Friday, January 1, 2016

Farewell to another year.

2015 was the year of mama/daughter selfies

It was also the year of couch snuggles


These year-end recaps and goal-setting posts are my absolute favorite to write and read over. It always feel like dropping an anchor, tying a ribbon around a tree, putting something in a time capsule. I go back to all my previous New Years posts for an honest look into where I was at the time, and where I thought I was going.  So many things turned out as expected, so many didn't, and new scenarios came about that I would have never dared to dream of. This is one day every year where I feel like my past and my future coexist, where everything coalesces into one and I can see my whole life, start to finish, clearly spread out before me. It's empowering and humbling all at once.  So let's dive in!

2015's word was mindfulness, and really, I couldn't have picked a better mantra to get me through a very hectic year. Between the 5am alarms, the long work hours, only seeing my husband for an hour a night during the week, the mind-numbing drudgery of our rigid daily routine, and the haze of pregnancy... well.... if I hadn't made a conscious effort to be mindful, I probably wouldn't remember much of anything.  This year could have easily passed me by and left some negative feelings in it's wake.  Instead I revisited this post often, to remind myself to stop and really feel every moment.  And 2015 had some great ones.

#family

We made the most of our weekends, attending lots of local events and getting out to the coast a few times. We took full advantage of only having one child who is at a perfect age for sleepovers with her grandparents, and went on more dates together. We were kinder to each other than ever before. We spent every possible moment snuggled on the couch together. I traveled for work a few times, reliving a little of my long-lost family-less freedom, and then experienced the relief and peace of coming home to them again. I marveled every day at my daughter:  so tiny, still able to curl up in a neat little ball on my lap, yet so fierce with her blossoming independence.  I breathed her in deeply, and allowed time to stop every time she reached up to hug my belly and kiss her little sister.

the sweetest

It was a weird year in so many ways.  Overall, hard.  Harder than any year has every been before, mostly because of the time restrictions and increased domestic load that I feel eroding my personal freedom. I feel worn down, thinking back on the year as a whole. But when I think back on individual moments, I can't recall any that were particularly difficult or dramatic. All I remember are moments of joy.  Really, I can't ask for more than that.

I did set some goals for 2015, but not many.  They were:

1. Participate in a Toastmasters speech competition.  I did this in the spring!  I won the club contest and took second place at the Area level. I don't think I'll do it again, but it was fun to get back into competition for a minute.

2. Join a professional organization.  Done!

3. Celebrate my 30th birthday in the best shape of my life.  Body image is funny.  At the time I didn't feel like I succeeded at this.  I couldn't see how far I'd come, only how far I needed to go. But now?  I look back on pictures of myself from the spring, and I was absolutely in amazing shape. I have never been so muscular or lean, and I ran a PR in the half marathon in March.  Looking back I'm proud of the work I put in, despite the challenges.  My body never ceases to amaze me.




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Now here we are, about to cross the threshold into 2016.  This will be a hard year to predict and plan for, because a new baby shakes up the family dynamics in ways you don't always expect.  I was having trouble coming up with my guiding theme for the coming year, but an endorphin-fueled epiphany at the gym this morning made everything suddenly clear.

I am technically two people right now, so I feel comfortable embracing two mantras for this year.  They are CONFIDENCE and GRACE.

The confidence to run down the road or walk into the gym with my enormous pregnant belly and take care of my fitness, to push myself and gain strength despite external judgements or personal doubts.

The grace to accept that my belly will grow, my fitness will wain, my weight will climb, and near the end my body will be working primarily for my new daughter and not for me.

The confidence to have another natural, unmedicated, out-of-hospital birth. To believe in my body's abilities and banish all fear and doubt, to trust myself and my support system to bring my daughter safely into the world.

The grace to prepare myself for whatever may happen. Birth is unpredictable, and our best-laid plans must sometimes be laid aside. I will leave my ego out of it - the "what if"s will not undermine my confidence or alter my plans, but if my plans must change, I will roll with it and focus on the bigger picture.


The confidence to love my postpartum body. To not hide in pictures. To buy clothes that fit regardless of the size. To breastfeed without shame, wherever I may be. To jump back into fitness and training when I can for the good of my body and mind, no matter how slow or jiggly I may feel.

The grace to accept that my body will not belong to me alone this year, and that means certain sacrifices. Breastfeeding means fatigue and carrying extra weight. Sleep deprivation takes a toll on health and sanity. When the little one starts daycare, we will all inevitably be sick for a few months.  It can be hard to love your body when it feels so depleted all the time, but I will do my best.

The confidence to keep trying new things.

The grace to understand that my time will be limited, and my expectations for adventure need to be reasonable.

The confidence to make wise and firm decisions for the good of my family.

The grace to accept the fallout when those decisions don't turn out so well after all.

The confidence AND the grace to nap, deeply and often, whenever the opportunity presents itself.

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And with that, I humbly present my personal goals for 2016:

1. To go into childbirth well prepared, physically and mentally.  For me this means reviewing some of the books and videos that helped me last time, possibly taking a refresher childbirth course, and (most importantly) staying in good physical shape throughout pregnancy.  In my mind, the similarities between weight training and birth are astounding.  Both require pushing yourself to the limit, finding a rhythm, reframing the burning, aching, raging sensation racking your body as strength instead of pain, and allowing your mind to become totally subservient to the needs of your body.  Lifting up until I went into labor was the best thing I did for myself last time, and hopefully this time is no different.

2. Become certified in CPR.  Because it's ridiculous that I'm not.

3.  Establish a fitness routine postpartum.  It won't be easy to juggle everything, but I have to find a way.  Working out is how I show myself love, and I can't let that fall by the wayside.  If that means the occasional run at 4am with a headlamp, so be it.  If it means adjusting my work schedule to accommodate a midday trip to the gym, I'll do it. It will definitely mean relying on my husband and support network to hold everything down while I focus on myself a few days a week.  It takes a village, and I am willing to forgo martyrdom and lean on my friends and family to maintain my health.

4. Take Amaliya on monthly (ideally semimonthly) dates.  We have a nice thing going right now where, every other Friday when her dad goes to work, I take her out for breakfast before daycare.  It's special for both of us to spend some time talking together, and I know it will become even more important when she has to share me with a sibling. I want us to nurture our unique bond despite the changes to our family, and I hope that continuing this tradition will help ease any anxiety or jealousy she might feel over such an abrupt change.

5. Tell my husband that I love him every day.  I'm resurrecting this goal from 2012, the last year in which we had a new baby. I met the goal, literally telling him "I love you," at least once every single day.  Granted, some days I whispered it to him after he was asleep because I was mad at him, but I still said it, and I really feel that it made a huge difference.  Growing a family means a lot of stress and big changes to the family dynamic, and can be hard on a marriage.  I'm pretty sure he didn't realize that it was my goal to affirm my love every day (I didn't tell him), but that's okay, because I didn't do it for him. Forcing myself to remember how much I love the man I chose as my partner, no matter how hard things seemed, helped snap everything into perspective during those intense moments of frustration and sleepless despair.

The best daddy in the world, no exaggeration

6.  Learn one new thing.  The most cliched of all resolutions, but there you have it.  I love picking up new skills and knowledge, it's a big part of my identity that I can't let slip away this year.  I have options - a sewing machine that I intend to fix up and learn to use, access to classes at the YMCA, adventurous friends that I can talk into anything.  I'm going to delve into one new thing this year and, though I probably won't master it, at least I'll have dusted off the cobwebs and done something to make myself proud.

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And there you have it.  Anchor = dropped.  As amazing and interesting as 2015 has been, I can't wait to experience the joy and challenges that 2016 will bring our way.  Happy New Year to all!

Another year older, another year better!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Checking in

I thought I might blog more often about this pregnancy.  11 weeks later and that obviously isn't happening, for a multitude of reasons. I did want to swing by and drop a quick update on life, love, babies, and all that.  In short, I'm feeling fat and happy, the family is thriving, and we're very much looking forward to 2016!

The day after Thanksgiving

The second trimester brought the anticipated spike in energy and relief from all-day sickness, thank goodness. My first pregnancy was so easy that this one took me very much by surprise.  Even aside from the nausea I just feel much more tired, overwhelmed, achy, and.... frankly, old.  There's a world of difference between being pregnant for the first time at 26 and being pregnant for the second time at 30.  My body hurts, I've gained the recommended amount of weight for 40 weeks in a record-breaking 21 weeks (oh my), and I have felt generally un-cute for the past few months.



This too shall pass, I know, and I'm already adjusting my body image and feeling better about myself. I spent the majority of my youth struggling with my body, but after having Amaliya I spent a solid 3 years maintaining my weight and getting into the best shape of my life. It was hard to go "backwards" so dramatically as soon as I got pregnant, but I've accepted and gotten used to it. The stage is set for an epic fitness comeback in 2016/17!

5am airport selfie


View from the Capitol buidling, looking out towards the Washington monument
I just spent 5 days traveling to Washington, DC and back for work, which was hard on my body but harder on my schedule during the holiday crunch.  I've been a diligent elf, though, and wrapped up (ha!) my Christmas prep a few days early.  Amaliya is almost 3-and-a-half, which is a wonderful age for starting traditions and making Christmas magic. She understands Santa, is looking forward to getting/giving gifts, exclaims in pure wonder when we see "lights ablaze!" while driving through the neighborhood, and I know she'll have an amazing time with all the family-centered festivities that will be happening this week.  I've loved prepping for Christmas this year, and daydreaming about next year when we will be celebrating as a family of four.

The preschool Christmas concert - cuter than cute!

Otherwise life is as hectic as ever.  We both work long hours, weekends are a blur, and time marches on relentlessly.  I can't believe I only have 18ish weeks left until Moon Cheese joins us.  There's so much to do - baby things to buy, closets to clean, clothes to sort (once we know the gender, which will be soon!).  At least one thing has remained the same throughout my two pregnancies, and that is the overwhelming sense of peace and stability that overcomes me when I'm pregnant.  I tend to be hormonally volatile most of the time, but when pregnant, I am balanced.  Happy. Even during the most frustrating moments, I can feel the little life inside me kicking my organs, and it really does bring me joy.  Every time.

It helps, of course, that Amaliya has been an absolute peach for the last few weeks.  We seem to have found the eye of the hurricane when it comes to 3-year-old tantrums - she's much calmer and more reasonable now, learning all the time and a total delight to talk to.  I'm sure we're heading for rough times when she hits her next big developmental leap, but that's okay.  The little breaks in between get us through.  I always feel so lucky to have her.




As always friends, thanks for reading! Have a wonderful holiday!

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Summer days, drifting away



We're winding down the summer over here.  At least, as much of a summer as two full-time employees with a kid in year-round daycare can get (and yes, I know it's already October, but come on - a SoCal summer doesn't end until November at the earliest. We'll take our PS lattes iced, poolside, thanks). I think we made the most of our limited time and even more limited budget, and took some fun local day trips.

 



We hit the beach, of course.  Twice.


My child doesn't like the water or when the sand is too "sandy," but she built castles for hours and eventually, at the end of the second trip, was talked into playing in the waves a bit.  I love the coast, of course, but honestly my favorite part of those trips was the drive.  Our lives are so hectic and our schedules so jacked that spending an hour in the car chatting with my husband without multitasking was incredibly relaxing.  Amaliya does great while driving, as long as she gets full control of the music.

We attended a few parties, spending much needed time with friends...



We wandered the town incognito in our superhero outfits....



And there was lots of time exploring in the yard, of course.  At least, on those days when the temperature dipped below 95 degrees.





This is the first year when Amaliya's really been flexible enough to enjoy day trips and new adventures.  Last year she still needed a 2-3 hour nap every day, was not physically adventurous at all, and became easily overwhelmed by noises and crowds.  This year she was brave, much more self-assured, and could power through nap time like a boss, most days.  She still doesn't take well to crowds and noise and forced playing with other kids, but if we limited our outings to a few hours, she did fine.



This summer was special to me, as it will go down in the books as the last for our family of 3.  Next year, with an infant in tow, our days will be different and our adventures more complicated. Still, adventure we will.  Life is too short and the world is too vast to do otherwise.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Finding out in 10



Four weeks, and I'm just finding out.   I tested on the appropriate day and it was negative, so I had more or less given up, until I felt randomly terrible one Thursday evening and started to wonder.  I got the faintest positive line on Thursday night's test, so I wake up Friday 8/21 to use my last digital.  I realize that, no matter how well planned and longed for a pregnancy is, seeing the positive appear on the test will ALWAYS bring about a mix of emotions.  Elation, terror, joy, dread.



After debating telling anyone, I end up telling basically everyone except work and the Internet (but don't worry Erin, you were the first). I know that, if this pregnancy doesn't progress, I will want to talk about it and will need to surround myself with a support network. 

Five weeks, and it's still sinking in. Running is immediately hard - I am slow and struggle with every breath.  Nausea hits now and then, and I could easily sleep 10 hours a night.  I gain 3 pounds instantly, just like last time.  None of my pants fit already, which is unsettling, but I resign myself to maxi skirts for the next 35+ weeks.

Six weeks, and Amaliya somehow knows.  She's extra clingy, snuggly, demanding my attention even more than usual, and asks me over and OVER again, "when will there be a baby in our family?"  "Where is my little sister?"  "When my brother and sister are here (because she insists there will be two, yikes!) I will help you carry them and help them learn how to slide at the park."  She pointed at me, out of the blue, and said, "Mama, there's a baby growing in your belly!" It's adorable, and amazing, how perceptive she is.  I have two days during the week where my energy levels are high, my stomach is settled, and I feel relatively normal (though HUNGRY, all the time). Out of nowhere I have an excellent run - 10 minute miles, feeling strong.  I am hopeful that this pregnancy will be like the last, and I will escape the worst of morning sickness.



Seven weeks, and this pregnancy is nothing like the last. I rallied for a family outing to Oak Glen on Saturday morning, but spent the rest of labor day weekend on the couch fighting the urge to vomit.  My fatigue is so pronounced that I feel like I'm always moving in slow motion.  All week, I feel faint if I don't eat every two hours, but even the thought of food makes my stomach flip-flop.  I realize that the feeling is familiar - I am reminded of Mombasa, when I went out on the Indian Ocean with friends and a guide in a rickety wooden dhow.  I was so seasick that I ended up jumping overboard and swimming back to shore alongside the boat, to avoid passing out or losing my lunch.

There's no getting off of this boat, though.  The only thing that seems to help is Sobe Lifewater or Vitamin water, which I suspect has something to do with the B vitamins. I pound bottle after bottle of the stuff, and a random bag of Maple Bacon Kettle Chips because they were the only things that sounded remotely good.  I wish I could live on gouda sandwiches.



Eight weeks, and it's rough. The thought of cooking fills me with dread and makes my stomach churn - all day long, I have anxiety about making dinner. Nothing sounds good, but I have to eat all the time (any thoughts of gaining less weight this time around quickly fly out the window). There are a few days I have energy, otherwise I am horizontal as much as possible.  Amaliya is wonderful - more than happy to lay on the couch with me, asks me all the time if I'm not feeling well, and snuggles up to the baby in my belly when watching TV.  On Friday this week we see my midwife for the first time.  An ultrasound revealed ONE baby (whew), measuring right on track and with a visible heartbeat.  I didn't realize how anxious I'd been until I saw that little flicker on the screen - it was reassuring to know that all is well so far.



Nine weeks, and my energy starts to come back just in time.  We spent the last half of the week in Austin, TX.  My body felt surprisingly good walking miles and miles around town, and without the need to cook my own meals and see my dirty kitchen, my stomach is relatively settled. The lack of responsibility lifts a huge weight off my shoulders, and the absence of stress (especially knowing that Amaliya is having a great time with my parents for five days) is a huge boost to my physical and mental well-being.  I start to feel more like myself.

Ten weeks, and I dry-heave pretty much the entire day after I get back from TX.  It's definitely cooking and the kitchen that sets me off.  Cold quinoa salad sounds amazing, so I make myself a buffet-sized vat of it and eat it all within 2 days. Runs are hard, and weightlifting wipes me out, but I feel okay to keep going with both and so I do. Nothing fits, and people are starting to speculate (both to my friends and to my face) so I tell work and the rest of the world that I'm pregnant.  By the end of the week, I feel like the worst of the nausea has passed. Beyond some fatigue, worsening headaches, and round-ligament pain, I am feeling more like myself (a weirdly emotional version of myself that cries over radio shows while driving to work, but nevermind that).



Ten weeks gone, 30 to go.  I didn't document much about my first pregnancy, aside from a few scattered blog posts.  Partly because I didn't use social media as much back then, and also because my head was spinning the entire time.  Everything was new and unfamiliar, so rather than reflecting I just took each day as it came.  This time?  I am trying to pause, take stock, and be more aware of what is happening in my body and with my family.  This pregnancy feels sacred to me for several reasons - because all pregnancies are, but also because this may very well be my last, and because it marks the end of Amaliya's stint as an only child. I am stopping to savor reality, to feel it, as often as I can (even though it hasn't felt entirely pleasant the last few weeks).

I'm very much looking forward to relaxing and enjoying every minute of this pregnancy, until the day we finally welcome our newest family member to the world.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

I'm back! With 10 questions.

My little blog got a face-lift!  Nothing earth shattering, just a little freshening up. I miss this space, and I really do hope to return here more often in the coming days.

I am easing back into this whole writing-for-pleasure thing.  I'm rusty. It's hard. It seems impossible that, not so long ago, I would sit in front of a screen and let the words pour out of me effortlessly - now, every sentence is a struggle.

While I try to remember how to write again, and figure out what I want from this space going forward, I'll leave you with a little practice exercise that succeeded in getting my brain cranking and fingers typing again (nevermind that it's taken me three days to write and get this post up).

What are you really good at?  What are you really bad at?

I’m really good at:  making decisions, running a household, multi-tasking.  I’m really bad at: focusing on one thing at a time, making small talk.

Have you ever been in a car accident?  What happened?

When I was 17 I wrecked my dad's jeep. I was driving my brother to get a haircut and made a left turn in front of an oncoming car in the parking lot.  I'd only had my license for a few months so it was totally traumatizing, but a good learning experience - I've been much more careful ever since.

Why did you attend your college?

I got it in my head in high school that I was going to move to Africa and someday work for the United Nations.  I started college at a small private university in San Diego that had a sister campus in Nairobi, Kenya.  After 2 years, I took the plunge and moved to Africa for 2 and a half years, where I finished my B.A. (and determined that I would absolutely NOT be working for the UN).

Describe your morning routine today.

(From Thursday, when I started this) Woke up at 5:15; lounged in bed until 5:40; worked on the blog for a while; made breakfast; packed my lunch; put on running clothes and packed my gym bag; got Amaliya up, dressed, fed, and dropped her off at daycare; ran a 5K on the treadmill at work; changed; grabbed coffee; made it to my desk.

Have you ever snooped through someone else’s things? Did you find anything interesting?

I was a nosy kid, so I'm pretty sure I went through all my family members' stuff at some point (and yes, there are some things that I can never unsee).  I also went through my husband's phone a couple times when we first got together.  Once I hit my mid-20s I grew up a little bit and now mind my own business!

What do you think happens when you die?

I’m not religious, so I don’t really have a ‘guide’ or template for what happens at death.  I guess I have two instincts... feelings... possibilities that sit well and make sense to me.  First, that when we die, we just die.  It's not terrible or anything, it's just like before we're born.  We cease to exist.  Sometimes, though, I think that we might experience life again after we die.  Consciousness through a different body.  Again, I don't attach any dogma to this, and I don't think the circumstances of our next life are determined by our choices in this life. It's just comforting, I guess, to think that something might come after.

Are you superstitious?

Sort of.  I find "signs" in random occurrances, and I have to knock on wood if I so much as think a jinxed thought.  However, I acknowledge that I do these things to soothe my own mind and they in no way impact the outcome of anything.

Do people think you are younger or older than you actually are?

I used to always be told that I look way younger than I am.  Having a kid must have aged me though - I haven't heard that in a while, and I rarely get carded these days!

How did your parents’ relationship influence you?


That's a story best left for professional therapists. Ha! So many aspects of who I am can be directly traced back to the relationship role models that surrounded me. I make my decisions firmly but carefully. I always strive to educate and improve myself, and to maintain an identity separate from my family. I acknowledge that relationships take work, and try to address issues head-on instead of building up resentment and making excuses.

What were the three happiest moments of your life?

Easy!  1) the birth of my daughter, 2) finishing a marathon, 3) a tie between: swimming naked in the Indian Ocean, and seeing the absolute favorite band from my youth (Live) in concert.

I'll be back soon, friends!  Have a great weekend!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Threenager


Amaliya,

You've been three years old for a while now, in my mind.  Maybe it's your long limbs, ever-expanding feet, the gradual disappearance of your round toddler belly. Perhaps it's the complexity of your emotions and the way you articulate your needs.  It's probably due to you eating without your high chair tray, using the potty, dressing yourself, and doing an increasing number of "big girl" things every day.  You are growing up beautifully, my love.

We celebrated your birthday with two parties this weekend, one for your friends and another for the family.  I've spent a year attending parties where the birthday-kid bursts into tears under the weight of all those eyes and voices, but you didn't do that.  You looked forward to the song for months, and when the time came, you hesitated for a moment, and then broke into the biggest grin and basked under all the attention.  Interesting behavior, for a child whose teachers ask me if she talks much at home, because you are so quiet in class. They do tell me that you're one of the most musical kids they've ever had.  You won't speak up in class, but you have no trouble singing songs on the playground and dancing in the center of the circle.  You are not shy by any stretch, just discerning, careful, guarded... but when your trust is earned, you open up and your big personality shines through. 



You've been reserved and polite since birth, choosing to watch and listen in new situations rather than speak up and be met with an unpleasant consequence.  It's only with those of us in your inner circle that you feel free to push boundaries and, oh, do you push them. You are sassy and silly, with very selective hearing and an inclination to follow instructions but only in your own way, in your own good time.  You mostly go with the flow, and for that I am grateful - you cope well with surprises, upheavals, and sudden changes to your schedule.  If you are upset, you tell me or show me clearly with your actions, and we talk it through until you feel better.

You are more physical now, jumping, climbing, and running more than ever.   You are still not one of those crazy active kids, and I doubt you ever will be.  You love your books and, more recently, puzzles.  You can spend hours at a time on the floor with your puzzles and can put together 30 pieces by yourself (though you prefer to have "help..." and by help, I mean crying until I sit down beside you and then yelling at me any time I touch a piece).  You are going through what I think are typical only-child struggles - how and why to share, the necessity of taking turns, and the difficulties in relating with other kids who do not exhibit calm, adult behaviors.  You light up when talking to grown-ups, but are startled and confused when approached by other semi-verbal, rough-and-tumble children.

You love belly snuggles, kisses, and at least three "biggest, biggest hugs in the whole world" before bed every night.

You are so sensitive and perceptive, and seem to feel everything very deeply.  A slightly raised voice leads to tears; even the threat of me counting to three makes you panic and leap into action (I have no idea what I'd do if I actually counted to three and you still weren't obeying, but you don't seem eager to find out, so I won't worry about it); the very few times that we've spanked you have led to hysterics and serious grudge-holding, with days of you constantly telling me, "you hurt me, Mama!" and bursting into tears about it.  We don't spank anymore, unless your behavior endangers your life and needs to cease immediately.

You are such an enlightened being, Amaliya.  Such an old soul.  From the moment you were born, I never really felt like I had a baby.  I didn't see you as an infant, but as a fully-formed person who happened to inhabit a tiny body.  Parenting you is not at all what I thought it would be - I anticipated leading, enforcing, instructing, but instead?  Instead I am gently guiding while you, incredibly, absorb all this new information about the world and march onward, without me. I never could have anticipated learning so much from you, or needing to follow your lead lest I risk being left behind. Parenting you is not about dictating, it is about listening, engaging, and opening up.

Sharing an ice cream bar with Daddy on her real birthday

Parenting a three-year-old requires you to become a three-year-old - wildly curious, totally candid, purely creative, and utterly free. I am your Mama, always, but I am hopeful that as time goes on I will also be your friend, partner, confidant, and fellow explorer journeying through this life hand in hand with you.

Happy 3rd birthday, sweet girl.

Love, Mama

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Random notes on life, June 2015



I don't write much these days (for fun, anyway), but every once in a while I'd like to stop by this space and drop a snapshot of life in the moment.  I feel like I will regret it if I don't - life is passing at lightning speed, kids are growing, wrinkles are appearing, (no gray hairs yet, but I'm waiting for it), and the pace of change is merciless.  But here's where we are right now.

- Amaliya has a whole slew of imaginary friends right now.  Pluto, her fishy (she calls dogs "fishies" for some reason. Pluto is the stuffed dog lovey that she sleeps with), Crab (an imaginary crab that is "super cute" and who likes to perch on our bellies while we watch TV), and Macho (not sure what Macho is, but he's an A-hole with a capital 'A' and is blamed for all the messes and disobedience taking place in our house these days).  She refers to them all as her best friends. 

- Her other best friend is.... my feet.  She talks to my toes.  She occasionally tells ME to be quiet so she can talk to Toes.  She's much nicer to Toes, anyway.  She confides in them, tells them about her favorite things and what makes her sad.  She insists that toes give her hugs and kisses at night (note: I shower a lot more often these days).  Is this weird?  I mean, by the standards of preschoolers, where does it fall on the spectrum of "strange?"  I'm going with it.  It's adorable.



- I was wrong to expect peace during this stage of our lives.  Careers need to be grown, families are destined to expand, our responsibilities seem to increase by the day. I feel like a walking circus act - the lady with a dozen plates spinning on delicate poles, who looks masterful from a distance but is always in danger of dropping one and ruining the whole illusion of ease and perfection.  Just when you get comfortable, feel like everything is stable and balanced, someone throws a new plate at you.  But can I confess something?...

- ... I love it.  I do much better with too much responsibility than I do with not enough.  It's my Type A side, I suppose.  The more control I have, the more decisions I need to make, the more people relying on me, the more content I feel with my life.  I feel so good about where we stand right now - parenting is joyful, marriage is edifying, our material well-being is stable, and we are SO close to making some of our long-term dreams a reality.  I know there will be ups and downs in our future, but I think the greatest feeling is knowing, deep in your soul, that you will be able to weather any storms that may come.



- Now let's bring it back to Earth for a second, because life is never 100% perfect.  My primary struggle at the moment is with my physical health.  I'm trying to be transparent about our plans for a second baby, and the first step in those plans was for me to come off of hormonal birth control and return my body to a healthy, natural state.  It's been a rocky 6 weeks, in that respect. I've felt terrible most of the time, physically and mentally - I can sense my body struggling to find equilibrium, to restore it's natural rhythms after being chemically disrupted for so long.  I've been experimenting with essential oils and a few herbal supplements (maca root, etc), and hopefully in the next month or so I will begin to notice a change.

- In the meantime, I've been trying to make the most of this stage in our lives, with only one child who is at a perfect age for sleepovers with her grandparents and adventurous day trips.  I hope to have a few nights away with my husband this year.  There are a couple work trips coming up that I am looking forward to.  We have tickets to see The Lion King in October, from the front section of the orchestra (a dream come true).

This is where we are right now.  Busy, but at peace. Challenged, but content.  In a frenzy, but enjoying the moments of stillness.  All in all, deeply satisfied in life and love and ourselves.

I hope you can say the same, friends.  I really do.