Fresh Meat for the Wolves

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Some of you may know that my daughter has been sick in the last week and I wasn’t sure if she’d start school today.  She’s going to junior high now, which of course is a VERY BIG DEAL.  I just wanted you to know that she has improved tremendously and was able to start 7th grade this morning with the rest of her classmates.

She was nervous and excited.  So was I, but for different reasons.  It felt a little bit like throwing her to the wolves- some of those junior high boys have actual facial hair!  And the makeup on the girls, whew!  Heavy eyeliner, boobs, hair, ugh!!  These kids are 11-13 years old (going on 16, apparently!).  My little girl looked very, very little.  I had to fight the impulse to just scoop her up and take her right back home.

She’ll be fine, right??

Sunday Salon

Weird weekend.  The Hub and my youngest are in Vegas at the Excalibur Hotel for my friend’s 40th birthday party.  My youngest called Friday night..  “Mom!  Mommy!  It’s 100 degrees, at night!  Mom, it was 110 in Baker!  Mom, Mom, I can see the pyramid from my room!  We are in a castle tower.  I’m like a princess, Mom!”  She has never been away from me like this, alone with her dad.  I thought she might miss me, ha ha.  She’s too excited to think about it.  I had to remind The Hub to make sure she wears sunscreen and to not forget that she gets hungry at regular intervals (he is the type of man who would go all day without eating unless someone was there, handing him a sandwich). 

My girls in Yosemite

My girls in Yosemite

My oldest has a serious virus so she and I are home.  The doctor isn’t sure what she has but suspects mono or West Nile Virus.  She could have picked up mono at camp in July.  She could have been bitten by a West Nile-carrying mosquito on our recent trip to Pennsylvania or Yosemite.   It can’t be something normal like a cold, oh no.  That would be too easy, and nothing is easy with this kid.  Not that it’s her fault, but sheesh.  

Through sheer force of will I am going to MAKE her well so that she can attend her first day of junior high on Monday.  She had such high hopes for her first day as a 7th grader- starting off on the right foot, making new friends, finding her way

Did a mosquito get her??

Did a mosquito get her??

around.  If she has mono she could miss a lot of the first two weeks of school and will have to sit out of PE for a couple of months.  There are worse fates in life than missing school and sitting out of PE, but she’s a kid and she’s worried the other kids will think she’s different (of course, we won’t tell them that she actually IS different.. that is our little secret.  Shhhh.)  Junior high is hard enough without being singled out socially. 

The doctor said if she has no fever, is eating, and feels better by Sunday, she could go to school Monday.  Her fever came down yesterday but I’ll have to see how she is today. She’s still sleeping and I am crossing my fingers.  She’s been sick since Tuesday and has eaten nothing more than one or two bites of food at a time all week- which is scary because she’s 11 years old and now weighs 69 pounds (5 lbs lost since Tuesday).  Her body fat is close to zero-she can’t lose any more weight.  Yesterday, even without the fever, she was shaky, pale, and weak.  But maybe after 10 hours of sleep we’ll see a big improvement. 

imagesSo last night, as my daughter sipped Gatorade and I sipped Chardonnay, we watched 17 Again with Zac Ephron and Matthew Perry.  That Zac, he is quite pretty.  A little gay looking, perhaps, but awfully cute.  The movie was ok- I think my girl liked it more than I did.  Even though this wasn’t the way we planned to spend the last weekend of summer, snuggling up and watching a movie together wasn’t too terrible.

Reading update- I am reading when I am not playing nursemaid and wiping things down with Clorox bleach wipes.  I’m about halfway through Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger, and so far, so good!  After that I’ll be cracking open either Who By Fire by Diana Spechler or A Field Guide to Burying Your Parents by Liza Palmer.  And I have a big backlog of reviews to write.  I’ll list them here.. leave a comment to let me know which review you’d like to see first and I’ll try to get to it tonight. 

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

The Marriage Bureau for Rich People by Farahad Zama

Two Years, No Rain by Shawn Klomparens

Lottery by Patricia Wood

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins 

Thank you all so much for stopping by my blog.  It means a lot to me that you come by and read my silly thoughts.  Oh, OH!  And (excited!!!!!!!!!) I want to thank whoever was kind enough to nominate me for BBAW!  Books on the Brain got nominated in 4 categories and I’m super grateful and excited to be included!  THANK YOU! 

Have a great week!  And please think healthy thoughts for my incoming 7th grader!

The Period Blog

Like me, Sheri from the super-fabulous blog A Novel Menagerie has two preteen daughters.  Inspired by My Little Red Book, we recently chatted about periods: 

Lisa:  I got mine when I was 11, the summer before 6th grade.  How old were you? 

Sheri:  You know, since my brain fell out of my va-jay-jay after I had the twins, I can’t really recall.  I think I was 13, close to 14. 

Lisa:   So 8th or 9th grade, something like that?  Being a bit younger, I guess I was pretty stupid about things.  I know we saw a movie in 5th grade, but it was more about all the wonderful things you can do when you become a woman- you can go horseback riding!  You can ride a bike!  

I was at summer camp and didn’t connect the rusty streak in my undies to the movie at all.  I thought I was dying.  I hid my messy underwear in my duffle bag (gross!)  My mom discovered what happened when she did my laundry after I came home, and she handed me a book called Growing Up and a box of pads.  There was no discussion, no Q & A, and lots of embarrassment.  What about you? 

Sheri:  In our school, we had the sex-ed classes, so I knew it was coming.  Also, most of my friends had theirs before me.. again, I knew it would arrive.  My mom gave me some mini-pads, told me a bit about them, and set me loose.  It wasn’t at all that big of a deal for me.  I think developing my breasts were a much bigger memory for me.  I really had some difficult cramping in high school and took a lot of Motrin during those years.  Did you know that I’m so old that Motrin was by prescription only back then?  Yes… yes it was! 

Lisa:  Breasts- that was a sad subject for me.  I was skinny and flat as a board.  I had nothing going on upstairs, which caused me great embarrassment in junior high. 

How are you preparing your own daughters for their first period? 

Sheri:  I am the world’s biggest embarrassment to the twins.  Whenever I talk about it, they say, “MOM!  We know! We know!”  They never want to talk about it.  They each have some panty-liners and are prepared to let me know when it happens. (Oh, and our school has had some really great classes over the past couple of years). 

Lisa:  Ours too.  My kids know how their bodies work from me, from the classes at school, and from books.  American Girl has a great book called “The Care and Keeping of You.”  It even has a diagram showing how to insert a tampon.  And I’ll be sharing My Little Red Book with them too.

We’ve discussed everything openly although my youngest would rather not talk about it.  The other day I took them to the drugstore and we purchased some “supplies” and cute little zip-up bags to carry them in so they can take them in their backpacks to school.  I want them to be secure in the knowledge that they will know what to do when the time comes.   

Sheri:  One of my twins does and the other doesn’t.  I guess we’re heading to the drug store before school starts.  Thanks for the head’s up! 

Lisa:  Your girls are a little bit older than mine.  Mine are 10 and 11, and as you know my 11 year old is really tiny.  She’ll probably be carrying pads around in her backpack for the next 3 years before she needs to use them.  Although she is very moody, and her skin is starting to break out a little, so you never know.. 

Sheri:  After her recent physical, the doctor told one of my girls that she will start very soon.  In my best estimation, the other one is probably 2-6 months behind her.  Seeing that they are both in women’s sizes now, have acne problems up the wazoo, have body odor issues, and greasy scalps… it’s just a matter of time.  It’s a challenge to get them to focus on their self-care and proper hygiene.  I actually asked the doctor to talk to them a bit about it.  She did and the twins seemed to take it more seriously coming from her than from me.  In fact, they were much better about the acne care after the doctor’s visit. 

Lisa:  That’s a good idea.  I should have the doctor talk with them about it.  It was almost funny last year, trying to get my 4th grader to start wearing deodorant, and her defensively asking, “Why?”  Um, honey?  I hate to say it, but.. you smell.  

Sheri:  Dude!  It’s bad enough with their hormones now… I can only imagine that cramps are going to turn my world upside down!  EEK!  What I’m really concerned about is having the 3 of us starting to all cycle together at the same time.  It will be total mayhem and grouchiness for 10 days straight.  And that’s like a third of the month!  OMG!  

Lisa:  I know, same here!!  My poor husband!  He is SO outnumbered. 

In My Little Red Book, there are essays about how families mark the occasion of ‘becoming a woman’.  Some celebrate with a special dinner, a cake, or a slap in the face.  One mom gave her daughter a dozen roses in a pretty vase, and the daughter kept the dried rose petals in the vase on her dresser for years- I really liked that idea.  I don’t have any family traditions but I think I may start one with my girls.  How do you plan to handle it with the twins? 

Sheri:  I hadn’t really thought about it until the book.  I think flowers is a lovely idea.  It is the beginning of an entirely new phase of their lives. 

Lisa:  Thanks, Sheri, for talking with me today!  This was fun. 

Sheri:  I appreciate you bringing up some great little reminders and tips.  And, you totally know that I’m going to secretly tell you/my other girlfriends when it happens!  It’s almost like a small rite of passage for us moms, too!  Don’t you think?  THANK YOU, for including me in your amazingly wonderful, always fun blog: BOOKS ON THE BRAIN! 

Lisa:  Oh, you are so sweet.  Believe me, I’ll be calling you too when things start flowing in my house!!  I will need to have someone to commiserate with.  It is a rite of passage, a beginning but also an ending too.  It kind of makes me sad that my babies are growing up so quickly.  Ok, I may start crying now.  Pass the tissues, the Motrin and the chocolate.  

And for a good laugh, watch this!

Leaving On a Jet Plane

California Girls with their cousins in God's Country

California Girls with their cousins in God's Country

We are off for 10 days on our annual trip to God’s Country (my husband’s description of his beloved Pennsylvania) where we’ll be visiting friends and family, grilling hot dogs, drinking beer, attending our niece’s graduation party, and hanging out at a beautiful, remote lake in a cabin with spotty cell phone reception.  Yes, we’ll be unplugged!

 I’ll be taking a few books with me, of course!  I hope to finish at least 3 books, including The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein for Jennifer at Literate Housewife Review’s Dog Days of Summer, The Marriage Bureau for Rich People by Farahad Zama that I

Will it ever be MY turn?

Will it ever be MY turn?

agreed to review, and Two Years, No Rain by Shawn Klomparens for our Summer Reading Series discussion here on the 18th.  I may also take Lottery by Patricia Wood, my book club’s pick for September, and Who by Fire by Diana Spechler, a book that has languished on my TBR pile for way too long.  

But realistically I don’t think I’ll be able to read 5 books in 10 days at the lake, unless I just ignore my mother in law, my husband’s sisters, the kids and their cousins.  However there will be a 5 hour flight and a 1 hour drive each way, and long afternoons on the beach, so I guess it’s possible!

I hope you are all enjoying your summer!

Blog Neglect and Reviews

"Watch me, Mom!"

"Watch me, Mom!"

Due to the lure of summer and the demands of work and children, I’ve been neglecting my blog.  I’m down from 3-5 posts per week to 1-2.  It’s not that I have less to say, only that I have less time to say it.  

But I have been reading!  I read during the kids’ pre-lifeguard classes at the high school. I read while watching their back handsprings and round-offs during tumbling.  I read on the front steps of the library as the girls return their books and look for new ones.  I read at the roller rink while they skate.  I read in the food court at the mall as they and their friends spend an hour at Claire’s poring over $2 earrings and purple and green nail polish, or visiting the puppies at the pet store.  I read while sitting at the pool as they perfect their dives and their butterfly stroke.  “Watch me, Mom!”  “Time me, Mom!”  “On a scale of 1-10, how good was my dive?”  My To-Be-Reviewed stack is piling up.

Speaking of reviews.. I have a few questions for my fellow bloggers.

How long, on average, does it take you to write a review?

Do you read other reviews before or after you write yours?

Do you write your review immediately upon finishing a book, or do you wait a while and let it sink in a bit?

Do you pick up a new book to start the minute you finish one?

Inquiring minds want to know!!

Hope everyone is having a great summer!  Thanks to all of you who still come by and comment even though there’s not much going on around here lately!

A Mom’s Guilty Secret: I Don’t Miss My Daughter

imagesIt’s confession time. 

My 11 year old daughter’s been at camp, 100 miles away, for nearly a week, and I DON’T MISS HER. 

Well, maybe I should rephrase that.  I miss HER.  But I don’t miss the drama she creates on a daily basis.  I don’t miss the way she fights with her sister.  I don’t miss the backtalk, the disrespect, the stomping and door slamming, the defiance.  It’s been downright peaceful around here since last Monday. 

And it’s been quite nice to spend a little one on one time with my 10 year old daughter.  We’ve been swimming, taking walks, reading together.  She’s happily showing me her magic tricks, with no one around to spoil the magic and say the trick is ‘stupid’.  I suspect she doesn’t miss her sister much either. 

When I’m trying to sleep at night, I worry about her.  I wish I could call to make sure she’s all right, but of course in this case, no news is good news.  But I still worry.  Is it chilly at night?  Does she have warm enough clothes?  Is she drinking enough water (last year she got dehydrated at camp)?  Wearing sunscreen and chapstick (last year her lips cracked and bled)?  Is she eating (she’s underweight and last year lost 5 lbs at camp)? 

And I can’t wait to see her in a few days.  I can’t wait to hear her stories, listen to all the songs she’s learned, hear about all her adventures.  I can’t wait to see her come off the bus, happy and smiling and missing me.  I hope she has a new appreciation for home and family, for clean clothes and warm beds and sleeping in, but most of all for the people who love her.  And I hope that appreciation lasts a little longer than the 20 minute ride home.

Review: Ten Year Nap by Meg Woltzer

wolitzerbook_200Meg Wolitzer’s Ten Year Nap attempts to get at the universality of being a stay-at-home mom, with the title referring to the ten years that one of the main characters, Amy Lamb, a New York lawyer before she became a mom, has been at home with her son.   

Caution to those who are so far intrigued… this is no light-hearted chick lit.  It is a dense, slow read, with all the appropriate angst and immoderation of stereotypical New Yorkers.   That is the frustrating part of the novel.   But, (and this is a BIG BUT), if you can handle the complex writing and the whiney New York women, then you are in for some amazing and deeply felt insight into the human mommy heart (full disclosure:  I am a stay at home mom, with a former career, so the novel spoke personally to me on that level ).   

In reading this book, I have to imagine that Wolitzer’s words will somehow speak to almost every mom out there.  There are amazingly poignant passages:  a mom’s attachment to a newborn baby and how she couldn’t put her infant in day care, another mom’s flashback to her helpless preemie twins and her protectiveness even as they are older and healthy, the identity crisis of not knowing how to answer what it is that “you do.”   There are happy and unhappy marriages, and moms who are content to stay at home and those who are antsy and unsatisfied.   One of the friends has moved to the suburbs, some have a tough time making ends meet in the city, and one is very wealthy.  One of the four moms, who had some fertility problems and adopted a baby from Russia, struggles with her choices and seems to ignore her daughter’s signs of special needs.   Interwoven into the larger story are smaller chapters, flashbacks into the lives of other moms in past and present generations.   

Perhaps my only real negative with this book is that despite the fact that I, as the reader, was inside these characters’ heads, I still didn’t connect with them.  I knew their names, their former occupations, how they felt about their kids and spouses, how they grew up, etc.  But, somehow, (and I am not sure why) I walked away not feeling intimate with these women.   Maybe it was because I didn’t like most of these moms, and some I actually hated.  Maybe the darkish tone of the novel only gave me insight into their angst, and not their joys. 

But, what the novel does well is gives you a heaping spoonful of mommy-hood.  My guess is that many will find it slow and whiney.  For someone like me, who often misses my career life, I found such truth in some of the passage that I have to be glad I spent the extra time and energy to read this novel.   

This book was reviewed by my book club buddy, Elaine.  Thanks, Elaine! 

Reviewer Bio:  Elaine Legere is a stay-at-home mommy and part-time marketing consultant, after years of working for Disney, Palm (aka Palm Pilot), Los Angeles Times, and Details Magazine.  She received her BA at UCLA in English Literature and an MBA from University of Colorado. She is an avid reader, loves movies, and all things outdoors.

If You Feed Them, They Will Come

Put three kids in a dinghy in Newport Harbor with a couple of stale hot dog buns, and every pelican, seagull, and duck within a 2 mile radius shows up!  Pretty soon the seals arrive too. 

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The Sunday Salon – May 31, 2009

TSSbadge3It’s quiet around here today- the hub’s out of town on business and daughter #2 went to a sleepover birthday party last night.  Daughter #1 is still in bed, so it’s just me and the dog, hanging out.  And of course, lots of book bloggers are out of town at BEA.  The silence is deafening!

images-1This has been a good week for reading.  I finished Truth & Beauty, read and reviewed The Virgin Suicides, got about 2/3rds of the way through Beach Trip for our Summer Reading Series, and read about 100 pages of The Local News for an upcoming TLC tour.   My youngest and I started reading The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan together for our newly formed mother/child book club, inspired by Julie at Booking Mama.  Our first meeting will be in July with 11 kids (boys and girls) and 9 adults- we’re excited.  It’s amazing how much reading you can do when you turn off the tv.

9780316025270_154X233A lot of books made their way into my hands this week.  I received The Art of Racing in the Rain from Harper Collins- it was a win from a book club website.  I also won The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society from Random House.  Both ‘Racing’ and ‘Guernsey’ are books I’ve been wanting to read since they first came out; I can’t wait!  Love Begins in Winter, a collection of short stories by Simon Van Booy, also came from Harper Collins.  I’m not sure about this one.  I love short stories, but in looking over the book I’m not in love with the author’s style.  I was going to use it for a Teaser Tuesday post, but the sentences are all super short and choppy, and not just in one area.  I looked at probably 20 sample pages.  So I don’t know.  The Skinny:  Adventures of America’s First Bulimic by Rayni Joan came from the author, and last but not least, Sheri from A Novel Menagerie let me borrow Into the Beautiful North by Luis Alberto Urrea.  I’m really looking forward to that one.

9781439102817And I still have to buy a couple of books!  Still Alice by Lisa Genova is my book club’s July pick, and Life of Pi by Yan Martell is our pick for August.  Must get my hands on those.  I will never have enough time to read all the books in my house- unless I stop working and ignore the house, the laundry, my friends and my family for a month or so and do nothing but read.  As tempting as that sounds, it ain’t gonna happen.

Last night, though, I took a break from reading and had a movie night with my 11 year old daughter.  We watched Mean Girls and Legally Blond 2 and pigged out on cookies & cream ice cream.  It was nice spending some one on one time with my oldest.  My kids can be a handful when they’re together, but separately they are angels (well, mostly..), and I think they crave and really need time alone with me and with their dad.  They get sick of being seen as a unit and don’t always want to vie for our attention.

After my girl fell asleep I watched Rachel Getting Married with Anne Hathaway and sobbed like a baby!  The tears were just streaming out of me like a faucet, soaking my face and neck, and I didn’t even try to stop them.  I totally get why she was nominated for Best Actress for this role. She’s come a long way from The Princess Diaries and Ella Enchanted (loved those, too, but in a different way).

Well I hope everyone has a great week.  June, already!  It’s hard to believe.  For us that means 6th grade graduation, 2 more weeks of school, and then a gaggle of kids in and out of the house every day for 12 weeks.  I’m not ready!!!!!

Leave me a note and tell me what you’re reading this week.  Happy Sunday!

Guest Post: A Little Theory of Mine by Marisa de los Santos

Marisa sitting oneThe lovely Marisa de los Santos, author of the New York Times Bestseller Love Walked In and Belong to Me (review and giveaway HERE), is guest posting today about balancing work and family.  Thanks, Marisa, for this wonderful essay!

A Little Theory of Mine by Marisa de los Santos

I get the question a lot, usually from women and often during book group meetings:  “How do you balance writing and family?”         

The easy answer is that I write my books while my children are at school.  Technically, this is true.  Any writing I do happens somewhere between drop-off and pick-up.  Weekends and evenings, I get a little time at my desk, but mostly these parts of the week are given over to homework, ballet classes, piano lessons, swim practices, meets and games, family dancing in the living room, family singing in the car, family bike-rides, movie-watching of the G/PG variety, and general hanging out.  When the kids go to sleep at a reasonable hour, which doesn’t consistently happen, weeknights belong to my husband and, sometimes, a glass of wine.  Saturday nights are ours, too.  So I balance work and family by writing my books Monday through Friday, while the kids are at school. 

imagesBut this answer is really too easy.  In fact, I stopped giving it for the same reason that I am deeply attached to it:  it makes my life sound tidy, when my life is anything but tidy.  Plus, I didn’t usually get away with it.  Most of the time, before the answer was completely out of my mouth, people jumped in with:  What about groceries?  What about laundry?  What about reading and exercise and volunteer work and meetings and friendships and email and shopping and dealing with the plumber?

While I have some help with some of these tasks and obligations, both from my husband, a true partner, fellow writer, and prince among men, and from a highly capable and much-loved young woman who helps with the kids a handful of hours a week and does errands for me on Thursday afternoons, I end up attending to many of them myself, usually during the hours between drop-off and pick-up.  When I explain all of this to people, I’m sure they wonder how my books get written at all.  I wonder myself.

lovewalkedpaperbackBut the truth is that I do all of the things I do not only because I have to, but because I want to.  I want to sit in the choking heat of the indoor pool or in the lobby of the ballet school and watch my kids do what they love.  I am co-president of Home and School (our school’s version of PTA) because I want to be part of the place where my kids spend so much of their time.  I want to be the one who thumps the melons and picks the piece of salmon my family will eat.  I need exercise, friendships, and family dancing to keep me sane.  Still, sometimes I resent how little time I have to write.  On bad writing days, I beat myself up over the squandered hours.  I envy the lives I imagine other writers are leading.  I long for the peace and time and big trees of writers’ colonies, despite the fact that I have never been to one and, in my heart, don’t really want to go. 

Over time, I have developed a theory.  If people hear it and dismiss it as rationalization, well, I don’t blame them.  It probably started out as rationalization, my putting a positive spin on my frenetic days and limited writing time.  But no matter why I came up with the theory, I’ve come to believe in it.  Not just believe in it.  I’ve come to see that it’s more than just a theory.  It’s big and holistic, ill-defined and not terribly original, but I recognize it as one of the deep truths of my life.

It goes something like this:  everything feeds everything else.  Writing time and family time are false distinctions.  Sweating it out at swim practice, watching my son’s arms arc and arc and arc; choosing one tomato over another; helping set up for the school book fair; listening to my daughter read an Ivy and Bean book aloud, her downward-cast eyes and chirping voice; watching Law and Order reruns with my husband; my obligations to the people I am honored to have in my life, the hours I spend with them:  all of these things make me–I almost wrote “a better writer,” but better than what?  Better than who?  All of these things make me a writer.  They impact directly the words I write in palpable and invisible ways.  Just as the hard-won hours I spend with language, story, and characters make me the friend, sister, daughter, wife, mother that I am.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.