Janene Baadsgaard has no higher hopes for her third book than that it will repose in the bathroom of many homes.
She's practical.Her book is a collection of short essays. Short, because she knows mothers of little children don't get more than five minutes at a time to read. And they only get those five minutes if they are in the bathroom with the door locked.
Baadsgaard is a Deseret News columnist. Some of the essays in "Why Does My Mother's Day Potted Plant Always Die?" (published by Deseret Book) come from her columns. Others are new and introduce sections of the book, giving form to the little snips of daily life in each essay.
For example, from her essay on Autumn:
Autumn comes twice.
First, in the mountains, the season of fire appears. One day you look up and realize the green has gone out; summer's over.
Then, as if to give you a second chance, autumn comes again. The reds, yellows, and oranges that were once only in the mountains flow like honey to the valley floor . . .
One day you look up and school has snatched your children. You think the season ended, childhood over. Then one afternoon your little boy comes home from school, a young man, sits in the chair, and talks to you like a human being.
The season is not past. It's just beginning.
In the Autumn section of the book are two of the nicest essays: One asks her daughter's teacher not to school away the little girl's sense of wonder. The other entitled "Take One Gripe and Call Me In the Morning" neatly makes a point about stay-at-home-moms vs. working-moms.
(The point is this: When we decide to defend to the death our choice, we give up the right to gripe about how hard our lives are. We need to be able to gripe. To gripe is human.)
The most endearing quality of "Why Does My Mother's Day Potted Plant Always Die?" is evident in the title. Baadsgaard is modest.
She doesn't think she's a better mother than anyone else. (How could she when her children laugh at her when she speaks sternly and her Mother's Day plant always dies before her neighbors' do?)
In fact she is just like anyone else. At home, recently, she got a phone call. She asked her children to leave her and shut the door. They did. Except the youngest shut himself inside the room. Patiently, laughingly, she helped him out.
Two minutes later they intruded again. "Stay out!," she said, loudly. Her patience was gone. She is a typical mother.
So, hers is not an advice book. This is a book written by a woman in the trenches. "Grandparents always try to tell young mothers all they need is a sense of humor . . . Things like stick figures crayoned all over a new bedspread always seem a lot funnier when it's been 20 years since it happened to you."
Obviously Baadsgaard does have a sense of humor. That and a miscarriage, which she and her husband both describe very touchingly in this book, have given her perspective on what's really important in raising children.
"Why does My Mother's Day Potted Plant Always Die?" would make a nice mother's day present. In some homes, it would fare better than a plant.