s exactly how I want it. 



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