Pardon the peanut butter on my pants 

As I wiped peanut butter off my slacks with a wet paper towel in the women’s restroom this morning, a younger female colleague walked in. Initially I was kind of embarrassed and tried to cover up what was happening from this innocent person still safely cocooned from the madness of parenthood. 

But, ever-phobic of awkward silences, I played it cool for about 1.5 seconds before blurting out an enthusiastic version of, “My daughter wiped her peanut-butter hands all over me while I was washing yogurt out of her hair, and I thought I got it all, but guess not!” 

And this gal 10 years my junior gave me a compliment more meaningful that she ever could have planned. 

“I can’t believe you’re a mom before you come in here, that’s just so impressive that you do all that. I can’t even imagine. You’re awesome.”

I’ve been given all kinds of advice as a woman in the corporate workplace, some spot-on, other pieces wildly offensive. The ones that really irk me though are the pieces that seem to detach motherhood from a woman’s career – rather than letting the two intermingle. 

“Don’t ever tell anyone when you’re thinking about getting pregnant, people will write you off.”

“When you come back from maternity leave, you can’t cry or show that you’re emotional, it sends the wrong signal.”

I understand this advice, I really do. And I recognize that it’s always been well intended, offered up from those who’ve traveled this road before me. But it supports the outdated idea that work-life balance is easy…”I shall work now without a thought of my family for nine hours, and completely transition to home life as the clock strives 5!” 

There’s no perfect balance in any one person’s situation, but I wish there was a greater focus on work-life integration – how to support employees at work so they also feel supported at home. It’s not realistic to compartmentalize our lives in ways that stifle important parts of it. 

If you’re showered and wearing matching shoes when you come back from maternity leave, you are a champion human being. And if you can balance your family commitments and still show up ready to kill it at work each day, you deserve every possible type of recognition. Not just kudos for wearing a lot of hats, but support and flexibility when you need it to keep all the planes in the air. 

That funny little interaction this morning was such a refreshing pat on the back that it’s ok for more traces of one side of life to bleed over onto the others, even if it ruins your outfit. 

  

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Lila at 18 Months: Outside! No! More!

I posed the following question to Lila this weekend, “Sweetheart, do you feel like you live in a foreign country for giants?”

Because seriously.

This tiny human babbles to us in a language we’re just beginning to be able to comprehend, and navigates a world where she can’t reach, see or maneuver the things she wants on a daily basis.

This age is so fun and so hard. Fun because we are really starting to communicate. You answer no (and occasionally, yes) to questions and express consistent demands. “More!” “Outside!” You have so many more words than even a few weeks ago (outside, owl, sock, open, apple, elbow (or Elmo, hard to say) and so many awesome animal impersonations.

You are content to spend hours outside in the backyard and on walks, and love your slide and playhouse. You like to watch and mimic what mom and dad do, which is a great help in yard work. You do not like to go to bed.

We know when you are happy, angry, tired or scared (verses early infancy when there were fewer distinct emotions). When you hear loud trucks or motorcycles, which previously were ignored, you now start repeating, “No, no, no, no” and run to use to be held. Confession: I do not mind this one bit.

A new favorite pastime is climbing into your plastic laundry hamper so we can push you around the house in it like a racecar. You are also fascinated with buckles of any kind. You can buckle yourself into your highchair and swing and it is a painstakingly slow process that we DARE NOT interrupt. You wave at airplanes and tell strangers “hi” and “buh-bye” everywhere we go. You love to climb and are remarkably strong, I often can’t get things out of your grip without a proper distraction.

You went through a dramatic food throwing stage for a few weeks that seems to be passing, but you have definitely moved past the garbage disposal stage of eating. Now you are still into most foods, but too busy to sit and eat. You prefer to grab a bite, run around, come back for more and repeat.

You love school but drop off is still a dramatic event most days where I hear you screaming my entire walk out. I’m told it’s your age, and that it’s normal, and that it passes 30 seconds after I leave, but it’s the worst part of my day to leave you screaming. The best part of day, that has me speeding the whole drive home, is walking in to get you. As soon as you see me you shriek and smile and run over laughing. Best. Thing. Ever.

I feel like we are friends, you and me. That may be a silly thing to say about a toddler who can’t really verbalize much yet, but it seems completely fitting. I am in constant awe of you and of our connection in a pinch-myself-is-this-real kind of daze. I constantly ponder the miracle of your creation and how truly remarkable you are. How fully you embrace parts of your dad and me, but also how parts of you are innately unique.

It’s weird how fast and how slow time goes at different moments, but ever since you were born I’m so much more aware of time. Of days starting and ending, the culmination of a month, the significance of a year. I think that’s an entirely new perspective gained as a parent. No matter how fast or slow it goes, it’s amazing to spend it with you.

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From baby to toddler

At 17 months I’m tempted to start saying, “she’s a year and a half,” verses “17 months.” I’m not quite ready to commit to years though — too soon.

Your vocabulary is growing and your emphasis on certain words is pure enthusiasm. 
“SHOE!” 

“NO!”

“HIIIIII!”

You’ve certainly mastered shaking your head when something isn’t to your liking, and sitting or laying down and throwing a fit when we take away something you still wanted or attempt to corral you in a direction other than your desired one.

You are fascinated with the outdoors and love exploring in our backyard and walking around outside. Picking up rocks, putting them back. Pulling leaves off plants and handing them to us. Marching triumphantly to the mailbox.

You’re incredibly agile and strong, often catching yourself before you fall in precarious situations, and somehow landing on your feet at the bottom of the slide. You love to climb things and sit in chairs, and play in your kitchen.

You give hugs and kisses upon request and wave hi and bye. You are an excellent night sleeper but aren’t a big fan of long daytime naps. 

You are so genuinely happy and inquisitive. Animated and chatty. You are pure mischief at times and it’s hard to reprimand you without laughing, even when you pull my hair or throw carefully chopped organic food on the floor by the handful.

What a joy it is to parent you. There’s no other way to describe it. 

I feel guilty quite often that I’m not with you during the day while I’m at work, especially when you have a tough day or don’t feel well. I imagine no matter what a mother chooses, the guilt will always lurk like a quiet shadow. My hope is you will look back on these choices as us always doing our best for you. That we always tried to achieve the intangible balance parents seek. 
Lila we love you. We are so blessed by the way you’ve elevated life to new meaning.  
  
  
  
   

  

Closer than I thought

Driving to work this morning I was felt kinda blah. My brain was on overload with all the things I had (and wanted) to do, and I started feeling like I was doing lots of things, and none of them well.

When motherhood is on pointe, I’m less prepared for business meetings. When dinner is homemade and healthy, I end up skipping a workout. When I meet my friends for wine, I miss quality time with my husband. Such is life, and it’s a natural give and take. But sometimes it’s just like MEH…I have 10 pots on the proverbial stove, and nothing ready to eat.

So anyway I’m driving, and stewing, as is my style. Trying to figure out how to put all the things into nice little boxes. And I flash back to watching Lila put together a puzzle yesterday.

She’s too little to understand what a puzzle is, and gets no more satisfaction from having one put together appropriately than can be expected from a toddler. But watching her try to place the oversized wooden pieces into their proper places is amazing. She finds such joy in studying them, trying them in different locations, and then exuberantly applauding for herself when she gets one in the semi-correct location (or gets distracted and throws it at the dog).

She doesn’t care about having everything perfectly lined up or finished, she simply delights in the process. She takes the experience at face value, embracing the fun, the challenge and the lesson.

So maybe I need to take a step back and approach my own life puzzles with this same attitude of determination and mindfulness.

Things are never going to all magically fall into their assigned slots, ever. And the more I make that perfectly finished puzzle my goal, the longer I’ll remain frustrated. So instead of trying to fix everything I’m working on, I think I need to reevaluate what I’m trying to achieve in all of this.

If it’s perfection, I’m doomed. But if it’s to learn and enjoy myself, I’m closer than I thought.

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Lean with it, roll with it.

We had Lila’s 15-month check up on Monday. Having missed and rescheduled it three times, there was NO WAY I was going to be late. We arrived 10 minutes early and I spent the next 15 minutes coaxing my child not to lick the waiting room doors and chairs. I dont care that it’s the well child room, pediatrician’s offices are the very reason hand sanitizer exists.

We finally got called back to a room, and it was an unusually long wait to see the doctor. We tried playing, and twirling around, and eating puffs, and reading…and then there was nothing that was going to appease this bored child any longer. Being a superstar mom I’d forgotten extra diapers, and even the most patient child would have gone batshit at this point of being confined and forbidden to lick strange surfaces while wearing a wet diaper.

So I started getting restless, and she picked up on it and started crying. And work was calling and texting and I’m like, please can you people let me be just a mom, and nothing else, for five minutes? Because that’s the rub in the motherhood/career thing. We’re needed in both, but each side has visibility into only its own stuff, so the overlap leaves us feeling a bit crazed.

Anyway, we kept waiting and waiting and at this point I’m sweating through my blazer and my hair is frizzing and ALL THE FRUSTRATIONS were happening.

But then I stopped to think about how absurd it was that I was upset over this. No one was going to die if I wasn’t at my meeting that morning. And a doctor running late, who had chosen to spend more time with another patient, is only doing her job. And seriously how many thousands of mommas around the world were praying at that very moment for what I was complaining about. How many would give anything, and are giving up everything, to find a safe country to live in with access to great healthcare. I felt like a really big jerk for finding anything to complain about in this situation.

I told my cortisol levels to take a chill pill and I took Lila on a walk around the office (she was wearing only a diaper – whoops!) and then 20 minutes later we were on our way, blessed with a perfect health report.

Perspective tends to flee when we’re stressed, but if we can step our of our drama and our own heads to look at what’s really going on, it’s so much easier to just roll with it.

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Lila at 15 months 

Dear Lila,

You are 15 months old and an energetic bundle of joy. You run – everywhere – and are constantly on the move. Busy as can be and interested in everything.

You are starting to use words: dah (dog), mama, dada, woo (woof), uh oh and whoa, and we are amazed at how much you understand and how well you follow directions. You can point to your eyes, nose, ears, head, tummy and feet, and will clap or blow kisses if we ask. Waving is still touch and go based on mood, but high fives all around.


You are very strong with impressive balance and physical coordination. You will climb up steps and hills without pause and go down over curbs with ease. You have enjoyed visiting parks and the children’s museum and went to your first pumpkin patch/petting zoo last month.


You love to bring us books and turn the pages for us, and sit yourself down in our laps for stories before bed. Often while we read one book to you, you insist on holding another on your own, and flipping the pages independently. You still enjoy stroller walks and shopping cart rides.

You just cut your first molar which was your 9th tooth, and are about to outgrow size 3 shoes.

You love running to your classroom at school and greet me with an enormous smile and shrieks of joy each day which is the best feeling in the world.

You are quiet and observant of strangers but warm up to them quickly. You adore our dogs and the act of climbing onto anything from the couch to the fireplace. You love food and still have yet to refuse anything we offer you.

There are so many feelings associated with parenthood, some that I anticipated and others that were more surprising. But what awes me the most is the love and pride I feel as your mom. There is no way to describe it other than my heart might burst at any moment. 

You are a joyful, giggly baby who amazes us in so many ways. I love how perfectly you complete our family and embody the best parts of your dad and me. You are the most wonderful thing in this life.

I sacrifice my nails.

You know these busy lives we lead, where most things feel unfinished and many things overwhelm us? We want to do it all, and for a while we will try, but eventually we have to make room for what really matters and weed out what’s “nice” but less essential.

This might mean embracing the piles of clean laundry that never make it from the couch to the closet before being picked up and worn again, because really – it’s the worst chore ever.

Or it might mean you eat take out for dinner and don’t feel bad about it, because it means less stress and more time with your family. And no dishes!

Maybe you forgo cleaning the kitchen floor, even when you walk on it barefoot and things stick to your feet, because when you mop it the cleanliness lasts for approximately three hours before you can no longer prove it ever occurred.

Sacrificing and prioritizing is ok. Motherhood has slapped me in the face with this a time or two this past year. We all do it and then pretend that we don’t, and then admit it and make fun of ourselves, but that’s a complicated process so I am here to tell you that we don’t need to feel bad about our choices. The more time we spend chasing the illusion that things should be a certain way, the more we wind up going in circles and overlooking some awesome stuff in our lives.

But what does that have to do with my nails?

For the most part, I try to make myself presentable. I bathe regularly, despite hating the process, and when I go to work or appear in public I dabble in the whole hair and makeup thing (I use the term dabble loosely here). But despite it all, I realized long ago that I was never going to be one of those women who had nice nails. Never ever. Not because I don’t like how nice nails looks – they are lovely – they seem so fancy and professional and a general indicator of being put together. But it’s just never going to be my thing. Especially with a toddler.

Manicured nails, or gel nails or ‘tips’ (I no idea what those even are) all sound divine, but they are not for me. And at 32, I’m ok owning that.

Instead of feeling bad when I see other ladies with perfectly shaped and painted nails, self-consciously curling my own fingers to hide my own plain-jane fingertips and lack of lacquer, I realized I really don’t care anymore. It’s eerily freeing to stop giving a damn about things that are trivial. Take my fingers as they are!

I sacrifice my nails. I’ll save the $30 a month and time breathing in fumes and I’ll use it for something equally unproductive, but more fitting for me.

Like the baseball player who sacrifice bunts to let a teammate advance, I will go back to the unmanicured dugout and let the polished ladies stay on base.

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