Sunday, July 25, 2010

Book Review: Sleeping Through the Night

Sleeping Through the Night, Revised Edition: How Infants, Toddlers, and Their Parents Can Get a Good Night's Sleep,Revised Edition by Jodi A. Mindell, Ph. D. Collins Living, 2005, 368 pages, $14.95 US.

Brief overview of content:

The book starts naturally enough with a discussion of what sleep is, the various stages of sleep (four stages of non-REM sleep and REM sleep). Next is a quick overview of ways for parents to manage their child's behavior, since this skill is of critical importance to implementing the changes recommended in the book. The book then focuses on establishing good sleeping habits with the child in the first few months, at bed time and in the bedroom (the child's bedroom or co-sleeping with the parents), and at nap time. The author describes steps for success, including how to cope with teaching a baby/toddler to sleep through the night. The author reviews various difficult situations that may arise or are of concern, like the child getting out of the crib or bed, waking up in the middle of the night or too early in the morning, or not falling asleep until late at night. She also discusses how to deal with disruptions to a sleep routine that naturally arise, like going on vacation or to a relative's house (with resulting changes to sleep conditions), toilet training, teething or illness. The book covers other basic sleep problems for children like snoring or sleep apnea, sleep walking, sleep terrors, regular old nightmares, and sleep talking. The author also reviews adult sleep disorders and difficulties at the end of the book.

Author overview:

Blurb from the back of the book: "Jodi A. Mindell, Ph.D. is associate director of the Sleep Disorders Center at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. She holds a Ph.D. in clinical psychology, is professor of psychology at Saint Joseph's University, and is the author of numerous publications on pediatric sleep disorders. She lives with her family in Rosemount, Pennsylvania."


1. Read cover to cover vs. consult as needed.

After having read the whole book, it definitely is more worth while to consult as needed. While not an overly long book (337 pages, not including appendixes and index), it is a little repetitive and very detailed. When writing about various disorders and their treatments, she lists the current drugs used for treatment, often a long list of unpronounceable names (at least they seemed that way to me). Also, she throws in a lot of examples of individuals parents and children who either had or dealt with the problem she is discussing. While adding this detail humanizes the topic, it also makes for a longer read. Zombie parents just don't have that much time.

2. Readability.

The book is well written and definitely the product of a scholarly mind. It isn't hard to read but all of it is a lot to read. I had to renew it twice at the library.

3. Helpful to a parent?

Yes, this book is definitely helpful if a parent needs advice or ideas on how to improve the sleep habits of a child. Lots of examples and encouragement to stick to the program are given throughout the book.

4. Did we use it?

One of the big issues in the book is to let the child learn to self-sooth to fall asleep. Once the child can do this, he or she can get back to sleep during the inevitable waking times throughout the night. If the parent doesn't allow the child to learn, the child will keep expecting parental interventions to get them to sleep. The first couple of times, the child may be awake and crying for up to an hour or more, which is tough on the parents. Even if the parent can't wait until the child falls asleep, the longer the parent can hold out, the better. I've been trying this with our daughter. The results have been greet, though I do have a tough time not going to intervene. I am learning when she cries out just to get attention versus when she cries because she really needs something (usually the pacifier she just threw out of the crib).

Sample text

On establishing a regular bedtime: Five to ten minutes before bedtime should begin, let her know that bedtime is coming. That way she can finish the puzzle she is working on or stop the video at an appropriate place. By the time your child is eighteen months, this tactic will be helpful. Starting at such a young age will also help her begin to understand the concept of time. Some parents find it helpful to set a timer at the five-minute mark. This helps alleviate the pressure on the parent: "Hey, the timer says it is time to go to bed." This can carry you for a long time before your child realizes that you are the one who set the timer. [p. 84]

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Zombie PSA: What Kind of Car You Need

The folks at Ford Motor Company provide this public service announcement, an altruistic and unbiased recommendation for zombie apocalypse preparation:

I like how the zombie seems confused when the first guy throws his shoe at the zombie. The lady's defense seems a little lame--a giant, flimsy tree branch? Followed by pepper spray (which shouldn't work anyway)? She deserved to be eaten by a zombie who could somehow sneak into her back seat.

Keyless entry and one-button starting makes for a good zombie getaway vehicle. Be sure to demand those features in your next car. I just hope Jonathan calls his friend back.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Feeding Vegetables to the Children

One of the great challenges for parents is to get the children to eat their vegetables. I often refused vegetables as a child. Now payback has come in the form of my two adorable children/zombie controllers. Jacob is especially suspicious of any food that is colored green. Quite often he will declare the green item to be "spinach" and claim that he does not like it. We must show him some Popeye videos. But I digress. Unfortunately for them, the children's control over their parents is not absolute and we have discovered a few ways to feed them things they'd rather not eat.

Most effective is hiding vegetables in other food. Once we added diced yellow peppers to scrambled eggs--virtually invisible to Jacob, he ate them with gusto. He loves sweet potatoes, so we add in some finely chopped green beans and hope he doesn't notice the offending color. It's easy to hide some salsa (which is nothing but a Cuisinarted vegetables) wrapped in a tortilla or cooked in a quesadilla. I wonder if this is why they started putting lettuce and tomato on hamburgers and other sandwiches.

Things that are naturally vegetabled are also good to fool them. Like spaghetti sauce. As long as it isn't too chunky, the kids love it. Jacob won't usually take toppings off a pizza unless they have the offending color. Casseroles also can be loaded with vegetable goodness. Another favorite of Jacob's is a skillet dinner called Tamale Pie (from the The Best 30-Minute Recipe cookbook linked below too) that has onions and tomatoes in abundance but not in appearance. Cheese and beef are a good cover flavor for veggies.

Good luck and let us know if you have any suggestions on how to feed vegetables to children. Remember: Just because you're low on brains, that doesn't mean you have to be low on ideas.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Book Review: How to Say No to Your Toddler

How to Say No to Your Toddler: Creating a Safe, Rational, and Effective Discipline Program for Your 9-Month to 3-Year Old, By Will Wilkoff, M.D., Broadway Books, New York, 2003, 226 pages, $12.95 US.

Brief Overview of Content:

The first chapter of the book reviews why you'd want to read this book (you are having trouble saying "no" to your child or you do say "no" but it doesn't work, or you are like me and afraid of when that time comes). Sooner is definitely better than later to work on teaching your child how to accept "no" as an answer and the book will give practical advice on how to get the child on board. His first bit of advice is to prioritize behaviors you want to change, suggesting that you focus only on behaviors that are hazardous to the child, not on developing manners. He argues that "no" has become ineffective because parents may eventually give in to the toddler or that negative consequences have not been followed through, so the child doesn't take "no" seriously. He also looks at the causes of misbehavior to help identify solutions, such as the toddler or parent not getting enough sleep (we at ZPG can appreciate this), is the toddler sick or bored, etc. He then discusses the limited value of rewards for good behavior (diminishing on-going value) or arguing a child into doing the right thing (intellectual arguments can be useless with a sobbing toddler, or any toddler for that matter). The real deal with discipline is truth and consequences: set a limit, threaten a consequence when that limit is exceeded, and administer the consequence if the threat is ignored. The best consequence according to the author is the time out. He recommends that the toddler be sent to his or her room for one minute per age of toddler (thus a two-year-old would get two minutes). Quite controversially, he recommends that if a toddler keeps trying to leave the room, the parent should lock the door for the duration if needed. He immediately explains that the parent is there on the other side of the door for the short duration and listens for any sounds of the child hurting himself or other things in the room. He spends a great deal of time discussing limit setting and how to create cheap and practical limits on dangers to the child. If the bathroom is dangerous, just close the door and it is no longer a threat for the child. Installing a hook and eye is easy, inexpensive and quick. The author also discusses various situations in which a parent can effectively say "no", such as at bedtime, in the store, at mealtimes, when sick, when at daycare or grandmother's house. He concludes with a brief discussion of what to do when this plan doesn't work and of the importance of saying "yes" to your toddler.

Author overview:

Blurb from the back of the book: "A pediatrician for more than twenty-five years, Will Wilkoff, M.D., is the author of three previous books, including The Three Month Breastfeeding Guide and Is My Child Overtired? Dr. Wilkoff lives and practices in Brunswick, Maine." He describes himself in the book as a "realist", meaning that he bases his advice on 30 years of experience with parents and with his own children, though he does acknowledge that the psychological pigeon hole he would fit into would be "behavioral therapist."


1. Read cover to cover vs. consult as needed.

This book is relatively short and is intended to be read in the space of a couple of nights. The author acknowledges the limited free time that parents have (which is especially true for freedom-deprived zombie parents). Lots of practical advice is found throughout the book, so the reader can stumble upon little gems while reading the whole book (see the sample text). The reader can consult as needed thanks to a brief but thorough index.

2. Readability.

The writing style is very conversational and straightforward. You can imagine him as a country doctor from the good old days, dispensing easily digested wisdom along with his medical assessments. The author slips a bit between second person (mentioning "your toddler" and "you" sometimes) and first person (using "we" for parents, since he is one as well). This isn't too distracting.

3. Helpful to a parent?

Parents will get a lot of practical advice on how to deal with various situations that can or may come up during the toddler years.

4. Did we use it?

We've already set lots of practical limits on our children's ability to get into trouble, like putting a hook and eye on the basement door or locking up the cleaning chemicals and sharp knives in the kitchen cabinet that actually locks. Jacob has locked himself in his bedroom and our bedroom. Also, somehow he locked the downstairs bathroom from the outside. Luckily, we have a gizmo to unlock all of those doors. And we do try to get more sleep and make sure the children get sleep too. The method of stating a limit, then threatening a consequence and following through on the consequence has worked really well. I've put Jacob in his room for time out. Sometimes he's mad about it; other times he waits quietly. Once he kept asking, "Daddy, can you hear me?" which was a little heartbreaking but I let him have his two minutes before I responded. The last two time outs, Jacob apologized when he came out for his bad behavior and he has shown improvement. The system works for us.

Sample text

On why quality time doesn't always work: The second problem is that it is usually parents and not their children who define quality time. For example, most small children are early risers and fast starters; by late afternoon the best part of their day is behind them. At five o'clock many toddlers are too tired to even eat much of a dinner. If you arrive home at 6:30 expecting to spend some "quality time" with your two-year-old, you may have missed your opportunity to have some quality time, at least from the toddler's perspective. Your child may be too tired and cranky to play, even though you may be one of his favorite playmates. On the other hand, he may be stimulated into an ill-timed burst of energy that will delay his bedtime past a healthy hour. [p. 42. Curious about the first problem? Read the book, or send me a big donation and I'll let you know]

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Zombie Review: The Walking Dead, TP 1

The Walking Dead, Vol. 1: Days Gone Bye (v. 1)

The Walking Dead is an on-going comic book series from Image Comics that started in 2003 and is still being published. This review is of the first trade paperback, which includes the first six issues of the series. I plan to review the other trade paperbacks and hopefully to catch up to the currently published individual issues. A television adaptation on AMC is scheduled for broadcast in October 2010.

ZPAA rating

Late teens and up (use your judgment based on content summary below)

Gore level

8 of 10--there's lots of rotting, maggoty zombies shambling around and kills tend to be graphic. Of course, it's a graphic novel, so the kills aren't drawn out and hard to watch, but usually the goriest moment of the kill is what's drawn (bullets blowing out brains or axe in mid-decapitation). Also, the drawings are black and white, thus a little less graphic than it could be. So, close to a 10 for gore.

Other offensive content

Some pretty bad language (f-bombs and such), human on human violence, marital strife; an implied extra-marital affair.

How much zombie mythology/content

Plenty of the classic zombies in this book. They go around trying to eat whoever they can. No explanation has been given yet as to what started the zombies.

How much fun

This is grim stuff, not too much humor. The idea of the series is to follow a person through the zombie apocalypse and see how that person would react, grow and change because of the events and what he had to do to survive. The idea is very intriguing.

Synopsis & Review

Small town police officer Rick Grimes is shot in the line of duty and falls into a coma. Waking up a month later, he finds himself in an abandoned hospital. Well, abandoned except for some zombies locked in a bunch of different rooms. Eventually he fights his way to his home where he doesn't find his wife and son, though he does meet a father and son living in a neighbor's house. They tell him that in the first days of the zombie crisis people were ordered to go to large cities where they could be protected. Rick decides to head to Atlanta where his wife has relatives. After picking up guns, ammo and the best police cruiser available, he sets out. He runs out of gas and winds up on foot heading into the big city. He discovers nothing but zombies in Atlanta till someone pulls him out of the fray. They escape to a small camp outside the city where about a dozen survivors are waiting for the government to show up and save everybody. In the group are his wife Lori and his son Carl. Thus begins the epic adventure to survive the zombie doom that has befallen everyone.

The book is pretty compelling. The author, Robert Kirkman, says in the introduction that he is a fan of the zombie movies that are about more than gore and mayhem: "Good zombie movies show us how messed up we are, they make us question our station in society... and our society's station in the world. They show us gore and violence and all that cool stuff too... but there's always an undercurrent of social commentary and thoughtfulness." Instead of just a snippet out of someone's life, the series will follow years and years of Rick dealing with his new world. As Kirkman says, this is a zombie movie that doesn't end. The idea is very ambitious and he is off to a great start.

The characters are interesting though they do mostly fall into the pragmatic category. Whether that's the type of person who would survive or they are just pragmatic now in the immediate aftermath of the upheaval of their world remains to be seen. Rick is a solid guy who loves his family, but comes into conflict with his wife over whether their seven-year-old should carry a gun or not. All sorts of major and minor debates about practicalities are going on, so there is plenty of realistic conflict among the survivors.

The story is fairly believable, once you get past Rick's waking up from a month of coma and walking around without much problem, even though he'd really need some serious physical therapy. This standard problem (which it shares with the movie 28 Days Later) is virtually ignored. It would have been nice if Kirkman had found an original and plausible way to start the story. He quickly establishes his creativity as Rick tries to find his family. Rick finds a bike outside the hospital and uses that to get around town, before he thinks of getting a police car for the long haul to Atlanta.

I am interested to see where the story will go. I'm in for the long haul, just like Rick and his family.

Available at Amazon (see link below) and at fine comic stores near you, like my favorite Third Eye Comics in Annapolis, Maryland.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Welcome to the Zombie Parent's Guide

Welcome to the guide that will inform and entertain you while it reviews zombie resources (books, movies, comics, podcasts, etc.) with the eyes of a parent and parenting resources (books, videos, podcasts, web sites, etc.) with the eyes of a zombie.

The blog is inspired by a scientific experiment happening in my home. My children are trying to turn me into a zombie! See details here. In case you were too lazy to go to the hyperlink, the key to zombification is sleep deprivation, a method more potent than any virus and more likely to get you than you might imagine. Even if you aren't a parent, you might still succumb. Think of how often you are caught enthralled past your bed time by the internet, cable television, or conversations with friends. In the words of Dr. Miles J. Bennell, "You're next, you're next...."

This blog is here to help. Not only will I review various writings and recordings on the subject of zombies and parenting; I'll also provide reports from the front lines as I resist the efforts of my darling children to reduce me to a shambling, obedient horror in need of brains, braaaiinnns, braaaiiinnnssss...