It’s likely that you’ve read something Kristina Sauerwein, our September Mama of the Month, has written. Among many other things, she is a prominent voice on the Internet with the ideas and advice she passes to us all with her Balancing Acts blog at BabyCenter.com. We discovered her when we had our first children and have found ourselves going back to her again and again and again since then. She hates dusting, loves ice cream and has been told she’s pickier than Oprah – we (heart) Kristina for all of that and much, much more!
An award-winning writer, editor and author who turned her passions to blogging after becoming a mother, Kristina is well known for her “mom influence” in the parenting community and her blogging contributions to BabyCenter’s Momformation.
1) What was the first thing that made you smile today?
My kids, Zoe, 6, and Ryan, 3. I was eavesdropping on them playing one of their favorite games they made up: “Mommy and Sweetheart.” One person is the mommy, usually Zoe, and the other is the baby. I just like hearing them call each other “sweatheart.”
2) What is your favorite thing to do with three hours to yourself?
Either watch HGTV or read a magazine or a novel.
3) What quality do you most admire in yourself?
I embrace people for who they are. Everyone has quirks, good and bad, and they are what make life interesting and beautiful. My daughter Zoe, for instance, is a creative free spirit. I love it and would never force her to conform just for the sake of conformity.
4) What quality do you most value in other people?
Honesty. I hate it when people act fake. As a busy mom I’ve come to value time as precious and I don’t have time for phoniness.
5) What is one thing you say to your kids that your mama never said?
“Stop playing with your penis while you’re peeing.” I finding myself saying that to my newly potty-trained son Ryan. My mom never had to say that because I am an only child.
6) What was the funniest thing your kid did or said yesterday?
Me to Ryan: “What should we do after lunch?”
Ryan: “Go to Paris.”
7) What is your motto or favorite quote?
“The days are long but the years are short.”
I’ve seen this quotes, in various forms, attributed to several sources, including Gretchen Rubin of “The Happiness Project.” It is the most astounding, truest reality of motherhood.
8) What do you love most about being a mom?
The purity of love for my children and between my children and I. There is nothing better or more life-affirming.
9) How do you and your partner reconnect?
I’ll be honest. It can be a struggle to find the time to reconnect. I’m a morning person and he’s a night owl. We usually have our kids with us. But besides the long-awaited date nights or kid-free breaks, we connect with humor. Not a lot of people know this because I am (accurately) perceived as a sweet person, but I have a sarcastic, politically incorrect, sometimes naughty sense of humor. As does my husband. We bond by making jokes our kids don’t understand or by watching a ridiculous TV show and ripping on it. We especially enjoy making inappropriate jokes about the characters on our kids’ TV shows. For instance, Handy Manny and Kelly from the hardware store? Get a room already.
10) What is the one strategy that keeps your family moving right along on a day-to-day basis?
I was an organized, neat-freak perfectionist before I became a mother. As much as it sometimes bugs me, I’ve let a lot of it go because if I’m stressing about the dirty dishes in the sink or the Cheerios on the floor, I’m going to get grouchy. And if I’m grumpy then it throws my husband and my kids off-kilter and nothing moves along. Another one of my quotes is “If mama ain’t happy, no one is.”
11) Who can you count on most when you need help?
Myself. I don’t mean to discount my family and my friends, who go out of their way for me when I need help. But I am fiercely independent and, like a lot of women, I hate asking for help. So I always seem to muster whatever strength or fortitude I need to get something done.
12) What do you view as a necessary extravagance?
Hiring a painter when we need a room done. Otherwise, it would cause big fights. My husband would be mad because he hates painting but he hates it even more if I try to paint because apparently I make a lot of drip marks. I don’t have the passion or patience for painting either–and I have an uncanny ability to spot the slightest of discolorations or imperfections, which drives my husband crazy. As much as I can embrace messes around the house, I cannot let paint imperfections go. I would totally OCD on them and it would bug any time I was in the room. (Remember how I said everyone has their quirks, both good and bad. Clearly I’m also talking about myself). As a result, we tend to go through painters fairly quickly because they end up hating me. I once had a handyman tell me in a pissed-off tone that he had once worked on one of Oprah’s homes and I was more high-maintenance than Oprah. He said it as an insult but I was THRILLED! I’m pickier than Oprah! I have higher decorating standards than Oprah! I am so awesome! ….I know, I know, how sick am I?
13) Who is a mama that inspires you? (Living or dead, real or fictional)
My mom. She’s gone through a lot and is strong. I could go on but it would be a book. Anyone who has a wonderful mom, though, can relate. A great mom is one of life’s greatest gifts.
14) What is the single most brilliant invention (gadget, product) that makes your life as a mama easier?
iPhone. I lost my phone for 3 hours yesterday and was distraught because my whole life was in there. I use the calendar, the notepad, dozens of apps, including fun and educational games for kids. On road trips or plane rides, they watch movies on the phone. I have my music playlist. I do much of my social network via the phone. Before cell phone cameras became decent, I was always the person who forgot to bring a camera to special event. But no worries now because I always have my phone–and therefore a camera. I haven’t bought an iPad yet but I’d love one because I know it would be just as life-changing and the larger screen is more user- and kid-friendly.
15) Where in the world would you most like to spend a week with your family?
I’d like to take my kids to the beach. Any beach. I’m a native of Los Angeles and I grew up with the Pacific Ocean. I now live in St. Louis. I love it and we go to a lake almost every weekend. But I’d love my Midwestern-born kids to experience the smell of salt water, the slimy feel of seaweed, the heart-stopping thrill of waves. I love dolphins and sea lions and want to share that passion. I would be at my happiest collecting seashells and sea glass with them.
17) What family tradition do you look forward to most?
Eating ice-cream for dinner. I LOVE ice-cream. My husband loves ice-cream. My kids love ice-cream. About once or twice during the summer, usually on those stifling, too-hot-to-move days, I announce that we’re going to eat ice-cream for dinner. If it sounds like a cool-mom thing, that’s a bonus because really it’s a treat for me: No cooking, no dishes, no battling over getting my extremely picky-eater Ryan to eat. I get a break and yum-yum-yummy ice cream.
18) What day-to-day achievement gives you renewed energy and enthusiasm?
Zoe and Ryan are naturally happy kids. Other parents and teachers have remarked how happy they are. I take great pride and joy in their happiness. Smiles and laughs from them give me jolts of energy and enthusiasm.
19) What is your favorite occupation?
Motherhood. Hands down.
20) Who are your favorite writers?
I love Sandra Cisneros, Ann Tyler and Elizabeth Berg because their prose is simple but beautiful. Their characters are quirky and their stories make life’s ordinary moments profound.
21) Who would star in the movie of your life?
Zoe, my daughter. Because she is dramatic like that and would be thrilled to star in a movie. Plus, we look alike.
22) If you were the lead singer in a cover band, what would be your favorite song to sing?
AC-DC’s “Shook Me All Night Long.” It’s not that the lyrics speak to me. In fact, I only recently learned that the song was about sex. (I can be dense like that). But any time I remember dancing or hanging out in the sun with my friends, that song always seems to be playing in the background. Therefore, the song makes me happy. However, I would never be the lead singer in band because, as anyone who knows me well will attest, I am a TERRIBLE singer. That’s not an exaggeration, just a fact and I am fine with it.
23) What is the one household task that you try to avoid at all costs? How do you shortcut dealing with this unavoidable task?
I hate dusting. It makes me sneeze and feel dirty because I see all the dust specks flying the air after I wipe a surface. And then I think about all the dust landing on me and I get all neurotic. Dusting is unavoidable but I avoid it as much as I can. And then I get someone else to do it