November 12, 2005

Book Review: What's Going On In There?

I forget who suggested this book to me, but I have been reading it on and off for a while now: Whats going On In There? How the Brain and Mind Develop in the First Five Years of Life by Lise Eliot, Ph.D.

get it at Amazon

The author is both a neuroscientist and a mom, and is really good at explaining neuroscience concepts in layman's terms. The Amazon reviews for the book are pretty good, so I will defer to them (here's the link).

Two suggestions:

  1. Read this book BEFORE the baby comes. Trust me on this one. It's amazing how sleep deprivation really affects the ability to comprehend and retain even the most basic information isn't it? ;)

  2. Read it with a highlighter in your hand and a pad of paper next to you. You'll want to take notes while you read it, because nuggets of information that make you think "this is DEFINITELY what I should do when the baby is X months old" are lost in the text, and are very very hard to find later (I tried, unsuccesfully, for this post)

Come to think of it, the first suggestion is good for all parenting books: if you and your partner are expecting, read ahead while you can still understand what you are reading! :)

Posted by patata at 02:36 PM

Book Review: Trees Make the Best Mobiles

This is a long overdue review of a book that my good friends Drew and Heather gave us for our baby shower: Trees Make the Best Mobiles: Simple Ways to Raise Your Child in a Complex World.

get it at Amazon

My rating: must buy. In fact, you should buy 4 copies: one for each side of your bed, one for your bathroom, and one to give to your best friends for their baby shower.

The book is a collection of short (2 to 3 pages) little chapters, so you can read it all at once or use the book as a reference.

Since I'm stupid-tired and can't come up with a good review of my own, you should read the reviews at (skip the bad ones though). Basically it's about how you don't need a ton of toys or to run around like crazy stressing yourself and your baby out. Slow down, live in the moment and let your baby BE.

We love it, and have read it (or parts of it) pretty much continuously since we got it. It has helped us stay calm and our baby is a very peaceful one as a result.

If we know you and you are expecting a child, this is what you'll be getting from us, so don't buy it (I already have 3 extra copies lined up).

Posted by patata at 11:52 AM

Book Review: Sign With Your Baby

Our friends and awesome source of parenting inspiration Becca and Ozzie sent us a copy of "Sign With Your Baby: How to Communicate With Infants Before They Can Speak" by Dr. Joseph Garcia.

get it at Amazon

My rating for the book is: good.

Here's what's good about it:

You can buy it by itself or with an instructional video, which I don't have so I can't comment on (but I hear it's good).

Last but definitely not least, I love the book because of the SWEET 'STACHE that the man in the illustrations sports while signing (it turns out that it's Dr.Garcia himself). We're talking full, thick, no compromise, front and center mustache. Wicked. Here's a picture of Dr.Garcia (from his website, but the stylized illustrations in the book somehow make his 'stache even better! :)


I think I will still buy the "Signing Time!" videos at some point, but this is definitely a good starter.

[Ok, I have mustaches on my mind these days because my favourite charity event of 2005 is about to start.]

Posted by patata at 08:53 AM | Comments (1)

November 11, 2005

Book Review: Be Prepared


I just read the first half of "Be prepared - A practical Handbook for New Dads".

Overall, it's good. It's very funny, informative, and definitely catered to men (I read somewhere that it was "like the other books, without the breastfeeding tips and the sentimental mumbo-jumbo", which is pretty accurate). The illustrations are as good as the copy, some are definitely hilarious. The book-companion website,, is, for once, a very good website! Make sure you check out the downloads section.

I would recommend it as a good baby-shower present for your dad-to-be friends.

There is one thing that bugs me about the book: it is written in a way that makes me think that the authors have never heard of same-sex parents or stay-at-home-dads. I don't think it's intentional, since there isn't a little disclaimer at the beginning of the book or anything. The stereotypes abound (which makes it easier to be funny, I understand. One chapter is titled "Reading Sports Illustrated to Your Baby" for instance), but it still bugs me. I guess I'm becoming more and more of a San Franciscan... ;)

Another small thing about the book, which I strongly disagree with: on page 65, in the chapter about putting your baby to sleep, it says "Before you lay the baby down, you've got to make sure she's entered into a good, sound slumber. To test her level of sleepiness, lift one of her arms a couple of inches and then let it fall. If she offers any resistance, then you need to do some more rocking". On the next page, the whole page is dedicated to "The Delicate Art of the Transfer" from lap to bed.

I couldn't disagree with that statement more. How is your baby going to learn to put herself to sleep if you never give her a chance? As much as possible you should wait until she is half-asleep when you put her down, but not more. In her head, I think this is what happens: "mmh, this sucks. I guess I could start crying about it, but that would take a lot of work and I'm SOOO tired, maybe I'll just fall asleep instead". ;) And if you do it, there's no need to master the art of the transfer!

If I find other things I disagree with while reading the book I'll add them here. Back to reading some more!

Posted by patata at 05:24 PM

November 05, 2005

Bilingualism - Book review and personal update

I have decided to start a new blog category about raising Guido Jack bilingual, in hope our experience will be useful to others.

Let's start with a book review: The Bilingual Family - A Handbook For Parents, second edition.


The book is divided in two parts: the first half is a general discussion of bilingualism and language learning as a whole, the second is comprised of 18 short case studies (one to two pages each) of bilingual families: who they are and where they live, how and why they raised their children bilingual and how it turned out. The second edition has some "15 years later" short interviews with the kids, in which they reflect on their bilingual upbringing.

I would give the book a 3 out of 5 rating overall: it's well written and well researched, but it just didn't do it for me. The first half is extremely academic, but offers very little practical day-to-day tips. Basically the authors spend 80 pages trying to convince you that bilingualism is THE BEST and YOU SHOULD DO IT and REALLY, IT'S FINE and those who think that your baby will speak later or will be confused DON'T KNOW BETTER and did they mention that bilingual babies ARE THE BEST? All through very long descriptions of how the brain works and of how this study showed this and this other study showed that. In other words, it seems like they were fighting a war of ideas with people I don't know and don't care about: if I didn't want to raise my child bilingual, would I have bought this book in the first place?

The second half is a little more useful, but none of the case-studies mapped our situation at all, which was also frustrating. Their examples are very Euro-centric, which is understandable. At the same time I can't help but feeling that raising an italian-english bilingual child in California (only what seems like a million miles away from Italy) will be harder than raising one in France or England (only a 1- to 2-hour, 30-Euro flight away).

Once again, in each case study, the author's not-so-hidden mission to convince you to DO IT transpires, basically saying that whichever way you do it IT WILL WORK IN THE END AND YOUR CHILD WILL LOVE IT.

Now, I agree with all those statements and I understand (I think) how great it will be for Guido Jack, but I don't like being preached to. I was looking for some practical tips, like "what to do when you just can't think of a particular word in Italian" or "will your kid be embarrassed of you in front of his friends since you speak some alien language"? Oh well, now at least I know that IT WILL BE GREAT NO MATTER WHAT, GODDAMIT! ;)

Which brings me to part two of this post, my personal feelings about raising The Guids bilingual. I need this post mostly to clear the thoughts in my head than for anything else, so bare with me.

First of all, at this moment in time I feel a great deal of anxiety about it (GJ is only 3-weeks-old so I think it's OK, I haven't totally screwed this up yet).

Let's see, why the anxiety:

So overall, because of all these mixed feelings, the thing that worries me the most is my ability to really commit to it and give it all the effort necessary to succeed. I can't help but feeling that if I was proud to be Italian, or we lived closer to Italy, or my english wasn't as good, or Italian was this great language for business...things would be easier for me. As it stands, I feel like I need a little more motivation than what I have before I can be religious about always and only speaking italian to my son.

Wow, that really helped. I don't know how I am going to deal with these feelings just yet, but having them written down will be good.

In the meantime, here are some short-term measures I will take:
- go out and buy MYSELF a couple of novels in Italian to read in bed
- go out and buy the baby a bunch of italian children's books

I have Googled around and an Italian bookstore in North Beach (Cavalli Italian Bookstore), I will go check it out this week and stock up.

Also, for Christmas all I want for the Guids is Italian toys (no batteries, no plastic please) and Italian children's books.

One last thing: I would love to hear from other parents are raising or have raised their children bilingual in the US (I can imagine a lot of asian-americans living in the Bay Area). Any tips / words of encouragement will be much appreciated!

Posted by patata at 01:26 PM | Comments (2)

July 28, 2005

The pregnancy books we own

I think 4 is a good number, maybe 3 would be best. We're pretty satisfied with our selection:

What to expect when you're expecting - the classic, pretty good tone actually

Pregnancy Sucks: what to do when your miracle makes you miserable - indispensable, I posted about it here

The girlfriend's guide to pregnancy - also pretty funny and good

Your pregnancy week by week - We don't like this one - I already posted about it here

Posted by patata at 10:33 AM

A pregnancy book we DON'T recommend: Your Pregnancy Week by Week

So M and I own 4 pregnancy books. The more we read this one, the more we don't want to read it any more: Your Pregnancy Week by Week

Maybe because it's written by an M.D., maybe because the author just derives some sick pleasure in making expecting parents worry...each chapter is about "what could go wrong this week!" more than anything else.

It's a good book to have if something indeed does go wrong (plenty of information about that!), so we won't trash it yet, but from now on I'll read it and censor its information before relaying it to M.

Posted by patata at 10:27 AM | Comments (1)

June 12, 2005

Books: Pregnancy Sucks

This book: Pregnancy Sucks: What to Do When Your Miracle Makes You Miserable is really funny, we recommend it.

Posted by patata at 07:38 PM