Friday, December 10, 2010

My master plan is in the advanced stages

Oh, so Fall came and went. Summer's over, then there was Fall and now, because there's snow on the ground and Target sends me seven emails a day about free shipping, I know that Christmas is close. The kids are all in school and doing stuff, so it's all a blur to me. But I have these great pictures I want to have so when I have time in my old age to look at and remind myself of what I was always complaining about being so busy with I will remember (because I suspect I might lose my mind sometime in the near future if the present trend of losing the remote is any indication).

Hugh played soccer. He was dedicated (to getting treats at the end) and enjoyed playing (in mud puddles with his friends about 100 yards from the field).

Phoebe started taking ballet with some of her cousins.

They're delicate little flowers who talk me into buying them ice cream after lessons. Let's face it, it doesn't take much to convince me, but I play my role. Oh, I play my role. I have introduced these girls to: Dairy Queen, Dilly Bars, Dipped cones, and Slurpees, and count these collective introductions into their palate and vocabulary as my single greatest accomplishment as an Aunt.

The neighborhood kids like to play at our house. That's a blessing and a curse, isn't it? Inclement weather doesn't slow these guys down. I'm rethinking the Nerf guns I bought for Christmas last year. Definitely rethinking.

Owen played football in the Fall and they kept winning, so I felt bad hoping they wouldn't win so I could stay home and be warm. Those games were cold, but he came home really dirty and tired, which is part of my greater, somewhat evil, plan.

Margaret is focusing on "being awesome" and doing a great job at it. Just recently, she has decided that she is a pink kitty named "Pickles" and meows at us day and night. She still thinks wearing underwear "is gross," but she's fine with sitting in her own filth. Yeah, so, logic's on my side, but it's not much of what I'd call "practical help."

And me? (thanks for asking) I welcome any and all "practical help."

Monday, November 22, 2010

a stick of butter, a loaf of bread, crushed pineapple, and a new pen.

My black ink pen exploded all over me at the grocery store while I was crossing off items off my list. It reminded me how futile it is to make lists, because they never work for me. I always forget something. It's ridiculous. Going to the grocery store is like walking into a black hole and I lose all concept of time and space. I daydream and I'm mesmerized by the neatly stacked shelves and bright marketing. It's all like an Andy Warhol painting--in real life! I'm also easily distracted by sale items and good-looking food, too. Marketers love me because I'm the female between 34-49 head of the household who does the primary grocery shopping, so I know I'm an easy target and I'm being unfairly singled out. (Like when Kacy pointed out that we were humming along to "the cool music" in a Swiffer commercial--that's when I first realized I was now "target demographic.") I don't go to the grocery store hungry, but I'm always in the mood to eat, so there's that, too. It's all just a bad combination.

I thought I was being so great at writing a list down. And I never cross off items on my list. Just moments before, I was patting myself on my back at how organized and prepared and calm I was in this usually stressful situation. I thought is was necessary because I was doing "the week of Thanksgiving" marathon shopping. That's some serious grocery shopping and I have a lot of food expectations for this week (and I think a lot about pie) and I didn't want to have to come back to the grocery store and lose another day of my life. But I probably will and the exploding pen was my message from the universe saying, "A list!? Nice one. You're too weak to withstand my evil magnetic pull. . .You'll be back!"

So there I was next to the deli, distracted by the exotic cheeses, and my black ink pen ran down my right hand and down my list. I tried to fervently blot out my pathetically long list, but it made things worse of course. I had to guess a couple of items. I still don't know why I had crushed pineapple on my list. I think that was a misread. So now I have permanent black ink all over my hand in a cool, twisty pattern that won't wash out and when people inevitably ask me "What happened?!" (Why do people ask that--because they really don't know why ink would get on your hand or because they're making conversation?) I simply tell them that I opened a horcrux and I'm slowly dying.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The name of my blog isn't random

I've had a few "almost famous" moments. I thought I would share them here.

1. I had a crazy day--the kind where you are requested by children and children's teachers and leaders to be in a few locations at one time--and found myself one night at the Pinewood Derby at our local church building. I hate the emotional tension of these things, but since my son Owen didn't care and had fun and because there WERE NACHOS I thought the evening was a great success after a running-around-to-things-others-want-me-to-go-to-but-I-wouldn't-choose-for-myself kind of day. I drove home in my dented minivan with a car full of excitement, some balloons, a participation certificate for "Good Sportsmanship" (Last year we won "Safest Car"--we still laugh at that one), and a derby car missing a wheel, I sat down to fold laundry and watch tv (oh, the luxury!) I saw Mario Lopez on EXTRA! EXTRA! on the red carpet at the Victoria Secret Fashion Show with my brother. You know, just talking to him and asking him 'sup. So, basically we had the same day.

2. Then, this one time, I had another regular day* and I thought it was a pretty noteworthy day because I had finished all the laundry in one day which, while I'm typing this, sounds really pathetic, but I really do get a lot of joy from accomplishments like this because I'm always a little unsure if it's physically possible, with the timing of my machine and the age of my dryer, to consistently dry several loads and finish in one day. It's like a challenge I give myself--a dare I would suggest on Mythbusters or something. So when I accomplish something like that, something I didn't think physically or scientifically possible, it delights me more than it should, but I'm going with it.

Also, (feel free to skip down to the next paragraph, but I'm going to preserve this memory for my posterity) I cleaned out the dryer vent in my dryer. I thought I was cleaning it out with a bottle scrubber, but, turns out (this is the exciting part) I was packing it down! I live in such danger! So I figured it out, and grabbed out chunks of lint for a long time, messed up my wrists in the process, but felt like an Olympian athlete when I was done. Seriously, I love that kind of accomplishment. It's so satisfying! And, it cut down my drying time significantly. Again, boring, but delightful! Then I checked my email and was about to tell my family my success (we Valentine's celebrate all things clean and cleaned-out. They would have appreciated photos.) And my brother James wrote to tell me he was in Paris. At the Lenny Kravitz home which is amazing. Gorgeous. Incredible. Or so I'm told.

3. Someone suggested I write a book to Sheri Dew, who I adore, then someone else said there's no way I could because I have 5 kids. (Someone else is right. Who would do the laundry when I had a deadline? No one else can do it in one day! I have a scientific system!)

4. I was in a movie written and directed by my dear friend Daryn Tufts (Go see "My Girlfriend's Boyfriend!") but my part was cut and didn't make it in the movie. But, then again, Daryn's acting part was cut, too, and it's a really good movie, so I like to think cutting me out of the movie contributed to his art. It's part of the creative process. . . me not being in it.



*Get up, feed kids, clean up, get kids to school (repeat 3 times for 3 different schedules: middle school, elementary, kindergarten/preschool, feed kids, clean up, feed kids, clean up, put kids to bed, put them to bed again.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

First Thing Is First


Margaret decided that as long as everyone else was going to school, she would refuse to take any naps. She is not interested in being potty-trained because underwear is, as she says it, "Is gross."

Hugh's in kindergarten.

This is his "first day of school" photo.

Owen's first day of 5th grader.
Minutes before this photo, Owen ditched me for "the outside the classroom" shot, laughing at me trying to catch up with him and saying "SEE YA!" Seconds before this photo, I walked into his classroom and loudly embarrassed him by saying "Owen! Sweetie! Mommy wants to get a photo of my big boy out here!" He rolled his eyes and was mortified when his teacher agreed to pose with him. Owen will learn. Oh, he'll learn. But that look in his eyes scares me and keeps me up at night. He's plotting his revenge, and it'll be good. And exact. And well timed. I'm screwed. (Isn't it good to know 12 year-olds can teach school? P.S. When did I get old, exactly?)

Phoebe's in second grade. She planned this outfit herself, head to toe. This is her second year in French immersion and I, officially, cannot understand or even piece together here and there her conversations. This could be dangerous for a nosey mother like me.

We live in a world where my son Miles is in middle school. (I'll let that sink in.)

He lets me take pictures of him at the bus stop FULL OF GIRLS.

He also humors me as I take a picture of him getting on the bus. He's never ridden a BUS TO SCHOOL before! I like it that Miles let me take this picture (even paused for it). He's considerate of his dear mother. I'm surprised this photo is clear, as I was sobbing when I was taking it. Just kidding! I held the tears in until the bus pulled away and one, single tear dripped down my cheek as I waved and yelled "I love you! Have a wonderful day!" Just kidding! I ran home and tried to stifle the sporatic sobs as I fake smiled and waved to neighbors and fellow joggers and burst into tears as soon as I walked in my front door. Just kidding! I didn't care about fake smiling to the neighbors!

Friday, August 27, 2010

"The Power of Time"

video

I'm very intrigued by this video "The Power of Time" by Philip Zimbaro, and I've thought about it a lot in the past couple of months since my brother Chris sent it to me. It's 10 minutes long, but it's really very engaging. I like the way Zimbaro bridges the gap between politics, religion, educational systems, and nations and gives us all the same safe, universal idea to discuss conflict and policy: TIME.

This is what I've been thinking about:

*Philip Zimbaro talks about how we all live within 6 time zones and that our conflicts with others deal primarily with the differences of these time perspectives.

*Shared time perspectives characterize nations, religions, and individuals.

*He references The Geography of Time by Robert Levine that talks about the "pace of life" and how that can characterize the pace of individuals, cities, and countries as well.

*All of this points to a disaster recipe for boys in America (they live in a world they create and school and analogue classrooms are important not only socially, but teach them to be future-oriented (which is important to delay gratification and change hedonistic behavior--because we all start out as hedonistic, present-oriented infants)

*Knowledge doesn't change behavior when you're present-oriented.

*Kids are different than we are. This is a REVOLUTION IN TIME!

*Everyone's busy and we sacrifice friends, family, and sleep for "success." And if we had an extra day, we would work more. Awesome.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Netflix Streaming is the New Potholder

This summer I have given up on most of my forced fun activities that I'm famous for (in my home only). But not without holding on like a toddler with stolen snickers bar. The weaker ideas have fallen by the wayside. . . math workbooks, I'm looking at you. . . and the stronger ones have remained loyal. Here they are, for you, to use at your discretion during the last few, precious (you're almost there!) weeks left before schools starts and we are all in a schedule once again or, as I like to call it, we join the human race again:

1. Homemade journals (doesn't "homemade" give the illusion that their hand-crafted? I like that illusion). So what I did, see, in a flash of inspiration at Target, whilst drooling over the flashy, new school supplies, is spy a bunch of composition journals is neat colors and began hoarding them in my cart. Then, see, what I did next was to take out my new pack of 100 Sharpies I got for my birthday, and took out one at a time, for each kid and I wrote one question at the top of each page on every page of the journal. Each book has questions for each child in mind.

Questions like: Describe yourself. How would others describe you? What is the funniest thing you've ever seen? Why is your mom so awesome? What makes her tick? and so on. . . you get the idea. But I have questions about things I want to know and things I think they'll want to remember (Like meeting the prophet), so I ask about those in a guided-forced way of writing.

We'll see how it all ends, I mean, you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make that horse write in a journal, but sometimes that horse will write in it if you're having quiet time and the alternative is taking a nap.

2. Netflix Streaming: One of the best things about having my kids get older is their ability to instinctively understand and manipulate technology. I'm still trying to figure out all the features on my remote and it's such a mom cliche (Where's the "menu" selection?!), but, there you have it. So, at the beginning of Summer Miles told me (repeatedly, in anxious tones) that we could set up Netflix to our tv, but I just laughed and said, "Yeah, right! That's for rich people! Don't touch anything--you'll break it!" But as the summer weeks lagged on and Miles, the very example of patience, came to me one day and said, "Mom. I know I can do this and set it up. I'm not trying to be condescending, but just trust me. Let me just do it and I won't break anything." He was so sweet, how could I refuse? So, less than 10 minutes later, we're watching Netflix movies and tv shows on our tv FROM OUR COMPUTER, PEOPLE! IT'S THE FUTURE! NOW!

Every once in a while I catch Miles laughing at me with the kids like, "Remember how mom didn't believe I could just do this simple thing?" and so I repeatedly remind him of when I was born and a computer would have taken up our entire house, and how I didn't even have email in college, so I'm doing the best I can to adjust even though I can't shake the feeling I'm living in an Isaac Asimov novel.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Food and Fun Friday

The other night I was thinking about putting the kids to bed as I was thinking about what to eat for dinner as I was thinking about how much Hugh bounces up and down throughout the day as I was thinking about how to get him to stop so his fractured wrists could heal. . . and who arrived at my doorstep to break that spell of downward self-pity than my good friend, ~J with treats! She brought me some guacamole that I politely inhaled. I usually make my own because that pre-made stuff isn't really that great. This one is.

If you are in the Provo area and you wanna go to the Farmers Market to feel fresh and environmentally responsible (everyone is always saying "BUY LOCAL" and I'm beginning to think they don't mean my local Target store. . .) be sure to get some guacamole from THIS GUY TROY!

1. Tastes awesome (isn't that all you really need to know?)
2. All natural ingredients (no artificial preservatives which is really important to some people)
3. It stays green in the container. This will help you, psychologically enjoy it longer.
4. You can order it online (http://gourmetguac.org) and go pick it up at the Farmer's Market this Sat. (or just go to the FM to try a sample, then buy it)
5. 10% of the sale goes to Our TEAMS, Inc. (local educational non-profit scholarship fund) So if you weren't already feeling pretty smug about saving the environment, you can throw in your philanthropic contribution to boot! Put THAT in your Christmas letter. Or, just eat the guacamole.

Here's my summer recipe for you to eat with that guacamole (It's "for summer" because you use the microwave and because it's summer today):

Fresh tortilla chips
Romano cheese

Melt together in a dance of salty goodness and enjoy with the guac. Never look back.

Never.

It's for sale this Saturday at the Farmers Market, y'all. I hope the stand is near the frozen, chocolate-dipped bananas. If it is, all my dreams will come true on Saturday.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Mind the Gap


I feel that I should tell you all to read of my husband's adventures with Lady London. I don't like to tell people (explicitly) what to do (I like them to feel it was their idea), but you should read it for a good laugh, or for good information to store in the back of your mind for the time when YOU go to London (and Paris, and Scotland). Just knowing you might make it there one day, or return, will be one of those encouraging thoughts (lies) you tell yourself that help you get through your day. You know, when you're taking your 5 year-old to the doctor's office, radiologist, and back to the doctor to confirm that he has, indeed, broken both wrists, you can think "This is just like taking the metro to London! I'll pretend that the doctor's office is Big Ben and the radiologist is St. Paul's Cathedral!" That would be fun.

Click HERE to begin your exciting, new adventure!


This is me this time last year. I think about this when I'm taking out the trash and folding laundry.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Famous Friday

Did everyone see my little brother on the Today Show this morning? Well, you can always YouTube it or something. Maroon5 performed and although I've seen them perform a million times, it's still exciting for me to see little James on that thar TV! He's so cute! If you don't know which one he is, he's the lead guitarist and we have the same long blonde hair (twinners!). . . But what is so funny to me is when the camera pans out to the audience and I get a look at all the cougars singing along: delightful! They will begin touring soon which is also exciting. They know how to put on a show, those boys! And they are releasing some singles before their album in September, which you should buy because they are catchy and really great to run/exercise/dance to. . .

(I would have put a picture of their new album cover, but I'm trying not to let my kids see it as long as possible. It's pretty, um, sexy.)

Famous Friday: "Um, the 80's aren't really going away!"

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Wonder Years

I went with Topher to his 20th High School Reunion and it was really fun. You don't expect the spouse of the graduating class to say that, do you? In fact, at the end of the night, I almost felt that I could have convinced myself that I did go to Provo high. I don't want to be a traitor to my Southeast High graduating class of '92, but there it is. I had a great time and thanks to all of Topher's stories, and the friends I happen to have made within their class over the years in seemingly haphazardly ways, I found myself laughing and reminiscing as if I had been there, too. After all, we listened to the same music, wore our hair the same way, so it's like the same experience, right?

I should admit right off that when I was in high school I used to dream of tri-stake Utah dances and alcohol free dance clubs where I could meet other Mormon boys. I used to wish, a little, that I could have that kind of experience instead of being the only different one. Of course everyone in high school thinks they're the different one, which is a fact that is lost on you until you grow up. I just wondered what it would be like to go to a party and not explain why you don't drink for the one hundredth time or be a little worried that someone (like say, your "best friend") was going to slip something into your drink just so they could all laugh at how they tricked the Mormon girl to drink a little cinnamon schnapps in her diet coke (Oh, eighth grade was a doozy of a year!)

After the reunion I confessed to Topher that according to my estimation, about 90% of my embarrassing life moments happened in high school. I have been reliving some of them in my mind, with that same twinge of awkwardness, and have concluded that I still embarrass myself, but the difference is now I don't really care.

So, just for fun, I've been amassing in my mind some of my most uncomfortable memories and here's what I came up with, in no particular order:

1. My first date: I was so excited because it was Prom and this boy I had a little crush on asked me out of the blue. He was from another ward near mine and we had been friends for a long time. It was 2 weeks before my 16th birthday and I was really excited, but then my mom's weird "friend" called her and yelled at her at how inappropriate it was for me to go before I was officially 16 (keep in mind that most of my friends were sexually active at this point and I hadn't been on one date yet). My mom told her to mind her own business, but, seriously, whose first date starts off with so much drama? Then I go on the date, have a great time, and then at the post-Prom party at the high school, my date excuses himself and when he returns after an uncomfortably long period of time and I ask him where he's been, he says, nonchalantly, "Oh, I was just calling my girlfriend." (2 uncomfortably moments with one story: BAM!)

2. I was the last of everyone in the world to go through puberty and so my friends called my "Little Lisa" for a long time (I was the original Polly Pocket) and don't worry, the irony is not lost on me now. . . it simply adds to the delay of embarrassment so I'll feel the full effect (which I do). . .Well, suddenly, as it happens, I, um, developed a different physique over the summer before my 9th grade year and hoped nobody would really notice. I really thought I could just fly under the radar, until that dream was killed by one of my best guy friends when he called me after the first day of school to tellme everyone had noticed and were talking about my chest (not the word he used). Best. Phone. Call. Ever.

3. I was Prom Queen my junior year (which I only mention because it is pertinent to the story and because it makes Gina jealous) and after holding up the drunk Prom King for the appropriate amount of time, I walked off the stage with my tiara feeling pretty good and my cute really drunk friend comes up to me and says really loudly, "Oh, are you the prom queen? I heard that from someone!" (it had just happened) "That is sooooo cute! You know, they usually pick someone whose cool and popular, so that's sooo awesome that they chose you instead!"

I had a lot of great experiences in high school. WONDERful memories. But today, I salute the awkward.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Topher told me the difference between Girls Camp and Scout Camp is rubber snakes and real snakes. . .

I'm back from Girls Camp.

For those of you who don't know what that is, it's a time to take girls ages 12-18 camping, away from technology and distractions and teach them life skills, survival skills, but most importantly a time to teach them to stop and listen and think about what they want in life, who they are, and who their Savior is and to encourage and strengthen that testimony in a real, authentic way. I had some amazing experiences that are spiritual in nature, but tonight I'm too tired to adequately express those feelings. Maybe later. Tonight I'm just falling in love with my bed all over again and grateful for the blessing of a full DVR of new shows and not having to share a bathroom with 152 other girls.

Girls Camp is also a time for the leaders to work really hard and pretend they can function on 4 or 5 hours of sleep as they sneak Diet Coke from under their pillow and go on long hikes and cook food and sing songs and hear stories confirming how 15 year old boys haven't changed from 20 years ago as we make bracelets, play games, have devotionals, and find rubber snakes in our beds. Don't worry, I've already facebook messaged my old Girls Camp Leaders from decades ago (absolutely true story) thanking them and apologizing for some pranks involving shaving cream and ice water. It's the circle of life, right?

Oh, and I have some Miley Cyrus song stuck in my head. She seriously has millions of dollars, doesn't she? Don't tell me.

Like a wilderness animal who needs to mark her territory, I came home and immediately (as in before a shower and a nap) cleaned my house. As I was scrubbing toilets and mopping down the kitchen floor, I told myself that this is proof that there's something wrong with me. But I told myself (yes, there is more than one voice in my head) that I didn't care and that this would make me FEEL better. And it did so I told myself "FACE! I told you needed this!" My head admitted defeat and promised to stop questioning the cleaning gene if I stopped talking to it out loud. I made no promises.

After my house smelled like bleach and this glorious geranium cleaner I got as a gift (yes, those close to me know I love special cleaners as much as real lady perfume), I felt better. But then I had a headache from a combination of lack of sleep, lack of sitting still for five days, and sunburned ears. I don't know if it was the sleep deprivation or the constant fumes I inhaled at Camp which was a mixture of bug repellant, fingernail polish remover, and estrogen, but I finally realized that I hadn't eaten all day. It was 4:30. I got in my car and went to Wendy's and thought about how nice it was for someone to have all your meals planned out everyday. Just having someone tell you what to help prepare for each meal was such a nice change of pace and a great break~! I told myself. Think about that for a moment. It's kind of pathetic that I thought that (and still think it's true). I guess I know how great my kids have it now! (Except it makes me more and more mad when Hugh rejects everything I think about preparing and then do prepare in favor for plain saltines and Cheerios.)

Oh, while I was gone Topher and his awesome friend built the kids the most amazing tree house (pictures to come) and Margaret says "POOP!" over and over again and won't stop.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Five-Teen




I'm going to try really hard not to make this a sappy post. Or an unrealistic one that glosses over the tiny cracks. You know what I mean, I trust, you trusty reader, you.

3 June 2010 marks my (our) 15th wedding anniversary and it is a thing to be celebrated. Access Hollywood will tell you that this is a great accomplishment in our culture, but more than that, it is a thing that I treasure as something I can't really describe. And each year--one more--it becomes dearer and dearer to me. I find myself thinking, in a few of years (6 more), I will have been with Topher longer than than I was without him. I think, 15 years seems like a lot of life, but I know it is just a tiny ripple in my eternal existence. I am thinking of the 5 beautiful children we have together, and what that means to us forever. Because, I reason, think about what it means to me NOW.

Topher is not perfect, but he is nearly so. He is never intentionally mean (with exception to drivers who follow too closely--then he will slow down or box you in and slow down again and speak condescendingly to you) or jealous and he is extremely loyal. He plays dumb in certain situations to make others feel comfortable, and he avoids confrontation (despite my efforts by example to teach him otherwise). He is not always funny so that it's annoying (hello Robin Williams), but enough so so that it is delightful and surprising (authentic). He's more talented than he will admit, and more hardworking than anyone I know. He doesn't keep score (In case you are wondering, I do) and he will go out of his way to help others. OUT. OF. HIS. WAY. Everyone wants to be Topher's friend, in my mind, and I want him all to myself. I'm jealous that way.

I don't feel that 15 years of marriage gives me any particular authority to give marriage advice, (although I love giving advice--seriously--I love it. Send in your questions.) because each couple is different. For example, I say just go ahead and go to bed angry. You're probably just tired. Get a good nights rest and if you're still mad in the morning then talk about it later--after work and kids and dinner and the bedtime routine--oh wait, you're tired again. Well, maybe talk about it on the weekend. If you remember what you're angry about. See? Wasn't that great advice? Also, (I know I said I wasn't going to give any advice, but this is good) Topher always gives me, and his friends, the benefit of the doubt in any situation. You know when you say something and you could take it as a compliment or an insult? Topher will always assume you meant it as a compliment--because he thinks highly of you. Doesn't that make you love Topher a little more?

I wanted to write something meaningful and momentous, but I'm just going to end by saying that I'm happy. I'm so happy I married Topher and that we have created what we have created. The good, the bad, I'm grateful for it all. And humbled by it. And it's reason to celebrate. So, tomorrow afternoon we will check into a fancy hotel and take a nap. And no, that's not a euphemism, it's a literal nap. Creating all this happiness is tiring.

SECRETS TO A HAPPY MARRIAGE:


1. We hang out with famous people whenever we can (and you thought the title of my blog had nothing to do with my life!)

2. We love America. (We're watching the Freedom Festival Parade here.) We seriously love freedom and dying our hair blonde at the same time! (sameseez!)

3. Topher puts up all Christmas lights and all other holiday related decorations. This has saved us a lot of arguments.

4. We dress up for Halloween every year. Most parents poo-poo this idea. Topher has insisted on it every year of our marriage. Here, he's obviously a cowboy and I'm Hester Prynne (pregnant with Margaret).

5. I'm mysterious.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

May madness!

I forget that May is busier than December.

I should take a picture of my calendar, because it's ridiculous. It's amazing how much can amass from little things here and there and now I know why, growing up, my mom called herself a social director for so many years. She was basically directing traffic and now I am. If I imagined myself a cartoon character (and I do), then I'm that crazy mom with exclamation marks or fizzle signs on top of her head and a clipboard saying things like "Go straight from piano to scouts!" or "Put on your baseball uniform right now we have to leave right now or we'll be late!" or my personal favorite, "No whining! I don't care if she's wearing her princess dress, just let her have the polly pocket and get in the car!" (that might be best understood in context, but, I just say that a lot.) Now my mom goes out to eat and sees movies with my dad whenever they feel like it. I mean, she works full time, but if she wants to go to the bathroom, she doesn't have to "prepare people around her" for that inevitability or lock the door to ensure privacy (I'm assuming). She's living a great life. She says she misses the stage of life I'm in now, but that's when one of the little kids hugs her around the neck or does something else cute. Ask her if she misses my stage of life when she's in a cool movie theater eating popcorn and sipping on a cherry coke while I'm texting her "PLEASE DON'T GIVE MY KIDS GUM ANYMORE!" I'm just saying, let's call it like it is. I'm so sad (devestated-confused-unprepared) about Miles not being in grade school anymore and WHAT THAT MEANS, that I'm looking for any excuse or reason to be the slightest bit happy about my babies growing up, and the image of a dark movie theater is what gets me through the preschool graduation, you know?

I don't necessarily feel busy or over scheduled right now, I just feel like I have to be about 2-3 hours ahead of everyone which makes me anxious and "ready to go" at any moment. But now, as the last day of school approaches, I realize that the schedule, "our life," will swing to the completely opposite side of the spectrum and I need to be prepared. I've done the "make a list of things you want to do" (have a Kool-Aid stand, fly to the moon, etc.) in the summer, or schedule "days of fun" (Monday: library, Tuesday: swimming, etc) and this year I'm trying to improvise. Margaret still naps and I still need "quiet time" (Don't call or send your kids over between 1:30-3), but other than that, I'm going to try to see each Summer day and a new adventure and give myself license to do whatever we want. This is counterintuitive for me. This is going to be difficult, and I'm not sure what it will mean. But, by the end of May, I'm just ready enough to give it a try.

Monday, May 17, 2010

It's hard being the big sister; happy birthday Gina, who acts like one


Gina is my little sister who acts more like a big sister to me, which, I like. She's kind of bossy, again, which I like, because then I'm not the only one. It's like she helps me carry on that nerdy, bossy older-sister who has to go first kind of thing with me. I appreciate that. Because it's a heavy load! Being the first one of your family or friends to get married, have babies, well, it's hard. All the people close to you don't get it when you do it, but they're full of expectations and presents for help when they go through it, and then you have to be the bigger person and not think, "Well, I've had five babies and never registered for anything, and you never acknowledged those births, but I'll go ahead and buy you that expensive baby outfit they'll grow out of in five minutes, because you'll learn. . .(and having a baby IS exciting!)" I can be condescending in my mind, but I'm working on that. My point: It's hard being the big sister in a family and IN LIFE.

Gina has been close on my heels in many ways. Remember when she announced her engagement to everyone at my wedding reception? Oh yes, good times. Remember when, six months later at her wedding when I accidentally ripped off her veil when we were taking our family pictures? It was a lovely accident. It wasn't premeditated. We love each other.

Well, I love Gina for many reasons, but two important reasons are her belief that she can do anything and her weird, random compassion. I will illustrate these reasons by relating two stories that happened when Gina is at her best: marathoning.

1. When my brothers and sisters and I were running the half-marathon (Oh, have I mentioned that race before?) my little sister, Amanda, had a panic attack near mile 6 (Hi Pandy!) and Gina got right up into her face and yelled at her about how strong she was, and how she could do this, and how she wasn't going to leave her side until she finished this race! It was a loud, enthusiastic pep talk. When Amanda told her she needed to go ahead and shut up and then promptly put her earphones on, Gina, who could have smoked us all in that race, told Amanda that she wouldn't leave her side. And she didn't. And then she yelled to the crowd "Yell if you love bridges!" (and the crowd yelled in unison that yes, indeed, they DID love bridges) and "I can run this race because I EAT MOUNTAINS FOR BREAKFAST!" and, again, yes, she does live directly on a mountain so, technically, that is correct.

2. At the end of the marathon, while I was carb loading on Gogurts, oreos, and bagels (reason enough for running anywhere), we momentarily lost Gina and found her crying with her arm around a total stranger. Because of a huge storm that started immediately after we crossed the finish line (maybe you've seen the flooding in Nashville recently, yeah. . .), those runners who wouldn't finish the full marathon in 4 1/2 hours were detoured to the 1/2 marathon course, so they, because of safety reasons, didn't get to finish the marathon. This woman was crushed because she didn't get to finish what she had come here to do and trained for months to do and Gina not only saw what was happening, but went over to this woman and comforted her. This stranger cried on her shoulder, literally, as Gina cried with her, lamenting "And you trained all this time! And you didn't get to finish! I'm so sorry! This is awful! I feel so bad for you! I'm so sorry!" Amanda, Chris, James and I felt a little uncomfortable when we discovered her because it seemed that we were intruding on this personal moment. But the woman was so appreciative of Gina, and Gina was so generous and honest in her emotional output that it was really, quite weird and beautiful. Just like Gina!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

I think I might have post traumatic stress disorder.

In the last 2 weeks I have:

*run a 1/2 marathon (I'll stop talking about this soon, don't worry.)
*spoken to hundreds at Women's Conference
*stressed out about running 13.1 miles (stressing out is a real thing, right? I mean it's not like you can fully enjoy relaxing, sleeping, watching tv, etc because part of you is preoccupied, right?)
*stressed out about going to Women's Conference (what does this mean? Who am I? What is expected of me? Where is the fudge everyone's been talking about? What--they serve Bajios in the hall!? This is a whole new world AND I LIKE IT!)
*stressed out about what I was going to wear to Women's Conference (I hate to admit that, because it seems so predictable, but it was a process and I just ended up wearing something comfortable and old from my closet, so it was all wasted energy. I'm sure there's a point in that, and maybe it's that I hate to admit when I'm girly and predictable, but, there you have it.)
*watched my son set apart with the Aaronic Priesthood (emotional!)
*watched my son pass the sacrament for the first time (he looks so young and so old at the same time--how can that be?)
*sent Topher off to Austria
*gave Miles a no-holds-barred sex talk (the final chapter in my 4 part series. I'm kind of kidding, but mostly I'm not.)
*Did 16 loads of laundry (I usually don't count, but I did to make this post seem more dramatic)
*Went to a piano recital, baptism, 3 baseball practices (I kept typing "rehearsals" because I couldn't think of what they really call it in sports), and all the "regular" places (Target et. all)
*tried to relax

I told myself that I would "take it easy" this week and not worry about exercising and just lay around and watch tv and read and do whatever I want, but I've found that I have all this nervous energy that I've apparently become used to that I can't sit still. I know this feeling will wear off soon, but until then I've gotten a lot of stuff done and things crossed off my to-do list. Really, the garage has never been cleaner and the cupboards are organized and all that. But I'm sure that things will end badly. Like, I might pass out at the grocery store and sleep for 5 days, or I might start staring at a stain in the carpet and it will put me in a drooling trance. I know, I know, I lead a glamorous life and it cannot be sustained indefinitely! (Because if VH-1's "Behind the Music" has taught us anything, it's that you can't live in the fast lane forever. . .)

AND, I keep
*obsessing over Lost and HOW IT WILL ALL END just keeps my mind spinning and running and racing.

Nashville's Country Music Marathon




When my older brother turned 13, we had a birthday dinner for him in our little red brick house on the corner of 27th and Park in Lincoln, Nebraska that I consistently think about throughout different stages of my life. It was an old 1920's brick house with a wrap-around porch, and the small kitchen had a cozy breakfast nook where our large handmade table resided to fit all five kids and a mom and a dad. It was a tight squeeze to fit everyone in, and when you sat down at your designated spot, you were committed to that spot because getting up required others to stand, shift, move, and complain. We began that dinner like all our other dinners: by holding hands and saying a family prayer.

I clearly remember a long cardboard box with a present for Chris. With Sharpie markers of different colors (an early love), I decorated the words "Happy Birthday Chris!!! You're a teenager!!!" That night, at dinner, we celebrated Chris and my dad made a simple, enthusiastic comment something on the lines of "Wow. I can't believe you're 13! Before we know it you'll be driving, and then going off to college and a mission!" It was then that I quietly excused myself from the table to the small half bath off the kitchen, shut the door, and cried into my 10 year-old hands.

I know this may be hard for some of you to believe, but I've often been accused by my family and friends as being a little "sentimental." I didn't want to my family to see me cry, and yet, as I was sobbing in the that little closet of a bathroom, looking through my blurry tears at the wallpaper made by pasting old covers of The New Yorker magazine on the wall, I was a little horrified that they weren't all crying, too.

I have always felt very close to my brothers and sisters and parents. I realized (even at 10) that inevitably we would all grow up, want to move out of the house, and we wouldn't really end up living on the same street as each other, raising our kids together and having dinner together every night. That was what "growing up" meant. And I hated that I knew it had to be that way and there was nothing to do to stop it.

Lest you think I was too "serious" a child, let me explain that most of my motivation for feeling this way came to the seamless way my immediate family communicates with each other. We are loud and find our greatest satisfaction in life (or at least I do) in making each other laugh. Not everyone gets our humor. But we do. Not everyone appreciates the way we talk over each other or talk louder and louder to emphasize our point of view, but, to me, that's the purest form of communication. And, there are some things you can say, or admit, to your brothers and sisters and just because you share the same parents, upbringing, crucial memories and so on, you don't have to explain yourself so much, which is tiring.

All of this is to explain why I trained everyday for 14 weeks, flew to Nashville, spent money buying shoes and clothes and gels and time doing things I wasn't sure I could do--like running for more than 2 minutes (which was where I was when I started) and getting up before the kids and running up Timpview in the snow and rain. I did it so that I could have a moment with my brothers and sisters. I didn't know if I could do it, but I loved the idea that we could do it together. We ran the whole way together and waited for each other during the 13.1 miles so that, when we approached the finish line, all five of us held hands and crossed the finish line together.

Running the 1/2 marathon was a personal accomplishment of a physical goal, but it was also like getting a little piece of my childhood back, for just a moment.



(Gina made the girls matching shirts and my brother, Chris, is waiting for some dental work so he took out his temporary front tooth to run. . . SEE HOW MUCH FUN WE ARE?!)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Up and Away

In a few moments, I'll be off to Nashville! The plane ride itself will give me some quiet time on the plane to read and think about Lost and this ongoing discussion.

And then I'll see my two siblings who live far away (Amanda and James) and the two who live here (Chris and Gina) and my two parents. I think I might cry. (I will)

And then we'll run our little marathon (Gina made us matching shirts, so, get ready for that!)

And then we'll shop, people watch, and eat. What we do "best." Amanda's promised deep fried cookie dough. This idea has intrigued me for several weeks now.

Don't tell me who wins Project Runway! I'll be watching it later. . .

(Side note: Isn't it funny how much preparation it takes to leave for a short trip? Maybe I'm doing it wrong, but who are these people who just "up and go?")

Friday, April 16, 2010

Famous Friday: "Um, the 80's aren't really going away!"


Well, I know you're getting itchy to go through your closet and purge it of all its heavy sweaters and boots in hopes that Spring is here to stay. . .


So the lovely and vivacious Amanda Valentine (my little sister), Nashville's hottest stylist and fashion designer has some tips for you for what to look for this season! Check her out!

CLICK HERE TO WATCH THE VIDEO!!!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Women's Conference



Here's some news (that awakens me with a startle in the mornings) that I feel some on you on the world wide web might want to know: I'm speaking at Women's Conference this year.

It's a 2 day conference held April 29th and 30th at (the) BYU, they have many different speakers, they do some huge service projects, and thousands of women attend (I think I'm going to throw up now.) My topic: "Don't Let the Digital Dominate Your Life" (stop laughing) and I am presenting with the super-cool Jon Mott. We've emailed and met IRL once and I'm excited to hear what he has to say, and very excited that he knows how to set up the powerpoint presentation because I'm not particularly up-to-the-know with the latest (yes, the irony is not lost on me and yes, I still think powerpoint is fairly new. Stop laughing.) He's assistant to the academic vice president for academic technology, he has a PhD, he's a father, he takes his kids to cool concerts. He made THIS SITE.

I think it goes without saying (but that rarely stops me) that I feel horribly inadequate to speak at this conference, but I'm happy to do it (because I like talking and an excuse to buy a new outfit). Just do me a favor and when you see me IRL=IN REAL LIFE, don't comment about how "weird" or "totally random" that it is I'm doing this and "How did they ever come up with your name? Because it's SO WEIRD. . ." like someone asked me to build a supercomputer with some tinfoil and a few bobby pins because, trust me, I'm doing the best I can to just show up with my talk and powerpoint presentation all prepared and ready, hoping no one says "Just kidding!" because a part of me thinks that just might happen.

This is our course description:

Don't Let the Digital Dominate Your Life (Elder David A. Bednar)
Internet social networks can connect adults with family and long-lost friends. How can we be wise with the time we spend online? What are the dangers of spending more time in the virtual world than in reality? How can we use technology prudently and wisely?

We speak in the de Jong Concert Hall, HFAC at 12:30-1:30 pm on Thursday, April 29th.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Spring Break, YO!

I just got back from looking at my cousin's pictures from HER Spring Break vacation to the Caymen Islands and listening to my friend tell us all about HER trip to Disneyland. Well, it was NOTHING like MY vacation (for one day) to Summit County, Utah!

When the kids are in 4th grade around here, they do a "county report" and so far we are 2 for 2 in visiting the county to help give them some awesome pictures for their horribly homemade posters to accompany their report. And as an educator, I want my kids to realize the importance of good visual aids. Powerpoint, shmowersmoint. Good, old-fashioned posters with some glossy 4X6's are where it's at! It's the future of education, I'm just sure of it! Here are some highlights of our trip:


First thing's first: let's eat! Here we are at a historic diner transported from the east coast, right to Summit County! We are impressed already! At this point in the trip, we're still enthusiastic. We're throwing snowballs, we're laughing. We hit the road while spirits are high.

Our waitress was super great (drinks always full) and friendly (you know how I feel about talking to strangers--I like it), and served Topher the best reuben sandwich he's ever had.

Margaret's not in this photo because she's too busy throwing glass salt and pepper shakers and jumping on the antique tables.

Here's Owen at the Summit County museum. Luckily, no one was manning the store, so to speak. We could wander in and out at our leisure and not worry about any museum representative judging me on my parenting skills as I yelled at Margaret to stop touching all the antiques and passive-aggressively rolling my eyes at Topher. My favorite part of this museum was a framed newspaper clipping from the late 1800s advertising a nutritious vegetable compound for "women who are too tired to do their work!" One testimonial stated, "Now that I drink (this special "vegetable" snake oil), I now weigh 165 pounds and I feel so energized and healthy! I can finish all my household duties and chores!" Can you imagine that ad running today?! Then I cracked open a diet Coke and took a nap in the car.

This is the outside of the museum. My kids always want to climb on things and have me take a picture. I'm not sure if it's for artistic reasons: like, it improves "the shot," or if it's just so they have an excuse to climb on something they're not sure they can. We're on vacation so anything goes!

We thought this looked like a still shot that belongs in an episode of "Parks and Recreation." Yeah, Pawnee!

Here are the kids experiencing some interactive learning at the Park City Olympic museum. It's free and I highly recommend it because kids can touch stuff and it teaches you what to do in case of an avalanche which is something I'd been meaning to cross off on my "stuff my kids should know" mental parenting list. Done and done!

Owen is awesome.

Here's a historic (old) church in Summit County. This is the point in the trip when half of the car had fallen asleep and the other half were lamenting that we didn't let them bring their DS's and Topher told everyone to "LOOK OUT THE WINDOW!" and enjoy the beauty of Utah, as any good dad would. Then we took a picture.

We love Summit County!

Incidentally, this is how our trip both started, and ended.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Mars Needs Paper Towels

Scene: The kitchen. "Mom" (enthusiastically played by me) dramatically unravels a paper towel wad left by her son, Miles (played with spunk, charm, and sarcasm by Miles, himself) and exclaims:

Mom: You've GOT to be kidding me! Let's count them: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 squares of paper towel to dry your hands. Wow.

Miles: (sheepishly) Oops. . . sorry! But I needed them, my hands were really wet.

Mom: (not buying what this little matchstick peddler is sellin' and just having recently balanced the checkbook) Do you know how wasteful this is? How much money paper towels cost? No wonder I'm going through so many! USE ONE!

Miles: (gaining confidence) Well, fine. . .

Mom: (ready to really drive the point home) I mean, I thought you cared about OUR PLANET! It's the only one we've got, you know.

Miles: (gaining too much confidence): Yeah, well, there's Mars. We could just live there.

Mom: (thinking, Oh, I'll see you one nerdy remark and I'll raise you one nerdy science fiction teacher): Mars doesn't sustain life.

Miles: (exponentially nerdifying the conversation) Well, we can discover a way to sustain life on Mars. . . the technology exists. . . we're close to figuring it out.

Mom: (won't be conned out of making her point) We won't have time to figure it out because we're all too busy buying paper towels!

Scene.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

transition

Today Miles, who will be 12 next month, is touring middle school in anticipation of being a seventh grader next year. Tomorrow I will sign up Hugh for kindergarten classes.

Miles is excited about signing up for elective classes: communications, maybe journalism, but anything to do with computers. He has poured himself all over the pages of the class description catalogue and talked excitedly about riding the bus and meeting up with friends from other elementary schools. He's so excited and I am, too. I think he will take off in middle school. Its his time to grow up a little more and he's ready and I think the transition will be okay. Well, FOR HIM, at least.

It seems that I was registering Miles for kindergarten just days ago. I realize that's a trite mom thing to say, but it doesn't make it less true. Miles' kindergarten assessment was unusually stressful for me. He was my kid who taught himself to read at 3 1/2 and lived in England the year before and, as a result, didn't get together with other kids his age very much for very long. He had spent most of his time translating Owen's indecipherable language for the rest of us and telling us the order of the planets in the solar system. What a sweet, innocent little boy, and I was sending him into the awful, mean cruel world of kindergarten, or so I thought at the time. When the kindergarten teacher came out of his initial assessment and said "I can't teach this kid anything! He's ready for first grade!" My heart sunk. We talked the issue over with a first grade teacher, Mrs. Hale, who was a friend of mine, luckily, and decided to try first grade the next day.

That night I ran to Walmart (which is always a mistake) and bought him a Spongebob lunchbox and first grade supplies to make it special. In my mind, I kept thinking, "I'm not ready for this. This means I get one less year with him. One less year before he's off to college. I lost a year!" I put on a brave face and walked him to first grade the next day. It was the second day of school for everyone else and Mrs. Hale had a place all set for him. I went home and cried all day. I know it seems dramatic, but I really did. I thought about him and his little moon baby face and his constant enthusiasm to try anything and I just cried. I went to pick him up at the end of the day and he was standing there with Mrs. Hale who just put her hands on his shoulders shaking her head back and forth saying, "No, no, no, no, no!" She told me, "He's not ready for first grade. He's a foot shorter than the rest of the kids. At recess he just clung by my side all by himself and didn't play with anyone." I fought back the tears imagining Miles all by himself on the playground. Ouch. But Miles just smiled up at me like nothing bothered him in the world. When I asked him how it went he just said "Great!"

We put him back into kindergarten and he had a great year. His reading improved. Turns out, just because you can read, doesn't mean your comprehension rate is as high as well, so he did learn a lot. He has always excelled in school, but this year turned out to be great because he learned to make friends and be silly and use scissors and learn to take turns when talking. Stuff that some kids never learn. I still believe that if I had kept him in first grade, he would have been fine. That's Miles. But I'm so glad we didn't. Because I still get that "one more" year.

Miles is a wonderful kid to have come first because he's so confident and takes transitions well unlike his mother who struggles with transition. So he can spend the day being excited about 7th grade at middle school, and I will go to Target (I've learned my Walmart lesson) and NOT buy him a Spongebob lunchbox (or give it to Hugh), but something "cool" instead and try not to take his growing up on me so personally, which is apparently a lesson I have to learn over and over again.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Hugh is Five


I know Hugh is destined to become famous because I can't stop talking about him. Here is yet another post starring him. But, this time, rightfully so because it was his birthday. I can't believe my little man is five even though he's been talking about it nonstop for 365 days because he is my little sidekick who accompanies me to the store, errands, and all of that and talks to me just like a real, but little, man. In fact, the night before his birthday he said, "Say goodbye to your little boy, because in the morning I'll be five and I won't be your little boy anymore!" After I removed the suffocating knife from my heart, I kissed him all over insisting he'll always be my little boy. But, boy: OUCH.

If you are close to Hugh, you know that his birthday has mythical, magical elements and has been talked about, discussed, and dreamed over for 364 days. He has changed his mind one million times on every little detail from the flavor of the cake to the varieties of candy his lucky guests will receive. Some things have never altered, however, specifically that there will be a "treasure hunt" for candy (complete with hidden clues all over the house) and Cheetoes. I completely blew his mind by having TWO DIFFERENT KINDS of Cheetoes (and please, oh please, don't tell him there are even more varieties. I can't take it.)

Someone asked me what Hugh's party theme was and I said, "The party where all his dreams come true. Theme: Hugh." There was face painting (and I really hope that the acrylic paint superman symbols I applied washed off all those kids. Oh well. I hope they scrub hard. . .), "pin the lego head on the lego guy," "duck, duck, goose," "mother may I," and some unfortunate "theater games" Topher tried for about 2 minutes that failed before they started because they required the kids 1. to look at each other and 2. take turns and 3. wait, so that's how that went, and, of course, the treasure hunt. No one wanted the chicken nuggets and, to Hugh's credit, he told me the kids would only want Sprite and Cheetoes because "kids only like junk food, mom!" So, in the end, Hugh got another wish of his on his birthday: a big, fat "I told you so" to Mom. Done and done.

Other than the one time all these 5 year-old boys were running around the house full of candy and playing with their balloons and Hugh asked nonchalantly, "Where's the pinata?" and I answered slowly and dryly "There IS NO pinata. . ." it went off without a hiccup.

Now, 360 or so more days down to next year. He'll forget about the pinata by then, right? I hate pinatas. Who hits their candy? It seems unnatural.

Monday, March 29, 2010

"I'm trying to tell you somethin' about my life, maybe give me insight between black and white"

So Topher's done a fun, new thing. I think I can best describe its significance in terms of family history, because most people know we Mormons love to keep a record for our posterity, and this idea is more fun than scrapbooking. Are you intrigued?

Well, I'm telling you anyway: Topher has gone through our boxes of CDs (for you young folks reading, these are little disks we used to store our music on--after cassettes and before downloading onto ipods--for oh, about 15 years or so because technology changes so quickly and before you know it you have hundreds of dollars worth of technology that is outdated and takes up all this space and you think to yourself, "Well, that was a waste, I mean, it's nice to have this music, but now I've been introduced to a superior sound so I can't go back and it's doesn't have the same sentimental value as, say, keeping and playing vinyl records, so, was this a conspiracy created by record companies intended for me to buy the same music over and over again or is this the bitter pill I have to swallow for the price of exponentially advancing technology? I don't know. I just don't know.) and he has organized on our ipod in playlists according to year! So when we listen to them, we are immediately transported back in time (for you young folks, I'm not being literal now. We haven't reached this technology yet, and I'm not crazy or on drugs. I'm simply using a literary technique. Now, go read a book.) When it was Hugh's birthday, we listened to 2005. I was cleaning the kitchen and I listened to 1999. I went running, and I listened to the Indigo Girls. Now I feel that I should be putting on my flannel and going to class to flirt with Christopher Clark. Where's Erbecca? She and I are going to the Mighty Mighty Bozztones concert later. Wait, where am I?

So, do this with your CDs (if you have any. If you don't, then we can't be friends because you will be a constant reminder of how old I am). I went to a teaching conference once sometime after Crash Test Dummies but before Alanis Morrisette, and the instructor taught us, through music, that music has 100% retention (lecturing, a favorite among college professors, ironically, is the least effective method for retention). There are some years when the music is better than others, obviously, or the year is more memorable. There's a lot of Tori Amos that I still don't get (Topher loves her) and Annie Lennox, despite her artistic might to bring me feminist unrest, just brings me happy memories of building my first nest with Topher.

Doesn't that make you want to go back in time via music and say to your kids, "Keep your pretty paper and expensive die cuts! And stickers and sheet protectors and uv protected pages? What's that? We can't be bothered! We'll look at our photos online while Momma makes you listen to this music baby!" (Or, something like that.)

Friday, March 26, 2010

Julie's House

According to Hugh, Julie's house is the best house. If he could, he would live there and I would visit him. She and I live close to each other and I'm always trying to convince her son to play at our house, but I'm coming to the conclusion that my house is not "the fun house" I thought it was. Julie is my cousin and mother of five boys. Her youngest, Oakley, and Hugh are good little buddies. These are some snippets of conversation I've heard about Julie's house this week:

"At Julie's house, whenever Oakley wants some candy, she always says YES! He can have candy whenever he wants."

"Julie swam with Octopuses in the OCEAN! You don't do that."

"At Julie's house, you can get to the next level of Super Mario Brothers, not like at out house."

We were talking about what we wanted to do this weekend and, like always, bowling came up. Because of logistics and whatnot (and the fact that taking little kids bowling is problematic, as in, I don't like it), I said, "Well, we're not going bowling tonight." To which Hugh replied, "When I went to Julie's house, we went bowling. . ."

Yep. They went bowling IN JULIE'S HOUSE.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

How to Be a Good Audience Member

By seeing a lot of productions, I've come to realize that not every audience member understands what is expected of them when they go to see a play. They naively think they're coming to be entertained. If you want to have an experience, however, you have to be a willing participant. This is something I take very seriously, but I think that audience participation should be an olympic sport or, at the very least, should be critiqued as vigorously as the play, dialogue, acting, sets, costumes, and directing.

I'm not kidding. Ask any actor, director, or designer and they will describe to you how a performance "felt off" because the "audience wasn't with them." Or, the opposite, the performance felt "enhanced" or "energized" because "the audience was right there with them." If you consider any creative act: painting, acting, music, dance, etc, you think of the product itself, but we rarely address the audience's readiness to see said creative act.

When I taught English classes, we always spent a lot of time talking and practicing "reader readiness" (discussing themes, attitudes, and ideas we may have about the subject already or background information about the setting, culture, etc.) or "writer readiness" (freewriting, mapping, outlining, etc.), so why should it be any different for any other creative participation, including seeing live theater? How many people, at the very least, read the director's comments in the beginning of the program, or the author's introduction?

I think that audiences who are best "prepared" to see live theater, which is so different than going to a movie because that exchange is passive--the actors cannot respond to the feeling or attitude or response of each movie audience around the world--make themselves ready. They play a part. One of the many reasons I love to perform with the Thrillionaires is that we perform live theater with the audience. The audience cannot be passive, or we don't have a show. We get suggestions, information, even feelings and attitudes and turn them into a play or musical with the audience's help. If we were just to get up and do what we want or think of --which is an important element of what we do--it would still lack the vital ingredient of the audience. We've done shows where the audience is trying to figure out what we're doing (ie eating a meal while "watching" us at a company function and they have no idea who we are or what we do) and it's hard to draw the audience in. When you contrast it with shows we've done where the audience knows what we do and have decided ahead of time that they want to enjoy themselves and are willing to shout out things, the feeling at the show, and the quality of the creative product we create together is amazing. There's just no comparison. The difference is the audience readiness.

Here are some things I've learned by seeing a lot of live theater and having a director for a husband and actors for friends:

1. Know what the play is about before you see it. Knowing the basic story (especially if its Shakespeare) won't ruin it for you, but make you ready to know the characters and be drawn in by the story and dialogue.

2. Let yourself enjoy it. Don't wait and make them win you over, or you may miss enjoying something with your reservation and negatively affect the performance as a byproduct.

3. If something's funny, laugh. A lot of people don't want to draw attention to themselves, but spontaneous, real emotion is what live theater seeks to create.

4. Don't read your program during "a boring part." Read your program before the play starts, at the intermission, or after the play.

5. Try to connect with the actors on stage. Look at them, study their emotions. Try and put yourself in one of the character's shoes.

6. Make connections in your mind between what's going on on stage and your own life. Most timeless plays have universal themes (not all) and that's what makes them different and more rich in discussion than many (not all) movies.

7. Don't ever let the following sentences be THE FIRST THING YOU SAY to any actor or director after you see their production (they're so sensitive!): "How did you memorize all those lines?" "That was. . .fun!" or "Did you have a fun time doing the show?" (they will take that for code that you're searching for something positive to say to a production you didn't enjoy. . I know, I told you they were sensitive.)

8. Do let the following sentences be the FIRST THING YOU SAY to any actor or director after seeing their production: "That was great!" "Wonderful job!" or "I really enjoyed that production a lot!" (they will take that for code that you're glad you came and although it wasn't perfect, your overall sentiment was that you accept their creative offering.)

9. Go see a lot of live theater. Take your kids (8 and older). Talk about themes, characters, lighting, costumes, comedy, tragedy, life, acting, directing, staging, and all of that. Talk about good theater and bad theater. Experience it all. Seeing more theater will not only give you more confidence on how to be a good audience member (this new creative habit you have!), but it will give you more experiences (active, not passive) to enrich your life experience.

10. Bring money for treats during intermission.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

I ran 8 miles and tried to cry, but I had sweated out all my tears

The title of this post pretty much sums it up, but I expand if only to defend myself.

In continuing this training for a half marathon, I've learned three slightly (moderately?) interesting things about myself:

1. I need really loud music to "stop thinking" (This is an example of what I'll be thinking in a span of 3 seconds: "I want to stop. I'm tired. I've got a lot to catch up on my DVR. I bet Margaret misses me by now. I bet she doesn't and she's just watching "Yo Gabba Gabba." I'm thirsty. I really like these running shoes. I can't believe how light they are. I think I should tie they tighter. If I stopped to tie them it would give me a legitimate excuse to stop for a second. I bet I look funny running. Like I'm shuffling. But it still counts, doesn't it. Yeah. I hate Gina so bad. How did she talk me into this? No, I love Gina because she actually thinks I can do this. Either that or she's punishing me. Maybe this is her way of getting back at me for making fun of her that one time. Ha! That ONE TIME. Oh yeah, she's got it in for me. And she told me to buy these shoes. I love them. I bet I'm running off an entire cheeseburger AND fries. If I ate anything right now I'd throw up. I can hear myself breathing. I bet this woman walking her dog is so embarrassed for me because I'm such a heavy breather. I'M embarrassed for me. Oh well, I can either run OR breath well. You can't have everything. I really need to turn up this music. I can hear myself breathing and it's ridiculous. Oh, it's Queen! Score!)

2. I hate talking about running. Ironically, I think it's boring. I'm "getting into it," but besides actually doing it, what's there to talk about? I mean, you can only talk about energy gel goops and shoes for 2 minutes and then what? It's boring.

3. I really am doing this for myself because my time, the distance I can go without openly weeping, the way I run (like Chris Valentine--toes pointed out) is nothing to brag about.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

one of my many feminist rants

Yesterday I wrote a very long, detailed feminist deconstruction of the movie Alice in Wonderland. It was great, but you'll have to take my word for it because it didn't "save." Which, technically, means that I probably got distracted, moved away from the computer and some little fingers experimented with the keys. Or something like that. I'm collecting clues to get to the bottom of it. So far I have tiny circles written in pen on the letters "F13" and "delete." I'll get back to you all on further developments as they come in.

The point of my blog yesterday was this: I'm tired of men (director Tim Burton) and women (screenplay writer Linda Woolverton) telling women "how to be awesome" today! I'm so tired of charming, sweet stories (Alice in Wonderland) taking on modern adaptations in the exact same way: making women be "awesome." As in, in order for them to have value, they have to be like men are, traditionally. They need to fight literal battles, be sexually provocative, and like what men like. If you like something traditionally female (marriage, having children specifically) the story will never, ever be about you. But you might get a cameo in the movie revealing that you are secretly jealous of the awesome woman, or just not as brave, smart, or self-aware as she is. And the movie won't leave you alone--they will pity you and use you as a cautionary tale until you're embarrassed to admit you would ever wanted any of those things. Pretty women are good, ugly women are evil. It's boring storytelling, it's lazy, and it's insulting. And it is the only message we have, or I seem to see, in modern pop culture.

There. I feel a little better. I got that out. Not exactly the literary prose I was looking for to express myself but, like most women, I'm tired. I'll let some of my sisters say it:

You don't have to be anti-man to be pro-woman. ~Jane Galvin Lewis

Men are taught to apologize for their weaknesses, women for their strengths. ~Lois Wyse

Instead of getting hard ourselves and trying to compete, women should try and give their best qualities to men - bring them softness, teach them how to cry. ~Joan Baez, "Sexism Seen but not Heard," Los Angeles Times, 1974

Feminism directly confronts the idea that one person or set of people [has] the right to impose definitions of reality on others. ~Liz Stanley and Sue Wise

All this pitting of sex against sex, of quality against quality; all this claiming of superiority and imputing of inferiority belong to the private-school stage of human existence where there are sides, and it is necessary for one side to beat another side. ~Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own, 1929

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Stalling

The other night Margaret woke up at 2 am, screaming. As a rule, I'm a firm believer in letting kids "cry it out" at night, because all my parenting abilities and theories hinge around "sleep." (and save the comments about how you don't agree with this kind of parenting because a. this is my 5th child b. it's worked and all my kids are good sleepers and they still love me c. I'm not shopping around for other techniques) Anywho. . . she wouldn't give up, and she sounded wide awake, and I was, so I went in and asked my two year old, "What's the matter?" Margaret reached up and said

"Snuggle?" I couldn't resist. She was so pathetic and cute, so we had a snuggle, rocked for a little bit, and then I put her to bed. "Drink?" she asked, hesitantly, like a last request. . . so I got her a quick drink of water and tucked her into bed.
"Purple?" and "pink?" were added (blankets with original names) with a "one, two, three" dramatic draping. All snuggled in.
Then she asked for "Julie and Sally?" her twin dolls. Safely tucked under each arm I told her I loved her and quietly tip toed toward my escape.
She looked up with a bit of panic she didn't want to fully reveal and said, "Drink?"
"No, you've already had one. Good night." I replied.
"Banana?"
"Nope. Dinner's over. Go to bed!"
"Sandwich?"
"No! Everyone's asleep!"
"Milk?"
"No."
"Uh," stalling for one final request. . .thinking of something, anything I can't resist, she comes up with "Washa my hands?" and holds up her hands towards her face with desperation in her eyes.
"No. Tomorrow. Tomorrow we'll wash your hands. . .now go to bed!"

and she did.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Oscars

Maybe you watched the Oscars last night. Maybe you're like my family and you're not sure when the Superbowl is or whose playing, but you know who will win for best actor, and who should win. Then maybe you'd be like my family.

I don't have strong opinions about who won and who didn't. Topher and I agreed that as long as Avatar didn't win best picture, we'd be okay with the results, whatever they may be. And we weren't disappointed.

What fascinated me most about the Oscars were three things:

1. "Tight on the top, ruffle-heavy on the bottom" is the Oscar theme of 2010.




2. I really think Charlize Theron should have rethought this:

Flowers? Pastries? What? There? Too obvious? What?

3. I think it's really interesting that James Cameron and his exwife, Katheryn Bigelow, were both up for best director
Apparently they divorced after Cameron had an affair with an actress on the Titanic (the movie, not the ship), who he is still with today. Other sources suggest he was a workaholic, and that's why the marriage didn't work. It's not for me to say (I tell myself). But here's the zinger: They all sat next to each other during the Oscars! (AWKward)
I kept thinking, they're all handling this really well, good for them. But then Cameron, when he lost to Bigelow, clapped a little toooo excitedly for Bigelow, and that made sense to me. You know the cameras are on, Cameron. Well played, Cameron, well played. (Even though I wanted Bigelow to wear more lipstick) I think she's incredibly beautiful, and it made me feel like women who have been left in one way or another, everywhere, were vindicated a little. I mean, she made an awesome movie with less money, less press, and less help in less time than the spectacle that is Avatar, and she won! I mean, she won.