Archive for July, 2007

Most of my energies these days are spent in assessing and reassessing time management. The Snapper’s needs and capabilities change every few weeks and therefore the daily rhythm as well. When he was a newborn all I could do was nurse him and eat. At three months I could lay him on the floor and do yoga or aerobics, and put him in the swing for showers. I still wore him for naps because he wouldn’t take them elsewhere. At six months he became super-mobile, and since then I’ve been in varying stages of frustration over how to structure my day. It’s important that he be able to crawl, cruise and play in as many rooms as possible, but it makes it kind of difficult to figure out what to do with myself while he’s busying himself with mischief. When the dogs are out I do nothing but play interference. We don’t mess around with our dogs and will not relax our vigilance until he’s over 4. When they are away for the better part of his wake time when Attic Man is not home, I still have to keep a sharp eye out for each new thing he can now reach (the upper shelves in our living room are now crammed with books, with toys and pillows on the bottom two, soon to be three; the mugs swim around the kitchen without a home; and we’ve given up on the CDs and just pick them up every night). But it’s kind of boring. I can’t read anything serious because I have to stop every few sentences, if not to grab the dangerous item of the moment out of his hands or mouth, to check that he’s not close to doing so. So I read short magazine articles and stories, sometimes out loud for his benefit (there’s nothing better for this purpose than Mark Twain pieces, I assure you. Have you read “Letter to Earth?”), and we listen to music on XM radio. The world music channel offers us the most variety. There are a few cleaning tasks I can accomplish, like the dishes or folding laundry, but if I’m all caught up on these doable things (like today), I end up restless and feeling rather unproductive and useless. There’s so much to be done on the dissertation front and elsewhere that I simply can’t accomplish at this stage unless he’s napping. He doesn’t nap enough to get in showering, dressing, checking email and very much dissertating. Fortunately, he’s having a ball and is quite sufficiently stimulated, which makes me happy and proud. Every day he’s making new sounds, doing more complex things with his toys, and getting around more proficiently (he’s climbing…Lord have mercy!).

This is all to say that I think I’m finally ready to think about having him in day care part-time like we are planning. If I get this job–they’re checking my references–the Snapper can be in outside care for 3-4 afternoons a week, four hours at a pop, to allow me to write. That will be huge. We will then be able to enjoy several guilt-free mornings crawling and cruising with me on the couch or free-style dancing to reggae for his amusement.


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Still thinking

No, you’re not crazy.  I did have a long and angry (and not particularly nuanced or fair) post referencing this page.  Upon re-examination I’ve determined that the site’s main problem is that it’s poorly written.  What I wanted to say is that disruption or dissolution should only be undertaken in the most extreme of circumstances and that I felt this agency strayed too close to the adoption-as-shopping mentality (just return your defective product!). I think, though, that what I really object to is the reduction of the issue to list-making: here’s why adoptions disrupt, here are the steps to take.  I’d rather see a list of links to good articles on disruption and dissolution, contacts for professionals specializing in such matters, and the creation of services specifically for families in crisis.  I suppose that A Child’s Waiting would claim that its re-placement services would make sure a disruption was warranted, but I am skeptical of any agency whose bread and butter is the placement of children (not the welfare of children).  Skeptical only, though; this needs some more investigation.  So often language is a tip-off.

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Weaving through the corn at the Field of Dreams

Amazing: Attic Man starts law school in a few short weeks. He’s been waiting for seven years, thwarted for five, and finally gets to get an ID card, log onto the university computer system, raise his hand, write papers, argue for a grade. In three years he’ll be in the courtroom, where he belongs.

The cost: My career will be in a holding pattern for the next few years. I’ll have to confine my job search to local colleges for the time being. Attic Man put himself on hold for the bulk of graduate school, and I am glad to do the same for him.

Harder: I’m beginning to realize that the big family we always wanted is not to be. Even if you’re not a gunner, the first few years out of law school usually involve brutally long hours. Also, I’m not planning to stay home for all but the beginning of each child’s life with us. Attic Man will not be able to pick up the slack when our kids are small. By the time they’re ready to play catch and learn how to make farting noises with their armpits he’ll be established enough to spend more time with them. The early years will be disproportionately mine. And since I also desire a career, we’re probably looking at fewer than 18 children. Toddler adoption will require a significant investment of time and energy, too, often much longer than the six weeks to three months one normally takes for maternity leave in this country. Also, how many times do you think I can pull off a maternity leave and still remain competitive? I’m not getting wrapped up in all of this—it’s always been one kid at a time for us—but I’m getting myself ready for the possibility that the picture in my head may not turn into the one in front of my face.

Good: I’m interviewing this week for a job caring for disabled people in a group-home setting. The hours are custom-made for our situation. I’ll spare you the math, but it will pay for enough daycare to give me 3-4 half-days of uninterrupted dissertation time with plenty to spare for our expenses (the Snap will only have to be in daycare half-time). And it comes with benefits! The best part is that I’ve been hoping for a job that would allow me to help others in some way, and this one fits the bill to a T.

The cost: The Snapper is going to thrive in daycare. He’s already bored with us and our house. He’s incredibly sociable and active and needs to have different interactions and experiences. But his mother…Lordy, I am so far from being ready to hand him over to anyone but Attic Man. The job in question would also take me away from home for two whole nights a week (it’s partly a sleeping job). Technically the Snapper is sleeping for most of that time, but what if he neeeeeeeeds me??? I’m planning to do lots and lots of babywearing for our mornings together. But…sigh. He’s my little guy.

Also hard: Adult bathroom hygiene. Need I say more?

This is one of those simultaneously exciting/scary time and emotionally I’m all over the place. As a family we really are ready for the changes, but they’re still changes.

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Reclaiming the Silence

When I left college to start working I moved into a small room in a nice woman’s house because it was all I could afford.  When the ancient television in the room bit the dust I decided not to replace it.  Instantly, it seemed, my life was better.  I spent more time outside walking and rollerblading, I called my friends more, I wrote more letters, I cooked more mindfully, and I lost a bunch of weight, which was nice because I was down to my ideal weight for our wedding.

Then I married a TV-lover.  I started watching again, too.  I soon became an absolute fiend.  We talked about getting rid of the television when kids came, but by the time we got the Snapper we were well into HBO and the increasingly better-quality shows and channels that have cropped up since the first episode of the Sopranos (perhaps in response?).  Also in that time we both became intellectually invested in popular culture, Attic Man through a Master’s in Journalism and Mass Communications and me a doctorate (still coming) in Cultural and Critical Studies.

But I hate the way I’ve come to watch television.  Before the Snapper came I had a job that kept me away from TV during the day so it broke the habit.  When I quit it a month before he was born I spent most of the day on dissertation work or reading other good stuff.  After he was born, though, TV became my best friend.  The Snapper nursed, and I am not making this up, an hour or more at a time, frequently turning around and needing to nurse ten minutes after finishing.  I was too exhausted to read, and for the first two months too busy trying to fix his latch.  By the time we were both old pros and he was nursing more efficiently (he was FOUR months old before we got it down to twenty minutes) he became an active, slapping and waving and bobbing and weaving nurser.  He would knock the book right out of my hand, or rip the pages of my magazine before I could yank it away.  And forget taking notes on academic reading!  So I was really, really bored.  Television was there for me in the middle of the night, and in the afternoon when all I could handle mentally were re-runs of the Golden Girls.  Soon I was watching every time we nursed, like a reflex.  And whenever I ate.  And whenever I needed to keep a closer eye on the baby than I could with reading but didn’t have anything else I could do. I’m proud to say I never watched exclusively of everything else, except late in the evening, but that’s about all I can say.

I’m sick of it and sick of me with so much television.  What bothers me the most is that there are so few places you can be that aren’t commercialized.  Why should I allow my own home to be so blatantly invaded by capitalism?*  So, inspired by these two great posts, I decided we were going to use TV differently at our house.  We’re keeping the television–we still have a vested intellectual interest–but we’re changing the way we’re watching.  First of all, and hardest, I am no longer watching it during the day.  This is a huge change and it is not easy to get used to.  All I want to do when we nurse is turn it on.  But I try to listen to music instead, or NPR (can’t have a completely quiet house).  It’s been four days and it’s going alright.  I’ve got the shakes, but I’m making it.  Evening-wise, we’ve agreed to get rid of surfing.  If there’s something we already know we like and want to watch, fine.  Otherwise, we read or talk or go for a walk.

I love it.  It’s been so liberating, and I feel like I have my days back, like they’re mine again.  I love that we’ll be teaching the Snapper good TV habits instead of teaching him things like food=TV, free time=TV, love=TV.

*I realize that capitalism is pervasive and persistent and that nearly our every movement is bound up in exchange relations.  I just mean that I get very, very tired of constantly being coerced and cajoled into buying stuff to make someone else rich.  How many places can we go these days where we aren’t hounded relentlessly?  Certainly not our schools or churches…

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Baby for Dinner

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One of the things I’m relearning by dissertating is the fine art of writing for the sake of writing. Sometimes nothing comes of it, but more often then not it jump-starts a great session, and by extension, a great section or chapter. It’s so contrary to my nature to write this way, even though it’s the only way I talk; I talk recklessly and I write carefully. It’s hard for me to write a sentence I don’t believe, that’s not exactly right. Every sentence is a little failure that way. Writing academically for me is hard, hard work, occasionally transcendent. But the brass tacks of it are just sitting down and getting it done.

Here is different. It’s somewhere between writing and talking for me. I still feel the old anxiety about getting it just right, but because I don’t anticipate being judged by colleagues I can let go a little more. Sometimes I do stay away for fear of saying the wrong thing or saying the right thing badly (like I almost wrote “wrongly” and even though it would have made for neat parallel structure I couldn’t bring myself to leave it there). I’m back now, and I’m just going to write until something happens. If nothing does, so be it.

Dissertation-wise, I was silent for six months. I wrote my first ten pages in haste in order to have something to include in my fellowship applications. I wrote for the first three weeks of the Snapper’s life and it was hell. He was so needy. He didn’t sleep like babies that young are supposed to, and when he did, I was so busy catching up with my own physical needs (ravenous from nursing around the clock) and his (pumping to keep my supply up) that I didn’t really have time to write. But I had to so I did. When several weeks later I learned I hadn’t received any of the four fellowships I had applied for I felt cheated of all that time I could have been (kind of) relaxing and to the extent that I could, enjoying my newborn baby. The news also came with a new-found low in confidence that stayed with me until about a week ago. In the ensuing months I tried to come back to my work time and time again. I was working hard, true, continuing to read and work through poems. I told myself that I hadn’t read enough to be writing. I read over those initial ten pages and decided to trash them. But two things were happening: 1) I was feeling more out of my league and out of my element than at any other time in my career and 2) I was reading a lot of bigwigs on Modernism and I got too caught up in finding something astounding and groundbreaking in what I was studying. I realize now these two delusions were feeding on one another and all I could do was sink further and further into a state of despair (regarding my academics; I’ve been happily, surprisingly confident in my parenting and even in my body image, which is new for me). Thankfully after an email consultation with my advisor in which myth #2 was swiftly debunked, myth #1 is starting to fall away. And I am writing again. It also helps that my lovely friend Robin and I are giving each other deadlines and assignments. She sends me poems and I send her pages. My fingers are flying off the keyboard. I am not attempting to discover the next shiny soundbite. I am doing good, solid work on a period that’s been neglected. And that’s good enough.

Also I have joined an awesome, incredible group of women. Unlike most other peace organizations I’ve been part of, these women actually get stuff done. They have a great balance between heady dreams and practical action, and I’m learning a lot from them. What’s funny is that my expectations were all turned around when I joined the group. In Pittsburgh the activists I knew were mostly pierced college students; here, they’re middle-aged women. It’s also true of the drum circle I attend twice a month. As far as I know the women my age spent most of their days at the mall. At least this is what I see.

The Snapper is amazing right now. Every month (past four. the first four were grueling) I swear is my favorite month. He is alive, fun, smiling, beside himself all the time. He’s crawling the speed of lightning, pulling up, and starting to cruise. He automatically gravitates toward danger. He tap, tap, taps everything. He laughs at the dogs. He burrows into our necks and pulls at our ears and noses. He smiles and smiles at strangers until they look at him, and then he laughs. I’ve never seen him tire of a tickling session–I always stop before he asks me to. He eats solids like a horse. We can no longer take him to restaurants. Life is too exciting to sit still longer than it takes for our food to arrive. When he’s hungry he crawls over to me, whimpering, and climbs up my leg. He still does not understand that he has to wait for my shirt to come off. He can hold his own bottle.

And now he is awake. 🙂

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