Chicken update

I know, I know … you have all been of curiousity, wondering how the chickens are doing down here in Texas. Well, today is your lucky day!

I blogged a few weeks ago about getting chickens and why (besides the yummy eggs) The Geek and I decided to add poultry to our lives. I wanted my kids to appreciate where food comes from. I wanted them to be aware that a lot of work goes into raising food. I wanted them to know about the circle of life in a way that went beyond animated lions.

So we’re about six weeks in to our chicken parenting. And yes, I sometimes wonder what the hell I was thinking. Chicken ownership involves a lot of poop. A lot of walking up and down stairs to check on the chickens. A lot of our dogs barking like crazy. A lot of “Mommy, I got chicken poop on my hand!” and a lot more of me yelling, “Well, stop rubbing it all over your legs!!!” And–I hope this goes without saying–a lot of hand washing.

Despite the poop, the chickens are fun. They are friendly and good natured. The kids love them and seem perfectly content to spend hours down there every day. As for that circle of life thing … well, guess what. Turns out I really didn’t want my kids to experience the circle of life.

About two days in, we lost our first chick. That one I was prepared for. Tiny chicks are vulnerable and they say you can expect to lose at least one. The chick died quietly and without fanfare for reasons we’ll never known. Another three weeks later, our dog got one. It was a horrible blood affair with lots of screaming and tears. My kids saw the whole thing. They had to watch as their cute fluffy chick was snatched up and eaten. One beloved family pet was dead, the other was suddenly a cruel predator.

My poor daughter, who saw it all up close, kept yelling, “I am not okay with this!” Well, I wasn’t either. As I sat there, holding my bawling and traumatized daughter in my arms, all I could think was, “Screw the circle of life.”

But here’s the thing: as freaked out as we all were at the time, in the end, my daughter was okay with it. Now, we’re more carefully about keeping our dogs well away from the chickens. And we talk about how to keep them save from other predators, all the while knowing that we may not be able to. The kids are excited about getting eggs some day. One of the birds ended up being a rooster, rather than a hen, so we have changed Lizzie’s name to Mr. Darcy. Some day, if Mr. Darcy becomes mean, we may have to take him to the butcher, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

In the end, I may not have been ready for my kids to learn about the circle of life. That’s okay. They were ready, even if I wasn’t. Kids are like that.

If you leave a comment, I’ll pick a winner to receive a copy of one of my Harlequin Desires.

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How Far Do You Push Your Child With a Musical Instrument?

Piano. Trombone. Clarinet. Guitar. Admit it, we want our kids to be proficient on at least one musical instrument. It’s in the parenting genes to feel this way, and most of us don’t know exactly why. All we know is that if our child could only play, “Baa, Baa, Black Sheep” on the flugelhorn, our lives would somehow be made better.

For many of us parents, it’s just not good enough to infuse the household with great music played on our iPhones and CD players. We might feel a responsibility to bring up a new generation of opera, musical theater, and rock concerts goers, but no–

It has to be live music, and our kids have to be playing it. The question is, how hard should we push them? I wanted all my children to learn piano, but I gave up on my boys almost immediately. Maybe it’s because they said, “No way, Mom” while they were knocking over blocks and tracking dirt all over the house and doing a myriad other loud, crazy boy things. I just couldn’t envision plonking them down on our piano bench and making them play sweet little sonatas.

But my daughter Indie Girl was a little more amenable to the idea. She was in second grade, and after the first few piano lessons, she wanted to quit. So I bribed her. I bought a bag of cheap Dollar Store toys, and she could pick out one toy a week after her piano lesson.

But alas, after less than a year, Indie Girl desperately wanted to quit, too.

However, years later, she picked up the piano again, all by herself. She’s had a nice electric full-sized piano in her room since she started high school.  A college girl now, she recently said that she wishes she had learned to play piano better, and I was wracked with guilt that I didn’t push her. When I told her so, she laughed and said, “Mom. Do not feel guilty. You exposed me to it, and that’s all that matters. It’s up to me to pick it up and run with it if I want to, not you.”

And then she giggled and said, “By the way, that piano teacher was mean. I never told you.”

I nearly had a fit. “That beautiful blonde college student with the big smile and a list of people to recommend her was mean?” I couldn’t believe it.

“Yep,” Indie Girl replied, still laughing.  “She yelled at me all the time. And then she’d sigh really loudly when I made mistakes.”

Shoot.  I remembered how unhelpful that piano teacher had been with me one day about directions to the recital–and that she’d always seemed busy, busy, busy.

The truth was, she was simply impatient.  It had never occurred to me that she would be that way with my little second-grade daughter.

And then Indie Girl said, “Mom, the piano led me to the guitar, my true love.  And if I want to learn more piano, I can. So it all worked out in the end. No worries.”

Sigh. Maybe it did.  And I didn’t do a whole lot beyond making sure we always had instruments around and that their father and I always had good music on, of all types, in the house and the car.

Each of my sons plays an instrument, too. Dragon is a self-taught expert guitarist. Nighthawk adores his violin.

Build it, and they will come. Or in musical terms, expose your kids to music and musical instruments, and I promise you, something will happen. Maybe not in the direction you expected, but it will.

You can be a lot more disciplined about it than I was and demand that your kids stick with lessons.  Or you can be like us, and take a zig-zaggy path to musical accomplishment. However you do it, I hope your journey is filled with moments of joy and discovery.

I’ll conclude with something Maria Von Trapp said (the real one, not Julie Andrews): “Music acts like a magic key, to which the most tightly closed heart opens.”

So sing on. Play on. And listen to music with your children. Whether your child learns to play an instrument or not, music and love go together.

The time-out conundrum

Our oldest daughter, she’s about 3 1/2 now, is a great kid. (well, they’re both great kids, but today it is all about Busybee) She’s very well behaved. We get comments all the time from strangers when we’re out at restaurants about how well-behaved our girls are. She’s so full of joy it just bubbles from every pore in her body. As I’ve told our caseworker, she’s like walking sunshine. Her smile (I so wish I could share pictures with you!) is so bright, and so big you can’t help but smile back at her.

But she’s also a broken little girl. She comes from the foster-care system and lived with a drug addicted mother in abusive relationships. We don’t know a lot about her past before she got into the system. But I know she’s lost everything. Multiple times. When they brought her to our house, she was such a sad little thing, weeping for the family she left and terrified to be in a new place with people she didn’t know. She was scared of any number of things including the bathtub and she wouldn’t change her clothes for two weeks. Thinking back to those early days still dissolve me into a puddle of tears. My beautiful sweet girl.

She’s blossomed since then. Loves bath time now. She’s like a mermaid! And she’s a total clothes horse! She’s resilient and a survivor and herein lies the beauty and the problem with her. She’s nearly impossible to punish. We’re a time-out family and we do both where we put the kiddos in time-out and we put toys in time-out. But with Busybee, well, she might be initially upset by the sight of her toys going up on a high shelf, but then you see that resilience come in, she swipes her tears away and she smiles and says, “That’s okay, Mommy, I can play with that now.” And off she goes to something new.

Now like I said, she’s not a bad kid, she’s not ill-behaved most of the time, but she is a typical three year old in many ways…she doesn’t want to share with her sister, she’s beginning to fight her naps (despite the fact that she still desperately needs them!) and well, she obviously doesn’t mind all the time. What kid does? But we feel so stuck with the tools we have. We’ve tried positive reinforcement…if you do such and such, then you get to do this or you get a new that. She gets excited, but it doesn’t pan out. We’ve tried negative reinforcement…if you don’t do such and such, then you don’t get to do that. That doesn’t really work either.

So we stick with our time-out for both her and toys. And frankly we’ve seen no improvement on the behaviors that she struggles with. Now like I said, I probably shouldn’t complain, for the most part we don’t have big issues. She doesn’t really talk back, she doesn’t get out of her bed, even when she’s not napping, she doesn’t sneak toys that she knows she’s not supposed to play with, but she’s still not learning from her mistakes. Clearly we’re probably expecting too much because she’s so darn smart we forget that she’s only 3 and probably only 2 emotionally speaking. But there you have it, our big timeout conundrum.

So what are your discipline solutions at your house? Do you have defiant kids?

I’m Robyn DeHart, AKA Basket-Case Mama, but not because I’m crazy (though really, what mom isn’t?) but because I have a slight obsession with baskets, well containers really. I’m a bit of an organization nut and I love to containerize stuff. And yes, I’m authorized to use words like that because I am also a writer. But back to the kids, so I’m mom to two ridiculously beautiful little girls and I can say that without bragging because I didn’t actually make them. Last year my husband, The Professor, and I adopted said little lovelies from the foster-care system here in Texas and now we’re a big happy forever family. Busybee is three and so full of joy it just oozes from her. Babybee is a walking-talking toddler who has a heck of a temper but is so cute, it almost keeps her out of trouble. Though neither of my girls are newborns, I’m fairly new to motherhood compared to the other peanut butter moms, but we’ve settled in as a family as if we’ve always been together. When I’m not trying to keep up with my two bundles of energy, you can usually find me on my laptop on Pinterest, no, that’s not right, um…you can find me writing, yes, that’s it, writing my latest historical romance.

You Are Your Child’s Best Toy

It’s a great pleasure for us to have guest mom Julie Osterman at Peanut Butter on the Keyboard today! Welcome, Julie–we’re so glad to have you here!

You are your child’s best toy.

A wise person once told me this, and I’ve made it my own mantra in raising my two girls. But let’s face it, we’re all busy moms. In a world of iPads, toddler TV, talking toys and other enticing entertainers, it’s easy to forget to just play.

As a music teacher who sings and plays with young children on a regular basis, you would think I’d have it all figured out. Yet on a recent four-hour flight (by myself with two little ones!), I experienced a wake-up call. After Little Sis (age 2 1/2), woke up from a blissfully long nap, she politely entertained my planned activities for a few minutes at a time… colored one picture, put stickers all over me (none for her, thank you) and watched about 10 minutes of “Curious George.” Then, she practically threw the iPad in my lap and said, “No more!”

I was taken aback (she loves George!), and quite frankly a little panicked about how to spend the next two hours en route… But I kept my cool and began to sing a song called “Clickety Clack” that both my girls learned in SongPlay! It is delightfully simple. You move your fingers along your child’s arm, over her head, down her leg, etc. as you sing the song, which consists of only two words: you guessed it, “clickety” and “clack.” The punch line is where the “train” lands, and, let me tell you, it is fascinating for little ones. I played this game joyfully with Little and her Big Sis (who’s 5) for close to 30 minutes. Then, we moved on to other repertoire until landing. We exited the plane with big smiles and high fives from our fellow passengers, who enjoyed the toddler concert in row 10 (or at least feigned enthusiasm).

The truth is, your child is yearning to just play… with you! The key is knowing how to play. I know it may sound silly, but in my experience of singing and playing with hundreds of young children (have I mentioned how much I love my job?), here are a few things I’ve discovered:

1) Repetition is the friend of learning. The only one who’s bored after the 10th rendition of “Ring Around the Rosey” is you, my friend. Don’t believe me? I challenge you to play it until your child asks to stop. My advice to you is sing a song, play a game, or re-read a book (if your child requests it) at least 5 times before moving on. I know it’s painful—I read The Napping House over and over at bedtime tonight and Little was still saying, “Do it again!” Oh, the neural connections she has made. (I could go on, but that is a topic for another blog.)

2) Your singing voice (no matter how skilled) is your child’s favorite. So sing out, with gusto. Oh, and if you want your child to sing with you, try to sing in his or her range, which is higher than you think (small vocal chords = higher pitch).

3) Think outside the box. Trouble getting your toddler to eat his veggies? Do a “green bean song & dance” after bites. The whole family participates, in a silly manner. Tired of whining on the way to bed? Give a choice: “Do you want to go to your room like a bear, or a frog?” Growl or hop with your child, in a silly manner. Can’t choose what to wear? Give your child a fashion show in her clothes, in a silly manner. The key here is silly, people. Young children have slapstick humor. Play it to your advantage!

4) Throw caution to the wind… sort of. As a society we have become overly cautious. When learning to ride a bike, kids wear helmets, knee pads, elbow pads, ankle pads, etc. We’ve removed the monkey bars and merry-go-rounds from playgrounds because, gasp, kids might get hurt! Do me a favor, and don’t be a helicopter mom. Allow your child some freedom to explore and learn to set his or her own limits, even if they skin a knee every once in a while. It builds character! (See photo of Big Sis climbing up the outside of a cool merry-go-round in Canada.)

5) Replace “screen time” with “face time.” Obviously interactive play with you and your family… But how about a live Children’s Theater production? Or a music class? Or a playdate? The options are endless.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to declare that all “screen time” is bad. (I can only imagine the comments!) I do believe there is some value to educational games and programming. The danger is allowing it to outweigh the live daily audio visual interaction that your child needs, with you! Okay, stepping off my soap box now… to go play with my girls!

Do you ever find yourself so focused on entertaining your child that you forget to interact? Do you have any tips for staying playful in the midst of your busy day?

Julie Osterman spends her days singing and playing with her two girls (5 and 2), as well as the children of her many wonderful SongPlay! families. She is also a freelance writer and editor, with articles published in magazines such as Southwest Art, Shape and Los Angeles Sports & Fitness. Julie is a California transplant living in Texas, and misses the dry heat and cool evenings of summer in SoCal. But she’s grown to love the Texas hospitality… and the brisket! She hopes her Texas-born girls keep their Southern manners wherever they go, and that they always dream big.

A Lesson In You Can’t Do It All – My Last Post Here

Times Square 2010

Photo by Greg Knapp (click pic for link)

I think it was Oprah who said that the universe teaches us lessons and that if we don’t get the lesson the first time, the universe will amplify the message and hit you with it again. And again. Until you get it. Well, apparently the lesson I need to learn is balance and how to say “no”. Not just to other people, but to myself.  All my life, I’ve been the “yes” girl. If someone asks me to do something, I go out of my way to get it done even if I don’t have time or have three thousand other things to do. I want to be helpful. I don’t want to miss any opportunities. I want to do it all!

But, here’s the thing: you can’t. Well, at least I can’t. I never realized how busy this job of being a writer is. I’m freaking amazed at those who can do it and hold down a full time job. I get 4-5 hours a day with my kidlet at school where I can work and I know that’s more than many get, but still I find myself harried. And part of this craziness and always being behind is because I say yes to too many things–yes, I’ll do a guest post; yes, I’ll write an extra novella in addition to two novels a year; yes, I’ll teach that class; yes, I’ll blog 5 days a week on my own site AND do a group blog. I say yes to those things because I love all of  them, but it can just pile on and pile on until I’m drowning.

Part of this is my own scattered brain. I’m going to blame it on being a creative type (hey, I gotta use that excuse somewhere, right?). When I’m focused on a project, like writing a book, I have trouble paying attention to other things. My brain is wrapped up in another world. I’ll put a pot of water on to boil for tea and then not remember it until I hear the dry pot sizzling on the stove with all the water evaporated. Or my husband will ask me a question and even though I’m looking straight at him, I have no idea what he said. I call it writer brain.

And one of the weaknesses and strengths of my writer brain is that singular focus. It’s like the opposite of ADD–like obsession, but friendlier. 🙂 It helps me write books and  keeps me from  giving up 20k into a 100k novel. But it also means that when I’m in writing mode, small things become big stressors. When I know I have this many blog posts due and this many emails to return and oh the group (for a blog like this) needs to decide on something and I need to prepare stuff for a conference–it starts to feel like I’m in the middle of Times Square and trying to look at everything at once. I can’t concentrate…on anything.

So, I’m learning that I have to streamline and not spread myself too thin. I am a wife and mother first, a writer second, and an everything else after that. If I keep piling on stuff from that third category, I won’t get anything done at all. Which is why I’m stepping down as a member of this blog. I LOVE this blog and the ladies here. And I learn something from every post. But I’m better suited to be a fan of it at this point than a regular contributor. I have to learn to tell myself no sometimes. And this is the start.

Maybe this will be the beginning of me finally learning this lesson. 🙂

I’ll still be blogging at my own site, so if you want to stop by, I’d love to see you.

I’m Roni Loren, or as I’m called ‘round these parts, No Drama Mama. I’ve been married for ten years and have a four-year old son, who has recently been diagnosed with high-functioning autism. My days are spent writing very sexy romances (my PC way of saying erotic),avoiding all things housework, and hanging out with a kidlet who I suspect is vastly smarter than I am. I secretly dream of having a life that looks like the pages of Real Simple magazine, but would settle for Sorta Decent if could get there. My daily goal is to keep the drama on the pages of my books and out of my life–I’m successful at least twenty percent of the time.

The Motherhood Disconnect: Part II

In my last blog I wrote about how difficult it was for me to transition from being a mom to being a professional author and how at one point I really felt I lost some of that part of my author self.

In this blog I wanted to talk about the flip side of that—transitioning back from wife or lawyer or author to mommy.

I experienced this disconnect very recently when I was asked to guest lecture at a university graduate class. I agreed and made certain I had plenty of time to get into my author frame of mind so there wouldn’t be quite as much disconnect on that side. The lecture went well, but on the way home, I was thinking about it and not about what I was going home to.

I didn’t prepare for the flip side of the disconnect.

You know where I’m going with this, don’t you? I walked into the house and immediately my daughter yells, “Mommy!” and hurls herself into my arms. Unfortunately, I came in through the garage, which leads into the kitchen. Guess what the kitchen looked like? Dirty dishes everywhere, paper towels strewn about, congealed food sitting out. On the dining room table were the remnants of what had been a finger-painting project. Every toy my daughter owned and every book was littering the living room, and my husband was sitting oblivious on the couch, surfing the internet.

Here I was, coming home from a lengthy intellectual and philosophical discussion which left me equally mentally reinvigorated and drained, and I came home to dirty dishes, dirty diapers, and a cranky child who had missed me and was making extensive demands for my attention and time, when I wanted to do nothing more than sit and relax.

I did my best to meet my daughter’s needs, but when I had her in bed, I found it difficult not to be angry with my husband, though I sometimes wonder at times like those whether it’s really me I should be angry at. Do I in some way perpetuate this over-reliance on mommy to do everything? Could I have avoided getting angry if I’d mentally prepared myself for what I was coming home to?

Do you ever feel this mommy disconnect when you get home from work or time away? And if you have one of those husbands who has the house cleaned from top to bottom when you step in the door, please do tell us about your great guy.


Shana Galen, Multitasker Mama
I’m Shana Galen, AKA Multitasker Mama (and aren’t we all?). I’m a wife, mom to a two-year-old daughter I call Baby Galen. My parenting motto is, “Keep moving. Don’t pass out. Don’t throw up.” Or maybe that’s my fitness motto?

Camp-erific Fun!

I just got back from a week of Girl Scout camp. I’m still feeling a bit punchy from all the camp songs, flag ceremonies, bug bites and S’mores. This is the second year I’ve brought my kids to Twilight camp up in Dallas. My sister lives up there and has gone with her daughter every since my niece was six. Both years that we’ve gone, we’ve stayed at my sister’s house. We spend the days swimming and lolling in front of the TV. Then each evening, we head out for the crazy, hyped-up fun.

In case you’re wondering, Twilight camps have nothing to do with sparkling teen vampires. A Twilight camp is in the evenings from about 5:30 to 9:30. I don’t know if they have Twilight camps in other places, but here in Texas, it’s too damn hot to have 500 kids wandering around a park in the middle of the day. Because I volunteer as a unit leader, I can bring both my kids to camp, even though my son is clearly not a girl scout.

I’m not going to lie. Going to camp for a week is exhausting. Being a unit leader for 8 boys, ages 4-8 is doubly exhausting. On Friday night, when the last boy got handed over to his mother, when we’d made it through the week without anyone getting hurt or burned or lost, I was relieved. Still, I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. My kids had a fabulous time. Here’s my short list of things I love about Girl Scout camp:

  • Catching frogs/lighten bugs — Even though camp is chock-full of organized activities (like archery and crafts), we tried to find time each night to go down to the wet-weather creek and search for frogs and bugs. Last year, during the drought, there were no frogs. This year there were tons. The boys had a blast! My favorite part? One boy who was super quiet and shy most of the time had a great eye for finding frogs. He caught at least three every night (most boys caught one or two during the whole week). You could just tell that he felt like a rock star every time he caught a frog and all the other boys crowded around to look at it.
  • Kapers — Kapers are chores that each unit is assigned during the week. It’s everything from filling or emptying the buckets in the hand washing station to performing the flag ceremony. I think it’s so important that kids learn to do their share of the work and to see other kids doing theirs.
  • Cookout night — Hey, it’s stressful–like crazy stressful–having that many boys crowd around a camp fire. (For the cookout night several units work together, so there were between 17 – 20 boys.) Still, I think learning how to be around fire responsibly is important. Learning how to strike a match, how to make a fire circle, when a fire is ready to cook over, and how to put out a fire when you’re done cooking. That’s all good stuff to know. Now, does my four-year-old remember all that? No, probably not. (And he wasn’t old enough to strike a match.) But he’ll pick those things up after a few more years. And he had lots of older boys role-modeling good behavior for him. Which brings me to the thing I love best about camp:
  • Buddies — At camp, we use the buddy system. Everywhere you go, you go there with a buddy. If you need to run back to the last station because you left your water bottle? Take a buddy. Need to go to the potty? Take a buddy. Want to go look for frogs? Take a buddy.  The way I see it, this is just good practice for the rest of life. We all need buddies. We need friends who are willing to look out for us and stay by our side. I want my kids to learn the value of having a buddy with them for the tough tasks ahead. And I want them to know how to be a good buddy.

So, yes, Girl Scout camp is a ton of work (and bug bites), but for me, it’s so worth it for all the valuable things my kids learn. Plus, I get to do it with my sister, who has always been my buddy.

Do you send your kids to camp? Did you go when you were a kid? What’s your favorite thing about it?

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Potty Training: Do or Die

This is it! Soon! It’s gonna happen!

I feel like I’ve done pretty much everything to try to potty train SuperGirl (now 3). We began in January with the potty training, because she was finally to the point where we felt her communication skills were good enough, and she was interested in the potty, and we were, well…just optimistic, I guess. And it went so well! …For a little while. SuperGirl was going potty ON the potty, she was getting to wear her cool new underwear, she was telling us when she needed to go before she actually went… And then it just all stopped. I don’t know what triggered it, but something happened to where she absolutely refused to go anywhere near the potty.

Things we did to get to the first (happy) stage:

1) We read a potty book.

2) We were there for potty support (i.e. going to the bathroom at the same time. What? Other moms don’t do this?).

3) We did the potty dance (which consists of shaking your booty as you turn in a circle and saying “Yay, SuperGirl went potty!”).

4) We gave her a sticker (she LOVES stickers) every time she went potty so she could put it on her potty chart.

5) We were immensely enthusiastic with our praise whenever she went potty (Olympic gold medal winners receive less praise, I’m sure) and tried to be encouraging when she, erm, didn’t make it to the potty on time.

6) We went and sat at the potty at regular intervals, so even if she didn’t have to go, she would still have the routine and the reminder.

We did all of that–and it worked! We were so thrilled. (“I don’t know what so-and-so were talking about, this is much easier than I thought it would be. Aren’t we lucky that our kid did this faster than theirs? I would never resort to bribing my kid with toys (because stickers don’t count as bribes, right?) and our kid is just super smart and awesome and talented for going potty.”) As fellow PBK mom Maisey would say, HAHAHAHAHA. Yeah, the joke’s on us.

When she regressed, nothing worked. Next we tried courting her with the potty and the “subtle” reminders whenever we changed her diaper. “Do we go poopoo or peepee in our diaper? Noooooo, we go poopoo and peepee in the potty.” (She always has the right answer!)

The last tip I’ve heard recently is to tell your toddler “your peepee and poopoo want to make friends with the potty and won’t you help them get there”? (An aside: Truly, did you EVER think we would talk this way when we became parents?) I admit I keep forgetting to try this one, but I have no problem at all saying it if it means she’ll start going potty again.

I should mention that WonderGirl is also very interested in the potty now with all the talking we’ve been doing and so while we’ve been focusing on SuperGirl, WonderGirl (now 19 months) is getting the benefit of our attempted potty training techniques, too.

Which brings me, at last, to the second part of the title for this blog post today: Do or Die. That’s right, folks, it’s about to get all kinds of extreme in the Rome household. Combining the knowledge that SuperGirl was *so close* to being potty trained before and definitely knows what to do, the obvious understanding they both have of the potty and the interest in the potty routine (I’ve never seen someone get so excited about flushing), and the ridiculousness (and expense!! and yes, I know cloth diapering is less expensive; another of my mommy failures, I suppose) of having two toddlers in diapers with one wearing a size 5 and the other wearing a size 4, we’ve decided to pick a date when, from now on, SuperGirl and WonderGirl will be…wait for it… DIAPER FREE!!!

Yes, except for car rides (for now) and bedtime, they will no longer be allowed to wear diapers. I read about this extreme path to potty training on BabyCenter one time, and several people swore that it worked, but I never thought we’d need to do it. I admit, I’m a little terrified. A little daunted by the thought of my furniture starting to smell like pee and all of my towels used to mop up pee (I don’t even want to think about the poop), but if this really works…and it has to work, right?…then I can think of no greater improvement in our parenting quality of life right now than having both girls potty trained. I can just imagine myself when that day finally comes…

And so we will move forward, with that end in mind. The date we’ve chosen is July 5th. I suppose it’s apt, since the day before is Independence Day. July 5th will be our Diaper Independence Day. =)

Have you had the joy of potty training your child yet? Are you currently working on it? If you have kids and adult kids who are potty trained, congratulations–I’m in awe of you. =) And, um, any tips you care to share?


I’m Elise Rome, AKA Midnight Mama because I’m usually burning the midnight oil. If SuperGirl (3, with a speech delay) and WonderGirl (1, my very own hip attachment) aren’t getting up in the middle of the night, then I’m busy working on writing and writing-related business until morning…usually 5 am or so. Both my husband and I stay home with the girls (he’s a writer, too!, but usually I’m focused on them throughout the day and only get started working until after 8pm when they’re both in bed. I’m a former Texan now living in Colorado who desperately misses no-snow winters, and my parenting goal is to raise my daughters to be strong, intelligent, and independent women…much like the heroines I write, as a matter of fact. I’m a recovering perfectionist, recovering procrastinator, and perpetually aspire to keep the house clean (because it never actually is). When I’m not chasing around my daughters or adoring my cooking/cleaning/diaper-changing husband of 8 years, I write historical romances about women who fascinate me and men who somehow always remind me of Rhett Butler, the first literary hero who captured my heart.

Finding Balance

It’s a great pleasure for us to have guest mom and fellow writer Natalie Markey at Peanut Butter on the Keyboard today! Welcome, Natalie–we’re so glad to have you here!

And for our next trick…the writing mom!

Did anyone see aerialist Nik Wallenda tightrope walk across Niagara Falls on Friday? I did and it was amazing and scary. Let’s just say I’m thrilled to have a dream where I don’t risk my life everyday but being a writing mom is no different then training for anything. That’s right, what we do is very physically and mentally challenging.

Wallenda mentioned during many pre-stunt interviews that so much of what he does is mental. This is a common theme with many athletes. Next month we’ll start hearing about all the Team USA Olympic athletes and their preparations. Just watch, they will focus on the mental.

As writing moms we are constantly pulled in many directions. We have a need to balance it all.

Mommy vs. author.

Wife vs. business manager. And I could go on.

Mentally writers and athletes are cut from the same cloth. When I took my writing career full-time I was in awe at the similarities. Before writing I was a dancer. I performed, competed and taught professionally. Dance is an art but I always argue that it is a sport too, mainly because of similar mental preparations. The training and time commitments are intense and many times insane. Does that sound familiar?

Writing is mental and physical. Don’t tell me you’ve never had to stretch before sitting behind a computer! Writing moms have the added physical work of being a mom. But just look at the similar mental preparations!

In my 10 years of being a professional writer I’ve learned to use the same endurance, perseverance, practice, a lot of faith and patience that I used as a dancer. When I had my daughter two years ago I found that the same qualities applied. I just had to learn to better balance my various roles. I learned to be more flexible to the changing needs of my family and my instructor was no longer me but an adorable little girl!

Everything takes time to perfect, just like the gymnast dismounting the balance beam. Every landing isn’t perfect and you don’t always make the cut. We are writers striving for our dreams while dodging flying toys and burp rags. No gold medalist ever medaled without experiencing challenges along the way. Nik Wallenda had to start small before walking over Niagara Falls (the news story said he’d been tightrope walking since age 2!)

I’ve participated in countless dance competitions and worked in NYC PR but my greatest challenge is being a writing mom. I’ve learned to focus on the positive, to realize that everyday won’t be a productive day and capitalize on the great moments I get.

Being a writing mom is a talent. A skill and a privilege just like it is for the athletes in the Olympics. Like athletes, we’re best when in a routine.  Understand your strengths, capitalize on the times of day you are your best and dive into that routine being sure to get plenty of encouraging kisses along the way.

Balancing motherhood and writing is a true talent. One that is different for everyone. Share your secrets of the skill in a comment below.

Natalie C. Markey is an author, mommy, wife, animal lover and chaos manager extraordinaire. After a career in professional dancing and public relations/television in New York City she successfully turned her part-time writing career into a full-time career. She is the author of ‘Caring for Your Special Needs Dog’ and speaks on the topics of time management for writing moms and busy artists.  She also writes YA and MG fiction with a new non-fiction dog book on the way and holds numerous local and National freelancing contracts. Natalie graduated from Baylor University. She is thankful for the support of her husband, daughter, dog and two very hoppy bunnies. Learn more at her blog. Look for her Writing Moms and Time Management workshops at Cool Gus Publishing (formerly Who Dares Wins Publishing) and WANA International.

Is This Real Life?

So last week my oldest son graduated from Kindergarten. He’s a first grader now. And with that has come two lost teeth and myself assuming the role of tooth fairy. (The tooth fairy pays a lot more these days then when I was a kid. My husband insists it’s because the market value on teeth has gone up.)

I also planend a Disneyland vacation. And started paying for it. (It’s entirely possible they will force us to leave a child at the Magic Kingdom as partial payment on debts accrued while within the Happiest Place on Earth) This was my first time doing that…not for me. Usually, I’m the kid at Disney. Now I’m figuring on buying mouse ears for my crew and renting strollers and rediscovering the merit of the Dumbo Ride.

As the cherry on top, we’re also buying a house. (With a closing date set three days before I leave for RWA. HAHAHAHA *dies*) This is for real grown-up stuff here. There are words like Escrow and Equifax being thrown around and at some point, I looked around and went…wait…what? When did I become a grown up?

Because as weird as it might sound, I don’t know that I really feel like one yet, and somehow, here I am, doing grown up things.

You would think that after seven years of marriage, three kids, and sixteen books that feeling might have hit a while ago, but it really didn’t. Sometimes I just still feel like a kid. Or, I guess, I don’t think about it. And then I have these moments where I’m like…How did I get here?

I’m also starting to think that after we get through this house buying phase, the feeling of being a grown up may start to fade again. (I mean, I have a Disney trip planned so once I get over the cost shock, which is a side-effect of being over twenty-one, I think I’ll fully revert and buy MYSELF some mouse ears.)

I guess all of this, my feelings, strike me as odd because when you’re a child, you see adults as something different entirely. They know everything, they control everything. But then you arrive at that fabled destination of adulthood and find out NONE OF THAT IS TRUE. I don’t know everything. I’m just desperately hoping I don’t do something to put my kids in therapy for the rest of their lives. I don’t control everything. It’s that great chestnut: The older I get, the less I know.

There’s a lot about his realization that I actually like and find comforting. I imagined adulthood being a place of stability, of little change and even less excitement. But I was wrong. It’s a white knuckle adventure. Sometimes scary, sometimes too heavily laden with laundry and bills but MY GOSH is it an adventure. Imagine my surprise and delight to find out it didn’t END when I turned eighteen, but became more exciting. Thank God that, unlike Uncle Rico, high school was surely not my glory days. Every new day is a glory day. 😉 The future always has possibilities, and present always has blessings.

Even so, I think I expected to get a magical Adult Card at the door. (I guess my driver’s license is one, kinda. They let me buy booze when I show it to them now.)

Maybe this can all be squarely blamed on the fact that I get to make up stories about Princesses and Sheikhs for a living, or maybe this is something that happens to everyone. And that’s my question for the day: Does anyone else feel like this? Are you caught off guard about where you’re at in life? And do you still sometimes want to toilet paper someone’s house for old time’s sake? (Not that I ever did that.)

In closing, I leave you with this: