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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Rock on, 2014

I have my 2015 resolutions, but no need to tout them unless I actually tackle them. I learned over the last year that it's not about a "to-do" list; it's all about a "to-done" list. I discovered that at the end of every work week, if I list what I knocked-out, I feel much more confidant approaching the next round of what I have ahead. 

So with that spirit of accomplishment in mind, I wouldn't be a blogger without a post breaking down the Top 10 for 2014. But we all know what number one was . . . is . . . and will always be. This year broke down into 2014, L.B.B. (Life Before Baby) and 2014, L.A.B. (Life After Baby). You can definitely see a shift in what I consider accomplishments! So, starting with the obvious and working our way backwards and then up again . . . 

1. Brought a New Soul into This World: 

Seven pound, four ounce Jameson Walden Weatherford arrived in Macon, Georgia on June 28, 2014 after 11 hours of labor. Looking back, I didn't realize it at the time, but I kicked ass in the delivery room. No matter how you do it - whether natural, with an epidural or with a c-section - any woman who has been through that is nothing short of Wonder Woman. I still can't believe what I physically withstood. And I remain in awe of the prize we got to take home. On that June afternoon, my life was simplified and complicated all at the same time. I'll forever know 2014 as the year I met me as a mother. It will always be the year God handed me the greatest gift I could ever imagine. And it will forever and always be the year of birth in so many ways.

Now for 2014, L.B.B., just when I thought I knew life as you know it . . . 

10. Attended South by Southwest 

Sure I was six months pregnant and didn't get to enjoy ALL Austin had to offer, but I finally made it to South By. I learned a lot. I ate a whole lot. And Jamie and I managed to take our pic by the famous "I Love You So Much" graffiti at Jo's Coffee on South Congress. I also navigated ATL, AUS and ORD airports and the flights over and back with a baby on board in my belly. I quickly learned people aren't always kind to big-bellied women and spreading the arms and legs for a security pat-down with said belly is a lesson in humility. Still, Austin has been on my bucket list of American cities. I definitely want an encore. 

9. Incubated a Human Being

I absolutely loved being pregnant. Even if I did get a little flustered with the comments, as I previously posted here. Carrying my baby boy inside of me was an honor I'll never take for granted. I wrote before that our journey to baby wasn't without its sadness (2014 was waaay better than 2013). I took it day-by-day and thanked God for each one of them. I've also got to give myself props for going to the gym and Pure Barre all the way up to week 35, especially considering I haven't been back. I would have kept going up to 40 if not for a slight stress fracture in my foot. Up until then, I was really digging maternity fashion, too. But there is just no way of dressing up nine months pregnant AND an awkward foam boot. I did keep up with prenatal yoga at the way to the end with the fabulous Mandy Miller at Hometown Yoga, and I credit a lot of that to the breathing that got me through my initial eight hours of contractions. I'm also proud of the pampering I treated my pregnant self to on the journey, from the blow-outs, pedicures, massages and babymoon to the Amelia Island Ritz - 'cause I sure miss it now!

Now for 2014, L.A.B. As small as they seem, once our cub started rocking our worlds, this is what lists are now made of! 

8. Launched

During my blink-of-an-eye maternity leave, I managed to finally put the finishing touches on content for Rock Candy Tours' website. Our extremely patient friend and web guru Adam Ruback of Double Down Productions was able to launch us live, making me no longer the cobbler with no shoes. The website is beautiful and communicates our company's story well, so check it out, and learn more about our Macon, Georgia music history tour company.

7. Re-Vamped

Breastfeeding has more benefits than I ever realized. One of them being whether I am pumping or nursing, I find myself thumbing through Instagram and mom blogs more than ever. That inspired me to get my act together again in Macon Candyland. It started with a dog blog, then our wedding story and now it's finding its voice as a down south working mama's perspectives on new familyhood, as well as a continued love letter to my fair hometown of Macon, Georgia (and maybe just a sprinkle of wisdom according to Dolly Parton). I hope I don't embarrass my son too much when he reads this one day. 

6. Read Two Novels

Call it inconsequential but finishing two fiction books for fun after having a baby felt like a feat. Everyone told me that reading gets left on the bedside after baby. I guess I was told it enough to where I was determined to take on a chapter by chapter challenge. I completely engulfed Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl in record time (and even went on a ladies' night out to see the movie!). I started one of Elin Hilderbrand's surefire "beach read" the Castaways during the summer months after I had Walden, but it took me longer than any easy read ever! It was well into fall and completely wilted before I finished it. But damnit,I finished it. Brace yourself: I'm reading my third novel, a paperback appropriately called Mother, Mother by Koren Zailckas. Let's see if I can speed up my new average of a book every two months. 

5. Danced to "Patches" with my Son at Second Sunday

As I got to know Jamie during the early dating days, I told him I had three obsessions: Iceland, Dolly Parton and the song "Patches" by Clarence Carter. The night of our wedding, he had his friend Brian learn and perform "Patches" as a surprise for me. He made my dream happen of setting it up where I could karaoke the song at the 2012 Bragg Jam Christmas Party. The first time I felt Walden kick inside my belly was during the screening of the Muscle Shoals documentary at the Macon Film Festival when the story behind "Patches" was revealed. It remains my favorite song of all time. So, when I booked Clarence Carter to perform at College Hill's signature Second Sunday Concert Series, Walden wasn't even in utero yet. But when Clarence Carter's concert finally happened on October 12, 2014, little Walden made his Second Sunday debut, wearing head phones, of course, and strapped onto his mama where we danced to hopefully what will be one of his favorite songs, too. 

Photo by Maryann Bates

4. Caught the Attention of NPR with Macon's Music Heritage 

In September, I wrote a column in our local newspaper on how the original office space of Capricorn Records was in danger of being demolished. The site, which wasn't just the home to Capricorn Records but also RedWal Music Group, where Otis Redding and my family headquartered the southern soul movement, is the most photographed facade on our Rock Candy Tour. The building has been in a state of critical neglect for decades now. The fact that it was up for demolition was no surprise. But what got me was how music heritage in general - and the landmarks that helped shape the sounds of American music - are an endangered species in many cities with a music past. This plight of preservation made it to the listeners of National Public Radio when friend and Murrow-award winning journalist Adam Ragusea produced a story on Macon's music heritage. You can read or listen to the story here. As for the Capricorn building, good news was received this week where plans are underway to save the historic facade and hopefully re-use the space in a way that continues to connect it with its groundbreaking past. 

The family business at 535 Cotton Avenue

3. Wrote a Feature Story for the 11th Hour

The job that changed everything for me was when I worked as the editor of the 11th Hour, Macon's bi-weekly, brow-raising, alt-newspaper that shook our pristine cherry trees like a polaroid picture when it arrived to town in early 2000. As editor, I also did a lot of writing, trying my darndest to harken the feature writer within my journalism degree. The 11th Hour gave me the chance to have a byline on stories about music, arts and local culture, but we also went deeper, and I soon sharpened my chops with investigative stories on the meth epidemic, sex offenders, prostitution, the money of mega-churches and more. It was a blast. We took our dogs to work, wore flip-flops that everyone made a big deal about, had a margarita machine in our office and our own 11th Hour television show on cable (syndicated in Houston County!). Brad and Meagan Evans, who continue to own and publish the paper, remain our dearest friends today. In fact, Brad stood by me at the altar on my wedding day as my "Bradsmaid." And now that the Evans have two cutie-patootie baby girls, we're starting to enjoy this family thing all together. 

I've been itching to write a feature story, old school 11th Hour style, since having a baby. I don't know if it's hormonal or a flight or fight instinct, but when Brad said they needed a feature for the last issue of the year, I was hell-bent on breaking out the "investigative" notebook and harkening the past. The day after the Ferguson verdict, Brad and I journeyed to one of the worst crime-ridden streets in Macon, based on an obscure lead, to interview an old timer about of all things, Christmas lights. Just like the old days, one surreal moment led to another . . . Brad's giant butcher knife in the front seat of his car, the group of gangsters who never took their eyes off of us and the interview that came through for us. To complete a cover story again for the 11th Hour was one of the best Christmas gifts I gave myself. Brad said it best when he texted me, "We've still got it." To read the complete article "What Killed the Christmas Spirit on Capitol Avenue," click here
2. Submitted to a Literary Agent 

Three days ago I hit SEND and my heart hit the floor. For years, I've tried to work up enough nerve to start soliciting literary agents. You see, my name is Jessica Walden and my real dream is to write children's literature. There, I admitted it. Over the years, there are very few who know about my secret stash of stories I've been writing all of my life. I finally polished up two of my favorites that I penned nearly a decade ago. The week right after Walden's birth, I began researching agents and working on my submission materials. This is just the first step . . . to catch the attention of an agent who can then solicit my work. But this first step was paralyzing. Still, in a Starbucks on the north side of town (because my downtown coffee shop was closed), I finally put it all together and emailed it to the dream agent. I'm ready for rejection. I know that's the second step in this lifelong goal puzzle. But I am also saying my prayers, crossing my toes and doing a rain dance that maybe, just maybe, 2015 is the year some of these stories see the light of day. But even if not, I'll count on Walden to be my biggest critic. If the day comes where he asks me to read him one of my stories, I will be living a dream.  

And that brings us back to one. One perfect blessing. One healthy, adoring baby boy. Today, my mother, brother and stepfather are in town and have spent most of the day with Walden, allowing Jamie and I to have a much-appreciated day date. Earlier, as I was getting ready, I could hear laughter coming from downstairs. Not only was it the sound of my baby boy's precious chuckle, but I could hear my mother laughing along with him. My mom now lives five hours away, and I don't get to hear her laugh enough. These two great loves laughing alongside each other in my home was one of those pinch me moments of peace, love and sweet realization. I love you, 2014. Thanks for the milestones. 

That Smile, Though

This week, Walden and I took a stroll in Downtown Macon with our friend Lauren Morrill Ragusea and her 11-week old little boy Freddie, who by the way, has the most luxe head of dark hair I've ever seen. One of the most exciting things to happen in Downtown in 2014 was the opening of a local grocery store, Ocmulgee Traders. After a hearty stroll around our downtown blocks, we stopped by the grocery to grab King of Pops popsicles (yes, in December, when you can still break a sweat!). We just happened to run into photographer Maryann Bates and her beautiful family enjoying an afternoon snack as well. 

I count as my blessings to live in a town where it's not hard to run into dear friends. And Walden is starting to realize that too. He lit up with recognition the moment he saw Maryann, who always makes him smile. And of course, she had a camera on her. She sent me this warm and fuzzy photo that evening. I couldn't quit staring at my beaming boy, who turned six months old this week.

Six.months.old. How have we been up to this for half of a year? Where did these six months go?

It went into two nervous, unsure new parents wondering why the hospital would make us leave in just two days and take him home with us . . . without an instruction manual. It went into that first week of being absolutely terrified of the umbilical stump, his circ-wounded manhood, his wobbly little head and his tiny little everything. It went into eight weeks of him sleeping in a Mamaroo because he would actually sleep when he was in it. He would sleep so much that I wouldn't sleep because I was too busy jumping out of bed and making sure he was still breathing. 

It went into only four weeks of maternity leave, something I regret. Granted, I was doctor-ordered off my feet almost two weeks before his arrival (and still managed to coordinate a press conference from my living room easy chair) and worked four weeks from home after the initial four were up, but the regret is even eight wasn't enough. I didn't realize how much shock and awe I would be in physically and emotionally after having a baby. Looking back, I should had gone completely off the clock and radar longer. Heck, my sun-don't-shine stitches weren't even gone by the time I was working again. This country's maternity leave practices just ain't right. The glass ceiling will never be cracked when our careers treat child-bearing like a professional set-back. I wasn't willing to take a $15,000 pay cut to be home with my newborn for the first three months of life. Seriously, we're all worth way more than that.

It went into six weeks when that million-dollar more-than-a-million smile emerged. So many people tried to warn me - that first smile will wreck you in the best way possible. And so it did. When his first smile emerged - that little window to the purest heart you'll ever know - my soul broke into a million little pieces and were woven back together in a way that would have me do just about anything to see it over and over again. Since that six-week milestone, Jameson Walden Weatherford has melted many hearts with that smile. As you can see by this photo, he's mastered the technique.  

It went into three months when we stood alongside our family, our friends, our congregation and our God to baptize our child in our Christian faith. It was the same altar at Mulberry Street United Methodist Church where Walden's father and great-grandfather were also Christened. Walden wore his Uncle Preston's Christening gown, the hem now sewn with his name and date along with Preston's. It was a holy moment for us all, even though Walden required our minister to anoint him with his bottle after the sprinkling. 

It was just a few days later we made the bold move to take our first family beach trip. It went into a six-hour drive being broken into three-hour-legs, over two days, divided by 1.5 hour pit stops. The drive down ended with the longest last 12 miles we've ever faced, where the Prius was nearly empty; we were stuck in Tampa rush hour; it was pouring rain; and the baby rendered his diaper useless with one massive natural disaster. His first venture to the beach startled him so bad, I had to nurse him the entire time (and publicly my first time). It rained for most of the trip. And my bucket list item, the Weeki Wachee Mermaid Show, was cancelled due to lightening after we got there. But that's just the lowlights. Our first trip as a family of three was unforgettable. We spent my birthday at Silas Dents, my favorite campy steak and seafood restaurant of beach trips gone by, and the baby slept the entire time, giving us a perfect meal. We eventually dipped Walden's toes into the Gulf of Mexico. And there was this Best Western in Valdosta, Georgia, where we stayed in the middle of our drive, that was simply perfect. I'm neurotic when it comes to highway hotels. But I totally clicked with this Best Western. In fact, I say our next trip, we just drive there.

It went into four months when we decided we just weren't ready for daycare. Especially during the RSV season. Breathing treatments every four hours and seeing our baby sick for the first time wasn't for sissies - especially us first-timers. I broke into those million little pieces again. His daddy did, too. The boy in the bubble was out of the question. But in the stress of this, a new, unlikely superhero emerged. My stepmom Tosha, now better known as Walden's Amma, swooped in and saved the day by giving her grandson the best daytime care possible. He hasn't been sick since [*I'm gonna knock, knock, knock on wood*].

It went into five months where we entered the throes of teething and just when we thought we had the best sleeping baby in under the night sky, the deck got re-shuffled. We're still trying to figure out what to do with this new wild card that tends to come out between the AM hours of 12, 3 and 5:45. But the teething pain seems to have temporarily subsided, even though the home-wreckers haven't broken through the gums yet.

It's been six months, and we have a real live human on our hands. His totally joyful personality has emerged. He's babbling and motor-boating and grunting and trying with all his might to crawl. He loves to reach for certain things throughout the house -- the stained glass window in our stairway, the globe in his bedroom, paintings on our walls, the light switch in our hall. His sense of discovery is my sense of discovery, too. I'm seeing the world through an entirely new, glorious (and sometimes terrifying!) perspective. He's starting to taste foods - a little quinoa cereal, a little sweet potato, a little avocado, a little banana today. He still prefers mama's milk, and Elsie's still got nothing on me, so we're sticking with breastfeeding for another six months or so. 

Six months in and he still doesn't like to nap. His dad says he gets his stubbornness from me. I say his daddy's so stubborn he won't admit his son gets it from him. Still, we're all so stubborn, we continue trying to make a nap schedule work even though I spent an hour and 40 minutes today trying to get him down for a morning nap, and when he finally did, it lasted 18 minutes. Six months in and we're still waffling between his nursery and our bedroom. He still has dual-residency. And mama is fine, for now, with that. 

Six months in and I miss being able to veg-out on Netflix and House Hunters. I miss being able to do whatever the heck I want, when I want. I miss these tiny, minute, silly things. But to go back six months? Or even further, past the nine months prior to that?

Never in a million years.

Time flies when you're having fun. And the last six months have blown by. It's obvious how our little being has changed so much over this half of year. When I take the time to look, I see how much I have changed and continue to change with him. No doubt the next six months will fly by just as fast. All I need is my son's smile for my soul to sing for more, more, more.   

photo by Stephanie Shadden


Sunday, December 28, 2014

Daddy Duty

December was a big one for my husband. The big being he turned 40 just a few days before what was made an even bigger deal - our son's first Christmas. I felt terrible that he didn't get to 40 in our usual "turn it up" fashion. Had it not been the year of the baby, we probably would have had a big turn-down throw-down with live music, revelry and a full day of hang-over hanging out meticulously planned. But things have changed - for the better, of course - and "this is 40" turned out to be a co-soiree at a local Indian restaurant with our dear friends and a ridiculously over-priced vat of hummus. My husband was a good sport about it all. He didn't have high expectations. He never really does. "I'm a middle child with a birthday that falls too close to Christmas. It's not a big deal," he said (if that doesn't break your heart!). He also celebrated his birthday with a surprise visit from the health inspector to the candy factory. Those are always fun when you're in food manufacturing. 

I've been home with the baby boy for over a week now and have a week to go. I'm beyond grateful for the time I have with him and try to soak up each bit like a piece of crusty bread in olive oil. But there are moments I get a little loco. There, I said it. I may not be completely cut-out for 24/7 of the baby channel. And lately, it's been full-on 24. His sleeping patterns have been out of whack since he started teething a month ago and we've may or may not have created some bad bed habits . . . Needless to say, they are starting to bite me in the butt (more like the boob, but the pun is well intended). 

Sometimes, I get a little jealous of the maternal versus the man-ternal. Take nipples, for example. A man can do pretty much whatever he wants to with his nipples. He can jog shirtless. He swims shirtless. The beach is full of topless men. And society doesn't give a damn, even though his nipples have absolutely nothing functional to do! But a woman . . . We can't even have a nip slip without shutting down a Super Bowl. And what's even more baffling is that our fully functioning nipples are still considered offensive by some, even when feeding a child and sustaining life before our eyes. 

And speaking of sustaining life, women are the world's incubators, wrecking our bodies with nine months of captivity before however-many hours of hard labor it takes to bring that life onto Planet Earth. Meanwhile and often-meaning well, men can coach and squeeze hands and wipe brows and tell us we're doing a good job while walking out of the hospital physically unscathed and just as much of a parent as the one who did ALL the work. 

Can you tell I'm just a little bitter when it comes to male anatomy?

My husband and I agreed early on to never say he's "baby-sitting." Parents don't baby-sit. Sure, we watch our children while the other is free to turn their attention on something else. But moms don't baby-sit. And dads shouldn't either. He also doesn't do me any favors when he changes our son's diaper, feed him a bottle, comfort him when he cries or spends time playing with him. That's just what you do when you have a child. It's one thing to be a father. But dads are equal partners. 

Do I sound like a harsh house wife? The thing is, I am not a house wife. Just like my husband, my child isn't my job. We both have jobs. We both are making a living to provide for our family. And at the end of the day, we are all one family. Despite a few physical attributes that prevent us from completely sharing ALL of the baby duties, he does a darn good job at making up from where anatomy left off.

In fact, he practically pushed me into the car and off to the coffee shop so I could get some personal "office" time. I was practically weepy with a mix of separation anxiety and gratitude. And here I am, spending that me time thinking about us - we - as a family.

Jamie received this cross-stitch for Christmas this year. His mother made it for his grandfather, who has long been gone but still remains a huge influence on his grandson even today. This sentimental gift meant more to Jamie than any of his other presents. He said he used to stare at it all of the time when it was at his grandfather's house. Now he gets to look at it daily at our own home, with his own son who will notice it as well. 

As this year comes to a close, I mark down on my list of gratitudes that I didn't just deliver a baby to Jamie for him to become a father. Our son came into this world so Jamie could be a daddy. Even though my husband is a middle child with a birthday that falls in the middle of Christmas, he's still something special of a daddy.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Santa Baby

Our house buzzed with excitement this morning as Baby's First Christmas (i.e. Parents' Rewind to Childhood) officially began. Although our little cub was slightly overwhelmed with toy overload and underwhelmed by the trappings -- yet uber-enthralled by all the ribbons and wrappings -- it made for a beautiful morning that his daddy and I will never forget. So, this is what six months looks like. Clear the roads, he's already driving. Beep, beep, beep and ho, ho, ho! With the grace and love that comes from the simplicity of a barnyard manger, Merry Christmas from our home to yours!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

'Tis the New Traditions

Being baby's first Christmas, I haven't been this excited since I was a child. Just the fact that Santa's making his debut at our home this year is enough to leave me wide-eyed and awake on Christmas Eve (Ha! Who am I kidding?? These days, I'd practically trade St. Nick for Mr. Sandman!). Children are truly the greatest of game-changers. I adore how the magic is back in our holiday season.

Among the traditions I am creating as we merry along is "A Very Walden Weatherford Christmas" journal. It's a simple, blue composition notebook I will stow away with the decorations at the end of each season. In it, I'm jotting down notes about new traditions, new memories and some of the special gifts he receives. One of those notes explains the ornament collection I started for him this year. Here is the excerpt:

Every year, I will give you a set of ornaments, so one day, when you have your own tree, you will have an impressive collection full of meaning. Your BeBe (my mom) did the same for me. So, read on as I explain the meanings behind this year's ornaments -- the first of many loving traditions!

Red Globe: Son, I want to give you the world. Among my wishes for you is to understand our global community, realize we really are a small world, and know He's got the whole world in His hands. I want you to experience the gift of travel. That is something I wish I had done more of and hope to do with you in the future. I look forward to seeing the world through your eyes. This will be the first of many globes in your life. I hope to collect more ornaments like this for you over the years! As a side note, there is a globe in your nursery that lights up with the constellations when it's dark. You are only five months old, but you reach out to "make the world go 'round" every time we walk by the globe. You absolutely love it!

The Fox: Your baby shower before your arrival was themed "The Little Prince" in your anticipation. The fox in the "Little Prince" plays a crucial role in the morals of the famed story. The fox holds the secrets of life. Lo and behold, we kept finding foxes in the many things decorating your nursery, as well as your baby clothes and accessories. Of course, it was a coincidence, but it tied in well to the meaning in the story, which we will read together often, and the clever nature the fox is known for, which we believe you already have! As soon as we saw the fox ornament, daddy and I immediately purchased it in honor of you. As for the famous fox quotes in the "Little Prince":

"But if you tame me, we'll need each other. You'll be the only boy in the world for me. I'll be the only fox in the world for you."

And the most famous - 

"It is only with the heart that one can see rightly."

The Hedgehog:  I've become more and more fascinated with hedgehogs over the years. Right now, they're illegal to have as pets in Georgia, but I have high hopes this will change. I would love for us to have one (or two) as a pet. You'll find your mom has a hard time saying no to animals! There also seems to be a theme of this cute creature in your nursery, much like the fox. The best analogy I can give with the hedgehog is life can be prickly sometimes, even in the cutest of packages. But that doesn't mean we don't embrace it. We just use caution. 

The Felt Elf: This little guy reminds me of the sugar plum fairy ornament mom has had hanging on her tree over the years. My sister and I used to fight over who would get it one day (even though the fairy was around before she was born!). I hope this elf is as cherished to you as the fairy. And it's yours for the keeping. No questions asked.

You also received two "Baby's First Christmas" ornaments. Mommy and daddy had a glass ornament made with your name on it that features a fawn and toadstools. You are our little deer - and always will be. 

Your Mimi and G-Dad also gave you one that is an engraved silver spoon. Both are now hanging proudly from the tree, which contains so many other special memories. You have now added immensely to them. 

Thanks for letting me share our new memories with you. And from our good lil' boy to all y'all other little boys and girls [in us] out there, Merry Christmas from the Macon Candy family!

Santa, we now know him!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

A Few of a New Mama's Favorite Things

Everyone told me how life would change as I knew it. And they were right. Priorities, time management and the fact that the coolest thing in the world to me right now is a goofy, gummy smile is a huge mind-altering life change. But what I didn't expect was how my taste and preferences would actually evolve. Breastfeeding has turned my wardrobe inside out -- vintage shift dresses have shifted to washer and dryer-friendly blouses, skirts and pants (what tha - I'm wearing pants again?!). And I've actually had to get stuff taken in due to the deflation of the pre-pregnancy bod and the calorie burning this hungry little guy is causing. The diet also went through a hard-reset. I don't like pickles anymore. I can't get enough of coconut water, fruit and dark chocolate. I'm also drinking coffee (I mean, who isn't, right? Right?! Right?!! Okay, may need to slow that one down a bit). Sure, I had my fill of pregnancy cravings, but this is the stuff survivalist mentalities are made of -- I eat and drink hard, fast and would probably growl if you went to move my plate away from me. Even my Christmas wish list has taken a different tone. Sure, what I really want is peace, goodwill and a better world for my son, but I still can't help reminding Santa that even if I wasn't perfect this year, I pushed a 7-pound-plus baby down my chimney! Here are my current obsessions outside of my ridiculously addictive baby boy:

Robes: But Not of the Nursing Home Variety

I used to always wonder why my mom wanted a new robe for Christmas. It just seemed terribly boring. Who knew that I wasn't even a mama myself for a full six months before I started asking for one! My robes are either vintage, silky or ornamental. But now that winter is upon us and our mornings and nights are a little longer due baby boy's ever-changing sleep and feeding patterns - not to mention the time I spend pumping away and slightly shivering - I want an actual cozy, fluffy robe that I can throw on in a flash. But I can't - just can't - rock the whole tattered terry cloth / fuzzy slipper look. So, I asked Santa for UGG's Duffield Robe. If it's anything like anything UGG, I know it's going to be comfortable, cozy and slightly luxurious. And now I can count on UGG head to toe. 

Pajamas: Two-Piece, Please

Since I'm still breastfeeding, I need easy-access with just about anything I wear. This definitely includes what I wear at night. Gone are the days of my chic and sleek "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" (portion of which was penned in Macon) vintage slips I used to wear to bed. Even the comfy t-shirt and boxer shorts couldn't cut it anymore. When baby boy arrived, I spent almost a month in vintage, zippered kaftans morning, noon and night. Next thing I know, they went from this glamorous notion to looking and feeling completely like Mrs. Roper moo-moos. So, I became obsessed with pajama sets. With a little one, there are so many mornings you are just stuck in the same clothes you wore to bed, and sometimes, especially if you are covered in spit-up or your Breast Milk No. 5, it just feels gross. At least in a put-together pajama set, I feel somewhat human and less farm animal. 

I am not a fan of loud patterns. Especially in the peace of the night. I want pajamas with a retro look and clean lines. From short sets to pant sets, I've bought them all since baby arrived. Material also matters - real silk can make some nasty moisture stains and you want something you can wash over and over again. My favorite pair are actually a fancy, affordable satin set from Target that miraculously dries quickly - the blush pink color with black trim is perfectly pink, and I couldn't believe the quality for the price. Flannel can be a little too hot for me, but I did find that it's incredibly absorbent and resilient set from Gilt with a nice, calming pattern. I'm especially pleased with the belled pant leg and shorter-style top that just grazes the hips. Finally, on those hot Georgia December nights (ha!), I absolutely adore this gingham short set I purchased from Amazon this summer. Just remember, after having a baby, this is the kind of two-piece you can wear anytime. 

Over-the-Shoulder Everything Else Holder

I love a purse. I'm not into jewelry. I do have a bit of a shoe thing, but nothing compares to the way a good handbag releases endorphins at hello. I thought that would change when baby came along. But it only changed the way in which I carry my handbag . . . and the diaper bag, the baby, the stroller and the half-the-house you pack on each outing. What I did find is it's now all about the cross-body strap. There is no better way to do it. I have a tendency to name my handbags and assign them gender. There is just no way I can let her (or him!) ride in the bottom of a stroller. So a cross-body allows me to secure my purse within visibility, throw the diaper bag in the stroller, gently place the baby in his seat and dash away to our hearts content (he usually lets me know that his is contented first). Jamie really wowed me this past birthday with a wonderful Kate Spade that I can not only wear as a cross-body but at the flick of a wrist, handle it as well, and go from the office to babyland and back without missing a beat. It also looks nice paired with my Kate Spade diaper bag that was a great consolation prize for the fact I now need to carry diapers with me. 

Your Mama Wears Badass Boots

Finally, back to the holiday wish list. I recently discovered Steve Madden's Freebird Boots line. Now, on a personal note, you would think "Freebird" would have been my first word with the way I was raised. My dad was Lynyrd Skynyrd's original manager back in the day, discovering a barefoot band of three-guitar hell raisers deep in the swamps of northern Florida. Fortunately, he was no longer working with them when the plane went down a month after I was born. But, he did hold onto publishing for some of their greatest original songs, including "Freebird" and "Sweet Home Alabama," for a couple of decades. So, yeah, every time someone held up a lighter and yelled "Freebird," they were inadvertently helping put me through college. 

Back to the boots! Madden's vintage-inspired Freebird is that perfect mix of funk and clunk that would make me feel like one tough mother the minute I slipped them on. And like many true cowgirl-cut boots, I speculate their comfortable, too. Since being pregnant, suffering a stress fracture and now doing a lot of lifting and hauling of this bouncing baby boy, I'm still just not there when it comes back to returning to the high, high heels. But boots - real boots - will make this new mama feel just as fashionable. I am loving so many of the styles in this line. But if I had to pick favorites, let's go with these thigh-grazers and these ankle biters. Huge props to the creative team behind these boots - from their well-worn design to their great names, I am holding up my lighter as a fan. What's that boot you wanna wear? FREEBIRD!   

What Every Baby Mama [and Daddy] REALLY Need

After a little sampling at our local downtown kitchen and home goods store Robinson Home, I have now joined the bandwagon that is convinced we need Nespresso in our lives. With the nifty foamer, pretty please with crema on top?? It's not that the Keurig we have doesn't cut it (in fact, I can't recommend it enough for new parents who ain't got time for beans, filters and things), but mama needs a shot every now and then. And if I'm steering clear of the hard liquor these days, then Espresso is the new buzz. Nothing sounds stronger than the Pixie Steel (that would be a great band name, btw!) -- it makes me want to hold a tiny 'presso mug with my pinky up and a menacing stare. But what I love most about Nespresso and its cute little pods and Pixies is they are committed to Fairtrade International, which benefits a global community of small-scale farmers. I'll feel good about drinking myself wide awake to that.

More from Maryann Bates

I know he's mine and all, but he is awfully beautiful . . . Walden's photo shoot at almost five months.

Family Evolution

Thank you Maryann Bates for once again for capturing the ever-evolving evolution of our family. Here we are, officially, as a party of three. He seems to fit right in, doesn't he?

Monday, November 3, 2014

And So it Begins - the Season of Firsts!

The minute he arrived, I started hearing it from everyone. I still hear it on a daily basis. And now I am most definitely a believer: It goes by so fast.

How do I have this laughing, smiling, interacting, wonder-filled, four-month-old baby boy? Last week, on October 28, exactly four months since he arrived in this world, he proved he was ready for more by doing this first ever full, roll-over. I was so grateful to be home that day and witnessed his determined heave-ho that landed with a satisfied smile. The video is on my Instagram if you want to see crazy cuteness in action.

It was also our first big holiday - Halloween! Being newbies at this, family costume discussions had been taking place before his umbilical chord stump fell off. At some point in the blur of co-parenting a newborn, Jamie referred to him as our little Boss Hogg. You know, the demanding, bald, baby-ish character from "Dukes of Hazzard" who kept Bo and Luke Duke on the run? Boss Hogg started to stick. And next thing you know, we had a family Halloween plan in the making.

Meet our baby Boss Hogg, along with the Duke boys - Bo (Jamie) and Luke (Jessica). We even gave out bubblegum cigars!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Follow Macon Candy on Instagram!

I promise to not overload you with ultimate cuteness baby Walden pictures (but there is a Walden Filter, you know). I'm mini-blogging on Instagram with the simple pleasure of Macon Candy life. Please join my #Instagood network at

The Great Baby Balancing Act

Although I am not a believer that everything can be written in the stars, I do believe that somewhere in the great constellation cosmos, the astro scale that points to Libra flashes down on me like one of those retro arrowed signs. I am a textbook walking, talking Libra horoscope, who just recently celebrated my 37th birthday. Achieving balance, as signified by the sign, is both a blessing and a fault of the stars.  

One of my biggest fears in having a baby, especially as someone whose spent almost four decades living my own life, was losing any semblance of balance. I was terrified my scale would be tilted in one of two ways -- mommyhood would warp me into house wife, where my son would never get a break from me, or, it would spiral me into career overdrive, where I would never get a break for him.

But what I have discovered in the three months my little Bear Cub has been here is that balance -- real, true, authentic balance -- is better than I ever knew it.

I know, I know, it wasn't supposed to turn out this way. And maybe I write this with a tad bit of naivety. But hear a Libra lady out: I needed this.

Someone said to me the other day, "Motherhood looks good on you." And although it was taken as a compliment, for me, it's not just being a mother that has motherhood suiting me so well. 

It's life. Life looks good on me! Marriage looks good on me! My career looks good on me! My family looks good on me! Macon looks good on me! In the midst of new found motherhood, I found that my world didn't condense, like I feared, but it expanded, like I never knew it could. My son isn't the only center of my universe (although he hung the sun, moon and stars), but he has centered my world like I never knew possible.

Post-baby, I never knew how happy I would feel to be back in my office, pursuing the profession I had no idea I loved so much. I had no idea how proud I would feel that I managed to turn in two newspaper columns and launch the Rock Candy Tours website while nursing a newborn (and the wounds of childbirth). That same sense of pride swelled when I picked up a copy of the statewide Georgia Trend magazine and saw a quote I had contributed to an article about my profession. But for the first time, my first thought wasn't "look at what I did," but instead, it was a world-altering "Look at what Walden's mom is doing."

At the same time, I am shocked at the new rhythm of my day. I love being at work, and I also love leaving work to go pick up my son. I love being home at a decent time these days. I no longer feel as obligated to attend every event and civic happening that community-centered jobs lend themselves to. And I love that new sense of freedom. I also love not having or making plans like I used to. I love that life with an infant scoffs at plans.

And as hard of a time as I have at saying "no" to the metaphorical clay pigeons that tend to fly my way, I finally have an excuse that doesn't include an ounce of  guilt -- my time has never been more valuable. I don't just share it with my son; I share it with my family -- which includes an adoring husband and even a little bit of me, myself and I. The great baby balancing act belongs to all of us. We make time for us. And I make time for me. 

That me-time may be late into the evening, after the Cub goes down for the night. It may be those last 20 minutes of my day when I'm hooked up to the breast pump for the final milk-making session before bed. It may be the sacred moments of a tub soak with a paperback (an easy summer beach read I've never read so slowly). It may be right now, as as write away in a coffee shop . . . The great mommy's me-time escape place. 

Since having Walden, I have yet to waste a minute of the day. It's definitely exhausting -- especially those week nights when Jamie and I are going to bed at midnight after spending our evenings after work working just as hard to maintain household order. But even when I lay down a weary head, there is the most gratifying sense of dual-purpose. We (WE!) made it another day. I (ME!) am a mother and more.

It's the little things that count these days. Little things like the gurggles and coos coming from my three-month-old. Simple pleasures that I used to take for granted, like this Mayan Mocha I'm sipping at my leisure. Small achievements like taking the time to write this blog post. Tiny victories like Jamie and I taking our first family road trip last week.   

Well, my coffee is finished. I'm now heading to savor a few minutes on the grocery aisles. And then I've got to get back to my family . . . I take that back. I want to get back to my family. My scale runneth over. 

(On the job at the September Second Sunday Concert)

(First family beach walk - we survived a road trip to Florida!)

                                  (Obligatory proof of Mommy's Me-Time!)

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Ultimate Delivery Room Playlist

I've been wanting to make this post for about . . . let's see . . . eight weeks now? But I've definitely had my hands busy. And my arms. And my lap. And my boobs. Most definitely the boobs as I keep our growing boy growing incredibly strong (and far too fast - folks weren't kidding!). But now that I have missed getting this up before two more dear girlfriends gave birth to their baby boys, I made it a priority for the other mothers looking for the ultimate delivery room playlist.

As many know, music is a huge part of our lives. From our tour company to the town we love to how we met and who I come from, there is always a soundtrack playing somewhere in our personal lives.

I spent a lot of time laboring (pun well intended) on the playlist I would have while I labored. Jamie concentrated on how the list would be played and pressing play when the time seemed right. And even though I was in a delirium of pain when he cued the tunes, I'm so glad he did. 

During those last final hours, when the pain relief had kicked in and I was pushing my heart out - literally, because there is no doubt my heart now lives on the outside - Jamie, our delivery nurse, the doc and I began to wonder which song little Walden Weatherford would arrive to.

Of course, it would be one of Dolly Parton's. At 2:17 p.m., Walden arrived to a song that a dear friend (you've seen her video work here) gave me when I needed to pick myself up off the ground. Lyrics from the song "Light of a Clear Blue Morning" go:

Cause I am strong and I can prove it
And I got my dreams to see me through
It's just a mountain, I can move it
And with faith enough there's nothing I can't do

And I can see the light of a clear blue morning
And I can see the light of brand new day
I can see the light of a clear blue morning
And everything's gonna be all right

It's gonna be okay

That song arrived with Walden like a gift card on a gift from God. Right after that, as I held my newborn in my arms, experiencing the most precious moment of my life, the next installment of Dolly cooed, "And I'll always love you . . . " Even my doc looked up from post-delivery and said, "Now this one is an appropriate song, isn't it?" Once again, the force that is Dolly Parton was there. 

But Dolly wasn't the only artist in the delivery room that day. Here is the song list that got me through (almost) 12 hours of bringing our baby boy into the world. In the order on my I-pod:
  1. Alabama Shakes: "Hold On" and "You Ain't Alone"
  2. Aretha Franklin: "You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman" and "Son of a Preacher Man"
  3. Band of Horses: "The Funeral" (I know . . . but Jamie and I courted to this song)
  4. Bonnie Raitt and John Prine: "Angel from Montgomery"
  5. Carrie Rodriguez: "Got Your Name On It," "Before You Say Another Word," and "I Don't Want to Play House Anymore" (great for those contractions!)
  6. Cake: "The Distance"
  7. Curtis Mayfield: "The Making of You"
  8. Carney: "Testify"
  9. Davin McCoy: "These Walls" and "The Sun"
  10. Drive-by Truckers: "Two Daughters and a Wife," "Paint Houses" and "Purgatory Line"
  11. Dolly Parton: "Better Get to Livin,'" "Jesus & Gravity," "Only Dreamin,'" "Light of a Clear Blue Morning," "I Will Always Love You," "Rockin' Years," "To Know Him is to Love Him" (featuring Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris)
  12. Elvin Bishop: "Fooled Around and Fell in Love"
  13. Etta James: "Hold Back the Tears," "How Do You to Speak to an Angel?" 
  14. Fleet Foxes: "White Winter Hymnal," "Your Protector"
  15. Gov't Mule: "Beautifully Broken," "Soulshine," "I Shall Return"
  16. James Taylor: "Sweet Baby James" and "Fire and Rain"
  17. Jason Isbell: "Decoration Day"
  18. Madonna: "Like a Prayer"
  19. Marshall Tucker Band: "Fire on a Mountain" and "Can't You See"
  20. Lynyrd Skynyrd: "Simple Man"
  21. My Morning Jacket: "I'm Amazed"
  22. Modern Skirts: "N.Y. Song"
  23. Otis Redding: "I've Been Loving You Too Long," "That's How Strong My Love Is," "Pain in My Heart," "Down in the Valley," "Try a Little Tenderness"
  24. Percy Sledge: "When a Man Loves a Woman," "Warm and Tender Love," "The Dark End of the Street," "Adorable One," "My Special Prayer" and "Bring It on Home to Me"
  25. The Edwin Hawkins Singers: "Oh Happy Day"
  26. I-Nine: "Same in Any Language"
  27. Priscilla Ahn: "Dream"
  28. Loretta Lynn & Jack White: "Mountain Top"
  29. Lizz Wright: "Old Man"
  30. Mahalia Jackson: "How Great Though Art," "Highway to Heaven"
  31. Sugarland: "Fly Away"
  32. Bonnie Somerville: "Winding Road"
  33. Sam & Dave: "Hold On, I'm Coming"
  34. T-Bird and the Breaks: "All the Blame"
  35. Prince: "Future Baby Mama"
  36. Johnny Cash: "Bridge Over Troubled Water"
  37. Lionel Richie: "Easy" (featuring Willie Nelson), "Hello" (featuring Jennifer Nettles), "Lady" (featuring Kenny Rogers), "Stuck on You" (featuring Darius Rucker)
  38. The Pointer Sisters: "Yes We Can, Can"
  39. Sister Rosetta Tharpe: "Sit Down"
  40. The Rolling Stones: "Wild Horses"
  41. Widespread Panic: "Climb to Safety"
  42. Tom Petty: "Free Fallin'"
  43. Miranda Dodson: "Try Again"
  44. Roberta Flack: "The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face"
And there you have it. I culled it all from my i-Pod during the last days of pregnancy, and I'm so grateful music was there for us - all three of us - during one of the most trying, strenuous, beautiful and celebratory time of our lives. Rock-a-bye.


Friday, August 1, 2014

Mother Nature

Today, I found a piece of cereal in my slipper. I haven’t quite mastered the art of eating breakfast while standing, especially when there is a sling attached to me. Later, as I was undoing the sling, I found even more crumbs and gently brushed them off my unfazed baby.

To say this has been nothing but wine and roses would be more obscene than the noises my son makes when he dirties his diaper after diaper. The simplest of tasks – things like putting baby pictures in an album or updating this blog or finishing up on thank you notes – seem light years away. I suddenly look back on my life and remember a simpler time when I could literally do whatever I wanted to do. And to think I ever thought that was stressful?

Easy it is not. Demanding and taxing and tolling it most certainly is. But natural . . . Natural is the best way I can describe it. There is just something so instinctual about this. Primal, too. I am that mare who lets her wobbly foal nudge and head-bump her into feeding after feeding. I am that cat who wants to clean and preen her kitten. I am that dog who is constantly sniffing him, making sure all is well. I am that wild sal who looks like a mean, hot mess but is tender and soft when it comes to her young. I am that mama bear stressing, nuzzling and teaching my demanding, precious cub . . . and who would fight to her death to protect him.

Walden is now a month old. He changes every day. Two pounds heavier, and I already get the sinking feeling he is growing up too fast. He remains a good baby. There is always an answer to his whimpers and cries. It just comes down to if mommy and daddy are good enough to figure it out.

Figuring it out we try. Through the bleary nights and fussy moments, daddy and I give it all we’ve got. We grow from who we were as a couple. We embrace who we are as a new family. We beam at the twinkles of new life and new love. And as we settle into our nest, we fan our feathers around our little hatchling, bringing us all comfort and uncontrollable joy. 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

What Not to Say to Pregnant Women - The Video

Remember my previous post rant about the annoying things people say to pregnant women? Well, thanks again to my filmmaker buds Tabitha and Stephanie, I gathered a group of pregnant girlfriends together and filmed our own version of "Sh#t People Say," which included our own creative call and response. Thanks to the baby mamas who were good sports about filming this with us - Lauren Morrill Ragusea, Betsy Fitzgerald and Heather Knowles. Watch, laugh, take heed and be warned.  

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Dear Son, Meet Macon

Below is my original article that was published in the Macon Telegraph's Out & About section where I share my hopes and dreams of my hometown with our newest resident and my precious love. Consider it a love letter to both.

To My Newest Newcomer, Welcome Home
Jessica Walden

It didn’t take much to rock my world in an instant. On June 28, at 2:17 in the afternoon, I was cradling one of Macon’s newcomers in my arms and fell into the deepest trances I’ll ever know when my newborn son’s eyes locked with mine. 

Welcome home, Jameson Walden Weatherford. You’re going to do just fine here. 

For a long time now, I’ve dreamed of how we’ll share our hometown with you. I’ve watched the children splash in the waterfalls and streams of Washington Park on a Second Sunday and wondered of the glee you’ll feel when the running water washes over your toes – all while live music plays and your community surrounds you like one big picnic blanket. I hope you’ll grow to ask me over and over, is it Second Sunday yet?

Your daddy is already anxious to promenade you around Tattnall Square Park, where you will enjoy nature, concerts and events in the backyard of our College Hill neighborhood. Without a doubt as you grow to know the landscape of Tattnall, you’ll also quickly learn the magic of the Mercer Bears.

Construction has begun on the in-ground slide that will coast down Coleman Hill. I imagine our outdoor lunches we’ll have looking over the steeples of our city and the cupola of the Hay House before we scoot down towards downtown, where we’ll wonder the sidewalks, and I’ll tell you stories about folks named Otis, Little Richard and Pearly Brown.

See son, we’re calling you Walden, a nod towards your Macon roots that run deep. They are roots that are intertwined with an amazing story of American music sprung from this city stranger than any fairy tale. 

Your great uncle Phil was knee-deep in it. And he took our family with him, changing their course from newspaper routes and men’s clothing sales to managing artists like Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, Percy Sledge, the Allman Brothers Band and Lynyrd Skynyrd all right here in your hometown. 

But if there is anything I want you to take from this is that it wasn’t about the gold records and royalties. All of this began during a time when the south forced black and white people apart. Through music and the friendships that were formed, your family helped break barriers that I want you to never take for granted.  

And that’s not all, sweet son. There is a poet and a musician in your blood. Your mother’s mother is a Lanier, and we can trace those roots to your great ancestor Sidney. Just down the road from your home, we’ll walk the brick roads of High Street, and I’ll show you the cottage where the true founding father of the southern music movement was born. I hope you’ll love the words we’ll discover, and the amazing history we’ll uncover as we trace the footsteps of Macon’s famous sons and daughters. 

And then there are the lyrics. May Macon’s songs be your lullabies. May your babbles be your own “wop bop a loo bop” May you know the wind in your hair as we roll down Highway 41 with church bells ringing everywhere. May you try a little tenderness with all that you touch. And finally, my only son, may you be a simple kind of man. May you be something you love and understand.    

Welcome to Macon, Walden. I know you’ll love it here.