Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Make-up, Beauty, and Raising a Little Girl

(A little while ago, an old friend of mine approached me to see if I wanted to try the mascara she sells – Younique 3D fibre lashes. I was hesitant, but she’s a friend, and I want to support her, so I said sure, I’d give it a go. And guys? It’s amazing. I love it. But it also got me thinking about make-up and beauty and consumerism and so then this post happened. Because I want to support my friend, and also because I love the product, this post contains affiliate links and I get a bit of a kick-back if you decide to purchase anything after you read it. But, this post is not going to try to sell you anything, I promise, so I hope you think it’s worth reading anyway.)

Make-up and I have a difficult history. I’ve never had much time for it. Even in my high school years, when all the other typical teenagers were playing around with eye shadow and mascara, I couldn’t see the point in spending hours in the bathroom, leaning in close to the mirror to smudge colour over my face. Even as I grew up and entered a world in which “looking put together” often involves make-up, I couldn’t bring myself to lose precious moments of sleep to fuss over my appearance. And money – make-up can be so expensive.

Appearances can be so expensive.

Because I never spent much time or money on it, I never became particularly adept with make-up. I figured out a simple routine early on that works, for the most part, for my face, and over the years, I’ve adjusted the products I use a bit here and there. I wear make-up almost every day now, and some days, depending on the company I keep, the things I read, the issues I think about, I wish I had spent more time in my younger years playing around and making mistakes with the powders, colours, and creams that are so often associated with beauty and femininity.

I believe I am beautiful without make-up. I believe my skin, even with blemishes, looks just fine, even when it’s uncovered by foundation and concealer. I believe my eyelashes are long enough, dark enough, enhance my eye colour enough. I believe my lips are fine. I believe my cheeks don’t need to pop with a contour of bronzer and blush. However, I also believe that make-up can be fun, that making myself look different – not better, different – with a flip of colour and a darkened eye can help me hit the reset button on a bad week, or adjust my view on the world just a touch in order to see something new around me.

I sometimes think about what I want to teach my daughter about make-up. What does she think when she sees me flick lengthening mascara onto my eyelashes? Does she think I’m trying to cover my true self when I brush bronzer over my cheeks? How can I teach her to love the skin she’s in, the face she has, in a world that so highly values a painted one? How do I share an enjoyment of make-up while also instilling a strong self-confidence in herself without it?

I’m not sure how to do it yet. Like so much of my experience with motherhood, we’re moving forward blindly, doing our best and hoping she hears the right things from me, the things she’ll need as she grows. In the end, this is all I can do, right?

(My make-up routine:

Feel free to shop my “party” by clicking the link above. And let me know what you think. About anything. Younique. Make-up in general. Raising little girls. Self esteem. Anything.)

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Back To School

I have been back to classes for two weeks now. Two sessions of each class. Four days of daycare drop-off.

Four baby-free days.

This year feels different than last year. Last year, I was still so new to motherhood, so new to Isabel. She was a different baby, still unaware of the world around her. It was easy to pop her in the swing and lull her to sleep for 2 hours, or nurse while reading journal articles, or pop her down for tummy time while stitching word after word of an essay together. In comparison, it feels like I had endless amounts of time then.

Now, I have short windows of time when I can get any sort of work done. We’ve been working at it and have slowly built our way up to 2 hour nap times. We’ve been practicing independent play, in the hope that I’ll be able to snatch a little reading time while she’s distracted by other things. But, mostly, I take good advantage of Thursdays.

Oh, Thursdays. They are heavenly. On Thursday, I have no class, but we decided to send Isabel to daycare for the day anyway. Since I have two night classes, and therefore two less nights to work on assignments and readings, I knew that getting everything done with my now very active toddler would not be as easy as it was my first term, when I had the same arrangement. Thursdays are my rush-around-and-get-everything-done-that-I-possibly-can day.

It’s still early in the term, so at the moment, Thursdays are a day to catch up on life. I go for a run, maybe. I get dressed, properly. I go to campus. I work. I come home and clean or cook or both. I pick up Isabel and for at least one day of the week, I feel like our life is working.

Clothes on these days have taken on a whole new meaning for me. Suddenly, I have time to shower and dress properly, to blow-dry my hair and to put on real make-up if I want. I get to put on a real bra, a bra that doesn’t unclasp to allow for breastfeeding access. I can put on a dress that can’t be either pulled down or pulled up. I can wear earrings without fearing for my earlobes.

It’s freeing, this step back into my old clothes, my old self, if just for two days a week.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Porch Update: Tickety-boo

Yesterday morning, a concrete truck pulled up in front of our house. As I snuggled and entertained Isabel before her daycare drop off, I watched them lug bucket after bucket of wet concrete into the trenches around the front of our house. Our footings are officially poured!

These footings are the whole reason this work has to be done. During the investigative period, our insurance company discovered that the porch had been built without proper footings at all. Had there been a permit for the work, this kind of mistake would never have happened to begin with.

Sometime today, or maybe Monday, we have our first inspection. We're thinking happy thoughts that everything goes tickety-boo and that we've already had all the drama and difficulties we're going to on this project.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

I ran a half marathon!

Remember a few weeks back I mentioned that I was maybe training for a half marathon, but I wasn’t sure I was ready to admit it because – let’s be real – I can’t run 21.1km? On Sunday, I proved myself wrong. I ran 21.1km. And I even ran them really well!

I don’t really know what to say about all my training this summer. It had it’s ups, but it also had so, so many downs. Back in April and May, right after I had finished my first year of school, I felt dedicated. I felt like nothing could stop me. Actually, I felt like I had nothing else to do, besides loading Isabel up in her stroller and hitting the trails with her. She would sleep, or sit happily and babble, watching the trees go by.

Then June hit and the busyness of summer with it, but I was still running fairly frequently, so I thought, “Ok, I can do this thing. This is the year. I will run a half marathon.” But in July I got tired and Isabel started changing. I felt like I had to run longer, like a short 5K wasn’t worth it. Isabel wasn’t so fond of those longer runs, getting fussier and unhappy being strapped for so long in her jogging stroller. So, I tried running in the evenings. Problem: by the time 7 pm comes around, I just want to collapse on the couch and rinse off the day with a couple episodes of, well, anything. But still, I said, “I’m going to do it. I will. I will.” And then August was hot and running even harder. “I’ll walk across the finish line if I have to,” I said.

On Sunday, I ran across that finish line. My results from the race tell me I ran it in 2 hours, 10 minutes, and 46 seconds, a respectable 6’12” pace. It was way better than I expected to do and I was so proud of myself as I rounded the corner and the finish line came into view. I have been talking about running a half marathon for year, and here I finally was, racing towards the finish line.

(Shout out to Casey from the Waffling Blog, who decided to run the race with me and whose encouragement totally helped me get across the finish line. I have to say, this was one of the coolest ways to meet a long-time blogging friend!)

Now that it’s over, I’m starting to think about what my next goal should be. I know I want to focus on speed rather than distance. Should I find a 5K or 10K race to keep me focused? Should I work on speed over the winter, and then return to distance training for another half next year? Should I just start running all the races I can find to keep myself moving forward? I haven’t decided yet. For now I’ll just let my blisters heal.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Let’s Talk About Yesterday

I was so excited when they showed up and unloaded the mini excavator yesterday. Isabel and I sat in the front window and watched. I texted excited, terrible pictures of the orange machine to Mark at work. The first pile of dirt grew in front of our house and I started dreaming about our new porch. Two weeks, I thought. Two weeks to a new front porch.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, things didn’t go exactly as planned.

About two hours into the work, our tenant, who had been on her way to work, came to the front door. The sub-contractors doing the digging were scurrying into their truck. They hit a gas line, she said. They said they had called someone, she said. But maybe we should call someone too? I could hear the line hissing. I could smell the gas. Meanwhile, the workers disappeared in their truck down the street.


I called Mark, completely lost about what to do. He called the gas company for me, which advised me to stay in the house as long as I couldn’t smell any gas inside. Isabel was napping. I paced the house for half an hour waiting for the emergency crew from the gas company. Meanwhile, the head of our work crew returned and started stringing caution tape around our house. I stepped outside, waved him down and started asking questions. He refused to meet my eyes. He barely said a word to me, and when he did, it was to deny that there was any problem whatsoever. With caution tape all around our house, he took off in his truck again, leaving me and Isabel to deal with the problem.

It was a relief when the fire department showed up. At least our house wasn’t going to go up in flames anymore. And then, all the questions started. Because the people working on our house were sub-contractors, we didn’t actually have any contact information for them. I gave them all the information I had, but over and over, I had to tell people that I had no idea who it was working on our house. Over and over, I had to admit that we were likely being screwed over by the world of contracting. It sucked.

At one point, I spotted their truck. The sub-contractor drove past our house and kept going. I pointed him out, and one of the gas company guys took off after him. Meanwhile, a police officer – called in by the gas company – got in touch with our contractor to get the contact information for the sub-contractor. Slowly, things were coming together, puzzle pieces falling into place. The supervisor of the sub-contractor – who also turned out to be his son – showed up and took responsibility for the situation.

One of the major issues that came up during their investigation of the situation was whether or not a proper locate of the lines had been done before they started digging. We knew that the locate had been called in and that someone had come to do it – I had seen them doing the job weeks ago. But, any paperwork for it had disappeared, and it certainly wasn’t present in the backhoe as it’s supposed to be. Mark and our contractor managed to dig up the reference number for the locate request which told us the locate had never actually been completed. Even though they didn’t have the proper paperwork, our sub-contractors had started the work anyway: a huge no-no. And then, when they hit a line, knowing they didn’t have the right clearance, they panicked and just took off.

Work was supposed to continue today, but so far, I haven’t seen anyone. We have piles of dirt around our house, a huge hole at the bottom of our porch stairs, and a big (little) orange excavator parked in front, and nothing is happening. Our project is now delayed two days and my excitement about two weeks to a new porch is completely gone. But… this will all be done eventually, right?

Can I just add? Every time we use contractors, we end up with the police at our house. This time around we also got the fire department and about five gas company trucks.

We should just do everything ourselves.

(For all of you who are interested in how our neighbour handled all the commotion yesterday: he sat on our porch and watched our drama gleefully. So far, he hasn’t caused any drama himself, at least none that has affected the work on the porch.)

Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Front Porch

When we moved in, we knew our front porch was lacking. The railing was wobbly. The spindles were set too far apart. The supporting post - while stable - had a crack down the middle of it. The tiles were slippery, and the floor was leveled incorrectly, sending all the rain water pooling against our front door.

We did a few emergency repairs. We poured self-leveling concrete in the hopes of solving the water issues (we did, kinda, but mostly not) and ripped off the rotting steps and made fresh, new - but temporary - ones. We ripped out the ugly boarded up windows in preparation for new basement windows, Typar'ed the porch foundation and... ran into more problems than we really knew what to do with. For two years, our porch has sat in this state.

I'll admit; it's a little bit embarrassing. Sometimes, I worry that our house might be the worst house on the block, the one bringing down all the other property values. (It's not. Still.) We've been stuck for so long at this point with the porch, I'm sure our neighbours assume we've run out of money, or got shut down for permit violation and can't negotiate with the city to get our projects moving again.

In some ways, the latter is not untrue. Construction on our porch did get shut down by the city - 11 years ago. During the permit inspections for our previous renovation projects, our inspector informed us that, in 2004, a stop-work order had been issued to the owners of our house. Instead of dealing with the problem, they had slap together some final, shoddy details and quietly ignored the notice. Approximately 7 years later, they sold the house to us without disclosing the outstanding permit violation. In fact, they probably thought it was no longer an issue - they had stopped the work on it, after all!

But, the city doesn't forget and now, here we are, 4 years into home ownership, and it's up to us to fix their mistake. Fortunately, our lawyers hooked us up with title insurance. Title insurance ensures that if anything like this comes up after a real estate transaction, you're not stuck with a huge, unexpected bill. They cover it, 100%.

Did you get that?

Our insurance is covering the cost of bringing our porch up to code, 100%. Since our porch was so poorly constructed, their assessment means we get a brand new porch for free. This thing that seemed like such bad news when we first heard about it suddenly seems like great news.

Now, we're just waiting for our contractors to start. Because we're choosing to rely on the professionals for this one, I'm hoping it doesn't take forever, and that they stick pretty closely to the 2 week timeline they've promised us. But... contractors are notorious, right? We thought this project would start in June, but here we are, beginning of September, and the first waterproofing trench has yet to be dug. I trust it will get done and I cannot wait for a beautiful new porch, a space that's safe for Isabel to play while we sit and drink coffee.

Two weeks. Two weeks. Two weeks.

Monday, August 31, 2015

A Bittersweet Ode to a Nursing Bra

One week from my due date - now over a year ago - on one of my first days of my maternity leave, I slowly, slowly walked my larger self to the Danforth to go shopping. The walk should have taken me no more than 25, maybe 30 minutes, but since I was dealing with some pretty painful sciatica and sore hips, it took me at least an hour. But, this trip was important, something I needed to do before this baby came.

(Or, so I thought, anyway.)

I needed to buy some nursing bras.

I had read somewhere that it's a good idea to go get fitted and try bras on in the last month of pregnancy. I didn't want to leave it up to chance, so I headed to Evymama, a boutique store here on the east side of Toronto, assuming they would accurately fit me and give me a myriad of high quality options to choose from. But affordable, too, of course. The best of both worlds. I walked in, sweaty, gross, allowed the salesperson to take her measurements and slipped inside the change room with six bras, each one carrying a price tag that was heftier than I wanted to pay. I tried them all on, each one more disappointing than the last. 

But, I needed a nursing bra, right? How would I feed my daughter in the coming months if I walked out of that store empty handed? I picked two, doing my best to balance price with quality and comfort.

I lived in those nursing bras for months. They aren't supportive. They aren't pretty. One of them is the most uncomfortable thing I have ever worn. Now, over a year later, they're misshapen, faded and floppy. They don't fit anymore, despite the reassurances from the sales people that they would be able to handle the overflowing fistfuls of flesh and mammory glands that I was to expect right after birth as well as what came after, once milk production had settled down a little bit. They forgot to tell me that my breasts would become shapeless with the months of nursing, but these nursing bras wouldn't help with the problem at all. I hate my nursing bras; I hate them so much. 

In fact, they no longer fit the breasts I have now at all. The bands don't feel secure enough and the cups are saggy; I have not enough flesh to fill them. Isabel has sucked me dry. Maybe the 'last month of pregnancy' recommendation works for those first few weeks, maybe a couple months after she was born, but since they started to disappear already at 4 months, I wonder if someone is feeding us a line. Half the time, I reach for a sports bra these days instead, if my outfit choice allows for it. I've sacrificed a couple of my old bras to the cause, a touch to small, especially if Isabel has gone a few extra hours without nursing, stretching them slightly, but enjoying the comfort of them. I sometimes wonder if I should go buy new ones. I sometimes wonder if I should tell all my pregnant friends to forget about getting fitted until four months in, to make cheap box-store nursing bras and sports bras work until then. I sometimes wonder if no one really knows anything about how boobs change through pregnancy and breastfeeding or maybe I'm the only one with nursing bras that don't fit anymore.

I have been lucky to breastfeed, and to breastfeed for as long as I have. As imperfect that they may be, those bras represent more than support and easy access. They represent quiet moments between Isabel and I, tucked in her nursery during the wee small hours, or taking a breather during a busy day of play. They represent some of my favourite moments of motherhood. It's a beautiful thing watching her nurse. Despite longing for the comfort of a brand new bra, a bra that doesn't unclasp just below my shoulders, I am in no hurry to pack my nursing bras away. They will become uglier. They will become more misshapen. I will continue to hate them. But I will continue to put them on most mornings until the day Isabel decides she doesn't need me for nourishment anymore.