I’m the Jessie Spano of Blogging

I feel like a real dweeb. I forgot a very important birthday. Last week, my first-born book, Absolute Mayhem, turned 2. And the only reason I became aware of the milestone was because my Facebook memories reminded me. Boy, I thought to myself, that sure would have been a good marketing opportunity, especially with the holidays right around the corner. As I looked through all the old posts and the excitement that surrounded the book release, I couldn’t help but feel like I have let myself and my passion down this past year.

I’ve done very little promotion or marketing. I’ve barely paid attention to my poor characters, Lulu, Milo, and Hippo. And this blog hasn’t fared much better. Eight. Up until today, I’ve written eight posts the entire year. And that number would have been practically zero had it not been for these events: Continue reading “I’m the Jessie Spano of Blogging”

The Tragedy of Teaching To Kill A Mockingbird in Middle School

“Miss Jean Louise, stand up. Your father’s passin’.”

As if on cue, eighteen or so sets of preteen eyes would turn and stare at me, sitting behind them at a desk with a small ballpoint tattoo on the bottom left corner. They were looking for the tears I had promised them. Pulling out a tissue as a white flag of sorts, I conceded, “Every time. I told you, every…single…time.” Satisfied, they all turned their heads back to the television screen and continued watching a story unfold of which they already knew the ending.

middle school and to kill a mockingbird by harper lee To Kill A Mockingbird was a staple of my second semester curriculum as an eighth grade English teacher, which was something I simultaneously loved and hated. The book, by far, was my favorite unit to teach because, you know, that whole “one of the greatest books of all time” thing. I never tired of rereading it, and the rich story and dynamic characters made it a veritable treasure trove for engaging lesson plans and assignments. However, I also felt a particular sadness that the real brilliance of the book was lost on the average eighth grade mind, and I mourned that so many people are probably introduced to this masterpiece way too early to really appreciate it. I mean, these were kids who never failed to derail a class discussion by relating to the most insignificant detail in a story and running with it. Continue reading “The Tragedy of Teaching To Kill A Mockingbird in Middle School”

Science of Parenthood: A Book Review

science of parenthoodSo there’s this new book taking the parenting world by storm. Because it’s hilarious. In the ten years I’ve been a mother, I would certainly count humor as one of THE most needed tools in successfully raising children. While I can appreciate the advice and research offered by experts, I have often been just as encouraged and re-energized in my parenting by a good laugh at the absurdity and common struggles that come with being in charge (and at the mercy) of little ones.

Needless to say, Science of Parenthood, by Norine Dworkin-McDaniel and Jessica Ziegler, is right up my alley. And not only is it FUNNY, but it’s SMART. And that’s my favorite combination. The book aims to explain, well, the science behind parenthood. We’re not really talking genetics and nature vs. nurture…but the stuff moms and dads REALLY care about, like, why whenever your kid pukes, she’s anywhere BUT directly over the toilet. You know, the important stuff. And they even use real scientific terms and principles and everything. So you can tell people you’re reading something intellectual.

In reality, it’s WAY more fun than reading some scientific dissertation, because it’s full of cartoon illustrations and witty memes. So it’s like a cross between a People magazine and a parenting book written by Neil DeGrasse Tyson…or maybe Bill Nye.

To give you a little glimpse into the book, I’m going to turn the rest of the post over to the author, Norine. She’s going to tell you the story behind one of the cartoons, “Mach’s Date Night Principal” (See? Science.) I can totally relate to this one (um, anyone else remember that time I freaked out as a first-time mom and learned a very important lesson from a 911 dispatcher? No? Well, you can read about it here). And with that, I give you Norine…date night science of parenthoood

Mach’s Date Night Principle by Norine of Science of Parenthood

In the first weeks after our son was born, I was so terrified that he’d stop breathing, I would actually wake him up just to check. (Then, of course, I had to deal with the crying.)

 But what really inspired this cartoon was my other fear—that our nanny was going to kidnap the baby. In retrospect, I might have been just a tad neurotic. As if a pretty, single twentysomething girl wanted a four-month-old. I mean, who doesn’t want to stay up all night in spit up-encrusted sweats for feedings and diaper changes, right? Fun times! (Lack of sleep really does wonderful things to your brain if you’re prone to neurotic craziness.)

 Of course, I’d interviewed the nanny and checked her references and she seemed like a perfectly lovely young woman with plenty of babysitting experience. I was completely comfortable having her in my house. I just wasn’t so comfortable letting her out of my sight. She’d been with me for a few weeks when she asked if she could take the baby for a walk. At the time, we lived in a quiet neighborhood, built on a half-mile loop. As she left my house with the baby in the stroller, I stood at the window and watched her till I couldn’t see her anymore. And then, even though I’d hired her so that I could work in peace on a book I’d just signed a contract to write, I stood at the window instead, counting the minutes till she came back into view.

 A few weeks later though, my paranoia really shifted into overdrive. I needed to make a quick business trip to Las Vegas where we’d lived before we relocated to Orlando. I would be gone about 36 hours, and the plan was for the nanny to drop me at the airport, take care of the baby till my husband Stewart came home from work and then pick me up again late the next day.

 But when I got in her car to head to the airport, I saw she had a wallet-size picture of my boy propped on her steering wheel. I remembered her asking for a picture. But seeing it in her car really freaked me out. As we drove to the airport, I made her promise to give me practically hourly updates while I was gone. As soon as I cleared security, I called my sister Shari.

 “Is it weird that the nanny has a picture of the baby, like in her car? It’s weird, isn’t it?” By then I was probably hyperventilating. Lack of sleep, fluctuating hormones, excess caffeine and some pure unadulterated fear about leaving my baby was making me a tad bonkers. “I think she might kidnap the baby. Do you think it means she’s going to kidnap the baby? Maybe I should come home? I can’t come home. I gotta go to Vegas. But maybe … ”

 Ah … there’s really is no crazy like new mother crazy. On the other end of the phone, my sister sighed and said slowly, patiently, “No, I don’t think she’s going to kidnap the baby. I think having a picture in her car is great. It means she loves the baby. It’s a good thing. Now take a deep breath and maybe a Xanax and get on the damn plane. We’ll see you tomorrow.”

 When I came through the Arrivals terminal the next day, I was beyond relieved to see nanny and baby waiting for me, just as we planned. Of course, she quit the next day. After all, who wants to work for a crazy woman?

 With each successive nanny we had, I relaxed a bit more and gave more latitude until with our final nanny, there were times when I had no idea where my kid was. But I knew if he was with his nanny, he was doing just fine.

Norine Dworkin-McDaniel is co-author with illustrator Jessica Ziegler of Science of Parenthood: Thoroughly Unscientific Explanations for Utterly Baffling Parenting Situations published in November by She Writes Press. It’s available on Amazon and wherever books are sold. Follow Norine and Jessica on their blog, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Is Science of Parenthood coming to your town? Check out our tour schedule. Want Science of Parenthood to come to your town? Message us!


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What I Learned In My First Year of Being a Published Author

Occupation: Author

Today it has been one year. A whole year of being able to answer the question, “What do you do for a living?” with the answer, “I’m a children’s author.” To be honest, I still feel a little funny saying it, and I’m not sure I will ever be used to it. Probably because for most intents and purposes, I still identify with being a stay-at-home mom: I do almost all of my work in my own house (although I now have a dedicated office with a white board and a stapler and paper clips and everything)…my day-to-day tasks still seem to take precedence over my writing (as my blogging hiatus during the months of September, October, and most of November clearly demonstrated)…and I’m still mostly just famous for being “Mrs. Suellentrop” or “Michael’s mom” in the school parking lot (or “the lady who always orders a large half cheese/half sausage pizza” at Imo’s).

lessons of published authorBut today marks the one year anniversary of the release of my very first children’s book, Absolute Mayhem. I feel nothing but gratitude for how it has been received. Every time someone tells me their children ask to read it over and over, or that they caught them pretending to be Lulu or Milo, I am beyond tickled. Regardless of the future success of this book or those to follow, how could an author ask for anything more?

In addition to the blessings that have happened over the last twelve months, I have also come to learn some very valuable lessons in my first year of being a published author:

#1 Forget rousing, motivational pep talks. “What’s the worst that can happen?” works just fine. It turns out the boon of a realized dream or the promise of becoming the next Sandra Boynton were never the kick in the pants I needed to finally pursue a career as an author. All it took was someone posing the question, “What’s the worst that can happen?” The answer: I fail. Or no one buys the book. Or readers say it ranks as rubbish. Or Amazon creates a new suggestion category that reads, “People who bought this item, DIDN’T also buy…” just so they can publicly shame my title. Okay, so all of those things are pretty hard to swallow for a girl who really doesn’t like being bad at things. But confronting those possibilities also made me honestly admit to myself that a little potential public shame was worth the risk. Besides, we could always move to one of those tiny houses off the grid if need be. Have you seen the tiny houses? They are adorable. Continue reading “What I Learned In My First Year of Being a Published Author”

The Lactation Consultant from the Black Lagoon

There is nothing quite like breastfeeding to make a new mom feel like a complete failure at the most important job she will ever have. Scratch that. There is something else: a lactation consultant.

Now before anyone objects, let me say I am perfectly aware that nurturing and helpful lactation consultants exist and are likely the norm. I was lucky to have a good one after the birth of my first child. Unfortunately, despite all the help and understanding she provided, I struggled with little success to breastfeed my daughter. After latching problems, unsuccessful pumping sessions, a painful bout of thrush, and many tears, I gave up after a month. And man, did I feel the guilt. Hence my statement, “There is nothing quite like breastfeeding to make a new mom feel like a complete failure at the most important job she will ever have.” But guess what? Continue reading “The Lactation Consultant from the Black Lagoon”

The Kids Have Spoken: #ilovemymayhem

Since the beginning of January, I have been touring elementary schools, reading Absolute Mayhem to the students. Guys, if I thought I loved being a children’s author before, these visits have made me 100% certain this is exactly the path I should be traveling. Interacting with the kids, listening to them laugh at all the right places, answering their hilarious and intelligent questions, and hearing what they love about the book is about as delicious as it gets. At one of the visits, a little girl raised her hand and said, “I want to be just like you when I grow up.” I can’t even. I mean, that phrase is usually said to, like, astronauts…and people who save puppies dressed in butterfly costumes from raging fires. She may not have said that if she knew behind my author/illustrator facade is just a mom who never buys the latest trends for her kids and is capable of taking away trick-or-treating on Halloween as a punishment.

Aside from getting a huge ego boost from these kids, I am genuinely moved when they display their approval for Absolute Mayhem. Parents say their children ask to read it over and over again, and some even “play” Lulu and Milo, acting out their adventures (I smell Queen Comma and Count Milo of Fractionville Halloween costumes). Continue reading “The Kids Have Spoken: #ilovemymayhem”

I Have Become Dora the Explorer: Help Me Please

There are many people in this world I have tried to emulate, but I never thought Dora the Explorer would be one of them. Yet, that is exactly who I am about to channel, at the risk of sending half of my readers running from their computers (because, duh, kids shows are annoying).

So you know how good old Dora is always asking your kids to help her get someplace like Carnival Town to deliver piñata cookies to the Big Red Chicken? And all along the way she wants your kids to count the hills they need to climb. Or yell “Swiper, no swiping!” to keep that sneaky fox from stealing Dora’s talking backpack, filled with random things that would never be useful on any normal voyage, but somehow get her out of the strangest of pickles? Well, according to Dora, she couldn’t complete any of those adventures without your kids. I usually call her bluff on that. Last time I checked, she still made it past that grumpy old troll even when my kids failed to count to five in Spanish. Continue reading “I Have Become Dora the Explorer: Help Me Please”

The Gratitude Novella

I have heard that your level of happiness is directly correlated to how often you show gratitude. Well, I am bound and determined to start off 2015 happy. So much so that this very first post of the year is going to be slathered with gratitude.

Absolute Mayhem by Kelly SuellentropI have much to be thankful for in this past year, but I’m guessing you don’t want to read a novella-length post in which I profess my appreciation for everything from Korean-Mexican fusion food to The Monkees finally playing a gig in St. Louis. So I am going to focus on the biggest thing to happen to me in 2014: the release of my first children’s book, Absolute Mayhem. (Sorry, Monkees. You were a big deal, too. Promise.)

I am still giddy over how well-received the book has been, even in its fledgling first month. And while it does feel like a huge payoff for me and all the work I put into it, an incredible and unexpected byproduct of the book’s success became Continue reading “The Gratitude Novella”

A Cute Rhyme Takes the Guesswork Out of Holiday Gift-Giving

I don’t know about you, but I am woefully behind on my Christmas shopping. See, there’s this thing called Life, and right now it really seems to have an issue with letting me wander aimlessly down the aisles of Toys ‘R’ Us, looking for things least likely to end up being donated next year during our annual pre-Christmas toy purge.

Thankfully, there’s this little gift-giving mantra that’s been going around which might be of tremendous help to me. A friend of mine was the first to enlighten me to it. She, of course, saw it on Pinterest. Because that is where all helpful and clever and visually perfect things are born into this world. But I have since seen it floating around elsewhere on the internet, mainly out of the mouths of comment sections. So you may have heard it as well. It goes like this: Continue reading “A Cute Rhyme Takes the Guesswork Out of Holiday Gift-Giving”

Let’s All Go On a Blog Crawl!

It’s like a bar crawl, only better. You don’t need to get a sitter. You don’t need to tip a bartender. You can do it in your pajamas. And you won’t end up becoming best friends with the porcelain throne afterwards. At least, you shouldn’t.

It’s the ABSOLUTE MAYHEM BLOG CRAWL!!!Absolute Mayhem by Kelly Suellentrop

Guys, I am beyond excited to have a superstar lineup of bloggers helping me to spread the word about Absolute Mayhem this week. Starting today and going through Saturday, you can hop yourselves on over to a new blog to not only read their thoughts on the book, but also enter to win a FREE COPY! That means there are six copies of Absolute Mayhem up for grabs this week. You know you like free books, especially when there are these giant gift-giving occasions literally around the corner. Continue reading “Let’s All Go On a Blog Crawl!”