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[child] Great moments in parenting

Yesterday evening, [info]the_child, Lisa Costello and I were in the Genre car coming back from dinner with Donnie Reynolds. We’d enjoyed some of the usually excellent fare at Eastburn and discussed at length the current not-so-Sekrit Projekt I’ve been working on with Donnie for months. (Which, incidentally, is also why I didn’t get any keyboard time on my writing yesterday.) Cats were herded, food was consumed, the evening air was enjoyed with the top down on the car.

We pulled into the garage at Nuevo Rancho Lake. [info]the_child looked up toward the ceiling. The following conversation ensued.

[info]the_child: “Dad, is that a whip?”
[info]jaylake: “What?”
[info]the_child: :: points ::
[info]jaylake: “No, that’s just some wires on the wall.”
[info]the_child: “Not those. That.” :: points again ::
[info]jaylake: “Uh…”
Lisa Costello: :: dies laughing ::
[info]the_child: “I don’t want to know, do I?”
[info]jaylake: “Actually, it’s your mother’s.”

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[child] And away she goes; as do we all

This morning [info]the_child departs with the rest of her class for their eighth grade trip. They’re going to California for five days, to climb redwoods and ride horses and hike up mountains. She’ll be back in time for JayCon, but most of this week will be quieter than usual around Nuevo Rancho Lake.

This is a bigger deal than might seem obvious. She’s a Waldorf kid. In that system, the teacher stays with the class from first through eighth grade. So this is a good-bye trip for Mr. C— and the eighteen kids in his class. They’ve been like family to one another since 2004. More than half her life. Some of the kids she’s going with she started mixed age kindergarten with at age three and a half. Eleven years she’s been with them.

It’s all about transitions this month in the Lake household. Me, purging my basement. [info]the_child leaving behind her grade school. My birthday coming up, celebrated in health and happiness for the first time in four years.

So, yeah.

And my daughter grows up another step. Maybe, so do I.

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[culture|child] Giraffe rules and shotgun rules

About four years ago here on the blog, I mentioned the concept of “giraffe rules” [ jlake.com | LiveJournal ]. As I said at the time:

“Please don’t eat the giraffe” rules […] are the kinds of rules any society has which no one ever thinks to spell out in so many words, until someone comes along who tries to eat the giraffe. If you’re a parent, you’re pretty familiar with these rules, because kids are always finding some giraffe to eat. If you hang out with writers, many of whom are the beneficiaries of what at the kindest could be called quirky socialization, you run into some of these same rules. (And of course, there are places in the world where “Please don’t eat the giraffe” may well be a needed social rule.)

So a while ago, [info]the_child commented that she thought that Mother of the Child and I weren’t very good parents.

“Why?” I asked her, quite curious about this utterance.

“Because you don’t give me very many rules.”

“Well,” I pointed out, “You don’t need a lot rules. You pretty much behave yourself. Parents make rules when kids do things they shouldn’t.”

Such as trying to eat the giraffe.

There are so many unwritten rules in society. Not just unwritten, but even unconscious. A favorite example of mine is the priority of seating in an automobile. With the partial exception of a socially flat group of peers (such as high school kids of the same gender and clique in the same year-class), we almost always know who’s going to sit where in a car without having to ask. If you begin to pick at how that works, it’s a pretty complex hierarchy with a lot of exception management. Who owns the vehicle? Who has the keys? Who is dating or married to whom? Who’s infirm or elderly? Who’s exceptionally tall or short? What’s the gender mix? What’s the age mix? And even for peers, there’s a protocol. Calling “shotgun”, for example.

Yet no one ever sits down and explains this to people. We all just know, by some magic osmosis. We’ll call these shotgun rules.

So there are giraffe rules, which are so obvious they aren’t normally stated at all, then there are the shotgun rules which are the opposite of obvious, maybe even vanishingly subtle, but they aren’t normally stated either. And believe me, being a parent brings both sets of rules to consciousness, especially if you have a kid like mine, who spends a lot of time analyzing other people’s behavior. Or likewise if your kid’s on the autism spectrum, you spend a lot of time explaining these rules.

What are your favorite examples of giraffe rules? What are your favorite examples of shotgun rules?

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[child] Art of the Child

Some pen and ink sketches from over the weekend, when she wanted to pass the time a while.

Self portrait


Also, she designed the backdrop for the set of the eighth grade play, a stage adaptation of Momo by Michael Ende [ Powells | BN ]. (She is playing the title role as well.) The high school is planning to repurpose the backdrop for their own play.

[info]the_child her own self on the set

Art © 2012 B. Lake, all rights reserved. Reproduced with permission.

Photo © 2012, Joseph E. Lake, Jr.

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This work by Joseph E. Lake, Jr. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

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[cancer|child] Playing Russian roulette with Schrödinger’s tumor

Today I am off to play Russian roulette with Schrödinger’s tumor. Schrödinger’s tumor would, of course, be the previously identified but uncharacterized lesion in my right hepatic lobe which we will carefully observe today via bloodwork and CT scan. Much like the cat in the box, the act of observation will resolve its state.

Mind you, my quanta are not in danger of collapse. The metaphor only stretches so far, after all. This is the nature of metaphors. Unfortunately I can’t say the same for my emotional processes.

From a writing perspective, I have been useless since last Thursday. This is as discussed. Unfortunate but not surprising, and not ultimately damaging to my productivity or deadlines. Mostly it wounds my pride.

From a life perspective, I’d resolved after my meltdown of the weekend before last that this past week would be a time where I didn’t make any major life decisions and didn’t engage in any difficult emotional terrain. Unfortunately, not everyone around me got the memo. So there was a fair amount of static from various quarters in a week when my emotional radio was particularly ill-tuned.

From a parenting perspective, everything got very difficult last night. I’d just come back from a long, early dinner with [info]mlerules at Ken’s Artisan Pizza. (Mmm. Not the best gourmet pizza in town, but still pretty darned good.) [info]the_child and her mother had just come back from a party celebrating the life of her friend’s mother who’d passed away of cancer about this time last year. She popped into my half of Nuevo Rancho Lake and began asking me some very direct, mature questions about my cancer status, what I expected from today’s scan and Wednesday’s oncology appointments, when I expected I might die and how the cancer would actually kill me. We then talked about her thoughts about what she would do for herself if I passed away of this in the next few years.

It was a sensible, thoughtful and loving conversation. It broke my heart all over again to have this conversation with my fourteen year old daughter.

Today, the scans. My friend A— is taking me. Wednesday, the oncology follow-ups. [info]lizzyshannon is taking me if she’s sufficiently recovered from her recent surgical adventures. Things being the way they are with my hospital, I’ll likely know both the bloodwork results and the scan results sometime tomorrow.

Then we’ll see if I’m back in hell for another year, or if I get a few more month’s reprieve. And we’ll know a bit more about how to answer [info]the_child‘s question of when I am going to die.

I am so afraid.

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[personal|child] Hitting the Oregonian News Network Meetup

Yesterday afternoon, amid a frenzy of drafting Their Currents Turn Awry and packing for Norwescon, [info]the_child and I hied on down to the Lucky Lab on SE Hawthorne for an @ORNewsNetwork meetup.

@ORNewsNetwork is the Oregonian News Network, a blog syndication portal sponsored by Oregon’s major daily newspaper. (Disclaimer: To state the obvious, this blog is part of that syndication portal. Hence me being at the meetup.) I’d worked with editors @georgerede and @corneliusrex online, but never in person. It was fun to meet them. Also met some cool bloggers, including @TheBugChicks, a pair of young, hip, funny entomologists, along with folks covering topics as diverse as urban foraging, consumerist issues and documentary filmmaking.

[info]the_child is a veteran of many conventions, conferences and other large-scale social venues, but this was her first meetup style event. She had a few nerves going in, but that was quickly dispelled. She did a lot of talking and listening, and I hope learned a few things. Amusingly, we also ran into a family from [info]the_child‘s school while at the Lucky Lab.

As I said to the kiddo in the car on the way there, I’m doing my best to bring her as much experience of the world as possible while I still can, just in case I’m not here for too much longer. The meetup was fun for me, educational for her, and a good way to spend an hour or two on a Portland Wednesday afternoon.

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[child] The eighth grade project presentations

Last night, Mother of the Child and I went to the eighth grade project presentations. [info]tillyjane was there as well, along with Mom and Dad, [info]mlerules, and [info]maryrobinette, who had been [info]the_child‘s mentor on her project of building a marionette.

[info]the_child went first by her own request. She wanted to be done to get past her nerves. She did brilliantly. All eighteen kids in the class presented, projects ranging from training pack goats to working in recreational therapy for medically fragile children. It was a pretty amazing list of accomplishments. Though I’m pretty sure any of the kids would have said giving their presentation was the hardest part.

I’m terribly proud of [info]the_child, and of all her classmates. Today is my third and last round of guest teaching with the eighth grade, and I will be sure to tell them that.


Photo © 2012, Joseph E. Lake, Jr.

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This work by Joseph E. Lake, Jr. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

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[travel|child] Heading west again

Today I’m bound from Austin back to Portland. I cut my trip short by a day in order be home to see [info]the_child give her formal presentation of her eighth grade project. This has been the design and construction of a marionette, under the mentorship of the delightful and generous Mary Robinette Kowal.

This speech has been a very big deal to her. She’s worked diligently, and practiced it until she’s bored with it. (I consider this a good sign.) I’m very proud of her work on this, and that she brought the project to a successful conclusion.

I can’t wait to see her live and in person tonight.


Photo © 2012, Joseph E. Lake, Jr.

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This work by Joseph E. Lake, Jr. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

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[child] Basketball, in which a parent on the sidelines sustains a game-related injury

Yesterday afternoon, [info]the_child‘s basketball team won their game 38-22.


The teams were pretty evenly matched, and the game was a lot better than that somewhat lopsided score implies. And she slammed in two three point shots, for a 100% completion rate in this game. So good on my kiddo!


However, I sustained a game-related injury during the course of play. Go figure.

The gym at her school has regulation sized basketball court, but not much sideline. The bleachers are against the north wall, and if you’re sitting on the bottom row, your feet are about twelve inches from the north boundary of the court. Our little group — me, Mother of the Child, Dad, (step)Mom and [info]tillyjane a/k/a my Mom — were seated almost perpendicular to the basketball goal at the east end of the court, in effect to the left of the backboard and just a few feet toward the center.

For whatever reason, play of game kept running right up into our faces. Dad caught several balls that had gone out of bounds. We all flinched back more than once when charged by a player from one team or the other. But the coup de grace came when a knot of defense and offense careened right toward me and I had to lean back avoid feet and elbows, and slid right off the bleacher bench and into the footwell of the row behind me.

I got stuck there and had to be pulled out. My back hurts, I’m pretty sure I bruised it right on one of my lower spinal knobs, and my left hip aches.

It’s all part of the business of being a dad, and a price I’ll cheerfully pay. But really, when did watching middle school girls play sports become so dangerous?

Photos © 2012, Joseph E. Lake, Jr.

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This work by Joseph E. Lake, Jr. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

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[art|child] Idea of a Bird

Idea of a Bird

© 2012 B. Lake, reproduced with permission

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