August 18th, 2014

Secure Parenting


 

The best thing about having growing children is that, with them, you grow too. If you allow yourself the opportunity, with your children, you get older and, hopefully, wiser. Things that once seemed so important just aren’t important anymore.

Like with my first daughter, I was obsessed, at one point early in her newborn months, with measuring my “success” as a mom by her fecal outputs. So, every day, I would track what she’d poop on excel sheets and fret about changes in consistency, color, and frequency.

I know now that doing this was not normal but for the longest I could not really figure out why. I mean I knew it was impractical.  That using excel sheets in motherhood as if your baby will someday be the topic of a Monday morning status meeting is inappropriate.  But I didn’t really know why or why I did this and what doing this really said about me as a human being.

Part of being a parent, a secure parent, is trusting that what you’re doing now is worth something good and that you can, in fact, do this. And do it well. To be a secure parent, you have to be a secure human being. You have to be secure in yourself and your worth and the idea that everything you choose to do with your children is because you chose to do it.

Trust. That’s the word that comes to mind when I think of what changed in me between the four year gap between child 1 and child 3. I think with age and maturity, when my third daughter came into our lives, I had that, or I had trust.

I trust more in the universe, and in the worthiness and very possible, yet, monumental and sometimes treacherous task of raising children.

I thought poop was my stand in for trust. I thought so long as the poop was right, I was right, doing it right.

But I was so wrong.

Your success in motherhood can’t be measured that way, not by poop or any other thing you can legibly record on paper.

You success in motherhood can be measured only in your heart.

You trust at some point that you’re doing it right because it feels right. And this works because by some point, maybe with five years or maybe three kids in motherhood you realize that you can trust your own feelings.

You trust that you are wise, wise enough to know when your child needs to be held or put down. You trust where they should sleep and how and that if they don’t poop for a day or if that poop is like pellets it will be okay, that you know what to do. Increase their fluids and wait. It will get better.

You can’t get here by studying the numbers. Trust me, I’ve tried. You only get here with some combination of time, acceptance, and self love. That’s it.

My daughter is one today. Yeah. I don’t really know how this happened either. But I do know that I am thankful for this day and how far my family and I have come in this past year with her in our lives.

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August 14th, 2014

Summer Bucket List


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1. Go swimming in a beach. 

2. Go berry picking. 

3. Watch Fireworks. 

4. Make homemade popsicles.

5. Go on a roadtrip. 

6. Ride a roller coaster.

7. Go to an outdoor movie.

8. Ride bikes in the city.

9. Start a garden.

10. Become a yogi. 

11. Catch fireflies in a jar.

12. Go hiking.

13. Paint basement.

14. Redecorate girls’ rooms.

15. Have a picnic.

16. Learn to sew. 

17. Take a cake decoration class.

18. Get girls in swimming lessons.

19. Clean out garage.

20. Have a girl’s night out with friends.

 

If Summer ends at the start of Fall and if the start of Fall is September 22, then there are only 39 days left of Summer! I’ve had this mental bucket list in my head, but I decided to write it down at the beginning of this month because…can you believe it’s August?

What’s on your summer bucket list? 

 


August 6th, 2014

How To Improve Focus in Your Pictures


Taking focused pictures is something every photographer wants, right?

But it’s not as easy to do when you have no idea how to use your camera or how your actions as a photographer can hurt or help the quality of your images. I had to learn about focus the hard way, through lots of blurry and out-of focus pictures that left me scratching my head wondering, “why doesn’t this look right?”

I didn’t know it was “focus” that was problem, I just knew my pictures never looked right to me. They were never clear, clean, or like the vision I imagined them being in my head. But then when I began to focus on my photography and learning how to get better, things began to change.

I say this to say that focus is a subject near and dear to my heart.

If your pictures aren’t looking as clear, crisp, and focused as you’d like, try considering these five things:

5 tips for improving focus in your pictures

1. Do you have poor focus? This sounds obvious, but it’s not really when you, as photographer, have no idea what your desired subject is before taking your shot. Perhaps, unknowingly, you’re focusing on the wrong area when shooting. Or, and this was something it took me forever to learn, perhaps you’re too close to your subject to allow your camera to focus.

Another possibility is that your selected aperture is too high, producing too narrow of a depth of field.

To fix all these problems, take your time when composing your shots. Decide on your subject before shooting, set your focus on that, then shoot.

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As you can see, in the above picture, I’m focused on the flower in the forefront. It’s this (focusing intentionally on that single flower) and my aperture that produces the blurring of the background flowers.

2. Has your subject moved? Unless you’re hoping to convey movement in your shots, make sure your shutterspeed is high enough to account for any movement. Generally, when shooting my kids, I try to stick to 1/125 and above. For stationary objects, like flowers, perhaps, you can choose lower shutterspeeds.

3. Is your ISO too high? The better your camera, the better it can manage the grain that inevitably comes with shooting at high ISOs. If your camera is not as great, try to keep your ISO as low as possible. To compensate for the decrease in light, and if possible, make adjustments with your shutterspeed and/or aperture.

4. Did your camera shake? Not as obvious when you’re starting out, but camera shake, either knowingly or unknowingly, can lead to un-focused shots. To fix, be mindful of form when shooting. Use both hands, keep the camera close to your body, and support yourself with some form of solid object, i.e., wall, tree, etc. Or, even better, shoot with a tripod (spoken from a photographer who has only used her tripod like two times in the past three years. :)

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5. Is it your lens? If you have the money to invest in a good lens, do it, since lens quality can have a very big impact on the crispness of your images. Two years ago,  I decided to upgrade from my kit lens to prime lens and I have not looked back. I now only shoot using my prime 1.4 lens because I love that it consistently and easily produces sharp images.

Another factor to consider when it comes to your lens and producing sharp images is cleanliness. Having a clean lens that’s clear of dust and grime is a must for clear and crisp images.

Also, one more thing to consider, if your lens is clean and you’re doing everything else right (see above) and are still not getting focused shots, get your lens professionally checked. It could be that your lens has a mechanical error preventing it from properly focusing.

What are your favorite tips/tricks for ensuring focused pictures?

 


August 4th, 2014

The Conscious Parent: A Book Review


I don’t usually read parenting “advice” books, generally, because I no longer believe that you can learn how to be a parent by reading a book.

I once did, however.

And this is why I have read more parenting advice books than I care to admit.

I think I read them because part of my personality, the one which likes to be in control and make things more perfect told me it would be a good idea.

So, I read parenting advice books with my first child and early on with my second.

I didn’t read these books casually, no, no, no, that would be all too normal. I read them with notepads, highlighters and the same intensity I approached my breastfeeding logs as a first-time mom and my graduate studies years earlier. Seriously, Jessica? Yes, seriously.

Did it all work? Well, no. But as a new mom, I assumed the reason for this was me.

I’m not good at following directions, I rationalized. I’m not patient enough to follow all the obviously well-informed steps to reach the end-goals that all the experts (Karp, Pantley, Sears, etc.) promise.

So around the time my second daughter turned six months, I stopped reading them and decided to trust myself enough to parent my own children. I know. It sounds so novel, right? And it was novel and scary, like really scary.  But over time it got easy and natural, so easy that I now hardly talk my parenting habits online or anywhere else. Because like most things in my life, they change. So I go with the flow and trust my instincts and that’s what I do as a parent. But I digress.

About the books… I was really passionate in my decision not to read them.

But then I heard about “The Conscious Parent.” It’s a book whose author, Shefali Tsabary, PhD was featured on one of Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday (which, if you haven’t watched, is an amazing show).

It was then, or in watching that segment and subsequently in reading  reviews on Amazon, that I decided to overturn my anti-parenting advice book stance and give it a try.

The Conscious Parent

And when it arrived, I actually read it…all of it, with a pen in hand, marking meaningful passages that, honestly, spoke to my weary parenting soul.

I read it really fast once and then again and again. And I continue to refer to it in my daily life because it was really that good. Really.

“To become conscious is to witness our unconsciousness, which progressively makes it conscious.” Shefali Tsabary

So I wanted to write a review of the book. And I did write a review of the book THREE weeks ago. I kept editing that review, however, because I always felt I wasn’t getting this book right. I wasn’t doing it justice. There’s a lot in this book but its gist, in plain English, is simple.

The gist is this: In order to be the parents our children need us to be, we must be open to the possibility that as much as we, as parents, are here to teach our children, they are also here to teach us.

Parenthood then can be a time in our lives to become even better people than we were before. But, and this is the big but, this can only happen if allow ourselves to become conscious to  how our unconscious operates in our day to day dealings with their children.

Our unconscious is what we’ve  learned about being parent, how we were (or were not) parented. It’s complex, often, full of wounds, past hurts and anxieties. Our children often mirror these wounds, hurts, and anxieties for us which is why they are key to our own personal transformations and growth.

It’s only through becoming aware of our unconscious and how it comes to life in our parenting that we can truly parent our children effectively and with intention in the present moment. It’s only then that we can parent our children how they are rather than how we think they ought to be or how we think society expects them to be.

This is amazing, right? I mean, I think so.

There’s more in this book. There’s help for parents looking to explore their unconscious, talk of the role of disciplining, and lots of practical advice for parents with children at every stage (babies to teens).

So, I like this book. And I like that Tsabary’s approach to parenting is so refreshing and non-judgy. She’s a parent, too, so she includes lots of personal anecdotes from her parenting journey along with stories of clients so the book feels very human.

Have you read “The Conscious Parent”? What are your thoughts on this book?


July 29th, 2014

Princess Hair


In what should be my last post on my LTYM experience, here’s the essay I read in my performance.

***

Princess Hair

by. Jessica F. Hinton

My three-year old and I are just finishing up brushing our teeth for bedtime. I’m staring at my reflection in the mirror in front of us, when I notice that she’s staring at her reflection with an angry look on her face.

She did this in silence. Her lips were pursed and brow was wrinkled, making the curls nearest her forehead hang in her eyes.

Not sure of the gravity of this moment, I watched her like this for a while before asking, very nonchalantly, “What are you looking at?”

She then stares up at me from behind the dark brown curls hanging in her eyes and said, “My hair.”

“What about your hair?” I asked then. And as soon as I hear myself out loud, I already know what she’s going to say.

“I don’t like it,” she said.

I fumbled out some questions then, questions like “Why?” “What do you mean?” And “Why would you say that?”   Then I offered praises. “I love your hair.” “Your curls are beautiful,” I said.

But she didn’t agree. I felt that.  She didn’t like her hair. And when I asked her why, she had an answer.

“Because it’s all poofy and curly,” she said, yanking at a tangle near her ear.

“Mommy, I want princess hair.”

Now, to be clear, I know what princess hair is. But, I assumed she didn’t or that she shouldn’t. So I asked her then, “But what’s princess hair?”

Her response? “Oh, you know. It goes around and around and it’s long.”

“But, I said then, “you do have princess hair because you are a princess, after all.”

She didn’t look amused, so I said, again, what I know to be true.

“Your hair IS beautiful.”

“I love your hair.”

I say these words again and again in different variation until she finally smiles… not a happy kind of smile but the kind that seemed to indicate her desire that I just stop and let her go to sleep.

“It isn’t that serious, mom” I’m sure she would say if she had the words to say it. And it really wasn’t that serious. I mean, plenty of girls want princess hair, right?  I did.

I was six when I got princess hair.

It came in the form of a My Little Pony ponytail. It was straight and brown and really long. The hair was attached to a golden bow. And behind the bow was a clip-on comb that made it possible to discretely wear this fake horse’s mane.

I put it on like a tiara, attaching it to the bush of my real hair in the front and allowing it to hang low against my back.

It swung when I moved. It swung and danced and seemed to sing to me.

I remember shaking it as my mother swept our front porch, oblivious, it seemed, to my first, and, likely, only girlhood moment in glory. A car drove by as I sung 80s pop music and danced on the sidewalk, swinging my hair like I was crazy. The driver in the car just stared. Was she concerned? You know, I do wonder that now, but back then, if you’d ask I’d say “no.” With hair like that, she had to be jealous.

No one ever told me my curls were beautiful or good or even wanted. So, that ponytail was like my chance to be the girl I thought I wasn’t: The one with the beautiful hair everyone else wanted.

I didn’t call it princess hair back then, but it was magical hair and it was something that I considered more beautiful than my own.

I could relate to my three year old in that way, or as a child who wanted something she didn’t have and feeling bad about it.

It didn’t get over this complex until my 20s. It wasn’t until I learned to let go of what I didn’t have and embrace and love what I did, that I could love and see my curls for what they are.

My real hair isn’t straight. It curls with water. It shrinks when it dries and it’s amazingly huge.

It’s not like that fake ponytail I had at six. But it’s my hair. It’s a part of me so I love it. And anything that I love, I have decided, in my head, is wonderful.

My curls…our curls look different than the princess hair of most movies and fairy tales. But when I see our reflections in mirrors or storefront glass windows, I see only beauty in that difference.

We lay in her bed silent that night. I hold her hand. I smile and repeat what the girl with the fake ponytail never heard to be true: You are beautiful. Your curls, like my curls, are beautiful.

Okay?

She softened then, smiled, a real smile, and said, “Okay, mommy.”

She rested her head more firmly on her pillow and began closing her eyes, settling in for sleep.

I stroked her curls, as she lay, believing them to be every bit as beautiful as any princess Disney could ever fathom.

And as she lay, I settled into believing that with time, she’ll settle into believing this, too.