Tag Archives: book reviews

Mamas Comfort Camp Turns ONE! A Celebration AND A Giveaway!

15 Mar

***THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED.  Congratulations to Smldada!***

Have you heard about the over 600 members of Mama’s Comfort Camp and the judgement-free culture of support and belonging we’ve cultivated in our Facebook group?  What started as a small group of online friends has blossomed into a once-in-a-lifetime  virtual sisterhood.  And we’re celebrating our one-year-anniversary!

Mama's Comfort Camp

Some very wise mamas have been helping us celebrate by contributing guest posts over at Mamas Comfort Camp, and we held a twitter party on March 10th.  And later today, I’m teaching a short yoga lesson via vlog, so click on over!

And to celebrate here on Learned Happiness, I’m giving away one of my favorite books.  If you know me, it’s no secret that Brene Brown’s books and research have changed my life.  What I didn’t realize about my life was that I’m not so different from everyone else – that shame and insecurity plague every one of us.  That we all just want to be seen, heard, and validated.  And most of all, that when we change who we are to fit what we think others want, we rob ourselves of true happiness.

It’s because of Brene Brown’s books that I’ve become more confident, more courageous, and more authentic.  Her TED Talk on shame pushed me to start blogging and opened up a whole world for me, where writing became therapy and readers became friends.  On a good day, I now believe that I am worthy of love and belonging, no matter what I have accomplished or what has happened to me.  Brene recently sat down with Oprah to share about her newest book, Daring Greatly.  You’re going to love her.

I Thought It Was Just Me

So in the spirit of comforting mothers everywhere, I’m giving away a copy of I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t): Making the Journey from “What Will People Think?” to “I Am Enough.”  All you have to do enter is leave a comment below, telling me how you take care of YOURSELF in these busy days when there is never enough time.  If you struggle with this – then share how you WISH could could take care of yourself.  A daily meditation? An occasional good book? A hot cup of coffee each morning? A deep breath at the end of a long day?

And please know, if you’re a Mama?  You’re wanted in Mama’s Comfort Camp.  Head on over to HERE to find out how to join.  It’s easy and free!

Happy, Happy Birthday, Mama’s Comfort Camp!  And congratulations to my friend Yael Saar!  What an amazing baby you’ve created!

**legal stuff:  Giveaway closes on March 20th at midnight, EST.  Winner will be chosen using random.org and will be notified via email.  Winner may choose a hard copy or Kindle version of the book.  I am providing this book as a birthday gift to MCC.  I was not compensated for my opinion – I really do just adore Brene Brown!**


Gifts of Imperfection – Exploring the Power of Love, Belonging, and Being Enough, Week 3

24 Sep

You can find previous chapters using the page navigation above.  Brene’s book can be purchased HERE.  It’s awesome.

Gifts of Imperfection – Exploring the Power of Love, Belonging, and Being Enough

When we spend a lifetime trying to distance ourselves from the parts of our lives that don’t fit with who we think we’re supposed to be, we stand outside of our story and hustle for our worthiness by constantly performing, perfecting, pleasing, and proving. Our sense of worthiness—that critically important piece that gives us access to love and belonging—lives inside of our story.

Brown, Brene (2010-09-20). The Gifts of Imperfection (p. 23). BookMobile. Kindle Edition.

I think back to my teens and twenties and feel like I wasted years and years attempting to “fit in.” Isn’t that what we all do in high school?  Try to figure out who everyone wants us to be?  I wish I could say that becoming a mother matured me beyond this behavior, but it only redirected my attention to who I was supposed to be “as a mother.”  I looked everywhere for the answer.  Parenting books.  Friends.  My own mother.

Brene calls this “hustling for worthiness.”  That phrase hits me right in the gut because I know the pain of changing in an attempt to belong only to find belonging slip through my fingers.  Worthiness was always just out of reach and clothed in self-doubt.  I was supposed to love snuggling my baby all night.  I was supposed to be happy staying at home.  I was supposed to feel like my baby and I belonged together.  Supposed to.  If you’re ever wondering if you’re hustling for worthiness, listen for those words.  They are my red flag.

The other portion in this chapter that resonates with me is about love.

To begin by always thinking of love as an action rather than a feeling is one way in which anyone using the word in this manner automatically assumes accountability and responsibility. — BELL HOOKS

Bell Hooks, All About Love: New Visions (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, Harper Paperbacks, 2001).

She shares the quote above and gives examples of times she’s struggled with practicing love in her own life.

I truly love Steve (and, oh man, I do), then how I behave every day is as important, if not more important, than saying “I love you” every day. When we don’t practice love with the people we claim to love, it takes a lot out of us. Incongruent living is exhausting.

Brown, Brene (2010-09-20). The Gifts of Imperfection (p. 28). BookMobile. Kindle Edition.

The stress of parenting small children (or even just the stress of everyday life) can make us forget that love is something you do.  My husband likes to say that he told me he loves me the day we got married and if that changes, he will let me know.  He practices love each day  instead.  This chapter reminded me that though I might tell him I love him every day, when I snap at him in an anxious moment, I am not practicing love.  And when I lose my temper with No1, I needed to be more mindful of showing her the love I feel for her.  It’s not easy, and not always possible.  But being mindful of how important my everyday actions are to the people around me has helped me feel more connected to them.  It makes me want to explicitly teach the language of worthiness to my children.

Let’s talk.  Can you think of a time when you felt true belonging? How did you get there?  How did it change your interactions with others or your perception of yourself?

How do you hustle for worthiness?  I know I fall victim to believing that perfection will lead to worthiness for me.  And pleasing.  I am SUCH a people pleaser and am actively working on learning to say no, putting myself first.  Is it performing, perfecting, pleasing, proving?  Or something else?

Disclaimer: I purchased the book Gifts of Imperfection on my own and am not being compensated for my review of the book or for promoting it. I receive no kickback from any of the Amazon links provided above. I simply love the book and want to share.

Gifts Of Imperfection – Courage, Compassion, and Connection, Week Two

17 Sep

If you’re just joining in, you can find Week One here.  And the link to the book here.  Welcome.

Gifts Of Imperfection  – Courage, Compassion, and Connection

Brene Brown calls courage, compassion, and connection the Gifts of Imperfection because all three require us to be vulnerable and imperfect, but reap great rewards of a more wholehearted life.  

I particularly love how she discusses that these are life habits – that you can practice “couraging” to become more courageous. I have to say that I have found this to be true. By blogging about my experiences with mental health, I’ve had to practice all three gifts. And it *has* gotten easier to be courageous with practice, though I still struggle in certain settings and with particular people (sometimes even myself!) to be courageous, compassionate, and to connect.  Feeling overwhelmed?  Not to worry.  Brene gives practical, everyday examples of what these look like and makes it clear that even small steps toward the “three C’s” will contribute to your sense of worthiness.

Here are a few of my “a-ha” moments from this chapter:

“Until we can receive with an open heart, we are never really giving with an open heart. When we attach judgment to receiving help, we knowingly or unknowingly attach judgment to giving help.” (p. 20)

“The heart of compassion is really acceptance. The better we are at accepting ourselves and others, the more compassionate we become. Well, it’s difficult to accept people when they are hurting us or taking advantage of us or walking all over us. This research has taught me that if we really want to practice compassion, we have to start by setting boundaries and holding people accountable for their behavior.” (pp. 16-17)

“Shame hates it when we reach out and tell our story. It hates having words wrapped around it—it can’t survive being shared. Shame loves secrecy. The most dangerous thing to do after a shaming experience is hide or bury our story. When we bury our story, the shame metastasizes.” (pp. 9-10)

Brown, Brene (2010-09-20). The Gifts of Imperfection. BookMobile. Kindle Edition.

For me, it all boils down to speaking my truth.  Being real with myself and people in my life.  It hasn’t been easy, but it’s been worthwhile.

Tell me about a time you practiced or witnessed “ordinary courage”. What are some small, practical ways you can be mindful and practice courage, compassion, and connection this week?

Disclaimer: I purchased the book Gifts of Imperfection on my own and am not being compensated for my review of the book or for promoting it. I receive no kickback from any of the Amazon links provided above. I simply love the book and want to share.


14 Jan

I think it was from Brene Brown that I heard or read something like this:

You look at your newborn baby and think, ‘She’s perfect.’ And yet each of us is imperfect from our very beginning.  We are all born imperfect and will remain imperfect for the rest of our lives.

I look at my new baby, and want to think she’s perfect.  She has my nose, long pianist’s fingers (and toes), dark grey eyes, and the most beautiful little ears.  She makes a grumpy old man noise out of annoyance when she sneezes, and laughs in her sleep. And she really only cries when she’s hungry, wet, or naked (seriously, folks…I’ve never seen a baby be so pissed to get undressed).

But she’s not.  I could list a dozen things that make her difficult, and I’m certain I will only add to that list as she grows up.  She’s as imperfect as the rest of us, and that? IS BEAUTIFUL.

If she were perfect, I would worry constantly about ruining her – about messing up. I would fret over every decision being the “right” one, because perfection implies right and wrong. There would be some utopian vision of the baby, child, and woman she should be, always in peril because of my impending parenting mistakes.

My job as a parent isn’t to protect her perfection, guarding her from mistakes and pain. Instead, it’s to nurture her as a whole person, hopefully teaching her that her imperfections don’t diminish her worth. They make her real, accessible, and whole.

By the way…if you haven’t read Brene Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection, it’s life-changing.  Honestly.

My Favorite Parenting Books

16 Nov

There are many things I just can’t do.  Any kind of sports.  Cook eggs (seriously – ask anyone.  My eggs are terrible, even scrambled).  Juggle.  Take photographs.

But I can teach.  And I think my years as an elementary teacher and my degree (which included courses in early and late childhood development) have really benefited me when it comes to parenting.  As a teacher, you quickly learn not to take everything personally.  You love your students and want them to succeed, but there is an intrinsic separation between you that allows for at least a little perspective.  I learned time and time again that no matter how much I disciplined my students or how consistent I was (the kids would say “strict”), they came back each morning feeling loved, validated, and happy to see me.  I ran a tight ship – but because of the structure, the students knew they could trust me to mean what I said and follow through.  They knew just where I stood and exactly what was expected to them.  It allowed for us to really relax and trust each other.

These habits have made their way into my parenting style…and it works for me and my 3-year-old daughter.  I want to be clear – I think every parent needs to figure out what works best for them.  All children are different and all parents are different.  So please don’t take what I say as the gospel or THE magic parenting solution.  That’s the thing: there is no one right way to parent.  You take what you read, the advice others give you, and use trial-and-error to piece together something that fits you.  And when it blows up in your face (and believe me, we’ve had some pretty big explosions), you try something else.  These are just the things that work for me.

No1 turned three in October.  She’s very verbal, inquisitive, and focused…and extremely stubborn.  Like all little kids, she craves attention and loves to help.  Her favorite activities always involve imaginative play and her collection of animal toys.  She’s not perfect – and I wouldn’t want her to be – but she’s a great little girl.  Kind, responsible, helpful, and a problem-solver.

I’m proud of the routines Hubs and I have managed to make a part of our home and of the little girl we are raising to be confident, self-sufficient, and considerate of others.

  • In the morning, one of us takes her to the bathroom.  After she pees, she has a choice:  sleep with M&D in bed or play toys in her room.  We leave our door open and she knows that our room is the quiet room in the morning.  She usually chooses toys.  Who wouldn’t?  We sometimes get a good 20 minutes of extra sleep out of this.  It’s amazing.
  • She is expected to eat her meals at the kitchen table.  Snacks are often  eaten while playing or on the couch.  But meals are at the table, and rude manners mean that you must be done eating.  After she’s finished, she usually remembers to ask to be excused and then chooses to either clear her plate or take everyone’s napkins to the hamper.
  • After rest time (about 45 min each afternoon when she plays quietly/looks at books in her room since giving up naps at age 18 months), her room needs to be picked up.  Not spotless.  Not perfect.  But just not a mine field of legos and barbie shoes.

We’ve managed to get routines like this in place by thinking of discipline as teaching her about consequences.  She’s only three – and truly doesn’t know better – so it is our job to teach her how her behavior impacts herself and others.  Punishments don’t stick with children long-term, so we try our best for the consequences to be logical.  For example, if she throws a toy at the cat, she is told that she showed she doesn’t know how to use the toy safely and can try again later with it.  It goes up on a shelf.  No warning.  Just consequence.   Not staying with Mommy in the store results in her riding in the cart.  After we talk about why she needs to stay with Mommy, she can have another chance to walk.

And here’s my big secret on how we get all of this to work: we follow through.  If we say we’re going to do something, we do it.  Both positive and negative.  If we promise her we’ll play after dinner, we play after dinner.  And if we warn her that yelling at the cat will result in a timeout, we don’t give two more warnings.  My dad likes to say “kids don’t play with outlets because it’s the one thing parents are consistent about”.  And I think he’s right.

Believe me when I tell you that there are still plenty of days when I am at my wits end as she runs out of timeout laughing and all I want to do is scream.  And I may *ahem* have once threatened at the top of my lungs to “take away her bed if she jumped in it one more time”.  (She stared right at me and jumped one. more. time.)  But more days than not, we get through a day with our toddler without yelling.  And I consider that a triumph.

These are my favorite books on parenting – some from my teaching days, and some I’ve read recently.  I don’t use any single book as “the parenting” method.  I pull what will fit us from everything I read and disregard all the stuff I think sounds like crap.  You have to trust your gut as a parent.  YOU know your child and family best.  If something feels wrong to you, then it’s not for your kid.

Positive Discipline – From my teaching days.  Emphasis on understanding the motivation behind a child’s behavior and great for learning the difference between punishments and consequences.

Playful Parenting – I reviewed this book ages ago here.  I love its take on how to diffuse situations with play and have seen first-hand how making more time for play with your child can have a profound affect on their behavior.

Nuture Shock – Recommended to me by a friend.  It dispels common myths about child development and got me thinking about my parenting choices on a deeper level.  I’m a total nerd for sciencey reseach books.  It’s fascinating.

I’m dying to read The Shame Game Erica over at Off My Mama Rocker has been reading and sharing her insights and what she’s said has really struck a chord with me.

So…happy reading!  And happy parenting!  Trust your instincts and listen to your inner-mama.  And remember.  You know your child best.

Book Review: Playful Parenting

22 Mar

When DB was an infant, I turned to baby-care and parenting books out of insecurity and fear.  Between the postpartum depression, Doodlebug’s reflux and milk allergy, and my recurring clogged milk ducts, I was desperate for answers.  Each book only made matters worse, increasing my anxiety and making me feel less secure as a mother.  When I was brave enough to put down the books and just trust my instinct, it turned out I did a pretty good job.

Now my self-confidence as the parent of a toddler is solid.  Although I make mistakes every day, on the whole, I know I am raising a happy and well-adjusted child.  More importantly, I’m doing what works for my family.

It’s in this healthy state-of-mind that I’ve started enjoying parenting books again.  But I choose carefully, and keep in mind that the authors of each book do not know me.  They do not know my family.  And they do not know my child.  I decide how much weight to give each new parenting idea, which is a powerful idea in itself.

I’d like to take time to review each of the books here.  Mostly just to aid me while I process what I have read, but perhaps to help someone else who is looking for new ideas about raising a child.  And also to start some healthy, constructive discussions – I love hearing what works and doesn’t work for other people.

Book Cover

The first book I’m reviewing is Playful Parenting by Lawrence J. Cohen (the link is to Amazon).  The basic premise of the book is that play is important to a child’s psychological development, and that many parents are unsure of how to really play with their children.  Let me start by saying that Cohen spends the majority of the book discussing school-age children, but that the concepts behind the narratives and theories are applicable for those of us who have toddlers (and even infants).

Cohen asserts that like a lion cub’s play fine-tunes its skills for life in the wilderness, a child’s play is a way for them to make sense of the world around them.

“Play is important, not just because children do so much of it, but because there are layers and layers of meaning to even the most casual play.”

Children use play to connect.  They use play as a safe method of testing their strengths and weaknesses, and to practice new skills.  And most importantly, they use it to work though hurt and fear.  Cohen uses narratives of his time as a play therapist and parent to both explain the principles of the book and provide strategies for parents to use with their own children.

Cohen’s writing style is accessible and friendly in tone.  Not once did I feel like I was being talked down to or being lectured on the best way to parent.  He uses examples of his own parenting mistakes to help explain how play has helped him interact with his own children.  And the narratives about different children not only thoroughly explain each concept, but make it clear that his approach takes into consideration that each child (and parent) is different.  This is not a one-size-fits-all kind of parenting guide.

I particularly liked the sections devoted to how playful parenting can aid in discipline.

“In the rush to punish children, we forget that the essence of discipline is to teach.

Timeouts rarely work with my 2 year old these days, and we don’t use corporal punishment in our home.  So then what do you do?  Using play to deescalate conflicts and let DB work out her frustration (in conjunction with the natural consequences we were already following through on) has made our whole house a happier one.  Now, instead of fighting her in a parking lot when she doesn’t want to hold hands, I might tell her to pretend we are trying to sneak up to the car and we have to tiptoe.  Or we’ll play follow the leader.  It may not always work, but at least I have more tricks in my bag now.  He also suggests “meetings on the couch” in place of time out – I have yet to put this into practice and try it out, but it peaked my curiosity.  I have a feeling it will be better suited to our family when DB is a little older.

The biggest impact this book had on my parenting has been the change in the way I play with DB.  I know I’m not the only parent who often finds toddler games either silly or mind-numbing.  Knowing that the play has purpose (beyond just annoying me) inspired me to throw myself into the play, really focusing on her.  While engaging with DB, I can see the bigger picture – the development behind the play, and that makes it more interesting for me.  And more importantly, after only a day of more direct, whole-hearted play, she was a much easier kid to parent.  She handled frustration more easily, was more willing to listen and follow directions, and just seemed happier.  Cohen describes it as “filling up their cup of love”.  I grant you that sounds terribly cheesy, but it totally worked with my daughter.

Other topics that resonated with me were how play fosters confidence, using play to address gender stereotypes, handling fear and anxiety, encouraging emotional literacy, and letting children direct the games they want to play.

I highly recommend this book.   And although its narrative format doesn’t make it a great quick reference, it’s a book I’ll reread periodically when I need to be inspired to really connect with my child.

disclaimer:  I bought the book on my own from Amazon, and am reviewing it on my own, with no compensation for the review or the link above.  Which is too bad, because it would be crazy-awesome if they paid me to do this.  Also, it’s not lendable from my Kindle, which is a bummer.


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