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.

 

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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.

 

Maya at 18 months. But also, sisterhood.

Before I wrote this, I re-read Lila’s 18-month update, and the similarities are uncanny, even down to favorite words and activities. And while this is a post celebrating Maya, it would be incomplete without a proper tribute to the ongoing bond between these two girls. Nothing makes either one happier than the other. Lila has insane patience with Maya, endlessly committed to making her laugh, and soothing her when she cries. She talks to her in a special voice reserved just for her sister, and strokes Maya’s cheek and tickles her neck any time she’s sad.

It’s so fantastically heartwarming. Nothing beats it. When we came home from swim class a few weekends ago, Maya was at the grocery store with Jim, and Lila sat on the kitchen floor in distress. “I don’t like it when Maya’s not here, momma, it’s too quiet. If she’s not here, I won’t be happy.”

Maya has a similar affinity for Lila. Every morning she wakes up and points to her bedroom door repeatedly commanding “thith-ter” until we take her to Lila’s room. The same thing happens at school pick up – I always get Maya first, and she immediately starts saying, “thith-ter, Yi-la,” and pointing to her classroom – where she makes a beeline straight toward her. And they hug* and squeal and I’m not kidding this happens every day and is life.

*Nine out of ten times Lila hugs Maya too tightly and then when she releases her, Maya falls and cries. We’ve grown used to this and I don’t think it’s changing any time soon.

The favorite game these two play is every night after dinner, when they’re freshly bathed and on the dangerous cusp of being super exhausted and really, really hyper. They chase each other around the kitchen island then collapse onto the dog beds yelling “night night.” Over. And. Over. Again. And we’re fairly confident one day soon this will cause a head injury, but until that day, party on.

But this was supposed to be a post about Maya and it got hijacked. Enter the plight of the second child.

Maya – you are unbelievably sweet. Despite entering full-on toddlerhood, you love to cuddle and be held. Your teachers describe you as “melty” because you have this amazing way of melting into someone who holds you.

You talk non-stop, and are extremely verbal and expressive. The words we hear most often are yaaa, no, mah (more), agua, mama, dada, go, bye-bye, hi, ca-ca (cracker), poo poo and a host of animal sounds. But we also get dozens of other words and expressions. Emphatic oh-nos, shrieks of the dogs’ names and even da-da-doo-doo because that effing shark song is everywhere.

You are a quiet observer, and my sense is you’re an introvert, because after you’ve had a lot of activity you often slip away to look at books in your room, or play by yourself. You take time to process people and situations before engaging and are selective about who you will let hold you. The way to your heart is, ironically, chasing you – because this is VERY FUNNY.

You love to make us laugh, and have a solid mischievous streak. When you’re told, “no,” you often grin, laugh uproariously and run away. This makes it difficult to scold you.

Your hair is as curly as can be and you still refuse to wear shoes, despite an obsession with putting them on and taking them off.

You eat just about everything and also delight in chucking fistfuls of food across the kitchen and at the dogs. You adore books and being read to, and turning the pages yourself. You love to give running hugs, spend time outside and dig in dirt and sand.

Thank you for all the magic and joy you bring us on a daily basis, and for keeping us present in a world of distractions. We love you.

 

One of those mom letters.

My girls,

I want you to know that weekday mornings in this season are fast and furious. Getting both of you dressed and fed and out the door by 7:45 doesn’t seem like it should be that hard, but somehow, it is. Which is why it’s usually 8:05 by the time we actually head out. And every morning when I inevitably end up rushing you a bit, I feel so very guilty. Guilty that I’m preoccupied knowing I’ll be the last one on my team into the office. Guilty that my limited time with you is being diverted when I pause to scan emails. Guilty that your days are longer than mine.

I want you to know that every morning we pack water bottles, extra clothes, a wet bag for the clothes that end up too dirty to wear home, diapers, wipes, and a lovey for nap time (who absolutely must travel to and from school everyday, despite attempts to have him reside in your cubby). You get probiotics and non-toxic bug spray, your hair is done and your clothes (occasionally) match. You get so many hugs and kisses at drop off (and a kissing hand or love rock or whatever other ritual is encouraged at school). We do our best to be at your Halloween parades, Valentines lunches, Mother’s Day breakfasts and parent reading days. Your dad and I have taken turns chaperoning  some crazy field trips over the past four years.

I want you to know that when both parents work out of the home full time, things can be hard and messy. The systems in this country fail to honor these precious caregiver roles as they ought to. But I accept those challenges, because I want you to know what you are capable of, what you can pursue, and that I didn’t lose myself when you joined our family – rather, I grew. Most of all, I want to fight in my own small ways to change things in the world, so that maybe they can be better, easier and more equitable for you.

I want you to know that not a night goes by when I don’t check on you. I re-tuck blankets, put away stray toys and stare at you in awe. I end every single day with a fully overwhelming sense of gratitude for you both. For your health and happiness, and for the gift of being your mother.

There’s no standard to which one can reach as a parent and exhale with any sense of certainty. I’m not perfect and I don’t want to be. I want to be perfect for you, and that’s a journey that continues one day at a time. One bedtime story and band-aid and sippy cup at a time. And for all the things I could do better, more patiently or with fewer deep sighs, I want you to know how deeply my entire identity is built upon the endless joy, laughter, snuggles and lessons you both bring to our lives everyday.

Maya at 16 months

Maya, you are 16 months old! And a non-stop whirl of chattering and activity, full of joy and with lots of new words and interests every week.

You are expressive to no end, very clearly letting us know what you want, don’t want, and would like us to do. You point at things with the precision of a marksman, clearly indicating where you’d like to be carried, or what you want us to bring you.

You adore your big sister and are her constant shadow, often disrupting her carefully planned activities only to become distracted and barrel off in a different direction. She is endlessly patient with you, telling us all the time how much she loves you and that you’re “so adorable.” Lila smother-hugs you every day, and delights in any new skill you master or word you begin to say – she is truly your biggest fan and the pride she demonstrates over you is unexpected and goosebumpy and just really lovely.

Your word count continues to evolve: for a long time the regulars were: mama, dada, mah (more), hi, uh-oh, yay and ni-ni (night night). You call Molly Ma-La, and have a distinct way of pronouncing Bruno that’s more a combination of sounds than actual syllables. Recently you’ve added, bop (stop), noooooooo, bye, cheese (for photos), peace (please), shoe, ah-wa (agua), go, my (mine), shh (chair) and ha-ha-ha-ha which is a combination you derived from watching us say “hot” and blow on food. And you graciously say poo-poo when you need a new diaper.

 

You are silly and endlessly snuggly. You love dancing to music. You’re generally the most complacent, happy baby (toddler?!) I’ve ever been around and everyone around you remarks on your sweet, easy disposition.

If something displeases you, you have the vocal chords of a herd of elephants, and the ability to go completely limp – rendering your body very difficult to hold onto.

You also have an endless mischievous streak. Laughing and running away when we tell you no, and peering at us with a grin when you do things you know aren’t allowed to do, like climbing up ALL THE FURNITURE.

You make a beeline to your chair when we say breakfast or snack, and rush to your room when we say it’s time for a change. You love dirt and water and being outside.

We adore you and your magical energy, sweet Maya.

thank you notes: then and now

Published in collaboration with Paperless Post.

I was raised with a lot of family mantras, but among the most sacred was my father’s doctrine about handwritten thank you notes.

Birthday gift? Handwritten note.

Job interview? Handwritten note.

Exceptional customer service? You know how this ends.

I actually remember one Hanukkah when I had scribbled out some quick and dirty thank you notes (I mean admittedly they were pretty crappy-looking), and received what can only be described as a ‘father knows best’ glare that sent me on my way to rewrite the whole lot of them.

Anyway. I love technology as much as the next person, but I’m a slow adapter. One area I’ve hesitated to really dig into is electronic cards and invitations. To date, I’ve clung forcefully to my paper and pen. I like the idea of electronic versions, but have worried something would be lost without the sound of an envelope ripping.

I love finding the perfect card. I love carefully placing stamps on envelopes. And getting to put up the little flag on my own mailbox for pick up? Glee!

But you know what? Life is kind of overwhelming lately. I just told a friend that week nights sometimes feel like a hamster wheel of dishes and diapers and school bags and work and laundry. I have about 16 minutes of downtime and I can’t say I’m dying to spend them on things like handwritten correspondence.

Enter Paperless Post.

Holy Disneyland of stationary goodness. I was recently invited to check out the site, and am really impressed with how it works. I was able to experiment sending a few cards, and loved the selection of designs and ease of use. It was simple to choose and customize a design, and there were cards for literally every occasion I could imagine.

Some other features I really liked are that you can see when a card is viewed, and you can easily duplicate a past card to send to a new recipient. There are options to create individual cards, group invitations, fliers and more.

I’m not actually planning a bachelorette party right now, but if I was…

And seriously who wouldn’t want to come to a baked goods and board game party? How is this a thing and I’ve never heard of it.

So while I can’t say I’m a full e-card convert, I’m a big fan of this site and will definitely be using it in the future. The convenience factor is huge, the prices are reasonable and the designs are lovely. You can modify every aspect of each card (even the inside of the envelope!), or upload your own logos/designs. I’m hosting a baby sprinkle in a few weeks and have already planned out what Paperless Post format I’m going to use for invitations.

Handwritten cards and thank you notes will always be one of my love languages, but sometimes change is ok. Or even good.

 

Lila is 4!

Dear Lila,

It’s hard to believe you’re four. Or maybe, it’s hard to believe that your dad and I are adult-enough to have a four year old?

On a daily basis you astound us with your ability to make us laugh and be present. You are full of energy, big ideas, love and mischief.

You love: dinosaurs, obstacle courses, swimming, drawing, playing/digging outside and reading stories.

Your favorite foods: pizza, avocado, grapes, pineapple, cherry tomatoes, popsicles and mac n cheese.

What people tend to comment on when they meet you: your articulation and vocabulary.

What surprises me about you: you have zero fear when it comes to bugs/dirt. You insist on sleeping in long pants and long sleeves, even in the summer. How much responsibility you take for caring for your sister. The fact that you could stay in the bath for hours. That you are as extroverted as I am introverted.

My fears for you: that as the youngest student in your class, older friends will infringe upon your innocence. That you could lose your passionate love of nature. That you’ll experience unkindness, and the veil of ignorant bliss bestowed upon children will be lifted.

You love to laugh. You are always moving. You can play by yourself for hours, but prefer to have Mom or Dad involved. You are incredibly tolerant of your sister, despite her inability to follow the rules you’ve learned yourself.

You are so fun. And funny. And endlessly amazing. You are brave and kind. You are thoughtful and have big emotions.

I sometimes have to pause just to remind myself that this is real life – that you are, blessedly, ours. Because truthfully – you seem far, far too magical.