Saturday, October 17, 2009

The annual trip to Ann Arbor — parenting lessons

Buttercup hurt me badly tonight. It wasn't direct or malicious, and I'm not sure she even realized how bad it was. The thing is she stole something — or rather four small charms — from a store. Then she lied about it.

Here's how it happened. My father, his daughter, Buttercup, and I were at the Ann Arbor farmers' market, and dad took the girls in to look at a funky little kids clothing store inside the building. Both girls were clamoring for charms bracelets, and my dad and I got on the same page for once. There were going to be no new trinkets for the girls.

Fast-forward a few hours. We'd been at the game, and the girls had been intermittent. There were good times and irritating moments. There was tiredness — a football game on a cold day can be loooooong. On balance, though, we were doing well.

Until we reached the Jolly Pumpkin Pub — a new brewpub that I needed to check out.

At some point in the meal, I playfully pulled Buttercup to me. There was an odd crunch in her pocket. I had an instant suspicion about it. I asked what was in her pocket. She said it was one thing, and I gave her an odd look. Then she said it was "bark." On questioning, she kept trying to explain why bark that she'd had no access to at any point in the day would be in her back pocket. After a few minutes of this, I escalated to threats.

First, she'd lose her allowance for the week. She was willing to do that. Second, she'd lose her allowance for the rest of the year. She was willing to do that. When I threatened to take away the Annie dress I'd just bought for her to wear for Halloween, then she melted down. Still, she wouldn't fess up to what was actually in her pocket. Finally, I just reached over and got the four charms out of her pocket.

She had stolen and lied about it. It was a willful act. And it felt like a gut punch to me. In seven years of parenting, I'd never felt so hurt or so challenged.

I told her that her mom and I would have to talk about it. She cried louder. I told her that she would have to return the charms to the store and apologize. There was more crying. I told her that she would be punished. Greatly. And to each of them, she whimpered that she would do anything — anything — not to have her mom hear about it, not to have to apologize to the store. She was not going to be off the hook, however.

At this point, I'm still at a loss for how to deal with it fully. The store was closed, meaning Grandpa will have to handle returning the charms, along with a letter from Buttercup. The kid knows that she did wrong, and that her mom will soon know that she did wrong. She knows that she will be punished. I just hope it all sticks in ways that make sense.

Wilco, Ann Arbor — 10/16

Good times, old territory. I'm wearing a pair of 501s that are on their way to being retired, but I still love the jeans. They're comfortable. That's the way Ann Arbor feels to me — comfortable, known territory.

Seeing Wilco here last night was like bringing some new life into that old territory. Though I've seen them repeatedly over the years — first as Uncle Tupelo in 1992, and then three times since Yankee Hotel Foxtrot was released they consistently impress and amaze me in the shows. It seems that with each iteration they get tighter and more interesting as a band. What this allows them is a deep ground for turning out great renditions of recent songs and surprisingly energetic takes on tracks from their first album — and even sometimes from Tupelo days.

Last night, they mixed a healthy dose of Ghost with most of YHF. There was plenty of new stuff, of course, but the surprise came in what they played and what they didn't play from years past. I've never heard them pull "Box Full of Letters" out live or even do a complete wild card — "Just a Kid." Last night they pulled that out with a couple of spirited songs with Liam Finn joining in — "You Never Know" and "California Stars." There were some old favorites missing from Summerteeth and Being There, and I'm sure someone was crying over the omission of "Heavy Metal Drummer." The thing is, it was a 28-song set. In two-and-a-half hours.

Nels tore it up on the lead, and Pat Sansone was pulling all sorts of rockstar shimmies. Glenn was drenched by the end. Tweedy and Stirratt were as energetic as I've seen them. Still, the one odd note was the abrupt ending — particularly with a roadie waiting in the wings with a new guitar for Tweedy. The band seemed a little taken by surprise too. But anyone listening closely could hear how much Tweedy's voice was straining at the end. He seemed to be working at speaking in between songs. The best I can guess is that he finally gave out. But again... who can complain? They packed a hell of a set in those two and a half hours.

And like the city which is both comfortable and has a new surprise or two each year — some good, some not so good — the band I've followed so closely over the past few years was both a comfort and a great surprise.

Friday, October 09, 2009


I've only said goodbye to Buttercup for a few weeks at a time, and she's old enough to understand a lot more now than this little girl. Still, I can't imagine the heartbreak for this dad headed out on deployment or the commanding officer who chose not to kick the girl out of formation. Godspeed home for him and so many others.

(Via Neatorama)

Sunday, October 04, 2009

And a good dog...

Reilly was adopted 10 years ago tomorrow. I told Buttercup it was 10 years today as a bit of enabling fiction — as our comp pedagogy professor called such subterfuges.

Be all that as it may, this pup has seen me through a lot. He's won over plenty of dog-haters and chased his fair share of squirrels and what-nots. These days, he's slowing down and not moving the way he did when he chased deer and foxes through the woods of northwest Arkansas. That said, he's been there for a lot of ups and downs, and he's turned into the best friend Buttercup and I could have had.


Thursday, October 01, 2009

I've got a good kid.

That's really what it all comes down to. I may get frustrated with her distractibility and with how slowly she can move in the morning. I may wish that she cleaned up after herself better or that she was a little more diligent about finishing projects, but the truth is I wish I did these things better. I may wish she didn't act like so much of a know-it-all at moments — and I know there are people who would say the same about me. I may wish she was a little better team player at times, but I also can't really fault her for following her own muse when it strikes her.

In the end, what it really comes down to is that I have a good kid. She does what she's told most of the time. She has rolled with some pretty strong punches over the years and come out a healthy, smart, loving, fun kid. She's not perfect, but then I'm not a perfect parent. I'm not sure I'd have it any other way really.

Just musing... your regularly scheduled programming will resume shortly.