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


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.
"Nope. Dinner's over. Go to bed!"
"No! Everyone's asleep!"
"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.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

anatomy of a play date

My friend Josh called me the other day and this was our conversation:

Josh: Hello, Lisa!
Lisa: Hey! How are you?
Josh: Great! Can Seth come over tomorrow from 2 to 3:30?
Lisa: Yeah, that time works great for us. Hugh will be so excited!
Josh: Great! Thanks and see you tomorrow!

scene. (approximately 14 seconds)

I got off the phone and laughed--absolutely delighted.
This is how 99% of my play date conversations typically go:

Judy: Hello, Lisa!
Lisa: Oh, Hi Judy!
Judy: How are you?
Lisa: Good! How are you?
Judy: Oh, great! You doin' okay, then? Topher gone a lot?
Lisa: Yeah, his play is INSERT WHATEVER I WAS JUST THINKING ABOUT TOPHER'S LATEST PROJECT (it's over/winding down/in the middle of rehearsals/whatever), you should go see it!
Judy: Yeah, I will, I will. . .
Lisa: What's going on with you guys? You alright?
Judy: Yeah, things are going well for us. . .(INSERT REPORT ON EACH MEMBER OF THE FAMILY) What about you guys?
Judy: (LAUGHS) (Comments on story like "Oh, that's our Hugh!" "Oh, If I had a NICKEL!")
Lisa: Well, what can I do for you?
Judy: Well, I hesitate to ask. .. I know you're so busy!
Lisa: Well, you are, TOO! What are you talking about!?
Judy: Well, what are you doing on Friday?
Lisa: Oh, (INSERT SOME JOKE ABOUT A MENIAL HOUSEHOLD TASK) (most likely laundry or an exasperated expression like "just trying to hold it together!" or "just wrangling the monkeys!")
Judy: Yeah, tell me about it!
Judy: Well, AND YOU CAN SAY NO, but, is there ANYway Trevor could come over on Friday for a couple of hours on Friday while I (INSERT TASK THAT COULD BE CONSIDERED FUN, BUT MAKE TO SOUND NECESSARY AND SOMETHING YOU CAN'T GET OUT OF)
Lisa: Well sure! I'm sure Trevor and Hugh will have a great time! It will be fun!
Judy: Are you SURE! And, you know, I'll return the favor! Anytime, anytime!
Lisa; Oh, I know! I'll be sure to take you up on that!
Judy: Do! Do!
Lisa: I will! (maybe)
Judy: I'm going to hold you to that!
Lisa: Okay.
Judy: Well, if something comes up, let me know.
Lisa: I will. I'll see you Friday!
Judy: Okay! And thanks a lot. I'll see you Friday. And, one of these days, we need to get together and go to lunch! We just need to DO IT!
Lisa: I know, right?
Judy: Okay. Talk to you soon!
Lisa: Bye!
Judy: Bye!

scene (approximately 24 minutes)

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

If you're in the area and, even if it's a bit of a drive, do yourself a favor and go ahead and see Hale Center Theater's Production of "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels!" But don't take MY WORD for it! (Any "Reading Rainbow" fans? Star Trek? Nevermind. . . )

It's really funny. I might have laughed "a little too loudly" when I saw it, but, what's done is done. There are so many gems and funny little additions that I cannot describe. Just trust me: FUN. E. I'm going back, in case you wanted to know. Also, just so you know you're in on the joke, when you see a carton of french fries come out on a tray, think to yourself, "Oh, those are the french fries that have been sitting out for weeks, held together by hot glue--the very carton of fries that, when they came out opening night, Lisa's son, Owen saw and nervously whispered to Topher, 'I ATE some of those fries backstage!' and Miles and Topher laughed and laughed about that for days. . ."

I always want Topher's productions to go well because I want it to mean SOMETHING--that all that time spent away was for the betterment of others. Namely, you! So go see it. Too much pressure? You're too tired to buy tickets and go to a play? Try putting all five kids to bed by yourself every night for 2 months and all that entails, and we'll talk about exhausting.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Do I schedule an appointment for the child therapist now, or do I wait for other "warning signs?"

On Sunday, after a marathon Young Women Meeting ("Superhero theme" for New Beginnings, if you're dying to know!), I came home to find my kids each doing the activity that best describes them at this time in their lives: Miles reading on the couch, Margaret dancing (versus napping), Phoebe drawing, Owen building legos, and Hugh showing me THIS:

Look closely, now. That's an army of stuffed animals with individual weapons. And, as Hugh explains "They're COMING FOR YOU!"

That's a princess build a bear with a nerf sword. I'm guessing the glasses are for precision.

This is a cute beanie baby Owen got as a baby in the hospital from his uncle who had just come home from his mission, aiming his nerf gun at a stuffed cougar we got Margaret on vacation because we missed her so much. I'm glad we can make new memories with these cute animals!

For some reason, this is the most chilling scene: a parrot with a baseball bat. This image haunts me.

I mean, look at the evil. It's in his eye.