Easy Kindergarten Prep. AKA, scissors!

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File this one under: scared, weak, hovering, helicopter modern parenting.

Here’s a practical early childhood idea, courtesy of my great aunt Jeaneine, who taught first grade for, well, longer than I’ve lived, probably.

She told me one of the best things to do to help Mary Tobin get ready for writing is to give her scissors.

[Aunt Jeaneine laughs at danger!]

Working with scissors strengthens those small hand muscles she’ll need to form the letters. At first just let her cut cut cut. Then the next thing will be following a line, previewing the eye-hand coordination needed to copy or trace letters.

I’m ashamed to admit that I hadn’t really let Mary Tobin play work with scissors yet, mainly because I didn’t want to deal with keeping them away from little sister. I’d seen Montessori materials lists and stuff about art for kids, etc. But lazy parenting is the name of my game.

In fact, though, the scissors have encouraged lazy parenting by keeping MT incredibly focused and entertained in the couple of weeks since we saw Aunt Jeaneine in Chattanooga. Mary Tobin has been happily cut, cutting away, shredding my old health insurance statements and creating her own little projects. (Usually this happens during their room time when Inez is not around to interfere. And on the two hour drive home from Chattanooga—forget about it. Best car ride we’ve ever had.) She’s following lines—proof that I waited way too long to let her do this.

Danger? So far, no. Cleanup? Yes. (I imagine that Maria Montessori and Aunt Jeaneine have plenty to say on that subject too.)

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P.S. Pics at the top from the girls’ first day of “school” earlier this week! They’re both going two days a week to a little Spanish immersion Mother’s Day Out!

P.P.S. Pics from Mary Tobin’s first day last year!

Mama Camp in Charlottesville (+ packing lists)

 photo 65B5C4AB-786B-4191-B502-3C45BC07FDC3_zpsz7cg0did.jpg photo 673D12FC-9C11-4730-9E96-00629D3357E1_zps6k4j92ca.jpg photo BAA43F63-1F8F-4533-A4D6-360947972A4D_zpsbgerduog.jpg  photo C838B2AB-C302-44C3-AAD6-00702C072B68_zpsajjg9xkb.jpgAt the start of the month, I joined three of my best friends from college in our college town, Charlottesville—AKA the best city in America—because we hadn’t seen one another in way too long. The most effective way that I explained it to Mary Tobin was that it would be camp for mamas.

And I highly recommend Mama Camp! Should you find yourself packing for something similar, here are some ideas for what you might need:

    • Your cutest shirts and dresses to show off for your fashionable friends (i.e. the only two cute tops you like right now, and in my case: muumuus).
    • A selection from the huge basket of beanie babies at your mom’s house, to send home with your friends for their kids. (Side note: the new beanie babies with huge eyes are terrifying.)
    • Comfy jammies for lounging and chatting.
    • The most outrageous rental car you can find, to embarrass your friends.
    • Some ideas about what you’d like to accomplish. Our to-do list included:
      • Coffee
      • Bodo’s (the bagel place)
      • The Lawn
      • Take It Away (the sandwich place)
      • Wine
      • Chatting
      • Basil gimlet from Mas Tapas

As you see, the three essential factors we considered were food, drink, and shady, lovely spots to sit and chat. The weather was glorious. We ate two delectable dinners at Zocalo (on Charlottesville’s downtown mall) and Tavola (in Belmont), and spent a beautiful afternoon at King Family Vineyards.

We discussed:

  • Marriage
  • Parenting
  • How disgusting our dorm rooms were and how we’ve grown in the area of cleanliness.
  • Using regular clothes as maternity clothes and maternity clothes as regular clothes.
  • Birkenstocks
  • Flare jeans
  • Shows on Netflix and Amazon. My pick is Catastrophe. So so funny.
  • Beauty products
  • Schools, work, career paths, health, and many items and details that will remain in the circle of trust.

We always find our friend Anna Kate, though she often doesn’t realize it, to be a source of great recommendations: cute clothes, pajamas, Madewell jeans, dry shampoo, chic diaper bags, something to put in the carseat or stroller to keep it cool in the deathly heat (AK or SB, give us the deets on that, please!).

Our friend Ansley gets the trooper award, since she had some kind of stomach bug and was not feeling 100% all weekend. You could hardly tell since she remained her bright cheerful self, but we gave her a hard time for drinking less wine than the pregnant lady (if you lost track: that’s me).

Our friend Elizabeth is the encouraging one who will always tell you how great and cute and smart you are, and that you should write a book. She’s the one who told me to share on the blog my quick tip for packing up the family, which is simply this: I typed up our master Packing List on Evernote (but it could just be in Word on your computer) that I print out for every trip and modify for the occasion.
 photo C098993B-5792-44F5-A628-BEFD8CC22215_zpsvrdtxgmi.jpg photo 09632844-3B58-479B-A2B1-8711F1714327_zpsy3eo1f80.jpgI’m not yet a professional packer, but this way I don’t have to think through all the randomness every time we go somewhere. Some of our essentials, for example, are the girls’ special pillow cases, the noise phone, and cuddle guys. (What’s on your list?)

I think that’s all. I am a professional mama and this was an excellent professional development trip. Write it off!

What worked for me in 2014.

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I’m ripping the title of this post, and the idea, straight from Modern Mrs. Darcy, since I love her posts with ideas for for figuring out systems that work well in daily life, and because it’s helpful to reflect and remember before heading full-throttle into a new year with all its goals and expectations.

Also, this gives me a tidy vehicle to talk about several different topics that could’ve been their own blog series, were I more conscientious. (Maybe in 2015!? 2015: the Year of Conscientiousness. Yikes.)

Here we go. What worked for me in 2014:

1. Nashville.
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We’re loving Nashville, and to be honest we don’t know what the future holds (do you?); it’s possible we could be here forever, could move back to DC, could boogie on down to Mexico City, Timbuktu, Duluth. I hope not Duluth. What we can say is that in 2014, Nashville worked for us.

Being closer to my family in Memphis (and closer to ATL, Chattanooga, etc.) has meant we’ve actually been able to say yes to events ranging from the significant—my brother’s engagement party, my great aunt’s 80th birthday—to the more-random-but-still-significant-in-their-way—like Israel joining my dad and his brothers for their semi-annual grudge match golf tournament. Mom and Dad have visited a lot and helped us with the girls so generously. I even tagged along on a work trip with Israel and we visited my brother in San Francisco: flew out from Memphis after dropping the girls off at Lolly and Grandpa’s. Easy cheesy, relatively speaking.

On the August weekend we attended my great aunt’s birthday party in Chattanooga, a good friend was getting married in Nashville, so we left the girls with the family, drove back for the wedding Saturday night, and zipped back Sunday morning (pic at the top from our return drive the morning after the wedding). Worth it. All this to say: even without being in the same city, the proximity to my family makes a big difference and opens a lot of opportunities that we didn’t have living 14 hours away. Especially before the girls are school age, I appreciate all the help and the difference it makes to my mental health!

 photo 928D23B8-6CB2-40F8-AB1B-491F19D8462D_zps0zuuegyr.jpgAnd the fam gets to witness MT growing into her bow. Aunt Reba’s lake house, 2013 and 2014.

2. Sunday suppers.

 photo IMG_7243_zpsbd372a75.jpgA special edition of Sunday supper for Israel’s birthday

Nashville’s, like, the hottest city in the world right now, and there’s a lot going on; we’ve barely scratched the surface. Such a magnet of a city draws a lot of great people. Two of my cousins live here, as well as a lot of friends and acquaintances from college in Virginia, from Memphis, from other random connections . . . so it’s been fun and challenging to connect and re-connect with people. It’s kind of nice, actually, to be new to a city and have to say to yourself, Well, let’s try to make new friends. No shame in it. However, it’s hard work; it requires patience; and it’s logistically tricky, especially with kids.

After reading this article, “Friday Night Meatballs: How to Change Your Life With Pasta,” about a family’s weekly spaghetti and meatballs tradition, we thought about how to make it work for us. We started having my cousins over on Sundays and then invited other friends. I love it for a lot of reasons:

  • People come to us. Sometimes it’s a quick, casual dinner; and sometimes people want to hang out longer. In that case, we put the girls to bed, keep the party (or the quiet conversation) going. Now that I’m thinking about it, the girls, in theory, are learning that Sundays are special and are getting used to welcoming different people into our house.
  • Establishing that Sunday supper is a regular event, internally within our family, but especially externally, by issuing an open invitation to friends, forces us to do it and get better at it. Though I’ve loved the idea of hospitality and having an open, lively home, historically I’d get really stressed out when people came to dinner. Since it’s a weekly event now, hosting is less elevated and more friendly. We’ve gotten better (I think) on both ends: letting go of an ideal and not flipping out when the house isn’t clean, but also improving in efficiency with practice so that the house is actually cleaner and the meal is less of a hassle.
  • For the meal, we settled on some kind of soup each week: flexible depending on numbers, freezable if there’s a lot left over, requires only bowls and spoons, friends may bring drinks, cornbread, dessert, etc. In the article I referenced above, they do a family meatball recipe every time, which is great because it’s yummy, has cultural/family history meaning, can be made ahead of time, and it’s the same every week, so it doesn’t require extra thinking and planning. I’d love to narrow the menu down further, but I don’t have the mastery or the drive to make mi suegra’s pozole every week!
  • Though the menu still takes more mental bandwidth than I’d like, one of my favorite things about Sunday suppers is the way it streamlines our hosting and social life. For all the times that I’d normally say, “Hey, we should get together” to someone, and likely fail to follow up (which is a lot, especially being new in town, having fledgling friendships, or running into an old friend or acquaintance), I can instead offer something concrete: “Hey, my cousins always come over for dinner Sunday. Do you want to join us this week?” (Thank you, Nate and Zach, for being our tools.) I feel like I’ve wiped clean my mental to do list of people I should be reaching out to or trying to get together with, or at least moved it all under the heading of Sunday supper. And if I really can’t be bothered to think or be social, Israel can invite people, and I’ll just make sure something’s on the stove in the blue Le Creuset.

If you’re reading this and you live in Nashville, ask me about the next one!

3. Barre class at McCabe Community Center.

Going to a weekly exercise class has been surprisingly effective in helping me feel like I really live here. The community center close to us has $3 group classes (yes, THREE BUCKS), and I’m now dedicated to Wednesdays at 12:30 with Sue. (Huge props to Israel who eats lunch with the girls and starts nap time. Love you, Boo!) It’s not, shall we say, as serious as the barre classes I’ve taken in the past. But Sue is hilarious. She makes us talk to each other, which normally I’d hate, but it works; she makes obvious jokes with the barre/bar play on words (Don’t lean into the bar! Remember that Friday night!); and she routinely plays “Black Velvet” for warm up or cool down. She also has great bumper stickers. Nashville people, seriously, rearrange your life to join me on Wednesdays. A scheduled class creates a nice hinge in the middle of the week, and it has revived my fitness routine. (Now I’m into these free pilates videos. I feel like an adolescent valley girl!)

[I don’t have a picture of exercise class; but you can see above where I’m feeling especially fit in a Christmas sweater and stirrup leggings at Israel’s birthday party! And here, again in Mama Rote’s old clothes, since she was/is a fox.]


I’ll have to return with part two of “What worked for me in 2014,” since I’ve surprised myself with my passion for my barre instructor. Stay tuned. What worked for you in 2014?

In the meantime—here on the blog, wordpress has reported to me, these were the most-read posts of the year:

  1. New City East Lake (or, How to Decorate for Interracial Couples!)
  2. ‘Round Here 
  3. To Love At All
  4. Doctor’s Orders, or, Another Note for a New Mom
  5. World Cup Update + Links, or, How not to find a good Mexican restaurant

 Thanks for reading!

A note for a new mom.

 photo 3D577B5C-1378-47FE-9537-19DC5B299857_zpspptzfghu.jpg You know it by now: the days are long, the years are short.

Sometimes I’ll write about parenting tips and things that I find helpful. I love reading about that stuff, and I figure a lot of you do, too. At the same time, probably nothing in my life has evoked feelings of insecurity as much as becoming a mother. (It’s also brought a new sense of empowerment and unparalleled joy—I guess they’re all mixed in.) So. It’s obvious, we’ll all make different decisions as parents and in life, but the truth is, that can make me nervous. I’m faced with the reality of how highly I value what other people think, when I realize that I’m doing things differently than other mothers.

I have enjoyed reading the baby books, the child development material, parenting articles, websites, blogs. (Again, following Uncle Steve’s advice: get a lot of advice, then do what you want!) It’s an important task—raising kids—so it’s important to make considered decisions about how to go about it. I want to do my best . . . but ultimately it becomes a big lesson in trust and giving up control.

This morning I wrote a quick note on a slip of paper to send my friend Ashley who’ll be bringing home a newborn in a couple days. (Eeeeps!!) Ash and I have discussed parenting styles and decisions (in theory), and as with other friends, I’ve said, hey, don’t worry if we do things differently. Before our family moved, I passed along to her a stack of baby books with the disclaimer that several of them contradict one another, so she’ll just have to decide what she wants to do.

But the note I wrote this morning contained my most practical, best advice. So I decided to copy it here:

“He . . . set my feet upon a rock making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.”
Psalm 40:2-3

Ash, I’d written this verse out for myself as a reminder that God makes my steps secure in motherhood—of course we won’t be perfect, but we know God’s taking care of us. I pray that you will feel utterly confident (in yourself, but more in God’s provision) as you get to know Towns!

And, my fave parenting strategy: ask God for wisdom every day. He promises to give it (James 1:5).

I love you!

If you want to know what I think, that’s it. Thanks for letting me keep it real, dear reader. Maybe next time I’ll be back with some snarky judgmental thoughts on kids’ television habits. [wink.] Love y’all.

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Sunday Finest (or, Being a Good Mom for Dummies)


I love talking to other parents and reading blogs and seeing baby pictures and the sweet things people do to record memories. There are tons of great ideas—a line a day journals for baby’s first year, special photo albums, onesies with the months numbered, pictures of baby sitting in the same bucket each month til he’s too big for it, then eventually carrying it around and being precious. This dad’s time lapse video of his daughter from birth til 12 years old  is incredible . . . he wins!

But with all that beautiful creativity comes the inevitable guilt. I should be doing these things! I’m missing the memories! My advice if you want to do something like this is to choose one or two simple items that will be easy for you to do (and remember to do), and then don’t worry about it anymore. You’re not going to out-do the Dutch guy’s time lapse video.

Incredibly, we stumbled upon something that works for us and I think is pretty awesome: Sunday finest. The first few weeks of Mary Tobin’s life, I happened to email or text a “Sunday picture” to the grandmas and aunts, since Mary Tobin was wearing some sweet church dress, or Santa outfit, or at least a huge bow. (That was the time when people were asking for pictures every day, but I’m a slacker, so at least they knew they could count on Sunday.) At some point, Israel and I made a decision that we’d try to get a decent picture to share once a week, on Sunday; and at the end of her first year, we made a photo book for the grandparents.

This simple system works so well and makes me feel like such a good mom, that we continued into year two! And I decided to streamline even further: now all the Sunday pictures are on Instagram, which saves me from trying to organize a folder on my computer, downloading or uploading to the right place, etc. (So, take heart! Whatever family traditions you start can be adjusted, amended, nixed later. Just make it work, people.) Now that Mary Tobin’s cousins have arrived, they’ve been joining in the fun with their own version: #multiplesmonday!


If you follow me on Instagram, you can rely on #sundayfinest, at least for now. When Bebe Dos arrives, should she get something different? Should we try to get both girls in the pic every week? Oh the pressure . . . except the whole point of doing it this way was to take off the pressure . . .

These photos are great triggers for memories, but I do wish I had a better method for writing down snippets of every day life. (Watch out, blog readers—this may affect you!) Do you have any ideas on that score?

Finally, a disclaimer: the above “Ignoring the paparazzi” photo garnered maybe my most “likes” ever on Instagram. I won’t lie, social media affirmation is fun and feels great. But that day we were in the middle of dealing with some kind of sleep regression . . . I’ve blocked out the details . . . all three Ortegas were crabby, to put it mildly, and I remember thinking that I’d sure as heck trade those “likes” for some peace in real life. So remember, Real Life > Online.

Pack Light (But Pack Good)

Usually my packing represents the worst of both worlds: I bring way too much, and I still don’t have anything good to wear. But, for the past few trips I’ve made an effort to follow Ashley’s advice to pack light and rewear things. In order for that to work, though, you’ll need to bring only good clothes that you won’t hate yourself in.

It’s a cathartic process —ruthlessly evaluating one’s clothes and their wearability. As for me, I realized that I should probably just reduce my whole wardrobe to only those items that pass the trip test. But, as I said, it’s a process. It worked pretty well when I packed my favorite blue and brown tops to layer and mix with my favorite jeans (going with a single color scheme: advice from Cup of Jo), and maybe a dress or two that roll up nicely in my bag.

Other things to keep in mind:

  • Wherever you’re going, they probably use toothpaste, wear clothes, and style their hair. . . as Clark Griswold says in European Vacation, “Europeans go to the bathroom, don’t they?” So if you forget something, don’t stress. You should be able to pick it up at your destination—which will add the cultural bonus of a genuine, non-souvenir shopping experience.
  • My mom pointed out that no one knows you, so there’s no big need to worry about how you look. Feel free to experiment and take fashion risks. In Cholula, I wore a couple of scarves in a kind of French-y fashion that I wouldn’t dare to wear here. They protected my sunburned neck, and some German tourists asked me if I spoke German. European chic. (Are Germans known for that?) To me it was a WIN.
  • On the flip side of no one knowing you,  I shouldn’t be embarrassed when my dad wears his ID and wallet in a pouch around his neck, as if he’s a young child who can’t be responsible for carrying a note home to his parents. The good news is that he will NOT be pick pocketed, and perhaps someone will strike up a conversation when they see a Tennessee driver’s license. I should let it go, or like my brother said, just think of it as an homage to Flava Flav.
  • Here’s a post on packing light from the old Bonobos blog (with packing list, for dudes). They also once posted travel tips, that I can’t find, including: leave something awesome behind for your host (think: rugby shirt, scarf, glasses), and remember what the “true bottom” of your rolling bag is when you pack.
  • Finally, I recommend trying out a Turkish towel. They’re great in general, but for traveling, they take up less room and dry way more quickly than a traditional towel, and can double as a blanket. In DC, find the Turkish towel stand at the Eastern Market flea market. Salt and Sundry at Union Market carries them, too, and it’s worth visiting the store to see how well they curate everything. But, insider tip!, Salt and Sundry buys their Turkish towels from the woman at Eastern Market, so, obviously, their prices are higher. Here are some similar online.

Are you a professional packer, or what?

Happy trails.

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Their Casa is Our Casa


Hands down, one of my favorite things about traveling to other countries has been staying with families in their homes. It embodies that most sacred of travel buzzwords: authentic. (Of course, the word authentic can cover over a myriad of inconveniences that you would otherwise never put up with.) Someone else’s home may not be the nicest place you could stay, or the most convenient—but it is probably the cheapest. It may not be representative of the whole country, but it’s real, and you can’t argue with that.

I wax romantic about the beauty of staying in someone’s home—being adopted, temporarily, into a new family—because of how powerfully it moved me on our mission trip to Paraguay a few years ago. The Paraguayans set a standard of hospitality that humbles and embarrasses me, since I’ve never been so generous with my home or time. The women of the church cooked all our meals; the guys drove us from place to place, insisting we never walk; everyone was so pleased to see us and excited to hang out each day. I ask myself, how would I help out if a group came to visit my church for a week? Maybe I’d show up to one event, or help with one meal. It would not cross my mind to say, Yes, we have room. You can sleep in my bed!

Paraguay Pabla y familia

Saying goodbye, with some tears, to our host family after the Sunday service.

Pabla and her family went way out of their way for Israel and me, as did her fellow church members for the other people on our mission team. We occupied her best room and were treated as honored guests. In the cold dark mornings, I treasured coffee and pastry time with Pabla, before the van came around to pick us up and take us to breakfast #2 with our team, then the day’s work.

(Free advice for travel in Latin America, or, actually, anywhere someone’s hosting you: eat what they offer! Fortunately this was no difficult task in Paraguay. Their food was simple, hearty, and good. Lots of meat, rice, potatoes, and, surprisingly, sliced beets at every meal. The risk, especially when there’s a language barrier, is that your hosts will be worried you’re not satisfied with the food. So even if you’re not hungry, try bites of everything, don’t look afraid or perplexed when faced with a new dish, and be more verbal and effusive than you think is necessary in your thanks.)

Pabla’s three kids were charming, and hilarious, and did their best to help me communicate. And I will never forget when Israel gave Junior a Listerine breath strip to try. You better believe his eyes popped wide open.

To make it just perfect, of course, there had to be the precious abuela. She didn’t live in Pabla’s house, which I didn’t realize until the end of the week, because she was there every morning when I got up. I was and am a lazy American. Abuela and I weren’t able to have deep conversations, but we smiled. I loved her and she loved me, and she offered to let me stay with her whenever I wanted to come back to Paraguay.

Paraguay Pamela Junior Abuela


More free advice (or as my neighbor would say, a “pro tip”): If you’re in a foreign country, especially if you’re staying in a private home, but even if you’re not, start off on the right foot by asking the host if there are any details about how the bathroom works that you need to know.

In some Latin American countries and elsewhere, you toss the toilet paper in the wastebasket instead of flushing it, since the plumbing is not equipped for that. And please, note well: in Spanish, hot is caliente. Ergo, the C on the faucet knobs in Mexico does not signify Cold.

I knew that much, but still, in Paraguay, Israel and I took cold showers for half the week. (In the middle of their winter. Not as cold as it is here, but we were ill-prepared coming from summer in the U.S., and didn’t heed our packing advisories. And, since their winter isn’t as cold, buildings don’t have heat.) But we were tough; we were doing the authentic experience, man!

We didn’t realize there was a switch on the wall to turn on the hot water heater before your shower. Of course, this electrical hot water system was their normal, so why would our hosts think to explicitly tell us how the shower operation went down? I never would have predicted that my week in South America would be one of the coldest of my life.

In the showers in Denmark, one knob controls the water pressure and the other is hot/cold, which is a pretty reasonable way to do it. Fortunately, our hostess, a fellow American, let us know about it right away. And by the time we were presented with an “eco toilet” in Sweden, we’d learned our lesson. “Yeah, we’re going to need some instructions on how to use this toilet.”

Advice for new parents: Use baby’s name.

MT Neely

Babies are more important than dogs. Sorry, Neely!

A couple of my gals have had sweet new babies recently. So exciting! Like just about everybody, I love finding out the names parents have chosen for their children. What a profound privilege.

welcome hudson

Celebrating the arrival of our newest neighbor Hudson.

Lots of tips for baby’s first year, I realized, are just as much about helping the parent adjust as they are about the baby’s wellbeing, and this is one:

Use the baby’s name. I read that simple piece of advice somewhere, and it became quite profound for me. Don’t call her The Baby. It’s too easy then, to think of her the same way you’d think about your dog, or some other obligation or chore. “We’ve got to get home so the baby can nap.” (Sounds like: “We’ve got to get home to walk the dog.”) Instead of I’ve got to feed the baby, try I’m going to feed Mary Tobin.

Surely the child learns his own name and develops a sense of security as he hears it lovingly spoken. But I’d argue it’s more for Mom and Dad. New parents are going to be significantly inconvenienced by this new baby. (I hope you knew that already. You did sign up for it.) I knew it, of course, but it’s one thing to know, and another to adjust and to bring your heart, and body, alongside your mind to accept and embrace the responsibility. Calling Mary Tobin Mary Tobin, the name we chose with so much love, was a subtle reminder that she is a person! Just like me and you! She has needs and she’s real. She’s not a doll, a pet, or a project, but a life and a dear girl.

Names. So much could be written about their significance. For me using Mary Tobin’s name was a weapon against bitterness and discouragement in the early days of motherhood. You’ll still feel bitter and discouraged at times, but you’ll have an advantage from daily reminding yourself that your baby is a person who should not be dehumanized or objectified.

baby Bear

Elizabeth’s son John Bernard IV, AKA Bear. Bernard means “brave as a bear.” How awesome is that name?

My friend Elizabeth built up my ego during her pregnancy by asking my advice on various matters. We agreed that in some ways it’s easier to learn from the experiences of our peers than from the advice of seasoned mamas and grandmothers (not to mention mothers-in-law!). Perhaps because of the distance of years, the veteran moms can make it sound so easy. There’s less pressure with advice from friends your own age: you can take it or leave it, since we’re just rookies trying stuff out. (Example: Elizabeth took my suggestion to rub one’s belly with olive oil to avoid stretch marks, but one-upped me by buying something actually made for the purpose.) Above all I think you can feel the sympathy factor in a very real way with other new moms; it feels like we’re in it together. And by sympathy, perhaps I mean a palpable sense of shared desperation!

All that to say! While helpful for her, I hope, Elizabeth’s openness to my thoughts about what I did during pregnancy and Mary Tobin’s first year was really encouraging to me. I got to think about what helped me most and what I’d like to hold on to for the future. Once I began brainstorming, she was so patient and kind as I called and emailed with all sorts of tips, and did not cut me off when I sent random text messages that began “unsolicited advice #8 million” and ended “sorry I’m so annoying!!!”

Besides using the name, my other favorite tip (from Mama Rote, of course) was to put up my feet whenever I could when pregnant. Also, drink lots of water. And stock the fridge with cut pineapple, watermelon, or something else that will make you feel good. What baby advice has been helpful to you—profound or otherwise?

The Cupcake Trick That Will Change Your Life

Source: thenotquitevegan.wordpress.com via Josie on Pinterest

If you live in the first world, cupcakes are going to be part of your life, so I don’t feel the title of this post is an exaggeration.

At the end of each episode of The Bachelor—as if you didn’t know—they roll bloopers or other funny footage during the credits. Last Monday we witnessed the awkwardness that often occurs when someone tries to eat a cupcake gracefully. You get icing on your nose, or a bite full of icing only, or cake only; it’s not pretty.

Solution: cupcake sandwich. Break off the bottom of the cupcake, flip it and place on top of the icing. Boom. Take a bite. Guaranteed perfect icing:cake ratio.

Warning. When you do this, you’ll be stopped at parties by amazed onlookers who say, “Holy Christmas. Did you just make a cupcake sandwich? That is the best thing I’ve ever seen. Are you a member of Mensa?”

My former boss, a lovely Member of Congress, let me in on the cupcake sandwich secret at an office birthday party a few years back. What about you? Have you known about this since second grade? If not, will you try it next time? It may sound simple. It is simple! But it will make a vast difference in your cupcake experience. If your life is not changed, I’ll refund your money.

If Lindsey doesn’t win The Bachelor, who knows what effect this cupcake trick might’ve had! If only!