Dangerous Comparisons

As parents, we’ve all done itwhether out loud or in our silent thoughts, we’ve compared our children to others. Even though we know it’s wrong, it’s like the world we live in sets us up to make constant comparisons.

Whether it’s the array of contradictory articles online, the unsolicited advice we receive from a certain friend or family member or the “trusted” and often conflicting information we get from medical professionals, there’s always some sort of milestone, either behavioural or physical, that our child should be reaching. And as our child grows to become an adult, the focus shifts to things like scholarly achievements, career advancements and physical capabilities.

Unfortunately, those innocent comparisons we make can be incredibly detrimental. It’s something I’ve had to remind myself of every day, especially when I’ve felt particularly insecure about my daughter and her progress in this first precious year of her life.

Currently, my sweet girl is 11 months old, and I’m so proud of how much she has grown and learned in 11 short months. That said, I would be lying if I denied having ever compared her to other babies, both her age and younger.

My daughter is quite advanced in her fine motor skills, with an impressive vocabulary for such a little thing! In terms of gross motor skills though, like crawling and walking, she seems to be a bit behind the curve (or as much as my educated guess would have me believe).

Deep down, I know that all babies develop at different rates, and that I have nothing to worry about. Yet, I still feel this need every so often to compare. The problem is, if I don’t have faith in my daughter, how is she supposed to build any kind of self-confidence?

Even though I’m not saying it aloud, she can no doubt pick up on the vibes I’m transmitting. And as her mother, it’s my job to be her biggest cheerleader, no matter how I’m feeling on the inside.

When the inevitable time comes for peer pressure, low self-esteem and even bullying, I need to be that strong role model and confidante she can trust. I need to be that steady person in her life who she can count on for unconditional love, support and encouragement.

If it’s not crawling or walking, it will be something else. That kid in her math class may be able to solve problems with ease while she struggles to figure out basic times tables. On the other hand, with her above average height, she may succeed at sports like basketball, while her peers avoid them like the plague. We all have our strengths and weaknesses, all of which make us unique and awesome.

This post today is a little reminder (mainly to myself), that I have a daughter who deserves to be loved and accepted for exactly who she is. And no matter how big or small, I should be celebrating and recognizing her achievements as they come.

unconditional-love

 

 

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No Judgement Here

Yesterday, I came across an excellent article titled, “Mind Your Own Womb.” With each word I read, my heart sank a little bit more. While I haven’t experienced those types of struggles (or not to that degree), I know enough close friends and family members who have. And I know how important it is to think before I speak – in any situation.

Still, the article had me thinking about some of my own choices and how they may affect others – in particular, my choice to have a strong and visible online presence. This includes my sharing of stories, experiences and most notably, photos, through various social media platforms.

Here’s the thing. I’m a writer, a professional communicator and a storyteller. I love to draw people into my world through my words and photography. I often post pictures online of my daughter, mainly for my family to see as she grows and develops. I enjoy writing online about my experiences as a new parent, mainly because I want to start a conversation and seek advice from other more experienced parents.

That said, none of these choices make me any less aware or considerate of the fact that there are women out there who struggle with fertility issues or face their own unique challenges in regards to having/not having children. I wanted to make this clear, in the case that I have offended anyone through my online actions.

From my end, there is absolutely no judgement when it comes to women and their decisions about children. In return, I kindly ask that you don’t pass any judgement on me for how I choose to express myself creatively, either through my writing or photography that I share online. I think we can all stand to be more kind and accepting of each other.

RadiateLovingKindness

 

 

 

 

Fitting It All In

If I won a million dollars tomorrow, I’d likely spend the money on a new house, car, trip around the world or unpaid debt. But before any of those, I’d hire a full-time cook, house cleaner and nanny.

Why? Because I can’t seem to get my life in order. Since having a baby, I’ve found it hard to accomplish even the most menial of tasks, like showering or getting dressed. And while I’ve never been a Type A person that has my checklist of to-do items, I’ve put more pressure on myself than ever to be productive.

I suppose the reason is that I don’t have work (in a professional sense) to focus on, so once I’ve finished my regular motherly duties, I can’t help but notice the stack of dirty dishes, pile of unfolded laundry and empty pantry shelves surrounding me. As much as I love time with my daughter, there’s nothing more frustrating than having a whole day pass by without completing the tasks I started or without leaving the house as intended.

My best friend recently gave me some great advice. She said: “For that first year as a new Mom, keep your expectations low. Pick a small project each day, and make it your goal to finish it. And feel good about it when you do.”

Maybe I just need to change my outlook. Maybe choosing sleep over a shower this morning was a good thing. Maybe my house is more organized than I realize. Maybe two outings a week with my baby is plenty, and something worth celebrating. And maybe the friends I haven’t seen in ages are fully understanding of the fact that I’m busy at home with my little one.

At the end of the day, I’d rather skip a shower, miss a social gathering, have a messy kitchen or eat takeout food if it means I get to spend more time with my daughter, catering to her needs and making her happy. Sometimes, it’s easy to forget what’s really important.

To all my Mom friends out there, new and seasoned, I encourage you to share with me how you “fit it all in” and find balance in your lives. I’m all ears!

piles-of-laundry

 

 

 

Keeping You

“Your life will completely change after you have kids.” – Advice of  many wise parents

Agreed. One hundred per cent. You’ll love like you’ve never loved before. Your priorities will shift as you focus on keeping that little human fed, rested and cared for in every way. Your schedule (as you knew it) will never be the same. And most importantly, you’ll become selfless, because you have to be.

I wouldn’t trade any of it for the world, because I love my daughter so much. Though, my one hope in all of this is that I don’t lose myself while putting so much time and effort into another human being I adore.

I want my sweet girl to grow up knowing exactly who “Mom” is, understanding the many layers to her personality, and knowing that it’s perfectly normal and awesome for her too to develop into her own unique person.

Last weekend, I went out (on my own) for the first girls’ night out in ages. My wonderful husband babysat while I took some time out with friends. We ate, we boozed, we laughed, we danced and we had a time – one I won’t forget for awhile.

That night out was exactly what I needed. It reminded me that being a Mom doesn’t mean giving up on who you were before you had a baby. Today, in writing, I want to share with my little love who her Mommy is:

Dramatic, weird and funny all at once,
Strong, intelligent and brave,
Sweet, kind and accepting,
That girl who blasts her favourite rap tunes loudly in her car and dances to them,
One of those people who watches terrible reality TV,
An avid wine and beer drinker,
A fan of Timbits, sushi and lemon garlic shrimp pasta,
A lover of travel, culture and worldliness,
Passionate about photography and the capturing of special moments,
A writer who loves to create an experience with her words,
Someone who values her friends, family and husband above anything else.

My dearest Audrey, this post is dedicated to you. As the years go on, I can’t wait to show you who I am, and I’m even more excited to discover the person you become. Love always, Mom.

 

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Photo credit: Blake Loates Photography (blakeloates.com)

Finding Joy

A few months ago, I was feeling pretty down at the prospect of trying to get pregnant. It’s not that I had heard bad news from my doctor, or that I had been working at it for an unusually long time, but it was the pressure I put upon myself, expecting everything to fall into place immediately, on my schedule.

Of course, that’s not how life works—a fact even I have to remind myself sometimes. The best advice I can think of (from a certain wise husband) is that there’s no sense worrying about what you can’t control. No truer words ever spoken, in my opinion.

As most of you know, and as I am thrilled to report, I am now pregnant—18 weeks as of Thursday! John and I couldn’t be more excited and grateful to embark on a new adventure and chapter in our lives.

That being said, the worry and anxiety (I seem to constantly struggle with) doesn’t stop here. From what I’ve been told, this is only the beginning. And if I don’t take measures now to manage my stress, it will become all-consuming.

The truth is, getting pregnant is just the first step. There are no guarantees my pregnancy will go smoothly, start to finish. Even when that time comes for me to go into labour, there could be complications or  health issues that arise with myself or the baby. Then, there’s that moment when I become a mother for the first time: “Am I doing this right? What does ‘right’ even mean?” And the never-ending list goes on.

But that’s no way to think about things. I know I need to stay positive for the sake of my my own well-being and that of my husband.

At the end of the day, no matter what the situation, it’s important to find joy in what is constant, what isn’t changing, what will always be there to bring you comfort and happiness.

It may be the unconditional love of your family, friends or spouse. It may be a hobby you’re passionate about, that never fails to put you in good spirits. It could be a job you adore, that inspires you to learn, grow and be the best you can in your field.

For all the people out there who are trying to conceive, to advance in their careers, to enrich in some way in their personal lives or in their relationships,  I encourage them to find joy in the present, to be content with what they have, and to celebrate the small successes each day that are 100 per cent within their control.

~ There’s always something to be grateful for ~ Anonymous

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The Longest Wait

Often, I’m able to write about the topics I find difficult to talk about. Maybe it’s because it’s easier to put my thoughts into words. Or maybe it’s because I prefer a delayed, distant response rather than an immediate and personal one.

For quite some time, there’s been something on my mind that I’ve been scared to share with my closest friends and family out of fear of being viewed as selfish or insensitive.

But I’m starting to think I’m not the only one that’s feeling the way I do, and that for the sake of those others, it’s important to establish a safe and healthy place for us to talk about what we’re thinking and feeling.

That “something” I’m referring to is the constant struggle, both emotional and physical, in the process of trying to conceive—the longest wait some of us will ever have to endure for what may or may not happen in the end.

Like so many others, I’m at that age where the baby announcements are coming out by the dozen, whether it be from family members, friends or co-workers. I know it’s my job to be supportive and to celebrate those exciting milestones in the lives of the people I care about most.

Yet, sometimes, all I want to do is curl up in a ball, shut the door (literally) and cry for a few hours. And there are times where I wish I had someone beside me, who understood exactly where I was coming from, who could cry with me too.

Ninety five per cent of the time, I’m overjoyed to visit with the precious little ones in my life, to watch them grow and learn and become awesome little people, but that other five per cent, I’m left with a profound and guilty sadness I can’t explain.

When I’m having a crappy day, I love nothing more than to see an adorable baby photo, showing an ever-changing little face. At the same time, when I see these photos from friends and family, I can’t help but feel a bit down and wonder, “What would it be like to have one of my own?”

I realize there’s another side to the fence. I know I should be enjoying all the things and activities I won’t be able to appreciate as much when or if I become pregnant, and more importantly, when I become a parent (i.e.: travelling, sleeping in, alcoholic beverages, certain foods, endless free time, etc.).

And that’s exactly what I’ve been doing—enjoying life in the present. But now, I finally feel like it’s OK for me to be honest with that other, less flattering side of myself.

To conclude, I’d like to share a quote that resonates with me, and that I think we can all aspire to:

Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always.

– Anonymous

kindness

Love Where You Are

A few weeks ago, I went on what I can only describe as a trip of a lifetime. I traveled with my husband through central and northern Europe, to places we’d both dreamed of visiting. We spent more money than I care to talk about, but our experiences, as you can imagine, were worth every cent.

As much as I’d love to hop a plane right now and head on our next adventure, I know it’s unrealistic. And I know there’s always going to be that point at the end of our travels where we have to come home.

On our recent trip, I came up with a little pros/cons game that went like this: for every time I took mental note of something I loved (in a place we were visiting), I also thought of something I was missing from home. It seemed like the perfect way to take in my surroundings while making that transition out of “holiday mode” easier when the time came for it. Here’s how our destinations fared:

DSCF0030Munich

Our entire purpose for stopping in Munich was Oktoberfest. John wanted to get the true experience of beer, pretzels and Bavarian culture. Also, both of us really needed a break from our crazy-stressful jobs, so we thought, what better way to do that than to party and drink to our hearts’ content.

As expected, Oktoberfest was a blast. I would compare it to K-Days in Edmonton, but way more awesome and filled with Bavarian-themed tents and food. Also, instead of people dressed in casual summer clothes, think dirndls and lederhosen.

Our day at the festival started at 11 am and ended close to 4 pm. We were advised to get there early as it fills up quickly with people. When we went, it was a calm, 24-degree day with clear blue skies. We opted out of rides, but spent the entire time drinking in one of the beer lodges. The place was roaring with excitement, and was overall a great atmosphere to be in. If we weren’t listening to the traditional German band playing , we were hearing people cheer each other on as they chugged 1-litre steins of beer while standing on wooden tables.

Both of us loved the festival, but where we started to get nostalgic for home was when we were watching groups of people having a good time, conversing in German. None of us speak the language, and that certainly made things difficult for us. Even ordering a meal or drink took a fair bit of effort. Luckily, we met a sweet, English-speaking American couple who made our time at the festival a lot more fun.

The second moment we longed for home was when we were trekking back to our rented apartment after the festival. We were both drunk (to say the least), and all we wanted to do was to was head back and crash. The thing about being that drunk is that it’s way more uncomfortable when it happens away from home. And especially in our case, when it happens in an apartment that we’re sharing with other people. In Munich, we booked an apartment room, because that was our best and most affordable option.

Overall, I enjoyed our short, 2-day stay in Munich. For the time we had, we used it well. I also felt as though I could live there. I loved how green the city was, I thoroughly enjoyed the meals we ate and I appreciated how friendly the locals were in spite of the language barrier. That said, I was ready and excited to head to stop number two, Budapest.

Across the Danube RiverBudapest

Ever since my best friend told me about Budapest and how it was her favourite city she had visited in Europe, I knew I wanted to see it for myself. I had heard of the city’s interesting blend of culture and architecture with its two sides: Buda and Pest.

When I first stepped off the train from Munich, I was in awe. I thought: “If the train station is this beautiful, I can only imagine what the rest of the city looks like.”

And I was right. In fact, it is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever seen. The majority of our time in Budapest was spent walking the streets and taking in all the sites we could without having to pay for a guided tour. Some of my favourites were the Liberty Statue and the panoramic tour at the top of St. Stephens Basilica.

What I loved most about Budapest was the fact that we didn’t have to spend a lot of money to experience the city to its fullest. Some of the most memorable buildings and restaurants were ones we stumbled across during our daily walks. I also really enjoyed having an apartment (and a spacious one at that!) all to ourselves, unlike the shared one in Munich.

My only complaint was the fact that it was difficult to get any sort of vegetables when ordering food. I would call it a meat and potatoes kind of city. On the other hand, John and I ordered, quite literally, the best burgers of our lives while there.

John and I also discovered  that Lays Paprika and/or “Cheese” flavoured chips are not worth buying just to satisfy a junk craving. We’re definitely snack people, and we both longed to eat chips in flavours we know and love like Ketchup or Salt and Vinegar.

I missed the luxury of being able to eat anything I want from home, but overall, I was very happy with our stay in Budapest. After spending four days there, I was certain nothing could top it, that is until we went to Prague.

DSCF0949Prague

I didn’t realize how few visitors there were in Budapest until we arrived in Prague. The city was jam-packed, wall-to-wall with tourists, but with good reason. Simply put, Prague is gorgeous. This was apparent to me from the moment our taxi dropped us off outside of our apartment.

At first glance, I felt like I was staying in New York. Our area, Wenceslas Square, had a modern look to it and was full of trendy shops, restaurants and hotels. Aside from the cobblestone sidewalks and older style to some of the buildings, you would never  guess you were in Europe.

Once we stepped out of Wenceslas Square and into Old Town, just minutes away, that’s when Prague started to come alive for me. Among a sea of people, I could see all sorts of action happening from singing to dancing to selling of goods from outdoor vendors. All the buildings were colourful and of Neo-gothic style, with pointy, castle-like spires. Enchanting is what Old Town was to me.

Yet, that wasn’t even my favourite part of Prague. My breath was taken away when we walked over to the Charles Bridge. The pedestrian-only, popular attraction oozed with romance as live bands blared their instruments and artists sold a variety of handmade crafts. And those views from the bridge were unlike anything I had seen before. I bought a stunning piece of art to keep the memory fresh in my  mind.

Along with the Charles Bridge, I also fell in love with a site I found in one of our Lonely Planet travel books: the Strahov Monastery and Library. While the one-hour, cobblestone-lined, uphill walk to get there was intense and the entrance fee to get in exorbitant, the whole experience was worth it. Not only was the Library beautiful, but the walk on the way down from the Library boasted panoramic views of the city.

Day or night, I never felt bored in Prague. There way always something magnificent to see or do. I did, however, miss the peace and quiet of home. I forget how wonderful it is to live in a country with so much vast, open space and such a small population.

The masses of tourists in Prague were often overbearing. And so were the neighbours in our terrace-top apartment who smoked like chimneys and stayed up all hours of the night. I’m all for having a good time, but it’s tough to travel when you don’t get any sleep.

All the noise and activity in Prague made it that much more exciting to head to our last (and total opposite) destination of the trip: Reykjavik.

GullfossReykjavik

Truth be told, Iceland wasn’t at the top of our list when we first planned our itinerary for Europe. It just so happens that the Edmonton International Airport offers a connection to Europe (through Icelandair) that’s cheaper, and in some cases shorter, than flying with other airlines. Icelandair was the reason we could afford our trip.

Once John and I started doing some research into Iceland, we went from being lukewarm about it to thrilled. There are so many natural wonders there, that it’s impossible not to be enamored by your surroundings.

On our first day in Iceland (out of four), we explored Reykjavik. We walked around downtown and up to the coast, where we had a great view of the mountains. The city’s quaint and peaceful vibe was a welcome change to the hustle and bustle of Prague. We instantly felt comfortable and at ease there. We also loved our cozy, downtown apartment.

Reykjavik reminded me of small mountain towns in Alberta like Jasper or Canmore. The main difference, of course, was the architecture, which I found to be very unique. Some of my favourite buildings were the Hallgrimskirkja Church, with its sleek column walls and the Harpa Concert Hall made of glass.

On our second day, we went on a night tour called, “Warm Baths, Cool Nights.” The first part included a trip to the Laugarvatn Fontana Geothermal Baths, of which all I can say is “ahhhhhhh.” The baths were incredibly relaxing and exactly what John and I needed after two weeks of travelling. For the second half of the tour, the bus drove us to nearby areas in pitch black darkness in search of Northern Lights. While the Lights are nothing new for us Edmontonians, they were still a delight to see.

On our third day, we went on a tour called, “The Wonders of Reykjanes,” where we had the opportunity to see a variety of landscapes and coast lines. Some of the best parts of the tour were the Seltun and Gunnuhver Hot Springs. The sheer magnitude of those Hot Springs impressed me. I also loved learning that Iceland is self-sustainable entirely through geothermal energy.

On our last day in Iceland, we went on the popular “Golden Circle” tour where we stopped at four renowned sites: Geysir, Gulfoss and Pingvellir. For me, Gulfoss waterfall was the highlight, and perhaps my favourite site of our whole trip. My eyes were drawn to the raging waters, flowing from all sides of the Hvita canyon.

There wasn’t much about Iceland I didn’t enjoy, except for the biting winds and bone-chilling cold. Coming from Edmonton, it’s strange to hear myself complain about weather in other places, but I’m just not accustomed to humidity. John and I were freezing the entire time we were in Iceland, to the point where we both had to buy overpriced toques at a gift shop.

Believe it or not, it was the brutal weather in Iceland that made it easiest to come home to Edmonton, where ironically, we had an unseasonably warm fall.

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More than anything else, my travels, both recent and past, have taught me to love where I am, whether it’s at home among familiar routines, or away from home into the exciting and unknown.

I’m lucky enough to be able to go anywhere in the world, for any period of time, and always have so much to look forward to when I get back.