Blog a la Cart

Month: February, 2013

Sunny’s Style Gone Wild

Sometimes Sunny misses the mark when it comes to her wardrobe selections. Take for example Saturday’s looks for both herself and Courtland. The backwards bloomers are pretty priceless. As is Kaki’s boo-hoo face. Fortunately, the awesomeness of that sisterly embrace at the end distracts from the questionable ensembles.







Hiring a Doula


I’ve written a post about how to write a birth plan (or at least how I went about writing a birth plan), and I’ve been meaning to write this post about how to hire a doula (or how I went about hiring a doula) since October of 2011. Hey! Better late than never.

I’ve emailed or talked through some version of this post with over a dozen women. And after doing so again this past weekend, I thought it was finally time to get it down more publicly on the blog.

First let me refer you to to a. help you find a doula in your area and b. prepare you to interview potential doulas.

And for those of you wondering what the heck a doula is, she’s a birth coach. A woman (or man? are there male doulas? I don’t even know! But I imagine the pool is limited… I did a google search, and there are indeed male doulas. Noted!) that will be by your side for your entire labor, looking out for you. She’s not a baby catcher. Or medical staff. Nor does she have to worry about other patients – she is there for you, and your birth team, to help you get through this often scary, overwhelming experience. And unlike your doctor, or midwife, or even the nursing staff, she’ll be with you through your journey from start to finish (within reason, obviously).

The number one thing I recommend to any pregnant mother who asks for my advice is, HIRE A DOULA! I literally cannot imagine how Addison’s birth would have played out without Tracy by my side. She was a game changer. And she also made a world of difference for James and my sister in helping them navigate how best to support me during labor, especially when it got really really hard and I was extremely frantic and anxious

My goal was as intervention-free a birth as possible (I could write a novel about that decision stemming back to my  Women and Gender Studies senior seminar at Williams in spring of 2005 titled The Politics of the Family and a resulting conversation with my mother about my birth, but that I will save for another day), and I knew I’d need support and education to make that happen. So hiring a doula was at the top of the list of many pre-baby TO DOs while pregnant with Addison.

I was fortunate that I lived in LA where I had so very many options to explore. Since so much of the doula/mother relationship is about having a comfortable and easy rapport, I decided to talk to each doula I was interested in on the phone before inviting them to my home for an in person interview. This gave me a sense immediately of how we interacted. I wanted to be with someone with whom I felt instantly comfortable and at ease. You don’t get that from an email – so phone calls were what I found most productive.

With my first, I really wanted a doula that could work with both me and James before the birth to help prepare us for what was in store. We didn’t do a birthing class and really worked one on one with our doula to get us ready – everything from pain management techniques, to screening birth videos, to educating us about all the different things that can and do happen while in labor – she even came equipped with medical equipment so I could see what instrument was used to break the bag of water, what an epidural needle looked like, how forceps were used, etc. And, of course, she primed us with questions to help us construct our own birth plan and baby plan catered to our wishes. So, in interviewing, I made sure to ask what kind of preparation the doula would give me, how many visits would I get with her before the birth, and what she would cover during those visits.

I found that I gravitated toward grandmotherly figures. They struck me as calm and wise. They clearly had seen their fair share of life. Had experienced birth personally. And I just instantly trusted their expertise and experience. I’m sure that reactions vary from woman to woman, but it’s no surprise that Tracy (Addison’s doula) and Linda (Courtland’s doula) were both white-haired, older women. They were what I wanted and trusted. But that will vary, so figure out what your gut tells you as you interview and connect with potential doulas.

Ask about her experience. How long has she been a doula? Why? How many births has she attended? The more experienced doula, the better, in my opinion. It means that they’ve seen a lot and can help normalize the situation for you. For example, when I said that I felt like I was about to shit a knife – James started to panic and my doula calmly said, Every woman says that, sweetie. It’s normal. It means your baby’s almost here.

While that’s probably not what you want to hear – it’s to show you how working with someone that has really seen a lot of different births can help immensely at those scarier or more uncertain moments. Because at the end of the day, that’s why I found my doulas so invaluable. They were by my side the whole time, normalizing the situation, helping James and Kimmy help me. It was just so comforting.

Think about the kind of support that you  personally want from a doula – do you want to work with her heavily before the birth, or just meet her once or twice to help develop a birth plan? Do you want post-partum support? Breastfeeding support? Other birth services like placenta encapsulation? That will help you determine who to interview. Then see how you feel talking with the doulas who meet your criteria. Obviously more experienced doulas are more expensive, but I found that the one I used in LA brought her price down when I told her that I was concerned that she was more expensive than we’d budgeted, and she let me pay her in installments. In Williamstown, I had fewer options and it was generally much cheaper. Also, many insurance companies will reimburse part of the cost of a doula, so do explore that option with your insurance company. More often than not, working with a doula results in fewer interventions which means less costly medical bills, so the investment is worthwhile from many many angles. Not the least of which is your emotional and mental health during birth.

James commented after Addison’s birth that hiring Tracy was the best decision we’eve ever made, the best money we’ve ever spent. Years later, that statement remains true. While not every woman will feel as strongly about the need for a doula’s presence, I urge you to explore the option, as knowledge is most certainly power when it comes to taking ownership of your birth experience.

Birth is not only about making babies. Birth is about making mothers ~ strong, competent, capable mothers who trust themselves and know their inner strength. – Barbara Katz Rothman

I recommend you take a look at B*E*S*T Doula Services What is a Doula? and Why Do I Need a Doula? for further information and to see my cameo with Tracy on the site. Please leave any questions or advice I may not have covered in the comments.

Sweater Fun

Once again, the talents of our sweet friends have graced the Cart abode. The girls received these warm and snuggly sweaters from a former student turned dear friend (we’re all of 1 year apart in age, but I was her advisor in my first job out of college). Much like me and Jamesy Poo, she and her husband are college sweethearts (I also advised Petey Doo while he was a student. And I’m sure you’re loving our obnoxious nicknames for our beaus) and we have quite the laughs when the two couples are united. They welcomed their first child, a daughter, into the world this fall, and, barring inclement weather, we’ll get to see Ann Mae and baby Olivia in two weekends when they come up for a visit. Ann Mae is hoping to be one of our inaugural CAMERA READY students, and James is going to test the theory of life with three children. (He’s been beating the drum for #3 since Courtland crowned. I am not convinced). We’ll see how he fares.

Most impressive about these sweaters is that Ann Mae taught herself to knit, and these were among her first projects. I know. I KNOW! Who tackles cable knitting and garments on their inaugural knitting projects? Bad asses that’s who.

Of course, the sweaters were paired with matching hair clips and legwarmers. Cupcakes for Courtland, to match the cupcake buttons of her sweater. And butterflies for Sunny, to match the butterfly buttons of hers. To get Courtland to cooperate for the camera, we played her favorite game which is riding aboard Sunny’s shoulders. Their facial expressions are pretty dang priceless. Thanks, Ann Mae!







For Donna

And for all the other people in the world who love our children, who help raise our children, and who make it possible for working moms to do both of those things for their children, thank you.

Fast forward to 1:25 to get to the part that I found so powerful and significant. And yes. Just YES! Thank you, Amy Poehler. And thank you Girls Gone Child for the hat tip. And mostly, thank you Donna for loving our girls as your own.

Currently Reading


One of the only times I miss having a TV in our home is during award season and the Westminster Dog Show. You think I’m kidding? In another life, my mother and I are going to come back as Beatrice the Weimaraner’s owners.

Go back to the hotel and get busy bee! GET THE BEE! Don’t look at the fat ass losers and freaks, you look at me!

Related: If you have never seen Best in Show, it’s time you remedy that. Immediately.

The Oscars were always a big deal in the Ulmer household, from the red carpet, through the entire ceremony, no matter how long it dragged on. My father and I would shed copious tears over speeches like this and this, and I based my prom dress in ’99 on Gwyneth’s pink frock.

But this year, based on what I’ve read and seen in the Oscar 2013 post-mortem leaves me grateful that I missed the scene entirely. In all honesty, I didn’t even know who Seth MacFarlane was, and when I read his bio, was none surprised to learn that the show was one big sexist stunt after another. I found this New Yorker post worth a read. And this BuzzFeed round up.

Let’s get Tina Fey and Amy Poehler up there next year. Bring Ellen back! Or how about just having an award show that doesn’t tear down and denigrate half the people it is trying to honor? Now THAT’s a crazy idea.

A snapshot

Evidence of our weekend of baking and lounging and general warm and fuzziness.












Belly Breathe

I’m coming down from a glorious weekend with dear dear friends. There was much lounging and cooking and catching up and delicious dinners out and cookie baking and belly breathing and nostalgically and joyfully re-watching videos like this, this and this. You will cry with laughter – how could I have forgotten about how priceless and ridiculous these moments were? Just watch Addison channel Momar so hard when she sternly declares, “I GET TO CALL YOU JAMES!”

I can envision Dellie and Jeremy at Sunny’s wedding standing up to give their FGP (Fairy Godparent) toast and stringing together a montage of their fav Sunny vids from the blog and ending it with, “Until then, we will… pick… nose. CHEERS TO THE HAPPY COUPLE!” And then their wedding gift can be paying her therapy bills to recover from life with a mother who blogged her childhood.

One of the highlights of the weekend was getting to judge the annual step competition held at Williams. Dellie and I  met as freshmen at Williams when we both joined Sankofa, the college step team. Our senior year, Dells was President and I was Drill Sergeant of the group. This weekend, the current group asked us to come back as former leaders and judge this year’s step competition which was an unbelievably fun reminder of how our friendship started and a glowing source of pride (as Sankofa is one truly amazing group these days. Check it.). It was also special for Jeremy (a non-Eph, GO BLUE!) to see what Sankofa was all about. Another dear friend from college was in town, so she joined us for a fancy-pants-adult-sans-children dinner out (Thanks, Laura!) and then the show. Hooray for adult friendship time!

We also squeezed in a quick maternity shoot of Dellie and Jeremy with the growing baby bump. I likely won’t see them again until right before baby is born or shortly thereafter, so I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to capture the Dellie Belly (ha!). These are my favorite snaps from the series. And I fully intend on serenading them to the tune of  Belly Breathe turned Dellie Breathe while Dells is in labor, because I’m nothing if not a supportive birth partner. ;)










“A portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2013.”

Sunny: She’s become quite the expressive storyteller. I love watching her interact with our friends when she’s feeling bold and extroverted. She regaled Dellie, her FGM, with a dramatic re-telling of the time she fell down the stairs. It was truly amazing to behold. I feel so proud when she’s confidently engaging with the world around her.
Kaki: Our toddler. Her vocabulary expands by the day and she is such a magnetic, whirling force of energy in our home. I didn’t like any of the photos from our early morning pictures (probably because they were so blurred from her constant motion), so I ‘m using this snap from our Saturday morning hike. One of the only times she is still is while contentedly riding in the backpack aboard Papa’s back.

More details about The 52 Project here. To view all the portraits in the series with explanations as to why I’ll be capturing the portraits in the early morning, visit here.


Y’all, Wendesday, James and I put on our big kid pants and spent the morning with our lawyer making a will.


Gosh, what a depressing start to our day.

It’s one of those adult things we’ve been meaning to do ever since Addison was born … nearly four years ago. After all the loss and heartache we’ve seen transpire over the past 12 months, we realized we needed to get our butts in the door and just do it. Suck it up. Get our sad faces on and talk about what the hell will happen should we both kick the can.

Three cheers for Death Preparedness!

After that nonsense was sorted out, we moved on to forming a LLC. It’s time for this blog and its many side projects to fall under a true and proper business entity. So Blog a la Cart, LLC is in the works. And can I get a VERMONT FUCKING ROCKS!? Because, yo, it does. If we lived in Massachusetts we’d be paying a babillion dollars to file and then a babillion more every year to maintain our LLC standing. In Vermont, it’s $25 a year. I would totally open-mouth kiss this state, Birkenstocks and all.

Now we need to get the insulated, heated room in our barn set up as a proper studio slash office.

Three cheers for home office tax write-offs!

And this week also marked the first week of Half Marathon Training. I’m running my first half on Memorial Day thanks to the encouragement of a very kind, patient, and supportive friend/colleague who doesn’t mind running at a lazy trot. I am not a speedy runner. No, not in the least. But I am a grumpy one. I spent all of January and February getting myself back into running shape, and hope that with the warming temps and sunnier days I might actually find myself really enjoying the opportunity to get some fresh air and endorphins midday. (This is our training schedule, for those that may be interested. It’s adapted from this.)

I promise that this won’t become a running slash exercise blog because, ew. I’m just mentioning it here to hold my ass accountable, so that on May 28th y’all can ask, “So how was that marathon, Ash?!” and I can be all, “OMG I’LL NEVER WALK AGAIN LET ALONE RUN! MAKE THE BAD MAN GO AWAY! BLARG!”

It’s going to be awesome.

The purpose of this little endeavor is not because I’m someone that ever dreamed of running a half marathon, but rather to get myself back into a regular, consistent exercise routine. I’m not pregnant. I’m not breastfeeding. I have no intention of being or doing either anytime in the foreseeable future, so all the excuses I’ve been using over the past four years to avoid serious exercise no longer hold water.

Although, SIDE NOTE: Earlier this week, out of the blue, Sunny informed me that she would like a baby for her birthday. When I asked if she meant a doll like Bitty Baby, she scoffed and responded, “No, like a Courtland.” Looks like they’ll be one very disappointed four year old come May 18th. This baby-making operation is closed until further notice.

ANYWAY, if nothing else, I’ve got myself a sweet pair of running kicks to show for this undertaking. Coolest mom ever? In Sunny’s eyes, yes. It’s all in the shoes, baby.


Also of note, we’ve got ONE SPOT left in our Saturday, March 2nd Boston CAMERA READY class. We’re hoping for a full group, so please sign up if you’re interested. We have so much good stuff planned, plus some amazing vendors that are really going to make the day unique. Originally we’d thought about teaching again on Sunday, but we’ve postponed that class until August, and are going to teach in New York City and Washington, DC in October. Plus there are still plenty of spots in our Berkshire class on March 9th – please join us while it’s so affordable (we’re raising the cost after these inaugural classes. But our first two are only $175!)

Regardless, if you can’t join us this go round, we hope to see you later this year!

Now off to spend the weekend with Sunny’s FGPs who are visiting from The District. It’s their first time on the farm, so they’ll be lots of cooking, eating, and catching up from our little bungalow in Vermont. Happy weekend, friends.

Ergobaby // giveaway

A few weeks back I shared my favorite snaps from my first job with Ergobaby. It was a treat to work with a brand that I love (that my own family has been using and loving for years) that is so well known and respected (especially in the parenting world). And extra fun to team up with some local families. The icing on the cake happened earlier this week when I headed over to Facebook and the top post in my feed was this. It’s one thing to give them my photos, it’s another thing entirely to see them in action. And gosh, how cute are Brie and G? Such an amazing pair those two!

Anyway, in that vein, Ergobaby sent me one of the new carriers in their Designer Collection. The ‘Umba’ patterned carrier was designed by Christy Turlington to benefit Every Mother Counts, an organization I’ve been following slash supporting for years a. because of the great work their doing on behalf of women, mothers, babies in the world of maternal care and childbirth and b. because James’ cousin worked hand in hand with Christy to produce the film “No Woman, No Cry.”  It was a perfect fit to test drive this beautiful new design.

One of Courtland’s favorite activities is riding happily in our Ergo aboard James’ back for snowy winter hikes with the dogs. This weekend we swapped in the new carrier, and while Courtland was a patterned-explosion with an animal identity crisis (note the monkey hat paired with the leopard snow suit), James’ winter jacket was a great compliment to the carrier. Personally, I always opt for patterned items for life with young kids as they more easily disguise mess, spills, drips, etc. Much like our collection of Oriental rugs (thanks, Momar!), this carrier’s pattern fits the Kid Mess Camouflage bill. I love the cool blue paired with the rich chocolate and warm orange. An unexpected yet awesome combo.




And I just adore that leather strap around the waist band. Such a lovely touch of quality.



We’re passing this carrier off to Sunny’s FGPs who are expecting their first little one this summer. But you can win your family a brand-spanking new ‘Umba’ patterned carrier thanks to Ergobaby. To enter:

• ‘like’ Ergobaby and Blog a la Cart on Facebook, then come back here and tell us you like us, you really like us! in the comments.

Make sure you enter a valid email address in the email section of the comment box so I can contact you if you win! The winner will be chosen next Thursday, February 28 at 5pm EST. Open worldwide. Total Value: $165