The Sunday Salon: Happy Mother’s Day!

Happy Mother’s Day!  Mine is a double whammy-it is both Mother’s Day and my birthday, which is a little like having your birthday on Christmas-you get a lot of 2 for 1 presents.  But I’m not complaining-  next to the lilacs my mother brought over for me I see a vase filled with tissue paper flowers my 3rd grader made in school, a hand painted mug she made in Brownies, and assorted gifts wrapped in bright green paper.  Once everyone wakes up we’ll have cake and ice cream for breakfast, a sweet birthday tradition at our house.  We will be celebrating later with extended family at The Chart House for brunch. 

It was a good week for reading.  I finished Matrimony and worried that my review might upset the author, who I’ve been emailing with since his guest post.  It’s a really good book, but there were things that bothered me, and I almost didn’t post the review at all for fear he might be offended by some of my comments.  To my relief he was fine and did not take offense.  I’d never been in a situation like that before and it made me think about reviews; why we do them, how important it is to be honest and what we should be concerned about when we’re writing them.  Matrimony will be discussed on May 22nd at Every Day I Write the Book and at the end of June at Planet Books.  

Speaking of planets, I received an amazing little collection of short stories from Blog Stop Book Tours called Springtime on Mars by Susan Woodring.  These stories are pitch-perfect and I absolutely loved them; I laughed, I cried, I emailed the author and gushed like a schoolgirl!  The author is doing a virtual book tour and will be stopping by on June 6th.  She is also planning a guest post for Books on the Brain about why a short story collection is a great pick for a book club.  I can’t wait to read her thoughts on that.  My copy doesn’t have discussion questions for reading groups, but later versions do. 

My mailman is going to be busy the next couple of weeks, loaded down with the books I’ve acquired all over the internet.  I’m waiting on a bunch of ARCs and free books from various places:  Songs for the Missing by Stewart O’Nan from B&N’s First Look program, The Wishing Year by Noelle Oxenhandler from Library Thing’s Early Reviewer Program, Comfort Food by Kate Jacobs from the publisher, The Safety of Secrets by DeLaune Michel and The Space Between Before and After by Jean Reynolds Page from Avon A-the contemporary Women’s Fiction division of Harper Collins, Love and Biology at the Center of the Universe by Jennie Shortridge (I LOVED her book, Eating Heaven), and Netochka Nezvanova from Penguin Classics.  I think there are a couple more but I’ve started losing track.  I’d put all the links in, but it’s my birthday and I just don’t feel like tracking them all down!  

My book club is reading Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks for our June 8th meeting, and it is also the May choice for the online book club at The Inside Cover.  Year of Wonders is about the decimation of a British village by the bubonic plague in a single year 1665-1666.  I haven’t started it yet, but I’m going to tonight.  If you’ve read the book and want to join in to the online discussion, be sure to head over to The Inside Cover for details. 

Don’t forget about my giveaways:  The Next Thing on My List by Jill Smolinski and Matrimony by Joshua Henkin.  Leave a comment on the above posts by Thursday, May 15th for a chance to win a copy.

Have a great Sunday, and Big Hugs to all you moms on Mother’s Day!  

The Sunday Salon: The Weekend in Books

We’re having another scorching hot weekend here in Southern California, but the heat (hovering around 90) wasn’t enough to keep me away from the 13th Annual Los Angeles Times Festival of Books at UCLA.  The festival is a huge special event that brings writers, publishers, book sellers and readers together.  We visited dozens of booths and it was all very exciting for me.  Authors are like Rock Stars in my world.  Not so much for my kids, though, who did a lot of complaining about the heat while spooning frozen lemonade into their mouths and soaking their feet in the big fountain on the quad.  I should have left the whiners at home!

We talked to Lori Nelson, author of a delightful book for girls called Hillary’s Big Business Adventure , about a 5th grader from Baltimore who has all kinds of entrepreneurial ideas.  This was right up my kids’ alley as they are Lemonade Stand Queens and are always dreaming up new ways to make cash.  My 5th grader actually has brochures and business cards made up for a business idea she has.  The book was written for kids a bit younger than mine, though, so I didn’t buy it, but 4-8 year olds would love it.  The illustrations are outstanding.

We also had a celebrity sighting.  Marilu Henner was at the Borders booth signing her new book Total Health Makeover.  She looked cute in a spring dress and sun hat and laughed when my husband called out, “We loved you on The Apprentice!”

Of the many panels and workshops at the festival there were three I’d hoped to attend, but we got there just in time for the first only to discover it was way on the other side of the sprawling campus.  The other 2 were happening at 2:30 and 4, but by 1pm we were melting in the heat and couldn’t take any more.  We all agreed it was time to leave.

I was excited to find a signed first edition of Matrimony by Joshua Henkin in my mailbox when I got home, sent to me by the author himself!  I look forward to starting it today.  Josh is going to do a guest post for me in the next few days about book clubs, and I’ll be giving away a copy of his book, so keep an eye out for that.  Matrimony is also the May selection for the online book club at Every Day I Write The Book Blog.  You might be able to score a copy of it over there if you hurry!  They are (were?) giving them away to those who want to participate in the discussion.

Last night we had a neighborhood BBQ to attend.  Our friends across the street recently hired an au pair from Brazil to care for their 3 year old twins for the next year. A new Brazilian au pair is a great excuse to party, I always say! 

By the time we came home at 8:30 I was so pooped from being out in the heat all day that I didn’t feel like reading (or maybe it was the massive amounts of bbq’d meat and the 3 beers I consumed that made me feel couch potato-ish).  Luckily Juno arrived in my mailbox from Netflix this weekend, so I popped it into the dvd player, not expecting too much, but I loved it! I laughed, I cried, I marveled at Ellen Page’s talent, her range of emotions, her character’s extensive and colorful vocabulary.  It is smart, funny, touching.  If you haven’t seen it, I insist you go check it out right now!  Or later.  Whatever works.  But do it!  You won’t regret it.

Ok, back to books.  I just gobbled up The Next Thing On My List by Jill Smolinski for my book club.  It’s a breezy whirlwind of a book, quick and light and fun, but also thought provoking.  June Parker gives an acquaintance, Marissa, a ride home one night after a Weight Watchers meeting.  They get in a crash on the freeway and Marissa dies.  Later June comes across a list in Marissa’s purse of 20 things she wanted to do before she turned 25.  There are large and small items on the list, ranging from “kiss a stranger” to “change someone’s life”.  The book is about June’s mission to finish the list for Marissa.  My book club is meeting on May 4th to discuss TNTOML, and the author has graciously agreed to join us by speaker phone.  I’ve asked everyone to bring their own list of 5 things they’d like to do before their next big birthday, but now I’m having trouble coming up with 5 things for my own list!   I keep reminding myself that they don’t need to be profound, just something new, but it’s not easy.  What would be on your list?    

Have a beautiful Sunday!


Sunday Salon

Ahhhhh it’s Sunday, and today in Southern California we are expecting record breaking high temperatures for the 2nd day in a row (93 degrees).  It feels like summer.  The kids are in their bathing suits and I’m trying to talk them into washing my car after breakfast.  Later they have a cosmic bowling party with their school, and after that I’m off to my book club meeting to discuss Eat, Pray, Love.  I’ll be leading the discussion tonight, and I know we’ve got people on both sides of the love/hate fence, so I’m a little anxious about it.  It’s funny.. I’ve done a couple blog posts about E,P,L but I have no desire to review it, I guess because I have such mixed emotions about it.  

Last night my neighbor Kierstin set up an outdoor movie theater in her backyard and invited us for a viewing of Star Wars with her kids.  My kids had never seen it so they were really excited.  My husband took them in their pjs, loaded down with chairs, popcorn, blankets, and drinks.  This gave me 2 solid hours by myself to read!! What a gift! (Thanks, Kierstin!)  Having just finished Loose Girl, I was between books, so I spent about half an hour paging through last month’s Oprah magazine, because I just had to know if “my medicine was making me fat” (it’s not-whew!) and what “Oprah’s New Passion” was (a new tv show-whoopee).  I used to subscribe to several mags, but found I wasn’t reading them anymore, so I let the subscriptions lapse.  I must have a lifetime subscription to “O” because it just keeps coming.  

Finally I hesitantly picked up a book I started a couple weeks ago, The Knitting Circle by Ann Hood.  I’d put it aside the first time because it made me cry really early on (page 19!)  It’s about how a woman manages her grief the year after her only daughter dies from meningitis at age 5.  I’d been thinking about the story ever since I put it down, and felt compelled to go back to it.  I’m really glad I did.  It’s not the kind of book that’s sappy and manipulative, trying to get the big emotional reaction.  It’s quiet and gentle and moving.  The mom is going through the motions, just existing, putting one foot in front of the other (barely).  Her mother encourages her to knit as a way to take her mind off her grief.  She meets some people through a knitting store who have their own troubles they are working through.  She joins a knitting circle and starts to care about these people.  I don’t want to give too much away, but it seems to be a tale of how friendship helps her get her life back after her devastating loss.  I flew through the first 100 pages last night and am looking forward to sitting down with this book again later today.

What are you reading this weekend?  Is it something you’d recommend to others? Please leave a note and let me know!


Weekend Update: From Hamster Heaven to a Book Club Meeting

Our weekend started on a sad note.  My daughter’s beloved hamster, Bear, died in her hands Friday morning.  At 7am, when K. checked on Bear, she was lethargic and struggling to breathe.  K. picked her up, and she raised her little head, put it back down, closed her eyes and she was gone.  My daughter sobbed, “Mom, do something!  Call 911!” so I called the animal hospital, but the vet said it would cost $80. just for him to leave his home and unlock the office door before regular business hours.  Treatment, of course, would cost extra.  After hanging up, I assured K. the animal hospital would do everything they could.  I was pretty sure Bear was already dead, so I asked my husband, within earshot of the kids, to rush Bear to the animal hospital, but privately I asked him to drive around the block a couple times so that I could get the kids off to school.  After school, she came flying at me, asking, “Is Bear ok?”  I broke the news that poor Bear had gone to Hamster Heaven.  K. was heartbroken but matter of fact.  After we held Bear’s funeral, K. said, “She’s in a better place, right, Mom?” quickly followed by, “When can we go to the pet store to get another one?”  We went up to Petco right after the ceremony and brought home a hamster that seems very sweet and looks like a smaller younger version of Bear.  Bear, Jr.  Hopefully this one will live longer than 3 months.

On Saturday, my daughter L. and I hit Borders (she needed the next book in the Five Ancestors series, and I needed a paperback for a book exchange for my book club’s 1st anniversary), then the hospital to see my stepdad.  He had a quadruple bypass a couple weeks ago, came home, then had to go back to the hospital last week and have a second surgery for a massive infection.  He’s facing one more surgery and weeks in the hospital, but he’s got a great attitude and we believe he’s going to be ok.

After a quick visit with Grandpa, L. and I headed to Starbucks for a double chocolate chip frappucino (her) and a mocha (me), then off to our local Farmer’s Market for strawberries, honey and apples.  I’ve been thinking a lot about the food we eat lately, and where it comes from.. trying to buy food grown locally and in season as often as possible, and trying to cook more and buy less processed food.  It’s so easy and convenient to buy pre-made products, or out of season fruit shipped in from Guatemala or Brazil, but I’m at least thinking about things and making small changes.
On Saturday evening our book club had it’s first field trip, stepping out t see The Other Boleyn Girlin the theater.  When a book is so amazing, it’s hard to be objective about the movie, but I think they did a pretty good job with it.  It was quite different than the book, however.  Of course with a 661 page book, a movie would need to be 4 hours long or more to get it all in, so I guess they did the best they could given the time constraints.  I wasn’t sure how Natalie Portman, who in past roles has seemed so wholesome, would pull off the fiery character of Anne Boleyn, but she brought a lot of passion and excitement to the role.  Scarlett Johannsen made a great Mary Boleyn, and Eric Bana was a HOT Henry VIII.  The costumes were nicely done and not over-the-top.  We enjoyed it, but it was hard not to pick the film apart afterward (THAT didn’t happen in the book, THIS was glossed over, etc.)

Sunday was an unseasonably warm day, near 90 degrees.  My flabby, lily-white legs and I are so not ready for shorts.  Maybe I’ll look into one of those spray-on tans before my legs make their annual appearance in the neighborhood.  Wouldn’t want to blind anybody with their brilliant whiteness.

On Sunday afternoon, my Girl Scout troop had their monthly meeting. One of the parents in the troop agreed to have the meeting at her house and teach the girls about skin care.  They made masks of yogurt and oatmeal and gave each other facials.  They had a great time, and now my daughter wants to give EVERYONE a facial.. me, her dad, her sister, the dog.  She also is scrutinizing my every move in front of the bathroom mirror.  “Mom, Mrs. R. says you should NEVER put your fingers into a jar of lotion.”  “Mom, Mrs. R. says you should rub lotion onto your face in a circular motion.  That’s not a circular motion, Mom!”  UGH, quit watching me, kid!!

Sunday night was Book Club time.  I look forward to these meetings so much.  Something about no kids, no men, good food, intelligent conversation, and a glass of wine makes me incredibly happy. We started with food (potluck) and a game, because I am truly a book club geek.  I listed the first sentence of all 12 books we’ve read together as a club and asked everyone to match the sentence to the correct book.  I thought it would be easy, but only two people got them all right.  I’ve won several online book giveaways recently, which made awesome prizes for my geeky little game.  Then we proceeded to discuss The Time Traveler’s Wife in great detail.  There was so much to say (three hours worth!)  Everyone enjoyed the book and found the writing style unique and fascinating.  I would highly recommend it for a book club discussion.

In April our book club will read Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert and will vote on books for our summer reading.  My suggestions are:  Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, Loving Frank by Nancy Horan, and The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne.  If you’ve read any of these, I’d love to know if you think they’d be good for a group discussion.

I hope you all had a wonderful weekend!   

Speed Racer

For my husband’s recent BIG birthday, I wanted a unique gift.. something memorable, something he’d never get for himself. Another shirt just wasn’t gonna cut it, but I couldn’t think of anything really cool. Then my friend Sara suggested a Driving Adventure through DriveTech. My husband would, after a short class, get behind the wheel of a real Nascar and speed around the huge 2 mile track at California Speedway for 30 minutes. Perfect!!

I got him all signed up and paid for it (no refunds means no chickening out!), then surprised him at breakfast on his birthday. He seemed excited but maybe not AS excited as I had hoped. Oh well, the Driving Adventure was still a few weeks off at that point, so there was plenty of time for him to get psyched up for it.

Last Saturday was the big day. On the way to the track, I read all the driver information aloud, and I started to get really scared. These are powerful machines! One false move, and SPLAT, into the wall! The paperwork said to be careful about the shoes you wear.. anything too wide could accidentally depress both the accelerator and the brake at once (not a good thing). Bob wears a size 14 shoe! His huge Bozo feet would certainly depress both levers, wouldn’t they? It started raining on our way there, which didn’t do much to ease my fears. I remember saying, “If you don’t want to do this, that’s ok. Who cares about the money.” and he gave me a look that clearly said, “Are you NUTS?” He wasn’t scared at all and was really looking forward to it.

When we arrived, Bob was instructed to put on the driving suit. I have to say, he looked pretty studly in it! Then we waited around for a couple of hours. Rain had delayed the morning classes so everything was pushed back. Fortunately the rain had stopped a couple hours before and the track was dry.

When it was time to get started, Bob’s class was taken out in a van to tour the track. This was done with race cars flying around the track and the van at top speed. Then they were supposed to have a one hour class. The kids and I got settled in the bleachers to wait, but then 10 minutes later the class was over. When I asked about it, Bob said the instructor was confident that they knew enough to get going. What?? After 10 minutes?? I think they were trying to make up for the rain delay, but I was very uneasy about Bob getting behind the wheel after such minimal instruction.

Size matters in a race car. If you are taller than 6’7″ or heavier than 270 lbs., you won’t fit into the car. Bob barely made the cut at 6’6″, but it was a tight squeeze. Watching him get in through the window was comical. He needed help shoving his shoe in!

The windshield is so small and low that it’s difficult to see out of it. He was too tall to see out the rearview mirror and had virtually no wiggle room. Only the necessities are there in the car, nothing else. The driver is basically sitting on the floor, and every blip and bump on the road can be felt. Everything is intensified- accelerating, turning, braking. You have to rely on instructions being spoken into an earpiece as you’re driving. If a car is getting ready to pass you, they will say, “Car 17, Get Down!” and that means you are to go to the left and take your foot off the accelerator. Bob said he had to just trust the ‘voice’ because he couldn’t see behind him. He was going about 100 miles an hour. That was a relatively comfortable speed for him, but he was getting lapped repeatedly by his classmates.

It was such an intense experience. He couldn’t take his eyes off the road for even a split second. When it was time for a pit stop, the kids and I ran out and spoke to him. He was smiling but also a little freaked out. The kids said, “Put the pedal to the medal, Daddy!” and “Go faster, Dad!” so after the pit stop, he picked up the pace. It was nerve wracking to watch.

Finally it was over. His hands were sore from gripping the steering wheel so tightly, but my racecar driver was exhilerated and happy and, I think, glad it was over. He was getting ready to change out of the driving suit when we remembered we’d also paid for a “Drive with a Pro”, 10 minutes in a car with a professional driver. So Bob got into another car, strapped in, and held on for dear life!

This time, he was in the car that was lapping everyone else. Zipping around the track at 155 miles an hour was a white knuckle experience. His first words after the ride were, “Holy Crap!”

I think he’ll remember this present for awhile!

Booking Through Thursday: But, Enough About Books

But, Enough About Books… February 7, 2008

Filed under: WordPress — –Deb @ 1:09 am 

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Okay, even I can’t read ALL the time, so I’m guessing that you folks might voluntarily shut the covers from time to time as well… What else do you do with your leisure to pass the time? Walk the dog? Knit? Run marathons? Construct grandfather clocks? Collect eggshells?


I do love to read and really never tire of it.  However, there are other things that compete for my time, mainly my two children. Their needs are varied and constant, and it seems I am always doing something for or with them, including volunteering at school, helping with homework, packing lunches and making dinner, driving them to school or band practice or soccer or Brownies or playdates or birthday parties, cleaning up their rooms, laundry, shopping, planning, playing games, etc. etc. The list goes on and on.

There are other things I like to do that are more about me..  I love photography and rarely go anywhere without my camera.  I love to go to photography exhibits at local museums.  I scrapbook in fits and starts but sometimes I don’t touch it for months on end.  I enjoy the computer and love blog-surfing.  I work out with a friend a few days a week.  I enjoy going out to dinner and to the movies. The beach is a place I can relax alone or with my dog.  It’s fun with the kids and Bob, too, but I really like going by myself. Sometimes on the weekends I’ll make a really good dinner and have a glass of Chardonnay.. I enjoy cooking when I take my time and don’t feel rushed, and when Bob’s home to appreciate it.  I love music and listen to a lot of it at home, but in the car I primarily listen to talk radio.  And I love spending time with a friend over a cafe mocha at Starbucks or browsing at Borders.

As a family we like to go camping over long weekends.  We spend a few weeks each summer in Pennsylvania with my husband’s side of the family and look forward to it all year.  We like to ride bikes together or go kayaking or just hang out watching the Discovery Channel.  We enjoy visiting with friends and family.

And, in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count.  It’s the life in your years.  ~Abraham Lincoln 

What do you do with your leisure time? 


Weekend Update: Vegas with the Old Guy

A few posts ago, I did a Travel Reading Meme to get some ideas for reading material for a road trip to Vegas, celebrating the old guy’s big birthday, but at the last minute, we decided to fly. It’s such a quick trip from Long Beach that I hardly did any reading at all, taking advantage instead of Jet Blue’s nice comfy seats and satellite tv.

I watched a hilarious Millionaire Matchmaking show on Bravo (a channel we don’t get at home), laughing at the way these bimbos were pimping themselves out to the highest bidder. It kind of went like this: “I’m a beauty with giant boobs, and I have expensive tastes, so I deserve a man with money.” And the guys.. “I have no personality or fashion sense, and I’m not very good looking, but I have a lot of money. I want a beautiful woman with giant boobs!” Not a love match, perhaps, but a match nonetheless.

We arrived in Vegas in the early evening. The city was pulsating with people and lights and energy, and we got really caught up in it. As soon as we checked in at our hotel downtown, we tossed our bags into our room and hit the casino. GACK&^%$%# the smoke was nasty!! It was so poorly ventilated in the main casino that you could see the smoke hanging in the air. It stung my eyes and made it hard to breathe, and I just could not be there. We found another area near the sports book that was better, situated close to a door that was open to Fremont Street. I parked myself at a blackjack table and hardly moved all weekend.

My brother arrived Saturday and we had fun playing black jack together. He plays like I do (the RIGHT way) so he was not annoying to be with at the table, unlike the old guy, who splits 10s and stays on soft 14. We cannot play at the same table because his life is in danger from the possibility that I might KILL him!

My brother was able to get tickets for The Ultimate Fighting Challenge at the Mandalay Bay Saturday night, so he and the old guy went. Apparently it was a BIG DEAL fight (?) with Brock somebody or other who was famous for something else (you can see how much attention I paid to the two of them as they babbled on about it). It’s too violent and testosterone-laden for me, so I stayed behind at the black jack tables. Please don’t feel sorry for me for being left behind. I had a blast and even won a few hundred dollars.

Super Bowl Sunday is the one day all year that I’m a football fan, and it was fabulous!! What a game! We didn’t attend the party that our hotel put on (standing room only) but instead found comfy fat leather seats in a noisy bar adjacent to the sports book and watched the game there. We took the Giants with the points and were thrilled to see them win. My ears are still ringing from the old guy screaming into them (he gets worked up over football). I briefly felt a tiny bit bad for Tom Brady and the Patriots for blowing their history making undefeated season… until we cashed in our winnings.. then it was back to celebrating!

On Sunday night we saw a weirdly cool show at the Wynn called Le Reve. It was part theater, part acrobatics, part water show, synchronized swimming, pyrotechnics, lights, smoke, angels, devils, heaven and hell… fabulous!! At first we were trying to understand it, analyzing the symbolism and trying to figure out the message, but we were making ourselves crazy. At some point we each decided (I found out later) to stop trying to figure it all out and just enjoy it. It was quite something, but I’m not entirely sure what!

The kids (oh, yeah, I forgot I had kids!) stayed with Grandma, and by Sunday night were missing us pretty badly. L. invented a leg injury at bedtime and called me crying about it. I got her calmed down and feeling better, then K. got on the phone. She was fine and was chuckling about L. getting upset, so I said, “She’s ok, she just misses me.” and K. said, “I miss you too, Mama!” and burst into tears. If I hadn’t been all liquored up from the Super Bowl, I might have been more sympathetic, but it was hard not to laugh (of course, I didn’t laugh out loud at my babies-I did it silently, in my head, and again with the old guy after I hung up with them!) This is the longest I’ve ever been away from them.

We had a great time, but on Monday we were ready to come home. I love Vegas in small doses and 3 days is enough. It was good to get away, though. The kids survived and it was fun to just be a couple for a few days. The old guy and I decided we need to get away more often.

Teddy’s Big Adventure

On Saturday there was a frantic search going on for Teddy, L.’s hamster. He got out of his cage overnight, and no one is sure how that happened. I was kind of numb knowing there was a rodent loose in my house. The girls consulted their Hamster Care book (their bible) and it said, do not panic, remain calm. Ha! It said put out food and it will probably come back. I was quite sure he was hiding in all the junk in her room. She had piles of stuff all over and all she could do was sit on the floor “remaining calm”. I told her to go through all her junk and stuffed animals, etc. under her chair and under her bed, but she prefered to not panic and remain calm, waiting with food in the middle of the floor. Grrrrrrrr.

K. searched everywhere, L. was paralyzed, and I was just pissed off. Dad got involved at that point and started pulling things out, vacuuming up hamster bedding and dust, moving things around, looking in the closet, etc. while L. just curled up in a ball and cried. On the plus side, her room has never been so clean.

We finally gave up and went about our day (it was Bob’s birthday and he didn’t want to spend all day searching for Teddy). We figured he was sleeping in some little nook somewhere, burrowed into L.’s stuff, and would reappear at night, nocturnal creature that he is. At least that’s what I told her. I really thought we’d smell something in a few days and would follow our noses to a dead hamster.

Later on, after we got home from the birthday dinner, L. went up to go to bed, when she heard a scampering sound. She used superhuman strength to move her bed away from the wall by herself (the kid only weighs 58 lbs,). It reminded me of stories you hear about people who get a rush of adrenaline and are able to lift a car to save a life. Anyway, there was Teddy. He ran right to her. She is one happy girl, but judging from the way Teddy was furiously biting at the bars of his cage last night, I suspect he’d rather be loose in the house, having a big adventure.

The Kite Runner Movie

Tonite we were invited to the Monster Jam Monster Truck show in Anaheim. Someone my husband works with has a young son who races in a mini truck, so we got 5 pit passes. The kids went with my husband and each invited a friend to go along. As much as I might have enjoyed being in the cold, pouring rain and watching deafening trucks flip over in the mud (ha!), I opted for a “boring” night at the movies with my friend and fellow bookclubber, Valerie.

Val and I saw The Kite Runner, which we read with the book club last summer. As always, The Book Was Better (do I even need to say it?) It’s difficult to be objective about a movie after you’ve read the book.

The child actors that played young Amir and Hassan were very good, as was the actor who played Baba, and the flashback sequences in Kabul were done well. Amir is much more likeable in the book. He did all the same things in both the movie and the book, but at least in the book you understood his motivations.

The movie loses steam when Amir and Baba come to America. Amir has a hangdog appearance throughout, presumably because of the guilt he continues to feel over his treatment of Hassan. It all stays pretty true to the book until the last part, when Amir brings Sohrab home. It then goes very quickly and some key scenes in the book were omitted in the movie.

I was moved to tears during one scene, when Amir stands up to his father-in-law and defends Sohrab. I’m not sure how I would have felt about it if I hadn’t read the book first, because the movie just doesn’t give that much insight into why Amir might have been that upset.

Both English and Farsi were used, and I didn’t even mind the subtitles. The truth is I barely noticed. Sometimes in foreign films there is so much dialog to read that I miss the subtleties of the acting because I’m too busy reading. The dialog was pretty simple so that wasn’t a problem. Overall I thought the movie was pretty well done, but I would recommend reading the book before seeing it.

Weekend Update: From a Hormonal Preteen to Pinewood Derby Cars

Well, the weekend is over. Time to kick back with a glass of wine and reflect on the good, the bad, and the ugly.

It started out well enough. After school, I asked L. and K. if they had any homework. K. said no, and L. said “a little”. “Great!,” I said. Sounds like we’ll have a good weekend.K. had a playmate over after school, and they were STARVING, so I quickly fixed them a snack, which they scarfed down in 5 minutes. Then the girls cleaned out the hamster cages in the front yard (bet that’s the last time that friend will want to come over!!) They barely had time to play a game on the Wii before her mom picked her up. .

We made this pork chop recipe for dinner (a family favorite-even my pickiest eater loves it!) and played a few more Wii games before the kids went to bed. I kick ass at Wii bowling, but tennis gave me a pain in the neck that is still there 48 hours later. L. cried a little at bedtime, because it just isn’t FAIR that K. got to have a friend over after school and she didn’t. My little drama queen. .

On Saturday we attended a performance of The Princess and the Pea that a local youth theater group is putting on. L.’s very talented friend (and one of my girl scouts) was in the play. She was terrific and we were so proud of her. The entire cast did a spectacular job, and afterwards my girls got backstage passes. They had their programs signed by the actors and got to see what goes on behind the scenes (a lot of hard work). .

That night I went through the girls’ backpacks. I couldn’t believe how much homework L. had. From the looks of it, I figured it would take her about 2 hours. Even though it was late and she was tired, I asked her to spend 30 minutes on her math before getting ready for bed. She grumbled about it, but did it anyway, with headphones on (she says it helps, but I’m not so sure). 30 minutes barely put a dent in it, so I told her that before she did anything else on Sunday, she needed to get it done. .

L. started her homework around 10am. At 11am, her friend came over wanting to rollerskate. I had to say no, because L. had a Girl Scout meeting at 1pm, and a movie date with a friend at 4pm, which was not going to happen if she didn’t finish her homework. She was very upset that she couldn’t go outside and skate, but I had to put my foot down. I told her to just hurry and get it done and she might have time to skate before Girl Scouts, but she just seemed to drag her feet even more. What followed will be known forever in our family history as “The White Out Incident”. .

L. declared that her work couldn’t be finished without White Out. She was working on a final draft of a persuasive letter that’s due on Tuesday. It has to be written in pen, all in cursive, and it’s 6 pages long. Less than 2 pages were written at this point. I sent B. to the store to get it for her, and he came back with the wrong kind (although it was perfectly fine and she easily could have gotten by with it). L. got upset because he wouldn’t go back to the store. He was watching a football game and it seemed silly to go back when she could use what she had. L. through such a major fit, the likes of which haven’t been seen since age 4. She literally threw herself on her bed, screaming that nobody loves her, and how is she to be expected to do her work when she doesn’t have the right supplies? If anyone truly CARED about her, they would go back to the store. WHY can’t she be in a family where people love her? WHY won’t anyone take her needs seriously? NO ONE KNOWS what kind of stress and pressure she is under in 5th grade! SHE CAN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE! .

Well, hmmm. What to do with this kid. I took away her iPod, which made her sob even more. “You HATE me, don’t you Mom?” she screamed, as I rolled my eyes and calmly walked out of the room. When the sobbing subsided, I told her that, once she apologized for the outburst, she could get back to work. I reminded her that there would be no movie date if she didn’t finish. There was more crying, more, “It’s not FAIR!” Finally, after wasting more than an hour, she sat and got it done, but what a whopping headache I had by that time. .

“Do you think she’s hormonal?” I asked my husband. Could she possibly be entering puberty at barely 10 years old? She’s the tiniest thing, weighing less than 60 lbs. She’s the smallest kid in her class. I really don’t think she’ll be hitting puberty for a couple more years, but damn if she doesn’t act premenstrual. Oh, I just had a pleasant thought. If she and I time it perfectly, she could be getting her period at about the same time I’ll be hitting menopause. What fun, for everyone! .

At 1pm it was time for Girl Scouts. Thankfully L. and I were both calm and relatively happy by the time the meeting started. She still had puffy eyes from crying, but her attitude was better. .

The girls and a few dads made pinewood derby cars, which they will race with the local boy scout troop. It was weird having so much testosterone at our meeting. That song from Two and a Half Men, the tv show with Charlie Sheen, kept running through my head (”Men, men, men, men, manly men, men, men”). The girls decided what shape their cars should be, drew the shape on the cars, and then the dads manned the saw, the router and the sander. I’m not sure who had more fun, dads or girls. The girls sanded their cars to smooth out rough edges and painted them. We didn’t realize how long it would all take and how much time paint takes to dry, especially when it’s globbed on (our urgings to “use thin layers of paint” fell on deaf ears) so we’ll have to have another emergency meeting before the big race to attach the wheels and weights. After Girl Scouts (by the way, for those who don’t know, COOKIE TIME starts next Saturday, 1/19, so get your orders in!) it was time for Daddy to take over with the girls so I could go to my book club. .

Ahhhhhh how relaxing to be in a beautiful home, with a wonderful meal and a glass of wine, and no child in sight! Only a room full of vibrant, intelligent women who love books and love to talk about them! We discussed Summer People by Brian Groh. If you read my review, you know I didn’t love the book. I was a little worried about the meeting because we had set up an author chat with Mr Groh by speaker phone. We came up with questions for him before we called, and we made sure to start off with a compliment (because it’s poor manners to start off an author chat with “Your book sucks”). But he was great! He’s a really personable, likable guy, and he thoroughly answered all our questions. It was truly a pleasure speaking with him. I found I appreciated the book a whole lot more after our conversation. Our club also decided on our spring reading list.. after some discussion and voting we came up with The Time Traveler’s Wife for March, Eat, Pray, Love for April, and The Next Thing on My List for May. .

L. and I got home around the same time, me from book club, and she from her movie date with her “friend who’s a boy”, Michael, and his mom. They saw Alvin and the Chipmunks (two thumbs up, apparently). At bedtime, she cried that her head was pounding, her stomach hurt, and could she have a heating pad. Oh, boy. .

How was your weekend?