Listen to Your Mother: Mother of the Year

Header Image by Ashley Mikula Photography

It’s a common social media meme.

“Forgot it was picture day today. My child’s in his uniform with unwashed hair. Mother of the year!”

“Daughter on museum field trip clomping around in her winter boots. How do other parents know to pack a change of shoes? Mother of the Year.”

“Letting the 3yo run around our backyard in his gutchies. I’m either the best mom or the worst mom ever. #MOTY”

We all have these ‘mother of the year’ moments, times when we’re too tired to fight the fight, times when we feel we’re letting our children down — or scarring them for life.

Like that time my then 5-year-old called 9-1-1 on me for being a mean mommy.

Let me set the scene. It is a weekday evening. I work outside the home full-time, and I have three children at home, so weekday evenings are not my favorite. It’s all a big sprint toward bedtime as far as I’m concerned. At this time, my children are 7, 5, and 1.

Dinner that night is leftovers, my favorite dinner of the week. The 1-year-old is already strapped in his high chair. I keep asking the 5-year-old what she wants for dinner, and she keeps arguing with me about I don’t even remember what. (The 7-year-old is conspicuously absent from this story.)

My middle child continues to get increasingly agitated. I think it’s because I won’t cook her a grilled cheese sandwich. “Look, kiddo,” I say, “it’s leftover night. Pick something and I’ll warm it up.”

This is unacceptable.

“I’m going to call the police,” she informs me angrily.

“For what?” I scoff.

I’m going to call and tell them you are being a mean mommy.”

“Kate, I am not being mean to you. Just because I’m not cooking something new, that’s not being a mean mommy.”

Kate stomps out of the room, and stomps right back in brandishing the cordless phone.

“I’m calling!”

* exhale noisily * “Whatever.” I don’t want to deal with this nonsense.

“What’s the number again? 1-9-1? 1-1-9?”

She doesn’t even know the number!

“Kate, you can’t call the police on me.”

“I can! You’re a mean mommy!”

“Please, sit down! What do you want for dinner?”

“No! I don’t want to eat. I’m calling the police!”

“Kate, you can’t call 9-1-1!”

She looks me triumphantly in the face. *beep – beep beep*


Mother of the Year awards actually do exist. For example, the Albany Tulip Festival is giving out its 16th annual award this year. They are “looking for moms who have proven a commitment to their family and their community.” Unless they consider Twitter and Facebook communities, I am not eligible for this award. American Mothers gives out a national Mother of the Year award, plus an award for each state. Maybe I should ask to be nominated.

I would like to think that my children would nominate me for Mother of the Year. I’m their only mother, so I have that going for me. And some days, they think I’m a great mom. I bake cookies, I play board games, I read with them. When I get to say yes to my now 4-year-old son, he throws his little arms around my neck and declares, “You are the best mommy in the world.”

And in that moment, I am. I am the best mother EVER.


Although I had promptly grabbed the phone away from Kate and hung it up, a police officer did come to the house. 9-1-1 protocol is to respond to every 9-1-1 call. A very surprised Kate assured him that everything was fine. “She called you,” I explained to the amused cop, “because I was being a mean mommy.” The officer regarded my daughter with a twinkle in his eye. “I don’t know,” he said. “Santa may need to hear about this.”

Later, as I was trying to explain the gravity of the situation, Kate became very distraught. “But I didn’t even talk to anyone!” she said.

“That number is for serious emergencies,” I explained. “The people on the other end of the phone didn’t know why the call was cut off.

“A bad person could’ve grabbed it and hung it up. Or if there was a fire, it could’ve been cut off. They had to send someone to make sure we were safe.” Poor Kate broke into sobs. As far as I was concerned, her punishment was those tears.


If, by some wild chance, I did win a Mother of the Year award, I would stand at that podium in my off-the-rack Target dress, and I would start by thanking God. Then I would thank my husband Dan, without whom none of this would be possible. And I would thank Gabriel, Flora, Kate, and Michael, all of whom made me the mother I am today: The Mother of the Year.


LTYM cake

ETA: I want to emphatically and enthusiastically encourage you all to view ALL the Pittsburgh videos, starting with the first. Watch the show all the way through. Heck, watch other cities’ shows!

Each story stands on its own. But together, they are amplified. You will go on a journey through motherhood, highs and lows, tears and laughter. Participating was an honor and a joy. Getting to see it again, and read the recaps, has been so much fun.

If you do take the time to watch them all, and/or another city, tell me your favorite!

Telling Stories

Last night, as I was getting ready for the Listen to Your Mother read-through and cast party, I said to Dan, “I’m kinda nervous.”

He said, “You’re fine, honey. You got this.”

I said, “I’m not nervous about my piece. I’m nervous about all the people.”

I can’t attest to the fact that he rolled his eyes. “Oh, goodness, yes, people! I hate people.”

“Ha, ha,” I said. “It’s just…” I paused. “I want them to like me.”

My husband gave me a serious look. “That’s progress for you.”


Immediately upon leaving last night, I tweeted:

I cannot express what an amazing job Jennifer, Amanda, and Stephanie have done in selecting a series of stories, a group of voices, that just GO together. Every essay is vital to the whole.

And this sharing of women’s voices, of mother’s voices, is so important. In this, the era of mom blogs and Facebook status updates, it may not seem that way. But trust me, Listen to Your Mother does something different.

More than capturing the fact that motherhood isn’t all rainbows and kitties, LTYM tells a deeper story. In each essay, is your story, or your wife’s story, or another mother’s story. There will be a moment, a turn of phrase, an image, that will strike you, that will have you nodding along. “I know that,” you’ll think. “I’ve seen that.”

You might laugh. You might cry.

I can’t tell you how humbling it was to listen to the other women I’m going to be on stage with last night. I was blown away by the power of their words. Every story is unique, and it’s wrapped around a universal nugget that is at the heart of motherhood.

If you’re still on the fence about coming to the show, you should get off the fence and fast. Only about 60 tickets remain for Pittsburgh’s inaugural Listen To Your Mother show.

If you’re already coming, I recommend bringing tissues.

LTYM cookies


I don’t know if they all liked me. I’m pretty sure they liked my story. When we had all read, I wanted to wrap all of my castmates up in a big hug. It’s going to be a blessing to spend time with these women. I can’t ask for much more.

Pittsburgh Blogger Guest Post: Green in Pittsburgh

Today’s post comes from Michelle, who blogs about running and sustainability at SOLE for the Soul, and is part of a special day of shenanigans from other Pittsburgh Bloggers. You can see my post over on The Steel Trap, where I mention a few of my favorite places in Pittsburgh for a family day out, date night, and me-time.

Writing about sustainability has its advantages; sometimes you get to visit some amazing places and chat with incredible people! Today I’d love to share one of my most interesting adventures: a tour of Sota Construction near Avalon, PA.


When Ernie Sota, president of Sota Construction, decided to redesign his business’ headquarters, he knew he wanted to do something different. He also knew he wanted his business to have a small footprint and big goals! In the spirit of green building, he set a goal to decrease material costs by utilizing as many local and natural resources as he could. Well, what does western Pennsylvania have a whole heck of a lot of? Straw! Yep, the picture above is a building constructed of steel beams and straw bales. Believe it!

Pittsburgh is full of forward thinking green business owners. I know this because, as it turns out, Ernie Sota is one of them. Not only was his straw purchased locally (it’s actually a really long process; the straw bales have to be dried in a barn for several years before they can be used), but he purchased the clay and sand that was used as a mixing medium in the walls from Greensburg, PA. Additionally, Sota chose to use organic insulation created from mushroom spores.

While it may sound like this building has a short shelf life, it’s actually quite the opposite. The steel beams that frame the building are rust-resistant and less likely to warp than conventional wood studs. The interior walls are cobb, which is a combination of straw, clay, and minute amounts of sand. The cobb combined with the straw bales create walls that end up being between 8–10 feet thick and very well insulated! Straw also naturally decreases the humidity in the space.

Inside, Sota was able to integrate some recycled building materials into this renovation, such as cabinets that were salvaged from a lawyer’s office. The counter-tops are paper-based, made from recycled materials. They were able to use some of the extra wood for doors as well.

As you walk through the building, there is an openness in the design of the building. In fact, there are several vents between the first and second floor, which naturally provide airflow without using energy. They also pull sunlight from the skylights in the roof. Essentially, the skylights in the roof are passively lighting the first and second floors!

View of vent from first floor.

If you’re into the geeky side of green building like I am, read on!

One of the coolest things in the building is a monitoring system that senses the temperature and humidity both outside and inside the building (according to five orientation zones). This system will flash a red or green light that notifies occupants when conditions are ideals to open the windows/skylights. For example, if the humidity outside would cause less than ideal working conditions inside, you get the red light!

Getting sticky in here!

The structure is heated radiantly using geothermal coils that are in the floors and covered in poured concrete, which in theory is meant to save on energy costs. The six geothermal wells are drilled 450 feet deep. The extensive network of compressors and the pipes/returns are located in the basement, but highly visible, which allows for detailed monitoring.

I hope you enjoyed this mini-tour of Sota Construction, a local green building. If you want to talk more about sustainability, pop over to SOLE for the Soul and leave me a comment! It will get me talking about something other than the Pittsburgh Marathon for a change!


Here’s a list of participating #PGHgbe blogs. Go check them out, and see more of the awesome Pittsburgh has to offer:

Sean’s Ramblings

Small Town Dad

Sole for the Soul


Tall Tales from a Small Town

The Firecracker Blog

The Pittsburgh Mommy Blog

The Steel Trap

West of Mars

Ya Jagoff

Yinz R Readin


Yum Yum PGH

A Completely Unsolicited Review of The Black Keys (and Flaming Lips) Concert

Dan often makes fun of me for my taste in music. I am a rock’n’roll chick, down to my soles. I always have been. Dan was raised on earlier forms of rock: doo-wop and the blues.

And I mean The Blues, Delta *and* Chicago: Little Walter, Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson, Sonhouse, Sonny Boy Williamson. More than I can name, that’s for sure. He texted me this at the Black Keys concert last night:

“Tomorrow (that is today, May 1) is Little Walter Jacobs‘ birthday. I’m standing at the Black Keys concert with 4-5 drinks in me wondering what Little Walter or Muddy would think of this music.”

I think the bluesmen that Dan idealizes (and rightfully so) would be pleased with their legacy. Isn’t that a saying somewhere: “The blues had a baby and they named it rock and roll”? Dan rides my ass a little bit about the “bluesy rock” I like these days — think 21st century acts like White Stripes and Raconteurs (so, Jack White), The Black Keys, and Americana bands like Lumineers and Mumford & Sons.

But he’s a good sport, and loves live music (and me!), so he was more than happy to take in the Black Keys’ show. I think the Keys’ Auerbach and Carney do their forebears proud.

(The Flaming Lips… Oh, Wayne Coyne, you are wonderfully weird, and I would’ve loved for you to play a little bit longer in your opening set. The eyeball/vagina video was a little freaky, even for someone like me who was expecting freakiness. My brother summed you up so well in this text: “If this guy worked at a gas station, dressed like that, and holding a baby doll, he’d be institutionalized. He’d be awesome, but institutionalized.” Thank God for art school, rock and roll, and America, baby.)

The Black Keys hit it hard from start to finish, even when the beginning of “Little Black Submarines” slowed the pace briefly. They charged right into “Howlin’ for You” and pretty much didn’t let up until the end of their two-song encore. I saw Patrick Carney lose his glasses at least twice.

As Scott Mervis observes in the Post-Gazette (and as I said to my husband last night): Carney is no Neil Peart. I like Carney’s style of drumming: passionate, flailing limbs, pounding the fuck out of his kit. He’s probably one of the least flashy drummers I’ve ever seen.

Dan Auerbach seems to be just as raw sometimes on guitar. After the first few songs, Dan turned to me and said, “That guy would hate this, but he’s a rock and roll star.” By the end of the encore, Dan revised himself: “Nope, I think he totally knows he’s a rock star, and loves it.” Even in jeans and a tee shirt, Auerbach adds a sly showmanship to his bludgeoning guitar licks and strutting.

Highlights of the show for me: When Auerbach shooed Gus Seyffert and John Wood off the stage to launch into a handful of two-man rockers, starting with the power of “Thickfreakness”. “Your Touch” was a pounding, relentless number that recalled the Keys’ roots as a club band. I liked that even in a sold-out arena, Auerbach and Carney were able to capture that early intimacy when it was just the two of them in a bar somewhere in Ohio.

They brought Seyffert and Wood back for “Little Black Submarines”, a tight rendition of the ballad-into-explosive rocker. And while “Ten Cent Pistol” isn’t one of my favorites, the live version blew it out of the water.

The Black Keys faithfully delivered on their big hits, too: “Gold on the Ceiling”, “Tighten Up”, and show closer (before the encore) “Lonely Boy.” While I would’ve loved a four-song encore, this is a minor quibble with a show that satisfied me — well, right down to my soles. Auerbach’s falsetto on “Everlasting Light” was *flawless*, and they poured everything they had into the grand finale “I Got Mine” — one of my personal favs.

Both bands could’ve played longer as far as I was concerned. As I said in my three-word Twitter review: MORE BLACK KEYS. And as I said to Dan as I reluctantly left the Consol Center: “We’ll be seeing them again.”

The Year of Social Media

For me (and maybe for many of you), 2009 will be remembered as the year that social media changed my life.

It hasn’t been a huge, dramatic sea change. I haven’t discovered a new religion or, you know, started eating meat again.

Let’s see if I can convey this adequately in words.

Becoming a parent can be extremely isolating. Within the last five years, I had two babies, moved to the suburbs, went from WAHM to SAHM to WOTHM. While I still keep in touch with a handful of IRL friends (without social media, too), I have lost touch with many more. Friends I went to high school or college with, people I moved away from when I left the South Side.

In the past year, though, I have discovered so many more people and I feel as if I’m fast on my way to becoming friends with many of them. Social media and blogging have helped me overcome the isolation I have felt since the triple-whammy of motherhood, ‘burb living, and full-time work.

I don’t know what happens in other cities, but the Pittsburgh social media scene is incredible. There are the Burgh Moms (and Dads), which is how this all started.

And then I joined Twitter. And holy cats — despite my initial skepticism, Twitter has been very, very cool. (I am on Facebook, too, but honestly, I forget about Facebook. I could not tell you the last time I checked in there. I should get on that.) And I went to Pod Camp, and learned stuff and met more people.

And Twitter spawned Tweet-ups. And tweet-ups (and blogging) spawned… philanthropy.

Stay with me here.

There are lots of causes and such on the Interwebz. But here are a few that I actually participated in, primarily because Pittsburgh peeps were the prime movers.

In March, a contingent of us Marched for Maddie.

In the past two months alone:

Burgh Baby launched Christmas Crazy and gave a bunch of toys to tots — about half a bus full — plus piles of gift cards to area shelters.

Las Velas kicked off the Make Room for Kids Fundraiser with a night of $5 margaritas and a mariachi band. All I had to do was show up and order something yummy. Ginny put the donation button on her blog on Monday, and we’re already over $7800 toward the goal of $10,000. It hasn’t even been a week. If you haven’t thrown your two cents in, go ahead and do it now.

And for this Sunday, Abby has organized a fundraiser (A Bit of Social Justice) for the CHS Food Pantry. It’s at the OTB Bicycle Cafe; it’s during the Steelers game (yes, the game will be on); fantabulous prizes are being raffled off; and food and beer will be available. I had committed to going with my children, and then I got free Steeler tickets, but then we couldn’t find a babysitter. So Dan is going to the game with his cousin, and I am going to the fundraiser — with my kids; you’ve all been warned — and if you’re not going to the game, you should come to OTB Bicycle Cafe, too.

Anyway, I do have two points here, and I hope the caffeine reaches my brain so I can make them coherently.

First, these things are EASY PEASY. I cannot organize a toybox, let alone a fundraiser, but because of efforts of people like Burgh Baby, Ginny, and Abby I don’t have to. All I have to do it click a button or show up. And isn’t 95% of life just showing up? (90%? Woody Allen? I forget and I’m not looking it up.)

Second, I think, I think, that by participating in these fun, easy events, I am teaching my children something. They went on the March for Maddie with me, and they will be attending A Bit of Social Justice at OTB Bicycle Cafe. When the Girl Scouts are in the lobby of my Giant Eagle for food donations, we purchase extra and hand it over. I don’t hit them over the head with any messaging (the March was so babies could be born healthy; food donations are for people who aren’t as blessed as we are). As far as they are concerned, I want volunteering events and/or donating (we also donate a fair amount of used clothing and toys to Goodwill or at Freepeats) to just be something we do.

And, because of Pittsburgh social media, now it is. I love all of yinz.

Updated: Since I wrote this post, Make Room for Kids has raised another $1000+. Holy cats! (And, no, I’m not saying that me writing a post and another $1000 are in any way related.)

Updated again: $10,000. In five days. Wow. Pat yourselves on the back. As Ginny would say: Srsly.

G20 for Under 5

Flora: “Look, mommy! Police cars everywhere.”

We live by the airport, and there are indeed police cars everywhere.

Me: “Yes. There are very important people in Pittsburgh the next two days, so they have lots of police around to protect them.

[after a pause]
Me: “Do you know who the President of the United States is?”

Flora: “No.”

“Okay. The President is in charge of the United States.”

“What’s his name?”

“His name is Barack –”


“Ba-rack –”


“Ba, Ba, Barack Obama. Can you say that?”

“Oh, I thought you said Gock.”

“No, honey. Barack Obama.”

“Ba-rock Obama.”

“Very good.”

“Look, more police cars.”

“Yes there are a lot of police cars.”

“Where is the police station?”

Pointing, “Over that way.”

“Let’s go see more police cars!”

“No, honey, look. We just saw four. And there’s five, six, seven… and eight.”

“Eight police cars! Let’s go see 100 police cars.”

“We would have to go downtown for that. And there’s no way.”

What She Said

I have been meaning to write about the state of the arts (and of our libraries — that will have to be another post) in Pennsylvania, specifically of course, Pittsburgh. How important they are; how we have to save them. Think of the children. (Seriously, think of the children!)

But RockingPRGirl did it for me. Thanks, RockingPRGirl!

I am directly reproducing the following from her site:

Pennsylvania residents, here’s what you can do to take a stand against the elimination of the PCA and arts funding:

• Sign the “Save the Arts” petition to show your support.
• Write to your local representatives.
• Read your local newspapers (with a suggested search key word of ‘arts funding’) to stay in the know.
• Rally your friends and family behind the cause.

She said it better than I could.

Welcome Back, Lord Stanley

As I’m attending my 20th high school reunion today, I was going to write about my high school experience (mostly good).

But then something happened to mess with RPM’s night off (mostly bad), and I thought I was going to have to post this again.

But instead, reinforcements came through, and I got to watch this at Bocktown.

I probably owe my MIL some hard labor, but it’ll have been worth it.

What a season. Go, Pens.