The Story of Us

I met my husband, Patrick, when I was 18 years old. We were set up by a mutual friend who thought that his two single friends would like each other. It was the days of MSN Messenger, and my blind date and I chatted for quite a bit and hit it off. We’d talk for hours about everything and nothing. But when we finally came face-to-face, it was NOT a love connection. He remembers that I wore red pleather pants, drove my parents Pathfinder and had platinum bangs. He also claims that I acted like a stuck-up-snob. I remember that his hair was slicked back with gel, had his shirt unbuttoned WAY too low, and he had on a thick gold chain. I thought he was a Tony Soprano-wannabe.

After that disastrous first meeting, our mutual friend kept us in the loop of what each other was up to, but I didn’t actually see Patrick again for about 7 years. Fast forward to 25 years old; Pat and I had just both gotten out of long-term relationships that sucked our souls, and the same mutual friend was tired of hearing us bitch to him about our exes and complain about being single. So, he suggested that we get together for dinner.

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One of our first pictures together – December 2010. We’re 25 here!

I remember Patrick being so nervous at dinner his hands were shaking. In his defense, I was a lot to handle back then…I was still recovering from a deeply traumatizing breakup and didn’t want to “commit”. Poor Pat! He was a sweetie from the start, but I was too caught up in myself to notice. I was mean to him, really, really mean. It still makes me cringe to this day! He had told me after a few months of dating that he was falling for me, but that fell on deaf ears. I’d boss him around, expect him to take me out and pay for everything, and then go out with friends after he’d drop me off. Finally, one night he had enough of my shitty behavior and broke things off. He didn’t just dump me, he dumped me HARD! He wouldn’t answer texts, phone calls, emails, messenger, Facebook…he iced me out. I deserved it, I was horrible!

I knew almost immediately that I had messed up and lost something really precious. Nobody had ever made me feel the way that Patrick did. I instantly regretted my actions and tried to make amends. But my stubborn guy wanted NOTHING to do with me. So, we both went our separate ways and ended up dating other people. His relationship got very serious and I was afraid that he had potentially met “the one” and I lost out. But, thankfully, girlfriend screwed up and Pat and I were found ourselves single again 6 months later. I BEGGED our friend to help me get in contact with Pat. I was relentless! Calling, texting, email, Facebook…finally, I got a text back from Pat that said “What do you want?” and I was elated. I begged him to meet with me, it would only be minutes of his time. He agreed and we went for coffee.

In my heart I knew that if he forgave me, then this would be the one for me. I knew that he was my person, I’d just been too stubborn to notice. It was because of the way he looked at me like I was the only one in the room. It was because of the way I always tried to make him laugh, and the payoff of his sparkling smile. It was because of the warmth of his hand on my back when he’d hold the door open. It was because of how completely and totally he understood me, the good and the bad, and didn’t bat an eye. It was because how everyone he meets instantly becomes his friend. And above all, it was because of his huge heart, a heart that I had hurt and needed to mend.

In that coffee shop, I apologized like I had never apologized before! I was groveling! Pat was stoic and didn’t give away an ounce of emotion. But I told him that if he gave me a chance, that I would spend the rest of my life making it up to him. He said, “We’ll see…”

That was September 2010. By June, we were living together. By December we were engaged. We married May 18, 2013, 5 YEARS AGO TODAY!

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The last 5 years of marriage haven’t been a breeze. In our first year, Pat’s Dad passed away suddenly and it devastated our family. All the stress of the first year of marriage, a new house that needed major renovations, plus dealing with such a huge loss and depression…it nearly broke us. Thankfully, we came out the other side. We learnt a lot that first year; like how to fight fair and when to give each other space.

We waited 4 years to have a baby and I’m so glad we did. It allowed us to be in a much better, more stable place – emotionally & financially. It allowed us to travel the world together – Paris, London, Scotland, Iceland, Costa Rica, Mexico and Caribbean. And waiting before becoming parents gave our relationship the time to mature. As we became parents, we started to learn how to not sweat the small stuff and how to maintain our own relationship outside of being Charlotte’s Mommy and Daddy. That is a work in progress. There are very good days and very bad days. The important part is that we are each other’s best friend, team-mate and life line.

So to my husband on our 5th wedding anniversary, I love you. You are my person and I’m so thankful that we’re in this together. Here’s to another 5 years…and at that time, I would like to have vow renewal in Jamaica please and thank you.

REAL TALK: SO MANY QUESTIONS FOR YOU ALL! How did you meet your spouse? What obstacles have you faced? How have you overcome them? What does marriage mean to you? I want to know everything…share in the comments below!

Interview with my Mother

It’s not until you become a mother that you fully appreciate your own mom. That’s certainly been the case for me. Franny, aka Franny Lams, aka Lambo, aka Mom/Mommy/Ma/Mother is a prominent figure in my life. She’s the big cheese, the boss, a larger-than-life tour de force. She’s always been my biggest cheerleader, my strongest advocate, the president of my fan club and my ride-or-die. I would not have survived my first year of motherhood without her guidance, support and love. So, as any annoying daughter would do, I asked her to talk about me and gave her less than 24 hours to come up with something meaningful. Here’s how it went down…

Tuesday, 9:01 PM

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Tuesday, 9:04 PM

Phone call to my mom

Me: Mom, I sent you an email did you see it? Why haven’t you answered yet?

Mom/Fran: You sent me an email? I’m doing my crossword, I have priorities. Let me look and I’ll call you back.

Tuesday, 9:07 PM

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Tuesday, 9:10 PM

Phone call to my mom

Me: Mom, I’m going to email you the questions now.

Mom: Wait, so you’re going to pawn off your blog post this week to me?

Me: Yup!

 

Wednesday, 9:00 AM

Calls mom x 2. No answer.

Wednesday, 9:01 AM

Calls mom’s cellphone x 3. No answer.

Wednesday, 9:02 AM

Facetimes mom x 2. No answer.

Wednesday, 9:03 AM

Mom sees my missed calls and panics. Calls me three times in a row. I ignore her until 12pm. Aren’t daughters wonderful?

 

Here are the questions I sent my mom about me. Get to know me through my mother’s eyes. Her answers may be a little bias 🙂

Q: When I was little, what did you think I was going to be when I grew up?

I thought you would be an actress! You were a natural performer and you loved attention from an admiring audience. Some things never change!

Q: Do you think I have more of your good qualities or bad qualities?

I think you have many of my good qualities – perfectionism, creativity, intellect, sense of adventure, empathy (shall I continue?) – and only one of my bad qualities – nail biting!

Q: What is the funniest thing I ever said or did as a kid?

Picture a 2-year old Jen, her hands on her hips and feet planted firmly apart, with a steely defiance as she locks eyes with me and proclaims:” I am the boss of me.” Didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Q: What was the most annoying thing I did as a baby?

You hummed when you ate: a low and not-so-melodic hum to indicate your approval of food. Annoying, but also a good indicator.

Q: What were my very first words?

I wished it had been Mamma or Dada, but it was “Ju”, which was short for “juice”, and you demanded this loudly, usually in public places.   

Q: What’s your all-time favorite picture of me?

Actually, it is a picture of you and your brother (yes, HE is in it), mugging for the camera during a photo session at Sears when you were 3 and he was about a year and a half. Both of you are laughing and, for a moment, seem to like each other (Mom award for diplomacy here, svp).

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I was likely trying to push him off the table…

Q: What is your very first memory of me?

Easy peasy: you were screaming only seconds after you were born, so the nurse lay you down beside me and you instantly quietened when I said, “Hello, there sweetie, did you have a good trip?” You opened your eyes and fixed your bright blue (bloodshot) eyes on me as you saw me for the first time. We just stared at each other; it was love at first sight (for me, at least!)

Q: What made me cry the most when I was little?

You thought it was most unfair when we went to ToyRUs to buy a birthday prezzie for one of your friends and you did not also get a gift.

Q: What made me laugh the most when I was little?

Fraggle Rock, a muppets-type TV show in the 1980s, made you laugh a lot. It also scared the beejeezus out of you!

Q: What was the nicest thing I ever said to you?

Since you became a mom yourself, you said you now understand various things I experienced as a new mom, including how intensely and instantly you could love your child and would do anything to protect her from the world. Told you so…

Q: What was the meanest thing I ever said to you?

If I was in the U.S., I would plead the 5th amendment. Mum’s the word here…

Q: What age (of mine) did you hate experiencing the most?

While all the years have had their “challenges”, the late teens and early 20s were a roller-coaster. Hang on for the ride or be killed. Sometimes I wished for the latter…

Q: What age (of mine) do you feel like we were closest?

Again, easy peasy: now!

Q: What is the worst part about being my mother?

Trying to keep up with your quick intellect, navigating your sensitive nature, and meeting your high expectations of me, yourself and others.

Q: What is the best part about being my mother?

Keeping up with your quick intellect, successfully navigating your sensitive nature, and meeting those expectations! Yay me!

Q: What’s the one thing you would have done differently as a mom?

Not lose your remaining piece of “binky” (Binky was my baby blanket) at a hotel in Las Vegas. Sorry…

Q: Do you think it’s easier or harder to be a mother now than when you were raising our family?

It is definitely not harder, but infinitely more complicated because of the volume of information available through the Internet. People share their experiences and their knowledge online, so when you can search questions or have doubts you can find a hundred answers or suggestions. We had Dr. Spock and a couple of books as resources. Child-rearing techniques and ideas have changed in the past 30 years, but you can still phone your old Mom for advice. Then you can go ahead and do whatever you think is right or what Dr. Google suggests.

Thanks Mom! I love you!

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REAL TALK: Has your relationship with your mom changed after getting pregnant/having a baby? Share in the comments below!

 

The Reluctant Chef

I hate cooking. I’ve refused, for the last 7 years of my relationship, to step foot in the kitchen to cook anything other than Kraft Dinner, scrambled eggs, or grilled cheese. My mom was much the same way. She claims to have only learned to cook once my brother and I started to eat “real” food. So at least my disdain for the kitchen runs in the family. My husband does most of the cooking, much to his chagrin. We eat a lot of takeout, prepared food (thank for Costco) and often hit up our parents for dinner.

I never thought that I’d actual enjoy cooking either. I rather do 138502 things other than cook. I find it such a giant waste of time – you clean, chop, sautee, bake for hours, and it takes 15 minutes to eat. Also, as a perfectionist/control freak, I find it SO frustrating when the recipe doesn’t turn out exactly like how it looks in the picture, and when it doesn’t taste the way that I want it to. Plus, after cooking for what feels like forever, I’m often too grossed out with the food to even enjoy it. Then the clean-up, the menu prep, the grocery shopping…ugh the whole process is extremely annoying and makes me want to lie down and take a nap until I feel better.

I’ve kept up this spoiled princess mentality for quite some time (hey, I am what I am). But once Charlotte started to eat solids at 6 months, my world changed. Suddenly, I found myself in the kitchen, boiling and blending fruits and veg. It was easy enough and I got into a routine with my Baby Bullet. And then we went away for 2 months to Florida, and I swapped to organic pouches mixed with baby cereal that I’d spoon out to Charlotte. But when we got back, she wanted NOTHING to do with me feeding her. She was becoming an independent little lady at only 8 months old!

Initially I panicked. Shit shit shit, what the hell am I going to give her? But a friend mentioned something called baby-led weaning and away I went. The idea is to offer your baby foods that are soft-cooked and cut or mashed into small easily manageable pieces. You do the cooking, the cutting or mashing and the offering of the foods and your baby does the rest. That way, baby can be in control of what they are eating. I started with foods that were similar to what she enjoyed eating solo – she is obsessed with arrowroot cookies and rice puffs. So I started making baby muffins, cookie-shaped lentil patties, or fruits and vegs that she could easily pinch. You can see some of my fave baby recipes on my Instagram Story Highlights – follow me HERE.

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Christmas 2017 – Charlotte eating her favorite arrowroot cookie. Her little face just makes my heart melt!

This was a gateway for me! I started menu-planning for Charlotte which led to menu-planning for Pat and I. And before I knew it, I was cooking for us 5x a week. It was quite shocking to Pat, and to my family. My brother told me that I was officially an adult since I had a house, a baby and could cook dinner (thanks bro!) I was even a bit shocked by myself. I had defined myself so long in this negative light and created this narrative that I was a horrible cook – like the time I burnt water (I let the pot boil dry). But learning this new skill made me SO PROUD! It made me feel like I had grown up.

My new self confidence doesn’t mean I’ve become a great chef. I’m still unsure in the kitchen and check recipes at least 20 times as I’m cooking. We still order takeout, and buy prepared foods, but more often than not, I cook dinner myself. I love being able to feed my family yummy food that I made. And when Pat doesn’t douse dinner in ketchup and Charlotte gobbles everything down with a loud burp, I feel a sense of accomplishment and a deep satisfaction. A homecooked meal isn’t mutually exclusive to being a good mom, but for me, it’s one of the many tangible changes that I’ve felt as I’ve become a mother.

 

Real talk: Do you love cooking? Hate it? Have you always been good in the kitchen? Or is it a skill that you’ve had to hone? Let me know in the comments below!

Mom Uniform

I knew maternity leave would be at such a different pace. I knew that I wouldn’t have time to shower every day. I knew I wouldn’t always be wearing makeup, or have my hair blow dried, or my nails done. I knew that most of my clothes would get covered with a variety of baby bodily fluids. I knew that a lot of the clothes I wore before baby would never fit the same. I even knew that I would likely wear the same outfit over and over until it smelt and/or got stained with aforementioned baby fluids.

What I didn’t realize is that I’d still want to feel like “me” – the girl who never went to work bare-faced, that loves bright lipstick and has an outfit for every occasion.

Dressing my baby bump had been pretty easy. I wore fitted dresses, peasant blouses and maternity jeans that went up to my armpits. I stuck with flat shoes, or kitten heels, with the occasional stacked heel. Postpartum dressing has been the real challenge! I need clothes that are comfortable, take zero thought to put together, that are forgiving of weight fluctuations and very forgiving of stains. I thought I would have to sacrifice my personal style for baby, but instead, it evolved! Let’s say that I went from glamour girl to practical Patterson. I swapped stilettos for sneakers…and you know what? I’m not mad about it.

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Mommy tummy out and I’m ok with that! This is my signature mat leave style – leggings and cool top. Lululemon leggings (Align Pant), HYBA Floral bomber (in size XXL).

My absolute favorite buy while I’ve been on maternity leave has been the Align Pant by Lululemon. I bought 3 pairs in the last 10 months. Best investment ever! Not only are they super lightweight and buttery soft, they come in every color of the rainbow. This means I can dress them up and down and convince the world that I’m wearing “real” clothes and not leggings 24/7. Plus, the signature high-rise style with mega-stretch and shape retention means the pants lie flat against your skin and won’t dig in. Perfect for post-partum mommies! Oh also, I should mention, the Align is known for giving you an instant butt-lift. Hooray! Get yours here.

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Wearing the Align Pant in size 12 (I wear a 16 in jeans). Color is Black Currant. Bomber is from HYBA. Look how happy my mom butt is!

 

REAL TALK: What’s your go-to mommy outfit? Is there a piece that you love? Let me know in the comments below!

Embracing the Mom Bod

My Florida vacation this winter looked idyllic. Sunshine and sand, what more can a girl want? But the truth is, I struggled. I was 6.5 months postpartum and it was the first time that I stopped to think about myself. I hadn’t really thought about my body much since giving birth. During pregnancy, I was both in awe and annoyed with my body. I loved its new shape, the hard round bump, the soft skin, the perky boobs. But the constant aches and pains and the loss of coordination was very annoying for someone who likes to be in control of all things. Then baby comes and your body does amazing things like creating a human and creating sustenance to feed her. I still can’t quite wrap my head around it.

I lost all my baby weight thanks to breastfeeding and new mommy anxiety. Unfortunately, as I’ve weaned Charlotte from 8-10 times a day of nursing to just 3, the weight isn’t melting off like it used to. So I found myself in Florida, in bathing suit weather, dreading exposing my new body. Over the last 32 years, I’ve come to terms with my voluptuous shape…but it’s been tight and firm. Now, after childbirth, my skin doesn’t have the same elasticity as it used to. My tummy hangs lower, my face droops, I have new back rolls and my hips have extra padding. New purple and blue veins have appeared on my thighs and behind my knees. And the stretch marks that I’ve been used to since puberty have become red and angry.

For the first time, in a long time, I found myself feeling extremely uncomfortable in anything other than long sleeves and yoga pants. When did I become that person? I LOVE fashion, I LIVE fashion, I WORK in fashion! I absolutely loved getting dressed up in the latest and greatest…but that was before baby. Now, as I am, I still don’t recognize my body. And putting on a bathing suit in Florida was feeling super traumatic.

But I did it anyways, because I was damned that I was going to miss out on a fun time with my family, just because of a little cellulite and saggy skin. I am more than just my physical appearance, and to those that love me, like my daughter, I am everything. She doesn’t know the difference from before and after. She loves my soft sports, my warm embrace, my strong arms that carry her. So I vowed to focus on her and focus on fun. “I will wear this bathing suit and enjoy myself, dammit!”

I had on one of my fave Addition Elle swimsuits and asked my brother to take a pic because in that moment, I was feeling very Instagram worthy! The rock was calling for a Little Mermaid moment. He took about 20 different version and I hated them all. I couldn’t stop fixating on the double tummy, the back fat and chubby arms. But, even though I was embarrassed, I still wanted to share!

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Wow, your comments blew me away! They say the internet can be a mean, judgemental place…but thankfully (so far) it’s been nothing but supportive and understanding. So many moms reached out to encourage me and share their own body confidence struggles post-baby. I had to follow-up the original post with another.

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Am I 100% OK with all the physical changes since having a baby? Nope, definitely not. I still probably cry once a week thinking I’ll never have the same confidence again. But, it’s a choice to live life and own it, or to let our insecurities hold us back. So, I am embracing the Mom bod and resolving to stay positive about myself, no matter what. What kind of role model would I be for my baby girl if I didn’t practice what I preach?

REAL TALK: How do you feel about your body post-baby? Do you feel confident? Do you love the new you? SHARE below!

#BreastfeedingStruggles

Breastfeeding is hard. You may have read about my struggles early on; Charlotte had a tongue tie and a lip tie and my nipples were ruined. I would bite down on my lip in agony every time she would latch! But since then, Charlotte and I have developed a nice routine. I nurse her three times a day – in the morning when she wakes up, before her lunch and right before bed.

Despite the sense of pride and accomplishment that I feel for having made it to this point, there are so many difficult moments that moms endure during their journey. Even though I may feel like somewhat of an expert, the breastfeeding struggle is still real! Hope that fellow BF moms can related to these funny (and painful!) struggles.

  1. My wardrobe lately is based on whether or not I can pull my boob out of my clothing easily and quickly. Thank god nursing clothes have gotten so much cuter! Enter my sorority sister, Britt. This badass momtrepeneur is the founder of Lark & Lux and the creator of the Melly (aka my new fave dress). It’s perfect for all-sized mamas (from sizes 4-20) as it’s made of super luxe bamboo fabric with incredible stretch and softness. And there’s a built-in bra that keeps the ta-tas contained and comfy. Honestly, this is probably the most versatile piece in my wardrobe. Feeding your baby shouldn’t have to mean sacrificing your personal style and The Melly lets me #feedfearlessly wherever my day takes me. As special treat to you all, Lark & Lux is offering you 15% off your very own Melly dress. At checkout, use code: JUSTJEN15. (Offer valid until May 31, 2018).

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    Wearing the Melly Dress in navy & white stripe by Lark & Lux. Available in size small (size 4-6) to extra-large (size 16-20). For all you plus size moms, I’m wearing the XL for a looser fit. P.S. I like the way that Charlotte is coping a feel here. 
  2. I am NOT a punching bag! Does anyone elses’ child smack their boobs when they are hungry? Or, squeeze them while they’re nursing to get the milk out faster? I swear, I have never been as abused as I have been while nursing Charlotte. She scratches my chest, pinches my underboob, pulls my hair and fish-hooks my bottom lip with her finger. She is a beast!
  3. The first time I discovered that OMG this kid bites! As you may know, Charlotte is a super early teether. She had 7 teeth by the time she was 6 months old. As you can imagine, she tested those little chompers out on my nips. Word of advice: if you child tries to bite you, push her head into your breast. You want her to be as uncomfortable as possible (maybe even gasp for breath a little – I know, I know, horrible mom!) But trust me, it will get them to stop nibbling at your bosoms.
  4. Niplash. Enough said.niplash
  5. I’ve learnt that I can perform any task with a baby hanging from my boob. I’ve made coffee while breastfeeding, answered the door, made phonecalls…hell, I’ve even peed while breastfeeding (hey, you gotta go when you gotta go, right mamas?)
  6. I HATE PUMPING! Major props to all the pumpers out there, but I hate that damn machine. The whirling of the motor will haunt my dreams. I tried to avoid it as much as possible, but it did come in handy when I was weaning from 8-10 feeds daily to 6-8, then 4-6, then 4, and now 3. And now I have quite the stash of milk, which is useful. But, there is nothing more unpleasant than pumping before bed and then cleaning the damn tubes and shields.
  7. Do you boobs hang low, do they wobble to-and-fro? Can you tie ’em in a knot, can you tie ’em in a bow? My initially perky nursing boobs have pretty much drooped to my ankles by month 10. On the bright side, I’ll always know which way is South!

Real talk: Got a biter? Are you over nursing bras? Do you hate pumping with a passion? Share your own breastfeeding struggles below!

You Know You’re a Mom When…

I was laughing with some friends the other day as we compared baby notes. We were in hysterics over how we run towards vomit instead of away from it like we used to. It got me to thinking about all the ways you know you’re a mom. So here, presented in good humor, are 25 clear signs you’re a mother…

  1. You’ve been washing the same load of laundry for three days because you forgot to dry it.
  2. It’s not only normal that you pick up another human to smell their butt, it’s a necessity.
  3. You only shower when you know you’ll be leaving your house, or when you’re expecting company.
  4. All of your fantasies involve sleeping uninterrupted.
  5. Going to the grocery store by yourself feels like a vacation.
  6. You have the ability to hear a sneeze through a closed door, down the hall, in the middle of the night, while your hubby snores next to you.
  7. You wish there was drive through EVERYTHING.
  8. When you don’t even flinch after realizing that you’ve gone the whole day with a mystery stain on your shirt that suspiciously looks like poop or puke, or both!
  9. You get excited about picking someone else’s nose and/or sucking their snot.
  10. Whenever you take a shower, you can swear you can hear your child crying, but when you turn off the water, there’s only silence.
  11. Your kids are dressed beautifully and ready to go, and you’re still in pyjamas.
  12. You make the baby an organic meal, and you’re surviving on coffee and cookies.
  13. You realize you’re swaying, without holding your baby!
  14. You will literally strangle whoever rang the doorbell while your child was napping.
  15. You find yourself talking about poop in public, again…
  16. Your idea of working out is lugging the baby carrier, diaper bag and portable activity center in and out of the car.
  17. You cry at every diaper commercial.
  18. You have entire Pinterest boards devoted to crafts and DIYs and you never actually get around to doing them.
  19. You take it personally when a stranger doesn’t wave back to your baby.
  20. Coffee is now one of your love languages.
  21. You find yourself humming “Old McDonald Had A Farm”, or “Twinkle, Twinkle”.
  22. You know all the words from your kids’ talking toys (“Have you met my friend the red fish?” or, “thanks for calling!”)
  23. You deleted apps on your phone so that you can take more pictures of your kid.
  24. Being in the car alone is exciting.
  25. When CEO’s can learn a thing or two about how much you can multi-task.

REAL TALK: Add your own! What are some of the ways that you know you’re a mom? Share below!