Friday, April 24, 2009

Bittersweet Chocolate

Okay, so I know I bitch a lot about parenting, but whatever. I love my kidlet more than anyone or anything on this earth, but then again, this is actually probably why she's still living in my house, come to think of it. I mean, if we didn't love these little ones so damn much our species probably would never have survived. We had another one of those "golden periods" with the little one from about 3 1/2 to just before she turned 4, where all was right with the world. Then BAM, another birthday, and another round of difficult behavior. It seems to happen just before each birthday, and then for a few months after, and then she adjusts to it all, and then we get an easier time of things for awhile.

At the moment, she is 4 going on 13. Moody much? Check. Large and in charge? Check. Laughing hysterically one minute and sobbing uncontrollably the next? Double check. Maybe some people are good at this stage. Hell, she has a school full of teachers who do this for a living. They spend entire days with 2, 3, and 4-year-olds. ON PURPOSE. Sure, they're being paid. But you could not pay me enough to do that job all day long. No way. I can barely handle one 4-year-old for the five hours between after-school pickup and bedtime.

Which means that weekends should be much worse, but somehow they're not. She seems to need the mellower days as much as we do, and then there's the GLORIOUS fact that she won't nap at home, so bedtime is TWO HOURS EARLIER!!! It's Friday night, so we're all very happy. And we're taking her on two special outings this weekend, so she's working hard to maintain halfway decent behavior.

Yet four is also so much better than three in so many ways. She is learning at lightning speed, and we can have long conversations (of a sort), and she can "read" me her storybooks because she remembers every detail remarkably well. She's as smart as a whip, and her imagination is a wonder to behold. I miss some things, like the way she used to make elaborate patterns on the floor with various items, and her cherubic baby face that is now changing and becoming a big girl face (more beautiful, and amazing to behold, so I wouldn't go back to three even if I could). Our little human becomings. They're like the bubbles we blow together in the backyard... so beautiful, yet impossible to catch for more than a moment.

Okay, I'm getting sappy now. Back to the business at hand. Which is this: each stage is more wonderful than the last, but also harder. Is it always going to be this way? I know the teenage years are going to be far, far worse. But I have this idea in my head that there is a set of years that is the "easiest" for parenting. And I figure it starts around five or six and goes until about eight or nine. Maybe even ten. Am I deluding myself completely? And yet when I imagine her in that age range, I have this double reaction: I can't wait, but I also dread it, because I am going to miss her little kidlet self SO MUCH. In spite of how hard it can be, I feel it flying away, and she's getting bigger every day, and before I know it I will hardly be able to lift her, and I'll be proud and sad. I guess that's just the bittersweet chocolate that is being a mama.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Spring Cleaning

Having come through the winter of way too many (extra) things to do, and knowing now that we are going to live here for a long, long time, it seems apropos to spend the weekend getting our long-neglected house in order. I promised the Little One that we would begin with her room. I find it hilarious that she jumps up and down with excitement when I tell her that we can clean her room together. I really should videotape it for posterity, because I am certain that when she is a teenager she will not believe me when I tell her that she used to get excited about cleaning her room with me.

With the addition of all of her new things from last Christmas, her recent birthday, and Easter, there is a TON of new sh*t in that room. I've culled as much as I can, but this practice has become dangerous now that she's old enough to have a very accurate mental inventory of each and every item. I'm constantly surprised by her ability to suddenly remember (and want to find) the most insignificant (to me anyway) piece of plastic crap that was a kid's meal toy like, oh, two years ago!

We try not to spoil her, and to talk about being grateful for what we have rather than focusing on what we want, but the grandparents really go to town for each and every holiday and we certainly do our share of buying. We love to delight her. But the stuff, it's beginning to take over our house.

As for our own grownup collections of stuff, I've been working steadily over the past two years to identify items we don't really use, need, or love, and have given away many boxes and bags full of things. And if we don't end up having another baby I'll have much more to donate (and we'll have a lot more space in our garage). This summer I'll finally tackle the closet in our home office/guest room when I get to move all of my books and papers into my "real" office at work (squee!!!). I've been waiting for this opportunity for years now, so I'm incredibly excited. When you take a faculty position at a university the idea is that you'll be there for your entire career (as long as you make tenure at the end of the 6th year), so you get to settle in more than anyone would in an office in a corporation these days. I'm ridiculously excited about it.

So we'll finally get things as settled as possible here (though we hope to move into a different neighborhood closer to the university in the next year or two, so we're not in our permanent home just yet). It feels really good. And I'm amazed by how much space I have within my mind now, with all of that uncertainly finally gone. We wondered and worried for three years, and at last we can just live our lives without all of that anxiety. Which of course makes me worry! I'm so used to the anxiety that it's hard to just relax into the security. I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop, for something to happen to mess it all up again and throw us back into the constant stress. But really, truly, it's all good, and we're so grateful.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Hellloooooo!!!!

I'm back. It was a crazy winter, but spring is here and things are finally calming down. There was way too much work, some travel, the unexpected death of a friend, a daughter turning four, a suspenseful job search, and, at last, a JOB. Not that I haven't had one this year, but I mean a TENURE-TRACK ASSISTANT PROFESSOR JOB!!! And in this economy, I am more grateful than ever that this was the year for me to land a position. It doesn't start until fall, which means I'll have some time to breathe before then (after I finish the teaching I'm already doing for the rest of this semester, that is).

I'm longing to catch up with blog reading, but it will take me awhile to make the rounds. I promise to visit each of you soon though and get back to commenting and such. I've missed the blogosphere and Twitterverse so much, but I have to say it was also kind of nice to simplify my life and focus solely on immediate demands for awhile. Not that I had much choice. There simply wasn't time in my days for the last several weeks. I haven't even had the chance to read anything for fun in months, and there was barely enough time in our days for cocktail hour in the past two months, so that tells you just how dire our situation had become!

Speaking of which, is it martini time yet? I bought some ass-kicking olives today at the market and I'm eager to send them swimming in a big pool of icy vodka. Mmmmm.

So, what have you all been up to?