Where the inside of my mind leaks onto the screen.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

What's New...

These pictures {almost} speak for themselves...

Monday, March 21, 2011


My life has been a little over-the-top busy lately.  I took on two extra classes at the school where I teach, which completely ate up my prep time.  I now stay later any day I can, just attempting to stay ahead of my next day's lessons.  Many days I don't get home until 6:00, which was hard enough before Oklahoma! rehearsals started.

My wonderful husband understands my need to occasionally get up on stage and earn some applause.  I haven't been on stage since I did Seussical the Musical in March of 2009, so he agreed to let me audition at the local Empress Theatre.  Since the beginning of March, I've had rehearsal every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday evening plus Saturday mornings.  Rehearsal starts at 6:30, which means Kirk has been responsible for making and cleaning up dinner plus taking care of the kids and putting them to bed.  To be honest, I've been feeling like a bit of a failure around the house.

So on Sunday when I ran in the door from church, quickly gathered my stuff for ward choir practice, and turned around to head straight out the door again, I took a moment to thank Kirk.  "Thanks, hon, for keeping this family going," I sighed.  "Why do you say that?" he asked.  "Because I'm never here.  I feel like I just bear the children and then leave.  Isn't it the penguins or something who are like that?  The females lay the eggs and then leave the dads to sit on them?"

"Yeah," Kirk said, "but the females go out and gather fish for three months and then come back."  He smiled his don't-take-this-next-part-too-seriously smile and finished with a wink, "At least they're doing something!"

Life is not slated to slow down anytime soon, either, because as soon as Oklahoma! opens, I'm going to be working as the music director for the upcoming DAC production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and then this summer I'm starting a new endeavor as the director of the Empress Theatre's new children's theatre program, EYT.

People often ask my how I do it, and the answer is so simple.  I married well.  Thanks, hon, for being far more than just a breadwinner in this family.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Happy Leprechaun Day

I don't know about you, but I've yet to hear a single word about St. Patrick's Day.  Around here, we are celebrating Leprechaun Day, complete with anticipation for the Leprechaun parties both kids will be having at school today.

Last year was my first attempt at Leprechaun Day festivity.  Not one much for the minor holidays, I traditionally let it slip with no more acknowledgement than the required bit of green attire.  But for the kids sake I thought I'd  at least slip some green food coloring into the pancakes.  The kids loved it, and I eagerly anticipated this year's Leprechaun Day so we could eat some more leprechaun spit.

Well, those little green men played their dirty tricks and spit in our oatmeal and milk.

The kids were delighted and began jabbering incessantly about the finer points of leprechaun lore.  I quickly grabbed the laptop to jot down the conversation as it happened:

Alex: Leprechauns are nice!
Adam: Yeah, and they always keep their promises.
Alex: And if you don't wear green, they won't tell you where their pot of gold is.
Adam: They also play tricks.
Alex: Oh, also, if you don't wear green, they will pinch you!
Adam: FIVE TIMES! (looking sideways at me...) Really, they will pinch you five times.
Adam: And they're fast like the bat ride. (At Lagoon, I assume.)

After a few minutes of this exchange, I realized everyone was carefully avoiding actually eating the oatmeal.  I tried explaining that leprechaun spit is tasteless, but to no avail.  When I forced Adam to take a bite, he actually gagged and nearly threw up.  I forced one more bite, hoping to win him over, but no go.

So I threw out two full bowls of oatmeal and two full glasses of milk and started over.  I'm still struggling with the wasted food here.

Concerned that the second round of oatmeal would end up equally defiled, the kids carefully guarded the oatmeal from the moment it hit the boiling water until it arrived on their place mats.

We moved past leprechaun spit to talks of trying to trap leprechauns in the raisin bowl and progressed onto  wardrobe choices for the day.

And since getting a good picture of all three at the same time is nearly impossible, I've opted to post a picture of all three looking grouchy.  Adam is trying to refute Alex's claims that Adam hurt him, and Dylan is mad I made him hold still.  Nothing like a picture that captures reality instead of carefully staged smiles, right?  Trust me, I tried for the staged smiles...

Ah, Leprechaun Day, you do truly seem to be full of tricks.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Tiger Mom

** Be forewarned - the following blog reads a lot like one of my college papers and is nearly as long.  I'm not quite sure why that happened, so read at your own risk!

Remember how I said I was going to be reading every issue of Time Magazine this year?  Well, it is now March 10th, and I'm still on the January 31st issue, but hey... I'm plugging away.

This issue was a special report on "Tiger Moms," inspired by a controversial memoir written by Amy Chua about the style of parenting she used to rear her two daughters.  If, like me, this term is new to you, here's a quick definition:

Tiger mothers are strict parents who demand excellence in academics from their children.  In her book, Chua states that, "The Tiger, the living symbol of strength and power, generally inspires fear and respect."

What started off as, "Man that lady is crazy," quickly turned into, "Wait a minute... I think I was raised by a tiger mom," and finally morphed into, "Yep, I believe in most of this stuff and that is the way I parent."

The controversial stuff, like calling her daughter "garbage," rejecting a hastily drawn birthday card saying, "I deserve better than this, so I reject this," and forcing her 7-year-old daughter to practice the piano for hours into the night until she perfected a piece, is of course not the stuff with which I'm agreeing.  But the underlying methods and motives are exactly how I was raised, and I can specifically attribute the best things about myself to these principles.

Chua tells stories of never accepting a grade lower than an A, a direct parallel to my childhood.  On more than one occasion, I brought home A- tests thinking I'd done pretty okay.  Mom would say, "Okay, but which questions did you miss.  Why didn't you earn an A?"  The thing is, my mom would have accepted a C if she knew it was my best work.  But as a child of intelligent and educated parents in an environment conducive to learning, even my mediocre effort produced A's.  Since A work was indicative of best work, A work was expected.

Sometimes even getting the grade wasn't good enough for my mom.  At Challenger, where I attended school, we had to memorize and pass off poems each week.  I have always had a great short-term memory, so rather than studying at home to pass off my poem, I would cross my fingers and hope to be at least the 4th or 5th student to recite.  I could memorize the poem during the first 3 recitations and be good to go.  I got the A week after week, but when my mom (a fifth grade teacher in the adjacent classroom) caught on to my tricks, she asked my teacher to require me to go first each week, and I had to learn to actually put the effort into the memorization.

One of the values taught to LDS young women is self worth.  Kirk and I often joke about my more than ample supply, referencing an episode of  "That 70's Show" where the self-centered character, Jackie, explains, "If I could run across the beach into my own arms, I would."  All joking aside, I feel incredibly lucky to have a strong sense of self worth when this is an issue with which so many women fight lifelong battles.  If there is one thing I want to do the way my parents did it, it is whatever they did to make me so confident.

Reading Chua's interpretation of a major difference between Chinese and American parenting, I began to understand the foundations on which my confidence was built.  While American parents often insulate their children from discomfort and distress (insert frustration with the lack of competition allowed in schools and some sports), "Chinese parents," she writes, "assume strength, not fragility, and as a result [their children] behave differently."  And according to the article's author, research shows that "kids who have a well-earned sense of mastery are more optimistic and decisive; they've learned that they're capable of overcoming adversity and achieving goals."

I'm betting that's why my mom made sure I learned to do the work to memorize the poem.  I know it's one of the main reasons she forced me to play the piano.  She never hid the fact that I was required to play the piano because it was something I actually had to work at, and she wanted me to experience the satisfaction of working hard to accomplish something.

Chua's daughters were not allowed playdates, sleepovers, television, computer games, or even school plays.  While not a direct parallel, there were certainly similarities in my upbringing.  While never expressly disallowed, our schedule just didn't accommodate playdates.  My mom taught at Challenger (a private school) so we could afford to attend a school where the standards of education were particularly high.  We lived 30 minutes from the school, and we would stay at school until mom was done correcting papers.  We'd do our homework there at the school, then drive home in time for dinner.  We ate dinner as a family, relaxed as a family, and went to bed.  This notion of playing with neighbors after school is completely foreign to me, because it just wasn't a part of my life.

And video games?  Not that I ever wanted to play them, but if I had, they would not have been allowed.  As parents often do, my mom did soften a bit for her last child and purchased a Wii a couple of years ago.  But I know my brother's video game time is nothing compared to the average 17 year old male.  Add to that the strict moral and religious principles taught and lived in our home, and one might consider my childhood to be overly sheltered and restricted.

Chua, who learned her parenting style from her even stricter Chinese parents, says, "By restricting my choices as a child, they gave me so many choices in my life as an adult."  Not only do I think that statement resonates within my religious beliefs regarding my choices to not smoke, drink, etc., but it precisely reflects the motivation behind the choices my mom made in raising me.

A small but powerful parallel struck me as I read about Chua's willingness to "drill, baby, drill."  She writes, "Tenacious practice, practice, practice is crucial for excellence; rote repetition is underrated in America."  Any of my former Challenger classmates would get a kick out of this because I'm sure there's not a single one of them who can't still recite the prepositions we learned in 5th and 6th grade.  (My mom was my teacher for both of these grades.)  "Aboard, about, above, across, after, against, along, amid, among, around, at..."  And those are just the A's.  As a sophomore in honors English, I remember reviewing prepositions and racing a classmate and Challenger graduate to see who could recite the complete list faster.  I think my best was 47 seconds.  How that translates to parenting, I'm not so sure, but the comparison just made me laugh.

The underlying idea here is that the tiger-mother approach is simply to expect the best from your children, and don't settle for anything less.  Not only does that sum up how I was raised, but I know it sums up how my mom was raised, too.  In a book about my grandmother, my Uncle Wesley states, "When we did anything, we better put everything we had into it.  Mom expected us to be the best at whatever we did.  This didn't mean we had to win at everything, just do our best." 

But my favorite excerpt could have been taken straight from my mom's mouth.  "What Chinese parents understand," says Chua, "is that nothing is fun until you're good at it."  At the beginning of every musical my mom directs, she always explains that we are all there to have a lot of fun.  Then she gives her definition of fun, which is to work hard and become very good at what we are doing.  She explains, "If your definition of fun is to come and talk to your friends, this may not be the best place for you."  I have to admit, I've stolen her lines and use this in the opening rehearsal of all my shows.  But only because to me, this a fundamental and universal truth.  Nothing is fun until you're good at it.

That said, I'm not exactly on the path to tiger-mom.  My kids play just as much video games and computer games as the next American kid, and I often find myself insulating with praise.  But the ideals here are ones I agree with an hope to implement in my own way.

What's your take?

Monday, March 7, 2011

A Big Week

It's been a big week around here.  Dylan has been benefiting from our increased attention and encouragement of his physical and language skills, and he has learned so much.  Not only did he start walking (yay!) but he has also mastered several other new skills:

- Echoes the word "uh oh"
- Waves goodbye
- Signs "more" (but only when seriously coerced)
- Babbles with the consonants "d" and "b"
- Creates a pretty much steady stream of noise throughout the day
- Interacts with other family members instead of just clinging to Mom
- Directs me to do his bidding with a series of grunts, pointing, and occasionally picking up my hand to put it where he thinks it should be

But he's not the only one reaching milestones around here.

We have our first lost tooth!  It was pretty wiggly on Monday at our dentist's cleanings, and the hygienist predicted he'd lose it within the week.  Sure enough, at dinner on Tuesday night, Adam complained that he couldn't eat his grilled ham and cheese sandwich because it hurt his tooth too bad.  I told him he'd better just pull the tooth out, then.  He wiggled it for a minute or two then asked his daddy for help.  I swear Kirk barely touched the thing, and it fell right out!  The tooth fairy made her first visit and deposited a much-anticipated dollar.  Thanks to a few days of fevers, Adam hasn't been able to head to the dollar store to spend his booty yet, but he just reminded me, "Mom... I think my fever is gone today.  That means we get to go to the dollar store!"  So we'll have to fit that in.

As for Alex, the highlight of his week was being picked up by Adam from school on Thursday in what his preschool friends seemed to think was the coolest ride ever:

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Dare to Compare

When our family went bowling and Dylan was hanging out with the bowling balls, I remembered a similarly posed picture from years ago.  If I could have remembered the exact setup from the Adam pictures, I'd have tried to recreate it, but still... here are two pictures I can't help but compare.  So here's the question... which baby is older?

And the answer is...

Dylan: 16 months 1 week
Adam: 12 months 3 weeks