Tessa Observed

It is spring break and Tessa is too young for camp. So I work from my couch and she entertains herself.

It goes better than you’d think. Too young for camp is just right for her dollhouse and the train tracks and the coloring books and the puzzles and all these other toys we’ve managed to accumulate over the years. 

Her pretend play interests me to no end. There is lots of “Mommy” and “Daddy” and “Baby,” with plenty of animals and Frozen characters thrown in for good measure. Her chatter goes something like this:

“You want hot dog? Yes, Mom. I want two. Okay, two hot dog. You want hot dog, Kitty? Yes. Okay. Why you leaving? Because. Over there hot dog and train. Put on coat. Okay put on my coat. Aaahhh I falling! Oh, I sorry.” And on and on. 

It says a lot about where she is right now. There is lots of “why” and lots of “because.” Lots of “please” and asking politely. Lots of “hello” and “bye bye.” 

Being more aware of the world around her means sometimes she gets shy and quiet and even clingy. She still asks to be carried downstairs in the morning or picked up when we’ve walked for a while. But she’s also finally started talking about herself more as a “big” kid and less as a baby, which she pronounces “beebee.”

She has a silly disposition that Graham didn’t have at this age. He is just learning to love jokes, but she is already all about making funny faces. 

Two months into school and while I still don’t get anything resembling a reliable report of what happened from her, she does reference her teachers by name and takes great pride in her art projects. 

She does not sing at school but she will do hand motions. She will only sing at home if no one sings with her.

She often refuses to hold my hand even when she has no choice in the matter. But I usually let her hold Graham’s hand instead, and she’s always up for that. 

Like Graham, she went through a long period where she refused and avoided cuddling and hugs. But she’s getting past it. It’s not uncommon for her to hang on my leg when I’m sitting down and requests to sit on my lap are common. Even sometimes when she wakes up in the middle of the night, she just reaches out and waits for me to sit with her and hold her for a few minutes before she’ll go back to sleep.

Sick kid nap achieved! I'm 1 for 2 but I'll take it.

A photo posted by Jessica Woodbury (@jessicaesquire) on

Tessa is stubborn… but easily distracted. She’ll stand her ground for a couple of minutes, then you can almost always get her to do the thing she was so strongly against seconds before. 

She is not exactly toilet trained. She is happy to use it on her schedule, which is usually just once or twice a day. This morning, with both of us home for the day, I thought we’d give underwear a try. She was down with it for five minutes, then cried and asked for her diaper back. To her credit, she said maybe she could try again tomorrow. While I won’t miss the diapers, I will miss the little crinkly sound of her walk. Assuming we ever get there.

No longer an easy eater, but not picky either, she often just won’t eat her dinner at all. There’s not a huge fuss, she just won’t do it. And every success is usually followed shortly by failure. Like the pasta with cherry tomatoes I made on Sunday, which she ate enthusiastically (3 bowls!) only to reject it with tears on Monday.

She is still, in most ways, my easy kid. Graham cannot let 3 minutes pass without asking for something. Tessa does make requests, but there’s usually 20-30 minutes between them. She forgets about the TV, forgets about snack, forgets about a promised outing. It’s a pretty great deal for me, since 2 kids asking that often would probably make my head explode. 

Personal space. Nope.

A photo posted by Jessica Woodbury (@jessicaesquire) on

She likes pink and hearts and butterflies and princesses. She also likes dinosaurs, Spiderman, and trains. 

I used to think of her as bold and fearless. But she is becoming more cautious as time passes and I haven’t figured out yet if that’s good or bad. Graham offered to let her try his balance bike and she sat on it only to immediately get off. I think it’ll be a while before she tries again.

She still falls asleep in the car if it’s afternoon or evening and we drive for more than ten minutes. 

She calls Graham “Grammer” or “Graham Cracker.”

Some mornings she can be plagued by a funk of feelings, but it happens less and less. She can get stuck sobbing, but it happens less and less. I still have to say “Use words, please,” but it happens less and less.


Somebody's unruly hair got her a bob and bangs so many of us get at this age.

A photo posted by Jessica Woodbury (@jessicaesquire) on



This is the go-with-the-flow child. This is the child who doesn’t make requests about what we eat for dinner or where we go for the day. She is the classic younger child in that way. If she did get it in her head that she wanted one thing and then we end up doing another, she usually responds by thinking for a second and then saying, “Later?” I tell her, “Yes, we can do it later.” And then she says “Okay,” and she’s fine.

There is still a lot she doesn’t understand. She’s made so much progress in the last year that I forget that a lot. But I’ve officially made the switch from assuming she doesn’t understand me to assuming she does. 

She is called Tessa and Tessy and Tess. I’m still not quite sure which one she’ll feel most herself in, but for now, at 3, getting to be such a big girl, she is Tessa to me as long as she’ll have it.

Let’s Get Excited About April Books!!

I know I get excited about books EVERY month, but I can’t help it and each month is a new round of enthusiasm. It just is! I’m sure other hardcore readers get it, that every month of new releases is another wealth of treasures to enjoy. As usual, links are Amazon affiliate links that help support the blog and don’t cost you anything.

But enough already because OMG NEW TONI MORRISON!!

If you didn’t read the absolutely incredible piece on the venerable Ms. Morrison in the NYT Magazine last weekend, you must do so right now. 

 Lets Get Excited About April Books!! But let’s talk about her new book, God Help the Child Lets Get Excited About April Books!!. Because it’s by someone with as much of a reputation as Toni Morrison, it’s going to be reviewed everywhere and those reviews will be all over the map. I’ll leave it to you to make up your own mind, but I will try to talk you into reading it. 

I’m one of those people who had to read Song of Solomon in school. At least, I think I did. I don’t remember ever talking about it in class, but I remember the experience of reading it so clearly. It was one of those books that changed what I realized books were capable of doing. It’s still probably my favorite of her novels. I have gone back and forth on her more recent work. But I liked her last novel, A Mercy, even if I didn’t adore it. For me, God Help the Child felt like a real Toni Morrison novel. It had that sense of timelessness even though it’s set in a specific time. It had that tinge of allegory and fable and surrealism that keeps the next step in the plot always hovering beyond your vision and leaving you unsure of what is possible and impossible. 

It explores child abuse mostly, through several lenses and a few points of view. It’s also about self-actualization, about skin color, about healing, about many things. While child abuse is at its center, it is not described in detail, so those of you who struggle with the topic don’t necessarily need any kind of trigger warning. It is about the repercussions more than the acts. 

It’s a short novel, and some will surely feel like it doesn’t do enough. I was pleased with its length. But you can make your own decision. And you should. It’s out Tuesday the 21st, so go get a copy. 


Next up: let’s get excited about Fifteen Dogs Lets Get Excited About April Books!! by André Alexis. 

 Lets Get Excited About April Books!! Lets Get Excited About April Books!!I know what you’re thinking: why should you be excited about a book you’ve never heard of from an author whose name isn’t familiar? Yeah, so it’s not a new Toni Morrison release. But you’ve already got that. And actually I think this novel has a bit of a kinship with a Morrison book. They both share that feeling that the story is almost more fable than novel. 

It’s rare that I read a book and think, “I don’t know anyone who won’t like this.” This is one of those books. I’m probably wrong. Surely someone will not like it. But they’ll be the exception.

My efforts to explain the book may not convince you. I know that the plot had me feeling unsure of whether this was something I wanted to read. Just do it. It’s one of these books that has something meaningful to say about life and being human, and yet it also has a plot that moves at stunning speed and characters you are legitimately connected to.

It’s also about dogs. Did I mention that? There are also gods. But mostly dogs. Dogs that, through a trick of fate, suddenly get the intelligence of a human while still having the needs and instincts of a canine. I want to tell you everything about this book, it is that kind of book, where you want all your friends to read it. In fact, skip reading it. Just have your book club and all your friends read it. Then you will feel much better when it’s over and you can talk about it obsessively with everyone.

You will love it. And you will seriously consider naming your next dog Majnoun. It’s out now.


That’s an awful lot to be excited about. But there’s still more.

 Lets Get Excited About April Books!! Lets Get Excited About April Books!!There’s Attica Locke’s third novel. If you don’t know her, you totally should. She writes the kind of books John Grisham wanted to write and never quite wrote and then stopped writing and started writing drivel instead. Her books are dark, full of intrigue, packed with corruption, and all that good stuff. (Locke just happens to be on the writing staff for Empire. If you need her bona fides.) Her third book, Pleasantville Lets Get Excited About April Books!!, goes back to the protagonist of her first novel, the excellent Black Water Rising. You don’t need to read that one first. You can read her books in any order. And you should. She’s one of my favorite thriller writers. Out Tuesday April 21st.

 Lets Get Excited About April Books!! Lets Get Excited About April Books!!And there’s Heidi Julavits’ new unconventional memoir, The Folded Clock Lets Get Excited About April Books!!, a diary of one year in her life given in non-chronological order. I have been kind of obsessed with Julavits since I read this book and listened to two episodes of Selected Shorts reading excerpts from last year’s Women in Clothes, which she co-edited and which I am C-R-A-Z-Y crazy about and must acquire immediately. The Folded Clock does require you to try not to hate Julavits a bit, since she is writing about her life as a professional writer who lives in New York City except when she’s summering in Maine or when she’s on a trip to Italy. That kind of thing. But there are bits of this book so funny that you really wish she was your best friend and that she’d invite you to the house in Maine. Out now.

 Lets Get Excited About April Books!! Lets Get Excited About April Books!!And there’s Oye What I’m Gonna Tell You Lets Get Excited About April Books!!, a book of short stories by Cecilia Rodriguez Milanes mostly about Cuban-American young women and the generational conflict that comes in immigrant families. Milanes hooked me pretty early, with stories that end even though you want at least 5 more pages. It’s a great collection and I loved the way each character’s journey felt so different and yet they all felt connected. Out on Tuesday the 21st. 

Okay. I think that’s enough excitement for one month.

But in May we can totally get excited again.

Why I Unfollowed You on Twitter

First off, don’t feel bad. This doesn’t say anything about our friendship. I’ve been unfollowing a lot of people and it’s not because I don’t like you. 

Here’s what you need to understand. I like Twitter. I’ve been there for years. And it’s the social network I care about the most. For a long time I followed everyone I was friends with and everyone I thought might have something interesting to say.

As time has passed I’ve realized that a lot of you don’t like Twitter the way that I do. I want to have conversations there. I want to learn things there. I want to enjoy myself there. So I have a new rule: if you’re not making my life on Twitter better, I’m unfollowing you.

It’s not personal. Promise.

In all likelihood, I still follow you elsewhere. Probably multiple elsewheres. And you’re awesome in those other places. 

There’s no need to make excuses. I know that there are a lot of social networks and you can only invest so much time into them. If Twitter is the one where you’re automating, that’s totally fine. But it means that those of us who Twitter our asses off aren’t going to follow you. 

Reasons I might have unfollowed you:

You Auto-Tweet

By far this is the biggest one. Auto-tweeting has become the norm. But it’s really obvious you don’t pay much attention to your feed when you auto-tweet things so constantly that it gets annoying. You’re on a pinning spree and every single pin auto-tweets. You auto-tweet your posts as they go up on your blog. Even worse, you auto-tweet everything on Facebook. You’ve got automation so far stretched that I’ll often see you tweet the same thing 2 or 3 times in a row from different automated sources. You use triberr or one of those other things.

Auto-tweets aren’t a death knell, but if I see one I’ll pull up your profile. And if all you’ve been doing is auto-tweeting, I know you’re not on Twitter the way I’m on Twitter. I know we won’t have a conversation here. So that’s that.

You Self-Promote

We all do it. But if all you tweet is links to your posts, I can get that from other places. You aren’t here to hang out. So that’s that.

You Sign Up for Programs That Tweet For You

I don’t care how many people unfollowed you today. I don’t care who your most engaged followers are. This is stuff for you, not for me. And if you’re tweeting this and not hanging out, that’s that.

You Share Inspirational Quotes

Personal pet peeve. They bug me. I won’t ding you for one, but if that’s all you’ve got, I’m out.

You Tweet a Lot of Ads and Twitter Parties

I know you can get paid to tweet. I tried it. And I quickly quit. If you do this too much, you’re taking up my feed and that’s that. I’d rather hang with you in a place where I don’t see your ads.


The bottom line is: we all use the internet differently. And following you on Twitter isn’t an endorsement of you as worthwhile. It’s a decision I make about what I see. 

So if I unfollowed you, no hard feelings on my end. I hope there aren’t any on yours either. Feel free to say hi on Instagram, Facebook, email, or in real life. 

And if you want to join the conversation, then just @ me and start a talk and when I realize I’m not following you, I’ll rectify that. 

Where to Find Long Shorts for Girls

If you’re a parent, you don’t need me to tell you how random and ridiculous clothing for kids can be. Boys must wear cargo shorts and other loose clothing in “boy” colors. Girls must wear short shorts and tight clothing in “girl” colors. It’s frustrating when you’re just trying to find clothes to make your kids comfortable. Especially when your kids like things that don’t fall into the small spectrum of what’s available.

shorts collage Where to Find Long Shorts for Girls So to make your life a little easier, I’ve compiled a list of what I can find in one of those tricky but high-needs clothing types: long shorts for girls. Whether it’s your daughter’s preference or you just hate the idea of having your six-year-old dressing like a teenager, this list should help. When there’s an inseam length available, I’ve noted it. And if they’re denim, I’ve noted that, too. The knit shorts are hardest to find, but there are a few on the list! These are mostly what’s commonly known as “Bermuda” shorts which go near the knee. Some brands on this list may also have “midi” shorts which go mid-thigh. I did not include bike shorts.

Note: I give original price here, but most of these sites usually run discounts so you may find it’s half that after you click through. 

Some of these are affiliate links, which means I get a small commission if you purchase after you click. It won’t affect the price at all. I tried to make the best list possible regardless. Thanks for your support!

This list is current as of April 2015. I’ll update if I find more! Leave a comment if I’ve missed a store. Or let me know what kind of kids’ clothes you’d like me to hunt down next! Presented in alphabetical order by store. (Update: Added Girls Will Be, Hanna Andersson and Walmart.)

The Children’s Place–50% off with promo code PLACE3–4/20

  • childrens place e1429015647242 Where to Find Long Shorts for Girls
    Denim Heart Skimmer Shorts

    Denim Skimmer Shorts, Girls 4-14 (with slim and plus) in 8 colors, $16.95 original price. Several prints available, including floral and plaid.

  • Active Bermuda Shorts, Girls 4-14 (in XS to XL) in 5 colors made of terry cloth, $12.95 original price.

Crazy8–30% off sale running–4/20

  •  Denim Bermuda Short, Girls 4-14, $19.88 original price. Currently marked down to $13.92–4/13

Gap–40% off with code SUNSHINE–4/20

  • gap e1429015546312 Where to Find Long Shorts for Girls
    1969 Printed Denim Bermuda Shorts

    1969 Denim Bermuda Shorts, Girls 4-18 (with slim and plus) in 4 colors $26.95 original price


Girls Will  Be




 Where to Find Long Shorts for Girls
Neon Cuffed Bermuda Shorts 



Hanna Andersson

 Where to Find Long Shorts for Girls
Very Gud Sweatshorts


J C Penney

  • jcpenney knit 150x150 Where to Find Long Shorts for Girls
    Xersion Knit Bermuda Shorts

    Arizona Denim Bermuda Shorts, Girls 7-16 (includes Slim and Plus), Dark Wash, $26 regular price. 8” inseam  

  • jcpenney denim 150x150 Where to Find Long Shorts for Girls
    Arizona Bow Pocket Bermuda Shorts

    Total Girl Bermuda Shorts, Girls 7-16 (Includes Plus) with embroidery in 3 styles, $30 original price.

Justice–50% off with extra 10% off bottoms with code 837–4/20

  • justice e1429014625438 Where to Find Long Shorts for Girls
    Knit Waist Bermuda Denim Shorts

    Colored Denim Bermuda Shorts, Girls 5-18 (with slim and plus) in 3 colors, $34.50 original price, 8” inseam 

  • Denim Bermuda Shorts, Girls 5-18 (with slim and plus) in 2 washes, $32.90 original price, 8” inseam


  • kohls 150x150 Where to Find Long Shorts for Girls
    SO utility shorts in beach glass

    SO Utility Shorts, Girls 7-16, in 5 colors. $30 original price

Lands End

  • lands end1 150x150 Where to Find Long Shorts for Girls
    Lands’ End Girls’ Plaid Bermuda Shorts

    Girls’ Print Bermuda Shorts, Girls 4-16 (Includes Regular, Slim, Plus) in Honeysuckle Pineapple, $29-$32.

Macy’s–Styles currently marked down–4/20


Check the comments for more in-store options!

Thanks for visiting Don’t Mind the Mess, a blog with all kinds of stuff on parenting, Boston, and much more. Like us on Facebook, or follow on Instagram and Twitter.

shorts for pinterest Where to Find Long Shorts for Girls

Drugstore Makeup Picks

affiliate links pic Drugstore Makeup PicksI’m cheap. By necessity and by nature. For makeup this has been tricky, since my early exposure was to mid-level brands like Clinique, which have gradually grown out of my budget. At first I was hesitant to use drugstore makeup and only used a couple of highly recommended products. But eventually it just had to happen. I needed cheaper products.

I’m someone who likes a natural look, I tend to use as little makeup as possible. I’ve learned what has more of an impact and what I can do without. I like a look I can have finished in 5 minutes that uses only a few products. 

makeup 300x300 Drugstore Makeup Picks
Me, with my regular makeup routine


Through a lot of trial and error, I’ve been able to find out which products I can’t scrimp on (foundation with more coverage, under eye concealer) and what I can do cheaply (a lot more than you’d think). I don’t think of myself as a makeup maven, but lately I’ve had a lot more compliments than usual and my only real changes have been to use more drugstore makeup. So I thought I’d share my best products, the ones I wear almost every day and get for cheap at CVS. 


 Drugstore Makeup Picks Drugstore Makeup PicksBlogger swag is so hit and miss, but every now and then I get a product that becomes a staple. I don’t remember when exactly I got Pond’s Luminous Finish BB Plus Cream Drugstore Makeup Picks but it was right when I was thinking about trying a BB Cream and it happened to be Light Shade so I figured I’d try. My fair skin has always been tricky for tinted moisturizers and other products like this, their light shade is still usually too dark for me. But it turns out this cream goes on perfectly and even in the winter when I’m extra pale it’s right on. It’s got SPF, a must for me. Since I’ve started using it, I use my pricy matte foundation less and less because usually my BB cream does the job just fine. 

 Drugstore Makeup PicksAs you’ll see in many of my other choices, I don’t like powders. Powders mean brushes, which means more purchases, which means more cleaning, and I prefer to just give my hands a quick wash, use a product I can put on with my fingers, and go. So for blush I needed a new pick when I could no longer afford my favorite powder from Benefit. I did a little research for this one and ended up getting Revlon PhotoReady Cream Blush in Pinched, the lightest shade. I like just a little bit of light color, very natural, and a cream blush means I can blend it in until it’s just right. 


 Drugstore Makeup PicksEye makeup is a balancing act for me, it’s where I can get the most impact but it’s also where I’m the most sensitive. I don’t wear mascara most days because my lashes are straight and because my eyes are always more irritated when I have it on. So I make up for it with eyeliner. Because of my sensitive eyes, this has to be a super soft pencil, preferably the kind you can turn, preferably something a little smudge-able. I also like to have more than one color. I go with black most days, but blue and gray are also favorites of mine. This pick was totally an impulse buy, it’s Physicians Formula Shimmer Strips Trio Custom Eye Enhancing Eyeliner Set. I needed a new liner but didn’t have any good leads, and when I saw this trio of liners specifically for Blue eyes I thought I’d give it a shot. This is by far the product I get the most compliments on (my Mom asked about my eyeliner, and she’s got way better makeup skills than I do) and the black liner is my go-to. The blue is a great shade. Honestly, I don’t use the brown much but it’s still good to have around. The downside is that this doesn’t last as long as other eyeliners, so a long day requires touch ups, but longlasting eye makeup is usually too harsh for my eyes anyway. There are also sets for brown eyes, hazel eyes, and green eyes. 

 Drugstore Makeup PicksI hate eye shadow. It’s another product that requires more product: a brush, a base, etc. It doesn’t stay on well. So I have happily jumped on the eye shadow pencil trend. One product, no powder, I’m in. Initially I was getting these at sephora, but the pencils I got there were disappointing after getting sharpened. The shadow kept falling out of the pencil and the pencil didn’t sharpen well at all. So I started looking for a low-cost alternative. I settled on CoverGirl Flamed Out Shadow Pencil in Melted Caramel Flame. The only problem I have with it is that they often didn’t have that color in stock so I had to wait a long time to get it at my CVS. I’ve also purchased and love to use the blue color, Ice Flame. I tried the silver and was unimpressed. It stays on well, it doesn’t crease, and the Caramel color is a nice neutral that I wear almost every day. 


I recently crowdsourced my lipstick problem. I have found shades I love, but I’m so tired of reapplying. I was willing to spend more money if it meant I had a lipstick I could wear all day. Before I’d really liked Revlon’s Super Lustrous Lipstick, except that it was always gone in 3 hours. But I’m really cautious about drugstore lipstick. The colors tend to be garish and unflattering. I like to have lipsticks that are colorful and bright, but also lipsticks that are just enough color to not be neutral. I was willing to do whatever it took. And then several people recommended Cover Girl Outlast. So I figured I’d give it a shot if there was any chance I could get a good longlasting lipstick from the drugstore.

 Drugstore Makeup PicksI sat down on the floor of my CVS and looked at every color. I settled on a first pick of Cherry Cordial 575, a pink hued neutral. I took a quick photo of two other colors that looked promising should I return. The Cover Girl Outlast is a two-step process, usually I hate that. But one is color and the other is a moisturizing stick. That I can get behind. Even if I don’t want to reapply color during the day, my lips dry out fast and I’m often wanting to put lip balm on a few times a day. The lip color goes on a little heavy and you have to give it about a minute to dry. It goes on very matte, so the moisturizing stick helps give your lips a little shine. (I actually hate sticky lip gloss, so this is another win for me.) Sure enough, I still had lips almost the exact same color 12 hours later. Huge win. Plus the color totally worked as a neutral/light pink, it wasn’t too bright or weird looking. It was the kind of hue I don’t expect from a drugstore lip. I went back this week to get a second one, this time I opted for Mauve Muse 585. I still don’t feel super comfortable with the bold berry shades we wore back in the 90’s, even though I know they’re coming back, but Mauve is a way I can have some purple without going really dark. It’s great against my eyes, too. I’ve worn it 3 days in a row now. I’ve also bookmarked Always Rosy 549, which I’m considering for a brighter pink. But now that I trust this product I may have to have another sit down on the floor of CVS to really hammer out my next shade. I’m even thinking about trying something a little redder. The extra moisturizing sticks are now a bit unnecessary, but I’ve just chosen to put one in my bathroom makeup bag and one in my purse. The next one will probably go in my evening clutch.

And that’s pretty much my makeup routine nearly every day now. Sometimes I add brows (Revlon Pencil & Gel, Dark Blonde 104) and sometimes I add mascara (I use it so rarely that I use the super cheap Maybelline Great Lash) and sometimes I go full throttle with expensive primer and expensive foundation. I do love my fancy under-eye concealer (picked out with the help of a good Sephora rep, it’s from Givenchy, talk about fancy) and that’s a staple, but otherwise almost everything can be done with my cheap makeup. My wallet is very happy.