Saturday, April 30, 2011

Super Simon

Oh man, this little guy has stolen my heart. He gets pudgier and jollier everyday. He's learned how to roll over, and it's so funny to watch, because he's so round and solid it's like watching a snowman roll. So delicious.

We had a little playdate with a 7 month old baby girl who looked smaller than our 3 month old Simon. He's our affable little bruiser. Jeff was a huge baby/toddler too, but he ended up more on the bean pole end of things. I am totally celebrating Simon and each and every one of his rolls. My rolls, on the other hand, still working on celebrating those.

Big milestone for our family today: eating dinner out. We treated ourselves to the delectable goodies from the Corner Bakery. Simon slept the whole way through dinner and Sadie was content to play with the salt and pepper shakers. Meanwhile, Jeff and I scarfed down our dinner knowing that at any moment one of our offspring could go off like a bomb. We got through it, though, and might even try it again someday. Maybe we will be embolden enough to try something fancy like the Olive Garden or Chili's.

MMmmmmm, Chili's.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Adios, Fourth Trimester

I have taken great comfort in the theory that the first three months of a baby's life is really a fourth trimester, because it offers some explanation about why it's so damn hard. The first three months: trying to get to know a perfect stranger who just happens to eat from my breast about 8-12 times per day, and the inexplicable crying, and the farting and the exhaustion. It's a tough and sublime 3 months.

So, for all those reasons we celebrate Simon's three-month birthday today. Hopefully, my breast milk is celebration enough for him. Maybe if I eat the leftover playgroup brownies the milk will taste extra sweet for him.

The Earth is celebrating as well because the sun has made an appearance for the first time this week. OH MY GOD, I am so happy to see the sun. Everything seems possible today. I feel like I could get a Ph.D. in neuroscience today. Maybe I can even get through the day without being a martyr or complaining about the previous 5 days of cold rain. When I say anything is possible, I do mean ANYTHING.

It's also Zenia's last day with us. We made her a book of Sadie and Simon pictures and I expressed my gratitude for all she has done for us. She and Sadie are at music class right now while I work on some nap training for Simon. The anxiety is mounting for me about what to tell my firm about my future plans. For one more day I am putting it off because I want to go walk in the sunshine with Simon and show him the glory that is Target on Elston. He's only been once and he slept the whole time. We have to do it proper so he knows the best strategy for attacking the store.

Here's to Simon's 3 months of life, where just about everything has changed. I love him and his chubby cheeks more than I can say. How lucky we are!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Nanny Schmanny

And I thought looking for a hot pair of jeans was challenging-- that's child's play compared to trying to find a nanny. Yesterday, we met the nanny of my dreams: she was young, compassionate, energetic, and Sadie seemed to love her. In the middle of the interview I had to put Simon to bed so I excused myself and effusively told her how much I enjoyed meeting her, hoping she would understand that I was trying to communicate that I loved her and wanted to bring her on board.

Fast forward about 20 minutes when I return downstairs to Jeff and Sadie having dinner. Bad news, says Jeff. Unfortunately, Dream Nanny is not legally allowed to work in this country. Damn you, Department of Homeland Security. Damn you, legal profession. Jeff and I decided early on that this whole nanny enterprise had to be legitimate. In part, we wanted to pay taxes and be legitimate so we don't lose our law licenses, but also we don't want to participate in exploiting undocumented workers. I know plenty of people who are comfortable with under-the-table payments, but we just don't want to go down that road so another nanny candidate bites the dust.

This is inducing a little bit of apoplexy in me. Zenia's last day is tomorrow. That means, after tomorrow I am the daytime caregiver Monday through Friday. My children should be afraid. What the hell do I know about managing an 8 hour day with 2 kids? How will I go to the bathroom? Who's going to feed them? Oh, I guess me. Who's going to play with them? Me again? Really? All I can tell you right now is that if the sun doesn't come out next week during this little experiment I will have myself committed. In the meantime, I am setting up playdates and looking up activities I can do with the kids so I can maintain my sanity, as fragile as the hold may be.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Betty F'ing Crocker

For the record, this has been the worst weather ever for a maternity leave. Yes, I know, lots of women in other countries would love an unpaid maternity leave during a blizzard followed by a monsoon, but there is no way to put a cheery face on this "spring" in Chicago. I think the City should hand out free Zoloft for everyone who pays taxes. The rain is one thing; the enduring cold temperatures are another; and the unrelenting grayness of the days. It's god awful. It makes me understand that whole "winters in Florida" thing that rich old people do.

But, because I am a survivor and stuck here for now, I am working to make the best of it. I mostly ignore the persistent sogginess of my socks and the extra limpness of my hair due to the humidity and precipitation. It's Wednesday so I woke up with the extra charge of knowing I would get a chance to deal with my unresolved high school issues at play group. I hosted again this week because I have a suspicion that what I put into this whole enterpise is an important ingredient if I hope to get anything out of it. In addition to hosting, I baked brownies. Yes, from a box, but who is this Christie that hosted 4 other mothers and their children, serving hot, moist and delicious brownies? This is not the Christie who used to spend hours surfing the internet at work or "reviewing documents" for a huge litigation case (which means I was probably surfing the internet all day, but billing for it).

Who is the brownie baking woman?

To tell you the truth, I have no freaking idea. I won't pretend to understand where I will end up after I experiment with my identity as mother, as wife, as Betty Effing Crocker. I wish I did know. This period of exploration is fun and excrutiating by turns. I want to know the ending of the story. Am I headed back to work as a practicing lawyer? Am I taking my foot off the gas to spend time with my (most of the time) precious spawn? I always read the end of a book first. I read the ending so I won't be distracted by anticipation or the unknown. It makes me anxious to not know. I read the ending so I can then relax, read the book and enjoy the prose, the stories, the characters.

That's how I feel right now. I just want to know what I am going to decide to do so I can relax, enjoy what soggy days unfold before me and wear my identity with certainty. The flux is so uncomfortable. It's the dark hallway before the next door opens. I hate this hallway. It needs more light and more cheery memorabilia on the wall to distract me from thhe fact I am in the damn hallway.

So, up in the air I dangle. Somewhere between Johnathan Edwards' sinner in the hands of an angry god and an acrobat who's let go of one trapeeze and reaching out for another. I am not sure where I will land, whether the world is led by benevolent forces or if any of this even matters in the Big. Scheme. Of. Things.

All I know is that I bake a mean brownie and that I am starting to like my playgroup.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


Social Simon has already created a circle of little people to keep him company. One of his contemporaries is Finn, who is younger than Simon by only 11 days. We are lucky that we get to see Finn regularly and you can see that the boys have it it off swimmingly. I like to say that Finn is Simon's fribling-- like a sibling, but from a friend. I hope he is able to form lifelong friendships, and so far, Finn seems like a nice boy from a good family. Finn is polite-- he says, "excuse me," after he burps-- and he's very considerate -- he only cries when Simon is finished crying.

Many of my friends have kids around Simon and Sadie's ages, which is great fun. We can all swap notes and texts about what is going on with our kids. Having just endured a mini-tantrum from Sadie at Costco, I was sort of relieved to get a message from a friend that her very mild-mannered son threw a bit of a fit when she picked him up to leave the toy store. You know, as Jeff, Sadie and Simon and I tool around the City living our lives, it's easy to think that our kid is the only kid who throws fits, or pinches, or won't sleep longer than 3 hours at a stretch, or spits up after every feeding. I can feel the relief wash over me on a cellular level when I hear from a parent whose child seems totally gentle and drama-free that the same little angel I know can also pull a flip-out in the produce aisle.

I actually got a funny parenting email that made me laugh outloud the other day. The subject line was "Your 21-month old toddler," and what followed was a description of what my dear Sadie is likely to be doing or saying at her stage of development. One line that made me laugh was "toddlers like things just so."

Really? I hadn't noticed. When Sadie screamed and banged her head on the floor because I had a slice of her orange (that actually was MY orange that she co-opted) or when she insists that I take her out of her car seat and NOT Jeff but then changes her mind 4 times in 2 seconds, I think I understand what that email is telling me. We can't always understand her, but we know when we've fucked up because she let's us know with her full lung capacity.

There's a funny line floating around from Tina Fey who was asked her impressions of toddlers. She purportedly said that toddlers are d-bags. When Jeff and I heard that on the radio, we looked at each other and laughed. Hard. You just have to have a toddler to understand that.

And Simon's not getting off scott-free either. Newborns are just toddlers in training. God forbid, if I forget to change his diaper within 3 minutes of one of his gargantuan poops (which he only does once he has a fresh diaper, thank you very much), he screams like I just dipped him in acid. And when he needs a nap? You better back his ass into a crib post haste because he can shriek like a howler monkey. He's a smiley and cuddley dude as long as we follow his simple rules.

As for his development, he's found his hands. He sucks them round the clock. It's pretty funny. I was a thumb sucker myself so I was sort of hoping to pass that little habit on to my offspring. I think Simon's going to be our little thumbsucker. He's not looking too interested in rolling onto his stomach or running a 5K, but give him time.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

His Good Side

Simon has hit 12 weeks of life. Will you look at that smile? He's so happy as long as his diaper is clean, his ample tummy is full and he's not too tired. Happily, we usually manage to meet his needs so we get to see that blazing smile quite often.

I am so grateful for this little guy. Yesterday, I had a scare when I drove Simon and I to the gym and only once I got to the gym parking lot did I realize that his car seat was not properly fastened. I stood in the parking lot thanking God that nothing happened on the way to the gym. I really feel like we got lucky. To make up for the bad mommy blunder, on the way home from the gym I refrained from yelling obscenities at the a**holes that cut me off.

Simon seems like he's adapting to life in his crib pretty well. I, on the other hand, sort of want him to want to cuddle with me 24 hours a day (ok, 12, but you know what I mean), but he does seem to be thriving despite my wacky ways.

He took his longest nap ever today, and though it was in the car seat, it gave me hope that one of these nights we will be able to go more than 2.5 or 3 hours between feedings or wakings due to his pretty significant gas. That's how I know these are my kids: their gas could stop traffic. It's funnier at 3:00 p.m. than at 3:00 a.m., but who knew such big sounds and smells out of such little people.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Got Milk?

This little stash of breast milk has gotten me into some trouble. Seems innocent enough to have some stored breast milk for the son I am nursing. I, however, got kind of wrapped up in the whole notion that stockpiling the milk was more important than the process of breastfeeding Simon as a way to connect with him. Specifically, I was more focused on how much I was bagging and freezing than how much he needed at his feedings. If I do say so myself, that was a little ass backwards. Sure, having the extra milk is great and brings me relief in case, say, I go into a coma for 5 days because Simon's meals will be covered. Arguably, whether or not Simon gets breast milk when his mom is in a coma is not the foremost concern.

Needless to say, my relationship with the breast pump and the stored milk may be exactly why Simon was so fussy last week at the breast. I kept taking all his meals and putting them in the freezer to be stored until some point within six months. Silly Simon, he didn't give a rat's ass about the horded milk because he was hungry TODAY. RIGHT NOW. Mommy, in her infinite fears about scarcity, was more worried about any potential lack of milk in some distant future moment that may never materialize.

Since the day that I could barely get Simon to latch on for a feeding without screaming like I was forcing him to watch the Glen Beck show, I have gotten my priorities in line. Simon's present needs are most important. Period. Any extra comes only so long as he is not compromised today. There may be less milk in my freezer, but I think Simon's point is well taken: the milk belongs to him and should be offered to him first.

I love how my kids are keeping me in the present. And, it's nice to have room in the freezer for ice cream.

Smiles, Everyone, Smiles

Here are the people I love most in the world. I was actually able to coax a smile out of Sadie for this picture, which is quite noteworthy. Our next trick will be to have both kids smile at the same time.

Last night was Simon's first night in his crib. I was so proud of him sleeping it up in his big boy crib. I was also sad to have him farther away from me. He actually slept better in his crib, just like Sadie did back in the day. I kept going to check on him, so I didn't reap the benefits of all that sleeping, but my little baby boy is growing up! I was afraid he felt lonely or abandoned in his crib, but this morning he was more smiley than ever.

It was very weird to come to bed last night in our room and be able to turn on the light or talk without worrying about waking Simon up. We are in a new era. He's 12 weeks old today. I barely remember life before Simon. I also barely remember what I had for breakfast yesterday too, but you get the point I am making.

My favorite moment of this week was this morning when Simon and I went in to get Sadie. She was so excited to see Simon that she begged me to put him in her crib with him. Ever our affable gent, Simon calmly laid in Sadie's crib while she gave him hugs and tried to get him to drink her bottle. It was so peaceful. Sadie was babbling at Simon and Simon was smiling and following Sadie's every move with his eyes. We remained in the peaceful tableaux until Simon realized he was sitting on a diaper with two rounds of dirty poop, whereupon he began to clamor for a little attention in the diaper area.

Fair enough.

For the record, I have enjoyed our 11 .9 weeks of having Simon as our roommate. I miss him and embrace the next phase of our family life. Last night I asked Jeff what our family song should be. I suggested "Chocolate Rain," but he said that would "send the wrong message." So, the search is on for a family anthem. Now accepting suggestions.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Nanny Search

Searching for a new nanny is not easy. After tonight's interview I was so depressed about the state of the candidate's life that I wanted to curl up and cry. I probably would have, too, except Sadie and Simon beat me to it. Those are the privileges of being children: sometimes your cries trump Mommy's.

It seems like we will "know" her when we see her, but I won't lie, with Zenia's last days ticking down, it's a little scary to not know where our childcare help is going to come from. Today, when out on a walk, I saw some nannies out with babies and I thought about trying to poach them from their owners, but that seemed like bad karma for a process that needs all the good karma it can get. Simon and I were having lunch with some other mothers today and I wished my friend Sara good luck and good wishes for finding the perfect nanny. Overhearing my wish for the perfect nanny, my other friend Ann reminded me that there is no perfect nanny, but there may be "good enough" nanny. We laughed because of course I want the nanny to be both a mother and a perky little sister, as well as knowledgable like a pediatrician, gentle like a female shaman, and reliable like the mailman. Does that person exist? Maybe, but she's probably not looking to be a nanny here in West Bucktown, U.S.A.

So, the search continues. I hope the daughter of the woman we saw today who suffers from acute kidney failure gets well. I can say I may be haunted for a long time by the sadness in her mother's eyes. I feel uncomfortable with seeing the pain and the hunger and the want in these women's eyes, especially if my gut feeling is that it's not a good match. I want them all to find the perfect families, which probably don't exist any more than the perfect nanny. But I still want that for them. I want these women to have stable jobs and loving families and hope and children who are not on dialysis. I know for us, it's not a good sign if I already want to save the person who is being hired to help our family. In fact, that's actually a recipie for disaster. Still, so far we have met 3 lovely women who deserve better than they may be getting in the world and I hope their search ends as successfully as I hope ours does.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Nursing Strike?

I am not talking about registered nurses, either. I am talking about Simon acting like my breast is full of fire jolly ranchers and jalapenos. Unpleasant is how I would describe our nursing today. I googled "fussy at the breast" and came up with some sites talking about nursing strikes, which essentially means your baby won't take breast milk from your breast because he's too damn angry.

Several sites gave various reasons why a baby would go on a nursing strike. It could be teething or illness or your milk may let down too quickly. My personal favorite was the site that said your baby could be angry at you for not spending more time with him. Who thinks like that? I will tell you who: vulnerable mothers trying to juggle work or other children and also tend to a breast feeding infants needs. I know I am trained in the legal field and not the psychology field, but come on-- that has to be projection. Can we all agree to stop projecting onto little babies our own angst, guilt and shame for having bigger lives or not being at the baby's mercy 24 hours a day? You might as well tell mothers that their babies don't like to nurse because you are shitty mothers. Just go all out.

Again, here's the lawyer talking and not the president of early childhood development at Erickson Institute, but is there any way to ever really know what a baby is thinking? It seems like it would be more useful to tell a mother how to get through an alleged nursing strike and not try to heap on more guilt by insinuating that a baby would rather starve than eat from the breast of a mother with a life.

As for Simon, we have a rough 24 hours with the nursing, but some sweet talking by yours truly finally convinced him to sip from his mother's fountain. The milk of human kindness it is probably not, but frankly, I am currently his only game in town, so he wised up and started to suck.

As he lulls himself to sleep right beside me now, I can feel a greater intimacy with him for having really overcome our first big hurdle. We made it through a rough round of shrieking and blood curdling cries and came out the other side. If I could just stay off the internet, maybe next time I won't have to flirt with the idea that Simon hates me and would rather die of dehydration than latch on to me. He's a fiesty little beast, but he's met his match in me. He's got to do more than puncture my ear drum with screaming and refuse my life-giving sustenance to deter my love. Let's hope that he has no more tricks up his sleeve for a while, though.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

I just can't take it. I can't take one more unstructured, rainy day. The gloom is getting to me. Thankfully, I had the wherewithal today to do some research on activities so we can get up and get moving. My time with Sadie at Gymboree has been so fun; we need more of that in our weeks. Small issue is that it turns out there are very few gymnastics classes for children Simon's age. It makes sense that 3-month old babies cannot vault, but I thought there might be something. There is mom and baby yoga, but that would require me to do yoga, and I am not really in a yoga frame of mind right now. I mean, I have a high school reunion (20 years) coming up and I just had a baby, so unless you can bring a newborn to bikram yoga, it's just not going to happen.

Tonight we are interviewing our first nanny candidate. I am looking forward to meeting Luz, whose packet included a very impressive resume. I hope she's the Mary Poppins of Bucktown. If not, we have other candidates we are looking at including a woman originally from Algeria. It's exciting to imagine who will come and be a big part of our family very soon. (And by "exciting," I mean nerve-wracking and anxiety-producing.)

Monday, April 18, 2011

Smiles, Everyone, Smiles

Sweet Simon.

Oh how I love his face. He's busting out of his newborn and 0-3 months clothes, which is really hard for me to admit. I can't believe I am already putting away some of his clothes.

He's 11 weeks old and still eating every 3 hours. Night and day. The schedule, roughly, is feeding at 7:00 a.m., 10:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m., 4:00 p.m., 7:00 p.m., 10:00 p.m., 1:00 a.m., 4:00 a.m. and then we start all over again. I really love how consistent he is. He likes to eat every three hours. Period. He doesn't want it at two hours and don't even think about pushing it to four hours. It's predictable. Every now and then I wish for a 5 hour stretch at night (ok, I wish for it every night), but we are making this work, thanks to Jeff and pumping and that cute little face!

I am leaning into our schedule more than I did when Sadie was in her "fourth trimester." Not to say I don't despair about wanting more solid sleep, but I went berserk with Sadie's schedule only to find out months later than babies have their own journeys and their own patterns and it's best to roll with it.

Speaking of rolls, someone told me to "check Simon's rolls." Check for what? I shouldn't have asked because the answer was "oozing sores." Ok, why would I need to check for that? Apparently some babies get a yeast infection in their fat rolls and they can get infected. Let's just say that I hope I am connected enough and paying close enough attention to Simon that I would know pretty quickly if he had oozing sores. If I am not, then probably the least of Simon's worries is an oozing sore, which is really saying something.

But, enough about oozing and snoozing.

Let's talk about the snow fall we had in LATE April here in Chicago. On second thought, let's not because I am not interested in upping my dose of Zoloft and too long contemplation on the weather in this region makes me want to pop all sorts of pills. But, for the record, there was snowfall on my deck this morning and I was none too happy about. My very first Chicago winter there was snowfall on April 3, which I thought was absurd and freakish. Now, here we are on April 18 and there was snow accumulation on my grill. Needless to say, we didn't spend much time in the park or strolling through the neighborhood today. What, with the snowfall and all.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Search is On

I have to get a good night sleep tonight because tomorrow we commence our search for a new nanny. I want to take all of the lessons I learned with Zenia into account when we search for someone new. My dream candidate will be warm, wise, and calm. She will have experience with children the same ages as Sadie and Simon. She will have creative ideas about how to structure the days and she will never call in sick last minute on a Monday (once a month for 7 months and counting). I want someone who will adore my children and set boundaries lovingly just like I always do. (Ha!) I may end up spending more time at home so she has to embrace being a partner with me, as well as with Jeff. I hope that she will be direct and I can correct the biggest mistake I made with Zenia: not speaking up directly as soon as issues arose. I am picturing someone almost grandmotherly, but with the energy of someone half her age. I hope her schedule is flexible and she lives close to us. There are so many aspects of the relationship that I hope come to fruition, but the single most important one is attending to my children-- engaging with them, keeping them safe, and being a trusted companion for us all. All for about 15.00 per hour.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Building Community: One Egg at a Time

When I was about to go on maternity leave with Simon, one of our neighbors said she would invite me to the neighborhood playgroup. I thought it sounded like a great idea. Now, every Wednesday, before we head out to meet the other mothers and children, I have to walk through a fair amount of fear about getting together with other mothers whom I do not know well. As one of my friends said when agreeing that playgroups can bring up lots of feelings: "Mothers are scary." With all the pressure and guilt surrounding motherhood and the myriad choices each of us faces, it's not surprising that one of the scariest parts for me about being a mom is being around other mothers. Maybe if I were a more self-confident person or maybe if my children fit the perfect image I had in my head before they were actually flesh and blood, none of this would be so frightening. I want the moms in playgroup to like me. I want them to like Sadie and Simon. I want the warm intimacy with them that I have with the friends I have loved and known for years. I want our hour and a half together on Wednesday to be like a sacred ritual of love and support-- a place for tips on sleeping or where to get a good (quick) manicure in the neighborhood or how to deal with letting go of working. Maybe that is how some people experience our time together. I, however, am full of nerves and insecurities about all of it. I wonder if I seem warm and available for new friends. (I wonder if I actually am too.) I wonder if they practice "attachment parenting" or let their babies Cry It Out. I wonder about their politices, their histories and their cooking skills, which no doubt are sharper than mine. I wonder about their marriages and their free time and what secret thoughts about their kids they will never tell anyone. You can see that I am very busy during play group trying to get a handle on each person's biography so that I will "understand" them. And, then there's the children, one of the primary reasons we are all there. The first time at playgroup, I took Sadie 3 weeks after Simon was born and spend the whole time worrying if my post-partum bleeding was soaking through my stretch pants. Nothing says available like a giant blood stain. The second time I went Sadie accidentally stomped on the head of the little girl whose mother scares me the most. The injured little girl cried and cried and then I felt like I am THAT mother. You know, the one who lets her 18 month old run roughshod over infants. I skipped the next week. I couldn't deal with my fears and self-consciousness. I couldn't help wondering if Sadie's little idiosyncracies were "my fault," because I worked too much or didn't have the right job or because we swaddled her for too long. Everyone was a better mother. Every kid was better behaved. It didn't seem fair to subject Sadie to my critical gaze that intensified during playgroup. I tried again. There was a toy swap organized by the mother who scared me. By god, I was going to participate and bring some toys to swap (temporarily to be returned the next week) and I was going to show these women how warm and humble and human I am. We swapped toys. Sadie fell on the same little girl again while trying to walk around the play space with a cowboy hat on. The next week I forgot to bring the toys to return to their owner and the subsequent email that Scary Mom sent out included an admonishment: "Remember, we swap the toys for ONE WEEK ONLY. Please return them the following week." My cheeks burned. She was talking to me. Being a playgroup participant was worse than doing an oral argument before Judge Easterbrook. The next week I hosted: my house was clean, the toys were laid out, I served Jeff's banana bread and gave him full credit. (After all, it's almost better to have a husband who cooks than to actually be able to cook.) I connected with several moms. The kids were adorable. Sadie managed not to commit any batteries, though she did try to ride little Ben as if he was a pony. ("All in good fun, ladies. Who wants banana bread?") A few days later I even emailed one of the mothers to see if she wanted to go to the Lincoln Park Zoo for a singing event hosted by the creatively named, Mr. Singer. I was taking initative. I was being the warm and open person I wanted to be. It wasn't that hard. Turns out that Mr. Singer took that week off, and the other mother and her son didn't make it, but I had tried to build a social connection for me and Sadie and hell, we still got to see some cows and chickens at the farm section of the zoo. During one of these playgroups, the mothers were talking about the Easter Egg Hunt. I asked about it and decided we would go. It was held at Maplewood Park this morning and we packed up the kids and headed over there. We saw families huddled at the entrance to the park and eggs scattered all over the field. I felt a surge of happiness about being part of the community. "All these people are our neighbors. All these children are our future." Sadie and I approached first and saw some of the playgroup moms. I took a breath, I said their names, I asked about their kids, their health, their recent trips. I introduced Jeff and Simon. I made jokes about the shitty Chicago weather. I smiled. I showed up. 28 minutes later we were back in the car headed to Jewel for groceries. Jeff and I wondered if it was a lame event. Sadie and Simon are bothh too young to really get the purpose of an Easter egg hunt and Jeff's a little religiously challenged around Easter. I declared those 28 minutes a success. Showing up for small talk is not enough to create community, but if we don't start somewhere, we will never have the intimacy and friendships we would like. Hell, maybe we never will, but it wasn't too hard to show up for less than half an hour to claim our spot in our neighborhood and see Sadie completely freaked out by the man dressed up as the Easter bunny. We have to start somewhere. Deep down, I know the moms in my playgroup probably struggle with exactly what I struggle with, including fears about joining other mothers. Raising children is hard and there are so many messages to tune into or tune out and so many paths to follow or eschew. I am going to keep showing up on Wednesdays because I think it's good for me to face these fears and these messages. Maybe my new best friend is there just waiting for me to show up and stop obsessing long enough to start a friendship. Maybe Sadie and Simon will meet their very first best friends there. The point is I will never know what treasures exist if I am too scared to show up to the places where there are treasure chests.

Friday, April 15, 2011

These Little People

Ok, I admit it, these two little people who now live in my house are worth the indignities of pregnancy and the occasional breast feeding angst, the trashed house, and the weight gain and lost sleep. I don't know how I will feel when they are teenagers, but here at almost 21 months and almost 3 months, I can say it's all worth it.

Long may these good times last for us all.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Days Are Long, Years Are Short

It's this phrase, "days are long, years are short," that haunts the me I project into the future sitting at my desk drafting a motion to dismiss, while some lovely woman we hire takes my kids to Gymboree. The truth is, I don't know if I can live with that. I don't know, as I sit here today, with Simon sleeping beside me on the bed in a funky tie-dyed outfit, if I can stand to drag my pump to work and pump out breast milk so that Simon can take bottles while I do my legal job. It would be different if I loved it. Actually, it would be different if I really liked it. Sadly, I just don't. I have waited for the spark of passion to catch fire for practicing law for me and it hasn't. I was telling a friend yesterday it's like dating a guy who looks good on paper, but with whom you don't get that feeling. You know, that feelinng that makes you want to see him, and kiss him, and tell your friends all about his great taste in music and how warm and funny he is. That feeling that makes you want to be with him all the time. Or some of the time. Maybe that's too dramatic because that's clearly the description of early love and not mature, committed love. But I at least want to feel deeply engaged and excited about my work, especially if I am going to leave my children to go and do it. I wish that I had figured this area of my life out before I had children, but these eggs weren't going to last forever and so here we are. It's so strange to contemplate taking a break from law practice. I didn't realize how much of my identity was tied up in being a lawyer, working in downtown Chicago and running on a treadmill that certainly burned the calories, but it didn't bring the endorphine rush of a good workout. But, just because I don't think it's quite as heady or deep to say I am a stay-at-home-mom versus a lawyer, it doesn't mean I should schlep myself through a life that doesn't fit me anymore. When I picked law school years ago, I did it when I was single and heartbroken from a failed relationship working an administrative job that failed to utlize the Master's degree I had just gotten from a fairly prestigous university. During that year I applied to social work school, but never enrolled after being accepted because I was terrified of the abysmal salaries and the burn-out factor. Someone else in my office was studying for the LSAT, so I thought a mental challenge would take my mind off my emotional wounds. Needless to say, studying for the LSAT wasn't good for much, but it did distract me long enough to work out a few logic problems. Anyway, I figured that if I never ever found lasting love, then I would at least have a career that would bury me in work so that I wouldn't feel too depressed about not having family. I thought, "ok, I will work hard, become a partner in a firm and work, work, work and it will be a consolation prize for having not gotten the gene that would allow me to have a stable relationship with a marrigable man." Uh oh. The law degree eventually led me to a great, marriagable man, but now I don't know about the career. Who wants to be buried in work when Sadie and Simon (and Jeff) are at home drooling, babbling and bossing people around? I don't know how my relationship with the law will change over the next few years, but I know it will. We may become stronger or we may part ways. Maybe I will write the law a letter: Dear law, It's not you. It's me. No, wait, it's you. 10,000 disgruntled lawyers who hate practicing law can't be wrong. Love, COT, esq.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Social Networking

In the suddenly ubiquitous happiness studies, I keep seeing the "experts" say that expanding your social network will bring happiness. In fact, I saw a happiness expert on Oprah (no shame in nursing your baby to the beat of Oprah's daytime drum) who said that people who know their neighbors are more likely to be happy and feel safer in their communities. In Gretchen Rubin's book "The Happiness Project," she cites a study that says joining a club that requires you to show up in person once a month boosts happiness. In light of all this purported evidence and considering that I am already very social, I am employing some of these concepts to see if I can boost my happiness level. Yesterday, I took the kids to the park and met three or four neighbors. It's true, I did feel safer and happier once I knew their names, their children's names and where they lived. As a corollary to this, I have also challenged myself to say hello to people I know in the grocery store, at the gym, or Target. This afternoon I was waiting in line at Whole Foods and I saw a friend of mine. Honest to God, my first instinct was to hide. HIDE? Why would I hide? My hair, while a little goofy, wasn't so outrageous that I wouldn't want Mary to see it. I have nothing to be ashamed of. I actually really like Mary-- she's warm-hearted, gentle, sweet, wise and hilarious in a very un-self-conscious way. Why not say hi to her while buying our favorite organic pizza crusts and some pears? I pushed away the thought to hide and went over to the line where she was checking out. Hi, Mary, how's it going? That wasn't so hard. It wasn't. But I bet tomorrow if I see someone I know when I am out, my first instinct again will be to run, to hide, to avert connection. And, it's not because my visit with Mary today was "bad" or negative in anyway. In fact, I told her I was spinning about going back to work and how to decide what to do, and she gave me some very wise and gentle advice: "Maybe it's not time to make a decision." How lovely for her to reflect on my sense of urgency and to remind me that I don't have to rush. If I don't yet know, then I don't know. And that's okay. I got all that as a gift when I countered my impulse to hide and keep Mary from catching my eye at Whole Foods. I want more of those gifts, which is why I am keeping track of the how connections bring me peace and answers and joy and connection and a sense of safety.

Monday, April 11, 2011


This is Simon right before he starts to cry. That little bottom lip comes out and it's the cutest thing in the entire universe. The wailing that starts right after that is not quite as cute, but man, that lip is going to be the death of me.

Can you see why it's hard to leave this face?
Simon is not afraid to show a full range of emotions, often in the span of about 2 minutes. He gives the most gigantic smiles, and seconds later, here comes that lower lip a trembling and signaling a HUGE CRY is coming.

And I can't say it enough: THOSE CHEEKS. Would you look at those cheeks?

I got to look at them all day today, since Zenia called in sick. I won't lie: that little calling in sick on a Monday routine is a hassle and sort of puts a damper on the love fest I had with Zenia on Friday. It wasn't a huge deal since I am home on leave, but it did mean that Simon came with me to my hair appointment. I can say it's the first time I nursed a baby while getting a hair cut. It's a little nerve wracking to have a wriggly baby in my lap while a woman wielding gigantic scissors stands near my head. I am grateful it was a lovely day so we could go to the park and enjoy meeting some more neighbors. I had a resolution to strike up a conversation with a complete stranger everyday. Today, at the park, I initiated 4 conversations with strangers. That makes me a SUPER STAR.

Could I be any more goal-oriented?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

I Can See Clearly Now

Some beloved friends are coming over today to help me articulate a vision for my life now that I am a mother of two and need some new direction. I am grateful that these women are taking a beautiful Sunday afternoon to come over to support a vision of my life that could include fulfilling work, happy mothering, a joyful marriage and time for self-care and friends and working out. I have done these exercises before, and still, today feels different. I want more. I need more. I have more. I am more.

Here's hoping that the clarity flows and I get a sense of where I am going in the most important areas of my life.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Simon Sweetly Sleeping

Here's what I learned today: taking a 10-week old baby to a big birthday party where everyone wants to hold him and check him out make produce violent and hysterical crying. (In the baby, which may lead to the same hysterics in the mother.)

But, the light at the end of that tunnel is that said baby may come home and crash from the trauma of partying too hard out in the suburbs of Chicago.

As for Simon, who may or may not be the baby in question, as soon as I was adamant about the swaddling, we decided to try to put him to sleep without the swaddle because he absolutely hated it. He turned beat red and tried to fight out of it every time we put him in it, but I still thought he slept better with it. Because I am so freaking adaptable and easy going, we are experimenting with no swaddles. So far so good.

Mommy is ready for some 10-hour stretches of sleep. She will settle for 5.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Winds of Change

It's an audacious understatement to say that I don't like change. I hate change. All change: big, small, life-altering. Hate it. Someone as adverse to change as I am is in for some real pain when she decides to have children. Having children is all about change and, of course, each change (in schedule, in habit, in appearance or size or skill level) brings something new and usually wonderful. However, it's a charming part of my personality that I am generally more focused on what I am losing when a change comes. Today, the seeds of a huge change were planted for my family. Our first long-term nanny, Zenia, has decided to seek other employment. Zenia has been the first adult that I have watched Sadie bond with. In fact, whenever Sadie says Zenia's name, Sadie does this motion with her hand: she bends her elbow and raises her wrist to her chin and says, in Sadie-speak, "Zenia." Always with a smile. When we walk downstairs in the morning, Sadie always asks for Zenia. It's tough on Saturdays because I have to tell Sadie that Zenia isn't coming for two more days. Watching Zenia find another family and our own search for our next caregiver will bring up some grief, if today is any indication. Jeff and Zenia had a heart-t0-heart about her goals and our goals and some changed circumstances, and it became clear that it's time for us all to move on. During that conversation, Jeff and Zenia cried. When I got home and went upstairs to see Sadie and Zenia, I cried along with Zenia. It's like a break up. The kind of tender, open-hearted break up you have when you really love the guy and think he would be great in so many ways, but deep down, you know you have gone as far with him as you can go. You are sad; he's sad. It's gut wrenching and it's the right thing. Welcome to my Friday afternoon. Actually, I was at a doctor's appointment and Jeff sent me a text. I called him back from Nordstrom's Rack (Hey, it was raining and I needed some shower gel). I was standing next to the Hobo purse rack when he told me about the conversation. So, yes, I was the woman crying in the purse aisle this afternoon trying to act like it's normal to break into tears with all those discounted Le Sport Sac's adorning the walls of the store. I sort of want to say that I feel sad for Sadie, but the truth is, that I feel sad for me. And, not just because I hate change. But this relationship that I have with Zenia has been a very important, if unexplored attachment. This is the woman who I left Sadie with so I could leave the house for work. I trust her. I remember the first time Sadie went to Zenia's arms as I was leaving for work without ever looking back at me. That morning there were no tears for mama as she was leaving; Sadie was thrilled to see Zenia and I was the proverbial chopped liver. I cried and cried that day on the way to work. I called friends to say that I was going to put Sadie in daycare because, honestly, I felt threatened that Sadie would have an intense bond with another woman. My impeccable logic was that if I put Sadie in daycare, then she would have to spread her attachment among all the other kids and several "teachers." I was scared to let my baby girl love someone else, another caregiver. And, I was scared that Zenia would be better at giving care than I was. After all, she had two daughters and was warm and loving and almost always in a good mood. She has a great laugh that I thought would delight Sadie throughout their time together. I was terrified that Sadie would like her better than me. I did not put Sadie in day care because of my own insecurities and fears. I let go and let Sadie fall in love with Zenia and, while I still sometimes feel jealous, I am also proud of Sadie for being able to attach to loving people who are part of her life. Zenia is the only person other than Jeff who I would allow to drive Sadie anywhere. The first time we let Zenia drive Sadie to Gymboree class I was a nervous, neurotic mess. I asked her to text me when the left the house, when they got to the class, when they were leaving the class andn when they got home. She sent me the texts and kept Sadie safe and enriched during those Gymboree dates. I am already planning the meltdown for Zenia's last day, whenever that is. I don't know how this will play out, but I will be blubbering like a baby. I am so grateful to her for being my first and Sadie's first. I have not given her much chance with Simon yet, so I am not sure she's his first, but she has been gentle and loving with him, and he smiles at her like no one else. I can see I will have to go down the same road with Simon I did with Sadie: feeling afraid to let him love anyone else besides me (and Jeff) and walking through my own feelings of insecurity and sadness that I am not his one-and-only, because (a) that's not healthy for him or me and (b) that's just not how it works. Of course, I feel the same impulses with Simon: I want to the only woman in his life, which will not complicate his dating life in the slightest when the time comes. All this letting go. All this love. It brings so much pain. Honestly, I feel pain about the loss of Zenia, even though it's right for all of us. I feel pain because I love her and she's loved me and my family and my daughter loves her fiercely. Damn, it seems like love shouldn't bring such pain in its trail. I thought my break-up days were over once that tall glass of water Jeff Ellis swooped in with his key club smile and cooking skills. So, as this chapter ends another one will begin and the search for the modern day Mary Poppins will commence shortly. I can only imagine the blog posts that the upcoming nanny search will produce. Should generate some good material.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Pet Peeve

Ok, I am all for putting positive energy out into the world and I really do believe in that, but today I have to say that it's been one too many cold and rainy days and I am annoyed. So I am writing about my pet peeve and it's really a twofer-- one for Sadie and one for Simon. Simon: Guess what? Babies fuss and cry. He's 9 weeks old and everything in the world is all new to him. Everything. And he gets tired very easily and that makes him cry. My pet peeve is people trying to explain his cries with a pathology: "Hmmmm. Sounds like colic." Or "Hmmmm. Seems like the breast feeding isn't working." Breast feeding not workin? Excuse me? He's 90% for his age in weight. I am telling you that it's working and I have the body parts to prove it. And, please, don't EVER EVER tell a new mother that you think her child has colic unless you KNOW WHAT COLIC IS. A fussy period is not colic unless it lasts for 4 hours per day. Simon hasn't cried a total of 4 hours in his life. Listen, you can insult my mothering but don't throw around labels like "colic." It's just cruel. Sadie: Guess what else? Everything that Sadie goes through from now is is NOT because she has a new little brother. I am so sick of comments that Sadie's bowel function or her temper is all about having Simon in her life. I don't think that's insightful, sensitive, or true. There's plenty that Sadie had to adjust to with having Simon into our lives (including MORE joy, more family, and more connection), but it's just not the case that her every move is motivated by sibling issues. STOP TELLING ME IT'S ABOUT HER LITTLE BROTHER. Can you tell it's a cold, gray day in March here? I refuse to do a weather rant, but I am holding to the promise that as soon as my therapist dies, I am moving to San Diego.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Lil Buddha

The pediatrician says that Simon is 13 lbs and 12 oz, which is 90% for weight and his height is over 24 inches, which is "off the charts." Um, thank you breast milk for building my giant son. I am grateful he is healthy and thriving. To help myself deal with the sleep deprivation and the panic I feel about it, I read about colic and how parents cope with that. Now, Simon does NOT have colic, thank the Good Lord, but it helped me get this period of little sleep into perspective. The other thing that helps is looking at those adorable cheeks in the middle of the night. I could not deny the owner of those cheeks a single thing. This attitude will probably prove very troublesome down the road, especially if he figures that out! I am spending some time this weekend with friends doing a vision about how I want my life to look now that we have both Sadie and Simon. I am excited to articulate my heart's desires, and a little afraid of what might come up. Having two kids is a wonderful and rich blessing that I don't know how to take in along with a job as a lawyer, having a marriage and friends and getting exercise and sleep. How do you do this? That's the question we will tackle this weekend.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Ending on a high note

There is a great visual to accompany this post, but unfortunately, when you are playing solo mom to two kids under 2, it's hard to take great snaps. Here's the visual: my dinner plate consisting of grilled salmon, grilled asparagus, mashed potatoes and a tomato caper sauce. This is the kind of dinner that Jeff whips up for us all the time, but Jeff's out of town, which usually means mama eats spagetti sauce and 3 bowls of cereal with ice cream. Not tonight. For one night only I was THAT MOM. You know, the one who runs around all day with her children and casually stops at whole foods to pick up a nice piece of fish to grill while feeding her children delicious, organic snacks. Her. Me. Although, to be honest, I was really more focused on my dinner than the kids. Simon got his standard Left Boob/Right Boob combo and Sadie got canned kidney beans, mango, cheddar puffs, and tomatoes, all of which she stuffed into a bottle of saline solution for my contacts. (And, that's why MY DINNER was more important.) Because we had a rough start to the morning, made more difficult because I inexplicably insisted on pumping while both Sadie and Simon were up. I am not saying my children are high needs, but every now and then Simon needs help holding up his head and Sadie had pooped and I haven't taught her to change her diaper. Yet. I was fried. I ended up yelling at everyone, mostly myself. The morning segment did not go well because I didn't take care of myself and I tried to do too much. Tonight, we took a different approach. I got Simon down for a nap around 7 p.m. and put Sadie and her beans and her empty bottle in her high chair. Then, I got to sauteeing and grilling and chilling. While we waited for this all to come together, I showed Sadie how to dance with her shoulders. We are listening to Michael Jackson's "Bad," which is a good song for some shoulder action. So much of motherhood is so damn controversial and political these days-- it makes me sick what we are doing to ourselves as mothers. I don't care what you do with your breastmilk or your formula or your 9-5 hours. The only thing I think every house should have is music. Screw breast feeding and the family bed. The question is do you have Sly and Family Stone? Will your child know how to groove when he/she gets to Wiggle Worms? Music makes me feel like I am having fun, even if I am not. So, the moral of the day is the following: take care of yourself and every now and then choose salmon over chex mix and chocolate ice cream. And set your life to music and move your shoulders to the beat.

Monday, April 4, 2011

What smells?

Today I made myself very proud by realizing that I can tell when Simon has pooped in his diaper within about 3.5 minutes of him pooping. I used to brag that it didn't smell, and now that it does, I brag that I can smell it practically instantly. There really are no bounds to the joys of motherhood.

As for Simon himself, he is getting very smiley indeed, even to his less-attractive-than-his-father mother. He still only turns his head to the right, which I am sure is something I should be addressing with little exercises at home, but like the Vitamin D, sometimes I just don't get to it.

I weighed Simon unofficially at the gym this morning and he was 14.5 lbs. Tomorrow is a pediatrician visit so we'll get the official weight that will be recorded in the baby book. I always thought that if a baby got to 12 lbs he/she would sleep through the night. Apparently, that's not true. Simon is still up about 3 times and after 3 or 4 he doesn't sleep so much as kersnuffle. That's the word for all those LOUD ASS infant noises our precious beloved son makes just as I am starting to get back to sleep. I am not kidding you about how loud a kersnuffle is. He sounds like a pug, a breed whose nose is so smushed up that it cannot breathe properly.

And, let's me just marvel at the size of the boogers I pull out of his nose in the morning. I think those account for about .5 lbs of his total weight. They are big and I am almost tempted to save some for the baby book, but even I have to exercise some scrapbooking restraint. It's hard though, because some of those morning boogers are something special and I am not just saying that because I am his mom.

The sweetest time of the day was this evening when Jeff took a business call while Sadie, Simon and I hung out in Simon's room. Sadie experimented with walking around in my flip flops-- I can't say that was exactly a success, but we have all summer to practice. Simon gamely laid on the floor taking it all in and sharing with us some of his more operatic cooes and gurgles. He was pretty fussy all day today, so of course the guessing begins: was it something I ate? did I not hold him enough today? does he have gas? does he know my secret "bad mother" thoughts? is he over tired? was I forcing him to nap when he wasn't tired? is he overstimulated? did we run around too much this morning? should I not have gotten the long-overdue pedicure? I took him to the gym and put him beside me while I got on the stationary bike. He tolerated that for 34 minutes, which was long enough for mommy to sweat and get an endorphine rush. I was operating on the principle that when mama's happy, everyone is happy. Working out makes mama happy.

I write this to remind myself that even the mellowist babies have bad days. Simon was oochie and uncomfortable seeming all day. It doesn't mean I have no breast milk or that I should stop eating all foods except kobe beef. Maybe Simon just needs a little extra patience and compassion today. Just like I may need those tomorrow. Actually, when do I not need extra patience and compassion.

We'll just keep breathing and practicing patience and compassion. They should come in handy when Jeff does an overnight this week and I am solo with the kiddos. If you hear the shrieks and brays of a madwoman, you should know it might be me.

So there is only love and maybe a dash of hysteria.

Sunday, April 3, 2011


Look at those adorable cheeks! I am surprised I didn't have to pay extra on my Southwest flight for those. I think I see a dimple on his right cheek, though, admittedly it's hard to tell because his cheeks are so....well....voluminous.

Simon has rounded (no pun intended) the corner into 9 weeks of life. I have 7 weeks of maternity leave left, which only strikes a minor panic through my heart. I have no idea what is going to happen over these next 7 weeks. I am hoping for more bonding with Simon and more sleeping and smiling from him. I am praying for clarity about my job situation and about how to take steps forward to live the life I want to live, which includes inspiration, balance, fulfilling work, joy, flexibility, creativity, compassion and connection. Does that sound like a legal job to you?

But I digress.

We had a great weekend with Simon and we are enjoying his new sounds. His coos have morphed into a little baby language and I sometimes think he's trying to talk to me. I kiss those lovable cheeks about 100 times per day and that never gets old. Someday he's going to be a lean machine like his daddy, but til then, I get to enjoy every ounce of baby fat.

Here's to another weekend as a mother of two. We met some more neighbors today, which, according to Oprah's special on happiness is a great way to increase joy because people who know their neighbors feel safer and more connected. It was nice to meet some wonderful people in our complex because we had just fled Mapplewood Park after feeling a little intimated by a group of high school girls who were calling each other "hookers."

The continued and variegated joys of urban life.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Why We Swaddle

Our pediatrican told us that swaddling should be used until Simon is about 2 months old. Guess what? He's still swaddled and here's why: He's a spaz. Maybe other babies are not so spastic, but Simon is and I want to sleep. We swaddled Sadie for well over 2 months, and there's no way in hell I am not swaddling while Simon still flails around waving his arms and legs as if he's got a hip hop soundtrack in his head and he must move his limbs to the beat of the bass. I love him dearly just as he is but I will for sure appreciate it when his nervous system matures and he doesn't have to twitch and twist all day and night. I updated Simon's baby book today, which is something I am a little compulsive about. The new entries for today are his consistent social smiles and one instance of laughter on March 18th. And, speaking of social smiles, it has come to my attention that Simon smiles at Jeff exponentially more than he smiles at me. Now, I am not saying I am resentful, but sometimes a mom wants to say to her beloved newborn son, "hey, I am the one who carried your ass around all winter in my body and I am the one who is going to have mom boobs from feeding you all this breast milk, so could I trouble you to smile at ME?" Of course I am only kidding. Wait, no I am not. So, Jeff has heard my complaints that Simon smiles more for him than for me and has tried to assuage my competitiveness by saying that it's only Jeff's shiny head that Simon is smiling at since it reflects the light. I tried to buy that excuse and it almost worked until I heard about a study when listening to the radio earlier this week. The esteemed and learned DJ's Eric and Kathy reported about a study that babies smile and gaze more often at the parent who is better looking. WHAT? Nevermind that reporting that study on the Eric and Kathy show between the bathroom humor and blow job jokes is jarring enough, but there is a study that speaks to my exact moment of parenting? Fine. Jeff's better looking. Says who? Who the hell did this study and why? Did my tax dollars go towards funding that study? And, finally, isn't "good looking" a pretty subjective concept? For example, I think Bradley Cooper is hot, but I have a friend who thinks he's smarmy. I NEVER WILL see what women and gay men see in that Robert Patinson vampire dude, but the ladies love him. Are you telling me that Jeff is so far and away better looking than I am that even Simon who can only see about 3 feet can discern that? I think I have learned a valuable lesson: I should listen to books on tape in the the morning.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Simon Crosses The Border: Visits Texas

Little Man Simon was my traveling companion to Texas this week. The purpose of the trip was to help my parents while they watched my sister's two kids: Patrick is 3 and Thomas is 18 months old. They are very adorable little boys, and they are also a handful. My parents have made a bit of a situation with the boys by indulging just about every whim that either of them has ever had. It's pretty funny to watch Patrick boss my parents around all day long, but it was also somewhat scary and heartbreaking to see how tired my parents are after being ultra-permissive grandparents all day long. I really don't like to see that my parents are losing steam at an appropriate pace for 60-year-olds. I want them to be energetic and 30-something forever.

Anyway, my parents sounded like they could use reinforcements, so Simon and I hopped on Southwest Airlines and swooped in. I am not sure we were that much help to my parents, but I did use the iPhone to distract the boys at several critical junctures to avoid altercations over a train set.

I do what I can.

Simon was a great traveler. His very first blow out EVER from his diaper occurred 30 minutes before we left for the airport. I was grateful that didn't happen after we left for the airport. And, speaking of airport, Mommy and Simon took the blue line train to O'Hare and as soon as I stepped off the train, I realized we were supposed to be at Midway Airport. I was shocked that I made that mistake. More shocking is that Jeff-- Mr. Logistics himself-- didn't realize our mistake. We are definitely still skating close to survival mode. Jeff and I laughed at ourselves and then somehow managed to get me and Simon to Midway in time for the flight. With about 3 minutes to spare.


Sleep deprivation is a very harsh mistress.

Once in Dallas, I got the thrill of a lifetime when my best friend from high school and I were able to meet up at her daughter's soccer game. I can't tell you how happy I was to be able to take Simon to Caruth Park and meet Stephanie's two kids and her husband. I had not seen her since her wedding in the summer of 1999. So many times I came to Dallas wishing to connect with her and meet her children, but I didn't reach out. Lots of people say that are bad at keeping in touch. I say it all the time, and it's historically been true for me.

When there are things about myself I wish I could change (like I wish I could embrace Excel spreadsheets), the top of the list is this character defect about staying in touch. I don't like that I have let fears keep me from experiencing connection with people like Stephanie. We had such a nice visit, and her daughter scored the winning goal of the soccer game, which added to the sense of euphoria swirling around the afternoon. Driving back from the park to my parents' house I was struck with a wave of grief for all I had missed. Specifically with Stephanie. And sadly there are other connections broken because I couldn't take in the possibility that no one needed me to be married or have children or have a dazzling career or a perfect brownie recipe or a size 4 skinny jean. Those were voices in my head that told me I couldn't connect (or reconnect) until some magical time in the future when I would be bulletproof from any feelings of shame or any worry about whether or not I was right in the world. I kept telling myself I could get in touch as soon as I was married or felt more confident or understood myself better or never felt shame. When I was fixed I would have the relationships I always wanted.

I am sad to report that 2 decades went by.

It's bittersweet to report that I wasn't broken in the first place. I had some pretty ill-founded ideas about people and what they wanted from me. Worse than being ill-founded, they were persistent ideas that seemed smart, insightful, obvious and true as I walked the planet thinking about them. I am grateful I began to question these ideas before any more decades went by, but for such a smart lady, it took a while to learn that no one gives a shit what size my jeans are (except for me) and no one was repulsed by me when I was single and not yet a mother.

I actually treasure the grief that I felt driving from Caruth Park back to my parents house. The grief is proof that I had done something different; that I had taken different actions. After reading the Girls From Ames this summer and having a real Come to Jesus with myself about people I loved and missed and wanted to connect with, I was able to ask a mutual friend about how to get in touch with Stephanie. I emailed her this summer and felt happy to be in touch. It was not about having arrived at any specific place in my life, but rather, it was about being done waiting and being ready to offer and receive love. Had I not shown up at this visit, I would have never felt the grief at all. I would have just continued to live in the numb place of "I wish I could connect with my dear high school friend Stephanie," and motored on with a story in my head about how I am "not good at keeping in touch."

Happy as hell to report that I am giving that story the finger. The. Finger.

My hope for Sadie and Simon is that I can raise them to accept love and friendship and to trust their inner lights and to follow the laughter and love from one day to the next so that they can build unbroken lines of friendship no matter what happens along the way. I just hope they can gave the grace to let themselves off the hook and they can examine the stories they tell themselves so they don't have to lose time hiding out waiting to be perfect to show up for love that was there all along.

My hope for myself is that I continue to let the love of other people wash over me even when I am messy, and my brows need some waxing and my hair needs some washing; when I am irrational or lost or pathetic or big and shiny and happy and giddy and in awe of my own blessings. My hope is to show up as myself, with all my ambivalence and my talent and my joy and my sorrows and my yearnings.

My mantra for April is "there is only love." So far it's working, except for that guy who cut me off on Ashland. For that guy there was love and a little bit of rage that he would try to cut off a nice lady like me in a mini-van.

There is only love.