You are lovely. You are amazing. You are strong.

First off, let me say one thing to everyone out there in Chubby Vegan Mom land (whether you’re a family member stuck with me, a friend crazy enough to remain by my side or a perfect stranger that lives vicariously through my blog), THANK YOU.

The outpouring of responses and support I received from my last blog was incredible. While only a few chose to share their feelings/stories in the comments section of the post, I received more than 100 emails, more tweets than I can count and dozens upon dozens of text messages and calls from friends.

Whether you were sharing your own story of struggle, encouraging me to continue my journey or simply reaching out to let me know that almost everyone feels this way from time to time, I can’t help but feel blessed to have such an inspirational group of people in my life, in person and via the Internet.

The biggest lesson I took from it? I’m pretty sure no one is 100 percent pleased with themselves. I received words from a close friend about how the post impacted her.

About how she didn’t necessarily struggle with the same physical woes I detailed (she’s one of those lucky, easy metabolism, burns calories kinda gals), there have been multiple phases throughout her life that she’s not felt good enough, hasn’t always been up to par and overall, didn’t feel beautiful (inside or out).

You know it’s out there, you hear those pretty girls in the magazines and high school say all the time that they have «awkward legs,» «bug-like eyes» or «disproportional bodies,» meanwhile you roll your eyes and wonder what mirror they’re looking into.

My friend, is one of those girls.

Since the day I met her she absolutely captivated me. She has a completely «I’ll do what I want and you’ll probably like it anyway» attitude and she’s wholly, completely, utterly unique. She’s gorgeous, svelte and has the kind of features that are never mistaken for next door. She’s better at being an eco-mom than me, one of the mothers I looked up to when I had my daughter (and probably the only one who told it like it was to me) and in general, she’s the woman I always describe to my friends as my husband’s dream woman (I like to say I’m the slightly more negative, slightly chubbier, more bitter version of his dream woman). Seriously.

And even though that might be threatening to most, she’s the last thing from a catty, high school, steal-your-husband woman, which should probably make me hate her more, but I don’t.

I don’t tell her enough, but she should know this, I think you’re absolutely lovely.

And brilliant.

And strong.

I don’t think enough women tell each other how astounding and wonderful we are. What fabulously dramatic and perfect creatures we are — despite our flubber, our big noses, our child-bearing hips, our uneven boobs or our stretch marks.

Most of the time we’re too busy tearing each other down to build the girl next door to us up. No matter the woman (the chubby one, the not funny one, the too skinny one, the less-than-pure one, the know-it-all one, the seems-to-have-it-all-together one), she’s someone’s daughter, friend, girlfriend, wife, mom, future mom, she’s going to have to be all these different things in her life, wouldn’t it be nice if we supported her, if we told her every wonderful thing about her, instead of whispering behind her back all her flaws (things that don’t even matter?)

So I guess I want to say this: To the women in my life, you’re all there for a reason, for a purpose and for both of those things, I thank you. Some of you make me stronger, whether I want to be or not. Some of you let me be weak, when I need it the most. Some of you make me feel beautiful, something I desperately need. Some of you make me feel like there’s more to me than just being a woman, just being a mom, just being a daughter, which is an incredibly difficult task to accomplish. Some of you remind me of the journey I’ve made, while some of you make me anxious for the one to come. Some of you will be with me forever, will be carried in my heart forever, have attached like an infectious invader that takes over its host body, but this time, for the best.

Some of you, well actually, all of you, whether you were my best friend in second grade or the girl that stole my boyfriend in the ninth, whether you were the mother who probably still doesn’t understand why I do what I do or the best friend who refuses to let go of my hand, even when I’ve done something to deserve it, you’ve all played an integral role in making me who I am.

And while I’m not certain I believe it quite yet, I won’t stop hoping that one day, I will. The woman you’ve helped make me, is precisely the woman I am meant to be.

How our almost two year old kicked ‘the habit’

It’s official. 

Our almost two-year-old daughter (I still have 11 days until my little one turns two, so I can and will still say almost) has kicked the hardest habit of her life yet.

She gave up smoking.

I’m just kidding, child smoking isn’t something that should be joked about, especially with all of those crazy tabloids showing pictures of actual toddlers and small children smoking (even if they’re not real, the concept is absolutely disturbing).

For one whole week now, our daughter has been foo foo free! 

What is a foo foo you want to know? It’s a binky, pacifier, paci or a ‘wo-wo’ as my nephew lovingly referred to his. 

That’s right, we finally got our little girl to kick her big bad habit — cold turkey. Although, I should note that we had her down to only using her pacifiers during nap time and bedtime. 

With her second birthday looming, I knew it was time for us to say goodbye to the foo foos, I just didn’t know how to accomplish it without traumatizing my small child. My mom finally said something that made me realize it was time to give them up. At some point and time it seems like the children stop «needing» the pacifier and start «wanting» it out of habit. (Of course my mother was devastated when we told her that we took away the foo foos, I think she has envisioned us torturing our child for the last week). 

So how did we know that Pearyn was out of the «needing» phase and onto the «wanting, habit-forming» phase? A few months ago I noticed when I went in to check on her before going to bed myself, she didn’t have any of the pacifiers in her mouth, nor did she want them. When she would wiggle around I would try to pop one back in her mouth and she would proceed to spit it right out (call me an enabler I guess). So instead of actually sucking on a foo foo, she ended up just clutching all four (yes, she went to bed with four pacifiers)  in her hands. 

So last Sunday we decided to test the waters. We put her to bed the night before with no pacifiers, tried nap time without the precious pacis, and sure enough, with minimal tears shed our little girl fell asleep within minutes of being placed into her bed. 

That did it. 

Whether she knew what she had done or not, our little girl let us know that it was time to pull the plug on the pacifier.

So after googling «how to get rid of foo foos» for a few hours, I came across the idea to take our wee one to Build a Bear, let her pick out her own special stuffed animal and then before it was time to give the animal a little fluff, we’d have her stick each one of her pacifiers in its hands and feet. 

My mom thought it sounded like cruel and unusual punishment, which it kind of does, except I really felt like it would work for her. She already didn’t bother putting the pacifiers in her mouth anymore, so what would be the difference if she was holding the foo foos directly in her hand, or holding a stuffed animal where she could feel all of her foo foos and still had the security of knowing they were there, with her? 

We took the plunge and it went absolutely swimmingly. 

We corralled all her binkies (aka, the four she slept with on a nightly basis), hauled her cute little butt over to the nearest Build a Bear and began our daughter’s journey into «Big Girl Land.» She ended up picking out a pink bunny with floppy ears covered in daisies, and surprisingly, that ended up being the hardest part. 

After that she got to pick out a heart for her bunny and then after she placed that inside, she put each foo foo into the arms and legs of the bunny, WILLINGLY. What we thought would be a huge fight turned out to be the exact thing she needed.

The bunny got sewed up, some butterfly jammies and bunny slippers were selected (rather suitable seeing as how this would be her sleepy time bunny) and took «Floppy Foo Foos» home with us. 

She’s madly in love with her bunny.

So the first night trial came and something incredibly expected happen. We got Pearyn in her jammies and got her ready for bed and sure enough, she asked for us to take her foo foos out of Floppy. Apparently she didn’t realize this would require major surgery.

So we sat down and explained to Pearyn that she was a big girl now, one that got to eat jelly beans and go swimming and that big girls don’t need to use foo foos anymore. And when she gave us a blank stare, we appealed to her giving, humanistic side and told her that Floppy had been a really sad bunny because she didn’t have any foo foos. So Pearyn being the sweet girl she was gave Floppy her foo foos since she was a big girl and didn’t need them anymore.

Sure enough, that did the trick.

Pear simply looked up and said «So now Floppy’s happy?» and when we told her yes, she simply replied «I’m nice.» (Yes, nice dear, maybe a bit narcissistic as well, but certainly nice). 

The rest is history. Pear proudly carries around Floppy and shows everyone exactly where her pacifiers are and that Pearyn was nice and shared them with the bunny. 

On the plus side, I haven’t caught her trying to suck the pacifiers through Floppy’s arms once and most nap and bed times have been tear-free. 

And the ones that weren’t had more to do with the fact that she just didn’t want to go to bed yet and less to do with the no foo foo thing.

How did your child kick the habit? 

Let your freak flag fly high

In my entire 27 years, I’ve collected a dozen tattoos, a dozen piercings and my hair has been every color under the sun. (Except purple, I really think I should have done purple streaks at some point in time). From blonde to black and blue to pink, my hair has been exposed to numerous shades of the rainbow.

Much to my mother’s dismay, I still have those dozen tattoos, I’ve only got five of the piercings remaining and my hair is a respectable brown with blonde highlights. I think that my predilection for needles and pain has single handedly caused my mother to question precisely how much impact parents really have on their children, seeing as how no one else in my family seems to share the «eccentric» level of pretty I’ve come to embrace. My brother is a button-up shirt wearing, slacks and loafers kind of guy. And while my mother and father don’t exactly don dress clothes daily, neither seems to share my passion for the odd and painfully-obtained body modifications.

Basically, I’m starting to think I was the milkman’s child, that or I was dropped on my head a lot as a child.

When I was in high school I was rather plain. I didn’t cut my hair until I was nearly 16 (and even then it was just to my shoulders), I didn’t dye it until I was 19 (and even then it was a few blonde highlights) and other than my earlobes, nothing else would be pierced on by body until I turned 20. It was always in me, the desire to have permanent drawings etched on my body and sharp needles jabbed through various body parts, it just wasn’t something I was really allowed or felt comfortable owning until my early twenties.

And then, just as I was ready to let my freak flag fly, I had to become a member of the working world. I started my career off as a case manager for a law firm, which didn’t allot much room for piercings or pink hair. I plugged my nostril piercing with a clear retainer and left my hair it’s dull, boring brown. The tattoos I had acquired were easily hidden at that time (something I’m proud to say I always took into consideration before getting more ink).

My next job as a copy editor allowed a little more creative liberty. The dress code was basically whatever the editor found appropriate for the position and I was lucky that my editor found cute facial piercings (like Monroes and nostrils) to be appropriate for a copy editor/arts and entertainment editor. I’m pretty sure he tried to convince me to dye my hair pink and green on multiple occasions.

It was during this profession that I got my first really visible tattoo, a small vegan flower symbol on my wrist. I knew in the back of my mind that if I needed to cover it up in the future I could and even though it would be a pain in the butt I was willing to make that commitment. I won’t even whine about the need to allow tatted and pierced up people to freely «express» themselves in the working world, I understand that there is a certain stigma that comes with having piercings and tattoos.

We’re seen as a few different things; either rebellious, uneducated hellions whose parents weren’t around, teeny-bopper college students who made frivolous decisions and got butterflies tattooed on us to be cool, or the weird, freaky people who feel the need to stand out solely by maiming their body.

But the truth is, piercings, tattoos and pink hair have never been about those things for me. I don’t pierce, tattoo and dye these things so that people will notice me, particularly since most of the acknowledgment is less than polite. I do these things because I think they’re pretty, I like the way they look and I like the process and story behind them.

 Instead of bringing back t-shirts and magnets from our honeymoon in Oregon, my husband and I traveled home with something more permanent — douglas fir tree tattoos, the state tree of Oregon.

And the latest tattoo I’ve added to my collection? It’s a pear blossom branch that basically eats the entirety of my shoulder and collarbone. It’s twisty and dark, because not only does white not really last on tattoos, it’s not me, so I made it mine. And it doesn’t hurt that my little girl’s name happens to be PEARyn and her birth month happens to fall during full bloom for pear blossoms.

If and when we’re blessed with any other darling children (whose names we’ve already picked and adhere to our fruit theme), I’ll decorate my other shoulder with an apple blossom branch and it will mean just as much as my first. And it will be as beautiful as my first because it’s what I THINK IS BEAUTIFUL.

I haven’t had a piercing done in four years. The last time I had a needle jabbed through my flesh was when I got a tiny Monroe piercing at 22. It was a teeny weeny diamond that looked almost like a sparkly freckle or mole. It was adorable and small and annoying as hell. That’s why it only lasted four or five months until I inevitably took it out. One month ago I decided to finally get a piercing I’d been eyeing for years … my septum. In case you’re unfamiliar it’s the bull ring piercing you’re thinking of. I’d always been chicken thinking that it would hurt too much, I was too old to get it now or that it was inappropriate for me as a mother.

But then I realized, my septum piercing makes me feel pretty, it’s not hurting me or anyone else and it’s not obscene. In fact, I can even flip it up into my nose and you wouldn’t even know I had it. Who cares that I’m 27? Who cares that I have a daughter? Who decided that I couldn’t get a ring through my nose just because I birthed a child? It’s what I THINK IS BEAUTIFUL.

I’m not writing this to sway your opinion on tattoos and piercings, I completely realize and accept that they’re a specified taste. I’m not writing this to condone people getting giant, offensive, hateful things tattooed all over their bodies because they think «it’s beautiful.» I’m writing this to address a question I’ve been receiving over and over since getting a big ole horseshoe shoved through my nose.

What is that thing in my nose and why on Earth would I want to ruin my pretty face with it? I realize that by getting my septum pierced I’ve made myself less attractive to probably 75% of the world, I get it. But that’s not important to me. I think it’s beautiful, it’s not hurting anyone else and if you’re offended by a little silver ring then I can turn it up and you won’t know otherwise.

I can still dress myself to look like the PTA mom of the year, I can fly to Dallas in June and look professional for my job and if I want to rock it with a pair of really tall heels when I go out with my friends then I have the opportunity to let me freak flag fly as well.

I don’t care if you stare, because I know it’s different, I can handle the looks. I can handle that it’s not your cup of tea. Honestly, I don’t care that you don’t think it’s pretty. I care that you seem to be bothered by the fact that it’s what I THINK IS BEAUTIFUL.

I don’t ask you why you ruined your sleek, straight hair by perming it; I don’t ask you why you wear jeans that are two sizes too small and give you a muffin top (just so you can say you wear a size 6); I don’t ask why you spend $100 on a halter top from some preppy teenager’s wet dream of a store and I don’t ask you why you pierced your one-month-old daughter’s ears without her being able to decide if she even wanted them.

And do you know why I don’t ask you these things?

Because not only do I accept that maybe we have different ideals of beauty, I RESPECT it.

The next time you see me rocking my big ole trashy tattoos (that I think are beautiful), my massive bullring (that I think is beautiful) and my hot pink streaks (that I think are beautiful), instead of trying to figure out why I think these things are beautiful, why don’t you ask yourself why you have such a problem with it.

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It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to … or not

Saturday was my birthday. On April 14, 1985, I graced this world with my presence (aren’t you all just SO happy?)

Birthdays were always super awesome growing up. Not only does my April 14 birthday make me a fiery Aries woman (which I’m seriously, seriously obsessed and proud with), it meant prime weather. Sure, there might have been a few April showers here and there, but for the most part I had super awesome, not-too-hot, not-too-cold weather. Woo hoo April!

So anyway (did I really just go off on a weather tangent), I used to love my birthday. It was a day that celebrated me entering the world and every year I managed to stay alive. Don’t we ALL love our birthday?

And then, May 10, 2010, happened.

My darling, big ole’ veggie baby Pearyn graced the world with HER presence. And in the process of her «gracing the world,» she wreaked serious havoc on my body. In fact (warning, things might get graphic here), there is nothing even remotely graceful about the state she left my poor lady parts in. (See what I did there? I opted to use the utterly embarrassing phrase ‘lady parts’ to spare you the awkwardness of using the word ‘vagina.’ Wasn’t that graceful of me?)

Anyway, since becoming a mom, I’ve learned what the real «celebration» behind a birthday is. Babies are itty-bitty, teeny-weeny, sadists. Yup. They derive pleasure from leaving their mother’s bodies in a state of what can only be (gracefully) described as a crime scene and then for the next 80 years we celebrate THEM. Birthdays are essentially the celebration of the most painful day in your mother’s life. Woo! Let’s eat cake!

Once I got past this epiphany (and made a very loving phone call to my mother thanking her for going through the most painful thing in the entire world and then celebrating it for now the 27th year), I was able to really enjoy my birthday. The morning was as perfect as it could be. My husband was off and we woke up whenever.we.wanted. (Or, when Pearyn decided to wake us up, whichever). By 9 a.m. we were back in the big bed with Pearyn snuggled between us. And while I thought my little girl curling up into me and saying «I love you momma» was the best gift I could ever receive, my husband continued to blow my mind.

Side note, I’m a HUGE, huge, HUGE, HUGE Yankees fan. (Proceed to boo, vomit or jeer me here). I grew up playing softball, so naturally I grew up adoring baseball. And there is nothing I love more than a man in a pair of pinstripes playing in the Bronx Zoo.

Back to the blow-your-mind gift. Not only did my husband get us two tickets to a Yankees game, he got us two tickets to a Yankees game vs the Red Sox. And if that isn’t awesome enough, he got my brother in on all the birthday action and now he’s taking care of our weekend hotel stay. AND just to put the icing on the cake, he already got my parents to agree to watching Pearyn that weekend.

That’s right, this Chubby Vegan Mom is going to have herself a Chubby Vegan Vacation in New York. With the Yankees. And all the vegan food I can eat. Holy Moly.

So New York vegheads, can I get some tips? Any spots I absolutely HAVE to go? Any food I HAVE to eat while I’m in New York or I’ll die?

And if that birthday excitement wasn’t enough, we spent the evening with our best friends having dinner, drinks and bowling. Because nothing says birthday like hurling a ball at some pins (incredibly, incredibly badly might I add).

The truth is, even though the tickets and New York trip seem like the highlight of my birthday, I really think it’s the small things that made it.

I got to wake up next to my husband (a luxury that doesn’t often happen with his work schedule). I got to spend it cuddling in bed with my two favorite people in the whole wide world. I got to gab on the phone with my best friend in the entire wide world (and probably the only other person I would have wanted cuddling in the bed with us). I got texts all day from family and friends. I got obsessive Facebook notifications from people wishing me well. It doesn’t matter that it only took them two seconds to do this; what matters is how much I matter to them.

Every year we age, we learn a little more about the people in our lives who really, really matter. And this birthday, I was blessed to have so, so, so many people to thank.

(That, and the hope that I might run away with Derek Jeter while I’m in New York).