Book Reviews: The Collectibles & The Kitchen House

I can’t decide whether I am getting more picky or if I’m just not happening upon great books. I’ve been incredibly remiss in posting on this blog as of late, and this is due in large part to lack of inspiration. Don’t get me wrong, I would probably recommend both of the books I’m reviewing here, but they just didn’t get me writing. One of the reasons I started this blog was to try to keep straight what I’m reading. I have read so much for so long that oftentimes books bleed together and I can’t remember the title of a book I want to recommend or re-read. Anyway, without further ado, here are two books I read recently.

The Collectibles  by James J. Kaufman

The Collectibles by James Kaufman book reviewI appreciated that Joe, our leading man  - a big-shot lawyer and widower, spoke and thought openly about his strong faith. This is rare in mainstream books and refreshing. I would recommend this book for men, which I appreciated because I rarely have something to reliably recommend to men. The writing was straight-forward, and the relationships are primarily between men. Joe is a man’s man and I just think it’s a win for the gentlemen. The ending was worth the sometimes slow descriptions of law and finance. James J. Kaufman is new on the writing scene,  but actually is a practicing business owner. This one’s won several awards, so he’s already started on book 2; The Collectibles will be a trilogy.

The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom

The kitchen house book reviewIn the same vein as The Help, this one talks about the world of serving and the strange divide between black and white that continues to plague us, especially in certain parts of the country. This one centers around a white indentured servant. Like The Help, The Kitchen House was one that you couldn’t possibly read only a few pages at a time. You will absolutely fly through this one, so don’t start reading it late at night. You’ll also fall in love with the characters, so be prepared to be sad when it’s over.

Sorry for the serious delay but try The Collectibles and The Kitchen House a try – they are worth a look.

Language and Literacy for 2 Year Olds

Preschool_tree (1)When I was little, my little sister’s hiccups in language development would drive me crazy. She used to say things like “counsint” instead of “cousin”. Enough to drive a know-it-all second grader crazy! My baby boy now finds frustration in his own hiccups in language development. I just can’t help but find it entertaining and endearing. I love watching the way he almost gets the meaning of a phrase but doesn’t quite get it right.

For instance, he’ll say things like, “We are all peoples!” or “What is that dinosaur doing on top of those mans?”

This week, he was playing with his bath letters. He laid four in a row and said, “Q H I P spells letters!”

Not quite there, kiddo, but good effort!

I’m pretty sure he got the idea of spelling by watching the show “Super Why” on PBS. In case you’re considering tar-and-feathering me for letting my kid watch TV, I was one of those parents that guaranteed my boy was never going to watch TV.

Then, my husband deployed to Iraq.

Now we have a portable DVD player in the car. We’re still pretty choosy about what he watches, though. For instance, Toy Story 3 is simply too violent. We do love “Super Why” on PBS. I truly believe that Harrison has learned from it, based on the evidence that he knew letters late in the alphabet when we weren’t past learning about G or H.

Because I’m an editor with a Master’s degree in Speech and Hearing Science, our household is predisposed to an overabundance of literacy and language development activities. One of our favorite times to practice letters is during bath time, with the aforementioned bath letters. We make up songs and dance the letters around on the side of the tub. Harrison loves it.

Come to think of it, our other favorite language development game is related to songs as well. Daddy or I will sing a song and have our boy sing a missing word. So, Daddy will sing something like, “The itsy bitsy…” and Harrison sings, “Spider!” He thinks it’s hilarious and we love it, too.

One of the resources we used early on for language was the website of the American Speech Language and Hearing Association, but we’ve somewhat outgrown it.

Do you have any favorite language or literacy activities?

Sarah Breedlove Walker: Single Working Mom and Philanthropist

“An illiterate, impoverished daughter of freed slaves built the largest black-owned business in America, made a fortune, and touched thousands with her philanthropy.” – PBS’s “Who Made America”.


One of my role models is Sarah Breedlove Walker, and the border between black history month and women’s history month is the perfect time to gush about her. Because she made her fortune in Indianapolis (where I grew up), she has always been a hero to me. She is a fantastic role model for women, especially a lot of the women who follow this blog and have their own small businesses.

Sarah was the first of her six brothers and sisters to be born after the Emancipation Proclamation and thus, was born into freedom. However, she married at the age of 14 to escape the tyranny of working as a sharecropper on the plantation her parents had previously worked as slaves. Unfortunately, Sarah was orphaned and had lost her husband by the time she was 20 years old.

She moved to St. Louis with her 2 year old daughter and eventually made her fortune as a single mom – first as a washer woman, then selling shampoos, and then, finally, manufacturing her own shampoos (in Indianapolis). Her second husband was an advertising professional and he helped her cultivate an image (Madam C. J. Walker). She managed a 3,000 person sales force and took courses in public speaking and penmanship to improve her professional image. Throughout her career, she taught other women how to own their own businesses (through a school she started and named after her daughter). She also spoke at conventions and conferences and made large donations to multiple charities.

Her story is inspiring. She came from nothing but pain and made an incredible life with a legacy to leave to her daughter. One of my favorite parts of her story is that she ultimately retired in an Italianate villa in New York next to the likes of John D. Rockefeller. Amazing!

Her story reminds me of a book I’m reading titled Maude (1883-1993):She Grew Up with the Country by Mardo Williams. It’s the true story of Maude Williams, who was born in 1883 and died at the age of 110. The book details all of the changes she experienced – from cars to microwaves. Who knows what we’ll see in our lifetimes. Me? I’d like to see and be the type of change that Sarah Breedlove Walker saw and was.

Who is your professional role model?

Could You Unintentionally Make a Lie Go Viral?

lies are viralSeven months ago, a client (Jamie of “I Am Not the Babysitter”) and I were discussing the topic of a post she was writing about the inaccuracies she recognized in media reporting. Even reputable media sources report inaccuracies in information or bend information to make it “sell”. Media outlets use “expert” sources who actually have no real background in their field or who are compromising their professional ethics by commenting on certain topics.

Hatching a Plan

About two months later, she brought the topic up again. We ranted and raved, but had no real way to attack the problem. Then, another two months later, she pointed out the rampant inaccurate infographics online. It was then that we decided we should make an inaccurate infographic and throw it out to make a point. However, I was skeptical. I knew it would get shared — “I Am Not the Babysitter’s” Facebook page is well-respected and no one would think to question it. I didn’t think anyone would notice and we’d just have to point it out and it would be lame. So, we decided we would have to make it obvious. The infographic would have to contradict itself blatantly in order to be a really good study and make a really good point.

Jamie Hijacks a Post

She waited for the right topic to come along. She wanted it to be something we thought people would really click on and read, that way we could see if they noticed the inaccurate infographic. Finally, the topic of paid maternity leave in the U.S. came up. She immediately piped up, “That’s the post for our graphic!” I fought her a little at first. I didn’t want to belittle the topic of maternity leave, and she agreed, but we ultimately decided this was the perfect opportunity to reach her international Facebook fans. We searched for information and brainstormed about how to make the infographic seem real but still be blatantly inaccurate enough to possibly have a reader catch it. When we happened upon this outdated information being linked to multiple times and misquoted, we were inspired. 3 hours, 2 phonecalls, and approximately 7 picmonkey drafts later, this was born:


This is an important topic, and you can read more about our thoughts on it here, but if you’re interested, all of these countries have some sort of unpaid maternity leave. However, currently, the United States in the only industrialized country in the world that has no mandate for paid parental leave.

The Results

When she posted the inaccurate infographic in the blog post, no one commented. I called Jamie and lamented. We were both admittedly disappointed that no one had noticed, but we had a back-up plan to post it larger as an image on Facebook the next day.  When Jamie posted the infographic on Facebook, the very first comment was someone who noticed the discrepancy.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t all good news. The inaccurate infographic was actually shared 68 times on Facebook. Which means, it is incredibly easy for even blatantly inaccurate information to go viral. The moral of the story…FACT CHECK, PLEASE.

Do you usually check the information in an infographic before you share it?


Why the U.S. Needs Paid Parental Leave

Did you know? The United States is the only industrialized country in the world without a mandate for paid parental leave.

In the U.S., we get approximately 12 weeks of unpaid maternity leave, with most employers offering no paternity leave. Take at look at this infographic for a comparison of the U.S. to other countries. Many other countries have paid paternity and maternity leave, and most have an even longer than 12 weeks paid maternity leave.

We’re at a disadvantage in the United States because we have put an extreme amount of value in “success”, which puts an inordinate amount of pressure on families who feel like they have to make a choice between having a family or having a career.

Why is this detrimental?

"Leighblackall-76202405" by Leigh Blackall from Canberra, Australia - 03-online learning and resource production. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - is a social and economic issue. Socially, we American mothers are desperate to be supported in our decisions because we are forced to make such a critical choice about being home with our young babies or keeping our jobs. The discussions are heated and angry because we are angry. The Human Rights Watch 90-page report on this topic indicated that lack of parental leave has contributed to postpartum and post-adoption depression, as well as other health problems that have resulted from mothers giving up breastfeeding before they had desired to do so. Many of the parents who were followed for the study ended up taking unpaid leave, going into debt, and seeking public assistance. This makes maternity and paternity leave an economic issue.

What can we do?

Call your congressman or start a movement at your workplace. Google saw a 50% decrease in new mom attrition when they implemented a 5-month parental leave policy. Hiring is costly; remind your employer of this, and get your co-workers on board. While a government mandate would bring us up to par with other industrialized nations, we can also demand it at the employer level — let’s make this the norm for employment.

We should hold ourselves to a higher standard and demand paid maternal and paternal leave for all people who have made the decision to work and expand their family. It is not only important for the well-being of the individuals, but also the future of our economic well-being in the US.

Tips on Writing: Keep Your Content

“Being a writer is a very peculiar sort of a job: it’s always you versus a blank sheet of paper (or a blank screen) and quite often the blank piece of paper wins.”
― Neil Gaiman

For the more experienced blogger, or an author-blogger, tips on writing good content aren’t as useful as tips for simply keeping or finding content. There isn’t much more frustrating than sitting down to write about the idea you had yesterday and can’t remember anymore. Here are three ways that I avoid this scenario:

1. Schedule Facebook posts
Sometimes I get in a marketing mood and I have three or four ideas for posts or links. Other days, I don’t have time for Facebook. By scheduling new ideas for the future, I have consistent posts once a day. Additionally, I can schedule posts for the specific times during the day that they are more likely to be seen by more readers.

2. Start a draft.
In the past, I put ideas in a Microsoft word document. Confession: It simply became too much effort to take the time to open  Microsoft Word, go to the bottom of the document, and type in the idea. Lazy? Yes. Let’s say I’m just too busy to do it, okay? It has saved a lot of time to instead start a draft blog post with the idea. I always have my blog dashboard open anyway, it’s easy to open a draft and save it. Plus, every time I go in to publish a post, I am reminded of posts I’ve started and can quickly go in and add another point about that topic . For example, about three weeks ago, this particular post started as the words “schedule facebook posts” in the text with the title “don’t lose content”.

3. Keep a record of inspirational posts.
I just recently realized I should be using Pinterest for this, but I’ve just been bookmarking them. At first, I would go to those posts to get into the right frame of mind for writing. You know, to get out of the cleaning-coloring-biking-potty-training mood and in to the thinking-reading-editing-writing mood. Those bookmarked posts eventually gave me the inspiration to write the “Well-Written Wednesday” series. You can also ask to syndicate these posts as guests posts when you are out-of-town or having trouble coming up with content, so it’s just a good idea to have a working list of inspirational posts.


How do you keep from losing content?


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Well-Written Wednesday: Tips on Writing a Review Post

Tips on Writing by Jaymie image 1(New here? For more information about growing your blog revenue and the goals of “Well-Written Wednesday”, see here.) This week’s tips on writing come from Jaymie at Snacks for Max. Jaymie is a social media publicist for Author Solutions, and she has one toddler son. Jaymie’s uses her blog primarily to review children’s books.



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We had Max’s 18 month check-up last week, and I about choked when I read the Development Milestones title: “Mr. No”. How did they know that’s all Max has been saying for the past 3 weeks?

Tips on Writing by Jaymie image 2You see, I was smug, up until 3 weeks ago. Our child rarely told us no. In fact, if you asked him 10 questions, you’d get 9 yeses to each no. That didn’t last. Now, our world has flip-flopped. The little one’s default answer is now negative, and momma’s attitude is now not always positive!

For instance, we went to a neighborhood Halloween party Saturday, so we dolled Max up in his duck costume: webbed orange slippers, bright yellow bodysuit, and duck-billed  hood. He’s been practicing his quacking for, oh, the past year, and he learned to flap his wings reading Down By The Cool of the Pool, so we thought we were set.


Little Mr. No quacked not once, for one single party guest. “No!” he told me repeatedly. “No!” he told our neighbors when they begged for just one quack. Sigh.

Tips on Writing by Jaymie image 3The next morning I remembered a tool that could help. I’m not sure if it was the duck outfit or the nos, actually, that reminded me of Witzy, but boy, isWitzy Says No perfect for a momma at her wit’s end!

I’ve reviewed a Witzy book before, so you might be familiar with the little duck and his animal friends. In this Witzy adventure, the fowl decides it would be hilARious to answer his friends with nothing but No all day. They ask him to play catch; he says no. Fetch? No dice. Race? No way.

Witzy’s friends finally trip him up when they tell him all about this wonderful picnic they’re about to have and they ask him, “You wouldn’t want to miss it, would you?” Touche!

The book reminded me that 1) Max thinks he is silly rather than bad when he says no and 2) if Momma is creative about how she asks her questions, she can still get the outcomes she needs!

For these reminders, Witzy Says No deserves 5 snacks:

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Five reasons this editor thinks we can take tips on writing from Jaymie’s post:

  1. She starts with a personal story instead of jumping right into the review.
  2. She unsuspectingly and seamlessly transitions into the review.
  3. Her images coordinate with her post – Max and Witzy are both “ducks”.
  4. She summarizes the book concisely but it’s still intriguing.
  5. She has a consistent way of reviewing products (books) and she uses an image and term that coordinates with her blog theme (snacks).

For more Well-Written Wednesday posts and associated tips on writing, “like” our Facebook page.


Well-Written Wednesday: Tips on Writing featuring Jill from “Baby Rabies”

(New here? For tips on growing your blog revenue and the goals of “Well-Written Wednesday” see here.) The following tips on writing are inspired by this post written by Jill at Baby Rabies. Jill is the mother of two, and her blog is “the place where [she goes] into entirely too much detail about what happens when Baby Fever becomes Baby Rabies. Seriously, it’s really all too much information.”


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The day Leyna was born, just hours after she was placed in our arms, Scott’s 32-year-old cousin died from complications related to cystic fibrosis. Andy was a fighter, referred to as Superman by the family. He’d endured transplants, treatments, and multiple drugs to beat down the beast that was the disease he had since birth, a disease that is genetic. As far as cystic fibrosis is concerned, he lived a long life, but when you remove the disease from the equation, it was entirely too short.

Scott and I have never been tested to see if we carry the gene that could put our children at risk for CF, but both of the children have been tested at birth for it as part of their newborn screening done in the hospital. You can read more about it here. I’ve never second guessed the importance of having that done. If our baby has CF, we would need to know as soon as possible.

It’s also helped ease my mind. There was a point when Kendall got sick and displayed some symptoms that are related to CF, which really made my anxiety rise. After I remembered he’d been tested early on for that, and after talking with his pediatrician, I felt much more at ease. Turns out he was just having some typical toddler digestive issues.

The Newborn Screening only screens for about 50 health conditions, but advances in technology are making it easier for parents to find out much, much more about their baby’s genetic makeup at birth.

Bonnie Rochman is publishing a 5 part series on all about the pros and cons of so much information made available to new parents, and I find it fascinating.

 Genetic tests have been around for years, but in 2003 scientists took the field a step further, announcing the first complete mapping of a human genome — an entire genetic code. Sequencing, or “reading,” a person’s genome is one of the newest, most controversial tools in the medical arsenal because of the mother lode of information it contains about future disease risk. Genetic markers for heart disease or cancer may spur consumers toward healthier behavior. But when it comes to conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s that can’t be prevented, many experts are divided on whether knowing is helpful or harmful. -
“Test Your DNA For Diseases – No Doctor Required,” 

Honestly, I’m torn. Would this be something I’d want to know? How would this benefit us, specifically my children? Maybe even more important of a question- how would this hurt us?

Sometimes just because a person carries a gene for something, doesn’t mean they will be affected by it. That said, environmental factors plus that gene can make it more likely they will. So then I could at least try to control the environmental factors, right?

But then I just picture me putting my baby in a bubble and taking xanax for the rest of my life. I can’t imagine how this kind of information could affect postpartum mental health.

On the other hand, though, if I can know ahead of time that my kid will likely develop a disease, I can educate myself. I can be proactive. Is it irresponsible not to find out if you have the information available to you?

I don’t have answers to any of those questions. Just more questions.

How do you feel? If at birth you could have your child’s genetic makeup tested for everything under the sun, would you? And then what would you do with that? What if you found out they carry the gene for something that can’t be cured or prevented?

Maybe an even bigger question- when and how do you pass that information on to your child?

To read the series on kids and genetic testing, check out:

Will My Son Develop Cancer? The Promise (And Pitfalls) Of Sequencing Children’s Genomes (Part 1)

Test Your DNA For Diseases- No Doctor Required (Part 2)

The Trouble With My Daughter’s DNA (Part 3)

And follow Bonnie Rochman (on and on Twitter) to see when she publishes the last 2 posts in the series, each looking at the topic from a different perspective.

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Five reasons this editor thinks we can take tips on writing from Jill’s post:

  1. Her opening sentence gets right to the point and is attention grabbing.
  2. She uses major media as inspiration. This is great because it’s obviously an interesting topic and it’s a great way to build content for your blog.
  3. She uses different types of elements – an image, a list, a quote, outbound links. All of these components keep the post visually stimulating.
  4. She invites her readers to join in the conversation with several engaging questions. You’d be hard pressed to not have an opinion on any of her questions.
  5. She admits that she’s torn on the issue and doesn’t have all the answers. We can relate to this. Oftentimes, a blogger will tell me they aren’t writing a post about something they’re passionate about because they don’t understand the whole issue or don’t know the answer. It’s okay to write that!

For more Well-Written Wednesday posts and associated tips on writing, “like” our Facebook page.


Book Suggestions: Introducing Children to Art Through Books

As a country, we spend a lot of time talking about reading to our children and the importance of literacy. Thankfully! Obviously, literacy is important in and of itself, but the other part of reading to our children is that they need to have an interest in and appreciation for reading in order to pursue higher learning. In the future, they’ll learn about everything from art to math from books. The children’s book suggestions here include two books written by author-artists (or author-art-appreciators) who have made it possible for our kids to start using books to learn about art from a very early age.

A is for Art Museum by Katy Friedland and Marla Shoemaker

This book offers a review of the alphabet in a really clever way. For example, the page for “N” says that “N is for neck” and encourages children to stretch their necks out long like the women in the Modigliani painting. Every page has a suggestion for something to bring out the details of the piece — which is great for someone like me who has simply never been that art inclined. Both of the authors are employed at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Katy Friedland is Manager of Family and Children Programs and Marla Shoemaker is Senior Curator of Education. Every piece pictured in this book is contained within the Philadelphia Museum of Art. I loved the idea of this because we haven’t taken our son to our local art museum and probably won’t take him until he’s a little older (although, he did experience the art museum in utero when my husband and I walked the halls tirelessly attempting to start my labor). I like that he’s being exposed to this quality early-on.

book suggestions artful reading


Artful Reading by Bob Raczka

This one is right up my alley because the art is all focused on reading. My son loved this because it read like a poem and he could “help” me read it after a few times through by remembering the next rhyming word. I loved the idea of reading about art about reading, and the idea of talking about how people enjoy reading, but I was really impressed by the poetry of this book as well. The prose on each page encouraged Harrison to bring up qualities of the paintings, so he was really engaging in the art in a way that some of other books don’t necessarily encourage.

The author, Bob Raczka, has published 14 or 15 children’s books on art and could really be the mascot for this post. Bob studied art in college and works as an advertising writer by day. He is the father of three children, the oldest of whom ignited his interest in children’s books. In 1995, Bob says that reading “Polar Express” to his first son made him want to write a children’s book. Over the course of the next 5 years, he sent out 50-75 manuscripts – alphabet books and baseball stories. It wasn’t until 2000, when he submitted “No One Saw”, a book that utilized his art background, that he was picked up by Millbrook Press. Fast forward a decade – Bob has published more than a dozen children’s books on art. Currently, he’s writing primarily children’s poetry. The next on my list to check out is Lemonade – How to Squeeze Poems from a Single Word.

While we actually checked out 8-10 children’s books on art in preparation for this post, Artful Reading and A is for Art Museum were favorites in our household for quite a while – which means that my son asked for them twice a day (at naptime and bedtime) for an extended amount of time.

Do you and your child have a favorite children’s book related to art appreciation?





Book Suggestions: “Into the Child” by Shannon Bradley-Colleary

image: book suggestion into the childI originally read this book because it had 5 star reviews on Amazon and is just $2.99. I figured I couldn’t go wrong – and I certainly didn’t. I am no stranger to parenting books. I hoarded parenting books from the moment I started my second trimester and didn’t really stop looking for answers in them until I realized that any one I picked up would give me a different answer. “Into the Child” will be my first book suggestion for new moms now, but it’s a must-read for second-time moms.

Shannon’s style throughout the book is amusing but one story in particular, regarding a new pair of black pumps and their unfortunate loss, really had me chuckling. Shannon had a way of making me laugh about feeling like I whale during pregnancy or about being convinced that I will irreversibly “screw up” my son, without belittling those days or those feelings. Ultimately, this is my first book suggestion for new moms (but especially second-time moms) because I felt less crazy once I’d finished it. It’s my new favorite parenting book because while it didn’t necessarily give me poignant answers or advice on exactly how to guarantee I won’t mess up parenting, it did make me feel less like I needed to know the answers.

About the Author:

image: book suggestion by shannon bradley-collearyShannon Bradley-Colleary is a screenwriter who lives in L.A and writes for The Huffington Post and her blog “The Woman Formerly Known as Beautiful”. She wrote this book when she was pregnant with her second child but put it aside when she got busy with screenwriting. When she found herself with time more recently, she pulled it out to update and self-publish it. Shannon has done very well with self-publishing because she already had a great platform from her blog and a significant following from the Huffington Post. (She is a great example for the benefits of self-publishing!) She is currently screenwriting and writing her second book, which will also be a memoir, focused more on her career as an actress.