Author: Kensley

Kensley is a tall, secretly introverted mama to two mini-me's, who believes in creekside exploration, IVF, a good Sauvignon Blanc, and embracing the hot mess in us all.

Hot Mess Mother’s Day Gift Guide for Procrastinators

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!

How to Survive the World of Family Entertainment

Last weekend, my fellow Hot Mess Mama Lisa and I (or rather our children) were invited to celebrate the birthday of one of our favorite 7-year-olds at Chuck E. Cheese. We took note of the potential anxiety associated with (a) social functions, (b) places with tokens, and (c) confined spaces where large rats are aloud to run amok. There were sobs, meltdowns, and tantrums. And our kids were nowhere near us. But through the power of friendship and introverted bonding (separately, in our own homes of course), we pep talked, reassured ourselves of our survival, and braced for impact.

Coming down from the adrenaline, I am still shocked to report we did indeed survive. And it was not that bad. May have even been fun. Who knew? After heavy thought, I chock this completely up to simple timing. Turns out the mornings are definitely the time to go, with [theoretically] clean rides, fresh pizza, and well-rested children.

Unfortunately, the tallest rat in existence — even for Chucks across ‘merica — wasn’t too happy to be there all bright-eyed and scaly-tailed. And while I noticed his high-five snubs and shoulder droops that I can only assume were accompanied with a sigh-and-stink-eye combo hidden behind that ratty mask, the children, with their glistening eyes and euphoric grins, didn’t notice one bit.

The afternoons, however, are apparently NOT the same. I’ve heard horror stories that would make your breast milk curdle. I’ve heard nightmare recounts that would make you Tourette-blurt ‘IT’S FIVE O’CLOCK SOMEWHERE!’ and then gasp with hand over mouth at your guffaw during the morning coffee break. I’ve heard the afternoons are like Dante’s Inferno where the fifth circle of Hell is the cesspool combination of stale pizza, twitching adults, and exhausted children who are forcing that last burst of energy before crashing into your shins and landing into a hot mess pile of snot and sobs at your feet. Boogers on the rides don’t help this particularly special time of day.

But no, the quiet, serene early morning gathering of just five 15-child parties enabled us to survive. We even realized they have beer and wine available for those parents needing noise mitigation. (pssst…Chuck E. Cheese, you should think about mimosas. Jussayin’). 

I will tell you this: we didn’t get off scot-free. A wee bit of panic ensued. Or nausea?

Photo_012 But over all, the kids had a great time and loved that pizza, cake, and ski ball.


Okay, let’s be honest. My husband loved ski ball slightly more than our daughter, who was just as happy to hand the ball to dad and be the ticket collector than actually play.


So yes, these introverted hot messes survived one of the quintessential American family entertainment establishments since the late ’70s. Our advice? GO IN THE MORNING! And perhaps bring a mimosa sippy cup for mama? You may need a mamosa to quell those introverted nerves. Even in the morning.Photo_015


Vintage Art iPhone 6 Cases That (Better) Last!

Last week I wrote about what happens when you don’t have your phone with you. This week, it’s all about what happens when you do. I was so excited to get an iPhone 6 in October last year right after they came out. I had the 4S for an eternity and the 6’s bigger screen and speed were such comparative luxuries.

Cue today. Bristle. I have dropped that slippery little fsucker so many times it’s now being held together by scotch tape. I’m not kidding. Scotch. Tape. I already replaced the screen about 2 months ago and I’m just waiting for a chance to go back to reattach my now separated screen from the phone body. It’s literally hanging on by a thread. Held together by pathetic tape. Not so luxurious now are we? Nope. This shit show is in real need of some sticky fingers.

I thought it was the sleekness of the phone at first. Blamed it on the thin design. Damn you, Apple! But no. It’s not Apple’s fault. It’s my case’s fault. I, on the other hand, am blameless. Yes, it appears that my case has been coated in a thick layer of Teflon® topped off by a high quality dishwashing soap and maybe throw in some grape seed oil. I cannot keep a hold of that damned phone to save my life. Like a wide receiver who can’t catch a cold, these bear paws juggle that phone as if fresh out of the oven. Piping hot. And the clattering sound of technology shattering crack by tiny crack is now a familiar, almost daily sound.

I loved my hearty iPhone 4S case and was bummed to find out there wasn’t the 6 version just yet, so I stupidly settled for what seemed like a fun and harmless little Redbubble case featuring several water color drawings of whales. Super cute. Super slippery. Super not cool, Redbubble! Put some grip on that shit!

At least the scotch tape is now adding traction.

So I’ve given up on this, um, whale of a disaster and started to search for an actual shatterproof case with still a bit of personality (no offense, OtterBox). I crossed my fingers and breathed a sigh of relief to find out that Condé Nast finally came out with the iPhone 6 version of my favorite design, their Vanity Fair June 1923 magazine cover. FINALLY.



So I thought I’d share some of their other lovely and unique vintage magazine cover designs to define you enhance your smart phone experience. Hopefully, they will stand the test of time yet again and come through for these sorry excuses for hands I call oven mitts. Enyoy!

horst-p-horst-vogue-july-1939-iphone-6-case michael-crawford-the-new-yorker-french-army-knife-iphone-6-case helen-dryden-vogue-july-1919-iphone-6-case a-h-fish-vanity-fair-feb-1915-iphone-6-case

Condé Nast’s cases are found here.


What Happens When You Forget Your Phone

What do you do when you don’t have your security blanket smart phone with you? Freak out like me? Or remain calm and carefree?

I accidentally left my phone at my office while on a survey the other day. I had a sat phone and a GPS with me, so I was technically safe for work, but I kinda flipped my shit. The 5 stages of grief washed over me in a matter of minutes, but I eventually accepted my fate. My phone was not with me. And I was forced to let go.

It was pretty freeing, actually…after the panic subsided of course. There was nothing I could do about it. I was forced to spend my time elsewhere. I was forced to listen to the world around me and to my own thoughts. My job is often to listen…for a specific bird…on certain projects…and I am finely tuned to scout it’s lovely song out while I survey a property. But I have the tendency to multi-task in my busy life. I tend to obsessively check email to put out the latest fire. Or I have been known to call the office to plan for the next day. And I miss the little things amidst the distraction (not a golden-cheeked warbler call, obv).

But that day my soul quieted in technology’s absence and I could hear everything. I listed to the wind, the birds, the trees. I frowned at the unnoticed noisy traffic off the highway and sadness pinched me after realizing that this is the new normal for the beautiful old-oak woodland I was surrounded by. And that there would be no beautiful old-oak woodland sometime in the impending future.

I could even smell better. I noted the earthy wild onion and sweetened wildflowers that I was oblivious to a week before. I saw beauty for beauty’s sake, not scrutinized behind some square camera screen. Not for the benefit of social media, but for my own selfish eyes, knowing that no one else in the world is looking at this gloriously huge gray fox right now. I owned those precious moments when he bounded out of a gnarled oak, ran a few paces, and then turned around to glare at me. Because how dare I disturb him while in my thundering commotion of human presumption? I was connected to that annoyed fox and the surrounding indignant oaks, even if they did not want me there.

Note the glare, not the species.

We talk about kids and technology, but what about adults and technology? No one is there to turn off the TV for us. No one is there to “limit our screen time.” And let’s face it, we are all kinda addicted. Not just to social media, but to all things digitized. We check the weather instead of feeling it. That Google Maps lady navigates for us instead of orienting ourselves to our surroundings or, God forbid, learning how to read a road map. We play mind-numbing games instead of, say, really observing someone for the beautiful person they are. We take our access to Wikipedia for granted. We search Bon Appétit recipes instead of scanning through our grandmother’s water-stained, hand-written recipe cards. And we whip out the phone to calculate our tip on a friendly meal.

Yet we continue to be so concerned about our children. We want to limit screen time, electronics, all things digital. We want them to be free and independent like generations past, right? But we’re not looking at the whole picture. We’re not taking into account that those parents of generations past also weren’t digitized. And I don’t know if we can ever go back to a simpler time like so many of us wish for. Simplicity parenting? Bringing up bébé? Free range kids? Rock on! But how do you really do it? Seriously. For real.

It seems like we need to not just think about our children, but ourselves as well. Because how can you let go of your child to have the freedom they deserve if you don’t value freedom yourself? How can we raise strong, independent individuals if we ourselves are completely dependent on the very things we want our kids to avoid?

As I write this post I am connected again. This time, just artificially plugged back in like an appliance. And yes, it is hypocritical of me to tout the negatives of technology for I am just as addicted as the rest of us. But I also miss that taste of freedom every so often and true connection with myself and the world around me that the social media so desperately lacks.

So I’m going to try it again this weekend. I will leave my phone at home. Shutter. I am going to take my daughter to pick berries at a strawberry farm outside of town and will have absolutely no help from technology in getting there. Poo is liquifying inside. Because I need that Google Maps lady. Bad.

reilingen-109905__180But I am also excited. Exhilarated even. To savor a bucolic day in the Hill Country, to watch my pigtailed daughter pick strawberries for our pancakes (thanks, Daniel Tiger), to eat a picnic lunch and feed grass to goats sans technology seems like the best idea I’ve had in a long time. It’ll be an adventure to share between just us and the moment. To be connected again to ourselves and the world around us.

It will be difficult. There could even be some serious anxiety involved. But once I let go, maybe I’ll start to be that mom who lets go of her children too. Who lets them be free, who trusts them to learn how to navigate, look up and feel the weather, and add up the tip in their independent little heads.

Of course. That’s when I’ll get lost, have a flat tire, or miss capturing the best stinkin’ strawberry-stained moment ever. Because, you know, I’m a hot mess and that’s how I roll.

Guest Post: Emergency at the Target Parking Lot
Everyone has shitty days.

I am thrilled that one of our readers, one of my dear and unbelievably talented friends, Heather Watson Hardy, sent me one of her hot mess stories to share! This is such a wonderful forum for real, beautiful mamas to share their hard, hilarious, and honest experiences. It helps the rest of us feel like we’re not the only ones having a bad day or a difficult start to motherhood.

Thank you, Heather, for your heartfelt (and funny-in-hindsight) story! I hope it encourages other mamas out there to share their true, beautiful hot mess selves with us. xoxo

I am a recovering know-it-all. I think I will always be in recovery. I’ve spent my whole professional life working with children, and I’ve even been a live-in-nanny. So, when I had my son, I felt totally confident that my transition to parenthood would be fairly simple.  I imagined taking 3 weeks off before returning to work (I love my work) and had several other delusional dreams prior to my son being born.  What I didn’t know, and could never imagine, was that my son was born tongue-tied, with severe acid reflux, and with the inability to process most proteins found in foods.  In other words, from birth, he was having food reactions to my breast milk, and he was in severe pain.  It was 2 months before he slept more than an hour in one stretch.  Eventually, we figured out his food issues because the food was so reactive in his stomach that it created holes in his intestines.  Let me just say, when you see blood in your baby’s diaper, it is time to freak.  It was hell and so difficult.  Flash forward to the present, he has outgrown almost all of his food issues and he is a very healthy 4 year old.

But let me take you back to his newborn days. As soon as we came home, I had family visit. My sister with 3 kids, would gently say, “he really spits up a lot.” My dear mother-in-law, would say other gentle comments about him, pointing out what seemed less normal.  Well, my know-it-all defensive self (not to mention sleep deprived and hormonal) just yelled back that my baby was fine. He was perfect. Some babies are fussy and some are not but mine was fine.

So, my baby is 3 weeks old, my husband is at work. I’m going stir crazy. I’m really not used to being home all the time and I spent my time holding a screaming baby, nursing constantly (it would calm him down), trying to get him to sleep, back to a screaming baby, etc. So I got the brilliant idea to go to Target by myself.  I even planned. I would nurse, then we would go, maybe the car would put him to sleep. I told myself, I can accomplish things still! Watch me, world.  So I set my little plan into action. Nursed my little baby, he seemed calm, We got into the car, and I’m already feeling elated.

What I didn’t yet realize is that his reactions took time to happen. The milk had to get processed in his little system before it started to hurt. Later I could time it; his screaming would begin about 30 min after nursing. Target is 15 min from my house. We get into a cart and he is in his infant carrier, still calm.  So I begin shopping. About 15 min into shopping the screaming begins. Now, I’ve also learned that a newborn baby in pain screaming is way different from the normal quiet, soft little musings I’ve heard from other newborns.  This was a loud, piercing, scream with all my soul kind of crying.  I panic and take my baby out of the car seat. So now I have a cart full of stuff that I can longer push because I’m holding a newborn in my hands. Then people begin to ask me if he’s okay and can they help. That concern just put me over the edge. I tell people he must be hungry. It’s okay- he’s just still hungry. So I leave my cart in an aisle and I have a new plan. I will go to my car, nurse some more and then come back and finish at Target. I’m getting frazzled but I can still do this.

I go to my car and get in the back seat with the tinted windows because I’m still overly modest and unsure about all this breastfeeding (don’t worry- very soon modesty and dignity left me for good). I start to nurse and he calms down. I breathe a sigh of relief. All will be ok. Hallelujah. I’m not a total failure. Then I feel it.

One thing I forgot to mention, when a baby has severe intestinal distress, you also get baby diarrhea. This stuff is like water and there was just SO much.  No diaper could contain it. And that’s what I felt in my hand, in my lap, covering my legs. My clean hand was holding my son’s head as he nursed. The other hand cupped a pool of diarrhea. Pool. In my hand.

It was a moment like no other. I cried. I waited for a true grown-up to come rescue me. And then I realized I’m the mama here (clearly a hot poop-filled mess). So I opened the door, flung the diarrhea onto the parking lot (I still feel a little guilty about that but I had no other idea what to do with it), and then used every single baby wipe in possession. My Target cart was left abandoned and I drove home, still poopy and traumatized. But now it’s like a barometer. Having a bad day? Well, are you covered in poo with a screaming baby? No? Then it’s okay. You’ll make it. And if you are holding a hand-full of poop, just fling it out the door and get the hell outta there.

A Bag for All Adventures: BEXAR Goods Co.

I had a chance to talk to a long-time colleague of mine after doing a bird survey the other day. I hadn’t talked to him since he started his incredible San Antonio-based handmade leather goods company in his spare time, BEXAR Goods Co., and it was wonderful to catch up with him and see how it was going. Guy is that visionary kind of person who is passionate about all things, especially his family, his photography, and his designs of these incredible leather products.

I knew our fellow Hot Mess Mama, Lisa, was obsessed with his bags and purchased one of his leather/canvas bags as a diaper bag. FYI, this is pure genius if you ever want your husband to feel completely comfortable and manly while holding your diaper bag (and if you ever want to look, feel, and know you are undeniably cool carrying said diaper bag). Though I could still never look this hip (sigh):

Adorable pregnant Lisa and her BGC bag.

Another one of my dear friends has been raving about BEXAR Goods Co for years. She even went to a workshop to help make her own bag. How cool is that?

Photo by L. Acuna

But when I went to look at Guy’s website, I kinda shat myself. I didn’t realize just how awesome these bags were. It’s a very rugged, manly type of look; the kind of Indiana Jones satchel envisioned in the back of an old 1930s prop plane before it’s about to crash or the kind of Brad Pitt satchel used to house his trout while he’s fly fishing in a river…that runs through it.

I mean, wow.

With it’s undeniably cool leather-covered, cork-topped, copper flasks and its thick, waterproof, waxed-cotton canvas bags, this line screams bellows “all things man.”

Would this not be the coolest gift ever?
Horween Outlander
Porter Satchel

BUT these bags are not just for those with testosterone coursing through their veins. They’re just simply…classic. Timeless. The way people used to make things. With care, precision, and indestructible materials. It’s that kind of leather that gets even better with age. It’s the kind of canvas that proudly wears your hard-earned scars, whether its from that scrape from a slot-canyon hike, those bite-marks from a teething 18-month-old, that singe at Burning Man, or that urine “water” stain from that trip to the beach. It looks, feels, and knows it’s better with time. And THAT is a bag I can stand by. For any type of adventure, with kids or without. Here are a few more of my favorites:

Cruiser Roll Top
Market Bag
Mustang Carry (p.s. I love how they call a tote a “carry.” Much more manly unisex).

Cheers to these versatile, beautifully made, classic bags and the groceries, diapers, fishing gear, and hipster craft tequila they carry. May you forever be enlightened from this leathery experience.

Product photo source here.

Sugar + Toddler + Restaurant = Fail

So my well-intentioned, but highly cocky “respect” discipline philosophy first mentioned here ran head first into a brick wall last night. And it died a slow and gurgly death. Because I am a shit show. And disciplining a toddler in public is difficult. Because they own you. They’ve got you right by your short-hairs. They know it. And you know it.

Cue yesterday afternoon. We had a lovely day. Ryan’s parents came in town. We played outside and enjoyed the beautiful weather. We put up some vintage outdoor lights and did some landscaping. And Nina had way too many fun sweets. But that’s okay–we bend the rules when the grandparents are here.

Pre-crack. Note the calm, organized sweetness.
Post-crack. Notice the boundless energy and that hint of mischief in her eyes. I should have seen this coming.

SOOO we decided to go to one of our go-to places for homey food and amazing atmosphere: The County Line on Bull Creek, where you can feed the abundant turtles and fish and ducks after stuffing your face full of yummy BBQ. Love this place for kiddos and would highly recommend it for families in the Austin area. Watching those turtles is hypnotizing!

Beautiful Bull Creek

The thing is, Nina was not only completely full from the overindulgence in goodies, but completely wired. Like on crack. And so she proceeded flip out and hit me, as a game, non stop, throughout dinner. This is not a violent child. Every time I gave her a warning to not hit me again or it’s a timeout, she grinned and hit me again. And you gotta go through with a threat. So crap. Time out. Yet again. Away from everyone. Outside.

AAAAAND it backfired on me. That beautiful spring air was essentially a REWARD for bad behavior. So by the third timeout, it finally dawned on me to find a quiet room and have her face the wall in a chair for 2 minutes. Nope. That didn’t work either. She played me like a fiddle the whole time. Her muffled giggles while she shimmied in her chair to the head-shoulders-knees-and-toes tune were like sirens of defiance. And then she asked for more timeout time. Because what’s more fun than a party of one when you’re the star? C.R.A.P.

If it was just us, we would have packed up and left. But we were stuck there at dinner. I was getting increasingly upset because she NEVER acts like this. My husband wanted me to ignore her or switch places with him to break the cycle. But I had had enough. I told them I’d wait for them in the truck and left with her. When everyone joined us I broke down in sobs on my mother-in-law’s shoulder and she said, “motherhood is the hardest thing you’ll ever love.” This is just one kid. I am such a wimp! And I hold any mama with more than one kid in such high regard–don’t know how you do it.

But then this morning, Nina asked me as I was helping her get dressed, “you okay, mom? I hit you. I sorry.” And my normal sweet girl returned. Those glittery, mischevious little devil horns must have broken off in her sleep last night. Lesson learned: Over-stimulated, over-exhausted, and over-sugared shit happens.

So how do you do it, mamas? During those times of meltdown crises, what do you do? Remove the child from the situation? Ignore it? Talk sternly? Threaten? Give ’em the stink-eye? For real. I would love to hear your honest, solid advice. I am in need of some tried-and-true ideas that don’t require a 100 pages of book reading. And I’ll take a mama’s advice over a book any day anyway.

Photos by ChicEtChoc and Austin Wedding Day.

Playground Politics

Most people refer to “playground politics” as the petty one-upmanship parents do to each other while navigating through the intimidating world of raising children. Others think it applies to the children themselves as they navigate through the fascinating and often difficult world of growing up. My toddler has already experienced quite a few pushes, bites, and name-callings in her short lifetime. She’s TWO! It happens. I take it in stride. She needs to find her way, learn how to defend herself, socialize with other children, and get through it, as much as it pains me to say. Because I won’t always be there to defend her.

She’s actually the ring-leader in many a plot to raid the fishbowl and overthrow the dictatorship.

But what really is the right thing to do? Protect your child or let them learn how to protect themselves? It’s so hard. My gut tells me the latter is correct. Let her figure it out. This world is a big, scary place and the quicker she can defend herself, the better. My job is to give her the tools to survive, the ammo to persevere, and the open arms to comfort her when my advice fails her miserably.

But my heart screams the former!! My nervous, inner-child spazmatically cries out to hover over her in protection like the helicopter mom (or plastic-bubble?? mom) I try so hard not to be. I was an anxious little thing growing up. I still am, just many (many) feet taller. I remember oh too well the playground politics of my day, you know, when kids were assholes. So I know what lies ahead and don’t want her to feel ANY emotional or physical pain. But that’s not actually fair to her, is it? That’s not life.

Me at every situation. Ever.

It took me a long time to figure out the world. I’m lying. I’m still trying to figure it out (hence me being such a hot mess). Some people are born knowing. They are natural leaders. Their confidence is admirable. And they fart glitter clouds of cardamom and Mozart. Go for it you self-assured cuties! Sigh. But not me. I would say it took me until I was about 30 to really know myself, to feel comfortable in my own skin, to embrace my height, feel confident in meetings, to know what I was talking about at work, and to not (always) care what other people thought of me.

So when I get a call from her school saying my daughter has been bit yet again while I’m away at a conference and then I get a text from Grandma Birdie depicting the saddest face in the world, it bitch-slaps me simultaneously with blinding, white-hot anger and full, rational compassion for that child who did this to mine. It’s a very confusing sensation.


This has happened several times over the course of this year, each with a different kid. And she confirms it when she tells she tells us nonchalantly the name of the boy who bit her, so freely as she’s playing with her toys, as if she knows it’s not that big of a deal, that it’s a part of growing up, that this is just simply how life is. Tit for tat. Because no, these were not unprovoked events. My daughter steals the kitchenware right out of those little cooking hands and takes off with cars the second that back is turned to get some gas. These other children don’t know how to express their anger at the moment and biting is one way to get their feelings across real quick. I get it.

At age 4-5, biting is likely a behavioral issue that needs addressing. But at 2-3, it’s a developmental response. It’s an expression of a language that’s tough to learn. And so we take it because we ultimately know this is just a part of life. We try to learn from it on our end and try to reinforce that asking first before taking and waiting to share, etc. are what we do. I try to remain calm and rational. Her school is an excellent one. Her class doesn’t have the only biters in the world. THEY’RE TWO! It’s okay.

School_02-10-15_7She will learn. They all will. She may even one day successfully negotiate that car right out from under that kid, making him think it was his idea the whole time, and with a grin as wide as the sea, she’ll navigate through the rough waters of playground politics and begin to make a life of her own. And be comfortable in her own skin (way before 30).

Chicken Coop Renting? What.

I have always wanted a chicken coop. So when we moved to a house with a big backyard, I started salivating at the thought of freshest of the fresh eggs and soldiers, creamiest of the creamy quiches, and a bit of rural magic in our urban setting. I am also hesitant to commit. I mean, I can barely take care of myself (I shower fortnightly), my child (she still uses a paci), my husband (I dry his undryables), my two cats (thank God they yell at me to feed them, otherwise…), and my house (the laundry should be referenced in Dante’s Inferno for its relentless, eternal torture). So adding one more stinkin’ chore to my life may not be the best decision.

Cue the Chicken Renters. I found them at our local farmer’s market and I am quite intrigued to say the least.  Your rent goes towards the purchase of a portable, brightly-colored coop and egg-layin’ chickens. But if something happens, if your plans go awry, if your neighbors complain, or you’ve had one too many muddy trips through the rain to feed those suckers, you know what to do. Send their asses packing.

The Chicken Renters’ creative duo has a smart plan for the hesitant hot mess, an approachable strategy for the fair-weather family. They have turned something so intimidating to me and put Groucho Marx glasses on it. And how can you go wrong when one of the owners is Daniel Radcliffe? Risk-free chicken renting from Harry Potter? Brilliant. (said in a horsey Cockney accent)

Speaking of chickens, I can’t help but share some of my chicken obsessions over the years. Because, yes, I’m a hot mess and I obsess not only over fresh chicken eggs, but fresh chicken style…

Barred Cochin Bantams

Because you can’t beat a good black-and-white stripe with red accessories. Classic.


Because cotton ball bunny fur on a chicken is just so right.

Belgium Bearded Bantams (D’uccle Mille Fleur)

Because the lady is the pretty one instead of the gent in this breed… even though you kinda wouldn’t be able to tell if there was chicken poo on her, God love her.

Polish Frizzle Bantams

Because can you imagine this staring back at you in the morning? How could you not have a good day?

*Editor’s note: I actually do shower more than every two weeks. But not by much.*

Rediscovering Youth

I visited my parents a few weekends ago and had the brilliant idea to show Nina my childhood dollhouse. My grandfather built me a simple four-room house to keep himself busy after my grandmother died. In it was a lovely hodgepodge of handmade furniture, random Sylvanian Families, and 1980’s decor. Only now do I full grasp and appreciate this beautiful gift that I spent so many years playing with (and let’s be honest, defacing).  But this is no Mattel. This old house and its inhabitants have surprisingly stood the test of time. So I’m sorry, mom, for thinking in a singsong voice ‘hoarding tendencies‘ for keeping this after 30 years. I’m an idjit!

I loved rediscovering my youth as I watched Nina play. The child within is such a small part of us now, but I hope it’s still in there for you somewhere deep down as it is for me. These moments pull us from our racing minds and our aging bodies back into the world of soft skin and animal soap operas we created for ourselves so many years ago. We willingly, joyfully, and excusably get to rediscover this youth through our children and revel in its peace.

My mother (aka “Grandma Birdie”) wanted to repaint the dollhouse for Nina, but I love its history and vintage charm, its kith and kin scrawled on the kitchen floor, the bold declaration of ownership, windows “glued out” to ensure a good-night’s sleep, and apartment numbers hastily scribbled on the walls to resolve a rabbit-beaver fight over who gets to use the communal kitchen. Wildlife drama and childhood imagination at its best.


It makes me want to build a simple dollhouse and start her own collection of dolls. Perhaps then some day I’ll take a photo of Nina playing with her daughter in that dollhouse I hoarded for 30 years and rediscover my youth all over again.