My Village

It’s been a while since I posted. Almost a year. Partially because life got busy and partially because I’m not a very good blogger. I think out a lot more posts than I write. However, it was a pretty busy year and we added to our family for the final time. Our daughter, Elizabeth, was born in July.

She’s the reason for this post. She was born 6.5 weeks early and spent twenty-two days in the NICU at two different hospitals. It was one of the hardest things I have ever been through in my life. Not only was I physically recovering from her birth (I had to have a c-section), but it was emotionally draining. I felt torn between my children, because I wanted to be with her and I wanted to be with the boys plus there was fear and guilt and exhaustion to contend with as well. Thankfully, I didn’t have to deal with it alone.

I’ve read articles about how we no longer have a “village” to lean on and I agree that things have changed. We don’t have the same circle of neighbourhood moms that existed in the past. I know very few of Alex’s friends’ parents. However, I do have a village, just not the same way my mother or grandmother might have.

Within hours of Elizabeth’s birth, my village was there for me. In the weeks that followed, they brought me food and offered to watch the boys. Members of my village visited me or called me on the telephone or chatted with me for hours. They gave me hugs, but also let me cry and scream and rant. They talked me down during the scary moments and gave me hope. I was able to call on their experiences and find comfort in them. They made me realize that I was not alone.

My village was not made up of neighbours, but of friends I’ve made from a variety of places. The biggest difference between my village and the traditional one? Mine is a virtual village. A lot of these women I met online. Through message boards or mommy groups. We came together through shared interests and built deep friendships because of it. There are also people who I met through more traditional means (such as mutual friends), but connect with online more than in person because of distance. They are all part of my wonderful, loving village.

One of the nice things about a virtual village is that it allows for a wide variety of experiences. Ones that you might not be exposed to when you’re limited by variety. Elizabeth has a minor heart issues, but that was okay because I knew another mother who had been through something similar and she could answer my questions. I also knew other mothers of preemies, who could share their experiences and help me know what to expect.

It was a rough few weeks, but we made it through it, mostly because I knew I was never alone. My village was there. They had my back and I know they always will.

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Never Enough Time

It’s been a long time, no real excuses except life has been busy. We’ve moved, back to my childhood home, I graduated (again) and various other changes. The most notable one being that in a few short days, my baby starts school.

I’m feeling very emotional about this particular milestone. How can four years have passed since I paced around the house feeling gigantic in the last weeks of pregnancy? How can that sweet baby be ready to go to school? But it has been four years and he is ready, more ready than his mama.

We have a delayed start, so I am not sending him off tomorrow. But on Thursday, we will do our orientation day and then a week later, on his 4th birthday, he will officially be a kindergartner. It is an important transition, for both of us, because it marks his official entrance into the world of big boys and girls.

He has never gone to daycare or pre-school, so for the last four years, he has just belonged to me. We have spent that time learning together and laughing together and I think it will be an adjustment for both of us to be apart. I will no longer be his entire world and while I know it is normal and natural, it is a very hard thing for me to contemplate.

I feel like the last four years went by too fast. Like it wasn’t enough time with my baby. I want more time. I want to keep him small for just a little while longer, but I know it doesn’t work that way. He has to grow up and I have to let him. I have so much apprehension about how he’ll do in school, whether he’ll struggle to make friends, etc. and I know that’s natural. I’m his mother and I’m always going to worry, but I have to let him go out on his own. I can be there to help him, but I can’t keep him to myself any longer.

This is a milestone for both of us. He is making his way out in the world and I am letting him. I am sure we will be both survive, but there may be some tears a long the way and I’m sure I will keep wishing that I could have just had a little bit more time.

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Its About Being There For the Big Moments

How I Met Your Mother ended this week. The ending was unpopular with a lot of people, I was personally indifferent to it. It wasn’t the ending I would have chosen, but it was the ending I saw coming and I’ve come to terms with it. However, the ending isn’t what I want to talk about.

My husband and I have talked about the fact that one of the reasons the show has resonated over the 9 years is that we can relate to the characters (we have friends who remind us of each of the main characters actually) and where they were in their lives. We’re of similar ages and have gone through a lot of the same things. We’ve seen friendships change and evolve and we’ve gone through ups and downs and suffered tragedies. We’ve been there for each other through good times and bad, through relationships failing and relationships prospering, having kids, career changes and promotions. What happened on screen on How I Met Your Mother was happening to some degree in my real life.

The finale particularly resonated with the idea of “being there for the big moments” and the fact that with time, friendships do change. Friendships are different as you get older. The same people you spent every weekend of your 20s with may become the people you see a few times a year. It doesn’t mean that you care about them any less, it just means that life has taken you in different directions.

If you think of life as a series of snapshots, you’ll notice the changes. The party weekends, the nights out at the bar, even the girl’s trips to the mall, become less frequent as careers, marriage, and children change and shape your life. My life at 30 is very different than it was at 25. Friends I once talked to every day, I now talk to maybe once a month, but the friendship is still there, the love is still there, its just our lives have taken us in difference directions.

Its all about the big moments now. I tend to see people on occasions now: birthday parties (generally of our children), holidays, weddings. We’re still there for each other for those occasions. I look back at my wedding pictures and I love seeing the familiar and beloved faces. However, like referenced in another episode of How I Met Your Mother this season, I haven’t seen some of those people since my wedding and a few others I’ve only seen at other people’s weddings. It’s not what it was once and that’s ok.

For me, the finale of How I Met Your Mother wasn’t defined by the ending, but by the journey and the lesson. The whole show was about the transition into the realities of adulthood and how your life changes in your late 20s and early 30s and how your relationships change. That’s why, no matter what my feelings on the finale, I’ll treasure the experience of How I Met Your Mother and the journey that these character went through and that I went through with them.

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I’m the Mean Mommy Who Doesn’t Let Them Play With ALL the Toys

My kids have too many toys.

I’m sure a lot of mothers feel that way. Its amazing how much stuff two little people can accumulate. Its not that we buy them lots of stuff because we don’t and in fact we try to moderate what they get (more on that in a moment), but they do obviously get toys and we have a lot of generous people in our lives. Plus we have a small house and it doesn’t take long for it to get overrun, so I had to figure out a method of dealing it.

I looked to my own mom for inspiration here. When I was a child I had too many toys (actually too many, my parents over-indulged me at times) and one way my mom had of combating that was limit the number of toys I had access to. Apparently when I was little she made it a game and every morning I’d race out of bed to see what toys I got to play with. I don’t remember this and eventually she let me play with whatever I wanted. However, for the younger years, she swears by this tip for alleviating boredom and keeping the chaos under control.

Another thing she did (and this one she kept up until I was a preteen) is that I was never allowed to open all of my gifts as soon as I got them. My birthday, Christmas, the gifts were always opened and then put away still in their packaging. I could have a few right away, but the rest were brought out gradually over the next few weeks. She figured that way would I appreciate them and it dragged out the thrill of having something new. I still leave my gifts in the packaging until I’m ready to use them to this day (I also leave tags on clothes until I’m ready to wear them as I like the feeling of wearing something ‘new’).

I do both of these things with my boys. It’s February and my kids still have a Christmas present each that hasn’t come out of the box. Part of this is because my kids are so little. Nicky doesn’t even realize he still has gifts and Alex only notices when he sees the boxes, occasionally he’ll ask to open one and we will. Its not about drawing the excitement out yet, as he’s too little for that, right now its all about cutting down on the clutter. However, I intend to do this even when they are old enough to ask and I expect I may occasionally feel like the Meanest Mother Ever, but I’m sure in the end there will be no long term affects.

We also switch out their toys every few weeks. This is purely for space reasons. The kids don’t have a separate play area, so everything ends up in my living room. I let them have two big toys and two little toys to play with (plus Nicky’s playpen full of assorted infant toys since his toys take less space than Alex’s and if it makes him tolerate being on his own, he can have as many as he likes). I know this won’t last forever as already Alex knows enough to ask for certain toys when they’re away. I figure he’ll tolerate it up until about 5 or 6 and hopefully by then we’ll have a playroom for them.

So, sometimes I feel like a mean mommy, but it keeps my sanity and keeps the chaos to a minimum, and I know that’s important. And they are happy, healthy little guys, just ones who don’t get to play with all the toys, all the time.

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Update on My Attempts at Make-Up

I thought I’d give an update on my quest to improve my appearance. A month in, I’m starting to figure it out and feel more comfortable. Though sometimes I finish a look and hate the result. I’ve been trying some adventurous looks, but have also figured out a basic look that I use most days and I really like.

I’ve experimented with all kinds of color combinations and I’ve liked some and hated others (I had a silver/gray combo on this morning that I ended up taking off as I just didn’t like it), but mostly I like a fairly neutral look. Foundation, neutral lip colour, a little bit of creme blush, eye shadow, eyeliner and mascara. Eyeliner was something that terrified me before, but I’ve actually gotten pretty comfortable with it thanks to YouTube tutorials and I find it makes a difference.

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It’s a simple neutral look and I really like it. I’ve been slowly building up a make-up collection (a month ago I had a few items from Ipsy bags and that was it). I had a budget of course, so I’ve been choosing wisely and sticking mostly with items that would get the most use. E.L.F cosmetics came highly recomended and were easy on the budget, so I ordered several items, and then picked up a few careful items at Sephora and filled out the rest with drugstore purchases and now I’m set.

For this particular look I used:

Foundation: Covergirl Whipped Creme Foundation in creamy natural. I like whipped foundations, I’ve never been particularly good with powdered foundation and I find liquid hard to apply properly, the whipped formula is a good mix of the too and it applies evenly and has pretty good coverage.
Powder: E.L.F Studio High Definition Finishing powder. This was highly recommended on a message board I am part of. I’m not super familar with finishing powders, but I like how it went on and sealed my foundation and it gave me a more natural, less made up look.
Eyeliner: E.L.F Essential Shimmer eyeliner pencil in “Boldly Bronzed”. As I said I’m new too eyeliner, I’ve been rotating between pencil and liquid. This pencil goes on smoothly and it’s a nice bronze color.
Mascara: Covergirl Clump Crusher mascara. I’m never going to be one to spend too much on mascara, since it has to be replaced every 3 months. I’ve never been big on mascara in the past, but I have found a difference since I’ve started wearing it daily. The Covergirl product works fine, doesn’t clump and doesn’t shed too badly.
Eyeprimer: Smashbox Photo Finish Lid Primer. I hated the first primer I tried, so a friend recomended this one and I like it. It’s easy to put on, isn’t oily and it gives my eye make-up a nice pop.
Eyeshadow: Sephora Color Play 5 in 1. For Christmas a friend gave me this set. I wasn’t sure what colors were going to look good on me, so I wanted to try a variety. Of the five sets, “Coffee in New York” is the one I use the most and the bronze shadow I’m wearing today came from that set. I like the shadows and I find that with primer they stay on all day and give a good color.

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Lipstain: E.L.F Studio lip stain in “Mysterious”, this was a little more neutral than I had intended. I am terrible with lip color, it comes off in less than an hour, the E.L.F stuff had to be reapplied after about two hours, so that’s a huge improvement for me. I found “mysterious” much more neutral than I was expecting, but that is not necessarily a bad thing.
Blush: E.L.F Essential All-Over Stick in “Toasted”. Toasted ended up being a lot darker than I expected and I’m not sure how often I’ll use it because of that, but it blended in really well and gave a nice bronze-y glow to my cheeks. I picked up several of the all-over sticks as I prefer stick blushes to powdered and I’m eager to see how the E.L.F ones work for me.

I will go back to talking about things other than my appearance going forward, but I figured I might as well give an update on my journey. Its not as tricky as I thought it would be to teach myself to apply make-up without looking like a clown. Yes, it adds about 20 minutes to my morning routine, but I actually enjoy the time to myself to just think as I’m getting ready before I get involved in the bedlam that is my children’s morning routine.

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Regaining My Independence

I’ve mentioned before that I don’t drive. This means, I depend on walking, public transportation and the good-will of those who can drive. As a teen/early 20s, I was dependent on my parents, especially as we lived 1/2 hour away from shopping/work/entertainment, so I needed a parent or a friend with a driver’s license if I wanted to go anywhere.

Once I moved to a place with reliable buses though, it was all me. I mean, I still preferred going by car, especially for groceries and would barter with friends to take me grocery shopping (I’d also stock up whenever my mom came to visit), but I managed to get to class, go to the mall, do basic grocery shopping, etc. all on my own. This was easier when I lived in Toronto, but even when I left the city for a smaller city with less reliable transit (every 40 minutes, often late), I still made do with buses and walking. There were places I didn’t go because it was impossible to get there by transit, but I could manage almost everything I needed. We lived within walking distances of a lot of places, so I walked a lot.I did this even when pregnant with my oldest son.

Then we got a car. And suddenly, I became dependent on the car, which meant I became dependent on my husband. I can say its because we moved to a place that is less convenient by bus and doesn’t have as much within walking distance. However, when we first moved here, we had no car and I either took the bus or walked where I needed to go, even when I was heavily pregnant. I could argue that the car is more convenient with the kids and it is, but that doesn’t excuse the fact that when I need to go just for me, I usually end up dragging all of us out which is actually a pretty big hassle. Last year, our car was temporarily out of commission and I put Alex in the Ergo and took the bus, we did a lot of Christmas shopping this way AND I was 4 months pregnant. I can do it if there’s no other option, I just choose not to because I’m lazy. I have become dependent on the and I don’t even drive and that’s not ok.

So my goal for 2014 is to start taking the bus more (I have a free bus pass through school) and to start walking places (when its not freezing outside). I started today by taking the bus to the mall, yes it was a little inconvenient (I have to take one bus to the station, then another bus to the mall despite the fact that the mall is 5 minutes away by car and the buses only come every 40 minutes), but I just read a book on my phone. It was nice to have some me-time and the bus ride didn’t kill me. I want to start taking the bus to most of my classes (I have a couple where it doesn’t make sense for me to take the bus) and to make one outing a week on my own. I want to regain my independence in 2014, I know it’ll be good for me and for my marriage.

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Depression and My Appearance

Last time I talked about how I need make-up tips, but I didn’t go into depth about one of the reasons behind my change. I’ve struggled with depression for most of my adult life and for me, one way my depression has manifested itself is indifference to my physical appearance. There have been many times where I didn’t even bother brushing my hair, because I just couldn’t be bothered. In the last few months, I’ve made huge steps towards controlling my depression and I now want to take pride in my appearance.

For a few years, I also avoided being in pictures, except for special occasions because I wasn’t happy with how I looked (though I refused to do anything about it), so I had a hard time even finding a photo and this was the best I could do (my son is adorable, though).

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That picture was taken in July, only a few months ago, but I feel like I’ve come a long way since then. It gives me a boost every day when I look in the mirror and instead of looking ratty and unkept, I look pretty and put together. I’ve stopped wearing nothing but t-shirts and yoga pants and I make an effort to put on a little bit of make-up every day, partially because I’m having fun experimenting with different combinations. I like how I look today and I’m no longer embarrassed to have my photo taken.

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Ok, I still look like an idiot in pictures, but I don’t think anything is ever going to change that. However, I’m pretty happy with my appearance these days and hope to take a lot more photos, not just on special occasions.

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