Tuesday, May 27, 2014

21/52


"A portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2014."
 
Avery: Poor baby broke out in a horrible rash this weekend (of course, the long weekend when no doctor's appointments can be made. Ain't that always the way?) but we still spent plenty of time outdoors playing on a blanket in the shade. She's doing much better now, by the way. No more splotchy face.
 
 Lucas: He had his first sleepover with his Mimi and Grandpa this weekend and loved it. He helped build a wagon, plant a garden, went out for ice-cream with his uncle and got to go to Lake Tahoe. Yet somehow he came home with energy galore, so we sent his outside to clean Dad's bike with a paintbrush.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Why #YesAllWomen Matters Most For Men

This morning, I read a piece on The Atlantic about the #YesAllWomen taking twitter by storm in the wake of the UCSB shooting. It resonated with me deeply, as I'm sure it did with every single woman who read it. Because these tweets aren't exceptional examples of misogyny. These are examples of the everyday, the norm for all women.

I think the hashtag is wonderful for women, but far more important for men because it sheds light on an issue that they don't believe exists. Or if they do believe it exists, they don't understand the extent of the problem. They don't understand the feeling of panic when a man is walking behind them when they are alone. They don't understand the hoops we must jump through just to feel marginally safe. They don't understand how different the world looks when you've been taught, all your life, to fear it.

But the one problem I see most in the good men I know (which is the majority, I might add), is that they don't think acts of misogyny happen to the women they know and love.

 It does. It happens to all of us. Every. Single. One.

When I would walk to the grocery store with my friends, men would catcall from their trucks. Sometimes they would slow down, make sure we heard them loud and clear. We would walk at the same pace, stay quiet, because anything else might provoke them. We were 11, maybe 12 years old. It grew worse as we grew older.

I remember a Halloween when we were 13 and we were allowed to go out in a large group to trick-or-treat in a gated neighborhood. We were chased and called-after by a group of teenage boys. When we ran, they ran after us getting angry and loud, calling us names, throwing things. We dispersed. We hid. We hoped we'd all find each other safe, and thankfully, luckily, we did.

I went to a Christian school where dress code was always a topic of great importance for girls. We were told to dress for the Lord - to dress modestly so we wouldn't cause boys to think impure thoughts. One day I came to school in pants that a teacher thought were too tight. I was publicly shamed on the blacktop. Didn't I have any idea what boys were thinking when they looked at me? Didn't I realize how "easy" I looked?

And do we really need to talk about high school? About the unwanted gropings at parties, at dances, in the hallway as we were going from class to class? About the anti-women jokes we were supposed to laugh at? About the advances we were supposed to feel flattered by? About how we stopped walking anywhere at night without boys we knew? About how we stopped walking anywhere without boys at all? About those nights when something horrible could have happened because we dropped our guard for a moment?

In college I never put a drink out of my sight. I walked with my hand on a can of pepper-spray in one pocket and my keys laced between my fingers in the other. When I worked the night shifts at the mall, we walked out to our cars in groups, drove one another to our cars. I started to favor a pocket-knife instead of keys - we'd all heard the stories of what might happen, what had happened, to women who dared to walk to their cars unarmed.

After any outing we text each other that we got home safe. We live terrified for one another.

Even now, older and married and a mother, I find myself in the grips of that fear. A few weeks ago, I walked an extra half-mile home from the grocery store so I didn't have to walk through an alley short-cut, because a man was following me and my daughter. I have a long list of trails I cannot run alone while I am training for RTO. I'm still harassed on the street, even with children in tow.

And for all the folks who want to write off the hashtag as man-hating, it's not. #YesAllWomen isn't attacking men. It's attacking misogyny. It's attacking the dangerous cultural norms women are taught to live with. It's exposing the everyday fears we talk about amongst ourselves, but rarely with the men we know. It's not an attack, it's an opportunity for understanding. It's an opportunity for change.

I think it's eye-opening and important, and I hope all the men I know take the time to consider #YesAllWomen without becoming defensive and missing the heart of the problem. It's a problem women alone cannot fix. We need the good men in our lives to listen, to understand, to acknowledge rather than dismiss. Because the problem isn't only the bad guys, it's the good guys who let it happen.

Who They'll Be

I don't think I've ever been so proud of the man I married as I was last weekend, when I watched him graduate with his degree in mechanical engineering. Not just me, but also Lucas propped up on my shoulders and Avery in her grandpa's arms - watching their dad achieve a goal he has been working towards since long before they were born.


I know they don't understand all that much now, but I know someday when they look back at these photographs - when they're going through their own journeys to achieve their goals,  maybe when they feel like quitting, maybe when they have kids of their own and they're thinking about putting all their dreams on a shelf - they'll realize his sacrifice, his dedication. They'll be inspired. They'll press on.

They'll do what they've been taught, not by our words but through our actions. They will love the way we loved. They will work the way we worked. They will be molded by the things they see us do time and time again. The good and the bad.


Because of their dad they will be hardworking and dedicated. They'll know the importance of doing a job right. They will keep going even when they want to give up. They will know their dreams are worth fighting for.

***

When the ceremony was over, Uncle Mike asked Lucas what he wanted to be when he grew up.

I expected him to say a firefighter. He always says firefighter.

"I want to be Rob," he said. And I smiled.

It's a tall order, but it's one you'll fill just fine.

xoxo

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Building Our Front Yard Garden

After talking about it for the past couple years, we finally decided to take the plunge and dig up all the plants in our front yard to make room for a front yard vegetable garden!


It was originally full of tulip bulbs (which never bloomed), two overgrown mini rosebushes and a couple other random, never blooming plants. Giving up the sparse plant life that was already there was not a huge sacrifice.


Once everything was mostly cleared out we made a couple pathways with some cheap stone tiles we picked up from home depot, then Rob and Lucas went to work tilling the soil. Lucas was oh so excited to use his Mickey Mouse gardening tools and gloves he received for Easter from his grandparents.

We put in three tomato plants and the rest of our garden we started from seeds. We had to pick mostly shade loving plants since only one of the plots gets a decent amount of sun (hence the many never-blooming flowers). To be honest, this is really just a big trial-and-error experiment for us. I'm sure we'll learn a lot for next year from all the mistakes we make this year.


We also added a couple potted plants around the side of our garden. Lucas is the proudest strawberry plant owner you've ever seen. No one comes to the house now without going to admire his well cultivated berries.


So far everything seems to be going well. We have one more plot to complete this week, and then it'll be a waiting game until harvest time. Here's what we planted:

  • Jalapeno Peppers (they're not technically planted yet, we started them from seed in the house, where they're still growing strong)
  • Carrots
  • White Onions
  • Libson Green Onions
  • Cilantro
  • Tomatoes (Beefsteak, Big Boy, and Cherry varieties)
  • Strawberries
  • Green Beans
  • Spinach
  • Arugula 
  • Leaf Lettuce (Bibb, Black, Red, and Green Looseleaf varieties)
  • Pumpkins
  • Potatoes 
  • Garlic (we'll plant this later in the summer)

Are you growing anything this year? Any tips for a first-timer?

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

20/52



"A portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2014."

Lucas & Avery: They're at this age, these two, where having them in the same room is either the best or worst thing in the world. Hard as it may be most of the time, watching these first moments of friendship bloom is about as much joy as my heart can take.

Monday, May 19, 2014

You Are My Sunshine Party


Avery's first birthday was last weekend, and it was a total blast, even though things didn't quite go as planned. We went with a "You Are My Sunshine" theme, and all the details came together beautifully. Well, almost everything.

I figured since she was a May baby that we could easily plan on a nice outdoor BBQ. We spent the days before her party putting up a big tent and folding tables and chairs in the yard so everyone could sit out and enjoy the beautiful May weather for Avery's sunshine themed party.

Then it snowed. SNOWED! And it hailed and it rained and an icy cold wind was blowing all day long.

Rob was a great sport and put on his snow jacket to grill burgers and hot dogs. We crammed all our food tables and folding chairs inside, and everyone was really gracious about the fact that we were all squeezed inside for a mid-May BBQ.

Avery didn't mind at all. She got a whole cake to herself, and that was all that mattered. I made her a white vanilla smash cake with European vanilla buttercream and marshmallow fondant flowers, and matching cupcakes for everyone else. Avery loved it. She smashed into that cake like an old pro.


The details came out great. We had custom "You Are My Sunshine" invitations from  Grace and Madd Paperie. Maddie was so amazing to work with, and she was really patient with my many nit-picky changes. She totally understood my vision for the party and made invitations that perfectly matched the picture I had in my head.

The cake and cupcakes turned out just how I imagined them, and the yellow marshmallow fondant flowers really made them pop. And I can't imagine there's a better cake smasher out there than Avery. When she was done there was cake in her hair, cake on the walls, even cake on her Nana.
Avery waving to her photos, invites from Grace and Madd Paperie, singing "Happy Birthday," our dessert and favor table.
One detail I really loved was the "Year of Photos." I've taken photos of Avery with the same bear and blanket on each monthly birthday, and I had them printed out and lined up from 1 month to 12 months. Avery loved looking at her baby pictures. She waved to them and said, "Hi."

For favors I made individual jars of lemon curd and packaged up some fresh cream scones I made the morning of the party. There was one favor basket left over, and I devoured it for a Mother's Day treat.

For food we did a big BBQ spread. Hot dogs and handmade burgers with all the fixin's and an iced bucket of beers and a tall pitcher of lemonade. For sides we made my favorite macaroni salad, The Pioneer Woman's baked beans, potato chips and dip, sliced watermelon and some super tasty jalapeno popper dip with french bread. It is safe to say that no one went home hungry.


All in all, it was an awesome first birthday party, and I will treasure these memories forever.

Happy Birthday, baby girl!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

50 Years of Memories


Last month, my mom hit a pretty big milestone birthday. I wanted to do something extra special for her, but a surprise party would have been sort of ho-hum since all of her family lives in England (and there would be no way to get them all to California, even for the big five-oh). So I found a way to help her feel close to her friends and family who couldn't be with her on her big day.

Over the course of the three months leading up to her birthday I gathered 50 notes from family and friends, each with a special memory of my mom. At first I thought there was no way I'd reach 50 notes without stuffing all the envelopes with my own memories, but as her birthday got closer the notes came pouring in. Many people sent their notes via e-mail so I got a bit of a sneak peek of what the finished memory project would look like - and it was so cool to get a glimpse of my mom through different eyes.

The notes ran the gamut from funny to heartfelt to downright embarrassing memories.There was a recollection of a Christmas morning from one of her brothers, a few tales of wild teenage nights from her old best friend, the story of her first date with my dad, notes full of gratitude and love from parents whose children attended her daycare. I learned she was loved for her ability to listen and understand, her humor and her willingness to try anything once (including 5 shots of tequila).


When it was finished, I tied up all the notes with some baker's twine and put a note on top that read:

Inside these envelopes you'll find some notes, some photos and lots of memories. 50 years of memories. They've come from your friends and family, from all times and places in your life. You've given everyone in your life such beautiful and fun memories, and now we're giving them back to you. 

Happy Birthday, Mom! 

I love you.

On her birthday, I drove to California to surprise her with the kids right as she was getting off of work. After Lucas presented her the raspberry lemon cake he helped make, I gave her the package of notes, and we spent the evening drinking wine while reading and laughing and tearing up a bit over 50 years worth of amazing memories.

It was so cool to see my mom react to each of the notes, to remember moments she had all but forgotten. She demanded I do it all over again when she turns 100. We'll see.


Inspiration for this project came from this post.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Happy Birthday, Avery!


Avery turned one last Friday, and I still can't believe her first year is over. I'm trying like crazy to hang onto every baby moment I can. I know she won't be curled up in my arms before bed each night for much longer. I know those cute little "no no no's" she says will soon turn into tantruming, screaming "no no no's." It's only a matter of time until I look back at these photographs and barely remember how she was ever so small.

But the fact that her babyhood is over isn't the only reason I'm reluctant to let go of this year. I know the wonderful milestones that are ahead, and I'm already anxious to hear her little voice and watch her toddle about the world as she turns into a tiny person this next year.

I think the reason I've been getting so choked up over this year coming to an end is because when I look back from her birth to right now, I see the most beautiful, magical year of my life.

Her first year pieced back together the broken parts left behind from my PPD. Her birth set in motion a year of immense internal change - a journey towards learning to love myself, and to feel worthy of that love. She helped my relationship with Rob and my mothering with Lucas. She just made me better, simply by being. She saved my life.

So my dear sweet Avery, Happy Birthday.

I'm so glad you were born. I can't imagine a world without you.

xoxo

Stay tuned for a peek at Avery's "You Are My Sunshine" themed party next week!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

13-19/52, Catching Up On The 52 Project

I'm not giving up on The 52 Project. Here's what you missed while I was away.
 13/52 

Lucas - Posing for the camera.

Avery -  Having breakfast in a big girl chair.

 14/52

Lucas & Avery - Being silly in the ball pit at Nana's house.

15/52

Avery - 11 months old and so over taking these monthly photos.

Lucas - Getting the eggs at the ranch.


 16/52

Lucas - Very intent on playing "The Fourtrack Song" he made up.

Avery - Rocking her new Easter sunglasses.


17/52

Lucas & Avery -Their first wagon ride together. Avery loved it. Lucas was pretty mad about sharing the wagon with sissy, who kept trying to steal his water cup.

 18/52

Avery - Enjoying the sunshine while we started planting our front yard garden.

Lucas - He got a whole little set of Mickey Mouse gardening tools from his grandparents for Easter, just in time to help us plant tomatoes in the garden. 

19/52

Avery - You guys, she turned one this week! And she smashed her cake like a champ. 

Lucas - His Nana had a butterfly kit growing over the past few weeks, and Lucas got to release the butterflies this weekend.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Where I've Been, Where I'm Going

The blog has been quiet for some time now. When I posted my last Project 52 photos, I was weeping. I had planned on putting up three pictures, the last would have been of my pregnancy test and slightly bulging belly. Posting those photos of my children, and leaving behind that surprising announcement I had envisioned, was somehow harder than writing this post.

So I left. I needed time to heal.

I know I hardly responded to anyone who reached out to me during that time, and if I did it was probably a mere "thank you" because that was all I could bare. But one night, some weeks after my miscarriage, I just lay in bed and stared at the ceiling and thought about each and every one of you. I cried in a hard way, not out of sorrow but because I was so overwhelmed by your love and your kindness. I held in my heart those of you who shared your stories of loss so I wouldn't feel so alone. I remembered you each by name, even if all you offered was a simple "I'm sorry." I know you probably thought your words didn't matter, but they did. More than you'll ever know. I let all that love wash over me, and I felt healed.

It's a bold thing to say, but that sorrow is gone now. Over these past couple months I have filled that cavernous place in my heart love, because that baby boy (I felt it, I knew it) deserves to be remembered with love, not sadness. We picked out a name that will forever be written on my heart, and when I hear it or think it, I'll feel that love for my baby.

***

I've also spent this time away to rethink the blog, which I already had lukewarm feelings towards. I spent time away from all my writing, really, and stepped away from the internet a lot. I've been out living and loving and connecting in tangible ways. It's been joyful and fulfilling.

But I've decided that this is a place I want to thrive. I still want to carve out my own little corner in the big boisterous blogging world and share my story. To share the happy moments and the struggles and the things I'm learning along the way.

So I will be around from now on. You can expect to see little glimpses of our home and the adventures we embark on as well as the essays and ramblings you've already come to expect from me. I may share some cool little projects and recipes as well.

And I'd love to hear what you'd like to see on this space. Because this blog isn't just about me. It's about you too. It's about a community that has shown me love in abundance. A community I will always love in return.
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