Wednesday, November 24, 2010


My stepdaughter, T. Photo by Jennifer Flanagan of Image Market Photography
 I have to admit, before I met my husband Scott, I never pictured myself being a step-parent. I envisioned finding the man of my dreams, falling in love, starting a family, being super awesome ;), but never factored in the whole "what if Mr.Right already has a kid?" thing.

So when I found out the guy I was falling for had a 12 year old daughter, I must confess, I freaked out a little. This wasn't part of the plan. What if she doesn't like me? What if she's mean to me? What if I meet her, fall in love with her, and then it doesn't work out between me and her dad? What if it's too weird that I'm only 10 years older than her? (my husband is 12 years older than me, which put my age right in the middle)The what-if's piled high.

I remember the first time I met T, I was super nervous--it was like being on an awkward first date. It was a pretty big deal for me. My palms were sweaty. I actually still remember what I was wearing.  We met up at a local art gallery where T and her dad were taking part in a parent/child art exhibit (PS: both of them are awesome artists!).

And the thing is, as scary as the whole thing seemed at first, once I got to know her, I realized how lucky I was. She was (and is) really genuine, interesting, mature, smart as all get out, and hipper than I can keep up with.

My relationship with her was never really a mother/child thing, so we avoided all the drama of "you're not my real mom" and so on. Instead, it felt more like a kid sister relationship. In fact, she was actually born the exact same year as my little sister who passed away as a baby (see the post I Get It). As such, I could offer more candid advice about things like clothes, boys, friends, music. While I didn't pretend to know what it was like to be a pre-teen right then, it wasn't so far away that I couldn't remember.

The times we spent together, we formed a fun, if somewhat clunky, little family. When the three of us would go out, I think people were slightly confused about why a 34 year old, a 22 year old, and a 12 year old were all hanging out. But it worked perfectly.

When her dad and I got married 2 years ago, we had a very small wedding in Jamaica with T, my parents and sisters, and my best friend. T did us the honors of taking our wedding pictures and also serving as best man and maid of honor. By marrying her dad, I truly felt like I was also marrying her in a way--shrugging off my single status and becoming a wife and step-mom all in one day.

T's photo of me and her dad on our wedding day in Jamaica. Yes, we're really in the ocean and yes, she is a really talented photographer!
And now, she's all grown up. 18 years old and more beautiful than ever. I hope that as time goes on, we are able to become even closer, to speak more candidly, to truly be friends. I realize that as a step-mom, I probably didn't do everything right. There were likely times when I just wasn't grown up enough to handle it all (what 22 year old IS ready to take on a new relationship AND a preteen at the same time?). But I'm so glad I didn't let my preconceived notion of family get in the way, or else I may have never found this amazing girl who I'm proud to know and call daughter.

Photo by Image Market Photography

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Grow Baby, Grow!

It seems like Everleigh is growing so fast these days! I swear, if I turn away for a minute she's bigger, taller, stronger, more aware. I'm now starting to have panicky feelings about her getting into EVERYTHING in the house, since she's a super curious little thing and is (at less than 6 months old) already a hair away from crawling.

Now every time I eat something, she tries to wrestle it away from me...except I don't think babies should eat tuna wraps with kettle chips. Or grilled chicken salad. Sorry kiddo, milk it is. We've actually started experimenting with a little baby food too and I have to say, this little lady loves her food. She likes the taste but doesn't eat much of anything. So far she's really digging yams, banana-strawberry, peaches, and some kind of chicken&veggie combo. But the quantity she eats is so small, she's still nursing at every meal. And sometimes throughout the night too. I've actually started getting used to feeling her 3 or 4 times at night, and it doesn't bother me that much any more. Thank God for breastfeeding.

On an entirely different note: I've decided to commit to growing my hair out again. There was a time in college where my hair was long and really pretty and I spent WAY too much time on it to ever admit publicly. Then any time I went through a life change or just simply got bored, I would chop my hair or dye it dark brown. While both of those things look awesome on others, neither ever looked good on me. Once in high school, I cut all my hair off because my boyfriend at the time loved girls with short hair and talked about it constantly. I surprised him with the big cut the night he planned to break up with me. I firmly believe the 2 were unrelated, but that was a huge slap in the face. After that I promised myself to never change my hair for anyone but myself.

When I found out I was pregnant with Evie, I thought (amongst other thoughts) that this would be a great opportunity to grow my hair out long again! Except my pregnant hair didn't really grow long-ways. It just got thicker and thicker and thicker until it was crazy big and hovered at about the same length. Boo. Sick to death of the sheer quantity of hair I had going on, I made a hormonal decision to chop it the week before Ev was due. This was probably also a mistake. When you're already huge and puffy and feel like crap, cutting off your hair is likely not the way to increase your self-esteem.

So now that Ev is almost 6 months old (I can't believe it!), and I've gone through the whole post-baby hair loss thing where you get a handful in the shower every now and then, I'm thinking now is the time :) I would really love to have a weird hipster cut like this
but we'll see. In the meantime, all I can say is grow baby grow.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Where My Ladies At?

An older pic of me and my bud/bandmate Rachel
If you are reading this and you are also a mom, you can probably relate to the fact that once your little bundle arrives, your social life takes a bit of a dive. And rightly so--I mean, you are now "MOTHER", giver of life, feeder of baby, wiper of poop, picker upper of fallen binkies. Who needs all that fun and companionship anyways?

Let me tell you: I do. And you probably do too ;) Except it's tough to do when most of your close friends don't have babies, or they can't understand why you can't make happy hour or go see that concert and be out until 3AM. Sure, I'll leave my baby with---oh, right. No one. Or else your awesome baby-friendly friends all live in another city or even another state. Long-distance friendships? Yes. Long-distance babysitters? Not so much.

I may or may not have mentioned it before, but my husband is an artist, and he watches Evie 3 days during the week while I work. The other 2 days he attends school and tries to find time to get some creative work done. Because of this, he often waits until I'm home, and she falls asleep at night (around 7:30PM), then heads back out into the night to his painting studio to work--sometimes until 3 or 4AM. On nights like that, I applaud his drive and creativity. Lord knows, once I'm in my comfy pants, you'd have to pay me good money to leave my warm snuggly living room. I know it's not easy to feel inspired and wait all day to act on it. Someday, it will be fun to include Everleigh in our creative activities, to teach her how to play guitar or show her how to paint; but for now, get her within 3 feet of a paint brush and she will figure out a way to get it in her mouth. So painting waits for the evenings.

What this also means is that after I get off work, I'm on full time mom duty as soon as I walk through the door, then I'm essentially in for the night. Don't get me wrong--I'm happy about this most nights. I miss my daughter while I'm working and usually can't wait to be with her. Then, once she's asleep, and Scott's gone to paint, I'm left with a deathly quiet house and a sleeping baby. In the past, I've used that time primarily to catch up on sleep (Ev still doesn't sleep through the night, and pretty much treats 3AM-6AM as her late-night all -baby- can- eat buffet). So picture me--the coolest girl of all time (j/k) passing out at 8PM. Work, baby, sleep, repeat.

That worked for me for awhile, until I realized that WAIT. This is my life I'm talking about here. What about friendship? What about my music? What about all the stuff I want to do? What about the stuff I don't want to do but should (aka, cleaning out my closet)?

So lately I've been trying to embrace that evening quiet time--with a cup of yummy hot tea and a piece of dark chocolate, a chance to work on my homemade dolls for Everleigh, an opportunity to do some yoga (I've missed you!), or a moment to enjoy a long, uninterrupted conversation with an old friend.

This has been the greatest gift I've given myself in a long time. Last night, I used my time to have a really long chat with an old friend. It was one of those conversations where you talk long enough to get past some of the introductory "catching up" stuff, and can delve a little deeper into what's really been on your mind, what you're hoping to do, who you're hoping to become, etc. It felt so good to connect with another girl. I love my husband, and I consider him to be my best friend, but there are some things that women simply understand better. Plus when he and I talk these days, there's often a huge portion dedicated to plans--"so--I'm dropping the baby off at Jen's, then coming home and you're going to take the car to school while I work?" or baby stuff, "Did she poop yet today? How long did she nap? How long ago did you give her Tylenol?" etc. These things need to be discussed, plus I'm a bit of an obsessive planner. It's an anxiety thing. These conversations are often instigated by me, much to my husband's dismay.

But you get what I'm saying. Even if we have the best chat of all time, sometimes a girl needs her girls.

I've been lucky to have met so many really incredible women in my life, who are different from me in so many ways, have big dreams, and are super inspiring. I didn't even realize how much I had missed that connection until it was reintroduced to me via an 8:30PM phone call last night :)

So--I've decided to make friendship a bigger focus in my life, even if it means getting a little less sleep some nights. Being in the company of other women challenges me to be open-minded, to be myself, to be better. And who couldn't use a little more of that?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Sorry I've Been Away!

Stop the madness!

 This week Everleigh had her first minor baby illnesses PLUS her first baby tumbles. It's been a tough week on baby, mommy and daddy.

I got sick to my stomach big time on Monday about 3AM and puked up all the pizza I had eaten on the bathroom floor, then cried, then started cleaning it all up. Ick. The cleanup process also required a shower since I somehow managed to get it in my bangs, up my nose, down my shirt, you get the point. I've always been a wimp about puking, but you know what? In spite of all the bad ways I was feeling, my primary thought was, "I hope I can get this (and myself) cleaned up before Evie needs me! What if she starts crying and I'm all pukey?" etc. Babies really have a way of muting the selfishness in us all, and if you know me, you know that's saying a lot ;)

So by the time I was clean and the bathroom was clean and I got back to bed, fed Miss E, and so on, it was about an hour before her insanely early wake-up time. Happy Monday! Plus I had a job interview Monday--which could potentially be really great news. More on that later though. And guess what? On my way in to the interview, I locked my keys in my car. That's right. And saw myself doing it as it happened. Luckily, the security guys seemed bored and mildly attracted to me enough to come to my rescue! Did you know it's actually kind painfully easy to break into a car? Gulp.

Within the last week, Everleigh has now taken TWO spills. Her first two ever. I think she's figuring out how to squirm her way around better so look out! The first one--she was in bed with me and her papa in the early early morning and I got up to brush my teeth and try to wake myself up. She was in the middle of the bed right next to Scott. I looked over, she was fine. I looked back and she was on the floor on all fours. She cried a little and scared the crap out of me, but she seemed to be perfectly fine with no scratches, bruises, or bumps. It seriously looked like she landed like a cat. Terrible but at least she was alright. Then later this week, I came home from work to hear that she had taken another tumble. She was on the couch next to daddy, he stood up and at the exact same time, she rolled off the edge and bumped her head on the carpet. Not good. Again, she seemed perfectly OK and was laughing again in minutes. I hate to admit all this, really. We always try to look out for her safety and never leave her unattended. She's just getting too curious and too strong without the coordination part yet. So, we have had to set some new rules for ourselves about where to set her down, looking away for even a second, and so on to ensure this doesn't happen again. :( Poor kid.

OK, enough grouching. I just wanted to give you a feel for what my week has been like. After I got sick, Evie got sick with diarrhea, which seamlessly transitioned into a full blown cold. I took 2 days off work to be with my little sicky poo and worked way more at home than I ever do at work. Stay at home moms--a tip of my hat.

I even had to bring her in to my office a couple times this week, which I was worried about, but she was just glad for a change of pace so she fit right in.

Now I have to crank out a 4 page paper by midnight for my Play Therapy certification, attend an online class tomorrow morning, prep for my second job interview Monday,and maybe just maybe try to get a little sleep somewhere in there. For now, I'm nursing my pumpkin spice latte and hoping my eye makeup is convincing enough to suggest that I'm not sleepwalking :)

What this week has taught me:
*babies are really cute when they sneeze
*it's super sad to see a baby feeling under the weather
*when babies fall short distances onto carpet, they are usually OK, but it will make you feel a guilt you've never known
*being a mom is hard. being a puking mom is harder
*trying to relax and interview for a job when you've been up all night and you're stomach hurts and you're worried about your baby and your car that you just locked the keys in is not easy
*somehow you make it through and things are OK, and life keeps going
*having a baby has made my life a million times more complicated and a million times more rewarding

Monday, November 8, 2010

Dear Everleigh (5 Months!)

Well, Miss Everleigh you've done it again. A whole month older and somehow years wiser :) You are now 5 months old and prettier every day. Here's what you've been up to:

This month you've gotten way into standing with help from mom or dad or in your exersaucer and shaking it or trying to walk (with lots of help). You still haven't completely mastered crawling but you're almost like, "crawling is for babies". You want to walk!

Your personality is coming through more all the time and I'm sorry to say I believe you've inherited a bit of your papa's lack of patience. You're super awesome most of the time, but when you want something, you pretty much want it yesterday. You hate being on your back unless you're sleepy, so you're still not very pleased with your car seat, bouncer,  or swing. After spending anymore than 30 seconds in one of the aforementioned items, you start arching your back trying to free yourself from the straps and make a break for it. But when we put you in your exersaucer for the first time and you realized that you were standing upright and had all kinds of gadgets to play with, you were in heaven. I mean, your face just lit up like a Christmas tree.

When I'm nursing you, I've discovered that you do NOT want me to also be watching TV or having a conversation with your papa or eating or really anything other than staring at you. The other night, your dad and I were trying to catch up on each others' days while I fed you and you seriously pulled yourself back, looked at us both, and put your hand in the air as if you say, "Do you people MIND? I'm trying to eat here!"

When you're mad now instead of crying, you've taken to lecturing us in your baby language--"ga nah na naaaaa!" which is pretty funny. Also, you've realized that you can make your voice really loud and that when you do this, people stop what they're doing and look at you. You're a big fan of this.

Basically I just love you more every day, even when I'm tired or frustrated or any of the ways new mommies feel. In those moments, I just think about your smile, your little personality, and all the ways you've completely transformed my life for the better and my crankiness evaporates.

Thank you for teaching me the true meaning of love. You have my heart little e.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Now this is the story all about how....

Now for something less deep, and I mean a lot less.

I've had the Fresh Prince of Bel-air theme song stuck in my head all morning ("In West Philadelphia born and raised, on the playground is where I spent most of my days..." Come on. you know you know it). I'd really like to make the bad man stop so I'm searching for new tunes while also trying to work on contracts for my job. Have I mentioned before that I pretty much suck at multi-tasking and yet I still keep trying?

What else, what else. This past weekend I took Everleigh trick or treating with my big sis and her 5 year old Batman. This was a bit of a last minute decision, and it was super cold here in old Missouri that night, so I put her in her Halloween onesie with the orange tutu, a giant rediculous hairbow, and her warmest snuggliest coat. And for good measure I painted her face like a kitty. Except then she got hungry and wanted to nurse and it all rubbed off on my boobs. Good times. Regardless, we had fun and she seemed to enjoy looking at all the other kiddos. People were so happy to open their doors and see her little mug staring back :) Win-win.

Right now my old band, Alice is trying to get a holiday show together because Rachel's coming back from Eugene, OR for Christmas. The thought of getting back on stage and jamming with my buds makes me so happy it's silly. I hope it works out. I can't wait until Evie is older and she can come see us play at outdoor shows and stuff. I wonder what she'll look like? I wonder what kind of music I'll be making then? I wonder a lot of things! My hubby and I are currently working on a duo project that's a bit alt-country lo-fi called Moonhead. We've been sort of working on it for a long time, but would like to get it together and put some songs out there for people to enjoy. More to come on that!

Just had to cleanse my palet from yesterday's heavy post and let you all in on some of the light aspects of my life! PS: Everleigh Halloween pics to follow later today.

Hope everyone's having a smashing little Wednesday!

Monday, November 1, 2010

What DO I Believe? And Other Great Questions

First things first-throughout the course of my childhood and teen involvement in church and religious schools, I have developed close friendships with people from a variety of belief systems. This post is in no way meant to be hurtful OR to arouse a gang of "I'll pray for you"'s or whatever. These are just my random thoughts about my personal journey with religion and spirituality. Here goes nothing:

This morning I was not all that surprised to find an email in my inbox requesting that I participate in some grad student's research survey about religion, spirituality, and personal beliefs. Since I'm still on my counseling grad program's mailing list, I often receive these types of requests and usually go ahead and complete them in the name of research and helping a poor student out. But only if they seem interesting or I am really bored. Today was a combination of the two.

The survey stated that it was a study of the personality traits of non-religious people, and it was looking for both subjects who consider themselves to be religious and non-religious. I had to do it.

The thing is that I got way more than I bargained for, because in order to explain what you believe to someone, you kind of have to know for yourself. I've talked in previous posts about my background and childhood, so those of you who already know me probably know a bit about it and those of you who only know me via the blog can read some old posts to catch up (try "Hippie Friends", "That Time I Got In-School Suspension", or "Reality TV" for starters). In short, I grew up in an environment that was completely filled to the brim with Southern Baptist beliefs and practices. We didn't just go to church on Sunday. We went to church Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday nights, etc. I was home-schooled for many years with textbooks about creationism/Christian "science" and Christian history. Then I went on to attend the strictest religious school around for several years, graduated from a Baptist high school, and spent my first year of college at a private Christian university. All of my friends, family, and schoolmates were Christians. I only came across "sinners" at the store, at jobs (once I hit 16), etc. ;) I was on the Bible quiz team for several years, played in the church orchestra, sang in all the choirs, volunteered for AWANA's and vacation Bible school. My life was pretty much all church all the time.

I really never doubted my beliefs, because it was what I had been told since I was born, and what had been reinforced from every conceivable angle throughout my life. I would no sooner doubt Christianity than I would doubt that my parents were indeed my biological parents. It was all I knew. Upon entering college however, I knew I was ready to finally meet some people from other backgrounds and cultures, to learn about evolution (gasp!) and study other belief systems. To do that, I left my bubble and enrolled in a public university. I had never seen so many people from so many different walks of life--gay, lesbian, straight, black, white, mixed, Muslim, atheist, Catholic, Republicans AND Democrats--Oh my!

I fell in love with diversity and culture. I wanted to pick everyone's brain about their beliefs, way of life, understanding of self, relationships, everything. I was hungry for it. After lots of long conversations with people from other backgrounds, I started moving further and further away from the principles and beliefs of my youth and started developing my own understanding about spirituality and what it means to me.

At some point, I kind of came to the conclusion that formal religion really wasn't for me. I never felt a connection to myself, nature, and other people like I felt just sitting quietly staring at the ocean or lying on my back on a warm summer night staring at the stars. I knew there was a connectedness and a feeling inside me that I call my spirit. But God? Jesus? the whole heaven vs. hell deal? I really started feeling more like those things were an interesting way to conceptualize our journey through life and little more. There--I've said it. I'm an agnostic.

Anyways, sorry for the rant. Back to my original thoughts--so when I got this survey this morning, I jumped right in. One of the first questions asked me to write out what I believe happens when you die--what happens to your body (or spirit if you believe in that) while you're dying and after you're dead. Wow. Since going it alone, I had never been asked to put pen to paper and actually DEFINE what I believe. It was kind of difficult and made me think a whole bunch...what DO I believe? I mean for real. I recognized that I had kind of constructed 2 scenarios--1)what I found to be the most comforting and therefore what I wanted to believe in, and 2) what I really truly could look into the mirror and tell myself.

Does this make me confused? I'm gonna go ahead and say "yes". The weird part is that I didn't even really know that I didn't know until today. Time to start thinking, reading, and listening to my heart.

If anyone has good suggestions for books or articles on the topic, please recommend them to me!Let the exploration begin...
**picture by