Nursery Update!

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Friends, I want so badly to be a good blogger and not leave you hanging after a post like this nursery inspiration one.

 photo 20150923_085700_zps9ju595hi.jpg  photo 20150923_090004_zps741i7tad.jpg So, here’s your update! This room’s transformation from home office/junk room to nursery/home office was astounding! Dramatic! Shocking! It really was. Let me encourage you not to put off whatever project you’re considering, or all those repairs and things you might do if you were trying to sell your house, or host a party. Add the extra strand of twinkle lights so you can enjoy it now! Baby boy is not here yet, but already I’ve enjoyed the room so much—my own personal sanctuary and yoga studio—now that it’s brighter and lighter and has furniture that’s appropriate in scale.
 photo 30FA09E2-9B4F-4F97-94C3-85F8A1F2A69F_zpsrh8a43xn.jpgBefore. The room was dark blue. I don’t mind a manly dark den. (Our kitchen is navy!) But the shade wasn’t perfect and it wasn’t the feel we wanted for the nursery in any case. There was a large desk table, as well as a large, very comfortable sofa. Both of those were practical; they served their purpose. But really they were too big for the size of the room and together prevented the room from functioning its best, even though I’m glad the sofa served as a guest bed many times. Rounding out the chaos were a couple random bookshelves that we sold at the neighborhood yard sale. And I sent the large desk table back to Mama Rote’s emporium of household goods and sundries, exchanging it for a smaller wooden desk. But let’s not jump ahead!

One transformational weekend this summer, a group of laborers converged on Nashville (parents, cousins, uncle and aunt), and we/they cleared the heavy pieces from the room, painted, and picked up industrial shelves that I found on Craigslist. It’s all happening. (Name that movie.) photo 7725EDE7-5E07-4BF3-8038-4CA26980B801_zpsucduptsf.jpg

Paint. Thanks to this Emily Henderson advice—Design Mistake #3: Painting a small, dark room white—we chose an off-white neutral. We tested several different paint samples on the wall, and ultimately went with the one that Mom’s friend Beth had suggested. I know you’re supposed to paint samples on the walls to see how different colors actually look in your room, with different light at different times of day, but in the future we’d probably save ourselves grief by immediately going with whatever Beth recommends. I love the way it turned out. (The color is Pearly Gates by United Paint, but they’re out of business. Sherwin Williams looked it up and matched it for us.)

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Those wooden boxes, one that says EVERYTHING, are leftover from my grandaddy’s upholstery shop. 

Shelves. If you want to feel like all the possibilities in the world are open to you, do a Marie Kondo-style purging of books, etc. and buy some big industrial shelves. Gazing at the empty shelves will make your soul feel open and roomy. Mine did. Of course, several weeks later, the shelves are entirely full.

In my initial plan for the room, I wanted some tall shelves, like these from Ikea, fancied up with gold or another metallic. (By the way, as my cousin Nate would point out, painting something is not a “hack.” It’s painting something.) But I put it off, and Ikea shipping is outrageous, and I started looking at other options with a lot of vertical storage and an industrial feel. Lots of good possibilities. Then I lucked into some old school lockers on Craigslist. They looked pretty nasty and I figured we’d need to sand and varnish and paint or something. But when we got our hands on them, we discovered that they were pretty much just dirty. So I hired a crack team of cleaners.
 photo EAC7559A-6C55-441B-A485-C0D60760EBD6_zpspholclls.jpg photo 6D8A2D84-04AA-4B00-9991-730D1D1E65CD_zpscpdwimi5.jpg photo 83C8ADFB-CEC0-4430-907E-09838BB7C081_zpso9n3wej6.jpgThey discovered this pretty color underneath.
 photo 1A63E953-2D23-4BCF-8F86-51E7CE75CB6A_zpswerlwgxe.jpg Isn’t it killer? The color is fairly similar to what we did on these shelves a few years ago, so now it’s like we have masculine and feminine versions. I feel like we’ll use them forever in some capacity. (Check out this inspo from Pinterest!!)

After that major transformation weekend, we’ve been in a slower process of filling out the room, which in technical terms means looting and pillaging the rest of the house. Which means a domino effect of new random house projects. (Long story short, we got a new dining room table!)

 photo 54a90c59-1425-4de1-b894-31f1b1c0a1fc_zpsadxwp8zz.jpgWe’re using the same dresser that served as the girls’ changing pad, and brought the blue rocker from their room (replaced by another chair from my parents’ house) and my favorite pillow from the living room. Please note how the colors going on with this chair look like the one in one of my inspiration images! I like what I like.

I’ve done a good bit of musical chairs with art, too.
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 photo 20150923_085609_zpsrxhvla0k.jpgYou know, I’m one who doesn’t put a lot of stock into worrying about diaper cream and adequate baby supplies. The kid will need a solid sense of self, via the proper placement of a John Wayne poster (stolen from his Uncle John): totally masculine, but black and white and minimal so it’s artsy and not overly-themed.

The rug. You may remember that I wanted something with a lot of character. We were keeping an eye out for something colorful and old and just right, preferably made of wool or other natural fibers. But as the shelves were filled out with books and other items, my penchant for color was already manifesting itself and I conceded that something more neutral could be good. We continued to keep an eye out and I spent way too much time browsing these sites. Patience paid off when Beth (to the rescue! Again!) texted from one of Memphis’ best kept secrets, the Pottery Barn Outlet. She found a steal of a deal on a rug for the girls’ room, so we moved their white wool rug to the nursery.

Again, I’m so happy with the way it turned out.
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Once more. Before:

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After (from the same angle, because I’m keeping it profesh):
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And keeping the styling professional by featuring the chocolate croissant on the desk.

Fun! Thank you to all my design team and work crew!!! (And, oh yes. Come on, baby!)

P.S. I loved all these inspiration images on District of Chic: Southwestern Inspired Nursery Design.

Hi, baby. (or, Nessie’s Birth Story!)

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Haha, well, it turns out that part of my nesting process for baby #3 is to reflect a little bit on baby #2— and finally finish writing up the dang birth story. I’ve felt relatively good throughout this pregnancy, and I’m feeling somewhat ready. But now that we’re getting down to it, the circumstances are bringing back a lot of my anxious feelings surrounding Inez’ birth. Though she was perfectly healthy, I, as my friend Mijin put it, was feeling a lot of feelings. I was disappointed in myself for not feeling more ready for her; I was upset at not being mentally tough and letting everything get to me during labor; I was stressed and upset with Israel during that generally uncertain and stressful time in the life of our family (new baby, work changes, potential move coming up, etc. etc.). So maybe that’s why it’s taken so long to process by writing down the words. I don’t want to resist those feelings, but walk through them (keep on truckin’) and try to let this time around be a healing process . . .

I have a sense of not wanting to betray Inez by admitting all of this (By the way, I am obsessed with her right now. She’s at such a cute stage.) . . . as if my negative feelings mean that Inez was born into strife. I mean, everyone is born into strife—it’s a tough world, a tough life. But it’s a beautiful world, and life is worth fighting for. Somehow, writing the story is my way of affirming that life is beautiful, that though something may be done imperfectly it’s still worth doing. That what happened is what happened and it’s OK to tell the truth about it. The truth wasn’t all bad—it’s just what happened, and we got through it and got our beautiful result!

The labor was difficult on several levels, but of course, labor is difficult! It’s labor! That’s not news. And it delivered Inez to us, so it was worthwhile and beautiful if only for that. Anyway, for all my emotional wordiness, on paper the birth went really well! I was just dog-tired by the end and felt like I’d been run over by a truck (despite all my mental toughness training during high school volleyball and basketball preseason practice).

[WARNING: This is a birth story, in which I tell you about the time a baby came out of my body. So. There’s that. Feeble male readers, turn back now.]

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In December it will be two years since we went to the birth center too early, grabbed sandwiches from Taylor Gourmet, returned home dejected, did some exercises the midwife suggested, popped a Tylenol PM to try to get some sleep and hope for better progress the next day. Hope does not disappoint: the next morning, Inez was born at 10:05, in the water, purple, healthy. Received with much enthusiasm and much relief. I was freezing. There are no pictures.

I am such a believer in celebrating the beauty and amazing-ness, the empowerment of giving birth, whatever the details end up being. It’s truly a miracle. At the same time, I have self-diagnosed post-traumatic stress from delivering both my daughters, even though, again, on paper the births went spectacularly well. In my pleasant, comfortable, air-conditioned, centrally heated world of lattes, ballet flats, and infinity scarves, birth presents a stark contrast. It’s just INTENSE, primal, and yes, painful.

In that spirit of contradiction, sacred and profane (because, yes, there was profanity), I’ll share some of the best and worst moments from my experience welcoming Inez into the world.

Best moment that could’ve been the worst:
Since we used a birth center, we brought Inez home the day she was born. (In case you’re interested, the rationale was that we’d be more comfortable recovering at home. I was OK with that with baby #2, but I wouldn’t have had the confidence to do it with Mary Tobin. My mom was there, and the midwife made followup house calls. Also, the birth center has limited space, so you’ve got to skedaddle to make way for any other future babies who’d like to present themselves.)

For me, one of the best benefits of natural childbirth is the zero recovery time. So, the afternoon of her birthday, Israel carried Inez in the carseat, and Mom and I walked down the hall from the elevator to our apartment, where Mary Tobin was napping and my dad and sister-in-law were waiting. They’d taken MT to her ballet class that morning, and barely had any time to feed her candy and watch any banned movies! Dad, always incredibly supportive and encouraging to his kids for even minor accomplishments, was enthused that we were back so soon. I believe that he was in awe of childbirth purely as an athletic event. If you know him well, you know his thinly veiled competitive nature, so I imagine he was lamenting the fact that he couldn’t take a shot at natural birth to see if he could break my record. (By the way, I don’t think the athletic event metaphor applies to childbirth perfectly, at all. I’m just giving you some insight into Dad to set up what happened next.)

So, as we walked down the hall toward our door, Dad got down on his knees and did the “we’re not worthy” bowing to me. I grinned, and as I made my way past him, he gave me a thump on the rear, as if I was a pitcher running into the dugout or a quarterback coming back to the sidelines after a beautiful touchdown pass. We all turned to him, jaws dropped. Probably the worst thing you could do to a woman who just gave birth would be to hit her bottom. After Mary Tobin was born it was uncomfortable to sit down for quite awhile. Fortunately, Dad’s bro butt slap hit either my lower back or upper thigh, not dead center of its target. For that reason, it will remain in the funny/happy column of memories from that day. (Welcome to the crazy wide world of sports, Inez!)

But let’s go back to the beginning . . .

Failed labor strategy:
Inez was due December 28, but my parents arrived in town early to at least celebrate Christmas with us, though we all felt that she might be early. Her big sister Mary Tobin debuted three days ahead of schedule. (I’m perennially late in life and find it surprising that both of my girls were born early.) On Saturday evening, December 21, Israel and I opted to go for one last date night, while my parents were around to babysit but before other family members arrived in town for Christmas. We walked to a concert at the Folger Shakespeare Library called “Christmas in New Spain.” (It was a great production with instrumentalists and singers performing 15th and 16th century holiday songs by Latin American composers—a unique blend blend of European and native American styles. The percussionist played all kinds of items including seashells and was particularly memorable.) But throughout the show I was shifting in my seat, trying to get comfortable and not sketch out the man next to me too much. By the time it was over, I was exhausted and asked Israel if we could skip dinner (we’d planned to try Rose’s Luxury) and go home to eat the tacos that my mom had made. We had a mini-argument and I cried. That evening lying on the couch I felt what I thought could be first contractions.

I didn’t sleep too well and continued having mini- possible- contractions, and I let Israel know the next morning. We told Mom and I told her not to get too excited—advice I should’ve taken to heart myself!

I thought about the timeline with Mary Tobin, and calculated that Inez would probably be with us that night. Mild contractions continued through the day and I was a bit nervous about the timing of when to call the midwife. I called in the afternoon to check in and give a heads up that I was in early labor. Contractions were regular, probably 5-10 minutes apart and not increasing too much in intensity, despite my wishful thinking. When I called, the answering service took my information and asked if I was in pain. I answered Yes, and I do believe the contractions were painful at that point, though manageable. But, they were nothing next to those that were to come! But it was enough to bring back the sensations of labor to my memory, and I was scared! I just didn’t feel up to it.

Around 4pm, Karen the midwife called back to check on how I was doing. Nothing had changed too much, but I told her I wanted to go in to the birth center at 5pm to check in. I didn’t want to wait until the intense part like we had with Mary Tobin, because I thought the laborious check in process at the hospital slowed things down, plus the birth center would be a more comfortable place for labor than the hospital anyway. We packed up our bags and left instructions with Dad for Mary Tobin’s bedtime and for meeting Israel’s sister Raquel who was arriving that night at Union Station to visit for Christmas.

We met Karen, whose attitude was, Let’s just see how things are going. Clearly I was not in active, intense labor at that point. It almost felt like when you’re a kid and a little bit sick, and you want to be sick enough to stay home from school, so you’re milking it a tad. Later I read somewhere that if you take smiling pictures before you head to the hospital, it’s not time to go yet. That was us!

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Karen asked how dilated I thought I was . . . I didn’t have a guess. Israel said 3cm. She said, If I’m generous I can say 3 cm. I laid there and wanted to cry. Karen told us it’s common with second births to have annoying contractions that continue for a couple days before things really get going. Also, Inez was head down with her back on my right side. Babies always turn clockwise to get into position on the left side before descending, so she still needed to rotate almost full circle (as opposed to a simple quick quarter turn—blurgh!), which Karen said is the reason for many long labors. She printed some exercises—called The Miles Circuit—for me to do to help get Inez in the right spot and move things along. She recommended doing those, then taking Tylenol PM, or Tylenol and Benadryl (I learned that that’s what Tylenol PM is. Fun fact!), so I could try to get some sleep, since with any luck we could be back in the middle of the night or in the morning.

Gah! I was so bummed and discouraged that we weren’t there for the long haul! And I probably felt embarrassed and dumb for being so off on the timing. Plus I was annoyed when Karen mentioned that lots of people were having the same trouble about the baby rotating, so she and another midwife had been talking about giving those exercises to people ahead of time—yes, that would’ve been a good idea! Well. We went to Taylor Gourmet to pick up salads and sandwiches to take back to the apartment for supper. I remember the girls working there were super friendly and happy to see a very pregnant lady. But I sat there in a dark cloud.

Successful labor strategies:
We ate back at our place and, since I was so tired and wanted to begin so I could try to sleep, I started the Miles Circuit exercises: half an hour lying in something like child’s pose, with pillows stuffed all around to support me. Contractions continued, it seemed, less frequently and more mildly in that position. Then, half an hour of side relaxation position. My instructions were to relax, and if I fell asleep, fine. Israel struck up the birth play list he’d curated for me (mostly consisting of my very specific requests): some classical, some soft Avett Brothers, Emmylou Harris, and my personal anthem for this pregnancy: “Just Breathe,” with versions by Pearl Jam and Willie Nelson. I didn’t fall asleep, but during this time with the nice music in our dark room, I relaxed and some sense of peace returned. Inez would be born; I wasn’t scared. And, while lying on my left side, I could feel some movement. Maybe it was working and Inez was rotating! Then onto half an hour of stair climbing. Then to bed with the help of Tylenol PM, some of the only drugs of my pregnancy.

[Side note: I’ve sent the Miles Circuit site to several people at the end of their pregnancies, who are either trying to get labor started, or are in frustrating early labor for awhile, like I was. For at least a couple of them it helped a lot, and it certainly hasn’t hurt. Bookmark it for later! Send it to your friends who are great with child!]

Good turns bad:
Hooray! I got some sleep, and when I woke up in the morning on December 23, I could tell that the contractions were more serious and this would be it. Still keeping our cool, we made a plan for the morning. I’d take a shower while Israel took Mary Tobin to my parents who were staying at our neighbor’s. They could get up and start getting ready. Then Israel would shower, and we’d make our way over to the birth center to meet the other midwife Dorothy when the center opened at 8:30 or 9. (Is Dorothy a perfect midwife name? Yes. She also looks the part, with long white hippy hair and glasses.) The shower felt great; I was handling the contractions and had a good rhythm. In fact, I should’ve realized, the shower probably sped things up. While Israel was getting himself ready, I sat in front of the couch, knees on the floor, head resting on the seat of the couch, surviving. My parents arrived and Israel, to his credit, knew we needed to hurry. He also knew that he needed nourishment to face what was coming, so he asked my dad to make him an egg sandwich while he finished getting ready.

I’m laughing as I recall this absurd scene. But at the time: I am dying inside. Actually, literally, my insides are ripping themselves open (maybe not ripping, but a lot of crazy stuff is happening). I am intensely focused, but still aware of what’s going on with the family around me. Please understand: Dad only makes eggs for himself on a special blue nonstick pan he keeps at home. He hates our pans (which are really nice, by the way), and he does not know his way around our kitchen. So he’s not your go-to egg sandwich guy when your wife is dying. So Israel’s trying to give instructions, while he’s putting on his hair gel, I guess, or getting our bags or something. Not sure where my mom is; probably getting Mary Tobin ready for the day and prepping her that we’re about to leave. On the inside, I am FURIOUS that Israel is so concerned with his breakfast while I am in active labor. But it’s become active so suddenly, that I can’t convey the urgency to him. It’s such an odd situation: my mind is racing and I’m having these thoughts, but my body will not allow me to say them out loud.

Sweetest moment:
During the egg sandwich debacle, while my mind and body were in turmoil, Mary Tobin brought two of her stuffed animals—orange bear and panda—to me on the couch. It was such a kind little gesture and actually did help me feel better.

Here comes the profanity:
Once we got it together, Israel, Mom, and I went down to the car. As I climbed in, Israel helpfully said, “Don’t worry, you don’t have to wear the seat belt.” Friends. At this point there was no way my body would have allowed me to sit in the seat normally with a seatbelt. Even if I could sit like that, what was going to happen? Was he going to pull the dad move of not starting the car until we were all buckled? I—equally helpfully—replied, “No f*cking kidding.” Only F-bomb of the day, as far as I recall.

When we got to the birth center, Dorothy met us and asked, “Are we crying?” Oh yes.

I had wanted to use the bathtub they had (not like a big birthing tub, just looks like a normal bathroom), since hot water had been so helpful with pain relief in labor with Mary Tobin. In hindsight perhaps it wasn’t so helpful in this situation, but once I got in I did not want to move. At some point during this time, the nurse kept encouraging my mom to take pictures, which I wrote about here. I got to a point where I wanted to quit and somehow crawl out of my body. It felt like it wouldn’t end.

Dorothy told me that I could start pushing. (I guess I was experiencing an urge to push like I’ve heard others describe, but I didn’t recognize it as such? Not sure. With both girls, I found the transition from trying to relax through contractions to pushing to be tricky and unclear.) I don’t think I pushed very long. I remember wanting to stop and give up, but Karen (the other midwife from the night before) said, No, she’s almost here! I remember thinking, “Oh, why didn’t y’all tell me that we’re almost done?!” I had no idea and couldn’t tell on my own. I reached down and touched Inez’ head. Though we hadn’t planned a water birth, that’s what happened. (Sorry if that freaks y’all out! Like Jim Gaffigan’s wife, I just did this to make you uncomfortable.) When she was placed on my chest, I kept repeating, “Hi baby. Hi baby.” Israel cut the cord.

When I stood up, I remember saying, “Wow, I feel so skinny”—which made everyone laugh. (For the record, that feeling didn’t last too long.)

Also for the record, some interesting birth facts, if you’re into that kind of thing: my water didn’t break until close to the end, when we were in the tub, and I wasn’t aware of it (very different from Mary Tobin’s birth). One of Nessie’s feet was slightly turned in, having been smushed in the uterus, which we kept an eye on and has since straightened itself out. She had hair, but not as much as Mary Tobin, and she immediately looked different to me from her sister. They weighed close to the same: 7 pounds 5.5 ounces for Inez (7.7 for MT). We’d arrived at the birth center a few minutes before 9, and Inez was born at 10:05 AM.

Best Christmas gift ever:
 photo 3B4B0DD1-6980-4206-83A9-E05FD4473D0E_zpsa7qocuo8.jpg[After JC.]

We really had the most pleasant Christmas with our sweet Nessie girl and a lot of family able to come visit. That part was such a dream, despite the fact that I’d been run over by a truck.

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And, one final note for the record: Israel is the best dad ever. This account is merely an attempt to convey faithfully the events as I experienced them, with all the feelings. Over and out.

Easy Kindergarten Prep. AKA, scissors!

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File this one under: scared, weak, hovering, helicopter modern parenting.

Here’s a practical early childhood idea, courtesy of my great aunt Jeaneine, who taught first grade for, well, longer than I’ve lived, probably.

She told me one of the best things to do to help Mary Tobin get ready for writing is to give her scissors.

[Aunt Jeaneine laughs at danger!]

Working with scissors strengthens those small hand muscles she’ll need to form the letters. At first just let her cut cut cut. Then the next thing will be following a line, previewing the eye-hand coordination needed to copy or trace letters.

I’m ashamed to admit that I hadn’t really let Mary Tobin play work with scissors yet, mainly because I didn’t want to deal with keeping them away from little sister. I’d seen Montessori materials lists and stuff about art for kids, etc. But lazy parenting is the name of my game.

In fact, though, the scissors have encouraged lazy parenting by keeping MT incredibly focused and entertained in the couple of weeks since we saw Aunt Jeaneine in Chattanooga. Mary Tobin has been happily cut, cutting away, shredding my old health insurance statements and creating her own little projects. (Usually this happens during their room time when Inez is not around to interfere. And on the two hour drive home from Chattanooga—forget about it. Best car ride we’ve ever had.) She’s following lines—proof that I waited way too long to let her do this.

Danger? So far, no. Cleanup? Yes. (I imagine that Maria Montessori and Aunt Jeaneine have plenty to say on that subject too.)

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P.S. Pics at the top from the girls’ first day of “school” earlier this week! They’re both going two days a week to a little Spanish immersion Mother’s Day Out!

P.P.S. Pics from Mary Tobin’s first day last year!

Mama Camp in Charlottesville (+ packing lists)

 photo 65B5C4AB-786B-4191-B502-3C45BC07FDC3_zpsz7cg0did.jpg photo 673D12FC-9C11-4730-9E96-00629D3357E1_zps6k4j92ca.jpg photo BAA43F63-1F8F-4533-A4D6-360947972A4D_zpsbgerduog.jpg  photo C838B2AB-C302-44C3-AAD6-00702C072B68_zpsajjg9xkb.jpgAt the start of the month, I joined three of my best friends from college in our college town, Charlottesville—AKA the best city in America—because we hadn’t seen one another in way too long. The most effective way that I explained it to Mary Tobin was that it would be camp for mamas.

And I highly recommend Mama Camp! Should you find yourself packing for something similar, here are some ideas for what you might need:

    • Your cutest shirts and dresses to show off for your fashionable friends (i.e. the only two cute tops you like right now, and in my case: muumuus).
    • A selection from the huge basket of beanie babies at your mom’s house, to send home with your friends for their kids. (Side note: the new beanie babies with huge eyes are terrifying.)
    • Comfy jammies for lounging and chatting.
    • The most outrageous rental car you can find, to embarrass your friends.
    • Some ideas about what you’d like to accomplish. Our to-do list included:
      • Coffee
      • Bodo’s (the bagel place)
      • The Lawn
      • Take It Away (the sandwich place)
      • Wine
      • Chatting
      • Basil gimlet from Mas Tapas

As you see, the three essential factors we considered were food, drink, and shady, lovely spots to sit and chat. The weather was glorious. We ate two delectable dinners at Zocalo (on Charlottesville’s downtown mall) and Tavola (in Belmont), and spent a beautiful afternoon at King Family Vineyards.

We discussed:

  • Marriage
  • Parenting
  • How disgusting our dorm rooms were and how we’ve grown in the area of cleanliness.
  • Using regular clothes as maternity clothes and maternity clothes as regular clothes.
  • Birkenstocks
  • Flare jeans
  • Shows on Netflix and Amazon. My pick is Catastrophe. So so funny.
  • Beauty products
  • Schools, work, career paths, health, and many items and details that will remain in the circle of trust.

We always find our friend Anna Kate, though she often doesn’t realize it, to be a source of great recommendations: cute clothes, pajamas, Madewell jeans, dry shampoo, chic diaper bags, something to put in the carseat or stroller to keep it cool in the deathly heat (AK or SB, give us the deets on that, please!).

Our friend Ansley gets the trooper award, since she had some kind of stomach bug and was not feeling 100% all weekend. You could hardly tell since she remained her bright cheerful self, but we gave her a hard time for drinking less wine than the pregnant lady (if you lost track: that’s me).

Our friend Elizabeth is the encouraging one who will always tell you how great and cute and smart you are, and that you should write a book. She’s the one who told me to share on the blog my quick tip for packing up the family, which is simply this: I typed up our master Packing List on Evernote (but it could just be in Word on your computer) that I print out for every trip and modify for the occasion.
 photo C098993B-5792-44F5-A628-BEFD8CC22215_zpsvrdtxgmi.jpg photo 09632844-3B58-479B-A2B1-8711F1714327_zpsy3eo1f80.jpgI’m not yet a professional packer, but this way I don’t have to think through all the randomness every time we go somewhere. Some of our essentials, for example, are the girls’ special pillow cases, the noise phone, and cuddle guys. (What’s on your list?)

I think that’s all. I am a professional mama and this was an excellent professional development trip. Write it off!

Let the fun begin! Or, baby boy nursery inspiration.



We are expecting another baby—a boy this time! “NO,” I said when the ultrasound technician told us. Disbelief. (You probably aren’t surprised that I had neither the will nor the desire to come up with some kind of clever gender reveal thing.)

To tell you the truth, the utmost issue in my mind re: Bebé Tres—aside from worrying about what in the world little boys wear, and fearing the inevitable urine sprayed in my face—is the nursery. I’ve been having a pretty good time brainstorming and playing [mental] tetris with furniture arrangements.

To get you up to speed: we are in a charming little bungalow in a charming little Nashville neighborhood. The girls are sharing a room, and so we have the office/third bedroom available for the new little dude. I hate to admit that this “home office” has been steadily slip-sliding into junk room status. (Do you have a junk room? Please tell me about it in the comments!)

So I’m excited for a fresh start. Redemption time, baby.

I decided that until we learned the sex of Bebé Tres, I’d be content with gathering ideas and brainstorming (i.e. Pinterest-ing hardcore) before springing into action. (Maybe springing isn’t the most exact term. Plodding into action?) I’ve been following Nashville designer Colleen Locke’s blog, Trot Home, where she opens a window into her process, especially the step of dreaming and scheming before narrowing down your options and deciding on your direction (which she discusses in this post in particular).

In that spirit, I’ll share some of the inspiration images I found.

[The picture at the top of the post is one I’ve had on my Pinterest baby baby board from the beginning, from Abbey Nova’s Upper West Side apartment.]

Here’s one that’s awesome and patriotic (though I’d be in trouble with Mama Rote if I didn’t point out that the flag’s field of blue ought to be on the viewer’s left):

flag baby nurseryWe have a framed Springsteen poster I gave to Israel when we were dating that could be used to similar effect.

I love this clean, white look with the oriental rug:

nursery white walls

A similar feel:

Amber Interiors nurseryBut then I saw this office tour (Sarah Vickers’ and Kiel James Patrick’s shared space):

Sarah Vickers officeSarah Vickers office

I really dig the green, and the layered, collected vibe.

(And I forgot to say that I’d like to keep a small office space in the nursery: at least a small desk for laptop, the printer, small filing cabinet.)

More delicious greens:

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Yum. And so, the time has come (the walrus said), to make decisions.

I scientifically evaluated my Pinterest board, and saw that my two directions were the white and the green, using a rug with character in either scenario. I’ve been reading Montessori stuff about simplifying the kid’s environment (not to mention Marie Kondo!); and considering that it’s wise for me to keep it simple (stupid), I decided to go with the white, clean walls; anchored with some kind of awesome, beautiful rug; natural wood and white furniture. (And I need not tell you, many pops of color.)

I’d love an oriental rug,


or maybe a southwest/Mexican feeling one.


I’m hereby sending this wish into the universe. (The room is about 11×10, in case you have the ideal rug for me.)

Which direction calls to you? Green or white? Perhaps my soul is an old British study, while my inner parent longs to be clean California cool.

I left my heart on Bourbon Street.

maltby + john-nDN8k168795868

A few years ago, we had fun with this post, brainstorming ways to fill in the blank: “I left my heart in ____.”

I was reminded of this after Mom did such a great job gathering, and executing, beautiful and meaningful ideas for John’s rehearsal dinner, which was held at the SweetWater Brewery in Atlanta at the end of January.

All the table names were street signs from places in John’s life, or Maltby’s life, or their life together: the streets they grew up on, South Africa, a ranch in Wyoming, Palo Alto, Athens, NYC, and of course New Orleans where they met. It was a super fun conversation starter, and a small glimpse into their lives which was appropriate for a gathering of family and friends from all over and from all stages of life, who may have only known the bride or the groom before then.

Mom also gathered pictures of the lovely couple as they grew up (we could do a photoessay on the evolution of John’s hair), and she did a phenomenal job with the centerpieces, along with her team of florists and designers (AKA Beth and Aunt Kace). Cotton, magnolia, pine greenery in silver julep cups, stacked on a couple old books for the height they needed.

The actual wedding reception was a gorgeous winter wonderland, and the style Mom and John chose for the rehearsal dinner was much more casual but complemented it nicely. Someone at my table (from Colorado) actually reached out and picked the cotton to see what it was like. Hard work. That’s why the cotton gin was such a big deal, I said.

maltby + john-SXZfD168795512

photo credits: the fantastic Vue Photography

So we know that John left his heart and his SweetWater beer in Athens with a brown-eyed UGA girl . . .

What about you? Where have you left a piece of your heart? And isn’t funny how it takes leaving to realize how much you completely adore someone or something or somewhere? Let’s see . . .

I left my heart in Del Ray (our old neighborhood in Alexandria, VA).

I left my heart at Little Lights.

I left my heart in Paraguay, at Pabla’s storefront home.

I left my heart in Cholula.

I left my heart, or maybe found it, no—my heart was stolen! that’s better—at Nick’s Nightclub, Alexandria’s premiere line dancing institution.

(And, always and forever, I left my heart in Cville, specifically at Take It Away. It’ll probably be right where they stack those little containers of house dressing.)

Your turn! But be careful. My heart is literally hurting right now. Nostalgia, you kill me.

Winter Survival Items.

Survival may be a bit of an overstatement. Here’s a list of a few random things I like:

1. Handkerchiefs. As Kathleen Kelly educates us in You’ve Got Mail, in case you didn’t know, “A handkerchief is a Kleenex you don’t throw away.”

I came across two vintage handkerchiefs, I think my grandmother’s, that I’d put in the material-for-potential-future-craft-projects department. I’m mature enough now to accept the fact that I won’t be making pillow cases out of them any time in the next ten to twenty years (or doing this, which is really cute). But then I had a minor epiphany: Why not use them for their intended purpose? That sounds really dumb, but it was a revelation. I felt vindicated upon learning that handkerchiefs are in again. (Read that one for answers to your pressing handkerchief etiquette problems, like, “If you have offered your handkerchief to someone else, don’t ask for it back, no matter how nice or expensive it is.”)

They’ve really brightened up this sniffly winter time. (Please, wash often.)

2. Fabric shaver/sweater de-piller. I didn’t know this existed until Design Mom mentioned it. You can get one here or probably at your drug store. I’ve semi-restored two of my favorite sweaters that were looking dingy, as well as a coat that (I thought) was bound for the land where coats go to die. Maybe these sweater de-pillers are really obvious (or maybe you use some other method: razor? something else?), but again, I hadn’t thought of it. It feels great to be able to maintain my lazy dressing limited wardrobe philosophy by continuing to wear those sweaters over and over, without feeling too much like a bag lady.

3. Durham’s Bee Farm Wonder Salve. I had a jar of this stuff for several years, but ran out before this winter. Should’ve ordered more immediately; now I’ve learned my lesson. You can use it for anything on your skin—it heals and moisturizes—but in the absence of other skin needs, I’d just use it as lip balm. I cannot remember my lips ever being chapped, until this winter. Blergh. Bring back the bee salve!

What’s brightened up your winter?

Valentine’s Changes (or, Colin Firth forever and ever, amen.)


Looking through the archives, I see that Valentine’s Day has been one of my consistent occasions for posting something here, for some reason. The feast day to remember a saint who loved God and loved others, enough to die for that love, now serves as the calendar notch on which we hang our ever-changing notions and expectations about love.

In past years I’ve posted about:

This year, my love for MT, and her little friends at school, has manifested itself through Pinterest-inspired activities: heart braid, heart crayons, the best oatmeal coconut chocolate chip cookies.

 photo D664B00E-AFE8-49FC-B00E-3E315BC2319D_zpsfw9obj9y.jpg

So the holiday has evolved quite a bit. In six words,

2007: Went line dancing, found latin lover.
2015: Heidi braids. Heart, please don’t explode.

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This week Kitty’s post (How To Host a Simple Gal-entine’s Party) reminded me of a couple instances when Captain Papa came through in grand style for his baby girl (i.e. me) before marriage and kids. In particular, one year in high school he joined me down in our basement playroom as I watched the six-hour BBC Pride and Prejudice on Valentine’s Day. (FYI, he’s not necessarily a big Austen fan.)

Funnier was the year when he sent me flowers in college. I put the two sweet planters of mini-roses on the window ledge in our sorority house kitchen. The note with the delivery read something like “Love Forever” and it sparked a srat house mystery. Because, although it wasn’t surprising that Dad would send flowers, he didn’t put his name on the note, and when I talked with Mom that day she hadn’t received her flowers yet and told me Dad didn’t send them. The romantic mystery bloomed like the delicate pink roses . . . my friends and I spent many minutes (at least) wondering who my secret admirer was. We even called the flower company to see if they could release the sender’s information. They could not! [Drama!] I can only imagine how pathetic that operator thought we were, especially since she could see that the sender and recipient shared a last name.

Whatever Valentine’s Day looks like on a given year, the bottom line question we want answered is . . . Am I loved? Am I worth it? Is there someone willing to sacrifice for me, willing to watch six-hour Pride and Prejudice with me—whether it’s my dad, my boyfriend, my girlfriends, my cat (not to mention my infant who has no choice). Watching Pride and Prejudice may or may not be a big sacrifice depending on the person who makes it, but it points to sacrifices even greater. Is there someone willing to give up everything, for me? I think the answer is Yes. And when those affectionate husbands, or cats, fail us—maybe you saw it coming—we can go back to the Love who inspired the original Valentine.

Whatever’s going on with you, I wish you much Colin Firth (or maybe Stanley Tucci) this Valentine’s Day.

P.S. To be fair, it’s also about considering whether I’ll give up my sense of taste to watch something I consider ridiculous. What’s the male equivalent of P&P?

P.P.S. I do like the new Keira Knightley P&P, but I officially endorse the 1995 BBC version. My only contention with the BBC P&P is that Lizzy is prettier than Jane, which is inaccurate.

P.P.P.S. Who wore it better?

 photo 1BA60327-2BBA-40EB-B9B6-8BD4C7B191C8-7948-000006F39CF819E3_zpsec72cb16.jpg photo 3AD4C8CF-4987-47B3-92A3-1FB9675402A5_zpsa3rrss0x.jpg

Ode to John

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Maltby and John eating imaginary fish.

He’s a goofball, my brother, and the email with his New Year’s resolutions for the year 2000 was possibly the funniest document I’ve ever read. I wish I could find it in the archives of my defunct hotmail account, but I’ve tried before with no success. The only resolution I remember was that John would change his name to include an exclamation point at the end, after our last name. As far as I know, he signed documents that way at least until he got to college. He’s still in my phone as John Rote!.

John is a performer. He’s loud. In truth, the word I’ve used most to describe him is obnoxious. He did make my life as the younger sister a lot more colorful—grabbing Mom to tango in the kitchen, for example; blasting “Ice Ice Baby” with windows down on the two-minute drive to our high school; hanging a detached computer mouse out the tailgate of his car so that other drivers would wave frantically at him, pointing to the back of the vehicle.

But he irked, aggravated, distracted, annoyed me like no one else.

I’m quieter, not quite as funny, many times was not in the mood for his antics. Also, if he chose to pick me up and throw me over his shoulder, I was powerless to stop him.

When the time came, we went off to college in opposite directions, John to the free spirited west coast, me to the traditional east coast the following year. Whenever we were back at home in Memphis, I’d tire quickly of his loudness, exasperated: “Can’t you just have a normal conversation? Everything doesn’t need to be a joke!”

When I brought my future husband Israel home with me to meet the family for Thanksgiving (I’d warned him about the loudness), we were sitting on the couch watching the Macy’s parade when John walked in from the airport and said (loudly), “Why are we watching the parade?! Who watches this parade?!”

I do. And this is my boyfriend, visiting for the first time, trying to survive in this bizarre house where people needlessly yell about Thanksgiving festivities.

John’s gregarious personality came in handy at my wedding the next November. He picked up out-of-town guests from the airport (and actually got out to the parking lot with visitors in town for a different wedding before asking, So how do you guys know Josie and Israel?). He provided local dining and late night recommendations. He led the troops to Beale Street after the reception, and he asked my girlfriends from college about their love lives and whether they’d been open-mouth kissing anyone lately. Everybody had a great time.

Speaking of love lives, I was curious to meet John’s girlfriend—he’d pined after her from afar, they’d broken up after her graduation, and they reunited when they both found themselves living in New York City. Now John and Maltby seemed pretty serious. I wondered, and worried a bit, about what kind of girl would put up with John’s manic behavior. Would she match his volume? Would she be mute? How could anything seriously real, an actual relationship, work out?

I met her. She loves art, loves horses. She’s fun. Certainly not as loud as John. I asked her how she puts up with him. . . and it seemed like she didn’t really know what I was talking about. She told me a story about John traveling with his college rugby team. He was a senior, and the team had a free night in Los Angeles. Instead of heading off with the upperclassmen, John found a night spot that admitted his teammates who were under 21. I think it was karaoke. Maybe bowling.

I started to consider my brother from Maltby’s point of view, or anyone’s point of view other than mine. . .

Maybe, when John and I see each other, we revert to our childhood roles. Maybe he’s not so obnoxious to everyone else. Maybe everyone else isn’t so easily offended.

He’s loud, yes. But also kind, unselfish, and thoughtful.

John and Maltby will be married this winter. The night they met, he was on another rugby trip, post college, this time in New Orleans. He told his ride to go ahead back to Memphis, he’d figure something out. He’d met a pretty girl from Georgia.

Along with my husband (who, evidently, survived and thrived after that first Thanksgiving weekend), I recently visited my brother and his fiancee, who now live in San Francisco. They took us on a hike by the Golden Gate bridge, loaned us John’s car to drive out to wine country, showed us their favorite neighborhood spots (not to mention the neighborhood naked guy). John told inappropriate jokes, shared an outrageously hilarious southern lawyer impression, and Maltby patted his leg when the volume got too high. We had a great time.

I guess we’ve both mellowed with a little growing up. I have two brothers besides John, though he and I are closest in age. When I told Will and Ben that poignant story about the time John stayed to do karaoke with the freshmen rugby players, they listened, paused, and confirmed that it was Maltby who related that event from John’s college days—before she had actually met him. My oldest brother voiced what all three of us were thinking. “Knowing John, he probably just made that up to impress her.”

Well. Even if he did, I don’t mind so much anymore.


Happy wedding week, Maltby and John!

What worked for me in 2014, part deux.

Here’s part one of what worked for me in 2014 (Nashville, Sunday supper, barre class). My friend Anna Kate is also weighing in with what worked for her in 2014, as well as her friend Katherine from Ye Old College Try—I don’t know her personally but love reading her blog. And we’d love to hear about what worked for you!
 photo 20140824_191241_zpsdf542aa6.jpgDestin, FL in August. Picture unrelated to anything else in this post, except that I’m wearing one of my favorite tee shirts!

4. Room time.
When people ask me how I like being a stay at home mom, I usually say something like, “Weeeellll, it’s been an adjustment.” I’ve always wanted to stay home with my kids, and I really love it and am grateful that it’s an option for us. One big adjustment has been simply that for the first time I get to set my own schedule (working with my two little dictators, obviously). No school or office requirements to plan around, just the commitments I decide to make. It’s been three years, and I’m still grappling with this freedom to create an ideal routine (though until Inez was born I was still working a tiny bit for Little Lights).

I know, of course, it’s a work in progress and will change as all of us grow. I’ve become a big fan of a structured routine/schedule for the girls, with regular times for meals, naps, etc. It’s healthy, predictable, stable for them and all that, but really I think it helps me just as much. I’m firmly in the “if mama ain’t happy ain’t nobody happy” camp of parenting, and so ROOM TIME is one part of our routine that I’ve thanked high heaven for many many times in 2014 . . .

I’m sure you can google room time, crib time, independent play time, solo play time and find a boatload of step by step instructions. It’s just a set time where the kid plays by him- or herself in a safe, limited space. Here’s what it means for us.

  • Mary Tobin started this quiet time as a baby in her crib (or you can use a playpen if you’ve got that kind of space) with a few books and developmentally appropriate toys . . . for child number two developmentally appropriate toys may mean plastic sorority cups (sorry Inez). As MT got older we switched to her [toddler-proofed] room.
  • I’d put on music and say with a smile, “Have fun in your room time!” And leave. I think we started with 10 or 15 minutes, and lengthened a little as she got used to it and grew. It was helpful to set a timer to go off after the designated time, or ring a bell at the end, for her to learn that room time’s over when it’s over, not when she yells loud enough. When time’s up, return—still with a smile—and say “I hope you had good room time!” Then sing the clean up song while putting away toys and books.
  • Try to be consistent with time of day. I though it was good to institute room time as naps were dropped, so instead of sleeping the girls still get to rest, if they so choose. These days, Mary Tobin has room time (actually in the living room) for about 45 minutes when Inez takes her morning nap, except on her two little school days. (And Mama has room time also!)
  • I hadn’t started Inez doing anything until this autumn when I realized everyone was going crazy in the evenings and I wasn’t able to get dinner ready. I thought wistfully about the days when Inez took a third little catnap in the evenings, when it hit me: shoulda replaced that nap with room time! She got used to it after a couple days, and I think it’s actually kind of a relief to her now. Instead of fussing she gets to play with old sorority cups, and Mary Tobin and I have a peaceful dinner prep time. This is where the prayers of gratitude come in. I highly recommend it!

5. Reduced wardrobe.
Like Anna Kate, I’m working toward a capsule wardrobe philosophy. I became a little addicted in 2014 to the green polka dot bags from ThredUp. For no charge, they sent me a bag, I filled it with clothes, shoes, and purses and put it back in the mail. They paid me upfront for the pieces that were in good enough condition for them to re-sell. (And I repeated the process a few more times.) It kind of blew my mind.

We constantly have a give away bag or box going, but the possibility of a payout coupled with our move kicked my motivation into high gear and I got rid of a ton of clothes. From now on: only clothes I love and fit well! (Remind me I said that!) I’m still waiting for that moment when I’ll miss something that I got rid off. Hasn’t happened.

Of course I did do some shopping. My favorite sources for my reduced wardrobe staples:

  • V-neck tee shirts from Everlane.
  • Fun tops and sweaters from Stitch Fix. One of my favorites seen here. I wore that same aztec blanket sweater over pajama pants and Israel’s orange Netherlands soccer t-shirt when Inez was born. So it’s versatile.
  • Le breton shirt and dress from PopBasic. (They release collections at different times, but if you use this link to sign up, you’ll get a $15 credit should you order something eventually). Dress seen here, a little bit, along with a Stitch Fix scarf.

6. Email.
Earlier this year I did an experiment in which I cleared out my email. Every evening I cleared 100 emails, by either archiving appropriately or deleting, until they were all gone. Of course, you could also just archive everything and start fresh. But more than the satisfaction of a clear inbox, I proved to myself that I could do something if I committed to it.

Often with my vague personal goals, I never get to them because I feel like other things are more pressing. But, there will always be more dishes to do, someone to call back, or other obligations like thank you notes and really good TV shows. In my email experiment, I saw that if I make something a priority, I can accomplish it—but I have to be willing to let other things go, or at least push them aside for awhile.

For the record, I currently have 23 emails in my inbox, 2 unread, and 17 starred. I want to get back to regularly dealing with my inbox this year. A helpful tip I heard was not to “check” email, but to “process” email— meaning, only read your email if you’re prepared to put it in its proper place (respond, delete, move to to-do list), rather than reading, then letting it sit there and take up your mental space. (Mama Rote! Please comment with how many emails are in your inbox right now! Some of y’all are gonna die when you hear this.)

7. Bedtime.
I think perhaps sleep is one of my love languages, in addition to food obviously. When I was in New York last Thanksgiving, after walking all day 8 months pregnant, I desperately looked up these stretches before bed. I kept doing some version of them for much of 2014, and I’d like to get back in that habit. More recently, I put an alarm on my phone that reads “time to settle down!” at 10pm, reminding me to start the bedtime process, and giving me plenty of time to read before going to sleep!

What worked for Mary Tobin this year: cuddle guys (i.e. stuffed animals), pens and notebooks, hopping like a rabbit.
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What worked for Inez this year: the ergo carrier, dogs and cats, dancing.
 photo 7ED6E989-9F24-4283-8C8D-B94D0EECAEF5_zps6n3nvepg.jpg What worked for Israel this year: having a smokin’ hot wife. (JK but seriously.)

What worked for you in 2014?