It Takes A Village

Last Monday was a hard day in the Topping household. Eggs didn’t let us go to sleep until almost midnight on Sunday night and was up at 4:30 am the next morning. Monkey got up at 5:00 am, exactly as I was putting Eggs back down to bed. We got Monkey to sleep at 5:30 am, but Eggs was up at 6:00. And that’s how my day began.

When you’ve only had a few hours of sleep and you have to be responsible for two other lives, the world looks like an awful place. Even though the sun was out, even though we broke temperature records that day, even though the trees are starting to show a little green when you look at them out of the corners of your eyes, I was miserable.

So I sent a message to a friend of mine that comes and watches the boys once a week so that I can go be an adult for a couple of hours. A few hours later, she was hanging out with the boys while I passed out in bed. When I woke up, we went for lunch and then for a walk in the beautiful sunshine. Before I took her home, she offered to help me get some groceries.

The day would have been a very different one had she not been here.

I’d have been tired all day with zero patience for either child. Monkey would have been antsy to go outside, but because we have no yard (yet), we would stay indoors. I wouldn’t have had the energy to take them anywhere. I’d probably have missed lunch because there wasn’t a lot to eat in the house, which would have made me even grouchier. My bad attitude would soon affect the boys and we would have a pity party before the afternoon was out. By the time Brian would have returned home, the boys would be miserable, I’d be miserable, and no one would have felt love.

But that wasn’t the case.

Before I had kids, I didn’t understand the old adage “it takes a village to raise a child.” I thought it had something to do with kids needing to learn social skills or something to do with public schooling or something parents said before finding babysitters for their little ones. I have learned now that, while those things are important, they are not what it means.

Children are exhausting in every conceivable meaning of the word. After having kids, your sleep suffers, apparently forever. But not only that. You spend your days pouring every ounce of love, patience, and kindness into them. You try to teach them everything you know and protect them, mostly from themselves. And usually, this is the first time where you do this and you don’t get the same in return. Children can’t reciprocate this kind of love for many, many years to come. So it feels like you’re a bucket that is quickly emptied each day.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s rewarding, but you’re investing in the long term. The short term rewards are the small moments, like when Monkey kisses Eggs when Eggs is crying. When you get to see that the effort you put in is making a difference, you finally feel that reward. But then Monkey smacks Eggs in the face and we are back to reality.

But this why you have a community. You get the children at their best and at their worst. They get you for the same. And when your bucket is empty, we surround ourselves with people that help us fill it. These people offer to watch the kids, bring us snacks, or just send a message to see how we’re doing and don’t feel bad if we are too overwhelmed to reply. This community can be made of up unexpected people. Sometimes family, sometimes friends, sometimes coworkers or churchmates or neighbours.

It’s hard to find community sometimes. When we moved here, I realized that I didn’t know as many people as I thought. Once Eggs was born, I thought I was going to be so isolated. But there were SO many people at the baby shower. Then we got so much food and support from church. People were connecting with me so much more than I expected and I found my community.

You know what? People want to help. I’m serious. People see us moms with hair half-straightened, children missing shoes, and a huge barf stain on our fronts and think, “I bet they could use a meal or a break or a word of encouragement.” And if you make sure to repay their kindness with your own, then you’re doing just fine.

So to my community, thank you. Thank you for listening when I’m frustrated, for bringing us food when getting to the grocery store seems just as stressful as flying on a plane, for taking my kids so that I can take a break, for seeing my need for help and deciding to take the time to fill my bucket. Thank you.

An especially big thank you to my dear friend who rescued me that Monday (you know who you are) and have now left to better another community in the USA. Lots of love.

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On Makeup

Ahh make-up. Something some people can do without and others feel like they cannot live without. There are millions of Youtube videos about how to put on makeup, how to take it off, why it’s important, why it oppresses women. Some are proud not to wear it, others won’t leave the house without it, and lots of us are right in the middle.

I’ve had an on-again-off-again relationship with makeup. The first time I wore any (apart from play makeup as a girl) was at summer camp at the age of twelve. At the end of the week, there was a goodbye dinner that everyone got dressed up for and spent the whole week looking for a “date” (even though we ate dinner with our cabin mates and that was it). One of the girls in my cabin brought makeup and we each sat down in front of the small mirror in dim light and applied it. I learned how to put black eyeliner on my water line (something you don’t do nowadays because it makes your eyes look smaller) and how it kind of blurs your vision just a little bit. We all applied pink sparkling lipstick and an inordinate amount of blush. We were young women now.

Throughout highschool I kept with the eyeliner, though I passed on the lipstick and the  blush. I was one of those very lucky few that didn’t need to put anything on my skin. I wore lipstick once for a play that I was in, but that was it. Eyeliner and mascara got me through just fine. I bragged about not needing to wear makeup (To every person who knew me at sixteen, I’m so sorry).

Then adulthood happened and makeup was not worth doing anymore. I worked in a carwash. Nobody saw me. Once Brian and I started seeing each other, I reverted to my old eyeliner schtick, but by this point, I was embarrassed by my lack of skills. By this point, Youtube and Instagram were full of people who had mastered the art of smokey eyes and contouring and “glowing skin” and I was not one of them. I started putting eyeliner on my top lid (Yay! Progress!), but my routine stayed the same.

Not for my sister though. Before you go any further, if you don’t know, my sister is beautiful. And I’m not just saying that because we are related. It’s insane. I’m serious. She’s jaw-dropping. Anyways, she had been practicing and practicing and practicing and she got this stuff down. She’d perfected the smokey eye in colours that enhanced her bright, blue eyes. She’d worked out the perfect red lip to rival Taylor Swift.

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Steph’s got better lip game

So she and I’d hang out and I’d make her show me cause I looked a bit haggard in comparison, especially in photos. Together we practiced. And spent waaaay too much money at Sephora. Like seriously.

Soon, I had the eye stuff down. But that’s it. I can’t rock the lipstick, as much as I’d love to. I still don’t have to worry too much about breakouts so the skin makeup still eludes me. Contouring? I need it in a bad way, but I have no clue where to start (especially since there is no highlighter white enough to highlight my vampire-pale skin). And please don’t even look at my eyebrows. But I can do a smokey eye AND in colours to make my greenish-greyish eyes look green. Woot!

The feminist in me kind of despises how much I want to love makeup. I guiltily watch tutorials when I’m alone to pick up tips on stuff I probably won’t ever even try. I mean, what is makeup for except to make you more appealing to others? Shouldn’t I be more concerned with inner beauty? I shouldn’t have to conform to modern beauty standards (trust me, I don’t. Not even a little bit)!

But I look at the women who wear oodles and oodles of makeup and I am jealous at how talented they are. Then later I look at the women who wear none and am jealous how naturally beautiful they are. I watched the rise of one of the grossest things I’ve seen on the internet:

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This hurts my heart. Also ifunny.com, this is not funny.

That’s the weird thing about makeup. It’s sometimes considered necessary because you always have to look “beautiful” but other times it’s considered deceptive. I don’t know. I don’t like the idea that you have to be beautiful, like you owe the world a pretty face. But I also want to feel beautiful and makeup helps me feel that way. I don’t judge women on whether or not they wear makeup, but there is that double standard within myself. You know what I mean? I judge myself on something that I’d never judge anyone else on.

Then I was thinking about it when I was walking around the beautiful lake we have in my town. Natural landscapes are beautiful. I’m awed when I see fields of wildflowers. The way that the world placed all the plants in an chaotic, but gorgeous display. But when I see a perfectly manicured garden, it’s also beautiful. I see the huge amounts of work that went into it. I see the deliberate choices of colours and placement. Both are lovely. And so are we, no matter where on the makeup scale we land.

So, ladies, I’m going to remind you of how utterly stunning you are, makeup or none. And gents, maybe lay off the “trust issue” crap. You’re looking for beauty in the wrong place.

Women, Competition, and Sisterhood

“I like to hang out with guys more than girls. Girls are just…you know…”

“I’m one of the guys.”

“I’m not like other girls.”

I’m ashamed to say that I have used each one of those sentences some time in my life. I usually included it in the same conversation as “Yeah, I don’t think I’m going to ever vote. I mean, my vote will just be the same as my husband’s so who cares?”

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Yes, I was quite the piece of work in high school. In the last few years, I matured and learned what those statements were actually saying:

“There’s something inherently wrong with being female and therefore I will distance myself from that as much as I can.”

But where did I get that idea?

Our world doesn’t value women. It’s easy to see. From insults like “throws like a girl” to the gender pay gap, we just aren’t considered as valuable as our male counterparts. As interested as I am in that subject, I’m no scholar so I won’t get too much into it. Even if you don’t think that I’m right, I want you to think back into your past to see if there were ever a time that you felt limited by being a girl.

For me, I desperately wanted to be a pilot like one of my uncles. Some kids want to be doctors or rock stars (I wanted that one too) or optometrists, I wanted to fly. Until I learned that piloting was for boys. Girls are flight attendants. Besides, science isn’t a feminine art. So I dropped it.

Why are some things for boys and not for girls? Because girls are petty, unreliable, emotional, illogical, irrational, uncooperative hens. And we have periods, which is apparently the scariest thing in the whole, entire world.

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Hell, even douche-y politicians are afraid.

All in all, the stereotype about women is that we just aren’t capable. Goodness gracious, me? Make a decision? All by myself? Heavens, no!

Gag.

There are a lot of dangers to this thinking. We get less opportunities, have less representation almost anywhere, and we are left out of conversations that strictly belong to us (birth control, anyone?). We are routinely ignored, even more so if you happen to be a woman of color or part of the LGBT community. If we are raped or sexually assaulted, we are more likely to be on trial instead of our attacker. Statements like the one below (from a judge no less) are examples of exactly what happens when women have no value in society:

But I’m not going to go into that particular can of beans today because I carry too much anger in that subject to talk about it more fully. (Quick note, “I have a firm understanding”? Yeah right.)

What I really want to talk about is our reaction as women. You’d think we’d rally together and say, “No! Enough is enough! We are just as valuable, just as capable, just as human as men!”

But we don’t. We subscribe to the same thinking. We don’t like working in offices full of women because we believe what we are told about ourselves. We buy tickets to movies where the entire plot of the movie is about mother-in-laws and daughter-in-laws hating each other. We don’t mind not having more than one woman in our books, movies, television shows, and video games because there’d be too much drama. We criticize other women every chance we get on things that we have no business with (how she mothers, how she dresses, what she does with her time). We believe this nonsense.

But we don’t have to!

We can bond together (not against the patriarchy, I mean, unless you want to. Then, hey, send me an invite). We can refuse to believe what society says we are and we can refuse to treat other women in that same fashion. We can encourage, praise, and support each other. We can buy tickets or copies of media that shows well-rounded women. We can defend women who are being victimized. We can refuse to compete with one another. We can show each other that we are in this together.

I’m going to tell you from experience that it’s not easy. It’s hard to rewire your brain after you’ve been living one way since childhood. But I read somewhere that the first thought that comes to your brain in reaction to someone else is what you’ve been taught to think. The second thought defines who you are.

So if you see a girl in short-shorts or a hijab or something that you don’t wear yourself or you think is unflattering, instead of internally rolling your eyes or thinking something negative, skip to the second thought. Be happy she likes her body. Be proud that she stands up for what she believes in. Whatever you do, try to think positively. Because we have enough out there trying to tell us that we aren’t enough.