2019 Reading List

I had a goal of reading a lot more in 2019, and finished the year at 30 books (excluding 89,457,475 children’s books, read aloud nightly). It blows my mind to see friends get through double this amount, but happy to land here.

I read every one of these was an ebook, which is strange, but speaks to convenience.

Here’s the list, with my six favorites in blue:

  1. Dear Evan Hansen
  2. This is How it Always Is
  3. Convenience Store Woman
  4. The Nightingale
  5. Daughter of Moloka’i
  6. There There
  7. Small Animals: Parenthood in the Age of Fear
  8. I Miss You When I Blink
  9. All You Can Ever Know
  10. Attachments
  11. Landline
  12. Eleanor and Park
  13. The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls
  14. An American Marriage
  15. No Happy Endings
  16. City of Girls
  17. Bitter Orange
  18. A Spark of Light
  19. The Accidental Tourist
  20. Three Women
  21. The Last Mrs. Parrish
  22. How to Walk Away
  23. The Need
  24. Ask Again, Yes
  25. The Dreamers
  26. Southern Lady Code
  27. The Farm
  28. Maid
  29. Inheritance
  30. Far From the Tree

Maya is 2.5

Someone is officially 2.5 today!

Today Maya: insisted on wearing gloves around the house, took “pictures” with a toy microscope, sang lots of animated songs, poured cups of “tea” in the bath, played Memory by herself, and resisted bedtime for a solid two hours.

You are a bright light and amazing little soul. You are also a mischievous imp who knows exactly how to get what you want.

You love Dada, cereal bars, playing hide and seek, Dada, singing, dramatic play, Dada, slides, swimming and your Dada. Dada is life.

These kids

Favorite mispronunciations of late:

Lila, age five:

  • rester-naut (restaurant)
  • constructions (instructions)
  • confuser (diffuser)

Maya, age two:

  • a-mudda one (another one)
  • sear-uhl (cereal)
  • bloons (balloons)

Lila is loving kindergarten and adjusting pretty seamlessly (mom had a harder time). She’s become a fish this summer, swimming independently and begging to go in the pool every day. The dinosaur obsession has transitioned into horses, and other favorite activities include: coloring, legos, puzzles and constructing elaborate animal scenes and habitats. Still an adventurous eater and a kind (albeit often frustrated) big sister.

Maya enjoys commenting and screaming “I naked girl, look-ah my belly” any time she gets undressed, and announcing, “I no wanna take a nap!” when her bedtime routine begins. She walks up to groups of people and casually asks, “Whatchu doing guys? Way-for-meeeee!” and when we recently told her she was getting so big, she was indignant: “I no big, I tiny! You big!” She adores her big sister, daddy, Curious George and her baby doll. She loves coloring, puzzles and water play, and any opportunity to climb and jump off things. To our delight she’s remained a total cuddle bug and boasts the best bed head around.

Lila is 5!

Happy 5th birthday to my spitfire little soul mate.

You are brave, curious, kind and a complete goofball. I pray your energy, passion and giant heart continue to shape your character, and that every stage of your life brings you new things to explore and more questions to challenge the world with.

I am utterly humbled to learn and grow with you every single day.

The final countdown, pre-school edition

This is Lila’s last week at preschool, and no one is surprised that I need to write about my feelings.

The countdown started as a slow rumble months ago; quick conversations among parents about what schools we were touring, comments about how crazy it all felt, and eye rolling over how annoying it was going to be to have multiple drop offs.

But the reality of it didn’t sink in until graduation in May. All of a sudden we entered this maddening time warp where the days seemed to pass more quickly each week. I’m pretty sure five minutes ago I dropped a baby off in the infant room, and now we’re ordering what feels like a nonsensical amount of glue sticks and tissues for a school that’s totally foreign to us.

I can’t wait to see L start kindergarten and soar to new heights — she’s ready for this — but there’s a heavy cloud hanging over the next few days. It’s a mixed bag that’s going to hit me hard when we walk out those familiar doors together on Wednesday.

The way time passes after having children is truly baffling. Last week I attended Meet the Teacher night for Maya, and it just so happened that the 2’s room is now the same room Lila was in as a baby. I hadn’t entered that space in years, and it was a crazy feeling to literally come full circle.

That room is somewhat of a sacred space, because when you drop your baby off to day one at daycare, you’ve never been more vulnerable. Not just in the sense of leaving your little one somewhere new, but because it’s awkward and uncharted territory. I didn’t know where to leave bottles or how long to talk to the teachers, and I was intimidated by every other parent who seemed to have things more together than I did. I wasn’t yet comfortable with the working mom part of my identity and was very focused on trying not to trip in heels while carrying an infant carrier.

If you’d asked me at that very first drop-off what I hoped for from a childcare provider, I probably would have said something about nap schedules and diaper cream. In my wildest dreams I couldn’t have imagined what would really matter: the teachers who wore my daughter in a wrap all day because she was colicky. The framed art we’d display made from baby footprints. The email folder full of updates and photos. Over that first year, the classroom came to represent a place of growth and friendships.

week one

After the baby room, we entered the walking toddler room, where all my worrying about napping on cots proved wildly unnecessary. Art projects became more involved and babies started morphing into tiny people who ate with forks and had water play days. Every day was a new adventure that helped toddlers explore and develop.

Then onto the 2’s room, where potty training was this big thing and the kiddos started having birthday parties, themed days and field trips. This helped our parent group come together as a unit, as we started to really understand the magic in the imaginative, child-focused curriculum we’d heard so much about. Our kids were kind of weird, yes, but in the best way.

This was also the room where most of us got pregnant with our second kids, so for the second half of the year the teachers faced regular intervals of displaced, hormonal mom crying. Were the parents higher maintenance than the kids? Very likely. Also, we lost and gained approximately 350 toddler socks this year, and became one with the Moana soundtrack.

Our 3’s room will always make me think about an epic field trip to the science center Pompeii exhibit with 25 kids who had zero problem discussing how bodies were buried and preserved in volcanic ash. They were obsessed with volcanos all freaking year. Also this year the kids really started to play together with intention and learned how to use tools and a sewing machine. The classroom was a perfect depiction of a three-year-old’s mind, where every inch contained something of great significance.

We started love rituals to make goodbyes easier, and saw our small children start to lose their baby chub. This was also the year the kids spent a great deal of time talking about habitats, which segued into raising money to help purchase tents for the homeless.

As we entered the official pre-k room, we saw a continuation of very special friendships. Our teachers have often remarked that the kiddos who were entering their fifth year together truly had a sibling-like relationship. They fight hard but they love even harder. They know each other so well and work through conflict more effectively than most adults I know. The social and emotional development this past year has given us a chance to see these kids grow into themselves and learn to communicate and regulate their feelings.

Daycare and preschool teachers are quick to correct anyone who says they are raising other peoples’ children, but the truth is, they are a huge piece of how we raise our children — one we choose and cherish. They are present for countless pivotal moments in our kids’ lives, and also in our lives as parents. They’re more valuable than any parenting book, well-intentioned relative or answer you can google, and I understand now why my mom still remembers the names of the preschool teachers I had 30+ years ago. I will forever view our teachers as an extension of our family.

Then there are the other families we’ve been so fortunate to have on this journey. Where can I begin? Milestone by milestone we’ve been blessed with extra sets of eyes, helping hands and huge hearts. Other moms and dads who don’t hesitate to love on your kids, text you to let you know what the kids were doing when they dropped off after you, and cover for you when you’re late or away.

Moms who are further down the parenting road and give the most reassuring advice, and who don’t bat an eye when you stroll out of school carrying a filthy child, soiled clothes bag, cereal box full of rocks and seven paper towel rolls. I always knew Lila would make friends at school; what I didn’t expect was for our entire family to create lasting and meaningful friendships.

The hardest part about this transition is seeing these kids move on from such an incredible community. This hasn’t just been a school, it’s been a home away from home for the past five years. It’s forever changed the trajectory of Lila’s life, and no doubt mine as well. It’s been a pretty amazing ride, and I feel so much love and gratitude to everyone who’s been a part of this chapter. And while I’m so sad for what we’re leaving behind, I’m more thankful for everything we’ve gained along the way. And I have to believe we’ve only just begun.

Vacation is a trip (see what I did there)

Despite all the fun and adventure, there’s disorganization and challenges when kids are taken out of their normal environment and structure. I’ve thought a lot this week about the balance Jim brings to my default parenting style, and how much that benefits the girls.

Sometimes our differences make things tough (introvert and extrovert extremes over here), but as parents our personalities somehow bring things to a happy medium. I am a worst case scenario master, he is preternaturally positive. As I have heart palpitations considering all the horrible things that might happen in any given situation, he stays steady and present.

Years ago I resented this, but now I often find myself looking to him for cues: when will he tell Lila to step back from toeing too close to something risky, without killing her confidence? When does it really not make sense to eat out with tired kids (my nightmare) vs when can we rally and make it work?

We had an awesome last day in Hawaii that he planned, and did things I never would’ve attempted with kids, but they did great and it made some incredible memories.

Now that we’re back home I’ll go back to being annoyed when he doesn’t put his underwear in the hamper, but felt the need to give this guy a shoutout for being super dad/husband/chauffeur/chef all week.

Pictures tend to show the dreamy parts of vacations, and ultimately, that’s what we remember, but believe me – there were meltdowns and challenges aplenty this week – just as there are for everyone traveling with little ones. That just means you’re doing it right.

To Lila on her preschool graduation

Dear Lila,

I can’t believe today is your pre-school graduation. (I also can’t believe how much of a cliché I am, tearing up as I type that sentence.) In a few hours we’ll watch you on stage with a miniature mortarboard and long-rehearsed songs and poems, and in a few more months you’ll take the next step to kindergarten.

You’ve earned this, and you’re ready, and we are unbelievably proud of you – not just for what you’ve done, but who you’ve become.

Transitions prompt you to summarize feelings, and I’ve been trying my best, but the emotions I feel about this season are hard to nail down. I’m excited for you, nostalgic for the school and community you’ll be leaving, and nervous about the world you’re growing up in.

I’m reflective on your journey toward today, and the indescribable ways you’ve changed my life over the past four years, nine months and 18 days. Because truthfully, I don’t think I ever really knew who I was before you. Maybe on some level I had an idea, but you opened my eyes and my heart to an entirely different world, one more colorful and dynamic than I could have believed existed. Once you arrived, everything suddenly mattered far more or less, based only on how it might impact you.

When you first started at this school, you were 12 weeks old. Tiny! And colicky! I was exhausted, back to work full-time, and unsure what any of that meant. I was straddling what felt like separate worlds and blended identities.

I expected daycare to be a transactional relationship; we pay them, they care for you, we wash bottles, they change diapers. But I was so wrong. I had no idea we landed at a truly remarkable school, one that would ultimately become a central part of our family’s community.

Over the years, you’ve grown from a floppy infant into a self-assured, gregarious young lady. You first entered these halls strapped in an infant carrier, and now you sprint down them on your own. We’ve had tears and laughter and sickness and artwork and biting and field trips and soiled clothes and school pictures and thousands of daily sheets detailing your snacks, naps and BMs.

We’ve both made best friends and found treasured teachers. We grew. Then we grew some more. You and I? We both found our rhythm. You let me ease into motherhood when it didn’t feel natural, and you continue to give me grace when I wing it and make mistakes.

So today, as we celebrate your accomplishments, I want to thank you. For being patient when I’ve been clueless, for being kind when I was not, and for leading with your heart. For being authentically Lila, and no one else. Mostly, thank you for being the best person for all the best reasons.

I know you will continue to amaze us and share your gifts with the world, and I’m honored to be along for the ride.

We love you. Congratulations.