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.

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Maya is 2!

Dear Maya,

On one hand, we can’t remember life before you arrived — it feels like another lifetime. But at the same time, two years has passed in the blink of an eye.

You have truly come into your own over the past few months, and your personality continues to shine. You are an observer, and process the world around you on your own time. You have become wildly determined to do everything your big sister does, and your favorite catch phrase lately is, “I do myself! I do myself!”

Whether it’s fastening your carseat buckles, brushing your teeth or opening bubbles, hell hath no fury like a toddler who received unwanted assistance in a simple task.

You have a true air of mischief to your personality. When you know you’re doing something against the rules, like climbing onto the kitchen counters or bolting away when you need a diaper change, you giggle maniacally continue to crack yourself up until the game ends.

You love to play hide and seek with Lila, and to be chased. You are remarkably good at entertaining yourself, and have an affinity for dramatic play (feeding your baby, tucking things in, patting me to sleep, etc.). Overall, we’re amazed at how well you and Lila play and interact — you have an almost twin-like secret communication style, even when you completely test your sister’s patience. It’s not perfect, but it’s often quite adorable.

Your morning bed head is a thing of beauty, but you love to tell me, “do mah hair, mommy,” because that’s what your sister gets.

You’ve started to pee on the potty all by yourself occasionally, but we have no plans for formal potty training any time soon.

You are a great night time sleeper, and share your bed with four stuffed sheep, a baby doll and your water bottle, every single night. Before bed we read books and then you sit in your glider while mom or dad sits on the floor and sings to you. You LOVE to sing, and regale us with childhood hits upon request.

I am so thankful that you are still a snuggler, and those squishes are pure redemption, even on the most challenging of days.

Your emphatic little voice legitimately makes my stomach swoon, and it’s so fun now that you are becoming so verbal. You’re stringing up to 6-7 words together and new phrases pop up each week.

You eat pretty much everything, and are a huge fan of cereal with milk, cottage cheese and any condiment you can spread all over your body.

You are very content playing by yourself or with others, but I sense more of an introvert vibe. Only time will tell.

Lately, you’ve started describing emotions of those around you. If a child is crying, you’ll point and say, “baby sad.” And just this weekend when I took away a lollipop you somehow ended up with, you screamed at me and then quieted down and whispered, “I sad.”

You’re obsessed with picking up the dog poop in the backyard, going to get the mail and taking walks in the wagon. You are less of a fan of shoes, having your hair washed and the sound of the dust buster.

We love you so very much, and each day is better because you are in it. Happy 2nd birthday sweet girl.

moments

1F7C4657-69ED-4B6C-83D2-549419510B90.jpegWe stopped at a red light today and Lila noticed a homeless man with a sign on the street. “What do his words say, mom?” “His sign says he’s hungry, baby. Should we give him some food?” She nodded and I handed him some of the snacks we keep in the car.

And then the questions began. “Where does he sleep if he has no home? Is he thirsty? What if he has nothing to snuggle with? Is he sad? I hope other people share with him, too, cause then he’d have enough.”

I’ve played this conversation out in my head countless times since reading ‘The Power of Half.’ A child’s heart and logic can’t make sense of the inequities that exist around us. They see the fastest path toward a solution and pursue it.

A teachable moment, sure, but I’ve started to recognize that my job is less about shaping this girl into something grand. She’s already there. All our kiddos are. We just need to not get in their way.

I am {maybe} crying over a carseat

I don’t get overly sentimental when the girls outgrow clothes and toys. There’s a sweet nostalgia in holding up teeny jammies and shoes as you sort them to make room for bigger sizes, but that feeling has never made me sad. I always find it more remarkable; incredulous that they were EVER that size, like it’s some sort of optical illusion.

I’ve found hand-me-downs to be one of the greatest gifts throughout parenthood, and I get overly excited to donate the things we no longer use, like I’m initiating another baby into a bizarre, circle-of-life-type ritual.

But tonight, as I packed up the Graco infant car seat and base to pass along, I felt my guts being ripped out. I carried that awkward, back-cramp-inducing contraption across the house on its final flight for our family and felt a crushing wave of emotion.

It’s not because I want another baby, or hadn’t realized we’re fully past the days of wee, squirmy creatures. I think what I felt was recognition of the journey — both literal and figurative — we’ve been on since we purchased that carseat.

It was the first “big” thing we bought while we were pregnant with Lila. It was a stressful trip to Buy Buy Baby where I had no idea what we needed, or how to put a baby in it, but was adamant it was a gender-neutral color.

We carted it home in a monstrous box where it sat until a few weeks before my due date when I insisted we have it installed and ready to go. Because, you know, “they won’t let you leave the hospital without one.” A final attempt at control before all control was lost.

That carseat safely carried each baby girl home from the hospital, to countless days at daycare, dozens of pediatrician appointments and the occasional trip to urgent care. It lulled them to sleep in the car, endured their screams and witnessed their giggles. It was an 8-pound plastic vessel I cursed on so many occasions because it was difficult to maneuver and a hazard to carry in heels.

A conduit to playdates, parks and museums, it was present for the hardest days of post-partum depression and the most fulfilling early outings. It was where, just one time, I forgot to buckle you before driving partially down the street and pulling over in one of the worst moments of guilt and shame in my life.

It’s a carseat, you know. Not a special blanket or holiday outfit or treasured lovey. But it’s woven into more early parenthood experiences and memories than any other object.

I’m thankful for the memories, grateful for the protection and ready to pass it on. But I still feel like sitting around and crying about it.

Local Phoenix peeps: if you have a carseat you’ve outgrown that has not been in an accident, AZ Helping Hands will gladly take it and pass it on to a foster family, which is what we’ve chosen to do.

UNLESS

Last week I had a chance to read to Lila’s pre-k class, an experience that was equal parts terrifying (25 unfiltered small children in my personal space) and rewarding (25 people giving me their undivided attention with zero judgement).

We read The Lorax, a current favorite, and when I say “we,” I mean it – sister co-narrated the entire book with me. It went really well — until the last page. The page with the quote this story is always known for:

UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better, It’s not.

Literally out of NOWHERE I totally choked up reading it: tears, croaky voice, etc. I managed to semi-awkwardly finish and my adorable audience didn’t seem to notice.

I’ve read this story no fewer than 40 times and I’ve never reacted that way before. I don’t actually know if I’ve ever had an emotional response to a children’s book. It felt completely out of character and I spent the evening analyzing wtf had overcome me in that classroom.

And honestly, I think it was the fact that earlier that day I’d heard a gut wrenching NPR story interviewing survivors of various school shootings. The raw emotion of that segment was enough to bring anyone to tears, made infinitely worse by the fact that beyond thoughts and prayers, I have to wonder what we’ve actually done to keep our babies safer.

I saw the article below the same day and recognized that ultimately, what I experienced in that classroom was a profound sadness about an inevitable loss of innocence — of safety and protection — that’s been kept sacred within those walls.

I’m not just talking about violent acts, though.

Lila and her classmates — many of whom I’ve known since they were babies — will go to kindergarten later this year. And no matter where we obsess about sending them, and how many school tours we endure, every one of them will start a new chapter. Each of them will shed the last remaining traces of toddlerhood in exchange for full-fledged childhood.

And it’s amazing. And exciting. But also so, so, sad. This change marks the end of a beautiful, insulated stage of life and motherhood. One that’s been challenging, sure, but indescribably wonderful.

That Lorax quote though…it makes me question if I (or anyone, really) is caring enough — a whole awful lot — to make the world a better place for the next generation. And for better or for worse, that’s enough to make me cry in front of two dozen small humans.

 

 

 

Do we get to do it because we’re women, or do we have to do it because we’re women?

My favorite outfit in third grade was pairing my turquoise denim overall shorts with my elementary school t-shirt, which was gray with a turquoise coyote. I wore the overalls with one strap up, one strap down, in solidarity with 90s Will Smith. I was so fierce when I wore this. I even rocked it for my school pictures, so luckily it’s been preserved in yearbooks for eternity.

Looking back, this is all kinds of horrifying. But it’s an example of how your identity, standards and story will evolve over time.  The essence of what you know to be right and true one day might completely change when you’re prompted to see things differently

I’m 35 now and my fashion sense, while still questionable, has changed. My thoughts and ideas about lots of other things have changed, too. Age makes a difference, and becoming a parent creates some wild mind shifts.

These days, I spend a lot of time considering the type of example my choices and identity are setting for my girls. I often wonder how to teach them what really matters, and how to know their worth. I want to help them discover what they should accept in life and what I hope they’ll challenge. It’s easy to have convictions about all of these things, but when faced with modeling them in real-time, it gets harder.

Life can be messy and mean, and society creates terrible pressures. Women face this in uniquely challenging ways.

Maybe it’s impossible to spare my kiddos from any of the madness, considering how pervasive it is, but if I can’t do that, I’d at least like to equip them with the tools to navigate through it. If they can’t be immune to something, I hope they can they be thoughtful about it.

This thought process has prompted me to rethink how the subtle things they see me do each day might impact how they perceive themselves.

For example, I wonder what they think when they see me put makeup on before work: is it a rite of passage they’ll partake in one day, or something they need to do to be more appealing to the world? Is it a perk of growing up, or a massive industry telling them they’re not enough? Do we get to do it because we’re women, or do we have to do it because we’re women?

What do they see when I straighten my hair? A chance to show up differently, or pressure to conform and take up less space?

What do little girls think if they see their mom do these things – make efforts to appear differently to go out into the world – and their dad doesn’t?

These aren’t rhetorical questions. I genuinely don’t know how I feel about them. There are contingencies and nuances in every direction, but this gets to the crux of what I’m sitting with.

I don’t think wearing makeup or styling your hair any way you choose is wrong – I still do these things. But lately I do them less, and I think about them more. I’m trying to find the balance between feeling worthy on the inside, and demonstrating that on the outside, in a way that feels authentic and right.

 

Maya at 20 Months

Dear Maya,

It’s ironic how accurately the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poem, There was a Little Girl, depicts you.

There was a little girl, 
Who had a little curl, 
Right in the middle of her forehead. 
When she was good, 
She was very, very good, 
But when she was bad, she was horrid.

It’s safe to say that 99 percent of the time you are an absolute a delight. And that other one percent? I wouldn’t call it horrid, but you can let out some very emphatic NOOOOOs. And if something truly displeases you, the mood transition from sunny to stormy comes quickly and without a filter.

Fortunately, the vast majority of the time you’re nothing if not easygoing; always smiling, cuddly and goofy. You are happy to do anything your sister does, and also wonderful at playing by yourself; you can stay entertained for great lengths of time looking at books, playing with puzzles or fixated on a particular task. Despite being more of a little girl than a baby each day, you love to snuggle and be held. You laugh and laugh, deep belly laughs and hilarious giggles and there’s no sweeter sound on earth.

Your curls have a mind of their own, which I understand all too well. Seeing how everyone reacts to your ringlets with such glee makes me contemplate why I ever straighten my own.

We’re astounded by your vocabulary and ability to string together words already, although commands are still your forte, especially STOP and MINE.

You’re a great eater, and particularly enjoy hard-boiled eggs, apple sauce, fruit, hummus and dipping anything into anything else…I mean, I’ve seen you dip blueberries in ketchup, for example. You don’t share your sister’s love for raw tomatoes or salmon, but you both love yogurt, shakes and carrots with a passion.

I sense you’re an introvert based on how you process changes in social situations, new people and unfamiliar surroundings. No matter how many times you have been somewhere, you still need time to acclimate when you arrive. Once you have a 10-minute period to warm up, it’s off to the races.

You love the park, particularly the slide, and are a big fan of climbing and coloring.

You are not a fan of having your face washed or going to the doctor. Can’t blame you, sister.

You give deep, intense stares at new things, and are obsessed with dogs (wuff wuffs), Good Night Moon, Baby Shark and hide and seek.

We are so proud of the tiny person you are becoming and feel blessed beyond belief to be your family.