Friday, August 29, 2014

Misadventures of a Parenting Yogi by Brian Leaf: Book Review!


This post contains affiliate links and I was sent a free book in return for a review (except I was totally going to buy and review this book anyway).

Last summer I discovered, read and
absolutely loved Brian Leaf's first memoir Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi: My Humble Quest to Heal My Colitis, Calm My ADD, and Find the Key to Happiness . You can imagine how excited I was when I found out that he had a new book coming out this year! I love when I don't have to wait forever in between the books of my favorite authors.


Turns out that Mr. Leaf and I have both written for elephantjournal.com and that we had a lot in common. He even accepted my friend request on Facebook, woohoo. So I was extra excited to receive a free copy of his new book Misadventures of a Parenting Yogi: Cloth Diapers, Cosleeping, and My (Sometimes Successful) Quest for Conscious Parenting , which, yes, I was going to buy and review anyway.

In his first book, Brian Leaf writes about how debilitating stomach problems led him to discover yoga and Ayurveda. The book is hilarious, quirky and talks a lot about poop, all the things I love and the second memoir, about his take on mindful/ holistic parenting is equally great.

What really makes this book stand out is Leaf's humor, self-deprecating wit and his friendly, familiar writing voice. For me, a lot of the information in the book was probably "preaching to the choir" but I was fine with that. I most enjoyed Leaf's personal anecdotes and parenting disasters and reading about how much he adores and respects his wife is truly heartening. I love the advice he gives on playful and free-range parenting (two things I really support) and I can honestly say that I used some of the suggestions in this book when my daughter was acting like she needed an exorcist and they worked. Her head immediately stopped spinning. No joke.

Do I agree with everything in here? No, of course not. I'm not quite to the level of earthy crunchy as the Leaf family, but that's okay. We all parent differently and our children are all loved and cared for and that's what's nice about this book. You won't feel judged if you don't practice elimination communication or if you are not an "intactivist" who has had an orgasmic home birth (so not me). Leaf advocates for those things, but his total lack of smugness about them is really refreshing. This is the kind of book that no matter what your parenting philosophy happens to be, that you can still take away some excellent advice, new tips and a lot of laughs. 
Sunday, August 24, 2014

Back to School: The 70s vs. Today, A Lot has Changed

Back to School in the 70s

1. Take the kids downtown to go shopping at Sears for back to school clothes the last week of August. Get everyone a new pair of corduroys and a striped tee shirt. Buy the boys a pair of dungarees and the girls a pair of culottes. No, Jennifer, you can't have that orange and red poncho. Promise you will crochet her a better one with much more fringe. Get the girls a package of that rainbow, fuzzy yarn they like in their hair. You are done. You have spent a total of $43.00. Now take everyone to the Woolworth's lunch counter for grilled cheeses and chocolate milk.




2. On the night before the first day of school (that would be the Sunday night after Labor Day, of course, you know, mid-September) throw the kids in the way back of the station wagon and drag them downtown to Eckerds, K-Mart, Ames, Dollar General, Drug Fair or the like and hurry them over to the back-to-school area to pick out a lunchbox. Make sure to tell them get a move on because you don't have all night for them to make a damn decision. They need to get in bed by eight and yes, they're going to miss the Wonderful World of Disney if they can't decide between The Fonz and Dukes of Hazzard. Good Lord, why is it so hard for them to pick? Tell Kimberly if she can't make up her mind between Holly Hobbie and The Bionic Woman then you're going to pick Pigs in Space and you don't want to hear another word about it until June. Grab a composition book for each of them and a pack of pencils too. That's all they need. Remember to save some grocery bags so they can cover their textbooks with them after the first day of school.


3. Buy yourself a pack of Virginia Slims on the way out and smoke three of them on the way home.

4. Get up in the morning and make yourself a cup of Sanka with Sweet 'n' Low. Line up all the lunchboxes on the formica counter top in your kitchen. Open up a bag of Wonder Bread and do this assembly line style.

5. Spread yellow mustard on bread. Slap baloney on bread. Unwrap American cheese slices and put on top of baloney. Put top on the sandwich and wrap sandwich in tin foil or wax paper. Put it in the lunchbox. Every kid gets the same exact lunch. Period.

6. Alternate sandwich choices could include: peanut butter and grape jelly, peanut butter and marshmallow fluff, the end of last night's leftover roast beef or the ever popular with children tuna fish with large chunks of onions and celery and Miracle Whip.

7. Put some Planter's Cheese Balls into a baggie and close with a twist tie.

8. Take Twinkies out of the box. Put one in each child's lunch box.

9. Fill Thermoses with either Kool-Aid or whole milk.

10. Include a red delicious apple even though you know that damned apple is just going to come home uneaten again, which is fine because you can keep adding the same one until it practically rots.



11. Close the lunchboxes. You're done. Go put some Barry Manilow on the record player and celebrate that your kids are out of the house until dinner time. They'll grab them, along with a frosted, dutch apple Pop-Tart on the way out the door as they walk a half mile down the road to get to the bus stop.

Back to School 2014

1. Take five deep breaths and say a positive affirmation. School begins in two weeks. It is the middle of July. Don't worry, you still have time to order BPA-free bento boxes and authentic Indian tiffins made with special stainless steel that did not involve any child-labor, sweat shops or animal cruelty. Remember, you have Amazon Prime. You can get the free two day shipping and you will have plenty of time to read reviews and make this very important decision because your kids are in summer "camp" which is actually just another word for school in the summer because OH MY GOD you were so tired that day you had to have them home all day with you and you couldn't go to your restorative flow class at yoga. And that was also the day something went terribly wrong with the homemade glitter cloud dough recipe that was supposed to go in their sensory bin and the very same day that they were out of soy milk at Starbucks and you had to immediately email corporate to let them know that duh, they should actually be selling almond milk and/ or coconut milk. Get with it Starbucks. Soy is so 90s.  Ugh, but you digress. The tiffin. The bento boxes...

2. One Week Later: The bento boxes and tiffins have arrived. So has your childrens' school's annual list of school supplies that you must purchase and deliver. It is three and a half pages long.  It includes a ten pound bag of flour and several cleaning products and also requests a Costco-sized package of toilet paper.

3. Begin frantic online search for backpacks and school bags made from all natural materials yet still "cool." Have them monogrammed.


4. Take kids shopping at the mall for new school clothes. Buy them each a completely new wardrobe from Gymboree and Crew Cuts. Spend $2,387.07 on your credit card.


5. Take children to the child psychologist to prepare them mentally for the difficult transition to a new grade, new teacher and new classroom.

6. Intently study the allergy list the school has sent you which lists all the items that other children in your children's classes are allergic to and thus cannot be sent in your child's lunch either. This is extremely stressful because the last thing you (or anyone) wants to be responsible for is sending a second grader into anaphylactic shock. Make notes on your phone so you can remember what not to buy when you go to Whole Foods.

7.  Purchase school supplies for your children. Not to be confused with the 3 1/2 page list of classroom supplies you are also responsible for. They will need paper, pens, folders, notebooks, a calligraphy set, fifteen new apps for their tablets, a graphing calculator, a scalpel, an electron microscope and a centrifuge.

8. Go to Whole Foods to shop for school lunch items. This will take 4 hours and 15 minutes because you have to read every single label to make sure you are purchasing organic, locally sourced, non-GMO, gluten-free, allergy friendly products. You come home with tahini, bananas and a package of brown rice cakes. You somehow spent $76.19.

10. The night before the first day of school prepare the bento boxes. Fill containers with organic, local strawberries intricately cut into the shapes of  sea creatures. Include homemade, nut free granola made with certified gluten-free oats. Make a sandwich on vegan hemp bread out of tahini, kale and jicama. Form it into the shape of your child's favorite Disney character. Make flowers out of non-dairy cheese slices, olives and seaweed. Photograph the finished Bento Box and post it to Instagram.

 11. Write your child an encouraging note which includes an inspirational quote.

12. Include a sheet of stickers for good measure.

13. Fill a Siig bottle with filtered water and also include a box of chilled coconut water in the Bento Box because children can never be too hydrated. Ever.

14. Blog about this experience. Pray it goes viral and is picked up by HuffPo.


15. Get up at four in the morning on the first day of school. Make first day of school signs for each child to hold as you photograph them on the front step. Make a bunting to hang above the front door. Blow up balloons. Actually, go ahead and make a full on back to school photo booth.



16. Make pancakes in the shape of the letters of the alphabet.

17. Dress kids in coordinated outfits and spend 35 minutes posing and photographing them (with your phone).

18. Load everyone into the car to drive them to school.

19. When they are safely in their new classrooms, return to your car to cry for the next 20 minutes. But it's okay, really. You'll be back in six hours to pick them up and drive them to Synchronized Swimming, Cello and Urdu classes this afternoon. 

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