Friday, January 14, 2011

Get Real!

I'll admit it.  I had high expectations about how I would raise my child when I was pregnant.  "I'll never let my baby chew on dirty toys/menus/books/whathaveyou."  "My child will not eat chips or French fries or cookies."  "I won't allow my daughter to be passed around at family functions - what if someone is SICK?!!!"

Once Ava was born, I worried...a lot.  Was I doing the right thing?  Should I let her cry it out or should I go in and comfort her?  Did she eat enough?  Is she getting sick?  Whose advice should I take?  Taking care of a baby is stressful enough, but when we're bombarded with information from friends, relatives, websites, message boards, magazine and books, it makes it even more stressful - not helpful!  There are "better" ways of doing certain things - it's "better" if your child never eats French fries and it's "better" if you read to them every single night, but sometimes?  You're trying to cook dinner, your baby is wailing at your feet and the phone keeps ringing.  Buying yourself 10 minutes of peace by letting your child watch cartoons or make a mess with finger paints or eat a cookie isn't the end of the world. 

There is so much pressure to be the best mom ever.  But nobody can fulfill that role 24/'s not realistic.  There are moms out there who come close; moms who breastfeed past a year, make all of their baby's food, buy only organic products, cloth diaper, etc.  And that's great for them, but it's not me. 

Now that Ava is almost two, I am a much more relaxed mom.  What used to bother me can now easily be swept under the rug.  Ava had hot dogs and mac 'n cheese for lunch two days in a row?  Big deal.  We sleep trained her and let her cry it out?  Now she sleeps through the night and doesn't wake up until after 8am on the weekends.  She stayed up an hour past her bedtime because we had friends over?  Oh well.  In the grand scheme of things...none of this is the end of the world.  I'm not sure why there's so much pressure to always do the right thing as a parent.  We're human.  We make mistakes.  We try our hardest and do what we think is best.  And what's best for one family may not be the best for another family.  And that's okay! 

I'm looking forward to adding to our family in the future.  I hope that the second time around with a newborn will be easier and that I won't worry so much about the little things.  I want to be able to make a decision and move on instead of beating myself up about it as I did with Ava.  I think the key is to trust your gut.  You  know what's right for your own child and YOU are the parent, which means you get to make the decisions...not some random author of a book or a stranger on a message board.

To all the moms out there, I applaud you.  We're all in this together, no matter what our decisions are: breastfeed or formula, organic or...non-organic, disposable or cloth diapers, make our own baby food or buy it, co-sleep or not.  Get real for YOURSELF!  You'll feel so much better once you do!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Growing Up

There are lots of firsts in a child's life, moments that as a parent are so rewarding and heart-warming: the first time you hear mama or dada, the first few awkward, stumbling steps, the first birthday filled with family, presents and cake all over the place.

Ava has hit a new first that makes my heart swell with happiness: first friend.

Amidst the adults chatting, a football game in the background and the opening and closing of the cooler for another beverage, shrieks were heard.  And giggles.  Little feet pitter-pattered down the hall, voices called out to each other, toy grocery carts were pushed and baby dolls were cared for.

Ava and Ella have been around each other many times and have played before, but this time was different.  They played together.  For a long time.  And they had an absolute blast.

This is a first that maybe a lot of parents don't think about or take for granted.  But to me, it's something special.  Watching your child interact and have so much fun with another child is...well, it's awesome.  It's dream turned into reality: "When we're grown up and have kids, our kids will play together and be best friends, just like us!"

Yes, I used to have that conversation with friends.  And maybe Kelli and I haven't been friends since childhood and wished those dreams together, but I bet we both wished for it when we were younger.  Who knows if Ava and Ella will grow to be good friends or not, but for now, they are perfect little friends.

By this time next year, Kate can join in with the girls' fun...and maybe she'll get a playmate of her own one of these days!

Ava is also really close to her uncle Matt.  She cannot get enough of him.  A few times a week, she lets her feelings be known.  We'll be driving in the car and she'll suddenly exclaim, "I wa Maa!"  Thankfully she gets to see him often.  We're lucky to have family that lives so close to us!

This darling girl of mine is just growing up so fast.  I can't believe she'll be TWO in a little over a month.  Everything within her has started blossoming out of control: her social interactions, her words, the tasks she can do around the house.  Now if only we could teach her to change the cat litter...

Gone are the baby days: no more bottles, no chubby fat-rolled thighs, no toothless grins.  We have a full-fledged toddler on our hands who is slowly but surely becoming a little girl.  Where does the time go?

In the blink of an eye, this little girl will be a teenager with lots of friends - and lots of drama.  I'm glad that right now, I have the chance to enjoy her simple friendships and the little things in life that make her happy: an armful of bracelets, bowls of "Cheer-o's" within reach, baby dolls to love on, and lots of books to read.

In the meantime, I need to start planning a second birthday party!  It'll be here before I know it...

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

New Year...What Now?

While ringing in the new year, I felt positive and happy.  I had survived a two week Christmas break without getting sick - a miracle in and of itself, the weekend was upon us, and New Year's Eve was spent in a whirlwind of dressing up, fine dining, a combination surprise birthday party and NYE party...and having an adult night out.

{scratches on jeremy's face courtesy of ava and a plastic fork}

I love dressing up for a night out and our current tradition of getting all dolled up for a nice dinner on NYE allows me to spend just a bit longer on my make-up, slip into a little black dress and heels, and feel - for this one night - that I'm living the good life.  And I mean the good life, where fancy steak dinners and $10 glasses of wine are the norm.  Of course, if that was the norm, it would be just that...normal.  Average.  So I cherish these nights out and live in the moment as much as I can. 

{truffle fries, anyone?...and a nice filet in the background!}

Dinner this year was just the two of us, and it was nice.  Normally we get a big group together to celebrate - which I also love - but it was extra special to have a dinner date with my husband on NYE...and then go to a fabulous party.

And fabulous it was!

We were celebrating not only a new year, but also Gemi's 39th birthday.  The party was a surprise to him, and surprised he was!  It was definitely not the NYE party he was expecting.

A new year makes everyone feel the urge for a fresh start: whether it's a change in diet and exercise, a chance to try out a new hobby or career, or even to simply become more aware of ones thoughts and actions...most of us make resolutions to better our lives.  This blog is The Bright Side, but honestly, Mr. Pessimistic is still lurking in my head.  I never make resolutions because to me, it's just one more thing to keep up with and eventually quit.  How many people keep their resolutions for the entire year?  It's hard work.  And for me, staying positive all time is hard.

It's easy when you're out celebrating with friends...

But in the daily grind, it's hard.  What has become really hard for me lately is coming to terms with the fact that my Two Year Plan is not going to work, at least not in two years like I had hoped.  It seems as though I've been swimming upstream since I began teaching, and I don't like that feeling.  Photography is something I absolutely love, something I discovered as a passion on a whim.  I just wish it would take off as a business quicker than it that I could make my two year plan work.  And who knows what the future brings - maybe my business will explode this spring or summer and I can finally make my dreams a reality.  We shall see.

In the meantime, I will keep doing what I'm doing, but I will also try to make some changes.  They aren't resolutions...just areas I want to focus on in order to better my life.  My end goal is still to make photography my full-time career.  And what better way to get there than to practice, practice, practice?

Ava is the main reason I got into photography in the first place.  She is and always will be my muse.  I love that I've discovered a passion for documenting more than just the big moments in our lives.  The small moments count too - and those small moments are what I tend to focus on the most.

I still feel as though I am in a funk...going back to work after two weeks off does that to me.  But it reaffirms the goals I set back in August and pushes me just a little bit more to work hard for what I want.  My goals may be further in the future than I want them to be, but to bring them closer, I need to take action.  Or, I guess I should say, keep taking action. 

How do you climb to the top of Mount Everest? 

One step at a time.

{ step i am taking is doing the 365 project.  follow me here}