Lila is 3!

It is absolutely surreal to consider the fact that we have a three year old. I know it’s real life, and that you are ours, yet you are so profoundly amazing I can’t help but question how it’s possible.

Three years ago you arrived and life has never been the same. You bring a little magic wherever you go.

You are bold and kind, determined and loving. You have strong opinions and a completely joyful and silly nature. When you are angry, you are REALLY angry, but as quickly as the storm clouds roll in, they dissipate into sweetness and giggles again.

You fascinate me with your attention to detail and your memory. Your teachers constantly comment on how in touch you are with other people’s feelings. There is such a sweet innocence to your enthusiasm for just about everything, and the way you exclaim different things with emphatic joy.
“Mommy, maybe sister can take a bath too, and then WE’LL ALL BE SO CLEAN TOGETHER!”
“Mommy, you didn’t take a bath yet. You smel like a hot dog.”

“I can listen to music? YAYYYYY!!!

You can entertain yourself for hours in the back yard. Picking up seeds, running through the grass talking to yourself.

You are obsessed with the Lion King, and haven’t grasped the fact that there are other lions that exist in the world besides Simba and his family. Every lion we see – anywhere – is automatically Simba. That’s adorable and hysterical.

You love to listen to music and have an unbelievable ability to memorize song lyrics. You are very clear though that no one else can sing with you. Ever.

You were very concerned with when your birthday started and ended. When your party ended, you asked, “I’m not three anymore?” And when you woke up the day after your birthday, you demanded to know whether your happy birthday banner was still hanging up, because if not, your birthday would be over.

Sometimes you drive us crazy with endless questions and demands, and an inability to sit still, but mostly we find ourselves staring at each other incredulously, or laughing out loud, speechless with our awe and love for whatever you just said or did.

You are a sweet helper with your sister and I can’t wait to see you two grow together. You are the least picky eater EVER. You don’t like having your hair touched or going to bed. You love books and are a whiz at puzzles.

There are times I’m short with you, or unfair, and I know I screw up all the time. There are moments I cry when I think back on how I could have done better, and wonder if I let you down. Because you are my world, and every day I want to be better, and do more, for you. You have my whole heart.

You are our everything. Happy third birthday, Lila Bear.

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I’m in a glass case of emotion!

Next week Lila will enter her next room at our wonderful preschool, and these transitions only seem to get harder. Each year we grow more attached to our teachers, and more grateful for the role they play in our daughter’s growth. But most poignantly, we grow more aware of how quickly time is passing. How many stages are flying by before our eyes. How we’re still needed every day, but not the same way we were even a few months ago.

There may or may not have been a gaggle of crying moms in the classroom this morning. Lots of feelings going on. And I’m particularly “feely” right now. Preschool transitions, going back to work, post-partum hormones up the wazoo. Not bad feelings, just lots of them, enough to make me quote Ron Burgundy a few times a day.

glass

While it’s personal, I’m sharing what I wrote to Lila’s teachers this week, mostly so that she can read this in 30 years and recognize that there were some pretty special people in her life from years she may not even remember. These teachers are incredible.

*****

It’s hard to believe Lila’s year in this class is ending, and even harder to explain to all of you how incredibly grateful we are for your love, nurturing, patience and support. There are honestly no words to appropriately thank you for the pivotal role you’ve played in the development of our daughter, and we will always be thankful to you and think of you like family.

When Lila started in this room, she wasn’t even two yet, and the youngest one out of the whole group. The first few weeks were rough – lots of crying (Lila in the room, then usually me in the hallway walking away), but even on the most dramatic drop-offs, I always knew she would be just fine moments after I left. Whoever was there would scoop her up and hug and love on her, which was so comforting. No one told her to stop crying – you validated her feelings and helped her work through them. You got her into a great routine of feeding the fish or the chickens each day as a distraction, and then helped her stay involved in the process by learning to open the door for me as I left.

Those small efforts meant so much, because they transformed emotional mornings into triumphant ones. Now, a year later, Lila sprints to her classroom, opens the door herself, and when I pick her up I most often hear, “NO MOMMY, I WANT TO STAY HERE.” I love how confident she has become, and that is a credit to you.

Being a working parent is hard, and I won’t disguise the fact that I believe it’s hardest for moms. Even when we love our careers and feel school is the best choice for our little ones, it’s never easy to leave them all day. Especially during sensitive times, or when we’re going through transitions. We worry. We feel guilty. A lot. And I know at times we were probably overbearing or downright clueless with our question and requests, but you were always patient and understanding. We always can tell how genuinely you love every child in the room, and that is such a gift to us as parents.

I’ve probably said 100 times that I don’t know how you do what you do, because this age is so hard. Not only were you helping 24 kids potty train, a good portion of them also became older siblings this year. How you all handled this with such grace (and smiles, no less) will always amaze me. Please know that we recognize how hard your job is, and appreciate your role in all of it. We probably didn’t thank you enough, but we always felt gratitude, especially when Lila became a big sister – you were a consistent source of support for our entire family and made the transition so much easier for us by keeping her happy and engaged with lots of attention.

Lila would not be who she is today – as confident, articulate, loving and happy – without each of you. You’ve nurtured her in a deeply personal way, and it’s been so beautiful to watch her blossom under your care. My shy almost-two-year-old has become a bubbly and self-assured almost-three-year-old, and while she may not always remember the ins and outs of her preschool days, we sure will, and we will always remember this year fondly.

Thank you so very much. Your work changes lives for the better.

This is a different hard

It’s 7 p.m. and I’m home alone with the girls – who are miraculously both asleep at the moment. I should feel overjoyed right now, but I don’t. I feel kind of sad. I’m sitting on the floor of the nursery remembering how many blog posts I wrote as I struggled in our last season with a newborn. That was so hard, and this is a different hard. 

Bedtime was tricky tonight. Baby didn’t want to be put down without screaming, and big sister was overtired and clearly feeling shortchanged. Bedtime stories were cut short, routines amiss and mom’s back cramped from the one-armed infant hold…the other hand always holding a book, or pouring milk or opening the door to let dogs in and out. 

There’s so much joy in this season, so much awe and wonder as your family expands and you’re granted the most precious gift. It’s so magical it rarely feels real.

But there’s also a great deal of fatigue and monotony and robotic-ness. Of questioning your abilities and feeling guilty you’re not more grateful, always wondering “how will I do this all again tomorrow?” There’s contemplating if you’ll survive this new life with a fulltime job starting back in a few weeks – with even less of yourself to give.

The part that is hardest is the nagging feeling that one kiddo is always being slightly neglected while the other is tended to, and the awareness that you miss your spouse who is often home at the same time – even in the very same room – but right alongside you in the messy tagteam. 

On paper of course we’re doing enough. They’re thriving. These challenges and transitions are necessary and normal. But it’s hard. It doesn’t sit well with me to feel like the child who had 100 percent of my attention up until two months ago now feels that much less. And that the baby who needs me constantly spends more time in her Pack and Play than I’d like. 

But I know they’re going to be fine. We’re going to be fine. It’s ALL going to be fine. I tell myself that 100 times a day and I know it’s true. It’s just a learning curve to navigate these new waters. 

And now…the baby is back up again and I’m pulled back into the beautiful mess. 

Maya

I’ve been trying to find the time and words to write an introductory Maya post, and re-reading what I wrote for Lila brought me back full circle. 

Because Lila arrived a week early, I spent my entire pregnancy convinced Maya would be here before her due date as well. But, as we neared May 14, I became less and less confident I would EVER  give birth. 

And logically I decided that since the baby wasn’t a week early, obviously she’d be a week late. I basically shut out any possibility she would be here on time. But that was her plan all along.

May 14 was a Sunday, and — as luck would have it — Mother’s Day. That morning we took Lila to swim class and I noticed a few contractions, but they were short and not taking my breath away, so again, I decided this was nothing. I had no real plans for the rest of the day, and when we got home, Jim went to the grocery store and I started to put L down for a nap. At this point the contractions were painful enough that I had to bring an exercise ball into Lila’s room to sit on as I read to her. 

Still in denial.

I think I was just afraid of having a false alarm — because only first-time moms do that — and I didn’t want to go to the hospital and get sent home. Like last time. That was awful.

But after L was asleep, I texted my best friend to casually ask at what point you were supposed to call the doctor after having contractions. When she asked how long it had been and I stopped to think about it, it had been about three hours. Probably time for a medical opinion. And yes, as soon as we called, we were told to go in.

Denise graciously arrived to take care of Lila and the house, and we were off. As we were driving to the hospital I kept thinking, this can’t be labor because it’s not nearly as painful as last time. 

When we arrived around 2:45 p.m. it was a very calm and quiet day at the hospital. We were taken to a triage room right away and I immediately loved the intake nurses. I told them I felt contractions every 3-5 minutes but on the monitor they were coming as closely as every 45 seconds. We jokingly told them my biggest fears were: 1) being sent home in active labor like last time, and 2) waiting five hours for an epidural. When they told us we were staying, fear # 1 was squashed, and they wiped out # 2 as well by saying I could have an epidural any time. WHERE WAS THIS MAGICAL LEVEL OF PATIENT CARE IN 2014?!

Anyway, we quickly moved into a labor and delivery room, I got an epidural, and the race was on. I will say that for the four or so hours I labored before pain medication, my contractions never came close to what they felt like with Lila. They were shorter and farther apart, even as I dilated further. Just a note to any moms who also don’t trust the “every labor is different” comment you hear 46269348 times while pregnant.

We had two instances where my blood pressure dropped, which required me to wear a sweet oxygen mask and get some ephedrine pumped into me, and at one point the anesthesiologist had to return to fix an epidural that has suddenly stopped working (talk about a rude awakening), but overall things were easy and quick. 

I know there are women who listen to soothing music and mantras while in labor,  but we watched That 70s Show throughout. Why is that show still in syndication? I also listened to Aziz Ansari’s comedy routine. Also serious. 

I was at a 4-5 when they broke my water, and at a 10 just an hour later. Sadly, my beloved doctor was not on call, but another doctor from the practice was there. 

Maya distinguished herself by making a bowel movement during labor, so we had a team of specialists in the room in the event that presented any challenges, but at 8:50 p.m. she arrived happy and healthy. Well, maybe not so happy, but thankfully healthy and crying. Both of my girls were fast entries, arriving with just two pushes each. I’d like to think it was all my core exercises but I’m pretty sure it’s just dumb luck.

Maya weighed 7.12 and was 21.25 inches long with a smattering of dark brown hair and eyes that remain dark gray but I believe will be brown. She was (and is) perfectly beautiful and such a gift. 

Maya, you are an incredibly calm baby, and generally very content. You give us easy cues when you’re overtired or hungry, and aside from the car, you are happy almost all the time. You tolerate your older sister’s well-intentioned-but-sometimes-aggressive hugs and pats, and have started cooing and smiling more as the weeks go by. 

You’ve made our family feel complete in an entirely new way nothing would be the same without you. 

This mom life.

When I was pregnant with Maya, a lot of friends gave me startlingly similar advice – or maybe it was more of a warning? 

They gently cautioned that at some point, perhaps during the pregnancy or soon after baby arrived, I’d panic that I wouldn’t be able to love another little one as much as I loved Lila. As I heard this repeated from so many people, I started to wonder what it really meant. It sounded dreadful but also made sense.

Oddly enough, I never seemed to have this feeling set in – at least not in a way that was palpable. 

I haven’t felt concern that I can’t love these two magical humans enough – heck, it feels amazing to have any one or thing to love this way – but I do have an awareness that I’m able to love them very differently right now. 

A newborn relies on you for everything. Everything. You monitor every sneeze, poop color and potential rash. You google all the things because you have this overflowing desire to protect and nurture her. You’re needed all the time by someone who doesn’t yet know she needs you. 

Love for your older child is different, but just as strong and deep-rooted, because you know her so completely. And she knows you. And shows her love right back to you. 

So, I don’t worry about not having enough love, but I do worry about time. About the logistics of life with two kids, and what that means for all of us. It already feels like there’s no time and endless to-do lists, and I’m not even back to work right now.

If you’ve lived it, you know the newborn stage is sort of all hands on deck. Schedules may or may not happen. Meals are eaten cold and while standing. And days and nights are a continuous blend of fatigue. 

All the while, the days drag on but also pass alarmingly quickly. You spend your days alone with your baby, watching a miraculous little human grow and change. Long hours of rocking and bouncing that prompt you to question your own existence. 

So yeah, time. The simple things are what I miss the most right now. Being able to do bedtime with Lila every night. Having time (and energy?) for actual conversations with Jim (that don’t have to do with burping or bills). I miss having time for spontaneous outings with the family. 

Yet I feel guilty for wanting anything other than the exact moments I’m living, because I know how fleeting this stage is. I know one day I’ll want to be needed this way by two girls who are far too independent.

And as the countdown to returning to work starts, I feel a deep sadness. Not that I won’t be home full time – I don’t believe that’s the best fit for me – but because this time is too short. We won’t be ready to have a 180 transition out of our calm cocoon into fulltime hustle and bustle. 

Soon, days and weeks and months are going to pass by in a stressful frenzy. There will be not be a balance, and there will be more asked of me in different roles than I am confident I can (or want to) handle.

I worry that I’ll miss too much with my kiddos while working, while recognizing that I’ll miss too much of myself if I don’t. 

When I think about life right now, I’m happy I don’t worry about a lack of love, but wish I had a magic button to just have more time.

Week one, with two 

“Oh! My baby is here! She’s so tiny!”

Lila’s been fascinated with Maya’s tiny ears and lack of eyebrows, and is completely calm and sweet around her, even when the baby cries or takes our attention away. She brings a stool to wherever the baby is and stands on it to get a better view of her. She loves to pet and kiss her little sister and tell people that she’s a big sister now. She brings the baby toys and pacis and has been a great helper. 

When we got home from the hospital one of Lila’s first concerns was whether my belly button was back or not. TBD, little one.

“Babies don’t eat food. They only have milk a-cuz they don’t have teef.”

“Baby’s crying, she getting a little bit angry. Maybe she needs a burp? Maybe she wanna eat from my chest?”

Several times each day she’s started dictating some version of, “You’re the mommy, and daddy’s the daddy, and I’m the big sister and that’s my baby sister.”

We’ve had some tantrums of late, but they feel more connected to being almost three and cooped up due to the heat than they do to the new baby. 

Overall the transition has been easier than I anticipated and far sweeter. But the witching hour with two kids is no joke. And that’s why there is wine. 

Eating organic on a budget (aka it doesn’t involve Whole Foods)

Sometimes people act like I’m a lunatic (or a millionaire) when I tell them I buy almost all organic food. Note: I don’t believe I’m either, but am open to feedback 😂. 

I get a lot of blank stares and “it’s too expensive.” But my friends, let me tell you something about myself: I am one cheap mofo 🙋🏻. Like, I reuse ziplock bags (yep, I’m that girl) and clip coupons like a boss. So if I’m making this work, you can too. 

It’s gotten so much easier and more affordable in recent years that when I do the math, buying organic only adds about $20 a month to our grocery bill, if that. 

I’m sharing some of this info with my challenge group this week, and figured I’d post it here too. I’m not anything close to an expert, but the more I learn about our food system, the scarier it is that we’re even allowed to buy some of the things we see on grocery shelves. 

I’m also not perfect all the time by ANY means – right now there are Girl Scout cookies and a plethora of Easter candy in our house – but here are some of the ways we make sure most of what we eat is higher quality:

1. Shopping at Fry’s. Oh, for the love of everything holy, please shop at Fry’s. They carry their own line of Simple Truth organic products that is cheaper than what regular stuff costs at competitor grocery stores. No joke – at least 50 percent of the food in my house is this brand, from peanut butter to spinach to ketchup and hummus. Plus, Fry’s has the most brilliant CRM program of any retailer, and sends you coupons for exactly what you buy. Download the Fry’s app, and you can pre-load coupons to be added to your account. Just search “Simple Truth” or “organic” and it takes 30 seconds to have these savings applied. And in case I haven’t sold you yet, please remember the Click List…where you shop online, then swing by and pick up your pre-bagged groceries without leaving your car? #solidgold

2. Shop at Costco. First – who doesn’t love Costco? And second, buying in bulk can make sense even for smaller families, because you can’t beat the prices on non-perishable organic stuff here like honey, apple cider vinegar, peanut butter and more. Their organic meat is also the most affordable I’ve found, and you can buy the big packages and freeze it to store it. Also, you get to eat samples while you shop. I like this very much. 

3. Don’t put undue pressure on yourself to replace your entire pantry overnight, or feel that this has to be an all-or-nothing type of lifestyle. If you’re interested in shifting to eat more organic, make gradual changes. Start with meat or dairy, then start adding in fruits and veggies, then try incorporating some other staples and condiments. Let it be fun and educational, not stressful.

Eating organic food may not make you feel different in a day or even a year, but if anything is worth the investment, my vote is that it’s your health.