Snapshot of the day

6:00 a.m.
Woke up and had coffee in bed thanks to my wonderful husband. Henry was the perfect boy and read books in his crib while I showered and got ready in my businesslady outfit and darker lipstick than made sense in daylight. Then I brought him to his grandparents BobbyDeeDee in his jammies for breakfast. They were kind enough to get him ready and drop him off at daycare for the day.

6:45 a.m.
Leave in plenty of time to get to my speaking engagement and set up.

7:00 a.m.
Realize I actually have no idea where the thing is and GPS it. I was at the wrong exit.

Photo credit Pam Fisher of the Adirondack Regional Chamber of Commerce
Photo credit Pam Fisher of the Adirondack Regional Chamber of Commerce

7:05 a.m.
Arrive and set up, despite some technical glitches.

7:30 a.m.
Awkwardly “network” by clinging to the people I know at the networking event preceding my presentation on branding. Eat dry toast and fruit because I don’t want to be a vegan pain in the a.

8:05 a.m.
Branding presentation. I think it went well. People had nice things to say and I had some good conversations. Pam Fisher from the Chamber is awesome. I have nice friends (Janet Nolin and Shari Olson, while I’m naming names.)

9:30 a.m.
Arrive at the Advokate office. Check email, talk up Matt Funiciello for Congress on Facebook, futz around tidying up.

10:00 a.m.
Artists drop off their work for the shop. Check email and get a few work things done. Appointment with Amity Farm Batik in which we work together creating graphics from her batik to make into scarves.

2:00 p.m.

The Advokate Boutique, now open Tuesday to Friday, 12-5 p.m.
The Advokate Boutique, now open Tuesday to Friday, 12-5 p.m.

Realize I can’t stand it any more and rearrange the shop. Hang shelves, arrange things in baskets, dust, arrange things in different baskets. Put jewelry here. Put jewelry there.

3:30 p.m.
More work. Fast, now. Time’s running out. Work on the Vegan Outdoor Adventures business card and website, and Glens Falls Arts’ November Arts Bulletin, and answer emails.

5:05 p.m.
Pick Henry up. He runs to me with a big smile on his face. It’s the best part of my day, seeing him do his thing in the daycare environment and then have that bright flash of recognition spread over his face like sunshine. I love when he runs to me.

5:15 p.m.
Vote. I teach Henry in the car to say “Vote Green! Vote Matt!” He says it to folks on our way out. While we’re there I bump into Patree, who I used to work with at The Chronicle. She says she just proofed my next article about trying to get pregnant and I ask her what she thinks. She says it will be interesting to people who have had similar experiences, which is my hope.

5:30 p.m.
Henry and I, side by side, make vegan chili and cornbread. He takes a break to poop on the big potty and (after washing his hands) he adds spices, stirs, throws the veggies into measuring cups, pours in all the cornbread ingredients and pours. He helps me do the dishes, too (by pouring water from measuring cup to measuring cup). I put beans in the fridge to soak overnight.

6:30 p.m.

A toast to Matt Funiciello!
A toast to Matt Funiciello!

He decides he is done with dishes and ready to eat dinner and goes and sits in his own chair. I remember that we have Skirts practice tonight and text that I’ll be late. Henry and I raise a Pane Bello toast (because the cornbread is not finished cooking yet) to Matt Funiciello. The chili is really good.

7:10 p.m.
Cory arrives home after voting and we kiss and Henry decides he wants to come to Skirts so we hop in the car and drive. I warm up by singing on the way. Henry just looks at the moon. It glowed tonight.

7:20 p.m.
Chatting in Laura Lightfoote’s kitchen with her and Stefanie O’Brien and Janelle Hammond. I have a Sierra Nevada.

7:30 p.m.
We move downstairs to practice. We’re working on Holding Out For A Hero, which I try not to get too excited about. I’m really excited about it. Henry plays with Laura’s son Mason, who is the same age. They’re adorable. Henry’s a good boy. Henry dumps his snacks in their play kitchen’s sink. It’s funny because Bobby DeeDee started that — they used to keep his snacks in his play kitchen’s sink, and we then followed their habit.

8:30 p.m.
Henry looks at the moon on the way home. We talk about it. I tell him the moon loves him.

8:50 p.m. 
We skip bath tonight because it’s so late and go straight to books and bub. I read Henry a book of poems from the library and he falls asleep on my lap. I can tell it’s coming and intentionally quiet my voice and make the poems into a quiet chant to lull him to sleep. He goes heavy in my arms. I ask if he wants me to finish reading and he says yes through his sleep so I do. It’s precious.

9:00 p.m.
I decide to write my day down while Cory reads The Chronicle and listens to NCPR about the results for the NY-21 Congressional Race. We sit on the couch together.

The Switch Witch saves Halloween!

The Switch Witch tote bag, just in time for trick-or-treating!

Last year, Halloween was easy. We took baby Henry trick-or-treating on our street in upstate New York, and my husband and I ate all the candy! Henry was only one year old, and we gave him a little dark chocolate and he was happy.

Now we’re vegan, and Henry is two. We avoid high fructose corn syrup and prefer all-natural, organic ingredients. How do we navigate the trick-or-treating side of Halloween? We don’t want to suck the fun out of EVERYTHING just because we’re trying to live healthy and cruelty-free.

I’m happy that I stumbled across this Mama Natural video about the Switch Witch.

The Switch Witch is a friendly witch who just LOVES candy. Candy is her favorite. And she loves it so much that she’ll trade you some awesome toys for it! On Halloween night, if you leave a big pile of candy for the Switch Witch, she’ll switch it for a present. Win-win!

(And then you can bring that candy to work and let someone else feel guilty about eating it all!)

I thought this was so clever that I decided to illustrate my own version of the Switch Witch.

Click here to buy a cute trick-or-treating tote bag with the Switch Witch on it!

Terrible Two

photoMy son Henry turned two on August 22.

On the eve of his first birthday, I went through his tiny baby clothes and heaved profound guttural sobs over the loss of my little newborn son.

I remember him seeming so big compared to his first onesies, and how tragic I felt that I’d never get to hold my snorgly sweet-smelling wee little bundle of joy again.

I thought I’d have a similar experience this year for his birthday, but it must be that the bright light of what’s to come vanquishes the sadness about what’s gone.

For sure, there are moments like the maple syrup incident, the nightly meltdowns about going upstairs to bed, and the roadside pants-pooping. It’s not like parenting is for the weak of heart — or stomach.

There are the days where I’ve been yelled at, peed on, and am on my hands and knees picking rice off the floor while dinner-covered hands are still smearing everything in sight.

If I’m out and about with him and try to carry on a conversation with an adult at the same time, I’m fairly certain I don’t say anything intelligent because I’m trying to mentally stay one step ahead of him so he doesn’t hurt himself, hurt someone else, break something, make a mess, blow something up, and so on.

But all that means that he and I are interacting more than when he was just a drooling hip accessory, and the most notorious “incidents” are lifelong stories we’ll tell; juicy family lore in the making.

Besides, they’re balanced out by other moments.

Moments like him singing happy birthday, one of his favorite songs, to anyone he feels affectionate toward. Like how much he loved the “up high” Ferris Wheel at Magic Forest. Like how he takes his time and says “excuse me” on slides when older, bolder kids barrel past him.

The squinting, showing-the-teeth smile he discovered when Auntie Erika asked him to grin for a photo. Him kissing my parents’ dog Heidi on the nose and sharing his spaghetti with her.

Moments like him chasing ducks at Crandall Park, asking Daddy to play blocks with him, and walking his dolly down Morgan Avenue in a pink stroller. Him yelling “DarkStar!” (the name of his Uncle Andrew’s hot air balloon, which he loves dearly) at an empty blue sky, willing it to appear.

Moments like when he puts his head on my shoulder — albeit a tactic he knows to use when he doesn’t want me to put him down for bed, because I love head-on-the-shoulder so much I’ll just hold him that way forever.

While I do feel wistful about the first days I held my tiny little boy in my arms, I am inspired daily. It’s all I can do to outwit him, outrun him and stay up later than him. Motherhood is great fun, despite its challenges.

I can’t imagine an age less terrible than two.

This Family Time column originally ran in the Glens Falls Chronicle‘s Adirondack Family Magazine in Autumn 2014.
Click here to download “Terrible Two” as it ran in The Chronicle.


Tomorrow I turn 31.

I just feel so tired lately. It could be because I haven’t been eating right. It’s hard to find time, and I’ve been picky lately. Skipping meals. It’s no good, because then I just feel drained, like I ran out of gas. Henry deserves better. I wish I had more energy. A good night’s sleep wouldn’t hurt, either. He’s teething and has these early-morning terrors where he just inconsolably screams. I know we could be better about what they call “sleep hygiene,” not caving to his wishes, but anyway, he’s still nursing a few times a night and lately he’s waking up early, too. It takes a lot out of me. I’m pooped.

And that, I guess, is kind of just where I am at 31. If I had the brainspace to zoom out and look at the big picture, I think I’d be happy. But not only in family life, but also in my work life it has felt like I’ll just never catch up to this moving train. There’s always more to do than I have time for. There’s no such thing as doing something fast. Any time I try, it’s mediocre work and needs to be re-done. It seems like I’ll never get in front of this thing and have a minute to evaluate, fine-tune, revamp, organize. It’s just always a race to get it done. I feel all over the place with it. I could use an extra workday just to line things up.

But I guess if I look at things as if I were someone else, I’m all right with my life. It’s busy and I’m exhausted, but I like who I am in the community. I like my friends. I like my family. I’m proud of the things I’ve accomplished. I feel like I’m doing pretty well for the age I am. 31 doesn’t seem like much of a big deal in that way.

I’m feeling really bummed about tomorrow, though. We’re having a party next weekend so I probably won’t see any family this weekend, and Cory has to work from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and so I’m solo with Henry. The logical side of my brain knows that it doesn’t mean I’m unloved, being on my own for the day. It’s just how it worked out. That’s sweet, in a way, to spend the day with my boy. But it’s a lot of work, too. He’s a busy guy, always on the go.

And I’m just so tired.

Bringing the sunshine to Florida

Yesterday we had Henry’s Gram and Grampa over for dinner, along with Uncle Andrew and Aunt Mindy and Great-Aunt Sandy. Gram and Grampa are heading to Florida for two months. I kept so busy with dinner and visiting that the bitterness of the occasion didn’t set in until it was time to say good-bye. It was hard, and caught me off-guard.

The good-bye kiss
The good-bye kiss

I’d known they were going, of course. Maybe I doubted that they actually would pack up and hit the road, knowing how attached they are to Henry (and he to them, of course).

They planned to leave on Tuesday, in the wee hours of the morning, and then because of weather that changed to early Monday morning, which changed to midnight on Sunday, which changed to 9 p.m. on Sunday. They actually left at 7 p.m. on Sunday night to avoid the freezing rain and anxiety of waiting. Maybe part of the surprising unprepared feeling I had last night was because I thought I had more time with them; and that Henry had more time with them.

They’ve seen him almost every day since he was born. The longest span of time they’ve gone without snuggling him, calling him Boober/Bizbee/Squisby/Doobie, waving toys at him, wrapping him in blankets… is maybe three days. Four, tops. They are natural-born grandparents.

Countless times, Cory and I have run over there to drop Henry off because we had to do something or go somewhere without him, or had forgotten that our busy lives now require foresight enough to line up childcare. Countless times they’ve watched Henry for an extra ten minutes, half hour, two hours, full day, when I thought I could get something done for work in a quick moment but it drew out longer than expected or I found myself unable to work around Henry. Always graciously taking on more Henry time than they signed on for. As they left, I felt sad that Henry didn’t know they were going. I wish I could explain what’s going on and why his routine will be changing. Cory said it made him feel homesick, knowing they aren’t just next door. It’s comforting to have them there, especially when my own parents are an hour and a half away.

Yesterday's dinner outfit
Yesterday’s dinner outfit

So it was hard to say good-bye yesterday.

The training wheels are off. We are parents now, like other parents out there. We have to think ahead and plan our daycare options out, take Henry with us when we go places, look to our friends for company and conversation. We’ll still video chat with them, and visit their house with Henry, but it will be different.They deserve this vacation, and it’s good for all of us to take a break and reevaluate what’s really fair to dump on them. They are more than willing to be there for us, but sometimes I don’t feel like I’m balanced when I lean on them so hard.

I am already missing them a lot, but I look forward to the challenge of a more independent motherhood.

Here goes. Let’s see how we do flying solo.

Deliberately, with love

A friend posted on Facebook asking what her friends did today to make the world a better place. I wrote: “Made Christmas cookies with my family. Raising Henry to be a loving, empathetic, soulful creature who is secure, generous, kind, confident and self-reliant is my project right now. A boy who will love, not hate; lead, not follow; and teach others to do the same. A chain letter of empathy.”

I haven’t been good about writing here. I don’t know what I planned to use for, and I’ve mused about it developing into a “mommy blog” or even just my thoughts about Henry, hopes and dreams, etc. Photos to share with family. But Facebook seems to fill the purpose more often than not.

But anyway, answering that question made me want to write more about it. About my purpose as a mother.

I don’t blame mothers for things their children do. I know that I have great parents and was a shithead in high school, through no fault of theirs. But being a mom, I feel like I have a chance at making the world a better place in a chain-letter kind of way. Not only through my own actions, but in the way I raise my son.

During our trip to Albany for a nuchal translucency screening, when we found out at 12 weeks that we were having a son, the first thing to loudly clang in my head was the last line of Andrea Gibson’s slam poem Blue Blanket, which is a jarring, raw poem about rape:

Hold your kids tight.
Hold your kids tight.

she’s not asking what you’re gonna tell your daughter
she asking what
you’re gonna teach

your SON

What am I gonna teach my son?

That we’re all just people, with blood and bones and guts. We all have feelings, parents, things we love, things we’ve lost, triggers that make us happy and sad. No matter what we look like or how we come across, we have a lot in common. It spans not only color lines and gender differences and sexual orientations, but city vs. country folk, people from other countries, workers vs. customers, people who are bitchy to you – everybody.

And so we treat one another with empathy and respect. As we would like to be treated. Across any organized religion, the golden rule is king for a reason. It’s not only the right thing to do to put yourself in another’s shoes; it’s the way you’ll understand the world, and the way you’ll get by in it better.

Treat people with respect because you understand them, because you have tried to visualize and feel for yourself what it’s like to be them and why they do or say things.

I’ll admit that I still snap sometimes; that I bang my head against the wall trying to figure out what the hell someone is thinking and why they’d say such-and-such a thing to me. I’m not a perfect saint who always turns the other cheek.

But deeper, when I think it through, underlying everything I do, I’m trying to see it all from another’s perspective.

We were all this loved
We were all this loved

And I want to pass that on. I think we’d all be okay if we did, too. It’s near impossible to just be mellow and peaceful all the time, but if we aim to make it a constant practice of realizing we are all wearing the same skin, with the same hearts pounding beneath, seeing one another as mirror images of ourselves (“maybe we’re all tomatoes“) then less bad things would happen.

I’ve had this clarity, being a mom myself now, about all of humanity. Everyone who is alive right now had someone who cared about them enough to make sure they’re here now. To feed them, buy them clothes, wake them up in the morning to go to school. Even if it was the bare minimum and they had horrible parents, even just the basics takes a giant act of love and sacrifice. It makes me realize that we are all loved, or were as children, at least. And that doesn’t really go away over time, does it? No matter who you are, if you are alive, somebody has loved you and taken care of you.

Anyway, it was really important to me to make sure that Henry and I bonded immediately after birth, because I think feeling alone is what makes bad things happen. When people can’t recognize that we’re all just doing our best and trying to get by. When they think of everyone else as “other” or feel like they themselves are “other”. Instead of as one.

And if we open our arms to hold one another and also trust that there are open arms out there when we need them, we’ll realize that we aren’t alone.

We have each other.

Henry's iTunes Playlist

Running through the background of videos of my first few months on earth and all my childhood memories were the tunes from a black cassette tape with Kate’s Birthing Tape written in my dad’s penmanship on it. It’s a mix that my parents made together that they meant to bring with them to the hospital but forgot. They still played it all the time after I was born, though.

In my adult life, there have been times where I’m in a grocery store checkout line and one of the songs from The Tape comes on and suddenly I’m a baby again, in our Bridgewater house, feeling safe and loved. These were songs just for me. Each track reminds me, to this day, that I was very much wanted and loved even before I was born.

And also that my parents have a great sense of humor since songs include the Beatles’ I am the Walrus and You Make It All Worthwhile by the Kinks.

So I’m here making Baby Austin-Avon’s iTunes Playlist. I want to include some songs from Kate’s Birthing Tape, along with songs I’ve always loved either on my own or because my parents loved them, songs with lyrics that hit me hard about time or pregnancy, songs Cory and I have found meaningful together, songs Cory has always loved, and some goofy songs with the name Henry in them.

I want to pass along that feeling of comfort-anywhere and a sense of who my parents were before they had me (and who we are before parenthood) to our son. My dad also would sometimes just play a few tunes on his guitar and had written some (mainly silly) songs. I love that Cory also plays guitar and has written some songs, a few of them silly. A man I love playing the acoustic guitar in the living room and singing to nobody in particular is a familiar, comforting feeling and makes me feel like I’m home. It’s a tradition I’m glad is continuing.

Here’s what I have so far:

Carry On My Wayward Son (Starship)
I am the Walrus (Beatles)
You Make It All Worthwhile (Beatles)
Golden Slumbers (Beatles)
Carry That Weight (Beatles)
Teach Your Children (Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young)
Our House (Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young)
Wonderful Tonight (Eric Clapton)
Longer (Dan Fogelberg)
I Want You (She’s So Heavy) (Beatles)
Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy) (John Lennon)
Love is a Song (Columbia Symphony Orchestra)
Henry’s Dance (The Wiggles)
Henry’s Spinning (The Wiggles)
I’m Henry VIII, I am (Herman’s Hermits)
The Wall Flower (Roll With Me Henry) (Etta James)
K-K-K-Katy (The Blazers & Bob Wilson & His Varsity Rhythm Boys)
Bouncing Around the Room (Phish)
God Only Knows (The Beach Boys)
Love and Mercy (Brian Wilson)
Forever (The Beach Boys)
First Day of My Life (Bright Eyes)
Transatlanticism (Death Cab For Cutie)
Cat’s in the Cradle (Harry Chapin)
Landslide (Fleetwood Mac)
Stay Gold (Stevie Wonder)
Lullabye (Goodnight, My Angel) (Billy Joel)
Bridge Over Troubled Water (Simon & Garfunkel)
Playground Love (Air)
Anyone Else But You (Moldy Peaches)
My Guy (Mary Wells)
Daydream Believer (Monkees)
A Song for My Son (Mikki Viereck)
Birthday Song (Spookie Daly Pride)