From Zarnow (Husband is the Past Tense of Daddy, 1991), short essays that celebrate the small joys and rue the trials of days spent taking care of the house, doing the family chores, and tending three small kids. ""My family is ordinary, my children are generic, and out of 31 possible flavors my life is vanilla,"" Zarnow avows in her preface. She goes on to say that her aim in chronicling the utter unremarkableness of her life is to encourage other parents by letting them know that their frustrations, guilts, and ambivalences arc shared. The pieces that follow deal with such common parental challenges as musical beds at night; trying to be fair to all three kids while treating each as a special individual; rejecting the experts in favor of one's own instincts and knowledge; teaching children about differences among people without fostering prejudice; getting insufficient assistance from one's spouse; and frequently feeling ""like a Lazy Susan. My kids spin me and help themselves...."" Zarnow says she has avoided mentioning how wonderful her children are because no one wants to read that--but a few moments of all-stops-out motherly pride and amazement would have offered welcome highs to offset the constant low-grade frustration palpable beneath the wryness. Some may find all this amusing and bracingly accurate about the realities of a contemporary mother's life; others may experience it as ultimately somewhat depressing.