Beyond Behaviors: Using Brain Science and Compassion to Understand and Solve Children’s Behavioral Challenges review

Beyond Behaviors: Using Brain Science and Compassion to Understand and Solve Children's Behavioral Challenges

Beyond Behaviors: Using Brain Science and Compassion to Understand and Solve Children’s Behavioral Challenges by Mona Delahooke

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The main idea of this book is that when kids are having behavioral issues, adults tend to see them as “top-down” where the child is choosing to misbehave for some reason. But often, what’s happening is “bottom-up”: the child has something deeper going on and it comes out via misbehavior, and to really fix the bad behavior you need to address the underlying problem. Just trying to give stickers for good behavior and punishing bad behavior isn’t going to help anything! (this is also not a huge surprise given the rewards book)

He uses a color shorthand to categorize a child’s state of arousal: green means the child feels safe and connected and able to learn; red means the child is like the “fight” in “fight or flight”, often with a rapid heartbeat, sweating, etc.; blue means the child feels in extreme danger and may have a slow heart rate and breathing rate.

There’s a lot of useful stuff if you have a child with a problem – since I was reading it just for information it was a bit tedious to get through. I think the main takeaway is that kids (especially young ones) just don’t have much control over their emotions and actions, and you have to help them by making them feel safe instead of expecting them to be able to do something they just can’t. Which is valuable!

View all my reviews

Stories of Your Life and Others review

Stories of Your Life and Others

Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I got clued in to Ted Chiang’s work by watching the movie Arrival, which is an amazing(*) movie based on the titular short story in this collection. And these are quite good sci-fi stories of just the kind I like – what if was true, how would it change the world? How would we react and adapt to it?

Quick rundown of some “awards”:
– Best world-building: Tower of Babylon
– Weirdest: Seventy-Two Letters (Part of the premise was neat and the other part was, umm, pretty weird!)
– Most thought-provoking: Liking What You See: A Documentary

*) – full disclosure, I watched it a few months after the birth of my daughter so I was pretty sleep-deprived, but I’m pretty sure it’s still very good!

View all my reviews

vacationing with two kids!

It’s been a while, but we went on a short vacation that required a plane trip. But this time with two kids! I’m too tired to come up with a clever way to say these things, so bullet points it is:

  • We went to Virginia Beach, which means flying into Norfolk, to which direct flights do not exist from Austin 😦 So layovers it was!
  • On the way there we went through Houston with an 1:10 layover. That is too short, but luckily our inbound flight was a bit early so we had enough time to grab some lunch to eat on the plane. For some reason we thought Nick would take his morning nap on the 45 minute flight to Houston; this did not happen, but both kids took decent naps on the second leg, so hooray!
  • We bought seats for the kids and so weren’t sure how to carry two carseats + all the other stuff through the airport. Luckily my sister recommended this carseat backpack which worked like a charm – I’m really not sure what we would have done without them! They are huge so you have a huge turning radius while wearing one, but they’re light and easy to open. (I was hoping we could somehow fit two carseats in one backpack, but sadly that wasn’t possible)
  • But I was proud of us for getting by with only two suitcases and two carryons (one of which was a diaper bag) for the four of us!
  • Perhaps because of the backpacks (or maybe just because we had two young kids in tow) we got several random compliments on having our act together. Yay, I think?
  • When we were driving from the airport to the beach house, everyone was a bit tired from the travel day. But Vanessa and Nick were closer together than they are in our car, and for a while they were sort of playing together and passing toys back and forth! It was so cute!
  • The beach was a big hit with Vanessa and Nick! Vanessa enjoyed playing in the sand but also went in the waves a little bit, which I was kinda surprised about. Nick enjoyed the sand (and didn’t eat too much…) but we did dip his toes in the water 🙂
  • Vanessa and Nick also had a good time playing with their cousins. (cute pictures coming soon!)
  • The first day I wore my shorts to the beach instead of my swimsuit, thinking I wasn’t going to get too wet. The waves had other ideas! I also brought my phone and was not too careful with it, and I got enough sand in its charging port to make it not charge. I was getting increasingly frantic until David reminded me that he had a similar (non-sand-related) problem and cleaning it out with a toothbrush had helped a lot. One toothbrush later and it would charge again!
  • The sand was pretty hot, so Vanessa wanted to be carried for most of the walk from the beachhouse to the ocean. Every time I would do this, she’d say “It’s hard to walk in the sand!” which I guess made me feel better 🙂 (it was hard!)
  • Vanessa got some kind of nasty bites on her feet that didn’t show up until the night before we left. This meant she basically didn’t want to walk the whole day we traveled back home, which made it kind of a rough day. Word to the wise: don’t leave shoes outside!
  • We had an 1:45 layover in Chicago (and we even arrived a bit early) so it seemed like plenty of time to eat lunch in the airport. It was not! We grabbed food quickly and ate, but Nick basically takes one person’s full attention to help him eat, and he’s a slow eater. We were one of the last people to board the plane, which was unfortunate because it takes a while to install both car seats while balancing kids :-/
  • The last flight was a bit of a debacle. Vanessa took a medium-length nap, but Nick refused to nap and instead screamed because he was tired. At home he almost always screams for 5 minutes before he falls asleep, but that’s in his crib in a dark room, alone. After a while a woman (who was a grandma) came by to help/check that Nick was OK (she told him that “people were worried about him”), which was kind of helpful and only a little insulting. I walked with him in the aisle for a few minutes which at least made him not scream, and a flight attendant gave me a free snack pack in case he was hungry. (we still had snacks in our bag but I accepted the gift) Eventually he calmed down enough to take a nap. I’m honestly not sure what we could have done differently. But I guess having a screaming kid on an airplane is a parental rite of passage?
  • We literally bought a “family iPad” with this trip in mind, and used it for a total of like 15 minutes on the last flight. Vanessa was surprisingly good about napping, but was also very into a book of 5 minute Peppa Pig stories, so we read a loooot of those 🙂 She also liked looking out the window (kid in a car seat = window seat!) for a little while on each flight. We had a ton of stuff for her to do that we never pulled out!

linked list friday: the Billy Graham rule, surprise medical billing, amazon bookstore shenanigans

The Mueller Report review, and the 15 pages you should read!

The Mueller Report

The Mueller Report by Robert S. Mueller III

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

OK! So I finally read(*) the Mueller report. I’ve seen some snarky takes about how you can’t trust Americans to read anything before. Folks, it’s 470 pages long and while it’s not full of legalese, it’s still not the easiest read. There are definitely some interesting parts but it was kind of a slog.

But, you don’t have to make my mistakes! If you want to read the most important stuff without slogging through the whole thing, here’s what I’d recommend:
Skip Volume 1 – Volume 1 is all about Russia’s interference in the presidential election and its interaction with the Trump campaign. There’s nothing terribly conclusive here, although if you’re interested you can read the executive summary (10 pages) which includes a summary about what Russia did.
Read Volume 2’s executive summary (10 pages) – Volume 2 is about obstruction of justice, and the executive summary briefly describes the 11(!) events that might be obstruction of justice. I don’t think there’s anything actually new here, but reading them all back to back had quite an effect on me. (also, kudos to the New York Times and Washington Post – basically everything they wrote about this stuff is confirmed here!)
Read Volume 2 Section 1A (5 pages)- this describes what is necessary for something to be obstruction of justice. Fun fact: it is not nearly as strict as I had thought! If you, say, tell your lawyer to fire the special counsel that’s investigating you, and he doesn’t do it, that can still be obstruction. Even if your conduct would otherwise be lawful, if your motive is improper that can still be obstruction.

Reading those two things back to back made me pretty darn convinced that the President committed obstruction of justice. You’re welcome to read more details about the stuff in Volume 2, or the long parts about the constitutional issues involved, but in retrospect it really wasn’t necessary.

Anyway, I’d really recommend you read at least those parts – I picked up a copy on my Nook for 99 cents, I’m sure there are ones for the Kindle, and there’s a free PDF if you’d rather read it on a bigger screen.

(*) – Fine, I actually skimmed the last 10% or so…

View all my reviews

The Witness: a good puzzle game!

David and I have been slowly playing through The Witness in our copious spare time, and we finally finished! A basically spoiler-free review follows:

It’s a good game! It is kinda Myst-like, in that you wander around the world solving puzzles, but solves some of the things that annoyed me about Myst – it’s mostly clear what are puzzles and what are not, and it’s usually obvious what solving a puzzle does. Now that I write those words you might say “but that doesn’t sound like Myst at all!” and, well, fair point. But it has that same sense of mystery and lonesome wandering.

The puzzles themselves are pretty creative – there’s basically one type of puzzle which a bunch of variations. The best part of the game is the fact that there’s no real tutorial; you get thrown into the game and get to use inductive reasoning to figure out the rules and what the heck is going on. The feeling of staring at a puzzle trying to figure out what’s going on and getting that moment of inspiration is really powerful!

Stepping back for a minute, a common trope in video games is getting the ability to do more things as you progress. Metroid in particular is the canonical example to me – you start out and you run into a door that won’t open without the ice beam, so you go a different direction. Later on, you find a chest with the ice beam in it, say “yay!” and eventually go back to the door and open it.

The Witness manages to do this but with knowledge. Your character doesn’t get any more powerful, but you learn how to solve more and more types of puzzles. Often we could guess the idea behind a puzzle but not quite all the details, and then once we did learn the rule we felt more powerful!

We only cheated a few times – one time we had used some incorrect logic, and there was one zone in particular that just went on and on and on (highlight for spoiler: *cough*underground part of the desert*cough*) But overall I was proud of us!

I will say that the meta-story behind everything was kinda disappointing, and if you do play and beat the game I would recommend you look at a walkthrough to make sure you get the “real” ending. But if you like puzzle games it’s a good one!