Sunday, February 22, 2015

My Special Day

This week, between planning Mary's second birthday party and celebrating the fourth week of Bobby's life, I turned 33. (Thirty-three!) The juncture between my early and mid thirties. Suddenly, it's been fifteen years since my high school graduation, eleven since my teammates and I walked off the field together for the last time, and eight since I met a fisherman from Cape Cod named Peter. All the moments in life that seem like yesterday are quickly becoming history, and as I blew out yet another candle on Monday, I was left wondering where time has gone.

Lately, the answer has been my children. What seems like a blink of an eye in my life is the entirety of theirs. My 31st, and 32nd and now 33rd just slipped by, huh?

Basically, for the past three years, I've been counting up (and counting down for that matter) in the developmental milestones that make up my kids' lives. Each week and month are more or less defined by their advancements: as they grow from the size of a pomegranate seed to a watermelon, as they add pounds and inches and move into the next size up; as they trade in random smirks for social smiles, roll over, and finally sleep through the night. As they crawl, cruise and walk; say a word, then a sentence, and then sing a whole song. My personal proof points seem piddly in comparison.

Take this week. When I pragmatically reflect on what I've accomplished, I'm at a loss. I slept (or tried to.) I ate. I bathed. But for the most part, I spent my days breastfeeding and filling bottles, changing soiled diapers and laundering teeny tiny outfits marinated in spit up, reading Curious George and watching movies that aren't on your Oscar ballot. There's a reason I've been having writers block - in my fatigued fog, I feel like I don't have much to write about.  

I've heard people say that having kids means putting your life on hold. That essentially, as your time is reallocated to your offspring you surrender your momentum. While I agree that I've let much of my ego stray as a mother, I have never felt that my personal or professional trajectory is on pause. Rather, I believe I have added a new dimension to life and with it, placed it on fast forward. Yes, like anything in life that diverts us, there are days when I want to balk at the things I've lost or replaced or can't quite get to. But in the end, I remember that the work I'm doing these days has only made my life and the lives of the people around me that much richer.  

But I have to admit, that the moments dedicated to me - the 'special days' from my husband, the weekends where visitors make my house a little cozier and my load a lot lighter, and the parties with extra crusty bread, triple chocolate cake, steak frites, and a little bubbly to celebrate me, help make time stand still again. And help me remember just how much I crammed into another amazing year.
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Friday, February 13, 2015

My Daddy Valentine

Last night, I went through two t-shirts again. The first was retired after being drenched with a combination of hormonal sweats and spit up. The second lasted me through breakfast when I was once again showered with more regurgitated milk.

After breakfast, I went through several other maternal skin care regimens. I was peed on three times. I exfoliated with gold fish crumbs. I took a chlorine bath with Mary as I attempted to give her a swim lesson. I did shower, but didn't get a chance to brush my hair. And I dressed for dinner tonight reliant on a natural glow as I am on day, hmmm, 21, no actually 22 without so much as a smear of lip gloss on my face. So ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille.

As Cupid's arrow gets ready to aim and fire at our household tomorrow, I feel like my dapper husband, who Mary calls 'handsome' every morning as he heads off to work, deserves something a little more glamorous.

But then I remember that look. The one he gave Bobby on Saturday as he told me to rest a little longer. He leaned into the baby's bassinet, mouth agape in the biggest, loving smile, and said, 'let's go buddy.' I saw him walk out of the room, no strut out of the room, beaming with pride at his mini me.

And then I remember the look he gave Mary on Wednesday as he was dipping her in concert with Cinderella as Prince Charming waltzed her up and down the grand room of the Royal Ball.

And then there were all the looks he gave me over the past several weeks: As we hand children off from bathing to diapering to PJ stations each night; As he steals a peak at me out of the corner of his eye when we're reading as a family before bed; And as he asks to help me through dazed eyes in the middle of the night as I move Bobby from bed to boob to placate his hunger. Despite the lack of glamour in our life right now, each of these looks tells me one thing: that our household is filled with nothing but love.

Several months ago, as we were evaluating the arrival of Robert into our lives, and calculating the costs that we would incur with two children as our dependents, my mind wandered into a world without kids. Peter said there was a name of it: DINKs. Double income, no kids. Ah. Weekender vacations. Neiman Marcus binges. Five-star restaurants. And a little more champagne than normal.

Instead we have replaced the luxuries that we might be able to afford with diapers and bottles; tantrums and time outs; and a whole lot less sleep. But there's something about all these rigors that has brought my husband and I closer than ever. It's a bond, a private reservation for two, that no VIP couple can beat.

Thank you to my Daddy Valentine for always giving your three babies all your love. Happy Valentine's Day.

And Mary.
And Robert.



Friday, February 6, 2015

Acts of Kindness

One week, perhaps midway through the eighth grade, we were told that we would be abdicating our privileged choir seats at Chapel and turning them over to the fifth graders; my brothers class. It was Random Acts of Kindness Week and they had a special program planned. That Thursday, their class did the readings, delivered the homily, sang 'Let There be Peace on Earth' in two-part harmony, and handed out pins saying 'Practice Random of Kindness' following the service.

I remember the whole thing making me a little teary. It could have been an early bout with hormones, but more likely, the melodic plea from my brother and his classmates struck a chord. They suddenly became the most mature voices in the sacred space. The congregation turned inward, investigating how peace could begin with us.

I took the pin home with me and put it on my bulletin board. It stayed there throughout high school, then came to college with me, lived in the South Side, went back to Notre Dame, and now currently resides in my cubicle at work. It's a constant reminder of that time my brother told me to be an instrument of peace; and an impetus to always practice kindness.

Throughout the years, I've complied; opening the door for a stranger, sending a hand written note to a loved one, giving someone a ride home, buying a drink for a friend, offering some professional advice to a recent college graduate. They were always little things - nothing heroic - but I was hopeful they were meaningful to the recipient.


This week, Mary seemed to get the hang of our new routine around the house. Things just seemed to click in her little mind.
'Two babies!'
'Yes honey, I have two babies.'
'He is, isn't he.'
'Robert hungry.'
'Yes, Mommy needs to feed him.'
'Robert hiccup. Hehehe!'
'Isn't he funny?'
'Robert sleeping.'
'Mommy tired.
Mommy night night.
Daddy play. Basement.'
'Good idea.'

Mary was spot on. Exhaustion compounded by 'snow days', cluster feeding, (very) little sleep, and a high-energy toddler defined the week. Our Pediatrician could see it in my eyes and commented on it yesterday morning. Note to self: wear makeup.

Which is why on Monday, when a random act of kindness knocked at my door, I nearly lost it.

A couple months ago, we got new neighbors: two Domers with four children who like to reenact Notre Dame's fleeting highlights in their front yard. I knew they were nice people from the moment we met, but this week their true kindness was revealed. On Monday evening, around hour 48 of being snowed in by Chicago's fifth worst blizzard, I answered the door. It was Mrs. Domer, delivering dinner: chicken tetrazzini with a note to heat it at 350 degrees for thirty minutes, a salad with dressing on the side, crusty bread, mini ice cream cones for dessert, a juice box for Mary, and WINE(!) for Peter and I.

I was speechless. I had only talked to the woman a handful of times on the street, but I gave her the kind of hug I would give my Mom. Her thoughtfulness and generosity were remarkable to me. It was an act of kindness that blew my piddly ones out of the water, and I didn't know how to thank her other than a note. But she didn't seem to expect anything in return. I guess she has a bigger placard than mine.

So now I have a pin and a glowing example of how to practice kindness in completely unexpected ways. And in a couple months, when I regain some sleep and energy, I promise to pass it on. I know a couple soon to be new mommies in Chicagoland that might just need a home-cooked meal or two. And I'm guessing the kids next door like chocolate chips.

For now, my hourly acts of kindness will be dedicated to this little one's mouth.

Thank you again, a million times over, new neighbors.


Friday, January 30, 2015

Survival of the Cutest

Last night, after we had read Curious George; Plumber's Helper for the third time in a row, I told Mary, lights out, bed time. (Typically, at this time we move from my bed to my rocking chair where we sing a couple songs that ultimately lull her to sleep.) I told her that Daddy was going to take Bobby downstairs and it was just going to be the two of us. She laid down next to me, hugged me tightly, and didn't let go for a good ten minutes. I mirrored her embrace and didn't hurry her along to the crib. A lot had happened in the past five days, and I knew she needed an extra second to absorb some of my strength. This week, I knew I was going to be dealing with a very fragile newborn, but I didn't anticipate that all of us would be a little more delicate as we adjusted to life as a household of four.

On Sunday, I left the hospital with a helpless little six-pound baby that needed my constant attention, as well as warmth, milk and shoulder to spit up on. And I returned to a household that needed me for a whole lot of other reasons.

Even though Bobby's discharge weight was more than a pound heavier than his sister's, I had the same don't-break-the-baby mantra ringing through my head. I was nervous I would break one of his little legs when changing him; I was afraid I would drop him; and I was afraid his sister wouldn't quite understand just how gentle she needed to be around him.  But I soon realized, that we were all susceptible to a little breakage this week.
In a way, we were all in survival mode. And getting through it depended on all of us working together, communicating as well as we could, making sacrifices here and there, and understanding that patience isn't just a virtue, it's a necessity.

As Peter returned to work, it meant securing that Mary would sleep through the night through continuous reinforcement and praise, especially after one very tumultuous tantrum filled night on Sunday.

For Mary, it meant stealing as many minutes walking, dancing, taking bath time swim lessons, singing Cinderella songs, and snuggling with Mommy as possible.

For Bobby, it meant staying out of his sister's line of vision at feeding time.

And for me, it meant listening to my Dad's sage medical advice to not overdo it - to stay off the jogging path, despite my mind's desire to push a little further. Resting when I could were doctor's orders.

Some other things helped as well ...

A sweet incentive here and there: mint chocolate chip ice cream, Hershey's kisses, and BB's magical donuts all did their share.
Extra love from 'two Opas!', Nana and Mimi.
Welcome to the world hugs from Aunt Claire and Uncle Trent ...
Soaking up four generations of family with Oma. 
Bending the rules. Slightly.
Help. More help. And some very thoughtful presents from some very thoughtful relatives.

And just looking at the cutest little face in the world, which melted all of our hearts and quickly erased any sleep deprivation, pain, or heartache that we felt,
Today, we're all one week stronger, happier, healthier, and more in love with baby brother. 


Saturday, January 24, 2015

Hello Bobby

They say you know that baby is bound to arrive any day when you feel a strong nesting impulse kick in. Perhaps because I neglected the urge to bake nut rolls, cook piles of freezer bound goulash, and clean the house from top to bottom this week, I had no sense of when baby #2 would actually make his appearance.

The efforts I did make were less focused on the place we live, but on the people who live it. I made sure Mommy and Daddy got enough sleep. And I took a stab at transitioning big sister from a toddler to a little girl. We tried out her big girl bed, we've been attempting the potty, and I've been bartering away the bottle. She's learned the words patient, and frustration, and gentle, gentle, GENTLE! But unfortunately, she's still sleeping in baby's crib, drinking milk out of baby's bottle, and cramping the space in baby's diaper drawer with her own.

Regardless, when you surprised us by coming into the world yesterday, we were ready for you. 100%. Our loving embrace couldn't have been more eager to snuggle you away from the cold Chicago winter. And along with the camera, which was packed in my hospital bag for the past couple days, I brought a placeholder bedtime book to help reinterpret your birth story.

Good Afternoon Bobby
Loosely based on Goodnight Moon 

In Mommy and Daddy's blue room.
At 1:30 AM, Mommy broke her tummy's water balloon.
And she woke up Daddy to go vroom vroom!
And your sister was sleeping, sound in her bed.
And Mimi was on her way to watch her in our stead.

At the hospital, I was introduced to the delivery room
Where there was a nurse named Martha
And a Dr. named Schied.
And sweet thoughts of your welcome to the world cries.
I laid there waiting for the regular pains to commence.
Schied said we'd be there all day, so they gave me 'pid' to hop the fence.
And then they came. Oh, how they came fast.
And Mommy called for them to bring her relief at last.
Dr. Johnson took his merry old time. But at last he made it.
A prod and pinch later, labor became easy with his cool kit.
I still shivered. I still grasped the bed in pain.
But in comparison to your sister, I stayed perfectly sane.
Before long, it was time to push.
Dr. Halperin told me to do it from my tush.

You were born at lunchtime. 12:41 PM to be exact.
Weighing a whopping 6 pounds, 7 ounces.
Measuring 20.5 inches long.
The sun is coming out. It's a chilly, Chicago day.
So I won't say goodnight, I'll say hello if I may.
Hello Mommy.
Hello Daddy.
Hello Drs. and Nurses.
Hello food. And warm bed.
Hello to TWO Opas.
Hello Mimi and Nana.
Hello Eva.
And Mary.
Hello possibilities, hopes and dreams.
Hello World.
Meet my little Bobby.
I couldn't love you anymore, sweet little boy.

Lo /  Mommy.