Thursday, April 23, 2009

1 am posting

It's 1 am. I fell asleep with the baby around a little after 9 pm, woke when Husband stumbled into bed, lay awake for a few minutes, then followed the silent glow of the computer monitor (calling me from all the way downstairs) to this place.

I could be editing pieces of a Challenge Grant that, in light of the gazillion impending applications this Monday, has a vanishingly small chance of being funded. Or I could read a review article or write another paragraph of the RO1 that I think may actually have a chance. These thoughts actually flickered through my mind as I walked down the stairs. But of course, I instead spent the last half hour wandering aimlessly through the blogosphere.

Because I need the down-time, people.

Husband and I feel that we have no down-time. And it's not even so much to do with work, really. It's the work plus kids thing. And heck, if I weren't working outside the home, it would just be the kids thing alone. In some way, I thought going back to work would actually free up more time for myself--more of a mental space, at least, where I could think about an intellectual subject for more than two minutes straight before being pelted with the demands of toddler/pre-schooler. In a way, I was right about that. But although it's a nice change of scenery for someone who sincerely needs to work outside the house for her own sanity--still, work isn't exactly downtime. (A reason, I suppose, why it's called "work.")

Fretting about the future, sorting through a tangled mix of ambitions and plotting (or rather, trying to plot) my way through a new, undefined career--that's not "downtime" either.

Only this--alone, completely alone, while all the family sleeps. Mad Hatter had a nice post up about work/family balance a few days ago. A number of commenters mentioned their need for "alone" time. Isn't it funny, when the commute to work becomes the most cherished portion of solitude in the day?

Not too long ago, I had lunch with two other mothers after Bean-girl's ballet class. Our children ran about the nearly-empty pizza parlor as the mothers chattered over the ruins of lunch. Yes, one of the other moms exclaimed, I so understand about getting time alone in the car! That commute time is the best! And the other mother, who works part-time with toddler twins and a preschooler, said ruefully I don't even get that much! I pick up the kids and drop them off from school, so I never get time alone in the car. And my husband just doesn't get it!

And then we chatted about kindergarten, and the mother of three nearly teared up as she talked about placing her oldest girl in a full-time kindergarten this fall. We nodded sympathetically. Five minutes ago, this mother (who is at home part-time) had sighed for a break from the kids. And now, at the prospect of a small break, the mother was sad about letting her daughter go. No one commented on the contradiction.

Parenthood is weird.

Sunday, April 19, 2009


April is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.

--T.S. Eliot, The Wasteland.

I’m not sure about cruelest month. But it is an unsettled month here in my region of the Midwest, where the weather careens wildly about, soaring into sunlight and the 70s on one day, plunging into the 30s and frost on the next. Impatience swells, and Midwesterners take any excuse to break out sun-dresses, shorts, and flip-flops. Joggers and bikers start crowding the sides of the roads, even as I am still shivering in my fleece jacket (Despite the alluring sunlight, it is still NOT shorts-weather to me!) The first tight buds appear on bare branches; the dry lawn suddenly unfurls itself in lush green. To step outside is to be pelted with a riot of birdsong.

But the season is still unsettled; memory and desire are mixed. We fidget restlessly, longing for full-blown summer, warmth and swimming pools, beach days and melting ice cream in the park. The first tulips are starting to open. The spring light is brilliantly clear. And there is a feeling of fragility in this moment, an aching sense of the briefness of the spring. The air is cool, and the new mist of green in the trees seems almost unbearably tender.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Legume, 22 months

She’s warm and just slightly sticky, her breath sweet with strawberries and ice cream. She is sun-warmed toffee, a glazed Cinnabon. Grasping hands reaching for me, a warmth held against me as we cuddle off to sleep.

She is a loud and dramatic toddler. Mercurial in temperament, sunshine and tears. Today she happily picked out a purple sweater, laughing. Then burst into tears when I pulled the sweater over her head. Then stopped crying and beamed. She cries when you tell her to wash her hands. She cries when you stop her from playing in the waste basket. She cries when you tell her “No.” She cries when you hand her a bowl of cheerios. There are days that she cries at anything.

She's like a moody teenager who can't talk (other than a few understandable words) but expects you to read her mind.

She is a fashion diva. She loves hats, shoes, purses. She loves to wear her big sister’s ladybug Halloween costume (last year’s Halloween costume, discovered in a closet). She has very definite taste in clothes. A month ago we went on a little family vacation to an indoor water park resort. There, my husband introduced Legume to a pair of blue toddler Crocs to wear around the pool. Now Legume wants to wear those crocs all the time.

She is her big sister’s shadow. Her sister’s copycat, her acolyte, her worshipper and pupil and rival. Bean-girl gets up from the dining table to spin in circles on the floor? Legume begs to be released from her high chair so that she can do the same. Bean-girl practices her ballet moves? Legume must try as well. It’s no longer enough that Legume drink from the same color cup that Bean-girl uses. Now Legume is demanding Bean-girl’s cup itself! (it’s the same milk in both cups, little Legume). Whatever Bean-girl has, Legume must have as well.

Legume’s favorite words? “No” and “Gimmee.”

She refuses to use a toddler spoon now. She eats only with big-people utensils. At the table, she drinks only from an open-mouthed cup. She’s started to walk up the stairs, holding onto the railings with one hand (this makes me very nervous). She is slowly, all on her own, giving up nursing. We don’t even nurse every night now—not even when I’m the one putting her to sleep.

She’s not a baby anymore, as husband saw fit to remind me today.

She’s 22 months, and growing up so fast.

She’s not a baby, but she’ll always be my baby.