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This is what Gwen Stefani’s “Truth” sounds like

The first concert I went to with my friends was in February 1996. I was a senior in high school, and a group of us drove two hours to see Bush. We were all there to see Gavin Rossdale & company, but all we talked about on the way home was Gwen Stefani and No Doubt. By the next day we all owned copies of “Tragic Kingdom.” (I still have mine.) No Doubt was good, but Gwen Stefani was great. She was all energy and electricity, and it’s no wonder that Gavin fell for her.

Yeah, it was that tour. The one where No Doubt opened for Bush, and Gwen and Gavin fell in love. All of which paved the way for Gwen’s new album, “This is What the Truth Feels Like.” It’s all about old, broken love and exciting, scary new love, and it’s pretty personal stuff.

"This is what the truth feels like"Some of the lyrics on the new album — from “I don’t know why I cried, but I think it’s because I remembered for the first time since I hated you that I used to love you” to “I feel worthless, I’ve been hurt so bad, I get nervous you won’t love me back” — seem so personal that I felt a little weird listening to them. Like I was reading her personal emails to Gavin Rossdale or Blake Shelton. Of course, this isn’t the first time Gwen has written pretty transparently about a relationship. Most of “Tragic Kingdom” is about her breakup one of her No Doubt bandmates, but even 20 years after that album her lyrics strike me as shockingly frank.

“This is What the Truth Feels Like” is just as confessional as “Tragic Kingdom” was, but its sound is far less raw. Gwen’s look was more track star than movie star two decades ago, and her music now sounds more recording studio than garage band. A couple of tracks on the album, such as “Misery” and “Asking 4 It” (featuring Fetty Wap!), sound like they would be right at home on the soundtrack of a high school romance movie. I like high school movies, so that’s not a bad thing. Other songs are decidedly more post-graduate. I’m looking at you, “Send Me a Picture.”

For an album that came out of what had to have been a very upsetting and confusing time, “This is What the Truth Feels Like” is packed with danceable tracks. And when I say “danceable,” I mean I can very easily bounce around the kitchen to them while I’m making dinner. People who actually know how to dance would probably find songs like “Naughty,” “Make Me Like You” and the scorned-woman anthem “Red Flag” actionably danceable.

You can buy “This is What the Truth Feels Like” starting today at iTunes, Target and other retailers.

Disclosure: Nichole participated in this sponsored album review program as a member of One2One Network. She was provided the album to review, but all opinions are her own.

Green peas, glitter and a lifelong aversion to crafts

I didn’t spend a ton of time at my paternal grandfather’s house when I was a kid, but the few memories I do have of being with them are pretty vivid. I remember laying on their floor in front of their TV watching a VHS of “Savannah Smiles,” a winning and winsome tale of accidental kidnapping. I remember a weird and fascinating lamp they had hanging from the ceiling that featuring a lady in the center who was surrounded by strings that had oil dripping down them. It was mesmerizing.

And I remember Betty’s craft room.

Betty was my grandfather’s second — and, as it turned out, final — wife. Her craft room was a Pinterest-enthusiast’s dream. She had every bead, glue gun and bauble you can imagine. She had stamps, stickers and glitter, tissue paper, ribbon and a hundred varieties of scissors. And I have no idea what she did with all of it because she only let me in there to get crayons from the crayon drawer and coloring books from the coloring-book shelf.

When I was in kindergarten or first grade, Betty came to Grandparents Day at my school to have lunch with me. I embarrassed her by pulling my plate away just as she tried to put peas on it. The peas hit the floor, and she was not pleased. I’m not sure that particular incident is the reason I wasn’t granted free reign amongst her craft supplies, but it certainly couldn’t have helped things. I’m not going to say that Betty is to blame for my aversion to crafts, but that incident in the cafeteria was clearly traumatic for both of us.


My children enjoy a good craft project, which could have been most unfortunate for them because in addition to not having a fully stocked craft room, I am very bad at thinking up good craft projects. Fortunately for Poppy and Pete, they are being raised in the Pinterest era. So I have 24/7 access to the best crafting minds on the internet, and I make frequent use of that modern-day blessing.

The first day of Spring is just a few days away, so I’ve been compiling a list of easy, cute and Springy arts and crafts projects for the kids to enjoy. Hopefully I’ve squirreled away enough coffee filters, paint and toilet paper rolls to make a few of them.

Follow Nichole’s Spring Art Projects board on Pinterest.

Not surprisingly, there are a lot of floral-themed art projects out there. That Artist Woman’s paper hyacinths and found-poetry nests and this up-cycled bouquet from Chica Circle are stunning, but the very easy cherry blossom pieces from Alpha Mom and Kim K are probably more my speed.

I’m positive I don’t have all of the materials required to make these wax-resist bunny garlands from Housing a Forest, but I think you could make the bunnies using pretty much any sort of colorful, abstract artwork. I also don’t have the yarn I’d need to make this texturized bunny silhouette from Katie’s Crochet Goodies, but I might have to fix that because I love it. In non-mammal news, I also love the sweet and spiky baby chick from All Free Kids Crafts. Who would’ve thought you could paint with a fork? (Art teachers and other creative folk, that’s who.)

I have a beautiful Pysanky egg that a neighbor made for me about a decade ago, and I always put it on the mantle in the springtime. (I also put up the one I made, but it is… not beautiful.) I’d like to have some more permanent egg art to put on display. I think the tape-resist Easter eggs from Mom To 2 Posh Li’l Divas, the splatter-painted Easter eggs from Hands On As We Grow or the marbled Easter eggs from The Chocolate Muffin Tree would look pretty great on the wall.

How about you? Was your childhood wrought with arts & crafts?

Turning the kids into responsible humans is an ongoing process

My intention when I sat down at the computer this evening was to write a Pley-inspired post about How I Teach The Children About Responsibility. I was going to write about how it’s our job as parents to help our children to grow into functional and dependable adults, and that we have many tools at our disposal to that end. I was going to share some of those tools, and I was going to allow you to bask in the stern but warm glow of my parenting insights.

But then I got distracted by some cat-print leggings, which naturally sent me down a rabbit hole from which I didn’t escape until I hit the bottom. And when I say “the bottom,” please understand that I was considering buying this:

I talked myself off this sartorial ledge.
I rarely ever wear the Darth Vader dress I already own, so I talked myself off this sartorial ledge.

Yeah, it’s a caped dress adorned with a bedazzled Darth Vader head. And yeah, for a brief moment it was in my shopping cart. But then I reminded myself that I rarely ever wear the Darth Vader dress that I already own, so I closed those tabs and started typing.

And then I was so into “Carefree Highway” that my words slipped away on me. (And then of course I had to look up the lyrics to make sure I was using them accurately.)

And then I remembered there were Thin Mints in the cupboard, so I had to go to the kitchen to eat one the remaining three.

And then it was my turn in my ongoing game of Facebook Scrabble with my dad, and when the game ended (I lost, as usual) and I tried to start a new one it wouldn’t let me and so I started to wonder if my dad had unfriended me on Facebook Scrabble. (I still don’t know the answer to that one.)

What I’m trying to say is: Sometimes I wonder whether I am the ideal person to Teach The Children About Responsibility. And yet Poppy and Pete are my children, and as such I have a responsibility to Teach Them About Responsibility.

Learning how to be responsible is an ongoing and ever-evolving process. For all of us. Here are some of the ways in which Rockford and I are trying to Teach The Children About Responsibility:


Rockford and I feel that chores are an important part of teaching kids to be responsible, both as a way to be helpful, contributing members of our four-person society and as a way to make money. So Poppy and Pete each have a daily chore list, which includes things like Do Your Laundry, Unload the Dishwasher and Clean the Toilet. Their chores haven’t been required (other than the laundry one), and the kids go through cycles of being very diligent in their work and completely slacking off. Whenever they get into a slacking-off rut, we try to come up with a new way to encourage them to get their work done.

When we first gave the kids chores, I thought that money would be sufficient encouragement. But that didn’t mean much to them until I started making them buy their own ICEEs at Target. At that point, Pete began to graciously offer to treat his sister to an ICEE and Poppy graciously accepted whilst depositing her own coins into her piggy bank. Much as I appreciated his generosity, he wasn’t saving any of his money. Financial responsibility is pretty important, so we tried a new tactic. The kids put half of their allowance into The Spending Jar and the other half into The Savings Pig. I’ve told them that we’ll match whatever they’ve saved when it’s time to buy their first cars, but that hasn’t much of an impact. Pete apparently doesn’t realize how much his dream car — a limousine — is going to set him back, and I think Poppy is planning to take the bus.

The kids haven’t been doing a great job on their chores lately, so it’s time to change things up again. They don’t know this yet — or rather, they’re finding out right now as Poppy reads this — but starting this Monday we’ll be linking Chore Competition to Electronics Time.


TCBEvery homeschool operates differently, but in our homeschool there isn’t much urgency for the kids to get their schoolwork done by a specific hour. They work off of a to-do list, and I don’t keep them to a schedule on it. So long as everything’s done by the end of the day, I’m happy. My goal for now is to lead them toward taking care of business under their own initiative. Some days they do, but most days I still have to remind them to check their lists and do their work. Frequently. I am positive that they’ll get there eventually.


For us, the leaders in the kids’ extracurricular activities — particularly at tae kwon do — are playing a great role in teaching them about responsibility. Show up at tae kwon do without your belt? Don’t know your form? You may be tempted to blame your dog for chewing on your belt or your mom for not reminding you to practice, but that kind of thing does not fly over there. The instructor will call you out, fix her steely-eyed gaze upon you and say “Whose tae kwon do practice is this? Is this your mother’s tae kwon do practice? No. It is yours, and you are responsible for it.” It makes my inner helicopter parents squirm a little when such tough love is directed at my own precious flowers, but then I squash my inner helicopter parent. Because I think it means a lot for a kid to know that their parents aren’t the only people who notice or care about it when they try to slack off.

Helping our children to become responsible people is a huge and important task, and there are plenty of advice columns and talking heads out there who will tell us how to do it. But all the tools and helpful tips in the world will be worthless if Rockford and I don’t lead Pete and Poppy by example. We can tell them 1,000 times over to clean their rooms, but there isn’t going to be much weight behind the command if the floor of our room is covered with baseball cards and Micro Machines. So we try to set a good example for them by being responsible in our own lives, and we do our best to encourage them to be responsible in theirs. It’s a long and winding road that’s worth trudging down.

pleykidsDisclaimer: This is a sponsored post for Pley, which offers your family subscription access to a large selection of toys, including more than 400 LEGO sets, popular robotics toys and American Girl clothes and accessories.