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Archive for September, 2007

 

August 3, 2007, the last time the kitchen floor was safe for sucking on

I’m feeling conflicted about blogging right now so I’m just going to write for a few minutes and hope I can re-connect with a few of you.

1. Real vs. Ideal: The schedule I posted below is all well and good except when it isn’t, which is just about every day.  Here’s how it really works: I am so worn out from my mega-shifts and the fact that sometimes the guys at work don’t go to bed at a reasonable hour, and when they do I still have a couple hours of paperwork and cleaning/laundry to do even when they do, that the first couple of days home I am loving my bed way too much to give up the Snapper’s first nap to any kind of housework, which means that I end up having a very rushed shower before I take him to daycare and am generally more frazzled by the time I hit the books (see post below for discussion of generalized dissertation disorder).  This also means I am not exercising, which is making my overall energy and productivity plummet and my diet go in the toilet, too.  I have decided not to try to lose any more weight until things are more stable, which is OK because I am at pre-pregnancy, and though it’s not my ideal healthy weight I have almost no body image problem for the first time in my life (weird.  why did this happen?), so the issue is exercise more than anything for how I feel.  Anyway, all this means that the house is filthy. At this point my poor understimulated son is only getting to play in one room in the house because the others are either too dirty or too cluttered to be safe–I am not an overly protective mother so this is saying an awful lot–and he is a very adventurous little monster.  We need some solutions for housework and cooking that can accommodate a law school workload, a dissertation, a physically demanding full-time job and an active baby.  This is where I tell you that I am open to any and all advice you may have.  The good news is that we’re not fighting over it (miracle of all miracles!).  The bad news is that it’s still not getting done.

2. I am missing this adoption conference in my former home city and am incredibly bummed especially to miss meeting some of you IRL who will be there.  Did I mention how disappointed I am?  Is it becoming obvious how disconnected I still feel in this new place?

3.  Hello, Richard! I am so sorry I keep not emailing you.  You leave nice comments on my blog and even did my meme.  I am a bad friend.  I have no excuse but for fatal personality flaws that I am trying to overcome.

4. I am frightened for Burma and wishing that it would become a national priority.  It’s #4 on my own list, for pete’s sake.  It’s not okay to kill anyone of any social status, but when we start killing monks we have ignored warning signs for far too long.  Yes, I said we!  Now’s a good time to watch Romero, or to re-watch it if you haven’t in a while.  Get fired up for peace–people are dying.

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Brand new

Thanks to everyone who participated in the Home Ec meme.  All I can say is damn!  You people get up EARLY.  It’s interesting to me how many different combinations are possible, and I appreciate the opportunity to think outside of our own particular dynamics.

Today the Snapper is ten months old.  I haven’t blogged about him much since he was just a few months old and was driving me crazy.  Truth is that months 4-10 have been amazing, wonderful.  He is becoming a little boy right before my very eyes.  I remember the day he started looking like a baby instead of an infant, how his round face suddenly elongated and took on a goofy and curious expression.  Now all of the sudden he is a toddler just on the cusp of walking.  He takes two steps and decides it will be faster to crawl, but he has all the balance and coordination necessary.  He’s like his mother: he holds on for emotional support, but he doesn’t really need it.  The best thing, though, according to Attic Man, better than his first steps or his first hug (which was my favorite) is that he tells jokes.  No really, he does!  When he’s in his feeding seat he likes to drop things off the edge like all babies.  But now he’ll stretch out the hand holding the cracker, look Attic Man straight in the eye, and when AM puts his hand under the cracker to catch it, snatch it back into his seat and laugh.  And yesterday after AM yelped from a bite on the elbow, the Snapper spent several minutes coming almost up to his elbow again, mouth open for a mock bite, and withdrawing to giggle.  He’s also taking charge of his own games of peek-a-boo with any object–dishtowel, blanket, book–he can find.  His first reaction to anything new is usually laughter. I can’t tell you how happy and relieved we are to find that he has both a sense of curiosity and a sense of humor.  The world is rough on a curious person who can’t laugh the tough things off.  As AM said the other day, the Snapper sees the difference between how the world is and how it should be and finds humor in that space.

Right now he is perfecting his new turbo-scream in protest of the morning nap.  He was also rehearsing at 4:20 this morning, and wouldn’t you know that half-asleep mama gave in and slept nursing with him on the couch until Heidi came and licked us both?

Here’s mama’s story: I have to figure out a way to reign in my emotions so I can write my dissertation.  I have no self-confidence and I can’t seem to shake it.  I hate everything that I’ve written.  It’s hard to keep going when I don’t feel it will come out alright.  But I finally have the time to do it so I just need to soldier on.  Except that I’m not sure how to do that–I know how to handle my emotions at a death, or when someone rejects me, or when I receive disappointing news, but I have no idea how to manage this.  The dissertation experience has magnified every battle I’ve had to fight about my own efficacy.  I lost my violin playing to it and I’m in danger of losing this too.  Only I don’t want to.  I want to teach college (at a good college) more than I want to do anything else in my life.  And I want to be a scholar, a good scholar.  I have to write better than I do now, better than I do on this blog (blech) and certainly better than I am writing academically.  I need to do it faster.  I need to stop staring at a blank screen.

So that is why I haven’t been writing.  I have nothing to say that I can say well.

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As someone who is constantly struggling to manage her time, and who also is hyper-aware of the gender politics of her own family, I’m fascinated with how other people schedule their days and divide household responsibilities. Unless I’m missing a whole swath of blogdom, which is possible, I don’t know that people blog about that sort of thing. I suppose it’s because most people would find it excruciatingly boring. But it’s interesting to me because it’s been a delicate and ongoing negotiation at our house.

I have a blog project for the three or four of you who still read here, a meme of sorts. I’ll start with my own household as a template.

What does a typical day look like at your house?

6-Wake. I nurse, out and feed the dogs, give the Snapper breakfast, and do any stray dishes. Attic Man gets ready for school.

8:30-10:30-The Snapper naps. I shower and get ready for the day, check email, do light housework if ambitious. Some days I nap, too.

11-3-Snapper at daycare, me at home dissertating.

3:30-5-Hopefully the Snapper naps again and I prep dinner.

5-5:30-Attic Man goes on the clock with the baby and I finish dinner.

5:30-Family dinner.

after dinner-I bathe the baby while Attic Man does the dinner dishes. Attic Man takes over parenting until the Snapper’s bedtime at 7 or 8. He can usually get some reading done while the Snap tots around and bangs objects together. I out and feed the dogs and pick up the day’s poo from the yard.

Evening-This is our time together to watch DVDs of Dexter, eat ice cream, and catch up. I suspect as the year progresses more and more of it will turn into work time.

On the weekends I work two 18-hour shifts, so Attic Man takes over the entire care of the kid, dogs, and house through Sunday morning.

How do you divide up household responsibilities?

Me: Childcare; decisions about nutrition; cooking Mon-Thurs; cleaning bathroom, kitchen, my office, and baby’s room; finances; dog care; errands and appointment-making.

Attic Man: Childcare; taking out the garbage and recycling; cleaning dining room, living room, bedroom, and his office; computer stuff; lawn care; weekend cooking, dog care.

the Snapper: drooling, crawling toward dangerous objects.

How do your ideals inform your choices? How do your choices fall short of them?

When I was pregnant we talked a lot about how Attic Man was not going to ‘help’ or babysit, but parent. I am pleased that our schedule allows him pretty near to 50% parenting, and I think he’s happy about it too. We also try to be even about the housework, too, in hopes of having an equal marriage. I’m hyper-sensitive to the fact that for a long time we were not equal economically and admittedly things were more tense about housework. It took us a long, long time to work out what equal really meant, especially because in real life it’s near impossible to achieve: not everyone has equal needs, energy reserves, time, or talents, and external economic and social pressures always make their ways into the home (someone earns most or all of the money; the woman, in heterosexual relationships, is the only one capable of carrying and nursing babies; both partners may have more sexist models from childhood to work with, and even if these can be overcome ideologically, we still have to deal with the fact that I don’t know how to mow the lawn and Attic Man had to learn the proper way to do dishes). I think we’re more successful at living our ideals than we used to be but it took a lot of hard work and a whole lot of, ahem, ‘discussion.’

Do you have a secret weapon? If so, what is it?

The best marriage advice I ever saw (over on Shannon’s site) said, simply, “queen-sized mattress, king-sized sheets.” I can’t beat that, but we do have the family meeting. We meet once a week, rain or shine, and we take minutes just like at a real meeting. We go over the weekly schedule, air grievances (we are not allowed to nit-pick during the rest of the week), make decisions about the baby’s care, go over finances, and decide on menus. The thing I hate most about marriage is that on the ground level, it is an economic relationship with power dynamics and as such a constant negotiation over resources and responsibilities. The family meeting boxes off a lot of that stuff so that we can feel free to enjoy our friendship and romance at other times. I realize that romance is partly the lie that can blind us to the realities of the inequities of marriage, but I still like it and I suspect so does Attic Man, so this is our way of preserving it.

And now, to reward you for all that mundanity, something disturbingly familiar:

If you read this, you’re tagged!  Gay, straight, or something else, I want to hear from you.

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For Kohana

I think you’re making the right move!

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Returning/Moving Forward

With Aunt Robin in Pgh

8/29/07

Every time my life changes I have to figure out how to blog again. In the space of a year I went from a full-time grad student/teaching fellow roaming Pitt’s campus and having coffee and lunch with colleagues to a sweltering pregnant woman working full-time for an investment firm in Iowa to a SAHM of a lovely infant struggling to dissertate to a group-home worker on weekends, dissertator on weekdays, mother on weeknights and Sundays. I used to want to process it all on the blog but then I got worried about my online persona and professionalism and shied away from it altogether.

It’s gorgeous here in Cedar Rapids for the first time this hot, sticky summer: the storms that rocked and rumbled through the midwest last night have cleared to a merely warm, sunny, dry day. I am grateful to be here in this wide open place where the children are happier than they are on the East Coast and where I can get a haircut for $25 and NOT worry that the hairdresser needs welfare.

9/3/07

When the Snapper and I emerged from the Fort Pitt Tunnel to take in Pittsburgh’s lovely, busy skyline I felt like I’d never left. Here’s Pittsburgh, I said to him: here’s where you began. We spent half the trip all hectified and strung out and the other half playing in the sunshine of late summer in Western PA with friends and family. It was so comfortably right and familiar, more so with the Snapper woven in.

Then when the mountains below started stretching out to hills and then into taut, flat fields, and the trees gave way to corn, and the plane seemed to float rather than zoom, we were back in Iowa and then, too, I felt as if I’d never left. The quality of light and of life is different here. The sky will swallow you whole if you don’t stand up straight and walk tall. And that’s what we’re doing here, finally, after all that struggling.

You’re an Iowan, little man.

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