Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Teen Whisperer: It Has Me Whistling

I realize that not everyone who reads this blog has a teenager or preteen, but if you have children of any age, I have a book for you.

The Teen Whisperer, by Mike Linderman. At first blush, you probably think what many do. I don't have teenagers, this doesn't apply to me yet. Or My teenagers/preteens don't have serious problems, why do I need to "whisper" to them?. Do you have kids in the home? Do they fall in the age category of one day to eighteen? Trust me, this is a book you should be reading. As a mother of four, ages one through nearly thirteen, I can attest to the fact that in six blinks of an eye your little cherub who thinks you hung the moon will morph into a hormone-infused adolescent. It is always best to be prepared.

That said, not all teenagers are troubled. Mine aren't (knock on wood). However, there are times when I want to tear my hair out in frustration, times I feel like I just can't reach my daughter, and times when I wonder how I will survive the years until college. Communication is a vital element in any relationship, and with teens, how we communicate makes all the difference in the world. Ever looked at a teenager's behavior and wondered, "What were they thinking?" Mike has the answer: they're not. Or at least, not the way we think they are. Your sixteen year-old may look like an adult on the outside, but on the inside, they're not finished cooking yet. Believe it or not, their brain has not reached maturity. While 95% of our brains are developed by kindergarten, the most critical 5% doesn't develop fully until the twenties. Higher reasoning just isn't going on with our kids. It's our job to be the adult even when they look like one, too.

Mike, a rancher who has raised three kids of his own and counseled countless other troubled teens, has a clear approach to dealing with how and why the dynamics change between us and our adolescent as they reach maturity. Once he explains the why behind the behaviors, he has the how to back it up. His book shows parents how to:

*Create the right approach to positive change
*Use appropriate praise to establish pure intention
*Communicate effectively
*Outline the right set of rules for your child

A note on what he calls "pure intention." This reached me more than any other part of the book. I grew up thinking that if a love was good, it was "unconditional love." Mike says that love does come with some conditions, one of which is respect.

If we operate from a position of pure intention, we are creating an environment in which mutual respect can thrive. To me, unconditional love can sometimes sound a little too pie in the sky: You can go ahead and do anything to me and I'll still love you, so have at it. With pure intention, we make the message plain: I will always love you, and I will always respect your needs and do what I can to help you see that they are met, but I won't always respect the actions you take or the choices you make. I also understand that you can say the same of me. But we also have to understand that underlying any of those disagreements and disappointments is a solid foundation of love and trust.

This book is one part child development, one part guide, and one part good reading. Truly, I hope that as many parents as possible have the privilege of reading this and benefiting from the lessons it imparts.

As for me, I am considering a move to a ranch in Montana. Conveniently next door to Mike and his family.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Phonics For Babies

Mallory Lewis, daughter of Shari Lewis (remember Lambchop?) has a new DVD out geared for babies.

Phonics 4 Babies is designed to engage babies and toddlers in early speech skills. Obviously, nothing takes the place of learning in everyday environments, and this DVD isn't intended to replace daily verbal interaction with your baby. If your baby or toddler responds well to fast-paced singing and music, this may be a DVD for your collection. If your toddler is already verbal and well on his or her way to speaking well and has expressed an interest in learning letter sounds, it's definitely worth a watch.

As for "unlocking their imagination like never before" the jury is still out. However, there are nice bonus features, like two interviews featuring a UCLA clinical psychologist, and a bonus episode that covers animal words. My kids have always responded well to animals as babies, and I was a little disappointed that in lieu of real animal footage in conjunction with each animal word, there were just video game-esque graphics. Regardless, it does supply a nice list of new words to which you can expose your baby or toddler.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Jessica Seinfeld Cooks. Her Recipes are Real and They are Fabulous

Clearly, Jessica Seinfeld is a better mother than I am. Here she goes and takes the time to make an actual cookbook that tells us other moms how to get our finicky eaters how to eat healthy foods. What? The lady hasn’t heard of McDonalds? They cook their potatoes in vegetable oil. I believe that’s two sources of veggies right there.

I admit, when Parent Bloggers let me know I would be reviewing her book, Deceptively Delicious, I was a little skeptical. My initial reaction was: Jessica cooks? Really? She’s not lounging on her chaise, drawling in a Thurston Howell III accent for the hired help to do her bidding when she wants something prepared? No? Too much television then.

Actually, I can relate to Jessica: we both have children and we both care about what goes into their body. And clearly, we both have some experience with picky eaters. In fact, I should have named this review, How to Get Your Children to Stop Using the Phrase: My Food is Touching! Myyyy Foooood is Touching! I Can’t Eat That! But how do you get kids to eat things that are healthy? Especially if they’re past the “It’s not broccoli! It’s a tree! That dinosaurs eat! Raaarrr!” phase. Jessica has the answer: be sneaky.

Jessica makes you feel right at home the minute you open her book (which I love if only for the awesome binding, which enables you to lay it flat on the counter to read the ingredients without propping jars of peanut butter on the corners). She introduces her family with cute bios and drawings to help us get to know why she wrote the book. I’ll do the same, so you can know who, exactly, the test subjects for Jessica’s recipes were.

Meet Maddie: Charming pubescent daughter who eschews food that touches, food that doesn’t coordinate with the current seasonal palette for Abercrombie & Fitch, and at times, food that contains molecules, nutrients, or atoms.

Heeere’s Chloe: Preteen in training. Chloe likes food that doesn’t moo, oink or bleat. She is willing, however, to eat pasta salad, chocolate, and air.

Awww! It’s Jacob: Five year old adventurer. Will eat anything dangerous, evil, or imbued with super powers. Does not like fish, however still believes us when we say salmon is the thigh meat of Darth Vader.

Whoa! Jack is in the house: Jack is a fifteen month old who likes food that can be placed in his mouth and chewed. Favorites include pasta with fresh pesto, coq au vin, and anything Playskool.

I chose to cook something from two of her three recipe categories: mealtime and dessert. I skipped her breakfast section, but I can't wait to make her pink pancakes this weekend. While I appreciated her sections on equipping the kitchen, the basics of cooking, and nutrition, I didn’t spend a lot of time there. If you are a new mom or have little experience with cooking and haven’t read up on nutrition, this is a great place to start. The other reason I skipped it is because with four kids I only had 4.7 minutes to read the book at any given time

So, here’s what I chose to cook:

*Carrot Cake Muffins
*Mashed Potatoes
*Whole wheat pita pizza

Hands down, my kids loved the muffins. We sprinkled them with fall-themed sprinkles and made it a healthy dessert. The mashed potatoes were also well-received, with the boys giving them the most enthusiastic thumbs up. The most lukewarm response was to the pizza, but hey – you can’t win ‘em all! I plan on making several more of the recipes from the book, and have the meatball soup slated for Thursday.

All in all, I thought this was a cute book. The pictures were great (I will not buy cookbooks without pictures), and again, why every cookbook doesn’t come with that fabulous ringed binding is beyond me. A suggestion: Many women run from recipes that call for cheese cloth, cognac, or puree. Jessica is big on sneaking vegetable puree into the recipes. This is a great idea. She dedicated four pages of her book to how you can also puree ahead of time, in six easy steps! With steps within the steps! So it’s actually twenty steps. Just a hunch, but some moms aren’t going to find this part of her book appealing. I am always in a hurry, and I found that in a time crunch, organic pureed squash (the kind in a baby food jar) works just as well. After all, it’s just water and organic squash, or carrots, or peas.
Oh, stop. It’s not like there’s a diaper in there.

The kids sampling the pizza....