Category Archives: books

Winter Reading Challenge – List of Books

Winter Reading Challenge

Check out my other blog to learn more about the reading challenge I’ve decided to join.
Headed by my blogger friend Karlene at Inksplasher, the challenge runs from December 22 to March 19. Here’s the beginning of my list of books that I intend to read this winter:

Three Cups of Tea

Three Cups of Tea, by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin, a non-fiction NYT bestseller about an American nurse who attempts to climb a challenging mountain in Pakistan, fails and becomes seriously ill. He is nursed back to health by villager, then promises to repay their kindness by building a school in their village. I’ve heard that it’s an uplifting story that seems like a great read for this month. That will be first book.

After that book, I plan to read Water for Elephants, a novel by Sara Gruen.

Then,

The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck, which is considered a classic.

More to come…please stay tuned…

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UPDATE: 1.31.08

Eat, Pray, Love

I’m adding this one to the list: Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. I know, it’s a little post hype. Most people who read the bestsellers read this one a long time ago. I have to admit, I’ve been reluctant to read it after having seen the author interviewed on Oprah a couple of times. The first time I saw her I decided I wouldn’t read it, but the second time it seemed as though she was softer, more humble after her rapid rise to Oprah-style fame. So, I’m giving it a shot.

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The Pause

UPDATE:

As of February 10, 2008, the Being a Mom is Great blog has moved here (www.soapboxmom.com). Please visit Soapbox Mom to read more articles by this author (bmg mom is now Soapboxmom).

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As I approached my fortieth birthday, I kept hearing really negative words of advice like, “Be prepared. It’s all downhill from then on.” Well, I don’t agree that my life has gone downhill, but I have to admit that, after turning forty, little things started…changing. Even my cheery disposition took a hit. What you are about to read may turnoff many of my readers, but freedom of speech is one of the things I love about our country. It’s here…if you want to read it, great!…if not, then please wait for my next post (or read some of the older ones (?)).

I’ve heard many of my elders say that there are some things we just have to experience for ourselves or some things that just shouldn’t be discussed. Hmm…well why not? I’d rather have full information. I’d rather hear about the good, the bad and the ugly. For example, there are some not so pretty things about being a mom that I had never heard before having kids but was glad to eventually learn. Like just how difficult it is to handle newborn babies and that parents of newborns often get very little sleep (sometimes, as in our case, for over a year).

And my favorite little tidbit that came as a surprise: if you breast feed your kids, your breasts will be bigger during pregnancy and while you’re breastfeeding than they were before you were pregnant. But when you stop breastfeeding? They shrink. I mean, they end up smaller than they were pre-pregnancy. Did you know that? Okay, maybe I’m the only dope that didn’t know that, but I was surprised. Had I known, I would’ve told my husband, “Enjoy these babies now, because when I stop nursing, they’ll be much smaller.” But I didn’t know. Not a huge deal, but I would’ve liked to have known. That’s all.

Now I’m learning about something called perimenopause — that’s the time before menopause. Many books have been written about this topic, but I’ve only recently been given one that helped me understand what I’m going through right now.

Woman having hotflashes…

I guess it makes sense that a woman’s body needs to go through a process (in which hormones go a little crazy) in adolescence to prepare her body for childbirth. The whole childbirth process wreaks havoc on a woman’s system. I’ll never forget how stunned my hubby looked when he witnessed our first child’s birth. During the cesarean section operation, he saw the doctors temporarily remove my insides, take our beautiful baby girl from my uterus, hand her off, then carefully replace my internal organs. And that was after eighteen hours of labor. Hard for him to witness, even harder for my body to endure. My recovery period was about six weeks long. My body had to readjust, go back to functioning without baby in utero. Big changes. Oh, it also switched from focusing on nourishing and growing a baby to becoming a milk factory. Yep. There was a whole lot going on.

So…

To prepare for the active years of childbirth, a woman’s body sort of gears up in adolescence and our girls become moody, emotional, a little more unpredictable and more womanly. What about when the body is preparing to shutdown? It makes sense that that requires some time, too. Our bodies are putting on the brakes, sort of. Slowing down the system until it can finally report, “Okay, chief. The childbirth factory has officially ceased operations.” Sure, now that I really think about it, it makes sense. How could I expect it to just stop overnight? “That’s it. No more periods. You’re done.”

No, not like that at all. Instead, we go through yet another hormonal time (which is tough not only for our loved ones having to deal with us, but also for us). It’s a transition period. We sometimes become moody, more emotional and more unpredictable. For example, I recently volunteered to help in my daughter’s school and found myself overcome with frustration when the kids just wouldn’t quiet down. I understand now what it’s like for substitute teachers. Kids push the limits with anyone who’s not their regular homeroom teacher. Anyway, I raised my voice a little and said they needed to quiet down and not start playing the strategy games they were about to play. Not a big deal, maybe, but I haven’t stopped thinking about it (and it happened several weeks ago). I’ve helped out in classrooms for about a decade or so and I’ve never done that. I’m usually the one who smiles and maybe rings a little bell or something or waits until they stop talking before proceeding. But this time…I don’t know…I just said, “Do NOT begin until you are ALL seated.” It just wasn’t me. You know what I mean? I was thinking, “Did I just say that out loud?” I felt guilty and embarrassed and wanted to run out of there. When I got home, I thought, “Maybe I just can’t handle the older kids. Maybe I shouldn’t do things like that anymore.” Then I started to read that book my friend gave me.

It’s called, The Pause by Lonnie Barbach.

The Pause by Lonnie Barbach

I encourage every 30 something woman to read it.

That’s as much as I’ll say right now, but I’ll give you more details when I finish the book.

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You’ll Be Amazed at What Happens When You Start Throwing Up…

UPDATE:

As of February 10, 2008, the Being a Mom is Great blog has moved here (www.soapboxmom.com). Please visit Soapbox Mom to read more articles by this author (bmg mom is now Soapboxmom).

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Book Fair 2007 left

My absolute favorite event at my kids’ schools is the annual Book Fair. It’s so popular at DS’s school, that I had to wait a few years before the position of co-chair opened up (and even now I’m considered the “3rd co-chair”). Anyway, the point is that I love it and everything about it. As the merchandising point person, I spend the year before the fair scoping out children’s books online and in bookstores to get a sense of what’s good and what’s probably going to be popular. Then I search online for summer reading lists to find out what all the area schools are reading. I also ask my kids and their friends about their favorite books and I keep mental notes. I’m just plain passionate about (okay, maybe obsessed with) books (particularly children’s books).

Fast forward to the Friday before the fair. A team of volunteers arrives to set up this enormous fair. Mike, the guy who delivers the 20 bookcases and gazillion boxes of books tells us it’s one of the biggest fairs he and his team have ever handled. “Wow, uh, gee, thanks…” we respond as we look at the daunting task before us. After a few handshakes and a “Thanks so much, Mike!” we decide, okay, we can do this, because, after all my co-chairs and I are all really passionate about books. Right. Okay. Here we go…

Bestsellers and award winners

After several hours, the decorating team has transformed the enormous space we call the “large Pod” into a winter wonderland, complete with blue table cloths, snowflakes, illuminated snowmen, winter backdrops, lighted trees and more — most importantly, cases and case of books. It looks really good. We’re genuinely eager to get books in the hands of so many kids. One of my too-good-to-be-true co-chairs and I stay until the janitors kick us out (almost 11 pm) getting the books in the right places and getting everything where it needs to be.

We’re exhausted but excited.

Book Fair 2007 right

The big day arrives — Monday, opening day. We arrive at 6:30 am to finish up some final details and prepare for our 8:00 am open. The new high tech scanners have a few glitches, but we’re generally off to a good start. Business is fairly steady. No serious problems. On Tuesday it’s more of the same, we arrive early (for our parent coffee at 7), leave late (and tired), but we’re really looking forward to Wednesday. Wednesday is always our big day. It’s when the kids really have had a chance to see the books, talk to their parents about their wish lists, then come in and buy. We start early (8:00 am) and stay open all day through to the big event — the Family Night. Our principal and several teachers scoop ice cream sundaes, complete with just about any topping you can think of (except nuts, of course, to respect the allergy restrictions), we have fun activities for the kids, storytime with a favorite teacher and all those books. It’s usually a big social event and tons of fun for everyone.

This year? Fun for everyone except me…unfortunately. At 5:10 am Wednesday morning I start throwing up…repeatedly. I kept hoping I was dreaming. It was the day I was really looking forward to. And now this?! “What the…?! NO!!!! This is not happening!!!” I called my co-chairs and told them I couldn’t make it. To say I was disappointed would be a huge understatement. This was sort of the climactic moment that all the preceding months of hard work led up to. And I was stuck in bed, unable to give suggestions to those buyers who look overwhelmed and confused about what to buy. Unable to direct people to the book they’ve been searching for but just can’t find in the midst of all the stacks. Well, maybe this was a great way for me to practice letting go and to realize that the world continues to revolve (quite well, thank you) without us control-freakish moms.

When the kids came home from school that day, they immediately knew I wouldn’t be moving from the sofa. I watched from a distance as they managed to get dinner on the table and do their homework without any complaining. I’m not saying that they whipped up some fabulous meal from a cookbook, but hey, they called and ordered pizza, paid the delivery guy (and remembered to tip him!), set and cleared the table, unloaded and loaded the dishwasher and finished their homework (without the usual sibling squabbles, too). Then, they brought me crackers, ginger-ale, and vitamin water, covered me with a blanket and pretty much made sure I had everything I needed. It was touching.

If it’s true that everything happens for a reason, then maybe this whole ordeal was a good lesson for me. When I kept asking myself, “Why is this happening today, of all days?” maybe the answer should have been, “So that you can realize that you can chill a little. You’re a big help, sure, but you’re not indispensable. And that’s okay. Really. Chill.” Right. Or maybe I just caught some 24 hour stomach flu from the hundreds of kids I was surrounded by for the past three days.

Whatever it was, I was glad to see my kids being so caring, considerate and responsible. They really stepped up when I needed them. I recently read a review of a book* about a woman who doesn’t want kids and who thinks no one should have kids (!?). I know it’s rather extreme, isn’t it? After these past few days, when I think of that woman, I just smile and think, “Darlin’ if you only knew…”

I wonder what happens when she throws up…

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UPDATE: For a great post by IzzyMom related to the book referenced above (*by Corinne Maier entitled, “No Kid: 40 Reasons for Not Having Children”), click here.

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Blog Action Day

Today is Blog Action Day. One issue. One day. Thousands of voices.

Watch this if you’re interested:

It’s a chance to express yourself on environmental issues and how ignorance (and/or denial) of them significantly impacts the world.

What first came to mind for me were newspaper articles I read recently about Al Gore’s being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize — the same year that President Bush is polling at embarrassingly low numbers (primarily based on his botched war). So…War and Peace. Or Peace (and War). I think it’s wonderful that Mr. Gore earned recognition for decades of work. It’s even better that his awards have brought much needed attention to the issue. It has worked for our family. I mean, I am really just starting to dig into it to try to get my arms around the issue and provide suppport where possible. Like providing the link in support of Blog Action Day.

Then I started to think about my audience – parents, moms, kids. And I talked to my kids about what they know about the state of our environment. They’re taught about it in school (yay!) but there’s always more to learn. We’ve changed lightbulbs in our home (to compact fluorescent lightbulbs or CFLs), replaced our water heater and other appliances with high efficiency models, we recycle everything that can be recycled and we’ve planted many, many trees.

But those things probably won’t help my readers in their lives, so I decided to highlight some books that you can buy (or get, if available, from your local library) for your kids.

Down to Earth Guide to Global Warming

50 Simple Things Book for Kids

Everything Kids’ Environment book

What can you do right now? Well, if you’re a blogger, click on the link and participate! Or, if you’re a reader and not a blogger, click on the link and read some of the tens of thousands of posts that were posted today. Give our kids and their children (and all of your descendants) hope for the future of our planet.

Images from Amazon.com.

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Handy Chart of Purees for Seinfeld’s Cookbook

UPDATE:

As of February 10, 2008, the Being a Mom is Great blog has moved here (www.soapboxmom.com). Please visit Soapbox Mom to read more articles by this author (bmg mom is now Soapboxmom).

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Jessica Seinfeld from her Deceptively Delicious Website

Okay, this might sound crazy (or like something that you’d expect on an old “Seinfeld” episode), but I was so excited to try the recipes in Jessica Seinfeld’s cookbook, “Deceptively Delicious” that I stopped at the store after taking the kids to school and purchased a slew of vegetables. I didn’t have the book with me and I didn’t have a detailed list of ingredients for selected recipes. I thought I’d be okay, though, because fairly early in the cookbook (pp. 28-29) Seinfeld provides a chart of all the vegetables used in the book with instructions on how to steam and puree them (by the way, when you puree the squash or the red pepper, be sure to dry the processor or the purees will be a bit runny). I looked at those pages last night and watched her video on the Oprah website (if you go to that link, just click on “Go in the Seinfeld home” to see the video), so I thought I could remember (generally) which veggies to buy. Well, I knew I already had six zucchini and a bunch of carrots, but I bought more carrots as well as cauliflower, red pepper, spinach, yellow squash and avocados.

Seinfeld pureeing on Oprah

I came home and went into pureeing overdrive. I started boiling two pots of water (one slightly later than the other so I could stagger the steaming/pureeing actions), turned on my favorite music and got to work. Before long, I had little baggies of all the above mentioned veggies (with an overabundance of zucchini). Well, as I was deciding whether to put the bags in the freezer or the fridge, I (finally!) realized I needed to figure out which recipes I would make first. I flipped through the book looking for a recipe with “zucchini puree” in the list of ingredients. When I was on page 147 I started to worry just a little. Eventually I discovered that only one of the recipes calls for the zucchini puree — the Oatmeal Raisin Cookies. I guess I’m going to be giving cookies to everyone I see (my kids aren’t fans of oatmeal). Well, that’s not such a bad thing…

JSeinfeld’s Oatmeal Cookies on Oprah

A bit deflated at that point, I thought, “Okay, I’m eager to get veggies into my veggie-deficient kids, but I need some kind of tool to cross reference the purees with the recipes.” Well, I love making charts, so I quickly put together a handy dandy little tool. This way, if I happen to end up with a bushel of carrots, I’ll know my options. Here it is:

Purees for Deceptively Delicious - bmg

By the way, some of the recipes use two purees, so I suggest that you check the recipes before shopping — no matter how eager you are to make them!

Also, if you’re interested in finding out more about Jessica and her book, I recommend visiting her website or the Oprah website.

Images from Oprah‘s website (and my word processing software).

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The Cookbook that is SO Seinfeld

UPDATE:

As of February 10, 2008, the Being a Mom is Great blog has moved here (www.soapboxmom.com). Please visit Soapbox Mom to read more articles by this author (bmg mom is now Soapboxmom).

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Everyone knows that a big part of being a mom is feeding the kids. When you’re talking about little kids, it’s often a big challenge. It’s a struggle to do it well (i.e., make sure they eat enough veggies and fruit, not much junk, etc). How many kids do you know love vegetables and ask for them, especially at this (Halloween) time of year when all that’s on their minds is CANDY?

So, of course I was intrigued when I heard about a cookbook that claims to provide recipes for great tasting food filled with hidden veggies. The idea is that you puree all sorts of fruits and vegetables so that, when you add them to your recipes, you retain the nutrients but disguise their appearance. In other words, you make pancakes with sweet potato puree or scrambled eggs with pureed cauliflower (which is a great example of a vegetable that my kids won’t let come near their mouths!). Deceptive? Yes, if you don’t tell your kids what’s inside.

Jessica Seinfeld’s Cookbook

Who better to write this deceptive cookbook than a Seinfeld? When my family and I first read about this book we looked at each other and said, “That’s SO Seinfeld!” (Yes, I admit that I let my kids watch certain episodes of our DVD collection of “Seinfeld” and they’ve watched enough to know the humor). Remember the frozen yogurt episode? Elaine, Jerry & the guys discover unbelievably tasty frozen yogurt and can’t believe that it’s supposed to be better for you than ice cream. Then they notice it’s not as healthy as they were led to believe. Well, now Jerry has the real thing! The food in this cookbook is tasty and healthy!

Jerry’s wife, Jessica Seinfeld, calls the book, “Deceptively Delicious: Simple Secrets to Get Your Kids Eating Good Food” and makes no attempt to apologize for her sneaky methods. Her sketched likeness on the cover of the cookbook winks at you knowingly. I suppose if her kids didn’t know about the stealth veggie/fruit inclusion before the book was published, they most likely know now.

I bought the book but haven’t yet made any of the recipes. Maybe it’s because my kids are older than Mrs. Seinfeld’s, but I felt compelled to tell them all about the hidden-veggies-in-the-food concept. I’m not sure whether that will doom the recipes, but I’d rather have them play along with me and be pleasantly aware of the versatility of food.

Tomorrow, I’m going to spend some time pureeing!!

Image from Amazon.

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The Power of Kindness

UPDATE:

As of February 10, 2008, the Being a Mom is Great blog has moved here (www.soapboxmom.com). Please visit Soapbox Mom to read more articles by this author (bmg mom is now Soapboxmom).

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While leisurely strolling through our local bookstore, I discovered a great little book called, “The Power of Kindness” by Piero Ferrucci.

It was the kind of moment when you’re looking for one book, but another just seems to pop out at you, urging you to pick it up. Don’t you love when that happens? Well, I do. And I did (pick it up).

It’s been serving as a gentle reminder to keep my head up and not let the crabby, negative people get me down.

The Power of Kindness

Ferrucci describes various facets of kindness: honesty, warmth, forgiveness, contact, sense of belonging, trust, mindfulness, empathy, humility, patience, generosity, respect, flexibility, memory, loyalty, gratitude, service and joy.

I haven’t finished it yet, but I already love it.

I think about how much more pleasant our communities could be if we all focused more on being kind. Not just to strangers in the supermarket, but to our kids, spouses, families, pets, fellow bloggers and especially to people with whom we disagree.

Image from Amazon.

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