Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Book Review: The Baby Name Countdown

Babble recently released its list of “The 33 Worst Celebrity Baby Names,” which included names like Tu Morrow (daughter of Rob Morrow), Fifi Trixibell (daughter of Bob Geldof), Pilot Inspektor (son of Jason Lee), and Kal-El (son of Nicolas Cage). I was surprised to see they left off Tallulah, Rumer and Scout (daughters of Demi Moore and Bruce Willis)! Nobody thinks twice when celebrities give their babies weird names, but most of us would certainly get a few pained expressions or even a few “What were you thinking?” comments if we named our daughter Moxie CrimeFighter, as Penn Jillette did.

Needless to say, the choice of a child’s name is very important. According to Janet Schwegel, author of The Baby Name Countdown, “many parents want a unique name for their child, something that sets them apart.” They may choose an unusual name, like Gwen Stefani recently did when she named her son Zuma, or just an unusual spelling, like Erykah instead of Erika.

So, how do you pick the right one? Schwegel tells us, “It isn’t enough to know what a name means or where it came from; you need to know how popular that name is.” A great place to get that information is in her book, The Baby Name Countdown: 140,000 Popular and Unusual Baby Names. The book is divided into three parts:

Part 1: The Top Names
The Top 100 Girls’ Names by Region
The Top 100 Boys’ Names by Region
The Top 100 Girls’ Names from the Years 2001 to 2006
The Top 100 Boys’ Names from the Years 2001 to 2006
The Top 500 Girls’ Names—Rankings over the Last Century
The Top 500 Boys’ Names—Rankings over the Last Century

Part 2: Popular Names with Popularity Ratings, Origins, and Meanings
Popular Girls’ Names
Popular Boys’ Names

Part 3: Popular and Unusual Names with Popularity Ratings
Girls’ Names—The Complete List
Boys’ Names—The Complete List

I had a lot of fun looking through the names in this book, which have all been compiled from actual birth records. Can you imagine a poor kid heading into school and having to announce her name is Somfechukwu? And I found it interesting that my oldest son’s name, Dylan, means “the sea” in Welsh, because he is currently studying Ocean Engineering in college! My name, Susan, means “a rose,” which has always been my favorite flower. Whether you’re expecting a baby, thinking about one, or even have already finished childbearing, this is a fun and interesting book to look through. (I’d also recommend it to fiction writers who are looking for names for their characters!) The Baby Name Countdown is one of the most comprehensive sources around for choosing names.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Giveaway: Mealtime & Bedtime Sing & Sign

When my twins were little and started to show frustration at telling me what they wanted because their speech hadn’t yet caught up with their demands, I began to teach them how to use sign language. Since I had never used sign language before, we bought several videotapes designed to teach sign language to young children (and their parents). At first, the twins didn’t seem to get the “connection” between signing and communication merely by watching the videos, but as I continued to reinforce the lessons with them through our interactions, I was amazed at how quickly they caught on.

When the twins started signing, their signs were very primitive as they didn’t have the hand coordination to do them properly. But as they matured, their signs got more and more recognizable. Some of their favorite signs included “more,” “cookie,” “book” and “cheese” (naturally, the things they wanted most!). Best of all, it was wonderful to see the look of satisfaction on their faces when they knew they had been understood. For instance, before they knew sign language, Austen would point to things he wanted and hum. If he pointed to the cupboard and made noise, I would have to guess at what he might want, which got very frustrating for both of us. But when he made the sign for “cookie,” and I said, “Oh, you want a cookie?” he jumped up and down with glee because he had been understood! Toddlers naturally use a crude form of sign language merely by pointing to things they want or raising their arms when they want to be picked up. Therefore, teaching sign language is just providing them with more gestures to aid in their communication.

I always recommend that parents try sign language with their babies and toddlers, and I recently came across a great new book and CD called Mealtime & Bedtime Sing & Sign by Anne Meeker Miller, Ph.D. This book focuses on the signs that children can use during those times when they really need something, such as milk at dinnertime or their blanket at bedtime. The book features more than 90 signs arranged alphabetically, along with photos for demonstrating how to do each sign. The CD is filled with wonderful songs that allow you to practice signing with your child. Five songs are about food and meals, five are about bedtime, and two are lullabies. You can bring the CD along with you in the car to get to know the songs, and then use them with your signs when you get home. It’s both entertaining and educational!

Dr. Miller writes in Mealtime & Bedtime Sing & Sign, “In groundbreaking research, child psychologists Linda Acredolo and Susan Goodwyn found that using sign language with children at an early age supports the natural development of their ability to speak. Babies who learn sign experience less frustration and often verbalize sooner than their peers, and most importantly, sign language strengthens the bond between caregiver and child.” So, by learning sign language with your child, you’re not only improving his language skills, but you’re building a closer relationship through your interactions. Best of all, it’s fun! I can still see my twins’ little hands making the cookie sign, which looks like you’re using a cookie cutter on cookie dough!

Would you like to win a copy of this remarkable book and CD? Just leave a comment below telling me why you’d like a copy by October 1, 2008. I’ll randomly pick a winner from the posted comments. One comment per person please, but if you add a link to this blog, Susan Heim on Parenting, on your blog or website, and write back to tell me about it, you’ll receive a bonus entry. You can learn more about Mealtime & Bedtime Sing & Sign at www.babysingandsign.com.

Congratulations to Kam, who won the Mealtime & Bedtime Sing & Sign book and DVD! Go say hello to Kam on her blog, Blueberries & Peanut Butter!

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Monday, September 08, 2008

Book Review: I Brake for Meltdowns

I’ve always thought that taking care of babies is a breeze compared to raising toddlers and preschoolers. Parents would definitely have it much easier if there was a “baby boot camp” for children between their first and fifth birthdays. Although these are wondrous years of learning and discovery, they are often overshadowed by power struggles, tantrums, and battles. It can be a very frustrating time for both parents and children. As I’m currently in the throes of raising twin four-year-old boys, I immediately jumped at the chance to read I Brake for Meltdowns: How to Handle the Most Exasperating Behavior of Your 2- to 5-Year-Old. Finally, a book has been written to help me cope when life with little ones makes me wonder if I’m truly adequate for the job of parenting!

What I really like about this book is that it’s practical. It gives real solutions for how to handle very specific scenarios, such as when your child:

• has a tantrum in the store
• becomes aggressive toward playmates
• clings to you when you leave
• won’t stay in bed
• won’t sit at the dinner table
• refuses to eat
• takes off his diaper
• won’t go in the potty
• bites other children
• uses offensive words
• misbehaves while traveling
• sucks his thumb
• won’t get his fingernails clipped
• won’t get into the car seat

…and much, much more! In fact, the list is so extensive that you’re sure to find a solution to your particular parenting problems. Written by Michelle Nicholasen—a mom who had five children in five years (including triplets)—and Barbara O’Neal—a mother of three children (and three grandchildren) who has worked with preschool-aged children for more than 40 years—the authors bring a wealth of wisdom and experience to the table. I plan to initiate many of their strategies with my own kids, who have recently been heard to call each other “potty head” and whine when they don’t get their way! Every parent with a 2- to 5-year-old needs to pick up I Brake for Meltdowns. It will give them hope that they can survive the trials of raising toddlers and preschoolers!

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