Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Daddy's Little Princess

Princess Alyssa... and Lamby
I have always said that Dennis is my rock. And he is. He is calm, while I can be argumentative. He is cool, while I frequently blow hot. He is mellow, while I am loathe to sit still. He is strong, while I frequently feel vulnerable. So every time I see him with Alyssa I feel so lucky and relieved that he is her rock now too.

It's so important to have good role models as you grow up. And it's so important that the first, and ideally, best ones to have are your parents. I recognize that this is our job. It's my job to be the best Mom I can be. And it's Dennis' job to be the best Dad he can be. And I know he is trying... and trying successfully.

I still remember the first night in the hospital. I was exhausted (for lack of a better word), and Dennis was bleary-eyed and tired too... emotionally and physically, I know. And we were alone. My Mom couldn't stay with us and had to go home; and all the friends were gone too. And it was unnerving. The first time Dennis had to change Alyssa's diaper was his first time to change any diaper! And I couldn't help; all I could do was describe what he needed to do. It was a rough night, but here we are 15 months later...

Alyssa usually goes to bed around 8 or 8:30pm. Sometimes, like tonight, we hear a little whimper from her room and one of us will go to her and rock her back to sleep. So Dennis went to check on her and a few minutes later I peeked in the room ever so quietly. There he was holding Alyssa who was fast asleep with her thumb in her mouth. She's so big now that all you see is the swaying of her pink nightgown and arms and legs spilling out of her Daddy's arms. He looked at me through the crack in the door, shook his head silently to shoo me away, all the while still rocking her back and forth - not missing a beat. I just love that.

When he looks at her, I can see his eyes soften. And when she runs to him giggling, my heart melts. In the mornings after she gets ready for daycare, she runs out of her room straight to Daddy to show him her outfit (or shoes, after all she is obsessed with shoes). She is his little princess; Daddy's little princess. In my life, I've never seen anything more wonderful... Dennis and Alyssa: my rock and my light.

Friday, September 24, 2010

I Do This for You...

At about 2:30pm today my temples started to throb; I started to feel nauseous; and I had a slight tightness in my lungs. I'm not ill, nor am I pregnant (yes, I'm sure). I'm nervous. Tomorrow is a big day for me professionally - it is the Alliance for the Great Lakes' annual September Adopt-a-BeachTM Event, part of the International Coastal Cleanup. I spend the better part of the summer, and really of a whole year working towards this day. Last year I didn't organize the event (in Illinois and Indiana) because I was on maternity leave. This year, however, I'm back; I have fabulous assistance; and I have an inspiration - a reason to do my work well, a reason to be even more passionate about my work; I have Alyssa.

I am a volunteer coordinator at a non-profit and I love my job. My job doesn't rake in tons of money, but it rakes in tons of good will and professional satisfaction. More importantly, I work towards the goal of safeguarding the Great Lakes; of protecting my drinking water - Alyssa's drinking water.

Ok, so as I typed the paragraph above I thought it sounded kind of scripted. It's honest and true, but it's kind of a speech I give. A speech that sounds great, but there is more truth behind it that I've wanted to say out loud for some time now. And that is I work in order to be an inspiration for my daughter. I love my career. It's hard work. It's challenging. And it can be frustrating at times. It's just really exhausting to balance work and home life. It's draining - physically and emotionally. But I've realized that I want to keep doing it so that Alyssa will grow up to hopefully be inspired by me. Much as my mother is an inspiration to me in the choices in life she made, I want to be an inspiration to my daughter someday.

So Alyssa, tomorrow is for you. For your drinking water, for your future. I do this for you... and I do this for me.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Lost in the Woods

There is nothing scarier to me than a sick Alyssa. The feeling of helplessness is overwhelming. The loss of control, the desire to give in to panic during an inconsolable crying session - it's like being lost in the woods... by myself... at night. You get the picture.

Ok, so I guess I should also say at this point - for all you family and friends starting to worry - that Alyssa just has a cold. It's nothing major. She has the sniffles: a runny nose, teary eyes, somewhat of a loss of appetite (I say somewhat because she IS a toddler now and starting to get picky about food), and a little cranky at the end of the day when all is said and done. Otherwise, she's still running around, babbling away, and laughing up a storm.

That said, every time she cries in her sleep I jump up and run to her. Every time she rubs her eyes and a tear squeezes out my heart breaks. Every time she sucks in her breath through her mouth or she struggles to breathe through her nose I die a little inside. Yes, yes - very melodramatic sounding, I know. But seriously, this is my reaction - and it's only a cold! Oh, of course I know I'm nuts! That's why I'm sitting here at 12:01 a.m. writing this entry. I know I'm crazy; I know my response is crazy; and I know that if I don't figure out a better way to respond to Alyssa when she's sick I will one day become crazy.

So what do I do? I need to find my way through the woods. I could come up with a long list of responsibilities I have as Mommy to Alyssa that could help me get out of this "panic mode" I've slipped into: wipe her nose, take her temp, make her soup, hold her for as long as she wants (or as long as I need), etc. But then it just occurred to me that really, I only have one job: I need to be a strong and nurturing Mommy to Alyssa - sick or healthy. I need to be there for her. This is about her. This is not about me, it's about her. Essentially, I need to suck it up.

And that is how I just became "un-lost."

Friday, September 10, 2010


Alyssa centering herself
A state of equilibrium. It's not easy to achieve balance. In fact, I think it's one of the hardest things to do. Personally, it's my overarching goal -on a daily basis. I try to balance my thoughts (all the tasks and to-do's for the day between work and home); I try to balance my body (making healthy choices against pushing myself too hard); I try to balance my attention (towards family, friends, the dog, and myself); and I try to balance my soul (reminding myself often that my daily struggles pale in comparison to what else is going on in the world, or even just in my life as a whole).

It's not easy to achieve balance. In fact, I often fail. Much like Alyssa these days who's great on her feet, but she'll still trip; she'll stumble and fall; but she gets back up right away, dusts herself off and keeps going. That's the only way to achieve balance, I think. You've got to work at it, and you've got to keep going.

My biggest struggle is balancing work and home life. I love my career, no question about it. It also helps pay the bills, no question about that either. But if I could have my way, in a heartbeat I would choose to stay home with Alyssa more. As it is now, Thursday nights are my favorite time of the week: because it's technically the start of three whole days in Alyssa-Land. I love working from home on Fridays. Most of my work gets done in the morning before Dennis leaves, and during Alyssa's two nap times. Lunch is a treat -especially now that Alyssa eats the same thing I do. The act of sharing a meal is centering. That is my mid-day achievement of balance. Alyssa balances me. She pulls me away from the challenges of work and brings me back to reality. She lifts my spirits when they're down and battered from a long day's work and pulls me back up. She makes me laugh when the frustrations of the day make me want to cry. And she makes me sigh in contentment when I'm seeing things half empty, instead of half full. I love Fridays.

Alyssa has a great way of achieving her own equilibrium - when she gets too excited, too tired, or too upset, she comforts herself quickly by sucking her thumb. She's learned very early on how to cope and soothe herself on her own. I should learn from my daughter. My own version of the thumb suck is thinking of Alyssa. She is my comfort, she is my safe place, she is my equilibrium. Alyssa balances me.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Bellybuttons & Squigglies

Need I say more?
So my daughter loves to walk around with a finger in her bellybutton and a thumb in her mouth. I think it's absolutely adorable. And it means something more to me... That bellybutton is a cute and constant reminder of the physical connection that Alyssa and I shared for almost nine months. That little dimple in her belly that she is so fond of playing with linked us in the most physical way any two human beings can ever bond. There it is - a cute dimple that Alyssa likes to show off to anyone who will look. I love burying my face in her belly and tickling her. I love that I sometimes spy her bellybutton peeking out of a tiny shirt Alyssa is wearing around the house. And I love that she loves her bellybutton right now. In my heart of hearts I hope that she understands, somehow, someday, why this bellybutton is so loved by Mommy. I hope she doesn't let go of this adorable habit yet.

Now what on earth are squigglies? Well if you must know, a squiggle is a squirmy wiggle. Or, as I like to apply it to Alyssa, a squirmy wiggler! And today, as I was carrying Alyssa up the stairs after picking her up from daycare, she kept squiggling and trying valiantly to leave my arms. It occurred to me that almost from the moment she was born, Alyssa has been doing just that... squiggling away from me. That thought made me sigh deeply. Because really, that's what children do, right? Their job is to squiggle away. Meanwhile, mommies must watch, support, and cheer on our precious babies no matter how hard it is to let them go.

So precious Alyssa, as you set out to conquer the world
, know this: Mommy will always hold dear the thought of two very silly sounding things - bellybuttons and squigglies - and I hope someday you'll realize how much both of them mean to me.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Mommy Instinct

It's 11:46pm and I'm sitting here stewing. We have no water! There is a water main break somewhere near our neighborhood and the city is working to fix it. This is the first time this has ever happened to me in Chicago since I moved here in 2004. As soon as Dennis determined that it wasn't just us, I called the city's hotline immediately and filed a complaint and demanded a case number. Not more than 10 minutes later I demanded that Dennis call them back and follow up. I have also emailed everyone in my condo building to do the same. I have searched my alderman's website to figure out how to get in touch with him after hours, to no avail of course, and have seethed that I couldn't. I have, of course,  in my mind, strangled every city official that is remotely connected to our lack of water.

I have quite literally, flown into a panic about not having water - my first thought being 'no water for Alyssa.' Not that she really needs it more than any of us do in the house. First of all, my in-laws are in town and I have a stack of dishes in the sink from a long, leisurely dinner earlier tonight. Surely those two reasons require water first, or at the very least, before my quietly sleeping 14 month old who has a gallon of milk and tons of filtered water that's sitting in the fridge. Nonetheless, I am upset [sic] because... well, because my Mommy instinct has kicked in.

I just realized that. It just occurred to me that my Mommy instinct is alive and well! I guess I should be rejoicing. Certainly, one of my fears while pregnant with Alyssa was that I wouldn't have that Mommy instinct once she arrived. How does a new Mom go about getting it anyway? Is it something that just magically turns on after you've put in the requisite number of contractions and pushed enough times to move a small mountain? Or is it something that slowly descends on you like a magical gift the first few hours after you hold your little bundle of joy in your arms? I don't really know what the answer is - which one of my guesses is correct, or if the actual answer is not one I came up with here. Bottom line, however I came about getting it - the Mommy instinct - I'm glad it's here. And I suspect it's been here all along. But it's just really nice to find out I've got "it." Now where's that damn water?!