January 27, 2013

Biracial Haircare: How We Do Tessa's 'Do.

Figuring out how to care for Tessa's hair has not been easy. (I've blogged about it before.) The process of getting her hair detangled has made for more than a few tearful bath times, and as her hair gets longer, it's only gotten more difficult. When I started asking advice from people--black people, white people, biracial people--I found that everyone had different opinions about what to do with Tessa's mass of matted curls. One woman told me never to use shampoo on her hair--just conditioner--while another scolded me for having stopped using shampoo and then scolded me more for letting Tessa's hair get so dried out. (At least I felt scolded. I'm sensitive about her hair; I get self-conscious about what black women think about how I'm taking care of it. Like they even care!) Another person told me to stop using a brush on her wet hair and to only use a comb. Products were suggested, and they started to pile up on the side of the bath tub because they weren't working. Hair-dos were also suggested, but Nekos and I prefer Tessa to rock an afro most days. It just fits her personality, and it's easier than getting her to sit still for a bunch of braids.

Biracial hair care is confusing; it's trial and error; and a lot of people will tell you they have it figured out. But the truth is that because the texture of biracial hair varies so much everyone just has to find their own hair care path and do what works for them. Plus, the way I care for Tessa's hair now is probably very different from the way she'll care for it herself one day because she's a squirmy toddler. At this point, I just need to get in there and get done as fast as possible. Finally we've found what works for us, and we're sticking with it. It goes a little something like this:

1) Start with hair that's starting to dreadlock. For us, the dreads start to appear about two to three days after it was last combed out. Wet the hair, and don't even think about shampooing it. The warm water and conditioner will work just fine for washing out any dirt or sweat. Put a huge dollop of Mixed Chicks Deep Conditioner in the hair, concentrating on the ends. This stuff smells amazing, really defines curls, and works miracles with detangling.
2) Wait a few minutes. Then brush the hair while distracting child with rubber duckies and boats and a Dora the Explorer mermaid. Ignore the fact that combs are less damaging to hair than brushes because let's be real here, it would take over an hour to gently comb this child's hair out. Only a brush will do with a rat's nest like this one. Start at the ends of the hair and work the brush through, moving upwards until all the tangles are out. This process takes about five minutes these days, but it used to take much longer. 
3) Once you can get a comb or brush easily through the hair, rinse out the conditioner with warm water. 
4) Towel dry, then scrunch one of the Hair Milks from the For My Girl's Hair and Skin Care line into hair. There's the Moisture Lock Max Hair Milk and the Macadamia and Olive Oil Hair Milk--both really define and soften curls and smell super yummy. The owner of For My Girl's, Tia-Sonya Shackelford, was kind enough to mail us both of these hair milks to try after she came across my blog one day. She was great to consult with about Tessa's hair and what our issues were, and I love that hers is a small business and that her products are sulfate and paraben-free. I just love these products. 
5) After a couple days, repeat this process.  
Tessa loves bath time again, and I love how ringlet-y her hair looks after we're done. I also love to press my nose into that pile of silky, delicious smelling curls and breathe them in. So, that's what works for us and our girl. I wanted to share our hair care routine here because it's been as much about good hair as it's been about my confidence as the mother of a little carmel-skinned, curly-haired lovenugget.  

January 25, 2013

Minty Fresh Kitchen Inspiration Board

Not sure when I would find the time to paint my kitchen since it took every second of my "free time" today to assemble this blog post, but a girl can dream ... and I have been dreaming of a mint-colored kitchen with white cabinets and sweet vintage dishes and pretty pops of easter egg colors. Maybe it's Nashville's dreary, evil, soul-less, freezing rain that's driving me into the arms of spring? 

The real question is: What's the perfect minty paint color? I've spent obscene amounts of time online recently "researching" this matter. Benjamin Moore has baffled me with its array of mints; three of my frontrunners can be found below, along with snapshots from lots of bright and dreamy kitchens. 
via: 1, 2, 3
via (clockwise): 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

I've also been thinking a lot lately about color flow--a concept that was foreign to me until a few weeks ago. Benjamin Moore writes about it on their site, but it was The Decorologist's lovely home, which repeats the same paint colors throughout, that introduced me to the importance of color flow. I've got lots and lots of colors here at home, but none of them are flowing. I didn't know they needed to flow. But they totally do! They need to! I'm going to make it happen, y'all.

So I want to know: Have any of you undertaken painting your kitchen cabinets? It seems like an impossibly large task because there's not only the outside to paint, but, you know, the inside, too. 

January 23, 2013

2 Months Old.

This Saturday Livvy will be two months old. So much has changed already in the past month (here's her one month post). The sort of information found below may only be interesting to me, but I want to capture it here in her digital baby book so I can remember what it was like when she was too tiny to hold anything or say anything or roll over or crawl or walk or do anything much besides gaze up at me and smile so big and so wide. And also puke on me. She pukes on me a lot, which is why I did six loads of laundry yesterday. (Six!) But still I am her biggest fan, the champion of all her coos, the companion of all her days.

Slept in her crib for the first time
This past month we stopped co-sleeping, mostly. She normally still spends several hours in my arms at night because I fall asleep nursing her in the early morning hours and don't bother to carry her back across the hall. It's cold and dark, and she's so lovely. Several weeks ago our pediatrician and Nekos agreed that it was time to get Livvy out of our bed and into her crib. The pediatrician, who I adore, said it would only get more difficult to get Livvy to sleep in her crib because she's now old enough to develop habits and preferences. I drove home from that appointment with a sinking feeling. I loved sleeping with my baby those first six weeks or so. As an acquaintance said, "co-sleeping kept me sane," and I really think it did. With Livvy in my arms, I didn't have to wonder if she was breathing or not. And she was still almost as close to me as she'd been for the previous nine months. But after awhile, I missed stretching out. I missed sleeping on my stomach, on my back, however I wanted, without regard to her tiny body, and most of all her tiny nose and mouth and keeping covers and pillows away from them. I don't really think I was sleeping fewer hours than I would have been if she'd been in her crib, but I think that the quality of my sleep was worse. Luckily it took only a couple of nights of fussing for us (all of us) to learn how to put her to sleep. And now she goes down in her crib without a problem between 7 and 8. She wakes to eat sometime between 1 and 3 and then again around 5. Then she'll sleep until 7, which is when we all usually get up for the day. The best part about this change is that we are actually able to put her to bed when we put Tessa to bed. Before, we would just hold her and soothe her cries until we went to bed. It was exhausting because there was never a break from caring for her. But this way Nekos and I get a few kid-free hours at night. He usually watches TV and I work. And we both have a beer. It's nice.

Had her first bottle and continued breastfeeding well
I've heard so many times that breastfeeding gets easier after the six-week mark. For me it was less of an overnight change and more gradual; I don't have to feed Liv as often and certainly not as long (feedings have gone from about 30 minutes to usually around 10). This means I don't have to stress about making sure she's fed right before I walk out the door. I'm also so much more comfortable nursing in public now; I just knot one of those Aden + Anais blankets around my neck and go. I'm grateful to be able to nurse, all the more so because I wasn't able to for very long with Tessa. After Tessa, I remember saying to several people that I wanted a "do-over" with the whole breastfeeding thing, and I got my do-over! That said, I enjoy nursing, but I'm not enamored with it. I mean I hope to keep it up for the first year of her life, but I really don't feel like it's contributing to our particular bond any more so than if I were holding her and feeding her a bottle of formula. I take comfort in this discovery, and it's helped me to heal from my experience with Tessa. Livvy also had her first bottle this past month and did great with it. I'm lucky to have a good supply so I haven't had trouble coming up with extra milk to store in the freezer for bottle-feedings. This way, Nekos can take care of one of her middle of the night feedings while I snooze.

First overnight visit at Yaya's 
Livvy stayed overnight with my mom last week for the first time. This may sound early to a lot of people, but it's actually late compared to when my mom first kept Tessa (around two or three weeks old). My mom still keeps Tessa almost every Saturday night, but she kept Livvy last Saturday instead. I think the plan is for her to take turns keeping the girls every Saturday. She says she won't keep both at the same time, and I understand. Their needs and demands and schedules are so different right now. Managing them both while taking care of myself has tested my patience more than anything in my life. Anyway, the stay with my mom went terrific--she ate well, slept well, and wasn't fussy. Livvy's not old enough yet to have separation anxiety, and she truly adores my mom. The feeling seems to be mutual. It was a good break from the round-the-clock demands of this little spirit.

Behavior changes
We survived a baby's fussiest period, which is around six weeks. We had some tough moments, but it really wasn't bad. Livvy is generally a very mellow, quiet baby--even when her sister is throwing a tantrum loud enough to warrant a neighbor's call to Child Protective Services and her dad is playing a record loud enough to thump the floorboards and her mom is so obviously stressed, wishing with all her might for peace and quiet and order. We have unfortunately passed the exhilarating but fleeting age where we can take a baby out somewhere loud--to dinner or a party--and she'll sleep soundly through the whole thing. At a dinner party the other night, she was awake the whole time--not crying, just awake. Speaking of, she is alert so much more now. But there's not much I can do to entertain her, beyond wagging a stuffed animal in her face. So I do a lot of just smiling at her and talking to her and tickling her cheeks and rubbing her back and a lot of hoping that she knows and feels how much she is loved.

I also recently captured the best sister picture yet:

And a few more favorite Instagram pictures of the girls from the past month:


January 20, 2013

Stuff I Made: Painted and Distressed Mantle.

Remember that time I blogged about how motherhood was seriously sucking and then I came back two days later and was all like, "Yeah, but check out my new mantle that I painted and shit"? That's how this blog rolls.

So, yeah, I scored this mantle on Craiglist last weekend for FREE. This was my first time ever getting anything free on Craiglist and I almost peed my pants with excitement. I also got to borrow our friend Wade's truck to pick it up and thus got to drive a pickup truck while listening to country music. I was so Nashville for a minute there. I really want a pickup truck now. So the mantle is from a 1919 farmhouse (almost 100 years old!) and the owners weren't really feeling it. If they'd have done their homework, they'd know that these things usually go for $100-$300 around Nashville (I've been looking for one for awhile), but luckily they decided free was a better price.

The process of getting it to its current state was really fun. First Nekos removed the old nails and screws that were jabbing perilously out of it. Then I sanded some rough spots and slapped a coat of Annie Sloan's "Louis Blue" on it. I used Annie Sloan's "Old White" for the shelf. The blue ended up not being what I had in mind, and it was too one-dimensional, so after that coat dried I went back and put a "wash" over it. I made the wash using one part Benjamin Moore's "Wyeth Blue" (left from painting my front door this past summer), one part "Old White," and one part water. Then the mantle had a haphazard meeting with my electric sander. I love that this let parts of the "Louis Blue" show through as well as some of the off white the mantle was originally painted. When I was finished, Nekos sweetly carried this bad boy upstairs and screwed it into our bathroom wall like a boss. I feel so fortunate that he likes this kind of chippy, shabby, old stuff. I feel like lots of guys wouldn't "get it." Over the past couple of days, I've had fun picking out objects from around the house to display on our new bathroom mantle. Meaning: this project cost me zero, and gave me maximum happiness.

January 17, 2013

This is hard.

Things have never been this chaotic. Never have I looked or felt so disheveled and never have I been yanked in as many directions. I've also never been as unclear about whether or not I am actually happy. I'm supposed to be happy. Right?

Maybe I don't know whether I am happy or not because there are blissful days and horrendous-God-awful-shoot-me-in-the-face days stacked back to back. And this isn't the part where I say that this parenthood thing is all worth it. Because there are plenty of days when I can't say I'm sure about that. Then again, I've never had less time to think or breathe or be, so who knows?

A portion of this blog post was written while sitting on a pile of clean laundry that's strewn at the bottom of my staircase. This way I'm halfway between Livvy, who is upstairs in her crib fighting taking her first nap of the day (at 3 p.m.!) and Tessa, who I'm also trying to get to take her first nap and who may or may not be inhabited by a demon. My house is trashed. The washing machine is making that awful thudding noise it makes when the laundry gets all clogged up on one side. I have spit-up on my pants, breast milk seeping through my shirt, and dark circles that are now eating my cheeks. I'd love a shower. I've had two cups of coffee and a Diet Coke and no water today. I barely slept last night because we're trying to get Livvy to sleep in her crib. Livvy, who hates all sleeping surfaces that aren't made of warm skin and a heartbeat.

From the minute I woke up this morning, the day has been a battle. And yesterday before it was a battle, too. A battle to get the kids fed and dressed and bathed and Tessa to and from school. A battle to get to my appointments and get my work done and to stay optimistic about this pile of bills and to not start screaming and never stop. This week has been one of those weeks when I wonder: What was I thinking? Really. What was I thinking? Having two kids is hard. It's really, really, really fucking hard. Some people have three kids. Four. What were they thinking? Mental note: Go to doctor. Get birth control.

Right now Tessa is yelling hysterically at me from the other room: "The poop's not coming off my butt. Mommy, would you get the poop off my butt?! Would you, please?" At least she said please.

And I think I hear Livvy crying. So, I need to go now.

January 12, 2013

Around the House: Resolutions and Projects.

Yowza, I have definitely noticed that my housekeeping has taken a nosedive since Livvy was born. She's not yet old enough to leave a trail of toys around the house, but she still wants to be held most all of the time and isn't a fan of being worn in her carrier while I try to unload the dishwasher or fill the washing machine. Our laundry especially has gotten crazy because so much of what we wear gets splattered in spit-up and other unsavory fluids. And since Livvy's been sleeping in our bed, I've had to change our sheets about every other day because there's always some kind of mishap happening there. But if you read my blog you know I love tinkering with my house and that includes some semi-obsessive cleaning whenever I have the chance. Vacuuming gives me inner peace. A clean house makes me near euphoric.

Since the house nowadays can get turned upside down in the blink of an eye I made some home resolutions to help me keep things in better shape. They're four simple, quick things that have made a big, huge difference in the shape that our house stays in on a daily basis.

1) Before Tessa goes to bed, we have her help us gather up her toys from around the house and put them back into her room. This works great because she loves helping pick up, and it doesn't sit well with her when her room is messy. Plus, this usually takes all of five minutes.
2) We don't go to bed without doing all the dishes and wiping down the kitchen counter tops.
3) We don't go to bed without cleaning off our coffee table and our dining room table--both places that tend to collect lots of crap.
4) In the morning, we make up Tessa's bed and our bed.

This doesn't mean that we don't have baskets of clean laundry stacked up beside the made bed waiting to be put up or that my desk isn't a mess of papers, but just having these few areas neat has given me such a boost. And because they're things that we do together as a family, these tasks go so much quicker than if I were trying to do them on my own with a baby in my arms.

As always, there are so many projects I want to take on around the house this year, and most all of them involve slapping a coat of paint on things. First and foremost, I want to repaint my kitchen (mint!) and my kitchen cabinets (white!). I want to repaint the concrete floor of my front porch (forest green!) because the brick red color there now is peeling off. The porch swing is crying out for paint, too, as is all of the old patio furniture.

Speaking of projects, here's one Nekos and I tackled last weekend:

The janky shelves we built in our living room two years ago had been bothering the crap out of me for the longest time. So we spent $24 on floor moulding at Home Depot to camouflage what was one of our less successful DIY projects. Much better.

January 9, 2013

30 Books I Read in 2012.

At the beginning of last year I set myself a goal to read 30 books, and I used my page to track all of the titles and rate them as I finished. I literally closed the 30th book the day before New Year's. Reading and me have always been like peas and carrots, but life and technology and glossy fashion magazines had sidetracked me for awhile so I'm happy to have rekindled my affair with books and to have let the magazines get dusty and pile up on my bedside table for awhile. Plus, as an aspiring writer, I'd be a fool not to be reading other writers so I can steal their shit for inspiration. Thirty books in a year is a measly drop in the bucket for many serious readers, but I'm happy to have completed this many titles. And I'm grateful to my mom for passing on most all of these books to me. She's a voracious reader and so often tucks a new book in Tessa's bag for me when she returns her from her weekly visit. I tend to read every night before bed and lots of times in the middle of the night when I'm up with insomnia or nowadays nursing lil Liv.

Here are the books I read in 2012:

I read four Jodi Picoult books this year; hers are bestsellers for good reason. They're fascinating and easy. And Anna Quindlen is a new favorite. I read three of hers and hope to finish reading the rest of them this year. I love her voice so much. The best books I read were "Cold Mountain" and "Ya-Ya Sisterhood" and "Still Alice" (a gift from my friend Faith). The worst books were "The Virgin of Small Plains," "Gods in Alabama," and Joan Didion's "Blue Nights." I normally love Didion but this one was so disjointed and sparse and detached. I also read a couple of books on postpartum depression, which was a Mac truck that fortunately zoomed right past me this time. ("What Am I Thinking?" was an awesome one on the topic; "The Pregnancy and Postpartum Anxiety Workbook" was not so awesome.)

I'm setting the same 30-book goal for 2013, which I'm starting off with a bang with Lisa Genova's "Still Neglected." Got any recommendations for me?

January 5, 2013

My Black Bathroom.

I was bowled over when a girlfriend of mine painted all the rooms in her new house either really dark (black or charcoal or chocolate) or bright white. Meanwhile, our house, especially our downstairs, looks like the inside of a Crayola box. The kitchen is butternut, the dining room is lavender, the living room is robin's egg blue. We love it like this (although we have been dreaming of a DIY kitchen redo that we hope to tackle soon. Inspiration here and here.). It fits the vibe of our Craftsman-style bungalow, and the vibe of us. My biggest takeaway, though, from my girlfriend's fab house was how dope her uber dark downstairs bathroom was.

Since then the web has been tempting me with more fabulous black rooms. My favorite examples are this bathroom and this bedroom. So I picked a room--the smallest room in my house, our downstairs guest bath--and went for it. I had my mind set on either Benjamin Moore's "Mysterious" or "Graphite," but my hardware store that pimps Benjamin Moore was closed so I went to Home Depot instead and picked up a can of Behr's "Sled," very similar to "Graphite." Here's another bathroom painted the same color.

The finished room:

Would you paint a room black?

January 1, 2013

A Look Back at Our 2012.

For me, 2012 will always be the year of Livvy. I got pregnant with her, toted her around in my belly, gave birth to her, and fell madly in love with her all before the year was through. It was also the year that Tessa started talking in a major way and the year that we became even more obsessed with her personality, which is just as wild and gorgeous and charming as the curls on that head of hers. It was the year that I lost my job and our finances got a big kick in the shins, meaning that our magical trip to Key West in February was our one and only vacation of the year. This was another year of growth in my marriage with Nekos as we worked through some tough times and came to a better understanding of what's most important to us: our relationship and our daughters. This, too, was the year that I lost two of the important relationships in my life--one by choice, one not. Both hurt. In 2012, Nekos and I did a lot of real "parenting," more than just the diaper changes and bed times and feedings that occupied Tessa's first year of life. We had to figure out how to nurture and guard Tessa's spirit (which manifested itself in hundreds of tantrums and thousands of kisses) without losing our minds or our focus or our confidence. All of these experiences have taught me to know myself better and love myself harder. It wasn't the easiest year, but it was an important one, and I'm so excited for 2013.  

Tessa got a black eye (from which she's still sporting a pretty major scar). We took her to the circus, and she started speaking in full sentences.

We visited Key West for the third time, just me and Nekos, and we loved it just as much as ever.

We took a weekend trip to Atlanta with friends to hear Radiohead play, and I paid my first-ever visit to Ikea. We also made a baby, and Tessa turned two.

The nausea started, and we hosted a backyard movie night at our house. We also dismantled the crib and moved Tessa to a "big girl bed."

We saw Feist at the Ryman. The second trimester started and the nausea continued, but we enjoyed getting to spill the beans about our pregnancy to our friends.

Nekos went to Bonnaroo, and I went to court and pled guilty to a judge for having a "dog at large" after our dog Hattie got out from under our fence and was busted by an animal control guy patroling our neighborhood. Bad dog! Still nauseous.

We set a date, July 4, for Tessa to give up her pacifier for good. It went a lot better than we imagined. We also found out that we were having a girl!

The third trimester started, and Tessa and I were in the Hip Zipper fashion show at the Tomato Arts Festival. Nekos DJ'd the fashion show. Nekos and I celebrated 10 incredible years of being a couple and decided we'd name our new daughter "Livvy." And I lost my regular freelance writing gig and started searching for work again--not fun at seven months pregnant.

Nekos turned 32, I turned 30 and celebrated with a beautiful birthday party with good friends. We also celebrated our sixth wedding anniversary, moved Tessa into her new big girl room, sold our Mini Cooper and became a one-car family.

We potty-trained Tessa and celebrated Halloween. I was Big Bird, Nekos was Mitt Romney, and Tessa was the cutest bear EVER. I started my new part-time job for Stratton Exteriors.

I finished the nursery for Livvy, and a beautiful baby shower was thrown for us. And we had a baby!

We got used to having a newborn around the house, and we celebrated a really special first Christmas with Livvy.

I don't think I have any resolutions in particular this year other than to wake up every day and do the best job I can as a wife, mother, friend, employee and human being. One day at a time. Whattup, 2013!
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