Archive | March, 2013

What I’m Reading: Six years after everybody else read it edition

21 Mar

Extremely Loud and Incredibly CloseExtremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I really want to give this book two different star ratings. Four stars (maybe even five) for the parts that Oskar narrates and two stars to the parts where the grandparents are narrating. It felt like two completely different books to me. Obviously there was some intersection, but Oskar’s chapters were behind the wheel of the plot. Had it been left to the grandparents, we would have stalled out in the breakdown lane. I always wanted to fast forward through their parts.

It’s strange how I had zero sympathy for the silent grandfather who can’t get over his teenaged sweetheart [who was killed in an attack], but I wanted to hug the crap out of the little boy who can’t get over his father [who was killed in an attack]. It was the biggest head-smacking parallel of the whole book, but I wasn’t on board with it.

I was worried about reading this book because I thought it was going to be a big bawl-fest the whole way through, and I wasn’t in the mood. But in the end there were only two parts that got me, and I’m not even sure whether they were intended to: 1.) when Oskar invents (imagines) the ambulance that flashes the status of its occupant to his or her family–either “I’m OK!” or, if they’re not going to be OK, “I love you! Goodbye!” I think anybody who has lost someone and didn’t get the chance to say goodbye would feel that one. 2.) the listing of the taglines of the 9/11 victims (father, collector, tennis player, investor, grandfather, father, sister, baseball fanatic, etc). It hit me way harder than the lists of actual names I’ve seen. It made them more real. The list went on forever, but still you knew it was only a small section of the lives that were lost, you know? Anyway, I thought those two things were much sadder than the final phone messages from Oskar’s dad.

P.S. Mr. Black’s disappearance was annoying. The narrator of my audio book did a freakin’ fantastic job with his voice, and it made me really love the character. I hope he went to live in the Empire State Building.

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Happiest Toddler on the Block: What works and what doesn’t

20 Mar

This a PP, folks (PP=parenting post). If you there’s no one in your life whose toilet habits you could discuss with knowledge and interest, come back tomorrow for a non-baby book review. 

I was a devotee of the 5 S’s in The Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp, so as soon as T started having tantrums at the precocious age of 11 months, I went out and bought the sequel, but I’ve only just gotten around to finishing. The second half of the book basically repeats the first half of the book more concisely and with more examples, which is kind of perfect when it’s been eight months since you read the first half.

But who really gives a crap about how advice books are written, amirite?

So without further ado, here’s my take on the important stuff: does this really work? Keeping in mind that with any method, there will be some things that don’t work due to a unique situation, I tried to keep my perspective general.

What works:

The Toddler Brain Concept

Over and over in the book, Karp compares toddlers to cavemen, in that they haven’t been socialized. I get that, but even more useful were his briefer mentions of how toddlers lose all the time. Practically everyone is faster, bigger, stronger, braver, and usually gets their way.  There’s much they don’t understand, and they are incapable of planning and reasoning, especially when emotional. Being a toddler kind of blows goats, really. They have almost zero control over their own lives, and the people they love most in the world (mom and dad) are always telling them “no, no!” This paradigm has helped me wrap my brain around otherwise inexplicable blow ups—like when I give him milk in the “wrong” cup.

Playing the boob

In keeping with the first idea, it helps to let toddlers feel like winners from time to time if you ever want them to cooperate with your ideas. This phrase itself is kind of ridiculous, but call it whatever you want, it totally works. Essentially, you just act incompetent or weak. Prime example that Tenny loves: when he gives me a high-five, I fall over and shake my hand saying “ow ow owie! You’re too strong for mommy!” There are other ways of letting your kid win that Karp details in the book, and I have found that keeping the idea back of mind all day (how many times has T “won” today?) is amazingly effective.

Feed the meter

The easiest way to stem tantrums is to spend a lot of time and [undivided] attention with your toddler. Kind of a theoretical duh, but putting it into practice is easier said than done. For proof, just look at the near-maniacal way most toddlers love their grandparents. That’s because whenever a grandparent spends time with them, they are totally devoted. They aren’t trying to open mail or do laundry or fix dinner. Obviously, you don’t have the luxury of not doing those things—just don’t assume that having your toddler being next to you while you do them counts as quality time.

Gossip and fairy tales

Gossip is when you fake whisper to someone, like your partner or even your kids’ stuffed animals, about your kid’s behavior. Fairy Tales are a very short story that you tell to your kid that illustrates the behavior change you want. Not going to lie, you’re going to feel like a total wack job using these tricks. But before you poo-poo it, let me tell you about last night. T’s been having a lot of trouble settling down for sleep lately. So while I was nursing him, I talked over his head to P, sotto voce but in a babyish voice that attracts T’s attention. I said, “I really loved how Tenny was so good at dinner tonight. He sat in his seat the whole time and ate all his apples! And have you noticed, he’s the best at getting in and out of the car seat: super quick and never makes a fuss like so many other kids do! But the thing I really like the most is when he goes to bed after book time all peaceful.  It makes me happy when he lays right down with his animals and goes to sleep.” And no lie, for the first time in five nights that is EXACTLY what he did.

What didn’t work

Magic Breathing

Essentially, take deep breaths and count to 10, toddler-style. Maybe T is just a little too young to get the concept, but then again, I know plenty of adults who can’t even do this.

Small Choices

Giving your toddler a choice of two options. In both choices, he ends up doing what you want, it just gives the slight illusion that he has control over the situation. I’ve read this advice in several places besides this book, by the way. Example: We have to leave the park. Do you want to leave in one minute and play trucks at home, or leave in two minutes and no time to play with trucks at home? Very occasionally, this works for us, but most of the time, it goes something like this:

Me: Ok, time to go.

T: WAAAAAAAAH (throws head backward toward the floor)

two minutes later…

Me: We have to go, but you can pick—the blue shoes or the red shoes?

T (still sniffling):  [stares at me like] are you serious right now, woman?

Maybe this doesn’t work because it’s a little too reliant on appealing to the toddler’s non-existent sense of reason.  But I like to think my kid’s just too smart for that shiz.

The Fast Food Rule

This is Karp’s term for acknowledging the child’s feelings about something (regardless of whether you agree) by repeating it back. This is what you are supposed to do whenever you feel the urge to use logical reasoning with your child (see LOL in the dictionary).

Basically you mirror their feelings in short, repetitive phrasing. Like if T was crying to be picked up, instead of saying “mommy can’t pick you up because her hands are covered in turtle slime and I don’t want you to get salmonella and die,” I would say: “Tenny sad! Tenny wants up now now now!” The more upset they are, the smaller the phrase you use. Eventually they are supposed to calm down enough for you to get in your own argument.

I have found this general concept to be pretty successful with adults. But babies are having none of it. I’ve tried it not only on T, but on his little classmates, so I know. T just sees this as more justification for his point of view. (Like: yeah, exactly mom! Now give it to me).

You supposed to hit the “sweet spot” of emotional intensity with your words– the point where they feel understood, but not like you’re making fun of them. Every toddler’s sweet spot is different, so maybe that’s my problem. This is one of the main tenets of Karp’s method, and it really just hasn’t been that useful.

But the news is more good than bad. I find that when I have “fed the meter” adequately and am in an understanding frame of mind, his tantrums are very brief, and more importantly, I don’t escalate the situation by blowing up at him. In fact, tantrums are rare overall as long as I have paid attention to him and let him win several times* that day.

*like, 47.

Blue and Coral Spring

20 Mar
All items in this outfit are in the realm of possible purchase for me (and I didn’t even do it on purpose!)
Denim shirt – Abercrombie & Fitch
Lace Crop Top – Delias
Shorts – H&M
Shoes – Keds
Coral Cuff – Bauble Bar
Straw Fedora – Gap
P.S. Sorry about the Woolite tag – remnant of a Crowdtap challenge.

My Lip Gloss Be Poppin’

13 Mar

Every once in a while, I obsess about something other than mermaids or frozen yogurt. Right now, it’s tinted lip balms.

Last summer I spent a good 7 hours researching glosses, trying to find something that added visible color but didn’t feel thick or tacky, and added a little shine without being, you know, reflective. It didn’t take me long to discover what I was really looking for: tinted lip balm.

Since then, I’ve been trying out a bunch  o’ balms, and want to share my product reviews* with you.

*What makes me qualified to write product reviews? Nothing really. Except I like stuff, I have opinions, I don’t have a lot of money to spend on nonsense, and I don’t get free stuff from people who want me to sell said stuff on their behalf (like many beauty blogs). In other words, I’m just like you!

Fresh Sugar Tinted Lip Treatment in Rose

At $22.50 for a full size tube, this was the most expensive one I tried. It’s based on the nature of sugar as a natural moisture sealant (single eyebrow raise). It provides buildable coverage, six hours of moisture, and an SPF of 15. I loved the beautiful blush color, and it did make my lips feel luxuriantly moist without being sticky. But holy Moses, it melts way too easily. Sitting on top of my desk in an air-conditioned office, it still had to be applied carefully in a mirror to keep it from smearing all over my lip line (if I want to carefully apply something, I’d just stick with lipstick). The stick of balm itself listed to the side like a sinking ship after just a couple uses. I shudder to think what would happen to a tube left in the car or a pocket.

Verdict: nice, but not worth the cash

Burt’s Bees Tinted Lip Balm in Hibiscus

Burt is my homeboy, just ask my ancient Facebook group of the same name. I’ve been using the classic balm for years, so when I came across a two-pack of colored balm at CVS for $10, I definitely wanted to give it a go. I found it kind of strange that a company whose reputation is built on natural, green-ness would have so much extraneous packaging for a tube that is exactly the same size as a regular balm. But as far as the product itself, I’m very impressed. Hibiscus is a subtle color but still a significant difference from plain lips. If it had the peppermint tinge of the original, I’d give it an A++ in soothing-ness. It wears off very fast, but I ran into that problem with everything I tried.

Verdict: definitely worthwhile

Maybelline Baby Lips in Pink Punch (left)

This balm wins the prize for wildest claim, which was that it would actually improve the overall condition your lips in one week—I believe they used the phrase “virtually reborn.” I scored a two-pack in the clearance section at Target one day and said alright, make me a believer. The colorful graffiti-looking tube wins my vote for cutest, but unless you have the lips of Elvis it’s really too wide in diameter for something with color—about the size of Burt’s fake-out packaging, actually. The Pink Punch is horrible on me; a weird, frosty, hot pink. Thankfully the other tube was colorless. I don’t know if my lips have been revolutionized, but it does feel really nice. And at less than $3, I might try some of the other colors. One other caveat—even though it doesn’t melt, it gets used up very fast. Mine is almost gone and I bought it less than two months ago.

Verdict: grab it in the check out line, but don’t  go out of your way

Hard Candy Megawatt Smile in Hot Pink

Technically billed as a lipstick, this puppy pulls double duty: the color end has a “shimmery core” with a blue tint that makes teeth appear whiter, and the other end is a little bottle of tooth whitening gel. The only color left when I picked it up at Walmart was the hot pink, which looked a little intense, but I thought I could use it for a night out. Surprisingly, it wasn’t nearly as bright as I feared. In fact, it’s the perfect saturation of color—not at all sheer, but not bright matte either. But here’s the cool part: the shimmery core has a balm-like effect that works just as well as the Bert’s. My lips actually feel moisturized. I do use the whitening gel (my daily coffee habit does some damage), but I worry a bit about the effect on my enamel so I don’t make it a habit. Even so, there’s been a noticeable brightening of my teeth in the month or so I’ve had it. It has a nice mint flavor too. It gets a little gooky, so be careful to screw the top on all the way. But at a cool $6 smackers, I can’t wait to try all the other colors! Who knew my favorite balm would actually be…a lipstick?

Verdict: as long as you’re not afraid of a tiny bit more color than you’d expect in a balm, grab it today!



1 Mar

super-momAn expression I hear often, and one at which I am inclined to roll my eyes, is that moms are superheroes. Sure, as a mom it sometimes feels like the effort required to get out of bed in the morning is beyond the abilities of a normal human being. But let’s get real here: that’s how I’ve felt like, every Monday of my life since age 12. I don’t think I deserve the key to the city just for raising a kid, who incidentally, I chose to birth of my own free will.

But every once in a while, I do something that impresses –  dare I say – amazes someone. Something that comes totally naturally to me. And when that happens, I really just have one question. Where’s my cape?

Super sleeper – I can sleep anytime, anywhere, regardless of noise, light, or the presence of other people. Backseat of my parked car? Check. In a field of ultimate Frisbee players? Check. At a crowded bar? Check. On my desk at work? Double check. I have my parents to thank for that, who instead of hiring a sitter to enforce the rigmarole of bedtime, simply took us with them to their parties. I have fond memories of snuggling up in carpeted corners, drifting off to the sounds of the UGA game. Perhaps that’s why football puts me to sleep to this day.

Notary Public – It may not sound that impressive, but consider: I’m the only one in my building. Anytime somebody approaches my desk with an especially pleading look, ten to one the next words out of their mouth will be to ask if I’m really a notary (I think they’re all afraid I’m going to charge them *snort*). No affidavit stands a chance against my trusty batstamp!

Sweet tooth switch – I can’t tell a lie: every tooth in my mouth is a sweet tooth. But maybe that’s what makes me immune to the compulsion to finish rows or bags of snack foods. If I don’t absolutely love something, I just stop eating it. I’ll even stopped eating a chocolate truffle mid-bite if it’s not my favorite thing ever.

I probably have a lot more powers if I really thought about it, but I don’t want to brag.

What are YOUR preternatural abilities?