Stephanie Sprenger

  • How to Work With Your Child on Writing Without Power Struggles

     

    How to work with your child

    • Make it fun: NO busy work or worksheets/workbooks your child will resent over the summer. (unless they love that stuff or want to “play school.”) Get creative: Play math games (we love Yahtzee), try some of the creative writing prompts below, do something different.
    • Show your own investment: participate with your child when appropriate; show your willingness to jump in on the writing. Try a writing activity together.
    • When you become frustrated, STOP, take a break, take a deep breath, and try to identify what triggered you.
    • Separate yourself from your child; are any of these YOUR issues or hot buttons? Are you identifying too much with your child?
    • Figure out if you are more frustrated by your similarities to your child or your differences.
    • Communicate with your child: what is frustrating to THEM about working together? Do they have any feedback or suggestions for you? (Try writing it down instead of having a hard conversation!)
    • Let it be your CHILD’S work, not yours, even if you are participating in the activity. This is not YOUR piano lesson, YOUR grade, or YOUR ideas.
    • Use a positive feedback method: 1) Identify the words/phrases that jump out to you (with positive spin) 2) Share how you felt while reading (confused, excited, wanted more information, etc) 3) List questions you had about the writing as you went along.
    • Frame your critique positively; don’t be a “fake cheerleader” but also don’t come across as overly critical; young writers have fragile egos, too, and ALL children seek their parents’ approval!
    • Familiarize yourself with your child’s curricular expectations: what is the writing protocol at school? Can you follow a similar process of brainstorming, drafting, revising, and editing? Are you well-versed in how to revise/improve writing? Do you know what particular writing crafts your child is familiar with?

     

     

    Writing Prompts and Styles to Try:

    • Describe someone in your family—sibling, parent, grandparent, even your pet
    • Describe your favorite summer place—a vacation spot, your grandparents’ house, a swimming pool, camp, whatever. LOTS of details!
    • Write a memoir about one of your adventures this summer—use lots of details and all five senses.
    • Describe a character from a book you’re reading, or book you’ve read in the past. Paint a picture for us.
    • Pretend you are a reporter for a kids’ magazine. Write an article about summer safety for kids.
    • Write a letter to anyone: a friend, a family member, even a Congressman!
    • What are you most looking forward to about the next school year? What are you concerned about?
    • Write a how-to article (cooking, drawing a certain picture, how to play a game)
    • Write a report about an endangered species
    • Write a commercial for a product you REALLY want to try.
    • Write about a vacation where EVERYTHING went wrong.
    • Keep a daily diary
    • Write a poem about the seasons
    • Write a haiku or two

     

    You can download a PDF version of this right here! How to Work On Writing With Your Child Without Power Struggles

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    Get more information about our online parent/child writing course where we will go WAY more in depth with these concepts, including writing resources, lessons, and prompts! Details here.

     

  • Guest Post by Galit Breen: For the love of writing, technology, and children

    I am so thrilled to share this guest post by our talented friend, Galit Breen, about teaching children about technology! I had the pleasure of hosting a workshop with Galit earlier this summer, and she is THE resource for helping our kids to use technology safely, kindly, and effectively.  I’m going to give her the floor now– listen and learn! ~Stephanie

    For the love of writing, technology, and children

    By Galit Breen

    It’s not a secret that there is so much to consider when it comes to our children’s learning. We want so much for them to:

    • Succeed
    • Be happy
    • Love school
    • Become a learner
    • Upkeep their skills
    • And so much more

    I think at the top of many of our worry lists is that last one. The thought of our children’s skills “sliding” or diminishing makes even the least helicoptering of us cringe just a bit.

    And when we’re faced with the thought of helping our children with this, many of us turn to the knee-jerk reaction of saying, “Do something educational!”

    I know that I have absolutely said this to my children whether it was during summer break, sometime between sandy toes at the beach and bonfires after dark; or winter breaks, after sledding and before movie night; or even just on weekends, when my children have asked for more screen time (again).

    I also know in my heart-of-hearts that none of us really know what that phrase really means or how to gauge if what they’re doing is really and truly flexing their brain muscles!

    I want to share with you a system that we now use at our house that has helped us with all of the above tremendously. It’s our answer to my children’s, “What should I do now-s?” and my own, “How are their skills holding up here-s?” all in one and it is one of my favorite parenting “hacks” ever.

    The basic idea is we pre-create a checklist of agreed upon activities that our children may do.

    The list looks like this:

    Something smart

    Something creative

    Something helpful

    Something kind

    Something healthy

    Something outside

    Something relaxing

    And the key to making this system work for us is this:

    We fill this list with really specific ideas of what our children can do with their time within each category. That “Something Smart” section is where we get to add in ideas of what our children can do to upkeep their skills.

    It’s also where we can incorporate smart ways to use technology as a tool rather than as entertainment. So a part of Something Smart may include typing a story, practicing math facts on an app, or even researching a topic of interest.

    I created a checklist for this system for you to use with your own children—it’s the same one that our family uses! You can get that checklist right HERE.

    This system has worked so well for us! It ensures that my children know exactly what to do when they’re bored, their time is filled with activities that we both agree have value to them, and they still maintain choices and freedom, within guidelines.

    There are so many great ways to help our children access the amazing (smart!) things available to them at their (literal!) fingertips.

    The Internet is where our artists can create, our writers can wordsmith, and our photographers can capture. The Internet is also the great equalizer between our extroverts and our introverts—everyone has a voice online, and that’s really powerful.

    Our Goal When Teaching Children About Technology

    So our goal isn’t to keep our children away from the Internet, it is to teach them how the Internet is meant to be used. And for those of us who are smitten with writing, our goal is to also help our children write! I have found this system to be the solution to all of the above for our family and I hope that it is helpful for you, too!

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    Galit Breen is the author of Kindness Wins, a simple no-nonsense guide to teaching our kids how to be kind online and the TEDx Talk, “Raising a Digital Kid Without Ever Having Been One.” Her tech and writing friendly “What should I do now?” hack can be found right HERE.

     

  • Meet the Contributors to So Glad They Told Me

    Today is a big day! We are finally revealing the talented contributors to our next anthology! It’s been over a year since we announced the call for submissions for our 4th anthology: So Glad They Told Me: Women Get Real About Motherhood. After Stephanie’s viral post I’m Glad Someone Told Me, we were blown away by the response to our social media campaign, #sogladtheytoldme, in which mothers shared the supportive, real advice they heard from other women about motherhood . . . or wish they’d been told, but weren’t. We realized how important this topic was, and how many mothers were eager to share their own experiences.

    After reading over 220 powerful submissions, we spent a weekend together choosing the contributors for this anthology. We selected 60 (!) incredible writers whose stories moved us, entertained us, and made us think, and we’ve been busy working behind the scenes to get ready for publication. Today we are proud to announce the talented contributors to So Glad They Told Me: Women Get Real About Motherhood.

    These women have diverse backgrounds and diverse motherhood experiences as well. Some are published authors, some are teachers, some are bloggers. Some of them share stories about pregnancy and infancy, others about sending children off to college and the empty nest stage of parenthood. You’ll read their stories about special needs diagnoses, grief and loss, balancing work with motherhood, staying home with young children. They’ll make you laugh so hard you cry, they’ll make you think, they’ll make your heart ache, and above all, they’ll make you nod your head with recognition and say, “Me, too.”

    Our book releases August 31st, and we’ll be sharing more details soon! In the meantime, spend some time getting to know our contributing authors by visiting our author page. Don’t forget to click on their names for more bio information!

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    **It’s been a big week for us here at The HerStories Project! We just announced the first of our summer writing courses, Write Your Way to a Better Blog, back for its third year! Sign up now to join a supportive, interactive community of writers and bloggers. You’ll find your blog’s purpose, learn to write with an authentic voice, improve your storytelling and humor writing, and learn how to edit and revise your blog posts like a pro. Class starts June 20th and runs through July 22nd– learn more and sign up here!

  • A Friend Who Gives Too Many Gifts

    Do you have a friend who is too generous?

    In this month’s HerTake question, Nina answers a question about a friend who gives too many gifts as well as how to end a friendship with someone who is not taking the hint. We love that our community helps each other in the comments section. Please add your two cents!

    Do you have a question for Nina? Use our anonymous form. You can read Nina’s answers to past questions here.

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    Dear Nina,

    I would very much welcome advice on a situation that has been happening over the last year or so. I moved areas, and a woman (“Kim”) whom I had met online and talked to a bit said she lived fairly close and suggested we meet up. I thought it was nice she reached out as I was getting settled in a new place.

    That first time Kim and I met, she brought me a little present. Then when we got together again, she brought me a tote bag. Another time, I went up to her city, and while we were in a bookshop she bought me three little books. We’ve met up at least six times and on every outing she’s either brought me a gift or bought something for me while we were shopping. I’ve never bought her anything. I don’t feel guilty about this, but I do feel a bit awkward. I feel as though I’m being courted, which is a bit odd. (Just for clarity we are both straight.)

    I have at least two other friends who buy me gifts now and then and vice versa. In those friendships it seems to work out, but with Kim, I feel as though there are strings attached. She’s never said, “I buy you things so you have to be my friend,” but that’s how it feels, and it makes me very uncomfortable.

    One other issue is that I’m coming to the conclusion that Kim is a very negative person. The first time or two, I assumed she was having a particularly bad time or was tired. But in most of our time together she complains about people and situations. If someone says something or does something that could possibly cause offense, she takes the offense.

    As I hear how I sound in this note, I know that I’m not interested in continuing this friendship. The negative talk makes me dread seeing Kim and so does the gift giving. Unfortunately, I’ve already tried to pull away and she doesn’t take hints. No matter how busy I say I am, or how many meet ups I refuse, she carries on suggesting more and sending me long emails. (I am currently only replying to every other one.) I’m really not sure what to do next.

    Thanks for the help,

    Yours In Bafflement

     

    Dear Yours In Bafflement,

    Before we address ending this friendship, we need to discuss the gift giving. I admire people who get gift giving exactly right. Kim is clearly an over-giver. There’s no reason to exchange gifts with friends at every lunch, dinner, walk, and so on. On the flip side, I tend to suffer from under-giving. I might show up to a casual, last-minute birthday dinner with a card while a few of the other women found the time to procure the perfect small gift for just such a moment. I’m rarely the one to organize big group gifts for friends. It’s not that I don’t care about my friends, it’s simply one of those areas where the right thing to give and do is less obvious to me. My point is this: we all have different gift-giving styles, but somewhere between Kim’s style and mine is likely the sweet spot.

    More important than the “right” way to give gifts, however, is the issue of why you never told Kim that her method was making you uncomfortable. The fact that Kim didn’t take the hint about the gifts when you never reciprocated is unfortunate, but you need to take responsibility for not speaking up about it after the third time. First time, yes accept the gift. Second time, another gift is surprising, but not quite cause for concern. The third gift and certainly the fourth, fifth, and sixth ones were all opportunities to gently say how much you appreciate the gesture in concept, but the idea of being spoiled by a friend was feeling uncomfortable. We can’t assume that our silent messages (like never showing up with a gift for her) are being communicated to the next person. Your silence might have encouraged Kim to continue giving gifts and to seeing you as a closer friend than you are. When we give, we often feel closer to the next person. I’m guessing Kim felt closer to you with each get together.

    Likewise, Kim hasn’t picked up other hints. She hasn’t recognized you as an (understandably) unreceptive audience to her complaining and therefore has continued to complain. And she hasn’t noticed your lack of enthusiasm for making plans. Kim obviously does not pick up your hints, which means the onus is on you to communicate more clearly. I’m guessing you don’t like confrontation. (Does anyone?) Nevertheless, you owe more directness to Kim, a woman who welcomed you to town and tried to be your friend.

    For the record, I want to say that your attempts to subtly give Kim the message that you’re not terribly interested in a friendship was the right way to go at first. I do think it’s unnecessary to be direct with every person as nobody wants to be told that the next person is too busy to make time. When I say “direct,” I do not mean that you should say, “I don’t want to be friends because you complain too much and the gifts were over the top.” That type of honesty would be unkind. Kim’s style may be perfectly fine for someone else. There are plenty of people who like to engage in the drama of “being offended.” I also find it tiresome when someone manages to find a way to feel offended at every turn, but for some women, bonding over such “battle wounds” is an essential friendship ritual.

    As for exactly what to do next with this friendship, I turned to my mom to help you because she has mastered the art of balancing the subtle with the direct. I sent her your question and this is what she said:

    “Clearly Yours In Bafflement wants to end the friendship. The question is how. Perhaps she should answer every third email, then every fourth email. There is no point in having a confrontation, if she has no interest in continuing the relationship. If, on the other hand, she does not mind seeing Kim on occasion, then she has to set some ground rules. First, no more gifts. Second, if Kim persists on complaining about other people, then Bafflement might consider asking Kim if she can put herself in the other person’s shoes. Maybe she can offer a different way to look at the “offense.” That would be an interesting conversation. There is no reason for Bafflement (or anyone) to be mute and listen to the complaints without offering some feedback. If, however, all of the above seems like too much work, I would advise fading away a little bit at a time.”

    A quick note on my mom and gifts. My mom and my nieces are staying at my house this week. My mom remembered our shortage of towels from the last time she visited so what do think arrived in a big Bloomingdales box days before her trip? New towels! It was the perfect hostess gift for me because my mom knows I like useful gifts most of all.

    I hope our advice helped and that you’re able to let this friendship go in the kindest way possible.

    Good luck! Nina (and my mom, Kathy)

     

     

    You can follow Nina on her blog, on Facebook, and on Twitter. UPDATE (2019): Find Nina and her advice column at HER NEW FRIENDSHIP ADVICE SITE

     

  • Write Your Way to a Better Blog Returns!

    For bloggers, summertime means conference season, with two of the most popular blogging conferences taking place between June and August. As bloggers work themselves into a frenzy on social media, making plans for rooming together, attending parties, and meeting up for drinks, many of their peers experience a serious condition known as “conference envy.” It is totally no fun at all knowing that all your favorite bloggers are hanging out without you, and maybe even learning amazing new skills that will advance their craft. (I personally plan to go completely offline during BlogHer this year, as I can’t bear to see cute photos of all my friends having fun without me.)

    Summer is a great time to focus attention on your blogging and writing skills, but attending a blog conference isn’t always realistic. Those of us who are parents have to consider childcare needs before we hop a flight across the country, not to mention scheduling around summer vacations, camps, and reunions. For others, it can be hard to take time off work to travel to a conference. It can be a significant financial commitment to pay for conference registration, travel, hotels, and food. And when it doesn’t work out, it is a huge bummer to miss out on the perks of conference attendance: learning, networking, and socializing with other bloggers.

    So we have a great solution for those of you who aren’t able to make it to a blogging conference this year. (And for those of you who are attending a conference? You should join us, too!) We’re offering one of our most popular online writing courses for the third year in a row, Write Your Way to a Better Blog, as an interactive five-week course.

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    Class begins June 20th and ends July 22nd, but as always, you’ll have access to the course indefinitely and do NOT need to worry about falling behind, as it is completely self-paced. You can complete the course in your own time, at home, in your PJs, and it’s perfectly acceptable to catch up if you find yourself extra swamped or take a vacation.

    Here’s a breakdown of the sessions:

    Weeks 1 & 2: Purpose and Authenticity

    Why are you blogging? What do you want to say to the world that is unique?

    With help from bloggers including Sarah Rudell Beach of Left Brain Buddha and Brilliant Mindfulness, we’ll focus on:

    • How to define the purpose of your blog.
    • How to develop and refine a clear, authentic voice in your writing.
    • How to incorporate your blog’s purpose into each blog post.
    • How to write about diverse subjects and to write in diverse styles while still remaining true to your overall voice and purpose.
    • How to draft a compelling, concise About Me page or bio for other publications.
    • Find out how many popular bloggers write about their personal lives with integrity, and explore our own limits

    Week 3: Telling Stories on Your Blog

    We’ll learn about the power of storytelling to enhance your writing with tips and techniques from Danielle Herzog, as well as:

    • Learn the importance of narrative structure, character, dialogue, and sensory details.
    • Learn how to capture your audience’s attention with a strong beginning and finish your story with a powerful conclusion.
    • Brainstorm and explore ideas for blog posts that would captivate readers.

    Week 4: Humor Writing

    With practical tips from guest instructor Kate Hall of Can I Get Another Bottle of Whine and other humor bloggers, we’ll learn how to incorporate humor into your blog posts in a way that is authentic to your voice.

    We’ll explore different humor techniques, as well as:

    • How to write different types of humorous posts.
    • How to use humor in your social media platforms to engage with readers and increase your fan base.
    • Discuss when/why it is useful to use humor in a serious post, and how to do it tastefully.

    Week 5: Editing and Pitching

    We’ll discuss the importance of knowing the difference between revising, editing, and proofreading. We’ll also:

    • Discuss common grammatical errors and other mistakes to avoid in your writing.
    • Practice revising, editing, and proofreading your writing.
    • Discuss the differences in levels of editing needed for posts on own blog vs. submitting to other sites.
    • Learn how to impress an editor with a powerful pitch
    • Learn how to form productive relationships with editor

    And students will also have access to an exciting week of Bonus Content as well!

    The course will include:

    • the full class platform, including several weekly lessons and discussions about each lesson and assignment
    • instructor feedback on assignments in the class platform
    • a private Facebook group for class members, instructors, and guest instructors
    • a PDF of course lessons at the end of the class
    You can find out full details about each week’s lessons, session dates, guest instructors, and other bloggers who offered their expertise for our lessons on our class information page. We hope you’ll join us this summer for a great opportunity to take your blog to the next level, practice your writing skills, learn from some fantastic bloggers, and find a new community of bloggers! Sign up today!
    **We are still offering discounted self-paced online courses for Publish Your Personal Essay and The Balanced Writer throughout the summer! Details here.
    **We will be offering one more summer writing course, designed specifically for mothers and their school-age/tween children. Details coming soon, and the class will begin mid-July!
  • HerStories Voices: Good Morning Chaos

    I must admit, when I first read this week’s essay, I experienced a bit of anxiety. The events of Jackie Pick’s morning routine gave my heart palpitations, and yet I was also comforted by the fact that I am not alone. I don’t know how many times I have asked myself if my children thrive on chaos. For the record, this momma does not – not that that matters to anyone in my family. I think many readers will commiserate with Jackie. – Allie

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    We have routines. Bags packed the night before. Clothes laid out. A healthy breakfast every morning. Daily chores—the same ones each day. Consistency. We’ve been getting up and getting ready for school for years, and yet I’m not sure why so many mornings feel like we’re one missing library book away from total systemic failure.

    The goal? Leave the house prepared and ready to face the day at 8:15. This gives us plenty of time to get to school by the first bell at 8:25 without them racing to their classrooms and starting the day feeling behind.

    As morning shift supervisor cum breakfast chef/hair stylist, one cup of hot coffee is all I want in the mornings. The children seem to sense the best part of my waking up and horn in on this, no matter what time of day I’m percolating.

    Will today be the day our routines work for us?

    5:45 I rise, put on a pot of coffee, and make a plan to get the house organized before the rest of the family wakes up.

    5:46 Rest of family wakes up.

    5:47 Older children ask if they can help make their breakfasts.

    5:48 We mop up eggs that were accidentally dropped on the floor. I ask the kids to let me finish breakfast prep.

    5:50 Breakfast is served.

    5:51 Breakfast is over.

    5:52 The children disappear into corners of the house unknown, their whereabouts only hinted at by the occasional shrieks, giggles, and kerfuffles. My coffee is left untouched by timely requests for assistance with toothpaste, shoes, clothing, sibling disputes, forgotten homework, last minute projects involving dried pasta, friendship issues, questions about death, and dog walking.

    7:45 AM. I start the countdown.

    “Thirty minutes! You need to be in the car in thirty minutes! Are you dressed and ready to go?”

    “Yes!” they reply. I grab my coffee cup, reheat it, and head to my bedroom to throw on some clothes. I pause at the boys’ bedroom, which looks like a FEMA training site.

    “Kids! Do your chores!”

    They don’t respond, so I seek them out. One son has taken up refuge under a blanket to read. Another is in the basement with his sister, cracking open a paint set that, I note with horror, is not water soluble.

    “Boys and girl, please do your chores. And also,” I say to the one who has Jackson Pollocked his clothing, “Please change. We leave in 28 minutes.”

    “Okay.” There is no push back, but they move in slow motion. I urge them to put some pep in their step with a motivational tool I like to call, “The Raised Eyebrow.”

    8:00. Chores are completed due in no small part to my hovering over them like a gargoyle with morning breath.

    “We are leaving in fifteen minutes! Make sure you brush your teeth!” My youngest runs up to me and asks if I will braid her hair. I gaze as my coffee longingly as I divide her soft, wild curls into three sections.

    8:07 One son decides this is the perfect time to practice piano. His desire to improve his accuracy is evidenced by his playing those wrong notes repeatedly and loudly. I praise his persistence and turn away so he can’t see my nervous twitch.

    8:09 The other son informs me he can’t find a permission slip I need to sign, his hat, his shoes, or his “good” socks. We treasure hunt. It is not exactly a mother-son bonding opportunity.

    8:14 I call the kids for a final inspection. What had been, moments before, three dressed children, are now three piles of laundry with bare feet and questionable hairstyles. Faces have regrown fragments of last night’s barbecue sauce, and teeth are decidedly Hulk-ish: green and angry.

    “What are you doing? That’s not what you were wearing before.”

    “We changed.”

    “I see that. Where are the clothes you were wearing?” I don’t know why I bother to ask, I know exactly where these perfectly clean clothes are: in a heap on the floor three inches from the laundry basket.

    “You didn’t brush your teeth,” I say.

    “We did!”

    “With toothpaste?”

    They run to the bathroom.

    8:18 The three kids run back to the front hall where I am desperately pulling a floor-length parka on over my pajamas. They all tumble together in a giant whirlwind of feet and arms. I stop and hold each one, wiping tears and kissing boo-boos. We all take a deep breath. “It’s going to be a great day!” I say more to convince myself than to convince them. They are placated with their choice of Band-Aids.

    8:20 Our shedding dog rubs up against all the children to say goodbye, taking them from “rumpled-shabby” to “fuzzy.” The kids want to change clothes again; I offer them a lint brush that I keep handy for just such emergencies. They begin trying to lint brush each other, to their great amusement.

    “You have ten seconds to get in the car, or I’m going to school without you.” I grab a floppy hat and my husband’s Ray Bans to disguise my unkempt hair and tired eyes. I wonder what to do if those ten seconds pass. Will I have to drive to school and do a weird victory lap around the parking lot?

    I rattle the coffee mug that’s been in the cup holder since yesterday. There is a solid lump of coffee ice that is too far down in the mug for me to lick.

    The front door slams again as three children run out of the house, grinning and excited and without coats. I send them back inside.

    8:21 They come out with coats on, but without backpacks. Back they go.

    8:22 The children fly into the car, tossing their backpacks in the front seat to avoid getting the snow and ice on the car floor on their bags. I squeeze my shoulders together to try to steer without hitting a sharp notebook corner. Once I put the key in the ignition, there is a wall of sound that hits me. It’s not the radio; it’s my children, talking all at once, sharing all the details about their day yesterday. Details I tried in vain to pry out of them at dinner last night, to avail. Last night, everything was “fine.” Today, there are stories, sensory details, hopes, dreams, and subplots. Three at once.

    8:24 We make it to the drop-off lane. I pull around and about ten seconds before we get to the teacher whose job it is to open the car doors and get trampled by kids who are jumping out of the car, I ask the kids to gather their bags, unbuckle, and prepare to exit the vehicle. The door is opened with a smile. “GO GO GO!” I urge. I’m half cheerleader, half pit-crew.

    While my children tumble out of the car, they say a hurried “I love you!” without turning around. I choose to believe those sentiments are for me, even if they seem lobbed at the front door of the school. I’m ready to go home to finally enjoy my coffee and decompress when there is a tap on my window.

    One of the teachers wants to talk with me about something. She smilingly motions for me to pull over and step out of the car. There’s no way for me to convincingly act like I didn’t see or hear her, nor can I hide myself in the picnic basket in the back of the car.

    I sigh, pull over, and step out. The teacher hands me the permission slip form we’d searched for this morning. She goes over the form with me, line by excruciating line, all while I’m scanning the parking lot to see who is seeing me in an outfit that makes me look like Minnie Pearl’s Arctic chauffeur. Out of the corner of my eye I catch the sunlight dancing off the zipper on one mom’s bathrobe as she drives off, avoiding eye contact. I thank the teacher and race back into my car. From behind the slightly-tinted glass I truly look around the drop-off for the first time. Parents in pajamas. Parents dressed for work. Moms in athleisure wear. One dad in what I’m pretty sure is a nacho hat. A mom in a prom dress and mukluks. Someone else in jeans rolled just the right way. The children, though, are put together. They seem groomed, fed, rested, and for the most part, excited. They are ready to learn.

    That’s the goal, after all. We’ve all achieved it, by hook, crook, or pre-dawn wake up. With assistance, without assistance, with routines or without. The kids are here at school. One mom walks by my car, her daughter’s hand in her right hand, a novelty-sized mug of coffee in her left. I salute her and go on my way.

    This is the routine. And now that we’ve waged whatever battles we may have waged (with the kids, with ourselves, with a Pop-Tart wedged in the toaster), it is time to regroup and move on to the next task of the day. I feel a sense of solidarity and self-forgiveness.

    8:35 Back home, the house is a disaster, and I’m pretty sure my dog is trying to shame me. I put the coffee cup in the microwave again. I watch the timer count down and think complete and uninterrupted thoughts for the first time this morning. Do the kids thrive on chaos, perhaps? Is that the key? Is this just…normal to them?

    The microwave chirps merrily as my coffee is heated. I take the mug and curl my hands around its warmth. Maybe with small adjustments, our mornings can be peaceful and…

    The phone rings. My kids forgot their lunches.

    I grab my floppy hat and go. Maybe I’ll get to sneak a kiss in when I hand off the lunch bags to my kids in the office.

    Not that I’ve brushed my teeth yet.

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    Jackie Pick Photo 1 (2)Jackie Pick is a former teacher and current writer in Chicago. Her work has been featured on various parenting sites including Mamalode and Scary Mommy, as well as the literary art magazine Selfish. She is a contributing writer to the HerStories Project Anthology: So Glad They Told Me (Summer, 2016) and to Multiples Illuminated (Spring, 2016). She is the co-creator and co-writer of the upcoming short film Bacon Wrapped Dates and occasionally performs sketch and musical comedy in Chicago. You can follow Jackie on twitter (@jackiepick) and Facebook, where she mostly just apologizes for not updating her blog (jackiepickauthor.com).