Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Optimistic Child: A Proven Program to Safeguard Children Against Depression and Build Lifelong Resilience by Dr. Martin Seligman PhD

I write a small book review for the books I read.  It's mainly for myself...a way to keep a running list of what I've read and what my thoughts were on it.  The idea of writing a quick review came from a class I took at BYU.  We were required to make note cards on the 30+ books we read during that semester.  It was a young adult lit class, and I realized then how important those note cards were.  When I became a teacher, and students needed advice about what book to read, I pulled out my note cards.  I had a few students flip through them and choose a book to read.  Often, from my note cards, they found a book that they connected with and that was very satisfying as a teacher.  Now, as a mother, I hope that these blog posts will do the same for my kids one day, a friend, or even myself if I would like to re-read something.

Though I don't read as much as some of my friends, I have read many books and written a few reviews.  Seldom do I write the entire title...including the subtitle...on my post title.  However, this book demanded full attention to the ENTIRE title: The Optimistic Child: A Proven Program to Safeguard Children Against Depression and Build Lifelong Resilience.  I have been told I am an optimistic person.  I happen to agree.  I grew up in a very optimistic family.  If there was a problem, we just needed to figure out how to fix it.  Individually, we could do anything we put our minds to.  If something happened that was painful or hard, after crying or being sad about it, we just knew that it would get better -- or that there must be a reason for it -- or that there was something to learn from that experience.  I remember my Junior year in high school, I went through a really rough time.  I have told people that I was kind of depressed that year.  But you know what?  What "depressed" looked like to me was crying because I couldn't find my shoes in the morning (that happened once), and feeling worn out in general (hello...I was taking a pretty good academic load, plus year-round sports, musical, class president, clubs, etc.  I was a VERY busy girl).  That's not depression.  That's being a teenager.  But because I grew up always so full of energy and...optimistic...this slump was devastating for my 16 year old self.

I'm now 33 years old and I've experienced a lot more than just busy days and rough classes.  And though I maybe grew up "optimistically," I now have my own children.  Life has gotten a lot more complicated for kids than they were only 10 years ago.  And, I want to protect each of them the best I can.  So when a book claimed to have a proven program to safeguard my children against depression and build lifelong resilience, I took notice.  And I bought and read the book.  I am so glad I did.

Dr. Seligman introduces a concept: what if we could immunize our children against depression?  We have immunizations against other various physical diseases.  What if we could immunize our children against mental health ailments?  He claims we can; and he has a very convincing case.  His ammo?  What he calls Realistic Optimism.  Dr. Seligman and his team created a class...a course...that they offered to the most at-risk for depression 5th graders.  After the 24 week class was over (1 hr/wk for 24 weeks), these at-risk kids not only demonstrated a huge improvement in the way they thought, but these results were long lasting.  The same group was followed and re-evaluated every 6 months until graduation.  The program was then used on another group of at-risk kids.  Success.  Another group.  Success.  Then, the program was created for teachers.  Teachers were trained and used these methods in their classrooms.  Then the same program was created for families....so parents can do this with their own children.  These programs can be found online.  Read the book, and download the program.

Dr. Seligman makes the case that pessimistic thinking patterns are what fuel depression.  Can we change those patterns?  Yes.  And he provides a structured way to do it.

There was one part of research that really stood out to me.  We often talk about how depression is genetic...having a history of depression in a family will increase one's likelihood of having depression themselves.  However, in a study with twins -- identical twins who grew up together and in different households -- they found that the genetic link is much weaker than originally thought.  Genetics contributes about 25%.  The other 75%?  Environment.  If you grow up in a home with depression, that's your environment.  BUT, those mental patterns can be changed.  And seeing that most of my children have been adopted....this comforts me.  Yes, we may be predisposed, or more inclined to have pessimistic thoughts, which according to Seligman is an epidemic...but, now I feel like I have tools to really safeguard my kids so they can experience, and create, joy in their life.

I can't recommend this book enough.  I loved it and plan on using his program when my kids get older for family night lessons.  For now, I'm doing small things he recommends for toddlers...some we are already doing, and others I'm incorporating into our daily dialogue.  Anything I can do to help my kids feel more in control of their life, to have more peace, and to be more successful...I'm all for it.

I Didn't Plan to Be a Witch by Linda Eyre

My nephew was baptized in August.  The kids and I drove down and spent the weekend with the family to celebrate this milestone in his life.  During that time, I was able to talk with my sister-in-law.  As a side note, I love her.  Peggy is among the best people I know.  She is sincerely kind, beautiful, smart...a good and loyal friend, great mother, and stellar wife.  So, it was fun to spend time with her, my brother, and my nephews -- and the bonus was that my parents had flown out too.

Back to the book.  Peggy and I were talking about books we were reading, or had recently read, and loved.  She handed me I Didn't Plan to Be a Witch and told me to read it.  I did.  And I loved it.  Loved it.

If you are aware of the Eyre's, you know they have written many parenting  books and have quite a following.  They have a pretty extraordinary family and have made a business sharing them all with the world.  And, it's all really great stuff.  Inspiring stuff.  Encouraging stuff.

Why did I love this book that Mrs. Linda Eyre wrote?  Probably because I love the title.  It spoke to my heart.  Because, truly, I am a witch.  On some days (more than I'd like to admit), something takes over me and my inner witch is unleashed.  ahhh  I try.  I do.  But too often I feel like I'm totally lacking and failing my children.  I'm convinced that I'm screwing up their future and that they will be on some tv show, or heaven forbid writing a blog post, about how their mother scarred them.  (sigh)  Logically, I know that's not going to happen (or at least I hope not), but I do worry that I'm not nurturing them as they need.

So, this book was just what I needed.  It brought the perspective that I needed.  It reminded me that I'm not messing up that badly...and in fact, I may actually be doing a pretty good job.  Linda Eyre's sincerity and combined with her sense of humor helped me feel a little relief and see the humor that surrounds me.  Each principle of motherhood that she describes, each chapter, was a small reminder that I'm doing the most important job I can be doing right now, and I'm doing alright.

The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman

Have you read this book?  It is wildly popular.  Millions sold.  And, I think I know why.  Basically it's a good book with good information.

I don't have too much to say about it other than I think it's really worth reading...for everyone.  I learned things about myself, my husband, and my children.  And hopefully, with that knowledge, I'm making all those relationships better by speaking their love language.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


Today, I felt an immense sense of gratitude.  No, it was more than that.  I felt flooded with love and...ugh...gratitude.  I'm really trying to find a different word here, but it's not working.  Because, you see, that is exactly what it was.  One moment I was slightly overwhelmed with worry, and a moment later, I was crying because I was so grateful for my children.  Yes, it revolves around them.  And it's not because it's November and Thanksgiving is approaching.  I wish I were that thoughtful and used this month to focus on all I'm grateful for, but I'm not.  I'm neither that thoughtful nor organized to make my lists in preparation for Thanksgiving (though I enjoy reading everyone else's).  No, rather, I was just in a moment.

Samantha has had 2 therapy appointments in 2 days.  These early mornings are dreaded.  They really are.  It's not fun getting up early, sometimes even pulling Sammy out of bed when she's in a comfortable, cozy sleep...only to quickly feed her breakfast and take her to a place she probably doesn't enjoy too much.  Micah crawls all over the place, pulls plugs out of the walls...or tries to stick his fingers into the outlets.  It's all very frustrating.  But, it's also all very necessary...and not that bad.

Sammy's been struggling.  She is tight.  And I'm not talking about..."that's tight yo."  No.  It's not cool.  She's painfully tight.  I don't understand what it is in her brain that tells her body to curl up, to constantly flex her muscles, to not move properly.  I've been giving her warm baths each night to help relax her muscles.  Afterwards, she gets her nightly massage.  This week I was feeling especially in love with her, and as I cuddled with her on the couch...Callie came up and brushed Sammy's hair to the side.  "Callie, you know what I wonder?  I wonder what Sammy would be like if she didn't have all these problems.  Would she be funny?  Serious?  What would she talk about?"  And what I was thinking but didn't say was, "I wonder what games you guys would play together and what you would argue about.  I wonder who would sleep on the top bunk and if she would let you play with her friends."  And it kind of broke my heart.

I noticed Sammy had a small bloody nose on the way to school.  And that small bloody nose triggered something that brought tears to my eyes.  What if something really happened to Sammy?  What would I do?  How could I function?  How could I get up each day?  She brings so much light to my life.  And then Micah interrupted my thoughts with a squeal and I thought...Micah!  What would I do if something happened to him?  I would be crushed.  My heart hurt thinking about it.  He's my cuddlebug.  He's my little man.  He adores me just as much as I adore him, and I can't imagine...cannot imagine my life without him.  I had this image of myself crying on the couch, holding Callie...or maybe it was an image of her comforting me...and then boom.  Callie.  What would I do without Callie?  She's my helper.  My buddy.  My little friend.  I have more conversations with her than I do with anyone else!  Today we had an in-depth conversation about if mice could drive.  The ridiculousness of it all made me laugh.  She brings laughter to my life.  I love her so much.

I feel so blessed.  I can't imagine my life without these 3 little kids.  They make me better, I hope anyway.  My world revolves around Samantha's therapies, medications, and schedules -- Callie's school, activities, and friends -- Micah's naps, meals, and tickle attacks.  These 3 have become our world, in a very very good way.  I can't imagine our lives without them.

Sammy and Callie are asleep.  Micah is playing with Grandpa...probably taking Grandpa on a tour of his own house as I type while Marcus talks to his mom.  I sit in our family room and feel so much love.  So much gratitude.

I am blessed.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

This is one of the best books I've read in a long time.  I absolutely, 100% loved this book.  I have liked a lot of books I've been reading, but this one I couldn't put down.  The story is so compelling -- so well written.

August was born with physical abnormalities.  He has a pretty severely deformed face, and because of that, his parents had always chosen to home school him.  But now, he is older, and decided it was time he enter school...time to not be so sheltered.  Wonder is about his first year in school.  With friends.  With cruel kids.  With insecurities.  With new discoveries.

There are moments that are tragic...and you can't help but feel for August, want to be there to protect him.  But then, there are heroic moments.  Agh.  It's such a great book.

One aspect of the book that I appreciated was the perspective of August's sister, Via.  I often think about Callie and what it's like for her to be Samantha's sister.  What are the stresses she has because of Samantha?  What are some of the feelings she has...without even really knowing it yet...because she is Samantha's sister?  Yes, the book is fictional, but Via's perspective brought me a lot of comfort.  She was honest in her frustrations at times, and her feeling less important...second priority...hurt feelings because her plans would have to be dropped to accommodate August.  But, she also shares her deep love for him...her understanding of it all.

I recently had a conversation with a friend who, I just found out, has a brother with special needs.  He cannot speak, walk, feed himself...some things very similar to Samantha.  Her brother is now 26.  I asked her how she felt growing up with him.  She shared with me how she just adored him...sure, he was different and that meant that she had to help take care of him and whatnot....but she loved him so much all growing up...and still does.

My conversation with her AND reading this book brought me so much peace of mind.  No matter who we are, we will have struggles.  Some will be more obvious than others, but we all are connected through experiencing Life.  I guess that's another reason I loved this book.  By August's apparent, obvious, and perhaps extreme example ~ I was reminded that we ALL need to be more compassionate to others, all the time.  We never know what people are carrying.

Excellent book.  Everyone should read it.

Friday, November 1, 2013

This is Halloween

This year we headed down toward Morgan Hill and hit up Spina Farms.  We went on a Saturday.  Yikes.  But it was fun.  

 Pony Rides
(is she already a teenager?  look at that sass)

More pumpkins.

and a hayride.
That was a big hit.

Micah.  Check out his pose!  Very GQ.

I made Micah's costume this year.  Callie wanted to be a firefighter with Sammy and Micah was to be their dalmatian dog.  When I put it on him, I realized that this cute little face looked a lot more like a cow than a dog.  And, I wasn't the only one who thought that.  At the ward party, people kept saying he was such a cute cow, except for Christine who generously lavished him/me with compliments, "That is the cutest DALMATIAN I've ever seen!"  It brought me joy every time:)  

In the "fire truck"/wagon for the costume parade.

This year, it broke my heart that I wasn't going to be in Sammy's class for her Halloween party, but I was soooo excited to be at Callie's!  I couldn't get any smiles out of her during the parade...

until I got a series of these....

which made me laugh.

I stayed for her class Halloween party and helped with some games.  So fun!

Halloween Night
Much anticipated.
Here we have the firefighters with their dalmatian!

And for trick or treating, Captain America joined us.
We were pretty well protected against any evil-doers with Captain America, 2 firefighters, and a mighty dalmatian.

Callie was so eager to go and we were just too slow.  So she took the truck and went forward!  
Note: When I got her costume, it fit.  In a few weeks time, she grew so much!  I couldn't believe it.  Callie's one tall girl.

I just kind of love this picture!

We hope it was a fun Halloween for all!
Until next year...


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