What Fresh Hell: Laughing in the Face of Motherhood

a podcast with Margaret Ables and Amy Wilson

Category: new episode (Page 1 of 4)

Episode 40: Morning Madness

We’d all love a school morning where everyone gets out the door without Mom  yelling or feeling stressed. And by “all” we mean all mothers. Our children seem blithely indifferent to all the hollering and pleading and bargaining we do each morning in order to make the bus– which means each day we have to do a little more of it.  Good times.

Leigh Anderson puts it this way, for Lifehacker Offspring:

“Getting kids out the door in the morning can go one of two ways: They wake up early and then dawdle, forcing a last-minute scramble, or they wake up late, forcing a last-minute scramble.”

In this episode we talk about what works to get the kids moving and in charge of their own schedules. We love Leigh’s idea of creating a morning playlist: if “Yellow Submarine” is on, it’s time to be tying your shoes.

Our other favorite tip– keep another set of toothbrushes in the downstairs bathroom!– is from Carolyn Dalgliesh’s book The Sensory Child Gets Organized.

Here’s other tricks and tips we discuss in this episode:

Amy uses these  5- and 30-minute hourglasses  to make the dwindling time until the bus arrives more concrete. (Beware: the 30-minute one can sometimes have the paradoxical effect of making the time left seem endless, at least to an 8-year-old.)

The Time Timer is a less chic but equally effective visual reminder.

Margaret has her son use a smart speaker to set his own timer.

Margaret uses a dry erase board to remind her kids of what’s left on their morning checklists.

Amy’s friend Susan uses this gradual sunlight alarm clock for her exhausted high-schooler.

And if all else fails: put them to bed in their school clothes.

Here’s how to handle the dinnertime madness: HelloFresh, which delivers weekly recipes and fresh ingredients straight to your doorstep. What’s for dinner? Open fridge, pull out bag, get to it. No planning, no shopping, no complaining. Your kids might even *HELP* because the directions are so snazzy. We are huge fans!

Get $30 off your first HelloFresh delivery by going to  hellofresh.com and entering the code mother30.

Episode 38: Mean Girls (with guest author Katie Hurley)

Mean girls: they’re a thing, and sometimes it’s *our* girls being the bullies. Experts agree that girls exhibit “relational aggression”  more than boys do, and  girls are also more deeply upset by it. Even more worrisome: mean-girl behavior used to start in junior high; now it starts in pre-K.

Fear not: we’ve got tons of useful advice in this episode, particularly in our interview with Katie Hurley,  author of the just-published book No More Mean Girls: The Secret to Raising Strong, Confident, and Compassionate Girls.

There is hope! As Katie explained:

“Our daughters are not destined to repeat the things that happened to us… especially if we are talking to them about being empathic and being compassionate.”

Start sooner than you think: Katie says the sweet spot for impacting your girl’s friendship skills is ages 8-10.

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

A Way Through, a site created by female friendship experts Jane Balvanz and Blair Wagner, helps girls in grades K – 8 through painful friendships 

Kelly Wallace for CNN: How Not to Raise a Mean Girl

Our sponsor this week is Erin Condren, creator of the fully customizable Life Planner.  Choose your layouts, your extra pages, your colors, your cover. We love the look of everything this mom-owned business makes and we think you will too. Start designing your planner– and support our podcast at the same time!

Episode 37: Go-To Dinners

What makes a “go-to dinner”? One pot is good. 30 minutes or less is better. But we’ll use every cookie sheet and pot in the house if it’s 1) not pizza and 2) all of our kids will actually eat it.

Here’s links to all of our own go-to recipes that we discuss in this episode, plus the ones our listeners swear by:

Margaret’s Go-To Dinners

Beef Empanadas  (use refrigerated pie crust for the dough)

Green Soup (Margaret adds chicken)

Slow Cooker Pork Shoulder 

Savory Muffins 

and, believe it or not, Lobster Thermidor (Lego Batman’s favorite, natch)

Amy’s Go-To Dinners

Roasted Broccoli with Shrimp (ten minutes, one pan. If you don’t have the spices, skip em.)

Sheet Pan Fajitas

Taco Night (this is a super-easy recipe from Laura Fuentes)

Our Listeners’ Child-Approved Meals

Rebecca’s Loaded Potato Soup

Mollie’s Chickpea Tikka Masala

Diane’s Asian Noodles (kudos to this brilliant bit of improvisation):

and Nancy’s Spanish Rice (thanks, Amy’s mom!)

Here’s some of our favorite places to get go-to dinner inspiration :

Amy’s sister loves the  Weelicious website

Margaret’s favorite cookbook: America’s Test Kitchen: The Best Simple Recipes

Amy’s favorite recipe app: Treehouse Table

And our new obsession! Our podcast’s latest sponsor: HelloFresh. HelloFresh delivers weekly recipes and fresh ingredients straight to your doorstep. Last night Amy made their Veggie-Loaded Orzo with Sausage. Margaret and her husband made the Chicken Cheddar Fajitas. People, they were devoured. No planning, no shopping, no complaining. We are huge fans! We think you should try HelloFresh for your family-and you can get $30 off your first HelloFresh delivery by going to  hellofresh.com and entering the code mother30.

What’s your go-to dinner? Tell us in the comments or on our Facebook page!

Episode 36: Sick Day Hacks

One day out of school? Fine, here’s the remote. But by day four of a low-grade temp— just enough to keep the kid home— most parents get rather desperate for ideas. We are both unfortunate experts on the topic of kids’ sick days, and in this episode we discuss

  • what you should already have around the house in anticipation of those “Mommy, I don’t feel well” moments
  • how to decide if your kid is really sick enough to stay home
  • why sick days are not the time to introduce a new skill
  • how kids will act better before they report feeling better
  • why even sick days need a semblance of a schedule
  • the importance of “blank-facing”
  • and why we must always beware secondary gain.

Here’s links to some research and articles with great ideas for sick-day kids that we discuss:

Devon Corneal for Real Simple: 16 Clever Ways To Entertain a Child Who’s Home Sick

Parenting Magazine: Activities for Kids on Sick Days

Stephanie Morgan for Momtastic: 10 Activities When Sickness Has You Stuck At Home

Carrie McBride for Apartment Therapy: 5 Survival Tips for Being Sick at Home

from NPR: Should My Slightly Sick Child Stay Home? The Rules Often Conflict

and most importantly, this sobering read, from Heather Murphy for the New York Times: Fish Depression is Not a Joke

Want to help a sick kid in the hospital who is really super-bored? Donate a LEGO set to Sam’s LEGO Drive!

One of our favorite sick day hacks? Audible. (Amy’s daughter has listened to three Harry Potters and the entire Incorrigible Children series, saving her mother’s sanity while she listens.) Get your 30-day free trial at audibletrial.com/whatfreshhell- and help support our podcast at the same time!

Episode 35: What is Up With Toddlers?

Have you a short fat dictator in your home? Do you cower before a 24-pound child demanding pizza– no, not THAT kind of pizza! the other kind, the kind she likes NOW, which apparently has neither sauce nor cheese? 

What is *UP* with toddlers?

In this episode we discuss

  • why toddlers’ tantrums may have, at least at one time, been biologically necessary
  • why taking your toddler’s french toast sticks away makes him feel like he’s suddenly swimming alone in open ocean
  • how expecting a toddler to be “magically cute” is extremely problematic
  • why, if you really must ice-skate with a toddler, you must always, always take your own skates off first

And here’s links to some fascinating research, helpful tips, and funny toddler stuff we reference:

Kate Gammon for Popular Science: Birth Of Memory: Why Kids Forget What Happened Before Age 7

Patrick Sauer for Fatherly: What’s Going On Inside A Toddler’s Brain, According To Science

Alison Gopnik’s TED talk: What Do Babies Think? 

Mo Willems and his perfect description of how a toddler goes “boneless”

Toddlerography with James Corden and Jennifer Lopez

…and from England’s First Steps Research, a study indicating that a toddler’s daily caloric output is the equivalent of going 83 rounds in a boxing ring.

This episode also features our interview with Heather Spohr, co-author of the new book The Toddler Survival Guide: Complete Protection From the Whiny Unfed. Spohr’s book is hilarious *and* has practical advice (our favorite combo) for surviving the inevitable onslaught of the Toddler Apocalypse in your own household. Take heart, and plan ahead.

Episode 34: We’re Feeling Goal-y (Our Resolutions for the New Year)

It’s a new year, and we’ve got goals. Some of them are perhaps the same as last year, but Margaret says that 2018 is all about Widening the Window of Acceptability. Isn’t that a lovely notion? If redefined to include regular ambulatory activity, “get in shape” might indeed be something we accomplish this year.

Either way, we are here to *win 2018*, whether through Amy’s Word For the Year (“Clarify”) or Margaret’s Phrase For These Times (“Say Yes to Less”).  In this episode we both agree to avoid the Cookie Committee, or whatever it is we really don’t want to get roped into this year, by taking Brené Brown’s advice of choosing discomfort over resentment.

Here’s what else one or both of us hereby swears to do on the record in this episode:

  • read more books (Margaret says she’ll read 30 in 2018)
  • drink two glasses of water with lemon every morning (okay this one might be just Amy)
  • meditate
  • organize kid-free time
  • soften into with-kids time
  • dock our phones in the kitchen at night

Here’s links to some other sources of inspiration discussed in this episode:

for stuck creatives: Jon Acuff’s book  Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done

for those in a tough moment: David Foster Wallace’s  “This is Water”

for those of us who tend to conflate busy-ness with worthiness: this clip of Joan Rivers from “A Piece of Work” 

to make meditation easier: the Headspace app

to read more articles instead of your Facebook feed: the Pocket app

What are your 2018 goals? We want to hear from you! Tell us in the comments!



Episode 33: What is Up With Teenagers?

One day you have a munchkin who yes, gets up at 6 a.m. and survives on only the outside of chicken nuggets, but who also calls you “Mommy” and makes you valentines.

The next day you have a grunting giant who sleeps until noon, eats entire loaves of bread at a sitting, and communicates with you exclusively through text messages even when in an adjacent room.

Congratulations! You’re the parent of a teenager!

In this episode, we discuss just what exactly is up with teenagers, including

  • getting over the weirdness of disciplining someone who is taller than you are
  • how teens today are physically safer, but psychologically more at risk
  • how when you have a teenager who is a boy you will be literally the last to know anything
  • how to let your teen feel like she’s getting away with something while still keeping her within the bounds of what you consider safe

Here’s links to a must-read and some useful teen-handling tools we discuss

Dr. Jean Twenge for The Atlantic: Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation? We also recommend following Dr. Twenge on Twitter if teens and screens concerns you (as they really probably should)

Amy swears by Sneaker Balls  to make life in a home with two teens bearable for all concerned.

Amy also recommends using an app like Tiny Cards to bone up on whatever your teen really wants to talk about, whether it’s NBA players, types of Pokémon, or Star Wars ships. Dazzle your teen with your sudden kaleidoscopic knowledge!

We also had the great pleasure of interviewing Dr. Jess Shatkin, author of the new book Born to Be Wild: Why Teens Take Risks, and How We Can Help Keep Them SafeDr. Shatkin explained to us how teenagers are hard-wired to take risks, and why “scaring them straight” doesn’t discourage them in the least. But don’t despair– this book has useful and specific takeaways, and we’re giving away a copy to a lucky listener who is brave enough to share one of her own (perhaps regrettable) teen photos!

Come visit us on our Facebook page and post one of your teen photos- we’ll be choosing a winner at random to receive a copy of Born to Be Wild.

Label Your StuffHere’s another tip for living with teenagers: label absolutely everything. This week’s sponsor, Label Your Stuff, means you have at least a fighting chance of seeing that $75  hoodie again. Shop their stuff- and support our show- with this special code: https://bit.ly/freshlabel. 


Episode 32: BONUS! What Fresh Hell Live

This week’s *bonus* episode is a recording of our first live show! On December 1st, more than four hundred of you showed up at the Chappaqua Performing Arts Center for “What Fresh Hell LIVE!” A few brave husbands were also in attendance; they were moved to the safety of the “Men Pen” for their own protection. (Scotch was served.)

The show was such a hit that we can’t wait to do it again. So we are now booking dates for 2018! We’re talking local theaters, school groups, PTAs, fundraisers, moms’ nights out. If you’d like to talk to us about bringing What Fresh Hell: Laughing in the Face of Motherhood to come to your hometown in 2018, drop us an email at info@whatfreshhellpodcast.com.

Special thanks to SheBee Jewelry, the sponsor of our very first What Fresh Hell LIVE! SheBee jewelry adds a touch of chic to elevate the everyday. Get a little something for your mom, your sister, your babysitter– or get some ideas for your own letter to Santa–  at shebee.com and get 15% off with code FRESH.

Thank you to Chad David Kraus Photography for the fabulous photos!




Episode 31: Bedtime Routines

Bedtime routines: whether your kid is six weeks or sixteen, PLEASE tell us they have one.  A 2009 study in Sleep magazine found that bedtime routines- regardless of what they even were- improved not only children’s sleep but “maternal mood” as well. That’s right: do it for you.

In this episode, we break down bedtimes by age groups and offer solutions to getting to lights-out a little sooner, discussing topics including

  • when to start sleep training
  • why under-rested kids have even more trouble falling asleep
  • why routines are important even for babies
  • why older kids should be allowed to establish their own bedtime routines, even if their individually tucking in eighteen separate stuffed animals makes YOU a little crazy
  • the importance of introducing dark and silent sleep spaces at an early age
  • why Margaret goes by the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendation to “Brush, Book, Bed”

Here’s links to some articles and studies discussed in this episode:

webMD: How Much Sleep Do Children Need?  

Parents: How to Develop Bedtime Routines

Deena Blanchard for Momtastic: How To Stick To Your Kid’s Bedtime Routine

Tim Herrera for NYT Smarter Living: Feeling Groggy? Here’s How to Stop Robbing Yourself of Sleep 

For parents of teenagers, this 2017 study from Sleep Health is fascinating reading: it suggests the more face-to-face interactions adolescents have (as opposed to screen time), the higher their “sleep efficiency.”

For infants and toddlers, we think Dr. Harvey Karp has the best advice and we recommend his books highly…

And if your grade-schooler has a hard time falling asleep, Amy swears by Audible- her fourth grader listens to books on tape every night (on a sleep timer!) Use our link to get a free trial: audibletrial.com/whatfreshhell.

How are the bedtime routines going at your house? What works for you to get the lights out on time? Tell us in the comments!

As a brief addendum, in this episode Margaret and Amy disagree over whether What Lies Beneath stars Harrison Ford or Michael J. Fox. It is indeed Harrison Ford, and the movie Amy was thinking of was The Frighteners. Either way, major Oldilocks Alert, and please show neither of these movies to any child with whom you wish to establish a bedtime routine. Learn from our mistakes. 

Episode 30: Mom Friends- How to Make Them, How To Keep Them

Do you go on a moms’ night out and talk about … your kids? Does morning dropoff chit-chat feel  like a middle school cafeteria?

In this episode we talk about deepening bonds with your mom friends, and keeping those relationships going when your kids graduate from whatever preschool or karate class brought you together in the first place.

In this episode, we discuss:

  • how to make the leap from a “mom chat” to a mom friend
  • whether you have to be a phone talker to be a good mom friend (Amy hopes not)
  • what to do when it’s your third kid and you’re plumb out of friend-making bandwidth
  • the Bechdel test and its useful application to your mom-friend conversations (if you don’t know “Bobby’s mom’s” first name, try harder)
  • imposter syndrome, sadly universal in the mom friend world
  • what to do when your kids don’t want to be friends anymore but you still like each other
  • how to maintain your relationships with friends who aren’t parents (remember them?)

We love this advice from Darcy Shapiro for Scary Mommy: “How Making Mom Friends Feels Just Like Dating”

A wise friend once told me about the rule of threes- that is, she always makes sure when she likes someone (male, female, friend or date), she makes a point of hanging out with that person three times in quick succession, thereby never letting the momentum lull. After three times, a level of comfort is generally established whereby it becomes acceptable once again to take things for granted and get lazy. I fully ascribe to this strategy.


If you’re looking for another great parenting podcast, check out Joyful Courage. Hosted by Casey O’Roarty, Joyful Courage is a “conscious parenting podcast” featuring real talk with parenting experts designed to support, inspire and inform those of us on the parent journey. Casey believes our kids choose us, and that the challenges they present us with are exactly the challenges we need. How’s that for perspective?

Episode 29: Small Town vs Big City (with guest host Meagan Francis of The Mom Hour)

City versus country (versus the great strip-mall in-between): where’s the best place to raise your kids? Amy hashes it out with guest host Meagan Francis, founder of the Life Listened podcast network and co-host of The Mom Hour, one of the top parenting podcasts on iTunes! 

For the other half of this Host Swap, our very own Margaret Ables is talking Regional Parenting Differences with The Mom Hour’s Sarah Powers this week. Give it a listen in your podcast app or right here:

If The Mom Hour isn’t on your podcast subscription list yet, it’s about to be!

In our own What Fresh Hell episode, Amy and Meagan discuss differences between big-city and small-town living like:

  • kids’ sports
  • academics
  • diversity
  • independence
  • culture
  • peer-led play time
  • minivans with trunks
  • high school interviews
  • friendships
  • basements, the lack thereof being perhaps the largest drawback of city parenting life. As Andrew Cotto put it in the New York Times:


…any movement is mitigated by the fact that we have neighbors downstairs who don’t want to live below the circus. “Please stop jumping” is the sentence I repeat more than any other while at home.

Where are you raising your kids… and does it have more benefits or drawbacks? Tell us in the comments!


Check out primary.com for adorable basics for babies and kids that are sparkle, slogan, and sports team-free. Just stylish basics in vibrant colors! Get 20% off your first order by going to https://bit.ly/primaryfresh.

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