After giving birth to two female bodies with my own female body, and now raising two female bodies, I am more aware than ever of the insane demands and pressures women face in regard to their bodies. (An English teacher would have a field day with that opening line, eh? Bodies, bodies, bodies FTW!)
That’s not to deny that men deal with their own sets of pressures and societal/cultural expectations of beauty, health, physicality, masculinity, etc., but for the purposes of these posts, I am focusing on women.
My daughters have made me take a hard look at my own behavior, my own attitude about my body and other women’s bodies, and think about how I want them to think of their own bodies and the bodies of others. My own outlook and lived example will be the most influential element on their thinking at this early stage in their lives.
The bottom line is that I don’t want them thinking about bodies at all, but about people. Whole, complete beings who are so much more than pieces or parts. I want them to think of themselves and their personhood, not about the shell that their souls inhabit. (Lord that sounds cheesy but it is so very true.)
It is so critically important to me that I raise women who love themselves. Above all else. Who understand their worth and their value is beyond the size of their jeans or the cup of their bras. Who don’t need to make excuses for who they are and how their bodies look. Who love themselves so deeply that they understand the uniqueness and particulars of their own bodies, and can celebrate them, whatever form that takes.
I want them to know the power and strength and joy that comes from regular fitness and exercise, not because it makes their bodies look any particular way, but because it gives them both physical and mental strength and reprieve. Because it makes them feel good. Just like putting fresh, unprocessed food in their bodies makes them feel fresh and clean and well. I will never deny them the joy of homemade icecream or freshly baked cookies. The only “bad” food in our lives are processed, packaged foods. Something you grow in your backyard or make with your own hands is not “bad.” It is delicious and intended to be enjoyed. Just as consuming vegetables from one’s own garden or fruit from a local farm stand is a wonderful way to make yourself feel both mentally and physically well. Healthy. Good.
Food consumption and physical exercise should never be primarily motivated by a desire to look a specific way, but rather a desire to feel one’s best. The physical manifestation of that internal, mental, emotional wellness will come as a result of caring for oneself with respect, love, and joy, not fear, disappointment, pressure or shame.
Again, so cheesy. But so true. And so desperate to be put to words in the face of all the media and noise that tells us otherwise.
I try to live that daily with my daughters, from the food we prepare (our best attempts at fresh, balanced, wholesome meals with all the colors of the rainbow) to the way we talk about that food (I try to never refer to sweets or any food (besides processed, packaged food) as “bad” or “naughty,” as that is setting them up for dangerous, shameful thinking when it comes to enjoying food and their eating habits). We take time daily for physical play and exertion, whether on a walk with the dogs or running through the sprinkler.
I also try to exist in my body, this body now succumbing to the effects of gravity and maternity and age, with confidence and love. I walk around casually in my underwear and a t-shirt sans bra or make up on a lazy Sunday morning. I lounge in the backyard in my bathing suit on a hot day reading a book or weeding the garden. I dress up in fancy dresses and rock red lipstick for special dinners out. I dance like a fool while wearing my most tattered pair of sweatpants. I don’t glare at myself in the mirror analyzing every flaw. I don’t suck in my tummy or claim I can’t wear something because my body isn’t “right.” That’s not to say that I haven’t rotated some clothing out of my wardrobe over the past decade, but I do it because I accept that some clothes are no longer suited for this ever-changing shell and that I deserve to find clothes that make me feel comfortable, at ease, and confident. If I’m going to be fidgeting with the waist of a pair of pants all day because they no longer fit, I try to accept that reality as gracefully as possible, and I do not involve my daughters in any disappointment or frustration I may feel about it.
This isn’t to say that I don’t have my down moments, moments when I am sad or disappointed or frustrated with my body. We all do. But I have been working very hard, especially in the last five years, to keep that frustration and disappointment in check. To think about the root cause of that disappointment which is largely based in society’s expectations of what I am supposed to look like – not my daughters’, not my partner’s, and certainly not my own. A number on the scale or on a clothing tag should in no way define my comfort or happiness in my body. And I want to do my best to teach my daughters that before the world screams at them to feel differently.
And so in my bathing suit I dance with my girls, stretch marks be damned!
In these photos I’m wearing my favorite tankini in all the land by Miraclesuit. It’s got a built in bra to hold my post-breastfeeding pair in place so they’re not knocking my knees while I hang by the pool, plus high waisted bottoms so I don’t feel like my own bottom will make a showing when I’m seated on the edge of the hot tub lifeguarding two preschoolers. I love that I can tie the straps in a bow in front on the rare occasion when I am undisturbed in the sunshine so I can do some strap-free tanning, but that it is secure and supportive enough so that I can also chase my kids around the pool.
This is the second of three opportunities to win a Miraclesuit or Magicsuit of your choosing. That’s a winning of up to $180! To enter this week’s giveaway follow the instructions below via Rafflecopter. Thank you for entering and for liking Blog a la Cart and Miraclesuit on Facebook and for following @blogalacart and @miraclesuitswim on Instagram. We’ll see you next week!
This weekend I fell in love with a powerwasher.
Yep. It’s true. Powerwashers have got to be the most satisfying creation man has ever made.
Since purchasing the house two years ago, we’ve been needing to clean up our back deck, which to date is sorely underused. In fact, we actively ignore it, so hideous we find it’s soiled, black facade. So, finally, this weekend, we began the process of giving said deck a much needed facelift.
So while we powerwashed and prepped and stained, the girls ran around the backyard entertaining themselves with all manner of plant, animal and yard toy. When rain struck, they claimed our kitchen in the name of testing all of Sunny’s new art supplies.
This was our lives for three whole days. Not the most photogenic Memorial Day weekend we’ve ever had, but surely a productive one.
Things are going to be pretty quiet around here (save for my Miraclesuit posts) as I am in crazy work mode and some things have come up that have only intensified that work. Plus, wedding season begins for me in two weekends, so I’ve got my first of a slew of summer weddings to shoot. Very excited for these experiences, but they only add to my list of more pertinent TO DOs than this wee blog. But I couldn’t resist sharing this link that Kimmy brought to my attention this weekend. It seemed relevant in light of all I’ll be talking about this month re: bathing suits and bodies and women and society and beauty, etc. and so on.
More images here. Pretty disturbing stuff, actually.
Sunny’s birthday was indeed a rainbow-a-palooza. This is the kid who asked for a rainbow as her gift from Santa two Christmas’s ago, and who answers “rainbow” when asked her favorite color. All one need do is peek at her The Sunny Side series for proof of her love of all things Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Purple.
It was admittedly a really really fun party theme to put together. Though Auntie Kimmy couldn’t attend the party, she helped with many a party idea, including this perfect free-printable Rainbow invitation. Sunny and I had fun assembling those for her five guests. (We expanded the guest list a bit for our closest friends and family, but Sunny had five friends from her preschool classroom in the mix, which was such a brilliant, manageable size. My mother has always said that the best rule of thumb is to invite the number of kids equivalent to your child’s age. Smart woman, that one.)
We were very fortunate to have a gorgeous spring day for the festivities, so we set up everything outside in our backyard where our swing set and other outdoor toys were easily accessible for play.
The party began with “The Rainbow Station.” We hired a local facepainter and had rainbow tattoos from Tattly and rainbow pony bead necklaces that Sunny made for each of her friends up on the rainbow picnic table. As guests arrived, they headed to the Rainbow Station for rainbow facepaint and tattoos and necklaces. I was so so impressed by each of the girls’ facepaint designs. And totally bummed when Kaki refused to join in the fun. That kid has strong, unchangeable feelings these days.
Everyone was transformed into a Rainbow Explosion of Awesome.
I’m completely bummed that I failed at documenting our food/drink spread on our back deck. Sunny and Kaki woke up from their naps just before the party (when I thought I’d be running around snapping a few “before” pix, but instead was drawing rainbow chalk into my daughters’ hair. We used this hair chalk and it was messy but just right for the occasion.)
We’d strung a slew of Sunny’s rainbow paintings across the deck with rainbow lanterns. We had a big bowl of rainbow goldfish and Skittles that we’d arranged in rainbow order. My favorite touch was the rainbow fruit skewers: Raspberry (red), Clementine slice (orange), Pineapple (yellow), Green Grape (green), Blueberry (blue) and Purple Grape (purple). Loved those so. We had a cooler of juice boxes alongside a cooler of beer for the parents, and big pitchers of fresh squeezed mint lemonade. We picked up simple rainbow cups, plates, napkins and straws from the local Dollar Store. And we decorated with the rainbow colored wooden stacking blocks from when the girls were babies, including one that was in the shape of a rainbow (alas, no picture to show for it).
I even braved baking a six layer rainbow cake. Many a Dark n’Stormy and some moral support from friends late Friday night are perhaps the only reason I saw it through. Sure, it was lopsided, and I used enough food coloring that everyone pooped rainbow for days, but the reaction from the kids when we sliced it open was priceless. Well worth the leaning tower of rainbow and technicolor shits.
Also, how great are those ombré rainbow candles? Found here.
And there was present opening… and people definitely got the memo. Sunny is our artist, and she now has enough art supplies to last her all year long.
Ghillie and Ranger couldn’t come to the party so they sent rainbow ribbon dancers as party favors for all of the girls…
And, a rainbow bounce house… which, as you saw, was truly the heart of the party and entertainment. So much fun for the kids, and made socializing with the grown-ups far simpler.
After everyone departed, Sunny coped with the post-party low (WHY DID EVERYONE HAVE TO LEAVE! I FEEL SO SAD INSIDE!) by coloring in the sunshine in her rainbow butterfly flower fairy costume on the S.S. Rainboat, a beloved gift from Kaki’s FGPs.
Five sure started out with a bang. It’s going to be quite an exciting year. Holding on to our hats and our hearts!
April 1988 // May 2014
Oh how I miss the high of dancing and performing regularly. There’s just nothing else in the world quite like that kind of joy.
I love love love this video, especially because the “S” showcases step and includes the founder of my college step team. I could watch talented dancers all day long with my jaw on the floor.
I feel like I should begin this post with an apology and expression of nerves and fear. But I’d be lying if I did that. And I’d be buying into a notion that women of a certain age or size or fitness or shape should make excuses for their bodies, should apologize for the space they inhabit and the view they demand.
I’m not sorry. Or embarrassed. Or fearful. In fact, I’m excited. Excited to be given a platform to talk about women, particularly mothers, and swimwear and girl *ahemwomenahem* power and embracing this amazing, life giving, awesome body that I get to claim as my own.
I don’t see it as flawed. Or imperfect. Sadly, I can’t say that I’ve always felt that way. In fact, in many respects, when my body was most “perfect” (by society’s standards, anyway), I was the most critical and ashamed. But perspective and experience and giving birth to other female bodies has changed that. And I’m saddened that that is not more universally the case for women and mothers. I hear friends and colleagues and female acquaintances express frustration and disappointment about their bodies. Excuses. Wishes. Goals. Rarely do I hear women champion and celebrate the body that they are in here and now. And it’s a heartbreaking reality of the impossible beauty standards we put on women, of the way that we claim women as bodies and pieces rather than whole beings who are more than their thighs or their tummies or their hips or their butts or their chests or numbers on a scale.
Do I sometimes find myself analyzing one particular piece of my body, questioning if it could be “better” (read: thinner) and thus thinking about exercising more and eating less, trying to mold that part of me into someone else’s notion of what it “should” look like? Sure, absolutely. But then I tell that socially constructed, woman hating part of my mind to shove it. And I go eat an ice cream cone with my daughters, or on a walk with friends, or cozy up with our latest book club novel.
Over the course of the next month, I’m going to be rolling out a series of posts of me rocking various bathing suits and talking about women and daughters and mothers and bodies and fear and expectation and health and beauty and all the nonsense wrapped up in the image of a woman in a bathing suit.
While in Florida earlier this year, I posted the top photo of me with the girls wearing a recent swimsuit purchase. I was surprised by the number of emails I received asking me about the suit, complimenting me for my “brave” choice to post it on the Internet, and asking me to talk more about that choice.
Look, I’m not brave. First responders, our men and women in the military, doctors, The President – these are people that we can call brave.
I’m just a mama wearing a swimsuit next to a pool in Florida with her kids.
But I do have feelings about this, because I know in the eyes of many this is seen as brave. I know that many women avoid bathing suit season like the plague and go to great lengths to hide, conceal, or altogether avoid being seen out in public in a bathing suit. And, dude, the summer is just too hot for that nonsense. It pains me that women are embarrassed or ashamed or apologetic about their bodies as though their bodies are anybody’s business but their own!
I was fortunate to have a childhood growing up sailing and swimming and diving all summer long, which fed into summer jobs as a sailing instructor, so from age 8 to 24, I lived in a swimsuit as part of my daily life from June-August. I am very very comfortable parading around in a swimsuit, as I’ve been so conditioned to do so. But friends and other women have commented on this apparent confidence, especially as my body has become less and less “acceptable” and the prescribed ideal of what a woman is supposed to look like in order to wear a swimsuit in public.
I say PHOOEY to that noise.
If I’m going to enjoy the summer, I best be outside soaking up as much Vitamin D as possible and lounging by a body of water, and the optimal wardrobe for that is indeed a swimsuit.
I don’t pretend like my body hasn’t changed, especially since carrying, birthing and breastfeeding two children, but that doesn’t mean I can’t find a suit that fits my current body shape and still makes me feel confident and sexy and ready for the practical demands of fun in the sun with two kids.
I have suits from my pre-baby years, and suits from my pregnancy/maternity/breastfeeding years, but I hadn’t invested in swimsuits for post-breastfeeding, post-pregnancy, preschool-kid toting life. While on a work trip in Florida, I had an afternoon to myself and a boutique overflowing in bathing suits at my disposal. I spent two hours scouring the racks, trying on suit after suit, and ultimately landed on this gem from Miraclesuit called the Network Jena. It was, in a word, fantastic. Fantastic color. Fantastic style. Fantastic fit. It held my body in place so that I didn’t have to worry about a rogue boob flopping out of the suit mid-leap into the pool or dive into the ocean. I could chase and play and splash with my girls without readjusting straps and fidgeting and constant attention to what I was wearing. Instead I could just be, in the sun, on the beach, by the pool, and feel great.
I reached out to Miraclesuit about partnering for this column as I think about how to raise my daughters as women with healthy body image and balanced perspective on beauty and health and wellness constantly, and this suit and people’s reactions to it, gave me a new angle and food for thought. And because after trying on more styles by Miraclesuit, I am convinced that this brand knows how to design bathing suits for women of all shapes, sizes, and ages. And that is what we deserve. And maybe that confidence in finding a suit that is stylish and well-made and cut for one’s body properly regardless of size will help us women reclaim a place that is less about fitting society’s mold of beauty and more about celebrating who we are as unique individuals with life experiences that have literally shaped the very appearance of those bodies.
Maybe it’s a stretch, but never underestimate the power of a confident, carefree woman.
Here are some images of me wearing the Network Jena at Barton Springs Pool during our trip to Austin, TX last month. I’ll roll out more thoughts and styles next week, but hop to the bottom of the post for your chance to win a Miraclesuit of your choosing. And I’d love to hear your thoughts about any or all of the above ramblings. Thanks for joining me in this month long exploration, and remember, as cheesy as it may sound, you are, indeed, a miracle.
They’ll be three opportunities to win a Miraclesuit or Magicsuit of your choosing over the next month. That’s a winning of up to $180, three times! To enter this week’s giveaway follow the instructions below via Rafflecopter. Thank you for entering and for liking Blog a la Cart and Miraclesuit on Facebook and for following @blogalacart and @miraclesuitswim on Instagram. We’ll see you next week!
James and I each gifted Sunny one “larger,” more special gift for her birthday. James built her a picnic table and painted it in rainbow striping (I know! The man is good. Even if he was up in his shop in our barn until 2 in the morning the day before her party pulling it together. He did it! And Sunny (and the rest of us) were blown away.)
And I worked with my favorite costume designer, the insanely talented Richelle of Ella Dynae Designs, to create a Rainbow Butterfly Flower Fairy dress. When asked what the theme of her birthday would be, Sunny determined Rainbow Butterfly Flower Fairy (living up to every possible stereotype of a 5-year old girl, and ya know, rainbows, butterflies, flowers and fairies are awesome, and there ain’t nothing wrong with that! Let’s celebrate all things “girlie” that are totally rad!). Richelle created Sunny’s Lilac Fairy costume last year for her fourth birthday (remember this insane photoshoot last spring? These images still make me swoon) and the girls’ Anna and Elsa costumes for our inaugural Disney trip (images here and here). So I knew that she’d do yet another bang up job on this project.
I loved how closely we worked on this costume together, reviewing her sketches, sharing ideas, even texting mid-process to make some final decisions. And it lived up to Sunny’s wildest dreams, and transported us all to a magical world of Rainbow Butterfly Flower Fairies.
Rainbow costume available for purchase here
“A portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2014.”
Portraits in a ball pit…
Sunny: She held up very well considering all the attention and excitement of this past weekend.
Kaki: She also held up very well considering all the attention and excitement directed at Big Sister.