Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Bloggy Friends Book Club: Midwives

Rather than just write a review of the book Midwives, by Chris Bohjalian, I am hoping to have more of an online book club discussion for anyone who read the book and wants to participate.

This was not a book I picked out. I do not follow which books are selected to be part of Oprah's Book Club. Although this book was first published 12 years ago, I had actually never heard of it that I could recall. This book came into my possession from a 20-something coworker who listens to me talk about my kids and nursing and childbirth and pregnancy and lack of sleep and all the other joys and frustrations that come along with parenthood. Although young and dating, my coworker's mom has young children and she's seen her mom go through so much of the same things with her half-siblings. She kept telling me that I had to read this book, and finally lent it to me to read.

I loved it.

Because of our infertility troubles and need for specialists, my husband and I went with OB doctors for the pregnancies and deliveries. My sister, however, had midwives and even attempted the birth of her first child in a birthing center. Before reading this book, I fully supported people's decision to go with midwives and give birth in birthing centers or even at home. While reading the book and after reading it, I more than support it. I wish I had gone with midwives. My guess is that some people who read the book might actually feel the opposite, and I was surprised by how strong and consistent my own reaction was, even when the book discussed the negatives of going with midwives or birthing outside of hospitals.

The book itself was really well written. I was unsure about how the story would come across because it was written by a man, and the main character was a woman and the story line very female focused. But he did a great job of making me forget it was a man who wrote it. By using a main character who, although a woman, had not had any kids herself and was remembering a time during her youth, he was able to speak about women's issues from an interesting perspective of an intimately involved "outsider," which is a voice that I think would be similar to a man whose wife had beent through childbirth (Chris Bohjalian has a wife and daughter).

I also felt that by having this main character and by putting the main story in a "remembering" voice, he was able to provide just that touch of distance that I needed to read about certain situations without becoming so emotionally involved that I would have to put the book down. You see, I am still so close to the pregnancy/childbirth experiences that I generally can't read news stories, blog entries or even fiction about bad things happening to mothers or children. But I didn't put this book down once. Not because it didn't move me or touch me or reach me emotionally, but because the voice he used and the way he wove different pieces of the story together through the trial details, memories and journal entries that gave just enough distance (this isn't the right word, but something close to it) for me to not be overwhelmed.

And the story... I thought it was just amazing. Obviously well researched and definitely something the author came across as passionate about. All those aspects I mentioned in the preceding paragraph and more was woven together well, and the story really kept me guessing. Some things I saw coming, but not everything.


As for the very end...

I really did not know which way the jury would go. I liked the reason he basically gave for why the jury went the way it did. But he kept me guessing, and then the relief I felt was, well, upended. The very end of the book? Wow. Just wow. I am getting shivers right now thinking about it. But even with the twist at the very end, I didn't think it cheepened the story at all, unlike some other books I read. I mean, I like a good twist in general, but I hate it when I feel like the twist is just to pull the rug out from under you or to trick the reader in some way. I didn't feel this twist was like that. I thought that this twist actually was crucial in explaining some key parts of the book. It helped let everything fall in place.


All in all, I really enjoyed this book. I felt like I learned a lot, I went on an interesting ride, I liked the characters and the plot. And most important to me in books, movies and TV shows: It was well written. I am totally going to recommend this book to others.

What about those of you who read the book? Do you agree with what I said? What did you like about the book? What did you dislike? What will stay with you over time? Did your feelings on midwives and birthing outside hospitals change or strengthen? I'd love to hear everyone's opinions!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Rocking Pony Shirts

In conjunction with this review, I'm having a giveaway for a Rocking Pony shirt on my blog! Go there for details, and leave a comment there to enter!

A couple years ago, I made online friends with Karen and subsequently discovered her Etsy store: The Rocking Pony. What a great discover that was! I could go on and on about how awesome Karen is as a person, but since I'm doing a review of her site, I'll try to stick to Karen's customer service and work.

Over the years, I've ordered I think 4 shirts from her, including two for gifts to my niece and nephew, and I've gotten one shirt for free. Karen worked with me to be sure she had the right size and color, and that I was fine with the kind of shirt she had (an adorable hooded t-shirt, instead of a regular t-shirt).

The free shirt I got was because she was trying to do more shirts for girls and was making some samples for pictures on her site, but she didn't want the shirts to go to waste, not having any little girls herself. So on her blog, she offered free shirts to those who commented saying they wanted one. She is thoughtful and kind, and she provides the kind of customer service that seems to be lacking in most places today.

As for the shirts themselves, I've loved every single one of them. They are all hand-made shirts, well made, unique and high quality. They are also absolutely adorable! Check these out:

monster shirt

That is Niles, and there's a cute story behind his creation. That's the shirt I initially fell in love with.

flower shirt

Although a little blurry and not a great angle (it was at a time when she rarely held still for any pictures), this might be my favorite shirt I've gotten for my daughter. It's such a cute flower, and I love it on my favorite color purple.

teapot shirt

This teapot and tea cup shirt is the one I got for free. Oh how I wish it still fit my daughter, because she and I both loved it.

I have had wonderful experiences with The Rocking Pony Etsy store, customer service and the shirts themselves. I've loved the shirts for my daughter (and soon my son will be getting one) and for gifts. Karen also makes bibs, blankets and other things. You should really go check out her site. And if you don't believe me, you can read all the amazing feedback she's gotten on Etsy!

Disclaimer: When discussing doing a giveaway on my blog with Karen, she offered me a free shirt from her store for each of my kids. Because I love her stuff so much, I am taking her up on the offer. Karen did not know I was planning a review of her store now that I've started writing reviews on my review site again. When I told her, she didn't offer me anything in exchange for the review. My review was in no way influenced by the offer of free shirts in conjunction with this giveaway. I would not be doing this giveaway if I didn't love her and her store so much. I think that covers everything.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Cake and Muffin Recipes

Since we found out for sure that my daughter has a peanut allergy, our lives have changed. We have to check every package, every baked good, every food item for peanuts and if they were processed in facilities which also have peanuts. With a peanut allergy, taking a chance with something is literally gambling with your child's life. This is especially hard when we are getting invited to birthday parties left and right, including my own kids' birthdays, my hubby's and mine!

It's a good thing I love to bake! I'd rather not chance most store-bought baked goods or even packages of mixes, since they either state that they are processed in a facility that also processes peanuts or they don't say anything (and that's a gamble, right there).

For my kids' birthdays, I found a cake recipe on, a site I have used and loved for years. (My favorite part of the site is its interactive-ness, with commenters who give you tips and hints and substitutions.) For this recipe, I substituted butter for the shortening, which worked out fine. I've made cakes and cupcakes from this recipe, and both turn out great. It's easy to make, and really yummy to eat!

This weekend, I'm going to try this chocolate cake recipe for my birthday cake! I'll update after I make it to let you know if we like it.

I also stopped using muffin mixes or buying the delicious store-bought or bakery-bought muffins for the family, but we still love to eat muffins. A couple weekends ago, I used this recipe to make blueberry muffins, with a few modifications: I used 1/4 c. oil, added I think 1/2 c. brown sugar and put in extra blueberries. They were really delicious! In fact, I think we'll make them again tomorrow.

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