Finally saw FROZEN

I finally got a chance to go see the movie Frozen. I took my daughter. We both liked it a great deal.

Frozen is the first media property that I first encountered or watched on Tumblr that was ACCURATELY represented by Tumblr. I saw Pacific Rim first on Tumblr, and was rather surprised when I got to the theater and found the main character to be a scruffy white guy. I first saw Teen Wolf on Tumblr, and was disappointed to find that the women and people of color on the show are not the ensemble leads. But Frozen was as advertised.

I have seen an analysis of the movie that discusses Elsa in terms of a coming-out metaphor. I find this analysis to be valid and accurate.

I have seen an analysis of the movie discussing Elsa’s value as a lead character with some mental and emotional imbalances, her value as a role model for people with depression and anxiety. I find this analysis valid and accurate.

I have heard how Anna is an amazing hero-protagonist, active and powerful and trusting in herself. I find this analysis to be valid and accurate.

I have read how featly the film disembowels the myth of love-at-first-sight, and I enthusiastically approve of how this is portrayed. Kudos to the filmmakers.

The one thing I haven’t seen anyone talk about yet — and that’s probably merely because I haven’t gone and looked — is a discussion of the choices made by Elsa and Anna’s parents. The choice to lie to one daughter and imprison the other.

The thing is …

The thing is, I believe that these parents were supremely well-intentioned. They did not lock Elsa in a dungeon. In fact, when they left on their two-week trip, they left Elsa in charge. They had clearly trained her to be queen next. Everyone in the kingdom expected her to be queen, and expected her to be a competent ruler. There was no incipient rebellion, no palace coup. Elsa was raised to rule.

Her parents clearly thought that their eldest daughter had one issue, one controllable flaw that had to be hidden. But it wasn’t a deal-breaker. She was still their daughter, still the eldest, still the heir. They still loved her.

I have terrifically divided feelings about this.

On the one hand, “we love you as long as you lie to everyone about who and what you are” is poison to people. Especially when it so obviously comes from a place of love. Elsa tried so hard to not merely do what they said but to BE what she needed to be — and that trick, well, it hardly ever is sustainable.

On the other hand, I am a parent now.

It’s my job as a parent to love my kids. But it’s also my job to shape them, over twenty-odd years, into competent adults. Sometimes that shaping involves hugs and laughter and pride. Sometimes that shaping involves shouting and tears. I mean well. I love my kids and I mean well, but I have no idea how they are taking some of the things I say.

I certainly do not intend for “you must pick up your dirty clothes or you will have to write an essay on the importance of respecting communal space” to be taken as “do what I say or I won’t love you anymore.” I SINCERELY HOPE that it’s not taken that way, please for the love of crickets.

But I can’t know for sure.

I do know when I’ll find out — In twenty or thirty years, when my kids will (probably) have kids of their own.

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Adventures in parenting

Most days, my daughter is not the speediest person in the house.

She’s bit of a procrastinator, a bit of a dawdler. She lingers. She redirects. She thinks of ninety-seven things that she meant to do, oh, just this one things really quick, before doing what she’s told. The problem is, she is also a very busy kid. She’s heavily into activities, and those activities require that she be certain places at specific times, ready for action.

It’s an ongoing concern.

Most days that I am home, I find myself nagging her. I want her to succeed, I truly do. I want her to finish schoolwork and chores in plenty of time to play for a bit before circus. I want her to have time to relax and snuggle me before I go to work. I want her to have accomplishments in good time. So I end up, in a move that is probably counter-productive, nagging her endlessly to just stop screwing around and do the next thing.

This makes no-one happy.

This morning, as she came out of the bath already running late, I said, “Today I will not nag you. You know what you need to do. You know when things need to be done. If you run late, you will get extra chores. If you are mean to me about it, you will be fined. But I am not going to nag you all day. I’m just not up for it. It will be a nagging-free day, so we don’t fight. Does that sound good?”

And she burst into tears.

Parenting, man. This stuff is not easy.

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Homeschooling sex ed

Tern and I have been teaching sex ed to the kids since they were, oh, I don’t know, three years old or so. Age-appropriate sex ed. Parts of the body at first, and personal autonomy. Then what puberty will do, making sure that both kids know what happens to girls and boys. (And making the point that while this is the mainstream, that there are smaller numbers of people who experience sexuality differently, and that is rarer but perfectly normal.)

These days sex ed is more about the biomechanical details. How does pregnancy occur? How are STIs transmitted? How do you prevent these things, as the male or female partner? How does it change or not change in same-sex relations? How do IUDs work? Diaphrams? Spermicidal gels? The pill? Condoms?

My kids are at the age where they are totally chill with these concepts and terms. They get a little bit “eeewwwww” when it comes to more motivational questions. Why do people have sex? (Because to most people it feels better than almost anything. “Eeewwww.”) What counts as sex? (People don’t agree about this, so make sure you clarify your terms before agreeing to anything.) And et cetera.

We have these conversations with the kids about every four months. The specific content varies. We also cover rape, date rape, and consent. We cover dating, and asking people out, and taking no for an answer, and how to deal with a yes. We introduce concepts of the variability of the human body, of the variety of responses people can have.

I want my kids, when they reach the point in their lives that they start to want starting to be sexually active, to have some idea of the theory of what they might want to be doing. And to understand that there is a lot of scope to choose from. That other people may want other things, and that many of those other things are perfectly fine and nice, possibly worth trying or possibly not.

It’s a confusing and fraught world, sex is. We’re trying to build a traveler’s guide.

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Today is actually the day

Happy birthday, M.

Ten years ago today we’d been at the hospital overnight already. I think I went home at some point and let the dogs out and got a bit of sleep, maybe? I don’t recall that point. The photos of everyone at the hospital show a bunch of ill-lit zombie-looking people, at any rate.

Your birth family were crowded around you. We took up SPACE, my son. Birth family on both sides and adoptive family and clan. A lot of people were super-happy to see you come into the world.

You were very blotchy. No offense, but you just were. Blotchy and so, so very much a red-head. Just like your birth mom and, amusingly enough, like my mother. I remember she laughed to get a red-headed, blue-eyed grandchild.

The next day when it was time for us to take you home, it was Two Stooges Dress the Baby. We laughed while trying to fit your limbs into a Winnie-the-Pooh onesie. We figured that eventually we would get better at it, and finally we did.

Happy birthday, my fine ten-year-old boy. I love you.

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The Soudan Mine

Photo-heavy post! Be warned!

Yesterday my family and I drove up to Virginia, MN. J’s maternal family is from there, and we wanted to take a look at some of the places she remembers from her childhood. We also drove the half-mile north of Virginia to Soudan, to see the Soudan Mine.

The Soudan Underground Mine State Park is located in Minnesota’s oldest underground mine. We learned a vast amount about the history of mining and mining technology in Minnesota, much of which I will impart to you, here.

We stopped on the way into Virginia at the Mineview Overlook, also called Top of the Rock. The overlook was constructed from mine tailings. It’s an artificial hill about … 150 feet or 50 meters high, on the south edge of Virginia.

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That’s the view north from the overlook. The lake is, of course, a flooded pit mine.

You see, after Linz-Donawitz basic oxygen steelmaking was developed, the oxygen-rich ore from deep in the Soudan Mine was no longer required for bessemer conversion. The oxygen-poor iron littered all over the surface of the Minnesota Arrowhead was easier and cheaper to get. The Soudan Mine was closed, in 1962, and the entire region converted to open-pit taconite mining.

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In the distance, past the shrubbery, is one of the operating taconite mines west of Virginia.

Up at the top of the overlook are a couple of the taconite mining trucks.

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Also, the kids stood in a giant scoop.

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We got lunch at a cafe in Virginia, J spotted the insurance business started by her grandfather, we looked at the old downtown area a bit. Then we drove up to Soudan. I urge you to do a map search for Soudan, MN, to get a sense of how absolutely out in the middle of nowhere this place is.

The tour of the underground mine is 2340 feet below the surface, and 680-something feet below sea level. One gets to level 27 on the original lift used in 1962 for the miners. The lift moves at ten miles per hour, not only vertically but about 500 feet laterally, on a steep diagonal. It is small and loud and vibrates intensely. For those of us who like thrill rides, it was great. For those of us who were concerned about safety, it was worrisome. The ride lasts about three minutes.

I don’t have any pictures of the actual underground tour. For one thing, it was sort of dark. For another … I was entranced. I was listening to the guide, and looking around, and just marveling at it all. But I do have some pictures of the above-ground structures.

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A model of where the tour goes underground. The blue lit line is the path of the tour, the dark blobby structures are the open spaces in the mine.

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The winch that hauls the lift up and down. There are two cars, linked. One goes up and the other goes down.

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A copy of the Notice to Workers regarding explosives. Note the different languages. Our guide made sure to mention that teams underground were deliberately comprised of men who did not speak each others’ languages, prior to the 1930s — to prevent union talk.

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The Drill House, where the drill bits were maintained and sharpened and forged.

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There were signs for ALL the historical drills and drill bits, but only a couple of the photos came out.

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My kids are mighty blacksmiths!

The Drill House left ALL SORTS OF THINGS just, just OUT for you to TOUCH and LIFT. Big rusty metal bars twelve feet long. Working presses. Big metal door-things that go smoosh. And we got to play with them ALL.

We also climbed down the tailings hill to the disused rail line, where a rusting-out hopper car was parked. There were no signs saying don’t climb on it, so the four of us scaled the thing. It was AWESOME.

I highly, highly recommend the park and the tour. It’s lovely. It’s educational. It’s FUN.

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Best park is best

This Saturday my family and I set out to go to the YMCA, as we do almost every Saturday morning.

Events occurred.

Best park is best.

Some things are worth it

This is NOT a post about feminism, or about poor behavior on the part of some members of SFWA, or about misogyny in gaming or comics. This is a post about my awesome kid.

I took M to my friend LT’s house yesterday for his first lesson in shooting. He’d been looking forward to this for two weeks. He memorized the gun safety pamphlet she’d given him. He practiced proper gun safety in the yard with his cap gun. He was enthused. He was prepared.

I worry, as a parent, when one of my kids has built something up into being super-important. I, personally, try to lower my expectations of longed-for events so that I am not disappointed. But different people handle this sort of things differently. M was stoked about going shooting.

LT has taught MANY PEOPLE, including me, to shoot MANY types of firearms. She set up the airgun range in her garage. When we got there, she quizzed M on his gun safety knowledge. He passed superbly. I started to relax. Maybe this would go okay.

It went great.

M was great. He was safe, he observed all rules of gun safety and etiquette, and he shot really really well. Thank crickets. It matters a lot to him.

So, we’re going to make plans for him to continue shooting the airgun, and LT’s from time to time over the summer.

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Happy kid.

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June 6 2013

Let’s see.

1. I went trap shooting on Tuesday, the first time in nearly two years. I managed to shoot nineteen on my second round, which made me feel pretty good. We won’t mention what I shot on my first round.

2. There’s a thing that happens in parenting, which is that one’s kids level up in the sorts of issues one has with them. And it is, reasonably enough, exactly just when one feels one has gotten a grip on the previous issues. We had a long talk with the kids yesterday — not for the first time, I assure you — about exactly what “learning” means.

It means failing.

If you got it right the first time, you didn’t learn anything. The, the process of learning is screwing up, accepting correction and advice, and doing a thing again, better this time.

Speaking as a former kid who coasted through my education until high school, I can say that this definition never occurred to youthful me. No-one likes this definition, of course. Most humans I’ve met really, really, really don’t like screwing things up. And many don’t like being told what to do better. But there you have it.

I rather hope that my kids take this understanding with them into adulthood. No-one expects you to be good at a thing the first time. Teachers are there to catch your mistakes and help you improve. You can try anything, confident that not much is expected of beginners and there are people there to help you. Failure the first few times through means try it again.

3. I started reading Seanan McGuire’s Kindle Serial, Indexing, and love it so far. I’ve only made it through chapter one, but there is a lot to love, here. Fairy tales. Cops. How to make your own life when others would make it for you.

I approve.

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Circus Juventas 2013 Spring Celebration

I saw K’s first circus show for the year last night. I have such goodwill for these shows.

Circus Juventas is a performing youth circus arts school. The spring shows are the school’s recital. All performing classes perform, regardless of age or readiness. You get your costume on, you get your gear, and you get out there and you perform.

The school is so large that the student body is divided into three section, or color groups. Each color does three shows and one dress/tech rehearsal. Leading up to this there have been regular classes, extra practices, and emergency extra practices. Ready or not, now you go on.

Last night was the Yellow show. Over 400 youth performers, 150 parent volunteers doing rigging and lighting and backstage-wrangling and locker-room-supervision and photography. The Toddler and Kinder acts always go first; three- and four- and five-year-olds dressed as naval officers and pirates, doing their respective acts.

The show is long. Over three hours, with an intermission. Every year they try to make sure the younger kids are all in the first half, so they can leave at 8:30 and go home. It doesn’t always work, but they try. K is now an older kid, and is in the second half for all nine shows.

The show last night had no mishaps. Sure, the Ringmistresses flubbed a couple of lines, but they recovered. Sure, a few unicyclists fell off their bikes, but they got back on. Only one of the flyers made it back to the bar, but ALL of them made it to the catcher without mishap. The clowns were funny. The kids juggling clubs didn’t drop anything. The rigging didn’t jam.

As always, there were a few costume or music choices that made me raise a brow. But the kids performing have no control over those things. They are given a costume and a song and a routines, and they do their best. They smile, and style, and they commit to whatever thing they are required to do. They are game, and I love that about them.

K was very, very tired last night. We got home, and I reminded her she needed to take her makeup off. We stood in the bathroom at 10:50 last night, smearing gunk on her eyelids and wiping them off. I gave her a lot of hugs, and told her she did great.

She did. She did great.

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Paddy’s Not at Work Today

This weekend we found out that K is going to enter her Unicycle act on a trapezee suspended between two older students riding extremely tall (“giraffe”) unicycles. K will do various tricks as they unicycle around the floor, then dismount and move to join her class on her unicycle.

This is, frankly, kinda awesome.

However …

However, should one of the bases fall or slip or drop the trapeze bar, the flyer — my daughter, for instance — will go skidding to the ground. Whereupon the trapeze falls on her. Whereupon the bar falls on her.

If any of you have not heard the song “The Sick Note,” I urge you to listen to the following:

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