Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Kids With Sara: A Conversation with Sara Walpert Foster

Today I’d like to welcome Sara Foster to the blog. I got to know Sara through Kristen Lamb's class on Blogging To Build A Brand, and very much value her offbeat take on life, a view she shares on her blog, Nobody Expects the Spanish Inquisition. We have a lot in common. We’re both trying to balance raising kids and writing and, well, all the other stuff Life has put on our list. Oh, and we’re both addicted to Pinterest. So, see? We’ve got all the tools to be BFF.
This post started out as an interview but turned into more of a conversation, because whenever the mothers of teenagers get together, the talk generally runs in the direction of how crazy they can make you. As I’m typing this, I’m staring at our Easter Centerpiece, wherein a rather dilapidated stuffed chicken is impaled on a tapered ceramic vase, wearing a pair of oversized bunny ears like a cape while surrounded by a wreath of colored eggs. I couldn’t have imagined this scene before I had children.

LR: So, Sara, was there a moment that stands out as the biggest child-related departure from how you thought life WOULD be compared with how it IS?

SWF: I’m not somebody who has my life thought out long before it happens but I must say that I expected my children to be more like me in the way they behave toward their parents. I sort of disappeared at age 13 and only made myself available to my parents at meals and family events until I graduated college (and realized that I needed them). My kids, for some strange reason, either like me or are really good actors (hmmm they both ARE into theater) and choose much more frequently than I did, to spend time with their parents.

LR: My daughter’s 14, and at times I think her nickname should be Sybil. What have you nicknamed your daughters and, more importantly, how do you COPE?

SWF: They both have the same nickname: Oscar Madison. Not that they understand the reference. I think they have a condition where it is physically impossible to pick up anything they have put down. How do I cope? Well, there’s wine. And dirty martinis. And telling my husband he’s on duty, I’m going out.

LR: My son (12 years old) tried to read my newest short story but got bored and couldn’t finish it. Kids are real good at keeping you humble. Do you use your kids as barometers of your work, or are you smarter than I am in that regard?

SWF: Wish I were smarter. Both my kids are writers but the younger one (almost 14) keep tabs on me. “When are you going to finish the novel? You’ve been writing it for my entire life. Have you got an agent yet? How come you haven’t sold it yet? Is it any good?” But I don’t let them read much since I do tend to get a little racy here and there. Not that they don’t think they’d understand.

LR: In an email you mentioned threatening to use your daughter’s laptop as a coaster so that she learns not to leave it on the kitchen island. That sounds like the kind of discipline I would use. I also liked your idea for giving the dog the lacrosse mouthguard as a chewtoy to teach your kid not to leave it lying around. I’ve used a retainer. It works. What’s been your most effective disciplinary technique and/or biggest success?

SWF: Well, I string them up by their toes . . . Naaa. I’m pretty mellow when it comes to discipline. We expect our kids to follow our rules and when they don’t, we usually take away friend time. As my older daughter nears 16, I’m seeing more sneakiness and hope that I won’t have to pull out the big guns. But respect is huge in our house and if they disrespect, things will disappear. Quickly.

LR: And, more seriously, if you could name the one thing you like best about each of your kids, what would it be?

SWF: Older daughter has compassion in spades. She may not always behave perfectly toward her peers but she truly gets when somebody is in need and she is there for her friends (and her Mom - she can always tell when I’m feeling low - takes about ten seconds in the room with me).
Younger daughter has drive out the wazoo. She does not give up on anything, even if she has to push, push, push. It really serves her in life so far. And also she still lets me hug her. Not in front of her friends, mind you, but in the privacy of our home, I get lots of love.
Now, Liv, in the spirit of BFF-ness, I think it wouldn’t be fair to let you get off scot-free. So here are my questions:

SWF: How have you dealt with the birds and the bees subject with your children and was it different with the different genders?

LR: Pretty much my daughter learned a lot about sex from watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and my son from Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert. Wow. Jon and Steven would probably be appalled if they knew that.

SWF:  How would you respond if you caught one of your precious darlings in a bold-faced lie?

LR: Cutting off computer access is a huge motivator. Just the threat keeps them honest, or it has so far.

SWF: Did you really give the dog the retainer? And are you sure you didn’t make that centerpiece?

LR: Heh. I’ll never tell.  Nah, really, the retainer was an accident (but if it happens again…), and while I might have been instrumental in assembling the centerpiece, I can guarantee you that I never owned a ratty stuffed chicken and a pair of big white bunny ears when I was a single girl.

SWF:  Best qualities of each kid?

LR: My daughter, who is 14, has always had a very strong sense of herself. At the end of 6th grade, she wanted to get her long hair cut short and bleached out. I made her wait a couple months, because a major change like that could almost be classified as plastic surgery and I didn’t want a crazed kid freaking out because she got the haircut she’d asked for. When after two months she was still pointing to pictures of the singer Pink and saying that’s how she wanted her hair, we got it done. We did compromise on the color – heavy highlights instead of platinum, b/c none of the adults involved were interested in putting peroxide on a kid’s scalp. She looked awesome, and it was such a huge confidence boost for her. And ever since, you can pick her out on the soccer field, because every other kid on the team has their long hair pulled back in a ponytail. She knew what she wanted, and even though her two closest friends were telling her not to (and her mother was skeptical), she did and proved us all wrong.
My son, 12, is a super bright kid and has a quirky sense of humor. He’s on the quiet side, and then he’ll drop these bombs and just crack everybody up. The other day we stopped at 7/11 after school to get him a snack, and when he got back in the car he told me he’d seen a tabloid headline that said, “Asteroid Storm Headed to Earth. Everyone Get Their Guns and Take Cover.”
“Yeah, like that’ll do them a lot of good,” I said.
“But it’d make a funny Southpark episode. Can you see it? All the little people out in the middle of an empty field shooting up into the sky trying to redirect the asteroids?”
Heh. Someone tell Cartman we’ve got an idea for an upcoming show.

SWF: This has been so much fun. I hope you’ll join me on my blog one day soon. Until then, see you on Pinterest. And Facebook. And Twitter. And Triberr. And any other social media excuse we can come up with. Okay?

LR: Done! I’d be happy to be your guest, Sara. Thank you so much for hanging out with me here today.


  1. Two of my favorite bloggers in one place - must be my lucky day! :)

    Great interviews, ladies! I liked getting to know you both a little more through these questions.

  2. Thanks Tami! It was a fun interview to put together.

  3. Thanks so much Liv for inviting me to this chat. It was really fun.

    And Tami, thank you.

  4. You might not have noticed me sitting in, but I absolutely loved enjoying a quickie spot of afternoon tea with you two chick-lets (oops sorry, I can't seem to get that centerpiece out of my mind!). Loved having my ear against the door for your fun chit-chat.

  5. Hehe, Barbara, if we knew you were coming, we would have baked some kind of salted caramel treat.

  6. All too soon they are out the door, and I know I know I know you are probably sick of hearing that...but it's true. In this case, it sounds like both of you are completely enjoying your children and their personalities. Carry on, moms!

  7. Hey Liv, How come you were going to bake something for Barbara. All I got was a glass of water. And I had to beg.

    Thanks for sharing in our conversation, Barbara and Jodi!

  8. Oh man, Sara! I feel so guilty now.
    At least I offered you water (or, whatever, poured you some anyway). I made Diana do the dishes.

  9. Hey, Liv! Please stop by my blog to collect an award: