Audrey Ryman is a therapist in private practice in Texas. She came to me with a logo already built and wanted to wrap a website around that design. I’m particularly proud of her Resources page.
Audrey Ryman is a therapist in private practice in Texas. She came to me with a logo already built and wanted to wrap a website around that design. I’m particularly proud of her Resources page.
Oh, Melissa, Melissa. Where do I begin? Melissa was one of the first people I connected with when I moved to Athens. She’s such a phenomenal photographer, but what really drew me in was her authentic existence. We first met when I was invited by the Athens Wedding Professionals group to come speak about social media marketing. It was a few years before she called me seeking a new website. Her beautiful logo is hand-scripted by Selena Ashley Designs. I’m so impressed with how Melissa has kept up posting on her blog and generating new content in her galleries. Such a fun project.
Megan Swisher needed the whole shebang — branding, website, printed materials… It was such a fun project and we built the design around the beautiful painting featured on the homepage, “Life’s Seesaw” by Brad Stroman via Convergence Gallery. I’m super proud of how this responsive design elegantly adjusts on mobile devices. I just ADORE the logo.
You may recall reading about Victoria’s original design that I worked on in late 2013. Well after two years, she was ready for something fresh and feminine. Victoria and I had “done the damn thing” back when we first worked together, so she’s a savvy, independent site owner who knows a thing or two about what kind of content her new website needed. She came to me with a pre-selected collection of images, textures and fonts from Creative Market and gave me creative freedom to pick out something fresh (I love that!), so we went with a scrolling, long-homepage theme, Cafe Pro, and only added a few customizations to make it personal.
Another great feature of this redesign was that we were able to take advantage of Flywheel’s new staging feature which gave us the opportunity to clone her old site to a new, developmental space where we were able to redesign and deploy with the push of a button. Damn, I love those guys from Flywheel!
So I’m almost halfway through middle school… Well, my son is almost halfway. The first half of seventh grade is coming to a close and, welp, my son asked about dating.
He’s always been romantic and has had a thing for one girl in particular since fourth grade. He’d write her notes, draw her pictures and even pick her flowers while he rode his bike to school. We know childhood love often fades, but he was steadfast, even moving into middle school. No, they were never boyfriend/girlfriend — this isn’t something we ever even discussed. He just liked her a lot, thought she was special and wanted to show her as much. Even when she wrote him a sweet note back that said, in the nicest way possible, “Let’s just be friends,” he held true in his heart and even said things like he thought he’d end up married to her one day.
It was all very sweet and innocent and cute and all of us, myself and the collective swarm of cooing moms around me, thought it was just positively the suh-weetest thing ever!
Then middle school came and I was sucker punched with a seemingly automatic leap into semi-adulthood-autonomy. Fear not, everyone said. Nobody REALLY expects your sixth grader to be an independent adult yet! And I was grateful for the sweet arm pats and knowing nods from all of his sixth grade teachers. For as much grief as teachers get these days, these people are fucking saints. Not only did they do a perfect job of protecting my kid, they did a great job of holding my hand through the process.
And so, seventh grade… Started pretty much just like sixth grade. Missing assignments, generally disorganized ADHD preteen boy stuff, same ol’, same ol’… But then it happened. Puberty. It really snuck up on me. My first inclination was the hair on his legs (what?!) that he refused to acknowledge. Then his voice changed – thankfully, he didn’t/hasn’t had a huge period of big shifting/voice cracking in this department, but we’ve had our fair share of bitty-cracks. My best friend came to visit and hadn’t seen Harrison since early June and was beside herself when she heard his voice.
But that was kind of it… No real other big changes happening. Until last night.
We were cleaning the kitchen up, getting ready for bed. He asked me, “Mom, when is my next Friday night that I’ll be here with you?” He goes to his dad’s every other weekend and, in addition, spends Thanksgiving week with his dad this year (we swap even/odd years for holidays like that). So, by my calculations… Because it goes dad’s weekend,
my weekend first weekend of Thanksgiving week and then dad’s weekend/second weekend of Thanksgiving week, he’s not going to be home for a Friday night until December 11th.
“Why do you ask?”
“Well… I think,” he fidgeted with his face and pursed his lips, “I want to ask a girl to go to the movies.”
And it’s not his old flame… It’s someone new. And maybe someone else. And he goes on to tell me about his crushes and I’m both shocked and celebrating that he’s sharing so much with me. So we talk about it, on the fly, because you can’t just tell your kid, “Hang on, let me research this and compose myself and I’ll get back to you tomorrow.”
We talk about preparing yourself for no. That was THE FIRST thing we talked about. My kid is fucking adorable. He’s handsome and he’s funny and he’s so damn smart. He’s great at making and keeping friends and he has a wide spectrum of interests. I don’t think someone will tell him no because I don’t have confidence in him — I’m preparing him to prepare himself for no so that he has a perspective of consent before he ever even gets any time alone with a girl. Because boys should know that a girl — even a girl that likes him — has every right to turn him down for a date and he needs to prepare for that reality so that he can take it with grace and maturity.
Second, we talked about what they’d do on a hypothetical date. Going to the movies is, let’s be real, a shitty first date. You say hello, go to the ticket counter, maybe buy her a popcorn and then you DON’T TALK for two hours. Then, you’re sort of sleepy-eyed from being in the dark for so long and your breath probably smells a little bit because you’ve had it closed for two hours, only opening it to put buttery popcorn or sugary soda down your gullet. And then what? You’ve spent over two hours together and know nothing else about each other!
So… We discussed other ideas. There’s a great place in town called Rook & Pawn that would be a PERFECT spot for a first date. Sodas, snacks, pick any game you want and play it together. EVEN BETTER – bring a few friends with you, make it a group outing. More people = more options for what to play and less pressure to make it feel all date-y.
He half way smiled at me, “You sound like you know all about dating mom,” and I’m pretty sure he was picking on me. “Yep, I dated a lot in high school.”
Do I think he’s going to ask this girl out on a date in three weeks? Probably not.
Even if he does, do I think this girl is going to go on a date with him in three weeks? Probably not. Most, if not all, of my friends with daughters this age are not letting their girls date until high school.
So why do I think this is important? Why am I stressing out and texting my sister while she’s on vacation about it? What really is the point of teenagers dating? Shit, what really is the point of dating in general? (this is the question my sister asked me, minus the shit… I added that in)
So… We date to learn more about someone that we’re interested in… And, once we know them a little better, we grow to like them and want to show them that we do and also demonstrate to them that we care about them. We also date to learn about heartbreak and about relationships — both the couple dynamic and the jealous best friend, left out best friend, etc. etc. dynamics.
She told me she thinks that’s more than a seventh grader is interested in.
And I don’t disagree. But I think there should be some sort of… pre-dating? Junior dating? Dating permits? So… What’s the purpose of this pre-dating thing then?
And really, it all boiled down to consent for me — lessons in consent.
For these examples, I’m going to follow a boy/girl dynamic because that’s what my son is into… We also live in the south, so as much of a feminist as I am, I am also southern and there are certain ways about courtship that are deeply embedded into our culture. So… Grain of salt, all of that, blah blah.
Ultimately, it’s about practicing the navigation of your autonomy. Without this practice, our girls are thrust into an environment with pressure from every direction to be be thin, beautiful, perfect and happy. Yes, these skills will help them in their dating life, but it’ll also help them in their professional lives!
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a young man wanting to take some traditional positions when it comes to dating — asking her out, holding the door for her, blah blah blah. But the biggest lesson I want him to learn is that those things are a gift you give, not an exchange. You can be the biggest gentleman on the planet and she just might not be that into you — you cannot get pissed. You cannot let it rock your self esteem. You are a fucking brilliant human, but you are not entitled to any prizes for it.
So where did we land on this whole dating thing? I think that I’m comfortable with my son going on group dates with some loose/basic parental oversight, ie: sitting four rows behind you at the theatre, eating at the same restaurant or in the same shopping center. I’m not yet comfortable with my kid going on a one-on-one date, but I am NOT going to tell him that he cannot date until (high school/he turns 16/some other arbitrary rule that has no basis on his actual readiness to date).
A friend said that her rule is that you can date when you can have candid conversations with your parents about sex and sexuality, ie: birth control and condoms and safe sex and all of that. I love that — because, really, I don’t want my son having sex as a young person. But I can’t forbid it and I’m foolish to think that I can control him or prevent him from having sex. He’s going to have sex when he’s ready — my job is to help him navigate HOW to recognize that readiness in himself… And once he’s got that readiness in himself paired with all the healthy, open dialog about safe sex, then all that other stuff about consent.
I think. We’ll see. This stuff is so exciting and confusing and different.
Don’t worry, I’m not posting pictures of baby shit. I’m not THAT terrible of a person. (I only texted the video of the aftermath to my husband).
When Charlie was three days old and STILL shitting meconium, I told my husband, “This baby is full of shit!”
Nevermind that I had to be admitted to the hospital 12 hours before my labor began because there was meconium in my water when it broke (so he was shitting in utero), this baby went on for SIX days of meconium poop. And he was born five days post-estimated-due-date.
Charlie has always been a farter — much to his daddy’s praise — but it’s only in the last few weeks that I’ve become increasingly obsessed with my baby’s bowels. I know logically that it’s considered within the realm of normal for an exclusively breastfed baby to only poop once in a two week period. But I think, because of all the farting, around day three I start to turn into a weird, obsessive poop patrolling parent.
“Did he poop?” is the question I ask anyone else that changes his diaper. I’m sure I sound like a crazy person, but I’m seriously wondering, “When is this baby going to poop?”
The first time, it was only like three or four days. You could tell that, by day three, Charlie was noticeably cranky. I was giving him belly massages and we were all taking turns playing with him by bicycling his legs. And then, YAY! He pooped. It was a little anticlimactic — just a regular sized little dijon mustard schmear in his cloth diaper.
The second time, it was six days. I remember saying to my husband, trying my damndest to play it cool like the experienced, not-gonna-freak-out-about-stuff mama I like to pretend to be, “If he hits day seven, I’ll call the doctor or something.”
Nevermind that I had already frantically pinged my friend Amber, the lactation consultant on Facebook messenger. She assured me that everything was fine, blah blah blah.
And it was… This time. He finally pooped on day six and, again, it was just a regular little breastfed skid mark of a thing.
When Harrison was a baby, he seemed to poop at every nursing. Half way through feeding him, his little skinny body would get stiff and rigid and his face would turn red — while he was still latched and actively nursing — and SPQUOOOOSH — he’d poop. He was so predictable. He never did anything crazy with his poop. There are no stories of coming in to find him after a nap with his diaper off and shit smeared all over himself and his bed. He was the model shitter, you guys.
This is what first children do to you. They’re great in a lot of ways… And you eventually forget about all the bat-shit crazy things that happened (I seriously cannot remember one crazy thing that happened with Harrison when he was a baby. Seriously, not one thing right now. Hashtag buried trauma). It’s a biological imperative because if we remembered all the horrible things our first kids did, we’d never have more children. IT’S ABOUT FURTHERING THE HUMAN RACE… At our own expense.
So, of course, Charlie… Oh my lort, Charlie.
This was the third time he had gone for a while without pooping. I was looking at my diet, thinking surely there’s something I’m doing wrong that is causing his poops to get further and further apart… I’m looking at him like he’s the tardis of babies, “Where are you putting all this milk, dude?” If the average breastfed baby gets 25 ounces of milk a day (that’s like THREE GLASSES OF MILK, y’all!), where the ever-loving-fuck is he putting the milk? He’s not super chunky or fat. He’s not growing at an overly-exceptional rate. He’s smart as hell, but seriously, where is the milk going?
My friend Leah wisely said, “No waste.” Which makes sense to me on a philosophical level, but when we’re talking volume and measurements — where does the milk go when a baby doesn’t poop for a week?
The better question would have been, “Where does the milk go when a baby doesn’t poop for a week and, actually, he’s only had two little Hershey-squirts in the last THREE WEEKS?”
You see where I’m going here, right?
Let me go back a little bit, before I open up the trauma wound for you. A couple of weeks ago, my friend Kristen was writing her column, Kiddie Dope, for the Flagpole, our local free paper. She wanted a picture of a fresh baby + mama + the midwife that delivered him to go along with her article about birth choices in Athens. When she arrived, Charlie had just pooped in his diaper, some basic little poop, nothing to write home about. We’re standing in his room, waiting for my midwife Alexa to come by to get the photo op.
I’m all tra-la-la-ing through this diaper change because, big deal, right? As I’m wiping Charlie’s ass, he REDI-WHIPS-HIS-SHIT into my hand. Thankfully, I had a cloth wipe in my hand because if I had felt the heat of his shit on my skin, I probably would have stress-fainted. It really rattled me in a way that is funny now, but was really kind of pushing me on the verge of a panic-attack. It was twenty minutes before my heart stopped racing.
I had NEVER had a baby literally shit in my hands. Somehow, I was able to dodge all of those disgusting bullets with my first kid, but Charlie has other plans. This kid is up to something, y’all. Pray for me.
So, last night, he pooped! Yay! It had had been six days again. I was beginning to think this was our new normal. Charlie drinks a week’s worth of breastmilk and only poops a sandwich’s worth of dijon mustard. Fine. I congratulated him (and breathed a sigh of relief), changed his diaper and we went to bed.
This morning was completely typical in every way – we have got our mornings down to a science. Get up, get the oldest child up, get dressed, nurse a little, take the big boy to school, Charlie falls asleep on the ride, wakes up about 15 minutes after we get back home, nurses again and then takes a good, long morning nap.
He wouldn’t settle in for his good, long morning nap. I’m thinking, “Is this another growth spurt?” He’s snuggled up next to me on the couch, happily chewing/sucking on his hands when I hear that familiar SPQUOOOOSH and think, “Hm… That’s weird. He just pooped last night.”
So I’m going to stop here and give you a chance to leave. It’s not too late. You can save yourself. I was not able to save myself from what happened during this diaper change, but you can still save yourself. Close the website. Walk away. Look toward the heavens and breathe in a deep, sweet breath of autumn air and exhale knowing that you saved yourself.
Still want to go on? Okay… But I’m just apologizing in advance. I promise, no pictures.
I unsnap his cute, yellow Fuzzi Bunz diaper and, welp, there’s more poop. Nothing terrible (yet), but it’s an interesting consistency. Less watery than usual and almost a little, peanut-buttery in texture. There’s even a little smooth-terd-y piece right between his butt cheeks. Let me just wipe that–OH MY GOD.
OH MY GOD. IT’S STILL COMING OUT. The poop was still coming out of his butt. The best way I can describe this to you is via gif.
So I wipe his butt and frantically move the wipe and the diaper away from his kicking feet.
I’m holding his feet with my left hand and the wipes warmer is on the left side, so I’m reaching over his body for another cloth wipe and he grunts and I hear a soft gurgling sound. I’m barely able to catch the next … wave? … of shit as it oozes out of his butt. I don’t even have time to unfold the wipe, so IT’S TOUCHING MY HAND BARELY.
So I’m freaking out. I don’t remember if I was squealing, but I’m pretty sure I was making noise. I really don’t remember sound at all except what I heard next, when I was looking at my right hand, with poop on it, and reaching with my left hand for another wipe.
His foot made an audible SQUISH in the shit smear on one of the cloth wipes. I’m up to four wipes now, frantically trying to keep the shit controlled to one area and keep his feet from kicking or flinging it onto me further.
By the fourth wipe, I had almost figured out how to deal with this kind of shit. I had the wipe open in my right hand, catchers-mit-style with his ankles in my left hand, holding his legs up and he just…
It was like warm icing. And I just held him there in that position while he pooped and pooped and kept pooping. And kept pooping.
When it appeared that he finally stopped, I cleaned him thoroughly, paying careful attention to clean the shit from between his toes (ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?!), and sliiiiiiid his body up to the other end of the changing table. I corralled all the shitty wipes and the diaper to one corner of the changing table, rubbed my hands thoroughly with more wipes, and put a fresh clean diaper on him. I snapped the legs on his sleeper and stood him up on his feet and he just SMILED AT ME.
Now every time he nurses, I’m going to stare at him in horror because I know this shit will happen again.
This kid is going to kill me.
There is one thing I really hate about my kitchen – the deep, dark bottom cabinets. I feel like there is likely a creature living in the back corners — like a bridge troll, only for 1970s era kitchen cabinets. The corner cabinets are the worst. I can’t even reach the back. When we moved in, I tried to roll the shelf liner to the edges so I could cut it to fit and I gave up on those corner cabinets. I just rolled the liner out and cut it haphazardly with the scissors.
One thing I’ve done to try to combat the deep abyss is using milk crates as faux-drawers in the lower cabinets. I learned this trick from my sister and it is kind of brilliant.
In the green crate, is all of our small sized plastic food storage. The blue crate has all the large sized plastic food storage. It’s a little hard to tell (1970s kitchen is dark as fuck!) but the top right area has a clear cambro (giant, commercial food storage bin) and this is where the water bottle/tumbler storage started.
I don’t know who fed the tumblers chicken after midnight, but they… Multiplied. A promotional water bottle here, a school spirit one there. I got an insulated cup from both my bookkeeper AND the hospital when we toured the labor and delivery floor. I found these awesome ones at Starbucks while on a business trip that look like paper Starbucks cups but are reusable plastic ones. These were cooler in theory than application because several have been accidentally thrown away at the restaurant when Colin takes his coffee with him. I pick up water bottles at yard sales sometimes and, well, we ended up with a lot. Too many, really.
But out of sight, out of mind. I really had no idea how bad it was until I came home from a trip to the grocery store with two grocery bags full of MOAR TUMBLRZ. My husband guffawed and flung the cabinets open, “Oh, yes. We really do need more tumblers!” But these were good insulated cups + travel coffee cups and they were in clearance, marked down from $7-9/each to $1.50-2!
He pulled our collection all out on the counters and then left them there for me to deal with. I threw away the tumblers that were missing lids (cabinet troll must’ve eaten them) and that were ridiculously hard to clean. I threw out the ones with straws that were either not removable or too skinny to ever get cleaned properly. I threw out that one aluminum one that has had a broken spout ever since I can remember and the paint is peeling on the sides.
This is what we have left (not counting the five that are dutifully in service elsewhere in the house, diaper bag, car and at school with Harrison).
I will, however, refrain from picking up more tumblers at the store, even if they’re a good deal.
Here’s a picture of Charlie napping on his brother’s lambskin, under his brother’s blanket.
Lexus recently produced a motherfucking hover board and I still have to wear shitty nursing tanks like this?
Seriously, there’s got to be an engineer or something out there that is nursing or watching someone nursing their baby and seeing the piss poor way we’re forced to wear th stupidest clothes so that we can quickly whip out the tit for the baby. Do you see the way that “support” piece is just hanging out, drawing your eye to my armpit?
This is not what I want my shirt to do.
I can barely find a REGULAR bra that fits my giant boobs comfortably, so we’re not even going to discuss the hilarious lack of nursing bras that are available to an endowed nursing mother.
These shitty (but affordable) nursing tanks came from Target, which is pretty much my only option for new, affordable maternity clothes in Athens, Georgia. (We haven’t shopped at WalMart in over three years)
I honestly don’t care so much about being modest when I’m nursing my kid. If I can be modest, I am, but I’m also not going to nurse my baby in a public bathroom or something when he’s thrashing and fussing with my boob just hanging out like, “Sup?” These tanks offer nothing in terms of modesty, but are great when layered under a cute top. I can tuck them into my pants and just lift the cute shirt up, unclip the tit flap and nurse fairly discreetly.
But when I’m engorged (which happens sometimes, thankfully not nearly as often as it did with my first kid), the support strap just kind of presses into the side of my boob. This can lead to sore spots, plugged milk ducts and, in the worst cases, breast infections. But also, it’s fucking ridiculous looking.
So, yeah… This is where I’m at right now.
If you had told me six years ago that I would remarry and have more children, I would have taken a long drag on a cigarette and blown smoke in your face while laughing at you.
And yet, here I am, married to a man that is inexplicably the most perfect partner for me and we’ve got a one month old baby that has my husband’s forehead and my nose. And, much like the grinch, my heart actually grew bigger.
And it seems with each passing day, I learn more about this baby and grow to love him more, bit by bit.
I’m surprised, though, at the magic that is happening in my oldest son. I am watching him develop his first little tee-tiny daddy instincts. I can see the deeply rooted love and devotion he has for his brother. It’s clear that Harrison has never loved anyone as much as he loves Charlie.
And the happiness that brings me is almost too much to emotionally bear.
So this is a letter to my oldest son, to read when he’s older and remember this time.
For the longest time, it was you and me, seemingly, against the world. We always had a special bond, the kind that only mothers and sons can have. But we had more than just that.
When I was pregnant with you, unmarried and alone, I think I knew deep down we would be doing most of whatever we did alone. And when your father and I split up, days before your first birthday, I remember clinging to your little body as the reality of that solitude washed over me.
We spent many years struggling. There are entire pockets of your youngest days that I just do not remember. I was working so much — three jobs at once — and life was so hard. It was all I could do some months to keep the lights on and even then, sometimes I failed you.
But we had love. And we shared happiness, even in some really sorrowful days.
At the peak of our hardest days, I don’t remember dreaming about you growing up into a man. I don’t remember dreaming much at all. Every day was its own singular struggle. With gritted teeth and white knuckles, eventually we found our way out of the clutches of poverty.
And now, here’s this tiny baby. And here you are, cross with me because I won’t let you put on the sling and wear him, parading around to show your friends.
Here you are learning how to manage a screaming, inconsolable baby… Willingly.
When you are a grown man, will you remember that you slept on the floor of our bedroom for the first two weeks of Charlie’s life because you couldn’t bear to be away from him?
I will never, ever forget your 12 year old, prepubescent voice cooing into Charlie’s ear, “I’m right here, buddy. I’m right here.”
If I ever had any question about whether or not you knew how much I love you, I don’t anymore. Watching you fall in love with your brother has been the greatest accomplishment of my lifetime. Thank you for that.
I love you.
It might be the most brilliant business plan I’ve ever been witness to and I can’t help but think, “Damn, I’m a sucker.” But Bella Baby Photography came by our room and offered to take pictures of our day-old baby and, of course, we couldn’t say no. And then once we saw the pictures (and the $145 price tag for the digital images!), we pulled out the credit card and bought them because HE’S ONLY A DAY OLD Y’ALL AND LOOK HOW CUTE!?