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May 31, 2007

Mother Talk Blog Tour - The Kids' Book Club Book

Today is Three Kid Circus Auditions' spot on the Mother Talk Blog Tour for The Kids' Book Club Book, by Judy Gelman and Vicki Levy Krupp. I leaped at the chance to review this book. With summer looming large and two young, excited readers, I've wanted to put together a kids' book club for them - but I wasn't sure how to get started.

Honestly, I am an avid reader, but I'm a lousy party planner. I like to talk about parties in the abstract, but when it comes to clever discussion questions, appropriate activities and perfect foods to serve, I'm a total loss.

THIS BOOK SOLVES MY PROBLEMS! SERIOUSLY!

From the opening chapter, The Kids' Book Club Book provides a wealth of information on how to get started, fund your club, choose great books, plan ahead, and keep members coming back month after month. Information gathered from successful children's book club leaders, libraries, bookstores and teachers is just part of the magic of this book.

Gelmen and Krupp present 50 well-loved, award-winning titles to choose from, with age appropriate activities and recipes (often obtained from the author!) pulled from the pages of the book, or inspired by the theme. Everything is laid out in an easy to follow format.


From recipes for the Dump Punch and egg salad sandwiches featured in Kate DiCamillo's Because of Winn-Dixie to instructions on how to make soap carvings like the ones left in a knothole of a tree in To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, The Kids' Book Club Book provides a bounty of ideas for making every kids' book club a success.

I'm thrilled to have this resource at my fingertips as I begin to put together a club for my children and their friends.

Judy Gelman and Vicki Levy Krupp also wrote The Book Club Cook Book: Recipes and Food for Thought from Your Book Club's Favorite Books and Authors. I'm eager to get my hands on a copy of that to share with my own book club.

I have been pouring over the pages of this book with my kids, and we're all excited to get started. It looks like summer is going to be a literary success around here!

For more from other Mother-Talk Bloggers, check out the reviews! Click here to order your own copy of The Kids' Book Club Book.

May 25, 2007

Mother Talk Blog Tour - Late Night Talking

Three Kid Circus Auditions is today's stop on the Mother Talk Blog Tour for Leslie Schnur's latest novel, Late Night Talking.

From the jacket copy:

"From the acclaimed author of The Dog Walker comes Late Night Talking, a tender and funny novel about bad behavior, the fragility of friendship and family, and how we cannot choose whom we love."

Jeannie Sterling, the main character, is a late night talk show host with a show that focuses on the rudeness and poor etiquette of others. She's gained a lot of popularity on the air, but her personal life isn't as neat and tidy as her online persona would indicate.

Her free-spirit father returns and moves right in, bringing a smelly mutt with him. Her best friend is keeping secrets, and her new boyfriend is not what she expected. Add in a new boss who messes with the format of her show, and Jeannie is in a whole world of chaos.

I found Jeannie's character to be charming and believable - she's often as rude as the people she pans on air, but is delightfully sanctimonious about it. The surrounding cast of characters are all well drawn and comfortable in their skins. Leslie Schnur writes great dialog, and keeps readers guessing. Like many novels in this genre, you can figure out where the plot is headed from the opening chapters, but the twists and turns that take you from point A to B make this a joyful read.
Late Night Talking.
would be a great addition to your beach bag this summer. For more reviews from my fellow Mother Talkettes - check it out.

May 22, 2007

Mother Talk Blog Tour - The Big Payoff

Three Kid Circus Auditions is today's stop on the Mother Talk blog tour for Sharon Epperson's The Big Payoff. This book, subtitled "8 steps couples can take to make the most of their money - and live richly ever after" is exactly what I needed to read.

My husband and I came from two different backgrounds, and communicating about money isn't our strong suit. It isn't that we want to avoid discussing it, but we aren't clear on our goals, and we're never sure how to leap in. Apparently we're not alone:

Each of the chapters in this book is designed to get you and your partner talking and thinking together about your financial life.

Epperson soothes fears and stimulates discussion throughout, bringing confusing or frustrating topics out into the open. Everything is explained in lay terms, and illustrates her points with real-world stories that resonated with me.

Starting with smart, easily-digested information, Epperson saves the lectures, and gets straight into the how-tos of budgeting, savings, debt management, investing for wealth, college and retirement, insurance and estate planning. Each chapter tackles a facet of financial wellness building onto the information already given.

With plenty of examples and helpful charts scattered throughout, The Big Payoff demystifies the steps that are necessary to create and maintain a healthy financial picture, leading to a well-funded retirement.

I really enjoyed reading this book, and came away eager to put Epperson's plans into action.

Click here for more from the Mother-Talk tour
.

May 21, 2007

Mother Talk Blog Tour - Mamasource.com

Today on Three Kid Circus Auditions, I'm trying out a great new site for moms - Mamasource.com. When the hot mamas over at Mother-Talk were putting together this blog tour, I jumped at it. I've checked out a lot of community sites for mothers over the years, so I was eager to see if Mamasource.com had something new to offer.

From the "About Mamasource" page:

Mamasource is a safe and easy way to connect with other moms in your local area. Find the advice, referrals and insight you need, in a supportive community of moms helping moms. As a Mamasource member, you can:

Ask other local moms any question you need help with.

Read the questions other moms have asked- and see what answers they have received.

Share your own advice and practical referrals with other moms who need your help.

Mamasource is a free service, but to protect our members we are an invitation-only community. We have a strict no-spam policy and your personal information will never be shared with advertisers.

Well, that's refreshing. So many of the other mom-communities exist to sell advertising dollars or promote products from the sponsors to the highly desireable mom demographic. And while there's nothing wrong with that approach, it is cool to see a site that is not riddled with ads and flair.

I like the local focus, too. Mamasource.com allows users to review local services and recommend everything from hair stylists to restaurants. Personal recommendations on great businesses are always helpful, and when you have kids, hearing it from another mom has extra clout.

I also really love the "a little about me" footer that is inserted after any request. This is a snippet from your profile that can be customized with each post you make. So, you could be asking for advice on great travel tips, and in your "a little about me" footer, you could mention the ages of your children and your frequency of travel, so that you are more likely to get appropriate suggestions. As a long-time discussion board user, I think this handy feature will cut down on "ass-vice" that can result from commenters who don't know the whole story.

Mamasource.com makes finding peer advice easy and supportive. Even their great FAQ page gives 'insider' tips on netiquette to help new users feel like old pros - because let's face it, at one time of another, we've all stumbled across a discussion board or blog where it is all caps, all the time, or full of abbreviations that defy logic. These simple suggestions will take the mystery out of it, and keep everyone happy.

Mamasource.com is still fairly new - my local area includes moms from all over California, for example. I'm sure as the member roster grows, the regional focus will be enhanced. I'm looking forward to seeing this community flourish. Take some time and check Mamasource.com out!

Want to hear what other bloggers have to say? Check out Mother-Talk's reviews.

May 8, 2007

Saturn Vue Green Line Hybrid

When I found out that the Parent Bloggers Network had arranged with Saturn to let me drive a Saturn Vue Green Line Hybrid for a week, I was excited. I practically tackled the delivery driver and wrestled the keys out of his hand.

I got myself under control for a minute until they drove off in another sweet looking Saturn (which I would like to try out as well *wink, wink*) and then I grabbed the booster seat from my van and whistled for my daughter. We leaped into the Vue and after I buckled her in, we wheeled out of the driveway and down the road.

"Mommy, this is a rockin' new car!" enthused my four-year-old.
"Woo!" I replied.
"Wooooo!" She added.
"Woo-hoooooo!" I finished, with a rather cheesy raised fist. Then I honked the horn twice.

That right there is an accurate picture of how the rest of the week went. Lots of "wooooo!" Our instructions were to test out the Vue in real-world, real-family conditions. Aside from the one day that I allowed my husband to drive the Saturn to work - where he showed all of his co-workers and took clients to lunch in it - I used it for five school drop-offs, four pick-ups (where I made my friend Ren, who is an actual adult-sized person, check the leg and head room - he approves!) two Target runs, a grocery store trip, and lots of other running around town just for the "woooo!" of it. Through it all, the Vue was a dream - plenty of space for wiggly kids, lots of cargo space. Perfect for a family like mine.

Vue Interior.jpg

When my oldest climbed into the Vue, her first words were:

"Mom! I know why they call this a Vue! It has the best view of any back seat I've ever ridden in!"

As much fun as I had, I would wager the kids had even more fun. They were thrilled at the ability to lower their windows and open their own doors, which my son cleverly discovered while we were driving at 35 miles per hour. After a swift talking-to about playing with the door handle, we engaged the child-locks on the doors, and we were back to cruising down the road. In fearful silence. Heh.

The Vue is fun to drive, responsive and dare I say, zippy. With its hybrid engine, emissions are reduced and gas mileage is increased, making Vue not only a fun car to drive, but a responsible one, as well. Judging from the interest at every stop light and parking lot, I would say that the Saturn Vue is one hot little number as well. Or maybe that was just me. (No, it was the Vue.)

Here's when I told my daughter that the Vue would be going back to Saturn tomorrow:

GiveBackVue.jpg

Thank you to Saturn and the Parent Bloggers Network for allowing us to borrow the Vue for a week. We had a blast!

May 1, 2007

Mother Talk Blog Tour - Writing Motherhood

Today is Three Kid Circus's stop on Mother Talk's latest blog tour, featuring Writing Motherhood by Lisa Garrigues. It is four o'clock in the morning here, and I've been up half the night with scattered thoughts. I've had a rough couple of days with my kids, feeling irritable and easily annoyed. They seem to have a endless supply of energy while my tail is dragging. I haven't wanted to write about it, because it seems self-serving and whiny.

And yet, it is also my experience, my right now. As a blogger, I've become mindful of "my audience" and will often avoid writing about the negative, the heavy, the self-pity. As a writer, I've learned that the best way to send those demons packing is to write them away. And as a mother, I've experienced the guilt and doubt associated with writing my own story - I'm justamom, right? I am wasting time on writing, when I could be folding laundry. Right?

Lisa Garrigues has wriiten a powerful and empowering guide for mothers who feel the urge to write. Writing Motherhood is a roll-your-sleeves-up-and-prepare-to-get-dirty workshop in a bright orange slipcover. Lisa doesn't just tell you how she writes - she shows you how to capture your own stories, one prompt or invitation at a time.

Central to the Writing Motherhood method is the creation of your Mother's Notebook. I cracked up when I read Lisa's recommendation that you start with a disclaimer:

Almost every time one of my students prepares to read aloud a passage from her Mother's Notebook, she offers some excuse for her writing: I haven't slept in days. I had a root canal. My children were screaming bloody murder when I wrote this. The inclination to disclaim our writing has become a running joke in my classes, but we can't help ourselves. Apologizing before reading our writing, it seems, is as automatic as clearing our throats before speaking.

Joking aside, I tell students to reserve the first page of their Mother's Notebook for a Disclaimer, and overall apology for their writing...Title the first page of your notebook "Disclaimer" and write down - in list or paragraph form - every excuse you can think of to explain the lack or lackluster of your writing...

Get it all down - the excuses, the self-doubts, the self-incriminations. Then whenever you feel discouraged about your writing, read over your Disclaimer and recognize the sniviling voice of your self-critic for the wimp he (or she) really is.

*scurries off to write Disclaimer*

In quick, fifteen minute bursts, Lisa teaches even the most reticent mother to capture her stories. Rather than rigid style guidelines and write-by-the-numbers lessons, Writing Motherhood is all about the journey. There is no universal mothering experience. Lisa gives each writer the freedom to find and explore their own path, while providing a solid framework to build on.

Each lesson is illuminated with Lisa's personal experiences, and those of her classes of writers. From the pre-baby years through empty nest syndrome and caring for aging loved ones, Writing Motherhood encourages women to capture the triumphs and heartbreaks that make up our lives.

The book is organized into two parts - the first is a step-by-step guide to building and filling your Mother's Notebook, and filled with suggestions on how to find the time and space to write. It is also full of inspiration and validation - something every writer needs.

*scurries off to buy notebook and dig moat*

The second part of Writing Motherhood focuses on the life-cycle of motherhood.

Part Two follows the chronology of raising our children from birth to adulthood, but motherhood does not follow a straight path. As mothers, we spiral back year after year to the same issues and emotions viewed from a different perspective. So whether you are raising toddlers at twenty or at fifty, whether your parents are agile or aged, you will find inspiration and relevance throughout the book.

On every single page, I found my eyebrows shooting up and my fingers wiggling, eager to put these wonderful writing lessons to work. I am very impressed with Writing Motherhood, and I highly recommend it. In fact, I think this would make a fantastic Mother's Day gift.

For more reviews from the mamas at Mother-Talk, click!