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May 2017

April 2017 entries

A Room of Our Own

After getting Kody and Kaylea settled into their new rooms, Gene and I spent the week living out of totes (Kale's new room was our bedroom, so we packed up so she could unpack) and sleeping on an air mattress.   Yesterday, our room was finished!  It's really amazing to see how my once-unfinished office space transformed into a gorgeous master bedroom with a wall-in closet and what we've been calling my "reading nook."  I credit Gene entirely for this design and vision.  My brain doesn't see the potential in spaces the way his does.  But, just like when we build a set for the school theatre, I always trust his judgment.  It looks better than I could have imagined.  I love how the burnt orange paint turned out, and we plan to accent it with dark teal.  




While we could have started moving furniture from Gene's house to this room last night, we decided to enjoy the gorgeous weather together and go for a bike ride instead.   We figured that one more day wouldn't make all that much of a difference in terms of organizing our room.  I love that about us -- we are able to strike a great balance between working hard and enjoying life together.  After all, to quote my favorite advice from Father Manno: "We are human beings, not human doings." 



Other Desert Cities & the Joy of Directing Adults

I love teaching and directing high school actors.  They are creative and enthusiastic and open-minded.  They work hard for me, and they genuinely want to improve at their craft.  At times, I select shows in which high school students need to play older characters (most recently, in The Giver, we had seniors playing a mother, a father, and The Giver himself).  To their credit, my students have always dedicated themselves to understanding their characters so as to accurately portray the roles they are given.  The reality of their age and experience prevents them from knowing first-hand what it's like to be a mother or a father, but they try their best to relate to how those characters might think and feel, based on their observations of life around them. 

Because of my involvement in our community theatre, I am fortunate enough to direct adults from time to time as well.  Last night, I held my first real rehearsal for a show called Other Desert Cities by Jon Robin Baitz.  We will perform this show in the Jason J. Moyer Studio Theatre at the Community Academy of Stage and Theatre in June.  The cast consists of 5 adult actors, and I could not be more excited to work with and learn from these talented people.  We will be staging the play in the round, which is new for me as well.  

When I first read the script, I was immediately intrigued by the driving questions.  Set in Palm Springs, Other Desert Cities is about a writer who returns home for Christmas after having written a memoir about her family.  And not just about her family, but about the darkest part of their lives -- about the Vietnam protestor son who was implicated in the bombing of an Army recruitment center, the son who later committed suicide by jumping into a freezing river, the son whose body was never found.  As Brooke's mother, father, younger brother, and aunt read her manuscript, old wounds are reopened and the family is left with more questions than answers.  Questions like When a family is involved, who owns the story? Is a writer responsible to her art more than she is responsible to those who may be affected by that art? Is any work worth splintering a family? Are there secrets that should be kept?

I was also intimidated by the time period of the piece.  Most of the actors in my cast lived in these times -- the man playing the father was 16 numbers away from the draft himself.  I was born in 1980.  But, hey, I've also directed The Crucible, and I certainly wasn't alive in 1692.  I'll be fine. 

Last month, the cast met for a read through at our house, and last night, we met to discuss the script before getting on the stage and working on blocking.  And the conversation was amazing!  Each member of the cast present had a journal with notes about their character and had thought in depth about their back stories and relationships with each other.  I had researched the role of Henry, the deceased brother, since he is a significant character, despite never being on stage.  My actors, because if their age and experience, are able to draw from their own lives as they create characters who are married, who parents, who have gone to college or worked in a professional field.  Also because of their age and experience, the characters they create will be rich and full and compelling to the audience -- exactly what this remarkable script needs.  

While I truly love working with kids, I am energized by the prospect of working with these adult actors who make Other Desert Cities come to life on stage.  This is a great place to be after one rehearsal! 


Easter with the Brady Bunch

We had a bit of a nontraditional Easter this year because we started moving things from the "country house" to the "town house" on Friday.  After a lot of work, Kody and Kale are all set up in their new rooms; Gene and I are awaiting new carpet in our room before the contractor can finish the paint and trim.  The downstairs bath isn't quite done yet, but we are sooooo close to having it all put together.  The result was that between moving and Holy Week masses, our Easter dinner ended up being burgers and dogs.  But, we took Sunday off to just enjoy our family, and it was the perfect day.  

My kids came back to us on Saturday night, which was a nice surprise since I thought they would be with their dad until Sunday. We were able to go to mass together, which was really great.  The kids miss going to mass at their home parish, so we love walking down to the church together when they are home.  



And, the Easter bunny hid the baskets for our annual scavenger hunt in the morning.  The Bunny really made the kids work this year --- Aidan had to go all the way down to the middle school on his bike, and Ellie and Liam had to go to the playground.  Even Kale had to work for her basket and follow the clues. 




The rest of the day was spent hunting Easter eggs, riding bikes, dying eggs, and just loving the beautiful weather and people in our lives!


So, nontraditional maybe, but still refreshing and filled with love and new life.  Happy Easter and Happy Spring! 


Should I Start a LinkedIn Account for My Kid?

A couple of days ago, I was folding laundry (when aren't we moms folding laundry, am I right?) and Gabrielle came in the room and asked, "Mom, can I use you as a reference?"

Lemme back up and remind you that Gabrielle is 10, count 'em 10, years old.  She is in the fourth grade.  

I was dumbfounded, so I used my go-to parenting technique of asking my children what they mean before I assume they understand adult words or concepts.  "It's a person who can tell other people that you are good at your job or about you as person," she replied when I asked what she meant by "reference."

Again, I was stunned.  Why does my 10-year-old know what a reference is, and why does she need one?

As I continued to talk with Ellie, this is what I learned:

  • They are doing a Career Unit at school (this part I already knew...she had been joking around about how the "Happy Highway" and the "Funky Freeway" analogies used by the school to differentiate between the safe path and the risky path)
  • As part of this unit, they are writing resumes.  
  • The aforementioned resume includes references.  




As a teacher of high-achieving students who are often stressed beyond belief and filled with anxiety about their academic performance, I found myself shaking my head in dismay.  Is it any wonder that we have kids who tell me "I check the grade portal more often than I check social media" and kids who battle anxiety and eating disorders that are rooted in their fear of being less than perfect?  These types of students are so wrapped up in nerves and lost in mind games that they are too afraid to take risks, to try something new, to fail -- all of which are needed when one truly aspires to learn.  

It doesn't help that this week the PSSA tests started at the elementary and middle schools, either.  So much of this is out of my hands as a mother -- from the curriculum to the state-mandated standardized tests.  What are we to do?  Until we can get the Department of Education to stop and think about what they are doing to our nation's kids, all we can do is guide our children through it, one step at a time.  

I told Gabrielle that when I was her age, I wanted to either be an opera singer or a nun (largely based on my obsession with Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music), and that my current resume contains experiences I never knew were possible at age 10, or even 20.  So, she could absolutely use me as a reference, but the last thing she needs to worry about is her career path right now. 

As for those PSSAs?


100% Chance of (Baby) Shower

Gene's oldest son Kyle and his finance Brittany are expecting their first child, a little boy, in May.  We were honored to host the baby shower at our house this past weekend.  We had a lot of fun prepping the food and decorations, and the sunroom was the perfect setting for our family and friends who came to celebrate the upcoming arrival of our new addition!


Gene and Ellie and I were proud of our little diaper cake!  


We may have gone a little overboard buying balloons at Party City . . . 


But it was all worth it to see how happy Kyle and Brittany were! 


Baby Clark has two older sisters waiting anxiously for him as well.  While we don't know what the future will hold for this little man, we do know for sure that he is and will always be greatly loved!