Archive for the ‘
Memoirs ’ Category
Friday, February 15th, 2013
A dear, smart and inspiring author, Emily Rapp, lost her son Ronan today after a long struggle with Tay-Sachs disease. Emily’s forthcoming memoir, The Still Point of the Turning World, is one of my very top picks for 2013. I will read it soon with tears in my eyes. Here is a little more about Emily’s story directly from her press materials:
“Ronan was not expected to live beyond the age of three; he would be permanently stalled at a developmental level of six months. Rapp and her husband were forced to re-evaluate everything they thought they knew about parenting. They would have to learn to live with their child in the moment; to find happiness in the midst of sorrow; to parent without a future. The Still Point of the Turning World is the story of a mother’s journey through grief and beyond it.”
Peace be with you, Emily. Peace be with your family. Peace be with Ronan up above.
Categories: Best Of Lists, Memoirs, Mom Must Read, Must Read, Parenting Advice, Popular Books | Tags: condolences, Emily Rapp, grief, Little Seal, losing children, Ronan, Tay-Sachs, The Still Point of the Turning World
Tuesday, February 12th, 2013
Did you read Bringing up Bebe? Last year’s controversial book written by American mom Pamela Druckerman? She suggests that French parents do certain things better than we do. They sleep train their children early. Their kids eat braised leeks. They sit on the sidelines at the playground. They do not taxi their children around to a whirlwind of activities.
Everyone is entitled to her opinion, but I personally side with Pamela. In fact, she just saved me $369 because I read her new book, Bebe Day by Day: 100 Keys to French Parenting, and decided to cancel my girls’ gymnastics class. Thank you, Pamela, for that, and for writing the guest post below. She still thinks we have a lot to learn from French mamans. For one, she says Americans parent from a point of anxiety while the French try to find more calm. Ahhh.
From Pamela: “This time last year, I got a taste of America’s love-hate relationship with the French. I’d just published a book explaining what I learned from French parents about raising kids. Not everyone liked the comparison. I suddenly found myself being introduced on the radio as a ‘polarizing figure.’ One journalist wrote that before we met, she was ‘expecting someone fairly nightmarish.’
It was odd to be cast as a defender of France. Frankly, there are bigger Francophiles out there (I think Paris could be friendlier, for starters). I moved to France not out for love of it’s architecture or literature or cheese, but because I happened to meet a fellow who lived there. I liked him – and I’d just lost my job. Three kids and a French mortgage later, we’re still here.
But I have learned a bundle from the way they raise kids. French parents tend to be pragmatic. They stick with what works. In so many important realms – from food to patience to teaching babies to sleep – they have common-sense wisdom that’s worth listening to.
One of the most important lessons I’ve picked up in Paris is that a household that pivots entirely around the children isn’t good for anyone – not even for the kids. If you give children a little more independence and free time, everyone thrives. The conventional wisdom in France is that the best parenting comes not from anxiety and guilt, but from calm.
Of course, we Americans know this already. But often, the social pressure here goes in another direction. Watching the French live out these ideas – or try to – helped solidify some of them for me, and renewed my confidence.
Once the publicity storm tapered off, I realized I wasn’t alone. I started getting letters and reading posts from ordinary American parents, who didn’t care where their parenting advice came from as long as it worked. “Today my very picky daughter ate a chicken sandwich with avocado, brie and sun-dried tomatoes, no fights no tantrums,” one wrote. Another added, “Why should I feel like a lazy parent if I don’t try and force my 18-month-old to read?”
Letters like these inspired me to write a new book, Bébé Day By Day. In it, I’ve tried to distill the 100 smartest ideas I’ve learned from the French. These run from the practical (“back off at the playground”) to the philosophical (“your baby doesn’t replace your husband”). I hope they’re thought provoking, and will arm American parents to make decisions for themselves. Champagne is optional.”
Photo of Pamela Druckerman courtesy of Benjamin Barda
Friday, February 1st, 2013
Who doesn’t love polar bears? Author Zac Unger, father of three children, is kind of obsessed with them. He wrote the new book Never Look a Polar Bear in the Eye: A Family Field Trip to the Artic’s Edge in Search of Adventure, Truth and Mini-Marshmallows.
Unger had me at mini-marshmallows. (Never Look a Polar Bear in the Eye was one of my picks for 2013.) This hilarious and informative memoir follows Unger, a firefighter from California, on a journey to Churchill, Manitoba, population: 943. It’s a harsh place where one can easily freeze to death during a night time stroll. Or worse, you could be eaten by a big white mammal–this is the ‘Polar Bear Capital of the World,’ after all.
He presents the rawness of the people there. “I like to go for walks, but it’s a little awkward to push the baby stroller and carry a shotgun at the same time,” says a Churchill housewife. (The shotgun is protection from the polars, just to be clear.) Upon arrival to this world-famous tourist and scientific research destination, Unger had the agenda to write that humans are doing bad things and killing off the bears. But surprising himself, he found two sides to the story. Our society may be callous and consumer-crazy (global warming! tourist invasion!), but he’s not sure if that’s really the problem. He found out that there are up to five times as many polars alive today as there were 40 years ago.
What’s the right answer? Unger lets the reader decide for herself, and that is really cool.
Most pressingly, I wanted to get inside his head. He took his three kids and wife to the Arctic?! Unger assures me that their time was well spent. He says, “It was definitely worth missing a few months of school for!” He went on to explain what his family will remember most: “Halloween, which requires that all trick-or-treaters be accompanied by armed guards in case of bear attack. Kids are prohibited from dressing as ghosts, brides, or anything else that’s all white so that there’s no confusion over who’s a bear and who isn’t.”
Cozy up to a fire and check out this funny, insightful wintry read. Fans of Wild, Into the Wild and other outdoorsy tomes will love Never Look a Polar Bear in the Eye.
Wednesday, January 30th, 2013
Every once in a while, a writer turns up who is just that special. This is definitely the case with Glennon Doyle Melton, blogger at Momastery. She’s a hit because everything she writes runs deep and true–and makes us laugh. (You may remember her famous blog, Don’t Carpe Diem.) It’s no wonder that her upcoming book, Carry On, Warrior: Thoughts on Life Unarmed, went to
#5 #4 on Amazon this week–and it doesn’t even come out until April.
How can that happen? You have to be that special person who can move your (many, many) fans to pre-order. And that’s just what Melton did. Read her thoughts below on how her gangbuster week has been going. And listen to her wise advice: She thinks we moms should Forgive Ourselves Everyday. Melton is brilliant. Don’t miss her wit and wisdom below:
KK: Congrats on your pre-sales! How surprised were you at your early success?
GDM: I was shocked and awed. The Monkees of the Momastery (my readers) are mountain movers.
KK: What are you doing to celebrate?
GDM: There are two rugs on my bathroom floor that my dogs have peed on. When I heard that Carry On, Warrior hit the Amazon top five bestseller list, I drove straight to Target and bought two new rugs. I brought them home, laid them down, and my dogs immediately peed on those. Now I have four peed on bath rugs, which I suppose is what I deserve for celebrating so excessively.
KK: How do you juggle your writing (blogs, books) with motherhood? Do you have any advice for moms of young kids who are chasing their own dreams?
GDM: I am one of those really bad jugglers who keeps hitting other people and her own feet with the balls. I juggle poorly and clumsily and I make a hundred big and small mistakes every day. I disappoint people and I forget birthday parties and I miss deadlines. Motherhood, whether I’m with my kids all day or not, is just impossibly hard for me. I don’t think that means I’m doing it wrong, though. I think it’s just hard. Thankfully, we can do hard things. My advice is to forgive yourself over and over again forever and ever.
KK: In two sentences, what is your hot new book about?
GDM: Carry On, Warrior is about what life can be like when we come out of hiding and become shameless truth tellers. It’s about how brutal and beautiful are recovery, marriage, parenthood, friendship and faith.
Categories: Best Sellers, Celebrity Books, Memoirs, Mom Must Read, Mommy Bloggers, Must Read, Parenting Advice, Popular Books, Q&A With Authors | Tags: Amazon, bestseller, Carry On Warrior, faith, forgive, Glennon Doyle Melton, Glennon Melton, Momastery, Monkees, Monkees of Momastery, motherhood
Wednesday, January 16th, 2013
You’ve probably heard about author Dara-Lynn Weiss. She’s the New York City mom who put her 7-year-old on a strict diet and wrote about it for Vogue magazine last year. Her severe methods incited an online uproar. Sadly, Weiss got a book deal out of it.
I just read The Heavy: A Mother, A Daughter, A Diet, and I feel sick to my stomach. Weiss goes into excruciating detail about how she forced her daughter Bea to lose weight. The little girl had been gaining for several years–where was her mother then?–before the pediatrician told Weiss, “I think it’s time” to do something. Bea was in the 99th percentile on the chart and technically obese. I repeat, the child was 7.
I was a chubster in elementary school. My parents called me their “little beer barrel.” I lost some of the weight in middle school, and I lost all of it in high school when I became bulimic. I’m past that now, but I’m vigilant about what I eat and how much I exercise. This is my healthy way of dealing with my body issues as a grown up, and more importantly, as a mother.
My twin daughters are 7-years-old now, and that’s why this book gives me the shakes. Weiss has weight issues of her own, and she admits that she hates to exercise. She’s not modeling healthy behaviors for her daughter, but I get that. Nobody’s perfect. What really bothers me is that Weiss let her then 6-year-old eat corn chowder soup in a bread bowl (1,000 calories) or nearly a pound of watermelon for her snacks. A child will get fat if you buy her this much food and then let her eat it. When my girls ask for snacks, I give them a Clementine or apple slices or pretzels. Weiss contests that her daughter wouldn’t stop consuming food and was always starving. It’s the parent’s job to say, “I know you’re hungry sweetie, but you just had your snack, and we’ll have a delicious dinner in a few hours.” It’s not hard. I have three young children, and I use these exact words regularly. Kids won’t suffer if they wait for the appropriate times to eat their food in sensible amounts. Weiss contends that her daughter couldn’t “self-regulate.” Well, who can? A parent’s job is to teach a kid how to eat, what to eat, when to eat and when to stop. I do not think self-regulation is easy at any age, but we have to try.
Yes, I’m being judgmental. I feel entitled to my opinon because I was a chubby kid, and my mom let me eat Nutty Bars for breakfast, lunch and dinner. That did me no good, and it won’t do my children good. So we don’t eat like that. We are not against soda or Doritos or birthday cupcakes from Shoprite. We just don’t consume those kinds of foods often.
The most disturbing part of this memoir, for me, is how Bea is forced to be on a restrictive Weight-Watchers-like diet with her mother hovering over her constantly counting calories. First of all, why would Bea need to know she was on a diet in the first place? If the doctor told me one of my kids needed to lose weight, I would offer less food gradually without telling her. If she asked why her snacks were smaller, I’d tell her that the whole family is on a mission to eat healthier. Why burden a first grader with the seriousness of dieting? Kids don’t need to know everything. Second, Weiss gives Bea Snackwell’s 100-calorie packs and Diet Coke but won’t let Bea have a salad. Weiss tells Bea, “I’m sorry…It’s got a lot of dressing on it.” (This happened in front of company, I will add.) Weiss consults a nutritionist, but clearly not a modern one. Mark Bittman, Jamie Oliver, Michael Pollan and other experts write about the importance of whole foods and the evils of processing and chemical additives. If Weiss and her family are having health problems–why didn’t she get up to speed on this stuff? Why see a nutritionist who green lights Diet Coke?
I feel deep empathy for anyone who suffers from weight issues–especially involving kids. But this book is a dangerous read. Weiss publicly humiliates Bea by counting her calories in front of everyone, and she gives her daughter questionable foods. When she writes the Vogue article, she allows Bea to be photographed against a psychologist’s advice. (To Weiss’ credit, she regrets that now.)
At least there is a happy ending to this book. As Weiss said on The Today Show yesterday, Bea is 9 and maintaining a healthy weight. That’s great. I just hope this over-the-top, obsessive mother doesn’t cause lifelong damage to her own daughter.
For a different view, read why one mother supports Dara-Lynn Weiss: In Defense of the Mom Who Put Her 7-Year-Old Daughter on a Diet
Categories: Memoirs, Mom Must Read, Mommy Bloggers, Must Read, Parenting Advice, Popular Books | Tags: Bea, childhood obesity, children diet, Dara Lynn-Weiss, diet, healthy foods, Jamie Oliver, Mark Bittman, Michael Pollan, overweight, The heavy, unhealthy foods