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Alex: The Life of a Child


Alex: The Life of a Child by Frank Deford

Pub: 1983

A father’s story of his daughter’s life as she suffered the debilitating effects of cystic fibrosis.

This is one of those real-life, heartbreaking stories that I have a hard time reviewing. There comes a point where you feel cruel if you nitpick the prose or pacing or other literary elements when the poor guy’s pouring his heart out over his dead child.

This is definitely one of those ‘trigger’-warning books. If you have a hard time dealing with reading about a child’s suffering and death, skip this one.

If you would, however, like to read about a sweet (and somewhat precocious) child as remembered by her doting father… If you’d like some information about what it’s like to have a child with a fatal illness… If you want to know more about cystic fibrosis and how it effects a person and his/her loved ones, by all means, pick up this book. It’s tough to get through, emotionally, but holds some really important truths about mortality, hope, and the tough realities of being a parent.


Parenting: Illustrated with Crappy Pictures


Parenting: Illustrated with Crappy Pictures by Amber Dusick

Pub: Jan 2013

Blogger mom-of-two writes (and illustrates!) about the daily trials of parenting.

You know what changed after I had kids? Everything.

I’ve been following Amber Dusick’s mommy blog for some time now. As I went back through, I figured it must have been around the time that I was attempting to potty-train my first son, because I think that one of the first posts I saw was her experience trying to use public restrooms, which included this lovely image:

Ah, yes, the things we do for our children...

Ah, yes, the things we do for our children…

Although this wasn’t one of the blog entries included, this new book does include some old favorites, including “Going Viral,” “What it’s Like to (Not) Sleep at Night,” and “Well-Child Doctor Visits.” In fact, I’d kind of describe this book as a scrapbook of some of the ‘best-of’ moments of the blog, because while it was all organized really neatly into categorized chapters, and included a fun “”50 Crappy Laws of Parenting” at the end, there wasn’t a huge amount of new material. So while this would be a great baby shower gift that’s sure to give the new mom something fun to relate to, if you’re already a follower of the blog, be aware that you’re not going to get a whole lot of new material from buying this one.

The Honest Toddler

Honest Toddler

NEW on shelves today!

The Honest Toddler: A Child’s Guide to Parenting by Bunmi Laditan

5 of 5 stars

An all-encompassing parenting book for how to raise toddlers, as written by a rather precocious, but incredibly honest two-year-old.

The next time you think about walking out of Starbucks with a grande nonfat extra-hot hazelnut mocha for yourself and no giant cookie for your patient, cherubesque darling, consider the consequences.  Are you ready for a throwdown?  Because we are.

This book saved the day.

It had been one of those days.  You know, one of those days where the three-year-old can’t possibly wear his Optimus Prime pajama pants because they’re — and I quote — “too blue.”  I picked up this book for something lighthearted to read while I regained my mental sanity.  I loved it.  I rarely have opportunity to gush about books, but this one was exactly what the doctor ordered.

Everything in it spoke to me, either in a “thank goodness I’m not alone!” way, a “wow, that is probably exactly what my toddler is thinking in that particular circumstance” way, or a “Wow, I’m soooo glad my kid doesn’t do that!” kind of way.  Not only did it cheer me up, but it reminded me to put things in perspective — even at the peak of their tyranny, toddlers are pretty hilarious.  Self-absorbed, highly reactive, and downright scary sometimes, but also pretty hilarious.

As a side note, I had NOT read The Honest Toddler’s blog prior to reading this book and have only read a few posts on there since finishing this.  I know nothing about the actual toddler upon whom this is based, but the Afterword revealed that Honest Toddler is a girl, which threw me off, because I had imagined the whole book narrated by the E*TRADE baby:

Some of my other favorite tidbits:

Vaccines are nothing but stabbings.

Seven out of eight toddlers who have cried it out can’t distinguish between an apple and an orange by high school.

Ninety-nine percent of vegetables are not fit for human consumption.  The other 1 percent is ketchup.

Overall: This book inspired me to make cookies and watercolor (for two hours) with my small children.  I don’t know that I agree with your policy on sharing “the big bed” but Honest Toddler, you must be doing something right.

The Spark


NEW this week…

The Spark: A Mother’s Story of Nurturing Genius by Kristine Barnett

4 of 5 stars

The memoir of a mother whose drive to nurture and support her autistic son in his own interests reveals his mathematical genius.

That night, I had the distinct feeling — which has never been very far away since — that Jake was going to use his amazing brain to make a significant contribution to the world.

In the meantime, though, I had to get him into kindergarten.

With my background in education, I’ve read quite a few books on kids with special needs or academic gifts.  Regardless, I loved reading Jake’s story, as told through the eyes of his mother.

Jake’s story is one that so many people need to hear.  With the prevalence of autism today, it’s great to be reminded that these kids can do amazing things.  Even if all kids don’t end up being prodigies like Jake, taking the time and effort to focus on a child’s strengths is a good lesson for all parents (and teachers).  Jake’s story was incredible, very touching, and a great reminder for parents everywhere to hug their kids, to make quality time for playing with them, and to not let a diagnosis (whether it’s autism or something else entirely) be an excuse for giving up on your child.

The downfalls of this book were all minor.  A personal pet peeve of mine was when the author switched back and forth between referring to her husband as “Mike” and “Michael” — at first, it confused me; then it just irritated me.

Another minor thing that bugged me was the focus on the family’s financial situation — with somewhat over-the-top spending in the first half, then a constant concern in the second half.  I feel weird even questioning the sharp contrast, because really, their personal finances are no one’s business but their own, yet it was a part of the book, so, it’s hard to ignore.

Overall:  An awesome story about an amazing kid and his never-give-up, never-surrender family.

The Christian Mama’s Guide to Parenting a Toddler

Christian Mama's Guide

NEW this week…

The Christian Mama’s Guide to Parenting a Toddler by Erin MacPherson

3 of 5 stars

One mom’s advice and encouragement on a range of topics pertinent to raising toddlers in a Christian home.

It’s easy to get frustrated with one-and-a-half-year-olds, but it’s also easy to love them for the real, honest, and utterly adorable children of God that they are.

With one son entering the toddler years and the other making his way out, I picked up this book with the advantage of hindsight and the anticipation of going through the ‘terrible twos’ again pretty soon.

The author is a blogger/author with three kids of her own.  She uses a healthy dose of humor and self-depreciation to encourage and reassure parents that no one is a perfect mom, and it’s okay to admit your faults and shortcomings, to give yourself breaks, and to have an ‘off’ day every once in awhile.  I appreciated the laid-back, realistic approach to parenting that balances good, reasonable advice with the acknowledgement that some days, just making it to bedtime is accomplishment enough.  My favorite section was that on “Learning and Growing with Your Toddler” which included lists of age-appropriate activities to nurture your child’s love of learning.

Although this book is great for a quick pick-me-up when you need encouragement, don’t expect a lot of heavy scientific research or appendices filled with other resources.  As far as parenting books go, it’s pretty fluffy, with more personal anecdotes and been-there-done-that cheerleading than hard facts.  Some of the advice, I’d even downright disagree with, so you have to take it with a grain of salt and realize that the author isn’t writing this as an end-all-be-all parenting handbook, but simply more of a collection of advice from her personal experiences.

Overall:  A quick, easy-to-read, light-hearted book on the struggles of parenting toddlers.

Other parenting books I’d recommend:
The Honest Toddler: A Child's Guide to Parenting Raising Your Spirited Child REV Ed Moms Raising Sons to Be Men Because I Said So! : The Truth Behind the Myths, Tales, and Warnings Every Generation Passes Down to Its Kids Regret Free Parenting: Raise Good Kids and Know You're Doing It Right

The Business of Baby

Business of Baby

NEW on shelves this week!

The Business of Baby: What Doctors Don’t Tell You, What Corporations Try to Sell You, and How to Put Your Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Baby Before Their Bottom Line by Jennifer Margulis

3 of 5 stars

An investigative journalist’s approach to exploring the monetary motivations behind how American obstetricians and pediatrics practice medicine.

Are the high maternal and infant death rates in America really isolated events, or are they mounting evidence that something in our country is going terribly wrong?

Prenatal care. Ultrasounds. Childbirth. C-sections. Circumcision. Formula. Diapers. Vaccines. Well-Baby care.

Each of these issues can be controversial, and each can translate into many dollar signs for those that practice and produce the things that American babies ‘need.’  Each of these issues could (and have been) covered in depth by other researchers, but this one stands out in that it focuses on the correlations between our hospitals and doctors’ decisions and what’s going into their pockets.

I appreciated the depth of research that went into this book, and although I don’t necessarily agree with all of the author’s conclusions, I do appreciate the way that the book encourages parents to make informed decisions.

In reading this book, I found that I am personally not a big fan of the investigative journalistic style of reporting.  I don’t care what the experts are wearing or what tea they’re sipping or whether the author caught up with them while they were on their daily jog; I really don’t.  I’m much more concerned with their credentials, the research they’ve done, and how they came to their conclusions.  A lot of the stories portrayed a worst-case scenario incidence that I worry might just promote fear and distrust, rather than a need to research all the options.

Overall: This mouthful of a title delivers a slew of information about how the almighty dollar influences the decisions doctors make about your baby.

My Recommended Reading for New Moms:
The Essential Homebirth Guide: For Families Planning or Considering Birthing Pushed: The Painful Truth About Childbirth and Modern Maternity CareThe Thinking Woman's Guide ... Birth Matters:  A Midwife's Manifesta So That's What They're For!... The Vaccine Book: Making th... Baby-led Weaning: Helping Y...

The Honest Toddler

Honest Toddler

The Honest Toddler: A Child’s Guide to Parenting by Bunmi Laditan

5 of 5 stars

Pub: May 7, 2013

An all-encompassing parenting book for how to raise toddlers, as written by a rather precocious, but incredibly honest two-year-old.

Full review to be posted the week of release.

Overall: This book inspired me to make cookies and watercolor (for two hours) with my small children.  I don’t know that I agree with your policy on sharing “the big bed” but Honest Toddler, you must be doing something right.

What a Son Needs from His Mom

What a Son Needs From His Mom

NEW this week…

What a Son Needs from His Mom by Cheri Fuller

3 of 5 stars

A mom of two boys explores what it takes to be a Christian mother, with an emphasis on preparing him to become an adult.

“The actual process of our children leaving the nest starts way before you take them to their college campus or they’re headed out for the honeymoon with their precious bride.  And it’s important to get a big-picture perspective of what the end goal of all our parenting is.”

This book contains a wealth of encouragement for moms with sons, from how to build their confidence without inflating their ego, to how to stay connected during the tumultuous teenage years, from how to really listen to what your son is saying, to how to prepare them for college and life beyond.  The author draws from a variety of professional sources, as well as her own personal experience, and the examples included are realistic and practical.

Although the advice given would be applicable to all mothers, there are certain sections — namely, the ones on how to pray for your son and the one on how to encourage your son’s faith — that are specifically for Christian mothers.  Though I found the prayer section very useful, the section on nurturing your son’s faith took a decidedly evangelical/fundamentalist slant, discussing a son’s decision to be baptized, as well as how and when to encourage him to invite Jesus into his heart.

Overall: Great encouragement for moms wanting to be more intentional in how they raise their sons.

Other Books for Raising Boys:
Raising Your Spirited Child REV Ed Moms Raising Sons to Be Men Regret Free Parenting: Raise Good Kids and Know You're Doing It Right

Moms Raising Sons to be Men

NEW this week

Moms Raising Sons to be Men by Rhonda Stoppe

4 of 5 stars

Using Biblical encouragement and guidelines, the author explores the relationship between mother and son and addresses how to raise up your child to be a faithful, God-pleasing man.

As you parent your children, if your focus is on every turn of events, you will certainly be overwhelmed and afraid… focusing on God and resting in His character will bring peace.

This book presented down-to-earth, practical, and Biblically-based encouragement that I think many moms of sons need to hear.  As a mom of two sons, I was reminded and spurred on in my effort to be a mother who will emulate Christ and raise up young men who take their walk of faith seriously.  What’s more, most of the advice and admonition in this book can be applied to fathers as well, or moms raising daughters, though I did appreciate the focus on moms and sons, since that relationship is one that is incredibly important and unique.  In the first half of the book, the author uses examples of mothers in the Bible — Mary, Hannah, and Eunice, to name a few of the positive examples — to illustrate some basic guidelines.  Then in the second half, she breaks this down into seven important principles, giving examples from Scripture and from personal and secondhand experiences that make the points.

This book didn’t contain as many applications as I had expected; it’s really more about establishing the principles and guidelines than a “how-to” book on explaining what this would look like in each individual family unit.  As far as Biblical accuracy, my only complaint is that in the story of David, she makes some assumptions about David’s mother and their relationship where the Bible doesn’t address it; for all we know, David’s mother could have already passed away before the events recorded in the Bible.  Also, although I appreciated the appendix sections, the one on “How to Have a Relationship with Jesus” uses some theologically synergistic phraseology.

Overall: A Biblical look at what it means to raise up Christian sons

Fans might also enjoy:

Secrets of an Organized Mom


Secrets of an Organized Mom: How to Declutter and Streamline Your Home for a Happier Family by Barbara Reich

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When you find yourself clinging to a toy that your child doesn’t care about anymore, remember that plenty of good times are still to come, and toys are just objects, they’re not the memories that we associate with them.

Home organizer Barbara Reich uses four simple steps to help moms — regardless of natural neat tendencies — to declutter their homes in order to create more functional, efficient areas for families of all sizes in all kinds of housing. The book takes a room-by-room approach, pointing out problem areas and encouraging the reader in their pursuit of a cleaner, neater household. Even if you’re not the domestic type, the author lays out simple organizational plans that nearly anyone could apply to their own homes.

Sometimes (maybe twice a year?) I get in the mood to clean and purge and redo the spaces in my house to work more efficiently. This book inspired such a tornado of cleaning. This quick, simple book is perfect for those that need that little boost of inspiration, perhaps some new ideas to try out, and encouragement (over and over, as many times as we need it) to just get rid of the extra clutter. I love her “Ten Commandments of Organizing” because they are so applicable to so many areas of the house and spaces and cleaning tasks which I struggle with. Some are basic and obvious, like “#2 Routines work!” and “#5 Store like with like, and designate a place for everything.” and others may seem obvious, but make a world of difference, like “#6 Store things where you use them” and “#8 Ignore sunk costs.” Paired with the constant refrain of “PURGE, DESIGN, ORGANIZE, and MAINTAIN!” this book makes it easy to clean out the clutter and keep it out.

There were, obviously, a few things that weren’t applicable to me (for instance, I don’t carry a purse), and there’s whole sections — like that about the nursery — which I’m sure many people can skip, but overall, the concepts are relevant to any home. The author also goes beyond simply making your house look nice and delves into how to create a simple, functional wardrobe, how to organize bill-paying and paperwork, and how to make your holidays and vacations run more smoothly.

There were a few things where I think the author went a bit overboard, or that I wouldn’t necessarily agree with her ideas. For instance, she insists that shoes should go in the bedroom, which makes me cringe (maybe because I have small boys who like mud?), and insists that no one really makes Play-Doh from scratch (which I just did this week). When moving, she recommends using a tape measure to calculate the linear feet of storage in your old and new homes to compare, and when packing for a trip recommends dividing your clothes up evenly among the bags in case one gets lost (yeah, probably NOT going to do either of those things). And some of her suggestions I ended up dismissing because I’ve already discovered different ways to set things up in my house that already work for me, and hey, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Even though these things might not work well for me, they didn’t detract too much from the overall value of this guide, which I think would be a great addition to any household.

Overall: A lot of great tips, advice, and encouragement that any family can use to help them purge, design, organize, and maintain a less cluttered, neater, more functional household. The neat-freak part of my brain is going nuts!

Thanks to the publisher for providing me with a review copy of this book!

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