turn that frown upside down

Most mornings, after we drop Claire off at school, Etta and I meet up with our friends (my mom friends and their kids, her toddler bffs) to do something fun– zoo, story time, science class for preschoolers at the museum. We’re so used to this that any deviation from the fun-with-friends theme kind of feels like a letdown for both of us. Sometimes, though, a mama has to go to Target, and then one can only hope for the best.

The best is not what we got this morning. I thought she was on board with my “first we go to Target, then we go to the park” plan, but her whole body stiffened as we approached the red cart, and I knew I was about to have a fight on my hands. I attempted to fold Cardboard Etta into the seat and strapped her in. That’s when she deployed her favorite protest method: the high-pitched dental drill whine. I was determined not to bail– I had stuff to get so I could make Valentines for Claire’s classmates, teachers, and therapists, and we had also depleted our Goldfish stocks. (I needed to pick up my prescriptions, too, but I’m just now realizing I forgot those.) I gritted my teeth and planned to Just Get Through This.

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She continued to whine like a dental drill as I pushed her through the store. I pretended it wasn’t happening. At one point, a mama pushing a cart with a toddler and a baby caught my eye and we both just laughed and exchanged a “what can ya do?” look. SOLIDARITY, MAMAS. Somewhere in our rounds through the store, Etta decided to stop whining and enjoy tossing things into the cart for me. There is nothing she loves more than being a Big Helper, so if I hand her stuff and then let her put it in the basket, she feels like she’s helping. By the time we got to the always-ridiculously-understaffed checkouts, she was happy to put things on the conveyer belt for me and chat with the cashier. “Hi,” she said, “name Etta Jane.” She always makes me think of Tarzan with the stilted way she introduces herself to others.

Of course, right as my kid’s tantrum ended, an adult woman decided to throw one herself. Just behind us, I began to hear yelling and expletives. I have no idea what happened, but this lady was pissed, and she was yelling at one of the nicest cashiers at our Target, so I’m just going to go ahead and assume she was being a giant jerk for no reason. She had a toddler with her, and he was crying in fear as his mother screamed invectives at the nice people in red. “Baby sad,” Etta said. “That lady MAD.” I had to wheel past her yelling obscenities as we left the store. “That lady is throwing a tantrum, Etta. She’s being really rude. Even grownups throw fits in public sometimes, but it’s still not OK,” I said. I kind of hope the lady heard me. She jerked her crying kid by the hand and said they were “getting the f*** outta here.” I wish I could have scooped up her kid and taken him to the park with us. I felt my jaw clenched at her outburst as we drove away.

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It was sunny and 50 degrees at the park. We had the whole place to ourselves. My girl’s hair shone in the winter sunlight, and I watched her little curls flying as I pushed her on the swings. “Swing higher, Mommy!” We didn’t talk much; we just soaked up the sun together. I love that she chose a “baby swing” for herself, just like when I ask her if she’s big or little, she tells me she’s a “widdle gurl.” Darling, you can stay my little girl forever. She played in the sand and made me a “castle.” She braved the big slide, the one with two humps. Then we did some more swinging and came home for lunch. I let her watch some Elmo to wind down before nap, and she snuggled in my lap while I breathed in her coconut-scented hair and kissed her sweet cheeks.

Sometimes, when my teeth are gritted and I’m pushing that cart through Target with the squealing kid everyone is staring at, it’s hard to see beyond that moment. And when I feel trapped in such a moment, sometimes I wish I could throw a tantrum too. But this whole parenting thing has been like a nonstop class on both the zen of being in the moment when the moments are lovely and the zen of knowing that even the crappy moments are just a moment too, and they will pass.

As I scooped her up and carried her down the hall for her nap, she asked, “happy, Mommy?” Indeed, little one. So very happy. So happy I’m willing to forget all about that dental drill sound you sometimes like to make because most of my time with you is oh so sweet and oh so fleeting, something to soak up like a rare warm day in February, something to bask in like winter sun, something to breathe deep like sweet coconut-scented baby curls, so I will breathe it in until bursting.

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Why I Go Red for Women: I’m a Survivor

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Today is National Wear Red Day for the Go Red for Women campaign from the American Heart Association. I’m wearing my red, not just because I think heart health is important, or because I know that heart disease is the #1 killer of women (heart disease and stroke kill 1 in 3), but because this fight is personal for me: I’m a survivor. Not just in a Beyonce sense, but as a literal actual survivor of a congenital heart defect, a cardiac pregnancy complication, and heart failure.

On April 1, 2012, I was three days post-c-section. My recovery had gone slower than most, and I was still in the hospital, a fact for which I now thank God. In the wee hours of the morning, I woke up and finally felt strong enough to try to walk the few feet from my hospital bed to the bathroom. It felt triumphant. My husband assisted me, one of our new babies nearby in a bassinet*. But as I inched my way back to my hospital bed, every inch of my recently-ripped-apart abdomen screaming in pain, I found it hard to catch my breath. “I can’t breathe,” I said to Jon. He’s an ER doctor, and his mantra is generally “if you can talk, you can breathe,” so he helped me back into bed and told me to relax and catch my breath. But even after sitting down, it was getting harder and harder to fill my lungs with air. Continue reading

team pixie and back again: how cutting off all my hair changed my life, and why I grew it out anyway

One of the big things I didn’t know about childbirth was that it would make all my hair fall out. Already fine-of-locks, I didn’t have a lot to lose in the first place, but after giving birth to my twins, it was falling out in handfuls. I felt like I had four strands of hair left, and looked stringy and sad. Meanwhile, new hairs were sprouting, and tiny “baby hair” was poking out all along my hairline. Already inhabiting a completely new body, my hair’s shenanigans felt like adding insult to literal injury. Not to mention, it turns out babies really like yanking hair, and it’s annoying and painful.

Being a tired new mom is bad enough, but my hair falling out, too?!

Being a tired new mom is bad enough, but my hair falling out, too?!

I had always admired short hair on other women, but lacked the courage to take the plunge myself. However, after very nearly dying, I kind of gained some valuable perspective which was basically “get the heck over it, it’s just hair, you weirdo,” and I decided that the worst that could happen would be that I would hate it and would have to learn a valuable lesson about getting over myself while it grew out. Plus, this way, if I did grow it out, all the baby hairs could grow in along with it, and everything would look normal again. In terms of scariness, cutting all my hair off is really nothing compared to waking up in the ICU, so I felt brave enough to go for it.

I took a bunch of pictures of pretty pixies to my local hipster salon that does $20 haircuts. I told them all my hair was falling out and I was sick of babies pulling my hair and needed a change. They wisely didn’t let me go straight pixie all at once. I got the shortest bob I’d ever had, and headed out the door. This gave me a couple months to get used to seeing way more of my face and neck, so that when I still wanted to go shorter, the change was less of a shock. I went full pixie on my next visit.

The initial bob chop. I felt like Daisy Buchanan.

The initial bob chop. I felt like Daisy Buchanan.

The first pixie. I loved it.

The first pixie. I loved it.

It turns out all my worst fears were pointless as I LOVED my pixie. I had always been a little insecure about my chin and neck and worried I’d hate my face with no hair to hide behind, but I found instead that I focused on how much I like my eyes and less about how much I hate my jawline. I felt kind of badass. I felt liberated. I felt sexy. My husband thought I looked great.

Seriously can't overstate how much I loved that pixie.

Seriously can’t overstate how much I loved that pixie.

Women especially loved my pixie hair cut. Everywhere I went, some woman told me how much she loved my hair and how she wished she was brave enough to try it, or that her husband didn’t hate short hair, or that she didn’t have such thick/curly/whatever hair. Gay men loved it too.

Among straight men, I discovered, there is a sharp dividing line between those who prefer long hair and those who can appreciate a woman in a pixie cut. They either love it or they hate it. But there are PLENTY of men who are extremely enthusiastic about a woman rocking short hair.

Still, a year after I first went pixie, I decided to grow my hair back out. No matter how much I loved the look of my pixie, it was more high-maintenance than I’d like. I had to have monthly trims, or I hated the way it looked. It never looked good air-dried. I had to at least wet and blow-dry my pixie every morning, because my bed-head was INSANE. My next-day hair never looked quite right, despite it. When my hair is bob-length or longer, I can air dry on shower days and embrace my hair’s natural texture. I can shower every other day and use dry shampoo and a little wave reviving spray to have cute second-day hair. And I don’t need haircuts nearly as often. I wanted my “easy” hair back.

4 months of growth. It was just starting to come over my ears. At this point, I hated it.

4 months of growth. It was just starting to come over my ears. At this point, I hated it.

It took 9 months of awkward growing for me to feel like I had an actual “hairstyle” again. By that point, I felt like I had something you could actually call a bob, and I decided to get bangs, which I have loved. Perhaps emboldened by my original pixie plunge, I even trim my own bangs now. It’s now been a year since I decided to grow out my pixie, and now the only reason I’m still growing my hair is I’m too lazy to go in for a cut.

At 7 months, it no longer looked awkward.

At 7 months, it no longer looked awkward.

And I could use bobby pins and pretend I had a bob!

And I could use bobby pins and pretend I had a bob!

At 10 months I decided I looked like a 90s newscaster.

At 10 months I decided I looked like a 90s newscaster.

Even though I only kept my pixie cut for a year, I’m really glad I took the chance and went for it. My proud pixie self is still in there, and I still feel badass, liberated, and sexy, even if my hair is getting longer. I wouldn’t be surprised if I  go pixie again sometime in the future, but for now, I just add pins to my pixie love Pinterest board and tell myself we’ll meet again, someday.

And this is how I look now! Wavy bob with self-cut bangs!

And this is how I look now! Wavy bob with self-cut bangs!

Have you ever taken a big hair risk? Hair seems like such a small thing, but it has big power to shape how we feel about ourselves and how others perceive us.

formal dining room: dead or a mark of adulthood?

Recently, a friend at one of our Friday Night Meatballs dinners remarked as we set the table in the dining room that I must be a real adult because I have a dining room that I don’t use every day. It made me laugh.

I thought of his comment when I saw a post on Apartment Therapy called “Is the Formal Dining Room Dead?” Many of the 91 comments seemed to agree that the formal dining room is a thing of the past, with many folks preferring to eat at counters, breakfast nooks, in kitchens, and in other “open-concept” multi-function rooms.

Our dining room, being put to good use at Friday Night Meatballs.

Our dining room, being put to good use at Friday Night Meatballs.

Here’s the thing: my “front room,” sort of a living/dining room, is my favorite room of the house. I guess you could call it “formal,” since it’s full of our nicest things and is a space I keep free of kids toys, and, in fact, where my children are rarely allowed unsupervised. But that actually makes it “work” great for us. While we eat most of our meals around a four-seater table in our breakfast nook, any time we have one or more people join us for dinner, we eat at the dining table. And more and more as we host not just Friday Night Meatballs but also things like: a baptism brunch, baby showers, a Christmas party, wedding showers, and other gatherings, having a large “formal” dining table that expands from a small circle to a four-leaf oblong table that seats up to 12 has made having a “more the merrier” attitude about hospitality quite easy.

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mothers and daughters

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My friend Mary Evelyn of What Do You Do Dear recently welcomed her second child and first daughter into the world, baby Frances Louise. Mary Evelyn is one of my favorite bloggers– her voice is thoughtful and grace-full, she has a great sense of humor, and her little family is just the cutest– so I was thrilled to contribute a guest post to give her some bonding time with sweet Franny Lou and welcome her to the wonderful world of mothers and daughters. Go check out my post, in which I reveal some Twin Girl Mom secrets, and be sure to read some other stuff on her site, too. I promise you’ll love her as much as I do!

 

Dear me on diagnosis day:

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Over the past three years, there have been many times that I’ve thought about me on our Diagnosis Day, the day we found out that one of the babies then growing in my belly had spina bifida. It was my 27th birthday. We were excited to find out if our twins were boys or girls. We found out they were girls, and we also found out “Baby B,” the “one in the top bunk” had something wrong with her head and spine.  Continue reading

my valentine tradition

let's get it onValentine’s Day is coming up, and I wanted to share what has become one of my favorite traditions. In need of both art for my bedroom wall and occasional cards for my husband, a few years ago, I started buying him fun handmade cards that, after exchanged and read, can be framed and hung up on our wall. Sometimes I make the cards/art myself, other times I buy from Etsy, but over time, many of these cards have become part of a gallery wall in our bedroom. One in particular that says “Let’s Get it On (I’ll just brush my teeth)” (by Linocut Boy, no longer available) hangs in our bathroom– I thought it was a funny joke on long-married romance. I like that these little pieces of our love story get to hang around and add beauty and sweetness to our days long after the holiday that necessitated their purchase.

In case you, too, are interested in frame-worthy Valentines, I decided to round up a few here. If you click each image, you will be taken to the card’s listing on Etsy, and each shop name is also a handy link to the shop itself.

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