Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Happy Halloween!

Last night, I had to grade two folders of college essays (translation, people are paying for my judgment, so I had to be focused), catch up on the never ending stories of laundry and food shopping after teaching a nearly three hour class. I went to bed around 2 or so, and at 5:30 this morning, my fourteen year old woke me up with this sentence:

"Mom, is it possible to give yourself a tattoo with a Bic pen and a lighter?"

Now, if you recall, he is the same fourteen year old who recently pierced his lip with a needle and a match; he currently sports "snake bites" -- double lip piercings-- after the proclamation by a bevy of eighth and ninth grade girls that he looked, indeed, "way hot" with the one piercing, he decided to go for it. We now have a pact that if any other punctures appear on his body, the computer will be brought from his room to the basement - for the rest of his mortal life.

So that's what's new here. And we finished our costumes. His younger sister has been obsessed with fairies for most of her very young life, and has trick-or-treated as a fairy every year. This year, she fell in love with a half angel/half devil costume, and for the first time, I thought, a little wistfully, we won't have a Halloween fairy.

But fear not in the life of raising teens: my son, the six foot one inch basketball center who is currently tugging on size 12 1/2 sneakers, decided it would be really funny if he went as a fairy. Borrowing one of his sister's creations (and adding several new layers for length) this is the result:

Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Piercing and Karma

When I was ten, all I wanted was pierced ears. My parents told me that was a habit of people who were more from "the tropics" than we were, (still not sure what that means) but I begged them. Okay, maybe I was around nine when I decided to get my ears pierced, and it actually occurred when I turned eleven. Yup, I begged on and off for two years. Then one day, my mother relented.

It hurt. I got a terrible infection. When everything finally healed, I realized I had made a mistake. I didn't even like having pierced ears. But I couldn't tell them that. Ever. I told my friends, but not my parents.

So when my son came to me and asked if he could get his lip pierced two years ago, I shuddered. I explained how you shouldn't interrupt a mucous membrane like the lip, how it reminded me of Goths and scary, dark undercurrents like Satanic worship. So I guess that was my "tropics" - we, a nice family, don't have children with lip rings.

Then I remembered how my friends and I used straightened out paper clips to try and pierce our ears. We slept with "progressive rings" in our ears that were supposed to painlessly and progressively pierce our ears. I was so glad that my son was not like I had been, that he had taken my response so reasonably.

So when I went into his room the other day and found him with a match, a bottle of alcohol and the sewing box, I knew exactly what had happened. He had a new lip ring, made with a sterilized pin from the sewing box we keep right in the living room. He looked at me and said, "I know. I'm probably grounded. Just tell me for how long but don't ask me to take the lip ring out because it has to heal."

I was speechless. At least he had used heat to sterilize the pin, he had smeared Neosporin on the puncture and inserted a surgical steel ring. He explained how kids in his school were piercing a lot of body parts and he had been watching them for...well, two years. He knew I would never say yes.

I didn't ground him. I explained to him, sort of inanely at that moment, how most beauty is based on mutilation.

"I know, Mom, you told me that two years ago. Am I grounded?"

I looked at him. He makes the honor roll, he plays basketball, he's in band, he volunteers at the library. Things could be worse than a lip ring. I wondered what I should do.

"I've been asking you for like two years," he pointed out, "and you..."

Two years. Then he did it himself.

"You might decide you don't like having a lip ring," I suggested.

He shrugged. "Then I'll let it heal." He laughed. "I thought you were going to go crazy," he said, "I can't believe you're just standing there."

"It's sort of a done deal at this point."

"So I'm not grounded?"

"Just don't pierce anything else. Anywhere. No matter what your friends do. And tell me next time. So I can take you to a place...like the doctor's or something."

"Mom, people do this like on the bus. Or in the lunch room. No one goes to the doctor's for this."


I got him more Neosporin and some hydrogen peroxide. We talked about how to avoid an infection. The whole time I was wondering if I should be doing something more punitive.

"Thanks, Mom," he said, "I can't believe you're being so cool about this. This isn't like you. I thought you would like take me to the ER or something."

"Actually, I know what it feels like to want to do something like this."

"No," and he really laughed, "you couldn't possibly know."

And here he is, from his cell phone to mine:

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Revisiting the Zone of Non Presence

Every once in a while, when the phone, the texting, the computer and the non stop hectic pace of our lives gets to me, I have to leave for a few days and not be found. Sort of.

It's pretty difficult not to be found in 2008, but a friend of mine has a house in a mountainy spot of Pennsylvania and she is generous enough to invite us for weekends. There's no cell phone reception there, a couple of religious stations on the tv (the kind that ask for a prayer and a check), a lot of fog, deer, and silence. There is usually general protest on the way there about not being able to contact their friends or get any of the good tv shows, and as they complain, I just keep driving. I think it's good for them to be forced to spend time with only their parents, or maybe it's just good for me, but either way, it's gonna happen.

We found a festival they could stand since it had some old trains (steam powered that still ran)a haunted jail with a dungeon, and this church with architecture that made them stop for a few seconds:

Thinking (hoping) it might be haunted, two out of three of my kids stepped inside and actually went into the chapel and sat down voluntarily. I had to take their picture:

What was the point of all that time in the car and all that quiet? I was able to figure out how I need to change my last manuscript so it's a bit less wobbly, and the kids spent the way home talking to each other and to me and their Dad. They did text, but only a few times, and mostly they talked about kid stuff like ghosts and Halloween and how much they still really, really like candy - all three of them, even my 16 year old. I like just talking to them.

They are so wired all the time to their electronics it's almost as if we exist in parallel universes. I know my two boys are learning independence while spending all that time with friends. And that's really important, but so is learning about their little sister's trouble with a boy on the playground or how their parents once dressed up as his and her mummies.

It sounds so weird to say I take my kids on trips to remote places because I miss them, and I live with them every day, but it's true.

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Collingswood Book Festival

On Saturday, my daughter, husband and I went to the Collingswood Book Festival. Now, my husband reads primarily bicycle and computer magazines, and after reading the first five pages of my novel said,"It's all I need to read to know it's good." My daughter just turned ten, so she can't even read YA - she tried, but went right back to Diary of A Wimpy Kid. Amazingly, they both found things to do there. My husband became fascinated with a "Tiki Bike" (there probably is a proper name for this, but I don't know what it is - it had a tiki bar roof and it rolled), and he got to talk to all the recumbent bike building people who stood on the fringes of the festival -- he was so happy to find those kindred souls. Anyway, here's a cell phone shot of the Tiki Bike. I think five people can fit on it:

And my daughter found a make your own Wimpy Kid diary workshop, tons of homemade cookies, and this:


There were lots of authors, books, and street fair type anomalies (bubbles, gigantic, walking sharks, Cliffords, Dr. Seuss and retirement age men wearing wizard hats). Mostly teenagers stopped to talk to me, and several people thought I was a conservationist writing about the "shape" water was in (like something connected to the melting of the polar ice caps).

I had one man dressed entirely in black slither up to me. "I'm a demonologist," he said, "would I like your book?" I told him he probably wouldn't, then tried to act busy, which is not easy when all you have is a table, copies of your novel and some business cards. He asked if there was a sucubus in the book, and when I told him no, he moved along.

The funny thing was how many adults came up to me and told me they liked to read YA. I acted so surprised until my daughter looked up from her American Girl magazine and said, "So you like it so much you write it, and you're an adult."


She's right, of course. I have always read YA and MG books, but I never admitted that until I published one.

The other weird moment was right after a couple of teenagers told me how much they wanted to be authors, and I talked to them for a few minutes about writing. They were really enthusiatic about my novel, and after I signed their copies, and they left, I turned to Emma and said, "Wow, it's almost like I have fans."

She was still reading her magazine, and this time, without looking up, she said, "Not really you don't. You're just Mom."