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Monday, April 22nd, 2013
Author Carrie Cariello is a mom of five, including one 8-year-old boy with autism. So others will understand autism more clearly, she recounts her wondrous and challenging journey in her new memoir What Color is Monday? How Autism Changed One Family for the Better. Thank you, Carrie, for the eye-opening guest post below:
“What color do you see for Monday?” my son Jack asked as I heaved a chicken into the oven.
“What?” I said distractedly, turning from the oven to slice some potatoes at the counter. It was late afternoon one day last fall, and I was preparing dinner and managing the demands of homework and tired toddlers. (One was in a tiara.)
“What color is Monday?” he asked again, his robotic voice rising ever so slightly in irritation.
“I don’t see Monday as a color. Do you?” I asked, finally tuning in to what he was talking about.
“Yes. All days are colors.”
All days are colors. On a seemingly ordinary day, Jack once again granted me the privilege to take a tiny peek inside his fascinating mind. Without preamble, he rattled off which color he associates with each day. And then, just as suddenly as the conversation began, he snapped his mind closed and moved on to something else entirely. I tried to probe further; why was Saturday red? Was the entire day red, or just the morning? “I told you. No more,” he answered in a clipped tone.
Later that winter, Riddle Brook Publishing asked me to write a book based on our life with an autistic child. I happily agreed, and throughout the spring and early summer I wrote, putting together words and sentences, essays and chapters, to describe our days with five children and autism. Some days the words came easily, other days I struggled to make sense of my world with Jack and transport him onto the page. Whenever I approached something that seemed like writer’s block, I reminded myself that my subject—my inspiration—was right in front of me at the dinner table every night. All I needed to do was watch and listen and learn from my son.
And then, like the pieces of a puzzle, the elements of the book came together. It describes our journey to Jack’s diagnosis, and all the funny and frustrating and sad times since the day we first heard the words your son has autism nearly seven years ago. It describes how a boy with a literal mind made peace with religion and accepted his first communion, and how our family of seven took our first vacation. It describes his obsessions with things like dates and cars, his fascination with shampoo and license plates.
Every couple of chapters, I included a letter to each of my children on their birthday, describing their likes and dislikes, their temperament, their appetite. Describing the way they’ve made room for autism and embraced their unusual brother.
Recently someone asked me, “Who is this book for?” And after considering the question for moment, I answered that originally it was for me, a way for me to creatively untangle the web of emotions and bewilderment and frustration autism often left me with at the end of a long day. But, as the project progressed, I realized it wasn’t just for me; it was for Jack and our family. And by the final round of edits, I decided it was for an even larger audience then that—it was for anyone and everyone who has ever been touched by autism.
I decided it was a way to put a face to the name of autism; the sweet face of a little blue-eyed boy who loves music and marshmallows. As I read through the book one final time, making last-minute changes and edits, I realized the book puts a voice to the message I’ve been saying every single day since Jack was diagnosed: that beneath the rigidity and anxiety and stimming there is a charming, intelligent, witty child peeking out.
It’s about how Jack brings out the best in my, my husband, and my children every single day.
Throughout the summer I struggled to title the book, tossing around ideas like Life with Autism and Loving Autism. For a while I decided to use the word snowflake in the name, because that’s often the image that comes to my mind when I think of Jack and autism; a beautiful, fragile snowflake that is always changing, always in motion. But one afternoon in late August I was driving the kids to the town pool, and Jack said, “Look, the sky is so blue.” And as I peered up through the windshield at the rich blue summer sky, I thought again of our conversation the previous fall, when he talked about the colors of the week.
For a short time I thought about calling the book Thursday is Purple, but then Jack off-handedly remarked Thursday is sometimes green. (Come on, Jack-a-boo. I’m trying to write a book about you here. For real.)
And so, it became What Color is Monday? How autism changed one family for the better.
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Thursday, April 11th, 2013
The new cookbook, The Yummy Mummy Kitchen by popular blogger Marina Delio, will absolutely make you hungry. The elegant photos are luscious–some of the most beautiful I’ve seen. (And I nearly died over the gorgeous tables, dishes, place mats and napkins.) The recipes are geared to families, but they’re not just for kids. Marina cooks for highly varied and sophisticated palettes. Her dishes are easy-ish with a doable number of ingredients. All of them are pretty and flavorful enough to serve to guests. Her children are very lucky–they get grape and rosemary flat bread and sugared blueberry goat cheese crostinis for snacks!
I asked her one important question: How do you get kids to eat such a wide variety of foods–especially veggies? Marina told me: ”I’ve found many ways to get kids to eat their veggies. One tip is simply to expect that your children will eat most vegetables, and serve them frequently. It can take time for children to accept new foods, so keep putting them on their plates and incorporating them as the stars of the meal. Often it helps to cook small vegetables into kid-approved dishes instead of piling them on the side. For example, most kids love a mild chili, cheesy calzone, lasagna, pasta, or enchiladas. All of these dishes are easy to create in a plant-based way. Get excited and say, ‘Isn’t this gorgeous? Look at all the colors!’ The bonus of cooking this way is that you only have to cook one dish at dinnertime, rather than a main dish and a veggie side. It can be hard to switch kids from hot dogs to colorful healthy dinners, but in the long run they will thank you for it. Don’t offer alternatives at dinnertime and your children will eventually accept and enjoy the healthier dinners you’re serving.”
Marina was also kind enough to pick two of her favorites from The Yummy Mummy Kitchen and share them with us. I definitely see her Green Enchiladas and Grilled Shrimp and Corn Salad in our future.
Serves 4 to 6
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
5 ounces fresh baby spinach
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
½ cup cooked brown rice
1 cup sliced cremini mushrooms
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
2 cups mild tomatillo green salsa, fresh or jarred
½ cup half and half
6 (9-inch) flour or brown-rice tortillas
1 cup shredded Mexican cheese, Monterey Jack, cheddar, Colby, or a blend
1 avocado, chopped, for garnish
¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves
1 lime, cut into wedges
Preheat the oven to 375˚F. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the spinach and toss until just wilted. Remove from the heat and transfer the spinach to a medium bowl. To the spinach add the beans, rice, mushrooms, cilantro, and goat cheese. Gently toss to combine.
In another medium bowl, stir together the salsa and half and half. Pour half of the salsa mixture into an
11 × 7-inch baking dish. Fill the tortillas with 1 cup of filling each and roll up. Place the filled tortillas seam side down in the baking dish. Pour the remaining half of the salsa mixture over the enchiladas. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake uncovered for 25 to 30 minutes.
Cool slightly. Garnish with avocado, cilantro, and lime.
Grilled Shrimp and Corn Salad
Serves 4 to 6
1 pound large peeled, deveined shrimp
1 ounce tequila
Juice of 2 limes
3 ears of corn, husks removed
2 heads romaine lettuce, chopped
½ cup black beans, drained and rinsed
½ cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 avocado, sliced
¼ cup favorite salad dressing
Chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish
Sliced lime, for garnish
Tortilla chips (optional)
Thread the shrimp on skewers and place in a baking dish. Coat with tequila and lime juice and marinate 15 minutes. Oil and preheat a grill or grill pan to medium-high heat. Brush the corn with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place the shrimp and corn on the grill and grill about 3 minutes per side until cooked through. Cool slightly. Remove the shrimp from skewers and slice the kernels off the cobs.
In a large bowl, toss the lettuce with the beans, tomatoes, avocado, and dressing. Arrange grilled shrimp and corn on top and garnish with cilantro and lime. Serve with tortilla chips, if desired.
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Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013
Kids are the cutest–especially our own. That’s why so many of us–me totally included–share our photos, videos and funny words on Facebook and Twitter. Birthdays, first steps, hiccups and lost teeth are popular topics on my FB feed. But then, there’s always that weird one where a parent overshares. You know, the ones showing or describing poop or gory tricycle accidents. And what about getting Mommy-jacked? Like when you post that you’re feeling lousy in your third trimester and someone comments about their months of bedrest in the hospital. Ugh.
You and I would never do that. Right?
Sound familiar? Then you’ll love the addictive, mind-blowing (think photos of placentas) website devoted to parents who go coo coo on social media. I giggle when I read STFU, Parents created by the brilliant blogger Blair Koenig. For belly laughs, check out her new book STFU, Parents: The Jaw-Dropping, Self-Indulgent, Occasionally Rage-Inducing World of Parent Overshare.
Think she’s seen it all by now? She says parents still surprise her everyday–especially with those placentas:
KK: What’s one of the most outrageous things you’ve heard of a parent doing lately?
BK: One of the strangest trends to emerge lately is an obsession some mothers have with their children’s teeth. I call this type of parent a “documom.” I’ve received dozens of photo submissions of baby teeth coming in, bloody mouths from lost baby teeth, you name it. The majority of the images are extreme close-ups, so it’s usually just a frame with gums and teeth. I also recently posted about a mother who got a tattoo of an apple that her toddler ate. She thought her daughter’s tiny teeth marks in the apple were so cute that she wanted to preserve the apple forever, so she got a sizable tattoo and posted about it on Facebook. That was just plain odd.
KK: Does anything shock you anymore?
BK: I’m shocked all the time! Going through email is as frightening an exercise for me as visiting the blog can be for readers. There’s plenty of shock value in receiving pictures of poop, placentas, and other yucky things, but the thing I’m most amazed by is how unapologetic some parents can be. There is a lot of entitlement that comes with changing a baby’s dirty diaper on a restaurant table and then bragging about it on social media.
KK: What advice do you have for us usually-sane parents who sometimes slip up and post annoying things on Facebook?
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BK: We all have a natural tendency to overshare or slip up on occasion. If you accidentally mommyjack (or daddyjack) a friend’s status update, don’t sweat it. It happens! But if you “accidentally” post a picture of your child’s poop in the potty, then you might have some bigger problems on your hands. So to speak.
Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013
Today, April 2, is a big day for new releases. I wanted to let you know about some cool stuff that just came out and wish the following awesome authors Happy Book Birthday! Really, these are all great reads, and I have reviews and author Q&As coming up on some of them.
Just this morning, I got to meet Nia Vardalos, the writer and star of My Big Fat Greek Wedding. She’s got a sad, helpful and funny new book out about her journey through adoption. I’ll write up my interview on Instant Mom this week. I love her–and her warm and honest book made me adore her all the more.
And Glennon Doyle Melton of Momastery? She’s been all over the talk shows this week–and she’s an amazing person. Props also to my friend Christina Baker Kline who wrote Orphan Train, an Audible and Target pick of the month. Want to laugh? Check out STFU, Parents. You must do so right now.
Happy Book Birthday to:
by Nia Vardalos
The gist: Nia goes through 10 IVFs, and then finally her daughter comes to her through adoption.
Carry On, Warrior
by Glennon Doyle Melton
The gist: An extension of her candid, truthful blog that everyone I know adores.
by Christina Baker Kline
The gist: Between 1854 and 1929, so-called orphan trains ran regularly from the cities of the East Coast to the farmlands of the Midwest, carrying thousands of abandoned children whose fates would be determined by luck or chance. Word on the street: This book is lovely.
Lost in Suburbia: A Momoir of How I Got Pregnant, Lost Myself and Got My Cool Back in the New Jersey Suburbs
by Tracy Beckerman
The gist: This popular writer tells how she lost her mojo and got it back as a mom in the suburbs–Beckerman is a blast to read.
STFU, Parents: A Guide to the Jaw-Dropping, Self-Indulgent and Occasionally Rage-Inducing World of Parent Overshare
by Blair Koenig
The gist: You will laugh out loud at the ludicrous mommy and daddy bragging in this book that’s based on Blair’s popular website.
The Yummy Mummy Kitchen
by Marina Dello
The gist: Stock up on some beautiful, tasty and kid-friendly recipes from this well-known food blogger.
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Blair Koenig, Carry On Warrior, Christina Baker Kline, Glennon Doyle Melton, Instant Mom, Lost in Suburbia, Marina Dello, Momastery, Nia Vardalos, Orphan Train, STFU Parents, The Yummy Mummy Kitchen, Tracy Beckerman | Categories:
Best Of Lists, Best Sellers, Celebrity Books, Cookbooks, Fiction, Memoirs, Mom Must Read, Mommy Bloggers, Must Read, Popular Books
Thursday, March 28th, 2013
Are your kids off from school tomorrow? Mine are. *drink* Does the Easter weekend mean you’re getting together with family? *drink* Have you bought the Easter basket and all of its stuffing yet? *drink*
Author Rose Maura Lorre has the perfect solution to the many conundrums of parenthood–and adult life in general. She just wrote a luscious book–the recipes and photos require the use of this adjective–called The Big Book of Martinis for Moms. This chick knows what she’s talking about. Full disclosure: Rose was my summer house mate on Fire Island for a few years in our twenties (way before kids) drinking days. Her recipes were delicious–and they still are on her blog, The Five O’Clock Cocktail.
So make yourself and others happy. Buy the book for yourself and give one to a friend.
I asked Rose a few quick questions, and below those, check out her recipe for Mom Must Read–the Hemingway Daiquir-tini:
KK: Why do moms need your book?
RML: Since becoming a mom, I’ve found that a) I need a cocktail more than ever, but b) it needs to be just the right one, properly made and well chosen for my mood. The days of just indiscriminately having a few drinks at the end of the day are long gone, as I’m far too exhausted to tolerate more than one drink per evening. So what I like about the book is that it gives moms lots of worthwhile options, including plenty of classic cocktails, no matter what their cocktail-making skill level and whether they prefer their cocktails sweet, bitter, fruity, etc.
KK: How did you *drink* do your research?
RML: That would be where my years of pre-parenthood having a few drinks on most nights came in! I also write my own cocktail blog Five O’clock Cocktails where I do a lot of cocktail experimentation.
KK: Are cocktails a yes or a no at a playdate?
RML: A no, for several reasons. Firstly, playdates are usually during the day, and while I’m a firm believer in “it’s 5 o’clock somewhere” (hence the name of my blog), I personally would find getting through the rest of the day a drag if I’m a little tipsy when it’s, say, 2 in the afternoon. Second, there’s no way I can foresee getting through a playdate without a spilled cocktail (martini glasses do not come with snap-on, spillproof lids!), and while I don’t cry over spilled milk, a martini’s a different story. Basically, I just think a cocktail tastes best when it’s a reward well deserved at the end of a long day and able to be enjoyed in relative quiet, with non-Wiggles music playing softly in the background if Mom so chooses.
KK: Which drink should Mom Must Read readers try first?
RML: Definitely the Hemingway Daiquir-tini
- 1 ounce light rum
- 1/4 ounce maraschino liqueur
- 1/2 ounce grapefruit juice
- 3/4 ounce simple syrup
- 3/4 ounce fresh lime juice
- Garnish: lime wheel, 1 cherry
Pour everything but the garnish into an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously for about 20 seconds. Pour into a martini glass. Garnish with a lime wheel and cherry.
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