* Welcome to The Big Jewel where, at last count, we like to think there are 118 elements in the periodic table. Today, however, in honor of Samantha O'Brien, there are only four.

Has Your Child Recently Mastered The Four Elements?

By: Samantha O'Brien

If you’re reading this, your child has just conquered his fourth and final element (likely Fire) and achieved the rank of Master. You’re probably experiencing many emotions: pride, reverence, crippling fear. This is completely normal. You’re just adjusting to the fact that your little one has become the spirit of Gaia manifested in human form. While you may be overwhelmed, remember you’re not alone. Parents of little Masters have been tackling the same issues since the dawn of elemental manipulation. We’ve compiled their most frequent questions here.

What are some of the common mistakes parents of a new Master make?

The most common error parents make is using their little Master’s abilities for housekeeping or evil. Too often one hears of a child earth-bending the mulch in the yard, pyrokinetically heating up the family dinner, or flooding the basement of his mother’s book club nemesis. Beware of your selfish urges. They will only bring you shame. So will tattoos of Chinese characters. Don’t get them.

In his new enlightened state, I feel like my child thinks he’s better than me. Am I crazy?

No. Your child is better than you. You may grow tired of his disciplined, benevolent ways, but know that they are for a greater purpose. Why did he have to shave off all his hair? For aerodynamic efficiency and to symbolize his renunciation of vanity. Is he always going to make you pull over when he sees struggling peasant farmers or senses seismic disturbances? Absolutely. Your child has reached an astral plane of higher consciousness. Do not fight this. Seek his counsel on important matters.

My child is glowing and his eyes have rolled over, turning a brilliant white. It is strangely beautiful, but should I be concerned?

Your child is experiencing a rare loss of control. He has retreated from his body and entered the spirit world. Also, he is now in a state of unharnessed supernatural power. This happens in situations involving intense emotion. Has someone angered him deeply or threatened a loved one? Did he just lose a close game of Candyland? In a calm voice, state the consequences of such behavior: “If you don’t leave the spirit world right this second, I’m going to take the body you’ve vacated to your room.” If your child’s power only seems to strengthen, evacuate, making sure to grab sharp or flammable objects on your way out.

I’m concerned about my little Master’s ability to interact with kids his own age. What can I do to help?

At first, your child will struggle to relate to his peers. Nobody ever made friends meditating through lunch and moving playground pebbles with his mind. Don’t bother trying to make his skills seem “cool” to other kids (e.g., “Timmy can fly!”), for your little killjoy will humbly correct you (“I merely ask for Wind’s assistance and She, in her infinite glory, obliges”). Expose him to as many group activities as possible. He will insist upon solitude, but you must be firm. If he doesn’t learn social skills now, the next thing you know, you’ll have a forty-year-old chaste sage living in your basement.

My child took a little long than most to master Earth and Fire and he’s now a teen Master. Is this a bad thing?

Yes. Going through puberty and realizing one’s full potential to command nature makes for a very confusing and challenging time for a young Master. He may turn despondent, angry even. Common signs include:

— Refusing to leave the couch, instead blowing munchies to himself and rinsing off the crumbs with indoor rain

— A sudden lack of interest in saving humanity

— Crafting ice sculptures in the likeness of an unrequited love (often using own tears)

— An obsession with Sylvia Plath

Reassure your teen that his feelings are normal, but remind him that he must resolve them in a way that does not disrupt the balance and harmony of all living things.

With my child’s new powers, he’s become so independent. I feel completely useless. Help!! What can I do?

You must give your child space. Initially, you will insist on chaperoning all of his adventures in goodwill: the trip to the Somali village to end their drought, the pilgrimage to Caracas to quell that earthquake. You will smile as the villagers touch the hem of his garments and genuflect. They grow up so fast, don’t they? It’s time to let go and allow your child to make these journeys on his own

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, which is sort of like an indie rock band, except that none of us sings or plays an instrument. Wait -- that is exactly like an indie rock band! At least according to Samantha O'Brien...

I Want You To Join My Indie Rock Band

By: Samantha O'Brien

Greetings, first chair musicians. I know what you’re thinking: “Why would a Julliard recruiter slip a note in my locker requesting to meet ‘without parents present’ in someone’s basement? Why does it look like said recruiter lives in said basement?” So maybe I’m not a recruiter from Julliard. But before you try the door — which is unlocked — rest assured I’m not after your pure bodies. I’m after your pure talent. I’ve been scouting you for some time. Recitals, halftime shows, marching competitions…I even took a job at Denny’s to watch you more closely and develop accurate character assessments. You should be flattered you’ve made it this far.

As frontman of Rochester’s fastest-rising indie rock band, I’m offering you the opportunity of a lifetime. You see, to have any semblance of street cred, an indie band must have several songs containing epic string or horn sections. Since I can’t afford professional backing musicians, I’ve turned to you, the all-stars of the high school’s orchestra and marching band.

Some of you may know me as the brooding twenty-something who takes your late-night omelet orders and reads tattered copies of Sartre on his smoke breaks, but I’m also an accomplished troubadour in the areas of baroque pop, art punk, and freak folk. No, I did not make those up. There’s a big world out there, a world beyond your Bachs and Sousas. I went to the Wind Ensemble’s Annual Snow Show last week and, frankly, I found it unimaginative and trite. You can do better.

And to show you how, I made everyone a copy of my band’s EP. The only way to truly enjoy it would be on vinyl, but my dad had these CD-R’s lying around the house. I’ll play the first track, an exploration of mortality and the loss of innocence set to the contrapuntal combination of 80s pop drumbeats, mandolin, and my keyboard on its glockenspiel setting.

It appears that several of you are having an immediate — and, in some cases, physical – reaction to my trademark, angst-ridden wail. Good. Like all complex art, my vocals aim not to please but to provoke. If you want to write fun, catchy songs and record them in such pat acoustic milieu as “studios,” then get out of my parents’ house. But if you want to compose 18-minute folk-prog-metal sagas based on ancient Celtic legends and refuse to record them anywhere but barns or defunct churches, we could have a beautiful partnership.

Join me and together we will craft the kind of hyper-literate anthems best delivered with a slew of anachronistic instruments and rousing vocal harmonies. Sure, some folks, like the school security guard or my two bandmates, don’t understand how fruitful our collaboration could be, but we’ll prove them wrong. With your ripe adolescent anguish, startling expertise in history and fantasy, and access to the ethnomusicology class supply closet, you’re exactly what the band needs.

If the experience I’ve described isn’t enticing enough, I can offer some rewards to sweeten the pot. None involve money, so any sellouts can just leave now. Sit down, Teddy, and at least hear what I have to offer.

All musicians have go-to indulgences. I noticed you all enjoy post-recital trips to Friendly’s. I promise to take you out for a sundae of your choice following at least one concert a month. Think about it. Play a few notes at the climax of a song or two and you’ve got yourself a free Conehead! Note: this offer excludes giant varieties like a Jim Dandy, which is way out of my price range.

You guys won’t always play backup. I will occasionally step aside and let YOU SHINE. I’m seeing nodding from the more attention-starved members of the group. That’s good. For instance, Simon and Renu, I would trust your mad cello and oboe skills to lead on “Curs’d Apothecary (The Pangs).” It’s a punchy romp in B minor I wrote for our upcoming theme album about teenage lovers torn apart by the Black Plague. I’d back you with guitar licks that sound like people wailing about their pus-filled buboes — you know, real David Gilmour-type stuff.

Guys, I noticed how you were all competing for the affections of that mezzo-soprano at the cast-and-crew party for Hello, Dolly! That’ll be the last time you fight over a girl! There’s plenty to go around when you have a drunken audience of lonely post-grads, especially the alternative chicks who’ll go after the brass section just to be different. BTW, word at Denny’s is that the mezzo-soprano has mono, so keep your distance.

You didn’t think it would be possible with a French horn, Jenny, but it is! Gone are the days of playing for unappreciative jocks and parents who are just being supportive. Our concerts will become legendary. We will melt hipster faces with our operatic grandeur. We will sweat a lot and not brush our brows because we are too busy being intense. We will move the crowd to pump their fists like so many restless Judd Nelsons. And with that, we will first conquer the lofts, then the warehouses, and finally — the holy grail of indie domination — the festivals.

Yes, this is what cult followings, rave reviews, and iPod commercials — a.k.a. “dreams” — are made of. Mull it over and get back to me after school tomorrow. I’ll be at Denny’s.