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!

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.

 

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.

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.

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).

B is for Breakfast

"B" is for Banana split Breakfast

And butterfly, and broccoli, and baby.  Since I have Hazel home with me now, at least until I start school again after Christmas, I’ve decided to really try working with her as if she’s in preschool.  We are by no means rigorous in approach; our schedule is loose, allowing for a daily walk in the morning and many story times at the Barnes and Noble a block away.  What I have been trying to do is incorporate lessons about the chosen letter into our everyday life, in the same kind of way we teach her about food in the grocery store and animals out at the park.  Looking up preschool/homeschool ideas led to a scary number of print out coloring sheets (that can’t be all that people do with their kids, right?  seriously?), so I came up with a few ideas based on things we already like to do at home:

  1. Breakfast:  I made a banana split breakfast with Greek yogurt, cranberries, almonds, and agave syrup on top of a banana.  It’s been intensely popular, and she’s had one for the past three mornings.
  2. Baa Baa Black Sheep:  Hazel likes this rhyme, so we made a picture of sheep with the rhyme, and she wrote in all the letters “B.”  Then we used glue sticks (BIG DEAL for ol’ Hazel) to glue cotton balls onto the sheep.
  3. During our daily walks, we identified all the things that started with the letter “B” and drew them when we got home.
  4. We completed the two worksheets on “B” that are in her Getting Ready for Kindergarten workbook, because yes, we totally skipped the Getting Ready for Preschool one.  🙂
  5. We made “B”roccoli stew for dinner one night (and probably tomorrow, too) at Hazel’s request.
  6. We made a nature “b”ox out of recycled cereal boxes and clear plastic from a Cabbage Patch doll box.  Hazel likes to pick up little treasures when we go outside, and now she has a place to put them that isn’t between the couch cushions!

I think this was a fun learning experience for the both of us.  When people first become parents, everything seems so difficult.  All the sleep loss, the diaper changing, keeping box cutters and Windex out of the baby’s mouth…all of seems so damn hard.  It’s only when they get older and you have another do you realize that all that stuff is a freaking cake walk, and teaching your child logic and critical thinking and why some people will actually try to hurt you is way, way harder.  Teaching her like this is such a challenge; Hazel is picking up on these things so quickly that it takes my breath away, so I’m off to prep some things to do for the letter “C.”  If anyone has any ideas, please let me know!  I’ll post our “C” fun too 🙂

Oops…

Dudes, I have been so mega busy (and gone for a week to St. Louis) that I’ve ignored the blog.  And, um, it’s going to continue for just a bit longer.  We have been crazy busy, but luckily it’s been mostly FUN busy.  I’m one small present away from being totally done with Christmas shopping, and today I’m planning to get all the ones that are here wrapped up.  I’m waiting on a couple to be delivered, but I have wrapping ready for them, so I’m good to go.  Today I have to write one more assignment, and then I’m pretty much done for the whole semester.  I’m of two minds about that, but I’ll elaborate later.  Right now I want to get on my assignments so I can move it to the kitchen.  I’ll be baking this delicious-looking Mondel Bread from one of my favorite blogs, Lottie & Doof while I finish up that wrapping.

Papers and other papers

My favorite part of being in school, second only to the readings (usually), is writing the big paper that generally comes at the end of an English class.  This semester, I have a paper due in my research class where I have to detail a critical analysis of one literary work using five approaches (like feminist, reader-response, etc.).  The other class, which is about teaching and assessing writing, requires a proposal that I honestly haven't even thought about – yet.

Anyway, I've started on this big paper now because the background reading and research is going to be fairly extensive.  For example, the sample paper our teacher put up is 14 pages long, with 3 of those pages being the works cited list.  Yeah – lots of reading!  I originally chose Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale as my title of choice, mainly for two reasons:  first, I love that book, and secondly, I have A LOT to say about it.  It's a complex, thoroughly enjoyable read, and I knew for sure I could get 14 pages or more easily.  
I sort of ran into a problem yesterday, though; I realized that one of our textbooks, which details various literary approaches and which we are reading slowly and not consecutively, has student essays on The Handmaid's Tale in the back of the book.  UGH!!  So, while my teacher gave me permission to go ahead with my paper as long as it was original, I just feel that it would be too close to some of the material to proceed.  
Today, mulling things over in the shower, I made a command decision – rather than let all my research up to this point go to waste, I am going to write a paper in hopes of having it published in an academic journal.  I have this idea about one aspect of the book that I haven't read any research on so far, so I think I'll keep going on my research as a side project.  How cool would it be to get something published?!  I'm pretty excited about it!
I'm going to use Passing by Nella Lawson for my class paper instead.  I know, if you're Laura Whitley & you're readinghis, we read both those books in Ingram's class.  What can I say?  I loved every book she assigned!  This book is fairly short, which is a bonus when you have a deadline, and not quite as famous as The Handmaid's Tale (the amount of work written about Atwood's book is staggering, to put it mildly), so perhaps I can come up with some original ideas and challenge myself a little more.

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Why is September almost over?

I still have tons of stuff to do!!!!

We have been extremely busy, all three of us.  With the start of the school year (for both Amos and I) came a crazy rush of adjusting to yet another new schedule.  We have lived by some serious schedules since I got pregnant with this baby!  Here's a little run-down of what all has been going on:
1.  Daycare started for Hazel, and I think she likes it as much as any 1-year-old would.  When we drop her off she cries for a while, which I didn't know about until yesterday, but Donna says she does fine not too long after we leave.  She hasn't been the sweetest baby these days because she is starting to teethe again, so it's been a little rough with her.  But with plenty of Tylenol we'll get through it!
2.  School is awesome.  And hectic, and scary a little.  I finally have grades back in both classes, so I feel like I am doing ok thus far.  With English classes you sometimes don't get grades back until your first big paper, which could be assigned two months into the semester, so it can be a little nerve-wracking to be doing all this work and not know if you're doing it correctly.  Luckily I'm making A's in both classes right now – whew!
3.  I'm having a long stroke of bad luck that is getting me down, but I figure the longer it goes on the sooner it just has to stop.  That includes losing my newest camera, the cute little red Nikon that I've been using pretty much exclusively to get all these quick, nice shots of Hazel, and which also had my 4 GB card inside.  I still have a 1 GB card for the other, bigger Nikon, but I am SUPER UPSET about losing that camera.  Maybe I can hold out until Black Friday and beat the crowds back to get a cheap deal on another one…until then there may not be as many pictures of Hazel, though I know I haven't been posting many here.   
I have to go make a Powerpoint on feminist literary theory, so this is going to be a short summation. But more to come soon. Until then, here's a little something funny to take the edge off!

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