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Who is your parenting guru? (part 1)

Two weeks ago I posed that question to the 15,000 readers who subscribe to our e-newsletter. It was wonderful to watch my in-box as many thoughtful responses came back.

It all started when Marketing Director MaryAnn Ortiz-Lieb came to me with a unique opportunity. One of her clients has proposed partnering with us to bring a notable parenting expert to the Valley to speak. We wanted to find out who, in an ideal world, that person should be.

As I reviewed the responses, I realized that the list of suggestions is in itself a tremendous resource for parents. So as we take the next steps — contacting these people to determine their availability and fees — I wanted to share our readers’ “Top 10” list of parenting gurus, in alphabetical order. Five are listed today; five more will come tomorrow.

NAOMI ALDORT

Naomi Aldort is a self-described “parenting guide,” an internationally published writer and public speaker. Her book, Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves: Transforming parent-child relationships from reaction and struggle to freedom, power and joy, promotes the idea that children need love and validation, not control and behavior modification. Her perspective is considered “attachment parenting friendly,” according to her website, though she does not use the word directly because of “its multiple and contradictory meanings.”

I watched the following video, where Aldort offers some insightful perspectives when a parent believes “my child doesn’t listen to me.”

JAMES DOBSON

James Dobson, Ph.D. founded Focus on the Family as a non-profit organization, established to strengthen Christian family values. What began with a radio program on a few stations in 1977 has grown to a network of more than 3,000. He gives advice on Christian marriages, families and parenting through the ministry of Family Talk radio.

ADELE FABER AND ELAINE MAZLISH

Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish, authors of How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will TalkSiblings Without Rivalry and several other books. Their work, based on the philosophis of renowned child psychologist Haim Ginott, Ph.D., suggest ways of communicating that make a profound difference in relationships with children. (Both MaryAnn and I are huge fans of these books, which were widely referenced back when we were both taking parenting classes.)

JIM FAY AND FOSTER CLINE

Jim Fay and Foster W. Cline, M.D. developed the Parenting with Love and Logic approach from 75 years of combined experience working with and raising kids. Like their books, Love and Logic seminars provides simple, practical techniques to help parents have more fun and less stress while raising responsible kids of all ages.

One of our readers, who has children 8 and 10 years old, wrote to share the fact that she is reading the Parenting with Love and Logic book. “It has really changed the way we parent and everyone in the family is more respectful to one another,” she write. “Our children are taking more responsibility and learning from their behaviors. [Fay and Cline] also have a website with an email newsletter that I receive weekly, which reinforces the book and reminds us how to parent. I would definitely go to a seminar led by these authors and I would tell my friends about it.”

Here is a sample from one of Jim Fay’s presentations:

STEVEN HUGHES

Steven J. Hughes, PhD, LP, ABPdN, is an assistant professor of pediatrics and neurology at the University of Minnesota Medical School and maintains a private practice in St. Paul, where he specializes in the assessment of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder and other learning and behavioral problems.

A parent himself, he chose Montessori education for his own family and is a frequent guest lecturer at the Montessori Training Center of Minnesota and a Montessori schools around Minnesota and Wisconsin. In his talks, Hughes describes how Maria Montessori’s brain-based approach to education “provides an unparalleled foundation for the development of academic, social, and executive functions critical for advanced problem solving and lifetime success,” according to his website goodatdoingthings.com. A book is coming out soon.

Tomorrow: Five more parenting experts our readers recommend.

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Two kinds of cookies from home

My husband is spending the weekend with our two grown sons, who live in Washington, D.C. His flight was leaving very early on Thursday morning, so I knew it would be a scramble to get out the door. That meant I had to get organized.

I wasn’t going along, but I had my own packing to do. I consider it my sacred duty to provide homemade cookies for “my boys” at every possible (and ever less frequent) opportunity. These particular cookies — a healthier version of the traditional chocolate chip — have a long history in our family. I made them nearly every Sunday night during our sons’ high school years, when their friends would come over to play basketball. When Andy and David were in college, I never visited them without bags of freshly baked cookies. (It won me big points with their roommates and friends.) I also make cookies when my brothers are around. There’s something hardwired in my brain about cookies and boys.

But hardwired doesn’t necessarily mean “top of mind.” And after a busy but enjoyable day at work Wednesday I came home exhausted and out of whack. All I could think about was food, bed and Unbroken, the wonderful work of historical nonfiction by Laura Hillenbrand, which I’m about halfway through.

I awoke Thursday morning at 5:30 (which is “sleeping in” for me). As soon as my feet hit the floor, my spirits sank. I’d  forgotten to bake cookies! Dan wanted to leave the house at 6:30. I had an hour.

I raced through the mixing, the plopping onto pans and the baking. At 6am I had cookies cooling on racks. But they looked … different.  In my haste and uncaffeinated morning stupor I’d forgotten to add an essential ingredient: oatmeal. So, as I heard Dan get in the shower, I pulled out my ingredients and started all over again.

By the time we left the house, there were two kinds of cookies from home packed up and ready to go. Two dozen with oatmeal, two dozen without. But all four packed with a mother’s love.

100 mompreneurs and counting

It was longtime Raising Arizona Kids contributor Brittney Walker who came up with the idea of running a weekly feature on our website about local mothers who are running businesses.

Hard to believe we’ve already profiled 100 of them in our Monday RAK Mompreneur feature.

Brittney wrote the section for awhile, until she took a break to focus on family, community and church responsibilities. (We’re happy to say she’s got the writing bug again and has several assignments in the works.)

We gave the assignment to Brooke Mortensen, who interned with us right after she graduated from college in the spring of 2010 and continues to write for us as a freelancer.

Between the two of them, Brittney and Brooke have covered a wide range of mom-owned businesses. They’ve profiled photographers, jewelry makers, cooks/caterers/bakers and candy makers. They’ve interviewed moms who make fitness fun, moms who help other moms stay organized, moms with a knack for fashion — or finding deals, or dispensing advice — and even a “multi-mompreneur” who runs several businesses concurrently.

Certainly these moms are not lacking in energy, creativity or drive. They are a diverse bunch from all kinds of backgrounds. Each has a unique and interesting story of the journey that brought her to this place in life. But there are two things  that unite them all: passion for what they do and the desire to live life on their own terms so they can keep family as their first and most important priority.

As one of the Valley’s veteran mompreneurs (we started Raising Arizona Kids 22 years ago in my then-2-year-old’s nursery), I have great respect for those priorities and a deep and empathetic appreciation for how terribly challenging it can be to live up to them.

There is nothing harder than being a mom. And there are few things harder than running a business. When you’re trying to do both, your highs are very high and  your lows are frighteningly low. On your worst days, you are ruled by questions and doubt. You wonder why you keep at it. On your best days, you feel enormous pride and a deep sense of fulfillment.

And when you’ve been at it as long as I have, you start to gain a sense of the bigger picture. It’s not just about building a business. It’s about building a community — a family of people who care about something just as deeply as you do and sometimes even more. People who have developed their own threads of friendship and meaning within a context of shared purpose that wouldn’t even exist if someone hadn’t thought, “I wonder if I could…?”

People who make mundane tasks fun

I always look forward to collecting proofreading pages from Mary Ann Bashaw, who does double duty as a writer and copy editor for Raising Arizona Kids.

Mary Ann is one of those people who makes everything feel like a celebration. She is positive, joyful and often quite funny. Never do I appreciate those qualities more than when we are slogging through the proofreading process and making final corrections to each month’s magazine.

Mary Ann often draws smiley faces on articles she likes, or adds comments in support of other staff members whose efforts she admires. “Applause!! Applause!!” she wrote on one occasion.

At the end of Brittney Walker’s upcoming article on co-sleeping, Mary Ann wrote, “EXCELLENT ARTICLE! Always a hot topic.” She also praised Brittney for a “good hook” leading readers into the article.

When she read  next month’s Health Matters article on cradle cap, Mary Ann shared the fact that her now-college-age daughter Claire had cradle cap as an infant “and look at her blond mane now!”

And on Lynn Trimble’s upcoming article about “Naming Your Baby,” Mary Ann noticed that her younger daughter’s name, “Hannah,” had dropped off the list of Top 20 baby names in Arizona. “She’ll be glad to know that!” she noted, clearly in tune with her independent, one-of-a-kind daughter.

When my sons were growing up, I tried to point out people who made an effort not just to do their jobs but to enjoy them — whatever those jobs might be. In the often mundane realm of proofreading, Mary Ann is  one of the best examples I know.

Ethiopia – the babies are thriving!

I hadn’t seen the deGuzman babies since their birthday party in mid-November. So when I stopped by the family’s Paradise Valley home yesterday morning for a visit, I was pretty sure Tesfanesh and Solomon had forgotten all about me.

Keri greeted me at the door with Solomon in her arms. As I expected, the now 1-year-old toddler (who spent nine blissful hours on my lap during the flight home from Ethiopa last July) nestled his head against his mom’s neck when he saw me, curious but shy.

“He’s playing hard to get,” Keri said, confident that my bond with her children was intact. We greeted each other warmly, eager to catch up on the last few weeks’ flurry of holiday activities, family visits and progress on projects the deGuzmans support in Ethiopia.

Tesfanesh deGuzman.

I heard laughter down the hallway to the left. When I turned to look, I saw Tesfanesh crawling furiously down the hall in my direction. Instinctively, I got down on my knees to put myself at her eye level. Without a moment’s hesitation, she crawled straight to my thighs, using them for leverage as she hoisted herself up to standing and held out her arms for a hug.

I almost lost it. And I definitely lost any resolve I may have had to get back to the office any time soon.

I ended up spending three full hours with Keri and the babies — and also had a moment to catch up with Brian deGuzman, M.D., who had returned from a bike ride as I arrived that morning and had a bit of time at home before heading off to his work as associate chief of cardiovascular surgery at The Heart & Lung Institute at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix. (As he kept insisting he would, when we were still in Ethiopia, Brian calls Solomon “Minte,” an affectionate nickname based on his first name, Mintesnot.) The couple’s other two children — 4-year-old Jesmina and 3-year-old Musse, who also were adopted from Ethiopia — were at preschool.

Solomon deGuzman in the family playroom. A map of Africa is on the wall behind him, part of a wall-size map of the world that was already there when deGuzmans bought their house.

The family has pretty much adjusted to their hectic, happy lifestyle and the babies are thriving. Solomon (who did eventually warm up to me) is wiry, strong and as charming and flirtatious as ever. As he moves toward the “terrible 2s,” he’s also developing a knack for drama — moments of frustration quickly manifest in piercing cries and explosive jumps that suddenly stop when he is comforted, distracted or appeased.

Tesfanesh, who is a few weeks younger, remains sunny and serene. She is insatiably curious and (so far) very patient with the process of discovery.

It’s been six months since I traveled with the deGuzmans to bring home these two beautiful babies, born into poverty and orphaned in a country more than 9,000 miles away from Arizona. They are happy, cherished, growing and developing right on track. What could be more remarkable?

MORE about the deGuzmans

My December 2010 article, “An Ethiopia Adoption Story,” is now archived online.

Read more blog posts about my Ethiopia journey.