Photography!

So much is going on! New site in the works, a bunch of collabs, so many emails & texts about booking spring dates! AH! I am grateful for and love it all!

Head on over to www.eringalardi.com for now. My new photography site, www.rufflesandtrainsphotography.com, is in the works, along with some fantastic changes!

What’s up? Glad you asked. Well:
I’m using my Master’s in Education and photography skills to train all you busy mamas who want to document the everyday amazing of your own families and lives. This summer, I’m so excited to say that I’ll be offering photography training designed for you ladies on the go! Stay tuned.

A sentiment that I hear over and over from so many mothers is that they often don’t see themselves as beautiful! NOT true! That’s going to change with sunset sessions this spring and summer focusing on empowering women out there with confidence, highlighting the beauty and strength of motherhood. It’s your turn, mama!

Advice from Dad

FD-4I’m always happy for good advice. I love those little signs with wise sayings you find on Etsy. What I love even more is the advice my dad left me with.

I miss my dad every day, not just on Father’s Day, which is coming up quickly. As the years go by, I feel closer to him in some ways than I did when he was alive. He left me when I was 27, armed with fantastic advice that didn’t make sense until I had more time under my belt.

It’s been 8 years since he died, and also nearly 8 years since I found out I was going to be a mother. Talk about the circle of life playing out all at once. Nine days after my dad died, I found out I was pregnant. Fast forward to now. The brood has grown to three. My babies have helped heal me, salve for the incredible loss of a parent, and have forced me to grow and change as a person in ways I could never have imagined.  Since becoming a parent, I’ve had more than a few chances to reflect on the advice my father gave me. Parent to child, it all sank in.

PSA/Warning:  My father wasn’t a warm and fuzzy sitcom Danny Tanner kind of guy. His words of wisdom, and the delivery thereof, were nothing short of unconventional. This was part of his charm. Offended? Sorry, not sorry. His advice has turned out to be the kind that I have only realized the value and weight of through experience in an epiphany ah-ha kind of moment later on, where I suddenly feel 85% smarter than I was second before.

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Here’s the highlight reel:

# 1

Picture my first day of high school, September 1994, the days of thigh highs and pseudo-Catholic girl skirts, thanks to Britney (“Oh bae bae bae beeeey-beeee.”) I just turned 14. My dad drove me home, sparing me from me trudging in the 90-something degree heat and nearly 100 percent humidity that NJ never fails for during the first week of school.

Like all good parents do, he asked the standard question: “So, how was the first day?”

Me: “Meh.” (Standard socially acceptable answer from a teenager.)

Silence. And we waited together, watching the blinking amber traffic light at the cross section through his work van’s windshield, air conditioner humming, the tools still swaying in the back of the van.  He broke the silence: “Remember honey…only the mean girls have fun in high school.” BAM. I know I opened my mouth to say something, but nothing came out. Sit on that one. The traffic cleared, and we crossed.

Translation: Don’t compromise your values for popularity.

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# 2

Dinner at the potential father in-law’s, circa 1999. I’m 19. I was heading out the door, fluffing my hair, doing the 1, 2, 3, “how do I look” inspection in the mirror in our foyer. I saw him watching me from the couch in the reflection, trying not to smudge my eyeliner.

Dad: “What are you bringing?”

Me: “Bread.”

Dad: “Good. Because only assholes show up empty handed.”

Me. “Bye, Dad!”

Translation:  Be generous.

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# 3

September, 2006. I’m 26 in a few days. When my dad was going from specialist to treatments and back again trying to get better, I’d sometimes go along to keep him company. This, a gorgeous early day, was one of those days. He had to get a biopsy on his leg that day, and knew that he’d be in pain later. Despite using crutches at that point, he insisted on driving – and parking, and refusing to use the handicap hang tag. Stubborn? Yup.

He’s driving his Sprinter Van, and scouting parking:

Me: “Dad, you parked in a no parking zone. (Gesturing to the more than obvious sign next to his van) You’ll get a ticket.”

Him: “And if I park in that parking garage down the street, (gesturing to the more than obvious lot down the street),  I’ll pay $40, at least. If I park here, when I hobble out later after this biopsy, I’ll have, say, a $30 ticket and I won’t have to walk as far. Screw ‘em.”

Translation: Take calculated risks, and don’t look back.

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My dad was not a Hallmark card talking, let me-take-you-to-your-ballet-lesson, can I come to the Girl Scout dance type of guy, though I more often than not wished for some after-school TV special version of that father as a girl. Now, I wouldn’t have wished him any other way. The day before he died, our last conversation, I held his hand and told him that he was the perfect dad for me. He tried to tell me of the mistakes he made and what he should have done better through an oxygen mask, and I shushed him. I didn’t mean he was the perfect dad – he was perfect for me. He knew that his daughter, who followed his advice and was a good girl in high school and didn’t have *too* much fun, meant it.

Three little words

Three little words mean so much. Maybe you hear them, or say them – or both – all the time. You guessed it. “I love you.”

So much emphasis placed on those three little words. They’re the marker for a new level of commitment in a new relationship. Who said it first? A check-in reminder for an established couple; Love you, bye. What you say to warm, sleepy babies drifting off to sleep or bigger ones running into school, backpacks swinging. Three words that you whisper as you say goodbye, sometimes forever. It’s the catch phrase professed by the teenager who doesn’t even understand what it means, then takes it back. I’m not sure… Three little words carry weight and make or break hearts. So versatile.

What’s more important than words is action. As the adage goes, and let’s be cliche for a minute, actions speak louder than words. What you have to give more than love, that intangible, subjectively definable thing that means one thing to me and another to you, is you, your time. Three little words just as important as “I love you” are “I’ll be there.”

These three little words mean that I’ll show up when I say I will. I won’t make plans with you and break them, then BS you and say how much I miss you. They mean call me, day or night. Send me never ending text messages asking the most ridiculous questions and run some crazy what-if scenarios. I’ll listen. You can talk. Tell me a story. I’ll look at the pictures you drew me, the notes you’re learning to write for me, I’ll come to your performances and your games. We can walk for some extra time together, because when it comes down to it, all we have and all we are is time. I’ll put my phone away. Yes, the rest can wait. We’ll make the time and keep it, because I know being alone isn’t something you like to be. I’ll hold your hand. Stay up late with you. Hear good and bad news with you. Be happy, sad and really pissed for you as we’re sitting on a park bench when you tell me about your week from hell. I’ll be action and not all talk. I won’t flake out, I promise. I love you, yes, and I’ll be there. 

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This is what love looks like

Before Gwen was even speaking in sentences, she decided that she was head over heels for the small, stuffed horse that her Aunt Colleen gave her. She took it everywhere with her, couldn’t sleep without it, and cuddled it day and night. One of Gwen’s gifts is an amazingly sharp visual memory. She always knows where her little horse is. I’ve gone looking for her companion at bedtime, always to find him just where she told me he was “hiding.” In the toy kitchen’s oven. Under the living room chair. In the car. “His” name is Cimmeron, after a horse in a movie that looks pretty similar. “Cim,” or “Cimmy” as she nicknamed him, has been a faithful companion for years. He’s been through a lot. He looks it too.

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His eyes are chipped. His once fluffy coat is this and spotty from so many dryer tumbles on a low, cool setting. His mane is patchy. His hooves – I can’t say how many nights I’ve sewn them back together in whatever color thread Gwen requested. Each time he breaks, Cimmeron looses a couple more of the beads that once made him fuller.

cimmeron-2cimmeron-3cimmeron-4cimmeron-8He’s been dragged all around her waddler, toddler and pre-k years, stuffed into small toy purses, pushed on park swings, attended countless tea and birthday parties, gone on family vacations & is held tight and close when thunder rumbles on a warm spring night. He has a voice too.

He’s beat up, no arguing. But I will argue that this is what love is – it’s worn, used, tested & full of stitches and imperfections that are ultimately perfect and make it stronger with each bump, scrape and scar. This is love. And this is what love looks like.

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‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

– Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit

Baby’s First Valentine’s Day

The Boniface Family

Looks like this mommy has two valentines this year! I was so, so happy when my good friends, Jenessa and LJ, asked me to take Valentine’s photos for their beautiful family. Lennox, 8 months, was a ham in his special “Be Mine” bib, and he sure does love his mama! We started by finding just the right spot outside their home, and decorated a tree for a festive background and to add to the love!

PicMonkey Collage

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lennox 2

PicMonkey Collage 2

Lennox had a rose for his mama. What a charmer!

 

To the new moms: hold on

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I feel infinitely smarter since having my children. Not only smarter, but more confident. I guess that comes with the territory of being responsible for the lives of three growing babies, 24/7, for over 5 years now.

Today, I had to admit to myself that my “baby,” Hudson, isn’t a baby at all anymore. Mini-man rarely lets me hold him still so I can kiss his cheeks over and over as he drifts off to sleep. His arms encircle my neck these days, and his legs are so long they dangle down the rocker’s sides. He’ll be two in March, and just like the first time I held his five year old and three year old big sisters, the day he was born is as clear in my mind as this morning.

Where did the time go? I know where it went, and it has been well spent pushing my children on swings, teaching them how to color, count, walk up and down stairs, blow bubbles, swim, slide, ride a bike, use a spoon, make a bed, build a fort….New moms, my hope for you is that you don’t wonder where the time went either, so hold on:

Hold on to tiny hands; admire teeny fingers and toes. Kiss squishy baby cheeks all you want, listen to the coos, giggle and squeals of this new life learning how to be a part of the world. Don’t wonder if it’s a waste of your time to gaze at your newborn’s face hour after hour while he or she sleeps. It’s not.

Hold on to your baby as long and as often as you want. The only thing you’ll “spoil” is your own experience by not doing so. Sooner than you know, your little one will be wiggling out of your arms – then crawling, toddling – and letting go of your hand, whether you’re ready or not – and walking toward his or her own adventure. When this happens, don’t be sad. You are witnessing your child growing.

Hold on to yourself. You transformed from the former you to a mother the minute you conceived this life, but don’t forget what makes you tick, or you will get lost. When you find a nano-second to spend on and with yourself, don’t feel guilty. A mother with charged batteries is a better mother.

Hold on to your spouse, and remind one another that you’re on the same team as you grow as parents, even when you’re both drained of energy and haven’t slept more than 2 hours straight in months.

Hold on to your confidence as you feel like you’re clueless, exhausted, and foreign in your own body as you heal from pregnancy, birth and the wrath of postpartum hormones, all while you navigate through this new role of motherhood. You are amazing.

Hold on to the knowledge that your little one loves you for you, no matter how you dress, cook, if you never exercise, get any laundry done, if you perform well at work, or how fantastic or awful your hair looks today. And you should too.