22 April 2014

Saying goodbye to the Easter Dress

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:: 2011 ::

It's not really a big deal. Or, at least, it shouldn't be. Easter isn't about the dresses, and when you really think about it, pageantry is kind of the opposite of what happened on that desperate weekend so long ago. But still, in my formative years, when I was transitioning from awkward girl to awkward teenager, I could always count on a new Easter Dress. I have many memories of flowered skirts and white shoes, of the anticipation of the new outfit that would propel me into the fashionable orbit of Easter Girls. Ironically, princess-type frills were never my thing, but on Easter I threw those ideals out the window and embraced the glory of femininity.

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:: 2008 ::

In a childhood where resources were tight, my mother still made sure to treat us to those Easter dresses. It was like Christmas in April and my sister and I always felt special, beautiful and girly, standing in front of my grandparents' house on a sunny Kansas morning. I have no idea what kind of church clothes I wore the rest of the year. I assume there were skirts and pointy shoes, maybe red bows for Christmas. But the only images that remain are of those Easter Dresses, a symbol of the celebration of resurrection, and the feeling of being pretty for my friends (and for the boys) on at least one day a year.

Ella last wore a dress for Easter in 2012. And it wasn't really a dress so much as a navy suit. She chose to forgo the flowers and the fluff, opting instead for white piping and zebra shoes. I didn't think about it so much at the time, but in the two years that have passed, it has become the norm of her identity: she is not a dress girl. She'd rather not wear skirts. She will only wear pink if there's some sort of animal on it (Christmas 2011 saw her in the "human cat dress" - thanks, H&M). And her usual Sunday attire consists of jeans and a hoodie.

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:: 2012 ::

We used to fight about this. Not that I always wanted her in dresses, but we had a closet full of them. She's the only granddaughter on my side of the family, and her aunts and grandparents generously showered her with a beautiful wardrobe, a rainbow of skirts and dresses. They paid close attention to her style and personality, always careful to pick out something sporty or unique. But still those dresses hung in the closet, mostly untouched. We'd have standoffs at the bedroom door, me not wanting these gifts to go to waste, her not even willing to consider them.

I wasted so much time driving us both crazy over it. But somewhere along the way, I gave up this less-than-noble fight. For me and my strong-willed girl, there are bigger battles to wage... like school uniforms. In her Irish Catholic national school, girls wear pinafores and skirts, tights and dress shoes. Ella wears trousers, her brothers hand-me-down school jumper, black Mary Jane's. This has been a whole other ordeal for our opinionated tomboy.

But back to the Easter Dress.

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:: 2007 ::

This year I gave it a passing, fleeting thought. Considered whether to take her shopping, let her pick out an outfit. In the end, we woke up on Sunday like we wake up on most Sundays. I gave her a few options, vaguely stricter guidelines for what she could wear on Easter. I knew we had already said goodbye to the Easter Dress, at least for now. I'm not going to force her into a skirt because it just doesn't matter in the least. I'm not going to make her feel wrong or uncomfortable. I am going to let her be her, within reason.

And I'm going to tell her she's beautiful, just as she is and chooses to be... on Easter, and every other day.

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:: 2014 ::

Ironically, her brothers were more than happy to let me pick out what they wore. I will unashamedly dress the boys in coordinating Easter outfits as long as they let me.

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What are your thoughts on the Easter dress? Did you have similar traditions growing up?

13 April 2014

Screen-Free Sunday and other Parenting Shenanigans

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We've been slightly neglectful parents in that we kind of let the wee lad have the rule of the roost. He's four now and even though the terrible twos are far behind us, he's the most belligerent, the most vocal, the most opinionated and the most adorable of the lot. So rather than wage a lengthy, logical tug-of-war with this cute little menace, we allow too much leeway in the area of Wii games and videos. And we have paid a hefty price.

And, of course, it's Easter Holidays around here, which means instead of the week-long spring break we used to say was "way too short," we now endure the two-week Easter Break which is "way too long." So to keep all three from melting their brains during this hiatus from school, we start things off right with Screen-Free Sunday.

"Screen-Free Sunday" is actually code for "make Asher so upset that he cries himself to sleep and takes a good long nap and the rest of us can breathe easy and do things like clean or read or also nap until he wakes up an angelic and well-rested version of his former self." 

We sorta, kinda try to make this an actual weekly habit. Some Sundays are better than others. Some Sundays bring us sun and long walks in Phoenix Park and some Sundays bring us scattered showers and back-to-back showings of Shark Boy & Lava Girl. Today was both, but due to a manic cold infecting the younger two, and the aforementioned wailing and gnashing of teeth over our screen-free delusions, mandatory naps were had by all. Ash - who was up for several hours last night cheerfully coughing and blowing his nose - finally gave in, climbing next to me in bed. His sticky, snotty fingers pulled the quilt up over his chest, dug down deep in Daddy's pillow, and so quickly and silently fell asleep I had to check to make sure he was still breathing.

Three hours later, I pull all these arms and legs out of bed. Ash first, then Ella. Jack reads to himself in the armchair, The Horse and His Boy plays on the stereo. Matt is in the back garden victoriously organizing a new-to-us garden shed, and I open the laptop to write for the first time in weeks.

Screen-Free Sundays aren't so bad, and I have eventual long-term hopes we'll get pretty good at them. But like everything else, we wait it out and power through, until we finagle some peace on the other side.

07 April 2014

Be Safe {a guest post from Fiona Lynne}

One of my favourite things about blogging is getting to know people online whom I may never get a chance to cross paths with. Fiona is one of them and I'm always challenged and inspired by her words. I asked her if she might consider writing for my wee blog and I'm so glad she said yes. I know you'll be just as enchanted as I was.



Be safe. Be safe. Be safe.

These words have become my main prayer for the child growing steadily inside me. It’s what I wish to it in prenatal yoga class when our instructor gives us a moment to send the baby a message. It’s what I pray with every twinge, every uncomfortable stretch of ligaments as it begins to demand ever more space within me.

Last month I went on retreat to the north of England for four days. In the walled garden was a labyrinth, formed from raised turf and grass, its path winding slowly towards the centre. No way to get lost. Only space to perhaps find something – a thought or prayer – that was lost.

I stood at the entrance to the labyrinth for a good five minutes before I took my first step in. Then I walked slowly, reminding myself to breath, self-conscious in case one of the other residents should wander into the garden at that moment. I walked to the middle, encouraging my mind to be still when it started to dart off in a hundred directions, pulling my thoughts back with the help of my own word – dwell, dwell, dwell. Dwell here in this moment.

I’d never have done this ten years ago, even five years ago. It might have seemed too mystical, too new-agey. I’d have said with a naive confidence that we didn’t need such tricks and games to pray. We could pray at any time.

I still believe that but now I’m older and I’m better acquainted with grief and with doubt and with heartache. And sometimes my body needs to enact what my heart has a hard time believing.

At the centre I stood and closed my eyes. I made it. I was always going to make it. There’s no wrong turn on this journey, although the double backs in the pathway at moments made me feel like I was getting further from the centre than closer. But here I stood.

I turned to walk out again, the way I’ve come. The labyrinth is a two-journey experience: in to the centre – of truth, love, grace, my own soul – and out again to the world, to the path I will keep walking now.

My hands slip down to my expanding belly as I walk. I’ve become one of those pregnant women who absentmindedly rub their stomach at awkward moments. Now as I walk along the grassy paths, my prayer repeats again: Be safe be safe be safe. And the tears start to roll as I think of the one who wasn’t meant to be mine in this lifetime.

Truthfully? I’m scared for this little one. As much as I’ve prayed against fear for the past two years, as much as I’ve embraced each day as another day toward that midsummer due date, as much as I’ve understood it wasn’t my fault. Still, I quietly beg this body of mine each morning to be a good home, a safe home for this child making itself known more each day.

It is totally surreal, this round bulging of my stomach. It feels too good to be true many days, that I will actually get to hold this child in my arms. I’ve wanted this so much that I don’t like to mention how hard it is too – how my skin is suddenly so dry it’s flaking, how my boobs have grown at least two sizes from their already-substantial start, making me feel bulky and matronly, how the ache of everything stretching can be so intense some afternoons it makes me want to curl up and weep.

But then a wild kick to the side of my belly and my heart bursts into a million happy pieces as I watch the movements vibrate across my front.

There’s no getting lost on this journey. No steps are wasted, no turns in the path are unexpected to the one who steps out ahead of me, showing me the way. What has been cannot be undone. And what will come, will come. The important thing is to learn to dwell here in the moment, in this step. And to discover in the centre of it all, unexpectedly, that I am safe. 

***

Fiona is from the UK and lives with her Danish husband in Luxembourg. She's fascinated by culture and people’s stories, and loves living in a community with so many different nationalities. She works for Serve the City Luxembourg, a movement of volunteers seeking to make a difference in their communities. She loves gathering people together to celebrate and collaborate, and baking is her favourite spiritual discipline. Fiona blogs at fionalynne.com and tweets @fiona_lynne.

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