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Thursday, March 31, 2016

Our Message to Our Daughters

Occasionally, I suffer from a mild case of the "If-onlys."
If only I was 20 lbs lighter.
If only my skin was more even.
If only my smile wasn't crooked.
I could go on, but you get the picture. While there are many problems with a case of the If-onlys, I propose that this self-ridiculing behavior is contagious and, more importantly, learned...by little girls who need to be sent a more positive message.

I so vividly remember a pre-teen me, Saturday shopping with my mom, sitting in the dressing room on a little triangle bench attached to the wall at McAlpin's, turning my head so I could see 700 of myself in the three way mirrors, listening to her talk about how she looked in the clothes she was trying on. She was just being honest. Some clothes looked good, some did not. Some made her legs look skinny, some did not. She did what so many of us do...talk about ourselves in front of our daughters. She wasn't setting out to send subliminal messages to me. Of course not. But what I heard as an impressionable girl, shaped the way I would feel about myself. After all, if she didn't like something because it made her hips look big, then the message to me was: big hips should be avoided at all costs (Unless your pushing out a 9 lb. baby and then they come in handy. Just sayin'.)

They were subtle messages that all of us (I don't want my mom to think I'm singling her out) send to our daughters whenever we critique our appearance. Whether it be in a dressing room, the bathroom, or as we walk into an event...when we criticize, our girls listen. Over time, they start to hear a message that we are not intending to send.

I can't say I do the best job, but I can say I am extremely aware of what I say about myself in front of my daughters. As I get ready in the bathroom, change clothes, and my little ones are playing in my make-up, instead of saying how disappointed I am with this or that, I try to say something positive. The other day, Gabriella said, "Mommy, your tummy is going down," to which I replied, "Yeah girl! It's lookin' good isn't it?!" True story. Under my breath I was saying something else, but on the outside, at least to an impressionable 6 year old, I was loving everything about me. Hands in the air, like I just don't care. Everything flippin' and flappin'. You would have thought I was God's gift.

Wait a minute. I am, aren't I? Aren't we all?

Ultimately, I feel like it's a two part process. Part 1- Fake it 'til you make it. Part 2- Make it. I'm still in Part 1. I'm faking it. I'm cognizant of what I say and how I am not in a place where I believe it. However, Part 2 has to be on the horizon, right? I will make it (aka- believe it) one day...

What I am asking of other fabulous mommies, though, is to make it to Part 1. Make a promise to yourself (and your beautiful girls) that you won't chastise your appearance. You won't talk about your weight, your skin tone, your hair, your nose, your smile, your anything...unless it is how amazing you are, how wonderfully made you are and how God chose that especially crooked nose just for your beautiful face. We owe it to our daughters. They will hear enough messages from society, but you know what? I don't believe that there are any little ladies out there that aren't soaking up the messages the number one women in their lives are sending. We have a responsibility to counteract the jacked up messages our daughters get from so many other sources. The good thing is, there is power in the mommy message and it's kind of a big deal. #mommypower

Thank you, God, for each and every mommy out there and her gorgeousness! Let us believe how truly fabulous we are and share it with our daughters so they may realize their beauty, as well.

Love, Mary

Sunday, March 20, 2016

It Feels Good to Be Back

I could spend some time catching you up on why my last post was almost two years ago to the date, but I can sum it up quite quickly: life has been busy and I've been living it, soaking in every moment and I guess I just lost track of time.Whoops! But recently, I've been thinking about this old blog more and more and it seemed like it was time to come back. Enough about that, let's get to the point of the post...

I'm not a Super Mom. I don't claim to be. I'm not trying to be #1 at everything, or even #4,572, and frankly, I've never looked good in blue and red spandex. I think as the girls get more involved in school and activities, I have a chance to be around more and more moms. Through these conversations, I get the feeling that us moms have a bad habit of beating ourselves up for not being perfect at everything.

Clothes don't match. Gasp!
Children drank sugary kool-aid. Shock!
McDonalds was served on more than one occasion this week. Oh no!
Bought a birthday cake from Walmart. Lord, help us!

A couple of weeks ago, I received a group text in which a friend was asking us how often we bathed our children. As a busy mom of three, she was having a hard time getting in three baths a night. I can't remember what I did respond, but what I didn't respond was this: We don't bathe our kids every day. In fact sometimes, it's several days in between. If we bathed 4 children every night, we'd spend most of our time together in a bath tub getting clean. Instead, I'd rather spend time doing other things together, even it means maybe behind our children's ears gets a little dirty. Sorry. That's just the way it is (not to mention they make baby wipes for this very reason, right?!).

If I were obsessed with being Super Mom, this would bother me, but it doesn't. I think one of the most important things we can do as moms is to pick what we want to be good at. Prioritize. I can handle not being good at cooking creative healthy meals every night of the week. I can handle not being good at giving daily baths. What I can't handle not being good at is teaching my children how to be good siblings, so they have a seal tight bond to carry them through life. What I can't handle not being good at is laughing and dancing and kissing my hottie hubby in front of my children so they see what a strong marriage looks like. So, if certain things fall by the wayside, I'm ok with that. I'm good with not being good at everything as long as I'm getting better at the stuff that matters.

It feels good to be back!

Love, Mary


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

What I'd Say

As I prepare for my grandmother’s funeral, I am trying to keep my sanity by holding onto the many memories we’ve created in my 33 years. I was looking at pictures yesterday and what struck me as I admired them was that in all of my life’s greatest moments, my grandma was there.  She has, in so many ways, been my biggest cheerleader.

About a week before my Grandma passed away, when her health transitioned from really bad to unbearable, I remember staying up almost all night thinking about her, the days that would follow her passing away, her funeral…

I know that seems so warped and I’m sure it is.  Just like me actually looking back on her last day, the couple of hours when it was just us in her room- holding her hand, playing music, talking to her; how is it I can look back at that time and remember the worst hours of my life, her life, with such joy? See, I am warped.

But, if it were up to me, everyone that loved my Grandma would gather ‘round and spend hours sharing the memories we made with her.  We would see my Grandma through the eyes of each other.  We would say, “Thanks for the memories,” because they were so rich, so real.

Here is what I would say:

For the countless pieces of cornbread you fried on that old burnt griddle,

Thanks for the calories.

For the time when I was 4 or 5 and you introduced me to the police officer after my older cousin had me prank call his friends,

Thanks for the lesson.

For every Christmas that ended with a stocking stuffed in a huge bag, overflowing with 30 or 40 presents,

Thanks for making Christmas last.

For every holiday dinner prepared hours, even days, in advance,

Thanks for giving me something to live up to.

For the foresight and financial planning that allowed me to receive a college education, paid in full,

Thanks for helping me fulfill my dreams.

For the check that came the summer after I graduated college, when you gave me the freedom to blow it all in one place or use it to live off of for the rest of the summer,

Thanks for the swift kick into the real world.

For always asking about my teaching, my class, my students, my administrators,

Thanks for listening.

For treating me to lunches and dinners at your favorite restaurants with your favorite servers, with extra salt-rimmed Margaritas,

Thanks for picking up the tab every single time, except once when you let me treat you.

For never letting an opportunity pass to tell me how proud you were,

Thanks for the confidence.

For looking at me eye to eye in your last days of life, pleading, “Hold me, help me,”

Thanks for the trust.

For fighting one hell of a fight, showing me what true strength is,

Thanks for the example.

For the times you acknowledged my level of stress, responsibility, and hard work,

Thanks for understanding me, truly understanding me.

And finally,

For every phone call, no matter how short, stopping and slowing down to say, “I love you,” like it was the last time I’d ever hear it,

Thanks for 33 years of the most endearing, unconditional “I love yous.”

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Climbing Mountains

Listening to Third Day the other day and these were the most powerful lyrics I have heard in a long time: "I've heard it said that a man will climb a mountain, just to be with the one he loves. How many times has he broken that promise? It has never been done." I started thinking about all the things we do for the ones we love.
I started thinking about the things I do for the ones  I love.
As Rick and I toasted the new year on New Year's Eve, we reminisced about every little detail our memories would afford us. There was no big trip or event. We actually spent most of the year within a 5 mile radius of our home. The thing that struck 
me as we talked (and I have mentioned this on other posts) is that we were both so present in the moments. On more than one occasion during this year, Rick and I have looked at each other with tears in our eyes. Not because of the leak in the front room of our brand new house, not because of the only car we have not wanting to start on really cold days...
Because of the laughter, the smiles, the hugs, the tantrums, the forward rolls, the children that won't stay clothed...
I can't say that I climb mountains everyday, but I sure am trying. I'm making choices that are hard: to have tea parties over photo sessions, to avoid buying into everything that society says about 
roles and class...
I never want my children to think that there are things that keep me from spending time with them, loving them, or finding joy in them. I know this year will produce some mountains (let's be real- each day there are mountains) and I'm praying that God gives me the strength to climb them. I'm praying that God gives you the strength to climb, as well.

Below, are some pictures from this year in which I can so vividly remember the sights, sounds, and feelings in the moment. Nothing out of the ordinary, really. Just time together when I was so present.



Saturday, December 7, 2013

Don't Go

Perhaps I've shared before that my extended family is small. On most holidays or significant events, the go-to people in my family are my mom, dad, grandma, and grandpa. There is Rick's family and a few more relatives on my side (which I am not discounting), but from the very beginning, it's always been us four. I would be lying if I said I didn't sometimes resent the smallness, the siblings I never had. Maybe that's why I've always wanted lots of children...hmmmm...
So, it's really no wonder why when the rock of this little family, my grandma, has been given the ultimate trial of her life that I have been a complete wreck. The roller coaster that started a few weeks ago ended with disappointment last night as we learned about her cancer, the inability to treat, and all of the other details you find out when you're terminally ill.
When she was finished, I asked, "How long?" I don't know why I asked. Maybe because in the movies they ask. Maybe because that's what you're supposed to ask when you have untreatable carcinoma. "We didn't ask. We don't want to know," was my mom's answer. The relief I felt when she didn't have an answer. It was a dumb question, anyway.
So, now as I prepare to talk to my grandma for the very first time after this news, I can't find the words. I called last night and my grandpa's upbeat voice was too much to handle, so I gave GG the phone. I whispered things I wanted her to say. She talked to my grandpa, grandma, and mom. She said things like, "I love you," and, "Don't worry about anything." All things I want to say so desperately, but somehow can't. My words get caught in my throat and all I have to show for how I feel is tears. I want to be strong, but have reverted back to the 5 year old my grandma used to take to Steak and Eggs after shopping at Montgomery Wards. My 33 year old self really just wants to hug her and beg her not to go. Please don't go, Grandma...as if she would ever willingly deny that request. That's why I can't even go see her. I really don't think I could keep myself from such ridiculous requests. And does anyone who has to go really want someone begging them to stay? Wouldn't that just make the leaving so much harder?

As I've sat here for at least 15 minutes trying to find a way to transition to the positive, the moral, the inspiration, I've got nothing. At least right now. I've got no good way to sum up this post. 
It is what it is. Ending right in the awkward middle...

I'd end with where I see God, but I am frustrated and my eyes are swollen. 
I know He understands.


Sunday, November 10, 2013

This Is The Good Life

In the words of the famous poet, Timbaland, "It's been a long time, I shouldn'ta left you...without a dope beat to step to."  Yes, it's been some time since I've been away and there's no big reason why other than life.  I've been living it and boy have I been busy. Trust me, I don't think I have the market cornered on being busy, feeling stressed, and barely keeping up with the demands of everything/one around me. 
In the three or four months since my last post, my senses have become heightened to all of the people around me that are stressed and overwhelmed.  I hear people talk, I read facebook posts, I listen to my own inner voice and the constant message is loud and clear: How to keep up with the demands of raising a child, juggle a career, make time for yourself, and still be a good spouse/daughter/son/brother/grandchild...
I feel like it's what so many of us in the child raising stage of our life are going through.

And then, Rick and I went to the park with the girls this morning and I looked through the many shots I had captured...the images that so very well reflect this crazy, hectic stage of our lives and I thought to myself...
This is it.  This is the good life.  This is the best my life has ever been and why am I spending one second of it anxious, stressed, or overwhelmed.  Every second I give to feelings of angst denies me a moment of gratitude and being present and aware of the life that's happening now.

On Friday, we had our first official visit since the twins have been accepted into the First Steps Program.  The evaluator came and, as I kept the twins entertained in the playroom, asked Rick all kinds of questions about life and routines.  Very seriously, like he was in a therapy session, I heard the evlauator tell Rick he was going to ask some very personal questions.  I listened intently and heard him ask, "If you could change one thing about your life, what would you change?" Rick thought for a moment.  I was waiting on pins and needles to hear what he was going to say.
"I wouldn't change anything," he answered.

He wouldn't change anything.
And neither would I.

We are in the best parts of our lives, and by we, I mean all of us...you included.  We don't need to change anything.  We just need to stop letting the stresses of life deprive us from truly appreciating and celebrating each other.

So, today when we were at the park and I was busy trying to get the girls to look this way or that way, trying to get them to smile or hug each other, I realized I should stop stressing about what I wanted them to do and just capture what was real.

And now to the purpose of every post...

Today, I saw God in wind-blown hair, flowers in the midst of fallen leaves, sisters tripping in the grass, a Daddy who uses any means necessary to transport his little little rascals, and a Mommy's heart that didn't hear any nagging whispers of things to do or prepare for.


Monday, July 22, 2013

Dates With My Daughters- Part I

At the Farmer's Market on Saturday, a man walked up to me and the twins while we were waiting on Rick and Gabriella to make a choice at the beer cheese booth.  He commented how happy the twins looked, but then he looked at me and said, "You strike me as the type of mom who's never going to take moments with these girls for granted."  I must admit that I took this stranger's assessment as a compliment.  Maybe it's because I try so hard to appreciate every single second with my family and I was amazed that someone noticed.  Even more, it was almost like God had noticed...like he was giving me a thumb's up, telling me I'm on the right track.

This summer has been crazy.  I've taken a new position at school which comes with a whole new set of responsibilities and challenges.  I knew that when I interviewed for the position, so there's no surprise there.  The real surprise has come from the increase in my photography business.  Now, an official LLC (woot! woot!), I have more clients and inquiries than I ever thought would be possible.  Photography is becoming a full time job, but news flash, I already have one!  What I do at school has always, and will always take precedence over my photography as I feel like that's God's 1st plan for me.  However, I do feel like I've been given this extra gift of photography which finds me scrounging around for moments of time when my family is sleeping, so that I can fulfill my obligations and still be around to catch all those moments that man was referring to the other day. Bottom line, I stay tired and about 1 inch from going too far under the water.  I have a lot on my plate, as we all do.  Trust me, I don't think I have the market cornered on fatigue and sacrifice for my family.  If you are a loving parent, you're tired and you're making sacrifices too! I think we're all just holding on to those special, little moments/gifts in life that keep us going until the next one arrives.

Well, all that to say I had one of those keep-you-going-moments last night with Gabriella.  In an effort to never be a parent that shows favoritism to one of our children, Rick and I try to have special dates with each of the girls.  Personally, I see the short-term and long-term effects of parents who put a little more effort and interest into one sibling.  Reason it how you may, a child sees this extra interest as love.  Maybe I'll fail miserably, but my goal is for none of the girls to ever think one of the others is my favorite or loved more, but to each secretly think that she is.  Does that make sense?  I don't want any of them to look back and think I put more time or energy into their siblings, but I do want each of them to always hold a special feeling that they were most loved.  Maybe when I'm long gone, they'll all gather around a table and fight over who was my favorite, citing the special times I created with each of them as evidence.  No one will win.

Anywho, I plan on blogging about each of my dates with the girls and last night was Gabriella's turn.  Gabriella is dramatic.  She is a girly girl through and through.  So the perfect date for Gabriella: dinner at a fancy restaurant and a play.  

As we got ready, Gabriella wanted to use the "hot thing I can't touch" on her hair.  I have never curled her hair for fear of burning her, but with extra promises to be still, I gave it a go.  Gabriella looked in the mirror and flipped her hair back and forth.  Then, she wanted to put on make-up, so I got really crazy and tried to put mascara on her as she feigned attempts of looking up. I just knew I was going to get a big glob of black right in her pupil, but my hand was exceptionally steady for some reason.  She picked through my jewelry and finally settled on a pearl necklace.  The final touch was one squirt of perfume. 

On the way downtown, Gabriella asked me to turn the music up and she clapped to the beat of every song that played the entire way. 

At our pre-play dinner, we ate at a restaurant that I was sure would appeal to Gabriella.  With eclectic shabby-chic decor, it was the perfect place for a little girl to have dinner.  Gabriella ordered her own drink and meal using the words "May I," and "Please," after pretending to read the menu.  She held my hand while we waited and said, "Mommy, this is the best day ever."

As we made our way to see what would be her very 1st play, she stopped and talked to people along the way.  "I bet they're going to the play, too," my little Sherlock would whisper to me.  She would tell other little girls and their mothers they looked beautiful, and while she sat perfectly still through the entire play with her hands clasping each other, I kept looking at her thinking the exact same thing. She is beautiful. Not just on the outside, either.  Gabriella has a compassion for people, a love for people that is indescribable. She is genuine and sincere and truly cares.  She is wise.  Wiser than I will ever be at her young age of 3 and I am in awe as I ponder what greatness she will one day achieve.  Something perfectly suited and tailored to her unique spirit and love for others.

As we drove home in the dark, she cried.  After meeting one of the actresses who said she would play with Gabriella, I had "taken her away!"  When the tears finally subsided, as only our family would do, we stopped for french fries and made our way back home to a daddy who had taken the time to call the theatre and request that the main actor make a special fuss over Gabriella.

And long after midnight, as my family was fast asleep, I was wide awake with a smile on my face...with excitement and joy that still lingered from a perfect night.  How lucky am I that I get to do this 2 more times, with 2 more equally special, unique little girls.  AND, we can keep doing it...for a lifetime.

Look, I'm pretty good at analyzing myself.  I know where my faults are and I know what I need to work on.  But, that stranger, the man who came up to me and said he could tell I cherished each moment...

I do.

I really do.

And I hope you do, too.

I can't wait to share the memories I'll be making on my next 2 dates!