Tag Archives: life lessons

Tiny undies

It’s a battle of wills around our house lately, with one potty training kid who inherited his mom’s stubborn streak and another teether who lets you know with all her lung-power her desire to stay up late and chill like her dad. I’m whispering “this is a phase” to myself over and over and over and knowing that some day, I will sleep again and won’t be lugging a travel potty with me everywhere.

Some. Fine. Day.

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There is really no good time in our go-go-go schedule to start potty training, but after we went to our little triplet friends’ third birthday party and I noticed all three of them in undies, it was settled. The next day, we were ditching the diapers and rolling up the carpets. This was our third attempt, so I already had a jar of gummy worms, stickers for a chart and a bunch of tiny boy undies. This time, I had the will and there’s no looking back. We did a couple days of setting alarms and making him try every 10 minutes or so, and it gave us some momentum to commit.

Thankfully, our summer babysitter has potty trained before, and got into it, too. It’s definitely going to be a long, accident-prone road, but I’m trying not to make potty training turn us into total shut-ins and only resorting to pull-ups at night, for nap and during wedding receptions when I want to keep my sanity. Emmett may have further “christened” a Church floor in Indiana this weekend. This photo is after our rest stop pee-s negotiations on the way up. We both got what we wanted, eventually. The struggle, though. Our second week has been way harder because we’ve been out of a routine.

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Thankfully, Emmett did NOT pee at the Vaudeville Mews tonight, when I took him to see the ridiculous band Koo Koo Kanga Roo (mostly because my friend Danny’s band MAIDS was opening and I can really only go to his all-ages, 6:30 p.m. shows!) Emmett ran around in circles and ate ice out of a red solo cup and then barely fought bedtime, so I’d call it a win.

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Let’s hope that’s the first and last time I bring a potty seat to the Mews, although honestly those bathrooms are so scuzzy, I’d probably prefer the Baby Bjorn. Right?

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Also, completely unrelated but I started “The Girls” by Emma Cline on our car ride home from Indiana and it’s been a good, quick read so far. One of those summer books everyone’s packing for vacation.

 

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Adulting made easy: Will in a day

Although I’ve technically been an adult for more than a dozen years and have a career, home and two kids, sometimes I still feel like a fraud. (Like: I’m in charge here? Psych! I still stand in front of the fridge and eat shredded cheese directly out of the bag!)

Lately, though, I’ve been confronting my unofficial adulting to-do list, and it’s making me feel a lot more confident and capable. I mentioned we recently refinanced our mortgage (now paying less for a 15-year  than we did for our 30-year, and got $10K in forgivable home improvement funds thanks to NFC!) and was feeling lots of momentum after crossing that off the list. I. Can. Do. This.

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card source: snark shop

So when I saw Geoff Wood post about his spouse Hope Wood’s “Will in a Day” program, I was intrigued. Before Joe and I got on the plane for our trip to Boston, I spent a night freaking out about what would happen to our kids if we died. Creating a will was one of those things that we never got around to after having Emmett, but had always been nagging at my conscience. Now that our family is complete, it felt like the responsible thing to do. I just didn’t really know where to start.

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Hope is a tech-savvy attorney and super friendly (her brand is all about problem solving), so that helped eliminate the intimidation factor. I also really like that she lays out her menu and fees, time-frame  and expectations on her website, as well as an online scheduling tool, so it was easy for me to find an afternoon Joe and I could both take off a couple of hours to devote to the task. Turns out that Hope works out of the Insurance Exchange building (the one with the Travelers Umbrella), just one floor up from Joe’s office!

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In advance of our appointment, Hope sent us a series of questions, so Joe and I were able to discuss things like executors, guardianship and items of sentimental value we’d want to leave to our kids. It saved time in Hope’s office, and it also made us realize how few of our possessions actually really matter to us. (I sense a garage sale this summer!) We took care of a will, forming a trust and healthcare power of attorney in just about two hours, and she even provided refreshments and snacks as well as counsel. Snacks!

The hardest part of the whole process was probably trying to determine who gets Wilbur in the catastrophic event that Joe and I both perish, because he’s not super popular with our families. But at least now our dog won’t be inheriting our millions…. of pennies. In all seriousness, though, don’t pull a Prince.

Disclosure: Hope and I worked out a discount when I offered to blog about my experience. My opinions are my own. She’s also offering $25 off bookings before June 1!

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Motherhood: Two years in

On the way home from picking Emmett up today, we decided to ruin prelude our dinners by stopping for a little fro-yo at Menchies because it’s Tuesday, it’s hot out, I’m pregnant and he’s charming. (And we got a call from the doctor today saying, without much detail yet, that his allergy levels have gone down considerably. CELEBRATION!)

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The yogurt mustn’t have spoiled things too much, because later during dinner (Joe and I did a weird parental hand-off in the Menchie’s parking lot so I could swing by the dsm unveiling) Emmett said to me: “How was your day, mom?”

If I could describe this 2-year-old phase, it’s a little bit tug-of-war and a lot of heart-melt moments when you realize your child may actually be listening and learning from you after all. We make family meals a time for sharing stories, and I’ve been asking Emmett how his day was, and asking him to ask his daddy how his day was. For him to ask me, unsolicited, was magic, pure and simple.

When we drive past Gray’s Lake and see a sailboat, he quotes to me from “The Max Book” aka “Where the Wild Things Are,” and when we pick raspberries in the backyard he pretends to be Sal and I’m mama bear. We got a goldfish with some of his birthday money (which he named Rock) and he said to me, right in the middle of PetSmart – “Mom, this is Rock. I love him!”

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My baby is a little boy who uses colloquialisms (currently: “you’re kidding me!” “guess what?!”), narrates everything he’s doing, calls his parents names (“worm sandwich” and “dirty sandwich”), offers to help, and asks me not to sing to him (“Don’t make that noise, mom!”). He tells us how much he loves us (soooo much), with big hugs around the neck and wet, open-mouth kisses.

My baby is a little boy who skins his knees, cruises on his bike, pages through his books and watches construction sites with rapt amazement. He’s growing more cautious as he learns the world isn’t all soft surfaces. He’s growing more confident as he assists with every day chores, like making coffee.

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My baby is a little boy whose curiosity and comprehension expand on an hourly basis, and who daily makes me chuckle with disbelief at his intelligence and compassion.

One minute, I’m chasing – reminding him to stop at the end of the sidewalk. Another minute he’s demanding to be held, or screaming himself to sleep in my bed, tiny feet digging into my kidneys. Keeping up with this emerging personality — who exercises his independence and his neediness, delighted and devastated by the realities of life on an ever-changing basis — is like running in the sand. I know we’re getting somewhere, but the footing is constantly shifting. Can’t beat the view, though.

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At this point, my biggest concern is figuring out this next phase of childcare. He’s been with my amazing sister-in-law since my maternity leave ended, but she’s about to have her third child and our hope is for our second child to join her when my maternity leave ends this winter, so it’s time for Emmett to move on.

I’ve taken for granted how amazing it is for him to be able to tag along to the zoo or science center or various playgrounds  and take epic naps and for me to never have to worry about his safety or whether he was in the care of someone who loved him. We’re still third on the waiting list for the full-time program down the street, which was my original plan for him. I think we have a spot for him in a dual language program, which is an interesting environment, especially for such a verbal kid, but the fact that the center hasn’t been returning my e-mails makes me uncomfortable.

Motherhood is all sorts of letting go and listening, so I suppose it’s time to take this next step and then listen and trust him when I ask how his day was.

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P.S. ICYMI, my last post was a shoutout to a few local mamas who I admire! 

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Friendships and flowers and trying to be better

Most of my true and forever friends are peonies, or hydrangeas, or the plucky purple iris that push up through the pachysandra in the long-ago-planted landscaping of my front yard. They’re hardy perennials and they appear to need little tending or encouragement to dazzle me with their brilliance, if only for a short while every year.

I am a lazy gardener. And maybe I’m too lazy of a friend.

This month, I’ve been thinking hard about my friendships. Why some have lasted (it always amazes me that there are people who have put up with me for decades, now!), where I need to put more effort, and which people have the potential to blossom into something deeper than a casual acquaintance.

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When I was in middle school, I hung on the fringe of a few groups, but didn’t belong to the nucleus and didn’t get invited to all of the core friend things. In high school, I forged bonds with a group of girls in cross country, but between college and Des Moines, I’ve now lived away from them for three times as long as our high school experience. I’ve kept a few close college friends — mostly roommates who have seen and miraculously accepted me despite it all. Friends I’ve made here in my 20s are bountiful, but there are probably only a handful of people I’d call if I needed help, or whose back door I’d knock at unannounced. I know, I probably need to read Mindy Kaling’s book, right? We’d be besties, I’m sure.

Traits that make me a bad friend:

  • I am mostly awkward on the phone. (And most of my dearest friends are long distance!)
  • Gift-giving isn’t really my love language, and I forget that it’s others’.
  • I don’t really ‘hang out’ in an unplanned, unscheduled, let’s-see-where-the-day-takes-us way. (I overschedule myself.)
  • Even though I’m an extrovert, I value (cherish!) my alone time. (Any other ENFPs out there feel me on this?)
  • I worry too much about asking people to do things because making plans is sometimes a logistical pain, or I’m not convinced they’ll have fun.
  • My spouse is my best friend and I pretty much don’t have to worry about any of the above with him.
  • I am pretty active on social media so feel like I totally know what’s going on in your life and we’ve had a long and meaningful conversation about it, but really I’ve just hit the “like” or “heart” button.

Well, my sweet perennials, I apologize. I’d like to be better.

I’m trying to apply some of the same concepts I’ve used to accomplish things in my professional and extracurricular life to my relationships. Does that sound ridiculous? I’m just talking about setting priorities and following-through and managing time in a way that makes plans possible.

Instead of saying “let’s grab lunch sometime” I’m working to immediately suggest a few dates. When I think about someone, I pick up the phone. (Mostly this occurs while I’m out walking the dog, which is sometimes the only peace and quiet I can find, or on my 15-minute drive to pick up Emmett. This is the perfect amount of time to touch base, before I get all weird and rambley.) I’m trying to invite people to a weeknight dinner, even if an unfancy crock-pot meal is all we can muster. I make time to attend my book club (so many ladies I like in one place!). I’m commenting in addition to “liking.” I’m showing up, in the flesh, because a 2-hour drive to Iowa City isn’t an impossibility. I’m actually putting a stamp and address on the card. Saying yes to more invitations.

I am still doing none of these things as often as I would like, or to the degree that my friends deserve. I want to show people close to me how much I value them, because that’s important work. It’s life’s work. What joy to put on the gardener’s gloves and spend time in the company of friends.

 Also reading: What being a BFF Means in Your 30s

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February funk

I spent February in a funk — acting as my own trash-talking Kanye, sabotaging my self-confidence after the honor of being named the 2014 Amy Jennings YP Impact Award winner. IMG_20150204_202253 The week before the awards, I was excited about our family vacation to Florida, realizing a lifelong dream to see the manatees in their natural habitat. I had a hunch, and a few days before we took off confirmed that we would be bringing another teeny tiny family member along for the adventure.

I don’t know why (well, partly, hormones, I imagine), but winning that award sort of freaked me out. It felt really full circle: I moved to Des Moines in 2007 not knowing anyone, got to meet lots of people and learn the city through my job at Juice, quit to be more involved in community projects, and seven or so years later was recognized by my former employer for that community impact. There’s a sweetness to the cycle, but I also felt a strange sense of oh-shit-where-do-I-go-from-here, exacerbated by the knowledge that in about 9 months I’d be burrowing in with an infant, trying to figure out life with two kids.

I’m scared that I’ll get overwhelmed and ‘disappear’ from the doers club. I don’t like feeling wiped out and not leaving myself time to sew and read things and drink wine with friends. The first trimester is mostly about exhaustion and worry and extra bowls of cereal — at least for me.

I know that life has its seasons and that by choosing a family I will have to say ‘no’ to some things. (I kind of have this personal rule now that I try not to be gone more than two evenings a week and one big weekend chunk, out of fairness to Joe and a need for balance.) I know there are lots of amazing examples of people with kids who stay active. I read Amy Poehler’s Yes Please and laughed and felt a little bit better, but also a lot bit in awe of her. 7 There’s a lot of talk about attracting talent to Des Moines and I think the same leaders who are interested in luring young people to the city need to consider what will keep them here. Retention is just as important: it would be a pity to see people who come here to kickstart their careers leave at that point when all we’ve invested in their development is paying off. And for those of us like me, who maybe five to seven years into our Iowa lives start families of adorable Iowa natives– our ability to be involved is only as strong as our support networks.

Although I have no intention of leaving, Joe and I don’t have any parents in the area (my mom lives in Chicago and his in Council Bluffs). It seems that many times once people have children, they move back to a hometown because having grandparents nearby helps with childcare. We get many ‘boomerang’ Iowans back this way, but could lose others.

I strongly believe the second half of the YP equation is encouraging employers to provide flex time, family leave and – ideally – access to affordable, quality childcare options. And for us young professionals to support each other and value the choices that each of us make in how to spend our time — out and about and at home. Because who among us really has it all figured out?

March forward!

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Behind the curtain

Last week was a bit of a whirlwind. I had the flu (a gift from my sweet child), went to a musical (Book of Mormon!), hosted a mini-conference that 75+ people took part in, and it turns out I was named a finalist for a local young professional award (thanks to a thoughtful nomination from a friend).

I’m not writing about it to #humblebrag; I could list dozens of people in our community whose work I admire and who are way more deserving of recognition. It was exhausting and exhilarating and it left me feeling like I need to explain.

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Recognition is really nice, although not completely comfortable. The stories that highlight nominees for these kinds of awards don’t necessarily explain how they do what they do. Inevitably, there’s a big team behind the curtain.

Luckily, every single job and boss I’ve held in this city has allowed me to be a master of my own destiny. They’ve given me the flexibility (and encouragement!) to take random meetings, to flex my schedule when need be (I worked 32 hours a week the first six months of Emmett’s life), afforded me great vacation/sick time (yay journalist furlough and higher ed jobs!), and space to explore possibilities. This is so important. If employers want to attract and retain creative, engaged people, you need to give them a leash long enough that they can pursue their passions in concert with their work.

Luckily, I have been able to navigate the delicate tightrope of quality childcare support. My sister-in-law is a saint to whom I owe a huge piece of my sanity. She’s incredibly flexible, patient and I trust she loves Emmett every day while I’m at work like she does her own girls. She’s never going to receive any big public recognition for what she does, but caring for small people is the hardest job. Hands down. (I’m also happy to have joined a great babysitting co-op to fill in for date nights and whatnot, because when you don’t have grandparents in your city, you really need a tribe.)

Luckily, I have a spouse who always encourages me to do what I want. This isn’t just limited to career pursuits, but the soul-recharge that comes with my Friday night book club, or getting away for a bit to take a sewing class or go for a run. And when I’m done doing my thing, he most likely has made some ridiculously delicious dinner, so I don’t have to think about that. Mostly we scratch our heads at how people who are parents ever leave their homes, and then we decide instead of ever cleaning our house, we’ll attempt a family hike. Without this guy, I would spend way, way too much time in my own head. Mostly worrying or feeling guilty about something I’m doing or not doing.

Whether or not I “win” the YP award in February, the fact the I get to go to work in a job I love and live in a community that lets me pursue and explore so many ideas (and embraces me when all I want is to hang out in my sweatpants), is a huge reward in itself.

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Motherhood: One year in

I celebrated my first anniversary as a mom last weekend, chasing my freshly minted 1-year-old boy. These days he is bursting with energy, curiosity, things to say. Pausing every now and again for a few cuddles before his next expedition.

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I think back to the days and nights of last June, when new motherhood was an overwhelming tidal wave of emotion and exhaustion. I remember what everyone told me: The days are long, but the years go by so fast. And it’s true. Here we are, heading into a second summer, older, and maybe a little wiser.

I’m by no means a perfect mother, but I am a happy one.

There isn’t much room for selfishness in motherhood. The million little chores and acts — the diaper changes, meal preparations, bathtime and bedtime routines, up rocking in the middle of the night — involve choices that put your child’s interests before your own. The weight of this responsibility is enormous and sometimes, if I’m honest, it can drag a mama down.

It’s in the midst of these days that we parents need to – proverbially – do what flight attendants direct in every safety spiel: Put your oxygen mask on first. You won’t be able to help the kid next to you if you can’t breathe.

Do all those little thankless tasks. And do something for yourself. Don’t feel guilty. Take a shortcut, if you can, call a sitter, lean on your spouse and give yourself permission to focus for a little bit on something just for you. The book club with your girlfriends. A long run. A pedicure. A getaway.

 I’ve learned that if I can’t recognize the person I want be when I look at the mirror (or, more often, my calendar) — how can I expect my child to see that in me? 

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My earlier posts on motherhood are here.

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