Blog Archives

“Let Them Be Eaten By Bears” by Peter Brown Hoffmeister

bearsAs an urban-dwelling-Mom, I sometimes worry that our dude isn’t getting enough nature in his day to day life.  I take him to parks and outside all the time, but it’s not like we have a backyard he can play freely in, or the 10 acre farm my Mom lived on.

So, on occasion, I read books like “Let Them Be Eaten By Bears,” which reinforce all the stuff I already know – Outside is good for kids!  Physical Activity and Creative Play are both great things! Turn off your devices and go play!

This book is slightly different, in that it’s written by a dude who is an avid outdoorsman and leads an Outdoor Program for high school students, which takes them into the back country and makes them learn about nature.  There are some anecdotes about real-life experiences with troubled students, as well as the author’s experiences camping with his daughters, and it’s all very nice.  There are chapters about making sure you don’t pack too much for a hike and a list of silly things you can actually buy for camping, like a fondue pot.  You know, useful information – but things most of us already probably know.

“Let Them Be Eaten By Bears” didn’t blow me away, or present anything new and enlightening, but it was a nice reminder to make sure we go outside some more. Also, I picked it up while visiting Bookpeople in Austin, Texas, which is one of the best bookstores in America, so I’m happy.



“The Art of Roughhousing” by Anthony T. DeBenedet and Lawrence J. Cohen

roughhouseBeing a parent in these days of hyper-media isn’t easy.  Not only do we have to deal with a gazillion internet articles all telling us how we’re doing it wrong, we also have constant access to articles and news about kids getting abducted or injured.  I’m sure these things were always happening, but the internet era has brought them all toe the forefront and they’re practically unavoidable.   Also, gym classes and recess are being cut from schools as a result of too much standardized testing and budget cuts.  All of these things have combined to create a world where kids are being kept indoors, in front of screens, and all of this is leading to kids having less time for physical play.  Free, physical play can certainly help stem the tide of childhood obesity, but it also has other mental and emotional/developmental benefits.

Basically – Our Kids need to unplug and play more.

Anthony T. DeBenedet, M.D.,  and Lawrence J. Cohen, Ph.D., are here to try and help.  Their book, “The Art of Roughhousing”, is a friendly instruction manual (of sorts) with true-life case studies, and a ton of suggestions for everything from throwing a pillow fight, to sliding down stairs on a mattress, to simply easy ways to get started if you’re not entirely comfortable with the idea of roughhousing – and many parents aren’t.


Handy diagrams such as the one above give many ideas for getting started.  Safety is obviously a concern, as is respecting your kid’s boundaries, and all of these worries are addressed.  The idea is to have fun, not stress your kid (or yourself) out.

I’m a convert – and honestly, I’m probably the target market for this book.  As the Mom of a rambunctious little boy, I spent a great deal of time convinced my toddler is going to break his head open when he starts jumping on the couch or his bed, but that’s precisely what this book is about – and I think it helped me.  Last night, after I finished reading the book, my son and I had a riotous game of “Angry Birds” – throwing the plush characters (Yoda and Princess Leia, if you must know) at each other and through a hula hoop, with occasional mattress-jumping in between. 

This would be an awesome baby shower gift for new parents.  Combine it with Richard Louv’s “Last Child in the Woods,” and you have a fantastic pair of works to encourage more play/outdoor time.

“Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys” by Dan Kindlon, Ph.D and Michael Thompson, Ph.D

raisingcainMan, it’s rough to be a boy.

I mean, I’m a girl, so I’m only imagining, but after reading “Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys,” I feel way more in tune with the drama that comes from growing up male in America.

By now, the issues that girls face as they mature and proceed through their school years is common knowledge — the influence of the media, the rise of mean girls, the prevailing belief that you’ll only be loved if you’re skinny and “hot,” the “rape culture” of many countries in this world (Hey, Steubenville, I’m talking to you!) — It’s all downright depressing.

Yet, the fact that boys suffer a lot of similar issues hadn’t gotten as much discussion until the publishing of Kindlon and Thompson’s book, which happened to come out a mere eight days before the tragedy at Columbine High School in 1999, and as such became a New York Times bestseller.  Picking it up to read it not long after the recent Newtown tragedy – also a crime committed by a young man – brought home the fact that we’re a still a world with a long way to go.

Through case studies from their actual practices, Kindlan and Thompson shed some light on issues ranging from parental relationships to romantic relationships to depression and suicide.  It’s clear that boys often feel the pressure to maintain a traditional and stoic masculinity, which they see in the media, and try their best to “man up” and hide their emotions.  Kindlan and Thompson are trying to let them reclaim their very real and evident human emotions.

It’s a thought-provoking read, especially if you’re the parent of a boy — which I am.  I don’t doubt that my son will grow up to be well-adjusted, open-minded, and feeling free to express his feelings.  I just wish every parent of a boy would give this book a read — maybe we’d be raising a happier generation.


“How and Why to teach your kids at home” by Rebecca Rupp, and what I learned about seeking books on homeschooling.

My husband and I are thinking about homeschooling our son when he reaches school age.  At present, he’s seven months old and more interested than pulling himself to standing than a classical education, if you can imagine, so we’ve still got some time to figure it out.

We’re not religious people, so it has nothing to do with that.

We simply think we can probably give him as good, if not better, of an education (and a childhood) than he’d get by being stuffed into a world of standardized testing and stifled curiosity.

(Teachers are the bomb, though.  Please don’t think I’m down on teachers.  Why they make a pittance while athletes and movie stars make boatloads of moolah is an abomination.  The end.)

Being a booknerd, I took to my local library to get some books about homeschooling to learn more.

Here’s a hint:  If you’re homeschooling for non-religious reasons, make sure you’re looking for “secular homeschooling” information.  The first book I checked out and brought home had almost no indication of it’s religious leanings on the front or back cover, but once I opened it I realized it was a collection of essays on why religious people should homeschool their kids.  Which is fine, but it’s not for me.

Of the books I found, Rebecca Rupp’s “Getting Started on Home Learning: How and Why to teach your kids at home” is, in my opinion, the best I’ve read so far.  Rupp, a mom who actually homeschools her three kids, is frank and funny and willing to admit that any idyllic visions she may have once had about teaching her kids at home have gone out the window.  She talks in depth about things like the laws around homeschooling, socialization, and includes parts of her homeschooling journal to give the reader an idea what the day to day life might be like.  She also provides addresses to a bunch of resources for parents considering this path.  It’s a fast and informative read, and Rupp’s voice is one that’s relatable and human.

(I haven’t been reading a lot of books for pleasure lately, but I thought I’d share what I actually am spending my time reading.  I promise this blog won’t become purely parenting books.  Pinky swear.)

“The Way of Boys” by Anthony Rao, Ph.D & Michelle Seaton

Anthony Rao’s “The Way of Boys: Raising Healthy Boys in a Challenging and Complex World” should probably be required reading for new parents of boys.

My five month old son is an energetic, lively little boy already.  He’s wide-eyed to the world around him and, as soon as he learns to crawl, will be all over the place.

At some point, his boundless energy may cause a teacher or someone else to suggest he has ADHD. “The Way of Boys” points out how the labels of Aspergers, Austism, and ADHD are too often applied to perfectly normal little boys who are developing along their own timeline as opposed to what society and school expects. The over-medication of children in America is a huge problem, and in many cases it’s completely unwarranted.

Kids grow as kids will grow.

In Dr. Rao’s case files, the reader gets to explore several families going through these issues.  Some have bossy little boys, some have painfully shy little boys. Many of these parents have been told to medicate their children, or have them put in special programs, when in fact boys develop in a wide variety of ways – any very differently from little girls, who are classically much easier to handle.  One mom even shows up for a parent/teacher conference only to find herself facing a panel of a principal, a school psychologist, and others trying to get her to sign papers regarding her son’s treatment.

(I feel it important to note that Dr. Rao is not always opposed to medication – He absolutely admits that some children do, indeed, do better on certain meds, but in many cases behavioral therapy does more good.  It’s a well-rounded approach that I really appreciated.)

Dr. Rao argues that it’s time we stop trying to “fix” little boys.  I feel like this book taught me some things as a mom – mainly, what not to freak out too much about.  It’s going to live on my shelf for a few years – here’s hoping I don’t ever really need to come back to it.

“The New Mother’s Guide to Breastfeeding” by the American Academy of Pediatrics

I’ll keep this short and snappy, since I’m aware that probably 90% of you have no interest in reading this book.

Myself, I read it for obviously practical reasons – I’m the breastfeeding mom of a new baby, and I wanted a guide to have on hand to answer any and all questions that might arise.  Written by the American Academy of Pediatrics, “The New Mother’s Guide to Breastfeeding” does just that.  It’s packed with information on everything from latching to proper nutrition for moms, and can answer most questions new moms might have while they navigate the tricky but rewarding process of breastfeeding.

That said, it’s a dry read.  I totally expected hat, but I’m just saying.  There’s not a lot of humor in the mix, and it’s very cut and dry.  As the book was written by a team of Doctors, it’s understandable too.  All of this totally works for what the book is, but I just felt it was worth pointing out.

If you want a full-color guide to breastfeeding that’s got moments of charm, this isn’t your book.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.  Done and Done.

Lonely Planet Guide: “Travel with Children”

My being a new mom has not killed my travel bug one bit. Now though, as opposed to the days of heading out with simply a backpack and no second thoughts, there’s going to be a new piece of living & breathing luggage that’ll need to be factored in to any plans.

When it comes to travel know-how, I always turn first to the folks at Lonely Planet.  Their full-color, informative guides have gone with me many places and are always spot on with their information, as well as gorgeously put together, well-photographed, and usually truly entertaining.  So I headed over to Chicago’s amazing Unabridged Bookstore (where the entire basement floor is full of travel guides and books, by the by) and picked up a copy of Lonely Planet’s “Travel with Children.”

And good timing on my part, as my son’s first multi-state road trip is happening this Spring.

Compiled by members of the LP staff who actually have kids they’ve traveled with, “Travel with Children” hits all the right notes.  It’s divided neatly into sections – Top Tens, Before you Go, On the Road, Types of Holidays, Destinations, and Travel Games – and remains charming and informative as it helps ease all parental fears about traveling with children, from infants to teenagers.  In between, there are personal accounts of actual trips the staffers have taken with children, including one especially charming one written by the mother of a little girl who delights in an art museum in New York City.

I also appreciated that this book doesn’t try to reign in the types of vacations families can take, which is also nice.  There’s no reason a little dude can’t go on a Safari, or an infant can’t go to Paris – it’s all in the perspective and planning.

I can’t imagine there’s a better book on this subject on the market, so if you’re looking to hit the road with a little one, check it out!


Baby Books!

It’s never too early for books.

I grew up with a booknerd for a Mom, and was always surrounded by books.  So of course now that I’m about to bring my own child into the world, books were a requirement.

Without further ado, here are some images from the nursery.

“The Book of Goodnight Stories” was actually given to me when I was just a wee tot.  The rest of these books were gathered from all over – presents from friends, book sales, and book stores my husband and I love.  There’s a copy of James Thurber’s “Many Moons” in there, because it’s my favorite kids book ever.  And what little boy doesn’t need “Harold and the Purple Crayon?”

The itty bitty books collection – including some classic Winnie the Pooh and the all-time favorite “Goodnight Moon.”

(P.S. The elephant is a gift from my sister-in-law’s trip to India. This baby will also know his geography.)

And I figured it was fitting to keep the “Mommy” books in the baby room, too.  These are the texts that have alternately freaked me out and calmed me down over the last 39-ish weeks, and I suggest them to any mom-to-be.  I feel like I’ve spent 9 months readying to review “What to Expect.”

Any day now, this kid will enter the world.

And I’ll start reading to him immediately.

“Let’s Panic About Babies!” by Alice Bradley & Eden M. Kennedy

(FYI — I have no idea why part of today’s blog is formatting weirdly like it’s linked to something.  Sadly, I don’t have time to look into it anymore today, so…. c’est la vie.  Stupid.)

You know your friends understand you when you get a book like “Let’s Panic About Babies!” at your baby shower. 

I’m sure there are some parents-to-be out in the world who don’t see the humorous side of all the bodily changes, emotional swings, and other craziness that goes along with growing a new life in your abdominal region for forty weeks – but I’m not one of them.

Being pregnant is beautiful and all – but it’s also rather gross, and pretty damn hilarious, too.

Subtitled “How to Endure and Possibly Triumph Over the Adorable Tyrant Who Will Ruin Your Body, Destroy Your Life, Liquefy Your Brain, and Finally Turn You into a Worthwhile Human Being,” “Let’s Panic” is the perfect antidote to all the baby books that tiptoe around the hard stuff in favor of promises of eternal sunshine and happiness.

With amazing illustrations and hysterical lists, this book belongs on the shelf of any mommy or daddy to be with a sense of humor.  It’s pretty much all a joke (everyone knows that eating spicy tuna rolls while pregnant won’t cause excessive sweatiness in baby girls) and it’s all really funny.

Alice Bradley and Eden M. Kennedy are funny ladies who get the funny in all of this – their blog ( was the inspiration for the book.

Think of it as “What to Joke about Expecting when you’re Expecting.”

Some of my favorite lists include –

Keeping your Job: How to Hide the Fact that you’ve got baby on the brain.

Lesser Known Birthing Methods – In which getting a tattoo while in labor is an option.

Other Ways to keep from going insane while you wait for baby to come

Come on. It’s a funny book.  Go peruse a copy and see for yourself.

I will say this – Best Baby Shower Gift Ever.

The authors say it themselves – “..We couldn’t be prouder to be providing the world with all the made-up pregnancy and parenting advice that it so desperately needs. You’re welcome.”

The Cupcake Problem – “I was a Really Good Mom before I had Kids” by Trisha Ashworth and Amy Nobile

Modern Moms are a stressed out bunch of ladies.  Pulled in a million directions and expected to be “SuperMoms,” they find themselves working full-time, yet still being expected to run a flawless home, raise happy/smart/well-adjusted children, be in shape and sexy, have dinner on the table every night, and still pull off all those excellent mom details – like making homemade cupcakes for school events instead of (gasp) sending store-bought cupcakes in their place.

Much of this stress is caused by perception.  These women want to be seen as successful by everyone – husbands, other moms, bosses and co-workers. It’s an unfortunate fact that we’re a society that judges each other terribly, and this leads to a sense of hyper-awareness in how we’re being perceived.

You can’t be perfect all the time.  “I was a Really Good Mom before I Had Kids” is a nice, basic guidebook for ways these stressed women can find a better sense of balance.  Feeling guilt about not sending hand-written thank you notes after a birthday party? Forget it.

The subtitle of the book is “Reinventing Modern Motherhood.”  The point of this book is to help Moms find a path to greater balance and more happiness. It’s full of lists and question/answer sections to help pinpoint what the mom (who is the goal reader here) is focusing on in order to help showcase where the focus should be.  The two authors are successful working moms who have some good ideas to share.

Is it a perfect, mind-blowing book? Nope.  Some issues go deeper than cupcakes, you know?

However, I’m months away from becoming a new mom, and I’m certain that a boatload of stress is about to head my way.  Having a copy of this book around could come in handy at those moments, so it’ll hang out in my growing “Parenting” book section.  Maybe having it around will help me keep some perspective.