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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Why professional essay services are so important -- S post

Especially college and university students are under tremendous pressure

Any college or university curriculum is stuffed full of educational material which has to be addressed during a specific semester. We all know that life can’t be just work; there has to be a little entertainment and fun. The problem is sometimes students get carried away and this is in some measure due to peer pressure. It can lead to a situation where some projects are running out of time, and a student just cannot catch up. Fortunately in this modern age there are many professional essay writing websites that are catering specifically to the needs of such students. Those essays which students are required to do could make a huge difference to their grades which they will received at the end of the semester. Therefore not to do them is simply not an option for a serious student because that could have a very negative impact upon the performance of such a student.

Student essays require a substantial amount of intensive research

Many students wait until the very last moment to write those essays from general knowledge but mostly such attempts are not successful, and the lecturers at those educational institutions will be quick to identify the quality of those essays as inferior and not properly researched especially if they lack any traceable references. The result is that the student will receive a very poor grade, and their collective grades for that semester will suffer. University and college studies are extremely expensive and no student can afford to waste time and money when a specific semester has to be repeated. Therefore to most of the students the only viable solution will be to make use of a professional essay writing service. Most of these websites have dozens of extremely experienced professional writers on their books who understand the importance of meticulous research and who are experienced in communicating the knowledge which was gained during such research.

Such essay writing services are relatively cheap

In most cases, a student will receive a quality and well-written essay, and, in most cases, it will cost no more than a couple of dollars. This is a small price to pay in exchange for a quality product which will ensure that a student receives an above average grade and besides that a lot of time will be saved which the student can use to pay attention to other projects. One such website - professional essay service has been in operation for a long time and who can be trusted to deliver a professional service and over the years they have delivered the kind of essay which has helped hundreds of students to cope better with the tremendous stress of full-time study. Granted there are many extremely gifted students who prefer to do everything themselves however not everyone has the same amount of talent and should they suffer as a result of this? I don’t think so; we are living in a technological advanced age and one should make full use of the available resources.

Monday, March 30, 2015

The New Parent's Guide to Buying More Sleep (It Involves Windows) -- S Post

If you've already got children, you'll know exactly what direction this article is heading in. If not, you'll find it invaluable in several months’ time when your new addition is giving you stretches of sleepless nights.

Some people might think that the above term is overused, but as any new parent will testify there really isn't any such thing as a good night's sleep during the opening few months. Even if your baby is one of the few who wanted twelve ours of shut eye, their need for feeding means that this just isn't possible.

Bearing this in mind, you need to do everything you can to maximize the chances of you experiencing a solid night's sleep. As the title has already indicated - one of the best ways to do this is through your window treatments.

In the midst of buying cots, toys and all sorts of other accessories, it's not surprising that the windows are often forgotten about. However, this is the area of your baby's room (or your room initially) where most natural light will be able to seep in. As we all know, natural light can disturb an adult's sleeping patterns at the best of times, so when it comes to a newborn the effect is multiplied (for him or her, and you).

Even though blinds are often forgotten about, the way to at least give yourself the best possible chance of netting a decent night's sleep doesn't have to be expensive or even troublesome. The simplest solution comes in the form of blackout blinds - a product which has been donning the market for years. As the name suggests, these literally make the room into a blackout - preventing any sort of natural light from entering providing they have been fitted correctly. Immediately, your chances of a good night's sleep have improved tenfold.

In some ways, the article could stop here. After all, you’ve just blocked out all of the light from your baby’s room and at this stage in their life, there is little else you can do (from a window blind perspective, anyway).

However, if you do have one eye on the future, it might be worth considering making an additional investment in these blackout blinds. A lot of them will have this functionality installed anyway, but cordless options are by far and away preferred when it comes to children for the simple reason that they promote much more safety. They have been released in response to the strangulation risks caused by traditional cords and if you do envisage keeping this current set of blackout blinds for the foreseeable future, it might be worth going the whole way and buying a cordless product for when your child gets old enough to explore.

Hopefully the above will at least buy you a few more hours sleep every week. As your baby starts to develop the need for a pitch black room, and one with as little distractions as possible at night-time, will dwindle. For now though, it’s all about doing everything you can to boost everyone’s sleep in the house.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

How to be successful at a craft fair

The booming popularity of sites like Pinterest and Etsy have given craft lovers a reason to get in touch with their artisan sides. If you’ve decided that you want to take your former hobby and turn it into something that can make a profit, then you’ll want to consider hosting a booth at a craft fair.

There have been people who have been attending craft fairs for years and know the ins and outs of handling crowds and getting the most bang for their buck when attending a show. If it’s your first time or you haven’t found the success that you would like, there are a few things to keep in mind so that you do well at your next craft fair.

First, consider if the booth fee is worth it. Nearly every fair or vendor event will require a fee to set up your booth and sell your crafts. While most of the time these fees are reasonable, once in awhile, they can be exceptionally high. Consider how many people are estimated to be at the fair, what position you’ll be in to sell your goods, and if you’ll receive a good return on your fee investment.

Second, familiarize yourself with the space and your booth setup. Make sure that your products are visible to people passing by and that your best sellers are front and center. Vinyl banners are great for advertising your brand because they're highly mobile, very durable, and will last throughout the show season. Make sure you have enough “stock” items to replace the items you have for display; that way if you go through a particularly busy time during the fair and your inventory is bought (which is fantastic!), then you’ll still have more products to put out for those cruising by your booth later.

Third, be attentive throughout the show. It can really put off a potential buyer if you are sitting at your booth texting on your phone or looking uninterested. You are there to promote your crafts. Keep in mind that even if someone doesn’t purchase an item from you that day, they may still take your business card and follow-up on a later date or at a later show. Don’t be afraid to chat up attendees passing by.

Fourth, about the business cards, make sure they are updated and that you have plenty of them to hand out. If you have a website or Etsy shop, make sure that information is included and let people know of any upcoming fairs you’ll be at in the near future. Be informative but not pushy, promotional without being too salesy. Let people browse your booth and give them a chance to ask questions.

Fifth, plan in advance. Sketch out how you want to set up your booth, how much inventory you need to bring, and make sure your portable payment machine is working well and you have enough cash to make change. The last thing you want is to be scrambling when your table is full of customers waiting to buy, but you’re not prepared.

The last tip I have is to simply have fun. If you look like you enjoy what you’re doing, then others will be more likely to come by your booth and be interested in your brand. Engage with customers without first thinking of only making a sale. This will help you grow a fanbase and hopefully, make your crafts a must have at the next fair.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Why ridiculous stories do well

So today I had a piece up on Washington Post On Parenting about my hilariously bad grocery shopping habits.

I pitched it as a funny blog bit, and that's what I wrote, style and form and all. I mean, I used the word poo-splosion in the Washington Post, and I'm thinking not many people have been able to pull that off.

Now, why on Earth would I do such a thing? Does it get any more boring than grocery shopping?

I didn't think so. Until I posted a picture of my carriage on my private facebook, to show my friends how full it was. (My facebook is SCINTILLATING, let me tell you about it.)

Anyway, in true fashion, I got about 250 comments telling me about all the ways I was doing it wrong, with varying degrees of outrage, disgust and empathy. It was a pretty great thread, not going to lie.

And I've learned a few things about the Internet:

1) Facebook doesn't lie. If people wanted to talk about my groceries on Facebook, they probably wanted to talk about my groceries in a national newspaper.

2) You don't have to be serious all the time. The tone in this blog (and in that piece) is pretttttty different from the tone I strike when writing a story on something actually relevant to anyone's life.

3) People LOVE to feel superior to other people, and I love to help them make that happen.

This grocery shopping post was number one in the parenting section all day, and it was the fourth most read story on the Washington Post site itself during business hours. My husband was thinking that, damn, a whole lot of people must think they grocery shop wrong and want a companion, but that's not it. I mean, surely some people were there for that, but I've no doubt most of the clicks were hate clicks. People can look at that carriage and read my little comedy bit about the process, and they can feel better than me. And I don't mind! Grocery shopping rates right alongside bowling with things I wish I could do really well at. So if I'm able to fill that I'm-better-than-you void with some puffy writing, all the better for both of us.

But, yeah, if anyone was wondering, it's a thing. It's not clickbait. I mean, nothing in the title, I grocery shop all wrong, screams click me. It's not important. Nothing leads anyone to believe it is. And other than click bait and importance, we're left with two reasons people click things:

1) Hate click. Their friend read it and shared it with the "OMG HOW IS THIS IN THE POST" label.

2) Superiority. They read the headline and figured they'd be able to feel successful about one area of their lives.

And that's how a blog-like grocery post got so popular on WaPo.

The end.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

My problem with the mommy wars

So, I have a problem with the mommy wars.




They're BORING.

That's it.

I'm just, I mean, can we just not?

Now, I know I'm speaking from a place of privilege here because my girls are now six, and I remember, (oh, boy, do I remember) how super-duper important shit like whether I was classified as a stay at home mom or a work at home mom, or who loved their kids more or the most, or whether or not me calling my kids little jerks when they were meant I didn't love them, or breastfeeding vs. bottle feeding, or cloth diapering vs. disposables, or eating your placenta vs. painting with it or whatever the case, was.

I promise that I remember that this was important. At one time. For some weird reason.

I mean, look back in the archives of this blog to 2010/2011 and, like, half of it at least is made up of posts where I tell everyone that no matter what they do, they're probably still rad parents, and they don't need to worry about how long that dude's (aka the mom who just wrote whatever other blog) dick was. We were all dicks together, kwim?

So, yes, I get it. I get when some ahole publishes this piece on xojane that people are going to be hurt and upset and shout about it. Because she wrote it to be hurtful and upsetting so people would shout about something.

(Cue the whole, not uh! I was just stating my point of view to add to the discussion! I can't control people's reactions to my rightness! I'm just a writer doing what I do!)

Anyway, I'm not annoyed at that piece (well, I mean, I am, because it's hugely exclusionary to those mothers for whom staying at home is not a privilege, and trust me, lady, there are many!).

I'm annoyed that it got picked up by Time and various other outlets. I'm annoyed that then Salon and The Daily Beast and a bunch of others wrote a response.

Back in 2011, it would have annoyed me because people were getting their points of view across in major media outlets and I could not. That's no longer an issue for me (OH, MAN, CATCH THAT HUMBLEBRAG).

These days, I'm annoyed because it's taking up space in my news feeds, and forcing my attention to it when it's literally nothing. It's so incredibly boring, for real.

This is stuff my first-time mothers and I hashed over for hours on our own personal journals and forums and groups. We could spend days on this stuff. There is no drama like mama drama after all. And, there, at least it was in real time, and people could say to me, "oh, you work so hard and are such a good mom, so why are you still on here fighting with me?" and I could go, "NO U" and etc. It was glorious. It was relevant. It was where I knew where to find it.

It was not in Time or Salon or other national outlets. At most, a regular columnist would be empty that week and write a thing. But a freelancer? Hardly ever.

So, yeah. I'm annoyed. If you're going to complain about how being a stay at home mom isn't a job but a privilege in your opinion, for Christ's sake, have the decency to do it in your groups and forums where it belongs.

There's nothing new in that piece. There is no research, no new trend, no numbers. Hell, there aren't even any anecdotes. Just a personal essay. Which is fine. It's great. I love personal essays. But it says absolutely nothing that hasn't been said 1,000 times before and argued over a million times before that.

This isn't a post bemoaning the existence of the mommy wars (there are plenty of those, too. But for all their flappery, really, they're also just contributing to the mommy wars. It's all just an excuse to talk about how other people shouldn't parent. Meta or not.).

This is a post asking that the mommy wars please return to their designated areas. Some of us have more important shit to do in our lives right now. NOT because those mommy wars are not important (believe it or not, they probably saved my sanity when I had two year olds). But because they do more for their audience when in the right space, and, also, they annoy the general population less.

Just saying.

Monday, March 16, 2015

One of the dangers of home birth--being judged by everyone you meet: Contributor Post

As the Big Day approaches, I’m finding that a lot of the things I used to think about childbirth and child-rearing have gone right out the window. For instance: never in a million years would I have imagined I’d be on board with cloth diapering. Not only did it seem like something for the granola and kefir set, I had this image in my head of a baby that looked like a heroin addict from all the safety pin pricks left by a dad with shaky hands. And then we got our first delivery of adorable cloth diapers with little buttons on them and I thought well, that won’t be so bad then.

Same thing with breastfeeding in public. There was a time when I thought it was kind of weird and mildly offensive for a woman to flop out a boob in public. Now I’m actually looking forward to our first “nurse-in.”

But when the subject of home delivery came up, I freaked out a little. OK. I freaked out a lot. My mom delivered my younger sister at home, and the stories that I grew up with (told mainly by my dad) about her being breech with the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck, and completely blue by the time they finally got her out, went a long way in shaping my opinions about home birth. I should mention that my sister is totally fine, and Mom has since gone on record that it wasn’t as bad as all that, but the thought of having a baby at home still terrified me.

The girl had a certainty about wanting to it at home this time around, though, and when she told me why, I couldn’t really argue. Her first delivery had been a nightmare experience of abuse by medical professionals in a hospital setting, and she didn’t want a repeat of that experience if it could be avoided. So when we started planning to make babies, we met with a midwife who came highly recommended and I got to begin the process of getting over my initial fear and getting comfortable with the idea of home delivery.

Then came the fateful ultrasound, and suddenly things got a little more complicated. Twins are a special case. The medical establishment would prefer that you not deliver multiples at home at all, ever, case closed; the State of California, though, says go for it, so long as one of your midwives is an OB. We were fortunate enough to have selected a midwifery practice with one of the only OB midwives in the state, so we were good to go. We opted to take a dual-care approach: continue to see the doctors in the big buildings with the fancy machinery and the schedules of tests, and also receive in-home care from our midwife doctor.

Now that I’ve had the opportunity to experience the American medical establishment’s approach to treating pregnancy as a disease firsthand, my terror has started to shift; I’m becoming increasingly worried that we might actually end up delivering in a hospital. It’s not that I think the doctors or nurses are incompetent (although a couple of the ultrasound techs have been); it’s that they seem to value competence to the exclusion of compassion.

Don’t get me wrong: If I had to choose between competence and compassion in a life-threatening emergency, of course I’d rather have a competent doctor. But pregnancy isn’t a life-threatening emergency, is it? So why treat it like it is?

Let me be clear: I’m not anti-science. I’m not anti-medicine. I don’t believe choosing home delivery makes us better parents or that folks who go the hospital route are doing something wrong. I understand that the amount of pregnant women seen by your average HMO-based OB practice is overwhelming, and that things like compassion and caring are often sacrificed at the altar of efficiency and standardization.

As a result, though, we seem to be approaching pregnancy from the position of what can go wrong; it doesn’t seem to leave any room for the beautiful, miraculous thing that’s unfolding along the way. The medical viewpoint, as summed up by Martha Reilly, chief of Women's and Children's Services at McKenzie-Willamette Medical Center near Eugene, Ore. is that, “Reproduction is very dysfunctional.” That quote, by the way came from an article in The Daily Beast title Home Birth: Increasingly Popular, But Dangerous (, one of several articles turned up by a quick Google search for “dangers of homebirth,” which all seem to boil down to the conclusion that hospital births are inherently safer because of the proximity of staff and equipment in the event of an emergency.

I can’t argue with that logic, but considering the fact that fully ⅓ of hospital deliveries in America end up in a C-section, I can’t vouch for the safety of a hospital in the event of a *non*-emergency delivery.

So what can you do? Like any decision in life, you do your research, weigh the options, take the risks into account, make the choice that seems right to you. In our case, the choice that seems right is to aim for a home delivery, have a solid backup plan if things get hinky, and let go of any attachment to certainty.

Oh, and be prepared for every armchair expert you meet to offer an opinion (and their judgement) on the subject, cuz that’s gonna happen no matter what you decide. Fuck ‘em.

Friday, March 13, 2015

What's in a name? -- Guest post

O Romeo, Romeo! wherefore art thou Romeo?
Deny thy father, and refuse thy name;
'Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
Thou art thyself though, not a Montague.
What’s Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O! be some other name:
What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name;
And for that name, which is no part of thee,
Take all myself.

~ Juliet Capulet, Romeo and Juliet,
Act 2, Scene 2, lines 37-38; 42-53,
William Shakespeare.

She makes a good argument for it, doesn't she? You love someone, and it's a reasonable thing to ask them to surrender their name for you. Their name, that carries with it their history and sense of family honour. It's easy to say that when your two families are at war, and you'd give anything to see their bloodline extinguished anyway. Harder, when it's just the ordinary decision of whether or not to change one's name upon marrying, as I am currently debating.

Those of you who know your Shakespeare may have noticed the lines I deliberately omitted earlier:

Deny thy father, and refuse thy name;
Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love,
And I’ll no longer be a Capulet.

(Ibid, lines 38-40, emphasis mine)

so there's no dispute that she intends this to be a mutual surrendering, although it is interesting that she spends seven times the length of those lines asking him to change his.

So, if Shakespeare is relevant today, is it valid to ask our men to change their names for us? I am hoping it is.

In my particular case, I have a sister but no brothers, no uncles on my Dad's side, my Grandfather is long deceased, and my Dad can't even remember the last time he saw or spoke to his male cousin (whom, I believe, had only daughters anyway). So, in the ordinary course of events, my Dad's surname will be extinguished after this generation, and there will be no one who was close to either him or my Grandfather who will be able to carry it on.

That being said, why shouldn't there be? It is entirely a cultural matter that us ladies surrender our family name and heritage, when our men do not have to do likewise, but, culture can be changed. At least, I personally do not consider cultural reasons by themselves to be enough to continue a tradition, especially one I don't agree with.

And I don't agree with it. I side with Juliet on this issue.

To lay out all of our options:

1) The traditional route, I surrender my name and family history and honour, and take on that of my beloved as if I belonged TO him (rather than, WITH him). The fact that for me, this is socially a climb-down, and I would be surrendering a surname from the English aristocracy for an American one that... isn't, also makes that suggestion unpalatable to me (although I concede that maybe it shouldn't).

2) What's good for the goose is good for the gander: he completely changes his, as, in fact, Romeo himself was eager to do:

I take thee at thy word.
Call me but love, and I’ll be new baptiz’d;
Henceforth I never will be Romeo.
(Ibid, lines 54-56.)

And also:

Juliet: Art thou not Romeo, and a Montague?
Romeo: Neither, fair maid, if either thee dislike.
(Ibid, lines 66-67.)

However, how can I, with fairness, ask my beloved to do something I am not to willing to do? No, this is not an option, not for me.

3) Nothing changes, nobody surrenders anything, we both keep our family names and heritage and just make do having to different names. In many cultures, this is still the norm. I'm not completely against the idea, but to a certain extent, I say, “Well, what's the point of getting married, then? Don't we want to look like we belong to and with each other?” For some paperwork, this actually is the way we will go. For example, I don't see any reason to pay quite a lot of money for a new passport when my current one is only a couple of years old, just because I've got married. I'll just leave it in my current name and travel under that, and then when it runs out, get a new one in my married name, but I personally think it sounds a little cold-hearted that we'd never be introduced by the same name in the flesh.

4) Use the American tradition of adding the maiden name as a second middle name, even though they then go by their husband's surname. To be honest, I can't really see the point of that. If I'm not going to continue to use my surname as my surname, why bother?

5) Hyphenate. Either one or both of us. I'd prefer both. The feminist in me is crying out, begging, that we take this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to prove to the world that in this marriage, we really do intend to be equal partners. BOTH of us matter. Both of our families, and histories, matter too. We're BOTH changing our identities when we get married, and why shouldn't our name/s reflect that?

My beloved isn't in favour of that, for a few reasons:

a) hyphenated names (apparently) cause issue with automated forms, and such. (Eh. The technology around automated forms was designed by humans, it could therefore also be redesigned, if needed...)

b) which way around would we do it? Personally, I'm a fan of both of us just adding the other's name to the end of our current name, because that points to more equality; we're both doing the same thing. He thinks that's making things unnecessarily messy, which, I have to admit, I don't think is nearly as important as he does. Were we to pick one version over the other, there's also the aesthetics argument: which way looks/sounds better? I'd argue, mine first, because otherwise there's five consonants in a row, which makes it a bit difficult to say, and also, mine's the longer name, so it does sound better that way, but that's another (small) reason he isn't up for it.

c) He – correctly – points out that the process of changing our names will be a hassle. He forgets that I'd have that hassle either way (unless we chose option 3), and thinks we ought to avoid options that create more hassle “for the sake of it”. I think it's for the sake of him showing that he doesn't think he's better than me, but he can't quite connect the dots yet.

d) But what would we name the children?? Aren't we making life intentionally more difficult for them, especially if they then want to do the hyphenating thing themselves?? Well, for starters, we are no where near a firm decision on if there even will be any children, and if we do, by the time they get to marrying, they'll be able to make their own choices about this, but why can't we just cross that bridge when we come to it? Flip a coin or something, to see which one of our names will get passed down?

This decision feels really large to me. A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to really stand up and be counted, to take a decision that will lead to multiple conversations, and maybe, in a small way, be part of changing the world! To deliberately not take it, I have to admit, does feel... cowardly. And I am not a coward. My own deep-seated family values, which half of this conversation is about, are “be kind, be brave, be fair, be loving.” Brave, and fair, is more important than cowardliness or wanting to make life easier for oneself.

I didn't create this unfair patriarchy, although given the hand I've been dealt, I do feel obliged to play my part in dismantling it.

And yet.

My beloved didn't create it either. How far is it fair to mke him fight this battle, when it's not his personal fault? I love the man, and I want him to be happy. I think that means, not continuing to pressure him about it, even when it frustrates every bone in my body.

I can only influence myself. I can take my choices on, and I will hyphenate my name. He will, in all likelihood, not change his at all, but I will hope and pray that I'm wrong about that. It feels somewhat anti-climatic, but what other choice do I have? As my beloved himself often says, “A good compromise leaves everybody mad, right?” And, of course, in the words of Juliet, our marriage will still smell sweet, regardless of what we end up calling ourselves.


Sarah Fountains

An accountant living in the UK, who's engaged to an accountant living in California. Currently she lodges with/housesits for/nannys for/freeloads from close friends with two extremely boisterous sons. She's been reading parenting advice in books and on the internet as a hobby since she was sixteen, and cares particularly about adoption issues; she's probably also the only voice in the feminist crowd insisting that sexism goes both ways in different circumstances. She loves dancing and sewing, fails at one but not the other, and struggles continually with things that other people refer to as "common sense." Her lifetime ambition is to be organised enough to justify baskets in the refrigerator, and has yet to meet someone who doesn't laugh at it. Most days, though, she still has laundry on the floor. Read about her international adventures at:

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Take Off Those Judgey-Pants and Empathize -- Contributor Post

We’ve all done this, and most of us continue to struggle with it at one time or another. Everyone compares themselves to others in their lives and makes a judgement on where they think they stand based on those comparisons.  You compare yourself to other women, other men, other parents, others in your career path, others your age. 

In the process, you not only disconnect from your empathy and judge others- you also judge yourself.  This can be hurtful to you and your relationships- it’s hard to be kind to someone that you’re constantly competing with. 

Breaking this pattern can have huge benefits- you build stronger relationships, you start making decisions based on your own wants and needs instead of trying to beat others at their own game.  You can work better with others to solve problems, and you can build a network of support that will serve you well when you need it. You can support others that need you.

Collaboration is better than competition almost every time.  But how do you stop yourself from wanting to compete with others? Especially in marginalized populations, it feels like there’s limited opportunities- how do you stop fighting for those?

It’s definitely a tough paradigm shift.  It’s a world of finite resources.  How can you convince yourself not to fight for the best bits? 

First, remember in most cases, it’s not a zero-sum game. You don’t have to “lose” in order for someone else to “win”!  Even if you don’t get the exact opportunity you wanted for yourself or your child, that doesn’t mean another one isn’t coming right along.  You can still support others while seeking better things for yourself.  You can build up those in marginalized populations, which in turn, can build you up! Supporting other marginalized groups can help open up opportunities to others as well.

As it comes to parenting- so long as parents are providing children with their needs and aren’t abusing them (and no, formula feeding is not abusing a child), all the other choices are simply that- choices.  Everyone makes different ones based on their unique history and circumstances, and they generally don’t make any one parent better than another.  You can learn a lot by talking to parents about the choices they make, when you’re not judging those choices.  Instead of whispering to someone that your neighbor has a 4 year old who isn’t potty trained, ask that neighbor how they’re doing.  You might learn something, and build a great new friendship!

When you let down your guard and stop holding your cards close to your chest, an amazing thing happens- you begin to feel solidarity with your fellow women, men, parents, and others.  Being vulnerable is tough, but it helps build trust between friends, family, and coworkers. Suddenly, you’re not alone, and you can draw on the experiences and empathy of a group as you move forward.
This is something I have to continually work on- I totally fall into the habit sometimes.

Next time you catch yourself getting out your judgey-pants and competition-face, stop yourself and think about it from another perspective that helps you feel empathy toward the person.  I’ll do the same. Maybe that co-worker was trying to get that promotion for 4 years. Maybe the dad down the street is pushing that 6 year old in a stroller because they both have a little trouble walking.  Maybe we can help and encourage our contemporaries, and get help and encouragement in return!  


When she’s not making play-doh spaceships with her two young sons, Jenny Hill, CPLP creates engaging, accessible, and effective learning experiences, so learners can reach their potential and do their most meaningful work.  You can contact her on LinkedIn at

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Ask a teacher: What's the deal with these $*#%ing fundraisers?

How many fundraisers have you gotten this year? Five? Ten? Did you lose count? I lost count a while ago. So what's the deal with these fundraisers? Aren't schools well funded enough on their own?

Eh, the short answer is not exactly. The long answer is that budgets are really tight and earmarked months in advance. But fundraisers? That's just money growing on trees for schools. As long as the random teacher fills out what they might use as a fundraiser at the beginning of the year, a process very similar to throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks, they can continually come back to the fundraisers when they need things.

There's been a crack down in my state this year on fundraising, but again, as long as you put a possible description of what you might do on a list at the beginning of the year, you're usually good to go ahead with whatever fundraiser you have.

The gimmicky ones, like selling wrapping paper and magazine subscriptions are an easy go to for schools. The prizes are already included for overachieving families who go above and beyond the call of fundraising. Sure, schools get less of a cut because there's a middle man in the process, but it's much less work than organizing incentives for your individual school. The prizes get talked up big by teachers who get the kids all excited and then you've got a kindergartener complaining that they just neeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeed that cheap SpongeBob shirt. Sure you can buy them one at the store, but the cheap one at school is the one that everyone else is getting and they have to have it.

Fundraisers are an easy bandaid over the shortfalls in budgeting at schools across the nation. Schools that can afford to do so nickle and dime their parents through these fundraisers as a means to pay for programs that hopefully lure in the parents that have the disposable income to be nickle and dimed. My school does not do many fundraisers like these. Our school is 100% free lunch. Mom and Dad aren't going to be purchasing the minimum rolls of wrapping paper to just hit the small goal per student. We don't even bother anymore. Most fundraisers end up entirely funded by the teaching staff at the school, like when our band sells Amish food (don't ask, it's just delicious and there's no calorie info so I assume there's zero calories and oh God I ate a whole pound of fudge).

Money that my school uses on basic things like pencils and paper, at schools that can afford fundraisers is then used to fancy things that make the school look better. It's a way around that whole "free" education thing. Because when buy $50 worth of delivered groceries just so your kid can get a cheap prize and won't complain about how all the other kids, you can bet all the other parents are doing so, too. I've had multiple parents comment that they'd rather write a blanket check at the beginning of the year than have to call grandma and grandpa hocking cheap candles one more time, but there's the problem. You can't just write a check and be done with it because public school is meant to be free.

I wish I could tell you it was okay to just not do the fundraising. I've got a kindergartener at a school that can afford to nickle and time parents and boy have they. My son comes home super excited about some random toy he might get and I'm sucked into buying a subscription to National Geographic or something random just to try to hit the quota. Do what works for your family, but I know the sting of that peer pressure all too well. I may or may not have bought half a dozen scented candles myself. Mostly may. At the end of the day, I just can't stand the thought of my kid being the only one who didn't get the minimum prize because I didn't want to play the fundraising game.


Emilie is a high school English teacher with two children. She holds a Bachelors in English and a Masters in Secondary Education. After completing student teaching at an urban, Persistently Low Achieving (PLA) school, she was placed at another PLA school in the same school district. Her Ask a Teacher column can also be found over at Teaching Ain't for Heroes.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Mom tips for eating at birthday parties

Like I said last time, we're still at the age where you usually stay at parties unless you're specifically told you can drop and go, and when this happens, you know you're signed up for 2-4 hours of spellbinding fun watching your kid do nothing particularly interesting.

During that span, there is bound to be pizza, cake and ice cream, or as I like to call it: the highlight of the party. But before you grab your three slices and stuff your face with cake, here are some tips to make you look like the gosh-darn adult you are and not the hungry, half-angry, bored panda you've become over the past ninety minutes or so.

1) Pick a spot on the side.

If you are too close to the table, you'll end up serving, and you'll probably accidentally tumble the cake upside down and make someone's kid cry because you obviously mushed theirs on purpose.

Still, you don't want to be in the back. You want full-on access to that food when it's the parents' turn to grab a bite.

2) Don't grab a plate.

It's way too obvious, dudes. Just wait patiently for the servers to do their thing. Stand there with your arms folded, and make witty banter with the poor schmucks who made the mistake of standing too close to the table. At the very least, you'll make their job less pressure-filled with your reminder that adults also exist in the room.

3) Don't be the first grownup in line.

If you can manage third or fourth, you've got it made. Still plenty of pizza (even though the little buggers probably grabbed all the cheese), and you don't look like you've been waiting for this moment your entire life.

4) Take one piece, two tops.

It's more important to be a conscientious adult and save some for the kids who are getting big enough to need two pieces than it is to feed your facehole. Trust me on this, I know it's hard. I want three pieces, too. Just remind yourself that there is cake coming.

5) Resume your exact position.

You want to be in the same spot when it's grownup time for cake. This way, you're still ideally positioned, but it looks casual. Like you are a creature of habit. What, me? Oh, I was just standing here before. This is my standing spot. Do not make the mistake of sitting down. In the three seconds it takes to get your butt off the chair, that kid's dad is totally going to snarf down all the cake. Remember, third or fourth in line. ONE PIECE. You got this.

6) If the party people ask you if you want pizza or cake and you DO, then just say yes.

If you say no to look polite, someone further down the line is going to say yes, and then you have to look at their food with the same longing your first graders is casting upon that huge pile of presents over there.

7) If you DON'T want pizza, that's okay.

It's not rude to politely decline, but absolutely no shade thrown at the poor parents whose only joy in life at this moment are the four slices of pizza they grabbed from their crying child's hands (we're assuming they haven't read this list yet).

8) Don't take the food home.

Even if it's offered, remember how much more painful it is to throw a party than to go to one. All the pain you are feeling times a thousand. Those parents deserve the leftovers. This step doesn't count if it's like your best friend offering it and you know she's legit, or if the food is offered more than once. If that's the case, and it's going to go to the garbage anyway, it may as well find it's new forever home with you, no?

Good luck and good eating!

Saturday, March 7, 2015

The Birthday Card

My kids are six, and as such, they're still at the age where you mostly stay for birthday parties, unless the parents make it explicit that you can, in fact, leave (I always do this. In case people would like to do something with their lives while my children mark another year). But I don't mind parents who do. I don't mind hanging out at a kids' party for a few hours for the most part.

Getting the present, though, that always sneaks up on me, and while I've gotten savvy on the wrapping (I keep wrapping tissue and gift bags in the car), I never ever ever remember a card. And the labels on the gift bags are already all used up because they are totally gift bags we got with, um, gifts in them. We're re-users, here.

Usually, I just raise my hand when the organizer looks in confusion at the blank bag, but for some reason, this time, one of my girls was insistence I at least leave some kind of note.

But we were already at the party, though.

So this was the best I could do.

It's the blank side of my grocery list from this morning which was still scrunched in my purse. I am nothing if not classy. Still, the kid was appeased and all would have gone well until the birthday coordinator made a huge speech about reading birthday cards before opening each present because cards are thoughtful and nice and heartfelt.

And I just about died.

I sidled over to the birthday mom and told her what happened, and she died laughing, but when she recovered she placed our present toward the back so that maybe some of the CARD LECTURE would have faded. And the slip of paper was read with no other incident, thank goodness.

Guess it's time for me to throw some blank cards in my car, too, eh?

Thursday, March 5, 2015

On Mothering and Writing and Finding Yourself -- Guest Post

Being a working mum with three kids doesn't leave much time for hobbies. Pride of place, and number one on my priority list (after the essentials) has long been my tuba, but with a lot of support from my husband and my friends, I recently managed to squeeze in another over the last year.

I'd had experience as a parenting blogger, but I'd never tried writing fiction. Some of my friends joined a Survivor-style writing competition, and I thought I'd give it a try. My goal was only to last through the brutal cuts of the first ten weeks, but somehow I survived through 38.

They say "write what you know", and while I aimed for variety, there was one thing that came through clearly in many of my pieces: motherhood.

It's trite, but true; motherhood changes you. There is something so visceral, so universal about the experience that it speaks true. Lives literally pivot around it, and that provides plenty of ground for dramatic exploration.

An early piece was for the topic "Chekhov's Gun", and while I wrote it mostly as a set-up for a terrible joke, there were plenty of moments inspired by my time as a nursing mum to twins, and in particular the six-week growth spurt that saw me feeding for 16 hours straight.
As if in response, Ella stirred, stretching and grumbling, a promise of trouble that threatened to grow. Jeremy cradled her closer and automatically started the swaying bounce that he'd learned over the last six weeks. She turned her head towards his chest and started mouthing her hand. "I think she's hungry." 
"She can't be!" Charlotte said, collapsing exhaustedly onto the couch. "I've been feeding her all damn day! I'm not a bloody cow." 
"I know... but look," he said, tilting his daughter so that Charlotte could see her searching mouth. "She looks hungry to me." 
"Fine, then. You feed her." Charlotte looked away so he couldn't see the tears forming in her eyes. He knew that tone of voice, though, the tone of tiredness, self-doubt and worry. It had become all too familiar lately. 
"You know I would if I could," he said, trying desperately to find a tone of sympathy that wouldn't be interpreted as patronising through the endless fug of exhaustion they were operating in. He worried about Ella, but he worried about Charlotte more. Ella had both of them watching out for her, but Charlotte only had him. He refused to think about who was looking out for him.
We soon had to write for "scare quotes", and this piece was drawn largely from the early ultrasound in which I found there were two little black blobs. I was still getting my head around writing fiction, with believable characters and dialogue, a challenging enough lesson that I kept my stories in familiar settings.
The white-coated technician looked at her and grinned. "Just what I said, there's two in there! You're having twins. Congratulations!" 
Jamie's laughter turned to sobs, gasped exclamations of "Twins! What are we going to do?!" and back to laughter again.
A few weeks later, I was ready to embrace a new challenge, and took on a story in a fantasy setting. I submitted an expanded version of the story to a publisher, and was absolutely delighted when it was accepted! It appeared in the Wings of Air edition of Latchkey Tales.
The birds were just starting their morning song when her mood changed. I knew it was close. She got so antsy, and ripped her shift off and swiped it across her sweaty face. I'd never seen her naked before. It was shocking, her belly so full and round, almost visibly dropping with each ripple of tightness. I had a flash of vision that one day it could be me, distorted and bloated, hurting and stretching, and winced. 
She turned her back to me as she crouched, leaning against the wall, straining as her body worked. The skin on her back shone strangely in the firelight, almost iridescent, darkening along her spine. She had no joking words now, just a moan like a stag in rut. Fluids gushed as I rushed to grab a clean sheet, and I carefully supported my sibling as they slid into the world. 
I'd never been at a birth, but I'd seen plenty of infants. No baby is pretty when new. They're blotchy, spotty, and shaped by the travails of their passage. But this... this was something else.
"Crabs in a barrel" prompted me to write a piece topical for the time, about a disease spreading through the United States, and the choices a mother might have to make.
She avoided the TV, preferring to maintain a facade of normality. Noah leaped at the chance to have fish fingers for dinner, and his bath had a double helping of bubbles in it. She laughed as he crowned himself with bubbles, and then made a Santa Claus beard that exploded when he sneezed. 
David arrived home early, as Noah and Kayla were mopping bubbles off the bathroom wall. His footsteps were hurried, and the front door slammed behind him. 
"It's spreading," he said. He didn't have to say what "it" was. "They might quarantine. The cellphone towers are already down." He looked at Noah, draped in a towel and watching him with wide eyes. "I'll get him dressed, you get your things together." 
Kayla dashed into the hallway and stood there for a moment in stunned fear. It was actually happening. Could they get out? Should they? Where would they go?
Our first open topic genuinely stumped me. I had no idea what to do, and so, in desperation, I turned to writing about a modern family... who just happened to be Greek gods.
"We used to be so good, you and me. We could be ourselves! Who am I now? I can't be the goddess of silence when all I do is yell at the kids!" 
Hypnos yawned. "I know exactly what you mean. It feels like... it is eight years since I had a proper sleep." He shrugged. "It is hard. I just keep telling myself that it's not forever." He looked half-seriously at her, his newly-grown eyebrow arched. "It's not forever, is it?" 
Heschyia laughed. "They'll grow up some day," she said, then froze, stricken by the thought of what a teenage Eris might be like.
Writing for "The future outwits all our certitudes" brought to mind memories of birth plans, obstinacy, and naivety, and resulted in another story appearing in Latchkey Tales, for The Morning After.
My desire is pain. I can spot my next meal a mile away; they're the ones who come waddling in, armed with birth plans, and empowering mantras they've practised for months. You can practically smell them, though that might be the rescue remedy drops and raspberry leaf tincture. 
There was one just a couple of days ago. Heather, her name was, and the hovering, solicitous husband was Ben. I saw them stumble in together just after lunch, pausing to breathe through contractions. The uncertainty on their faces marked them as first-time parents. Perfect. 
They were guided to my birthing room, and I hadn't even introduced myself before she brandished a birth plan at me. I skimmed it rapidly; no IVs, check; labour to proceed at its natural pace, check; no pain relief to be offered, check; no extended monitoring, check. This was going to be good.
Even stories about dragons featured pregnancies.
Months passed. The humans built shelters, and started to accrue tools and experience that made their hunting trips more successful. The budding settlement prospered under M'rtaka's watchful eye. 
The humans grew healthier, but the belly of the speaker grew faster than most. When M'rtaka spoke, the speaker's stomach would jump and twitch, stretched and extended by something inside. 

One night, when the moons shone bright and full overhead, the nocturnal stillness was broken by groans. The groans became screams; the screams became silence; the silence became a chorus of wails.
Towards the end, I was tired. So very, very tired. I was juggling children, work, housework, and band commitments, as well as writing, week after week after week. It's hard to be creative when you're tired, especially when your precious evening writing time is eaten up by your five-year-old daughter sobbing for hours because she doesn't know how to sleep without sucking her thumb.

That exhaustion fuelled a deeply personal piece. While this particular piece is still significant to me, there is one line which I think describes my life, and that of many women who are trying to do too much.
Her sleep debt was a carefully balanced budget, and she had to meet the payments.
I'm behind on my payments, and the interest is due.


Donnelle Belanger-Taylor is a mother and writer and made it to one of the final rounds of The Real LJ Idol.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Bacon Bites Fail ala Drunk Kitchen

I've got petulant bacon curling up, and angry bacon grease spitting at me as I try to push it down. It's like parenting all over again.

Go subscribe to the channel though. All the funny fails every time I'm in the kitchen. For real.


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