4-Year Old Skeptic

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Aiden is proving to be our most skeptical child. And it’s not because he’s negative or doubtful. He’ll actually tap dance for strangers and ask if they would like to pay him for it. He’s skeptical because he likes to figure out how a thing came together. At two years old we constantly found him lying on the floor watching the wheels of a toy car as he glided it back and forth, trying to grasp, I think, how the wheels turned while the car didn’t.

At four years old he learned (and understood!) how to count musical notation.

These days he makes stuff out of paper or trash. We can hardly throw anything away because he sees it as a potential component to something he can build. Recently he designed a three-dimensional box out of paper and provided picture instructions on how to do it. Yesterday he took two light bulb boxes from the recycle bin, taped them together, and devised rules for a game, again, with illustrated instructions.

This desire to break everything down to components and answers has made the holidays an interesting experience. At four years old Aiden found a packaged toy in our bedroom closet and announced with a huge smile that Mom and Dad go shopping and pretend to be Santa Clause. There was no disappointment because the magic was in having potentially figured it out.

We didn’t give him an outright yes or no. I just asked him, “What makes you think that?” And when he gave me his evidence, I nodded my head and said, “Very interesting idea.” I’m learning he doesn’t want us to give him a definite yes or no. He prefers a little mystery so he can continue to find evidence to prove or disprove his theories.

Skepticism & The Tooth Fairy

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On Christmas Eve, at six-and-a-half years old, Aiden finally lost his first tooth and we were expecting a meeting between two holiday mystery characters. Santa Clause and the tooth fairy in one night! Of course, the solution of one led to the solution of the other. “I know Mom is the tooth fairy,” he said.

We played our usual run-around game, ”Why do you assume it’s Mom? What if it’s Dad?”

He laughed, “Because the Tooth Fairy is a girl!”

“Are you sure about that?” I asked. “In that short film Dad made, Larry was the Tooth Fairy.”

“Oh, yeah…” Aiden stewed on that, looking back and forth from me to Israel.

Last week when he lost his second tooth he decided to take a risk and test his theory by addressing the tooth fairy, herself. Or, himself. After receiving payment for his tooth he put a note under his pillow. Israel and I responded to it on the same piece of paper, with a little clue to the true nature of the “tooth fairy.” The new information surprised him so he asked a follow-up question and we answered that, as well. It continued for a few nights. Here’s what the note said after the third night:

Aiden: I love you.

Tooth fairy: Thank you for the teeth. We love you too.

Aiden: Who are you!

Tooth fairy: We are the ones who buy your special teeth.
We are the tooth fairy.
Why do you want to know?

Aiden: Because I want to see what you look like.

Tooth fairy: I look a little bit like you. –#1
(in different handwriting): And so do I. –#2

Apparently, we threw him off with our last response. He came running into the kitchen where the rest of us were sitting at the table and he announced, “My toothfairies are clones of me!”

We exchanged looks. We questioned his theory. We asked him to read his note again and emphasized the words, “a little bit.” But he wasn’t thinking about the qualifier. He was chewing on the implications of this new bizarre idea. He looked around the dining table, shot his arm into to a point toward Blake and yelled, “And your tooth fairy must be two clones of you!” He then pointed to Dad and Trinity and myself, “And you have your own clones . . . and so do you!”

We were slightly concerned.

To Discover Or To Be Told

Later that night Aiden confided in me. “I’m embarrassed that I wrote, ‘I love you,’ to my clones. I meant for that to go to you because I thought you were the tooth fairy.”

I couldn’t keep his sweet vulnerability exposed like that. I told him, “You know, Aiden? A lot of people say that I look a little bit like you.”

“No, you don’t,” he answered.

Now I understood his switch to the Clone Theory. He had no idea we look similar. “Yeah, I really do. A little bit.”

Recognition pushed his eyes wide open and he emphasized the words, “A little bit?”

“Yeah,” I said. “And Daddy looks a little like you, too.”

He smiled and his embarrassment vanished. But within minutes disappointment replaced it and he complained to us, “Now I know for sure that Mom and Dad are the tooth fairy.” It turns out he really does prefer the questions, the theories, the evidence collecting, over hearing the answer from someone else.

“I didn’t say that, Aiden,” I immediately backtracked. “Blake and Trinity look like you, too. And Grandma Gertrude has the same exact nose as you.”

He laughed and let it go. Hopefully, I left it open just enough for him to have sunk back into his happy state of wonderful skeptical inquiry again. His third tooth is loose now and Easter is on its way, so I guess we’ll find out soon enough. If not, it might be time to nudge his questions in a newer, deeper direction, anyway.
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Music Monday: Trevor Hall Makes Me Feel Glad I’m Alive

Israel and I stood in front of the stage at the Marquee Theater waiting for Matisyahu to come out and play. We still had the opening band to endure and the two teens near us gave fair warning. “Matishyahu is notorious for having really bad opening bands,” they said.

My first impression when Trevor Hall walked onto the stage seemed a confirmation. His appearance lacks color contrast: his very fair skin is not offset by his pale blond hair. Nor was it highlighted by the non-color of his knit reggae headband, a tan that blended right into his hair. I did love the dreads shooting out of that headband and Trevor’s bare feet, but so far, his appearance wasn’t making a huge impression. We were all just excited for Matisyahu to come out.

And then the guy started playing his guitar and singing. And dancing around on his bare feet. And being really joyful as he shared his music. Okay, here’s the thing: it’s totally not cool to describe a musician as joyful. But this dude is the most joyful musician I’ve ever been lucky enough to watch. He makes you glad you’re alive. I love his music. But even more than that, I love to watch him make it.

As Trevor played, everyone in the crowd around us exchanged a bunch of “Who is this guy?” looks. We all loved him — the screams from the audience made it clear it wasn’t just Israel and me who would have paid the same ticket price just for the opening act. That’s why we’re going to see him again in a couple of weeks. He’s coming to The Compound Grill in Phoenix on March 6th.

Uniqueness

With so many bands and musicians on the radio all sounding the same, I love the ones who infuse their own unique personality into their music. Trevor definitely has his own unique characteristics — Listen in the video above for the way he starts many lines and notes with this crazy sort of emotional squeak. Squeak? That’s an awful word for what he does but it’s the most accurate description I can think of. I love Trevor’s “squeaking.” Or maybe he’s squawking…? You tell me.

Anyone in Phoenix want to join us at The Compound Grill to watch Trevor? Tickets are only $10 (or $12 at the door).

Need to hear more first? Watch this video about my favorite of his songs, a collaboration with Matisyahu…

The Desire for Stuff. Or, the Excess of Living Rooms

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My inner feisty-child is punching at the bricks today. Please excuse me while I release her for another rampage, this time regarding living rooms. And dining rooms.

Huh?

No, you read me right. Whenever I think about the idea of living rooms — the kind that take space in a home as an addition to a regular family room — I’m like, what the . . . ?

Far as I can tell, it’s mainly an American “need” to have a formal room that shows off fancier furniture that children aren’t allowed to touch unless there is company visiting. And how is that supposed to make for a hospitable visit, anyway, sitting guests straight-backed on the barely-touched formal floral sofa in a room that says, “Speak quietly because for some inexplicable reason this room is special?”

I think the message of that kind of room is supposed to be that the guest is special. But I’d rather my friends consider me their family.

The same goes for those houses that have spacious dining areas in or near the kitchen, plus a separate formal dining room to top it off. This extra room’s purpose is to host a handful of meals a year. Christmas, Thanksgiving. Sometimes Easter and New Year’s Eve. Maybe even a non-holiday meal or two with visitors, where, once again, the guests get to be special as they eat in the subdued and polite atmosphere of the special room.

I like hosting festive holiday meals, but I don’t need a separate room that exists only for that very occasional purpose. While we’re seeing it less with the current economy acting up (or down, rather), it’s interesting how prevalent these extra rooms are in the houses our builders design.

I have a lot of friends who transformed their formal living rooms into fun, casual party spots, filling the space with pool tables. I’m all for that. But if I’m going to buy a home with a space for periodic pool-playing parties, I want that room to be somewhere other than the area opposite my front door.

We’re so used to these extra rooms that few people question the need for them. I don’t blame homeowners. It’s a cultural practice that was handed to us as a common and unconscious display of excess. And there’s just something about the need to display excess that makes me want to barf all over it.

Okay, I have to reveal a little hypocrisy here and admit that I am not totally immune from the temptation for a bit of excess. I have a slightly excessive amount of super cute Victoria’s Secret panties. They do get regular use though. How many formal living rooms can say they get as much wear?

I’m just thinking about the extra costs for a barely used room: the land to make space for it, the resources to build it, the energy to heat and cool it, the furniture to fill it, the time to clean it. Y to the U to the C to the K. I prefer a cozy little house I’ve paid off, instead. The extra time and money could send me off-road cycling or out with my guy for some south Indian dosas. Maybe some of the extra can help fund the education of third world children or the entrepreneuralism of their parents whose living rooms, family rooms, kitchens, and bedrooms are one all-inclusive 5×5 foot space.

Music Monday: The Barrel Of A Gun

Young teen male + movie star infatuation = what I hear in this song, one of my favorites from Guster:
Barrel Of A Gun.

It’s not just the lyrics that communicates this story. It’s also the hopeful, upbeat, and youthful sound, laced around the bang of bongos beating the tension of suppressed, young male hormones.

Since I’m always interested in the instrumentation of songs, I really enjoy the video for Barrel Of a Gun and a chance to see the band members playing their parts in a studio setting. Watch for the typewriter . . .

Right now Guster is in album-recording mode. I love knowing that a band is in the heat of creating its own next new era; is swimming in a new set of influences that will color the music of their next album and tour.

While the band so far has not shared on their Studio Journal what the current influences are (you get a taste for the band’s sense of humor on this blog), they do share specifics about the songs they are recording. Most recently, one of them blogged some of the good and the bad experiences of recording each of their albums so far. Interesting stuff.