As December demands, I've been thinking a lot about this past year. In my life, even years tend to hold the most significant life changes. I was born in an even year, as was my husband and my younger brother. I graduated high school, college, and graduate school in even years. Both times I had pericarditis were even years. I got married in an even year. And - of course - my daughter was born in an even year.
In retrospect, 2009 was really a placeholder of a year. "Waiting" pretty much sums up everything that defined it - waiting for a new job for Michael, for the right time to start a family, for Alice's arrival, for a move to a new apartment, for something to change at my job. And all that waiting paid off in 2010 - Michael has a job that is a much better match for our lives right now, Alice is here, we live in a new, family-friendly apartment, and I've taken on additional responsibilities at work. It was a year when things happened for us, and that's an amazing thing.
What an exciting couple of days we've shared, my sweet girl!
On Christmas Eve, you learned how to crawl!! You've been preparing for this day for about a month now, getting up on your hands and knees, shifting front to back, back to front. And then, all of the sudden, everything clicked - you started crawling! You haven't stopped since, my dearest, skipping nap upon nap upon nap just to keep practicing. Your new skill is a bit terrifying for your daddy and me - life as we know it is basically over now that you're mobile - but we're thrilled for you, sweet baby.
And, to top things off, yesterday was Christmas!! This was only the second time your daddy and I have celebrated here in New York, and we had a lovely time. You woke us up at 7:30, ready to jump out of your crib and play. We opened presents under the tree, gifts wrapped just so you would have some fun tearing apart the paper. You were a little overwhelmed by all the commotion, but we had fun opening bath toys and Christmas books and an Apple TV and a play table. You gave your daddy a subscription to a book-of-the-month club at our favorite bookstore downtown. We Skyped with Grandma LeeLee and Bumpa, showing off your new crawling skills and big Christmas smiles, and then attended mass at the Church of the Ascension. You look too adorable for words, wearing a beautiful red Christmas dress courtesy of Grandma LeeLee. Then we went to celebrate the day with brunch at Aunt Anna & Uncle John's house. We stuffed our faces, opened more gifts, and enjoyed time with our New York family.
By the time we got back to our house, we were all exhausted, darling dear. We spent the rest of the day vegging out in front of the TV, playing with toys and watching you move.
It was a wonderful Christmas, baby girl. Thank you!
So apparently it is December 17th?! How on earth did that happen?
I had big plans for this holiday season. Since it's Alice's first, I dreamed of taking her to see all kinds of lights - the Rockefeller Christmas Tree, the windows on 5th Avenue, the Bronx Zoo all decked out in holiday cheer. And yet here we are, with Christmas just a week away, and we have yet to do much of anything to celebrate the season.
We did manage to decorate our lovely Christmas tree this week. Michael and I have enjoyed some quiet time in front of it, savoring the lights and the peace and the hope that this magical (albeit mysterious) symbol brings. When my brother and I were growing up, our parents would let us spend at least one night on the floor in front of the Christmas tree. We would unearth our otherwise dormant sleeping bags and spend the night getting excited for Santa and all of his goodies - and later, just enjoying the holiday spirit.
There's lots more to say, but it's time to go to bed... There will be Christmas cheer this weekend, and I can't wait to share it with Alice and Michael. And you, my dear blog.
I should go get me some. Alice woke me up for a feeding and a diaper change, but just went back down to sleep. I have about an hour and 17 minutes (but who is counting?) before my alarm goes off to start yet another hectic week.
But I find myself awake and resisting the return to bed. The house is so blissfully quiet, and I'm not-so-seriously considering just putting the water on for tea now and sitting quietly, peacefully in the guest room until the day begins.
Alas, I think sleep will win this time... Goodnight!
As M mentioned, I have been in Atlanta for the past few days, attending a CDC conference. And, as most of you know, my mom is from a small town in Georgia, about 70 miles north of Atlanta.
Today, as I was passing through security in the airport on my way home, I was sandwiched between two very vivid reminders of my mom. In front of me stood an Army cornel dressed in dessert camo. Behind me was a woman with a lovely southern twang. When I overheard this woman say she was "tickled" every time someone looks at her drivers license photo, I was hit with an overwhelming desire to hear from my mom. "Tickled pink" is something my mom likes to say.
And so, before I knew it, I was asking the army cornel if he was, by chance, on his way to Afghanistan. He looked at me kindly and said, no, he hoped not to go there again. I said, "Well, my mamma is there, so I had to ask, just in case you might see her there." Of course I said all this with an appropriate southern twang.
This brief exchange - the southern phrase that my mom loves to say, the humble, human interaction with a soldier - lasted all of 1 minute. But it left me heartened while walking through the Atlanta airport. Because for some reason, I felt like my mom knew I was reaching out for her.
Heaven must be like walks with a baby in the fall in New York.
Today, after a very early train ride and an afternoon nap, I took Alice for a walk to the farmers' market. It's the perfect season for these walks - crisp, clear, stark but hopeful. I put Alice in the Ergo, my new favorite carrier that let's me walk with her pressed up against my chest. After about 30 minutes of walking and talking, Alice slowly placed her head to my heart and fell asleep, just so:
Just pure, utter bliss, this feeling. I took the long way home, and back tracked several times, just to enjoy the stillness of the evening, the peaceful park, and the sleeping baby. Heaven.
Happy Thanksgiving Eve! Though today technically isn't a holiday, it always feels like one. Office empty early, people smile with pre-holiday cheer, and the City has an energy unlike any other time of year.
We spent your first Thanksgiving Eve together, my sweet dear. I worked from home in the morning, while you took a nice, long 2-hour nap. Then the two of us bundled up and headed downtown for lunch with my colleagues/friends:
You charmed the pants off of everyone, as usual, chowing down on your first bites of broccoli and savoring some of the tomato sauce from my lunch. Once we finished up and wished my colleagues well, we went to daddy's office, picked him up, and headed home for a little late afternoon nap.
After we all woke up, you and I bundled up one more time, rode the train with daddy while he went to hip hop, and you and I went to see the Macy's Day Thanksgiving Parade balloons! The crowd was overwhelming, but unbelievably patient.
Mr. Kool Aid
Alice & Mommy
The very last balloons were the Macy's stars with "Believe" written across them. As bizarre as this sounds, sweet Alice, I got a little emotional when we walked past them. I am so excited to share the holidays with you, baby girl! To develop our own special traditions that make this hectic time of year so incredibly special. This family doesn't just enjoy Thanksgiving and Christmas Days - we savor the season.
We have enjoyed a beautiful weekend. Last night was our fifth Faux-Thanksgiving, where we get together with John, Anna, Ashesh & Mona to celebrate the holiday before heading home to be with our families. Saturday was full of hustling and bustling as we prepared our annual feast. We had a baked brie with apples and bread for an appetizer; butternut squash soup for our next course; turkey, yams, mashed potatoes, rainbow beets, roasted broccoli, stuffing, baked apples, and salad for dinner; and pumpkin pie with cool whip & strawberry-rhubarb pie with ice cream for dessert. A little grotesque, no? But it was delicious!
Today we were in full recovery mode. Alice was a genuine doll and let me take a two-and-a-half hour nap. We ate pie and then went for a long walk on a cool Sunday...
It's the best time of year to live in New York - it's cool enough to walk endlessly without sweating, to carry a baby around and not worry about how you'll look when you take her off. The trees are gorgeous and the park is pleasantly empty. Heavenly.
The work week begins anew tomorrow. And I will spend the next five days rushing from one thing to another, dreaming of the weekend when I can take my time with my husband and my baby.
Since returning to work, the Sunday Night Blues have hit me hard. The weekends are full of time with Alice and Michael. Not of all it is perfect time, mind you - Alice can be super fussy and chores are not fun, no matter who I'm doing them with. But my days are defined by events with my family, not meetings or nannies or deadlines. I get to feed Alice, rather then spend hours connected to a machine pumping. I get to walk in Riverside Park with my husband, gossiping about work or friends or future plans (the endless debate about where to raise our family provides endless fodder for conversation). I take leisurely strolls through the farmers' market to buy seasonal veggies for our meals. I get to devote my time to myself and my family.
This is in sharp contrast to work weeks, when I feel like every second of my days are scheduled. I wake up at 6, rush to get Alice fed and dressed, me showered and presentable. I leave by 7:30 or 7:40, already later than I want to be. My days at work are often rushed these days, with meetings and pumping sessions and an endless list of tasks that need to get done. I try to leave by 4:30, though I'm almost always rushing out the door at 4:50, praying that I get to John & Anna's by 5:30 so that I don't make the nanny late for her night job. I feed Alice briefly and then pack her up so that we can get home by 6:45. I change Alice, feed her again and put her down for bed. Then I prepare lunch for the next day and cook dinner for Michael & me. Michael and I sit down at about 8 (on a good day) for dinner, and enjoy some time together. Then we do the dishes, I pump for the umpteenth time of the day, and then maybe we spend another 30 minutes together eating dessert and chatting before heading to bed.
I love my job. And I don't know that I would be happy at home all day every day. But Sunday nights highlight just what it is that I'm sacrificing by working. And sometimes it's just a little more than I can handle.
This picture of you and Grandma LeeLee was taken the day before she boarded a plane for Afghanistan. Your brave, bold grandma chose to leave behind the daily comforts of life in the US for a year of service in Afghanistan. Grandma LeeLee was not satisfied with merely bemoaning the situation in this war-torn country. Instead, she decided to act, to respond to our moral imperative to do something to improve the lives of the Afghan people.
In the weeks leading up to Grandma's departure, she trained for a host of terrifying scenarios. With each new skill she learned (shooting guns, ramming cars, riding in helicopters), Grandma LeeLee kept a sense of humor. She saw herself as "an old lady," laughing at the situations in which she found herself. She did her best to deflect any fears that your mom, dad, Uncle Henry faced. She took on our worries. She responded with bravado.
You should know, my dear Alice, that several friends and family members have called her heroic. They have called her sacrifice honorable, genuine, admirable. Because I know how much she loves you and how much she loves me and how much she loves your daddy and your uncle, I know these words are not enough.
I hope you know, sweet Alice, that this is your family.
This morning on my way to work I saw a girl, maybe 8-years old, saying goodbye to her mom. This sweet little lady clasped her arms tightly around her mom's legs, squeezing her eyes shut, trying so hard to will her way to a different ending. The girl looked very unhappy about the pending separation and clearly longed to spend more time with her mom.
In an instant, I realized that I felt the same way as that little girl. Yesterday I said another tearful goodbye to my mom, who is on her way to Afghanistan as I write. She's doing something bold, something daring, something honorable and generous. I'm proud of her for taking on a challenging and necessary job at this stage in her life. I'm inspired by her example.
But, honestly, above all I'm just so sad that she's gone. I want to wrap my arms around her and beg her to stay close by. I want her to be here for Alice's first Christmas and for her first birthday. I want her to be a phone call away. I selfishly want her to stay put and be with my little family.
I know these aren't the actions of grown-ups; that part of bring an adult is allowing - if not encouraging - your parents to become individuals rather than just your mom or your dad. I know I will want Alice to respect me as a professional, as an adult, as a woman when she is my age.
But right now all I want to be is that 8-year old. I want to throw a temper tantrum and beg her to stay. I am not ready to accept this. Not yet.
I spent the day in bed, trying to recover from a cold. It didn't really work. BUT, I enjoyed some good sleep and had a lovely walk home with Alice. We spent a few minutes in the park, playing with the leaves and grass and sticks. She was quite a happy camper!
Everywhere I look in this apartment there are chores to be done. The plants need watering. The trash & recycling need to be taken out. Clothes need to be washed and folded and put away. We need to hang pictures on walls and vacuum floors. We need to dust and mop and clean out the fridge.
But who has the energy for that?!?! I think I'll curl up with my book instead...
"But when she stepped off the train in New York, her plain little face looked beautiful for a moment, as if the future were opening before her and its glow were already upon her forehead, as if she were eager and proud and ready to meet it..."