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.

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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!

 

Julia’s first, my 28th, and we’re both over it.  Hazel’s just now getting into the fun of things like this; she came bouncing home with a bag full of Valentine’s junk candy and counted out to me all the Valentine’s that had princesses, which you don’t like Mama, on them.  Looks like we were the only family that handmade cards…I think I should get used to that.

By the way, that steady, deafening roar is the traffic in front of our house.  It’s making me want to live the hermit life, just a little bit.

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.

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.

Little Girls

Rainy Day

It’s gray and rainy outside, so we had a sleepy day indoors.  At least, that’s what I’m telling myself, since honestly we don’t always make it outside these days; I’ve been too busy making baby food, doing 80 loads of laundry, unpacking, organizing, and then reorganizing all our stuff.  Oh, plus Christmas.  Today, though, we were all kind of blah, very clingy and trying to wrap ourselves around Mama’s legs to just pretend we are her pants, until some magic rainbow smiled on our house in the early afternoon.  After cleaning up clothes & floor & baby for two, yes two, diarrhea incidents and both stepping on Hazel’s foot and elbowing her in the face because she was so close to me during this process, the girls just stopped.  I let them get every toy they own out onto their floor, and I guess that’s the trick, because they just started…playing.  Together.  Without me.  MIRACULOUS.  I did sneak in for a moment, though, to take a photo of Julia.  I feel like I have 50 thousand photos of Hazel alone and like two of Julia, so I told Hazel she could velcro herself to my back for two minutes while I photographed Julia.

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.

 

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