Friday, March 30, 2007

Growing Girls

I have long considered Jeanne Marie Laskas one of my own personal discoveries. We share the same first name, of course, so that's part of it. But ages ago, in the Reader's Digest (long before her advice-column days, for you closet RD readers who know her from that), I stumbled across a short little article she'd written that was just brilliant.

I've tried unsuccessfully to find it online, but it was about a painting party she and her husband hosted after their house was renovated. All their friends were eager to help, enthusiastically dividing themselves into teams to do different rooms in the house--except for one friend, a woman, who flatly stated, "Well, I don't paint. How about I'll do food or something?"

Pooh on her, everyone felt...but by the time their enthusiasm had run out and they were all tired and crabby, the hero of the party was the woman who'd provided them with a gourmet lunch, mid-afternoon treats, and two kinds of lasagna, salad, bread and dessert at the end of the long day. As an underappreciated mom of toddlers at the time, I was emotionally grabbed by a couple of quotes (yes, I still have my ripped-out copy of the article, titled "Different Strokes"):

I watch Beth standing at that sink and I think of my mother, my friend's mother, everybody's mother. The mother is the one who is always just there, right where you left her.

[And the closing line:] "We are so glad you don't paint," Vince says to Beth, who seems, like any mom, to have been expecting at least a small amount of thanks.

She gets it, I thought. She gets it. (Not just the wanting appreciation, but the "different strokes" some of us choose when we drop out of the workforce to be full-time mothers.)

So when at the library I noticed a book-on-tape, Fifty Acres and A Poodle, by the same author, I snapped it up immediately. The subtitle is A Story of Love, Livestock and Finding Myself on a Farm, and it was the "finding myself" that I most enjoyed. The book chronicles her evolution from career-minded single gal, to engaged, "getting-in-touch-with-my-inner-princess" fiancee, to married wife suddenly mothering farm animals. It was hilarious and poignant.

I somehow missed reading the book that came after that, The Exact Same Moon: Fifty Acres and a Family, which describes her discovery of her deep desire to become a mother and their subsequent trip to China to adopt their first daughter. But it was award-winning, and I'm looking forward to it!

Growing Girls: The Mother of All Adventures picks up after they've adopted a second Chinese daughter, and it's not quite as light-hearted as Fifty Acres and A Poodle. Laskas writes brilliantly of the worries, the self-doubts, the anxieties for her children that drift relentlessly though mothers' minds in the middle of a sleepless night--yet she wryly recognizes the ridiculous aspects of many of her fears. So there are plenty of laugh-out-loud funny passages that make this a delightful book for moms, especially.

Now, I just can't wait till her girls are teenagers! Though she probably won't be able to write much about them then.... (That's what I've found anyway; the best blogging material is strictly off-limits. As a humorist, I wonder how she'll be able to restrain herself?)

If you haven't read anything by this delightful author, you're in for a treat! Especially if you're a mom in need of a little validation (--and what mom isn't?). Jeanne Marie Laskas understands the feminine mind and the mother's heart.

Oh, and you can read her current and archived articles about her family and farm adventures (published by the Washington Post) here.

For more book reviews, see Semicolon's Saturday Review of Books!


Jennifer said...

Jeanne--this sounds like a good read for me. Also coincidentally today I wrote about an author who "I discovered" after reading some of her magazine articles!

Pete & Mary said...

You suggested this book to me when I was on the run-up to getting married, and I still remember it fondly. It was a great read ... I'll have to dig around for these others now. Thanks!

melissa said...

i enjoyed your review of this author. i hadn't heard of her before and now i want to check out her books!

Kathryn said...

Jeanne - thanks! I was able to get her first book at the library and just now read one of her articles - very funny and such an enjoyable read. I wish I could write so well!