Category Archives: Friendly Advice

J’adore Paris



From the Pont des Arts.

Forget the padlocks on bridges and the Eiffel Tower. It’s all about the wine. Trust me on this.

The slattern’s cure for what ails you…

lizPour yourself a drink, put on some lipstick, and pull yourself together.

— Elizabeth Taylor

Ready or not, here it comes. Again.

Merry Christmas everybody!

The holidays are once again, unavoidably upon us, and as you might expect, Christmas Eve finds me a tad behind schedule. As such (and because last year at this time I had approximately four regular readers) I’m going to go ahead and recycle 2011’s Christmas advice post. I hope you’ll all forgive me, but it’s nine am and already the stove is smoking, the tree is listing and I’m eyeing the Jameson’s bottle that’s dangerously close to my coffee cup. I’m afraid something fresh and new is completely out of the question at this point, and in truth, has been for some little time. So, for your skimming pleasure…..

To read on, just click the picture.

To read on, just click the picture.

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Parents

winkJust kidding.
The Slattern’s guide to surviving the childrearing years.

Once upon a time, I had a real career. I got up early, put on outfits that came out of dry cleaning bags, showed up somewhere and did reasonably important stuff for which I was fairly well compensated. When I spoke at meetings, colleagues actually listened to what I had to say, and occasionally I even bossed other people around. You may not believe it, but I was corporate, folks.

At that time, the Stephen Covey cult of mind control consulting juggernaut was really taking off. His Seven Habits of Highly Effective People was already a perpetual bestseller, big firms showered him in krugerrands just to come and sip a cup of decaf at their corporate retreats, and we were all so busy realigning our paradigms and trying to find our true north it was a wonder anything at all got done in the workplace.

Behold the onset of the maternal urge.Via electsister777.

Behold the onset of the maternal urge.
Via electsister777.

Then quite suddenly, at age 32, the urge to have a baby hit me like a freight train that had skipped its tracks and was careening along an icy road in the middle of nowhere. Just like that, I was done with the nine to five grind.

After 42 weeks of pregnancy I was looking forward not only to tying my own shoes, but also to finally having the time to throw stylish dinner parties, get involved with charitable and good works, and write that murder mystery I’d been planning in my head during countless hours of boring operations meetings, ridiculous team-building exercises and hellish corporate travel. I was staying home, suckers!

There was, of course, one small detail I had overlooked, an unexpected fly in the ointment if you will, namely that taking care of an infant is a 24/7 life commitment that supersedes all other obligations, priorities and desires. Like many first timers, I thought it was all over after labor and delivery, that life would return to normal as soon as our gorgeous agglomeration of DNA found her way into the light of day so that I could dress her in all manner of cute baby things, immediately start making mother-daughter trips to Lord and Taylor and marvel at the self sufficiency and composure that would be our shining light of a daughter. I also expected my stomach to snap back to pre-natal flatness. I think we all know how that turned out.

During the 17 hours of induced labor followed by a C-section, an unidentifiable infection and a stay in the neonatal unit, I got very real very quickly. Lacking as I did close relatives in the area to help in the months and years that followed, I turned to a network of friends in the same situation, and somehow we all made it through. Now, as I look back at the past 18 years, I realize how nice it would have been if someone had offered me some practical advice about raising a child generally, and specifically how to do it without losing your mind. I tried Dr. Spock and Penelope Leach and all the other baby busybodies, but they just made it harder rather than easier, as none seemed ever to have actually raised a child while trying to maintain a marriage, keep the house from becoming a cholera vector point and get rid of that most tenacious of fat, the baby roll.

Against all odds, however, the Little Slattern has turned out magnificently. So it’s possible that I might have some pearls of wisdom to help others just starting down the road of parenthood. Of course it could also be that the I’ve finally found the perfect balance of pharmaceuticals and wine spritzers and this makes me think I’ve got all the answers. Hard to know.

For what it’s worth, then, here are the Slattern’s seven habits of highly effective parents:

1. Be proactive, or better yet be hyperactive. There is absolutely no need to be exhausted. After six cups of coffee and a lunchtime dose of Ritalin you’ll find it’s a breeze to clean the house, make dinner, fold ten loads of laundry and paint the garage all in the time it takes your child to have an afternoon nap! Of course, until the baby is weaned, this is out of the question, so mothers are advised to abandon all hope of accomplishing anything whatsoever until such time as mammaries return to their ornamental rather than utilitarian function. All you dads and nonlactating partners, however, can get with the stimulant program any old time.

2. Accept that this is the beginning of the end of your mind. Outside of the office, you may not have an adult conversation concerning anything other than bowel movements, potty training, preschool admissions, coxsackie virus or whether it’s okay to dose your child with Benadryl before a flight (it is) for a very long time. If you’re a stay at home parent, abandon all hope of interesting adult conversation and be forewarned, you may never finish a sentence again.

3. Put first things first. Babysitters are paid before the mortgage. The child’s orthodontia trumps your crumbling crowns. And in-laws may visit only if they agree to feed your child, put him to bed and wash the dinner dishes while you go out to a movie and a well deserved night of heavy drinking at the local bar. (They should also be told where the cash for bail is kept, or better still, bring their own stash.)

Photo courtesy Bernd Vogel/Bernd Vogel/Corbis via the Guardian UK.

Photo courtesy Bernd Vogel/Bernd Vogel/Corbis via the Guardian UK.

4. Think win-win, and if you can’t do that, learn to accept defeat as a daily occurrence and sleeplessness as your new reality. And since I’m on the subject, folks, I cannot urge you strongly enough to teach your kids to put themselves to sleep, in their own beds, from the earliest possible moment. When I was a child, parents were told to let their babies cry it out, which was hard on everyone and frequently resulted in having to go to plan B, namely rubbing babies’ gums with the whiskey from the highball that was keeping the parent from killing him or herself for being the kind of vile human being who lets a child cry until he either vomits or falls asleep. By the time the Little Slattern was tormenting us with ten wakings a night, there was the miracle of “Ferberizing” and it worked a charm. One night of brief crying followed by briefer comforting, and we were home free. The book has saved more marriages and lives than you can possibly imagine.

5. Seek first to understand, then to be understood. Unless you have twins, in which case seek first to survive the day and secondly to hold off cocktail hour until they’re asleep.

6. Synergize, and if that doesn’t work anesthetize. There comes a moment in every parent’s life when it’s all just too much — the middle of a 48 hour bout of diarrhea, or along about the third week of a teething episode for example. In the first year of my daughter’s life, Mr. Slattern frequently returned home from work to find me standing three feet from the front door, holding our child at arm’s length and saying, “Here, take her. Just do it. Take her RIGHT NOW.” Being an obliging sort and possessed of a strong instinct for survival, he would drop his briefcase and coat and take over on the spot, at which point I retreated to the bathroom for a two-hour shower and sob-a-thon followed by a large drink. Not that my child was particularly difficult; she was quite easy as they go, but some days were more challenging than others. As such, it is vitally important to know when to hand over the con to whichever half of the domestic tag team happens to be more capable at the moment.

7. Sharpen the saw, to avoid using it on your spouse or partner. The great Covey is a big believer in taking time to renew your energy and personal resources to maximize workplace productivity. This applies equally to parents. When I was in the trenches, Mr. Slattern frequently paired up with other similarly outdoorsy dads and took the kids camping for several days. This allowed the other grateful moms and me to pursue our own paths to spiritual renewal, by which I mean we convened at one or another of our homes, drank ourselves blind, ate cake for dinner and danced to all our college favorites into the wee hours or until one of the neighbors called the cops. Whether you renew with a crafting binge, a poker night or a vodka-fueled solo dance party, just get the down time and make it count.

tiger mom

“I am in no way crazy and my children ADORE me.”
Erin Patrice O’Brien for The Wall Street Journal

And finally, a word on childrearing styles: Tiger mother or attachment parent?
Hard to say which is worse of course, since each approach is deeply disturbing in its own way. How does anyone have the energy to constantly ride herd over, nag and terrorize her kids as the Tiger Mom recommends? By the same token, I marvel at these women who “breastfeed” their five year olds and “co-sleep” until junior goes off to college. Who’s the needy one here, ladies?

And despite their differing approaches, I’ll bet neither type allows her kids to have have sleepovers.  Which is crazy. That’s over twelve hours of free babysitting! Sure you’re expected to reciprocate, but you’re already staying in every night, so what’s the difference? Problem is you’re usually too tired to get up to much, but at least you know you could if you wanted to because your child is occupied and uninterested in you — until her overnight guest tries to take her “special” toy or refuses to share the coveted blue crayon anyway.

In the end, I suppose you’ll chart your own course. I myself chose the Third Way, as modeled by that rock of maternal warmth and stability, Shirley MacLaine. Who says the movies can’t teach us anything?

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Interested in more expert parenting tips? I’ll take your word for it.

Mother of the Year
Mother Knows Best
In Praise of the Bar: Bar cookies for bake sale emergencies

No more fracking kale!

What is all the fuss about?

Image courtesy

May I speak frankly? Thank you.

I hate kale. I mean I really, really loathe it. Even more than okra, even more than radishes.

It’s not for lack of trying it either. I have nibbled the ubiquitous superfood in salads, baked it into chips, steamed, buttered, braised and sautéed it. I’ve even tried tarting it up with spicy mango salsa, and the verdict is in, children. Kale is nasty. It tastes exactly the way I imagine soylent green would, and it smells like the inside of a teenage boy’s sneaker as it cooks, after which time the aroma of putrid cabbage lingers in the house for approximately five years. The odor has a half-life, people!

Kale stalks are tough and fiberous, the taste makes you wretch, and it returns on you, if you take my meaning. The last time I gagged some down, the flavor lingered in my mouth even after three toothbrushings, a careful flossing and Listerine rinse, and half a dozen tequila shooters with lime and salt. That is some awe-inspiring staying power.

Yeah yeah yeah, I know, it’s got every freakin’ vitamin and nutrient in the world and probably a bunch that haven’t even been discovered yet. There’s folic acid and protein in the leaves, it regulates your digestion, conquers cancer and prevents every disease known to man, as well as — again — some horrible afflictions no one has even come down with, let alone found a cure for, as yet. It’s downright miraculous.

Get your lard on.
Image courtesy

Which is why, I suppose, it is currently turning up on every goddamned plate in every overpriced, artisanal restaurant in New York City, more often than not accompanied by pork belly, lardons, thick cut bacon or some other equally fatty, heavily smoked, thoroughly undigestible subcutaneous pork product. By the time the dynamic duo of leaves like wire brushes and jagged nuggets of semi-masticated pork scratchings has blazed a trail through your digestive tract, you will be keenly aware of having eaten something, let me assure you. And don’t even get me started on what it takes to extract the remnants of same from between your crowns. A little after dinner fracking, anyone?

So I’m drawing a line in the sand — think of me as the Gaddafi of roughage. There will be no more kale in the Slattern’s culinary realm. I will not buy it in the pathetic hope that I will find an appetizing and savory way to cook it. If it appears as a side dish for a $25 entrée, I will insist on extra cauliflower gratin instead. And if someone offers me a green smoothie saying, “You’ll never guess what’s in this!” they’d best be prepared to wear it.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Think you’ve got the stomach for even more semi-coherent ranting? I’m not so sure, but if you’re game, why not check out these other posts? Welcome to the monkey house, folks.

How ’bout some cheese with those fries?

Sunday Morning: Of buttermilk and headaches

Fear and loathing at the Fairway

Girls’ night with Martha

In the event this is all too much, may I suggest you take a gander at some of the blogs listed right over there in the sidebar? All are excellent and bear the Slattern’s seal of approval.

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