Friday, November 13, 2015

Weekend favorites - November 13

In case you missed it, my debut post at VProud went live yesterday! What it's really about is rising from the ashes of your life to find redemption and joy. If you're a writer and you want to post somewhere positive and encouraging, VProud is the place.

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And now for some reading material I loved this week:

My friend Devon has a way with books - meaning she reviews a ton of them and knows what she is talking about. So I'm making my way through this list of books that help make math fun, because my son is very much into math lately, and I want to encourage him.

I have a lot of respect for women who escape abusive relationships, knowing how difficult it is. When the woman has a child, it's exponentially more difficult. This essay was wrenching but incredibly hopeful.

Many, many women experience postpartum mood disorders during and after the birth of their children. This post at Mashable rounds up the emotions very well.

This family has a little boy with the rare disease Sanfilippo Syndrome. Take a look at their Facebook page to learn more about them and their valiant fight.

Allison Hendrix uses beautiful words to talk about how we can all help each other raise good, compassionate, supportive kids. I loved this post.

Another lovely post on teaching kids compassion from the inimitable Angie Kinghorn at Bonbon Break had my nodding my head - YES.

Oh, Rachel Macy Stafford. You are a light in the darkness, always. "The next time you walk into an intimidating setting—whether it’s a party, a church, a school, a classroom, a club, a fitness center, a meeting, or a social event, clasp your hands together. Say to yourself: 'I am not alone. Someone else is nervous too.' Then look around. Perhaps now you know someone else feels uncomfortable, you’ll see someone else holding his or her own hand too."

"It seems to me that when we inhabit ourselves - when we say, this is who I am in all my flawed humanity - we are taking a step toward being most real." Great words from Dani Shapiro.

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Reading: The Martian. The cover caught my eye when I was at the airport this week, and I have not been able to put it down. When I was in high school, I was fascinated by Physics, but didn't do exceptionally well at it. When in college, I signed up for Astronomy, thinking I was studying constellations and found... more physics. So although I may not be good at it, this book brought out the inner science geek I never knew was in there. This is Andy Weir's FIRST BOOK. So impressive.

Also reading: Science of Parenthood's new book! It will launch offically on November 17, and I have a copy in my hands now, courtesy of a book launch here in Austin this week. Norine and Jessica have put together a funny, relatable, easy-to-enjoy book about parenting in all of its glory, in photos, words, and graphics. #BoogieWipesTour

My WeMontage wall hanging arrived today! I can't wait to put it up in my son's room. So easy.
My friend James runs the company, and his customer service on the creations is second to none. It's a very good gift idea covered by Martha Stewart, Yahoo, and CNET, and the Today Show ran stories about it twice this year. Here's a video to learn more:

Love, Kristin

Friday, November 6, 2015

Weekend favorites - November 6, 2015

WOW, I am behind on my weekend favorites. I have no exuses, only apologies. To make it up to you, I have a strong selection here, and so without further ado...

In case you missed it, I was featured at The Washington Post's new-ish blog called Solo-ish, with the story of marriage, divorce, and the two dogs I loved.  And Bonbon Break chose my story about teaching my son how to apologize by leading by example for their Connect campaign. By the way, if you're a writer, both Lisa Bonos at The Washington Post and Val Curtis of Bonbon Break are lovely editors and I highly recommend working with them.

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Amanda Hill is a funny, warm, loving person who offered to come all the way across town after my recent surgery, pick me up, and take me to a local event we had both wanted to attend. Unfortunately, I was not in any condition to go out of the house at that point, and had to miss it. But I'll never forget her friendship and care on that day especially. Read her beautiful words here.

Another writer I love to read is Lindsey Mead, and her essays stay with me and coat my brain with loveliness the way honey coats a spoon.

Another Amanda (Magee) is a bright spot in my newsfeed every day. She has a way of taking small moments and turning them into something even more wonderful with her words.

Allison Slater Tate has a way of taking a concept and touching it with a magic wand. Read her latest post at The Mabelhood. 

I'm a big believer in setting goals, so I'm mostly earmarking this one for myself, but I think it's useful for just about anyone. And I sure as heck could use some help being more productive and organized.

Speaking of setting goals, I L-O-V-E this one from Luvvie about setting hers and knocking them out.

I am loving this parenting advice column at The Washington Post. This one, about giving up friends whose daughters are mean to her child, is right on the money.

This post from Michelle Myers on realizing why her son, who has autism, melts down at home but not at school is eye opening.

If you have a "spirited" child, this will bring you some comfort. And along those lines, this essay from Stephanie Sprenger is right on the money, explaining why being polite can be overrated (in some scenarios, of course).

I read this post by Lisa Barr and I sat straight up. What a great message about inclusion and kindness! I sent it to the editor of the Today Show parenting site, knowing she would love it, and she did. And now it's being shared globally.

And last, but not least... we all have a Bill in our lives. So sweet.

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Have you heard of WeMontage? It's a large photo collage on removable wallpaper, made up of photos YOU choose. I have been looking all over for a solution to the heinous wallpaper in my son's bathroom in our home (we have a rental) and this is it. I can't wait to cover up a big chunk of it with this instead.

My friend James, a fellow Voice of the Year and an amazing writer, owns this company and he told me about it, so I ordered one. Way better than wallpaper, right?

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Book review: Mothering Through the Darkness

When I had my son, I had heard of Postpartum Depression via brave voices like Brooke Shields, who spoke up about it in her book Down Comes the Rain. However, what I was experiencing was different from what she had described. I didn't feel the symptoms of depression that are the hallmarks of PPD. Instead, I felt as though I had chugged three pots of espresso in a row - I was jumpy, and my heart raced, and my nerves were frayed at the edges, jarring every inch of my body. By the time I got to the doctor, I had severe insomnia and I danced on the edge of driving myself to the emergency room.

"If I just tell them that I can't sleep and I am about to lose my mind, they will help me," I reasoned. Somehow, I held on until the medication kicked in and my hormones were back under control. It felt kind of like riding a wild mustang, desperately gripping its mane and trying to hang on while the horse bucks and tries to throw you off.

I survived, and later thrived; ultimately, my husband and I decided that we would have only one child instead of proceeding with two, as we had planned. Postpartum Anxiety changed our lives, but I'm not looking back. Instead, I can use my words to share with other parents and potential parents so that they're not afraid to speak up, either. This is why the new anthology by HerStories is so important; Mothering Through the Darkness is a collection of survival stories from women who have made it through harrowing episodes of postpatrum mood disorders and their bravery is showcased beautifully in this book.

Today is the official launch date, and this review will appear in the December issue of My Forsyth magazine, which happens to be based in a county north of Atlanta where I used to live, a decade and a lifetime ago.

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If you know a mother, chances are that you know someone who has experienced a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder like Postpartum Depression. The non-profit resource Postpartum Progress estimates that 1 MILLION women each year (at least 1 in 7) will struggle with a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder in the U.S. alone. And still, the stigma remains, and not nearly enough women get the help they need. Motherhood can be filled with joy and wonder, but for some, the unexpected and stunning onset of Postpartum Depression, Postpartum Anxiety, and other mood disorders throws everything off balance with fear and shame and guilt.

Almost ten years ago, actress/model Brooke Shields did her best to blow the lid off her struggles with PPD in her book Down Came the Rain. Today, more women are talking about it and diminishing the shame that accompanies the symptoms and diagnoses of various PMAD conditions, including Postpartum Depression, Postpartum Anxiety, Postpartum Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The new anthology Mothering Through the Darkness (edited by Stephanie Sprenger and Jessica Smock) explores the starkest honesty and deepest introspection about what birth and hormones can do to our bodies and minds from the perspectives of 35 different women. The essays are rich with raw pain and vivid descriptions of what each woman experienced through PPD and other mood disorders, and also braided with hope and strength. Each story is a feast of words on a very tough topic.

This book is not just for survivors of an illness that strikes so many women and steals time from their new motherhood. It’s for anyone who is a mother, wants to be a mother, or is a friend/mother/sister to someone who is experiencing motherhood for the first or tenth time.

Mothering Through the Darkness is not just about postpartum mood disorders. It’s about love. Love for our children, love for our spouses, and love for other mothers who have been or are about to go through something similar. Reading their stories honors their journey and helps to being PPD out of the darkness and into the light, once and for all.

For more information on the book:

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Weekend Favorites: October 18

I thought it was going to be a disappointing weekend, since both my son and I have been sick for days now. We cancelled all of our fall festival plans and stayed home with take-out and Scooby-Doo videos and naps. But you know, it wasn't disappointing at all. It was pretty relaxing, aside from the coughing and sneezing. Cheers to recovery!

In case you missed it, this week my post on our sleeping habits with our son was featured on the Today Show parents Facebook page and the Today Show main page. I have been watching the Today Show for years, so it's exciting to be featured there. 

This week, I served as the guest editor for October's Hall of Fame for Susan Maccarelli's site, Beyond Your Blog. BYB is a wonderful resource for writers and bloggers, and I was honored to read the essays submitted by readers of the site and choose the ones that resonated with me in 5 categories. It was a tough decision, and I chose the following from the 50+ entries.  

This story was filled with sadness and past hurts, but from the beginning, she sets up a scene that shows the power of grace and forgiveness. Mary shows us - she doesn’t just tell us - how she is teaching her sons to be better men, even though their father was not the best example.  Essay by Mary McLaurine.

This is not a traditional “how to” entry, I’m sure, but it stuck with me for several reasons: it’s relatable, it has a tinge of irony but with a soft focus, and I felt it in my heart. We have all had friends who moved away at some point or another. Essay by Natalie Guenther.

I haven’t read the Kon Mari method book, but I have read enough about it to catch the gist. From the moment she purchases the book along with a Veggetti Spiral Vegetable Slicer to the day she tries to get her husband to lovingly stroke and speak to the clothes, I was laughing. Perfectly done. This is my kind of humor. Essay by Kathryn Leehane. 

This is a tough topic, and it’s one Jackie covers beautifully with relevant personal anecdotes and expert opinions. I fully believe this article could save someone’s life if she reads it and recognizes herself in Jackie’s descriptions. In fact, anyone leaning on alcohol to cope with a tough situation may recognize herself in these words. Essay by Jackie Olson.

Angela is an excellent storyteller, and I was hooked from the opening sentence. I was on that train with her, experiencing the scenery blurring through the windows and feeling the jolt of disappointment and curiosity to find a stranger seated at my table. I felt as though I was reading a novel, which seems to be the kind of writing Narratively prides itself upon. Essay by Angela Uherbelau.

These honorable mentions were also excellent pieces of work.

Dating for hoarders by Debbie Weiss

I am not that mom by Stephanie Marsh


Sunday, September 20, 2015

Weekend Favorites, September 11

I had surgery on Monday, and it took me a little longer to recover than I had planned. Everything is fine - it was a pretty routine surgery, as surgeries go, and I had a lot of friends and family checking on me regularly to make sure I had everything I needed.

Honestly, I was terrified about the surgery. As in, my teeth were chattering and my whole body was shaking and tears were running out of my eyes at a prodigious rate as I moved from the waiting-area bed to the operating table. My doctor got me to laugh, and then they placed the mask over my mouth and the next thing I knew, I was woozy and then I was waking up. Before my surgery, I would do what any blogger would do: I got my social media affairs in order. Which means that I called my sister and made sure she had all of my passwords in case anything happened to me.

I know. It sounds ridiculous, because it is a little ridiculous.

In any case, I'm on the mend and back to work. I have some exciting opportunities coming up, and I'll keep you posted.

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In case you missed it, my post on planning girls' night after becoming a mom was picked up by HuffPost Parents.

And LiveMom featured my review of the traveling Cirque du Soleil show Kooza live in Austin.

First, I give you Arnebya and her adorable son, who just turned 6.

Nancy Davis Kho is brilliant. This essay about suggestions on what to say and what not to say to seniors in high school is smart and thoughtful.

My friend Ava posted a lovely essay about the #beforeIdie campaign that the Texas Conference for Women is running. Don't miss it.

This post by Sherri Kuhn got to me. I  know exactly what she is saying about baby fever.

Great advice on happiness from Baby Proofed Parents at the Today Parenting site.

My son is really into this negotiating phase, and this was an excellent article on how to respond.

Wendi Aarons is hilarious, and her post about not being able to find personalized swag because of her name spelling is very familiar to me. When I was a kid, "Kristen" could be found all over the place, but rarely "Kristin".

This video needs no words. It's Mother's Day perfection.

This young woman from my hometown lost her teenage sister to cancer in a matter of a few months, and this tribute from her is worth reading. #sarahstrong

As you might remember, my son is allergic to eggs, and the school where he goes to kindergarten has a fantastic staff and excellent awareness of food allergies. Heather Spohr of The Spohrs Are Multiplying has a small child who gets it. Why doesn't everyone?

I love stories like this: teenagers who are using their power for good.

Have you ever heard of Esosinophilic Esophogitis? I hadn't either, when I was diagnosed 10 years ago. Then, it was considered pretty rare. Now, it's becoming quite common, and just like food allergies, I wonder why.
More of my favorite things:

My friend Rachel just released her new book, Hands Free Life, and I love it. Need a lift? It's exactly what I needed, and I think it's good for the soul.

This company, Komae, is doing something interesting with babysitting. Komae is a social app giving you the tools you need to exchange babysitting services with your most trusted friends. So imagine that you had access to your friends' schedules and you could exchange babysitting services without guilt or worrying about who owes whom. This is designed to help with that.

Enjoy your week!

Love, Kristin

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Catching fireflies: staying in touch after becoming a mom

As a girl, I pursued fireflies in the yard and captured them in a pickle jar with small holes carefully punched into the metal lid. Not much of a nature lover, I nevertheless enjoyed the tickle of the small bugs tiptoeing across my skin when I caught them, laughing with glee. It was worth the patience required to find them and watch them glow, and then release them back into the air to live.

As mothers, we are the fireflies, gliding through the dark and shining our light here and there, and sometimes camouflaging ourselves in the dark. We alight, flitting from place to place until we can stop and rest and share our light with others. It is exhausting to both be and to watch.

Planning a night out with these mother fireflies sometimes takes as much patience and luck and timing as it did when I was a child. The invitations are sent out, and perhaps one friend’s husband is traveling that day. Or another has another commitment. Or homework takes precedent. The event responses say “Yes” and or “No” but most often “Maybe” because our schedules, when we have children, hinge on child care and everyone staying well.

Plans are cancelled at the last minute, or changed, or adapted. We don’t get frustrated with each other because we know that all of have been in that situation and we will afford each other the grace that we were given too.

When I was in the heyday of my 20s, I moved to Atlanta, and met new friends every week. We met up on Wednesdays for trivia night and Saturdays to meet up and stay out late. We had no responsibilities except for ourselves, and our rent, and our bills. We had no idea that we were as carefree as we were then. Friendship looked like common interests and the ability to make each other laugh and listen to each other’s grievances about men and work.

Friendship looks both same and different now; we still laugh and listen and share common interests or even the occasional margarita, but those moments are condensed and squeezed into smaller slivers of time. Instead of afternoons lounging by the pool or happy hours savoring seared tuna and truffle fries, it’s thirty minutes walking together while the kids are at school, or an hour spent together chasing toddlers around the park and catching a sentence or two as you run in opposite directions. Those friends I had in my 20s now have two and three children and when I do have a chance to talk to them on the phone, it’s magical. The friendships are still there underneath the chaos.

A gesture of kindness from a friend who is a mother includes tolerance and understanding. It looks something like admiring the shoe polish decorations on a friend’s car for her son’s birthday, and her saying, “I saved the rest for you for your son’s birthday next week.” It’s lunch when we are feeling frazzled or a plate full of muffins dropped off at our porch. It’s a bag of coloring books and small toys for your son when he comes home from the hospital after surgery. It’s a quick text to say, “I’m thinking about you” when you don’t have time to talk on the phone. Because there is so little time to talk on the phone.

Without my friends, I would not have survived. It was another mother who recognized that I was drowning in postpartum anxiety and reached out across the miles to insist that I see a doctor. It was another mother who brought me my first dinner home from the hospital. It was my sister, already the mother of three, who flew across the country to teach me how to bathe my son and ease my fears. And my own mother and mother-in-law who endured my nitpicking at the way they held, changed, and attended to my new baby without a squeak of retort. They all understand.

I have learned that I can still keep my friendships with women without children as well and their friendship contributes to that survival. Last week, my best friend from college called me just as I was picking up my son from kindergarten. We are planning her first visit to Austin, and we’re both very excited. My son was chattering in the backseat, as five-year-olds do constantly, trying to join the conversation. He interrupted me to tell her all about his day.

“I’m sorry,” I said to her. “He just got out of school and he has a lot to say.”

“I love it,” she said without a trace of irritation. “I’m so glad that I get to be a part of your day.”

It’s these adaptations and understandings that give us the grace we need to lean into our friendships from different angles. The list of friends I want on my personal board of directors, as a mother, includes the ones that make me laugh. The ones that give me their shoulder when I cry. The ones who boost my spirits when I am feeling low. The ones who tell me the truth, and sometimes tough love.

The ones who love my son as their own. On any given day, each friend offers a little bit of each of these things. They allow me to go about the business of having a complete and happy life.
For now, planning girls’ night takes a little more patience, and we might not all get together at one time. The group is always morphing and changing and we wait until the next time we can catch up.
It’s worth the wait, every time.


Monday, September 7, 2015

Weekend favorites: September 4-7

I'm cooking up a few big things this fall, including the official launch of my freelance company. I'm working on the web site now, and will keep you posted when it's live. In the meantime, I have created a public Instagram site featuring things I love. Please follow along at this link.

The lovely Sarah Bagley asked me to join her on a podcast this summer, and it aired last week. I really enjoyed talking to Sarah, a mom and recovering perfectionist, like me. Take a listen here.

In case you missed it, I was featured at SheBuysCars last week with my first review for them. I had a chance to test drive the Tesla P85D, and I fell in love with it for a lot of reasons. I am thrilled to work with them, since I have a passion for all things automotive.

Also, I'm on the Today Show Parenting Team site with a post called "Happy Do-Nothing Day" with their "Get Happy" theme. Since we had a day this weekend in which we stayed in our pajamas well past noon, we are definitely living this. 

Just today, I found out that one of my essays will be included in the next HerStories anthology! This one is called "So Glad They Told Me" and will be published in 2016.

Last, but not least, I have an original post coming up on Mom Babble this week. Jennifer and Mary Katherine are wonderful editors, and I'm excited to be a guest writer on their page. Stay tuned.

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And now for some of my favorite posts for the week:

Nancy Davis Kho is brilliant and funny, and this post sums up a certain current event with her own brand of wit.

Need a good cry? Start here with this post. It's a 5-tissue alarm and heartbreaking, but beautifully written. It's worth the crying.

On that note, my little boy just turned 6, and Allison Slater Tate nailed the age we just left behind with this poignant essay about 5.

We have a brand-new Woom bike, and it's gorgeous. I'm still working on getting my son to learn how to ride a two-wheeler, but I knew we'll get there. In the meantime, Sarah discusses her husband's love and reverence for the bike, and the journey with her son Miles.

Bringing up racism with your children can feel awkward and difficult, but it's very important. This story at The Washington Post will illustrate exactly why.

This essay by Liv by Surprise at Scary Mommy made me want to call my mom. Right now. And I'm wondering what my son will remember, too. 

Jasmine is strong, beautiful, and fierce. This essay caught my breath at the very end. We should all know that our wings are always there and we can fly on our own.

My son is allergic to eggs, so I really appreciated this post from a mom of a peanut-allergic child. It's a scary world when your kid has a food allergy.

Keely is one of my favorite people - I met her in Chicago at BlogHer in 2013 - and she hits the nail on the head in this post as her oldest child heads off to kindergarten.

My Listen To Your Mother partner Leigh Ann Torres is a funny, funny woman, but when she posts something sweet and sentimental like this, I stop in my tracks. Her girls are adorable, and their personality (and Leigh Ann's) shines through here.


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