Soft and Strong (Not Just for Toilet Paper)

There’s not really much for spare time, these days.

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Two busy girls and paint, stickers, blocks, mud, spit up. Extra curricular activities include laundry and hiding in the bathroom.

In all fairness, it comes with the territory,  and it won’t last forever. In the meantime, I leave my sketchbook open on the counter at all times. When I have a spare minute (and I mean one) I’ll hover there and pour out my frustrations or exhaustion (or happiness and contentment, it happens too) onto the paper in quick, sweeping lines. Mini therapy sessions.

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I’ve been drawn to creating portraits of women, some known,  some imagined, with a theme of strength and resilience running through. When Pep joins me, we hang them up on the walls  affirmations of the attitudes I’d like my daughters to adopt.

You are strong,  smart, wonderful.  You are in charge of your own body. You are beautiful. You are clever and you can do huge things.

Feminism, equality and a body positive attitude (I’ve suddenly developed an inexplicable appreciation for my soft, squishy, not ‘perfect’ body, and I’m running with it. #thingsiwishiknewat12)  have become important to me,  since Juniper cane along,  coinciding with a certain misogynistic shift in international political climates.

I want my girls to feel powerful. To speak up.  To say no. To exert strength and strive for more. I want them to love themselves and I need them to see the world’s cracks and flaws, it’s weak points and to teach them that sometimes we need to be bigger. And we should ALWAYS be striving to be better.

You cannot claim to be older and wiser, but resist trying to shape the next generation. You’re only wiser if you see what you did wrong and try to make it better.

A lot of people I know grew up around a lot of subtle sex ism and racism. Much of it not so subtle,  but so much of it barely registers even now as offensive.

We can do better. And we should. We can teach our kids to expect more by teaching them to do better.

Let’s learn about differences, and how they can be strength. Let’s protect each other instead of fearing each other.  Let’s embrace our rounded edges, our softness and our warmth, but flex our muscles when the cause demands it.

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Dirt, Schmirt

You know those days? Those It-started-so-well days? When the baby slept all night, when you got 2 cups of coffee before anyone got up,  when the sun was shining like a beacon through the typically freezing Canadian winter? Tra-la-la, birds and woodland creatures helped me get dressed this morning.

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The 'it-started-so-well' day

It was all downhill from there.

Nothing major, just a boatload of tiny irritants and toddler crises,  exacerbated by both of my little humans napping very poorly.  All of a sudden, that laundry I still didn’t get folded, that pile of crumbs I swept into the corner, and no further, the stack of dirty supper dishes and countless other chores seemed insurmountable and I was desperate to complete them.

Next thing you know,  I’m yelling at the big one, handing the little screaming one off to her dad, and walking out the door into the darkness, standing on the cold porch,  damp under my bare feet, and breathing in a little quiet. A brief reset that only kind of did the trick

I just could not get it all done. I have my super mom days, when the house is in order, everyone is clean and a from-scratch dinner is in the works. Today, I had to accept a loss when Juniper pooped through her clothes and needed a bath,  like, right now.

But you know what happened? As I was drying off my fresh little peanut, she began smiling and chirping at me, her nose crinkling, her tongue out. I got sucked into playing with her, there on the bathroom floor.

It’s a funny thing, when all the little things pile up and checking them off the list feels like the only way to save your day, but the kids make it impossible, how, if you can just take the time to fully focus on those wonderful little humans, the dust, the dirt, the grumps really seem irrelevant.

I took the time to fully embrace bedtime with Pepper.  Extra hugs, kisses, giggles, songs. I had to be conscious not to be in a rush to finish, so I could do the next thing. Truly,  though, these moments of focus on my babies, they brought me back in the game. 

Screw the dishes,  for once. Maybe that gleaming sunlight really highlights the dust, but, it’ll be dark soon. Meh. Maybe if I put my energy fully into these little people, I’ll be too busy to care.

Disclaimer: while I had abandoned the dishes in the name of allowing myself to be happy and focused on the kids, my very wonderful husband cleaned the kitchen. High five for a real parenting partnership!

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Little Cracks

Even though it’s so, so sweet, it can still be so hard.

I’m so happy to be the mom of 2 girls, one 2 years, one 2 months. There are so very many magical moments every day; smiles and giggles and imagination, arts and crafts, stories, songs. Cuddles galore.

But, in the haze of sleep deprivation and a toddler adjusting to a new sibling, and thus, attempting to exert power over everything,  sometimes everything crashes together at just the right moment that leaves you crying in the library.

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Squeezing 2 in one lap

This morning I successfully wrangled the kids into the car without screams. I felt chipper. We were headed to story time at our local library. I’m not terribly practiced at getting out with both girls on my own, so I stick to my usual ‘safe zones’; places where I’m likely to have someone around who might give me a hand if i need it. Our library is one such place,  as I know some of the parents who come to the events, as well as the staff. They’ve taken a kid off my hands for a few minutes a time or two.

Well, t oday we arrived as baby began to wail to be fed, drowning out the group leader,  turning all heads our way. Big sister suddenly had a screaming meltdown about the color of cushion available to sit on (it’s hard to be 2). I attempted to console Pepper while I wrestled with her sister under the nursing cover while the group leader tried to include us in the welcome song while 6 moms and 6 kids turned to stare at us.

Well, I got the big one quiet enough to participate, gave up on the stupid cover, ripped it off (thanks, snaps) and schlepped that crying baby around a corner to a comfy chair where, lo and behold, I was so damn uptight my milk wouldn’t let down.

So I scrambled for a back up bottle and finally got the little one quiet, as I lay my head back, tears in my eyes, feeling judged for being a shit mom.

When a friend and fellow mom walked in, late, but calm, spotted me, she declared, Aw, mama,  give me that baby.

Thank goodness for other moms.

In reality, it was just a few moments of sudden screaming madness. But don’t we all hate to have our roughest moments on public display? I realized after a few deep breaths that another baby cried the whole time, another screamed and refused his bottle,  the bigger kids all shouted at each other and one mom who had never come before seemed utterly embarrassed that her child seemed to hate every second.

And, I didn’t hold it against any of them. We feel judged all the time, but we judge ourselves the hardest.

When you’re lucky enough to be in a room full of moms who’s kids are all wiping boogers on things, knocking each other’s blocks over and pooping their pants at an embarrassing rate, you’re lucky enough to be in a room full of people who know exactly what you’re going through.

They know that sometimes you want to cry, scream, hide in the bathroom. They know that you’re in demand allllllllllll the time. They know that no matter how much help your spouse may be (mine filed the baby’s nails the other day, my most hated job) that only another mom can truly get it.

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Ten minutes of 'me time' helps a ton

And even though she’s stretched thin and in constant demand and desperate for a break in her own life,  when she sees the cracks in another, just those tiny little cracks in the public selves we create for display,  she sees herself a little maybe, and she’ll reach out and take a little pressure off your hands even for a minute.

To you, other moms. I know we all feel judged, but let’s try to be those people who see someone struggling and slipping and pull them back up on their feet. We’ve all been there, and it’s always best to carry each other a little,  if we can, because,  sooner or later we need someone to bear our weight just a bit, too

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This Time Around

Well, it’s only been, what, 6 months since I’ve posted? The blog falls to the back burner, I admit, but for anyone still following, as we’ve just entered 2017, a brief update.

Our second daughter  Juniper arrived in November,  in, comparatively,  a much more pleasant labour. I realize those two words do not belong together. We were smitten immediately,  though Pepper is still struggling to find her new role as big sister. There’s a lot of testing mom and dad, searching for control, tears and baby mirroring. If the baby cries and can’t talk,  if I cry and don’t talk,  you’ll focus more on me, right?!

We’re stumbling through it, trying to keep cool, and reassure big sister that her place in our family of four is just as important as it always was.

Major differences this time around, despite some supply issues, breastfeeding has been far more successful. June is a natural and it’s amazing the difference. I’m taking boatloads of herbs and drinking scads of tea, however, as I still don’t have enough milk. But we’re supplementing far less than we had to with Pep, and I’m not tied to the breast pump. The bonding is legit, I feel much calmer  and every time I don’t have to heat up a bottle in the night, I’m grateful that I had the chance to nurse with a totally different experience.

Surely it’s not just the hormones improving my mood. Partway through my pregnancy,  I felt some alarming mood swings, feelings that reminded me of the weeks after Pep was born.  I felt like I had no control of my emotions, I was on edge, quick to irrational anger, and, in general, highly anxious.

I admitted it to my doctor, looking back and knowing that, in truth, I  suffered post partum anxiety after she was born. I feared that plunge Into anxiety, into stress, while trying to navigate a new baby. Im taking medication,  and it has changed a lot for me. I don’t expect to need meds forever, but I’m happy I faced it this time, and have help to get through the bumpy parts. I urge any moms who feel like they’re constantly struggling to stand up as waves crash into them to consider talking to a doctor about anxiety and depression. Let’s erase the stigma, folks.

It’s not all perfect. 2 kids under 3 can be tough to juggle,   when dad’s at work, when dinner needs to be made, and baby has gas, and toddler is feeling the new addition like a punch in the stomach. There are hard days. There are tough times.  There are bad moments.

But a bad moment is not a bad life.

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There are also baby smiles, sleepy cuddles,  stories before bed, visiting Santa, baking cookies, drawing solar systems  (Pep’s newest favorite thing). There are cold cups of coffee and exhaustion,  but this part doesn’t last long. I’ll take every sweet moment in my hands , cradle it a moment before it inevitably slips away to the next. Let’s take deep breaths of today, of icy cold winter air, of smiles under Christmas lights, of tickling baby sisters toes,  wondering if today we can make June laugh.

Today is sweet.  Tomorrow will be, too.

My mind is fuzzy with mom brain, I apologize for scattered thoughts and non linear inner monologues. Welcome to 2017. Let’s send good out into the world, speak up for what matters to us, reach out our hands to others, and lift each other up. Let’s teach our kids to be kind, be hopeful, be brave. Let’s teach each other to smile, to fight for what matters, and that our hearts and kindness can heal.

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Sunbeams and Instant Potatoes

You know that picture perfect image you have of motherhood? Nursing a child in a rocking chair,  bathed in the light from a sunbeam, filtering into the window through gauzy curtains? Making idyllic flower chains, catching tadpoles, curling up in a comfy chair to read fairytales?

Cut to pregnant back aches, 2 days of a strong willed toddler on nap strike, gall stones. She’s cranky,  been short on sleep but tall on independence and meltdowns. I’m cranky,  tired as f@*k of trying to choke down turkey meatloaf (how unappealing the texture of ground turkey is to a pregnant woman) in an effort to avoid fatty foods/gall attacks. Exhaustion abounds, as I try to tempt the child into watching Paw Patrol so I can scramble together a pretty lacklustre meal (it included instant mashed potatoes). Said child was having no part in being hypnotized by television, for she insists upon helping with all meal prep. This is a great ambition and a wonderful skill to foster, and I’m keen to help it flourish.  But, sometimes I’m interested in the easiest route.

Distraction: Mr sketch markers and a coloring book

Cut to me putting meal prep on hold to attend to her sudden need to decorate….my kitchen floor

Sigh.

After a brief chat, a stern reminder of the fact that colors belong on the paper, not the floor, and Pepper’s excited foray into magic erasering the floor, dinner resumed, helper in tow.

Baby bump gave me a huge karate chops as if to say, hey mom, you’re building another one, remember? To remind me, soon,  well be adding one more to the crazy tribe.

Baby bump danced until dinner, during which Pep ate 3 helpings of freeze dried potatoes (what?!). I couldn’t help feeling like the little gal was chuckling, saying to herself, Let the Wild Rumpus Start.

Really,  no idyllic sunbeams, but I’m pretty sure this is the natural flow of parenting,  anyway. How boring it would be without the madness.

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Art work for baby bumps room

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Searching for worms in the rain

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Stuffies tucked into beds everywhere

Beautiful chaos,  right?

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The Detour

3 years ago tomorrow,  I suddenly stopped being 17 weeks pregnant  with my first baby.  It altered my entire life and changed my outlooks on nearly everything. Yes, there was pain, and there were tears, and complete abd utter anguish at times. Soon after, I began this blog, pouring my soul into the air, and starting to heal.

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I’ve reread old posts,  tonight,  and felt the need to scrape,  just a little, at old wounds, invisible now.  Just a little hurt to honor the life lost. But, reading deeper, the pots became more hopeful, a little more sunny. The future began to have light and the pieces began to return to their places. So, not just a scratch to recall hurt, but I want to honor that life by remembering the hope and, eventual, happiness that emerged,  that could not have been without her.

I have my rainbow, 2 years old. She’s an utter gem and my world.

And, while 3 years ago, I stopped being 17 weeks pregnant, this year, I find myself 16 weeks along.

I haven’t made this entirely public. If you know me in my personal life, keep that in mind, please.  It’s not that I’m not happy,  I am just instantly overwhelmed by baby talk and I shut down

So, this June,  at 16 weeks pregnant, I am living a strange mirror image of that time,  those years ago. Instead of November 11th, my baby is due about a week later. All the seasonal milestones hit at the same time. Spring break, track meet, summer vacation (milestones become even more obvious when one works at a school). These markers are things I had come to associate with loss.

And now I’m living the alternate path, to that mournful walk I once lead. This road, today, while, oh so familiar, feels like my road less travelled. It’s a route, with the very same weather, seasons, markers and signs.

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But one in which my baby’s heart, on June 3, is still beating.

I am hopeful. I am not cocky.  I don’t think I can ever have an innocent pregnancy again, certain a baby will be here before it is, but, for now, this second rainbow baby is here. And alive.

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So Nice

This mother’s day, in northern alberta, moms are hoping for flowers, chocolates, cuddles and breakfast in bed.

And rain.

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Just a glimpse of the recent wildfire smoke

As wildfires rage across the province, including the massive blaze in Ft. Mcmurray that, to date, has spread to 156,000 hectares and spurred a mass exodus of some 90,000 evacuees, many of us are forced to think about losing everything and facing what, if it were us, would we take, would we leave behind.

Luckily, we are far from this particular blaze, though smaller ones encroach nearby counties. Living in a home situated in the midst of a quarter of bush, I,  for one, am eager for a downpour.

I’ve been told I’m not to get out of bed in the morning until instructed to do so.

Here’s hoping for coffee, cuddles and a chill and distracted day.

This morning,  Pep happily jumped out of bed, threw her arms around me, patted me gently  and said, oh, mom, so nice, mom.

Right back at ya, kiddo.

Here’s to mom’s.  After another year of boogers and farts and giggles and love and rarely pooping alone, I know you wouldn’t change a thing.

After all, really, it’s ‘so nice’ to be mom.

I encourage you to read up on the wildfire disaster facing Northern Alberta, and consider donating to Red Cross in support of the thousands and thousands of displaced people facing a frightening and uncertain future.

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To the moms without babies in their arms, if your year was filled with memories, sadness, hope and prayers, or missing someone terribly, my heart goes out.  You are a mama. Be kind to yourself.

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