Monday, April 27, 2009

Reading, Texting, Books

When people find out I write YA, the one statement that is inevitably made is: "If you can get teenagers to read." My boys don't read novels, not even the ones their mom writes. (Though I did catch Son #1 reading a draft I left open on the computer and he actually ASKED ME A QUESTION ABOUT PLOT - heart be still...)

Their reason is reading seems too slow, too quiet. They like movies and Spark notes. It was pretty much that way when I taught middle and high school. And they do really like it when I explain symbolism to them, as long as I keep my explanations under a minute and don't ask them if they "get" it. Well, maybe they don't LIKE it exactly, but they smile and nod, and say things like, "Huh, Mom, you're really into this, aren't you?" They don't try to shut the door to their rooms, so I take that as a like.

Yet, they do read a lot, just not novels. All the myspace and texting is literacy, only a different kind. I don't think basic literacy has changed at all, just the medium has.

I felt like my son stopped by the computer and read my draft because he associates the computer with fun things. When I announce happily that I am going to the library, doors close and children instantly vanish in a sudden, StarTrek kind of way.

Over Easter, my brother told me he had two books out. The boys grew perfectly still. I know what they were thinking: "Are we going to have to read those?"

I was thinking: Say what?

He's an illustrator, not a writer, but I took a look anyway. I'm so immature, I kept clicking on the pages to make them turn. And my kids liked looking at it, too, probably because it's visual and not wordy. (And their mom doesn't ask anything like, "So the river -- what do you think THAT means. Water, the soul...) They were allowed just to look. And I'll bet you can tell we were raised right by a beach.

My whole family is weird. For a long time, my brother collected cans. The kids always told me I seemed really normal after they visited their uncles in Staten Island. We had no idea he was doing this.

I know these are just previews to allow you to browse a book electronically, so maybe I'm wrong and the medium isn't changing. Maybe this is just the way marketing is changing and this is how we make decisions now. I'm not sure if this is going to be the way we read.

I like books;I dislike Kindle and reading fiction on the computer. Email and that kind of thing are fine, but leisure reading should not involve a keyboard. I like holding books and carrying them with me wherever I go. I like turning pages and feeling the weight of the book in my hand,though I'm sensing that I am slowing devolving into a dinosaur. Maybe I'm going to be the last person lurking in the bookstore.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

5 Things I Love About Being A Mom

Mary Whitsell, a kindred spirit in parenting, tagged me to write about five things I love about being a mom. Now, if I had sat down last night around 10:20, after the kids let the dog out, and the dog ran down to the house where the odd family (and we understand odd, so when we say odd, you can only imagine) lives, this would have been an entirely different post.

Of course, we were having a thunderstorm and of course the odd family keeps several donkeys on their property (you were warned), and our dog, a hefty German shepherd with unresolved anger issues, wants to get into their hen house - the one next to the donkey barn - and eat one of the hens.

My boys were engaged in some useful activity such as this:

and my husband was in the middle of fixing son #1's printer for a paper he had all of spring break to write (so he began it at 9 last night) so I had to run down to the stinky, muddy "yard" holding Milkbones and old pieces of Easter ham to coax our wet dog back into the house while the donkeys kicked at their stalls and brayed at the thunder.

So it's good I'm writing this now. Kids are cute for a reason. I happen to think she is very cute:

Even though I used to roll my eyes (well, mentally) when coworkers showed me pictures of their kids and told me how cute they were.

Karma smirks again.

Okay, five things.

Here's number one: I no longer have inhibitions. I used to dread being called on in college classes, even though I'm a big talker. I just didn't like public stuff. After my first son was born, I developed the capacity to sing, yes sing, the theme song from Barney in the middle of supermarkets, at the pediatrician's office, on public transportation in NYC. And it didn't have to be Barney: I also included a few Raffi medleys and I could hum the theme song to the Power Rangers. Anywhere, any time, at any volume, I would sing because he liked it. (Times have changed)

I won't even discuss where I breastfed.

Number Two: they have taught me patience. Seriously. I used to be one of those foot tapping, hurry up people until I had a baby. Babies never hurry. They teach you to slow down. I used to write poems and flash fiction because they matched my speed of thinking. I don't think I would ever have been able to write novels unless I had been slowed down by kids and their complete lack of regard for time. It's a great thing to relearn, and it's best relearned by spending half an hour talking about the shape of a puddle.

Number Three: I know that I can do more than I thought. I always envisioned the middle part of my life as this orderly fertilize the lawn and read the paper weekend kind of place, but it's more like running a circus. Not a three ring one, just an ample circus with aerial acts and animals. I take on things I don't think I would have even imagined because after having three kids in six years, most things seem easier.

Number Four: I can take scrutiny. If I say there were seven pretzels and there were eight, or vice versa, I am called on it. If I wear weird pants or a sweater with a hole in it, I am told. I am also told if I have wrinkles, flab or schmoogus on my chin. Very little bothers me now, and there was a time when I ironed my jeans (and my pillowcases -- I haven't been able to find the iron since we moved here over two years ago, and no one is looking for it)

Number Five: the corny one, but I never knew I could love people this way. I remember this friend of mine calling me when I was pregnant. She said she would never have kids (and she's 51 now and still childless) because you fall out of love with your husband and in love with your kids.

I thought she was batty. I don't agree with this totally, but I do understand what she meant. It's not that you fall out of love with your spouse; it's just that everything in your life takes second place to your kids, at least while they are little.

Or maybe that's just that way it is for me. I actually miss them when they are at school (but don't tell them). I'll probably change my mind about this by mid-July.

But thanks for that, Mary! I doubt I would have ever sat down and thought about this without your prompt.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Blog Award Time to Close Out Spring Break

First I want to thank Nora MacFarlane for nominating me for this blog award! I am to think of ten unsuspecting bloggers who have great attitude/gratitude and nominate them. Of course, Nora beat me to a bunch of them I would have nominated, but for now, as long as no one calls the blogger cops, I'll just name the first few that come to my head.

Sarah Frances Hardy and Katie Anderson (that counts as two)


Christy Raedeke


Marcia Hoehne

Terri Rainer

Ok, that's more than half. Two more days of spring break and I'll be back.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Spring, Teeneggers and All

Happy Spring Everyone! Kids are home, so it's picture blog time:

Emma's Easter Tree:

Emma, just delighted to be snapped by my visiting family:

Hubby, escaping the full house for a few hours:

A Delighted Philip at the Easter Table:

And in a holiday tradition that is truly our own, my uncle, getting his ear hair trimmed:

We're planting a garden and working through school projects. See everyone next week, and hope your Easter was happy!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Shakespeare, Teens, and the East

This is a picture of Philip, as taken by Philip:

This is a picture of me, as taken by Philip:

This is a picture of the guy that is causing problems:

It began yesterday when we were cleaning his room "together" which meant I gathered glackis (a term my daughter uses to describe the plates with spoons or forks stuck to them)while he sat on his bed texting his friends. I came across an answer sheet on Romeo and Juliet. The question was:

Why, in your opinion, does Romeo kill Tybalt? Philip's response?

Because he was bipolar.

Philip went on to explain that he acted just like his friend, R., before she was diagnosed bipolar and sent to the alternative school.

Philip has really struggled with Shakespeare. Let me rephrase that: I have struggled with Philip sliding under the table while I tried to explain metaphor and theme to him in the play's context.

A long time ago, when I was 22, I stood in front of a ninth grade class and somehow got the play across to them. I do remember wondering whether or not the amount of time it took to get a little bit of Shakespeare through to fourteen year olds was worth it or not. I still wonder the same thing, but I was determined that Philip get something out of this experience.

"Let's go to the kitchen table," I said.


The kitchen table means homework, so for twenty minutes (and the promise of letting him skip the egg hunt with his little sister's friends) we talked about Shakespeare.
I explained metaphor, and hyperbole. He nodded with the glazed over look I get when my husband explains how he is going to change the sprockets on his bike.

"K, Philip, listen to this line. "But soft! What light through yonder window breaks?
It is the east, and Juliet is the..."

He looked at me. He yawned.

"He thinks Juliet is beautiful and luminous, all he has been yearning for."

Philip nods. I think maybe there was a breakthrough. "Remember about metaphors?"


"Ok, so 'It is the east, and Juliet is the..."

His eyes light up. He's getting it!

"Ok, Philip, 'It is the east, and Juliet is the..."

"West. Juliet is the west, right?"