Children, their Sacredness, and Social Media Privacy

I had trouble coming up with a title to encompass what I want to say/share with this blog post. First, let me preface by saying that these are feeling I have regarding my child, and do what you feel is best for your own family, based on your own beliefs, and family values. 

What I’m about to discuss is nothing knew, and, as with everything in this crazy kingdom of parenthood, comes with its own vastly differing opinions. When I had my daughter I had no trouble sharing images of her all over the internet. In fact I could barely wait (as could family members, who begged me). I grew up as a teen in the age of social media emergence (hello, Nexopia account and MSN Messenger), and it is just so normal, to share.

Now its the Social Media Kings that we share on: Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat. So, I shared. I love social media and the connections you can make, the sense of sisterhood gained in shared everyday experiences. How you can read something that someone else is going through and just relate and say, “Hey, I could have wrote this myself!,” which is so important in that lonely post-partum year, or two, or three. When you’re (mostly) alone with this one little person who can’t walk, talk, or in the beginning even focus their eyes on you, you want to reach out to other mothers, share experiences, find some belonging in a community. Social media is the easiest way. That, and of course everyone’s own baby is the cutest, cleverest, most brilliant baby they’ve ever met (insert wink).

I’ve “met” so many wonderful people by sharing mine and Alba’s stories, and experiences. Our first year was a good one. I have mom friends all over the world (mostly North America), a lot of these due to me sharing, quite openly, Alba’s photos and our experiences. But, the more I shared, and the closer we got to Alba’s 1st Birthday, the more uncomfortable I got with it. The older and more busy Alba got, the more uneasy I became. When the very first thing I hear from people when they see Alba is, “I see you all over Facebook” (or something along those lines), it really is a bit of a wake up. It made me take a good step back.

Children are good medicine. I got a great reminder of this by reading something from a friend who is about to have her own beautiful baby (and will not be sharing images). She reminded me of how sacred children are. Sacred. That word resonated with me. I know Alba is the most sacred thing in my entire world but in my effort to share and curate, I forgot to protect her sacredness. It’s difficult to not want to share her, as she is so beautiful, witty, and only good things for me but she is her own little person. I love photographing her as well but I was taught to keep Ceremony private. Because of my daughter’s sacredness, in a lot of ways she reminds me of Ceremony. All this realization and internal dialogue has made me question a lot of things in terms of Social Media:

  1. Why do I post? What is the purpose? Who do I post for? Myself? Does posting help me or my loved ones?
  2. Who is my audience? What is their intentions? Why do they need to see images of my baby? Who sees her images with harmful/negative intentions.
  3. What can someone do with the information I’ve put online? Birthdays, full names, etc.
  4. Do I value my daughter’s privacy? She is not a prop. She hasn’t given consent. Will it bother her in the future. Will it impact our future relationship. Will it affect her own relationships with others?
  5. How much time am I spending on Social Media? Too much. Can that time be better spent? Should I spend my time fostering relationships with the people I see day to day?

I ask you to ask yourself these questions. Think long and hard. Pop the bubble of naivety and rose tinted glasses. It’s not fun, but protecting our children is not supposed to be. I have begun to cut back on what I share. I’ve made my pages private, and am going through my followers list and friends list to make sure I recognize and know who I am sharing with. Originally, on Facebook and Instagram, I’ve accepted nearly every request in an effort to get exposure and meet potential photography clients, so my numbers aren’t small and there’s a lot to go through. Separating private/personal from public is necessary. I’ve very recently deleted my Snapchat in an effort to put the phone down a bit more. I’ve started reading a few more books and journaling. I am reevaluating my use(s) of social media and really trying to pinpoint my why. There is a very real addiction that exists and acknowledging it, knowing that I don’t want it for my daughter means I must break that addiction for myself.

 – claudine bull

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Traveling + a Baby

I remember the advice “travel before you have a baby.” It’s like some age-old advice ingrained in our current society, or something like that. So when I became pregnant we discussed vacations and had decided that we’d wait until our baby was a bit older before doing something big and tropical. It seemed the smart, responsible thing to do. “Wait until she can remember.”

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Over this past summer we took a few “mini” vacations within the province.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago. It was time for our annual family road trip to Las Vegas (which we missed the previous year because I was pregnant). Its a long drive for us (that we split up into three days of travel), and we’re there for about 7-10 days. Insert some serious nerves about bringing a teething 11 month old on vacation, thanks to above mentioned “advice”. What I wasn’t expecting was that before the end of our trip we’d be planning a tropical vacation for the following year!

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Something never sat well with me and the advice to “live your life” before a baby. I was someone who yearned for motherhood for quite a few years before my husband and I made the leap into parenthood and I remember doing so many things with my extended family wishing I had my own little to enjoy it with me (including going trick or treating every Halloween, I was the aunty without children tagging along, ha!). Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed and fully appreciated the wonderful time when it was just my husband and I in our relationship and I will always value that, but now that my daughter is here I can’t imagine doing life without her!

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Where I’m going with this is that children are not a stay-home-and-fun-life is over sentence that they’re made out to be. Of course there are challenges and changes that need to be made to accommodate them, and I don’t have the experience of parenting a toddler (which is its own challenge) but I can’t help but imagine our ancestors, traveling across North America, with their families in tow. What I take the most from them is that it really does take a village. If you have extended family, relatives willing to help, use them! We were in a fancy restaurant (in our hotel) and my daughter was going nuts in there. There was no way I could eat, when she just wanted to explore. Luckily my mother in law graciously kept her in the hotel room and let her run wild while I enjoyed a meal. She was in her hotel room and I asked, and she happily took the crazy child. Do not be afraid to ask for help if its there.

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Overall, apart from teething and getting sick of her carseat, my 11 month old did so good on this trip and it was worth it seeing her eyes get huge at all the new things to see. It seems she came home a new baby, so much further developmentally than where she was before we left. It may have just been good timing, or the the experience itself but she knows and understands so much more now. We enjoyed ourselves and now we can’t wait to take her to the ocean within the year. I could kick myself for thinking to not travel with a baby, and that to do big trips she should remember. I’m going to remind myself to enjoy this time with her and even though she will not remember, that these experiences enrich her life regardless, and mine as well.

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it’s in the quiet times…

I did something extreme this summer – something that has caused me a lot of grief, guilt and shame.

I know… what an intro.

My parents are taking care of my kid for the summer.

There, I said it.

I feel wrong just saying it.

There is so much to unpack here.

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It started in the middle of June. I went to Vancouver for two weeks for two academic conferences and my Mom was watching my baby at my place in Saskatoon. And we chatted about it – and she agreed to watch Aerie for the summer up North. I’m still studying for my PhD (one day I will write more about this) and I am working hard on passing a big test that will determine whether or not I continue in academia in two freaking weeks. So much pressure, and on top of all this – blogging, photography, and a new book out to promote. Mom saw all this and was offering to come stay with me in the city, but she hates the city. And Aerie loves the North. It was easy to see that Aerie going North would help me out so much, and that it would be easiest for my parents.

Let me say this right away – I am so blessed to have my parents around to be able to do this, and the only person feeling guilty about this is me. My parents love having Aerie, and she loves being up there. There are no problems there at all.

So this guilt, this shame, and this self-loathing – it’s all internal.

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I like to say that this is an example of a community raising the child, which is an idea that I have taken to ever since my ex and I broke up. Although he and I are still friends, I am the primary parent of our child. And I do need help – and help is here. My brothers and their families, my parents, my best friends, my friends, and so on. If I need help, I just have to ask. Aerie is loved by many, and that is so good. She has a million aunties, just like any rez kid.

So she is doing amazing. She swims, boats, fishes, road trips, eats all the foods, makes all the friends. She is having a dream summer. We talk everyday and I make the trip down to see her very 7-10 days or so, even if it’s just for a night. But this was the longest time we have ever spent apart, and everyone has a comment.

Taking the summer to focus on my academic needs and myself gives me insane guilt, and that’s ok. I know – I KNOW – that this is the best for her and I right now, and that I needed this extra time to focus. But it’s hard.

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It’s hard when my own brothers make “you’re like an auntie to her ha ha ha” comments, while they sit in their two-parent relationships. It takes everything in me to not verbally cut them down because Mama raised me better than that. And I react because I fear what they say is true. Which is insane, I know, but I’m still teary just thinking about it.

It’s hard when I get asked by friends who don’t know the situation – “Where’s Aerie?” I drown in guilt and massive explanations when I don’t need to. I want to justify this to everyone, and I’m the only one who needs that.

It’s hard when it’s quiet at night, and I turn on a cartoon, just so I can feel like she’s around. It’s hard when I wake up in the middle of the night, thinking she called for me, and I remember she’s not there. When I go grocery shopping, and she’s not there, trying to sneak in her favourite snacks. So many moments where I miss the every day feeling of having her by my side.

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But there is a light – we are coming down to the end of summer. Her days at the beach are getting shorter. Her hair is getting longer. Her tan is incredibly dark, and she is thinking about her Grade 1 class and who will all be in there. My exams are coming up, and soon after that, she will be home with me. Those early morning cuddles where I have to convince her to get up – I can’t wait. Our Friday afternoon Starbucks dates – I can’t wait.

I really didn’t even wanna share this – I hate sharing my struggle – but I do know that the academic world is not women-friendly, it’s not Indigenous-friendly, it’s not mother-friendly. And that to succeed, sometimes we have to make sacrifices. This was mine. I gave up my summer with my kid.

But it’s only my sacrifice – as this was Aerie’s gain.

These were the moments where her relationship with her grandparents, her community, her land, and her culture – it only got stronger.

And come the Fall, I can’t wait to hear her stories.

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 – tenille k campbell

Sleep and a Baby

Ah. Sleep. Five letters, a short word, but it’s undoubtedly a central topic to new parents happiness (and sanity). I don’t have any sleeping advice other than the age old “sleep when the baby sleeps” (which I did and it is amazing advice), but I do want to share my experience with our sleep and our now (almost) 8 month old. If you follow me on Instagram, a lot of my posts lately are centred around sleep, and getting Alba a good sleep. I’m obsessed right now, and for good reasons.

** Before I share our experience, I do want to preface with this – you know your baby, and do what works best for you and your family. I am not a medical professional, and if you have any questions regarding sleep and safe sleep, please ask your paediatrician.**

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We’ve been blessed with a good sleeper since Alba was born (or maybe I’m wearing rose tinted glasses and I’m not remembering properly). It’s not often that I was completely sleep deprived where I felt like I could cry. Of course I’ve experienced it, but not constantly throughout her newborn stage. Most often if she was upset or awake, we could figure out the why of it.

By a “good sleeper”, I mean relatively to what I’ve seen/heard other babies do in my limited experience with babies. In my mind, she’s a good sleeper.

That all being said, she was a good sleeper based on our various soothing techniques. One being swaddling, the other one being her pacifier.

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Before I discuss our experience and reasons for a pacifier, I do want to share a little about where Alba sleeps. My original plan was for her to be in the bassinet beside us but it turns out I’m mush when it comes to my kid (figures). I am much happier when she is attached to me. She would also sleep happier/longer with me near (she has a good sniffer and she knows when her favorite person isn’t close). Also, she had reflux which made sleeping trickier when she was tiny (poor thing had an upset tummy and hated being flat on her back). All of this boils down to bed-sharing. It varies (more on that later) now but the fact remains that when I am sleeping, she is sleeping near me. Maybe it’s a cultural thing, but it’s all I’ve known and almost everyone I know does it. We did choose it though, and I’ve loved it. I love cuddling her. I am ready to take steps away from it though.

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So, we introduced the pacifier when Alba was a newborn. From my understanding, there is some controversy with pacifiers (like everything else that pertains to child-rearing), with the main opinion that I’ve found being “they don’t need that.” We introduced one anyway and the main reason being was that I read that it can help reduce SIDs. Now, there are drawbacks to the pacifier, one being related to use past toddlerhood and oral development, and the other being a sleeping crutch that can be backbreaking in itself if it falls out. But, I thought I would face those head on later when the time came and that it was worth it if it would help prevent Alba from dying in her sleep. I don’t mean to sound so blasé about it, and I thought of using a euphemism but that fact of the matter is, I do look a lot at ways I can actively prevent Alba’s death. When it comes to sleeping situations I look at all the hazards. In fact, that’s my main life goal now as her mother, so why beat around the bush about it. Morbid, I know, but I find sticking my head in the sand isn’t the way I parent. Since Alba was premature, she was a higher risk for SIDs so I figured if her paci would help in even just the smallest way to help prevent it, sign us up!

(Please, please, please bear in mind that that this doesn’t mean I think that YOUR child will succumb to SIDs if you don’t introduce the pacifier, that is not my intention for you to think that. I am just giving you a peek into my mind that is always in overdrive when it comes to Alba, and how I convinced myself that she needed one. There’s enough crazy parenting advice out there that I don’t want to muck up the waters with my own. I’ve gotten enough “I don’t do what you do, I’m such a bad parent” comments that I was hesitant to write this post, because that is not my opinion nor my intention when I share. My opinion is DO WHAT WORKS BEST for your family, for your mental health, and for your baby.).

And of course the other reason I wanted Alba to have a pacifier was because I didn’t want to be one. It’s true, they do not need pacifiers, so that opinion is more of a fact, but it also doesn’t hurt her the way it seems to be implied when people tell me she doesn’t need her soother (which we lovingly refer to as “Sue Sue” by the way).

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So, the pacifier was introduced with gusto from me for my personal reasons stated above and at first she didn’t care too much for it. Eventually it became a wonderful sleep association for her and also a cue to me on if she was tired so it definitely opened some communication doors for us.

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I look at months 2-5 as Alba’s sleeping pinnacle. This is the time I look back on with stars in my eyes. She wasn’t eating as much at night, and she could fall asleep when I’d put her down awake (so long as she had Sue Sue with her), and she could nap anywhere. I would gush to my husband, “I can’t believe our dream baby.” At this time we were putting her down in her pack and play and then pulling her into bed with us a few hours later at her first feed. It was good times. Then husband left to work when Alba was 5 months old for 2.5 months and that made for a LOT of cuddle time with just me and Alba. It was a beautiful thing too. At the time it was glorious as well. During his time away, I stopped using the pack and play, Alba also started rolling so we stopped swaddling. Alba’s dad came home and of course we wanted our evenings back to binge on Grey’s Anatomy and enjoy each other’s company. I was a fool to think she’d go back to her old ways because she was not having any of the pack n play anymore. So it was the three of us, all the time. I started thinking to myself “is this how it’s going to be until she goes to kindergarten?!” “What about baby number 2?!” On top of that, Alba had started to “comfort nurse” and it’s become a sleep association for her.

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Insert the crib. I figured she’d like it a little better than her pack n play, and I do want to transition to sleeping in there full time eventually. Also, since she started rolling I just can’t handle leaving her on the bed unsupervised. The livingroom/kitchen is so far from our room that even if she did fall I wouldn’t hear her cry. She also rolls fast. I also invested in a decent baby monitor.

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My first goal was to get her to nap in the crib and now at nearly 8 months, all her naps are in there. I’ll admit its a delicate dance to get her to sleep in there (timing her naps properly, making sure she’s well fed and drowsy enough, not overtired) but its working out well for us. Night time, she is still with us.

As she moves more and more, I do feel like the time of bed-sharing is coming to an end for us. I think sleep is so important and I do believe that once we figure it out, she will sleep better and longer at night in her crib (she doesn’t wake up at night but we do what feels like a bazillion dream feeding sessions which is disrupting her sleep and my sleep). Not only that, I was a terrible sleeper my whole life and I needed my mom to sleep. I can’t sleep alone. I spent all of 8th grade in her room on the floor, and maybe a part of me wants to prevent that with Alba. Now as we transition her out. I am faced with questions like introducing a lovey, taking away her pacifier (so I don’t have to wake up to put it back in), what is the best consistent bed time routine for her, will I ever fall asleep again if she’s not next to me? All of which I will have to make decisions about soon.

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For some people bedsharing/cosleeping is the best choice ever and it works well for some families well into toddlerhood (or later). It can be a great choice for a family when done safely. Personally, for us, and for Alba, I think it’s a good idea to give her the tools to sleep better on her own. Also, its not selfish for mama’s and papa’s to take care of themselves and Alba just seems to be needing more dream feeds the more time passes and this mama needs a good nights sleep. So mama friends, give me your tips, advice, experiences on how you got baby out of your bed? Maybe something that worked for you will work for us. I am currently reading Precious Little Sleep by Alexis Dubief and it has been an amazing resource so far. Highly recommend.

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*These sleeping pictures are just that, pictures. Some are styled and some are how she fell asleep (with her bunny) and ALL are supervised. When baby is sleeping unsupervised, there should be nothing that creates an entrapment hazards. No blankets, pillows, stuffies. No dangling cords or anything within reach of the crib. No bonnets, headbands, hats. Proper sleep clothes. When I leave Alba in her crib, she only gets her soother in there with her.

 – claudine bull

bead more. worry less.

Life is happening. It’s been crazy but so great. I’ve been shuffling around many hats and I’ve been trying to do it all.  I haven’t been up on the Tea and Bannock blog for weeks because I simply couldn’t keep up. I needed to take a break or learn to let go of some of my workload. Slowly I’ve learned to say no to a few things, loose control a little bit and to RELAX. Chill out. Just to be ok with doing nothing, sometimes.

I’m a photographer, a girlfriend, a full time stepmother of three, a traditional games manager with ASCNWT, a blogger for Tea & Bannock and a Chef de Mission for Team NWT at 2017 North American Indigenous Games. My life has been moving so quickly that I often forget to stop and smell the flowers. 

While trying to do it all and run a photography business on top of it, my computer happened to crash back in January 2017. Boom! Done-zo! This has caused a lot of frustration in my world as a blogger and photographer. However I took it for what it is and decided it wasn’t all chaos.  It was a good excuse to kickback and take a step away from my own art. Give it time and just let it breathe.

Taking a step back has lead to other creative outlets and fresh ideas. I’ve always been a creative person and I have my mom to thank for that. My mind is busy coming up with new projects to execute. Any other artist would know exactly what I mean. It’s a constant process. My hands always have to be busy creating.  So instead of putting all my energy into a computer that crashed (which I tend to do), I decided to shift my focus on to another art of mine – beading and sewing. 

I never really was exposed to beading while I was growing up. I would find my mom on her sewing machine altering clothes and creating costumes. My slavey class with Maragret Vandell and Angie Matto often consists of working on mini culturally focused projects to take home but that was the extent of it.

One day in my teenage years, I decided I needed to learn. I wanted to learn. And I want to be a really good beader. (Dene Goals!)

So I dug out all of my mother’s beads that have been stashed away for some time. I claimed them for myself and she was happy to share any knowledge and tricks she had.

My mother is also a very creative person; she could take anything and make it into something bigger and better. Anyone that has been close to our family over the years knows that Joyce can take an idea and make it happen. From when I was a preteen she encouraged me to sew, bead, embroider, create, be good and do good.  But it wasn’t until this year that I really picked it up consistently.

In her teenage years, my mom would use a loom to bead and would create beaded belts, guitar straps, headbands, wallets, etc. If it wasn’t for her encouragement, I probably wouldn’t be where I’m at today (in all aspects of life). She would often travel to other communities and pick up patterns, material, beads, looms, fur, etc. for me to use to practice and keep me intrigued.

I figured if I wanted to pass that tradition down to my children and be good at it then it’s best that I start beading when I had the time. The beginning was a frustrating process, the lines weren’t completely straight and the control freak in me had a hard time accepting that I wasn’t good at it right away… but I persevered anyway.

I developed a huge bin of beading supplies and it quickly became the bin of unfinished projects. They just kept piling up. I had unfinished key chains, change purses, and many uppers. (Projects that didn’t make the cut.) I’m sure many of you would agree that it’s hard to work on a project you don’t completely love. 

 

So the moment that I decided I wanted to take on a large beaded project – dedicate time, put some effort into it and make sure that I finish it – was the moment my lifelong best friend told me she was pregnant. I knew I wanted to create something special for her and my soon to be niece. Right off the bat I knew what I was going to do. I was going to make her a baby belt. I didn’t tell her what I was doing, it was going to be a surprise. 

I got a friend to cut out and draw up a baby belt. (Thank you Tanya!) I started on this baby belt in December 2016 and gave it to my best friend soon after her sweet baby girl arrived in February 2017. I worked many late nights on it; lay the beads down, tac it down with two needles… and then take it all apart in frustration. The hardest thing about it was choosing the colour combinations… and having all the pink and purple bead colours rub off. I would often sigh out loud because I would become so mad. This went on for weeks but I absolutely loved that my mind and hands were kept busy during the very cold Yellowknife winter nights. As I progressed on this project, it all started to come to life. I couldn’t believe that I could bead a large project like a baby belt!

During this time I turned out to be that girl who would pick up everyone’s bead work and examine it. If you beadwork on your table, I would sit there and watch you sew or better yet, join you. If you were wearing moccasins, I would kneel down to look at your feet. I would look at the knots. I would touch the beads. I would even pick it up to smell it if it was sewn on moose hide. I was determined.

I finished the baby belt in record time and delivered it to my best friend. She was shocked. I was shocked that I actually finished it. There was no words just pure excitement between both of us. Then I was hooked! I couldn’t stop nor did I want to stop.

I knew if I wanted to be an amazing beader then I would have to practice, practice and practice some more. I convinced my sister (who has gone to school for fashion design) shortly after I was done the baby belt to figure out a way to make graduation stole for my mother. Like I’ve said, my mother is driven and can do anything she puts her mind to. Two years ago, she decided to take a Language Revitalization Diploma program to learn Dene Zhatie, to revive the dene language of the Deh Cho. We are all so proud of her for  sticking through the tough times and finishing this program. Next week she’ll be walking the stage in an honour ceremony in our hometown surrounded by people who love her. I knew she needed something special to wear to this ceremony, it was a no brainer – she needed a traditional garment sewn with love to proudly wear when she receives her diploma. 

It took me about 4 weeks to bead her graduation stole. Every bead tacked down with positive thoughts and well wishes. I took it everywhere I went in a small tupperware bin with many tubes of delica beads and bended beading needles. It came with me on work trips From Yellowknife to Toronto and everywhere in between; it has seen many airports, hotel rooms, ferry rides, road trips and campsites. I guess you can say I take after my mom – if I want to accomplish anything, you bet I’ll get it done.

Last week my sister and I surprised her with the graduation stole. It took my sister about 2 hours to sew it together; she whipped it up like nobodies business. My mom opened it up and gasped for air – again almost no words, just pure excitement. 

I will forever consider myself a beginner when it comes to beading, embroidery or any traditional art. There is still so much to learn! This art has taught me to be patient, especially when you’re blue in the face from frustration, and to be supportive, by teaching others what you know and to encourage them to pick up their unfinished projects or to begin new ones. These projects have given me so much pride, I feel connected to my ancestors and grounded as an indigenous person.

I’ve learned to see the good in my computer failing on me. I would have never picked up the needle and thread otherwise. I’m back to capturing moments with my family and shooting photography for myself. Always choose to see the good in every bad situation. Hopefully one day I’ll be back to creating scenes with models and capturing families but in the meantime, you can find me beading!

Shawna McLeod

Becoming a Maker

Last year, while I was pregnant with my daughter, I had specific things that I envisioned her having, and one of those was bonnets. I just loved seeing babies in bonnets. Unfortunately, I could only every find bonnets for $25-$50 CAD in the style that I liked. To put it simply, they were something I couldn’t afford (especially since I wanted her to have one for every outfit – ha!). Finally I couldn’t stand not having any for her so I bought myself a sewing machine and taught myself how to use it. I figured if I could learn how to sew then I could save some money. I am so glad that I bought that sewing machine because it has become a small part of me.

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Now, I can’t even count how many bonnets I’ve made (okay, I probably could, if I took some time to). I’ve altered the pattern (what feels like) a million times to get the fit I like on my daughter’s round head. When she was newborn I had to redo the pattern to get a small enough bonnet for her little head and as she grows I continue altering. Recently I gave away five of Alba’s bonnets to someone who needed them more than her, the great part is I am easily making more for her to replace the five that we gave away. It’s not costing me much financially as a lot of the fabrics I use are given to me in the form of old sheets (thanks mama!).

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Crocheted pixie hats and mittens for my daughter.

Recently I’ve also started delving into other projects. I’ve sewn some skirts/dresses for my daughter and myself, as well as taught myself to crochet. I can make things. A lot of these are beginner projects but I hope to make her some heirloom pieces that she can give to her children or that I can keep for any other children I may have.

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A pinafore dress and bunny bonnet I made for Alba’s first Easter.

 

The best part of all of this isn’t the money I am saving learning how to make things (instead of buy), nor is it the possibility that my grand-children will get to wear these clothes, instead it’s that I am spending time on me. Myself. While I was pregnant, one of the things I worried about was my identity. Who would I be after my daughter was born? Mother is such a beautiful title, and it is a part of my core, I was made to be Alba’s Mother, but I am more than her Mother. I am still Claudine, someone who wasn’t a mom for the past 27 years and as I navigate through my motherhood story I am trying to keep a grasp on that.  I’ve read and heard about drowning in parenthood and that hasn’t happened to me (yet, I’m sure it will come at some point). I’ve heard that the days are long, that it’s monotonous, and I think (for me) that hasn’t happened because (when I can) I take the time to just do “me” things. It’s therapeutic. I love being a Mom, and I think one of the reasons I love it is because I try to have balance and spend time on myself, especially in these wonderful early days when I’m with her literally 24/7. So, when Alba sleeps, I like to make things (or do something that I enjoy). I think this makes me a better mama, a happier mama, and I truly wish I could stay home with her forever because I am enjoying every single day.

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It’s not always easy. Sometimes I have to sew on the floor because she’s napping on the couch and I want to be in the same room as her. Another time I sewed on the floor in the basement because everywhere else in the house someone was sleeping and I didn’t want to wake anyone up but I really wanted to finish my project. To say I love it is a little bit of an understatement.

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Alba wearing the same bonnet in both images. On the right image we are bother wearing skirts that I made.

 

Since Alba joined my life just a short 5 months ago, I have become slightly terrified of becoming an empty nester in the future (yes, I think about things like that), but at least I’ll have my sewing machine with me (*insert laughing emoticon).

Yellowknife known as Sǫ̀mbak’è (money place)

I daydream a lot about the North.

Perhaps it is because of all the stories my dad has told me about when he worked up there in his twenties. My dad still has a beautiful hand-made parka which he bought when he was up North. It has got to be at least 40 years old. From what I can remember, he worked on a ship, spending time in Tuktoyaktuk, Inuvik, Yellowknife, Hay River, and many other places in the territories. Even though my dad denies it, I’m pretty sure that I’ve got some half-siblings somewhere up North (good thing my dad doesn’t do the internet and to my aunties out there who read this – shhhh). It was a time in his youth when he had money, no wife, and their was lots of work up in the territories during the 60s. For example, the mining industry near Yellowknife was thriving.

It looks as though someone took their finger and dug it into the earth and drew that river.

It could be that I am drawn to the North because of the stories my friend Elaine shared with me during our time at the University of Victoria. She’s from Fort McPherson. She told me about the caribou, geese, and life on the Peel River. And for a short while, my son and her nephew were pen pals. Adorable. We need to start that up again.

Images of life up there were almost entirely conceivable after watching Ice Lake Rebels, Arctic Air and Ice Road Truckers. Ha. Joking. No, it was Shawna, Caroline, and Shayla’s images from their home communities which drew me to take my family to Yellowknife for Spring Break. I know – even Shawna’s mom thought we were a bit strange spending our Spring Break up North. But with friends and family living up there and the chance to show my West Coast babies a REAL winter, we did it. And all of us southerners fell in love with the North. We fell hard. Honestly, how could you not? So much sunshine and no need to worry about slathering the kids with sunscreen because you are layered upon layer with clothing to stay warm. No heat stroke. It was wonderful.

-10C is better for my family than 30C.

We got to stay on a houseboat with a couple of those Ice Lake Rebels, Stephan and Allyce, at Vee Lake. What’s up with all these reality shows? We drove on ice roads. We went snowmobiling. We made snow forts and demolished snow forts, we saw the Aurora Borealis while we felt our hands and feet freezing. My sons adopted a new uncle.  We got snowed in, learned a bit about kite skiing and we learned our most valuable lesson – you must remember to plug in your vehicle when it is -30C overnight. Whoops. Wait, the valuable lesson I took from staying on their houseboat was how much we waste water and electricity in our homes on the grid. My kids loved not having to wash their hands after every time they used the compost toilet with the pee and poo hole. Don’t worry, I was there reminding them about the hand sanitizer.

Houseboat at Vee Lake.

Isn’t that snow so pretty?

This kid isn’t tired of me taking his photos all the time, yet.

He loves having a mom as a photographer.

I googled how to take photos of Northern Lights and this was my first image. I was so excited that I forgot to lower my ISO and adjust my shutter speed.

We woke up around 1am to see the Aurora Borealis and let me tell you it was freeeezing cold. I couldn’t stop clicking my shutter release because the lights were moving quickly. It was beautiful.

Meet Dora the dog.

Afterwards, we stayed with my husband’s cousin and his lovely family. They invited us into their home and we are will be forever grateful for their hospitality. I gave them the option to throw us out if we were out of hand but they actually kept us around. At their home, we got to watch the cousins bond with each other which was a memorable experience for all. I also earned my aunty pin: sent kid out into freezing temperature with rubber boots and those silly stretchy mittens (she had me convinced that all her other gear was wet and she’d be okay), woke toddler up from afternoon nap by walking into her room and banging open the door and abruptly turning on the lights, forgot to change toddlers poopy bum, listened to the kids talk non stop about poo, took lots of pictures, bruised up my knees crawling after baby in the kid tunnels at the ice castle and tried to earn trust from the sweet & spicy niece who wouldn’t have anything to do with me until I came home with a beaded pink necklace. Then she told me we were best friends. I knew the pink beads would work. Our family took us to see the Northern Heritage Centre where the kids ran through and spent most of the visit trying on homemade “Northern style” clothing. I went shopping for some Northern wear for myself at Weaver & Devore and Just Furs. Let me just mention here that I can still smell the smoked moose hide and feel the soft seal skin on my skin. My husband and I went on a date to the Salvation Army Thrift Store where I saw an old man wearing beautiful beaded moccasins with galoshes as he spoke to his wife in their language. I found a stylish mustard coloured sweater vest and my husband bought some Stephen King books. We then went for a walk though the mall which was a good representation of the changes in the North. Afterwards we walked holding mittened hands to do some t-shirt shopping at the family owned Erasmus Apparel. Best date yet because honestly we don’t get many (dates, that is). Our last couple of days were spent going to Aurora Village where we did touristy things like being instructed on how to roast a marshmallow by an Australian tour guide, drank hot chocolate in a teepee, tobogganed down a man made hill, and went for a lovely dog sled ride while listening to my kids complain about the dogs farting.

Our cousins and Brody’s wall of drawings.

Those moccasins with all that moose hair tufting!

Look there is a moose and you can even see the drool.

Astum, Astum!

My husband never gets tired of me asking him to pose for another photo.

This snowcastle was impressive. To see more photos you can read Caroline’s blog post from last year’s Snowking’s festival. They change the design every year.

We loved every moment about our trip up North. It went by so quickly that Shawna and I had the good intentions of collaborating on something but the only thing we collaborated on was attending a Booty exercise class (yassss did we ever burn it while looking like monkeys) and then talking about parenting and photography over a cup of hot cocoa with a peppermint tea bag. Shawna and I hadn’t seen each other since we finished our diplomas in photography at Western Academy in Victoria, BC. Back then she was fresh out of high school (perhaps not that fresh) and I was already pregnant with my second son. Over the years, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed seeing her grow as a photographer but also as a young woman and now mother. All these connections are so important for the growth of my young family and for me, as an artist, friend, mother and aunty.

Look – it’s the talented and lovely Shawna McLeod.

These are a few more stories about the North, that I can add to my daydreams for years to come. While my children can share their own stories about that time we went to Yellowknife for Spring Break.

We miss you.

*In the Dogrib language, the city is known as Sǫ̀mbak’è (Sawm-ba Kay) (money place)

-Amanda Laliberte