Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Going Home

I just got home from spending a long weekend in my hometown. What started out as a two-day trip somehow extended a few days, and before I knew it, I was out of clean underwear. Luckily, I was at my mother’s house, a home where the washing machine is mine to use as I see fit. I went up by myself (ok, not by myself; just Sam and me, but Sam doesn’t contribute to buying gas or taking a turn driving, so he doesn’t count) on Thursday, saw some old friends (which was awesome), and then came home, sank down into bed in my childhood bedroom, and slept the sleep of someone whose mother is going to get up with the baby in the morning. So nice.

Friday night was the June birthday party, where we celebrated Pookie’s second birthday, Rachel’s nineteenth, and my, ahem, twenty-seventh with octopus cupcakes and a dip in the pool. Sam didn’t want to get out, which makes me regret having taught him the sign for “more”. Every time we took him out of the pool, he asked for more. More swimming. Poor kid was all pruny, and he wanted more swimming. But he asked so nicely, we just kept swimming, just kept swimming. Husband, who had stayed behind in SC to work, decided that he simply could not bear being away from us for more than a day at a time (thus the beautiful codependence that is our relationship) so he drove up Friday evening. Sam was so excited to see him. So, quite frankly, was I. Husband is pretty awesome, after all.

On Saturday, my grandparents came over for breakfast (let’s be fair; they came over to watch Sam eat breakfast) and we had a nice visit, and then Husband and I...WENT ON A DATE. We did! We left Sam with his Nana, and went to see Up. I really liked it. I don’t agree with the people who say it’s Pixar’s best movie yet, but I enjoyed it. I cried a lot…like…heaving sobs. Not just a single tear drifting elegantly down my cheek…no. We’re talking huge, heaving, mascara running down my face, not being able to breathe sobs. Weird reaction to a Disney movie, but there you go. That’s me. The old man was so sad! How can you not be touched by that??

We did receive some sad news this weekend, though. My dad’s cousin Linda Mae passed away. She was one of the seven cousins all born the same year as my dad. They called themselves “The Magnificent Seven”…apparently, 1942 was quite the fertile year in Chuckey, TN. Something in the corn, I guess. She was a wonderful lady, beautiful and funny, and she will be greatly missed. I stayed in Tennessee for her funeral, which was last night. It wasn’t a service, just a huge covered-dish meal. The entire clan got together at Horse Creek Church of God and weighed down several tables with casserole dishes and just sat around and ate and talked about how great she was. It was fitting, and it was beautiful. It was also really, really weird. I haven’t been around my dad’s side of the family much over the past few years. It’s not by choice, just a matter of unfortunate timing. And being around them just makes me miss my dad that much more. When I was little, my dad’s family got together all the time. So as close as most people are to their aunts and uncles? That’s how close I am with me second cousins, twice removed. I remember, when I was little, being loaded up into the car to go to Mamie’s house for a cookout, or to Horse Creek for a picnic, and asking “Who is going to be there?” (Kid-speak for “is there going to be anybody there besides my brother to play with?) And Dad would say, “You know. Everybody.” So “everybody” became the blanket term for all my dad’s aunts and uncles and cousins and all their kids. And…okay…they all look alike. So it was really nice, as a kid, to be able to just go climb up on anybody’s lap and know that it was okay. I mean, so what if I didn’t know exactly which lap it was? I knew it looked like a family lap, so the person that lap belonged to must love me a whole lot. And I was right. They did (do) love me a whole lot. Because they loved my daddy a lot. And now, they love my son a whole lot. What was really strange was to walk into that fellowship hall last night and SMELL my family. Well, not my family, per se, but my family’s food. Trays and trays of deviled eggs, homemade pickles, baked beans, potato salad, mashed potatoes, scalloped potatoes, baked grits, fried chicken, smoked turkey, green beans, ham, ham biscuits, ham salad…it’s what coming home smells like to me. All those smells, all those voices, all those people…even if I can’t remember a name, I can always recognize my nose on someone else’s face. My chin on that cousin, my cheeks on that aunt. My smile in that photograph that was taken a long time before I was born.

It was a wonderful thing, to be feeding my baby at that long folding table. He hadn’t ever met most of these people, and yet he walked right up to them and gave them hugs, blew them kisses, and waved at them. People just scooped him right up and kissed him and squeezed him…just like I’m sure they did with me when I was a kid. He ate pickled okra and dilly beans, mashed potatoes and coleslaw, cornbread and deviled eggs…and he fit right in. He was introduced, not as my baby boy, but as “Steve Hensley’s grandbaby”. And I liked that a lot. Linda Mae’s granddaughter, a beautiful blonde girl about four years old, started playing with Sam. It was really beautiful…they had never met, but they went right up to each other, and she gave Sam a big hug and they rolled a beach ball back and forth. I think we figured out that they are second cousins, twice removed. So at least when Sam asks me “Who is going to be there?” and I say “You know. Everybody.”…he’ll know there is going to be someone there he can play with. And that the deviled eggs are out of this world.

Homemade pickles, by the way? Worth their weight in gold.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

2009 Spark Awards...pomp, circumstance, and frivolity

So, in my role as a stay-at-home mom, I have very little opportunity to wear a tiara.
I mean, sure, I have the good fortune to spend most of my day in pajamas if I so choose, but that can bring a girl down after a while. So imagine my excitement when I opened the e-vite for the 2009 Spark Awards (if you don't know what this is, it's the celebration of the end of FIRE's first season- awards, merriment, food, etc.) and I saw what may be my favorite word in the language of invitations: "formal".
In these troubling economic times, it seemed irresponsible to go out and buy a new dress for the evening, so I went to the attic and brought down a couple of "pre-baby" dresses. To be fair, the baby wasn't really the blame for their banishment to the attic. The fault lies in being with a man who loves to feed me cake (see "Songs for a New Word, and a New Me"). ANYWAY. I found a dress that I wore to an event in college (the induction of my parents' research into the Tennessee Aviation Hall of Fame) and thought, "Hmmm." And so here we are, six years later, and the dress fits again. Huzzah. Very exciting.
Here's the thing: I love getting dressed up. LOOOOOVE it. I have never been one of those girls who took her shoes off at the prom, and I think women who change into flip-flops at their wedding receptions should be taken aside and told that it's only one day (or two, in my case, but who's freaking counting? Don't you judge me.) and they need to suck it up and keep their freaking heels on or they are going to look like idiots in the wedding pictures fifty years from now. But I digress...wearing pretty shoes and fancy hair is one of my favorite things to do. I do love an event. I love everyone looking their best, everyone feeling celebratory and all the good vibes that fly around when everyone is happy and all is good with the world. I also love wearing sparklies. That's fun, too.
Husband looks great in a suit. We're the same height. This leads many people to say things like, "Oh, so you have to wear flats around him?" Um. No. He's secure enough in his manhood that my wearing heels doesn't intimidate him. And I, at 5'4", don't have any height-related psychological issues. So, yes. I wear heels. Pretty much all the time. Why? Because they're fabulous and make my legs look nine miles long. Will I sacrifice that feeling for something so trivial as COMFORT? No, ma'am.

Anyway. Husband looked amazing, my friends looked amazing, and my hair was a thing of miracles. All in all, it was a grand time.

I took home "Best One-Bite Banana Eater of the Year" and "Best Exaggeration of a Body Part".

Husband won "Best Bearded Impersonation of His Own Child".

Sam has added yet another title to his collection, and is now "Wee Mister Henry Street".

If none of these make sense to you, you should have come to see more shows this year. Remedy the situation by coming to more of them next season. It will make you a better person.

On a more serious note, I was extremely honored to be given the "Inspire FIRE" award, voted on by the cast of "Godspell". This show was my first with FIRE, and it was a show I had wanted to be in since I was four years old. It was an incredible experience, and it really meant a lot to me. I didn't say this Sunday night, because emotions make me uncomfortable, but thank you, FIRE. My life is better because I'm a part of this amazing group of incredible, talented, big-hearted people.

I'm ready to rock next season. Rehearsals for "Musical of Musicals, the Musical" start tonight. The show runs the last weekend of June. Please try to make it; it's hysterical, and four of my favorite actors will be in it with me: Anita Sleeman, Charlie Stoop, Emiley Kiser, and Steve Schultz. It promises to be a thing of fabulocity.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Tacky, tacky, tacky...

Well. Being sick sucks. Being sick at the same time as your baby REALLY sucks.
I had pretty much thought Sam would never get sick. Sure, we have had runny noses and problems with teething, but for the most part, he hasn’t been sick. I attribute this to breastfeeding and all the leafy greens I ate when I was pregnant. Anyway, he’s a super-healthy baby. Never around cigarette smoke, gets plenty of sleep, drinks a lot of water, and eats a lot of lean protein and vegetables. Sam is Super Baby. But apparently, he has come into contact with some kryptonite. He started getting a runny nose and a cough last week, and we thought he was getting better, but last night he started running a fever. Husband took him to the doctor this morning, and the poor little guy had to have a chest x-ray. He has a lot of congestion, caused by allergies, which caused an infection. So now he’s on an antibiotic, and has free reign to drink as much juice as he wants.
Other than the congestion, though, you never would have known he was sick. He wasn’t cranky, and he continued to sleep well. Such a good boy. He waved at everyone in the waiting room at the doctor’s office, and played peek-a-boo with the x-ray machine. He doesn’t like his medicine too much, so we have a system that involves a juice box (the reward), my cell phone (the distraction), and his soft blanket (for comfort). He’s going to be fine. The doctor did tell Husband that Sam is very strong (which we knew) and quite beautiful (which we strongly suspected). We like that doctor.

We went to Paris Mountain yesterday to celebrate Memorial Day. We’ve done this for the past three years, and I think it’s a grand tradition. We pack a picnic of fancy cheeses and lovely crusty bread, sparkling cider and hummus, strawberries and grapes. We pack this lovely picnic in our fancy-schmancy picnic backpack with the matching cloth napkins and tablecloth and cheeseboard, then we spread everything out on a quilt, and enjoy the outdoors.

Allow me to clarify: We are not an outdoorsy family. We like our nature with a fine patina of Disney charm. We do not camp. We only hike far enough to find a picturesque spot to spread our quilt, and that’s good enough for us. We don’t “garden”. We find no joy in yard work. We do, however enjoy the outdoors as a nice backdrop for a pleasurable afternoon of fancy cheeses and lovely crusty bread.
I have nothing against nature per se…I love sitting on my mom’s back porch, watching the river through the trees. I love floating down that river on an inner tube, drinking a cold beer and feeling the sun warm my skin. I love swimming in the ocean, I love clear water and white sand. I will spend hours on a playground (outdoors!) and walk miles and miles through the park, pushing Sam in his rugged, all-terrain jogging stroller. I love a scenic vista as much as the next person. I just hate dirt. I hate gnats. And I hate humidity. With no shame, I admit that I love pavement. So there.

Anyway, we spent the afternoon at Paris Mountain, where we enjoyed our picnic and our lolling about, and there was much grand redneck-viewing to be done. I wonder, sometimes, whether or not these people have friends. Real friends, I mean, to tell them things like, “Honey, do NOT wear those plastic shoes,” or “Girl. Those jeans? Not for you.” The world would be so much more sensational if someone would just step up and tell these people to stop going out in public in their pajamas, to put some makeup on, and to pay attention to some basic freaking hygiene. Let’s just say that there were some people at the lake yesterday who should NOT have been wearing bikinis. Past a certain age/BMI, it isn’t just unflattering, it’s in poor taste. And poor taste, like, hurts my feelings. The word I would choose to describe this behavior/ apparel is “unfortunate”.

There were also a disturbing number of families consisting of a “me-maw” (usually in her early forties, tops), a teenager in bikini top and some tacky shorts with, like “Tinkerbell” or something written across the butt, and a dirty baby (if it’s a girl-type baby, it’s practically guaranteed that she is also wearing a bikini, and it’s more than likely a hideously tacky American flag print) who is, of course, not wearing any sunscreen. They all, of course, are drinking Mountain Dew. This? This is why I don’t have complete faith in humanity.

This is not to say, by any means, that all people who have babies in their teens are doomed to perpetuate this cycle of bad taste/ judgement. I have known many women who made the best of the situation, finished school, and taken that opportunity to step up and become adults. Their children are well-adjusted, wonderful contributions to society, and the world would be a sadder place without them.

But then there are the baby-mamas who I overhear in the grocery store, yelling things like, “Desiree! You get your butt back here and put them donuts down! You know better than that!” Really? Does she? Wherever did she learn it? Truly horrifying.

And, I’m sorry, did I miss something, or did all of South Carolina miss the memo that tanning CAUSES CANCER??? Cancer, people. Cancer. Tacky, tacky, tacky…

I realize, as I’m writing this, that the thing I cannot tolerate is not, as I previously suspected, stupidity. I mean, it bothers me when people can’t seem to grasp the difference between “your” and “you’re”, or when people wallow in their own ignorance, making statements like “I just don’t like the taste of wine,” or “Shakespeare is so boring.” Here’s some advice, free from me to you: if you feel this way, for heaven’s sake, keep it to yourself. Broadcasting this information makes you look like a moron. But I digress…
As I was saying, stupidity is something I actually can tolerate. I don’t like it, but I accept that it is a part of our world that I cannot change. What I cannot tolerate is tackiness. If you’re going to be stupid, by all means, go right ahead. But don’t wear it on your t-shirt. Don’t yell it across the grocery store. And don’t force it on your children.
As a bit of a community service, here is a list of things that I, personally, find tacky. It is by no means all-inclusive, so feel free to add suggestions as you see fit.
Here goes:
Acrylic nails, synthetic fabrics, all-over animal prints, being proud of watching a lot of tv, wearing pajamas in public if you’re over the age of three, blonde hair with black roots, permed hair, poufy 80’s bangs, tattoos of fairies/Tweety Bird/ dolphins, drinking wine coolers, t-shirts that read any of the following: Naughty, Bad Girl, F.B.I.: Female Body Inspector, Your Boyfriend Wants Me, etc., materialism, bigotry, homophobia, racism, misogyny, Nicholas Sparks, wearing clothes that are clearly too small for you, Burger King, tanning beds, Thomas Kincaid (the painter of light), political jokes, wall-mounted singing fish, unnecessary lawn ornamentation, contact adhesive, telling pregnant women how big they are, Playboy bunnies as anything but statements of irony, Mountain Dew, silk flowers, visible panty lines, reality tv, Hungry Man dinners, temper tantrums in anyone over three, physical violence, cruelty to animals, talking about money, the American Pie film series, touching a stranger’s baby, choosing movies over live theater, Doritos, rudeness, starting a sentence with the words “I know it’s not P.C., but…”, thinking all Southerners are inbred and uncultured, making fun of my accent, being intolerant of people of other faiths than yours (yes, this does mean that if you are an atheist, it’s tacky to make fun of Christians; that’s not very liberal of you), Fox news, flat-screen televisions, SUVs, middle school, socks with sandals, dragons, video games, Twitter, souvenir resort wear, picky eaters, injustice, kids wearing those stupid wheeled sneakers, high-fructose corn syrup, sweatpants with words across the butt.

That’s all I can think of right now.

But I’ll keep you posted.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Wee Mister Strawberry rules with an Iron Fist

A word about pageants…
Generally, I have a problem with them. I think they teach children skewed values based solely on appearance. I think that if your kid wins, she will go through life thinking she is better than everyone else, and if she loses, she will grow up convinced she isn’t pretty. Regardless of who wears the crown, everyone loses. Plus, the kiddie pageants with fake teeth, huge hair and spray tans are step-back creepy. Seriously.
However, like everything in life, there are exceptions to this rule. And that exception is: Pageants are okay, as long as they’re funny. That’s why I have no problem with the Mrs. America Pageant, in which the married contestants are required to wear gigantic state-themed costumes. And that’s why I thought it was perfectly fine to enter my sweet son in the Wee Mister Strawberry pageant. He won, of course, because he has charisma AND beauty, and yes, it was hilarious. Especially when Miss Upstate South Carolina announced him…twice…as “Sam Slutz” instead of “Sam Schultz”. Everyone else was horror-struck, except, of course, for Husband and me, who laughed so hard we almost forgot to have him do his three-point turn. The flaw with the pageant was that Miss Upstate South Carolina (who, though dumber than a bag of avocados, was beautiful and wearing a sparkly tiara) was standing behind Sam, so he kept turning to look at her instead of the judges. He does love the ladies. But he charmed them, and stole the title, the crown, the trophy, the scepter (yes, scepter), the sash, and the savings bonds. His stage experience served him well as he waved to the judges with a winning, put-on shyness. And he didn’t mock the other children, which I thought was kind of him. So now he’s a pageant baby. But I will only allow him to participate in pageants that will win him a hilarious title. Like Wee Mister Meatball, or the Baby Corndog King. After all, a girl’s gotta have standards.
Songs for a New World is over and done, the costumes piled up in my laundry room, waiting to be washed. It was an amazing experience. It was incredibly meaningful for me, being in the final show of FIRE’s first season. It’s hard for me to believe that I only met these people a year ago, and now they are such a huge part of my life. They are my family. They have watched my son learn to crawl, then to walk. It’s amazing to me how much my life has changed in the past year. It’s wonderful to have this place to be welcomed home. I love it that my son gets excited just getting out of the car and realizing we’re in the parking lot, because he knows that this is the place full of music, laughter, and a lot of people who love him. People have said that it must be so hard for him to be carted to and from the theater all the time, and that it’s irresponsible to keep him out so late. But the truth is, I think it’s great for him. How many kids have the opportunity to be around amazing musicians, watching live performances by outstanding actors, dancers, and singers, and being allowed to play with the switches on the light board? It’s the best playground ever! It’s our home away from home. And it’s a good one.
Husband actually got to sit and watch the show Saturday night, which was new. I mean, he had been to several rehearsals and had stood in the back, holding Sam, on opening night, but he got to sit in a seat and just watch on Saturday. That was pretty cool. It never gets old for me, to see his face after a show. I love coming out of the Artists’ Entrance and seeing him, beaming at me. It means so much to me that he thinks I’m good. When so many people in my life won’t even ask how a show went, how rehearsals are going, or even feign interest in what I do, it’s amazing to have that support in my life. I don’t know what I did to deserve him.
We went to Barnes and Noble last night, as we frequently do, to drink coffee and let Sam play with the trains. We had dinner with Mama N and Baby Girl and Company, and on the way home I decided that if I didn’t have a coffee posthaste I would probably die. Sam was playing with the trains, being all “I’m the cutest baby in the world,” and this KID, who was like FIVE, came over and gathered all the trains up in a pile and guarded them in the circle of his wiry five-year-old arms so that Sam couldn’t play with them. I think it shows remarkable restraint on my part that I didn’t push him down, and amazing cooperation skills on Sam’s part that left the trains and found a book to read. Well, turn the pages of. No fits, no crying, just a shrug of the shoulders and a “fuggedaboudit.” Good kid.
I’m pretty sure this Disney vacation planning DVD that arrived in the mail today (yes, our trip is planned for about a year from now, but it’s never too early to start) is making me cry a little. Cousin, Her Husband and Child just got back from Child’s first trip to the Happiest Place on Earth (or else) and the pictures are tooooo precious. I think it’s slowly killing Husband to have to wait till next summer to go. He’s jonesing for some Mickey. We’re sticking with an every-other-year Disney World pilgrimage plan, which I think is more than reasonable. The best year of Husband’s life, though, is when we went twice in three months. The year we got married, played Beatrice and Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing, drove to Key West in a haze of brand-new-in-loveness and our son was born? That year has nothing on the Year of Two Trips to Disney World. It’s weird, though, the power Disney World has over you. But, yeah, the PLANNING DVD is making me a little teary-eyed. It might be that I’m slightly doped up on a combination of Nyquil and Mucinex.
Anyhow...I must go tend to the needs of Wee Mister Strawberry. He's pretty demanding of his subjects is all I'm saying...

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Songs for a New World...and a new me

I love Songs for a New World. I love its message of hope. I love the tight harmonies, the amazing voices in the cast, and I love the lighting design. Simply put, I’ve never seen anything like it. I’ve never been a part of anything like it. And it’s an honor.

We open tomorrow night, and for once, I’m actually ready. My costumes are finished, everything else I was supposed to do (for this show, it was minimal; I had to make a 95 lb. high school senior look like she was about to have a baby in, like, ten seconds, a feat that I accomplished with cotton batting, muslin, a six dollar bra from K-Mart, hot glue, and safety pins…pure genius) is done. As far as tech goes for me, it’s pretty simple, which is good. I don’t have any really fast changes; my hair and makeup don’t have to be insane. I don’t have to create enormous, droopy, false breasts made from a nursing bra and two of Sam’s sweaters. What I do have to do is remember the words to these songs, and to remember the alto line. Here’s my dirty little secret: I’m not really an alto. I’m a soprano with a freaking huge range. But in nearly every choir I’ve ever sung with, I’ve sung soprano. And sopranos? Sopranos sing melody. Sopranos have it soooooo easy. Because we just pick the top note and sing it. Even if it isn’t the melody, it’s easy to pick out: it’s the highest note. Duh. But altos have it rough. The alto line frequently consists of no more than three notes, no more than a half-step apart, and we’re the ones with the weird, dissonant notes. So this show has been really hard for me to learn, because I’m trying not to sing soprano out of sheer habit AND to remember which of the three notes I’m supposed to sing when. It’s tough music, but gorgeous, and I’m crazy about it. It’s a challenge. I needed that. Also, it has given me some much-needed perspective and empathy for my alto sistas. I feel ya, hons.

I’m completely carried away, giddy, one might say, with my costumes. My mommy made them, then I covered them with glitter and hot glued marabou trim to them. (Is there anything hot glue CAN’T do?) They are completely preposterous, hilarious, and, in their own weird way, beautiful. I’m so completely tickled with myself in them; really, I am.

You see, here’s the thing: last night, I put on a pair of pants I haven’t fit into since high school. And you know what I felt? Complete disbelief. I fit into the wedding dress from my first marriage. More easily than I did then, actually. (I'm thinking a party is in order: I'll wear the dress, we'll dance in the streets, and celebrate my liberation from the Ghost of Husbands Past. Margaritas will be served, and there will be Dancing Boys. I'm recruiting Mike and Charlie. So step to it, boys.) It’s hard for me to believe that I’ve actually done this. I’ve lost nearly sixty pounds. That’s, like, a fourth grader, right? I’m thinner now than I have been since I got back from my honeymoon with my ex-husband. That’s a reference point for you. (After months of crash dieting to fit into a wedding dress, then hopping into a car with a college boy who could survive, seriously, on nothing but Coca-Cola and Cheetos, you tend to slip up from any healthy eating plans.) So…since 2003, I had been gaining weight, then I met Husband, who was all, “You are so beautiful and it doesn’t matter what you weigh…here…have some cake,” and then I got PREGNANT, and God only knows how I managed to gain any weight at all while I was throwing up constantly, but somehow I gained a billion pounds. Granted, he was a nine pound baby, but still…it was pretty impressive. When Sam was four weeks old, I was so depressed and miserable that I had to do something, so I went to Weight Watchers. I will never forget that day: it was freezing, and I was wearing maternity pants and one of Steve’s shirts, and a bandana over my hair. I sat in the back of the room, nursing Sam (which is what I did ALL THE FREAKING TIME) and thinking this would never work. And you know what? It did. It totally worked. I have sixteen pounds left to lose to reach my goal weight, which is what I weighed when I was a sophomore in high school.
What’s weird about it is that it’s hard for me to see myself. I can’t look at myself and see, “Oh, I’ve lost all this weight.” I have to look at the clothes, the numbers, the measurements. I have to look at how people treat me differently. Sometimes it makes me really mad, because I’ll walk into a store and people are SO much nicer to me now, and ask if they can help me find anything. Before, I was invisible. It’s a real eye-opener. Kind of like when Tyra Banks wore the fat suit as a “social experiment” but a little bit less offensive and a lot more real.
Some things haven’t changed at all. Husband, for example. He’s glad I’m happier and healthier, and that I’m going to probably live a lot longer, but there has been no change in his slavish devotion to me, and he has never ONCE said that I look “so much hotter now,” which I had been dreading. To say that would be to negate all the things he told me when we fell in love, and he would never do that, because I don’t think he believes it. He is one of those rare, beautiful people who really does see what is inside a person, and it really didn’t matter to him what I weighed. He loved me the first time we rolled our eyes in unison to something Dumb Girl said. Then our eyes met, mid-roll, and I knew I had found my soul mate: someone to openly mock stupid people with for all time. I’m sure we’ll be in a nursing home one day, and I’ll turn to him and say, “Did you see how tacky Florence’s shoes are?” and he’ll snap his arthritic fingers and say, “Whore,” and I’ll look deep into his eyes, reflecting our many beautiful years together, and I’ll say, “Who are you again?” We were truly made for each other.
But I digress.
My point is that I’m unable to look at my own reflection and think, “I look hot.” That’s simply not something I’m able to do. Sure, I can say that my hair is kicking major butt, or that I have outstanding fashion sense, but I remain the harshest critic of the overall package. After so long, I just can’t think of myself that way. Yesterday, a creepy guy at CVS was hitting on me and I genuinely believed that he wanted to know where I got my bumper sticker. (Malaprop’s in Asheville) It just didn’t occur to me that he was interested in me until he asked if I was single. It’s a whole mindset thing, you know? I usually have a baby attached to me, and men don’t tend to approach that. But when I put on the costume of a character who is beautiful (albeit in kind of a skanky way), I can see it. I can see how far I’ve come. And I can see that I’m never going to go back.
Kirstie Alley was just on the cover of People magazine for having gained back 83 pounds after quitting Jenny Craig. Well…of course she did. Jenny Craig doesn’t teach you HOW to eat. They give you food, prepackaged, and tell you, “Eat this and you’ll lose weight.” Well, sure. But what about the real world? How can you learn healthy eating habits when everything is done for you?That is also my problem with Jessica Seinfeld’s cookbook, “Deceptively Delicious”, in which she includes recipes for sneaking vegetables into your family’s meals so they don’t know they’re eating something healthy. While I think, sure, if you’re making macaroni and cheese anyway, why not stir in some butternut squash puree, but here’s the problem there: once your kids grow up, and go into the real world, they’re going to continue to eat the way they were raised to eat. But no one is going to be sneaking veggies into their food in the dining hall on campus, or in their first apartment. Teaching your child to eat fruits and vegetables is the job of a parent. Period. That’s what you’re supposed to do so that you kid will grow up strong and healthy. Sneaking spinach into brownies is not only, you know, gross, but it isn’t going to help your kids learn healthy eating habits. Sorry. Okay. I’m done with my vegetable tirade…
The thing about the weight loss is that it has allowed me to do something I never thought I would be able to do: to stand on a stage in a really short skirt and really tall boots and feel completely confident. Yes, I know I look ridiculous. But it’s my joke this time.
Come see Songs for a New World. The music is amazing. And after sixteen months, so are my legs

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

How to Do Things Right

So…there are all these magazines that list Do’s and Don’ts, Ins and outs, sexy vs. skanky, etc. What I love is that these things are soooo arbitrary, and seemingly unrelated. But hey, why not, right? It seems like a pretty good format. So here’s what I think:

Yes: Tuxedos
No: White tuxedos. Unless, of course, you’re in a play. Or, like, a dream sequence.

Yes: Women who manage to be funny and beautiful at the same time (Ana Faris, Tina Fey)
No: Women who manage to be tragic and beautiful at the same time (Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears)

Yes: Either staying pale (I prefer to call it alabaster) or using a self-tanner.
No: Tanning beds or “laying out” in the sun. (By the way, it’s “lying out”. If you’re going to do something that stupid, don’t make it worse by committing such a grievous grammatical error as well.) You know what doesn’t make you look good? Melanoma. And you know how you can keep that from happening? Wearing freaking sunscreen. Let’s be realistic: isn’t the best case scenario here that you’re going to look fifty when you’re thirty-five?

Yes: Being crazy in love with your husband.
No: Marrying someone just because he’s there, and then spending the rest of your life complaining about him. That’s what divorce is for, honey. Or better yet, just don’t marry him in the first place.

Yes: Throwing your entire soul into a performance.
No: Being a drama queen.

Yes: Weight Watchers
No: Atkins, South Beach, the cabbage soup diet, the grapefruit diet, the 48-hour Hollywood Miracle Diet. Anything that has an “induction phase” reminds me of a cult.

Yes: Makeup
No: Interrupting

Yes: Feeling good about your life choices.
No: Assigning a morality to foods. There is no “good food” or “bad food”. There is moderation.

Yes: Doing what you know is right for you, even if it upsets/ disappoints/ surprises/ disgusts those around you.
No: Whining about how people judge you. Like, who cares?

Yes: Being passive because you really don’t care that much.
No: Being passive-aggressive because you really do care but don’t have the guts to step up and do something about it.

Yes: Random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty.
No: Racism, bigotry, sexism, rude people.

Yes: Red toenail polish.
No: Macramé.

Yes: Drinking whiskey in the bathtub.
No: Brushing your teeth in the shower.

Yes: Not stooping to their level.
No: Letting them know you’re not stooping to their level.

Yes: Having convictions.
No: Deciding before you know the facts.

Yes: Books.
No: TV. (Addendum: there’s nothing worse than someone who goes on and on about how much they hate TV, and yet has over 100 channels. If you like TV, that’s fine. If you don’t, don’t have one.)

Yes: Respecting your family.
No: Acting a fool.

Yes: Loving your curly/ straight/ frizzy/ fine/ flat/ gray hair. Because at least you have some, right?
No: Obsessing about something you can’t change.

Yes: Finding and celebrating the beauty that you are.
No: Making yourself miserable because the number on the scale, the jeans, the dress…whatever…is “too high.” It’s a number. It has no power over you.

Yes: Making time for romance in your marriage, even though jobs, kids, church, tuba lessons, etc. make you crazy busy.
No: Making your spouse the bottom of your list of priorities.

Yes: Text messaging to save time.
No: Text messaging while driving.

Yes: Evita, the musical
No: Cats, the musical

Yes: Cats, the animal
No: Having over eight of them.

Yes: Shakespeare
No: Nicholas Sparks

Yes: Harry Potter
No: Twilight (Yes, I read them. I even enjoyed reading them. But they weren’t lifechanging. So move on. And don’t wear the t-shirt. It makes you look like a jerk.)

Yes: Breastfeeding
No: 1) Not even trying to breastfeed your baby, or 2) being so adamant about breastfeeding that you make people who, like me, did it as long as they could and then had to stop for reasons beyond their control feel like horrible, abusive mothers.

Yes: Disney World
No: Six Flags

Yes: Empathy
No: Insensitivity

Yes: Cake auctions
No: Camping

Yes: Barack Obama
No: Adam Sandler

Yes: Daffodils
No: Leprosy

Yes: Being excited when you hear a friend or relative’s good news.
No: Trying to one-up them, diminish their accomplishments, or point out how it all could go horribly wrong.

Yes: Scrapbooking, sewing, baking , photography, theater, whatever satisfies your creative urges.
No: Rolling your eyes and telling artists that they “have too much time on their hands.” We all have the same 24 hours. We just choose to use it in different ways.

Yes: Unbridled enthusiasm.
No: A detached air of superiority.

Yes: Cooking a meal for your family.
No: Cooking separate meals for each member of your family, because little Dwayne won’t eat chicken and Tammy only eats white foods and Leon insists on waffles for every meal. Seriously? If they’re hungry, they’ll eat. Picky eaters aren’t just picky; they’re rude.

Yes: Using a jogging stroller on uneven terrain.
No: Using a jogging stroller in the mall.

Yes: Optimism
No: Black mold

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The quirky kind of kid

Ok...so...about my parenting style...

I'm in many ways an overzealous mother. When Sam and I go to the park, I'm the first one down the slide. I devote almost every waking moment to his happiness and general well-being. I bake him cookies sweetened with organic sweet potatoes. I enthusiastically sing and dance to Veggie Tales songs and encourage him to express himself constantly. I ask him how he feels about things, a question usually answered with a blank stare and a cold shoulder. He's such a boy. I keep trying to talk about emotions with him, and he just walks away from me. "Give it a good cry, boy! You'll feel better!" I tell him, but he picks himself up, shakes it off, and moves on. I'm so careful not to steer him toward gender-specific toys. I gave him a doll for Christmas, and he has passed many happy moments gouging its eyes with his chubby baby fingers. He's drawn inexplicably to trains, cars, airplanes, and dump trucks. He likes to throw balls and make noise. He's just such a...BOY. It's completely fascinating. I realize, of course, it's only fascinating to me that Sam seems to be- huge wake-up call- his own person, so...moving on...

In other ways, I'm really slack as a parent. Here's my big confession: I have baby-proofed exactly one cabinet in my home. One. And I didn't even actually do it. I supervised Husband doing it while I was about eight months pregnant. He put one latch on one cabinet, and then we both got bored and quit. So I guess, now that Sam's mobile, I'll have to...you know...watch him...to keep him from drinking bleach. That's what I just don't get. I mean, aren't you going to be with your child in the kitchen? So you could, concievably, I don't know, stop him? From drinking bleach? I'm just saying...I mean...that's just my, like, opinion...and stuff. I'm by no means a parenting expert. I'm kind of just making stuff up as I go along. Also, am I the only person who thinks those outlet pluggy things that are supposed to keep your baby from getting electrocuted are the most useless invention ever? Because the first thing Sam did when he saw one (at a friend's house, since I'm too slack to put them in my outlets) was pry it loose and try to put it in his mouth. He figures out how to unlatch baby gates, so I'm not going to bother putting any up. I'm not as slack as to not, say, put him in a carseat (I'm obsessive about auto safety, ironically enough) but what, I ask you, is the point of a bathtub thermometer? Isn't that what, you know, your HAND is for?? I feel the baby-proofing industry preys upon the insecurities of new parents, of grandparents, and nurseries, and try to make moms like me feel like huge slackers for not using these "necessities." No, I'm not going to let my child wander out into the street, but I'm not going to put of a driveway gate, either. I call my renegade childproofing technique "keeping an eye on the baby." It's working out for me so far.

What does make me feel like an Alpha Mom, though, is that we've been doing some sign language with Sam at the suggestion (and instruction) of Mama N. It's really helping, since Sam isn't (surprisingly) a big talker. He knows the signs for please, thank you, more, cracker, Mama, and water. That's enough to get by, right? Cracker was the first sign he learned, and that kid must have eaten an entire sleeve of Ritz that day. The first time he made the sign for "more" was when our dear friend Cheryl kissed him, then walked away. He watched her leave, and plaintively signed "more." Precious, right?

He flat-out refuses to make animal noises, which I don't totally disagree with. What does the piggy say? Who cares?

He took his first steps on Saturday. It was later than most kids walk, sure, but he was such an efficient crawler it didn't seem to matter to him. Husband and I were sitting in the living room, talking about basketball (bizarre in itself, as I know nothing about the subject and Husband is a wealth of information on all things athletic) and we looked over and Sam was walking toward the cat. (Luckily, it was the nice one, who loves Sam. He's dumber than a sack of hammers, but beautiful, and very sweet. I know people like that, too...) That's just Sam, though. I went through my entire pregnacy frustrated because nothing was progressing the way the books said it would. I was supposed to be over my "morning sickness" (the term is a lie in itself, as I threw up all freaking day long) after the first trimester, when I, in fact, threw up every single day of my pregnancy, stopping only on the delivery table. I was supposed to give birth in a dimly lit room, surrounded by whale sounds, with my husband coaching me and a soothing picture from home to focus on as I breathed through contractions. Instead, I had a c-section at 39 weeks, never had a contraction, and Christmas carols were being piped in to the cold, flourescent-lit operating room. Sam has never done anything according to anyone else's timetable. He's just his own little planet, orbiting his bewildered parents, doing great things in his own, quirky way. And the only thing we can do is follow his lead.

It's only natural, though, I suppose. His parents aren't exactly orthodox. I don't wear the mom uniform. We have a "schedule" but it's not like anything other babies are on. We sing more show tunes than lullabies. We dance to Flogging Molly and The Ramones instead of Wheels on the Bus. Sure, he's not like other kids. But I'm pretty thrilled with who he has turned out to be.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Who's the leader of the club that's made for you and me? Sam is, of course.

Sam, in keeping with his breeding, has become obsessed with Mickey Mouse.
To understand the gravity of this statement, you must first understand the Schultz obsession with all things Disney. I had known Husband for, let’s say, a month, when I learned he was going to Disney World with his family. “That’s so cool,” I said, “that you’re going on vacation with your family. I love Disney World!”
“Yeah,” said Husband, “Disney World is awesome.” He checked the time on his Song of the South watch. “I’ve got to run, but I’ll see you next week,” and turning this back, he retreated to his car, which had a Magic Kingdom magnet affixed to the back and a Mickey Mouse head impaled on the antenna. I should have seen something in that, but at the time, it was a charming quirk, some adorable quality that made him unlike any other man I’d ever known. Not what it truly was: an obsession, an illness that would overtake our life together and very quickly infect me too.
Sure, I’d been to Disney World. For one day at a time, anyway. I went to EPCOT when I was five, I think. When we went to Florida, we always spent a day in the Magic Kingdom. But until I met Husband, I’d never spent more than a day there, and I’d never stayed (gasp!) “on property.”
One day, Husband invited me home to meet his parents. I sat down at their kitchen table, and his dad handed me a cup of coffee. In a Mickey Mouse cup. Then his mother asked me if I wanted sugar in my coffee, and handed me a sugar bowl. Smiling, talking, I lifted the lid…to discover that the sugar cubes in this house were shaped like Mickey’s head. Mickey adorned everything in the house: plates, forks, the toaster…you name it, it was Mickey-fied.
Our first trip (pilgrimage?) together was less than a year after we met. We drove down together to audition for the Mouse, he as a comedian, me as a vocalist, spent the first day auditioning, and spent the entire next day in the Magic Kingdom. That’s when I knew, without a doubt in my mind, that I would spend the rest of my life with this man. And this Mouse.
Three months later, I went with his whole family to Florida. The night before we left, I couldn’t sleep. I was giddy. I had acquired the bug. As soon as we stepped through those gates, we were kids. And just like that, I understood why Husband and Husband’s family plan two years in advance for their summer vacation. It all became very clear.
When I found out I was pregnant, we counted the months, and I told Husband we would probably have to postpone our trip to Disney World. After all, Sam would only be six months old. Husband just laughed at me. “So what?” he said, “ That’s older than most babies in my family were for their first trips.”
Sure enough, Sam loved it. He loved the lights, the colors, the characters, and the Dole Whip. He had to: it was in his blood. The only hat we’ve ever been able to keep on him had mouse ears attached to it. He rode every ride that didn’t have a height restriction. And he loved every second of it. (Well, nearly every second of it. He didn’t like Spaceship Earth.)
The most important thing to remember if you’re taking a baby to Disney World is not to push it. Let your baby dictate your schedule. If you insist on riding every ride there and adhering to a strict touring schedule, your baby will be miserable, and so will you. Take it easy. Keep your baby cool (battery-powered fans and hanging out in the shade help) and slathered in sunscreen. Take lots of pictures. Take advantage of the baby-swap option on rides (ask an employee about it). Get your baby a “My First Trip” button at Guest Relations. (Town Hall in the Magic Kingdom.) If your kid is scared of the characters, don’t force them to hug them. Next trip, maybe. Oh, and also, if you have a boy-type baby like we do, forget about trying to find any clothes for him in the parks. There’s enough princess stuff to fill your minivan to capacity, but if you forget to take an emergency backup outfit to the park and your boy-type child, let’s say, requires a costume change, good luck trying to find so much as a onesie anywhere but the shop in Toontown Fair. And there, it was just a onesie. A red onesie with “2008” and characters on it. And they had ONE in his size. Don’t get me wrong; he was adorable in it. But where’s the love for our boys? My advice is, if you have a boy under a year old, to go to the Target on International Drive and stock up on a couple of outfits.
Husband and I will never forget how it felt to take Sam to meet Goofy, or to watch him enjoying the SpectroMagic parade. It was wonderful to be able to give our kid that experience.
But now…a year after that trip, and a year until our next one, Sam has started showing a clear preference for Mickey. He points him out of everything from clothing to coffee mugs (he adorns every surface in our home, after all) and a few days ago, Husband brought home a Sing Along Songs video featuring Disney characters in Disneyland. Every time Mickey is on the screen, Sam squeals and points to the screen.
Maybe it’s because of how he has been raised. Maybe it’s heredity. But my kid couldn’t pick Bugs Bunny out of a lineup.

Easter Sunday rears its ham-heavy head

Good times have been had by all. Easter has always been one of my favorite holidays. Probably sandwiched between Christmas and Halloween, sitting over Thanksgiving. It's a beautiful time of year. Granted, it's over-commercialized, and most people who celebrate the holiday are really just chocolate bunny junkies looking to get a fix, and the Easter bunny has always bewildered me, but there is nothing quite like going to church on Easter morning and singing "Christ the Lord is Risen Today" and letting yourself be completely filled with joy. At Mom's church for the sunrise service (Sam wore his pajamas), I felt that way: full of joy. Just imagine! You think your best friend is dead, and then he's there, in front of you, telling you that he's risen from the grave. My heart was filled so full that I thought it might leap from my chest. I couldn't help but think of the other people I've wished to see again: Dad, Robert, Dave Norton, Uncle Paul, Jon Birdnow, Geneva, Papa Ira, Mama Sue.

We had a big breakfast after the service (this is a tiny church, and nearly everyone who goes there is related to me. So boy, can they cook) and Sam chowed down big time. After the breakfast, we went home to dress Sam in his Easter suit and then it was off to another church service at my aunts' church.

I love their church. At home, I go to a Lutheran church, and I was raised Methodist, but every once in a while, I feel the need to go to a Pentecostal service to get sort of re-charged with the Holy Spirit. And that's what you get there. From the moment the service started, I just felt full of the Spirit. Full of joy. Not contentment, but bouncing, bubbling, crazy joy. And I feel that way every time I go to a service there. Sam liked it, too. This little Lutheran kid waved his hands in the air like he had been doing that his whole life. He was so excited to be able to dance and squeal in church! He praised like you're supposed to praise: without shame, without worrying what people might think, like, literally, there was no tomorrow.

We spent this Easter in Tennessee so that Sam could be with his girly cousins. (I say "girly" because they are, in fact, girls, not because they only wear pink. I mean, they do wear a lot of pink, but that's because you can't find girl's clothes in any other color. The same reason Sam always wears blue. Anyway, they're girls. The end.) Pookie is six months older than Sam, and Doodle Bug is two weeks younger. (No, these are not their real names. Where do you think we're from? West Virginia?) It is incredibly cute to have the three of them together, with their round cheeks and blue eyes. They don't look a whole lot alike, but their hair is in the same color family, and they're all nearly the same size. They aren't first cousins, but I hope they grow up as close as I was with my first cousins. So close, in fact, that it's really important to me that my kid spends time with my cousins' kids, and not just because they're cute together. Sam is around other kids pretty often, especially for a kid who has never spent a day in Mother's Morning Out or day care, and has only spent an hour, tops, in the church nursery. He's pretty clingy. But we play with Baby Girl and Preacher's Kid pretty often, and he is around tons of people at the theater. I'm just not prepared to offer him a sibling yet, so I think it's good that he gets some socialization, and family ties are invaluable.

I was talking on the way home from Tennessee yesterday about the long trips I took with my cousins. My dad would load us all up in the van (Mom was usually there too, but a few times, he braved it on his own) and take us to Florida on what he called a "Surfin' Safari". Sure, we didn't actually surf, and mostly, we built sandcastles and went to Disney World, but it was like having four siblings instead of just my big brother. Actually, I have two big brothers, but the other one was in college by the time I was five, so he wasn't around for the twelve-hour van trips. But piled in the van with my brother and the Pratt kids (to clarify, there are eight of us cousins, but the three Pratts were the ones we travelled with at this period. The girls were too young, and the Other Boy was always, it seemed, in Europe or at some seminary or another. He was smarter than we were, ok?), I felt like they were my brothers, and that I had the big sister I always wanted instead of my brother. Now, it is true that today, I wouldn't trade the world for Ben. He's an amazing brother, and I have more fun when I'm with him than I do with just about anybody. However, when we were kids, he was exactly what a big brother should be: a complete jerk.

I want Sam to have that kind of family. I want him to know who his cousins are. I want him to know them as well as he knows himself, so that one day, he'll be eating Jelly Bellys and remember how they used to bite them in half and press different flavors together and think they had really done something cool. I want him to have the memories I have, of riding through the night with someone's foot in your ribcage, alternately sleeping and laughing so hard the grown-ups have to pull over so somebody can pee. I don't want him to miss out on inside jokes that stay around for decades. I want him to know what made Link drink water. (For those of you who weren't there, it's because he got thirsty and ate peanuts. I know you don't think it's funny. That's ok. Five people in the whole world do. And if you're not one of them, then ha ha on you.) When I see Sam with Doodle Bug and Pookie, I see amazing potential for lifelong friendships. I hope they see the same thing.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Tech week, Pop-A-Lock, and Restaurant Etiquette

I've spent my weekend at the theater. Yeah, sure, so I went home to sleep and stuff, so I'm not as devoted as, say, Anita, but we've been there a good bit. What's driving me crazy, though, is balancing being a responsible parent and being a devoted cast member. If I had my way, I would stay at the theater till midnight every night, working on the set, altering costumes, making props, etc. That's what Husband and I always did. During the last week or so before opening, we just sort of lived at the theater, surviving on fast food, Pop Tarts, vending machine fare, and the occasional beer. Oh, and coffee. Lots of coffee. And during Moon Over Buffalo, when Sam was only four months old and would go to sleep anywhere, we did the same thing. That poor baby would go to the theater with me (this was at Foothills Playhouse, last spring) at around ten o'clock in the morning, and we wouldn't get home until after midnight most nights. He took naps in the green room (which is red there, bizarrely enough) on a blanket, and rolled around on the stage while I built the set around him. I put him on a blanket in the costume shop, right outside the prop closet, in the dressing rooms...wherever I was working. This kid spent more time on the stage in that month and a half than most theater majors do their entire college careers. Most nights, during rehearsal anyway, his grandparents or aunt and uncle would keep him, then we would pick him up after rehearsal (usually around 9:30, and usually asleep) and take him back to the theater to sleep in the dressing room while we worked on the set, costumes, props, or brainstormed about scenework. A couple of nights, however, our various family members had the audacity to, you know, have LIVES, so Sam stayed for rehearsal. Husband was directing the show. I was in nearly every scene. So what to do with the baby? Carry him in the Snugli! What else? Now that is devotion to your craft. Husband and I worked our butts off for that show, and the final product reflected that hard work. It was an astonishingly good show, and I think that even if I hadn't had a hand in every aspect of it, I would still feel that way. As anyone who knows me will tell you, I'm the most critical of my own work. But that show was incredible. I was so proud of it.
Now, however, Sam won't just fall asleep anywhere he gets sleepy. If there is stuff going on, he wants to know about it, and be a part of it. And he won't just stay on the blanket when you put him there. Now he can get into trouble. Now, if I left him on a blanket in the middle of the scene shop, I'm fairly certain he would figure out how to use the table saw and build me a bookshelf. And I just don't have room in my house for any more furniture. Also, he refuses to wear safety goggles.
I digress...
My point to all this, though, is that I feel like I'm slacking off in my duties as a cast member. I should be staying later, coming earlier, working harder. But Sam needs to get home to go to bed. He needs to eat at regular times. Sure, he has a really late bedtime (it's not because he's not a good sleeper, but because we don't go to bed early, either, and he's on the same schedule we are) but I'm trying to keep it as consistent as possible. That prevents me from staying at the theater till the wee hours, or staining the stage (nothing to do with bedtimes, everything to do with keeping him away from paint fumes). This week, I've felt like a slacker mom and a slacker actor, giving neither activity my full attention. It's like when I did a show in high school, and my grades would slip during tech week. (For my non-theater-oriented friends, tech week refers to the week before the show opens, during which you add lights, costumes, sound, set, props, etc....simply put, it's a week notorious for having late nights, frustrated actors, and a psychotic-for-lack-of-sleep director. Oh, and cranky techies. [Techies are the people who do everything but perform: lighting and sound design, running the light and sound systems, building sets, moving sets, painting sets, making costumes, altering costumes, repairing costumes...ok, the list is endless, and, for the most part, thankless. Some of the best techies I've ever known are also excellent actors, and the BEST stage manager I've ever had in a show was fifteen years old. She's now a freshman at Winthrop, and aspiring to be a drama teacher. She will also be amazing at that, I'm sure. Anyway, techies deserve our respect. They deserve our thanks. And, frequently, they go without both those things. Having been a crew member before, I'm well aware of how little the tech crew gets recognized and appreciated. That's one of the things I love about FIRE: everyone works crew. So everyone gains a healthy respect for those who make a career of it. It's not easy work. And you have to walk around looking like Johnny Cash. (Again, for my non-theater-minded friends, the technical crew wears black. Traditionally, it's so they won't be too obvious when they're moving set pieces during the show. More importantly,it makes them look intimidating. And they don't have to do laundry as often that way. If you know a techie, buy him or her a black t-shirt. It will be a well-appreciated gift.)]) That being said, tech week is rough. But it's also fun to see all those elements finally added into a show. It's when you see who is truly devoted to the company, and who is just there to wear a cute costume and have their name in the program. Separating the wheat from the chaff, so to speak. (Not me, though. As I explained earlier, I have a baby, and he gets really unpleasant when he's sleepy. I'm wheat all the way, at least in spirit.) It's when you see all the elements of a production come together to form a (hopefully) cohesive unit. It can be beautiful, exciting, and terrifying. It's the one time I feel okay letting my laundry pile reach truly ridiculous proportions and not making beds. It's a great excuse! ("Go to the gym? Sorry, can't. It's tech week." Accompanied with an apologetic shrug, this is a fabulously effective excuse for not doing things you didn't really want to do in the first place. "Help you move? Sorry, can't. It's tech week.") Anyway...
So Friday night, I was at the theater making enormous, towering Ziegfeld Follies headpieces (to call them merely "hats" would be quite an understatement)to loosely resemble wedding cakes. I'm the queen of the hot glue gun (well, princess anyway....Mimi's glue gun is bigger than mine, AND it's pink...I'm so jealous), duchess of chenille strips, and countess of glitter glue. And, perhaps, the tulle fairy. It was a blast. And there is going to be some wicked-awesome headgear on that stage once opening night rolls around. Here's a bizarre non-sequitor: today, driving to rehearsal (because that's the only place we drive anymore), I looked in the backseat, and Sam was looking through a Sandra Boynton board book. (I highly suggest you go pick up some Sandra Boynton RIGHT NOW. She's a big hit around our house.) I'm not quite sure how he knows to do this, but he always, always turns the book right-side-up. He has never, in the past two or three months, looked through a book while holding it upside-down. Well, he was looking at the book, pointing at the monsters' noses and eyes (both big deals right now for Sam) and I mentioned to Husband that he was turning the pages back to front, not front to back. "Well," I remarked, "that's how I read magazines, so I guess it's not a big deal." It's important, at this juncture of the anecdote, to know that Husband is not from around here, so I frequently misunderstand him. He's a foreigner, you know...from Philadelphia. So when he answered me, "Yeah, that's how Merlin has to read books," I thought he said something about an umbrella. I, being understandably confused, asked him why he had mentioned an umbrella. Husband has a...quirky...sense of humor. So he said, "Oh, yeah, that's Merlin's dog. His name was Umbrella, and he had to read books backward."I paused. Then said, "Merlin would never have named a dog Umbrella. That's just ridiculous." Then Husband pointed out that it said a lot about me that I was totally willing to believe that Merlin's dog could read, and backward yet, but drew the line at him being named Umbrella. Yes, naming the dog Umbrella was where I found the story to be truly unbelievable. On the way home, four or so hours later, I argued that one might question him for believing that Merlin really existed in the first place.
But whatever. I love my Husband. I truly believe that he's the only person who has ever really understood me.
We had a fun adventure in parenting last night. Or, more appropriately, a misadventure. We went to Olive Garden for dinner. The Parents-in-law had given Husband a gift card for his birthday, and since I didn't feel like cooking last night (it was tech week!) it seemed like a perfect solution. And it was, for the most part, a very successful evening. See, I am one of those really lucky parents (get ready to hate me...a lot) whose kid is really Good In Restaurants. Plop him in a high chair, hand him a packet of saltines, and he's good to go. He waves at people passing by with trays of food. He flirts with waitresses. He plays peek-a-boo with his napkin. He holds lively conversations ("La wah da da? Ya. Da da? Ga ba da!"). He tries a variety of food off your plate, then eats his peas without complaint. Last night, he ate a breadstick, which was a really big deal, because it had butter on it. He VERY rarely gets to have butter. "Sometimes food" and all that. But it was a special occasion...you know. Tech week. But Husband and I have not been the couple who has to take turns eating while the other walks around the restaurant with a baby. We've never had to pack our food up to take home because the baby won't stop screaming. We were wary of taking him to a restaurant when we was first born, because it's one of my pet peeves to be trying to carry on a conversation while some kid is screaming and throwing food at the next table. And I just don't want to be that kind of person who ruins other peoples' dining experiences. I'm thoughtful like that. But when Sam was a week or so old, we took him out to breakfast, and he slept quite peacefully in his Graco Snug Seat. After that, we swore that if we could just play a soundtrack of plates clanking and people dropping forks, our kid would konk right out. Once he started sitting in a high chair, he really enjoyed looking around at people, and then he discovered how much fun it is to eat solid food. Now, going out to dinner is his favorite activity. Waitresses who previously swore off children forever find themselves seriously rethinking their life goals because of our little ray of sunshine. They don't know that he only smiles at them because they bring him food. They think they're something special! And that's what Sam brings to the world. He makes people feel good. Maybe now that I've gone and admitted that my child is great at restaurants, he's going to start being awful, and I fully acknowledge that should that happen, I would totally deserve it. But for the time being, he's great. A dream, through and through. The secret is to not go out when he's overdue for a nap or overly hungry. It's a pretty simple formula for keeping your baby happy all the time,actually: don't let him get too tired or too hungry, and he'll be fine.
The misadventure part of the evening, however, occurred after dinner. We were walking out to the car, full of endless breadsticks and good will toward our fellow man, and Sam got ahold of the car keys. This is a frequent occurrence. One might suggest that we get him some toy keys. Nothing doing. He knows. Just like he knows that the remote control to the DVD player we used to have isn't the REAL remote control and is therefore no substitute for the one Mommy and Daddy use. At some point between Husband unlocking the car and putting Sam in the car seat, Sam pushed the lock button on the key clicker. Neither of his parents noticed. So Husband tossed the keys in the front seat, closed Sam's door, then tried to open the driver's side door...and couldn't. Sam was in the car. So were the keys. But we weren't. Luckily, the same thing had happened to Mama N pretty recently, and she had told me about it, so I was able to call on her experience and know what to do. While Husband contemplated breaking the passenger side window to get him out, I suggested that we call Pop-A-Lock. They didn't answer, so we called the police, who, we can only assume, have a super-secret direct line to the Pop-A-Lock people, and they had Papa Lock himself at our car in the Olive Garden parking lot in twelve minutes. Granted, they were the longest twelve minutes of my LIFE, but Sam was removed from his car seat in short order, and I am forever indebted to Papa Lock. And here's a bit of good-to-know: if your baby locks himself in the car, Pop-A-Lock doesn't charge you for coming to unlock the car. Isn't that just a really nice thing to do? Papa Lock was really kind, too. Very nice. Didn't treat us like we were complete idiots at all. I was convinced they would deem me an unfit mother and take Sam away from me right then and there, but he told me that people do this kind of thing all the time, and not to worry about it. Huh. Sam was pretty furious about the whole debacle, and after five minutes of me popping up into his line of vision from behind the car door (good for the thigh muscles, by the way) he was really tired of being in the car by himself. He started screaming and crying and generally breaking my heart. It was the worst feeling in the world, to be able to see him and hear him but not be able to pick him up or comfort him. Horrible. So after we calmed him down, we went right to the store and bought him a toy. We felt REALLY bad about it...even though it was Sam's fault. Little punk.
Must get some work done now...but not too much. After all...it is tech week.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Bathing Suit Season

So, spring is once more upon us. Today, in fact. Happy First Day of Spring. We've enjoyed a week of beautiful weather, and we've taken advantage of it to the fullest. We have spent a lot of time in the park this week. We've been meeting Mama N and Baby Girl and sometimes walking and sometimes just playing on the playground. Mama N and I have some very definite goals that we've discussed at great length. As any Weight Watchers disciple will tell you, you have to have a goal. And that goal doesn't have to be a number. Mine certainly isn't. All I want is to be able to feel ok in a bathing suit. I don't have to look good in it. And there's no way on God's green earth I would be caught dead in a two-piece (I have my over-nine-pounds baby and evil genes to thank for that). But I want to feel ok in my (VERY modest) one-piece bathing suit. Seriously, something has happened to me in my adulthood. I used to wear as little as the law would let me get away with, and now...well, not so much. At least I know when it's time to call it quits with the semi-nudism. Many women never learn that lesson. I mean, think about it...how many times have you seen someone dressed in something appalling and wondered, "Doesn't that woman have any real friends to tell her that those pants make her behind look eight axe-handles across?" And last summer, I did perhaps mutter that just because you physically fit into a bikini doesn't mean that you should wear one. And now, it's just more practical. It's hard enough to keep your body parts covered when your baby is determined to pull at necklines, lift your skirt over his head, and lift the hem of your shirt up high enough to reveal that you are, in fact, wearing a bra with cupcakes on it. Just imagine how much fun he would have embarassing Mommy if she were wearing a skimpy bathing suit!
We've made our goals (hers is a number, mine is a mindset, but we're on the same track). We know how to get there (walking, not eating entire tubs of Ben & Jerry's, etc.). And most importantly, we're in it together.
I've lost 55 pounds doing Weight Watchers in the past 14 months. I cannot say enough about how great the program is. Eating right is no longer a huge issue; it's become pretty much second nature. But getting in exercise has been tough, especially over the winter. While I don't mind getting out in the cold and/or rain myself, I do feel bad taking Sam out in it. So I'm glad it's warming up.
Sam likes it, too. We had a great time at the park yesterday. He loves meeting other kids, and exploring the playground equipment. When we walk, I sometimes have to bribe him to sit in his stroller with a cracker or a drink of water, but once he's strapped in, he calms right down. While he doesn't usually go to sleep, he does like to be pushed down the path. We try to narrate the trip for our children, making us sound like really lame tour guides. ("To the left, you will notice the dog. Dog? Do you see the dog? What does the dog say? Arf, arf? That's right! Now, coming up ahead will be a bicycle. Do you see the bicycle? Can you say bicycle? No? Moving on. On your right, there is another dog. Dog? Do you see the dog?") Baby Girl has a Houdini-like ability to get out of her stroller, and when she does, Sam looks at her as if to say, "Lady, you're crazy. Don't you see how awesome it is to sit back in the shade and not do jack?" He's pretty chill, my Sam. He takes after his mommy. Thus the need to drag my butt off the playground and around the trail.
I 'm such a Beta Mom. An Alpha Mom would never prepare sloppy joes and tater tots for her family for dinner, as I did last night. To be fair, it was a special request from Husband, and watching Sam eat tater tots was hilarious. Also, we had to be at the theater at 6:30, and by the time we got home from the park, I had an hour to make dinner, eat, shower, dress (they're so picky about wearing clothes to rehearsal) and get Sam ready to go. Truthfully, it's a miracle we eat anything but Easy Mac. At least the tater tots weren't fried, right? Right? I'm just trying to get through one day at a time.
Mama N and I went to Sam's Club today with the babies, then to lunch, and, swear to God, we were going to go get some worthwhile outdoor exercise, but instead we collapsed on the floor at her house while our children climbed all over us. Midway through a diaper change, Sam just got up and left, crawling all over their living room without anything on his bottom. He's going to regret that in about twelve years. Because there is now photographic evidence of his nudism. So when Baby Girl is head cheerleader, and he's trying to ask her to the prom, he's going to have to live that down. Poor Sam.
We're headed to the theater to do some work on the set stuff tonight. Hopefully, Sam will sleep through it. It's another weird evening for the boy. Bless it.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Listen up, everybody, if you wanna take a chance...

So last night was the night all my prepubescent dreams came true. First of all, the concert freaking rocked. The New Kids on the Block may be in their forties, but they still put on an amazing show. Sure, their fan base may be older, more sedate, and drive minivans instead of being dropped off in them. No one rushed the stage or was trampled. Everyone was surprisingly polite and, for the most part, well groomed. But, wow. Wow. Not only did I get to see NKOTB, but the Jabbawockeez (of America's Best Dance Crew fame) opened for them, which I somehow didn't know until I got there, but they were incredible. Humans just shouldn't be able to move like that. It was like they didn't possess joints. Crazy. I'm just now getting my hearing back.

The minute five spotlights shone on the stage, the audience (more on the audience later...let's just say I would have gone just to people-watch) came completely unhinged. Behind me was a woman in her thirties, with two children with her, both between eight and eleven years old. She was wearing what I think of as a "mommy uniform": polo shirt, light-colored jeans, sensible shoes.(This is, of course, completely different from my "mommy uniform" of whatever shirt is cleanest, paired with whatever jeans have the fewest tiny knee-level handprints, and flip-flops. This is the reality of being a Beta Mom. Also, my hair usually gives me away. People can tell that if I didn't have a baby, I'd have twelve cats.) She had a respectable short haircut and sophisticated glasses. She was a bona fide grownup. I would guess she teaches third grade. Well, the second they started singing, she lost all semblance of respectability and screamed her head (sensible haircut and all) right off. Then this crazy girl with huge curly hair started screaming, and her husband cruelly took pictures of it. It was a great show. Even though they are in their fifties, they danced, jumped off platforms, and sang for over two hours. That's an amazing feat in itself. So I gave up, dropped the ususal "I'll enjoy anything, but with an air of detached superiority" attitude that I usually sport, and had a blast.
And you know what? I'm glad I had to wait so long to see them. I am confident enough now that I can, without any shame, declare that that concert was, in a word, sublime. It was everything I always dreamed it would be, but now I have everything I wished I had when I was eight. If that makes sense. I went to this concert with high heels, cleavage, lipstick and pierced ears...all things I coveted when I was eight. I was with a boy who bought me stuff and leaned over to whisper (well, let's be honest, scream...it was pretty loud in there) in my ear that I was beautiful. I didn't have a curfew. I was, for about three seconds, the girl dancing on the Jumbo Tron. I waved my hands in the air, oh yes, like I just didn't care.
Because you know what? I didn't. Sure, it may be super lame to get a babysitter AND miss rehearsal to go see New Kids on the Block. It may be lame to look forward to it for a month in advance. And yes, it may be lame to jump up and down and squeal, "Omigodomigodomigod" when Joey takes the stage to belt "Please don't go, girl," but he was in Wicked on Broadway, so that was a totally legit thing to do. And that boy can SING.
I think I enjoyed myself a lot more at 26, watching these sixty-year-old men trying to convey street cred than I would have as an eight-year-old, in the shadow of older relations, with my pink plastic glasses and Dorothy Hammill haircut, certain that even if, my some miracle, I got to meet Joey, there was no way he would even want to talk to me, much less bring me up onstage and serenade me. So sad.
I think the reason they, in their seventies, are still able to draw a crowd, after fifteen years of being the punchline of a forgotten joke, is that most of those women are women just like me. Women who didn't stop loving them when they stopped being cool, and have been in the closet about it ever since. Maybe those short years that they were popular were the only time most of those women (myself included) liked anything mainstream. I think 1992 was the last time I was able to strike up a conversation with any of my peers about something popular. Sure, it's easy to talk to theater kids, or speech team dorks, or other moms, but someone assigned to sit next to you on the bus for a field trip to the science museum? Forget it. You might as well be drinking that lukewarm can of soda you were allowed to pack in your lunchbox all by yourself, sister, because nobody in the third grade knows jack about Sondheim or Shakespeare. And maybe they'll beat you up or call you names because you do.
My first introduction to NKOTB was, as all things contraband were, through my older cousin. She was the holder of all things cool. She wore Malibu Musk and jeans that were intentionally ripped. I idolized her. The second she placed those headphones over my (UNPIERCED) ears, I was part of something cool. Spending the night with her, I was allowed to stay up and watch them appear on The Arsenio Hall show (minus Jonathan, which was a shame). For a few years, I was cool. Well, not quite cool, but at least I knew what was cool. Then, all of a sudden, it was lame to like them. Sure, I had the Jonathan doll (with that awesome cardigan? and the earring?) but I wouldn't bring him out when my friends came over. When my cousin and my brother torched the posters they had made to take with them to the concert (yes, the one I wasn't allowed to go to...and yes, I'm still bitter), I knew I couldn't like them anymore.
But now. Oh, yes, now.
They're a wonderful thing we call RETRO!

Thank God for that term, "retro." It gives me an excuse to wear leg warmers and listen to Vanilla Ice. Who, by the way, I would totally go see as well. Even though he doesn't conjure up warm fuzzy feelings of nostalgia for me like NKOTB, I would buy a ticket to see him. MC Hammer, too. I, for the record, am thrilled that 80's fashions are back. Huge plastic earrings? Bring them on. Leggings? Those of us with awesome calves (I can't boast much about my body, but I do have awesome calves) are crazy glad that we can wear them again. In the late nineties, stick-straight, sleek hair was what you had to have, and I was at a loss. And, I'm sorry, but I really, really hate Dave Matthews. A lot. One good song. That was it. One. And the Backstreet Boys? They were no New Kids. And I think most people would agree that Abercrombie and Fitch is something we could all do without. At least, those of us who find it apalling that they sold a training bra emblazoned with the word "yummy." A TRAINING BRA. That's a whole other discussion, though. The late nineties and early thousands brought us very little in the way of cultural advancement. It brought us reality TV, Monica Lewinsky, and killed off Princess Di. Yes, I'm going to blame the nineties for that.
But the eighties brought us Joey, Jordan, Jonathan, Danny and Donnie...
Sure they're in their eighties, but I can still scream my head off in not even a remotely ironic way when they sing Cover Girl. It's funny how when you get older, you just stop caring what other people think. At one point, while waving one arm in the air during Hangin' Tough (if you're a true fan, you know when to wave your arm in the air), I turned to my husband, who was smiling a sort of "I'm humoring this woman because I love her and I'm a little bit scared of her" kind of smile, and I screamed (not because I was angry, but because it was REALLY loud in there) "Don't you even THINK about judging me!!" That's going to be my mantra now, for all time. You don't like how I'm raising my kid? You think I need to lose weight? Sorry, sister, it's not your place to judge. I've worked really hard, and overcome some huge obstacles to become who I am today, and while that may not seem like much to anyone else, it's a huge deal to me, and no one has any right to take that away from me. Sorry. I just had to get that off my chest. It had relatively little to do with my concert-going experience, but it's been bothering me for a while.

It was nice, to see these faces from my past, mostly unchanged, clearly enjoying themselves so much. You could tell that Donnie had really missed the spotlight. And I was glad people were screaming for them. I was glad the concert had sold reasonably well (it was not Styx, REO Speedwagon, Def Leppard draw, but still...) and that everyone there bought a t-shirt. I expected it, honestly, to be a little sad, but it wasn't. Not at all. It was surprisingly uplifting. I guess I was treating this kind of as a joke, but it turned out to be a really poignant experience for me. It meant a lot more to me than even I knew until I was there. Squealing. Jumping up and down.
Last night, I let go of all inhibitions. I drank a really watered-down Bud Light while watching this guy trying not to enjoy himself. I totally bought a Cover Girl tank top. I forgot every horrible thing anyone ever said to me about being a dork, a nerd, ugly, or stupid. I forgot every eye that ever rolled in my direction, every nasty thing said behind my back.
And I shook my long hair and I danced.