Friday, March 20, 2009

A Night Out

Today has been a good day so far. Nothing too exciting... yet. (Although I did finally get my dishes done and kitchen cleaned.) Tonight Dave and I are going to see Wicked! We got tickets for Christmas and the date has finally arrived. So tonight we have a night on the town... we're getting dressed up, going out to dinner and then to see the show. Only 1 hour and 3 minutes until we leave.... =] Not that I'm counting.

The kids had their last day of school before spring break and we are ready for a week of unplanned, spontaneous fun (or house cleaning-- don't tell the kids that).

Life is good.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Late Night Perspective

Back at the beginning of this week a had a couple of days that were kind of hard for me... for no particular reason. I've just been tired and meanwhile Jackson is his normal busy-happily-destructive self, my laundry-to-fold pile is about 5 feet wide and 2 feet high (I'm sorry to disappoint you, but I'm really not exaggerating), Jared and Camryn have been pestering me to play a board game with them for about four days straight (and I still haven't gotten around to it) and Dave pulled an all-nighter a few nights ago finishing up a big presentation for work.

On Tuesday I was feeling depressed. I got on facebook and ended up chatting with an old college friend of mine that I haven't seen in years. It was interesting because in the course of the conversation we found out that we were struggling with the same thing, but for different reasons. Both of us were depressed and felt like we were failing miserably at life. My friend is still single and working and had just broken up with her long-time serious boyfriend. She was so frustrated because she honestly thought she was going to marry this guy and here she is in her 30's with no family, no children and now no boyfriend. She said she just "felt like a failure." Which was exactly how I felt, but for a totally different reason.

I am in a totally different situation: I have been married for almost 9 years, I have 3 small children and a home, but still "feel like a failure" because I feel like it is impossible to even remotely keep up with my idea of what a "good mom" or "good housekeeper" should be and have children living in my house simultaneously. If I do the dishes, then I feel guilty because I didn't get the laundry done. If I spend time with the kids I feel guilty that the house didn't get cleaned. If I clean the house or make meals, I feel guilty that I didn't spend more time with the kids.

On Monday, I made a really nice dinner: my mom's favorite chicken recipe with "Yummy Rice" and a pan of delicious sauteed vegetables. I even had a friend and her kids over to share it with and we held Family Home Evening with our kids. But instead of saying, "Congratulations, Karen, on a job well-done and time well-spent," I thought, "I'm so glad nobody can see my 5 foot pile of laundry to fold upstairs. They would be horrified. Look at the huge pile of dirty dishes from this meal in my sink. Any reasonable housekeeper would wash them right after dinner. I'm so lazy and such a slob. And do you have any idea how long it's been since Jared has had a bath?" Small wonder that I woke up on Tuesday feeling depressed.

In the course of chatting with my friend on Tuesday I felt much better and I realized a couple of things:
1) I have a lot to be grateful for. Even though my kids sometimes challenge me to my utmost, I love them and am so grateful to be their mom. Even though I miss Dave when he has to work a lot, I am so lucky to be married to such a wonderful person and doubly lucky that we are in a position where I can stay at home with the kids.
2) The grass is always greener on the other side. I admit I've had days where I think "Oh to be single or childless... oh, the freedom, the unattached freedom! I can only dream of how nice and how easy it must be..." But there was my single friend wishing she could only be married and have a family... to have someone to love you and to share your life with.... It's easy to see the plusses of whatever you don't have, but to not see the downsides that come with it.
3) No matter what situation we have in life, there will be challenges. Nobody gets a free and easy ride, no matter how much it may look like it.
4) When my friend started calling herself a failure, I was horrified and immediately interjected that she is an amazing person, a great friend, a beautiful, talented woman who has done good things with her life and opportunities. It suddenly struck me that we don't think twice about saying negative things to ourselves or about ourselves that we would be horrified or angry if anyone else said to someone we cared about. And often we refuse to give ourselves credit for the good things that we do in a way that would be extraordinarily rude to even the most casual of friends. Why do we do that?
5) I really believe that adversary tries to make us feel worthless and like nothing we do is good enough. So there you have my midnight philosophical ramblings.

I decided to try to appreciate my situation more and, based on my friend's advice, take some time periodically to myself. I think it's easy with kids to feel like you can't take time for yourself until everything else is finished (which is never). On Tuesday night, I went to my choir rehearsal and enjoyed the beautiful sunset on the drive there. I enjoyed the chance to make music and do something for myself instead of bemoaning how much I was spending on a babysitter to do something so frivolous.

Wednesday was a great day, beautiful and sunny. I took the kids for an impromptu ice cream cone at McDonald's and to the park. By dinner, however, I was starting to lose my "enjoy the moment" attitude and fall back into criticizing my attempts at making dinner ("Can you really call bacon, sweet potato fries and overcooked peas a dinner? What kind of mismatching excuse for a meal is that?") I guess learning to be kind to yourself is an ongoing process. [I also learned that serving bacon will guarantee that your kids think it is a great dinner regardless of how gross everything else is.]

So here is my "give myself validation" moment for today: I folded my 5 foot laundry pile and got the kids to put away their laundry. I washed, folded and PUT AWAY 6 additional loads of laundry (be impressed!). I made potstickers for dinner and served them with brown rice and a vegetable... before 7 pm (not by much, but hey, it still counts). Jackson dumped half a box of cereal on the floor and I did not get mad or flustered. (Not to say that I didn't get mad or flustered at any other thing that he did today, but hey, at least it's one!) I did not get mad or huffy that Dave had to go back into work tonight (and is still there...) and took work calls most of the time that he was home. I snuggled with Jackson while I fed him his bottle and enjoyed the chance to just hold him. I did some research on the internet for some fun local trips we can do for spring break next week. I cut Jared's hair and gave him a bath. I did NOT do the dishes and they are still sitting in a huge pile in my sink and on my counters-- but that does not negate everything else I did today. [Repeat to self 10 times. Yes, I can do this.]

Monday, March 16, 2009

Jared on "Baby" Jackson

Today I was talking to Jared about Jackson and Jared said, "Mom, I think Jackson is the cutest and best baby ever." [It's nice to know that your kids like each other sometimes!]

He also says that Jackson's life is just like a video game called "Baby Adventure." He goes around the house trying to get in cupboards, discover new things and open new levels. I think he may be on to something. Somebody needs to come up with an interactive Wii "Baby Adventure" game for moms. It could be a great way to release frustration:
-Get extra points for opening the cupboard with glass stuff in it!
-Try to dump all of the food from your high chair tray on the floor before mom can stop you.
-Score a bonus for getting food on your new shirt and taking off your bib!
-Score big when you find an open door to the bathroom or get into the diaper pail.
-Unlock the entrance to big brother's room and try to eat his rock collection.
-Pull as many books off the shelf as fast as you can before mom catches you.

I don't know, I think it could be really big....

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Tale of the Watermelon or Why You Shouldn't Ever Promise Things to Your Kids

Last week I went to the grocery store with all three kids. Surprisingly, it was not a fiasco and they behaved themselves reasonably well (thank you Safeway and your free cookies from the bakery), although Jackson managed to smash an entire chocolate chip cookie all over his face and shirt.

When we got to the produce department, Camryn begged me to get a watermelon. I have tried to explain to Camryn before that it is generally not a good idea to buy watermelon in the dead of winter, because it is expensive and doesn't taste as good as it does during the summer. However, watermelon is Camryn's FAVORITE food and she was politely persistent (and I haven't bought it in a really long time), so I found one that seemed reasonably small and I put it in the cart. We made our way through the store over the next 45 minutes or so and our quick shopping trip to buy a few items for a potluck was rapidly turning into a full-blown shopping expedition.

We have been trying (like so many other people in today's economy) to make a bigger effort to be frugal. I have been trying to use this month to prove to Dave that I am actually capable of sticking to a budget/spending limit and so far I have been doing pretty well. As I approached the cash register I looked at several of the items that had made their way into the cart and asked the inevitable "Do we really need this?" The mid-winter watermelon caught my eye as an example of an unneeded extravagance, so at the last minute I handed it to the clerk and said we weren't going to get it.

When we got home, Camryn looked through the shopping bags for her beloved watermelon and it wasn't to be found. She asked me where it was and I told her that we got a lot of other stuff for the potluck so I decided to wait and get the watermelon another time. Camryn looked absolutely crushed and said, heartbroken and starting to cry, "Mommy, you tricked me! You told me we were going to get a watermelon and then you tricked me!"

At this point I felt like scum. How could I be so deceitful and wicked as to tell my child that we were going to get a watermelon and then gleefully change my mind at the last moment? Regardless of my wicked or non-wicked intent, I did feel really bad because I had told her we would get a watermelon, so I apologized to Camryn and told her we would get a watermelon the next time we went to the grocery store. This calmed her down.

Every couple of hours for the next few days Camryn asked me when we were going to go to the store and reminded me that we needed to get a watermelon. Finally on Saturday I told her yes, we were going to go to the store today and yes, I would finally get her watermelon. But Saturday was a busy day and I just didn't make it to the store. As Dave and I were getting ready to leave on our date that night, Camryn handed me a sheet from my shopping list pad with "WATRMELIN" written on it. She smiled at me with complete confidence and said, "Don't forget mommy! You promised!" (Grrr, I hate it when I am cornered!)

Dave and I went on our date and on the way home ran into Safeway to get the much-looked-for watermelon and a few boxes of cereal. As I got to the checkout I couldn't figure out why our total was so much. Did we get the wrong size cereal that wasn't on sale or maybe they got something wrong?And then I saw it... the watermelon that I had promised Camryn cost $8. Yes, $8 for a piece of out-of-season fruit, when I'm trying to be frugal and stick to a budget. So I asked the lady if she could hold our order and went back to the produce section to see if they had any smaller watermelon. They had a 1/3 of a watermelon that was only $3, so we got that instead.

Camryn had a yummy lunch the next day with her very favorite food. She also had her confidence restored in her mommy, that she really wasn't out to trick her. And I learned my lesson that you should never tell your kids that you will get them anything. Ever.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Why I Love Choir

Choir is one of those things in life that I am passionate about. How that came to be is a bit of a story.

I began singing in our church choir as a 10-year-old (my mom was the accompanist and I got dragged along). As a teenager I continued to sing and often played for choir. As a music major in college I was required to take 6 semesters of "ensemble credit." Given that pianists don't get to play in orchestras, I didn't play jazz, and "Keyboard in Ensemble" was the most horrendous time-sink 1 credit class from you-know-where (so I didn't want to take that any more than the two required semesters), I wasn't left with many options. So what was left to fill those credits? You guessed it, choir. So my love affair with choir began out of a sort of necessity. (As so many things in life do, I suppose....)

I arrived at BYU and decided that I was going to audition for Concert Choir. Mack Wilberg was the director of Concert Choir at the time and I recognized his name from a duet book that I had played as a kid and was like, "Cool. Yeah, I want to sing in choir with him. That sounds like fun." I am embarrassed to admit that at the time I had no idea that he was a rock star of the choir world. I also had no idea that since I was home-schooled through high-school and did not have any experience singing in anything other than ward choir, I basically had no chance (although I have to insert that had I gone to high school there STILL wasn't any choir at our local high school thanks to California budget cuts, so I still wouldn't have had any chance... but I diverge).

So I did the general audition and was politely told to try for Women's Chorus. By this time I had figured out that choir at BYU was a big deal, so I was happy to go for Women's Chorus. I had a great audition, the director loved that I was a piano major who could play for her, I made callbacks... and I didn't make it. I was kind of sad because two of my roommates did make it and I really wanted to be in it with them (both of them had sung in their high school's elite choir for several years). But I had to move on: I added non-audition choir for my ensemble credit and had to beg my way in because I was a girl.

Fast forward to winter semester. I was still irked at not getting in to Women's Chorus, so I tried out at mid-semester. I had a great audition, the director was really positive. I didn't make it. Another semester of non-audition choir for me. By this time I felt that I had done my time, so the next fall I was pretty confident that I would get in to Women's Chorus. I auditioned, it went great, the director was positive, I made callbacks... and I didn't get in. At that point I was stinkin' sick of non-audition choir and quite irritated. So I didn't take ensemble that semester- instead I took voice lessons. Winter semester of my sophomore year I auditioned for Women's Chorus for the 4th time and I finally made it in.

I still remember my first day of Women's Chorus. I took my seat and the director had them sing through a song they had sung the previous semester. We sang Aaron Copland's "Zion's Walls" and the sound just swept through me. I was hooked. In truth, I was hooked long before that. At one of the first university devotionals of my freshman year, BYU Singers sang a bunch of songs from their tour the previous summer. I had never heard a choir sound like that and I vowed that I was going to sing in that choir (or at least Concert Choir) before I left BYU. And so my endless string of auditions began.

Singing in a BYU auditioned choir was one of the highlights of my University experience. I learned to really listen- to myself and others, to work together with other musicians and to be sensitive to musical nuance in a way that I never had before. I sang in Women's Chorus for 3 semesters. The happy end to my story would be to tell you that after all my determination and hard work I achieved my dream and finally was selected to sing in Concert Choir or BYU Singers. Which would indeed be very happy, except that it isn't true- I never did make either of the top choirs. I did make callbacks for Concert Choir with Dr. Wilberg in the fall of my junior year, but didn't make the final cut (it was his last year at BYU and record numbers of people auditioned). My senior year... let's just say it didn't happen. Why it didn't happen is a different story which will have to wait for a different post, but it involves fate and a boy.

So my dream didn't exactly work out how I had hoped. But I had an amazing choir experience which ignited a lasting passion for choral music. I had the chance to sing with Dr. Wilberg and Dr. Staheli (the director of BYU Singers) with the BYU combined choirs and learned so much from the short time I sang with them. I also had the chance to study conducting with Dr. Staheli later as a grad student. And my choral experience didn't stop when I left BYU. I sang with the Valparaiso Singers in California, with the Portland Mormon Choir and now I am the co-director of a new group called "Cantico: The Portland Chamber Singers."

So why do I like choir so much? What I love about being a musician is the chance to experience a musical work first-hand: to be in the driver's seat with the rush of sound in your face, to be part of it as it happens. The piano is my main instrument- and I love it- but it is very solitary. And it takes years or even decades of study before you can play really great works on the piano. With choir, yes it takes study and discipline, but it doesn't take nearly as long to get to a level where you can participate in really great music. In choir there is also the fun of working with other people and the challenge of surrendering self to the group: you have to come together as a unit and listen to each other as much as to yourself.

So to sum it up... I really love choir. And this was a really long rambling way to say that.

[Shameless Plug: If you like choir, you should come see our concert on May 16th:]

When I Go To Church

I have realized that the only way I make it to church on time is when I have to be early to rehearse beforehand with the choir (when they are going to perform that day). Last week, unfortunately, was not one of those days, so we arrived in a rush 10 minutes late and slipped into the very back of the overflow. As we were going to sit down, I noticed something seemed a little bit wrong about Jared's pants... they were black pants, but they just looked a bit too short and the cut was kind of funny- a little bit low-rise with different pockets. It took me a minute and then I realized that he was wearing Camryn's black pants. I had to work hard to suppress laughing out loud on that one. I didn't tell Jared, but made a mental note to be more careful with my laundry folding. At least Camryn wasn't wearing her pink sparkly crocs with her sunday dress (which, ahem, has definitely never happened before...). =)

While we were sitting in the back, Jackson did his usual thing, jabbering and trying to get down and wander around. And then he saw them... at the top of the ceiling of the gym (where we were sitting in the overflow), there were two helium balloons that had floated up to the ceiling. He pointed at them and very clearly said, "Uuuuuh. Azah-bah-wuh." When this did not produce the desired result, he began saying more loudly and more insistently while pointing at the balloons: "Uuuuuuhh!!!! Uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuh!!!!!!" Jackson was very clearly (and, most politely, in his opinion) asking us to get him those cool balloons down from the ceiling and could not figure out why his dense parents could not figure out what he was saying and just get them down for him.

This week at church, Dave had to teach a lesson during the last hour, so I was on my own with Jackson. Jackson started out okay, but then I made the mistake of giving him a toy- a small wooden tractor, to be exact. Jackson got upset that I wouldn't let him get down and roam, so he flailed, arched his back and threw the tractor, where it hit the back of some unsuspecting woman's chair (and luckily not the back of her head). That was the end of class for us. We spent the rest of church roaming the halls, which would have been okay except Jackson found the bulletin board and started ripping papers off it.

All I can say is that it's going to be a LOOOOONG three months until he's old enough for nursery. And it's a good thing that kid is so cute...

The Chef in the Family

Dave has a limited repertoire of things that he cooks. He can make his way around the kitchen well enough and what he does cook he cooks quite well, but he's not exactly the Iron Chef. But he makes the kids eggs, grilled cheese sandwiches, candied nuts and other similar yummies. He also makes them crepes sometimes for breakfast on Saturday mornings, which they love.

Last week after church on Sunday Dave made the kids one of his specialties, "egg in a bubble" (eggs over easy), for lunch. Jared commented, "Dad makes us egg in a bubble and he makes crepes, so he is like the chef of the family."

Apparently, making pies with homemade crust, homemade breadsticks and rolls, Thai curries, Chicken Stuffed with Basil Walnut Butter, and other creative, delectable offerings does not make you the chef of the family. I'm not jealous... really, I'm not. ;)