Friday, July 23, 2010

Love the Way You Lie

My daughter has recently graduated from riding in the back seat of the car to sitting up front in the “shotgun” seat. As a result, I have gotten a crash course in the state of pop music in 2010. Before the move, our car radio rarely strayed from the far left end of the dial where our two public radio stations reside. Now the tuner makes regular forays all the way to the other end and I know far more about Jason Derulo and Ke$ha than I frankly care to know.

Isabel is ten and it was right around ten that I started to develop my own musical tastes, so I am trying to be as open-minded as possible about what we listen to. My parents somehow made it through ad naseum playings of entire albums by Styx and Foreigner so I figure the least I can do is bite my tongue as Isabel goes from station to station looking for Usher’s OMG one more time.

However, just last week a song that entered our car made me seriously consider my laissez-faire approach to Isabel’s musical exploration. It was Eminem’s duet with Rihanna called “Love the Way You Lie.” The song is a passionate first person look at a dysfunctional relationship and it ends with a threat of murder. It includes an infectious chorus sung by Rihanna in a sweetly angelic voice. Problem is, the words of the chorus excuse horrific male behavior, lies, and threats of violence with the refrain, “Just gonna stand there and watch me burn, but that’s alright because I like the way it hurts. Just gonna stand there and watch me cry, but that’s alright because I love the way you lie, I love the way you lie.”

I am no prude when it comes to lyrics. I cannot put my iTunes on shuffle when I am at work or when Isabel has friends over for fear of the “wrong” songs coming up while other people’s children are in my care. I am not especially protective about what Isabel sees, hears, or reads. Nor do I have a problem with Eminem—I find his brash, insulting, violent, and misogynistic singing persona interesting, insightful, and often very clever.

But at the same time I want my daughter to grow up to be a strong, self-assured, independent woman who will not sublimate her feelings and needs to those of an asshole. This song has presented me with a real parenting challenge. It is so catchy and so compelling a song that it is sure to be everywhere all summer long. I certainly can’t ban it from Isabel’s ears. Nor do I really want to.

What I have decided to do is to let it play every time it comes on, even to sing along full-throatedly as we tool down Whitney Avenue. And then, sometimes when the song ends, to have a conversation with Isabel about the lyrics and why I find them so horrifying. I do not want to be one of those humorless liberals who takes all the play out of life with political correctness, but I just cannot let his lyrics stand unchallenged. When I look to my right and Isabel is singing along with Rihanna’s excuse of atrocious male behavior, I want her to know that Rihanna herself was the victim of a violent man and that there is no excuse for violence in a loving relationship. Eminem is a masterful provocateur and instead of censoring him from our car I want to thank him for writing such a catchy conversation starter.

On the other hand, when Ke$ha’s “Tik Tok” comes on, I simply exercise full parental control and change the station within the first four notes.

Friday, July 9, 2010

This Year's (Illegal) Garden

Here are some pictures of our front garden. It has been an excellent year for our tomatoes, the sunflowers are 8-feet tall, the beans are hugely prolific, and the basil is feeding my pesto addiction quite nicely. The zinnias, black-eyed-susans, and mums are doing what they always do. A friend watered things for us during the heat wave while we were in Montana, (thank you, Sarah), and now we are gearing up to eat a pound of green beans per person per day for the duration.

Friday, July 2, 2010


Keeping in the spirit of simplicity that ended my last post, Isabel and I have invented a new game. To play you need a ball and a swing. (We call the game Swingball, for obvious reasons.)

When we come to visit the relatives in Laurel, Montana there is the danger that Isabel will wake up early and watch way too much tv. It is a constant parental struggle to get her outside and active—partly because she wants so badly to vegetate and partly because we want so badly to vegetate while on vacation here.

When we are at Grandpa Andy’s cabin or visiting the “cousins” in Bozeman, there is no such struggle. There is no tv at the cabin, and in Bozeman there are too many kids and too much fun to be had to waste time staring at a screen, watching other people pretend to do stuff.

But here in Laurel life can quickly settle into a bad pattern of staying up late in front of a movie and then waking up early, (since we are often still on Connecticut time), and turning on the television to kill a few hours before everyone else is up and about.

This morning at 7:30 Isabel and I went over to the park just around the corner from Grandpa Andy’s. We brought a shiny red soccer ball with us but had no real plan. We both just knew that in the direction of the tv lie sloth and self-loathing.

Isabel started swinging and I started to throw the ball at her feet as they climbed on the upswing. Sometimes things connected just right and the ball went flying over my head and over the fence surrounding the playground. We quickly devised rules and a system of points to be awarded for each player based on goals and saves.

Here is what we came up with, though you should feel free to modify it based on your particular setting and skill levels.

The goal is roughly 30 feet wide. The goalkeeper stands 25 feet from the swinger, with the goal behind the keeper. The keeper throws the ball at the swinger’s feet as the swinger begins to come forward—you may need to practice the timing of your throws.

If the swinger connects and the ball goes forward it is the keeper’s job to make the save. If the ball is stopped on the ground by the goalie, the goalie is awarded one point. If the ball passes the goalie on the ground, the swinger gets a point.

If the ball passes the goalie in the air at a height between the goalkeeper’s feet and head, the kicker gets two points. If the goalie stops the ball in the air between his/her feet and head, the keeper gets two points.

If the ball goes over the goalie’s head without being caught, it is three points for the swinger. If the goalie manages to block or catch a ball over head level, it is three points for the goalkeeper.

You play until someone has 20 points. Then you switch roles and start over.

That is all there is to it. We are off to play another round and take some pictures.