The Age Of Opportunity

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The Age of Opportunity deals with the adolescent period of development, enumerating the growth the brain goes through physically, as well as potential boons/ pitfalls that can occur psychologically. To be honest, when I was asked to read this book for a blog review, I wasn’t expecting to be blown away. I figured it would be dry, and less than riveting. But I also knew it would be informative, and it might be nice to have some advice about the upcoming years before they are actually here. Unlike the stacks of young children parenting books I still haven’t gotten around to reading.

Thankfully, I was mostly wrong. The book was very informative, but it was also a pleasure to read. Laurence Steinberg’s writing style is easy to read (if somewhat repetitive), and the material was fascinating. It definitely had a bit of an alarmist bent to it: I’m slightly more terrified that we are going to irreparably damage our kids before they grow up than I ever was when dealing with them as babies. But it also has tons of easy, helpful advice for how to help them navigate this period of extreme mental fragility and growth successfully.

Turns out the years of adolescent development are just as crucial in terms of brain development as the years from birth to age 3 (think about that- NO PRESSURE), but they are much more neglected in terms of society and parental pressure. And they last up to 5 times as long. This book not only covered the physiological and cultural reasons that adolescence is now lasting longer than it ever has previously, but also why that can be a positive (or negative) thing, depending on how it’s treated. The author discusses ways that society gets it wrong in our treatment of young people in this phase of life, and also how we can use the newest discoveries in neurobiology to help inform us and correct our mistakes. It’s likely you will finish this book on fire to reform everything- the school system, the legal age limits, how the judicial system currently reacts toward adolescent offenders. It was definitely hard not to look at this one narrow slice of information and not be desperate to avoid the misguided thinking that has determined so much of the infrastructure as it pertains to adolescents.

One encouraging aspect (for me at least), was that our current parenting style already fits nicely in to his parameters for raising healthy, self-regulating individuals. Phew. It was nice to know that we are on the right track instinctually, and of course to get a few pointers on how to maintain a positive home life and parent/child relationship. Nothing seems as fraught with peril as navigating the teen years, and nowadays mistakes are so much more visible and harder to recover from. There are some nightmares stories in this book of kids making foolish decisions that end up ruining their entire lives FOR YEARS. Yikes!

All in all, I highly recommend this book. It was very interesting (I think I talked my husband’s eat off the night I finished trying to impart all of the science as well as the cultural effects discussed- until I realized he totally didn’t care and wasn’t listening), and it offered some very helpful insight into how and why adolescents behave the ways they do. We’ve always known that teenagers can be moody and irrational, but now I know exactly why that is true. And I know some actions to take to help prevent my kids falling into the traps of peer pressure or suffering the affects of bullies, and hopefully encourage avoidance of drugs and alcohol. I may be more concerned about the upcoming years (seriously- only 4 years until Isabelle is a teenager?!?), and WAY more stressed about just how critical, and how easily detailed that development can be, but I also feel slightly more prepared to handle its challenges. Not bad for one 200 page book.

note: I was provided with a copy of the book for purposes of review. All opinions and typos are my own

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Posted in books, growing up, mom stuff, parenting, reviews, sponsored | 2 Comments

The Queen Of The Tearling

 

You guys, this book was SO TERRIBLE. I’m not sure where I heard about it, typically whenever I see something that interests me I slap it on my library hold list so I don’t have to remember anything. But usually I get my book recommendations from reputable sources, and while there have certainly been books that I didn’t like, they were always well written, decent books. 

Not this time. 

The basic story is fine: generic fantasy trope of the girl who was raised in hiding to protect her from evildoers until she could assume her role as queen when she came of age. Fine. Nothing wrong with clichéd plot lines. But seriously, maybe read a book or two in the genre before venturing in yourself. Or, you know, do some ACTUAL RESEARCH.  I know more about how to properly guard someone through the forest than this author, and I never go outside. I could also rattle off a decent list of names for pieces of armor, if not 100% match them to what they actually are. Here’s a hint- there’s more to it than just the breastplate. 

But even more than that are the glaring inconsistencies in almost every aspect of this book. The main character has been raised in isolation by two people- never exposed to anyone else or allowed to play with other children. And yet she is an excellent judge of character and can read body language and facial expressions like some street savvy con artist. Okaaaay. 

 They are rushing through the woods to get her to the castle to be crowned, fully aware that there are groups of the most dangerous assassins in the land searching for them, and yet the guards chatter and drink and play cards around the campfire. Professional. 

Every wound she gets involves drastic blood loss leading to loss of consciousness and near fatality, but she gets stitched up and is back at it the next day. Realistic. 

The queens guard are all sworn to protect her, but they’re also apparently sworn to secrecy and can’t tell her anything about her mother the previous queen (who she never knew), or the kingdom, or the current state of affairs anywhere , or any actual useful information related to actually ruling a country. Oh, and we never get an explanation on why they are sworn to secrecy, or to whom, or just what topics can’t be mentioned. It’s more like “you better be a great queen, but we can’t give you any help, or teach you anything at all about how to do the job. Don’t mess up!” Yeah, seems logical.

A respectable portion of any fantasy novel is the world building. Some authors are incredible at this (Brandon Sanderson I’m looking at you!), and some are less so. That’s why so many inhabit that familiar, vaguely middle age Europe-land. No big deal. As long as it hangs together realistically and we can understand the basic rules of magic and what not, proceed. But this book is apparently taking place in OUR universe, some indeterminate length of time in the future, after the British and the Americans have sailed off (somewhere) and formed a new land. With no technology. And swords. And magic. Totally plausible, right? I mean, sure. That could totally happen. But here’s the catch: if you are making up a world from scratch, have at it. Do whatever you want, the readers are just along for the ride. But if you are going to set it in the world we live in EVERY SINGLE DAY, then you best out on your thinking cap ‘cuz you have some ‘splaining to do. You need to know WHY these people set off to found a completely new land with multiple countries. You need to know HOW they planned to establish the rule of government, and WHAT the basic tenets of their founding fathers were. (Also helpful, what happened to the rest of the world? Is regular America still there?). The suggestion in the book is that they were trying to create some kind of utopia, but no mention is given to what kind of utopia. Socialist? Extreme doomsday prepper utopia where the zombies can’t get us? I can’t think of anyone who would decide to start a new colony without any basic political goals, not to mention with no real attempt at bringing along basic fundamentals of modern life. They did say there was an effort to bring along modern medicine, but that every single doctor and piece of medical equipment was on the same ship and it sank. So no more doctors of people who know anything about medicine, and I guess unlike the first time through history we are unable to re-discover any of it? I don’t know. Suffice to say, the success of fantasy books set in our universe (hunger games, divergent) lies in the fact that while the circumstances that led to those realities are implausible, they are still imaginable. There is an underlying foundation to rest the story on, whether or not the source of the implied apocalypse is ever explained. In this instance it seems more like “hey, won’t it be fun to base my novel her on Earth? That way I can pepper it with references to Harry Potter and The Hobbit.”

Speaking of Harry Potter, the main character is a fan of reading, and basically grew up with the only books left in the entire country. She is aghast at the scarcity of books, and at how most people seem to not even miss having access to them. There hasn’t been mandatory schooling for children in over 20 years. And yet literally everyone she comes across, including the young children of a peasant woman she rescued and takes into service, can read. Seriously. And it’s shocking when they discover one of the characters can’t read. Over a century of no one reading and yet no one is illiterate? I feel like you have to actually TRY to be this incompetent. 

In all fairness, I don’t completely blame the author. After all, there are plenty of idiots out there stringing words together into sentences (welcome to my blog). But the editor, who presumably checked this for errors (no way this shit didn’t have typos EVERYWHERE), didn’t find any flaws in the logic? And the publisher, who read this even BEFORE editing, still decided it was worth the time and money to actually print? Insane. 

Not only that, but apparently this is not only going to be a SERIES a of (stupid) books, but also a movie. With Emma Watson, who is about the most darling thing ever and who I’m struggling to retain my respect for after hearing she was linked to this crap. Given the basic plotline I’m sure it could make a decent movie, provided they don’t let the author within a hot like of the script. But I don’t think I’ll be able to stomach shelling out money for anything in anyway associated with such lazy, inept storytelling. 

I haven’t thought about my dream of being a writer in a long time, having turned my attention elsewhere, to yoga and my kids. But seriously, if this is the kind of quality hitting shelves nowadays, then maybe I should get back to it. Hell, my NaNoWriMo novel from 4 years ago is still on my hard drive. It has more logical coherence than this drivel and it doesn’t even have an ending.

 

ps: I kind of want to recommend to everyone I know that they read it just so I can shout “I KNOW, RIGHT?” When they point out how awful it is. I also kind of want to personally punch everyone in Amazon who gave it a 5 star review because, really? Did you READ the book? No way they read the book.

pps: Here is the link to my Amazon review.  In case you still aren’t sure how I feel about this book

 

 

 

Posted in books, idiots, reading, reviews | 1 Comment

This Should Be Several Posts

Technically, I’ve got material for more than one post here. But I’m feeling lazy, and I figure writing it all in one little summary is better than procrastinating and not writing anything at all, which is what I’ve been doing for the past week. So here goes:

I did laundry yesterday, over a week’s worth, and Jack had one pair of underpants in the entire load. Eleven pairs of socks, one pair of underpants. He also only had one shirt, but I’m less concerned about that. Needless to say, we had a little discussion about changing our undergarments daily, to keep things fresh. Which is when I learned that he isn’t in fact wearing repeats, he’s not wearing underwear AT ALL.

My 7yo is going commando. To school. Super.

I guess it boils down to his briefs being uncomfortable, and hopefully he got the message to inform me of that in the future so I can buy him new ones instead of just living free. For now, he’s got three packs of brand new boxer briefs to try out. And I’m left with the feeling that this boy stuff is about to get weird.

Moving on, but still sticking with the nether region theme, we have begun potty training Beatrice. And by we, of course I mean me. And by potty training, of course I mean we put her in pull ups instead of diapers, and several times of day I convince her to sit on the potty to no result. And then try and get her to stop playing with the potty and putting her toys in there. It’s so fun. She has zero idea of what she is supposed to be doing, and her inflated sense of achievement doesn’t help (if she wants a toy, and you search the entire house for it while she watches tv, then find it and give it to her, she’ll shout “I found it!”).

Yesterday we stuck close to home, I plied her with juice and got her to sit roughly every 15 minutes until naptime, and the kid didn’t pee pretty much the entire day. Which led to to an exciting blow out morning today, let me tell you. I’m pretty sure once she actually eliminates successfully and gets the traditional m&ms she will be on board with this toilet stuff, but until then it’s a exercise in futility. Potty training is hands down the worst part about kids. If it was socially acceptable to keep them in diapers until they were 5 I’d totally do it. Ok, not really, but the period where they are learning, or when they sort of get it, but can’t actually do it on their own yet is the WORST. The exponential increase in visits to public restrooms isn’t much fun either.

Finally, and on an entirely different note, I am now an officially certified yoga instructor! I finished all of my requirements on Tuesday night, and I should pick up my certificate this weekend. Now all that is left is to register with Yoga Alliance and get insurance and then I’m ready to drum up some clients! Pretty crazy. I’ve already ordered business cards and props, and my chiropractor plans to recommend me to his patients who would most benefit from private instruction. It’s weird to think that now when I go to class I don’t have to keep track for anything- but of course I still have a lot of requirements to meet in order to finish my 500hr training, so that should feed my need to check things off a list.

So there you go. All the news that’s fit to print. Have a great weekend!!

Posted in bloggin it up, growing up, work in progress | Leave a comment

Honey Badger Goes To School

Sophie is not killing it in kindergarten. Sure, she’s having a bang up time, but she already had a note sent home about her failure to pay attention and she’s been demoted from working on sight words to simply practicing letters and sounds.

Not good.

It’s one thing to really have to work with a teacher and take things slow because your child is struggling to grasp the material or slower to adapt to the routines of school. That is understandable and nothing to be ashamed of. But having a kid fail to meet expectations just because, and worse, to not have any kind of explanation or advice to offer the teacher to help?

So embarrassing.

It’s like, are you seriously her mother? How can you have no idea what’s going on with her and zero suggestions for how to help her focus? Seems sort of impossible that someone could raise a child, be with them everyday for five and a half years, and still be completely unable to describe that child. But here we are.

Sophie is the sweetest child you will ever meet. She is very imaginative, and hysterically funny. If you ask her a direct question, even something you KNOW she knows the answer to, she won’t answer. If you press her on it, she’ll cry. If you correct her, or tell her something is dangerous, or ask her to change a behavior she will either a) very seriously agree with you and then do it anyway, b) cry, or c) cry, agree with you, nod understanding and then go do it anyway. Without an ounce of rebellion or defiance; rather, she does it like you never even had a conversation about changing the behavior.

Beyond frustrating.

Rewards and praise do not motivate her to encourage positive actions, and threats or actual punishments don’t do anything but turn her into a statue- complete with stone ears that don’t listen. She is not willfully disobedient, in fact, I think she is so desperate to make the exact right answer that she completely shuts down. It almost seems like talking to her directly cause her brain to completely stop functioning. Maybe there is a processing disorder?

I really don’t know what to do. I can work on the worksheets and go over flash cards with her until I am blue in the face, and the consistency of whether she gets the answer or not is just not there. I really hate the idea of her falling behind the other kids and being labeled dumb just because she operates on a different plane of reality than the rest of us. I have zero doubt she is whip smart behind that pretty face- she lets us see that intelligence plenty often. But I don’t know how to improve her communication so that it shows all the time to the people who matter.

I’m glad Jack and Izzy are so easy in terms of school work and meeting grade requirements, because getting Sophie through school is looking like it’s going to be VERY labor intensive. On the plus side, sitting on my lap constantly while I work with Sophie is probably going to have Bebe ahead of the curve.

Posted in communication, growing up, parenting, school, Sophie | Leave a comment

Attack of the 80s

A while back my friend Sarah posted an idea on Facebook of having an 80s themed sleepover for her kids, showing them all the great (terrible?) movies we grew up with, and feeding them lots of flashback junk (fruit punch and twinkles, anyone?). Awesome idea, and I totally immediately stole it- although I’m going to limit it to my children only, and I probably won’t feed them anything terribly horrible (bye bye twinkies) or that is likely to stain (bye bye fruit punch).

But still, awesome idea!

Then I started trying to think of all the great movies out there- which was surprisingly hard. Seems like when you sit down to try and think of something, you never can. Or maybe that’s just me and my Swiss cheese memory.

Anyway, last night, Sarah’s husband brought up the topic again, asking for a list of great PG 80s movies. And the suggestions were flying! It was suddenly so much easier to remember all of these thins when other people were throwing out titles too. I may or may not have stayed up embarrassingly late thinking if new ones. Here’s the list we ended up with: (possibly these are not all PG. And some are definitely from the 90s. Whatevs)

Short circuit
Goonies*
Star Wars*
Splash
Neverending story*
Back to the future
Cloak and dagger
Labyrinth
Princess bride
Gremlins
Ghostbusters
Spaceballs
3 men and a baby
Karate kid
Flight of the navigator
Beetlejuice
Space camp
Indiana jones*
Ferris bueller
Girls just wanna have fun
Adventures in babysitting
Honey I shrunk the kids*
Mrs doubtfire*
Sandlot*
Mighty ducks
Newsies
Incredible shrinking woman
Uncle buck
Home alone
Hocus pocus
Inner space
Stand by me
Big
Twins
Spies like us
Pure luck
Freaky Friday (Jodie foster version)
9 to 5
Who’s Harry Crumb?
Can’t buy me love
Footloose
Gremlins
Weird science
Money pit
Overboard
Lucas
Better off dead
Turner and hooch
Housesitter
Soapdish
Fletch
Three amigos
Christmas vacation
Three fugitives
Hoosiers
Superman (Christopher Reeve)
Great outdoors
Harry and the hendersons
Ferris bueller’s day off
E.T.
Peewee’s big adventure
War games
Clue
Weekend at Bernie’s
Hello again
Mr mom
Outrageous fortune
Troop Beverly Hills
Airplane
Blazing saddles (which is R, but a classic)

I also threw out some tv as well, for good measure:

Who’s the boss
Punky Brewster
Small wonder
Alf
Family ties
MORK and mindy
Laverne and Shirley
Family ties
Cosby show

Now, I’m happy to say that my kids have already seen some of these, so their entertainment education is already off to a good start. But clearly we have a lot of work to do! And yes, a lot of these are not entirely kid appropriate, but I saw them as a kid and I turned out fine. It’s funny, because I always considered my parents to be on the stricter side when it came to movies and tv, and I figured I’d be so much more relaxed about it with my kids. But now I look back and see all the movies I watched as a little kid and the adult topics they mention and it’s like “oh. I guess they weren’t so strict.” But I figure if the grown up humor went over my head, then it will go over my kids’ heads too. Or I’m setting myself up for some awkward conversations. Either way, I think my Amazon instant viewing and iTunes accounts are about to take a hit.

* I’ve updated this list with * for each movie my kids have seen. As we go along watching, I’ll keep track here

Posted in flashback, growing up, movies | Leave a comment