We hate Rihanna, Texas or the Chinese. Or maybe Norway.

I’m sure Rihanna’s a nice person, but at some point her Norwegian-written “Only Girl (in the World)” was licensed by Gemmy Industries in good-ole Texas, then rerecorded and sent to Yangzhou, China. A toy manufacturer there took this worse version of a bad song and jammed it into the belly of a million red and pink dancing sock monkeys, which were then unleashed on the West on Valentines Day. This is Bond-villain level nastiness.

Somehow two of these horrific automatons found their way to Colonial Heights, Virginia, where a wonderful and well-meaning woman named Terry at Grandtiques gave – GAVE – them to our boy Joe.

This was a while back, maybe two years. And since then we’d bust them out every few months and push the little button on their hand, and the monkeys would play the chorus of Only Girl and do a little shuffle step. Then we’d quickly remember how annoying this is and put them away.

Today, like usual, we showed Joe how to push the little button. But today, he really got it. Boy did he ever. For two hours it was non-stop.

Want you to make me feel like I’m the only girl in the world
Like I’m the only one that you’ll ever love
Like I’m the only one who knows your heart
Only girl in the world…

Pink Monsters

Pink Monsters

Pink Monsters

Summer Update

DSC08739
Pete the Cat is still a big deal. There are now four stuffed Petes, lots of Pete books and two pairs of Pete pajamas in this house.

DSC07213
Joe is not a cowboy.

DSC07962
Joe loves sunglasses. He’s fascinated by putting them on, even over his regular glasses.

Bubbles
Joe hopes to become a semi-professional bubble fighter.

Bromance Town

It’s been a long time, maybe years, since just the three of us took a little vacation together. Lia has always wanted to see Philadelphia, so off we went. We stayed in the city, walked almost everywhere, ate ice cream for dinner, rode a double-decker bus, saw severed body parts, and were in bed by 9 each night. Pretty cool.

Philadelphia 2015
Joe’s newest emerging skill is identifying each of the three of us by name. Where’s Mama? Where’s Dada? Where’s Joe? Here he is at Love Park. Who do people love? This guy.

Philadelphia 2015
Behind Joe is the Liberty Bell. There was a line out the door to see it. Ain’t nobody got time for that. Crack is whack.

Sesame Place
About a half-hour out of Philly is Sesame Place. We met Elmo and Cookie Monster, and rode some neat rides. I was nervous about the swings – Lia and Joe called me milquetoast, hopped on, and laughed at me each time they went by.

Franklin Institute
For educational purposes we went to the Franklin Institute and the Mütter Museum. No photos allowed at the Mütter, but darn that place was cool. It’s hard to describe – it’s a serious medical museum with Einstein’s brain, an 18th century mummified Philadelphian, lots of preserved parts and pieces of people, a wall with 139 skulls. Also umlauts, so it’s pretty metal.

This photo is Joe reading over a ledger at the Franklin Institute. The place is sort of the grand-daddy of city science museums. There was an incident there with a key that will become part of our family lore – remind me and I’ll show you a video clip of it sometime.

Feliz Cumpleaños

We did a lot for Joe’s 7th birthday. Here are some pictures. More on Flickr, of course.

7th B-day, pt. 2
The big party was at a local park. Lots of friends from school and playdates past, plus his cousins from way down south.

7th B-day, pt. 2

7th B-day, pt. 2
Highlights of the loot include hats, music and lots of Pete. Thanks everybody!

7th B-day, pt. 1
We also celebrated at home in a private ceremony for family. As we do every year …

cake

7th B-day, pt. 1
Plus el burritos. Adios amigos!

Gunga galunga

Joe turns seven today.

“Give me the child until he’s seven and I’ll give you the man.” Or something like that. So goes an old, maybe Jesuit, maxim,* suggesting that by seven who we are is relatively set, the product of family, friends, teachers and nature.

Hanging out with Joe, I hope that’s true.

Most of us seek some kind of end-state. We can’t just be going, we have to be going somewhere. Attaining Nirvana, finding ourself, becoming one with God. Total consciousness, having the Force with us always. Abiding. Some folks fast, meditate, paint, strum, tai chi, flagellate, introspect, audit, run or read endlessly just trying to find the on-ramp for the trip.

Most of us spend years, or our entire lives, looking for meaning and trying to be something that we think is our best self. Joe was born there.

He could do things better, like feed himself or walk straight or whatever, but he’ll never be a better person. Joe has reached – and only knows – a state more devoid of conflict and ego than most of us can ever imagine. It’s a blissful ignorance to be sure, one that requires a cadre of caretakers (and may always), but I’m so glad to be a part of it.

In him there is peace, and he guilelessly tries to give it away. He doesn’t care who the recipient is, and wants nothing in return. There is no catch. The lunch is free.

My own search for my best self ended about seven years ago. Not because I found it, but because I’d rather hang out with Joe. And I got that going for me, which is nice.

Joe at 7

Happy birthday little boy. You’re the best son ever.

*“Give me the child …” also kicks off the terrific Up series of documentaries, which have overlapped with our life with Joe, too. If you’re reading this, hi Nick!

Yearbook

A few interesting facts about the Tussing Elementary School 2015 yearbook:

– It exists, and is very cool.

– Joe is fascinated by it. All those familiar faces in a book format? Yes, please!

– Joe is in it 10 times. There’s his regular class photo of course, but he just sort of appears throughout the rest. There’s Joe with his P.E. teacher. Here’s Joe with the music teacher. Look, Joe with his backpack. Who’s that with Mrs. Resnick? Why, it’s Joe.

I was getting a little creeped out thumbing through it. First it was cute in a where’s Waldo way. Then it got a little name-droppy, like when you go into someone’s office and they have photos of themselves with random celebrities or politicians. So you met Al Gore and Jared from the Subway commercials – who cares? Then it started to feel Shining, like the final slow zoom into Jack Nicholson’s face in the old photo.

Don’t tell Joe I said that, he doesn’t like me to talk about the Overlook.

Yearbook 2015
He’s put all the physical pieces together for reading. Posture, grip, book is almost always right-side-up, he chatters like he’s reading, eyes go left-to-right, turns pages like a pro. Very neat to watch years of reading to him pay off.

Yearbook 2015

Yearbook 2015
Lola photobomb.

Since 2008

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