Raymond, the temporary victor, holding a Thermos Funtainer.
A wedding pic from 05/30/2009.
This bottle. It’s possible that you could go 34 years of your life and never understand how important a water bottle is. Then your almost 4 year old and 1.5 year old show you by waging vicious battles over the one in question, a Thermos FUNtainer (the name in question the vilest of ironies, since very little has been FUN for you since you bought one). Why are these so FUN for children? I guess maybe because you push a button to open the top and can immediately drink through the straw. Then you get to close the lid with a satisfying lack of fuss. But what do I know? I’m the dumb dumb who thought it would be okay to buy only one water bottle (and then had to buy a second one from Amazon).
This summer fruit. We’ve been on a delicious fruit streak and I’m feeling pretty good about it. Somehow the peaches we bought from the store were in the ripe range from the get-go and only got better after sitting on our counter for a couple of days. The strawberries, watermelon, and cantaloupe have also been delicious. I can’t wait until our garden tomatoes are done and then I’ll be eating one of those—sliced and salted—every day.
This article with enemies-to-lovers recommendations. One day I had an epiphany: I can trace my love of enemies-to-lovers romances back to L. M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables. Gilbert and Anne. *slaps myself to bring me back to the present. Check this article out for enemies-to-lovers recs.
This restaurant. My husband and I celebrated 10 years of marriage last week (!) by having a not-so-very-fun dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, Cinco Amigos. The food and service were amazing; the 1.5 year old who went temporarily crazy (or as some of you more charitable readers might say, went temporarily toddler) was not quite as enjoyable. But it was still lovely to (ignore how I was holding a queso-splattered napkin against my irritable toddler’s belly and shoving his ravenous mouth full of rice and beans and) look over the table at my wonderful husband—whom I love more every day.
Other Things I’m Loving: how much Sam loves hearing mine and Dan’s stories of life before kids and then repeats details to us. Going to the park for long walks and then playing soccer. Taking care of our plants at night. Hearing Raymond say “move, Hagrid,” when the dog is in his way.
This place. My mom and sister Amanda visited us last weekend and we went to Fort Loudoun (a French-Indian War-era fort) for their Garrison weekend. The weather was perfect—it would have been hot without the strong breeze but that breeze was poem-worthy—and the demonstrations were entertaining to watch. The cannon was shockingly loud, but the gigantic gun that four soldiers had to hold up was equally—and more surprisingly—so. It was just a really good day with family. (Also, God bless the family members that come to town and help watch my kids for the weekend. My mom and sister let me sleep in both days!).
This article. Monica Hesse says that we need to know more about the woman’s reproductive system so that we can use biological facts for the arguments we’re making…and craft laws that actually make sense. It’s one of the many smart articles circulating in response to the COMPLETELY DUMB and AWFUL abortion laws signed in Georgia and Alabama, among other places. I 100% believe the argument that if men could get pregnant, abortion would not be an issue. It just wouldn’t.
This recipe. A lot of my childhood was spent in a book, and learning to cook was one thing that fell (was dropped like it was a 100-pound-weight) by the wayside. I’ve learned more about cooking from Daniel than I’ve learned from anyone else. This Shrimp Pad Thai recipe is one that I’ve started making and it’s really, really good. If you have an extra person who can stir while you add the ingredients, that’s for the best, really, because once you add the noodles things get moving. *I also add a Pad Thai sauce that I buy at the grocery toward the end for extra flavor. That’s *maybe* cheating but also #livingmybestlife.
These flowers. Our roses are blooming and they’re gorgeous. I’ve never lived in a home where we planted/potted so many flowers before, and it really makes me happy every time I see them. Now we’re waiting on our coneflowers, zinnias, gladiolus, and ranunculus to bloom. Fingers crossed they make it and don’t fall victim to the same despicable creature that ate the petunias out of our pot.
This article. Beauty and the beast is one of my favorite tropes (along with 50 other ones), and this list with its 100 recommendations is desperately appreciated.
Other Things I’m Loving: Sam started a new school this week, made up a really cool story about turning into a bear at night, and also told me “duh” when I gave him reminders for school. It’s been a big week for my almost 4-year-old. Raymond is showing his personality more every day—please, no eye contact in the morning and you must say puppy with him a million times a day (it’s in his contract). And we ate our first collard greens from our garden last night.
This ice cream. Sometimes (always) being bold and adventurous (only with ice cream and haircuts) pays off. The other day I was trolling the ice cream aisle at the grocery store and saw this Tillamook Chocolaty Chip Cookie Dough ice cream. I thought: why not try it?; I should definitely get it;it could have the most cookie dough of any ice cream I’ve ever seen. A good decision on my part. This ice cream is so creamy, you all, and really good. Maybe the best part: my husband doesn’t even want the cookie dough, and this, coupled with the fact that I don’t steal his beer, means we’ll be together forever.
This garden. In addition to planting a lot of flowers, we’ve started planting fruits and veggies in our garden. I’m pretty much a novice when it comes to gardening, but our resident expert, my husband, gives lots of guidance (and unflinching honesty haha). So far we’ve planted sweet potato, watermelon, and beans, and we’re planting tomatoes today or tomorrow. *fingers crossed* the animals stay away. This tv show. It’s been a long, bloody, insanely violent road for Game of Thrones fans, and each episode of this final season so far has been a thing of beauty. For so long, the characters have been set on/chosen different paths, and now, they’re almost all reunited again, their hopes/fears/grandiloquent ambitions/homicidal urges battling, and the ending—the ruler of the Iron Throne—still TBD. After all of the suffering women have undergone on the show, I’m so happy to see them thriving in these episodes (more strong, complex women, please!), and I have every expectation of seeing Arya, Sansa, Dany, Brienne, et al. ruling the world as those final credits roll.
This article. I was a graduate student for several years, and in my classes, and in my comp lists, I read diversely. But I have to admit that when it comes to reading now, reading primarily romance, I am less so. One of my reading goals is to read more romance novels written by women of color and support those authors in reviews, blog posts, etc. (I’m embarrassed that this is a deliberate “goal" and not necessarily something I've been doing on my own, but I'm trying to be more aware of what I'm reading/who I'm reading). As Lois Beckett shows in this article, there’s been some recent progress within the romance novel industry as a whole—including more conversations about diversity, more women speaking up, more widespread commitment to making concrete changes—but there’s still a lot of work left to do (hello RITAs). Some white women just don’t think that there’s a problem with how we emotionally, financially, vocally, and otherwise, support women writers of color. Beckett states: “it might have been easy to think that the future of diverse romance had already arrived. Except, the authors kept warning, it had not."
This succulent wall. Soon Dan is going to build a plant wall to hide the very long stretch of white vinyl siding on the back of our house. Until then, I’ll keep lusting after this succulent wall. Isn’t it gorgeous?
Other Things I’m Loving: planning Sam’s 4th Birthday party, which he is very excited about. Raymond is talking more all the time. His last new word: purple. Reading so many amazing books lately (reviews coming soon!). And going to the Dogwood Arts Festival with three of our closest friends. Sam got a Spiderman mask painted on his face!
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!