Listen To Your Mother

Me and Leigh Ann Torres, my co-producer from 2014-2016

Me and Leigh Ann Torres, my co-producer from 2014-2016

Five years of listening

My first LTYM performance in 2013 - my topic was summoning up my courage as a new mom and trust that my newborn son would be OK, and so would I.

In 2013, I set a goal to be cast in the Listen To Your Mother show in Austin, a stage show featuring stories about motherhood. I wrote an essay about how difficult it was to hand over my son to a caretaker when I had to go back to work after my maternity leave, and submitted it to the producers. A few weeks later, I found myself trembling with nervousness at the auditions for the show, and a few weeks after that, received the email confirming that I had been chosen.

The 2016 cast - they're super shy.  :-D

The 2016 cast - they're super shy.  :-D

Since that day, my life has been changed for the better. Through Ann Imig's Listen To Your Mother organization, I improved my confidence, met a whole lot of wonderful people, and had the extraordinary privilege of listening to stories about motherhood that made me cry my eyes out or laugh hysterically. And sometimes both. 

2016: As parents, we all want to teach our children how to respond appropriately to difficult situations. However, what we're thinking in our heads may be different than what we actually say.

The final Austin show

We hosted our last show in Austin on April 29, just a few weeks ago. Our cast, as they do every year, has bonded over this experience, and we have a dozen new friends every season. I miss these men and women immensely now that I don't see them on a regular basis, but I can see that they are spreading their wings and flying off to new destinations, every one. 

My co-producer Susanne Kerns is not only warm, generous, and hilarious, she is like Martha Stewart with extra caffeine. She's amazing.

My co-producer Susanne Kerns is not only warm, generous, and hilarious, she is like Martha Stewart with extra caffeine. She's amazing.

This year, on my final curtain call for LTYM, my mom and dad were in town to see me. Having my mom in the audience while I read this piece about her was an experience I can't describe or explain. It was a magical moment that I got to share with my mom right in front of me, eyes shining as I took the stage. 

I love my mom to the moon and back. She's small but mighty.

I love my mom to the moon and back. She's small but mighty.

Thank you, Listen To Your Mother, for the experience, the friendship, and the love all around. 

If you'd like to read my piece from this year's show, please see it at the Today Show Community site here: The Things My Mama Didn't Say

Kristin and mom

Unstuck

For the past year, I've been stuck. 

I've been writing, yes, but perfection paralysis has become a real thing, and I find myself editing my pieces to excess, afraid to show up if my words weren’t polished to death. I’ve been hiding most of my words in reported pieces and research that I love at sites like The Washington Post (I still pinch myself every time I'm published there!), but there are ideas and phrases and paragraphs straining to burst free.

Sometimes, all it takes is adding one pebble to the stream to change the course, and for me, attending the Mom 2.0 Summit last week in Orlando, Florida was the event to push me in a new direction. Surrounded by change makers and women who inspired me, I could see that it was time to get moving. Sitting on some of these dreams I have and waiting for them to take flight on their own wasn’t going to happen.

My highlights:

#RealBeauty is not about what kind of beauty is better than another. It's about being YOU. Being real. 

#RealBeauty is not about what kind of beauty is better than another. It's about being YOU. Being real. 

1) Real Beauty

Dove's message of #RealBeauty resonates with me in so many ways. I attended the self-esteem workshop and met the lovely Ruth of Viva Veltoro, and we both got a little choked up talking about teaching our kids about what beauty means and what it doesn't mean. 

When my son was a baby, I was using an expensive organic soap on his soft skin, and he was constantly experiencing rashes. My pediatrician recommended Dove, and we've been using that ever since. Voila: no more rashes. Their new line, Baby Dove, is even more gentle than the Dove we already love, and their new logo is a great extension of their brand. 

IMG_2568.JPG

Dove

Dove brought a lot of women a lot of joy in their suite, giving us the gift of good hair. I gave my stylist, Whitney, carte blanche, and she came up with an intricate fishtail braid that made me feel like a grownup. 

2) Vroom

Kia is a brand I have grown to love over the past two years, and my friend Elaine and I continued our tradition of tandem ride and drives from last year's Mom 2.0 Summit and took a Kia Optima Hybrid EX for a spin. This brand makes automobiles that are thoughtful and comfortable, and the warranty is spectacular. 

For some reason, they didn't let us take the new twin-turbo V6 Stinger out for a joyride. It's billed as an all-wheel drive sedan with a sports-car feel, and I'm looking forward to trying it out soon. We look good in front of it, don't we? 

3) Sponsors

All of the sponsors at the exhibition hall were much appreciated, and each of the representatives took the time so speak with us and learn more about us. Special shoutouts to the men and women at:

- Smarty Pants vitamins (which I am now taking regularly - they convinced me why theirs are better than the ones I have been taking for most of my life); Fresh Wave and OxiClean, for making my house smell better; Prudential for the fun Jeopardy game; Similac for the friendly representatives who gamely played cornhole with us; TocaBoca and Treehouse, for teaching me about new apps to help my family. 

- I told the women at the Olive Garden booth that I have great memories of OG - on my 16th birthday, my family and I were in Orlando visiting Disneyworld, and we were looking for a place to have dinner. We stumbled upon our very first Olive Garden - a two-story delight on International Drive - and fell in love with it. 

- Amazon Free Time has been on my radar, and I really like the options for parental controls. Did you know that with an Amazon Prime membership, you also get unlimited photo storage? I'm signing up this week, finally. 

-  The Best Buy team showed us several great new products, including Google Home options and a kitchen setup that had me drooling for a new smart fridge and dual-load washer and dryer. I'll be dreaming about them. 

-  Facebook had a studio all set up for us, and I was a guest on Mary Katherine's Mom Babble page first, then hosted a Live event with Dr. Deborah Gilboa and Catherine Pearlman, both authors of excellent parenting books. 

- I had the rare opportunity to meet with one of the representatives at TarcherPerigee to pitch a book idea, and I'm getting started on that now. Briana was excellent points and ideas for me to consider. 

- I snacked on Babybel all the way home, got some new recipes from Eagle Brand like these super-easy apricot coconut treats (and discovered that it tastes great in tea!), and G. H. Cretors popcorn. I offered Arnebya some of my Chicago mix (cheese corn/ caramel corn) and she ate all of my cheese popcorn. :-D

Apricot coconut.jpeg

Thank you, Eagle brand!

Apricot coconut treats

3) Today Show Parenting Team

Working with the Today Show Parenting Team is not only rewarding all by itself, the editors and staff are fantastic. To celebrate and reward us, they took us on by bus on an evening trip to Universal Studios, with a surprise detour to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I was quite literally jumping up and down. 

My latest post at the Today Show Community site is about my mom. She was in the audience when I delivered it live at the Listen To Your Mother show in Austin this year. 

 

4) Friendships

The Iris Awards was an opportunity for us to dress to the nines in our gowns and fancy shoes, and even more importantly, watch some of our friends take the stage to collect well-deserved awards for writing, blogging, and content creation. I'm so proud of each and every one of them, whether they won their category or not. 

It didn't hurt to meet Andrew Shue, our emcee for the evening, either. 

Top left: Elaine Alguire, Leigh Ann Torres, Amanda Magee, Rachel Macy Stafford, Jessica Turner, and me.  Top right: when Mary Katherine Backstrom won the Today Parenting Choice Iris award, she was a little teary. Like a mom, I helped her dry her tears and then we posed with her (very heavy!) statuette.  Bottom left: Elaine and I tried to get a good picture with Andrew Shue of Melrose Place fame (1990s me was pretty excited - and does he ever age?!) but our friends photobombed us. Ha.  Bottom right:  Our time was short, but spending the evening with Rachel of HandsFreeMama is always an opportunity to refill my heart. 

Top left: Elaine Alguire, Leigh Ann Torres, Amanda Magee, Rachel Macy Stafford, Jessica Turner, and me. 

Top right: when Mary Katherine Backstrom won the Today Parenting Choice Iris award, she was a little teary. Like a mom, I helped her dry her tears and then we posed with her (very heavy!) statuette. 

Bottom left: Elaine and I tried to get a good picture with Andrew Shue of Melrose Place fame (1990s me was pretty excited - and does he ever age?!) but our friends photobombed us. Ha. 

Bottom right:  Our time was short, but spending the evening with Rachel of HandsFreeMama is always an opportunity to refill my heart. 

Finding my way with old friends and new friends is by far the best part of conferencing. I feel very fortunate to know so many people finding their way through motherhood and success together. 

I'm glad to be home - I missed my son and my husband and it has been a long week away from them. I'm also inspired to reach higher and be better in a variety of ways. There is a network of moms out there who support each other and help them find ways to take care of their families and themselves. This is a turning point. 

Perfection is overrated, anyway.

Kids and gun safety - new essay at The Washington Post

Talking about guns and kids is a highly-charged topic. Now that I'm a parent, I see firearms in a different light than I did growing up, or even after I became a grownup before I had my son. There are people on one side who believe guns have no place in any household, and there are people on the other who believe very strongly in their Second Amendment rights. 

We can't solve that argument any time soon. In the meantime, we have to find ways to keep our kids safe; we teach them how to Stop, Drop, and Roll in case of fire... what are we teaching them to do if they see a gun?

I spoke with several experts and parents on the subject for my latest article at The Washington Post. Read it here

 

Take your family to the Houston Auto Show!

When I was a kid, my dad took me to auto shows. That was our bonding activity, and it remains so to this day; I'll call my dad or send him a photo every time I see something really cool, and we oooh and ahhhh together. 

It's no surprise that I have gravitated to writing about cars, too, and it's a joy and a privilege to attend car shows and write about them for SheBuysCars. And this weekend, if you live in the Houston area or feel like taking a road trip, the Houston Auto Show is a great destination for families.

The first thing you'll notice is that the auto show floor is brightly lit and filled with manufacturers of all kinds. Toyota has a giant stand, featuring the new Prius Prime and RAV 4 Hybrid. RAM trucks has one area for display and a fantastic Truck Territory ride experience that allows you to sit in a Power Wagon or Laramie Longhorn as a professional driver takes you over a steel bridge towing multiple tons or over a rough rough and bank incline. It's like Disneyworld for car enthusiasts. 

Don't miss the Mazda section, which includes their crossover models CX-9, CX-5, and CX-3; the Miata MX-5 and MX-5 RF; and the plush 6. One thing I love about Mazda is their Drive for Good nonprofit program, which inspires people to do helpful things in their communities. For every test drive taken between November 21, 2016 and January 3, 2017, Mazda pledged one hour of their time to a community cause. Over the past four years, they have been able to give back over 260,000 hours of service. 

From the Mazda site:  "It might surprise you, but many teenagers from the surrounding neighborhoods of Chicago have never been downtown or even had the chance to see Lake Michigan, but Jahmal Cole is trying to change that. In 2014, he founded My Block, My Hood, My City (MBMHMC), an organization that helps teens experience the world beyond their neighborhood. In 2016, he was recognized for his dedication to building a better community, as the grand prize winner of the 2016 Mazda Drive for Good® nonprofit contest."

As you may know, I'm a big fan of Maserati; I find their design and interiors to be the pinnacle of automotive perfection, and their engines are the icing on the cake. Maserati launched a new SUV this year - the Levante - and I had a chance to touch it, sit in it, and talk to the Maserati experts about it. You can find more on it in my live Facebook video on the SheBuysCars page. 

New features at the 2017 show include ride & drive experiences, themed days honoring Texas’ military, and live music Friday to Sunday. The show will also bring back the popular family happy hour event and the classic cars display (my personal favorite).

Toyota hosted a special early Ride and Drive for our SheBuysCars group, and I rode in the back of the new Prius Prime. Can you see that gigantic screen right in the middle? Holy moley, it's a Jumbotron. I didn't see myself on any kiss cam. And I must mention the fuel efficiency. FIFTY-FIVE MPG. Oh. Was I shouting? Because that's pretty exciting. It's über-quiet - the only sign we could hear that it was on was the gentle blowing of the air conditioner. 

I was a little sad that I didn't get to test drive the McLaren on the show floor, but then again, you just can't let thousands of people sit inside a car that's worth more than most houses. 

Special thanks to Hyundai for allowing me to borrow an Elantra Limited for the drive. Stay tuned; I'll have a full review at SheBuysCars.com on this fun and zippy sedan. 

 

Tickets are $12 for adults and $5 for kids, and show hours are as follows:

  • April 5-7: Noon-9:30 pm
  • April 8: 10 am-9:30 pm
  • April 9: 10 am-7 pm

*Bonus* - the Mecum Auction house is hosting a giant event right next door, with some of the most gorgeous classic cars in the world.

The marketing manager allowed me and Jenn Greene to walk around the venue as they readied the auction block, red carpet, and hundreds of gorgeous classic cars. I got to sit in one of my top three dream cars: a 1957 Bel Air. I'd choose it in turquoise, of course, but I'm not complaining. I look good in that (universe, are you listening?).  A nice resto-mod (a classic car that has been restored, but modified with modern parts and technology) would be nice. Just saying. 

The Internet of Things... parenting edition

There’s a smart device for parents at any stage, from newbies to grizzled veterans, from the chilled-out laissez-faire parent to the eek-I-scheduled-too-many-activities frazzled parent. Internet of Things (IoT) technology brings peace of mind, better organization options, and life-changing safety gadgets into your home, saving you time and sanity.

When you have a family, keeping track of all the moving parts is a juggling act. With a few smart devices in your home, life can be a little smoother, a little easier. Maybe one of these will save you from a temper tantrum (yours, not theirs).

 

NEW PARENTS

Smart changing pad

No more spreadsheets and white boards! This smart changing pad can be used to monitor baby’s growth for you. Hatch Baby’s Smart Changing Pad is a traditional diaper changing pad with a built-in, wireless smart scale. Anxious new parents will find peace of mind with options to track baby’s weight and diaper changes to be sure he is thriving. The product automatically syncs to the Hatch Baby app, on which parents can record nursing sessions, sleep, pumping amounts, and more. It takes the guesswork out of those first few critical months.

4moms smart car seat

At roughly $500, the 4moms Smart Car Seat sounds pricey. However, considering that the lush Maxi-Cosi® Pria™ (which looks like a tiny leather recliner) cha-chings in at $200 more than that, and doesn’t include the smart features, it’s not bad at all.

Most sources say that at least half of all parents install car seats incorrectly, which can lead to serious injuries in a crash. The 4moms car seat installs itself (whoa!) correctly by automatically leveling and tensioning. It also verifies the installation before every ride on the app, and then continuously monitors it during use. What price for peace of mind, indeed?

FOR PARENTS OF A SLIPPERY TODDLER

Pacif-i

Yes, the Pacif-i can take your baby’s temperature via their patented pacifier. However, what’s even more appealing for the parent of a wandering toddler is that it also features a built-in proximity sensor. That means if your little one wanders out of range (up to 65 feet away) an alarm will be triggered. And much like the “Find my iPhone” feature, if you or your child has hidden or lost his pacifier, a buzzer alarm can be activated via your smartphone app.

Kinsa Smart thermometer

This thermometer – available in a smart stick or ear device – not only takes a child’s temperature, it offers guidance on next steps, tracks fever, symptoms, medications, and diagnoses. It has the capability to send your health details and photos straight to your doctor, and alerts you if fever is cause for concern. It remembers details for you such as when symptoms began, fever trends, or when to give another dose of medication. You can also share data with your spouse, a caregiver, or your doctor.

It’s kind of like having a call-a-nurse available online full time.

FOR PARENTS OF BUSY SCHOOL-AGE CHILDREN

Amazon Kindle Fire for Kids

Tired of sharing your tablet with the kids? The Fire Kids Edition Tablet is the answer. The 7-inch screen is just the right size for them, and includes software that blocks access to social media, email, and in-app purchases, and limits YouTube to approved content. Parents can set screen time limits for games, age-appropriate content access, and even education goals for digital reading.

Shipped with a two-year guarantee, if anyone in the house breaks the Fire Kids tablet, Amazon will replace it for free, no questions asked.

hiku

Ready to move your grocery list from a paper notepad to a smart device? This little gadget costs $59 on Amazon and is incredibly simple to use. Hiku lives in your kitchen, either standing up on its flat edge or as a magnet on your refrigerator; it operates with one button so anyone in your family can contribute. It scans barcodes and uses voice recognition to share your shopping list to your phone so you’re always up to date.

Even better, save yourself the trip and connect hiku to a grocery shopping service like Instacart, and your supplies will magically appear at your door on command.

FOR EMPTY NESTERS

ReST Dash™

You made it: it’s finally your turn to sleep. You’ve made it through the newborn no-sleep stage to the preschool I-just-need-another-drink-of-water stage to the OMG-it’s-curfew-and-she’s-still-not-home stage. Marketed as the first “smart bed” in the world, ReST Dash™ has sensors inside the bed to monitor your body’s pressure and every movement to help you better understand how well you slept and make improvements. Best of all, you don’t have to wear any kind of device – you sleep on it. Zzzzzzz.

Trackr

Short-term memory can be a casualty of years of parenting; finding things like your car keys, phone, or wallet is aggravating. Trackr is tiny – about the size of a quarter – and can be affixed to just about anything. When an item is missing, just pull up the app on your phone and activate the beep.

Now that the kids are out of the house, you can attach a Trackr tag to your pet’s collar and he’ll be easy to find when he wanders around the neighborhood. Why didn’t they have these to track the kids when they were little?

 

Holiday gift guide 2016: my favorite things

Are you STILL SHOPPING? Don't fret. I am too.

Just in case you need some inspiration, I have a few unsolicited ideas for you. None of these companies paid me to recommend them, so this is my purely-out-of-love list.



1) First, I met James Oliver at BlogHer a couple of years ago, and I was impressed with his passion and drive. He is a dad, entrepreneur, and writer, and his company WeMontage has been featured on the Today Show. Essentially, you can upload one or several personal photos to the intuitive web site, and James' company turns it into removable wallpaper you can place just about anywhere. I have one in my son's room that includes several of my favorite family memories and I love to look at it every day.


2) A couple of months ago, I received an email from a mom I had never met, and her plea appealed to me. I liked the personal, kind approach in her communication to me, and I was happy to look into her new brain-building entrepreneur kit for kids. Venture Kits is a step up from the typical lemonade stand rite of passage, and it's cleverly put together with a great deal of thought from Leslie, who happens to be MBA from Harvard Business School and a BSc from the London School of Economics. And she is a new mom. Please check out the new Art Auction kit for future art gallery owners. Either kid is the perfect gift for kids between 7 and 13, and reminds me of the teachings of Junior Achievement back in the day



3) Do you know anyone who needs a funny luggage tag? This one makes me laugh every time I see it.


4) Jewelry company Noonday Collection is based in Austin, Texas, and the founder, Jessica Honneger, started this company when she was working toward funding the adoption of her son from Rwanda. If you were to visit the Noonday Collection offices in central Austin, you’d see a shop bursting at the seams with both products and an intangible hum that drives each employee. There is a spirit that comes from creating a community that was created to support others. Jessica’s designers are paid almost 100% in advance, and about 80% of the employees are mothers.

“I don’t like to use the word ‘help’, because it implies a position of power,” Jessica said. “Our desire is to work with people with potential and allow them to work in a dignified trade. We are all in this together.”

5) I met Christine Messina several years ago, when our children were toddlers, and she is the kind of person who radiates energy and style. She is smart and savvy and being around her elevates my fashion game, and I will never forget the day we were having coffee and she said, "I'm planning to open up a candy shop!" Her excitement was infectious. Now, her store The Candy Jar in the Hill Country Galleria is this beautiful place with candy, gifts, and a party room.



6) These holiday t-shirts are so fun. I may have ordered a few. 



7) The first time I want to the Meditation Bar, I was skeptical, but curious. They were offering free classes for the whole month of December of last year as a response to the bombings in Paris, and I wanted to give it a try. One year later, it's no exaggeration to say this place has changed my life. Learning how to slow down is something that doesn't come easily to me, and Lauren and Krista, especially, have taught me a lot. 

8) Do you have a spouse who loves the outdoors? I stumbled upon this site for Fayette Chill and it's right up my husband's alley. 

9) A'Driane Nieves blew me away with her reading of her BlogHer Voice of the Year piece the same year I was on stage to read my "More Than Words" essay. Her delivery was strong and powerful and it made me think. It made me uncomfortable with the ideas she presented on racism, in a good way. They were words I needed to hear. Now, A'Driane lives out on the west coast, and she is creating art in her own way and I can see her blossoming from across the country. Check her out at AddyeB.



10) Simply put, these Old Navy micro fleece sleep pants are one of my favorite things in my wardrobe. Cozy, comfy, inexpensive. 



11) I fell in love with Penzeys spices many years ago, and their cinnamon and their vanilla changed my baking game. And I love to bake. Not only that, but Penzeys is committed to diversity and love and they're standing strongly against hate speech and division. I love them even more for it. 

12) If you love your skin, treat yourself to Sabbatical Beauty. The ingredients are all natural and carefully sourced. My personal favorites are the Rose Foaming Cleanser and the Camellia Gold Beauty Oil. It's a process that seems daunting, at first, but your skin really wakes up and looks gorgeous. 



13) Last, but not least, when I received the TinyPrints catalog in the mail, I was impressed by the way they featured families of every color, type, and size. They were intentionally and lovingly inclusive, and as a result, I ordered all of our Christmas cards from them. 

BOOKS:
I picked up this book on a recommendation from my friend Arnebya, and I could not put it down from start to finish. This book is violent and difficult to read, at times, but it's also exquisitely written and I can't imagine why anyone would pass it up. It's masterfully done and has won numerous awards already. The Underground Railroad.






















BOOKS, Part II
If you or someone you love likes to watch movies like The Bourne Identity or read Tom Clancy, you'll love books by Brad Thor. I have often disagreed with Brad on his Twitter stream, but we also have found common ground. And above all else, he is an excellent writer with well-developed characters you will miss at the end of every book. I really like this kind of CIA Black Ops counterterrorism story, because it's gripping and it makes me think.

Merry Christmas!

Much love, Kristin

With precise clarity


It’s only when you have a chance to stop and focus that you can truly see what is around you. It’s looking at your son, sitting on your husband’s lap, and noticing anew that their eyes are so much alike. It’s looking each of them in the face every time they speak to you with nothing else to hold you back from zooming in with precise clarity. It’s moving through the real world free and unencumbered of the fog that surrounds you with work and everyday responsibilities.

You see the sweet kiss your husband bestows on your son’s temple, and the look in his eyes when he gives it.

You step out of bed and the first thing you think to do is look out the windows to see how many wild turkey and deer are grazing and not how many email messages have clogged up your inbox once again.

Your brain is cleared of clutter. It is reset with optimism and hope and the dark cloud lifts away.

You look forward to going home again to your own bed; and yet, try to retain some piece of that peace.

When you lie down next to your son to sleep, you inhale and recognize a hint of baby sweetness at the back of his neck. And instead of wishing for him to fall asleep faster and thinking about what you will do next, you are thinking about right now. At this very moment, you are here. And you know that this is the best time of your life.

The time to be mired in the mud is past. The time to create a plan and take action to help others in the community is here. The time to read and lead by example is now. Go. 



What you can do

If you're frustrated or afraid of upset this week, perhaps you're wondering what you can do, productively. I don't know all the answers. But here are a few ideas:
  • Reach out to your friends of other colors, religions, and cultures and tell them you support them. Hear their concerns.

  • Actively denounce hate. Don't let anyone get away with the kind of hateful language and behavior I have seen happening in the last couple of days. Speak up.

  • Talk to the principal and/or counselors at your school about hate speech. Here's what I sent to our principal and counselors today:


"Hello --,
Could you please share with me what we are doing for students to ensure that post-election hatred - for example, students chanting "white power" at a high school in Pennsylvania and telling students of color to go back to their own country - does not take root at our school? And how can I help?
My son and some of his friends are worried about their friends of color. The mother of a boy with brown skin had tears in her eyes yesterday at dropoff. A classmate of my son said that she was afraid Trump was going to kill her and her family because she's an immigrant.
It would give me comfort to know that we are actively taking steps to ensure our students don't engage in this language. There are people who are using the N word in our community when they don't think others are listening.
Thank you for your leadership."



My friend Lee wrote this, and I love the ending. Hope and love, baby. Hope and love.




We are the role models. US. Not them.


Yesterday, my son and his first-grade class had a field trip to the nature center near his school to learn more about bats. Austin is the home to the single-largest Mexican free tail bat colony in the country, in case you didn’t know. After the educational sessions, the class was free to roam through the park and view the rescued, injured birds on site. 

One little boy in the class is clearly agitated and occasionally shouts out and makes noises. He can’t stay still for a moment, and one of the teachers keeps her eye on him constantly, gently shepherding him back to the fold. I tell her she must be exhausted at the end of the day. This must be the boy my son tells me is often loud in class. I know that he is a boy with special needs, and I keep my eye on him too.

At the large owl enclosure, I stopped and kneeled next to the little boy and he sat down on my knee, taking my hair in his hands. He twirled my rained-on corkscrew curls and tuned into the texture and the softness and the warmth I was giving to him. For a moment, he was still. And I saw him as a sweet little boy he is instead of the bundle of tiring energy who requires eyes on him at all times, and diversion and direction and endless patience. 

As the little boy skipped away to the next exhibit, one of his classmates – a tall girl with light-brown pigtails and large hazel eyes – took his hand and stayed by his side, leading him from place to place. Another classmate took her place as his watcher, and they ensured that he was where he was supposed to be. 
I caught the teacher’s eye, and I told her that I loved the way the children took care of this little boy who needed them. 

“They are all so nurturing,” she said. “See, in this neighborhood, these kids have everything they need. They have plenty of food, shelter, and support. Their parents read to them and teach them. They are loved. But the empathy, that is what sets them apart. That is what will keep them from being takers.” 

I remembered this as the election results rolled in and I couldn’t stop the tears from rolling down my face. I’m an independent voter, and chose the candidate I thought was the best one to represent my beliefs. The man who was elected represents misogyny and racial divide to me, and I cried not for the other party, but for myself, as a woman, and for my friends who are Muslim, LGBTQ, Latinx, or Black. I grieved the hope for the first woman president in 250 years of presidents. 

My husband held me in his arms for comfort. I asked him how we were supposed to tell our son that it’s not ok to be a bully and mistreat women when our president, our role model, does it?

“Our president is not a role model,” he said. “He’s a politician. He is someone we hire to prematurely age for us to do a job." I laughed through my tears at this.

"Politicians are never role models," he said, with conviction. "That honor goes to our fathers, our grandfathers, and good men in our community. We are going to raise our son the way we know he will become a good man.” 

He's right: politicians are not role models. They are politicians. Athletes are not role models. They are athletes. 

*I* am the role model. *YOU* are the role model. 

I’m finished being sad and I’m mobilized to ensure that the hate that has been stirred up can be tamped down. That the white supremacists find no more power. That the anti-Semites are quieted. That my son and his generation will be taught to see women as equals and treat them as such. 

I have hope for the next generation, if we can figure out better ways to come together. Through fire we will come through, and I am going to be standing up for everyone who needs me. With love. And fierce determination to do what's right. 

That empathy my son is practicing in school won’t go to waste. It’s going to help us going forward.

Number 45

I was only 5 when Jimmy Carter was elected; somehow I remember feeling disappointed, because I wanted Ford to win. That must have been who my parents were voting for. Or maybe since I am a car fanatic, I liked Ford's name. I remember learning that Carter was a peanut farmer and I remember the Iran hostage crisis.

In 1981, I was in the hospital for my yearly stay for asthma complications when President Reagan was shot. I was wearing the hospital-issued blue gown and my mother was braiding my long, dark hair when the news flash popped on the TV - probably in the middle of some soap opera.

My friend Michelle and I were walking down the street in Indianapolis when a young man asked us if we wanted tickets to see presidential candidate Barack Obama at a rally. We shrugged our shoulders and said yes. And then we stood in the rain and swayed to Stevie Wonder and watched history in action.

Tomorrow is election day for our 45th president. It's exciting, it's scary, it's America. Above all, I hope we love each other. I hope we all want a better future for our children. I hope we can come together and find the best in the situation.

Love, Kristin


Day 7
NaBloPoMo November 2016

The rainbow


It was gloomy and gray all day; the rain came down in spits and starts. When it began to pour in earnest, the sun emerged for a short period before it began to set; it was perfect weather for a rainbow.

I slipped into my sneakers and my son grabbed his Crocs and we went outside in the rain. Sure enough, there was a gorgeous arc of a rainbow stretched across the sky. A few minutes later, a faint echo of that first rainbow appeared above, and we stopped and stared for awhile, forgetting about everything else in the world.

What's your rainbow? What makes you stop and think, wow, this world is amazing and beautiful. Find it. See it. Gaze at it and grip that feeling with both hands.

* * *

I have had this song in my head all day, for some reason, and found this a capella version from some women at Princeton, covering the Meat Loaf song "Hot Summer Nights (You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth"). This version is fun, even if it doesn't quite capture the same feeling I have for the original.



Day 6
NaBloPoMo November 2016

Thank You, Other Woman

This essay first appeared at BonBon Break as an original. I like to re-read it and remember, sometimes, just how lucky I am.

* * * 

I hated you, at first, Other Woman. You, with your shiny blonde hair and ten-years-younger face. I didn’t know you were a threat when I first met you. It didn’t even cross my mind.

This is Cheryl, he said. She’s a new trainer on the team with me.

And I shook your hand politely and turned away. Did you know, then?

It was your name on his phone so many times that gave him away. We had already crashed and burned and I was floating, untethered. I demanded an answer and he faltered. You were just a friend, he said. And then, he moved in with you two weeks after he walked out on a decade. It was almost a joke, then. It seemed so cliché that my marriage would finally be upended by a trainer at the gym.

When he left me an opening, I told him that you were white trash. I told him that his family hated you. I would have done anything to get him back.

When he left me, I started working out at the gym like a maniac, an hour or more a day. I switched gyms so I wouldn’t run into either of you, to the one closest to my house instead of closer to my office. It was a shock that day, when I saw you standing there at the desk from my perch on the treadmill on the mezzanine above. My heart started beating faster, faster; it had nothing to do with the speed of the machine. My face burned. I had run from you and it seemed that you had come to flaunt your power.

Aren’t you… Cheryl? I asked you.

Yes! You said, smiling. You knew.

What are you doing at my gym? I said, leaning in, my voice dangerous, accusing.

I… I was transferred here, you said, your smile fading. I can work wherever I want.

My indignation was building.

Find a new gym, I said. I don’t want to see your home-wrecking face here.

I walked away before you could see the anguished tears streaming down my face.

By the time he changed his mind, six months later, everything had changed. He was still living with you but looking to come back to me, and my heart had already moved on.

I guess I should apologize for that time I saw you at the gym. I didn’t know what was ahead of me; I was still wallowing in the past. I was still mourning the death of a relationship and the loss of the hope I had carried all of those years for a happily ever after. I was still grieving the children and the husband I thought I would never have going forward. No one will ever want me again, I thought.

I never thought I’d say this, Other Woman, but not only do I want to offer an apology, I want to thank you. Yes, thank you.

Thank you for catching his eye and encouraging him to leave. Thank you for taking him in and keeping him with you until I found my feet again. Thank you for giving me the time to curl up in a ball on my bed for weeks until I tentatively, cautiously, slowly came back to the world.

Because of you, I broke free of an unhealthy, destructive relationship that I was not strong enough to leave on my own. You led him away from me and gave me a chance to find myself again. Somewhere along the line, I had lost that spark that made me ME. I didn’t realize that I was curling inside myself, an ocean creature creating a shell around my body, chamber by chamber. I didn’t realize just how weakened I had become until I had the chance to stand on my own again instead of leaning into a shadow.

You are my guardian angel.

It’s because of you that I have this new life, the one that I cherish so deeply.

It’s because of you that I was able to move on and meet my second husband, the one I always wanted.

It’s because of you that my second husband and I had a little boy. The one who is breathtakingly beautiful and when I am holding him as he falls asleep, I want to pinch myself to be sure I’m not dreaming.

I could never thank you enough.

* * *

Day 5

NaBloPoMo November 2016

Friday Favorites - October 28

Happy Friday!

I went to meditation/mindfulness class this morning and it was the best thing I did for myself all week. How are you taking care of yourself? School, work, election, and holidays - it's a stressful time for a lot of people. I know meditation sounds like of weird and hippie, but it's much more modern than you might think. KJ Dell'Antonia of the New York Times sums it up perfectly on her blog.

A squirrel and a potato chip? Smiles all around. (Photo by Mark Lucas)
A woman I know from high school is on the opposite side of the political spectrum from where I stand. Both of us are fiery, stubborn, powerful women in our own right, and she often tags me and invites me to discussions on her page; she's a hair stylist and tells me that her customers like the respectful tones we take. After we have come to a dead end on a point, we call a truce and give each other virtual hugs and we still like and respect each other. We all have life experiences that color the our perspective, so I don't presume to always be the one in the right. Treat each other with kindness and love. With that, we'll figure out how to be OK.

Now let's talk about more beauty on the web:

This essay at the NYT is bittersweet and beautiful, the words rolling like poetry from the page; the words encircled my tongue as I read it silently to myself.

My friend Anna has a way of writing that makes one feel as though she is speaking directly to you. This essay about marriage resonated with me.

Inspiration alert! I love this story about the two brothers who started the company Vineyard Vines, and now I think of it every time I see their logo.

Speaking of inspired, this includes a photo of my friend A'Driane Nieves. Standing a few feet away from my favorite rock star, Bono. *faints* Kudos to both of them for doing great things for the world.

Beautiful images in this Buzzfeed post. I didn't know anything about Dia De Los Muertos when I was growing up in Indiana; in Texas it's much more visible. And if you haven't seen it already, the animated movie Book of Life is gorgeously drawn and perfect for the season.




And lastly, GO CUBS GO!!!!!!! In case you missed it, this adorable 102-year-old woman was at the last Series and at this one, too. I'm thrilled for her. I grew up near Chicago, so I am feeling all of the love.

Love, Kristin

(Day 4)

NaBloPoMo November 2016



Job Number One

Photo by Kristi Bacon (friends for 23 years!)
When I was in college, I fancied myself tough. An athlete on the rowing team, I was the most fit I have ever been in my life, and I wasn't afraid of anyone. I would go out to concerts with my best friend and we would inevitably be squished into the crowd as if we were inside an overstuffed sardine tin. Someone would invariably have their hands where they didn't belong, and I would turn around, shake my fist in their face and say, "Get the [BLEEP] away from me."

Once, I was at a fraternity party and standing around, minding my own business when I felt a sharp pain on my backside. I whirled around, saw it was a man, and slapped him across the face reflexively. The room burst into applause and cheers. The story went that he was a freshman rugby player and he was dared to bite me on the posterior. He never tried that again.

My bravado became overconfidence, and I later took a job bartending at a tiny place in Cincinnati; I locked up by myself at 2 AM and delivered the cash drop to the bank after my shifts. By myself. At 2 AM. My poor mother - I don't know how she managed to stay sane. Even so, I tended bar all summer, and the scariest thing that happened to me was when one middle-aged man, a friend of the owner's father, offered me $100 to sleep with him. It makes me gag just thinking about it.

As the years went on, I learned that some men were going to behave badly toward women. At one company, I was urged to "take one for the team" when a client fancied me. Never mind that I was living with my longtime boyfriend. At another, a colleague told me that I wouldn't generate so much harassment if I didn't dress so trendy. Later, a VP would regularly proposition me in front of other executives, and no one said a thing.

I learned that my opinion didn't matter on such things. I fell silent about it. I became used to it.

When people question a woman's motives when she comes out of hiding after 20 years to point out someone who assaulted her, I give her the benefit of the doubt. Anyone who hasn't been harassed or assaulted doesn't know how it feels to realize that it's your word against his. And if you do speak up, you risk losing everything in a he said-she said battle that is most likely to go nowhere and help you least of all. If she is speaking up, she understands the risks and believes it's worth it to bring justice.

A friend asked me today what it would take for women to be treated as equals.

It's going to take time, I told her. Generations, maybe.

In the meantime, I'm going to teach my son how to be a good man. A kind man. A gentleman. There are a lot of good men in the world - I was fathered by one, I married another, and together, we had a little boy who will take after the men in his family.

No matter what is going on all around us, it's my job to raise a good human being. You and I and everyone we know who believes in kindness and love has to keep believing. It's the most important job we have as citizens - to help make our community better, not only for ourselves, but for everyone.


* * *
Stay tuned - I filmed a video today for a very special project I hope will be released soon! And a new and fun byline will be published next week.

Love, Kristin

NaBloPoMo November 2016

Kind of a big day...

My 7yo has been obsessed with "We Are the World" because he learned the song at school, and our babysitter showed him the video for the updated, 2009 version of the song. He knows all of the singers in order, and sings along with them, which I love.



This morning's observation at breakfast: "Mom, Snoop Dogg is really tall. He's like as tall as Abraham Lincoln!"  

Want to hear something crazy? 

THEY ARE/WERE THE EXACT SAME HEIGHT. (6'4". I looked it up.)



Before I tell you about my big day, I want to highlight my friend Jennifer, who just had weight loss surgery very recently, and she explains her reasons beautifully here. I am super super proud of her. 

My first piece of news today is that I'm very excited to be featured in a piece on the the Mom2.0 site today, talking about issues that matter. It's an honor for my words to be side by side with people I admire, like Karen Walrond, A'Driane Nieves, Vikki Reich, and Kelly Wickham Hurst. 
"So many memes and opinions are circling around the internet that it’s almost impossible for the average voter to tell what is truth anymore. Journalism is supposed to be built on integrity and fact checking, and so many web sites with click-bait headlines are no more accurate than throwing darts blindfolded. People don’t even seem to notice multiple misspellings and poor grammar. Opinion is not fact. Fact is fact. It’s become so murky that the American public is having a hard time discerning it."
Second, I am the resident blogger for Smith Wealth Advisors, a firm here in Austin, and we have some excellent non-toy ideas in this post for you to give your kids to help them build their future. 

And third, it's my pleasure to publish an interview with the beautiful and wonderful Christine Messina at LiveMom.com. She always gives me inspiration to up my game. And she owns this gorgeous candy shop in Austin that is so much fun. Just look at this candy!



Random thoughts: why are the bees so angry this time of year? In Austin, they are buzzing around like, "Why isn't it cold yet? Man, we're tired. We're so done with this whole 90-degrees thing." 

Love, Kristin

NaBloPoMo November 2016

NaBloPoMo - what?

For the past several years, I have resisted the peer pressure.

You can do it! They said.

Nooooo! I don't want to! I responded.

This year, I could resist no more. I'm signed up for National Blog Posting Month, or NaBloPoMo, as it's affectionately called by BlogHer. 

NaBloPoMo November 2016

After several months of inconsistent blogging, I'm committing to 30 days of posting every day to this site. It may be very short some days. Others, it may be long. I'm going to give it a shot - I have had all of these ideas and topics swirling around in my head, and I needed this impetus to record them.

(BTW, stay tuned as I transition twocannoli.com to kristinvshaw.com - I'm teaching myself the Squarespace platform and it's taking me longer than I anticipated...)

The first is a little bit of a cheat - I want to share with you this post by David Gelles at the New York Times, called How to be Mindful of Fall. I have been slacking on my attendance, but there is a new facility here in Austin called Meditation Bar where I have learned how to harness and manage my general anxiety, and I took my 7-year-old son to a couple of shorter classes this fall. It's no exaggeration to say that it has changed my life for the better.  

In any case, fall is my favorite season of the whole year. I love the changing colors, the cooler temperatures, and the feeling of the holidays down the road. Fall is also my dad's birthday, my mom's birthday, and my sister's birthday, all in a row. And my anniversary; I picked October for our wedding because it's my favorite month. (Ten years on October 27!)



“Fall is a feast for the physical senses, the perfect opportunity to step out of our thoughts and into the body, connecting with the world around us.” — Andy Puddicombe, co-founder of the meditation app Headspace.



Enjoy this short meditation.

Step outside on a fall day.

Notice the quality of the light.

Feel the air against your skin, cooler than it was just a few weeks ago.

Observe the sunlight filtering through the trees.

Notice the play of the shadows.

Listen to the sounds of rustling leaves.

Inhale the smell of an autumn day.


- David Gelles, for the NYT

Friday Favorites - Happy Fall, Y'all!

Today, I taught 6 classes of 5th graders about Antartica during our school's Arts Days program. Y'all, if you're teachers, I am bowing down to you right now. I am so tired out from that; I need a nap. It's fun to be with the kids, though, and they're so funny and creative. We had built a big styrofoam "iceberg" and the kids were asked to write a word or phrase that evokes Antarctica on a piece of card stock, decorate it, attach it to a skewer, and stick in the iceberg.

One kid wrote "Ice Ice Baby." So.

Speaking of ice... (photo taken at The Candy Jar, Austin, TX)

Speaking of Vanilla Ice, I did NOT include him on my SheBuysCars post featuring my ultimate road trip playlist, which went live today. But there may be a few surprises in there, and you'll enjoy the corresponding videos.

Featuring other works around the internet:

* * *
Any other night owls out there? This is so me. 

* * *
This post about a woman who escapes a domestic violence situation is both heartbreaking and hopeful, somehow.

* * *
My favorite piece of advice for new mothers is to tell them to trust themselves. They know their babies best. This article from the New York Times shows that in a way that resonated well with  me, because we definitely have a poor sleeper in our house, and it's hard on parents and kids, both.

* * *
Sarah Dille is one of the kindest, smartest teachers I know. In this essay, she nails it:

"As a parent, I care that my kids are learning at school. I want them to be able to read and solve math problems, understand history and conduct experiments.

But I care more, really, that their learning pushes them to grow as people, that the knowledge they gain propels them towards bravery and kindness and resilience."

* * * 

* * * 
Katie wrote a beautiful letter to her children about racism and being aware and kind. 

* * *
My son wrestles with some big fears, lately, and this article from the Washington Post was very helpful to put it all into perspective.

* * *
Sometimes, Facebook gets to be too much for me, especially in the election season. But there is something special about being able to watch the families of some of your friends growing up, even though you may go years between personal visits. Love this essay from Nina. 

* * *
Do you love Honeycrisp apples? I'm addicted. This story at Vox has the most hilarious descriptions of other (less worthy) apples.

* * *
Many of you know the work of Rachel of The Hands Free Revolution. Her words find the holes in my heart and fill them, every time.
What if we collectively responded to the injustices of our brothers and sisters with empathy rather than defensiveness or indifference? 
What if we collectively looked into our brother and sisters eyes to acknowledge their pain rather than closing our eyes or looking away?

What if we collectively understood our privileges and blessings would be far greater if shared by our sisters and brothers? 
What if we collectively agreed it is not “your back” or “my back,” but “our back,” if we are to create a unified and peaceful world for future generations? 
What if we collectively remember, “I’ll hurt with you,” is something we can all do when we don’t know what to do?
From I Hurt with Her, by Rachel Macy Stafford.

* * *
And let's finish with a little hilarity from the very witty Wendi Aarons. This is a funny spoof on one of the most terrifying movies I have ever seen: Scarface. Actually, I only saw 10 minutes of this movie and it haunted me for years (I don't like scary movies!).

* * *
And one more video to make your day. Happy weekend!



From Bob Cornelius, via Facebook:


Love,
Kristin














Friday Favorites

Happy Friday!




I'm featured at the Today Show parenting site this week with two posts: one about making room for the next phase with my son, and another re-post of my most popular essay ever. I can still pick him up, so I do. 

And I am super excited to share my debut post as a contributor for SheBuysCars this week, writing about the Rezvani Beast. 

As the mother of a child with a life-threatening food allergy, this at The Mighty made my heart happy.

My friend Kim is a busy mother of two sweet little boys, and she is wonderful and kind and smart and all of the things you want in a friend. She had a suspicious spot on her arm that turned into a melanoma scare, and her message to you is in this bracing essay: take care of yourselves.

With hate speech and frustration and politics all around us, this simple and straightforward letter from a father to his son about not engaging in gossip or tearing others down is a much-needed breath of clean air.

Humor break! NYC-based Wendy Bradford is a mother of three, and hilarious.

Not everyone shares Kathy's philosophy on teaching her teenage son about drugs and drinking, but I think it's spot on. "Your father and I are so proud of the man you are becoming. We love you so much that we don’t care if you hate us. That’s our gift to you, we are your parents, not your friends."

Powerful advice at Time.com: If as the saying goes, your best teacher is your last mistake, how do we empower children and adults alike to see mistakes as guideposts you use to get better and to seek feedback for what should happen next? The answer is both difficult and simple: Let them see you do it.

Since the moment I met her, I have loved Nancy Davis Kho's smart, practical writing. She has an insight that is uniquely hers, and she has a way of weaving music into the theme that speaks to my heart. This essay on midlife is no exception.

This story of love, post 9/11, is too beautiful to miss.

PUPPIES. Pure joy.

I love this father's quiet love for his daughter.


Austin, Texas residents! 



This is a tip from a friend: Pageboy is like Uber, but for hair and make-up. You install the app to get on-demand access to hairstylists and make-up artists when you don’t want to leave the house to primp for a big night out. Since they’ve been been hugely successful in Houston, they’re planning on expanding all through Texas, starting with Austin! They’d love for you to try it out, using the promo code below to get half off your first blowout.

Named for the iconic haircut made famous by Vogue editor Anna Wintour, Pageboy services can be booked months in advance or on the fly. A blowout is priced at $70 for 45 minutes - with a 20% gratuity automatically added - customers pay via the app.

To celebrate the arrival of Pageboy in the ATX, Austin users can use code PAGEBOYATX + for 50% off their first blowout. (First, download the app on iTunes.)

And last, but not least by a long shot, some movie news from Disney : 

Last week, Walt Disney Studios announced that 13-year-old Storm Reid will play the lead role of Meg Murray in the upcoming Disney live action adaptation of Madeleine L'Engle’s A WRINKLE IN TIME (my favorite book of all time!). With director Ava DuVernay alongside Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon and Mindy Kaling as Mrs. Which, Mrs. Whatsit and Mrs. Who, this is going to be fantastic.

Storm Reid (Photo courtesy of Disney)
Love,
Kristin