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Tuesday, April 15th, 2014
Are your kids a-holes? Be serious for a second. Sure, you love them a lot. But sometimes, don’t they act like scumbags? Mine do. Just yesterday, I was coming home from a very long day at work. As I walked in the door, I caught my 8-year-old daughter unplugging my iPhone charger in the kitchen. And replacing it with her iPod charger that does not work.
I know you know. And so does author Karen Alpert who just released her first book, I Heart My Little A-Holes. She also runs the funny and candid website called Baby Sideburns, a popular site dedicated to tell the truth–the whole truth–about raising children.
Karen just wants us all to get real about parenting–and laugh our asses off. Exclusively for Parents readers, she wrote the following letter to her future 18-year-old daughter.
A Letter to My Daughter in the Future: Minus that sappy crap you see on Huff Post
by Karen Alpert
‘To my daughter when she turns 18 (many many years from now):
Well, hey there, kiddo. Remember me, the mom you used to love but now probably hate with every bone in your teenage body? If you’re anything like the little shit I was at your age, you’re barely speaking to me right now, much less listening to my brilliant words of wisdom.
The way I see it I’ll be hitting menopause at about the same time you’re in the thick of puberty, so basically we’re F’ed, so I figured I better write you this letter now before we’re not speaking to each other. Then again, if I’m wrong and we’re like totally besties, I’ll just tell you this shit over a pint of Ben & Jerry’s and give you this letter so you’ll have it in writing too.
Before you move away from home (at which point I’ll be locked up in the bathroom, drowning my tears in a bottle of vodka), I wanted to make sure to pass along some words of advice to you. Here are a few things to do in your early adulthood before life sucks the life out of you:
1. Get shitfaced once in a while. Some of my best bonding moments were when I had one (translation: four) too many cocktails with my girlfriends. Just don’t do any of the following while you’re shitfaced: Walk home alone, drive drunk or sleep with a guy. Even if he’s like ridiculously hot. No, not because he might turn out to be fugly when you’re sober. Consider this shit: If he’s that attractive, guess what else might be attracted to him? Herpes, genital warts, and crabs. Going home with a hangover the next morning is doable. Going home with the Red Lobster menu crawling all over your hoo-ha not so much.
2. And while we’re on the subject of bonding, try to make a lot of great friends in your 20s. Here are a few things that happen when you’re a young adult: You go out a lot, you drink, and you hang out on people’s couches. As you get older these things happen less and less. Not that you can’t bond with a friend over a stinky diaper change. It just doesn’t quite bring you together the same way dropping your pants to pee in an alley does. Not that I’ve done that.
3. And speaking of dropping your pants, let’s talk about your career choice. Yeah, picking something you love is important, but here’s some shit the career counselors won’t tell you. You know how you say one day you want to get married and have babies and all that junk and give me little grandbabies I can cuddle and love and hand back to you when they take a shit? If you can, pick a job that’s going to be flexible with hours one day and let you work from home. There’s no such thing as a part-time investment banker. Or a part-time cardiac surgeon. They’re fabulous jobs, and yeah, I’d be proud as hell to say my daughter is doing a heart transplant, but I’d also be watching your kiddo all day, and I’m not sure how cool it would be for me to walk into your operating room and say, “Here, take your rug rat. He just made a doodie and I ain’t changing it.”
4. Notice how in that last paragraph I said one day you want to get married? I didn’t say you want to find a husband. Yeah, if you’re a lesbian, just tell us. Don’t beat around the bush. Wait, yes, beat around the bush, but tell us you’re beating around the bush. It’ll actually make us feel better, especially your dad, who has a gun ready for the first guy who asks for your hand in marriage.
5. Which is a great segue to dating. Whether you’re into men or women, you’re going to date a bunch of assholes along the way. They might break up with you in a text message or cheat on you with their ex who they broke up with in a text message. And they’ll probably make you cry and feel like crapola. Just know that they are not a waste of time. They are all there to teach you what you DON’T want in a partner.
6. Because one day your boobs will droop so low they touch your ankles, and your elbows will make you wonder whether you’re one-quarter elephant, and your eyesight will be so bad you’ll fail to notice your one-haired goatee until it gets tangled in your necklace, and that’s when you’ll want a partner who’s not going to throw up in their mouth a little when they see you naked. You want to end up with someone who thinks you’re more gorgeous than the day you first met.
7. And one last thing. Even if you’re not talking to me right now, know that you can always tell me anything. ANYTHING. I’ve probably been there myself, even if I never told you about it. I might want to kick the shit out of you and lock you in a room forever, but I won’t actually do it. I will always be there for you (with a bottle of something hard if you’re twenty-one or a pint of something chocolatey if you’re not). I love you.
Mommy (Of course I realize by now you’re probably calling me Mom. Or Shithead.)
For more funny stories, you’ve got to flip through this quick and organized little book, I Heart My Little A-Holes. Oddly, it will make you appreciate the sh!theads you have at home.
What career is your child destined for? Click to find out.
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Thursday, March 27th, 2014
Kit Chase! One of the sweetest Etsy artists ever writes about her new children’s book that Publisher’s Weekly loves and also about her awesome Etsy shop. She even created exclusive paper dolls for all of us to print at home at the end of this post. (See a special offer as well.)
“My husband, Adam, and I own and operate the Etsy shop, Trafalgar’s Square, where we sell my hand-painted designs as prints, wall decals, and, soon-to-be-released greeting cards. Adam does all the operating (printing, packaging, shipping and communication), and I get the fun job of coming up with new designs and illustrations. My work on Etsy caught the attention of both my agent and editor—both of whom reached out to me separately through the site—and ultimately led to my first picture book contract.
Oliver’s Tree is my first picture book (it will be in stores March 20 of this year!). When I first started work on the story idea, we had two little girls with a third baby girl getting ready to join the party. We had just moved from a teeny, cramped apartment into a little house with an enormous yard and a tree. What a tree! With gnarled, low-hanging branches and big, shady leaves, that tree became the children’s favorite friend. As I watched my girls trying to climb it “all by themselfs,” it reminded me of my own childhood of thwarted tree-climbing attempts. Standing on tip-toe at the foot of the tree, hugging the trunk, and waiting expectantly for something magical to happen that would send me high up into the branches. Or just waiting there with arms stretched, looking expectantly up. And waiting. Or, the inevitable, actual tree-climbing attempt, that ended with me sliding down the rough bark on scraping hands and knees. That tree brought it all back to me. So, when it came time to write a children’s story, it of course had to be about three friends, and what better play-thing for them to have than a tree?
With three little girls all under 7 (and as I write this, yet another baby girl on the way—maybe we should start a water polo team?), and writing and illustrating books, all on top of dreaming up new illustrations for the shop, things have a tendency to range on the side of um…shall we say crazy-fun? Most of the time, it feels like we’re running something like Alice in Wonderland’s Mad Tea Party in Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s upside down house. The wee hours of the morning are my greatest ally. Laundry is my nemesis. I do a lot of brainstorming for my books and illustrations while watching my children play and interact with one another, and I do most of my sketching in the car when we go on family outings. Not exactly a traditional lifestyle, but it’s definitely stimulating. And jolly.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the past few years, it’s: Save the spotless-house-look for Pinterest and photo shoots. As a parent, you’re in the middle of the biggest creative process of your life, creating and shaping a real, live person and helping them reach their potential. Real life is pretty messy, and as any artist will tell you, creating a work of art is never a pretty sight. But the end result of creating art or children makes the creative chaos so worth it. Besides, you can always tidy up once your little art project is asleep.”
Parents.com readers get an exclusive discount code for 15 percent off entire purchase from trafalgarssquare.etsy.com
Enter coupon code PARENTS at checkout to receive the discount. The code expires April 21, 2014.
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Etsy, Kit Chase, Olive's Tree, Trafalgar Square | Categories:
Children's Books, Crafts, Guest Blogs, Mom Must Read, Mommy Bloggers, Must Read, Parenting Advice, Picture Books, Popular Books
Wednesday, March 19th, 2014
On the Edge of Insanity by Valerie Smith is a deep memoir about a mother who was sexually abused and really struggles to raise her children. Read about her story in her own words, below. Note: Valerie Smith is a pseudonym–you’ll understand why. And read more here about how to protect your child from a predator.
“This book is a journey of myself. I was middle-aged single mother who had a mental breakdown which was brought on by the sexual abuse I suffered as a child. My children were 3 and 6 when all hell broke loose, and I believed that with therapy I would be able to help My family progress emotionally and all move on to a better life.
It did not happen that way–regression therapy took 19 years. By the time I was given a clean bill of health, my children were in their twenties.
Before therapy, I had a desire to sexually abuse my baby boy. It’s true. But I didn’t want that to happen. It took immense strength not to harm him. Looking back, it was the biggest hurdle I had to bear. Therapy helped me get through it and never touch him inappropriately.
During those years of treatment, I was put in solitary confinement three separate times. First for two weeks, then three weeks and then finally a stay of three months, starting with being thrown into a padded cell and a new course of medication, all in psychiatry units. I was diagnosed initially with schizophrenia and then as a psychotic depressive in remission. In addition to regression therapy, I had a course of a six-week sex abuse therapy, and then I came to terms with the fact that I had been sexually abused by my father. I was always aware that my uncle and neighbor had sexually abused me, but it took longer to admit that my father did it to me, too. With this knowledge , my fight for survival intensified and, as my father was dead, I was unable to confront him.
Being raised in a large family, I longed for affection and emotional fortitude. I tried to discuss my findings with my family, but on my older brother showed compassion.
Finally, after those years of struggling to care for my children, I achieved mental fortitude, and my goal of becoming a good mother in every way.
If you’ve been abused, this is real. You need help with your darkest and most depressing thoughts. Ask someone. Find help. Reach out.
If you notice signs of sexual abuse in any child, speak up. Talk to someone, anyone. Most importantly, always go with gut feelings.
Let’s stop sexual abuse right now.”
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Tuesday, March 18th, 2014
Prison Baby author Deborah Jiang-Stein was born in prison addicted to heroin just like her mother was. Deborah spent her first year of life there and eventually went into the foster care system and got adopted. Today, she is a national speaker and founder of The unPrison Project, a nonprofit working to empower and inspire incarcerated women and girls with life skills and mentoring to plan and prepare for successful lives after prison. She’s the author of the brand new memoir, Prison Baby (Beacon Press.)
Today, one of her biggest roles is mother. Here’s what she has to say about teaching her daughters to stand up for themselves–even if they need to throw a punch
“When one of my daughters was in third grade or so, I got a call from her school’s aftercare program that alarmed me. She’d punched a boy in the face and split his lip open. When I picked her up, the teacher pulled my daughter and me aside and reminded us about the no hitting rule. The aftercare worker didn’t know the reason for the incident. So at the time I just agreed, and repeated back the words, “No hitting.”
As she and I walked out of the building, she cried, hugged my waist and said, “You always told me that if my body was threatened, I should fight back.” I didn’t remember that I’d said that, but it sounds like me.
Right then I knew there was another story behind the story. As it turns out, two of her classmates, both boys, had pinned her down and had teased her about crushing on another boy. All in fun, and kids play around like this. But I’ve raised my two daughters as fierce, gentle warriors. I’m raising them to hold love and kindness in the highest esteem and also to stand up for what they believe. And to physically defend themselves if they are physically attacked. It’s survival—how simple is that?
If she’d been a boy, would I’ve been called into school? We don’t expect girls to scrap around in a fight. We don’t expect them to compete with boys either.
A few years earlier in a school parent conference, her homeroom teacher, a socially-conscious instructor who we adored, made me a proud mother when she said: “Your daughter’s a hard worker and a delight in class. “
“But,” the teacher went on, ”whenever we lineup in the hall for transition time, she fights her way to the front of the line.”
I remembered my school days when the boys would rumble around in the hall and the girls lined up nicely waiting for instructions from the teacher. I was a rumbler, too.
I asked the teacher if any other girls did this, or just my daughter. Turns out, just her, along with most of the boys.
“Are you speaking to the boys’ parents about their scrapping around too?” I asked the woman.
We both sat in a silent teaching moment. “No,” she said. “Good point. I haven’t talked to the boys’ parents about their sons ruckus in line.”
Social expectations carve deep into our parenting and teaching. I’m raising my girls to show up as gentle and kind and fierce human beings, all in the same bundle. From generation to generation, I learned this from my progressive parents, and I’m sure also from my incarcerated birth mother with whom I spent one year in prison where I was born. But it was a year where I’m sure women surrounded me with love and strength, wisdom and kindness.”
Read the rest of her story in Prison Baby.
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Tuesday, March 11th, 2014
Cool book alert: Chineasy by ShaoLan, a successful mom entrepreneur and now the author of a book that makes Chinese easy for kids–and their parents. See what she has to say below, and check out a character from the text:
“The Chinese language has long been considered the most difficult major language to learn, largely on account of the vast number and complexity of the characters. Being a Taiwanese native now living in London, I am acutely aware of this fact. When I began to teach my British-born children Chinese, I realized just how difficult Chinese characters are for a non-Chinese native speaker to learn. It was like torture for my kids! So I spent many years looking for a fun and easy way to teach them how to read Chinese. After years of searching, I realized that none of the methods out there were engaging or efficient enough. So I did what any entrepreneur would do, I created my own method to learn how to read Chinese characters.
I created a methodology that breaks down thousands of Chinese characters into a few hundred base building blocks. When these building blocks are combined, they form compounds that can in turn be combined to create phrases. Through this method learners can quickly build a large vocabulary of characters with very little effort.
By making the characters pictographic and by explaining their history I found that my children could more actively retain what they were learning. The illustrations gave the alien forms of Chinese characters a frame work in which to be views. This started with simple characters such as fire 火 and mountain 山. But once a child knows these, it is not a big jump for them to learn that a burning mountain is a volcano 火山. My first book which will be released on March 10th features just over 400 different characters. Once I had finished writing this book my children knew all of them and that was only through including them in the artistic process of selecting one interpretation of the character out of the 6 or 7 provided by the designers. I think what appeals to them about the illustrations is how graphic they are. They are colourful and they are simple – some are also quite cute. When looking for artists to illustrate the characters I looked at a lot of different possibilities, but most were too fussy or too Chinese looking. My children were born in the UK and so Western styles of illustration appealed to them more. I have found that applying this modern and universal aesthetic to the characters allows people to abandon the preconceptions they have about the language.”
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