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.

Julia has been tentatively walking for a couple of weeks now, and I finally managed to get a little video of her taking some steps.  You’ll have to ignore the toys on the floor, the laundry on the coffee table, and the Dawson’s Creek on the television.  Side note – it’s intensely weird, watching something I LOVED and people I thought were HOT when I was 15.  They really only think about sex in the craziest of ways.

Anyway!  Baby steps!!

Short Version: Drive to Philly, Don’t Lose Your Mind

Today we took advantage of living in New Jersey and drove to Philadelphia.  Seriously, all anyone here talks about it how close we are to all this awesome stuff, but a lot of that awesome stuff is in NYC and Philly and not in New Jersey.  So, off we went, for my second visit to the city and everyone else’s first, to spend the day at the Franklin Institute.  Hands down, one of the best science centers I’ve ever been to; only a handful of exhibits were broken, and you all know the percentage is usually closer to 25% (or 100% if you’re talking about Cleveland, but that’s another story).  We pre-ordered tickets, so that meant we just sauntered up in there at 9:30 AM without waiting for a one person and started running through all the exhibits.  Seriously, it had a range of attractions that were only a little over our very precocious, mega genius almost-four-year-old’s head, so we really walked through every room of every floor, exploring everything.  After spending four hours between the three floors, we had a bit of lunch at the Foodworks (not too shabby, but very basic fare), touched everything in the gift shop, and headed home.  The drive was lovely, only partly on a highway, and the worst part of the day was  Jules throwing up in the backseat.  Luckily we were only 15 miles from home, and even more luckily she didn’t throw up again ever, so it was a calamity quickly dealt with.  You have to love a day trip with very little kids that begins with French toast bagels and coffee in the car and ends with steak and a nice cabernet sauvignon.  I mean, seriously – when is the last time you’ve been able to spend all day out with kids and still have time and nerves to grill out and pop a cork when you get home?  I usually never do!  If that is what a trip to Phila is like, then sign me up daily.

 

My semester is over, and so school work happens at a much slower pace.  During the couple of hours everyday that Julia naps, I totally embrace the summer like I’m a 20-year-old coed, which means a lot of string cheese snacks and naps on the couch.  I think the last semester was extra trying on my rusty 29-year-old brain.  Seriously, can you believe that?  I’m 29 – TWENTY NINE YEARS OLD.  I’m officially at the age that I thought was, like, superly totally OLD when I was 15.  And maybe it’s the superly total oldness, or maybe the full-time parenting with two insanely energetic kids, combined with the brain aerobics I was working all semester, but I’m just fried.  I can barely make a sentence right now.  Type hard it be.

Just for fun – McGrumpfacerton

But if I’m going to make the next 50 years of my oldness less dusty and worth living, a girl’s gotta have goals.  So I’ve been working on a paper on the Daphne du Maurier novel Rebecca (1938) and the Hitchcock adaptation of the same title (1940), and early this morning at about 1 AM I submitted the final draft to an academic journal that focuses on work with a feminist perspective.  I’m so nervous and excited – I’ve finally started that long, damning slide into rejection after rejection that is academic publishing!

So all I’ve really done since my break is rewrite that paper, chop about 800 words from it, write a biography (it felt very pretentious – have you ever had to boild yourself down into about 100 words, in 3rd person?  tres weirdo), and discover Spotify.  You can just look up anything you’ve ever heard and play it.  It’s kind of amazing, and I’ve been in a Tears for Fears and Lisa Loeb 90’s coma all day.  I have an unironic, deep-seated love of the Tears for Fears jam “Head Over Heels,” and now Hazel does too.  Raising kids is all about nurturing those seeds, y’all.

So I’ll be back regularly now, although honestly we’re being very boring.  Hazel requested full-time preschool, so she’s gone everyday, and Julia sleeps almost more than her Uncle Nick, which is just barely possible.  It’s amazing and strange.  Mostly, then, I do work when I’m not staring at the wall in a post-graduate haze, and who really wants to hear me drone on about Hamlet and Donne and Moby Dick?

Of course you do.

 

I’ve been gone for a while, but all that hard work has paid off in the form of not very ripped-up papers and some hard-earned grades.  Now I’m feeling the 80 degree heat here in Jersey, and I’m looking forward to the summer.  These three monkeys are too!

Turn the Light On

Julia has apparently learned a new trick!  I was lying on my bed, reading while she napped, and I heard these scritchy scratches on the wall.  I looked up and saw her light flickering through the crack under her door.  I was all THIS HOUSE IS HAUNTED for a minute before realizing it was probably her.

Looking

I have been thinking lately about the act of looking, and specifically all the things we do that interfere with that gaze.  TV, the phone, even books – all the things we do that disrupt that looking and focus our attention elsewhere.  I confess, I have been reading and loving Woolf, and I can tell the impact her writing has had on me.

At any rate, today I took Julia out in the yard to enjoy the beautiful weather, and I took my camera, and I just watched her watching the cars, investigating the grass, following the sounds of birds and rustling leaves.  It was a lovely time; very little babies are refreshingly unaware of being watched, especially with a camera.

And then Hazel and Amos came home from preschool and work, respectively…

And that changed things quite a bit!

 

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.

 

Right now I’m eating dinner, editing photos, watching the girls take a bath, and writing this post.  Busy isn’t even the right word; it carries no sense of imminent doom or driving impetus to finish work that more closely resembles the four horsemen of the apocalypse than it does motivation.  But look at this girl; I just had to share.

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