Love Letters in the Time of Corona

All Posts, Kensley

As we’re all coming to realize, this is an increasingly difficult time for us all. So many unknowns, fears, and worries about our loved ones, about ourselves, about our children, feeling isolated and alone, feeling stressed and overwhelmed about home schooling or job loss or dying or any number of things.

I’ve heard this pandemic is likened to a war, just with doctors on the front lines, fighting none other than Mother Nature herself, something we don’t even understand, let alone fully respect. When was the last time we had a physical war on our soil? Not attacks like 9/11. Not overseas wars. I mean, a full-blown war on our home turf. ‘Twas the Civil War, people, from 1861 to 1865. And that was ONE. HUNDRED. AND. SIXTY. EFFING. YEARS. AGO.

None of us knows how to endure a tragedy on a mass global scale such as this. The sense of isolation and despair could easily overtake us. I’ll be the first one to admit that I was completely overwhelmed last week. I was convinced my parents were going to die if they caught “the COVID.” Both are compromised and over 65 and yet they repeatedly visited the hardware store as if they were invincible. Then I heard that Spain is literally sedating anyone over the age of 65 coming into the ER so they can die in palliative comfort without much of a fuss. And so I went down the rabbit hole. It got dark and heart-breakingly painful. And my biggest fear — the concern for my own children if I died — was like this distant shadowy thunderstorm in the back of my mind…looming, ominous, and rapidly approaching.

But something cleared this week. The storm seemed to break, and gave way to a clear turquoised sky, speckled with those cotton ball clouds of imagined animal shapes, where rain-slicked leaves and the bright green growth of spring beneath the torrent shook droplets of hope and newness into my mind. I was cleansed anew. And all that was left was love.

And so I started writing again. I haven’t written publicly in, what, 5 years? I’ve gone through Hell and back and I promise I’ll explain that later when the times calls for it, but for now, something lifted the heavy curtain of shame and fear and I could finally write out loud again…and not just write anything, but write something so profound, so filled with love and compassion that it sends the the recipient a message of warmth and hope and peace.

I’ve decided to send out handwritten love letters to my family and friends. As if we were in the Civil War. Swooping cursive that no one teaches anymore, stamps, wax seals, and all (okay, I don’t have a wax sealing kit, but that kinda seems awesome, right? And something I could find on Etsy…hmmm stay tuned).

Think about it. How often do we have this opportunity where we as a human collective are looking at our own mortality square in the face in a mirror of uncertainty, staring straight into the eyes of our own fear? Our damaged souls peering back at the lifeless shells we’ve seemed to become, and our true and naked selves held hostage by a pandemic with nowhere else to run. It’s as brutal as it is beautiful. And as scary it all seems I am realizing an exquisite and unparalleled opportunity here. Let’s shout it out from our quarantined rooftops what this experience truly is: A GIFT.

This time is a gift, to reconnect, to truly enjoy what matters, and reevaluate what doesn’t. This is the time to comprehend how precious life is and relearn the value of the simple joys and sorrows, of sadness and love swirling all around it.

I have always cherished reading old love letters. There’s something terribly romantic, nostalgic, and fleeting about it, the rushed penmanship when they couldn’t get their feelings out onto the page fast enough, or that droplet of a tear blurring words of tender longing. It’s like stepping into the sweet-scented clothing of someone’s soul, pulling on the cozy sweater of how they felt and thought. The permanent gift of a fleeting moment in time, no longer belonging to the author once sent, but forever held in the recipient’s heart once received.

And so I’m going to write love letters to my family and friends, using scraps of drawing paper I’ll have to wrestle my home-schooled kids for because I’m not allowed to go to Target for stationary and my old letterheads are inscribed with a pair of names that no longer have meaning to me. These love letters won’t be romantic in nature of course, but they will come from the heart, telling my loved ones just how much they mean to me, what makes them unique, why they’re so important in my life, and that their life has meaning. Perhaps this could be a good exercise for the kiddos too, adding hand-drawn dinosaurs, toddler scribbles, and a spritz of hand sanitizer instead of perfume as we go.

An email or text just doesn’t suffice in this context. It doesn’t seem to honor the gravity of the situation. FaceTime is fully necessary, but it is also ephemeral, whereas a letter can allow the reader tangible and enduring evidence of love, a perennial note of truth. So perhaps you’ll join me in doing something that came so natural to our recent ancestors, something that forces us out of our own media-trapped minds and house-bound bodies, and focuses our attention onto sending out love and light to others where it belongs. Get us out of our heads and onto making someone else happy in these desperate times.

As my favorite poet Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “love is the master key that opens the gates of happiness.” Will you help me pry this gate open?

Hot Mess Mamas | Lost in Ikea

Lost in IKEA Purgatory

All Posts, Hot Mess Tales, Kensley

To those of you who have been to IKEA before, you know it can be a mad house. And to those of you who haven’t had the torture pleasure, the store is a uni-directional eternal labyrinth of hell that cunning Swedish architects use as a psychological weapon to disorient their customers into impulse shopping like no other store has done before. Jussayin’.

You first grab a yellow-bagged shopping cart with its independent little wheels that are a fun and refreshing change from your typical shopping cart. IKEA then dazzles you with its airy model showrooms and tantalizes with endless Nordic possibilities. This area gives you an initial burst of energy fueled by desire and the denial of instant gratification…all to lure you in where you cannot escape. You think, this is not bad at all! I can totally do this. I never knew I needed that side table. But I do.


The innocent showroom (Source).

IKEA herds you through their marketplace where the incessant flow of people makes you realize you have just one chance to wade over to that stack of place mats or you will get swept away forever. The current of the crowd pulls you along and you grab onto whatever is in reach at that point to satisfy an unidentifiable, disoriented need.

As your cart gets heavier you notice its preference for the left and begin to slide into your fellow herded livestock. Rather than look like an idiot trying to fight it, you decide to just turn the cart sideways and push on. You reassure your introverted self that no one will notice.

The promises of an exit are starting to become cruel and you look around for those shortcuts you can’t seem to find. The fear of accidentally short-cutting yourself back to the beginning makes you  shudder and you stay focused and plow forward.

Once you arrive at the children’s section, you foolishly decide to let your toddler play with the only mini kitchen in the whole store, which has been touched by a million snot-smeared hands. And while you are no helicopter, you watch her like a hawk because you know the other 500 cattle who also thought they were brilliant for arriving at 10AM on a tax-free Sunday are about to stampede through in record time. Peripherally, you notice the yellow and blue striped cowboys lazily monitoring from their saddled stations.

You don’t want to experience your worst fear (losing a child), so you continue to follow your toddler as she explores each little bedroom and then slips harmlessly through a child-sized tunnel into the adjacent section. You drag your obliquing cart around and realize this is the storage section where rows of wardrobes obstruct your expectant view. You look once, twice down a different row, call out, and nervously laugh to yourself because surely you can’t lose a kid you had your eyes glued to in a mere second. You call out louder. You try to speed-walk your gimpy cart against the current but don’t get very far, politely excusing yourself in between louder and more panicky calls.

Fear and bile rise up from your gut. Because she is nowhere to be found. You curse yourself for letting her wander–she is a runner after all, but was deceptively compliant at the time. What you don’t know is that she had a plan the entire time. With only one chance of escape, she honed in on the shortcuts that she took mental note of while her mother was busy hoarding things not on her list.


She looks so innocent…

Full-blown hysteria ensues 60 seconds in and you can’t understand why the IKEA cowboys just stand there ignoring your bovine cries. The livestock, however, realize you are holding up the flow and several cattle ask if you are looking for the giggling little blonde girl. “Yeah, she’s over in the bedroom section now.” “Oh, the little hysterically laughing girl? Yeah, I just saw her in kitchenware.”
Oh. My. God.

Other parents understand your distress and like a ramp agent to a rather large plane, they marshal you around corner after corner. You finally see her in the distance in bedding (probably on her second lap) and your heart leaps with relief. She sees you in the distance and her bare feet leap to escape. She squeals in delight. You squeal her name with all the blood-curdling passion you can muster. You barrel through the herd, orbiting cows into flight left and right, and glancing back as the cart takes out a few more in its sideways wake. “MOOOOOOOVE!!!”

You finally catch her and hold her close. Through gritted teeth, you force out your reprimand in a way that finally gets her attention and you wipe away both her tears and yours. You turn around after a tap on your shoulder and you hear, “Your is child missing her shoes, right? I think they’re all the way back in the showroom.” How is that even possible? Such is the sorcery of IKEA.

You are no longer under the store’s spell, but nevertheless remain a pawn in its sadistic game. You sail through the remaining rooms on your damned sideways cart looking like an effing idiot only to screech to a halt in their mile-long, vertigo-inducing warehouse. You still try to salvage this shit-show of a nightmare and when at last you reach the bin you are convinced is named after a Finnish armpit, you realize it’s not the side table you wanted and never knew you needed. But you’ll learn to love whatever it is anyway and you wedge it under your brimming yellow-bagged cart. Such is the sorcery of IKEA.

You’re not the only one either. Everyone else is panting from exhaustion and cow-eyed bewilderment, dreading to discover what’s in their own yellow bag. All are about one Swedish meatball away from implosion. But you eventually break free, leave depleted of energy, devoid of hope, and lacking a soul or anything on your list.

At home, you put up your three plates, a napkin ring, a 200-pack of straws, a toy rat, a dog bowl for a dog you don’t have, some sort of wall mount for maybe curtains, and an orange nightstand so bright it appears to radiate heat. As you cry yourself to sleep (warmed by your new nightstand), you silently curse IKEA’s business plan, your stupidity, and the perfect storm the combination of the two creates.

Such is the sorcery of IKEA.

Hot Mess Mamas | My Mini Me

Mini Me

All Posts, Hot Mess Tales, Kensley

My lady toddler is starting to have quite the personality. She will say, “Do you want to wear my tutu, sweetie?” to her little cousin as she does a shimmy. Or she will snuggle into a soft blanket and coo, “Ahhh, all nice and cozy!” Or when I help her get her clothes off for a bath she will look down, giggle to herself, and scream, “I’m naked! I’M NAKED!!! Time to dance.” and proceed to prance around the house, wiggling what her mama gave her. Or she’ll whisper, “You need to wake up, precious, m’kay? M’kay.” to her snoring dad and then in response to his “just a few more minutes, honey,” she will throw her head back in annoyance, roll her eyes, and whirl away with a flit of the wrist reminiscent of jazz hands. Wait, what?

Lately, if her request for yet another package of toddler crack is denied, she’s been known to roll her head back in defeat, look to the sky as if only the birds knew her pain, and trudge off, shoulders hunched, in pure dramatic disgust at the world. Wait, WHAT.

Where in the world does she come up with this stuff anyway? SHE’S TWO AND A HALF!


Pretty proud of my husband for building this little house this weekend!

Well, it’s apparently from…ehem…me. Cue this morning: I was leaving the house early for work, so proud to get out of the house at 6AM to get a good start to my work week, when I remembered I needed to install a car seat into my mom’s vehicle for the day. Shit. She graciously was helping me watch N since her school was closed for the 4th of July holiday and that was the least I could do for her before leaving.

On a side note, is it just me or does anyone else look completely ridiculous installing car seats? I found that if I try to use my entire weight on the seat, I can get a really good hold on the straps. But that means I have to essentially sit in the damned seat and thrash about like a fox caught in a leg hold trap. Probably not good for the integrity of the car seat, I’m realizing as I write this, but I swear I saw it on YouTube once, so you know, it’s legit.

Anyway, I usually do this in the privacy of my own garage, so thank GOD it was 6AM when no one was watching me because…’t’aint pretty. I mean, I am a big person — like twice the size of most moms — so the sight of me getting my 6’1″ lanky body and fat ass into a toddler car seat and sweating and fighting and thrashing and cursing must be extraordinarily humorous to a bystander. Legs fly. Ears cringe. So thank 8-pound-6-ounce-newborn-baby Jesus I was alone in the dark.

After much annoying effort I finally finished.  I slammed the door with exasperation. I threw my head back in annoyance, looking to the sky as if only the birds knew my pain. And I stomped off with defeated, hunched shoulders and a furrowed brow towards my own car in pure dramatic disgust at the world.

I then hear a giggle coming in the general direction of the shadowed driveway. And then an, “I know EXACTLY where she gets it,” in a familiar voice by my husband’s truck. I whirl around with a flit of the wrist reminiscent of jazz hands to find my husband has been observing me for a quite while.

“What do you mean? I’m not–” He reenacts my hunched, stomping walk and I instantly know. CRAP. It’s. All. Me. And so I reluctantly conceded that yes, I am a dead ringer for my daughter’s expressions. Or rather, she is a dead ringer for mine. “Yikes. Am I really that dramatic?” He just stares back, wide-eyed and slack-jawed. I’ll take that as a yes. So I’m inadvertently creating a nonverbally dramatic monster one sigh at a time. At least she’s a verbally polite dramonster, m’kay? M’kay.


Forced Family Fun

All Posts, Kensley

We kept it low-key this year for my side of the family vacation. We stayed at a lake house on Eagle Mountain Lake near Ft. Worth and had so much fun: zoos, pontoon boat rides, N’s first movie theater experience to see Inside Out, lots of swim time and boat races, good food, good wine, good laughs.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t have a few shit show moments, particularly when I used my child as a human shield to avoid a water gun (she loved it). Or when we viciously fought over Monopoly (the game for nice people) and strangely didn’t over Cards Against Humanity (the game for horrible people). Or when I tried to get my 8-hour boater’s safety course done in time to rent a boat only to realize it’s required for people born after 1991. Or when I forced my entire family to jump into a more brown-than-blue lake as I bellowed, “You will have fun whether you like it or not!” (everyone survived). Or when my husband wanted to drive the boat and realized he didn’t know how to reverse mere seconds before docking. Poo in pants. And it wasn’t my daughter’s.


My brother had a hard time relinquishing control. So he stood and directed. You know, just in case.

I love every bit of family vacations. I love planning them, the anticipation. I love seeing our sweet siblings, their spouses, and kiddos. It is a big reason we eventually want another child. I love the laughter and the long-ago childhood memories that feel as if they happened just yesterday, being grateful for the rare time together, appreciating our quirks and differences and loving them anyway. Aaaaaaand I love it when its over. Because vacationing with a toddler is effing exhausting!

In my youthful days, my idea of vacationing involved rest and relaxation. Throw in a massage, a Bloody Mary with breakfast, and some snorkeling, and it didn’t get much better than that. My idea of vacation does NOT involve waking up at 4-5AM every morning to a toddler who decides that vacation is the. perfect. time. to try out sleeping in a big girl bed for the first time (#soproud). It does not involve constantly worrying about little ones sneaking out of the house and diving into a pool. And it certainly does not involve poop in swimsuits. At least it wasn’t in my hand this time?

I know it will be like this for many deliciously exhausted years. And I wouldn’t change a thing. Because some day soon, we’ll have a moody teenager that probably won’t think we’re fun to hang out with. Some day soon, we’ll have a college kid who’s perhaps too busy for us. Some day soon, we’ll only hear dinging texts and chirping tweets from my daughter’s general direction. Some day soon, I’ll wish for those early mornings with copious amounts of coffee (instead of bloodies), watching my mother dance with my daughter to Frozen. Yet again.


Seriously. “For the first time in forever” is on repeat in my head right now. I can’t get it out.

Some day soon, they won’t need a boost.


My brother showing our kids what a “zebra bootie” looks like.

Some day soon, they won’t hold each others hands in my sweet sister-in-law’s arms.


And yes, that’s a paci. But vacation sometimes trumps the house rules.

Some day soon, she won’t need her dad’s help anymore.


This was right after I used her as my water gun shield. He loves playing “Good Cop.”

Some day soon, things like work or old knees or bad backs might prevent us from seeing each other.


If you squint, you can see the lake from our “lake house.”

So here’s to appreciating family and all it’s little quirks, adventures, and messes. And cheers to cherishing every exhausted moment.



(The Royal Tenenbaums’ source.)

The Mombie

All Posts, Kensley

We are in major sleep regression mode over here. I am a zombie mombie in every sense of the word again. In every phase of sleep regression throughout my toddler’s little life, it took me a long while to figure it out. You see, I’m not that smart in the middle of the night. Who am I kidding? Or the middle of the day either.

She looks better than me at 2Am and that’s not saying much.

Here’s how the phases of sleep regression go down at the Greuter Haus:
(1) The Is-She-Sick? Phase: She never really cries out, so on the rare occasion when she did, something’s gotta be wrong, right? So I would immediately run to her room, thinking she was sick for a night or two.
(2) The Guilt Phase: Then I would feel guilty and still go in to comfort her for a night or two.
(3) The Making-it-Worse Phase: Then I would realize I was encouraging her to wake up more often, but still couldn’t help myself for a night or two.
(4) The Good-luck Phase: Then I was so sleep deprived that I’d say “Good luck to ya, lady!” and turn down (then eventually off) the monitor to let her cry-it-out for a night or two.
(5) The Back-to-Normal Phase: Just when all seems normal for a few months…rinse and repeat.

The worst was when she turned a year old. That lasted a solid MONTH of CIO CIA-level sleep deprivation torture. I wish someone would have emphasized a bit more how bad the 12-month regression would be, though I’m sure it’s in the books I’ve stopped reading. Not that I would have believed them anyway. Every stinkin’ time, this mombie has to learn the hard way as she “feeds upon coffee and survives on wine.”

That was the last time we had major issues with sleeping. Until now. At 2.5 years. So we’re on day 10ish now and I’m finally in the “good-luck” phase. I’m over it. Cry it on out, honey. I wish you the best in your endeavors. So when she started crying last night yet again, I threw my pillow over my cringing ears and rolled my puffy eyes both in annoyance and in attempt to go back to sleep. I stood firm and convinced myself, “she’s gotta learn somehow!” Yet, against all efforts, I found myself peeking through a small opening between the sheets to where her silent cries flared brighter and brighter on the monitor. No. NO. NOOOOOOOO!!!!!

(On a side note: After about 15 minutes of sob-torture, my husband wakes up, gently taps me like a woodpecker on my previously tensed shoulder, and says, “Hey, love, can you hear that? I think she’s crying. I’d go in there, but…I don’t really know your method right now.” Nice one, hun. You’re just lucky its Father’s Day or this zombie would be ripping your sweet head right off right now. Your final Father’s Day gift is the gift of sleep. Enyoy, love.)

I felt bad for her as her cries started to turn into yelps and then wails. I was going to fold. I was going to keep this cycle going one more frustrating day. When I finally open her door, guilt immediately washed over me like a bucket of cold water. Her sound machine must have turned off and back on, switching from the sounds of a serene, loving babbling brook to the scariest noise that I don’t know why is even on these damned things: a meaty, pulsing heartbeat. What.

Poor kid! That’s the terrifying sound you play at Halloween parties. That’s the nauseating sound you hear at the scariest part of a horror movie just seconds before that jerky girl crawls through the television.


I know there’s a hellish heartbeat noise in this movie somewhere.

That’s NOT the sound you want playing for your 2.5 year-old daughter who has sleeping issues. What in God’s green earth is it doing on a sound machine anyway?

I mean, is it really that comforting for a newborn to hear a pulsating heartbeat? Really? No, I’m pretty sure they can’t stand it either. It’s just practically the only thing they hear for 9 months. Okay, sure, it’s probably pretty comforting right out of the chute when they haven’t heard anything else yet, but after a while? Come on. I’ve seen those newbie eye-rolls before. They know what’s up. They’re just as annoyed as the rest of us, but just can’t express it yet.

But my sweet daughter sure could. And at the top of her sweetheart little lungs, poor thing!

After I quickly and sheepishly turned her noise machine back to the familiar sounds of rain on river, I sang her a song, had a good long discussion on why it’s (ehem, still) important to sleep on your own no matter what kind of noise is pulsating beneath your bed, and eventually put that trooper back down.

We might be reliving the effects of that night some day on a therapist’s requested drawing, but until then I will take that night as one more lesson in poor judgment parenting. Note to self: you will never have it down to a science, you twit.

One Hot Mess of a Play Date

All Posts, Hot Mess Tales, Kensley, Lindsey, Lisa

The three of us had the rare opportunity to see each other two weekends in a row last month. The first was a crazy girls’ weekend getaway to Savannah and Hilton Head, the details of which will remain in Savannah and Hilton Head. Though we did get a couple of great shots together.



The second was the following week in Austin when Lindsey was in town visiting family. This was the first time in a year that all of us (plus the kiddos) were under the same roof together. And what a memorable experience it was. So much so that we thought we’d share how we roll. On a play date.

Photo_029 Photo_034 Photo_033






Lisa: I hosted, so I tidied and mopped the day before. Why bother when kids are coming over, you ask? Well, because they will inevitably eat off the floor, and this way the floor is at least somewhat sanitary. And if my house is clean, maybe people will forget about that hideous abandoned house at the entrance to my neighborhood. I now understand the value of a Homeowner’s Association.

Lindsey: Let’s just keep in mind the terror I felt going over to Lisa’s house knowing my kids basically destroy most things so fast I can’t keep up. Maybe destroy isn’t the right word because only one of Craig’s rare stalagmites got broken, but they definitely dump and run. I had nerves built up inside of me for months because the original plan was to dump my kids at 7:30AM and run like hell (wow, I wonder where they get it) and head to my cousin’s graduation ceremony. Do people with only one child get up that early on a Saturday? After further analysis of this very flawed plan I had come to the conclusion that getting up at 5AM in order to get ready and drop my babies off just wasn’t going to work. We got up at 3AM the day before to travel and the only sleep the kids got was in 15 minute increments between airport-restaurant-condo etc. So, I sheepishly cancelled on my cousin, let my kids sleep a good sleep, and headed over for a refreshed morning of play.

Lisa: That morning, I got out a scooping activity for the Little Dude, to keep him occupied while I started to get food prepped. Immediate fail! He dumped an entire bowl of dry lentils on the kitchen floor just moments before everyone started arriving. Of course!

Kensley: Murphy’s law.

Lindsey: Things are different at different people’s houses, and I just let my kids go when we walked in. Well, the first thing my oldest needed to do was pee. He usually waits until the last minute, dances while he unbuttons his pants, and hops up on the potty just in time. He usually says “phew” like he wasn’t really sure he was going to make it. Well, he didn’t. Have you ever seen one of these?
Lindsey: Of course you have! Because you’re responsible parents who lock the toilet so your child can’t toss your phone into the drink. Well, lets just say…they work! They work so well in fact, even I couldn’t get into it. Thank goodness I wasn’t the one that had to go because, well… So, my adorable son in his adorable blue collared shirt with whales and cute as a button preppy striped shorts were soaked. The floor was soaked. His feet were soaked. The toilet, seat, and lock were soaked. Welcome to the world of me on a play date.

Lisa: This was C’s first actual play date at home, with kids his age, that aren’t family. But I wasn’t worried about it. He’s played with his cousins and his aunt & uncles (who are adopted and only a few years older) at our house before, and he loves all of his little buddies at school. Thank goodness he takes after my extrovert husband and not me. Right? Ha! Well, the little dude was NOT a fan of sharing toys that day. Or interacting with anyone. He whined. He pushed. He was kind of a brat. :-\ For the first half hour or so, all of the children ignored each other and played by themselves.

Lindsey: Yeah, pee pants played by himself until Craig was done cooking and then proceeded to swallow up all of his time sitting on the kitchen floor with Magformers (the most awesome toy ever!). Is it true that first borns usually play better with adults? I know I always did.


How big boys play.

Lindsey: My youngest took a little horsey ride on Calvin’s back and proceeded to steal all food and toys from everyone. He may or may not have eaten at least two different snack cups he stole from other children, and definitely took a fork or two from Nina. Talk about sticking up for herself. Man, that girl knows what’s up and she held her own with the boys no problem! Kensley, you have nothing to worry about! Whatever you’re doing, keep doing it because she takes no shit from nobody!


The gears are turning as he plots her demise.

Lindsey: After my youngest stuffed his entire breakfast into his cup of milk and proceeded to spill it everywhere, we had an awesome cinnamon pancake breakfast (I may be a pancake convert after that), which neither of my kids ate. Instead, they inhaled spoonful after spoonful of the precious honey I carefully transported back from Atlanta to Wisconsin to Texas and insisted on using a  knife to cut the cheese. After brunch, we headed outside for what was sure to be the BEST part of the day.


Aaaand I’ll help you with that.

Kensley: It got rather sunny that morning and when you get a break from Memorial weekend torrential rains that began the worst flooding in recent Central Texas history, you go outside for some water play. By the way, if you haven’t already, please donate to help the Central Texas flood victims!

Lisa: Suddenly, success! All the children gathered around the water table. All was harmonious and wonderful.


Mmmm. Sponges.

Kensley: Without a thought to packing a swimsuit, I just let Nina go for it and decided to suffer the drenched consequences later. Eh, it’s just water, what can happen?

Lindsey: My oldest had the squirt gun. The dominant older boy in the group that day, he actually listened fascinatingly well, but the rule to not squirt anyone got the better of him. He got Nina a few times and much to my surprise, she loved it! Phew! She loved it so much so that naked time was next on the list. I was worried.


The gears are turning as he plots her demise.

Kensley: Yeah, layer by soaked layer she asked me to help take off her dripping romper. I glanced at my friends as I helped peel off her top. Nervous laughter. Then she insisted on her shorts. “Um, she doesn’t normally do this.” (I think I’m that explanatory mom Lindsey can’t stand). Then she demanded her pull-ups! On the outside: “Well, that’s awkward.” On the inside: “FOR F%CK’S SAKE!”


Skin care first. Nakedness second.

Kensley: Yes, my daughter was the only naked tot in the bunch for a long while. And not just naked. Exhibitionist naked. I’m talking prancing around naked as if being liberated was her cue to begin the ballet performance she was too stage frightened to do a month ago. She even inspired another to lose his own layers and together they ran around in pure bliss as I satisfyingly doused them with a hose.

Lindsey: Maybe I should continue to worry. Was that Ryter’s plan…to get her naked? What would the boys think of the lack of…? What would she think of the presence of…? Well, turns out it didn’t look like any of them noticed the slight differences. Again, Phew!

Kensley: Yes, it was all fun and games until. It was time. TO POOP. Cringe. We are in the midst of potty training and she doesn’t always get the signal to go early enough to find a bathroom. So when she used the magic words, “I go potty!” and I saw her getting ready for battle on the back porch, I found myself with a naked toddler H-AAAAAND a turtle-head. As we raced to the bathroom I heard screams behind me and instinctively knew. To catch. The inevitable.

Lindsey: That shit was hysterical.

Kensley: I was traumatized.

Lisa: Little C decided he was tired of all this [barbaric] socializing and went inside. He convinced Papa to put his favorite movie on (My Neighbor Totoro). His indignant eye roll said it all: “It’s my party, and I’ll go inside and ignore everyone if I want to.” Sigh. I guess he’s inherited some of my introversion after all! Hopefully this means he won’t be the one streaking when he gets to college.


He was over being social. Get. Out.

Lindsey: After a couple of virgin mimosas for us…

Kensley: Correction: virgin mimosas for you. And you alone. Okay, and your kid.


Never fails to crack me up.

Lindsey: …and after the stalagmite oopsie-daisy, we started to pack it up.  Broken things are usually the sign that I’ve taken it a few minutes too far.  To finish off the day, my kids, after almost an entire year of not having pacifiers, gravitated to Nina like flies on shit when her paci came out. Trying to keep my youngest away from her face was nearly impossible!


The audacity of paci-stealing.

Lindsey: All in all, it was a great success.

Kensley: Except for the poop.

Lindsey: I’ve spent many a play date uptight waiting for my kid to hit someone for no reason so it was such a relief to see them both playing so nicely and listening so well! Again, one more time, Phew! And for the ride home? A treat from Lisa: homemade grapefruit white chocolate brown butter cookies…she only has one kid, people.


Tuckered out.

Now that’s what I call a play date.

Guest Post: Pukenado

All Posts, Hot Mess Tales, Kensley

I love it when other mamas share their hot mess stories. It makes the rest of us sigh with relief that it happens to others too. And that it didn’t happen to them. Thanks, Gina, for your brave story of mama trauma. I’m so glad this hasn’t happened to me. Yet. AAAAAND I just jinxed myself.

About 4 months ago, Scott was working late and the kids and I were having a picnic dinner outside because you can do that in January in Texas.  Luke (age 4) is obsessed with Batman and Spider-Man.  So we either have Batman night (Batman bath towel, Batman underwear, Batman pajamas and Batman house shoes) or we have Spider-Man night (Spider-Man bath towel, Spider-Man underwear, Spider-Man pajamas and Spider-Man house shoes.).  Do not fool with his Batman/Spider-Man system because it is his control of the universe.

So Kate suddenly springs a stomach bug while we are having a picnic dinner outside and throws up on the patio.  So I grab her and get her in the bath and she throws up in the bathtub.  Then again.  And then again before I can even get her out of the bath.  I get her out of the bath and then she threw up on me so I pull off my shirt.  I get her dressed only for her to throw up on her clean pajama shirt.  So the rest of the night proceeds without our shirts because there isn’t any time to even consider it.  I couldn’t get me or her into clean clothes before she was at it again, and all I could do was clean up puke spots hoping I could reach it before the dogs did.

I finally get Luke bathed in the other bathroom and Kate manages to walk into his bedroom and throw up again.  She was a little toddling vomiting robot.  She then walks back into where Luke is finishing his bath and makes the biggest mistake of her two years of life and throws up on the Batman towel and pajamas.  Luke is aghast that she has vomited and offended that it happened on Batman night.  His brain shorted out and he couldn’t get past the fact that it was Batman night and knowing that he couldn’t wear puke pajamas.  Worlds collided.  Then, as nature would have it, a wasp started buzzing around the bathroom.   At least it was a friendly wasp and kept to itself.  He told me that “Kate ruined his day.”  I said, “well I don’t think she’s having a very good day herself.”  Even worse, the previous night was Spider-Man night, which was still in the laundry so there was no backup.

Kate was so tired that she fell asleep in the hallway before I could even get her dressed again.


Luke said in a teen-angst voice, “she is such a selfish baby.  Everything is about her her her her her.”  The look on his face is priceless, plus his legs are awkward and his fingers are double-pointing at his selfish (passed-out) baby sister who ruined his day.


Thanks, Gina, for sharing these valuable lessons found in surviving a sweetheart toddler typhoon and a fournado moment:


#1: Stomach bugs render clothing pointless.

#2: You too will one day survive your own vomit-induced nightmare and live to tell the tale. When and where is the surprise!

#3: Never come between a man and his Batman jammies. He. will. cut. you.

#4: Violent illness to some is just plain selfishness to others.


Expanding Your Family With Secondary Infertility

All Posts, Kensley

When do you know you’re ready for another child? Some mamas don’t get a choice and find out breastfeeding is not a form of birth control and antibiotics negate actual birth control. Some mamas can’t wait to have another wee one as soon as their bodies have recovered. Others wait and plan or wait and don’t. There are a million different ways to grow a family when your body works.

But when your body doesn’t work, the decision to move forward with your family is a bit more challenging. Mamas that have this so-called secondary infertility are either those with problems conceiving their second child when they had no problem with the first. Or as in my case, those who struggled with infertility to have their first child and now know exactly what they’re getting into with the next.

I know what lies ahead so the idea of leaping head first again into the chasm of fertility treatments is simultaneously strangely comforting and completely insane. On one hand, I know exactly what to expect. I had a pretty decent amount of experience with nine procedures (two Clomid rounds, two IUIs, two IVFs, and three FET attempts). On the other hand, infertility consumed me. It made me scrutinize over every body ache, every pain, every temperature read, every bite, every shot, every appointment, every sideways glance, every day, every month, every year. It depressed me. It isolated me. It made me feel like something was missing in my life. And I hated infertility for it. For making me feel incomplete. And broken.

Yet on the backside of that 4-year battle, I began to appreciate infertility. I accepted my body for what it was. I became stronger. My character hardened. My physical, emotional, and mental wounds healed. I started to stand tall and proudly walk again, just with a hint of an emotional limp. I wouldn’t necessarily high-five infertility, that bitch, but I accepted it as a part of my journey. And then it finally worked.


Love at first sight! (and thanks for hiding my jowls…)

That’s why even though my house is a wreck or I have a bad day or I lost a proposal at work, it doesn’t matter. The worst is over. I hold on tightly to my daughter and am thankful for her mere presence, her chubby little legs and that grin. And the cherry on top is I don’t have to deal with shitty infertility right now. I have absolutely loved feeling content these last 3 years. I have loved not feeling there is something missing in my life. I have relished in letting go of that hyper-awareness of body and mind. I have loved actually living my life instead of wishing my life would start.

So why in the hell would I want to rock the boat? I mean, the chances of us having another biological child are probably pretty low, even if IVF was successful for us the first time. But the chances of us having another biological child with such a precious, precocious personality as this kid are almost nil. It’s not like I feel I’m missing out on something either. Our daughter is this source of light that radiates warmth and heat. She is more than I ever could have imagined. I am pulling a Jerry McGuire: she completes us.


Big smiles, even at 2 months.

No, it’s more of that excited feeling I’ve gotten lately when planning our extended family vacations this year. That feeling of love and admiration for our brothers and sisters and their sweet spouses is strong. Palpable. They bring so much joy and laughter to our family. And our lives would be very different without them. You do whatever you want for you and yours. But for me, that’s what we want that for our family at some point in time. Doesn’t have to be now, but I’m fine with some day.

So what does one do? As a scientist, I look at the facts. IVF blows big goats (yes, that’s a scientific fact). From the needles to that damned kittie-wand to a very low chance of success, the IVF process is a fugly one. And to be honest, pregnancy wasn’t really my thing either. Too much worrying its gonna stick in the beginning and too much ass, jowl, and cankle in the end, though the middle was nice. Oh yeah, and the freakishly sudden pre-eclampsia. That was scary! So I’m kinda dreading the pregnancy thing again (doesn’t mean I wouldn’t do it).


My instagrammic perfection at 30 weeks.


My reality at 38 weeks: jowls, back spasms, bloated feet, labored breathing, and an ass that was having its own baby.

But the stress didn’t stop after delivery either. I was a shit-show at breastfeeding as well. Well, okay, that’s not the whole truth. I was just a piping hot snotty mess of a new mom in general. I might have previously mentioned that I was bullheadedly determined to pump on the job, even if it was in the woods on a survey. But I conveniently omitted the story of when I scared that feral hog half to death with my pumping bra. Yeah, that one. He was minding his own business, walking down a path towards me. And as he caught sight of my robot-Madonna cone bra slowly turning towards him and heard me shrieking a Native American war-cry to scare him away, the poor guy fell down in a mad scramble backwards, did an about-face, and sprinted to high hell in the opposite direction from the scariest thing in the woods. Me. As a mother. Shudder.


Any mammal would shit themselves if they saw this coming right at him.

So I was actually getting excited about the prospects of adoption as a wonderful and realistic alternative to, you know, the stress of getting pregnant and then actually being pregnant. I know several people where adoption has worked out very well. And others not so much. It’s a crap chute like every other choice in life. But most recently a friend who applied for domestic adoption, was quickly home-interviewed, and got a call for a newborn baby in a matter of months gave me the inspiration and push we needed to really sit down and consider it. Because BAM! It’s that easy, right? No brainer. Let’s do this already!

No, you stupid twit. There is nothing easy about adoption. And just to prove it, my heart broke into a thousand pieces for that dear friend who’s adoption fell through in the eleventh hour. After flying half way across the country at a moment’s notice and seeing — God, I hope not holding — that baby in the hospital, she was told the family of the mother stepped in to keep the child. A ripping loss as deep as any. A chance not meant to be. My whole body sobbed for the unfairness of it all and I silently, violently threatened that family to actually come through for that child who was taken away from someone so undeniably worthy. This is not even my loss and I was a hot puddle of snot, slobber, and sobs. Suck a bag of dicks, adoption.

So we’re back to square one. No decision will be easy. Each road has its own cobbles and cracks to trip over. Needles and bodily disappointment vs. paperwork and systemic disappointment. Pessimistic in my outlook, you say? I’m just realistic. I would rather go into a snake-pit knowing how to suck out venom than fearlessly believing I won’t get bit. We all get bit, people, just in varying degrees of potency and depth.

The difference is knowing you can survive the bite and that it’s worth it in the end. No matter how many needles or let-downs or home interviews or old ovaries or take-backs that may happen, it ultimately doesn’t matter. The road will eventually open up and lead to those incredible bonds between siblings many years from now with all their inside jokes, messes, brawls, and embraces. That road will some day lead to a 35-year-old Nina getting excited to help her mama plan our family vacation. With that precocious grin on her face, she’ll count down the days to see her brother or sister and their families like I am doing right now. These early stumbles in the road do not mean much over the traveling lifetime. So let the stumbling begin. (Metaphorically speaking, of course, because this klutz already trips a whole lot on her own and doesn’t need any more help.)


Learning from the Best

All Posts, Hot Mess Tales, Kensley

Just because Mother’s Day was yesterday, doesn’t mean we can’t honor our mothers the day after. They deserve our respect every day of the year, right? Plus, that’s how this mess rolls anyway—a day late and a dollar short. So in the longtime tradition of thanking our moms for keeping us alive raising us right, I polled my mom for her some of her own hot mess stories during motherhood.

Her response was typical Sally: a brief, efficient laundry list of her (or my?) greatest hits, using little punctuation and capitalization even though she was an English teacher for 35 years. Because even her emails are passive aggressive:

” just read your text this morning.  besides the famous, rather infamous, falling out of the car caper, not much else comes to mind (different story with your brother).
I believe I turned my back while grocery shopping with you (standing in the cart, refusing to sit down like someone else I know).  of course you fell and hit your cheek below your eye.  I think you might still have the scar (maybe wrinkle)
fast forward to elem school- you insisted on cutting your hair short, and afterwards, I was often complimented on how handsome my two boys were.
or, the time I drove off and left you and [a friend] in new braunfels. 
then there was high school and lying for [a friend] so she could spend the night with [her boyfriend]. of course you were a terrible liar, and I called you on it – one of the few times I did. (re: college days)
lv, ur mom ”

When I asked her to expand on the infamous pinto incident, she had only this to say:

” I hope you’re kidding.
orange pinto station wagon.  no child seat. no safety belt.  toddler standing in passenger seat.
pulling into oncoming traffic.  child’s hand on door, and flying out as it opens, but holding on for dear life ( you were strong even then.)  grabbing your leg and holding on long enough to get across the road and pull over to assess damage and cry hysterically. immediate trip to toys r us for celebratory toy.  
still waking up in cold sweat some nights for 34 years.
glad you don’t remember much. ”

I’m sorry, mom, for trying to fling myself into oncoming traffic. Thanks for saving my life, even though I was unrestrained in the front seat of a vehicle that was recalled about 3 years prior to said incident.

I’m sorry I didn’t believe your recommendation to keep my long beachy waves. My insistence of a Dennis-the-Menace cut was indeed the wrong decision. And I paid full-price on that mistake for many painfully slow, pre-pubescent years. Thanks for your advice, however unwanted at the time. I will try to remember how right you were the next time I am mull(et)ing over a new cut.

I’m sorry I didn’t obey your repeated requests to sit down in an unrestrained shopping cart (though I am noticing a pattern, here). I now know where my hashtag of wrinkles beneath my left eye came from. Thanks for clarifying so I can now report it as a scar instead of the inexplainable epicenter from which all wrinkles radiate. #effingwrinkles #iamthereasonforchildrestraintlaws

I’m sorry my brother and his friend fooled you into thinking we were hiding in the back of the van as you sped away, cackling at our little joke…when in fact we were lost and wandering around downtown New Braunfels for about an hour. In the age of no cell phones. Thanks for coming back and somehow finding us…without a GPS no less.

I’m sorry I tried to lie to you so many times. My unwitting inability to lie effectively must have been really difficult for you to hold back laughter and/or tears, neither of which would have boded well for my self esteem. Thanks for calling me out on my shit every so often when you could stand it no longer. You should have done so much more frequently. Because I was a little punk who deserved much worse than the gentle discipline I received.


I am my mother’s daughter.

Thanks again, mom, for all that you do, for making me laugh, for barely keeping me alive in the crazy ’80’s, and teaching me how to embrace the mess.


Birdie and Chickadee.

And for all you other mamas who are just trying to do your best, Happy Belated Mother’s Day!


Yesterday, today, and every day.

Hot Mess Mother’s Day Gift Guide for Procrastinators

All Posts, Kensley

Call me Last Second Sally. Or Procrastinator Priscilla? Because I am notorious for scrambling at the last second for Mother’s Day gifts. Lie. I scramble on pretty much every holiday, every event, every time I need to be thoughtful. Because I am a thoughtless twit. And my gifts are rarely Pinterest worthy. Most are pretty lame. A plant here. A candle there. Ooh! A gift card! Brill.

On the rare chance I get my act together and remember in advance, I Etsy the crap out of a gift. And it rocks. But as you know, Etsy is notorious for taking forever. Has that damned gift arrived already? No, not yetsy.

So for those procrastinators that don’t have their shit together like me and for the sweetheart mothers they sheepishly almost forget like mine (for shame!), I thought I’d give a Hot Mess Mother’s Day Gift Guide that not only guarantees delivery in time (I love Amazon Prime), but it gives a wee bit different perspective on gifts.

Most gift guides give beautiful suggestions on lovely gifts, things that every mama loves and comes to expect in a Mother’s Day experience. Mine? HA! No, my gift guide is a bit more practical, less expensive, and probably not as much fun. But they are pretty stinkin’ useful or at the very least, things that you would never think to get yourself. So without further adieu…


(1) The Best Self Tanner + Mitt Ever.

Because tanned fat is better than pasty white fat. And applying self tanner at home is a hell of a lot less embarrassing than at the salon. Just ask Lindsey, who makes a pretty compelling argument for keeping this shady work confined to your master bathroom:

Confession: “I had to pee kind of when I went in [to the spray tan salon], but not that bad. I didn’t want to hold the guy up so I just went into the room. It was an auto sprayer in a glass shower stall type thing. You stand there completely naked, legs spread, arms out so everything gets sprayed. Well, as soon as I spread my legs I realized it was going to be tough to hold it. The spray hit me and it was freezing. I peed. There was a drain in the floor so I tried to aim. The pee came out slow in a small stream and spiraled around my left leg. I had a curly white spiral on my leg for about a week.”

Like I said. Self tanner is the way to go. My advice? Get the dark (it’s not as dark as you think), pee first, avoid or lightly blend joints and places that don’t get as much sun (i.e., your inner forearm), and don’t forget the MITT! The mitt is the difference between golden perfection and, well, pants.


(2) The Strongest Portable Phone Charger Ever.

Because after capturing your kid dangling upside down on the playscape and posting it to Instagram (#parentfail) followed by submitting it to Dear Baby XO, you’re gonna need battery replenishment. Every mama needs this in her bag. (#parentwin)


(3) The Best Self-watering Planter Ever.

For the mama with a black thumb and a prayer. I noticed these simple, lovely planters at breakfast while shoveling Kerbey Lane pancakes in my mouth and they made me pause just long enough in my carb-induced food coma to note the name. ‘Tis a big deal to tear my focus away from pancakes. Bonus: I didn’t even realize they were SELF-WATERING when I looked them up. Gorgeous AND I’m guaranteed to not kill my plants? I’ll take two!


 (4) The Most Convenient  Travel Wine Glasses Ever.

Because a mama should always come prepared with her own sippie cup. These silicon-based glasses can be squished in a bag, can be ready to take out in a moment’s notice, and can never break. For life’s little emergencies.

(5) The Best Gold Hoops Ever.

Because who doesn’t love a good pair of dainty hooped earrings that go with everything? Plus they’re so light, she’ll be pleasantly surprised when she looks in the mirror to find a polished, gorgeous mama staring right back. Good earrings (and penciled-in brows) frame the face like no other. So throw in a good brow pencil too!


(6) The Best Silk Pillow Ever.

“I love waking up with wrinkles and a rat’s nest of hair,” said no woman ever. Cue this bad boy for the tired mama who might appreciate some help in reducing sleep wrinkles, minimizing hair frizz and kinking, and providing a healthier moisture balance of hair and skin. And for you side-sleepers, I bet it could help with those boob wrinkles! Because brinkles blow.


(7) The Best Book Solution Ever.

For the mama who doesn’t have time to laugh at her Bon Appetit magazine, let alone read a Pulitzer novel, give her a subscription to That multitasking mama will now know what all the fuss is about as she’s driving to the market or washing the poop outta someone’s shorts.


(8) The Best Framed Photo Ever.

Okay, yes, you’ll be late on this one. But note it for future use. Or blame it on the shipping?! Because who doesn’t love receiving a framed photo of your loved ones, even after this Sunday?

And who doesn’t love a one-stop-shopping experience that eliminates scrolling through 200 photos, emailing that perfect photo to Walgreens, strapping in a wriggling toddler to drive over to Walgreens, somehow paying for that bloody photo while chasing after said toddler three aisles down, giving up on going to Target to get a Nate Berkus frame, and crying in the Walgreens frame aisle because there is no more time and their selection is from 1992 (and not the hip 1992 we’re seeing so much of this year, but framed equivalent to mom-jeans)?

Okay, crap. A torturous Walgreens excursion may still be in your my future this week, but ideally you would have cued the Print Studio who breezily lets you choose from your Instagram account and easily select one of their amazing frames to ship. I particularly like their rustic Santa Cruz frames made from old barn siding, but their modern and traditional frames are gorgeous too. Effing Walgreens.



Cheers! And good luck with all that last-minute panic!