Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Book #64: Talking as Fast as I Can by Lauren Graham

I watched about five and a half seasons of Gilmore Girls (before I got tired of the Rory storyline where she is sleeping with married Dean and couldn't stand to watch any more) and I kept hearing good review of Lauren Graham's memoir. She writes about her experiences with Gilmore Girls and Parenthood and also her early life and experiences. I couldn't stop smiling and laughing as I listened to hear reading (that's the thing I love about listening to memoirs, when they're read by the author it sounds so familiar and enjoyable). Her hilarious personality shines through and I felt like we could be GREAT FRIENDS. I agreed with so many of the things she ranted about. The main disappointment about this book was that it felt a little bit rushed and short--like it was rushed to try and get it out in time for the Gilmore Girls revival to come out. There wasn't all that much depth to it and you didn't really get a huge sense of her life, which I feel like is part of the point of a memoir, right? But still, it was a really fun book to listen to and I thoroughly enjoyed what was there--I just wished there was more. I now really want to check out her novel that she wrote before this one (she was an English major!) and watch whatever she is in.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Book #63: The Entitlement Trap by Richard and Linda Eyre

I've read a few of the Eyres' parenting books now and I always come away inspired with lots of ideas of things I want to do. This book mainly focuses on their ideas for a "family economy" to give your kids experience with handling and using money but making them earn their money and use it to pay for things they want and need, like clothes, toys, snacks, and doing stuff with their friends. They emphasize the importance of kids feeling and having "ownership" over their own activities and possessions and spend most of the book discussing how they can feel that ownership over different aspects of their lives (the first half is about their things, but the second half is about ownership of values, decisions, bodies, relationships, etc.). They have to earn their money by completing their routine chores every day during the week (but other things are done just for belonging to the family). I feel like this system sounds like a lot of work but actually really important for teaching these skills and knowledge. I know I want to do some variation on this when our kids get older (they suggest eight).

Reading this book has prompted a lot of discussion between Tommy and I about what we did as kids. Tommy's family sounds a lot like this system, whereas mine was a lot more loose and we got just a few dollars of allowance each month. I think my family's system was fine but the problem with me was that I would just "borrow" (aka take) money from my mom all the time and never tried to curb my spending to fit what I had, since I only had like $20 which was definitely not enough to cover any sort of spending. I still kind of have an aversion to giving kids tons of money for "allowance," but I think if it goes along with the sort of instruction and discussion that they have in this book, about being responsible and expecting that you pay for your own things and expecting them to pay for their own toys and clothes, then it makes sense and will actually help them build better habits in the future. I feel like I got lucky that I'm naturally not a big spender anyway.

DEFINITELY want to revisit this book in a few years when Dane is closer to eight to remind myself of these ideas. A lot of them are not applicable now but will be very useful around then (the whole money thing, talking to your kids about their bodies/sex, the repenting bench (which I would love to implement now but Graham is definitely not capable of that level of thought)).

Books #61-62: Toy Dance Party and Toys Come Home by Emily Jenkins

 I read the first book in this trilogy, Toys Go Out, with Dane a month or so ago, and we just finished reading the third one today (I waited to review the second one with this one since they are both so similar). This series is just so cute. Dane really got into the stories and loved hearing about the little antics that StingRay, Lumphy, and Plastic got up to. Toy Dance Party is the second book in the series, and is just further adventures of the three toys, but the third book, Toys Come Home, is actually a prequel about when the toys first came to live at The Girl's home. I thought both books were fun and I loved reading them out loud with Dane. I think I enjoyed Toys Come Home more because the chapters were each a bit shorter--some of them in Toy Dance Party got so long (especially when you're reading aloud). I liked how these stories weren't talking down to the kids too much either--a lot of the vocabulary is pretty advanced and Dane all week has randomly come up to me asking questions about words I know I read earlier out of these chapters. The funniest one was when we were out to dinner with some of Tommy's friends from work and in the middle of dinner Dane says, "Dad, what's an axe murderer?" (One of the toys was saying they were scared there were ghosts and axe murderers in the basement, ha!) All in all, definitely worth the reads and these are books I will want to read later with each of my kids.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Book #60: The Me, Me, Me Epidemic by Amy McCready

I bought this book around my birthday last year because I am of course interested in the idea of raising independent kids. I loathe the image of helicopter parenting and try really hard to examine my parenting style to make sure I don't do that (although it's hard not to helicopter when your kids are toddlers). This book goes through all sorts of different tactics you can use to help your children not become entitled or assuming that they should be handed things without doing any work, or praised for everything they do. It talked about having them do chores, experience consequences, having reasonable expectations for them, and dealing with allowance and teaching them life skills. All in all, it really is a good book with great resources. I did kind of feel like a lot of the things she talked about were a big DUH, like "You don't have to give in to your toddler or teenager when they're throwing a fit about something they want" and "Don't rescue them when they make stupid mistakes." I mean, they seem obvious to me now, but I am SURE that once my kids get older and head off to school and have a lot more opportunities for making mistakes it will be harder for me to remember those principles. I WANT to do that though. And I do think the techniques that McCready writes about in these chapters will be useful. I feel like I do already use a lot of them either from common sense or from already knowing about them--when you live in a big family environment and have the big family mindset, you automatically don't cater to kids as much as some other people might, I guess.

Several of the things that stood out to me in the book as useful:
-a list of tasks and jobs that kids should be allowed to learn and work on at different ages
-how to set up appropriate consequences for actions (whether natural consequences or ones that you develop)
-the whole chapter on allowance seemed awesome and I am going to have Tommy read it because we have been debating about what to do for Dane with allowance lately
-teaching kids how to hold conversations and be respectful of others while talking to them

The thing that struck me a lot as I was reading it is that I was and am very entitled. My parents were great at having us work and not giving us everything but I DEFINITELY was pretty entitled and had the idea that everything should work out. I had a lot of shockers when I was in college (like oh yeah, I don't know how to do a lot of things, and I'm not great at managing money, etc.), so it shows that nothing will teach you like experience. No matter how well you do, kids will probably have a lot of things to still work out once they leave home. So that's a good thing to keep in mind--nobody is going to be a fully functioning adult the minute they leave for college. But it's definitely better to get them on the right track using these sorts of tactics.

I didn't LOVE this book because so much of it seemed a little too obvious to me, but I do think it is one I should re-visit every few years to get these specific ideas. I'm glad I bought it and we will have a copy of it.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Book #59: Stories I Only Tell My Friends by Rob Lowe

I loved The West Wing and Parks and Recreation, and so when I read that Rob Lowe had written a very good memoir about his life and experiences, I thought I would check it out. I listened to the audiobook version, because he read it himself, and it was so fun to listen to his so familiar Sam Seaborn voice talking and telling stories about his life (as the title hints). He is an amazing mimic--he does the voices for all the people he writes about his conversations with (so I definitely recommend the audiobook version instead of reading it).

Lowe writes about his childhood and how he grew up to fulfill his childhood dreams of becoming an actor. His stories about his family and his childhood are pretty poignant and sad to me--his parents were divorced when he was only four years old, and he grew up with several other divorces between his parents and their other spouses. He became a teen actor pretty much all on his own and he writes a lot about his work experiences with each of the movies he has done. But the part that I found most appealing and redemptive about the sad beginning was when he wrote about meeting his wife and going through rehab for his alcohol addiction. I am always so impressed by people who manage to conquer their addictions through sheer force of will, and Lowe writes about how he became sober (and has been so for the last 20 years). He has also been married to his wife since 1991--something I love to hear about rich and famous people. The way he writes about his wife and kids is really sweet and reminds you that he's a really decent regular guy. The other thing I loved was some of this back-door, insider information about the entertainment industry and how you "get your foot in the door" or manage to make your name. He writes about all of these amazing chance encounters with people in super random circumstances and while it sometimes seems like name-dropping, that is pretty much in the title of the book so it's hard to blame him for wanting to tell about the time he met Lucille Ball or Bill Murray. Definitely an interesting memoir and a great one to listen to.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Book #58: Kat, Incorrigible by Stephanie Burgis

This book was a cute, easy-to-read YA novel set in Regency times about a twelve-year-old girl (much younger than the age you usually read about in this era) who gets involved in some magical stuff. Kat, the heroine of the story, is a funny tween who accidentally gets sucked into her mother's old magical heirlooms and learns that she has some of her mother's old magical powers. She decides to try to use them to save her sister from a desirable match to an old and supposedly dangerous guy--but she ends up having to fight interference from a number of different sources and makes a bunch of mistakes along the way.

I liked the whimsical style of this book, and Kat's cute and funny character. I thought that since she was only 12, it worked really well. Sometimes all those books about young adult women who are sassy and strong-willed and say what's on their mind feel kind of forced--but I thought that Kat as a twelve-year-old version of those things was really believable (since I know plenty of tweens who act like that and think like that, including myself). Obviously the book wasn't perfect (I thought Kat created a lot of her own problems and it never really resolved fully for me) but it was a quick, fun read in the Regency era--what's not to like?

Monday, June 12, 2017

Book #57: From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

I LOVED this book when I was a kid, and I had completely forgotten about it. I'm so glad to have re-encountered it! I definitely need to buy my own copy of this to have for my kids. I loved the story of how Claudia and Jamie ran away from home and stayed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I thought the idea of staying in the museum sounded so exciting and fun as a kid--I always enjoyed that image. While they're staying at the museum, both kids get interested in the mystery of a new statue at the museum, about whether it was carved by Michelangelo or not. So they go to the old owner's house, Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, to find out what she knows and discover the mystery.

For some reason, this book is almost magical to me. Maybe it's the nostalgia of having read it as a kid or just the excitement of staying at this very exciting place. I just know that I love it and I definitely will not forget about it again.