A Very Professional Interview with Johanna Stein, Author of How Not To Calm A Child On a Plane

Vomit-covered hands.

Dead body discovery.

Foul-mouthed, pot-smoking parents (well, mostly Dad).

A smuggled placenta.

What’s this, you ask? The next episode of Pretty Little Liars? (Does that reference work here? ‘Cause I’ve truthfully never seen the show and had to Google “popular TV series” in the name of a relevant comparison. How’d I do? I shoulda went with The Good Wife, huh?)

What was I saying?

Oh yeah. Vomit, death, F-bombs, and illegal placentas. ALL part of the gut-busting book, How Not to Calm a Child on a Plane and Other Lessons in Parenting from a Highly Questionable Source by the absolute riot of a woman and writer, Johanna Stein. You know how Buddy the Elf‘s favorite is smiling? Well, my favorite is laughing, and Johanna made me do just that on almost every page of her book. I love me a strong voice in writing, and that’s exactly why I couldn’t put How Not to Calm a Child on a Plane down. I even abandoned my good friends Jonathan and Drew Scott a few nights and opted to read instead of salivate over Property Brothers. The brothers and their seemingly nonchalant coiffed heads aren’t bad, but their kitchen designs are orgasmic.

Anyway, Johanna doesn’t write; she creates. She creates this world with vivid colors and hilarious characters and describes them in such a way that you feel like you’re on this acid trip of funny with her. And as a mom, I appreciate that she is honest about this thing called parenting. It’s full of love, upchuck, laughs, and nipples that will never again point in the same direction. <— just one of the 29 things she has lost since pushing out a human.

Johanna gets parents; she wrote this book for us. She captured the mama in me with the traumatic “Binky War Diaries,” and her genius “Marriage Quotient” had the wife in me pumping my fists like, THIS FALSE MATH MAKES TOTAL SENSE! And if you want to cringe along with her (then giggle because thankgod it’s not me), don’t skip “The Talk” she had with her semi-voyeuristic toddler. Note to parents: lock your bedroom door, mmmkay?

Nothing I write can do the brilliance that is this woman’s voice justice, so I’m giving you a sneak peek into the afternoon we spent together so you can appreciate her irreverent humor for yourself.*

*afternoon together, brief email communications–what’s the difference, really?

Johanna was kind enough to entertain my crazy (because she is emphatically crazier than I; just love that about her), and answer some very pressing questions pertaining to some very important topics like how GD leaf blowers are so annoying and why she would wear a rubber suit with built-in ladyscaping again.

Fill-in-the-blank fun with Johanna Stein


1. The first thing I think of when I wake in the morning is Why does my mouth taste like the inside of an elderly man’s sock?


2. If I could rid the world of one thing it would be Leaf blowers, the high-pitched droning sound of which makes me want to crawl up inside my rectum. A close 2nd: Poverty.


3. Given the opportunity, I would go back into time and change the perm I got in 1984. I think the stylist must have over-shot the timer by about 4 days – I say that based on the fact that my head looked like a torso illustration from a 1970’s Sex Education handbook. 


4. My favorite part of being a Mom is  The built-in excuse generator. “Sorry, we can’t make it, the babysitter just cancelled!” (Though it occurs to me now that I probably shouldn’t have revealed that…. so let’s go with “it allows me to access a primal form of love that I never knew was within me”. Or some crap like that.)


5. The part of my book I like the most is The cover! It’s so soft and silky, I don’t know what it’s made of but it feels like the soft underbelly of a newborn puppy.  (Seriously, if you find yourself in a Barnes & Noble, go cop a feel. You’ll thank me.) I sincerely hope that they didn’t make it out of the skin of newborn puppies — but if they did, I have to say it was worth it.


6. If I could have one parenting super power, it would be the ability to talk to inanimate objects and apologize to them for the indignities they are forced to suffer. Like that Barbie shoe that my daughter shoved up her nose when she was a toddler. No tiny, adorable piece of plastic footwear deserves that.


7. I knew I wanted to write a book when I realized that I could wear the same pair of sweatpants for 3 days straight and still call it “working”. 


8. My favorite adult beverage is  I rarely drink but when I do I LOVE a St. Germain Gin & Tonic. I can only handle a half glass before I find myself in the fetal position under a coffee table, but dear Heaven, it is delicious. 


9. I hate the trend/cliche _“Because: (blank).”_______ in writing because: Lazy frickin writer.


10. I felt _proud, invincible, and like I just might be a teeny bit psychotic  after smuggling my placenta out of the hospital.


11. The only thing worse than a child freaking out on a plane is sticking your hand into a barfbag filled with the fresh vomit of a total stranger.


12. If I teach my daughter only one thing, I want it to be how to give an old woman the best foot massage of her life. (Just planning for my future.)


13. My unnatural fear of uncovering dead bodies originated from my parents taking me to see “Night of the Living Dead” when I was seven. But I guess that was an honest mistake on their part – the title is so misleading. They probably thought it was a sequel to “Herbie the Lovebug”, or “That Darn Cat.”


14. I wouldn’t be caught dead… this is difficult to answer, as I have no shame whatsoever, and there aren’t many things I wouldn’t be caught dead doing. Cases in point, THIS:

Johanna Stein: "Life of Mom", a web-series that I did for Yahoo! (http://jojostein.com/video/life-of-mom-how-to-guide-your-future-teen/).

These are from “Life of Mom“, a web-series that I did for Yahoo!  
I think you’ll agree that they clearly demonstrate my complete lack of shame. And integrity. And common sense. 
You need Johanna’s funny ha-ha’s in your life. Did you just read that as Johanna’s funny hoo-ha? Quit looking at her crotch, you perv. Seriously, go buy her book, but not before checking out her website, jojostein.com, and her Facebook page. The lady is kind of a big deal; she’s a writer, producer, director, actor, AND mother who has worked with Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, PBS, HBO, and other places that are listed on the back of her book. BUY HER BOOK!

To purchase her book through Amazon, B&N or Indiebound, hit up: http://jojostein.com/books-writing/


Full Disclosure: this is not a sponsored post, nor did Johanna ask me to write it. I was, however, contacted by a lovely lady at her camp and asked to read the book. I was all, yeah lady, sure, like I have the time. Then I got it, read it, and peed the bed. I peed the bed because I sneezed, so that’s pretty much an irrelevant detail, but this is about full-disclosure, right?

Author Signature


  1. Making tracks to this book! Thanks for introducing Johanna to us, Steph. Laughing is my favorite too, plus anyone who respects the foot massage is after my own heart…

  2. Her book is on my bedside table and now I am going to have to put down whatever it is I am reading and start it. Pronto. Because dead bodies. Oh, wait, f*uck….I am such a lazy writer!!!
    Can I start over???

  3. Great interview, and the book sounds hilarious! I must get this book immediately. As in, if I don’t get it my entire vacation will be ruined. Driving to Barnes and Noble right now so I can wait in the parking lot until they open, like some kind of deranged stalker.

  4. Great interview! Smuggling placentas out of the hospital and giving old ladies foot massages, this is the book for me!!! Sounds hysterical! Congratulations!

  5. This book sounds hilarious! Putting it on my list. Thanks for the great interview, Steph!!

  6. Ditto, Kathy! This is on my list now. I had to read the sentence, “The only thing worse than a child freaking out on a plane is sticking your hand into a barfbag filled with the fresh vomit of a total stranger” THREE times. Now I won’t get through life without knowing what the hell was in that bag!!!
    P.S. Love the changes to your blog! :)

    • THANK YOU for the blog compliment, Stacey! The brilliant Julie DeNeen is to thank for this! And the vomit in the barfbag is courtesy of some stranger that sat in Johanna’s seat during the flight before hers. Makes ya wanna scald the skin off of your hands with hot water, eh?

  7. I’m going to throw a pack of Depends in my cart when I buy her book. I laughed just reading this interview … So I can only imagine the incontinence reading her book! (Because: birthing babies) Which sounds like a perfect way to spend my beach vacation: reading, laughing and peeing my swimsuit.

  8. OMG, I simply MUST hear the back stories on all those teasers!

  9. Oh my goodness…this post came at the PERFECT time. I am in dire need of a new book AND a good laugh, so I’m off the download this to my Kindle right now.

    Question: Did # 11 really happen?

    (Please say ‘no’, please say ‘no’…)

  10. LOVE IT! Thank you for the intro to such a fabulous, funny lady!

  11. I totally read hoo ha, because I’m a sucker for some drawn on lady fur. Also, when I’m flying with my kids later this summer, I’m steering clear of barf bags, unless we are adding vomit to said bags. In addition to avoiding prepuked bags, I’ll be reading this book.

  12. You had me at ‘dead body discovery’ when I saw the first few lines of your post in my blog list!
    Not that I am obsessed with anything horror related at all….la la la

    My daughter is 20 years old but I am tempted to order this book for the Kindle immediately as I LOVE laughing.

    As for night of the living dead I introduced my mother to it when she was 35 and I was 12 and I am sure that she was scarred for life.

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