Monday, March 31, 2014

Brandon the teenager

To me at least, he seems so much more mature for his age than a lot of his friends. Maybe it's the 24 hours of gymnastics a week that keeps him focused and disciplined? Maybe it's being the only boy in a house of girls. Who knows? But the fact that he turned 13 and took on the title of an official teenager seemed odd because I had already considered him a teen for awhile. But the calendar doesn't lie....

For some reason Brandon's birthday always ends up during a time that is unexplainably busy. The end of March. Really? And because he is a boy, he's usually okay with his birthday celebrations being spread out over a few days rather than one big SHAZAM!

But this year I had raised the bar with Julianne's birthday the months before. (Remember this?) And though there were specific reasons behind why I did all that I did for Julianne's birthday, I knew that I couldn't drop the ball with the rest of the birthdays this year.

Especially after I overheard Julianne and Brandon discussing birthday celebrations in terms of categories. Julianne felt like she was a category 5 (the highest) personality when it came to birthdays and holidays...all out. And was pleased to have received a category 5 celebration this year. (Phew!) As far as examples went, she had a friend that was more of a category 2 type personality...but she was going to make sure that this friend had at least a category 3 celebration. Keep in mind that in true Julianne style, all of these categories were fleshed out and detailed as to what they each meant. Brandon determined that he was more of a category 4 type person...and he was okay with that, but he certainly wouldn't mind if he got a 5 this year.
(Okay...can you say pressure?)

I took Brandon to breakfast at IHOP first thing in the morning, letting him miss the first couple classes of school.

And then we picked up donuts at Krispy Kreme to share with his gymnastics team later than evening...because heaven forbid he miss a workout due to his birthday. In all reality, I don't think there is a place he'd rather be on his big day seeing as his teammates are his very best friends.

After checking him into school I rushed home and put my plans into action. The most time consuming his room. I don't think it had seen heads or tails of a vacuum or dust rag in quite some time. But I cleaned the thing because I had wanted to fill his room with balloons....and not just any balloons, but balloons that had some birthday cash inside. (Which also took a long time....blowing up 40 balloons? Yeah.) Plus, having someone clean your room for you is a gift in and of itself, yes?

But see, the girls need to go Prom dress shopping and time was getting scarce with the big day fast approaching. (See what I mean? End of March...always something.) We had talked about checking out one of our favorite local stores after school. But that meant we wouldn't be around when Brandon arrived to hint that he should go check out his room. So I made a long trail of signs and arrows from the front door...first leading to a big plate of freshly baked cookies in the kitchen, a big birthday banner and his stash of presents that I had previously wrapped (with a note telling him he could eat the cookies but not to touch the presents)...and then continuing back the way he had come and down the stairs to his bedroom.

I found this on Instagram while we were shopping....
I took that to be a good sign that he wasn't feeling neglected or anything.

When we dropped him at gymnastics a little while later all his teammates came running over with birthday wishes and big hugs. Coach Adam had bought him a cool science book with a Doctor Who bookmark in it. And at the end of workout the boys all sang Happy Birthday to him while eating those Krispy Kreme donuts.

And when he got home he had Cafe Rio and a big chocolate cake waiting for him....along with being able to finally open his presents.
And though he was certainly excited about the framed pics of him with his Olympic gymnastics heroes and the "awesome" new gymnastics-wear that he had been asking for...believe it or not, I think his favorite gift was the 13 decks of cards. (His newest hobby....magic card tricks. He is most definitely his father's son.)

Whether it ranked as a category 5 birthday or not, I'm not entirely certain. But he sure seemed happy so I guess that's all that matters.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Duck hunting

We lost Oliver a few days ago. Oliver is one of our ducks. I've been trying to break myself of the habit of referring to it as a "he" ever since she started laying eggs and it became obvious that he is actually a she. I told everyone we should switch from calling her Oliver to Ollie...but I think at this point it's a lost cause.

But anyhow, we lost her.
At first I wasn't worried. Because being as small as she is, we discovered a few weeks ago that she can squeeze under the gate and into the front yard. But she always stays in the little side yard next to our driveway for the short time she is there. And always wriggles back under the gate to join the rest of her fowl family for food, water and shelter.
But this time it'd been a couple of days since we had seen her.

Bryan had caught four teenaged boys from our neighborhood hanging out in our backyard a few nights earlier. Apparently they had been playing "Fugitive" as part of a church activity. When they were spotted by Bryan, they took a flying leap over our fence and into the neighbors yard. But apparently they must have originally come in using the opposite side gate. The one that is broken and doesn't close without effort.

So the next morning as they were getting ready to leave for school, Julianne and Rebekah found our feathered friends waddling around our front yard, having escaped from the open gate. Luckily they hadn't wandered completely away and the girls were able to shoo them back into the fenced back yard.
But later we realized that Oliver was missing. She wasn't back the next day either. Bryan searched the back yard. He searched the front yard. She was nowhere to be found and we started to think that maybe because she had escaped on the opposite side from where she was familiar, she had become confused and waddled off down the street to who knows where.

It was the day after this, as I was pulling out of the driveway that I remembered something that had happened the week before...
As I was getting Lilian ready for school, the doorbell rang. At the door was a few of her friends on their way to the bus stop. They said they had seen our duck in the front yard. It had run under the pine tree and was hiding from them, they said. I thanked them for the info and told them all was well. Ollie was familiar with the side yard and would likely scoot back under the fence when she was ready...and to please just leave her alone. They did, and she did.
...but as I passed that pine tree while driving away, I wondered.

So I called Bryan. It's a long shot, I told him. But maybe he should check under the pine tree? I laughed when I got a text saying Oliver had been found and saw these pictures Bryan snapped.

Apparently the real reason she was making her way into the front yard and back every day was not just out of curiosity. Ollie has always been one to change up her nesting spots, even going so far as to try to cover her eggs with dirt to keep us from finding them. And thirteen eggs? Seeing as she lays one a day, she's been doing this for two weeks! Impressive girl!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Sadie Hawkins 2014

Within a few days of Julianne's 16th birthday, she had put together her first official dance "ask." To Britton for the Sadie Hawkins dance in March. His answer came a week or so later....a jar full of pastel colored M&Ms along with instructions to count them. If the number was 99, the answer was no. If the number was 100, the answer was yes. There were 99 M&Ms. But lest you think this is some cruel joke, Julianne had an inkling that not all was as it seemed. So she was unsurprised, but delighted when the doorbell rang about 20 minutes later and on the front porch dressed in a suit was Britton....holding a white rose with the final M&M tucked inside its petals. "Oh Mom," she swooned. "I feel like I'm on an episode of 'The Bachelor!'" (And this is saying something seeing as 'The Bachelor' has been one of her favorite guilty pleasures lately.)

Rebekah had also put together an "ask" for Nolan, her fellow Madrigal and English class study buddy. His answer was equally fun, though no one really noticed or knew what was going on at the time even though it came in front of a huge audience....he answered her in the middle of their elaborate Madrigal Lovers Feast. (See here for more details.)

When I was in high school, Sadie Hawkins was a girls choice dance held in the fall. The girls bought matching shirts for themselves and their date, and the theme was the traditional Li'l Abner old comic book (and then Broadway musical and movie) surrounding a bunch of hillbilly characters with Sadie Hawkins chasing Li'l Abner in the hopes to get him to Marryin' Sam for a wedding. And our Sadies dance did indeed include a fake wedding with cheapy tin rings and a marriage license.

From Wikipedia:
An American folk event, Sadie Hawkins Day is a pseudo-holiday that originated in Al Capp's classic hillbilly comic stripLi'l Abner (1934–1978). This inspired real-world Sadie Hawkins dances, where girls ask boys out.
In Li'l Abner, Sadie Hawkins was the daughter of one of Dogpatch's earliest settlers, Hekzebiah Hawkins. The "homeliest gal in all them hills", she grew frantic waiting for suitors to come a-courtin'. When she reached the age of 35, still a spinster, her father was even more frantic—about Sadie living at home for the rest of her life. In desperation, he called together all the unmarried men of Dogpatch and declared it "Sadie Hawkins Day". A foot race was decreed, with Sadie in hot pursuit of the town's eligible bachelors.
The town spinsters decided that this was such a good idea, they made Sadie Hawkins Day a mandatory yearly event, much to the chagrin of Dogpatch bachelors. In the satirical spirit that drove the strip, many sequences revolved around the dreaded Sadie Hawkins Day race. If a woman caught a bachelor and dragged him, kicking and screaming, across the finish line before sundown—by law he had to marry her.

But Sadies at Rebekah and Julianne's high school is somewhat different. Held in the spring, it has nothing Li'l Abner about it. No fake weddings, no hillbilly theme. A different theme each year and matching shirts that could or not be tied to said theme. I don't remember what exactly the theme for Sadies was this year, just that it had something to do with space or the heavens or galaxies or something. So Rebekah's group opted to go with galaxy shirts...a popular fad.

Julianne's group went with something equally fashionably popular, though it had nothing to do with the theme....they all wore superhero shirts. Julianne and Britton sported Captain America tees.
All in all, Sadies is a fun, casual sort of evening. And though personally I think its more fun to keep the Sadie Hawkins dance tied to its traditional roots....whatever. A good time was had by all.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014


Some of my favorite high school memories are wrapped around being in the school musical all three years there. I didn't ever really play anything more than just ensemble roles. In fact, I don't even think I had any kind of name or even a line until "Kismet" my senior year. But I loved every bit of the process...from the summer rehearsals learning the music and then spending long after school hours on stage learning blocking and choreography, to the tech and dress rehearsals and then the actual performances themselves. Good stuff, all of it.

The high school that my girls attend has a fairly high standard of excellence when it comes to music and theatre. Lots of talented kids all vying for spots in the various plays, musicals, choirs and performances. And unlike my high school where anyone who actually auditioned at least got a part in the ensemble in the big, main school Rebekah and Julianne's high school, this was not the case. Up until this past year only juniors and seniors were even allowed to audition. Things changed up a bit this year with a new director, which made it possible for sophomores to fight for a spot in the cast...but if anything, it made competition that much more stiff.

Rebekah and Julianne both auditioned. And glory be, when the list went up both of their names were on it! I was a very proud (and relieved) mama.

"Footloose" was the chosen musical for the year. A full on 80's show which made me feel just the slightest bit old as my daughters came to me for advice on costume pieces and hairstyles. And when they were instructed to find 80's formalwear for the Prom scene finale I already had two hideously lacy dresses in my closet that I myself had worn to Junior Prom and Senior Ball when I was in high school. The girls got complimented often on their very vintage 80's dresses and got a kick out telling people where they had come from...  

"Footloose," "Let's Hear It For the Boy," "Almost Paradise,"" Holding Out For a Hero,""I'm Free"....
I tell you what, it sure was fun hearing those songs again that were so popular during my high school days.

When Bryan caught sight of Rebekah in her white lacy dress he leaned over and said, "Hey...I think that dress looks kind of familiar!" It was the dress I wore on our first date to Junior Prom. Nice to know it made a big enough impression that he remembers...

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

A new smile

My baby lost her first tooth on Sunday. She's been itching for a loose tooth for months now.
"When, when, when???" has been her constant mantra.
Apparently she's the very last kid in her 1st grade class to actually lose a tooth. Important stuff, losing teeth. At least when you are 6-years old.

I think she thought that as soon as the tooth became loose it would only be a matter of hours before the thing came out.
That's how long it took.
I had to talk her out of tying a piece of string around the tooth and attaching it to a pot that she'd then throw over the stair railing...something her older sister Rebekah suggested as something she had done when she was her age. But only because it was nowhere near that ready.

But then she started chickening out when the time came to actually yank it. Probably because she was getting conflicting advice from her parents...her dad telling her to leave it alone till it fell out on its own and her mom assuring her that just a quick yank would be all it took to get that wiggly thing out of there once and for all.

She finally agreed to the yank and out it came, easy peasy.
She ran down the street to show her new smile to friend Sophie. Sophie had just lost her first tooth five days earlier.
"Mom! It's the exact same tooth! We are TWINS!"
Later as I put her to bed with the tooth tucked securely under her pillow she said, "You know...Sophie got two dollars for her tooth. Are you going to give me that much too so we can still be twins?"
Yes, my child does not believe in the Tooth Fairy. She asked for truth and I answered. But like her siblings before her, she still wanted the tradition of it all. So under the pillow in a special tooth shaped box it went.

Funny back story: When Rebekah was in 1st grade and still had a mouthful of baby teeth, she asked if the Tooth Fairy was real or if it was just me. I hemmed and hawed and tried to side-step the question. She was having none of it and wanted the truth of it all. I told her the Tooth Fairy was me. She accepted it gracefully and went on with her day.
A couple of weeks later she came home in a tizzy. "Mom!" she said. "You were wrong...the Tooth Fairy IS real!" When I questioned her further she told me that a friend at school had lost his first tooth. The Tooth Fairy had come and left him some coins. She assumed that since she was the oldest and we hadn't ever had the experience yet, clearly I just didn't realize that the Tooth Fairy was indeed real...and out collecting baby teeth and leaving money in their place. Ignorance on my part.
I figured if she wanted to believe that much, who was I to argue?
But she's a smart kid and after losing a tooth or two, she asked again. And this time took my word for it. None of my kids have really believed since then.

Funny, isn't it...that the Tooth Fairy and Easter Bunny seem completely out of the realms of believability for my children but Santa Claus is totally realistic? Granted, I've never pushed the fairy and the bunny like I do the big, jolly maybe it's on me.
With 3 teenaged siblings, I often wonder how long she'll accept Santa as real...especially if she's the only one in the household who still believes. I figure we only have a couple more years at most. She's an inquisitive child and like her sister Julianne before her, very perceptive.

And yes. I did leave her two dollars in exchange for the tooth so she could be "twins" with Sophie.
And also had a conversation with her about not ruining the Tooth Fairy magic for her friends who still believe....

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Feeling green

We like St. Paddy's Day. Due I'm sure to the fact that we have Irish blood running through our veins. At least I'm assuming that's why I'm always drawn to Irish pubs to eat, movies that take place in Ireland, Irish accents, and bagpipes in parades. Go figure.

We had so much fun last year at the St. Patricks Day parade in SLC, that we decided it must become tradition. Unfortunately, this year it was rather cold. Sunny, yes. But a biting wind was whistling through the parade route at The Gateway. We had brought a blanket to sit on but instead used it to wrap around us as we huddled together for warmth. Hot chocolate at Starbucks helped too.

All in all, we had a glorious time decked out in our green and taking in the festivities. Such a fun family activity....we thoroughly enjoyed the bagpipers, the Irish hounds, the Irish dancers and the tons and tons of GREEN!

One of my favorite parade entries...these kilt wearing Star Wars storm troopers advertising the upcoming Comic Con. I laughed good and long.

Can't wait for next year!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Sometimes you just have to sit in the sun.

And no, that's not actually a metaphor for anything. Although I suppose it could be...something about living optimistically or in God's light or being your best self or, you know...something.
But really, I'm just cold this morning.
So I found this piece of sun splayed out across the carpet in my living room and I'm sitting in it. It feels good. Even if it's making a glare on the laptop screen.

I saw Les Miserables at Hale Centre Theatre last night. It packed such an emotional wallop that even this morning I tear up when I talk with anyone about it.

The movie didn't make me cry.
Frankly, the movie bugged me. (I know that's unpopular to say.)
But no....I didn't find it to be the great and mighty movie viewing experience that most of the masses did.

Oh, I liked it fine. There was a lot of good in it. Things even, that I was really impressed with and quite enjoyed. But overall, it was a let down.

Why, oh why, why, WHY did they not hire real singers? Big names with star power to bring in the audience? It was Les Mis, for heavens sake! Of course people would've come regardless of if Wolverine was in the show or not! And while I appreciate the fact that Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway and the like could actually hold a tune in a bucket, they did not have anywhere close to the vocal depth to pull off and do justice to those songs.
I got in a bit of a tiff with someone on-line over this. It's a movie, she said. Not a musical on the stage. Of course they're going to hire actors over singers.
To which I scratched my head and said, Ummm....huh??
The movie is 99% SINGING!
Ever hear of Broadway? Those folks can sing AND act! (And they do it all in one take, every single day of the week! A little nod there to the "impressive" feat of having the actors in the film do their songs "live" on camera rather than in multiple takes.)

So last night at Hale Centre Theatre I figured I'd get a good performance. I'd seen the cast list and knew they had some stellar talent. But being that Les Miserables is quite a demanding show...could they really pull it off in their "theatre in the round?"

Oh boy, they could and how! What I got was more than just a good performance. In my opinion, it was one of their best. Ever. And I sat there and wished mightily that all the masses that raved about the movie could see THIS show and understand what Les Mis truly can be.

Oh, it wasn't perfect, certainly. But that show, those actors with all the feeling and emotion they packed into their singing, their facial expressions, their entire performances....I felt like I understood the story more than I had ever before. I've seen the movie. I've seen the Broadway version. I've been listening to the soundtrack since high school. I know the story and its message well. Except, last night showed me that maybe I didn't. At least not as well as I thought. Tears streaming down my cheeks, I felt like I had gone beyond knowing the show to finally, really getting it.

Justice and mercy. Light and darkness. Grief and heartache. Forgiveness and love.

Maybe sitting in the sun is an appropriate metaphor after all.....