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Friday, September 13th, 2013
I just love author Elisa Nader. She’s a super-cool person, mom, writer and designer. I’ll just be honest, she was my student when I taught young adult novel writing in New York City. She was incredible then, and she’s incredible now. She just published her first YA book called, Escape from Eden.
Kirkus practically raved about Elisa’s work: ”In a harrowing and often disturbing adventure, two teen members of an exploitative cult try fleeing to safety…Mia’s story is not for the faint of heart. Its rewards, however, are many: fast-moving action, a capable heroine and a resolution that leaves plenty of room for a sequel.”
Rock on, Elisa. She wrote a guest post for me about how to be a mom and follow your dreams–something she knows a lot about.
“My husband texts me a photo of my daughter on the National Mall playing frisbee, or watching a video art installation at the Hirschorn, or hiking over the Billie Goat Trail, or tubing in Harper’s Ferry.
And where am I?
At home. Writing a manuscript. Or working on grassroots book publicity. Or catching up on the hours of my day-job work I may have missed because I had to swap those hours during the week to write. Because I’m a writer. And a mother. And I have a full time job. (Let’s not even mention the household upkeep, because, come on. The laundry can wait. Isn’t that what the back-of-the-drawer underwear is for?)
Please, though, let me be clear: I’m not complaining about writing. I’m not performing life-saving brain surgery. I’m not cleaning muck from a Porta Potty (although, being a mother, I’ve come close). I’m not doing a job that’s a threat to my health (unless I go all Hemingway, or Plath, or Fitzgerald, or… crap. Never mind). I’m at a laptop, writing. The most dangerous threat to my health is carpal tunnel and sitter’s butt.
But parenthood is full of tough choices, we all know that. But there are times those choices feel selfish—especially when they don’t contribute to the family monetarily and, right now, my writing isn’t adding anything significant to our bank account.
When I left my corporate job in 2008, I promised myself I’d finally revive my writing after years of atrophy, or at least try. I wrote at all hours. Balancing writing and life was easy because I hadn’t found a new job yet, and my daughter attended preschool.
But it didn’t last long.
By the time I’d started a new full time job (one that required me to commute to New York City weekly), my brain was melting out of my ears trying to juggle work/home/family/writing. I knew I should have stopped the writing, it would have made everything easier, and I’d feel less guilt. But giving up on my dream to become a published writer felt wrong; felt like I’d be cheating myself and, somehow, my daughter, too.
Thankfully, I married a very supportive husband who will take our daughter somewhere exciting for an afternoon so I can write. So, maybe I’m not with them on every adventure. Maybe my writing career isn’t exactly lucrative. Maybe I forget more items on my to-do list than I remember. But maybe, when she’s old enough, my daughter will see that the moment you give up is the moment you’ve cheated yourself out of your dream.
I’ll never regret following my dreams–and I wish the same for my daughter.”
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Thursday, August 22nd, 2013
The Casserole Queens have taken over my blog! Best-selling authors and frequent TV guest chefs Crystal Cook and Sandy Pollock tell you all about their new cookbook, getting kids to eat casseroles and even give you a super-easy and delicious recipe involving tater tots. Read on:
“Mealtime can become a battle between kids wanting their favorite foods and your desire to keep them healthy. We try to offer up menu items that can create some peace at the dinner table! For example, in our first book, The Casserole Queens Cookbook: Put Some Lovin’ in Your Oven, we took a kid favorite (Mac & Cheese) and gave it a unique twist. At first glance, our Lunch Lady Doris’ Spicy Mac and Cheese has all the things kids love, pasta and cheese – yet we sneak in some broccoli and sun-dried tomatoes to help balance out the dish. We Queens are sneaky like that!
We pull the same trick in our new book,The Casserole Queens Make-a-Meal Cookbook, with our Gluten Free Corn Dog Casserole! Just the smell alone will get the kids to the table in time for dinner. Maybe even the neighbor kids. Okay, forget the kids, who are we kidding? We love to eat it too! Casseroles are great for disguising vegetables, as they are layered with in the dish. You kids won’t even know you hit them with some vitamins!
Here are some other suggestions for kid-friendly meals from our Make-A-Meal Cookbook. And keep reading below for our Q&A with resident book reviewer and mom, Kristen Kemp. Then, below that, check out our recipe for Tater Tot Casserole! (more…)
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budget meals, casseroles, celebrity chef, Crystal Cook, kids meals, Sandy Pollock, tater tot casserole, The Casserole Queens, The Casserole Queens Make-a-Meal Cookbook | Categories:
Best Sellers, Cookbooks, Guest Blogs, Mom Must Read, Must Read, Parenting Advice, Popular Books, Q&A With Authors
Tuesday, August 20th, 2013
Today, a new book comes out that pregnant women won’t want to miss. Prolific writer and Harvard-educated economist Emily Oster has released Expecting Better: Why the Conventional Pregnancy Wisdom is Wrong–and What You Really Need to Know. She’s such a brilliant researcher and wordsmith that I’m just going to let her explain it in her own words:
“Making the right decisions during pregnancy and birth isn’t easy. Like many pregnant women I wanted to be sure I was doing the right thing, but I struggled to get good information about what that was. My doctor had a lot of rules about what I could and couldn’t do, but rarely was able to back those rules up with any evidence. In the end, I found I had to use my training in economics and statistics to sort through the data and find the real facts. Because you can’t make a good decision with bad information.
When I got the real facts, I found that sometimes I agreed with my doctor’s rules and recommendations, but not always. By getting the real facts – going back to the original medical studies and learning what the data really has to tell us – I was able to be more confident in my choices. And when friends came to ask about their own pregnancies, the data was able to help them be more confident, too.”
Thanks, Emily! Now read her thoughtful answers to my questions–including what she thinks is the most important advice for preggers people to take: (more…)
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alcohol during pregnancy, conventional wisdom, emily oster, expecting better, pregnancy, pregnancy myths | Categories:
Guest Blogs, Mom Must Read, Must Read, Parenting Advice, Popular Books, Q&A With Authors
Tuesday, July 30th, 2013
Ex-Commando Neil Sinclair recently wrote a great new guidebook for dads with the apt title, Commando Dad: Basic Training. When Prince William was expecting His Royal Highness Prince George of Cambridge (why didn’t I think up a name like that for my progeny?), he was seen reading this no-nonsense military manual. It’s obviously a very masculine book–but with a super sweet message. Sinclair believes all dads should be hands-on. Ten-hut.
Author Sinclair explains what’s so special about Commando Dad in a guest post for Parents below:
“I live by the maxim that if a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well. Every job I have ever done – Royal Engineer Commando, teacher, Security Guard at the UK Mission to the UN, stay-at-home dad and childminder – I have always given 100 percent. When I first became a new dad 11 years ago, it was a daunting experience. I’d been with my wife every step of the way. We went to classes, and we read books. But that prepared us for the birth and not for the whole life that came afterward. Suddenly, I had a physically and emotionally exhausted wife and a new baby that could only communicate with me by crying. I felt a huge responsibility and wanted to step up, but I also felt as if I was being sidelined: The childcare books, when they did mention me, assigned me to the role of rubbing my wife’s back and telling her how well she did. I knew I had more to offer than that.
So I fell back on my Commando training: my ability to adapt, improvise and overcome. As I got to grips with the basics I did what came naturally – I applied military precision to the task. I got essential kit and supplies; I got organized; and I got us all into a routine. And this approach helped me to create a well-ordered and happy family unit and laid the foundations for the manual I would later write for new dads, Commando Dad: Basic Training.
That’s not to say it was easy. It was never easy, and it still isn’t. But often, the things that are really worth doing aren’t easy. I love being a hands-on dad. I love spending time with the troopers, and I take a huge amount of pride in my unit and how far I’ve come as a dad in the past 11 years.
When I first became a stay-at-home dad, people presumed it was a temporary arrangement until I got a job, not a conscious decision my wife and I had made. Although society’s perception of dads has improved over the last decade, we still don’t always get the easiest of rides. Often the only time you hear about dads and childcare is in a negative way: Dads aren’t spending enough time with the kids, aren’t helping with childcare, don’t instinctively pick up the basics, etc. But from my experience –being a dad, running a club for dads and speaking to new dads on the Commando Dad forums – there’s a lot of dads out there that do want to be more involved, but they don’t know how. And too often, they’re made to feel like it won’t come naturally – after all there is no such term as ‘paternal instinct’.
My advice to new dads is to have the confidence to be hands-on from Day One. There is no ‘one’ way of doing things – as long as you love and care for your trooper, you’re doing it right. Don’t believe the hype. The only thing we dads can’t physically do is breastfeed. No dad who has ever held his baby for the first time can deny the powerful flood of emotions to love and protect – that’s parental instinct right there. Seek out other new dads – in the real world or online – and create a network to both support you through the trying times and share your inevitable successes. Commando Dad:Basic Training can give you straightforward, accessible advice on all of the practical skills you’ll need but you’ll have to supplement that information with a lot of hands on experience.
So have the confidence to step up, dads. You’re simply too important not too. To your baby trooper you are somewhere between hero, role model and protector – and you owe it to yourself and to them to be the best dad you can be. Right now.”
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Thursday, July 25th, 2013
Fiction alert: I hear a new book called The Comfort of Lies is a great beach read. Told in alternating points of view, the novel reveals the darkest and most private thoughts of three very different women who are all connected to a 5-year-old girl: Tia, the birth mother; Caroline, the adopted mother; and Juliette, the wife of the birth father. The year their lives collide, the women must confront their choices while discovering sobering truths about their relationships and most importantly, themselves. Author Randy Susan Meyers explores the complications of love and collateral damage of infidelity, as well as universal themes of motherhood, identity, trust and forgiveness.
Below, Randy tells us how she writes about motherhood–the good, the bad and the very, very ugly.
“Between perfect mothers and flawed (real) moms lay murky truth: We always love our children; we don’t always love being mothers. We’re M&M’s, our shells of goodness covering malleable centers of insecurity, always seeking evidence we’re not alone.
Great books of being raised by evil parents abound; rarer are authentic stories of imperfect mothers, written without cover of apologies for the character’s negative thoughts like, She’s drunk! She’s crazy! I understand this all too well. Writer-mothers also fear judgment, and who’s less revered than bad moms? But oh, how soothing to learn one’s not alone in ambivalence. We need reminding that feelings don’t equal actions, and that angry inside thoughts (even while murmuring soothing words to a screeching infant, calming a toddler in midst of a tantrum, biting back screams while coping with surly fourteen-year-olds) don’t define us.
A million things engender inside thoughts: Our checkbook’s empty. We hate building Lego castles. Maybe we’re divorced and distracted by fantasies of sparkly sex with a new beau—or simply too exhausted from a day of working at home or outside to make a single pan of brownies for that class party.
Novels capturing these moments from the mother’s point of view saved me when my children were small. Books like I Don’t Know How She Does It by Allison Pearson and Jump At The Sun by Kim McLarin. Brave writers led me through the thicket of motherhood ambivalence. Even now, with grown children, I feel the push-pull of parenthood and work. Mothering isn’t just a 24- hour job, it lasts a lifetime, and there’s always more you can give, no matter how old your children. Toni Morrison said it in Beloved: “Grown don’t mean nothing to a mother. A child is a child. They get bigger, older, but grown? What’s that suppose to mean? In my heart it don’t mean a thing.”
I had my first daughter at 21; I don’t remember what it’s like to be an adult without children. How could I not write about mothering? Memories of revelatory books still bring comfort, but writing the core of raising children may be the toughest write of all. We’re not forgiven transgressions of motherhood. Saying everyday truths aloud—stretch marks, boredom—is difficult, but the harder truths sometimes feels impossible. How to reveal that the health, happiness, and success of our children make or break us every day and forever? Done right, motherhood begs the question, do you mind stepping aside for a lifetime? This is the truth I want to tell.”
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