The Princess and the Pea

April 1, 2011 at 8:24 am | Posted in little bug, Uncategorized | 5 Comments
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My iPhone was lost. Little O had been playing with it in the morning, holding it to his ear and waddling around going, “Hi! Hi!”. I remember he handed it back to me. And then I remember going into Little Buggy’s room to get her dressed for school. Had I brought the phone in to her room with me? I didn’t remember doing so. But I needed to find it quickly because I had a big day planned: I would drop Buggy at school and head to the Wrentham Outlets, then I would drive to Wellesley to meet a friend for lunch. Little O must have turned off the ringer flip on the side when he was chewing on it, so calling it from the landline didn’t help. I tossed my room (stripped the bed, emptied the hamper, crawled around the floor). I tossed O’s room. I tossed Little Bug’s room, shaking out the blankets on her bed as well. No iPhone.

How could I drive to Wrentham or Wellesley without my GPS? Without my email? Without texting? Ridiculously addicted to the iPhone, I decided to forgo the big adventure. I told myself it was because I was too nervous that our nanny or the school couldn’t get in touch with me in an emergency (which is of course absurd because they could have called Tim or one of the other half-dozen contacts on our emergency call sheet…) I walked around the rest of the day feeling a bit unsettled. What if someone important were trying to call me (no one has my landline number anymore)?

Tim got home that night after the children were asleep. We searched our room some more, quietly searched the children’s room. Then, being a true Apple Geek, he downloaded onto my iPad an app called “Find My iPhone” which, if you have  MobileMe (and, if you don’t, let my story be a strong encouragement to purchase it immediately!), will somehow make your phone ring even if the ringer is off! After downloading the app, I heard a faint ringing from upstairs. Good, at least it was in the house. I sourced it to Little Bug’s room. It seemed to be coming from her bed. That was strange: she was asleep in her bed, and anyway I had unmade it and remade it earlier in my frantic hunt. Rolling her over, I saw the faint glow from under her fitted sheet. Under her fitted sheet — there was no way that the phone could have “accidentally” gotten there.

The next morning, while we made up her bed I said, “Remember how Mommy was looking for her phone yesterday?” “Yes.” “Do you know where I found it?” “Where?” “Under your sheet?” “Oh, yeah!” “Did you put it there?”

“Yes, I wanted to see if I could feel a lump.”

Oh, my fairy tale-loving daughter, to whom we have been reading “The Princess and the Pea” for several weeks. I didn’t even try to choke back my laughter.

“Don’t do that again, OK?” I said, tears streaming out of my eyes.

“OK, Mama!”

Circle Time

February 17, 2011 at 12:11 pm | Posted in little bug, the firm | 4 Comments

When I dropped off Little Bug at preschool this morning, her teacher came rushing up to me to inform me about circle time yesterday. It is “community helpers” week at school, and at circle time, the children stood up and talked about community helpers they knew. William’s dad is a firefighter; Mary Kate’s mom is a nurse; Emerson’s mom is a doctor; and so on. Apparently, when it was Buggy’s turn she jumped up and said, “My mommy is a FANTASTIC LAWYER!”

Let’s not get all semantic about whether or not I actually qualify as a “community helper.” Anyone who talks to me regularly knows that I am feeling low, low, low about my job as of late (mostly my ability to do it well and what the hell am I doing with my life). Sometimes, a boost of confidence can come from the unlikeliest of sources — such as one’s three-year-old.

Of course, I too am the daughter of a FANTASTIC LAWYER. So it is no small thrill that my daughter gave me a circle time shout out.

Report card

February 9, 2011 at 8:42 am | Posted in little bug | 1 Comment
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Little Buggy got her first preschool report card. She was evaluated in areas such as gross motor development (“catches a large ball” or “claps and stomps to a rhythm”), fine motor development (“holds crayon with thumb and fingers”), self help skills (“cleans up own spills”), cognitive development (“is able to sit during whole group time” or “recognizes written name”), language development (“uses I, you, me, he, and she correctly”), and social/emotional development (“initiates activity during play,” “shares,” and, my favorite, “tolerates reasonable delays”). She received a “P” (for proficient!) in all areas except for “uses scissors” (“needs a little help with form,” her teacher wrote) and “puts on jacket, hat, mittens, and shoes.” Apparently she “has a little trouble with the second mitten.”

I find the whole concept of a three-year-old report card incredibly cute. Of course there is value in understanding your child’s age-appropriate development. I suppose there are children who would not get a “P” in “is able to sit during whole group time.” I would also be concerned if my child were having trouble “Pointing to and naming basic colors.” Certainly, I would work on that.

I shared her report card with our nanny, a former pre-school Montessori teacher who went all Amy Chua.* “She puts on both her mittens at home,” she huffed. (And, indeed, just that morning our nanny had told me how good Buggy was getting at getting herself dressed for snow play — a big endeavor when you are 3, what with all the snowpants and boots and mittens.) And then she said she would go out and buy children’s scissors today. “I noticed that you don’t have any,” she said, rather accusingly.

Ah, well. So it begins.

*Speaking of which, I just finished Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. I really like Amy Chua after reading the entire story. I think she got a very bad rap in the press coverage by people who did not actually read the book. Or, if people did read the book, those people have no sense of humor. She is bitingly funny, self-deprecating, and a sharp observer. Obviously the Wall Street Journal excerpt was carefully selected and edited to sell books. And obviously it worked. But the entirely of the story is a unique entry into the field of parenting tomes. It is a quick, light read, and I enjoyed it immensely. Part of me thinks she is insane in the way that all super-over achievers are insane. But her love for her daughters is at the heart of the book and, in the end, that is what resonates.

The juggle

January 17, 2011 at 8:39 am | Posted in little bug, Little O, SAHM, the 'burbs, the firm, Uncategorized, weekend | 6 Comments

Yesterday morning, I drove the children to a suburb north of the city for a playdate. My friend has three children — a little girl just a week younger than Little Bug, and twin 17-month-old boys. She and I were classmates in college, and while we were friendly then, we didn’t know each other well. We reconnected a few years ago when our girls were infants — we lived just blocks from each other in the Back Bay and were both attorneys. Because she went right from college to law school, she is now a partner at her firm. Nevertheless, we have many of the same experiences being mothers and lawyers. Our girls play really well together, and Little O had fun chasing after the “big” boys. As the kids traipsed around her sunny playroom, we caught up in bits and snatches, and I found myself saying, “Now that we have such a great nanny, it’s really pretty doable.” And I believe that: with quality, reliable daycare, the working parent is free to pursue his or her career with much less anxiety. If the children are happy and well cared for, you can spend your days at work focusing on work, as opposed to worrying about what is going on at home. Our excellent nanny has made that possible for me.

But, then, there are the weekends. And holidays, such as today. When there is no nanny and, yet, because of the nature of our particular careers, we still have work to do. On weekends, Tim and I find ourselves in a seemingly never-ending negotiation about who gets to work when. Today, for example, he is going into the office from 10-3. He asked his mother to come over and help me out, which just means she and I will probably take the children to lunch at the local diner, and maybe she can stay with the baby while he naps and I can take Little Bug to the market with me or something. Fine — I’m grateful for the company and the ability to get some errands done. But I also have about three or four hours of work that I should do before tomorrow — two hours of which I absolutely have to do before tomorrow. When will I do mine? Before 10 or after 3, I suppose. When Tim works on weekends, I don’t begrudge him the time away from our family so much as I feel guilty that I should be working and I’m not. I don’t actually work all that often on weekends — but I always feel like I should be doing so (everyone else at my office seems to be) — and so when Tim steals away to put in a few hours himself, it reminds me that I’m probably slipping behind.

If I weren’t working at all, would these weekend tensions ease? Maybe not because I might feel like the weekends were family time or my time — a break, perhaps, from a long week spent taking care of the children. That would be a different negotiation between my husband and me. But I wouldn’t feel this constant sense of inferiority to my own colleagues, one that I fear manifests itself in my relationship with my hard-working spouse. In a two-career family, does one spouse’s career necessarily take priority over the other’s? And is that the career of the highest earner? It seems that things would shake themselves out this way, but I don’t feel like I’m in the type of job — junior associate at a big law firm — where my career can take second fiddle and maintain any sort of longetivity. Just as I’m starting to feel like maybe I am doing the right thing (and have the childcare to make it possible, at least during the week), I’m reminded that — while many of my colleagues are in the office on weekends and holidays — that will never be me, and I’ll probably never really measure up. This is frustrating, and I feel terrible that sometimes my family bears the brunt of this frustration.

New Year’s – again? (as in, already?)

December 31, 2010 at 1:57 pm | Posted in little bug, Little O, music, not yet written, NYC, read this, running, SAHM, Starbucks, tax law is sexy, the firm, Uncategorized, wine, yoga | 1 Comment
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You know I love New Year’s resolutions. Two years ago, my resolutions were clearly defined and yet highly unattainable. Last year, they centered around  simply finding happiness (hot showers, more wine, more yoga…). I understand why people eschew resolutions in that they set unachievable expectations, leading to disappointment, etc. etc.  Looking back over the past two years, it’s clear that I’m not one who makes resolutions and actually sticks to them, but I do get a lot of pleasure out of making them (in that I set up some sort of idealized vision of the future?). This year, I’m less able to articulate my New Year’s resolutions — I have some vague ideas about living more simply, lowering instead of raising my expectations, and trying to exist in some sort of more tempered universe. Of course, in the back of my head is a little voice saying, “Run more! More yoga! Spend less money!” but at the end of the year that included birth and death and health issues and lots and lots of sleepless nights — and somehow, in the midst of it all, a growing sense of contentment — I’m going to resist the urge (at least publicly) to enumerate my Resolutions.

Instead, my friend Lindsey had a fun and introspective little survey/questionnaire on her blog this morning, which I’m going to adopt. I’m answering these less thoughtfully than I otherwise might (blogging, as I am today, in the short window of Little O’s nap!) But maybe that will make my answers more honest.

What did you do in 2010 that you’d never done before? I spent seven months as a stay-at-home mom. I took a weekend trip to Florida with my college girlfriends. I participated in a competitive blogging challenge. I went three (almost four — since September 1, basically) months without running. This last one sounds like a crazy thing to list, but it actually imparted to me an important lesson. I used to think I needed to exercise for weight-maintenance. Eleven months of nursing, however, took care of that for me, and I realized that running in fact gave me much more than the ability to wear skinny jeans. If I have any resolutions at all for 2011, it is to remember that running keeps me sane, not thin.

Did you keep your new year’s resolutions and will you make more for 2011? Of course not. And of course — albeit with a more measured approach, I hope.

Did anyone close to you give birth? Yes! I did! But also my sister. And several close friends and seemingly half the tax department at my firm (literally — nine women in my relatively small department had babies this year!).

Did anyone close to you die? My great-uncle. And, just last week, a close family friend.

What countries did you visit? None. Sigh. Again, if I do have a resolution for 2011, it is to “remember Italy” (a metaphor and theme in a striking book I read recently, This Is Not the Story You Think It Is by Laura Munson — see Lindsey’s interview with her, here) — although in my case, it would “Remember Paris.” More on this in another post.

What would you like to have in 2011 that you lacked in 2010? Patience. Acceptance. Faith. Confidence.

What was your biggest achievement in 2010? Having a healthy baby would have to be it. But I’m also proud of myself for going back to my job. It wasn’t clear I was going to, but I do think it was the right choice, and perhaps the first time in my life I’ve done something truly rational, career-wise.

What was your biggest failure? A few work-related ones come to mind. But mostly I regret the times I’ve been short-tempered with Little Bug and a less-than-present daughter, sister, friend, and wife. I didn’t put down my iPhone/work email enough to stay focused on my family.

Did you suffer illness or injury? I feel like I’ve been sick a lot this year — an immune system no doubt compromised by severe sleep deprivation and preschool germs.

What is the best thing you bought? My iPhone and Pilates. (Am I a yuppie or what?)

Where did most of your money go? Starbucks and J. Crew. Ha ha, just kidding. Sort of.

What did you get really excited about? My girls’ weekend in Florida. My husband would tell me that I’m being all “Joy Luck Club,” but oh, god, there was something so refreshing and invigorating and inspiring about spending three days with the women who were with me when I became the woman I am, the women who have been there for me for the biggest hardships and greatest joys in my life, the women with whom I speak an abbreviated shorthand language and who can finish my sentences. And now, at this stage of our lives, the women with whom I can discuss my career, daycare, siblings, husbands and parents. Even though they may not be part of my day-to-day life, the are a part of the foundation of my life.

What song will always remind you of 2010? Have I listened to so little music that I can’t answer this? Probably, however, something country (since that is all Tim and I seem to listen to these days). I really like that song Welcome to the Future by Brad Paisley, though I suspect that was not released in 2010. OK, so, maybe I’ll make another resolution: listen to more music. It makes me happy — just as Glee made me so so happy this year.

Compared to this time last year, are you:

— happier or sadder? Happier
— thinner or fatter? Well, as I was eight months pregnant, this isn’t really a fair question!
— richer or poorer? It’s probably not a good thing that I can’t really answer this literally, but I imagine that since we spent most of 2010 paying two mortgages, poorer!

What do you wish you’d done more of? I wish I’d written more — here on this blog and elsewhere. I have a great idea for another blog, but I can’t seem to find the time to make it happen. I wish I could let myself go with my children — really play with them, focus on them wholly, without thinking about what’s next (be it cleaning up lunch, or what’s for dinner, or how much work I have, or even who has posted what on Facebook).

What do you wish you’d done less of? I wish I had spent less time agonizing over my job — both preemptively before I went back and then also on a daily basis once I was back. I think it affected my relationships with my family. It’s just a job. It’s not the greatest, most important job in the world, it’s not the end of the world, and I’m not a victim. I have to remember this.

How did you spend Christmas? As we do every year, in New Jersey, with my whole big crazy family. We snuggled in during a blizzard and took Little Bug in to New York City to the Museum of Natural History the day after the blizzard — rather ill-advised when it took us 4.5 hours and four different trains to get home!

Favorite TV program? Glee and The Good Wife.

Favorite books? I actually had a lot of time to read and finished more books than I have in years, both fiction and nonfiction. In the former category, the three books that stand out are: Dear Money by Martha McPhee, Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese, and Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson. They weren’t earthshaking, but I just loved each one. In the nonfiction realm I really liked No Ordinary Time by Doris Kearns Goodwin (the Roosevelts on the home front in WWII) and The Gift of an Ordinary Day by Katrina Kenison.

Favorite films? I only saw one movie in the theater this year — Eat, Pray, Love. (But I loved it. Sue me for my questionable taste!) Recently, I’ve seen The Town and The Kids are Alright on OnDemand, and, surprisingly, liked both (as you know, my taste in movies runs towards the saccharine, e.g., Eat Pray Love…)

What did you do on your birthday and how old were you? I can’t even really remember my 36th birthday! Luckily, I blogged about it. It was spring, and I was still home on maternity leave, and Tim took me to a local Italian joint for dinner because I was craving a real Bolognese.

What one thing would have made your year more satisfying? Just knowing from the start that I was going to go back to my job and that it would all be OK.

How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2010? I have to divide this in to two parts: January – September and September – December. In the former, it was black yoga pants and spit-up stained black t-shirts. In the latter, it was black Theory pants or skirt and cashmere cardigans or blazers.

What kept you sane? Red wine. For reals. And phone calls with my mother. Daily, sometimes twice a day. Also, emails and texts from my hilarious friends.

Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2010? You are not your job. In fact, I suspect that nobody really cares what you do except for you. You’re not a victim of some amorphous FIRM that is out to get you (a la John Grisham?) — you’ve made your choice and you can unmake it at any time. You’re not trapped.  Also, even though you may get frustrated that your husband doesn’t like to hash out the nuances of your day, he is listening. More important: baby boys may not sleep and pre-school girls may whine, but it’s all doable. You can be much happier being grateful for what you have than wanting more, more, always more — this easier said than done, of course, especially for me, but slowly, slowly I feel like I’m on the verge of grasping this. I haven’t actually grasped it yet, but at least its a tangible concept now, something I can turn over in my mind, rather than something completely inaccessible.

Dear Santa

December 17, 2010 at 10:00 pm | Posted in little bug | 3 Comments
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Dear Santa,

If one’s three-year-old dictates a letter to you and asks for

a “princess wind-up toy box that plays beautiful music,”

and then, in every subsequent meeting with you (of which there have been several, to her delight and, happily, utter non-confusion), asks for the same,

do you think she means a wind-up princess music thing-y (which isn’t actually a “box”),

or a wind up music box that just so happens to feature a ballerina (not a princess)?

Both have been, um, acquired. But I am at a loss as to which should be under the tree Christmas morning.

All advice welcome.

Thank you. Merry Christmas. I love you, Santa, too.

The Nanny Diaries

December 15, 2010 at 8:18 pm | Posted in little bug, Little O, SAHM, the firm, Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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Sometimes I am convinced I am working to afford a wife.

After Little Bug was born, we hired a nanny.  Janet was a shy, 40-something mother from the Caribbean who was an unassuming balance to Tim’s and my rather type-A, talkative personalities. Leaving a new baby for the first time with a stranger is terrifying. Janet came highly recommended by a friend of a friend, and all I wanted was for her was to love and keep my baby safe.  Which she did — I couldn’t have asked for more.

But also: I didn’t know to ask for more.  For the first year JJ worked for us I was still in law school, and she only worked part-time. When I started at my firm, we upped her hours, but never discussed her doing anything other than what she had already been doing so well: strolling Buggy around the Back Bay in the Bugaboo, swinging her on the swing, reading her stories, cooking her spicy chicken curries.

Then we moved to the suburbs and had another baby. For a variety of reasons — most of which had to do with my fear of other people driving my children around — I decided not to hire another nanny when my maternity leave ended (JJ didn’t stay with us through my long, seven-month leave). Little O went to a wonderful family-based daycare where the majority of the working moms I knew in town (and, granted, I don’t know that many people yet!) sent their children. For Little Bug, I took advantage of her preschool’s full-day option.

I went back to work September 1. By October 15 we had to make a change. Trying to pick up two kids in two different spots by that hard, 5:30 deadline was difficult even when the Expressway didn’t have one of its usual afternoon fender benders. Then we’d get home and I’d throw together some dinner (which my exhausted toddler usually didn’t want). The kids were melting down, they were dirty, they were tired. And so was I.

A very senior associate — a friend and mentor whose career and family-life choices I admire more than perhaps anyone else at my firm — had a come-to-Jesus talk with me. “You have to hire a nanny,” she said. “Like, now. And you have to hire more than a nanny — you need a household manager.”

Two weeks later, it was done. I pulled Little O out of daycare and scaled Little Buggy back to mornings-only at preschool. Gail showed up at 7:30 a.m. in her fleece (spit-up friendly!) sweatshirt with a steaming travel mug of coffee, and all of our lives changed for the better. Now she oversees the end of the children’s much more leisurely breakfast — Little O still in his pajamas — while I finish getting ready. Tim or I still drop off Little Bug at school. Gail spends all morning with Little O (one-on-one attention this poor second child rarely gets!), and then picks up Buggy at 1 p.m. In the afternoons she takes them on outings — the library, the Children’s Museum, the playground. They make crafts (which you know I wouldn’t do!). She cooks them dinner and gives them a bath. And I come home and get to play with my well-napped, wet-haired, pajama-clad kids.

She also takes care of me. A good friend once told me she thought her nanny was the only person who had her, my friend’s, back. When Gail started, I immediately felt the same way. Gail makes sure I have my own travel mug of coffee when I walk out the door. Before she started, the house always felt like a disorganized disaster, the laundry never done, and we were always running out of something essential — orange juice, Cheerios, diapers. I now come home to a calm, straightened up, orderly house where the laundry is folded and — get this — dinner is plated and tented with tin foil, waiting for me to heat up after I put the kids down.

She’s a better “mom” than I would be were I home. I mean it. Ok, well, she’s a better “housewife” at any rate. A repair person can come if we need it, library books are returned before we’re fined, and she can run to the market for milk. Of course, the obvious flip side is that I have to work my crazy job to afford a professional like Gail — and she is a true professional. She is former preschool teacher and a mother who considers nurturing children her calling.

But she also sees it as her job to make our home run smoothly. Every time I have an idealistic (or even realistic) urge to chuck it all and stay home with the children I think, “I wouldn’t have Gail!”  Being a household manager-type isn’t my natural affinity to begin with, so it was increasingly stressful for me to try to be both lawyer and house manager (i.e., housewife). Am I working, then, to be able to hire someone to — apart from caring for my children — do what I would do were I not working?  I might just be. And I’m a bit unsettled as to whether I’m actually OK with that…

On second thought…

December 6, 2010 at 9:34 am | Posted in little bug, Little O, SAHM | 1 Comment
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Remember how last week I wrote this really upbeat post about how I loved my job and how great it was, in essence, to be a fabulous working mom?  Just kidding. 

Today: Monday morning. More work than I can possibly get done in my “reduced time” 8:30-4:30 day.  I left a croup-y baby at home, clutching his right ear and rasping out a barking, snotty cough-cry hybrid (while making a mental note of course to call the pediatrician while on drive into work so the nanny can take him in…).  My three-year-old screamed from the second she woke up until somehow we got her out the door (breakfast: baggie of goldfish and a sippy cup of apple juice for the car. Mmmm, healthy…). She wanted to wear this no not this that, no not those underpants, I can’t go to the potty I’m too cold (OK, let’s get dressed), no I can’t get dressed until I go to the potty.  A friend refers to them as “threenagers” – ha. Perfect. It’s like being two-and-a-half again, yet more articulate and thus able to throw ever more spectacular tantrums. Anyway, my husband comes in to help and the shrieks grow louder, “NO I WANT MOOOOMYYYYYYYY!!!”

I get in the car late already and, already, defeated. Both of my children need me this morning. And all I can think about is how I’m going to get x, y, and z emails out before 9 a.m. I may be wearing nice clothes, but I have bags under my eyes from being up in the night with the croupy baby. I can’t fool anyone. Am I fooling myself?

How did I get here?

December 1, 2010 at 8:27 am | Posted in little bug, SAHM, Starbucks, tax law is sexy, the firm, weekend | 2 Comments

Sick Little Bug, with the “ellie”, watching our favorite movie, Madeline. Actually, her favorite movie might be anything featuring Dora (groan). But this is mine!

We’re all a little run down at our house. As usual, I packed too much into our Thanksgiving weekend. It was wonderful: we visited with my baby nephew and a whole slew of Murphys and beloved cousins; we invited some of our new neighbors and friends over for cocktails (so adult! so suburban!); and we celebrated my brother-in-law’s 40th at an 80s-prom-themed birthday, complete with 80s DJ and several costume changes for the birthday boy (insane). Against my better judgment, I sent Little Bug to school yesterday with tired tired eyes and feeling slightly warm (I asked repeatedly if she wanted to stay home but she begged to go to school), and so of course by 9:30 the head of the school called to say she was running a fever and had to come home.

She is inordinately sweet when sick (so much so that we realized yesterday morning that she was probably ill when she kept repeating over and over, “I love you, Mommy. I love you, Daddy. I love my baby brother…” etc. etc.).  This morning it was difficult to walk out the door when she kept running over for “one more big hug. No, wait, just one more kiss!”

As is often the case, though, by the time I got to work and navigated the Starbucks line downstairs, my mind was focused on my day’s client meetings, conference calls, and revisions. By the time I rode the elevator up to my office, with its sweeping views over the Charles, the Salt and Pepper Bridge and MIT, and the airport, I was happy I was here. Happy because sometimes I still get a little thrill that wait, I’m really a lawyer. I wear lawyerly clothes to work (today: Theory shift dress, black tights, heels, and a tweedy, Chanel-esque [emphasis on the “esque“] jacket in honor of my client meeting). I have conference calls and meetings with clients in glassy conference rooms on the top floor of our skyscraper building. I write and say things like, “It is reasonable to conclude that…”

Yesterday, I looked on as a very senior partner marked up a document I had drafted. His lawyerly edit marks mirrored those my father used to scratch on the reams and reams of documents he brought home. Again, I thought: I’m a part of this tribe — a life so familiar to me as a child, but one that I still can’t wrap my head around that I actually inhabit and perpetuate. 

My mind will, of course, be half at home all day, thinking of my sick little girl. But I also know that, all the usual BigLaw firedrills and false deadlines and general anxiety aside, I do like what I do. And this is what is sometimes very hard to reconcile with my life “at home.”

Many many thanks

November 25, 2010 at 9:23 am | Posted in little bug, Little O | 1 Comment

It’s too easy to simply rattle off a list of that for which I’m thankful. There is the obvious: that I’m employed in a shaky economy and that we don’t want for anything material. That I have healthy children. That I have a supportive, healthy husband.

I’d like to think I’m unconsciously thankful all the time, not just on this one day where we’re sort of forced to think about and articulate gratitude. Yet I’ll admit that I can be a glass-half-empty, grass-is-always-greener type of person (I think this stems from a life-long struggle to be “perfect” rather than inherent negativity in my personality). Articulation of my gratitude, then, while it might feel forced at Thanksgiving, is never a bad thing. And this year, especially, my “thanks” extends to some not-so-obvious things. So I’ll do so here, in this quasi-public forum, if only so that by sending my feelings of peace and gratitude out into the ether, I can solidify them in my heart.

Little O, surrounded by some of his “big” cousins

I’m thankful for my brand new baby nephew. I have 14 nieces and nephews on my husband’s side of the family whom I’ve gotten to know over the past four years — from the youngest, a shy six-year-old, dark-eyed beauty; to a tall, blonde, imaginative 12-year-old; to my Irish nieces who spent the summer with us; to the strapping Columbia University football star; to the oldest, my 27-year-old “nephew” (I have trouble thinking of him in that somewhat diminutive term!) an intelligent charmer and fellow English major whom I wish we saw more. They have enriched my life and I love them each. But this year, just one month ago, after years of wait and hope and determination, my sister had a baby. He is perfect, of course. To witness your sister have a child of her own, and become a mother, and then, also, to love a child who is not your own but yet is your blood — well, that has been more overwhelming that I would have known. I’m grateful that my sister and her husband were open to all avenues that would get them their baby.  I’m in awe that my sister kept her spirits up as her friends, one by one, had babies of their own. I’m amazed by modern science. As I watch my baby boy crawl around the feet of his cousin (safely snuggled in a bouncy seat), I imagine them growing up the best of friends. And I’m so, so grateful.

And, then, there is Health, with a big capital “H”. My father died 11 years ago after having cancer for more than two years, and so of course I understand that health is not something to be taken for granted. But in those 11 years we healed and recovered and we all stayed healthy and, once again, I started to take it for granted. This fall, in the course of a month, both my mother and beloved stepdad were in the hospital for heart issues. A strange coincidence, but it was a month of uncertainty and, yes, fear. When you lose a parent, the health of your remaining parent becomes paramount. The anxiety I felt during my dad’s illness began to creep back into my life, especially as my mother was in the hospital for 7, 8, 9, 10 days without an answer. We have an answer now, we think, and both my mom and stepdad seem to be doing fine. Medicated and a bit shaken, but fine. In that crazy month, too, a dear family friend was diagnosed with a horrific form of lung cancer. He will be dead by the end of the year, most likely. So we’re all feeling a bit vulnerable this holiday season, but, as a result, hopefully more aware of our health and our family and the time we have together. Mom and Hank have themselves adopted a kind of “carpe diem” mentality. This is not a bad way to live, and it has mitigated some of general life anxiety I often feel.

To Health, then, and babies, and family, and the present moment. Eat well and drive safely today. Thank you for reading, whoever you are. You keep me writing and connected and thoughtful. A wonderful gift.

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