Double the Joy

I wrote this post in the first month of our blog (18 months ago!), but I didn’t post it. This was the one I didn’t feel comfortable sharing until we were more synced up. It didn’t feel right to shout about how great two was while you were going through so much City Mama. Now that you are about to join the “more than one club” I will share. Two is the best! Get ready.

Through my whole second pregnancy I was a little terrified of adding a brother to our bunch.

Until our second was born we were a family of first-borns. Since both my husband and I are the oldest children in our families I always felt a little superior about that. How would a youngest child work in our family? I worried that our second wouldn’t get the same kind of attention we gave our first. And he doesn’t. He still doesn’t have a nap routine, he has to grab his sleep when he can on the go because we have a life to keep now, but instead of the intensely focused quantity of time Ellis got, Calvin gets much more quality parenting. I actually think he may have the better end of the deal.

An acquaintance with two children once told us that two was “double the work, but not double the joy.” That idea really haunted me. Fortunately we have found the opposite to be true.

Having two children is a little more work, but it isn’t double because you already know so much. With our first we basically problem solved, fretted and figured it out for the whole first year. There was joy for sure, but there was an overwhelming learning curve that overshadowed our adjustment to parenting. Fortunately all that knowledge conveyed to our second child.

Two is WAY more joy. Probably because we can relax and enjoy it more this time.

I’m not saying it is “easy” the second time. I haven’t slept for longer than 90 minutes in the past 4 months, but the difference this time is that I know how relatively brief this period of time will be so I am not struggling against it the way we did with Ellis. This time I know that Calvin will eventually sleep happily on his own through the night.* I am not going to spend two years worrying about making that happen.

We won’t be pushing our luck with a third, but I am so glad that we got to put some of our knowledge and skill to work again with another child. I don’t think of Ellis as the dress rehearsal exactly, but I know our performance improved in the second act.


*We all sleep soundly through the night now.


Many Hands Make For Light Work

I can’t remember who it was that asked me, but at some point when Eric and I were entering into our careers and in the early months of our engagement someone asked if his musician/freelancer schedule and income made me nervous. And honestly, it didn’t. There are two reasons why. 1) I had a long time knowing his career plans long before we hitched our wagons together. 2) This man works like few people I know. I always trusted that in a pinch Eric wouldn’t sleep until we had what we needed to set our house right. The last 8 years of marriage have proved me right. And, this week with his parents visiting I’ve witnessed first-hand exactly where his mighty work ethic comes from.

But the extra adults in the house this last week have enabled more productivity than I could possible imagine. There are few major problems at the house than need to be addressed for now. (We’re saving up for a roof repair later this summer, and setting aside funds as we know there are some heating, plumbing, pool items that will need to be fixed at some point.) But the list of refinements and changes that we need to make is endless. I liken this list to 10,000 paper cuts daily irritants that just keep getting caught as you’re going about your day. Between the pregnancy, a full time job and entertaining an active toddler, we’ve struggled to tackle the thousands of to-dos that come with a new home.

Here are just some of the things we’ve accomplished – in addition to Luke getting tons of cuddle time and play:

  • Tearing out dead plants/trees and hacking back overgrown bamboo, vines and plants throughout the backyard.
  • Sealing and staining the unfinished baseboards below the entry doors to the back of our house.
  • Filling and spackling nail holes and dings in the walls
  • Finally replacing that damn padded rubber toilet seat
  • Retrieving all the honey from the hive that was relocated off of our property.
  • Spray painting out door pots and our dining set
  • Finding the sprinkler shut off until we can replace the too tall/broken sprinklers throughout the front yard.
  • Cleaning summer umbrellas that had been left outside and were full of spiders cobwebs and other such delight.
  • Scrubbing and refilling the built in shower caddy that had rusted/molded but can’t be removed in our master bath.
  • Helped brainstorm, mastermind and measure some furniture and DIY projects we’re excited to share in coming months.
  • Moving the door pulls on the sliding doors to our laundry room so they actually are placed logically.
  • Removing poorly mounted shelving in our office that I was sure would come crashing down in the night.

What’s more, they’ve fed us, cleaned the kitchen and freed me up for some desperately needed nap time.

We’ve also broken out the checkbook to have some experts come in on a few instances. And, it probably won’t be the last time in the next few weeks as yesterday we had a pipe start leaking and we noticed that one of the dying trees on our property looks to have termites.

  • I think I mentioned that we inherited a gigantic bees nest. Gentle honey bees to be sure, but a swarm of bees around small children is just not something we’re going to mess around with. Being California naturalists that we are, we looked around and found a bee relocation service that would come in and transport these beauties to a new home where they can continue their delicious and necessary honey making ways. (Relocating the bees was five times as expensive as exterminating them. You’re welcome bees.) The company took a very cool video of the move and you can see our hive here.
  • Our pool — the pool we swore we’d never have when we were house hunting — needed some love. Both the pump and filter broke the week we moved in. The pool service we connected with recommended that we invest in a low energy filter that would save us on our electric bill and qualify for a rebate but again we shelled out four times the cash up front to put it in. In the time it took to get the filter, the pool turned green and needed a good scrubbing, so we’ve paid for that tool. Bonus, I’ve had massive sciatic pain since getting back from Vienna and the only thing relieving it has been my daily swim. So, comme ci comme ca.

The house is feeling more like home every day, and my parents are coming in two weeks of a similar visit. We’re sure to make some major progress into settling into our first home and I absolutely couldn’t be happier and more thankful for the extra hands on deck.

Down the Rabbit Hole

I made a wonderful discovery recently and jumped in. A new blog. Well, new to me. It is really four years old so I had plenty to wade through, which is all I have been doing for the last few days.

This is it:

Go read it immediately.

It is like if the Bloggess had a baby with Young House Love 100 years ago. This lady is on a quest for Victorian furniture as her husband rehabs their 1880s home. I love in ways that I never loved YHL. Although I was drawn to Victorian furniture once upon a time I am no longer lusting for that so I don’t think I will find myself unconsciously copying her, which I appreciate.  YHL started to infect my own style in ways that didn’t always feel genuine or authentic.

This woman is hilarious and she owns her furniture crazy.

I found her while furiously pinning kitchens on pinterest. She proclaimed:

“It is strange that a total kitchen remodel is one of the most expensive projects you can do in your house… And after you spend all of that money, what you have is a kitchen that looks JUST LIKE EVERY OTHER kitchen. I mean, maybe you project your specialness onto your cabinet doors and countertop… But I am not sure that I can limit my self-expression to knob-choice.”

That really resonated with me.

For her that means converting a piano into an island (City mama you have to see it!) and hanging giant mirrors instead of cabinets, and although that won’t be our route, I love her commitment.

I can’t remember the last time I fell so hard for something on the internet. I am virtually smitten for sure.

For the past year and half there has been a Young House Love shaped hole in my heart. (I am really digging the new YHL podcast!). We have tried in some ways to fill it with this blog. And blogging is a wonderful experience, but I still want to spy on someone else rather than just divulging my own adventure sometimes. This is the perfect fix.

Another Round

The secret’s out!

Four hundred of our closest friends and family are now in on news that Eric and I’ve been keeping to ourselves since March. And now dear reader, you are too:


That’s right, Lucas is going to be a big brother.

Deciding to get pregnant is a unique conversation in our house. I know there are women who plan their pregnancies to avoid major holidays, work and life events or to align with their preferred astrological sign. But, my life doesn’t work like that. We basically just roll the dice and play the hand as it lies.

After last year’s molar pregnancy, our doctor put us on the sidelines for six months after my hcg returned to zero. That process took several months and so in the end, it was more like a year on hold in our family planning journey. And, as soon as we got the all clear, I was sent to India for work and we knew we wanted to wait until after I returned from that.

Truth be told, I was devastated when I heard about that delay. I’m not a patient person. I can’t wait the 30 steps from my mailbox to the front door to open a letter. But, I didn’t have a choice. Getting pregnant too soon could mean a miscarriage or even cancer. So, I got an IUD and followed doctors orders.

We decided to make the most of this “found time” as a family of three. And so, I made a list of things that I wanted to do before trying to conceive again. That list included:

  • Visit Kat in North Carolina
  • Take a photography class
  • Get a new job in a more supportive environment
  • Move to a bigger place

And, as life would have it, we hit 3 of the 4. And truthfully, a photography class is something I can do down the line.

IMG_6447So far this pregnancy has been…eventful? Is maybe the right word. And Luke’s was too.

With Luke, I found out I was pregnant a week before having to switch health insurance providers. Meaning that the maternal fetal medicine specialist who had walked us through the loss of our first pregnancy wouldn’t be accessible to me. I raced to urgent care for some assurance that this pregnancy would be fine. But at 5 weeks, there was nothing for them to see and the “helpful” urgent care doctor told me there was an 80% chance I would lose the pregnancy. Which is statistically right, but not helpful for a terrified hormonal grieving lady.

This time, I had bleeding right in time with my cycle. And so I missed the entire first month. When I thought I had tested early during month two, I was actually several weeks along. And my initial blood work that showed high HCGs, alarmed my doctor and I both as instead of week 5, I was actually week 9. I was so convinced that I was losing this pregnancy that I prepared myself, Eric, my parents and my boss for time off work and for healing. Eric and I both felt that this needed to be our last pregnancy regardless of the outcome in order for us to move forward in a healthy and productive manner in our lives.

Imagine my surprise when the ultrasound visit showed a strong heartbeat, an active baby and textbook symptoms for 9 weeks along.

From there, this pregnancy has been cruising right along. With a move, a new business, a toddler and planning a trip for 60 to Europe…to say I haven’t had much time to process has been an understatement.

But, that’s good too because pregnancy is LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONG friends. We’re still not quite halfway. So there’s plenty of time for baby knits, nursery planning and name selection.

Luke is a smart cookie and has quickly picked up on mommy’s new stowaway. He points and my belly and says baby. Then he points to my chest and says “Nother baby”. This is simultaneously hilarious and mortifying. When we ask him if he wants a baby brother or sister, he says “Baby Sticker” which is much easier to deliver on than guaranteeing him one particular gender or another. I love the way toddler brains work.

So, Country Mama, any tips on parenting 2? How about prepping your oldest for the new arrival? I’d love your sage advice!

Who is E. Dickerson?!

Kathryn my darling, it’s hard to believe that yet another year has passed. This year, I’m inspired to share one of my favorite stories from the foundation of our friendship. I went way back in the archives for you my dear.

Also apologies to all of our parents who I’m sure are just now learning that Kat and I went to parties together in college 😉

IMG_6397Sophomore year of college was one of my favorite years – which upon reflection is irony because the world was falling apart around us in response to the 9/11 attacks but I think it was the mix of harsh reality and youthful naiveté that contributed to making it so great.

Kat and I had a prime room near our best friends. We’d found our niche, were active in campus life and pulling pretty good grades (hers always better than mine). We had a tradition that on weekend nights, we’d go to dinner, come back to our room, nap, and wake a half hour before going out with just enough time to grab a drink or two before heading out.

IMG_6398If I remember right, this particular night was a toga party but I couldn’t tell you what fraternity was throwing it. Eric was visiting us and we were in hysterics trying to find sheets that would work for the party but we were clearly too cheap to go buy plain white. Also, shout out to Alexis who rocked a fitted sheet as her toga. Love ya girl.

When we arrived at the party, the place was packed. This shindig was sure to be broken up before long.

As we’re waiting to get inside, some genius comes up with the idea to have all students sign in stating if they were 21 or under.

Kat and I were maybe 5th from the front at this point and merely look at one another with an eyeroll before we make our way up to the front of the line.

I sign the sheet but there’s no way in hell I’m signing my real name or admitting to being underage. Knowing Kat was coming behind me and wanting to make her laugh, I sign in as E. Dickenson. A nod to one of our shared favorites.

Eric signs in between us. Kat signs in and we enter the party.

“Did you like my autograph?” I say

“I didn’t see it. But I signed in as Emily Dickenson” she says.

“ME TOO!!” I yell as we dissolve into hysterics. Right then, someone manning the door busts in yelling. Where’s E Dickerson? Who’s E Dickerson.”

Hours later, the party is wrapping up and there were just a few people hanging out in the much quieter house. We find ourselves sitting around with the same girl, who asked us if we knew E Dickerson.

Years later, Kat and I would sign the guest books at one anothers wedding receptions E. Dickerson. I smile every time I’m reminded of this story. Of our shared love of great literature and a terrible frat party. Of fierce friendship and a long running inside joke.

I hope this birthday and this year are so amazing. You deserve the world my friend. You know I wish we were closer for a day of crafting, thrifting, reading and drinking. Much love to you Country Mama.

The Space Between

Ever since college, I’ve mildly hated flying. I consider it a mild bi-product of our post-9/11 time in DC. It’s never kept me from traveling, and I don’t have to take medication or anything. But, I rarely sleep on planes and the experience is far from enjoyable for me…that is before I had Luke.

Since starting my current position almost a year ago, I’ve traveled for work roughly once a month. Two of those trips were extended international jaunts. After traveling with an infant/toddler, traveling by myself may as well be a trip to the spa.

Most of my work travel, I’m by meeting up with colleagues or clients at the destination. If I do have colleagues along, it’s rare that we sit together. (Small tangent: I’m completely perplexed by the etiquette of this.  Is it forced if we sit together, will we only talk about work, is it weird to sleep in the next seat to someone you work with, will I offend them if I’d rather sit alone. I usually defer to the person I’m traveling with and all but once, we’ve gone our separate ways on the plane.)

My travel delight starts from the moment I enter the airport. I now hold TSA precheck. No security lines for me and I get to keep my shoes on. And, while I make it a point to not purchase Starbucks in normal life, I make an exception in the airport and grab a latte and a snack while I wait.

Flying has meant time for blogging, knitting and reading. Three things I have next to no time for in regular life these days. I am a fast reader and usually can read an entire book on a flight. Bonus points, not being a movie buff, I rarely have seen a film that’s being shown on a plane because we never go out to the theater and I am usually too tired to watch something in one sitting after we’ve put Luke to bed.

Depending on deadlines, I will catch up on work during flights, but my laptop battery will only run about two hours. Oh darn.

Flight time means no one needs me. My phone is silent and I get to sit for extended periods of time. It’s a beautiful thing really. But, there’s a flip side to the coin as well.

On my recent work trip to Vienna, almost everyone I talked to asked me who was watching my kid. I have never heard someone ask a man that. I count myself enormously lucky to have an involved, supportive and confident spouse. But if he was none of those things, I’d honestly still travel if that was what my job required — it would just require additional hands on deck at home to make it work.

Before I left on my trip, I was catching up with a fellow working-mom. She travels for work less frequently, but for longer stretches and has a 3-week stint coming up and a 9-month old. She confided that her extended family (parents and husband aside) have been giving her flack for abandoning her baby.

My take on it is this. If it is what you are passionate about. If it’s a job you love and work you feel you need to do. If your husband and your parents are supportive. If your kid is healthy and it’s what is right for you and your life – forget everyone else.

And I think that applies to moms who work at home too. We all have different things that drive us and make us whole people. And our lives and living situations have different demands, necessitating different strategies to take us where we want to go.

My friend also asked me if I worry about something happening while I’m away. And, how can you not in the world we live in. But, I also worry that I’ll get in a car accident on the freeway or Luke will choke on something at daycare. Statistically both more likely.

Here’s what I hope. I hope that by doing what is right for me and our family, I’m showing Luke how to find balance and drive. I hope that he sees you can have a passion and go after it. And I hope he feels that he gets undivided time love and attention when I’m home–most days–to get him up, feed him, take him to school, pick him up, play with him and tuck him in. I hope he gets time with his dad to build their relationship. Time that shows him collaboration in relationships, how deeply he’s loved by both parents and what well-rounded manhood looks like. I hope if I was traveling and something went terribly wrong that Luke would know he was everything to me. I hope he’d still be brave and bold and travel the world and I hope he’d go for the life he wanted, regardless of the what-ifs and the consequences.

As luck would have it, I don’t have any work travel on the books for some time. So until then, I’ll be sneaking in moments of quiet and maybe a Starbucks trip or two.

Feeling the Burn: Advice from a Hillary Supporter About Coping with Primary Disappointment

Hillary did it. This week she became the first woman in history to be declared the presumptive nominee for any mainstream party in America and if you have been feeling the Bern, you are probably feeling the burn.

Look, I know how you feel. I was in your shoes eight years ago, faced with narrowing options and losing the chance to vote for the candidate I truly wanted. I’m not going to lie. It really sucks to watch someone you believe in get defeated and then have to switch gears and get behind someone you had previously opposed. You might feel like your time, effort, money and vote didn’t matter.

Here is what helped me eight years ago:

Voting for Hillary doesn’t mean you have to love Sanders less. Last round I had to jump on the Obama train. I did it. After the primaries I fundraised for him, voted for him and ultimately came to really love him as my president. But I didn’t stop loving Hillary. Which is why I am still here for her eight years later.

It won’t be the same and that’s ok. No one expects you to be a total convert. We know that Sanders is your guy and we don’t expect Hillary to be able to fill that shoe perfectly. But a vote is a vote and even lukewarm votes are counted. Trying not to hate Hillary will make it easier for you to cast that vote.

Know that your vote matters to fellow Democrats and we will receive you with grace. I benefited from this acceptance in my own household eight years ago because my new (at that time) husband was a die-hard Obama supporter (like take-all-your-vacation-days-to-canvas-kind-of-supporter and wait-in-line-at-a-rally-for-8-hours-kind-of-supporter and buy-expensive-original-campaign-art-kind-of-supporter). He knew that it was hard for me to switch gears and he didn’t rub it in.

We won’t either. We promise. We know Sanders is your guy and we aren’t debating that anymore, just offering some strategies to make the shift easier.

Take cues from your chosen leader in this moment and make sure they stay worthy of your support. The next few months are very important for our party and your revolution. You have the choice to pout or participate. Frankly I wanted to pout last time. I appreciated that in the moment Hillary showed me a way I could get behind Obama. She lead by example and her grace in defeat solidified my unending support for her even as I was casting my vote for Obama. I want a leader that can handle tough situations with grace and poise and sportsmanship. She was able to direct her supporters to Obama because she hadn’t crossed the line attacking him personally. Make sure your candidate keeps your respect in this moment.

Finally, remember what is at stake. I live in a special progressive bubble. My community is Berning up (at least according to the yard signs and bumper stickers of my neighbors) but I only have to drive across the county line to see the sea of Trump signs. We can’t defeat Trump without uniting behind one candidate. I’m sorry the numbers are not in your favor this time, but we can only get through this together.

Pet Peeves

We are kicking off the first week of summer break with summer colds coupled with 5 days of rain. Other than driving through the bank and taking a few walks outside in between rain showers we have been home bound. I set up the tent in the living room three days ago and we have been recovering with high doses of TV and unsynchronized naps (which I can’t stand), but we are also going a little batty. Ellis just asked me “when daddy will be home?” It is not even 9 am, so I am calling this day as a rough one.

I do best with routine. I was excited to get into the swing of things and set the pace for summer, but since my kids are snot fountains we can’t go anywhere. In lieu of all the fun things I had planned and had to scrap I have been keeping busy with simple updates around the house, remedying some pet peeves, while we wait out these colds.

Pet Peeve #1: Pet Food Pandemonium
We have a lot of animals (2 cats, 2 chickens and 1 dog). The animals have a lot of supplies and the pet feed was disorganized and getting out of hand. There were bags of feed in the mudroom and overflow in Adam’s office. The food was so disorganized that it was hard to see when we needed more and we either ran out or had too much surplus. I think we also were attracting some other pets: mice. I decided that all the pet feed needed to be corralled in the same place and contained in a critter proof way. I grabbed three tins (that can stack if necessary) and free-handed some animals on them. At first I tried to color them in with sharpie, but it didn’t work so I switched to paint. To keep the paint from chipping I sealed it with my favorite mod podge. Now all the food is in one place and labeled (without words) so even the kids can grab a scoop and help feed the animals.



Pet Peeve #2: Dish Swap
I LOVE our dishes. We started collecting them before we got married. We add a couple of plates or bowls at a time. They are Japanese and handmade and only available in weird places (like the Smithsonian gift shop). It was becoming increasing hard to replace pieces as they broke. If we could find the dish in the right size it was crazy expensive (like $30 a dinner plate, which is too rich for my blood). I was also becoming increasingly neurotic about using the plates (or having people wash them which is a drag when you don’t have a dishwasher). Last week I stumbled upon a great set of dishes at the thrift store. They are handmade Japanese stoneware, just like our dishes, but the pattern is different. The pattern is actually Adam’s favorite. He has one mug that he drinks his coffee from everyday. Initially I was only going to buy the one mug as a spare for him, but the more I stared at the dishes the more I thought they might work. As fate would have it we ran into a friend in the thrift store who was able to watch Cal while I purchased 24 new dishes (for only $15!). When I got them home I realized they go enough with our current set (not a match, but similar in a way that won’t drive me nuts). I decided to keep everything once I saw it on the shelf. We only have open shelving on our upper cabinets for now so the dishes needed to look ok together for this to be a solution to the endless chase of replacements of the first set. Because both patterns have the same edge you can barely tell the different. So now we are dish rich instead of dish crazy. A much better way to be.

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Pet Peeve #3: The Yarn Overflowith
I store (or should I say stuff) all of my yarn into 5 cubbies of an expidit shelf in the office/guest room. It is color-coded (which I believe in for yarn, but not books). Anytime I want to select yarn I slide out a bin and skeins pop out like accordion snakes and balls roll everywhere. I have longed for a less dusty more visible solution. For years I thought that would be a barrister bookcase, until I realized that a glass front china cabinet would be even prettier, curvier and less expensive. So my sweet husband gave me an early birthday present when he trekked out to pick up a bow front glass china cabinet off craigslist for me. It is waiting in the wings for Calvin to graduate to a shared big boy room which will free up the nursery as a dedicated office space for me. But I couldn’t resist trying out some yarn in there in the meantime. I can’t wait to actually be able to see my whole stash and not have to spend 10 minutes cleaning up and re-stuffing yarn into the open cubbies.

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City Mama, did you see the bonus room reveal over at YHL? I thought the triple chaise couch/bed thing was pretty genius. Do you have any rooms big enough for that in your new abode? How are you settling in and getting organized in your new space?