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Parenting Your Way Through a Zombie Apocalypse With Twitter Star XplodingUnicorn

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Those of you who keep up with the online parenting community have probably come across the work of James Breakwell (aka @XplodingUnicorn). James is a comedy writer and father of four girls. His social media accounts, where he recounts funny conversations with his kids and shares other entertaining insights from his home life, have been featured in numerous publications including Buzzfeed, Huffington Post, USA Today, and US Weekly.

A profile on Buzzfeed deemed him the funniest dad on Twitter, and, you know, everyone is entitled to their opinion and I’m not jealous at all. But seriously, his Twitter and Facebook are both hilarious and infinitely relatable.

James’s first book, “Only Dead on the Inside: A Parent’s Guide to Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse,” is out this fall and available for pre-order now. As the title indicates, it is about a topic that all of us parents have lost a lot of sleep over: zombies. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to sit down with James to discuss his book and the upcoming zombie apocalypse. Obviously what really happened is we emailed each other from our couches after our kids were in bed.

Me: To my knowledge (and I Googled for several minutes to prepare for this interview so I am confident that I am right) you are the leading expert on zombie apocalypse parenting. So, let me start with the question that I’m sure is on every parent’s mind: How close are we to a zombie apocalypse and, really, when it arrives, will parents notice much of a difference?


James: For all we know, it’s already started. It doesn’t begin everywhere at once. There are no zombies at my house right now. Are they at your house? I don’t know. If you stop replying to my emails, I’ll have my answer.

Me: That is very chilling. Your book is called “Only Dead on the Inside: A Parent’s Guide to Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse.” Can you pinpoint the precise moment after you had kids that you realized you were dead inside or was it more of a gradual realization? I remember my “dead inside” moment well. It was when my first kid was about 18 months and he discovered he could reach the kitchen counter tops. One day he just started pulled every item off the counter, one by one, until I eventually just gave up and left it all on the floor until we moved about a year later.

James: I cheated a little by being dead on the inside before I ever had kids. The presence of children in my life simply confirmed what I already knew. Probably the moment I was the deadest inside, though, was while potty training my second child when I had to scrub poop out of her hair. I thought my instructions had been very clear. Apparently, they were not.

Me: Wow. Dead on the inside before kids. That is a brilliant life hack. You are known on the internet as Exploding Unicorn. How did that name come about? And what I mean by that is what made you so broken that you fantasized about blowing up cute little unicorns to the point that you decided to make it your alter ego?

James: In high school, I had a few minutes of free time at the end of my computer literacy class every day. Like most healthy, well-adjusted boys my age, I started writing a fake book of the Bible. One of the earliest passages in it centered on unicorns that were tragically filled with hydrogen. And that’s where we get the saying, “It exploded like a unicorn.”

Me: I tuned out a little when you started talking about high school, but that’s fascinating. I read that you are the father of four children ages six and under. What were you thinking?

James: Well, they’re seven and under now. They keep getting older. Kids are tricky like that. As for what I was thinking, I like kids and I like having sex with my wife. Seemed like a win-win at the time.

Me: Ah, a tale as old as time. And yes, I have watched the new “Beauty and the Beast” movie too many times with my kids this summer. They can certainly be annoying, can’t they? Especially with their sneaky aging. Follow-up question: I have three kids under age six and I consistently amaze people in my community by taking them grocery shopping by myself or going to the playground. When you take all four of your kids out, do people just start throwing confetti and assembling marching bands?

James: People never congratulate me when I take all four kids out by myself because between one and four of them will be throwing a temper tantrum at all times. People usually cross the street to avoid us. That’s fine with me.

Me: You are my hero. Your Facebook tag line is “Ruining my children’s lives for your amusement one day at a time.” If you take such a cavalier attitude toward parenting in relatively peaceful times such as these, why should readers trust you as possibly their only source of life-saving advice as they prepare for the zombie invasion?

James: Not a single person who has read my book has died in a zombie attack. Granted, that’s a relatively small sample size, but 100 percent is 100 percent. I’m willing to extend that as a guarantee. If you read my book, I promise you won’t die in a zombie attack or your money back. Although if you do die, I’m not sure how you’ll collect on that promise. Hopefully it won’t come to that. I don’t want to spend the entire zombie apocalypse tied up in court.

Me: That’s outstanding. I love a man who is willing to stand behind his work. And a follow-up about your parenting style. As a father of four, are you concerned that the several minutes you spend on social media every day (I’m guessing on the amount) will result in your kids turning into zombies? There are lots of studies. Also, that would be ironic, but I guess you’d be better prepared than most to deal with it?

James: The zombies will knock out electricity and with it the internet and social media. I will be forced to be a better dad by default. I might let the zombies eat me just to cope.

Me: Too real. You clearly spend a lot of time with your kids. Did you decide to write about zombies because it was a grass-is-always-greener type of situation? In other words, did you view it as a bit of an escape from your real-life hellscape?

James: I wrote about zombies because publishers and agents wanted me to write something autobiographical, but I didn’t want the pressure of telling the truth. Comedy leads to exaggerations, and exaggerations lead to lies, and that’s how wars get started. I decided to go the safe route and stick with all lies right from the start.

Although I should note this book is classified as non-fiction. My publisher and agent both agreed on that unequivocally, and no one in the book industry has ever questioned its status. Apparently, zombies are more real than I originally thought. Ignore this book at your own peril.

Me: Inspirational and terrifying. You’ve been counting down a list of 99 parenting tips for the zombie apocalypse on your social media accounts. This is a very important public service and I thank you on behalf of the entire parenting community. However, as you know well, parents are very busy people. So, could you give us like one tip that is the most important one? Sure, we want to survive, but we also have Instagram accounts to update.

James: The beautiful thing about my list is it’s not in any sort of order. I’m a parent. I can’t plan anything 99 days in advance. The advice of the day depends entirely on what I can convince my kids to pose for in the pictures. Some days it’s them armed and ready for battle. Other days it’s them ignoring me or crying on the floor. It’s entirely possible parenting tip number one will be the worst tip of them all. But it could also be the best. I guess I’ll find out when that day comes.

But if I were to give one zombie survival tip outside of that, it would be to drive a minivan. Read my book to find out why.

Me: Teaser alert! And just to clarify. Does your book recommend that we do a lot of fitness and/or diet stuff to prepare for the zombies? Because, if so, I’ll probably just take my chances.

James: My book recommends no fitness level whatsoever. In fact, it assumes that as a parent, you’re out of shape. Every other survival book is written to young, fit survivalists who have ample skills and no obligations. My book is for people with none of the skills and all of the obligations. You have a family to keep alive in a world full of undead monsters trying to kill them. Good luck.

Me: Perfect. Sounds like just what I’m looking for. On the other hand, do you offer up any shortcuts? If so, can you talk about a couple of those because all parents love shortcuts.

James: I have a pretty detailed chapter on who in your family to trust if you need someone to amputate one of your limbs following a zombie bite. If that bite is on your legs, you’ll definitely be cut shorter.

Me: I see what you did there. And finally, instead of asking the cliché concluding question about why people should buy your book – I mean, the answer is obvious: survival – let me flip it around and ask it another way. What do you think of people who don’t buy your book and what do you hope happens to them?

James: People who don’t read my book will lead happy, productive lives. Until the zombies kill them. Then they’ll become zombies themselves, and those of us who read the book will have to fight them off. You’re either part of the solution, or you’re part of the undead horde. There’s no in-between.

And there you have it. “Only Dead on the Inside” is out October 10 and is available for pre-order now. I guess we all better buy it … or else.

This article was originally published at explorationsofambiguity.com.

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I honestly can't remember how I used to organize and share baby photos before I started using FamilyAlbum. (What am I saying? I could never keep all those pictures organized!) Like most mamas, I often found myself with a smartphone full of photos and videos I didn't know what to do with. My husband and I live states away from our respective families, and we worried about the safety of posting our children's photos on other platforms.

Then we found FamilyAlbum.

FamilyAlbum is the only family-first photo sharing app that safely files photos and videos by date taken in easy-to-navigate digital albums. From documenting a pregnancy to capturing the magical moments of childhood, the app makes sharing memories with your family simple and safe. And it provides free, unlimited storage—meaning you can snap and snap and snap to your heart's delight without ever being forced to choose which close-up of your newborn's tiny little nose you want to keep.

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And, truly, the app is a much-needed solution for mamas with out-of-state family. Parents can share all their favorite memories with friends and relatives safely within the app without worrying about spamming acquaintances with every adorable baby yawn the way you might on a social network or a long text thread. (Did I mention I have a thing for baby yawn videos? I regret nothing 😍) It's safe because your album is only visible to the people you share it with. The app will even notify album members when new photos have been posted so they can comment on their favorite moments and we can preserve their reactions forever. It's also easy for my husband and I to share our photos and videos. All of our memories are organized in one place, and we never have to miss out on seeing each other's best shots.

And because #mombrain is real, I especially appreciate how much work FamilyAlbum takes off my plate. From automatically organizing photos and videos by month and labeling them by age (so I can skip doing the math in my head to figure out if my daughter was five or six months when she started sitting up) to remembering what I upload and preventing me from uploading the same photo four times, the app makes it easy to keep all my memories tidy—even when life feels anything but.

FamilyAlbum will quickly become your family's solution for sharing moments, like when you're sending a video to the grandma across the country. Grandparents need only tap open the app to get a peek into what is going on with our girls every day. When my sister sends her nieces a present, the app has become where I can share photos and video of the girls opening their gifts so she never feels like she's missing a thing. The app will even automatically create paper photo books of your favorite shots that you can purchase every month so you can hold on to the memories forever (or to share with the great-grandma who has trouble with her smartphone 😉). Plus, you can update the books with favorite photos or create your own from scratch. No matter what, the app keeps your photos and videos safe, even if your phone is lost or damaged.

But what I love most about FamilyAlbum is that it's family-first. Unlike other photo sharing platforms, it was designed with mamas (and their relatives!) in mind, creating a safe, simple space to share our favorite moments with our favorite people. And that not only helps us keep in touch—it helps us all feel a little bit closer.

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This year marks FamilyAlbum's 4th anniversary! Click here to celebrate and learn more about their "Share your #FamilyAlbumTime" special promotion running until March 31, 2019.

For some celebrities, pregnancy is a time to retreat from the public eye and be more strategic about what they share online. They guard their personal lives a little closer, and their social media presence gets a little more curated.

But when Amy Schumer announced her pregnancy in October, she didn't stop sharing. We saw—and heard, in some of her more graphic Insta stories—just how hard this pregnancy and the resulting hyperemesis (an extreme form of morning sickness) have been on Schumer.

Schumer's humor has always been real, and her new Netflix special, Growing, is one of the realest descriptions of pregnancy I've ever seen on my TV.

As a mom who didn't glow as much as I groaned through my pregnancy, I laughed so hard I cried. And as a mom of a child diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, I cried tears of relief.

In one hour Amy Schumer simultaneously made me feel seen and helped me see a happy future for my son, and I can't thank her enough.

[Warning, light spoilers ahead]

Amy Schumer: Growing | Official Trailer [HD] | Netflix www.youtube.com

The Netflix description for this special describes it as "both raunchy and sincere" and that's totally accurate. If you've seen Schumer's previous Netflix special, you know you can't watch this until the kids are in bed.


In Growing Schumer proves that pregnancy didn't make her a different person or take the curse words out of her vocabulary. She is who she is, she just happens to be becoming a mom, too.

And becoming a mom has not been easy. Schumer's description of yeast infections, and vomiting and hemorrhoids and all the parts of pregnancy that nobody puts on a felt letter board gave me flashbacks and validation.

In Growing, Schumer is saying that it's okay not to love being pregnant and that it doesn't mean you don't love that baby growing inside you. It's a message more women need to hear because it's hard to see photo after photo of smiling mamas sporting cute bumps and wonder if you're the only woman who doesn't love feeling someone sit on your bladder.

That feeling (the emotional one, not the bladder one) made me feel alone in my pregnancy, but it's been three years since I wondered if there was something wrong with me. These days, I'm more worried about whether my son, who is now a preschooler, will grow up to think there's something wrong with him.

As the mother of a kid on the spectrum, I gasped when Schumer explained that her husband, Chris Fischer, is too. I sobbed when she described some of her husband's quirks, because I see them everyday in my son.

I don't want to spoil the special too much, but let me tell you this: In revealing that her husband, the father of her future child, is on the spectrum, Schumer gave me so much hope.

I'm so grateful that Schumer (and Fischer, who must be on board with this) shared that bit of info because sitting there in front of my TV all the versions of my son's future that got erased when we got our ASD diagnosis came flooding back.

I could see him as a grown man, and he wasn't alone. He was falling in love with a partner like Schumer. He was becoming a father like Fischer. He was happy (and different, in the way Schumer describes her husband) but he wasn't alone.

Schumer's trademark raunch isn't for everybody, but her authenticity and vulnerability sure is for me. For 60 minutes I watched a woman stand alone on a stage and I felt less alone.

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Over the years, switching to nontoxic products has become a popular trend. But, as moms ourselves, we understand how overwhelming it can be to consider a lifestyle change. We founded Branch Basics with the idea that simple swaps in your cleaning closet could be the jumpstart to living chemical-free.

For many people, the swap has been influenced by various headlines. One study compared cleaning your home with conventional products to smoking an entire pack of cigarettes every day. Additionally, the EPA has reported that indoor air quality is actually worse than outdoor air quality.

With every reason to make the swap, here is a beginner's guide to non-toxic home cleaning. We call this process our Clean Sweep with just three simple steps.

1. Review

Pull out all of the cleaners (and pesticides) you currently have in your home. Yes, even the dusty ones deep in the back of the cabinet! Once you have these out, review them for red flag words, like "caution, warning or danger."

Cleaning companies are not required by law to list their ingredients, so any cleaners that are not transparent about their ingredients should be taken out of your home. Remove anything with parfum or fragrance, as the word fragrance represents a fragrance recipe that may have never been tested for safety. (Pro tip: You can use essential oils to make scents you like.)

Other common ingredients to avoid are:

  • Perchloroethylene or "PERC"
  • Quarternary Ammonium Compounds, or "QUATS"
  • 2-Butoxyethanol
  • EPA registered pesticides like Chlorine
  • Methylisothiazolinone "MIT"
  • Benzisothiazolinone "BIT"
  • Any of the Isothiazolinone family
  • Ethoxylated Alcohols

Finally, toss your dryer sheets and fabric softeners if they're loaded with carcinogens such as dichlorobenzene and benzyl acetate, respiratory irritants such as chloroform and benzyl alcohol, neurotoxins like linalool and ethanol, and endocrine disruptors such as phenoxyethanol and phthalates.

For any ingredient you are unsure of or don't recognize, the internet has great resources like the Environmental Working Group's (EWG) Guide to Healthy Cleaning, where you can look up health ratings from 1-10 (1 being the safest to 10 being the most toxic).

Another excellent tool is the Think Dirty® app, an easy way to evaluate ingredients in your beauty, personal care and household products. Just scan the product barcode and it will give you easy-to-understand info on the product and its ingredients. We recommend that household products have ingredients rated A on EWG's Guide to Healthy Cleaning or a zero on Think Dirty.

2. Remove

If you find products that have toxic chemicals in them, remove them from your home. If you aren't ready to part with some of your products, put them in an airtight Sterilite container in your garage or backyard. This simple act of removal will improve your air quality immediately.

3. Replace

Now it's time to streamline. Do some research and find items that are plant-based or otherwise naturally-based. Branch Basics offers a variety of nontoxic alternatives to popular household products, like laundry detergent and bathroom cleaner. The Honest Company created safe baby and beauty products. And Beautycounter provides safer skin care and cosmetics. You can even scour the internet for resources for homemade alternatives, too. If it feels overwhelming, start with your most-used products and work your way down the list.

Switching to nontoxic cleaning supplies is one of the easiest ways to start creating a healthier home and there's so much information out there that can walk you through what should and shouldn't be in your products. Simple swaps can make a big difference for your family.

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You know that you want to raise your children differently than how you were raised—with compassion and connection, instead of punishment and reward. Except the only thing is, friends and extended family just don't seem to get your parenting choices.

You can feel their spoken and unspoken judgments, and it's really putting you on edge, but you don't want to have uncomfortable conversations or tension. So what do you do, mama?

Here are 10 positive phrases you can say to family and friends who just don't seem to get your parenting.

1. "I appreciate how much you care about our kids, but I'm really happy with how we're doing it."

This response finds the common ground. Both of you care deeply about your children, and that's the main thing to acknowledge. It sets a limit and lets the other person know you are not looking for help and advice, but appreciate their intention.

2. "I've thought and read a lot about parenting and I'm really happy with what I've learned."

Parenting nowadays can look pretty different from how it was in previous generations, and there are so many resources giving contradictory advice. A friend or relative may make the mistaken assumption that you are doing it all wrong simply because it's not how they did it, or are doing it. This response lets them know you have made a thoughtful choice.

Gently pointing out that you have read and thought about their parenting style may surprise them. Perhaps your confident response may even make them curious about what you have read, and why you decided it's the right way for you to parent.


3. "We've tried different methods, and this is what works best for us."

Let your friend or relative know that you aren't looking for advice, you've tried different styles of parenting and are content with what you're doing.

4. "We find that they're more responsive when we set limits gently."

If you are taking the more peaceful route, then you'll find that it's pretty common for parents to mistake gentle parenting with permissive parenting. Pointing out that you are setting limits, even if they look a little different, can be reassuring to a relative who thinks you are not in control.

5. "I've noticed that if we listen to the crying rather than distracting or ignoring them, then they let out their feelings and are less likely to be upset later."

A lot of people have a huge misunderstanding about crying. They think of it as a negative that needs to be stopped instead of as a healthy and healing way to express emotions. This is a simple way to tell them that there is a purpose in allowing feelings, and it's actually better in the long run for your family.

6. "Every family is different, but this is what works best for us."

Parenting differences can often bring up strong feelings between friends because one person may assume you are judging them and think that what they're doing is wrong. Acknowledging that every family is different is a peacemaker. It shows that choosing a different path doesn't mean you are judging or critical of others, and you get that everyone makes different choices.

7. "Kids are so different. This is how my child responds best."

Everyone is the best expert on their family and what their children need. Nobody on the outside looking in can tell you how to parent. This phrase lets the other person know that what you are doing is based on what your understanding of what your child needs and ensures they won't need an explanation.

8. "Don't worry, I can handle this!"

If a friend or family member wants to step in and parent for you, this is a polite way of saying "no thanks."' A lot of people aren't comfortable around big emotions so perhaps they see your child crying and want to give them a lollipop to cheer them up.

This phrase gently lets them know they don't need to fix or solve the situation. It can be reassuring to them that despite the wild emotions of your child (or their challenging behavior), that you are feeling calm and under control.

9. "Thanks for your advice. I'll give it some thought."

This is a conversation closer. It lets the person know they've been heard and you aren't just dismissing what they say. But it also ends the debate, so it's perfect to use with someone you know will never understand what you're doing.

10. "I guess this must look a little different to how you were parented?"

This might not always be appropriate, but if the timing seems right it can open up a discussion about the roots of why the other person might feel the way they do about parenting. Sharing stories about how you were parented can help both come to an understanding that everyone chooses their own parenting path based on their own complex histories, and personal choices.

It also gives the other person a chance to express how they feel about their own childhood, which can help them feel heard, and more relaxed and flexible in their attitude to how you are parenting.

Plus one more that isn't a phrase: Just listen.

Sometimes, no response is needed. Often when people give advice or have strong feelings towards other people's parenting, it's because they feel a sense of responsibility. Perhaps your children's big emotions triggered memories from their childhood, and how they would have been treated if they acted out or expressed themselves.

In those moments, their unheard feelings get ignited and they respond from their own sense of hurt. It can be helpful just to listen to them, to accept that their reaction has nothing to do with you and your parenting, but is about their own history.

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Motherhood is a journey with highs so high so you'll remember them forever, and lows so low you'll curse the day away. I'm still navigating these uncharted waters and just when I feel like the sea has steadied, the water turns choppy again.

My days are filled with uncertainty as we discover more about what's beneath this sweet boy of mine. I know he is smart, strong, passionately curious, compassionate and spirited. What I'm still learning, though, are the differences that make him unique. It's difficult to describe what it's like to be a parent of a spirited child. The answer depends on the day, the task, the weather—the answer is always changing.

Our days ebb and flow, like waves of the ocean. They swell with enjoyment and eagerness and then naturally fade through periodic episodes of misunderstanding and confusion. Attachment and connection, followed by detachment and disconnection. Up and down, back and forth, give and take, push and pull.

My strong-willed child keeps me on my toes, but when I'm able to lift the hood, I can really see what's going on in with his engine. His spirited nature has brought brightness to my life. He is a child of high standards, but is an absolute delight. He is sweet and generous, creative and bright.


Here are the joys I've learned from parenting a spirited child:

1. His curiosity is a good thing and it reminds me to slow down.

He's always interested in how things work and asks a lot of questions—oftentimes, he tries to figure it out on his own. His senses are keen, and his observations are imaginative and rich. Our five-minute walk to school quickly stretches to 15.

On our way, he'll notice the grasshopper sitting alone on a single branch and the intricate spiderweb laced in the bush nearby. He notices the beautiful colors of the flowers and the leaves changing in the fall.

He'll look up at the sky and see a heart-shaped cloud and hear the distant sound of a siren. He'll notice when one of my shirt buttons is unbuttoned and the single strand of hair on my sleeve. His mind never stops because he is always seeking out knowledge and gathering the data in his mind.

2. His compassion for others and empathy for his friends is admirable.

When he feels, he feels hard. When he expresses love for his baby brother, I'll catch him gently patting his back and giving him a soft embrace, followed up with a kiss and a whisper saying, "I love you."

He once saw his friend fall off her tricycle on the playground and quickly jumped off his and rushed over to make sure she was okay. Every ounce of his body and soul is poured out in those moments. The intense, passionate emotions add depth to my life and make me want to be a better person.

3. He never gives up.

He is determined, tenacious, and will not take "no" for an answer. And if we do say "no," he'll find another way to get a "yes." He's not intimidated by adults or peers and is confident in who he is and what he can do.

At soccer practice, he is the first in line to practice short drills and will run himself ragged until he scores a goal. During our morning school routine, he is the master of negotiation and can somehow convince me he's too full to eat the banana on his plate but not too full to finish off the glass of orange juice.

He is strong-willed and headstrong, qualities I know will serve him well in the future. He wants to learn on his own and test his own limits.

Parenting a spirited child is hard, but it's also rewarding. While it may be a frustrating and exhausting endeavor, I take comfort in knowing that he will grow up to be a leader.

He will be resilient and passionate, focused and unafraid to speak his mind. I don't want him to blend, I want him to shine. I want him to march through life, and not just add to the noise. I want him to love his spirit always, in all ways.

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