Goodbye 2015: Closing the Year by Counting it Down

2015 is about to come to a close. You all have been very good to me this year, as you have in the past. Because of this, I want to just quickly wish you joy, peace, fulfillment, and love in the coming new year…all the things I have received from your support, your comments, and the fact that so many of you continually come back to read whatever it is I put down.

Let’s see 2015 out by recapping the blog posts you liked the most this year. It made me happy to revisit each of these and know they resonated with so many people:top blog posts of 2015

#10 Advice for a Double-Digits Daughter
I became the mom of a tween this year, and my words of “wisdom” to my 10 year old seemed to strike a chord. This post even garnered its own hashtag: #deodoranteffect

#9 Be a Beck: Parenting Advice from the Grammys
Remember when Kanye West was a jerkwad to Beck after he won the Grammy for album of the year? For most, that served as pure entertainment. But I saw the ordeal as a lesson for how to raise my children.

#8 When Social Media Doesn’t Feel So Social
Most bloggers can probably sympathize with this post, which is probably why it got a lot of hits. But it relates to anyone in the age of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. What happens when you start to feel like you’re living your life on social media, but not in reality?

#7 The Guilty Conscience: I’m a Working Parent Therefore I’m Neglectful
2015 was the year I became a working parent, adding “author” and “freelance writer” to my resume. Even though I work from home, my daughter had trouble adjusting to the fact that I wasn’t as present as I had been in the past, which was a new dynamic for us to navigate.

#6 Fluid: The Mirage of Beginnings and Endings
My grandmother entering hospice doubled with a visit back to our first home got me thinking philosophically about the passage of time. It makes my heart happy to see this post did so well, especially as I still watch my grandma clinging to this life, becoming less and less of the woman I grew up with. Re-reading this was healing.

#5 “Difficult” Is Not a Synonym for “Traumatic”
This post was a response to a comment I received on a piece that ran on TODAY Parents, where a reader insisted I was traumatizing my son by making him go to kindergarten even though he cried day after day. Her words got me thinking about how we encourage (or don’t encourage) our children to approach difficult situations.

#4 Five Reasons You Should Hug a Preschool Teacher
This post makes me smile, not only because it reminds me of my time subbing in a preschool classroom earlier this year (which inspired the post), but because it celebrates some of my favorite people: preschool teachers. They put up with a lot, y’all…and are still pleasant as peaches.

#3 Suburban Horror Story: The Return of Chuck E. Cheese
I can’t shake this mouse. Once again, one of posts about my long and complicated history with Chuck E. Cheese breaks into the top ten.

#2 Similar Tastes: A Letter to My Daughter on Her Birthday
Search engines apparently love this post…which also means there are a lot of moms out there looking to write letters to their own daughters. And that’s pretty cool.

And…drum roll, please…

#1 THE GOOGLE SEARCH HISTORY OF A 6-YEAR-OLD BOY 
Guys, this was probably the most unexpected success on this blog to date…and I have to give most of the credit to my son. The biggest reason I wrote this was for myself and my husband, as a way to make sure we could always come back and read the funny things Michael searched on Google. And I figured a few other people, especially those who know him, would get a kick out of it (hi, Mom!). I had no idea it would become a mini viral sensation, not only on here, but also over on Scary Mommy, who saw the post floating around and asked me if they could republish it. To top it off, a very kind stranger actually took one of Michael’s search terms and brought it to life in a drawing. That is all that and a bag of chips.velociraptor

So that’s a wrap on 2015. Happy New Year!

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The #NoFilter Christmas Medley: A Music Video for the Season

#NoFilter. It is a trend that has been upon us for some time; a pushback against the photoshopped-perfect culture and Instagram-filtered memories that inundate the media – social and otherwise. And while I am a self-professed accidental “trend-killer,” my appreciation for the intention behind this movement has led me to risk bringing it to a screeching halt in order to take part and apply it to this holiday season.

What if, I thought, the spice-scented, soft glow filter of eggnog-tipsy merriment was removed from all those beloved Christmas songs we cherish this time of year? What if we sang about real life gearing up for the holidays?
Continue reading “The #NoFilter Christmas Medley: A Music Video for the Season”

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”

Drive-Thru Kindness: Now Serving Extra Value Compassion

“That will be $5.66. Please pull around to the first window.”

I slowly coax my van forward in the pouring rain, fumbling in my purse to find cash. As the car moves, I instinctively turn the radio back up to catch the end of “Sister Golden Hair” by America, then almost immediately lower the volume, lest the teenage girl at the drive-thru window gets wind of my song choice and thinks to herself that it’s “typical” driving music for a lame mom in a minivan. It’s a weird phobia I have…of not wanting strangers to know too much about how I exist inside my car. Because the dirty exterior, scraped-up side mirrors, and “This Van Is Stacked” window sticker aren’t somehow as damaging to my cred as blaring “Sister Golden Hair.”

Handing over my cash, I feel raindrops from the top of my car drip onto my arm, soaking through my sleeve and immediately chilling my skin. The cashier gives me my change, and I clumsily drop the two of the coins onto the pavement below, one of them being a quarter. Fantastic. It has been one of those days – the kind of day I know better than to grumble about aloud, because it could be worse. But it certainly hasn’t been great either, and it doesn’t seem to want to let up. Like this rain. I mean, I am semi-voluntarily eating at McDonald’s without kids, if that is any indication of my mood. What mother, when flying solo, elects the home of the Happy Meal as the nourishment that will make her feel good about herself and her choices that day? This usually happens only when few other options exist, as is my case at the moment.

But it turns out, McDonald’s was exactly what I needed that day. Rather, the angel wearing a headset at the second drive-thru window was exactly what I needed. Continue reading “Drive-Thru Kindness: Now Serving Extra Value Compassion”

Oh My Gosh. I Thought You Were Dead.

Or rather, you thought I was dead. Or maybe you were just uncertain of my fate, much like that of dear-God-he-better-still-be-alive Glenn on The Walking Dead.

glenn walking dead
“Please don’t leave me like Edgar on 24.”
Steven Yeun 2013 by Dudek1337. CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons – 

It has been almost three months since my last post. I don’t remember the last time I abandoned took a break from the blog for that long. There are a lot of reasons I have been absent, most of which are dreadfully boring (like binge-watching period pieces on Netflix where characters use phrases like “dreadfully boring.”) The only one you might likely care about is:

I have been working on a NEW, IMPROVED, FANCY PANTS website for Are You Finished Yet!!!

For those of you who are familiar with web-type jargon and such, I’m basically just moving this blog to a self-hosted site on WordPress.org. For the rest of you who just read that last sentence and found it “dreadfully boring,” all you really need to know is that nothing much will change. Except the infinite awesomeness of Are You Finished Yet? will just get INFINITE + 1 AWESOMER. I’m talking a jazzier look along with bells and whistles that will improve your viewing experience. Oh yeah, and Michael Bolton may pop in every now and again. For reals.

The big question: do you have to do anything? NOPE. I will be transferring all my lovely followers to the new site soon. Those of you who have signed up for email updates should still get posts sent directly to your inbox. Fellow WordPress bloggers will still get posts in your WP readers (though if you’ve elected to receive email notifications there, that won’t transfer. But no worries. You can sign up for email alerts on the new site). The site will still be found at AreYouFinishedYet.com. And of course, you can always catch me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

I’m hoping to get something new out to you all next week. I’m excited to debut the new site then!

In the meantime, HOW HAVE YOU BEEN? It’s been too long, friends. Tell me something fun, and I’ll see you at the fancy pants place next week!

 

 

“Difficult” Is Not a Synonym for “Traumatic”

Traumatize /ˈtrouməˌtīz,ˈtrôməˌtīz/ (verb): subject to lasting shock as a result of an emotionally disturbing experience or physical injury.

Last week, the TODAY Parenting Team featured an article I wrote called “A Tale of Two Kindergarteners,” as part of their community series on back-t0-school advice. I chose to share a story from two years ago about my son’s struggles starting kindergarten. He had a rough go of it, and it was hard for me to watch. But in time, he found his courage and confidence, and I wanted to give hope to other parents who might be going through this.

By in large, the response was positive. Yet, like disconcerting pieces of gristle that ruin an otherwise tasty piece of chicken, came voices of dissent, peppered throughout those responses of parents relating to the piece. It comes with the territory of putting yourself out there. What I thought was a fairly innocuous piece, I now saw in a different light, one that called my parenting skills into question for forcing my son to do something he clearly had fears about.

My husband’s aunt often jokes that all parents will inevitably do something for which their children will need therapy. Well, apparently the transgression that will land my son on the psychiatrist’s couch is sending him to kindergarten. It was a very difficult situation, after all. I sure felt like a horrible mother when I left him crying on the bus or tearful in his classroom morning after morning. Maybe he really was traumatized. Continue reading ““Difficult” Is Not a Synonym for “Traumatic””

“Difficult” Is Not a Synonym for “Traumatizing”

Traumatize /ˈtrouməˌtīz,ˈtrôməˌtīz/ (verb): subject to lasting shock as a result of an emotionally disturbing experience or physical injury.

Last week, the TODAY Parenting Team featured an article I wrote called “A Tale of Two Kindergarteners,” as part of their community series on back-t0-school advice. I chose to share a story from two years ago about my son’s struggles starting kindergarten. He had a rough go of it, and it was hard for me to watch. But in time, he found his courage and confidence, and I wanted to give hope to other parents who might be going through this.

By in large, the response was positive. Yet, like disconcerting pieces of gristle that ruin an otherwise tasty piece of chicken, came voices of dissent, peppered throughout those responses of parents relating to the piece. It comes with the territory of putting yourself out there. What I thought was a fairly innocuous piece, I now saw in a different light, one that called my parenting skills into question for forcing my son to do something he clearly had fears about.

My husband’s aunt often jokes that all parents will inevitably do something for which their children will need therapy. Well, apparently the transgression that will land my son on the psychiatrist’s couch is sending him to kindergarten. It was a very difficult situation, after all. I sure felt like a horrible mother when I left him crying on the bus or tearful in his classroom morning after morning. Maybe he really was traumatized. Continue reading ““Difficult” Is Not a Synonym for “Traumatizing””

10 Signs You’ve Become a Road Trip Family

Summer is coming to a close. Like many families, we did our fair share of traveling by way of road trip. Whether we were spanning multiple states or just visiting a neighboring town for a quick getaway, a sort of kinship has developed between us and the paved pathways that decorate our great land. Now, when I hear Willie Nelson’s, “On the Road Again,” I think to myself, “I feel ya, bro. Like a band of gypsies…”

On one of these voyages, I realized we have become a “road trip family.” The following truths make us Griswold-certified:road trip family vacation

Continue reading “10 Signs You’ve Become a Road Trip Family”

Goosed By a Minion

Helen of Troy was irresistible to kings, princes, and, rumor has it, a thousand ships. Delilah was so alluring that Samson couldn’t help but divulge the secret of his hair. And me? Well, apparently I am officially a pin-up girl for cartoon characters.

By now, many of you know about my sordid past with Chuck E. Cheese. For those of you who don’t, the story, in a nutshell, is that he once hit on me. If you would like to read exactly how that transpired, because you know you do, check out the post “Chuck E. Cheese Could Have Been Your Father.” Then you can chase that with the sequel, “A Suburban Horror Story: The Return of Chuck E.,” about my run-in with the mouse years later at my son’s birthday party. This is a really proud chapter in my life.

Anyway, capturing the affections of the mascot for a chain restaurant does a lot for the ego. Obviously. So imagine how flattered I was at the closing dance party for the BlogHer ’15: Experts Among Us conference in New York City when I found myself with a new admirer: a minion.

Seriously, folks. WHAT THE HELL?

Continue reading “Goosed By a Minion”

What’s With All the Blogging Rage Over a Diner Owner Yelling at a Toddler?

The internet is exploding about someone yelling at a toddler in a diner. It is the kind of thing that makes me question what it is I do. The blogging, I mean. It makes me feel like I am part of the problem…guilty by association…or maybe just guilty.

Let me explain. I’m not talking about which side I take in the situation. It’s not about whether the diner owner was correct in screaming at someone else’s crying toddler, or if the parents were wrong in letting their child disturb other customers, or if any of the story actually played out in any of the various versions we’ve been told. It’s not even about the larger discussions of whether parents should take small children to restaurants, or if people without kids need to suck it up because everyone has a right to eat in public.

What this IS about is how we pollute the internet arguing about all of the above. Because these things are not worth arguing over. Continue reading “What’s With All the Blogging Rage Over a Diner Owner Yelling at a Toddler?”