PORTLAND, OR—When we last left off, I was catching a flight from Santa Barbara on my new favorite airline, Alaska Airlines, to meet up with Jessica in Portland. I’ll tell you, though, it’s been a long time since I’ve boarded a plane straight from the tarmac!
Jessica has been to Portland many times, it was my first visit and wow was I impressed! Just look at the spectacular hotel Jessica found for us — the Hotel Monaco, right downtown!
Here’s the lobby! Eclectic and elegant!
They had bikes for rent—Portland’s preferred method of transportation. I swear this city runs on coffee and bicycles!
Our room even came with a teddy bear! (Good luck getting that away from a family with children. Well played, Hotel Monaco!)
First order of business was a segment on KATU’s morning program AM Northwest, talking about our book and promoting our Boogie Wipes event later that night at the Sunset Athletic Club, hosted by none other than Boogie Wipes own Molly Wright! We’d been working with Molly for months, but at last we were finally going to meet her!
Jessica snapped photos while I was on-air with AM Northwest host Helen Raptis. We had the whole studio rolling with laughter! Watch the segment here!
Afterward the show, we headed to Portland’s famous bookstore, Powell’s, known as the largest bookstore in the world and one of the “10 best independent bookshops in the world,” according to The Guardian. So many books! I could spend weeks in here and not browse them all! No wonder they call it the “city of books!”
We couldn’t find Science of Parenthood on the shelves, but Powell’s had it available online, so we asked Shawn, the man in charge of purchasing, if he’d bring in a few copies. Absolutely, he said. “Your book looks really cool!” We couldn’t agree more!
But what really made the trip to Powell’s fun was having breakfast with friend and fellow blogger Carisa Miller (right). Carisa’s also the producer for the Portland Listen to Your Mother show. If you’re in Portland, you’ll want to catch it at the Alberta Rose Theatre on May 5!
Later it was on to the Sunset Athletic Club for our reading and signing. Here’s the fabulous Molly Wright (top left) of Boogie Wipes who organized the event! Plus, we got to meet Boogie’s Wipes’ Tamena (top right, center). And Melissa Sher of Huffington Post came by to say hi! Melissa, a former “toddlerologist” and creator of the Tumblr blog, Mamalingo, is one of the few people who’ve guest-posted for Science of Parenthood. She gets it!
And to make the night complete, Jessica and I finally got a chance to meet our fabulous publicist, Joanne McCall, who made sure that someone besides our families knew we’d written this book. Thank you, Joanne!
The Boogie Wipes Tour was coming to a close. One of the last things Joanne did was get us booked with John Erickson on K103FM.
And just when we thought things could not get any better, we learned that our fun little gift book had been chosen as a finalist for Foreword Reviews’ INDIEFAB Book of the Year Award in Humor.
Such a splendid way to end the Portland leg of the Boogie Wipes Tour.
Look for our wrap-up post on the Boogie Wipes Tour. What a long, cool trip it’s been!
What a long, strange trip it’s been …
SAN DIEGO—”So, we found your suitcase,” said the baggage services manager. “It’s in North Carolina.”
Those are really not the words you want to hear when you’ve gotten off a plane in San Diego without even a toothbrush in your bag.
But this particular SNAFU was just the latest in a series of unfortunate travel events. The night before, my flight home to Orlando had been cancelled, forcing me to stay over in Houston. Ordinarily I wouldn’t care (much). But I had to catch a flight to San Diego the next day, and that plane was leaving from Orlando. So, I’d slept for a few hours in my clothes, brushed my teeth with the “inconvenience” kit United Airlines had given to all the travelers marooned in Houston for the night, gotten up at 3 AM and flown to Orlando on the first flight out. Then I floored it home; did the fastest unpack-repack of a suitcase in my life (someone please alert the folks at Guinness); then raced back to the airport for the flight to San Diego. But as luck (or bad luck) would have it, my California flight got delayed so long that when the American gate agents realized I’d miss my connection in Charlotte, they rebooked me on a direct flight to San Diego on Alaska Airlines. But while I’d made it to San Diego, my suitcase had not.
“… so your bag will be on the first flight out from Charlotte,” the baggage manager was saying. “We should have it here around 10 AM.”
On any other day, I’d have stiff-upper-lipped it till morning. What’s one more night in the clothes I’d been wearing since yesterday? Except, I was scheduled to be on CW 6’s San Diego Living at 8 the next morning. And I couldn’t very well show up in the clothes I’d been wearing for two days. Everything I needed for TV—clothes, makeup, jewelry—was sitting in my carefully packed suitcase in North Carolina. For maybe the hundredth time in the last half hour, I wished I’d followed Jessica’s example and just carried my suitcase with me. (I know! I know! Lesson learned!)
I took a deep breath. And with all the composure I could muster on a few hours sleep, I explained my predicament to Alaska Airlines’ baggage reps.
And then an extraordinary thing happened.
“Here’s what you’re going to do,” said Patty, Alaska Airlines’ baggage service manager. She was scribbling fast on a piece of paper as she talked. “You’re going to get in a cab right now. Go to Horton Plaza and buy whatever you need for TV tomorrow—clothes, makeup, whatever. Then come back here, and I’ll reimburse you for the expense. Cab too. But you gotta hurry because—” she looked at the clock on the wall. It was 8:15—”the mall closes at 9 PM.”
Wow, right? I mean, it wasn’t even Alaska Airlines’ error, but the manager was willing to try to fix the situation. (That’s how you build customer loyalty!) With the tiniest shred of hope that this might actually work out, I jumped in a cab and hightailed it to the mall. En route, I dialed my sister, Shari, a Mary Kay sales director. I dimly remembered that she had a Mary Kay friend in San Diego. Perhaps I could get some makeup from her.
The cab had barely stopped at Horton Plaza before I was out the door. Oh, but the mall was deserted. It was 8:30 PM, and all of the mall stores were closed, locked for the night. I ran to Nordstrom—it was completely dark. As I looked around for options, I saw someone slip into Macy’s. The door was still open! If I could get into the store before closing, surely they wouldn’t kick me out till I had what I needed.
Clinging to that thought, I barreled through the door, looking frantically for the sales staff. The place was empty. Then I spotted a single salesperson at the jewelry counter.
“CLOTHES! I NEED CLOTHES! IT’S AN EMERGENCY!” I blurted, feeling a bit ridiculous. I mean, an emergency is losing your wardrobe to a fire—not because your bag didn’t make your flight to California. Still, she pointed me upstairs. I ran up the escalator, huffing all the way. (OMG! It’s been a long time since I’ve run stairs!)
“IS THERE A SALES ASSOCIATE HERE?” I yelled to the empty second floor. Now that I was here, I had no idea what to get, where anything was. “PLEASE HELP ME! I NEED A SALES ASSOCIATE!”
Then like magic, this incredibly sweet girl with fabulous hair and keen eye for clothing appeared—Setvia (far left, on the right), my Guardian Fashion Angel.
“Don’t you worry. Just relax,” she said, soothingly after I explained my predicament. “Take a breath. It’s going to be okay. Let’s get you some clothes. I got this for you. It’s going to be okay, okay? C’mon, breathe.”
She plucked pants and tops off racks and shepherded me into the dressing room. “Let’s see how these work.”
I pulled on a pair of black pants. They fit. Awesome! Next, I tried a deep purple top. Bingo! Now I just needed shoes. Setvia hustled me downstairs to the shoe department. Oh, god. The shoe department was enormous. There were hundreds of choices. Heels … flats … sandals … pumps … I had no idea what to pick. “Nothing open. My feet are a mess. I haven’t had a pedicure in ages,” I said sheepishly.
I spotted a pair of plain black suede wedges. “Those!” I slid them on. Perfection! Pants, top and shoes—done! I don’t think I’ve ever bought clothes faster in my life.
“What about a necklace?” Setvia asked.
Oh, sh*t! I’d completely forgotten about jewelry! Setvia huddled with the saleswoman who’d originally pointed me upstairs, explaining the situation. As my tired gaze bounced from necklace to necklace, uncertain even where to start, the jewelry lady expertly picked a large rose gold necklace from the displays. “This one!” she said with authority. It was well after 9 PM. Fortunately, I’d been right about them not kicking me out. But now they really needed to close the store. I’d have to trust she was right.
By the time I’d cabbed it back to the airport to get my rental car, then drove out to my cousin Jill’s house where I’d be staying while in San Diego, it was well after 11 PM. I’d been traveling since 3 AM and was absolutely spent.
Jill showed me to her guest room, then hugged me goodnight and slipped a package into my hand.
“A friend of Shari’s dropped some makeup off for you for tomorrow,” she said.
I fell asleep, smiling, thinking about all the women who’d come through for me in the last few hours. My Guardian Fashion Angels.
The next morning, I made it to the set of San Diego Living looking quite professional. I love that the purple top matches the purple streak in my hair that my hair stylist Tamara Morrow had added. And the jewelry lady was right. The necklace totally worked. Thank you, Ladies of Macy’s and Mary Kay! Watch the segment here!
And, oh yes, my bag finally arrived from Charlotte. When I went to pick it up, the good people of Alaska Airlines cut me a check on the spot as promised. Again, that’s incredibly considerate, considering that they weren’t the ones who sent my bag to North Carolina. And just when I thought I couldn’t possibly adore this airline any more, while I was waiting for my bag, I showed off our book to the counter agents, and they just loved it! Look at those grins! And these two don’t even have kids!
Fortunately, the rest of the California leg of the Boogie Wipes Tour went off without a hitch. I stopped in Oceanside where blogger Vicky Willenberg of The Pursuit of Normal hosted me for her book group! What a great crowd they were!
Vicky set out an incredible spread! Yum! I was particularly taken with the cupcakes Vicky’s youngest son had baked himself—with Science of Parenthood-colors for the frosting! Pink and orange rule!
A day or so later, I headed north to Los Angeles, where I stayed with my cousin Dan and his family. Dan’s a TV writer, and if you’ve ever watched Criminal Minds, Revenge or the soccer drama Matador, you’ve seen his work. That’s him, below, walking on the slack line. That’s a lot harder than he makes it look! When I tried it, with Dan’s help, I couldn’t take more than a few steps. Balancing on that thing is ridiculously hard!
With Dan’s home as my base in L.A., I hit book events, hosted by not one, but two former rocket scientists from Jet Propulsion Labs—among other things, the JPL crew put the rover on Mars!
If there’s one thing parents have in common—they’re all thrilled to get those Boogie Wipes!!
On my last night in L.A., I met my longtime friend Laurie Berger, editor-in-chief of the women’s online magazine, Lifescript, for dinner at a chic sushi place that Dan recommended. Seriously, if you’re anywhere near Beverly Glen, check out SHU Restaurant.
We sat at the sushi bar, in the last two seats on the right. The food was, of course, scrumptious. But when it came time for dessert, the gentleman sitting to Laurie’s left took issue with our choices. We just wanted some caramel gelato and coconut sorbet. But he insisted that we absolutely had to have the guava, mango, passion fruit sorbet encased in white chocolate.
“Put it on my tab!” he said to the sushi chef.
He was right. The tri-flavored sorbet was ah-may-zing! (We won’t mention that because of his largesse the two of us ended up eating three desserts!)
Our mystery benefactor declined to give his name. But we later discovered that we’d been treated to dessert by none other than Jon Landau, the Academy Award-winning producer of Titanic and Avatar. Talk about a Good Humor Man! Thanks, Jon!
The next day I bid L.A. goodbye and drove up the California coast. This tour has really shown me the joys of flying in and out of small regional airports, like this one in Santa Barbara. Five gates and no wait at security!
Well, here’s my ride! I’m off to Portland to meet up with Jessica for the final stretch of the Boogie Wipes Tour.
BIRMINGHAM, December 5, 2015—Bright but not too early Saturday morning, Jessica and I loaded up our spiffy red rental with books and Boogie Wipes. We said goodbye to Augusta as we hopped on I-20 West and headed for Birmingham, Alabama, where blogger/editor Jennifer Oradat was awaiting our arrival for to host our next event on the #BoogieWipesTour.
We pulled into Atlanta around lunchtime, and Jessica found us this adorable cafe, Le Petit Marche. OMG! The food—ahi tuna over field greens, for the foodies who are reading—was delicious. Especially since lunch the day before had been Waffle House. (Book tour pro tip: If you’re driving by a Waffle House, keep driving.)
We could have stayed at Le Petit Marche all day … but their line for tables was long and so was our drive. Fortunately, when you cross the Alabama state line, you’re on Central Time. All of a sudden, we had a whole extra hour on our side! No wonder Alabama’s so sweet!
I’d driven through Alabama when my husband and I relocated from Las Vegas about 10 years ago. But I didn’t remember much of it, owing to the fact that I was about 11 weeks pregnant with our son at the time and the only thing on my mind was where we could pull off the highway so I could eat. I was hardly in the mood then to appreciate just how hilly and lush Alabama is. But this time I was properly charmed. Even more so when we arrived at Jennifer’s home, a deceptively large cottage in a friendly neighborhood with a central “town square” and shops and restaurants within walking distance.
They even threw Science of Parenthood a parade!!
Just kidding! That’s their neighborhood Christmas Golf Cart Parade. Though the timing was eerily perfect. Just sayin’. (And even though I find the movie super creepy, I’m loving the Polar Express train (above left).
But I gotta say, nothing beat the Christmas cheer we found inside Jennifer’s home. Girlfriend pulled out all the holiday stops for our party, with Santas and penguins and snowmen! Oh my!!
(Aren’t Jennifer and her mom, right, adorable?!? They’re full of Christmas spirit! A definite Pinterest WIN, ladies!)
It was like a Christmas smorgasbord, with Swedish meatballs, baked brie, mulled cider, wine. (Okay, lots of wine!)
We couldn’t help
nibbling gorging as we put together our goody bags. But seriously, can you blame us? I was all over that brie!
By now, we’ve put together so many Boogie Wipes goody bags, Jessica and I have it down to a science. (Though Jessica laughs that I have determined the “right way” to assemble the bags. Just my OCD showing through.)
And as we’ve said many times, we love it when fellow bloggers turn out to meet us. This time we got a chance to meet Meagan Saia (below, right), the blogger behind Life of Owen and co-producer with Jennifer of the Birmingham Listen To Your Mother show! Now we want to come back to see the show they produce in May!
After the party, it was off to the local ABC affiliate to chat about Science of Parenthood with Ebony Hall and Sheri Falk of Talk of Alabama. Of course, I had to take a picture outside!
This is what the set looks like …
Across from the “living room,” a local restauranteur/chef was cooking something very yummy looking in the kitchen.
This wonderful lady got me miked up …
… and then I was on with Ebony and Sheri.
Ebony and Sheri are terrific interviewers and made me feel right at home! I had so much fun! Talk about Southern hospitality!
Before leaving the studios to catch my flight home, I got to meet two lovely girls performing in the Birmingham Dance Theatre’s production of Frozen who were going on later in the program. Good luck ladies!
A delightful trip all around! Till next time! We’ll see you on the #BoogieWipesTour!
“I see the runway,” I said to Henry, the Uber driver. “But … um … where are the planes?”
Good question! Where were the planes?
We were pulling into the Arnold Palmer Regional Airport in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, some 40 miles outside of Pittsburgh, and there was not a single plane on the taxiway, at a gate, or overhead, preparing to land. The complete absence of aircraft reminded me of that line from the Monty Python Cheese Shop sketch in which Michael Palin boasts that his all-but-empty cheese shop is “very clean,” and John Cleese fires back, “Well, it’s certainly uncontaminated by cheese!”
At midday, Latrobe’s airport was certainly uncontaminated by aircraft. The airport’s scrappy, little hub airline, Spirit, was my sole hope for getting out of Pittsburgh and home to Orlando for less than $800 a seat. It had two flights out that day—in fact, the only flights out that day—and neither plane had arrived yet. Winter storm Mars had already stranded me in Pittsburgh for an extra day, forcing me to cancel my appearance in Westport, Connecticut. Now I wondered if Nacio, blowing in right behind Mars, would scuttle these new travel plans as well.
I hoped for the best … and prepared for the worst. My flight wasn’t till 6 PM, but I’d already been on the road since 11 AM after peeking out my window and finding that Nacio’s gentle flurries were starting to stick.
That prospect made me a tad uneasy. I live in Florida now. The only snow I’d seen in years was in my Facebook feed. And I had no clue how long it might take to drive to Pittsburgh Airport to return my rental and then hail an Uber to Latrobe to I catch my flight home. Pittsburgh didn’t seem like the kind of city that would let a bit of snow bring it down. But then again, New York is made of pretty stern stuff, and I couldn’t help but think back on all the news stories I’d heard about people trapped in their cars on impassable roadways for 20-plus hours during one of New York’s blizzards a few years ago. If I were going to be stuck, I wanted to at least be stuck some place with a bathroom. Which is how I came to be stuck, at least for the time being, at Latrobe’s tiny little airport with oodles of time and nothing to do.
But looking on the bright side (since there wasn’t a damn thing I could do about it): At least the airport was warm. The coffee, strong. The food, cheap. The staff, gracious. And the crowd, like this single mom, friendly.
By 7 PM, even the plane had arrived.
Other bright spots on this weather-challenged trip:
Coming off the highway after getting hopelessly, ridiculously, frighteningly lost while looking for my hotel (yes, even with GPS, which insisted I had “arrived” in the middle of the Pennsylvania Turnpike) with about an hour to go before the book party, and finding the front desk gal spectacularly unhelpful on the phone, I limped into another hotel where a grandmotherly lady took pity on my frazzled nerves and booked me into a mini-suite at a great rate. Thank you, Judy of Holiday Inn Express—Pittsburgh/Harmarville. (I really shouldn’t say which hotel chain failed so miserably that I (and my party hosts as well) could not stay there, but its name rhymes with Bays Dinn).
Partying with these fine ladies—bloggers Jennifer Schario Hicks, Stephanie Barone Jankowski and Amanda Muchnok Mushro—who managed to co-host our party even AFTER a full day of auditions for their Listen To Your Mother show in May. Well done, ladies!
Our “tech crew,” which figured out how to run my slideshow on the flat-screen TV. Way to go, girls!
Introducing moms to the wonder that is Boogie Wipes! “What are THOSE?” one mom asked, incredulously. Oh, Mama! You have no idea how easy cold season just got—on your little ones’ noses, that is!)
Playing Cards Against Humanity at Jen Hicks’s house while watching Denver win the Super Bowl. (And thinking the ads weren’t all that this year.) One of the dads even bought a book. (Who’s set for Mother’s Day? THIS GUY!)
Craziest moment: In a karmic-kickback moment, locked myself out of my hotel room barefoot and in my jammies. I’d gone to get coffee, the door slammed behind me … and the inside safety latch swung back and locked. Still had my keycard. Keycard worked fine. I just couldn’t open the door more than 1/8 of an inch. After many attempts to lift the latch from the outside, one of the employees heaved herself against the door and literally busted it open. And then … she wanted a copy of the book. Naturally, I gave her the breaking/entering discount.
That’s all for now! See you next time when the Boogie Wipes Tour heads for Dallas!
WASHINGTON, D.C.— Technically this stop on the Boogie Wipes Tour is in Takoma Park, Maryland. But since that area is considered a D.C. suburb AND I passed the Washington and Jefferson Monuments as I drove in from the airport, I’m totally counting this stop as a visit to the nation’s capitol. Pity we won’t get to the Smithsonian. But gawking at art is not what we were there for. We were looking for Debbie Grossman’s house.
Debbie was my husband’s classmate (and a year ahead of me) at Oberlin. And while I didn’t know her at school, Debbie has become such a super fan of Science of Parenthood, she was only too happy to host a late afternoon house party at her home.
I admit I was a bit nervous. Debbie’s husband is a physicist (and judging by his proficient beer-brewing skills, a bit of a chemist too). Plus, she’d invited other scientists to come.
I knew we could make parents laugh. But would actual scientists find us funny? (Oh, dear God, I hoped so!)
Once everyone settled in with their home-brewed pints, I crossed my fingers and started to read from our book Introduction.
“… Jessica and I have discovered that parents are a lot like scientists. Maybe we don’t have nifty gizmos like the Large Hadron Collider in our garages. Or a stash of Plutonium-238 in our pantries …”
Now there’s one particular joke in our intro I always hope will get big laughs.
“But just like our buddies on the front lines of science—Galileo and Newton, Einstein and Hawking … Masters and Johnson…”
An editor friend had added the “Masters and Johnson” reference on one of the final read-throughs, and mixing the famous sex researchers in with the great-granddaddies of science just absolutely tickled me. But I’d read this line at other readings and … crickets. Really, if it was going to get a laugh anywhere, it would be in a room with scientists.
I paused and held my breath. Was it funny? Was it?
Then … LAUGHTER!
I exhaled—whew!—and continued on, “… just like our buddies, we always have to solve for y. Or rather, why?”
It was smooth going after that. And it was great to see our favorite super-sciencey cartoons get some love:
I gotta say, this one, done in the very early days of Science of Parenthood, is still one of my absolute favorites …
Now, homework is a topic guaranteed to get parents talking. Homework assignments have provoked many tears in our household (mostly mine). And so I offered a fridge magnet, featuring our Mother’s Homework Prayer—something I’d written after a particularly challenging homework episode—to the parent with absolute worst homework story.
That magnet went to a mom who’d supervised TWENTY-FOUR science fair projects. She is made of stronger stuff than me. By the way, speaking as a pseudo-scientist now, this would make an ideal screening question for would-be parents wondering if they’re ready to take the plunge. Think hard about how many more science fair projects you want to do in your lifetime. If the answer is Zero, you might want to reconsider that whole procreation thing.)
Meanwhile, everyone who didn’t win a super Science of Parenthood fridge magnet still went home with some lovely parting gifts courtesy of our sponsors Boogie Wipes, Sprucies, Dr. Woods and Mary Kay!
It still amazes me how much stuff we can stuff into those bags!
Want the Boogie Wipes Tour to stop in your town? Email us at email@example.com.
Till next time!
ELKTON, MARYLAND — When Science of Parenthood was first starting out, we were really clueless about the whole blogging thing. I knew how to write and Jessica knew how to design web sites and illustrate, so we had the content thing down … but all the strategies and best practices for promoting said content were pretty much a mystery to us. But as we fumbled along in the blogosphere, we found ourselves in a group on Facebook filled with other veteran mom bloggers who very generously schooled us in the ways of social media and helped promote our early cartoons to their much larger audiences. Two of the most supportive mom bloggers in that group were Erin and Ellen, who blog together as Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms. When they heard we were hitting the road on a book tour, nothing would do but that they host our stop in Maryland during their first Girls Nite Out of 2016!
And they chose an absolutely ah-may-zing spot to host the event: Sarafina Art House, a textiles art gallery, supplies outlet and workshop, founded by artist Sara Renzulli.
What a cool space, eh? And look at that lion head! It’s all textiles! Pretty cool, huh?!?
And the crowd could not have been warmer or more ready to laugh! We’d love to think it was our awesome humor, prompting the giggles. But it might have also been Erin’s buckets of fabulous whiskey sour slushies. There’s Ellen (lower left picture, center) nursing one. (She’d just had knee surgery, so, of course, it was strictly medicinal.)
First I read …
Then Jessica read …
Then we signed some books …
And of course, we gave out tons of Boogie Wipes-filled goody bags!
And sent the teachers in the crowd home with boxes of sample packs for their classrooms!
This is my favorite picture from the night.
Next time on the #BoogieWipesTour: We read for bona fide scientists in Takoma Park, just outside of D.C. and stop in at WBAL-TV in Baltimore VERY early in the morning. (Very early!)
Once upon a time, a work-at-home dad in L.A. was getting very stressed out about this exhausting business of making sure his twin boys were still alive at the end of the day. His wife, who was extremely wise, suggested that he start a blog. And so he began The Daddy Complex, a parenting blog that’s “irreverent, at times a little offensive, and I cuss,” says writer David Vienna. (“To be honest, I was shocked that that name wasn’t already taken. Actually Daddy Complex was taken, and I don’t advise you going to look at what that site is about.”)
One day in a fit of supreme pique, Vienna wrote a short, pithy post, satirizing the grab bag of utterly contradictory parenting styles—attachment parenting, free-range parenting, RIE parenting, French parenting, tiger parenting, helicopter parenting, you name it—all of which have been touted at some point or another as the THE ONLY WAY to ensure your kids won’t grow up to be a serial killers.
Vienna claimed that he too had “stumbled upon a new technique that will guarantee your child grows up to be an exemplary student and citizen.” He promised a simple, two-step process, one that parents could employ whenever they started to sweat that they were completely screwing up their kids … or that their toddlers had fallen off the fast track to Harvard because they hadn’t yet mastered the ABCs. It was called the CTFD Method, as in:
- Calm the fuck down.
- There is no second step.
His post went crazy viral. Huffington Post picked it up. So did Jezebel, The Good Men Project and the Australian site Mamamia. It sparked commentary in The Atlantic, The New York Post, on The View and TODAY Show. And earlier this year, the little post that struck a chord with over-anxious parents everywhere became the basis for Vienna’s phenomenally funny book, Calm The F*ck Down: The Only Parenting Technique You’ll Ever Need. Published by Knock-Knock, with whimsical cartoons by Spanish illustrator Erica Salcedo Saiz, the book offers practical, real-parenting-life applications of the CTFD Method, totally vetted by two bona fide childcare experts with degrees and everything, including kids of their own.
Since hitting the shelves, Calm The F*ck Down has dominated the Amazon best-seller rankings—and been translated into Hungarian, Czech and German. For the new or expecting parent on your holiday list, this book makes the absolute perfect stocking-stuffer … not to mention a perfectly acceptable—yet not so subtle—way to tell that hand-wringing parent (or grandparent) in your life to basically get a grip and STFU already.
Norine caught up with Vienna to chat about calming down, screwing up and how he became an “overnight” success.
David, you’re like a jack of all writing trades, the poster guy for refusing to be pigeon-holed into a single kind of writing. You’ve been an arts/entertainment journalist, a playwright, a reality TV writer, and my personal favorite (since it lets me claim you as one of our funniest contributors to The Big Book of Parenting Tweets) a Twitter comedian. Add in the blog, and your damn funny parenting book, which actually contains some incredibly useful advice, and I think you hit all the bases. Unless you’re a sonnet writer too, and I just didn’t dig deep enough in my Google search.
They’re not published, but when my wife and I were first dating, I wrote her a sonnet or two.
Get out! Seriously?!?
Well, my major in college was British Lit, with a concentration in Shakespeare. I tried to make use of that when I was dating, so I wrote a lot of sonnets.
Sweet. So, it always amuses me when someone suddenly hits it big and people are like, Wow! One post and he’s famous! Lucky bastard! But that’s not the way it typically happens, is it? You had your blog for about five years before CTFD Method went viral. And you were writing professionally before that. Your “overnight” success was really decades in the making. Tell me about that.
Basically, for the first two years of my boys’ lives, I was a work-at-home dad writing for House Hunters and Good Buy/Bad Buy on HGTV. And as a young dad of twins, you kind of go a little crazy. Like every day. I was really stressed out and my wife and my dad suggested, because I’d had a blog before, that I start another blog. I’d done my first blog anonymously, thinking for sure that people would stumble upon my genius, and I’d have a book deal in no time. Back in the day, it seemed everyone was getting a book deal off their blog. All you had to do was start one and be good and they would just throw book deals at you. Surprisingly, no one stumbled upon my genius.
Exactly! I thought that too! Sadly, I, too, was not stumbled upon.
This time though, I started a Tumblr blog. I picked Tumblr because it was free. And that was kind of a happy accident because I caught two waves I didn’t know were coming. One was the dad blogger wave—there weren’t as many work-at-home dads in the media as there are now. The other was the Tumblr wave—Tumblr got popular really fast, and I just happened to be ensconced in it when it did.
I love Tumblr because there’s this built-in community. I started out writing long essays, but I could see what people liked and were reacting to, almost see it in real time. So I adjusted for the audience, which I hadn’t done before. Just give ‘em what they want. When I started paying attention to that, it really took off. My follower number just grew. At the same time, people who were not on Tumblr were starting to pay attention to Tumblr, and when they were looking for people who were making waves on Tumblr, I was one of the people in the parenting community they found. That helped me break into the larger blogosphere. By that time, I’d already honed the voice and the tone of the blog and so when the audience came in, they very quickly understood what they were getting into.
So there was a lot that went on before people heard of me; it wasn’t overnight. I’d been plugging away at it, cultivating my audience for years before my post went viral. If people go back into The Daddy Complex archives, there’s five years of content. You know, if you want to do anything with your blog besides make it a personal journal, it’s an investment of time. It’s not going to happen overnight. I considered my blog a job even though I wasn’t being paid. I would work my paying job, and then I’d work on the blog. My wife thankfully understood, especially because she was the one who suggested I do it in the first place.
Well, kudos to her because otherwise, you might not have written your famous post and finally landed your book deal. So, where’d that come from? I mean, “calm the fuck down” isn’t exactly lollipops and unicorns.
That’s really the tone of my site. I use a lot of satire and sarcasm and raw honesty. But the idea definitely came from a place of anger. It was about six months after the tiger mother stuff was going crazy, and I’d read another story about minimalist parenting. I just started to think about all these parenting methods and everyone thinking they’ve got The Answer. Parents are already scared. And when people tell parents who are already scared, You’re doing it wrong unless you’re doing it this way, it just upsets me. I was angry and stressed out. We were in the middle of a really stressful year, and I just vented all this stuff that was kind of directed at myself. I know parents get scared. But I also know that those people who come shouting at you that you’re doing it wrong are not helping. So I created my own shouty post about how everybody was doing it wrong, but obviously the underlying message is you’re not doing it wrong.
You clearly struck a nerve. I saw on your site that the post got some 173,000 likes. People were talking about it in The Atlantic and on Jezebel. That’s about as broad a spectrum as you get.
I tallied the shares over all of the sites, and it’s more than half a million. And that was two years ago when I was doing the book pitch. It’s still being shared, so the numbers are higher. Basically I let anyone who asked, have it. As far as branding and getting your message out, for me it’s always about reach. I was like, As long as you put my name on it and put a link back, it’s yours. And that’s why it went to these big outlets.
Exactly. that’s why we do what we do at Science of Parenthood. To let parents know they’re not alone. You might be going crazy but there are a whole bunch of people who’ve been exactly where you are and survived. We all make it through.
That’s why I love the parenting blogger community. People might write a post because they just need to get this thing out, and they think they’re the only ones experiencing it. Then they get likes and comments and realize they’re not the only ones. It’s a great result of this many people talking about a single topic.
So with the book you’ve managed to take most (if not all) of the moments that spin parents around and you’ve checked in with two experts, a trauma specialist and a psychologist. I thought that was a really clever way to approach the material.
I had that idea very early on. I thought it would give the book a little more clout if people knew I wasn’t just riffing on the topic. My book is the worst-case scenario that would never happen, but then I wanted to give the parents a break and say, Here’s what would actually happen and here’s why you don’t need to worry and here’s proof because I checked with experts. What you have is satire with some info.
One of my favorite sections was I Haven’t Studied Parenting At All, and you say “You know how many parenting books you must read? Exactly zero.” And you go through the basics: When the baby cries, tend to it. If you have any concerns, ask your pediatrician. Make time for yourself when you can. Don’t throw the baby into a ceiling fan. It’s like USE YOUR HEAD!
That’s really the whole point. The original post was just telling people to chill out. But the book is Chill out and trust your instincts. That list I made is kind of ridiculous, but it’s true. Obviously if your instinct is to beat your kid, you are dong it wrong. But if you’re not beating your kid, trust your instincts. I don’t want to say It’s all obvious. But it is. There’s no one answer to these issues, so do your best. Although, I do know two parents who have thrown their kids into ceiling fans—Upsy Daisy, right into a ceiling fan. One kid was crying but okay; another kid was laughing. I used to make that joke a lot, and then over two years, two friends confessed that they’d done it, went Upsy Daisy … and forgot they were in a room with a ceiling fan. I once saw a one-panel cartoon with a dad, his eyes wide and there’s a ceiling fan and the walls are covered in blood.
I think that’s what keeps new parents up at night; that we can’t help but envision all the things we can do that will kill the baby.
I know. It’s consuming sometimes. I even say, Have the thoughts. Let them cycle through. Then get back to business. Parenting is terrifying and you’ve got to know that we’re all terrified and it’s okay. We’re all faking it as best we can. We don’t know what we’re doing, but somehow we end up in the right place.
And in the moment, when it sucks, it’s helpful to be able to laugh. Humor is an essential survival tool. If you can laugh, it won’t be so bad. And if you’re a blogger, you’ll probably write a funny post.
After the CTFD post and the book, people think I’m this super-chill parent, and I’m not. I stress out about stuff and I lose my cool and I bark at my kids, probably more than I should. But I don’t think, OMG I’m a terrible parent. What I do is say, Was that justified? If it was, I talk to my kids about how we can change it. And if not, I apologize and tell them why I lost my cool. What I’m doing is giving myself the freedom to screw up and know that it’s not going to turn my kids into serial killers. So Parents Who Are Stressing, you’re not the only ones going through this. You will get through it. And in a week or 10 years, you’ll laugh at it. And then you’ll be good.
Calm The F*ck Down: The Only Parenting Technique You’ll Ever Need is available on Amazon and in select retailers and gift boutiques. You can also find David Vienna on his blog, Twitter and in The Big Book of Parenting Tweets.
AUSTIN, November, 12—After a quick two-hour flight into Austin, the #BoogieWipesTour headed out to beautiful Lakeway, about 30 minutes west of the city. I had never really been IN Texas, beyond the occasional airport layover. One time my hub and I had the misfortune of sleeping on the floor in the Dallas airport, and I hadn’t exactly been itching to get back. But this time at least, I got to see a little bit of Texas. It’s much greener and more rolling of hill (that IS SO a phrase) than it appears from an airplane.
[Norine here, interrupting Jessica’s travelogue. Austin is one of my favorite cities, and I was thrilled beyond thrilled (now THAT’S a phrase!) to be back. I remembered it as a fun and funky town with great music and fab food. And it’s also home to one of my favorite moms, Patty Kendall, who’d recently moved there from our little Winter Garden community where our kids had been in school together. We’d met in a Kismet-y kind of way outside of Publix, twice in 24-hours, standing around talking for so long, we finally decided we should just go for coffee. Now Patty was in Austin and eager to host a party for us, but as a new transplant, she didn’t know too many people. That’s when we got the idea to
rope in invite longtime Austiner, Kristin VanderHay Shaw, who writes the beautiful blog Two Cannoli, to co-host. She invited HER friends, so that not only would we have some actual book-loving people at our party, but that Patty would get to meet some really cool moms too!
We were killing all kinds of birds with one stone! [Okay, this is Jessica here, wresting back my travelogue] (Note: No actual birds were harmed in the making of this party. )
But let’s get back to the story, thank you very much! We took the scenic route from the airport to Lakeway cutting through the city via Congress Street. And while I was dying to get out and poke around South Congress, we had no time for that. We had goody bags to fill!
Speaking of goody bags, This time we took lots of pictures as we unloaded the massive amounts of Boogie Wipes and other Nehemiah products AND we even Periscoped Patty’s adorable daughter Elena putting one together. She was so damn cute and we didn’t prompt her AT ALL on her reactions to the products.
Funniest thing: Elena cannot stand to have anything up her nose. She will take a flu shot over FluMist happily. So when we told her than Boogie Mist was a saline mist that you can shoot up your little one’s nose to help loosen dried gunk, she was SHOCKED. To her credit she didn’t appear horrified at all as she popped that product into the bag. (And to MY credit I didn’t joke that we should pin her down so she could try it and see how great it is. But I was totally thinking about it).
And the lucky winner was … Dr. Jill Grimes, a family medicine physician in Austin. Fun fact: Norine used to interview her all the time for the women’s health articles she wrote for magazines. But till Patty’s party, they’d never met in person!
Look who else came by! It’s Susanne Kerns of The Dusty Parachute!
Most ridiculous moment: Buying my hub hot sauce on my way INTO Austin in the spirit of being efficient, and then leaving it in my purse so that my bag had to be search on my way out of Austin. Yep, I had to leave it at security. No hot sauce for you babe, sorry!
This is me taking glamour shots of Patty’s houses under the guise of taking book pix.
Favorite moment: Hanging out in Patty’s gorgeous kitchen after the party, eating pizza and talking late into the night. I just met her yesterday, but she’s one of those gals you feel like you’ve known forever and you’re both rushing to agree and share your next story.
Yeah. [Norine here, again.] Patty’s one in a million. Girlfriend knows how to throw a party!
But you know, even if you can’t make it out to one of our book parties as we criss-cross the country on the #BoogieWipesTour, you can still get a signed book AND a goody bag, absolutely stuffed with super-cool Boogie Wipes and other products from their parent company Nehemiah Manufacturing AND a $100 Visa gift card. Just enter our giveaway!
See you on the road!
DENVER, November 20, 2015—It was around 4 PM when I looked out the window of Science of Parenthood’s western office (aka Jessica’s kitchen) … and it was snowing.
That shouldn’t have been so surprising. I mean, it was November, and we were in Denver. Still, with less than 90 minutes before our book signing got under way, my first thought was Oh crap! No one’s gonna come to the signing! For authors, the idea that NO ONE WILL COME and we’ll be left standing around an empty room, while the bartenders silently mock us is absolutely terrifying.
The day had started out auspiciously enough. Jessica and I had spent the morning putting together goody bags. See? There’s Jess, schlepping boxes of Boogie Wipes, Kandoo Wipes, Boogie Mist and other assorted goodies up from her basement to the makeshift assembly line we’d set up in her dining room. (Never let it be said that Science of Parenthood is not high-tech. You’ll also notice I opted to be the photographer here. That’s not an accident.)
Even after a pot of high-test coffee, the jet lag and the altitude of the Mile-High City were knocking me out so I was happy to let Jess do all the heavy lifting. But those goody bags weren’t going to fill themselves, so we put on some music to help us perk up. Surprisingly, there’s a lot of bending and stretching and squatting required for goody-bag filling. I’m pretty sure I pulled something. Such are the rigors and sacrifices of a book tour.
Luckily, the weather gods were smiling on us. The flurries stopped just as we were ready to load up Jessica’s SUV with our books and goody bags and head for the party. Bonus: We even scored a prime spot in the parking garage right by the entrance to Chinook Tavern! The parking gods were clearly rooting for us as well because we had a lot to schlep in. (This time, Jessica wasn’t letting me slack.)
Chinook Tavern is a gorgeous restaurant right in the heart of the Denver Tech Center. And it’s nothing like I expected a “tavern” to be. Rather than small and cozy and dark, Chinook Tavern is light and airy and incredibly hip. (Slow clap for Jess!)
Best of all: It was packed! Hooray! It wouldn’t just be the two of us, awkwardly nibbling on carrot sticks for two hours all by our lonesome. There were people! Lots and lots of people!
Now I’m not saying all the people were all there for our book. Still, we felt very welcome. I mean, look at that signage! Everyone knew there was a book party going on! And in case anyone missed the sign, we set up a pretty nifty display of books and bags!
Now that we’ve done a few of these, we’ve found that being an author at a book signing is a bit like being a bride. Everyone wants to heartily congratulate you and take your picture … and you’re way too busy to eat anything. While our guests enjoyed some really great looking charcuterie and flatbread pizzas, we giddily signed books, way too excited to eat anyway!
Most Gratifying Moment: It really warms our hearts when the bloggers we follow online show up IRL. Like Jill of Totally Inappropriate Mom who dropped in for a bit, giving us the opportunity to thank her for doing a post for our blog tour. And the irrepressible Aussa Lorens of the riotous blog, Hacker, Ninja, Hooker, Spy (How can you not get totally sucked into a blog with the tagline: “I don’t make good choices but I do have good stories…” I’m totally hooked!). Aussa is newly married, and when she heard us say that our book may be a highly effective contraceptive, she bought two copies! We think THAT was an excellent choice!
And we were doing the happy dance when we saw that Stephanie Smith Sprenger made it through the snow, thanks to her friend Hollie, who was driving. Not only is Stephanie the mom blogger behind Mommy, For Real, she’s also another She Writes Press author! Her book, Mothering Through The Darkness: Women Open Up About The Postpartum Experience, edited with her HerStories Project partner Jessica Smock, came out about two weeks before ours did. Stephanie was also there representing for the Listen To Your Mother show, which will open in 41 cities across the country ahead of Mother’s Day in 2016. Stephanie is the co-producer for the Boulder show. We might have a story or two to audition for that show, Stephanie!
Most Surprising Moment: Several engineers from the German firm, Thyssenkrup, who’d stopped in at the bar after work, wandered over to ask Jessica about her name. (Apparently Ziegler is German. Whaddya know??) One thing led to another and before you could say Wham! Bam! Thanks guys! these three young, unmarried, childless engineers all bought books to send to expecting friends back in Germany!
“Occam’s Stroller! Funny!” chuckled Thomas (he’s on the far right, below), as he flipped through his copy. Not even a week on the shelves, and our book’s already gone global. Boom, baby!
POSTSCRIPT: Speaking of buying books, since Science of Parenthood had “officially” come out just three days before our party, we scoped out the Denver area bookstores to see if they were stocking it. And looky what we found at Tattered Cover, Denver’s finest indie bookstore. (And I’m not just saying that because the Tattered Cover staff asked us to sign their stock AND put shiny “Autographed Copy” labels on the books.)
I’d love to say that we took it in stride with a cool, calm, “Yeah, that’s our book.” But honestly, when we spotted our books on the shelf, we kind of had a bit of a moment, geeking out that Science of Parenthood was actually Out! In the wild! Where people not related to us can buy it! It’s actually still pretty damn exciting! Hopefully we’ll have regained our composure by the next time we post.
Till next time! See ya on the book tour!
Our book tour is tons of fun. But if you’re not able to make it out to one of our book parties, you don’t have to miss out! You can get a signed book through our website! Seriously, that’s why Jessica’s been signing hundreds of books! One of those babies could be yours! (Yeah, yeah. I signed them too. Anyone have a cure for writer’s cramp? Asking for a friend.)
But that’s not all! You can also score the Boogie Wipes goodies we’re sharing at our parties by entering our giveaway, which includes all the great stuff we’re sending home with party guests, PLUS a $100 VISA gift card. Sweet!