Archive | 2006

Where’s a size 3T breastplate when you need one?

Kioww the wabbit, kioww the wabbit, etc.

Countless benefits accrue from having an opera singer around the house. So many occasions are embellished by the recitation of a few choice operatic lines. For instance, when your kid receives a Viking hat from her Norwegian American cousins, you can cue the opera singer mum to call out a battle cry or two from Wagner’s little dittie Die Valkyrie.

[Wanna hear a vintage recording of the whole damn “Ride of the Valkyries,” courtesy The Gutenberg Project? Unfortunately this clip doesn’t include the classic “Ho jo to ho!” exclamations from Brünhilde, et al. But it’ll get you in the mood.]

We’re already priming the little monkey for a haute culture future. The first night she ever stayed up late and watched her first lengthy stretch of television (late = past 8pm; lengthy stretch = anything over a random moment or two), was spent soaking up a fabulouslsy schmaltzy rendition of holiday classics by soprano Renee Flemming, fronting the teeming mass of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. The lil’ monkey was transfixed, while her mum and her grampy (a voice teacher as well as an actor) spent most of the time debating about Renee’s vocal technique.

I don’t know about Miss Flemming’s vocal technique, but I do know that if she were to have worn a hat like this one during her performance, she might not have been able to resist zig-zagging back and forth across the stage, shaking her head around so’s to jingle up the bells, like the lil’ monkey did all over the house when she first parked this on her head. Might-a worried the choristers and the conductor a bit, but I bet the kids in the audience would have loved it.

Comments { 2 }

Sixth list of ten: Things I have in common with dads

one hundred stones
Original photo credit: The Windgrove Center, Tasmania, AU.

In celebration of the 100th post, part six in a ten-part series.

I’m a female parent who (a) didn’t give birth, but (b) is partner side-by-side with one who did, and (c) is in some ways nearly as mannish as I am womanish. As a result, more often than not it’s the dads I sidle up to and chat with at the playground, and I’ve made at least as deep a connection with my men friends who are fathers as I have with my women friends who are mothers. (This is apart from the obvious and intense connection I have with women who are, like me, lesbian parents.)

Given all this, I thought it’d be interesting to corral, in one of these lists, a good

Ten things I have in common with dads:

1. (with slacker dads) We both tend to want to avoid doing the dishes and the laundry as frequently as the sweetie would like.

2. (with handy dads) We both prefer to put the “some assembly required” toys together; this impulse also applies to installing child seats, building tree houses, and fabricating excuses to take a “quick trip” to the hardware store.

3. (with dads whose partners have carried and birthed the kids) We have seen our partners through the awe-inspiring Everest climb of pregnancy, witnesed them birth our kids, and therefore tend to see our partners in the kind of shimmering light that shines on them.

4. (with dads whose partners have carried and birthed the kids) Because it’s the other one who gave birth, and nursed, and smells like Home to the kids (rather than home), we’re chopped liver for years, and it hurts, man, it hurts.

5. (with donor-conceived / donor insemination / DI  and adoptive dads) Our parenthood has been made possible by the generosity of another man.

6. (with donor-conceived / donor insemination / DI and adoptive dads) We don’t look like our kids, they don’t look like us, and we are grateful for the powerful impact our nurture will have on them.

7. (with donor-conceived / donor insemination / DI and adoptive dads) We may worry about whether one day our kids will develop some strong desire to look past us, to the donor or biological father, for some biological kinship that we can’t provide. And of course we live with that, due to item #5 above. If we’re fortunate, we may even find ways to regard this in an expansive, positive light.

8. (with feminine dads in same-ish sex marriages) Kids are drawn to us in a distinct way, because while I can’t substantiate it with clinical proof, I know there’s just something wonderful about a person who has a rich mix of both masculine energy and feminine, all in the same body. And in my personal experience, kids pick up on this big time. They know they’ll get both the hoisting high and the soft cuddling, and it makes some visceral core part of them very happy.

9. (with gear fetishist dads) We wish that there were a baby shower for us, so we could receive stuff from this place. Or this place. Not that we’d want to admit that in public.

10. (with every dad with a wide-open heart) We consider this parenthood gig the toughest (most meaningful, rewarding) job we’ll ever love, and can’t imagine how we ever thought we could do without it.

[Seventh list of ten: Things to do whilst waiting for the birth]

Comments { 7 }

Infant car seat: vanquished!

The careful observer will note that this Aztec warrior is not bearing a fainted virgin in his arms, but instead an infant car seat, a far more precious and mysterious treasure. Actual original here.*

The other day, when all of Christendom was gathering around their various hearths, slogging back wassail and singing songs of joy and cheer, I was outside wrestling with the infant car seat. I had been e-dykelated once before, and it wasn’t going to happen again.

For the uninitiated, “e-dykelated” is a custom reworking on “emasculated,” and it can happen to any gal like me who is lacking in mastery of all the manly arts, but who still aspires to one or two of them. Proper assembly and installation of kid-related equipment (car seats, cribs, high chairs, etc.) rank toward the tippy-top of the manly arts, parental subsection. So quite naturally I am highly motivated to triumph over everything whose box bears those three most feared words in the English language, Someassemblyrequired.

Back when my sweetie was ready to burst with kid #1, I had done my best to install the infant carseat we’d inherited from her older brother, whom I lovingly refer to as my Know-It-All-Brother-In-Law or, for the Acronym Oriented, my KIABIL. I didn’t have benefit of the original installation instructions (hey, you don’t see me complaining, do you? it was gratis!), so I asked him to inspect the job I’d done. He gave it a looksee, and then — sweetly, not at all ham-handedly — suggested that I’d want to actually strap it in properly, lest we chuck the newborn into the front seat with a sudden stop. Wilting with mortification on the driveway, I watched him lean in, kneel on the seat, fiddle with the various adjustments, and actually do it right.

My KIABIL does know a lot, is the problem. He’s also 6’7″, a triathlete, a former carpenter, and an accomplished execu-dude. And he’s hirsute. Most places. So no one raised in this century or any other, on most contintents on this planet, would espy him and think anything other than that he must be accomplished in most all of the manly arts. Which he is. The fact that he’s also a great cook and a major league pro-feminist is simply icing on the manly cake.

You can imagine my exquisite torture, then, as a gentle-manly dyke who lives upstairs from him (our two families share housing). For 24 hours a day, there is always someone on the premises who actually can fix that. Whatever that is. Before, when my sweetie and I lived in obscure isolation in our own separate home, I could do whatever I pleased to anything, using duck tape and paper clips and rubber bands, and she’d exclaim over the masterful repair job I did. (Feast your eyes on Exhibit A.)

Now the standards are higher, and I’m feeling the pressure.

So the other day, the journey I took with the infant car seat was one I had to take alone. The installation dragged on five, maybe even ten times the amount of time it would have taken my KIABIL. But god love me it’s in there, and kid #2, when he emerges (yegods it could be ANY MINUTE!! why isn’t EVERYONE panicking?!!), will not be pitching anywhere. Not on this Baba’s watch, no sirreee.

*Filling the walls at my favorite taqueria during my high school years were beautiful black velvet paintings of Aztec warriors in various states of masculine accomplishment, usually atop mountains, often with freshly killed cougars underfoot. Ever since then I have aspired to some reasonable facsimile. Minus the dead cougars.

Comments { 5 }

Your children are not your children

Nine months and two weeks’ worth of our daughter, September 2004.

We had the great good fortune last night to attend a performance of Chanticleer, the men’s choral ensemble. Every December the San Francisco-based group finishes up a national holiday touring schedule with local performances. Thanks to the devotion of the Gramma and the GrandBaba, our extended family is making it a seasonal tradition to attend their performance at the First Congregational Church in Berkeley.

Listening to the perfection of their voices, both as soloists and as a seamless choral whole, it’s hard not to hear the divine. To me, though, this is not so much a theistic divine, but a spiritual connection to the ineffable for which some people can make themselves vehicles.

When I finally heard soprano Kiri Te Kanawa in recital, I heard the same thing: sonic perfection, for which the singer was not originator, but vehicle. For the first of several encores, she sang one of Strauss’ Four Last Songs (her recording of these made me fall in love with her voice twenty years earlier). At one point she was holding a note, and for the duration of that held note, the entire hall was transported. It felt like it was no longer Dame Kiri who was singing, but the note itself, and we all, for those moments, were experiencing the sound, A-flat, in its breathtaking perfection.

My beloved saw Baryshnikov dance in New York in the early 1990s, and thought the same thing. She — then at The Neighbhorhood Playhouse and an ardent student of artistic accomplishment — realized while watching him that he had polished his technique to such a brilliant sheen that he was capable of transcending his own individual genius, becoming instead a vehicle for something larger than himself. The dance. The human body. Neither one the sole posession of the dancer.

It’s hard to describe, but it makes sense to me.

I’ve never attempted the performing arts, as an adult singing for only a short time with a community-based women’s chorus. I know we never approached the burnished perfection of Chanticleer, but each time we sang at least I was transported. My favorite song was a version of Sweet Honey in the Rock’s “On Children,” a treatment of the Khalil Gibran poem.

In a dozen short lines, this poem manages to convey something which is as close as my beloved and I have to a roadmap for our parenthood. It helps us immensely that our children could only come to us with the help of others. Our children are not only our children, even if we may manage this legally and socially. We know we do not posess them. They are — as are all of our children — each their own perfect song. Divine.

Here’s a link to the Sweet Honey recording courtesy (Music by Ysaye M. Barnwell, © 1980 Barnwell’s Notes Publishing; recorded by Sweet Honey In The Rock® on “Selections.” Used by permission of the composer.) The text below is Sweet Honey’s, imperceptibly tweaked from The Prophet.

Your children are not your children
They are the sons and daughters of life’s longing for itself
They come through you but they are not from you and though they are with you
They belong not to you
You can give them your love but not your thoughts
They have their own thoughts
You can house their bodies but not their souls
For their souls dwell in a place of tomorrow
Which you cannot visit not even in your dreams
You can strive to be like them
But you cannot make them just like you
Strive to be like them
But you cannot make them just like you

Happy Solstice, happy last night of Hanukkah, Merry Christmas. God bless us every one.

Comments { 6 }