20 posts categorized "Books"

Minimalist Parenting

March 20, 2013

We are happy to announce that friend of urbanMamas and local mama Asha Dornfest of Parent Hacks is a published author. Her book Minimalist Parenting written with Christine Koh of BostonMamas is at your local book store right now. Or you can order from Amazon.

Not only did they publish a book, but they also lead a free fourteen day Minimalist Parenting Camp with tasks and activities to start implementing the ideas and concepts from the book. I signed up and give myself five badges. I still need to do some of the tasks, but they set it up so well that I can go back and do them when I have time.  

My mother and mother in-law were unclear about my badges (which I posted on FaceBook) and the ideas in general. Was it let your child do everything? So you do a minimal amount; therefore a ‘minimal parent’? Where were the ‘hands on’ parenting tasks? How did Self Care, Decluttering, and 20 Minutes of Style fit into parenting? I explained that the idea is to give parents more space (physical, mental, emotional) and more confidence (in our appearance, abilities, and knowledge) in order to give more to parenting, not less. I think they got it. And after they read the book, they will really get it. I know I got a lot out of my camp tasks and look forward to finishing them over spring break.  

So let’s celebrate. We are proud to be a sponsor of the Minimalist Parenting Portland Book Launch Party on Saturday, April 20. Just click and register. Hope to see you then.










Maurice Sendak: A Remembrance

May 08, 2012

I did not begin to love Maurice Sendak when I had boys, three of them, all just as wild as Max. I loved him, as most of you did, long before that. I could recite the entire text of Where the Wild Things Are even without the pictures, probably. It's like poetry; it's like Bible verses.

But there is something else. Before I had my boys, before they were very old, I did not really understand it; I felt the mother was hasty and rather too punishing. Surely: if you're going to give in and give him dinner anyway, why send him to bed? Why call him 'Wild Thing'? I shook my head.

As I grew as a parent, I had compassion not just for the boy but for the mother, too. The lucid, elegaic movie based so loosely on the book showed me that mother and tore me up even more and, I felt, explored the true nature of this parent/child relationship: imperfect (as we all are) and intense and marked with the rich internal life and tendency toward emotional overload and explosion as my own boys, and my relationships with them, are. There is that love that overwhelms and then buzzes into absolute impatience. But it is true even across the years and weeks and days and into the monstrous internal struggles or rumpuses with which our children might be rocked. It remains.

And my love will remain for this book and Maurice's true sight into a child's heart. He died today. I will miss him.

If you've written your own tribute to Sendak, please link to it in the comments or send me a note!

Hunger Games: have you read/seen it? Have your kids?

April 20, 2012

When our 11.5-year old daughter was picking out a new book at the store a few months ago, she snatched up The Hunger Games.  More often, I feel like I want to tell them what to read.  Less often, I feel like I want to tell them what NOT to read.

I knew nothing of the book, aside from the fact that 3 of my daughters closer friends had already read it and loved it.  "She looooooved this book", my daughter oozed.  Well, ok.  Fine by me.  I know her friends and their families and, though you can't judge a book by its cover, I felt affirmed that the book was fine/acceptable just based on that.  I skimmed the back cover and thought it was curious my daughter was drawn to a fantasy-like, darker book.  I actually was glad to have her branching out of her typical genre of Lauren Myracle's The Winnie Series.

When we got home, she devoured the book in a day.  She did the same the next day.  She begged for the second and third books in the series (buy, not borrow, since there were about 154 holds on each at the library).  We bought them.  She reads them over and over and over again, and then she reads them again.

When we talked about the content, I was surprised I didn't make myself know more: teens forced to kill themselves.  Wow, really?  OK.  Starting to question myself, I started to read the book, but I haven't gotten past page 20.  So, I went to Common Sense Media and read their book review on The Hunger Games

A few weeks ago, The Hunger Games Movie came out.  It is rated PG13, and our daughter is 11.  Well, she's 11 and a half.  Her friends went to see it with their parents on opening night.  Some friends have seen it again since.  Knowing the content of the book, knowing the movie rating, and knowing that seeing things is different than reading things, our daughter has agreed with our decision that she won't be seeing it until she's 13 (she's looking forward to her birthday)!

I have had mama friends who have read the book(s) (in one night, even), and I am curious to hear everyone's thoughts: have you read it? seen it?  has your son/daughter read it? seen it?

I want to tell them what to read

March 14, 2012

At the bookstore/library, my 8yo gravitates always to the "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" series": a cute, fun and light set of books that is sure to make her giggle from time to time.  The other day, I put my foot down when she asked me to buy her the first in the series (she already has the other four or five books).  I told her flat-out "no".  We kind of don't have funds to buy another book, and we definitely don't have enough cash for a book (hardcover only!) that I consider to be not-too-substantive.  I pulled out some other suggestions, different topics, new reads.  She refused and wanted only the book she originally picked out.

I recall when my other daughter, then aged 9 or 10, was obsessed with the very "girly" pre-tween Winnie Years Series that started with "Ten" and moved on to "Eleven", "Twelve", "Thirteen" and "Thirteen plus one".  When she started reading the series, she wasn't even ten yet.  Still, she managed to score herself the books, mostly through gifts and her addition of these books on her wish lists.  She used to read them over and over.  I often tried to introduce her to other books, and sometimes she'd read them, but she would always go back to the Winnie Years.

Continue reading "I want to tell them what to read" »

Now, it's the French parents who are better, says one woman

February 06, 2012

I've had it up to here (the writer draws a line with her finger somewhere above her hairline) with the Wall Street Journal headlines proclaiming the superiority of one parenting style followed by an entire culture. You'd think the editorial team was on the payroll of a publishing house (the writer begs forgiveness for her snark). They're certainly not nuanced or creative when they come to writing headlines.

Continue reading "Now, it's the French parents who are better, says one woman" »

Coming of Age in Books

October 09, 2011

Today, following my own advice, I sat in on the Wordstock 2011 panel discussion titled, "Move Over, Holden Caulfield," a conversation about coming-of-age stories with Anna Solomon, Blake Nelson, and Jen Violi. Each of these authors read a bit from their novels, all featuring central characters that were girls, 16 or so. Was the new coming-of-age heroine not man, but woman?

While this wasn't explored much, my favorite question was this: what coming-of-age novels made the biggest impact on the writers of the panel? Solomon, whose book is classified as literary fiction -- and which I, stunned by the passage she wrote, bought -- said her first memory of a coming-of-age book that moved her was Judy Blume's classic Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret. Her second choice was a memorable one for me, as well: A Ring of Endless Light by Madeleine L'Engle.

Jen Violi, whose book sounds funny and macabre but also wise, also chose a L'Engle book, the classic, A Wrinkle in Time. Her other choice was (she said) a testament to her dark side: Jane Eyre.

(Nelson said all he read as a kid was Peanuts; some quality stuff in the comic strip, but not quite meeting the description.)

I thought for a while about my own answer to this question. Surely those L'Engle books are on my list, as well as another one that made an even bigger impact on me, A Swiftly Tilting Planet. (I read it a few years ago to Everett, and it's eerily modern.) So, too, the good vs. evil series like Susan Cooper's The Dark Is Rising books and The Chronicles of Narnia (both The Magician's Nephew and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader were particularly interesting to me, for some reason; I think it's that the character whose trajectory is most central in both of these, Diggory and Eustace, have something of a transformation from insufferable to brave). The Little Women books were also beloved, as were the Little House on the Prairie novels; I suppose each of these had its coming of age book. I read so voraciously as a child that it's hard to pick anything as key in my development; in high school, of course, I read all the legendary ones including Holden Caulfield's vessel (A Catcher in the Rye), A Separate Peace, Huckleberry Finn, To Kill a Mockingbird, even Black Boy; the one, though, that I remember most keenly from high school was Maxine Hong Kingston's The Woman Warrior. But each of these classic ones stays with me, even though I haven't even touched the cover of many of them in decades.

When you were a child on the cusp of your own coming of age, which books did you read -- and which had the biggest impact on you? Which coming of age stories will you urge your own children to read, when they're ready? If you have children who are old enough to dive into such books, which have they read?

Wordstock 2011: A Parent's Guide

October 06, 2011

On Wednesday's Think Out Loud, Wordstock Executive Director Greg Netzer commented on just how many writers targeted toward the young reader would be at the annual festival of books this Saturday and Sunday: not only will there be a stage dedicated to children's writers, as well as a children's activity area sponsored by Knowledge Universe, but also some middle reader and young adult authors will present on other stages as well -- so that, at some points in the festival, you might have two or three different simultaneous kid-focused authors speaking at once. Oh, the bedevilment!

The thing is: Wordstock, for writers and book lovers and pretty much any parent who likes to adventure with the kids on a weekend, is one of the best deals anywhere. The ticket prices are super cheap ($10 for an adult for both days, or $7 for one), and kids under 13 are free. There are giveaways galore; Kindercare is giving away 1,000 free books at Wordstock. Last year we came home with a stack of great titles. And I get all shivery with the chance to rub elbows with authors I love; hopefully, some of that can rub off on the kids.

After two hours with the Wordstock guide and lots more time delving into new favorite books, I've come up with some recommendations for book-loving kids and parents -- and see the end of the post for a grid describing the kids' stage authors.

Saturday, 5 p.m., McMeniman's Stage. Colin Meloy & Carson Ellis. Wildwood. If I had to give one recommendation for kids this year, it would be this amazing, artful, magical book. Colin Meloy is famous as the Decemberists' lead singer and songwriter, but here he becomes famous for something entirely other. Follow 12-year-old Prue through an alternate reality Portland through the Industrial Wastes into the Impassable Wilderness -- Forest Park re-imagined. It's magical and practical and funny and filled with the kind of prose lyricism and nods to the cerebral you'd expect from Meloy. And best of all, even my nine-year-old loves it.

Sunday, 2 p.m., Knowledge Universe Stage. Doreen Cronin, Mom Operating Manual. Also: Marla Frazee and Kathryn Thurman. Remember Click, Clack, Moo, Cows that Type? Just about every mom who's read aloud to her kids has fallen in love with this ridiculous and hilarious barnyard tale. Cronin has a knack for the sort of books that entertain children and keep adults from eye-rolling with a nod toward more mature humor. I'm looking forward to seeing her new title, a "troubleshooting guide [which] provides step-by-step instructions for addressing moms who don't get enough of the daily basics, 'Sleep, Nutrition, Exercise, and Water, or SNEW for short.'"

Saturday, 2 p.m., Knowledge Universe Stage. Maile Meloy, The Apothecary. Also, Adam Jay Epstein, The Familiars, and Andrew Jacobson. Maile Meloy led just about every best-book list in 2009 with Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It, an adult collection of short stories that's probably not at all appropriate for young kids. But her new book is getting all kinds of attention, and is on my to-read list. "It's 1952 and the Scott family has just moved from Los Angeles to London. Here, fourteen-year-old Janie meets a mysterious apothecary and his son, Benjamin Burrows - a fascinating boy who's not afraid to stand up to authority and dreams of becoming a spy. When Benjamin's father is kidnapped, Janie and Benjamin must uncover the secrets of the apothecary's sacred book, the Pharmacopoeia, in order to find him, all while keeping it out of the hands of their enemies - Russian spies in possession of nuclear weapons."

Continue reading "Wordstock 2011: A Parent's Guide" »

OOPS! "Go the f**k to sleep" on the table

September 14, 2011

We received a copy of the book "Go the f**k to sleep" and I nonintentionally left it on the dining room table.  Of course my 7-year old picked it up and eagerly offered to read it to her toddler brother.  "Let's read this book!" in her big girl excited voice.  She read "Go the ffff....", then: "Mom, what does this say?"  Quickly, I grab the book and say, "Wait!  That's not for kids."  I put it out of reach.

Have you seen the book, read it?  Will you read it to the kids, bleep out the f-bomb, or maybe read it to them, explicit word and all?  (Related: "I say '$h*t', you say 'sugar'.")

Sunday Meal Planning: Getting Kids Involved With 'The Whole Family Cookbook'

April 24, 2011

My friend Michelle Stern was still pitching The Whole Family Cookbook when I met her face-to-face a year ago during the IACP conference in Portland. Once she closed the deal and started creating recipes, I did a little testing and, as you'd expect, lots of photograph-making in the process. Because her book is focused on cooking together with children, I wanted to get Everett and Truman and Monroe involved; and I was immediately surprised to see how much benefit we get from having them join in the cooking fun. [Note: Enter a giveaway for the book by commenting; details at the end of the post.]


Even months before we got the book, then, we were discovering how much healthier kids might eat if they just take a hand -- not just in cooking the food -- but in planning that cooking. I'd ask Everett which of a couple possible recipes to try, and we'd discuss whether a recipe had ingredients he'd like together. I was a little thrilled when he said one of the recipes we tried was too sweet for him -- and we made another variation on it that had honey and a small amount of sugar and that we all loved, adding a great sherbet recipe to our family repertoire. (The recipe that made it into the book is a delightfully tart buttermilk lemon sherbet, a winner indeed.)

Handing kids a cookbook with lots of pretty photos of healthy food and asking them, "find something for dinner tomorrow" is the best way I can think of to get them involved in this hardest parental job (filling their stomachs with good "growing food") and to make sure the hard work you put in to choosing sources and shopping and lugging the stuff home and cooking it all on demand pays off. Until, that is, they're old enough to do all the shopping and preparing on their own (I was particularly freed by the image of Rebecca's teens from last week's post making turkey sandwiches and sweet potatoes). I did that one night, and the next night, we had taco salad straight from Michelle's book (my recipe adds red cabbage to the onions for a little extra nutritional zing).

Continue reading "Sunday Meal Planning: Getting Kids Involved With 'The Whole Family Cookbook'" »

Summer Reading Program: choose the coupons!

August 01, 2010

As with past summers, Multnomah County Library hosts the Summer Reading Program at a branch near you. Kids sign up and receive a game board, where each session of reading (or being read to) equates to a marked-off space along the path.  There are three segments along the path, and when you reach one of three milestones, you can bring your game board into the library for a stamp and a prize.

... a *PRIZE*.  The prize box contains a dizzying array of brightly-colored knicks and knacks, perhaps a paper accordion fan, a shiny metallic bead necklace, a deck of miniature playing cards, a shoe-shaped key chain.  Sift through those wonderful prizes, and you will also come upon a tupperware of coupons, admittedly less shiny and bright.  The treasures within that coupon box include: a free pastry/cinnamon roll at Grand Central Bakery, a pair of free tickets to the Portland Youth Philharmonic, a free bambino scoop at Mio Gelato, buy-one-get-one admission at the Children's Museum, a free skate and rental at Lloyd Center Ice, and plenty of other goodies.  

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Parenting, home-keeping: Work that we love?

July 12, 2010

The thing is, this day pictured here was a hard day, as days go. Many of the days are hard. My sister was babysitting, a rarity for a Saturday, and Monroe wouldn't be left behind while I biked to the farmer's market. It's easier by myself. I can really chat with the vendors, a thing that is always fascinating and lovely; I can buy all the produce and meat and cheeses I want, quickly, and proceed with photographing or browsing; I need never chase or carry or negotiate with a strong, strong-willed child. Monroe cried, fussed, screamed, begged with tears in his eyes and hope in his voice, 'go wif you?" I couldn't resist him, I went, I could barely talk with anyone, I had to rush through my list and never once got to photograph a pile of radishes.

But this picture, as so many of my pictures are, is of joy. And as I look through my photographs I see all my children's personalities, and I see many moments of joy, moments that spark out amongst the hardness. I see much work, but I see love in that work, I see that it is all work that I love, every minute of it. The washing dishes, the gardening and the bread-kneading and the lacto-fermenting, the biking and carrying and chasing children, the bringing to events both minor and major, the "talking to children, answering questions with questions, and treating each child’s thought as a special contribution," these are the things I love most!

I have been reading two pieces meant, I am sure, to spark discussion and controversy. The first was a piece in Salon by Babble blogger Madeline Holler. The second -- also written about by Madeline, curiously -- is a cover story from New York Magazine by staff writer Jennifer Senior. Holler spends a lot more of her time comparing her own personal life -- and how hard, indeed, it is -- to the lives of others, specifically the "radical homemakers" of whom Shannon Hayes writes.

Continue reading "Parenting, home-keeping: Work that we love?" »

Favorite Winter-Themed Books?

December 03, 2009

The sun may be shining, but we are definitely approaching the heart of wintertime.  As the seasons change, so may our books to resonate with the world around us.  An urbanMama recently emailed to see if you could recommend a few seasonal reads:

Hi mamas, I am hoping you will post something to get us talking about our favorite winter books. I am trying to build our collection and am looking for ideas. On my list to buy this year are The Tomten by Astrid Lindgren and Snow by Uri Shulevitz. Favorites from my childhood are The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keatz and Father Christmas goes on Holiday by Raymond Briggs.

Image from cafemama's favorite winter book, The Lemon Sisters by Andrea Cheng and illustrated by Tatjana Mai-Wyss.

Art and motherhood: A difficult combination?

November 16, 2009

At Wordstock last month, I sat in on several readings and discussions by writer mamas, and recently I've been very closely following other mothers and writers on Twitter and Facebook. I'll admit to a fascination that's part curiosity and part ... jealousy? longing? ... as I watch them juggle motherhood and their art. From a distance, it seems they're doing it better than me.

I've finally gotten to the point where I believe I could finish my book proposal any day (really!) and I'm finally having a essay published in print this month. After years writing online, I'm coming into this artist-writer bit, slowly, with lots of squeaking and complaints from my family. It's been hard, especially on those nights where my oldest has decided to go off melatonin, a gentle sleep aid we'd been using to good effect, and I must restart the process of coaching him on calming himself. For three hours.

A friend Tweeted she was locked in her bedroom this weekend, finishing a few last chapters of her book as her husband wrangled her boys. Another acquaintance, a writer dad, seems as if he's frequently out of town on book readings and fabulous events, trading off childcare duty and glamorous writer things with his poet wife. I asked an author I admired at Wordstock how she managed to write with children -- and she's a single mother, having adopted a little girl internationally. "Very expensive childcare," she answered.

Then yesterday, I read in the Oregonian about this fabulous couple here in Portland. They're both visual artists and she's an accomplished writer. They're gorgeous and cute and funny and successful. They have a three-month-old baby. I'm so jealous! (On the same page: a story about the Decemberists' guitarist and his lovely girlfriend, Seann McKeel, who've started a series of concerts for children and parents to help entertain their three-year-old child. She's also an artist. Oh!)

In my house, juggling art and motherhood don't go that well. A two-year-old literally hangs from my arm when I'm in the middle of typing an especially inspired sentence. I go to a coffee shop to write for three hours, and when I come home, the slow cooked meal I'd begun has burnt and homework hasn't been done -- my husband was focused on the littlest and his nap, the laundry...

Are you, too, trying to combine some passion -- whether it's writing, art, a political or non-profit endeavor, or a really rewarding job -- and motherhood? How have you managed? Do you sometimes feel that everyone but you is doing great? Or do you have secrets, tricks of the trade, that make it all come together?

Wordstock: a gift for Portland's bookish families

October 11, 2009

I ran into Sarah Hart, a friend whose husband is the director of the annual Wordstock festival, yesterday. She was brimming with enthusiasm, and it was all for her son: 'I have to get him to Laini Taylor!' she said, checking the guide I had open to Saturday's schedule. I made a note of it; soon, my children will be reading young adult fiction, and Sarah's son -- and other teenagers like him -- at Wordstock this weekend are key to discovering the next great kidlit gems.

The Wordstock festival, a fairly new entrant into the Portland fair-festival-convention-happenin' scene, is a gift for bookish families like mine. This year's focus on young adult fiction is particularly great; the Target Children's Stage is packed with talented authors that will surely be the devotion of our kids in years to come. A day's ticket for an adult is only $5, and children 13 and under are free. Here are a few highlights you may want to check out today:

11 a.m. -- Eric Kimmel and Amy Costales
. Eric has written 100 books, and his mythology-focused children's books like Anansi and the Magic Stick are 'funny' and silly' and beautifully illustrated. Amy is the author of Abuelita Full of Life, a bilingual and multicultural author whose book is described as 'sweet' and 'gentle.

Noon -- Nicole Rubel and Chris Dudley.
Chris is a former NBA star who wrote Chris Dreams Big, about his childhood struggle with diabetes. But I'm more excited about Nicole, whose Rotten Ralph series about a naughty kitty is very popular among young children.

1 p.m. Jennifer Holm, Matthew Holm and Addie Boswell. Jennifer and Matthew, a brother-and-sister writing team, write the Babymouse series, of a "a sassy young mouse who dreams of glamour, excitement, adventure, straight whiskers, being queen of the world," targeted at grade school-aged girls. Addie Boswell is a Portland author and artist who has written Rain Stomper, a book that looks a little like an updated version of Ramona Quimby.

2 p.m. April Henry and Sundee T. Frazier.
April is a local celebrity: a best-selling author of mysteries for teens and adults. Sundee has written Brendan Buckley's Universe and Everything in It, an award-winning book about a biracial boy who loves science.

5 p.m. Heather Vogel Frederick. Heather's Mother-Daughter Book Club series is very popular and Heather says it "fills her need for a daughter -- I've got two boys!"

Is the 'Where the Wild Things Are' movie a good thing?

October 01, 2009

In many ways I'm the exact sort of person who would most love the movie adaptation of Maurice Sendak's classic book of disobedient boys and their fantasy lives. I adore Where the Wild Things Are, and often demand to read it to my own wild boys when they'd rather read Thomas or the Berenstain Bears. As the parent of a boy (or two. or three) who could most definitely be classified as rambunctious and rebellious -- the movie synopsis adds "misunderstood," which probably fits too -- and seeks to both celebrate and ease these character traits, I love the wild-boy-as-hero concept. In point of fact, I started a Max-inspired wolf suit for Monroe last year for Halloween (it was never finished, and I'm currently undecided as to whether I'll try to finish it for this year; it certainly still suits his personality).

And yet, the trailer troubles me. Yes: it seems to be a luminous work of director Spike Jonze and screenwriter Dave Eggers. The art is gorgeous, though very different from the book. But the boy is clearly quite a bit older than the way I envision Max (I see him as a five- or six-year-old; certainly no older than eight) and, of course, a 48-page picture book isn't enough material for a whole film. So there are additions, context, timeline juggling. Max is given the family troubles necessary for a boy who could tell his mom "I'll eat you up" (a single mom who's started dating, it seems, and difficulty at school), and a far more complex relationship with the monsters. Evidently, he's developed into a king, not simply given the crown because he stares into all their yellow eyes without blinking once.

It's rated PG; I'd hoped for "G"; probably due to the adult relationships depicted (I'm guessing here as I haven't yet found a more detailed synopsis of the movie's script). Spike Jonze has said the movie's plot came to him when he was despairing over the breakup of his own marriage. I worry that the pure, musical story of a boy escaping into a dark-but-empowering fantasy to deal with his anger will be saddled with context that doesn't work for every child. Instead of honoring the way Max relates to my own children -- Everett's certainly said many things much like "I'll eat you up," and Monroe has done them wordlessly -- I'll be obsessing over how different Max's mother is from me. In other words: this is all about Jonze's world view, and I need it to be far more malleable. This is a book I really honor, and I fear it will become too fraught with a specific and, while relatable, rigid family story.

My boys have seen the trailer and are eager to see the movie; I'd promised in a moment of rashness I'd take them to the theater (something we've never done). Now I wonder if I'd rather leave my knowledge of the movie to my usual: read reviews, watch it 10 years later when it comes out on network TV. What do you think? Will you see the movie? Will you bring your kids to see it? Are you, like me, terrified of having a movie ruin the book? Or do you think the new soul of Jonze's Wild Things is worth whatever the book loses?

Michael Pollan on feeding children

July 08, 2009

I've long subscribed to a variant of the theories out of Take the Fight Out of Food, an excellent book I recommend to those who are suffering from food issues. While I don't always execute my theories quite as they're devised in the ideal parenting lab that is my brain (ahh, if only I could be the perfect mama I have designed there!), they've been working pretty well for me. Essentially, the concept is to present a variety of healthful food options, and occasional treats, constantly expose your children to new foods, but never make a big deal out of what they actually eat. Don't set up "good" and "bad" foods; use words more along the lines of "foods that make your taste buds happy" and describe the physical benefits of other foods; protein gives you strength and makes your brain work better, etc. (And along the lines of our sweets conversation, Donna Fish, the author, has a great post on how to handle dessert battles here.)

So I was thrilled to read this interview with Michael Pollan, one of my writerly food heroes, about his now-16-year-old son and his past food issues. He was a "white food eater" when he was young; he'd eat chicken, potatoes, bread, rice, and nothing else. Upon reflection, Pollan believed this was due to his need to reduce sensory input (he doesn't say it, but I wonder if the boy was diagnosed with a sensory integration disorder). In fact, it was his son's "tortured" relationship with food that got him interested in writing about it.

About two years ago, Pollan's son began to suddenly expand his food repertoire, and after working in a kitchen for a summer began cooking seriously, and is now a "food snob" who makes a port wine reduction to go with the grass-fed steak his dad cooks for dinner. (I can only dream.)

It's a relief to a mama like me.

Continue reading "Michael Pollan on feeding children" »

'Brain, Child' salon pdx: Summer 2009

July 02, 2009

Several months ago, a Brain, Child discussion group was hastily thrown together and ended up a (small) series of one-on-one conversations. But as soon as I picked up this season's issue, I was longing to talk to someone about it. So this time, we're doing it right, with two weeks advance notice (ish) and a proper location selected ahead of time!

Date: Tuesday, July 14, 7:30 p.m.
Place: Rimsky-Korsakoffee House, 707 SE 12th (the red house -- there is no sign)
Do I have to read Brain, Child cover-to-cover? No, but the more you read, the more we can talk. If we get enough "yes" responses, I'll order several copies from the publisher.

Respond, s'il vous plait, in the comments, and I look forward to getting all salon with a couple of other urbanMamas. Some of the articles are on the web site; you can purchase the magazine at several local bookstores and grocery stores.

Kids love trucks: 'Pet' some today at NW library event

April 23, 2009

Trucks_trucks_trucks My boys, having many conventional boy passions, love trucks. But I am weary of reading the often very dull books about how excavators and booms and buckets and crawler treads work. In fact, I've been collecting photos to make my own book with language that's more fun to read (I'm thinking excerpts from my college poetry anthologies, but we'll see how it goes.) So I was excited when Larissa sent us info about the Truck Town Party. What better opportunity to combine my boys, trucks and books than at today's Multnomah County Library event?

Where: Con-Way Parking Lot, corner of NW 23rd & Savier St.  Entrance is on Savier, closer to 22nd. (One block south of the library.)

When: Thursday, April 23rd, from 2-5.


  • "Pet" the big trucks including a county Dump Truck with snowplow, Garbage Dump Box (from 2-3), Ambulance, Police Bomb Squad & robots, Police Cruiser, Fire Truck (from 3-4), and the "biggest, baddest" Tow Truck in Speed's fleet. 
  • Storytime - 2:30  & 4:00.
  • Crafts you can do there or take home to do later.
  • Raffling off some cute truck board books.
  • Toy Truck Race Track - kids who bring their toy trucks can race the track.
  • Special gifts to the first 200 children.

Books that keep on keepin' on

February 11, 2009

HereComeTheBearsLowRes It's probably normal.  People are drawn to what is familiar, right?  I have found that with kids books, characters and shows, I head first to the ones I grew up with.  Not that they're any better or worse than the newer ones coming out today.  It's just that they're familiar.  Big bird?  An old friend.  Brother and Sister Bear?  Like my own siblings.  Madeline?  Babar?  Ramona & Beezus?  Heidi?  More old, beloved friends.

Somehow it makes me feel all warm inside, that me and my kids were both pals with the same fuzzy make-believe characters.  When my Mom visited recently three generations of us enjoyed Sesame Street Live - and all had our own memories of and connections to the characters.  There's just something sort of cool about my son laughing at Cookie Monster singing "C is for Cookie" as heartily as I did (er, do).

I do manage to branch out (Arthur and Annie & Jack are also very popular in our house these days), but wonder what old faithfuls you find resurfacing at your house?  Do you tend to stick with them, or are you eager to leave all that old stuff in the dust?  Got an old fave that your kids love, too?  Or a beloved character that your kids - or you - want nothing to do with?

Given that our society has thankfully progressed in a bundle of ways since the 1970s when I was under 10, it only makes sense that children's lit has progressed, too, and that I should be embracing the new over the old since it's likely to be a little less sexist/racist/whatever.  Or not?

Reading Recommendations Age By Age

December 28, 2008

DSC_0086 Of course every parents aspires to raise a reader, a child who loves to read.  Do you have a favorite reading list you refer to? Do you use your favorite childhood books as a guide?  One urbanMama emails:

Does anyone know of a good resource for finding reading recommendations age-by-age? I don't remember when my parents started reading chapter books to me. Is my 4 year old ready for Charlotte's Web? Or, should I focus more on large print with simple words (Hop on Pop) as she's working on her letters?