Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The fat lady sang

Last night was closing night of my final production for Drama @ The Bay, a drama team I started four years ago. The production was done as a dinner theater, and our guests enjoyed a BBQ dinner plus a three act play. It was the most ambitious thing we've done so far, and sadly, it was the last. For me anyway. Since we are moving out of the country in 75 days, there will be no future productions to look forward to unless someone steps up to take over. It's one of those things that everyone really loves but doesn't want to be in charge of. For me, it's been the best way to put my theater education to good use while benefiting our local community and talent. Mainly it's just been incredibly satisfying to give people of all ages an outlet for their creativity and gifts, particularly people who were once drama nerds before they went on to become accountants or mommies.

Last night we tore down a set in one hour that took over a month to build and decorate. An hour after the last audience member was gone, our performance space was transformed from a dining facility and theater back into a generic hall. Which reminds me so much of what it is like when you have young kids in the house: you spend hours doing laundry and in a moment the laundry basket is full again. Or you take a weekend to give the living room an entire top to bottom refresher and in walks Thing 1 and Thing 2 and chaos and disorder are back in a flash. Oh well. It's fun while it lasts!

Thanks to every one of the talented and hardworking people I've had the privilege of working with over the past four years! And an extra special thanks to the handful of ladies who have helped the most by watching my two little monkeys during rehearsals so that I could do what I have done. What a fun ride it has been!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Lovely Lego

There have been many a night (or day for that matter) when my bare feet have made contact with an errant piece of Lego resulting in a one footed hop around the room and a declaration that all Lego will be immediately confiscated. However, I never follow through on that threat as those brightly colored mini bricks are one of my favorite toys for the boys to play with. They don't require batteries, make noise, or do all the work for the kids. And they encourage imaginative play, which I'm all for.

My favorite Lego project was when Nathan was in Kindergarten and was required to bring 100 of something to share on the 100th day of school. Together Nathan and I counted out 100 Lego pieces and then created a base and the number 100 with them. It was the talk of the school and his teacher kept if for a few weeks before returning it to us.

But today I found something made of Lego that is strictly for the moms... jewelry made with the brightly colored bricks and then accented with a diamond. I can't immediately tell if I love it or think it is totally ridiculous, but I know I want it! The pieces sell for $250 apiece, which could buy quite a lot of Lego for the boys, so despite wanting it, I certainly don't need it!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A tree falls...

I'm prepping for a big show this weekend and there are endless tiny details that need to be addressed. One not so tiny detail was a certain set piece that three guys need to sit on that has to resemble a log. We've been using a bench covered in burlap for rehearsal, but the director really wanted a log. Last night we added a little chicken wire and paper mache to the bench. I felt like I was back in high school drama all over again!
Today our sound tech, Brian, was kind enough to do the first pass of painting it to look less like a bench covered in chicken wire and paper mache and more like a log in the middle of the forest. Brian was also kind enough to let Benjamin help. Which means Ben got covered in spray paint. I made him take off his shirt before he started! Brian gave him a rag dipped in turpentine to clean his hands off, which also served the dual purpose of clearing his stuffy sinuses. He just got a nice warm bath to get rid of the last residue of paint and chemicals and now we are both going to take a nap.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Pets

I grew up with dogs and cats for pets. Around jr high through high school we also added geese, chickens, pigs, and horses. There was always something fluffy to pet or hold. I can't imagine what it would be like to be a kid without a furry best friend! We had two kitties when Nathan was born. One was my cat Bruce who was my first pet as an adult. I adopted him after Mike proposed and then left on a touring production of Pocahontas. I had no way of knowing that Michael was allergic! It was not the best reunion when he came home from the tour with puffy red eyes and loud wheezing. In the interest of domestic tranquility, Michael got allergy shots and I kept Bruce.
Somehow we ended up with a second kitty, Jackie, whose function was to keep Bruce company since he seemed lethargic and depressed and the vet recommended it. Jackie was one generation away from being feral and only antagonized Bruce. Ironically, she loved Mike, who couldn't so much as touch her without his eyes swelling up. She also loved baby Nathan and was constantly near him. Shortly after Nathan's birth we moved to Japan, sans felines. When we returned and reclaimed them from my parents, Bruce was more than just lethargic. There was something seriously wrong with him and we lost him shortly after that. It was terrible for me and in the wake of mourning for this cat I declared we would have no more pets... it's too hard to lose them! Jackie became downright wild and we found out we were expecting Benjamin and I could no longer take care of the litter and such due to a complication with the pregnancy. We found Jackie a happy home with lots of other kitties.
Since then, the only pets we've had have been two Betta fish. Nathan's was named Scruffy and he died about a month after we got him. It was a sad day for our first born and we held a fish funeral and buried him in a shiny paper jewelry box. Benjamin's fish, Tuna, has managed to survive a couple of years despite the lack of regular food and fresh Betta water. He is stubborn, I guess. We'll have to find him a new home soon as we can't take him to Macau.
In the meantime, Nathan has tried every argument possible to convince us to get a pet that has four legs. But our history of 12 moves in 13 years and the back and forth out of the country relocations just don't make it easy to own and care for a pet. Nathan recently took matters in his own hands and brought home from school a carefully wrapped package. I was fearful when he gently handed it to me and said to open it. Inside I found his perfect pet: A rock. He has carried Mr. Rock with him everywhere, sleeps with it at night, and has even started making action figures of the rock and is writing stories about it. Did I mention he has a wild imagination? I hate to deprive my kids of the joy and responsibility that comes with pet ownership but until we settle somewhere for more than a year and actually own instead of rent I don't think it will be in their future.

Mr. Rock and his "Jet Pack" action figure.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Bling for Boys


I was such a girly-girl growing up. I loved dressing up my dollies and dreamed of the day I'd have a real baby to dress up. When I had my babies, I didn't find it nearly as satisfying to dress them as the baby dolls I'd loved in my childhood! Michael however, took great care to dress and cover their heads with little beanies and put coordinating socks on them each and every day. Our kids never spent the day in onesies or footed sleepers! Daddy made sure they were always dressed! As they've gotten older, I've given them lots of room to wear what they want. Both Michael and I work in the arts so we actually tend to encourage it. I'm always tickled when they come out dressed in something that isn't the usual color palette of the American child. I draw the line for weddings, family portraits, and occasionally church on Sunday (I say occasionally because our church is as casual as it gets, the pastor wears shorts, sandals, and Hawaiian shirts and everyone wears denim and tees). Sometimes the boys come out in odd combinations but if you ask why they put that shirt with those pants, they always have a compelling reason. Nice to know that they aren't just haphazardly tossing on clothes. Benjamin is big into accessories right now. He has worn a medical alert bracelet since he was six weeks old (to alert people about his congenital heart disease) and possible as a result he is drawn to other bracelets. Lately he's also been wearing a leather band he designed and constructed, along with a half inch wide jelly bracelet. The last several days he's been wearing a necklace he made as well. He pointed out with delight that several of his classmates noticed it yesterday. And of course he always tops off his outfits with something unexpected... like a paper lightsaber for instance! When I was younger I longed for a little girl that would wear my heels and makeup and jewelry. I am surprised as anyone to find that I love having these two creative and artistic boys!

Magic Kingdom Birthdays


Disney just announced that in 2009 you can get in free to Disney theme parks on your birthday. But only the ones in America. Which is a bummer because we won't be in America at all in 2009.

When I was growing up and when Mike and I were dating and newlyweds we went to Disneyland each year on my birthday. Since my birthday happens to be Christmas Eve, it was a great treat since Disneyland closed early and as a result the park was always empty.

We took Nathan on his actual birthday when he turned five. Nathan shares his birthday with none other than Mickey Mouse himself! Lucky boy.

The Emperor's New Fridge

I don't think this has ever happened before!
Our fridge, totally devoid of drawings and alphabet magnets and spelling quizzes. It looks so... naked! I like it! As we prepare for our move to Macau (88 days away!) and into a home that is already fully furnished, we are seriously downsizing. And by downsizing I mean we are getting rid of everything we own, short of the things that are irreplaceable. Like photos. We are shipping the bunk beds to Macau along with our absolutely favorite wall-sized cube bookcase (that is no longer sold) and selling off or giving away the rest of our household goods. The kitchen is always a good place, which brings us back to the newly naked fridge. It's quite liberating! You should try it!

Happy Birthday Uncle Mitch


We celebrated Michael's little brother's birthday this weekend at their Mom and Dad's house. Judging by the candles, he is either eight, fifty-three, or thirty-five. Notice it's the same lemon cake that Mike got for his birthday two weeks ago. It would appear to be a family favorite!

Monday, September 15, 2008

City of Ember


Several months ago we took the boys to see a movie. During the trailers we saw a preview of a film that left all four of us wide eyed and staring at each other saying we need to see that... Of course, it wasn't until weeks later I remembered the preview and went online to find it. The movie, City of Ember, is based on a book by the same name by Jeanne Duprau. I promptly ordered the book which is aimed at tweens, and read the entire thing in one sitting, totally stunned that I've never heard of the book before. It's exactly the book I would have adored and read over and over in my early childhood. I gave it to Mike, who read it on his last flight to Hong Kong, and now the boys are reading it and loving it too. After we found out that there is a sequel, a prequel, and just released last month a fourth book, we've ordered those, too. I just finished the second book and quickly got halfway through the third. I'm crossing my fingers that the film, which comes out on October 10th, is just as enchanting and interesting as the book!

Friday, September 12, 2008

9/11

In early September of 2001 we were still living in Japan but preparing to repatriate back to the US. Our return flight was scheduled to depart on September 11th, but when Michael's boss asked if anyone on the project wanted to return a week earlier, our homesickness for sourdough bread and the grandparents swelled and we enthusiastically said yes.

Homeless after our return, Michael, Nathan, and I were all staying in the loft above my in law's living room while we figured out what Mike's next career move would be. We were disoriented from jet lag, made worse due to 10 month old Nathan who could not be convinced to sleep when everyone else was desperately trying to sleep. That Tuesday morning Michael managed to shower but couldn't put one foot in front of the other to get out of the house and into the office where he was scheduled to work on closing documents on the Tokyo project. We were grumpily lounging on the bed playing the "I'm-more-tired-than-you" game when my father-in-law called up the stairs saying I had a phone call. Picking up the extension I found my Mom on the line in hysterics. I could not understand what she was saying because of the sobs. She kept asking if Michael was with me or if he was driving past LAX, repeatedly saying, "one is missing, they don't know where it is, what if it's in Los Angeles".

Not knowing what she was talking about, I was gripped with fear. I've only witnessed my mom cry once in my life. She is the toughest chick you will ever meet, owns (and operates) her own chainsaw, never panics, never frets, and lets nothing ruffle her feathers (at least not visibly). I knew that whatever it was that had her so worked up had to be nothing short of the end of the world. After asking her over and over again what she was talking about, she finally screamed "JUST TURN ON YOUR TV!" We ran downstairs and called Mike's parents to the living room where we were just in time to see, live, a plane flying directly into the World Trade Center.

The horror we felt defies description. The next few hours are a blur in my memory. I remember only that my tee shirt was soaked with tears that had streamed down my face unchecked, and that at some point Nathan finally fell asleep in the most uncomfortable position. He sat facing out on Mike's lap, with his little face resting on the palm of Daddy's hand. We snapped a photo which never fails to bring me to tears when I see it with the date Sep 11 2001 stamped in red on it. Our child, sleeping peacefully in the safety and protection of his father's arms while the world quite literally fell to pieces.



So much changed that day in the world. My own personal change was profound. On September 10, 2001 I believed that I had the power to protect my child from anything bad the world had to offer. On September 11, I knew otherwise.

How easy it would it be to cower in fear and close ourselves off from anything mildly threatening? But I think that instead of living in fear, Michael and I chose to go the other direction. We don't do anything that would obviously put our children in danger; we don't let them play ball in the street or run with scissors. But we do continue to move all over the world and travel to places most parents wouldn't take their young children. We send our kids to preschool and day camp where they are the only ones with blue eyes. We involve ourselves in the day to day operation of our local public elementary school where Nathan's first grade class had six different religions represented last year, while never far from our mind is the fact that 100% of our closest friends homeschool their children. We try to make bold and fearless choices with our own lives, knowing that what we show our kids is infinitely more important that what we tell them.

I may not be able to protect my kids from danger, but I can walk with them along side it and teach them how to be strong and courageous when it comes near. How to live by Faith and not by sight, so that it is still possible to fall asleep and rest peacefully in our Father's arms when the world is falling apart. I want to teach them it is okay to be afraid, but it's not okay to let fear dictate what we do with our lives. It's a tall order indeed, but I'm grateful that each year on this day I can take a moment to inventory how far we have come, and how far we still have to go.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Sick Puppy

Benjamin is sick today. He woke up throwing up and has spent the last several hours alternating between sitting on a little stool in the bathroom and laying on his side in bed. As a parent I think it's probably the worst thing to have a sick kid and be unable to really do anything to make things better. Poor baby.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Homework!

Just about every day for the last two years Benjamin has been begging for homework. Each day Nathan would come home from school and moan, groan, and complain about his homework while Ben would sit near him and watch his every move, encouraging him to complete it. At some point I started giving Ben homework of his own, like a worksheet or a coloring page and he would get to work on it with all the focus he could muster.
Today was Ben's first day with his own "real" homework from Kindergarten and he is so happy! I said, "Ben, let's get your homework started", and he shot to the table, ready to work. I'm sure that this enthusiasm will wear off at some point, but right now I'm enjoying this!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Kindergarten

Today my youngest child started Kindergarten! In the year 2021 we'll have two kids in college. Can you hear the click-click-click-click of the roller coaster ascending to the top of the first big drop? There's nothing we can do to stop the ride now that we're on it...


And just to take a stroll down memory lane... here's Nathan on his first day of Kindergarten two years ago.


First Day of School



You know when it's a weekday morning in September and you've taken 93 photos by 9:30 a.m. that it MUST be the first day of school...

Back to School


Thursday, September 4, 2008

Last Day of Summer Vacation!

It's the last day of summer vacation... so what did we do?

We went to Disneyland! Gotta use up those Three Day Park Hopper passes before they expire!

We had a blast and got soaked, but the best part was that all the Orange County and the Los Angeles Unified School districts are already back in school so we pretty much had both Disneyland and Disney's California Adventure all to ourselves. We did everything we wanted to do in both parks in exactly eight hours.


We got home in time to go check the classroom rosters that were posted in front of the boys' elementary school...

We were happy to see that Benjamin will have the same teacher that Nathan had in Kindergarten, Mrs. Kajikawa. She was not a great fit for Nathan (although we as parents learned so much about how to be an advocate for our child that year), but the entire year I kept saying, "She would be the perfect teacher for Ben!" And now she will be!

Nathan will have a teacher that I can almost count as a friend... she is the mother of one of Nat's friends, and I spent a lot of time with her at a Mother's Day luncheon, a couple of "bring someone special to school" days, the volunteer teas, and chatting with her during recess or before school. We are so happy with this assignment!

Nathan had such a fabulous teacher last year for 1st grade and I picked her brain about the variety of 2nd grade teachers. She said there were a few great teachers and a few who were certainly not so great, including a couple known for being screamers while trying to get their classes under control. Yikes! Not what our already high-strung and sensitive child needs!

We'll let you know how tomorrow goes!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Michael the Birthday Boy!

For Michael's birthday we went to Fullerton, California.

We ate at the Old Spaghetti Factory.

With Uncle Jeff, who, along with his twin brother, was born on the same day in the same year as Michael, about four hours and 16 miles apart.

Then we let the kids play on the train tracks.
Well, okay, next to the train tracks.
Then we went home and hung out.
And Daddy tickled the boys until they fell on the floor laughing hysterically.
Michael showed off his new birthday books.
And then we took some goofy family photos.
It was a good day. Happy birthday Michael! We love you!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Labor Day Pre-Birthday Celebration

Michael was born on September 2nd which means he always gets a three day weekend to celebrate his birthday! In the past I've planned some amazing trips to commemorate the day of his birth... like climbing the Great Wall of China, staying at a lodge in Sequoia National Park, or renting a private house with pool in Palm Springs. This year was much more low key. Since he just got home from Macau and Hong Kong, we decided to just stay close to home.
Today I let him sleep in (jet lag) and then he went to get propane for the grill so he could do his absolute favorite Labor Day activity... BBQ! He makes enormous rib eye steaks rubbed with special spices and then soaked in butter and grilled just right. Have I ever mentioned that I was a vegetarian until I started dating him? Even the boys devour Mike's steaks like they were candy!
Tonight we were joined by Mike's Mom and Dad and sister Holly. Auntie Holly is everyone's favorite aunt... maybe because she doesn't yet have kids and can devote all of her attention (and energy) to her nieces and nephews. My boys adore her and she patiently played Power Ranger Walkie Talkie with Benjamin. Of course he was standing about 9 inches away shouting "CAN YOU HEAR ME?" as loud as he could into the microphone. We ended the evening with cake and candles and singing Happy Birthday to Mike, one day early.