When Irish Eyes Are Smiling

Last month, I lost my maternal grandmother, less than three months after losing my paternal grandfather. Where once there were four, and then three, there is quite suddenly now only one: my paternal grandmother. I count myself so very lucky to have had all four of my grandparents into adulthood. In a way, it feels selfish to be upset about having to let them go. But the most extraordinary thing about knowing your grandparents as an adult is that you come to know them as people. They aren’t just the ones who let you eat cookies past your bedtime or think you played the recorder the best during the school performance. You are able to see their complexities of character, understand sacrifices they made, and come to appreciate them as the people everyone else around you knows them as. I was blessed to find out that not only were all my grandparents extraordinary grandmothers and grandfathers, but they were also extraordinary people. Because of this, I wanted to share the eulogy I read for my grandmother at her funeral. I’ve written about her before on this blog…about the memories that were stirred up when I had the chance to revisit her old home, and about her battle with Alzheimer’s. But she was more than that. So very much more… Continue reading “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling”

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”

Coupons from Heaven: A Eulogy

Almost every week for I don’t know how many years, an envelope would land in my mailbox, my typewritten address perfectly stamped out directly in the center. I never needed to look at the return address to know exactly who had sent it or what I would find inside. There was rarely a note…just a handful of meticulously clipped coupons from the current week’s mailer. And every time, it made me smile. I could hear my Grandpa’s voice saying, “Well, I don’t know if you can use any of these, but just throw them away if you can’t.” Continue reading “Coupons from Heaven: A Eulogy”

Fourteen Years, And Just Another Day

What does a 14th wedding anniversary look like?

It starts with a 5:30 a.m. bootcamp class. When you get home, you spend 15 minutes with your husband before he heads out to work. It’s the only 15 minutes you will see him all day, but you’re a sweaty mess from bootcamp, and he is dividing his time between talking with you and finishing up his morning routine before walking out the door. You’ll spend the rest of the day doing laundry, running errands, then heading off to spend the night with your daughter’s girl scout troop before your husband even gets home from work. You’re the troop leader, and tonight was the only night that all the girls would be in town to have their final field trip. So 15 minutes with your husband on your anniversary will have to do. Continue reading “Fourteen Years, And Just Another Day”

Good Times and Good Guys: I’m So Glad That I Got Them To Think Of

“I’m so glad that I got her to think of.”

Ten deceptively simple, monosyllabic words open the song, “She Makes Me Laugh,” the first new single by The Monkees in twenty years. It literally just walked into the internet release party by way of a Rolling Stone article. But I’ve already cornered it, told it I’ve been waiting forever for it to get here, showed it pictures of my kids, and monopolized its mingling time by asking it to start from the beginning over and over again. Someone better just go grab it a drink from the bar and tell it to get comfortable, because I have zero plans of hanging with anyone else for a while. Continue reading “Good Times and Good Guys: I’m So Glad That I Got Them To Think Of”

28 Days of Play: A Music Video About Playing with Our Kids

28 days of playI’m over on You Plus Two Parenting today, as part of 28 Days of Play, a movement that asks 28 bloggers to explore the idea of playing with our children: how we do it, why it can be so hard sometimes, why it is important. And I’m honored to have my post closing out the month-long series.

“I’ll be Sleeping Beauty. You be everybody else.”

 

I still tease my 10-year-old daughter with this quote, a frequent demand she often threw at me when she was four. Even at such a young age, she could recite most of the key scenes in Sleeping Beauty, and one of her favorite pastimes was acting out the story. She, of course, always got the lead role, leaving me to pick up the slack of the other ten or so characters.

Head over to You Plus Two Parenting to see the rest of the post, which culminates in a new music video I made called “Anna & Elsa” (a parody of Fall Out Boy’s “Uma Thurman”).

She wants to sing like Anna & Elsa / Bugs me until I say yes…

Go check out the post HERE!anna and elsa uma thurman parody

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This Mom Thought About Having a Third Kid. See What Changed Her Mind!

“Provided the test comes back fine, I’ll plan to see you back here in, let’s see…maybe June.” My OBGYN gave me a little smirk on his way towards the door.

“June? You mean next Feb– oh. You’re funny.”

It wouldn’t be an annual womanly checkup if Dr. H didn’t joke with me about trying for a third kid. I’d like to think it’s because I’m his favorite patient, and it’s just his way of saying he would like to hang out with me more often. (Is that a weird thing to say about your OBGYN? Because I feel like it might be weird. Even though I don’t mean it to be. It’s just that Dr. H is kind of the bomb – and a great conversationalist, considering the circumstances surrounding our interaction. Like, I’d totally go have a few beers with him…if he wasn’t checking up on the health and wellness of my lady bits.) However, as the father of seven or so children himself, I think his enthusiasm for me getting pregnant again simply comes from him being pro-baby…and pro-more income to pay for seven college tuitions. I also *may* have told him I would name the next kid after him. Continue reading “This Mom Thought About Having a Third Kid. See What Changed Her Mind!”

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”

The Dirty Breakup: The Rams and St. Louis Don’t Belong Together Anyway

“Sick to my stomach.” Four little words, written by my cousin, came across my Facebook feed. At first I thought to myself, it’s not like him to broadcast his ailments on social media. Then I realized. Ohhhhhhh. I had a feeling I knew why he felt sick. Sure enough, Google confirmed my suspicions: “The Rams are Headed Back to L.A.”

Aw, snap. I have a feeling this breakup is about to get dirty.

I want to be completely honest in letting you know that, personally, I did not have a dog in this fight. I’m not a huge fan of football, unless it involves Coach Taylor and a Netflix binge of Friday Night Lights. So, personally, I couldn’t care any more about St. Louis not having a football team than I do about the Kardashians doing, well, anything. Still, I’m sad for my city. I’m bummed for my husband, who looks forward to chilling out and watching the game on the weekends. And truth be told, I’m pretty pissed at Stan Kroenke for the slimy way he went about the whole thing. Like the rest of Rams fans, I’m taking it a little personally. I may not have strong feelings for football, but I do have strong feelings for my hometown. And he crapped all over us. Not in the “my-adorable-little-baby-just-had-a-blowout-and-I’m-covered-in-poop-but-it’s-okay-because-it-comes-with-the-parenthood-territory” kind of way. He crapped on us in the “some-totally-obnoxious-jackleg-got-all-wasted-and-thought-I-was-a-toilet-then-cussed-me-out-when-I-got-angry-about-it” kind of way. You know, the most disrespectful, nonsensical, a-hole way to get crapped on.

But the more I think about it, the more I realize the Rams just don’t belong in St. Louis anymore. Maybe this breakup is a good thing. The organization has come to stand for tenets and practices which, frankly, we would be crazy to want any part of. Because it’s not who we are or who we should want to be.

[clickToTweet tweet=”The Rams just don’t belong in St. Louis anymore. We’d be crazy to want them to stay. #RamsToLA” quote=”The Rams just don’t belong in St. Louis anymore. We’d be crazy to want them to stay.”]

I was reminded of this shortly after learning of the decision to move the Rams back to L.A., as I listened to my daughter recount her day at school:

“Mom, Mrs. R did this thing in class today where she gave everyone a dollar and said we could either use our money to buy an extra recess or the answers to tonight’s math homework. Only five people used their dollar for the homework answers. But then, Mrs. R started writing the answers on the board. Everyone could see them! Even the kids who used their money for recess! So all of us who didn’t pay for the answers started covering our eyes and looking away. You know, because it wouldn’t be fair otherwise. Then Mrs. R said, ‘You guys are too good.’ As a reward, there would be no math homework for ANYONE, because we showed integrity. The whole thing had been a test!”

Even CHILDREN know when to value integrity over the almighty dollar. Even they understand the consequences of going back on your word. I’m glad I still get to live in St. Louis with these kids instead of with Stan Kroenke.

Here’s the thing:  we deserve better than the Rams organization. The Rams and St. Louis have been like that couple where one person is so obviously undeserving of the other. Just the other day I was watching an episode of The Great Food Truck Race, and the competitors found themselves in St. Louis. When one of the food truck teams pulled up to their spot and began preparations to serve customers, a bunch of folks on the street lent a hand, helping them load supplies into their kitchen. Granted, I’m pretty sure the name of the truck was “Let There Be Bacon,” and St. Louisans are generally hard-core fans of cured meats, but a little bubble of pride burst in me as I watched it happen. Guys, we really are a great city. That’s the St. Louis I know, the one I grew up in. So there’s no way bacon-loading Good Samaritans and money-grubbing Stan Kroenke could ever make the perfect couple. Besides, it’s clear that he’s just not that into us – which is fine, as far as I’m concerned. Because Jon Hamm is totally our boyfriend.

Furthermore, all these NFL shenanigans that have been going on surrounding the Rams moving or not moving…it’s not how we do sports here.

Others can poke fun and belittle the whole “Best Fans in Baseball” thing, but we (well, most of us) are the kind of sports fans who rallied behind our biggest rival, the Cubs, after they beat us and went on to the NLCS this past season. (Heads up Bears fans. There may be some St. Louisans joining your ranks now. As a friend of mine pointed out, thanks to the Rams, we do know a thing or two about loyalty in the face of a losing record.)

We are a town who admires and celebrates sports greats like Stan “The Man” Musial, Kurt Warner, Isaac Bruce, Dan Dierdorf, and Jackie Joyner-Kersee. We value how their talent and integrity go hand-in-hand, and we appreciate their continued commitment and investment in our city even after they have left.

[clickToTweet tweet=”St. Louis knows a good Stan when we see one. Happy to be the home of Musial, not #Kroenke. #Rams” quote=”St. Louis knows a good ‘Stan’ when we see one. Happy to be known as the home of Musial, not Kroenke.”]

We know what we aren’t. We aren’t Los Angeles, New York, Dallas, Chicago or any of the other cities Kroenke feels has a better economic future than St. Louis. (Which, apparently, is ALL of them. Like, even Sneedville, Tennessee. The Sneedville Rams has a nice ring to it.) But most of us love what we are. It’s too bad Kroenke, a Missourian himself, didn’t share that affection, despite the fact that, all things considered, the fans kept on loving a sub-par organization with a loyalty that ended up being unrequited.

Breakups are a bitch.

But after the sting will come the healing. And one day we will come to believe what our mom was probably telling us all along: we were too good for the Rams, and we didn’t belong together anyway.

Besides, did you see how fake L.A.’s boobs are? They are the perfect arm candy to Kroenke’s rug.
st. louis rams

 

St. Louis, how do you plan to recycle your Rams gear? #RecycleRamsGear

 

Oh, and high fives to my favorite Housewives whisperer, Andy Cohen, for letting his St. Louis lunatic loose. You can check out his choice words (and fingers) for Kroenke.

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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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