To the mother of the autistic child…

I saw you.

I didn’t realize he was your son, or I’d have come to you first. I couldn’t fathom the idea that perhaps he belonged to you, considering you sat intently watching as your five year old child, repeatedly assaulted my two and a half year old without intervening. But had I known? I’d have taken your damn head off your shoulders.

Let me rewind.

I’m sitting in Funky Monkeys, as usual – vaguely watching my kid happily playing by himself – as he’s prone to doing. I see an older boy go and shove him. Lewis looks at him with a confused look on his face and tries to pass again. The boy slaps him. Throws one of those swinging foam punch bags in his face and runs off laughing.

A few minutes pass, Lewis slides down the slide and tries to do a second pass. He’s shoved and smacked again, and having watched this child’s interactions with other children after the first altercation, I had my suspicions that this child was perhaps somewhere on the spectrum, but I wasn’t quite sure, while I’m aware of ASD, I’ve had no direct experience with it.  I bit my tongue, gave him the benefit of the doubt and, thus far, he’d just been a bit overly boisterous with Lewis, so I held my ground and just paid a little more attention to them both – my ‘vaguely watching’, instead became ‘must have a 20 on both of them at all times’.

Lewis then proceeds to actively try and avoid this child for a few minutes. He’s decided he’s had enough, and he wants to stay away. But the child pursues him. Relentlessly.

And then? He shoves Lewis, off a set of foam stairs, causing him to fall a couple feet and hit the deck, on his back/head. Lewis gets up, rubs his head and tries to climb back up. He’s only little and didn’t quite understand what was happening, another sharp shove later and Lewis is back on his back on the floor.

At this point I bound up from my seat, cross the floor of tables and chairs and approach the pair.  As I approach, I notice a lady intently watching them, shaking her head with a disapproving look in her face. We make eye contact. She gives me that “where’s that wee bully’s parents” look and I continue on my way. I get to Lewis, pick him up before this older kid had a chance to shove him a third time (he was winding up to do it), ask him if he’s ok, turn to the offending child and (calmly, though I’ve no idea how I kept my cool at this point) say “can you stop shoving him please? He’s only little”.

“Sore face mama, sore arm” Lewis tells me and it’s about now that the VERY SAME LADY I just made eye contact with, over this child’s behaviour comes over shouting at me, demanding to know what he’d done. What has he done? You’ve been WATCHING what he’s been doing.  I SAW YOU.  FFS! I watched you, watch them.

I tell her, calmly, (though being accosted like it was my child doing the shoving off steps really got my goat up). She snaps at me “he’s got autism, just tell me next time. This is why I don’t take him out to places like this” and tried grabbing at the child’s arm and shouting at him to apologize to Lewis.

I (still calmly, and quickly) tell her it’s ok, to leave the child (Jose) alone and not to shout at him – it wasn’t necessary.  But that things had just escalated to the point of my being concerned for Lewis’ safety and I had to say something.  I realise the sensitivity of having an autistic child, I’ve had friends in the past with autistic kids, I’m aware that a symptom of the disorder is that the child often does not understand personal space boundaries, but I’m even more aware that raising your voice, getting angry at them and physically pulling them out of a situation? Is NOT the best way to deal with the situation.
For the rest of their time in the play area, Lewis kept going over and trying to make friends with the little boy, and both of his parents.  That’s just who he is.  You take his toy? He’ll let you.  You push him and he falls and hurts his head? I teach him to forgive.  I don’t teach him to be angry and bear grudges.  I don’t teach him revenge.  I teach him love.  I teach him kindness.  I teach him patience.
My childminder has said that he’s ‘too soft’, that being around other boys will ‘toughen him up’ and that he ‘needs to harden up’, and for a moment? I *almost* conceded that perhaps, just, maybe, he *does* need to be a bit more tough.
Until today.  Today marks five days post-incident with this little boy with autism in the indoor play area, and I’m back in indoor play with Lewis.  I’m sat watching him push a little baby, less than half his age, around in one of those red and yellow cosy coupes.  Prior to the pushing around? He went over to the little boy – whom we don’t know, and said ‘hi baby’.  He crouched down to his level, got a little in to his personal space to say hi, and the little baby touched his face (and eventually started slapping him a little and pulling on his nose).  Lewis didn’t hit him back, he didn’t argue or get angry.  He simply said ‘mama, baby touch the face’ and the babies mum intervened to ask him to stop pawing at my kids face.
Tolerance.  Patience.  Forgiveness.  Love.
Stand up for yourself when you need to, but pick your battles, you can’t, nor should you, fight them all.
Don’t sweat the small stuff.
Keep perspective.
Let bygones, be bygones.
However cliched, or fortune cookie-esque that sounds, I think the world is sorely lacking in these qualities right now, and I find it a little sad that people think that a little boy with more gentle qualities than ‘storm in a teacup’, or a ‘have your toy snatched, snatch it back’ mentality, is a negative thing.
The way it should have been for Jose’s mother the other day.  SHE, who sat WATCHING her child, hurt my child, REPEATEDLY, should have intervened.  SHE was more educated and better equipped to handle and diffuse the situation that I am, and she just stood by and watched him hurt another child.
I don’t typically fight my child’s battles for him.  I often fight my instinct to ‘helicopter parent’ him.  If he falls, I don’t make a rushing scene to his aid, I ask him if he’s hurt, if he’s going to make it, and, as such, he only cries when he actually hurts himself.
Perhaps I didn’t deal with the situation the best by addressing the child directly, but you? You have been immersed in his daily life, you’re experienced living with a child with autism, he’s clearly had similar experiences prior, considering your ‘this is why we don’t take him places like this’ comment and I, my no experience self, handled the damn situation better than you did.
YOU, lady, should be ashamed of yourself.  And I imagine if tables were turned? If Lewis had returned even ONE of his smacks, or shoves? You’d have been down my throat like a bullet.
Newsflash? Just because your child has autism, does NOT mean you can stand idly by while he hurts another child.
Aaaaand there ends my angry mother rant.

A Woman, in a Man’s world.

img_0042A friend presented me with UFC Fight Night tickets as a “congrats you passed your yellow belt in Krav, here go watch live fighting for a night” gift.

I was THRILLED when my “kid” brother was able to get the night off work to come with me. I’ve taken him to WWE as a kid, but I had no interest in wrestling and didn’t know a damn thing back then, but, he enjoyed it, and I enjoyed watching him, watching something he loved.

Now we’re both older, and we’re both “in to” fighting, I was even more excited to share this experience with him. As adults, and having lived across the pond for so long, we haven’t, and don’t get much “just us” time, and this meant a lot to me.

img_0159The night was going well, and took an unexpected upturn as Rowan came back from a trip to the loo and announced that he had just walked past Amanda Cooper as he was coming back to his seat. Just casually milling around the concourse at the Odyssey, still in her kit, after having won her FIRST EVER UFC fight. He said he contemplated stopping for a picture, but there was a crowd swarmed around her, so he thought better of it.

I didn’t go to the toilet right away, and when I did, I had no expectation of seeing Amanda on the concourse, but as I was walking back to my door, I caught her in my peripheral. She was walking pretty quickly, flanked by two guys and I thought to myself, nah, I’ll leave her be.

I walked in my door, got to the top of the stairs and was one foot ready to descend, when I had a whole slew of thoughts that prompted me to quickly turn on my heel and go back out to see if, just on the off chance, I could catch up with her for a picture.

You see, my gifted tickets were for some pretty epic seats, Row B, in fact, and Amanda had walked past us (we were sat on the exit route from the octagon) after her fight, just as a bunch of lads sat down behind us.

One of them had clearly never seen a fight before in his life. He asked his friends if this was the “sport for people having a midlife crisis”, and while that comment was mildly funny to his friends, what got me and made me want to punch him (and all of his friends in their boy parts) was the fact he was a blatant objectifying, misogynistic douche bag – and they egged him on and found him hilarious.

I sat there, listening to him, my blood slowly boiling from a simmer, loudly objectify the octagon girl. Announcing any number of derogatory comments about her and how he wished he’d sat closer so he could see her, rather than the fighting – because of how “f’ing hot” she was.

And you know what? For the longest time? My entire goal in life was to BE that octagon girl. Skinny, pretty, big boobs – the epitome of everything society and the world tells you that you should BE as a woman.  Plus sized is a dirty word.  You need to BE beautiful.  Plus sized is NOT beautiful.

Even nowadays.

Sit pretty.
Look nice.

Be skinny.

Another guy behind me, boxed for Ireland. He boxed for eleven years and when I asked him if he coached or taught when he was done fighting, he replied no, he had three daughters. He was taken aback by my exclamation of “SO???” and said he’d never have LET them get in to boxing.

Girls don’t fight.
Sit pretty.
Look nice.

He asked us if we came to UFC often and a third member of their group said “well, she (referring to me) is a pro, she knows a lot about this” and I’ll never forget the pride in my brothers voice when he informed them, “she does this” (meaning fight) and the shock on their faces and in their voices when I said, “yeah, I fight”, and told them about my new found love of Krav.

The boxer also said (when the heavyweight class came up), that being hit by a 245lb dude would be like being hit by a “fucking bus”, and sniggered like 245 was so. Damn. Heavy.

And as my 245lb, fitter than I’ve ever been in my entire life, recent yellow belt/level 1 achiever in Krav Maga self, stood at the top of those stairs, ready to return to my seat, I was struck by a lightening bolt.

If the last six months of self discovery and badass training have taught me anything? It’s that I’d rather be a strong, capable badass that men at the very least fear and question my capabilities, but at most, respect.

Than be a woman who’s gawked at, drooled over and talked about like I’m a stupid, piece of meat whose whole existence is to “stand and look f*ckable, like a good girl”.

I’ll admit, the results of the recent US election are weighing on my mind of late. With the president elect being so outwardly degrading to women, and my mounting fear of contraception, abortion and other “women’s things” becoming harder and harder for women to access, rather than easier. I find myself, almost glad, that I don’t yet have a daughter, because my rage and pain for how backward and thinly veiled the worlds attitude towards women remains, isn’t easily translated into comprehensive speech right now.

But bet your bollocks to a barn dance, if I ever have a daughter? I will help her smash through that bloody glass ceiling with our boxing gloves leading the way and shouting a big F U to the men like those I successfully tried not to groin kick tonight at the arena.

img_0072So yes, I walked my butt back out on to the concourse and thankfully, Amanda hadn’t gotten too far. I walked up to her and she made a few guys who were ahead of me, wait a second, so I could take not one, but two pictures with her – my hand was shaking (so sue me, I got a little nervous walking up to her) and I hit the cancel button on snap chat instead of the save button and she graciously granted me a do-over.

In that moment I wanted to hug her, to tell her that she had inspired me, empowered me, and had given me pause to think about things for just a moment.

I wanted to tell her that she was the kind of woman I wanted my future daughters, nieces and Goddaughters to aspire to, pushing the boundaries of what society deems “acceptable” as a woman. Taking societies expectations of what a woman should be, and do and saying screw you, I want to do this instead, and doing it.

I wanted to tell her, that in that moment, she gave me the courage to do something I probably wouldn’t have done otherwise, and snapped this picture.

img_0098Which will forever remind me, that, I too, wish to, (and should) push those boundaries and challenge those expectations, vehemently, and for my kids (of either gender) to learn from example and do the same.

That girls can be both beautiful AND badass at the same time – the two aren’t mutually exclusive like we’ve all been led to believe from an early age.

And mostly? That fighting like a girl? Is a pretty epic compliment after all.

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Larne Baby Club

This morning I did something brave.

In Houston, I wouldn’t have called it brave, and I’m hoping in a few weeks, I won’t be calling it brave either.  However, right now, where I’m at? It felt, just a little bit brave.

Having done a little research about playgroups in Larne, I discovered that online, there wasn’t much information around – did that mean there were no playgroups? Kinda looked like it, but you never know.  Larne isn’t a huge city and typically a lot of things happen on Facebook and it gets a little tricky to search for church play groups or people’s names, when you don’t know what they are.  I happened upon the Larne Baby Club after talking to a family member, and have had it on the calendar for a couple weeks.

That’s been the way, you see.  My calendar? It’s full.  It looks as busy as it did just before I left Houston to move home.  I didn’t miss a beat on paper.

About a week after we landed home, I got organized, I found a choir (Larne), knitting group (Larne and Belfast) and some self-defense options for me to try out in Larne, Belfast and Newry.  I found Lewis play groups to try out in the same cities, and I even made a nice and pretty schedule.  Days of the week, cities and what options they have on offer – all on a white board in Lewis’ room.

Theoretically, I’ve been set for a fortnight.  I’ve had options in three cities, I’ve had my name on the car insurance for just over a week now, so I’ve had the capability and freedom to actually attend these things, and I just….haven’t.

I’m a social person, I’m an extrovert, I miss my large social circle in Houston every single day.  I’m not exactly shy, I’m outgoing and love meeting people, but since moving home? I’ve gotten caught up in my own mind, my ever growing to do list and stuck in the expat-repat haze, that I just haven’t taken the first step and walked through a door.

Until this morning.

This morning, I decided ‘screw it’, my kid needs to go play with other kids, and I decided to take him to the Larne Baby Club (LBC) after I dropped Col at the train station.

img_9380LBC meets weekly, on a Monday morning, 10am at the All Saints Church (131 Linn Road), and while they have a donation bowl sat out, it’s a free, ‘Sure Start’ program (with connections to the Action For Children Charity.)

I was tempted to stay in bed, hand my kiddo his tablet and let the screen parent him for the morning.  I was tempted to take him to indoor play, instead.  And even for a split second sitting in the car park outside the church? I contemplated not going in and just driving off.  I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, when I arrived there was only one other mum (Nicola) and her twin two year olds (Ellen and Johnny) and she quickly informed me that there was normally way more people there (it quickly filled out).  It took Lewis a few minutes to come around, but once he realized there was food on the go – he was set and sat to have breakfast with the twins.  And food there was! Cheese cubes, grapes, bananas, pancakes and two (!) types of swiss rolls, milk for the kiddos and tea for the grown-ups.

The two leaders of the group, Alison and Diane were lovely, very warm and welcoming, and any time Lewis was playing by himself, they dandered over to him to keep him company.  They knew all the kids names in the room, recognized that I was new and came over to talk to me a bit about Lewis and the other programmes offered, and before I left to go home, I got handed a little person goody bag (complete with face mask for mama!) and Alison had put together a list of other toddler groups in Larne for during the week for me to try – so nice!

img_9375Lewis enjoyed being there, he played on his own a little, but interacted well with the other kids – especially a couple of the infants, and he LOVED painting with the twins.  And I enjoyed spending time with grown-ups, mums, chatting and getting some information about nursery programs, play groups and even a kickboxing class I’m going to go try out soon!

Looking forward to getting to know the people at this play group better, and to trying out the other playgroups on the list, and maybe, just maybe, I’ll drag my butt out to try my local choir tomorrow night too.  Since I’m feeling brave and all 😉

img_9370PS: If anyone is doing a pre-Christmas purge of their kids toys – I know a playgroup who would love to have them! 😉

A Funky little Monkey.

img_8496I wrote this post last week – just haven’t had a moment to scratch, to finish it up and edit it.  Needless to say, this will be the first, of what I’m sure is many blog posts about being a mum here in Northern Ireland, facilities available for kids and other such things.

——————

As I look out over this magnificent vista… wait.  Wrong show.

img_8467As I sit here, on this hard plastic throne and listen to the screams of a hugely disgruntled child as his grandmother attempts to drag him from whatever life changing toy he was playing with, as I watch the two poles of ‘human experience’ unfold before my eyes and am impatiently wait for my chicken goujon lunch to appear, I thought, perhaps, that it was high time I wrote my first ‘mumsy’ post from sunny Costa del Larne.

For the record, by ‘human experience’, I mean both the best and the worst.

I’ve just witnessed an older girl, completely unprovoked, grab an older boy by his head and smash his head into the floor of the play area, while he was howling in pain, I, simultaneously, watched a little girl – who had previously been doing some epically good round kicks on those punch bag looking things – take my sons hands over top of an obstacle he was trying to scale, and attempt to help (gently) pull him across.

img_8483While it didn’t work, and I sat for a good eight or nine more minutes, patiently watching him try to figure out how to get his little self, up and over this foam blockade (you can just about make out his wee head over top of the blue foam thing in the picture), he figured it out himself and I gave him a quick thumbs up, before heading over to thank the mother of the little girl, for not raising a face-smashing little wench, but a caring and helpful little girl, a stranger to my son, who tried to help him when she saw him struggling.  I imagined her heart leapt when she saw someone coming over asking if that little girl was her little girl, but instead I got a ‘yeah, she told me’ and a ‘what the hell are you doing over here talking to me, lady’, kinda look.  Screw you.  Ugh.

img_8479While living in the US, we had a few indoor play areas that we loved, nine bucks (ish), unlimited play time, typically an in house café – with varying successes in food provided – and a very happy, exhausted and sweaty toddler at the end of it all.

Coming back to Northern Ireland, I quickly became aware that we weren’t in Texas any more Toto.  The going rate for indoor play here, is around five pounds, which, in ‘real money’ is about $8 before the pound tanked.  Sounds on par, right? Well.  When that $8 only covers 90 minutes, you see, friends, we have a problem.

The problem here is, friends, that I have a boisterous and energetic little boy.  I have a little boy, who could easily burn through three hours in an indoor play area, doing the same thing over and over, and over again, to his little hearts content.  Who would cry, and scream, and protest were I to try and remove him from his fortress of fun.

And then I read about Funky Monkey’s membership.

  • $12 per month (that’s pounds, but I’m on an American computer and can’t figure out where in the name of all things, the GBP sign is).
  • UNLIMITED entry to the center, 7 days a week.
  • UNLIMITED access to activity programmes
  • 10% off birthday parties
  • 10% off at their café

img_8476Not only that? But you can use this membership in ANY of their locations around the north, there’s one in Larne, Newtonabbey, Banbridge, Dondonald…I’m not sure where else.  All I know is that the ‘city pass’ as I’d call it in a Houston context, means that I can use any of their branches under my monthly membership.

Sunday, we took Lewis to the one in Dundonald.  We had Halloween activities planned, but the weather didn’t comply, so we opted to cross the car park from the place we had breakfast and throw him in to Funky Monkey’s for a while.

img_8500I’ve been sick since Sunday, til yesterday (Thursday) and today, we’re back, here at the one in Larne, where we have already made friends with one of the girls who work here, Megan – which, brings up another point, the staff in Funtastics were verging on being rude, even, not just standoffish.  I’ve not found the funky monkey’s crew to be like that at all.  They’re friendly, kind and helpful.

So, my advice to the mums of Northern Ireland? Grab a membership to Funky Monkeys – it’s worth it.  You cover your monthly membership, with less than one trip to indoor play a week.  And, if you happen to see your local blogger sitting trying to wrestle her hot chocolate out of the hands of her toddler? Come say hi.

img_8502But for now? I’m going to enjoy the dregs of this mug, that he graciously left me until it’s time to convince this child that a quick trip to Asda is more fun than those swinging punch bags – when all this Krav mama *really* wants to do, is go throw some combos! 😉

Smells like Krav spirit…or is that sweat?

How in the world do you blog about a group of people who have quite literally changed your life?
13606656_10156979276515411_756404044872232427_nI wasn’t going to write this just yet.  I’m not 100% sure why, exactly.  I have a few reasons I guess, I wanted there to be more of a change in me, I wanted to make sure I stuck at it for an extended period of time and I wasn’t convinced that eight weeks was enough time to gauge, well, anything really.
Plus? Let’s just throw it out there now, but when it comes to talking about my amazing little Krav family? I get hit square in the feels (as long as it’s not the jaw, right?)

But, my time here in Houston is drawing to a close over the next couple months, and this new lifestyle and these new people have already had such a profound impact on my life, I thought “screw it”.  I figure that there’s really no harm in sharing this new chapter of my life on this blog.  Especially considering that the mental changes within myself, far outweigh any current visible, physical changes.  I’ve even gone so far as to have already looked up somewhere to continue my training when I go home, and Col has looked for somewhere in India.

I officially have “the bug”.
13516350_10156973497185411_7002291917759849473_nOn Thursday, May 5th, (so just over a month ago as I start to write this), I, in what felt at the time, like a moment of utter insanity, drove North of the city to try a free Krav Maga class.  I didn’t know much about the self defense system, other than it was more instinctual and less “organized”, than say, Tae Kwon Do, and really a little more akin to street fighting even.  So, off I went.
I got there a little early so I could watch the end of the previous, intermediate/advanced class, train and had I listened to the not-so-quiet voice screaming loudly in my ear to think again about what in the name of all that is holy I thought I was doing, I’d have bolted.  Part of me wanted to.  Not a small part either.  There was absolutely no way in hell I could ever do what those people were doing, right? But they’d all seen me come up the stairs, there was no escape – believe me, I considered it.
Hold up.  Let’s rewind a little, we all know that I’ve posted any number of fitness, weight loss, or healthy eating posts since I started this blog.  I’ve yoyo-ed the same 10lbs for years and my self-image hasn’t ever been stellar.
I abhor exercise.  Despise it.  I’ll leave a collection of things on the stairs that needs taken up, because I’m just too out-rightly lazy to add an extra flight of steps into my day.

And then something clicks.

It’s the same process every time, right?
I’ll get so sick of seeing my reflection in the mirror and I’ll hit something full pelt.  I’ll eat 1600 (-1800) calories a day (GP approved before any of you give me grief), drink 2 liters of water, eat 5 a day and start some form of exercise, Les Mills Body Attack or C25K have been the most notable favourites to date.  I’ll go 3-5 times a week, give my all, and after the first week or two of quick body-shock progress, eating like a hangry ankle-biting rabbit and working out more than any sane person should, in my lazy land of couch potato, I’ll hit some dumb plateau, the scales won’t move and I’ll lose my patience with it.  Or? Better yet? I’ll get my period, use it as the worlds lamest excuse to curl up in the corner and avoid the gym like the plague.  It really doesn’t take much for me to quit and go back to being unhappy with myself.
Typically.
I know myself, I know my patterns.

Or so I thought.

Anyways, back we go to Las, sat on the floor of the Krav loft, trying to look calm – when all she really wanted to do was jump in the car and drive home – stretching, because from the look of the intermediate class, it seemed like that was a smart thing to do, and praying, praying hard, that no one laughed at my mere presence there.
Then it occurred to me, the (I’m reluctant to call them educated, but on the subject matter I guess they are) person (people) who encouraged me to go to Krav in the first place? Wouldn’t have done so from an unkind place, or to make fun of me somehow.  They encouraged me to go because they thought I was capable – in spite of enjoying my couch potato lifestyle.  They thought that it was, perhaps, something I would enjoy, and maybe even go to a second class.  They believed in me, even if I didn’t believe in myself.
13510781_10156955669315411_8653724555621343230_nMy first class was pretty “low-key” (I’m also reluctant to say low-key, because I still ended up a sweaty mess and my calf hurt for three days after training).  It was all footwork, (stance is the most important thing!) and I spent most of the 60 minutes face to face with an orange belt, called Jen, who I’d seen training at the end of the previous class.  Neither she, nor Mike (the instructor), laughed at me for being there, they didn’t scoff, or ask what I thought I was doing, and, despite us giggling for the guts of an hour, Jen taught me more than I realised.
In spite of not being able to walk very well the next day (my calf protested being off the floor for an hour), I was sufficiently intrigued.  I signed up for a monthly, unlimited class membership and attended a two-hour monthly women’s self defense seminars, just two days later, that Saturday morning.
13319719_10156865174375411_9113199934113673980_nIn the eight weeks since that first night? My goal in May was 9 classes (two per week) I finished the month on 13.  I’ve attended a 3 hour Kali/Escrima (knife skills) workshop, two (soon to be three) 2-hour women’s self defense seminars and a 3 hour Muay Thai workshop with the best Muay Thai coach in the US.  I’ve not only tried an intermediate class, but I’ve done a number of back to back inter/beginner classes in the last few weeks, and I’m hungry for more.  Why? Not just because I enjoy it – sure, that’s a huge chunk, but these people I’m training with? They help me find belief in myself that I’m CAPABLE of more.
Crazy as it sounds, (and I know it’s a long shot, but we all need goals, right?) I’m training with the aim of testing for my yellow belt before we leave the US.  My goal for June was 13 classes, 3 per week and I finished on 22 Krav classes and 1 cardio combat class, I’ve not skipped a single class simply because I have ovaries (as a friend’s better half pointed out “an attacker doesn’t care if you’re sick or have your period”) and I’ve even managed to simultaneously train through a chest infection, just fine.
13307453_10156865174365411_3685887745969475778_nIt’s incredibly hard to capture, on a computer screen especially, the kind of people, or atmosphere, that Fight Back Fit has managed to harness, and I find it just a little laugh-out-loud-funny that I’m getting ‘totes emosh’ about a group of seriously bad ass fighters, however, I really am.  Last week? I trained for two hours before we went out for post-training tacos.  We typically close out the places we go to eat, mostly, I think, because the other patrons are afraid that our special kind of crazy is contagious and don’t want to be within a city block of our hysterical giggling.  Anyways, I had a not-so-minor breakdown on my way home, worked up and upset that I’m leaving this great group of people in a short matter of weeks.  It bothers me, a lot.
In class, no matter who I pair with in training, I learn something.
Everyone has something to teach.
Everyone is vested in everyone else’s training.  Everyone wants to make you a better fighter and no one cares that you’ve only been there a short number of weeks and suck at hooks, your left elbow flares when you strike, or that you punch with the wrong part of your fist – they just want you to be better.

Every class.

13528802_10156942683145411_1999757221268620819_nFighting and fitness aside? The folks I train with have a pretty social element to their training, they typically eat out after class a couple times a week (this has become after every time I train because I have a long drive home and am so hungry I could eat an entire cow when I’m finished), we’ll sit, laugh (there’s always lots of laughing), talk, share stories and re-fuel after a tough work out that we push each other to kick ass in.
I know you’re skeptical, I would be too had I not experienced it first-hand, there’s no way anyone could accidentally happen upon such a ready-made group of great friends, right? Wrong.  Aside from the Krav-ing, and the post-Krav eating (which, in the interest of being up front if you’re thinking of joining us, can last for hours), we have also hung out socially, I’ve been shooting with them, we’ve had lunch together on non-Krav days, and we’re working on throwing together a bucket list for my last eight weeks here in Houston and have a few fun things like karaoke and go-karting on the list for us to try our hands at.
13615046_10156987121315411_4232918578577866323_nWe even landed around to my Krav friend Kathy’s house (toddler and all!) and invaded for a bbq for the 4th, with two of my other fave Krav friends (Kate and Jen) with Kathy’s sister and her family.  If someone starts a sentence with ‘Hey, why don’t we…?’, or ‘Does anyone want to…?’ chances are at least four of us will be there.
They pick me up when I fall (literally), build me up when I’m low, push me through when I feel like I can’t do something and tell me I’m getting skinnier while punching me in the chest – what’s not to love? 😉
13606503_10156989125330411_3121260125936346466_nWanna know how hard I love these folks? Sunday night on my way to my volunteer shift at Ronald McDonald, I hit a pot hole – and I was scared to my core that I’d busted out my tyre, was going to get stranded at the hospital (I had the car seat in my car, so Col couldn’t come rescue me, had I been in trouble), but I knew that without a doubt, I could have called any of a handful of Krav people and they’d have busted their behinds to help me get myself figured out.  Thankfully, I didn’t need it, but it’s a very, very reassuring feeling to know that someone’s got your back.
While a large part of me is devastated that I didn’t meet these people seven years ago when we first moved to H-Town, a larger part of me is so damn thankful that I got to meet them at all.  That I got over myself, my inner demons, my self-hatey and crappy self esteem to take a chance, try something new, and that I get to spend my last four months in Houston, doing something I love, with people I love even more.
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No perfect people allowed! (The Bridge Fellowship MDO)

13240491_10156832052615411_2207768648830933834_nI’m ugly crying.

Y’all know ugly crying, right?

Red face, puffy eyes, complete with buckets of snot and enough Kleenex that makes you wish you’d bought shares in the company? Yeah, that’s me right now.

I’m inexplicably emotional right now – no, it’s not just cause I now have to have my multi-faceted toddler home with me full time again, but, I guess, it’s because it’s the end of an era.

12002877_10155970090180411_6231317509495296900_nThis time last year, Lewis was on a waiting list for a Mother’s day out program at The Bridge Fellowship, here in Sugar Land.  I had inner-battled back and forth on this one for a while, I suffered from, what I believe in the ‘biz’ they refer to as ‘mama guilt’.  As a stay at home mama (SAHM) I found it very hard to justify to myself, a ‘need’ to send my child away for nine hours a week.  It wasn’t overly expensive, don’t get me wrong – as MDO’s go in the area, The Bridge is certainly the most reasonable that I’ve found ($150 a month plus a quarterly supplies fee were the fees for 2015/16), but it was still an ‘unnecessary’ outgoing, considering I’m a SAHM, right?

Then a friend of mine sent me this email for Mother’s day – this isn’t it in it’s entirety, but you get the idea, and it got me *really* thinking.

A lot of articles online bash parenting today – especially mothers. We judge each other too much, who has time for all that Pinterest crap, here’s why you should feed your baby this way, cloth diapers FTW, never spank a child, don’t yell, stay away from GMO’s, organic food is best,  is your 4 year old really standing next to the hot stove OMG call cps…. Etc.  This has to be the hardest era to parent in yet.  And for the most part it’s focused on the moms.  You don’t really see “daddy” bashing articles or see dads whispering across the park and confronting each other in stores.  I don’t know if it’s because men just inherently aren’t used to being the focus of this stuff or if women are just more emotionally wired to be protective of the village, or they’re more judge mental and bitchy or what.  One things for certain though – being a mom today is f*cking hard.  Harder than I think any of our previous generations of mothers before us.  Not because of all the physical labor, but because as a society we make it hard on each other. 

As much as I dislike this holiday for the feelings of sadness that it brings up from my past, I also think it’s one of the most important holidays that we have for people like you and my other friends with kids.  Every one of you all parent very differently. Your kids all have different rules and lifestyles.  But you all very clearly love your kids and work to be the best parent you can be, regardless of what all those damn parenting articles say, garnering from your parents lessons (and either striving to be more like them or nothing like the, depending on what the case may be). And for that you should all be celebrated hugely. 
11921796_10155917686515411_17310299548217551_nI thought about why *I* wanted to put him in to ‘day care’, I mean, really thought about it.  It’s not like I was going to go drink margaritas, have mani-pedis and shop til I dropped every day (though, Lord knows, most days I’d totally love that!) it was more for every day things, doctors, dentists, chiropractors, OBGYN’s – unencumbered by a curious little boy who wants to touch everything, doesn’t want to hold hands crossing the road or car park, wants to hit every button in the elevator and who will stubbornly go off in whatever direction his little mind decides it wants to.
It was more grocery shopping without having to rationalise to a two year old, why mama doesn’t need 14 types of Goldfish crackers in the trolley.
It was more taking care of laundry without having ‘helping mama’ hands pull out clean, dry and folded laundry and run around the house while I was chasing him – cursing under my breath.
It was more about having grown-up conversation at least once a week, that didn’t involve telling a toddler to stop trying to climb out of his high chair, or to eat his vegetables – or no, he couldn’t have the sharp steak knife that the server left all too close to his mac and cheese covered little paws.
I thought about other friends children and quickly came to the realisation that socialisation – with other kids, other adults and some parent-free time, has overwhelmingly benefited many of my friends children and that it would be good for him to learn things like sharing toys, routine and being disciplined by someone who wasn’t Colin or I.
11951751_10155917686560411_2189568573678727582_nSo, I signed him up to The Bridge.  Two mornings a week.  Tuesday and Thursday, 9.30am – 2pm in a class of twelve children.  One Tuesday a month they have Chick Fil A days, one Thursday a month they have pizza days (where you pay $4 and they feed your little lunch), they have all kinds of parties (Rodeo, Easter, Christmas, End of year – for example), they do all kinds of crafting, they come home with Mothers day AND Father’s day gifts (even though Father’s day is after the term finishes), they had both the police and fire departments visit the school (he got his picture taken with the fire truck and police car) and they do various things from music class, playing with toys to learning.
Bear in mind, I hadn’t got very high expectations for the amount of learning he’d actually do, he was just shy of 18 months old, he went to his first day of school with a bald head (don’t ask – we had a pre-photoshoot haircut boo boo) a cast on his leg (again, don’t ask) and for the first couple of months he cried at drop off.  Some days, he even cried a lot, but the girls insisted that he calmed down shortly thereafter and settled in to his day.  The crying meant I couldn’t linger or chat to his teachers much, I handed him over and walked very quickly – the first few days, even fighting tears myself, and wondering what kind of awful parent I must be to leave my sobbing leg-cast toddler with strangers.
10448730_10155917686660411_197839715295224187_nBut, each drop-off got easier, and at each pick-up, our shy and quiet little Lewis was always a happy chappy.  Which made me happy – not only because I was actually accomplishing something (some days that may only have been grocery shopping in Target with a skinny hot chocolate), but also because he was enjoying himself.
12246753_10156149454300411_282857918153111900_nFeedback was always good, he’s a great eater, he’s a very calm, placid and happy baby and he’ll let any of the kids have what he’s playing with, with no retribution.  A little time passed.  I’m not sure quite at what point things started to reveal themselves, but I distinctly remember him asking, very nicely, one afternoon, for Elmo to be on TV.  I obliged, Sesame Street bought me some time to do SSA work for the afternoon and out of nowhere I hear, ‘Why mama’, I say ‘Why what bubba?’ and he says ‘Why’.
I look up at the screen and sure enough there’s the letter Y dancing across the screen.  I think I had some kind of episode, I started clapping and cheering that my smart little boy had identified the letter Y.  Over the coming months he came home showing off all kinds of wicked skills, he learned his numbers 1-10 (and even attempts beyond), he knows his colours (though he often gets yellow and green muddled up on the first pass, but gets pink, purple and orange just fine), he learned how to sing the alphabet (which is more phonetic noises with the occasional letter being thrown in at this point, cause he sings it way too fast, but we are working on our diction) and the other day he even told me about a triangle – I about fainted.
I can’t imagine two women handling eight ‘terrible two’ toddlers on the best of days, but actually educating them, teaching them things that he has clearly retained? It’s nothing short of a miracle, cause I can’t even get him to listen to me when I tell him to stop balancing on the back of the sofa, standing on one foot and holding a freshly sharpened pencil in his hand.
13239395_10156832064720411_2027101294490036828_nHe’s come on leaps and bounds in The Bridge MDO program, he’s become more confident and outgoing when it comes to other kids, his vocabulary and speech have exploded, turns out he’s quite the chatterbox (no idea where he gets THAT from, eh?) and going by his goodbye hugs to his teachers today, he’s pretty fond of them too.
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Bloom where you are planted.

250269_10150733801935411_2742472_nI’m struggling with words this morning, forgive me, please.  I’ve had a bit of a “creative spark” drought as of late, and I’ve not blogged in a little while.  But I got a phone call a couple weeks ago, that has changed my life forever, and it’s prompted my catharsis….

My dearest Cindy,

(I was very tempted to start this with ‘hey girlfriend’ but I resisted – kind of.)

Do you know how hard it is to explain to a two year old why you’re crying?

“Mama crying?”
“Yes Lewis, mama is crying.”
“Mama sad?”
“Yes bubba, mama is sad.”
He hasn’t learned the concept of “why?” quite yet, but the confusion on his face as to why his usually chipper mother has tears free-flowing down her face is clear.
I can’t quite break down into small enough words, or comprehensive terms for a two year old, so I just repeat, “mama’s sad, my love.  Mama’s gonna make it, but mama is sad” to try and reassure my concerned little man.
He reaches his wee arms up above his head, says “cuddle mama?” and rubs my tear stained cheeks when I pick him up.  “Wet, mama” he announces as he snuggles in to give me a hug.
318464_10150846251215411_703757683_nIt’s been over a week (more now that I’m actually finishing up this post) since you’ve gone and I don’t think I’m in any way more used to the idea that you’re no longer on the end of a text.  I tried to put some words together on the day that Tim called to tell me you had passed away, but words failed me – and we both know how unusual that is.  I think I needed those twenty four hours in Nawlins for your funeral, to be able to absorb, process, and string something coherent together, I’m just hoping that auto-correct is picking up typos through my tears.
A friend suggested that I write you a letter, I guess, this is my hybrid, both writing to you and sharing with everyone else just how wonderful a friend, but more so an amazing human being you were, because I couldn’t get myself together in time to put something in your casket with you.
45870_10152542173410411_310981353_nLet me rewind a little and tell everyone about my cherished friend…
Seven years ago, give or take, I was fresh out of college, I was dating Colin and his company offered him a transfer to Houston, ‘Let’s go!’ I enthusiastically exclaimed.  I’d always wanted to live in the US and this was a great opportunity for him, career wise, so off we went.

When I got here, I quickly realised though, that I hadn’t quite thought through the entire process of this expat malarkey, it wasn’t easy.  Culture shock (trust me, it happens even for people moving between states or provinces within the same country), not driving, not having kids or dogs to meet people at schools and dog parks, missing my family, my friends, birthdays, especially, being difficult.

Not long after I arrived, I joined the Spouses organisation – you know, the one that I tell you all about ALL. THE. TIME.  and I met, who I can only describe as this ginormous ball of positive energy, crammed inside a teenie tiny petite little frame.

I think this was the 1st (or maybe 2nd) time I ever met Cindy!

I think this was the 1st (or maybe 2nd) time I ever met Cindy!

Her name was Cindy, she was a bit older than me (think around my mums age), so not someone that you’d typically think of as falling under my ‘friend’ umbrella, but she quickly became a very dear friend to me.  I called her ‘mama Cindy’, her husband ‘daddy Tim’ and she took me under her wing.  She was sort of new to the Houston area (she’d been here before for a time) she was one of the first people I met in Houston and she was, without a doubt, one of the best.  Neither of us wanted to be here, she’d spent thirteen years in Denver, CO and that was home.  She loved having four real seasons, being close to her son Alex (I’ve heard so much about him that some days I wonder if he’s actually related to me somehow) and she hated Houston.  In spite of that?  She jumped in with both feet and wasn’t afraid of the splash.

Over the past seven years, our friendship has grown and I am nothing short of honoured to be able to say, that she’s been a large part of my inner circle, one of the original, old guard, ‘renegades’, who was truly up for anything.  Many’s a day have we cleared out cafes and restaurants by giggling obnoxiously loudly, we’ve eaten together (and for a little un she could surely put it away), we’ve laughed together, we’ve cried together, we’ve gossiped together and we’ve explored together.

She helped me picked my wedding dress, she was at my wedding, she helped both Col and I out after not one, but two surgeries, she co-hosted my baby shower, she never missed a sing-star party (or any kind of party) that I threw, she was always game for a good feed (and boy, could she put it away for someone so little) and she loved on Lewis and helped me out once he was born.  She was a true friend.

1010281_10152955364060411_1665002835_nWhen she got sick, almost ten months ago now, she was so full of hope, fire and determination that she couldn’t possibly succumb to this disease.  When she rang the exit bell at MD Anderson after her first round of radiation, she was so proud of herself, happy and excited about what was yet to come.  When the cancer came back? She took it in her stride, gloved up and said ‘Let’s do this’.  There has never been a single moment in the last nine months, where I didn’t think she would and could fight this – in spite of her prognosis, in spite of being stage 4, I figured that miracles happen, right? And if anyone was deserving of a miracle? It would be our Cindy, and she’d beat this thing.

You can imagine, then, how ill prepared I was for Tim’s phone call telling me that she was gone.

1484201_10153512435330411_1969890155_nSome days? I’m not wholly convinced that there’s a God, others? I’m not really sure he knows what he’s doing.  But if anyone needed convincing that God really does exist and indeed know what he’s doing, just look at Cindy’s story.  Tim mentioned it in his eulogy and brought us all to tears, he was right, things in Cindy’s life were definitely falling in to place, rather than falling to pieces, even though, in some ways it may have seemed like things were falling to pieces.

Her son Alex marrying Brittney when he did, her granddaughter Avery being born when she was – all big milestones that, had they happened at later stages of her life, she may not have been around to witness.  This extends to us too even, my friend Shelley wasn’t supposed to be transferred back to Houston when she was, instead, she got to see Cindy before she died, another friend and I are at the end of our seven year visas, had she died even six months down the line? We may not have been here to say goodbye.

The day before her funeral, I flew in to New Orleans with my sista-friend and Godmother to my son, Sheri.  We decided to go the day before, stay in a hotel in the ‘Quarter and pay homage to our girl Cindy in an amazing city.  We started with dinner and a hurricane at Pat O’Briens, a hand grenade at Tropical Isle, dancing and singing at a couple bars on bourbon street and finished up with a trashy hot dog in the street between pictures with minions and doing some guys advertising job for him.

IMG_6241The morning of her funeral, we met up with a couple of our friends who flew in early, we had breakfast, shed some tears as we walked through the French quarter, shopping a little for momentos and listening to a jazz band play ‘Amazing Grace’ (a song that the priest actually sang at the end of her funeral).

It was hard, but none of us fought our tears and I think a tradition was institutionalised.  In the future, when we lose one of our group (and I’m hoping it’ll be a long, long, time before that happens again), that’s where I’ll go, to honour, to drink and to say goodbye.

Miss Cindy’s visitation and funeral service was one of the hardest I’ve ever been to.  While it was beautiful and fitting, there were pictures of our fun-loving Cindy and beautiful smelling flowers at every turn, it was just hard.  I knew that with Tim doing the Eulogy, I didn’t stand a chance.  I was doomed to be a sobbing, ugly crying mess, before long, and I was right.  I was – and rightly so.

1511490_10153913529365411_953168089_nThe world is missing a very special person right now and I think many lives have been changed forever with her passing.  That said? Many lives have also been changed forever with her having been part of their lives – and I’m honoured to say, that I’m one of those people.  For a little’un, she’s left ginormous footprints on my heart and I’ll hold her memory dear forever – maybe some day we’ll all get together and tell little Miss Avery how ace (translation: cray cray) and full of love her grandma Cindy was.

397960_10151198854695411_185557443_nRest sweet, dear Cindy and I hope you’re dancing in heaven with the angels among the stars and we’ll all keep dancin’ down here, blooming where we are planted.

IMG_5605

To the lady in the line…

Have you ever regretted *not* saying something?

Walking away from a situation and inwardly kicking yourself that you hesitated? Missed the moment? Wanted to have a time machine, rewind the last few minutes and get a do-over? Knowing *exactly* what you’d have said in that moment?

It happened to me, yesterday.

I think part of my hesitation was simply just shock and disbelief.  I just couldn’t quite wrap my brain around what was being said behind me in the Just Between Friends South Houston check out line.

Maybe some of you will relate? Maybe some of you will tell me that it’s a perfectly normal thought  process – and maybe some of you will tell me to wind my neck in and give over.  However, this set my blood boiling yesterday and I woke up this morning feeling no better.

I’m not typically a violent person.

OK, so I beat the ever living shit out of a fella when he hit my sister a decade and a half ago, but I’m not a naturally aggressive person.

But let me tell you about that time I fought every urge to punch a pregnant lady.

I missed an opportunity.

Not to punch her, so much as an opportunity to advocate, an opportunity to defend and an opportunity to educate – and for that, I feel a little guilty and a LOT disappointed in myself.

Let me explain.  I went to JBF yesterday, Col afforded me a couple hours toddler-free to do some shopping.  We’ve had three babies born in our circle in the last couple months, and there’s a couple still to come before the year is out.  While I was flicking through the rails of clothing, I bumped in to a lady a couple times.  We made small talk, she was telling me about just how much money she’d made in her JBF consigning, just how much she was spending on her soon-to-be-born little girl, who was being welcomed into the world by her two older brothers.

Me, being the enabler that I am, nodded and made the appropriate ‘think of all the money you’re saving in the long run’ noises of approval, as she held up some items for a second opinion.  Being more of an over-sharer than myself aside (and that’s really saying something) she seemed a pretty nice lady.

Fast forward to, what felt like, three days later.  JBF is great, don’t get me wrong.  It is.  But spending an eternity in a long, slow-moving line (because everyone is buying trolleys full of cheap kids clothes) is really what does me in.

I hear someone, who I later turn to glare at, and discover that it’s the one and the same lady that I’d chit-chatted to in the aisles of the clothing insanity.

She’s telling anyone who’ll listen (and a rather red-faced, heavily pregnant mother next to her – who clearly wants the ground to swallow her up for being a part of this conversation) that she’s pregnant with her first girl.  She fell pregnant ten years ago with her son and was disappointed that he wasn’t a girl.  When she fell pregnant with her second son, three years ago, she was even MORE disappointed that HE wasn’t a girl and how horribly difficult it is to live for SO LONG without having the baby girl she’s always dreamed of.  How overwhelming her disappointment has been and how at long last she’s finally thrilled to be pregnant.

Finally thrilled to be pregnant? After two healthy pregnancies and two, what I’m sure are gorgeous children.  She’s FINALLY thrilled to be pregnant, because she’s having a girl?

“Lady, are you fucking kidding me?”

I wanted to exclaim.

But, I, stupidly, bit my tongue.

“I’m surprised you didn’t say anything”, I was told three times yesterday.

Don’t rock the boat, I told myself.  Don’t get kicked out of a baby sale, I told myself.  You’ll burst in to tears and be unable to keep your shit together, I told myself.  Maybe you’re hearing her wrong, I told myself – and I listed any number of reasons NOT to confront this trumpet blasting in my ear.

On one hand? Society has conditioned us to stay quiet.

On the other? I’ve allowed myself to be conditioned.

And I stayed quiet.

I should have spoken up.

I should have advocated.

I wanted to grab this heavily pregnant, insensitive, rude and shallow woman and shake her….Ok, fine.  In the moment I wanted to punch her in her stupid face.  But I’d have settled for shaking and tell her what an amazing, precious gift she’s been given – TWICE so far and, God willing, a third time too.  Don’t be ungrateful.  Every child is a gift, a miracle.

I wanted to tell her that 1 in 8 people suffer from infertility and would sell their own mothers to be able to conceive even ONE healthy baby, and here her ungrateful self is bitching to a line full of mothers, many of whom, like me, have been in the position of wanting a child more than anything in the world and being unable to conceive.

I wanted to educate her, tell her, that some people have spent those ten years she was whining over not having a girl, those ten long, painful years, praying to have a child – regardless of gender.  Some people have spent those ten years having miscarriage after miscarriage, procedure after procedure and month after month of getting their period, when the only thing in the world they want is for there to be two lines on the Goddamned stick and she just wants a pink stick?

I wanted to pull up the fertility page, right here on my blog and let her read REAL stories, from REAL people about their struggles to get what she’s been gifted and has absolutely no concept of the value of.

But I didn’t.

I stayed quiet.

Instead? I sat in the car and fumed.

Cried tears of frustration, anger, disappointment in myself for a missed opportunity.

Tears for the me of only three short years ago, a month or so to the day, when I walked in to my fertility doctors office and underwent a procedure which, mercifully, resulted in the conception of my little ‘bubble’.  The bubble who grew into my loving, funny, stubborn, rambunctious, curious, little toddler, who is currently trying to help me type this blog post, while hitting keys and announcing what letter it is each time, repeated louder and louder each time, until I acknowledge that that is, in fact, ‘S’.

I wanted to tell her, that even when you do get pregnant after struggling with infertility, that it’s not the end – and I don’t just mean secondary infertility.  I mean, that for me, personally, and many others, if you do, eventually, GET pregnant, almost every day is a constant battle with fear and stress.  I spent my entire pregnancy worried, terrified that I was going to lose that which I’d tried and fought so hard to get in the first place.

Every morning I woke up, expecting it to be a dream, or some cruel joke.  I took pregnancy tests every day for weeks – even after my first scan – just to be sure they weren’t wrong.

Every time I went to the bathroom, I expected blood.

Later in my pregnancy, if bubble didn’t move for a little while, I was freaking out and hitting the ice cold drinks and something filled with sugar to make him move so I was reassured that he was ok.

I did everything I could to ensure that I had a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby – including missing out on seeing Maroon 5 at the Houston Rodeo! (Heaven forbade!!)

I’ve cried, uncontrollable tears of relief, gratefulness and joy at each of the RESOLVE Walk’s of Hope I’ve been to since conceiving Lewis.  I’ve also cried tears of sorrow, pain and hope for those who haven’t yet been as lucky as I have, to reach their dreams.  I cried for my struggle and the struggles of any number of women

I think it’s safe to say that this was a steep learning curve for me, and I’d like to think that if there IS a next time, I won’t hold my tongue.  I won’t allow myself to convince myself that it’s OK to let things like that slide.  I won’t let the fact that I may burst out crying at someone, prevent me for bringing to attention how inappropriate and hurtful her comments were.

A friend told me last night that you can’t change the world and you can’t cure stupid.

I’m not sure I buy that.


The world will never change, if everyone and everything stays the same.

Maybe my speaking up would have had no effect whatsoever, maybe she’d have laughed me off and told me I was ridiculous, maybe she’s beyond help.  But maybe? Just maybe I could have been the change.  Or maybe? Even just one of ladies standing around her, (enduring her tales of woe about how she couldn’t have afforded a girl ten years ago, but how she’s in a MUCH better financial position now so she could afford every cute dress she’ll ever want or need) would have taken comfort in my words, and knew that they weren’t alone in thinking that this insensitive mare was OK in saying what she said.


She wasn’t.

Don’t bite your tongue.

Don’t stay quiet.

Be the change.

An emotional RESOLVE Walk of Hope 2016 with my darling son.

An emotional RESOLVE Walk of Hope 2016 with my darling son.

For more information on infertility, please check out this amazing charity, RESOLVE.

Learning to love my plus-sized self.

12642992_10156387774010411_2556516841211561801_nGrab a cuppa, this is a long’un.

Before I start? Let me get a couple of things out of the way, cause I’ve been saying some variation of these points, a lot, since I shared the photos:

1.  You see more at the beach, in a nightclub, or after 11am at your local Walmart.  If you’re offended by these pictures, or think I should be ashamed of myself? Bite me.
2. Before you comment and call me brave, or bold, or daring.  Please take a moment to consider where that comes from inside you, am I brave cause I’m a fat chick showing some skin? Am I brave cause I’m showing a vulnerable and exposed side of myself with the entire internet? Am I brave cause we aren’t used to seeing women empowering themselves? WHY is it that you think I’m brave?
3. No, I didn’t have these pictures taken as a gift to my husband, that was an added perk.  I had them taken as a gift to myself.  I’ve spent way too long feeling like crap about myself and wanted to do something to feel beautiful for a change.

Let me explain;
I typically spend most of my days chasing around an energetic, almost two year old boy.  A boy, who, for the record? Doesn’t like having his hands dirty, so will wipe his Nutella, cheese puff, or paint covered fingers on my clothes if I’m not careful.
And? While I am trying to get into running, I don’t run.  So anything other than flats on my fallen-arched flat feet? You can forget about it.  Chasing a toddler in anything other than my comfy gel-soled Asics, sounds like the seventh circle of hell to my chubby-legged and unfit self.

I live in denim capris, some kind of graphic T-shirt and flip flops.

A friend of mine recently described me as dressing like a college kid.

He wasn’t wrong.

He didn’t stop there, he went on to say that almost my entire wardrobe needs thrown out.  “Maybe keep some stuff for when you go hiking” (no, really, he does know me, I swear!) “but the rest needs to go”.

Again, he wasn’t wrong.

I’d love to say that being a stay at home mum (SAHM) is the reason to blame for my college “style” wardrobe.  Alas, I cannot.  My poor relationship with clothing and fashion began much, much, earlier than I’d care to admit.  I’ve always been overweight, fat, obese, having always had a waist much smaller than my hips and bum, I have what you’d politely refer to as a classic “hourglass” shape, but I never learned to dress for my shape, love my curves, or, without sounding too pathetic, like myself, in spite of my size.

Instead, I learned to dislike, often hate, the reflection I saw in the windows of shops and the mirror.  It wasn’t the same as the images I saw in magazines, on TV, in shop windows.  It was different.  The only time I saw people who looked in anyway like me, was for Weight Watchers adverts in January when people had over indulged over Christmas.

Hot damn girl!

Don’t draw attention to yourself!

I learned to abhor shopping.  No kidding – I mean panic attacks, palpitations and hysterical breakdowns at the mere idea of needing new clothes.    At my smallest I was a 12-14 on top (UK) but on the bottom I never got below a 20.  I was grossly out of proportion.  My narrow waist meant you could always see my knickers when I sat down in jeans or trousers cause I always needed bigger sizes to accommodate my rotund arse.  I lost patience at myself when I could find anything to wear, I’d cry angry tears in dressing rooms wondering why things didn’t look, on me, like they looked on the stick thin models standing in the windows as I walked in the door.

I learned to wear the same half-dozen outfits in rotation (I’m pretty much still wearing the same outfits, decades on), never be “brave” or “daring”, only have “nice” clothes, look “pretty” for special occasions.  If I found something that fit, and looked passable, I’d buy one in every colour and call it good.  Shoes (ok, flip flops) too.

I learned to be ashamed of my body.  To never dare look at bikinis, anything knee length or higher, anything low cut, bright or bold patterned either, for that matter.  Not only that? But you can’t shop at “normal” shops, you have to go to “plus” shops, for “bigger girls”, where the selection is crap, the prices are higher and you almost wonder aloud as to why companies can’t just make the same damn clothes they make for skinny people, just, y’know, bigger?

Dark colours flatter, don’t wear anything that shows your flab or calls attention to your “not normal” shape.

Right? That’s what “they” say.

As a result? I learned to hate and hide my body.  Black dress trousers, then jeans, paired with “cute” graphic tshirts conveying my love for the TMNTs, or the Care Bears, paired with oversized hoodies (at least in Ireland) that covered as much of my shameful plus sized figure as I could manage.

Then you think all your prayers will be answered if you could just lose a bit of weight.  You go on a diet.  You work out.  You drop thirty or fifty pounds, only to realize that your shape? Is still a Goddamned hourglass.  That the weight you so fervently tried to lose, is coming off your pinky finger, your ear lobes, your ankles…everywhere that ISN’T your fat arse, or thighs, or double chin, or bingo wings, or wherever else you’d spent nights praying to God to take it from.  That unless you take a hacksaw to your hips (believe me, I even contemplated that a time or two) those bastarding hips aren’t gonna budge.  “Childbearing hips” they call them, and while they served me incredibly well during a blessed, easy and quick labour, they make clothes shopping painfully frustrating.

Then you find routine.  You get lazy.  Or, you have a baby, your body shape changes, but not in the ways you’ve dreamed about your whole life and you suddenly have the added dismay of a “mummy tummy”, cause life wasn’t unfair enough with your big hips, big arse and big thighs, I guess at least now a big tummy completes the set, and so you hide behind your baby for a couple years.  You justify it to yourself, saying “I’m a mum”, like that excuses you from taking a moment to think about what you put on to wear outside, in front of other people in the mornings.  Like that means you can’t justify carving out some extra cash to treat yourself to an outfit here and there, like it means you don’t deserve to feel girlie or pretty any more.  Like you’re resigned to sweats and hoodies forever, because you don’t have the time, the money, the energy or the wherewithal to go shopping and treat yourself to something that makes you feel human.

And here we are.

wm1I turned thirty-one this year and I still dress like a college kid.  I still wear jeans and flip flops, I still self-hate, am ashamed of and hide my body, I still lust over pictures in magazines wondering if there will ever come a time when I can walk in to a “normal” clothes shop and not end up with hot tears of frustration down my cheeks in the fitting room cause I just want to find something decent to wear out the door in the mornings.

Enter plus sized fashion bloggers.

Ok, one fashion blogger really.  Georgina Horne over at Fuller Figure, Fuller Bust.  I’ve had her on the periphery of my radar for a few years, but lately, she’s been ALL up in my ‘bidness’.  She’s a sassy, loud, occasionally rowdy lady, with large cleavage, a rockin’ waist and an ginormous heart.

She takes a genuine interest in real, every day people (seriously though, the first time she tweeted me back I was all fan-girlie) and she gives great advice (on any manner of things!)

Without realizing it, her “f*ck it” attitude kinda rubs off on you, and you suddenly find yourself believing that maybe you could look half as hot as she does in front of the camera, and suddenly you’re off out down the town, squishing your boobs in to a corset named after an Addams Family character and booking yourself a boudoir photoshoot.

What possessed me?

I’ve toyed and flirted with the idea for years now.

Around my wedding, I even momentarily SERIOUSLY considered the idea, and at 35lbs lighter than where I am right now, and feeling a little more self confident, it probably would have been a more “sensible” time to act.  But I shelved the idea and buried it under ALL of my jeans and hoodies.

My “everyday” photographer, liked a picture on Maribella Portraits Facebook page that appeared on my Facebook feed and I liked it.

I liked it a lot.

So much so, that I went back the next day and stared at it.  And the day after that, too.
It was a picture Maria had taken at dusk in downtown Houston of some beautiful curvy women.  The more I dug into her page, the more I discovered she was keen to empower women, make them feel strong and show to them their beauty – both inside and out.  Her work, her page, her mantra spoke to me.

houston photographerI booked a consultation, had a chat with Maria about what we both expected from the shoot, pencilled it in and hit up Pinterest for inspiration before hitting the shops to frantically search for pieces of clothing to wear to my shoot.

After WEEKS, yes, weeks of searching, I finally had my outfits.  My corsets, sports shirts and underwear for boudoir, a couple of dresses and an outfit or two for Downtown glamour, jewellery, hot rollers, props and heels.  I was good to go.

On the morning of the shoot I was overcome with nervous excitement.  More nerves to be honest, but those quickly dissipated as Maria and my friend Sandra kept telling me I was doing great and looked hot.  They stole my glasses so I couldn’t see my reflection (that’s not why, but it worked) and although at certain points I felt somewhat unnatural and a little ridiculous, I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of getting dolled up and, I guess, almost being someone else for the morning.

Maria was excited by the results, her original two-week turn around, became only days, as she was inspired by the shots she had on-film.  I, on the other hand, felt sick to my stomach.  What if the pictures didn’t come out good? What if they weren’t what I had expected? What if, what if, what if.

There was even a moment of “Dear Lord, what have I done?” Was I absolutely crazy to think that my chubby self could look as good as the other plus size women I’d seen in similar photo shoots?

And then Maria showed me my film.

1151_10156373441335411_5141502942695401336_nThe same friend I mentioned above (who told me to dump my wardrobe) asked me if I learned anything from this experience, and I guess my answer to him, is yes.  I learned a lot.  I learned a lot about myself.  I learned a lot about other people and I learned that you don’t need grand changes to make yourself feel pretty or confident.  Even the smallest of changes, mentally, more so than physically, can make a huge difference to your every day life.  My friend Amber has asked me three times this month if I’ve lost weight, I haven’t.  Maybe it’s because I feel even just a little more comfortable in my own skin.  Maybe it’s because, as she says, “you’re carrying yourself differently”, or maybe it’s because I’ve realized that being fat, isn’t the end of the world.  There are people out there with real, honest to goodness problems and maybe I just need to get over myself a little.
untitled-213Houston friends, I know some of you have said in passing that you would love to do something like this, quit thinking, here’s her website, call or Facebook Maria, now. 
Non-Houston friends? Research photographers in your area.  Interview with them, study their work.  Find someone who ‘gets’ you, whose vision you love.

Don’t delay – everyone should feel beautiful, even just for one day!

Since my photo-shoot with Maria, I’ve worn all the clothes I bought for it.  I’ve even worn two out of three pairs of heels I got too – wonders never cease.

I’ve tried to take a little more care in my appearance.  I’ve continued to shop for clothes – not like a woman possessed – but I’ll saunter in to a clothes shop and casually  browse, which is something I never did before.  I don’t seem to have the same core-melting fear about shopping that I had before.

Most of all? I’ve tried to give myself a bit of a break.

 houston curvy girl glamourI’ve already stated, that I’m fully aware I’m plus-sized, over weight, obese, chubby, fat, whatever label you’d like to stick on me.  I’m an unhealthy weight, I’m unhappy with my size, it’s something I’ve been working on, and will work on, for a long time.

There’s no quick fix.

That said?

Maybe who I am right now? Isn’t quite so bad after all.

IMG_1110Maybe? Instead of frantically trying to change who I am every day and being soul destroyed that I haven’t found a magic cure for being fat yet, maybe I should more frantically try to find a way to like myself a little more?

As is.

Maybe? Being fat isn’t the worst thing in the world.  I’m not a criminal, or a murderer, I don’t kick babies, or burn animals (nor do I share those God-awful burned animal photos on Facebook).  Being fat doesn’t make me a terrible person.  It doesn’t make me “less than” because I’m bigger, because I’m different.

A friend described me as being “not societies definition of beautiful”, who said society was right?
Can’t we all just be beautiful?
untitled-1bw84-2“I am not in this world to live up to your expectations, and you are not in this world to live up to mine”

[Breastfeeding Buddies] Kari and Delaney

Meet Kari (her new blog, ‘Margarita in Pill form’ can be found here), I’ve known her from a distance for the last couple of years, through Live Journal and our mutual friend, Amber, but for the last 18 months or so, we’ve gotten to know each other a little better, and she’s not half bad at all 😉

You’ll often hear the term, ‘Breast is best’, some lactivists will go so far as to say that a woman really shouldn’t do anything other than breast feed – I am not one such woman – I firmly fall in to the ‘if it works, great, if it doesn’t, there’s formula’ camp.  Having gone through a rather traumatizing breast feeding journey, I’m well aware that it’s not something that works for everyone, as Kari discovered as she found that breastfeeding isn’t as easy as we are often led to believe.  Here’s her story:

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Disclaimer:  Breastfeeding is an awesome way to feed your child.  If you can and have the desire, that is awesome.  This is just my personal experience.

Though growing up I have always wanted to be a mom, I have not always had the desire to breastfeed my children.  I was not breastfed.  Neither was my mother.  Neither my sister nor my sister-in-law breastfed my nieces and nephews.  It was not really something that was a big thing in our family.  Though intellectually I realize the ultimate purpose of female breasts, I have always had a sexualized view of them, so the thought of my child sucking on them for food was not appealing to me.
When I became seriously involved with my husband and knew that he was the man with which I would have children, he had a very different viewpoint of nursing.  He was convinced that since he was breastfed combined with the economic and health benefits of nursing, I should breastfeed our child.  What ultimately convinced me to nurse was learning that it would most likely make it easier to lose weight.  Seriously.  That’s why I tried it.  That is really the only reason I tried it.  I know; I’m selfish.
During my pregnancy I convinced myself that breastfeeding would be easy.  My friend Melanie had nursed all three of her boys and seemed to have it down pat.  She was a pro.  She was my inspiration.  When she came to work 12 weeks after having her third, she was almost at pre-baby weight.  Yes, awesome.  I was totally convinced this would be awesome.
Looking back, there are so many “shoulds” that go through my mind regarding my pregnancy and birth experience, but as always hindsight is 20/20, and as my postpartum group leader says, “Stop shoulding on yourself.”  I took a childbirth class but not a breastfeeding class.  I never stopped to prepare for the possibility that nursing wouldn’t work for me.  But that’s the hard part of accepting my ultimate decision.  Nursing DID work.  My daughter had no problem latching.  I had an abundant supply (I think).
The problem was that I never thought that I wouldn’t absolutely love everything about being a mother and nursing my child.  I never expected to hate the first two weeks of her life.  I never expected to feel so numb and detached and awful all the time.  I never expected that I would be so physically anxious worrying about when her next feeding was that I would not be able to sleep ever, at all.  Because what if I fell asleep, and she got hungry and no one could wake me up.  I never expected to feel dirty and smelly all the time.  I hated the smell of breast milk, especially on me, and no amount of showering would get rid of the smell.  While Similac is not a pleasing smell, at least it’s not coming out of me.  Just looking at my pump produced a panic response in me.  I hated pumping.  I was alone in the nursery in a rocking chair for at least 20-30 minutes every time I did it.  I couldn’t distract myself because my hands were occupied, and it hurt because I had set it on a higher setting hoping to get it over with sooner.  I wanted to take my Xanax so I could relax enough to sleep a little, but benzos and breastfeeding do not mix.  I went to a psychiatrist based on the suggestion of my postpartum support group who wrote me a script for Klonopin, but he stated I could only take it if I totally stopped breastfeeding.
On my daughter’s 4th day, I was attempting for what felt like the millionth time to take a nap while my mother watched her.  Per usual, I couldn’t fall asleep, but as I lay there a thought came to me.  I don’t have to do this.  I don’t have to breastfeed her.  And just like that, a huge weight lifted off of me. (Not that it made it any easier for me to sleep that day.  BTW, if one more person told me to sleep when the baby sleeps, I was going to hit someone.)  I went to tell my husband that I had decided to wean my daughter.  My that point and over the next few days I had pumped enough to give her two weeks of breast milk.  My husband’s response: “But you know breast milk is best for her, and formula is expensive.”  In my head I said, “So you breastfeed her,” but of course I didn’t say that out loud.  I honestly don’t remember what I said or what the steps were that transpired after that.  I know that my mom went to get some Similac for Supplementation, and I called my pediatrician to ask what formula they suggest should I totally wean her.  My mom then bought some of that as well.  I started giving her every other feeding as formula.  By doing that, she got breast milk for two weeks and had no problem switching to formula.
I felt guilty.  There was no physical reason I couldn’t breastfeed.  I had selfishly chosen not to.  I wouldn’t lose the baby weight as quickly, and I would spend more money than I had ever intended on feeding her because I was selfish and wanted to sleep.  I saw all the breastfeeding moms with their camaraderie and baby-friendly mission.  Their National Breastfeeding Month.  Their Occupy Breastfeeding pictures.
But I also saw the Fearless Formula Feeder, and the I Support You movement. Their “The best way to feed a baby is to make sure the baby is fed.”
I got sleep.  I knew at almost 12 months old, Melanie’s son was still waking up at least once a night to nurse.  By the time I went back to work when my daughter was 10 weeks old, she was no longer eating overnight.  The only reason she woke up is because her pacifier had fall out of her mouth.  Plug her back in; she goes back to sleep.
I still have my days when I feel like a horrible mother.  I am an intelligent person, and I know that the thinking, “Well I wasn’t breastfed, and I turned out fine,” is kind of specious.  I also know, though, that formula has come a long way in it’s ingredients and how it’s made.  And I know that nursing my daughter was not what was best for me which in turn means it was not what was best for her.  What’s best for her is having a mother that is getting enough rest to be present for her life. for her firsts, for her smiles.  My anxiety would not allow me to enjoy her, and as long as I was nursing, I wouldn’t sleep, and as long as I didn’t sleep, I would be one big ball of anxiety ALL THE TIME.
My daughter is 6 months old now.  She is the happiest, prettiest little girl.  While I still and always will struggle with anxiety and depression, and I know she will be an only child, I love her so so much.  Motherhood is absolutely nothing at all what I anticipated.  Nothing.  But I am adjusting with help and love.  And being able to make my own choice about how to feed my daughter was the best thing I could have done in that moment.
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