Two and a half 

I sometimes wonder what I was like on a daily basis as a two and a half year old, now that I’m living with one. I’ve probably said this every time I pause to consider a milestone or transition as a parent, but I really think this is my favorite stage so far. 

To be able to sit and have a dinner conversation with your child is just so entertaining. And as I watch the daily evolution of language, independence and personality, I revel in your growth; so much so that I sometimes overlook the fact that you’re still so little. You’re no longer reliant on us for all the things you used to be (you can get your own snacks, brush your own teeth and clear your dishes), but I crave the sweet, fleeting moments each day where you still need mommy and daddy. 

The funniest part of parenting you right now is the spontaneous generation of your thoughts and speech. It’s like a never-ending, in-person sitcom where you’re the writer, director and producer. You wake up singing every single day, like clockwork, and from that moment forward it’s non-stop chatter and observations on the world around you. 

I could never anticipate the hilarious things that come out of your mouth, but man I love observing it all. I never knew kids your age had a sense of humor, but you love hiding from us, shouting, “I’m just kidding,” and saying things that you know are “just being funny.” Like yesterday when you told us rock- flavored ice cream would “siwwy.” You also offered me an espresso when I picked you up from school today, so there’s that. 

Parenting is very different right now than ever before. It feels like there are endless combinations of what can be considered right and wrong, and being a good parent is far more subjective today than a year ago. I’m very focused on teaching you to be kind and to be brave. We talk about what this means every day. Both your dad and I encourage your independence and to keep trying when things are hard (like climbing into the car by yourself or working on a tough puzzle). But we also prioritize letting you evolve as your own individual self (you can choose your own clothes and the books we read each night).

We work to maintain a sense of order and set clear expectations and routines for you, but we also try to avoid creating rules and structure just for the sake of it. We want you to fully and freely enjoy being you before the world starts becoming far more demanding. 

You know you’re going to be a big sister, and you love offering the baby in my tummy food, kisses and a paci. I’m simultaneously excited and terrified for how the change will impact you, but I know you’ll take it all in stride. 

Cool things: you can identify all of your letters and numbers by sight and have about 25 songs memorized. You also make up your own words to songs now. You eat absolutely everything we offer you. You are starting to let me brush and style your hair instead of flipping out when I try. You have an incredible (and somewhat unnerving) memory. 

Favorite activities: painting, using a rolling pin and cookie cutters to cut out play-doh shapes, going to the park, giving all your plastic animals a bath in the tub, jumping on your “trampayeen.”

Dislikes: being woken up before you’re ready, when anything is out of place in your room before bed, having to come inside when you’re playing outside, when someone takes your food without asking. 

Cute recent phrases: “Guess what? I wuv you.” “You put a lotta pepper on your food? You like it spicy?” “I wanna go to the farm, I like pig-wits.” “This our fam-a-wee car. No one else. Just our fam-a-wee.” “You feel a wittle sick mommy? You feeling better?”

Through it all, you’re my favorite human, without a doubt. 

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The past few months

The past few months have been…a lot. A lot of good and a lot of changes.

In June I started a big new job. In July, I travelled to Nashville for a conference and a bachelorette party during the same weekend. In August, Lila changed rooms at school, Jim went out of town and I started a year-long leadership academy.

In September, we moved into a new house, and found out we were expecting baby # 2 the same weekend. Then two weeks later, we travelled out of town to be in our dear friends’ wedding. At the end of the month, I had my Valley Leadership retreat out of town – the same weekend I was set to attend a coaching retreat in Phoenix. Naturally I got strep throat that weekend, too, but made it to both retreats.

In October, our old house went under contract. Then my car died – like, needs-to-be-replaced died, so we sold it and started sharing a car for the most part (fortunately Jim has a company car during the week). Then my doctor saw something troubling on my ultrasounds so I started having scans every two weeks that insurance didn’t feel like covering (these were deemed labs, not prenatal care) and I was put on restricted activity (no workouts, waaa). My brother visited from Australia at the end of the month and we had a whirlwind few days with him.

In November, the old house fell out of contract, throwing us for a loop. Lila somehow managed to get two UTIs in the midst of this, which meant some unpleasant visits to urgent care and then a renal ultrasound, which was completely clear, thank G-d. Then it was the election, and the holidays, holidays, holidays — all of which made me question humanity. In December, my ultrasounds thankfully cleared up and the house went back under contract.

In January, we got a letter from the IRS telling us we owed them a lot of money (rude), but some investigating revealed it was an error on the part of a past employer, so that was resolved. Through all of it, I was learning my new job, running my coaching business, serving as a school board member and participating on a couple of non-profit committees. I was trying to be a good wife and mom and friend and human (results: debatable). Oh and today, we finally closed on our old house.

So it’s been a lot when I stop and list it all like that, but not all bad – not at all. So much good mixed in with the chaos.

Throughout all of it, the desire to sell our old house weighed heavily on me. It was a lingering stressor I just wanted to wipe away. So inevitably, the closing today was a long awaited moment to exhale, something I’d been counting down to for weeks. But as I just said to Jim tonight, I think I expected to feel this huge change and sense of relief today…and I don’t. It’s hard to explain, but it’s a good thing. I think it means I finally learned the lesson that I had no control all along, and just had to trust the process. The more I tried to “manage” everything we were experiencing, the less I realized I could actually influence any of it. It took a long time to recognize that and relinquish the white-knuckle grip I’d been trying to maintain on my life.

*10 points to Jim for refraining from shouting, “I TOLD YOU SO, YOU NUTJOB.”

I am an anxious person. I am especially sensitive sometimes. So this season often felt like one ginormous stretch goal in terms of personal development. Some moments I struggled just to exist without knowing exactly how things would work out.

Part of me would like to sound the gavel and declare this chapter in life officially closed, but I know very well that another challenge is waiting just around the corner. One that likely will cause me to chastise myself for ever thinking these circumstances were anything but a walk in the park. That’s life. It’s not necessarily meant to be easy and uncomplicated, but every situation can somehow provide an opportunity to learn or grow. Don’t take that to mean I’ve handled all of this gracefully, because I haven’t. But I can recognize that if things were always peachy, I’d be a pretty crappy mom and wife. I’d be out of touch with my friends, with a narrow perspective and less of an ability to empathize.

One of the lessons I learned through all of this was that despite all the practical things you can do, and no matter how carefully you play by the rules, troubling shit can still happen. It’s not punishment: it’s life. I gained a new (and perhaps more adultish) appreciation for how critical good friends are (those of you who bore the brunt of my angst via text, and checked in on me, thank you – you know who you are). And thank you to my husband who has weathered far more stressed-out-preggo wife moments than any man should have to bear, and yet still rubs my feet and cooks me dinner.

I’ve also gained a new awareness that while sometimes things feel colossally hard, at the end of the day, nothing matters except the health and well-being of your loved ones. Nothing. Not the balance in your checking account, the title on your office door or the number of stamps in your passport. It’s something you hear all the time, but it’s hard to remember some days. I need to make sure it’s on my radar way more often.

The introvert in me is hoping things quiet down a bit for a while. If we’re being totally honest, I’d be on board with sitting alone in a dark room for several weeks, watching reruns of Parks and Recreation under a blanket with a bag of Donettes. We all know that’s not going to happen, but no matter what comes along, it will somehow work out as it should.

life

 

some thanks and some thoughts

I first became a health coach about two years ago, and as I think about what the experience has been like, I’m really thankful for everyone who’s been supportive of the journey. Whether you’ve tried Shakeology or a new fitness program, joined a challenge group or simply liked my Facebook posts, I appreciate you. And if you’ve been critical or made fun of it, I appreciate you too, because you made me stronger in this process.

When I started out on this path, I had no idea what I was doing. None. I’d discovered some fitness tools and products that made a huge difference in my life at a really critical time, and I knew that if I became a coach, I could get a discount on them, so I signed up. That’s the truth, folks. I wasn’t sold on the actual coaching aspect at first, but I did think it’d be cool to share what had worked for me with others.

Flash forward to now, and my role as a coach has become a bigger part of my life than I ever imagined. Coaching has filled a gap left by my traditional jobs and forced me to be way more of a leader and self-starter. It’s also pushed me to be way more vulnerable than usual, because really connecting with people means baring parts of yourself that aren’t typically on display.

And at first, it all made me uncomfortable as hell.

Was I nervous to be part of a multi-level marketing network? Averse to selling things? Afraid to crash and burn? Yeah, all of those things.

But sometimes fear and discomfort are the biggest signs that growth is coming. And if you’re willing to grimace and be sort of nauseas and sweaty as you navigate through those feelings, some pretty amazing stuff can happen.

So a few months in, I said F it, and decided to really give it a shot. I told myself that if I hated it after a year or so I would stop, and committed to sticking just to the parts of the business I enjoyed rather than striving for income goals or the highest ranks. My first goal for myself was literally just to not quit (bold, I know).

I quickly learned that one benefit of coaching while working fulltime was that I wasn’t driven by income – I had that already – so I was able to truly act in the best interest of anyone who asked for support (which is definitely NOT to say those who coach exclusively are money hungry, just reflecting on my personal experience). I also learned that no one wants to be “salesy,” and no one wants to be “sold” anything, but that sharing openly is how real connections are formed.

On a personal front, coaching introduced me to a new way of living. I feel better and stronger. I’ve stopped a toxic love/hate relationship with the scale and learned the right ways to measure health and progress. I’ve traded the satisfaction I used to feel when I could fit into a certain size of clothing for the pride I feel when I kill a tough workout. It’s not a walk in the park – I still have food guilt and obsess over my appearance certain days, because society is rough, man. And body image struggles are way more pervasive than any of us wants to recognize. As parent, I’ve starting making it a point to alter my own language and habits to set a better example: I don’t have to work out, I want to work out. I’m not “being bad” when I eat dessert, and I’m very careful with the adjectives I use to describe physical appearance.

This journey has taught me a lot, especially in how I share it with others. There’s a great deal of misunderstanding around the blurred lines between being an encourager and being disrespectful to different body types. What I’ve realized is that not everyone will get it, and that sometimes the most well intentioned messages are interpreted in a way you never intended. And unfortunately, as with any business in the world, the bad stories tend to make bigger headlines than the positive ones.

But most of all I’ve also learned that a lot of us – most of us, in fact – are scared of making changes. Because we might fail, or we failed before, or we just don’t know how to ask for help. And this is so completely normal.

When it comes to making healthy lifestyle changes, I promise you can do it. Even if you’re super busy, or had an injury, or don’t have extra money to spend, or aren’t a shake person, or have tried and failed, or don’t have childcare, or have a longer way to go than you’d like; you can still do it.

You can still do it.

I know a lot of us are thinking about healthy changes in the New Year, and if I can be of any support, please don’t hesitate to reach out. It might be the conversation that changes everything.

Lila at 28 months

I think the most fascinating part of this stage of parenting is that it’s no longer a one-way street. Instead of a baby who depends on you for food, mobility and imaginative dictation, there’s a two-year-old who feeds herself, runs and trikes all over the place and talks and sings every moment she is awake. Gone are the days of wondering what she’s thinking – today we know, we always know – and it’s an absolute trip to hear the things that come out of your mouth on a daily basis.

We do our best to ask open-ended questions, not only to encourage lengthier conversations, but also for the sheer entertainment value. We’ve entered the stage of WHY, and I’ll be damned if I’m not completely stumped at the end of each round of questioning. I don’t know why some cars have different sounding horns or it was sunnier today than yesterday, or why my soup was spicy, but I love your endless curiosity.

You are genuinely always chipper unless you’re sick or exhausted. You are animated and imaginative, and don’t stop talking from the moment you wake up until you go to bed. You love to be silly and make us laugh, and are a careful observer in new situations. You love the simplicity of playing, and often jump into games with kids at your school without a moment’s hesitation, even when you don’t know them. You are a good listener and rule follower, scolding anyone who walks in the street instead of the sidewalk, and refusing to take food we offer you if “still chewing momma.”

Your Favorite Things: Stickers, your tricycle, talking about animals, inflatable holiday decorations, books, climbing on Daddy, watching children’s songs on Youtube and art projects. You’re fascinated by dinosaurs and pushing buttons on different things, and love FaceTime.

Lately you’re insisting that you read your books out loud to us, instead of the other way around. You bring us both pillows (stuffed animals) and won’t begin until we’re laying on our backs watching you. “I read dis book now Mommy?” You’ve memorized an impressive amount of children’s books, and when you forget the words, you make up scenarios based on illustrations. 

Tucking in all your animals at bedtime is a formal routine, as is sharing breakfast with them when you wake up. 

You enjoy monitoring all the neighborhood holiday decorations – when inflatables are on you shriek, “toys awake!” and when they’re deflated, “toys fall over.” 

You’re constantly explaining all your actions, “I take my sweater off, Mommy, my sweater toooo hot.”

You like picking out your own clothes, weather-permitting, and laying on your back so we can trace you with chalk. 

Lately you’re asking to sit at the big table to eat with Mommy and Daddy, or assign us seats at your tiny table for meals. You continue to love all food and drinks, except bell peppers and Perrier (I do not blame you).

Sometimes you’re naughty. You will color all over your face and hands with markers, or make a big mess of something and run away refusing to pick it up. Your tantrums are generally short-lived and easily diverted, but can be ferocious at times.

You sing ALL the time and it is amazing. You know the words to 20+ songs and insist on singing alone (meaning you shout at anyone who tries to join in). 

As for me, I love being your mom.

I don’t care that you turned two, I still won’t flip your carseat around to face the front. I’ve spoken to specialists and done the research, and even if you have to bend your legs and my own seat is at an awkward angle, you’re so much safer this way. 

I don’t encourage you to give people hugs or kisses if you’re resisiting it, even relatives. I want you to feel in control of your body and never that you have to comply with physical expectations that make you uncomfortable. 

And I still check on you while you’re sleeping, every single night. (After you’ve stopped singing to yourself.)

Take your daughter to work (a conversation)

Most weekday mornings, Jim leaves for work before Lila and I wake up. Lately, she’s gotten more curious about his exact whereabouts (and, you know, everything else in life…) so we’ve had more conversations about Daddy being at work, how he got there, what he’s doing, etc. And I didn’t think anything of this until a different conversation earlier this week.

L: Where Daddy go?

Me: He’s at work today. 

L: Ohhh. Only daddies go to work? 

Me: No, Mommy goes to work everyday, too.

L: No! Only Daddy go to work.

And so on and so on as I debated the merits of working with a two year old.

And my dismayed working-momma heart felt like saying, “My biggest goal as a parent has been to avoid putting you into a box based on your gender or any other characteristic. I’ve only wanted to make sure you know that you can pursue anything you want to in life. Right now that means going down the big slide by yourself or brushing your own teeth, but down the road it means you will chart your own course. That’s why both your parents cook and clean and change diapers and go to work. And if one of us decided not to work outside the home, that would be ok too.” 

In the process of trying to maneuver her surroundings into this perfectly balanced utopia of gender-neutral toys and clothes, I neglected to explain these most fundamental ideas to my daughter. 

This doesn’t feel like being a feminist to me, it just feels practical. 

It’s not to say I’d be happier if Lila chooses to spend her life painting or engineering or nursing or doing anything else – I just want her to have the confidence and intent to choose what suits her. 

And I realized this week that if I don’t pause to tell her what I do all day, I’m not modeling this well at all. 

now I’m just tired.

We came out of the shadows slowly on Wednesday morning, exhausted and afraid. Timidly dipping our toes into this new reality, then jerking back out when we realized how cold it was.

Much like the feeling following the loss of a loved one, there was intense shock that people — some people — seemed to just go on about their business, seemingly unfazed by something that forever changed your world.

And then the stages of grief began cycling, again and again. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and the one we’re all waiting for: acceptance.

I’ve spent a lot of time in anger, but now I’m just tired. My soul and my bones are tired.

I am thankful my daughter isn’t yet old enough to know that this week, people all around her voted for a person who will shape her world in scary ways. Someone who denies climate change. Brags about sexual assault. Incites racial discrimination. Mocks people with disabilities. Disrespects women. Was endorsed by the KKK but not one news outlet. I want those people to look my sweet baby in the eyes with full sincerity, and tell her what you did. Because I can’t.

Would it have been different for you if I was the one who he bragged about assaulting? Or if I was a Muslim – now fearful of having to register my religion? What if I was gay and the integrity of my marriage was now at stake? Would that humanize it enough to make a difference? Because it’s easy to ignore when it isn’t in your own little bubble. But what if it was me?

You can say there are bigger issues. That there was no choice. That it was the lesser of two evils. But my heart does not believe you.

I am sad. That so many people I know are now in fear. Of backwards progress in every civil liberty. Of being harassed and monitored because of their religious beliefs. Of nuclear war, increased domestic threats and the rise of hate groups.

I am disheartened that it seems people can’t seem to agree on right and wrong. And are getting their news from Saturday Night Live and swirling rumors, and not educating themselves about what really matters. We’ve lived charmed lives as Americans, haven’t we?

And I am angry. At people who don’t vote. Or who say it’s what we need to change things…to just accept things and go out and be a good person – because while that matters, it doesn’t feel like enough.

I’m not naive to the fact that this is how a democracy works. That there aren’t outcomes that please everyone. And that some people I am close to voted for the very things that keep me up at night. Normally I appreciate opposing views and discourse, but not today.

Today I’m still just tired.