Category: whatever works

30 Ways To Offend Your Toddler

After years of triggering tantrums from doing just about nothing, I’ve finally realized that toddlers are probably the most easily offended people on the planet. The general rule of thumb is to stay away controversial topics like religion and politics. To avoid offending toddlers, you have to stay away from a much broader spectrum of

Pop Quiz: Flying With Kids

Now that summer break has come to a speedy halt and my mother’s heart is a mixed drink of one-part elation and three-parts homework hell, I finally have a moment to reflect on the memories from the summer.

The biggest accomplishment, by far, was surviving a plane ride with the kids. It’s a monumental feat that will test your marriage and prove exactly what your “for better or for worse” is truly made of.

Take this pop quiz to see if your union can withstand this crucial test.

1. When riding on a plane with a 15 month old, do you:

A) Apologize to the other passengers ahead of time because, lets face it, they are trapped with you on this hellish journey.

B) Try to watch a movie. This could be your only chance for another two years.

C) Collect all the cartons of milk from the flight attendant

Confessions of a Gender-Neutral Mom


Early in my first pregnancy, we decided against finding out the sex of our baby. “One of the few surprises in life,” people told me. There was more to it than that, though.

I didn’t want my unborn baby to be gendered before birth, to be born into a room decorated according to stereotypes or dressed in a wardrobe of pinks or blues. For as long as possible, I wanted this baby to remain a baby— a miracle, and nothing more.

My newborn clothes were browns, creams and yellows. From the very beginning, I set out to raise children who are not defined by gender, who could see opportunities for themselves across a broad spectrum of interests.

It surprised me when I realized my own bias. I’m now determined to correct it.

Our first child was a boy, and as soon as he was born, the “It’s a Boy!” cards arrived in the mail,

The Talk

I’ve been reading a lot of posts on Facebook from parents struggling to have “the talk” with their children.

I didn’t find it that hard.

My daughter started asking questions when she was nine, always when we were in the car with her three-year-old sister. I had the best educated three-year-old in the country.

I kept expecting to

Depths of a Mother’s Love

When my two older children became capable swimmers and no longer needed me to hover over them in the water, I created a new parenting rule for myself. I decided I would wear a swimsuit whenever I accompanied them to the pool or the lake, even if I didn’t plan to get into the water. Being prepared to play the role of lifeguard was a way to hedge my bets and ward off the unthinkable.

One morning, I broke my own rule. We had traveled from Minnesota to Phoenix so my husband could attend a work conference and we could soak up some sun. When seven-year-old Louisa and five-year-old Sebastian made their request—could they “please, please go to the pool” for a quick swim before lunch?—I was already dressed. It seemed like a hassle to put on my faded swimsuit, only to change back into regular clothes an hour later. Besides, their

The Plain White Binder (and Other Back to School Dilemmas)

I love office supply stores. When I had my first child, five years ago, part of me was giddy at the thought that I now had a tiny, child-sized excuse to shop for “back to school” every fall.

Except… apparently people don’t go shopping for back-to-school supplies anymore.

What you do instead–at least at my daughter’s school–is sign up for a service that delivers a prepacked kit to your kid’s classroom on the first day of school.

Unfortunately, the deadline to sign up for this nifty service was in June. June. When not even I—the biggest office supply nerd of them all—was thinking about school supplies.

So I slunk down to Staples, riddled with guilt and shame, but determined that my daughter should not suffer for my inability to plan ahead. I had a list of everything in the damned kit and a plan to buy her the exact items she would have gotten

First-Time-at-Sleepover-Camp Blues

While a good portion of the country is already gearing up for “back to school”—I hear there are some that get started in mid-August—we are still in the throes of summer over here, with a good month and change to go.

And this summer, I’m dealing with something I’ve never had to face before.

My son is at sleepover camp, and I am bereft.

It certainly wasn’t my idea to send him. I was hoping he wouldn’t even know there WAS such a thing as sleepover camp, and if that failed I was hoping he’d think it sounded awful.

It sounds pretty awful to me: Cabins and mosquito nets, bugs everywhere, a dirty, cold lake, no family around, no phones or computers, lots of group activities… I’m sure I’ve had nightmares like that. I may have had one last night. But to an eleven-year-old boy, everything but the no computer and no phone part

Disappointment: the Family Vacations Guide

• The idea: Brooklyn Bridge, New York City, June 2007
Steve: Here’s a “must-do” activity this guidebook recommends. We walk 1.1 miles across the bridge’s pedestrian walkway to Brooklyn, eat lunch at a fun pizza place and take the subway back to Manhattan. What do you think?

Me (distracted by our three kids and their more immediate needs): Sure, sounds fun.

The reality: We get a late start and decide to instead take the subway to Brooklyn, eat a quick lunch at a boring diner (no pizza) and walk across the bridge back to Manhattan. The kids take 20 energetic paces forward, then realize that the Brooklyn Bridge is just a bridge. A very long bridge. A bridge that seems twice as long when you are trudging across it with an 11 year old, a 9 year old and a 6 year old.

Notable wildlife spotted: Seagulls, lots of seagulls.

The bright side: We sing

Digital Pictures: The Scourge of Modern Parenthood

Do you also feel overwhelmed by digital pictures?

It’s a trivial concern in the grand scheme of things, but since I got a smart phone several years ago and started snapping/clicking/pressing away, my phone–and then my laptop–has filled up with manymanymany shots of pretty much the same thing: my kids.

Specifically, kids in things–kids in hats, kids in face paint, kids in sports, kids in school plays. Since their birth, each iteration of the children doing something has been dutifully recorded and stored.

My digital pictures fall into three categories:


1. The Forced Smile.

Our kids are sick of having their picture taken. I always have my “camera” with me and photos are not just for formal occasions anymore–like birthdays and the prom–as when we were kids. My kids are asked to pose all the time. If you individually try to stop the shutter happiness, you’re the bad guy. Ever been that one mom

Mom’s Gone Wild

write for us

My seven-year-old woke me up.

“Why are you waking me up in the middle of the night?” I asked.

“It’s the morning, Mommy.” she said.

So it was.

My body was 3am-tired and my head was muddled. I couldn’t remember what I had been dreaming, but I halfway remembered getting really silly the night before.

“Silly?” I asked myself. “Why would I get silly?”

After I was dressed and had a cup of coffee, I went online and saw it: Facebook activity. Tons of it. Right around midnight the night before. The coffee helped me wake up and piece together what happened.

This is the 40-something Mom version of Girls Gone Wild.

The party started in my bed. I was sitting up in my bed, typing on my laptop. I was alone. I was drinking.

I was drinking Deep Eddy’s Sweet Tea Vodka with water over ice. This is my favorite drink for after the kids are in bed.

Karma And The First Time Mom

Remember those compromising videos you allowed people to take of you when you were younger?

Videos you would be mortified for your friends to watch.

There’s a video of that nature floating around this house that caused me to flinch in embarrassment every time I was forced to watch it.

It’s the video of my first few hours of motherhood. The cameras were rolling 24/7 the day my first daughter was born. An hour or so after my she was conceived, my parents couldn’t beat a path to Best Buy fast enough to purchase a large and cumbersome Panasonic Video Camera.

They diligently toted this contraption around for many years documenting every moment of this child’s life, beginning with the day she was born. (Regrettably, these videos didn’t disappear in 10 seconds like today’s Snap Chat. Our generation had to wait years for VCRs to become obsolete.)

There are several unsettling things about this video,

This is What the Oregon Trail Prepared Me For

Photo: Lovelorm Poets

Day 07 of the fever sickness. It’s not the sickness but the isolation that will get you.

Nina has definitely had some flashes of being out of touch. I can only hope she will regain her social identity and leave this behind at some point. She has taken to pulling out hair (first from my head

Mommy, Sing Me My Song

Bedtime makes me want to hurl myself in front of a moving vehicle, stab my eyes out with hot pokers, and hogtie my children to their mattresses. Their reasons for getting out of bed, not going to sleep, and needing me to be their pseudo-pacifier are absolutely endless:

My tongue is sad.

I hear a panther in my room. He’s playing checkers in the closet. Can you make sure he doesn’t touch my Elsa doll?

I need to tell you a secret. I have to poop. Huge.

Have you seen my booby trap?

Where is my diaper doo? No, the one with the little green flowers and kinda smells like my feet.

I slept for a million minutes already. It’s morning time now.

There is only one part of bedtime I relish and truly love: Singing their baby song.

Their baby song is just that. A song

One of These Things is Not Like the Other

Does This Kid Make My Butt Look Big?

Tushies come in all shapes and sizes.

There are songs and dance moves about the beloved behind. I even remember booty dancing to Sir Mix-a-Lot’s song, “I like big butts and I cannot lie!” What’s so shocking about the beloved booty?

My son and I were on a productive adventure at Costco, his favorite store. As we trucked along down one of the aisles he said, “Mommy! Look, behind you!” So naturally I turned around to look.

I saw nothing out of the ordinary.

Then he asked an extraordinary question: “Mommy, why is her tushie so big?”

Of course he was not quiet and she heard him. I realized we had just entered the “crazy-things-kids-say” phase, also know as the “why and how” period of his toddler life.

I saw her stare at me and I knew her stare was just so she could hear what I was going to say to my kid. I could

In Between with Tweens

Since everyone on this planet hovers somewhere between life and death, aren’t we all tweens of one kind or another? In our twenties, we’re tween hook ups. In our thirties, we’re tween marriages. And in our forties, we’re tween meds that keep us coming home each night.

When my children were ten, they were almost always between homework and wondering, out loud, why they can’t have pizza for dinner each night. I didn’t call them tweens; I call them contributing factors to psychosis.

No matter how we label them, though, this subset keeps us on our toes. My sons’ teachers sent guidelines home: “Tips to help you understand your tween.”

I would have called it, “How to live with these creatures without killing them or yourself.” Let’s take a look, shall we? (The parentheticals are mine.)

1) Tweens truly appreciate all-or-nothing logic; they see the world in black and white and have great difficulty

How I Won the Morning School Rush

It’s Thursday morning. I’m in the bathroom doing my morning things. Time to flush and mush!

My kids haven’t had a full day of school since last Friday thanks to winter storm Wilfred or whatever. Today’s the day, though. They are back in session, baby. A productive day awaits. I might even get a chance to scrub the tub. I’ve got ricotta cheese and turkey meat. I’ll be making lasagna for dinner. Cheese. Oh yeah.

I flush, wash my hands and go pour coffee. The radiators are scorching. But outside, it’s five flipping degrees. I tell my middle child to “put on freaking coat.”

BAM! Middle child slams the door as he leaves to catch the bus telling me how horrible I am for making him wear a jacket.

And returns through the same door three minutes later to tell older brother, who’s standing there with three pieces of bread clenched between his teeth,

My “mom” bookmark is a thermometer

Flip-Flops and the Teenager

When my son was a new adolescent, he was still willing to hold my hand, accompany me to the movies, and join me in a friendly board game.

This period of acceptance preceded his teenage years, when he naturally attempted to assert his independence–never to be seen in public having physical contact with his mother, never to willingly discuss any detail of social events involving girls, and never–NO NEVER–to wear any footwear other than flip-flops.

When the flip-flop phase began, I expected it to be just that–a short-lived period. I was certain that when the leaves changed color and began to slowly disappear, so would the flip-flops. As happens each year, the weather grew colder and the first flakes of snow fell; the flip-flops, however, remained a constant. They nestled on the mudroom floor between the sneakers, cleats and, eventually, snow boots of my other children.

Initially, I urged my son to wear

My Daughter is Infatuated with Boobies

My youngest tries to cop a little feel.

Until recently, she’d be sitting on my lap for a snuggle and before I knew it, she’d have her hand pulling down the front of my shirt to peek in, her fingers reaching in. Or during story time, her head nestled on my unsuspecting shoulder, she’d reach over and squeeze one.

And then she’d laugh. A big, guttural guffaw.

I’d gently take her hands away–those are mommy’s privates.

I’d turn my head and she’d try again. I’d repeat–those are mommy’s privates.

As I blocked this adorable hand, I was tossed back to high school. You remember the times when you’d hope to sit on the couch and watch a movie without someone reaching up your shirt. Seriously, these are my privates. I’m not throwing a party.

But this is innocent curiosity–she just turned four. I want her to know her curiosity is normal. I mean, boobs are interesting;