Books on Parenting

Parenting...

...quite naturally, goes hand-in-hand with homeschooling. Here are some titles that might be encouraging, helpful or entertaining for parents.

Catholic Prayer Book for Mothers

Book cover
Author(s): 
Donna-Marie Cooper O'Boyle
Copyright: 
2005
Publisher: 
Our Sunday Visitor
Binding: 
Sewn Hardcover
Number of pages: 
64 pages
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

This little book is deceptively slim yet bursting with wisdom, original prayers, advice and the encouragement of one who knows.

Donna, a writer and mother of five, also seems to have peeked into my life. How does she know what a transforming vocation motherhood has been for me? In a reflection entitled "A Glimpse into the Future" she writes:

If a woman could get a glimpse at
What her world would be
When she becomes a mother,
She would be presented with the reality
That her innermost desires and life plans
would be altered or put on hold
because she would be inundated with the care of others.
If she was also allowed to glimpse the unending joy
she would receive as a mother,
There would be no pause to consider,
No hesitation, as she embraced the whole package,
Knowing in her heart that her children will become her life's desires.

And, in "The Rosary, One Decade at a Time" I see my life reflected: the ways in which our children change our prayer lives are to be celebrated, not bemoaned, and God understands when we do such things as say a halting Rosary and sprinkle bits of prayer throughout our days and our duties.

With quotations from Blessed Teresa of Calcutta (who personally encouraged the author), John Paul the Great (who gave Donna his apostolic blessing), Scripture, and a variety of saints, this book is exactly the sort to keep by the bedside, on the prayer table, or in one's purse for the many times we, as mothers, need a boost, a bit of solace or an inspirational lift.

This link to the author's website tells the story of Donna's relationship with Blessed Teresa of Calcutta.

Finally, the book itself is lovely, illustrated with a pastel, floral design that is calming and beautiful.

Donna speaks straight to a mother's heart, as she embraces her fellow moms with her uplifting and hopeful message of the salvific beauty of our vocation.

Perspective: 
Catholic
Review Date: 
3/2/2007
Reviewed by: 

Good Discipline, Great Teens

Author(s): 
Dr. Ray Guarendi
Copyright: 
2007
Publisher: 
Servant Press
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
167 pages
Subject(s): 
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

In his latest book, Dr. Ray Guarendi offers more of his time-tested advice (Discipline That Lasts a Lifetime 2003, You're a Better Parent Than You Think 1985, DVD 2006) on raising children, but this time with a focus entirely on the teenage years. In question and answer format, Dr. Ray discusses teens and jobs, driving, dating, disrespect, sibling struggles and more. He asserts early on that "[my] impression, becoming stronger the longer I am a psychologist, is that modern day teen turbulence is more cultural than developmental." He sees the typical "faced-paced go-go, get-get, do-do, have-have" lifestyle of today's teens as a "recipe for friction", and reminds parents that keeping their standards high will "not only make for great adults someday but also for more pleasant kids along the way."

Dr. Ray is the father of ten children, and includes family conversations in his book. (A personal favorite of mine is when he tells his teens, "Sixteen is the minimum age at which the state tells me I can think about you driving. It is not the age it must happen.") He also lightens up difficult topics with his trademark humor -- "A.J." wants to use the car and "Sting" asks to go to a rock concert -- giving parents a reason to smile when they may want to scream. Finally, he knows our struggles, as when he says,

Parents used to instinctively expect to be challenged by their kids, especially in judgments of how fast one should grow up. What is quite different these days is that you are almost as likely to be questioned by your peers.

This book is full of wisdom for those parents who want to continue helping their children to grow in virtue throughout their teen years. In the author's words:

It's up to us parents to have the strength to bring out our kids' natural best and not to permit the worst to rule. Then we can honestly say to the shock of others, "I really like these teen years."

All of Dr. Ray Guarendi's books, DVD, and tapes are available at his website.

Perspective: 
Catholic
Review Date: 
8-2-07
Reviewed by: 

Growing in the Virtues of Jesus

Book cover: 'Growing in the Virtues of Jesus'
Author(s): 
Quentin Hakenewerth, S.M.
Copyright: 
2004
Publisher: 
North American Center for Marianist Studies
Number of pages: 
188 pages
Subject(s): 
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

When picking up this book, my first question, since I had never heard of it, was: what is the Marianist Method of Virtues? A footnote in the introduction answered this question. It is inspired by the teaching of Marianist founder, Father William Joseph Chaminade and is proposed not to be an imitation of Christ’s virtues so much as a union with Him through the virtues. The participant works in collaboration with the Holy Spirit and Mary to follow a three-fold plan of growing in virtue: preparation, purification and consummation.

In the preparation segment, the participant is made aware of places in life where virtue may be lacking, places that need to be cleaned up before real progress can be made. These areas are words, signs, mind, passions, imagination, recollection, obedience and mortification. The author makes use of psychological understanding of the ego to explain how we must root out our sense of self to “put on the new self” as St. Paul instructs. The ego, or our need to have the world see us in a certain way, gets in the way of a true self in tune with God. The instructions and meditations in this segment ask the participant to do things like moderate use of speech, fill the mind with truth, recognize negative passions, and discipline imagination. The author calls these the “silences.”

In the purification segment, the author explains that there are some obstacles that cannot be overcome and must be attacked differently than the preparation virtues. It is explained like this in the book:

“In preparation we dominate obstacles or get rid of them; in purification we live through them and grow into new life and achievement. Trying to get rid of unavoidable obstacles ends up in frustration or giving in to defeat. The work of purification accepts the obstacle, but strips them of their negative influence and, in fact, makes them work for our good (page 98).”

In this method, six obstacles are presented, three that come from within (limitations, tendencies to evil, doubts), and three that come from outside (opposition, suggestions to give up, temptations). The corresponding virtues that work on these obstacles are reliance on God, confiding everything to God, and taking recourse to counsel; and, developing enduring patience, perseverance, and performing acts opposed to the temptations. When I started this section I was skeptical, thinking that we should not stop trying to overcome obstacles. But this little treatise shows how that ends in defeat; there are so many things out of our control. This section became the most insightful to my own personal situation.

In the last segment, consummation, the participant, having prepared and been purified, at last shuts the ego completely out of the picture and arrives at a new level of spiritual life. The virtues at this level include humility, modesty, total abnegation of self, and complete detachment from things of this world. It seems to me that this may be a lifelong process, one that we are closer to or more distant from at different points in our lives. They are the kind of things that are not attained by merely reading this book, or any book. The author claims that you must be ready to live on this level to achieve these virtues, but even if you feel you are not ready, you can still gain a lot by going through them in this book. The book ends with a list of things to remember while trying to make progress in the life of virtue.

The book is intended to be used in “faith sharing” groups. Each chapter includes themes for meditation and questions for group sharing. I have never been very comfortable with those kinds of group sharing situations, but did gain quite a bit from pondering the questions myself. Personal narratives giving real-life examples of the kind of sharing that could happen using this book are sprinkled throughout the text. Also, at the beginning of each chapter there are introductory remarks from “Mary” as the mother of Jesus and your guide to this method. These could easily be skipped and still get the full effect of the method.

Our final goal in Christian virtue development, the author asserts, is to act “habitually with the faith, hope, and love of Jesus.” While this book doesn’t have all the answers, it is good starting place and full of fruitful themes.

This book is also the basis for “The Virtue Tree” by Sandra Garant which is included in the Middle School Lessons Plans from Catholic Heritage Curricula. It is not necessary to read this book in order to use the “The Virtue Tree,” but it does help to understand the author’s purpose and frame of reference. Each level, preparation, purification, and consummation, is presented in a format deigned for children. The virtue is explained and then there is a list of suggested activities to engage the student in the topic. It is written for and placed in the 7th grade section of the Plans, but could easily be used by younger children. In fact, we are using it with a group of 4th and 5th graders. A parent will want to supplement this with other things, perhaps making the analogy of growing a tree more vivid, for example, using some graphic illustrations. Draw the ground with mulched soil (preparation virtues), put in the roots (the sacraments); draw a trunk and branches on which to hang the virtues. You may also want to combine it with the reading of stories on the virtues or lives of saints who have achieved the consummation virtues. For my older students, we are referring back to Growing in the Virtues of Jesus quite a bit for a more in-depth look at the process. “The Virtue Tree” gives you the framework for a program of virtues.

Perspective: 
Catholic
Review Date: 
3-23-06
Reviewed by: 

In the Beginning...There Were No Diapers Laughing and Learning in the First Years of Fatherhood

Book cover: 'In the Beginning...There Were No Diapers Laughing and Learning in the First Years of Fatherhood'
Author(s): 
Tim Bete
Copyright: 
2005
Publisher: 
Sorin Books
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
192 pages
Subject(s): 
Review: 

A Catholic parenting humor book? Yes, it is possible. Tim Bete has the timing, the subtle humor and the Erma Bombeck training to take the early years as a new parent, and tell it like it is: from the 672 rules every parent must have in the average home to the bribing of children into toilet training, Bete, a father of three young children, never misses a beat.

One thing I liked about this book was that although I'm a mom, I had just as much fun reading it as any dad. In fact, there were times I thought, "Yep, I've been there, I'll bet Tim's wife told him about that," whatever that was (after all, how many dads are really directly involved in toilet training? How many get up in the middle of the night to the sound of a crying baby, other than to say, "Honey, I think the baby needs you," I mean?)

Fathers and mothers are going to have a great time laughing at the way Bete teaches his children about food, ("What do you think about chocolate french fries?" he asks his daughter. "Great! Can I have some?" she says. "How do you feel about green ketchup?" he asks. "Yuck," she says, then adds, "but could I try it on the chocolate fries?") or about playing by themselves (the way to get kids interested in their toys, Bete explains, is having more kids. "As soon as a sibling is playing with their toys, the child is suddenly intensely interested in them.")

Bete is pro-life, pro-children, pro-family and positively Catholic. And the fact that Barbie, Thomas the Tank Engine and the shepherds can all play together under the Christmas Nativity set is proof that he has real children.

The chapters are short, the stories are sweet, humorous and even touching. I found this book to be a great reminder of the fun and laughter of childhood, and a good reminder not to take parenting too seriously. The life-lesson reminders are good, as well: take time to talk with your children, hold them, read to them, and give them lots of love. Before you know it, you'll be taking your sixteen-year-old out for driving lessons, and remembering how you once had to put green ketchup on the chocolate french fries. Then suddenly--botta bing, botta boom--you become your grandparents, saying, "How fast they grow!" Excellent gift idea for a young or soon-to-be dad, as well as your own husband (Christmas, or Father's Day).

Perspective: 
Catholic
Review Date: 
10-29-05

Love in the Little Things

Tales of Family Life
Author(s): 
Mike Aquilina
ISBN: 
867 168 145
Copyright: 
2007
Publisher: 
Servant Books
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
130 pages
Subject(s): 
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

This is a "little book." You know what I mean: you take a look, think you can knock this book off by lunch time, and that'll be that.

But, Love in the Little Things is bigger than that. Yes, the reading is quick and easy, but the ideas loom larger than their appearance. Hmmm ... kind of like Jesus of Nazareth ... growing up in a non-descript way, living a quiet family life, full of hidden things beyond this earthly realm, beyond our imagining.

And that's what Mike Aquilina shows us: that family life is a very real reflection of the Trinity. It's the path to holiness for those of us who are called to this vocation.

But, these little vignettes aren't heavy-handed lectures. They are charming tales about Mike (often self-deprecating), his wife, Terri (adoring), and their delightful children (abundant fatherly love abounds.)

In "It's Verse than I Imagined" (and yes, many of the titles are punny, as are Mike's blog post titles), Mike takes a look at his daughter Mary Agnes's growing awareness of the unrelenting ways in which life will break our hearts. He inserts a line from one of my favorite Gerard Manley Hopkins poems at the perfect moment -- and every parent will face a version of this moment -- and in doing so, elevates this essay from sweet and charming to profound.

And, he keeps doing that. In short pieces about his wife, his children and his parents, he shows us, time and again, that family life is bursting with opportunities to grow in holiness. Bishop Thomas Tobin, of Providence, called this book "a domestic catechism for the domestic church," and it is that, indeed.

I'm starting to sound like a broken record -- every time I read a writer I love, I say I want that writer to live next door to me, and come over for copious amounts of coffee (I think Mike would approve the beverage choice ... one of the essays is entitled, "For the Love of Coffee" ....)

I'm afraid it's true again. It's no secret that I love Mike Aquilina, and I would love for Mike and Terri to move in next door. I'd love to meet their poetic Mary Agnes and their blunt Isabella (who, in "The Truth About Butterfly Princess" told her father, "That's OK, though. I'll bet you were really handsome back when Mommy married you.") I'd love to talk to Rosemary, the "great and cute saint," to meet sneaker-wearing Michael, who pays as much attention to what's on his feet as does my Anne-with-an-e, and to hug their little Gracie, whose encounter with beloved Papa John Paul II was as sweet as it was enviable.

In other words, I'd love to meet the whole crew. You will, too, after reading Love in the Little Things. And, while you're being charmed by these tales of family life, you just might pick up some tips and inspiration for that long and winding road to heaven along the way.

Perspective: 
Catholic
Review Date: 
6-12-2007
Reviewed by: 

Lunch Bag Notes

Everyday Advice from a Dad to His Daughter
Author(s): 
Ann Marie Parisi
Al Parisi
Copyright: 
2003
Publisher: 
Loyola Press
Number of pages: 
199 pages
Subject(s): 
Review: 

I frequently avoid reading book introductions because they have all-too-often caused me to "stall" in the book. This one shouldn't be missed - it makes you more eager to read the "meat" of the book and makes it more meaningful at the same time. We are introduced to the Parisi family (a little background can be a wonderful thing) and the origin of the inspirational notes that dad, Al, wrote on his daughter's lunch bags during high school.

Al was a successful executive having a difficult recovery from brain cancer. He decided to share some tidbits of wisdom with his teenage daughter. At first, she kept them to herself, but her girlfriends got curious, she started sharing them at the lunch table at school; and so they became an inspiration for many, long before they were published.

Ann Marie squirreled these notes away in a shoebow. A few years later, they literally fell on her head - and she decided to have them published.

And now the notes themselves... They are advise about life - nice Catholic flavor, a lot about character and attitude and the importance of making good choices in life. This is a definite departure from modern sensibilities that decide teens will misbehave anyway - just prepare them to deal with the consequences. These notes have a great "applicability" factor and are written by a man who understands young people (including the fact that they don't really want watered-down philosophy or advice). I would also describe them as "genuine."

Here are a few random examples:
--------------------
Dearest Ann Marie,

Heaven is our ultimate goal. Therefore, each decision we make should take us closer to heaven. It would be the worst of losses to lose sight of this goal, even if it were for only a second.

Remember: WWJD.

Love, Dad (page 32)
----------------------
Dearest Ann Marie,

What would you do if you knew you had only one month left on Earth?

Who would you see?
Who would you call?
What would you try?
Where would you go?

The answers to these questions remind you what elements in your life you should never take for granted.

Imagine how wonderful the world would be if people felt, "This may be the last time I see this person."

Love, Dad (page 46)
---------------------
Dearest Ann Marie,

A follow-up on character...character defines our life on Earth long after we are gone.

I read an interesting brochure about womanhood recently. Some of the points I remember were: A real woman is moral, modest, strong in faith, prayerful, and she cherishes her feminity.

That's all I recall, but that is enough to confirm you are a "real woman."

Love, Dad (page 114)
----------------------

The format includes one of these notes on one page with a "thought starter" and room for notes on the facing page.

I think this would make a nice journal for teens (this volume is aimed at girls - More Lunch Bag Notes is written to Al's son and is more suitable for boys) to think about some of what matters most in life - faith, family, character, values - and work on applying these to their lives.

It occured to me that this book is good, not just for teens, but for their dads too. Al Parisi offers a wonderful role model by being very involved in his children's lives and communicating well with them. He is encouraging and positive without being wishy-washy. This book would be especially beneficial for fathers and daughters to read and discuss together.

Although I liked the book on the whole, there were two things I didn't like. First was this affirmation: "I believe I am divinely inspired. I believe I will always take the right turn of the road. I believe God will always make a way where there is no way." There's a good deal of truth in there somewhere, but I think the wording garbles it enough to be inaccurate to some degree. Second, I think Al is a little off-the-mark in a few comments about Lent. It is true that good works are very important. It's also true that making sacrifices and giving up things that we like are excellent exercises for the will which is certainly helpful in making good choices.

Perspective: 
Catholic
Review Date: 
11-26-2005
Reviewed by: 

Mom to Mom, Day to Day

Advice and Support for Catholic Living
Author(s): 
Danielle Bean
Copyright: 
2007
Publisher: 
Pauline Books and Media
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
155 pages
Subject(s): 
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

Fans of Danielle's first book, My Cup of Tea and her blog will undoubtedly be eager to absorb more of her wisdom and good humor – and with good reason. This, her second book, is aimed especially at younger moms who are overwhelmed and still trying to figure out how to work out a lot of the details of smoothly running their homes (and lives). These moms tend to feel guilty for not “having it all together” and wonder how older, more experienced moms with more kids ever manage their large brood and complex family life. I know I felt that way when I was a younger mom and I would have very much appreciated the gentle wisdom contained in this book.

I found this book "light", but inspiring; helpful, but not preachy. Her writing deserves to be called wise, because she manages something that so few parenting/advice books do – she draws out practical truths that really do apply to everyone and then gives examples of how she applies them to her own family.

The book is organized into six main sections (that are divided into smaller essays):

  • How Can I Survive the Preschool Years Without Losing My Mind?
  • How Can I Fill My Marriage with More of ‘The Better’ and Less of ‘The Worse’?
  • What Kind of Role Does a Catholic Mom Play in This Great Big World?”
  • How Can I Get on Top of the Housework When It Feels Like I’m Smothering Under It?
  • How Can I Make Our Faith an Integral Part of Family Life?
  • Can I Really Have a Spiritual Life While Caring for All These Little People?

She tops it off with a simple, but helpful resource guide for Catholic families.

Something about the book reminds me of one of my favorite quotes - practically my motto for homeschooling: "Start by doing what is necessary, then do what is possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible." (St. Francis of Assisi). Danielle lays out a lot of simple ideas for handling the necessary (like prioritizing housekeeping needs and avoiding mom-guilt) and the possible (like suggestions for simple monthly celebrations relating to the liturgical year - a nice simple starting point) that end up adding up to more than we ever dreamed.

Perspective: 
Catholic
Review Date: 
4-8-2007
Reviewed by: 

More Lunch Bag Notes

Everyday Advice from a Dad to His Son
Author(s): 
Anthony Parisi
Al Parisi
Copyright: 
2005
Publisher: 
Loyola Press
Number of pages: 
230 pages
Subject(s): 
Review: 

The back of the book introduces this title quite well: "After Al Parisi's battle with brain cancer left him unable to run the company he founded and took public, he created a better job: CEO of the Parisi family. One of his first initiatives was to write inspirational advice to his children on their lunch bags each day. In this companion book to the original Lunch Bag Notes, Al has written a year's worth of notes to his son, Anthony, and to all teenage boys."

Like Lunch Bag Notes, this companion volume (aimed at boys) offers simple, timeless advice in a format that is very applicable and relevant to today's teens.

Here are a few random samples:

-------------------------------
Dear Anthony,

In a previous lunch note I mentioned how powerful our minds are. For example, many prisoners grew up frequently hearing : "You will end up in jail someday. "Many professional athletes were told: "Someday you'll play in the major leagues." I am not a clinician, but it seems to me that the way things turn out is the result of more than coincidence.

I urge to fill your mind with positive input by reading good books, by watching good movies, and by reminding yourself daily that you are a good person and that God loves you.

Love, Dad
--------------------------------
Dear Anthony,

People love your smile. I bet you don't even realize how much your smile can do for someone.

Keep smiling.

Love, Dad
--------------------------------
Dear Anthony,

Lent is a time to grow closer to God by doing extra acts of kindness, as well as by fasting and praying. Make a great Lent. It is more important than having a great game or great season, isn't it?

Love, Dad
-------------------------------
Please see quibbles for Lunch Bag Notes which also apply to this book.

Review Date: 
11-26-2005
Reviewed by: 

My Cup of Tea

Musings of a Catholic Mom
Author(s): 
Danielle Bean
Copyright: 
2005
Publisher: 
Pauline Books and Media
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
178 pages
Subject(s): 
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

Danielle Bean is a Catholic homeschool mom with a bunch of kids, a great sense of humor and a very helpful sense of perspective. Her book is a collection of short reflections on events in her life that any mom-of-many can relate to. Somehow, in the midst of these engaging stories of noise and illness and chaos, great truths glimmer just below the surface. Truths about God and reality and what really matters. Encouraging truths that give us perspective when things don't go quite right and the world simply doesn't understand. Her great writing (and good thinking!) draws these out in gentle and encouraging ways.

The chapter titles say a lot about the content, so please forgive me for listing them in their entirety:

  • My Cup of Tea: Embracing the Mixed Blessings of Parenthood
  • My Hands are Full: The Many Blessings of Many Children
  • Time Flies: Gaining Perspective
  • Real Presence: The Importance of Friendship
  • Growing Pains: Coping with Our Children's Pain
  • Bear Instincts: With God All Things Are Possible
  • Shopping for Answers: Bearing Witness to Christ
  • A Dollar Between Us: Trusting in Divine Providence
  • Every Mother Works: Blooming Where You're Planted
  • Sweet Dreams: Serving God by Serving Our Children
  • Finding Our Wings: A Tangible Easter Message
  • Resurrection Triumph: Gratitude for the Sacraments
  • God's Tiny Messenger: Remembering What Matters Most
  • Something's Got to Give: Balancing Work and Family Life
  • What Little Girls Are Made Of: The Joy of the Unexpected
  • My Boy: Being a Faithful Child of God
  • Martha, Martha: Balancing Daily Obligations and Prayer
  • Mass Distraction: Worshipping with Babies
  • Less than Perfect: Praying as a Family
  • Nesting Is for the Birds: The Blessings of Maternal Instinct
  • Mom Olympics: All Mothers are Champions
  • A Winning Combination: Contrasting Perspectives on Competition
  • Baking Lessons: Letting Go of Perfectionism
  • For Better or For Worse: The Give and Take of Married Life
  • A Reluctant Messenger: Living Out Christian Duty
  • Continual Commitment: Daily Challenges of Teaching at Home
  • The Pumpkin Connection: Celebrating Oktoberfest
  • Fowl Trouble: Teaching Respect for God's Creation
  • Picture Perfect: Making Christmas Memories
  • Joyful Noise: The Boisterous Sounds of Family Life

This is a book ideally read for the first time by a mother in those early stages of raising a large family (who often seems to feel shunned by neighbors and overwhelmed by a sense of inadequacy at the same time). I remember at that sometimes all I wanted was a sense that the everyday chaos and challenges were "normal" or that other people understood.

And yet this book also works for those who have already "been there" to some extent and moved into the role of being supportive of others. It's a great pleasure to say a loud "yes!" inside at those things that I can SO relate to, and yet the ideas behind the stories are ones that I always need (and appreciate) to be reminded of once again.

Apparently the audience extends even beyond new moms and experienced moms. I had talked enough about fun and true and touching tidbits in this book since I first read it a year or so ago that my teenage daughter (who also loves Danielle's blog) decided to read it - and loved it too! I guess it's never too early to gain some perspective on great ideas of family life and motherhood!

Highly recommended!

Perspective: 
Catholic
Review Date: 
1-8-2008
Reviewed by: 

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