Summer Movie Series — A Family Quest

hello sunshine

In our family, summer is a time to accomplish some serious reading. Yes, its true that we read all year long (a lot) and that reading is at the center of all of our down-time. But in the summer, all that glorious free-time beckons us to read, and read, and read…by the pool, at the beach, on car trips, on rainy days, during half-time at soccer games and boring stretches of baseball games and any other free moment that we can find.

While reading is a major part of our summer, we realized last year that it is a solitary past-time, one that we can only share occasionally. So we instituted a Summer Family Movie Series: a list of summer-themed movies that we can watch together (some just the adults) to be entertained and spend time together. We went on a quest to make a list of all of the movies we could think of that take place during the summer, or that for some inexplicable reason seem “summery,” and decided we would watch as many as possible during the summer…whenever the familiar refrain of “there’s nothing to do” was moaned, we would go to the list and watch one.

Our goal is not to watch them all, but to see as many as possible each year and to save these titles for summer viewing only. We find that their designation as summer movies that we don’t watch otherwise during the year make them seem more special.

I thought I would post a list of our favorite summer movies on the blog, and I would welcome suggestions from readers about their favorites that we might have missed.

Enjoy!

FOR ALL AGES

  • The Parent Trap — both the original, which I love, and the Lindsay Lohan version, which my kids prefer.
  • Earth to Echo
  • The Sandlot
  • Holes
  • Aliens in the Attic
  • Charlotte’s Web
  • Phineas and Ferb the Movie
  • Camp Rock
  • Teen Beach Party
  • Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer
  • Cars and Cars 2
  • Finding Nemo and Finding Dory
  • Journey to the Center of the Earth (2008 version)
  • Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (2012 version)
  • Bedtime Stories
  • Field of Dreams (this can be a bit boring for very young kids, but baseball lovers of all ages will enjoy it.)
  • All of the feature-length Scooby Doo Movies. My husband and I loved the show as kids and my kids all love it now. We own many of these movies and they are on a heavy-rotation every summer. (Side note: Scooby Doo Camp Scare takes place in summer.) Some of our other favorites include: Scooby Doo and the Samurai Sword, Aloha Scooby Doo, Pirates Ahoy, Blue Falcon, and Big Top. A full list of these movies can be found here http://www.imdb.com/list/ls070492058/

FOR TEENS AND UP

  • Super 8
  • Forrest Gump
  • Jaws — our teen is really into scary movies, this might not be a good fit for all teens. (Don’t be fooled by it’s PG rating, it was released before PG-13 designations were created.)
  • Jurassic Park 1, 2, 3 and Jurassic World
  • Indiana Jones 1-4 (our family favorite remains Raiders of the Lost Ark)
  • Independence Day and Independence Day Resurgence
  • Fever Pitch
  • Pirates of the Caribbean (our favorite remains #1)
  • A League of Their Own

FOR ADULTS (clearly some are more low-brow then others, but still watchable, some others which I watch alone because my husband refuses)

  • Rear Window
  • Endless Summer
  • National Lampoons Vacation and European Vacation
  • Before Sunrise
  • Die Hard with Vengeance
  • Dirty Dancing
  • Point Break
  • The Great Outdoors
  • Summer Rental
  • Weekend at Bernies
  • 50 First Dates
  • The Bird Cage
  • Stand by Me
  • Little Miss Sunshine
  • Friday the 13th (and to a lesser degree, Sleep Away Camp)
  • Thelma and Louise
  • The Hangover and Bridemaids — these are not an official pairing, but they are both wild wedding comedies that we seem to watch back to back every summer… definitely not for kiddos!!

Neither Here Nor There by Bill Bryson (1992)

Neither Here Nor There: Travels in Europe

cover-neither-here-or-there

Not long before the holidays, a good friend and I were reminiscing about our long-ago adventures traveling (me) and living in (her) Europe. She immediately asked me if I had read Bill Bryson’s hilarious travelogue, Neither Here Nor There, about his experiences traveling all around Europe. I had not, although I am a huge fan of some of his other travel writing, most notably A Walk in the Woods (reviewed http://wp.me/p6N6mT-1du ), and so I picked a copy up at my library the next day.

hammerfest-norway

The journey begins in Hammerfest, Norway.

Bryson starts his travels in January in the northern most point in Europe: Hammerfast, Norway, when his plans to spend a summer traveling across Europe are accelerated so that he can see the famed Aurora Borealis. From there, Bryson criss-crosses the continent of Europe, detailing along the way how Europe’s countries and cities each have their own idiosyncratic lifestyles…some Bryson finds charming, others he finds off-putting, but always described in hilarious detail.

Mostly traveling by train and bus, with an occasional plane ride added in when a quick change is required, Bryson stops in various cities throughout the continent and, while there, reflects on the city’s culture, people, food, and customs. His comments reflect both his American childhood and his unique perspective as a long-time resident of England; he uses these two points of view to better articulate each place’s similarities and differences for his readers. For those fans of A Walk in the Woods, you will be thrilled that Bryson includes anecdotes about his first trip through Europe in the 1970’s when he was accompanied by none other than Stephen Katz.

Blending history, geography, cultural criticism, and — of course — humor, Neither Here Nor There preserves a picture of Europe in the early 1990’s when the Iron Curtain had just been lifted and both Eastern and Western Europe — Europe and America — were all on the brink of forming new post-Cold War relationships. Bryson blends stories large (stories of cities rebuilding from the ashes of WW2) and small (stories of tiny hotel rooms with terrible service) in order to create a full picture of his travels.

In the final pages, readers find Bryson weary and homesick, visiting the chaotic and exhausting city of Istanbul, Turkey. While the author wraps up his journey, he reflects on the stark differences between the continents wealthiest country (Switzerland) and those countries with next to nothing (Bulgaria and the former Yugoslavia); as well the the differences between northern Europe and the much more middle-eastern influenced southern city of Istanbul.

A wonderful book filled with humorous, insightful reflections on the European continent and its many diverse residents.

blue-mosque-istanbul-turkey

The journey ends in Istanbul, Turkey. (Blue Mosque shown here.)

Thanks for Thanksgiving!

happy-thanksgiving

I love Thanksgiving! It fills me which such an enormous sense of happiness to spend a day (or more) reflecting on all of the wonderful things I have to be thankful for and for enjoying a fun day (or more) with my extended family.

tgiving-parade-photo

No matter where we are, it does not feel like Thanksgiving if the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade is not on in the background!

In addition to all of the wonderful blessings in my life, I am so thankful to be embarking tomorrow on nine-day long Thanksgiving celebration. This year my husband, our sons, and I are all flying to Orlando, Florida to celebrate Thanksgiving with seventeen members of my family. We will be having a modified Thanksgiving meal, but we will also be spending time at Universal Studios Orlando, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and Walt Disney World. Not to mention that our rental house has a heated pool, a game room, and a movie theater…just in case we run out of things to do together. What more could a family ask to be grateful for?

ww-of-harry-potter

What a wonderful new tradition we are introducing for 2016…Thanksgiving with Harry Potter!

I feel extremely lucky that I love my family (and my in-laws) and our time together is generally drama-free and filled with funny movies, board games, and laughter-filled walks down memory lane. That does not mean, however, that it is not valuable to give some thought to ways to make the holiday happier before traveling to be with so many of my relatives (17!) and spending such a long time together (9 days!) in the same house.

Since many of you will be spending the upcoming holiday weekend with extended family members, I thought I should share a blog post from my beloved Happiness Guru, Gretchen Rubin, that shares some ideas about staying happy and stress-free when spending time with loved ones during the holidays:

http://gretchenrubin.com/happiness_project/2014/11/8-tips-for-dealing-with-difficult-relatives-during-the-holidays/

Since I won’t have time to post to the blog until after the holiday, here is a re-post of my Thanksgiving “Thankfulness” blog from last year.

Enjoy and Happy Holidays!

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Originally posted November 25, 2015…

During this season of gratitude and reflection, I have been reading a lot from various writers in magazines, newspapers, blogs about the things they are most thankful for. These various stories have been heart-warming, tear-jerking, and humorous. In honor of Thanksgiving day, I thought I would try my hand at writing my own reflections. What follows are my thoughts on the many gifts — both large and small — that I am grateful to have been given in my life.

I am thankful for the start of the holiday season, my favorite time of year. All year I look forward to celebrating with feasts, decorations, lights, parties, and special outings with my family. I love roasting turkeys, decorating our Christmas tree, singing carols, and wrapping presents. I am thankful for all the families who send us beautiful Christmas cards, who invite us to holiday parties, who join us for sledding in the park.

I am thankful for the cooler weather, which brings my family together more, curled up under blankets reading books, watching holiday movies (or more often football) together, enjoying the tree lit up at night, or perhaps watching “Charlie Brown Christmas.” I am thankful my kids are still young enough to enjoy Charlie Brown!

I am thankful for our small, snug little house, which keeps the four most important people in my life safe and warm, day after day. I am thankful for our soft beds, our shelves full of books, souvenirs and picture albums. I am thankful for a kitchen filled with delicious healthy foods, where we share meals together every morning and night.

I am thankful for the town in which we live, with its great public schools and its beautiful nature preserve where we go almost everyday. I am thankful for our local library where my family has checked out thousands of books and attended hundreds of programs over the years. I am thankful to live close to some of my family. I am also thankful for our community swimming pool where we spend our summers, the the Six Flags amusement park where we go often to ride coasters and water slides.

I am thankful for my parents, who live nearby so that we see them often. I am thankful for their continued good health, their constant willingness to babysit, and their generosity towards my children, my husband and me. This year I am especially thankful for their Christmas gift to us all, a week-long stay at Universal Studios Orlando (Harry Potter World, here we come!)

I am thankful for my mother-in-law, who is always accommodating and naturally easy to please, who is happy in every circumstance. She travels hundreds of miles every fall to visit with us and to give my husband and me a priceless holiday gift, time off from the kids to take a small vacation for just the two of us.

I am thankful for my extended family of my siblings, their spouses, and my nieces and nephews. While we may be far flung and only see each other occasionally, I am thankful that our time together is not filled with drama (or not much) but with good humor and laughter and board games.

I am thankful for my three beautiful sons, for their strong, healthy bodies that help them hike, bike, run, climb trees, play sports, and swim all summer long. I am thankful for their smart minds, their love of school, their curiosity about the world around them. I am especially thankful that they share my love of reading and books; I get a thrill finding them all tucked in on the couch, each reading his own book. I am thankful that they are filled with joy during the holiday season, thrilled to take part in ice-skating parties, putting up Christmas lights, picking out gifts for their brothers to open on Christmas morning, and all of our other holiday traditions. I am thankful to hear their shouts as they join my husband in cheering on their favorite football team (Go Tigers and Ravens!) and their laughter while re-watching Home Alone for the 1000th time.

I am thankful for my wonderful, loving husband who has been the very best partner for the past 15 years of marriage. I am thankful to be able share the joy of raising our children together and our pride in the family we have become. I am thankful for his patience, his calm nature, his kindness, his sense of humor, his willingness to let me sleep in (and even wear earplugs during sleepovers). I am thankful for how hard he works at two jobs to provide a life of comfort and security for our family and so that I may stay home with our children while they are young. I am thankful for our shared love of books, of long runs, of delicious meals, and of early bedtimes! I am thankful that he shares my love of the holiday season, and that we get equal joy out of all our holiday traditions. Selfishly, I am also grateful that is he a wonderful gift-giver, who makes sure that I have wonderful, unique gifts to open on Christmas morning, which makes me feel like a kid when I go to sleep on Christmas Eve.

I am thankful for the friends in my life, who share books, parenting advice, and laughter. The women who provide me with company and conversation at play dates and soccer games, and who share the hilarity and stress of raising kids. I am thankful for my book clubs for sharing my love of reading and for my workout partners who never fail to call me to meet them for Pilates or a run. I am also thankful for my friends who live far away, many who I have not seen in years, but who still take the time to email, text, and chat with me so we do not lose touch.

I am thankful for my own health, for a strong body that runs and hikes many miles each year, that keeps up with three active kids, that allows me to lift weights, do yoga, and lets me sleep deeply every night. I am thankful that I was able to give birth easily to three healthy babies, then was able to nurse them all. (Let me add here, that I am thankful for the amazing midwives who assisted me through those births, and my husband who never left my side.) I am thankful that I have the stamina, energy and optimism to live the life I want for myself.

I am thankful for these things, and so much more.

Happy Thanksgiving 2015

planes-trains-autos-cover

happy-thanksgiving-snoopy

In addition to our tradition of watching the parade, we always have a family-wide screening of A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. When the kids are in bed, the adults all watch Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.

I’ve Just Finished Reading… Turns 1!

Today marks the one-year anniversary of this blog, a happy and proud day for me!

This blog has been a wonderful source of happiness and growth over the past year. It has been a way for me to connect with my fellow book-lovers around the world and, as you can guess from the title of my blog,  the blog has allowed me to recommend books to my friends and family (and to total strangers!) and to tell loved ones who have recommended books to me how much I enjoyed them.

I have been so thankful for all of my readers and visitors — especially my followers! — who have been so supportive: not just reading my blog, but sharing it, liking it, and commenting on it! (Side note: I LOVE your comments! Keep ’em coming, I promise to reply.) I hope that at least one of you found a good book that you may not have otherwise read because of this blog.

In the past year, I have posted 122 times which have been viewed by almost 3,000 readers. You all like my fiction posts best, with your all time highest views coming for the five Rainbow Rowell books I reviewed. (I promise to review any new books by her as soon as possible.) You like to read my blog best on Mondays and more of you visited my site in June than any other month; I promise to keep that in mind in the coming year.

Once again, thank you all, and happy reading!

 

 

New Books for Summer Reading!

Oh my! How I love the experience of going to the library and finding not one or two books on hold, but instead finding fifteen! Using the hold shelf is like on-line shopping, without any of the guilt.

summer book stack

The books I just picked up at the library today!

Below is a list of books that I plan to read in the coming weeks, based on recommendations of friends, book club members, and the best sellers list. I plan to post reviews of the good ones as I finish them.

  • Girl Waits with Gun (Amy Stewart) — Historical fiction about a woman in 1914 who had no interest in domestic life and instead becomes one of the nation’s first female crime fighters. As a lover of Maisie Dobbs, this one sounds promising.
  • Orphan X (Gregg Horowitz) — Action-packed thriller about a boy pulled from an orphanage and trained to become an assassin for the US Government.
  • The Last Good Girl (Allison Leotta) — the fifth legal murder mystery story featuring the spunky, brilliant prosecutor Anna Curtis. It is absolutely worth reading the first four books in Leotta’s series!)
  • Eligible (Curtis Sittenfeld) — a retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice set in modern-day American. Getting dynamite reviews!
  • The Orchardist (Amanda Coplin) — historical fiction set is the rural Pacific Northwest, bringing together two pregnant teens and a man who runs a remote apple farm.
  • The Last Anniversary (Liane Moriarty) — Moriarty is the master of the sexy melodrama. Written in 2005, this is a novel of hers that I have never read: it tells the story of woman who wonders whether she made the right choice to turn down a lover’s proposal years before. I am looking forward to it, as none of her books disappoint!
  • Bell Weather Rhaspody (Kate Racculia) — recommended to readers who love Rainbow Rowell, this novel is part-mystery, part love letter to 1990’s: combining humor, music, and murder.
  • Need (Joelle Charbonneau) — a young adult novel about a website that charges teens a terribly high price for joining.
  • Outlander (Diana Gabaldon) — The cult-classic written in the early 1990’s, but popularized by the recent TV show based on the novels, about a woman who can time travel but only between 1945 and 1743 both ages that are being ravaged by war.
  • So You Want to Be a Wizard (Diane Duane) — a children’s chapter book that is rumored to have inspired JK Rowling and her Harry Potter books. We plan to read it out loud to the kids.
  • The Devil in the White City (Erik Larson) — a non-fiction book by an author considered one of the best non-fiction writers working today. Set at the 1893 World’s Fair it tells the story of both the Fair and a serial killer haunting it.
  • Travelers Rest (Keith Lee Morris) — written by a former professor of mine and a colleague of my husbands, this is a thriller about a haunted hotel located on a remote Idaho highway.

 

SUMMER READING: SOME (New and Old) FAVORITES

If you are like me, you cannot wait for the June issues of magazines to come out each year so you can put all of the recommended “beach reads” on hold at the library. I read a ton all year round, but in the summer I go into overdrive sometimes reading more than one book a day! I collect the titles of books all spring so that I am never without a great book to read, or re-read, at the beach, at the pool, in the hammock, on long car drives, or sitting on the porch with a glass a wine at the end of a hot day.

blog pic reading in hammock

In our family, we all fight over who gets the primo reading spot, the hammock.

Here are some great books to consider reading this summer, enjoy!

IF YOU WANT A GOOD BOOK TO READ WITH YOUR KIDS, TRY…

The Harry Potter series, enough said. If you have not read these to your kids, this summer you finally should (or alternately listen to the incomparable Jim Dale read the audiobooks to your whole family.)

The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall is a delightful book (and series) that follows a family of sisters who are always busy stirring up trouble on their summer vacations.

My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George is a timeless tale of a boy who feels too crowded by life in the city, so he sets out to live off his wits in the wilderness. Totally fascinating stories of survival that will enchant your whole family.

The Diary of A Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney. I know, parents love to hate these books but kids LOVE them and they really are very funny. A great one to read curled up together, while laughing at Kinney’s hysterical drawings.

The 13-Story Treehouse by Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton is a adorable story about the world’s most awesome treehouse — thirteen stories of pools, game rooms, junk food-filled kitchens, and more!

My boys also loved classic The Phantom Tollbooth by Jules Feiffer, the story of a bored young boy named Milo who unexpectedly receives a magic tollbooth one afternoon and, having nothing better to do, drives through it in his toy car, transporting him to the Kingdom of Wisdom, once prosperous but now troubled.

Also a classic to read this summer is Half Magic by Edward McMaken Eager, which will have you and your kids scrambling to do the math on just how to make the perfect wish!

IF YOU LIKE A JUICY DRAMA, TRY…

I love at the Australian author, Liane Moriarty, and her books are all deliver wild, twisting, melodramas with a great sense humor. My favorites are Big Little Lies, What Alice Forgot, and The Hypnotist’s Love Story (http://wp.me/p6N6mT-g6)

Any book by British author Jojo Moyes would be perfect for summer reading. Her books tend to be emotional, romantic dramas with characters you cannot help but fall in love with. I would highly recommend her World War I drama, The Girl You Left Behind, if you like historical fiction, but her present day books One Plus One (http://wp.me/p6N6mT-dS) and Me Before You and its sequel, After You (http://wp.me/p6N6mT-1W) are also gems.

For those of you who like a current bestseller, I highly recommend Cythnia  D’Aprix Sweeny’s The Nest, a well-written family drama about money, lies, and deceit (http://wp.me/p6N6mT-n4 ).

IF YOU LIKE BOOKS SET AT THE BEACH, TRY…

Anything by Elin Hilderbrand, whose books are all set on the island of Nantucket and never fail to deliver a great story with wonderfully written characters, a dash of drama, and lush descriptions of Nantucket and its residents. My favorites are: Barefoot, The Island, Beautiful Day, and (for a dash of magic and love) The Matchmaker.

I would be remiss if I did not add Jaws by Peter Benchley to the list, just read it by the pool not oceanside. Perfect to pair with a viewing of the classic Spielberg movie.

IF YOU LIKE A GOOD THRILLER, TRY…

I know, I know almost everyone had read this book, but just in case you missed it, Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl (and also her equally stunning book Sharp Objects) are spine-tingling thrillers with diabolical female characters. You will not be able to put them down, I promise.

I also loved Girl on a Train by Paula Hawkins in which a wildly unreliable narrator takes readers along while she tries — with great difficulty — to solve a missing person case and to keep her own life from unraveling completely.

If you are up for supernatural horror novel that will keep you up at night, try Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill (http://wp.me/p6N6mT-D) which matches up two wild characters with checkered pasts and cursed artifact for a terrifying ghost story. I was so scared reading this my husband had to walk me to the bathroom every night for a week!

IF YOU WANT A BOOK TO RECONNECT YOU TO NATURE, TRY…

Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver is a book about our complex, convoluted, and ultimately beautiful relationship with nature; told with such restrained brilliance that I want to read every single sentence out loud to my husband while reading (and often do!) http://wp.me/p6N6mT-pZ

If you prefer a non-fiction exploration of our relationship with the natural world, pick up a copy of Michael Pollan’s Second Nature or The Botany of Desire. Although he is now known for his food writing, his books about nature are both outstanding and well worth reading for a gorgeously written, deeply researched, but totally accessible discussions about the great outdoors.

IF YOU LIKE MURDER MYSTERIES, TRY…

The Cormoran Strike books, written (under a pseudonym Robert Galbraith) by the incomparable J.K. Rowling, are three thrilling and highly literate PI murder mystery novels, with a touch of humor, page-turning story lines, and with two main characters that you can’t help but want to follow down the next dark alley. Not to be missed! (http://wp.me/p6N6mT-1l)

For those who can handle very grisly murder mysteries, I highly recommend all the books by author Karin Slaughter. Her stand alone book Pretty Girls (http://wp.me/p6N6mT-21  was so exciting that I ignored my husband for two days to finish it, but I also adore both the Sara Linton (Book #1 http://wp.me/p6N6mT-bU ) and Will Trent ( book #1 http://wp.me/p6N6mT-hL ) series of murder mysteries as her as well.

If you prefer a mystery that has no gore whatsoever, try out the Maisie Dobbs mystery series by Jacqueline Winspear. Set between WWI and WWII in England, these wonderful written, historically accurate stories about a young, female private investigator trying to solve crimes and forward her position as a single woman in a world where women are largely kept at home. Reviews of the most recent two books in the twelve book series, here http://wp.me/p6N6mT-5n and here http://wp.me/p6N6mT-iH

IF YOU LIKE BREEZY ROMANCES, TRY…

My perennial favorite, Nora Roberts, is the queen of romance novels to read beachside. If you are in search of supernatural romance, try Three Sisters Island trilogy which follows three witches who must use their powers to stop an dark, menacing presence haunting their beloved island. I also adore her family saga The Chesapeake Bay Saga (four books) which follows four men as they build a business, a family, and four lasting marriages…wonderful!

If you like a large dose of humor with your romances, there is no better book series to pick up for your next trip to the pool than Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum books. These books are so ubiquitous that you can find stacks of them at any thrift shop! Start with book one, One for the Money, and read right through to number Tricky Twenty Two (http://wp.me/p6N6mT-3x ) to laugh along with bounty hunter Stephanie Plum and her largely incompetent set of companions. Are these books silly and at times nonsensical? Sure. Are they also hysterical and a ton of fun to read? Absolutely. Last summer I re-read all of them and they were still great even though I knew who-done-it.

IF YOU WANT TO TRAVEL (FROM THE COMFORT OF YOUR POOL CHAIR), TRY…

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert is a travelogue and memoir that I enjoy immensely every time I re-read it.

Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods and Wild by Cheryl Strayed are totally different but equally compelling stories of hiking and self-exploration.

Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck is a classic that tells the amazing story of an American family forced to emigrate from their home during the Great Depression. Upon re-reading it I found its themes of poverty, immigration, and farm workers rights, are all still deeply powerful and relevant.

My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem is a travelogue and a memoir, as well as a history of American feminism. Full of stories of the women and men around the country, in big cities and rural towns, and all of the amazing things they have taught her about what in really means to be an American,

IF YOU LIKE YOUNG ADULT, TRY…

Anything by Rainbow Rowell! I have reviewed all of her books (YA and Adult) on this blog and I keep begging my friends, sister, husband, son, and everyone else to read her books. For Harry Potter fans try Carry On (http://wp.me/p6N6mT-m6) and for those who love a heart-wrenching teen romance pick up Eleanor & Park (http://wp.me/p6N6mT-nD) For a funny pick, try Attachments (http://wp.me/p6N6mT-nf )

Another great YA read is the His Dark Materials — The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass —  series by Philip Pullman. You will be entranced by these fantasy novels about parallel worlds whose residents are locked in an epic battle with the dark side.

Lois Lowry’ slim sci-fi dystopia, The Giver, is also a wonderful book (and a wonderful series) that you can finish in one lazy afternoon. If you are a fan of The Hunger Games series, you will love this one as well. (Also The Hunger Games series are all worth a re-read.)

Behave: What to Do When Your Child Won’t by Val Mullally (2015)

“Each child is so unique that if they were to come with an instruction manual it would need to be titled ‘The Never Ending Story.’”

This title is a self-published parenting book written by the friend of one of my fellow Book Lovers Book Club members. She asked if I would be willing to read and review it on Mullally’s behalf. Always happy to help out a fellow writer, I started reading Behave right away.

As the mother of three children, the oldest who is turning thirteen, I have read my fair share of parenting books, in fact I read heaps and heaps of them when my oldest was small. However, while reading Behave I realized that many years have past since I last picked one up and it occurred to me that as parents it is nice to be reminded of some parenting “best practices” now and again. I felt glad that I took the time to read Behave today, it never hurts to brush up.

“The bottom line is it’s not possible to manage anyone else’s behavior. Not even your child’s. The only person’s behavior you can ever manage is your own.”

Some of the earliest, and most influential, parenting advice my husband and I received was in a parenting class when the teacher told us to “make it hard for your child to misbehave.” That bit of wisdom has guided us for more than a decade and I hear reverberations of it throughout Behave. We have made it our goal as parents to keep our kids well-fed, well-rested, well-exercised; we give them our full focus as attention whenever possible and listen to what they have to say about life; and we limit the time they must spend in rigid or overly adult-situations. As a result, when they are expected to behave in a certain way — at school, when we are dealing with a sibling’s needs, or on an airplane — it is easier for them to do so.

As Mullally points out, it is a myth that we can manage our children’s behavior. The truth is that only control we can exert in any parenting situation is over the way we handle our actions and our responses to their misbehavior. If we shout, make demands, rush around, fail to give our kids time and autonomy we will find that our own bad behavior results in their corresponding bad behavior. Mullally advises us to be aware of an overly full “adult agenda.” If we rush them around for hours of errands or outings, we cannot be surprised when they end up squirming and tantruming; fitting in time to run around at the park might slow us down but it might also keep the peace.

Parents also need to keep in mind that we can anticipate misbehavior by monitoring how are children are feeling. After all bad behavior is a form of communication for children, it one way that they can show us that their needs are not being met. “All behavior has a cause and intention.” It could be hunger, boredom, anger, or even exhaustion that they are trying to communicate to us and it is important to train ourselves to look for clues that bad behavior is on the horizon. The more we take their feelings into consideration, the better we can help them make good behavioral decisions.

Another point made in Behave  — one that some parenting books can overlook — is to remind us that if we do not take care of ourselves, we cannot be the best, most attentive and patient parents that we can be. This is another of my own family’s fundamental parenting rules! Our needs — for rest, time alone, adult company, and time with our partners – are every bit as important as our children’s needs. (See two blog posts I wrote months ago about managing our energy here http://wp.me/p6N6mT-1I and here http://wp.me/p6N6mT-1K )

Another wonderful take away from Mullally’s book is how much children want to have value within their families and how much they want to feel that they have a specific and important role to perform. For my younger son, that means being assigned chores to complete while his older brothers do theirs — he hates to feel that he is too much of a baby to contribute. When we assign small tasks — like collecting stuffed animals — he feels an enormous sense of pride and belonging. For our teenager, he needs to feel that his opinions are valid and that he can contribute to discussions and decisions. Lately he has taken to listening to the evening news with us and sharing his thoughts on current events, when we respond to his contributions he feels part of the “grown ups” in the house.

In the course of my thirteen years parenting I have come to believe that a fundamental cornerstone of peaceful, calm family life is that we — as adults — must not allow life to become too hectic for ourselves or for the other people in our family. Rushing around, frantic and ill-prepared — dragging your little ones in and out of car seats; or forcing your older children to sit through hours of errands and meetings — means that we have no emotional reserves left for emergencies. We end up depleted and angry and our children end up bored, frustrated, and brimming with unused energy …and that is a recipe for parenting disasters.

I understand completely that life is full of days in which there are many things to accomplish but my husband and I have found that keeping the number of “must do” items to the bare minimum means we have more time to notice our children and their needs. When we were both working parents, we knew that our evenings and weekends must be as free from volunteer obligations and endless youth sports events as possible or we would all end up miserable and exhausted; only to return to work Monday feelings as it the weekend never happened.

SOME OTHER TIPS and HIGHLIGHTS:

  • The author’s straight-forward reminder that only control we can exert in any parenting situation is over our role in contributing to the bad behaviors (did we let everyone get starving and then insist on one more errand?) and our responses to the misbehavior when it happens (did we scream and shout or calmly get to the bottom of the fight?)
  • Informing parents that bad behavior is a form of communication for children. It is critical to learn the reasons why our child is misbehaving and then formulate ways to prevent it (avoiding hunger, over-tiredness, etc.) whenever possible.
  • In order to be the best parents we can be, we must take care of ourselves as well as our children. Just like little ones, if we are hungry, exhausted and stressed out, we cannot make good choices and maintain calm and patience.
  • Children want to have value within their families and want have their perspectives — referred to Mullally as their “alternate agendas” — recognized. “Kids want to express what they need and be heard” — even if as parents we cannot grant their every wish immediately, we can at least acknowledge what is important to our child. “Being heard and feeling felt affects our sense of well-being.”
  • When your child is upset, attempt to be “approachable:” calm, responsive, and considerate of her perspective.
  • Attempting to control your child will almost certainly backfire. Rather that use shouting, threats, punishments, or ignoring it is best to set clear rules about behavior when everyone is calm and then give your child gentle reminders of expected behavior. (Example given: talk ahead of time about what is expected at a nice restaurant or exactly when homework needs to be completed each day.)
  • Use a simple system to explain to your child what the choices, limitations, and consequences are of a given behavior and let him decide how to proceed. (No running in the house. You can run outside or play quietly inside, what do you choose?) This can “give your child a sense of agency in the outcome.”
  • “Children need adequate opportunity to release play energy.” Make sure you are not asking for stillness and silence from a child who has been cooped up or otherwise restricted from play.
  • “When you give your child even small choices you give him some measure of control over the situation.”