September 28, 2011

Other Mothers.

With Tess, 5 days old
Lots of times when I can’t get to sleep it’s because I drank a cappuccino too late in the afternoon or because I’m wondering if I should get out of bed and put socks on Tessa so her feet don’t get cold in the night. Things like that. Last night was different. I couldn’t fall asleep because I was thinking about other mothers. I think about them a lot. Too much. I’m sort of obsessed by “other mothers” because I find them so perplexing and upsetting. What I want to understand is how they can be the way they are, which is—so often—very, terribly mean to one another. 

What I was thinking about in particular was an article I read on the CafĂ© Mom website yesterday that posed the question: Can moms who use the attachment parenting method be friends with moms who use the cry-it-out method? The comments in response to the article were malicious. I can’t make myself re-read them because I literally felt like they were stabbing me in the heart over and over, but the gist of it was that most of the attachment parenting moms said that no, absolutely not, they could not, would not, be friends with a mom who uses cry-it-out because they consider it a barbaric form of child abuse to let a baby cry herself to sleep. One mother went so far as to say that she won’t even let her child have a playdate with a child whose mother uses cry-it-out because that child no doubt has emotional problems that she doesn’t want her own child exposed to.

Isn’t that the most awful thing you have ever heard?

A woman who I used to be friends with forwarded me a link to the article. I say used to be because, in the end, the way we parented our young daughters was so very different that the friendship imploded. The friendship had caused me one too many sleepless nights, which is not, you know, what I’m really going for when looking for a friend.

What it boiled down to was that I did everything different than this woman with regards to parenting, and I refused to apologize for it or change it. And, unfortunately, I really let it get to me that she seemed to think I was doing such a crap job with my daughter. I diapered my baby with disposable diapers, fed her soy formula, vaccinated her, gave her antibiotics, left her with oodles of babysitters so I could go on dates and vacations with my husband, and—worst of all, in this woman’s estimation—let my baby cry herself to sleep at night.

I didn’t know this then, but my mothering style began when Tessa was still tucked inside my womb. You see, I’ve been what other mothers might call a “bad mother” from the start. I sometimes had more than one glass of wine when I was pregnant. I drank coffee and Diet Coke and took anti-depressants and once or twice I even smoked a cigarette and enjoyed it. I also did lots of things “right”—went to prenatal yoga every week, read a dozen books on childbirth and breastfeeding and parenting, stockpiled new pregnant friends, and quit my job and started my freelance writing business so I could stay at home with my baby. Most importantly, I wanted this baby. I longed for her and loved her before I knew her and worried over her and analyzed everything all the time. And I still am doing all of that—longing, loving, worrying, and analyzing. 

This is who I am. So wholly imperfect. And I like me. 

Why is it that so many parents think there's only one way to get out of this whole parenting thing with a well-adjusted, well-loved kid? And who decided that the moment of conception was a starting line, and that once you cross over that starting line, you have to start being some sort of perfect, selfless, exhausted person? 

My man Augusten Burroughs says, "I like flaws and feel more comfortable around people who have them. I myself am made entirely of flaws, stitched together with good intentions.”

Me? I like flawed mothers. Have you ever left your kid in the car while you run into the gas station for a bottle of water? Then I love you. You are my kind of mom. 

I didn’t know this much about myself before I had Tessa. I didn’t know that I wouldn’t get a kick out of sitting in the dark in a rocking chair for two hours clutching a sucking, squirming baby at my breast and trying desperately to get her to fall asleep, and then and only then, slinking off to try to eek out some me time.

I’d always heard that parenting is the hardest job in the world, but I didn’t get the meaning of that. I didn’t get that it’s so much more than how much you give your child; it’s also figuring out where to draw the line on all that giving. Because, at the end of the day, I draw the line. I read Tessa a few books, I get her some milk, I plant loads of kisses all over her silky cheeks and milky mouth and then I say, “Goodnight. Mommy loves you soooo very much, and I'll see you in the morning.” And then I shut her door.

Sometimes she cries, and it never stops sucking.

But I’ve drawn the line. I’ve given all I can give for that particular day. In the morning, I will get up and I will give again, and I will give to her every day for the rest of my life. I just can’t give everything I have all day long. I have to save some of that for my husband and for my friends and family and, yes, for me.  

I lay awake last night because I was really, really sad because I feel that there's nothing to be done about any of this. All I can do is be honest and hope that someone hears me who thinks that they wouldn't want their little girl to play with my little girl because my little girl has learned how to put herself to sleep. I want to say: I am doing the very best I can. And also: I'm a good mother and so are you. We are just different, as are our children, our families, and our lives. Sometimes love looks and sounds different. Sometimes it even sounds like a crying baby. 

September 27, 2011

A-Z of Me.

How 7th grade is this post? This A-Z of Me thing is going around on the blogs. Everyone else was jumping off the bridge so here I am doing it, too. C'mon, it's fun! 

A. Age: 29
B. Bed size: King
C. Chore that you hate: The dishes
D. Dogs: We have two eight-year-old dogs: Hattie (schipperke mix) & Garp (cairn terrier). One is grossly overweight and one smells like feet, but I can’t imagine life without them. Plus, who would eat all the foods that Tessa hurls against the wall?
E. Essential start to your day: Bringing Tessa into bed with us for a few minutes while we all wake up. After that: coffee.
F. Favorite color: Mustard.
G. Gold or Silver: Gold.
H. Height: 5’10”
I. Instruments you play: None.  
J. Job title: Freelance writer. I mostly write blogs for a Nashville advertising agency that represents lawyers. That means I write about lots of freak car accidents, horrific plane crashes, and Social Security scam artists. I also do some music writing for BMI.
K. Kids: One little girl: Tessa Jean, 18 months. Definitely no immediate desire for another one anytime soon. But (God willing and the creek don’t rise…) there will be another one at some point.
L. Live: Nashville, TN, and have lived here my whole life, with the exception of the five years I spent in Knoxville for college and my first job. I used to be all about getting out of dodge, but I’ve fallen more in love with Nashville every year. So, as long as I get to do some traveling, I’m content with staying here indefinitely. We are happy here.
M. Mother’s name: Laura
N. Nicknames: Elz, Buddha Bear (that’s Nekos’s)
O. Overnight hospital stays: Two. Once when I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Uh, yeah. That was about three (or four?) years ago, and I haven’t had any symptoms or a relapse since. I am blissfully in denial about it, and hoping that it was a freak one-time medical occurrence and that my neurologist was mistaken. The other time was when I popped out a Tessa!
P. Pet peeves: The sound of chewing, drivers who won’t LET ME OVER, mothers who think they have it all figured out.
Q. Quote from a movie: People are always saying you should be yourself, like yourself is this definite thing, like a toaster. Like you can know what it is even. But every so often I'll have, like, a moment, where just being myself in my life right where I am is, like, enough.” – My So-Called Life (Can a TV show quote count for this one?) 
R. Right or left handed: Right.
S. Siblings: None. Though Nekos and I often say we are like brother and sister. Lots of teasing going on.
U. Underwear: Anything but a thong.
V. Vegetable you hate: Green beans.
W. What makes you run late: Gathering up all the accessories it takes to keep Tessa happy: sippy cup of milk, crackers, diapers, wipes, blanket, pacifier, toys, books etc.
X. X-Rays you’ve had: Can’t remember any but have had lots of MRIs, brain scans, and ultrasounds.
Y. Yummy food that you make:  Muffins, cookies, cakes: any kind of baked good is my bag.
Z. Zoo animal: Seals. 

September 26, 2011

Stuff I Made: DIY Elbow Patches

Image Sources, Clockwise: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Supplies Needed:
Blah long-sleeved shirt, button-up, or cardigan
Fabric scraps
Paper scissors and fabric scissors
Cardstock and pencil
Washable fabric marker
Paper-backed fusible webbing
Needle and thread

1) Find a patch shape to use. Here's a traditional-shaped elbow patch template from Martha Stewart. My printer is on the fritz so I used the top of a tupperware container. You could also go more playful and use stars or hearts as patches. Use thick paper like card stock to trace your pattern onto; then cut out.

2) Trace pattern onto fabric and onto fusible webbing using washable marker. Cut out shapes.

3) Try on garment and determine where you'll want your elbow patches to be. Mark the spot(s) with safety pins.

3) Peel paper off fusible webbing and line up with your patches. 

4) Fire up your iron and attach patches. You can follow the directions that come with your fusible web, but the gist of it is not to flail your iron around on the garment but to press straight down for as long as you can without, essentially, burning your fabric.

6) Secure with needle and thread. A real seamstress would tell you to use a buttonhole stitch on your sewing machine to finish this applique, but c'mon, I don't know how to do that. And even if I did, there's no way I could do that without sewing the arms shut. So I used a good old fashioned straight stitch with a needle and thread.

And here's the finished product(s)!

I also added some elbow patches to a Target hoodie, and put some applique around the pocket area. Did I, at first, sew the pockets shut during the process? You better believe it. Did I also stand in front of my dining room wall that's wallpapered in the same fabric? Obviously.

Sumo's Sweet Stuff

September 25, 2011

18 Months Old.

"Sometime in the future if you are young, you may want to be a parent. You will convince yourself that you will be a better parent than your parents and their parents have been. But being a good parent is not generational, it is deeply personal, and it all comes down to this: If you can bring to your children the self that you truly are, as opposed to some amalgam of manners and mannerisms, expectations and fears that you have acquired as a carapace along the way you will be able to teach them by example not to be terrorized by the narrow and parsimonious expectations of the world, a world that often likes to color within the lines when a spray of paint, a scribble of crayon, would be much more satisfying."
--Anna Quindlen, from Being Perfect

(Just wanted to share that quote because I love it so.)

I'm a couple days late on my monthly Tessa update because I had a dear friend in town over the weekend and because, prior to that, we had a mini-medical emergency with Tess. Last Saturday when changing her diaper I noticed a few red spots on her belly that I wrote off as mosquito bites, but 24 hours she was wallpapered in angry red-and-white whelps. A long emergency trip and doctor's visit later, we were told that she's allergic to penicillin. She'd been taking amoxicillin for an ear infection, and it was her third time taking it because she and ear infections are like peas and carrots. So we were surprised that the allergy just now reared its ugly head. Anyhow, all is well now, but it sure did worry my worrying heart.

So, 18 months. Ask me today and I'll tell you that Tess at 18 months is the best thing ever—better than peanut butter and jelly. Ask me tomorrow, and it could be a different story. Especially if I can't talk her into eating anything other than raisins and goldfish. True story. She doesn't even like peanut butter and jelly. Sometimes I literally can't think of a thing that she might eat.

Her temper tantrums have cooled off now that she can communicate some things. They're not lasting as long or happening as often, and my heart's no longer lurching into my throat when she has one. Instead, I normally have to turn my head so she won't see me cracking up at her beat-the-floor insanity. Plus I've learned important temper tantrum avoidance tactics like: Never, ever, not even once, don't you dare forget the crackers. I've also mastered oddball skills like how to pour milk from a gallon jug into a sippy cup while driving. Not safe. I know. But necessary. You would think so, too, if she were shrieking into your ear when all you want is beautiful, calm driving.

Nowadays she's all about playing outside. That's what she's doing in the photo above; picking berries off this vine we have growing on our deck and collecting them in the bowl. Her imagination has kicked in because now she'll take those berries and dump them onto a plate and pull up a chair to the little table outside like she's having a tiny, one-baby tea party.

You guys? I love this kid. I am so lucky.

September 22, 2011

Stuff I Wore: Ray LaMontagne Concert.

At the last minute the stars aligned and Nekos and I got to go see Ray LaMontagne at the Opry last night. Beforehand we chowed down at Silly Goose (again) and then met our friends Faith and Chris at the Opry. Faith had scored fifth row seats, but I think my Diet Coke detox was working against me because I could hardly keep my eyes open all night. Nekos' shoulder made a stellar headrest though. I also blame Ray's buttery voice for making me so sleepy. Oh, and the fact that I'm a granny. 

Sherpa shrug: Free People
Tee shirt: Urban Outfitters
Skinny jeans: Zara
Socks: Smart Wool
Bracelet: My mom's charm bracelet from high school and college!
Pyrite necklace: *I am super obsessed with this necklace, which my girl Brooke Seraphine made and thrilled me with on my bday (you know you want one - order at

September 20, 2011

5 Big Goals.

Source: Flickr
It's kind of a "thing" to do a "30 Before 30" challenge when you turn 29. My friend Blair is blowing through her list with great gusto, and I laid out something similar at the beginning of the year. But for the final year of my twenties I'd rather hone in on five bigger goals to work towards. The cool thing is that each of these goals seem interconnected so that accomplishing one only serves another.

They are:

1) Spend more time in the sack. No, not like that! I've written about this before, but insomnia and I are bedfellows (even though I have a little girl who nearly always sleeps 12 hours straight through). Know what helps? Xanax or Motrin P.M. But you don't have to tell me that that's no bueno. It's just that sometimes I really, really need a good night's sleepno matter how I get there.

So I'm going to work on embracing natural ways to get solid sleep. Things to try: regular exercise, herbal supplements, no Internet after 9, etc. Please comment if you have other ideas.

This is tops on my list because I feel like sleep is the key to unlocking so much goodness in my life. When I'm not tired, I feel like I'm a better wife, mother, friend, and employee. I'm also so much more likely to make it to the gym and eat well throughout the day. Life in general just seems brighter and more beautiful and hopeful when I'm rested.

2) Make a quilt from start to finish. Which, really, is such a perfect way to spend my fall and winter nights, right? And, also, to honor my new commitment to sweet, restorative sleep. I really love the simplicity of this pattern (found via Dear Friend).

3) Kick aspartame. I start my morning with a huge cup of coffee and pile in a heaping spoon of Splenda, and lunch is almost always washed down with a Diet Coke (or two). And then there's the sugarless gum and the "light" ice cream products I chow down on.

I'm a total sweets addict who long ago switched from actual sugar to the fake kind. The real stuff doesn't seem to be any less frightening though, and I shudder at the taste of Stevia. So I'm not yet sure how this goal will be accomplished, and I anticipate it being the most difficult one on my list. But I also anticipate lots of rewards if I tell aspartame to suck it. More energy and better skin would be nice.

Perhaps just doing my homework on the evils of aspartame will be all I need to get motivated?

4) Write more and spend more time thinking about where I want to take my writing. I used to want to write a book. That's what I told people when I was eight. Seriously. Now I just write here and for my job(s) but very little else. However, I have lots of writing-related goals swishing around in my noggin. They don't involve making more money. They involve getting assignments to write about things I love and having them appear in places that I also love. I owe it to my 29-year-old self, and my eight-year-old self, to give more energy to my No. 1 passion.

5) Workout consistently. All I'm asking of myself is three times a week. I have a Y membership and the Y has a nursery so I have no excuses. Plus, I am insane about Zumba and yoga and pilates and spinning.  So there you go.

I can totally do this.

September 19, 2011


So, the birthday shindig on Saturday night? Really nice. The kind of nice that puts you to bed at 3 a.m. and then makes you sleep until 11. Several of my most favorite girlfriends came over for dinnersalmon sliders and beef slidersand wine and cake and conversation and a few ridiculous dance moves, and then we went out. You know, out, the mystical place where moms always want to go when they have a night away from their babies. Thanks to my girls, and Nekos, too, for loving on me and for making it such a fun, wild, late night. Exactly what the doctor ordered. Welcome, 29! 

September 16, 2011

Birthday Ingredients.

On Saturday night we're having a few friends over to celebrate my final descent into the big 3-0 because on Monday I'm turning 29. About a year ago I was really freaked out about the fact that teenagers consider me ancient and that my under-eye area is a complete disaster, but lately I've been relaxing into this growing older thing. Mostly because: My life is fun. If this is what getting older is like, I'm so down.

Nekos and I have always been party-throwers but even moreso since we had a baby. Because, you know, you can't take a baby to a bar. So we bring the bar to us. Classy, huh?

About once a week I say to someone, like it's a big revelation or something, that "you can't plan a good time." Because it's true, y'all. I just don't think that all the decorations and good food in the world can make a get-together good if it's not meant to be good. In fact, some of our best shindigs have been the ones that we didn't know we were having until an hour beforehand. All that's to say: Here's a little photo collage of what I have planned for Saturday. Here's hoping for a good time. Hope you all have wonderful weekends yourselves!

SOURCES: mani, dress, scalloped garland, cupcakes, salmon thai slider, wine, mirrorball (nekos)

September 14, 2011

Stuff I Made: A Fabric Accent Wall.

The best vacations are the ones that hardcore inspire me. I came home from Barcelona dead tired but crammed with fresh ideas about clothes and home decor. What can I say? Things are just different there, yo. I was not in Nashville anymore. And the new perspective was nice. Fashion-wise, Barcelona was my kind of place. I saw very few high heels, and heaps of breezy sundresses and ... harem pants. I once thought that harem pants look too much like a diaper that's long overdue for a change, and then I thought no more of them. That's until I saw so many Spanish women slinking around in them while simultaneously being in need of some new pants. (You know, that whole lost luggage thing.) One afternoon when I needed to get some work done on the computer, Nekos left me for a couple hours, saying he was going to grab a couple beers at the corner cafe and maybe ride his bike around. He came back later with a shopping bag and a smile and said, Happy Anniversary. Y'all: He got me the harem pants that I hadn't shut up about since we got there. Whatta guy.

I also stockpiled ideas from these twin shops called Ivo & Co. One was a children's store and one was home decor, and they were right across the street from one another. I loved what they were selling, but mostly I loved the way they decorated the shops and displayed their precious goods. For one, they'd created an accent wall using fabric. And they weren't trying to make it look all like oh-you-probably-think-this-is-wallpaper-but-guess-what-it's-really-fabric. It was just sort of tacked up there nonchalantly, and I thought it was the best thing I ever saw. So I had to come home and recreate it on a wall in our dining room. This place in Nashville--the Fabric Gallery--is having a 50 percent off sale on all of their fabrics and so I scooped up four yards of this floral upholstry fabric for 40 bones.

Basically all I did was use a staple gun to attach the fabric to the wall and then carefully cut out holes for the light fixtures, alarm system control pad, etc. I didn't pre-measure the fabric. I just cut it when it was already attached to the wall, which seemed to work well. I kind of love it. It's so sunny and Southern-looking.

September 13, 2011

Oh, Barcelona.

Let me just get this out of the way before I get to the good stuff.

Here's a list of things that went wrong with our trip to Barcelona:

- Our flight out of Nashville was cancelled, and we had to take another flight on a different airline, which means our luggage went missing and we got to the city hours later than expected.

- Our first day in Barcelona was spent mostly seeking out clean underpants, tops, and bottoms since we'd been wearing the same clothes for 24 hours. There were also toiletries to buy. We ended up shelling out several hundred dollars on these things. Anyone who reads this blog knows I like to shop, but swear to God I wanted so badly to be exploring the city instead of figuring out how to say "Where is the H&M?" in Spanish.

- The luggage stayed missing for three days. Finally, on Friday we got word that it had arrived in Barcelona and was on its way to the apartment where we were staying.

- We waited ... and waited and waited. For eight hours we sat in the apartment and waited for a courier to show up with our stuff. This basically ate up an entire day of our trip, which was only four days long.

- We left Barcelona on the tenth anniversary of September 11th and landed in Philadelphia. I can't tell you how many security lines and precautions we endured, all before a very mean woman told us that we had missed our flight even though it was still sitting at the gate. And there was no other flight out of Nashville that day so we had to fly to Charlotte, North Carolina, and then to Nashville. (Never fly U.S. Airways, by the way.)

- I cried really hard in the airport and wailed "I just want to see my baby" into my hands while a lot of people gawked at me.

- I'm not sure how this happened, but an invitation must have gone out because there was a pimple party raging on my chin the whole trip.

- And, the very worst thing of all, somehow on the last day we lost our photo card. We still have a few photos from another card that we used during the first day or so, but the card that was lost had all of our favorites on it—the mosaic tile at Parc Guell, weathered sailboats knotted together in the marina, gorgeous panoramas of the whole city, goofy shots of us in bars and restaurants, riding bicycles and posing in front of monuments. We'd also attached the camera to the back of our bicycles and shot a whole bunch of HD video footage of us riding all over the city. And, um, yeah, we have no idea where the card could be and we are super depressed about it.

I promise I know how fortunate I am to have gotten to go to Barcelona in the first place. But when you spend that much money and that much effort on planning for a vacation, you hope that for all your troubles you'll walk away with something that makes it worthwhile. Now that I've gotten some sleep, I can see more clearly how many magical memories we did make even without the photos to help us recall them.

I emailed my friend Blair yesterday because I remembered how crestfallen she was after she and her husband lost their camera in Morocco during their honeymoon last year. They were left with very few photos from their once-in-a-lifetime trip, and I knew she could relate to us being so bummed out.

She had the best advice, which was to take the time now to sit down and write it all out while it's still fresh. Not so much the laundry list of complaints that I compiled above, but instead to journal the moments that made us just look at one another and smile and sigh and say, "Holy cow." You know, the moments that we captured on that damn photo card.

For the record, I loved Barcelona. Its people are lusty and pleasure-seeking—kissing impulsively on the street and drinking wine at street-corner cafes throughout the day. I loved the language (and teasing Nekos when he said English words with a Spanish accent as if that would help to get our point across). I loved the architecture and the cobblestoned streets, and all of Gaudi's work, especially Parc Guell. I loved exploring the whole city by bicycle and marveling at how easily Nekos figured out the maze of narrow streets. But most of all it was the seashore that I loved—the clear, cool water of the Mediterranean sea, and the men walking down the beach selling cervesas and the women selling foot massages. It was sort of lovely how immodest the women were on the beach, stretched out lazily with their bare breasts drinking in the sunlight. Oh, and the cappuccinos. They were so delicious. Oh, and the manchego cheese and the mojitos.

The apartment where we stayed was another highlight, with the deepest, longest bath tub I've ever had the pleasure of soaking in. And with white painted wood floors and the doors flung open to a private garden terrace, it was nothing short of perfect.

I did very little writing while I was away, but one thing I did write down stands out now. It says, "In Barcelona, you can never forget to look up." I meant it literally—because looking towards the sky always yielded some new surprise—whether it was someone's underpants hanging in a line or an amazing bit of architecture. But now I think it was rather figurative, too. Because no matter how much planning I do or money I spend, life so often has other plans for me. But turning my face to the sky—it really does help.

Speaking of the bright side, here are a few of the Barcelona pictures we DO have from our cell phones and the photo card that actually came home with us: