These pants. I’m not big on black pants these days—they feel like they were part of my wardrobe as an administrative assistant and then occasionally a graduate student, and not now as a stay at home mom. They also feel like they need to be ironed and they collect dog hair. But I bought these at Target, and I’m in love with the fit, the cute retro-ish belt, and how I feel when I wear them. Thanks to A New Day for creating a great pair of black pants, and to Daniel, who made me laugh when he pronounced me Business Casual Jess once I donned my pair.
This article. Is it possible to have too many Jane Austen re-tellings? No!!!!!!! Check out this article for a list upcoming releases that are sure to melt your Elizabeth-and-Darcy-loving heart.
These flowers. Yesterday Raymond and I went on a little flower-buying spree at Home Depot, and in the afternoon I planted them with some help from Sam. Since we’ve moved to this house, I’ve been reminded of how restorative it is to work in a yard. I have felt calmer and happier under the effects of the sun and the work (hauling branches across a yard and down a hill to a brush pile has been unexpectedly enjoyable), and I’m taking a lot of pride in what I’ve accomplished. My husband—and others—do things like this all the time, but this is my first time really taking initiative with our outdoor space in a big(ger) way, and I’m loving it.
This vacation. Last week my family and I went with my extended family (step-mom, sister, step-sister and their families, + an aunt) to Hilton Head Island. We’ve made the trip for three years, and this was the best one yet. I tell myself that even if my boys won't permanently remember the specific details of the trip, they’re enjoying it now, and those feelings of happiness and safety and fun will become part of the general memory of their childhoods. We got in the hot tub and the pool, went biking, and played in the waves. I also stopped Sam from sliding headfirst down the stairwell, so another mark in the "win" column.
This article. [A few disclosures: I really like Joe Biden, and I think that he’s done a lot of good for a lot of people. I also think that he’s hurt people, particularly, as this article references, in the case of the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearing. I hope that we can continue to talk about past historical/cultural moments like that, and past decisions made, including those by otherwise largely well-esteemed progressives—so that we can figure out respectful, responsible, equal ways forward.] With all that being said…I’m recommending this article because Lauren Duca’s work is incisive, it opens up my mind to consider something new, and for all its dry humor and facility with words, it’s caring. As Duca reminds us, there’s such thing as “making women uncomfortable” through touch while not committing an actual “crime” against them, and it’s something we need to think and talk about, particularly as we head into presidential election fervor. And also live life.
Other Things I’m Loving: wearing shorts and dresses and sandals (yay, Tennessee spring! Also, it feels hot already, and I can’t wait until I’m full on complaining again about the weather). Sam had the best time with his best friend in Hilton Head. Shout-out to his cousin, Hudson! They are maniacs together but also really cute, and Sam misses him when they aren’t together. And Raymond is talking more every day. He says “love you” and is trying to say all the words to “pat-a-cake.” He also says “no” a million times a day, with a special vigor that is annoying and somehow also cute.
This article with recs related to Ten Things I Hate about You. Raise your hand if Ten Things I Hate about Youmade you fantasize about having someone commandeer the stadium intercom system in order to serenade you with a romantic, rousing, utterly sensational rendition of “Can’t Take My Eyes off You” (replete with an accompanying marching band?!)? *Raises hands enthusiastically and gets lost in memories*. This movie is so good. Luckily for us, the good people at Bustle Books have put together a list of recommended YA books for those of who love it.
This garden. Give my husband a ball or a puzzle piece or a car to push on the floor, and he’s there. But when Sam wants the real high-stakes drama—we’re talking zombies or ghosts or wizards or the like—he comes to me. I believe that it’s my responsibility (and also joy) to encourage my kids to use their imaginations—to pretend and make up stories and appreciate everyday magic (stars or ladybugs or oh no, mommy turned into a zombie, run!!!!). To that end, I’m brightening up a giant patch of ivy in our front yard and turning it into a magical garden. So far, I’ve done A LOT of pruning and re-located a few items that were in other parts of our yard, but I have plans to add more animals and some fairy and/or wizard-related items and some things that shine and/or spin. I want it to be a physical space that encourages creativity and happiness and possibility. (Also I want to buy wizard and fairy stuff. Both are equally valid motivations.)
These cookies. My wonderful mother-in-law bought Girl Scout cookies for us, and I have grand plans for them. My favorites are the Tagalongs. I hope that I get to eat several, Sam and Raymond.
These Hudson & Harper Designs earrings. Last weekend my family stumbled across an event in our downtown called Spring Fling, and it was kind of the best thing ever because I left Daniel and Sam at the inflatable houses and Raymond and I did a little booth shopping. I found some homemade soaps and these earrings, which make me happy every time I wear them. The color is bold and luscious and I love how the leather feels against my skin. I bought them despite the fact that some people call the color UT orange and I am, in fact, living in UT country.
This article about being a mom. I have some amazing writer-friends, and one of them is Hannah, a mom of two littles and my former post-college roommate! Hannah is a really special person: she’s warm and fun and funny and honest and loyal. She’s also a polymath, as far as I’m concerned. (How can anyone be such a good writer and also really good at math otherwise?!) She wrote this lovely and insightful piece for her blog about being a mom of young kids, and it really resonated with me.
Other Things I’m Loving: Working outside on my garden has been a source of great joy to me. Seriously, it’s been amazing. Watching Raymond walk everywhere. Reading Mo Willems’s Pigeonbooks with Sam. Drinking wine with my husband, especially Bogle Old Vine Zinfandel.
This haircut and color. This week was a hair landmark for me: I learned how to spell balayage and I had it done to my hair. I love how April at the Amanda Maddox Hair Salon made my color change noticeable but also subtle—I really like it and can’t wait to see what it looks like in the sun.
These writing classes. Disclaimer: I haven’t taken this class (and maybe that’s obvious). But Christina Lauren, one of my favorite contemporary romance authors, has released a set of writing classes via Frolic, one of my favorite sites/online venues for all things romance. Check it out!
These forest giants. One of my favorite things at present is making up stories with Sam. I want him to be imaginative and creative, to learn to be an engaging storyteller and to practice the basics of communication. These forest giants at Louisville’s Bernheim Forest are stories come to life. I haven’t seen these in person, but I’m daydreaming of taking my kids there and seeing/hearing their responses. Louisville: you just get better and better.
This plastic tv screen. If you’ve been following me on IG you know that my beloved son Sam (see other, more favorable, mentions of him on this post) broke our second tv. We were willing to give him the benefit of the doubt on the first one; the second was harder to ignore. It’s just a tv. There are much, much bigger problems in the world and even in our own lives. But seeing our second tv broken bummed us out. The story doesn’t end there, however. My husband is a brilliant magician, and he constructed this plastic screen to go over our (new) tv. Some people will laugh—and you should. It’s insane. But this cover is also giving us peace of mind and the hope that this will be the last tv destroyed by our toddler. Please God, thank you, amen.
These tattoos. I’ll most likely never get one, but I’m more than a little in love with the most colorful tattoos on these slides.
Other Things I’m Loving: so much quality best friend time this last month, including meeting a beloved friend’s significant other and getting together with another beloved friend to watch our kids play together; cheering Sam on as he plays toddler soccer (total stage mom right here, but not the pushy kind. More of the *everyone watch how cute/cool my kid is, even though he’s currently curled up in the goal while others are running around the field* kind.); watching Raymond walk everywhere (so thrilling!); being gobsmacked by the end to an incredible fantasy series. I'm looking at you, Kingdom of Ash.
This soundtrack. Let me be very honest here: you need this soundtrack. I’ve written before about how much I love the Dolly Parton and Sia song “Here I Am,” but this CD is even bigger than that brilliant composition. All of the songs are amazing. All of them. I am thankful for the goddess Dolly Parton, who makes beautiful music and who gives books to children and who lights the world up with her smile.
This article. This wedding gown is giving me major Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants vibes. Can you even imagine passing down something so fragile through so many familial generations—and how many different iterations those sleeves have gone through?
These pants. I once had a pair of pants kind of like this but life is cruel and we were separated. I think that if I had these, I would finally finish a draft of my book and I would be so patient with my kids and I would not eat an Oatmeal Crème Pie after my kids and husband have gone to sleep.
These flowers. When I first see these beautiful and wild and resilient daffodils, I’m always struck by two emotions: relief that winter, that hideous bitch (mostly kidding), is almost over, and nostalgia for my childhood, when my Mamaw Shuck called these Easter flowers and these little pops of beauty would brighten up random corners of our world.
This family time. This weekend my kids and I tackled a weekend trip to Kentucky for my niece’s Birthday, sans Daniel. It’s not easy travelling with two small kids, but the trip was relatively painless, and I have my family members to thank. We did a lot of running around, per usual, but there was also time for a TJ Maxx shopping trip (it’s extraordinary how much shopping you can do by yourself even with a 20-minute deadline), and of course, the Birthday party, which was donut-themed and adorable.
Other Things I’m Loving: Sam is playing soccer (!) and I watch the entire practice with a smile on my face because I’m so proud of my wild, happy little guy; Raymond is talking more, and the enthusiastic way he lisps “s” words will one day make me cry, it’s so cute.
This show. My love for Grace and Frankieis still going strong. The eponymous leads are marvels (and I’m a little in love with Brianna), the writing is superb, and the fashion is exquisite. (I’m kind of living and dying for the marigolds and red.) Daniel and I finished the latest season, and, not to sound like a Sad Sally, but it’s been nice to have a show to laugh over…you know, since a lot of the stuff we hear about in the news is a Choose Your Own Catastrophe.
This article about NYC. This fantastic article features pictorial comparisons of NYC buildings on 5th Avenue in 1911 compared to 2016. Take a look!
These cards. All hail the $1 section at Target. I bought these for Sam’s stocking last year and we started playing recently. He forgets/bends the rules on occasion, but 95% of the time he plays this game like a champ. Selfishly, I love having someone else in the house who likes games (Daniel does not). And it’s actually been really cool/sad/exciting from a parental perspective, too. I even get excited for him when he makes a match (though I can't say that he 100% shows me the same courtesy).
This weather. I’m pretty sedentary by nature (obsessed reader here!), so on a typical winter day it's easy for me (notice I didn’t say reasonable or healthy) to burrow under blankets and neck to toe fleeces. That's all well and good, but then add in the fact that I'm pale in a non-Nicole-Kidman-kind-of-way and also have hermit-like tendencies, and I can start to feel a little blah in the winter. Within the last week we’ve had a string of cold days and really cold nights, and then these balmy spring-like temps rolled in and we’re all loving it. Every day we’ve been heading outside to ride assorted tricycles/motorized vehicles, feed the chickens, and sit on the grass in the sunshine. We even managed to fit in some time yesterday to investigate the suspicious destruction of two pumpkins we had previously discarded in a brush pile; Sam has determined that it's the work of a pink bear, so naturally we remain on edge and alert to all threats, pink or otherwise.
This planter. My amazing friend Stephanie gave me this absolutely gorgeous planter recently, and I crush hard on it every morning. It’s the color of vanilla bean ice cream—you know, the fancy kind that’s white with black flecks—and it’s been a cozy spot for the Trader Joe’s succulent I bought last year.
Other Things I’m Loving: I think we can say that Sam is approximately 85% potty trained (a million exclamation points). Also, Raymond’s walking, and I'm thrilled because for the longest time, when we tried to stand him on his feet he promptly turned boneless and sank to the floor. (A good limbo strategy, but not so great for gross motor skill development.)
This pillow. While in an optimistic mood, I ordered throw pillows for our window seat. I found thisAnne of Green Gables one on Etsy, and I immediately recognized a “kindred spirit.” I am determined to keep my two giant dogs and their giant jowls off of it, because if they mar the pristine white cover “my life” will be “a perfect graveyard of buried hopes.” There. That’s not too dramatic, is it?
This game. While visiting my family in Kentucky, Daniel and I played Scrawl, a drawing game that’s hard to explain but is basically a game of telephone using an initial drawing instead of a whispered phrase. I am an atrocious artist, and when I first got a card that instructed me to draw “a Centaur crossguard,” I thought, ****. But I persevered, and so did my cousin, Joey, who had the misfortune of always receiving my horrible artistic attempts but who didn’t complain very much (and whose complaints were always very reasonable when he did).
This article. Sarah Zhang details a recent discovery of lapis lazuli in tarter (like the stuff on your teeth); just by studying this, researchers have more insight into the role that nuns played as scribes of medieval books. That summary sounds really dry (my fault) but I’m all about any article that tells us a story of forgotten women.
These panties. *Overshare alert.* One day I woke up and realized that I was wearing some not-very-cute matronly panties--all because I wanted something that covered most/if not all, of my butt. (Tushy for any toddlers reading out there.) There had to be some middle ground, I told myself, so I debated where to buy panties and after a couple of embarrassing Google searches, I stumbled upon these from Amazon. I'm planning on trying more styles, but I grabbed this bikini style first, and I really love them. (And yes, I recognize that the bikini style isn't exactly wild and free, but I just really wanted that style. Also, is anyone even wearing thongs anymore?)
Other Things I’m Loving: Sam has picked up the phrase “Never, never!” which sounds very dramatic anytime I ask him to do something and that’s his reply. I finally got my life together and moved my iPhone pics to my external hard drive, and praise God, I have available storage again! And both of my kids have been into singing “Hakuna Matata” lately. This is adorable, in case you were wondering.
Christmas tins with chocolate and peanut butter fudge.
This photo of Rachel McAdams breastpumping has been making the rounds lately. I think that despite her clothes and make-up (and extreme natural beauty ha), a lot of moms can relate!
My favorite breastfeeding pic. Pretty much the same ;). This serene feeling/appearance lasted for approximately two minutes.
A still from SOMETHING GOOD-NEGRO KISS.
Excellent lighting for this pic.
This fudge. For over eight years, we’ve had to travel multiple hours to visit our families, and, as a result, we usually end up showing up at family functions with shamefaced expressions and store-bought goods. This year, we made chocolate and peanut butter fudge and it’s amazing and everyone (read: the four of us) loves it. I don’t want to belittle my accomplishment but I’ll say that it’s super easy to make and also delicious.
This picture. I have never looked like this breastpumping or breastfeeding, but I have felt like this. Like a freaking warrior woman using my breasts for good. I have heard the swish of the pump in the darkest hours of the night. I have negotiated breastfeeding covers and a squirmy baby in lots of parking lots in a four-state area. I’ve skipped out on some meals because he had to eat first. I've been his favorite person in the whole world because I've been everything to him: comfort, food, warmth. I’ve had mastitis (twice) and sore nipples and nipples that I tried to pretend didn’t exist when he wasn’t breastfeeding because I just wanted to buy them some peace and quiet for a while. I’ve been proud of my baby’s rolls because I knew that I put them there and I’ve felt guilty when I called breastfeeding quits when he reached 1. And now these breasts are all mine again and I’m happy about that too. (For the record, I pumped for my first-born Sam and supplemented with formula before switching exclusively to formula when he was 6 months old, so I’ve experienced some of both sides of the baby-feeding life. I believe that breastfeeding is best but that sometimes that even look different for different people, anddddd there are lots of other reasons why formula could be the way to go, and that a mom trying to preserve a little of her sanity/happiness is not a small one. Let’s support each other, moms. There are lots of other things we can feel guilty about, like all the tv you are letting your child watch, Jessica, or that time you said camel-toe and your child repeated it).
This article. Scholars recently discovered this film clip, featuring an African American couple kissing, and determined that it’s “the earliest cinematic depiction of African-American affection.” Read on for more deets about how they determined the film clip’s age and why it’s notable, given how African Americans were commonly portrayed in films of the time. And you can also watch the film clip!
These bookshelves and this window-seat. I posted about these on IG last week (you can follow me here if you aren't already!) but I have to write about them again because they’re so amazing. For almost a year, our books were boxed up; within the last couple of months, I moved them to a weird gray bookshelf in a random storage area of our house. (I can’t say enough: this was a weird space for my books.) But Daniel finished these bookshelf beauties last week, and it is the most glorious feeling to see my books (I mean our books, honey) every time I’m in the living room. Annnnnd, he also finished cushions for this window-seat. Now I need pillows and a babysitter, and I’m all set!
This woman and her music. I’ve loved Dolly Parton and her music for a long time. Her voice is so pure and beautiful, tender and powerful, and it reminds me of my childhood and all things lovely. The soundtrack to the Netflix film Dumplin’ has given me another reason I’m happy to be alive. The song “Here I Am” with Dolly and Sia gives me the same feelings that “Stand by Me” or Joe Cocker’s “With a Little Help from My Friends” give me. Only better. (*cue gasp). Also, let’s please toast Dolly’s literacy efforts. Her charity Imagination Library sends free books to kids every month. As of March 2018, they’ve donated 100 million books!
This article. I’m a sucker for articles about random historical artifacts, and this article details a Thames River construction project that revealed a 500-year-old skeleton wearing thigh-high leather boots. Can you imagine finding something(/someone) like that?
This wall hanging. I would like to go on record saying that best friend gifts are magical. Every time mine get me something, I feel flushed with happiness over the gift itself and also the awareness that they truly know me and what I would love. One of my favorite recent gifts is this wall hanging from mb Art Studios, which features a beautiful quote that assures me that this best friend is as obsessed with me as I am with her.
This coffee. I think that Starbucks Christmas/Holiday Blend has a distinctive flavor that I love, but I’ll be honest and say that it’s probably also a name thing. (Marketing peeps: names suggested for future products include Wedding Blend, First Spring Flower Blend, and Quiet Morning Blend.) This year’s binge coffee purchase coincided with weaning Raymond, so every morning I’ve been drinking more coffee than I have in the last two years, and it has been marvelous. I’m really a much happier person on coffee.
These eggs. Dan has thirteen chickens, and within the last two months they started laying copious numbers of eggs. We’ve started eating egg sandwiches on his days off, and they are delicious. Another benefit of having chickens? It’s really cute seeing Sam help Dan take care of them.
Other Things I’m Loving: a new sweatshirt made by Mary Catherine Starr (see pic above); a new coffee mug; my Christmas tree; andddddd we're looking forward to our MEXICO trip WITHOUT the KIDS (whom we love dearly and also need an adults-only break from and return to).
This article about an 18th-century doodle. If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I’m really into old stuff, especially old books and such. And for me, marginalia in old texts is almost the equivalent of winning Ellen’s Twelve Days of Giveaways. Almost. The specific doodle discussed in this article is of a trouser-wearing-chicken, and it’s amazing. I hope the boy that doodled this over two hundred years ago had a long, happy, and creative life.
This book. My best friends sent Sandra Boynton's Are You a Cow? for Raymond’s first Birthday, and what makes it even sweeter is that it’s customized with Raymond’s name and photo! And what an adorable photo it is, if I do say so myself.
This goal. I love to tell a good joke about how much I love chocolate, Half Baked ice cream, etc., but for the last few months I’ve been trying—and overall, succeeding—in eating less sweets. What’s happened as a result: I feel healthier; we’re all eating less sweets because I’m not bringing them into the house as much; we’re saving money (Ben & Jerry’s isn’t cheap, you all); and I’m wearing cuter underwear (insert woman-shrugging emoji here). I’m already looking forward to over-indulging in desserts at Christmas, but for now, I’m enjoying making less sweets on a daily basis a dietary priority.
Other Things I’m Loving: the adults only vacation Dan and I just booked for early next year; wrapping presents; wearing regular bras again because Raymond is weaned (*knocks back three sips of a margarita in celebration.*)
This Lou and Grey sweater. Just before we left for our Thanksgiving vacation, I was thinking to myself—as I browsed the too many clothes that I already have—how I could really use another neutral cardigan. (Sexy, right?) Only hours later, I was holding this beauty, a Birthday present, in my hands. This Lou and Grey sweater is oversized and soft and the color is amazing (even if I do walk around with the fear of an impending stain. It’s happening people. It’s only a question of when).
This boy’s first Birthday. So Raymond turned one on the 25th, and we had a series of Birthday celebrations to mark the occasion. I wrote already that he has brought so much joy to our family, and that is the truth. We all cherish him—couldn’t imagine our lives without him—and it has been so amazing watching him grow up and seeing how he and his brother Sam play with each other. My two boys have so much wonderful-ness and happiness and potential inside them/about them, and I’m happy (and crying on the inside) that my baby is 1.
This article about Eiffel Tower steps. During an elevator renovation at the Eiffel Tower in 1983, 24 steps were removed from the illustrious tower, and they’re now being put up in an auction. On November 27th, you could purchase those steps—provided that you have a lot of money, of course.
This new nephew. When I was in Louisville, I had the chance to meet my sweet new nephew, Azrael, born on November 19th. This is the first child my biological siblings have had, and it was so special to meet the little guy, feel his warmth cuddled against me, and hear the sweet, soft noises that a newborn makes. Ahhh. This baby is perfect!
This Christmas tree. Since we travel for Thanksgiving, we put up our Christmas tree before we left this year. Exciting Christmas feelings aside, there is so something so aesthetically magical, peaceful, and warm about a lit Christmas tree to me, and this one has some ornaments on there that are emotionally significant (engagement presents, baby presents, a hot rod car that Sam painted, etc.) And Sam helped me put it up. <--I actually mean that. Sometimes we say that about toddlers and don't mean it, but I do in this case!
Other Things I'm Loving: Sam, Raymond, and I have started listening to Christmas music. I don’t want to start a fight with anyone, but I’m prepared to say that Kelly Clarkson’s “Underneath the Tree” is now my favorite Christmas song—though others still hit me right in the feels. Does anyone in this world agree, or does it feel disloyal to Mariah Carey and the years we spent singing “All I Want for Christmas” to say so?