Happy New Year!!

The close of one year and dawning of a new one is such an awesome time for reflection. We’ve taken a quick look back at the year that was and then turned our attention to the year ahead of us. Lots of fun and excitement, and several things we’re really ready to leave behind.

What about you? What’s your best of 2012? What are happy to leave behind? What are you most looking forward to in 2013?

Shana Galen

  • Best of 2012The Hunger Games movie. It exceeded my expectations.
  • Happy To Leave in 2012:  All the talk about 50 Shades of Grey
  • Most Looking Forward to in 2013:  The Host movie. I loved the book.
  • Least Looking Forward to in 2013:  The fiscal cliff. I need my deductions!
  • Biggest wish for 2013:  That my family and friends stay healthy.

Maisey Yates

  • Best of 2012The Hobbit. It took me back to high school. I loved Lord of the Rings so much and this evoked the same feelings.
  • Happy To Leave in 2012:  The election year. GET OFF MY FACEBOOK WALL. 🙂
  • Most Looking Forward to in 2013:  I’m going to Australia, and I’ve never been! So exciting
  • Least Looking Forward to in 2013:  Honey Boo Boo’s show still being in existence. Why is this a thing?
  • Biggest wish for 2013:  For my family to be happy and well-taken care of. For my kids to move forward and keep growing and developing. For my husband to be joyful in his new role, and me to be happy and responsible in mine. And for me to SHOW them how much I love them. Every day.

Kieran Kramer

  • Best of 2012:  The Summer Olympics
  • Happy To Leave in 2012:  The ceaseless media coverage of the Presidential election
  • Most Looking Forward to in 2013:  Kate and Will’s baby (babies?)
  • Least Looking Forward to in 2013:  Not a thing. I’m Irish. We believe in self-fulfilling prophecies, so I’ve decided 2013 is going to be a great year all-around!

Ellie James

  • Best of 2012:  20th anniversary trip with my husband, ten amazing, sun-filled days, just us!
  • Happy To Leave in 2012:  The whole nightmare of Saints bounty-gate and the excruciating season that ensued!
  • Most Looking Forward to in 2013:  A tie between getting date night back on our calendar and bringing a new Young Adult series to life!
  • Least Looking Forward to in 2013:  Seeing my former favorite baseball player playing for our arch rival L
  • Biggest wish for 2013:  For softer edges. For more compassion and forgiveness. For the world to take a step back and a simultaneous deep breath. For less hate and aggression. More gentleness. More understanding. And love. Lots and lots of that.

Elise Rome

  • Best of 2012: SuperGirl becoming potty-trained.
  • Happy to Leave in 2012:  That ridiculously hot summer without A/C
  • Most Looking Forward to in 2013:  WonderGirl becoming potty-trained (hey!
it’s the little things, right? =)
  • Least Looking Forward to in 2013:  The next Downton Abbey season ending
*cries*

Robyn Dehart

  • Best of 2012The Hunger Games trilogy – I was late to the party, but the 2 weeks I spend reading these books were a highlight!
  • Happy to leave in 2012: The election (living with a political science professor means election years are like superbowls that last for months)
  • Most looking forward to in 2013: I have 4 books coming out! I’ve never had that many books out in one year
  • Least looking forward to in 2013: Whatever new reality spectacle will be next – I wish our culture wasn’t so intent on getting their 15 min of fame
  • Biggest wish for 2013:  That I would become at all the roles in my life: wife, mother, writer, housekeeper.

Emily McKay

  • Best of 2012:  The release of The Farm, my first single title YA. It’s been super fun. YA fans aren’t like romance fans. Romance fans just kind of quietly read and enjoy the books without a lot of fanfare. YA fans find you on Goodreads, email you privately and follow you on Facebook. It’s such fun!
  • Happy To Leave in 2012:  The presidential election! I just could stand the stress. Plus, I hate feeling like the country is divided.
  • Most Looking Forward to in 2013:  The movie Warm Bodies. Years ago I had an idea similar to this, but could never make it work, so I just can’t wait!
  • Least Looking Forward to in 2013:  My baby starting kindergarten. I’m just not ready for that!
  • Biggest wish for 2013: To manage my time better. I’d like to be more efficient.

 

My Family Doesn’t Look Like Your Family

Or hey, maybe it does! But it doesn’t look like everyone’s. It’s not normal. But then, what is normal, right? 😉

This idea of normal and the fact that I don’t seem to fit into it, used to bother me a little bit. I mean, I didn’t think it did, but…what other people thought was more of a concern than it should be.

January 1st marks the beginning of a new chapter in my family. My husband is quitting his job. I’m going to be the primary earner. Well…basically the sole earner.

We reached the point a few months ago where we saw this coming. The fact of the matter is, it makes sense for us. With two jobs, our schedule is insane. Neither of us are ever caught up, we never see each other. One of us is always working. A nanny or babysitter, while not simple for anyone, is especially complicated for us because we have one boy with autism and one with ADHD. And of the two jobs, mine is the better job.

So, we came to this point. And as we were discussing it, what other people might thing came up. Heck, there were people who offered opinions. People who were concerned my husband wouldn’t feel valuable. That we wouldn’t be portraying a good family model for our kids.

That kind of stuff is a little demoralizing, and yeah, you start to question your decisions.

And then we both kind of went: Wait…WHAT?

Our situation is not everyone else’s situation. No one else has to deal with our schedule, no one else has our kids. We’ve been blessed, I think exceedingly so, with the things we have. And one of those blessings is my career.

There came a point when I realized, I think part of the reason life is so insane, part of the reason we we’re keeping it this way, is for the sake of other people. That makes…no sense.

My family is mine. They are different. Our situation is different. But truly, isn’t everyone’s?

Ultimately the happiness and health of your family is SO MUCH MORE IMPORTANT than looking normal (whatever that is).

I know it’s hard for some people to understand. I know I’ll feel the need to justify the fact that my husband is a stay at home dad. I know sometimes people will make me feel like I’m not doing ‘my job’ and he’s not doing his. But hey, don’t people do that no matter what you do?

I can’t express how much freedom I’ve found over the past month or two just embracing the fact that my family isn’t normal. My family is the Yates family. We only have to look like us. We only have to function for us.

I mean, for heaven’s sake, we’re a bi-racial couple with three kids, two with special needs, my husband was raised on a school bus and I’m a romance writer. We never had much hope of looking normal, but we have every hope of being happy.

And that’s all that matters.

So, this is my battle cry, for you and for everyone: Be happy. Don’t worry about what anyone else things. Make your family work for you.

I’m really looking forward to this next phase of our adventure. Our family doesn’t look like everyone else’s family, but it looks pretty perfect to me.

A fun quiz with Robyn

Ever watch Inside the Actor’s Studio? It’s on A&E and I totally love it. For those of you who might be unfamiliar with it, it’s set in a film school (acting and directing) and the host has one actor on stage and they go through the actor’s work, asking questions about techniques and whatnot. And then at the end the students get to ask questions themselves. I always think it must be a scenario not unlike that RWA’s National conference where the cream of romance’s crop is often available for workshops and questions. And it’s just really fascinating to listen to actor’s talk about their craft in similar terms to how I’m used to creating characters and story. But the best part of the show is right before the host turns the actor over to the students and he ends with a famous questionnaire.

What is your favorite word? CRISP – it’s the perfect onomatopoeia

What is your least favorite word? ENVELOPE – I never know how to say it

What turns you on? MY HUSBAND’S LAUGHTER

What turns you off? ANY KIND OF HARM TO CHILDREN

What sound do you love? My DAUGHTERS’ GIGGLING

What sound do you hate? SQUEALING BRAKES

What profession other than yours would you like to attempt? WINDOW PAINTER – I’d love to do those holiday paintings on store windows

What profession would you not like to participate in? PODIATRIST – I cannot imagine wanting to work on people’s feet

What’s your favorite curse word? BUGGER

If heaven exists what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? YOUR LOVED ONES ARE WAITING OVER THERE

Answer it with me, and then this weekend I’ll draw one lucky winner to get a copy of my latest release, A LITTLE BIT WICKED.


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. www.robyndehart.com

I love you

“Not yet…two more minutes?”

Omigoodness, I have so much to do, the kitchen to clean, a few presents to wrap, and my Christmas letter… I haven’t even started it.

“Please?”

Her eyes are shining, hopeful. Her voice is soft, sweet. “Okay. Two more minutes.”

Her smile gets all dreamy.  “I love you, Mommy.”

My heart melts a little. It always does. “I love you, too, baby.”

She snuggles closer. “And I love that you love me.”

My heart melts a whole lot more.

That’s my little girl, my quality time/physical touch child. Sit next to her, hold her hand, tuck her in bed, hug her close, and her heart just sings. She feels loved, and she’s going to sing it from the rooftops. It’s so easy for her.

I grew up in a very undemonstrative family. There wasn’t much physical display of affection, not much hugging or holding hands, no wrestling around on the floor or fierce tickle wars. There were no I Love Yous. It was a different time, I sometimes think. Familial roles were more formal. Parents were parents, a la June and Ward Cleaver, and children were children. There were lines, and those lines didn’t blur. It was all kinda functional.

As I got older, I made friends who were more demonstrative. Love ya! they’d say, or maybe they’d hug me, and I’d always feel these walls slap up around me, big and tall and strong, like concrete, and suddenly I was all like the Fonz, except instead of not being able to say the words I’m sorry, I struggled to say I love you. They just felt so big and important and…intimate. So scary and vulnerable.  So risky. My heart would beat fast and my mouth would get dry, as I literally did not know how to give them back what they were so freely giving me.

Years later, when I met the right guy, the guy I would one day marry, even when I knew how I felt, getting those words out of my mouth was still difficult. And I have to laugh in retrospect, because even though I had a hard time saying the words, I wanted to hear them from him. I needed to.

That’s human, I know now. Love is something we all crave, whether we realize it or not. Food and water and air, that’s what our bodies require. Our souls, however, our spirits, need love. And despite all the wonderful ways to show people you love them, we need the words, too.

I. Love. You.

Not Love Ya! Not we love you. Not ditto.

I. Love. You.

It’s so easy to get swept up with our every day life and just assume our family and friends know how we feel. Or maybe there was some kind of falling out. Maybe some harsh words were said, or a trust broken. Anger has crept in. Resentment. Frustration. Or maybe time simply went by. Who knows. But somewhere along the line the words stop.

But here’s the thing. Those three little words–I love you–are incredibly important, and powerful. They’re a verbal affirmation between two people. An acknowledgment. They can warm like a blanket on a cold night, or protect like a band-aid. Sometimes they’re like a soft caress, or a lifeline tossed to someone drowning, or medicine to a sick and bleeding soul. They’re bold words, brave words. Words that say I trust you with that most intimate place inside of me. Words that say you are important, that you matter. That my life is better because you’re in it. And who doesn’t want—need—to hear that?

We have so much negative coming at us. Hostility and aggression are everywhere, as if hate has become a national sport. Sometimes it feels like this big, dark cosmic storm that blasts us day and night, sapping us. But hearing someone say I Love You has this magical power to penetrate our defenses and our walls, to touch us in places where we desperately need to be touched. To bind us together, and make us stronger.

With time, I’ve gotten a whole lot better with my I Love Yous. I tell my children every day. The words are freely exchanged with my husband, with my niece and a few friends. But they’re still difficult with my parents. I really don’t know the last time either they—or I—said them to each other. And you know what? That’s really sad.

So it’s Christmas Eve, right? Here’s something you can give, a beautiful, meaningful present that costs absolutely nothing, except maybe the lowering of some defenses and perhaps a big leap of faith. Reach out to someone you love, and tell them, okay? Maybe it’s your spouse or your sulky teenager, maybe a parent or a friend…  Give them the words. You never know.  It might just be the most sustaining gift they receive.

I love you.

Bring a Book Saturday: The Gruffalo

A few months ago, Baby Galen and I went to story time at the nearby Barnes & Noble. The bookseller read several books, but all the “regulars” kept asking her to read a book called The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler. Baby Galen and I both fell instantly in love with it. We bought a copy, took it home, and read it endlessly.

gruffalo2

A few weeks later I was thinking about a gift for a friend’s son, and when I bought him the book, I saw there was also an Academy award-nominated movie. So I bought two copies–one for us, of course. I can’t decide whether I like the book or the movie more. The movie is really well done.

movie

 

The Gruffalo is a great book for boys or girls, ages 2+. The movie is a little scary, though it didn’t scare Baby Galen, who is a bit of a wimp. Still, it might be better viewed by kids 3-4+.

 


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? www.shanagalen.com

The Negotiation

One thing I wasn’t prepared for as a new parent is the negotiation that has to happen with my husband when one or the other of us wants to do something alone–i.e., girls’ night, band rehearsal, football games, and so on. We started out just telling one another, “Wednesday I have rehearsal” and “Monday I have book club” and “Saturday I’m going to the game.”

But both of us are so busy, we would forget the other had plans. What? You’re going to be gone all day Saturday? Huh? I needed to be home from work early tonight? So we got a calendar and began writing our scheduled events on it (at least I did–my husband still surprises me once in a while).

1144054_calendar_close

The calendar works great, until we both have an event on the same day. Recently, there was a Wednesday evening that required quite a bit of negotiation. On Sunday, my husband told me he was meeting with the guys in Sunday school to plan curriculum. Now, if you don’t go to Sunday school, you may not know that “plan curriculum” is code for drink a few beers and watch the game. Usually church events trump others, but I had already told him I had a Christmas party that same night with the neighborhood mother’s group.

What to do? I tried finding a babysitter, but I didn’t try very hard. I had told him first. My event had precedence. But his was a church event, which traditionally had precedence. I had a gift bought for the white elephant exchange. He had told everyone he’d be there. I’d RSVPed on an actual Evite. The argument–I mean, negotiation–went on and on. Finally, I ended up going and he stayed home. I’m not sure that was really the fair decision, but it’s the one we made.

How do you negotiate these sorts of situations?


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? www.shanagalen.com

Brownie Baking madness!

Every year around the holidays, I go into a baking craze. I absolutely love to bake, any time of year. The holidays are just an excuse to bake day after day. Usually, I bake three or four kinds of cookies and maybe a batch of white trash. It’s all yummy goodness. All the teachers and neighbors and bus drivers get a nice box of cookies.

photo This year, I decided to go a different route. About a month ago, when I was at the dentist, I saw an article in Ladies Home Journal about all the things you can do with a box of brownie mix. They had nine different mix-ins you could add to spruce up the mix and a lovely picture of nine brownies. I was hooked. For a crazed baker like me, it was a challenge I had to accept.

A week ago, I bought and baked a box of Ghirardelli Brownie mix. Normally, I make brownies from scratch, so I wanted to make sure I liked the brownies plain. They passed the test. Unfortunately, one box wouldn’t be enough for my purposes. I had twelve people on my brownie list. So I would need to do double batches. Just to clarify. That’s nine double batches. That’s eighteen boxes of mix. That’s 36 eggs (because I like the thick, cakey brownies). And I wanted to do them all in one day, because brownies can go stale quickly. (Did I mention this was madness? I think I mentioned that, right?)

photoMonday was the day. I started at 8:30 as soon as I got home from dropping my boy at school. At first, I was writing while the brownies baked, but quickly realized I would never get them done if I wasn’t prepping while they baked. Then I realized I need two pans in the oven at a time. Then I realized I needed my husband to pick up take out for dinner. And put the kids to bed while I slugged it out in the kitchen. Finally, I fell into bed after eleven (and still had three pages to write for the night!) Then I was up again 5:00 to slice and box before  sending my darlings (the brownies, not the kids) off to school. I mentioned this was madness, right? Please, this episode will come up if I’m ever on trial and my sanity is called into question.

They were beautiful. I took pictures to prove it. See?

But then, a funny thing happened. I walked with my daughter out to her bus to give the box of brownies to her bus driver (who is possibly the best bus driver since Sandra Bullock). He gave me a big smile, thanked me and said, “You know, the best gift I ever got from a parent was that letter you wrote me when she was in kindergarten.” He smiled again as he drove off and I stood there for moment, stunned.

See, that first day of kindergarten, I was terrified to just thrust my tiny daughter onto the bus. I’d never ridden the school bus (but my husband rode one every year until he could drive), and all I knew of buses I’d learned from John Hughes movies. I was terrified to send my daughter. But our bus driver is so great, I knew with in weeks that he’d take good care of our kids. We live on a tricky road and he’s so cautious. He’s just a good guy. And at Christmas that first year, I wrote him a long note telling him that.

When we send our kids off to school, we’re trusting other people with our kids. Great people. I’m thankful everyday for the wonderful people who care for and educate my kiddoes when I can’t (or am not qualified) to do so. No amount of crazy baking–or heartfelt letters–can express how grateful I am. Not just do these wonderful people educate my kids, teaching them valuable life skills and knowledge, but they teach an even great lesson–that there are wonderful, caring people in the world. People for whom making the world a better, brighter place is more important than making a buck.

In short, teachers are amazing. So amazing, there literally are no words for how grateful I am. And I’m a writer. Words are my bread and butter. I should be able to whip up a letter of gratitude in a snap. But the truth is–it’s so much easier to send a whole day on my feet, baking 9 double batches of brownies. The brownies may be yummy, but I took the easy way out.

If you’re a teacher (or former teacher) leave a comment telling me the best gift you ever got. Then email me at Emily <at> Emily McKay <dot> com with your snail mail adress and I’ll send you a free book. (Check out Amazon for back list and I’ll see if I can get one of your choices.) If you’re not a teachers, let’s sing their praises! And I’ll pick one of you to get a signed book too!

Emily McKayEmily McKay loves to cook, bake and play with her kids. When she’s not on deadline, she also gardens, composts, follows celebrity gossip, and practices yoga. When she is on deadline, she … well, she panics, and does all of those things with more nervous energy. She lives in central Texas with her husband, two kids, two cat, two dogs and four chickens.

Guest Mom Kimberly Kincaid with a recipe for Grandma Maly’s Butter Gems

I’m so happy to have yoga/fitness expert and awesome writer Kimberly with us today at PBOK. She’s a real ray of sunshine–always such a cheerful volunteer at writers’ events– and I can tell from talking to her girls that she’s such a fun mom. I’m super happy that Kimberly has landed a fabulous contract at Kensington for her foodie romances. So well-deserved, Kimberly!!! Thanks for sharing some of your favorite holiday recipes with us today.

cookiesWhen Kieran asked me to write a blog post on the tradition of baking holiday cookies, I will admit, I was more excited than most people might’ve been. Not only am I an avid baker, but I also write culinary (or “foodie”) romance. The mere thought of butter, sugar and eggs coming together to create something downright magical— something more— at the holidays thrills me down to my toes. So I researched such delights as golden-brown coconut macaroons, sugar cutouts that gleamed with melted sugar like stained glass, and traditional family recipes that spanned generations. I wrote about families coming together to enjoy the spirit of the season. I began to gather ingredients so I could do exactly that with my kids when they got home from school.

And then I saw the news feed from Newtown, Connecticut, and like so many of you, my heart shattered. How could I write about something as light-hearted and soul-soothing as making butter gems with my kindergartener and her sisters (which is our time-honored holiday tradition) in the wake of such horror? Simply put, I couldn’t. I put my writing, and my plans to bake cookies with my daughters, aside.

But the butter had been set out, and my nearly-11-year-old has keen, keen eyes. She said, “Are we baking today?” and there was no denying the hope in her voice for an affirmative answer.

I hesitated. Her younger sisters were right there (ages 5 and 8), so I knew I had to choose my words carefully. “Well, something really sad happened today. I don’t know if I’m in the mood to bake cookies.”

And my daughter looked at me with that kid-wisdom 5th graders occasionally drum up, and she said, “But if we bake cookies, you’ll feel better. That’s what baking cookies is for.”

And she’s right. Yes, the holidays are an incredibly fast-paced time for all of us, and yes, baking cookies and preparing meals can seem like just one more thing on a to-do list as long as your leg. But when I took out the mixer and emptied the pantry and gave each of my daughters measuring cups and rolling pins and colored sprinkles on Friday, I realized that baking cookies really is something more. There is a transformative power in preparing and sharing food that goes beyond nourishing the body, and you don’t have to be a master baker or a culinary pro to tap into it (believe me when I say, my kitchen has seen some disastrous trial-and-error in the Christmas cookie department!) But carrying on family traditions— or making new traditions— by way of food, embodies something that showed me that holiday baking really is more than the sum of its parts. It’s more than butter and sugar and eggs. It’s more than knocking something off the to-do list.

It’s a way to share the human spirit. It’s a way, however small, that we can heal our sadness, calm our anger, and enhance our joy. It did in my house on Friday, a day when I honestly thought nothing could. In a nutshell, food is love. How are you sharing it with your family and friends this holiday season?

Grandma Maly’s Butter Gems

½ cup butter

½ cup shortening (butter flavored if possible)

¾ cup granulated sugar

1 egg (large)

2 ¼ cups flour

½ teaspoon baking powder

Dash of salt (about an eighth of a teaspoon)

½ teaspoon almond extract

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Cream butter and shortening in a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes). Add sugar gradually until well mixed. Add egg. In a small bowl, sift together dry ingredients and add in small batches until incorporated, scraping down the sides of the mixer as needed. Add extract and mix until just blended. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes. Fill a cookie press (or drop by rounded teaspoon for round cookies) with the dough, piping cookies onto parchment or Silpat lined baking sheets. Decorate with colored sugar, sprinkles, or decorations of your choice. Bake 10 minutes per batch, or until bottoms just begin to brown. Yield= approximately 3 dozen.


Headshot RedKimberly Kincaid writes contemporary romance that splits the difference between sexy and sweet. When she’s not sitting cross-legged in an ancient desk chair known as “The Pleather Bomber”, she can be found practicing obscene amounts of yoga, whipping up anything from enchiladas to éclairs in her kitchen, or curled up with her nose in a book. Look for her Pine Mountain foodie series, starting with the Christmas anthology The Sugar Cookie Sweetheart Swap (with Donna Kauffman and Kate Angell) in October 2013. Come on over to Kimberly’s website for more information about her books, or find her on Facebook and Twitter.

Yes, That’s My Child Dangling From the Monkey Bars

Today I’m super excited to introduce Joanne Rock to our Peanut Butter world, with her thoughts on giving your kids wings. Joanne and I first met…well, let’s just a say awhile back, before either of us was published. I remember thinking how nice she was, and how lovely and young she looked. It was hard to imagine she was already the mother of three rambunctious boys…but she was and she is. Except they’re not little boys anymore. They’re swoon-worthy young men. You could say Joanne, known for her steamy romances, lives her life in a world of testosterone. And all these years later, she’s just as super sweet as she’s always been, except now she’s a bestselling romance author, too!  Welcome, Joanne!!  We’re so happy you’re here!

***

Reading Peanut Butter on the Keyboard– even just seeing those Froot Loops on the keys in the header- makes me nostalgic for my earlier mothering days. I recently discovered an old home video of my youngest son standing on a picnic table bench in a diaper and no shirt, shoving a homemade marshmallow Froot Loop treat in his mouth and telling the camera person he’s eating “ticky foo loos.” He repeats it several times for the uncomprehending cameraman (his dad) until my baby gets a bit mad, enunciating as clearly as possible with a toddler tongue full of marshmallow- “tic-he foo loos.”

Translation- Sticky Froot Loops. Duh.

I love that video for so many reasons. I have no memory of making Sticky Froot Loops- ever. So this little bit of Rock history brings to life a moment that would have been otherwise forgotten. And seeing my half naked kid running around my yard (on the picnic table bench no less) reminds me of how relaxed I was as a young mom.

Part of being an easygoing mom came from knowing what my kids could do- within reason. As a mother, you are very familiar with your child’s physical and verbal prowess before they go to school. You get to witness the growth every day of their lives, all the more so if you stay at home with them as I did. But you come to understand your child’s abilities very well. One day they can’t reach a countertop and the next day they can. I learned that lesson well with my youngest son when I placed my medication on the counter and turned to get a glass of water to wash it down with. When it was gone a second later and my toddler stood behind me grinning, I realized how quickly and abruptly their abilities multiply.

The point is, we witness what they can do. Now, none of my boys seemed like geniuses as toddlers, but they could climb, jump, run, fall and slide with athletic ease from a very early age. They might not have had stellar vocabularies and potty training early wasn’t on any of their agendas, but by God, they could scale the monkey bars while other kids looked on in wonder. I don’t know why; it just seemed to be coded into the Rock DNA, a skill set locked in from an early age. Seeing that athleticism grow- along with their confidence- was really rewarding for me.

It was less fun for my fellow moms, whose kids weren’t always as nimble. There were shocked gasps on the playground. Worried glares as someone else would step in and parent for me, diligently monitoring one of my kids on the monkey bars while I gabbed with a girlfriend and drank tea under the shade of a live oak. Lest you think I’m truly the kind of parent that needs a spotter (medicine gaffe not withstanding), I’m not talking about giant monkey bars. I’m talking about age appropriate stuff for a three year old. Big, agile three year olds! But still… I will confess now that I tended to let my kids have at it. They skinned knees with regularity but, thank goodness, no bones were broken until scholastic sports began (a blog for another day).

I feel certain that some moms were aghast at the skinned knees obtained under my watch from the distance of that live oak. Yet I feel just as certain that my kids gained a whole lot of confidence in themselves, as well as a healthy respect for their own limitations, in those falls. I could have prevented some of those scrapes by hovering. But I like to think I taught them self reliance, wisdom, and the ability to make a few elementary decisions for themselves. It also taught them there is no success without the occasional failure. Ask any writer. Or any kid standing at the top of those monkey bars, pounding his chest. In light of how tough it was to get up there that first time, who can deny them a moment to cheer?

My point is not that I know best as a parent. One of my closest girlfriends’ sons wouldn’t go near the monkey bars as a kid. He was probably reading fluently on a blanket near us under that live oak, staring at my climbing kids as though they were creatures from another planet. Her son was simply on a different trajectory and she encouraged him in his own path. Her comfort with that is something I admired and I’ve found it to be a lesson that still serves me well as I parent older kids making more complex choices. It’s okay to let your kids’ strengths reveal themselves. It’s healthy to let those strengths guide your parenting. And, best of all it’s okay to trust your judgment as a mom.

While it’s important to keep our kids safe from real danger, it’s also not going to be a black mark on a permanent parenting record if your child takes a few bumps on his way to independence. Literally or figuratively. Encountering obstacles builds resilience and character. Setbacks teach us more than success, so insulating our kids from the failure doesn’t do them any favors. Looking back, I feel certain that my kids gained a whole lot of fun by throwing themselves whole-heartedly into life.  As for my part, I gained a whole lot by being there to watch and witness those amazing journeys.

***Trusting your gut carries over into writing too. Are you a trust your gut writer? A trust your gut parent? Or do you like a little more input on the process? Chat with Joanne today on the boards about the risks and rewards of letting your baby bird fly… or flying into the mist yourself! One commenter will receive a copy of Joanne’s latest Harlequin Blaze FULL SURRENDER.