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Books

May 12, 2021

Blog Tour Stop: The Baby Bonding Book for Dads

When I first picked up a copy of The Baby Bonding Book for Dads, by James di Properzio and Jennifer Margulis, I have to admit that I expected it to be one of those Hallmark Father's Day gift books filled with gorgeous photos and not much substance.

Happily, I was wrong. And that makes me especially happy to be hosting a stop on di Properzio and Margulis' blog tour today.

You have to love a book for new dads that tell it like it is: "Unless your wife had a C-section, your new baby probably looks weird. He may be all scrunched up with a cone head like Bart Simpson, odd-looking skin that's been out of the sun and in amniotic fluid for nine months, and eyes that cross or look unfocused..." Hey, so much for the Hallmark-card text, huh?

And I love the diaper-changing advice: "It's a good idea to talk to the baby and distract her so she doesn't fuss," the authors advise. "Talk about your day, the Red Sox, or tell her how much better she'll feel once she's clean. Or, if things get particularly funky, sing 'She's a very stinky girl,' to the tune of 'She's a very kinky girl."

You have to love a baby book for dads that quotes a Rick James song. And check out these amazing photos...


April 29, 2021

"My Mommy's Having a Boob Job!"

Just not sure how to explain to your child that "Mommy's going to get breast implants"? There's one Florida plastic surgeon who'd like to help.

Michael Salzhauer, M.D., has written a new book for kids ages four to seven: My Beautiful Mommy. He describes the book as "a must-have for any mother with young children considering plastic surgery."

The cover alone makes quite a statement. There's nothing like seeing a little girl, teddy bear in hand, expressing delight over her newly transformed mommy, who now resembles a sexed-up Disney princess, complete with belly top and surrounded by magical sparkles.

Now that's something every little girl should aspire to.

As Newsweek reports: [The book] features a plastic surgeon named Dr. Michael (a musclebound superhero type) and a girl whose mother gets a tummy tuck, a nose job and breast implants. Before her surgery the mom explains that she is getting a smaller tummy: "You see, as I got older, my body stretched and I couldn't fit into my clothes anymore. Dr. Michael is going to help fix that and make me feel better." Mom comes home looking like a slightly bruised Barbie doll with demure bandages on her nose and around her waist... The book doesn't explain exactly why the mother is redoing her nose post-pregnancy. Nonetheless, Mom reassures her little girl that the new nose won't just look "different, my dear — prettier!"

What about the body issues raised here? Will our Ms. Perky Boobs' 6-year-old daughter start worrying that her nose — or stomach, or whatever — isn't good enough? Will she worry that her breasts — still years away from even making the scene — won't measure up?

Here's my alternative book suggestion: I'm Gonna Like Me — Letting Off a Little Self Esteem (HarperCollins; 2002), by Jamie Lee Curtis and Laura Cornell. It's written for ages four to eight. "Self-esteem is at the core of what is wrong with us and what is right with us," says Curtis. "It’s an absolutely universal issue. I’m Gonna Like Me allows children to explore their own feelings of self-worth."

And you gotta love a first line like "I'm gonna like me when I jump out of bed, from my giant big toe to the braids on my head."

After all, isn't that the message we really want to share with our kids?

P.S. I have to say, Dr. Michael has a killer P.R. person working for him. This book seems to be on the desk of every parenting editor I've spoken with this week. And they all seem to think it's pretty pathetic. Even perezhilton.com got in on the book-review act. Check it out here.

P.S. Oh, by the way... If you click on the link to Dr. Michael's website, you'll get a pop-up "live chat" box, where a "patient coordinator" will ask what surgical procedure you're interested in. I used that as an opportunity to briefly share my thoughts on the book...




April 24, 2021

Knock Yourself Up (No Man? No Problem!)

As a book reviewer, I've had fun carrying this hot (shocking pink!) little number around town with me this week, reading a few pages during my son's piano lesson, taking it along for a solo lunch at a favorite little Mexican restaurant — and never knowing who might see the cover and wonder...

Of course, like the just-too-funny promos for the new movie "Baby Mama" (about a woman who enlists the help of a surrogate), which opens today, the title Knock Yourself Up (Avery), by Louise Sloan, is meant to be an attention grabber.

But once I cracked the cover, I found solid information and lots of real stories about single women over 30 who are trying to make the right decision on this life-altering issue by doing a lot of research, doing a lot of soul searching and enlisting the support of family and friends. Sloan shares her (touching and often really funny) experiences and those of many others who've decided not to let being single stand in the way of becoming a mom. 

Got questions? The book answers these and a lot more: When do I decide it's time to go it alone? How do I choose the right sperm? Is this fair to the kid? Can I afford to do it? How do I tell my parents? How do I tell my dates? Have I gone totally crazy? Will I ever have sex — or a life — again?

For those who want to discuss these juicy questions with their book club, there's a guide with discussion questions. For even more info, stop by knockyourselfup.com.

While I had a man involved when I got pregnant, I can't say Randy and I exactly did it the old-fashioned way. Having gone through in vitro fertilization, I could relate quite a bit to the tales of hormone injections, blood tests and waaay too many doctor appointments involving transvaginal ultrasound and stirrups. Trust me, nobody goes through all this stuff on a lark.

As "Baby Mama," Knock Yourself Up and my own IFV experience will attest, there are lots of ways to bring a baby into the world these days. But one thing remains, and you can surely can see it in this melt-your-heart picture of Sloan and her son, Scott: Women are making these decisions based primarily on something that mothers have had in common through the ages: love.

April 17, 2021

Welcome Jen Singer! (And Yes, She's a Good Mom)

Today we're pleased to chat with Jen Singer, author of You’re a Good Mom…And Your Kids Aren’t So Bad Either: 14 Secrets for Finding Happiness Between Super Mom and Slacker Mom.

For 21st Century mothers, there often seem to be just two choices: Super Mom or Slacker Mom. One’s bad for you; one’s bad for your kids. So what’s a mom to do? Singer offers secrets for raise perfectly good kids in that sweet spot between flash cards at breakfast and “donuts for dinner, kids!” The book is available on Amazon and at bookstores everywhere.

Thanks for making Parent Talk Today a stop on your blog tour, Jen! Now on to our Q&A:

Q.    How did motherhood get to be so competitive?

Jen Singer: It started with the very first Baby on Board sticker, most likely stuck on a 1985 Volvo. Since then, our society went child centric – and a little crazy, too. We’ve raised the motherhood bar so impossibly high, we can’t reach it. We drive our kids to not one, not two, but three activities and sports in a week – sometimes in a day. We use flash cards at stop lights and play music for our kids in utero. (Have you ever tried to listen to music underwater? It sounds all wrong.)

Q. That’s why we all feel like slacker moms, right? We can’t keep up.

Jen: And then we give up, and eventually, we’re serving donuts for dinner and letting our kids watch Desperate Housewives, because it’s easier than sending them to bed. But that’s bad for our kids, and trying to be a Super Mom is bad for us. There’s a sweet spot in between where you can raise good kids without losing yourself.

Q. So how can moms find that in between spot?

Jen: The first secret to finding happiness in 21st century motherhood is to realize that Super Mom is faking it and Slacker Mom isn’t as cool as she appears to be. The town über mom probably only gets to put her feet up at the gynecologist’s office. The rest of the time, she’s frantically trying to make perfect kids in her perfect house. She’s exhausted and her kids are, too.

The cool mom, on the other hand, has no idea what her kids are up to while she sucks down Diet Cokes and watches like-minded women on Moment of Truth. And now that there are web sites where kids as young as eight can build a virtual bimbo, breast implants and all, that’s pretty darn scary.

Q. But what if you want to do right by your kids? Don’t you have to sign them up for lots of activities just to keep up with everyone else?

Jen: Here’s one of my tips: Don’t be a frequent flyer. In other words, you don’t have to fill out all those flyers for karate and drama camp and math enrichment just because they come home with your kids. Pick one or two activities that your children are excited about, and sign up for those. And – I know this one is hard in the age of travel sports – let your kids play one sport per season, especially if they’re under 10. It’ll be easier on them and on the mileage of your mini-van.

Q. What if all the other moms are doing it?

Jen: Be a rebel mom. I know it’s hard to be the only mother who puts her foot down and doesn’t let her kid watch The Simpsons or play Halo. These days, it’s also much harder to shield our kids from age inappropriate media because there’s so much of it out there. But it pains me that even second graders watch CSI, which has gruesome crime scenes that even make grown-ups like me flinch. It’s more work to be your kids’ filter nowadays, but it’s also more important than ever to protect them from things they’re not ready for because there’s so much of it out there.

Q. Do you think the Internet helps or hinders today’s moms?

Jen: One of the best things for modern motherhood is the Internet. Also, one of the worst things for modern motherhood is the Internet. On the one hand, we can find blogs and web sites like this one that give us a sense of community, answer our parenting questions and even make us laugh. But we can also innocently look up the rash our kid has and wind up convincing ourselves that it’s a flesh-eating parasite from the Amazon, when we haven’t even gone hiking in a park, let alone in the jungle. Google wisely.

Q. What one tip would you give moms who are trying to find happiness?

Jen: Use triage. Pick out only those things that are truly important to you and your family, and aim for those. Take volunteering jobs that allow you to see your kids, like being a Cub Scouts den leader or escorting on the class trip. Build in playtime to your calendar – for the kids and for you. Move the computer into the family room so you can see what your kids are doing online. Then let everything that’s less important go. Really, do you have to bake cupcakes for your child’s birthday celebration at school when the bakery will do that for you?

Q. Do you think you’re a good mom?

Jen: It depends on the day! When my kids were toddlers, I used to feel guilty for folding laundry instead of entertaining them, even though I was spending upwards of 100 hours a week with them as a full-time at-home mom. I thought I had to constantly create teachable moments in order to prepare them for the future. But I really needed to teach them independence and self sufficiency. I’m not going to be there to help them pick out lunch or manage homework at college, after all. A good mom gets her kids ready for life on their own – and prepares herself for life without her kids.

April 14, 2021

Join Us Friday When The "You're a Good Mom" Blog Tour Stops Here!

For 21st Century mothers, there seem to be just two choices: Live up to the Super Mom or give up to be the Slacker Mom. One's bad for you; one's bad for your kids. So what's a momma to do?

In You're a Good Mom (and Your Kids Aren't So Bad Either): The 14 Secrets to Finding Happiness Between Super Mom and Slacker Mom," the Internet's favorite momma, Jen Singer, tells all. Turns out you can raise perfectly good kids in that sweet spot between flash cards at breakfast and "donuts for dinner, kids!" You'll find great tips like these:

  • Don't answer the phone when the class mom calls.
  • Your kid's birthday party isn't your coming-out celebration.
  • Don't treat fine restaurants like a McDonald's PlayPlace.
  • You think you're a "cool mom," but they think you're a pushover.

Filled with "that happened to me, too!" stories, YOU'RE A GOOD MOM offers giggles and a pat on the back for today's moms, whether they're deep in diapers or petrified by puberty.

Join us Friday for a great Q & A with author Jen Singer as she stops by Parent Talk Today on her blog tour!

And check out this terrific You Tube video preview:

March 27, 2022

All Hail The Anti-Princess Reading List!

For little girls, Cinderella and Snow White may be the ultimate storybook characters. And these princesses certainly have their place in a child's world — up to a point.

For parents who want their daughters to grow up looking for a bit more from life than a prince to rescue them, there's the "Anti-Princess Reading List" (click on it under "browse by category") over at a wonderful website I just discovered: mommytrackd.com.

Just looking at the titles brought me back to some of the heroines I loved as a girl: Nancy Drew, Pippi Longstocking, Harriet the Spy. These gals solve crimes, wear what they please (and it rarely includes taffeta), and have marvelous adventures.

I'm not suggesting an all-or-nothing approach here. After all, who says a kid can't wear her Princess Jasmine costume while reading a story about a girl taking first place at the school science fair?

March 13, 2022

Money, Sex & Kids

It has been a hoot carrying around a copy of the new book Money, Sex and Kids (Adams Media; $14.95) by Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D. for the past week or so. If I'm reading it in the orthodontist's waiting room, for instance, people take a look at the cover and you just know they're wondering, "Hmm. I wonder what her problem is: money, sex or kids?"

Actually, reading the book is a good way to help head off potential problems with all three. For instance, Tessina offers down-to-earth tips on how to resolve fights constructively — and lovingly (it’s possible!).

She's is a psychotherapist in private practice and she isn’t afraid to tackle these three biggies in most marriages. Her tips for understanding each other better during an argument make a lot of sense:

°    Seek first to understand.
°    Pay attention to how your words are landing.
°    Focus on the solution.
°    Separate emotion from solution.
°    Don’t beat dead horses.
°    Be nice.

Come to think of it, doing those things in marriage seems like pretty good preventive medicine, too.

March 08, 2022

Can't Say No to Your Kids? Here's Help

In response to my Feb. 27 post, "Are You Crazy Busy?" Susan Newman, Ph.D., a social psychologist and author of 13 parenting and relationship books, including The Book of NO: 250 Ways to Say It — and Mean It — and Stop People-Pleasing Forever got in touch and offered to share these tips, from her wonderful book, with the rest of us:

When something needs to be done, you’re the one to do it. It often feels as if you’re the only reliable person you know. The trouble is: Everyone else thinks that way, too. Especially your children.

Children have no trouble saying no. But it’s a word you avoid because it sets your guilt meter running, particularly where your children are concerned. You don’t want to disappoint them or make them unhappy. When you say yes to your children’s every want and whim, you wind up saying no to yourself, being overwhelmed and exhausted. You can’t be a happy, effective parent if you always function on overload.

At times, it seems a child’s needs involve you in different and demanding ways every waking minute. You have every right to say no to a child who asks to stay up later or eat more candy than you think is healthy, just as you do to an adult child who seeks dollars to start a seemingly risky venture.

NO Teaches Life Lessons

In some situations, no is the obvious answer, but what happens when your child asks to add another extracurricular activity to her already-full schedule? You’re proud of her initiative and want her to excel, but at the same time, your brain calculates the extra costs, both monetary and physical, that will result if you give permission.

When faced with the decision to add another activity to your child’s crowded schedule, grant a privilege or buy the latest electronic gizmo, listen to your gut feeling and ask yourself these questions: Can you afford to invest the time or money? What will it take away from other children in your family? From your job? How much stress or pressure will it add to your life?

By calling up a no when you need it, you gain a bit of deserved time for yourself, and equally important, no prepares your child for the “real” world. Parental no’s teach children how to cope with disappointment, how to argue, how to strike a balance between work and play, time management and task prioritization — essential experiences that aren’t always taught in school. When children grow up learning these concepts, they are more likely to be successful in their academics, relationships and, later on, in their careers.

10 Tips for Saying NO

In The Book of NO I point out that you have certain rights. Among them: Using no to get your life in control and to be in control of it; requesting details before committing; refusing anyone, including your children, who insists on an immediate answer. Exercising your “no” rights will change how you think when your children’s requests seem excessive, unnecessary or impossible to meet given your other commitments.

In our culture of “yes parenting,” here are suggestions and reminders to make saying no to your children easier:

•    Don't get in the habit of putting your children's wants and wishes before yours.
•    Forget about keeping up with the Joneses (one of the reasons many parents say yes).
•    Think about what’s really involved (in terms of time, money, health, pressure — yours and theirs).
•    Children get over disappointment far better and faster than parents do.
•    Don’t say yes to avoid confrontation.
•    Appropriate use of NO teaches important life lessons.
•    Saying NO helps instill your beliefs and values.
•    Remember, it is your parental right to say NO.
•    Park your guilt. As adults, your children will find something other than your refusals to fault you for.
•    Your children may even thank you for teaching them how to say no.

Thanks, Dr. Newman! For more on how to say NO to your children, friends, family and at work, visit www.thebookofno.com.

February 27, 2022

Are You Crazy Busy?

It happened again the other day. I was at the grocery store and ran into a mom I know from my son's school. "How are you?" I asked. "Just crazy busy!" she said, before launching into a laundry list of all the things she had on her plate that day.

All parents, it seems — and especially moms —  have a similar mental list. Grocery shopping, work, laundry, dentist appointments, carpool, baseball practice, piano lessons... It's enough to make us pooped before lunch.

That's why, when I heard about it, I had to pick up a copy of Crazy Busy: Overstretched, Overbooked and About to Snap! by Edward M. Hallowell, M.D. Hallowell is a child and adult psychiatrist and the founder of The Hallowell Center for Cognitive and Emotional Health in Sudbury, MA. An expert on attention deficit disorder, he discusses how all of us — whether we have ADD or not —  can deal with "the rush, the gush, the worry, and the blather (which also includes clutter)."

I'm finding the book to be fascinating and really helpful. Hallowell lives in the real world and doesn't think we should toss the BlackBerry out with the bath water. But he does help us determine what really counts in life — and shows us how to focus on that.

Hallowell also has started a blog to discuss ADD and other issues, including those raised in this book. Check it out here.

Are you feeling crazy busy these days? What ways have you found to slow down and focus on the important things in your life? I'd love to hear your tips.

November 29, 2021

Can Springsteen Lead Kids to Steinbeck?

Discussing song lyrics in the classroom helps kids connect with traditional literature, says a former high school English teacher turned literacy researcher at the University of Arkansas. Christian Z. Goering now hosts a Web site for teachers to share links between literature and lyrics.

Goering presented his work at the recent annual convention of the National Council of Teachers of English in a paper titled (gotta love this) “Springsteen, Steinbeck and The Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash: Connecting Music to Literature.”

But he's not suggesting replacing literature with popular culture in high school classrooms. “What I am suggesting is that we pair pieces of classic literature with contemporary music, allowing some of the natural, thematic connections to come to the surface and allowing our students to see these connections and the relevance to their own lives,” Goering says.

Music lyrics can be an especially effective hook, given the importance of music to teens. Goering cites a survey that asked which form of entertainment teenagers would take to a desert island.

Lyrics can serve as a bridge for students, Goering noted, from material that may be familiar or easily understood to classic literature that may be more difficult or challenging. For example, “California Sky,” by the Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash, takes listeners from “out in Oklahoma where the hard winds blow” on a cross-country journey that can open up a discussion of John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath.

“It is the process of reading one text while thinking of others that truly makes literature relevant to students’ lives,” Goering said.

Head on over to the site and click on the LitTunes Connections Database. Talk about a great way to start some interesting discussions with your kid!

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