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I need to write. I find my mind is tattered and unfocused, or obsessively focused upon unimportant matters. And though I rarely have time to shower, or to plan, or to knit, or to do anything that I consider *mine* these days, I need to commit to something for me.

And writing is for me.

I have been sneaking in small amounts of fiction writing, often at midnight or so, pencil in hand and headlamp on as C slumbers next to me. But when I say small, I mean *small* — paragraphs, sometimes just a sentence or two, before the thought of the night wakings and eventual morning waking bring my hand to the headlamp’s on/off switch.

I am going back to school. I’m not sure what it will look like, but I am going back. I hope that the actual teaching excites me more than the decision itself does.

But a vow — at least one entry a week. I can do that. Really, I can.

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Dammit. C is out of town. And I am at home with kids. The schoolyear has already begun. The craziness has returned to me, a little.

What craziness? The intellectual stimulation craziness. I know I am uber-lucky to be able to stay home with my little darlings, and things are MUCH better now that E can communicate (rather effectively, and rather constantly, and sometimes darlingly [is that a word? it should be], and sometimes maddeningly), but I find myself breathing in this deep sigh once I FINALLY get them both to bed. Which, by the way, is often at least a two-hour process.

And then, instead of getting myself ready for bed, I …..

  • clean and do random housechores
  • do exercises for my sad two-kid belly (today my nephew said I must be pregnant again, since my belly was so big. My sister and our friend and I just sat there in stunned silence. And I had thought I was looking a lot better, too ….)
  • take a shower. MY kind of shower, the type that comes when you can’t find time to take a shower for three or four days, the kind that lasts for 45 minutes, even though you generally try to be water-conscious in a desert state
  • readreadread
  • spend TOO much time providing teaching materials for your colleagues who are currently working (found the best poem for metrical feet ever. Coleridge was brilliant)
  • watch _Call the Midwife_ or _Legend of Korra_ or _How I Met Your Mother_ or _Orange is the New Black_ on Netflix
  • spend inordinate amounts of time online, just cruising the most random things

That last one is the worst time-suck ever.

All of this because I seem to need both time to myself (really to myself) and some kind of brain-fodder that my kids cannot provide. Even the days I see other adults, I find I still need this something else.

When C is home, it’s easier to feel guilty and only stay up until midnight. But he’s on a business trip tonight. And so I checked my email and responded. And then I organized L’s photos and posted them to Facebook, and then found myself looking at the photos, over and over and over because my kids are so damn cute, and checking every time someone liked my album, and then I read a whole bunch of renegademothering blog entries and laughed, and then I looked up brown recluse spider identification because I have something in my laundry room that is creepy right now (not a brown recluse, methinks), and I should switch the diapers in the laundry room but am a little creeped out by the spider, even if it’s not a brown recluse, and then I thought I really needed to write.

And I do want to write more. I think I need it. I think there’s something in me that I need to get out, whether or not it’s beneficial to the rest of the world. Thoughts.

But I think I need sleep most right now. Perhaps I just had to write to get to that. 🙂

On that note, here’s the cutest teething three-month-old, ever:

Image

I love that spindle of drool, just hanging out there.

 

 

Ugggh. I love writing, but it takes me such work to get to the place where I can write again. And it’s been more than five months since I’ve been able to sit down and think in this way, in the way that I need ….

Obviously, I got the job. I love the job. Four sections of 10th grade American Lit, one of 10th grade Honors American Lit, and one of 12th grade AP Lit. My school is awesome. I love my colleagues. I adore my students. I find such joy teaching my students through this amazing literature …. Wow.

Before school started, amidst the craziness of finding E daycare and prepping an AP course without any experience in the matter, I had every intention of delving into the weird way with which I explained that sudden change in the course of life, of pondering the way that I adjusted the narrative of that decision depending on how I felt about it at the time. Narratives are highly malleable. It fascinated me at the time.

But since then, my life has been a whirlwind. C has been working non-stop, leaving me as a well-funded single mom. And all props in the world to single parents — what a rush. I wake, get ready, wake E up, take her to daycare, work at least ten hours, pick E up, feed her, play with her, put her to bed, then grade and plan for about two hours a night. If I get lucky, I see C for an hour or so. If I get really, really lucky, he joins us for dinner.

I resigned from MDPL’s board. I couldn’t hack it. I take teaching seriously, I take E seriously, and I take C seriously whenever I get to see him. There was nothing left.

And then … I discovered that I was pregnant again.Unplanned. One lapse of judgment.

It’s taken me a long time to come to peace with this new baby inside me, but as I become huge and more excited about this new life, I feel a bit of mourning for what could have been. I do love my job, and yet I know that I won’t be able to take care of two little ones and do any sort of good job at teaching. So, unless C decides he wants a new type of job, I am turning myself to my progeny and their well-being again.

Which narrative to paint?

I report back to school in 72 hours …. Writing not to occur, perhaps, until a new baby joins us in late May?

I had an interview for a job today. I think it went well; I was energized afterward and enjoyed the committee interviewing me, strangely.

And now I can’t sleep. I couldn’t sleep last night; I spent two hours sorting through my college and grad school notes to prepare me for the interview in some way. And now I can’t sleep, wondering what my life will be like in 20 days — back at school, E in some kind of daycare? Or still here, in this house, with E?

Both scenarios elate and terrify me, to be honest.

I was all set to just let God make some decision for me, to be honest. Perhaps that was just wiggling out of decision-making. I thought getting a job at all would be a long-shot, so if I got one, I’d go back to work. If I didn’t, I’d stay with E. But I feel like finding a job is possible for me now, and that means that God made the decision? And I just accept it? Or what if God is telling me that I still have to decide, even if I get a job?

And for whom do I decide? What if what is best for me is not best for Chad or E? What if what is best for Chad is not best for me? What if what is best for E is not best for Chad? How do I determine what is best for my family when there are so many competing needs and desires?

Behind all of this, the thought of getting in front of a classroom again, of having students again, makes me very happy. But the thought of dropping E off somewhere every morning makes me very sad, too. AIEEEE.

Perhaps I won’t get a job. That would make everything easier, except for my ego. And who needs an ego, anyway?

I do have a long post about the shootings in my heart, too — it just hasn’t made it through my head to my hands yet.

I wrote this note on 3/21:

“I must get this finished before she turns a year! I have eight days left!”

Whoops. She’s already one. I could tell you much more about that, but I really did want to finish the tale of pregnancy and birth. Ahem:

As the bump grew and strangers began to look at me differently, I began to try to get life into order for this huge change. I wonder if those new and different stares — softened eyes, a willingness to slow down, smiles you never would have received before, people holding the door open way more often, and a look that I now realize is special to parents as they remember that whole process — are also meant to spur you forward, to make you prepare.

I had no idea how much things would change.

But I knew they would change. And so the preparations began. The most obvious was at school, where walking up and down the stairs became a concerted effort, instead of the quick run and joy it had been prior. I made every effort to keep walking those stairs (58 of them up to the third floor) as much as possible, and probably due to the size of that school, and partially due to prenatal yoga, I remained in pretty decent shape overall. But my back would hurt and the constant hunger made things difficult. I didn’t have to pee all of the time, but way more often than before. I don’t know how I would have managed had I still been teaching normal, 90-minute classes. Yikes. It was hard enough as a normal person, but as a pregnant woman …. Props to those who do it.

But I began to plan for my replacement. I wrote a mini-book of instructions about all of the tasks that I did for the school, and never felt better about my role in that school than the day I finished it. Well, I felt useful, at least, though my role was as schizophrenic as they came, since I was doing all sorts of random things, from monitoring Accelerated Reader to running reports from standardized tests to meeting with teachers to running professional development to teaching two electives.

School has always been a draining experience, but it had also been energizing. As Gorb grew and began taking over my consciousness more and more, the energizing aspect of it lessened and lessened. I slacked a lot, going home soon after the bell rang to just sit and eat and sit and eat and sleep, every night. I was a complete slacker, to be honest. I kind of felt guilty, but kind of not.

The rumbles of the district were being heard throughout our school, as well. I was pretty sure that the coming year would bring some serious changes to our school, yet again, and, to be honest, I was so happy that I had a valid excuse to leave and not think about things for awhile. Chad and I made the decision for me to take the next year as maternity leave, since he would be starting at the big bad law firm and we could afford it. To be honest, I was relieved that I had an excuse as good as Gorb to stay out of the political squabbling and job hunts that I thought would come to my school. Ah, education.

Even more difficult was stepping back from MDPL, the nonprofit writing center that I had helped to create. It had been my dream since college, and then somehow a reality, with weekend workshops and summer camps and a board of really cool people. I spent every spare second I had working on it, to be honest, and knew I was pretty central to its functioning. But we all knew I would have to step back for awhile, and so we had a board retreat, complete with facilitator Leslie and lots of food. Leslie made me physically step back from most activities, in order to force the rest of the board to step up and to force me to not take things on. That was hard. It was a relief to see those cool board members step up, but it was so hard to let go of something so central to me and my identity and my passions. There were several times where I felt that tingling, burning sensation behind my eyes, the one that means tears are coming but I don’t want the tears to come.

It was hard.

There was a shower, planned by lovely Erin and held at Juanita’s house. Gorb got tons of gifts, tons of friends and family were there, and it was good to be surrounded by women who were happy that Gorb was coming and that I would be Gorb’s mother. The best part, beyond the wonderful casual atmosphere that Erin had made possible, was a dish of beads she found. Everyone chose a bead for me and Gorb, and then wrote what that bead could mean to us in a little booklet for me. The idea was to use the beads as a focus point during labor, like a rosary. I still get the booklet out and read it now and then. It was the best thing anyone could have done for me.

Chad and I — well, really Chad and his dad — painted the nursery a bright green. We felt so bold picking such a bold color, named something like Geranium Leaves or some other term — but my, it was bright. It felt like living in Kermit the Frog’s head, to be honest. But then we moved in Chad’s sister’s old set of furniture, refinished and painted by Chad’s dad a soft white. And we moved in the white crib. And we just knew Gorb would like it.

You can verify this with Chad: I am obsessed with diapers.

I liked the idea of cloth diapering. I thought it would fit my values well, especially after researching some, as I am wont to do. You can argue all you want about the environmental impact of disposable versus cloth, but for me it comes down to these two things: 1) I am not throwing out tons of plastic and poop into landfills, and 2) I know EXACTLY what I am putting up against Elinor’s cute little baby butt.

So I decided to try them. And they are not difficult, especially since Elinor is exclusively breastfed right now — everything is water soluble at this point, so I don’t even have to rinse the diapers. Cloth diapering does take some time, and there is definitely an art to folding a diaper, but I have found that the entire experience of changing Elinor’s diapers is beautiful and intimate and — dare I say it? — fun.

This process, of taking care of the most vulnerable part of my daughter, of attending to her in the best way possible, of providing for her as I will provide for few others, is heart-warming and poignant for me. A true hallmark of independence is being able to take care of your nethers and your excretory functions, and until Elinor is able to do this, she needs me. Every time I place her on her changing table or the floor, every time I disrobe that chubby little baby, I remember that I am her caretaker and that I must make sure that she is healthy and happy. It’s also a few minutes for both of us to just take a break from whatever we are doing and hang out with each other. I cannot multitask while changing her diaper; it’s me and Elinor, mama y bambina, and we have lots of fun as I sing silly songs to her and raspberry her perfectly round belly. Chad has changed many a diaper, too, and views it the same way I do — bonding time. There are studies that the more a dad changes diapers, the more his kid will turn to him when distressed. Makes sense.

That’s my philosophical justification for being obsessed with diapers.

Because, as I said before, I am obsessed. More with diaper covers than anything else. Cloth diapering entails two parts: something absorbent to move liquids off the baby’s butt (a diaper), and something waterproof or repellent to keep those liquids off me and anything else (a cover).

The first part — a diaper for absorbency. I use prefolds, which are squares of pure cotton or hemp, with an extra layer in the middle for even MORE absorbency, that you wrap around the baby and pin or snap together. Cotton and hemp are highly absorbent, which keeps the urine from leaking or remaining against the baby’s skin as much as any material can. But then, in order to keep that urine from getting on my shirt or the rug or her daddy’s tie, you must also swathe that baby in a diaper cover.

When I researched and bought my supplies, I was keeping it simple. I bought some cute polyurethane laminate (PUL) covers that can adjust size to fit the baby as she grows. Not too expensive, they come in cute colors and are easy to use. That might be another reason I am obsessed with diaper covers — they are so cute! And a baby in a cloth diaper with a cute cover — those dufflebutts are adorable.

As I began to love those covers, I researched some more — and found wool. Ah, wool. If you remember my obsession with sheep and camelids, this continues it. Though PUL is great at keeping moisture off my clothing and furniture, it just keeps it there — in the cotton diaper. And, the longer it stays in the cotton, the longer it remains near Elinor’s butt. This can lead to irritation, though if you change diapers frequently, that’s not a problem. But there are times when you don’t want to change diapers frequently. Elinor began sleeping long stretches at night fairly quickly, and I began to worry about her tush. And wool presented itself as a solution.

Did you know that wool is nearly perfect? That even if you think you are allergic to it, you are more likely allergic to the processing that manufactured wool often goes through for typical consumer use? Did you know that wool feels relatively cool against the skin in summer, but warm in winter? Did you know that wool can absorb 30% of its weight in moisture without feeling wet? Lanolin, the substance that those afore-mentioned chemicals strip away, is actually a wax that helps sheep waterproof themselves — and is naturally hypoallergenic? Lanolin left on, or added to the wool of a diaper cover, will neutralize the ammonia in urine. That means that you can use a wool cover that’s been lanolized over and over and over and it will stay, essentially, as clean as it was at the beginning until that lanolin is used up — or until poo gets on it. Lots of people make shorts and pants (shorties and longies) from wool that can double as a diaper cover AND pants. How cool is that? I pick Elinor up after eight hours of sleep, and the wool cover is damp — but the moisture stays with the cover.

I got some wool covers and soakers (what a great term — the cover gets soaked and nothing else gets very wet), and I was hooked. I even love the care you must give them, which is what drives most people away from wool. I love that you must handwash the covers, and I love that you must, every once in awhile, add lanolin to them. I do that once a month, and the process brings me this calm joy. All of that sheephair and sheepwax, prepped and ready for my baby and her wonderful nighttime sleeping.

So now, in these late-night extravaganzas of my personal time, or during Elinor’s infrequent naps, I cruise craigslist and diaperswappers and ebay and etsy for wool covers. They are so beautiful, and, sadly but understandably, so expensive …. I love them. I would buy millions if I could. The best ones are made in Germany and Sweden, or in the homes of WAHMs (WorkAtHomeMoms). There is an entire lingo for cloth diapering, a whole world unto itself, with acronyms and benchmarks and many more people like me!

Isn’t this just artwork? Artwork for a baby’s bottom that costs at least $30 …. :

This is a Wild Child Woollies, from etsy.com.

Another:

These are shorties, a cover that doubles as shorts for a baby, from littleleafboutique on etsy.com.

These are the creme de la creme of longies:

That is not my baby, but those are longies from sustainablebabyish.com

But instead of buying and buying and buying,  I am trying to make them. I have begun to take my old, hole-y sweaters and handstitch them together into soakers for my baby. If I had a sewing machine I would probably use it, but for now I enjoy the slow process of needle, thread, and wool.

NB: In middle and high school I liked to handstitch little things. I had plans to make a patchwork doll after I read _The Patchwork Girl of Oz_, but that was an eensy bit too ambitious for my 12-year-old self. Instead I made tons of pillows and, during high school, made obese mice for Emily, Aubrey, and Brett (you know, the obese mice from scientific experiments? there was a great picture in my high school psych book, and from there — history).

Example of an obese mouse. Mine were brown and white. Amanda arcana.

My first attempt at a soaker, with reinforced “wet zone”:

That's black cashmere. Bootylicious.

On Elinor:

She is always so surprised by the camera ....

My second attempt, which I haven’t put on Elinor because I just finished it 30 minutes ago and she is in the midst of one of those precious naps:

Lavender cashmere with black cashmere legs. I'm getting better.

I never expected to have so much fun with diapers. If you have unused or hole-y pure wool sweaters you want to send my way, feel free. I’ll send you a picture of Elinor’s butt.