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I recently read a laugh-out-loud article in Real Simple magazine that depicts the Pinterest version of the perfect morning. In it, author Raquel D’Apice peppers in fake links to made-up DIY projects like “simple felted dryer-lint slipper tutorial” as she satirizes the frenzied follies of motherhood.


It got me thinking about my reluctance to enter the Pinterest world, which has felt less like a polite refusal and more like bracing myself against a torrential storm in a doorway, appendages sprawled out like Spiderman. Everyone’s Pinning, right? Why not give it a go?

It’s not for fear that I won’t like it. It’s for fear that I’ll really, really like it. I already have more than enough half-finished projects kicking around my life: painting that trim in the bathroom, crafting that hot air balloon stencil painting for my daughter’s room, opening those boxes we haven’t unpacked since leaving the condo, building that asparagus bed, writing that memoir, reupholstering that chair, finishing my second child’s baby book seven years later…the list goes on. But the twitching response is building to an alarming crescendo.

People have raved about Pinterest’s gardening boards, parenting boards, meal planning boards, style boards, home decorating boards, and, of course, cat-themed boards. I wonder about all this time and effort brainstorming, designing, and planning. What about the doing? The follow-though? The roll-your-sleeves-up-and-get-to-work execution of a task?

If allowed entry, I could see myself tumbling right down the rabbit hole – broadening my horizons wider and wider as I drift along random redecorating Pin tangents until I’ve dreamt up enough collages to construct an entire neighborhood, let alone my tiny half-bath. My Pin-to-completed project ratio would be dismal.

I’m guilty of allowing myself to be lured by the deceptive charm of a project that is born, lives, and dies entirely in my imagination. If I throw enough vivid detail at it, it seems real(ish). My book, for example: I can imagine its cover, a title, the foreword I’ll beg of an accomplished author acquaintance. I can listen to podcasts and TedTalks on writing a best seller, research how to find an agent, and how to market a memoir.

Or, I can write it. I can decide to fit it into my life – carve out time, pore over my outline, and let it flow.

So what holds people back? The inability to delay gratification? The need for instant results? Laziness? Or is it apprehension that threatens productivity? Are we worried about outcomes being less than perfect…not living up to our expectations? Or worse, becoming a Pinterest Fail? For shame!

You’ve seen the “Nailed it!” montages, yes? The Pinterest projects gone so, so wrong. I first found them on Facebook, of all places. They feature photos comparing the perfect Pinterest project to real attempts made by actual humans. Envision the effort to bake and decorate that perfect porcupine birthday cake (ouch), or cook those owl-face eggs (better just go ahead and scramble ‘em). And how about those sweet yellow ducklings nestled on delicate cupcakes that look more like they’ve been left to melt on a hot sidewalk next to their regurgitated late-night happy meals. I could indulge for hours (mostly because I’m avoiding the first sentence of my sixth chapter in the memoir). Commiseration is comforting.

More than likely, there’s not only one obvious excuse for stalling and procrastination. We’re also busy. Really, really busy. A BBC article cites busyness as the current “indicator of high success,” yet task-completion apparently wanes when our brains are stuck in this spinning hamster wheel mode. Our time management skills worsen and we prioritize the trivial over the important.

For all this keeping busy, the amount of time spent working (at the office or from home) in Europe and North America hasn’t actually increased in recent decades. We just feel busier, stay busier, act busier (even outside of work). Sort of like how my dishwasher does some stuff for an hour and a half to our dishes but leaves the cups smelling like a wet dog.

I know I’m fabulously adept at acting busy. I can create any number of seemingly imperative roadblocks to finishing crucial tasks. When I need a distraction, I can call on the weeds in my vegetable garden, or research for my contract work, my kids’ endless wishes, or home construction projects, or even get a few more hours of sleep when I could be busting out 75 words per minute on my book.

Or, I could turn to that mountain of unfolded clean laundry that spends its days on my bed and nights on the couch. Ha – I kid, I kid. What other than laundry would I dole out as a consequence for sibling squabbles? Exercise also rarely steps ahead in the pecking order, unless of course we count lugging ye olde laundry mountain around the house.

Although the BBC article argues we’re only under the guise of being more busy than generations past, the trend of time spent parenting has been steadily increasing for years. We prioritize being with our offspring, and our little ones are plugged into more activities than ever before. Many parents feel we have less to offer to ourselves when we’re so lovingly dedicated to childrearing.

A parent pal of mine admitted she can only plan day-to-day, sometimes hour-to-hour, because the adulthood juggle-struggle is real. She can’t think ahead to next soccer season or even next week when her daunting to-do list for this afternoon demands her full attention. Amen.

In my marriage, my husband and I have organically settled on roles, for better or worse. He works the steady full-time job with benefits and a retirement plan, and I work creative part-time, flexible jobs while shouldering the bulk of childcare, cooking, housecleaning (toilets are NOT terrariums!), and general management involving all the normal coordination associated with family life.

Don’t get me wrong, Papa doesn’t receive a cigar and whiskey when he walks through the door. He changes diapers, cleans up after meals, cooks waaaaaay better than me, and we almost always pay the rec department to have him coach his own kids in sports. I just have more hours with the kids and at home.

My husband has the enviable ability to hyper-focus, and he really gets stuff done. During weekends or evenings when he’s upstairs banging boards into place and hanging sheetrock, his mind seems nowhere else. He assumes I’ll pick up the parenting slack in his absence. And I do. When he works, he works. When he relaxes, he relaxes.

When I work, I work and attend to dozens of other interruptions. When I relax, I relax and probably try to finish some of that leftover work. I’d like to believe it’s my true zest for living life to the fullest that propels me and not the hamster wheel spazz-brain.

As I’ve contemplated this theme, I’ve come to realize that in order to actually accomplish one goal, six or so others need to be pushed to the back burner. This is the reality of it, and I am trying to accept it, while also blocking out the guilt of neglect.

A friend recently asked me, “How are you so productive, lady?” I had just reworked an essay for the umpteenth time (during daylight hours no less). Before me, a crossroads: On the one hand, I could’ve silently basked in the glory of her kind perception like that mom who spends all day posting photos of her perfectly portrayed world. Instead, I answered honestly. “I ignored the runts for two hours.”

A few years ago, when they were still in the danger zone of consuming pennies, this wouldn’t have been possible. But they’re nine and seven and fairly self-sufficient. We were hanging out at my mom’s condo in the village. They scootered, biked, found kids in the neighborhood to play with, and watched a show on the tube. To fend off that lurking weight on my conscience for choosing writing over my kids, I remembered an article that attests this type of parenting helps nurture your children’s imagination and problem-solving skills. Winning!

Seriously though, something always has “to give.” If I make three batches of homemade jam from berries we’ve picked ourselves, guess what’s for dinner? Jam. When I spend hours preparing chicken pot pie with buttermilk drop biscuits for a special meal the night before my husband’s mouth surgery, guess what happens to my promise of helping him “snap lines” (construction talk)?

Take-backsies for the second evening in a row, because I’ll be cleaning up my culinary genius crime scene until bedtime. When I draft a piece to submit for publication, guess what happens to my contract work? Backburner city. When I play a three-hour round of my favorite childhood board game with my kids, guess what happens to the box next to “grocery shopping” on the to-do list. Unchecked. Looks like it’s jam again for dinner.

Life is full of “pulls.” I try to remind myself how incredibly fortunate I am to trip over the mundane. My family has food to eat and a home that’s safe and warm. We have our health and bonds of love. We don’t have real problems. Yes, life can feel harried and chock-full, but rarely disastrous. So I’m freed up to dream, plan, brainstorm, and when the stars align, resist self-limiting thoughts enough to get a job done.

That’s when it’s time to proudly proclaim (in earnest or with humor), “Nailed it!”

Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

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[Editor's note: This story is a letter from a woman to her husband. While this is one example of one type of relationship, we understand, appreciate and celebrate that relationships come in all forms and configurations.]

To my husband,

We met when I was 22. We started building a life together. We became each other's best friend, cheerleader, guidance counselor, and shelter from the storm. We laughed together, cried together, and stood up in front of all the people who matter to us and vowed to stay together until one of us dies.

We said the words without irony or hesitation, knowing that while we weren't perfect, the problems we could face in life would never be enough to break us.

And babe, I had no clue what our future held. But I knew I wanted to experience it only with you.

Then we got pregnant! And when our son was born, I marveled at the fact that we made a person. You and me. It honestly still blows my mind even five years later.

I'd heard women say things like, I fell in love with my husband all over again once I saw him as a daddy. I love watching you be a daddy, too—but just like becoming a mother has been transformative for me, becoming a father has been transformative for you, too. And it has taken us some time to get to know the new versions of ourselves.

We worked together—mostly on the same team—and have shared so many beautiful lessons and experiences together. Everything is new when you're a first-time parent! And this new dynamic of three definitely threw us for a loop—I wasn't used to sharing your attention with someone else, and I wasn't used to sharing my attention with someone other than you.

It took a few years to hit our stride. I think maybe we never had big things to disagree on before we became parents. It threw me off to be anything but harmonious with you. But just like we said we would on that gorgeous September wedding day, we found our way back. We stayed on each other's team.

And then I got pregnant again.

We were planning a huge life change already— moving across the country to start anew, restart your business and make a new future. I didn't have an easy pregnancy this time. And generally, for many reasons, life seemed harder than ever.

Our daughter was born and it didn't take long for postpartum depression to steal me away, for far longer than I should have allowed it to. I was scared to get the help I needed and I let it get the best of me. I'm truly sorry for that. I'm mostly sorry that I sometimes let it get the best of us.

It's easy to love a partner when it's just the two of you. Our priorities were never tested then—you were at the top of my to-do list, and I was at the top of yours. But—funny thing—this whole parenting thing seemed to make life a little more complex. And when your kids are little, and completely dependent upon you, there are many days when there just isn't much left over for anything or anyone else.

Babe, we're in it right now. Really in it. These are the parenting trenches. The baby years. These years can make or break us. And can I be so bold as to say: I think they're making us.

They're making us learn how to communicate better. How to find common ground when we disagree about real stuff, like the ways we want to raise our children. We're invested in not only the outcome but the short term effect. We're a team.

They're making us think about the future. Not just the fun stuff, but the difficult stuff like estate planning, life insurance, and college funds for the kids. They're making us challenge ourselves to provide our children with comfort and opportunities. We've always worked hard but the stakes have never been this high.

You know I'm the optimist, the dreamer, while you consider yourself the realist—but I think we can agree on this: going through some of the tough stuff with you by my side has shown me that we are stronger than the tough stuff. We can get through it. We can get through anything. As long as we hold on to each other.

Motherhood transformed me. Fatherhood transformed you. And having kids completely transformed our marriage. We'll never be who we were on our wedding day again.

Time marches forward—only forward. I miss the carefree version of "us", but I love this version even more. Because we know what we're made of now, and in so many ways we didn't before.

I'm sure that in our lifetime, many more obstacles will arise that will transform our marriage. But I've never been more confident that whatever may be, we'll find a way through it—together.

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Baking Christmas cookies together is a family tradition for many, but the Centers for Disease Control is warning parents that if your recipe contains raw flour or raw eggs, you really shouldn't sneak a bite before it is cooked, and neither should your kids.

The CDC is warning people not to eat raw cookie dough, cake mix or bread as we head into prime baking season.

The agency acknowledges the appeal of a spoonful of chocolate chip goodness but asks that we "steer clear of this temptation—eating or tasting unbaked products that are intended to be cooked, such as dough or batter, can make you sick."

Salmonella from raw eggs is, of course, a concern, and so is the raw flour. According to the CDC, flour needs to be cooked in order to kill germs like E.Coli. That's why the CDC is asking parents to "say no to raw dough," not just for eating but even for playing with.

"Children can get sick from handling or eating raw dough used for crafts or play clay, too," the CDC posted on its website.

On the Food and Drug Administration's website, that agency advises that "even though there are websites devoted to 'flour crafts,' don't give your kids raw dough or baking mixes that contain flour to play with." Health Canada also states that raw flour should not be used in children's play-dough.

The warnings follow a 2016 E.coli outbreak linked to contaminated raw flour. Dozens of people got sick that year, and a post-outbreak report notes that "state investigators identified three ill children who had been exposed to raw flour at restaurants in Maryland, Virginia, and Texas. Restaurant staff had given them raw dough to play with while they waited for their food to be served."

The CDC worries that with flour's long shelf life, products recalled during the 2016 outbreak may still be in people's pantries (although the CDC notes that any raw flour—recalled or otherwise—should not be consumed).

If your kids do have flour-based play dough, don't worry.

Some parents are still choosing to use flour-based craft dough to make Christmas ornaments or other crafts this holiday season and are reducing the risks by A) making sure the kids aren't eating their art, and B) thoroughly washing little hands, work surfaces, and utensils when the dough play is over.

Other parents are choosing other types of craft clay over flour-based dough.


During the 2016 outbreak, the FDA called for Americans to abstain from raw cookie dough, an approach Slate called "unrealistic and alarmist," noting that "the vast, vast majority of people who consume or touch uncooked flour do not contract E. coli or any other infection."

Two years ago, 63 Americans were made sick by E. coli infections linked to raw flour, according to the CDC. We don't know exactly how many Americans ate a spoonful of cookie dough or played with homemade play dough that year, but we do know that more than 319 million Americans did not get sick because of raw flour.

Are there risks associated with handling and consuming raw flour? Yes, absolutely, but it's not something to panic over.

Bottom line: Don't let your kids eat raw dough when they're helping you bake cookies for Santa, and be mindful of raw flour when choosing crafts for kids.

(And if you have just got to get your raw cookie dough fix, the CDC notes that cookie dough flavored ice cream is totally safe as it "contains dough that has been treated to kill harmful bacteria." Sounds like mama's getting Ben & Jerry's tonight.)

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Twinkling lights are everywhere I look, and the magic of the holiday season is filling our house. The kids are growing more excited each day anticipating Santa's arrival and gifts are accumulating, ready to be wrapped in beautiful paper and bows.

Elf and The Grinch have been playing on repeat and the nativity scene has found a safe spot among our decorations. It's one of the busiest times of the year and it can be hard to catch your breath in the hustle and bustle of it all.

But then something stops you.

Maybe it's a pang in your heart or a memory of someone dearly missed. Maybe it's a familiar feeling of emptiness—of wanting this person to be a part of this magical, joy-filled time of year.

It's so easy to forget that many people are struck with sadness around the holidays and are longing for someone who's missing from their lives. We give and give to our families and friends and communities this time of year—food for dinners, and toys for less-fortunate children—but people don't always realize that another type of giving is needed.

The gift of comfort.

Because someone who is missing their mother, father, brother, sister, child, friend or spouse needs your connection and warmth. They need a reminder of their loved one is not forgotten, and maybe above all—just needs a hug.

Family traditions are wonderful and cherished, but they can also feel incomplete when someone is missing.

For me, I love the holidays, and watching my kids experience all the joys this season has to offer truly fills my heart. Yet, not a Christmas goes by that I don't think about what Kendrick (my first child lost at 2 months old) would have thought of this time of year.

Would he have loved hot cocoa like his sister and brothers? Would he have gotten into all the ornaments on the tree as a toddler? What toys would he have asked Santa for? What Christmas wishes would he have made for others?

I am left to wonder these things without answer. And even though I fully embrace this time of year and relish the holidays, I can't help but miss him.

I wanted to share my story as a reminder that even though your holiday cup may be filled with joy, someone you know may be wrestling with sadness. With all the merry and bright and cups of cheer, it's important to be mindful of this and to treat people with extra care. Reach out to someone you know who has lost someone, and let them know you're thinking of them. It won't go unnoticed.

Many of us have dealt with loss at some point in our lives, and we've learned to carry these special people in our hearts so that they are always with us. But missing someone never goes away. There are so many experiences in our lives we wish we could just snap our fingers and have them right by our sides—the holidays being one of those.

So as you check off your shopping lists, make your donations, trim your tree, or light your menorah—please don't forget to show care to those who may be hurting a little this holiday season.


They're certainly in a position where they could buy every item on their kids' Christmas lists, but Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher aren't planning on piling up the presents under the Christmas tree this year.

"So far, our tradition is no presents for the kids," Kunis said in an interview with Entertainment Tonight. Mom to 4-year-old daughter, Wyatt, and 2-year-old son Dmitri, Kunis says she and Kutcher are determined to not raise entitled kids—and are learning from the mistakes of Christmases past.

“We've told our parents, 'We're begging you: If you have to give her something, pick one gift,'" Kunis said. “'Otherwise, we'd like to take a charitable donation, to the Children's Hospital or a pet... Whatever you want.' That's our new tradition."

The minimalist Christmas that Kunis and Kutcher embrace makes sense on a lot of levels: It teaches kids how to be more mindful consumers, removes the emphasis on material goods... And saves you from those chaotic trips to the mall.

Going without presents doesn't mean going without

Putting a halt on presents these upcoming holidays is one way to reinforce what the season is really about: Spending quality time together as families and cherishing what we already have. But "no presents" doesn't mean "no fun," either.

Some of our favorite non-material gift suggestions include:

  • Experiences
  • Lessons
  • College contributions
  • Coupon booklets
  • Piggy bank donations
  • Gifts for others

Or you could take a cue from Kunis and Kutcher without going all the way: Maybe you only focus on one or two quality gifts. Or pass on anything that will likely get discarded to the bottom of the toy box before next year's holidays.

Think of Christmas gifts for kids kind of like eggnog: A little goes a long way.

[Originally published October 11, 2017]

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