Saturday, February 21, 2015

How Toddlers Thrive: What Parents Can Do Today for Children Ages 2-5 to Plant the Seeds of Lifelong Success by Tovah P. Klein


How Toddlers Thrive: What Parents Can Do Today for Children Ages 2-5 to Plant the Seeds of Lifelong Success by Tovah P. Klein, PhD, Touchstone (an imprint of Simon & Schuster Publishing), $16.00 list price, paperback.

From the publisher:
Dr. Tovah Klein, called “the toddler whisperer” on Good Morning America, has penned “a parenting milestone” (Dr. Harvey Rotbart, No Regrets Parenting) with How Toddlers Thrive, which shows parents of children ages two to five how to harness the singular power of the toddler mind during what might be the most crucial time of a child’s brain development, to plant the seeds of lifelong  success.

Why do some children thrive, and others struggle? The answers may surprise you. New research indicates that the seeds for adult success are actually planted in the toddler years.

Dr. Tovah Klein’s research and firsthand work with thousands of toddlers explains why the toddler brain is best suited to laying the foundation for success. Dr. Klein reveals the new science behind drivers such as resilience, self-reliance, self-regulation, and empathy that are more critical to success than simple intelligence. She explains what you can do today to instill these key qualities in your toddler during this crucial time, so they are on track and ready to learn when they enter school at age five.
 

How Toddlers Thrive explains why the toddler years are different than any other period during childhood. She shows what is happening in children’s brains and bodies at this age that makes their behavior so turbulent, and why your reaction to their behavior—the way you speak to, speak about, and act toward your toddler—holds the key to a successful tomorrow and a happier today. This provocative book will inspire you to be a better parent, and give you the tools to help you nurture your child’s full potential. A smart and  useful guide, this book cracks the preschooler code, revealing what you can do to help your toddler grow into a fulfilled child and adult—while helping you and your toddler live more happily together now, and every day.


Why do some children thrive, and others struggle? The answers may surprise you. New research indicates that the seeds for adult success are actually planted in the toddler years.

Dr. Tovah Klein’s research and firsthand work with thousands of toddlers explains why the toddler brain is best suited to laying the foundation for success. Dr. Klein reveals the new science behind drivers such as resilience, self-reliance, self-regulation, and empathy that are more critical to success than simple intelligence. She explains what you can do today to instill these key qualities in your toddler during this crucial time, so they are on track and ready to learn when they enter school at age five.

How Toddlers Thrive explains why the toddler years are different than any other period during childhood. She shows what is happening in children’s brains and bodies at this age that makes their behavior so turbulent, and why your reaction to their behavior—the way you speak to, speak about, and act toward your toddler—holds the key to a successful tomorrow and a happier today. This provocative book will inspire you to be a better parent, and give you the tools to help you nurture your child’s full potential. A smart and useful guide, this book cracks the preschooler code, revealing what you can do to help your toddler grow into a fulfilled child and adult—while helping you and your toddler live more happily together now, and every day.
*************

As a parent of now adult children, I've been through the toddler years four times. There were things in this book that I wish I had understood better back then such as the message that it is not the parents' job to make their toddler happy; their job is to help the toddler find appropriate ways to cope with unhappiness. I also didn't realize how much toddlers resist change and the anxiety it can cause which explains why something as seemingly benign as putting stuffed animals away in a different order than usual can send a three-year-old into a meltdown. To us as adults, it seems no big deal but to a toddler something major has happened and it can be upsetting. I would have been more patient with things like that had I known better how important structure and routine are to toddlers.

I also like that this book is not about permissiveness and lack of discipline. The author stresses that the parent is in control and that being present and consistent are important in raising a toddler. The book has many examples of situations parents of toddlers face with helpful suggestions for handling them. There are several pieces of advice that I agree with such as approaching raising toddlers with a sense of humor intact (good for parenting in general, actually), slow down and understand that a toddler's development takes time, and remember how little your child really is. As a toddler, they have only been in this world a short time, barely past their baby years.

The book topics include understanding the mind of a toddler and how to crack the code of their emotions, how they learn, why they do the things they do, and the importance of routines. It is a good source of common-sense information that is practical and easily implemented, and is a book that would not only benefit parents of toddlers but also grandparents and teachers and anyone else who interacts with this age group.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Precious Moments God Watches Over Me








Precious Moments God Watches Over Me, Thomas Nelson Publisher, $9.99 list price, hardcover board book.

I like the Precious Moments art and enjoyed seeing it combined with poems and scripture in this children's book. Each page features pictures of children doing everyday things and includes a rhyme or poem from various authors including Jean Fischer, Edgar A. Guest, and Robert Louis Stevenson, followed by an appropriate Bible verse.  Some of the themes include "God Watches Over Me" when I play, when I think I can't, when I'm hungry, when I get hurt, and several more. It is not deep theology. It's a kid's book, after all. But it does open the dialogue about how God is present and watching over them throughout their everyday activities.

This is a beautiful book and the board pages seem durable enough for toddlers. The recommended age is 1-4 and I would extend that to early readers who would enjoy the rhyming text and colorful pictures.

I think this would be a sweet gift to give to young children at Easter.


Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Knitting Block by Block: 150 Blocks for Sweaters, Scarves, Bags, Toys, Afghans, and More by Nicky Epstein




Knitting Block by Block: 150 Blocks for Sweaters, Scarves, Bags, Toys, Afghans, and More by Nicky Epstein, Potter Craft Publisher, $29.99 list price, hardcover.

I confess knitting is a challenge for me and I'm most intimidated by the time needed to complete a project, having to remember where I left off, and wondering if I will actually finish what I start. This book is for people like me who don't have the patience or desire to do lengthy projects so the idea of completing something one block at a time is appealing.

I have not actually attempted any of the projects but in reading through the book, the instructions and illustrations seem clear and there seems to be something for everyone - from a novice like me to the more experienced knitters who like a challenge. I confess some of the blocks, though beautiful, are beyond my ability or desire to figure out but others are manageable.

The projects include afghans, scarves, clothing, bags, toys, and hats. The designs range from simple to intricate; traditional to eclectic. Two of my favorite blocks in the book are the wildflower vine (p.43) and floral fantasy (p.99).

The photos are beautiful and show how stunning the individual blocks final projects are. There are 150 block patterns with 10 project designs. A unique feature I found especially appealing is the "mix and match" block section at the end of the book where you can cut out thumbnail photos of the blocks and play with them to arrange your own design. Because this is such a beautiful book, though, I would prefer to make color copies of the pages for cutting and leave the book intact.

I think this book would be a great addition to any knitter's library as an inspiration for smaller projects.



Psalm 23 by Richard Jesse Watson


Psalm 23 by Richard Jesse Watson, Zonderkidz (Zondervan), $7.99 list price, children's board book.

This is a beautiful book that presents Psalm 23 in a way children can relate to. Each page presents a verse accompanied by a stunning illustrated interpretation of the simple yet powerful message of this Psalm.

The board book construction makes it great for kids of all ages, even toddlers. I can't wait to show this to my little granddaughter!  It's one that I would recommend as a wonderful addition to any child's library.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Breaker's Reef (Cape Refuge Series) by Terri Blackstock


Breaker's Reef (Cape Refuge Series) by Terri Blackstock, Zondervan, $10.99 list price, paperback.

From the publisher:
When a famous mystery writer moves to Cape Refuge, ex-con Sheila Caruso—mother to Sadie and Caleb—is thrilled to get a job working for him. But when a teenage girl is found murdered, Sheila discovers that a scene in one of the eccentric writer’s novels matches the crime scene. Exactly.
Then a second dead girl is discovered by Police Chief Cade and Blair Owens. And when this murder mirrors a scene in another of the writer’s books, Cade is drawn into a web of trickery and deceit. Shockingly, evidence turns up in Cade’s truck—evidence that points to Cade himself as the number one suspect!

Cade tries to clear his name, but when eighteen-year-old Sadie Caruso disappears, tensions mount to a fever pitch. Can Cade find the real killer before Sadie winds up dead? Is the author a demented killer or a hapless victim? And what does Sadie’s own mother have to do with the crimes?
Secrets are uncovered while lessons are learned about the sins of the fathers being visited upon their children. Will the consequences of Sheila’s poor choice in life be fatal, or is there redemption and mercy for her and her children?

I'm a big fan of Terri Blackstock and the Cape Refuge Series with its theme of redemption. Sheila Caruso, although a fictional character, represents what God can do to change a life surrendered to Him, no matter what mistakes were made in the past. This is Christian fiction but with all the trademarks of a great suspense novel. I read the book in one day as the characters and story line captured my attention.  I always appreciate a surprise ending and this had one.

This is number four in the series so it is helpful to start with the previous books, but a first-time reader won't be completely lost since enough back story is given on the characters. I'm looking forward to the next installment in the series to read more about the citizens of Cape Refuge.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Beyond the Scars: Daring to Live Forward by F. Elaine Olsen




Beyond the Scars: Daring to Live Forward by F. Elaine Olsen

Elaine's journey through cancer is a journey toward a greater faith that chronicles hope in the midst of despair; peace in the face of uncertainty. It's not a journey she would have chosen but this book is proof that if we can just trust God along the way, we can come through any challenge victorious even if battle-weary and scarred (literally and figuratively) by the process.

What captured my heart most in reading portions of this book is how honest Elaine is as she shares the emotional as well as physical side of a devastating circumstance, how it impacted her family, how she sees the future. She doesn't pretend that her faith was unwavering every minute or that she didn't have times of discouragement and doubt, but instead of yielding to those things she instead turned to what she knew was true of God's faithfulness over the years - "faith deposits" as she calls them, "years and years worth of intentional investments into my spiritual bank account. That's the single reason behind my being able to handle my cancer season."

But don't let the title of this book or the source of it's inspiration lead you to believe it is only for cancer survivors. Yes, it is a wonderful source of encouragement for anyone going through that particularly devastating battle, but what holds true for them also holds true for any struggle a believer finds himself or herself dealing with. In every chapter I found Elaine's words and the truth of God's word applicable to my own areas of struggle that have nothing to do with cancer.

The 40 chapters in this book include a narrative from Elaine's heart followed by a prayer, devotional questions for contemplation, and scripture at the end of each, making this a great resource for personal or group Bible study. Chapter topics include Living Up to Your Learning, God Keeps Pace with Your Pain, Living Up to Your Convictions, Just Breathe, Hope Grows, Clutching Truth, and Live On, to name just a few.

This is a book I want to put into the hands of every person I know who is dealing with any struggle because I know that Elaine's words are aligned with God's truth and His desire to carry us through any circumstance.

Available at Amazon.com (Formerly titled Beyond Cancer's Scars)

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Little Chick's Bible by P.J. Lyons and Melanie Mitchell


Little Chick's Bible by P.J. Lyons and Melanie Mitchell, Zondervan Publishers, $15.99 list price, hardcover.

Little Chick’s Bible is a delightful Bible story board book for children ages 2-5. It is soft and cuddly with a plush cover featuring a chick that preschoolers will enjoy touching. There are seven stories on the thick cardboard pages that will stand up to wear and tear. The stories are written in rhyme and include Noah and the ark, David and Goliath, the Good Samaritan, and others.

I think this is a great book for introducing Bible stories to very young children; nothing deep theologically speaking (it's for toddlers and preschoolers, after all) but it starts the dialogue about God and what He did in scripture and is appealing to that age group with colorful illustrations, rhyming text, and the soft textured chick on the cover. It also comes in a sturdy plastic case with a snap closure to keep the cover clean.

I have a little granddaughter whom I'm sure will enjoy this book and it is one I would happily give to any child as a gift. The publisher indicates that it is for ages 2-5 but I think a one-year-old would enjoy it as well.


Thursday, December 4, 2014

Compassion Without Compromise: How the Gospel Frees Us to Love Our Gay Friends Without Losing the Truth by Adam T. Barr and Ron Citlau


Compassion Without Compromise: How the Gospel Frees Us to Love Our Gay Friends Without Losing the Truth by Adam T. Barr and Ron Citlau, Bethany House (a Division of Baker Publishing Group), $12.99 list price, paperback.

This is a much-needed book for Christians who wrestle with drawing the balance between not compromising Biblical truth concerning homosexuality while remaining compassionate to their gay friends, family members, co-workers, and others. The issue of homosexuality has become one of the most divisive issues within families and the church as the authors acknowledge, and is why they wrote this book. Drawing upon their experience as pastors and from one of them (Citlau) having come from a past of same-sex attraction, they unapologetically point the reader to what the Bible really says about sexual sin in general and homosexuality specifically while also offering insight on how to reach out in love to share this truth with those in the gay lifestyle.

They write, "This book needed to be written because the church needs help with how it addresses homosexuality. For the last three decades, evangelicals have tried to stand against the tide. We have tried to turn it back and "take back" our country. It is time to realize something: The ship has sailed. The question is no longer Can we win the culture wars? Rather, it is How can we be a compassionate, uncompromising witness in a culture that celebrates what the Bible censors?"

Most of us in the next year will be faced with the following:

• A family member will come out of the closet and expect you to be okay with it.
• Your elementary-age child's curriculum will discuss LGBT families.
• Your company will talk about building a tolerant workplace for LGBT co-workers.
• Your college-age child will tell you your view on homosexuality is bigoted

I've encountered some of these issues and found this book to be helpful in working on a more loving attitude toward those in the gay lifestyle whom I may disagree with while also standing firm on my convictions as a Christian and what scripture says. I appreciate that the authors realistically warn that anything less than complete acceptance of the gay lifestyle as ok may still get us labled as bigots and haters no matter how loving our approach, but they also encourage the reader to stand firm and give many helpful suggestions on how to handle the conversations and situations when they arise. They also address the arguments Christians encounter such as those who claim the scriptures about homosexuality were for a specific historical time and situation and don't apply to us today, that Jesus didn't specifically talk about it, and that it isn't sin as long as same sex partners are in a committed relationship.

This is a book specifically written as an overview for Christians who believe that the Bible calls homosexuality sin but want to respond to those in the lifestyle in a way that accurately shows the same compassion and love that Jesus showed. One chapter is written in a question-answer format to address specific issues that tend to arise in the church, such as whether to perform wedding ceremonies for gay couples, issues of leadership, etc.

Those who do not believe homosexuality is a sin or that the Bible says it is, whether Christian or not, will likely disagree with the authors on many points. But the book isn't intended to win the debate on whether it is right or wrong but rather is a tool for Christians to use in drawing that balance between standing by their conviction while remaining humble and compassionate toward those they may disagree with. It also is a valuable resource for helping Christians formulate why they believe what they do and how to best communicate that.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand

(Reposted to support the movie coming out later this month. Excellent, inspiring true story.)


Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand, Random House Publishers, $27.00 list price, hardcover

Laura Hillenbrand, the bestselling author of Seabiscuit, tells the true story of Louie Zamperini, a one time Olympic runner who joined the Army in World War II.  During a routine search mission over the Pacific, Louie’s plane crashed into the ocean and his story became one of survival at sea which would have been an amazing account of the will to live had it ended there. But, that ordeal was followed by an unfortunate rescue by the Japanese that resulted in years at horrific POW camps, enduring the unthinkable.

I don't want to give away too much but suffice it to say that the title pretty much says it all. Zamperini's story is one of survival, resilience and redemption, and I would also add, one of forgiveness which was the most powerful of all for me considering what he endured in the prison camps. 

I didn't know anything about Zamperini and the men who survived with him before reading Unbroken.  I know it sounds cliche to say their story is inspiring, but for lack of a better word, it really is and was one of those books that I couldn't put down. This will be one of the most memorable biographies you will read.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Mediterranean Paleo Cooking by Caitlin Weeks and Nabil Boumrar

Mediterranean Paleo Cooking: Over 125 Fresh Coastal Recipes for a Relaxed, Gluten-Free Lifestyle by Caitlin Weeks, Nabil Boumrar, and Diane Sanfilippo, Victory Belt Publishing

I'm a fan of both the Mediterranean and the Paleo diets so I was happy to see this cookbook that combines both. The authors draw on their own experiences as a chef (Boumrar) and nutritionist (Weeks), and both having personally lost weight and overcome health issues after embracing the Paleo lifestyle.

The book addresses some of the challenges of going Paleo when giving up certain foods, but the authors don't ask readers to sacrifice taste when replacing those foods with healthier versions. Their recipes include plenty of fresh ingredients, savory seasonings, and everything one would want in comfort food. I was happy to discover I didn't even have to give up pizza with several non-gluten crust recipes and topping choices. This was a real plus for me since pizza is my favorite food and potentially the one thing that could keep me from going completely Paleo.

While I haven't tried the pizza crust recipes yet (I'll be sure to update my review when I do), I did make two other recipes that turned out great - the Basil Minestrone Soup and Crispy Fried Chicken Tenders (using almond flour instead of wheat flour). I want to try the sweet potato salad recipe - a different take on traditional potato salad.

The recipes are clear and easy to follow, with beautiful color photographs for most of them. I also found that the majority used ingredients that I could find easily at a larger grocery store or health food store. There are over 150 recipes for appetizers, soups, main dishes, desserts, side dishes, and more, that include traditional food from southern Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East. Also included are two 30-day meal plans and menus for specific occasions.

For those with food allergies or autoimmune concerns, each recipe designates whether it includes potentially problematic ingredients and if so, gives suggestions for substitues or ommissions.

I'm looking forward to trying more recipes from this book. It's one I can recommend to anyone desiring to transition to a Paleo lifestyle with recipes that are tasty and easy to prepare.