"The most wasted of all days is one without laughter." ~e e cummings

Sunday, December 13, 2015

My Year...or, Not So Much

This was going to be My Year.

For the first time in over eight years I was to have time for myself that didn't not require the Putting To Sleep of a Child. Free time! ME time!

For seven hours each week, all three of my children are in school. Seven HOURS! Imagine what I could accomplish in SEVEN hours!

I was going to do yoga four times a week.

I was going to broaden my dinner repertoire to include more and different recipes that my whole family was going to love.

I was going to meet friends for coffee and conversation.

I was going to catch up on the laundry.

I was going to read. Books. Lots of them.

I was going to drink a cup of coffee, straight through to the last drop, still hot.

I was going to write.
...not just on this little blog.
...not just on other blogs...
...but really write...the collection of stories that have been swirling around my brain and in my heart for the last two years.

But I'm finding that I don't, actually, have seven hours to myself. Not really.

I rarely drop Molly off at precisely 8:30 and, even if I do, I nearly always stay to chat with her teachers for a bit. (6 hours 45 minutes)

I signed up to be a volunteer in Max's kindergarten class during Guided Reading because kindergartners are the greatest kinds of human beings on the planet. (5 hours 45 minutes)

I also signed up to be a volunteer in Evan's art class because third graders are, well, um...also great? And art is super fun. But mostly because how the hell else am I going to know anything about anything that happens in third grade what with the whole Evan Is Less an Open Book and More a Locked Diary thing? (4 hours 45 minutes)

And, also, I signed up to be the Room Mom for both classes because ha ha ha ha ha! No seriously. Had I had a drink or two before Back to School Night or something because What? Who does that?! (3 hours)

So, basically, Tuesday is a total wash. There's still Thursday for the yoga and the cooking and the reading and the catching up with friends and the writing, right?!

Oh, right.

Then we got a puppy. (Negative 1,000 hours)

This isn't the year I thought it would be for me, but it's okay. I love volunteering at school, I love this puppy (yup, more to come on this, but I'm smitten), and my friends understand because they're all just as busy or busier than me. The books will eventually get read, the dinners won't get eaten regardless of how long I've spent preparing them so I might as well just bake some more chicken, and the stories in my head and my heart can marinate a bit more before hitting the screen.

But you know what can't wait? What doesn't understand? What does need to happen Right Now and doesn't care that we have a new puppy?


Christmas used to happen during nap times, which are long gone. Or after the kids went to bed, which is now Puppy Time. Or while Sam played with oblivious little kids in the backyard while I made like an elf in the makeshift Santa's Workshop of our basement storage room...not anymore: they'd be on to us.

It was December 12 and I was Not Ready for Christmas. I know for most of the world, this would not be a problem. You still have 12 days, you're thinking, 13, really. But I'm not like most of the world. I am so Type A when it comes to Christmas that our Christmas Lists have lists and they live in Excel. I'm so Type A that I re-decorate the tree after the kids have had a first pass at it. (There are roughly 4,000 limbs on that tree, Molly. You can use more than the bottom 15.) I start baking and freezing Christmas cookies the week after Thanksgiving. My Christmas shopping is done early, save for some wiggle-room in the budget for last-minute, magic-making, wish-fulfillment. Presents are wrapped, little by little, over the course of December and I coast into the holiday, organized, prepared, and as stress-free as a Type A introvert can be leading up to the Biggest Holiday of the Year.

At least, that's how it usually goes.

And I needed to get back to that serene place, in which I felt festive and fun rather than stressed and short-fused.

So I did what I always do when I reach my max...I demanded some alone time.

I sent Sam and the kids and the puppy away for a day. I sent them off with packed lunches, snacks for days (just in case), and an alibi: I have some writing to do, kids, so go visit your Grandmother and Grandpop with Daddy!

I had about six hours. That's it. But it was enough.

I went to the grocery store.
I baked a batch of molasses-ginger cookies.
I drank a cup of coffee in one sitting.
I finished painting the rainbow fairy peg dolls for Molly's stocking.
I baked a batch of chocolate chip cookies.
I ate lunch while sitting.
I watched Love Actually.
I wrapped ALL the Christmas presents.
I assembled the one Christmas present (a million-piece Playmobil set, of course) that had a shipping label stuck directly to the box, thus blowing the whole damn made-in-an-elfin-workshop charade. (Thanks for nothin', Zulily.)
I made the dough for Sunday's sugar-cookie decorating extravaganza.

And then...I waited around for my family to come home.

Six hours. It was all I needed.

I can breathe again. I'm ready for Christmas.

At least...I would be if it wasn't 75 degrees outside.

Lesson Learned:
When I get overwhelmed, when I feel like I can't breathe and I can't possibly accomplish the Something that needs to be accomplished, I often find that the solution can be found in me running away from or sending away my family.

It's not that they're the problem...it's me. It's me needing space and solitude (and, when it comes to Christmas, secrecy). I take my space, I remember to inhale fully, and, when the Something is Done and we are again reunited, it feels good to have missed my family. And to have checked something off one of my Lists.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Science of Parenthood: A Q&A with the Authors

Of all the things I love about blogging, one of my most recent favorites is that I've had the opportunity to meet some of the People of the Internet, whom are creating the excellent Content of the Internet that I've been liking and favoriting and sharing for years. What's even better, is when these people take their internet brilliance one step further...outside of the cyber-confines of the internet and right into my own hands.

Norine Dworkin-McDaniel and Jessica Ziegler have taken their internet brilliance and hilarity beyond their blog and onto the pages of this deeply scientific and highly relatable parenting manual: Science of Parenthood

By "deeply scientific" I mean not really at all scientific.

But by "highly relatable" I mean that Norine and Jessica have put into words and pictures the moments of parenthood you have managed to survive, even if you haven't been able to tell about it. From pregnancy and childbirth, through potty training and the hell that is picky eaters, all they way up to homework and tweenaged angst: if you haven't experienced the joys of parenthood described in this book then, hold onto your hats New Mom, you will.

Read on to learn more about Science of Parenthood, straight from the authors/illustrators themselves.


What’s Science of Parenthood all about?

Science of Parenthood started nearly three years ago as an illustrated humor blog. We use fake math and science to “explain” the stuff that puzzles parents every day. Things like ...
Why are broken cookies “ruined?”
Why does it matter what color the sippy cup is?
Why can’t you put the straw in the juice box without your kid having a melt down?
Why will a kid whine-whine-whine for a toy, then lose all interest in that toy once they have it? 
Where the eff is my phone?  

We’ve come up with some pretty hilarious theories.

Our book, Science of Parenthood: Thoroughly Unscientific Explanations for Utterly Baffling Parenting Situations, is like our blog … but like our blog on STEROIDS! We utilized the blog to road test--perhaps we should say “field test”--material, and now the book contains the kinds of cartoons and writing that fans love to find at Science of Parenthood, along with all new cartoons, infographics, flowcharts, pie charts, and quizzes that we created just for the book. About 90 percent of the book is brand new material.

Divided into four sections--biology, chemistry, physics and mathematics--the book lives in the chasm that exists between our collective hopes and dreams and expectations of what parenting will be like … and the brutal, slap-you-upside-the-head reality of what parenting actually is. We cover all aspects of pregnancy, birth, and the hilarious frustrations that come with early childhood (tantrums, picky eating, diaper blowouts, illness, sleep issues, play dates, toy creep, homework battles, and encounters with crazy parents (not you, of course, we mean other parents). And you know what? You don’t even need to be a scientist to “get” it.

Our goal is just to make parents laugh. Because when you’re a parent, you NEED to laugh. Humor is a survival tool. After your tot has gotten the top off a jar of Vaseline and smeared every surface within reach--as happened to our friend Gail--or tried to “help” you paint a room and ended up covered in blue paint--as happened to Norine’s sister Shari--you have to laugh. Or you’ll end up sobbing. Or wearing one of those fancy white jackets that buckles up in the back.

Is any of the book autobiographical?

Pretty much all of the book reflects through our experiences as parents. Take the piece “Experimental Gastronomy: A Study in Potatoes” from the Chemistry section. It’s written like a scientific paper about an experiment in which a researcher tries to determine if a preschooler who likes French fries will eat mashed potatoes. Raise your hand if you can hypothesize the outcome (see what we did there?) The piece is completely based on Norine’s inability to get her five-year-old, who loves fries, to even taste mashed potatoes. Says Norine: “I tried everything! I even offered him extra chocolate for dessert, and he still refused to take even one tiny nibble.”  

Why science? Are either of you scientists?

Not at all. We’re moms dealing with the same kind of crazy stuff everyone else is. Science just makes a great metaphor for the frustration, exasperation, and humiliation that comes with everyday parenting. Think about Einstein and how he explained his theory of relativity: “Sit on a hot stove for a minute and it seems like an hour; sit with a pretty girl with an hour and it feels like a minute. That’s relativity.” Well, that’s parenthood too. One minute you’ve got a newborn covered in goo and then next, you’re watching teary-eyed as they skip into kindergarten without even a backward glance or a kiss goodbye. And yet, when you’re into your third hour of Candy Land on a rainy day, time seems to stand still. (If you haven’t played Candy Land with your toddler yet, trust us on this. The scars never really heal.)

Where did you get the idea for Science of Parenthood?

Our “eureka” moment came when Norine’s son, Fletcher, came home from school talking about one of Newton’s laws of force and motion: An object at rest stays at rest unless acted on by an external force.

Says Norine: “That instantly reminded me of Fletcher with his video games. He’d sit on the couch and play games all day if I didn’t confiscate the iPad. I jotted down, Newton’s First Law of Parenting: A child at rest will remain at rest until you want your iPad back. Later, I posted that on Facebook. It got a good response, so I started posting other parenting observations and giving them a math or science twist, like Sleep Geometry Theorem: A child will always sleep perpendicular to any adult laying next to them. Both of these are fan favorites and two of the very few cartoons we pulled from the blog to include in the book.

“As a writer, I’m always looking for new ways to tell stories. And in that eureka moment, it struck me that math and science make fantastic metaphors for telling the universal stories of parenting. Like scientists, we parents are always fumbling in the dark, searching for answers, wondering if we’re on the right track and second-guessing our methods. And because a picture is still worth a thousand words, I knew that these science-y quips would be a lot more popular on social media if they were illustrated. So I called Jessica and asked if she wanted to illustrate a book of these funny observations.

“Jessica was the one who saw that Science of Parenthood could be much bigger than a single book. She saw the potential for a blog and a social media presence and ancillary products. She quickly secured a domain name for us and created a Facebook page and Twitter feed. She began illustrating the observations I had already banked. Two weeks later, we debuted on Facebook; a week after that we rolled out the blog. Now we’re three years in, and along with Science of Parenthood, the book, we have mugs and magnets and posters featuring our images. Earlier this year we published two collections of humorous parenting tweets—The Big Book of Parenting Tweets and The Bigger Book of Parenting Tweets.  

Where can readers find Science of Parenthood?

Science of Parenthood is available on Amazon and in bookstores.

And you can always find Science of Parenthood on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.

About The Authors

Norine is the primary writer for Science of Parenthood, the blog, and Science of Parenthood,the book. A longtime freelance magazine writer, Norine’s articles have appeared in just about every women’s magazine you can buy at supermarket checkout as well as on The Huffington Post, Parenting.com, iVillage, Lifescript and Scary Mommy websites. Norine is the co-author of You Know He’s a Keeper…You Know He’s a Loser: Happy Endings and Horror Stories from Real Life Relationships (Perigee), Food Cures (Reader’s Digest) and a contributor to several humor anthologies, including Have Milk, Will Travel: Adventures in Breastfeeding(Demeter Press). She lives with her husband and 9-year-old son in Orlando.

The daughter of famed New Yorker cartoonist Jack Ziegler, Jessica is Science of Parenthood’s co-creator, illustrator, web designer and contributing writer. In her “off hours,” Jessica is the director of social web design for VestorLogic and the writer/illustrator of StoryTots, a series of customizable children’s books. Her writing and illustration have been published on The Huffington Post, Vegas.comInThePowderRoom.com and in Las Vegas Life and Las Vegas Weekly. Jessica was named a 2014 Humor Voice of the Year by BlogHer/SheKnows Media. She lives with her husband and 11-year-old son in Denver.

Together Jessica and Norine published The Big Book of Parenting Tweets and The Bigger Book of Parenting Tweets earlier in 2015.

If you'd like to learn more about the Science of Parenthood Book Tour with Norine and Jessica, click here.

Lesson Learned:
In full disclosure, I did receive a copy of this awesome book from the authors. The views expressed in this post, however, are my own. So go pick yourself up a copy of Science of Parenthood. And one for a friend. You can find it on Amazon here.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

That Time I Ugly-Cried Over School Folders

Sam and I are pretty normal, as far as parents go. Maybe not in every decision we make, but in the way that, after so many Critical Parenting Moments, we look at each other and say, "Shit. Did we just blow that one?"

We are our own worst critics and it sometimes feels like when it comes to raising our children we can't do anything right. 

And then something happens that makes me realize We're Going To Be Okay.

The kids? They're fine. Better than fine, even.

That something happened today.

After school the kids grabbed snacks and one device or another and settled in for some down time as I went through their school work. Notices from school, check-marked homework assignments, assorted classwork...the usual, but with an unexpected Jackpot at the end of the pile: an entire semester's worth of kindergarten writing workshop stories.

Kindergarten writing is My Favorite. I love the drawings, the invented spellings, the absurdity of the plotlines as they develop over the course of two whole sentences (Prisses Kate is runing away for a reesin. Froo the nite she ran and it was day agen. The End.). But really, I love how writing, for any age, is a little open window into the heart of the writer.

My heart burst when I read this next story. Maxwell's wide open heart, spilled out over the pages of a Kindergarten Writing Workshop writing frame.

My Family
by Max

I love myself because I don't want to be someone else.

And the tears filled my eyes. I continued to read.

Molly and Evan are the best. We all like the same things.

As I flipped the page and read the next words, the tears, they ran hot.

I love my mom and dad. They can do anything.

...and I was ugly crying.

I love my family. No one is better.

...over a school folder.

Lesson Learned:
We're not perfect parents. His perfect heart, however, reminds me that we're doing okay.