Monthly Archives: October 2014

Raising smart and healthy kids

Bright From the Start: The Simple, Science-Backed Way to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind from Birth to Age 3 by Jill Stamm Ph.D.

Click here to purchase Bright from the Start: The Simple, Science-Backed Way to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind from Birth to Age 3

Let me start by saying this is an excellent book filled with essential information for parents of newborns or young children! Although the title indicates that it is about raising intelligent children, the ideas in this book also contribute to emotionally healthy children, (which, in my opinion, is more important.) I have read many of the theories in this book in other books, but all of the books offer their own benefits. The way this one is laid out makes it simple to read and easy to understand. There are also tips for specific age groups at the end of each section, so you can easily refer back to review without re-reading the entire book.

The author focuses on the importance of good parenting to help a baby’s brain develop properly. It’s now known that traumatic experiences in infancy have lifelong effects and can affect a person’s mental health as well as intellectual abilities. Plus, most of the brain is formed within the first three years–specifically within the first year. You can still positively affect a child’s personality after that, but it is much less beneficial. It is best if a child has a warm and nurturing start because those benefits tend to last through life even if things do not go well later on. Stamm emphasizes the importance of attention, bonding and communication with your baby to help him or her develop a healthy mind that allows for intellectual growth as well. It’s a bit scary to learn that your parenting during the first three years will affect your child for life, but it’s also inspiring. It’s not hard to do the right things for nurturing your child–but it is important. Science shows us that babies who receive more attentive and responsive care have different brain scans from babies who are neglected or ignored. Stamm explains why and how to help your child thrive.

Here are the chapter titles:

Part One–The Brain Truth
1. Five “Wow”s Every Parent Should Know

Part Two–Attention
2. “A” is for Attention: Why it Matters
3. Face Time: You Are Your Baby’s First Toy
4. Playtime: The Real Work of Play
5. Screen Time: When Baby Meets Modern Life
6. Downtime: Doing Nothing is Important Too
7. Attention-Builders Little Ones Love

Part Three–Bonding
8. “B” is for Bonding: Why it Matters
9. Responsive Care: Tuning In to One Another
10. Hands-on Care: Introducing Vitamin “T”
11. Child Care: How to Make a Brain-Based Choice
12. Bond-Builders Little Ones Love

Part Four–Communication
13. “C” is for Communication: Why It Matters
14. Everyday Talk: Thank Goodness It’s Cheap!
15. Everyday Reading: Dr. Seuss Had It Right
16. Everyday Music: Mozart Myths and Facts
17. Communication-Builders Little Ones Love

What is verbal abuse?

The Verbally Abusive Relationship: How to Recognize It and How to Respond by Patricia Evans
Click here to purchase The Verbally Abusive Relationship, Expanded Third Edition: How to recognize it and how to respond

This book was a great help for me while coming out of an abusive relationship. I was miserable with my first husband who criticized and name-called, but when I tried to tell people how bad it was, I was told that it was not abuse. Yes. It is. Verbal abuse is abuse and it’s just as much abuse as physical abuse. It has proven, long-term consequences and can cause PTSD and Stockholm Syndrome. It’s not just about the yelling and mean words, it’s about how they work together to destroy a person until they begin to believe the abusive comments. It’s about how people get trapped. Therapists and professionals know this, but the general public often does not. I believe that we as a society do not take as good of care of our emotional and mental health as we should, but it is just as important as our physical health. A lot of times, we try to play strong and throw our emotional needs out the window for fear or embarrassment or maybe just ignorance, but verbal abuse takes its toll. And worse…children learn to do what they see at home, so the dysfunctional cycle of degradation continues.

When I was in the verbally abusive marriage, I lived in a state of fear–wondering what he was going to attack next. He would get mad over little things and berate me for not doing dishes correctly or not filling the cats’ food bowl properly. For example, I was an extreme cat lover and loved my cats like my children, (I didn’t have children then.) I pampered them and loved them, but I would let their food bowls run very low before I refilled them. The cats did not go without; I just wanted to make sure that I wasn’t pouring fresh food on top of old/stale food. It seemed reasonable to me. It didn’t seem like a reason for my husband to yell at me. These types of things happened daily. I lived on edge wondering if I was crazy or if he was since he kept throwing fits and giving me the silent treatment over things like that that didn’t seem like fighting over. After nearly two years of these things daily, I was a shell of my previous self and was frantic to keep him happy. That’s what verbal abuse does to a person. After I got out of that mind-numbing game, I was so grateful to find this book. I also joined the author’s online forums which were so helpful for me. (At that time, she personally called everyone who applied to join the private forums, so they should be very safe!) I really want people to understand that verbal and emotional abuse DO matter. They are insidious and eat away at you. And they leave you vulnerable to further abuse if you don’t fully heal. I had come from an abusive childhood, so when my husband started getting angry all the time, it seemed a bit normal to me, even though I was miserable and confused by his behavior. I had learned to accept such crazy-making as normal, but it is NOT normal or healthy. This book is excellent validation if you feel like something is wrong with the way your partner speaks to you.

The chapter titles are:
1. Evaluating Your Own Experience
2. Two Kinds of Power: A Broad Perspective
3. Personal Power: A Look at Reality II
4. The Abuser and the Abusive Relationship: A Look at Reality I
5. The Consequences of Verbal Abuse
6. The Partner’s Feelings
7. Obstacles and Indicators
8. Characteristics and Categories of Verbal Abse
9. The Anger Addict
10. Conditioning and the Partner
11. The Recognition of Verbal Abuse and Asking For a Change
12. Responding with Impact to Verbal Abuse
13. Recovery
14. Looking Back
15. The Underlying Dynamics: Some Reasons Why

Lasting Lessons:

Verbal abuse IS abuse.
Verbal abuse includes blocks to communication like the “cold shoulder” or refusing to let someone respond.
Verbal abuse is sometimes disguised as a joke.

Amazon Mom Review

When I find a company that offers me great service and great prices, I become a loyal customer…and I like to tell people how great the service is. I am constantly telling people how great is and I really mean it! I’m a Prime member, I use Amazon Mom and I use Subscribe and Save. It’s absolutely worth it to me!

As you can probably tell, I read a lot of books. I love that I can pick out a book on Amazon, get a good price and have free two-day delivery without having to drive around to a book store to find something in stock. Plus, right now they have a promotion where, if you skip your free two-day shipping, you can get a $1 credit on your next order. I’ve been taking advantage of that for things I don’t need right away, (and they still show up quickly anyway.) My son loves Prime because we can stream Thomas the Tank Engine videos for free, so we get a lot of use out of that feature as well. With Amazon Mom, I save 20% off on diapers each month…and they come right to my door. I like that so much more than lugging big boxes through stores to my car then into my house! Plus, when I buy in bulk through Amazon Mom, I save money. And if I set up more than 5 subscriptions a month using Subscribe and Save, (the diapers count towards the minimum of 5 items,) I get an extra 5% off of the normal subscribe and save prices. That’s easy! I just pick things I’d buy anyway and I save money on them too.

I keep my credit card on file, (and it’s even better if you get the Amazon credit card because you earn reward points,) and it’s a breeze to have the things I need show up at my door for lower prices than I’d pay in stores. That definitely makes my life easier!

If you are interested in joining Amazon Mom or reading more:
Try Amazon Mom for Free

Or if you don’t have kids or need to buy diapers, you can still take advantage of an Amazon Prime trial and Subscribe and Save:
Join Amazon Prime – Listen to Over a Million Songs – Start Free Trial Now

Learning better grammar

Painless Grammar by Rebecca Elliot Ph.D.

Click here to purchase Painless Grammar (Barron’s Painless Series)

I studied English as my minor for my B.A. and my major for my M.A., so I’m a bit embarrassed that my grammar is not that great. It’s not horrible, but I know I make all kinds of little technical errors. (In my defense, I studied English Literature which required lots of analyzing and writing, but not necessarily technical skills.) I think I do okay, (and I know on the internet, you will find far, far worse!) but I want to do better. A friend recommended this book. I was a bit hesitant at first because it looks informal. (What is with that shaky cat on the cover?) I eventually purchased it and found that it is a very helpful book. Clearly, I haven’t memorized everything in it, (because I’m sure I’ve made some mistakes in typing this already,) but I try to learn and remember a little at a time instead of all at once. I find that this book is very easy to read and the division of the chapters makes it easy to just read for five minutes or so then take a break to absorb the information. There are also little quizzes to test what you’ve learned.

The chapter titles are:
1. Parts of Speech
2. Building and Punctuating Sentences
3. Agreement
4. Words, Words, Words
5. Editing
6. Writing E-mails

This book is filled with examples of right and wrong, and a variety of charts and exercises, (plus some visuals.) There are sections about capitalization, misused words and phrases, proper use of commas and the proper uses of various words.  The text features red and black type plus underlines, bold print and other ways to emphasize the information. It really works well as a textbook format without being boring. Since the chapters are divided into many parts, it is easy to find good stopping points. (Plus, learning studies indicate that you learn best if you learn in short chunks, so that works well with this book!) If you are looking to improve your grammar, I’d recommend this as a very user-friendly book to read through or to just reference as needed.

A whitening mouthwash that really works!

Okay, this isn’t a book review, but it is about a product that can help you make your life better!

Click here to purchase Colgate Optic White Mouthwash Sparkling, Fresh Mint, 16 Fluid Ounce

I sometimes buy products that claim to do wonderful things, and I’m often disappointed when they don’t actually work. (And yet I keep trying! I must be an optimist!) I bought this Colgate Optic White Mouthwash a few weeks ago because I decided I wanted to white my teeth and it looked promising. I wasn’t very dedicated to using it. The instructions say to use it twice a day, but I used it maybe every other day for about a week before I really looked in the mirror one day and realized my teeth definitely looked whiter–noticeably whiter! I’m always excited when things really work and work well, so I wanted to share this product. I can only imagine how well it works when you use it as often as it recommends! I just bought the matching toothpaste a few days ago. Put me down as a pleased customer 🙂


Curing codependency

Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring For Yourself by Melody Beattie
Click here to purchase Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself

If you look at the topics of the books I read and review, you’ll probably notice a pattern of abuse recovery books as well as personal growth books. That’s no coincidence. I grew up in an abusive/neglectful home with a father who disappeared for years at a time and an addict mother. I tried for many years, (as a child,) to get my parents to act like parents, but I couldn’t get them to meet their responsibilities and do what I knew parents were supposed to do. As an adult, I’ve entered a handful of similar relationships with people who had severe problems. Every time, I knew that the other person had issues they needed to resolve, but I kept trying and trying to get them to see that. For example, for many years, I dated a man who wasted all of his money on frivolous things then couldn’t pay his bills. Every time I bailed him out, I was frustrated and annoyed! Is it any wonder that therapists have labeled me codependent?

At first I was not happy to be told I was codependent. I think of codependents as controlling people and I’m not a controlling person. If anything, I’m too laid back and get run over all the time. But, I have also had this impossible goal of getting others to do the things they are supposed to do…like pay their bills, stop verbally abusing me, keep a job, etc…. But as I’ve finally learned, I can’t make people do the things they are supposed to be doing, so maybe I’m a recovering codependent? Anyway, I read this book because it’s supposed to be *the* classic book for codependency and I can see that I match many of the characteristics. At one point, I finally had to tell the man who wouldn’t pay his bills that I couldn’t be his keeper anymore. I was tired of having an adult child! So, apparently, I have learned some things from this book, (and living in general 🙂 )

Here are the chapter titles:
Part I–What’s Codependency, and Who’s Got It?
1. Jessica’s Story
2. Other Stories
3. Codependency
4. Codependent Characteristics

Part II–The Basics of Self-Care
5. Detachment
6. Don’t Be Blown About by Every Wind
7. Set Yourself Free
8. Remove the Victim
9. Undependence
10. Live Your Own Life
11. Have a Love Affair With Yourself
12. Learn the Art of Acceptance
13. Feel Your Own Feelings
14. Anger
15. Yes, You Can Think
16. Set Your Own Goals
17. Communication
18. Work a Twelve Step Program
19. Pieces and Bits:
20. Learning to Live and Love Again

The author starts by giving examples of codependency and characteristics. There are a LOT of characteristics and many ways to be codependent even if you don’t fit every “symptom.” Then, the rest of the book focuses on how you can learn to stop being a caregiver for others and can learn to focus on yourself. (And I don’t mean stop being a caregiver for truly needy people; stop being a caregiver for people who can or need to take care of themselves.) Many codependents give and give and give in an attempt to get people to like them, (or behave themselves,) and find themselves frustrated that they get nothing in return. The reality is, you can’t make that decision to give and then blame the other person for not reciprocating. Sure, ideally they would, but it’s still a decision you’ve made. You need to accept that reality but also realize that you can end your frustration by stopping that enabling behavior. In many ways, this book is about fixing yourself since you can’t fix the other person. These are important life lessons, especially for those of us who find that we always put ourselves last. I think this is a good book for anyone who realizes that they are living someone else’s life for them, (or at least trying to,) or someone who feels upset that they aren’t getting anything in return.

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff by Richard Carlson PH.D.

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff…and it’s all small stuff: Simple Ways to Keep the Little Things From Taking Over Your Life by Richard Carlson PH.D.

Click here to purchase Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff and It’s All Small Stuff: Simple Ways to Keep the Little Things From Taking Over Your Life (Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff Series)

I used to think self-help books were corny and silly–especially books like this one that were super popular. Then, I realized that I was in a bad marriage and I was very unhappy with my life. I decided maybe it was time to go out searching for some new ideas and answers to improve my situation. This was one of the first books I bought. And guess what? It’s popular for a reason! There is a whole series of “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff” books and this is the original. I found it very refreshing and mind-opening. It includes 100 tips of about two pages each, so they are short and easy-to-read. Life is busy and difficult and stressful. One thing I’ve learned in recent years is that I have enough stress already, so I really don’t need to create more. I avoid arguments and walk away instead of defending myself now. I realize that I can’t change people or their minds. I don’t take other people’s choices personally…things like that. There’s no reason to waste time getting upset about things that really don’t matter. I won’t list all 100 tips but some of my favorites are: Let Others Be “Right” Most of the Time, (remember what I said about not wasting time arguing or trying to “win?” It’s just not worth it,) Ask Yourself the Question “Will This Matter a Year from Now?,” Choose Your Battles Wisely and Get Comfortable Not Knowing. The author of this book died suddenly in his 40’s, but I’ll bet his life was full of joy and peace because he had the right ideas about living. I think we all could use more positivity and less stress!

Dealing with a difficult mother daughter relationship

When You and Your Mother Can’t Be Friends: Resolving the Most Complicated Relationship of Your Life by Victoria Secunda

Click here to purchase When You and Your Mother Can’t Be Friends: Resolving the Most Complicated Relationship of Your Life

I have always had a difficult mother whose cruel behavior and hateful comments confused and frustrated me. From the time I was a child, I wanted her to act like a mother, but she was not capable. I have since learned that you cannot make people do the things they should do or that you want them to do, and have given up. However, when I was in the midst of dealing with her hate letters and hateful messages from her sisters and other such behaviors that no normal person should have to deal with, I read this book. It was an eye-opening book for me! The author said many things I’d been feeling and recognized many horrible behaviors I was seeing from my mother. And…she let me know that it was okay for me to acknowledge the bad and and that it was okay for me to want it to stop.

As the author recognizes, ending your relationship with your mother or questioning even her cruelest behaviors is taboo in society. No one wants to accept that a mother cannot love her child, and adults who part ways from abusive mothers are often questioned, shunned or scolded. However, after reading this book, I realized for the first time that I did not have to continue putting up with my mother’s behavior that was making me miserable! No more guilt for choosing to cut contact and protect myself. The validation was wonderful! But, as the author acknowledges, a step like this isn’t taken lightly. Everyone wants a mother. I tried for a very long time before realizing my mother enjoyed hurting me more than she enjoyed being a mother and she had made herself my worst enemy and bully pitting herself against me in a competition that I didn’t wish to join.

Now that’s just MY situation. This book was a turning point for me because it was the first book I read that validated all my frustrations. But the author doesn’t necessarily recommend ending a bad relationship. She just points out that it is a valid decision that should be respected. The author categorizes the types of difficult mothers and the ways daughters might react. She devotes a section to healing difficult relationships. She gives many ideas before she addresses the reality that some relationships cannot be fixed. So don’t expect that his is an anti-mother book; it is just a realistic book. She addresses the reality that one’s relationship with their mother effects future romantic relationships, (for example, as the daughter of a narcissist mother, I have been a real doormat and have married two different abusive men before I had my light-bulb moment and realized I was following a pattern,) and she describes healthy vs. toxic relationships, manipulation, and more. I think this book is an excellent resource for women who have rocky relationships with their mothers–not just every day the occasional, normal arguments but real toxicity that repeats time and time again. The author gives validation, information and advice. I think if your relationship with your mother is bad enough that you are looking for a book like this, you will find a lot of relief in learning that you are not alone.

The chapter titles are:
Part One–Ghosts in the Nursery
1. Natural Allies, Natural Enemies
2. Good Mommy/Bad Mommy
3. The Bad Mommy Taboo

Part Two–Behind the Curtain
4. The Evolution of the Unpleasable Mother
5. The Doormat
6. The Critic
7. The Smotherer
8. The Avenger
9. The Deserter

Part Three–Rebellions
10. Balancing Acts
11. The Angel
12. The Superachiever
13. The Ciper
14. The Troublemaker
15. The Defector

Part Four–A Separate Peace
16. Breaking the Cycle
17. Redefining the Mother-Daughter Relationship
18. Friendship
19. Truce
20. Divorce

Part Five–Closing the Circle

Lasting Lessons:
It is okay to “divorce” a mother that consistently hurts you and is not willing to work on the problem
We develop unhealthy coping mechanisms when our mothers are not emotionally available or are abusive
Abuse is not just physical

Reaching My Financial Goals Online

I started this blog to review all the self-help and life-improvement books I own, plus to add some helpful tips as I come across them. I’ve ended up posting about survey sites a few times. I guess that goes along with the “Life As You Make It” theme, though. I’m using the survey money as extra funding to reach my financial goals, so that’s definitely me making my life better, right? Anyway, I went out to the mailbox today to get my mail from Saturday and I found four checks! One was for $40 from Inbox Dollars, one was for $6 from Pinecone Research and the other two were from Nielsen Voice for $5 and $6. So…a total of $57 in my mailbox! All for little tasks I did from my laptop while eating a meal or to wind down before bed. I’m probably starting to sound like a fan girl, but I love that I can get this “easy” money to supplement my regular income. Even though it’s not a huge amount, it’s really going to make a difference for me. I’m using other sites as well, so I think $100 a month is a realistic expectation. $1200 a year from the comfort of my home? I’ll take it!

If you decide to sign up for Inbox Dollars, make sure to go to the “offers” page and sign up for Nielsen Voice. They are the same company that calculates TV ratings, except this is the online version. As I mentioned in an earlier blog, Inbox Dollars will give you $5, but you will also be able to earn incentives from Nielsen Voice as well, (I got $11 in checks from this week, but that’s definitely not the first time. All I did was participate in their program and answer a survey.)

There are a lot of survey sites out there, but I really like Inbox Dollars the most because it brings multiple options into one program. I expect to cash in my next $40 check in the next week!

The Rules dating advice

All the Rules: Time-tested Secrets for Capturing the Heart of Mr. Right

Click here to purchase All the Rules: Time-tested Secrets for Capturing the Heart of Mr. Right

Whenever one of my female friends tells me about a guy she’s dating, (or dated,) who seems to have lost interest, I recommend this book–especially if she’s going overboard trying to get the guy’s attention! I always say you do NOT want someone who doesn’t want you! I believe the number one thing you should first look for in a relationship is their ability to like you back. If they can’t like you back, then clearly they are lacking an important part of your “relationship,” so it’s time to move on. But it never fails, so many of my friends continue thinking they are going to charm the guy or convince him that he is crazy about them. Nope. Not going to happen. So if you are single and dating, you might as well save some time and read “The Rules” first.

Now, when I recommend this book, I get mixed reactions. Some women seem hesitant to read it because they think it’s about game-playing. I say it’s not. I think it’s about maintaining your wisdom and dignity and not getting so caught up in a boyfriend that you lose yourself. I think the “techniques” the authors recommend are things that come naturally to a healthy and fulfilled woman–and that’s the woman you should be! Plus, there’s the hard fact of life that humans often, if not usually, initially react to each other based on appearance. I think we all want to feel attracted to our partners. For some of us, that attraction comes in time, but for others, if it isn’t there to begin with, it never will be. In fact, that’s the reasoning behind the “rule” that a woman should never approach a man first. If the man isn’t interested enough to want to know more, then he’s always just going to go along with the woman without ever feeling excited about her. But what about shy men? Quite honestly, in my own experience, even a shy man will get up enough nerve to talk to a woman. And every time I’ve decided not to follow the rules? I end up feeling more desperate than desired. How many times do I need to learn this lesson? 😉

Here are the chapter titles for the original “The Rules” book:
1. The History of The Rules
2. What are The Rules?
3. Meet a Rules Girl
4. But First the Product–You!
Then the book goes on to list the 35 “rules,” but I won’t give them all away here 🙂

I have a theory…okay it’s a lesson I’ve learned and I’ve read many other theories about it: People treat you the way you teach them to treat you. If you belittle yourself and act like a doormat, guess what value you’ve just given yourself? Yep. You’ve set a precedent. While it may not seem nice, women who demand more, often get more. I think you need to find a moderation point where you value yourself and ask others to value you without being a selfish and narcissistic person. And I think that is exactly what The Rules teach you to do.

Lasting Lessons:

Value yourself
Don’t obsess about your date and contact them more than they do you
Don’t give up your life or drop everything when someone asks you out
Don’t get stuck waiting for a man to change his mind

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