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!

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: Moose: A Memoir of Fat Camp by Stephanie Klein

small-book-coverAs I prepared to ship my daughter off to sleep-away camp, I thought it would be fun to read Moose: A Memoir of Fat Camp by Stephanie Klein, a memoir of the author’s childhood summers at a fat camp in the 80’s.  It wasn’t exactly what I expected.

The book opens as a grown up Stephanie is being told by a doctor that she must gain 50 pounds for the health and well being of the twins she is carrying. This sends her into an emotional tailspin, bringing back a flood of childhood memories of when she was called “Moose” by her classmates and when her parents shipped her off to fat camp. Moose is actually a compilation of 5 childhood summers spent at camp.

Stephanie’s mom is concerned about her weight. Stephanie’s dad cruelly pokes fun at her chubby body. At the age of 8 they start sending her to see Fran, a woman who runs a weight loss program out of her basement in Long Island. Weigh-ins, lectures about food (never exercise), and helpful/hurtful comments turn Stephanie’s extra pounds into a lifelong obsession with weight and a distorted body image.

When meetings in Fran’s basement don’t produce the desired results, Stephanie’s parents ship her off to Yanisin, a summer camp program designed to promote weight loss through diet and exercise. Stephanie finds she is on the thinner side of fat at Yanisin; there is a hierarchy of popularity even at fat camp, where everyone is heavy, and Stephanie is thrilled to discover she’s one of the ‘hot’ girls.

The author, then and now

The author, then and now

Rather than learning how to have a healthy relationship with food and with her body, Stephanie picks up some really bizarre ideas from the other campers (i.e. drinking water shots before a weigh in) and some unhealthy ways of dealing with things at camp. She even learns how to self-induce vomiting from another camper, and it all gets a bit dark and disturbing. The focus is always on appearance, not health.

This book brought up a lot of memories for me. I wasn’t fat but I went through a 2 or 3 year period between about 11 and 13 where I had what my mother affectionately called a “cookie roll”.. basically a jiggly tummy. I was horribly self conscious about it, and all the pictures from those awkward years show me with my arms crossed in front of me, trying to hide my stomach. I think Klein does a good job of describing what it feels like to be self conscious about your body, about not feeling good enough, about the pain of being teased by others.

But much of her writing made me feel uncomfortable. At times she is very crude. She talks about her fascination with kinky, hardcore porn magazines (as a preteen) and her very early discovery of her sexuality (bringing herself to orgasm in 2nd grade). I kept thinking- TMI (too much information).

But at other times the writing is funny, sharp, and heartbreaking. Each chapter begins with one of Stephanie’s journal entries from that time.  I think most people will relate to her complicated feelings about her body, about body image in general, and her relationships with her family and with other kids. Kids can be cruel. Even fat kids.

I was hoping that by the time Stephanie grew up she would identify less with her body- that thinness or fatness would not be her most important identifying trait. Meaning I hoped that she would think more highly of herself rather than just a person with weight issues. But by the end of the book, when she’s now a mother of 2 beautiful children, she still has a twisted body image, is still hyper-focused on her appearance, still obsessing about food and weight. I found that kind of sad.

Stephanie Klein is also the author of Straight Up and Dirty, a funny look at her life after divorce.  Many thanks to HarperCollins for sending me this book for review.

The Film

The paper came home with the fourth grade girls yesterday- the one that says they’ll soon be watching “the film”.

“Mom!  You have to sign this!  We’re going to see a film about growing up and I can’t watch it unless you sign!”  She is excited, of course.  

My 4th grader is immature physically and in every other way.  She watches Spongebob, reads Goosebumps, and believes in the toothfairy.  She is blissfully unaware of fallopian tubes and sperm and fertilized eggs.

On the one occasion I tried to discuss menstruation with her, she did not want to hear it.  She knows a little bit about it from an American Girl Book her sister has shared, but not in great detail.  She’s in denial (just like her mother) and would prefer not to know.

My little girl is 10 years and 4 months old.  Aunt Flo came to visit me for the first time at 11 years and 2 months, the summer after 5th grade.  I was at Girl Scout camp and truly thought I must be dying.  I knew nothing.  I hid my messy underwear in my duffle bag and didn’t tell anyone.  My mother made that lovely discovery when I got home from camp.  We never talked about it, but some ‘supplies’ magically found their way to my bathroom.  I remember she also handed me a book called Growing UP a couple days later, with lots of information about a woman’s cycle, and a single paragraph about intercourse.  I read that paragraph in horror and fascination, checking the dictionary for unfamiliar terms, and discussing it with a neighbor girl who was equally horrified and fascinated.  

I can’t keep my daughter from growing up, but I can spare her the fear and embarrassment of not knowing what is going on when the time comes.  I just didn’t think the time would come so soon.  She may not want to hear it, at least not from me, but she definitely wants to know what’s in this mysterious film that only the girls in her class get to watch (no boys allowed!).  And I’ll take her along to pick out the products she’ll need and answer all her questions.  

At least she won’t ever have to wear a sanitary belt.  Raise your hand if you don’t know what I’m talking about (go ahead, make me feel reeeeeeally old!).

One Last 100K Celebration Giveaway: Things I Want My Daughters To Know by Elizabeth Noble

9780061122194Happy Valentine’s Day!  I hope you are canoodling with your honey and staying warm!

For this final 100K Celebration Giveaway, Danny from HarperCollins looked over my blog and thought my readers would be interested in the book Things I Want My Daughters To Know by bestselling author Elizabeth Noble!  It seems appropriate since I talk about my preteen girls so much.  

There will be a Book Club Girl On Air show occurring online on Tuesday, February 17th, at 7 pm with Elizabeth Noble on www.authorsonair.com.  It’s an interview with the author where book club members can call in or write in with questions about the book.  Pretty cool!

6a00d8341c9ac653ef010536f1eeee970b-120wiHere’s a little information about the book:

How do you cope in a world without your mother?

When Barbara realizes time is running out, she writes letters to her four daughters, aware that they’ll be facing the trials and triumphs of life without her at their side. But how can she leave them when they still have so much growing up to do?

Take Lisa, in her midthirties but incapable of making a commitment; or Jennifer, trapped in a stale marriage and buttoned up so tight she could burst. Twentysomething Amanda, the traveler, has always distanced herself from the rest of the family; and then there’s Hannah, a teenage girl on the verge of womanhood about to be parted from the mother she adores. 

But by drawing on the wisdom in Barbara’s letters, the girls might just find a way to cope with their loss. And in coming to terms with their bereavement, can they also set themselves free to enjoy their lives with all the passion and love each deserves?

This heartfelt novel by bestselling author Elizabeth Noble celebrates family, friends . . . and the glorious, endless possibilities of life.

My Daughters, My Loves

My Daughters, My Loves

Sound good?  For a chance to win a copy of Things I Want My Daughters to Know, leave a comment by Saturday, February 21st, telling me something that YOU’D like your daughter (or future daughter, or niece, or random young girl) to know.

As for me, there are a million things I want my girls to know, not the least of which is how to behave themselves!  But also how much I love them and how much being their mom has changed me forever.  Happy Valentines Day to you and yours!

I Hate You, Mom

I love my children.  I want them to be happy.  I want them to get good grades, have friends, be active, be successful.  I want them to be kind and respectful and responsible.  I give them lots of attention, love, and support.  I’ve read the parenting books.  I’m involved.  I’m concerned.  I want them to have a good life.

I also want them to get up, take a shower, put on clothes, brush their own hair, make their own beds, pack their own lunches, eat their breakfasts, put their homework in their backpacks, and be ready to walk out the door by 7:50 am Monday through Friday.  Is that too much to ask?  Apparently it is.

I understand a little grumpiness in the morning.  We can’t all be morning people.  But what do you do with a 9 year old girl who, when you tell her to stop dragging her feet, goes even slower than before?  Who, when sent to her room to get dressed after her shower, hangs out in a damp towel for 20 minutes?  Who takes 15 minutes to simply put on her shoes?  Who can’t be bothered to put a bite of food into her mouth until it’s time to walk out the door, then complains she didn’t have time to eat?  Who, when you tell her that you’ll have to rethink the playdate she was looking forward to if she can’t pick up the pace, turns and yells, “I hate you, Mom!”?  

What, parents, do you do about that?  If you’re not a parent, please reserve judgment- no offense, but until you’ve been there, it’s not possible to know what it feels like.  And I’m quite sure your future little darling will never do this to you because you will be an amazing parent, right?  Yeah, I remember thinking that too, pre-kids.  

The playdate is history, and she’s lost tv privileges for the rest of the week.  She apologized after I asked her to (it bugged me that I had to ask!), but my feelings are hurt.  I know, I need to suck it up and not take it personally, but still..  

Where did my sweet baby go?  And the teen years are coming (I’m terrified).  Help.

I Didn’t Get the Memo..

My daughters have been Hannah Montana freaks for the last couple of years.  They have Hannah t-shirts, Hannah pajamas, even Hannah wigs.  They have all the music, they know all the words to all the songs, they’ve seen all the shows.  We’ve been to a Hannah Montana concert (with earplugs for me- 10,000 screaming preteen girls make quite a racket!).  You could say they were Hannah Maniacs.  

So my 10 year old was thrilled a few weeks ago when I got her a pair of plaid bermuda shorts (very popular right now at her school) and a coordinating Hannah t-shirt. She couldn’t wait to wear it to a girl scout meeting and again to a party.  Today I suggested she wear it to school, and she refused!  When I asked why, she said she’d still wear it at home, but not to school, because Hannah is babyish.

Babyish?  Obviously she hasn’t seen those Vanity Fair photos.

Who decides this stuff?  And why didn’t I get the memo?

It’s a Girl Thing

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There’s nothing like a yogurt and oatmeal facial to put a smile on a girl’s face! Ahhhhh, it’s so relaxing! We used 2 tablespoons plain yogurt and one tablespoon oatmeal for this soothing, cool mask. You can find over 250 recipes for everything from shampoo to lip gloss in Natural Beauty at Home by Janice Cox.

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For a more holistic approach to skin care, you may want to check out Pure Skin: Organic Beauty Basics by spa expert Barbara Close.

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