A Letter to My Bear & Goose: Season Five

To my Bear and Goose,

Year 5. Can you believe it? Our fifth football season as a family. It will be hard to beat last year’s season, I think we can all admit that. That last second grab? It will live in my heart forever.

You know what else will live in my heart forever, Lila Bear? The way you ran to me and hugged me as I sobbed, realizing that the impossible had come true; the Super Bowl curse had ended. You didn’t understand happy tears (or why your father was outside beeping the car horn) but you wanted to be sure I was ok. You’re a good egg, Lila Bear and I love you more than even Pat the Patriot for it.

Lila, you’ve reached a funny age, where you are starting to make your own decisions and that is beginning to be reflected in your choice of teams. You girls are, after all, Seattle-ites. Which is why, even though painful to hear, it was not surprising when during the pre-season you, Lila Bear, declared “I love the Seahawks!” While I will always be there to remind you who the real 12th man is, I support you becoming your own person and not necessarily cheering for a team just because your mom does. (But c’mon Lila, it is a really great team, based on an American fight for freedom from tyranny. What has a hawk ever done to earn your freedom?)

Lucy, you in so many ways are your own person, but you’re still figuring it out football wise. You’ll let me dress in you in your Tom Brady jersey for at least one more year, though it is entirely possible you are swayed by your sister’s new found fandom. (Also, we’re sorry you got stuck with the 4th year of a 4 year jersey plan with that RGIII jersey. Think of it as a badge of honor or an ironic throwback.) You may be a momma’s girl Lucy Goose, but you are undeniably a little sister who wants to be just like her older sister. Not to mention all those Seahawks colored jimmy donuts you’ll see this season. You love your sister and jimmy donuts.

It’s our first football season in our new house. While house hunting we would walk in to each one and say, how can you hold a Super Bowl party here? Who knows if we’ll ever host a Super Bowl party, but we knew it was important to buy a house that allowed the possibility of doing so. And I think it does. I think we did a good job – there is room for you to play (inside and out) while we watch football, there is space for guests and snacks, soon there will be a tv mounted over the mantle, and yes, one day hopefully in the not so far future, there will even be a couch on which one can watch football. (We have a few months before the Super Bowl, thankfully.)

A new football season is a new start, and I am so excited to see it through your eyes again. Really I’m excited to see football and hope that this fifth year of football fandom is the year you both learn to entertain yourself through a full football game. Please. For all those times we’ve watched Frozen, let me have this.

All my love,
Momma

My Bear Cub

My Lila Bear turns 4 today and I truly can’t believe it, despite 4 being a prominent number in her birth. She was born at 4lbs 8oz, a tiny, skinny, alien looking thing, at 4:44pm, 4 weeks before her due date. Holding that little baby burrito in my arms, I couldn’t imagine the walking, talking, intelligent, funny little person who is in our lives today.

I don’t even know where to start when describing Lila. She calls herself a princess and she loves ballet. Nothing makes her happier than putting on some kind, any kind, of music and dancing around to it. At the same time, she is not currently a fan of ballet class. Her shyness makes being in class sometimes too much for her, as well as the fact that she’d like a little more “real ballet” and less dancing around to Mary Had a Little Lamb with pool noodles, thank you very much. We’ve been trying to explain that few, if any, professional ballet dancers are autodidacts, but Lila seems ready to prove the world wrong on that one. (I blame Belinda.)

Lila loves princesses, but I would definitely not call her princess crazed as some girls her age may be. Given the option to watch Frozen or Daniel Tiger, she’ll always choose Daniel Tiger. At Christmas she wanted superhero books and her recent wardrobe choices tend more towards tee shirts and jeans. She loves doing yoga with me before bed, and I love watching her do a downward dog or sit crossed legged and say “namaste.” (I love cuddling with her during the shavasana relaxation at the end the best.) Dinosaurs and space amaze her and the other day she expressed wanting to do nothing more than take a rocket into outer space.

So many times I look at Lila and see only her father. While Lucy looks more like me, Lila looks like her dad. She acts like her dad too – they share a silly streak, a love for cereal and hamburgers, and of watching sports on tv, especially Duke basketball. As much as it can pain me, Lila and I butt heads more than she does with her dad because I think we share an emotional, hot headedness. Neither one of us can let the other win. And when you’re four – or the mom of a four year old – this results in some disagreements, which can result in both of us crying. We feel all the feels, though that makes Lila amazingly empathetic. As I sobbed at the improbable Patriots Super Bowl win, Lila ran to me hugged my legs and said “I love you mommy.” She didn’t realize I was crying happy tears and just wanted to help things be better. You’re a good egg, Lila Bear.

Lila’s first Patriots’ Super Bowl was on the eve of her first birthday. A less spectacular outcome resulted and I cried myself to sleep that night because the Pats had lost and my baby was one. I felt no happiness at her growing bigger, no longer my baby. But now, as she turns four, I may still miss my first baby but I am amazed at what a wonder person she is. Lila tells stories, takes care of her little sister, loves her dog and cat, cannot read enough books, enjoys math, and wants to travel the world. Best of all, even though she’s tall and lanky and much bigger than that 4lb burrito placed in my arms four years ago, Lila still loves to cuddle with her momma.

My favorite Lila

My favorite Lila

Lila Bear, you are my special bear cub. You challenge me, inspire me and make me want to be the best momma I can for you. I know I fail but I love that you let me cuddle you and say I’m sorry and try again. I love you and your sister and I can’t wait to watch your dance parties for the rest of your lives. 

Happy birthday Lila Bear!

Traveling with Kids: Time Changes

The problem with the two Washingtons is not just the distance between the two. It is the three hour time change that really gets you, especially when traveling with children. We’ve tried just about every strategy and technique over the past 4 years to survive the time change with kids and we certainly haven’t found the magic bullet, but maybe our trials will help you find what may be best for you.

– Travel times. Traditionally we’ve traveled in the afternoon, leaving Seattle at about 2pm. The goal was for the kids to take their naps on the airplane. We would arrive in the Other Washington around bedtime and they would be ready to go to sleep. I mean all of that was theoretical, it never worked, the kids wouldn’t nap, be terribly cranky by the time we landed and just blah. This time we took a morning flight. Getting the kids out of the house at 5am wasn’t great, but they were in a good mood on the plane, had breakfast on the airplane and then napped in the car once we got to the Other Washington. Our return flight is usually the 5pm flight out of the Other Washington and they do usually sleep on the flight. We arrive slightly after their west coast bed time and put them straight to bed. There can definitely be some melt downs with all the transitions with sleepy kids (plane to stroller, stroller to parking shuttle, shuttle to car, car to house, pjs and bed) but ultimately the evening return flight has worked for us and having the kids quickly get back on a west coast schedule.

– Bedtimes. When we first flew to the Other Washington with 4 month old Lila, we kept her on a west coast schedule. This wasn’t a big deal because she napped every 3 hours, slept through the night and was pretty cute and easy while she was awake. We had this time zone thing figured out. Now our kids are 2 and 4 and bedtimes are much more complicated. Kids don’t nap or they don’t nap until 5pm local time – so bedtime at 7pm local doesn’t work. Keeping west coast bedtimes can be done, but keep in mind that means the kids won’t be in bed until 11pm local time. Which may be cool, unless you are on the east coast for a business trip and have a 7am local time event. Because that sucks.

– Meals. This one may be easy or hard, depending on how you look at it. My kids are in the toddler/preschooler eating phase, in which they both just eat continuously and whenever they want. Lucy especially NEEDS breakfast the moment she wakes up, or else all hell breaks loose. And please do not tell her you don’t have rice crispies. Don’t even try. Anyway, we try to keep them on some kind of meal schedule, but they like to snack all day and by the time dinner rolls around, they’ve probably had 2 apples, cheese, bread and yogurt in the past 3 hours. We also found that if they were going to bed on west coast time, feeding them east coast dinner at 6pm doesn’t really work. They will need another snack. (Parenting is really all about snacks and never leaving the house without them.)

– Forget the schedule. My kids really thrive on schedules, really need them to keep calm and happy. But it is hard to do on vacations. We’re out and about, visiting people, working with others’ schedules, etc, and this destroys their schedule (even before adding in the 3 hour time difference). It stresses me out, I hate staying up until 11:30pm waiting for them to tire for bed, I hate that they don’t get regular naps and the stress and lack of sleep all combine to make traveling really difficult. But we do it, and we suck it up and give them snacks at midnight even when we have to be at work in 7 hours.

So realizing I have no real tips for travel schedules for kids? Check out this great webinar on sleep and time zone travel here (from the former Isis Parenting, whose sleep webinars I miss all the time). Have tips to share? I’d love to hear it before I swear off traveling between time zones forever.

My Favorite Things: Cosmic Kids Yoga

My Favorite Things: Cosmic Kids YogaA week or so ago Lila was having a meltdown about something. Who knows what, probably something about not having the right amount of toothpaste on her toothbrush or something. She’s three, you know how it goes. Anyway, meltdowns like this don’t lead to successful bedtimes, so I was doing my best to try to calm her down. I remembered a long ago article in some parenting magazine suggesting that children doing yoga before bed can help them to sleep better. So I suggested some yoga to Lila.

She was soon distracted from the toothpaste disaster and intrigued by the idea of yoga. I grabbed my iPad and did a quick youtube search for kids’ yoga. I found one with a friendly woman in a fair isle pink onesie offering to lead us in yoga about Frank the Frog. Cosmic Kids Yoga is lead by British lady Jamie and lets us know that it is our place for “yoga, stories and fun.”

Each episode is about 15 minutes long and tells the story of an animal friend. As Jamie leads you on an adventure with that friend, you do yoga throughout. It is nothing fancy or complicated – some stretching, deep breathing and a few poses. While some are the poses are definitely difficult for Lila to get into or hold – such as the tree – they offer alternatives and she seems to have a good enough time trying to get into the pose.

Lila’s started asking to do yoga each evening before bed. There are many stories to choose from and Lila enjoys both the variety of the stories and the repetition of how each episode progresses. It starts with the “secret yoga code word” – Namaste – and ends with a few minutes of quiet meditation in shavasana. For the record, there is not usually that much quiet meditation as a giggly Lila piling on top of me, but it’s fun. Lucy has joined us a couple of times and I’m not sure there is anything more adorable than watching the two of them attempt to do yoga together.

So if you have young kids, I strongly recommend Cosmic Kids Yoga as a quick, relaxing way to settle everyone down at the end of the evening or even get ready for nap time. As we enter rainy season here in Seattle, I think it will be useful as an afternoon activity when we need to star jump our wiggles out too.

While three year old melt downs are never something I’m hoping to occur, I can at least say that this evening’s particular meltdown led us to a great discovery that has allowed us to have fun for a few minutes each evening.

Another Season, Another Letter to My Bear and Goose

Dear Bear and Goose, 

Another season starts today and it is incredibly hard for me to believe that this is my fourth letter of this kind. (One, two, and three.) Where has the time gone? Has it really been only five football seasons since your father and I would lay in bed and roll over to turn on the 10am game (best part of living on the west coast)? Has it been only five years since we ordered a bucket of beers at the local bar to enjoy with the games? (Technically more, since you were an “inside baby” five seasons ago.)

It is not so much that football has included a Bear or a Goose for the past four years that is hard to believe. For me, it is that I remember so very little what football season is like without you.

A Letter to My Bear and Goose - Our 4th Football Season as a Family

Guess which one is the ham?

I’ll be honest girls, there are Sunday mornings when I hear you first stirring, often an hour earlier than you rise during the week, and I think to myself, please, just one Sunday morning. Just one day to lay in bed, read a book, nap and watch football. But you know what? Wes Welker isn’t a Patriot anymore and laying in bed reading and watching tv isn’t in the cards for your dad and me anymore.

I may long for those lazy days some mornings, but you don’t let me dwell on those feelings very long. As soon as I enter your room, you remind me why my life these days is both difficult and wonderful. Lucy Goose, you roll around in your crib, giggling and talking your own version of Parseltongue. Soon you reach for me for “cow-dles” and milk. (You very quickly become impatient for milk.) Lila Bear, you wake up and want to know what day it is and what the plan is. You immediately want to choose your clothes for the day. Unlike the days when I could choose an appropriate onesie for the day’s games, you tend to favor dresses or tutus these days.

I love football. I love Tom and Robert (as you, Lila, call them) and I love lazy Sundays. And one day, maybe we’ll all lie in bed together the watch the early game or snuggle on the couch for Sunday Night Football while eating Trader Joe’s frozen pizza. But until then? I’ll cuddle you at 7am on Sunday morning, I’ll read you Duck and Goose 1, 2, 3 over and over again even when it is 4 and 1, and I will treasure our time together.

All my love,

Momma

Asking the Hard Hitting Questions

The Why Phase: Three Years Old and Asking the Tough Questions

Carefree Lila

Lila is in the why phase. Which should really more accurately called the why, why, why, TELL ME ABOUT IT, why phase. Most of the time this results in questions like:

– why does the sun set?

– why does Lucy not know the alphabet?

– why is that dog walking there?

-why does Cal not wear pants?

We listen to NPR on our commute and the other day Lila asked what the man on the radio was talking about. It was a story about the Ebola outbreak in Africa. I tried to explain it to her in 3 year old terms – people were sick, doctors were trying to help them, Africa was far away from Seattle. It seemed like she was satisfied with this set of responses, until yesterday.

“Mommy, tell me about the people who are sick in the other place.” After realizing what she was asking about, I used the same approach as last time, but she was clearly concerned.

“They should wash their hands to get rid of the germs.” I agreed that this was a great tactic and that Africa had different living conditions than Seattle, which was contributing to the epidemic.

“What if people come on an airplane to Seattle?” I promised that wouldn’t happen and told her we did not have Ebola germs in Seattle.

“What germs do we have in Seattle?” We discussed cold and flu, sang the Daniel Tiger “rest is best” song.

As we pulled into the driveway, she seemed content with the topic and ready to end the discussion, when she thought of something else. “Mommy, I don’t want to leave you and Daddy and go live with God.” I agreed that she should stay with us for a while and that she wouldn’t “go live with God” for a long time.

I don’t know how she made the connection between the Ebola epidemic and death. It makes me sad for her to be so weighed down with such thoughts. I know she doesn’t really get the idea of death (or worldwide health crises) but that she’s contemplating any of this is not something I anticipated happening so soon. She’s a little kid, with big giant questions, many of which I just can’t answer. Here’s hoping she goes back to asking about Cal wearing pants again soon.

Breastfeeding a Toddler (Yes, we still do that)

Contributor BadgeLucy toddles over to me on her chubby 19 month old legs and plops herself into my lap. She immediately rotates her body, props her feet up on my leg and reclines to look at me. “Milk?” she asks as she makes the sign. This is breastfeeding with a toddler – the ability to ask when she wants and clearly express her request. It also means she is not shy about it either. No cover-ups here and she is not afraid to stick her hand down my shirt if I don’t react quickly enough.

Read the rest of the post over at Liberating Working Moms, where I am now a contributing writer! Catch up on some of the amazing posts on the site and explore the redesign that just launched yesterday! 

Throwback Thursday

As you may have heard, this past Super Bowl Sunday was a pretty big deal in Seattle. Not being a Seahawks fan, it hasn’t been all that exciting for us, but maybe we’re biased. After all, our favorite Seattle Super Bowl Sunday came a few years earlier when this little one entered our life in the third quarter.

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And now , with a little less fanfare than Seattle’s Super Bowl parade, our little girl is three. It is hard to believe that she is already three years old and at the same time, I can’t remember a time when she wasn’t in our lives.  Her personality has more than tripled in the past year and she has proved that she is my daughter in so many ways. Her personality is mine. She is quick to anger and emotional. She feels all the feels just like her mom.  Lest you think our personalities are all negative, she has the same loyalty and urge to help her friends all the time (and her sister) that I do. Perhaps because of our very similar personalities, she is daddy’s girl. She may react to things as I do, but she loves Duke basketball. She loves to be silly like her dad. She wants to watch basketball all the time, including in the middle of the Super Bowl.

L - bw-1This picture could be Lucy – they appear almost identical at one year old, with the same hair cowlick.

I don’t know if it is because of her almost three years in montessori day care or just that all children do well with that type of education, but when she loves something she wants to immerse herself in that topic. Currently that is ballet. She “dances ballet” to all music, she reads about ballet, she watches ballet videos, she memorizes the five positions and wears her hair in a bun because she “is a ballerina”. I love watching her learn and grow and be fascinated by new things.

L-15

Lila is a handful, a delight, an amazing mind, a force to be reckoned with and the adorable little girl who made me a momma. She is special and bright and everything I could want in a little girl while at the same time nothing like I expected.

Exnicios family visit Jan 2014 023

Lila Bear, I can’t express to you the love I feel for you or the joy you have brought into our lives. (or the exhaustion, but you take that with the joy.) You are an amazing little being and we are honored to be your parents.

Happy, happy 3rd birthday my sweet girl.

Letter for my Bear and Goose

Perhaps nothing marks the passing of time like the changing of the seasons. Basketball, baseball, football. Here we are, Lila’s third football season and Lucy’s first. It seems like just yesterday we were trying to teach Lila the intricacies of a touchdown.  Now? Now she requests Hail to the Redskins as a lullaby. So much has changed since last year, most of all a new baby to wear adorable Patriots onesies.

To my sweet Bear and Goose, 

First of all, I love you both so very much. You make my life so wonderful. I want you to remember that when Momma gets sad or frustrated on a Sunday and just wants everyone to leave her alone to watch the Pats play. It has been a very long time since Momma watched a full football game without interruption. A very, very long time. She misses it. Don’t even ask Momma about the last time she was able to watch a full day of football. But I don’t miss those things nearly as much as I love both of you. 

Lucy Goose, you are about to join a family tradition of football watching Sundays. Days planned around whether a game starts at 10am or 1pm. Days spent as a family in the playroom with a floor littered with toys and the sweet melodic tones of Joe Buck emanating from the television.  And while I am looking forward to all of this, the togetherness, the coziness on a rainy Seattle afternoon and of course, the football, I am most looking forward to watching you and Lila together for your first season. 

As much as your father and I love both of you, as much as you both love us, it is nothing compared to the love and joy you share between each other. Nothing makes Lucy smile and laugh like her sister. Lila loves nothing more than seeing Lucy first thing in the morning and when Lucy is sad, Lila calls to her “it’s ok, I’m here.”  I know that you, Lila, will take you, Lucy, under her wing and teach her how these Sundays work. I know you’ll show her how to do “touchdown” and help her hold her hands up. I know you’ll help her learn the words to Hail to the Redskins, as well as the few choice words Momma uses when the Pats wide receivers are arrested on murder charges drop the ball.  Lila Bear, you love being a “big helper” so I know you’ll help entertain Lucy with toys and books while the games are on. Share your cheddar bunny snacks and maybe, just maybe, teach Lucy Goose the importance of a three hour Sunday afternoon nap.

I love football season because of the way it has brought me closer to your father. I love football season because I love beer and nachos. I love football season because I love the game. I love football season because I love watching a little Bear and a littler Goose play together and grow into a family tradition. A tradition that started with two and grew to three and is now overflowing with four.

We’ve been waiting all year for Sunday night, I hope you enjoy it as much as we do Lucy Goose.

Love, Momma 

Do Overs

Tonight I was ready to write a post about how great this week of solo parenting had been going.  How we had it under control.  How I was the picture of working mother balanced with solo parent duties perfected.  And then today happened.  Lucy didn’t want to eat on schedule.  Work was a day filled with too many things added to the to do list and not enough time to do any of them.  (Did I mention I fell down in front of a twenty person staff meeting while trying to “sneak” away to the bathroom?  No?  Well that happened too.)  No time to pump, so not enough milk.  The bridge was up when I was already running late to the pediatrician’s appointment.  Lila didn’t nap at school so, well that was a two year old without a nap.

Tonight was not my finest parenting hour as I dealt with hungry children, fussy cats, potty training trials, smelly trash cans and toddler melt downs.  In the end I just had to put Lila to bed as she melted down.  No bedtime routine was soothing her and honestly?  I just couldn’t deal anymore.  I needed her to be asleep.  So I did that.  I tucked her in, I told her I loved her and that she would feel better in the morning and left the room.

It wasn’t my finest parenting hour but no child was injured.  I didn’t hit anyone (or any pets).  I didn’t drive the children while drunk. (Or get drunk at all, even if I really just wanted a very large glass of beer.)  I made a semi-nutritious dinner (which may have been rejected by a toddler).  I washed the bottles for tomorrow.

It wasn’t my finest parenting hour, but tomorrow I will get to try again.  Try again to have more patience.  Try again to cross things off my list.  Try again to write a blog post on our successes this week.  Try again to stay on schedule.  Try again to show the girls how much I love them.  And for tonight, the ability to be able to try again tomorrow is one of the few comforts I have.  (That and American Idol.  Long live Idol.)