Tag: parenting

Fabulous Friday: All the Ugly and Wonderful Things

Posted 12 August, 2016 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Fabulous Friday: All the Ugly and Wonderful ThingsAll the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood
Published by Thomas Dunne Books on August 9th 2016
Genres: Adolescence, Fiction, Literary
Pages: 352

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange honest review consideration. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

As the daughter of a meth dealer, Wavy knows not to trust people, not even her own parents. Struggling to raise her little brother, eight-year-old Wavy is the only responsible "adult" around. She finds peace in the starry Midwestern night sky above the fields behind her house. One night everything changes when she witnesses one of her father's thugs, Kellen, a tattooed ex-con with a heart of gold, wreck his motorcycle. What follows is a powerful and shocking love story between two unlikely people that asks tough questions, reminding us of all the ugly and wonderful things that life has to offer.

I read All the Ugly and Wonderful Things in a single sitting while I was sick as a dog. Greenwood wields her prose like it’s a sword and manages to completely eviscerate the reader. This book is indeed filled with all the ugly and wonderful things, but Greenwood leaves it up to the reader to decide what is ugly and what is wonderful. Her prose, while gorgeous and nearly perfectly rendered, is almost… hmm… she’s like a reporter – showing the reader what’s going on but never telling the reader how to feel about it.

This book left me constantly questioning my own morality for feeling the way that I did. Wavy and Kellen’s relationship often felt icky and wrong – ugly – to me, but at the same time almost justified. This is a book that demands to be discussed among friends. There is so much here. Never for one second did I feel icky the way I felt when I was reading Lolita, Humbert is obviously a pervert and a manipulator using Lo for his own ends. In All the Ugly and Wonderful Things Kellen is honestly more of a protector and a caretaker for the majority of their story.

For me the most disturbing part was (oddly) not the relationship between the two main characters but Wavy’s relationship with her mother. Parents can do horrible things to their children and Greenwood manages to capture that in vivid and aching detail. The imagery of Wavy eating out of the trash is enough to make me weep. Additionally, what good people like Wavy’s aunt are unable to handle in the face of adversity is also a depressing theme that Greenwood fleshes out in the most awesomely heartbreaking way.

On a personal note, Wavy’s family reminds me very much of my shitbag aunt and her children. She’s a shitbag who marries shitbag men. My grandmother is a constant enabler to the shitbaggery. My cousins are not works of fiction and despite the blood, sweat, and tears of my grandmother at least one of them has already done stints in juvie and will probably end up in prison for drugs before it’s all over. I also watched my own mother try to save that same cousin from himself for nearly two years, until much like Brenda, she couldn’t handle it anymore. So perhaps this is why I found the (lack of) parental relationships much more disturbing than the relationship between Kellen and Wavy.

Anyway. The narrative in All the Ugly and Wonderful Things is gorgeous. The characters are well fleshed out and largely believable. The story is heartbreaking. I highly recommend this one.

While she hasn’t written one yet, I know that Catherine at The Gilmore Guide to Books will eventually publish a more eloquent and insightful review soon.

What about you, Reader? Does this sound way outside of your comfort zone? I felt a little discomfited at first, but eventually got swept away.

April @ The Steadfast Reader



Surprising Saturday: The Myth of the Spoiled Child

Posted 19 April, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Surprising Saturday: The Myth of the Spoiled ChildThe Myth of the Spoiled Child by Alfie Kohn
Published by Da Capo Press on March 25th 2014
Genres: Child Rearing, Education, Family & Relationships, General, Parent Participation, Parenting
Pages: 280

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange honest review consideration. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Parenting and education expert Alfie Kohn tackles the misconception that overparenting and overindulgence has produced a modern generation of entitled children incapable of making their way in the world.

Confession time: I picked up this book as a hate read. I opened it with the attitude, “This is gonna be a crazy, liberal book on how we ought to be coddling our children and never setting in any boundaries.” 

Rather quickly, through citing studies, statistics, and history – Kohn was able to draw me around to his point of view and I found myself in agreement with many of his assertions. The book opens by pointing out that since the beginning of recorded history people have been saying the same thing about “kids these days”. 

“This time, in other words, things really are different. That’s what people today post in their blogs to get you to take their italicized complaints seriously, and it’s what people were using fountain pens to communicate a hundred years ago for the same reason. Appeals to historical perspective apparently need to be put in historical perspective.”

So after dismantling the assumption that kids these days are lazier, more disrespectful, etc. Kohn turns to the ‘problem’ of helicopter parents and overly permissive parents. Turns out, when you look at the evidence – sure – the helicopter parents are out there and Paris Hilton is still a thing but they’re not the widespread massive problem that the media would like us to think that they are. He argues that because most parents fear being considered overly permissive they tend to overcompensate by being excessively controlling.

So what’s wrong with controlling our children? Kids gotta learn, right? They better get used to it because that’s just how life is, right? Wrong. Kohn points to multiple studies that show the best way to prepare kids for failure and disappointment later in life is not to start young – it’s to boost them up with success early on. After you shake off the chains of that conventional ‘common sense’ – it starts to make a lot less sense. Kohn’s arguments are actually very intuitive. 

“Parenting at its core – or at least at its best – is a process of caring, supporting, listening, guiding, reconsidering, teaching, and negotiating.” 

There’s no doubt that Kohn’s ideas feel radical. He calls for the elimination of sports and activities that pit children against each other. He discusses the harmful effects of the ‘scarcity model’ for child rearing activities and perhaps most radically advocates for the elimination of letter grades and class rankings at all levels of education (but especially for younger children). He coins this parenting style, ‘doing-to’.

“Put it this way: If you were to make an argument against doing-to parenting, it’s unlikely that someone would challenge you by asking, “But if we stopped using rewards and punishments, how could we make sure that our kids will be happy, psychologically healthy, genuinely concerned about others, critical thinkers who will fight against injustice and work for social change?” Instead you would probably hear, “No rewards and punishments?? Then how will we get our kids to do what they’re told, follow the rules, and take their place in a society where certain things will be expected of them whether they like it or not?” Indeed, there is evidence that greater concern about social conformity translates into more punitive and restrictive parenting.”


Now, this book isn’t without its problems. There’s a lot of great theory in here – but very few suggestions on how to actually put things into practice. It’s all well and good to want to raise non-conformists but there are times when I need my three year old to put on her damn shoes. There’s no time to talk or listen to how she feels about it. Kohn offers little advice on how to handle everyday situations like that.  

I don’t buy it all, but I definitely think that there is much in this book worth thinking about and discussing. 

How about you, Reader? Have you ever picked up a book you thought would be ridiculous only to have it convert you? 

April @ The Steadfast Reader



Monday Mothering: 1-2-3 Magic

Posted 17 February, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Monday Mothering: 1-2-3 Magic1-2-3 Magic by Thomas Phelan
Published by ParentMagic, Inc. on October 1st 2010
Genres: Family & Relationships, General, Parenting
Pages: 224

This revised edition of the award-winning 1-2-3 Magic program addresses the difficult task of child discipline with humor, keen insight, and proven experience. The technique offers a foolproof method of disciplining children ages two through 12 without arguing, yelling, or spanking. By means of three easy-to-follow steps, parents learn to manage troublesome behavior, encourage good behavior, and strengthen the parent-child relationship—avoiding the "Talk-Persuade-Argue-Yell-Hit" syndrome which frustrates so many parents. Ten strategies for building a child’s self-esteem and the six types of testing and manipulation a parent can expect from the child are discussed, as well as tips on how to prevent homework arguments, make mealtimes more enjoyable, conduct effective family meetings, and encourage children to start doing their household chores. New advice about kids and technology and new illustrations bring this essential parenting companion completely up-to-date.

I liked this book. It has great potential as a manual to take charge of a hectic household with the end goal of making life happier and more harmonious, helping parents to actually be able to enjoy their kids more.  

The advice on disciplining (and growing relationships with your kids) is practical and achievable. For me, it is a book full of little changes to make life more pleasant, it is unlikely to require a whole overhaul of your discipline program or daily life, just tweaks here and there.

There’s a whole chapter on “The Little Adult Assumption” which I am still continually pointing my husband to. The man loves to talk and likes to try to reason with the three year old Girl in a very adult way. This leads directly into the idea that adults talk too much. Kids don’t want lectures! I agree with the basic premise – but no talking after time out was a little too much quiet for me. I always ask The Girl : “Why did you go to time out?” “What are you going to do to avoid it next time?” 

All that being said, every parent knows that kids are all different. So ALL parenting books should be taken with a grain of salt. Use what works, leave the rest.

Other reviews took issue with the tone of the book. I can see how some parents who are in awe and worship of their little darlings might find the tone a bit off-putting. (I don’t mean that as sarcastically as it sounds, promise.) For me, it was just right, as I’m a little irreverent about everything (not just parenting) myself. It makes the fact that you’re reading a parenting book a little more bearable. 

..and seriously likening parenting to training wild animals seems to be a very apt comparison to me. 

Check it out.


April @ The Steadfast Reader



Monday Mothering: Hands Free Mama

Posted 20 January, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Monday Mothering: Hands Free MamaHands Free Mama by Rachel Macy Stafford
Published by Zondervan on January 7th 2014
Genres: Family & Relationships, Inspirational, Motherhood, Parenting, Religion
Pages: 240

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange honest review consideration. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

If technology is the new addiction, then multi-tasking is the new marching order. We check our email while cooking dinner, send a text while bathing the kids, and spend more time looking into electronic screens than into the eyes of our loved ones. With our never-ending to-do lists and jam-packed schedules, it’s no wonder we’re distracted. But this isn’t the way it has to be. In July 2010, special education teacher and mother Rachel Macy Stafford decided enough was enough. Tired of losing track of what matters most in life, Rachel began practicing simple strategies that enabled her to momentarily let go of largely meaningless distractions and engage in meaningful soul-to-soul connections. She started a blog to chronicle her endeavors and soon saw how both external and internal distractions had been sabotaging her happiness and preventing her from bonding with the people she loves most. Hands Free Mama is the digital society’s answer to finding balance in a media-saturated, perfection-obsessed world. It doesn’t mean giving up all technology forever. It doesn’t mean forgoing our jobs and responsibilities. What it does mean is seizing the little moments that life offers us to engage in real and meaningful interaction. It means looking our loved ones in the eye and giving them the gift of our undivided attention, leaving the laundry till later to dance with our kids in the rain, and living a present, authentic, and intentional life despite a world full of distractions. So join Rachel and go hands-free. Discover what happens when you choose to open your heart—and your hands—to the possibilities of each God-given moment.

My first exposure to this author was a piece in the Huffington Post called : The Important Thing About Yelling and I really liked it, so when I saw Stafford’s book on NetGalley, I went for it.

This book wasn’t great, but it wasn’t awful either. It just kind of … was. 

I know that ‘meh’ isn’t an incredibly helpful review, nevertheless, that’s what I feel about this book. I don’t know if I’ve been overindulging in these types of parenting/lifestyle change books, I don’t know if it’s because I’m reading The Happiness Project right now, where I feel much more connected to the narrator, I don’t know if the market is just saturated right now with ‘let go of the little things and live for what’s important!!!!‘-type advice books and articles. I suspect it’s a combination of all these things. 

The narrator didn’t speak to me. 
The tone of the book was better suited for a blog rather than a whole book, the author uses no empirical evidence for her theories, nor does she seemed to have done any research into studies on better child-rearing, etc. All accounts are strictly personal and anecdotal. There are a few key phrases that crop up in the writing way too often, it made the writing seem a little lazy, like the author couldn’t be bothered to think of a different phrase. 

I wasn’t prepared for this book to be religious. But page after page I was smacked in the face with the phrase ‘God given gifts’ and praise and thanks to god that made this book come across as more religious than secular. That’s fine, but it wasn’t what I was expecting or looking for. 

Again, this book isn’t bad, it just wasn’t for me. I think that there are too many other good books on this topic out there. 


April @ The Steadfast Reader



Monday Mothering: Playful Parenting

Posted 23 December, 2013 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Monday Mothering: Playful ParentingPlayful Parenting by Lawrence J. Cohen
Published by Random House Publishing Group on November 19th 2008
Genres: Family & Relationships, General, Life Stages, Parenting, School Age
Pages: 320

Parents have heard that play is a child's work--but play is not for kids only. As psychologist Lawrence J. Cohen, Ph.D., demonstrates in this delightful new book, play can be the basis for an innovative and rewarding approach to parenting. From eliciting a giggle during baby's first game of peek-a-boo to cracking jokes with a teenager while hanging out at the mall, Playful Parenting is a complete guide to using play to raise strong, confident children.Have you ever stepped back to watch what really goes on when your children play? As Dr. Cohen points out, play is children's complex and fluid way of exploring the world, communicating hard-to-express feelings, getting close to those they care about, working through stressful situations, and simply blowing off steam. That's why "playful parenting" is so important and so successful in building strong, close bonds between parents and children. Through play we join our kids in their world. We help them express and understand deep emotions, foster connection, aid the process of emotional healing--and have a great time ourselves while we're at it.Anyone can be a playful parent--all it takes is a sense of adventure and a willingness to let down your guard and try something new. After identifying why it can be hard for adults to play, Dr. Cohen discusses how to get down on the floor and join children on their own terms. He covers games, activities, and playful interactions that parents can enjoy with children of all ages, whether it's gazing deep into a baby's eyes, playing chase with a toddler, fantasy play with a grade schooler, or reducing a totally cool teenager to helpless laughter.Playful Parenting also includes illuminating chapters on how to use play to build a child's confidence and self-esteem, how to play through sibling rivalry, and how play can become a part of loving discipline. Written with love and humor, brimming with good advice and revealing anecdotes, and grounded in the latest research, Playful Parenting will make you laugh even as it makes you wise in the ways of being a happy, effective, enthusiastic parent.

Overall I really liked this book. It gives some incredible tips on becoming more engaged with our children and how play is the language that our children use to express and deal with big and small hurts, disappointments, and trauma. It’s definitely an extremely kid-centric theory of parenting. Much of the advice that Cohen gives is actually quite intuitive when you stop to think about it. 

Cohen stresses over and over again the importance of actually connecting with our children. He stresses that physical engagement in play is not only appropriate, it’s absolutely necessary. He recommends that we embrace types of play that we as adults may be uncomfortable with (such as gun play or aggressive play) as a way to allow kids to get it out of their system in a safe and understanding environment. 

I’m skeptical about his thoughts on discipline. Naturally he’s against corporal punishment, which I am in agreement with, but he also forgoes time-outs. He makes a compelling case that ‘bad’ behavior by children is a result of loneliness, confusion, or anger that they don’t have the verbal capacity to express. So by sending a child to time out who is acting out because he is lonely, Cohen argues that the parent is actual compounding the problem. Instead he advocates ‘Meeting on the Couch’, it’s a calm time where the parent reconnects with the child and tries to understand the child. That’s all well and good, but where are consequences? I have Positive Discipline on my list to hopefully supplement some of this.

I felt like Cohen focused disproportionately on boy behavior. Also, there is little advice on how to deal with specific issues. I found this to be more a general parenting book.

Overall this book has some fantastic ideas, I would recommend taking a look.

April @ The Steadfast Reader



Feminist Friday: Cinderella Ate My Daughter

Posted 15 November, 2013 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Feminist Friday: Cinderella Ate My DaughterCinderella Ate My Daughter by Peggy Orenstein
Published by Harper Collins on January 25th 2011
Genres: Family & Relationships, General, Parenting
Pages: 272

The acclaimed author of the groundbreaking bestseller Schoolgirls reveals the dark side of pink and pretty: the rise of the girlie-girl, she warns, is not that innocent.Pink and pretty or predatory and hardened, sexualized girlhood influences our daughters from infancy onward, telling them that how a girl looks matters more than who she is. Somewhere between the exhilarating rise of Girl Power in the 1990s and today, the pursuit of physical perfection has been recast as a source—the source—of female empowerment. And commercialization has spread the message faster and farther, reaching girls at ever-younger ages.But, realistically, how many times can you say no when your daughter begs for a pint-size wedding gown or the latest Hannah Montana CD? And how dangerous is pink and pretty anyway—especially given girls' successes in the classroom and on the playing field? Being a princess is just make-believe, after all; eventually they grow out of it. Or do they? Does playing Cinderella shield girls from early sexualization—or prime them for it? Could today's little princess become tomorrow's sexting teen? And what if she does? Would that make her in charge of her sexuality—or an unwitting captive to it?Those questions hit home with Peggy Orenstein, so she went sleuthing. She visited Disneyland and the international toy fair, trolled American Girl Place and Pottery Barn Kids, and met beauty pageant parents with preschoolers tricked out like Vegas showgirls. She dissected the science, created an online avatar, and parsed the original fairy tales. The stakes turn out to be higher than she—or we—ever imagined: nothing less than the health, development, and futures of our girls. From premature sexualization to the risk of depression to rising rates of narcissism, the potential negative impact of this new girlie-girl culture is undeniable—yet armed with awareness and recognition, parents can effectively counterbalance its influence in their daughters' lives.

This is an important book. It makes feminism (a term which the author, cleverly, uses as little as possible) accessible to mainstream moms and attempts to instill the importance that feminism still has, even to our children today. 

I didn’t agree with  all of her assertions, at time she gets pretty preachy. 

But I think that regardless, this is a good read for parents, especially those with female children. Ultimately the moral of the story is the great evil is not pink, princesses, or high-heel shoes; the underlying evil is rampant, voracious mainstream consumerism turning our daughter’s innocence and sexuality into a commodity. 

Worth the read. 

Note: Last 30% of the book is bibliography, so it’s an even quicker read than it looks.

April @ The Steadfast Reader