This morning at 10am I dropped Claire off at a kids’ baking school. She’s my only child without a regular activity, and since soccer and ballet and gymnastics were all a bust, I figured it was a good time to listen to her and let her pursue her current interest, no matter how fleeting it may be.
I signed her up weeks ago, but as the date neared, I started to panic. This wasn’t just a 60-minute cookie decorating workshop. This was a four-hour baking class where, while she’d be with other kids her age, she’d be pretty much on her own, without her sisters or friends.
“What the hell was I thinking?” I asked Christian a few days before the class. “How could I have signed her up for this without thinking about how it would impact her to be alone?” Claire is Alpha Sister at home, but in new situations, she’s quite shy and unsure of herself. Growing up an intensely shy child myself, I get this. Which is probably why I panicked. There’s nothing quite like projecting your own insecurities on your children.
She was so quiet in the car, and when we pulled up to the school, a cute, eclectic little house in central Austin that serves as both the baking school and the owner’s residence, I knew she felt the impending doom of the unknown. A man came out of the house and said hi, and I mistook him for the owner (because with a name like Pascal, I had no idea if I should expect a man or a woman) and introduced myself. I may not be shy anymore, but I will forever be awkward! Luckily he was friendly, like most Austinites, and didn’t miss a beat.
I saw her trying. She found out where to put her lunch and asked the instructor about an antique whisk hanging on the wall. Pascal (who is a she, by the way!) explained what it is and showed her how to use it. She found a seat across from a boy about her age and told me she wanted me to stay. I gave her a huge hug and headed to a coffee shop a block away to spend the next four hours writing, something I don’t do nearly enough of these days. We both got something we wanted out of today, even if we were both feeling a little lonely.
I knew she’d be fine. Her shyness is not crippling. Looking back into my own childhood, I wonder how I would have handled it. I recall the sickness in the pit of my stomach when I was dropped off at an camp or an activity that was new to me, with kids I didn’t know.
Despite my reservations, I know this is good for her, but maybe I shouldn’t have expected this from her at age 8? Maybe age 9 or 10 or 11 is more appropriate for being dropped off at a four-hour baking school with no sisters or parents or friends. Maybe this is just the kind of thing she needs to acquire self confidence and a bit of individuality. As much as I try to emphasize to others that my twins are two different people, I haven’t really made it a point to emphasize it to them. Just when I think I’ve got this parenting thing nailed down, I realize I’ve missed another important step.
• • • • •
UPDATE: It’s 1:03pm and these 4 hours are flying by. I can’t wait to pick her up. I’m also starving, but the counter at this coffee shop has a constant line that I don’t want to stand in.
UPDATE, PART TWO: I stood in line. It wasn’t nearly as long as I feared, and now I have a delicious egg, bacon, avocado, and cheese taco in my hands.
UPDATE NUMBER THREE: I’m still hungry. And extremely caffeinated.
UPDATE, RESULTS EDITION: When I walked in to pick her up, she was filled with the excitement of a kid who had just had the time of her life. She diligently diligently copied the recipes for fondant, icing, and cupcakes into her little recipe card, while interrupting herself to tell me about the graveyard and the spider and monster cupcakes she’d made.
The instructor told me she was so helpful and took charge when it came to assisting others. This made my heart swell, not because I love hearing great things about my kids (I do), but because I know how nervous she was. Not just about being without her sisters, but about whether or not she could DO it. And she did.
As a part of the Netflix Stream Team, each month I get to write about what I’m streaming on Netflix. What should I watch next?
If there’s one thing I am not, it’s a fashionista. I get by and I think I may have left my frumpiest early mom years behind me, but I still have no idea what makes something fashionable or worth spending a lot of money on. I live in jeans or shorts with t-shirts. And although I get there eventually, I’m easily a year or more behind new trends. Unless that trend is overalls, and then I will be years behind because that will never happen. Again.
For someone who is so fashion illiterate, I have a strange fascination with fashion documentaries. Maybe it’s because so many of them take place in New York, and I love anything about NYC. It’s a peek into a world in which I will never inhabit, one where people ogle over fabrics and cut and stitching, texture and color and feel. Just watching them makes me feel fashionable, at least until I walk by a mirror and notice my gray Old Navy t-shirt and running shorts.
Netflix has a great collection of fashion-related documentaries for anyone else who, like me, likes to live vicariously through the fashion forward.
Fashion comes together with one of my other favorite things, art, in this documentary revolving around the planning and execution of 2014’s China-themed Met Gala. The clothing, the art, the celebrities! Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour comes together with Head Curator of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute, Andrew Bolton. I am completely fascinated with Anna Wintour (and any high-powered creative, I suppose), and went back to read all about her life history after watching the doc. It’s so well-done and mesmerizing to watch how they put together such a huge and important event. Actually, it makes me kind of tired.
I’ve written about Iris before. I just love this woman. At 93 (at the time the doc was released in 2014), Iris is still considered a legend and icon in the world of fashion.
Get a behind-the-scenes look at the iconic Bergdorf Goodman’s in New York City. The store is famous for launching the many famous design careers. I thought I had recommended this one before, but apparently not! The doc tells all about the history of the store and how it’s expanded, and why it’s such an icon in the NYC fashion world.
Fashion isn’t always about glamorous models and fancy runways. In Fresh Dressed, we get a look at how hip-hop fashion has evolved from black culture to take on a whole new meaning.
This intriguing look at the life and work of Gucci’s creative director, Frida Giannini, traces her career at one of the world’s biggest fashion houses. She’s only a few years older than I am, which makes me feel only slightly ordinary.
I bought myself a present the other day. An occlusal guard, aka a night guard to keep me from grinding my teeth, which gives me headaches and jaw aches, both of which make me a damn pleasant person to be around. In fact, I’m doing it right now.
Hang on, let me go get my guard.
Also, you know how annoying it is when someone keeps saying the wrong word? Like when they say PinINterest instead of Pinterest? Or “Do you twitter?” I was that person every time I called the dentist and chatted with them about my “occlusional guard.” Rhymes with delusional.
Christian was the one who alerted me of the night time teeth grinding when we moved in together 16ish years ago (today is actually our 14th wedding anniversary, yeehaw!). The fun part though is teeth grinding has now become a recurring daytime activity! It comes in waves in a combination of stress and habit.
Basically I do it when I’m thinking a lot.
Sitting at my desk and stressing over a work thing? Grind.
Lying wide awake in bed, anxious about an upcoming trip? Grind.
Juggling the afternoon activities/interactions/moods of three girls? Grind.
Fretting about writing or not writing or my place in the world? Grind.
Stuck at gymnastics with an iPhone battery that’s down to 18%? Grind.
Driving in the car and overthinking every conversation I had with everyone at that event 6 days ago? Or maybe just every single human interaction I’ve ever had? GRIND GR-GR-GRIND to the rhythm of the music!
My thoughts and I are super fun to be around.
A friend of mine had to wear an occlusal guard practically 24/7 for a while. She felt like a dope, but she admitted it was the only time her jaw could actually relax, which is a relief when you suffer from TMJ and grinding. I’m experiencing something similar, except the complete opposite because I’m not even sure it fits right. (Me: “It doesn’t really feel all that comfortable…In fact, it kinda hurts…” Dentist: “Well, it fits. Bye.”).
Also, instead of relaxing, I’m mostly just trying not to vomit.
I have a terrible gag reflex. Make all your jokes; I know it’s hilarious. Getting X-rays at the dentist, or putting anything foreign in my mouth, really (LAUGH IT UP), requires an act of pure strength and deep breathing exercises to keep from spitting up a healthy dose of my breakfast.
So basically I’m trying to adjust to wearing it around during the day, except for when I’m eating or drinking coffee or working out, so maybe 15 minutes? 20? I’m not grinding my teeth, but I am putting an awful lot of energy towards NOT gagging. Currently: trying not to gag. In 26 seconds: still trying not to gag.
Okay, I just had to take it out because apparently writing about gagging made me gag and I had a mini panic attack. Happy gagging/not grinding!
Zoe got a blowout the other day. She’s loving her fancy straight hair, with the slight curl at the end.
So why would I give my girl with the most gorgeous curls ever a blowout?
Because she has lice. Zoe has lice.
(Stop scratching your head. You probably don’t have it. I might though!)
It’s bound to happen, and it happens to everyone, and all that (except me! I never had lice! Until now, maybe!).
This ain’t our first lice rodeo, and it’s a little disturbing how quickly my fingers rediscovered the old method of separating the hair into the most ridiculously thin sections to comb through.
But it’s still gross and time-consuming and eye-straining. The lice are the exact same color as Zoe’s hair, so I have to depend on a really good lice comb. There’s a lot of laundry. There’s also a lot of psychosomatic scalp itching.
As a part of the Netflix Stream Team, each month I get to share what I’m streaming online. What should I watch next?
Hand to God, I have never done drugs. Unless you count that one time that I ate a pot brownie and went through the drive thru of a taco joint pretending I was speaking for a stuffed lemur who I had adopted as my long lost son.
There are many questions here. Why was there a stuffed lemur in my friend’s car? Why were we hitting up a second-rate taco joint at 1am? What did we order? Many things make sense when you’re in college, and pot-brownie-fueled breakfast taco runs make the MOST sense.
And then there was that time one of Christian’s coworkers gave him two joints for his birthday. He pulled them out of his bag only after looking over his shoulder, like the cops were standing right behind him. In our bedroom.
We never did smoke them because we are the lamest.
Meh. Whatever. We watch a lot of shows about drugs.
Season 2 of Narcos airs September 2. We blew through season 1 when it first came out. Narcos tells the story of drug kingpin Pablo Escobar, how he came to power, and how DEA agents Steve Murphy and Javier Pena fight to bring him down. The show’s cast consists mostly fresh faces. Game of Thrones fans may recognize Pedro Pascal, AKA Prince Oberyn, who so far has been able to keep his face in tact. Speaking of which, we are just about to finish season 6 of GoT, just in time to get started on season 2 of Narcos.
Wait, this is a kids’ show! This isn’t about drugs! OR IS IT?
Based on the popular movie of the same name, this animated series is hilarious, and my kids are addicted to it. Like a drug. And you may feel like you are on drugs yourself. Netflix, you old enabler, you.
Christian and I got about halfway through Breaking Bad, and I don’t know…I went out of town, and when I got back, we just never picked it back up. I hated each and every character in the show, and not like a Don Draper that you love to hate, but sometimes love. Like, I could not find one redeeming quality in anyone. But I have been told by many, many people that it’s worth carrying out until the end, and that late-seasons Jesse makes it all worth it. WHAT SHOULD I DO?
A documentary series from National Geographic with 2 seasons on Netflix (seasons 6 and 7), Drugs, Inc. covers various types of drugs from production, export, sale, and consumption, and their effect on the world. I always find these kinds of documentaries fascinating, mainly because a life of crime and drugs is one that I cannot imagine (outside of my pot brownie experience STOP BRINGING IT UP).
I have not always appreciated Russell Brand as a comedian (it’s been a long time since I’ve seen him do standup). But I do appreciate him as an advocate for addicts. Plus he’s a phenomenal writer. I really enjoyed this piece he wrote for the Guardian a few years ago: Russell Brand: my life without drugs.
So what are you addicted to right now?
What gets written on the form:
How was your name chosen?
“My mom and dad saw a movie with a girl named Zoe in it.”
Why is this name perfect for you?
“It is a fun name.”
How it really happened:
How was your name chosen?
“Mom was pregnant, and she and Dad were running out of time. See, the names for the other two were easy – family names. But by the time they got to me, the third kid, they’d exhausted all of the meaningful names and just had to run with whatever they didn’t hate, taking care to avoid any unfortunate alliteration (Theresa Torres) or rhyming (Lourdes Torres).
[Coincidentally, someone names Lourdes Torres is behind on her Team BeachBody payments. I know this because I get all of her emails. See? Lourdes Torres doesn’t pay her bills OR even know her own email address. I can’t burden my baby with that stigma.]
After bedtime, Mom and Dad popped in Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof, an old, feel-good flick about a scar-faced former stuntman, Mike, who stalks women and uses his “death proof” car to carry out his murderous plans. It’s a very uplifting film that was shot partly in Austin, so those of us who live here can call shenanigans when we notice the characters have been driving “continuously” across the Congress Avenue bridge – a quarter mile at best – for over 10 minutes while having one of those classic, never-ending Tarantino conversations.
In the second half of the film, Stuntman Mike follows four women, including professional stuntwoman Zoe Bell. He attempts to kill them by ramming their car while Zoe’s performing ridiculously reckless stunts with a 1971 Dodge Challenger, and they turn the tables on him and beat his ass.
And Mom said, “Huh. Zoe. I kinda like that name.”
And by the end of the violent beating scene, it was decided.
So I wouldn’t say I was exactly named after this lady in a movie called Death Proof, but had Mom and Dad never watched it, I’d probably be named Harvest or Ricochet, or maybe even Corn Dog, if we’re going off of my mom’s pregnancy cravings.
Why is this name perfect for you?
“I’m not saying I’d do anything like this, but I’m not exactly saying I wouldn’t.”
For days now Claire has been randomly telling me how nervous she is about school starting. Sometimes it’s a chipper, “I’m really nervous about school!” And sometimes her mood changes in an instant from smiles to slumped shoulders, her face collapses, and she sighs, “I’m so nervous about school.”
In a perfect world, I would take her in my arms and we would have a meaningful conversation about her fears and her worries, about how amazing she is, and everyone would leave with that warm, fuzzy, after-school special feeling.
It just doesn’t happen like that around here all that often. Conversations are stop-and-go, mostly stop. Today she literally interrupted me mid-sentence to ask if she could watch television. I’m trying to create a Hallmark moment over here, and she’s thinking about Netflix. I mean, I get it. I’m knee-deep in a Game of Thrones binge, and your dad is already dialing up the next episode before you’ve climbed all the way into your bunk bed in the evening. But at least wait until I finish my sentence before you start thinking about PowerPuff Girls?
At bedtime I climbed into her bed and we talked about how we’re sad that summer is over, but there is so much fun stuff coming up still, like the ACL Festival (for which they get to skip school this year), Halloween, the holidays. School starting doesn’t mean fun ending.
“I’m nervous,” she said again. And then I did something terribly corny, and we spoke all of her worries out loud and put them on her shelf.
“Just because they’re out here on the shelf doesn’t mean they’re gone,” I said. “It just means that we’ve said them, we can acknowledge them, and we can come back tomorrow to see if they’re still here.”
The after-school special is practically writing itself at this point.
I told her that I used to get nervous too before the first day of school. I told her that I still get nervous when I’m in a new situation involving people I don’t know well, or when I’m traveling to an event and don’t know what to expect. The unknown is not exciting for me. The unknown is a bit terrifying.
So I know exactly where she’s coming from. I hear her.
It’s easy to think of a new school year as shoving them out the door in favor of hours (and hours!) of a quiet house in which no one is asking if they can eat something every 5 minutes and I don’t have to referee whose turn it is to play a song on “the music phone.” But it’s also about new beginnings, for them and for me. I tell myself that without the constant chatter in the background, I will suddenly be more organized, more efficient, more inspired, and more productive.
But let’s face it, I know myself pretty well, so I can tell you it will probably look more like the exact opposite of that. Because when you have limited hours to work and run errands, dishes and laundry wait until afternoon, then they wait until evening, and then they wait until someone asks if they can please have a clean pair of underwear because the drawer is empty.
And I’m not going to lie, I will probably go get a pedicure this week, and if you know me, you know that I am not a pedicure person or a “stranger touching me in general” person. But I have a gift card burning a hole in my pocket and toes that could use a fresh coat of paint.
We have a lot to look forward to.
I like to write recaps two weeks or more after events happen. It gives me time to process. I am also a lazy procrastinator who watches a lot of Game of Thrones instead of writing.
I was in LA for the 2016 BlogHer conference earlier this month, an event or which I have always felt I came in too late in the game, but one in which I always feel at home. LA is a weird town. More about that in a bit.
BlogHer holds a lot of my people. There are so many women I have known online for years who are connected to this conference (and I worked for BlogHer for a while, before I started working for Hand to Hold), I almost cannot walk ten feet on arrival day without seeing someone I have to hug.
This year was particularly special because one of my posts, Twin Life, was selected as a Voices of the Year Honoree in the Eye Candy category. While not a piece of my writing (because honestly, I haven’t been really writing that much lately), this post is one of the closest to my heart. The intricacies of my girls’ relationship are much more impactful in photos than in any words I could string together. I was immensely proud to see them up on the big screen during the ceremony.
It’s also worth noting that I am dangerously close to becoming one of those people who attends the conference and hardly goes to any sessions. I attended a special breakfast sponsored by Merck for Mothers and #EndMaternalMortality, and I sat in on most of a session on podcasting (no podcasting for me, but the org I work for is starting one).
But I also skipped sessions to meet an old high school classmate for lunch, hung out in my room to squeeze in a deadline, and opted to stand outside the ballroom and nosh on tiny desserts and coffee while everyone else craned their necks to get a peek of Kim Kardashian. That lunch, those desserts, and the conversation I had with two other keynote-skippers was well worth it.
Every time I visit a new city, I’m fascinated by who lives there and why. I think of LA as the town in which a lot of people live, but everyone’s from somewhere else. “You really have to get outside of downtown to see the real LA,” said my friend Doug (lives in Hollywood, grew up in Dallas) when we had lunch. He had tons of recommendations, but unfortunately my schedule didn’t allow any of them. I may always regret not getting on that TMZ bus.
The good and bad of LA, based on the 3 days I was there, taking into account I only left my hotel to go to lunch at a sushi place and to Sprinkles for some bomb-ass cupcakes:
Good: THE WEATHER. I was warm for sure, but until you’ve lived in the blast furnace that is Texas in August, you will not understand my enthusiasm for California weather.
Bad: The smog. I noticed it as soon as we drove away from the airport.
Good: The views! I love having mountain views outside my hotel window, even if they are covered in smog and we can barely make out the Hollywood sign. Austin has hills, but so much more of Texas is flat flat flat. And I hear the beach was close? I saw it on the flight out.
Bad: The homeless population. We passed by a camp on our way into downtown that looked like a miniature city. Tents, shopping carts, and boxes. It was pretty jarring.
Good: Beautiful people. I kept wondering if all of the wait staff we encountered at restaurants were actors (I’m looking at you, Man Bun).
Bad: TOO MANY FLAT BRIMMED CAPS. I am a Texas girl whose formative teen years were the 90s. I wanted to grab every single cap I passed and give it a good squeeze. Give me a good old broken-in baseball cap any day over this flat-brimmed, duck-billed nonsense. By far the most irritating part of my trip. Also lots of spandex and heels. I can’t hang with that.
Good: Can I say the weather again? Because MY GOD.
Bad: The traffic. According to Doug (he’s my unofficial LA guide now), everything is about a 25-minute Uber ride away. I wiled away minutes in my hotel room thanking the lord I was not sitting in that LA traffic down below.
If there’s something you should know about Rachel, it’s that she’s wee bit obsessive. Just ask my browser history, which is filled with various inquiries into Sonic the Hedgehog, Five Nights at Freddy’s, and Pokemon. She falls deep into these worlds, learning intricate details about characters and back stories, and then talks about it all incessantly until I have to lovingly say, “I CAN’T LISTEN TO THIS ANYMORE. But I’m sure your dad would love to hear more about it.”
In June Rachel started ukulele lessons. She’d come across the instrument when we were at a family-friendly concert during SXSW. One of the sponsor tables, a local music company, had ukuleles for kids to try out.
Thus began the ukulele obsession.
Activities with Rachel and Claire have been…challenging.
Ballet (Claire): “Um, this ISN’T ballet.”
Tae Kwon Do (Rachel): What do you mean I’m not automatically a ninja?
Gymnastics (both): A valiant effort. We know when to say when (i.e. tears before every class).
Soccer: LOL at the coach putting them both in at the same time. Sideline entertainment! That’s cute.
So starting new things makes me nervous. Music lessons are a commitment. Doing anything well is, I suppose.
When we signed her up for lessons, I picked up a “Letter to Parents” that described how learning an instrument is a commitment, and how kids often want to quit things after a few months, but DON’T LET THEM, or you will pretty much destroy their lives and work ethics and they’ll never be able to hold down a job or a relationship, which is fine if you want to spend your golden years with your grown children, because they will never move out due to the fact that you let them quit ukulele lessons.
I don’t know, I kinda stopped reading because it freaked me out, and now I am wondering if I am up for this kind of commitment? Do I have what it takes to endure the [inevitable] whining and resistance we’ve encountered in the past? It’s all very stressful, and I appreciate your thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.
(Also, I took piano lessons for nine years, so I am no stranger to this game called “I don’t want to practice” and also the game of “speed-practice 15 minutes before your lesson.”)
Before her first lesson, she hung out by the front door, ukulele strapped to her back, asking every 36 seconds if it was time to go.
Several lessons in, and we’ve had some whining and some complaining. Rachel likes to learn things at her own pace, her own way, and sometimes that means that the monotony of a weekly lesson – or more the fact that I say it’s time to go – makes her stabby. But until our teacher offers “ukulele on demand,” we’re just going to deal. We’ve had a busy summer, and that Monday lesson comes up more quickly than I would like.
Sometimes I’ll pick up the ukulele and start strumming it myself, and that encourages her to practice. All we need is 5-10 minutes a day, then she can have her coveted free strumming time. She’s been learning Ode to Joy (“Mommy’s wedding song!” she has to tell everyone) and her teacher just gave her some of the notes to Gotye’s Somebody That I Used to Know.
Whenever people hear she’s taking ukulele, they exclaim how cool they think that is. So I’m just going to be over here, content in the knowledge that I am raising one cool little girl.
(Meanwhile I’m totally piggybacking on her lessons, because I want to be cool too.)
This post is graciously sponsored by Ozarka Brand Natural Spring Water. Ozarka Water comes from three Texas springs, and is uniquely #FromHereForHere. Find a bottle at your local store or sign up for convenient Ozarka delivery. All words and opinions are my own.
Texas is the only state I’ve ever lived in. And I say that with pride. I’ve traveled to several: North Carolina, Iowa, California, New York, and merely passed through several others. Right this very moment, I’m headed to BlogHer in Los Angeles, my third trip to California in 2 years. I have yet to get to do too much sight-seeing.
I usually get a reaction when I say I’m from Austin. Sometimes people clutch their chests and say, “Oh, I love Austin!” We chat about Texas and cowboy stereotypes and live music and the city’s growth. We ponder whether or not people from other states have the pride that Texans have. As a native Texan, I take that for granted.
When I asked my girls why they loved living in Texas, their answers were simple.
“It’s where we were born!”
“We’ve never lived anywhere else!”
“Texas has the best houses!”
The have no idea the different between Texas or New York or Alaska, for that matter, or that Austin is in a category all its own, an island of good music, great food, and fantastic community where buying local is a way of life, even if for my kids that means visiting the local candy shop for outrageous amounts of sugar. (For me it definitely means coffee!)
How do you describe your love for a place you’ve always lived? How do you describe the pride you feel when you see the unique shape of your beloved state, the five letters spelling out TEXAS, catch sight of the University of Texas Tower while driving down I-35 (which we avoid at all costs, by the way), or the sea of burnt orange flashing the longhorn sign with their fingers?
I can only explain it like this: I’ve lived here all my life, and I can’t imagine living anywhere else. But if the day comes when I do, Texas will always have my heart. We may complain day in and day out about our lack of seasons and the oppressive summer heat, but I will never ever complain about being able to wear flip flops in December.
And I always wear a Texas shirt when I’m traveling in other states.