My 11yo has been tagging along to shows with us since she was small. Usually, she didn’t care much about the music, even when her dad was in the band. She was there because we were there, and that was that. She would come prepared with a bag of small toys or a notebook and crayons. She would connect with whatever other kids happened to be there, or maybe a playful grown up, as she would call them. And that’s where she would spend the duration of the show. It has only been in the last couple of years that anything has changed.
It took a while, but eventually she started listening to the music we were playing. Even having favorites. Metric was one of her first favorites. Then Catbath, which became her first show where she actually cared about what was happening on stage. How’s that for a milestone?
This summer she hit another big milestone: her first show at First Avenue. Superorganism, if you haven’t heard them, is a weird, fun, poppy band that we couldn’t stop playing last summer. I love them as much as my 11yo did, and when they came to town, we were first in line for tickets, metaphorically speaking.
The show was as fun as we could have asked for. It was made even more memorable by the fact that lightning struck nearby and knocked out some of the sound equipment. The technical difficulties delayed the show by an hour or so. But once the band started playing, we forgot all about the wait. It was worth it to dance it out with my kiddo to a band we both loved.
By the kindness of an acquaintance, we happened to be given tickets to the Superorganism micro-show the day after the mainroom show. So we followed up one show with another. The stripped down set that they played for the micro-show was very different than the night before. First, we sat on the floor. Second, well, see for yourself. Watch how they made the sound effects. That’s not how they made the crunch sound on the mainroom stage.;)
I didn’t manage to post anything on this blog all summer long, but I did manage to write this summer. The credit goes to my ten-year-old daughter. Story Club was her idea.
Story Club met on Friday afternoons this summer, usually in our backyard. It was just the two of us with our notebooks sitting in the sunshine. My daughter decided how it would go: guided meditation to relax, poem collaboration to get started, a reading of writing advice or a particularly good bit from a book, then ten minutes of free writing.
It was simple. The whole thing usually only took about an hour, though sometimes we got really into the poem and went long. But it was the best thing about my summer. Easily so.
I won’t lie. When my daughter put forth the idea of Story Club, I went along with it for her. It’ll be good for her, I thought. She loves to write, and I don’t want her to lose track of that while school is out.
It probably was good for her, but it was even better for me. I used to love to write. I wrote almost constantly. I was always scribbling in my journal or clicking the keys on my computer. Somewhere along the way I lost track of that. I still kept a journal, but the little books took longer to fill. I still collected story ideas, but the ideas never went anywhere. Those Friday afternoons in our backyard changed that for me. Story Club reminded me of something that I truly loved. And it gave me a chance to share it with my daughter.
Perhaps I still don’t write as much as I used to, but the creative energy I found at Story Club this summer led me to tabling at the Twin Cities Zine Fest this year, which I hadn’t done in a few years. Plus my daughter joined me at my Zine Fest table with her own zine this year. We spent the day surrounded by writers, artists, and zinesters, and we left buzzing with ideas and excitement for what we might do next. So many people who came by our table encouraged my ten-year-old to keep writing, keep making zines. They would tell me to support her in whatever she did, and I would think, Is it strange that she is helping me stay creative as much I am helping her? I don’t know the answer, but I’m glad we have each other.
This past Saturday morning, I woke up with a bit of a cold, and my plans for the day looked much less enticing than they had the day before when I promised to take my daughter to see her favorite local band play an all ages show in the middle of the day. I tried to convince her that a movie marathon of her choice was just as good for the chilly Saturday, but her disappointed eyes ate at my mom-guilt enough that I took some cold medicine and off we went to Indeed Brewing for the Hullabaloo.
I’m sure I’ve mentioned Catbath on this blog before. My husband recommended the band to me after he caught their set at Cause Spirits & Soundbar, which has been closed for a while now. “Trust me,” he said, “This is going to be your new favorite band.” He was right, of course. Though now he probably laments introducing me to them given my habit of listening to my favorite records over and over again. If it were possible to wear out a CD, we would have worn out our copy of It’s Bathtime a long time ago.
Somewhere along the way, our eight-year-old daughter started singing along with the Catbath songs I played in the car or at home while we went about our business. Then she started requesting Catbath when I let her pick the music. Recently she talked about how Catbath is her favorite band at Sharing Time in her third grade classroom. She was genuinely surprised that none of her classmates had heard of them. I never set out to raise a hipster child, but somehow it seems to have happened. ;)
In any case, she loved the show. It beat a movie marathon any day.
Having recently read Hissy Fitz by Patrick Jennings, a book written from the point of view of a cat, my eight-year-old has taken to espousing bits of cat related wisdom as though she hasn’t heard us say basically the same thing again and again.
Most recently: “You don’t pet a cat. You let a cat pet you.”
I suppose it could be kind of annoying to have her acting as though such cat facts are new to her when they really shouldn’t be, but since she is actually remembering to feed and water our cat on her own now that she has read this book, I can’t complain too much. ;)
I spend a lot of time on this blog talking about children’s books that I like, which are not always the ones that kids are most drawn to. I tend to like (and have something to say about) books that are more serious or on Big Important Topics. But children’s books are not all serious or factual. There are plenty of “just for fun” books. I just don’t often have a whole post worth of stuff to say about those. ;)
So I thought I would let my focus group of one (my seven-year-old daughter) share some books that she liked and what she liked about them.
No Dogs Allowed (Series: Ready, Set, Dogs!) by Stephanie Calmenson – Best friends, dogs, and cute adventures all come together in this chapter book aimed at 2nd/3rd graders. What my daughter liked about it: Girls transforming into dogs. The whole concept made for interesting conversation and really seemed to capture her imagination.
Welcome to Normal (Series: The Quirks) by Erin Soderberg – Everybody is quirky, but nobody is quite like the Quirk family. They all have a “quirk” that makes them special and makes it hard to fit in. What my daughter liked about it: The quirks. Who wouldn’t want to imagine having some sort of special power?
Jelly Bean (Series: Shelter Pet Squad) by Cynthia Lord – This is a heartwarming story about a girl who loves animals and wants to make a difference. It is worth noting here that this is an early chapter book by an award-winning author. That’s unusual–and pretty awesome! What my daughter liked about it: Jelly Bean is sooo cute!
I guess the take-away here is that a book about cute animals or some kind of special ability is really the way to go for my kid. ;)
While I’m on the subject, I’d like to give a special shout out to Annika Riz, Math Whiz by Claudia Mills. Thanks to that book, my daughter has gotten really excited about math and puzzles, especially sudoku. We are looking forward to reading the next book in the series, Izzy Barr, Running Star. I hope it has a similar inspirational effect! :)
Through the luck of the library hold list draw I went from reading an ARC of Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan to a library copy of Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt. I think I had tears in my eyes the entire time I read these books back to back.
Two Boys Kissing a a teen novel about a couple of gay teens trying to win the world record for the longest kiss. In the hands of David Levithan, one of my personal favorite YA writers, the story becomes about more than winning a record or about making a statement about gay rights. He uses an unusual narrator to tell a larger story. Our storyteller is an omniscient view from the collective voice of gay men who have passed. They watch the characters being so open with their sexuality and speak of their experiences before being out was okay, before AIDS was a thing. It was very powerful, and it is easily one of my favorite books of the year.
Then I picked up Tell the Wolves I’m Home from the library. I’d been waiting for the book for months, and it seemed serendipitous that it arrived in my hands when it did. This book is set in the 1980’s, when AIDS was just beginning to be a thing. June’s uncle whose relationship to the family is strained because he was gay has just died, and June is devastated. She tries to understand the choices her family made. But it’s hard to make sense of why we choose to cut off the ones we love the most when they make choices we don’t understand.
I was reminded of these words from the collective narrator of Two Boys Kissing (quoted from ARC):
“So many of us had to make our own families. So many of us had to pretend when we were home. So many of us had to leave. But every single one of us wishes we hadn’t had to. Every single one of us wishes our family had acted like our family, that even when we found a new family, we hadn’t had to leave the other one behind. Every single one of us would have loved to have been loved unconditionally by our parents.”
It’s gotten better for LGBT kids, I think. I hope. But I know that there are still some who have to deal with families who want nothing to do with them. It breaks my heart to think about the people I know personally who are separated from their families for reasons like this.
Stories like these make me hug my daughter tightly and promise to love her no matter what. I hope she knows that she can make different choices than the ones I made without fear of losing us. We will always act like her family.
My daughter is different from me. She is our neighborhood welcoming committee. She never misses an opportunity to meet a new friend at the park, at the store, or through our living room windows. Frankly I get a kick out of it.
That isn’t me. In classic librarian fashion, I’m more introverted. Sure, I’ve gotten pretty decent at faking extroversion over the years. I can hold my own in a trade show booth and enjoy it, and I’ve done a fair amount of public speaking. But I’m far from greeting random passersby out my windows. And given the choice, I’d probably sit in the grass with a good book rather than approach strangers at a park.
My daughter’s extroverted tendencies–and I always speak of these traits as tendencies rather than absolutes–are delightful and at times nerve-wracking. Sometimes putting yourself out there can hurt. Sometimes people are mean. Usually, though, saying hello is great. You might make a new friend, learn something new, or travel on an adventure. Like Ruby in Philip Stead’s new picture book Hello, My Name is Ruby.
Ruby is a little bird who says hello to every bird she meets. Usually, it’s awesome.
But every once in a while, it isn’t, and Ruby feels a bit sad.
It’s an ode to the extroverted. Just like Eileen Spinelli’s When No One is Watching is an ode to the introverted. Together, the books make a an opportunity to appreciate everyone’s tendencies.