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Thursday, January 9th, 2014
Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions?
Honestly, I’ve been so busy that I haven’t even made mine yet. I’ve had work, and the kids just went back to school on Monday! Anyway, resolutions can be made all year long. But it’s definitely fun to think about them in January, right? It’s a time for new beginnings.
So I was especially excited to have a phone conversation this week with Charles Duhigg, the brilliant, bestselling author of the book called The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. It just came out in paperback this week.
He told me exactly why I do what I do, how to stop it, and how to instill good habits in my kids. Also, click to the next page to see his Habit Flowchart. It’s pretty cool–you’ll understand yourself a whole lot better. (And don’t miss this story about 17 Habits of Very Happy Moms.)
KK: Why are habits so hard to break?
CD: I think the reason they’re hard to break is because when most people attack them, they do’t think about the structure of how habits work. At the root of every habit, there’s a 3-step process:
1. Cue: This is like a trigger for the behavior to start.
2. Routine: Going through the motion of the behavior.
3. Reward: Whatever you get out of the habit.
If people don’t think about those cues and rewards, there’s a real disadvantage to try to change things. You can say, ‘I’m going to be thinner,’ but if you don’t sit down and make plans and look at the cues and rewards behind the eating habits, it will be difficult to make progress.
KK: How do we start installing good habits in our young children now? You know, so they don’t watch too much TV, eat too many snacks and yell too much like I do…
CD: The number one thing we can do is help them come up with plans. My son loves the TV show Special Agent Oso. There’s always three steps to solve a problem. So whenever he has an issue, I use that format, and we go through three special steps: Breath, calm down, think. Whatever the three steps are, we make them up on the spot and go through each one. With something like this, you’re teaching them a process for understanding how to react to their own emotions.
That way, when your child (or even you) feel a trigger coming on, you have a plan to deal with it ahead of time. The reward is that you’ll feel more calm and in control. We’re teaching my 5-year-old a structure to deal with emotions that helps him stay in control in the heat of the moment.
A huge amount of success in life comes from learning as a child how to make good habits. It’s good to help kids understand that when they do certain things habitually, they’re reinforcing patterns.
You can give your child an amazing toolbox for designing his own behaviors going forward and having a lot more willpower and self-control.
KK: What are good habits to form for the New Year? How are habits different than resolutions?
CD: Like I said, a resolution is usually like a goal, and a habit is a practical way of getting to that goal. It depends on the mom. Say she wants to exercise more, snack less and be more patient with her kids. What’s the cue for exercising? Put the shoes next to bed? Change into clothes as soon as the sitter shows? And she should give herself a reward after she’s exercised. People who eat a small piece of chocolate after running do it more and enjoy it more. We end up enjoying what we do on a regular basis if we offer ourselves rewards.
KK: Okay, here’s a common bad habit: How do moms who are always on-the-go create good eating habits and stop substituting their kids snacks for meals?
CD: It’s a habit I had, too. It’s very hard to resist. Those snacks are designed to be really yummy. My advice is to anticipate. When people have a willpower failure, it’s because they haven’t anticipated a situation that’s going to come along. So put a plate of carrots out with the nuggets. Or have your own meal with your kids meal, or eat your own snack before you feed them. Anticipate that moment ahead of time and it makes it much easier to resist.
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bad habit, Charles Duhigg, good habit, habit, kid habit, new year's resolutions, The Power of Habit | Categories:
Best Sellers, Mom Must Read, Must Read, Parenting Advice, Popular Books, Q&A With Authors
Friday, December 20th, 2013
My morning Facebook check made me shaky and teary today. My friends in the young adult novel writing community were mourning the unconfirmed death of the talented author Ned Vizzini. He was the prodigy who wrote the bestselling YA novel It’s Kind of a Funny Story that also became a movie. His other teen books include Be More Chill, The Other Normals, Teen Angst… Nah and House of Secrets. I looked forward to his humorous essays in the New York Times, and I was happy to hear he had a seemingly great career writing for TV.
The rumor is now confirmed. Ned Vizzini is dead at 32 of an apparent suicide after jumping off the roof of his parents’ Brooklyn home. He was 32 and survived by his brother, wife and son.
I didn’t know him personally, but our paths crossed at young adult panels back when I was a hyperactive Scholastic author. I thought he was wicked funny, and honestly, I was totally jealous of him. He was a super talented overnight success. He was totally deserving. I just wish I had a little more of what he had.
Today I feel sad. I have dealt with depression and anxiety for years. I understand its depths and suffering. But I have never been so far down that dark hole that I attempted suicide. I just wish Ned–and others–could find peace in another way. I hope today his suffering has ended. I hope others do not judge him. My thoughts are with him and his family.
Here’s a haunting quote from the touching book, It’s Kind of a Funny Story:
“Its so hard to talk when you want to kill yourself. That’s above and beyond everything else, and it’s not a mental complaint-it’s a physical thing, like it’s physically hard to open your mouth and make the words come out. They don’t come out smooth and in conjunction with your brain the way normal people’s words do; they come out in chunks as if from a crushed-ice dispenser; you stumble on them as they gather behind your lower lip. So you just keep quiet.”
and one more to leave you with:
“Things to do today:
1) Breathe in.
2) Breathe out.”
Rest in sweet peace, Ned Vizzinni.
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Be More Chill, death, House of Secrets, It's Kind of a Funny Story, Ned Vizzinni, suicide, Teen Angst... Nah, The Other Normals | Categories:
Best Sellers, Children's Books, Fiction, Mom Must Read, Must Read, Popular Books
Thursday, December 19th, 2013
After reading and skimming more than 100 books this year it’s no easy task to tell you which ones are my favorites. But I sat down, poured a beer and perused my overflowing bookshelf. It was so much fun to revisit Pamela Druckerman‘s Bebe by Day, Christina Baker Kline’s Orphan Train and Kristine Barnett‘s The Spark. They are easily among my top 12.
But if I absolutely had to whittle it down, here are my Top 5 Books of 2013. These are the books that stayed with me all year long–the ones I went on and on about until my husband’s eyes glazed over. These titles were so fresh that I fired off Facebook statuses and emails about them.
What about you? What are your favorites of 2013?
Here are mine:
1. Lean In
by Sheryl Sandberg
She stepped up to the plate this year and said what hasn’t been said before to women. Just because women want to have families and careers doesn’t mean we need to start planning for it straight out of college. She encourages women to go out there and claim what’s ours in the workplace. Wait to figure out your next steps until you’re actually pregnant. That’s advice I wish I’d had when I was getting started in 1999. Sheryl is a cool chick who has her gender’s back on every page. Take this: “’Ask a man to explain his success and he will typically credit his own innate qualities and skills. …A woman… will attribute her success to external factors, insisting she did well because she ‘worked really hard or ‘got lucky’ or ‘had help from others.’”
2. The Still Point of the Turning World
by Emily Rapp
I’ve wondered for months how Emily Rapp is doing. She lost her dear son Ronan to Tay-Sachs earlier this year around the time her memoir came out. This wasn’t the run-of-the-mill tragedy. She was unapologetically angry and fiercely sweet. Her frustration and struggle–without the religious backdrop and sentimentality–made her achingly real. She’s real in a way that I will never forget. I’m not sorry for her. I’m inspired by her book that drips with meaning and poetry.
3. Let Them Be Eaten by Bears
by Peter Brown Hoffmeister
Thanks to this book, I’ve taken my kids hiking this year for the first times ever. Right in the beginning, he writes, “With kids, we don’t get out much. It’s too hard.” That resonated with me. I’ve been saying this to my husband since my babies were first born. Now they are 8! And they had never really been outside beyond the backyard or park. Thanks to Hoffmeister’s playful and inspiring approach, we even got our butts off the couch and went camping. I let the kids wander the playground, too, and with bare feet just to make Peter even more proud of me.
4. Orange is the New Black
by Piper Kerman
If you’re tired of books and shows about desperate women chasing dreams of men, careers and babies, this one is for you. It’s got very little to do with anything you’ve probably ever read before. This memoir, which formed the fictionalized–but equally awesome Netflix TV show–is about a nice girl who graduates from college and goes buck crazy. She lands a hot, rich girlfriend who just happens to smuggle drugs internationally. Piper runs cash in this operation just one time, and she soon leaves the relationship. She becomes a nice, normal straight woman again. But the feds catch up with her 10 years later, and she winds up in federal prison for a year while her real-life fiance waits for her. The inner workings–and indecencies–of the prison system are fascinating. Her life isn’t as whack as it is in the show, (Piper and Pennsytucky became friends for real) but Piper blasts your thoughts right open. This was a unique read.
5. Until I Say Goodbye
by Susan Spencer-Wendel
Whenever I’ve felt kind of bad this year, I reminded myself of Susan Spencer-Wendel. She lives with ALS everyday, but she isn’t sad. Instead, she does everything her heart desires, including getting makeup tattooed on her face for when she could no longer apply it herself. While she still can, she goes on an epic trip with her longtime best friend to see the Northern Lights. She takes her teenage daughter wedding dress shopping because that’s something she doesn’t want the two of them to miss. Susan’s book did make me weepy–just once–but mostly she made me laugh. Her life has purpose and meaning, and it makes me more aware of what I’m doing with my own. Her book was optioned, and a film sounds like its in the works.
Instill a love of reading in your little one with one of these children’s books. Then, sign up to get parenting tips and tricks sent right to your inbox.
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Best of 2013, Bringing Up Bebe, Christina Baker Kline, Emily Rapp, Kristine Barnett, Lean In, Let Them Be Eaten By Bears, Orange is the New Black, Orphan Train, Pamela Druckerman, Peter Hoffmeister, Piper Chapman, Piper Kerman, Sheryl Sandberg, Susan Spencer-Wendel, The Spark, The Still Point of the Turning World, Until I Say Goodbye | Categories:
Best Of Lists, Best Sellers, Celebrity Books, Mom Must Read, Must Read, Parenting Advice, Popular Books
Tuesday, December 10th, 2013
What were your favorite reads of 2013? I’ll list my Parents picks in the next few days, but today I’ve been having fun with are everyone else’s. Other editors and reviewers from Oprah and The New York Times don’t agree on many of the Best Books of 2013, as you’ll see below. Publisher’s Weekly culled through 9,000 reviews (15 I wrote myself) to come up with their choices–most I haven’t even heard of. So what should you read? I’m thinking about The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner which showed up twice–so did Good Lord Bird. The Interestings gets one nod, and that’s one I loved it this summer.
So stop what you’re doing–work and watching kids can wait. Take time to peruse these awesome reading choices below. I’m sending this list to my book club. (Hi girls!) We need a great new read to ring in 2014.
Oprah’s 10 Best Books of 2013
1.The Isle of Youth
By Laura van den Berg
The gist: A quirky story collection filled with unique and strong female protagonists.
2. Country Girl: A Memoir
By Edna O’Brien
The gist: A memoir by one of Ireland’s most famous fiction writers that has been compared to Angela’s Ashes.
3. The Signature of All Things
By Elizabeth Gilbert
The gist: This one about a strong 19th Century botanist proves that the Eat, Pray, Love writer is at the top of her game. Gilbert makes moss a fascinating subject, I hear.
4. Vampires in the Lemon Grove
By Karen Russell
The gist: This hugely creative collection of short stories–one about a vampire who’s afraid to fly and another about U.S. presidents reincarnated about horses–proves that the author of Swamplandia has staying power.
5. The Flamethrowers
By Rachel Kushner
The gist: The award-winning saga of an electric young woman’s full-throttle pursuit of love amid the class war and cultural upheaval of the late ’70s.
6. The Good Lord Bird
By James McBride
The gist: A slave boy and abolitionist John Brown change the course of American history in this novel that is inspired by real events.
7. The Interestings
By Meg Wolitzer
The gist: Through well-tuned drama and compassionate humor, Wolitzer chronicles the living organism that is friendship, and arcs it over the course of more than 30 years.
8. The Cuckoo’s Calling
By Robert Galbraith
The gist: A book for mystery lovers by J.K. Rowling.
9. Dog Songs
By Mary Oliver
The gist: This Pulitzer Prize-winning author’s combo of woman’s best friend and poetry is irresistible.
10. The Woman Who Lost Her Soul
By Bob Shacochis
The gist: What is the legacy of war—and how long does it last—are the questions behind this brilliant and gripping novel.
Publisher’s Weekly Best Books (gathered in no particular order)
1. See of Hooks
By Lindsay Hill
The gist: “Pure reading pleasure on every single page, not to mention a wallop of pathos.”
2. Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood & the Prison of Belief
By Lawrence Wright
The gist: Wright’s prodigiously researched investigation of Scientology does what good reporting ought to do: examine something in search of truth, lay out the findings, and let conclusions be drawn.
3. Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield
By Jeremy Scahill
The gist: The Nation’s national security correspondent surgically exposes how the War on Terror is actually conducted: secret prisons, torture, extralegal assassinations, drone surveillance and warfare, gamesmanship with corrupt regimes.
4. Men We Reaped
By Jesmyn Ward
The gist: Critically acclaimed novelist Ward (Salvage the Bones) bravely enters nonfiction terrain in this starkly honest and deeply tragic account of the deaths of five important men in her life.
5. People in the Trees
By Hanya Yanagihara
The gist: In this novel, a ccientist who, after graduating Harvard medical school in the 1940s, travels to a remote Pacific island chain where he may or may not have stumbled upon the key to immortality.
6. Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery
By Robert Kolker
The gist: “Even hardened true crime readers will be haunted by New York magazine contributing editor Kolker’s provocative tale of five young escorts who became linked by the tragic circumstances of their disappearances, and the discovery of their remains on Long Island’s Oak Beach.”
7. Miss Anne in Harlem
By Carla Kaplan
The gist: In this beautifully written, empathetic, and valuable addition to the history of the Harlem Renaissance, scholar Kaplan (Zora Neale Hurston: A Life in Letters) presents the untold story of six notable white women (including Fannie Hurst and Nancy Cunard, members of a larger group known collectively as “Miss Anne”) who embraced black culture—and life—in Harlem in the 1920s and ’30s.
8. Constellation of Vital Phenomena
By Anthony Marra
The gist: A Chechen village, a young girl watching her father taken by Russian soldiers and her house burned to the ground: so begins Marra’s startling debut, in which a tough doctor ponders the extent of her obligation to help Havaa, an eight-year-old girl who has been brought to the doctor’s wretched and abandoned hospital by Akhmed, the girl’s neighbor.
9. The Silence and the Roar
By Nihad Sirees
The gist: “Sirees’s deeply philosophical and satirical novel echoes Kafka and Orwell.”
10. The Good Lord Bird
By James McBride
see details above
The New York Times 10 Best Books of 2013
By Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi
2. The Flamethrowers
By Rachel Kushner
3. The Goldfinch
By Donna Tartt
4. Life After Life
By Kate Atkinson
5. Tenth of December
By George Saunders
6. After the Music Stopped: The Financial Crisis, the Response, and the Work Ahead
By Alan S. Blinder
7. Days of Fire: Bush and Cheney in the White House
By Peter Baker
8. Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital
By Sheri Fink
9. The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914
By Christopher Clark
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By Sonali Deraniyagala
Best Books of 2013, Good Lord Bird, Oprah, Publisher's Weekly, The Flamethrowers, the New York Times | Categories:
Best Of Lists, Best Sellers, Fiction, Memoirs, Mom Must Read, Must Read, Popular Books
Friday, December 6th, 2013
Former Parents.com blogger and current New York Times
bestselling author Allison Winn Scotch
wrote a cool new novel, and of course she wants to tell us about it. In her book, The Theory of Opposites
, she writes about a woman who thinks she has the perfect life–that the stars have aligned for her and her dreams have come true. Then, her husband asks for a “break,” her boss fires her and all hell breaks loose. Read this book for a fun–and sometimes sad–adventure through heartbreak and healing.
What inspired Allison to write this kind of women’s fiction? Find out in her guest blog below:
“What’s the toughest part of parenting for you, dear readers?
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For me, It is accepting that I can’t control everything in my kids’ lives. Not the day to day stuff. I’ve always been a parent who believes that children have to sort out many things on their own, and with a 9-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter, there is plenty to sort out.
Complicated friendships; homework time-management; sticking up for themselves against a not-so-nice kid who sits behind them on the bus; sibling squabbles that could potentially end in broken limbs. These are things that I happily let my kids manage on their own (unless I really do sense that a broken limb is imminent). (more…)