Parenting

My Favorite Parenting Books

My Top 3 Parenting Books

I’m a research nerd. When I was expecting my oldest, I read a ton about pregnancy and birth to help manage my expectations of that process. But pregnancy is a much shorter time period than parenthood, and most of us spend more time preparing for the hours of birth than the years after it.

I try to share helpful (or funny) resources on the Semi-Crunchy Mama Facebook page, but I have managed to read a few books in the last few years that stand out as having influenced my parenting in a big way.

My Top 3 Parenting Books for Semi Crunchy Parents

Don’t have time to read? My secret is to download the Kindle app for your phone. I make the background black so it’s not as bright, and I read while I put my kids to bed or am up nursing at night. There are tons of ebooks available from the library, too! Another option is audiobooks if you have a commute, or you can listen while doing chores.

Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn

Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn

This is a great book to read even before your kids are born. (You also have more time to read when you don't have children yet.)

This book is more overall philosophy than practical application, but it offers a big picture view of what kind of parent you might want to be (and why) backed up by studies and research. Most parenting books tend to be based on social and cultural norms, but Alfie Kohn goes beyond that and talks about the kind of society and culture we could have if we parented in a way that was best for our kids, not that was best for the views of other adults.

It's an incredibly eye-opening book, since most of us base our approach on what our parents did, but don't always examine if that's the best approach or just the familiar one.

The downside is that it can make you think about what your childhood might have looked like if your parents had read this book, and you may be disappointed. The book made me rethink my views of praise, school, and discipline. When I'm feeling frustrated or disconnected from my kids, revisiting the principles found in this book help me remember what kind of parent I want to be so I focus more on our relationship than on my kids’ behavior.

There is also a summary of the book HERE.

Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids by Dr. Laura Markham

Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids by Dr. Laura Markham

I originally discovered Dr. Markham through her website, ahaparenting.com, and was lucky to hear her speak locally here in San Diego when my oldest was about a year old. I appreciate her approach, which is grounded in attachment theory, and provides a roadmap for “authoritative parenting” -- the happy middle ground between controlling authoritarian and unsupportive permissive styles.

She offers specific phrases and concrete examples that I can use in my actual life. I can't promise that my kids actually react like the dialogues in the book, but I have found it very useful, and her focus on empathy is incredibly important and valuable. Luckily, before I had my second baby, her book Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings was released as well. (I'll do a separate post on sibling resources another time.)

Much of her advice can be found on her blog and newsletters, but having the book as a resource I can revisit has definitely paid off.

Pro-tip: sometimes the Kindle version goes on sale for just a few dollars. It’s still worth it at full price!

Playful Parenting by Lawrence Cohen


I recommend this book so often that I ended up writing a blog post about it because I couldn't find a good summary to send to clients and friends. Cohen is a play therapist, and also a father, so he draws from both his personal and professional experiences.

My oldest was a toddler when I read it, but the activities apply until at least the tween years. He explains various approaches to enter the world of our children to meet them where they are, and how to use play to connect to our kids and give them an outlet for their emotions and struggles.

Being playful and silly does not come naturally to me, but having specific ideas gives me a starting point and ideas to at least get started. When I get it right, it’s like magic!

There are many activities and games described in the book, or he has an entire separate book called The Art of Roughhousing which has diagrams. He also wrote The Opposite of Worry (I’m halfway through) which discusses playful approaches specifically for kids with anxiety.

Two other books I’ve heard are great:

  • The Whole Brain Child by Dan Siegel I've started, but not finished. It explains normal brain development and what that means for managing expectations of behavior in young kids.
  • The Conscious Parent by Dr. Shefali Tsabary comes highly recommended and sounds interesting as it explores the "parent-child journey" as we learn alongside our kids.

Have you read any of these? What are your favorites?

* I do use affiliate links for books, so if you purchase through me, I make a few cents for the referral. It goes toward feeding my kiddos who eat 9 zillion times a day, so I appreciate it.

Great Podcasts for Young Kids

Great Podcasts for Young Kids

It's summer! Are you planning to travel? Road trip? Fly?

Even just driving around for summer activities can mean more time in the car when the kids need entertainment. My oldest can't do screens and we don't even own a tablet, so what can you do to prevent whining, fighting, and screaming?

Enter the podcast.

Great Podcasts for Kids

We also love audiobooks on CD, or downloading digital ones to our phones from the library system, too. But for shorter trips, the 20-30 minute length of podcasts can be just enough to get you through that sticky traffic.

I subscribe to these so the last 2-4 episodes are downloaded onto my phone when I'm connected to WiFi at home, then I don't have to stream anything using data while we're in the car. I also have an auxiliary cable to plug my phone into my car speakers, or your car may have bluetooth capability if it's newer than mine.

My kids are currently 2 and 5, so while some of the content may go slightly over the toddler's head, he still tolerates or enjoys all of these. Most of them should appeal to slightly older kids, too, but your kids may have different tastes!

Great Podcasts for Young Kids

>> Circle Round from WBUR <<

Circle Round takes folk tales from around the world, adapts them for a narrator and several voice actors (usually one being from a TV show that adults will recognize, or from NPR News), and creates original music for each story. A few recent episodes feature stories from Kazakstan, Portugal, and Ghana, and generally have some sort of moral or lesson.

If you visit their website you can listen directly from the site, read a transcript of the episode, download coloring pages, and see featured instruments from the episode's music. New episodes come out each week.

>> Brains On! from American Public Media <<

Brains On! describes itself as "an award-winning science podcast for kids and curious adults." Each week, a child is the guest co-host as they explore various topics in science. Episodes range widely from animals to electrons to space to weather. They dig in to how and why things happen.

It may be a little complex for the toddler set, but my little one will sit through most of an episode.

>>Wow in the World from National Public Radio and Tinkercast <<

Wow in the World is one of MY favorites. Co-hosts Guy Raz and Mindy Thomas are silly and entertaining enough to keep the kids engaged, but throw in smart humor for everyone. This science-y show reminds me a bit of the Magic School Bus - they use their shrink ray to make themselves miniature so they can learn about plankton, for example.

My oldest will ask to sit in the car until the episode is over.

>> Story Pirates from Gimlet Media <<

Story Pirates also has live performances and tours across the country, but we've only heard them in the car. (Ok, and sometimes I'll put on an episode so I can take a shower without the boys fighting.) The premise is simple: listeners submit their stories, and the Story Pirates flesh it out and adapt it into a fancier version.

There's a running framework of them being pirates on a ship, and there is some cheeky humor to keep the grownups amused, but it's engaging and fun. My oldest really wants to write a story to send in!

>> But Why? from NPR/Vermont Public Radio <<

But Why? is another science-y show, but this one takes listener questions and brings in an expert to answer them. The topics are more general than some of the previous podcasts - Why Is Money Important? Are There Underground Cities? - and may appeal to a little younger set as well.

>> Peace Out from Bedtime.fm <<

My kids don't love Peace Out as much as I do, but sometimes I put it on whether they like it or not. It's a combo yoga/meditation podcast for kids with a story theme to help guide them through. They cover a variety of emotions and situations where mindfulness can be a useful tool.

If my little ones are still running wild at bedtime, I'll lay on the bed with the lights out and play an episode just to help them calm down. There are suggested movements in many episodes, but we haven't managed that because my kids are feral. If nothing else, it relaxes me!

>> Sparkle Stories <<

Sparkle Stories is available as a podcast, or as a paid subscription with access to over 1000 original stories. We've only listened to a few, but the stories follow a group of animals who live at a junkyard and come across various questions and problems to solve.

Which will you listen to first?

Any favorites that your kids love?

And of course, for grownups, I'd love to suggest my podcast, too. Search "Semi Crunchy Mama" on iTunes, Stitcher, or Google Play, or listen right here on my site.

Introducing Solids with Baby Led Weaning – An Online Course



You swear you just gave birth eight seconds ago, but suddenly your baby is rolling over and eyeballing that burrito in your hands. Your pediatrician/sister/mother-in-law is telling you to start feeding your baby solids last week, but you're not so sure he or she is ready. You spent about 3 minutes on Google, saw so much conflicting advice you decided you'd rather do laundry, put down your phone, and haven't looked back.

That's how I felt when my oldest turned 3 months old and I realized I had limited time to figure out a plan. Would I make my own organic purees, or buy them at the store? Are those pouch things OK or filled with mold or what? Fruits first or veggies? What’s this “baby-led weaning” thing I keep hearing about? After I grew and nourished this small human from my own body up until now, would our nursing relationship change once food was introduced? *cue nervous hand-wringing*

  • Maybe you've heard of baby-led weaning but aren't sure what it is, how it works, or how to start.
  • Maybe you're worried about offering table foods so early - won't your baby choke?
  • Maybe you started your other kid(s) with purees, but they're picky and you want to try something else.
  • Maybe you're breastfeeding and are concerned about maintaining your milk supply once your baby starts eating.
  • And maybe you know you have to give food eventually but just want someone to tell you what to do without researching it all yourself.

You're tired enough already. Keeping another human alive is hard work. All you want is to know The Right Way to do this because you’re trying to be the best mom you can possibly be.

If so, this class is for you.

Instead of asking your mom group, talking to your pediatrician, buying 3 books and a baby food making machine (plus all those little trays for the freezer - are they BPA-free?), joining 6 more Facebook groups, and trying to figure out if peanut butter is truly evil or not, you can just take this course.

Save time, precious sleep-deprived brain cells, and yourself from judgmental Facebook comments.

Afterward, you'll have all the information you need to start feeding your baby with confidence. You'll understand the research and statistics behind the concepts, and have step-by-step instructions and lists of foods to offer by age and stage. It's all read and summarized for you because mom brain is real.

Why listen to me instead of my mom/friend/pediatrician?

Before I was a mom, I was a health coach. When my first son was born, I applied my love of nutrition nerdery to figuring out how to set my son for success with healthy food. I really wanted there to be *one best way* so I knew I was doing it right.

The amount of conflicting information and opinions was overwhelming.

I came across the concept of Baby Led Weaning, read as much as I could find, and decided to try it -- along with purees. My son threw up purees, so that was the end of that experiment. BLW it was.

Friends started to ask me about our experience, so I told them (I have lots of opinions). Week after week at my mom group, I'd explain the idea, and if they asked questions I didn't know the answer to, I tried to find out.

After reading several books, what felt like a million websites, and every related study I could find, the information I compiled grew into a class I've taught locally here in San Diego since 2015. I’ve boiled all that information down into an easily digestible approach so you can make informed choices that are best for your family.

Your mom/friend/pediatrician means well, but they’re telling you what they did. To be fair, I tell you what I did, too, but as one example (and with two kids who had unique journeys).

Over 100 local families have attended my classes. And no matter where you live, now you can, too!

"I didn't know baby led weaning was a thing when I had my first daughter, but I wanted to try it out with my second. I was too sleep-deprived to read long books or dig around for tips online -- I needed to learn from a mom who had already figured everything out.

Stacy is that mom! Her class helped me learn what I needed to know quickly, Through BLW I've seen my baby explore her curiosity about food and learn to confidently and safely feed herself."

- Jules Taggart, mom of 2

When parents leave my classes, the most common theme I hear is that they actually feel prepared. It's scary to be entirely responsible for the survival and well-being of a tiny person! Simply becoming a parent does not mean any of us know what we're doing. At least this way you have a roadmap for success in this area.

And I made it as easy as possible for you. After holding several "live" online classes, I realized that time zones and scheduling were for the birds (or people without kids).

  • Watch from the comfort of your own home/job (I won't tell). No need to drive to class!
  • Content is broken into short segments for nap time viewing convenience (the longest video is 16 minutes).
  • Share the information with your partner or baby's caregiver.
  • Rewatch as needed. Less pressure to remember the info.
  • Transcripts are included so you can read ahead, or stay quiet during nap time.
  • PDF handout has the most important points so you don't have to remember them. Print it out if you'd like!
  • Free content updates when new recommendations come out.

In the course you’ll learn:

  • The difference between BLW and spoon-feeding purees
  • The signs that your baby is ready to start solid foods (or not)
  • Myths about feeding solids
  • The best foods to start with and how to prepare them
  • Foods to avoid for health and safety
  • How to approach allergenic foods based on current research
  • Tips and tricks to make food as fun and as little work as possible

"We planned to wait until our son was 6 months old to introduce solid foods, so I signed up for Stacy's class because I wanted to go into his 4 month pediatric appointment armed with up-to-date, accurate information about starting solids. I get bogged down reading ALL THE THINGS, and trusted Stacy to do the research for me and present me with the perfect guide to baby-led weaning: nothing more and nothing less than I needed to read. She did!

At 13 months my son continues to be an adventurous eater, devouring any and everything we give him. I recommend BLW to all of my friends who are parents, if for no other reason than it's just so easy. When we noticed our son had an egg sensitivity, Stacy helped us navigate that, too.

I hope we never have a picky eater (haha!), but if we do, I look forward to taking her toddler classes in the future!"

- Anni Metz, mom of one

You're just trying to be the best parent you can be, but there's a lot of conflicting advice out there. It's much easier to start solids once you have a foundation of knowledge so you actually feel like you know what you're doing.

It's about as close to a manual as you get with parenting.

Imagine yourself eating your own (warm!) food while your baby sits in his or her highchair eating the same thing. No slaving away batch-cooking vats of organic mush (do you even know where those freezer cube tray things ended up?), just serve dinner and enjoy mealtime together.

It's really that easy! (I go into more detail, I promise.)

The investment for the course is $75 which includes all course updates for free (I update my handouts every month or two as new research emerges).

That's actually a little less than seats in my live class for 2, plus gas, parking, and lunch. Plus you can pause and rewind!

All you have to do is CLICK HERE to register. You'll check out, then enter your name and email to get access to the course.

BAM. Done.

If you still have individual concerns that I don't address in the class, I also offer private feeding consultations over the phone or video conference. I would love to support you and your baby's health.

A Crash Course in Feminist Parenting (the Cliffs Notes version)

A Crash Course in Feminist Parenting

Feminism often gets a bad rap as something for lesbian femi-nazis, so suggesting you consider feminist parenting could sound extreme.

That is, until you realize that this craaaaazy idea simply mean that women should have the same social, educational, and economic opportunities as men.

Whoa, right?

It might be easy to see why people would want to raise feminist daughters - girls have a pretty vested interest in their own futures - but what may not be as obvious is how imperative it is that we raise feminist sons, as well.

As the mother of two boys, 2016 has been a rough ride. When my youngest was a baby I was relieved that I didn't have to deal with all the "baggage" that comes with a daughter and all the media pressure about weight and body image and clothes and all that. Then I learned that rape culture was so prevalent that raising a son who wasn't a rapist was more challenging that I must think.

At first I didn't realize that some of the things I did were feminist, they just made sense. Instilling a sense of body autonomy and teaching consent were practical things to do, but the more I understood about them, the more importance they had. When you have young kids it sounds like a slippery slope to compare haircuts and hugging grandma to rape culture, but it's not.

I'm no expert in this area. Intersectionality still makes my head spin a bit. I'm white and straight raising white sons, so this technically impacts them least of all.

And that's why it's so important to me.

A Crash Course in Feminist Parenting

You practically need a new college minor to sift through the literature around this, so here's a Cliffs Notes version of a crash course - a compilation of list articles with enough info to get you started. We're all making it up as we go anyway, but at least you'll have a foundation.

“DEAR IJEAWELE, OR A FEMINIST MANIFESTO IN FIFTEEN SUGGESTIONS” by Chimamanda Adichie

10 Ways Feminist Parents Raise Strong-Willed Boys To Be Amazing Men by Sabrina Joy Stevents

10 Things Feminist Moms Do Differently Than Any Other Parents by Jamie Kenney

11 Way to Raise a Feminist Son Because Feminism Is Good for Everyone by Britni de la Cretaz

5 Ways I Practice Intersectional Feminist Parenting by Akilah S. Richards

Why I Am Raising My Child to Be a Feminist and Why I Think You Should Too by Dan Arel

21 Ways to Raise a Feminist Child by Lyndsay

Want to Be a Feminist Parent? 4 Goals to Consider by Paige Lucas-Stannard

9 Way to Teach Consent to Your Toddler Before They're Old Enough to Explain It by Sarah Bunton

This is not exhaustive, but if we make an effort to listen and learn, and model that for our kids, we're on the right track.

Playful Parenting Techniques That Work

Playful Parenting Techniques That Work

If you've ever found yourself sweating and on the brink of tears in the back of your car trying to shove your child as gently as possible into their car seat after 30 minutes of struggle and hysteria in 90 degree weather, you're not alone.

I've been there more times than I care to admit.

Then I read the book Playful Parenting by Lawrence Cohen. I tried a few of his suggestions. Within a few days, it got easier. He didn't struggle as much. It didn't take as long. I wasn't crying. It was like magic.

Sold.

Cohen is both a play therapist and a dad. I appreciated his perspective as a professional mixed with his personal experiences at home with his own daughter.
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The Paradox of the Lonely Mother

The Paradox of the Lonely Mother

After becoming a mother you're rarely alone. My son's favorite place has always been pressed against me at all times.

(I'm not sure how dads get a free solo pass to the bathroom but there has to be some mystery left in the universe.)

Yet, at the same time, motherhood can be extremely isolating.

We no longer live in village communities where extended multi-generational families care for each other. I'm not romanticizing this idea, but as someone whose immediate family lives thousands of miles away, there is a certain appeal.

We feel pressure to bounce back, whether it's into our pre-baby jeans, fitness routine, work schedule, or other obligations.

Yet we have no idea how motherhood will change us. No matter when (or if) we fit back into those jeans, a different person is putting them on. Our lives revolve around different needs and priorities, few of which are our own.

I have over 1,000 friends on Facebook, yet do I really know what's going on in their lives? I talked to a friend recently on Skype and said, "I know all about your kids' sleep schedules, but how are YOU?"

I love all the connections I have on social media to share experiences, yet how deep do those connections go? And what experiences do we actually share?

I'm guilty of this myself.

Every night I post three "daily positives" on my Facebook wall. They range from moments of gratitude to fun things we did or silver linings I experienced that day. Some days I truly have to dig deep.

Those posts are for ME.

But when other people look at them, they may think everything over here is sunshine and roses all the time.

I don't post about the breakfast my son threw on the floor that I had to clean up, or the potty accident he had, or how he ran out the back door naked while I was trying to clean up the afore(not)mentioned messes. I don't want to dwell on those moments in my own life.

I don't want to constantly read about those moments from others, either, to be honest.

Like I mentioned to a friend, people don't get dogs so they can pick up poop, but that's also part of the deal.

But I know that my posts play into the idea that everything is going well all the time. And that's not true.

Parenting Secret: None of us really have our shit together.

After this topic came up multiple times in a week, I organized my first mama circle here in San Diego. I have never led anything like this before and wanted to make sure it worked like I thought it would. It ended with everyone in tears and a group hug. It was amazing.

The most voiced comment? "I thought I was the only one."

You're not the only one.

It's hard to be vulnerable at all, let alone when we're chasing our kids at the park or trying to stop our toddlers from eating food they found on the ground or changing a diaper. It's hard to maintain a complete train of thought when we're parenting, let alone finish a sentence - or truly listen to one. It's hard to truly connect.

Humans are social animals. Even introverts need to be heard and understood.

Mothers Circle is held the second Friday of the month in San Diego. To hear about upcoming circles, or upcoming training to hold your own circles, get updates by email.

The Biggest Secret of Parenting

Before my son was born I read a lot more about birth than parenting. Considering that information only covered about 12 hours from my first contraction, I had a lot of catch up to do once he arrived.

And wow, the learning curve felt steep. When he was around 10 months old I finally read this article about features of a high needs baby. My son met 11 of the 12 criteria.

I just thought all babies were like that because he was the only one I had.

Other moms' mentioned their high-needs babies and I thought about how terrible that sounded - my son wouldn't sleep longer than 37 minutes, had to be constantly held, and went from 0-to-hysterical in 3 seconds flat. And they had it worse?

Apparently not. Whew.

(Looking back I have no idea how I survived those first two years with my sanity relatively intact, though that's up for debate.)

Entering my third trimester of pregnancy with my second child I vacillate between peace and panic. On one hand, at least I have some idea of what to expect.

On the other hand, I have some idea of what to expect -- plus a 3-year-old. Hold me.

Parenting Secret: None of us have ANY IDEA what we are doing

With my first I felt intense pressure to "do it right." I wanted to read all the books and articles and expert opinions.

Then I learned that anyone who tells you there is one way to do anything is selling you their book.

Do I give weight in to experienced professionals say and what studies can show us? Yes. But the most important thing is doing what works for me and my family. I am the expert at my children.

So I'll stock up on strategies for smooth transitions for siblings, but this time I will have fewer expectations of myself. Because I don't know much about THIS baby yet.

In a class with Pam England (author of Birthing From Within) she explained her philosophy of "B+ Parenting."

She said that none of us can ever be a perfect parent. When we think we can, we set ourselves up for failure. Instead, she says, aim to be a B+ parent. Better than average, but without the pressure of never screwing anything up.

We will inevitably screw up.

That's what parenting is about. It's picking our battles and trying not to screw up too bad while loving the crap out of these little imperfect humans. We're learning along with them.

You're doing the best you can with what you have available at the moment. That's enough.

You're enough.


Not feeling like it lately? Motherhood can be an overwhelming hamster wheel of laundry and trying to remember what else you need to do.

If you're feeling stuck and don't even know where to start, you're not alone. If you need a hand to make the leap, I'd love to offer mine.

CLICK HERE to book a FREE Save Your Sanity Session

Want to stay in the loop?

Let's be honest - you'll forget to check back. Because mom brain is real.