Today You are 2!

Lila, today you are two years old and that simple fact is so hard to believe.

It’s hard to comprehend that two years ago I went into labor, and that for every day since the entire world has been a different, more remarkable place.

Two years ago you came into the world in a very big hurry and have hardly paused since.

When people ask me what you’re like, I say that you’re my favorite human and that I want to be like you when I grow up.

You live so boldly in the moment – unaware of any sort of negativity or concern, and simply go about your business as you see fit. You shriek and chatter with joy and rarely stop moving. You are very busy and intentional. You love commanding the dogs: “Molly, ahh you? Inside, cool down!” “Boo-boo, Shh! Quiet, baby sleeping.”

You enjoy: puzzles, being silly, playing in water (hose, sprinklers), marching in circles around the house with Dada and the dogs following you, playing night-night in silly places, bringing ice to anyone with an owie, swimming and helping with laundry. You sweetly narrate life and describe your surroundings…”blue car, white truck, big moon, birdie, trash!”

You are very aware of other peoples’ feelings and often point them out, which I pridefully believe is toddler emotional intelligence.

You are mischievous when: you draw all over the floor or yourself, and refuse to let anyone help you brush your teeth.

Your common phrases: One more book, tiny baby (used to describe anything small), Yi-la try it, No mama Yi-la help.

Your favorite books: The Little Engine that Could, Hop on Pop, Good Night Laila Tov, your Elmo Search and Find Book.

Your favorite foods: You eat everything, but love avocado, pancakes, frozen green beans, hummus and fruit.

My favorite times with you are: when you first wake up and have crazy bed hair and are all smushy and snuggly as you reach to be lifted out of your crib, and after your bath when you run around wild and naked, strategically avoiding bedtime.

I know the tipping point will come soon – when unavoidable negative influences start to infiltrate your life, whether it’s from TV commercials or kids at school  or strangers in the grocery store, and I hate the very idea of it. I want your head and heart to be forever free of the darker things in life. But that’s impossible, to every parent’s dismay. So rather than feebly trying to shield you from it – I want to teach you to learn from these experiences. To be aware of your feelings and the world around you, and use this knowledge to help you grow.

I could never put into words how much I love you, but you’re the reason my heart beats. You’re my first thought in the morning and my last thought before bed and everything in between. Happy second birthday, sweet girl, and thank you for the endless joy. You are a gift.

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motherhood is the greatest equalizer

momsToday I saw a mom in a moment of complete distress. The kind of situation where everything around you kind of blurs and quiets, and you’re laser-focused only on what’s happening right in front of you. A woman I know who is unfailingly poised and stoic got a phone call with emergency news about her son, and completely fell apart.

My heart sank. I froze. I wanted to throw up just hearing her cry.

And I realized in this moment – in which I was so peripherally involved – that all that mattered was whatever might ease what she was experiencing. That was it.

I didn’t care if she nursed or co-slept or let her kids watch tv or worked full-time or if her kids ever bolted away from her at a zoo. In this moment, I felt an overwhelming awareness that as moms, we’re all in this together on a pretty fundamental level. That the greatest equalizer we’ll ever know is the love we have for our babies.

There are so many ways moms judge and evaluate one another these days – it’s even become popular to jokingly use that term – “Don’t judge me…” or, “I sort of had to judge her…” There’s an endless list of qualifying questions we like to know about each other, to gauge how aligned we are, how comfortable and unguarded we can be. Part of that is fun and natural, to be vulnerable and find affinity with new friends – if nothing else it’s common ground for conversation. But sometimes it goes too far, and instead of working to bridge differences, it forces us to put up blocks.

So much of what we use to filter thoughts and judgments about others is irrelevant. There are so few things we can actually control, yet it’s amazing to see how parents lash out at one another for discrepancies in how things are done.

Amazing things happen when we’re open to new ideas and approaches. If instead of defaulting to the horrified, “I would never do that, and here are all the reasons XX is better,” re-train your response to be more along the lines of, “She feels XX is the best for her family, and I wonder what I can learn from her way of thinking.” It sounds completely cheesy and foreign, I know, but how cool would it be if we all were a little more open to learning about each other instead of compartmentalizing everyone? After all, we’re all doing what we believe is our very best.

 

If we haven’t spoken in a while…

…and met for breakfast, here’s what would spew out of my head and my mouth:

I’d tell you that I recently started a new job, going back to a prior employer in a leadership role. And it’s strange to feel like your surroundings are simultaneously familiar and unknown. I’ve had lots of job, and many new starts, yet I always underestimate how hard the transition is. To forget the path to the bathroom, to eat solo at your desk because you’re not quite sure how the team dynamics are just yet. How you have to mentally wade through all the newness to find your normal. The benefit of having done this many times before is I know it’s just a phase – one that will segue quietly into a memory.

I’d say that Lila at 22 months is a spitfire chatterbox who loves to command those around her, “No, Mama, Lila try,” “Move Molly, out,” “Mah cah-cah peeease.” It’s astounding to be able to communicate back and forth when for so many months you are literally talking to your child like an enthusiastic maniac without a coherent response. This girl is fearless (except around loud trucks or motorcycles – not a fan) and so full of laughter and joy, often giggling so hard she erupts into snorts and the most glorious uncontrolled belly laughs. I watch her in constant awe of her unabashed approach to life. The innocence and bravery only a child can possess. Not giving an ounce of concern to filtering her emotional responses, running around naked and living completely and fully as herself in every moment.

I would sigh and talk about how hard it is to process the world right now. That sometimes it’s hard to breathe when I think about the grave unfairness and pain that exists. Everything seems amazing and horrible all at once. News stories about insanely awesome medical advances and amazing human feats interspersed with others about horrific violence and misfortune. My Facebook feed is a chaotic juxtaposition of friends with sick kids posting updates from hospitals, and other friends sharing political rants, new recipes or workout selfies. I love it all, and my own content is as miscellaneous as anyone else’s, but it all just seems so strange what lands on our respective plates. Some days I want to dedicate my entire life and all my money to help anyone who needs it. Other days I want to hide from life and ignore it all. Most days I just strive to be kind (even when it requires deep breathing) and see the good where I can. And I count my blessings like a madwoman because hello – no matter what hardships I like to think I’ve experienced, my life is a complete privilege.

I think I’d probably tell you that no matter how busy I get, even with a toddler and new job and all the rest, I still make it a point to work out for a half hour a day. I need the endorphins and it’s time for just me. It might be at 6 a.m. or at 10 p.m. but I get it in and it helps me stay centered and ok. Some people pray in quiet churches or meditate on mountaintops – I find solace in pushing my body to find new strength.

I would declare that I’m hibernating from the summer heat (it was 120 this weekend, come ON) and still enjoy the debate as to whether our summers are worse than frigid midwest winters.

And I’d absolutely tell you to watch the new Season of Chef’s Table, and that Daring Greatly by Brene Brown is worth a read, and the meditation app Calm is pretty awesome if you ever can’t sleep.

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Lila at 21-ish months

Common Words & Expressions: Oh no, bye-bye, hiiii, good girl Lila, I see, Lila poo, bubble, puzzle, doggie, Molly (our dog), cahh (color), woof woof, night-night, gaffy (glasses), caw (car), buh (book), uh huhhhhh, potty, fah-chee (flower), chah (chalk), slide, ticky-ticky (tickle, tickle), fah (frog), peeeeese (please), tah-chu (thank you).

Longest Sentence: “I see poo, mama.”

Favorite Foods: Avocado, blueberries, popsicles, pretzels, smoothies, and shakes, ice chips, and anything you can feed yourself with a spoon, or dip in ketchup.

Fun Tricks: Climbing into the carseat, climbing onto the coffee table, climbing onto our barstool chairs (yes, there’s a theme here). Playing night-night and covering up stuffed animals with blankets and saying ‘shhh’ and patting them. Drawing with chalk outside or inside on your easel, putting on glasses/sunglasses, putting on soap or lotion, stacking cups and blocks like a boss. Dancing to Ring Around the Rosy and singing along to the The Wheels on the Bus. Putting all kinds of puzzles together, picking flowers and going to get the mail. Pointing out dog poop and insisting we pick it up immediately.

Dislikes: Going to bed, napping at school, getting sunblock put on your face, having anyone play with your hair, and anything that slows you down.

Lila you are SO FUN right now and bursting with personality and chatter. It’s amazing being able to interact and communicate in so many ways, and really get to know you as a tiny person. You are expressive and joyful, and love laughing and being silly. You are occasionally shy around strangers and new places, but take off as soon as you warm up. You love giving hugs and exuberant kisses and being chased around the house. You confidently march into school by yourself and know exactly where to go and what to do. You enjoy your bath each night and snuggling with blankies in your crip. You wake up happy and giggling with righteous bed head, always ready to start the day.

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3 Things that Motivate Millennials (Hint: none of them is more money)

millennialsAnywhere you look, there are articles, studies and surveys interpreting the behaviors and motivations of millennials. All this talk is pretty strange to hear if, like me, you make up part of this population. From what I’ve read, we’re a unique blend of entitled, values-driven and mindful young adults. Apparently it was a really big deal that we got honorable mention ribbons at field day in kindergarten, because now we can’t take criticism.

When it comes to our careers, we don’t stay at companies for the 7-10 years our older colleagues did; not because we’re disloyal, but because we become stir crazy if we’re bored. Go ahead and  #blametheinterwebz.We want to be responsible and plan for the future, but we saw the recession destroy the nation’s economy, so we’re less inclined to trust ambiguous long-term ideals. We fear terrorism and war. We are passionate about making positive changes in our world. We love selfies but are more selfless than you think, and we are nothing like the Kardashians.

If you’re ever bored on a Friday night, google “millennials in the workplace” and snuggle up for some really engaging reading. People are dedicating a crazy amount of time and resources to analyze this age group as we start to overtake the workforce, mostly to determine what motivates us. Well, spoiler alert…it’s not money. And think about it – if it was money – that would make things so easy.

If I had to sum up the driving factors for millennials at work, here’s how it breaks down:

  1. Flexibility: We will work long hours, we will get amazing results and we will be loyal and driven at all times. But we aren’t going to do it in a desk from 8 to 5. No. Freaking. Way. We’ve grown up in a world where technology has transformed the very nature of how we work, and being chained to a desk is deflating, to say the least. It confines our creativity, forces us to make unfair trade-offs with regard to other parts of our lives, and makes us feel untrusted to perform without being monitored.
  2. Inspiration: Working for and with people who inspire us is a non-negotiable. That notion that we’re entitled? Well, we are when it comes to who we need as role models. Millennials thrive and perform best when working with leaders who drive us to be better each day. We don’t care about your degrees or resume, we want to emulate what makes us feel good and energized, and that is found in inspiring leaders.
  3. Recognition. Recognition isn’t found in certificates, plaques or cash. Those things are nice – and I suppose they each have a place – but meaningful recognition, the kind that retains employees and sends them home fulfilled each day, is fostered through trust, mentoring and a supportive team. The best bosses I’ve had weren’t the ones who gave me framed certificates or fought to get me raises, but the ones who recognized my work by giving me new and amazing opportunities, and throwing me into projects way over my head so that I could be pushed to learn on the fly. Recognition needn’t be connected to a particular accomplishment, but should be an underlying part of the culture in any effective organization.

Don’t get me wrong, I like to see what the world perceives me to be, but it’s also frustrating. The very nature of millennials is that we are dynamic and evolving – a transitional generation amid others that are more clearly defined. As millennials continue to comprise a majority of the working world, I have no doubt that the organizations with a keen eye on what motivates and engages this demographic are the ones we will see succeed.

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An update from Toddler Town.

Verbal explosions arrive just as friends warn they will, and just when you’re afraid they won’t. They are equal parts fascinating and alarming, and can be broken down into the following categories (think: Jeopardy): animals/animal sounds, exclamations/commands, names, random objects and body parts/clothing.

“I’ll take repeated monosyllabic screams for $500, Alex.”

Here’s a current break down:

Animals/Animal Sounds
Jaff (giraffe), dowg (dog), cah-cah (kitty cat), owl (pretty solid pronunciation here), buh (bird), duh (duck), cuh-cuh (chicken), moooooo (that’s a cow), hoooo-hoooo (synonym for owl – get your mind out of the gutter). She oinks like a pig and roars like a lion, and when she whinnies – I just die.

Exclamations/Commands
No. Ohh noo (each word two syllables). Uh oh. Whoa. Uppa, dow, ow (up, down, out). All duh (done), muh-muh (more), MY (mine, always shouted), herro, hiiiiii, buh-bye.

Names
Mama. Dada. Buh-ba (baby). Liiilahhhh (any time she sees her reflection). Oh, and ELMO.

Random Objects
Cah (car, with a Boston accent). Vroommmm (applies to cars, trucks, buses, trains), ba-ba (ball), chay (chair), buh-bull (bubble), puh-pull, yerro, guh (purple, yellow, green), bhah (bath). Side, siii (slide, swing).

Body Parts/Clothing
Nose, elbow, tuh (toe), shoooz (shoes), sah (socks).

She also makes this really consistent yet indistinguishable sound for airplanes – no clue – sorry kiddo.

This is in no way a brag list. The deeper I get into motherhood, the more I face this subtle sense of competition some parents seem to generate around kiddos hitting milestones. #letthembelitte should be followed with #letusstayhumble. At any rate, I list these things in blog form because I want to remember them. (And let’s be honest, my pre-mom memory is on unpaid leave.)

I love this phase and the endless discoveries. I love watching her decisions and intentions come into play. Her physical strength and determination astound me along with her sheer understanding of just about everything. There are frustrating moments, and messy and loud moments but mostly purely magical moments.

10 Notes to Self for 2016

Whether it’s the dwindling holiday sugar high, or my brainwaves centering to normal after some time off work, these are things I want to remember as we approach the new year.

1. Write more. Without considering the audience.

2. Take lots of walks. Summer will be here before we know it (not to be pessimistic butttttt it’s Phoenix) and I’ll be jonesing for the chance to exist outdoors without heatstroke.

3. Read my own books aloud to Lila. I did this when she was first born but have lapsed. It’s such a win though: quality time together, she hears more words and I get a blessed reprieve from Sandra Boynton. 

4. Listen to way more podcasts. I’m horrified to admit that I just started Serial. WHY DID I WAIT SO LONG? And Unorthodox is just too good.

5. Don’t worry twice. There are some things you plan for and take necessary precautions to prevent. But other stuff will just plain go wrong. Either way you spin it, it’s lame to spend chunks of time idly preoccupied.

6. Use your turn signals. Lately I’ve become an ass in this regard. My bad.

7. Make better eye contact. Ante up, introvert. 

8. Self care. It’s an ongoing and ever-so-important game of connect the dots. If it doesn’t happen, you’re left staring at a speckled page with glazed eyes and no motivation. Maybe it’s a glass of wine, a killer workout in the living room, baking muffins, browsing the aisles at Goodwill or spending the day in yoga pants. Whatever it is, DO it.

9. Be less fearful. Trust your instincts. See # 5. 

10. Do not stress about laundry. Ever.