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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An Inspiring Conversation? Resolutions Through Trickery

Resolutions. Ugh. Aren’t we all tired of the cliche? I never make them. Well, unless I get tricked into making them. In my own home. By an inanimate object. An un-gifted gift waiting to be returned. To be fair, it did make some pretty good arguments. Here’s how the conversation went down…An Inspiring Conversation-

 

Hey, you. Wrist Wallet.

Who me?

Of course I’m talking to you. Do you see any other jogging accessories around here?

Oh, you ARE talking to me. I thought you forgot I was even here.

Oh no. I am well aware you are still sitting there on my dresser.

You could have fooled me. You haven’t touched me since you put me here.

Well, you weren’t really meant for me. I bought you before Christmas to give to someone else. But then I second guessed myself about whether that person was a jogger and if she even needed a handy place to keep her keys and phone while running. So I got her a “safe” gift from Pampered Chef. No offense, but Pampered Chef is kind of an ace in the hole. And you come with the dubious off-chance of being mistaken as a passive-aggressive commentary on the gift recipient’s weight and fitness level. Especially if I can’t remember whether that person is unequivocally and undoubtedly a jogger who has expressed adequate frustration over having to keep her keys in her sports bra and having to wipe butt sweat off her phone from storing it in her waist band. Then, and ONLY then, would you be considered a thoughtfully useful gift. But that was not the situation. So you got passed over for a decorative bowl and serving spoon set that will get her compliments at parties and make her the envy of people like me who bring potluck dishes in old Tupperware containers with poorly fitting lids.

I was unaware I could be a such a potentially offensive gift. Wow. People can be a little overly sensitive. 

Tell me about it. No hard feelings. It’s just the nature of the gift-giving game. I had every intention of shipping you back to Amazon, but I have left you sitting on my dresser for a month now. It’s mostly because I am an expert procrastinator. But don’t pretend to be so innocent, little Wrist Wallet. I know that whole “unassuming” look you have going on there is just an act to make me think you’re not worth the return shipment cost or hassle.

It’s no such thing. But now that you brought it up,…I didn’t REALLY cost that much. When all is said and done, you’d probably spend one-fourth of my price sending me back. And don’t forget, your post office is kind of a pain in the ass. They don’t call numbers, so you’re always worried someone is going butt in front of you while you’re affixing your shipping label. And then there’s the whole “putting you life on the line” trying to make a left turn out of the parking lot onto the busy street on which the post office resides. It takes, like, eight years to find an opening in traffic…

I KNOW, Wrist Wallet. It totally DOES take eight years! And then when I do finally see a break in traffic, there is usually some jackleg who JUST pulled up to leave the parking lot of the pizza place next door who also sees the break, and peals out to make a right turn in front of me and steals my moment of opportunity. Meanwhile, I’ve been waiting the eight years, and a line is forming behind me. And I can tell they are passing judgement, yelling, “Come on! You could have made that!” And I want to turn around and be like, “I’m sorry, but I have kids…and a minivan. And I really feel like I need a good four-cars-length opening to be safe. Besides, you should really be pissed at that jackleg because he took my turn AND he has pizza, which we don’t.” God, Wrist Wallet, I really hate when that happens.

See, Kelly. It’s just not worth it to send me back. Besides, it’s not like you couldn’t stand to get in sha…mmmpfl.

What did you just say?

Nothing. I didn’t say anything. 

Yes you did. What were you going to say?

I…uh…was going to say…uh…it’s not like you couldn’t stand to get in shhh…shhh…SHOES! Let’s go get you some new shoes!

You think I’m fat, don’t you Wrist Wallet?

No. I would never think that.

See? This is what I meant about you and that whole passive-aggressive commentary on a person’s weight. I’m not sorry I swapped you out for the Pampered Chef stuff. Not sorry one bit.

Hey, now. This doesn’t have to get personal. You’re beautiful just the way you are. All I’m saying is, wouldn’t it be nice to have a little more energy? Maybe have your jeans fit a little more comfortably? I mean, we’ve already established what a moronic idea it would be to go to the trouble to send me back. So you may as well — USE me. Since I’m here and all.

Well…I guess it wouldn’t be the WORST idea in the world. I do always like the idea of working out. And I do like looking sporty. If I start using you, I could probably justify buying that cute little headband that keeps your ears warm and also has a hole in the back for your ponytail that I saw at Target. When I saw that I wanted to be the kind of person who needed it. And you are a pretty nifty little accessory. I mean, whenever I would jog (which was usually whenever I got a new pair of tennis shoes that somehow made me think I had always just needed the right pair of shoes to run), it always did really bug me that I never had a convenient way to carry all of my necessities with me. In fact, I’m pretty sure now that was THE reason I never took to jogging. Yeah, that was it. I always felt too cumbersome. I guess you’ve taken care of that now, haven’t you, Wrist Wallet?

I sure have. Why don’t you go ahead and take me out of the plastic…

All that is left to do now is…jog.

I’m ready when you are, Kelly.

… … … …

Maybe sending you back isn’t such a big pain in the ass after all. Plus, I could hit that pizza place next door to the post office.

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Did you make a resolution this year?

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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”