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Tuesday, June 4th, 2013
Popular writer, blogger and photographer Kelle Hampton first released her beautiful memoir called Bloom last year. Recently, it came out in paperback. It’s the story of her family, including two daughters (now she has a baby boy, too), Lainey and Nella. Nella was born with Down syndrome. Kelle emphasizes the importance of not only accepting the unexpected but also embracing it as a gift. Nella is truly an inspiration to anyone who’s met her or read about her online.
I caught up with Kelle and asked her how publishing Bloom has impacted her life. She’s touched many readers through her memoir and blog. Check out what she has to say:
KK: Tell me, in three sentences, what your book is about.
KH: Bloom is the story of the first year with our daughter Nella who was born with Down syndrome. Really it’s a story about perspective–how we survive, grow and become stronger when we allow unexpected circumstances to change us. And Bloom is a reminder that sometimes it takes the most challenging events in our life to truly appreciate our families, our friendships, our own strengths and to understand how our love for our children is the most unshakeable, grounding and motivating force.
KK: You’ve received some amazing feedback from your fans. How have your readers’ reactions impacted you?
KH: I think more than anything, I’ve been really moved by the sense of community that I’ve more deeply understood through hearing from readers. Whether it’s a mom who has, like me, welcomed a child with special needs; a woman who’s faced the unexpected with other challenges such as a divorce or losing a loved one; or simply a reader who’s stepped out to say “I read your story. I cried. I know what it’s like to love your child so much it hurts,” I am constantly inspired by the way women learn from each other and support each other. There are so many ways to connect these days. Challenges can feel far less lonely than they did back in our parents’ and grandparents’ era. We’re in this together.
KK: Since the publication of Bloom you’ve had a third child. How have the lessons you’ve learned from raising Nella changed your perspective on parenting?
KH: I’ve learned to let go of ideal expectations and redefine perfection, that’s for sure. I think as parents, we don’t even realize how much we expect of our kids and often those expectations are based on our own hopes and dreams. We want our little guys to be great football players, and we imagine Mini Me’s for daughters. You can’t help but begin imagining who your child will be the moment you find out you’re pregnant. But I am continually learning to let go, to let my children show me who they are and what they love. What makes each of my children unique is what makes them perfect.
KK: Have you read any parts of Bloom to your children? What do you hope that someday they will take out of your poignant memoir?
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KH: The girls have looked through the book and pointed at pictures. I’ve told them it’s a love story and that I will read it to them someday. Lainey knows the book is dedicated to her because of how beautifully she welcomed her sister, and that’s about it for now. I dream of the day I will read it to them though. I hope through the story, they will know how much I love them and how strong and capable they are as women to face challenges. And for Nella? That will be an incredibly cathartic experience–reading Bloom to her when she’s ready. But I know that she will understand just how much of a gift her life is–how she changed me.
Thursday, May 23rd, 2013
Love reading? (You must if you’re checking out my blog!) Love your baby? Combine these two joys quickly and easily tonight. In today’s Part One of two stories, I asked the authors of Reading with Babies, Toddlers and Twos three questions about how to get started with your little one.
KK: At what age is it important to start reading?
It’s never too soon to start and never too late to begin. You can show a tiny baby illustrations and contrasting images and read a cheerful rhyme, or prop books by the changing table, or tie them to the stroller. Share a book every chance you get.
KK: By they time they’re toddlers, how many minutes should we be reading to them?
Don’t stress about “how many minutes” you’re reading daily. If the books are around, and you’re seizing opportunities, you’re sharing good book time. There’s no magic number. What’s important is making reading something you both enjoy.
KK: How does starting a healthy reading habit when they’re young help them as they hit elementary and middle schools?
A child who starts reading early is a child who has never known life without books. This child develops a trust in the stories and information and adventures within a book. Expecting pleasure from reading makes so much of school easier. A fluent vocabulary—the kind that comes from sharing a wide variety of books—comes naturally to a reader. Continue reading with your child once she can read to herself. Bring out chapter books and old favorites and keep going as long as she’s listening. You’ll both be glad you did.
About the authors:
KJ Dell’Antonia is the lead writer and editor of the New York Times Motherlode parenting blog. Also as a children’s book reviewer and a mother of four children, she knows which books work best and why. She lives in New Hampshire with her husband and two young children.
Susan Straub founded the READ TO ME program more than 20 years ago, a national workshop encouraging young families to read to their babies that is still thriving. Ms. Straub’s work with READ TO ME has been celebrated on NY1 television and in Oprah’s O magazine. She lives in New York City.
Rachel Payne is the coordinator of early childhood services at the Brooklyn Public Library. She knows why some books are carried around, colored on, taken to meals, and slept with, while others are pushed away after a single
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KJ Dell’Antonia, Reading, Reading with Babies, Susan Straub, Toddlers and Twos | Categories:
Children's Books, Mom Must Read, Mommy Bloggers, Must Read, Parenting Advice, Picture Books, Popular Books, Q&A With Authors
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.
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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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