Archive for September 2009

Sick Day

It’s been so long (thank goodness), that at first Eli hardly knew what to do with himself.

He was surprised when I told him he wasn’t going to school, but when I pointed out that he could barely lift his sweaty, feverish head, he nodded on the pillow and said ok. He rallied to eat half a bowl of granola, and then flopped on the couch sadly with me after waving Ben off to school. “Do you want to watch something on TV, buddy?” I asked him. “Is there time for a show?” “Oh, there’s time for whatever you want,” I told him; the boys don’t watch much TV (none during the week, maybe a half hour on the weekend) but on days like this, I think of my childhood sick days, watching back-to-back Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers’ movies, and I’ll queue up movies for hours if that’s what the boys want.

Except by this point, Eli was so cozily cuddled up, he didn’t want me to leave the couch to get a DVD, so our options were limited to a few Tivo’d kids movies: Curious George, Babe, Happy Feet. He managed ten minutes of Happy Feet before declaring it too loud, so we looked at the Tivo list again: movies; Oswald; Peep and the Big Wide World; Bear in the Blue House. We recorded these shows years ago, when Ben was a toddler, but my children are creatures of habit like I am; if a show was good when they were two, apparently it’s good when they are four and seven. Periodically we hear about new and interesting TV shows aimed at kids, and I’m briefly tempted to record something different, but then I think how I would miss the somber opening chords of the Oswald theme, or Peep’s jaunty tune, and I doublecheck that Tivo won’t delete these old shows before we’re ready.

We settled into Oswald. Then we watched a Peep. I was half-watching, stroking Eli’s head, and reading the New York Times magazine section. Life was good. But then Peep ended and Eli sat up. “I want to draw.” Really? We moved to the art table, he picked up a marker and laid his head in my lap. “Eli? Honey? I think it’s going to be hard to draw with your head in my lap.” “OK, let’s draw upstairs,” he decided. I wasn’t convinced he’d be able to hold his head up any better upstairs, but up we went — and then he spotted his bed. “How about we read some books instead?” I suggested. “OK.”

I got out a stack of favorites– The Bunny Planet trilogy; Library Lion; Bread and Jam for Frances; The Bunnies Are Not In Their Beds; Violet the Pilot– and we climbed into bed, and I read, and then I told him the story of the day he was born, and then I told him the story of the day Ben was born and eventually he was asleep, and I took a nap, too, and hours later when he woke he was still sick, but a tiny bit livelier, and I’m grateful for our day.

31 Hours by Masha Hamilton

Masha Hamilton’s gripping new novel, 31 Hours, tells the story of a young man, Jonas, who is smart and sensitive, worried about the world and wanting to make a difference. He reminds me of someone one of my sons could grow into someday, someone I would want them to grow into someday. Except for this: Jonas falls under the influence of a man named Masoud who convinces him to participate in an act of terrorism.

Jonas’ is just one of the storylines in the novel, which introduces us to three families: Sonny Hirt, a subway panhandler, and his sister; Jonas and his long-divorced parents; his girlfriend Kit, her much younger sister Mara, and their newly-separated parents. They are all pretty regular folks traveling a Manhattan and Brooklyn landscape that is quite familiar (and more familiar to me than the settings of Hamilton’s earlier, terrific, novels like The Camel Bookmobile or The Distance Between Us). Jonas’ story draws the other families closer, like a dangling thread which, when pulled, tugs the others inexorably tighter. I read with an increasing sense of urgency as the clock ticked down the thirty-one hours to the story’s climax.

The story is told in shifting narrative voices, allowing the reader into a variety of different perspectives on the events. I found myself feeling most for Carol, Jonas’ mom, whose sense that her son is in trouble opens the novel, but I can’t stop thinking about this passage from the ‘tween, Mara, who is suffering quietly through her parents’ separation, hearing her mom cry behind closed doors every day, and wants only to bring her parents back together. Hamilton writes:

It had been left to Mara to rescue her mother. No one else seemed to realize the seriousness of the situation. Mara was reminded of a movie she’d waatched once… The title had long since slipped from her memory, but what she did recall was that a ship went down and two women found themselves in a lifeboat with nothing to eat or drink. They floated alone at sea. At first there were jokes, or attempts at jokes, and then singing, and finally the sharin gof secrets that altered the way the two women felt about each other an themselves. But as their situation became increasingly desperate, much of the talking ended. One woman finally succumbed to thirst and, though her companion begged her not to, began frantically gulping seawater cupped in her hands. And that drove her mad. It caused sodium toxicity–Mara looked it up afterward–which resulted in a shrinkage of brain cells, which in turn resulted in confusion. The woman, now crazed, jumped into the ocean thinking she was walking into the kitchen in her own home to get a snack. She drowned. The audience was meant to weep for her. But Mara cried for the woman left behind, sane still but alone, floating on the vast sea. Mara felt as if her mother had become the dehydrated woman guzzling saltwater, and Mara was in danger of being abandoned at sea.

The lines keep resonating for me, as I think about what’s worse: to be the one who becomes quietly unhinged and dies (but who is protected, by madness, from fear of death); or to be the one left behind, “sane still but alone.” And as I was reading, I pulled myself out of the novel’s spell occasionally to force myself to consider this, and to wonder how I wanted the book to end. I couldn’t decide. Hamilton’s conclusion is absolutely uncompromising, somehow both shocking and satisfying.

Mama at the Movies: Ponyo and The Secret of Roan Inish

It was sea-creature month at the movies for me, first taking Eli to see the new Miyazaki film, Ponyo, and then watching The Secret of Roan Inish on my own. Here’s an excerpt from my latest Mama at the Movies column:

With all the summer buzz about the new Hayao Miyazaki film, Ponyo (2009), I thought maybe this would be my son Ben’s first movie-theater movie. He’s been reluctant to go to the theater, cautious of the loud soundtrack and the sense of disappearing into the story (which of course I love). I showed both boys the trailer and Ben, not surprisingly, said “That looks like a movie I might want to watch at home on DVD.” But his younger brother Eli wanted to go to the movies, and so while Ben was at school one day the two of us went to the theater together for the first time since he was a sling-riding baby who nursed while I dropped bits of popcorn on his head.

Please visit Literary Mama to read the rest!

“The Juggle” — How Mom Writers Balance Parenthood & Writing/Book Promotion

On September 11th, I’ll be one of the guests on Christina Katz’s Twitter #platformchat! I’ll be talking with author and mother-daughter book club consultant, Cindy Hudson about “‘The Juggle’ — How Mom Writers Balance Parenthood & Writing/Book Promotion.”

Here are the details from Christina’s website:

Time: 11:00 – noon PT (noon – 1:00 MT, 1:00 – 2:00 CT, & 2:00 – 3:00 ET).

Anyone with a Twitter account can participate. I recommend using and plugging in our hashtag, #platformchat, to follow and participate in the chat. Once you have a Twitter account, you can use your Twitter ID and password to get a Tweetchat account very quickly.
I hope you will bring your questions on this topic and join the discussion!

Here’s a little more about our guests:

[trimming the paragraph about me since I think visitors here know who I am]

Cindy Hudson (@momdtrbookclub) is a mother-daughter book club consultant, journalist, writer, and editor. She is the author of Book By Book, The Complete Guide to Creating Mother-Daughter Book Clubs. She has more than twenty years experience as a marketing and public relations professional, and has founded two mother-daughter book clubs of her own. Visit her online at and

#platformchat moderators are:

Christina Katz is the author of Get Known Before the Book Deal, Use Your Personal Strengths to Build an Author Platform and Writer Mama, How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids (both for Writer’s Digest Books). A platform development coach and consultant, she teaches writing career development, hosts the Northwest Author Series, and is the publisher of several e-zines including Writers on the Rise. Christina blogs at The Writer Mama Riffs and Get Known Before the Book Deal, and speaks at MFA programs, literary events, and conferences around the country. Follow Christina on Twitter at @thewritermama.

Meryl K. Evans is the author of Brilliant Outlook Pocketbook, co-author of Adapting to Web Standards: CSS and Ajax for Big Sites and contributor to many others. The long-time blogger and gamer has written and edited for a bunch of places online and off. A native Texan, she lives a heartbeat north of Dallas in Plano, Texas with her husband and three kiddos. Though born in silence, she tries to show that deaf people are just like everyone else. Follow Meryl on Twitter at @merylkevans.

Please tune in on the 11th and contribute to the discussion!