Un-resolution.

A flier for discounted gym memberships arrives with my mail, and a coupon for new storage bins arrives in my inbox, reminders that I am inadequate, that there are so many things that I need to fix. My post-baby body, my less-than-vegan-sometimes-french-fry-laden diet, my closet cluttered with art supplies and un-filed paperwork, my impulse to buy just one more sweater, my stack of to-be-read that seems to to always be growing and never shrinking, the first two chapters of the novel I started five years ago. A new year is upon us, and I feel compelled to set forth a laundry list of new resolves, bad habits to break and new habits to form.

But I don’t feel like I’m all that broken. And I really do love french fries and sweaters.

Thus I have decided to abstain from making any sort of resolutions for the new year. I will run when the weather is warm and someone can watch the kids, I will eat french fries when I want them, I will swear at the closet when I can’t find the one pair of scissors I know is in there, I will buy the sweater if I love it and can afford it, and I will read and I will write when I can steal the moments to do so.

Just like I did in 2013.

I am healthy, I am loved, and I am happy. I would be delighted with more of the same for 2014.

Happy new year.

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Fathers.

I remember a dad handing me flowers after a school play, driving me to a speech tournament at the crack of dawn on a Saturday, cheering from the sidelines, and crying at both my graduation and my shotgun wedding. My Alzheimer’s-plagued dad remembers that he’s supposed to remember me, but he doesn’t know my name. That’s the bitter part of Father’s Day.

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I remember a dad tearing up when his first daughter was born, calling me with excitement when we got a referral for twins, celebrating when I told him I was pregnant, grinning uncontrollably as our last adoption hearing ended, hugging kid after kid after kid every single day, and tickling and scolding and hugging some more. My partner is a thoughtful, engaged, patient, understanding, creative, and fiercely loyal dad, and the kids and I are lucky to have him. That’s the sweet part of Father’s Day.

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Happy day to all the fathers and father figures who deserve it.

How do you part with books?

I’m behind on a couple of work projects, but a photo of my home is the first Google hit for “squalor.” I can’t think when the house is a wreck. The piles and pandemonium seep into my brain and scatter my thoughts in every which direction. I don’t need it to be perfect; I just need it to be orderly enough that it’s not a distraction. Today it’s a distraction. I sat at my desk, my back to the computer, and I took it all in. Where the hell did it come from? Where the hell does it go? Why the hell is it everywhere?

I came to the same conclusion at which I arrive at least weekly: we have too much crap. There’s just too much shit, and it’s everywhere.

There was a new conclusion today, though: A very large proportion of the clutter in every room is contained to shelves, and because my husband children are completely incapable of putting books tidily on a shelf, those shelves are full of haphazard stacks, random binders, and paper, paper, paper.

In the same moment in which I reached this conclusion, a terrifying thought crossed my mind: What if I got rid of most of the books?

Insert a well known literary allusion: THE HORROR! THE HORROR!

I counted every book my husband and I own. I excluded the children’s books. I already have a shelf of the children’s books I will keep forever, and the kids are allowed to keep, trade, and give away the rest as they choose, and I chuck them when they fall apart.

1,147.

When am I ever going to read 1,147 books, all of which I’ve already read?

I pulled out the ones with which I could not possibly part. Fahrenheit 451, Wicked, the complete works of Edgar Allan Poe and Shakespeare, Orlando, Heart of Darkness, The Intuitionist, Oryx and Crake, a couple other novels, copies of lit journals containing the work of my near and dear friends, and a few writing and art reference books and cycling atlases. (The Chronicles of Narnia, The Giver and Gathering Blue, and the Harry Potter and Unfortunate Events series are with the kids; they’re not in the count, but they’re on the keep list.) All of my current graduate school books are keepers, and most of them will live on my desk at work once I graduate.

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My stack is now 53.

Can I really bring myself to get rid of the rest? Can I really get rid of 1,094 books? Imagine the weight—both literal and figurative—that would be gone. And dusting would be easier. And I’d have so much more space.

Would you do it?

Plotting.

My children are plotting at the breakfast table. From the bedroom where I’m getting dressed, I listen to their scheme to write, illustrate, and sell books to make enough money to hire a butler. Yes, hire a butler. I overhear Rhys (because she’s louder than everyone else, always) trying to convince my husband that having a butler would be an awesome thing. “Mommy wouldn’t have to make dinner anymore. You guys could go out on dates. We wouldn’t have to do dishes anymore…” Her list goes on for another five minutes.

I hear my husband explaining that butlers make far more money than she thinks, and I silently curse him for squelching her plan. Her creativity is lulled into a coma at school these days; home needs to be a place to try out ideas and to fail so that we can keep trying ideas until they work.

“I like your idea,” I tell her as she runs off to school. “You want to make books to try and get a butler? Then you make books to try and get a butler.”

Who knows? Maybe she’ll succeed. And then I won’t have to make dinner anymore.

Remember when…

…my last post was a reminder to myself to write about something other than my cutie baby who won’t sleep?

Have I written anything since then?

Well, yes, actually. I’ve written quite a lot. More than I think I’ve written since I got my MFA in 2010. I just haven’t written it here, mostly because it’s full of educational psychology and educational jargon and educational blah-biddity-blah-blah-blah. Yes, that’s is, in fact, the technical term. Please feel free to use it liberally.

So here is my apology, or perhaps just my word or warning: I’m back in school again. I’ve embraced the fact that I’m a chronic student, and I’m up to my eyeballs in graduate school. Again. This time in education, complete with a shiny gold teaching certificate awaiting me at the end of the year. (Gold? Or are they silver? If I get to custom design mine, I want it to be green. Metallic and green and maybe sparkly. Maybe.) So I’m doing a shit ton of writing, but it’s not the bloggity sharing kind. It may be a bit quiet around here for awhile, but rest assured: I’ll resurface soon!

In the meantime, why don’t I just share this photo of a terrifically awesome rainbow that appeared in the sky this week?

 Mid-winter rainbow.

The semester ends April 29th and the next one doesn’t start until May 20th. Expect mucho, mucho, mucho in early May!

Milestones.

3:24am:
Xander’s first birthday is tomorrow. There will be cake, and perhaps he’ll receive a sippy cup and a pair of mittens. A small celebration, but a big milestone.

He still sleeps in our bed, though he begins each night in his own bed. Bathed, storied, snuggled, tucked in, and sent to slumberland. By midnight, he joins us, nestled between us, his fingers on my collarbone or perhaps my face, his feet on Eric’s back. We’re all asleep again in minutes.

Tonight, he’s still in his own bed, and I’m wide awake. I hear him sigh and roll over, and I find myself feeling sad that maybe this week’s milestone is more than just a birthday. Perhaps he has decided it is time for him to leave our bed, to weather the long nights alone in his own bed. I’m not ready for such a declaration of independence. I should be celebrating the reclamation of my bed—there is such space when there are only two of us!—but instead I’m awake, listening to the baby’s rhythmic breaths and watching time pass.

3:28am:
He’s awake, sitting up, and fussing. With delight, I scoop him out of his bed and into ours. He tosses and turns, adjusting and readjusting until he finds a spot where he can nestle his head against my shoulder and prop his feet against Eric’s back.

He is asleep again before ever really waking up, and I suddenly find my own eyes growing heavy. A milestone narrowly avoided. A baby for one more day.

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Writing weather.

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My own noisy and fragmented writing life has me idolizing that quaint, hermit-like picture of writers. When I read novels, I imagine the men and women who wrote them. They are of varying age and are clad in thick, wool sweaters. They are always thin, wasting away as they drink mug after mug of tea, or maybe coffee, and move a pen gracefully across a page or fingers hurriedly over a keyboard. Their worlds are cold and gray, but peaceful.

This isn’t how it happens for any of us, but a chilly, rainy afternoon like this finds me searching out a wool sweater, a mug full of tea, and a quiet corner where I can spill my imaginings onto a page. Now if only I can get the kids on board with this idea.

Sleep.

The clock reads two-thirty in the morning. Xander is wide awake. He does somersaults in our bed, spins around so his feet are in my side, then in my neck. He pulls his pacifier out of his mouth and giggles before putting it back in his mouth. He tucks his head against my shoulder and pulls at my shirt until he can get his little fingers into the dip above my collarbone. He rolls over to touch Eric, then rolls back to me again.

I refuse to nurse him overnight anymore. He was waking up every hour, on the hour, and only a boob would get him back to sleep. Two weeks ago, in a fit of exhaustion, I said, “No more!” He fussed, he fidgeted. He tossed and turned in our bed, kicking me in the chest, dropping his head heavily onto my belly, tossing a fist into my face. Eventually, he slept. Without screaming. And without nursing. I thought, “Ah, here is the glimmer of light at the end of this sleepless tunnel!” False hope.

At three-thirty, when Xander is still awake, I get up. I have work to do, anyway. I leave him in bed with Eric, but worry. Eric is a heavier sleeper than I am. I’m never entirely confident that Xander will not end up on the floor in my absence. I line my pillows along the edge of the bed, futile against a crawler, but padding enough to let me work.

I write and edit until six-thirty. I know the sun and the kids will be up soon, but I just can’t keep my eyes open. I drift off on the sofa. Eric wakes me at seven. “Do you want to move to the bed? The kids will be up soon.” I shake my head and pull my laptop back into my lap. I ask him to make coffee.

Eric takes the kids to the bus at eight-fifteen. I nurse Xander and use my phone to scour the internet, searching for a sleep training suggestion I can swallow. I know I’m looking for a miracle, something I can do today that will make up for last night’s sleeplessness. I need to work, I need to write, I need Xander to sleep.

Article after article tells me that it is cruel to let him cry himself to sleep. All make claims about trust and abandonment and trauma. Letting him cry himself to sleep will completely destroy him and our mommy-baby bond, apparently. That seems a bit extreme, but I buy it because I’m not sure I’m capable of listening to him scream, anyway. I start digging for alternatives, but all of the comments on these “gentler” suggestions contain various versions of “This is hooey. The only thing that worked was letting him cry himself to sleep. Now he takes three hour naps and sleeps twelve hours a night.” Three hour naps. Twelve hours a night. I try to remember the last time I slept twelve hours in one night. College, maybe? I wonder how long ago these commenters were me, doing this vain internet search, sleeplessness turned into exhaustion turned into desperation. I find one article that suggests letting him cry, but sitting by his crib. He can’t feel abandoned if I’m sitting right there, right? And he gave up the nighttime nursing without much of a fight, so this shouldn’t be too bad.

But we don’t have a crib. He rarely used the bassinet we had; what would have been the point of a crib? The pack-n-play will have to do.

Xander drifts off while nursing. I try laying him in his crib. He wakes up and fusses, but I put him down anyway. I sit by his crib, averting my eyes as directed by this internet expert. His fussing turns to screaming. He pulls himself up and reaches over the side of the pack-n-play. His palm turned toward the sky, he beckons, opening and closing his little fist in the gesture that means he wants something. He wants me.

I stare, unwavering. “I’m still here,” I coo. He opens and closes his hand more quickly. “Mamamamamama!” he screams. If he can just learn to sleep on his own, I tell myself, I can write, I can write, I can write. He sits down hard in the pack-n-play and screams for a moment before pulling himself up to beckon again.

He wants me. He wants me to hold him. I know that he will be asleep in seconds if I just pick him up. But then my arms will be full and how will I write? I persist. So does he.

I lay him back down. He is quiet while I touch him. He starts to fuss as soon as I stand up. He stands, too, and screams and beckons. We do this over and over again.

At nine-thirty, I lay him down. He starts to fuss as I stand up. I reach down and touch his chest. He whimpers. His eyes close. I pull my hand away, and his eyes open immediately. He cries. I touch his chest again. This time I wait until his breathing is heavy and steady before I pull my hand away and sneak out of the room. I collapse in front of the computer. It is nine-forty-five. I have been awake since two-thirty. This is what comes as my fingers move across the keyboard.

At ten minutes past ten, the phone rings and I snatch it up before it’s through its first ring. “Please stay asleep,” but I hear him crying before I’ve even finished my silent prayer. A woman is calling to ask if I’d like to change my electric company. I snap unnecessarily at her (“Our utilities are included in our condo fee. And you woke the baby.”). My fingers hover over the keyboard, but my need to write cannot outscream Xander. I go to him, meeting his fat, beckoning fists and scooping him up. “Mamamamama,” he says, then sighs as he rubs his still-sleepy eyes, settles against my chest, and drifts back to sleep.

He’ll only be my snuggly baby for a little while longer, I remind myself as I finish typing this one-handed.

“See?” I say aloud as I proofread this one last time. “I can do both things at once.” Xander sighs an agreement in his sleep.

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