For Ronnie

Yesterday morning I was washing dishes when one of Nora's plastic cups - the little ones I got at Target, decorated with monkeys hanging from trees - lodged itself in the drain. I was cleaning up after Halloween festivities at our house, and although the job was totally manageable, there were chips and dips and whatnot left on plates, and so when that cup (without my knowledge, as the sink was full and I couldn't see a thing) slipped into the drain, it formed a perfect seal, thus leaving me with a basin of dirty water. With stuff floating in it. Gross. I immediately thought, "How the hell am I going to get this thing out?" Because I could fit my fingers between the rim of the cup and the drain just slightly, but not enough to budge it, so I experienced this moment of, "Well, this is how our sink will be now. Filled with water and tortilla chips and unusable, but we will get by."

I quickly corrected this line of thinking, however, by reminding myself to try harder.

I know this is going to sound annoyingly sentimental, but I've been telling myself to try harder a lot lately. Not in a depressing way, like when a lost cause type looks at his or herself in the mirror, all bedraggled and wearing sweats, and they've just lost their lover and then the music montage begins and they get totally awesome right before your eyes.

I mean, I don't want to sing my own accolades or anything, but I feel pretty good about myself lately. I'm in decent shape, thanks to exercising when I am able, and eating well most of the time and my darling Gabriel, who I estimate is helping me burn five or six million calories a day with his aggressive nursing regime.

I get up in the morning and get dressed and I have a a lot of fun, snuggling up with the baby and writing and doing things around the house.

It's so different than after I had Nora. So different. Both experiences were good, but brought totally different emotions, and I've been comparing them a lot. With my first child, I was almost immediately seeking social outlets: other new moms, emails and phone calls looking for and giving advice, classes, being out and about.

I had to get used to being home. I had to learn to schedule my time and accept my new life, which did not include the vision I'd always held for myself, of being a full-time working mother.

I did make it work, but it took a lot of energy and annoying self-analysis. Don't get me wrong, I was happy, but becoming a mom for the first time was a big adjustment, especially since my life wasn't the way I thought it would be. Now, I'm glad it all happened the way it did.

With Gabriel, on the other hand, I felt almost immediately at peace. Not those first five days or so, after he was born and J caught the flu and everyone we knew was out of town and I was peeing all over myself all the time due to post-birth incontinence. What? Yeah you guys. Admitting it. Thankfully that, and the generally chaotic nature of having two kids calmed down week by week.

But even in the crazier moments, being a mother to a second child was so much easier. So much less angst and worry and none of the wondrous fear that new parents simply have to go through that first time around.

With Nora, it took me forever to learn how restful it could be to simply let her sleep in the crook of her arm while I read a magazine. With Gabe - when I had a quiet moment in our new, crazy life - I did this every chance I got.

So once Nora started school this fall and I had some time - which has recently increased since the baby's started a couple days of daycare a week - my energy didn't have to go towards the insanity of taking care of two little kids, and it didn't have to go towards my new redefined role in life. Because if you want to know the truth, I've never felt more defined. Or lucky. I've been working hard at specific goals, like getting Gabe on a good sleep schedule, and making sure J, Nora and I sit down to eat dinner together at least a few times a week.

I'd be doing great at getting tons of sleep, too, but we've started staying up late watching "Breaking Bad," on Netflix in bed at night so that's all shot to hell.

My energy is now available for other pursuits, too. Which, by the way, brings me back to that cup in the sink. Really.

I was halfheartedly trying to get it out of there when I thought about this conversation I'd had with my mother the other a few days before. She'd been at Rosemont College, where she went to school, at a committee meeting with Ronnie Ahern, who somehow stumbled upon this blog a few years ago and has been reading it ever since, which is absolutely the best.

Anyway, during the meeting, Ronnie came up to my mother and asked why I hadn't been posting much. Nothing about the new baby. When Nora was born, she said, I wrote a ton. Now, barely at all.

She's right, and I have a hundred excuses but I'm not going to list them all here. Excuses are dumb and the important point is that when my mom said that, my immediate reaction was, "Hey, I should write more."

Maybe because it's better to spend the free time I have writing than it is to keep checking the same web sites over and over when there aren't too many jobs available.

Or maybe because one day the things I write casually will become the basis for a book of essays. Or because someone will see that I've written on a blog for many years and think that shows true dedication.

Or maybe just because Ronnie, and perhaps a few others, like it. And that the process of writing and someone actually liking it makes me feel really good.

So I was thinking about that, and how my sink was going to be clogged by a plastic monkey cup for the rest of our lives, and I had one of these moments where I said to myself, "Listen, I realize you didn't get a lot of sleep last night, but you're going to have to try harder right now." Then I got a knife and wedged in between the cup and the drain and slowly pried that thing out of there. Then I also decided that I need to write on my blog more often.

Thank you, Ronnie, for the reminder, and thank you for reading, and I promise I'll send Nora to Rosement. I mean, if she wants to go. Because when she doesn't want to do something, she's real good at throwing herself on the floor and having a little fit. And I know people say she'll grow out of it, but that girl's got dedication, so, you know, I'll believe it when I see it.