August 30, 2012

Pigtails and Other Adventures with Biracial Hair.

Tessa's hair fascinates me. In the bath, which is when we comb it out with the help of fistfuls of deep conditioner, it's so long that it streams well past her shoulder blades, but when dry it shrinks up to a silky soft afro that stops at the nape of her buttery brown neck. There's one precious freckle fastened there, and it's as though her hair doesn't dare to cover it.

We only wash her hair twice a week because it never does get oily or smelly like my hair would, and thanks to a biracial friend's advice we stopped using shampoo altogether and now just use conditioner. Even so, after a few days she's always accumulated at least a few dreadlocks on the back of her head. Thankfully Nekos has taken on the task of being her devoted detangler. There is nothing that melts my heart more than seeing this 6'2" man sitting on his daughter's stepstool at the edge of our bathtub, coaxing her into letting him comb out her profound tangles.

A couple nights ago he was out doing something to do with fantasy football so I did her hair myself. I bribed her into letting me de-dreadlock her by telling her I'd braid her hair after the bath. That's, like, her dream. Still wrapped in a towel, but with Berenstain Bears books spread out on the floor before her for perusal, I divided her part down the middle and braided her long hair into two skinny pigtails. I was so proud. She was so proud. She looked into the full length mirror and hopped around and proclaimed, "I 'scited!"

By the next morning, though, those pigtails had curled up tight against her head like actual pigs' tails and the crown of her head had given way to a halo of curl fuzz. Hilarious. Today I had better luck when I combed her hair out dry (hello, fluffy afro!) and rebraided her pig tails, but I'm always learning. And I'm always telling her how beautiful her hair is, in hopes that she'll come to love it, too, and that she'll let it grow wild, free and soft, just like her spirit.

August 28, 2012

A Blue Front Door.

Maybe I should re-title this blog "Black and White and Painted All Over"?

This week's painting project was our front door, which I wanted to get done yesterday before the big rains start.

I got inspired to paint it Benjamin Moore's Wythe Blue after I saw this pin on Pinterest. So gosh dang pretty. And then I learned a fun fact, which is that Wythe Blue is also the color of the foyer in Betty and Don Draper's house, you know when they still lived in a house together. Sold. And also it was named Benjamin Moore's Color of the Year for 2012 because people were so crazy about it. I see why. It's the prettiest shade of blue--robin's egg with a tinge of watery green.

I also painted the sidelight panels a cream color. Talk about a big difference, huh? I feel like I gave the outside of our house some of the same personality of the inside.

The ultimate compliment came from Nekos, who said he doesn't even want a new front door anymore. This from the guy who's been lusting after a bajillion dollar Craftsman style wooden front door to better match the style of our bungalow.

I think I'll paint our porch swing the same color.

August 23, 2012

Stuff I Made: Painted, Rebuilt Desk.

I'm starting to work on Tessa's new bedroom; hers is easy because I know her personality: Bright! and pink! and energetic! I ordered this duvet cover from Land of Nod because it's plain awesome and will stand up to paw prints and whatever Tessa has in store for it.

We also needed a dresser for her clothes that don't hang in the closet but because we're trying to save money I decided to repurpose this old desk, which was mine when I was a kid and during college but which has since been mildewing in our basement. Total yuck. All the molded particle board in the back had to be replaced and the molded drawers taken apart and rebuilt with new wood (for a grand total of $10) before I started to paint it. In other words, this ended up being the most time intensive furniture project I've taken on recently. And if it hadn't been mine as a kid I would have put it in the back alley and let the trash man take it away, but sentiment is a powerful thing.

We just painted this room yellow in March, right before I got pregnant, so it's going to stay this color with a yellow-pink-blue color scheme.

I actually ended up using four of Annie Sloan's chalk paint colors to do this desk: Old White, Antoinette, Paris Gray and Louis Blue. Then I waxed it and distressed it lightly. 

Can't wait to do the big reveal of her room when it's finished!

August 22, 2012

Bribery by Lollipop.

Potty training Tessa is slow going around here. (My fault, not Tessa's; I just gotta get serious about it.) When we first started doing it a bit, we bought a huge bag of Dum-Dum lollipops to reward her each time she managed to "go" in her frog potty--thus unlocking the secret to getting Tessa to do whatever we want her to. I'm not saying we're model parents by bribing our two year old with garbage, but I get a laugh out of the motley purposes Nekos and I have used miniature "ya-yee-pops" for. I especially like them to avoid public meltdowns and car crying; Nekos has a thing for bribing her to eat her meals, most of which she looks at with utter disdain. Whatever works.

Here are some of the things we've bribed Tessa to do or not do with the promise of a Dum-Dum:
  • Pee in the potty.
  • Not throw a tantrum.
  • Stop throwing a tantrum.
  • Stop crying in the car. 
  • Go to bed/take a nap. 
  • Eat a bite of a vegetable. 
  • Try a new food. 
  • Let us put clothes or shoes on her. 
  • Sit down/sit still.
  • Take a bath. 
  • Let us comb her hair without screaming like a banshee. 
Sometimes we even give her one just because she's cute.

August 18, 2012

25 Weeks, Happily.

A lot has changed in the past month. 

I had just a terrible first half of the pregnancy, but this is the fun part. 

The third trimester is a few short weeks away, I have strangers cracking mile-wide grins at me, and Livvy is super busy in my belly, not only growing quickly but moving around like gangbusters. I worry so much less about her and her health when I get to feel her wiggles and hiccups throughout the day; every kick is reassuring. I also feel like a million bucks, with zero nausea now, a surplus of good hair days (thanks, pregnancy hormones!), and the energy to enjoy full, fun days with Tessa and our friends. I have my social life back and feel less lonely. Also, I love not having to worry about whether or not I look fat in these photos ... or in real life. At this point I'm up 12 lbs, and my belly is a source of pride, of contentment, and promise. I'm excited to document my changing body and emotions with these posts, as I did very little writing or picture-taking when I was pregnant with Tess. I didn't keep this blog then, and we still just had a point-and-click camera. 

I've actually hit a really rough patch in my freelance writing career, as my hours with my biggest client got all but eliminated. That's been stressful to say the least--it's less than awesome to be applying for jobs when you're almost six months pregnant--but now instead of being a source of stress (as she was when I was sick and getting adjusted to the idea of having another child) this baby is a place where I go for joy. (Most days) I'm feeling connected to her and excited about her and about growing my family. I have lots of twinkly visions of Thanksgivings and Christmases and birthday parties and family vacations for years to come. I've never loved Tessa more, or felt more secure as a mother, and I'm so excited to go through all these phases with Livvy, too. This time I'll know what I'm doing. Right? 

August 14, 2012

Stuff I Made: Ottoman Slipcover.

I am nesting so bad right now, trying to knock out some projects I've been meaning to get to around the house before I hone in on the girls' rooms. One of my top priorities was recovering this hand-me-down ottoman we've had for several years, which had an ugly, lumpy chocolate brown cover over it.

To make this cover, which I'm really excited about, I mostly looked to this tutorial on the Dear Lillie blog, but because my machine is too basic to have a function that automatically does ruffles I used this tutorial at Addicted 2 Decorating to make box pleats for the bottom. I used two and a half yards of a cotton-spandex fabric, and I spent $40 on that, although I'm sure I could have found a better deal had I looked somewhere other than Nashville's most expensive (and most kick ass) fabric store. Luckily I already had the brown trim back from when I was making these scarves like it was my job.

Was it the wisest thing for me to pick a white fabric to use when I have a toddler and two dogs? Nope, it wasn't. But when company is not here, I keep a blanket draped over the top. (Don't ask Nekos what he thinks about that.) Plus, it's machine washable when it comes down to that. And, as a friend pointed out, how comfy does this sitting area look for snuggling with a new baby pretty soon?

What made all this work so well, I think, is this vintage bedspread that one of my mom's best friends gave me last week. (Thank you so much, Susan!) It's been in her family for ages, and one trip to the laundromat made it good as new and blotted out the huge, dark brown arm chair that's been bothering me for the longest.

It looks kinda fancy, but this was actually a really easy project for a sewer like me with just the basic skills and tools. I probably spent about four or five hours total on it, but divided it over a couple of days. I totally recommend taking it on if you, too, have an ottoman that hurts your eyes.

August 13, 2012

The Littlest Diva.

This past Saturday Tessa got to walk the runway again at the Tomato Art Festival in our East Nashville 'hood. She wore a little vintage white dress from The Hip Zipper and let me pin her curls back in the front. (Look how much she's changed since last year's show!) While I was getting ready myself, she gave herself an arm party with my rubber bands and then insisted on keeping the party going during the show. For all of her pre-show bravery and comments about wanting people to clap for her and wanting to eat a hot dog afterwards, she got pretty flummoxed when it was her turn and pretty much leapt off the catwalk and into my mom's arms. Aw, Lawdy. She can never resist the lure of her Yaya. 

Thanks so much to Erika Chambers Photography for letting me republish these photos here! 

August 10, 2012

10 Years.

us in the fall of 2002
When I think about meeting Nekos, I think about how much my life changed instantly and how close I was to not meeting him at all. And what if I hadn't met him? Would I be living here in Nashville? Married to someone else? With children (... but surely not children as painfully beautiful)? Single? How might my career have panned out differently? Would I be as happy? Happier? What if I hadn't lived all this time in the spotlight of his support and attention and slept next to him for the past decade, and where would he be without me to nag him about his diabetes and to laugh at all of his jokes and tell him how fantastically adorable he is?

Nekos and I have been looking forward to this particular anniversary for a long time. We can't remember the exact date, but we met in August 2002--10 years ago this month. It took almost two months after that before he would pull me into a room at a party, press me against a wall thumping with music and kiss me, and still another couple of months before he asked me to be his girl. (Yes, emphatically yes! On Nekos's arm, I felt like I sparkled, like the possibilities were endless. I felt loved, as is.) On New Year's Eve that year, he called me up and shouted over the din where he was celebrating, hundreds of miles away, that he loved me.

Our story may very well be unremarkable to anyone other than me and Nekos, but it is our story and we are both grateful that we have it to tell.

We met at the tail end of the summer before my junior year of college at UT Knoxville. I had just changed my major from journalism to English and was writing lots of poetry and working for the school paper and the literary magazine. I had grown to love being a college student and was straddling the line between totally reckless and very conscientious and doing it pretty well. After two years of living in the dorms--one year with a roommate and one year in a tiny white room by myself--I had just moved into a studio apartment at the top of a long flight of stairs attached to a building so dilapidated that it literally had a lean to it. I was 19, and I was thrilled. I'd spent the entire summer picking out paint colors and saving up for the bedding I wanted. I even brought a gray-and-white-striped kitten named Willow to move in with me.

The week before school started my friend Michelle and I decided we wanted to have extra money that semester for drinking and clothes-buying, and were talking about it one afternoon as we walked down Knoxville's Strip. Out of the blue she suggested that we apply for jobs at McAlister's Deli, which we were just passing. We both went in to fill out applications. She ended up not taking the job, but I did.

Nekos had worked at McAlister's for a few years already and had one semester of his senior year in college left. He'd also just put in his two weeks notice. I don't remember first laying eyes on him, but I remember the way he made me feel, which was alive and uncomfortable in a good way. I remember him telling me that he liked my hair a certain way and my doing it that way every shift after that. He teased me, teased everyone, but was also warm and smart and funny. He was messy around the edges. Most of the girls I worked with liked him, loved him even, but some of the guys didn't. His personality, which was (and is) as big as the music he blared from the back of the kitchen where he steamed sandwiches and baked potatoes for customers, wasn't for the faint of heart.

I told all of my girlfriends I had a crush on him, but the truth is I always had a crush on someone. Whoever I had most recently smooched at a party or walked beside after class. I could find something to adore about almost anyone because I wanted so badly to have a boyfriend. I had never had a boyfriend before. At least no one who I "dated" for more than a few weeks and no one who ever liked me nearly as much as I liked them.

Nekos in the meantime was suffering through the aftermath of this short-lived but really intense relationship he'd had with a beautiful blonde hippie girl who went to Widespread Panic concerts with him and drove him insane in the best sense of the word. When one of my girlfriends told him I liked him, he wasn't very impressed. I don't know what changed things, but the flirtation soon got dialed up to the highest degree. And he kept surprising me in new ways; was he really playing Liz Phair on the stereo at work? Most famously, we got into a food fight in the back of the restaurant, and I ended up chasing him, squealing, out the door of McAlister's, down the street, and into a Walgreen's where we ran up and down the aisles, covered in food and giggling. And still on the clock. After that, there were dates and dancefloors and lots of nights and mornings. We fell in love with one another. We still are.

Having known each other 10 years, Nekos and I have literally grown up together. And as two only children we often say our relationship has given us the sister or brother that neither of us ever had. We've had bad times, terrible times, and sometimes they've been both of our faults and sometimes not. We've seen each other through torturous jobs, through promotions and firings, through a move to Nashville, through personality differences and stupid decisions and bad habits and bad health and ugly hair cuts. We moved into our first apartment together and rattled the walls with our fights; we planned a wedding and said "I do!" so enthusiastically that our friends and family laughed. We bought our first home together, where we've remained pretty consistently very happy for the past five years. We had a baby together and learned to feed her and put her to sleep and to love her and to support one another as parents. Soon we'll have another baby. Mostly we've had a hell of a lot of fun together. We've cooked meals and hosted parties and taken trips and never stopped even for a second loving one another. I am so, so, so grateful for Nekos and for our 10 years together. This story, his and mine, it's my very favorite.

August 7, 2012

Stuff I Made: Painted Dresser.

This weekend I used Annie Sloan's Chalk Paint to doll up my (really) old dresser, whose lines I've always loved but not so much the finish peeling off in strips (thanks to Tess for helping that along). I'm pretty wild about the results, and it only took me three or four hours to complete. Inspiration found here. So much more to paint, so little time.

Again I used the Old White and Paris Gray colors, but this time I didn't distress it at all. This old gal is distressed enough as is. 

August 6, 2012

We Have a Name.

Tessa approves of sister's name.
We've decided on a name for the baby in my belly! Her name was harder to arrive at than Tessa's, which I was immediately obsessed with. First, we had to toss out our favorite name for this baby because it got crapped on so prolifically by so many people. That name was "Bardot." If you, too, think it's a sucky name, couldya keep it to yourself? We'll save it for naming a puppy or a hamster or something some day. But it's a mean thing to tell someone you don't like what they want to name their child because that obviously means they like the name a lot. Anyway, in the end, we chose something more tame, but still sweet and unique. It's not that we care what other people think about our name choices, but we do care about what perceptions people will have of our daughter when they hear her name.

Several months ago when I was doing some music writing I came across the name Livvi Franc; she's a British singer-songwriter, and even though I still haven't heard her music, I loved her name, which I'd never heard before. So after much adieu we decided on naming our gal ...

I like that Livvy can go by "Liv" later on if she's concerned about the name being too precious in a workplace setting. Plus, I just like it. A girlfriend of mine named her daughter "Vivi," and I always thought that was just the best name. This is a knock-off of that. (Hope you don't mind, Lash!)

Tessa's middle name is "Jean," which is the middle name of Nekos's mom, who passed away very suddenly of cancer when I was five months pregnant with Tessa. Livvy's middle name, Lara, will be a tribute to my mom, Laura. There are so many reasons why we're giving a shout-out to my mom with this baby: First and foremost, she deserves it, and she is my best friend. I often tell my mom that all the help she gives me with Tessa is a big part of why I am (usually) so content with motherhood. Get a 24-hour break from your kid once a week, and you appreciate her in a whole new way. After Tessa comes home from YaYa's house, it's as though I've never seen her before--or never noticed just how especially bright and hilarious and exquisitely beautiful she is. It's a gift. Also, my mom was the second of two girls, as Livvy will be. And my mom has been nothing but extraordinarily supportive and complimentary of my mothering skills. To hear your own really great mom say she thinks you yourself are a really great mom--it's a meaningful affirmation.

We are getting more excited every day to welcome Livvy into our lives. I can't believe she'll be in my arms in just four months. Expect lots of posts about nurseries and little girl rooms because that's all that's on my mind creatively right now (other than pregnancy-friendly Halloween costumes; I'm thinking kangaroo). I've been busy on my Pinterest, yo.

August 2, 2012

Big Shoes to Fill.

I've been trying to decide whether or not to make Tessa's room, which is right across the hall from our room, the new baby's nursery. The decision has felt impossibly large. I cried about it last night, and I made Nekos spoon me and my belly until he couldn't take it anymore.

Tess says she's all about having a new room at the other end of the house from us, but I feel funny about it. I want her close to me. I want to drape her in a canopy of my love and protect her from feeling like anything other than the big, fat, shiny red apple of my eye. A part of me is mad: Who does this new baby think she is, coming in and taking Tessa's room? And a part of me is scared: Will Tessa feel less loved when I have a baby attached to me nearly all the time? And a part of me is relieved: I'll have Tessa to keep me company and make me giggle during those lonesome first weeks when the newborn looks up at me like, Hiiiii????? And the biggest part of me is wildly excited about the life I'm building stone by stone with this man I love and these two girls who I'll get to watch grow and who I'll love for every day for the rest of my life. I always dreamed of having daughters plural, and I can't believe my lucky-stars fate that things are actually turning out the way the little girl me once hoped.

At least once a day, I ask Tessa: "Do you know who my favorite little girl in the whole wide world is?" And she says, "Meeee!" I will have to stop doing that soon because I'll have two favorite little girls. Is that possible?

Moms, where you nervous about loving your second the way you love your first? How did you make room in your house and your heart for a new lil dumplin'?