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.

 

Moving Fast

Life moves so fast.  I remember being a kid, wishing away the boring hours in the Alabama country, taking very long, very slow walks and bike rides, meandering around. Even after I grew up and had Hazel, there were some afternoons when I could literally feel time stretched out long and thin like taffy.  Those days are past, friends.  I don’t know if it’s having Jules around too, or just me getting older, but I can never find enough time or sleep to do all the things I need to do, let alone all the things I want to do.  So, I’ve been sporadically updating, and that will probably continue for a while until we truly settle down in New Jersey.  Some of that is editing the 300 (I’m not kidding) photos I’ve taken since last summer.  I edit some, but most are just sitting there, leering at me.  One of these is below, a fun picture of Hazel I snapped at an art festival we went to in downtown Kansas City, when we thought we would get to live there forever.  A big part of that happens next week, when Hazel starts preschool.  She’s starting a real, awesome school, not daycare, and she couldn’t be more happy and reluctant to go.

Art Festival, September 2011

I’ve started school again, too.  After all this moving and putting my career goals on hold, I decided to begin again at Morehead State in their online master’s program.  I already had 15 hours there, and it looks like at least 3 of the 6 I took at UNA will transfer (maybe the other 3 too), and I just reached a critical mass with all this moving and stopping and changing and retaking, so I am going to plow through and be done by this time next year.  The online program has some drawbacks – missing professor interaction, classroom discussion, the spontaneous exchange of ideas with other people – and it’s a lot more work.  Yes, I said it – seriously, there are always more assignments, more papers, and more outside research and reading for these courses.  It’s so incredibly student-driven; you really have to be a serious student, committed to the work, to make it.  But luckily for me, I totally am.  So I’m taking two classes right now (The English Novel and Intro to Film Lit), will have a linguistics course in the summer (VERY EXCITING), and then I’ll write a big old thesis.  Seriously – THAT’S ALL I HAVE LEFT.  It feels awesome.  And scary.  But mostly awesome.

Where Do We Play?

I know our time is limited in Kansas City, and I like to look at it like we’ll never be here again.  I’m totally taking advantage of our relatively cheap living expenses, nice location, and obligation-free lifestyle to act like we’re on this massive vacation.  Otherwise I might go insane, if I started thinking about preschools and grad schools and houses and…vacation.  We’re on vacation, baby!  SPRING BREAK!

So, as part of that, today I took the girls to their first play!  At Union Station, which is a real working train station, there are also lots of other attractions for families, including Science City, art exhibits, a theater, and a kids’ theater.  We joined a crowd full of other kids to see “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie,” a play based on the popular children’s book.  We got in just barely in time, thanks to my rather poor downtown navigation skills, and managed to score the absolute LAST two tickets, right down on the front row.  As we sat in the theater, practically onstage, Hazel kept asking things like, “Why is it dark in here?  Why are all these kids being so crazy?  Where do WE play?  Can I go touch that stuff?”  I found it tricky to explain what a play was, since my “it’s like a real-life movie!  With really real people!” didn’t seem to make sense to her, so I just told her to be patient.  When the lights completely dimmed, then a spotlight hit on first the boy, then the mouse, and then a cookie, Hazel was completely enthralled.  Julia even popped off from nursing to watch the action (and she didn’t look away for the rest of the show, either!).  Both girls were entranced with the play, which was so exciting and even had some music.  We had just the BEST time, and I was so proud and happy, watching them watch it.

My Big Kid

Yesterday we went to an art fair at the Kansas City Plaza.  It’s this fancy area, with all these expensive shops, fancy restaurants, and ornate architecture.  All Hazel wanted to do, though, was walk down by the river to see the ducks and “walk on those cool rocks,” and all Amos and I wanted to do was walk with her.

 

Catching Up

playingJuice Face

 

 

 

 

We’ve Arrived

We have been in Kansas City for a week now.  I should be able to tell you something about the place, but so far it’s been a seriously uncommon moving experience.  After major hassles with all FOUR moving companies who surveyed our stuff, we ended up having to drive the goods ourselves.  Actually, here’s what happened:

  1. Major electrical storm knocks down three trees onto (yes, ONto) the power lines in our backyard.
  2. Power is out at the house for three days, which means we move into my mom’s house.  Amos and I pack at night, when the girls are sleeping and the inside temps of the house are not in the triple digits.
  3. We get it all packed, Amos and some friends load up, and he takes off.
  4. The girls and I spend the next four days at Mama’s, making a total of nine days at her house.
  5. Aunt Laura (Amos’s sister) flies to Huntsville to make the drive to St. Louis with us, which was immensely helpful.
  6. We spend 2 days in St. Louis, then I drive to Kansas City with the girls (Tuesday).
  7. We arrive, get groceries, get Amos from the airport, get settled down for the night, and Amos starts throwing up.
  8. He’s sick all night with a fever, chills, and of course dry heaving.  He still goes to work the next day (Wednesday).
  9. Thursday I start throwing up, have a fever and chills all day, and watch the girls all day.  Did I mention we had just arrived and had barely unpacked?
  10. I get mostly better and am starving, so we get Vietnamese (Friday night).  We make it home just in time for me to be sick again; Hazel wakes us up at 1:30 AM, noodles in her hair, because she’s thrown up for the first time in her short little life.  Amos hits Wal-Mart at 2 AM for Motrin and Pedialyte while I keep Hazel awake, reading stories, so I can rush her to the bathroom when necessary.  They fall asleep around 4 AM, and I do around 5:30 AM.
We had such a crazy, crazy, insane, weird time moving here, and as you can see family involvement was integral to the process (thanks again, people)!  So, do we like Kansas City?  Um, yep!  Although Saturday we spent mostly around the house, since people were still kind of pukey, on Sunday we managed to have a right lovely time.  We drove up to Loose Park, which is this gorgeous 75-acre gleaming hamlet smack in the middle of the city.  Hazel, Amos, and I pushed Julia through the trees and over bridges while we talked about the things we saw, and we just enjoyed being outside together.  Plus, it was Julia’s first time riding in an umbrella stroller, and I was majorly excited about it!  It was VITAL to my baby time with Hazel; she and I walked all over Clinton, so much so that I actually wore out the first umbrella stroller we had.  We had to rig up a little scarf under Julia’s armpits, though, in case she tried to lunge out.  When Hazel was this age it was the freezing beginning of winter in upstate NY, and she was so wedged in by blankets, snowsuits, and knit sweaters that she couldn’t have leapt out if she’d tried!
Following the park we treated ourselves to small cups at Glace, the best ice creamery I’ve ever visited.  Each small cup has space for two flavors, which I just love.  I got Fleur de Sel Caramel and Basil Lemon Sorbet.  Amos tried Lemon Verbena and Pineapple Cilantro Sorbet (those two were my favorites!), and Hazel chose Blueberry Cream Cheese and Blackberry Chocolate Chip based on their colors.  We all had a grand time trying each other’s.

On the Road Again…Again.

I haven’t posted about this yet here, mainly because we were waiting to get a final contract all signed, but we are moving to Kansas City!  Amos was headhunted by Samsung and has decided to take a position with them as a staff engineer, so we are moving to KC in early August.  For many reasons we are excited about this move, and we have committed to living there long enough to buy a house, which is kind of high up on the list for me.  So, these days I am packing, cleaning, organizing, and packing some more in between doing regular parenting stuff.  It doesn’t look like I’ll get to start back work on my master’s degree until January, where I’ll most likely go to the University of Missouri KC, but I’m trying not to think about the 78 years it’s going to take me to finish this degree, because I really am happy about this move.  I’ll post lots about the city once we arrive, I’m sure.  In the interim, you’ll have to content yourself with lots of posts that are just one or two pictures 😉

Happy Father’s Day

There are some holidays that I don’t get too worked up about; stuff like Labor Day just doesn’t really get me going.  Amos, though, takes holiday apathy to a-WHOLE-nother level.  That guy, if he had his way, would not celebrate anything from President’s Day to Christmas.  It particularly bothers him, he says, when presents are expected.  He’d rather give and receive gifts on the fly, not dictated by the day on the calendar.  I get it, I truly do, but now that we have kids, and especially one old enough to realize what all this stuff means, we’ve made sure to celebrate every birthday and holiday in some way.  With the small, notable exception of Mother’s Day.  He didn’t acknowledge that at all beyond saying, “Happy Mother’s Day” in the morning.  I get that’s his thing, but I was totally let down.  Plus, it turned out to be one of those awful parenting days where everyone is crying, running away in public, not napping, and just being irritable.

Neither girl could sit still!

Because Father’s Day comes after Mother’s Day, I thought briefly (ok, maybe for longer than I’d like to admit) about wreaking some kind of karmic vengeance for the screamy holiday I had.  But really, I thought I would use this as an opportunity to show Amos how we can exploit these kinds of holidays to do the fun stuff that we really like but don’t do that often.  Soooooo, I planned a fancy antipasto dinner for Amos (really for all of us).  As a gift, I bought him a natural foods cookbook (used, $5 with shipping, and totally rocking) and helped Hazel make him a shirt that reads, “Hazel Loves Daddy.”  She also made a tank top for herself and a onesie for Julia.

We had SUCH a lovely time!  This antipasto was one of the funnest meals we have ever had.  Because it was for our dinner rather than an appetizer, I made sure to have a couple choices for each of the basic antipasto elements.  Here’s a rundown of the menu –

Fruit:  heirloom tomatoes, cantaloupe, and cherries (all served at room temp, thankyouverymuch)

Meat:  speck, an aged soppressata, and anchovy fillets

Veg:  roasted cauliflower, asparagus, a roasted pepper salad, and artichoke hearts tossed with sundried tomatoes and fresh thyme

Cheese:  Shropshire blue, a young manchego, and a 2-year-old aged gouda

It was just lovely.  Nothing was really difficult to put together, either.  In fact, most of the food just needed to be basic prepped, like slicing the melon.  The veg I just roasted in the broiler with a bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper, and the roasted pepper salad that actually required a recipe was just mincing a bunch of delicious stuff up together.  We toasted with prosecco, which I thought was an excellent palate cleanser for this type of meal.  Hazel went nuts (check out this hilarious video of her, plus my first attempt at subtitles for her!), probably because she got to stay up a whole hour and a half past her normal bedtime.  It was one of the best nights we’ve had together as a family, and I just love that I got to be a part of it with those lovely people that make up my family.

Encouraging the Messy

Hold on to your seats, kids, but I have a confession:  I don’t like to be messy.  SHOCKING, right?  Um, yes, I do know that I have an unhealthy obsession with being neat.  It’s actually kind of a blessing, really; my house stays clean without my being all obsessive compulsive about it should it get dirty.  That’s how I try to see it, anyway!  But lately I’ve noticed that streak in Hazel, too.  I don’t know if I’m unconsciously training her to be this way or if it’s passed on in my genetic material, but I have started to worry just a smidge about it.  I want her to feel creative without restraint at times; we can always clean it up later, right?  So yesterday I pulled out the fingerpaints for the first time at our house, both in the spirit of being messy and to make Daddy a painting for Father’s Day.

But then he showed up, so we abandoned the Father’s Day bit and just focused on the messy!  Hazel had kind of a hard time with getting her hands dirty – at first.  She got more into it when Amos and I participated as well.  After one painting she was done, though I think it had more to do with wanting to get into the sprinkler than it did being worried about messiness.  I’m looking forward to trying out more projects with Hazel that foster development of right brain activities; I’m definitely a creative person, but I know I’m held back by wanting to be neat, in control, and logical.  I don’t want to put that on Hazel (or Julia), but really want to provide an environment where she can try out all kinds of different things to see what suits her best.  Maybe, though her experimentation, I can loosen up a bit myself!!!

Life with this Newborn

Does Julia still qualify as a newborn?  She’ll be four weeks old on Monday, and I just cannot believe it.  Although this go-round has been much sleepier, calmer, and cleaner than it was with Hazel, I still find myself having my morning coffee in the shower and my breakfast at 11 AM, one-handed, while Julia nurses.  We have all been figuring out how to fit this new, needy baby into our lives, and it’s been pretty easy – way easier than I anticipated, for a couple of reasons.

First, Julia is an awesome baby.  I don’t know if it’s her personality or my calm demeanor (way calmer than with Hazel) or both, but Julia just isn’t a difficult baby.  She’s predictable, for starters.  From day one, it seems, she has followed a schedule.  That girl eats, then chills out until she has a dirty diaper about 30 minutes later, then she chills out or sleeps until it’s time to eat again.  At night, we nurse around 10 or 10:30, and then she sleeps until about 3:30 when we change diaper/nurse again, and then she sleeps again until about 6:30.  That is not too shabby for a teeny baby, dudes.  Just recently I’ve started to lay her down for her daily longer sleep, as opposed to wearing her in the sling, and she doesn’t have to cry it out for long at all before she just lets herself sleep.  I thought I was lucky with Hazel, as far as baby behavior went, but I think we hit the jackpot with this kid.

Second, and really importantly, Hazel is an awesome big sister.  Wait, that needs to be all caps – HAZEL IS

Hazel shares her special blanket with Julia

AN AWESOME BIG SISTER.  She is not jealous, she is not mad, she loves Julia, and she tells us all the time that she loves Julia.  Before Julia was born, Amos and I talked to Hazel all the time about how life with a baby would be.  We talked about how they cry, they can’t talk or walk or use the potty yet, and that she would have to share her room and toys with the baby just like the whole family would share the house, our food, etc.  We never told her that her sister would bug her or take up her time or annoy her by crying a lot.  I take time to point this out because, as is the case with so many other things, strangers (and even some people we love, but I’m not naming names here) tried to suggest that this would be the norm to Hazel.  Someone might, upon seeing my huge belly and Hazel in the front seat of the buggy, sidle up and say, jokingly, “Are you gonna be a big sister?  You gonna have to share your toys with someone else??”  Expecting a negative answer from Hazel, probably in a garbled lisp given the babyish nonsense voice they would use when talking to her, they were ALWAYS cut off by me (or Amos) saying, “Of course she’ll share, just like we’ll all share our things and home with this new baby!”  We never introduced the idea of the new baby as a burden for Hazel, and I think that really helped ease the transition for her.  We’ve also made sure to have a bit of special quality time with her as often as possible, even if it’s just going to the store with one of us by herself, and I think she really likes that.  But beyond anything that we could do, Hazel is just proving to be a compassionate, thoughtful person.  When Julia cries, Hazel sings Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star to her and lets her have Corduroy and her special pink blanket.  This is extra sweet because they were the only two things we specifically told Hazel she would not have to share with Julia.  We just have two awesome, amazing girls, and I’m just really happy with how things are happening right now ❤

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