Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Four things I learned teaching preschool music

My son never heard the typical kids' music in our house; he was brought up on country music, popular music, and some of the 80s and 90s tunes I loved. .

So when I saw the email from his preschool that read “We need volunteers to teach music at the preschool next year; please let us know if you or someone you know would like to help out” I have no idea what I was thinking. I took piano lessons for ten years and French horn lessons for eight years; I had a musical background and figured it would be easy to play the kids some music and dance around.

Almost as soon as I had reviewed the curriculum and participated in the first training class, I started to worry that I couldn't do it. Just because you can read music doesn't mean you can teach it, my doubtful voice mocked me.

The first class felt awkward, from where I was sitting on a blue throw pillow on the floor. One wouldn't think that a class full of preschool kids could make a fully-grown woman nervous, but it's true. At least, it was for me. There they were, looking at me with those eager, adorable eyes. I looked down the barrel of several months' worth of weekly music classes and thought:

What in the world have I done?

But a funny thing happened along the way… not only did I fall in love with the kids, they taught me much more than I taught them. Here I am, about to teach the last class of the season today. I'll never forget these four lessons:

1) You can’t judge a child in an hour.  There was one particular boy who was a bit stubborn. When I walked around the room to re-collect the shakers or bells or instruments, I practically had to pry them from his hands. I cajoled and pleaded and then left it to his teachers, who were also in the room, to enforce. This boy had eyes of cornflower blue and when he looked at me, I saw the face of a boy I loved when I was much younger, and it melted me. Honestly, though, I thought he might have been a little spoiled, until the day I heard his father telling the school director that he was taking the boy to his occupational therapy appointment. BAM. Reality check. Humble pie, please.

2) Every kid wants to be seen. It’s easy to make eye contact with the kids who are participating and laughing and singing along, and doing what they’re told. But ALL of them want and need interaction, and some of them need a little push. One particular dark-haired, dark-eyed bilingual boy stared at me during class, but refused to sing or shake a tambourine or dance. I tried speaking to him in Spanish, thinking that perhaps he didn’t understand what I was saying. After several classes with me, he waved to me from the playground when I came in. A few weeks later, he flashed a beautiful smile. When I would see him at pickup, I got to know him and his mother and while he still didn’t like to talk very much, his smile would be wide and his eyes would light up. His eyes lit up. For me.

3) I needed to get out of my comfort zone. Teaching has never been a career to which I aspired, and my first class was an exercise in restraint; I restrained myself from running out of the room. However, teaching a classroom full of three-year-old kids the chicken dance helps you get over yourself very quickly.

4) Speaking of getting over yourself, I needed that too. Far from my life of part-time freelance writing and Listen To Your Mother and TV appearances, and even the more pedestrian things like laundry, making dinner, and so on, there is this classroom.  I had to stop, focus, and BE in the moment. Reading the mood of the classroom is important when 11 little pairs of eyes are on you, and if they're not feeling it, when I had to adjust. Sometimes I added instruments, maracas, bells... anything to shake it up (literally).

Every week, my son had his music class on Tuesday with another teacher, and he would tell me all about class and I'd get ready for mine. Now my son and I can sing in Arabic, Mandarin, Ghanian, and Spanish, and we have a much larger musical repertoire to share.

And we can do a wicked chicken dance. 

Class dismissed.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Friday Favorites: May 15

Happy Friday!

Listen To Your Mother is over for the year. Touch-a-Truck is also finished. I am teaching my last preschool music class on Wednesday. I should be able to coast into the summer, right? 

In case you missed it, I was featured at the Washington Post's On Parenting blog on May 1. It's an essay about the ways I was raised by a feminist mother, and how I have translated some of those messages (and adjusted them) now that I'm the mother of a boy.

And Austin Woman magazine featured me and my Listen To Your Mother co-producer Leigh Ann Torres in this month's issue, and the writer followed up with rave reviews about the show.

Now, for some reading material for your weekend:

This essay from Kristen Howerton made me give my son extra snuggles this morning.

Speaking of kids growing up, this one from Katie Sluiter about completing her family is beautiful and introspective.

Wendy Wisner is one of my new favorite writers. I have never met her, but she seems to be the kind of mom I would like to have in my circle of friends. I love the way she loves her kids.

Lindsey Mead has long been one of my favorite writers. She's whip smart, and her pieces lead me to think about things in ways I hadn't before. This essay is about defining achievement and looking at your life through the lens of "resume virtues" vs "eulogy virtues".

This post from Rochelle Dukes Fritsch at BonBon Break is a wonderful perspective on interracial marriage and her hopes for the future.

In Baltimore, there is much healing and change to come. In the meantime, the Big Brothers Big Sisters program has seen a 3,000% increase in mentor applications, which is amazing.

Nobody writes about grief with more love and compassion than Anna Whiston-Donaldson. Heavy but hopeful. Beautiful, with joy too.

Are you a military spouse? These tips from Kristina Wright at are very helpful. 

Need more reading material? This list from Shell at Things I Can't Say contains several gems.

My dear friend Rachel Macy Stafford asked me to create a graphic reminder for her readers called "20 soul-building words for the ones you love".

Ready for some funny stuff? This one from Anna at My Life and Kids, about her worst day at work, is hilarious.  And this one from my friend Ava Love Hanna, featuring nursery rhymes with click-bait headlines, is awesome.  Just at the buzzer, before I published this, this one came in from Buzzfeed, and I was giggling all the way through [warning: copious 4-letter words].

* * *
I started reading a new e-book Lose the Cape that was just released by two bloggers in April. It contains real-life strategies for coping with everyday motherhood challenges, and I am loving it so far.  When I finish it, I'll offer more tips from the book.



Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Child + technology = so much to learn

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of OurPact.

* * * 
My five-year-old son knows what Facebook is and what it looks like, and he knows how to scroll through my Instagram photos. He will understand, in time, that social media is part of my livelihood.

What I also want him to understand, as he grows, is that social media is like a glossy advertisement in a magazine. It’s a slice of life not necessarily representing REAL life, with a capital R. The recent tragedy of Madison Holleran and the incongruence between her social media image and her real feelings reinforces that I need to teach my son about the pitfalls of social media. It can be the 21st-century version of "Keeping Up with the Joneses" and spurs comparisons to ghost realities.

Photo by Lynn Friedman, Flickr Creative Commons
The technology of computers in its infancy when I was a kid is vastly different now. It’s my job to keep up with it as much as I can, but even more importantly, I have to keep the lines of communication open. I can put blocks on apps, video, and internet content, but he’s going to be exposed to various forms of media through school and through friends and I can’t control all of it. Together, we must navigate and discuss issues as they come up, and tackle them.

When I finally got an iPad for Christmas last year, I asked a few of my mom friends about setting technology limits. They didn’t say anything about hard and fast rules for time limits, or specific ways to determine what was best. They used phrases like "everything in moderation" and “you'll find your own balance” and “use your best judgement.” That made sense to me.

So far, I haven’t worried much about his electronic consumption. But that’s the thing: technology moves very fast. There is no way to know what the popular social media channels will be when he’s old enough to have his own account. There are a scant eight years between now and the time he turns 13, the age that Facebook has set as a requested age minimum for an account.

Think about how much has changed in the last ten years. Facebook exploded. Then Twitter. The iPhone. The tablet. And the influx of social media channels competing for attention with the already-established ones means that eventually, something is going to stick. Today’s Ello, YikYak, Burn Note, or SnapChat will be either tomorrow’s Facebook or it will be as obsolete as a VCR. They become proficient in a network before anyone's ever heard of it, and when it becomes commonplace, they seem to abandon it.

Some of the things I want him to know are reminders for me, too:

1) Don't let social media be a substitute for real-life interaction. Get your face out of the phone.

2) Hold your life to your own set of standards and not to what is pictured in filtered Instagram photos.

3) Ensure that the face you are presenting to the world via social media is the one you want people to remember about you. Consider your privacy very carefully.

4) There is a lot of bad information and junk on the internet. Don't waste your time on it.

5) Stay away from online drama, but speak up when you see something unkind or dangerous. Manners and etiquette are important online, too.

I'm keeping my eye on sites like AskDocG, AgeCheq and CommonSenseMedia and Family Online Safety Institute for tips on the newest media and how to determine what is appropriate.

A friend recommended I check out an app called OurPact, and it has a lot of features I can use with my son as he grows, including internet blocking, social media blocking, time limits, even household chores. He starts kindergarten in the fall, and with school comes more responsibility, homework, and good sleep becomes even more necessary; his elementary school has an iPad for each child, and that means that I'll want to ensure that he is not on it constantly at home too.

For now, I'm learning, and then teaching as I go. With any luck, I will have set a good example for him to follow, and my monitoring of his computer and internet use will be a streamlined way to ensure that we're all on the same page.

* * * 

If you have any ideas for me, I would love to hear them! There's a lot I don't know. 

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of OurPact.

* * * 
OurPact is a tool for parents to harness the power of their child’s mobile device to their advantage. By allowing parents and children to set agreements and implement responsible habits into their daily routine, OurPact allows parents and children to use the world of mobile to strengthen their relationships through communication and compromise.

OurPact was born from the idea that responsibility can be taught through technology. Mobile device use can be hard to grapple with, so we have built OurPact with the functionality of family life in mind. We’re here to help you balance the risks and rewards of iOS and Android technology for your family, with ease.

Need a family contract? They have one for you here

Website  |  iTunes Store  | Android coming soon

Friday, May 1, 2015

Friday Favorites: May 1

Happy May Day, everyone! It's beginning to look a lot like summer where I am.

With a little boy deep into baseball right now, this one by Randi Olin at Brain, child struck a nerve.

Honest Mom is incredibly generous with her time and energy, offering help and support for mothers with anxiety and depression. Read this one if you are one of those moms.

Grown and Flown has a way of making me cry. And appreciate these moments, right now.

Shell's son is on the autism spectrum, and this description of the way she handles the labeling is very personal and thought-provoking.

Author Lesléa Newman's essay at Dame magazine, My mother always told me not to cry, is beautifully and lovingly crafted.

Does obituary writing sound morbid and terrible to you? Not to Heather Lende. I think you'll appreciate some of these lessons she learned from writing in the obit section.

Tissue alert. I'm going to the park now; thanks, Natalie.

Karma is a wonderful teacher. If I learn to simply not say the negative thing, even when the insult is hurled my way or my patience tested, my sleep remains peaceful and undisturbed. Even better, if I learn to greet the insult with cheerfulness, I’ve increased good karma in both directions! It’s a double bonus.
David Kipp

Great advice on having a strong relationship with your teenager by Michelle Lenhardt at The Mid. 

I don't care for the polar labels "free range" and "helicopter parenting" - I appreciate Carter Gaddis' take on finding balance within your own family.

This post by Rudri Bhatt Patel at Role Reboot on having an only child is beautifully written. 

Thought-provoking piece on working and mothering at Time magazine:"Working mothers who feel inadequate, even as they continue to work hard, may suffer from what Brene Brown, author of the bestseller Daring Greatly, calls the 'never enough' problem: a persistent, self-defeating belief that we will not be worthy or lovable until we are richer, thinner, more powerful, more successful, and so on. We are made to feel, she writes, 'that an ordinary life is a meaningless life.'"

And from my local paper, a very sweet human-interest piece about a 97-year-old volunteer at Dell Children's Hospital. Since my son was a patient at that very hospital this week, I can appreciate someone like Edmund.

* * *
In case you missed it, my Listen To Your Mother co-producer Leigh Ann Torres and I were live on a podcast at the Austin-American Statesman, and it's now live, along with a short video segment.

Radio and TV, too!  Here's my video on the KVUE morning show the day of our show last Saturday. I can't wait to share the videos of the cast with you, because they were amazing.

Today, I'm syndicated at Mom Babble with one of my favorite posts, Stuck in Someday. Check it out - I'm reminding myself now. 


Thursday, April 30, 2015

Local ABC affiliate morning show guest spot

Check it out!  I was a guest on Austin's ABC affiliate, KVUE news, on Saturday morning (April 25). I was asked to come on the show and talk about the Listen To Your Mother show, and GOOD NEWS - I didn't freeze up from camera fright.

Thank you for all of your support. 

Friday, April 17, 2015

Friday Favorites, April 17

Friday! It's one week until the Austin Listen To Your Mother show, and I'm so proud of this cast. They are brave and strong and bonding like mad over shoes and dresses backstage before their big moment. Please send them all of your good vibes from wherever you are.

And also, if you're in Austin, I'm helping to run the fourth annual Touch-a-Truck to benefit the Austin Children's Shelter in a few weeks, and it's looking like it's going to be HUGE.  We have at least 20 trucks coming for kids to climb on and get inside, and we have almost $50K in sponsorships. Helping these kids is worth all of the work.  

On to my favorite posts of the week:

Let's begin with some ridiculously adorable photos of babies dressed in awesome costumes. 
Gloriously geeky newborns

And these photos of kids playing in Jamaica. Sunshine and beauty. 

I could see how this tactic from Rachel Cox at BonBon Break could work for both spouses and kids.

Taya Dunn Johnson's story about parenting when it doesn't go according to plan is poignant and raw:
Peanut butter and jelly

Man, teaching your kids to stand up for themselves is hard. (Essay by Carter Gaddis at The Mid)

Pink is a rock star in more ways than one. I love the way she addresses her critics.

This post, Banks Staples Pecht's first published piece, is stunningly good. Her twins were a tiny, tiny one and a half pounds when they were born, and this is their survival story.

When others frustrate you, these tips from Leo Babauta are worth repeating.

This post from Wendy Wisner really resonated with me - mixing social media, friendship, and motherhood can result in conflicting feelings. She summed it up so well.

Kim Simon is one of my favorite writers, because she is honest and real and straight up. I appreciate what she is saying at The Mid about teaching her sons about sex.

My friend and Listen To Your Mother co-producer Leigh Ann Torres has a funny post at BonBon Break on passing the time while simultaneously attending an online defensive driving class and parenting three young kids.

Sarah Bunton had a high-risk pregnancy: she has Central Nervous System Lupus, Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome Type III Hypermobility, scoliosis and mitral valve prolapse. Her story at XOJane is harrowing but empowering.

* *  *
My big, big news this week is that I was chosen to be a BlogHer/SheKnows Voice of the Year for the second year in a row. This year's honored piece of writing is called The Four Letter Words I'm Teaching My Son, which debuted at Scary Mommy last year. I will be attending the BlogHer annual conference in NYC in July - let me know if you'll be there!

P.S.  BIG thanks are owed to my Listen To Your Mother Austin sponsors: Con'Olio (I can't cook without their 18-year balsamic and delicious olive oils), Book People, AHD Video, Casey Chapman Ross Photography (she is so fantastically talented), Molly Austin realty, Free Fun in Austin, LiveMom, and Special Addition.

Love, Kristin

Friday, April 10, 2015

Friday Favorites, April 10

In case you missed it:

This week, I debuted at The Mid for the first time, and if you haven't started reading The Mid and you're about my age, check it out! There is so much I relate to on that site. My essay is about realizing that I will never again hold my own newborn baby in my arms in this lifetime, and figuring out what else I have to look forward to instead.
What I think about when I see a pregnant woman

LiveMom asked me to cover my family's trip to Florida in a wrapup post on how to plan a MLB spring training trip. This one was really fun.

More reading for your enjoyment below.


These photos on the Today Show site are gorgeous, showing girls in all of their power and strength.

"I have a dream that everyone will look for the good side in each other." Sarah's heart and her kids' hearts are wonderful.

Amanda Magee has incredible writing talent and puts words together in ways I find gorgeous. Read this one at Medium, and then read more of her work at

One of my friends has been missing in action, and I have known her since we were 16, so I have been messaging her periodically to check on her. I finally heard from her this week, and she has been in a tough place. Tears streamed down my cheeks as I read her words and missed her. This is a beautiful expression of love to friends far away at The Mid. 

This essay at Brain, Child does not have a pretty bow tied around it, and it is a tough read, in many ways. But it's perfectly honest and written very well. 


Dana's post on raising a tween girl and remembering her own tween years is fantastically written and evocative.

My friend Arnebya lays it out in a way that only she can regarding Walter Scott and justice and racism. I'm proud to be her friend.

A 3000-mile road trip... with no iPad? No gadgets? I think I might have relented. But this post is making me think that maybe I should give my son the opportunity to be bored more often, too. 

Honest, raw, and powerful, on those moments of motherhood that are dark and scary, when they come. 

On kids and food allergies: "What I REALLY want you to know is that I could use your help and I need your understanding. I know that inviting my kid to the Birthday party is going to complicate things but please do not leave him out, it’s not his fault, just reach out to me, I make a mean vegan cupcake (no really) and I always bring wine." 

Melissa's "17 things I'd do differently as a parent" made me stop and think. Which one rings true for you?

On Parenting hosts great topics, like this one from Lisa of Grown and Flown: are we asking our kids to commit to a passion before they find it on their own? 


One doctor thinks he has found a major cause of SIDS, and his research could be groundbreaking.

The ingenuity of this community astounds me - the knitting skills of these women must be beyond amazing to be able to provide these tiny heart stents.

* * *

The Listen To Your Mother book is officially released! I am proud to be part of Ann Imig's nationwide team. 

The book Mommie Diarist, by Robyn Lane Books was also released this week, including one of my essays. It's a great week!

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