Friday, October 31, 2014

Friday Favorites: October 31 (The Halloween edition)

Aside from Christmas, my favorite holiday is Halloween. I love to dress up, I love trick or treating with my son, and I love pumpkin everything. (Trader Joe's has 65 different pumpkin products in stock this season, incidentally...)

So if you'll excuse me, I have big plans with a very short Darth Vader tonight.

* * * 
Robyn is new to HuffPost, and I found her through Kim Bongiorno of Let Me Start By Saying; Robyn's words are so reflective and beautiful:

"And the beauty of motherhood is how we deliver just that. It's how we show up, knock on a door, wade through the discomfort and embarrassment and shame and guilt of a moment and do the right thing. Because our children are watching. And because we might have felt like a failure five minutes ago, but we push through it and keep trying, prodded by a love we cannot adequately describe."

* * *
This one, from my friend Alexandra, broke my heart. But it's important, and she makes some great points about the questions we could ask our kids to find out what's really going on at school.

"These are critical questions to ask. And both sides need to be involved; the ones being bullied, and the ones doing the bullying. We need to recognize the signs of being bullied and parents need to ask their children, “Are YOU doing any bullying?”

Bullying has to be talked about. I never thought to ask my son, “Are you okay at school?” Bullying can happen to any child, to any family – even when you think you would not be a target. Everyone is equally able to be a target and everyone is just as able to do the bullying.

Your child could be bullied, or be a bully. We need to ask both sides the questions now."

* * * 
"And in that mom part of my brain, I see a little girl wearing a tiny backpack not large enough for any high school textbooks. A tiny little girl wearing adorable round glasses, a pair of pink leggings and cute bangs that framed her sweet, smiling face."

What does it feel like when your teenager hers her drivers' license? Read Sherri's post here:

* * * 
I met Sabrina Parsons in Austin at a conference a couple of years ago, and I was impressed. This essay about a new benefit some companies are offering, and the implications for mothers in the corporate world is a great thinking piece. And I wish I had worked for her when I had my son, because she offers a wonderful environment for mothers at her company. 

For more on Sabrina, read Lindsey's interview here: 

* * *  
"Girls will be girls" is no more acceptable than "boys will be boys". This essay makes some great points on mean girls (and boys) and how our kids should treat each other.

* * *

When Leslie Gibbons’ daughter was expecting her first baby, she despaired over the lack of mothers and mother-figures in fairytales.  She asked Leslie to write a story with a living, loving mother that she could share with her family.  That’s how A Fairytale for Mothers was born.

My friend Robyn, of Robyn Lane Books, is proud to present this book, the story of a mother bird’s love for her chicks, and the generous gift she shares with each one as it is his (or her) turn to leave the nest.  More, it is the story of how those adult chicks return to share gifts of their own. 

A Fairytale for Mothers is available November 18, 2014

* * *
In case you missed it, I was a guest writer at Postpartum Progress this week:

And HuffPost Women:

And Tamara wrote a beautiful review of the first book in which I am featured, My Other Ex: Women's True Stories of Leaving and Losing Friends.


Monday, October 27, 2014

Luckier the second time

Believe it or not, I drew his name out of a fishbowl at a company event; it’s one of the luckiest things that has ever happened to me.

On our first date, after two months of phone calls and email exchanges, he referred to the rest of our lives together, and it scared me.

When I met him, I was in the middle of a divorce after a 10-year relationship. I was two-dimensional; deflated and flattened from years of biting and hurtful words and hands.  I was skittish and afraid, and I didn’t know who I was or how I was going to figure it out. I was ten pounds under my average weight, and that wasn’t necessarily a good thing.

When we were dating, I told him that I had learned that I wanted a man who thinks I’m smart, and fun, and the most beautiful woman in the world.  Not to mention one that doesn’t kick me, punch me, or tell me I’m stupid, but I didn’t say that out loud. 

Will stopped me in the middle of a sentence and said, “You’re gorgeous. You're smart. You're funny.  This is all part of your past; it's who you are.  I'm OK with that."

Over and over, he told me, “I can’t wait until you can see what I see” and he waited for me to catch up. Of all of the men I dated that summer after my ex-husband walked out the door, he is the only one who saw all of me – my spirit and my soul and my body. Not just my body or my face or my personality. He saw the potential. He saw what was at the core of me.

And yet, he knew I was bent, if not broken. He forged ahead, knowing this could end badly. He gave me his heart, risking it all for a woman who would still cry when she heard certain songs on the radio that reminded her of the past. Even through all of the bravado, he knew that I was fragile.

After a while, in the heat of an argument when he would catch the “I’m about to run away” or the “please don’t hurt me” look in my eye, he would say, sometimes gently, and sometimes in frustration, “I’m not him. I am not the man who hurt you.”

I know this, but at times, I have still shied away, scuttling out of reach. If hurtful words are like nails in a fence, and the holes the scars that remain even when the nails are pulled out, then I was a fence riddled with holes from the years before him.

Still, I cringe when a voice is raised.  I shut down, unable to process the words when the volume is high. When the words are even a little too loud, I am still the woman who has been told that she is stupid and nagging and unattractive. It is as ingrained as a bad habit. 

It is not easy to be my second husband.  He has to deal with my insecurities, my fear, my baggage.

With his unending kind words, and his steady confidence, he has helped me find my way back to myself.  Through him, I have realized that no one can put me back together; that’s up to me.

He tells me I’m beautiful, often, and it makes a major difference in my life to have someone who loves me and tells me clearly and plainly how much I mean to him.

What if I hadn’t met you? What if we had taken different paths and not landed at the same company?  I asked him once.

I would have found you, he said.

He believes.  He believes strongly enough for both of us in us. Even when my hope is waning, because I am bent and scarred, he is as unmovable as a mountain. He is here. When I am frustrated with him or angry or upset, all I have to do is take a look at our son. Our beautiful boy, who is half of each of us in every way. Will is an affectionate and engaged and committed father to our son, and in that, I see him through new eyes.

I could have picked another man like the first one I married; too easily. Women who have been in unhealthy relationships have a tendency to choose others who will hurt them, because their self-esteem is in the gutter. Will came along and although I don’t believe in knights in shining armor, I once again believe in good men. 

And this could be you. If you are healing from a tough relationship or have been through hell and you’re not sure if you could ever do it again, listen to me: you can. You deserve love. You deserve a good partner. You deserve the best.

While I was processing my divorce and healing from the shock of it all, I told myself several times a day: "I am strong. I am beautiful. I will not be bitter. I will love again." I'm not sure that I always believed it, but I said it anyway.

Don’t give up.  There is so much more out there waiting for you.

P.S.  Happy 8th anniversary, husband. You mean the world to me. 

Love, Kristin

Friday, October 24, 2014

Friday Favorites: October 24

This week had a rough start for us: my son had a cold on Monday, and when he gets a cold, I am on constant croup watch. Running into an ER with your son in your arms and saying, "My son is in respiratory distress!" are words I prefer to avoid. So we were on a regimen of humidifiers, nebulizers, and Mucinex. Then he gave me his germs, and I spent the next two days in bed. Now we're back to good health, and we're ready to relax with some college football and Halloween parties.

Have I ever told you that Halloween is my favorite holiday? Other than Christmas, of course. 

Happy weekend!

In the meantime, here are some of my favorite posts on the internet this week:

* * * 
I am a phone caller, and when I have 10 minutes, I like to call a friend and talk to her, voice to voice. I call my mother every day. However, some people are happier to text and email, and I loved this post from Andrea mourning the days when calling was your only choice.

"I miss my mom. When I was a new adult she would call and I would sit on the secondhand patio furniture that I kept in my apartment, painting my toenails and telling her that I made her lasagna for dinner and expressing my shock that it was such a large amount and I would likely be eating it for the next two weeks.  I learned how to cook over the phone, that windows needed to be washed periodically, and that a civilized person really could not do without a good tailor."

* * *
Looking for a way to get your teenager to listen to you? This will have you laughing and also may give you some ideas. This post by the lovely Kerry Rossow has exploded, and in a minute you'll understand why when you read it.

* * *
This story from Tracy at Sellabit Mum not only illustrates the pull and push of parenting. The difference between shielding them from the truth and preparing them for it. The love that is behind sadness. And she has turned this also into an excellent review for a parenting book that has a permanent home on my bedside table.

* * *
Two writers I respect and admire have kicked off a new series called "This is Adolescence" based on the hugely popular series "This is Childhood", which was turned into a book by Brain, Child magazine. Lindsey's first up, with Eleven:

* * *
For the first part of this post, I started to fidget. Is it really that bad? Parenting does not suck! I thought. And then I started to see what she was saying.  There are moments that do, indeed, suck. But that doesn't mean that you don't love your kids more than anything in the world, nor does it take away from these moments:

"But even then, there is that .1%
That little kiss.
Holding a hand for 5 seconds.
Walking into their room and silently watching them sleeping peacefully.
Seeing the smile on their face when they accomplish something all by themselves."

* * * 
Speaking of Scary Mommy, Jill has done some incredible things by raising money through her site to help families at Thanksgiving. Please read all about it:

* * *
This post is certainly not the same as any of the posts above, but there was something about the writing in the NY Times Modern Love section that gripped me all the way through to the last word. 

* * *
When I was at BlogHer this year, I met the good people of Artifact Uprising, and I was blown away by their products. They gave every attendee the opportunity to create a photo book for free, so I tried it out. I was able to upload my photos directly from Instagram to Artifact Uprising's site, each already edited and filtered. It was incredibly easy. Want to try it? They have given me one photo book to give away to my readers, no strings attached. You don't have to "like" anything special or go out of your way if you don't want to. All you need is your email address, and Laura from Artifact Uprising will do a random drawing for me:

But even then, there is that .1%
That little kiss.
Holding a hand for 5 seconds.
Walking into their room and silently watching them sleeping peacefully.
Seeing the smile on their face when they accomplish something all by themselves.

Have a great weekend!

Love, Kristin

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Friday Favorites: October 10

This weekend, my godson and goddaughter are going to spend the weekend with us, and I'm thrilled. And a little nervous, as I'll be playing a Mother of Three for 48 hours. I get to enjoy three kids and lots of ice cream all weekend long, and then we're back to "normal." Or we may never get back to that same normal again, which is just fine.

I'll be offline until Monday. In the meantime, please enjoy these posts that I fell in love with in the last week.

* * * 

I found myself holding my breath through this paragraph:

"I begin reading to him. Four chapters later, he signals that he is ready to fall asleep. “Can you read more tomorrow?” he whispers, his eyes half shut. “Of course,” I answer. “Thank you,” he whispers. “I love you.” He falls asleep, and I dare not move, lest I disrupt his snuggling, his gratitude, or his sweetness. It is one of those rare glimpses where I’m terrified that any motion I make could end it as unexpectedly as it came on. I hold my breath while his finds its gentle, rhythmic pace of sleep, his face unwrinkled and at peace."

* * *
This post from Elaine Alguire reminds me of the good:

"Next time you’re in a moment or a conversation or a situation where things are not the best or you think someone is in the wrong, try to see the goodness first.  I don’t guarantee it will change things but it may. And to me, that is worth a try."

* * * 

How many of you out there are walking around with a hole in your life? So many of us, in so many ways.

"Most of us are walking around with holes. I bet we’re almost all missing someone, tired, struggling, worried, scared. I’ve seen that those with leaky holes of their own are often the best at detecting who else is in need of a love band-aid.

And it’s often when we help patch someone else up that we heal a little of our own self."

* * *
Glennon moves me to DO something. Her passion and her compassion are inspiring.

"Maybe anger is like compassion, in that it can point us directly toward the place in the world we were born to help heal."

[In this vein, read this post by Arnebya Herndon. She is one of the most eloquent, hilarious, thoughtful, and intelligent people I know:

* * *
Katrina is sticking up for the much-aligned teenager, and it's awesome.

"Like all the generations before them, today’s teens sometimes get a bad rap. But I’ll say this for the ones I know: they’re bright, they’re connected, they’re globally aware, they’re socially engaged, they’re fiercely loyal, and they’re wicked smart."

* * *
I love to read Denise's words; she is the mother of grown kids, and is the kind of mom I'd like to be:.

"I think my kids are amazing, good, kind people, and I have every confidence that (with a few stumbles, I'm sure) they will forge their own paths into their own happy adult lives. They are not perfect. I am not perfect. We are, however, pretty perfect together."

* * *  
For a dash of funny/ sweet, read Kim's post on what she thinks makes dads sexy:

* * *
Lastly, I introduced two friends of mine at a birthday dinner last year, and they collaborated on a gorgeous children's book that will be launched shortly - I'm so proud of them.

Happy weekend!


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

When your confidence wanes

I sat there, listening, as the calls started coming in.

They went for the throat immediately, hurling insults as if we were exotic game animals in a sporting shoot.  My face started to flush and I felt the anger seeping in, and the frustration of being muted while strangers called me “stupid” and “lame” and “boring”.  The other two guys got that and worse. I glowered at the regular DJs, fidgeting in my seat.

I was a contestant on an Atlanta-based radio station called “Quit Your Day Job” and I had made it through an audition of 100 people and a week of music trivia to get to this point – the final three in a race for a prize package including a car and townhouse lease for a year.  The last hurdle was that they let the three of us host the show for ten minutes, and we had about an hour to plan and fill those ten minutes with whatever we wanted. We were amateurs, certainly, and we did the best we could. All of us wanted to win, badly, but we got along well, and we had fun with it. 

What we didn’t know is that the regular DJs were talking over us and making fun of us as we spoke from the other room. After they came back into the booth and played it back for us, they opened up the phones for callers to comment, and the effect was brutal.

After taking several calls dripping with criticism and sarcasm, they opened up my microphone to let me speak.

“Steam is starting to come out of your ears, Kristin,” one of the DJs said, smirking.  “What’s on your mind?”

I leaned into the mic and unleashed my feelings: I said that the callers didn’t really know me and didn’t have a right to criticize me or my two new friends in that manner. I told them they should be ashamed of themselves for the language they used to describe people they didn’t know.  Criticize our technique, but don’t criticize us as people, I said. I sounded louder and more animated than I had all week, and when I was finished, I sat back down. The lead DJ looked at me with new respect, but told me that if I wanted to entertain a job as a DJ, I’d have to learn to take the heat.

The other DJ said on the air, “I’m proud of you, Kristin. That’s the most you have revealed about yourself all week. And check it out – the compliments are starting to come in.”

New callers were lined up to give us support and encouragement. They drowned out the negative callers, and the regular DJs joked that we must have paid some of them to call in or that they must be relatives. Their normal was the negative.

I didn’t win the contest. But I was reminded on that day: be real. Don’t worry about being unpopular; just be true. It’s a message I heard at a conference two years ago when the speaker, a woman with an amazing success story, said one of her lessons in life was, “Don’t be mild.” That’s a Texas reference in terms of heat and salsa and the Tex-Mex cooking we eat often in this area. Be spicy if you’re spicy. Be medium if you’re more medium. But don’t be mild to try to please others if your nature is to be spicy.

The second thing I learned was that I don’t want to spend my life in a toxic environment. Any job in which I’d have to learn how to take that kind of heat on a daily basis is not where I want to spend my time. Granted, as a writer, I experience some trolls and internet commenters who are less than kind. I don’t like it, but I have learned to shut them out as best as I can.

It’s more than ten years since the DJ contest, and I still struggle sometimes when I get negative feedback – but less than I used to. I confided in a group of friends recently that I still felt like a teenager when my confidence wanes. They all chimed in, “Me too!” “Me too!” and we agreed that our own insecurities get in our way. Crises of confidence seem to be pretty normal, but they are frustrating.

One friend gave me a great piece of advice.  When I shared with her my lagging confidence, she said, “Well, do you want to change who you are? I like you the way you are. You have to be you.”

At 43, I know who I am, for the most part.

I’m 100% extrovert, and I talk a lot.

I tend to interrupt when I’m excited about a topic.

I am constantly on the go, and may be exhausting to anyone who has a slower pace.

I make mistakes on a regular basis.

I’m sappy and sometimes cheesy.

I may not be for everyone.

But I am me. 

And the lessons I am still learning are the ones I want to pass onto my son, and to you: you are you.  And you should be YOU, whether you are mild, medium, or spicy. You don’t need anyone’s approval. You don’t always have to be liked, even though that is sometimes tough to swallow. Be true to you.

Maybe this sounds familiar to you:

Sometimes I worry that my writing doesn't mean anything, or that it's trivial. And then I get a message from one person telling me that it helped them in some way. Sometimes I worry that I am not a good enough friend. And then I get a text from someone telling me they love me. Sometimes I worry that I am not a good enough mother. And then my son hugs me. I'm harder on myself than anyone else could be, as many people are.

Tell those voices in your head to be quiet and wait for the next wave of good.

My son will meet negative people, mean people, and people who are jealous or angry or hateful. I want him to know that the whole world doesn’t have to like him, but he can make a difference for the people who do, one person at a time… and for that one person, that’s all that matters. Focus on them and forgive the rest.

I’m kind of spicy. Maybe you are, too.You’re probably also kind, and thoughtful, and loving.

Forgive yourself for being imperfect.

Forgive yourself for being bent or broken on your way to wholeness.

Keep being kind, keep the faith, and keep moving forward. And surround yourself with love.

Be you.

* * *

My favorite quote of the week on this topic, from Marc and Angel:

“Stop listening to what the world says you should want.  Start listening to who you are.  Truth be told, there are only a few people in this world who will stay 100% true to you, and YOU should be one of them.”

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Nesting: the night I learned to embrace our bedtime routine

I didn’t know anyone when I moved to Austin except for one woman who was introduced to me on the trade show circuit by a mutual business friend. As it turned out, she was the first person who knew I was pregnant, other than my husband.

It happened at lunch one day as we were getting to know each other better; we had spent a few lunch dates together before this one. She asked me if we were planning to have children, and in her naturally forthright way, she indicated that I’d better get moving, at my age (38, at the time).  She asked me if I had a good ob/gyn and I said yes and then started to blush at her line of questioning. 

We had discovered that I was pregnant a few days before.

“Well, I – see, the thing is –"

“You’re pregnant, aren’t you?” she said.

I’m no good at poker, and my face showed it all.

After my son was born, my new friend brought me a chicken pot pie and handed me an “infant management book” that was extremely popular. Translated-into-16-languages-popular, that is. I read it, dutifully. Before I knew that I was suffering from postpartum anxiety, this book fueled my interest in parenting and baby sleep books, and I bought several more and read them at every possible moment – probably when I should have been sleeping. None of them helped. None of them matched my instincts, even though friends swore the methods worked very well for them. My head started to spin from the sheer volume of advice.

A few weeks later, when I was about to lose my mind from confusion and sleep deprivation, I took the whole pile of books and shipped them to a friend who was pregnant and looking for information.

Take them all, and don’t worry about sending them back, I dashed off in a note, desperate to get rid of them, like a sleep-training-book exorcism.

Once my anxiety started to abate and I became more confident in my mothering, I relaxed into the rhythm of a kid who, as it turned out, never became a great sleeper. 

He slept snugged in the car seat for hours at a time (luckily, I didn’t know much about torticollis, or it would have added to my worry and anxiety).

He was a tiny Houdini escaping from a poorly-wrapped swaddle blanket at four weeks.

He slept in the pack and play for naps and he slept in the swing – even with it turned off–  for eight hours straight at night, so we stuck with that until he was nearly four months old. I seriously considered having a swing made that would accommodate his growing size. Only an upcoming trip motivated me to practice in his crib more often.

Later, we even tried the gentlest of sleep trainings – but after a few minutes of crying, I couldn’t take it anymore and gave up and switched to part-time co-sleeping, and began the next few years of getting kicked in my sleep by a restless toddler about halfway through the night.

At some point in the process, he became proficient at putting himself to sleep in his own crib. We could put him in the crib and he would laugh himself to slumberland without a problem.

And then one day, I came back from a business trip, and I learned that my husband decided to lie next to our son as he fell asleep to comfort him while I was away. That was the end of our son talking himself to sleep; he learned that having mom or dad next to him was preferable.

That was probably two years ago, and my son is now five. For the first several months of this new process, I was resentful. Where was my ME time? Why can’t he just go back to the old way of going to bed? I am wasting my time lying here! I would seethe in frustration.

It dawned on me after many nights of frustration and snappy “Go to sleep!” admonitions that I was missing something major: He wanted to hold my hand. He wanted to tell stories and hear my lullabies and share our thankfulness for our family and friends together. This time was gold.

And I was wasting my time resenting it.

I have one child, and it's an easy decision to make: I can spend this time with him, because he wants me there. The day he wants me to leave him alone to sleep will come soon enough. 

Now, it’s my favorite time of day. It still cuts into my evening time, but I don’t mind nearly as much.  This small boy asks me to tell him a story, and I always start with “Once upon a time” and I always end with “…and they lived happily ever after”, even if the princess was defeated by the dragon. He repeats and revises my stories and turns them into his own, developing his voice and his creativity. I get to witness it.

Most nights, he says, “Mom, will you hug me?” which means that he wants me to hold him as he falls asleep. The privilege of holding this child as his body relaxes into the tiny quakes that mean that he has crossed into sleep is one that I want to be very mindful of. When he decides to push me away, that he doesn’t need me any more, I will remember. I will have the muscle memory of his small body curled into mine, nesting.

Nesting. I like that. Like a mama bird.

Until he’s ready to fly, without me beside him, into his dreams.

Photo by Ashley White at

All parents should know that they shouldn’t be judged for teaching their babies to sleep in whatever way works best for them, whether it’s safe co-sleeping or Ferber or swaddling or the swing or some other method. The important thing is that everyone gets the rest they need.


Monday, October 6, 2014

Friday Favorites: October 3

Well, I typically try to post Friday Favorites on Fridays. But it just didn't happen last week, so we're a little late.  Want to pretend that today is Friday instead?


I am no parenting expert, so I like to read things like this that give me ideas on how I can teach my son to be a better citizen of the world:
Are you raising nice kids? 5 ways to raise them to be kind.

And more on teaching kids to be kind, because I want to arm my son with kindness to combat mean.
"Kindness exhibits strength of character.  ANYONE can be mean and quick to judge.  Be better than that.  Be kind.  Be responsible.  WE ARE ALL RESPONSIBLE FOR OUR KIDS.  Let's make their lives better.  Let's model kindness for them, not snark and not tearing each other down."
Where do mean girls come from?

This post, from a mother who is raising a son with autism, is a sweet letter to the other kids in the world asking them to learn about the signs of autism and how they might react.
Will you help me change the world for our children?

Some of my friends with children in elementary school have been struggling with the issue of when to let their child quit an activity. I thought this was a thought-provoking take on it. 
Why I never let my kid quit anything


I feel like parenting is defined by this constant angsty tension – wanting so much for a hard phase to be over, simultaneously feeling guilty that we are wishing it away, and then immediately grieving each stage as soon as it has passed.  It seems like we are constantly sandwiched between a hope for an easier stage, and a regret that the harder stage is gone."
Teach us to realize the brevity of life

"Now, I am dancing with my little boy. His small hand in mine, I spin him around the room, sing loudly while he laughs and holds me tight. I feel our connection… parent to child to parent to child. I never really understood the lyrics before I had him, but here it was, the rainbow connection. It is this song, this love, these moments that connect our generations, our hearts."
The rainbow connection

This post made me wish I lived next door to my parents:
Unexpected family love

Go forth and have a wonderful week. More original work coming up.

P.S.  Jennifer Williams is posting 31 days of pies on her site. PIE. Yum.

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