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September 10, 2007

Mother Talk Blog Tour - February Flowers

Today is Three Kid Circus Auditions' stop on the Mother-Talk blog tour for Fan Wu's debut novel, February Flowers.

I loved this beautiful book!

From the back cover:

Set in modern China, February Flowers tells the stories of two young women's journeys to self-discovery and reconciliation with the past.

Seventeen-year-old Ming and twenty-four-year-old Yan have very little in common other than studying at the same college. Ming, idealistic and preoccupied, lives in her own world of books, music, and imagination. Yan, by contrast, is sexy but cynical, beautiful but wild, with no sense of home. When the two meet and become friends, Ming's world is forever changed. But their differences in upbringing and ideology ultimately drive them apart, leaving each to face her dark secret alone.

Insightful, sophisticated, and rich with complex characters, February Flowers captures a society torn between tradition and modernity, dogma and freedom. It is a meditation on friendship, family, love, loss and redemption and how a background shapes a life.

Fan Wu is a masterful storyteller. She embroiders the pages of this tale with gorgeous detail, and captures the twilight time between girlhood and womanhood perfectly. Somber, but never dark, February Flowers took me back to my own late teens and early twenties. Ming's fascination with Yan's 'bad girl' behavior and appearance is perfectly contrasted with her own bookish, 'good girl' ways and reminded me of my own friendships and struggles to grow up at that age.

In a pivotal scene, early in the novel, Yan appears in Ming's room with a new, sexy dress. Yan insists that Ming try it on - and seeing herself dressed up for the first time, Ming realizes that the line between girlhood and womanhood is a fine one. This realization is an uncomfortable one for Ming, and plays out in an unpredictable, real way.

Most of us have that one girlfriend in college - the one who has mastered the workings of a world we don't understand. Fan Wu captures the exhilaration and heartbreak of these challenging friendships perfectly. Ming's journey from seeing herself as a girl to embracing her womanhood travels in stops and starts. As she gathers knowledge about relationships, sexuality and her own power, she is jolted, again and again, by the way things are. Her roommates' confessions about desire, her first exposure to dating, her own awakening sexuality - all of this is shocking to Ming. The push and pull of Ming's emotions feel authentic, and had me fully invested in the novel.

Fan Wu is tender, but not sentimental to these young women who are balanced on the edge of What Comes Next. I was truly moved by their stories, and am eager to share this book with my book club. I highly recommend February Flowers.

To see what other Mother-Talk bloggers have to say about February Flowers, visit the roundup. For more information on Fan Wu, you can visit her site. And to get your own copy of February Flowers, go shop.

September 6, 2007

Maximum Ride: Saving The World

When MotherTalk put out a call for reviewers for Maximum Ride: Saving The World and Other Extreme Sports, I was eager to read it. My oldest daughter is an avid reader, and prefers exciting stories with fantasy elements. We've spotted this series before, but hadn't picked it up yet. I'm familiar with some of James Patterson's other books, hand-me-downs from my husband's airplane reading stash. His rapid fire, cinematical writing style makes for a quick, entertaining read, and I was curious to read his young-adult offerings.

Maximum Ride: Saving the World is the third book in a series that is projected to have several more books and a movie, too. A line early in the book has the narrator and main character "Max" commenting:

Ah, the joys of being an adolescent hybrid runaway.

Ah, yes... that pretty much sums it up nicely.

I willingly suspended disbelief as I tore through this book. Winged kids? Cool! Crazy mutants and plots to control the world's population and hybrid human/animal experiments and teen angst and evil corporations! Wahoo!

The thing about this genre (action fiction?) is that it plows breathlessly along, the plot proceeding so quickly that there is not much time for in-depth character development or descriptive writing beyond the basics. As someone who prefers literature that offers riches, this didn't meet my needs.

But here's the other thing - I'm not the target audience for this book. While my eight-year-old could probably follow the story, the heavy use of slang, sarcasm and faux-swearing (freaking, for example) and references to crack addicts and hookers make it a little too edgy for younger kids, say, the 8-12 year old range. Maybe I'm just sheltering my kids.

For a slightly older child, who is already well-versed in pop culture and sophisticated enough to understand the sarcasm and other elements, I think this would be a great series. The rapid-fire chapters and non-stop action are great for readers who don't like to linger, and the characters are undeniably cool. Best of all, even with all the strange abilities of the characters, these are plausible, real-world kids, with problems and emotions just like the target audience. They don't have everything figured out yet, and their flaws are both endearing and authentic.

With a tied-in blog, and an active community of enthusiastic fans, Maximum Ride will continue to build momentum. The publishers aren't waiting for the adults to catch up - they are speaking directly to kids through their sites, and from the enthusiasm of readers...and that is really cool. For all the press that the end of the Harry Potter series would equal the end to kids reading - I have to laugh. Maximum Ride offers a great chance for kids to escape into a fantasy world that resembles their own - and that is very appealing. This is just one of thousands of great options that will get - and keep - kids reading.

Click here to check out what other MotherTalk Bloggers thought.

August 6, 2007

Mother Talk Blog Tour - The Other Mother

Today is Three Kid Circus Auditions' stop on the Mother Talk Blog Tour for Gwendolyn Gross' latest novel, The Other Mother. With all the press received about the so-called "mommy wars" - I'll admit I wasn't sure I even wanted to read a fictional tale of strife between a stay-at-home mother and a working mother. Curiosity won out, though, and I was quickly drawn into this darkly drawn novel.

from the back cover:

"Amanda is a successful book editor at a prominent publishing house in New York City. Thea is a stay-at-home mother of three who has never really left the community in which she grew up. Amanda, eight months pregnant with her first child, and her husband move in next door to Thea and her family, and the two women are both drawn to and repelled by each other and their opposing choices in the constant struggle to balance career with family life.

When a disaster forces Amanda and her family to take refuge in Thea's home, the underlying tensions simmering between them are pushed to the surface -- even more so when Thea fills in as Amanda's temporary nanny. But once dead animals start appearing on Thea's front porch -- surely a macabre gift from Amanda -- the battle with "The Other Mother" begins in earnest.

A compelling story about family, work, and the constant push and pull of contemporary womanhood, this stunning, dark, suspenseful novel is as brave as it is shocking."

From the opening chapters, the stories of Thea and Amanda play out in parallel, and the view from both sides of the fence grows increasingly tangled and conflicted. Gross illustrates her character's world with poetic, descriptive passages that add richness and build tension masterfully. I couldn't put "The Other Mother" down, and was left with a vague sense of disquiet upon closing the book.

I've got two extra copies on hand - if you'd like to win a copy, leave me a comment on this post, and I'll randomly pick two of you.

For more reviews from my fellow Mother Talk Bloggers - check out the roundup post here. To get your own copy of The Other Mother, or to visit author Gwendolen Gross at her site click here.

May 21, 2007

Mother Talk Blog Tour -

Today on Three Kid Circus Auditions, I'm trying out a great new site for moms - 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 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. 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. 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. 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 out!

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

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!

January 23, 2007

Mother Talk Blog Tour - Babyproofing Your Marriage

Today is Three Kid Circus's stop on this week's Mother Talk Blog Tour for the highly anticipated new book Babyproofing Your Marriage. The tagline reads: How to laugh more, argue less, and communicate better as your family grows. I think most marriages could do with a few helpful pointers in those areas, right?

I'll admit, when I first cracked open Babyproofing Your Marriage, I was put off. I did my usual open the cover, jump around reading random pages, scan the final pages, and I wasn't ready for what I found. At first pass, the language seemed flippant, the anecdotes I read seemed overly negative, and the vibe of the book seemed harsh.

Don't do what I did. Start at the beginning, and read the book as it is meant to be read. Despite my initial reaction, I settled down into a chair after a long day, and dove in. When I surfaced several hours later, pages were turned down, passages were highlighted, and my husband was reading over my shoulder. I honestly think my knee-jerk reaction to the first few anecdotes and passages I read was due to the real-life experience I have with many of the emotions and realities recounted in this book.

Stacie Cockrell, Cathy O'Neill and Julia Stone are all longtime friends, and it comes across in the writing. The tone is chatty, humorous and down-to-earth. The three authors have seven children between them, "...none of whom have yet set foot in a Kindergarten. Needless to say, we lived this book as we wrote it." Ah, my favorite kind of 'experts!' Those that are walking the walk, not just talking the talk.

Cockrell, O'Neill and Stone conducted a bazillion interviews with parents, and present the good, the bad and the ugly in a straight-forward manner. They note early on:

Athough this book is written by women, men get a fair shake and a loud shout. This is not a girl's bitch session; though we don't pull any punches. We've done our best to get the guys' side of the story straight. We didn't always like what they had to say, but we can pretty much guarantee that whether you are a man or a woman, something in here is going to tick you off. Fair enough. Just try to keep an open mind. We found that even the most inflammatory comments helped us learn something.

With my mind locked in the open position, I jumped in. With chapters discussing everything from keeping score to the "Sex Life" of New Parents, dealing with extended family and adding more children to the family, the authors leap right into the middle of the subjects that most new parents struggle with. Even eight years after the birth of my first child, I still found myself wincing over some of these problem areas. Babyproofing Your Marriage is written with newbie parents in mind, but many of their astute observations and troubleshooting tips can be applied by seasoned parents as well.

My appreciation for Babyproofing Your Marriage continues to grow as I reflect back on some of the passages I reacted strongly to. Even though I've hashed over these trouble spots with friends time and again, and I know that most of my friends had similar struggles, it would have been very empowering to know that some of these problems are almost universal, especially as a newly minted parent.

Babyproofing Your Marriage offers tools to get the conversation started, and suggestions for resolving some of the strife that comes from adding a new member to the family. I think that Babyproofing Your Marriage is a great addition to the growing library of parenting books that tell it like it really is.

For more reviews from your favorite Mother Talk Bloggers, check here
Babyproofing Your Marriage is on sale today!

For more about the authors and the book, you can visit their site

December 18, 2006

Mother Talk Blog Tour - Cycle Savvy - The Smart Teen's Guide to the Mysteries of Her Body

Three Kid Circus is kicking off the Mother Talk Blog Tour for Toni Weschler's fantastic new book, Cycle Savvy - The Smart Teen's Guide to the Mysteries of Her Body.

My oldest daughter will turn eight this spring, and I've found myself wondering how much longer I can delay having some of these "Talks" with her about the changes ahead. I've had my head firmly in the sand, and while I try to be matter-of-fact about body issues, I haven't been challenged to explain anything beyond the rudimentary differences between boys and girls. When I was offered the chance to read Cycle Savvy, I jumped at it, knowing that a discussion of ye olde menstrual cycle can't be too far in my future.

I'm already a big fan of Toni Weschler. Her groundbreaking book, Taking Charge of Your Fertility was an eye-opening, empowering read for me. Ms. Weschler notes in the acknowledgements:

The most consistent feedback I've gotten since TCOYF's release continues to reflect a theme along the lines of "Why didn't they teach us this when we were teenagers?" or more specifically, "I wish I had known then what I know now."

With a target audience of girls aged 14 to 18 years old, this comprehensive but light-hearted approach is a fantastic resource for young women (and their mothers who don't know how to even start the conversation.) Weschler speaks directly to her readers, in the reassuring voice of a knowledgeable friend. Her anticipation of eye-rolling moments: "I can hear the groans already: "Biology? Snoooooze." But trust me -- you're not going to want to skip this!" and her casual acknowledgement of some of the gross-out moments in learning about your cycle:
(I know, I know --Eeeeeuuuu!) give Cycle Savvy an authentic vibe.

Weschler draws her readers onward with fascinating information and empowering anecdotes. Each chapter features illustrations, comics, quizzes, bulleted lists and personal stories from women of all ages. These often funny, sometimes painful recollections add to the whole sisterhood vibe of Cycle Savvy. While I did some eyerolling of my own at some of the chapter headings: those hip, happenin' hormones had me snorting in my tea, for the most part, Cycle Savvy speaks the language of today's young women, and is never condescending.

I'll admit, I was skeptical about the need to explain the Mysteries in such depth. I can't imagine my 15 year old self charting my cycle. My mom had explained the basics, and showed me the stash of Kotex. There was Tylenol if you had cramps. Boo hoo, every woman has one. Suck it up.

Same thing with the sex talk, from what I recall. We did a bit of talking about it, and I know there were a few books, and of course the school stuff. Amongst my peers, there was a lot of discussion about who was doing "it" but not a lot of discussion about what "it" consisted of. There was a lot of misinformation floating around, and plenty of angst.

Since I was already familiar with Taking Charge of Your Fertility, and the contraceptive rules of the Fertility Awareness Method, I was also pretty tepid on teaching teens to identify their fertility signs. The alarmist prude in my head started freaking out. What if those kids have unprotected sex! What if they become sexually active at an earlier age because they got all empowered and stuff! Oh no! Oh no!

And then I calmed down and read the chapter. Quite simply, I was blown away. Rather than quote facts and statistics, Weschler breaks it down in a very realistic, honest and topical way. Rather than using scare tactics, she illustrates her topics with personal stories from women in a variety of stages of life. There aren't judgements here, just solid information for young women who have questions, may be considering a sexual relationship, or who are already sexually active. Considering that I was devouring trashy romance novels in high school, I think this information would have been easily digestible, and certainly pertinent. From body image and birth control methods to date rape and STIs, Cycle Savvy puts it out there in straight-forward, informative terms.

Cycle Savvy is a fantastic source of information for young women on its own, and will undoubtably spark some interesting and enlightening conversations, both mother/daughter, and friend to friend. Thinking back on my own reluctance to discuss some of the finer points with my daughter, I acknowledge that this is new territory for many of us. In A Note to Moms, Weschler has this to say:

When we were teenagers, these topics were rarely, if ever, taught, much less discussed. But I imagine you would agree what your own teenage daughers deserve much more. I hope that with the help of this book, they will become part of the first generation that's truly "cycle savvy."
Toni Weschler reminds her readers again and again - Knowledge is power. Cycle Savvy presents age appropriate information that can help our daughters respect their "Amazing and Awesome Body" (snort) and help them demystify these fundamental parts of womanhood. I recommend it highly.

November 7, 2006

Mother Talk Blog Tour Day

Today is my day on the Mother Talk Blog Tour for the Green Eggs and Ham Cookbook. I made a couple of items from the book, and posted the results, as well as my take on the other other recipes.

The whole review is posted over at Big Slice of Life, Small Slice of Cheesecake. Go check it out!

Continue reading "Mother Talk Blog Tour Day" »

October 25, 2006

Mother Talk Blog Tour - Momfidence!

Three Kid Circus is one of the stops on the Mother Talk Blog Tour for Paula Spencer's spot-on parenting book: Momfidence! ~ An Oreo Never Killed Anybody and Other Secrets of Happier Parenting.

I've read a huge pile of parenting books in the last eight years. I picked up a lot of conflicting information on the proper way to raise a child. I also developed a sense of frustration with parenting experts. Rather than build my confidence as a mother, most of these books offered proof that I was doing it wrong.

Enter Paula Spencer. Momfidence! is based on Paula's popular columns that have been featured in Woman's Day and Parenting magazines. From her opening pep-talk, it becomes clear that this is no ordinary parent-right-or-risk-years-of-expensive-therapy book. Paula's personal stories are woven throughout, serving as charming, real-world illustrations to the guilt-releasing suggestions she offers.

Momfidence! offers twenty-four chapters of hilarious insight into such burning hot parenting topics as appropriate toys (Happiness Is a Gun and a Naked Bimbo), discipline ("Please Don't Jump on the Dead Whale!") and control (You Can Lead a Child to Carrots, but You Can't Make Him Crunch.) I found myself snorting with laughter over her attempts to create a family tradition via gingerbread house construction, and sighing with recognition as she shares her experiences with family outings that don't live up to the hype, behavior that falls short of expectations, and conducting phone interviews "...while hiding in the pantry and tossing out cheese doodles with my free hand to keep a pesky toddler sated."

Rather than insist that we can reclaim our inner sex-goddess, or have it all if we just organzied ourselves, or attain sainthood by never allowing a negative thought to cross our minds, or an oreo to cross our lips, Momfidence! focuses on ways that we make ourselves (and my extension, our families) happy. Not perfect. Happy.

In my early motherhood mania, I am not sure how I would have received this book. I was so involved in chasing the dream of 'perfect' motherhood that I might have scoffed at Paula's relaxed approach. I believed with every fiber of my being that there was a right way to parent, and if I looked hard enough, I would have all the answers. I also assumed that mothers who "winged it" were slackers, and weren't educating themselves on the best things for their child.

For the record, I would love to go back in time and slap a copy of Momfidence! into my twitching, neurotic hand. Paula demonstrates that parenting is often exasperating, exhausting and full of humorous situations. There isn't a one-size fits all way to parent, and by believing in our own abilities to figure it out as we go, we can release the guilt, and enjoy the adventure of raising a family. Most of the time.

October 18, 2006

Mother Talk Blog Tour - Sleep Solutions for your baby, toddler and preschooler

Ann Douglas has a sterling reputation as the author of The Mother of All Pregnancy Books. I've long admired her blog, but haven't had the opportunity to actually read one of her books - until now. Three Kid Circus is one of the stops on the latest Mother Talk Blog Tour for Ann's newest book - Sleep Solutions for your baby, toddler and preschooler.

I yanked the book out of the shipping box the moment it arrived, and did what I always do with this sort of book - flipped directly to the resource section in the back. I wanted to see if there was a quick reference guide, a place to jump right in and start solving. Us sleep deprived mamas don't always want to read through the entire book to find that one nugget of wisdom that might help, you know.

Sleep Solutions doesn't disappoint. Right off the bat, I loved the comprehensive index, and the fantastic, no-bull approach to navigating. Ann provides clean, simple charts that compile sleep solutions, and address possible reasons for sleep disruption, providing simple explanations on appropriate actions for the different age groups she addresses. Ann gives helpful summaries of challenges and methods, and provides the location of additional information within Sleep Solutions.

Satisfied with the ease of getting directly to the advice, I turned to the first chapter. Ann is friendly, engaging and real, and her advice and information feels like it is coming from a friend, not an expert.

...I'm not going to do a guilt number on you in this book. Your sleep choices are your own sleep choices. Enough said. It's my job to provide you with the most accurate, unbiased information I can and to present it in a non-bossy way.

On the bottom of page 5, there is a section called The Sleep Deprived Parent's Quick Guide to This Book
which, when you turn the page, leads to another brilliant chart that tells you how to quickly find the information you need for your particular situation.


Sleep Solutions is a quick, entertaining read, full of real-life questions and answers from Ann's extensive research and interviews. I was tickled to read quotes from blogging mothers. Most of all, I appreciated the even-handed, unbiaised approach, presented in a way that even the most sleep-deprived of parents could easily find ideas and form a plan of action.

Even as an eight year veteran of the Sleep Wars, there was new, reassuring information in here for me. I particularly enjoyed the relaxation techniques for preschoolers. We've already put the "sound of silence" into action, and it is working like a charm!

For more on Ann's fantastic library of pregnancy and parenting books, visit The Mother of All Blogs. To see what the other Mother Talk bloggers think of Sleep Solutions, check this out.

September 20, 2006

Mother Talk Blog Tour - We Are All Fine Here

Three Kid Circus is today's stop on the Mother Talk Blog Tour for Mary Guterson's We are all fine here.

I dropped the kids off at school and curled up on the couch with a cup of coffee and my copy of We are all fine here. I planned to read it over the course of a couple of days, stealing an hour here and there from my schedule. Guess what? I couldn't put it down. I read the whole book cover to cover, almost missing school pickup.

From the opening pages, I was completely wrapped up. From the back cover:

Julia has been married to Jim for fifteen years, and admittedly, the thrill is mostly gone. It doesn't help that Jim flirts outrageously with his pretty young coworker and flosses naked in front of the TV. So it's no big surprise that she finds herself thinking about Ray.

The truth is, she hasn't stopped thinking about Ray since she first saw him shirtless, leaping for a Frisbee on the college lawn. And as their recent reunion has proved, he's as good in bed as ever. Well, technically, as good up against the bathroom sink as ever.

But now she has tricky news to share - with her hypochondriac mother, her obsessive-compulsive sister, her inscrutable therapist, her jilted neighbor, and both the men in her life. She's pregnant. And she has no inkling whether the father is Jim or Ray...

It is as much fun as it sounds. I enjoyed Guterson's dry wit and sympathetic, yet not sentimental portraits of her characters. These people are all deeply flawed, in a very recognizable, real-world way. Guterson vividly paints a portrait of her cast of characters, and as I chuckled my way through scene after scene, I recognized people from my own life in these portrayals.

What really tickled me were Julia's proclamations on motherhood. Scattered throughout the book, Julia offers pithy suggestions and observations on everything from proper parenting techniques:

...allow me to summarize: Sleeping with your baby is good. Sleeping with your baby is bad. Schedules, yes. Schedules, no. Lay them on their stomachs. Lay them on their backs. Bottle. Breast. Wean. Don't wean. Toilet train. Don't toilet train. Pick them up when they cry. Never pick up a crying baby. Public school. Home school. Montessori. Competitve sports are good. Competitive sports are bad. Fluoride. No fluoride. Vaccines. No vaccines.

You're welcome.

to a stark summary on the joys of mothering:

Mothering is everything it's cracked up to be, which is to say, a complete and total nightmare. Anyone who tells you differently is not to be trusted.

I found myself moved to hilarity and tears as I plowed through the pages. We are all fine here is an irreverent, ultimately revealing look at the way the choices we make affect our lives.

August 8, 2006

Mother Talk Blog Tour - The Ghost In The House

Three Kid Circus is the third stop on this month's MotherTalk blog tour, featuring award-winning journalist and freelance author Tracy Thompson's new book The Ghost in the House: Motherhood, Raising Children and Struggling with Depression.

I've never suffered from depression, either before or after having children. When I agreed to read The Ghost In The House: Motherhood, Raising Children and Struggling with Depression, I had no idea what to expect. I assumed that I would be reading a memoir, or perhaps a just the facts ma'am book about depression. When it arrived in my mailbox, I ripped open the envelope and joined my three kids out on our deck. I set up a lounge chair and kept a lazy eye on the wading pool while reading the introduction.

Depression is a subject that has come out of the closet, except when it applies to motherhood. Somehow, juxtaposing depression and motherhood - to raise the possibility that there are some things about the work of raising children that may be stressful, or even conducive to illness - seems bad manners. Motherhood is supposed to make women happy, period.

With a dolphin-like squeak, my three-year-old launched her self in my direction, splattering the open pages in my lap with grape-sized drops of water. I snapped at her. Clearly she could see that I was reading, and she didn't need to be splashing. Couldn't she just serenely sit in the wading pool with her siblings? Couldn't they just let me read in peace?

What is maternal depression? Thompson offers this definition:

It's what happens when a mother's depression reaches out to ensnare her child. It's depression exacerbated by stresses common to motherhood, and - most important- it can be transmitted from mother to child via learned behavior, environment, genetics, or any combination of the three.

Most of the women I know maintain that it is "normal." My mother is a woman of strong convictions. We've had many conversations over the last decade about my frustration over the rigors of child-rearing. "Those were the best years of my life," she tells me. "I loved everything about being a mommy."

Yet, when I mentioned that I was reading The Ghost in the House, and began to describe the book, she waved away the conversation. "All mothers struggle. All mothers have stress. All mothers are depressed. They always have been, and they always will be. You just do the best that you can. There's no point in discussing it to death."

So, polite society would rather not hear about stressed out mothers. But who is merely stressed, and who is depressed?

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