Sunday, February 6, 2011

Book Review -- Planting Dandelions

Planting Dandelions: Field Notes From a Semi-Domesticated Life
Planting Dandelions: Field Notes From a Semi-Domesticated Life by Kyran Pittman
My enjoyment rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book source:  Received an ARC from the author (I was not compensated in any way for my review).

Sensitive reader:  Language, including the F-Bomb; some sexual innuendo.

Book release date:  April 2011

Dandelions – the pesky weed that proliferates most yards that all master gardeners spend countless hours and noxious chemicals trying to eliminate. In Kyran’s world, they are harvested for chains, eaten in salads, blown for wishes, and admired for their brilliant yellow color. Much like the metaphor of making lemonade out of lemons, Kyran is taking her marital and maternal dandelions and manifesting them into bouquets.

In “Planting Dandelions: Field Notes from a Semi-Domesticated Life” we are smacked in the face in the opening chapter with a fist full of dandelions and her admitted infidelity – a brawny way to welcome us into her world. It was not an easy transition, but it was brutally honest, and it sets the stage for her blunt and razor-sharp narrative.

It is always reassuring to read other mothers’ tales and trials and Kyran shares with us the best: From an unplanned pregnancy, to forgetting to pick up her child at kindergarten, to a repeatedly absent Tooth Fairy, to trying to control her children’s intake of sugar, and toy gun control. One of my favorite anecdotes is when Kyran finally succumbs to the evils of sugar, “When my oldest turned one, I made him a whole wheat carrot cake with pineapple sweetened cream cheese on top. Two years later, it was a homemade chocolate layer cake, frosted with butter cream, for my middle child. Three years after that, I ran by the warehouse club and picked up a slab of corn syrup and hydrogenated oil, spray-painted blue, for the baby.” (Quote from the uncorrected proof). I wanted to jump with joy and scream – "I’m not the only one!" Now, if I could only get someone to admit that for all of the portraits they have of their first child – very few exist of their youngest! We are not that much different after all “we few, we happy few, we band of Mothers.” Whether we are attachment moms or helicopter moms or accidental moms, and most recently, tiger moms – we forget, we yell, we neglect, we protect and we love unconditionally. Our hope is that through all of our effort and mistakes our children turn out descent and normal, without any memorable material to write a book about us later.

Kyran branches out into other “field notes” as well – from the threat of losing their home to foreclose, her Southern husband and sons, her shopping spree on 5th Avenue (an absolute MUST read!) and her green-card status (even I, who lived three years in the Great White North, and who knows Oh Canada by heart is still not sure where Newfoundland is, and whether or not it is really a province). She also reminisces about a particular dress – one that I imagine would have been worn by Goldie Hawn on Laugh In – that reminds her of her youth and whether that woman still exists. It is a beautiful reflection on a rich life that continues to evolve.

The only portion of the book where I winced and read with one eye closed was the section where she talks about exploring postpartum sex with her husband. When you see a fellow PTA mom walking down the street, some visuals are better left unimagined.

Planting Dandelions is a candid portrayal of what life is like in the maternal trenches behind the white picket fence and a welcome addition to the stay-at-home-mom genre.