Monday, May 5, 2008

That Baby

This is a MotherTalk review.

I was recently send a copy of That Baby DVD and CD. I'm not usually one to gush, but doods. Go buy this. It's great.

It features cover songs by people like Paul Simon, Fleetwood Mac, Natalie Merchant and my personal favourite, Bruce Springsteen. This is not insipid children's music. This is intelligent yet fun music that parents and kids will both enjoy.

My major beef with most kid's music is that it's condescending, treating children as though they have no taste and only want to hear the umpteenth rendition of the Itsy Bitsy freakin' Spider. That Baby is definitely not that.

It's good music. It's music I loved in high school and college. And better yet, it's music that my girls adore. They beg to watch the DVD (again and again and again). They love to listen to the CD when we're driving around. And I don't mind listening to it. It does not set my teeth on edge, it doesn not make me want to run screaming for the hills and in fact, I have even been known to listen to it when the girls weren't in the car.

I can put the DVD on when the girls are getting wound up and they calm down. I put the CD on in the car when they're both in full melt-down mode and the stop and they listen and they're quiet, for the entire CD. Obviously there's something there that grabs them and makes them listen and for that, I am eternally grateful.

Given my adoration of all things Springsteen, it made my heart go pitter pat when Boo, my 3-1/2 year old, decided that Pony Boy was her absolute favourite song on the disc. Every day she asks to hear "the giddy-up song, mama!" And I am more than happy to oblige.

Go. Buy. Enjoy. Seriously. It's that good.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The Ten Year Nap

Mother-Talk recently asked me to review The Ten Year Nap. I was more than happy to oblige.

The Ten Year Nap, by Meg Wolitzer, was far more than I expected. Amy, the main character, is the mother of a ten year-old son, Mason, and wife of Leo, a lawyer. Her days are busily aimless and she feels somewhat out of control of her life. She had been a lawyer, at the same firm as her husband, but law was not her passion. In fact, she's starting to wonder if she has a passion at all when it comes to work. One section, towards the end of the book, really summed up Amy's struggles: "I expected things of myself," said Amy. "But not everyone is that driven. And not everyone is really that talented. And also," she said, "sometimes it's too difficult to make it happen.... I feel good.... Good enough." Then she said,"I don't know why I haven't found it. I thought I was going to."

This resonated with me because I have similar doubts and often look back at my younger self, when I thought I had it all sussed out, thought I knew where I was going to be and who I was going to be and now things are very, very different. Not bad, just...different.

The theme of this book, of well-educated women who decide to opt out of a career in order to stay home with their children, is one that is debated ad nauseum in the press and online. The Mommy Wars are almost a cliche, but in Wolitzer's hands, they become intimate and personal; I felt like I understood, almost, why these women fell into the SAHM role, in the way that I almost understand algebraic equations. I can see it, I get it, but I can't quite explain it. It's just there. It just is.

For me, this was a book of longing. All the women in the book seem to be longing for something they don't have. Amy, the excitement she sees in her friend's affair. Jill, for her daughter to have the average intelligence she sees in her friends' children. Roberta, for artistic inspiration to come back full throttle, after her long absence from it. But most of all, they all long to be seen as people, as valued, valuable people, far more than "just" a stay-at-home mother.

I thought it would bother me that these women couldn't find contentment in staying at home with their children. Having been a stay-at-home mum for the last 2 years, I can understand this urge to get away. An urge I only expect to get stronger once my children are in school full-time. The way that Wolitzer describes the dilemma, the back-and-forth of should I or shouldn't I work was spot on, something I've found myself thinking with increasing frequency.

But there is also the conundrum of what to do for work, that, as Amy thinks, work doesn't make you interesting, interesting work makes you interesting. So, what to do? Find a job that's just a job, that just brings in a paycheck each week? Or find something that grabs you, that makes you feel alive and vibrant and excited each morning?

I found this book fascinating. The women in this book who stayed at home almost seemed to be doing it as a backlash against the feminist movement, as though they were saying "We don't need to break down barriers, we want to stay at home with our children."

I doubt that this book will put an end to the Mommy Wars, but it goes a long way to showing both sides of the coin, that both choices are valid and valuable ones and that maybe, just maybe, we shouldn't be passing judgment on each others choices and instead, just accept them for what they are: choices.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Body Drama

This is a MotherTalk book review.

Body Drama by Nancy Amanda Redd is the book I wish I'd had when I was a young teenager. It discusses the things you don't want to even think about when you're 12, 14, 15 years old and it does it in a down to earth and friendly fashion. There are photographs galore and they aren't the airbrushed things you find in fashion magazines. They're of real young women with real bodies who have real issues and problems.

The book addresses myriad calamities that girls of that age go thru - zits on your face and on your back, body hair, weird odors and body image. It does it in an honest and straight forward way. It doesn't sugar coat things but its reassuring tone is comforting to girls who are convinced that they are the only ones experiencing all these strange things.

I handed the book to my daughter, who is 13. She was revolted and fascinated at the same time. She spent about an hour flipping thru it and handed it back to me, saying "Mum, there's, like, 20 pictures of vaginas in there." Then she paused and said "You don't have to give it back, do you?" I assured her that I didn't and she smiled and said "Good. I want to look at it again."

I initially wanted to review this book because my daughter has type 1 diabetes and the incidence of eating disorders and body dysmorphia are exponentially higher in girls with type 1. I wanted something that would reassure her that she was normal, that most girls go thru what she does and that no one is like they are in the magazines or on television. Going by her reaction, I think this book will more than hit the mark. It doesn't patronize, it speaks honestly and openly and is reassuring without being phony. I'm thrilled to have this on hand for my daughter to peruse and think it would make a great addition to any young woman's book shelf.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

The Middle Place

The Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan is ostensibly a memoir about a young woman's battle with breast cancer. In reality, it is that and an ode to her family, to her irrepressible father, her pragmatic mother, to her husband and their two young daughters.

I'm often torn about whether I should read books like this or not. They knock at my heart and drag some of my darkest fears into the light where I'm forced to examine them before locking them away until the next time. But this was a book I was glad to have read.

Ms. Corrigan brings you right in to her story, her battle with breast cancer and the story of her family, by switching back and forth from her childhood to her current situation. This can often be jarring, but she accomplishes it smoothly, without the frustration of being left hanging for a while.

Even though she is telling a difficult story, she tells it with a lot of humour and with a down-to-earth manner that pulls you in and keeps you reading. She is honest about her bouts of selfishness, her impatience with her kids, her silly arguments with her husband, her difficult relationship with her mother. She doesn't sugar coat things and she doesn't make herself out to be a superwoman or a hero, but just confused, scared and angry about having to deal with having cancer.

I found myself laughing, often thru tears, as I read this book. It sounds a little odd to say that I had fun while reading this book - it is, after all, a book about breast cancer, a topic that often elicits hushed tones and somber expressions - but it was a fun book, a book full of hope and life and laughter. It was less a book about breast cancer than it was a book about love.