The Parents’ Phrase Book

parents' phrase bookIt’s been a while since I read a parenting book. I mean, come on. I’m a pro at this now, right?

When we have our babies, we stock up on the guides and the girlfriends’ advice and the blogs and the calendars. We look out for the developmental milestones and we compare absorbency of diapers and flow rate of synthetic nipples. We put protective gates up and cushion the corners of furniture with foam.

But what about when the kids start talking? Asking questions like “Why did that person kill somebody?” or fighting with their siblings and saying things like “You suck!”

Nobody really tells you what to do in those situations. The “Mom, is Santa real?” conversation happened to me way before I was ready. I literally had to Google it so I could see how other people handled it. (In the end, I managed to skirt the technicalities and preserve the magic with a wink and a smile. Just one more year. That’s all I ask.) I know the bird and the bees conversation is just around the corner and I dread it immensely.

Luckily, and just at the right time, there IS a book for that now. And my friend is the one who wrote it. (Why didn’t I just have him come over and talk to Kyle about Santa?)

The Parents’ Phrase Book is a glossary of situations. Whit Honea, a fellow writer and one of the first friends I made in real life through blogging, has assembled a guide of the most common things a kid might say or ask that need to be handled with a little bit of wisdom. The book is arranged in broad sections like discipline, self-confidence, play and creativity, etc., with more specific theoretical instances of what a kid might say, and how a parent should respond.

Here’s what he says it is: “The Parents’ Phrase Book is perfect for parents, but it is also great for non-parents and anyone else that has ever talked to another human being. It is for the future in the nicest way possible.”

There is, of course, a section about death and dying. These are questions that come up far too early, or maybe right on time. I remember walking Kyle to preschool and discussing my beloved Uncle Stephen, and where he might have gone after he had recently died. I did the best I could.

Whit gave me a copy of this book the day after his own mother was killed in a car accident. It was an untimely, shocking loss that still causes tremors and upheaval. And it made the death and dying section of his book incredibly emotional to read.

We’ve all lost someone dear by now, haven’t we? We could use a little help making sense of it. Whit’s treatment of loss comes from tragic places. “These are the holes that never entirely fill, and it is our job to make sure the kids don’t suffer so badly that they cannot recover.” He gives us the words to say to the kids, but we say them to ourselves, too.

I think of Whit and his wife Tricia, and their children, two young boys, similar in age to mine. They do a lot together. They go off on great adventures that seem really fun, while I would rather stick my kids in front of the TV so I can take a nap. I have seen their boys grow from toddlers into respectful, kind, and lively boys, wide-eyed with wonder. You don’t have to agree with everything Whit says – not all of the suggestions will work for everyone. But when someone’s kids turn out great, it’s smart to at least pay attention and take a little wisdom from their parenting methods.

The Parents’ Phrase Book
by Whit Honea
Paperback, $11.52 on Amazon

Words I Hate After Watching HGTV House Hunters Marathon

house hunters drinking game

On Easter Sunday I had both TV’s tuned to HGTV – live – while I did laundry and also made gumbo, which I do every Easter. Basically, it’s because we don’t have family here in LA and nobody ever invites us to their own family dinner, and not because of my boisterous boys – I noticed this lack of an Easter holiday event even before Stewart and I got married. One year, way back then, it was the perfect day for me to try making his mother’s chicken gumbo, and thus a tradition was born.

The making of gumbo requires a lot of vegetable chopping, chicken carcass hacking, browning, and boiling, and standing at the stove for a long time stirring the roux – a mixture of hot oil and flour. You have to stir and stir so it doesn’t burn.

This is why I wound up watching way too many house hunting shows on HGTV in a row. It had actually started the night before with House Hunters Renovation, a show that my pal Katie works on. I have gotten sucked into certain shows before by knowing people who worked on them (I’m looking at you, American Idol) and it usually turns into a guilty pleasure. This is no exception.

outdated kitchen

A truly outdated kitchen (from ellenm1 on flickr)

Except…watching couples house hunting, over and over and over, and on Sunday especially when many were in exotic locations (“Living Hawaii,” “Living Caribbean,” etc.) I started to hate them for how picky they were and how they tossed real estate phrases around like they were experts. Here are some that I can’t ever hear again with out tactical eye-rolling and heavy sighs:

Open concept: the oh-so-revolutionary floor plan that leaves a kitchen open to the living room and dining room areas. You know, the way people live now.

Price point: using this phrase in a conversation trying to seem more professional only makes you sound like a douchebag. Just say “How much does it cost?” You know, the way people say it.

Must-have: At least three couples were all about the “must-haves” in their quest. “Fruit trees on 2-3 acres of land are a must-have.” That is not even grammatically correct. “Room for the koi pond is a must-have.” But the one that put me over the edge was the adorable young couple who required a large backyard for their snack-size dog. “Look at the yard! It’s big enough for Tiny to run around in. That’s a must-have.” The way they were talking about the dog, I would have thought it was a child. That I can understand. But it’s a dog. A TINY DOG. And let’s be honest, that’s not even a must-have.

En suite master: I grew up in a two-story apartment in a multi-family house. There were five of us with one bathroom. There was no spa-like getaway featuring a rainfall shower head and a bidet within the master bedroom. As a result, I am not fussy in this department. More than one toilet in a house is a luxury to me. So the couples that insist – INSIST! – on having, and referring to it as, an en suite master bedroom annoy me to no end. I get it – you want what you want. I was fussy in my home search too, but not to the expense of my dignity.

Dated appliances: Here’s the thing. I understand that they are on a show, and the producers must egg them on to turn their noses up at things to make the search more interesting. And indeed, if they walked into a kitchen that had patterned linoleum and mustard yellow appliances, I would agree that the kitchen is “outdated” and needs work. But the sweeping disdain I see these people display for kitchens because they don’t like the perfectly nice white subway tile and the absolutely lovely looking white appliances makes me a little bit ragey. “This will have to be totally gutted,” they say, as if that is the easiest thing in the world, as if the apartment they live in downstairs in their mom’s basement is so much better.

And all of the above is why I will keep watching because yelling at the TV is much less damaging than yelling at my husband and kids. Well played, HGTV.


Guilt-Free Snack: Roasted Chickpeas and Zucchini

roasted chickpeas and zucchini snackThe other night I was hankering for a snack. The kind you can just mindlessly chomp on while you read or watch TV. I didn’t have much on hand, but I did have 2 cans of chickpeas (garbanzo beans) and a random, lonely zucchini. So I decided to roast them.

I have seen other recipes for roasted chickpeas as a snack but they all use spices I can’t eat, so I threw this together and it was delicious enough that I thought I’d pass it on to you. Enjoy!

chickpeas and zucchini ready to roast

 Roasted Chickpeas & Zucchini

Ingredients: 1 can chickpeas drained, 1 medium zucchini chopped, 1 tbsp olive oil, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp dried rosemary

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F

Make sure chickpeas are as dry as possible by pressing them with paper towels

In a bowl, toss chickpeas, zucchini, and olive oil

Spread mix on a baking sheet in a single layer

Roast for 35 minutes, shaking the pan once or twice to mix the chickpeas and zucchini. Roast longer if chickpeas are not crunchy enough.

Let cool for 5 minutes.

Sprinkle salt and rosemary over chickpeas and zucchini. Stir with spatula to coat.

roasted chickpeas and zucchini closeup

My husband Stewart looked at this bowl of chickpeas and zucchini pieces quizzically. “You’re gonna eat that?” he asked. He thought the addition of zucchini was weird. Well, I was going to eat it alone, but the next thing I knew, he had eaten at least half of it. The zucchini was a nice counterpoint to the nuttiness of the garbanzo beans. Lesson learned. Don’t question Mama’s cooking.

Flashback Friday: Baby Brady

Today this tiny little golden baby turns 7. SEVEN. (Here is his birth story and more pictures.) I’m filled with emotion and I can’t find more words to tell you how this makes me feel, so, just look. He was less than a week old here. These photos were taken by Jennifer Spaly.






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