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My eldest daughter is a passionate person, and she loves me passionately.

It’s a sweet-sounding statement, I know, but the reality is that it is also overwhelming. Although she is the opposite of a wallflower when out in the world and away from me, if given the option, she’d like to be physically attached to me 24-7. She pushes her little sister out of the way to get the first hug every time I come in the door. She kisses me with more force than is comfortable. I have spent two years of preschool and a year of kindergarten peeling her off my body each day to get her into the door.

“Oh, that’s so nice,” another mom said to me, smiling kindly, after one of these intense drop-off sessions in the hallway. “Enjoy it while it lasts.” And I do try, but here’s my confession: sometimes I don’t enjoy it at all.

Don’t get me wrong, of course her passion is part of what I love about her. But sometimes it drives me crazy. If you’ve ever had one of those borderline-desperate teenage boyfriends who hangs around more than he should, you know that being loved so intensely can be both flattering and suffocating. The difference with kids, of course, is that breaking up is not an option. You can’t give them the “It’s not you, it’s me” speech or tell them to take a hike. Instead, you must learn to navigate the tidal wave of emotion they send your way, to weather the weight of that constant need, without crushing their spirit in the process.

Would I have chosen to have such a passionate kid? I’m not sure. But that’s what I got. Someday, I know, this six-year-old of mine will be fourteen and her fervor for me will wane. In fact, she may refuse to let me near her. That concept is hard to fathom. Will she honestly not be underfoot every time I turn around? Not want to lay on top of me when we watch a movie? Not care if she gets the first hug any more, or whether I’m the one who picks her up after school today?

You more experienced parents know the answer, and in my heart, so do I.

So what do I do? I try to remember that during these very early years, I’m helping her become who she’s meant to be, and that her ardent nature helps define her. I try to think of what exciting things she might do in the world, once her passion is not so tightly tied to me. I do my best to be generous with this person who loves me madly and unconditionally, offering her my affection, my reassurance, and those constant hugs and kisses, even when I’m not totally in the mood to give them. Because I know there are times when I need all of that from her, too…and in those moments, I should be thankful I’ve got–for now–an unlimited supply.

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This month, Seattle Magazine features my new book, Mama’s Big Book of Little Lifesavers. So pleased that both my kitchen and me look clean and presentable, which is not normally the case. Success! (And of course, I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t say:  the book is perfect any moms on your holiday list! It’s available on amazon or from my alma mater, Chronicle Books.) Enjoy.

A New Book Offers Helpful Advice for Parents

A local mom has published a helpful guide for preserving time, energy and money while parenting.


Image Credit: Adam Reitano

Ballard mom and publishing consultant Kerry Colburn has a knack for dispensing the kind of useful, no-nonsense advice that every parent wants and needs. Her newest book,Mama’s Big Book of Little Lifesavers: 398 Ways to Save Your Time, Money, and Sanity(Chronicle Books, $14.95), published this past April, is an easy stocking stuffer for the moms and dads on your list, and offers a big assist with sage tips, including a few for navigating the holiday season.

TIP #1: Want a good place to hide Santa’s gifts from curious kids? Zip them up inside stored luggage.

TIP #2: Start a tradition: For every item on a child’s Christmas list, one old toy (or more!) must be donated to someone in need.

TIP #3: Find a good sale? Stock up on extras of a favorite toy, book or doll. Keep these on hand for birthday parties for the rest of the year and skip the last-minute run-around.

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Hope you enjoy my new column from this month’s Seattle’s Child. Would love to hear what traditions you’re starting with your family this year–big or small!

Last Christmas, my five-year-old had exactly three things on her list for Santa: a diary, a set of jacks, and a Pillow Pet.

I have to admit, that seemed a little skimpy to me. So throughout the coming weeks, I found myself offering suggestions and pointing out things in catalogs, trying to bulk up her order. Did she want a jewelry box? New slippers? A Barbie? Finally, a more experienced mom helped to snap me out of it. “Are you crazy?” she asked. “The day’s coming when you have to outbid everyone on eBay to get a specific-model-number Lego set, so enjoy the simplicity while it lasts.”

I did a very quick 180 that day, and it got me thinking about how I present the idea of the holidays to my kids. Suddenly, I saw what an opportunity I had in front of me. With a new or young family, Christmas is a clean slate. My five- and two-year-old girls, for example, had no lofty expectations of how many gifts they would receive, nor did they have set ideas of what our activities should be. They didn’t even know what Christmas dinner ought to be! What they were excited about was the ideaof Christmas – colored lights, time off from school, treats, the chance of snow, Santa on the roof. Did it matter to them whether their gifts totaled $30 or $300, whether we went to big-ticket performances or a neighborhood puppet show? Not in the slightest. It was up to me to show them what the holidays look like for our family.

It’s time to take advantage of this, people. For many of us, becoming parents means that for the first time, we get to start our own traditions in our own houses. Even if we’ve flown home to the east coast all of our lives, when babies come, we often get a free pass to nest with our own family and do our own thing. Finally, we can have lasagna and martinis for Christmas dinner if we want, and no one will be the wiser! We can watch Christmas Vacation instead of It’s a Wonderful Life! Halleluiah! It’s funny, then, how we often find ourselves simply repeating the familiar traditions we grew up with – even those we don’t like.

“The formal Christmas dinner was always stressful at my house, growing up,” shares a dad I know. “It was my least favorite thing as a kid. Yet somehow, I instigated it myself because it seemed like what I was supposed to do once I had a family.” After killing themselves by pulling this off with a newborn, the next year they started their own tradition: a self-serve potluck lunch and a batch of Bloody Marys, which allowed for more mingling and less prep and clean-up. It’s now a Christmas day tradition at their house, and their whole family loves it.

My advice to you this year is to take a moment to think about what memories are most meaningful for you and your partner, and to talk about what you want the holidays to be, for you and for your kids. You might settle on some small things, like a cookie-making party with your neighbors, or bigger ones, like working at a soup kitchen on Christmas Eve. The important thing is that you put intention behind it, and realize that you have a rare opportunity to start annual rituals that your kids will look forward to … at least until they have their own kids and decide to change everything.

Here are some ideas I’m working toward this year. I’d love to hear yours.

  • Shop local – Hit our many wonderful craft fairs and neighborhood stores, and if it’s age-appropriate, involve your child in choosing gifts for others. It beats schlepping the kids to a big shopping center any day.
  • Introduce charity – Involve your kids in the concept of giving, from picking a needy child’s name off a tree to weeding out toys to donate. A friend of mine takes her kids and their red wagon around her block every year to gather food bank donations from neighboring houses.
  • Get together – Start simple, homespun traditions that gather friends or neighbors, like cookie decorating, making snowflakes for the windows, or having a progressive party.
  • Get creative – Save money on wrap, cards, and décor by having your children decorate butcher paper with markers and glitter that you probably already have on hand. It’s an activity and a money-saver – plus your kids will be proud and the recipients charmed.
  • Experience gifts – In lieu of an expensive present, choose a shared experience that involves time together, like a ski trip, a membership to the aquarium, or theater tickets.

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Love it or hate it, a new school year is starting. In honor of the season of Trapper Keepers, #2 pencils, new shoes, and teary goodbyes, here’s my new column for Seattle’s Child.

My eldest daughter started kindergarten last year, and I’m not gonna lie, it was an adjustment. She summed up the experience quite handily at the end of the first week: “There’s too much hustle-and-bustle, too much blah blah blah, and NOT ENOUGH MOM.”

My kindergartener, Sept 2010

I have to say, it was hard to argue. We believe in lax, unscheduled summers for our kids and I work less for those months, so we get into a nice rhythm of picnics, parks, and pajamas worn past noon. Then suddenly, it’s that time of year again, when all the backpacks in the universe land in the front of stores with a resounding thud. No more lazy popsicle days in the backyard; it’s time for alarm clocks, homework, and yes, hustle-and-bustle.

No matter who you are, where you live, or what kind of parent you imagine yourself to be (helicopter, free range, or something in between), there is one great leveler that hits us all in the gut in the same way. I’m referring, of course, to the day your first child starts kindergarten.

It doesn’t matter whether your child has been in full-time daycare since infancy, went to years of preschool, or has never left your side, the start of “real school” is a major milestone, fraught with emotion for everyone. Even if you have honestly longed for this day, something happens when you see your child heading out with a huge backpack, new shoes, and a lunchbox: you can’t help but picture the baby you rocked in your arms, the toddler who stripped her clothes off in public places, the preschooler who put marbles in his nose. How did your child become so grown up? And how have you gone from total novice to kindergarten parent?

When my daughter took the plunge, even though she had had three years of preschool, it was akin to watching her learn to walk. Suddenly, she was moving away from me and toward something else. And just like with those first toddling steps, a million little steps followed in quick succession as the year progressed.

Drop-offs that had been painfully dramatic got less so. Physical feats were tackled in short order: scooter, monkey bars, jump rope. Letters that were previously jumbled all over the page suddenly began to form (relatively) straight lines. Friends were made. My daughter began telling funny stories, described favorite parts of the day, and proudly showed me the way to the cafeteria, library, and office by herself.

But she also shared the downside: playground politics that left her the odd one out, hurtful comments about something she wore, insufferable classroom activities (calendar math!), and more than anything, the overwhelming longing to be home with her family. “I have to go here every day?” she figured out, aghast, about two weeks in. “Are you kidding me?”

It’s impossible to tackle the transition to school without some anxiety on both sides. But, as with any new routine, consistency and a positive outlook (even on days you aren’t feeling it) go a long way. In the hectic, stressful moments of the morning routine, stop for a second to take a deep breath, hug your child, and tell him or her how proud you are—and that you understand starting something new isn’t always easy, even for the grown-ups. Let your child know that even when you’re apart, you are always together. Instead of rushing out the door, offer that extra reassurance and affection that they might not even know they need. (After all, being a few minutes late isn’t the end of the world.)

Remember, some kids take to kindergarten like fish to water, others take longer to adjust and need more support along the way. The same goes for the parents. No matter how you feel when the classroom door shuts on that first day – elated, free, nostalgic, lonely, excited, blue – it’s okay. This is but one of many big moments yet to come, and you’re doing a beautiful job. After all, you’ve raised a kindergartener!

What was the transition to kindergarten like for your family? We’d love to hear about it!

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I was pleased as punch to see a great piece on Mama’s Big Book of Little Lifesavers in the Chicago Tribune today–and I love the tips she included! Check out the article here.

Also, if you’re in Seattle, I hope you’ll stop by my event on Thursday, May 19, from 3:30-5:30pm at Twirl Cafe on Queen Anne Avenue, brought to you by Queen Anne Books. Kids can play for free in their awesome play space, and mamas can enjoy some drink specials. Win-win! Oh, and I’ll be signing books, too. More info can be found here.

Thanks for your support!

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As my new book hits shelves in time for Mother’s Day, I’m thankful for all the moms from coast to coast who offered up their little lifesavers: the tips, tricks, and techniques that help them navigate each day with little kids. We all know the shortcuts we come up with–the ones that (hallelujiah!) actually work–things that seem small but end up making a big difference. I’ve always wished there was a place to collect all that intel from as many moms as possible, because my goal is always to help all new parents walk a smoother path…even if it’s just getting that preschooler buckled into the carseat in under five minutes for once.

Having the book in my hands makes me  think about how I’m continually amazed by (and thankful for) the easy generosity of other parents. Until I became one, I didn’t realize how much I’d come to rely on it. Say what you will about “sanctimommies”–those legendary catty moms who look down their noses when you feed your child Rice Krispie treats at 9am so she’ll let you talk on the phone–I don’t think I’ve actually ever encountered one in the flesh. (Perhaps I just surround myself with the right kind of company?) What I’ve run into, time and again, are parents who help me out without hesitation. My parent friends listen when I need to vent, offer to babysit when I’m sick, go out drinking with me when I have cabin fever, and would line up at my door if I needed them–even though they have their own busy and chaotic lives. But beyond that, I’m continually touched by the parents who are utter strangers but still lend a hand. I have to say, it gives me a boost of faith in humanity. Other parents have opened doors for me when my hands are full, loaned me a diaper when my bag is full of everything but, offered cuts in the bathroom line when my toddler was jumping up and down, held my babies on airplanes and in security lines when I’m struggling, and given me advice on babysitters, rashes, playgrounds, and preschools–for no reason except they want to help. In my experience, they always deliver, and are happy to do so.

I am continually thankful for these little kindnesses, which can sometimes make the difference between a frustrating morning and a good one when you’re negotiating the world with small kids. So I strive to do the same, to keep that karma going. I offer little things whenever I can: wipes, band-aids, sunscreen, Goldfish, an extra juice box, advice when asked (okay, sometimes when not asked). Sometimes, it’s just a kind word at the coffee shop for the mom who has clearly had no sleep, or a high-five to the one who has all three kids dressed, combed, and sitting still at a restaurant.  At the heart of it, I try to remember that we’re all  traveling on this rocky, twisting path of early parenthood together, and it’s nice to be reminded–especially if we haven’t talked to a grown up all day–that we’re not hoofing it solo.

Once, in the LAX bathroom (where I was happily on my own for a girls’ wedding weekend), I spotted a frazzled mom trying to figure out how to pee with her baby in a sling and carry-on bags strapped to her body.  “I’ll hold her,” I said, giving her my best I’m-not-psycho face. “I’m a mom.” She eyed me warily, as she should have, since I had no kids in tow. I took out my wallet, family photo included, and handed it to her. “You can hold this if you want, and I’ll stand with her right outside the door so you can see my feet.” “Okay,” she caved. I pushed all her bags in front of a stall and held her baby while she went in. It was a weird, intimate moment, sure, but what day as a parent isn’t full of weird, intimate moments?  On her way out, she said, “That might’ve been the nicest thing that happened to me so far today.” “Well,” I said, “It can only get better from here.”

What little things have other parents helped you with, to make your day go better? I’d love to hear.

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After a somewhat challenging fall, I’m excited to be kicking off the new year (okay, it’s February, humor me) with some sizzle. The kindling? New talks, workshops, a monthly column, and a book on the way! Here’s a peek at these fun new ventures:

The Business of Books: Does everyone in Seattle have a book idea?

Jen, Kerry, and a few of our books

It seems that way to me. So, I’ve teamed up with my longtime friend and publishing colleague Jennifer Worick to bring publishing talks, workshops, and private consultations to Seattle’s burgeoning authors. You can find our complete schedule of events here. To learn a bit more about our philosophy behind The Business of Books, look no further than Nicole Brodeur’s column in the Seattle Times, or listen to us on KUOW . We’ve had a tremendous response so far and feel truly gratified to be helping so many people get their book ideas off the ground. It’s energizing. Join us!

Mama’s Big Book of Little Lifesavers: Don’t you wish you had access to all the little tricks other moms have figured out, to make daily life with kids slightly easier? I’ve always been an advocate foMy new baby, due this springr parents helping parents, and that’s why I’ve written this new book, coming this spring to a store near you from my pals at Chronicle Books. With nearly 400 time-savers, money-savers, and sanity-savers, it’s a great gift for any mom you know. You can pre-order here! (It’s cute, right?)

Seattle’s Child column: I’m pleased as punch to be writing a monthly column for Seattle’s Child, a great resource for parents. You can see what I’m gabbing about this month by clicking here.

PEPS lectures: My handsome co-author and I are also thrilled to be working with PEPS to bring the message of How to Have Your Second Child First to new and expecting parents throughout Seattle. Our first lecture is Feb. 9 at the Good Shepherd Center. If you have a new baby, or know someone who does, check out all the great PEPS offerings here.

Hope your new year is treating you right. Do you have any inspiring new work or activities brewing?

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Fall Book News

Lots of exciting stuff brewing around the CoSo household–and I mean beyond the kickoff of kindergarten. First, we received the French edition of How to Have Your Second Child First! It looks magnifique, no?
Oh la la, we're in French!

Also, I just wrapped up the manuscript for my new book: Parenting S.O.S.: Hundreds of Time-Savers, Money Savers, and Sanity-Savers to Keep You Afloat. Coming to a bookstore near you in spring 2011! Now that it’s safely off to press, I suppose it’s time to figure out the next book idea…

Speaking of book ideas, this week I joined my pal and fellow Seattle author Jennifer Worick on KUOW 94.9, Seattle’s NPR station, for an hour-long talk on the book biz. You can have a listen at http://www.kuow.org/program.php?id=21483

The lively radio discussion helped give us a sold-out crowd for our talk, “Inside the Book Business” on Wednesday night at the Hotel Andra as part of the wonderful Kim Ricketts Book Events. We were gratified to see the turnout–and even more so to hear from the audience that we’d both motivated and inspired them to dust off that book idea and get it sold. Huzzah! Look for future talks and workshops from us coming soon, and check out the other great events at http://www.kimricketts.com

Here’s hoping you’re having a productive and satisfying fall…and finding at least a little time to curl up under the covers with some yummy fall books. What are you reading? What’s inspiring you right now? I would love to know!

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Hello, fall. It’s me, ever the good student–ready to face September (or at least October) head-on.


You could say I was a little MIA this summer; its been so long since my last post that my computer has stopped recognizing me. I suppose I took most of the summer “off”–if your definition of “off” means taking care of two high-energy preschoolers, making about a thousand picnic lunches, and traipsing around to every beach, park, and wading pool in King County. I have to admit, though, it was super-fun. Exhausting, but super-fun. I am not by nature a summer girl (too bright, too hot, too much pressure to do stuff, too much SPF required), something sun-starved Seattleites tend to find shocking and weird. This year was different. Goofing around and eating countless lime popsicles with a couple of swimsuited cuties at the peak of their twirly-whirly affection and silliness started to change my mind.

Backyard Imps

But just as I was coming around, the weather changed and all the backpacks in the universe came to the front of the stores with a resounding thud. That thud meant it was time to send my eldest to kindergarten and brace her for the shock of being, in her words, “IN school, ALL day, FOREVER…where there is TOO much hustle-and-bustle and TOO much BLAH-BLAH-BLAH and NOT ENOUGH MOM.” How do you argue with that?

I usually love everything about this time of year: cashmere, cords, boots, pencils, Trapper Keepers, turtlenecks, blankets, rain, Oscar movies, books, hot lattes, and brown-liquor beverages. But, like my kindergartener, I am moving more reluctantly toward fall this year. Our summer highlight reel is playing in my mind, as it certainly is in hers, and I suddenly can’t remember why cutting those 400 pb&j sandwiches into squares and lugging all that beach gear and cleaning sand out of the lint trap seemed so annoying at the time.

Fall is not only turtleneck time, it’s buckle-down time, and I’m faithfully back at my computer writing a new book, and drinking my coffee, and trying–like my eldest-to keep my chin up. There are lots of exciting things on deck: lectures, radio interviews, a new parenting title out this spring, fresh ideas bubbling all over the place. I will get into the swing of things, and she will too. But right now, I have to say, I’m yearning for less alarm clocks and school shoes and BLAH-BLAH-BLAH and more barefoot girls in the backyard, calling for another lemonade, another popsicle, another swim. Maybe I’ve become a summer girl after all.

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“No! He wants the OTHER binky!”
“That diaper is too tight!”
“The bath water is too warm!”
“You can’t take her outside in that!”
“What do you mean, you forgot the giraffe?”
“Here, let me do it!”

Sound familiar? In the stressful and overwhelming throes of new babyhood, moms often tell dads the “right” way to do everything from soothing the baby to prepping for a walk around the block. It can be an urge that is almost impossible to resist, especially if she is the primary caregiver and a first-time mom who wants, desperately, to do everything for her child in the best possible way. Moms, we know you mean well and you’re just trying to help. And of course, you have oodles of knowledge to share, especially if you spend more time actively parenting than he does. But be warned of something I’ve seen happen time and again: after being corrected repeatedly, week in and week out, many dads simply give up trying and let you do all the work—because after all, you know best. Soon you might find yourself doing every single bath, meal, and bedtime routine on your own. And more importantly, you might unwittingly keep your partner from the essential experience of finding his own way with his kids (and yes, they do have their own way—different from yours—and it’s okay). And that would be a shame.

Hey, if you’re lucky enough to have a partner in this whole parenting venture, you owe it to yourself and your family to take advantage of it. It’s not only good for you and your partner to each get 1:1 time with your child (and solo time when it’s the other person’s turn), it’s good for the baby, too. If you’re still in the middle of the newborn era, believe me, the time will come when you realize with all your being that it’s much better to share the parenting load—even if you hate the outfit he picked out or don’t think a trip to Home Depot during naptime is such a good idea. In honor of Dad’s Day, maybe try to have that time be now. Let go a little bit. Let him have his own parenting successes and his own disasters, just like you do, and his own chance to bond during all those moments. Left to his own devices, without anyone hovering in the background, dad will probably find his own funny bath time song, his own way of holding junior to calm the crying, his own system for getting the baby’s shoes on in a snap. And get this: YOU might even learn a little something from HIM.

Rob & the girls

To all the dads out there (and the moms who love them), Happy Father’s Day!

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