Essays · Julia P · Memoir · Non-Fiction · Parenting · Women

Bad Mother | by Ayelet Waldman

Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities, and Occasional Moments of Grace by Ayelet Waldman
(Doubleday, 2009, 213 pages)

It used to be that the books most inclined to catch my eye were food-forward memoirs, but since becoming a mom those have been less on the forefront for me. I was strolling the aisles at my local public library not long ago and this collection of essays caught my eye. What Waldman hits on here is that regardless of how hyper-involved you are (or aren’t) as a parent, you will inevitably find a time when you see yourself as a “bad mother.” We’ve been conditioned by society to think nothing we do is ever really good enough – we’re keeping up with other mothers (and fathers) who only highlight the amazing things they do with/for their kids; keeping hidden the times they lock themselves in the bathroom with wine to cry it out.

This book offers humor, clarity, and the occasional moment that breaks your heart just a little. Whether you’re a new-ish mom or not, I think you can appreciate this collection of essays. I’ve been eager to read Waldman’s latest book, A Really Good Day, but I’m glad I got a better feel for her writing style thanks to this collection. If YOU are intrigued, check out this Modern Love piece that got her on a lot of people’s radars a little over a decade ago.

4/5 stars

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Babies · Food! · Julia P · Non-Fiction · Parenting

Baby-led Weaning | by Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett

Baby-led Weaning

Baby-led Weaning: Helping Your Baby to Love Good Food
by Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett
(Vermilion, 2008, 256 pages)

This was a different type of food book from what I used to read, but with a baby in my life and starting to eat solids this was a book I was curious about. Essentially Rapley and Murkett make the case that you don’t need to go through the process of introducing your child to food by spoon-feeding them super-pureed baby food. They explain that once your child is old enough to start eating solids you can allow them to eat the foods you are eating. Obviously there are guidelines with what types of foods you should share and how they should be “prepared,” but the point is that babies will respond well to exposure to different tastes and textures.

The logic is pretty sound. Starting out babies don’t have a lot of dexterity so you’ll want to offer food that it will be easy for them to grab in their fists and eventually maneuver to their mouths. With that in mind, the idea of them choking on food isn’t really something you need to worry about. Also, the case has been made that this approach helps children to be more adventurous eaters while simultaneously encouraging the family to eat healthier as a whole (if you don’t want your baby to eat it, you shouldn’t eat it yourself). So less processed foods and encouraging the “family meal” dynamic from a young age are just a few of the perks from baby-led weaning.

I already started testing a few things out with my daughter this weekend. While I’m still going to use the baby food I have at home, I’m also going to feel more comfortable with the idea of exposing her to the food I’m eating and allowing her to explore her food however she wants. I’m already used to the extra cleaning that comes into play when a baby’s diet expands so we might as well all have fun with it. 😉

This is a book I’d recommend if you’re a parent who’s interested in learning more about different ways you can approach introducing new foods to your child.

Babies · Julia P · Non-Fiction · Parenting

Watch My Baby Grow | by DK Publishing

Watch My Baby Grow

Watch My Baby Grow by DK Publishing
(DK Publishing, 2014, 224 pages)

As a new parent I’ve recently started keeping more of an eye out for books that focus on child development and what to expect the first year. Watch My Baby Grow seemed like it could be beneficial because DK Publishing has a knack for publishing titles that present information in a clear, easy-to-digest way.

Watch My Baby Grow follows the progression of baby Melisa over the course of a year. Photographs are taken to show how she is changing and information is provided to explain what is going on developmentally and what sorts of things you can expect to see happen around the same time frame.

This isn’t an in-depth resource, but if you’re a visual learner and just want to supplement your other parenting resources you might pick this up from the library.

Babies · Julia P · Non-Fiction · Parenting · Quick Read!

The Happiest Baby on the Block | by Harvey Karp

The Happiest Baby on the Block

The Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp, M.D.
(Bantam, 2003, 288 pages)

A friend gave me this book after I told her I was pregnant and she said it was really helpful and that it’s best to read it before the baby arrives so you have time to actually digest/remember the information. Essentially this book revolves around how to care for your newborn in the three months after birth. The focus is on calming crying and ensuring a good night’s sleep. Karp explains that those first three months of life should be considered the 4th trimester – your baby is still getting acclimated to this new world and the best way to keep them happy is by recreating the womb experience as closely as possible. This can be done by using the 5 S’s: Swaddling, Side/Stomach placement, Shushing, Swinging, Sucking. Doing a combination of some or all of these calms the baby (thereby calming the parents).

This was a quick and helpful read that I’ve since passed on to my husband so he can familiarize himself with the techniques. I’d definitely recommend it for parents-to-be.

Books · In the Library · Julia P · Non-Fiction · Parenting

Born Reading | by Jason Boog

Born Reading

Born Reading by Jason Boog
(Simon & Schuster, 2014, 305 pages)

I picked up Born Reading earlier this month because I started amassing a children’s library a *while* ago and want to make sure I raise a reader who will enjoy books as much as I do. Boog’s book is based on his own experiences with his daughter, Olive, and he enlisted a lot of help from various experts (ranging from librarians to app developers) to make sure the advice he’s offering is sound and well-supported. The book is broken down into chapters by time frame from “Before Your Baby is Born” to “Kindergarten and Beyond” so it walks you through each stage in a child’s life and differentiates how you can continue to make reading part of their daily routine while also enhancing reading and critical thinking skills.

An important issue Boog touches on is the notion of “screen time” and having an idea of how much time you’re comfortable with exposing your child to. I hadn’t really thought too much about it until reading this book and Boog makes some interesting points. Each chapter includes a list of suggested titles and apps, which is nice. I also really appreciated that Boog makes a point of saying that the titles he highlights worked well for him and his daughter but that you should pick books that speak to your child’s interests – he consistently references going to the library and working with your local children’s librarian to get help finding new titles.

The book has a “Born Reading Playbook” that consists of 15 “skills” for incorporating interactive reading in each stage of your child’s life. I got a lot of great recommendations and suggestions from this title and I’m glad I picked it up. Some of the things referenced seemed like common sense to me, but by making me actively think about them I hope it will help me to enhance the reading experience for my child. Good read – I’d recommend it to parents-to-be and/or parents of young children who are working to encourage better reading habits 🙂

Celebrities · Design · Fashion · Food! · Health · Julia P · Non-Fiction · Parenting · Quick Read! · Self-Help

The Honest Life | by Jessica Alba

The Honest Life

The Honest Life: Living Naturally and True to You by Jessica Alba
(Rodale Books, 2013, 272 pages)

One of my friends referenced this book a while ago so with the start of the new year I decided to look into some healthy lifestyle changes and requested The Honest Life from the library. Normally when it comes to celebrity lifestyle books I approach them with a grain of salt. Alba’s focus is on living “naturally,” so living in a way that’s eco-friendly and getting rid of as many of the toxic chemicals in our daily lives as possible. This means thinking hard about the food, clothing, furniture, cleaning supplies, etc. that you buy.

Alba’s motivation for taking this approach to life came when she got pregnant with her first daughter and started freaking out about wanting to keep her safe and in as “pure” an environment as possible. This eventually led her to start up The Honest Company with a focus on creating eco-friendly products that are high quality and visually appealing. While she definitely references her company a lot in these pages, she also recommends other products and companies so it’s not just one big advertisement for her business (though it does make you curious to check things out).

The book was accessible and there were a lot of really helpful tips I was able to take away. I liked that in addition to food and cleaning products she talked about beauty, parenting tips, fashion, and design. If you want to focus on living an eco-friendly life there are ways to do this in every aspect in your world. I’d recommend this book if you’re interested in this lifestyle choice. Like I mentioned, the book is very readable, helpful recommendations are made, and Alba includes a complete list of references at the end including contact information for all the companies/resources she talked about in the book.

Memoir · Non-Fiction · Parenting · Quick Read! · Ying L

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother | by Amy Chua

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua
(Penguin Press, 2011, 237 pages)

I read this book to see what all the hype was about. Amy Chua narrates her story on raising her two daughters the “Chinese way.”  Chua spends an unbelievable amount of time hovering over her daughters’ music lessons, practice, and competitions. Academics is not the book’s main focus, but both daughters are straight-A students. Chua’s dedication is commendable and rare since she and her husband are both full-professors at Yale law school. Her methods are shocking and cruel, a classic case of extreme parenting.  At the end, she realizes that her way isn’t a one-size- fits-all. She makes modifications and tries different approaches with her younger daughter.  I disagree with her almost Nazi-like parenting style. She denies her children bathroom breaks and calls them nasty names. She generalizes the eastern parenting style. Neither I, nor my Chinese friends, have ever used any harsh methods to force our children to do things. She keeps labeling it the Chinese or eastern way, but her behavior reminds me of western hysterical pageant moms or violent soccer dads. They are no different from each other.

On the other hand, we can learn some lessons from this book. There are many ways to help your children be successful. Chua’s so called “Chinese way” is just one of them, the one that most readers would disagree with. I admire Chua’s bold honesty to disclose her unpopular opinions in her book. She is not telling us how to raise our kids; she’s simply illustrating the way she raised her kids.  I do feel that some of us would rather be our kids’ friends than the bad guys.  I am one of them. Chua’s book makes us think, how do we know whether we are being responsible? How far should we push our kids to reach their full potentials? Someday I hope we can figure out a perfect combination of western and eastern parenting styles.

This is a funny book, a quick and engaging read. I shook my head and laughed out loud throughout the book. By the way, I am a Chinese-American, and a mother to three kids. My kids take music lessons (drum, guitar and piano), they practice 5-10 minutes everyday, not 3 to 5 hours ;-). Below is a heated conversation over the family dog Coco between Chua and her husband, I thought was so funny:

In return, I accused him of being selfish and thinking only of himself. “All you think about is writing your own books and your own future,” I attacked. “What dreams do you have for Sophia, or for Lulu? Do you ever even think about that? What are your dreams for Coco?”