June in New Jersey

It has been a while since I’ve posted, most directly as a result of my new site The Two R’s.  Here you’ll find my take on reading and writing (not so much the ‘rithmetic).  This is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, and with Amos’s help in setting up the site, I was finally able to make it happen.

But in the meantime, we have of course still been having lots of fun here in NJ on the weekends!  Recently we visited the Central Park Zoo in NYC, walked the galleries and used book shops in Lambertville, NJ, saw the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, played sprinklers and water sensory boxes in our swimsuits in the yard, and of course visited the awesome local farmer’s market every Sunday.  The girls and I like summer life, and we especially love it when it’s not 100+ degrees every day for six months out of the year.  I can take the recent heat wave that seems to be affecting almost the entire United States as long as that mess fades before Christmas.

For your viewing pleasure, and since I still have a folder marked “Edit These” with about 300 photos lingering on my desktop, here is Hazel singing a Parliament song (“I know what you can do / let me lay some funk on you”) and another of my big girl Julia walking like a boss at the park.

This morning I was talking to Hazel about my coming to her preschool to read a Dr. Seuss book in honor of Dr. Seuss Week.  She knows I work at home, or really go to school at home, but that’s about all she knows.  So, I said to her, “Did you know I’m a writer too?  That’s what I do right now – I read and write, and later I’ll teach other people how to do that.”

“Really?  You just write?  I want to be a writer when I grow up, just like you.”

Thinking how sweet it was to hear that, I said, “I can’t wait to read your books.”

“Hmmm, what do you write?  What kinds of books?”

“I write things about other books; I read them, then I write about them for other people.”

Laughing, she replied, “What?!  Who would read THAT?”

She’s a perceptive little genius, she is.  This little exchange made my day.

 

Landslide

When you get pregnant, and you really want that baby, all you can think about is how much fun it’s going to be.  Everyone around you is joking about how much sleep you’ll lose and how babies never stop peeing, literally never stop even though you are in the middle of changing their diapers, but you keep thinking about little stripey onesies and pajamas with butt ruffles.  Then you’re humbled by the pain and the intense watching that birth brings, and after that intense glaring at you in your most raw, the light switches off you forever and onto your baby.  And there it stays, night after night, as the baby grows up and more independent and yet still more dependent.  While you’re rocking a wailing baby at 2, 3, 4 AM, you tell yourself that soon they’ll sleep all night.  Then, while you rub clove oil on their gums to alleviate teething pain and they just scream at your efforts, you tell yourself you can’t wait until they’ve cut all their teeth.  When you’re going through endless rounds of potty training, trying 400 strategies and having them all end in pee pee on the floor, you keep saying how amazing it will be when they can go to the bathroom by themselves.

But really, it isn’t.  It doesn’t really get easier when they sleep all night or can go to the potty alone, because that’s not the nature of parenting.  It gets harder.  Do you hear me, pregnant friends?  HARDER.  Because suddenly caring for them isn’t only holding them until they stop crying; it’s layered, it’s complicated, and it’s illogical.  I have been walking through this semester, trying my best to keep Hazel, Julia, the house, and my studies all pulled together, and it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done.  Hazel, who clings to me all day and would crawl back into my uterus for keeps – Julia, who’s so sweet-tempered and so much less needy than any other 10-month-old alive – the house, with its piles of laundry at various spots throughout – our food, which I try so hard to make super healthy and fresh and YAY, but is slowly involving more meals of just hummus and carrot sticks.  I’m so exhausted, and maybe parenting isn’t this hard for everyone else.  I concede that I have some factors working against me:  I’m a control freak, a neat freak, a non-touchy/feely loner freak who gets mad as hell when I can’t find my exact right highlighter and who, in reality, would probably have said “f*ck” instead of “hell.”  I’ve got some daddy issues, which are 1. being furious and 2. being furious.  Whatever the cause, whatever the complications, parenting, for me, is the most difficult, consistently inconsistent position I’ve ever held, and I mostly feel like a failure of a mother.  I WANT to go to school, want it so badly that I’m staying up until 1 AM reading articles and working on papers, and sometimes I get mad at the universe when I have to push it all off for the tiny humans in the next room.  Because I’m not mad at them, or at Amos or even me, it’s hard being mad.

But sometimes things unexpectedly clear, and, for a moment, it’s perfect.  Today I have had Julia home, still feverish, while a coughing but not feverish Hazel went back to preschool after several days home sick.  I’m super behind; I have to read Bleak House, which is like 900 pages of Dickens that I had never even heard of before, and having two sick girls has seriously affected my reading time.  So I have Julia in the sling, letting her doze on me whilst I read, and Hazel’s school calls with a suspected case of pink eye.  An hour later I settled a newly clean Julia, who pooped in the bathtub for the 3rd time this week (she has a bad diaper rash, so I put her in there to give her some non-diaper time) in her crib with relaxing nature sounds playing on my phone and a Hazel who’s half asleep and half irritated and just doesn’t know what to do with herself.  I put her beside me on my bed, hoping she would sleep.  She asked me to read to her, and because I’m so behind I started reading Bleak House to her.   What should have been a boring book for her was, for some reason, exotic.  That moment turned into Hazel stealing my glasses and book and reading the text to me.  That ordinary moment of maternal desperation turned into something so beautiful and refreshing, made extraordinary by the amazing little girl I have.  It gets harder as they get older, but the beautiful moments get exponentially more beautiful.

 

That little girl is 10 months old today, y’all!  With Hazel’s foray into preschool, I have a little more time to focus on Julia.  Amos and I were thinking that we had Hazel using a spoon a little younger than this, so I got started with Julia last week.  She caught on pretty fast – my girls love to eat, and I guess she figured the more ways she knows how to get food in her face the better.

I watched Hazel walk around her new preschool classroom.  The lights were dimmed, Ella Fitzgerald crooned to the kids sleeping on their cots, and my sweet girl walked her fingers over the wooden toy kitchen, itching to play but understanding the need to be quiet.  I kept talking to her teacher, Miss Elisa, about the most mundane things.  “So she’s already had lunch (it’s 1:30, everyone’s had lunch), and she normally naps still, but she probably won’t here.  You can give her a book, though, and she’ll be quiet.  Or just tell her to sit down if she’s walking around too much.  And Amos will be here at 5:30 to pick her up.”  This is all information she knows already, that anyone with a kid could infer – of course she’s had lunch, of course she’s not going to nap in all the excitement, but I have to keep telling this woman about her because I’m leaving my daughter with her, and she’s going to take care of her all day.  Julia and I went home, where she promptly fell into an exhausted sleep, and I wondered around the house without turning on the lights, very very quiet in the semi-darkness from the rain.

I never planned to stay at home.  I barely planned to even have children; I married Amos, and suddenly I wanted a baby, and a month later my body started making one.  I never changed a diaper until I changed Hazel’s.  I had never wanted to hold a baby, smell a baby, watch a baby until I had her.  When I’m here all the time, in the solitude that only moving far away from everyone you know can bring to a stay-at-home parent, I inwardly scream.  I want a nanny, I want them to go somewhere else for at least part of the day, I tell Amos after their bedtime.  It’s not fair, I’m 28 and I have no job and I am taking 20 years to finish this degree, and I just want to go to the bathroom without an audience.  I want to change, alone.  I want to sit down and not speak to anyone for a minute.  I want to watch Grey’s Anatomy reruns without someone asking me about the boring doctor show.

I could have done all of that today, and I didn’t.  I ran copies of the articles I have to read for school this week, and then I tried to read them while making a special dinner for my big girl.  I roasted the chicken perfectly, overcooked the green beans and burned the sweet potato fries on one side, and the chocolate chip cookies I made are all flat and crispy from a too-hot oven.  But it didn’t matter, because she was thrilled to lick the mixing bowl.  She was happy to tell me about her school and hear me tell her about my school.  And she’s in there right now, playing with Julia and making her say “uh-oh,” and I have to trust that we are making the best decisions for her and for us.  So she’s in preschool, an affordable, private preschool, and I won’t see her learning about what it’s like to venture out on her own.

When I was thinking about writing this post, I couldn’t decide whether to look at our quick, homemade, cardboard (yes, as in paper) sled as super duper uber crafty or just joke fodder for all the kids who grew up with winters where it snowed, not where they celebrated Christmas wearing shorts and maybe a sweatshirt.  Side note:  you know that used to look cool.  Now it just looks really yuppie.

But it finally snowed in New Jersey, like we blindly promised Hazel it would for Christmas (it didn’t), and she wanted to sled, dammit.  She has been asking for a sled, ice skates, and skis ever since we started reading the Berenstain Bears’ Christmas back in October, and she even started fussing about how Santa didn’t bring “anything on my list, not one little thing.”  I reminded her that nope, Santa didn’t bring giant dangerous snow equipment to a three-year-old, while Amos fashioned a sled out of some rope and a cardboard box.  The result, whether it’s a poor facsimile or super crafty, was totally popular with the preschool audience.

Paper sled! Not from a snake oil salesman!

For y'all voyeurs: that's our NJ house.

Speaking of preschool, Hazel’s first day of preschool is tomorrow!  Amos and I are SO excited for her; Hazel floats back and forth between excitement and flat out refusal to go.  All this emotional drama has led to crying jags that usually begin with something small, like “Why is the snow melting?” and end with “But the snow – sob – is my best -SOB- FRIIIIIIIIIEND and I don’t know why I am cryyyyyyyyyyinggggggg!”  I’m sure she will actually be fine, and one day she’ll join us in laughing about her dear attachment to the snow.

Reasons for Future Therapy

I’m not into human experimentation when it involves drugs and stuff, okay?  Let’s just get that out into the open before you read this.

I’m a big fan of this blog called Sociological Images.  All kinds of stuff is discussed on there, and since I have an obsession tendency with analyzing media, particularly that which is blared at girls/kids, I was drawn to this particular post about gift giving.  Basically, Jimmy Kimmel asked his viewers to give their children gifts they knew would not be well received (aka, that they would totally hate), and film the kids opening them.  The intent, I’m sure, was to see kids freaking out, maybe pitching a few fits, and to laugh at their crazy reactions.  The blog author focuses on what constitutes an inappropriate gift – it’s either something that I would consider trash (a black banana, half-eaten sandwich, or juice bottle that just has a little left) or “the gift is considered bad because the recipient is a boy and the gift is for a girl” (Wade).  This was particularly interesting, since the boys mostly showed disgust, cried, or otherwise made fun of the gift.  Mostly, the kids were at best very disappointed and at worst completely pitched a fit.

After reading this blog post and watching the video, I just kept thinking about why the kids were so upset.  I mean, I would definitely not be happy if someone gave me something that was clearly trash (who wouldn’t think they were being pranked?), but a lot of these kids were totally rude if the gift was something they just didn’t want, like a stapler.  A parent admitted it, saying, “Jimmy Kimmel told me to do it,” to which this 8-or 9-year-old boy said, “Well tell him to suck my balls.”  Seriously.  The kid said that, the parent still filmed & submitted the tape.  The issue switched over to materialism, the culture of deserving things, and parenting for me, so I just had to know – what would Hazel do if I did this to her?  After lots of thought, I decided her gift would be a package of dish sponges, clearly opened.  This isn’t trash, it’s not gender inappropriate (because there’s no such thing in our house), but it’s definitely not something she would identify as a toy.  Here’s the video:

I love my daughter.

So This is New Jersey

It’s been so long since I updated, so much has happened, that I am just not going to spend all that time recalling, in minute detail, all the stuff we’ve been doing.  I mean, most of it is common to anyone who’s been moving, anyway!  So here’s one of my preferred numbered lists:

  1. We packed, we lived in a hotel for a week (kind of fun, having a staff of sweet maids who tucked in Hazel’s Corduroy every time they made her bed), and then we moved into our apartment and started unpacking.
  2. I unpacked a bunch of stuff we didn’t have out in KC (picture frames, decor stuff, too-small clothes from pre-pregnancy), sorted it, and repacked some things into a smaller number of boxes that are currently lining our garage.
  3. I sorted Christmas, put up our tree, and wrapped stuff.
  4. I’m applying to approximately 100 of the 1500 schools in this densely populated area that offer a MA in English, so I’ve been doing a lot of transcript uploading and statement of purpose writing.
  5. I’m studying for the GRE subject test in literature, so I unpacked a lot of dusty books from my undergrad years and I’m currently sneezing my way through An Introduction to Literary Theory.
  6. We are researching preschools and daycares, which is only slightly less logistically difficult (with one car) than teaching yourself to hang glide with a broken arm.
  7. Amos goes to work, does secret Samsung stuff we can’t talk about, and comes home, shell-shocked from the intense traffic.
  8. Hazel and Julia run and army crawl through their super huge room.  We gave them the bigger bedroom because the smaller one has a bigger closet.

And so there you go.  I haven’t been doing a whole lot of photo-taking, but I do plan on taking some of our place/this cute little town so all you interested family can see.  It’s a curious mix; we live on a rather busy road, but if we walk east about two blocks on some dirty, small, cracked-up sidewalks, we go across a gorgeous river on an old wrought iron bridge and can walk through a couple of blocks of cute shops housed in historic buildings.  AND there is a yarn shop there, with a sort of cutely curmudgeonly proprietor who took away my coffee because “we’ve had spills before.”  One day I’m going to be like that surly old bird.

Overall, though, I think we all like it here.  Now that we’re getting settled, too, I plan to be back blogging like before.  To send you off here’s a hilarious video of Julia discovering one of the snaps on her diaper.  In the background you can hear the wonderful sounds of Hazel whining because she pitched a slapping fit and got sent to her room, by herself, until bath time (she was sitting on her bed, amidst all her toys and books, but was totally miserable because she was segregated from the rest of the fam…ULTIMATE PUNISHMENT).

All Hallow’s Eve

Or whatever!

In the middle of all this goofy are we moving, okay when, okay we still don’t really know exactly, we don’t have a house there yet business, the holiday season began.  And yeah, I think Halloween marks the beginning of three super fun holidays (Thanksgiving gets points for being smooshed in between two cooler holidays), culminating in CHRISTMAS!  I love Christmas, people.  Anyway, I would have just skipped this holiday except I have a three-year-old and a new baby in need of a 1st Halloween costume, and so we did it up, Confer style.

Typical family portrait, and typical Confer costumes.  Hazel’s was particularly fun this year, I think.  Since she’s old enough to really express herself, I thought it would be fun to let her design her costume.  She came up with this idea, which is a pink monster with white polka dots and two sets of ears (one big girl, one mouse).  The bow, though, is because we’re growing her bangs out.

Julia was a muscle man!!  She kept eating and eating on that belt.  I thought she might find her little chest hairs, but nope – just the belt.  I took the girls trick or treating at the shops yesterday, then we picked up Amos from work.  Instead of going door-to-door after that, we opted to take Hazel to Glace for an ice cream treat and next door to the Apple store for a treat (a keychain) and to play on the ipad (her favorite thing).  I was hoping Hazel would choose flavors that are seasonal and kind of Halloweeny, but I don’t know why.  Sometimes I have these really domestic thoughts, like I’m going to switch out all our bathroom and bedroom decor for all matchy seasonal ones and everyone will take Christmas photos wearing matching red and white sweaters with deer knitted into them.  I don’t know where they come from – leftover HCGC reserves? – but I was having one MAJOR last night.  I was all, “what flavors do you want?  Roasted pumpkin, banana, maybe squash, even rum raisin?”  And she looked right at the server and said “I want that blue cheese one and the spicy chocolate.”  When she says stuff like that, it snaps me right out of those weird SkyMall fantasies and back into our real world, the one where she orders blue cheese and spicy chocolate and eats them together.

It’s Never Too Early

With our current living situation (ahem – tiny apartment covered in white gray carpet that only currently houses about 1/3 of our worldly possessions), sometimes things to do evade both Hazel and I.  I’m nervous about messing up the carpet and having to pay for it, and I hesitate to set up any permanent play stations for several reasons.  After a while, crayons and washable markers, even these window markers I bought, start to pale somewhat.  We are outside everyday, for at least a couple of hours, jumping and swinging and sliding at the playground nearby, but our inside activities needed a boost.  Since Hazel loves to read, I decided we should try our hand at making a book of our very own.

I tend to become more regimented, organized, and clean when I’m feeling stressed, and our current situation stresses me out quite a bit, so I think Hazel sees me only in that role.  I’m constantly cleaning up this apartment; it’s just too small for any mess to exist if we’re going to walk around without breaking our ankles.  She’s too young to see my creative side; my taking photos and knitting are just things Mama does to her, I’m sure, and I don’t know how old she’ll have to be before she can understand the creativity that goes into the work I do at school.  It worries me.  I don’t want her to feel constricted, and so I thought this activity would allow her space to stretch her imagination, draw, work on numbers and letters, and help to focus her attention for a longer time on one activity.

She did not disappoint!  Her story evolves a bit over time, but the words are hers.  She is so proud of her little missive,   but not possibly more than I am!  This is SO going in her keepsake box.  I look forward to the day I can whip this bad boy out…maybe at her Pulitzer Prize award celebration or something 😉

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