Book List

Thursday, July 30, 2009
Please see end of post for a note about "On Becoming Babywise"

Since so many of you have requested a book list, here it is. These are just the books I'd recommend, not the books that innocent trees unjustly lost their lives for. And since Amazon has such extensive reviews on almost all of these books, I've just included an IMO blurb on each one. Yes, I've read all of these books. And my Wish List has 20 more books on it. But like I've said, I'm an information person. I love this crap.

My advice is to gather as much information as you can, mix it all up, try it on, see how it looks and keep what works. While each of these books contains sound advice, none of them are 100% spot-on, at least not for me. Each child is different, each parent is different, and each combination of the two has it's unique dynamics. I've learned to take what resonates with my personality and parenting style and dispose of the rest. The last thing you want to do as a parent is to go against your instincts.

And as a warning, in case you haven't already figured this out, as soon as you become confident in your abilities, as soon as you get all "hell ya, I'm getting good at this. Look at me go,"... something changes. And hopefully you'll be able to roll with the punches and you'll have enough tools in your toolbox to adapt. And if you're lucky, some day, in the way far-off distant future that's so small it's just a spec on the horizon, you'll outsmart your kid. And if you're really, really lucky, someone will be there to witness your shining moment and they'll have the camera all ready and the battery will be charged. But if I were you, I wouldn't pin my hopes on it.

Please feel free to ask me (via email or this blog) about any of the books because as much as I love reading them, I love talking about them.

* denotes books I recommend from birth

The Wonder Weeks. Eight predictable, age-linked leaps in your baby's mental development characterized by the three C's (Crying, Cranky, Clingy), a change ... and the development of new skills Currently available at I borrowed this book from a friend since at times it can be impossible to get a hold of, and I bought it for when B is born as I know I will enjoy re-reading it with a new baby. I wish I'd had my own copy when E was a baby so that I could have taken notes in the margins and seen how the two compare. I know, I know, you're not supposed to compare your kids. Which is why I also recommend the next book...

Siblings Without Rivalry: How to Help Your Children Live Together So You Can Live Too As you're reading this book, most of it seems really obvious, but it's not until you actually read it that it all makes sense. I think it's worth a quick scan in the early years and I know that I'll come back to it when B & E are older.

How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk Again, nothing earth-shattering but a necessary read not only for the children in your life, but also for the adults. It teaches you the skills to be a better listener, and most of us (and by "us" I mean "me") can benefit from this lesson. It can help you be a better parent, a better friend, a better spouse, a better sister, a better, well, you get the point.

Good Night, Sleep Tight: The Sleep Lady's Gentle Guide to Helping Your Child Go to Sleep, Stay Asleep and Wake Up Happy As a veteran parent (ha!) I have come to the conclusion that sleep training is a big pile of donkey shit. I developed an ulcer trying to train my child to sleep. Guess what. He's not a sleeper. We tried everything, and then one day he decided he was going to start sleeping through the night, and what I did had no bearing on his decision. That being said, of all the sleep training books I read (and I at least scanned them all) this one has some really good suggestions. Because while you can't make your kid sleep, there are things you can do to create a healthy sleep environment and routine, and sometimes the illusion of control can go a long way when you're a parent.

Raising Your Spirited Child Rev Ed This book is very important for parents of spirited children. If you think you have a spirited child, then you probably do and this book will offer many aha! moments, not to mention tips and consolation. I recommend this book Living With the Active Alert Child: Groundbreaking Strategies for Parents for the same reason.

* Love and Logic Magic for Early Childhood: Practical Parenting from Birth to Six Years I really appreciate the Love and Logic Series and subscribed to their general philosophy as a teacher but there are a few things I do not like about this book. I can't stand how it's written, but I've gotten used to the stupid voice parenting books seems to tend towards. As far as the actual philosophy of the authors, I don't agree with the section where the Fry suggests that if your child is upset or worked up, you should isolate them in their room, and keep them in there until they calm down, even if you have to lock them in there for a long time. To me, this seems a little harsh and might not work for your child. There's a lot of research on withholding love and the potential damage this can do, and even if I didn't believe in all that, I have discovered that this tactic simply does not work with a child like E. He only becomes more upset and worked up when left alone. Instead, we take a time-out together and usually, I need it as much as he does. However, there is a lot in this book that is positive and good.

* The Vaccine Book: Making the Right Decision for Your Child Regardless of where you stand on the whole vaccine issue, I think we can all agree that when it comes to the health and safety of your child, it's better safe than sorry. This book is not anti-vaccine but instead offers a compromise. It covers all the vaccines and explains why you might choose to delay certain ones.

Playful Parenting While this book is written with older children in mind, I'm glad I read it when E was approaching two. There's tons of really enlightening information in here and can be very useful even in the early years. I find myself practicing a lot of the advice in it already and will continue to refer to it as the years go by. Definitely consider this a reference book.

Unconditional Parenting This book really resonated with me because when E was born, I realized that I didn't really know how to be the kind of mother I wanted to be. Sure, I knew what I didn't want to be...don't want to be a hitter, a screamer, a non-believer, an over-compensator, etc. I could visualize the kind of mother I strive to be but I didn't know how to make the connection, what things I needed to do to become that mother. This book definitely helped me bridge the gap and although I found it a bit idealistic at times, I do believe in a lot of what the author discusses and took a lot of mental notes that I hope to be able to amalgamate. I've actually made physical notes and posted them in my medicine cabinet, but that's a topic of discussion I'll save for another day.

* The Baby Book: Everything You Need to Know About Your Baby from Birth to Age Two (Revised and Updated Edition) A good reference book when you can't find anything online or when it's 2am and you're out of ideas and your eyes burn and the last thing you want to do is go all the way downstairs and sit in front of a bright screen and page through a bunch of useless webpages that are only going to make you feel worse.

* The Breastfeeding Book: Everything You Need to Know About Nursing Your Child from Birth Through Weaning Again, a good reference book by the ubiquitous Sears family.

Nurture the Nature: Understanding and Supporting Your Child's Unique Core Personality This book will come in handy later. While it addresses early childhood, I think that this will really be relevant in a year or two. My favorite aspect of this book? It's not written in that stupid voice, like some of the other books. And it encourages parents to tune into their children, ignore the idiots at Safeway who have a million and one opinions on what you should and shouldn't be doing, and listen to your maternal (or paternal) instincts.

Motherstyles: Using Personality Type to Discover Your Parenting Strengths I loved this book, as you well know. Definitely best read once you've been a mother for a while.

* Parenting from the Inside Out This is in the self-help sub-section of my parenting library. When E was very young and very refluxy, I had a really, really hard time dealing with the crying when it was something I couldn't fix. Really hard time. Not like "oh this is so annoying I wish he'd stop" hard an all-body physical response. I was basically having mild panic attacks. My blood pressure would go through the roof, I'd get all clammy and frantic, not to mention the normal new-mother physical responses on top of it all. I understood why they have "Don't shake the baby" commercials. It's for women like me who want! to! shake! the! baby! And while I knew that I never would, just the fact that it was an impulse I had to quell was enough to scare the living bejeezus out of me. So in typical me fashion, I researched the crap out of it, tried to get to the bottom of the issue and solve it, which brought me to this book. And it's worked. Not that there aren't other things that need a'fixin', but this book was definitely a gate-way and I will be forever grateful to the person who suggested it.

I originally fought the urge to add a note at the bottom of my list about books I would never recommend, and Babywise is at the top of that list. I recently posted this link AAP News on FB about how the AAP has linked Babywise to failure to thrive and dehydration in infants. There is some really, really bad advice in this book* and it is not couched in a way that encourages parents to respond to and respect their children. It promotes a parent-led feeding and sleeping schedule and while a consistent routine is important, responding to your newborn's cues are of foremost significance. While I agree that there are some useful tips in the book and I have known parents to safely and successfully incorporate some of the philosophies detailed in this book, some parents, in their ignorance and desire to do what's right, end up doing a lot more harm than good. This book plays on the fears and vulnerabilites of new parents. It is damn near impossible, when you are sleep-deprived and suffering from the deer-in-headlights syndrome, to make sound decisions. You will do anything to get. your. kid. to. sleep. I know, because I was one of those parents. I tried the CIO method, even though it went against every fiber of my being because everyone SWORE it would work. Well, it didn't. It was probably the worst three days of our lives as Evan basically cried for all three of his nap times and then got so overtired that he couldn't eat or sleep at all. He was a disaster. I came close to taking him to the doctor because he seemed beyond help. It took us forever to undo what we had done and while I had had the best intentions, I went against my instincts and against what I knew in my heart to be true - a newborn, or even an 11 month old, is not acting hungry or tired to manipulate you. And if your child is crying and showing signs of hunger (rooting or mouthing, for instance) then for heaven's sake, you need to feed him/her. Any book that tells you otherwise is wrong and in my opinion, cruel.

* From my understanding, the editors recently published a revised edition, and this edition is very different from the 1st and 2nd. I have not read the newest edition but have read reviews and those reviews state that the latest issue is much more flexible and has reversed many of the more controversial statements in previous editions. I hope that this is true and will keep an eye out for the 3rd edition so that I can speak to it from personal experience.

From the outside in

Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Since becoming a mom, I've learned to be even less judgmental than before (I try, anyway...I am only human!) as I have found myself in many a situations where all I could do was hope that other moms were cutting me some slack. Recently, I was the mom at the park with a kid in fleecy footie pajamas...and it was blazing hot that day. But by golly, he wanted to wear them and by golly I was going to let him. I'm a big fan of natural consequences and every time we've let him learn a lesson on his own, it has stuck (the wasabi incident pops to mind. This kid will never. eat. wasabi. again.) And to tell you the truth, I was so proud of him in his pjs. Like a stubborn champ, he stuck it out till the end. He was sweating his tiny little ass off in those damn pjs, but he was not backing down. And I was swelling with pride. But I digress...

I've been taking E to swim class so that a) he gets comfortable in the water and eventually learns how to swim and b) so that I have an excuse to go float around a 92 degree swimming pool twice a week and call it educational. We're all in the pool at swim class and from the beginning, the teacher has made it clear that no kid is going to come out of these lessons swimming around like a dolphin. A manatee, maybe. But a dolphin, no way. This is supposed to be fun. This is supposed to be enjoyable. This is supposed to be time for you and your child to play and connect and be merry. So why is the woman next to me holding a hysterical child and threatening him with a litany of punishments if he doesn't do as he's told? This child is clearly under duress. He is screaming and crying and saying, "Please mommy, no. Please, I don't want to. Mommy, mommy, no." This child is clearly, terrified. He's got his mother in a kung-fu ninja death grip. Where's the fun? Where's the connection?

The other parents and I are clearly uncomfortable by this display. After that first class, everyone moves away from her and her son as soon as she gets in the pool, and we stay far away. I don't know if it's intentional on the part of the parents or if it's a subconscious reaction to this child's pain, but I've noticed the dynamics of the group and how they change when she arrives. I am mesmerized by the relationship between mother and child from a purely sociological perspective. At no point am I thinking, "Wow, I'm a better mom because my kid isn't screaming." No, I'm thinking, "What happened to this woman in her life that would cause her to sacrifice the trust of her child for something like this?" Who is she doing this for? What is her end goal? What does she expect to achieve? I mean we're at the rec center, for Pete's sake. There are no scouts on the sidelines searching for the next Michael Phelps (although a little weed would go a long way in this situation...I'm just sayin'.) I am pretty sure that I just walked through a cloud of piss-warm (literally, piss warm) water and there is a guy who weighs no less than 600 lbs doing some sort of calisthenics about 10 feet away from us humming "The Wheels on the Bus" because we got it stuck in his head. Why is this so important to her? What is driving her to behave this way?

I watch her and think that she is doing the best that she can with what she's got. And I wonder what kind of toolbox she has. What is it that she's got, and what is that she's working without? What fundamental instrument is she missing? Because as much as her child's tears and screams unsettle us, it's really her pain that cuts us to the quick.

I fight the urge to help her. To provide her with a list of books that she should read, books that have helped me tremendously to fill in the gaps, the deep dark voids of my life as a mother. As someone with a painful childhood and parental footsteps she'd rather avoid following, I feel her. I can relate! But what can I do? I don't think the books would even help her because she is clearly not at that place yet. I don't think she'd gleam much from anything I have to share with her because she's nowhere near where I am in the process. She is still all-consumed with her own pain and heartache. She's not ready to acknowledge that it is severely affecting her child. In her mind, her child is being difficult and ornery and if he would just listen! She doesn't see that all he is doing is serving as a mirror, reflecting her back to herself.

As we blow bubbles in the water and I try to keep E from slipping through my ever-slackening grasp (the water is 92 degrees, people! you try staying awake and alert!) I watch her and wonder. I hope for her sake that she will look back at this time from a better vantage point, from a happier and lighter place. I hope for her sake as much as for her son's that they'll somehow get through this together and that it'll be before he has his own children. That something will click inside her and that she will find the help she needs, whether $120/hr therapy sessions or a splurge on the book section of Amazon, or a combination of the two. That she will heal her hurt before it overcomes her and her family. Because we're all doing the best we can with what we've got, but it's really hard to function if you're missing a fundamental piece of equipment, and like E and his footed pajamas in July, this woman clearly needs to learn the lesson for herself. I just hope that it happens before it's too late.

It's my type, bitches!

Friday, July 24, 2009
In my on-going pursuit of parental knowledge, I recently read "Mother Styles" by Janet Penley. Let me tell you, it was well worth the time and energy. I highly recommend it to mothers who want to understand themselves a little better or who are dying to take a Cosmo-type quiz but find the "Are you a tiger in bed" quizzes not quite germane enough. Ever wonder why you do or say some of the things you do? This might help. I discovered a lot of things about myself that have made my subsequent days a little easier. Maybe not always better, but certainly easier. And as a bonus, I learned a few things about D, who reluctantly and begrudgingly - and later rather enthusiastically - flipped through the pages and identified his parenting style, too. Apparently, after ten years, you can still learn things about each other.

For those of you familiar with personality tests, this is essentially a Jung/Myers-Brigg test where the questions ask you to reflect on the way in which you mother, instead of say, how you behave at work. Basically you take these sort of quizzes in each category that ask questions along the lines of "When the noise level is your home starts to escalate (baby is crying, cat is under foot meowing for food, dog is barking at the plumber who is at the door ringing the bell even though the door is open and he can see you through the screen door, and your husband is asking you where the checkbook is while you are trying your damnedest to make a delicious and nutritious meal as breast-milk slowly leaks through your bra, all while your guests sit on the couch and wonder WTF?!?) do you want to crawl out through the blocked and shit-filled pipes that aforementioned plumber is here to fix, or do you thrive on chaos?" Guess which one I chose. Yeah. Situations like this, I want to kill myself. And I used to think that it was because I was a total weirdo, but no! It turns out that it's my "type." Whew.

Actually, it turns out that I am a weirdo and that it's my type. My type makes up something like 1-4% of the population. Yeah, I'm in the minority. Again. But luckily, because I am who I am, I'm ok with it. Think I'm too strict about my kid's sugar intake? Go fuck yourself. It's my type. Think that I should let my kid skip his nap so that you can order one more beer? Again, go fuck yourself. Think that I should put my newly hatched first-born in his pack n play just so that you, an adult, can have my full attention while you blather on pointlessly about I don't even know what? Well, guess what?!? GO FUCK YOURSELF! Because I'm an INTJ.*

The self-reflection was somewhat difficult at times and to get the most accurate result possible, it actually took me a few days. I would read a section and come back to it after letting it stew in my brains for a bit. And there were some categories where I didn't clearly fall on one side or the other. At least I didn't think I did. Turns out, I do. I dance the thin line between Thinking and Feeling, but after the other day, it was confirmed that I am more on the Thinking side when my poor, sweet sister was standing in my kitchen talking about how she's had such a rough week since my great-aunt died and I had to remind myself not to stare at her as if she had cabbage on her tooth. Clearly, my sister was having a perfectly normal reaction here. I wasn't judging her for that. I just can't relate. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE(d) my great-aunt. Hell, I named my kid after her. And while it makes my heart hurt that Tia is longer with us, she hadn't been with us for a long time. She was old, she was the last surviving sibling (out of 11!) and she was living a life she would have never wanted for herself. I was sad for me, but I was happy and relieved for her. So it was hard for me to relate to A when she stood in my kitchen, days after my aunt had passed, and was still so visibly upset. Yeah, I'm definitely T, not F.

I worried as I read Mother Styles and had these hysterical epiphanies (yes, I do have a very tenuous grip on how long things should take and end up always being way too early for fear of being late!) that I would use the things I learned as an excuse...but no, I find myself using it more like a pep talk of sorts. For example, I am painfully, undeniably an introvert. But now that I know that, now that I know what that looks like and what that means and what I need to do for myself to honor that, I'm better able to function like a normal human being in an extrovert setting. In part because I know it's temporary. In part because I know that I'm a little uncomfortable not because I'm weird (well, not exclusively because I'm weird) but because I'm an introvert. I'm not mean, I'm a thinker. I'm not a control freak, I'm a judger. Get it?

As a person who loves information and craves knowledge, especially when it's impact is concrete and positive, I really enjoyed this book. I found it liberating to read. I found the reminders (get time to yourself, by yourself and don't wait to be done with everything because you will NEVER be done!) so very necessary. D laughed at me because he's been telling me some of the same things - I think one of the reasons he liked the book was because it backed him up - but do I listen to him? Noooo...a book has to tell me what to do. But seriously and most importantly, if even one thing I learned makes me a better mother, well then, it was worth the time and energy...and having to face the fact that I am, indeed, just a little bit weird. But I'm ok with that...because it's my type.

* Introverted Intuitive Thinking Judging. Look it up - you might just learn something.

The power of clean

Thursday, July 23, 2009
As I sit on the potty with nary a square in sight, I open the cabinet under D's sink, doubtful yet naively hopeful, that on a day like today, someone, somewhere will take pity on me and that there will be a single, solitary roll of tp just waiting to be lovingly and needfully unwrapped. I lean over, reach around the door and move the bottle of mouthwash. Nothing. I clumsily knock the can of shaving cream out of the way, still hopeful and I spot...the canister of Clorox wipes. I pause for a second or two and think, "When was the last time my bottom got a really good scrubbing?"

Free birth control

Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Be warned: if you are squeamish or are of delicate sensibilities, do not read any further.

Being pregnant is unlike any other experience I've ever had, and I've lived a jam-packed life. When I was pregnant with E, I was one of those annoying women who actually liked being pregnant. I was skipping through tulips, rainbows and lollipops, the whole nine. Even the side effects weren't that bad. Sure, I had heartburn and sciatica, but I had this amazing little life growing inside me and my hair looked great. I went to the gym, I went on hikes, I packed up a house and a garage that contained an entire 18-wheeler full of stuff, moved it and unpacked it a week before I gave birth. Short of the one night I spent on the couch with tears streaming down my face as I endured the most excruciating pain of my life because of the degenerating fibroid that threatened the life of my baby, I was the happiest pregnant lady ever.

Then I got pregnant again and I became a walking billboard for birth control. I puked. I ate white bread. I broke out in huge, nasty pimples that elicited sympathetic looks from the pimpliest of teenagers. I almost fell asleep standing up in the freezer aisle at Target. I finally caved and put a DVD in the player and wolf napped on the couch with one arm over E to make sure he didn't leave the couch and get in trouble. I was a nasty, nasty bitch who came very close to being a single mother because either I was going to kill D with my own bare hands - once again the bowls he had put in the dishwasher were facing the wrong fucking direction! - or he was going to decide one day on his commute home to keep on pedaling right past our house and into the arms of a nicer, kinder woman who didn't have fiery hot estrogen coursing through her veins and muddling her brain (and really, who could blame him?!?) I woke up in the middle of the night and stumbled on my tiptoes towards the toilet because both my heels were asleep. Once. Twice. Ten times a night. I felt like there was a little monster baby going "glub glub glub like a fart in the tub. Like a fart in the tub inside of me."* I spent two months with an um, bikini area, that was dead asleep. As in, pins and needles in my crotch. I accumulated back fat. I ate Salisbury 9 o'clock in the morning! I couldn't sleep. I still can't sleep. I am currently sleeping with the spiders in the basement because my tossing and turning keeps D up and because the only place I stand a chance of getting any rest is in the cold dark cave that is our basement guest room. And according to my old ob, sleep-deprivation has been scientifically linked to depression in pregnant women. No shit. I guess they must have found the cure to cancer if they're wasting their time making "discoveries" like these. Stupid scientists. Wonder why that one didn't make it on the cover of JAMA.

And what makes things even harder is that now I am a mother to a very energetic two-year old. A joyful, loving, demanding, curious, fearless two-year old little boy who deserves the best of me. Which means I've got to suck it up for the next few months and get through this. Our lives are about to undergo a very major change, and I am dead-set on making sure that E goes into this a confident and well-loved little boy, sleepy crotch or no sleepy crotch.

* Many of you will know her from Juno, but Kimya Dawson has a kid's CD that is hands down one of my favorite sing-alongs. You can find a Rolling Stones review of her album here:

Here goes nothing...

So many people have told me that I should write a book, that I should blog, that I should do something. As if I spend my days sitting around with my thumb up my ass. As if I need one more excuse not to vacuum. As if I need one more thing to become totally obsessed with. Oh well, here it goes.

Fittingly, my first post will be about E and how he, at not quite two, has begun to talk shit on us. We took him down to Bear Creek for one of our not-frequent-enough evening walks and we saw a snake on a log. We saw some birds of varying colors and speed. We saw two dogs and the spot where D carved E's initials into the pavement. Then we headed home and about 1/4 of a mile from the house, E sat down and said he was taking an "agua break." Well, we didn't bring agua. I squatted down next to him and told him that I was sorry that we hadn't brought any water but that there was plenty to drink at home and he stood up, at which point D gave me the high five smile. As E headed home, he muttered under his breath, "Make Evan walk home for agua." Really? You're not even two. And you're already talking shit. Awesome.