Saturday, January 24, 2015

All Around the Web Favorites, January 24, 2015




LOVE IS A VERB

This post has been wildly popular, and I can see why. I love happy endings, even with an unusual path to get there:
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/11/fashion/modern-love-to-fall-in-love-with-anyone-do-this.html?_r=1

More on love as a choice:
http://mamalode.com/story/detail/love-is-a-choicean-adoption-story 

FUNNY

A hilarious comparison between getting kids ready for school and wildlife:
http://www.theflyingchalupa.com/2015/01/10/poodles-of-the-serengeti/

On making new mom friends:
http://mamaonetothree.com/2015/01/08/7-ways-to-make-mom-friends-or-be-the-weird-mom/ 

HEART-TUGGING

Putting kids to bed, and the secrets they share:  
http://amandamagee.com/2014/12/bedtime-requests-end-hope-hear/

Jamie is raising a special-needs child, and she is honest about what that has meant for her in this richly narrated post:
http://jamiekrugauthor.com/2013/04/05/i-dont-sing-in-the-shower-anymore/

The Grown and Flown blog gives me a glimpse into my future as the mother of a boy, and it is both hopeful and wrenching:
http://grownandflown.com/knowing-sons-little-less/

BEAUTY
Liz McGuire takes beautiful, thoughtful photos in which you can lose yourself:
http://ewmcguire.com/

PARENTING

These tips on helping kids manage anxiety are useful and practical:  
http://blogs.psychcentral.com/stress-better/2015/01/5-things-never-to-say-to-an-anxious-child/

This is a fantastic initiative to encourage kids to show more kindness.
http://katrinaannewillis.com/2014/12/30/sunshine-and-flowers/


* * * 

When it comes to parenting experts, I don't trust anyone more than Deborah Gilboa, aka Doc G. Her book sits on my bedside as a guide, and I know she knows what she is talking about, as the mother of four boys and a family physician.

She is launching an e-learning system called Get the Behavior You Want, and if you're in the market for parenting classes, this would be an excellent choice. It's is a super-flexible (watch it on your own schedule) interactive (with tailored e-workbook) and supported (get the encouragement you need) affordable way of learning to change a behavior in your home. Starts at $24/ course and starts in less than a week. Check her out.


Love,
Kristin

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The junk drawer effect

I save things.  I save everything.  The TV people are not going to come knocking at my door to film a Hoarders episode, but if it has sentimental value, I save it.  I have relics from the proms I attended; love letters from a sweet sophomore boy when I was in my senior year; tickets from a concert years ago.

I have a junk drawer, like my mother and my mother’s mother before me. It holds Sharpies, balloons, straws and menus from various restaurants, and other items for which there is no category. I also have a junk box sitting on my counter, housing all kinds of things that are perhaps temporary but have no home. Homeless items. I pass it every day, as it sits in plain sight in a heavily-traveled area.

I throw items into the box, making a mental note of where it is so I can find it later. Too often, I either forget that it’s there, or it’s an item so unimportant that by the time I go back to see what’s in the box, I throw it away.

The problem is that the box becomes invisible as I go about my day around it, ignoring it all together or seeing it out of the corner of my eye and saying to myself, “I’ll get around to that box later on.” Every once in a while, I’ll go through the box and decide what I should move to a more permanent home, and what should be thrown away.

My husband does not find my saving strategies amusing, but he tolerates them as a part of who I am. I save and save and save things and if I come across an item that makes me smile or brings to mind a memory that had been long buried, I save it again, reprieved from the fate of the trash can.

In some ways, I can see how a marriage, especially with children in the mix, might be confused with a junk drawer, to become so unnoticed until it’s necessary to de-clutter.  I can see how easy it is to walk by a loved one every day, not truly seeing that person from the inside out.  Without looking into that person’s eyes, and noticing what is going on in his heart. Letting various and sundry fragments of conversations and harsh words land where they may until it has become a tangled-up mess.

There have been many times that I have done this, myself.  Sometimes, it takes seeing someone through the eyes of another to really see. 

A few weeks ago, I made dinner for a friend who was in the middle of a stressful family situation. My husband, son, and I drove to her house, dinner in hand. When we arrived, the children played together, and I unpacked the dinner piece by piece, making myself at home in order to help as much as possible while being the least amount of trouble.

As I prepared the dinner plates, I noticed that my husband was playing with the kids, a big smile on his face.  I noticed that he was talking to my friend, taking interest in her words and sincerely listening to her. I noticed the way he showed the kids how to properly use the tee in the yard, and he picked up the baby out of harm’s way of the preschoolers wielding bats. I could see the smile and relief on my friend’s face as she felt included in our family and felt a little less alone. I could see my husband through the eyes of someone who appreciated his kindness. 

It seemed silly that I hadn’t really looked at him lately, allowing my focus to settle on our disagreements; our financial worries; our squabbles over household duties. I had spent all of my attention on our son, and neglected to offer the same to my husband.

The junk drawer effect:  neglecting to notice what is in front of our faces. Tossing more junk on the pile, until the day we can get around to it.

I cleaned out my junk drawer this week and threw out the things I didn’t need. I rearranged the area and found homes for things that were useful. I gently washed the basket holding a miscellany of items, including half-melted lollipops, and laid it back on the shelf.

As I processed and cleaned and rearranged, I thought of ways I could do this within my marriage. What can I remove? What do we no longer need? How can I better see what is in this drawer?

Marriages crack and bend and break under the strain of everyday family life. Our son is five, and he requires less attention than he did when he was one and two, but it is easy to give him the lion’s share of my attention. For the most part, we are a happy family. However, I can tell when we are not balanced; it’s worth making an extra effort to ensure that my husband and I are giving each other the thoughtfulness we need, too.

I will be more careful about what I toss in the box.

I will tend to it more often, to keep the detritus from overflowing.

I will give this drawer attention, too. It’s not just junk, but things that I need, often.

When I was finished, it all made so much more sense. I don’t want to keep walking by and missing the opportunity to see all that I have.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Arrivederci, 2014

When I wrote my post "The Weight of Motherhood" a few months ago, my most popular post to date, my son was 44 pounds and 44 inches tall. Now he is 48 pounds and 45 inches tall. Slowly, slowly, he is getting bigger, before my eyes. It seems both magical and terrifying that he outgrows his pants overnight. His first loose tooth is still hanging in there, and the grown-up tooth is pushing it out of its way, as if to say, move it, babyhood. Here we come.

It has been a very good year. I've achieved most of the goals I have set, and I have more to set and achieve. But most of all, it's the first full year that I have had the opportunity to pursue my dreams part-time while my son is in preschool. No more babysitters. No more nannies. Just me, my son, and my husband, and we've never been so happy. I don't take it for granted, this opportunity. I am making the best of it, and I have nothing to complain about.

Thank you for reading my work. It means so much to me that you comment and share the words that I write, and I have made some fantastic friends in the process. I know that you like stories about real people, and real life, and I'm going to continue to bring them to you next year. In the meantime, here is a list of highlights of 2014:

1)  My first joint post with Alexandra Rosas of Good Day, Regular People at The Huffington Post. It was Alexandra's first time at HuffPo, and she has taken off like a comet since then. I'm so proud of her.
What Will I Know?

2)  My friend Brian from my hometown in Indiana allowed me to tell his fatherhood story, and it was featured on the HuffPost Good News page. Brave: A Father's Love

3)  Another friend from my childhood, Crystal, gave me her thoughts on motherhood from a black and white perspective, and I was honored to be picked up by the Washington Post's On Parenting blog.
Color blindness isn't helping anything

4)  In July, I stood onstage at the BlogHer annual conference in San Jose in front of hundreds of people and talked about my father's love for me as a Voice of the Year. Jill Smokler from Scary Mommy published The Second Line, with a Kleenex warning.

5)  Postpartum anxiety was a difficult experience, and a primary reason that my husband and I have only one child. Brain, Child published my story, called I Am Enough.

6)  Bon Bon Break syndicated my story about domestic violence, and I am proud to share it, because it brings other women hope. There is a way out, and you are not alone, if you are reading this and recognizing yourself in Why Does She Stay?

7)  My words appeared in two print books:
My Other Ex: Women's true stories of leaving and losing friends
Precipice, Volume 3

8)  In 2013, I was chosen for the cast of Listen To Your Mother, and read my post on going back to work after having a baby. This year, I had the chance to be a co-producer of the Austin show and took the reins from the fabulous Wendi Aarons and Liz McGuire. In 2015, Leigh Ann and I will be back to produce another show; reading and hearing every submission is a gift. 



Thank you for being here with me.

Much love, and best wishes in 2015!

Kristin


Friday, December 12, 2014

Friday Favorites: December 12

The holiday season is magical with a child: I love looking at the lights through his eyes, anticipating the presents, thinking of nice things to do for others, the decorating, and, of course, the cookies.

This Christmas, I'm so thankful to have this life. I have nothing to complain about (although sometimes I still do). Find an extra smile in your arsenal. Help someone who needs something. Love. Listen. Make a difference in the world.

* * * 
In case you missed it, I had my first post at In The Powder Room this week. I don't usually write humor, but I jumped at the chance to work with editor Leslie, who is a gem.

* * *
Jen Meer wrote some excellent points to ponder at the Washington Post: "As a parent, I think a lot about wanting to place my kids in a bubble, about wanting to shield them from hurt and struggle and failure. But I can’t help but think how wrong that is. About how good and useful it can be in this life to wander with no particular purpose at all, about how great it can be to fall and to fail once in a while, because all of that is shaping them for something bigger, something great."


* * *
For all of the grandparents in the audience, this one at Scary Mommy is for you:

"But then you became grandparents…to our children. Now we are you, and you have suddenly become something magical."

* * *
Just for a smile, look at this photo from Elaine Alguire.


* * *
If you struggled with infertility, you will appreciate Kathryn's poignant journey at Mamalode.

* * *
I was a teenager in the 80s, and this post from Tara at You Know It Happens at Your House Too about what Facebook would have been like back then made me laugh this week.

* * *
Because of this article in the NY Times, when I was traveling this week, I started saying good night to Siri. And she says good night back... it's kind of sweet.

* * *
I love this Christmas wish from Jennifer Williams

* * *
Speaking of Christmas, are you still looking for Christmas presents? 

Elaine of the Miss Elaine-ous Life has a great recipe for peppermint bark 

My friend Kate has a great collection from Simply Om; it's gorgeous fair trade jewelry.


This gift from Uncommon Goods is on my list. I want it to sit on my desk and inspire me to keep the stories coming. One by one, we can bring change and light.



Love, Kristin

Monday, December 8, 2014

Featured at In The Powder Room today, with a humor post!

Credit: In The Powder Room
Today, I'm featured at In The Powder Room, a humor site for women run by the fantastic Leslie Marinelli.

It's my first humor post, and it's all about trying to translate our family cookbook.

"This is what it’s like to read the recipes my grandmother and her sisters submitted to the cookbook. But it was Christmas, after all, and my soul needed some of that comfort food from my childhood. I started with the sauce. How hard could it be?

Start with the good oil, it began. Put a little in the pan.

Wait.

The good oil? Which one is that? How much? Which pan? WHERE ARE THE MEASUREMENTS?

Saute six cloves of garlic. 

Breathe. OK, I can do this. Now we’re rolling.

Add a medium onion and two cans of crushed tomatoes.

Onion, check. Tomatoes . . . wait. How many ounces in the can? What kind?

WHY ARE THERE NO SEASONINGS LISTED? DON’T ITALIANS USE OREGANO OR SOMETHING?"

Enjoy.  :-)

Love,
Kristin


Friday, December 5, 2014

Friday Favorites: December 5

Last night, my family decorated our Christmas tree. Nearly every ornament we have tells a story: this one is one my husband made when he was a kid, this one my son made two years ago in preschool, this one is from our visit to Halifax, this one is from my friend Alexis' annual holiday tea party last year, and so on. It's like unwrapping a memory with each one we take out of the box, and it is an event every year.

We have two beautiful, ornate ornaments that Grace, an elderly friend of my in-laws', gave to us as a wedding gift; they are very special - they came straight from her tree and she passed them on to us as a gift of love. Grace is 95 now, and I'm honored to have a piece of her home in ours. I hope that someday, our ornaments can be passed on in a similar fashion.

Speaking of gifts, it's less than three weeks until Christmas, and I am still trying to figure out what to get for a few more people. In the meantime, Uncommon Goods (a vendor I LOVE) asked me if I'd like to review a couple of items of my choice. I chose the DIY lip balm set for one of my nieces, and the construction plate/ utensil set for the son of a friend. It took me a ridiculously long time to choose these two items, because I love so many of their gifts. I'm planning to order this mother/daughter book for a friend of mine, as well - it's a great idea as a keepsake item.  Check them out here and here for more wonderful ideas.

Pssst - if you want to win this construction plate/ utensil set, all you have to do is comment on this post, and I'll give it away next Friday via Random.org for the drawing. 


If you're looking for a book for a child, this one - A Moon of My Own - is absolutely gorgeous. Written by two friends of mine and self published, it is a feast for the eyes and ears.



This week has been a juxtaposition of holiday cheer and frightening news clips. Many people I admire are writing beautiful and important things, including this post by Heather King. And Arnebya Herndon.

In case you missed it, I had my first post at the On Parenting blog at the Washington Post this week on color blindness. Thank you so much to all of the friends and friends of friends who shared it and supported the message. A few weeks ago, the Blogging Betties ran an interview podcast with me, and I stated that I wanted to be published at the Washington Post as one of my goals. My friend Kate reached out to me and offered to introduce me to the WaPo editor, and it all happened quickly. I feel very lucky.

In fact, the editor, Amy Joyce, wrote this beautiful piece that Kate told me about. (Tissue alert)

More reading/ viewing:

The Giving Tree. I loved this concept.

The beautiful, uplifting video about a young woman who escaped war-torn Sierra Leone to become a ballet dancer in New York City is worth watching more than once.

This post from Sherri Kuhn is one of those that will make you stop for a moment and cherish your little ones, or remember when your kids were little ones.

And finally, this post by Kirsten Piccini is beautifully crafted.

Have a wonderful weekend.

Love,
Kristin





Thursday, December 4, 2014

Featured at the Washington Post

I'm honored that the Washington Post chose to run my piece on color-blindness, race, and raising a son in our country on their parenting blog.

For 8 years, I volunteered in Atlanta at a summer camp for kids with asthma. The kids ranged from 6-13, many from the inner city. These children were beautiful and smart and fun; a few of them, especially the boys, had troublesome pasts that played out as behavioral issues at camp.

One child I remember in particular was Shaquille. I wish I had known then what I know now about the racial divide and what his future might look like. I wish I would have/ could have done more to help him. I thought that I was color blind and that was enough.

Not long ago, I asked my childhood friend Crystal what it's like to be the mother of a black boy in America, and she gave me an honest, open answer. 


What I learned, I wrote in this article - my debut post for the Washington Post's On Parenting from The Washington Post blog.

Being color blind is not enough. Together, we can affect change.


Love,

Kristin

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