Where the inside of my mind leaks onto the screen.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Not Gutsy Enough

It's true: I am not quite gutsy enough to post this on Facebook.  My own opinion isn't solid enough to withstand the potential criticism of zealous acquaintances, nor are my personal thoughts intended to be kindling for debate. 

So I am posting here.  Where my friends know where to find my personal thoughts, and where - I hope - I can reflect peacefully.

As so many songs of the season suggest, we're supposed to be headed into some of the happiest days the year has to offer.  And with the recent news that gay marriage has been legalized in Utah, it seems to be extra true.  Me personally, well, I don't think the government should have a say in marriage.  So that makes any other pros and cons moot.  But my feelings today are simple:

How could something that makes so many good people happy be a bad thing?

Yes, I happen to faithfully practice a religion which teaches a tiered postmortal existence, the highest level of which is attainable only by adhering to some pretty specific guidelines.  I've chosen to adhere.  But I've also been taught that all the tiers are pretty great, and that the people in them all get to participate in eternal life.

Yes, I want my friends to get a shot at the box seats in the top tier.  That would be awesome.  But that's not my choice.  Plus, lots of them don't buy into my religious beliefs anyway.  So it seems a bit obnoxious of me to try to force them into a seat they don't want.

What I would really like to see is my friends getting a chance to exercise their agency to weigh their options and make the choices they think will bring the most happiness.  If they've found someone that makes then happy, then I think they should commit, marry, and build a life together. 

Does today's announcement make me happy?  Meh.  It doesn't affect me directly, so I was initially pretty apathetic.

But today's announcement seems to make so many other people happy - and for a good reason - that I can't seem to ignore the added holiday cheer. 

Congratulations to all those who are able to make a legal commitment of marriage today.

I am happy for you.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Balanced Breakfast

Draft from October 2013 - found, completed, and edited in December 2013.

A balanced breakfast this is not.  Quite the opposite, actually.  This is the aftermath of a breakfast badly balanced on my dashboard after my decree that we were running so late for school that the oatmeal would have to be eaten en route.  Thankfully, the spill happened at the end of our driveway, so we were able to run back in the house, quickly trade one pair of uniform khakis for the next, and try our drive to school for a second time.

This sure felt like a bad start to the day.  In fact, for a full 6 1/2 minutes of our 13 minute morning drive, I was pretty certain the entire day would just have to follow suit.  But despite the morning's rocky start, I soon found that while breakfast had not been balanced, my morning would be.

We've been reading from the Book of Mormon each morning on the way to school.  Besides being important, it also goes along way toward Adam's required 20 reading minutes and Al's required 10-15.  (Insert Andrea's non-doctrinally supported opinion here: when kids learn to read using the scriptures as their main text, they are taught by the Holy Ghost, who I assume is a way better reading teacher than any they will ever have at school.)

Anyhow, in 3 1/2 weeks, we've made it all the way to 1 Nephi Chapter 12.  Which is actually not bad, considering it took us the whole first week to read 2 chapters.  But now that Alex could easily pass off the words "and," "it," "came," "to," and  "pass" on any sight word test, we've picked up the pace a bit, and we can actually read a good 25 verses on our drive.

But as we read, I have often wondered where we are on comprehension.  Sure, just the ability to sound out the words in the scriptures has merit, but if we really want any spiritual or scholastic rewards, it would seem comprehension would also be pretty key.

This is where the original post stopped.  I have no idea where I was headed, but I decided to add a story from a month or so later.

Continued on October 29, 2013

It caught me a bit off guard when, this morning, Adam read several consecutive verses in 2 Nephi 4 as though he had suddenly taken the podium and was delivering a heartfelt speech:

30 Rejoice, O my heart, and cry unto the Lord, and say: O Lord, I will praise thee forever; yea, my soul will rejoice in thee, my God, and the rock of my salvation.
 31 O Lord, wilt thou redeem my soul? Wilt thou deliver me out of the hands of mine enemies? Wilt thou make me that I may shake at the appearance of sin?
 32 May the gates of hell be shut continually before me, because that my heart is broken and my spirit is contrite! O Lord, wilt thou not shut the gates of thy righteousness before me, that I may walk in the path of the low valley, that I may be strict in the plain road!
 33 O Lord, wilt thou encircle me around in the robe of thy righteousness! O Lord, wilt thou make a way for mine escape before mine enemies! Wilt thou make my path straight before me! Wilt thou not place a stumbling block in my way—but that thou wouldst clear my way before me, and hedge not up my way, but the ways of mine enemy.
 34 O Lord, I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee forever. I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh; for I know that cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh. Yea, cursed is he that putteth his trust in man or maketh flesh his arm.
 35 Yea, I know that God will give liberally to him that asketh. Yea, my God will give me, if I bask not amiss; therefore I will lift up my voice unto thee; yea, I will cry unto thee, my God, the rock of my righteousness. Behold, my voice shall forever ascend up unto thee, my rock and mine everlasting God. Amen.

The chapter ended, and he returned back to his normal somewhat metronome-like reading voice.  But the moment lingered in the car.  More accurately, I should say the Spirit lingered in the car and testified to me that though the boys may not get the scriptures yet, when we choose to live obediently and make the words of the Lord a part of our daily routine, our whole family will be blessed by the presence of the Holy Ghost.

Thoughts from December 18, 2013

Our speed is improving, and I am particularly impressed with how well Alex reads.  We've worked him into a regular rotation now, since he can handle (albeit slowly) even the hardest verses.  Adam reads almost as fluidly as I do, and we should be finishing 2 Nephi this week.  I feel particularly proud that we've established a habit of scripture reading, and I've noticed a sense of calm that helps me start each day in a balanced way.  And though I don't look forward to any more spilled oatmeal, I don't mind the knowledge that whatever else happens, the scriptures can help us find balance.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

V is for Vampire

One of my favorite things about working at the school my kids attend is the chance I get to hear stories firsthand from the adults in the building.  Most these stories fall into one of two categories:

Adam is the best big brother ever


Alex thinks he's a vampire

So when the custodian approached me recently and began, "I have the funniest story to tell you about Adam," I figured I knew just where he was headed.

Apparently, my son had stopped him in the hallway.  "Mr. Hayes,"...

[I kept listening, but I was already putting puzzle pieces together.  Adam is not the kind of kid to approach an adult in the hallway and just start talking.]

..."Did you know that if you have a 'V' on your hand, then it means..."

[Again, not typical of my fact-based eldest.  Most humans are born without letters on their hands, and no textbook has ever taught Adam the meaning of wrinkles.]

..."you are a vampire?"

[Clearly, this is a story about Alex.]

I politely interrupted.  "You must mean Alex, my younger son?"

Mr. Hayes nodded, "Yeah, the little one."

Reassured that I did actually know my kids, I listened more intently to the rest of his story.

"Alex asked me to show him my hand.  I showed it to him, and sure enough, the lines on my palm come to a V on each of my hands."

[Go ahead... check... I know I did.  I am only prominently V'd on the right palm.]

Mr. Hayes finished, "Well, then Alex looked right up at me and said,

'I always knew there was something about you!'"

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Let it Snow

A little fun from our ward party last week.  We had a lot of fun rehearsing way too loudly way too late at night for this one!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Take a Number

Unlike most of the Facebook fads, I have really enjoyed the current "number" trend in which people are required to list interesting things about themselves.  I've been reluctant to play on Facebook, but I'm willing to play here.

The trick is trying to come up with something I haven't already referenced in this blog.  It will be especially hard to avoid the 7 things I revealed in 2008!  If you read here, you probably know me pretty well!  But I will try.

1.  I just got released from teaching Gospel Doctrine in my ward.  And I got called to be the Young Women's Personal Progress leader.  I haven't blogged about it yet, because it is new and I'm nervous, and I'm not ready to dissect it yet.  :)

2. My earliest memory is when I was about 4 years old.  My family had recently moved to Utah from Ohio when my Uncle John died suddenly.  We flew to Ohio for the funeral (my first plane ride), and we brought along a bag full of my favorite books.  After the return flight home, I discovered we had left my books on the plane.  The disappointment of losing my books is the first memory I have.

3. I can count my entire lifetime of close female friends on two hands.  I can think of nine girls/women who would make that list, and I am grateful for the support they each have given me through various times in my life.

4. If I count my sisters, that number is 11.  My sister Lisa was my confidant regarding boys from a very early age.  I went boy crazy in 3rd grade, at which point Lisa and I would go outside each Friday night and shoot hoops while I told her about my problems.  She gave pretty sound advice - for a Kindergartener.  When I was in high school and in love for the first time, she was still the one I turned to.  But then it was over ice cream cones from Arctic Circle or pretzels at South Towne mall.  (I've posted enough love about Michelle lately, but if I'm being honest, she'd kind of my best friend.)

5. I think I'm starting to not hate pink.  Don't tell my anti-pink family.

6. My favorite shape is a square.  Straight lines.  Symmetry.  Happiness.

7. Once upon a time, I wanted to be a journalist.  I even went to Iowa on a Greyhound all by myself to get to a week-long summer journalism camp.  Actually, that would make a good full-length blog post.  (note to self)

8. When Kirk and I first got married, one of our favorite shows to watch together was Strange Days at Blake Holsey High.  What?  You've never heard of it?  That's because it was on Discovery Kids on Saturday mornings.  :)

9. I am from Ohio.  My dad is originally from West Virginia, but grew up in Ohio.  He met my mom (who is from Idaho) at Ricks College (in choir... just how I always thought I'd meet my husband).  They got married and moved to Ohio where my dad finished college (he went to Kent State where the shootings happened, but finished up at Akron University).  When I was almost 4, we moved to Utah.  Also related to this, I proudly consider myself to be trailer trash, because my parents owned and lived in a trailer when I was little.  I am proud of the fact that they did what they needed to do to put my dad's education first.

10. Apparently my love language is "quality time."  (I got a little caught up in internet quizzes this week.)  Don't buy me presents or say nice things to me.  Just put away your phone and let me be the center of attention.  That's all I need!

11. I love it when the clock shows repeated numbers.  My favorite times of day are 2:22, 4:44, and 11:11.  I don't know why those beat out 1:11, 3:33, 5:55, but my guess is that I must also have a thing for even numbers.  Even though 11 is odd, 11:11 features an even number of digits and is beautifully symmetrical.

12. I can only eat half a banana before the texture makes me gag.

13. I acquired an enhanced sense of smell during my pregnancies, and it never went away.  I am constantly whining about gross smells that no one else seems to notice.  I also seem to have an increasing gag reflex, and I find that I frequently have to look away from t.v. scenes so I don't gag.  Most recent was the dead fish on New Girl.  Ugh... just thinking about it makes me want to gag.

14. I hate Facebook on days when everyone cares about the same thing.  Elections, general conference, holidays, major sporting events, and abnormal weather make me want to take cover for a few days until it blows over.

15. I'm pretty sure I have an ulcer.  I get to find out on December 20th.  I'm pretty sure I'm more excited for that appointment than I am for Christmas.

16. I think it is amazing that of all the last names I could have married into, I became a musical instrument.  It makes me happy every time I think about it.  However, I get annoyed with spelling it F-as-in-Frank, I, F-as-in-Frank, E.  It's FIFE, people.  Not Fise.  Not Sise.  (And to my students, I am not actually Mrs. Five, btw.)  Also, it is not pronounced Fee-fee, or Fee-fay.  Oh, and though it is Andrea Fife out loud, it is always Andrea K. Fife in print.  I just love how it looks.

17. I have just entered what may be an extended period of using my self-appointed nickname: Anna.  Little kids can't say Andrea.  Go ahead - say it out loud and pay attention to the tricky middle where your lips have to make three or four different shapes consecutively to get the three-consonants-in-a-row to blend correctly.  Yeah, kids can't do that.  I'm teaching Princess Ty to call me Anna, and John and Ryder won't be far behind.  (Aside: For one year when Jack was learning to talk, my whole family called me Annie.  As soon as he could say Andrea, I killed the nickname.)  (Second Aside: In my senior yearbook, several friends addressed me as "Caz" or "Cazzie," one of the only legit nicknames I've ever had.  I liked it, but it was short lived.)  (Third Aside: Around the same period of time, a different group of friends called me Anj.  This is my favorite nickname of all time, and is still used by a select handful of people, all of whom now reside in Georgia.)  (Fourth Aside: In elementary, my nickname was Squeaker.  If you've ever heard me get tickled, you know why.)

18. It makes my day when I find out people read my blog.  I really do write it just because I like to write, but it makes me feel really happy to find out somebody else likes my style, or likes my stories, or likes my kids, or... well, likes me.

19. I wish I could go back to high school.  I think I could do it so much better now than I did it then.  I would love to be back in the classrooms, back in choir, back at the lunch table with my group of friends.  I could totally go for high school during the day, and wife and mother at night.

20. I talk all the time.  "Duh, I knew that..." you're thinking.  Well, you knew I talk a LOT out loud.  But imagine the few moments when I'm not making noise verbally.  My own voice is talking out loud in my head all the time.  Driving, showering, eating.  You name it.  There is a constant stream of dialogue in my head at all times.  Even right now.  I'm narrating this blog post as I write.  Think J.T. on Scrubs.  That's me.

Well, that's a lot more than I thought I would come up with, so I'm going to pretend my number was 20 and get back to work!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Watching Soccer

"Are you actually watching soccer?" Kirk asked me, just moments before Real Salt Lake scored their first goal in Sunday's game.

I could see where he'd gotten that impression.  I was facing the game.  My eyes were following the players.  And I had my trademark look of confusion that is generally indicative of my level of attentiveness.

So my answer was preceded with a knowing chuckle.  "Watching?  No.  Looking at?  Contemplating?  Yes.  Using the players as the jumping off point for my surmisings?  (not a word... oh well)  I was definitely doing that.  But watching soccer?  Of course not."

"I figured you weren't," he responded.  "But for a second there, it really looked like you were paying attention."  He paused expectantly, clearly wanting some insight regarding this anomaly.

I decided to fess up.

"Well, actually, I was watching the players.  I was trying to determine if their shorts are all the same length.  And if not, how did they end up that way?   Does each player get a say in the preferred length of his shorts?  And then that sent me on a tangent about the construction of the shorts.  Does Real just pick their shorts out of a catalogue, ordering the sizes and colors they want?  And then, maybe if one guy has a bit thicker waist, his shorts end up looking longer?  Or the guys with really muscley thighs end up with shorter looking shorts because their muscles take up more of the fabric?  Or does someone design the uniforms, and then the guys get measured, and the uniforms are made exactly for their size?  Because if that is the case, then all the shorts should either look exactly the same, or it would have to be intentional that they aren't the same length. Which lead me back to my original question.  Does each player get a say in the preferred length of his shorts?"

I finally paused for a breath.

Kirk laughed.  "I knew you weren't watching soccer."  

Monday, November 25, 2013

Thanksgiving Prayer

I was part of something pretty cool this morning.

I arrived at work a little more on time than I've managed lately, as evidenced by the fact that when one of the 6th grade teachers entered my room to invite my team teacher outside, apparently as usual, I felt completely out of the loop.  However, the invitation was quickly extended to include me as well, and the group filled me in on the plan.

Apparently, each Monday, a few teachers in my building gather at the flagpole to join in a prayer to start the week.  Being, as I am, a pretty strong believer in the power of prayer, and feeling - as I generally do - as though I could benefit from any and all possible sources of additional energy, I eagerly joined the group.

Knowing this particular group of teacher was multi-denominational, I didn't know what to expect.  But coming from my Latter Day Saint background, I had anticipated the group all bowing heads to join in the words offered by one selected participant.  I thought it was great that the sixth grade teacher was joined in or small circle by her two children who attend the school.  I thought it was also great that she invited her 4th grade son to offer the prayer.  I folded my arms and bowed my head, the traditions to which I am accustomed, and listened to his words of gratitude.  I figured at the conclusion of his prayer, we would be done.

But as he finished, his sister took over, offering her own prayer.  Her prayer was followed by that of her mother's.  Then my son's 3rd grade teacher took a turn, praying in a slightly less formal but equally earnest manner.

I was a bit nervous, knowing it was my turn.  Would there be anything left to say that the other's hadn't said?  Would they find the formal way in which I address my Heavenly Father to be strange?  Thankfully, the Holy Ghost quickly reminded me that this wasn't a chance for me to show of my prayer skills.  Rather, it was a chance to follow the example of the faithful women who had gone before me, and to take a moment to talk to Heavenly Father before beginning this school week.  I didn't need to add to their prayers.  I didn't need to try to do anything.  I just needed to pray.

So I prayed.  And then my team teacher prayed.  And then we all walked back into the school, ready to face this holiday week.

And speaking of that upcoming holiday, today I am thankful for the opportunity to learn from the example of others, to live in a country where people are free to worship as they choose, and to know that through prayer, I can communicate directly with my Father in Heaven.

I am truly blessed.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Dear Children

Dear Children of Mine,

Just because I teach at your school doesn't mean I know things.  Well, I mean, I know some things.  Like when your next music performanc is... because I am your music teacher.  I also know what homework several 5th graders are missing and what lesson I am teaching to my Intermediate Course 2 math students next Tuesday.  But - unless you tell me - I don't know your things. 

For the record, your teachers do not walk down the hall to give me a progress report every day.  And when I do see them in the lunchroom, we actually try really hard to talk about anything but you. 

Sure, I am supposed to know things.  All moms are supposed to know things.  That's why your teachers send home notes.  And they are important.  Because if you don't give them to me, I have no idea that you have a performance tomorrow and that you were supposed to have brought a toga.  By last Friday.  Ya know... hypothetically speaking.

Also, it really isn't easier for me to keep things straight because I work here.  Actually, it is harder!  Should I have known after school art was done last week?  Yes, I should have.  But I totally forgot since my after school theater and show choir classes continue into December.  So maybe a simple, "Hey, mom..." might be nice here and there.

Oh, and when I forget something, which I clearly will, that is the time when you should be able to benefit from having a mom just down the hall.  Come talk to me before arranging your own ride home from school (since you didn't need to stay for art...).  Or at least leave a note.  "Hey, mom.  I don't have art today.  I rode home with Aunt Michelle." 

Really, in general, just remember: I don't know things.  Not unless you tell me.  Sometimes not unless you remind me.  I want to help you with your toga.  Dad wants to be able to arrange his work day to make it to your performance.  And I would like to know where you are.  Always.

Please tell me things.


Friday, November 22, 2013


I'm not going to lie; working Fridays has been hard for me.  I know I live a charmed life in which I can sit back and whine, "Now that I'm working full time, I have to get out of bed before 6:00 a.m., and I even have to work five whole days during the week."  Yeah, I know... I'm a wuss, and so many of you have been doing that for years.  But I haven't.

I quit working full time when Adam was 6 months old.  I've always worked some during the 8.5 years since - teaching piano, working part time at a school, tending kids, bookkeeping for my dad... I have always had a job.  But I've had part time.  Or flexible.  Or 4-days a week.

And now I have contract hours.  On specific days.  And one of those days is FRIDAY.

If you're not a teacher, maybe you don't know what school is like on Friday.  In general, the kids are usually either wired or tired, which means it takes way more energy to teach the 5 hours of an early out day than any of the other full days.

And if you're not me, maybe you don't know what I'm like on Friday. In general, I'm either wired or tired, which means my natural personality is either egging on my precocious math group or I'm too tired to motivate my students to put 100% effort into their rough drafts.

Fridays are tough.  Period.

A glance at the calendar reveals this is only the 9th Friday we've had this school year.  Which means this being here on Friday thing is still pretty new to me.  In my past life (as a dedicated music teacher), I didn't teach on Fridays, because the kids don't attend specials on Friday.  Might I mention that I loved this.  But in agreeing to teach 5th grade (might I mention that I also love this), I also agreed to be here, focused, and effective 5 days a week.

And with some help, I'm doing it!

First of all, I don't waste precious Friday energy on deciding what to wear.  Teachers are allowed to wear the student uniform polo on Fridays as long as they are willing to wear the rest of the uniform with it.  There is exactly 1 teacher in the building who takes advantage of that policy.  Yours truly.  At first I was a bit self-conscious about it, but I quickly discovered that my students think it is cool that I dress like them.  I also found out that other teachers would wear the polo except they refuse to tuck in their shirts.  But I digress.  Although it doesn't seem like much, the comfort of the baggy polo frees up so much of my attention which I can then direct to squeezing out an extra 5 hours of awesome to get the job done the way it needs to be done.

But the thing that has helped me change my Friday song actually has nothing to do with school.

Once upon a time, when Kirk and I were young and poor and engaged to be married, we had a standing Thursday lunch date.  If I remember the details right, he didn't have class on Thursdays, so that meant he had time to make the drive from West Valley to Draper to come have lunch with me.

But as a poor, starving student, he couldn't actually afford to take me to lunch.  So we set the precedent of being together without needing to be fancy.  Every Thursday, he picked me up at my office and drove me to my parents' house where we spent an hour together and ate whatever we could find in the cupboards.  It was during one such lunch date that he proposed to me (over ramen noodles).

Fast forward nearly 13 years (and three kids) later, and we've finally found a way to reinstate the weekly lunch date!  Kirk works four 10's, so he has Fridays off.  He switched to this schedule to accommodate my full-time teaching schedule last spring, but we looked forward to the day we'd be able to enjoy our joint day off while two of our kids were in school.  But summer came, and along with it came a chance for Kirk to work some overtime.  He worked Fridays to bring home some extra for the family while I enjoyed my summer off with the kids.  Just as I geared up for EYT (with its five-day-a-week schedule), Kirk ended the overtime work and once again had his Fridays free.  But as I went straight into the school year, we realized the ideal we'd imagined was just not going to happen.  (In other words, there would be no September tee times.)

But I do get a lunch break, and I do teach just down the street from McDonalds, and Kirk does have to come to the school anyway to pick up Adam and Alex from school.  And since that is the order in which our stars have aligned, we've continued on in our non-fancy ways and decided that a standing 12:30 on Friday lunch date would be perfect.

So each Friday, Dylan and Kirk pick me up at the school.  Kirk and I enjoy much needed conversation while Dylan plays.  We eat from the dollar menu.  We spend about 30 minutes enjoying a bit of quiet or making financial decisions, or planning for our future.  We get a second to talk about the kids without the interruptions of the kids.  Then Kirk drives me through the pick-up line for school, and I get out while the kids get in.

And when my energy lags in the middle of math, or I just need a little extra oomph in my day, I remember that at 12:30, my husband and youngest son will be there to get me.  It's not to say my students aren't enough!  But when I'm having a hard time being enough for them, the promise of our weekly lunch date reminds me that I can do it.

When I wake up each Friday morning, don my NPA polo shirt, and consider all that is in store for me, I think, "Thank Goodness It's Friday!"

Thursday, November 21, 2013

A Big Decision and a Little Note

The Big Decision:

I have decided not to return to EYT for the 2014 season.  The reasons are too many and to personal to list, but I have not made the decision quickly nor taken it lightly, and the choice is not an easy one for me.  However, there is so much good that can come from me spending more time with my family, and I can't wait to plan our Summer '14 adventures!

The Little Note:

I just want to take a moment to thank all of you who have made EYT a huge success in three short years!  It's crazy to reflect on how much has changed at both the Empress and in my own life in that time.

  • The first year, there were only 37 kids in all of EYT.  This last year we had 36 full day!
  • A lot of the first EYT kids were brand new to theater (or at least community theater).  Now almost everybody is a seasoned veteran.
  • We used to have four weeks of EYT (four days a week).  Now we do it only 14.5 crazy days!
  • The Empress increased its show season to include 10 shows each year.  I can't remember the exact previous number.
  • My little Dylan was still a baby and slept in a pack-n-play in the dressing rooms while we rehearsed.  This October, he turned 4!
  • None of my own kids were in all-day school.  Now I have a 3rd grader, a 1st grader, and one in preschool.
  • I worked about 15 hours per week teaching music.  Now I teach full time, 5th grade AND music!
  • I was an energetic 29.  Now I'm an old, tired 32.  :)
I've told many people before that I'm never sad when a show closes.  Having been in "the business" for as long as I have, I know there will always be another show.  And although it's hard to imagine it ever being as great as this show (whichever show this may be at the time), I have enough of a history to know that somehow, it is!  Sure, I miss the people.  But I also know that it all comes around.  In 2011, I did Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat with my best friend from elementary school.  We'd done Joseph together almost 20 years before that, and never did a community show together again after that.  But 20 years later, there we were on stage together again.  I promise, it comes around.

So show closings don't get to me.  

But the end of an era... that's different.

And so it is, with a lot of reservations and what ifs and sadness, I'm announcing that for me, it is a new season.

A season of football and piano lessons and homework and reading.  Of spending the last three weeks of summer with my own kids (before gearing up to teach full time in the fall).  Of building, decorating, and settling into a new house.  Of doing a few things well instead of doing a lot of things frantically.  Of taking a summer vacation when my brother gets back from Bolivia.  Of spending time in Georgia with Lisa and her beautiful baby, John.  

I hope I can keep the door open.  In the mood for Shmimminim Shmamcakes?  Just Facebook me and head on over; we'll cook up a batch.  Excited about a new role at school?  I would love to hear about it!  Need help for an upcoming audition?  I am happy to do what I can.  

But in this new season, I will turn over the wonderful experience of EYT to the next energetic (crazy) person who will care about all of "my"kids as much as I have.  I don't know yet who that will be, but I know the Empress will put EYT in good hands.

My life is better for having worked with each of you.  I'll be taking the lessons you've taught me into whatever adventures are next.  And I'll never forget the resounding cry of "Who are we?  EYT!"

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Big Five

I went back to the gym last night for the first time since I started student teaching in March.  Skye, Michelle, Kirk and I just all renewed our WVCFFC memberships, and we dropped of our five cumulative kids in various locations in the building and got our workout on.

After the trip (fun was had by all), I skimmed a diet/fitness book that suggested that if I really want to see results, I should have 5 specific goals for the next 12 weeks.  Since my motivation for going to the gym isn't really all that specific, I thought maybe some goals would help me keep choosing to spend my free time torturing my glutes (which definitely are feeling it today).

The easy goals would be: lose x# of pounds in 12 weeks.  But that's not why I am there.  So here it goes.  The Big Five that I plan to accomplish by Valentine's Day:

  1. Learn to do a standing back flip.  Thanks to the missionaries, I learned how to do a back flip on the trampoline this summer.  But with Skye's awesome spotting skills and access to mats, I'm going to master the art of a back flip with no springy assistance.
  2. Run a mile under 8:00.  The fastest I've ever done it was back in 8th grade when I worked so hard to achieve Presidential Physical Fitness shortly after dropping a piano on my knee.  I ran it in 7:35.  When I was frequently attending the gym, I had gotten close to that 8 minute mark, and I really think that this time I can do it.
  3. Feel rested when I wake up each morning.  I know this one is hard to purposefully accomplish, but I know that regular exercise helps.  Also, by Valentines Day, I will be show-free.  So I should be able to manage good bedtimes as well.  And if I could wish for anything in the world, it may very well be to not feel so tired in the mornings.
  4. Wear longer pants.  I notice that although my clothes still fit when I gain a bit of weight/flab, my pants seem to be an inch or two shorter because my thighs are hogging more than their fair share of cloth.  I'm not buying new pants.  But in 12 weeks, I am going to notice that my pants seem a bit longer.
  5. Notice a shift in the leisure activities of my family.  Again, hard to purposefully accomplish.  But I'm hoping that 12 weeks of spending our free time at the gym will cause a shift from kids whose first choice is video games, whose second choice is TV, and whose third choice is the computer to kids who feel a little off if they haven't done something active.  We'll see.  They'll probably still pick the screen when they get a choice.  
So there it is.  The Big Five.  A list I can look back on with pride (or regret).  A better defined motivation to spend the hour between dinner and kids' bed playing racquetball with Adam, walking the track with Al and D, or doing weight training alongside my sister, husband, or brother-in-law.  A choice to fill the hours when I feel a bit anxious about not being at rehearsal.  

Mostly, I just really want to learn to do the back flip...

Monday, November 11, 2013

Guaranteed Headache Day

That probably sounds like a disrespectful moniker for Veteran's Day, but I promise I mean it with incredible respect.

As a teacher at Navigator Pointe Academy, I look forward each year to the school's Veteran's Assembly.  This assembly is such a big deal that there is a circulating joke at our charter school which, according to the guidelines of our charter, doesn't celebrate any holidays.  We don't do Halloween or Valentine's parties, and our only school observation of Christmas is a last-day-before-winter-break service project.  But boy, oh boy, do we do Veteran's Day.  We write letters.  We do art.  We sing.  And we hold a huge assembly to which we invite the veteran friends and family members of our students.

This year, we had about 50 veterans in attendance, and plenty of songs, speeches, and art to honor them the NPA way.  But I had decided to try something new this year, and I taught the same patriotic medley to the entire elementary school.  I practiced with them in their individual classes, giving the mezzo soprano parts to the 3rd grade, the alto to the fourth grade, and the melody to the younger students.  The 5th grade students learned both alto and soprano to lend their more mature voices to the song.  At their performances 2 weeks ago, I had the chance to rehearse with the 1st and 2nd grades together and with the 3rd through 5th grade classes, but until today, I had not yet heard the whole of my 250-voice choir sing together.

Keep in mind that by this point in the assembly, I had already choked back tears at the sincere words of 8 young speakers and the return thanks of one veteran special guest.  So when I saw a sea of my students and heard their confident voices (and beautiful harmonies), there was little I could do to maintain composure.

And fighting back tears is for me, a guaranteed headache.  I should learn to bring some medicine to school on Veterans Day.

There are so many reasons I'm proud to be an NPA teacher, but if there's one day that brings the all to the surface, it's this guaranteed headache day.

The assembly ended with 16 minutes left of the school day, not enough for me to personally thank each of the 10 classes that contributed to my condition, so I decided to write a letter.  I frantically typed, quickly copied, and rushed the delivery of this letter to each classroom 1st through 5th grade.  And then I thought I'd put it here so if ever I doubt where I am or why, I can look back to today.

Dear NPA Students – 
I think most of you have heard me say that it is hard for music to give me the chills, because I get to hear you sing beautifully all the time.  I have also made many of you a promise that if you ever gave me the chills, I would stop right there in the middle of the song and show you.  
Well, it didn’t seem like a good idea to stop in the middle of the assembly, so I decided to write a letter instead to tell you all how amazing your song was.  I didn’t just get the chills – I had to stop singing because I was starting to cry!  Hearing over 250 students singing so respectfully about our country was really something amazing.  That alone was special enough to make me cry.  But then to hear the fourth grade and Mrs. Francom’s class singing such a beautiful alto part, to hear the 3rd grade students sing their special note at the end, to hear the 1st graders confidently singing “America, America,” and to hear Ms. Laudie’s class and the 2nd grade carrying the melody, I just have to say what a proud music teacher I am today.
Thank you for using your talents today as a way to honor our veterans.  I hope your singing was as special and powerful to each of them as it was to me.

Mrs. Fife

Yes, guaranteed headache.  And so worth it.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

A Four Letter Word


Urban dictionary lists several definitions:
  • a four-letter word that often leads to deprivation, frustration and, ultimately, failure
  • a word used by large food corporations to deceive old/fat women and men into believing their product is actually remotely healthy
  • the thing your on today, then off of tomorrow
And my personal favorite:
  • a form of torture, hence "Die" with a "t" at the end

However, definition #1 listed in the more widely accepted Miriam-Webster version says:

  • the kinds of food that a person, animal, or community habitually eats
Well, as the result of about a 7-week struggle to maintain my vocal health, I've had to do a ton of research and fundamentally change mine.

My quest to eat more of the foods that apparently are vocal-fold friendly (namely, high-water-content fruits and vegetables) has become a source of amusement for the other teachers who share my lunch break.  They watched my first attempt at peppers.  Deemed quickly by me to not be edible.

I got discouraged and survived on Fuji apples, carrots, and almonds for a few consecutive weeks.

And then my lunchbox was empty, and I'd forgotten to bring anything from home.  So I visited the produce section at Harmons.  Beautiful!  Expensive, yes, but arranged in ways that actually made me want to try some of these foods I was pretty certain I wouldn't actually like.

I settled on a few new items.  Sugar snap peas: because they had the word sugar in them.  Celery: because I was fairly certain I could drown it in peanut butter if necessary.  Cantaloupe: in case I absolutely couldn't eat the green stuff.  And little cheese wheels: because they were cute, and I saw a commercial about them recently, and... okay, it was a bit of an impulse buy.  

And guess what?  I ate every single item.  It lasted for an entire week, and I took careful mental notes as I went.  

I like the peas; I don't love the pod.  But if I eat them while I correct papers, I several disappear without me realizing I was even eating them.

I like the lighter colored celery better.  Because it tastes like nothing.  The darker green it gets, the more it tastes - well - green.  But I was right; a little peanut butter goes a long way, and like with the peas, I can eat a ton of celery while correcting.  Also, I feel really great about just how much water squishes out when I bite.  If I am supposed to be focusing on high water, celery makes me feel very successful.

Mmm... cantaloupe.  I was worried about it getting too mushy by Friday, but I could still just barely handle it.  This week, I'll eat my cantaloupe by Wednesday to be on the safe side.

And the cheese is perfect to eat when I just can't stand the thought of the last lingering taste being peas.  

Is it working?  I don't really know.  I have a feeling my voice won't be 100% until winter break when I'll have several consecutive days without teaching music.  But I feel pretty proud that at 32 years I'm making changes that hopefully will become a permanent healthy way of eating.  Instead of the veggie cheat I drank for nearly 3 years (12 oz of V8 Fusion for lunch each day), I'm eating the real thing.  Regardless of the effects on vocal health, it has to be a better thing overall.

This week, I'm going to learn to like actual mandarine oranges (not the syrupy kind in a can).  Next week, I think I'm going to attempt cucumbers.  We'll see how that goes.

Yes, it's a new four letter word.

But so far, not an awful one.

I Could Be a Braverman

It's been awhile since I've been able to hang out with my good friends, the Braverman's.  They have limited availability, and Kirk's kind of over them, which makes it all the more difficult.  Well, that and the fact that they are a fictional TV family...

But after a short three-episode marathon while editing 5th grade rough drafts on ways to show courage, the thought occurred to me.  I could be a Braverman.  Not just a random new character added to the cast.  No, in real life, had I made a different choice or two here or there, I really think I could have been any of the four mothers whose fictional lives the story follows.

If I hadn't met Kirk, I could easily have been Sarah.  Flighty.  Spontaneous.  Unable to stick to one passion for longer than a year or two.  And with a past full of painful relationships with artistic men.  The musician.  The English teacher.  The eccentric photographer.  (Kirk already knows my pick would be the English teacher, although the photographer is growing on me.)  But even with Kirk's grounding influence in my life, I still see a lot of Sarah Braverman in me.  She cries when frustrated.  She gets hurt much more easily than she gets angry, and she cares way too much about what other people think of her.

I think I most frequently relate to Kristina.  She gets a little crazy when she's passionate about something, including how people treat her children.  She's organized and methodical, and kind of like a freight train once she gets started.  She always thinks she's right, and she'll fight until she's proved it to everyone else.  Which means she's generally a ball of stress and fighting a battle with someone.  But the part of Kristina that intrigues me most is her career in politics.  She has such cool jobs!  She was recently offered a position as campaign manager for a mayoral candidate.  Which she turned down.  To run for mayor.  Could I be that Kristina?  I don't know.  But I can certainly admire how her education prepared her for whatever choices she might want to make in the future.

And then there's Julia.  Early on in the series, Julia was a bit of a work-a-holic whose husband Joel was Mr. Mom.  She was a great mom when she was home, but Joel handled a lot of the parenting.  Sound familiar?  Now, however, Julia is a stay-at-home mother who is struggling with the desire to also have a career.  Although she is a strong business woman, she never seems confident in personal decisions.  And her persistent fear that her career will get in the way of her family?  Well, that's something I have cried about, too.

I considered not including Jasmine.  I think she's mean.  And bossy.  And once, she and Crosby broke up because she got so crazy about how to load the dishwasher.  And then I realized it - sometimes I'm mean.  And bossy.  And lots of times I go crazy about stupid things like dishwashers.  The difference is that I married better, and so instead of escalating my crazy, Kirk knows how to bring it down.  I'm going to tell myself I'm not Jasmine (and hope it's true).  But I'm pretty sure that when I get woken up in the middle of the night, it's all Jasmine for a few minutes.  Just ask Kirk!

Interestingly, I always feel like I relate to the worst in each of these women.  Flighty like Sarah.  Controlling like Kristina.  Stretched thin like Julia.  Bossy like Jasmine.  But in the men of the Braverman family, I see all the traits I love about Kirk.  Realistic like Adam.  Compassionate like Joel.  Okay - maybe I don't see much of Crosby, but that's okay since I think he escalates Jasmine's crazy.

I could be a Braverman.  But with Kirk, I am something better.  I'm a Fife.

I need to get a new picture with Kirk and his blonde wife!

Hmm... I didn't expect this post to go all cheesy...

Friday, October 25, 2013

Miss Carew

I've been Miss Carew for 21 days now.  It happened when I bleached my hair and my students kind of freaked, and everyone decided it would be easier to accept an alter-ego than a blonde Mrs. Fife.

I'm not Miss Carew all the time.  In fact, since Jekyll & Hyde opened, I've spent only 7% of each week wearing her clothing and saying her lines.  The rest of the time, despite the new moniker, I really am Mrs. Fife, Mom, Sis. Fife, or Andrea as the situation warrants.

But similar to the way I often get sucked into the world of a fantasy novel that I can't quite escape until its completion, I frequently catch my daydreams off in 19th century London.  I've woken up beside Kirk, confused at how Emma got into such a bed.  And I find myself already reluctant to leave Emma behind when the show closes next week.

This has never happened to me before.

In fact, I've kind of prided myself on the truthful statement that I've never been sad on a closing night.  I am fairly certain that in one week's time, I will no longer be able to brag.

I won't miss the cast.  That sounds terrible, I know, but I've been doing this a really long time, and I know that I never do.  I also know that the theater community is small, and Facebook makes it smaller, and we will all "play" again someday.

I won't miss the time commitment.  The late nights.  The ringlets and costumes.  The mic checks.  The declined social invitations.  The corset.  The carefully planned potty breaks.

But I will miss Emma.

Which is strange, because if I am being totally honest, she was not the part I'd hoped for.  I love theater because I get the opportunity to be people I could never be in real life, and this time around (like every other female who auditioned), I'd hoped to play Lucy.  Having played previous ensemble roles as a "saloon girl," I'd discovered that it's pretty fun to get to be promiscuous on stage.  And in my mind, the "good girl" Emma just didn't seem like as much fun.

However, I knew I loved Emma songs, so when the opportunity to play Emma came, I happily accepted it.  I had no idea how difficult it would be for me to identify with her character.  And I had no idea that the harder I worked to try to portray her the way I thought she should be, the more I would come to like the fictional person I had become.

The main theme of Jekyll & Hyde is one of duality - the idea that every person has two sides, and that they only choose to show the side they want to show.  This, an opening number suggested, is called "the facade."  And this is something I could relate well to, especially when one considers my recent post (remember the zocchihedron).  However, Emma is one of the few characters with no facade.  With no agenda.  With pure intent.  While I wish I could say I'm just like Emma, I am not.

Not only is Emma remarkably straightforward, she is selflessly caring and dotes on those she loves.  Again... wish I could say that is me.  Nope.  Not me.  Because of this, I had a really hard time relating to the relationships between Emma and Henry Jekyll and between Emma and her father.  But with lots of thought and trial, I finally found the tenderness in those relationships.  And suddenly, like the way I've cared about my favorite characters in a trilogy, I found myself caring surprisingly deeply about Henry and Sir Danvers.

And so, I will miss the characters.  It is going to be strange when I never again get to look at "my father" with what Michelle calls my "silly daddy," look.  When Emma's lifelong argument with Sir Danvers over how to proceed with her life concludes for the final time.

Someone recently asked me if it is emotional for me when Henry dies in my arms at "our" wedding.  I explained that surprisingly that scene is not nearly as emotional for me as the one in Henry's lab where in her one moment of selfishness, or weakness, or strength, Emma decides to leave Henry on his own.  I think it hurts me so much to walk out because that self-centered-ness is the moment to which I most naturally relate.  And so I will miss Emma's more simple times with the love of her life.  I will miss her easy, selfless devotion to both Henry and his work.  I will miss being the calm in someone else's storm.

I will miss Emma's willingness to show her uncertainty.  When she is worried, she says so.  When she has nothing left to give, she says so.  When she's wrong, she says so.  I will just miss feeling so what-you-see-is-what-you-get.  I've tried to learn that from Emma, but I don't think I've succeeded yet.

But Emma has changed me in other ways.  I hug now.  Naturally.  And what's funny is that it seems to be awkward for everyone else, because most people know I'm not much of a hugger.  I actually really hope I'm able to keep that ability when the show is over.  It has been pretty nice to have a way of showing people that I care about them.  I also think more.  As I've tried to figure out how Emma should love Henry, I've also had some pretty great opportunities to think about how Andrea could love Kirk better.  I hope that stays, too.

Probably one of Emma's best qualities is that she knows the story really isn't about her.  She's there to help both the fictional characters and the audience like Henry.  She's there to provide a contrast to Lucy.  She's there to help others reach their potential.  Oh, how I could stand to learn that from Emma!  I'm going to miss being a contributing factor to something so much bigger than myself.  Sure, the reviewers keep saying it is a Halloween show.  But I know better.  It is the story of good and evil.  A story of agency.  A story of friendship and sacrifice.  A story in which I am so grateful to get to play  a part.  I hope I can remember that.  I hope that as Andrea I can work toward being that grateful to play each role in my life.
I will be sad when Emma looks down naively on the poor for the last time.  When Emma and Henry can no longer get lost in each other at the engagement party.  When Sir Danvers gives a final hug to his only daughter.  When Emma has made her last decision to remain faithfully devoted to Dr. Jekyll.  And when Henry Jekyll dies in Emma's arms - and I realize the finality that this time he's really gone.

The change away from Miss Carew will be gradual.  I will put away her costumes.  I'll probably put at least some brown back in my hair.  Henry and Sir Danvers will be replaced by Eric and Matt.  My students will go back to calling me Mrs. Fife.  And Emma will fade away into my memory.

But I'll keep her earrings.  I'll wear her boots to the Dickens Festival.  Her wedding flowers will probably sneak their way into a hairdo or two.  And hopefully, a part of her goodness will continue to change me until I can be all the things I admire in her.

I know she's total fiction.  She's not even in the Robert Louis Stevenson novel.  She's not real.  But I will miss Miss Carew.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

That Guy

We have a big household right now.  Our five live downstairs in three bedrooms: Adam & Alex share, Kirk & I share (duh), and Dylan gets his own room.  The three upstairs bedrooms are currently occupied by the Davis family: Skye & Michelle are in the master, and Tyler and Ryder each get their own room.  It's full.  It's a bit crowded (I'm sharing one bathroom with all 4 of my boys).  But it is a ridiculously happy place to live.

Imagine coming home each day and being greeted not only by your own sweet redheaded son but by Princess Tyler, who alternately toddles over or offers you her recently perfected pageant wave.  Some days, I am lucky enough to come home and see one of my older boys holding Ryder on the couch.  But probably my favorite days are the ones when I peek through the blinds of the back door to see my three jumping on the trampoline with Tyler, four giddy faces enjoying a pleasant afternoon.  I still can't believe that Tyler - not yet 1 year old - can hold her own on the trampoline with her crazy cousins, but she loves it.  I can't quite tell whether she prefers to jump herself or to sit atop her perch on Adam's shoulders and let him do all the work.  She seems pretty smiley in either case!

I don't know if Skye and Michelle agree, but Kirk and I talk frequently of how blessed we are to get to share this time with Skye and Michelle.  We get all sorts of geeky happy about the benefits.  It's not often that you know how great and how rare something is when you're right in the middle of it.  But as 8 of the 9 of us sat down to watch Iron Man 3 recently, I couldn't help but feel like the luckiest woman in the world.  On my left sat my loving husband of 12 years with our adoring niece climbing him like a jungle gym.  Behind us, Adam held baby Ryder, feeding him his bottle.  Alex was cuddled in near my right shoulder.  And in the bend of the couch, Dylan had climbed onto Michelle's lap.  Kirk and I whispered happily about how much we love it when it is difficult to see where one family ends and the next begins.

Don't get me wrong - we are really excited about the new house (plans have been sent to the city and we are picking colors) and there are certainly times the house feels crowded.  But I know that when I look back on my life, these 9-ish months are going to stand out as some of the happiest.

I've really enjoyed getting to know my sister.  With six years between us, we weren't particularly close growing up.  As she grew into adulthood, she spent her time away at college, performing in Idaho, or being married to Skye, and I can't really say I even knew her very well.  It turns out Michelle is pretty fun to hang out with, and I really enjoy having her as a friend.  She makes a great Zumba buddy.  She is really good at laughing quietly with me while Dylan explains that I will need to make Halloween costumes for the ants, because they don't have arms and can't use the sewing machine.  She is willing to grocery shop with me.  And she seems to always find little ways to make my life a bit easier.

With all the benefits of our current cohabitation, it would be a bit difficult to pick a favorite thing - that is, if this one thing weren't so clearly my favorite.

Dylan gets to be a big brother.

I know Tyler and Ryder aren't really his siblings, but I'm not sure he knows that.  He gets to love them and be annoyed by them and have to share space with them and learn to be big because it's their turn to be little.  And while listening to him squeal as Tyler chases him through the house may not make the top of my list, watching him take care of Ryder does.

Dylan calls him, "That guy."

"Can I hold that guy?"

"Can I feed that guy?"

I love to watch him plop down on the couch, insisting on a pillow to help support Ryder's head.  I love to watch him sit still, focusing all his attention on holding Ryder's bottle just so.  I love that he's not jealous when my attention is on the brand new baby I sometimes get to hold; he's jealous that he isn't spending time with Ryder.

I like getting to spend time with Skye.  Sometimes we're both leaving for work at the same time, and I get to say a brief hello.  Sometimes he makes me baked penne at midnight when I'm up late working and he feels like cooking.  I like having access to Michelle's closet if I don't have the right pair of shoes to go with my outfit.  I like dragging her with me to the model home to look at colors.  I like the ease of a friendship without drama.  I know I am pretty lucky being one of the first people to see Tyler's hair in pigtails, and her purple polka dotted pajamas are a welcome addition in my BoyTrapped house.

But in Ryder we have another little brother (minus all the work).  A bit of calm in a continuous storm.  And I know our time with "That Guy" is something rare and special.

I know we're just moving across the back fence, but I'm going to miss Those Guys.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Best Moment

I haven't written much lately.

I know it seems unlikely, but I really haven't had much to say.  Life for the past 10 weeks has mostly been school and Jekyll, and while I am enjoying both, neither really seems like the thing to blog about.

I would love to tell stories about school, but since I know some of my students happened upon my blog last year and since I know parents from my school are also Dickens parents or EYT parents and have easy access here through Facebook, it just doesn't seem ethical.  I could go private, but that really just isn't me.  So if you want to hear fun stories about my 5th grade adventures, we'll have to hang out in person.

Photo Credit: Deanne Jones
I would love to tell stories about Jekyll, but if I wrote down every Jekyll story, you'd all be pretty sick of me by now.  Plus, having Skye and Michelle in the show with me, I get the chance to rehash every story with people who know the people I'm talking about.  I haven't felt the need for my typical public dish.

I would love to tell stories about my family, but frankly, I just haven't been around.  I am starting to make some major life changes to start to remedy that, but the process is a bit slow, and I can only wriggle out of one obligation at a time.  But come mid-December, I intend to have narrowed down my responsibilities to family, work, and one church calling, and I am looking forward to being able to be around to catch the stories firsthand.

There's also the fact that I've been a little down lately, which makes it hard for me to want to sit and write.  Nothing major, I've just been struggling with vocal health.  I've changed my diet, tried every old wives tale in the book, and spent tons of money on high-water-content fruits and veggies and assorted lozenges.  But since my voice is the basis for my vocation, my hobbies, and my personality, it has taken every bit of energy I've just to function.  If I'd been blogging these last few weeks, it would only have been to complain or worry aloud.

But amid all this stuff I haven't really wanted to talk about, it was easy to recognize the best moment of my week and know it was worth documenting.  I even asked Kirk to snag a quick picture.

Sleeping in is great for so many reasons.  But for me, the best moment is a lazy morning when I am still in bed when Dylan wakes up.  Despite his brothers' early start watching t.v. or playing the Wii, Dylan chooses to come quietly into my room.  He crawls up right next to me and cuddles in.  Often, he puts his arms around my neck.  Sometimes, he turns his back to me and wedges his little body right in front of mine.  And he lays there, still and quiet and warm for 10 to 20 minutes.  Of the 10,080 minutes in a week, these 10 are by far my favorite.

My sweet four year old is growing up.  I am grateful he stayed a baby so much longer than the older boys did.  I am grateful that he is still a bit reluctant to be as independent as the others.  I am grateful for the calm he brings into my weekly storm with a sleepy 10 minutes.  Some day he'll choose the brothers and the screen first thing, but I will smile each morning that he chooses this.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

It's Phantom LITE

In my experience, most people either seem to know nothing or everything about Frank Wildhorn's Jekyll & Hyde.  If you're in that rare know-it-all group, I probably don't have to tell you why you might not want to bring your kids to my latest performance opportunity.  You already know about the PG-13 language, the violence, and the "career women."  But just in case you've forgotten all the reasons why you might want to bring them, read on.

For the larger group of you who are vaguely aware of the musical's existence but know little beyond the basic idea that Dr. Jekyll is good and Mr. Hyde is bad (and that certainly any show with Mrs. Fife | Sister Fife | Andrea is of course family friendly) may want to do a bit of research before you load up the kids and head to the Empress Theatre for a night of entertainment.

First, let me tell you that I think I've concluded that I will let Adam (8 yrs old) see the show.  But I am going to pass on bringing Alex (6 yrs old) and Dylan (4 yrs old).  And here's why:

If you let your children watch PG-13 movies, then language is no reason to keep them away.  We've cleaned up a few lines, possibly making the language even PG, but I think language sounds much more harsh in person.  Adam is going to hear one "b" plus a smattering of "d"s and "h"s, though the "d"s and "h"s are often to convey their literal meanings as Jekyll literally contends with the devil inside himself.  He's also going to hear the Lord's name taken in vain more than once, though never by me.

The line around the theater to describe the show's "career women" has been "family flirty."  I haven't seen the costumes yet, but I've heard they will be understated.  I've seen the choreography, and it's nothing I would feel uncomfortable with Adam seeing.  However, not being a mother of the teenage crowd yet, I don't know how I'd feel about kids who "get it" watching.  Again... if you watch PG-13, you certainly won't be seeing anything new.

Okay, here's one to consider seriously.  I took Dylan to a production of Robin Hood where a man was strangled to death at our feet.  He freaked a bit.  If you don't want your kids to see people dying on stage, don't bring them to Jekyll & Hyde.  8 people die fairly violent deaths.  However, we are not using blood on stage, so they are not gory.  Just violent.  Adam has already seen The Scarlet Pimpernel twice.  I figure if he can handle watching the guillotine, hopefully he'll handle these deaths okay.

The whole show is about the duality that exists in everyone - the good and the evil and the choices we all have to make.  Because of this, the worse we make the "bad" on stage, the clearer the need for "good" becomes.  If you haven't yet guessed, this category is the why I'd encourage you to bring your kids.  Just give them some context first.  Talk about the concepts of free agency on the ride over to the theater.  If Family Home Evening is your thing, do a whole lesson.  I had an incredible discussion with Adam and two young girls in our neighborhood about this idea, and that's when I decided I want Adam to see the show.  He gets it.  Agency.  And since he gets that, I think he's prepared to get some of the rest of it.

The Mrs. Fife Factor
There's a lot of "bad" in the show.  But fortunately for me, I get to play one of the only pure and good characters in the show.  I don't know if I would be comfortable with the kids I teach at school or mentor in the community watching me portray the "bad."  I am pretty sure I would not be okay with Adam having to sort that all out at only eight.  But in this case, it's not an issue.  If you do bring your kids, they will not see Mrs. Fife | Sister Fife | Andrea do anything she wouldn't do in real life.  (Except hug people easily and kiss Henry Jekyll.)

Oh, and if...
You're an adult, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE come see the show.  Even if I wasn't in it.  Jekyll & Hyde is one of my top 3 favorite musicals of all time, not only because I love the music (oh, how I love the music), but because I believe in its message.  I don't want to ruin it for anybody, so I'm not going to publish my overanalyzed love affair with this musical until after closing night, but just know that I strongly encourage you to attend!

So since...
I don't want to post spoilers, enjoy one of my favorite Forbidden Broadway spoofs: "It's Phantom, lite."

(By the way... it's not!)

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

What We See

A realistic view of "our" dirt

It is definitely interesting to be building in our own neighborhood.  Fun to be able to walk around the corner and take a family picture on "our" dirt.  Fun to already know the neighbors.  But a little weird to have everybody so interested in our dirt's progress.

While I want nothing less than to turn the blog into a step-by-step, it seems important to at least chronicle the big deal days.  Like the day they deposited our earnest money, our contract was accepted, and I finally felt comfortable referring to the new plot of land as "the new house."

As for the other questions (colors, when they'll start digging, etc.) I don't yet know.  But I do know we're moving.  All the way from 3266 to 3267.  Yep.  That's happening.  And I do know it will be exciting to watch the dirt transform from what you see to what we see:

Builder's drawings superimposed on our dirt
Yes, big changes are coming for this little family!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Two Face

"Wait, turn around..." I said to Adam as he left one day for football.  "We'd better make sure we wash off all your makeup."

Who knows if he'll stick with either one, but for about a seven week period, Adam was actively involved both theater and football.  I am grateful he didn't have too many conflicts between the two, because it was fun to support such a well-rounded kid.

I had to laugh one morning when he asked for an alternate breakfast, passing up the high sugar levels of the breakfast cake I'd planned.  "Coach says no sugar during football season."

And I laughed again when we took the kids to Golden Corral on opening night.  Careful to avoid a stomach ache, Adam had selected a well-balanced plate of popcorn shrimp, mashed potatoes, and green beans.  When I mentioned I was pretty impressed by his choices, he explained his plan to follow up with the foods he really wanted, and then to limit himself to only 10 desserts.

Later that evening at the opening night Village Inn party, he and three of his EYT buddies serenaded the mom table with their original song titled, "Maple Syrup."  Arriving at home at midnight, he catalogued nearly 8 hours of sleep before heading off to his first football scrimmage.

I feel pretty grateful to be raising a son who can have a black-streaked face from crying off his mascara one exhausted night and from sweating off his "war paint" the next day.  I feel grateful to live in a community with organized programs designed to teach my son life skills.  As Randy Pausch wrote in The Last Lecture,, the goals of these programs are pretty much always to teach "teamwork, perseverance, sportsmanship, the value of hard work, and ability to deal with adversity."

Theater and athletics may seem to be diametrically opposed, but as Kirk and I have discussed our personal experiences, we've drawn correlations between "notes" and "reviewing film."  There are similarities between "choreography" and "plays."  But right now there's a much stronger bond between our two worlds.

His name is Adam.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Empy Awards

I almost didn't go to the Empress fundraising and awards gala this year.  Money is tight and time is tighter, and I thought maybe I'd opt out this year.  But at the last minute, a few things changed to make it possible for me to attend, and I was excited to be a part of the "Old Hollywood" theme.

Having attended the gala for the past two seasons, I thought I knew what to expect.  Basically, a night where I would get all excited about dressing up, and then leave to spend a few hours battling my socially awkward tendencies.  I knew this year would be worse, as I was attending without Kirk there to act as a buffer.  As I described it to Michelle, "I'm leaving now.  I'm off to awkwardly try to find someone to sit with and then actually have to talk to them."

"That sounds awful!" she responded.

But I knew also to expect to get to see lots of friends and acquaintances dressed to the nines, get to bid on beautiful baskets in the silent auction, get to watch former cast mates accept their Empy Awards, and (best of all) listen to a talented group of performers introduce the 2014 season with sample performances.

So, despite the looming social discomfort, I really was excited for the evening.

It turns out I didn't know exactly what to expect, because I definitely didn't expect this.

For one thing, the EYT show has in the past been ineligible for the production staff awards.  As its own sort of thing (that the kids pay for, etc), it gets a little bit different treatment (which this year included awards for three of my awesome EYT kids).

For another thing, there were incredible shows on the season last year, each with a fantastic director.  To be honored with the title of best in a group like that was certainly unexpected.

It's extra crazy to think back clear to last summer's show, Beauty and the Beast Jr, and to remember all that went into pulling off such an epic show.

I'm glad they didn't ask for an acceptance speech, because all I would have babbled was, "Thank you."  It would have been difficult for me to express to whom that thanks was directed.  But it definitely goes to the 67 kids who shared the stage, to their dedicated parents who volunteered and lent their kids, to the amazing staff at the Empress including Jake, Michele, and Marie, to Kaylin who saved us nightly with costumes, to Lisa and Katie for assistant directing, to Jamie for her vocal coaching, and to the billion people who helped pull together costumes.  "Best Director" to me is just a compilation of "Best of All Worlds," and I am grateful to have had that opportunity.

And I'm pretty glad I went to the gala... :)

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

School Smiles

It's time for the traditional back-to-school pics, and I'm jumping on the hold-your-grade bandwagon.  (It's genius!)  While there are times I really love a posed piece of art, there are other times that the forced front-of-house pictures capture the real emotions of the day.

For D, the awaited day meant his very own backpack, a few pair of jeans with no holes in the knees, and a walk around the corner to Mrs. Shayla's Preschool.  His picture capture his general attitude toward the whole idea of school - confusion mixed with general apathy.  He dutifully does what is asked, but without the prior experience of days with friends and tootsie rolls, he has no idea of the fun ahead.

For Al, it meant getting up far earlier than he is accustomed.  For a kid who carries out leisurely morning stretches (yeah, he does that) and suffers from bouts of insomnia (found him on the couch this morning), 8:00 a.m. school is a big deal.  I got him up at 6:30 today, but unfortunately for this kid who can lose focus between syllables, getting ready for the day in a linear fashion is out of the question.  Tomorrow, we'll try 6:20 and see if that allows plenty of time for the occasional foray into Alexland.  Thankfully, by 7:15, he proclaimed himself "not tired anymore," and I caught him mid "I-know-I'm-cute" before rushing off to school.

For Adam, it meant just another day.  He's done it before, he knows the ropes, and he knew the faster I got the picture I wanted, the faster he could resume with life.  He was happy to explain all the full-day-of-school procedures to Alex, and one of my best moments of the day was hearing about his recess time while I was in the teacher lunch room.  Apparently, he spent all of morning recess playing with Alex and proudly telling his friends that his brother is in first grade now.

For me, it meant uncertainty.  My anxiety forced its way into my dreams last night as I dreamed three different scenarios which resulted in us being late on the first day (we were not), one in which my co-teacher erased the initial assignment I'd written on the board last night replacing it with her own (she did not), and one in which my mother told me I might as well withdraw Adam and Alex from NPA right now if I wasn't willing to focus more on their penmanship (um... ??).  But what started as uncertainty faded quickly away as my students filed into the classroom, placing in me the same exact trust as they'd place in any other teacher, replaced with a quiet assuredness.  I've got this!

Even Kirk is in on the back to school theme, since he kept busy today teaching a training class for new hires in his office.  I should have taken a picture of him on his first day of "class" (even though it wasn't today).  It's been fun to hear his stories of successes in his own classroom, especially since he used to dream of being a math teacher.

Day one has come and gone (day 3 for D), and although I haven't gotten to check in with the kids yet, I'm betting everyone is all smiles.  Don't let D fool you... this is his smile.  

Friday, August 23, 2013

Something Missing

I don't know how many times I mentioned to Kirk that something was missing from EYT this year.  Costumes were being sewn, dances rehearsed, set painted, but still - something was almost tangibly missing.

Well, certainly sleep was missing.  But that is my EYT usual.  8 hour rehearsals and a family of 5 leaves very little daylight to prepare for the next day.  Thankfully, the standard day comes with a full 24 hours, and when necessary I have the stamina to draw from the extra eight hours inconveniently placed between 10 pm and 6 am.  

So the lack of sleep certainly wasn't the difference.  Something else was missing.

It turns out that something was STRESS!  While I felt a whole range of emotions during the three rehearsal weeks (frustration, exhilaration, exhaustion, excitement, motivation, disappointment, pride, humor, contentment, worry, preoccupation, distraction, gratitude, annoyance, accomplishment), there was a big, expected chunk missing: STRESS.

I attribute that to being surrounded by incredible people.  You know that Utah pioneer story about the individuals who just know their handcart was too heavy to push alone?  In that time of need, it was clear that angels had picked up where sheer willpower had failed.  In my case, with a handcart full of 72 kids and the unlikely destination of a completed show in only three weeks, my angels came in the form of real people.

Photo credit: Deanne Jones
Some I could see.  These angels surrounded me on a daily basis, toiling away in the EYT trenches.  Not only did Michelle spend her days banished to the lobby to work vocals with whomever I could spare, but she spent hours at home working on projects that needed her careful eye.  Logan split his time between running scene rehearsals and fixing/making/inventing anything I decreed necessary.  Kaylin never once complained about my crazy costume ideas, revisions to work she'd already done, or late nights spent at her sewing machine.  Chris motivated his half day boys, took on the boring job of supervising odd areas of the Empress, and agreed to stick with the show long term behind the light board.  And Perry did as Perry has always done: whatever I asked without complaint.

Photo credit: Deanne Jones
Other angels popped in to lighten the load when it was clear we needed more hands.  Jeff came back several times to make sure we had everything we needed for our set.  Julie adopted the stumps, knowing without her attention they'd never amount to anything.  Kirk lent his height to securing the leaves of the tree.  Amy was there to orchestrate a survival bag full of M&M's, to listen to me whine, or to work alongside me depending on what the day required.  Cindy spent seven last-minute hours creating a beautiful butterfly in a way no one else could.  Jamie donated her time and talents to create beautiful makeup sketches for the full day cast, then donated more time to teach the techniques.

And then there are the countless others who labored in the shadows: running errands, vacuuming the Empress, sewing alone in the toy shop, and picking up whatever slack needed picking up.  Countless costumers who helped Kaylin survive.  Dedicated families of EYT kids filling in wherever possible.  And my mother, whose huge contribution was to watch three crazy grandsons and one beautiful granddaughter so Michelle and I could live at the theater.

And this doesn't even scratch the surface of all the people who just continued to make the same sacrifices for the theater they make during every show.  Jake.  Marie.  Michele.  Amy.  Curtis.  Devin.  Front of house.  The board.  

If I made a comprehensive list of adults whose volunteer hours contributed to the success of this year's EYT, it would easily hold 150 names.  And so, something was missing this year as I hoisted the responsibility of this huge program onto my shoulders.  

If I missed the opportunity to recognize and thank you in person...

If your name doesn't appear on this blog individually...

If you were one of the real-world angels lessening my stress...

Thank you.

Because I didn't really miss that thing that was missing!