Friday, October 21, 2016

Five On Friday: The Redcoats Are Coming

Around 5:00 tonight. 

To be fair, there is no reason to believe their coats, if they are even wearing them, will be red.
It's just . . .  you know. I was in Boston last week soaking up all the Revolutionary War history and now I have two British exchange students coming for ten days.

You may be asking yourself why on Earth a person with five children is willingly taking two more temporarily. My husband may be asking that same question. This week's list will explain that and more!

1. I love cultural exchange. I have had jobs with exchange students and au pairs. I have been an exchange student myself. This program is only ten days and seemed like an easy way for us to start. I thought we'd be getting one girl. We are getting two boys. (I wanted a girl as it was my High School daughter, not son, that was interested, so I thought they could share a room. However, by the time she handed the paperwork in there were only boys left. Son was still not interested and not into sharing his room. Okay, I'd figure something out. Then I looked on our student's information sheet where he wrote the names of his friends that will also be on the trip. I noticed that one of them did not have a host family yet. I emailed the coordinator and told her we didn't technically have any more space, but might be able to get a cot if that would be acceptable? She replied that he would love to stay with us. So we're getting two boys.)

2. One of the boys is an only child. Ha ha ha ha ha. Poor guy. He has no idea what he's in for. (To be fair, the other one that has two sisters also probably has no idea what he's in for with this crew . . . )

3. They will be sharing the bedroom of our youngest daughter. I mean, with each other. She's outta there. I figured since every night she is begging me to sleep "someplace special" and still frequently wakes me in the middle of the night to tell me she wants "someone to sleep with" she'd be fine with rotating bedrooms for ten days. I was right, she's thrilled with this plan.

4. I hope they have great senses of humor. It helps here, in general, to have one and will probably come in handy when the little kids start trying to speak "in accent' like they do. I solemnly swear to keep my fake British to myself until they're asleep or back home. Or at least try my very, very hardest.

5. Overkill Jones (the 15-passenger van we purchased over the summer) sure is going to come in handy.

I haven't been this excited about a vehicle since I had that '63 Dart

Friday, October 14, 2016

Five on Friday: Superstar

As a little child that loved performing and first starting doing so publicly at age four, "superstar" seemed like a perfectly logical career choice.  As a high school Drama Club kid, I still loved the spotlight but didn't know how that could fit in with the things I wanted in life. 

Growing up, I had no idea that traveling to tell a story on stage would even be a possibility.  I'm so grateful for these past few days of feeling pretty much like a superstar. What was it like? Let me tell you all about it:

1. Walking into my beautiful hotel room on Wednesday, I cried a little. Really. I might have twirled also but I can't really confirm nor deny that. And I stood on the balcony overlooking the city and turned back around to the gorgeous room and I thought, "Someone is paying for me to be here and to perform. Hollywood,  Shmollywood."

2. Meeting someone that I consider to be kind of famous (and could at least name drop with my NPR nerd friends!) and pretty much dorking out.

3. Making up for it later by sharing a great number of laughs together and even one semi-semi-serious conversation (I am going to name drop that story so hard one day!)

4. Being totally irritated and distracted by the sounds of phones of people in the audience who somehow, in spite of living in 2016 and have already been reminded to silence their phones,  failed to do so. I'd carry on about how rude this is but something funny happened to one of the storytellers: it was his first time and he started strong but suddenly just stopped. I could tell from the flicker of fear in his eyes that this was no dramatic pause. Silence. Then, from the audience, Siri saying, "I'm sorry, I didn't catch that." A moment of humor got our guy relaxed and back on track.

5. People approach me during intermissions, after shows, once in awhile on the streets (only right after a show though). That I am used to. But this morning at the train station, a woman approached me smiling and saying, "I just had to say hi! I saw you . . . " Ah yes,  yes, I must have a fan from last night! I'm ready to thank her for attending the show but before I can, she continues, "sitting earlier and I noticed we are totally rocking the same hairstyle. I love it, yours looks great!" I realized we actually were hair twins and I did really like hers, too. And then I laughed at myself the rest of the walk to the platform.

Okay maybe I'm not strangers-dorking-out to me level of celebrity but at least I have good hair and crack myself up.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Five on Friday: Very Smart Things to Do (School Year Edition)

There are lots of things I know I should be doing year-round to make my own life easier. Some of them I do without even thinking about it (like putting my cloth shopping bags right back in the car after I unload the groceries) and some I fail to do resulting in driving my husband crazy. (For example: He cannot fathom WHY my car keys would EVER be anywhere else besides the ignition or the designated hook. My defense is that since women's clothes are woefully short on pockets and I am frequently carrying 547 things out of the car, I need to throw them into the deep, dark depths of my purse.)

But I digress.

There are a few very smart things that are specific to the school-year that would really make my life much easier and I religiously adhere to them with varying consistency. They are:

1. Pack lunches in the evenings. In the past six weeks of school, I believe we have done this approximately three times. And each time we did it was very, very smart of us.

2.  Make the kids pack their own lunches. I almost never do this. I know, I know, I am not doing myself or them any favors by continuing to baby them this way, particularly the teenagers. But I can come up with a list of reasons justifying why I continue to do so (watch out for this on a future Five on Friday list!)

3. Keeping a box of random presents in the closet for all of the parties the kids get invited to. Many of the invites have been sort of last-minute lately so this has worked out really well for me. So well, in fact, I need to scan some clearance racks and refill it soon.

4. Take care of the mountains of papers they bring home each day on that very same day. I have to do this or we would be buried. And I have been doing this every single day and yet still somehow had no idea it was crazy hair day on Tuesday. 

5. Save empty shoe boxes. You know there's going to come a day when one of the kids needs one for a project the very next day. Maybe you'll even have two and can save the day for another family who did not follow this handy guideline but probably makes their kids pack their own lunches every evening.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Five on Friday: Cultural Exchange! Language! Travel! Oh My!

There seems to be themes of cultural exchange, language and travel in my life lately. It started when our family agreed to host  a British exchange student for ten days next month. Then my 14-year-old son needed help studying Spanish and I taught him my secret for remembering the word "to shower" (It's ducharse. Which sounds kind of like douche. Which is kind of like a shower. You're welcome.)

The weekend came and I spent it meeting people from around the world at an international conference in New York City. The start of the new week found me securing my plans for some solo travel in a few weeks and then I accidentally said yes to a second exchange student.

So clearly this week's list must have to do with these themes. Here are some favorite memories and moments:

1. On a trip to Egypt when I was 18, my tour guides advised we buy and consume large bottles of water every day to avoid dehydrating in their hot and dry climate. Tired of carrying the bottle everywhere and inspired by the women I saw balancing things on their heads, I began carrying my water bottle on top of my head. I had a few native Egyptians take pictures of (and share smiles with) me, the American tourist.

2. I was once walking around my college town with a young Spanish student, quizzing him on English vocabulary. I pointed out a watermelon and he excitedly said, "I know this! Yes! Marshmallow!" That sounded so unlike "watermelon" to me, it struck me as hysterical. To defend his mistake, he said, "What? Marsh-mallow, water-mallow, same difference." (That is something my friends, husband and I still frequently say.)

3. Of course, I've had my fair share of language mistakes. One that stands out is when, on a test (in Spanish), I wrote that the painting featured a man with "hornos" coming out of his head.
"Hornos" means ovens.
I had no idea why my non-English-speaking teacher thought that was so funny.
See #2. Reverse.

Sweet cabeza ovens, dude.

4. Several years ago, I worked for as a coordinator for au pairs that were working for local families. When it was time for me to to move on from that job, I knew I was going to miss these wonderful young people so much. We held our last meeting at a local pizzeria and they tearfully gave me a card. I opened it and laughed. It was a sympathy card. I still have it.

5. I explained to my six-year-old that our exchange students speak English but will sound more like Peppa Pig. She later told our friends, "our exchange students speak in accent!" 

I am looking forward to meeting them. I sure do hope they have good senses of humor.

Viva la cultural exchange!

Friday, September 23, 2016

Five on Friday: The Meta Theatre Company

I woke up way too early this morning--but this time not because my six-year-old came in to tell me she was hungry at five-something o'clock. This time it was with very good reason: to travel into New York City to participate in and perform at an international conference called Performing the World. I am not alone, I'm with my social justice theatre troupe, The Meta Theatre Company.

You may have heard me mention Meta on Facebook or Twitter, usually when I'm saying something about how lucky I am to have found them. What is it that makes Meta so wonderful? So many things . . . for example:

1. The fact that it exists at all. What are the odds that there would be something that existed that combined my passions of writing, performing and social justice?

2. The fact that it exists here, where I live. I'm not just saying that because this is where I live and so that's convenient. I mean the county paper is called the "Democrat" and that's more than a bit ironic. It's not a very . . . progressive area overall.

3. That fact that it exists here, where there is a Correctional Facility for Women, and that we have been able to get into that prison to perform. Even better is that we have been able to run a weekly writing group with them and have written a full-length show along with a group of incarcerated women. It's not always easy to get permission to do these things, and somehow we've gotten it.

4.  This group has changed a bunch over the past four years: we've had some long term members who ended up needing to take a break, we've had some short term members for specific shows or projects. We also have a core group that's been in it, think or thin. You know what we haven't had? Much drama. (Well, besides on the stage, of course . . . ). And it's wonderful.

5. That time a woman watched one of our shows and came up to me to tell me that she thought I was a great actress. That was nice, but what was even better was when she continued to tell me that I had helped open up and change her mind. She used to judge immigrants and was rude to them when their English wasn't coming easily. She told me that she regretted her past behavior.

Theatre can change minds and change lives. And this theatre troupe has absolutely changed mine. 

Thank you, Meta.


Ready for our closeups. Read about us here

Friday, September 16, 2016

Five on Fridays: Signs, Signs, Literal and Figurative

Not much going on here . . . ha, ha, ha, there's a TON going on. Catching up on big chores, appointments, Back to School nights, sports, clubs, fundraisers, donation drives, a new part-time job for me . . . I guess meant not much going on her, on ye old blog. But everyone always loves the lists that are filled with pictures so I can justify one by saying it's really just what my public demands.

A list of signs . . . some ridiculous, some perhaps ominous? Here they are:

1. Not so much the sign of dinner specials in the background, but is the Virgin Mary's neck growth some sort of . . . sign? (Like 'it's time for a new Mary' perhaps?)

2.We might have to call them that from now on. Muggins is just so fun to say.

3.The boys' face. The name of the game. The slogan. Comedy gold here, people.

4. Two dead snakes in my path this week on two different days in two different locations. What does it mean?

5. Okay, fine, this wasn't really a sign. But they probably have had a sign up somewhere at some time as an advertisement. We're big fans of trying out unusual soft drinks. This was at a Cuban restaurant and not only had the best graphics but was also the crowd favorite of the three that we sampled that night.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Five on Friday: Back to School--A Study in Contrasts

As I reflect on my one full week of kids being at school (well. There were two half days and one holiday day off, so not exactly a normal full week but we're getting there . . .) I realize that, for me, it has been a study in contrasts. 

1. Need to Slow Down/Speed Up: Oh, there are so many things I need to do! Deep clean and organize, harvest and save what I can from the garden, make phone calls and appointments. My inclination is to do them ALL immediately and I've had to remind myself that they'll be in school for months now so I can pace myself. Meanwhile, I've gotten back to my daily runs and was looking back on some of my past workouts (I have an app for that) and saw how much faster and further I was going back in June. D'oh! You need to speed up, you slow old lady!

2.  I Don't Miss Them/I Miss Them: I love them dearly but I have a lot I need to do and the bickering was reaching an all time high. They love school, I love the break. I don't miss them. But I did notice that when I got home from the supermarket yesterday and honked my horn, nobody came out to help me unload the groceries . . .

3.  Quieter/Louder: Obviously it's so quiet here all day but the minute they get home their chaos seems about a thousand times louder. I understand now why my husband, who spends a lot more time away from them than I do, frequently finds their volume so unbearable.

4.  So Much Time/Not Enough Time: Each morning after I get them on the bus, the day is stretched out ahead of me with endless possibility. I do know I can't do it ALL in one day (#1) so I prioritize my to-do list and then get cracking. And blink! The bus is back, just like that.

5. Writing/Not Writing: With more quiet time (#3) and more time to run (#1) and when I run I do a lot of thinking, I'm breaking out of my no-new-writing summer slump. But with trying to catch up on so much that needs to be done (#1) and the day going by so quickly (#4), it's staying in my head. So that's not actually writing, now is it?

Friday, September 2, 2016

Five on Friday: Another High School Freshman

I realized that last year I dedicated a Five on Friday list to my daughter as she began her High School career and that I did not have one this year for my son. Lest he ever feel like that overlooked second child (Ha! How do you think number five feels?), I should probably write out some thoughts and wishes for him, too.

1. So the funny thing about you, G, (well, one of them), is that you were only the baby of the family for four years before becoming a big brother three times over. But those four years made some sort of impression on my psyche as a mother. Every time your sister would reach a milestone I'd feel happy and excited about what's ahead--but when you'd reach the same milestone a year later, I'd get a little verklempt. I thought maybe I was getting over that now but as you pedaled away on your bike that first morning of High School, I'll admit I got a little choked up. 

2. You've always been such an interesting mixture of wanting to march to the beat of your own drum but overly worried about other people not liking your music. It makes me a little worried about you entering High School--I see you as the Anthony Michael Hall character, kind of annoying, sort of sweet and lovable, easy to be bullied. I'm seeing your confidence begin to develop and I know you're super smart. I just hope your brain and sarcasm help get you out of more trouble than in it.

3. You admitted you're considering joining Drama Club!! That burst of joy and enthusiasm I displayed was subdued, believe it or not. Oh please oh please! Theatre has always meant so much to me and I do think you'd find some good friends and really enjoy it. High School is time for broadening your horizons and if it's not with this, I hope you try other things. (But I really want it to be this. FYI. Again.)
4. At first I was bummed and pretty sad for you when you came home from your Freshman Orientation day completely underwhelmed. But then I remembered how, when you were in preschool, every single day I'd excitedly ask you, "How was school today?" And every damn day you'd sigh and respond, "Want to know what bad happened?" But overall you did love preschool. You and I just have different . . . outlooks on life. I know this big new school is going to take some getting used to but there will be so many great opportunities for you to enjoy and so many things to learn that you're actually interested in. Just hang on, you'll get there.

5. Speaking of preschool, I'd never say that it seems like just yesterday you were there. It actually has felt like a long time and it's amazing to see how you've changed and grown. Things are really happening now--you've eked past your sister height-wise and your voice is changing. I remember last year one of B's observations on High School is that so many of the senior boys were "LIKE MEN!" You're going to be taller than me, too, soon . . . and like a man. While I'd never say your childhood was over in a flash, it's still hard for me to believe you're getting so grown. I can't wait to see the ways you continue to grow and change in these next four years.

And they're off!