Things To Know, Part 1

To My Girls,

You are tiny now as I write this. Sprout, you are a tangle of long legs and curly hair that you won’t let me comb out, and attitude and temper tantrums that would make the greatest divas in history proud. Pudge, you are a round ball of baby fat and drool; this happy baby who loves a good snuggle, and who looks just like her big sister, you demand a meal when you are hungry, with every ounce of your chubby being, and you are not happy until you’ve gotten it.

I am able to protect you now, I am able to shield you from the bad stuff of life. The problems you will face, as you grow up, are easily explained away, if I have to explain them at all. For the most part, thanks to an over-protective Daddy and a Mama who can outdo a lioness, you are surrounded by nothing but good in life.

But that will change.

One day I will not be able to explain away a problem, or a challenge. One day you will see things and learn things without me to censor it, without a hand to cover your eyes or your ears, or a shoulder to hide behind. It is my job to get you ready for that day. When you are in the thick of it, when the world is screaming at you, when nothing goes right, I want you to remember a few things.

  1. Be who you are. Be who you are to the core of yourself. Be who you are to center of your marrow. Be who you are, all the time. Do not let anyone change you. Do not change for anyone. Be yourself.
  2. Trust yourself. You will have wonderful instincts. Follow them. If going on a date with someone gives you the heebies, then leave the date. If you don’t feel comfortable going somewhere, then do not go. If in the pit of your stomach, you get a weird feeling about doing something, do not do that something. Whatever that something is.
  3. Be strong. Life is hard my babies. There will be trials and tribulations along the way that will threaten to break you. You will always have a home to come to, you will always have a Mama who will support you and guide you when you need it. But some paths in life you will have to walk on your own. Be strong on that path.
  4. This too shall pass. When you’re struggling, when life is coming at you from every direction, and you have no sense of balance, remember, this is temporary. The same sun that came up on your worst day, will come up the next, and the day after that. Just hang on until the storm passes.
  5. Use a condom. Or birth control. Better yet, use both. EVERY SINGLE TIME. Do not stop this until you are sure, as sure as you can be, that you’re ready to be a parent. And do not stop until you are positive your partner is free of anything that can make you sick. If this means you exchange test results, when so be it. Every time girls, every single time.
  6. It is better to beg forgiveness, than to seek permission. You will never be able to please everyone, and if you try, you will only end up hurting yourself. Do the best you can, and most importantly, do the best for you. If that means you have to ask for forgiveness later on, than that’s fine. But do not ask permission to do the best for yourself. Do not ever ask permission to do good for you.
  7. Speak softly and carry a big stick. Mama does not speak softly, and for this you will need to look towards Daddy. Do not let violence be your first response, use as much diplomacy as you can. But when all else fails, remember how to throw a punch (Daddy will teach you), and if you go down, go down fighting.
  8. Never surrender. Never take prisoners. Never. Do not ever back down, especially from something you believe in. If you believe in it enough to want it, believe in it enough to fight for it. And keep fighting for it. Leave a trail of people in your wake, those who tried to keep you from your goals and dreams, leave them bleeding and broken behind you, as you fight for your place in life.
  9. Never leave a man (or your sister) behind. You two are sisters, with all the emotional baggage that means. There will be times you hate each other, there will be times you fight and scream and yell at each other. You’ll probably use the phrase “I hate you”, but you better never mean it. You two are unique in the world, you are the only children Daddy and I have. You’re it. And there is a day coming, way down the road, when you two will be the only ones left. No one will love you like your sister does, and I speak from experience. Do not leave each other behind, do not give up on each other.
  10. Do not ever under-estimate the healing power of chocolate. When life has become nothing but shit and you cannot handle a single second of it, eat chocolate. Remember all the times I healed your skinned knees and elbows with Hershey Kisses, and get some chocolate.
  11. Beauty is only skin deep. You are both beautiful little girls. You will grow into beautiful women, I am sure. And this stops at your skin. Your actions, how you treat others, how you treat yourself, if you keep your word, are much more important than any shade of lipstick or nail polish. Do not rely on the looks you see in the mirror, they will fade. Your ambition, your drive, your brains, will carry you further than any pretty face ever could.
  12. Cook your meals. Not to get a man, plenty of people will tell you that you need to cook to catch a man. Forget that nonsense. Learn to cook to feed yourself. Learn how to read a recipe, what to substitute and when, cultivate your taste buds. Food needs to nourish you, in more ways than just the caloric one. And remember, everything in moderation.
  13. Do not forget to have fun. Do not lose the same spirit that has you giggling at each other while getting Mama’s car worked on. Do not lose the ability to laugh and play at 5 in the morning. Bubbles and coloring books are something you should keep in your house, at all times. Do not under—estimate the healing power of a game of football in the back yard, where you can run your cares into the ground.
  14. Do your laundry. I hate this chore. But clean clothes make you feel better. Whether you do a load a day, or all on one day, do your laundry. Do not run around in a shirt that has yesterday’s dirt on it.
  15. Love is precious. Do not give your heart to a man, or a woman, who does not deserve it. Your heart will heal, but the breaks will leave scars. Be choosy in who you pick. But when you do find love, love with everything you have. Hold nothing back. Put your whole heart into loving someone.

My precious girls, you are the center of my universe. You are the only thing I have ever done perfectly right. I will always be here, I will always be a safe place to fall, if you need it, a shoulder to cry on, and your biggest cheerleader. If nothing else, I hope you remember these things, I hope I have ingrained them into you, by the time you leave my nest, so that they are second nature to you.

And one more: Never forget how much I love you.

~Jennifer

On a Golden Afternoon…

As a photographer, I love afternoon and early evening light. It’s a mellower, golden light than early morning light. Don’t get me wrong, an early morning photoshoot is pretty, but give me the afternoon light any day. Especially because it means I can sleep in.

DSC_0582

But the afternoon light comes with a trade-off, if I’m busy taking pictures and spending time with the girls, I am not in the kitchen cooking. Instead I left the apron hanging, knowing we had enough left-overs and sandwich fixings to feed a small army, and we went outside. We read books, played games, Sprout ran and played and rolled in the grass, and Pudge enjoyed the view from her spot on the blanket.

DSC_0566

There was laundry to be done, and a house to be cleaned, and things to be done. But instead I kept the girls outside, in that golden light, whiling away an hour or so. Time flows faster with each passing day, Pudge is no longer a tiny newborn, but a thriving baby. Sprout is no longer a toddler, but a tall, leggy preschooler. My babies are growing faster than I can get them to sit still. These moments in the afternoon sun are the most precious moments we have.

DSC_0591

I am the most comfortable in life with a camera in my hand, and having the ability to spend an afternoon snapping pictures while playing with the girls is a blessing for me. A part of my soul recharges every time I hear the familiar click and whir of a lens. This is good not only for them, but for me.

DSC_0587

~Jennifer

For Every Mama

Motherhood is difficult. Parenthood is hard, but I can only speak from the Mama perspective. This shit is hard. And we Moms seem to love to make it harder on ourselves, dividing ourselves into camps, working vs. stay at home, breast feeding vs. formula, cloth diapers vs. disposables, attachment parenting vs. schedules… the list goes on and on and on.

I could probably write a thousand words detailing the groups we Moms split off into. And probably write a thousand more words about how we fight between these groups, and amongst ourselves. Motherhood seems to have become one giant fight to the top, for Mom of the Year.

Let’s be honest, there aren’t any awards. At 3 in the morning, when you’re changing a blow-out diaper and your baby is screaming, at 7 am when your oldest peels your eyelids back and reminds you of the park trip you planned today, at 9 pm, when your pre-teen reminds you of the project they have due first thing inthe morning; there are no awards. There is only work, more work, and hard work. There is only a slog through laundry and feedings and middle of the night wakings, bad dreams, skinned knees, too much candy and not enough good food.

Here’s where I stand…

I’m for a baby in a clean diaper. If that’s a cloth diaper, good for you, remember to use something on babies skin before you put the diaper on. If that’s a disposable, good for you, I’ve got a ton of coupons laying around if you need one.

I’m for a baby with a full belly. If that’s a formula fed baby, good for you, again I’ve got coupons I’ll share. (Only the Enfamil ones. The Good Start ones are all mine.) If that’s a breast fed baby, good for you, remember to use nipple cream before your tatas get chapped and uncomfortable.

I’m for a baby who sleeps. If that is in a carrier, good for you. I’ve got two, and they get heavy use. If that is in a swing, that’s good, ours gets a lot of use too. If that’s in a crib, or on your bed, in your arms, or in the car seat, good for you.
I’m for babies, and kids, who are stimulated and educated. If that means you pack your kids off to school, good for you. Lunchables are a God-send when you’re scrambling to get a lunch packed. If that means you homeschool, good for you, you don’t have to worry about staying in your pajama pants while at the drop-off line.

I’m for stay at home Mamas, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, this is work. The hardest part for me is not being able to separate, having nothing for myself, that is just mine. It is so easy to lose your identity. But I’m also for working Mamas. You see, I need you. I need you to show my girls that there is more than one way to raise a family, that you can work and raise happy kids. So if you’re home, good for you, and if you work, good for you.

I’m for the Pinterest Mama, who finds something to do, and does it perfect. Who has a home decorated with painted Mason jars and ideas you’ve found. I’m for the non-Pinterest Mama too, who can’t work a glue gun, and don’t like to crochet. You do you.

I’m for a happy Mama. If that means you don’t co-sleep, or do; if that means you breastfeed until baby is older, or went straight to bottles, or some combination of in-between, good for you. If that means you have a live-in nanny, a sitter, or ship your kids off to daycare, Nanas, or the zoo (kidding!!), or whatever you need to do to stay healthy and sane, good for you.

I’m for Mamas who finally take time to get their toes done or hair cut, or who curl up with a book and read long into the night, whatever you do for a break.

I’m for a happy, healthy family. I’m for a family that plays together, eats together, lives together. I’m for walks in the park, muddy puddle stomping, flower picking, cotton candy eating trips to the carnival, face painting, beach trips, amusement park rides, baseball games, dance recitals, and all the other stuff we do with our families. I’m all for family time, however you define it.

I’m for each family making the absolute best decisions they can, for each other, all the time. I’m for parents who put their all into parenting, even when they’re tired and need a break. I’m for Mamas who have mastered the 5-minute shower, who know Good Night Moon backwards and forwards, who run multiple schedules at once.

I’m for every Mama, out there doing the best she can with what she’s got, worrying about her kids, trying to make it through the tough times and trying to savor the sweet moments. I’m for the Mamas who have given up everything, only to find new things. I’m for the Mamas who sees her imperfections, but remembers her strengths. I’m for every Mama.*

I’m for every Mama.

Happy Mother’s Day.

~Jennifer

*Provided what you’re doing is safe and healthy.