Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Hallmark: It Takes a Village

This post is another Hallmark sponsored post. I am being paid by Hallmark to write it, but all writing, ideas and opinions are mine. Thankfully, Hallmark and I share the same idea--that little moments are to be celebrated and that good people, good efforts and good intentions deserve a spotlight. See Hallmark Life is a Special Occasion for more details, like them on Facebook, and/or sign up for their e-mail messages HERE.


The Summer of '06 was a validating summer for me. I was planning our wedding, choosing table linen colors, and my friends took the role of bride cheerleader very seriously. They showed up, wearing t-shirts that said Bridesmaid, and they spent many a night folding programs, gushing over dress choices and saying things bridesmaids are supposed to say. Like "It's your day!" and "You're the Bride!" and, my personal favorite, the daily countdown text of "ONLY ___ MORE DAYS!" And yes, it was all caps. Basically, we were one "Let's Hear it for the Bride" cheer away from a great Saturday Night Live skit.

Most of us didn't have kids back then, so celebrating the bejesus out of each other was a nice hobby to fill our time. And it really did feel good to support friends that way. A couple weddings followed mine the year after, and I was happy to pay it forward. Bachelorette parties, showers, favor making, picture taking, and talking about upcoming weddings as much as possible at all brunches, happy hours and random rendevous.

Weddings are a really big deal, I get it. But, I think there's something so equally wonderful--definitely worthy of the same glorification and celebration among friends as a wedding. We don't get t-shirts made to support the occassion, we don't host catered receptions to celebrate. And yet I think there is no greater occassion to show up, no better time to celebrate, than when a friend welcomes new life.

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My best friend is having a baby next week, and I will be there to celebrate. If there's one thing Sisterfriend knows how to do, it's celebrate; and while, yes, I cannot wait to hold her sweet baby, I am also looking forward to the opportunity of showing up. I get asked a lot about my friendships--how we make it work, how we've built intimate relationships with each other and kept them. It's simple. You show up. And the big things in life like having babies? You celebrate. You let your friends know that you are well aware that moment of falling desperately in love with a child they've carried for nine months deserves one hell of a hullabaloo.

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The old proverb says, "It takes a village to raise a child." Well, it also takes one to celebrate a child. And I think any mama can agree that one of the best ways to feel loved is when someone loves your child. Which is why I can recall every single person who came to the hospital to see both my girls when they were born. Or why I saved every "Welcome to the World" card I ever received and have them wrapped in ribbon and tucked away in keepsake boxes. You don't forget these things--not even in the blackened haze of unexpected diagnosis grief. Especially not in the blackened haze of unexpected diagnosis grief.

Having a baby is a life-changing, soul-stretching, glorious occasion, and if there's one opportunity to deepen a friendship, it's rallying to celebrate the miracle of birth, the triumph of adoption, the undeniable fact that having your heart stretched with love for a new child is a very, very big deal.

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Someday, several years from now, my friends and I will gather for coffee, and we'll talk about our kids' college applications. How much car insurance costs for teenagers. How we love our daughter's boyfriend (Oh God, I hope). But we'll remember that the depth of our cherished friendships began when we showed up long ago. When we held out our arms to hold each other's babies for the very first time. When we made mothering an infant seem a little less isolating because we stopped by, we brought meals, we rocked and kissed those newborns and we celebrated.

Because it takes a village.

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Do you have a favorite memory from your pregnancy or your child's birth when you felt celebrated by your friends? Or, have you celebrated a friend's new baby in a special way? Hallmark and I would love to hear your stories. In your comment, please share how you help make welcoming new life a special occasion.

To see other Hallmark posts on this blog, click HERE.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Weekend: On the Brink of March

'Tis very late February (please pause to celebrate the occasional use of 'tis, cousin to another archaic abbreviation of likewise importance--'twas) that I get the itch. A good itch. More of a high, really. On pastels, on Peeps, on pink and lace and tulips; clean sheets, open windows, flowy skirts and bows. Little birds. Things with little birds on them. Mint green. Okay, I'm done. Wait, one more--skipping.

My internal celebratory clock does its thing every year. I just give in to it because there is no use fighting.

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Hence (okay, pause for a good hence too) the new herb pots on my window.

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The jars of pink tulips placed in almost every room in the house.

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The new spring sheets that haven't stopped feeding my happiness quota since I bought them.

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Golden Disco Onesie from the funky, retro Etsy shop, La Marie

And I'm not going to hide the fact that I make very literal interpretations of holidays and seasons in my style choices. Valentine's Day? Oh God, I showed up for Lainey's ballet class looking like a cross between a Whitman's chocolate sampler and a rose bouquet...by choice. So, these days basically I open my closet door and whisper "Wherefore art thou, Spring?" and it answers back in pink and ruffles and floral prints.

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Alright, alright, enough with spring optimism.

Our weekend:

Lazy, lazy Saturday.

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I cleaned the house, drank tea, browsed stacks of catalogues and watched the girls drag baby dolls across the driveway while the ends of their pony tails lifted and fluttered with the weekend breeze.

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Lainey got picked up by a friend to go to the zoo Saturday afternoon. I watched her standing against the front door waiting for her ride, proudly wearing her backpack which was stashed with snacks, her camera and her favorite water bottle.

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Her girlishness emanated from her smile--those Chicklet teeth, that dimple. She wanted little to do with the farewell as we buckled her in her friend's car, so I downplayed my kiss goodbye and my "Have fun!" before I watched them drive away. She is growing, and it makes my heart ache and soar at the same time.

Nella once got picked up for a playdate with Lainey to give me some time to work, and Sister has never forgotten it. She missed me. So, when people roll in our driveway, she stays glued to the front door and says "No." Sister is funny.

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And if I was Billy Crystal, I'd transition into this next part with some jazzy song and dance that'd tie it all together. Alas (damn, pause for alas too), I am not.

Yes, I'm going to talk about the Oscars.

Nevermind the fact that this was our 7th Annual Pajama Glam-a Oscar Party. The rules are simple: wear your pajamas, bling it out, have a party.

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Heidi and I do it every year. And most years, it's mainly about the red carpet. I love the dresses (that big giant bow on Emma Stone's red dress? Don't even get me started. I want it. ) and the hair and pretending like we have some sort of fashion clout to judge when seriously, we're huddled on our couch in Target pajamas and Claire's rhinestone earrings.

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Dogs like Oscars. Dogs like Bling.

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This year was different though. I was so inspired by the whole idea that movies are another form of art. Each movie's creator and everyone involved so passionately represent their film--films that started with one person's idea. I loved the vignettes of actors they showed this year--thoughts about how movies move us, how they shape our culture, how they take us to a different time and place, how they teach us, how they start with dreamers.

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Creativity was deservingly celebrated, and I'll always toast to that. (Oh, that Esperanza Spalding performance gave me chills. And I saw her front in center from a little lawn in East Lansing when I was pregnant with Nella).

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Moral of the story? Find more ways to celebrate. Things to get dressed up for. Occassions to invite your friends and make big nights of it all. And the other moral of the story is--Ben & Jerry's Banana Cream Pie Ice Cream--Dude. RUN. TO. YOUR. LOCAL. GROCERY. STORE. That is all. That and a couple more happy pictures of weekending.

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*****

Introducing new sponsor:
Rachel Baxter (her blog) is an Independent Consultant for Norwex, a mindful company that offers products that improve your quality of life while reducing our global footprint. They are well known for their antibacterial reusable cleaning cloths that reduce the need for chemicals in your house. We received a pack of Norwex's best cleaning cloths last week, a nice incentive for our spring cleaning weekend. My favorites? The window cloth (no smears on my mirrors!) and the antibacterial cleaning mit from the kids cloth packet that allows Lainey to help with chores without being exposed to harmful chemicals. And plenty more products Norwex offers that help make your everyday home routines safer and more meaningful for your family and the planet.

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Another reason to shop? You'll be supporting a cause near to my heart. All of Rachel's profits between now and April 8 will be given to a fund to bring Arnold, a Reece's Rainbow orphan, home to his forever family.

One commenter on this post will win a free Norwex Enviro and Window cloth package

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Celebrating a healthy two-year check-up today. Grateful for health and growth and milestones...I never take it for granted.

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Finally, I promised a while ago I'd be bringing some photo tips to the blog. I'm happy to finally be able to reveal these as Disney's baby site Babyzone.com has just relaunched, and it's bigger, better, and more beautiful, incorporating more real-life mom photos, stories, and helpful advice. I'll be sharing a series of easy photo tip slideshows that will offer simple advice on capturing interesting, meaningful photos of your children. The first two are already up. Check out Capturing Childhood and The Power of Suggestion.

I'll be back tomorrow for another Hallmark post. A fabulous week to you!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Sea Inspired

Here's the cool thing about creative inspiration. Its headquarters are located four minutes from my house.

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Unless you're part of the very small population of people who literally live on the beach--as in you wave to dolphins while you pour your coffee--you have to drive a bit and park to view the wonder that is The Blessed Shore. And in a sea town (I'm taking the liberty to call Naples a sea town because the term "sea town" is quaint and lovely and it sounds better than "gulf town")--where were we? Yes, if you live in a sea town and want to experience the glory of the beach that belongs to us all, you park, unbuckle kids, gather buckets and towels and bags of beachy things, and you haul it through a parking lot to a small pathway that leads to the beach. Our Naples beaches are all the same in that big parking lots lead to narrow pathway entrances that finally open up to the wide open space of sand and sea.

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There's something about that narrow pathway. It's a drumroll, a "get ready," a naturesque crescendo. And it never gets old, stepping off the last plank of boardwalk on that path, through the tunnel of palm trees, past the foyer of sea oats and finally into the sandy, sun-kissed auditorium.

Hello, Beach. Good to see you again, Friend.

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I love how the beach makes the world seem so very big and yet still small and bonding at the same time. I made small talk with a couple vacationers whose kids walked the edge of the water with mine. A woman smiled at Nella. "She's cute," she said. I smiled back and said thank you. "How old is she?" the woman asked. "Two," I answered. "She just learned how to walk." The woman smiled a kinder gentler smile and replied, "My daughter walked very late too." And though I haven't done this in a while, I somehow felt the need to say it: "Well, she has Down syndrome," although it actually came out less awkward. It seemed an appropriate addition and even more appropriate when the woman softly replied, "So does my daughter." And she pointed far up the beach where a beautiful seventeen-year-old girl stood in the sand, chatting with family.

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I wrote about letting go and chilling out at the park earlier this week, but I've never had that problem at the beach. I'm always relaxed there, completely aware of the fact that my kids don't need my stimulation to be entertained. We sink into the sand, and I subconsciously gain lessons on life from my surroundings. I love that the beach is always there. That the sun will always rise and fall. And I remember after Nella was born, feeling this urgency for our family to have our first sunset together again--as if I needed to be reminded by something as eternal and dependable as the cycles of nature that life moves on. Always.

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We look for symbols of continuity in life through both challenges and triumphs as they are the constant middle that keeps us grounded, happy, motivated. I smiled remembering this comfort when last night Heidi excitedly talked about bringing the new baby to the beach in a few weeks for this anticipated child's first sunset.

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Of all the places to love, the beach belongs to all of us. It's where Brett and I first kissed. It's where my friends have gathered to celebrate life. It's where we've welcomed new babies and new journeys, and it's where we go to be reminded that no matter what life brings, the sun will always rise and fall.

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We stayed far past sunset last night. The moon was a tiny speck that graced the sky solo at first but, over time, was joined by the brightest star, and then another, until finally constellations were brilliantly distinguishable from our blanket under the theater of sky.

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Cue the Silhouette Show.

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We left the beach, led by the glow of our cell phones and once again, inspired by the unchanging ever present beach. This is where you say Selah, I think.

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Friday Phone Dump:

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Happy happy weekend. Wear something yellow. Do a cartwheel. Call your mama and tell her you love her.

And, if you care to share...what symbols of continuity in your life inspire you, keep you grounded, make you happy?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Enjoying: Funky Cartwheel

I was all set to write a post last night but ended up trading a night of writing for a night of roasting marshmallows with friends on our lanai. Or roasting friends with marshmallows on our lanai. Works both ways.

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We played the "If" game, acted out embarrassing stories and applauded Brett for making sure our wood didn't burn out. It was a good trade.

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*****

I woke up yesterday morning in a mood--a funk that wasn't helped by bad shampoo that left my bangs all butter-greased for the rest of the day. There are a number of day resuscitation techniques I've got in the bag for these occasions, some of which include going to Michaels to buy puffy stickers, painting my fingernails red, wearing tights, asking Lainey to talk in a British accent, taking pictures of Barbies doing strange things and texting them to my sister, carrying Nella in a sling, watching this one more time, singing this into a hairbrush, crafting something, baking something, modpodging something, and/or going to Whole Foods to buy a very expensive cookie.

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Yesterday, I tried something new.

"I'm going to go do a cartwheel," I announced to my family last night. Which is pointless because no one even bothers to look up at these sorts of broadcasts.

So I left the front door open while I walked out far enough to clear the house, tucked my shirt in and took the running start that would prep my almost perfect cartwheel. There were some form issues--some crazy stuff going on with the legs in the air, but seriously, it was almost perfect. And just as good as going to Michaels to buy puffy stickers, might I add.

With that prefaced, we are enjoying...

The Hat Thief.
In love with any head gear she can get her hands on, Nella was delighted to discover the drawer where I keep my hats.

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Little Buns.
It's my favorite way they wear their hair--twirled into tight little buns...

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...that unravel to soft curls the next day.

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Lainey Date
We headed to the park, just the two of us yesterday afternoon. She investigated every play structure, spending little time with each activity before looking for something new. We took a barefoot walk around the little lake...

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...and ended up at the water park even though we brought no towels or bathing suit.

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We enjoyed it so much, we repeated the fun with Sister today, at a different park.

Park Encore
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I sat in the woodchips today and just quietly watched them. I sometimes lead their play too much, suggesting what looks exciting and adventurous--"Hey, want to swing? Want to slide? Want to go climb that fun looking thing?" Today, I sat back and simply watched. A park can be relaxing if you chill out.

The few kids that shared our spot finally cleared out, and it was just me and the girls.

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I did not lead. I followed. And it felt good.

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New Fish.
I should know better than to send Brett and Lainey to the store together.

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We'll see how this goes.

Pre March.
I'm craving flowers, pastels, Peeps, babies, lace, spring dresses and sweet sandals.

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And yellow. Yellow is a cartwheel in a crayon.

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Funk's out. Creative revolution's incoming. Look out.

What are you enjoying right now?

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P.S.: I've been dropping book quote teasers on Facebook and Twitter (@KelleHampton) this week. More to come.