Eight months, with love.

You are eight months old, sweet girl, and you are our greatest joy. 

You love sitting, rolling and screeching, and have started declaring, “Dadadadada” every so often, along with “guhguh” and lots of gargling and shrieks. You would really like it if your legs cooperated in crawling, but for now, you tend to just scoot yourself backwards, culminating in a frustrated logroll.

You are a huge fan of your outdoor swing and the activity jumper you inherited from Vanessa. You enjoy time in your high chair and always are cooperative on car trips.

You laugh with such awkward joy when daddy plays silly games with you, sometimes as surprised as we are by the sound of your giggles, and you are curious about everything like a tiny exploring scientist.

You’re an astute observer, incredibly intrigued by your surroundings and whatever you can touch and put in your mouth. You love being outdoors and touching different textures like grass or wooden posts. 

You love all food. All of it. You haven’t turned your nose up at anything, although your favorites seem to be pears and avocado. You are starting to try to feed yourself which is messy and adorable. You suck down those pouches like nobody’s business. 

The dogs are quite fond of licking your face aggressively, to which you close your eyes and look utterly bewildered, like you were randomly and inexplicably thrown in a dunk tank. You’ve edged closer to tail pulling which we fear will be a tricky rite of paw-sage.

You are sleeping about 11 hours a night in your crib. We never thought you’d warm up to it,  but as soon as you figured out how to get on your side or your belly, you were content. Your pacis are required for sleep most of the time.

You still fall asleep in my arms and I am so thankful for that. You’re extra snuggly when you don’t feel well which has a distinct bittersweetness.

Not a day goes by where I don’t feel a profound and magical difference in the world and in myself, because of your existence. 

We’re trying to do it all right, Lila Bear, and probably succeeding about half the time, but making up the difference with love. 

  

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To be thankful

Thanksgiving begs for sappy gratitude posts, and I’m in no position to resist.

Family. We became a family of three this year and it’s been a heck of a ride. My highest highs, my lowest lows and everything in between. Babies bring you such an overwhelming sense of purpose and connection. They make you feel whole, and they make you discover the real meaning of love. I am thankful for the blessing of a happy and healthy baby, for access to top medical care for both of us, for the way the experience has challenged me and for how it has brought me closer to my husband. I’m thankful to have parents who support us and delight in being grandparents. I’m thankful for my brother who is a driving force in my life and sometimes the only person who can get in my head to help me sort things through.

Marriage. We’re past the 3.5 year mark since our wedding and are close to hitting eight years as a couple. We’ve grown up together and continue to grow in ways I appreciate and never anticipated. Jim, you are my better half and my grounding force in life. You are what makes me wake up happy each day and go to sleep feeling safe. I’m thankful for the love and balance you bring to my life, the wonderful father you’ve become and for your never-faltering integrity and kindness. There are lots of ups and downs on this ride but I wouldn’t want it to be with anyone else.

Work. I am thankful to work in a dynamic environment with people who truly have become a second family. It is a rarity to be able to say that, and to have had their support when I became a mom was invaluable. There are lots of frustrating moments and hard weeks, but I’m privileged to learn from all different kinds of people and to be pushed at every turn.

My body. Have you ever pondered how insane the human body is? Straight-up magic. I’ve always marveled at what my body is capable of and love pushing myself physically. The past year this awareness soared as I not only carried a baby (STILL blows my mind that people make other people), but also learned the value of functional fitness and training. I’m thankful for my health and what my body provides.

Friends. Friends are family, no way around it; life would be an incomplete puzzle without them. I’m thankful to have so many incredible, loving, hilarious and inspiring friends who show up when it matters most.

Stillness. It’s fleeting to have moments of stillness and quiet these days, so I’m especially thankful when they occur. Introverts rely on alone time to recharge and I’m no exception.

Dogs. My dogs have taken the inevitable backseat following baby’s arrival, but they’re as loving and loyal as ever. They’re loud and messy and wonderful.

Writing. I’m thankful that I have the opportunity to think and share on this blog, for all the support and encouragement. And for the opportunity to truth-tell and help others feel ok.

I think beyond anything I could list here, I’m just thankful for the life I’ve been given and the places it has taken me. The people I’ve met. The challenges I’ve overcome. The love I’ve experienced and the losses I’ve learned from. I’m thankful for how it all weaves together.

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A lesson from dog pee.

Far be it from me to devise an effective dog urination strategy – it’s just not my thing.

That being said, I’d really like to know my dog’s thought process in determining which plants, fire hydrants and electric poles he must pee on, and which he can (literally) turn his nose up at and ignore. He’s a hyperactive little mofo, and without long walks he has a propensity for exploding into fits of destruction. On our daily excursions, I can’t help but ponder what on earth makes him dive to mark certain spots like his life depends on it, while casually bypassing others.

I know deep down that there’s a scientific canine logic behind this madness, but regardless of any conclusions I draw, he’s just doing his thing.

And if there’s one lesson that insists on throwing itself in my face on a regular basis, it that there’s nothing to be gained from worrying about how others behave or trying to interpret their actions. Nada. Even when it’s completely annoying, and even when I really want an explanation.

At the end of the day, we’re only in control of our own actions, and beyond that, the way we respond to people and situations in our lives. So go forth and pee where you want to, no one’s judging from here.

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A note on dogs and handstands.

I have two dogs that are roughly the same age and size. Bruno is excessively high strung, constantly on the move and a complete pain in the ass. Molly is mellow, timid and totally low maintenance. There are obvious reasons for their personality differences—genetics being at the center—but it’s still funny to observe how this manifests in their demeanors.

We recently moved to a new house, which meant a lot of changes for these two, plus new canine neighbors. A six-foot wall in our backyard separates them from the dogs next-door, and despite it’s commanding presence, there’s a lot of back-and-forth barking. Every morning and evening we have a personal Lady-and-the-Tramp-esque bark fest; as soon as one yard starts, they all chime in. The word cacophony seems like a fit.

If left unattended, Bruno will jump over our wall in two seconds, willing to risk injury and the unknown to see what’s over there. His determination is impressive, really, because for all he knows there could be a pool of hot lava on the other side.

Molly, on the other hand, just agitatedly barks at the wall, scratching at it while gazing at the top, but she’s never attempted to jump over. She’s seen Bruno do it, and is just as capable of scaling it, but the idea doesn’t exist in her head, so it never becomes a reality.

Now I’m going to get a little new-age-dog-whisperery, because this discrepancy in dog behavior is a pretty relevant analogy to something I’m experiencing in my own life lately.

Within a month of joining a new training facility I’ve made huge progress in my overall strength, how I look and feel and even my general self-confidence. I’m doing things each week that seemed 100-percent impossible when I first considered them—completely out of my realm of reality—and blowing away my own expectations for myself.

It’s not just the physical activity that’s changing me, it’s the steady erosion of the little voice inside me that’s always told me I can’t do certain things. My entire perspective of my own abilities has changed, and while it initially was linked to mastering specific physical achievements, the positive energy has taken on a voice of its own, edging into all areas of my life.

I feel better than I ever have, and I’m stronger than I’ve ever been. I feel connected to myself emotionally and physically and can sense a genuine change in the energy I’m giving and receiving.

What does this have to do with my dogs? This post was about dogs I think…

I guess the comparison is that I associate Molly’s behavior—her failure to attempt the impossible wall jump—with the old me. And Bruno’s fearless confidence (while very annoying and hard to rein in) is how I feel now.

Something’s changed in me and it’s amazing. I’m no longer worried about my own version of “what’s on the other side of the fence,” because I know I can make it and it will be fine. Better than fine. It will be awesome.

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(Another) open letter to my dog:

Dear Molly,

I just wanted to say thanks for all you do to protect the family. Your relentless devotion to keeping the backyard safe is a real asset to the neighborhood and we don’t take it for granted.

For example, when you hear the city’s recycling trucks circling the area every Tuesday at 5 a.m., your deafening barks and frantic racing throughout the house are completely justifiable for such a disturbance. I mean–let’s be serious—those trucks could be dinosaurs for all we know. The fact that that they arrive at the same time and day each week, every week, makes it no less terrifying.

And the way you alert us to the presence of an emergency vehicle by howling louder than its siren? That’s a real gift. We never have to worry about being the last to know there was an ambulance four blocks away from us.

I think we most appreciate the way you never fail to let us know when there is a cat outside the house, by showcasing your impersonation of a rabid hyena. It’s cool, Molly; I don’t like cats, either. And they definitely don’t have permission to lounge on our front lawn.

Your reactions to these unnatural forces make it easy to understand why you’re deathly afraid of thunder and lightning. I mean—those are much more legitimate dangers—nature is scary business.

Despite any idiosyncrasies, we love you. You make our lives better and we will always appreciate your quirks.

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