Making Me Happy: November 2016

November Reds

Here are a few things that are making me smile this month.

1. Discovering a new walking trail.

I love walking outdoors, especially where it is quiet and woodsy, and there are several awesome walking trails that I use regularly.  Recently though, I found a new one by chance that I had no idea existed! (Kind of shocking since we have lived in this area for eight years.) It was a lovely surprise, though, and I have been making up for lost time.

2. Gorgeous fall colors – still!

September and October are probably my two favorite months of the year, and we lucked out this year with mostly beautiful weather to get outside.  However, November is here and I am happy to say that although the leaves are swiftly disappearing from the trees, the weather is still seasonably crispy and there are beautiful reds, golds, and yellows to take in.  It is pretty cliche to go on about the weather this time of year, but with good reason.

3. A fun free printable.

I have been enjoying poking around Short and Sweets, which is where I found this pretty free printable.  I need this reminder constantly.  And it pretty much sums up my feelings on doing any kind of creative work.

Joy Thief

By the way, if you Google this quote, a number of great free images pop up.

4. Trick-or-treating with the kiddo.

Up until this year, the kiddo’s feelings toward Halloween would be best described as ‘meh.’ Like a lot of preschoolers, she just has not had much interest.  She was content to put on her costume and enjoy a few spoils from friends and family, but that was about it.  This year though, with a better understanding of the occasion and Kindergarten classmates, it was a different story. It was a lot of fun to watch her get decked out in her black cat mask and tail and be excited to visit the houses in our neighborhood.

5. This Rainbow Chicken Salad from Pinch of Yum.

Rainbow chicken salad

With some bread on the side, this delicious salad was our dinner twice last week.  Preparing the chicken and dressing ahead of time meant it came together really quickly, and the components are also great if you have kids who might like those things served separately (ahem).  Just delicious goodness. I will be making it in the future, repeatedly.

What is making you happy this month?

Some Encouragement for Hard Days

Tree Pose

Getting ready for a wedding this past weekend, a few old, familiar thoughts came up while I was figuring out what to wear.  Being someone who has struggled with body dissatisfaction in the past (to put it mildly), events like weddings sometimes stir up some old issues.  People tend to dress up and look their best, and there are lots of opportunities for comparison.

These days, I am pretty comfortable in the knowledge that no matter what I weigh, I am fine exactly the way I am. I try to make sure I have clothes that fit and that I am comfortable in, and hopefully that I love, for every occasion. It is very important to me that my daughter can learn to love and respect her body and reject the diet and scarcity narrative of our culture.  So I do my best to walk the talk.

However, since we are living smack dab in the middle of this culture that encourages us to continually shrink (often under the guise of optimal health), it can be hard to be comfortable taking up space. And I have the occasional bad day.

Frankly, this is aggravating, because when I have other things to do and life to live while I am lucky enough to have it, I would really prefer not to be worried about how large I look in a fun dress, and to not waste time comparing myself to others when I could just be enjoying their company.

As I was thinking about this today, I decided to sum up some of the main ways I fight back against these negative thought processes.

I do something physical that encourages body awareness and gentleness.  I love yoga for this reason.  It calms the body and mind, and it is hard to be angry with your body when you are taking such good care of it. Any kind of joyful movement or even deep breathing are great for this.

I remember the research.  Some truths:  Weight is generally linked with health in a much less straightforward way than we tend to believe. The size of your body is not indicative of how you live, what you eat, or what kind of person you are. Fat is not a moral failing.  For more on this, the Health at Every Size movement is a great place to start.  See below for a few extra resources!

I remember that body dissatisfaction is a very slippery slope.  I am a fairly average size and weight that I have maintained for years.  In years of yo-yo dieting in my teens and early twenties, I have been much larger and much smaller.  I know from experience that no matter how low the number on the scale, you will always feel like it could and should be lower.  If you happen to reach a goal weight, you will live in fear of it creeping back up. The work is never done.  And we do not need to be fixed.

I do something that I enjoy and am good at. I can write. I can spend time with my daughter. I can master a difficult yoga pose, organize large events, paint a picture, take nice photos, cook a delicious meal and craft two kissing fishes out of cupcakes (more on that later).  There is so much we are each capable of, and doing something I love reminds me there is much more to us than our sizes and shapes. Plus, it never hurts to get out of your own head for a bit.

Be kind to yourself.  There are not certain conditions that have to be met first.  You deserve it right now!

There are lots of great resources that deal with the science around weight and health and the social and cultural influences on both.  Here are two great books to start with that are thorough but very readable:

Health at Every Size by Linda Bacon, PhD

The Diet Myth by Paul Campos (formerly The Obesity Myth, which is the edition I have)

And a recent favorite of mine:

Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls by Jes Baker. It is a well-researched manifesto of self-love and body acceptance.

 

Checking Off the Summer Bucket List: 2016

strawberries

Fall is here! It’s my favorite season, but lately I’m in a stretch of time where it feels like things are moving way too quickly.  Two weeks ago, the kiddo finished up preschool, and this week she is a full-fledged Kindergartener! The passing of time feels surreal.

So, June this year marked the return of the summer bucket list. I am often aware of the push and pull in wanting to take things slowly and one at a time. Yet, if I don’t put some thought and planning into what I would like to do, it can feel like the things that would be nice to do get pushed to the wayside in the momentum of summer. Like last year, I drew up a quick list of a few things I would like to see happen, made some plans in advance where possible, and crossed my fingers.

Here are 25 fun things that happened that were on our summer bucket list (and a few that weren’t!):

  1. I finally got the hang of grilling pizza. (Keys to success: High heat, having ingredients and supplies at the ready, and making personal-sized pizzas.)
  2. We got (and used!) lots of super-fresh veggies and fruit from Lester’s.
  3. Speaking of the farm, the kiddo and I visited and fed the goats, ponies, llamas, cows and bunnies several times.
  4. Homemade popsicles.  (Include these crazy delicious peach melba popsicles.)
  5. Several ice cream cones were eaten.
  6. Playing at the park.
  7. I read some good novels.
  8. Some of this reading happened outside in the hammock! The kiddo loved doing this, too.
  9. Early on, we did the Lighthouse Picnic in Ferryland.
  10. We visited some fun restaurants (including including the Bonavista Social Club).
  11. We had several meals and snacks on our back deck.
  12. Grilled shrimp tacos. Yes.
  13. A lovely trip out of town to Trinity. (Worth it just for the homemade s’mores at Aunt Sarah’s Chocolate. Swoon.)
  14. The summer was punctuated with some out-of-town house guests, which was nice.
  15. We visited Middle Cove Beach, otherwise known as the Gray Sand Beach with Rocks in our household. (Bonus: Included a whale sighting.)
  16. Summer Carnival at the kiddo’s preschool. She tried her hand at some carnival games and had a blast.
  17. I walked a few of my favorite trails.
  18. Taking a picnic to the park.  We did this several times.
  19. Yoga in the backyard. (In the interest of being real, this happened one time. But the kiddo and I enjoyed having our bare feet on our mats and grass in the warm sun).
  20. A weekend trip with one of my best friends.
  21. Finally taking the kiddo berry picking.  This has been something I’ve been wanting to do for a few years and finally managed it. I was glad to catch the strawberry u-pick while it was open, which was only about a week! It was one of those kid outings that could go either way, but she had a blast hunting through strawberry bushes, the strawberries were warm and delicious, and it was marvelous.
  22. We took the kiddo for her first theater movie. (When asked what her favorite part of the movie was, she said the mini M&Ms.)
  23. T-ball and catch in the backyard. I have my own glove I am breaking in (we are a baseball-loving family) and after about a 30-year break, I discovered I still love catch!
  24. After several months of saying we should really try it out, we finally visited the waterShed Coffee Shop in Petty Harbour.
  25. Driveway art with sidewalk chalk.
Artsy and delicious dessert at the Bonavista Social Club.
Artsy and delicious dessert at the Bonavista Social Club.

The summer felt slow and relaxing, and yet it was also filled with fun things we wanted to do.  I really love how having a rough bucket list seems to make the summer feel more full.  It also meant that it was punctuated with smaller, fun things to look forward to, and doing some tourist-at-home outings made it feel special.  (Plus for me, lists = happiness.)

I’m looking forward to working through my fall bucket list.  What would be on yours?

 

Thinking About Time + Chalkboard Art

This one should really be tattooed on my forehead. But the chalkboard will do for now.
This one should really be tattooed on my forehead. But the chalkboard will do for now.

As my friend Sherrie mentioned in a recent post, when care of a small child is your full-time job, it is taunting the universe a bit to make any declaration as to how you will regularly spend your time. Particularly in regards to taking specific actions at specific times.

Such as making a statement, if only to myself, that I am going to try and post weekly on the blog. This was my intention when I first started out in January. I was able to keep up with this for a while, and I have more ideas for posts than I know what to do with. However, as any parent knows, a change in circumstances (as in the loss of naps in my case – RIP) means you need to work a little differently to work in what’s important to you. It is possible, it just requires some imagination and tweaking. Until there is finite time to regularly devote to writing, I will just have to squeeze it in where possible! I would much rather post less often than I would like than give up in frustration because I have set a standard I am not able to meet.

Speaking of tweaks, I intend to spend some time rethinking and sharpening the direction I would like the blog to go in. (Ahem. As time permits, of course. ) Over the next little while, I am going to continue to post what interests me and see what comes of that.

Recently I have been having a little fun with a chalkboard we put up in our kitchen/main hallway area.

Have Courage and Be Kind

It turns out that it not only brightens up the area quite a bit, but it’s nice to encounter a positive message each time I walk by. And it’s a reason for me to regularly play with coloured chalk and be creative in tiny chunks. Chalkboard art for the win!

Happy Friday, everyone!

5 Reasons I Love Using Timers

timers

Productivity and goal-setting are popular topics these days, with many of us trying to sort out the best ways to effectively accomplish what we need to do each day while squeezing in time for the fun-to-dos as well. There are endless sources of information out there in the forms of websites, blogs, apps, books, podcasts and many others that focus on how to make the best possible use of your time.

Generally, I tend to be fairly organized and goal-oriented, so my problem is not coming up with a plan of action or things that I want to accomplish. However, I often have trouble with focus. I know there is only so much time to spend in a day on certain tasks, like writing, without them crowding into other areas I am responsible for. And like many parents of small children, I am subject to often unpredictable pockets of time. I am grateful for the nap, for example, but how long will it last? (I learned long ago not to rely on what normally happens, as that will be the one day the kiddo decides to change things up.)

As a result, when I do have time to sit down and read, write, meal plan, or whatever, I find myself thinking about all the other things I could be doing, even when I’ve decided beforehand that this time will be for a certain task. Or worse, I start my task, but then go down a rabbit hole of distractions around the house or online.

To combat this, on almost a daily basis I use one of my favorite tools: a simple timer. Here’s why I love them.

1. Timers help keep goals spaced into manageable chunks.

To state the obvious, setting aside a small amount of time to dedicate to something you want to accomplish will help prevent being overwhelmed. You only need to spend the allotted time on it, and then you are done.

In her book Happier at Home and on her blog, Gretchen Rubin talks about the power of ‘suffering’ for 15 minutes. That is, when a task is daunting and overwhelming (Rubin uses the example of wrangling her large collection of digital photos), devoting 15 minutes to it daily until it is finished is an effective way to deal with it. The idea is that you can stand anything, no matter how annoying, for just 15 minutes a day (or even every couple of days). It may take time, but slowly chipping away at small chunks can accomplish a great deal over the long-term.

I have used this idea several times now, including to work on organizing my own digital photos. It is great for tasks that technically don’t need to be done (there will not be dire consequences for you or your family if you don’t eventually organize your photos), because they are likely never even to get started. Starting a timer for 15 minutes, and keeping to the definitive start and end points, helps make space to complete goals that can be overwhelming into tiny chunks that are doable. On the other hand…

2. Timers can work as a kick-starter for things I have trouble getting the motivation to do.

If I want to work on a piece of writing but just can’t seem to get started, or am struggling with an idea, I will set a timer for 5 or 10 minutes and just start in. Usually, this helps me focus in and not think about all the reasons I am having trouble with it. This is different from the point above in that my goal is to get a little momentum and keep going once the time is up. Sometimes, this helps me break through the apathy and keep on writing. But if not, at least something has been started!

3. Timers reinforce how much can be done in a very short amount of time.

15, 10 or even 5 minutes may not seem like a lot of time, but we tend to overestimate how much time it takes to do a dreaded or annoying task. I tend to put off certain chores like changing the bed sheets or emptying the dishwasher because I don’t like doing them. But if I set a timer for 5 minutes and complete a task like this, it becomes obvious very quickly how little time it takes. (The dishwasher can often be unloaded in as little as three minutes.) I’m far more likely to just do these things when they need to be done because I’m aware of how little time they will actually eat up.

As an aside to this, you can use a stopwatch (most smart phones have this feature now as well) to time certain tasks you dislike. You might discover that they take far less time than you think they do.

4. Timers help keep my least favorite, ongoing tasks to a minimum.

Unlike emptying the dishwasher, some tasks can take an infinite amount of time if we let them. I do not want to spend large chunks of my day cleaning or tidying beyond the necessary. Especially when, in the case of things like picking up toys, things will get messy again pretty quickly. At the same time, clutter and mess tend to drive me nuts.

If I want to pick up and tidy a bit at the end of the day or any other time, I will often set a timer for 5-10 minutes and just go at it. (The kiddo loves setting timers, too.) Whether you attack the clutter or go slowly and methodically, your space will often look very different after even 5 minutes of picking up. And then you can stop. There will always be more you could do. But setting a timer will help things stay relatively manageable without having to feel like you are spending half your life cleaning.

5. Using a timer keeps my overactive brain in check.

If I set a timer for 10 or 15 minutes or even longer, I know I have a finite amount of time to use. Writing a blog post or working on other writing projects, brainstorming ideas, or even working on a household chore can really get me thinking about other things that need to be done or all the ideas I have, and before I know it I am overwhelmed. Setting a timer reminds me that right now, the task at hand is all I have to think about, and generally this helps me feel calmer.

What is your favorite way to manage your time?

4 Things Making Me Happy Right Now

Hello Kitty also took in all the sights.
Hello Kitty also took in all the sights.

I hope everyone out there is enjoying the summer months (although lately for us, summer has more of an early-October feel some days. At least I can generally get away with wearing a hoodie and not something heavier!). I am working playing away at my summer bucket list and enjoying breaking out of our usual routine a bit. In keeping with that, here are a few things that are making me happy at the moment.

1. Road Tripping

Living on an island, it is often pretty time-consuming to get anywhere outside the province quickly unless you are going to fly, and that’s generally what we do. So it was lovely to get an opportunity recently to spend some time in Ontario, and take a detour through the northern United States and a few other provinces before heading home. The kiddo was a great sport as at three, she is now old enough to mostly appreciate seeing different sights (punctuated with frequent stops, snacks, chances to run around and the odd episode of Bubble Guppies) and she thought it was awesome to have taken a plane, a train, a subway, a car and a ferry all in one trip. And we enjoyed crossing a few destinations off our bucket list (hello Baseball Hall of Fame), trying some fantastic restaurants, and finding some places we knew little about beforehand but would love to return to. (Like this one!)

2. Some New Mugs to Admire

Nope, this post is not sponsored by Starbucks. But I have to admit that although I’m usually adverse to picking up more stuff to have around the house, I do have a thing for mugs. In Florida a few months back I picked up one of the new You Are Here series, and I loved the colorful and whimsical design. We had a fantastic time on that trip and I’m reminded of that whenever I use the mug, which is often.

On our recent trip I picked up a few more. I love mugs as souvenirs anyway regardless of brand, since they are functional, often beautiful, and you can relive a memory from a trip while sipping your morning coffee. New York might be my favorite so far.

3. Getting Up Early

This is a repeat from last time, but it is still at the top of my list. If I have to choose between getting enough sleep and getting up earlier than the rest of my household, I will always usually choose enough sleep. (Lack of sleep=cranky mom.) But that is why getting to bed on time is a priority. Second in awesomeness to enough sleep is getting some quiet time and the opportunity to plan my day a bit. Plus, as cliché as it might be, watching the sun come up and enjoying the stillness cannot be beat.

4. Reading Some Fun Fiction

I’ve been reading a ton of non-fiction the past few years, and recently have been trying to pack in a little more fiction, both for inspirational and relaxation purposes and to get out of my own head a little bit (it’s crowded in there!). Since titles like The Book Thief and Adult Onset have been on the list, it was nice recently to stumble upon some lighter-read novels, namely the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich. These are a lot of fun and are the type of books you can read through in an afternoon.

What is making you happy this summer?

Apple Sauce Four Ways

Apple Sauce 4 Ways!

Apple sauce, for me, falls into a food category where depending on your time, energy, interests and values, it is debatable whether or not it is worth making at home. Sure, purchasing the ingredients and making it from scratch may be cost effective sometimes, and you may feel some pride in knowing that you made it yourself, but you may also want to invest your time and energy elsewhere. There are many brands available now that feature just pureed apples and other fruit, and nothing else. Personally, I would usually prefer to spend the energy assembling, preparing and cleaning up various ingredients and appliances to make something I feel will be of better quality if I make it myself.

Having said all that, there are also lots of reasons homemade apple sauce comes in handy. We tend to purchase apples in bulk, and it is an easy way to use up those that are getting past their prime. If you like the convenience of store-bought apple sauce but dislike going through so much packaging in the form of pots and pouches, making your own might be worth the time. And finally, making your own allows you to put your personal spin on it, which is the primary reason I like to make anything.

Whatever your reasons are, if you are inclined to try it for yourself, it could not be easier: peel apples and cut into chunks, add whatever flavors you like, add water, simmer and puree. Here are a few variations that are popular at our house.

peeled_apples

Basic Apple Cinnamon

Peel five apples of your favorite type (I like Royal Gala), core and chop into large chunks. Add to a medium sauce pan along with one cinnamon stick and a couple of splashes of water (about 1/4 a cup). Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook for about 10 minutes. The apples are ready when they are soft enough to be speared with a fork.

Remove cinnamon stick. Transfer the cooled apples to a blender or food processor and puree to your desired consistency. If you like chunkier apple sauce, you could also pulse the mixture with an immersion blender or simply mash with a fork or potato masher.

This recipe yields about 1 and 1/2 to 2 cups of sauce.

Apple Prune

Okay, so this one might not sound like the most appealing option. But I tend to think that prunes get a bit of a bad rep, as they are delicious in cakes in other baked goods, and they add a delicious sour tang to this apple sauce. And well…maybe you’re interested in getting some into your toddler or preschooler. :)

Using the above method for basic apple sauce, add about 20 dried pitted prunes to the sauce pan along with the apples and about 1/2 a cup of water. Simmer until the apples are soft and the prunes have plumped up, about 10 minutes. Let cool and puree using preferred method.

Note: It is a good idea to remove the cooked prunes and lightly mash with a fork before pureeing to ensure there are no residual pits still lurking inside.

Apple Cherry

Using the basic method, add about two cups of fresh or frozen cherries to the sauce pan with a 1/4 cup water. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes, covered, until the fruit is softened (if using frozen cherries, this might take a few extra minutes. Let cool and puree using preferred method.

This version is particularly good with meat like pork or simply mixed with some plain Greek yogurt.

Apple Peach

Using the basic method, add about a cup of fresh or frozen sliced peaches (peeled) to the sauce pan with a 1/4 cup water. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes, covered, until the fruit is softened (if using frozen peaches, this might take a few extra minutes. Let cool and puree using preferred method.

apple_sauce_pot

Notes:

  • As per usual, ingredient amounts are subject to your own preferences and can easily be tweaked.
  • Amounts of water will vary, as the apples and other fruit will release a lot of their own as they cook. It is best to start with a small amount of water, keep an eye on the fruit for a few minutes, and add more water if the mixture looks too dry. Especially with frozen fruit, you will likely find in most cases there is more than enough water being released and you do not need to add more.
  • If the fruit has finished cooking and you are concerned about the amount of water, drain some before pureeing.
  • I like smoother apple sauce , so I tend to puree it in a regular blender. However, an immersion blender works well right in the pot and will result in less cleanup.
  • Store apple sauce in a Mason jar or airtight container in the refrigerator up to a week.
  • Apple sauce also freezes very well. Place in a freezer-safe container and when ready to use, thaw overnight in the refrigerator.  Alternatively, pour into ice cube trays and freeze for several hours, then pop out the cubes and store in a freezer-safe bag or container.  The small cubes of apple sauce can be thawed as needed in the microwave for about 30 seconds at a time.

A Summer Bucket List for 2015

tlb

In contemplating summer lately, I’ve been hoping to be a little more intentional about our activities over the next couple of months. Since my daughter is not in school yet, and the weather is still relatively chilly in these parts, our summer sometimes tends to blend into the rest of the year, and before I know it a good chunk of it has slipped by.

Last summer I created a small ‘bucket list’ of fun activities I’d like to see happen over the season, and it served as a reminder to try and include those things. It was fun both to anticipate them and see them checked off the list. This year I would also like to tackle a few of the items that I didn’t get to last year (I’m looking at you, grilled pizza).

We have some travel plans and visitors coming that will build in a little fun automatically, and below are a few other things that would be nice to do. Some are extensions of pastimes we already have and are easy to incorporate, while a few will require a bit of planning.

  • Visit the Farmer’s Market in our city at least once.
  • Take better advantage of local produce (in keeping with the first point!). At least twice, visit one of our great local farms when I need fresh veggies, rather than the supermarket.
  • Try out the new splash pad at one of our local parks.
  • Spend some time at the beach with the kiddo, check out the rocks and watch the waves.
  • Try our hand at flying a kite.
  • Go on a Lighthouse Picnic, which we haven’t done for a few years.
  • Check out a u-pick with the kiddo.
  • Go swimming at least once a week.
  • Take advantage of the deck and backyard and have some meals and snacks outside at home.
  • Take a picnic to the park.
  • Seek out opportunities for some summer activities around the city that might be nice to try out.
  • Learn to properly use our barbeque on my own. I never have. This has nothing to do with the grill being the domain of any one gender, and everything to do with my tendency to be a little accident prone.  So I’m going to very cautiously proceed on this one.
  • Try making pizza on the grill!
  • Host some barbeques with friends and family.

flowers_tlb

I’m going to try and make plans to see how many of these I can squeeze in, and will report back at the end of August to see how we did. The point of thinking about these activities ahead of time is not to try and check everything off a perfect list (although I do love me a good list), but to make time for some fun and relaxing activities that sometimes can get lost in the shuffle and routine.

What is on your summer bucket list?

Meal Idea: Chopped Salad Bar

Chopped Salad Bar

A few years back, we frequently visited Halifax where my in-laws lived at the time. One of my favorite spots to visit was Pete’s Frootique (now known as Pete’s Fine Foods), a British-based grocer that specializes in all kinds of delicious treats.

Although the highlights were fresh produce and the chance to browse British chocolate imports, one of my favorite areas was the chopped salad bar, where you could make a meal out of an endless selection of greens, veggies, fruits, legumes, nuts and seeds and any number of fun add-ins.

At the time, I started using this concept at home too. It was great to prepare a bunch of salad components in advance on a Sunday and use them for lunch at work throughout the week. I love salads, but they can get old pretty fast, and I discovered that I like greens like spinach much better chopped up finely and mixed more fully with other ingredients.

Recently we’ve been in a bit of a vegetable rut, and I’ve brought this back. Creating a little salad bar is fun because it breathes new life into what can sometimes be a dull side, and allows you to customize your salad with your favorite items. It doesn’t hurt that it is visually appealing and fun for kids, either. (The kiddo may not eat 90% of what is in the salad bar, but she is very intrigued by the concept. Small victories.)

The picture above shows basically what was available in my fridge and pantry at the time, but like other awesome bar-type meals (think tacos) the possibilities are pretty much endless. Other items I like to use include:

  • Diced avocado
  • Crumbled blue or feta cheese
  • Toasted nuts
  • Banana pepper slices
  • Fruits such as apple slices, grapes, berries and raisins
  • Diced bell peppers and cucumbers
  • Protein such as grilled chicken, salmon and beans
  • Cooked grains like quinoa or brown rice
  • Any leftovers from previous meals waiting to be used up

The salad bar would be fantastic for a barbeque or other event where you are hosting several people, as guests can customize their own salads and you can prepare most ingredients well in advance. I often include a basic vinaigrette on the side but you could include a few different dressing options for more of a crowd. (Toasted croutons out of leftover bread would also be a nice addition, and no one would complain about some crumbled bacon).

I couldn’t resist including this, either.

 How do you customize your salads?

Staying in the Picture

Constructing sand castles!
Constructing sand castles!

Recently, my husband, daughter and I hopped on a plane, escaped our harsh Canadian winter and headed south for some much-needed sunshine. It was our first lengthy family vacation with our three-year-old, and we had a blast. Much of our time at the beach, the pool, theme parks and the like was captured on film, and I was reminded of Allison Tate’s viral article, The Mom Stays in the Picture.

When the article first came out back in 2012, I had just become a new mom, and I loved her message. I am relatively comfortable in pictures, but this has been hard-won. I have long rejected the ideas that our bodies have to conform to a standard ‘healthy’ size and that one’s level of attractiveness determines self-worth.

Even so, I am living in this society, and our current discourses dictate that you can tell what people eat and how much they move by the shape of their bodies, that thinner equals healthier and more fit (and that the larger you are, the more unhealthy you tend to be), and that to be attractive to others we need to be as thin, fit and youthful looking as possible.

We engage in so much comparison, and worry about how we are being perceived both in our own attractiveness and in our roles as mothers.   Maybe it is not our size per se we are worried about, but our hair that we can’t tame, or those fine lines creeping in around our eyes, or whatever aspect of our appearance we dislike that looms so large in our own minds. Even when we are aware of the unfairness of these influences, we are still affected by them.

Tate expresses the desire to be documented in her children’s lives. As she states in her article, there are already so many moments in our roles as mothers that will never be captured, and our kids do not see. It is definitely cliche, but everyday moments and milestones pass so quickly, whether it is an ordinary moment at home or a fun vacation filled with new experiences.  I want my daughter to see who held her up in the swimming pool, who splashed in the ocean with her at the beach, who helped her build sand castles, who was riding with her on the theme park carousel, and who helped her cut up her restaurant pancakes.

Taking a stroll a few years back.
Taking a stroll a few years back.

It is certainly true that often, Mom may not be in the picture because she is the one taking it! Whether we work outside the home, in it or both, we are usually the ones most involved in direct childcare tasks and are frequently the only ones around to capture a moment.

But you know the situation when it presents itself. Someone wants to take a photo and you have an uncomfortable feeling about your appearance, or are just tired and addled, and are tempted to hide yourself or opt out of the photo altogether. It is not uncommon to hear women emphatically state (mothers or not) that they hate photos of themselves and hate having them taken.

The last thing we need as mothers is another thing to feel guilty about. But it is worth considering that if we want our children to be comfortable in their own skin and let themselves be seen, we need to start with ourselves. As Tate states:

“Our sons need to see how young and beautiful and human their mamas were. Our daughters need to see us vulnerable and open and just being ourselves — women, mamas, people living lives. Avoiding the camera because we don’t like to see our own pictures? How can that be okay?”

It might be difficult sometimes to stay in the picture, but we need to remind ourselves that we deserve to be there, and that we are camera-ready exactly as we are right now.