How To Raise Your Children According to the Rules of Literature


1. If you are a mother, you need to die or contract a disease that leaves you bed-ridden but also lovely.

2.  If you are a father, you need to marry an evil woman as a mother substitute for your children. The occupation of woodcutter is preferable.

3. Chronically neglecting your children means they will have delightful adventures which don’t always end in death.

5.  Abandon them in the woods.

6. Orphan them, but in a shipwreck. Or find an evil practitioner of black magic to off you. Really, you are holding your kids back.

7.  After death, appear to them as a magical creature and give them cryptic advice.

8. Sew them dubious red garments.

9. Send them on errands in the woods.

10. If you aren’t a woodcutter, are not married to a woodcutter, you better know one.

11. Buy an investment property in the woods. Raise your children there.

12.  It is preferable to be very poor. The worse of a provider you are, the better parent. So abject poverty is the goal here.

13. If you are rich, marry your girls off to men who have beards and a lot of missing wives. Your sons are probably screwed. Or swans. I bet they turned into swans.

14. Treat the younger child worst than the oldest.

15.  Forget college, always send them off into the world to seek their fortune.

16. If you find a bear, fish, or other woodland animal in a trap, let it go.

17.  Accept that at some point, one or more of your children will transform into an animal.

18. Teach your children to talk to the bleeding heads of donkeys with respect.

19. The best dowry is an invisible cloak.

20. If your daughters are doing something suspect, have them followed by a poor soldier.

21. Your child’s hand in marriage is a pretty good solution to ending most wars, strife, threats from beasts who speak with a human tongue, or other minor annoyances.

22. Black magic.

23. Do not under any circumstances let your daughter’s sell matches.

24.  Your daughter who only wants a rose is the best one. The others are garbage. Burn them.

25. The youngest is probably the best one. But you have to hate him. I’m sorry, I don’t make the rules.

26.  Fear the huntsmen.

27. Wishing your daughter to be beautiful will incur the wrath of witches, queens, and evil fairies.

28. Always vaccinate your child against sleeping illnesses.

29. Should your child fall prey to a sleeping illness, create for them a bower as if they are dead. Solicit men to kiss them.

30. Stop being a jerk, of course you kid will win the golden ticket.

31. Ensure that your child has shitty, rich cousin to make his or her life miserable. If you refuse to die, this is really the next best thing for them.

Once I Had a Little Church


I once had a little church. Did I ever tell you about it? Dave and I and three other families started it four years ago. Dave and I were coming out of a church where we had seen leadership do some pretty disheartening things–treat women with blatant disrespect, mug for the camera inside the house of someone poorer, because look, we’re doing it for Jesus. And of course, when we tried to talk about those things we were met with a stonewall. For example, the leader we approached told me that none of these concerns had been raised before. When I said I knew they had. He vehemently denied it and asked that I out anyone who said anything to the contrary. I wouldn’t. That’s when Dave stepped in and said, “Look, we aren’t outing anyone. We know they are telling the truth.” And with those words, the leader caved. He apologized to Dave for lying. He apologized to Dave repeatedly.

We left.

We were tired. We had been to so many churches in town and either found ourselves unwelcomed or in a place where we didn’t feel comfortable. We left one church after the Pastor blasted The Da Vinci Code from the pulpit as “ungodly and evil.” We left to go see the movie. Afterwards, Dave said, “He should have just told us not to see it because it was bad.”

One church sent elders to our home at 9am on a Saturday. This was before we had children, so I answered the door in my pajamas. I was asked if the “Man of the house was home.” I told him, I was as man as they get and shut the door. They prayer walked around our home for fifteen minutes. Presumably, casting out the demon. The demon stayed. [Read more...]

Mom Dating



Yesterday, I typed up a text message then deleted it. A few minutes later, my baby clinging to my legs, screaming, I tried again. It didn’t seem right. When my husband came home, I asked him to look over the text. “Is this too needy? Too desperate? Should I wait 48 hours to send it?”

He blinked so hard, I could hear his bewilderment. “Um, aren’t you just texting a new friend?”

Not any new friend. A mom friend.

Finding a friend is hard enough, in our increasingly digital and isolated world. I have many friends from college or friends from my old jobs, who I email, call and text on any given day. But staying home with my kids is sometimes a lonely job and really, the baby is terrible at discussing “Game of Thrones” with me. I need to talk to a human, an adult, someone who can pour me coffee and say, “I’m sorry your baby threatened you with a knife.” But, finding the perfect mom friend for impromptu playdates to the park and commiserating over coffee while our kids throw blocks at each other is hard. It requires the perfect confluence of proximity, schedules and childrens’ ages. Also, your kids have to get along.  I once had a perfect mom friend, who enjoyed discussing “Downton Abby” and what’s wrong with the animals at Bever Park (a favorite topic of mine). But my daughter decided her daughter was a horrible witch who was casting mean spells on her. My friend’s daughter responding by shrieking and kicking my kid in the shins. The relationship didn’t last long.

This year, I’ve found myself irrationally angry at mom friends who dared sign their children up for preschool on alternating days than my children. “Why wasn’t Tuesday/Thursday good enough for you?” I found myself yelling at a friend the other day. She patted my arm. “I will miss you too.”

Finding a new mom friend is often like dating. You go to parks and groups, trying to scope out someone who doesn’t look like they’re going to judge the fact that your baby has a face full of dirt and your three-year-old is sobbing because her stick isn’t magical. Someone who might be able to talk about minivans and books and shrug when you say your kid was three when she finally gave up the pacifier. And not newly-minted three. And unfortunately, I was never good at dating. Of the four people I dated before my husband, three of them are married to men now.

But the other day, I bumped into a mom at the mall after my baby tried to push hers. We started talking and discovered that we have all the right elements—she lives in the neighborhood, our schedules match, and our kids seem to like one another. Not to mention, she can talk to me about books and some of the crime procedurals I enjoy. I mean, she hasn’t seen every episode of “Criminal Minds” twice, but no one is perfect. Best of all, she’s new to town, so she’s just desperate enough to need a friend. We exchanged numbers and I immediately made a playdate.

So, it appears I have a new mom friend. Which will last until my daughter decides her daughter is a witch. I lose more friends that way.

Disclaimer: I wrote this originally for the Cedar Rapids Gazette, but it has become really timely, so I republished here. Yes, that makes me lazy.

Go, You


Even though I usually run five times a week and it’s a big part of my life, I don’t write much about running. It’s hard to write about running without being annoying. Without bragging. Without saying, “Hey, I’m so awesome, I ran all these miles!”  Even if I told you about the time I peed myself during the last half mile of a race or the time I had to poop during a race, but I didn’t, and then I didn’t poop for five days and I thought I was going to die. Even then, those stories still involve talking about how I ran 13.1 miles willingly without zombies, or bears or White Walkers behind me. And all sports stories are the same–this thing was hard, I did it, go me. It’s cliche and I hate cliche.

For me, running is about the challenge, the endurance, it feeds the intensely competitive beast inside me by keeping me humble because I’m slow. But I can also compete against myself and I do. I love beating that smug Lyz of a few days ago. But in the end, running is really about justifying my deep craving for chicken nuggets and cheeseburgers.  Look, we all have our vices. Mine just happens to be fried and breaded chicken, also true crime. Also, pantslessness. Just be glad it’s not cocaine.

I also don’t write about inspiration. I am inspired a lot, by people and places and things. But I don’t write about it because again, it seems so cliche. This thing is hard. I was inspired to keep going. Go me.

I suppose in the end, it’s a matter of pride. I wish it was something esoteric that inspired me or kept me running. But it really is just cheeseburgers and someone telling me that Jane Smiley had four kids and still won a Pulitzer, so shut down Facebook and keep writing, loser.

On Sunday, I ran five miles and for the last two miles I did intervals, uphill. My legs burned and I thought I was going to puke. Part of me, thought I was really stupid. But the other part of me said keep going because nothing good ever came without pain and struggle and sometimes the worst pain is what you do to yourself.

As I was running up my last hill, Sara Bareilles’ song “Brave” came on. You know the pop song that’s been corporatized by Microsoft? It’s my own personal stance that no one should ever be judged by the contents of their workout playlist. Mine already has way more One Direction than is appropriate for a 31 year-old mother of two. That number, by the way, is two. Two songs. Also, some Britney, also a lot of Chris Brown, who I don’t like on principle, but “Drop it Low” is pretty amazing.  It’s hard to have principles when your last mile of a 10 mile run is uphill. At that point, the only principles that remain are “Don’t die. Don’t fall.”

I’ve been singing “Brave” to Ellis this year as a joke of sorts. She hates it when I sing, which isn’t different from the rest of the world. I’m pretty awful. But I sing her the song, because my little anxiety-ridden three-year-old sometimes needs that extra boost to climb a rock, slide down a slide or walk near a chicken. But when the song came on during my run, I started crying for all the stupid, cliche, reasons that I normally abhor on principle. But I was running, I couldn’t have principles. So, I gave in. And there I was–chubby white lady, tromping up a hill, with tears in her eyes because of a top 40 song.

Since February, I’ve seen some of my closest friends and family go through some deep pain–divorces, infertility, infidelity, separation, death. My friend Kristin has been writing about the death of her 11 month old son on her own blog. Someone told me that her blog was hard to read because of the pain that seeps through. And I agree. Her words are hard, but how much harder was it to write them? Did her fingers burn? Did she feel like she was going to puke?

Head down, legs burning. I think of all the people I know working so hard to crawl out of the spaces and cages they found themselves in. It’s not pretty, it’s not easy. It’s like clawing out of quicksand, pushing yourself to the light you see, which may not be daylight, but at this point it doesn’t matter. Just out. Just get out.

Maybe it’s because it’s all so complicated that easy cliche  finds meaning. And easy simple things–like saying, “I’m proud of you,” like telling your kid you are there for her as she faces  a chicken, like a silly Top 40 song that now means everything because of that moment when you heard it at the time you most needed to–sometimes those things are really important.

I tell Dave I hate sports movies because they are all the same–underdog tries hard, overcomes obstacles, wins. I think the thing that offends me so much about cliche is that it makes things seem easy–judgement, triumphs, it undercuts the specificity of what makes our lives individual and our pain so contextual. But sports movies are timeless for a reason, cliche sometimes happens because it’s true, because everyday we all feel like underdogs, trying hard, overcoming obstacles, and will we win? I don’t really know. I hope so.

After I came home from my run, I was pretty sure, I was going to have my period or that I needed to pee on a stick. I’m usually a rock and an island. Embracing cliche and crying from it? That’s what old ladies do! But maybe old ladies are soft because they realize that life is too hard, if you don’t cry every once in a while, you’ll never get it all out.

So, here is a song for you. I hope you ugly cry at your computer. At least then, I won’t be alone.

Edit: I removed the video because it was autoplaying. And that is obnoxious.


If The Red Woman Had A Mom Blog

Basically, if you watch Game of Thrones (and I do), you’ve realized it’s just one big giant lesson in parenting. Like if you don’t want to raise a sadistic killer, maybe don’t have him be the spoiled offspring of incest. My friend Tom noted that if Catelyn Stark had a parenting book it would be Battle Hymn of a Direwolf Mother.

I proposed that Cersi’s manifesto would be What to Expect When You’re Expecting Your Brother’s Baby and Lysa Aryn’s would be The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding Until He’s 15. At this point, Tom stopped talking to me and blocked me on Twitter.

But no one encompasses motherhood in the way that The Red Woman, Melisandre, does.


I mean, she gave birth med-free in a tunnel. I bet she totally shops at Whole Foods too. Anyway, I figured she has a parenting blog titled Raising Ghost Demons, and here are some titles of her last few posts.

-The Night is Dark and Full of Terror: How I Sleep-Trained My Ghost Demon

-I Gave Birth Med-Free In a Tunnel and You Can Too

-How to Use Fire to Potty Train

-Breast is Best: Why I Breastfed My Ghost Demon Until the Age of 5

-Why is Everyone Stealing My Ghost Demon Name?

-What Do You Do When Your Ghost Demon Commits Regicide?

-Are Toy Swords Ever Okay?

-How to Apply Leaches in 10 Easy Steps

-How to Get Your Body Back After Birthing a Ghost Demon

-What Happened When I Let My Ghost Demon Wear a Pink Headband at Wal-Mart

-An Open Letter to the Mom Who Judged My Ghost Demon at the Grocery Store for Assassinating the Cashier

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