Tag Archives: Parenting

On Writing Books And Sending Your One-Year-Old To School

October 1, 2015


I’m sending my one-year-old to school today. She’ll be joining the 2’s class, where she will be the baby of the classroom–unable to sit still or stay quiet or resist ripping off her diaper “for fun.” Bless you, preschool teachers. You have a special place in heaven next to the cheese bar.


This plan was unexpected. The teachers came to us, and at first I said no until I realized a whole morning off to write would be gold if gold was financially worthless but emotionally thrilling.

I started drafting a few more paragraphs explaining myself and our reasons for sending her, but deleted them all because honey, I’m the mom and she’s going to love it.


In the meantime, I’ll be here plugging away. This blog is no longer my first priority as I’m in the middle of writing two books, but it is still a great place to post life events, the occasional essay, or fun things from the Internet. Those Friday links used to really bog me down, but now those kinds of light posts are a happy place where I don’t have to think about where the next sentence will come from. Who would have thought curating silly tweets or finding noteworthy links to read would become a relaxing pastime. Instagram and Snapchat (for the most part) are fun too. Feel free to block me.

As always, thanks for reading.


How To Read Books And Neglect Your Family

September 28, 2015


Every week or so, someone asks me how I have time to read all those books while also being a wife and mother to two young children. It’s a valid question, considering most people have better things to do than speed read celebrity memoirs and young adult thrillers. My standard answer is usually pretty tongue-in-cheek. For example, “You should see my dishes!” or “I just don’t parent my children!”

It is not the whole story, but it’s not exactly a lie either. I absolutely neglect my dishes and ignore my kids for the sake of reading, but there’s more to it than that. But before I answer how I do it, let me tell you why.

Just like every other unathletic millennial girl, I’ve been reading under the covers until 2am since 1995 when Stacey McGill got diabetes in The Babysitter’s Club. For as long as I can remember, reading has been both an escape and joy. It’s also become a habit and discipline. Any writer knows that in order to write anything, you have to read everything. In an interview last year, the Portuguese Nobel prize winner Jose Saramago was asked about his daily writing routine. His answer was, “I write two pages. And then I read and read and read.”

So that’s why. Here’s how.

I just do it. Not every day, not every week, not when the kids are sick or I’m in the middle of projects–but most of the time I simply make the time to read. My house is rarely clean because I don’t consider being a housewife my job. Mothering, yes. Loving my children and helping them grow up, of course. But the laundry? The dishes? The piles of unopened mail and old magazines? That is not part of my job description. I help take care of those things because I live here, but I’m not putting it on my resume because most of the time everything is messy and I wait for Austin to be home so we can work on it together.

Mother first. Writer second. The rest is relationships and occasionally taking out the trash. Whenever I see friends and family who find joy in cooking or general housewifery (and househusbandry!), I think– Atta girl! Please invite me over for your casserole. I will never be that woman. I will always push aside housework and complicated recipes for reading or writing or lying on the floor while the kids try to scratch my eyes out.

Speaking of the kids, I will also always be the mom who says, “This is Mommy’s time!” or “I’m reading, please stop poking me with that fork” because 1) There are only so many minutes in a day I can play dinosaur tea party and 2) Monkey see, monkey do. And if my monkeys turn out to be readers who sometimes neglect their chores to finish the last few chapters, I will consider that a pretty big win.


The Best Parenting Advice I’ve Ever Recieved

August 26, 2015

Edited From The Archives

There are a lot of things you shouldn’t say to new moms. Things like “Have you lost that baby weight yet?” or “My cousin’s baby slept through the night at 3 weeks!” Unsolicited, passive aggressive advice is not welcome either. Things like, “I think sleeping with your baby is crazy, but that’s just me…” or “Doesn’t formula cause AIDS?”

Not cool. Not cool at all.

Of course there are times to give advice, times when moms need a little help or a gentle nudge in the right direction. Mostly it’s a matter of timing, only offering your two cents when your two cents is needed. If you are having trouble knowing when this time is, listen for the following words: “I need your advice.” It’s that simple.

Here are the top ten best pieces of parenting advice I’ve ever received, all given to me in a kind and gentle manner. All with perfect timing and the wisdom of moms who care.

Thank you, moms. You know who you are.


1) Your body was made for this.


You want me to push a who out of what now?

Things your body was made for: labor, delivery, c-sections, breastfeeding, bottle feeding, resiliency, anger, love, exhaustion.

Things your body wasn’t made for: Full body waxes, an entire container of Oreos, meth.


2) Never say never.


Things I said I’d never do: Co-sleep, sleep train, use formula, google cheap daycare near me! at 2am.

Save yourself the embarrassment.


3) Treat them like a human person.


Things we expect of our dogs: obedience, submission, quiet. Things we expect of our kids: the same, but be cheery about it too! Here’s the thing though, kids aren’t puppies. I know it’s confusing.

It’s hard to treat a child with respect who is ignoring all your demands and throwing your toothbrush in the toilet. Really, really hard. But what if you were shorter than your roommates, constantly tripping, unable to make coherent sentences, and not allowed in the bathroom? There’s a reason kids act like drunk maniacs. Patience teaches patience. Grace teaches grace.


4) There’s a difference between sharing and bragging.


The first time my first baby slept through the night, I was so excited, so proud, so FULL OF MYSELF that I immediately texted all my friends and family that lo and behold, my child hath slept through the night! He didn’t do again for another 8 months. Karma is a delight.

Comparison is the thief of joy. Every kid is different and unique. Sharing is caring, but sometimes it’s annoying too.


5) Just when you think a stage can’t get worse, your kid usually gets over it.michael scott

It will get better. There is no other piece of advice that is more true and more repeated in the world of parenting. Newborn screaming? It will get better. Postpartum pooing? It will get better! Baby teething? Toddler screaming? Four-year-olds terrorizing the houseplants? Dude, it will totally get better. The days are long but the years are short. They will be peeing in that potty before you know it (really).


6) Acknowledge feelings.dwight

You don’t have to pick up your baby every time he cries. You don’t have to give your toddler a cookie every time he asks for one. You can acknowledge how they feel, even if it evokes the craziest of crazy eyes from your tired, Grinchy soul. For example:

“You’re tired, you want to be picked up!”

“You’re so sad, you wanted to stick your hand in the blender!”

“You’re so frustrated, you cannot process one single emotion rationally!”


7) You are the mom.


You are in charge of your kid. Not your mom, not your neighbor, not your frenemy from church who has opinions on food allergies. You know what’s best for your child because you are the mom.

Self doubt is a part of being a parent, but it’s true what they say–mama knows best. Trust your gut. Do what works for you and forget the rest.


8) Children are not a problem to be solved.


Children are not a problem to be solved but a person to be enjoyed. The problem is that parents are problem solvers, so it’s hard when your perfect baby comes with a list of things that need to be fixed (sleeping, eating, bug ingestion). Realistic expectations only work in our favor. They (and you) will be fine.


9) Ask for help.please

We are not designed to be alone. Work, children, marriage, our aging parents and arm skin–all of those things require support. Other parents and people are our greatest asset, even if it’s just your cousin’s half sister who offered to babysit on Saturday mornings so you can grocery shop in peace.


10) Get away.

miss p

Get away from your kids. I know it’s hard. I know they might cry and wonder where you are and bump their head on your mother-in-law’s coffee table. The hilarious thing is that they will be totally fine. The first time’s the hardest, the second time is okay. But soon enough, with some gentle practice, leaving your baby and your kids becomes second nature to everyone. A weekend at grandma’s house is good for everyone, even if you never leave your bed.


Six Books On Motherhood

August 25, 2015


Edited From The Archives

As a reader and parent, I’m often asked what books I’d suggest to new moms. The truth is I didn’t read a lot of parenting books when my son was born. I started many but only finished a few, namely the ones that didn’t gloss over the hard stuff. The rest of the time I read coming-of-age memoirs and end of the world fantasy thrillers. You know, to keep my mind off the fact that I was now in charge of another human.

I have read a few great motherhood memoirs over the years. Stories about the love and tribulation that comes along with parenthood. Today, a list of the best of the best. Most revolve completely around parenting, a few do not. I can assure you non-moms will enjoy them as well.

If you ended up here because you are going to a baby shower and you thought you’d get her a book, here’s my advice: buy her the first two memoirs, a giant tube of lanolin, and a box of dark chocolate. You’ll be golden.

As always, all book reviews are spoiler-free.

Happy reading.


1. Waiting For Birdy.

If You’re Looking For: Parenting Memoir, Non-fiction, Humor

If You Liked: Operating Instructions

My Review:  Catherine Newman is the kind of person you want to invite to your book club just to trick her into being your best friend. She is funny, irreverent, and cursed with a sappy heart just like the best of us. After my first baby was born, my friend Elizabeth passed this book along to me and I soaked in every word, every little detail and joke. I laughed until I cried, and read paragraphs out loud to anyone who would listen (no one). It is the book I wish I wrote. My very favorite parenting memoir next to Operating Instructions. A must read for the millennial mom.

Their Review: “Catherine Newman’s new book about the rock and roll life of newborn parents is hysterical… Don’t give birth without it.” —Jacquelyn Mitchard

Quoted: “Until it happened to us, I didn’t understand that having a baby would feel like falling in love on a bad acid trip. With an alarm clock–a pooping alarm clock. I wasn’t prepared to lie awake by the sleeping babe, my heart pounding audibly and so swollen with passion that I could barely breathe. I hadn’t realized that my mind would scan constantly for disaster, like a metal detector casting around for the big stuff and turning up endless bottle caps. What is that? Pneumonia? A brain aneurism? Woops, ok, no, just a little cold.”


2. Operating Instructions.

If You’re Looking For: Parenting Memoir, Non-fiction, Humor

If You Liked: Waiting For Birdy

My Review: A few months ago I went to see Anne Lamott talk about her newest book. She was exactly as expected; bright, wise, unbelievably funny. When it was my turn to finally meet her in the book signing line, all I could say was thank you. Thank you for all the books, but especially this one. It saved me in the middle of newborn colic and complete despair over having a newborn who never stopped crying. Really, there is no reason not to read this book. My favorite parenting memoir to date.

Their Review: “Painfully honest, laced with humor and poetry and moments of profound insight. It captures the intense fluctuations of feeling, the rapid alternation of exhilaration and fury, love and despair, that characterizes new parenthood.” –San Francisco Examiner

Quotable: “I guess he’ll have to figure out someday that he is supposed to have this dark side, that it is part of what it means to be human, to have the darkness just as much as the light- that in fact the dark parts make the light visible; without them, the light would disappear. But I guess he has to figure other stuff out first, like how to keep his neck from flopping all over the place and how to sit up.”


3. The Battle Hymn Of The Tiger Mother.

If You’re Looking For: Parenting Memoir

If You Liked: NurtureShock

My Review: Funny, engaging, and raw. I’m not sure what all the negative press and fuss was about. This book was never supposed to be a parenting manual, just a story of one mom trying to do her version of best. Chua is a brilliant writer and great story teller. I recommend it to everyone.

Their Review: “Readers will alternately gasp at and empathize with Chua’s struggles and aspirations, all the while enjoying her writing, which, like her kid-rearing philosophy, is brisk, lively and no-holds-barred. This memoir raises intriguing, sometimes uncomfortable questions about love, pride, ambition, achievement and self-worth that will resonate among success-obsessed parents… Engagingly and provocatively chronicled. Readers of all stripes will respond to [Battle Hymn of the] Tiger Mother.” –The Washington Post

Quotable:  “Unlike Western parents, reminding my child of Lord Voldemort didn’t bother me.”


4. How To Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk.

If You’re Looking For: Self-help, Advice On Discipline, Books On Older Kids

If You Liked: Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child

My Review: The only parenting manual I’ve read without falling asleep. Practical, manageable, and wise. The perfect remedy for millennial mothers trying to follow Maya’s advice: When you know better, do better.

Their Review: “An exceptional work, not simply just another ‘how to’ book…All parents can use these methods to improve the everyday quality of their relationships with their children.” –Fort Worth Star Telegram

Quotable: “I was a wonderful parent before I had children.”


5. Expecting Adam.

If You’re Looking For: Parenting Memoir

If You Liked: Operating Instructions

My Review: The true account of an academic Harvard couple who conceive a baby with Down’s syndrome and decide to carry him to term. A wonderful read for anyone, including my husband who read it before we met or had children and cried like a baby. One of the very best birth stories ever been told.

Their Review: “Expecting Adam is not one of those grit-your-teeth, lemons-into-lemonade sagas that leave the reader feeling more besieged and guilty than the writer. It is a long hymn, from a practical woman caught flatfooted by amazing grace. Martha Beck is a celebrant skeptics can trust.” –Jacquelyn Mitchard

Quotable: “…then I understood. She was talking about the soothing, singsong language mothers speak spontaneously when they talk to babies. Baby talk is found in all nations, all cultures; it is the original Mother Tongue. It translates across any language barrier because it is more about music than about words; the sounds themselves, not their meaning, give comfort and support.”


6. Bossypants.


If You’re Looking For: Parenting Memoir, Non-fiction, Humor

If You Liked: Yes Please, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, all that is sacred in this life for the love

My Review: I have read it seven times.

Their Review: “A masterpiece in comedy writing…I was hooked from the first word.” -Sunday Telegraph

Quotable: “Read! When your baby is finally down for the night, pick up a juicy book like Eat, Pray, Love or Pride and Prejudice or my personal favorite, Understanding Sleep Disorders: Narcolepsy and Apnea; A Clinical Study. Taking some time to read each night really taught me how to feign narcolepsy when my husband asked me what my “plan” was for taking down the Christmas tree.”


Favorite Books

All Book Reviews

The Problem With The Good Old Days

August 20, 2015

Good Old Days

Nostalgia is also a dangerous form of comparison. Think about how often we compare our lives to a memory that nostalgia has so completely edited that it never really existed.
Brené Brown

I have written and re-written an essay on “the good old days” a few dozen times over the years, but I can never bring myself to finish it because no one wants to hear a rant. I don’t want to hear a rant. Rants are for sad toddlers and sad uncles and sad Facebook feeds. Nine times out of ten, our deprecation is better left unsaid. There is a reason Mark Zuckerberg refuses to create a dislike button on Facebook. The world doesn’t need any more negativity.

Then all of a sudden we are defending Bill Cosby, chastising Harper Lee, and caring more about a dirty, old southern flag than actual human lives, so I’m going to say one quick thing tonight: There is no such thing as the good old days.

Humans did not behave any better or worse in 1810 or 1960 or after drunk Noah said, “Let’s start over, folks!” Every corner of every religious and historical text points to the fact that we are, and have always been, the worst.

Things we ignore to protect the good old days: literature, rape, racism, murder. We will literally ignore dozens of sexually abused women to protect our memories of a tv show personality. We also won’t read a book to protect our memories of a fictional character or take down a flag because hey, remember southern hospitality?

When our precious childhoods are at stake, we are willing to do almost anything.

The obvious problem with this is that if we are constantly putting our elders or history on a pedestal, we will only be disappointed. Humans have been being human for thousands of years. We are no better or worse than the very first man or woman who lied to get out of washing the loin cloths. There is no reason to be surprised when our youth pastor watches porn or when our grandpa turns out to be racist or when Joshua Duggar cheats on his wife. Bill Cosby was never our moral tour guide, Atticus Finch was never ours to have, and the confederate flag has never been anything more than a relic.

It’s okay to let go.

I know nostalgia is hard to avoid. I love nostalgia. Nostalgia is one of my love languages. It can also hold a lot of truth. We have so much to learn from those who have walked before us. Every generation has its wisdom; knowledge and understanding we’ve lost with the passage of time. The danger of nostalgia is that it can never really reflect the complete truth. This is why our childhood bedrooms will always look smaller and our memories of first grade colored by a single picture. We will never break the cycles of violence, oppression, or pain if we can’t admit our errors.

There is no such thing as the good old days. They were just days, some good and some bad. There is only the sweet smell of nostalgia and the hope that when we know better, we do better. Let’s keep trying.