Oh, shit! You're 12!

Science says your neurology will change. Your ability to empathize can be expected to diminish while the rest of your metabolism shifts to making you taller and voice deeper and other things that will cause you to think "What the heck is going ON?" the next few years. Or sometimes think "What the heck is NOT going on?"

Those frights will go away. At least it will be a while before you ask your body "Why isn't this working?"

I like that you are getting older. I like your observations. Your questions.

I like your curiosity about music we sang to you. I like hearing you start to quietly sing back.

I like walking with you and chatting about cartoon violence, or politics, or Lord of the Rings, or school, or the politics of the Lord of the Rings and that you still grab my hand when we walk together. Or when you run your arm through mine. It usually shifts to tug-o-war where we contend which is the mightier (which I still win for now).

I like biking with you, and your keen memory, and the animosity you still bear toward the Screw You Bridge that bit into you twice. I like when we stop after crossing the bridge and yell taunts at it.

Even though you're becoming less of a boy, you are still very much my son. And I am proud of you and glad to see you get to twelve.

So, now you're nine.

We hoped for a girl, and were glad when the scanner showed you were a girl.

Your head was so big (sorry for that trait) they needed a suction cup on a stick to get you out of your mother's belly.

But it was soon clear that your head holds much brains. Enough to feed a village of zombies and still maybe, their bellies stuffed, they'd let you walk home. Though maybe math and spelling would be harder for you afterward.

We asked you to stop saying "I know" so often, and you pretty much stopped. Thank you. Will you find something else to saucily say down the line? Indubitably!

When I see your smile crammed with many teeth (sorry for that trait, we'll get it sorted over a few years) it makes my heart happy.

And when I see you take on more grown-up gestures, like saying "Yeah." with a wave of your hand while running off to do what you want, or you hold a pointy finger up to the sky to make the other person listen to you, it's a look into your future. And that future looks good.

It looks like your present, full of smart, creative, caring, sassy friends. And a family who is watching you grow up, and giving you more space, and letting you help more, and listening to what you have to say because it is often very interesting.

We love you, our smart, creative, caring, sassy daughter. And are happy to see you get taller, funnier, sillier, and very very nine years old.


Google Voice transcript and puberty training

8 y/o daughter pushed for, and we got her, an email account. She's been asking me, with blended despair and diplomacy, when I could help her get an Apple ID.

She left the following voice mail on my cell phone late this afternoon while I was at work:

"I was wondering when you're coming home 'cause I'm super super super anxious to get an Apple ID really soon 'cause my friend wants to do Facetime with me, but I need a new Apple ID password you already know my phone number and, yeah. Bye."

Google Voice transcribes my cell phone voice mail messages. It interpreted the call:

"I was wondering When You're Going To Be home to say I'm super super super anxious tagged nap, but I do you really soon because my friend what to do face time with me. But I need a new lot like the password bloodied not bear and yeah."

Paid bills for an hour tonight, then having never used Facetime, got to work through a Facetime/Apple ID oddity/snag/feature. Great success! As daughter got into bed I spoke with her from my laptop to her iPod Touch and it was a funny 30 seconds. Should be fun next time a family member is out of town. Though Facetime doesn't seem to be as exciting and beloved as when it first launched with beautiful people with winning smiles engaged in touching, heart-rending chats during commercial breaks.

Moved over to my 11 y/o son's room, where he reported today was the first of THE TOPIC in school about the birds and the bees. Whole class. Coloring pictures of genitals with crayons. Funniest terms for genitals they've heard: "disco stick", "corn dog", "hot dog bun", "taco", "black hole", "where the sun don't shine" (last one my son's contribution). Acne. Body functions. More discussion tomorrow.

Less harrowing than in MY day. Boys and girls in separate rooms, watching animated films about amoral nature soon wreaking havoc and would completely betray our conception of ourselves and reality. "Whoah, my body will do WHAT when I'm asleep and I won't be able to do ANYTHING about it? People are laughing about hairy palms, now I am too, but I don't understand what they were saying about what DOESN'T cause hairy palms?"

You know, stuff that still rattles us and holds us in thrall to this day. However the report of this sex ed curriculum seemed a step forward for our species. My question: "During coloring, did anyone ask for the silver or gold crayon?" Son: "No, they gave us all the same limited selection."

Ryan Gosling, Zooey Deschanel, and gender equity

Top image is from a gallery of more-than-lurid image macros with Gosling from Digital Moms Blog (another caption from the collection: "Hey Mom...I think Moms are hot" and they range from laughable to mundane to troubling). Lower image is one I made this morning.

Not a fan of spouses/partners calling each other "Mom" or "Dad" or "Mother or "Father". If people want to do that during role play, go ahead (post photos/video!). I can understand that partners using "Mom" or "Dad" comes from referring a kid to the other adult (e.g. "Go ask your Dad"), then it becomes an arch label, then sticks. Still, eww.

Both Gosling and Deschanel are born in 1980. Both seem intelligent. Gosling has a "I'm almost an adult" persona. Deschanel's persona is "I may be a grown-up, at some date of my choosing. Or I may remain pixie-ish and the kind of spinster who names all the spiders in my home."

And Gosling, veteran of the New Mickey Mouse Club with Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, and Christina Aguilera (and some other N'Sync dude, right? dignity keeps me from researching that) has likely witnessed things while peristalted through the intestines of the Orlando entertainment system, dark things, of a nature hopefully few of us can imagine.

Saw this on the internet, and it seemed kind of wrong-ish, and wanted to ponder its wrong-ness by turning the genders around. Thoughts?

Music shopping, opera speakeasy, candy ploy

Largely house-bound day, about 5:30 p.m. I rustled the family up, insisting on a field trip to the record/CD store while they still exist. Music Millenium ("A place where the music and the people still matter"). I was on the hunt for a next opera CD.

I'd taken the kids there before, but it was several years ago and they had no memory of it. They found the candy section right away and started bargaining. "Can we get candy instead of music?" "NO! Go look around."

We went separate directions. Where is the opera section? Over in classical, duh. Down the stairs, then some other stairs. Gotta open a door then down OTHER stairs to get into the classical room, then opera is in a closet of THAT room. Like finding a brightly lit opium den.

Got there, browsed a bit, took some tips from the "Opera 101" book I'm reading. Side track: the author is bugging me. He loves using the phrase "the fact that", once using it in consecutive sentences (*wince*).

I've already got Maria Callas in Norma, the first opera CD I bought (bet Fanny Chicken can suss out why) and have listened to Callas' studio recording of Carmen loads of times, leading to seeing it a few weeks ago. Thanks, T! Madama Butterfly probably the next opera I'll attend, probably in a few weeks. Found a recording of ... Maria Callas performing THAT, nabbed it. Double CD (w00t!) with a bonus CD-ROM of material (wh@t?).

Back in the day (as kids like to say, I'm trying to reach their demographic - how's that coming across? Cool? Kinda molester-y?) I really like the interactive CD-ROMs put out by Peter Gabriel (still think about those), Sting 'All this Time' (Andrew & I joke about that one), and Prince's 'Interactive' (wish there were a smell-o-vision feature). Haven't tried the opera CD-ROM, but it's probably documents, not interactive games like "coax the diva to the stage after she received an underwhelming bouquet from her new paramour".

Also got a Callas opera buffet CD - more than 100 songs over 6 CDs! - that I'll use as a reference when the various operas get a mention in the Opera 101 book. Small doses. Looking at the track lists made me woozy what with all the languages that weren't American.

The Madama Butterfly did not have a price tag on it. Asked a clerk in the middle of the store for a price check. Clerk got nervous. "That's from the opera section."

"Can you look it up here?"

"Yes. But, it's from the other section."

[Non-verbal ??? on my face]

"There may be a special deal or something. They would know."

"I assumed the whole store would be connected to the same system." What is up with this opera ghetto treatment?

Clerk scanned it, $23.99. Thanked him, still baffled. But there are old-school rectangular red or white or orange price stickers on the CDs at Music Millenium, and the clerk wanted to make sure I was getting any sale they might be having that would not be reflected in the computer system. So, sorry for my faces, brother. It was $23.99 in the opera/classical register, too, this time.

Daughter got the new Muppet Movie music CD. Son picked nothing. Spouse got a few CDs including a greatest hits of Pink Martini. A new Decemberists CD sits in our home, so far unopened this last month. Tough for parents to find time to listen to new music, but why am I reluctant to seek out music by local artists? I have this threshold for only listening to artists after they hit the mainstream. Never hire me to be an A/R guy, I'd never go anywhere to seek out prospects.

Also picked up the new Patton Oswalt CD. No idea he had one. Why didn't he tell me?

Adele - girls sing strong, shove dudes aside

Girls in school seem to have taken on singing songs with great gusto. Tunefulness doesn't really matter. That's fine. And it's a welcome change from singing like kittens, ring tones, or kewpie dolls. And it's MUCH better from the decade-long tradition of most female vocalists relying on a male vocalist/rapper to cover the bridge or lend unhelpful "Yeah!" and "Uh-hunh" and "Worldwide!" while the female vocalist carries the heavy load. I hate that. Hated it. Hate it. Will continue to hate.

I understand the marketing aspects. These ["w/ ..."] and ["feat. ..."] songs appeal to gals and dude demographics. I'm asking the music industry: when the lady has a story to tell, if it's not a conversation/duet with a dude, tell the dude to GTFO and let the lady do her thing.

Also, get rid of AutoTune. It sucks. In a soft moment I bought a post-Christmas discounted CD of Michael Bublé's Christmas album, only to discover the songs had been soured by AutoTune. Just, stop it! And fuck you, producer David Foster, for your decades of purveying of cynical pap.

Hope young women continue to emulate strong singers like Adele. We don't want them accustomed to sing two thirds of a song and then wait awkwardly for a man to chime in.

"Woman's Work" by Julia Alvarez

Thanks to Fanny C. for recommending a book of poetry: Rebel Angels, 25 Poets of the New Formalism. I've been making slow progress, but have stopped and lurched backward to re-read this poem several times. It's not sophisticated, but it's stuck.

Julia AlvarezWoman's Work
by Julia Alvarez

Who says a woman's work isn't high art?
She'd challenge as she scrubbed the bathroom tiles.
Keep house as if the address were your heart.

We'd clean the whole upstairs before we'd start
downstairs. I'd sigh, hearing my friends outside.
Doing her woman's work was a hard art

to practice when the summer sun would bar
the floor I swept till she was satisfied.
She kept me prisoner in her housebound heart.

She'd shine the tines of forks, the wheels of carts,
cut lacy lattices for all her pies.
Her woman's work was nothing less than art.

And I, her masterpiece since I was smart,
was primed, praised, polished, scolded and advised
to keep a house much better than my heart.

I did not want to be her counterpart!
I struck out. . .but became my mother's child:
a woman working at home on her art,
housekeeping paper as if it were her heart.

For my part, didn't grow up with a Mom who was so fastidious, or LIVED so much through housework. My parents (split home-ish-ness, but consolidating everyone for simplicity's sake) put an emphasis on us kids doing chores and housekeeping so we would not be totally useless when we left the nest. Seems obvious and common, but how many people/roommates have we known who moved away from home with little or no household skills?

The poem is a manifesto, but my place in life is not summed up in the last stanza, though in time it may be. While sputtering in my writing projects, I see my 8 y/o daughter taking an interest in writing story ideas or phrases in a journal she has, she's made several observations over the years about seeing me write, and both kids sometimes ask about the state of my writing projects.

I wonder if I'm role modeling for her. If she'll see my taking spare moments to write as an acceptable norm, a habit for her to build on. If my life is an intermediary step for any greater successes she may have. That's fine with me. I'd be proud to see it.

'Hugo', musicals, summing up Christ, James Joyce

Went with the family to watch Hugo, a movie we all enjoyed. Nice to watch a kids film that didn't feel obliged to make rapid fire jokes with pop cultural references to get an easy laugh of recognition without requiring any wit (HATE that!). Hugo is about art, cinema (ekphrasis alert!), orphans, inspiration. As portrayed in the film, all Parisians have British accents. Good to know! Will British ribbing of the French ever cease? Sascha Baron Cohen does a good job as a demi-villain, too. Oscar nomination for Best Picture seems likely.

Although, for less than a second, during a tumult in a Paris train station, JAMES JOYCE makes an appearance in a café! For this dormant Joycean, a pleasing touch.

On the way back home in the car, the kids insisted on listening to The Book of Mormon soundtrack. I am very proud when they start singing along. I skipped playing the song "Hasa Diga Ebowai" which has lyrics like "Fuck you god, in the ass, mouth, and cunt. Fuck you in the eye." (with a bouncy melody!). They asked why I skipped it (which they've heard before).

My 11 y/o son: "Is it because of the bad words?" I said: "Yes, and it's because your Mom is in the car and I don't want to shock her." That turned into a sarcastic flurry with me asking the kids in the back seat things like: "So, you're telling me you kids continue to make good decisions about what words to use, and when, and don't feel the need to say dirty words at every single opportunity?" When the joshing subsided, I STILL did not play the song. In role modeling that authority often involves erratic rules, my children are learning important life lessons.

We DID listen to the song "Man Up", which has the line "Christ, he manned up." Son asked what that was about. After a few seconds to compose my thoughts, I summarized the story of Jesus Christ's passion, the crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension in neutral language in about a minute and a half! Yes, I am bragging about that, have EARNED it, and...


The Wiggles, greatest band ever?

On a two hour road trip this weekend, we played through three Wiggles albums for the first time in years. Fun was had by all, nostalgia was had by three (two parents and son - our daughter born three years later grew up with non-Wiggles music).

The Wiggles are a four-person music-for-kiddies group formed in Australia. Three of the four were early childhood educators, and it shows in their songs. Not brilliant music, but they make an effort to sing about healthful eating, safety lessons, other cultures, and silly things.

Around 2001, we bought a Wiggles videotape and watched it over and over. As our son danced with happiness, and I often danced with him, we adults made short back stories as grown-up minds are wont to do during kid shows. The leader, Greg (yellow shirt), was an affable dork on the surface who subtly but effectively rebuffed any attempt by other Wiggles to take the lead. Anthony (originally green shirt, then blue, and the first Captain Feathersword 'til they found another actor) was a lothario, a permanent beta who WANTED to take charge but couldn't stop carousing enough at night to pull a coup together during the day. Murray (red shirt) was even dorkier than Greg, and just wanted everyone to get along. Jeff (purple shirt) was a political prisoner held against his will. These backstories/coping mechanisms kept us amused for years.

We took our son to see The Wiggles when he was about two. Great energy in the theater full of toddlers and happy parents. Murray even made it up to the balcony to say hi and delight the kids.

Greg had to leave after several rampantly successful years with shows in many countries, including choice placement on the Disney Channel and huge tours. He had a cardiac problem. He was replaced, but we didn't track The Wiggles past that point.

But enough of my yakkin', let's boogie.

"Hot Potato" is The Wiggles version of "Satisfaction". If they didn't perform this song dutifully for their fans, riots may erupt. Video features the friendly pirate Captain Feathersword (he's the pirate with the feather sword) and "Paul" a chef-looking dude who must be a mate of theirs in real life:

Found an early version, with Anthony in green, that's much sloppier. This is like finding a lost Stones demo. Watch it for an example of how Anthony seems to be struggling relative to the others.

Less fun (because they're all sitting) but a better tune is "Fruit Salad". To continue the Stones analogy, it's their "Honky Tonk Women".

Close to my favorite song is "Shaky Shaky". Video quality here is shoddy (alas, friendly pirated media!) but it's an Elvis nod. When watching the Disney Channel was a daily occurrence in our home, I noted Disney aired this bit on Elvis' birthday and the anniversary of his death. Clip is enhanced by the sounds of a toddler in the room:

Yes, I did want to be a Wiggle, and eight or nine years ago would have been ready to don a colored shirt and hit the ground running. Though I've fallen out of practice, if called I will serve. Hope you are taking it easy, Greg. And good work. Beauty, mate!