June 27, 2013

Livvy // 7 months

Livvy ...

is seven months old. Has lots of toys but only has eyes for the dog's toy. Has four teeth with more en route. Is crawling everywhere and getting faster with every new day. Is tender and very happy. Is showing no signs of an afro. No longer interested in her Johnny Jump-up or her Exersaucer because she wants to go-go-go. Normally is go-go-going toward her daddy's record collection or wherever her sister is. Worships her sister and is worshiped in return. Also is obsessed with her mama, who feels the same about her. Has started saying "Dadadadada" on the regular. Has just started pulling up on things and can stand for 10 seconds or so unassisted. Insisted in not so many words that we install the baby gate at the top of the stairs A.S.A.P. and move her crib down a notch because she was starting to hang over the side while protesting bedtime with all her guts. Likes to eat anything that we put in front of her or spoon into her mouth. Sometimes loses her shit in the YMCA daycare, sometimes doesn't. Has not notified us about what's up regarding this. Goes to stay at grandma's one night a week. Loves grandma. Is missed terribly while she's at grandma's. Loves milk but gets increasingly distracted while drinking it. Sleeps from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. most every night. Is well loved.

June 26, 2013

A Painted Stair Landing + Should I Rip Up All My Carpet and Paint My Wood Floors?

A couple of weekends ago I decided to rip up the carpet on our bottom two stairs as well as on our stair landing. Our staircase comes down into our kitchen, which I've worked on a lot this past year (painting it mint, moving the refrigerator to a different wall, taking down one of the cabinets and installing open shelving, etc.) Our kitchen can be kind of cramped, especially if we have more than a few people over. Which means the stairs end up getting used as a seating area. The world's most hideous seating area, if you ask me. 

So my thought was that the subflooring under that carpet might be decent enough to just paint. My other thought was that if it wasn't I would just figure out how to fix it afterwards. Then I stopped thinking and ripped that shizz up.


I had no idea what I would find under that carpet, but I tore it up anyway because a) I have been wanting to learn some carpentry skills and what better way to do it? and b) There are so many fabulous things that can be done with stairs and a can of paint. See examples below:

Turns out that what was under that carpet was about 150 staples and a whole bunch of gaps.

1) This photo shows the stairs immediately after I removed the carpet. This structure is what they refer to as "stringers," I've since learned. 
2) This photo shows the steps after I removed all the staples and carpet tack strips. At this point, you might as well picture me sitting on my kitchen floor, completely dumbfounded by what to do next. 
3) Luckily my friend Jeremy came over to help. He is super handy and builds houses for a living. He brought over some extra poplar stair risers he had on hand. He measured and cut the boards, installed the risers, and then showed me how to use a nail gun. (Seriously, so fun!) He could not have been kinder to rescue me from my DIY conundrum. After he left I sanded the plywood treads (one day I'd love to spring for some better quality wood but in the meantime...), patched any holes or divots I found, and then sanded the treads again. 
4) Then I primed all the steps with some shizz I had in the basement.


5) Then I made 'em cool. I used some off white porch paint I had to paint the sides and some of the Wyeth Blue paint I used to paint my front door to paint runners down the center. I also painted some mint stripes on the side. 

I mostly really like the way they turned out. Sure, I'd prefer to have gorgeous professionally done stairs, and I need to figure out how to add some trim around the sides where the stairs meet the walls, but I much prefer these guys to the carpet. Next up: The whole staircase. Seriously. Nekos is gonna have to help me this time though.

And, also, a big question related to the fact that I recently found old hardwood floors under our carpet upstairs:

When we bought this house six years ago I remember the renovater telling us that the hardwood floors upstairs weren't in good enough shape to refinish (like they were doing with the downstairs floors) and so they were just putting in carpet. Now, though, I'm wondering if they would be in good enough shape to just sand and paint; forget about refinishing. I have been loving white painted floors (although I am also obsessed with those pool blue floors that are lacquered to a high shine in the photo below). It seems like a big risk to take since we don't know what we'll find under all that carpet. But I figure I can just figure it out when the time comes? 

Have you ever painted wood floors or do you know anyone who has? Is it a good solution for floors in bad shape, and how did they hold up?

June 21, 2013

My 3-Year-Old at Bonnaroo.

Nekos goes to Bonnaroo every single year. I've been probably seven or eight times, but he has been 11 out of the 12 times it's happened. I think we used to snub our noses at parents who brought their kids to Bonnaroo, but that was before we had them and realized that Bonnaroo is, like, a kid's wonderland times a zillion; it's a great big friendly hot dirty sticky loud and overwhelmingly interesting place where kids are right in their element. It's where grownups come to pretend they're kids. Bonnaroo is woven into the fabric of our 10-year relationship--a brightly colored thread with lots of memories attached. Two years ago we brought Tessa for the first time, and we are excited to take Livvy to Bonnaroo, too, one day when she's old enough.

While Nekos is there at the world's biggest, baddest music festival, he works at his friend Justin's poster booth several hours a day; that way he gets an artist pass that allows him to traipse backstage like he owns the place. This is heaven to Nekos, who is a music fan with a capital "F". This year he met Adam from Man v. Food, and he met the Wu Tang Clan and some other peeps, too, probably that I can't remember. All I heard was Adam from Man v. Food because I love Adam from Man v. Food

Once Nekos is "in" he asks around for a spare pass for me and usually doesn't have much trouble locating one. This year he found me a vendor pass so I got to park in the backstage area (which is still a half-mile walk into the festival), where Port-a-Potties smell slightly less sick, crowds are less stifling, and you may or may not run into someone who makes you almost wet your pants.

On Saturday afternoon, I made the hour drive to Manchester, TN. (Baby Livvy stayed the day and night with my mom.) Tessa napped the whole way there, and we met Nekos at the Starbucks outside the festival, where she immediately got a chocolate milk to start things off with a bang. Also making things awesome: Jim friggin' James was chilling at a table in Starbucks with the other members of My Morning Jacket, and he was watching when Tessa first laid eyes on her dad, who she hadn't seen in two days. She ran into his arms squealing, "Daddy!" and Jim friggin' James, all goo-goo eyed, stopped us to say, "That was such a beautiful scene." Day. Made.

Over the next few hours Tessa got to ride the ferris wheel, hear Cat Power, play in the mushroom water fountain, eat ice cream, paint and play guitar in the kids' tent, and be the recipient of our complete attention. Because there is no taking your eyes off your kid for even a single second when you have her in a crowd that big. In retrospect, I really should have made her a sign for around her neck or a bracelet with her name and our phone numbers on it just in case. Next time I will. I should also mention that this day was great for Tessa because she got to pee outdoors. She loves to pee outdoors.

So, it was not the most relaxing day for me because my vigilance was turned up to 10, but I had so much fun watching Tessa have so much fun. And at the end of the day I was grateful to get back in our car and drive back to our clean, air-conditioned house, where my little lady and I curled up in bed together, read some Dr. Suess, and fell fast asleep. I'm not really a camper, and I can't imagine trying to camp with kids. Not kids this young anyway and not ever at a music festival. Nekos came home two days later--dirty and exhausted and still elated. It was good to have him back. Four days of single-parenting (not counting my mom's help with the girls, which was life-saving) had worn me down. I'm happy to have him home and have things back to "normal," but I know I'll remember this fun date with Tessa for a long time to come. Or if I don't remember it, at least Tessa will. She has been talking about Bonnaroo non-stop, telling friends, teachers, and anyone who will listen that she went to Bonnaroo with mom and dad.

June 18, 2013

On Working from Home with 2 Kids.

I've been doing freelance writing and marketing from home for the past three years—since right after Tessa was born in March 2010—but a few months back I all of a sudden felt the need to return to an office. I romanticized the idea of getting dressed in the morning, working a 9 to 5 surrounded by adults, and then coming home and focusing on my babies and my husband and spending the weekends with them entirely. As it is now, I usually work during nap times and at night, on the weekends, and whenever else I can squeeze in an email or a blog post. I seldom feel like I'm doing a good enough job in any of my roles because there are never enough hours in the day to do all the things as well as I want to do them. And as someone who has always taken a lot of pride in being hard-working and productive, being so scattered and working in fits and starts doesn't sit well with me. It's still hard, every single day, to not be able to be exactly the kind of mom and wife and housekeeper and friend and employee that I want to be. But who is exactly the kind of whatever they want to be? I wouldn't want to give up working or parenting—not even if money wasn't an issue; I want and need them both, even though balancing them can be a real biznitch.  

Now that I look back at it, I was being crazy to want to go back to an office. Crazy! Crazy to long for the congested commutes and the expensive daycares and the terrible cups of coffee turning to muck in the office coffee maker. At the time, all I really wanted was more time away from my kids. But that was several months ago. And several months ago I had a two-month-old baby who was nursing around the clock, and my hormones were still going berzerk, and it was the dead of February. At the time I was feeling suffocated by motherhood.

Now I just think that that period with a baby who is around two to three months old is really, really difficult. For me it was. The honeymoon period of newbornness is over, but the baby is still slightly cross-eyed and eyelash-less and not doing anything much exciting. For instance, the fact that babies don't sleep through the night at that age isn't very exciting at all. Also not exciting: How wrecked your body is after a second baby. I was at a point when I was honestly second guessing my decision to have another child. I wasn't able to say that out loud at the time because it felt like such an ugly thing to be feeling. 

Now it's all good. I mean, there are still tough days, and weeks when I don't feel like I even remotely kicked ass at anything, but that's OK. I am so blessed to have two daughters. How to work and mother from home efficiently has just been a big learning process. But on mornings like this onestill in pajamas, nursing my second cup of coffee, knees drawn up to my lap, baby napping—I just can't imagine a better work situation for me in all the world. I am so thankful for this arrangement and for all the lessons it's taught me about life and motherhood and me.

Livvy on the job with me at 3 months
 Things I've learned about working from home with kids, in no particular order:

1) If you don't put a bra on before 9 a.m., you're not going to put a bra on at all. I recently asked Nekos to remind me every day before he leaves for work to get showered and dressed myself. He cringed because he felt like it would hurt my feelings for him to say that, but I really do need help with this. I feel a bazillion times better about myself and am more likely to get things done if I'm dressed as though I were going into an office—albeit a very casual office. This isn't just about feeling good about the way I look; it's about self care, which is sometimes hard to come by when there are two little girls who also need to be bathed and groomed and dressed.

2) Some months are golden; some are scraping by. My experience with freelancing has been that there are months when I feel like I'm hustling for every dollar, and months when we're able to really apply a good chunk of change to our debt. (Getting out of debt is a huge focus for us right now.) One of the downsides to freelancing is that there is no X number of dollars that's always coming in, so I am learning not to panic during slower months.

3) Better not to put all your eggs in one basket. At this time last year, I was freelancing for just one company, and that was working fine because they were paying me well. Then, essentially out of nowhere, they lost some big clients and said they had no more work for me. When you work from home and lose your job, there's no severance pay. There's no face-to-face meeting where someone gingerly explains to you that your ass is grass. There was just one single solitary email, and all of a sudden I was out of a job. (And seven months pregnant ... but that's another story.) The lesson I learned from that is not to have just one job or one client but to have several. This leaves me feeling even more scattered, but also much more secure. 

4) Multi-task. I actually hate multitasking. Being able to concentrate fully on something feels like such a luxury. But because I work for several people, I feel the most accomplished when I pick one or two tasks to complete for each client every single day. That way everyone gets some attention, and I don't fall hopelessly behind with any of my clients.

5) It's OK to put the T.V. on. My kids watch a lot of T.V., and I'm not going to apologize for it. It's often the only way I can get there to be utter silence for more than five minutes at a time. And when I need to get some work done, it's the most reliable babysitter I know. When I start to feel guilty about this, I try really hard to cut myself some slack. It's not like I'm shooting heroin in the bathroom while the girls are watching Mickey Mouse; I'm helping to earn a living for our family and doing the best I can. And later I will try to make it up to them with some good one-on-one imaginative play.

6) Change the scenery. Sometimes I have a big deadline and no childcare. When the deadline can't wait that means I may have a full day of work to do and two kids to entertain and nourish and nurture. In other words, there's no movie long enough to keep them out of my hair for as long as I need. In this case, we do a lot of moving around the house. When Tessa is getting listless, I suggest moving to a different room—or going outside—to play, or even driving to a kid-friendly coffee shop. My laptop comes along with us of course.

7) Ask for help. Especially with the second baby, I've learned to ask for help more. I ask for help getting the groceries out to the car now. I take the kids to drop-off daycare when I have to. And I especially try not to be heroic about how long I can stand to spend one-on-one time with my three-year-old. She has a huge personality and can be really trying. I'm a much better mom to her when I get to take regular breaks. Putting childcare in our budget has made all the difference; she goes to a mother's day out program from 9-2 Monday through Thursday, and it is the best thing ever. 

8) Explain your job. A few weeks ago it occurred to me that Tessa has no clue what I do for a living. She has a vague idea of what Nekos does, and sometimes she goes to his office so she can picture exactly where he is throughout the day. But she only shook her head when I asked her, "Do you know what my job is?" "I'm a writer," I said and explained a little further. Now, when I need to work and she is wanting me to play with her, I tell her, "I have some more writing to do first," and it really has helped her be more respectful of my time on the computer.

9) Don't be stupid about taxes. For the past two years, I have been so dang demented about socking away the tax dollars on my freelance income to pay the tax man. I've finally figured out that 25 percent of everything I make has to go immediately into savings and never, ever be touched for anything but taxes. Being responsible about this will be a huge gift to our family come April 2014.

10) Be honest. I struggle sometimes with being resentful of Nekos because he gets to go off to work and concentrate all day on his career in the complete quiet of his office. That's ridiculous, of course, because working in an office can also totally suck (hello, pointless meetings...), and he doesn't get to pepper his days with craft projects and lattes with friends and cuddle sessions like I do. I don't really want to trade places with him. Still, I can't deny the fact that I feel this way sometimes, even though I am so grateful that because of his job we have health insurance and more security than we'd ever with my freelance work. Another thing that nags me is feeling lost or adrift. Since I don't have an office to check in with every day and no one position to put on my resume, I get anxious sometimes about where my career is going. Talking about the uglier emotions is helping me work through them.

So, I think that's about it. It's taken me a while to write this post because it's important to me and because I don't feel like I have it all figured out by any means. In fact, the thing I still struggle with the most is not letting social media distract me from my work. Especially because I sometimes have some extremely dry assignments. Any suggestions for this?

June 2, 2013

I Want...

I want to blog more in June.

I also want a disco ball in the house, tossing flecks of light all over the floors and walls. I flippin' love a mirrorball in a space where it would seem otherwise unexpected. It really doesn't get any more playful than that. But in which room should it go? Master bedroom or living room?

I want to layer a big jute area rug and a freckled cowhide rug on my living room floor.

I want to find the perfect high-waisted bikini because baby No. 2 left my body with something to remember her by--three ever-so-slowly-fading stretch marks below my navel, about which I am ever so self-conscious. I don't want anything too costumey; these things can tend to veer way far toward "pinup," which ain't me. 


I want to have my diamond reset in rose gold on a wedding anniversary when we have money to throw at something superfluous like that.

And speaking of my marriage, I want a date night with my husband. I wonder what that would be like. Those dates sure were easier to come by when we just had the one kid.

Well, at least I'm well on my way to getting the first thing I said I wanted.