Review: Anything but Silent

anything but silent

Today is Apraxia Awareness Day. In place of my usual Wordless Wednesday photo post, I am sharing a book about one family’s experience with childhood apraxia of speech. If your life has been touch by apraxia in some way, I hope you read it too.

It’s been over five years since our daughter Anna was diagnosed with childhood apraxia of speech, and before she was diagnosed we had never heard of this surprisingly common motor-speech disorder. We felt so alone. But we found help from fellow parents online and we found the Childhood Apraxia of Speech Association of North America (CASANA). We weren’t as alone as we thought.

Fifteen years earlier, Kathy Hennessy had to grapple with this same diagnosis twice. Both her daughter Kate and her son Andrew had apraxia. Fifteen years earlier there was nowhere to go for support. The internet was in it’s infancy, and apraxia was little known even among speech language pathologists. I can’t imagine how alone she felt.

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Review: Life is Short, Laundry is Eternal

Life is Short, Laundry is Eternal

When I made the decision to stay home and take care of our daughter Anna, I had no real guide to what I was doing. In 2006, the image of a stay-at-home dad had not progressed much beyond the Hollywood portrayal of the laughably incompetent “Mr. Mom” cliche.

Well, a lot has changed in the first seven years of my daughter’s life. Stay-at-home dads are more commonplace and more accepted as people see we actually can care for our children most of the day without losing them, starving them, or seriously injuring them. There are stay-at-home dad groups, both local and national, that provide support, and there are a growing number of books that take on some aspect of the at-home dad experience.

I should know. I’ve written one myself and I’ve read many others, most recently the witty memoir Life is Short, Laundry is Eternal: Confessions of a Stay-at-Home Dad by author, blogger, and twelve-year at-home dad Scott Benner.

This is a funny, moving, and inspiring book by a man who’s been an at-home dad for almost twice as long as I have. It is filled with hilarious anecdotes, great advice, and touching moments that ring true throughout. I quickly lost track of the number of times I nodded along with some story that paralleled a memorable event in my own life.

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Laundry is Indeed Eternal

Life is Short, Laundry is Eternal

That is the title of the first chapter of Scott Benner’s new book, Life is Short, Laundry is Eternal: Confessions of a Stay-at-Home Dad. As a stay-at-home dad myself, I can back him up. Laundry never ends. In his own words . . .

I think I know why people become nudists—to have less laundry. Some quick math tells me that I complete an average of fifteen loads of laundry a week or more than sixty a month. That’s more than seven hundred a year and nearly nine thousand in my time as a stay-at home dad. In fact, by the time this book is published I’ll have washed, dried, folded, and put away another almost thousand loads of laundry, and each one sucks a little more than the last.

Doing the laundry is so terrible that if a genie popped out of a bottle right now and said to me “Answer fast, no more laundry or world peace—choose!” I’d actually pause . . .

No kidding! And unlike Scott, I’m not sure I’d eventually choose world peace.

In fact, I’m running four loads of laundry right now. I’d say that’s a coincidence—that I’m waiting on a bank of washing machines as I’m reading a book that opens with a description of the Sisyphean task of  laundry—but given that laundry is a constant in my life as well, pretty much any book I’m reading at any given time is going to intersect with the next load.

He paints a vivid, and authentic, image of the never-ending tedium of stay-at-home parenting in that first chapter. I’ve read on a little from there and I can say that he’s beginning to paint equally vivid pictures of the joys as well. The joys that make all that laundry worth it. Almost.

But more on that when I finish the book and review it. Until then . . .

It’s time to switch those four loads of laundry over to the dryers.

Scott is also a blogger, and he writes about his daughter’s life with type 1 diabetes on Arden’s Day.

Empowering Books for Young Girls

Line-art drawing of a girl holding a stack of books.

In their most recent post, girl-empowerment site Toward the Stars is featuring a Top Ten Empowering Books for Girls list, supplied by “Mother-Daughter Book Club fanatic” Lori Day.

Quoting Lori’s daughter (written when she was in the eighth grade):

“The discussions we engage in during the meetings often begin as conversations about problems in the text that the protagonist encounters and overcomes, and inevitably shift seamlessly to conversations about similar problems we have experienced and dealt with while growing up.”

When Lori started to take notice of the books her daughter was reading, she noticed that the vast majority did not feature female protagonists. After doing some research and talking with teachers and librarians, she understood why this was the case. Girls, it seems, are happy to read and watch stories about boys, whereas the latter isn’t so true. Producers of media for children were making more money by producing books and films about boys that could attract children of both genders. So Lori took it upon herself to make sure that her daughter, and the daughters of her close friends, were getting exposure to inspiring female literary role models, and that was how her book club was first formed.

As much as they both love to read, I can see Julia and Anna in a mother-daughter book club in a few years. In the meantime, I’m saving Lori’s list and putting together one of my own for younger girls.

This list is by no means exhaustive. It’s just a handful of books (or book series) that Anna really enjoys, and that feature girls around her age as either the primary or secondary protagonists.

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Review: Speaking of Apraxia

Speaking of Apraxia - Cover

When my daughter, Anna, was diagnosed with childhood apraxia of speech in October, 2008, my first impulse was to go online and find out as much as I could about it. I remember thinking it would be a great idea to have a book for parents like me dealing with this unfamiliar yet all too common disorder. I would later embark on a different writing project, relating our personal experiences with Anna’s cleft lip surgery and apraxia diagnosis and my growth as a father, but as for a book on the nuts and bolts of apraxia, that idea left my mind almost as soon as it entered it.

Thankfully, for those dealing with this diagnosis today, another parent decided to follow through on this idea. I’ll let Leslie Lindsay, author of Speaking of Apraxia: A Parents’ Guide to Childhood Apraxia of Speech, tell the story in her own words:

“There isn’t a single book out there for parents on apraxia,” I complained to my daughter’s SLP. “I know,” Ms. Jen replied. “There’s not much out there.”I went on to explain that I just wanted a book, a real life book, I could hold in my hands and read and go back and refer to if I needed. I wanted a comprehensive guide that would start at the beginning and cover the definition of apraxia, what caused it (even if it was a bunch of theories—I didn’t care—I wanted something, anything), and what I could do about it. Most of all, I wanted something I could relate to.

Ms. Jen listened like any good therapist or friend would do. When I was done with my wish list, another therapist chimed in, “Sounds like a job for you.”

(Speaking of Apraxia, p. 367)

Thanks to Lindsay’s idea, and the encouragement of her daughter’s therapists—and her husband—this book exists, and it’s great one. Speaking of Apraxia is exactly the book that Lindsay wanted: a comprehensive guide that walks parents step by step through the experience of having a child with apraxia of speech, and a thorough reference that those same parents can consult over and over again.

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