Archive for the ‘ Popular Books ’ Category

‘I Heart My Little A-Holes’ Author Karen Alpert Writes a Non-Love Letter to Her Daughter

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

Are your kids a-holes? Be serious for a second. Sure, you love them a lot. But sometimes, don’t they act like scumbags? Mine do. Just yesterday, I was coming home from a very long day at work. As I walked in the door, I caught my 8-year-old daughter unplugging my iPhone charger in the kitchen. And replacing it with her iPod charger that does not work.

I know you know. And so does author Karen Alpert who just released her first book, I Heart My Little A-HolesShe also runs the funny and candid website called Baby Sideburns, a popular site dedicated to tell the truth–the whole truth–about raising children.

Karen just wants us all to get real about parenting–and laugh our asses off. Exclusively for Parents readers, she wrote the following letter to her future 18-year-old daughter.

A Letter to My Daughter in the Future: Minus that sappy crap you see on Huff Post
by Karen Alpert 

‘To my daughter when she turns 18 (many many years from now):

Well, hey there, kiddo. Remember me, the mom you used to love but now probably hate with every bone in your teenage body? If you’re anything like the little shit I was at your age, you’re barely speaking to me right now, much less listening to my brilliant words of wisdom.

The way I see it I’ll be hitting menopause at about the same time you’re in the thick of puberty, so basically we’re F’ed, so I figured I better write you this letter now before we’re not speaking to each other. Then again, if I’m wrong and we’re like totally besties, I’ll just tell you this shit over a pint of Ben & Jerry’s and give you this letter so you’ll have it in writing too.

Before you move away from home (at which point I’ll be locked up in the bathroom, drowning my tears in a bottle of vodka), I wanted to make sure to pass along some words of advice to you. Here are a few things to do in your early adulthood before life sucks the life out of you:

1. Get shitfaced once in a while. Some of my best bonding moments were when I had one (translation: four) too many cocktails with my girlfriends. Just don’t do any of the following while you’re shitfaced: Walk home alone, drive drunk or sleep with a guy. Even if he’s like ridiculously hot. No, not because he might turn out to be fugly when you’re sober. Consider this shit: If he’s that attractive, guess what else might be attracted to him? Herpes, genital warts, and crabs. Going home with a hangover the next morning is doable. Going home with the Red Lobster menu crawling all over your hoo-ha not so much.

2. And while we’re on the subject of bonding, try to make a lot of great friends in your 20s. Here are a few things that happen when you’re a young adult: You go out a lot, you drink, and you hang out on people’s couches. As you get older these things happen less and less. Not that you can’t bond with a friend over a stinky diaper change. It just doesn’t quite bring you together the same way dropping your pants to pee in an alley does. Not that I’ve done that.

3. And speaking of dropping your pants, let’s talk about your career choice. Yeah, picking something you love is important, but here’s some shit the career counselors won’t tell you. You know how you say one day you want to get married and have babies and all that junk and give me little grandbabies I can cuddle and love and hand back to you when they take a shit? If you can, pick a job that’s going to be flexible with hours one day and let you work from home. There’s no such thing as a part-time investment banker. Or a part-time cardiac surgeon. They’re fabulous jobs, and yeah, I’d be proud as hell to say my daughter is doing a heart transplant, but I’d also be watching your kiddo all day, and I’m not sure how cool it would be for me to walk into your operating room and say, “Here, take your rug rat. He just made a doodie and I ain’t changing it.”

4. Notice how in that last paragraph I said one day you want to get married? I didn’t say you want to find a husband. Yeah, if you’re a lesbian, just tell us. Don’t beat around the bush. Wait, yes, beat around the bush, but tell us you’re beating around the bush. It’ll actually make us feel better, especially your dad, who has a gun ready for the first guy who asks for your hand in marriage.

5. Which is a great segue to dating. Whether you’re into men or women, you’re going to date a bunch of assholes along the way. They might break up with you in a text message or cheat on you with their ex who they broke up with in a text message. And they’ll probably make you cry and feel like crapola. Just know that they are not a waste of time. They are all there to teach you what you DON’T want in a partner.

6. Because one day your boobs will droop so low they touch your ankles, and your elbows will make you wonder whether you’re one-quarter elephant, and your eyesight will be so bad you’ll fail to notice your one-haired goatee until it gets tangled in your necklace, and that’s when you’ll want a partner who’s not going to throw up in their mouth a little when they see you naked. You want to end up with someone who thinks you’re more gorgeous than the day you first met.

7. And one last thing. Even if you’re not talking to me right now, know that you can always tell me anything. ANYTHING. I’ve probably been there myself, even if I never told you about it. I might want to kick the shit out of you and lock you in a room forever, but I won’t actually do it. I will always be there for you (with a bottle of something hard if you’re twenty-one or a pint of something chocolatey if you’re not). I love you.

XOXOXOXOXOXOXO

Love,
Mommy (Of course I realize by now you’re probably calling me Mom. Or Shithead.)

For more funny stories, you’ve got to flip through this quick and organized little book, I Heart My Little A-Holes. Oddly, it will make you appreciate the sh!theads you have at home.

What career is your child destined for? Click to find out.

Mom Confessions: My Latest Parenting Fail
Mom Confessions: My Latest Parenting Fail
Mom Confessions: My Latest Parenting Fail

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‘What Am I Going to Do With My Life?’ Author Richard Shell Brilliantly Helps Answer This Question

Friday, April 11th, 2014

Have you ever asked yourself, ‘What am I going to do with my life?’ Oh, good. Then we all have something in common. This new book, by a brilliant author, helps you answer this question. Finally. For real.

The book is called Springboard: Launching Your Personal Search for Success. The author, G. Richard Shell, turns your world upside down to help you answer your questions and find meaning and purpose in whatever it is you are doing–or want to do. The paperback will be released this month.

First and foremost: You’re not too old to make your dreams come true right now. Shell spent his 20s unemployed and didn’t start his career until age 37. Today, he is a professor at Wharton, consultant to the Navy SEALS and creator of the Success Course.

You’ve got to read his great book and the Q&A with him below. He will tell you how to see success differently: He says, “The people who are able to unplug from professional life, spend time with the people they love, and gather new, inspiring ideas about what to do next with their lives, may be every bit as “successful” as those who stay on the “track” of an advancing career without asking themselves what they are really accomplishing.

He also gives tips on how to get started on a new path if that’s the direction you want to go. His advice applies to SAHMs just as much as high-profile lawyers. Read my Q&A with him below:

KK: Why do women tend to question themselves and what they’ll do with their lives right after they have kids?
RS: Of course, let’s first note that not all women feel this way. Many are absorbed with raising their children and have no regrets whatever that they have made the choice to focus on the family aspect of social life. But most of us take our perceptions of what it means to be “successful” from our surrounding culture and, for better or worse, our society does not publicly celebrate being a “mom” as much as it does being a celebrity, high-status professional or high-tech entrepreneur. When a woman who has been socialized to aspire to status-based success finds herself spending all her time changing diapers and going to the playground with her kids, she may naturally question if she is on the right path. She loves her children and is ready to sacrifice for them – but it feels like a “sacrifice” exactly because she is thinking about all the other women who appear to be racing ahead on the “fast track” to professional success while she is not. It is much harder for her to imagine the feelings of regret and frustration that high-status professional women sometimes feel about either not having a family at all – or allowing hired help to do the heavy lifting of caring for their kids day-to-day.  You need to remember that, from the outside, most people look like they have life all figured out when, from the inside, they actually have significant doubts, bad days and feelings of inadequacy.

KK: How do we get back on track or on a new track of being successful after a break from office life?
RS: Just the way this question is asked contains an assumption I would like to challenge.  The people who are able to unplug from professional life, spend time with the people they love, and gather new, inspiring ideas about what to do next with their lives, may be every bit as “successful” as those who stay on the “track” of an advancing career without asking themselves what they are really accomplishing. When people really sit down to think about what a successful life actually consists of, they often conclude that it feature three things: good health, meaningful work and love. If a break from the office routine can help you make progress toward one of more of those three targets, it is time well spent!

Assuming you are going back to work you find interesting and challenging, however, you may need to give yourself some time to make the transition back to the pace of an office job.  That is really about energy – so you should be sure to get exercise, sleep and “down time” whenever possible so your battery does not run too low too fast in the first few months of a transition to the office routine. Also, it is very important to seek out some assignments that spark your imagination so you get your motivation locked in. Finally, you’ll need to make time engage with the people around you – not just the tasks. The better your social support system, the more likely you will be able to bounce back quickly when you have the inevitable setbacks and frustrations that come with office politics, people who do not deliver what they promised, and the biases that always seem to creep out to bite you just when you get your confidence back.

KK: How can moms figure out what they want to do?
RS: Moms are no different from anyone else when it comes to figuring out what they should do next. Think of people coming back to the civilian workforce from being in the military or someone who has just had a serious illness or accident that makes it necessary for them to change direction in life. They may face major transitions that feel as daunting as climbing Mt. Everest. But everyone who is urgently asking “What’s next for me?” needs to follow a very similar path in terms of their planning process. In many ways, these are just the people I wrote Springboard for – and the books lays out step-by-step guidance for thinking this question through.
You need to start by surveying your genuine capabilities – what do you do better than most people around you?  Can you write, cook, engage with children or young people or organize social events? There are substantial careers in each of these areas of competence (indeed in every single area of competence you can imagine) – from helping people write their resumes to starting your own wedding or event planning service. Target work that uses your talents – at a realistic level for someone just starting out.

Next, you need to think back and re-connect with your sources of self confidence. Go talk to people who believe in you.  Think back to times when you have overcome obstacles and lived to fight another day. With your confidence renewed, set up interviews with people who are successful doing whatever you think might be fun or exciting to do yourself. People are often very, very generous in helping others think about how to get started in their professional area. Maybe you’ll need to go to school or get specialized training. Maybe you’ll need to apprentice to a skilled person for a time. The most important thing is to start doing things related to the area you are targeting. Once you are in motion, good things happen.  You meet people who know other people. You gain experience.  You can get a “lucky” break.

Basically, after that, it is a question of trial-and-error. You need to learn from what happens, adjust, and keep moving… Be humble. Be willing to learn. But be persistent.

KK: It’s fascinating that you started your career at 37. What advice do you have for those of us who think we’re too old to aspire toward a new dream?
RS:
The first half of Springboard is designed to help you get over the idea that you are “too old” or “too young” or “too ordinary” to have an interesting life. Indeed, as the saying goes, tomorrow is always the first day of the rest of your life. If you have a “beginner’s mind” about everything you do, then no job is too menial or too basic to get started in a new direction that excites you. The main thing is to pay attention to your inner sense of excitement and fun. I have been a restaurant waiter, a social worker, an improvisational actor, a house painter and a university professor. I love what I do now, but I am using a lot of what I have learned about at earlier stages of my life. And I would probably feel the same way if I reversed the order of my working life. There is a great book called How Starbucks Saved My Life by a guy who went from being a high-status professional to working at Starbucks serving coffee – and he actually got more out of his Starbucks job in terms of personal fulfillment and satisfaction than he did when he had a corner office in a high-rise office building. If you learn to think about life from the inside-out – applying your own true measures of what “success” really means to you, you’ll be amazed at the opportunities that come along compared with living a life in which you let others (or the media) define success for you.

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Kit Chase’s New Book, Her Etsy Shop and Free Printable Paper Dolls!

Thursday, March 27th, 2014

Kit Chase! One of the sweetest Etsy artists ever writes about her new children’s book that Publisher’s Weekly loves and also about her awesome Etsy shop. She even created exclusive paper dolls for all of us to print at home at the end of this post. (See a special offer as well.)

“My husband, Adam, and I own and operate the Etsy shop, Trafalgar’s Square, where we sell my hand-painted designs as prints, wall decals, and, soon-to-be-released greeting cards. Adam does all the operating (printing, packaging, shipping and communication), and I get the fun job of coming up with new designs and illustrations. My work on Etsy caught the attention of both my agent and editor—both of whom reached out to me separately through the site—and ultimately led to my first picture book contract.

Oliver’s Tree is my first picture book (it will be in stores March 20 of this year!). When I first started work on the story idea, we had two little girls with a third baby girl getting ready to join the party. We had just moved from a teeny, cramped apartment into a little house with an enormous yard and a tree. What a tree! With gnarled, low-hanging branches and big, shady leaves, that tree became the children’s favorite friend. As I watched my girls trying to climb it “all by themselfs,” it reminded me of my own childhood of thwarted tree-climbing attempts. Standing on tip-toe at the foot of the tree, hugging the trunk, and waiting expectantly for something magical to happen that would send me high up into the branches.  Or just waiting there with arms stretched, looking expectantly up. And waiting. Or, the inevitable, actual tree-climbing attempt, that ended with me sliding down the rough bark on scraping hands and knees. That tree brought it all back to me. So, when it came time to write a children’s story, it of course had to be about three friends, and what better play-thing for them to have than a tree?

With three little girls all under 7 (and as I write this, yet another baby girl on the way—maybe we should start a water polo team?), and writing and illustrating books, all on top of dreaming up new illustrations for the shop, things have a tendency to range on the side of um…shall we say crazy-fun? Most of the time, it feels like we’re running something like Alice in Wonderland’s Mad Tea Party in Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s upside down house. The wee hours of the morning are my greatest ally. Laundry is my nemesis. I do a lot of brainstorming for my books and illustrations while watching my children play and interact with one another, and I do most of my sketching in the car when we go on family outings. Not exactly a traditional lifestyle, but it’s definitely stimulating. And jolly.     
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the past few years, it’s: Save the spotless-house-look for Pinterest and photo shoots. As a parent, you’re in the middle of the biggest creative process of your life, creating and shaping a real, live person and helping them reach their potential. Real life is pretty messy, and as any artist will tell you, creating a work of art is never a pretty sight. But the end result of creating art or children makes the creative chaos so worth it. Besides, you can always tidy up once your little art project is asleep.”
Parents.com readers get an exclusive discount code for 15 percent off entire purchase from trafalgarssquare.etsy.com   Enter coupon code PARENTS at checkout to receive the discount.  The code expires April 21, 2014.
 
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Jenny Bowen Revives Chinese Orphanages in ‘Wish You Happy Forever’

Friday, March 21st, 2014

Did you see author and world-changer Jenny Bowen on Good Morning America this morning? If so, did you get weepy like I did? Oh my goodness. That was sweet. The story goes like this: Jenny Bowen, a former documentary filmmaker, adopted a little girl from China several years ago. The girl was emotionally void–a victim of neglect and abuse at her orphanage.

Jenny simply said she wanted to do something. So she created the organization Half the Sky to improve these facilities all over the Far Eastcountry. She went against Chinese bureaucrats, and she’s still hard at work. She emphasized that if we–you or me–see something in the world that bothers us, we can get out there and do something about it. Big or small, in one house or in one country.

Her new book, Wish You Happy Forever: What China’s Orphans Taught Me About Moving Mountains, chronicles her journey of adoption, rehabilitating her daughter and adopting another, and her current job to work inside the Chinese government to bring a loving and caring adult into the life of each orphan. This is a book to uplift you and reaffirm your faith in humanity. Pick it up!

 

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Is Calling a Girl Bossy Bad? Sheila Heen on Ban Bossy

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

Last week, I posted about the great new book, Thanks for the Feedback. This week, one of the authors, Sheila Heen, tells me what she thinks about calling girls bossy. Is it bad? Is Sheryl Sandberg onto something with her Ban Bossy campaign? And by the way, how do we handle all the unwanted mom-to-mom advice that often feels so judgmental?

Check out the awesome advice Heen has below:

KK: What do you think about the Ban Bossy campaign? How bad is bossy?
SH: Being called “bossy” as a little girl is like most feedback we get as adults–mixed.  It undermines the value of the skills it takes to speak up or provide leadership in a group.

But the feedback that we’re being bossy also contains information about how we are impacting those around us that sometimes we should learn from. Maybe someone feels unheard or dismissed or steamrolled. That is important for leaders to understand.
So when my daughter is called bossy (as I was), I want her to hold onto the initiative and being willing to try, and I want her to learn that real leadership is marrying that with empathy and engaging others.
KK: Women are often giving each other advice about babies, parenting and everything else. Why does this hit so close to home?
SH: It’s easy to hear well-intended coaching (“have you tried a wheat-free diet?”) as judgment that you’re doing it all wrong. Particularly when we’re first-time parents, or trying to figure out our second child, our own anxiety about being the perfect parent and not ruining our kids forever can amplify our sense of accusation, even when the mom offering the tip is well-intended.

KK: Why is it often so judgmental?
SH:
Because it often is. Every parent is doing some things well (our kids eat healthy and already know their ABCs) and others less so (Noah nap? Never. Yes, he’s a basket case.)  These reflect our own values and upbringing, as well as our kids’ challenges and temperaments. In your house, discipline and table manners get instilled early, while next door table manners are nonexistent but potty training is completed before age two. So when we offer neighbor mom “suggestions” for teaching table manners, we are trying to be helpful, but we’re also not-so-secretly wondering why the heck she hasn’t taken care of this before middle school.

KK: What helps?
SH: 
Remember that you are in charge of how you hear mom-to-mom advice, and work to extract the judgment and hear the coaching as simply coaching. It’s advice, and it’s your job to decide what’s might work for your kids and your family. The fact that the neighbors do it differently doesn’t mean that you’re doing it wrong. And even when the advice is 90 percent wrong – would never work for your son – that last 10 percent can sometimes be of value, sparking an idea that does work, and the payoff is worth it when you finally toss the last pull-up.

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