The final countdown, pre-school edition

This is Lila’s last week at preschool, and no one is surprised that I need to write about my feelings.

The countdown started as a slow rumble months ago; quick conversations among parents about what schools we were touring, comments about how crazy it all felt, and eye rolling over how annoying it was going to be to have multiple drop offs.

But the reality of it didn’t sink in until graduation in May. All of a sudden we entered this maddening time warp where the days seemed to pass more quickly each week. I’m pretty sure five minutes ago I dropped a baby off in the infant room, and now we’re ordering what feels like a nonsensical amount of glue sticks and tissues for a school that’s totally foreign to us.

I can’t wait to see L start kindergarten and soar to new heights — she’s ready for this — but there’s a heavy cloud hanging over the next few days. It’s a mixed bag that’s going to hit me hard when we walk out those familiar doors together on Wednesday.

The way time passes after having children is truly baffling. Last week I attended Meet the Teacher night for Maya, and it just so happened that the 2’s room is now the same room Lila was in as a baby. I hadn’t entered that space in years, and it was a crazy feeling to literally come full circle.

That room is somewhat of a sacred space, because when you drop your baby off to day one at daycare, you’ve never been more vulnerable. Not just in the sense of leaving your little one somewhere new, but because it’s awkward and uncharted territory. I didn’t know where to leave bottles or how long to talk to the teachers, and I was intimidated by every other parent who seemed to have things more together than I did. I wasn’t yet comfortable with the working mom part of my identity and was very focused on trying not to trip in heels while carrying an infant carrier.

If you’d asked me at that very first drop-off what I hoped for from a childcare provider, I probably would have said something about nap schedules and diaper cream. In my wildest dreams I couldn’t have imagined what would really matter: the teachers who wore my daughter in a wrap all day because she was colicky. The framed art we’d display made from baby footprints. The email folder full of updates and photos. Over that first year, the classroom came to represent a place of growth and friendships.

week one

After the baby room, we entered the walking toddler room, where all my worrying about napping on cots proved wildly unnecessary. Art projects became more involved and babies started morphing into tiny people who ate with forks and had water play days. Every day was a new adventure that helped toddlers explore and develop.

Then onto the 2’s room, where potty training was this big thing and the kiddos started having birthday parties, themed days and field trips. This helped our parent group come together as a unit, as we started to really understand the magic in the imaginative, child-focused curriculum we’d heard so much about. Our kids were kind of weird, yes, but in the best way.

This was also the room where most of us got pregnant with our second kids, so for the second half of the year the teachers faced regular intervals of displaced, hormonal mom crying. Were the parents higher maintenance than the kids? Very likely. Also, we lost and gained approximately 350 toddler socks this year, and became one with the Moana soundtrack.

Our 3’s room will always make me think about an epic field trip to the science center Pompeii exhibit with 25 kids who had zero problem discussing how bodies were buried and preserved in volcanic ash. They were obsessed with volcanos all freaking year. Also this year the kids really started to play together with intention and learned how to use tools and a sewing machine. The classroom was a perfect depiction of a three-year-old’s mind, where every inch contained something of great significance.

We started love rituals to make goodbyes easier, and saw our small children start to lose their baby chub. This was also the year the kids spent a great deal of time talking about habitats, which segued into raising money to help purchase tents for the homeless.

As we entered the official pre-k room, we saw a continuation of very special friendships. Our teachers have often remarked that the kiddos who were entering their fifth year together truly had a sibling-like relationship. They fight hard but they love even harder. They know each other so well and work through conflict more effectively than most adults I know. The social and emotional development this past year has given us a chance to see these kids grow into themselves and learn to communicate and regulate their feelings.

Daycare and preschool teachers are quick to correct anyone who says they are raising other peoples’ children, but the truth is, they are a huge piece of how we raise our children — one we choose and cherish. They are present for countless pivotal moments in our kids’ lives, and also in our lives as parents. They’re more valuable than any parenting book, well-intentioned relative or answer you can google, and I understand now why my mom still remembers the names of the preschool teachers I had 30+ years ago. I will forever view our teachers as an extension of our family.

Then there are the other families we’ve been so fortunate to have on this journey. Where can I begin? Milestone by milestone we’ve been blessed with extra sets of eyes, helping hands and huge hearts. Other moms and dads who don’t hesitate to love on your kids, text you to let you know what the kids were doing when they dropped off after you, and cover for you when you’re late or away.

Moms who are further down the parenting road and give the most reassuring advice, and who don’t bat an eye when you stroll out of school carrying a filthy child, soiled clothes bag, cereal box full of rocks and seven paper towel rolls. I always knew Lila would make friends at school; what I didn’t expect was for our entire family to create lasting and meaningful friendships.

The hardest part about this transition is seeing these kids move on from such an incredible community. This hasn’t just been a school, it’s been a home away from home for the past five years. It’s forever changed the trajectory of Lila’s life, and no doubt mine as well. It’s been a pretty amazing ride, and I feel so much love and gratitude to everyone who’s been a part of this chapter. And while I’m so sad for what we’re leaving behind, I’m more thankful for everything we’ve gained along the way. And I have to believe we’ve only just begun.

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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.

Maya is ONE!

Dear Maya, you are ONE!

It’s so hard to believe we met you a full year ago. You’ve brought indescribable joy to our lives and added a new dimension of love to our hearts.

Everywhere you go, people remark on how calm and happy you are. Even when you’ve been sick or tired or schlepped all over the place, you are almost always quite content and rarely stop smiling.

You delight in simply being held (by anyone), observing the world around you, and absolutely love to snuggle. You weigh 22.3 lbs, are 30 inches long (both about the 80th percentile) and your head is in the 94th percentile #bigbrain. A month ago you had two teeth, but now seven have broken through. You have amazing baby curls that I hope never go away.

You are fascinated by: my electric toothbrush, climbing into Lila’s bed, and drinking out of water bottles

You are mischievous when you: pull all the toilet paper off the roll, try to eat dog food, and pull your sister’s hair

You like to eat: pretty much everything, but especially green peas, veggie straws, strawberries and cheese

You can say: hi, yay, uh oh, more, mama and dada, and love to wave and clap and sign ‘more’ or ‘all done’

You love to: walk with your push-and-go or holding dad’s fingers, splash in the bathtub, and play in mom and dad’s bed

Parenting two marvelous humans has been a harder transition than I anticipated, but in unexpected ways. There are the simple logistical challenges, like managing two nightly baths and story routines, but also the less visible ones, like the guilt of having to put you down to tend to your sister, and spending far less quality one-on-one time with Lila.

There’s also the exhaustion. You finally got tubes about a month ago, but for the six months preceding that miracle, you were sick pretty much constantly. You were a trooper, but…no one slept particularly well as a result of chronic ear infections. We had a lot of unplanned sleepovers in your room.

We’ve found a balance though, and watching your evolving relationship with your sister is all the reinforcement we need that things are going in the right direction.

We love you and your magical spirit and are thankful every day for the privilege of being your parents.

About Last Night: A Tale of Poop and Parenthood

No matter how exhausted I am, I procrastinate going to sleep. Life is chaos these days, and I crave the semi-quiet hours after the kids go to bed. So after dinner and dishes and laundry and lunches I like to read or write or contemplate putting the clean laundry away before realizing that’s a terrible use of time. I also like to completely zone out and stare at my phone. The night hours are sacred.

But last night? Last night I went to bed early. EARLY!

I’ve been working out at 5:30 a.m. for the past few weeks, and with intermittently sick kids, sleep has been an endangered commodity in our home. I was giddy with the idea of turning in early and getting some quality rest.

But you know that saying, “[Wo]man plans and God laughs?” Well, let’s talk about how I got that reminder last night.

Here’s my timeline:

9:45 p.m. – I get in bed. Stretched, tossed my hair like a Disney princess, smiled, exhaled deeply and turned on white noise. I triumphantly passed out in 14 seconds from sheer exhaustion.

2:09 a.m. – Jolted awake when Maya wakes up screaming. Enter stage one of denial. Pretend it’s a dream.

2:26 a.m. – Maya continues to scream. I place a pillow over my head and aggressively start willing her to sleep in my mind. This can work, I know it can.

2:34 a.m. – I admit to myself she is not going back to bed, and since she’s been sick, and Jim is sick, I go to check on her. She needs snuggles and Tylenol. I trudge to the kitchen with her.

2:35 a.m. – I near the kitchen and smell something. I can’t quite place it, but it’s bad. Smell Maya’s bum…nope, not the source.

2:35 a.m. – Oh. Oh no. NO NO NO NO. Discover my dog had diarrhea in about 16 spots – all carpeted. Start to gag. Still holding crying baby. Question whether to put baby down to clean up poop, or desert the poop minefield to get the baby to sleep. Baby wins.

2:50 a.m. – Finally get Maya back to bed. Spend 20 minutes cleaning up dog poop, questioning my existence and true purpose in life. Lots of swearing. Gagging. Mild rage.

3 a.m. – Go back to bed. Too mad to sleep. Then even madder I’m wasting precious sleep time being mad about dog shit.

5 a.m. – Alarm goes off to work out. NO NO NO NO. Too early. Snooze.

5:10 a.m. – Re-awaken to a strange noise. It’s Lila singing “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” at the top of her lungs, two hours before she usually wakes up. Again question my existence.

5:11 a.m. – Enter Lila’s room to discover every single toy and book strewn about. It’s basically like her room was struck by a violent toy tornado. The damage is impressive and terrifying all at once. I tell her to go back to bed and she launches into a most insane tantrum. This kid wakes up happy every single day. Why today was the once-in-a-lifetime anomaly I have no idea.

5:30 a.m. – Get Lila calm and settled through a series of positive reinforcement, hugs and shameless bribes. YES YOU CAN HAVE SPRINKLES FOR BREAKFAST. Eat my pre-workout meal. Curse my dog a few more times.

5:40: a.m. – Start workout. Initially feel like an uncoordinated donkey. End up feeling like a majestic unicorn gladiator.

6:30 a.m. – About to finish workout, feeling slightly redeemed about my life. Maya starts crying. I pause my workout to go and get her. She immediately poops. NOOOO I HAVE ONE MORE SET OF EXERCISES LEFT. Again the quandary of trying to finish something but needing to clean up poop. My OCD tendencies are having a ball with this one. Alas, the poop must wait as I finish the last few minutes of my workout.

6:40 a.m. – Change poopy diaper, get ready for work. Vow to go to bed early again tonight.

10 times I won at life and/or parenting

Ever scroll through your iPhone camera roll and pause to scrutinize an image, to try to figure out what the heck it is, and why you took a picture of it?

It seems I have a lot of those images.

I never realized how often I did it, but apparently I’ve been compiling a whole collection of photos of awkward moments in my life. I’m not a hoarder, but I think I’m an over-documenter.

I hope this array of photos and (memorable?) moments makes you laugh, because each one of them may have made me cry at the point it was taken, but now, in retrospect, is kind of hysterical.

At the very least, I hope this gives you a “me too” sigh of relief and some extra reassurance that no one’s life is as peaceful or organized as their instagram feed may portray.

  1. That time I backed out of the garage before the door was fully up. Because it’s tricky, you know, to wait the full 10 seconds it takes for it to open. This may shed light on how smoothly getting out of the house with two kids goes for us on weekdays.
    garage
  2. When you wake up and realize there is no toilet paper. Like, none. So you say a prayer of thanks for Amazon Prime Now.
    tp
  3. Ever put up a Happy Birthday banner in August, and get around to taking it down in December? Truth be told, the pink butterflies grew on us.
    banner
  4. The day I actually got Maya to daycare ON TIME and she threw up all over me in the parking lot.
    puke
  5. Last month we went on a family picnic (my idea) and right after this picture was taken it started pouring and everything got soaked.
    picnic
  6. When your toddler drops a hair tie in the toilet (before flushing) and you have to fish it out so it doesn’t “go into the ocean like Nemo.”
    hair tie
  7. Why is there a Maglite in my bathroom, you may ask. Well, sometimes when a toddler chews a piece of her Lion King book into a spit wad, and shoves it up her nose at 10 p.m. and tells us – through hysterical sobs – that “SIMBA IS IN MY NOSE,” a Maglite, tweezers and strategic nose blowing come in handy. Note: it was successfully dislodged, and she no longer sleeps with books in bed.
    maglight
  8. The same toddler who dropped the hair tie in the potty and and put the King of Beasts up her nose also managed to lean forward into the menorah on the first night of Hanukkah this year, and singed a few hairs off the top of her head.
    menorah
  9. We’ve had the winter crud in our house for three weeks. This is a snapshot into what it’s been like to keep two sick kiddos entertained while they feel awful.
    floor
  10. And here’s our latest family photo, which I adore. But this image came after Lila got dog poop on her pants (outside bottom of her right leg – squint and you’ll see it), and had to be bribed with a lollipop to cooperate. Maya wasn’t feeling well, so the world’s happiest baby refused to crack a smile for a single photo. Jim and I had slept a combined six hours the night prior, and everyone was in a fabulous mood.
    pro photo

I like real life. I like oversharing. I love when things get messy and gnarly and hilarious. Each of these moments was HARD at the time, but I love looking back at how they weave together to tell our story in this season.

Maya at Four Months

Maya, you are four months old and an absolute delight.

I write lots of posts about you in my head, day after day, but getting them out and published has been tougher (time is a sparse commodity these days).

You are just the sweetest baby. You are so happy and content – I’ve never seen anything like it. You have a calm and joyful nature, full of smiles and rarely ever crying or upset. Even when you do cry to momentarily alert us that you’re done napping, or would like some attention, as soon as we smile at you and greet you, you give us a huge smile as if to say, “Just kidding guys! All good here!”

Your teachers have told me verbatim, “We love her. She’s the kind of baby we all dream of taking care of.”

You maintain some strange eating habits. Sometimes you only want to eat a few times a day, and are easily distracted or disinterested in nursing or bottles, yet you’re healthy and growing so quickly! At your four-month well check you were in the 80th percentile for weight (15.12), 89th percentile for height, and your head was in the 93rd percentile.

You can roll onto your side and are much more interested in tummy time now that you can lift your noggin up and look around. You discovered your toes this week and now we can find you peacefully holding onto them while observing the world around you.

You love to snuggle and nuzzle in my neck which is my favorite right before your bedtime. You like the bath, your carseat and being worn.

You are endlessly patient with your big sister’s efforts to play with you and feed you, and seem to enjoy watching her. You are chattering, cooing and shrieking all the time, and finally getting into a good sleeping routine. Your bedtime is 7 p.m., and after a dreamfeed around 10, you’re typically only up once more to eat before waking for the day around 6:30 or 7 a.m.

We love you so much and how you have completed our family.

 

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.