Thick As Thieves

I wanted to share a story about my dear friend, Julie. We met five years ago, when we found ourselves on the first day of school, dropping off our girls in Kindergarten. I’m not sure who was more nervous then, the kids or the moms!

Since then, we’ve been “thick as thieves,” as they say. We’ve shared many a laugh… like the time I dragged her to my strip aerobics class and she called me the next day to report that her a** was so sore, she could barely lower herself to the toilet seat. Hey, we’re moms. I know you’ve all done that move… snicker while you can!

We’ve also shared more serious moments, like the time I called her at 5 am saying I was leaving my marriage and needed a place to stay. Or, the day she called and told me that she had tested positive for BRCA1.

BRCA1 (and BRCA2) are tumor suppressor genes. Mutations in these genes are linked to hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. At the time, [Read more…]

Peers and Proof: Essentials for Surviving Divorce

I’ve been reflecting on what got me through that critical first year post-divorce and after talking to a few other single moms, decided that these two things are essential. I needed peers: I cherished times that I could be with or talk to other moms who were going through divorce too — who better to understand, in a truly visceral way, what I was going through? Who could cry AND laugh with me? These women and I share a unique bond, one rooted in our shared stories. [Read more…]

The Hardest Thing About Divorce

… is that it’s one of those topics no one wants to talk about — like Suzanne’s miscarriages, like Heidi’s Postpartum Depression (or any sort of depression). It’s hidden under shame. It’s filed under F for failure. It’s a blemish on your permanent record — broken marriage, broken family, broken home.

Here I am, a blogger, writing and sharing for and with other moms for the last three years and not once have I addressed the subject of my divorce directly! I’ve often thought that I don’t want to use this space to throw myself a big pity party but instead, focus on the ways that my experiences can be helpful to other moms. For this reason, I’ve shied away from the subject, because I just didn’t trust myself to bring both honestly and growth to it until now. And to be honest, there were times when either the circumstances or the things I learned about myself through them were just too raw and painful. [Read more…]

Cutest Baby Contest 2012

When our friends at Baby Kid Expo asks us to partner with them gain on the Cutest Baby Contest, we couldn’t possibly refuse. Last year’s entries were beyond adorable!!!

We want to see your cutest baby pics… and share them… and gush over them… and have everyone else gush over them too!

The most-gushed (a.k.a. most voted) will win:
1. On Location photo shoot from Rhonda Jean Photography valued at $100
2. A Basket of Goodies from Tender Tushies
3. Cuddle Bear Book and Stuffed Animal from Sharman Mitchell with Usborne Books
4. a copy of Cool Party, Mom! The Other Three Words Every Mother Loves to Hear by Marnie Ann Pacino

… and more!

1) Post your pic on our Facebook Wall (yes, you have to Like the MMM page and the Baby KId Expo page) between now and midnight CST on March 15.
2) Go back to the MMM Facebook page between March 16-23 to see if your cutest baby made the 15 finalists and VOTE! The poll will be live by NOON CST on March 16.
3) Winners will be announced on the main stage at Baby Kid Expo on Saturday, March 24 at the St. Charles Convention Center to find out if you won!

*Kids have to be 24 months or younger and they cannot have been finalists in 2011.

I (Heart) My BFF’s

Much ado is made in February over your romantic relationships but that’s not the only kind of love that makes the world go ’round. For me and for many women — the relationships we have with our girlfriends are the ones that keep the day-to-day wheels spinning. After all, when you’re sick, or say… having a baby… who picks up your kids from school, makes sure your family is fed? It’s your posse that just magically knows what do to, many times without you even having to say anything, right?

My girlfriends have nurtured me – not just in those physical ways. They’ve been there to support me emotionally and spiritually too. It’s my girls who can most often call me on my B.S. – pointing out (always gently, of course) when I’m being self-absorbed, ridiculous, judgy, or not asserting myself enough. I know who to call when I’m in the middle of a shame spiral. Or many times, they call me.

It’s great having that psychic connection! (Ahem, @ZenMommy!)

One of the things I most appreciate about my very best friendships is the fact that we create safe places for each other. I feel safe to be who I am — not who I aspire to be or who I hope to be — but whoever I need to be right now, which may not be my “best.” I can be unshowered, frazzled, in the middle of an emotional breakdown– and that’s okay. My bff’s give me permission to be myself. Even when I’m guilty of the worst offenses — like neglecting our friendship — my true friends are going to let me off the hook… because, as one of my soul sisters likes to say, “I know your heart.”

In this way, we are all alike: kids and grown-ups. When we feel safe and accepted, we feel we can push ourselves into growing and learning, discovering aspects of ourselves that would be way too scary to explore under other circumstances. That space of vulnerability is where connection and magic happens. It’s why, at the end of the day, the only friendships/relationships with any real staying power are the ones where you can open up.

So as we close the “Valentine’s Month,” take some time to reflect on the women you love and appreciate, who “know your heart.”

Thank you, @ZenMommy for being an amazing mentor, teacher and guide as well as being the very best friend evah! Thank you for knowing my heart and sharing yours! Xo

I’m on Great Day St. Louis on Wednesday sharing ideas on creative ways to connect and nurture the other “siginificant others” in your life.

Hat tip to Monnie Brodbeck and to her Women’s Adventure Group, who are committed to their friendship and pushing each other out of their comfort zones!

Ria a.k.a. Practical Mommy. I Tweet here and Pin here… and I blog about blogging (lol) on MomCrunch!

Get the latest updates from My Mommy Manual – Like us on Facebook!


How to Begin Again

I’ve been unapologetically absent here in 2011. Since November/December of 2010, when I was challenged to examine the way I work and live in the world, it’s been a process of letting go of old patterns of behavior. The way I was engaging here was clearly off — not in the outcome because I truly believe in the community we are creating and supporting — but my process.

Let me tell you how it was… like many bloggers I know, I was burning the candle at both ends. We had way too many commitments for the number of hours in the day: TV appearances, guest columns/posts, events… and as much as we loved creating content and providing resources for our moms and partners, I came to the realization that regardless of how successful we are, I just could not maintain this pace.

I actually had to “walk the walk” and listen to my intuition, which was saying that I had to put this down and allow the Universe to guide me to a new way of “doing,” one that is actually sustainable.

That’s where I’ve been for 2011. Learning a lot about boundaries, about grace, about relationships, and about humility. That is a big lesson: humility — that I can’t do it all, that whether or not I work an extra five hours that day or work at all that day makes not one iota of difference in the grand game of life on this planet, that if I hang on stubbornly to the belief that the only way that things get done is if I DO IT MYSELF, I am limited by the capacity of my own effort — which is not all that much.

That ego-driven thought is a tough cookie. It was born out of my need to survive my childhood but I know in my heart that to achieve my life purpose, it’s a way of being that has to end.

I’d love to say that here I am, a brand-new me in 2012. But in truth, it’s with tentative steps that I dip my toe back in, knowing more than ever how little I know about life and mothering but with a much more open heart to receive guidance from that still, small voice.

I hope you’ll join me on what I hesitate to call a “journey” as much as a stroll… to rediscover an honest and humble place in the family of things.

~ Ria

How to Find Support for Postpartum Depression

My mom suffered from postpartum depression. And it altered the course of her life and mine forever. I’ve had dear friends whose relationships with their children and partners have similarly been affected in a deep and defining way by PPD. One of them is my friend, Katherine Stone. Babble included her blog, Postpartum Progress in the Top 10 Mom Blogs of 2011, naming it as a groundbreaking resource for moms and moms-to-be.

I happen to agree. If you are a new mom and are struggling… please check it out. And if you or someone you love need some pre- postpartum support, I have another great resource.

Katherine, in conjunction with me and Jen Lemen, just completed a project specifically designed to provide gentle guidance and promote maternal mental health. It’s called Daily Hope and is delivered every weekday for a year directly to your inbox.

It features quotes and messages from Katherine, accompanied by the breathtaking images of British photographer Xanthe Berkeley. Katherine has been piloting this program for a year and is one of the ways she has been invaluable to the PPD community.

So for just $49, you can give the gift of a year of Daily Hope this holiday season, a light in the middle of the night of darkness that I know we sometimes feel as new moms.

Hugs to you,

How to Add Meaning

It’s Stuff-itis season… the season when we are bombarded with messages of all the STUFF we deserve ourselves or need to gift to other people to show them we love them. We experience it every year, this idea that pervades our consciousness – in the malls, in our media, and in our culture – that with all the giving of stuff comes joy, love and connectedness. And yet, every year after all the wrappings and bows are stuffed in the trash and we’ve collected our stuff in a pile, after they join all the rest of our stuff, we don’t feel any different than we did before. We go back to the disconnected, running around we did back in September that was necessary to fuel this culture of stuff. We go back so we can do it all over again.

What does it all mean?

And there it is. The thing that we are really searching for: meaning. It turns out that The Grinch was right… Christmas doesn’t come in a box. We all know this. We just need reminders.

So how can we infuse our celebrations with meaning? Are there gifts that are more aligned with what we really want to share with our families and friends? – that we see them, that we are grateful for who they are and the moments of life we share with them and that they share with us.

So here are some ideas on ways to capture and share – not just pictures – but moments. And apropos of Thanksgiving this week, reminders of moments of connection that we can all be grateful for.

Picking one thing every day to be grateful for and noting it in some external way is powerful. Write it in a journal, or post it on your bathroom mirror… doing something every day for 30 days is a great way to create a pattern or a practice of gratitude. You could join the thousands of other people who are doing this online on Facebook and Twitter with the hashtag #30daysofgratitude.

Here’s an idea: collect your 30 days of gratitude and have a personalized book printed… there are any number of online services that will do this for you: Shutterfly, Paper Coterie, Blurb… and then you’ll have a tangible thing to remind you throughout the year of the things you already grateful for… and because gratitude is viral (so to speak), it’s that much easier to find more things to be grateful for.

Get your kids in on the fun too! You could do a gratitude book for your family or your kids could do books for themselves… and if you start today, you’d still be done before Christmas! If you add pictures, it’s even more powerful!

Along the same lines, you can share gratitude with your family. Picture calendars are a staple gift for the grandparents, right? How can you infuse it with the spirit of gratitude? Ask your kids to help you pick twelve things that they are grateful for and find pics to match.

If all of that organizing seems like too much, just pick one picture and make a memento box. (THIS is totally my speed). Then throughout the year when your child brings home an art project from school or leaves you a sweet note, you can put it in there. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve found myself all weepy when I stumble across these little treasures. The keepsake boxes also make great gifts.

Okay… maybe Christmas can come in a box. 🙂

How to Make Pumpkin Seeds

It’s a delicious and nutritious seasonal snack and it’s easy enough for kids to make almost entirely on their own! My daughter who is a HUGE fan of pumpkin seeds (especially if she made them…) teaches us how kids can whip up a batch in the kitchen. Recipe included in VIDEO (2:31).

Do your kids have a go-to recipe that they love for Halloween or Thanksgiving? Share it with us in the comments below. And give Reilly some props! She’s a natural!

How to Stop Fighting with Your Tweens/Teens

The Three Fights Every Parent Has With Their Kid and How to Stop Them

by Vanessa Van Petten

When I was 16 I thought it was my Dad’s goal in life to make me miserable. I was convinced that he had a running list of all the ways he could embarrass me in front of my friends, trick me into doing more chores or make my curfew earlier. In fact we had three of the most common parent-kid fights:

1. The “It’s Not Fair” Fight

-Older brother gets to stay out late with his friends. Teen finds this grossly unfair.
-Parent gets to have soda, child does not. Teen finds this grossly unfair.
-Teenager cannot buy new outfit for dance because it is too expensive. Teen finds this grossly unfair.

2. The “Treat Me Like A Grown-Up” Fight

-Teen wants to be able to stay out late with friends. Parents say no. Teen thinks they are being treated like a child.
-Teen wants to go away for Spring Break, parents say no. Teen thinks they are being treated like a child.

3. The “We Are a Different Person” Fight

-Parent wants their teen to join band, teen doesn’t want to.
-Parent expects higher grades and when teen doesn’t do well, a huge fight ensues.
-Teen does not keep room tidy, parent gets upset when guests come over.

We would have these kinds of fights over and over again until one day I saw my Dad reading a parenting book. I flipped through it while my Dad was in the bathroom and realized a lot of the things he did that drove me crazy he was getting right out of this book! I looked at the other parenting books on our shelves and realized that they were all written by adults. I wondered—has anyone ever asked teens to write to their parents?

I decided to build a website where teens could answer questions and write to parents called I couldn’t believe how quickly it grew and how happy both teens were to get their voices out and parents were to have a new outlet for connecting with their kids! We now have over 120 teen writers who give advice. Here is what they had to say about solving each of the common parent fights:

1. The “It’s Not Fair” Fight

Emotional Intent: When you hear a teen talk about how unfair something is, what they are often feeling is, “I am not important or special enough.” If you feel like your teenager is constantly arguing about justice or fairness, they are most likely feeling like they are not being heard or cared about enough to get what they want. Of course, this is usually not the case. In the examples above parents would be worried about safety, health and money, while teens feel like they are not as important as their sibling, that their parents do not understand how important the dance is, and so on.

Solutions: The best way to stop the “it’s Not Fair” fight is to address the emotional intent. The best way to do this is for parents to push into the “it’s not fair” feeling from their children instead of pushing against it. For instance in the new outfit example a parent might say to their teen, “I hear you think this is unfair, will you tell me why?” A teen will most likely respond, “You buy stuff for yourself all the time,” or “But I deserve this dress.” These answers are important because it will show the parent the emotional intent behind the upset and feelings of injustice. If a parent addresses these by saying something like, “I could see how you feel like us not buying this for you is about you not feeling worthy. But the truth is we are trying to save for the big vacation we are taking this summer—which is for all of us. I know how important this dance is for you. Maybe we can get you a new pair of shoes or…” then the fight is stopped.

2. The “Treat Me Like A Grown-Up” Fight

Emotional Intent: Most fights during the teen years are actually based in this ‘treat me like a grown-up’ motivation. The earlier you can catch and address it the better it will be. It derives from the fundamental pulling away that comes with a teen trying to assert their independence.

Solutions: It is very important for parents to discuss reasons for decisions that are making a teenager angry. This way teens are sure to understand the real reasons for a parent’s choice. Another great way to help teenagers get less upset in fights surrounding their maturity is for parents to help teens feel mature in other ways. For example, perhaps parents do not want their teen to go away for the whole Spring Break because they want to have family time. A great way to address this with teens is to say clearly, “We really want to have family time with you, but we know you are getting older, so how about you do a weekend camping trip with your friends for one of the weekends.” This teaches teens you trust them, but it is all about balancing needs.

3. The “We Are a Different Person” Fight

Emotional Intent: Often times teenagers tell me that they will purposefully keep their room dirty or choose unapproved hobbies just so they can be different from their parents. Parents frequently misinterpret room cleaning or bad grades for laziness, when something deeper might be going on. Teenagers often will ‘misbehave’ or fight with parents simply to show them that they are their own person—even if it gets them into trouble.

Solutions: First, it’s important to make sure that you do want your child to be their own person. Be careful not to push expectations or your own goals onto your kids. Second, make sure teenagers know that some of the requirements you have for them (good grades a tidy room for guests) are not to make them feel less like an individual, but for them to have more choices in their future and to present a nice home to guests. I recommend parents being very direct with teenagers about their need to be ‘their own person’ you might be surprised what common fights are actually based in this emotional intent.

I think teens and parents can work together to overcome their differences and learn to work best together. We have just come out with our book: Do I Get My Allowance Before or After I’m Grounded and it is a radical approach to parenting because it is written from the kid’s perspective! We would love for you to check it out—if you are brave enough to see what kids have to say!