Pop Culture Cheat Sheet: DECEMBER

courtesy Toby Lowenfels

As Moms, our days are filled with countless time-based decisions — apply makeup… or drink coffee? — so we can’t spare a single minute on entertainment that does not entertain. Here are your recommendations for the month – now all you have to do is take off your bra, pour yourself a drink, and settle in for these fun nuggets.

T.V. & Streaming…

Okay, I’ll finally admit I no longer have the stamina for TV shows that stretch on for 75 minutes an episode. No offense to the entire second season of Westworld, but I’ll fall asleep if a show drags on for more than 40 minutes. So, the greatest thing about Amazon right now—besides the fact that you can have three tons of cashews delivered overnight—is the new series, Homecoming. It’s a twisty thriller starring Julia Roberts as a counselor who treats soldiers with PTSD in a mysterious privately-run facility. Disclaimer: I am predisposed to love anything with Julia Roberts in it. Her extra wide smile was on every third VHS box at my neighborhood Blockbuster growing up and her presence brings me great comfort. As an added bonus, the plotline has all kinds of jumps in time and tonal shifts that will pique your interest but won’t send you into a pre-bedtime existential crisis a la Black Mirror. And the best part, my honeys, is that each episode is only half an hour long. If I didn’t have, like, 12 kids, I’d binge the hell out of it.

Mom Crush…
Jessica Kraus aka @houseinhabit

Jessica Kraus is like the Chloë Sevigny of Mom bloggers—she’s that cool. She lives with her husband and four sons in San Clemente, California, where they’re gutting and renovating their entire house. Themselves. While living in it. Can you even imagine? Sure, there are families out there that do this kind of thing, but Jessica makes it look easy and stylish. Honestly, you have to wonder if she hits the vape pen every night to sustain that kind of stress. But she’s just naturally laid back and doesn’t mind her sons skateboarding through a construction zone. I take more of a Shelley Winters approach to parenting and become an instant shrill if my boys so much as jump on the bed. So her feed—which features smart thrift store finds, beautiful beach babies and product recs—has been a useful guide for helping me to be more relaxed when it comes to roughhousing. Oh, she’s also a good writer. And that’s an extra cool find on Instagram.

Protoje, Matter of Time

Something drastic has shifted in my biology where I can no longer enjoy loud music. Maybe it has something to do with having 3 kids under the age of 5 in my house, which sounds like the Huns invading Rome. All I know is, I no longer depend on music to get the heart rate going and, instead, have a constant craving for peace and quiet. Which led me to discover Protoje, one of the main leaders of the modern (third wave?) reggae revival. Watch “Who Knows” on YouTube, and try not to smile, then listen to his new album, Matter of Time, on Spotify. It’s part hip-hop with a little rock and traditional reggae mixed in for good measure. You don’t need a white chick on a parenting site to tell you about the restorative powers of reggae—but this isn’t the same Bob Marley album you’ve been listening to since high school, I promise. This album might tide you over until you can find the time to make it to a sound bath. Or a regular bath, let’s be real.


It’s no secret that maintaining friendships when you’re a parent is hard work. (A million apologies to everybody I’ve flaked on in the past five years! I’ll buy you a drink when the dust clears…) Add that to the fact that it’s the year 2018 and social media has made all of our human interactions awkward af. Thank goodness the Friendshipping podcast has come to the rescue. Hosted by Jenn and Trin, two Chicago friends and the community directors behind Cards Against Humanity, the show provides friendship advice that’s both hilarious and useful. They answer their listeners’ questions on everything from online crushes to friendship boundaries and hairdresser etiquette. There’s 0% therapy training between the two of them but their advice is frank and sincere. And the greatest charm of the pod is the hosts’ infectious affection for each other, which gives them a natural chemistry. Jenn and Trin are at their best when they use their improv background to riff off recurring make-believe characters, which might be kind of annoying with any other crew, but they pull it off. Listening to this pair of lifelong friends will inspire you to actually pick up the phone to call your bestie instead of just sending a million texts back and forth.

Book It…
My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh

The one common denominator we have as mothers is that we all want more sleep. So I was very attracted to the premise of My Year of Rest and Relaxation, a novel about a nameless narrator who loses both her parents in the span of six weeks and goes on a mission to sleep through an entire year. Turns out, I have very little in common with the main character. But I was entertained by the beautiful blonde heiress living on the Upper East Side who consults a derelict psychiatrist to get enough prescription drugs to knock out a horse. The only other people in her life are her ex-boyfriend, a sadomasochistic finance bro, and her best friend/frenemy, who she spends her (few) waking hours avoiding. You’ll be totally drawn in by Moshfegh’s dark humor before you even have a chance to wonder why you’re supposed to care about a privileged Sleeping Beauty. The details of her experiment are richly entertaining and the setting — Manhattan, in the year leading up to 9/11 — is poignant. Highly recommended if you’re looking for a bleakly funny book to carry into winter break. If anything, it’ll make you not feel as bad about all the sleep you’re missing these days.

Toby Lowenfels is a writer and mom of three in Nashville. Follow her daily musings at @tobyfels.