Rabu, 26 Oktober 2011

Thoughts While Waiting

As I write, I am exactly 40 weeks pregnant with my second child. Her due date has come, and in 2 hours and 44 minutes, will have gone. Despite my discomforts: the heartburn, the never-ending, but never-progressing contractions, the slow ache of muscles and bones separating as my body prepares for labour, I feel a need to document what I feel, right now, as, I am, after all, “Young Mum.”


I haven’t written a thing in a month. My head feels dense and foggy. It’s as though amniotic fluid may have gotten into my brain; all my thoughts drown before they are fully realized. Still, the need to write is strong, and guilt at not fulfilling it has caused much emotional unrest, frustration and anxiety. I have a secret hope that once this post is finished, my entire body will release and relax and my baby will start her journey into this world. Only tomorrow will tell!

I’m going to write as if this is my last night before the birth of my second child, although I realize that I may not meet our Chloe Abigale for another 2 weeks yet. Still:

As excited as I am to hold my darling, much-anticipated and beloved youngest, my mood tonight is somewhat somber. Her birth will also symbolize the end of an era; the putting away of a cherished part of my life. I would be lying if I didn’t fear that my heart will prove to be deficient – it seems impossible that rather than dividing between two children, my love will multiply. Of course, it’s said that the concern that one can only love so much is a common fear amongst parents expecting their second child, yet the concern remains. Will I care for Chloe as strongly as I do Caily? Will I become so enamoured with my new baby that I push Caily away, taking for granted the wonderful, independent little girl she is? Will I have a favourite? Will I fail one of my children?

I’ve kind of been here before. During my pregnancy with Caily, one of my biggest fears was how parenthood would change my marriage. I worried that our love for one another would be overshadowed by our dedication to our baby, as if the eternally unconditional, instinctual love for one’s own child would make our romantic love feel superficial and insignificant by comparison. I dwelled on the fact that our life together would lack spontaneity, that our nights out would predominately be without each other as one of us would have to stay with our child, that our baby would bring with her increasingly complex relationships with each other, with our families and with our thoughts on proper child-rearing. And yes, Cailena’s existence has caused us to experience a significant amount of disturbance; there have been countless sleepless nights, arguments, fears and worries, hurt feelings, tears, misgivings and misunderstandings. In our roles as parents we’ve sometimes failed each other as husband and wife, but there has also been a great deepening in our hearts.

Rather than feeling more superficial, Cailena’s birth made me take my relationship with my husband more seriously. It isn’t just about us anymore. Any problems between us feel more significant, because they now affect a child as well as ourselves, and yet, there is a faith and understanding that, together, we will overcome. Through loving my daughter, I am learning constantly what it is to really love another person, and that has translated in how I feel about and treat my husband. My admiration for him grows at every moment as he fulfills his role as a loving father, and I feel a deep respect for him that was untapped before our daughter came into our lives.

Now, rather than worrying of a loss in my relationship with Cailena, I must trust that Chloe’s birth will only deepen our bond. I can’t wait to see Caily cast as a “big sister,” and see images of my own childhood replayed in the lives of our girls. I must have faith that just as Caily brought with her an incalculable amount of joy and love into our family, Chloe’s birth will only further deepen existing relationships. After all, when it comes down to it, all we have are “Faith, Hope and Love. And the greatest is Love.”

My mood has now lifted, lightened. Chloe is kicking as hard as I imagine she can in my belly with so little room left. I can’t wait to meet her, to see her face and feel her soft, warm baby skin. Will she too, look just like her Daddy? Will she have her sister’s curly hair? My green eyes? I’m so ready to hold you Baby Chloe, and so, so ready to bring you home, and start this new chapter in our family’s life.

Jumat, 16 September 2011

How to Fail at Motherhood on Your Child’s First Day of School

The first day of school comes with hope, with resolution, with the promise of greatness. You will not be that parent who sends their child out into the world with mismatched socks, unsigned forms, or without mittens in the winter. You will be the cupcake queen on holidays, the stylish yummy mummy at drop-off and pick-up times, the one other mothers call up to schedule play dates with, hoping to gain insight into your coping and organizational skills. Truly, the first school day in September sets a standard; the first school day in your child’s life – that decides destiny.

Here’s how to suck at it:

1.       Host a Nerve-Wrecking Morning Meltdown.

You’re no chump; you anticipated a difficult morning the night before. Therefore, you laid out both your child’s clothes, and your own last night. Why worry about what you, as a mother, will wear on her first day of school? Oh don’t kid yourself. It may be shallow, it may be silly, but on this day, you have a first impression to make with the teachers and other parents as well as your child. And, you want to make your kiddo proud (those overheard comments to their preschool friends, “My Mommy’s so pretty,” make you feel pretty darn good, and compliments are hard to come by as mommy-years go by!)

Anyway, along with the laid out outfits, you’ve programmed the coffee machine to brew around the same time you’ll hit the kitchen, and the morning cereal is already in the bowl just waiting for milk. Everything goes perfectly to plan, until, that is, a child is thrown into the mix.

She will run around the house naked until 10 minutes before you MUST be out of the house, then will have an accident in her new school clothes, and demand to take a baggy of dry cereal to school instead of eating the more wholesome breakfast already made for her.

You both fight and yell, then you give in, and mumble incoherently when you do make it to school and a concerned supermom acknowledges the baggy in your child’s hands with a smug smile and a, “No time for breakfast today, eh?”

2.       Know No Alternate Routes to the School.

And hit road construction on the dash to preschool. Drive past the school twice, unable to turn into the lot because of “no left turn” signs. Do this until your little one is well-nervous and you hear a quietly heartbreaking, “Mommy? Maybe we should just go home” from the backseat.

3.       Don’t Read the Fine Print.

You think you’ve got the morning back under control, and you’re in the classroom checking out the housekeeping center with your daughter, planning an exit strategy when the teacher chirps, “Please remember to place your child’s snack bag in the snack basket before leaving!”
You desperately scan the room looking for other parents as caught off-guard as you. Snack Bags?!? It’s a two hour program! Nobody said anything about snack!

You catch the arm of Smug Supermom from before, and ask, “Were you emailed or something about bringing a snack?” She gives you a withering smile and cocks her head, “It was in the ‘notes’ section of the program when you registered your child. You didn’t read it, did you?”
You think back to registering your child in the program, online at 7am, remembering there was a ‘notes’ section you had planned on reading, just before your child woke up and your day home kids arrived and the rest of the day dissipated into a blur of packing for a playground play date, cleaning, Band-Aid applications and morning sickness.   

Like you’re stuck in some slummy-mummy chick flick, you find yourself headed to the vending machines, hearing the teacher call out oh-so-publically behind you, “Remember! No Peanuts!”
In panic and shame you start begging strangers to help you break a $20 bill so you can buy a carton of chocolate milk, cheesy Doritos and a pack of Smarties, wishing instead that vending machines supplied cut-up grapes and cheese cubes in glass Tupperware with a little note saying, “Mommy loves you,” “Be Good for Teacher,” Or, “I’m so, so sorry.”

You deliver the nutritionally lacking snack back to the classroom, where the teacher takes it from you slowly, and only using her index finger and thumb, as though you had handed her a used Kleenex. When you pick up your daughter two hours later, you’ll discover the unopened box of Smarties in her backpack, and she’ll tell you,
“Teacher said no candy at school.”

4.       Linger.

It’s down to you and one other mom. The race is on: do not be the last parent out of the classroom.
All the dad’s left ages ago with hearty hugs and laughter, their kids giving them brave thumbs-ups and watery smiles. Veteran moms were next, their kids no doubt use to seeing older siblings go to school, excited to finally be one of the “big kids.” Then the first-timers started filtering out, the working moms first, perhaps with a little more ease as their kids have experienced similar if not identical drop-offs to this one. And then, here you are.

The unsure SAHMs. Nervous, still busy taking photos, promising the children with the white knuckled grips to their knees that they are going to have sooooo much fun!
She starts to whimper as you make your way to the door. Her teary eyes get the little girl sitting next to her crying, and you stall. The teacher gives you a stern look (not for the first time) and says, “You will remember this, she won’t. Just go. I won’t let her cry the whole time; she’ll be fine.”

You want to take the shoulders of the young teacher telling you this; You want to make her understand that you’re not as stupid as she thinks you are, that it all changes when you’re on the other side. You want to yell, "I used to be you!” You blab something nonsensical along the lines of, “I used to do your job. Parent Link programs, Preschool Teacher, I just closed my day home! I’m not one of the parents who don’t know. It’s just different when it’s your own, you know?”
From the doubtful, false smile on her face, you can see she does not know. Your daughter cries, “Mom!” as the door closes firmly behind you. You are outcast.
Thankfully, she has already started painting in the craft center.

5.       Be a Nosey Worrywart.

Unable to maintain your concern, you sneak back to the school well before class is over. All you want is one little peak through the classroom window to see how she’s doing. You find a little peak hole between the colourful posters (meant to hide the faces of crazy parents such as yourself to ensure you and your kind don’t interfere with the learning process) plastered to the only window accessible to you, and steal a look in.

Ahhh! They’re all lined up just on the other side of the door and about to come out! Your daughter, her classmates and the teachers are about to see you, awkwardly snooping around in the hall: RUN!!
You throw yourself into the only other nearby door in the narrow hallway to escape notice. You are met with a pair of surprised faces: another mother and her little girl. You realize that you have just flung yourself with gusto into a washroom. No matter, you think. You are obviously pregnant at 8 months along, and that gives you rights to run panic-stricken into any toilets you like (the other mom must understand).

You smile at her in a way that you hope demonstrates your fellowship with her in the Mommy Club, “Thank God, I’ve found a bathroom!” And swiftly enter an open stall. Might as well use it now that you're here! You hear the mother help her little girl wash her hands as you hang up your purse and unbutton your pants, then, you look back, and see that the toilet is 2 feet off of the ground and built for much smaller bums than your own. 

6.       Don’t Check the Backpack for Contraband Stowaways.

You made sure to pack everything your new little pupil could need in her first two hours away from mommy (except a snack, of course). She’s weighed down with a change of clothes and pull-ups (just in case), the emergency phone numbers of everyone who has ever shown her kindness, mittens (even though its early September), her favourite ducky (just in case she needs a little bit of comforting), an extra sweater and a change of shoes. But that’s not all…

What you don’t know is that she’s packed Su-Su, her ratty orange soother that she’s far too old for now, but completely obsessed with.
A half hour before preschool finishes, you sneak back to watch her play in the playground. Your heart leaps when you spot her, and a big smile crosses your face. That is, until you spot Su-Su.
Thanks to a growth spurt, your child is one of the class’s tallest, and sporting a pacifier despite headshakes from the teacher.

When she realizes you’re watching her, she guiltily removes Su-Su, puts it in her pocket, and runs over to you with a gorgeous, “Hi Mommy!!!”
As beautiful as she is, there is a Su-Su outline of Doritos cheese powder circling her mouth.
The shame is complete.

But then, it seems as though no one else’s kid ran up to their parents with as much enthusiasm, that no other children smiled as brightly, held their hugs as tight, or thanked their teachers so sincerely upon leaving.
New lows may have been set (in a record time of two hours) on this first day of school, but there’s always next week. And with a kid so great, you can’t be so bad, can you? 

If you enjoyed this post, you may also enjoy, "Bedtime Battles", "Things I Have Learnt (And Am Constantly Re-Learning," or "Why I'm Glad I'm Not a Dad."

Selasa, 13 September 2011

Three Plus a Bump!

For those who don’t already know, aside from blogging, mothering and sleeping, I also write as Live Love Laugh Photography's In-House writer. This was my first experience being photographed by LLL Photography's Trisha Potrais, but it definitely won’t be my last!

The session included both family portraits and a maternity shoot, and, logically, I can only think to report on our experience as if it were two shoots. Therefore:
The Bickell Family Photo Shoot!

My husband and I are not very confident in front of a camera, and so we were both a bit apprehensive before meeting Trisha for our session. Freddy was concerned that his “Zoolander” look was lacking, and I worried about how we’d be posed, whether or not our daughter Cailena would behave, and if every ounce of extra pregnancy weigh would be exaggerated on my 31-week-along frame. We both worried about the weather, as while we sat in the parking lot where we were meeting Trish, the rain pounded on our windshield violently.

I reminded myself of other Live Love Laugh Photography clients whom I had interviewed that had also told me they almost cancelled due to rain, only to take the chance and have the sun come out just in time. Apparently, Trisha is a little bit of sunshine, because as soon as she pulled into the lot, the clouds broke and the light was gorgeous!

Trisha first brought us down to a dock in the marina. Of course, because of the recent rain, it was very slippery, and I was really anxious that Caily would end up letting go of her Daddy’s hand and slipping into the water. When Trisha sat Freddy and I down at one end of the dock, and asked Caily to slowly scoot towards her, I almost had a heart attack! But Caily was completely taken with Trisha right from the start, and Trisha had fantastic control over the situation. Using a shiny coin, Trisha taught Caily to sit still in the “magic spot,” and she kept close enough to catch her just in case our CailyBaby did take a dive into the deep end.

Next, Trisha took us to a beautiful field, where Caily was so excited to see and touch hay bales and chase grasshoppers. It was really amazing how Trisha was able to direct Freddy and I into poses while she snapped her shots, all the while keeping Cailena happy, smiling and amused. Now that’s multitasking!

As I mentioned before, Freddy and I had worried that being posed and directed to stare into each other’s eyes, kiss, and act overly romantically would be awkward. I mean, doesn’t it seem just a little weird to have a third party photograph a couple’s intimate relationship?

But honestly, it wasn’t awkward at all. In fact, it was rather nice to be intentionally affectionate with my husband, to HAVE to make eye contact for more than a fleeting moment, to have permission to smile and laugh together, and ignore our daughter’s interruptions! We were both at ease with Trisha’s gentle, non-intrusive presence, we had fun and I love the moments captured!

Some of my favourite photos from the session are the solitary ones of Cailena. Trisha really captured our little girl. I can read in my baby’s face her seriousness, her thoughtfulness; I see her playfulness, her cheekiness too. I see her looking back at the camera, a little unsure of herself, wanting approval, and also, I see her confidence and her free-spirit.

I see my baby growing into a beautiful child – I can’t believe Trisha caught what I thought only I, as her mother, could percieve.
Katie’s Maternity Session
Once we felt confident that enough family photos had been taken, Trisha sent Freddy and Caily on their way and we prepared for my maternity shots. This included an outfit and location change, and some courage on my part as the grasshoppers were getting pretty friendly!

My second outfit for the session was picked out with a lot of thought and meaning. The last time I was 31 weeks pregnant (with Cailena), I also dressed in pearls and white, and married her father. While that day will live forever in my mind as one of the happiest of my life, the actual pregnancy could not have been more different that this one. Last time I felt insecure and in constant panic; I refused to let anyone take any photos of me, and utterly regret it now.

This time, I feel immensely blessed to be so privileged to bring another child into our family. I feel confident in my ability to mother her (yes – it’s a girl! Little Chloe Abigale!), and pregnancy feels beautiful.

I’m so happy to document this time in my life; happy to one day show my girls that as scary as watching your life and body change can be, expecting a child is wonderful, and lovely.

If you would like to learn more about Live Love Laugh Photography, or veiw more of their stunning photographs, please visit Live Love Laugh Photography's Blog, and leave Trisha some love!

And if you enjoyed this article, you may also enjoy Mommy No Work!, The Joy of Being Kicked, or Portrait of a Mother.

Jumat, 19 Agustus 2011

The Shotgun Bride

How To Wed in Two Weeks or Less and Love Every Minute.  
For Pam Bolton The Single Gal, with the warmest wishes of lifelong love.


There are many reasons why a bride might metaphorically step out of her satin pumps and don running shoes on the path to the altar. Here’s mine:
I had loved my fiancé for five years when he proposed. Our original guest list hadn't topped out at 350 people, I bought bridal magazines weekly, and had been dreaming about my wedding since I was a little girl.

Just two months after our engagement party, our little surprise, Cailena, made her presence known. No matter, we thought. We'd keep our original wedding date of August 18th, and work an eight-month-old infant into our wedding party.

Then, on a cold November day, about seven months into my pregnancy, we drove to an ultrasound appointment while I wished aloud that my last name matched our baby's: I wish this was all happening just a year from now… if only we were already married… I wonder if nurses would treat me like less of an idiot if I wore a ring on my finger?..
We continued driving for a few moments when Freddy broke the silence, "We're not doing anything next weekend; want to get married?"

I couldn't believe this was even an option! And yes, yes, I did want to get married!
Our big day was nothing like we had planned, and was far from bridal magazine perfect - but it was one of the best days of my life. Here are some tips on how you too can love every minute of your sprint to the altar:
Ask yourself, "Why the Rush?"

I often get statements like, "Poor you, not having a real wedding," or, "You should have waited until the baby was born and it would have been much nicer." That's OK; it's just another's perspective. But you need your own opinions too - if you have a reason for the rush, own it!
We had a shotgun wedding due to an unplanned pregnancy (and, um, we love each other!). "Our reason" was no secret and we had fun with it in some photos:


And, in others, we acknowledged the sacred product of our love and union: our unborn child:

I'm really proud that we made sacrifices in order to prepare for our daughter this way. The fact that my husband loves me enough to give me his last name without a party and fuss blows my mind, and I think our decision to set aside our own wants to start our family in a way which was right for us was our first real parenting act. I think our small, intimate wedding was a testament to our love and maturity rather than an "oops!”

So long as it is made in love, you should feel the same about your decision. Despite your reason for the rush, own it, or postpone it. If you can't make peace with your decision to marry, maybe you shouldn't...

Do Your Research

"I do" does not a marriage make. You're going to need to obtain a marriage license, find a Justice of the Peace or Clergyman, and, in some places, take a blood test!
So get online and do your research; find out where can you get married, who can marry you, what documents you need and if there are any wait times. Marriage is a legal contract, so have all your ducks in a row.

Also, head to a jeweller’s pronto. We put off buying our wedding bands until three days before the ceremony. Not a good idea! They did have rings available for us to purchase, but as my teeny fingers fit only the smallest size they carried in store and Freddy's gigantic fingers fit only the largest, we each had one ring option: take it or leave it.

The Venue

Pick a location that is accessible and special to you. Freddy and I had moved into a new home just before our wedding so we decided to marry there. I loved this; it was the perfect way to "bless" our new family home, and really make it ours.
I always joke (but am completely serious) that if and when we move I'm taking the mantel with us and the new occupants of the house will be left wondering whatever happened to fireplace frame.


Sometimes, almost three years later, I'll still stand in that exact spot in which I said my vows and just let my mind take me back to our special day. Sigh...

The Guests 

You want to get married within a month and you start calling family members. There's only 2 days that work for you, your husband-to-be and the JP, but Aunt Mildred has a podiatrist’s appointment she just can't postpone. Well, we'll send you photos, Aunt Mildred!
If you try work around everyone's schedules, you're never going to get married. Just tell friends and family the date and that you'd love them to be there. Wait and see who RSVPs "yes;" the people who you really need will make it.

We invited only close family members to our wedding. Yes, we treasure our friendships, and there are times that both Freddy and I wish we had celebrated our marriage with childhood friends and distant relatives. But, we have also attended weddings where the bride and groom haven't had chance to take a bite out of their own $50 / plate meal, or make eye contact outside of the ceremony. When I think back to our big day, images of my new husband fill my mind; we spent our whole wedding without any pressure to entertain others; each moment was spent laughing, whispering, smiling, holding hands, kissing and loving.

Photos

Don't skimp on a photographer! Yeah, guests will take photos but you need a photographer. I didn't know the importance of this until after my wedding. Thankfully though, a friend of ours, Jenny, of JSC Photography, asked if she could photograph our wedding to build her portfolio. Phew, nice save Jenny! You won’t know just how important the photos are until it’s all over and done with. Our wedding photos now adorn the walls on either side of our fireplace, adding extra sentiment to that area in our home.

The Dress

My only true regret, shallow as it is, is that my 7 month pregnant frame drastically limited my dress options. Still, with my mother's help, I found a way to make it special.
I wasn't planning to even try on a wedding dress. We were keeping our ceremony short and sweet, and in my mind, dressing a very pregnant bride was a great way to throw away money. Instead, my mother and I searched for anything that would fit over my ever-expanding belly and still look nice.
We shopped for a long time in disappointment and frustration. Finally, a saleswoman at Style America convinced me to just try a wedding gown. My mom didn't know what I was doing until I came out of the fitting room. When she saw her little girl in a white dress, she instantly started weeping and insisted on buying it.

Freddy didn’t know I had a gown until he saw me on our wedding day as I walked towards him on my Father's arm. His whole face lit up; the dress was a very good spend!
I didn’t love the gown, but I did love the reactions of my mother and husband. A month after our wedding, I took my kitchen shears to the dress and fashioned it into a dress for our treetop Christmas Angel. Now I gaze at it each Christmas while remembering our snowy November wedding and the dress that brought so many teary smiles.

Details

With a little imagination, it's easy to make a wedding unique without blowing a great deal of money. Roses are readily available in November, so we had bouquets throughout our whole house. The sweet heady smell of them makes me feel all dreamy and in love to this day!

It was important to Freddy that we incorporate his great grandparents who had recently passed into the wedding. My "something blue" was a beautiful blue broach which belonged to Great-Grandma, pinned onto my wedding bouquet.

Another favourite detail was the suit which my groom wore. Freddy's a firefighter, and, after much persuasion, I convinced him to wear his Class A Uniform on our wedding day. Walking up to a gorgeous firefighter about to become my handsome husband was a fantasy realized!

But don't forget that it's not all visual. A very fond memory of planning our wedding is sitting up late at night together, downloading music and picking out songs that reminded us of one another. It was so flattering to discover that Freddy thinks of me every time he hears, "Right Where I Need to Be," and the playlist that we created together is replayed at each anniversary.

Think of details that are meaningful to you. Perhaps you wish to write your own personal vows, (contact me at Young Mum Freelance for help with that!), or maybe you’ll prepare a slideshow of your life together. There are lots of ways to make your day your own.

The Kiss

Yeah, I know, we look like pros. Seriously though, a lot of practise went into this kiss! Until you are asked to publically kiss on cue, you don't realize how awkward a smooch can be! The night before our wedding Freddy and I stood in front of our fireplace and staged a "first kiss." We agreed on how long we should kiss for (3 seconds), whose hands would go where, tongue or no tongue (no tongue), and put a lot of hard work into making it just right... A tough job, but so worthwhile *wink wink*!

On The Big Day:

Be a Princess

Spoil yourself. Arrange to have your hair and makeup professionally done, take a long, scented bath, play love songs, let others bring you snacks and drinks, text love notes to your soon-to-be hubby, reread old love letters, nibble on gourmet chocolate, light candles and break out the really nice body lotions and perfume. Enjoy treating yourself like the Queen that you are, and enlist the help of female friends and family members to help you feel utterly pampered.

Hide!

Absence makes the heart grow fonder. The night before our wedding, Freddy slept in a basement guestroom and I stayed in our master bedroom. From then until our evening ceremony, we were not allowed to see each other. His domain was the basement man cave; I reigned in our pretty master bedroom. When I had to leave the bedroom for a hair or makeup appointment, family members ushered Freddy was out of sight, and we communicated through texts only.


I was so excited once it was time to meet him at the altar. Seeing him waiting for me, so eager to see me after a day apart, is an image I'll never forget.

Tradition Adds Formality

A lot of traditions can be skipped, but keeping a few special ones can turn your wedding from a party to a ceremony. Some traditions that I included in my wedding were having female family members contribute something borrowed, something new, something old and something blue, Grandma’s matrimony cake, and, of course, my Daddy escorting me from my bedroom to the ceremonial space where my new husband waited for me.
What traditions are important to you? Will you have speeches made, or a first dance? Do you long to throw the bouquet? Make your wishes come true, but don’t feel pressured to keep every formality if it doesn’t appeal to you.

Plan an Indulgence

 For us, this included a reception at an upscale restaurant. We called ahead to let them know that our table for 20 was actually a wedding, and the staff decorated the space beautifully while my mom supervised and added homemade placecards and rose centerpieces. Other patrons of the restaurant were surprised and delighted to see our wedding party walk in during their meal!
An indulgence that we can't take credit for was a limousine ride, commissioned all the way from England by my Nana. The stretch limo dropped us off and picked us up from the reception, then took us on a tour of the lights and legislative grounds of our city. It was a new experience for us both, and what a way to cap off the night!

If it all falls apart around you, Love, Love, LOVE!
 Notice the decorations falling apart around us? Well, the couple in the picture don't.


There's going to be lots of hiccups - but such is marriage! Even if it all goes sideways, remember that you are privileged to be so wholly accepted by another person that they want to spend their life with you; don't take that love for granted. Remember that this day belongs to your new spouse as much as it does you, and when it seems like all the planning is going south or guests are driving you nuts, focus on making each moment wonderful for the two of you. When all else fails: kiss, kiss, KISS!

Have a Happy Ever After

Despite what media and the bridal industry will try to convince you, this day doesn’t have to be acutely detailed and meticulously planned to be your dream wedding. It’s about starting a life together, and demonstrating your love and commitment to one another. If you get through your wedding day feeling loved and in love, and end that night with your new husband holding you, well, that’s pretty perfect to me. Happy ever after!

Rabu, 03 Agustus 2011

Memories of Sunlight

Sunlight streams all around her. A woman, her hair and face a blur, but her dress vivid. It's a light blue sundress with little pearly white buttons all up the front, the thread between the button holes is brown and a bit worn. For some reason, I know what the buttons taste like; they're coppery and salty. She's holding a bundle of blankets. I know that there's a baby within that bundle, but I can't see it, and don't care to. This woman is love. I feel light, happy, golden in the sun that surrounds us through the windows. It's the shining sunlight behind her that keeps me from clearly making out her face. She is kneeling in front of me, saying, in a very familiar voice, "Can you say Mummy?" Laughter (it occurs to me that it is my own), "Can you say Daddy?"

It's my earliest memory: my mother, babe in arms, encouraging me to talk while we sit together on the floor. Sometimes I too doubt this memory, as it seems to have formed so early in my toddlerhood. Sometimes I consider that the mother/love figure in blue, holding the infant in her arms, might be my early subconscious' confusion between my mother and the virgin Mary, a prevailing character in my Catholic childhood.

But then, in the memory the voice is so familiar, the sunlight is so warm, and I feel so incredibly happy and peaceful. I can definitely imagine my young mother wearing the blue dress, it's certainly her style, and the timing's right too. If that baby in her arms is my little sister, and the warmth of the sunlight and the sundress suggests that the memory takes place in the summertime, I would have been between 16 - 19 months old, an age that many mothers kneel with their children, asking them to "say Mummy."

Me in Mom's arms around the same time of this memory.

This memory makes me wonder when my own daughters' first memories will form. Early Childhood Psychologists agree that before age three there is a "childhood amnesia" that erases most of our earliest images, but for many of us, a few memories from this time remain. Will my daughters' first memory be a blissful one like mine, or will it be of a frightening dog that we meet in the street, or feelings of loneliness and isolation after being sent back to bed for the umpteenth time? Do we as parents have any control over the content of these memories?

I was a very happy child with loving parents, but I'm positive that while the scene that replays in my head was one happy moment of many, not all of our family's moments were golden. I consider myself extremely lucky that my earliest memory is so joyful and bright, but is it wonderful because I was a happy child, naturally remembering happy moments and dismissing the sad or disturbing times? If I had been a more sullen or tempermental child, would I have held on to a rainy day, or an angry word?

Can we encourage our children's minds to hold onto the bright, shiny memories of early childhood, or does the child's experiences and natural temperament dictate their first recollections? What is your earliest memory? Does it reflect on your personality as a child, or on the emotional tone of your childhood home? Or are our earliest memories a stroke of good or bad luck, the developing mind capturing whatever scenes that happen to be going on during a pivotal and unpredictable stage of development? Please comment and share your thoughts.

Jumat, 29 Juli 2011

Words to Live By

When you’re up at three am with third trimester aches and pains, and you’re a weird literary kind of person like me, you start thinking about words. The thought of words, in this case, got me thinking about words that I live by. And, since it's Friday and we all love a good list (and admit it, you’re not really working hard right now are you? You’re looking for some light reading to waste your time with!), enjoy!

1. "Flats are for Quitters."

I LOVE my Heels :)
This came to mind instantly for me because I used this phrase while out with girlfriends just the other night. If it's after 5pm and I'm out with girlfriends or my Honey, this chick's gonna rock high kicks! I heard this phrase originally quoted on NBC's 30 Rock, and while I most often feel and look like a Liz Lemon, the right pair of heels magically transforms me into Avery Jessup (ok, in my head they do!). Yup, even 9 months pregnant, I will be in heels until my water breaks and ruins them, and if you don't like it, well, these boots weren't made for walking, but that's just what I'll do anyway.
After note: I do have to include here that my very stylish flat-loving friend always retorts my, "Flats are for quitters!" with her, "Heels are for chumps!"

2. "Don't cry over spilt milk"

Just because I live by these words, doesn't mean I always follow them. In fact, it's ridiculous how many times I have cried over spilt milk; isn't it incredible what little things can bring you to your knees in the kingdom of Mommydom? If your familiar with my article Navigating the Milky Way , you'll recall that I bawled while tossing out frozen breast milk (I know if you have ever hooked yourself up to an electric pump, you too, understand), and there have been many other times when the sight of cold white liquid spilling over a freshly cleaned floor, a new, painstakingly-picked-out outfit, or my driveway after a last moment trip to the grocery store has brought hot tears to my eyes. Still, I repeat these words over and over to fend off tears when needed, and am teaching my daughter to do the same.

3. "It's not the size, but the shape that counts."

Work your "assets" regardless of size!
Get your minds out of the gutter; I'm talking clothes! As a perpetually 10 lbs. overweight girl with big boobs, a bubble butt and an hourglass shape, it's easy for me to fall into the vain, self-loathing trap of trying to shop according to size rather than shape. A large top might fit quite well, but if I notice the size, this little insecure snot inside of me shouts, "Wait! Try it on in a small just in case!" But really, I'm learning that the size on the tag has NOTHING to do with how an outfit compliments your figure. I also apply this phrase to the miracle that shapewear is - just had a baby and you’re a few sizes larger than your comfortable with? Don't sweat it! Throw on some quality shapewear and marvel at your gorgeous self! After all, it wasn't J.LO's ability to fit into cigarette jeans that made her millions.

4. "P.A.D"

Pay Attention to Details - my Daddy taught me this one.  I used to HATE this phrase growing up, but now I see that it's all in the details; they are the pixels in life that make up the big picture. Little things, like misting a freshly made bed with lavender scent, correcting that last typo in an otherwise perfect letter, applying an extra swipe of mascara, arranging a child's breakfast into a smiley face or sharing a light, affectionate touch while speaking with a loved one, sets the place for the bigger things, and makes such bigger things worthwhile.

5. "If it won't matter in a year, it doesn't matter now."

Another gem of wisdom from Dad. I apply this phrase to so many situations: a slight from a friend, a mean comment on my blog, a tiff with my husband, in frustration when my daughter has undressed herself despite the fact that we're running late, upon noticing a pimple, misplacing $20 - if a problem won’t worry me in a year, I'm not going to waste a moment on it now.

6. "Don't go tit for tat."

Now a word from my momma! My mother gave me this advice years ago when I came to her for relationship advice. I was busy complaining that, "If he'd only do this, then I would do that," etc., when she stopped me, telling me not to try bargaining all the time, but instead, to just tell others what I need and ask for it. This advice is golden - everyone would rather feel as though they are helping you and meeting your needs rather than being negotiated into good behaviour. And trying to play Even Stevens all the time will leave you feeling as though you constantly have to fight for fair treatment from your loved ones; instead, trust that life has a way of working things out, and wait for the universe to do its thing. Don't go tit for tat, or you'll end up feeling like a boob.

7. "Help me be a beacon of light in this dark world."

Let your light shine
Ok, to get serious for a minute, these are the words which both Caily and I end our prayers with every night. It reminds me daily what my purpose is as part of humanity: to bring more joy into the world than I take out of it. It also reminds us that others struggle even when we do not, and so, to always let your light shine for them. And on the many, many days that I have miserably failed to be “a beacon of light,” it forces me to examine my actions, words and attitude, and plan to adjust myself the next day.

Well, that's it - a short list of my mantras. They don't have to work for everyone, but they work for me! What words do you live by?

Jumat, 22 Juli 2011

Things I Have Learned (and am Constantly RE-Learning)

A short list to remember in the hopes that I will STOP having to relearn these lessons:
Unless it's at least -15 degrees, and I'm outside, I cannot wear a scarf. I wish I could, but when I put on a pretty, delicate scarf indoors, I look like a battleship.
I cannot spell "computer" without using spellcheck. Not sure why I struggle with this word...
True red lipstick is very difficult shade to pull off. And it stains. And the tube WILL be found by toddlers.

My natural hair colour is dark brown, and should remain so.
I am just a little too serious for my own good. Lighten up.
In doubt, I will always overdress for an event, while my husband will underdress. This will lead to arguments and an awkward-looking couple.
The "Check Engine" symbol is not a suggestion.

Neither is the gas light.

The truck is larger than I think it is when driving. Scratches on it will escape Freddy's notice for no longer than three days.

Never ask a two year old to hold a tomato.
I cannot properly pronounce the word "poor." I must learn and memorize synonyms for this word in order to avoid it. Also, I can't say "synonyms."

When having my photo taken I will inexplicantly lower my chin into my neck and raise my eyebrows while smiling. This makes me look EXTREMELY happy and double-chinned.
When having his photo taken, my husband will go stone-faced. This makes me look even more goofy in family albums.

Two things that MUST fit properly: bras and heels.
I HATE quadding, but I always forget how much until it's too late and my life is flashing before my eyes.

It is only safe to wear a tube top in public if my daughter is not with me.
Camping is fun for no longer than 3 days.
What would you add to your "Lesson Learned" list? Please comment and share!