Meet Benny … and Lou

guinea pig named Benny

Say hello to Benny. This guy loves hay, green bell peppers and snuggling in Lily’s lap. He’s one year old and poops ALL THE TIME.

guinea pig

And this little bouffant-head? This is Lou. After we got Benny, I did a bunch of research on how guinea pigs get depressed by themselves, and I seriously couldn’t stand the thought of it. So I drove back to the rescue and adopted his son, who is just three months old. The girls had NO IDEA what I was up to, and they were beside themselves when I showed up at home with little Lou.

Lou loves carrots, squeaking at Benny and hiding in his igloo. He has a gift for eating hay on the run and shares Benny’s propensity for pooping EVERYWHERE ALL THE TIME.

These two are possibly the cutest things I’ve ever seen (besides my own human babies, of course). The girls are totally smitten. Lily is proving how “machor” she is, waking early to hand-feed them veggies, cleaning the cage and playing with them every chance she gets.

Adopting Benny and Lou was one of the best decisions we’ve ever made. I’m so glad Lily pointed our hearts in the right direction.

How to get your parents to buy you a guinea pig, by Lily S. (PART 2)

So after I discovered Lily’s first letter on my pillow a few weeks ago, I walked it downstairs to Marc and said, “I think it’s time.” He agreed.

The next morning, I promised Lily we’d sit down and talk about her letter over the weekend (which was only two days away, for the record). In the span of that 48 hours (the longest of her life, I imagine), she launched phase two of her campaign: ply the parents with facts.

On my pillow for the next two days appeared pro and con lists, a venn diagram, a drawing of the cage with dimensions, and pages (upon pages) of her hand-written research on everything from “guinea pig care” to “if you go on a trip,” in which she assured us “Don’t worry. I have the answers to all your quesntons. And believe me I can do this!”

Then, on that Friday night, came the final letter of appeal:

Dear Mommy and Daddy,

If you thoght my letter was not perswaseve I relly want a guniea pig. I have done all of the reserch and I have drawn a lot of picshors of all our addvenchers. So, please, please, please, I relly need this.

((hand-drawn picture of a guinea pig with a conversation bubble that says “I want to be with Lily!”))

Because we are not heartless, and because she has proven herself to be a responsible, caring kid, we are (of course) getting her a guinea pig. We sat her down that Saturday and told her the news, and she beamed. She had answers for every single one of our questions. She was REDDY, after all.

Then I got the flu and our plans stalled out. Lily came to me in the middle of that ordeal last week, approaching the bed with concern in her eyes, and I thought she was going to ask me how I was feeling. Nope. She said, “Mommy, are we not going to get a guinea pig because you’re sick now?” I assured her that the plan was still on, and that as soon as I could hold my head up, I’d call the vet to talk about the best place to find our new pet.

In the meantime, Marc had found a great cage on Craig’s List. And as soon as the vet referred me to a couple of rescue websites, Lily hopped online and found her guy. We picked him up tonight, but he is too scared to make his photo debut. Sophie was devastated that she couldn’t hold him. Lily sat by the cage and patiently sang to him, trying to lure him out of his igloo with treats. Because, of course, she had researched ways to make guinea pigs comfortable in their new homes.

Tomorrow (I hope) you’ll get to meet the newest member of our family. I can tell you that he is one of the cutest things I have ever seen.

How to get your parents to buy you a guinea pig, by Lily S. (Part 1)

letter from child asking for guinea pigShe’s been campaigning for months. Almost a year, actually.

It started out slow. The occasional mention of a new pet. Library books on hamsters and guinea pigs. Drawings, paintings, and lots of “did you know” fun facts at the dinner table.

Then she started the hard core research, practically filling a binder with her findings on all things rodent. Comparison charts. Brochures from the pet store. Magazine clippings.

And just a few weeks ago, letters started appearing on my pillow at night.

“Please read this! Mommy and Daddy!” she’d scrawled on the first one, after folding it 16 times into a little one-inch-square nugget of hope. Here’s what it said:

Dear Mommy and Daddy,

I would relly like to have a nother pet. The pet that I would like is a ginea pig. I know that you might think that I am not muchur enognf to have one but I think I am doing really well in school and I am very machor. And if you aggre to all of this I promis to take care of it. I will clean out the cage, scoop up the poop, let it exersiz and play with it evory day. And I will also pay for as much as I can.

So, pleas pritty pleas with a chery on top can I do this? I know it is a big responsibility. But I am reddy! I have don all of the reserch and the mesherments so don’t worry! I feel like I am more than reddy because I am sinding you the research that I have done. And like I said before, I will take care of it all by myself without your help. And I will let Sophie play with him too. I just hafe to set ground rules with her.

I can do this remember!

Lily ((hand-drawn paw print emoji))

P.S. Waht I mean by mesherments is I know where to put the cage.


little girl on beach

Starts almost every sentence with “Did you know?!” and launches into an explanation before we’ve had a chance to answer.

Loves, loves, loves school.

Is a bookworm who begs for extra minutes to read every night.

Has the same tickle-spots as when she was a baby. Often laughs until she cries.

Can remember ANYTHING. Like that time three years ago when she lost a penny and then found it.

Despite the general, persistent irritation of having a little sister, she protects Sophie, walks her to her classroom every day (holding her hand) and hugs her before bed every night.

Delights in being outdoors. Climbs trees like a monkey, seems to feel most free when riding her bike and loves a good game of hide-and-seek.

Is a loyal friend who loves sleepovers, dressing alike and playing in secret hideouts at school and home.

Loves animals — especially little ones — beyond measure and is steadfast in her campaign for a hamster or guinea pig (complete with a research binder stuffed with facts and illustrations).

Tries to sneak a little blush and lip gloss for school. Tween-age-hood, here we come.

Has this wonderful confidence and self-assurance that makes others believe they can feel the same way about themselves.

Loves a good joke. Often tells bad ones.

Lights up a room with her toothy smile, twinkly eyes and infectious silliness and positivity.

Will always be my first baby, the person who made me a mother, my snuggle-bunny. (For real. She promised to keep snuggling me even when I’m an old lady.)

Owns my heart.

Happy ninth birthday to my super-girl Lily Maxine. You make life marvelous.


Why I marched

women's march in Raleigh NC

I marched for all those who are marginalized, bullied or mistreated just for being who they are.

For HUMAN rights, equality, inclusivity, kindness, justice, love.

women's march in Raleigh NC

women's march in Raleigh NC

With deep gratitude for all the women who came before me, especially my mother who shattered glass ceilings in corporate America, then came home every evening and cooked us dinner, exhausted, still wearing her power suits. Now she works for peace and justice as a secular Franciscan. And for my grandmother, who at 79 years old, was just elected to her county school board and is passionate about helping children.

women's march in Raleigh NC

women's march in Raleigh NC

women's march in Raleigh NC

For myself, because I should never be made to feel afraid or uncomfortable or unworthy because I’m a woman. Because I deserve equal pay for equal work. And control of my own body.

I marched to celebrate being a woman. Because it is a gift, not an impediment.

women's march in Raleigh NC


women's march in Raleigh NC

Above all, I marched for my daughters, so that they know they are magnificent individuals who can do and be anything they want.

I marched for their futures.

women's march in Raleigh NC

women's march in Raleigh NC

I wasn’t alone. 17,000 here in Raleigh. Half a million in our nation’s capital.

Thousands and thousands more all over the country and the world.

And I’m going to keep marching. Every day. As best I can.

8 tips for new moms struggling with internet perfection

Tired mom with new babyI was lucky.

I was lucky when Lily was born that Instagram didn’t exist. That Twitter was just growing legs. That I hadn’t yet created a Facebook account.

Because, as a new mom struggling with postpartum depression and anxiety, seeing a whole world of blissed-out moms with perfectly dressed (and sleeping!) babies, gorgeous nurseries and designer gear surely would have sent me over the edge.

Reading about this new mom breaks my heart and rips open old wounds. Because she suffered in silence from a debilitating illness. But also because she worked so hard to maintain the appearance of perfection.

And I can’t help but wonder how big a role the internet played in her ideal of perfection.

There really is no such thing as perfection in life, much less when you’re slogging through the newborn trenches. But the internet tells us it’s out there. It’s everywhere, actually. And why can’t you — exhausted mom with leaky boobs and matted hair and a screaming baby — attain this perfection?

It’s ridiculous.

And even if someone else’s reality actually does include glorious hair and makeup, a baby dressed in the latest on-trend clothes who can sleep anywhere and a home that looks like an Anthropologie catalog, that doesn’t make your experience any less amazing or beautiful.

So I have some advice for any new mom feeling defeated by the “perfection” of the internet-Joneses. Some stuff that helped me when my second baby was born and I was hooked to my brand-new iPhone.

These aren’t easy. But they helped me, and I hope that even just one will do the same for you.

  1. When baby is sleeping, nursing or in your arms just hanging out, put down your phone and try to close your eyes. I know the urge will be strong. To check Facebook. To send a snap. To get the perfect dreamy-light-cozy-moment photo for your Instagram feed. But trust me, there will be tons of other moments to capture. If you have to, take a quick pic, then put the phone down. You can post it later, after you’d had a little rest and your partner is taking care of the baby.
  2. Quit following any accounts that make you feel bad about yourself. I still do this.
  3. Follow accounts that are REAL. Like @womenIRL and @kidsaretheworst. And any of these. Because many of those mom bloggers/social media influencers claiming to “keep it real” are still posting beautiful, unattainable images of perfection.
  4. Build lasting, helpful, meaningful connections through the internet. It can be a wonderful place for new moms. There are all sorts of communities of women in your shoes, and you can find them in Facebook groups, Twitter meet-ups and blogs. It’s beyond comforting. It’s validating. And can be life-saving.
  5. Try to resist FOMO. I know it’s hard. But the most important thing in the whole world is happening right there in your arms.
  6. Let in those closest to you. The woman who wrote that article above was the mother’s best friend, but even she was being kept behind the curtain of truth. Lean on your partner, your family, your closest friends. Let them see and hear and feel the real stuff. My best friend traveled 600 miles to spend time with me when both of my babies were just a few weeks old. She got puked on, screamed at and saw me at my very worst. But I needed her more than anything, and her presence was the best gift. Let your people help. The whole village thing really is true. And they don’t give a shit about perfection.

AND if you think you may have a perinatal mood disorder like postpartum depression, talk to your doctor. As soon as possible. Get the help you need. For me, it was medication, therapy and the most amazing support group. And Postpartum Progress and Postpartum Support International are wonderful resources. You are not alone. None of us is ever alone.

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