Beautiful in Black & White: My Experience with the 4th Trimester Bodies Project

Photo credit: Pauline M. Campos

Photo credit: Pauline M. Campos

It started with a request to sign a copy of my book. She'd be in the same state, after all, and seeing as how I only live four hours north, maybe I could meet up and we could take a few selfies together to prove we'd inhabited the same physical space after years of conversations in 140 characters and status updates. 

"Of course," was my response. No matter that I would be the one driving the four hours. When you're this far north, hotel rooms and rest stops are just real life if you want to maintain contact with real life. Besides, Target and Starbucks don't exist where I live. If I want you to like me in person, I'm not about to ask you to make a first impression while navigating around Amish buggies and breaking for moose standing in the middle of the roadway. If I had stopped there, if nothing more had come out of my mouth, maybe signing a book and laughing over bad camera angles would be all that had happened. But I didn't. I kept talking. "Maybe I should get naked for you, too."

Photo credit: Pauline M. Campos/ Book by Ashlee Wells Jackson.  Click here to purchase.  

Photo credit: Pauline M. Campos/ Book by Ashlee Wells Jackson. Click here to purchase. 

There was a chuckle in response. Or, I think there was one. I'm a writer. I hear the rhythm of the voice writing the words that would be spoken if the conversation was a spoken one. I fill in the blanks with facial expressions, uuhhhmmm's and ahhhh's, and the blinks that take up the space around the words I hear in my mind. She chuckled when she read my sentence about getting naked; eyes twinkling, probably. She knows my sense of humor. We've known each other a few years now, at least. "Maybe not naked," she said. "Just down to your bra and panties." 

"Only if you buy me dinner first," I shot back. And she chuckled again and I laughed out loud because I actually did Laugh.Out. Loud. I detest the LOL acronym. I know for a fact my sister never LOL's even though every single text she sends indicates otherwise. When I Laugh.Out.Loud, I actually am. Otherwise, I am merely SWMWME (Smirking While Smiling with my Eyes) or LIMH (Laughing Inside My Head). LOL is like the push up bra of the Facebook world. We all know you're selling us more than you've actually got, so let's drop the act and just call it what it is, okay?

 

Photo credit: Pauline M. Campos

Photo credit: Pauline M. Campos

It was all in fun. No commitment. Just banter. But then she said "YES" and I knew the yes wasn't about the dinner joke but about the me getting down to my 'chonis thing because, it turns out, my friend, the famed Ashlee Wells Jackson of the 4th Trimester Bodies Project, had an opening for her Portland, Maine, shoot, and she was sending me a contract to sign and ... and ... 

Holy...

Shit. 

 

Photo credit: Pauline M. Campos

Photo credit: Pauline M. Campos

This is what happens when you make a habit of pushing your own boundaries using thinly-veiled sarcasm. There's really no commitment because a No in response to your Maybe I could can be brushed off as a joke and no one gets their feelings hurt. A Yes still comes with an automatic Out because I was Totally Kidding and can quip about how I never let a date get to third base before the third date, at least, because I have fucking STANDARDS. There's alway a moment of pause when the Yes happens. The window of opportunity to wrap my arms around the Thing I Probably Really Want to Do But am Totally Terrified Of is small. Generally, it's understood that I am verbally agreeing, all semblance of general smartassery lost, because Shit Just Got Serious, y'all. 

I'm signing the contract before I have had a chance to process the ramifications, not because I'm an idiot, mind you, but because posing for a shoot in your well-endowed bra and Lane Bryant panties is scary shit, indeed, even for an outspoken body image activist like myself. If I even stop to think, just for a moment, I'm going to Come to my Senses and say But I was Joking and tell the Ashlee's in my life that they'd better give that  open slot to someone else cuz I'm not about to put All of THIS on the internet -- not when my every day is Spanxed and layered and carefully pieced together so as to maintain some semblance of containment and purposeful form. 

Photo credit: Laura Weetzie Wilson

Photo credit: Laura Weetzie Wilson

 

Even after signing the contract, though, I toyed with the idea of backing out. Eliana didn't know it yet, because I needed to come to terms with the Actual Doing before I got her all jazzed up about a mother/daughter photo shoot with a famous and celebrated photographer, but she would be there, with me, celebrating herself as she is next to the mama hoping she was brave enough to do the same. I wrote a book about accepting the bodies we have right here and right now, the scale and Other People's Expectations be Damned. I have a website celebrating our bodies and ourselves in every possible way (which I suck at keeping updated because the aforementioned book takes a lot of time to write and edit and promote upon publication). I am outspoken about my struggles with mental illness - anxiety, depression, ADHD - and my eating disordered past and ever-present body image issues. Once it's a part of your story, it always will be. But until now, I've been able to hide myself behind words and stories that painted pictures for readers to relate to and see themselves in. 

I’m not important enough for media coverage. No need to find the most flattering dress for my shape to talk about my work on daytime TV. No magazine spreads to hope the PhotoShop Fairy I usually hate sprinkles her fairy dust over to maybe make a few bulges here and a few inches there smooth out and disappear. 

 

Photo credit: Pauline M. Campos

Photo credit: Pauline M. Campos

This is real. Black and white. No tummy-controlling undergaments. No bullshit. 

Period. 

It’s everything I stand for and nothing I’ve been brave enough to make happen. 

Until now.

Before packing up the overnight duffle and looking for a hotel, I told The Husband about the shoot and asked him to check out the 4th Trimester Bodies Project site, and waited for his response. I wasn’t looking for permission, mind you, but maybe I’d been hoping for an excuse to say no. “My Husband is being a giant asshole about this whole thing and I’d just rather not deal with the drama” is way easier to say than “Yeah, I know this is exactly what I stand for, but let’s pass on this round because I’m scared shitless that I won’t see myself as beautiful, okay?” But he only waited for me to tell him why I had directed him to the site to begin with because he knows me and simply nodded when I told him I had been invited to participate in the project. “You know I’d never stop you from doing something like this,” is what he said. So I was left with no way out but through my fear and self-judgement, booked the hotel room, gassed up the truck, told the excited little chingona-in-training what we were doing and why, and listened to her sing Eliana Mercedes Originals all the way to Portland about celebrating our bodies and loving who we are.

Photo credit: Pauline M. Campos

Photo credit: Pauline M. Campos

As we stood in the dressing room at Lane Bryant (because I’m not about to drop my pants for the world unless it’s in brand new undies, my friends), Eliana joked with me about third boobs and very solemnly pointed out the styles of panties and bras she thought fit best and so those are the ones I bought. I mentally patted myself on the back for taking the emotion out of the dressing room and replacing it with logic and reason. My audience was watching my every move and I wasn’t about to taint every future dressing room experience with tears and squished face disgust at what perceived flaws. My todays are building the foundation for her tomorrows, after all, and while I may be far from perfect, I’m working with what I’ve got. 

“Mama,” she asked me while trying on her black leotard at our last stop before we checked in for the night in Portland, “What’s so hard about celebrating our bodies? All we have to do is appreciate what we have.”

Photo credit: Pauline M. Campos

Photo credit: Pauline M. Campos

These are the words I remembered and held onto that night, because I didn't sleep. They are the words I remembered when I stood before Ashlee in nothing but a bra and panties the next day. The words I held onto when she pointed the camera at me and asked me why I was there during the pre-shoot interview. 

“What made you want to participate in this project?” she asked me.

I looked at Eliana, waiting patiently to join me for the session. She smiled at me because she knows I am not as brave as I say I am, and that’s okay. 

 

Photo credit: Ashlee Wells Jacskon

Photo credit: Ashlee Wells Jacskon

Looking into my daughter’s eyes, I responded. “Because perfection is photo-shopped. Because self-acceptance is reserved for the finish line. Because you can’t step on the winner’s podium until after you’ve proven your worth until after you’ve stepped on the scale. Every day, I wake up ready to teach myself love the me that I see again. Because this little girl is my reset button. 

Because there was no reason that wasn’t an excuse to say no and every reason that matters to say yes.”

And then we did it. We smiled and we laughed and we posed and celebrated our way through every shot and then again while working with Ashlee to select the image used for the 4th Trimester Bodies Project. There was a headshot. There was a safe image. And then there was the one where I wasn’t shielding myself with my daughter’s body because I’m the one that’s supposed to be on the frontline helping her find her way, dammit. That’s what you see. This is who I am.

Photo credit: Ashlee Wells Jackson

Photo credit: Ashlee Wells Jackson

We signed books for each other at the end, as planned. We hugged and smiled and selfies and hash-tagged because we don’t know when we will see each other again. I didn’t even make her buy me dinner. 

Later that night, after hours on the road in between errands on the way home, I saw the status update in my Facebook stream indicating that Ashlee had tagged me on her fan page. There were no tears. No self-deprecating tearing apart of the self I saw standing next to the future I am raising. “Look, Eliana! It’s us!”

“We’re beautiful, mama!” She squealed with pride. She beamed. She looked into my eyes, waiting for me to answer the question she would never dare to ask.

“Yes, baby,” I smiled back and met her eyes because I know this will be one of the moments she look back on as she grows and I need her to see that I believed the words I was saying are true. “Yes we are.” 

That Time I Compared Santa to Chocolate

  Photo by Pauline Campos

My sink is full of dirty dishes. The house is not Santa Spotless as is my usual. I have tons of gifts still to send out and even more missing from under my tree. I lost our magic Santa key so I told the child I texted Santa the code to the lockbox we save for dog sitter. I didn't bake one christmas cookie. I only sent out 15 christmas cards. My usual is 50. It's hard work dragging your ass out of bed when there's no other place you'd rather be, what with missing friends and autoimmune hell running the show.( I got an answer, by the way: psoriasis. The rest of that story will have to wait for another post another day.) But it's work that must be done when you're not the star of a one woman show. And my costars demand Christmas cheer and holiday magic. This is good, because I am doing Christmas even though I'd rather be binge watching bad movies and eating too much ice cream. Pretty sure that depressive, self-indulgent luxury is one every person who agrees to cohabitation loses as soon as Yours  becomes Ours. I'm even telling myself the cluttered mess of a house and the dirty dishes are progress because Instead of staying up until 4 am to scrub the house clean just so I could say I did,  I'm leaving them as they are.

Photo by Pauline Campos

My plans include wrapping a forgotten gift, writing a tiny goodbye note from her Christmas elf in sparkly gel pen in teeny tiny writing, and climbing into bed with The Husband and the child who was too excited to sleep, because Obviously Mom, Who Can Sleep On A Night Like This? She can, Obviously and Thankyouverymuch, tucked up between heartbeats that sandwich her own. Its the only sound loud enough, I think, to soothe her into an instant dream.

Photo by Pauline Campos

The dishes can wait. I've got sleepy hugs waiting. This is progress. Santa, like chocolate, understands.

Pieces of Truth from #BlogHer14

This is what six hours to the airport look like.

Before blogging and columnist deadlines -- I was many things. I was a daughter, a sister, a college student, convinced of the fact that everything was going to be just fine because I knew exactly what I was doing and where I was going.

My official business travel buddy. And no, those are not *my* business cards she's handing out. Girlfriend is networking for her *own* blog.

The plan was to get my degree in communications with a concentration in journalism because the small university I attended was too small for a dedicated degree. I'd write for a paycheck during the day and head home to pound away at the keyboard, writing the stories that would be rejected until they weren't, and then I'd pound away some more, rearranging small pieces of truth into the sentences that would turn into the paragraphs upon which my story would stand.

Petty sure it's my kid here who introduced me to BlogHer CEO Lisa Stone.

I'd be brilliant. I'd be relatable. I was going places, Goddamit. Until $45 exchanged hands in a generic apartment kitchen with a generic psychic who told me a lot of things I forgot and one thing I remembered. California, she said, was off-limits. She couldn't tell me why or give me more than a vague why, except to say that Something Bad would happen should I wiggle a pinkie toe over the state line, so it was best just to stay the hell away.

I know. She's adorable. I know I love her. I'll remember her name in a minute, I promise.

Now, I'm not sure if it was The Boyfriend who became The Fiance who became The Husband's reaction that sealed the deal, or if it was the social media friends living in the danger zone I would eventually make -- after surviving myself, graduating from college, working as a newspaper reporter, getting married, not getting pregnant while everybody else was popping out babies, and finally  growing our little second chance at raising ourselves inside of me -- but suddenly, where I was going became irrelevant. I suddenly realized I only knew what I wasn't doing and where I wasn't going. Who knows what would have happened had I decided to ignore my psychic directive while utterly convinced of its power. It didn't really matter if I stubbed my toe, lost all my luggage, or if Kurt Cameron grew up to be a giant asshole and Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen turned out to be tabloid train wrecks because I wasn't taking the blame for any of it. I stayed away. I couldn't be blamed should The Big One finally hit and California fell right off the ends of the Earth.

This is how you take a bad-ass selfie with youyr kid and Sarah Fader...

“Shit.” That's what I said when I saw the BlogHer announcement that 2014 would be celebrated where it all began. That would be San Jose, California. Obviously, we had an Issue.

 

I figure the odds of getting me, Lizzie, and Alicia to stand still long enough for another one of these shots is up there with me remembering what I was doing five minutes ago...

“Shit what? What's what?” The Husband said. After I filled him in on the news, he, too, became pensive. Shit. He said that.

And then we both sighed, defeated by a giant Maybe from a psychic who still needed her tarot card directions. I'd been planning to apply as a speaker and was prepping our pitch with my 2013 MultiCulti hostesses to bring the party back. I had a lot riding on another giant Maybe.

Just so we are clear, Latinas come in every shade and shape and I'm just gonna shut up because my kid and Alicia's kid are the Spanglish Bobsy Twins.

“You're going to be pissed at yourself if you don't even try,” The Husband told me.” If you don't get the stuff you're applying for, you stay home and we all live Happily Ever After.”

“And if I get it?” I asked him.

I wanna be my kid when I grow up...

 “I drop you off at the airport and up your life insurance policy. Either way,” The Husband said,” it's kind of a win-win for everybody.”

I glared at him while Sugar Jones Facebook-messaged back to my frantic #CaliCurse with threats to follow me around with a burning sage bush just in case and I laughed.

The Real Life of a Freelancer: Too much for an hour-long panel. Throw me a book deal and we may just scratch the surface. I promise to even let other people share their opinions and stuff.

"What if I get psychic clearance,” I asked Sugar. "New psychic. New reading. If I'm in the clear I go. If The End is Nigh I stay home?"

"Deal."

Go Cavs! Only took me and Erin until BlogHer12 to figure out she was a senior when I was a freshman at the same metro Detroit High School.

I told the voice on the phone that she could be my Sylvia Brown. Five minute in to our phone conversation, Dr. Lauren Cielo from Gaiam TV, had already won me over. She is warm and genuine and her laughter is rich and comes from deep within. She made me want to laugh with her...at least until she told me that my fist psychic was right.

"Say what now?"

 

Here' your future, Internet. Meet Hala, Princess of Spain, and Aspiring Eliana. You're *Welcome*.

Dr. Lauren went on to explain that the original psychic hadn't misread me. Instead, she had basically reiterated the energy I had been giving off at the time. I'm not sure if my Energy and Aura had been playing a random and totally subconscious reel of the entire state of California sinking to the bottom of the ocean, but the lesson here, I think, was that what we sometimes mistake for Fate is oftentimes the culmination of our own perceived realities. Because I finally had a reason to question my path again instead of just blindly following along like a character in a book, I had changed my fate. Laugh if you must, but I asked Dr. Lauren to double check and she did, bless her sweet soul, after which she conformed she had "cleared" away what would have happened had I not challenged myself. The new forecast showed only open doors and many, many return trips to California in my long-term future, she said. There was plenty more to the reading, but this is the part that mattered. It's the part where I refocused on where I was going instead of where I wasn't.

My #multiculti sisters, Ananda and Dwana. Serious love, y'all...

There was a long flight after an epic journey to the airport via car and bus. There was a little girl winning at social networking with her own business cards every chance she got. There were hugs and squees and selfies and there was me speaking on a freelancing panel and hosting a party with good friends celebrating our diversity and I am so very grateful for all of those things that were because self-doubt is sometimes a good thing if it makes us re-evaluate a future we have mistaken for an absolute.

Best quote of the entire conference? Rita Arens speaking on what a book deal does to change your life: "Unless your a dick, it's not changing anything." And this is why Rita gets a Christmas card this year....

I am still many things. I am a writer, a wife, a hell-raiser who has realized it's better not to set my sites on the finish line, but rather, move the mountains in my way and let the cleared path take me where it may. I may not know exactly what I'm doing or have a fucking clue as to what I'm doing when I get there, but I think that's the point of it all. I'll wait for tomorrow to get here in its own due time. For now, I'm just going to enjoy today.

#Chingonafest Fridays: Pauline Campos

Welcome to WEEK 10 of #ChingonaFest Fridays on Aspiring Mama!

 

 If you’re new to the blog, here’s the link to the my Latina Dimelo column that sparked the conversation that’s still going strong. The premise is this: I want to raise my daughter to be a Chingona — on purposeLas Tias and cultural backlash be damned. If you like the column, I’d love for you to share with your social media circles, leave a comment on the link, or whip up a happy lil’ Letter to the Editor telling them how you feel and send it off to Editor@Latina.com. You may not think that kind of thing makes a difference, but trust me when I tell you it does.

 

Have you checked out my past #ChingonaFest ladies? Juliana Maulanda and Lisann Valentin were two of the most recently featured wonder women. Each week, I’m featuring one fabulous Latina who’s moving mountains and raising hell because their stories are worth telling. Twenty questions will be presented to each and 15 will be answered and presented here to you in a Q&A format, like the fancy features in magazines, only with more typos and less airbrushing. 

 

Today’s featured Chingona is ....me.

 

Yes, I realize this smacks of All Things Self-Centered and Self-Serving, but if I tell you that it's my kid's birthday week and that her party was today and I decided to say Sure, Princess! when she asked for homemade coloring books as her party favor, and that The Husband and I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning manning the two-person hole-punch & ribbon line while the cupcakes cooled enough to frost, you'll understand the reasoning behind turning this week's Chingonafest into a dual anniversary celebration for my role as Latina Magazine's #Dimelo advice columnist. You'll also pretend to not notice I'm posting a regular Friday feature on a Saturday night because, yaknow, Motherhood.  It's either now or never, which is also why I'm mentioning the Speaking at BlogHer '14 Thing for the first time on the blog. It's time-management at it's finest.

 

My mad self-promotional skillz are mind-boggling, I know.

 

Don't feel bad if you didn't buy me a present. I didn't even know I missed it until LinkedIn started sending me congratulatory notifications from friends with better observational skills than my own. I probably owe myself flowers.

 

After I put out, that is. For now, though, let's get to that Talking to Myself thing.

 

photo(11)

Is a caption really necessary?

Pauline Campos: Chocolate or vanilla?

Aspiring Mama: Chocolate if it's a shake. Vanilla if it's ice-cream.

PC: Neurotic much? Wait, don't answer that. Describe yourself in third person instead.

AM: Pauline Campos is neurotic, has a weird thing with ice-cream, including the need to chew it even if it's plain vanilla, and thoroughly enjoys arguing with her DNA over her love of snow-shoeing. She's also the founder of #chingonafest and ha that column where she tells people what to do on life, sex, and cultural drama topics. to Oh, and her favorite days are the ones where she gets paid to give solicited advice from the comforts of her couch without ever having put a bra on.

PC: Weirdest. Mexican. Ever. It's like Freaky Friday but with better dialogue. You do realize there's a poor Swedish guy somewhere trying to figure out why he felt smug about knowing who Ricky Martin was before General Hospital served as his crossover to mainstream, right? No, don't answer that one, either. Do you dream in color or black and white?

 

AM: Color. I don't remember most of them, but when I do, it's all kinds of High-Def in there. Also? Re-read your last question to me. Now who's the neurotic one? *blinks* Wait, never mind.

 

PC: You see my dilemma, then. Carrying on...Do you feel Latina enough"?

AM: I'm allergic to eggs, dairy, corn, yeast, gluten, and a bunch of other crazy stuff. What do Mexicans eat for breakfast? Whatever we had for dinner last night scrambled with eggs, wrapped in a corn tortilla, and washed down with Cafe con (a fucking-lot of) Leche. This makes me allergic to my childhood and probably the world's worst Mexican.

Of course I feel Latina enough.

PC: Let's play word association. I say CHINGONA and you say...?

AM: FEST!

PC: Do you consider yourself a feminist?

AM: Only if I don't have to burn my bra. Triple D's take precedence over social and political ideals.

PC: I'll second that. Do you think in English, Spanish, or Spanglish?

AM: I'm English-dominant now, but as a kid I know I wasn't aware of when I switched between languages. Now? I'm so concerned I'll pronounce something wrong in Spanish while sober that I think I'd benefit from an AA meeting and a sponsor prior to any events where my Spanish-speaking skills are a requirement. Also? Spanglish is my national language.

PC: Do you chew your ice cream? (Or is that just a Me thing?)

AM: Seriously?

PC: Okay then. Moving on. Favorite book and why...

AM: Right now it's Rick Najera's Almost White: Forced Confessions of a Latino in Hollywood. It's so much more than an exploration of Latinos and how we are represented in the media. I've been recommending it to writing friends of all backgrounds...because it pertains, dammit. And no, I wasn't paid to say that.

PC: You don't get paid for a lot of shit on this blog. But following up to your last answer, how do you feel about Latinas and how we are represented in the media?

AM: It's equal parts a bullshit and wake-up call. I grew up watching telenovelas at my tias house and all the rich and beautiful were portrayed by the blonde and blue-eyed. If you looked like me, you were the help or the poor villager. While that needs to change -- because it's still an issue -- we can't bitch if we think our job is done simply because we complained.

PC: Opinion much? Who inspires you?

AM: Anybody who has the courage to say what they think and stand up for themselves and what they believe in.

PC: Who is it you hope to inspire?

AM: My daughter, Eliana, is my number one. Right now, she is everything I wish I was growing up; feisty, independent, strong-willed, and confident as hell. Everything I say and do comes from that place where motherhood takes us and the realization that my todays are building the foundation for her tomorrows.

PC: You have the chance to eat dinner and drink wine with one person, living or dead. Who is it, what do you eat, what kind of wine, AND WHY THAT PARTICULAR PERSON?

 

AM: My dad, I don't care, I'm allergic, and because I miss him.

 

PC: One childhood memory that has stuck with you...

 

AM: My mom and me sitting on the front porch in the middle of the night during sticky summers without central air. We'd tiptoe outside and talk for hours, ignoring the mosquito bites, while the house slept. I can't tell you one thing we talked about, but I'll always remember the laughter.

 

PC: Quick! One takeaway you want your children to hold onto after they've grown and flown the nest...

 

AM: That it's always perfectly acceptable to leave the house in red cowboy boots, a blue tutu, and a super-hero cape, public opinion be damned.

 

 

Screen Shot 2013-07-11 at 6.09.16 PM

And there ya have it. To nominate a Latina for a future #ChingonaFest Friday feature, email me at aspiringmama@gmail.com or tweet me with the hashtag #ChingonaFest. And don’t forget to check out my latest Dimelo Advice column on Latina Magazine. A non-Latina wants to know how to navigate cultural differences with her employees.

Oh! And be sure to send me your questions to dimelo@latina.com.

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Check out my Zazzle Shop for Sassy #ChingonaFest gear! More designs and products coming soon!

Sign up for The Tortilla Press Newsletter!

Follow me on Twitter, instagram, and here’s the FB fan page! I know. You’re *welcome.*

Top of Form

The Luck O' the Mirish

Mirish is A Thing. The quick history lesson is that many Irish fought for the Mexican army during the Mexican-American War in the mid 1840's. The result is is blending of cultures that doesn't get a lot of air time in history classes. The Husband is the son of a Mexican-born father and a Canadian-born mother of Irish decent. That makes him Mirish, according to the (also Mirish) cousins who've married into the family. I'm willing to bet, however, that he's the only one who went out and bought an authentic kilt at a Renaissance fair a few years back (and has actually worn it.)

Back in 2012 -- when we lived in the desert, The Husband and I packed up the kid and drove the two hours to the closest Ren Fest for our fix. Before moving from Michigan, you see, we were festival regulars with the whole costumes pieced together because it was our thing. We both loved it. We couldn't go as often in Tucson with two hours being a slight headache, but we dived in with our usual geek-couple gusto and left with a kilt for him...and one for little Eliana. Of course, I made him put it on (he added his Ren Fest boots because they kick-ass) because there was most definitely going to be a blog post. I just needed a picture first.

That's when I caught the first moment. Eliana stood next to her Daddy and just as she looked up with those adoring eyes of hers, I clicked. I melted.

Fast forward to today's St. Patrick's Day, 2014. Eliana and I went holiday-themed-craft-crazy and watched too many Irish step dancing videos on YouTube. It was a blast. But nothing tops the moment her daddy walked in the door after his work day.

"DADDYYOUREHOME!? she screamed. NOWGETYOURKILTANDWHERESMINESOWECANGETREADYFORSAINTPATRICKSDAY" 

The Husband stopped dead in his tracks and glared at me because I'm the one with the blog. I just shrugged. I had nothing to do with this, I told him. You're the one who reminded her I've got a kilt, he said back. That was last week," I said, smiling.

Not my fault the child has the memory of an elephant. I got the iPhone ready for a few pictures because I couldn't have planned it better myself (and I wasn't about to miss photo and internet documentation). Whether or not I looked guilty was totally beside the point.

After changing into the kilt, The Husband walked into the living room in his socks, thinking he was off the hook with no more being asked of him. He got the idea when Eliana ran into our room and came back out with a pair of his black cowboy boots. He put them on as she beamed. Now, she told him, they had matching kilts and were both wearing fancy boots. She tried talking him into a pair of leggings he doesn't own so they could super match, but he managed to convince her that he was totally okay with his socks poking out the top of the boots. No matter how badly either one of us accidentally fucks up this parenting thing, she can never claim her daddy didn't love her enough.

The Husband is a smart man. Without having to tell him, he knew exactly what I wanted before I said anything. We chose a spot, they stood up against the wall, and I clicked away, knowing I was going to throw away 14 of the 15 shots I had just taken. Or maybe 20 of the 21. I still didn't have the one I needed.

Without much direction from me, he assumed his usual stance and guided Eliana into place. Turn her head a bit...look up at me...put your hands on my waist...

She did as she was asked because the child has grown up with a smartphone camera in her face and complying just makes life easier.  I held my breath until I saw it.

Not yet. Cute, but no. Almost...

WAIT!

Right...there.

Two years in between. And my heart melted all over again.

 

Because Cookies Fix Everything

There's more I need to write about. Other things I'd like to write about. But for now, it has to wait.

Every four hours, Eliana gets to sit tight with her nebulizer to control an extended asthma flare. It started two weeks ago with low-grade temp that she couldn't shake until recently.

She's complaining of leg pain and woke up at 3 a.m. because It Hurts, Mama. When I finally got her settled back into bed at 5 a.m., I watched her work to keep her legs straight because They Need to Be Straight, Mama, But They Hurt.

This morning she asked me if she has dry skin on the palms of her hands. I held her little hands in mine and they were soft and warm and her fingers curled into my own. "No, Baby," I said. "Your hands feel just right."

She frowned. "But they hurt, too. I wanted them to be dry so your lotions would fix it."

On the way home from errands this afternoon, I heard her tired voice from the backseat of the truck.

"Mama? I just don't feel like myself right now."

I know, little girl. I know.

Your daddy had growing pains, I say. And I tell her how he grew so fast his legs needed to be in casts to ease the stress on his bones. Eliana is going to be a tall girl (shes already over 48 inches at 6 year's old) and she's growing fast, just like both The Husband and I did. But I can't relate to growing pains, even if I was 5'1'' at 8-years-old and at my full adult height of 5'6'' by my thirteenth birthday. I just didn't feel them. Not like this girl.

I've watched her go from Silly and Happy to Listless and Grumpy so many times in the same day since this started that I'm not even phased when she switches extremes anymore. Thankfully, she just ate her first solid meal of the day at 6 p.m. (a bowl of black beans because she loves them so much and rubbed her belly to prove it) and she's back to herself. She asked for a chocolate chip cookie (gluten-free, but not paleo because I don't have any made right now) and I said yes.

And the cookie made her smile.

Monday we see her pediatrician to discuss asthma maintenance. I've made a note to discuss the growing pains. Until then, she gets cookies because seeing her smile makes me feel better.

AppleDogs and Story Pirates

Social media has made me a parental super hero. Ever since Eliana was a little thing, twitter and Facebook and (more recently) instagram have connected me to an entire world to which I wouldn't otherwise have access. (And yes, I almost ended this sentence with the word "to" but then the voice of a former newspaper editor said something in my head about unicorns dying, so I changed it to read like I actually follow proper grammar on a regular basis. Also? I like unicorns. Anyway....)

Princess Katie of Princess Katie and Racer Steve (have your volume off when you click the link if you're at work) once tweeted a FEEL BETTER in response to my update about Eliana being sick. I'm pretty sure the wide-eyed wonder in Eliana's face as she blinked up in pure disbelief while I read PK's well-wishing tweet is what cemented my role in the Parenting Hall of Fame. Not only did PK know who I was, she knew who Eliana was because of me. And because Eliana had no concept of twitter or followers or what in God's name a social media update was -- and because I handle almost all of my SoMe updates on my iPhone -- the tweet became a text and that meant that Princess Katie Had My Phone Number.

That means I win at Parenting, y'all.

Since then, I've been asked to text Santa her Christmas list, the Tooth Fairy to let her know another tooth was loose, the Easter Bunny to let him know we moved, and countless other Magical Beings about countless other Magical Things. On the flipside -- and because Mama is gonna milk this for as long as she can -- I've stopped tantrums in their tracks and witnessed Feats of Perfect Behavior during Otherwise No Good Very Bad Days  simply by muttering something about how Santa just texted a poll to parents asking their thoughts on how many pieces of coal should appear in stockings for the kids on the Naughty List.

I'm an evil genius and you're welcome.

Not too long ago, maybe around the time we launched Eliana's blog that we don't have the time to post on as often as I'd like, texts became tweets and instagram became AppleDog and the Story Pirates nominated me for Best Mom on the Internet. Okay, so not really. But they should and I'd totally be gracious and surprised if they actually did because I'm modest like that. Also? I probably deserve a cookie for making it 400 words without saying a bad word so you're welcome for that, too.

Back to the AppleDog story...I took a picture, Eliana asked me to tell the Story Pirates on AppleDog so they could see the picture, too, and they did AND RESPONDED.  Had it ended there, I'd still be just as giddy as the day I realized I could use my iPhone addiction as a peace negotiator with The Guardians. But then this happened....

No seriously...where's my tiara?

I have no words for how awesome today was made simply because of this exchange. It highlighted to me exactly why the Story Pirates are the phenomenon they have become with the kids who listen to their podcast, check in on Kids Place Live, or are lucky enough to see them perform in person. The concept is brilliantly simple and beautifully executed: kids write their own stories, submit to the Story Pirates for consideration, and if selected, the story is turned into a play and PERFORMED on air or on stage. If not? The Story Pirates have been known to write a kind word or two on the back of submitted stories before sending them back to the hopeful playwrites. It's creative inspiration, acknowledgement, and the fostering of literary love all wrapped in glittery awesomeness.

Today's update from the Story Pirates wasn't just a feather in my parenting cap. It was the moment Eliana realized she has a voice.

Plus I totally have Santa Clause on speed dial now...so sorry about that tantrum your kid just threw in the toy store.

A Recap told in Captions: #Latism13

Because Every Writer Needs an Entourage

I'm at that weird place where I'm finding myself at a loss for what to post here. This space used to be my only outlet after leaving the newsroom to stay home with Eliana six years ago. Now, the soapboxes I once stood on and the She Said WHAT stuff that once were automatic blog fodder are now the columns and commentaries that I save for Latina. It's not a bad problem to have, I know. And I'm grateful for it.

Last week, The Husband, Eliana, and I packed up the truck at drove over seven hours from northern Maine to Stamford, Connecticut, where we caught a train to the Grand Central Harlem station. the purpose of the trip was two-fold and one of those folds I can't tell you about...yet. The other was to finally go the the Latina Magazine offices and meet the amazing staff and my favorite editor in person. We Did Lunch while The Husband took Eliana to FAO Schwartz to dance on the giant piano, and the next day we packed up to hop on the train for home.

 

It was exhausting. And except for the projectile vomit thing that happened in Massachussettes on the way home that forced a hotel stop for Eliana to rest (and us to clean out the truck), it was amazing.

Eliana and The Husband were invited to visit the Latina office with me. I loved that. So did they.

 

And then we drove hours and hours to our little sanctuary so far north I'm no longer impressed by the fact that Stephen King lives in Bangor. i'll be back in New york soon enough. But it's good to be home.

Introducing Eliana Mercedes, Blogger Child

 

A conversation with Eliana, my almost-six-year-old.

Me: Baby? What do you think of when I say the word "beauty?"

Eliana: Beast.

Me: I like it. But let's think of things you think are beautiful. What are the first five things you can think of?

Eliana (thinking): Flowers. And butterflies. And Princesses.

Me: Anything else?

Eliana: Yep. Love. And people's spirits. That makes them beautiful.

This will be my daughter's first transcribed post as a contributor to Holly Fulger's Speaking of Beauty blogging team. She talks. I type what she says. Or maybe vlog it. It all depends on if she's feeling like a rock star or a writer when it's time to work like Mama.
And this is the bio I wrote up for her.

 Eliana Mercedes is the daughter of The Husband and writer Pauline M. Campos. Up until now, she has been known online simply as Buttercup. But this homeschooling first-grader is now a blogger, which means Eliana Mercedes looks better in a byline. She has no idea what that means yet and only hopes it includes the chance to adopt a baby beluga and visit Disney World one day.

I'm kind of proud. Kind of scared. And maybe a little crazy. But keep in mind that this child does not watch TV with commercials and has no concept of the media trying to brainwash us all into a singular concept of beauty. That's exactly why I cannot wait to see what she has to say next.