Throwback ….

Repost from June 2016

I wrote this last spring but the list of still holds true. These books are some of may favourites. Each one captures the joy, trauma and complexity of motherhood in very different ways. Just in case you’re looking for a new  novel to lose yourself in this weekend … Happy reading! J xo

http://blog.mabelslabels.com/six-books-that-nail-motherhood/

Originally posted on June 16, 2016 for Mabel’s Labels on blog.mabelslabels.com

 

Happy Birthday! Pass the Wine.

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Yesterday was my birthday and the day before that was Daren’s. And with our 10th wedding anniversary coming up next month I’ve been thinking a lot about how gift-giving and celebrations have changed so drastically since we got together.

Birthday at 32? Lots of wine, sex and presents.

Birthday at 42? It’s all cake, streamers, sprinkles, crumpled gift bags and excited, sugary faces running in circles yelling “do you like it do you like it do you like it?”

Tiffany and Pottery Barn have been replaced by Homesense and homemade necklaces. Dinner at a hot new restaurant is now dinner at “that new place with the chicken fingers Leila likes.” In short, my expectations (like my breasts) are a little lower.

There are a few reasons for this:

1. We’ve been shopping for each other for 15 years and we’re running out of ideas. Clothes, jewelry, furniture, trips, books, booze, experiences, household decor, kitchen appliances, sporting equipment, massages, mani-pedis and fancy dinners have all been tapped. Livestock, gravel driveways and skywriting are all that remain and do you have any idea how expensive goats are? Though by some miracle of science they produce delicious cheese so I’m not ruling them out.

2. Unique gifts are too hard to think about and shop for between working, driving, cooking, shopping, bathing and all the other things normal humans are supposed to do each day. If we get 10 minutes to swing by Canadian Tire and another 3 to pick out a card at Shoppers that is a good year.

3. Gift-giving is no longer solely up to the adult. With the kids involved you inevitably end up getting what THEY want you to have. Harmony is working on her reading and insisted we get daddy a hockey chapter book. So off I went to buy Daren his 91nd book on the evolution of NHL goaltending. You’re welcome honey.

4. Expensive gifts just aren’t in the budget anymore. Discretionary purchases of $100 and up must now meet one of the following criteria: Can we eat it? Does it increase the value of our home? How long will they play with it (preferably in the basement or at a friend’s house)?

What about a quiet dinner out just the two of us? It goes something like this:

“Mommy and daddy are going out.”

“Why? Where?”

“To our favourite restaurant to celebrate our birthday”.

Stoned silence.

“But it’s your birthday”

Yes I know. That’s why I just said we”re going out to …”

“BUT. IT’S. YOUR. BIRTHDAY.”

“I know and we’ll celebrate as a family later but tonight it’s just daddy and I”.

“I thought birthdays were for families. You said that when I wanted to have all the grade 2s over last year.”

“Well they are and we will celebrate all together tomorrow but right now mommy and daddy are having some mommy and daddy time.”

“Fine”

“Fine? Did you just “fine” me?”

“It’s just that I thought birthdays were for families”.

“Get in the car”.

I don’t begrudge a single one of these changes because they are part and parcel of the lifestyle we embraced with open arms (and wallets) when we became parents. But I do look forward to once again waking up to a little blue box that is NOT the recycling bin.

Really? You shouldn't have!!

Really? You shouldn’t have!!

My Why

The response I usually get when I tell people I’ve left the corporate world to “stay at home” and become a Stella & Dot Stylist is, “Oh. Really.” I understand it can be a difficult concept for people to wrap their heads around, especially since my style was (is?) probably best described “backpack chic”, emphasis on the backpack. But I’m just crazy enough to think that staying home AND making money at something I love are not mutually exclusive.

 

I started doing this because I want to have more time for the girls. I want to volunteer at the school and have time to pack more than a cheese whiz sandwich and a bag of chips for lunch. I want Daren to be able to focus on his job while I hold down the fort. (And by the way, if you’d told me 10 years ago that I would eventually settle into such a traditional division of marital roles I’d have kicked you right in your Leave It To Beaver. But here we are. It’s working and I love it.)

 

I also fell deeply in love with the product. I think looking great makes us feel great, and when we feel great we do great things. So when my favourite t-shirt is stained with olive oil and the ass of my yoga pants is smeared with peanut butter, I can still put on a rocking necklace and feel like a million bucks. Or when I have failed at creating a sexy topknot and my hair looks like a cat’s been chewing on it, I’ll throw a great bag over my shoulder and not get arrested for ugly.

 

This weekend I attended Stella & Dot’s annual conference in Las Vegas. It’s called Hoopla and Hoopla is equal parts conference, training, boondoggle and religious experience. Sitting in the ballroom of Mandalay Bay, watching women and company executives tear up when other Stylists talk about what this opportunity has done for them and their families, visions of sweltering chapels in the deep south and cries of “you are SAVED!” did admittedly cross my mind. But that’s before I was encouraged to really think about “my why.”

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Your “why” is why you joined Stella & Dot. Why are you doing this, what is your motivation? For some it’s extra money for a vacation, a home reno or post-secondary education. Some are supporting their families after a husband’s injury or job loss. Many are single moms who need a second income to survive. “I want my kids to see me doing more than laundry”, one woman told me. And another, a 69-year old retired University professor, just wanted to prove to herself she could do something else. And she loves the bags and scarves. Some are making a few hundred extra dollars, many are making six figures annually and a tiny handful are making seven figures. Yup, seven. And by the way, this is what our office parties look like.

 

CEO Jessica Herrin and VP Training Danielle Redner rock out at the annual Friday night dance party.

CEO Jessica Herrin and VP Training Danielle Redner rock out at the annual Friday night dance party.

When setting my goals, I documented my why like this: “Make enough money to stay home with my kids.” Many women shared that same motivation this weekend but eventually we started peeling back the layers of why – WHY do you want to stay home. And that’s when shit got real. I could tell you dozens of stories I heard about the importance of family, of giving their kids everything they didn’t have, or of being home after school because no one was there for them. It was all very personal and very real.

When I started peeling back the layers of my own why they looked like this.

I want to make enough money to stay home with my kids.

-peel-

Because I want to have more time with them. Because I missed four years of each of their lives already and I don’t want to miss another minute more than I have to. And because being a working mom is really fucking hard and I’d like a minimum of 60 God Damn minutes per day to read a book or clean myself.

-peel-

Because I don’t want to have a boss anymore. Because I’m tired of someone else deciding when I work, how I work, how much money I make and when my services are no longer required. Because I felt like barfing every time I had to call and say “kids are sick, I can’t come in” (and because sending them to school or daycare when they’re sick is frowned upon).

-peel –

Because it’s hard when both parents have demanding jobs and there’s no nanny to pick up the slack. And because when I’m home I have the time to do it all and because that’s my contribution to the family, I don’t resent it. When we were both working full time and I still did all the shopping, the planning and the cleaning I walked around the house like a fire-breathing dragon. Did I mention I did all the cleaning? Because my husband is happier when I’m not bitching at him about housework and we argue less.

-peel-

Because I swear there have been times when I thought my dogs’ legs had atrophied from lack of walking. Because feathering the nest, making sure appointments are made and kept, and ensuring we don’t eat out of a frozen box 5 of 7 nights is important to me. Because having a tidy house and an organized life is important to me.

-peel-

Because our girls didn’t have that for the first few years of their lives. They came into a world where filth, chaos and neglect were the norm. Because they were born into circumstances where regular Doctors appointments, healthy meals, gymnastics at 5:00 and mommy holding their hand on the school trip were never going to be possible. Because this is what they deserve.

And there it was.

Doesn’t it always come back to the little people who rule our hearts with an iron fist?

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My Why

 

I’ve chosen to share this not because I feel like I have to explain my choices to anyone but because I want people to understand the motivation behind the work I’m doing, my why. So when I post about a Flash Sale or a new bag, you know I’m not trying to sell you something. I’m just sharing what I love because this new adventure is about so much more than great jewelry. It’s about my why.

Adopting a New Outlook

Wine + Smarties posts are inspired by the things I’m passionate about. Moving forward, I’ll be adding travel to the list and sharing the experiences I’ve had as well as the ones I’m pining for. Happy reading!

“Travelling with kids.” Are these the most cringe-inducing words in the English language? Aside from “mom, look what’s in the toilet” and “Knock knock!” they just might be.

It’s not easy to travel with any child, but for families of kids with different needs, finding the right vacation experience can be even trickier. Typical family attractions are often a recipe for disaster resulting in over-stimulation and meltdowns (them) and extreme frustration and binge-drinking (you).

Make mine a double.

Make mine a double.

For our family, ADHD, poor self-regulation and a determination to push every limit means we have to choose our excursions carefully and manage our expectations about what will happen once we get there.

The first time I travelled with H we took a 4-day Disney cruise to Florida and the Bahamas with my best friend and her daughter. Naturally (because I’m stupid), I had envisioned H and I sprawled on comfy deck chairs, snuggling, reading and colouring while Frozen played on the giant screen. We’d get up only to refill our soft-serve ice cream and to cool off in the pool. In port, we would shop and explore. I fantasized about finding a little restaurant with an ocean view where we would sip wine and chocolate milk while gazing out at the ocean.

I know. Hilarious.

First day at sea

First day at sea

In reality, my daughter did not want to sit quietly and watch a movie. She wanted to move, to test the limits of everything. How many times could she run on the deck before the lifeguard told her to quit it? How far could she climb on the outside rail of the pool before I told her to quit it? How many times could she pester me for ice cream before I gave up on the quaint, ocean front restaurant and settled for plastic chairs in front of Baskin Robbins? Lots, that’s how many.

Yes, as a matter of fact I would love to spend two hours watching you play arcade games instead of sunning myself.

Yes, as a matter of fact I would love to spend two hours watching you play arcade games instead of sunning myself.

Very quickly I was forced to confront the fact that the mother-daughter adventures I’d been fantasizing about were probably not going to happen the way I envisioned them. My dreams weren’t dead, they just needed a generous sprinkling of reality.

Around the same time, I started paying more attention to all the material things we were acquiring as a family, and the sense of entitlement to these “things”, my daughter and I both had. $100 rain boots, a Disney cruise, $400 for 7th birthday party entertainment. I was setting an unsustainable bar, foolishly trying to make up for the lack of new toys, cute clothes and experiences missing from her early years.Naively, I thought spoiling her with “stuff” might also prevent the conflict and heartache many adopted kids face in adolescence.

“What do you mean you hate me and want to find your birth mom? What about all those cute dresses I bought you in elementary school?”

For real.

And when we welcomed L into our family, making better decisions and setting a good example became even more important.

After some strongly worded self-talk and a few embarrassing CARD DECLINED incidents (damn machines, so unreliable), I realized something had to give. Eventually, new fantasies about travel started taking shape and I started looking for places to go that would meet the girls’ need for fun and entertainment, fuel my passion for new experiences, and help us learn about the world together.

Here’s our list so far:

-Saving Sea Turtles in Cancun
-Surf school in Costa Rica
-Kenyan Safari

Anything to add?

To Paris with Love

 

Eiffel Tower kisses

Eiffel Tower kisses

Dear Paris,

I’ve been writing you a love letter in my head for close to thirty years. Given recent events, now might be a good time to share it.

In 1988 I visited you for the first time. It was march break of Grade 10, and I was supposed to be spending the week on a family trip to Myrtle Beach. But that plan changed at the last minute and my parents let me join my high school’s trip to Paris and London. I will never forget stepping foot on a Paris street for the first time. You were beautiful, exotic, loud and exciting. You were like nothing I’d ever seen before. I was 15 years old and IN PARIS.  We stayed in a tiny hotel, sleeping two to a room the size of an en suite bathroom. We ate chocolate croissants and drank coffee. We walked the streets, saw the Louvre, toured Versailles, tried not to lose our passports and just breathed it all in. We were terribly cool.

I had always been interested in travel but it was never an obsession. But Paris changed that. You opened my eyes to everything that was different about the world I lived in the other 360 days a year. Remember, there was no internet then, at least not in my home or school. I didn’t even have my own computer. I had no idea that there was a world out there like Paris. You changed everything for me.

Paris helped me grow up, or at least it felt that way. I felt so worldly, so mature upon coming home. I felt like a different person and much of my life since then has been about where I’m going next. And it all started with you.

The second time, I skipped the city in favour of France’s glitzy beach towns. It was 10 years later and I was a backpacker on a budget. The South of France is not the easiest place to find budget accommodations but I knew I couldn’t skip the country entirely. At a hostel overlooking the sea I met a girl I would travel with for several more days. She was the best companion I’d met so far and we bonded instantly. She came along at the perfect time, when I needed a friend, and we stayed in touch for more than a year after that trip (pretty amazing for the pre-Facebook era).

The third time I fell in love with Paris was on my honeymoon in 2006. We stayed in a hotel around the corner from the Eiffel Tower and spent each night sitting on the grass, watching it light up. The Da Vinci Code was wildly popular at the time so we fought the crowds at the Louvre along with Notre Dame, Sacre-Coeur and my favourite place in your entire city, Sainte-Chapelle.

But your appeal was never just about the tourist attractions. Not even the incredible churches, the architecture, the history. It was never just about the food, and I love food. Paris is the whole package. It is beautiful and exotic with enough flaws to provide just the right amount of character.

It was on this trip that I fell in love with the idea of being a mother, too. Sorry for being indelicate but I think you should know that I flushed my birth control pills down the toilet in your fair city. Things turned differently in terms of our route to parenthood, but once again it was Paris that inspired.

This July I’ll bring both my girls to Paris to visit their aunt and uncle and experience the city I love. We’ve rented a flat close to the Eiffel Tower so they can experience a picnic on the lawn and see the lights at night. We’ll take them to all our favourite spots and let them experience the magic of Paris. I hope it will initiate a lifelong love of travel and adventure for them, as it did for me.

Paris, you’ve been part of my life for almost thirty years. There are countless pictures of you in my home, in my photo albums, on my camera and in my heart. This has been an awful few days. Your citizens are in shock, and your streets are crowded with police. To some it might seem like you’ve become a symbol of bloodshed, radicalism and hate. But not to me. Never to me.