The Blog Wherein Shana Loses Her Smugness

You would think that if I participate in a blog about parenting, I’m not smug about parenting issues. But the truth is there is–was–a little smugness in me. I never thought I was a sentimental mother. Every year I read the Facebook posts about moms tearing up when their baby starts Kindergarten. I talk to moms who see a new baby and want to hold him or her because they miss the baby years.

That’s when I always felt a little smug. I do not miss the baby years. I don’t have the urge to hold babies. I don’t want to smell them or let them fall asleep on me. I got plenty of that when Baby Galen was an infant. And I always thought I couldn’t wait for her to go to Kindergarten (I’ll be waiting until 2015, by the way). All day for me to work and all day for her to socialize? We were getting the best of both worlds! What is there to cry about? See, ya!

And then there was school drop off.

 2013-09-14 17.21.27

Baby Galen is finally old enough to be dropped off at preschool. I have been waiting for this day for a year because I thought she was ready last year. The day finally came. She was excited. I was excited. We pulled up, a teacher helped her out of the car, and she was gone. The next thing I know, another teacher is waving me forward. I had to drive off. I didn’t get to say goodbye. I didn’t get a hug, I didn’t even see her go in. I had to trust that they got her in and to the right place.

I drove off and told myself there was nothing to be upset about. The teachers walk the kids to their rooms, and my daughter knows where her room is and what to do when she gets there. We hadn’t said goodbye, but that was because she was excited. She was ready to go in by herself. That was a good thing.

2013-09-27 18.37.31

So why was I sobbing? Why was I sitting in the Starbucks parking lot crying like…like…like one of those moms on the first day their child goes to Kindergarten. Oh, no! I was just like that! Those moms were also proud of their kids’ accomplishments and also sad that their little ones are growing up. That was how I felt!

2013-09-28 14.06.48

Even worse, Baby Galen’s birthday came a few weeks later, and I heard myself saying, “You need to stop growing. You have to stay four!” To which she replied, “But Mommy, God wants me to keep growing.”

Yes, He does, and I do too. But it’s suddenly hard to let go. It’s suddenly hard to see how tall she is, hear how she uses complete sentences, see her swim across a pool, watch her do a handstand. How did she grow up so fast?

To The Random Parent on the Soccer Field

Yes, I see that little boy, the one you’re pointing at, the one who’s so tiny. Yes, I see how huge his jersey is on him, that it hangs down past his knees, that his shorts go down to his ankles. I see the way he runs.

I first saw him as a steady flicker on a sonogram screen, confirmation that the rising HCG number was, in fact, indicating a pregnancy. I saw him again six weeks later, a curved bean growing perfectly. Then, again, six weeks after that, with arms and legs and a head. This was when the doctor first realized something was wrong, that ‘the fetus’ wasn’t growing right, that he was falling behind, too small for gestational age. That we should prepare for him to meet the same fate as his brother and sister before him. Maybe he’d make it to 20 weeks, a little longer, twenty-four, twenty-six. There was really no way to tell and nothing we could do, except prepare ourselves.

At twenty weeks, the perinatologist had us tour the NICU and meet with a neonatologist, who thought it helpful to prepare us for what happens when babies come too early and too small. We learned about lung problems and brain bleeds and gut strokes. The next day we met with another perinatologist who talked about Downs Syndrome, and two days later yet another, who spent a grueling hour measuring in-utero blood flow.

From there, we saw our little boy two to three times per week, tense, tedious hour-long sonograms during which incredibly precise measurements were taken, of blood flow through his brain and heart and stomach, gauging how much longer he could survive in utero. At twenty-seven weeks I went into the hospital. At thirty weeks, the perinatologist, a kindly older man on the verge of retirement, decided the baby was in distress and it was time to deliver. The little guy, though, was busy playing with his cord, wrapping it so tightly around his body that his heart rate plummeted before we made it to Labor and Delivery. The last words I heard as the gas mask settled over my face were, “we’re losing him.”

Later that day, after emergency surgery, I lay in the recovery room with my eyes closed for a long, long time, scared to open them, having no idea into what world I’d awakened. Was it a world with my newborn son….or a world in which he was gone? I lay there that afternoon with my eyes closed, cold and scared and hurting inside, until finally I heard my sister’s voice, warm, quiet, and joyous. “He’s beautiful.

After I stabilized, they wheeled me down to the NICU, where my husband was standing solemnly beside an isolette, where our little 1lb, 13oz son lay. We’d been so hoping he’d make it to 2lbs. I saw him that afternoon, tiny, emaciated, wide, confused eyes staring up at the bright glare of the lights, countless cords and tubes running to and from his small body. But I couldn’t touch him, because just that, a mother’s touch, might have been too much for his fragile nervous system.


I saw him, scared and alone, the size of a Little Mommy doll, and my heart bled.

Pic 1

For a week after that I saw him twice daily, lying alone in his isolette. I’d sit there for hours at a time, alternating between staring at him and watching the monitors that recorded his vitals. Sometimes his heart rate would drop, or his blood oxygen, alarms would sound, and nurses would swarm. And I could do nothing but sit there and watch, and pray and bargain with God. Please…please, please, please…

Pic 3

After a week I was finally allowed to hold him. A nurse placed him against my bare chest, positioned carefully among all the tubes and wires. It’s called kangarooing, and there are mysterious medical accounts of failing babies coming back from the brink as their mother’s warmth soaks through their fragile bodies, against the strong, steady beat of her heart.

Pic 4

I saw him daily for the next ten weeks, visits to the sterile NICU, where I sat beside his isolette, talking to him, telling him about his family, and making promises. So many promises. But after seeing him, I had to go home, back to my house, where the nursery sat empty and nights were spent in cold, desperate dread of the phone ringing.

I saw him the morning I arrived to see the empty isolette next to him, where the evening before a new set of parents had stood frozen vigil over their brand new baby boy, a 26-weeker…

I saw him when we brought him home, finally breathing on his own and a full 4 lbs.

Pic 5

I saw him that first year, finally sleeping in his own crib, sitting in his sister’s lap, his father’s arms, his grandparents lap, on countless trips to the pediatrician. I saw him interacting with the physical therapist and the occupational therapist, as he struggled to master skills such as rolling over and sitting up, crawling, standing, eating…always in the confines of our house, to protect his fragile immune system. No trips to the park or the grocery store, play areas or play dates. The one time I did take him out, some random person thought he was so tiny they just had to touch him…


I saw him fight and struggle, and I saw him smile and laugh.  I saw him grow. I saw him fall in love with his sister and our cat, with balls and music.

Screen shot 2013-09-26 at 12.37.24 PM

I saw him on the first day of preschool, when he was the only child in class not yet walking. I saw him as the year went by, and his peers outpaced him physically, growing taller and stronger. I saw him stand up to boys younger but larger than him who called him a baby, keeping his brave face on until we were alone, when he would come to with tears in his big blue eyes as he asked me, “I’m not a baby, am I, Mama?”

I saw him all those times and thousands of others, and I see him now, out on the soccer field, despite the fact no one can so much as provide him a uniform that fits.

I see him out there, running, laughing, trying…healthy.



I see him, his fierce determination and resiliency, his unquenchable thirst for life, a miracle in motion.

Yes, random parent on the soccer field, I see him, the boy you’re pointing at.

jack running

Do you?

Screen Time and Kids

If you’re confused about screen time for your kids, watch this short video outlining the pros and cons of screen use for children and at what age it’s appropriate. And then make your own decisions for your family.

How much screen time does your child get? 

Hi, I’m Kieran. My family loves music and anything that makes us laugh out loud. Along with Chuck, my husband of 24 years, I try to teach our kids that we have to actively choose happiness–and if I accomplish nothing else as a mom but pass that one lesson along to them, then I think I’ve done my job. My oldest guy, Nighthawk, was diagnosed in kindergarten with Asperger’s syndrome, and now he’s a senior in college; his sister Indie Girl, who’s younger by 16 months, is a college junior; and my youngest, Dragon, is in tenth grade. For our family, it’s about managing your weaknesses and wringing everything you can get out of your strengths. And along the way, finding joy.

School Days

FallSo, I’m not the most organized person in the world. That’s understatement. As many of you know, my husband is the man of the house…in that he is the house husband. In that if it were not for him I would select all clothing out of a laundry basket each morning. Clean laundry, no one panic.

Anyway, as the school year approached I started getting really wound up. Mainly because we have two kids going full time this year for the first time (Because he’s in a special needs class, Danger goes a full day even though he’s in kindergarten), and our youngest is going to preschool two days a week.

I was panicky because we had ONE kid in school last year and uh…I suck at keeping track of paperwork. I suck at packing lunches. I suck at getting up early. I forget to make kids do their homework. The aforementioned things being reasons that the school year actually kind of terrifies me.

So this year, I decided I needed to go in with a plan. More kids in school means MORE of all those things that intimidate me. I decided to try and at least start organized. And I started with a lunch station.

I read up on some tips on Pinterest, which has become my favorite place to get ideas from people who are craftier than I. The thing is, organization tips and tricks are something I NEED to get things together. But because I’m not a natural organizer…well, I have to get my tips from somewhere.

Fortunately, I was able to collect a myriad of tips from Pinterest and I’m going to share some. 🙂

1. Establish a homework station now. (I cleared of my son’s desk for this, but it hasn’t been super successful because he likes to do his homework in the kitchen.)

2. Make a lunch station, put EVERYTHING in it.

This I did. And it’s the most effective organization tip I’ve gotten. For some reason…I never thought of this last year. So I bought two baskets, and I bought tupperware that locks together. Then bought the lunch supplies (and I even bought cookie cutters to make CUTE lunches, darn it) and put all of that, plus the lunch boxes in my new station.













As the school year progresses, we’ll see how it all works out. But for now, this is saving my sanity. Feeling empowered to pack lunches is saving my sanity. Because it’s hard to try and gear up for a time of year (that lasts nine months…) you feel you kind of fail at.

I’m trying to set myself up for feelings of success, even in little things. Even in peanut butter and jelly. Got any more organization tips for me?

Especially when it comes to paperwork?

A Knock At The Door

I’m in the family room finishing up a cruel and evil exercise video. The kids are running around and I’m late getting dinner going. Another knock. Through the window, I can see the UPS truck outside. I tell my daughter to go get the door; if it’s not the delivery man, it’s one of her friends. It’s that time of day when they run around. Knocks on the door are common.

Another knock. She calls to me it’s some man. Distracted and a little winded from the video, I tell her no, it’s not some man, it’s the delivery man. Not thinking, I pull open the door..and realize she was right. It’s some man. I’ve never seen him before, but instinctively I know he doesn’t belong. He’s thin and all sweaty, unkempt with shaggy hair and dirty baggy clothes. I take all this in, mentally bracing myself as I see the city solicitor permit clipped to his shirt. Nothing, however, prepared me for what happened next.

“Hello, ma’am…” he stutters, as my five year-old-squeezes between my legs to see what’s going on.  “…I’m a two-time convicted felon.”

My mind starts to spin. I’m trying to catch up with what’s going on. I’m standing there at dusk, with a convicted felon at my front door. My husband isn’t only not home, he’s out of town. The big white dog is outside. My kids are gathered around me. All this flashes through my mind as I make eye contact with the UPS man, who tosses a package onto my porch. The man who introduced himself as a convict picks it up and hands it to me…

I don’t normally answer the door to someone I don’t know. Before my daughter was born, I was a 9-5 (or 6 or 7 or beyond) in the office kind of girl. I had no idea what happened in the neighborhood while we were gone. After I started working from home, I quickly discovered just how many people came onto our property during the day. There’s all kinds of solicitors, primarily extermination and landscaping companies. There are folks delivering coupons and other sorts of flyers, such as to wash our windows. There are folks selling frozen meat and (allegedly) homegrown vegetables. There are various religious missionaries. It’s kinda wild. But it didn’t take long for my writer’s imagination to take over, and vulnerability to set in. I’d find myself listening to news reports where the anchor would say “no apparent sign of forced entry,” and I’d think…forced entry? There’s no need for forced entry, not when some unsuspecting person (usually a woman) answers the door. One stiff arm, and boom, that stranger on the other side of the door is suddenly in your house.

That’s when I stopped answering the door.

But the other evening, I answered the door, and the man introduced himself as a convict. He told me he’s made some mistakes, but he’s trying to turn his life around. He and his wife have started making these candle/potpourri holders…

And still my mind spins. Why is he telling me this? Is he sincere? Is this some kind of penance, where he wants to atone for mistakes? Or is it more sinister than that? Is he trying to scare me into doing exactly what he wants me to do? Is he secretly casing the house, trying to figure out if he should come back under the cover of darkness?

All I can think about is winding this encounter down. I want him gone, off my property. So when he holds up the candle holder–it’s really quite primitive–I ask him how much. When he says $15, I blurt out…sure.

And that’s when everything changed, when something washed over him: surprise, relief, gratitude…they were all there, and as I closed (and locked) the door to go get the money, the hardness inside me softened, and when I opened the door and his eyes again met mine, I found myself smiling. He said something about his children. I don’t remember what. I took the candle holder and watched him walk back to his car with a bit of a spring in his step. There he opened his trunk, pulled out another candle holder, then walked to my neighbors house.


Rattled, I did what I always do: I took to Facebook, sharing what had just happened, and several friends quickly responded. All sorts of pros and cons were discussed, and soon I found myself on the phone with the police department, telling them what had happened, as well. Turns out they’re familiar with the vendor–and his penchant for telling people about his prior convictions–but his permit is legit, and they’ve never had reason to revoke it. While I was learning this, other friends chimed in, reporting that he’d been to their house before, as well. Some of them purchased from him. Some did not. (They’re all still around to talk about it.)

For the rest of the evening, I kept thinking about the encounter, conflicted about my own feelings (my automatic suspicion of this grimy looking stranger) and wondering whether I’d done the right thing (for the right reasons, to help him or to get rid of him).  My husband and I have long felt like in situations like that, when someone approaches you for money or food, it’s best to help if you can. If the recipient is, instead, pulling one over on you, then that’s their bad, not yours.  And I really think that’s true.

Then a friend sent me this, and even as I had the security system activated, I found peace with the whole situation.  If you do yourself one favor today, watch this.  But be warned, have a tissue handy.



Stellar Moments in Parenting

Being a parent is a wonderful joy. But sometimes I think it feels like survival of the fittest. EVERY MAN FOR HIMSELF. I have three kids, ages 7, 5 and 3 and they’re wonderful. WONDERFUL. But you know…some days you do some crazy things in the quest for a little peace.  Sometimes you do some really silly things because the house is chaotic and you just lose track of what you’re doing. And here are some of my…

Stellar Moments in Parenting –

1. I may have pretended I didn’t see the child run to his room with my phone (which he’s not allowed to have) to buy a few minutes to drink my coffee.

2. One time I left my daughter in the car in the driveway for ten minutes because I was SURE I’d counted three kids going into the house. (she was fine…not even upset…BUT I WAS!)

3. Oops! Today was early release at school??

4. I was out grocery shopping alone  yesterday and bought new nail polish. Then I sat in my van and painted my nails so that I would have a quiet moment and some time to let them dry!!

5. I have driven to town, through the Starbucks drive thru, with all the kids in the car just to get a little break. Hey, they’re buckled in!!

So those are just some of my stellar moments in parenting…have any to share?

Am I Doing Better than My Kid? Guest Post by Sherry Thomas

Today I welcome fellow historical romance author, and new YA author Sherry Thomas, to the blog. Sherry is one of the most interesting people I know, and she always makes me laugh.


In general, I do not have peanut butter on my keyboard. That’s because my children are fairly elderly, years removed from their prime peanut-butter-smearing days: Senior Kidlet is a sixteen-going-on-seventeen, Junior Kidlet twelve. (Although a couple of years ago Senior Kidlet upended a cup of eggnog on my laptop and it was a miracle nothing happened.)

In our house, Senior Kidlet and Junior Kidlet take turns being the concern child. For the past couple of years, as Senior Kidlet became a full-fledged teenager, with college looming on the horizon, he has once again become the focus of our parental handwringing and teeth-gnashing.

As we lecture him endlessly on taking initiative, taking responsibility, taking care to do things properly the first time—his problem being mainly an ingrained case of slackerism—sometimes I make myself step back and take a slightly longer view of things.

The thing is, people have short memories.  For those of us who are parents, it often seems as if we have always been mature, responsible, and just plain competent at life.  Some of us are—His Hawtness, my husband, might always have been mature, responsible, and just plain competent at life.  Me, not so much.

Senior Kidlet has been known to let his homework slide for weeks.  But I faked my entire 10th grade science project: I poured cooking wine into apple juice to pretend it had fermented into cider. My chemistry teacher suspected something, but couldn’t prove the alcohol content came from manual addition—or maybe he couldn’t quite bring himself to believe that a studious-looking Asian girl would pull that sort of con.  I would say my fraudulence beats my kid’s laziness in the what-would-convince-your-parents-you-are-doomed-in-life category.

Senior Kidlet recently decided he wants to study political science and become a legislative aide.  His Hawtness, an engineer by training and by vocation, could not wrap his head around that choice.  Which makes me wonder what my poor mother had thought when I declared, approximately two decades ago, that I planned to become the Secretary General of the United Nations.

Senior Kidlet lost a textbook last year.  I lost three textbooks my first semester in college.

He does things last minute.  I only start cooking when people are already digging through the kitchen looking for food.  I often finish cooking after everyone had already fed themselves with leftovers.

He can’t plan ahead.  As long as I have the least bit of food in my stomach, I can’t come up with grocery lists.

He turns in stuff late.  I just turned in a manuscript ten days late.

He is messy.  Our house is slightly better now, but used to almost always look as if it had just been visited by a tornado.

Darn, this kid really is related to me.

One of the reasons kids don’t like high school is that you have to study everything, whether you have an interest in or a talent for the subject.  Along that same line, during a kid’s teenage years is when parents nag about everything, from punctuality to personal hygiene to tidiness to how they talk and walk.  We want them to do everything well.

The thing is, we can get through life very decently without ever learning to do many things well—and without ever learning to do some things at all.  And after a child reaches a certain age, the role of the parents becomes that of a failsafe.  Whatever else the kid still has to learn, only life will teach.

I turned out okay.  It follows Senior Kidlet will also turn out okay.

Fingers crossed.


PBOK Ask the Mom Questions:

Cloth or disposable diapers?

Cloth.  Though for Junior Kidlet, His Hawtness forbade me from using cloth diapers at night—he remembered me crying one time, when Senior Kidlet was small, while washing diapers in the middle of the night.  That darned kid pooped seven times around one feeding. Seven times!

Favorite children’s song?

The opening theme of Hana no Ko Lunlun, a Japanese anime, called Lulu, the Flower Angel in English.  (Have a listen here.

Favorite kids’ book?

Anno’s Counting Book.  A book without a single word, which transports and moves me in an almost nostalgic way.  Perhaps it reminds me of the magically beautiful Europe of Hana no Ko Lunlun.

Most annoying kids’ TV show/character?

Used to be Barney, until the start of Elmo’s World.

Midnight or Dawn? 

Middle of the day.


Sherry Thomas is one of the most acclaimed romance authors working today. Her books regularly receive starred reviews from trade publications and are frequently found on best-of-the-year lists. She is also a two-time winner of Romance Writers of America’s prestigious RITA® Award.

English is Sherry’s second language—she has come a long way from the days when she made her laborious way through Rosemary Roger’s Sweet Savage Love with an English-Chinese dictionary. She enjoys digging down to the emotional core of stories. And when she is not writing, she thinks about the zen and zaniness of her profession, plays computer games with her sons, and reads as many fabulous books as she can find.

Sherry’s next book, THE BURNING SKY, volume one of her young adult fantasy trilogy, is on sale TODAY.


When Friday Met 13

“Forget it. I am so not going out tonight.”

“Um, hello? Friday night? Awesome party? The guy you’ve been dying to meet?”

“Yeah, but have you seen the calendar? The nifty little 1 in front of the 3?”

“Don’t tell me—”

But she did. My college roommate absolutely refused to go to the biggest party of the semester simply because it fell on the 13th of the month and a Friday. For her, that was reason enough to stay home, alone, where she was convinced nothing bad could happen.

Pic 1

Here we are again today, many years later, one of two times during 2013 when the 13th lands on a Friday. That means everywhere you turn, you’ll hear people talking about bad luck, ill omens, and warning you to be careful.

The superstition has a name, two of them actually. Upon mentioning this to my husband, he narrowed his eyes in that thinking way of his, then after only a few seconds rattled them off: friggatriskaidekaphobia (Frigga being the Norse goddess after whom Friday is named and triskaidekaphobia for fear of the number thirteen) and paraskevidekatriaphobia (Paraskevi and dekatreis being the Greek words for Friday and thirteen, attached to good ole phobia meaning fear). Yeah, I wanted to smack him. He’s not someone you want to oppose in Trivial Pursuit.

But why all the fear? What’s the deal with Friday the 13th, anyway? As a lover of All Things Freaky, I decided to do a little research!

Bad Friday

While I tend to be a big fan of Fridays, historically speaking the day has a pretty bad reputation. You could say it all started with Adam, Eve, and the fateful offer of an apple one afternoon. Yep, a Friday.

Pic 2

Then there was the Great Flood, which also began on a Friday. And the tongue-tying of the builders of the Tower of Babel. And the destruction of the Temple of Solomon. And, of course, we can’t leave Good Friday off the list of significant Fridays. In early Rome, Friday was execution day. During the Middle Ages, pagans considered Friday the most holy of days, prompting the Church to deem Fridays as the Witches Sabbath. Significantly more recently, we have the Black Friday stock market crash.

Over time, the legends began:

  •     Don’t change your linens on Friday. You’ll have bad dreams.
  •     Don’t begin a trip on Friday. You’ll encounter ill fortune.
  •     Don’t cut your nails on a Friday. Bad luck is sure to follow.
  •     Don’t get married on a Friday. You’re destined to a cat-and-dog life.
  •     Don’t start a job on Friday. It won’t last for long.

And finally: Don’t set sail on Friday. You’re journey is sure to be unfortunate. (There’s an elaborate story about a British government initiative to quell this fear, involving a ship, the H.M.S. Friday: they laid her keel on Friday; hired her crew on a Friday; including a man named Jim Friday as her captain; and yes, launched her on a Friday. She was never seen again. However, this appears to fall under the Urban Legend category!)

That brings us to the number thirteen.

The Devil’s Dozen

Have you ever stepped into a high-rise elevator and noticed there’s no button for the thirteenth floor?

Pic 3

That’s because the number thirteen has an even worse rap than Friday. According to numerology, the number twelve is that of completeness: twelve hours of the clock, twelve months of the year, twelve gods of Olympus, twelve tribes of Israel, twelve Apostles, twelve successors of Muhammad, etc. Add one, however, and you throw everything out of balance. How many were seated at the Last Supper? Yep, thirteen.

It’s not surprising, then, the number thirteen has its own cache of warnings:

  • If thirteen people sit down for a meal together, one of them is soon to die.
  • If you live on the thirteenth floor of a building, bad luck will follow. Hence, many buildings try to “cheat” by not labeling a floor thirteen.
  • If you live on the thirteenth street, misfortune awaits you. Accordingly, cities all over the world skip from twelve to fourteen when it comes to naming streets and avenues.
  • If you have thirteen letters in your name, you have the touch of the devil. To save you the research, I present: Jack the Ripper, Charles Manson, Jeffrey Dahmer, Theodore Bunch, and Albert De Salvo.
  • Oh, yeah: there are thirteen witches in a coven.

So now we’ve got Bad Friday and The Devil’s Dozen. Add them together and you get the worst of the worst, a Friday that falls on the 13th. Interestingly, however, this simply seems to be a case of Bad + Bad = VERY Bad. Mentions of this superstition (or anything terrible, freaky, or cataclysmic linked to this day) are rarely found prior to the 20th century. Dan Brown made a case in The DaVinci Code that dread of Friday the 13th stems from the 14th century arrest and subsequent massacre of hundreds of Knights Templar, but historians counter that this is a recent connection. And…to muddy the waters even more, in Greece and Spanish-speaking countries, instead of Friday, it’s Tuesday the 13th that’s considered an ill omen. For the Italians, it’s Friday the 17th.

What do you think? Is there something to Friday the 13th? Would you start a trip that day? A new job? Go on a first date?  Cut your nails? What’s YOUR biggest taboo?

 Pic 4

What if we lived in a world where Brussels sprouts were yummy?

We were watching Top Chef Masters the other day and the chefs were issued a challenge to cook foods for kids that they don’t normally like–things like beets and cauliflower. Now, I always have a problem with shows like this. I know there are foods a lot of kids turn their noses up at, but some of that is perception. If a kid hears, “All kids hate beets!” then they will think they’re supposed to hate beets. To make matters worse, for this particular challenge, some of the chefs were being punished from something earlier in the show and they were given the additional challenge of having to incorporate Brussel sprouts. “Because every kid hates Brussel sprouts!”

That’s what they said. Seriously.

Well, guess what? My kids love Brussel sprouts. They love them. It’s my boy’s favorite veggie.

I’m convinced, it’s all because I have a great recipe for Brussel sprouts, not because my kids are special. So, I thought I would share my recipe (okay, Cook’s Illustrated recipe), so that you can convert your kids, too.

Now, if you ask Robyn, she’s going to tell you that I love to cook complicated dishes with fifty-three ingredients. That’s not un-true. But it’s not true of this recipe. This one is easy as pie. Here’s the recipe. Try it. Seriously. So easy. So good.

Amazing Brussel Sprouts

1 Lb. Brussel Sprouts

1 Tablespoon water

3 Tablespoon oil — I usually use less

salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat oven at 500 degrees. Slice ends of sprouts. If they’re bigger than 1 inch in diameter, half them. If they’re bigger than 2 inches, quater them.

In a bowl, toss with water and oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Place on flat pan, cut side down. Cover with aluminum foil. Cook 10 minutes. Remove foil. Bake 10 more minutes. Some leaves will look brown and crunchy. Those are the great ones. 🙂  Serve immediately and enjoy!

So what about you? Do you have any great recipes that have tempted your kids to try recipes they normally wouldn’t?

September 11th and Children

First of all, RIP to all the Americans we lost on 9-11. And to all the children born on September 11, I hope your parents have been able to filter out all the noise and keep the sense of personal celebration that you deserve to have on your birthday. I wish that for the grownups born on this day, too.

A lot of you reading this might not have had kids on September 11, 2001. You might even have been a young teen yourself. But for those of us who were parents, it was really tough, as you might expect. How do you explain such a disaster to children without destroying their sense of security?

photo-13 I don’t think I’m going out on a limb here to say that September 11 changed everything for the kids who lived through it. My son says his generation is dogged by the events of that day. We tend to forget about it on a daily basis, but it’s there, stamped into our collective unconscious. My sister, who teaches college, says that her current students–who ranged in age from 6 to 10 at the time of the attack–have so much more anxiety than their pre-September 11th counterparts. According to her, the anxiety levels have been getting progressively worse since September 11th happened.

No one was left unscarred.  I know personally of two friends who lost loved ones. One of them was a flight attendant on the plane that crashed into a field. The other was a stockbroker in one of the towers–he left behind a wife and two toddlers. And then in my own family, my brother-in-law was inside the Pentagon when the plane hit. And my brother was in the air on a flight out of Boston, heading to D.C. We had NO idea of either of their statuses for a while. Could my brother be in the plane that crashed in the field? Or was he possibly in the plane that crashed into the Pentagon? Was my brother-in-law hurt inside the Pentagon? It was terrible not knowing.

If it was such a trauma for the adults, imagine what it was like for the kids. I do know that where I lived, in Hickory, NC, the elementary schools turned on the TV’s in the classrooms. I can’t remember if they dismissed them early, and that’s because I was homeschooling at the time.

My two older kids were 8 1/2 and a brand-new 10.  We saw the towers fall. I remember falling to my knees, literally. I cried and prayed and said things like, “God help them!” as we witnessed, surely, thousands of deaths at almost the same time. I wonder if not only the world trauma of that day but the household trauma branded itself deeply onto my two older kids’ psyches. What happened to them when they saw Mommy so afraid? All I know is that in general, they have suffered more anxiety growing up than our third child, who was in diapers at the time and had no idea what was happening.


Of course, we talked about it. We talked about it a lot. The drawings and narration you see here were done by my then 8-year-old daughter the next day. She made a book entitled, SAD, SAD DAY.  I have to marvel at the resilience of children, how they are filled with optimism no matter what. Look at the cute winking heart on that top drawing! And in the bottom narration, my daughter leans heavily on her faith in God to make it all better.

Other generations of children have been scarred by war. I guess at this point all I can do is pray for the children who went through September 11th and hope that the day will always remind them that we can never take our lives for granted or the lives of the people we love. Maybe our children who witnessed that day’s events will also live less on the surface and more in the realm of the substantial. They “get” loss and death. May they use the knowledge and experience thrust upon them on September 11 to make the world a better place.

I’m curious: If your kids are too young to remember September 11th, how do you handle the day? Let me know in the comments! And of course, please share anything you’d like about your own experience. 

Hi, I’m Kieran. My family loves music and anything that makes us laugh out loud. Along with Chuck, my husband of 24 years, I try to teach our kids that we have to actively choose happiness–and if I accomplish nothing else as a mom but pass that one lesson along to them, then I think I’ve done my job. My oldest guy, Nighthawk, was diagnosed in kindergarten with Asperger’s syndrome, and now he’s a senior in college; his sister Indie Girl, who’s younger by 16 months, is a college junior; and my youngest, Dragon, is in tenth grade. For our family, it’s about managing your weaknesses and wringing everything you can get out of your strengths. And along the way, finding joy.