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You Know You Have Four Kids When…

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ou have a color-coded calendar, and it’s awesome – until you use the wrong color assigned to one of your kids.

You show up to your son’s soccer game proud your family is 30 minutes early only to find out you’re three hours late. Sorry, coach, I looked at the wrong soccer schedule. “Pile back in, kids!”

You have your own cleat exchange program.

You show up to the school community meeting and greet the principal with your kids only to have him tell you there is no community meeting. You try to sound smart and say, “Ok, well, we’ll just go look at the chickens over here then.”

You love chickens because you buy 18-count cartons of eggs.

CalendarYou go to the park and get asked, “Are these all yours?” And you don’t even have all your kids.

You don’t have to set an alarm because you wake up every day to four consecutive alarms that can’t be snoozed at 6, 6:01, 6:02 and 6:03 am.

You use a tumbling mat to block the stairs instead of a baby gate.

A Divorced Dad Goes to School

When Keith Harrington goes to his daughter’s school, he gets a lesson on how BOTH parents in a divorce can be involved in a child’s education. And everybody wins.

By Keith Harrington

It was the role of a lifetime… one not to be taken lightly.

I was to portray one of the most iconic names in literary history. I honestly had been researching the character for years. It seemed that all of that studying and reading was about to pay off. Despite the character’s larger-than-life status, I was ready to conquer and, hopefully, entertain a large and possibly unforgiving audience. I would like to say that my dressing room was the size of a janitor’s closet, but that would be inaccurate. It actually was a janitor’s closet.

Keith Clifford
Gwen and me, Clifford The Big Red Dog

 

End the Mommy Wars in Your Head

I made a big mistake when I left my career. Putting my career on pause wasn’t my mistake – far from it. The mistake I made was thinking everyone would champion my choice to stay at home while my children were young.

I remember one of the first times I revealed my plans to leave CNN to another working mom.

“We’ll see how long that lasts?” she chortled, “I give it six months.”

cnn-pregnant
Pregnant with Boone, sitting outside CNN with oldest son, Kirkham.

I played along and smiled back, giving her the knowing look of a mom who’d rather put on a pantsuit than change a poopy diaper. But deep down, I hurt. Her six-month deadline rattled my confidence, reminding me of my first maternity leave and the pressure I felt to return to work and act as if nothing had happened.

Finding Joy in Parenting After a Divorce

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Keith Harrington learned to find joy in parenting after a divorce.

Keith Harrington loves a good laugh, always has. Now he’s learning to pass on his laugh on to his children – even after a divorce. As Keith says, once a dad, always a dad. Discover how Keith keeps a Mommipop state of mind for the “greater good” of his children.

Q: What gives you a Mommipop state of mind (joy in parenting)?

Hearing my kids laugh and be silly. Learning their little quirks. Making them pancakes and bacon. Hearing my daughter recite Red Sox players’ numbers and hearing my son tell jokes.

Q: Describe your parenting style in three words.

Firm but fun

Q: What’s the best parenting advice you ever received?

‘The key to parenting is don’t overthink it. Because overthinking leads to … what were we talking about?’ – Homer Simpson

Q: What’s your favorite memory of your parents?

Going to Disney World as a family and the random funny stories that happened there. Like the time we had a camcorder and were filming ourselves eating breakfast. As we were all saying “hi” to the camera, some woman at another table asked if we wanted her leftover muffin. I have no idea why we all thought that was funny, but it still makes me laugh.

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How Snow Solved a Sibling Rivalry (And Saved the World From iPad Domination)

It was the last day of Spring Break, and my boys’ dreaded requests for screens were starting to rear their ugly heads. The cold weather was keeping us in, but Mama Bear was determined not to give in (even if I needed to do eight loads of laundry and organize a school volunteer list all before the day’s end). “No, boys, I stand by my first NO.”

They asked with more bravado. I played deaf. They said they’d be willing to do chores to earn it. Hmmm, tempting. Nope, I reminded them of our family’s 30-minute iPad limit on the weekends.  I was a bullhead, “No means no.”

“But mom, we want to create music on Garage Band!” Ever so clever, they used the key word that Mom likes, create.

How could I say no to creating beautiful music? Oh NO, I can’t back down now! That’s parenting 101: Never change a “no” to a “yes” or forever suffer the manipulations of children trying to turn your “no” into a “yes.” That’s how I got here, anyway, right?

But I did it, AGAIN.

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Why I Married For Horseradish Mashed Potatoes

There he is in the back right corner, staring back at me. Frozen in time. A pale, unassuming piece of plastic Tupperware. You see him, yet? He still gives me goosebumps every time I catch a glimpse of him as the freezer empties. I see him as I go in for the Oreo ice cream and do a double-take. He needs me to spiffy him up a bit with a little crumb-dusting on his rectangular lips.

He is my husband Todd’s legendary horseradish mashed potatoes – made for me the day “I knew” he was the one. You see, before Todd, I didn’t date men for very long. Three months was a good stretch. I was too busy with my career, my ambitions. Todd knew he was rolling the dice with me, having peppered me with intimate questions on our first date like, “What was your longest relationship?” Ouch. How do I spin this one so I don’t look bad? It hurt to tell the truth. He didn’t want to waste his time on me if I wasn’t ready for a long-term commitment. Smart guy.

The Oven You Want Your Kids To Play With

Today I’m missing Mayberry, the neighbors who moved away and the cousins who live just too far to come over and play. Chances are you have a few Mayberry friends too. It’s the family with kids the same age as yours, and if you’re really lucky, the parents are fun to hang with too. You dream of how perfect the world would be if your Mayberry friends just lived a little closer.

Kirkham Solar oven
Our six-year-old scientist and his DIY solar oven making a “grilled cheese.”

To make my own Mayberry, I’m sharing this fun science project–a DIY solar oven–with all my Mayberry friends and family. It’s the perfect, kid-friendly oven for making grilled cheese, nachos or even s’mores! You could put the kids in charge of dinner if you really wanted. 

Too Much To Do? Take a Walk With a Child

Kids wander. And after today, I realize Mommy needs to do a little more wandering too. Too often, as parents, we stay on task, focused on our to-do lists that never seem to get done. We end up frustrated when our kids steer us off track, needling us with this or that. Well, today, I decided to let my kids take me off-track, and it made me fall in love with being a mom all over again.

Tucker dandelion
One-year-old Tucker discovering the freedom of green pastures, dandelion in hand.
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When “Having it All” Makes You Unhappy, READ THIS…

Dear Valentina,

As you turn three years old, I wanted to share a few thoughts on motherhood with you, for one day you, too, will face a crossroads. Lead with your sweet heart.

Love, Mommy

 

“But I’m miserable,” the supermom fired back at me. Her response made me cringe, a death knell to my dreams. I had just congratulated the high-profile television personality I had admired (and who shall remain nameless) for having both a successful career and a family with four children. I had no idea “having it all” was making her that unhappy. And that’s when I promised myself I was never going to be her. If “having it all” meant being miserable, I didn’t want to have anything to do with “it.”