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The Truth About Parenting: Robin O'Bryant and Her "Chicks"

All we can say is, Whew! (Here, please imagine us wiping sweat off our collective brows.) Thank goodness, Robin O'Bryant and her husband, Zeb, lived far from their large respective families—she's one of four siblings; he's one of five—when they decided to get into the parenting game. Large families, by the way, that craved regular and info-packed email updates about their growing brood of children. Had they lived just round the corner, O'Bryant might never have discovered her innate talent as a Southern-style storyteller. And parents who stalk the blogosphere seeking confirmation for their worry, "No! It's not just me! It's not just MY kid who does _____!" would have one less reassuring voice. For it was in those chatty, funny, anecdote-rich emails, sent to two sets of grandparents and seven sets of doting aunts and uncles, that the one-time church missionary-turned-nurse found her voice through her muses: those three li'l "chicks," Aubrey, Emma and Sadie.

"I'd always heard, 'You're such a good writer; you should write a book.' But I never had any idea what to write about. But then when our two oldest daughters were 3 and 1, they were growing into little individuals, and all these funny things started happening in the house," O'Bryant remembers. "Of course, every grandmother thinks her grandkids are so precious that the whole world needs to know everything that they're doing. But when our friends and families started forwarding my emails to their friends and family, and when those people would Reply All saying, 'OMG! That's hilarious,' then I finally realized that I did have something to write about."

She started her blog Robin's Chicks, where she's dug deep into the nittiest, grittiest of child-rearing experiences to find the hilarity in everything parenting-related, from sleep deprivation ("If sleep deprivation is a form of torture, the CIA needs to unleash my kids on all Al Qaeda suspects in captivity. They are pros") and the 10 reasons she hated breastfeeding (Number 8: "You can get tennis elbow from it, which does provide you with prescription painkillers … that you can't take BECAUSE you're breastfeeding") to how middle-daughter Emma got to make the acquaintance of —and then cook with—the James Beard-Award-winning chef John Currence of City Grocery in Oxford, Miss.

O'Bryant's ability to find the Erma Bombeck-esque humor in the daily grind of childrearing eventually led to her own syndicated newspaper column (also called "Robin's Chicks"), where she publishes her essays a week or so before they run on her blog and then ultimately in her book. The New York Times-bestseller "Ketchup is a Vegetable and Other Lies Moms Tell Themselves," re-released earlier this month by St. Martin's Press. Unbelievably, between managing her brood, her blog and writing a second memoir, she makes time to read her own favorite blogs, such as these four, who she adores for their—well, why don't we let her tell you:

Team Engelbrecht
Jenn, the blogger, is a friend of mine from nursing school. She will tell you she isn't a blogger. She will tell you she isn't a writer, but she's wrong. She is so honest, especially about dealing with her depression and anxiety. She inspires me to hold back less in my own writing every time I read her posts. In addition, her husband is a submariner in the Navy, and they have lived in Guam, Hawaii and London with their four kids. FOUR KIDS. Living abroad. They go on vacations to Rome, Norway, Ireland, and she blogs about all of it. This is quite seriously my favorite blog to read because I love Jenn and her voice.

Lori Wescott is another friend of mine from nursing school (how about all of these nurses-turned-writers?!?!) and a fearless humor blogger of the highest caliber. She is not afraid of offending anybody. In fact, sometimes I think she tries to offend just to entertain herself. The thing I love most about Lori, aside from her super-dry wit, is her randomness. I have no idea how she comes up with some of this stuff, like the "Brantleyisms" (aka things her husband doesn't realize he says) and her signature Awkward Smoking Pictures. I suspect it's LSD, but she says she'll take a drug test to prove me wrong. She even manages to find the funny in strep throat and medical mishap.

The Drunch
Jodi Burrus blogs about everything from raising her four boys—three of whom are triplets—to book reviews and everything in between. I don't know that Jodi would consider herself a humorist even though she is outrageously funny, but what keeps me coming back for more Drunch—short for "drunken brunch" by the way—is Jodi's beautiful voice. Girlfriend is a WRITER! Her phrasing, her timing and her voice can make me get a little teary with her perspective on life and motherhood, then have me laughing at the hideousness of school picture day.

Girl in a Party Hat
Blogger Amy Silverman is mother to two daughters, Annabelle and Sophie. Amy was shell-shocked when she learned Sophie has Down Syndrome, but now she says that having Sophie is the most interesting thing that's ever happened to her. She writes candidly about raising a special-needs child and gives readers wonderful glimpses into that world when she writes about vetting charter schools for junior high; feeling robbed when Sophie's team wins a silver medal but not the gold at the regional competition for the Special Olympics cheerleading; and an essay that absolutely charmed my heart about not using the "R word" (retarded).