September 30, 2012

Stuff I Made: Bassinet Bumper

A friend and I discovered this antique bassinet, half buried in old blankets and older dolls, during our last turn around the new Gas Lamp Too last weekend. Glancing at the price tag we were shocked to see it priced at just $35. I didn't need a new bassinet because I have a perfectly good Fisher Price plastic one dismantled in a box in my basement just waiting for baby girl No. 2, but this one was way more me and way more adorable so I went back to Gas Lamp the next afternoon, having not been able to get it off my mind, and took it home with me.

The process of getting it to its present day adorableness wasn't easy, but it was so fun. First I spent a couple of nights in front of the TV coating each of its many spindles with chalk paint. Then I started work on the bumper, which is unlike anything I've ever made before. This exact same technique could be used to make a crib bumper, by the way.

I was determined not to buy anything new for the sewing portion of the project and to just work from my existing stash. So I chose this piece of quilt-like fabric, which I got half-price a long time ago, for the outside and a light pink fabric I had for the inside. I did end up spending about $10 on the bubblegum pink bias tape to go along the edge and to create the ties, and in the process I learned for the first time how to actually use bias tape correctly. A total revelation. I can't wait to use bias tape on baby blankets and burp cloths and pot holders and anything else I can think of. I feel like the bias tape is what made this project look semi-professional instead of homemade.

Lastly, I also used the light pink fabric to create a fitted sheet for the mattress (which doesn't show up in any of these pictures, I just realized). Once I wrapped my head around how to do it, this, too, was really fun because now I see how very easy it is to create one-of-a-kind sheets for cribs and bassinets and pack 'n' plays.

This is (theoretically) where Livvy will sleep or nap in her first weeks and months when she will be (theoretically) nursing around the clock. (I say "theoretically" because I had a terrible time nursing my first and am so hoping for different results this time.) The bassinet is exactly as high as our bed and rocks like a dream with the slightest touch. I can't wait to lay her little, warm, sweet-smelling body here.

Here are the terrifically helpful tutorials I followed to create this bedding:

Bassinet Bumper Tutorial from The Girl Creative (how I made the bumper)
Crib and Toddler Bed Sheets Tutorial from MADE (how I constructed the sheet)
Bassinet or Play Yard Fitted Sheet Tutorial from Erin Compton Design (how I determined the correct dimensions for my sheet fabric)
Bias Tape Tutorial from Smashed Peas and Carrots (how I figured out how to correctly attach bias tape)

September 25, 2012

Tessa at Two and a Half.

She's a little stinker. Can't you tell that just by looking at these pictures? 

Don't the crinkled eyes and pursed lips say everything I could already tell you about how fully exasperating and challenging and hilarious our days are? Doesn't the tilt of her head imply that she's been carried kicking and screaming out of more than a few restaurants in her day?

Tessa hit her half birthday mark this month, and we are as obsessed with her as ever. She blows us away with her mad conversational skills, with her dance moves, with her memory, which can summon the details of who was there, what we ate, and what was said months after the fact. 

I question her recollection, but my own mom swears up and down that I was a perfect baby--no tantrums, no sleep or food issues, nothing but sweetness and independent play. One big long baby walk on the beach. Tessa, on the other hand, is a tapestry of personality. Though Nekos's mom passed away three years ago, I like to imagine that if I asked her she would tell me that Tessa is just like he was. 

I will tell you that for as challenging as Tessa can be (just a few days ago I was dragging her into the car while she was biting me, and there was a tantrum over a free Kroger cookie that made me want to disappear), she is far more sweet than she could ever be sassy. She gives the best hugs of anyone I know, knows just what to say to make me laugh when I'm sad, and shows immense empathy toward others' feelings. Her love of life and adventure inspires my own. 

Oh, and I think we almost have the hang of this potty training thing. She is in panties all the time now, except for naps and bedtime, and her accidents are happening less often, although they continue to be memorable. Yesterday, for instance, nowhere near a public bathroom, I tried to teach her that it's OK to pop a squat outside sometimes. Like in a parking lot. She thought that was fantastic, and now wants to take all of her business into the great outdoors. 

She seems to be really excited about becoming a big sister and asks me at random, "Is Livvy still in your tummy?" And when I say "yes," she says, "Aw, she gonna be so sweet." 

Yes, she is, Tess, and so are you.  

September 24, 2012

Simple Does It.

Nesting in preparation for a new baby has transcended my work around the house and seems to be applying to my entire life. Not only am I wiping down the inside of cabinets and showing no mercy to cluttered drawers, making deliveries to Goodwill and slapping coats of pastel paint on old, dark furniture, but I'm working on simplifying our entire life.

The most major development: Three weeks ago we sold our Mini Cooper. Despite how much I loved it, I knew it was impractical and rapidly collecting new "quirks" each year. More importantly, we owed the IRS exactly the amount that we got for the car and were able to pay the IRS off in full after a Russian teenager drove away in what had once been my dream car. When we first put the car on the market, I sat on our front porch and cried, but when we listened to the Mini purr down our street for the last time, all I felt was relief. One less car to maintain, one less car insurance bill, one less thing to worry about.

Now? We're sharing our Nissan Cube. In the morning, Nekos either rides his bicycle the 15 or 20 minutes it takes him to get to work, or Tessa and I drop him off there. On the way we listen to NPR and chat, Tessa browses her Berenstain Bears books and encourages me to "go" when the light turns green and "stop" when it turns red. Tessa has become quite the conversationalist, and I relish our rides together in the morning. After we drop Nekos off, I take her to her mother's day out program, where she goes four days a week from 9 until 2.

Our life has taken on a new rhythm that I love: In the morning we eat breakfast together around our kitchen island, Nekos packs a brown bag lunch for himself and Tessa, we get her dressed and get ourselves dressed, get Nekos to work and Tessa to school, and then I'm alone. I love this time, during which I pay bills, do dishes and laundry, work on a freelance project, do a project around the house, meet a friend for lunch or coffee, blog, run errands or let myself nap. Lately, too, I've been spending time job hunting and doing a lot of thinking about the kind of job I really want during this time of transition--from one child to two, from a lucrative freelance gig to a sudden layoff that's left my bank account empty and my life more full.

A couple weeks ago an opportunity for a full-time job opened up for me at a big, exciting place here in Nashville. Even as I was going through the application/interview process I was trying to sort out in my head how I would handle childcare, how I would fare starting a new job and doing well at it when I'm having a baby in less than 10 weeks. When I didn't get the job, I felt like crap, not good enough, not smart enough, not professional enough. But then, just like when we sold the Mini, I only felt relief.

Professionally, this is not my time to shine. I don't think I'm going to be capable of shining in the coming months, and that's okay. The only thing I really want to shine at anyway is motherhood. So I've refocused my job search on finding something reliable, something part time that I can do from home, something that won't stress me out, and something at which I can make a real difference without too much effort. I don't have to make much money, just enough to help pay the bills for awhile. (I think I may have found something that fits this bill, fingers crossed!)

Nekos says that not getting that job I wanted was God's way of telling me to slow down and simplify. He's right that I need to simplify the expectations I have for myself. I've always been so career-driven, and as a feminist have closely guarded the ideal that women can be both attentive mothers and sharp career women. But can they do both well and still be happy? I wouldn't be. My life would feel too cluttered, my to-do list too long, my list of people to please too impossible. I would always come last, and I don't do well when I put myself last. I've learned that I require a lot of self-love in able to love others the way that I want to.

So we've decided: We're going to pare down our bills to the essentials, continue our family carpool, and find pleasure (and creative ways to make ends meet) one day at a time. I'm going to let myself off the hook. While my precious family is growing, my career can hold, please.

September 20, 2012

Yesterday's Goodness.

It's the day after my 30th birthday, and our downstairs is filled with balloons and a rainbow of confetti, with crumpled tissue paper and cake crumbs and empty champagne glasses and paper plates. I can't quite bear to clean it all up just yet. For now I'm just going to sit with this gratitude for my silly, pretty, generous friends and family and for love that sustains me, for a magical dinner party on a cool fall night and a gigantic birthday cake iced with cream cheese frosting, for laughter in my kitchen and hands pressed lovingly against my belly. Another thing for which I'm grateful: When you're pregnant, there's no post-birthday hangover to haunt you. Only confetti. And cake.

September 17, 2012


me, aged 2 and 1/2ish
So, the time has come.

Wednesday I will become 30.

It's something I've been worrying about for a few years, but feel surprisingly peaceful about now that my 20s are in the books.

I feel good about what happened in my 20s. I spent the entire decade with Nekos, graduated from UT Knoxville, got my first paid writing job and lots of subsequent ones, moved home to Nashville, got married, bought a 1920s bungalow I'm crazy about, made great friends, lost great friends, made mistakes, made love, had a baby girl, fell in love with Nashville all over again, fell in love with Nekos all over again, became a mother, took some time finding my way as a mother, and promptly made another baby girl (still in the works). I took some trips that changed me, too--the born and raised in Tennessee me. Trips to Amsterdam and Barcelona, to Arizona with its cacti and Los Angeles with its Chateau Marmont, to Las Vegas and New York City. I read a lot of good books, started a blog, nearly fainted once while speaking in public, wrote a book proposal that went nowhere, experimented with things I had no business experimenting with, and even once or twice left the house wearing a moomoo. I learned a lot about how to be a "good wife" and how sometimes that means just getting by until a bad day passes, how marriage can sometimes mean crying in the bathtub at night and waking up and wrapping my arms tight around my husband the next morning, grateful that another day has come for us to learn to love better. I've learned to be less judgmental and I've learned that gossiping almost never helps anything, least of all friendships. I've learned lots about forgiveness. I learned that some things will kill me if I don't forgive them and others will kill me if I try to forgive them before I'm ready.

Having Tessa has made me appreciate the present and anticipate the future in a way that nothing else ever has. Soon I'll be the mother of two girls, and this is such a gift. I am so, so, so thankful. But I know the coming year is going to be hard, that I'll be up all night and up early. That my undereye area will look like hell. That I'll put on cartoons more than I should and microwave hotdogs more than I should and say "goddammit" more than I should. I'll have a newborn and a near three year old, I'll be looking for work, I'll be trying to hold it all together, including my housekeeping and the friendships I hold so dear. I also would like to fit back into my blue jeans at some point if possible. For all of these reasons, I'm not going to draft any ambitious list of goals this particular year but instead will be proud of myself if I can stay at least a little bit sane and in the present and honest. I want to fully know and appreciate the joy of my newborn sleeping in my arms and smiling into my eyes for the first time because I know it all goes so fast, fast, fast. And it's all so good.  

September 10, 2012

Great Expectations: Meet Real Life.

September is a big month for our family. It's the month we most look forward to because not only does it mean the first fall days, but we get to celebrate Nekos's birthday, my birthday and our wedding anniversary. Nekos's birthday and our anniversary are actually back to back on September 7 and September 8 (this past Friday and Saturday). And in a week and a half I turn 30. Holy sheeshkabobs! 

Our plans for this weekend included canoeing on Saturday just us two to celebrate six years of marriage and taking Tessa to the Tennessee State Fair on Sunday. Nothing went quite as planned because life and two year olds will do that to you.  

It's funny, really, and it all started when the cake I baked Nekos on Thursday afternoon fell apart while I was icing it. Luckily, Nekos thought it was terrific and proclaimed that it was "bursting apart at the seams," just like him. 

Late Friday afternoon I drove Tessa out to my mom's house to stay the night. She was in a terrible mood, screamed in the car that she wanted Nekos most of the way there, and then there was a traffic jam sent to me straight from hell. I cried, Tessa definitely cried, and by the time we got to my mom's house, I had a stabbing headache behind my left eye. 

That night Nekos and I went out to a quiet dinner in honor of his 32nd birthday. Then we came home and watched part of a Ken Burns documentary until he fell asleep with his head on my chest and his hand on my belly. It was sort of perfect.

In the morning Nekos hopped out of bed and presented me with a gift certificate for a prenatal massage and a card with a message that took my breath away. I, on the other hand, sheepishly gave him a pile of new boxers from T.J. Maxx. I had totally blown my gift-giving load on his birthday the day before and didn't have time to finish the gifts I intended to make him. (I did get to embroider the pillowcases I wanted to give him yesterday, just one day late.) Our hopes of canoeing were dashed when it seemed like drizzly rain and clouds were going to stick around all day. Instead we decided to go antiquing in search of a new coffee table since I had ruined our old one the week before when I tried to stain it. Afterwards it looked, in Nekos's words, like I "rubbed mud all over it." 

While we were out, we found the perfect coffee table, made out of an old green door and set on wheels. We're nothing short of obsessed with it and keep pointing out its various virtues to one another. I'm so thankful that Nekos not only tolerates my love of furniture that looks like it's been beaten with a baseball bat but that he shares that love. We also found this can't-live-without "gossip table," an old telephone table that had been painted and recovered and that now lives happily in our kitchen, its cubby a new home for our cookbooks. 

By the time we'd puzzled out how to pack our treasures into the car, the sun had come out like gangbusters, and I got a text from my mom that Tessa was standing at her front door, crying inconsolably for mommy and daddy and had been for hours, despite mom's attempts to distract her with activities. Our anniversary night plans of going to see Beasts of the Southern Wild flew out the window. I had to go fetch her right away. Cue another stress headache. The night turned out not to be so bad, though, as our evening out just became an evening in.

Then there was yesterday. We took Tessa to the Tennessee State Fair. She was a disaster. She threw about 10 fits before we literally had to carry her kicking and screaming to the car. Except for some sweet moments at the petting zoo, the whole fair thing was terrible. All three of us left miserable and frustrated. I have no clue why she decided to freak out over teeny, tiny things during an outing that was expressly designed for making her happy. Believe me, I could have thought of a lot of things I'd rather do than pad around the fairgrounds six months pregnant. My jumbo corn dog, however, was off the chain. 

Last night after we put Tessa to bed (not easy), Nekos got a good look at how my bare belly jumps and undulates when Livvy kicks me. We looked at it in awe, and we looked at each other with at least a little apprehension: Sometimes when Livvy kicks me, it makes me think of a ghost trapped in a horror movie basement, rattling a trapdoor. Neither of us know what we're about to let loose. 

This is our life now. It's penciling in everything on the calendar really lightly, even the celebrations we look forward to all year. It's sheer joy and sheer frustration and feeling them both back to back. There are more people to make happy now, at least one more than there was six years ago when Nekos and I promised that we'd stick it out with one another through the good and the bad. Life is mostly good, but Tessa is definitely in one of her phases, and it involves some strange combination of come here, go away, and make everything happen for me now. After months of peaceful bed times, she's turned bed time into a battleground again. Disciplining her is confusing. Time-out works spottily, and when I recently tried spanking her for the first time, she turned around afterwards and hugged me and said, "It's gonna be OK, mommy. I love you." I apparently didn't spank her hard enough, and I don't think I have the heart to. 

For now, I'm not going to stress about how to "fix" her. I'm just going to enjoy this month of ours and eat up all of its imperfections, just like I did that birthday cake. 

September 7, 2012

28 Weeks: Whattup, Third Trimester!

Yesterday was the first day of my third trimester! Only 12 (or so) more weeks to go before Livvy arrives. Her movements have grown sharper; she's jabbing at me with knobby elbows and knees, and sometimes it startles me so much that I jump. But mostly what's growing is my belly. There's no hiding this pregnancy anymore, haha, which means lots of unbelievably sweet looks from strangers (but less attention from the gentlemen). I'm up 17 lbs. because I was so relieved to have an appetite again after the nausea went away that I've been indulging a lot (too much), so I'm trying to snack more healthily. Of course I say that, but have been inhaling the birthday cake I made Nekos yesterday. I'm starting to get excited about having my body back to myself in a short while and have been browsing through fall clothes catalogs longingly. (Have you seen the new Madewell? I need a sheep sweater.) In a word, my wardrobe right now: Limited.

Compared to my pregnancy with Tess, I am so much less focused on the mechanics of the miracle that's happening inside my body. I crack What to Expect When You're Expecting once a month and read my weekly email updates from Baby Center, but I'm otherwise preoccupied with the details and chores and obligations of daily life to think much about all the hard work my body is doing. Keeping me busiest: looking for a job. How did this happen? It's so not my ideal situation to be looking for work when I'm in this "condition." But the truth is that I need and want to work, and if I can't find a gig that I can do from home (like my last one) I won't be the first mother to have to put her babies in daycare if it comes down to that. But, oh, how will I bear that? It's a bridge I'll cross when I come to it.

Most days I'm happy and I'm grateful and I'm getting closer to ready for this lil gal. One day soon I'll get to breathe her in and kiss her cheeks and lips and hold her tight to me.

September 5, 2012

Tessa Jean's New Room!

Moving Tessa out of the nursery where she's slept for two and a half years hasn't been easy. For her, it's been no big deal, but for me it's been emotional to move her across the house, further away from my ears and eyes and heart, which is connected to hers with a wire that's wrapped tight round and round and round. 

But it was actually her idea to give up her room for baby Livvy, and when we went over all the options it made the most sense. My mom kept Tessa on Saturday night, and on Sunday Nekos and I woke (after sleeping in) with a mission: Make a new space that would knock our little girl's socks off. Here's what our guest room looked like before. We painted it in March before we knew we were expecting so decided to keep the color--Behr's Pismo Dunes--as it was.  

Other than her bedding, we didn't buy anything new. As I've blogged about, though, I did paint this old desk with Annie Sloan chalk paint, and used the same pink, "Antoinette" to accent her toy box, which I'd painted creamy white years ago. Plus we created a place to hang all of her art. She's very into painting so her work can be rotated out frequently. 

We drug these West Elm bookshelves up from the basement, cleaned them and set up a reading nook for our little bookworm. 

I made (and blogged about) this bunting a couple of years ago, and I'm so happy about how perfectly it matches the yellow-pink-blue color scheme of her new room. 

This ribbon lampshade, too, I made and blogged about a while ago. 

As for Tessa's reaction? I was anticipating it to be anti-climatic. (Remember when we told her she was going to have a baby sister?) But this little girl literally jumped up and down when she saw her new room, running around to examine every nook and cranny, even tripping and falling in her excitement. It was the best reaction we could have ever, ever hoped for. And that night, and every night thereafter, she slept like a baby big girl. Me? I may have had insomnia and hung on to the monitor like a lifeline. 

Next up: the nursery.  

Some details:
Bedding: Land of Nod's Petite Chateau Bedding
Blackout Curtains: Pottery Barn Kids's Mini Dot Panels 
Paint colors: Walldesk and toybox
Canopy: IKEA Himmel Bed Canopy
Run Wild My Child print: Etsy