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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?

I know that supposedly, there’s going to come a time when my kids won’t need me every ten seconds. When they will stop shouting “come with me” before every task and try, in fact, to do things without me. When they will actually want–nay, demand–THEIR SPACE. This is very, very hard to imagine when your kids are two and five and love their parents with a passion bordering on desperation. Chaotic, noisy desperation.

Boy, kids sure have a lot to say

If you’re like me, you never realized what a precious commodity quiet was until you had young kids. (Where, WHERE, is the volume control on these little humans??) While I don’t think of myself as a particularly quiet person, I have come to see how much I crave stillness now that it has been taken away from me and virtually banished from my home. It seems that every time I look down, someone is hanging on to my leg and demanding that I act like a mermaid. Every time I turn my back, someone has run into the coffee table and started wailing. Every time I try to sneak over to the couch with a glass of wine at the end of a long day, two girls alternately climb on my head and yell into my ear about who has more lap space and why it isn’t fair. Some days, it makes the idea of a mindless factory job making widgets while wearing earplugs seem wildly appealing. Eight hours of that sounds so…peaceful.

But then, if it weren’t for the riot of a couple of strong-willed, strong-lunged little girls in my house, how would I ever appreciate the quiet that I took utterly for granted before? How would I come to savor the sweet bliss of five minutes where no one wants anything, no one complains or cries, no one licks my face and laughs maniacally about it? If you’re a parent, you know exactly what I mean. There are those moments where you and your partner lock eyes over the heads of your silent-for-now kids and share a knowing smile that says: See, we’re getting there. They are entertaining themselves quietly. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel. We must be awesome parents!

That appreciation of the small miracle of silence was never more apparent to me than one particular night over the holidays. Racked with various kindergarten-derived illnesses, Christmas “break” at our house had been full of visitors, friends, laundry, and antibiotics. Everyone was stir-crazy and snappish, especially at dinnertime. So instead of hustling everyone through their paces per usual, we ordered sushi (a family favorite), let everyone eat in the living room, loosened the usual bedtime, and put the new Ryan Bingham CD, Junky Star, on the stereo. And for some reason, no one whined that they wanted Disney Princess Sing-Along Songs. No one even fought about my lap. Everyone finished eating, found their own space under various blankets on the couch, and was…quiet. That’s the memory of the holidays that I choose to take along with me into the new year: a slow, raspy ballad on the stereo, my warm family on the couch, a belly full of hamachi, and everyone enjoying a moment’s peace. Who knows, maybe even my daughters got a little taste of how sometimes, it’s good (restorative, enjoyable, necessary, wonderful) to be still.

One can hope.

Tell me: How do you carve out moments of stillness and silence in your life? I’d love to hear (especially if it doesn’t involve getting up at 5:30a.m. to achieve it, but okay, you can tell me that, too).

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!

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

Headfirst

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.

“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!

You’ve got to love Seattle, a town where a four-year-old can make 37 bucks (!) in one day at her very first lemonade stand–because it was for a good cause. Piper, my oldest, decided that all proceeds were going to save the snow leopards instead of into her piggy bank. Rather than naming a price, people were asked to pay what they could. In our fair city that meant folks shelled out up to five bucks for a cup of lemonade and an oatmeal chocolate-chip cookie in front of our house. (Thanks, neighbors.)

Lemonade for Leopards


Now, if I was slightly more diabolical, I would use this tactic repeatedly to fund all sorts of household and personal desires. Don’t think it didn’t cross my mind. But I’m in the throes of proud parenthood, and I couldn’t possibly. Tempting as that jar of cash has been when the Thai delivery guy comes, it remains safe for the preservation fund.

This enterprise began when Piper read the word “endangered” in a book, which sparked an in-depth discussion and a little research. After determining that snow leopards were her favorite on the endangered list (though honestly, she has previously shown zero interest in them) we talked about ways to help . “I WANT to give them some money…” she said cautiously, “but NOT out of my helping jar.” Fair enough. The lemonade stand was born.

Granted, Piper is a little young for the business side of things. Money flew about, she spent much of her time dancing around the sidewalk, and when she was reminded of her purpose, she screamed “SAVE THE SNOW LEOPARDS!” so loudly that people crossed the street to get away from us. But still. My heart nearly burst.

Now, I don’t claim to have a kid who is any less self-absorbed or greedy for material things than the next. But I felt like this lemonade stand was not only a personal parenting milestone, it was one small step toward something good growing inside my daughter: a glimmer of the idea of a larger world, where other people (and animals) have needs, too.

For more information on helping snow leopards, visit
http://www.snowleopard.org/
http://www.zoo.org/Page.aspx?pid=276