What a Difference a Decade Makes

Tyler and Kate the Chicken will be over ten years apart in age. Many people have asked me if this pregnancy has been different, and how.

Most of the time, the honest answer is that I don’t remember all that much from my first pregnancy. Which is probably why I signed up to do it again!

Just kidding.

In my mind, this pregnancy has been easier in a lot of ways, but I think a side-by-side comparison is in order.

The Basics

Then: It was 2003. I was 23.
Now: It’s 2014. I am 34.

The Stats

Then: My pre-pregnancy weight was north of 190 lbs. I gained 50 lbs. during the pregnancy. My first post-partum pants were size 20.
Now: My pre-pregnancy weight was just south of 160 lbs. I have gained less than 40 lbs., with 5 weeks to go.

The Cravings

Then: MEXICAN FOOD, Shoney’s strawberry pie, Totino’s frozen pizzas (the really cheap ones), Apples and peanut butter
Now: Frosted Mini-Wheats, Apples, PASTA

The Exercise

Then: Zero. Zip. Zilch.
Now: Regular walks and prenatal yoga, plus a healthy dose of running around after three kids and three animals.

The Discomfort

Then: Heartburn LIKE WOAH (see: cheap frozen pizzas and Mexican food), constant low back pain, swollen ankles.
Now: Mild heartburn, occasional low back pain, swollen ankles started last week but are much better now.

The Emotional State

Then: I moved to a new state in March 2003, where I didn’t know a soul except my in-laws. I was unemployed. My father passed away in May 2003, when I was six months pregnant. It was, to put it mildly, a dark time.
Now: I am happily married in my home state, where I have developed a solid network of friends. I have a job that I find reasonably fulfilling most of the time. EVERYTHING IS AWESOME, knock on wood.

The Entertainment Options

Then: I watched reruns of TLC’s “A Baby Story” instead of attending a birthing class. During middle-of-the-night feedings, I had to resort to channel surfing – QVC, SciFi (before it was SyFy), news – or reading a book one-handed.
Now: In addition to my iPhone (introduced 2007), my Kindle (introduced 2007), and Netflix streaming (introduced 2007), I can still channel-surf or read a book one-handed. I skipped the birthing class again.

The Birth Plan

Then: Epidural. Healthy baby.
Now: Epidural. Healthy baby.

The Baby Plan

Then: Breastfeeding, disposable diapers, jars of baby food
Now: Breastfeeding, cloth diapers (to be fair, modern cloth diapers were not widely available in 2003), homemade baby food

The Information Age

Then: The internet was still relatively new in 2003. I didn’t know enough to peruse mommy-to-be forums and get yelled at by strangers for all my choices. Guess I really missed out.
Now: The internet has become a finely-calibrated tool with which pregnant women can scream at each other about their choices AND cite to multiple bloggers who agree with them. I avoid it entirely. Guess I’m really missing out.

How I Feel About the Whole Enchilada

Then: Mmmmm…. enchiladas. Tyler was my one bright spot in an otherwise gloomy landscape. From the moment he was born, we were a team. We’ve always had a very close parent-child relationship, and I am grateful for all the ways he made me a better, more organized, more responsible person. I feel like I grew up right in front of him, while he was growing up right in front of me.
Now: Mmmmmm…. enchiladas. It took me a long time to be comfortable with Kate the Chicken not being a boy. I have to keep reminding myself that she is going to be her own person, in the same way that Tyler is his own person.

How the Children Feel About the Baby

Then: What children?
Now: Tyler is very excited. He reports that he is especially looking forward to snuggling and reading books to her. The girls? Not so much. They see the arrival of the baby not as the incorporation of another human being into our family, but as a threat to their position in the household and their hold on their father’s time and attention. They have their moments of excitement, but I think there’s a lot of anxiety that we will force them to be full-time babysitters. We’re also getting a lot of “no one asked ME how this would make ME feel!” Which….no.

Obviously, I wish the girls were more excited. I also wish I could walk from the car to Publix without getting sweaty. But there’s not much I can do about either of those things right now.

What about Jason?

He’s completely psyched. He’s already told me that, since I get to spend all day with Kate the Chicken, he wants her bassinet on his side of the bed so he can get to her first when she wakes up. He’s gone to every OB visit except one, and gets a little giddy every time he feels her move. In short, he’s been the best, most supportive, most encouraging partner a pregnant lady could ask for. I don’t think anyone’s surprised.









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Several months ago, Jason had an epic closet purge. Like most of us, he was tired of having a full closet, but nothing to wear. I helped him purge his dress shirt collection, then grabbed them and hid them in Kate the Chicken’s closet.

You see, I had a Plan for them. This was the plan:

Adorable. Recycled. Perfect.

The problem? The Pinterest pin did not lead to a tutorial, or instructions, just a photo. And I am not confident enough in my fledgling sewing skills to make my own pattern.

I had also pinned several pillowcase dress tutorials. If you’re unfamiliar with this style of dress, they look like this (courtesy of Aesthetic Nest):

Then I ran across this tutorial on Smashworks, which is technically for turning a men’s dress shirt into a women’s tank top, and I decided to hybridize the two ideas.

I started with my least favorite shirt from Jason’s castoff collection.


It’s an off-white shirt with gold and blue stripes. The material is lightweight, so it will make a nice summer dress.


First, I cut off the sleeves, following the old seam.


Once that was done, I measured six inches up from the bottom of the armhole and cut straight across, to get rid of the collar and extra top material. Then I folded and pressed the armhole seam (making cuts in the fabric to go around the U-shaped opening), and folded and pressed again, then pinned and sewed the armholes.


I used a lot of pins, because this part is the most nerve-wracking for me.

This is what the inside of the armhole looked like when I was done sewing. It ain’t pretty, but no one will see it:


After that, it was time to make a casing for the ties at the top of the dress. I folded the top over just a little and pressed it. Then I folded it over one inch and pressed it again. This keeps the raw edges out of sight. Finally, I sewed the shirt right across the front, steamrolling over the placket and button.


Finally, I took some blue ribbon I had on hand, and threaded it through the casing I just made. You can arrange the ties in several ways – one bow on each shoulder, one bow on a side, or if you’re feeling super-frisky, you can sew your ribbon to itself and have now bows at all.


I have no idea what size this dress is – I’m guessing a 2T. 3T? I don’t know. It will fit her eventually.

But it’s cute, right? And it was free.


I have six more shirts to turn into dresses. Now that I have one under my belt, I think the rest should be easy – famous last words, I know. This is about the largest dress I could get out of Jason’s shirt, but I can certainly make smaller versions. And I will play around with various tie options – making ties out of the leftover sleeve material, for example, or a contrasting fabric.

In addition to being relatively simple, this project was not time-consuming. It took me just a couple of hours from start to finish, and most of that was spent fretting about the armholes.

These little dresses would make sweet shower gifts, especially if one of the baby’s parents has to dress up for work. Goodwill has a huge selection of button-downs, or you can peruse the clearance racks at other stores.

I can’t wait to make more!




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Conscious Uncoupling

Much ado was made last week about Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin’s announcement regarding their separation, which appeared on Paltrow’s GOOP website on March 25 under the unfortunate header of “Conscious Uncoupling.”

I admit, I bristled at the title. No married pair “accidentally” uncouples, or “unwittingly” uncouples, or “unconsciously” uncouples. They get divorced. Let’s call a spade a spade, folks.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve watched an increasing number of friends and acquaintances get divorced. Most of them start out with similar announcements – we’re still best friends, we still love each other very much, nothing HAPPENED, we’re just….. not together any more. But we’re going to do it right! We’re not going to be like other divorced couples! We’re going to be the Valedictorians of Uncoupling!

Because obviously, my inner horned devil whispers, “other” divorced couples set out to mortally wound each other, destroy their children, and spend a small fortune in the process. Of course.

A few months pass. One of the exes discovers that former friends have been socializing with the other ex. Or that it’s not possible to divide the family pets 50-50. Or that the ex is dating someone (hard) and your child seems to like him or her (harder). You suddenly NEED that crock-pot your ex took from the marital kitchen. You discover that your child has been eating chicken nuggets at your ex’s house. Every night. For a week.

And suddenly something snaps, and your good intentions crumble, and it’s TOTAL WAR, SALT THE EARTH. This is the moment when the “real” divorce happens, when you realize this is no longer your best friend, and maybe you don’t still love each other very much, after all.

And that’s okay.

In fact, after I got over the smug title, I applauded Gwyneth Paltrow for having good intentions. Getting divorced is like having a baby – nothing can prepare you for it, and the best laid plans tend to fall by the wayside. That doesn’t mean it’s wrong to have lofty aspirations. Look at wedding vows!

Besides, what’s the alternative? “Hey, guys. We can’t stand to be in the same room, but are going to suck it up for the kids until we can’t any more, and one of us will probably develop a drinking problem and/or start dressing inappropriately for our age. Cheers!

I believe it’s better to aim high and fall short than to set the bar low and slide by.


I think we need a new way to phrase the commitments we make during the process of separation and divorce. Stop using statements like “we are closer than we have ever been.” Because srsly, if it takes divorce to bring you closer as a couple, you’re possibly doing it wrong.

Maybe we should have divorce vows.

We are separating.

We will strive to be unfailingly polite to each other in all our interactions.

We will fulfill our parental duties to the best of our ability, and trust that our ex-spouse is doing the best they can, too.

We will not hold information or tangible items hostage, nor will we hold grudges over material possessions.

We will recognize that our friends and families are not ours to control.

We promise to be respectful, and to think long and hard before posting that nasty Facebook status, because that sh*t is permanent.

We will try to dismantle our life together with grace and good humor, and we appreciate your support during this transition.

Call it conscious uncoupling, call it divorcing like an adult, but it would be a step in the right direction.

Do I fulfill these divorce vows perfectly? Bleep no. But I aspire to. Just like in a marriage, every single day I am given a fresh opportunity to do it better than the day before.




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Adventures in Dumpster Diving: Jewelry Display Shutter

A few weeks ago, when I was writing that series on de-cluttering, one of the items on which I put an expiration date was a single window shutter I’d picked up off the street almost six months ago. It was wood, it was in very good shape, and I was going to “do something” with it. Honest. I was.

Pinterest, that saucy minx, tempted me with projects like this one:

Or this one:

Or this one:

I was crippled by indecision. And so the shutter sat in the garage. Waiting. JUDGING ME.

Last weekend I decided I wanted to use it to organize and display my non-fancy necklaces. Many of them are rather chunky, and take up a lot of space in my jewelry box (if they fit at all!).

On Sunday I cleaned the shutter thoroughly and gave it a single coat of white gloss spray paint, which I had left over from another project. Jason attached some spare picture hangers on the back, and I bought three packs of small S-hooks from Home Depot at $1.18 apiece.

And now it hangs on a narrow wall in my bedroom:


It’s pretty, it’s functional, it’s DONE. And the total cost was less than $4.00. Victory in our time!




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Five Minute Makeup

In my ongoing quest to spend a few more minutes under the covers in the morning, I decided to pare down my makeup “routine.” As with most things, this involved searching Pinterest for “five minute makeup.”

Surprisingly, most of the results were “Five Minute Makeup for Busy Moms” or “Mommy Makeup” or some other nonsense. Seriously, WHO AMONG US HAS MORE THAN FIVE MINUTES TO PUT ON MAKEUP, whether or not you have children?


My previous makeup routine involved foundation, powder, and then many wasted minutes deciding on an eye makeup combination that went with my outfit. Or did I want to try something new entirely? Or maybe I should not wear makeup because I’m not very good at it? I DON’T KNOW. FLAILING. DESPAIR.

One of the best tips I found was to put your “everyday” makeup in a separate small bag. It seems dumb, but it eliminates a lot of digging around and waffling over Too Many Choices.

So what’s in my bag?

1. Base layer: I have rosacea, so going without foundation is not something I’m comfortable with. I am currently finishing a bottle of Clinique’s Redness Solutions makeup (SPF 15):

But when that is done I will be switching to Clinique’s CC cream (lighter formula, higher SPF):

2. Concealer

I’ve gotten old enough, and tired enough, that undereye concealer really does help. I’m currently using and adoring Maybelline’s Fit Me Concealer in Light:

3. Eyeshadow

After that comes a fat crayon eyeshadow in a neutral brown. This is Clinique’s Chubby Stick Shadow Tint for Eyes, which I love:

4. Eyeliner

I’ve recently mastered the dark arts, by which I mean pencil eyeliner. I alternate between a dark brown and a dark purple (I have green eyes). I got both of them at the drug store, and neither requires a sharpener, and otherwise I couldn’t tell you what brand they are to save my life.

Like I said, I’m tired.

5. Mascara

I was a long-time devotee of Maybelline’s Great Lash mascara (I’m a sucker for “cult favorites”) but in the last year I’ve switched to this one:

Big fan. I don’t have problematic eyelashes, so I don’t need a miracle in a tube. This one is perfect.

6. Lip

Usually I just swipe on some Rosebud salve and call it a day.

But if I’m feeling really crazy, I’ll add a sheer berry gloss or gloss-balm, like this one from Cover Girl (I have Jam Twist):

And that’s it! It’s the makeup equivalent of laying out your clothes the night before.


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Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Minivan

I am a serial monogamist when it comes to cars.

My very first car was a 1988 Acura Legend with 148,000 miles on it. It also featured a DIY purple tint job (thanks, previous owner!) and a few quirks. For example, if you unlocked the car from the driver’s side, the alarm went off. Fun! My parents bought it for me and my brother in 1995, when I was 16 and he was almost 15.

Sharing is not my strong suit, and driving was not my brother’s strong suit. After about a year and several dings, my parents decided he would continue to drive the Acura and I could be upgraded to a 1997 Honda Accord.

I freaking loved that car, and the moment it’s feasible for us to downsize vehicles, I’m getting another Accord.

I drove that car until 2005, when I sold it and bought a new Honda CR-V, which is kind of like an Accord but with all the awesome sucked out. It’s a versatile, reliable car with good cargo space and decent gas mileage, but it’s about as exciting as plain waffles.


Twenty years of driving. Three cars.

When I got pregnant with Kate the Chicken, we realized we’d need a bigger ride. And because I am a T-U-R-B-O  N-E-R-D, I exhaustively researched this topic. The verdict was clear: as long as you could stomach the stigma, the minivan is far and away a better choice for a big family. Lucky for the minivan industry, I could not care less what people think about my selection of vehicle.

We started saving our dollars as soon as the stick said baby. We knew we’d be buying a used van, but I had a short-but-important list of critical features: 1) Honda, 2) sunroof, 3) Aux jack for plugging in my iPhone.

Why Honda, you ask? Other than simple brand loyalty, the Odyssey consistently ranks at the top of minivans for interior comfort and features, as well as safety. While the Toyota Sienna offers all-wheel drive as a big selling point, we live in Florida and wouldn’t make much use of that feature. Also, I have a certain level of comfort with Honda’s instrument array – the windshield wiper controls are always in the same place and function the same way, for example – and I like the familiarity. The other two requirements were kind of frivolous – I decided that if I was going to drive a minivan, it would be a nice minivan.

After way too many hours on the internet, and a few test drives, we bought (with cash, Dave Ramsey!) a 2009 Honda Odyssey EX-L with 53,000 miles on it.

And, to quote Indiana Jones, I even like the color.


I’ve been driving it for almost 4 weeks now, and I like it a little bit more every time I get in. Two weekends ago we took it on its first road trip, to Atlanta, and it performed admirably. Not only did its gas mileage rival that of my CR-V, it was MUCH quieter on the highway, and far more comfortable. Jason and I are able to independently control the A/C on each side of the vehicle, and we turned off the rear A/C altogether to help fuel economy. And when we decided to adopt two armchairs from the Westside Market, they snuggled up in the back like it was nothing. Jason is a big fan of the sound system. I’m a big fan of the heated seats.

The kids are big fans of ALL THE BUTTONS. Sigh.

I think it was a perfect choice for our expanding family, and I look forward to driving it another 100,000 miles. Now, if only I can find the button for the limo-style divider between the driver’s seat and the passenger compartment….

Incidentally, we are trying to sell the CR-V. Despite its lack of sheer awesomeness, it’s been a very good car and would make a perfect vehicle for a student or small family. I wish we could keep it another few years and let the kids have it, but there’s just not room in our driveway.


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Done is the Only Virtue

It would appear that our caterpillar of a guest room has completed its transformation into a butterfly of a nursery.


If you set the Way Back machine to Way Back, this is how the room looked when we moved in:


After the fire, things looked better, though it was still a snoozefest:


And now, the details.

The to-do list was pretty simple:

1. Paint
2. Trade full-size bed for twin bed
3. Rug
4. Curtains
5. Baby furniture – crib & glider

Everything else would be re-used from Tyler’s babyhood or procured from within the house.

We did spring for the best paint we could get, and it was worth it. The color is just beautiful, and the paint went on like a dream. The dresser (pictured in the first photo) is a family piece, and the changing pad and cover were Tyler’s.


The crib and mattress we bought on Craigslist, and the bedding was Tyler’s. The art above the crib was made by the kids.


The twin bed and bedding was bought from a friend, and the quilted white shams came from HomeGoods. The glider is being borrowed from a friend. The large art piece on the right hung in my nursery when I was a baby, and the other two pieces were already in our house.


Jason and I also made art for the nursery. Mine is on the left, Jason’s is on the right. The text on mine is “On Children,” by Kahlil Gibran. The landscape was made by Tyler for an art class, and yes, that’s my Amherst diploma. The mat is a deep purple silk that goes nicely with the landscape.


The curtains are my favorite project. I bought a cheap pair of white rod-pocket panels from Target, adjusted the hem so that they just skim the floor, and added a leading edge out of some fabric that coordinates with the rug.  They’re hung on a rod with drapery clips.


And that’s it! Bring it on, Kate the Chicken. We’re ready.






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