Monday, September 22, 2008

The Little One, Version 3.5

WARNING: Huge rant post. If you're not in the mood for a LOT of bitching and complaining, then move along!

A few weeks ago I thought the worm had turned. The Little One began behaving in a downright civilized manner and I thought we were over the worst of the threes. I WAS WRONG. Three as a whole seems to be designed to torture parents. There are moments when it tests your will to live. I didn't think anything could be closer to torture than the sleep deprivation of newborn days. And those were truly miserable months of my life, so perhaps I was right. But this is pushing the bounds of my patience in ways that a good night's sleep just cannot fix.

First, the nonstop talking. From the very second she arises until the second she surrenders to sleep it is a nonstop barrage of chatter and requests and questions. AND THE VOLUME! THE INABILITY TO REMEMBER TO "USE OUR INDOOR VOICES!!" This is not entirely new. What is new is the following: nonsense chatter and questions using made up words, asking permission to do every little thing even when permission is not at all required, and asking "where did we get?" each and every thing in the immediate environment. My child wants to carry on a constant verbal interaction, and I'm just not equipped to handle this much verbosity. I'm seriously considering earplugs. (Hey, it beats a sharp stick in the ear.)

Second, the selective listening. My child used to be a good listener. I'm not sure what happened, but it is as if a switch has been flipped. I didn't think this problem started so early, but apparently it does. I would say she isn't listening at all, but she can somehow hear a chip bag opened from across the house, and any mention of anything that sounds remotely like cookie, cake, ice cream, or the park brings her running to us. If we actually did say any of those things, as in, "we'll get some cookies tomorrow," she then becomes unable to hear anything else, and the nonstop chatter becomes centered completely on the cookies.

Third, the fidgeting. Good lord, the nonstop movement. This is a 24/7 issue, because she is also a restless sleeper. She was born moving those legs and thrashing about, and she has never stopped being the on-the-go girl. She will sit still for a particularly compelling video, but only for about 20 minutes at the most and then she's up and running again. And yes, she gets plenty of time to run off energy. She's just bursting with it all of the time. And there's nothing wrong with it except that we're constantly having to remind her not to run in the house, and to stop climbing all over everything (including us), and to settle down before she hurts herself. What is more difficult to take is the thrashing about in her sleep. She ends up in our bed every night, and I've got the bruises to prove it. I fully expect to wake up with a black eye one of these mornings.


Though this makes for a great deal of frustration on a daily basis, there are moments that I'd like to preserve in amber for all eternity. Like the way my heart fills when she starts singing "Sing a Song of Sixpence" softly in the backseat on the way to or from preschool. Or how time slows for a few amazing minutes when she and I sing her lullabies together while I rock her in my arms (at her request) at bedtime. Or the way she wakes me up with a kiss on the cheek in the morning, and then wants a hug. Or my feeling of pride and delight in seeing her catch the ball in the backyard after teaching her how to watch it instead of me when I throw to her, and the way she yells "woo-hoo" in her high-pitched squeal of victory. Or how sweet she looks in her hats and princess dresses.

I know the frustrations will fade in my memory, but these other moments will linger, and make me miss her preschool self desperately. No one needs to counsel me to treasure this time. In fact, any parent of an older child who wants to dole out such unsolicited advice should rather bite her tongue and hold her peace or I'll make her come over and babysit for me. There's nothing like a long day with a preschooler to remind the parent of an older child to count her own damn blessings and mind her own business.

Can you tell it's been a long day? I'm off to do a bit more work before bed. But soon I'll be drawing the Little One into bed with us (yes, on purpose, in spite of the beating I'll endure if it's a particularly restless night for her), and doing it all again tomorrow. I think I hear her waking up now, so I guess we're off to sleep. And you know what? I can't wait to see her in the morning.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Too Much to Say

I sat down to write a post but couldn't begin. It isn't blogger's block, though I did have that difficulty not long ago. No, it's rather that there's too much going on. I spend my days juggling multiple priorities (as we all do), and I'm finding that it's difficult to get myself to focus long enough to craft a post on a single topic. I tend to use Twitter instead to post thoughts here and there. But I miss writing full posts, so I'm trying to get back in the game. I thought I'd do a bullet post, but even that felt like too much like work. It's back to basics then, just me talking nonsense about whatever.

The Little One is loving preschool. I felt like a pro this year, as our transition back to school was seamless after two years of nursery school. I'm so used to her going to school now, unlike the emotional parents who were saying goodbyes to their 3-year-olds for the first time. We sailed through the first week. Then came week two. And along with it, the clinging and crying. Sigh. BUT, after some talking it over with her last week, she decided she wanted to be a big girl and give me a nice goodbye every day, and she's been great about it since then. She's begun to make some friends, and that seems to have made the difference. Yesterday she was even bored by afternoon and eager to get back to school this morning.

Work is crazy. Teaching four university courses is just nuts. For those of you who don't know how it works, a standard teaching load for academics who also do research is two courses per semester. This allows you the time to do your research and writing. Four courses does not. Even three is a stretch for getting any serious scholarly work accomplished. If you happen to be childless and single, you can make it work by spending more of your free time on your own work. For me, this isn't an option. Instead, I must cut corners where I can on the teaching work (which is very unsatisfying to do when you're developing your courses for the first time) and preserve one 5 hour day each week (the actual working time left between preschool drop-off and pick-up) in which to do my research and writing. I steal bits of time on evenings and weekends as well, but for this kind of work you really need long stretches of uninterrupted time.

It's better than last year, when I was adjuncting, since this year I'm full-time at one university (albeit just for this year), but there still aren't enough hours in any given day to do what I need to do, even when I try to keep things simple. And the grading hasn't even begun yet! So that's why I've been M.I.A. around here.

However, I refuse to let this year slip by in a flurry of working. I'm steadily finding ways to work smarter, if not harder (I don't know who came up with that pithy little idea, but I have to say I love it), and I'm carving out time for myself where I can as well (something we mamas just must do, whether we think we can or not).

My commitment to blog reading and writing is a part of that. Though I've had to be more judicious with that as well. I'm paring down my reader subscriptions a bit, making sure I only subscribe to as many blogs as I can reasonably visit in the course of a week or two. That means I've had to unsubscribe to some (for now anyway), but it also means that I'll be able to comment more on those that remain. I felt a little guilty at first, but then thought, screw that! The fact is, certain blogs speak to you at a certain time, while others don't, and that's okay. I'm hearing many people bemoan the fact that they can't keep up with their reader subscriptions, so I know this is a problem many of us have faced. And some of my blog friends have seen a major increase in their readership and can't visit everyone who comments on their blog (not to mention those in their overloaded readers!). I'm sure it is difficult when you want to give back but just can't keep up.

I don't have this problem (though I'll be honest, I wouldn't mind facing it eventually!). My readership has grown nicely in the last couple of months (yay!), but not so much that I can't keep up with it. I love my commenters and try to visit every one of you (though sometimes it takes me awhile!). I usually don't comment back in my own comments, preferring to instead comment on your blogs to give back that way.

So how do you manage your blog life? Do you post every day or less often? How many blogs do you read in a day? In a week? Do you use a reader or visit from your blogroll? Do you tend to comment often or mostly just read? How do you give back to your commenters (responding to comments within your blog or visiting their sites)? Do you use Twitter? Let's compare notes.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

What, I Have a Blog?

I'm beginning to understand why I had such a long hiatus between starting the blog and then finally getting into it. The academic teaching year intervenes, and my blog life suffers. BUT... this time I am determined to find a way to keep up with blog reading and posting in spite of an overbooked work life. From what I'm seeing out there, everyone is overwhelmed, so I doubt if anyone minds if I'm posting a bit less regularly. I know my own reader is about to explode with unread posts (and I had already purged it completely about a month ago to start over!), so I'm sure you guys are having the same issues with keeping up.

It's funny how stunned I am again at the amount of work I have to do, and that I am surprised once more by the impossibility of the work-family-house juggling act. The academic year ended in May, and the summer ahead looked so long and full of promise. In June, I exhaled for the first time in over three years and let myself just be for awhile. (I got a LOT of blogging done then!) My summer ended prematurely in July, when my summer teaching took far more time than I had anticipated, and as soon as it was over I had to prep for fall. We're two weeks into the fall semester, and with my teaching load of four classes and multiple other commitments, I'm already overwhelmed. How did I forget that this is just how it is during the teaching year?

But at the same time, I see progress. I don't feel quite like I'm drowning in the work this fall, and the Hubster and I are sharing the household and parenting duties better than ever before so there's no resentment. I think we're growing up. It isn't perfect, but what family actually achieves perfection? We're just getting better at managing the chaos (some days better than others of course), and working hard at being gentler with one another.

The Little One is doing well in preschool, though she usually hates our departure at drop-off each morning and sometimes breaks my heart when she relates how much she missed me during the day and that she "waited, waited, waited" for me to pick her up. But our evenings and weekends are much better now, more relaxed and fun for all of us now that we're back to our normal routine. And I always look forward to hearing her tell us about her day, relating what she learned or who is her latest "best friend."

I don't know how much posting I'll be able to do in the coming weeks and months, but please don't give up on me or my blog! I love blogging and my bloggy friends are very important to me. If I don't comment or post for awhile, just know that work has me jumping right now but I WILL be back! I'm doing a lot of rushed reading of your blogs, but I will get back to more commenting (and posting here) as soon as I figure out a better balance. I owe a couple of memes, but it could take awhile for me to get to them (recall my "deer in the headlights" problem -- memes aren't always an easy post for me!). If you miss me, follow me on Twitter. It's not the same as blogging, but it's much easier to fit into a crazy schedule!