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  • Jeff Somers 6:30 pm on 2017/09/19 Permalink
    Tags: parenting, tips n' tricks   

    8 Books Every Grandparent Should Have on Hand 

    Becoming a grandparent is one of those magical moments in life—an opportunity to pass down wisdom, tradition, and hard-won experience. People fortunate enough to become grandparents are usually understandably thrilled at the prospect—but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a learning curve, or that there aren’t moments of doubt, confusion, and possibly panic. As usual, the best way to get ready is to read—or at least to have the right reference materials on hand. These books will ensure you’re ready for whatever your grandkids throw at you—literally, as in a pinch they can be used to bat projectiles aside.

    Get Them Used to the Idea

    How to Babysit a Grandma and a Grandpa, by Jean Reagan
    If for some reason your grandkids aren’t used to you babysitting them, this wonderful book is an ideal way to ease them into the idea. Written for kids, the clever role-flip tells kids how to babysit you, instantly putting them in charge and making them more comfortable while teaching them proper behavior and coaching them in how to react to different possible scenarios. Even if it is a new experience for everyone involved, this book will make your first babysitting sessions a breeze.

    Handling Eery Scenario

    Becoming Grandma, by Leslie Stahl
    If you’re a first-time grandparent, Stahl’s exploration of her own status as a grandmother will be an eye-opening and comforting journey to share, offering up her own hard-won wisdom alongside a thorough journalistic dive into what grandparenting means to men and women across the country, from all socioeconomic strata. What Stahl finds is that grandparents today are younger, and their roles within families is changing—which means if you’re uncertain what your status as a grandparent means for you and your family, you’re not alone. That by itself makes this book invaluable.

    Be the Best Grandparent, by The Grandparents’ Association
    If you’re imagining being a grandparent is all ice cream and laughter, you must be new. Grandparenting is a relationship, and like all relationships, it can be a challenging one This fantastic book includes suggestions for activities that will bring you closer to your grandchildren, as well as coping strategies for the inevitable conflicts and dustups that happen to every family. Whether you have a deep network of peers going through the same things, or find yourself as the only grandparent in your circle of friends, this book is a resource you’ll turn to time and time again.

    Entertaining Tykes

    Dr. Seuss Beginner Book, by Dr. Seuss
    For the youngest, you simply can’t go wrong with a deep stock of Dr. Seuss’s classic books. This one includes all of the favorites, and offers the potential for hours of quiet reading time—whether you’re doing the reading aloud or not. Dr. Seuss provides the ideal combination of language instruction, gentle coaching, and unfettered imagination. Plus, your kids read probably Dr. Seuss, and maybe you did too. Passing this tradition on to your grandkids is a beautiful thing.

    Charlotte’s Web, by E.B. White and Grimm’s Complete Fairy Tales, by The Brothers Grimm
    For older kids, slightly more complex reading material is necessary. A big old book of fairy tales is a staple, something you can dip into whenever a rainy day keeps everyone inside, or a bit too much sugar makes nap time a challenge—and illustrations are absolutely vital, as they can be a treat doled out throughout each story. As your grandkids get older, they’ll want more complicated stories, and Charlotte’s Web is a perfect pick, combining just a hint of the complications life has in store for everybody in its emotionally resonant story.

    The Grandparent’s Handbook, by Elizabeth Laban
    Laban’s exhaustive book is a must-have because it combines advice and tips with that most necessary of information: creative ideas for activities to keep kids busy. After all, there’s a certain energy disparity between tiny humans running around the house and older grandparents chasing after them, so having a treasury of time-tested, creative ideas for fun things to do will not only keep the grandkids engaged and entertained, it’ll keep you from defaulting to screens or other passive means to quiet everybody down. At the same time, these charming ideas will create memories for you and the kids that everyone will treasure.

    Feed the Horde

    Best Ever 30-Minute Cookbook, by Jenni Fleetwood
    At some point, children must be fed—often more frequently and at odder times than you expect. It’s essential, then, that you develop a certain skill in whipping up fast, healthy, delicious meals without warning, working with what’s already in the house. You might have those skills from your days as a parent—but if not, or if they’d faded over the years, refresh yourself with this essential cookbook. It offers up a huge list of great meals you can toss together in 30 minutes or less—which is usually the maximum amount of time you’ll have to satisfy the little ones.

    The post 8 Books Every Grandparent Should Have on Hand appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Lindsey Lewis Smithson 5:00 pm on 2016/03/18 Permalink
    Tags: , , , parenting, parenting tips,   

    Let the Wild Rumpus Start! And Other Parenting Tips From Kids’ Books 

    “The days are long, but the years are short” is possibly the most honest phrase ever said about parenting. Becoming a parent is one of the best, hardest, most wonderful, and most trying jobs there is. To help get through the long days, the short years, and the temper tantrums in between, during your next story time, take a look at the messages behind your picture books; you might be surprised at just how helpful (and prescient) they are.

    “’And now,’ cried Max, ‘let the wild rumpus start!’” (Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak)
    This could be said about every single day of parenting, from those first kicks to the bladder during pregnancy, to the crayon on the walls of toddlerhood, to the tearful high school graduation. Every day is crazier than you’d planned, more fun, and more frustrating, all at the same time. Parenting is indeed a wild rumpus—and if we take it as such, then at least we’ll be more prepared for the absurdity.

    “It has been a TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD DAY. My mom says some days are like that. Even in Australia.” (Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, by Judith Viorst and Ray Cruz)
    There will be days when no one makes it out of their pajamas, the dog spills your last precious cup of coffee, and your toddler takes magic markers to the TV screen. It happens, despite our best efforts and our most carefully laid plans. No matter how the day unfolds, it’s comforting to know that it’s normal, and everyone has been there. File it away, have a glass of wine or a cookie, and remember it’ll be okay tomorrow.

    “Promise me you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” (The Complete Tales of Winnie-The-Pooh, by A.A. Milne and Ernest H. Shepard)
    When you get down to it, we’re responsible for teaching our children how to be good, kind, responsible human beings; that is a powerful mission, and we should take the time to recognize that, and to acknowledge and appreciate our own efforts, even though we often feel like we aren’t doing enough. Maybe your kids haven’t mastered shoelaces yet, but however far along you are in this endeavor, you are a superhero.

    “I should count backwards from 5 to calm down.” (The Pizza Problem, by Jennifer Oxley and Billy Aronson)
    When things do get too crazy, take some advice from Peg and count backward, slowly. A lot can be gained from not immediately reacting to a situation, instead stepping away and taking a breather. When you jump back in, you may be surprised at how much your perspective has changed. Parenting is a marathon, not a sprint, so sometimes you need to catch your breath before pushing on.

    “The truth is grown-ups often need some extra help. Baffled and befuddled, mindless and muddled, they sometimes forget what they know.” (Julia, Child, by Kyo Maclearand Julie Morstad)
    With a focus on staying young, enjoying some freedom, and being yourself, this whole book is a gorgeous reminder to live in the moment. And, as a bonus, there are also fabulous pictures of food throughout. If we stand back and watch, we can learn a lot about how to live our best lives from our children. Also, it’s really about time the iconic Julia Child got a picture book of this quality. After all, what’s happier and more heartening to families than food?

    “If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” (The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien)
    Speaking of food and happiness, take a page from The Hobbit. It’s so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day grind of getting by we can forget to enjoy what we have. Instead of taking every overtime shift and letting that vacation time expire, take a day or two off to enjoy your kids, your home, and your surroundings. There’s more wealth in family and friends than we sometimes realize. Your sanity, and your children, will thank you for listening to Tolkien on this one.

    “When they’ve finished reading, Olivia’s mother gives her a kiss and says, ‘You know, you really wear me out. But I love you anyway.’” (Olivia, by Ian Falconer)
    No matter how tired, filthy, or frustrated parenting can make you feel, try to remember just how much you do love that little person. Everything may feel like chaos, and your house may actually look like the definition of chaos, but if your family is more or less happy, healthy, and safe, pat yourself on the back and move on to tomorrow.

    “Go the f**k to sleep.” (Go the F**k to Sleep, by Adam Mansbach and Ricardo Cortes)
    Sometimes the best lesson is the briefest. Everyone, get some sleep when you can. It can make all the difference.

  • Jeff Somers 3:00 pm on 2015/08/14 Permalink
    Tags: , cynthia voigt, , , homecoming, , nancy mitford, , parenting, the pursuit of love, ,   

    5 Books Featuring Runaway Parents 

    There are a few things in life that are supposed to be sacrosanct, and one of those things is that parents should love their children and devote themselves to supporting, raising, and helping their kids. When that doesn’t happen in real life, it can be devastating. In novels, though, a runaway parent—who leaves their family behind by choice—can also be a powerful storytelling device. Here are five novels in which parents ran off and left their children to fend for themselves—with powerful consequences.

    Where’d You Go, Bernadette?, by Maria Semple
    After having suffered the sort of betrayal and professional setback that destroys people, Bernadette Fox is living (more or less as a recluse) in Seattle with her husband and her precocious, brilliant daughter, Bee. Bernadette’s decision to run away and leave her family behind is sparked by what can only be seen as a complete emotional breakdown, but this is communicated in such caustic, hilarious episodes that the gravity of Bernadette’s mental and emotional condition is obscured. Her flight to, of all places, Antarctica, and Bee’s detective work in tracking her down to bring her back (in more ways than one) is equally hilarious and heartwarming, as Bernadette grows and evolves into a better person, and her daughter Bee sees her mother in a more realistic if no less affectionate light, as the murky details of her past are brought into clarity.

    The Pursuit of Love, by Nancy Mitford
    When one of your parents is unnamed and referred to solely by the nickname “The Bolter,” you know you’ve got problems. Mitford’s deceptively complex novel (which spawned two sequels) has narrator Fanny’s mother in the background for most of its chapters, and her nickname stems from her habit of bolting to new marriages in order to flee problems and seek adventure—something Fanny’s cousin Linda seems to replicate. In the novel’s closing arc, however, The Bolter returns and serves as the catalyst for the careful reader to sense a shift in the novel’s tone and message, changing not only the possible point of Fanny and Linda’s romantic adventures, but even making you realize that the heroine of the story isn’t really Linda, whose adventures Fanny has focused on throughout the novel, but Fanny herself.

    Flowers in the Attic, by V.C. Andrews
    Okay, Corrine Dollanganger doesn’t literally run away from her family. In fact, when her husband dies and leaves her deep in debt, she brings her children with her to her parents’ estate, where her own mother initially insists the children live in the attic, hidden from their grandfather. Later, seeking to ensure her inheritance and have a clean slate for a new marriage, Corrine turns into the villain of the story when she increasingly ignores her own children—making her metaphorical flight from her family very real, very sad, and very horrifying. Corrine Dollanganger proves you don’t have to physically leave in order to run away from your family, though most readers would likely agree they’d prefer parents just go one and run if the alternative is imprisonment and, ultimately, attempted murder.

    Armada, by Ernest Cline
    Armada, uber-geek Cline’s followup to his smash hit Ready Player One, is the story of Zack Lightman, whose expertise in the titular video game turns out to be the product of a decades-long campaign by secretive world powers to train the human race for a coming alien invasion. Zack spends the beginning of the novel believing his father to be dead, but when he arrives on a secret moon base for his training with the Earth Defense Alliance (EDA), he discovers that his father has been working with the EDA secretly for the past two decades, and the two must work together to defend Earth from a surprise attack from the aliens. What geeky kid with a missing parent wouldn’t love to discover they were secretly a superspy, a wizard—or part of a secret program to save the world?

    Homecoming, by Cynthia Voigt
    Voigt’s 1981 novel, the first in a series of seven following the Tillerman family, opens with the iconic scene in which the four Tillerman children, led by 13-year old Dicey, are simply abandoned by their mother; left in the family car in a shopping mall parking lot. When the children realize their mother is not coming back, Dicey takes charge and leads her siblings on an emotionally rich journey to their closest relatives, the first of several journeys the kids take in their efforts to stay together and find some sort of safe haven. Although the eventual fate of Dicey’s mother demonstrates that she wasn’t so much a “runaway” parent as a deeply troubled one, the story resonates with anyone who has ever felt abandoned, however briefly, by their parents, and Voigt’s novel remains a powerful story about family and the terror that love can sometimes inspire.

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  • Jenny Shank 4:30 pm on 2015/07/06 Permalink
    Tags: between heaven and here, , , , , parenting, , samaritan, single moms, single mothers, single parents, Susan Straight, the flowers   

    5 of the Strongest Single Mothers in Fiction 

    Writing a novel with a compelling plot requires putting characters in trouble, constantly presenting them with obstacles that make the reader turn the pages to see how they’ll manage to overcome them. And who faces more obstacles than a single parent, continually juggling the (exhausting!) demands of kids, a job, and running an entire household each day? These fictional single moms embody that struggle, while managing to amaze and inspire us at the same time.

    Nerese “Tweetie” Ammons (Samaritan, by Richard Price)
    Detective Nerese Ammons is the kind of single mom who makes the world go round. Not only is she a capable detective, solving crimes and teaching kids from the impoverished New Jersey neighborhood she clawed her way out of how to stay clear of trouble, but she’s raising her teenage son, Darren, and supporting her elderly alcoholic mother, her uncle, and her 97-year-old, Alzheimer’s-addled former father-in-law. She also looks out for her ne’er-do-well brothers. As she puts it, “I got a ton of people I’m carrying.” Nerese plans to retire to Florida after 20 years as a police officer, but first she agrees to solve the case of an assault on a childhood friend, Ray, who once helped her out of a jam. Still, she keeps her eyes on the Florida prize. “I tell my son Darren, he’s almost eighteen, I tell him if he don’t get accepted into a college with a scholarship attached, or have a real job come June? He’s going into the army, ’cause Mommy has left the building.”

    Lulu Nanapush (Love Medicine, by Louise Erdrich)
    Lulu Nanapush, who appears in several of Louise Erdrich’s novels, including Love Medicine and Tracks, is the mother of eight boys and one girl by a variety of fathers. Although she has a busy romantic life, she manages to maintain an orderly home. “Even with eight boys her house was neat as a pin. The candy bowl on the table sat precisely on its doily,” Erdrich writes. “All her furniture was brushed and straightened.” Perhaps the best thing about Lulu is her confidence in her choices, and her lack of concern for those who judge her. She says, “When they tell you that I was heartless, a shameless man-chaser, don’t ever forget this: I loved what I saw. And yes, it is true that I’ve done all the things they say. That’s not what gets them. What aggravates them is I’ve never shed one solitary tear. I’m not sorry. That’s unnatural. As we all know, a woman is supposed to cry. ”

    Clarette (Between Heaven and Here, by Susan Straight)
    Susan Straight delves into the gritty side of Rio Seco, California, her fictional version of Riverside, in this gorgeous, moving novel revolving around the death of 35-year-old Glorette Picard, an exceptionally beautiful woman who succumbs to crack addiction. Straight has been telling the stories of one family with roots in Creole Louisiana in several of her books, and thankfully not all of its members suffer fates as sad as that of Glorette. In Between Heaven and Here, we meet Clarette, who works double shifts at a youth correctional facility in order to pay for piano lessons and a good education for her kids.

    Sylvia (The Flowersby Dagoberto Gilb)
    Sonny Bravo, a Mexican American 15-year-old, is the irresistible narrator of this remarkable novel. A lot of Sonny’s attention focuses on his unmarried, beautiful mom, Sylvia, whose various relationships with men often impinge on Sonny’s lifestyle. Sylvia eventually decides to marry a trophy-hunting white man named Cloyd Longpre, whom Sonny calls “The Cloyd,” and move the family to a building Longpre manages, “Las Flores,” which, as Sonny points out, should really be called “Los Flores.” However you spell it, the apartment building becomes the backdrop for Sonny’s adventures as he tries to navigate a mom who is suddenly home more often and more involved in his life than ever.

    April Connors (The Garden of Last Daysby Andre Dubus III)
    April Connors is a harried single mother of three-year-old Franny, trying to make ends meet while working as a stripper at Florida’s Puma Club for Men. Dubus sets up April’s dilemma perfectly: she has no other job prospects that pay well enough to support Franny, yet countless people judge her as a bad parent because she’s an exotic dancer. April’s worst day ever begins when her regular babysitter ends up in the hospital, forcing her to bring Franny with her to a place where there’s “no calling in sick.” She leaves Franny under the care of the unreliable “house mother,” who promptly loses her, setting off a heart-rending series of events in this gripping novel.

    Who are your favorite single mothers in fiction?

  • Jeff Somers 3:00 pm on 2015/05/21 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , parenting, , portnoy's complaint, , ,   

    The 5 Worst Mothers in Literary History 

    As Philip Larkin wrote in the Greatest Poem of All Time (GPAT): “Man hands on misery to man/It deepens like a coastal shelf/Get out as early as you can/And don’t have any kids yourself.” This doesn’t hold true for every parent, but it certainly would’ve been good advice to give to any of the mother monsters listed below. Take our quick and terrifying tour through some of the worst mothers in literary history, and feel grateful all over again for your own.

    Margaret White (Carrie, by Stephen King)
    Most people concentrate on the monstrous teens in King’s iconic novel, the cool kids who torment Carrie until she has history’s worst psychotic break. But the kids aren’t the villains of this story, and neither is Carrie: it’s her awful, awful mother. How awful? Not only is everything—including the conception and birth of her own daughter—a sin to Margaret, she also seems to believe disciplining a child should involve locking her in a closet. Constantly. Margaret White is one of the few mothers who completely and richly deserves her terrible fate.

    Charlotte Haze (Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov)
    While Charlotte Haze isn’t the brightest bulb in the literary universe and might be excused for not noticing Humbert Humbert is, how shall we say this, a predatory criminal, her true monstrosity becomes clear when you look a little deeper. Charlotte is enamored with Humbert not because she craves love or companionship, but because she wants “the finer things” and believes Humbert, with his European manners and fussy, academic airs, can provide them for her. She doesn’t so much not notice his attentions towards Lolita as ignore them lest they ruin her chances for a “good life” she can barely define.

    Corrine and Olivia (Flowers in the Attic, by V.C. Andrews)
    The brilliant trick of V.C. Andrews’ novel about incest, greed, and spectacularly bad parenting is that it initially presents Olivia, the grandmother, as the true Monstrous Mother, and Corrine, the mother, as a goodhearted parent who is guilty of incredibly poor decision-making but not true evil…then it slowly turns the tables, not by making the grandmother a better person but by making Corrine the worst person. Poisoning your children slowly (while forcing them to hide in the attic) in order to assure your inheritance is actually more horrible than locking them in closets for days on end. At least Carrie got to attend gym class from time to time.

    Fiona Brewer (About a Boy, by Nick Hornby)
    Sometimes a humorous novel can distract us from the horrible people populating it, as with Nick Hornby’s touching, funny, and somewhat disturbing story of an awkward, unhappy boy and a slick, unhappy man. Fiona Brewer initially seems a bit strange in an amusing way, and fiercely protective of her son—but then you realize she attempted suicide in a way that pretty much guaranteed her son would walk in on her cold, dead body, and that most of his social anxiety and awkwardness is due to her own cynical view of the world. In the end, Fiona does not completely belong in the Hall of Fame for bad mothers, for she rallies over the course of the book to demonstrate true love for her son, which leaves her a long way from the sullen, unhappy, and resolutely selfish woman we meet in the beginning.

    Sophie Portnoy from Portnoy’s Complaint, by Philip Roth
    If it isn’t a standard belief that mothers should not stand outside the bathroom while their sons defecate and then demand they not flush so their output can be examined, then by gum, it should be. Sophie Portnoy is the sort of mother only novelists and psychiatrists can imagine, a woman so smothering and domineering she’s at the root of all her son’s “complaints”—including the (frequently awful and disturbing) sexual ones, which push her well into Monstrous Mother territory despite the black humor surrounding her every utterance and action in Roth’s infamous novel.

    So there you have it—the Injustice League of Bad Mothers. Which fictional moms did we miss?

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