Saturday, May 28, 2011

Generations of Smiles

The weekend before Memorial Day Simon was treated to a visit from his Grandpa and Grandma from Las Vegas. The visit entailed some deep diving into vegan territory as our Vegas grandparents enjoy a delicious vegan lifestyle. We got to drink our spinach smoothies and munch on veggie stir fry during the happy visit.

I think Simon liked his man time best of all, wherein he got to watch golf (The Byron Nelson Classic) with Daddy and Grandpa. We ladies had ourselves a little afternoon nap while the boys checked in on the links.

Simon and Sadie both loved the extra attention they got from their grandparents, and Jeff and I loved having the extra set of hands around. One thing is clear: I am not quite ready to let go of my non-vegan treats, at least until they can make a delicious vegan bacon.

Tummy Time Can Suck It

Simon, like every other child I have ever heard of, hates tummy time. The first 3 minutes are tolerable, and then he flips out and squwacks and cackles until I pick him up. And, that's why he has a flat head because his mama can't stand to hear him cry.

I am so glad we have our priorities straight around here.

Little Charmer

That Simon knows how to charm the ladies with a big wad of drool hanging from his mouth. This is not an uncommon sight at our house as Simon's drooling is really picking up, which may indicate he's got some teeth ready to poke out, or it may indicate bad manners. Both are implausible given his pedigre.

Our little guy survived his second trip to Texas this past weekend, when he was forced to accompany his mother to her 20-year high school reunion. Yes, you really can go home again, as long as you are prepared to deal with your four-month-old son having explosive diarrhea BOTH times you go through airport security. But seriously, I was so grateful to have my family on hand as I took my trip down memory lane with my high school friends. Reliving the highlights of my youth really put a fire in me about my kids having a chance to have the same things: great education at a single-sex school. I honestly can't name an all-girls or all-boys high school in Chicago, but Cook County has about 13 years to come up with some for my kids.

I am so grateful that I showed up for the weekend. There were a few half decades where I couldn't even open mail from my high school because I was so envious of everyone who was married and had children. Now that my personal life is a source of deep joy and contentment, I have the courage to reach back and reclaim the parts of myself that I buried because of that shame. It felt so good to reconnect with my high school friends, all accomplished, beautiful, articulate women spread all across the globe. Ok, mostly just the United States and London, but we are a very cosmopolitan group. I feel sad for what I have missed because of my shame, but also grateful that the shame has lifted and allowed me to come out.

My mom gave me a box of old keepsakes full of notes and love letters and other assorted memories, including a cassette tape titled, "Dating Jesus." I have no idea where that came from, but it's currently sitting in a trash bin in Dallas, Texas. I found notes from high school friends full of love and drama, but really mostly love for me. I recall being fairly insecure and needy around friendship in high school and despairing about matters of the heart, but it's clear from that box that there was some strong love and support coming my way during those years. I wish I could have taken more of that in. I hope the lesson has been learned: so much love right exists right here and right now-- most likely more than I can even digest.

It's profoundly happy and also somewhat sad, because I have missed a lot of chances to love and be loved. I am glad that this past weekend in Dallas belongs squarely in the column of a time where I showed up for love, both giving and receiving.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

He Laughs

Ah, sweet Simon, my little prince who can sleep anywhere, so long as it's less than 33 minutes! How I love him.

We have decided that orange is his best color. Put orange with navy, and Simon reaches a fashion pinnacle.

He's been smiling and laughing so much these days. Yesterday, after his bath, I put my face two inches from his and sang him some show tunes from my repertoire. My specialty is "Muddy Waters" from Big River. He laughed and laughed. When babies laugh it means they appreciate the immense, untapped musical genuis of their parents.

The only thing he loves more then my Broadway homages is his sister. He adores Sadie and follows her around the room with his eyes and smiles at her without fail. So far we have managed to keep the siblings amicable and attached.


Jeff is a master photographer and an autodidact to boot. He takes lots of pictures and then using his perfectionist eye, choses only the very best for circulation among friends and family. One morning while Mommy was catching a snooze, Jeff staged a little photoshoot with the kids. While he only posted a few, there were about a hundred of the kids on the pink beanbag. Some of the "imperfect pictures" are some of my favorites.

Probably Wrong....

But we couldn't resist putting some slightly femme accessories on little Simon. That's the reward for being a chill baby-- your parents take advantage of you by putting pink sunglasses and a pink hat on you.

When he's not busy setting his internal alarm clock to wake up at exactly 5:17 a.m. in the morning, Simon is talking and chewing his fingers with what I like to call a certain expertise. He's getting really good at sticking the whole fist in his mouth.

He's also enjoying a late spring visit from his grandparents from Las Vegas. He's getting lots of attention and extra hugs from Grandpa Steve and Grandma CeCe, neither of whom have tried to put gender-bending accessories on him. Yesterday during nap time (and for mommy, any time is nap time), three generations of Ellis men watched the Colonial golf tournament, while the fairer sex slept the gray afternoon away. He is not going to partake in the golf outing this morning since a stray golf ball could pretty much impair his golf game and his life. He's stuck with me this morning, so he'll have to be content taking a walk and more naps.

If I was the going-back-to-work type, which I am not apparently, I would be returning to my firm tomorrow morning. Since we still get up approximately 2-3 times a night, I can't imagine what state my legal practice would be in on so little sleep. The other day I was racing home to feed Simon and I missed my train. Actually, I missed it because I got on going the WRONG way. One of my blunter friends, upon hearing about my train mishap, said it best: "I am so glad you are not working right now. Your brain doesn't work right."

It's true.

In my defense, my day (and night) job doesn't require me to do higher math. My kids require me to have patience, to play (which is harder than thinking for some of us), to get on the floor and have tea or to change a diaper three times in 15 minutes. This is not quantum physics. It's a totally different skill. Maybe when I sharpen these skills I will learn that I should let Simon finishing his business BEFORE changing his diaper since he routinely poops in threes.

We'll see. I am still in training.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Pole Dancing

Chris Rock, when appearing on Oprah, shared his definition of being a successful parent to his two young daughters: Keep them off the pole. He was, of course, referring to strippers who dance on poles for money, but you also get a feeling he wasn't kidding.

Sadie already has developed a relationship to two yellow poles that we pass every time we go the park. She has to hug them. It's part OCD and part affection, but either way, it gives a mom pause to watch her young daughter refuse to walk by a pair of poles without hugging and kissing them.

As for Simon, let me tell you about his last 24 hours. He woke up this morning at 6:30 a.m. By 7:30 a.m., I had already changed his diaper 4 times. FOUR TIMES. One. Two. Three. Four. He seemed a little uncomfortable. Thinking back over the last 24 hours, I reflect that I literally ate almost a whole head of cauliflower. I am pretty sure that did not sit to well with Simon. Jeff makes a delicious roasted cauliflower with garlic and cheese, and so help us God, we both eat about a head in one sitting. The sad part is that I had to watch my poor son go through about a sleeve of diapers in one 8-hour period to recognize that I may have overdone it.

In other news, our interim nanny, Teresa, bid us farewell today. She has a new job nearby and our permanent nanny, Sabrina is on her way to use starting Monday. So much for creating stability by not working. So far I fired the cleaning lady, and had 2 nannies come and go. I think my children are learning some valuable lessons: Don't cross mommy when she's hormonal. Or maybe a better way to put it is that mommy wants the best for the family and she may have to go through some frogs to get to her princess nanny.


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

If Oprah Asked Me....

If Oprah asked me what my favorite things are, here's what I would say: (why I have spent lots of time thinking about this is beyond me, because I am pretty sure Oprah's not going to ask an obscure former-practicing-lawyer-turned-mommy about her favorite things, but let's not let that deter us).

1. Hannah Anderssen pajamas: these are for the kids, but they are the nearest thing to perfect I have ever seen on God's green earth. They hold their shape, they are cute as little baby lambs, and they fit so well. The best part is that I got a bunch for Sadie and Simon at Costco. I am a little obsessed with them. I will probably still buy them even after my children no longer sleep in onsies.

2. Carmel Nut Brownie Luna bar: these are the greatest pseudo energy bars ever in life. Period. And I have sampled them all. I could eat these every single day. The nuts are great, the chocolate is heavenly and except for a few weeks during my first trimesters of pregnancy, I have never forsaken my love for them.

3. Skidders Shoes from Target: These little shoes with grippers on the bottom have been amazing. They were great indoor shoes for this winter when Sadie needed something on her feet because it was below 0 degrees, but socks alone would lead to slipping and injuries. I love these so much; I wish I would have bought some for Simon at the time.

4. Dried figs from Stanleys: These little delights have been keeping me regular for weeks. They are also doing the same for Simon-- 7 poopy diapers per day.

5. The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin: An amazing little book with some very profound insight into happiness, along with some practical suggestions on how to increase your happiness, even if you are already pretty happy.

6. Nike Air Rift Sandals: Greatest. Shoe. Ever. I love this shoe and it's even better made today than the first pair I got in 2007 for my trip to India. It's so comfortable, funky and the toe part looks like female genitalia. That's a bonus in my book.

7. Super Chill: Move over LaCroix, this sparkling water from Jewel (house brand) has won over my family and Jeff has been known to buy up to 13 cases at a time. With summer coming, I look forward to cracking open the tasty refreshment of Super Chill whenever I want, because it's less than 25 cents per can.

8. Champion Work Out Shirts from Target: At $9.99 per shirt, you cannot be this. I love the colors and the fit and feel happy working out in my new Target shirts.

9. Ralph Lauren Seer Sucker Body Suit for Simon: OH MY GOD, it's the cutest thing ever. Simon wore his green and white seer sucker onsie today and he looked like a chubby, pretty character from the little rascals. I got it at T.J. Maxx for $9.00, and it's soft, comfortable and we just happen to have a pacifier that matches it perfectly. It's perfect for summer.

10. Philosphy Body Lotion (Raspberry cream): I love this lotion. My whole room smells like delicious summer fruit when I put it on. I know lots of people like unscented lotions, but not me. I love the smell of something sweet and delicious in the morning. It wakes up my senses and dazzles my nose. I am currently out of this lotion, but hope to get it replaced as soon as I find myself within 3 blocks of a Sephora.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


Well, I am about a week into my official unemployment and my only question is this: How the hell did I ever have time for a job? Between the park, and errands, and parenting classes, who has time for a job? (Hopefully, Jeff, I guess.)

I am grateful that I haven't died of boredom or lack of adult companionship yet. I think staying home with children has come a long way since 1970 when I was a kid. First of all, there are cell phones that moms can use to text and call each other to stay connected. A sample text I got today: "Finally down for nap. Mama tired." This was sent at 4:45 p.m. from a mother whose child usually naps at 2:00 p.m. I have a sense of what a brutal afternoon my friend had trying to get her son to nap. I can't imagine parenting without the smartphone. (And I have no idea what a smart phone refers to, I just hear it all the time. For the record, I have an iPhone and I love it.)

Second, there are so many ways to get together with moms. There are "meet up" groups and Bradley classes and parks and Gymboree. I really feel compassion for my mom who seemed somewhat isolated in suburban Dallas when we were young. I could have 2 playdates a day if I really tried. I think moms are more motivated to connect and get together. Last night when we went out for a little family nature walk, we ran into a mom and tot from our playgroup. Together we all perused the neighborhood, picking up dandelions and sharing stories about our kids and our former lives. I never remember doing that when I was a kid: the walk or the meeting up with neighbors. It's so fun; I am sorry my mother did not have that. I hope it's good for the kids too-- to know other children and to see us being social and connected to our neighborhood and the larger world.

Monday, May 9, 2011

O Fortuna

Here's my tip for making big life decisions: order Chinese food and follow the fortunes. I usually get really stupid fortunes, like "you are a nice person," or "your attitude will change someday." When we ordered from our favorite delivery place last week, I got a fortune that chilled my spine:

"You have a strong desire for a home and your family comes first."

I actually got this the night Zenia left us, which was 2 days before my "big conversation" with my firm. Man, those Chinese really know something. I should have played the lottery that night.

I did show up at my firm this morning to return my iPhone and say my goodbyes. I told my assistant that I didn't want to see anyone because I would start to cry, but she ignored that and called out to the other attorneys who all very graciously wished me well. We will file this appearance under the category of "NEW BEHAVIOR," because, really, wouldn't it be so much easier to just mail the stuff I owed them and never step foot in there again? I call that little maneuver "going out the back door," and it's been a personal favorite all my life. I like to leave quietly, not leave a mark and avoid anything messy like, say, feelings. Not today. I wore my happy periwinkle pants (nothing says new phase of life like periwinkle pants) and my son and strode in the front door and then left through the same front door. No freight elevator or phoning it in for me.

As I left the building, I did what I used to always do when I left my office stressed: I headed straight to Ann Taylor Loft for some tasty retail treats. I will have you know that cargo pants and light cotton tops were on sale. I perused. I thought of all the ways I could justify some wardrobe additions, given my new job title as CEO of Sadie+Simon. But, really, I just decluttered enough Ann Taylor Loft clothes to keep a small nation in business casual wear for a fiscal quarter. The thought of having to declutter again after buying clothes just because I didn't want to feel lonely or sad or anxious seemed unwise. So, I powered myself on out of ATL and called a friend to tell her I felt really sad leaving my firm; I also felt a little shame for not jumping on the full-time, partner-track train; and also I felt some joy that all the things I really want can't be found in the law firm (or at ATL). I know this because I tried the firm life, complemented by anything I want from ATL for about 7 years.

I am ready for something else. Something more. This afternoon, I got to come home and have lunch with Sadie and then put her down for a nap. Then, I got to hang out with Simon and try to take a nap with him. He snores so loud I couldn't sleep, but I got to relax and do some motherly gazing at my son. I can't think of anything I have done at ATL that would match the sense of peace and connection I feel when I am laying down with Simon being present with him. There will come a time when we spend less time together-- when I get a job and when he goes to school. I am sure I won't be napping with him when he goes to college, because that would be awkward and I hate the smell of dorms. It's for today.

This is an extraordinarily good life and it's mine. I may not be bringing in the big bucks right now (or any bucks at all), but I have a heart overflowing with love and gratitude, which has to count for something.

Saturday, May 7, 2011


Sadie cannot pronounce the letter "s" so she calls Simon "Limon." She calls herself "Ladie," and socks are called "locks." Once you know the key, it's pretty easy to understand Sadie.

Simon wins the prize for the best Mother's Day gift: a stretch of 5 hours between feedings last night. I can't tell you how much that meant to me. Friday night was a very rough night (read: up all night) so getting a break on Saturday night was extra appreciated. I also got a new Cuisanart Griddler from the kids. We had one until a week ago when I dropped ours on the floor. It didn't survive so I am thrilled to have a new one. In my new job, I plan to shower my family with paninis, and I need the right equipment.

My other Mother's Day treats were a fantastic work out, wherein I ran 3.1 miles and a 2 hour nap. My tastes are so simple these days. Nothing commercial about sleep and sweat. It has been a perfect day.

Tomorrow I am going by my now-former firm to return keys and finalize some paperwork. Not to harp on fashion, but what do you wear for this occasion? I don't want to wear anything that broadcasts a "walk of shame" vibe, but I do want to transmit professionalism and an air of "maybe in the future we can all work together since there are no burning bridges here." I will have Simon with me and will be fresh out of therapy so my chances of projecting confidence and collegiality are higher than any other morning of the week. Plus, something about carrying around an adorable baby diffuses any lingering or latent tension inherent in this situation. Here's hoping Simon can turn on the charm tomorrow morning as I turn in my bathroom card and get the shoes out from under my desk.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Help Wanted

I know a great law firm looking for a mid- to senior-level associate to do some cutting edge legal work.

Yes, I am now about 48 hours into life WNJ ("with no job") and I have to say, I am embracing it quite wholeheartedly. I was very emotional on Tuesday after the official "voluntary resignation" as my firm is calling it. On Wednesday, the whole subject stung a little less. By this morning, I decided my best days were ahead of me, starting with today. The sun was shining (for a few hours, at least), I took a walk with Simon, Jeff was home safely from DC and gave me a sleep shift longer than I have had since Simon was born, and I was ready to be reborn into this new full-time mom gig. Now, the only thing left to sort out is the COBRA paperwork and returning my iPhone, which is a slightly sore subject because my firm didn't issue me the iPhone, it just let me put my firm email on it. Somehow and somewhere I signed a form saying that at the end of my tenure, I would return the iPhone.


In other news, my next big project is to find my fashion identity as a mom. Sorry, but the Dansko clogs hurt my feet and I am not ready to run around in tennis shoes all the time. It is hard to come up with an impetus to "get dressed" everyday when I know that Simon will spew my own precious breast milk at me and Sadie will probably eat yogurt with her hands and then give me a big hug. I knew how to dress as a lawyer: the pencil skirt, the cardigan, the cute shoes. Where the hell am I wearing Charles and David spectator pumps now? The Mapplewood Park where thugs-in-training swarm the swings? What about all those cute skirts? I don't think I can do tummy time in a J. Crew floral skirt and come out with my joints in the right place. But, does this mean it's all yoga pants and flip flops for me? I guess the point is that I COULD pretty much wear whatever I want and I see moms wearing velour sweatsuits and Nike sandals that look like they stepped out of the Chanel lounge wear collection. The question is: WHO AM I? And, yes, I take fashion choices seriously enough to mean this almost seriously. That's the big question, globally and sartorially. No longer climbing ladder leading to partnership while wearing Ann Taylor separates, I am sort of adrift. That's a good thing. And, it's going to take a while to feel comfortable at this pace and at this place. I don't really see me wearing Lulu Lemon pants and Earth Mother shoes all around, but then again, I never saw myself letting go of law firm life.

When I am not contemplating the big questions, like what shoes does this mother wear, I am wondering where in the hell the pictures of Penelope Cruz's child are? Excuse me, Penelope, but you get to have sex with Javier Bardem and procreate with him, so the least you could do is share pictures of your offspring. Quit being so selfish.

Glad I got that off my chest.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Le Offspring

So far my children are still alive, even though Jeff is out of town and I am out of a job. Yes, I officially tendered my voluntary resignation yesterday. It's all for the best and blah blah blah, but I still feel a little strange that my law firm career is suddenly on hiatus. Like Zenia's departure, it feels a little like a break up to me. I honestly can't believe that there were no part-time options available for working mothers (or fathers), but that actually made my decision easier. I think the legal field and the financial field have a way to go to really be "family friendly."

Oh, well. Law practice can suck it for all I care right now. Guess what job I just decided was the most noble in the world? It's actually a tie between being a mom or being my child. Either way, we're about to find out just how and why it's a full time job to keep children alive all day everyday.

Today was beautiful so Sadie and I went to the opening day at Green City Market to get some free samples and some organic and staggeringly priced foodstuffs. $50.00 later I have some organic lamb sausages and some corn on the cob. My next 45 minutes will be figuring out how to creatively list those items in our household spending spreadsheet without Jeff figuring out I got 4 sausage links and 2 cobs for $50.00.

Monday, May 2, 2011

It's Not You, It's Me

Of global note, last night, hours after I turned off my iPhone and other devices, news broke that Osama Bin Laden had been killed. By the time we heard the news at my house, Bin Laden had already had his proper burial at sea. The news feels surreal, especially since I was pumping breast milk and reading Facebook updates when I found out. I could not figure out what people were saying and why the posts all seemed so patriotic. My right-wing friends seemed to think that Obama has 2012 in the hole. Why? I finally scrolled down and figured out about the assassination. Nothing says "professional working mother" like getting your news from Facebook.


Speaking of being a working mother, it looks like other events of today have cleared a path for me to be more mother and less working. I finally called my firm to find out about options for working part-time or working from home. Incidentally, I made that call with complete ambivalence because I wasn't sure how much I was even willing to work. All I knew is that I am not in a space where working 5 days a week is going to work for me. I can't do it right now because of my attachment to my kids. I am not dragging my breast pump back and forth everyday and hearing from our nanny what milestones my kids are reaching.

Looks like I don't have to.

When I talked to my boss he emphatically and clearly stated that the position is "full time." Actually, he said it was "full time plus," lots of extra hours because they are really busy with discovery and depositions, blah blah blah.

Don't you love it when the universe makes it simple?

I fretted and stewed and cried all weekend, worrying about letting my boss down or burning a bridge. I was literally sick about having to tell him I was struggling with a return to work. But, the fact that there is no wiggle room at all makes my decision easier. I didn't carry these children for 9 months after crying for years about wanting to have a family only to leave them 40-70 hours per week so that I can chase down tax forms from reluctant plaintiffs in employment suits. It's relatively interesting work, but not for that many hours per week at the expense of seeing my children about 5 hours during the week.

I really respect my boss and his clarity. I told him I wanted to sleep on it one more night before giving him a decisionn. So, now I get to screw up my courage and call him again tomorrow to say that I cannot give him what he's asking me for right now. That call will be bittersweet for me, because it means that, for now, a curtain is going down on my era of practicing law. Out with a whimper and not a bang, which is good because I can't deal with a bang right now. I need all the whimpers I can get.

So, the clarity has come even if not generated by my internal process. The tension has lifted because the way has been cleared. Sadie was the happiest I have ever seen her tonight. She was like joy on steroids during her bathtime. I couldn't help but wonder if she knew or sensed what had transpired today or if she just noticed I stopped moping around like a goth teenager. Simon was also very smilely and slept more soundly during his afternoon nap that I have seen him slumber in a long time.

Looks like these two kids just got tickets to the Mommy Express this summer. I have a teaching job at Loyola Law School this fall that will take up about 10 hours per week. It's time to coccoon with my family and come out a different legal butterfly. I am excited. I am humbled. I am anxious. And, I am exhausted from all the feelings this process has brought up. There may also be some denial that I am too tired to combat right now, but I have a night of Simon eating at the mommy buffet to confront and that requires all the energy I have left.

And, that's exactly how it should be for now.

Just for today.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

What's so funny?

Mr. "I only go 3 hours between feedings" Simon laughed his ass off today. Jeff was impersonating Sadie's pronunciation of the word "baby" over and over again and Simon was laughing so hard. I feel really happy to see his joy. It's still kind of weird to hang out with someone who never talks but suddenly will laugh or rip a fart. Who are these people called "babies," that act so strangely?

Speaking of strange, our new interim nanny comes tomorrow for the first time. Monday mornings have been historically hard at our house as I go to early morning therapy and Jeff needs to get working. Zenia could never come very early because she had to get her own children off to school. As we interviewed our interim nanny, we were excited she could come to help us out until our permanent nanny, Sabrina, starts in mid-May. Well, interim nanny, also known as Teresa, has a dentist appointment in what might as well be Iowa tomorrow morning. Thus, yet again, we do the Ellis household scramble on Monday morning.

So, tomorrow I will show the dentally responsible Teresa the ropes at our house. I really don't even know what I will show her except where the diapers are and how baby gates work. Training day here at Chez Ellis.

I will spend the rest of my time praying to Jesus that Simon learns how to sleep longer than 3 hours per stretch because, frankly, I love him to bits, but 3 times a night is starting to grate on my pleasing personality. So, if prayer doesn't work, maybe solid food or jello shots will. But we can't do that until 4 months.