Angela Amman

The Science of Parenthood — and holiday shopping advice

I’m thrilled to bring you a little sneak peek of what you’ll find in Science of Parenthood: Thoroughly Unscientific Explanations for Utterly Baffling Parenting Situations, the hilariously honest book from Norine Dworkin-McDaniel & Jessica Ziegler.

Norine is offering a little insight into what becomes of the holiday-shopping angst we all succumb to — eventually — at this time of year.

Parenting books to make you laugh

The Story Behind Newton’s Third Law of (E)motion
by Norine of Science of Parenthood

This one Christmas a few years back, I really thought I’d nailed it gift-wise, that I’d found the gift to end all gifts. The home run of gift-giving.

My son had just been turned onto Beyblades — those metal-plastic spinning tops with ripcords and an anime TV show on Cartoon Network in which they battle in amphitheaters. There was a constant chorus of “Beyblade! Beyblade! Let ‘em rip!” coming from the TV.

Whatever. I’d been spending bazoodles on Pokemon cards for months when my son declared he was “over” Pokemon and was now “into” Beyblades. Which meant more over-priced plastic crap I’d be begged to buy every time we went to Target. (By the way, if you’re in the market for 1,000 Pokemon cards, DM me. I can totally hook you up.)

But then it was Christmastime, and when I spotted a Beyblade Metal Fury Destroyer Dome on sale at Target, I thought Bingo! I will SO be the hero of Christmas with this. It came with two beyblades to battle inside the plastic dome. Done and done!

Christmas morning, I could barely contain my excitement. I couldn’t wait to see his face light up when he realized he had beyblades of his own. I pictured him, enraptured, spending the rest of the morning, doing battle after battle in the dome.

We always save the REALLY BIG gift for last, and finally, there was just one box left. I handed it to my boy, then watched eagerly as he ripped through the wrapping paper. His eyes widened as he realized there were BEYBLADES! IN THE BOX!!

He turned the box over, and then his face … fell.

“Mom! These aren’t the right beyblades! I wanted …” and he rattled off a slew of names I’d never heard of.

My Christmas joy deflated like a sad balloon. Turns out that smartypants Isaac Newton was right. For every action (buying beyblades with enthusiasm, for instance), there is an equal and opposite reaction (complete and utter disappointment).

From then on, the kiddo got socks. At least that way I’d know he’d be disappointed.

Science of Parenthood

Norine Dworkin-McDaniel is co-author with illustrator Jessica Ziegler of Science of Parenthood: Thoroughly Unscientific Explanations for Utterly Baffling Parenting Situations, published in November by She Writes Press. Find it on Amazon and wherever books are sold. Follow Science of Parenthood on the blog, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Is Science of Parenthood coming to your town? Check out our tour schedule. Want Science of Parenthood to come to your town? Message us!

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Hands Free Life – A review

I’m struggling to write my Hands Free Life review — not because I didn’t love it or don’t think you should read it. I knew I’d adore it before I even cracked the cover, and I believe Rachel Macy Stafford’s words will resonate, in some way, for anyone who reads them.

Hands Free Life

I unequivocally recommend Hands Free Life. Rachel Macy Stafford offers so many tips and suggestions about how to cut through the chaos of our lives and find calmer, kinder, more loving relationships with the people who matter the most to us. She does it with frank conversations about the places she’s misstepped herself and changes she’s implemented, and she does it with a gentle, conversational tone that makes me feel like I’m chatting with a friend.

I’m struggling because I feel guilty it’s taken me so long to write it.

I received my copy this summer, and I read through Hands Free Life quickly, dog-earring pages — one of the things I love so much about owning physical copies of books — and making note of the things on which I wanted to touch during my review. I should have written my review immediately; I know that now.

The release date of HFM coincided with our first day of school this year, and I wanted to wait to write my review until then. I imagined an authentic, real-time look at the intersection of summer and school for our family, the way our looser days would shape into a routine, and how we could work to embrace the routine as a foundation and not look at it as shackles against spontaneity.

Of course, the days leading up to the first day, and the first day itself, and the days following took on a life of their own, breathing and pulsing with lunch requests and figuring out a new drop off and pick up routine with two kids entering the same school through different doors.

I took on three projects at the exact time school started. I desperately wanted each of them, and I’m enjoying the work I’m doing immensely.

Yet as the days fly by, and I hadn’t yet written the review I’d planned, it weighed on my shoulders. Each day that passed added an expectation — set by me — that the review be even stronger, more compelling, more worthy of missing the deadline I’d set for myself.

Then I opened my Notes app, where I’d saved a comment I made on a friend’s Facebook wall.

Hands Free Life review

My shoulders relaxed a little, “… look forward to doing better instead of just feeling bad about what I’ve done in the past.”

For me, that is the essence and the beauty of Hands Free Life.

I make millions of mistakes, bad choices and impatient moments I wish I could change. Reading Hands Free Mama in 2013 provided some guidance about making more deliberate choices in the way I live, and in the way I approach the multitude of things that need to be done. Hands Free Life takes some of the same ideas and expounds on them further, while introducing new ideas about what it means to live and model a Hands Free life for our children.

Living this way isn’t necessarily about eschewing technology or turning off phones or ignoring emails. Stafford’s book offers guidance and reflection practices that recognize the time crunch so many of us face each day. One of the things I appreciate the most is the understanding that small snippets of time can make a huge difference in our own days and the days of the people we love. The “best 10 minutes” and the “six-second challenge” are both things I attempt to incorporate every day to try to give a little more, undivided and undistracted attention to the kids, to Ryan, and to myself.

Hands Free Life review

The framed print sent with my copy of Hands Free Life lives in my kitchen. The book, like Hands Free Mama, is in my office. I reference it often, but I look to the print daily, sometimes to read the actual words and other times as a quick check to myself to notice and live our lives, not just go about the motions of our days.

Today, and many days, these words speak to me: “In our house there is room for mistakes and room to breathe.”

Find a copy of Hands Free Life today. Make room in your life for the good things, and you’ll be thrilled at how many more of them you’ll find. 

Disclosure: I received a copy of Hands Free Mama for consideration for review. All opinions are my own. 

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Finding the right tools

tools for betterYesterday I hung a bulletin board in the playroom. Abbey’s done her homework in various places the last two years: the kitchen table, the island, sprawled across the living room floor. This year, especially since both kids will have homework each week, we’re working on creating a dedicated space for them to devote to schoolwork, studying, and reading.

A few tweaks of furniture we already had — a decently sized table, a couple of shelves, and a couple of chairs — turned one side of the playroom into a homework and reading area. Instead of sitting the kids side by side, like we did when we used the table for crafts, they’re facing each other. Each of them claimed a shelving unit, and they populated their shelves with books, pencil boxes, their magazine holders — and in Dylan’s case a single slipper I’m pretty sure he didn’t want to take back upstairs.

The wall stretched above their desk, empty, and I reluctantly climbed the stairs to my still-a-mess office to grab the bulletin board I’d planned on painting and using as a vision board. Unwrapping the plastic, I checked the hanging instructions to see what I’d need.

After a quick — and unanswered — text to Ryan, I dug through the tool area to find a drill, a level, a tape measure, some tape, and a hammer. Dylan expressed doubt about my ability to use the drill, which was a little infuriating since I’ve put together the majority of our IKEA furniture, if not much else in terms of construction.

With the tools I needed spread out on the desk, I checked measurements, marked the wall, drilled a few times — I always start with too small of a bit, no matter what the instructions say — and ended up with a perfectly level board centered above their table.

I wouldn’t have had the same result with Dylan’s toy hammer and a few thumbtacks.

When it comes to projects around the house, we take the time to collect the proper tools to do the job at hand. We have various screwdrivers, hammers, power saws and hand saws, tape measures and countless sizes of nails.

We should give ourselves the same advantages when we’re working on our lives.

Goal setting is easy for me. I love the rush of adrenaline accompanying a new project, the unblemished possibilities of a blank page, looking at a calendar and calculating how much I can do within a certain time frame.


Yet my follow-through isn’t always as perfectly framed as my initial surge of productivity. Kerstin Auer and her Tools for Better offers tools for individuals to use to coach themselves into life changes they want to make.

Coaching yourself doesn’t have to be intimidating, and Auer’s conversational tone makes it easy to get started making progress toward your goals. Unsure about your goals or about which ones you want to prioritize this fall? Subscribe to Auer’s newsletter and download the Goals Workbook — for free.

I’m working in the Perspective Workbook right now, which is available at Auer’s shop. One of the main takeaways from this Tools for Better is to pause and evaluate why something is frustrating me or making me feel helpless, angry, or defensive. I appreciate the way Auer connects the emotional aspects of changing something in our lives to the steps we need to take to make those changes.

Tools for Better doesn’t promise to change your life, but the workbooks do offer guidance and exercises about how to keep moving forward when the initial shimmer of a new goal has faded.

How do you keep yourself on track when you’re working toward your goals? Do you give yourself time to reflect and reevaluate? 

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Open Boxes – A review

spiritual essays

I’ve been looking around the playroom lately, mentally sizing up our storage shelves. My mind wanders to the familiar IKEA systems — should we add baskets? Magazine holders for their sheafs of papers? More plastic boxes for the scads of LEGO pieces that disperse around the house?

We don’t need additional storage options.

My head knows that, and I’ll stay away from IKEA for a little while longer. The end of the school year fills the calendar — and my head — with chaos, and when I feel out of control, I look for different ways to add order to our lives.

Storage boxes do that.

In the introduction to Open Boxes: the gifts of living a full and connected life, Christine Organ talks about the beautifully organized storage boxes in her home. Pieces of her life, her past, are houses within those boxes, and their neat arrangement gives her a sense of accomplishment. I related, immediately, and I knew I would relate to her words as I read through the rest of her book.

Open Boxes explores the ways Organ decides to metaphorically open the storage boxes of her life, to unpack her thoughts about spirituality and the connection to herself, to the people she loves, to her God. Maybe you don’t consider yourself religious — I personally struggle with my faith in countless ways — but her explanation of what she means by God makes Open Boxes accessible to people of various faiths and belief systems. The God explored in Open Boxes is about love and connection in life, the power of something larger than our individual selves.

Organ’s essays are organized into three categories: Grace, Wonder, and Everyday Miracles. Honestly, essays and short stories earn major points for me lately. With divided attention and a jam-packed schedule, I love having the option to snatch a bit of reading time when I can find it. Essays let me feel connected to what I’m reading without demanding too many consecutive minutes.

I expected to enjoy the Wonder essays the most; when I’m writing and disseminating my own thoughts, I tend to focus on those moments of wonder that show me there’s more to the individual moments I’m experiencing. However, I really fell in love with the stories in the Grace section of the book. Organ opens her heart and mind to people on the periphery of her life — fellow Old Navy shoppers — as well as the people she loves the most. She revisits the past as well as talking about the present, and my appreciation for the stories that build a person’s life was truly piqued with the Grace essays.

I read the Open Boxes essays out of order, picking and choosing according to my mood and the titles and if I had time to continue reading for a few more pages. Each essay is prefaced with a quote, which endears any book to me, just a little more than I might already like it. Readers who are feeling disconnected from their lives or themselves will find much to ponder within Open Boxes, as will anyone who finds joy in reading about small moments that shape a person’s life.

How do you strive to find order when your life gets busy?

Open Boxes: the gifts of living a full and connected life is currently available for purchase on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Disclosure: I received a copy of Open Boxes for consideration for review, but all opinions are my own.

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