Bad Mom,  crazy stuff,  my books

My fifteen minutes of fame.

where's my make-up artist?

It’s really random how the Good Morning America shoot came about. I got an email from a producer from ABC wanting to talk to me about back-to-school photos. I was going to blow it off. Not because I’m a snob but more because I’m a terrible speed reader and I thought it was some kind of PR pitch. I get those emails all the time. They are impersonal and usually have nothing to do with me.

Luckily, I happened to be working at (my publisher) Calee’s house that day and I mentioned it to her. Calee’s ears perked right up. She told me to get on the phone and call this woman right away because maybe it could be about back-to-school and I happen to have a back-to-school book out right now. How great would that be to talk about my books on national television? Really super awesome, right?

After a quick pep talk from Calee, I called the producer. I was a ball of nerves. We talked a little bit. She seemed super nice. She has a daughter Bug’s age, etc… She’d seen my photos on Alpha+Mom and wanted to do a little story about what Bug and I do on the first day of school. I was confused because she kept asking me if I had any props for these photos that I take, like backdrops or funny signs or I don’t know, something special.

I had made a sign. It was just an 8.5×11 piece of computer paper. I also made a free printable for people to fill out but it wasn’t anything crazy. No backdrops, no professional photographers, no snow machines or giant fans. Just me and my camera. Did she want me to make something special? I could. I mean that’s what I do, after all. I am the queen of cardboard. I told her I was going to let Bug wear her cat ears in her photos, did that count? The producer said that sounded wonderful and that was that.

In hindsight, I think what happened was the producer had seen all the comments on the Alpha+Mom post and thought it had gone viral. When really what had happened was that Alpha+Mom had given away free clothes at Target on that post (the contest is long over and the contest copy removed). It wasn’t my amazing photos everyone was commenting on, they just wanted to win free clothes! But I wasn’t going to look a gift horse in the mouth. If ABC wanted to do a story on me then I was going to let them and tell them about my books while I was at it.

Little did I know this would be a big joke on me.

So, thinking quickly on the phone (not what I do best), I told ABC to film me at Calee’s house because her front door is pretty and mine is just a bunch of stairs in a cruddy old apartment complex. They obliged and we were scheduled for a shoot the next day.

Thankfully, Bug loved the idea of being on television. I don’t know what I would have done if she hadn’t—actually I do. I would have had to cancel, but that didn’t happen. Everything was a go. I went to bed that night memorizing blurbs about myself and my books. I was nervous but I was ready. I thought I would tell them how I’ve written a few books inspired by my daughter and our struggles. I was going to talk about getting ready for school and how the character Bunny is just like my daughter and how this book would be great for parents who are also having trouble getting their kids ready for school in the morning blah blah blah…it was all going to flow naturally.

Ha! Ha! Ha! I had such grand visions.

Four o’clock in the morning rolled around and Bug woke up sick. Having a kid throw up in your bed at four in the morning is not good. Having a kid throw up in your bed seven hours before a film crew is scheduled to follow you around is even worse. What was I going to do? Cancel? Who do I call? I called Calee. Of course her phone was dead. I blew up her dead phone with texts that she would never get.

Bug said she felt better. She begged me not to cancel. She really wanted to be on television. I didn’t know what to do. Kids always feel better right after they throw up so I was ready for a full day of sickness. It was going to be crazy. I figured I’d wait a while and see how things go. Probably not very smart of me.

As eight o’clock rolled around, Bug seemed okay. She doesn’t get sick that often and when she does she usually bounces back pretty quickly so I had high hopes that she was better already. Her stomach was certainly empty.

Off to Calee’s we went. Bug threw up in the car. Nothing bad. Just spit. But still!! It was getting too late to cancel now. What was I going to do? My kid was sick! She can’t be on television like this. I should have turned the car around, gone straight home and put Bug in bed and let everyone else go to hell but I didn’t. This was not mothering at its finest.

Sure enough the film guy showed up. The show must go on. I told him how sick Bug was but he didn’t really say anything. That was my problem. Reality TV is all about being fake anyway, right? He probably films sick people everyday.

We started filming a few scenes. Bug and I walking down the sidewalk to our pretend school (because in reality Bug didn’t start for another week and we were at Calee’s house, not our house) and me making her a pretend sandwich in Calee’s kitchen. It was all super fake. I don’t make sandwiches on white bread (Nothing against white bread! We just don’t like it!) and where’s the peanut butter? Bug only eats peanut butter. She’d never eat cream cheese. It was fakey fake fake. But cute. Bug was into it, sort of.

not fake at all

I kept trying to get Bug to smile and be her usual bright bubbly self but she was fading. It was so awful because normally she would have been the star of the show. She LOVES attention. She’s so smiley and silly and she says the funniest things that crack everyone up but that day she could barely keep her head up. It was terrible.

someone get me whoorl, stat

Bug was okay when were outside in the fresh air. She even perked up and acted a little silly for me when I was taking photos of her by the front door but I knew deep down that it was going to look bad on TV. I was going to look like some kind of psycho helicopter mom forcing my kid to smile and take pictures when she obviously was not into it. It was so frustrating because normally Bug is really into it. This was a fluke! Bad karma! Something kind of message from God telling me not to trust the world…I don’t know.

even sick she gave us good spy (cat) eyes

crazy mamarazzi woman

Next we had an hour of downtime while we got ready for the producer (not a reporter) to interview us. I put Bug to bed upstairs at Calee’s house and waited it out. When the hour of the interview finally rolled around, I tried to wake Bug up but it just was not happening. She needed to sleep. So we decided to go ahead with the interview with just me. Bright lights, interviewer on the other end of a cell phone and a big giant camera in my face. I could do this.

most awkward interview ever

Calee’s husband had the great idea of having someone sit across from me so that I would have a face to look at instead of pretending to talk to someone who was only on a cell phone and to the right of me, not in front of me where the camera was. This was a lifesaver. Stella, one of Calee’s other employees who also works at her house, sat in and she was wonderful. She mimed for me to fix my bra strap that was showing and to smile and to look her in the EYES instead of drifting over to the camera man who was slightly to the left.

It’s a good thing Stella was there because the interview took a complete U-turn from where I thought it was going to go. I’m sure this is my fault for being naive and hearing what I wanted to hear but I thought it was a back-to-school puff piece and I was there to talk about my books because I’m a mom and an author and I have a book about getting ready in the morning. I had NO idea it was more of a hard news piece about moms who overdo first-day-of-school photos! I was set up!! (Or just stupid.)

The interviewer kept trying to get me to say something about social media and how moms use it these days to exploit their kids. She wanted me to say I was either for it and I thought twitter, facebook and pinterest were the best inventions ever OR that I thought all the moms who did these elaborate photo shoots were crazy and taking it too far. I couldn’t say either of those things. I’m smack dab in the middle on this one. This is the digital age. Moderation is key.

But what really made it bad was that I had to repeat every question back to the interviewer in my answer. I know this is standard procedure for interviews where the person interviewing you is not on camera but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t flustered. It could be me and that I’m not used to New Yorkers or TV producers but I felt like she was trying to fluster me on purpose. At one point she even yelled at me and asked me why I wasn’t getting this simple concept that I have to repeat her question in my answer.

Well! Maybe because her questions were a million words long and included all kinds of social-media catchphrases that I don’t use normally. I couldn’t remember them long enough while I was madly trying to form my answer in my head!! But I couldn’t say that to her. She was in my face. Not literally of course. She was in my ear on speaker phone and squawking. I did actually defend myself at one point because she was getting really angry at me and she wasn’t even giving me a chance to complete my sentence. How did she know I wasn’t going to include her question at the end of my answer instead of at the beginning? It was like she was telling me what to say and when I didn’t say it, I was in trouble.

Ugh, it was terrible. I am so not made for television. In her defense, I’m sure I sounded like a blubbering idiot and she was just trying to wrap it up quickly, New-York style.

Somehow I made it sweatily through the interview (Can you see my shiny neck?) and we packed up and went home. I had a terrible feeling about it though. I had tried my best to talk about my books but they were not even part of the story. I tried to steer the conversation back to moderation but I knew I was at their mercy. They could pick and choose any awkward sound bite they pleased and I gave them plenty of them. I called everyone I knew who knew anything about news stories and we braced for the worst.

I was actually hoping they’d drop the story. It’s not like I really gave them what they wanted. It was kind of a non-story from my point of view. I think at one point I even said that parents shouldn’t spend more than ten minutes on a back-to-school photo. I didn’t know. I waited and I prayed.

And I guess God came through for me because this last Wednesday the story aired and I don’t look half as bad as I thought I would. Who knew!? The crazy New Yorker producer wasn’t out to get me after all. Or maybe it all happened for a reason. I don’t know. I’m still trying to figure it out.


  • Ninabi

    My husband and I both watched the finished result as he knows I’ve been following your blog for ages. Neither one of us would ever guess that there was so much stress behind the video or that darling Bug was sick. You did a wonderful job. I’m glad you posted and let your readers know just how much effort went into this. I think you and Bug both come across as true professionals.

  • Becca

    I second Tori’s “What a stressful day!” Because wow, it sounds like it really was. I’m sorry Bug was sick, but don’t feel too bad about not canceling. We can always look back and find something we would rather we had done different. I’m sad that they sort of tricked you, and for the interview. It sounded so frustrating. You looked great in the piece.

  • Sonja

    Uuuugh, I broke out in sympathy anxiety sweat just reading about this! I hate those situations where you think at every turn that you should stop it all now. Or now. OR NOW, WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME, WHY AM I STILL DOING THIS?!! I’m glad it didn’t end up being a terrible TV appearance, and FWIW, it was a really fascinating look behind the camera.

  • cc

    I don’t know that I would have been able to keep my cool during the interview.

    I think the piece was great.

    It showed that you’re not trying to exploit Bug and that your shoot wasn’t over the top. You just played to what Bug was into, which happens to be cat ears this year.

    Who needs a ladder and a driveway when you have paper and a front door?

  • Beachmama

    I can’t watch it up here, buti am sure you were great. So sorry your fifteen minutes of fame are awash with drama but hopefully you will have another chance since you are so awesome :)

  • Doreen

    Great job! In spite of the fact Lena wasn’t herself….no one knew it! What a great opportunity to get your books known to others, too!
    Love, ya,
    Aunt Doreen & Uncle Tim :)

  • Jen

    Good job getting through all that! I couldn’t do that in a million years. Isn’t the reality of media crazy? I think everything turned out great. I never would have known that anything had gone awry that day.

  • OMSH

    I think you did very well, but I have to admit it would have been really cool to have a photo of Bug in front of the turquoise wall with the yellow chair – THAT would have been a SAJ photo!!!

    I didn’t think any of the moms were entirely too elaborate in that whole thing…chalk on a driveway and a desk with books and an apple isn’t over the top.

    And though Bug was sick, she still looked as precious as ever. I would have been a sweaty mess – lights, camera, WATER FOUNTAIN OF SWEAT. That would have been me. You looked beautiful!

  • Kuky

    You didn’t come across stressed at all. And what was up with the title and description? How is printing out a little sign and taking pictures extreme and elaborate?! Talk about inaccurate.

    And you are too nice defending that awful producer person. Ugh, yelling at you? Was she really so condescending saying “simple concept”? If anyone was stressed it sounded like she was and she obviously did not handle it very well. How rude and unprofessional. Or are all media people like that?

  • BB from Dot

    This reminds me of what they did to Melissa at Suburban Bliss when they had her on to talk about moms having cocktails during play-dates. They made it sound like the women were all getting sloshed while their kids ran wild instead of just sipping a glass of wine. Just can’t trust those TV folks.

  • Amy

    I remember that too BB. Had her make the effort and then twisted things all around making her look bad. Thankfully that did not happen with you from the sounds of it. Going to google and see if I can see the clip. Anyone know how to find it?

  • Amy

    Duh… should mention I could not follow your link as I am from out of country :) Anyone find it on line from out of country? (BTW no idea why they limit their viewership!!)

  • I was there

    Yes, the producer was incredibly condescending. Mean, even. She wasn’t willing to do the work of coaxing a real answer out of her. Instead it felt like the 7th grade History teacher who makes you write out the whole long question when you’re penciling out the answer. Brenda did a great job of holding her ground and advocating moderation.

    Also, I agree with OMSH. Not elaborate at all. There are plenty of ways people go over the top. It appears that the 1st day of school isn’t really one of them.

  • Island Mummy

    I think you came out very well, and they got their buzzwords from some of the other interviews. None of the photos were insanely elaborate – although the last one with the desk “set” was the most staged.

    For all they kept repeating words like elaborate and extreme, none of the Mums portrayed seemed over the top to me. Certainly not you. You came off as very sweet, as you do on here.

    It’s a shame they didn’t mention your books though.

  • Amy

    Sorry, as a Canadian cannot follow the links… I am sure you did brilliantly considering :)

    My twin daughters have (on their own, cough, no stage mothering here by any means, except to drive them) have taken part as actors or back ground persons in many a movie or tv show.

    When I read of your experience with ABC news it reminded me of a day they spent filming as ‘extras’ for a ‘Reality Show” shot in nearby Vancouver BC. The entire shoot, premise and most of the people onset were volunteers just wanting to get on tv. Yet the entire experience promoted and packaged as the real deal.

    Leads me to believe not a heck of a lot that is on TV is as real as the every day person would expect…

  • Amy

    Was finally able to follow the link. You did good Mom :) In fact nothing in the clip offended me at all. Parents loving their kids was all I saw. Marking a milestone..

  • Bethany Thomas

    You were made for tv. You just have to have a beautiful face and be able to speak articulately. No worries! I’m proud of you. Good job.

  • Susan:)

    I thought the story was good! That last mom had more elaborate photos, but nothing crazy. You and Bug looked like you were just having fun and doing your thing. I had to laugh at the shot of you spreading cream cheese on white bread after you said you’d never have made that!

  • Tanya

    I was so excited to see you on my tv while I was getting ready for work! My boyfriend and I watched the piece and we thought you and Bug did great. No idea of all the stuff happening. I agree with what everyone has said – you (and the other Mom’s) came across as creative Mom’s that do this fun thing for their kids. My boyfriend and I ended up chatting about our own first day of school phots and how much cooler these are.

  • Jeanie

    Hi, Brenda,

    We were on vacation, on our way out to California. We were at a hotel in Nebraska, eating our continental breakfast in the common dining area when this story came on. I was nearly dying to tell SOMEONE ‘Hey, that’s Brenda from Secret Agent Josephine!’

    I didn’t catch all of it but I thought you looked and did great, and Bug did great, too. It was a really nice surprise on our vacation to see you and Bug.

    Sorry to hear it was more drama than you needed that day. And glad that Bug is feeling better now.