Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Autumn

After an unusually warm Indian summer, it finally feel like fall. The trees are fluttering in golds, reds, and brilliant orange. The sky is a deep, vivid blue. And the air is tart as a newly bitten apple.
It's my favorite season. A season that will always be associated, for me, with new beginnings: a new school year, the whiff of newly sharpened pencils, new school clothes and the promise of a new beginning. This is the season that I met my husband, and fell in love. The season that we first walked hand-in-hand down cobblestone streets, under flaming trees and through the falling dusk. This is the season I gave birth to my first-born daugher. This is the time that I feel alive.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Project Life Change Update



Um, can I amend that "Project Life Change" vow I made?

How about writing or reading every day? Or how about writing every other day?

This is harder than I thought. It's hard right now just to sit here--the dishwasher needs to be emptied, miscellaneous stacks of paper appear to be breeding in the den and on my kitchen table, the toilet upstairs is clogged, and I'm hosting playgroup this Friday. Oh, and it's my Bean-girl's third birthday this week, and I haven't even bought her a gift. (bad mom!)

This weekend I meant to get some writing done. I really did. But I had to finish up an editing project, there was my moms' group brunch on Saturday, Bean-girl would not go down for her nap... and while holding my colicky infant on the couch Saturday night, I got sucked into watching reruns of "America's Next Top Model." Yes, I did. And even after I got Baby Legume to sleep in her crib, I kept watching. God help me, I even TiVoed the last episode so I could see who won the 2006 season.

"Lame" is too poor a word for all this.

I did get some reading done... And this post counts as writing now, doesn't it? Even though it feels like an exercise in logorrhea.

When my Baby Legume spits up, the Bean-girl and I say, "Baby Legume went bleah!" That's how I feel now: I'm going bleah on this empty page. It's how I've felt lately every time I touch the keyboard.

So... three days into the challenge, and it's already harder than I thought. I'll be checking on the other bloggers at this page to see how everyone else is doing.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Project Life Change


Somehow, clicking my way through the blogosphere, I found this post. It's about Project Life Change, a challenge by two bloggers to take small, concrete steps toward the life change you want.

Now I have an unmanageable, impossible Christmas wish-list of goals, of changes, of things I want to do in my life. Even if I didn't have two little bean girls, it would be impossible to address most of them now.

But I can do one small thing (I hope). Surely in the chaos of my days, I can carve out a small space--just a little one, I beg you!--in which to write. Just the littlest space, a hidden pocket of air in which to breathe. Just for myself.

I don't have to write anything profound. I don't necessarily have to post on this blog. I'll write whatever I feel like, for myself or for an audience, to share with the grandparents or to share with no one at all. Even if it's just a few sentences in a Word file that will never be opened again.

I used to write. In high school I spent all my time up in my room alone, writing. It was the typical existential teen angst, but when I read those old scribbles I feel something... A wind moving through me, a wind of feeling and possibility. Something I no longer feel in my daily life.

I thought I would be an English major. I did minor in English, and I took creative writing workshops, including one from the novelist T.C. Boyle (who is really a very nice guy). And I wrote two, maybe three, stories that held truth at their core. And then I stopped for a very long time.

I became a scientist. And I loved my work. The only writing I did was academic and scientific. I stopped reading novels. Life got too busy, and the only reading I did were scientific journals.

But now that's past, and I'm trying to write and read again. So my Project Life Change is this: every day I will write something just for myself, and everyday I will read a little fiction. Because fiction was once my lifeblood, and writing was once my air. And even in the midst of squirming children, dirty dishes, and editing deadlines (as I've taken on some freelance scientific editing/writing work--and that's a whole other Project Life Change story)--even in the midst of all that, surely I can take some time for me.

And with this post, I've just started.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

What she dreams of, what she says


Last night, while I lay next to the Bean-girl in her bed:

Bean: Mommy, what are you thinking?

Me: That I'm tired and want to go to sleep.

Bean: What do you dream of?

Me: Uhhhh... (too tired to think at this moment). I don't know. I often don't remember my dreams. Maybe I sometimes dream about my little daughters? What do you dream of?

Bean: I dream about drinking milk.

***********

This afternoon, while up in her bedroom:

Bean: Where's my favorite fish toy?

Me : It's on the kitchen counter. I'll go get it.

Bean: I'm coming too!

Me: I'm coming right back with it, Bean-girl. You don't have to come, I'll be right back.

Bean: I want to come.

Me : (exasperated) Why do you always have to go where I'm going? Why do you always have
to follow?

Bean: Because I want to follow you and go wherever you are going THAT'S ALL and I want to be in your arms so I can be with you wherever you are going THAT'S ALL and so I can be in your arms THAT'S ALL!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

What I know now

I never meant to be a stay-at-home mom.

I went back to work full-time when my first child was 6 months old. She wasn't taking a bottle, and despite all our efforts, would never take a bottle. She starved all day in daycare until I picked her up. She was used to falling asleep in my arms, and wouldn't nap at the daycare center. Almost every day for the first month, the head teacher would complain to me that the Bean had been "fussy." I wanted to smack that woman. I was separated from my child all day, and the last thing I needed to hear was such complaints. And yes, they were complaints--not helpful or even matter-of-fact just-wanted-to-let-you-know-how-she-was-doing statements, but out-and-out whining complaints from this teacher.

I knew before I enrolled her in the daycare center that she was not taking a bottle. But my husband and I enrolled her anyway, and hoped for the best.

I went back to work because I was on a research fellowship that had to be completed. (NIH fellowships have nasty pay-back schemes where you have to either finish out the two years, or pay back all your salary). I went back to work because I had told my boss that I would do so. But most of all . . . I went back to work at that time because I had to do so. I was climbing the walls. I felt slightly insane. It was the dark of winter. I loved my child, but I needed to get away, out of that house; I needed to see other people, to be something more and other than a mother. I needed to return to my work, to go back to my lab and do my science and run those Western blots, damnit!

This time is different.

This time I am different.

I was laid off; we relocated to another city (husband's job); I was pregnant with my second child, and in a city with limited job opportunities for me. And it is a time of limited opportunities for all of us in science--a crisis in federal funding that can only be described by that word, crisis.

I'm not the ambitious go-getter anymore. I'm realistic: I know that the time for all that has passed. It's been six years since I received my Ph.D., and if I were to "make it," I'd have "made it" by now, during my first postdoc.

I've been a full-time-stay-at-home mom for more than half a year.

My second child is now four months old.

When we made the decision to move to this new city, my husband and I placed our unborn daughter's name on the waitlist for his employer's daycare center. We thought that I might eventually want to return to work, and we knew how these waitlists work--it might well be a full year before her name reached the top.

Well, her name has reached the top. They have an opening for her in the new year.

And even if a job in my field were to miraculously open up for me here in this city; even if I could find a great postdoctoral or staff scientist position--a position like that in my old lab, studying science that I am passionate about, with colleagues that are like family--still, I would not be able to take it. Not this time.

And not just because I am now wary about science. Not just because I know there's probably no long-term career there for me. But because I also know now how fleeting the first year of childhood is. I know how fast they grow up. How those dumpling arms and legs stretch out and lose their baby fat. How that dense baby weight, pressed into my arms, will soon be a memory. And a memory, too--the sight of those round baby cheeks, drawing themselves in and out, as she nurses from my body.

I don't regret going back to work with my eldest, the Bean-girl, when I did. Things turned out fine, and I did what was best for me at the time. But things are different now.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

From colic to teething

Two little white bumps have appeared on my youngest daughter's lower gum. She's having a really rough time of it. And that means we're all having a rough time.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Potty time

My little girls are changing each day.


The Bean has toilet trained herself--partially. Toilet training has been such a trial that I don't have it in me to go into the full details now. We've been trying off and on since she was two, and it seemed mostly three steps back for every one step forward. A few weeks before preschool started, I panicked and instituted toilet training again--thinking she'd be the only kid in her classroom still in diapers. She became very resistant--actively running away from us and preferring to sit in a poopy diaper rather than use her chair. So we gave up again, not wanting to put pressure on her. I even stopped asking her "Do you have to use the potty?" since the question was always met with a vehement "NO!"

And then last weekend she toilet trained herself. Out of the blue, she announced one afternoon that she had to use the potty, pulled down her pants, and walked over to her toilet. When I asked if she needed help, she told me that she didn't. She came out of the bathroom without having gone (and she pulled up her own pants again!), but about five minutes later she wandered back in to try the potty seat again. She did this a few more times, and then I heard her announce triumphantly from her chair, "I made a pee pee and a poopy!"


Now she is going by herself on a regular basis. We have a toddler potty insert on top of a regular toilet in a bathroom. She climbs up on her stepstool, does her business, pulls up her pants, and flushes the toilet--all by herself. (Still have to work on teaching her to wipe herself and wash her hands).


I am inordinately proud of my little girl's achievement. Of course I know that most girls her age are toilet-trained. I know that many are trained even earlier. I know that eventually every child masters the potty, just as all children eventually learn to talk, walk, feed themselves with utensils, and ask their parents for money (and based on some conversations we've had, I think Bean-girl is already getting close to that last one). But still... I am just in awe every time she masters one of these tasks. As though she is the first little girl to ever grow up.


But my other girl is growing, too. She is already cutting two teeth! She can roll over, grab objects with her hands and bring them to her mouth (because everything goes to her mouth). When she's not crying over her teeth, she laughs and squeals. And so I have the chance to watch two girls grow up... To see an infant grow up again, to see and savor it all a second time. My precious little beans.

Monday, October 1, 2007

A break

I need a break.

The weekends are supposed to be a break for a stay-at-home mom. My husband was off call this past weekend. But the work never ends--it's errand time, shopping for kids' shoes time, time to do laundry and then fold it away. And oh yes, tend to the kids. The kids, who are ATTENTION MONSTERS. Their dad is around all weekend for them, yet they cling to me. No, let's amend that--the Bean alternately clings to mom and then dad, bouncing back and forth between us. The Legume mostly prefers mom, but is sometimes content with her dad. We spent the whole weekend trading children back and forth, me taking whoever was screaming at the time and my husband taking whoever seemed most content at the time.

So Monday is also supposed to be a bit of a break for me. The Bean-girl goes to preschool on that day. The same girl who demands to be "up on mommy!" every five minutes when we're at home, who is continually climbing all over me--now she's a model of independence at school. She runs off from me to paint and sit in Circle Time without a backward glance at good 'ole mom. I'd call it a Jekyl-and-Hyde transformation, if it weren't that calling her Hyde seems a bit harsh.

It's suppose to be a break.... But it isn't. There's grocery shopping to do, and a long list of dreamed-of tasks to be completed before I pick up the Bean... And I feel time ticking away inside my chest. The Legume has suddenly become sleepless during the day, and is in a cranky mood for it. I manage to read a few stories on a literary web site... But no, it doesn't feel like a break.

Then we pick up the Bean, start the round of dinner, bath, storytime, bed... And the Bean-girl is both exasperating and charming; I take a bath with her, she splashes water in my face and giggles, we read stories and she makes me a laugh... My husband, bless him, does the best he can with us all, and that is truly a lot. The Legume is crazy at night as always, and eventually passes out after her inevitable colicky screaming fit. It's just another day in our household and in my life: repetitive, tedious, tender, funny, irritating as an itch under your shoulder blade and then suddenly warm and cozy as your quilt in the winter. It's over, the kids are asleep, I'm here at the computer... and damnit, I still need a break.

And I suspect that I will not be getting any real kind of a break... Not for a long, long time.