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!

Guest Post and Giveaway: Sheri from A Novel Menagerie says, “Yeah, I’d Praise Book Clubs!”

My book club met on Sunday and we had the great pleasure to welcome a new member, Sheri from A Novel Menagerie!  She and I met through our children last summer, who by sheer coincidence were not only in the same unit at Girl Scout camp, but in the same cabin 2 years in a row.  The chances of that are so slim- one year they went in August, the next year June, one year they were in a sampler unit, the next year a horse unit- all with hundreds of other kids.  It almost seemed that fate was pushing us together.

At first Sheri was kind of stunned that we hit it off, because she says she “never gets along with other women”.   We bonded over our children (we each have two wild preteen girls- hers are twins, mine are “Irish twins”), we both have one brother named Bill (who, by yet another coincidence, attends our church), complicated relationships with our sisters, experience with insomnia (hers, and my husbands), our OCD tendencies, and of course, BOOKS!   I showed her my blog and told her about the book blogging community.  Sheri asked a million questions.  I sent her on her way with a few extra books I had hanging around.  She went home and started her amazing new blog, A Novel Menagerie, that very day.  If you haven’t seen it, you must go check it out.  She hosts memes, challenges, contests, and reads about 5 books a week (and I’m not even exaggerating!)  She also started an online business called BookCharming.com and makes these adorable floss book marks.  She has so much drive and energy and honestly, I don’t know how she does it all!

So when she asked me about my book club, I sadly told her that it was “full”.  We had what seemed the right amount of people (12) and the club had agreed that we wouldn’t be inviting any more.  But then, in January, someone dropped out.  I mentioned it to Sheri and before the words were out of my mouth, she was saying YES!  So here she is, with impressions of her first book club meeting.  Welcome, Sheri!

Yeah, I’d Praise Book Clubs!

My constant whining about not being in a book club was more than Lisa could bear.  Month after month, the nagging became like nails scratching on a chalkboard.  She had no choice.  Find a spot for me or listen to 11 more months of “poor me.”  I think she chose wisely…yes, she is indeed a smart girl!

So, after finagling me into the book club, I immediately purchased every book on our reading list.  I was bound and determined to know each book inside and out, be ready for any question, and be worthy of the book club.  The books arrived:

The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

Sarah’s Key

The Invisible Wall

A Thousand Splendid Suns

Our first meeting:  Oscar Wao.  Now, this book is a Pulitzer Prize winner.  Of course, then it must be good.  And, it was.  But, the book was somewhat of a grueling read.  It was not an easy book to get through.  As I spewed out of my mouth in the book club meeting:  

It’s like childbirth; you are not really enjoying it when you’re going through it.  But, once it’s over with you’re glad you did it.  

That’s it.  They’re giving me das boot.  No.  Wait.  Ellen agreed.  Whew!  Let me go back in time to explain.  

So, like a little Nervous Nelly, I walked down the street with Lisa to the book club meeting.  They aren’t going to like me.  I won’t fit in.  I didn’t read the Reader’s Guide questions thoroughly enough.  I wasn’t even sure how I completely felt about the book.  I walk into Ellen’s home.  Immaculate.  Oh, I am such a sub-standard mother.  Ellen would never even sit on my couches.  I’m going to have to host my meeting at Lisa’s house.  There were a few people to meet and… (can you hear the angels singing?) WINE!  I thank God Jesus was into wine!  It’s a goodie that God makes sure is around for me!  Everything looked great.  There was food, wine, the immaculate house.  I was making conversation with whoever would talk with me.  Let’s see if I can remember all of their names (whoever I forget, please forgive me):

bc-bluebirdEllen

Diane

Elaine

Sara

Lisa

Sheri (that’s me)

Orchid

Maggie

Valerie

Tammy

So, Lisa thankfully sat by me during dinner and helped me to remember who’s who, names, etc.  The meeting soon started and Orchid (and her amazingly cool hair) led the meeting.  She read aloud.  But, she read a passage that was written in partial Spanish.  When she said the passage aloud, she said it entirely in English.  <Enter my big mouth> 

bc-sunset“Do you speak Spanish?  I mean, I can read it, but not speak it.  And, well…” (God, Sheri shut up!)

Yes, she did.  And, my inappropriate outburst led into a discussion about the foreign language in the book.  (Thank God!)  The conversation continued and it seemed like we all had something to say. 

My SELF observations:

1. I am the only dumbass who didn’t know that the splotch on the cover was the face of Oscar with a wing coming out of the back of his head.

2. I am the only idiot who thought that Oscar shouldn’t have quit on Yunior when Yunior was trying to help him lose weight.  

3. I’m the only deranged person who didn’t feel sorry for Oscar.  

4. I talk too much.

5. I don’t know enough.

6. Maybe I’m the only one who thinks my thoughts are “spot-on.”  No, that’s not a maybe.  It’s a for sure!

9780312370848My GROUP observations:

1. They were lovely women who really enjoyed this opportunity to get together and discuss their love for books. 

2. These were some INTELLIGENT chicks!

3. There is a common, invisible thread that ties them together.  They appreciate this book club and each other.

4. If I bribe them with my AWESOME Key Lime Martinis, they may let me come back again.  I hope so because I’m almost done with Sarah’s Key.

5. Lisa is my friend!

If I could only talk to intelligent women about the books I read ALL DAY LONG.  It would be like Heaven.  I wonder if I should try to find a job in the book industry.  I’m turning into a one-dimensional person… BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS.  Maybe I need to be in 4 book clubs… one for every Sunday.  Yes, that might cure my itch!

Thank you to Lisa for letting me smuggle my way into the group and share my neurosis with her readers.  

Sheri is donating 2 beautiful BookCharming.com Book Marks to my 100K celebration.  The first one is the Bluebird design, and the 2nd one is Sunset.  Gorgeous, right?  She’s so flippin’ talented!  This chick has skills!!  I’m going to throw in our book club’s next selection, Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay to go along with the beautiful book marks.  Leave a comment by Friday, February 20th for a chance to win.

To read Sheri’s review of Sarah’s Key, click HERE.  I had to skim it because I haven’t read the book yet.  Hope I finish it before next month’s meeting!!

Wordless Wednesday: Hippie Hair

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Before & After

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Feel My Butt

Conversation on the way up to bed after American Idol last night-

K:  Mom!  Mom!  Feel my butt!

Me:  Excuse me?

K:  You have to feel my butt!

Me:  Why?  What’s wrong with your butt?

K:  It’s hard!  Really really hard!

Me:  What do you mean?

K:  Just feel it!

Me: (feeling her butt)  Wow!  It’s like marble!  Have you been working out?  Doing lunges on the playground at recess?

K:  (giggles)  No, just the usual stuff.  Climbing on the playset and playing tetherball and stuff like that.

Me:  Well whatever you’re doing, it’s working.  You’ve got Buns of Steel!

K:  Let me feel your butt!

Me:  WHAT?  No, really, that’s ok..

K:  Just let me feel it!  Turn around..

Me:  Well wait ’til I clench up..

K:  It’s not hard!  It’s jiggly!

Me:  I wasn’t ready!  I wasn’t clenching!

K:  Dad, come feel my butt and Mom’s butt!

Dad:  What??!!

K:  I’ve got Buns of Steel, and Mom’s got Buns of Jello!

Calling All Moms of Bratty Children- HELP!

buc_145I love my children.  I’m sure you love your children too.  But I don’t always like them.  Lately I’ve been wondering at what age you can tell your kid to shut the hell up?  Seriously, the mouth on my kid.  Ugh.  

Over the weekend L. got herself a dish of ice cream and went in the family room to watch a movie.  She got mad at her sister K. because she dared to sit in “her” spot to watch tv.  I don’t know about your house, but we don’t have assigned seating.  She asked K. to move, to which she responded, “No.”  Next she yelled, “That’s my seat!  You know I always sit there!” To which K. responded, “Too bad.”  So then she sat on her.  K. pushed her off.  L. started screaming, saying “You hurt me!  You’re so mean!  GET OUT OF MY SEAT!”  Which is when I stepped in. 

I took her dish of ice cream and sent L. to her room.  She refused to go.  I told her if she didn’t go, she’d lose tv and computer for the whole next day.  She screamed, “I DON’T CARE.”  I then had to bodily remove her from the room (not that difficult really since she only weighs 64 lbs.)  She stormed up the stairs with me right behind, then slammed her bedroom door in my face.  I made a mental note to have her dad remove her door from the hinges when he got home. 

I gave her a couple minutes to cool off before going in to talk to her.  I guess I didn’t wait long enough because she yelled, “GET OUT!”  Hmmm.  I asked her why she was so upset- what’s the difference if you sit on the love seat or the couch to watch tv?  She said, “You don’t understand, and you always take K.’s side.  You love her more.   You’ve never loved me!”  I said, “What are you talking about?”  And she insisted that I always play favorites, that K. always gets her way, it’s not fair.  Okaaaaaay.  I calmly said, “You know that’s not true” and she screamed, “YES IT IS, Mrs. M—!  You don’t love me like a real mother!  You’ve been faking it since the day I was born!  I can see in your eyes that you don’t love me!”  I said something like, “Call me mom.  Don’t call me Mrs. M–.  That hurts my feelings.”  And she said, “How do you like it, Mrs. M–?  You hurt my feelings when you take K.’s side about EVERYTHING!”  I said, “Stop calling me Mrs. M—“ and she said, “Mrs. M–, Mrs. M–, Mrs. M—“ in a sing songy voice.  She might as well have flipped me off.

I had to leave the room- for her own protection, because I wanted to wring her skinny little neck.  Ugh, she pisses me off!  She’s so stinkin’ defiant! 

I just keep thinking, what am I doing wrong?  Where did my sweet little girl go?  This kind of stuff goes on way too frequently in my house.  Sometimes my children make me feel like such a loser parent. 

Needless to say, she’s on restriction.  She lost her bedroom door indefinitely, tv-computer-phone-iPod for a week.  I insisted on a written apology, which was actually pretty good.  I might even frame it. 

Please tell me I’m not the only mother with a mouthy preteen.   It’s so hard not to get emotional.  Does anyone else have this problem and if so, how do you handle it?  Shipping her off to military school is not an option.   

Sunday Salon

imagesIt has finally happened.  Months have gone by since I was utterly consumed with a book, so much so that I read it at every opportunity and devoured it in a day.  But that was my day yesterday.

I was looking for fuel for the raging reading inferno that is my 11 year old daughter when I came across Suey’s 2008 Top 10 list.  In the number one slot for YA and JF (Junior Fiction) was Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer.  I’ve seen that title around so I thought I’d investigate.  After reading the description on amazon and seeing that the appropriate age was 6th-8th grade, I decided to get it.  My local library didn’t have it, but I had a $5 Borders reward to spend, so I placed it on  hold through their website and we drove over to get it.  

I’d told my kids before we went into the store that we were just going in to pick up the book and that if they wanted anything else, they’d have to use their own money (they are loaded with birthday and Christmas money but have deposited most of it in the bank).  I’m not playing the “I’ll pay you back” game anymore. In line at Borders, there were tons of gift books and Christmas clearance items stacked up, 30% off.  Things like “Animal Art” complete with colored pencils, and “How to Draw Faces”, and a “Rock Art” set with paints- just the kind of things my kids love.  And then, *cue the angels* my daughter saw a calligraphy set with markers of varying width- $7.99 marked down from $12.99.  She is fascinated by this style of writing, but I stuck to my guns and said, “You can come back with your own money.”  Having left her purse in the car, she looked at me with horror, but I said, “We talked about this before we came in, remember?”  I’m doing my best to teach them the value of a buck.  

Back in the car, she frantically went through her little purse to see if she had enough.  I reminded her about tax, which sent her into a frenzy of counting pennies.  I had to chip in 64 cents (I’m not made of stone!) but she was able to pull it all together, mostly in quarters, and she ran back in to buy her book.  The line was long so it took another 15 minutes, during which time I decided to open up Life As We Knew It.

I was immediately drawn in, but very early on I decided this wasn’t going to be a book for my daughter.  On page 5 a joke is made about a high school girl named Samantha.  Rather than call her boy crazy or promiscuous, they say, “Well, there’s always a man in SaMANtha” and then there’s a short discourse about sex before marriage.  So, no.  I don’t want my girl thinking high schoolers are running around having sex right and left, even if they are.  I couldn’t let my 11 year old read the book until I discovered just how raunchy it would get.  I’m happy to report that the incident on page 5 was the only objectionable sexual reference in the book (makes me wonder why they even put that in).

I told my daughter I wanted to look the book over a little more before she read it.  I’m not sure she even heard me as she was in rapture over her calligraphy kit and had already pulled out the pens to admire them.  “Look how cool the pens are!  Aren’t they great, Mom?”  I know she’ll value this little kit more because she bought it with her own money than if I had just put it on the counter and handed over my credit card.

Our next stop was the mall.  My girls received Claire’s gift cards in their stockings and were itching to spend them.  While they browsed and weighed the value of hair accessories vs. toe socks, I sat on a bench and read Life As We Knew It.  40 minutes later, when they emerged with their purchases, apologetic for taking so long and excitedly chatty about how they spent their $10 gift cards, it was all I could do to tear myself away.

I read in the food court while the girls stood in line at Chic-Fil-A and Sbarro.  I read while they ate and people watched.  I read while they applied makeup (“Is it ok, Mom?”  “What?  Huh? Oh, sure, go ahead.”)  I read in the car at red lights.  I got home and read while the kids ran down the street to rake leaves at a neighbors’ house ($1 a bag).  I read while my husband took the outdoor  Christmas lights down and asked, “Weren’t you planning to take down the tree?”.  I read as I answered, “Tomorrow”.    I read as I made dinner and while everyone ate.  I read while the kids did calligraphy and watched a movie and put themselves to bed.  I read as my husband made mad, passionate love to me.  Ha Ha.  Ok that didn’t actually happen, but I definitely was that distracted by this book!  I read straight through the news and Saturday Night Live, but started slowing down as I neared the last few pages, not wanting it to end.  At 12:05 I closed the book, teary eyed but happy.  

Life As We Knew It.  Great book.  Just make sure to clear your schedule if you decide to pick it up.

Enjoy your Sunday!

The Sunday Salon

We’ve made it to the last Sunday of 2008! I hope you are enjoying a relaxing holiday season with your families.

Sk8tr Grlz

Sk8tr Grlz

The last week has been a blur for us. Christmas was a wild rumpus of paper and squeals. Suffice it to say that the girls were very happy with their gifts! We’ve been eating too much and lazing around being slothful, then laughing at ourselves and vowing to do better as we discover our BMIs on the Wii Fit.

My kids got Wave Skateboards this year from their grandparents. They are different from regular skateboards in that they have 2 wheels rather than 4, and the board itself isn’t stationery- the two sides move independently of each other, so riding it requires a different motion than a normal skateboard. Watching my kids learn how to use them has been hysterical, but they’re already getting the hang of it.

Our family went to see Wicked at the Pantages Theater in LA the day after Christmas and it was spectacular! This was the “big” gift this year and the kids were so surprised. They were enthralled by the amazing singing, costumes, and sets, and by the splendor of the old art deco theater. We’ve been listening to the Wicked cd for a year so they knew all the songs. I even caught myself singing “I know about Pop uU lar” last night.

No one thought to get me a book for Christmas this year, which I found kind of shocking. Maybe they noticed the giant stack of unread books on the mantel, or the teetering pile on my nightstand. Ah, well.. I did receive two Borders giftcards though, and have already used them up!

A lot of us book bloggers are giving some thought to our favorite books of the year. I’m still working on that list, but I do have another list of books I’m most excited about reading in the coming year. Some are new and some have been out for quite a while, but here they are:

The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

The Boy on the Bus by Deborah Schupack

The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennet

Honolulu by Alan Brennert (March 2009)

Shanghai Girls by Lisa See (May 2009)

What do you most look forward to reading in the coming year? Is there anything I MUST add to my list?

I hope you’ve all had a wonderfully blessed year and are looking forward to bigger and better things in 2009. We are living in exciting times here in America and I can’t wait to see what the future holds. My wish for the world is peace and love, and lots of books- with plenty of time to read them!

Ho Ho HO

I swore I’d never be one of those bloggers who apologizes for their laziness and lack of blog posts- I’m not delusional enough (yet) to believe anybody truly cares that a week has gone by since my last post- but rather than apologize I’ll attempt to explain.  

Coupled with the usual holiday crazies and being a HO I’ve felt much more foggy than bloggy lately.  The time I normally spend reading or blogging (late night and early morning) I’ve spent sleeping, planning, worrying, or eating (oink).  We’re dealing with some big issues at my house and I’ve been turning to food as a crutch and a comfort from the stress, which doesn’t really matter if I stay in my bathrobe for the rest of my life but is a bit of a problem if I want to fit into my actual clothes.  I was talking to a friend about this last night at a neighborhood party- maybe friend is too strong a word- anyway, as she nibbled on a baby carrot she said, “When life gets difficult, I turn to exercise.  I always feel better after a run.”  I wanted to slap her, but instead I smiled, nodded, and excused myself to make a second trip to the chocolate fountain. 

Opening gifts OMG!  THAT"S SO CUTE!

Opening gifts OMG! THAT"S SO CUTE!

The last week has been a whirlwind of doctor appointments (4) and party preparations.  My youngest turned 10 Saturday and we had a slumber party with 7 giggly wiggly girls.  They screamed, played games, laughed, screamed, sang karaoke, went on a scavenger hunt, screamed, and ate tons of junk food.  Why do 10 year olds respond to everything with a scream?  It started the minute the girls began to arrive.  “I GOT A GUINEA PIG FOR MY BIRTHDAY.”  “NO WAY!!!”  “OMG THAT IS SUCH A CUTE SKIRT!”  “I LOVE YOUR MONKEY SLIPPERS!!!!”  “WHO WANTS TO PLAY A GAME?”  ME ME ME!!  SCREAM SCREAM SCREAM  The one thing I forgot to buy for the party was a set of earplugs for my husband and me! 

img_1626The picture is from a game my daughter invented-Pin the Lips on the Jonas Bros.  This game elicited more screams and peals of laughter than anything else they did all night.  I have to agree that the Joe Bros are pretty cute, even if Joe’s eyebrows look like they were drawn on with a black Sharpie.  The gaggle of girlies finally collapsed into sleep around 2 am.  

The next morning we took my daughter and two friends out for a round of golf.  It was a Southern California postcard kind of day- imagine palm trees against a brilliant sun, blue skies, puffy white clouds- we were very lucky as it was the only sunny day in an otherwise cold and rainy week. 

As for this week’s reading- I finished Chez Moi by Agnes Desarthe (review tomorrow) and was able to read about half of Swim to Me by Betsy Carter.  Next up- The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted and Other Small Acts of Liberation by Elizabeth Berg.  It just seems appropriate. 

What are you reading this week?

The Sunday Salon

img_11561Ahhh, Sunday, the one day all week we don’t have to race around to be anywhere.  Unless, of course, the church bully comes downstairs and asks, “Are we going to church?” in his accusatory “You’re all heathens!” tone, and if I say I don’t feel like it, he’ll be mad at me all morning.  

It’s weird how my husband has turned into this church guy.  He wasn’t like that the first decade we were together.  The only time I ever saw him inside a church was for a wedding or a funeral.  But now that we are PARENTS, and we have to set an EXAMPLE, he is the church bully.  If I had my way, we’d go maybe once a month.  If he had his way, we’d go twice a week.  So we end up going about 3 Sundays out of 4, and the other Sunday, he’s mad at me.  I always tell him that no one is preventing him from going by himself!

img_1101Anyway!  My daughter turned 11 this week, and we caved and got her a cell phone, so she is no longer the last girl on earth without one, and she’s pretty darn happy about it.  I’m sure the novelty will wear off eventually.  I actually like the convenience of being able to get ahold of her when she’s at a friend’s house or she’s walking home from school.  She had a laser tag party with her friends last weekend, and then we celebrated on her actual birthday by having dinner at a place of her choosing (within reason, of course!).  She picked Olive Garden, because she really loves the fact that they bring basket after basket of steaming hot breadsticks.  “They just keep on coming, Mom!”  Yes they do, dear (oink, oink).  

We watched history being made Tuesday night as Barack Obama addressed a throng of supporters with his Yes, We Can acceptance speech.  My parents were here and my mother, a staunch Republican, said to no one in particular, “Well, I hope you people are happy!”  Thanks, Mom, we are!  My husband and I are Republicans who didn’t care for McCain at all, and thought he made a ridiculous choice in Palin, and who got very fed up with Dubyah, so we jumped ship.  If the Republicans could have given us a decent candidate, things might have been different.

Yesterday my daughters’ Girl Scout troops placed flags on the graves of veterans at Forest Lawn.  Many thanks to all the Veterans out there.  We are grateful and proud of you.

image003This week I read Kandide and the Secret of the Mists aloud to my kids for my book club meeting this afternoon.  Yes, it’s a children’s book for an ADULT book club, but our hostess is friends with the author so she will be attending our meeting.  The kids are coming too- should be interesting.  They’ve been very curious about what we do at book club (drink lots of wine and laugh and talk about books- so mysterious!) so now they’ll get to see for themselves.

I also read Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, my book club pick for December, and have no idea how I’m going to review it without giving it away.  Maybe I’ll just put up a Publishers Weekly blurb and then insist that everyone go read it!  It was freaky and powerful.  I’ll have to read more Ishiguro (any suggestions?  The Remains of the Day?)  I read about 80 pages of The Zookeeper’s Wife, sent by WW Norton books for review.  They sent me two copies, so I’ll be giving one away soon.  However I don’t know when I’ll finish it.  It reads like a textbook and I was having a hard time with it, so I put it aside temporarily and started The Little Giant of Aberdeen County by TIffany Baker.  This one’s an ARC sent by Hachette that will be out in January.  It’s a debut novel, which is hard to believe because it is so well written.  So far I love it and I’m flying through it.  It has really well developed, quirky characters.  Also this week I finished scheduling for this virtual book tour and began scheduling for this one.  I’m looking for tour hosts, so let me know if it sounds interesting!

How was your week?  What are you reading?

Review and Author Interview: Shrink Rap by Robin A. Altman, MD

207947560Robin Altman is a patient woman.  Of course she has to be in her line of work.  But she’s also been really patient with me.  She sent me her book Shrink Rap: An Irreverant Take on Child Psychiatry, which I agreed to read and review, months ago.  I started it in early August, and here it is November and I’m just getting around to reviewing it.  So my apologies to Robin for the long delay. 

Here’s what happened.  I misplaced the book.  I knew it would likely turn up but just had no idea where I’d put it.  I found it in a basket in my living room this week as I was pulling out magazines to use for a project for my daughter’s Girl Scout troop. I must have done a quick “stash and dash” clean up of my family room 5 minutes before company arrived (in August) and shoved it in there.  

So I quickly dusted it off and finished it up.  What can I tell you about this book and about Robin Altman?  First off, she’s funny- really, really funny.  And sensible.  And down to earth.  She admits that she doesn’t know everything- imagine a doctor doing that!  She’s a mom and a child psychiatrist who uses humor in both her parenting and her practice.  She shares anecdotes about her patients, but she’s not above sharing about her two boys, Kevin and Alex, garden-variety, annoying adolescents.  

The book is laid out in short chapters titled Discipline or Lack Thereof and Childcare i.e. Leaving Your Child With Nutjobs and Adolescents- Should They Be Killed?  Other chapters are titled Psychosis or ADHD or Bipolar Disorder or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (doesn’t this sound like a fun book?  NO?  Well, it actually is!).  At the end of each chapter, Robin gives information about the disorder she’s discussing so that you can decide if your child is, in fact, psychotic or just plain irritating.  Or both. 

This book isn’t meant to be taken too seriously.  It’s not a parenting book or a self help book; it’s just lighthearted fun.  Moms with kids who have “issues” will appreciate her ability to make them laugh and feel less alone.  With it’s short, easy chapters, it would be a great addition to any doctor’s waiting room.  It’s the kind of book you can carry around in your purse or in the car for those times when you just have a few minutes to read and can use a good laugh.  I’d highly recommend Shrink Rap to any parent.

pa-robinsmallThe picture at left is Robin on her way into a comedy club gig.  Yes, she’s also a comedian! Isn’t she cute?  She says the picture makes her laugh because she looks like a goober!  

Robin was kind enough to answer a few questions for me.  

Welcome, Robin Altman!

BOTB:  It can’t be easy to be funny about serious things like childhood psychosis and anorexia.. or is it?  Do you find humor in everything?

ROBIN:  Yes.  Unfortunately I find humor in anything if I think about it for awhile.  I think it’s my brain’s particular coping mechanism, because I see some pretty awful stuff.  If I’m with a child and family going through something terrible, I feel bad with them.  There’s nothing funny about that.  (Drat!)  But if I think of a concept, I can always dredge up something funny.  I don’t usually have to dredge much.  Something funny happens every day.

BOTB:  As a parent I sometimes wonder what is “wrong” with my kids.  Is it easy to diagnose certain things, like ADHD for instance?  Is there a huge obvious difference between a kid who is merely challenging and a kid with ADHD?  Is it like the difference between a headache and a brain tumor?

RA:  I guess it’s a little like the headache/brain tumor analogy, but I hesitate to say that, given that I want everyone to mellow out about psychiatric illness.  It’s more like everything is on a continuum, and there’s a bell shaped curve for normality.  For example, everyone has a touch of obsessive compulsive qualities in them.  If you’re vacuuming your house twice a day, it’s no big deal unless it bothers you, or gets in the way of your quality of life.  If you can’t leave the house because you’re picking up specks of dirt for 5 hours each day, then it’s probably OCD, and it’s your choice as to whether it needs to be treated.  (I would seek treatment if I picked up any dirt whatsoever — ever.)

BOTB:  Because of your profession, do the parents of your kids’ friends assume you have all the answers?  Do they expect you to be a Super Parent?

RA:  Not once they meet my kids!  (Ha? Ha?)  I usually make it clear to all that I’m not a Super Parent, nor do I want to be considered one.  I even tell patients’ parents, “Look.  I’m not saying that I could do this, but…”

BOTB:  There’s a line in Freaky Friday (the Lindsay Lohan/Jamie Lee Curtis movie) where Lindsay’s character says to her child psychiatrist mom, “Stop shrinking me!”  Do your kids ever feel like you’re “shrinking” them?

RA:  I love this question!  No, they never complain about that!  When I leave the office, I leave my “psychiatrist” self there, and I’m a total goofball at home.  Sometimes, like if I’m yelling at my kids, I’m so awful that I’m glad there are no hidden cameras in my house.  The AACAP would send a S.W.A.T. Team to the house to remove my license.

BOTB:  I’m the type who sees myself (or my children) any time I read about a disease.  For instance, if I’m reading about Lyme disease, and the symptoms are fatigue, headache, flu-like symptoms- I can totally talk myself into believing I have it.  Now that I’ve read your book, I’m pretty sure I have an anorexic, oppositional defiant, bipolar adolescent.  Or two.  Do you take new patients??

RA:  Oh no!  Remember the bell shaped curve!  I’m sure your kids are fine! 🙂  I always welcome new patients, especially those whose parents have a sense of humor.

BOTB:  Your book was great, and your blog is really funny too.  Will you be writing more books?  Are you working on anything now that you could tell us about?

RA:  There has been a deafening clamoring for Shrink Rap 2, and who am I to deny my fans?  Seriously, I love to write, so I’m writing Shrink Rap 2.  I’m also working on a chick lit type funny mystery novel starring – ta da! – a child psychiatrist detective.  We child psychiatrists really get around.

Thanks so much for taking the time to review my book, Lisa!  You rock!  -Robin

Visit Robin Altman’s website HERE and her really funny blog HERE.