Body image

The other day, I was picking out clothes for my oldest daughter to wear to school, and as I reached for a pair of tights she quickly said to me, “No Mommy, I can’t wear tights, my thighs are too big and they don’t look good on me.” ……… WTF?????  My mind was blown!  How is it that my beautiful, strong, healthy, smart, funny, and vibrant little girl could possibly feel this way?  How can she not look in the mirror and see just how perfect she is?  How on earth does an 8 year old have body issues??  She’s too young!  She should not be worrying about such foolish things!  She should be laughing and playing and enjoying life and her youth….she should not be worried about the size of her thighs.  How did this happen? Something is wrong here!

My husband and I have made a very conscious effort to ensure that we raise our girls to be strong and confident.  We try to teach them to be kind and loving and caring because true beauty lies on the inside.  We want them to understand that their worth is determined by so much more than their physical appearance, and that being a good person is the most important thing.  We do not talk about weight or diets, or even mention the word fat around them.  We talk about making healthy choices – like exercising regularly and eating well;  we also teach them about balance, and that it’s okay to indulge once in a while.  We tell them that they’re beautiful, always, but also that we love how they are compassionate, determined, and talented in so many ways.

So why is it that my little girl (who happens to be tall and thin, by the way) could possibly think that her thighs are too big?  Has she come to this conclusion on her own?  Did someone at school say this to her?  Is this the effect that our society has had on her?  Or is this because of something that I’m doing wrong?  I struggle with my weight.  I always have (or so I thought).  I have had body issues for as long as I can remember.  But I don’t talk about it, especially not when she is around.  So – is she picking up on my non-verbal cues?  Has she noticed that I choose not to participate in certain things?  Can she sense my disdain?  Are my body issues rubbing off on my child just simply because she’s my daughter and she knows what I’m thinking without me having to say a thing?  Fuck!  Something has to change.  I cannot say for sure where these thoughts are coming from. All I can do is lead by example, and show her that she is perfect, just the way she is, just the way she is meant to be.IMG_1079

xo Michelle

Advertisements

Odes on Mother’s Day night

Ode to my mom 

Mom, you rule for so many reasons. When we were kids you let us eat junk food on Friday nights, but didn’t let us watch scary movies so that we wouldn’t have bad dreams. You didn’t spoil us because you wanted us to understand the value of everything but always put on the best Christmases.

You made sleepovers legendary because I could have lots of friends sleepover, not just one. You let me throw a high school grad party and parade around that party wearing a fake fur and carry a bottle of red like a party champ.

You embarrassed me the appropriate amount necessary to remind me that you are my mom and you love me no matter what (lots of excessive waving as you dropped me somewhere where I was trying to be cool with my friends etc.) but you always gave me my space when I needed to fit in. You came to the rescue at University if I was having a basic needs crisis (no food, etc.) and many times after if I was in a bind.

You didn’t ask too many questions when it was too tough to answer those questions. You trusted my choices (even though many of them were very questionable good lord). You gave me a million reasons to want to be a better mom now because you were so selfless with your own kids.

And most important: you imparted the wisdom that I should dream big as much as I can when I can – because you didn’t get lots of the opportunities you wanted so badly for me. Defining moment: I told you that when I was done school that I wanted to go to Europe, solo. I’m an extrovert by nature but with terrible anxiety. But the solo Europe trip was mandatory for my life because I knew I needed to figure out if I could hack it. The problem? Making it happen after spending every last dime on school. The day I graduated you came to Kingston, picked me up, and drove me to the travel agent’s office. You bought my plane ticket and said “off you go.” The best gift you could ever have given a budding adventurer.

Now, you are a grandma. You come every few weeks to help with my boys, 3 and 1. They are busy. They are demanding. But you rock it like you have been momming your whole life. Which, by having me at 22, is kinda the case. And after a long day with the kids when you’re visiting, you always have time to be my mom: “had a hard day? Where’s the wine? Let’s sit down and have a glass after I get the kids to bed.”

Thanks mom, for doing it all, and supporting all of the crazy dreams I’ve ever had.

Xo Sara

An ode to my MIL who is watching us from heaven

Thank you for being in my life during a critical 12 years of it.

You related to things that sometimes seemed un-relatable. You listened to me go on an on about silly things, things I was excited about and things that made me angry, things about parenting, things about trying to be a good wife, about sleepless nights and about being overwhelmed.

You always made me feel special especially during times when you knew I wasn’t feeling particularly special, and you did this in a million ways. You taught me about appreciating the valuable time I have with my kids, without my kids, with my husband, travelling, living, dreaming. You became my confidante and my role model.

You gave me a million reasons to want to be a better mom because you were so selfless with your own boys. You loved unconditionally: your kids, and mine – and treated everyone with the best you had in you.

You had an impact on me that I’ll never ever be able to explain. You were a shoulder to lean on and an amazing grandma to my boys.

Thank you L, for making me so grateful for life.

Xo Sara

Ode to my children on Mother’s Day

You make me want to be a better person.

You give me a million reasons to want to be a better mom.

With each day I love you more and more.

I can’t wait to discover more awesome things about you because you surprise me every day.

You make me wonder what life meant before you. You help me keep things in perspective.

I don’t know how mothers do it who have more kids, because my heart is already so full it’s on the verge of #heartexplosion every minute already because you bring so much love into my life.

I promise to help you be the happiest you can possibly be for the rest of my life no matter what.

You make me realize what living life is really about.

903547299-flickering-glimmering-piercing-direction-arrow-valentine's-day-love

Xo Mommy

 

My advice (for what it’s worth)

My heart goes out to all of the new mamas in today’s world.  Thanks to technology, there is just so much information readily available to expectant and new mothers and it all feels like it’s just too much.  On one hand, the power of technology is great because we can all be more aware and more educated and are better able to self-advocate, but on the other hand, it can become an information overload.  Everywhere you look you are bombarded with “how to”s and “what not to do’s” and warnings about this, that and the other thing.  A lot of the time the information that we are getting is conflicting and leaves us feeling unsure and a little afraid.  It has the potential of making us all a little neurotic.  For what it’s worth, I’ve put together a list of things that I would like to say to new mamas.  Take it in with a grain of salt and then forget about it if you want.  Whatever you do don’t let anything that I’m saying change your mind about something if you’ve already decided what is best for you.  After all…this is just my opinion and we are all totally different.  They say hindsight is 20/20, and if I had the ability to go back and do things all over again, this is what I would tell my 24-year-old-expectant-mama-self.

1) Put the books down – I’m not an expert, but nobody is, and although the person who wrote the book may have some sort of certification or education that declares them an expert the fact of the matter is that there is NO SUCH THING as “expert” when it comes to parenting.   Parenting is hard. There is no book. There is no guide. Every baby is different, every parent is different and every situation is different.  The only thing we can do is try our best to be our best and to make the best decision we can under our current circumstance.  If I have come to learn anything throughout my years of being a parent to four very different children it’s that what works for one baby may or may not work for another baby, it’s really a matter of trial and error.  If you feel more comfortable reading books then maybe choose one or two highly rated or peer recommended books and think of it all as more of a suggestion for a possible solution, and not as a bible for a definite solution.

2) As hard as this parenting thing is, we’re all naturally better than we think.  Trust yourself. Trust your instincts. Trust your natural mother’s intuition. Believe in love. You know what is best for your baby because you love your baby with all of your heart.  When it all gets too overwhelming and you think that you’re doing it all wrong, just breathe, and remember that we all have bad days, everyone makes mistakes, we’re all learning, and we’re all doing the best that we can.

3) Find a friend.  Choose someone who you can trust and who is due around the same time as you or someone who has recently been through it.  Having someone to talk to who can relate to the way you are feeling makes all the difference in the world.  Just being able to talk is therapeutic in itself, but knowing that you’re not alone and that your feelings of uncertainty are normal is priceless. To this very day, the thing that I need most in my life when being a Mama is seemingly unbearable is to be surrounded by supportive, strong, amazing women.  Women are the most amazing and empowering beings on this planet and just being in the same room as them is energizing and leaves me feeling re-focused and ready to Mom another day.

4) Take a pre-natal course. In my opinion, this is honestly one of the most beneficial things you can do for yourself in preparation for labour and delivery.  Most cities offer pre-natal courses as a public service through places like the health unit.  Take the course and bring your partner along with you. A lot of the time the things we hear about labour and delivery sound really scary and very intimidating.  This will be the best thing you can do for yourself to make you feel calm, safe and prepared.  The fact will remain that every single labour and delivery is different and unique, but taking the course will put your mind at ease and make it seem a little more manageable.  You’re probably still going to feel a little scared or apprehensive and that’s ok, but try to trust that in most cases nature will take its course and your body will instinctively know what to do, and if things don’t go according to plan, we are very lucky to have an excellent health system that will be there to support you.

5) Understand that this is all new to you and let yourself learn. No one expects you to be an expert and no one expects you to be perfect.  Forgive yourself!  And know that making mistakes is part of the learning process.  Take it one day at a time. Don’t get so caught up with “making a plan”.  Have a general idea of how you imagine things will go but understand that expectations have a way of being very different from reality.

6) When all else fails, try with all your might to enjoy it all, even the hard times (cliché, I know). Your baby is going to grow up so quickly that you won’t even know what happened.  Seriously – when you become a parent your life enters a new level of warp speed.  You’re going blink and when you open your eyes your chubby little baby is going to be all grown up. You are going to miss holding them on your chest close to your heart and patting their little bums as they snuggle into the nape of your neck. They are only little for a very short period of time. Embrace the beauty and the chaos of it all.

simple

xo Michelle

Out into the world

Just like that… Something huge happened in my life this week: my second baby all of a sudden turned into a little boy.

It was almost instantaneous. One minute I was rocking him because his teeth hurt (he still doesn’t have that many at 15 months) and the next minute, I go to pick him up after his first day at Montessori, and he’s sitting in a big boy chair looking at me, happy to be munching on his crackers alongside his new friends. Like he was a grown up already. He’s 15 months, and he has gone off into the world—a few times a week being taken care of by people other than his family.

With my eldest it seemed so much different, I guess because I knew I was going to be having another baby in a year or two. Sending K into the big bad world just meant I was closer to having another baby, and the baby stage of parenting still very much consumed my life…the road seemed very long until this stage.

But all of a sudden, this next stage arrived! It was like getting smacked in the face with reality: Time really does fly.

The last 4 years have gone like this: prepare to be pregnant, be pregnant, give birth, nurse a baby, prepare to be pregnant, be pregnant, give birth, nurse a baby. So basically, all baby ‘stuff’ all the time. You spend countless hours sorting through baby clothes and purging things that don’t fit either kid anymore (I just did this for the trillionth time), you go from bottles to sippy cups to glasses, diapers to big boy toilets and standing up to pee, and all of a sudden I’m mom to two little boys.

Just a short time ago I had two babies that needed me 100% of the time. But at daycare drop off it was very apparent when I left, and ‘baby’ W waved, and his older brother gave me a wonderfully long hug, that these stages of development come and go and they won’t always need me, all the time.

My husband said it out loud: ‘wow, our lives are flying.’ And I know time won’t feel so fast like this always, but right now, he’s right: it is flying. I’m not lamenting that fact, I welcome each new stage and new step in the boys’ development. And big brother K has apparently already helped at daycare with his little brother (aww!) But still. Mama’s heart be cryin’ a little.

For now, baby time is over. Little boy time is ahead. I doubt I’ll be having any more, and maybe that’s what makes this ‘goodbye to baby time’ that much more bittersweet.

But man, these kids really do grow up fast.

IMG_1105

Xo Sara

Anger

You have to feel calm and collected on the inside to express those feelings on the outside. It’s as simple as that.

Having been a human being for 35 years, I know from watching people and existing in the world that the emotions a person expresses outwardly don’t always match those that the person is experiencing. I know that there are a lot of people out there that have to work very very very hard to make sure those inner emotions don’t explode and spiral out of control—this especially applies to parents. And we have all been on both sides of the fence: the one where we are judging a parent for screaming at their kid public and the other side where we are the one screaming – in public or otherwise. I recently read an article that I thought was worth sharing (by Wendy Bradford in 2013): The part of parenting we’re too embarrassed to talk about.

Parenting is an exercise in self-control. Control your voice, control your feelings, control your language, control your reactions, and control your actions. But what happens when you just can’t? When you have pent up emotions (i.e. anger) from many years of being a human in the world and someone triggers those emotions (i.e. a kid who won’t listen, throws an insane tantrum at the grocery store, and becomes irrational in a situation when you can’t calm them)?

Staring down the barrel of a temper tantrum, an explosion from your own offspring, whether at home or in public, is an intense situation that requires the utmost emotional intelligence and control. But often, our kids can push us to the limits of what we can tolerate, and I know for myself, that the intense emotions I feel in those situations surprise me all the time. Who knew people that we love so much could push us to the brink of tryingnottoloseitcompletely. And often, multiple times, in one day!

Kids have a way of bringing us to the edge of everything, including anger AND love. What other role than parenting can do that? I for one have never felt any emotions so strongly as those related to mothering and I’ve been very in love with my partner for over 12 years.

So when you’re on the edge and you feel like you might “snap” with your kids, what do you do? I am lucky. I have rooms to escape to, help to call upon, a supportive network. And even with that support, I am so sad to admit that I am regularly “losing” days to my emotions, and most particularly, my anger. I am often ashamed by my anger. My little guy and I have a fight, where he has a tantrum that inevitably leads to me exploding, and that day is lost—lost to emotions I should be able to control. I spend the next week reflecting, hoping I didn’t scar him with my raised voice, and longing for a time when he just wanted to snuggle me, not throw fits with me. I can see each tantrum and its outcomes clear as day in my head, and I have so many regrets about how I handled certain situations.

Mom anger, meet mom guilt: you two are very good friends aren’t you?

I think about those of you out there that don’t have any support. You might be a single parent or you might not have friends and family close by. And often, even when all of those supports and pillars of sanity are in place, you might just be too overtired to be able to control those emotions.

I want you to know, those of you in those situations, that we all feel you. And that there is support for you if you don’t have it around you already. I have been doing a lot of digging on research on anger and mothering, and to be honest, the stuff out there barely scratches the surface. This article is the one I felt had at least some useful tips: Managing Your Anger: How to Cool Off Before You Melt Down.

One of the most striking insights: “Until one has children, it’s often easy to escape the darker parts of our personality. Yet, once we become a parent, we are often so tired or pushed or overwhelmed that those darker sides we’d rather not acknowledge make all-too-frequent appearances.”

Don’t lose too many days. Find some support if you find that your anger is over-the-top. Your kids and your heart will thank you for it.

If you know of online resources or local ones you can share for mamas out there looking, please post in the comment section.

11079610_10152685617387411_720366890073339493_n (1)

Xo Sara

Emotional intelligence: boys

IMG_0794

So, I’ve been doing a lot of soul searching in the last few months regarding raising my threenager son (he’s a wise old man for 3 and always proves that to me), and it comes down to this: the next few years will be critical to his emotional development, and will greatly impact how he connects and communicates with people in his adult life. I have to raise my son to be extremely emotionally intelligent so that he can have successful adult relationships.

Sink or swim. I’ve got to set the example that emotions and having them are ok, but that tantrums are not necessarily always cool. That’s where I’m at. I’ve read lots and listened and discussed lots.

Here’s another mom blog that basically outlines where I’m at:

When it comes to raising boys emotionally intelligent is the new strong

Thoughts?

I catch myself all the time telling him “oh stop you’re being silly”, and I know that that’s a no-no if he’s crying. But I’m getting there – my son will be a grown up one day and I will make sure he understands how important connecting is.

Anyone out there have any insight or experience here?

xo Sara

He would be 16

Our journey began 16 years ago, when my husband and I celebrated the birth of our beautiful baby boy, Nolan Bruce Robin Jackson. He was the first to be born at RVH in Barrie on Saint Patricks day in 2001. We knew that all of our St Patty’s days to come would be super special. We never knew then how special they would actually be.

It would be five and a half years later when we would have to say good bye to our beautiful boy after an almost life long struggle with an incurable brain tumor. We had five and a half years with a beautiful boy who taught us so much. I love you so much and think of you every day, we all do.

You were our little sunshine, our Pooh Bear. You brought joy and love into our lives and taught us so much about life and about each other. You did not have words but we knew how much you loved us and how much we all loved you. I never heard you say mama but I do now in my dreams. Your little sister can talk my ear off and sometimes it can be, for lack of a better word, annoying. But then I think of you and I could listen to her sweet sound forever. Your brother hates any kind of medicine and fears going to the doctor. I know that is because you could never escape the endless amounts of medicine and Dr. visits that you had to endure. You shine though in our lives every day.

When you were 10 months and we found out about your condition, I begged the doctor to allow me to bring you home, but the experts were very unsure about what kind of “quality of life” our baby would have. But we did bring you home Nolan and we gave you the best quality of life we could—and you gave us so many lessons in return.

Lesson 1 (and probably the most important one): we were told by a social worker that YES Nolan is our son and together we will take care of him, but above all we must take care of each other first. So often a child becomes more important than the couple that created the child. Don’t get me wrong. Nolan was the most important thing in OUR lives. WE did everything for him together. Almost every doctor’s appointment we attended together, and every decision we made together.

Lesson 2: Nothing can ever be “that” bad again. I have great anxieties and always imagine the worst possible outcome of most situations. But then I remind myself that I HAVE ONE HECK of a life experience to compare things to.

Lesson 3: Nolan, you taught us love, and taught us how to live with what we were given. You were in a wheel chair but you went cross country skiing, rode the rides of Disney World, and swam at the beach and in pools. You could not speak words but you made beautiful sounds and loved to sing songs with mommy, nanny and grandma. You were legally blind but your eyes shone when someone walked in the room and you smiled that amazing smile. You spent endless times with family, grandparents and cousins and friends and even got to experience school. These are many of the things that people take for granted, but are so many things that in my opinion shape the “quality of life” we all have.

So to my beautiful boy: I would not trade that time I had with you for anything. Every moment, the happy, the sad, and the terrifying all shape those precious years that we had with you.

So here we are here today. What would you want to do if you were here today?

I guess I will never know but I will imagine that you are in heaven, running though tall grass and looking at all the wonderful colours there are to see, feeling the sun on your face and maybe even tasting some cake made in heaven by angels.

I love you Nolan.

xo Guest Blogger Beth