What Fresh Hell: Laughing in the Face of Motherhood

a podcast with Margaret Ables and Amy Wilson

Author: whatfreshhellpodcast (Page 1 of 3)

Episode 25: Conquering Clutter

America has 3% of the world’s kids… and 40% of the world’s toys. We’ve got clutter, right here in River City.

In our opinion the best decluttering advice, from Joshua Becker of Becoming Minimalist, is to “slow the accumulation of new possessions.” In other words, don’t let all that junk in the front door in the first place.

But assuming your household missed that memo— as ours both have— in this episode we discuss:

  • non-vehicular nonsense
  • our kids’ anxiety about purging toys, even long-forgotten ones
  • the personal blind spots we have when clutter-clearing (Margaret has T-shirts from HIGH SCHOOL)
  • the procrastination-enabling, problem-compounding reality of owning a storage unit
  • the great unused potential of the back of your closet doors
  • why the roasting pan you use once a year can become your toy room’s greatest strategy
  • the surprisingly plausible “super-fun cleaning party”

Amy organizes a little bit at a time; she thinks emptying a junk drawer a day is the key to a tidy home.  Margaret says her house is way beyond the help afforded by cleaning out her makeup bag on a Tuesday afternoon. But wherever you lie on the clutter continuum, this episode is full of ideas for eating that elephant. One delicious bite at a time.

Here’s some links to research and resources discussed in this episode:

This episode is brought to you by Blinkist, which distills the best takeaways of popular non-fiction into 15- minute “blinks” you can listen to or read while you’re on the go. Check out decluttering “blinks” like Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up or Julie Morgenstern’s Organizing from the Inside Out with our special code: http://bit.ly/freshblinkist

Episode 24: Finding Good Babysitters

Babysitters: whether you have a full-time nanny or a college kid two Saturday nights a month, finding and maintaining good childcare is an ongoing process.

You find someone your kids adore– but he’s graduating this year and moving to Southeast Asia. You have someone your kids used to adore, but she has no idea how to help with 5th grade math homework (we mean, who among us does).

As your needs shift, so does the sort of childcare you’re looking for– but doing the right groundwork on the way in can prevent starting all over again in a month.

In this episode we discuss:
  • whether Margaret’s “fog on a mirror test” is an effective way to choose a caregiver
  • the virtues of a “someone at home, someone on the move” system
  • heeding the warning signs that someone is not working out, even if they were once terrific
  • why you should check a caregiver’s social media as part of your research
  • the three types of caregivers as laid out by Tammy Gold, in her book Secrets of the Nanny Whisperer

SUPER SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT: What Fresh Hell LIVE!

Friday 12/1/17  at 8 pm

Chappaqua Performing Arts Center, Chappaqua, NY

Tickets $18.50! Grab your mom friends and come laugh with us.

Tickets available here: https://bit.ly/WFHlive

 

Episode 23: Back to School

 

Back to school: while some psychologists say we parents must “maintain a positive attitude about summer ending,” we say the end of summer sucks for all concerned and we might as well admit it.

Do you try to impose some order on the countdown to school in your house? Or do you just run hard until the night before and take the pain all at once? As the first back-to-school photos creep into our Facebook feeds, these are the questions we are here to answer.

 

In this episode we discuss:
  • back to school shopping
  • the batching of unpleasantness (haircuts, dentist appointments) into those last precious moments of freedom
  • all the summer reading and math sheets our kids haven’t done yet
  • how we really better start moving bedtime a little earlier now
  • and the one great upside: the return of “Mom office hours”
Here’s some links to resources discussed in this episode:

How are you managing the back-to-school transition? Join us on our Facebook page and show us your happy (or not so much) back-to-schoolers!

We’re proud to be sponsored by SmartyPants Vitamins. SmartyPants makes a 1-for-1 nutrient grant to Vitamin Angels , which helps expectant mothers and children around the world get the life-changing nutrients they need.
That means that every bottle of SmartyPants you buy improves your children’s health– and the health of children around the world. And SmartyPants has just passed the four million mark: 4.2 million women and children helped! Find out more here

Episode 22 – Birthday Parties – If You Must

Birthday parties: must we really? Every kid, every year? Can we skip the goody bags? Can we ban slumber parties now and forever? Is it possible to spend less than four figures on a fete for a four-year-old?

In this episode we discuss ways to make birthday parties easier:

  • stopping “The Great Crap Exchange” (Margaret will die on this hill)
  • how to manage size of your guest list
  • the right budget for a party  (with special dispensation for parties in the winter)
  • the crucial-ness of the backup activity
  • how Etsy can make your kid’s party Pinterest-worthy for less than a trip to Party City

In the end, it’s Mom’s loving effort that will be remembered more than the result. Right? Amy sure hopes so, because this is the LEGO birthday cake she made for her 8-year-old (stop laughing)

 

and here is the Lightning McQueen cake Margaret made once (SHOW OFF).

Here’s some interesting/helpful/horrifying links to further reading on this topic:

Thanks to everyone who entered our SmartyPants Vitamins giveaway on our Facebook page! Your birthday party worsts were truly horrible- so bad we turned them all into haikus.  In addition to featuring them in this episode,  we’ll be sharing them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram over the next two weeks, with identities obscured to protect the innocent.

The winner of a SmartyPants Vitamins Family Pack, including their Men’s, Women’s, and Children’s multivitamins, is Heather! Enjoy some #smartyhealth!

Episode 21: How Old Is Old Enough?

Every parent has a “how old is old enough to” question about her kids that keeps her biting her fingernails. And as soon as one of those questions is resolved, a new one crops up. This seems to us a parenting challenge that gets harder, not easier, as our kids get older.

So we asked our listeners: what’s the “how old is old enough to…” question you’re currently struggling with at your house? 

In this episode we discuss (and attempt to decide for the rest of eternity) how old is old enough to:

  • walk to school
  • go home alone from school
  • babysit younger siblings
  • ride bikes around neighborhood
  • get a phone (here we both advise what our friend Ann calls the “StarTac 3000 approach”)
  • go on a date

and more.

Our listener Donna says the answer to all of these questions is probably 12, what she views as the “golden age of responsibility.” But she then adds the caveat that her kids are 6 and 7, so that’s a bit hypothetical on her part. Donna, we’re here to tell you: all 12-year-olds are not created equal.

And our Country Mouse and City Mouse lifestyles dictate different answers to these questions, as well. Margaret’s kids walk home from school alone before they’ve lost all their baby teeth; Amy’s kids have to go through puberty first. 

In the end, of course the answer to any of these questions is “it depends,” and there are no right answers for all kids– only *your* kid. But in this episode, we lay out the factors that should and shouldn’t be part of your calculations (what definitely needs to be left out: what judgy moms will think of you).

Some reading on the topic:

This episode is brought to you by SmartyPants Vitamins!

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Do you loathe vitamin-y aftertastes and fish burps?

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Best of all, for every bottle sold SmartyPants makes a 1-for-1 nutrient grant to Vitamin Angels, helping expectant mothers and children in impoverished communities in fifty countries get the life-changing nutrients they need.

Go to smartypantsvitamins.com and use the code SUMMER25 to get 25% off a bottle of Kids Complete Cherry Berry! Code valid through 7/31/17.

 

 

 

 

 

Episode 20: Vacationing with Kids- What to Pack?

 

Rule one of vacationing with kids: don’t vacation with kids.

Oh, your tickets are already purchased? Then you’d better stock up on Ziploc bags. (Take it from a mother who’s needed a few.)

We asked our listeners on our Facebook page for their packing essentials and got dozens of responses. In this episode we dig through them all– and also discuss what might be better off left behind.

Here’s links to a few resources we discuss in the episode:

SeatGuru, for checking your in-flight entertainment options before you get to the airport (although Rule Two of Vacationing with Kids is: Always Have a Backup).

WorkFlowy, for easy packing-list-making. Do it once, keep it forever.

Amazon Video and Netflix apps, both of which offer downloadable content (h/t to The Mom Hour: don’t start downloading fifteen minutes before you leave for the airport!)

Don’t head off for your summer vacation until you listen! Did we forget anything? Let us know in the comments!

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Shop the collection of gorgeous boxes at www.boomboxgifts.com, and use the code podcast for 10 bucks off at checkout! 

Episode 19: Does Messy Matter?

Does messy matter? In our kids’ rooms, in our front halls, in our kitchens?

We’re not talking about hoarder-level mess; we’re talking about the tendency toward entropy and chaos in any house with multiple children who play two travel sports and/or bring home backpacks brimming with loose slips of paper every afternoon.

Margaret’s house is pretty messy, and that stresses her out.

Amy’s house is pretty neat, but keeping things that way stresses her out.

In this episode, we talk about how to manage both our household chaos and our expectations around it. We discuss:

  • why keeping the toy room too neat may stifle your children’s creativity
  • the value of a decorative box
  • the importance of (once in a while) going “back to one”
  • why making beds is either the most important thing you can do OR the biggest waste of a daily minute

Here’s links to some further reading on the topic that we also discuss in this episode:

Laura Vanderkam: The Magic in a Messy Playroom

Alison Gerber for Apartment Therapy: Dirty Little Secrets of Tidy Families

Gretchen Rubin: Drowning in Clutter? Observe the One-Minute Rule

also Gretchen Rubin:  what she’s found to be the most popular happiness-making resolution

ABC News: Study Says Tidy or Messy Environment Can Impact Decisions and Behavior

Lauren Cunningham for Her View From Home: I Keep a Clean House. Can We Still Be Friends?

We want to hear from YOU for an upcoming episode! What’s the “how old is old enough to…” question you’re struggling with at your house?  Maybe it’s how old is old enough to get a phone… or how old is old enough to babysit…. or how old is old enough to walk home from school alone. Tell us in the comments- or click on the gray microphone on the right sidebar and leave us a Speakpipe message! 

(photograph by Sue Barr)

Episode 18: When To Let Kids Quit

Out of all the things we stress about as parents, whether to let our seven-year-olds quit the violin seems like it shouldn’t matter that much. If they wouldn’t have made first chair in the Vienna Symphony anyhow, what difference does it make?

But letting our kids quit— or making them tough it out— gets at the very crux of parenting: pushing our kids enough, but not too much. Directing their young lives, but letting them find their own paths.

In this episode we discuss:

  • the crucial difference between quitting and “non-re-upping”
  • the importance of “dabble-level” activities for little kids
  • finding the “less-intense alternative” for older kids
  • the times that it’s okay to let kids quit
  • the times that you need to push them through. As Dr. Angela Duckworth, the esteemed “grit” researcher, put it: “Don’t let them quit on a hard day.”

Here’s links to some further reading (and some viewing) on the topic, most of which we discuss in this episode:

Nina Sovich for WSJ: When To Let Children Quit

Delia Lloyd for Brain, Child: Should You Let Your Child Quit?

Amy Wilson (!) for New York Family: Finding the Optimal Push

KJ Dell’Antonia for NYT Well Family: Raising a Child with Grit Can Mean Letting Her Quit

Melaina Juntti for Men’s Journal: Six Signs Your Kid Should Quit a Sport

Angela Duckworth: Grit: Perseverance and Passion for Long-Term Goals

HBO’s documentary State of Play: Trophy Kids

This episode is sponsored by Blinkist. Read all those non-fiction books you’ve been meaning to get to in 15-minute “Blinks” on your laptop or phone. You can read, listen– or both! What Fresh Hell listeners can try Blinkist for free at bit.ly/WFHblinkist

Keep leaving us those ratings and reviews on iTunes— you’re helping our audience grow. Thanks! 

Episode 17: Yelling Less

When it comes to mom-yelling we hold these truths to be self-evident: never yelling is not possible; less yelling is desirable.

Let’s be real: there are times when every parent’s got to yell. Here’s how Lisa Belkin put it in The New York Times:

When all else fails, a few claps of oral thunder certainly show that Mom or Dad has had it, that humans can be pushed just so far, and this is what it looks like when you’ve pushed them too much.

But although we might agree that a little bit of hollering has its place, we’d both like to do less yelling in our homes, due to two other unavoidable parenting truths:

• The more you yell, the more you have to yell.

• The more you yell, the more your kids will yell.

In this episode, we discuss what we yell about, and then what to do about it. There’s usually an easier solution to what you’re yelling about than yelling, or at least a quieter one. Parenting expert Carolyn Dalgiesh, author of The Sensory Child Gets Organized, calls it a “workaround for the source of tension.”  In Amy’s house, for example, an extra set of toothbrushes in the downstairs bathroom cut the morning yelling by half.

And sometimes we have to face the fact that parenting without yelling takes a little more effort than parenting with. As Margaret’s sister-in-law likes to say,

Really saying ‘no’ means getting off the couch.

Here’s some links to other takes on the topic we discuss in this episode:

Episode 16: Sibling Rivalry

 

 

Sibling rivalry: harmless rite of passage? Or everything that made you the neurotic adult you are today?

The inevitable part of it seems clear. Dr. Ron Taffel says siblings are like lion cubs, born with an intense and innate need to tussle. But if that fighting it’s normal, it isn’t always benign.

So when should a parent step in? And what works when she finally does?

 

Here’s some links that we discuss in this episode:

Is the sibling in-fighting driving you batty at your house? Did you survive some memorable squabbling in your own childhood home? Tell us in the comments!

Episode 15: Mom Worsts

 

What’s the WORST part of being a mom?

We put out the call on our Facebook page and received an avalanche of responses, each deserving in its own very horrible way.

In this episode, Amy and Margaret advocate for their own lists of Mom Worsts, and discuss:

—whether that most classic of Mom Worst plagues— lice— can even compare to the daily, unending hell of preparing three meals per day

—whether Flat Stanley (insert your child’s own anthropomorphized “classroom mascot” here) is perhaps the worst thing ever imposed upon motherhood, or if the pinewood derby is even worse

—whether the “All-Family Stomach Flu” is the absolute worst Mom Worst of all (spoiler alert: when Margaret says she will not go into details – DO NOT BELIVE HER)

Only one link this week: Amy’s own Mom Worst, as told to Parenting Magazine:

An Aerial Disaster: One Mom’s Tale of Flying Solo with Her Three Children

What’s your Mom Worst? Tell us in the comments!

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