Archive for the ‘
Mom Must Read ’ Category
Tuesday, May 7th, 2013
I haven’t met anyone who isn’t fascinated with names. Whether you’re currently pregnant, have a 7-year-old or are 93 and living in a nursing home, I dare you not to get sucked into the delightfully detailed book called The Baby Name Wizard by expert Laura Wattenberg. It’s the carry-it-everywhere companion to her wildly addictive website also called The Baby Name Wizard.
You can look up your picks, your hates, and find out which ones are cool in different parts of the country. (Why are there so many Ezras in Brooklyn? Why do my friends from Indiana pick names like Kyren?) You can fall in love with your favorite monikers and make fun of the others. The opportunities for fun and procrastination are endless in this new, revised edition of this must-have baby-name tome. I asked Laura how this book is different from her previous installments, and she said, “I’ve aimed for a thorough revision and expansion with new features like regional name-style maps and prominent examples and associations for each name. I’ve added style categories, too, including video game names. Yes, parents are naming kids after video game characters!”
I devoured the whole book but particularly enjoyed Laura’s spirited introduction. Who knew there were rules to naming babies? She explains that Americans overwhelmingly look for unique names, and then we all choose the same ones anyway. This explains the proliferation of Peytons and Aubrees. Laura emphatically reminds readers that “parents are the ones who worry about a name standing out; kids are happy to fit in.”
She says to drop the idea of having three or four middle names–that’s not cool for the kid. She also says to go ahead and ask others for their opinions on your top choices. “Don’t let them bully you, but don’t completely ignore them either. As a group, they represent the society that’s going to be hearing, and judging, your child’s name for a lifetime.” Whoa! Her last bit of brilliant wisdom involved siblings and friends who have the same favorite names. (This always seems to happen, she explains.) Whoever has the kid first, gets the name–end of story.
Then there are the maps! OMG. Where I live in New Jersey, steady guy names like Jack, Thomas, Matthew and Adam are popular along with saintly classes such as Nicholas, Lucas, Joseph and Anthony. Meanwhile, in my homestate of Indiana, they prefer smooth gents such as Owen, Miles, Blake and Cole along with preppy cowboys like Dalton, Trenton, Brantley and Easton. See where I’m going with this? Once you start with Laura’s brilliant, curated collection, you just can’t stop.
The Baby Name Wizard includes well-researched and entertaining details on every single page. Laura truly goes above and beyond the call of baby name duty to give her readers the scoop. This book is like eating a delicious sack of potato chips except it won’t make you fat. Thanks to Laura, I know exactly what to buy for two upcoming baby showers.
P.S. Laura is fantastically cool–just check out our interview with her on In Name Only: The Ultimate Baby Names Blog.
Thursday, May 2nd, 2013
What do parents do differently in Finland, Sweden, Germany, Japan and other countries? Christine Gross-Loh, a mom and Harvard-educated expert, has lived all over the world, and made it her goal to find the answers. I can’t wait to read her new book, Parenting Without Borders, that comes out today.
Here’s a preview: Guatemalan children don’t go through the terrible twos and Italian children love to eat healthy food. Finnish kids have the highest test scores and get the most recess. Intrigued, I asked Christine to tell me more. She even picks her favorite country and gives reasons why. (You’ll be surprised!)
KK: In three sentences, how would you describe your book?
CGL: Parenting Without Borders is about surprising lessons I learned from other parents in other cultures about raising kids with less stress, more joy, and more conviction. While some of the thinking I encountered was sometimes just about the opposite of ours (for instance, in some countries, such as Norway, people say that you keep your child safe by letting him take some risks so that he can learn how to hone his inner judgment about his capabilities, while in our country we tend to keep our children protected from risks until we deem them ready), I came to see how we American parents could benefit from taking a fresh look at our own assumptions. Seeing that there are so many ways to define good parenting and so many ways for children to thrive has made me a more relaxed parent.
KK: What are the three most helpful parenting tips you’ve learned from other cultures?
CGL: 1. To be careful not to get in my children’s way too much. Kids in other cultures experience more autonomy and independence, and are given the message that it’s okay to make mistakes, to stumble and fall–this is part of growing up. Research shows this approach has lots of benefits.
2. At the same time, we could take a more concerted role in certain areas, such as teaching eating as a life skill, teaching children patience and respect for others (it’s not stifling them; it’s giving them some great tools), giving them responsibilities around the home, and not pulling back as much as we are told we should when they become adolescents. Young adolescents who know that their parents have expectations for them tend to do better in school.
3. Don’t feel you have to do it alone. It’s the norm in most cultures for parents to be supported by others (extended family or a community of friends). It’s good for our kids to bump up against all sorts of people and perspectives and it’s good for us too, not to feel like we are solely responsible for how our kids turn out.
KK: What is your favorite country you and your family have lived in and why?
CGL: I write about Japan a lot in my book because we lived there for so long that our kids think of it as a second home. There is lots to love about the country: Young kids have freedom to roam there, children are given more time to play (academics don’t start till grade 1 and kids have plenty of recess, art, gym, and music class), and it feels like a whole community is on the same page about expectations for kids, which helps take the burden off of you as an individual parent. You know other adults around you will help reinforce and back you up. But I have to say our favorite place to be is right here in the U.S. What I love about parenting here is our positive spirit; how much we want to do well by our kids, and how open-minded we are. We are very willing to consider all sorts of perspectives.
Tuesday, April 30th, 2013
Want to know what it’s like to be raised by a Tiger Mom? Want to know why parents–I’m guilty–need to keep our Type A, super-controlling tendencies in check? Kim Wong Keltner, author of Tiger Babies Strike Back gives us rock-solid reasons why should take time to really see our children, ease up on their schedules and love them unconditionally. Check out what Kim has to say:
“Tiger Babies Strike Back is about being raised by a Tiger Mom with high expectations whom I could never satisfy despite the highest grades, perfect test scores, and my best efforts to please her. Now I have a daughter of my own and I’m determined to raise her with more hugs, laughs, and encouragement than I ever received. This book is about being the grown-up daughter of tough immigrants, but raising an American child to be her own individual self without crushing her soul with my own wants, hopes, and egotism.
A parent can convince herself that she is pushing her kid for her own good, but I feel like my cousins and I were pitted against each other in competition so our parents could brag to each other. And we, the kids, who were just trying desperately to please them, didn’t feel loved for who we were, but we existed as trophies. You’ve heard of trophy wives? We were trophy children!
Tiger Parents are not just of Chinese descent. I’m talking about anyone whose parenting style is of the my-way-or-the-highway variety. Tiger Moms are control freaks gone wild, and they are passing off their methods as superior. And to that, I say, “Are you kidding?” What part of, “stop micro-managing me” do they not understand? I want to laugh, but really, a parent making you feel like you are not good enough no matter how hard you try is not very funny.
I am a very attentive mother to my daughter, Lucy. She is nine-and-a-half. My husband and I are attempting the slow, cumulative work of exemplifying compassion, kindness, and gratitude. It’s an incremental, drawn-out, marching-ever-forward process to teach our kid to be true to her word, and to figure out what it means to have personal integrity.
We need cleared space in our heads so that we can listen for the clues from a kid’s interior world. My daughter’s concerns are expressed like tiny yelps from Whoville, and I feel that if I’m not already listening for it, the small voice will be lost in the background noise of homework, dancing lessons, swim class, and everything else.
I believe we can help our children best by forcing ourselves to slow down. Sometimes it’s the most difficult thing to do. Really, how much more can I possibly talk about Garfield, listen to knock-knock jokes, and draw pictures of kittens? But someone has got to do it, and that someone is me. I am in the trenches with recycled bubble wrap and Elmer’s glue. It’s where I need to be. I’ve got to stay flexible, shift gears, and constantly rethink my own mental state if I’m going to preserve my kid’s bright-eyed love of life, her natural exuberance, and her ability to enjoy learning instead of just jumping through the hoops of rote memorization for school.
From the moment Lucy was born, I looked into her eyes and whispered, “I see you.” When I was a kid, that’s all I ever wanted to hear, to know in my heart. I wanted to know that someone saw who I was inside. But instead, my family focused only on practical matters. After I participated in all my activities, and obeyed all the rules, when would anyone ever see who I was, or ask what I’d like, or what I wanted? Would I ever have time just to stare into space and try to figure out exactly what that might be?
Let’s help our kids figure out who they want to be by not eclipsing their fragility with our own overwhelming desire for “success.” They will achieve their own personal bests if we can manage to just get out of their way.”
Monday, April 29th, 2013
Nia Vardalos, from My Big Fat Greek Wedding and Instant Mom, isn’t the only one talking about adoption this month. Another beautiful book just came out, Carried in our Hearts: The Gift of Adoption; Inspiring Stories of Families Created Across Continents. It’s a poignant collection of essays about everything choosing the child, making a journey to meet her and coming face-to-face for the first time. Dr. Jane Aronson, adoption expert and Worldwide Orphans Foundation, is the editor of the collection.
The publisher, Tarcher/Penguin gave me permission to excerpt one of the essays by adoptive dad Claude Knobler. Read his lovely story about a Jewish family adopting a Christian boy from Ethiopia:
“It was a lot easier before my son learned to speak English.
My wife, Mary, and I adopted Nati from Ethiopia when he was five years old. He spoke no English and we spoke only three words of Amharic, the language of most Ethiopians. When I flew with him from the orphanage in Ethiopia back to our home in Los Angeles, he was astonished not only by the airplane but by the escalator in the airport; most everything was new to him. Here are the three words of Amharic I knew. Shent, which means “pee.” Baca, which means, “enough.” Ishi, which means, “it’s okay.” Put them in any order you like and it’s still not much of a conversation.
How did we do it? How did we introduce a five-year-old boy to kindergarten, car seats, TVs, French fries, two dogs, a house, and his new brother and sister? How did we teach him English? How did we manage to communicate anything at all? It was easy.
Yes, I do remember hearing Nati demand something that sounded like “meso” from the backseat of my car. It took 10 minutes to figure out he was hungry, another ten minutes to figure out he wasn’t asking for a Mentos candy, and a full week before I found out that what he wanted was an Ethiopian stew he’d been missing. But that, all of it, was the easy part. We pantomimed for each other, and when all else failed we spoke English very loudly and slowly and hoped for the best, and more often then not, we got it. What was really hard came long after Nati learned English and what we probably should have always known: knowing the same words can be very different from speaking the same language.
Imagine cooking a meal. Or better yet, imagine you’re my grandmother and you’re cooking a meal. You’ve got some chicken, some matzo balls, maybe some carrots and vegetables. A stove, a pot, and an hour or two of cooking time and you’ve got enough chicken soup to make a nice meal. Now imagine that someone gives you a bunch of Ethiopian spices, some berbere, a bit of wot kimen, and a pound of mitmita, and then tells you to use all of them when you make tonight’s dinner. You might, if you were a very good cook, come up with something interesting. On the other hand, you certainly wouldn’t be making Grandma’s chicken soup anymore.
My new family is a lot like that imaginary meal. I like to read. My wife is a sweet, funny, kind woman who would rather endure oral surgery without Novocain than brag about any of her many accomplishments. My son Clay is verbal and witty and doesn’t like it when I say unkind things about anyone, including politicians and fictional characters. My daughter, Grace, loves to make art, take pictures, and watch bad reality TV in bed with her mom. And then there’s Nati.
Nati, who is so confident that on his first trip from Los Angeles to San Diego, when he’d been here all of six months and was all of five years old, he told me in his broken English, “No, Dad, drive the other way. It’s the other way!” Nati, who said, while talking to a hotel desk clerk in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, “English is easy! Also, I know how to dance really well!” Of course, he said that in Amharic, since he did not yet speak a single word of English, but still, he made his point. Nati, who when he’d been here one year asked if he could build a lemon-aide stand near where someone was selling their house so he could get more foot traffic. To say that Nati can be loud doesn’t do him justice. To say that he has charisma doesn’t begin to tell the story. Put it this way, I spent the first three years Nati was here searching in vain for a dial to adjust his volume. It is, I used to think, as if somehow my family and I adopted a small, black Liza Minnelli. Nati is all singing, all dancing, all the time. All. The. Time. We had been a family that sought compromise: Nati loves arguments and winning. We had been a family that valued gentle kindness: Nati loves action, noise, and excitement. We were Woody Allen and Neil Simon and generations of borscht belt humor: Nati is pratfalls, pie-in-the-face gags, and all Three Stooges rolled into one.
I knew Nati was black and that we were white. I knew he’d been Christian and that we were Jewish (surely the chicken soup metaphor tipped you off, right?). I knew that he spoke not a word of English and that we spoke only three words in his native tongue. What I did not know was that our real differences were deeper and more mysterious. My son has been my son for eight years now. I’m somewhat ashamed to have to admit that I spent the first six of those years trying very hard to force my loud, exuberant, competitive, goofy boy into becoming a quiet, neurotic Jewish kid like I’d been. I did it with the best of motives. I wanted him to be gentle. I wanted him to do well in school. I wanted all sorts of perfectly reasonable things, but in the end, what I wanted him to be was more like me.
And this is where I get to the happy ending. This is where I say that I’ve come to love my son for exactly who he is. This is where I say that I’ve stopped looking for the volume switch to quiet Nati down, that I’ve come to appreciate the great multicultural mix that is my family. And there are days, more and more of them, where that’s exactly true. There are days when I want nothing more than to enjoy all the laughter that Nati brings to our family. There are days when we are perfect just as we are. But it’s also true that eating chicken soup with berbere takes a lifetime of practice. My family is as big as the globe, Ethiopian and American both, and I will, I suspect, spend the rest of my life coming to terms with what all that means.
Nati learned English very quickly. He was fluent before he’d been here a year. But then, it’s easy for a father and son to speak the same words. It’s learning to hear and understand them all that really takes practice.
Categories: Guest Blogs, Memoirs, Mom Must Read, Must Read, Parenting Advice | Tags: adoption, Carried in Our Hearts, Claude Knobler, Dr. Jane Aronson, Ethiopia, Ethiopian adoption, Instant Mom, Nia Vardalos
Wednesday, April 24th, 2013
Macmillan books gives you this challenge: Download their audio books and workout while you listen! Don’t wait, do this now. I’ve written before about how much I love Audible books–they will change your life. And if you walk or run while you enjoy them, you’ll get healthier, too. I can’t think of a better way to make sweating more fun.
Here are three books Macmillan editors currently recommend for their Listen While You Workout campaign: Family Pictures by Jane Green, read by Amy Quint, Secrets from the Past by Barbara Taylor Bradford, read by Stina Nelson, and Don’t Go by Lisa Scottoline, read by Jeremy Davidson. Each book involves parents and children involved in complicated situations that require them to rethink their definition and understanding of family, but in very different ways. And I hear they are all juicy and fast-paced–perfect for that spring run or indoor treadmill! I also highly recommend Kristin Hannah’s latest release from yesterday called Fly Away.
On their Facebook page, you can join the group and log in how many minutes you listen and sweat. They hope to get everyone into their books and into the workout groove this may. Check it out.
Categories: Best Sellers, Fiction, Mom Must Read, Must Read, Parenting Advice, Popular Books | Tags: audible, Audio books, Barbara Taylor Bradford, Don't Go, Facebook, Family Pictures, Jane Green, Lisa Scottoline, Listen While You Work Out, Macmillan, Secrets from the Past, workout