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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Something Else I Want Anna to Know About My Mom

My Mom

In September of 2011, on the second anniversary of my mom’s passing, I wrote a post titled What I Want Anna to Know About My Mom. In it, I talked about several things I remembered—her laugh, her singing, her dancing, her sense of humor, her generosity, and her faith—and that I wanted my daughter to know too.

Well today’s Five Minute Friday prompt is “What Mama Did.” My first thought was “well I wrote that already, can’t I just re-post it?” But instead I decided to try to think of one more thing; something that I missed a year and a half ago.

Then it hit me. My mom loved to read.

“Ever since I was a kid,” she said. “I always had my nose in a book.” It was still true for as long as I could remember. She read every day. And our house was always filled with books. Shelves of them in every room, and boxes of them in storage.

Ask my wife Julia, she and I helped my dad sort through them all after she passed away.

I got my love of reading from my mom. My dad reads quite a bit too. He still reads the paper every morning and will pick up a book if the subject strikes his interest. But my mom was always reading. Only at the end when she began get lost inside her own mind did she slow down and finally stop.

That was hard to see.

But I don’t focus on that when I think about her. Instead I think of all the books she read, all the books she wanted to read, and how she passed her love of reading on to me.

A love of reading that Julia and I share, and have passed on to Anna as well.

Five Minute Friday

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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Speaking of Apraxia: A Preview

Speaking of Apraxia - Cover

As those of you who follow my blog know, my daughter Anna was diagnosed with Childhood Apraxia of Speech a little over four years ago. Her diagnosis features prominently in last third of A Smile for Anna, and I’ve also written about it both here and on the Apraxia-KIDS blog.

I am currently reading an excellent book on the subject, titled Speaking of Apraxia: A Parent’s Guide to Childhood Apraxia of Speech by Leslie Lindsay, published by Woodbine House (2012). Here’s a description of the book from Amazon.com:

At last, a parents’ guide to understanding, treating, and living with childhood apraxia of speech (CAS). Written in an empathic style by a parent who “has been there”, Speaking of Apraxia offers hope and practical advice for parents of toddlers to teens with this neurologically-based motor speech disorder. Characterized by difficulties with planning and producing the complex set of movements necessary for intelligible speech, CAS can be a child’s only diagnosis or can be accompanied by other special needs such as learning disabilities, Down syndrome, or autism. Parents and professionals will appreciate the author’s clear explanations of everything from diagnosing CAS and working with speech-language pathologists (SLPs), to understanding how to distinguish it from other speech disorders, and getting appropriate early intervention and special education support.

Drawing on the latest research, professionals’ insights, her own and other parents’ experience, the author covers these important topics:

I: The Straight Scoop on Speech Basics–CAS definition; An Overview of Speech & Language; Where to Get Help and What to Ask; Your First Appointment with an SLP

II: Now What?!–Getting, Coping with and Understanding the Diagnosis; Health & Genetics; All about Speech Therapy

III: Helping Your Child–Complementary and Alternative Medical and Treatment Approaches (Diet, Music, Movement Therapy and More)

IV: Off to School–Getting Ready; Special Education Ins & Outs; Phonological Awareness; Reading Issues

V: Coping & Hoping–Dealing with Emotions and Family Life; What the Future May Hold; Networking, Support Groups, and Advocacy

Appendices: Information on insurance, summer camps and enrichment programs, speech-language milestones, and a glossary of terms

Speaking of Apraxia is a comprehensive and authoritative resource any family, SLP, occupational therapist, or pediatric practice will be glad to own or recommend.

I’m through Section III, and so far I am impressed. This is a thorough volume covering every aspect of CAS and it includes an extensive list of reverences. I plan to finish the book this week, and post a full review on this blog next week.

I’ve also written a guest post on my own experiences that is up today at the excellent parenting website Science of Mom. I’m hoping that this post, in which I discuss the warning signs of CAS, will help other parents who might be concerned about their own child’s speech development.

Review: The Adventures of a Stay-At-Home Dad

Adventures of a Stay-at-home Dad (cover)

“Listen carefully, my child, to your master’s precepts and incline the ear of your heart.”

These are the opening words of The Rule of Saint Benedict. Like the Rule, Adam Fletcher Bradley’s book The Adventures of a Stay-At-Home Dad is about careful listening, but if Bradley were to summarize his book in the style of the opening of St. Benedict’s Rule, he would have to reverse it to read:

“Listen carefully, father, to your child’s needs and incline the ear of your heart.”

For both books are about growing into the person God intends you to be through careful listening. Both books are about inclining the ear of your heart. Here’s how Bradley summarizes his book:

During my time as a stay-at-home dad, I was clueless on how to be the father my daughter needed. This was when I discovered the art of listening to my daughter and that if I listened close enough, she would help me become the dad and man she needed in her life.

The book contains seven “short stories” (really personal essays) on various aspects of parenting that together trace the journey that Bradley has taken along with his daughter, Lilly, and his wife, Rebecca, from cluelessness to understanding.

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