Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Collapsing Stages, Missing Cues, Bye, Bye Dress Rehearsal!

One of Mike's writer group friends--and a seasoned mom of three boys, one of whom did drama--told him today that if the dress rehearsal goes badly, then the play should be a success!

Well, judging from tonight's dress rehearsal, the play should be fantastic!!

These kids have been working constantly, every day after school and recently until 7:00 or 7:30 p.m. Today during their rehearsal, the set extension to the stage collapsed when nine or ten kids jumped all at once during one of their songs. Fortunately none of them were hurt!

So they had to improvise their staging and choreography during the dress rehearsal while the handy dads reinforced the platforms in the back of the cafeteria (with the background noise of drills and hammers going during the show!).

They have an orchestra, and they are a bit rusty. The music in "Bye Bye Birdie," both the instrumentals and the vocals, is quite complicated. The trumpet player was struggling. And it was clear that the kids hadn't practiced very extensively with the orchestra. Mike ran into a dad in the bathroom who was playing bass in the orchestra--apparently he hadn't played for some time, and he told Mike that the music was hard...and they had to transpose some of it!

There were gaps between scenes where kids missed cues because they were still changing costumes. A few lines were flubbed or missed.

Some of the leads did an excellent job, while others were clearly nervous and less experienced on the stage. One of the most experienced actors on stage, an 8th grader, has 14 costume changes, and one of these changes caused her to miss one of her cues on stage. (She plays both Albert's and Kim's mothers.) Another minor lead actor missed several cues and a few lines as well.

The director called the dress rehearsal quits in the middle of the second act, because the kids all looked tired out and discouraged. With the delay getting the dress rehearsal started, the delayed transitions between scenes, and all the unforeseen circumstances, it was late by that time. She gave them an encouraging pep talk at the end.

No matter what happens, it's sure to go more smoothly tomorrow for opening night!

Chris did a great job! "The Telephone Hour," one of the most famous songs in "Bye Bye Birdie" went very well. Chris made a very cute Harvey Johnson! If I had a video editing program, I could post a video, but alas, I cannot figure out how to do that. Must invest in one, I suppose!

Here are some photos of tonight's rehearsal...

The "We Love You Conrad" chorus, which had some challenges hitting the high notes and projecting at the same time...

Albert and Rosie (they both did very well--Rosie was especially strong for a middle schooler!)

The Telephone Hour and our Harvey Johnson--he somehow misplaced the shoes we bought him for his costume!

More Telephone Hour (where the boys are is where the extended set is supposed to go)
Still trying to get a prom date...

Mrs. Peterson (Albert's mom), who had a great New York accent!

One of the production numbers

"All-American Boy"
Conrad and his groupies

The boys complaining about Conrad
End of "All-American Boy"

Chris singing in the chorus

"Bye Bye Birdie" is very ambitious for a middle school production! I'm sure they'll all be happy when the play is over (it will run tomorrow, Friday, and Saturday). Chris has been enjoying all of the rehearsals and has not complained ONCE about all the hard work. I'm sure part of him will be sad on closing night.
I'm crossing my fingers that things go more smoothly tomorrow night!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Sweet Silly Nicholas

This funny, sweet, very active little bonus baby of ours is such a ham. I can't imagine our lives without him. He so very nearly did not come into existence.

Here he is in his "bear phase," wearing the bear hat I brought back one year from Alaska and watching wild bear videos on youtube:

Here he is at the Multnomah Art Center playground last week...while Mike and Kieran were doing a cleanup Gabriel Park activity with the kindergarten class...

Nicholas is such a youngest child! Whenever any other child comes near him, he stakes his claim and gets all territorial! So unlike Chris or Kieran at his age...who didn't know how to defend his turf! I had to resort to pulling him away and lecturing him whenever that happened. I do not want to raise any ill-mannered children! If he refuses to let other kids play with him, the least I can do is let him know he needs to share the space...

Here he is behind the "restaurant" counter, filling my orders for any kind of food or drink I could think of...

And his latest play area, the floor of our bedroom, playing with his trains and lizards. Nicholas is very good at entertaining himself, and of all our boys, he seems to be the most interested in actual toys.

Our Weekend Creations

Here's what our family created this weekend:

Garden Carpentry

My industrious hubby, who was not raised in a DIY family, has become very resourceful over the years. We've been thinking of doing raised beds for our vegetable garden for a few years now. (We've grown veggies in the past but last year failed to plant anything.) Our friends Katy and David are great inspirations for us and recommended a book called The 20-Minute Vegetable Gardener, which advises how to build raised bed frames. We are definitely lazy gardeners, so anything to make the process less complicated is appealing!

Mike went to the lumber yard and Lowe's to buy materials, and spent hours outside on Saturday building the frames and preparing the garden plot. Next: to fill the plots with dirt and compost. And of course plants!

While Mike was laboring away Saturday afternoon (even through the rain patches!), I was doing my typical weekend-overambitious-cooking thing. Mike cooks during the week, and when I cook, I tend to go for the more time-consuming dishes! First of all I decided to use some parsnips we had in the fridge (my handsome carpenter husband LOVES parsnips!), so I tried a recipe for carrot-parsnip custard. It was meant to be a dessert, but it was sort of sweet-savory. The kids hated it! I didn't take a photo of it, but it wasn't particularly appetizing-looking anyway--though it tasted good. Here's the recipe, in case you want to try it:

Carrot-Parsnip Custard

(from the Winter Harvest Cookbook, by Lane Morgan)

4 Tbsp butter
2 cups finely grated carrots (I ran them through the food processor grater twice)
1 cup finely grated parsnips
1/4 cup flour (I used spelt flour)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground ginger
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1/3 cup maple syrup (I ran out of maple syrup, so I used honey for half of this)
1-1/2 cups half-and-half (I used the fat-free variety)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Melt butter in a large saucepan, add carrots and parsnips, and saute gently for about 5 minutes, until vegetables begin to soften. Remove from heat. Combine flour, salt, and ginger, and stir mixture into vegetables. Add eggs, maple syrup, and half-and-half and stir well.
Pour into buttered custard dish and set in pan of boiling water. Water should be about 1 inch up on sides of dish. Add more boiling water while baking, if necessary. Bake until knife inserted in center comes out clean, about 1-1/2 to 2 hours. Serves 6.

I made homemade mac and cheese for the kids (which Nicholas eshewed in favor of Annie's mac and cheese!), and for the adults, I tried another new recipe--which I would highly recommend. We had leftovers last night, and I ate the final serving for lunch today. Yum!

Broccoli Dal Curry
(also from the Winter Harvest Cookbook)

(shown with Trader Joe's yummy veggie masala burger)

1 cup lentils (the cookbook recommends using pink lentils for a prettier look, but we had brown)
4 Tbsp ghee or light oil
2 medium onions, chopped fine
1 tsp chili powder
2 tsp black pepper
1-1/2 tsp ground cumin
1-1/2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp turmeric
juice of half a lemon
2 medium heads of broccoli
2 cups water
1/2 cup unsweetened dried coconut (I didn't have any, so I used a can of light coconut milk instead and cut the water in half)
1 Tbsp flour (I used spelt flour)
1 tsp salt
1 cup cashews or roasted peanuts

Wash lentils well and drain. Heat ghee or oil in a large saucepan and saute onions until they begin to soften. Add chili powder, black pepper, cumin, coriander, and turmeric. Stir and cook briefly. Add lentils, stir well, and add lemon juice, water, and coconut. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer about 25 to 30 minutes or until lentils are soft.

Meanwhile, cut broccoli into individual florets. (Save stems for another use.) Steam 5 or 10 minutes, until almost tender. Plunge broccoli in cold water, drain, and set aside.

Remove 1/3 cup of liquid from the lentil mixture, add to flour to form a smooth paste, and return it to the pan. Add steamed broccoli, salt, and nuts. Simmer another 5 to 10 minutes, until the lentils make a thick sauce. Serve with steamed basmati rice. Serves 4.

Stone Soup

On Sunday I took Kieran to see a Cajun musical version of Little Red Riding Hood, called Petite Rouge, at the Oregon Children's Theater. We enjoyed it! When we came home, Kieran announced that he wanted to make stone soup. (He often gets this urge!)

His original plan was to start a fire in the "fire pit" in the back yard (which he created), and cook the soup over the fire. I eventually nixed that plan when I realized he was dead serious...on the basis of (1) not having any way to suspend the pot, (2) it taking far too long to cook soup over a fire, and (3) the lack of an old pot that could get blackened in the fire! But we allowed him to make it on the stove. The soup basically consisted of some edamame, a potato, water, and a stone!

Unfortunately, Mike and Kieran neglected to wash the stone very thoroughly, so Mike discovered some dirt in his soup! I suggested that next time we run the stone through the dishwasher! But I dutifully took a bite anyway. A little dirt never hurt anyone! The fun, after all, is all in the making.

Kieran's stone soup adventures always remind me of one of our favorite children's musicians, Tom Chapin, and his song, "Stone Soup." I can't find the lyrics online, or the video, but I did find this little gem on YouTube...just in case you miss making fun of Sarah Palin (who continues to be in the news!):

Saturday, April 25, 2009

March for Babies 2009

We've been walking in the March for Babies since 1999, to raise money for research to prevent prematurity and birth defects. It feels like one small thing we can do in gratitude for the research into artificial surfactant and other medical treatments that saved Christopher's life.

This year we didn't raise as much money as we had in previous years--probably because of the economy, we're guessing--but we still broke $1,000! Thanks to all of you who contributed to the cause by sponsoring Chris or any other walker. We really appreciate it!

Here are a few photos of this morning...

Kieran and Nicholas getting ready to walk!

The Precious Beginnings team

Me and Nicholas

Mike and another volunteer Kendra...our Precious Beginnings volunteers have been way down in number in recent years (many moved away or got too busy to volunteer, and then HIPAA has prevented volunteer recruiting as well), and Mike and Kendra have been double-handedly keeping the Emanuel Baja night alive for the past few years. (Precious Beginnings provides a free Baja Fresh dinner for NICU families in two hospitals, Emanuel and Doernbecher, each month.)

Nicholas after eating a powdered donut!

The motivation for our annual walk!

Kieran making bubbles at the station midway through the walk

The typical middle school goof-off photo!

And a more serious one...

Hooray! All done with the walk--about 20 minutes before the rain arrived!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Bringing Up Geeks (Book Review)

Bringing Up Geeks: How to Protect Your Kid's Childhood in a Grow-Up-Too-Fast World Bringing Up Geeks: How to Protect Your Kid's Childhood in a Grow-Up-Too-Fast World by Marybeth Hicks

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
The subtitle of this book is "How to Protect Your Kid's Childhood in a Grow-Up-Too-Fast World," and defines geeks as Genuine, Enthusiastic, Empowered Kids.

This book made me feel validated as a parent. As if we are actually doing not too badly as we decide how to raise our children.

The author, a parenting columnist and mom of 4, has 10 rules for raising "geeks":

Rule 1: Raise a brainiac

Rule 2: Raise a sheltered kid

Rule 3: Raise an uncommon kid

Rule 4: Raise a kid adults like

Rule 5: Raise a late bloomer

Rule 6: Raise a team player

Rule 7: Raise a true friend

Rule 8: Raise a homebody

Rule 9: Raise a principled kid

Rule 10: Raise a faithful kid

She tackles a variety of issues, such as cell phone and internet use, materialism, bullying, manners, friendships, family bonding, and ethics.

Nonreligious readers should probably avoid Rule 10, because it talks about the importance of spirituality in a child's life...and how that helps them cope with some of the stresses of being a "geek."

While I was reading this book, we were dealing with an issue my middle schooler told me about (regarding some inappropriate behavior going on at school), and we made the decision to talk to the teacher about it. My middle schooler was not happy about this, but I explained to him that sometimes doing the right thing is not the popular thing.

I highly recommend this book for parents who want to raise children who are individuals and do not just go along with the hip and cool kid culture. Geeks rule!

View all my reviews.

What's So Horrible About a Handshake?

You'd think the world was coming to an end, over a handshake. How will we ever negotiate and move toward world peace if our leaders behave as bullies with each other? As the New York Times editorial team said, "starting with a handshake instead of a fist makes sense to us."

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Bullying Can Lead to Suicide

I just read that there have been four (or five?) middle school suicides linked to bullying already this year. Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover (in Massachusetts) and Jaheem Herrera (Georgia), both 11 years old, committed suicide in the past month. Both endured homophobic taunts and bullying and determined that the best way away from the bullying was to end their lives. Eleven years old, for God's sake.

What will it take for schools and society to take this issue more seriously? Reading through the comments on these blog posts, I find it distressing to read of other stories by people who got very close to suicide themselves as a result of bullying.
These boys did not necessarily identify themselves as gay. It doesn't matter one way or another. In 2007, almost 9 out of 10 lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer youth (86.2%) reported being verbally harassed at school in the past year because of their sexual orientation and gender expression. Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover played the ultimate macho sport of football, and that didn't keep him immune from being bullied.
I'd like to know what these parents of bullies are teaching and modeling for their children. How do they feel now to know that their children might have contributed to these boys' suicides? Do they feel culpable? Do they feel any remorse? Carl's and Jaheem's blood is on those bullies' hands.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Mosaic Marie

Thanks to my blogging friend Lizzi for this idea...and to Jennifer, who also did it on her blog. This was fun! (Directions at the bottom) Here is the visual representation of me:

This is what it stands for:

1.) What is your first name? Marie
(this photo is of Pont Marie bridge in Paris)

2.) What is your favourite food? Raspberries

3.) What high school did you go to? Beaverton High School

This photo is a program for a memorial service for James Erickson, who was the hugely talented drama teacher and director at Beaverton High School while I was there. One of my best memories of high school was being behind the scenes of the drama program (I worked the box office and concessions--was not on the stage!)

4.) What is your favourite colour? Blue

5.) Who is your celebrity crush? Hugh Grant

I know, I know...but I can't help it. I also like Jake Gyllenhaal and George Clooney...but let's face it, they have one huge flaw: they are not British. I just can't resist that wonderful British accent! Gee, I wonder why...

I always enjoy movies featuring British leading men and American leading ladies, like "Music and Lyrics" or "Four Weddings and a Funeral"...

6.) Favorite drink? Mojito

7.) Dream vacation? Greece

This was a hard one, but after seeing "Mamma Mia" again recently, it's definitely a place I'd like to visit. More of Europe in general, actually...also Italy, more of France, etc.

8.) Favorite dessert? Banana cake

Specifically, banana cake at Pambiche restaurant (this is an actual photo of Pambiche's banana cake!) It's soaked in rum and absolutely scrumptious!

9.) What you want to be when you grow up? A travel writer

I'm lucky that I already get to write in my current job...but if I could get paid to do absolutely anything, it would definitely be travel writing. I'd take the whole family with me and see the world!

10.) What do you love most in life? My wonderful family

I thought this photo captured my life well--being surrounded by active males!

11.) One word to describe you. Blessed

You can probably detect my interest in travel by looking at the photos I chose, can't you? :)

12.) Your Flickr name. organic_mama

Do you want to do this?
1. Type your answer to each of the questions below into Flickr Search.
2. Using only the first page if you can, pick an image. (Sometimes I had to go a bit deeper to find the right photo.)
3. Copy and paste each of the URLs for the images into FD's Mosaic Maker.

The Vatican Thinks that American Nuns Have Become Too Big for Their Britches

I know the Vatican really does not care a jot what I, an American-Lutheran-feminist thinks...but could it really try to piss me off more???

Here's the latest from the National Catholic Reporter. In a nutshell, Cardinal William Levada (formerly the archbishop of the Oregon diocese, and not my favorite Catholic...) has issued the Leadership Conference of Women Religious a letter informing them that they are to be investigated for their liberal, un-Catholic views and discussions about homosexuality, women's ordination, and the idea that non-Catholics just might be as deserving of God's love and grace as Catholics...and other such heresies. This follows another investigation announced last December because the Vatican thinks that the nuns' "quality of life" is causing young women not to want to become nuns. Gee--think it could possibly be for any other reason?

The Vatican has had concerns about the nuns' organization ever since 2001...not sure why it took them 8 years, but I suspect it has something to do with the knee-jerk attitude of Pope Benedict XVI and his minions, who clearly believe that these Americans have gotten out of hand and that the previous administration did not act when they should have.

So the Vatican's approach is enough to get me ticked off (following on the heels of that whole Brazilian excommunication of the mother and doctors of the raped and impregnated child who was allowed to have an abortion so she wouldn't risk her life bearing twins)...but then I read the comments on the National Catholic Reporter web site, and it made me positively sick.

The National Catholic Reporter is somewhat progressive as far as Catholic organizations and news outlets go. I should really know better by now than to read internet comments. They seem to bring out the rudest people, who feel quite free to spout bile without fear of repercussion.

After reading all of these comments, I was glad not to be a Catholic. The extremely conservative Catholic commenters drawn to the site had some really horrible things to say about Catholic religious women, not to mention about Catholics who don't agree with the Pope or the hierarchy. They claimed that most nuns are raging feminists, wiccans, "hate the poor," and one even claimed that they wore bikinis!

I know many lifelong Catholics who have left the church over the priest sex abuse scandal. Many posters brought up the hypocrisy of the Vatican over failing to address that issue effectively. Yet of all the "pious" Catholics calling the sisters names, not one of them responded about that dark stain on the Catholic church. It was all about pointing the fingers at the nuns.

As a non-Catholic, part of me finds it difficult to understand how Catholics can remain in the church when they disagree with the Pope and the church hierarchy. I remember we once had a group of women who had been ordained as priests visit our church (and had been excommunicated or expected to be), and I asked one of them that question: "What made you decide to remain a Catholic when you felt the calling to become a priest?" She said that she left the church for a time, but returned because the moments in her life when she felt closest to God were when she was part of the Catholic church. I imagine that's how many of the nuns who remain feel as well.

But I still ponder the question. I don't think I could stay, knowing that the leaders of my church considered me to be a living heretic. Life is too short to endure that kind of stress and grief.

As one poster so rightly commented, "Jesus spoke nonstop about abortion, contraception, euthanasia, and other pelvic issues. Oh wait...that's right, he never once spoke about those issues."

Many of these conservatives decry the Catholics who are protesting this witch hunt for "disobeying" the church. The Roman Catholic Church, for them, is all about perfect obedience to the Pope and the Vatican. But to coin a trite saying used by born-again Christians, "What would Jesus have done?" He would have loved the women, gays, and lesbians rejected by the official "Church," the poor, the dying who choose to take their own lives, the troubled and the imprisoned. He wouldn't have shaken his finger at them, announcing that he would be "investigating them" for the way they live the gospel. He would have embraced them.

Shame on the Vatican for being so petty.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

In Memory of Les Sarnoff

I never knew him personally, but it seems like he was part of my life for years. He was more than a typical DJ. He was heavily engaged in the Portland community; he seemed like a really nice guy who loved his city, loved music, and very clearly loved his wife.

He was eloquently blogging about his bout with cancer, and that made me feel like I got to know him a tiny bit better. He was incredibly brave in the face of his debilitating, terminal illness.

Sadly, he lost his battle last night. KINK Radio has been doing an all-day long tribute to him.

I feel so sad.

Said by Nicholas This Morning...

You big. I little.

This was said as he was trying to convince me that I had to go upstairs to retrieve the "Mama" teddy bear!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Yummy, yummy, yummy! Ice Cream Tasting!!

My love affair with Haagen-Dazs ice cream goes back to the mid-1980s.

Back in those days, the only Western fast food we could find in Osaka, Japan, was McDonald's (otherwise known as Macdonarudo--many Japanese thought it was a Japanese company!), Kentucky Fried Chicken, and Shakey's Pizza. Mister Donut was another popular fast food spot--apparently it started in the U.S. although I had never encountered one--now they are almost exclusively in Japan and Asia. In Wakayama, the town I was living in during 1986 and 1987 (which Japanese call "the country"!), the only fast food type of restaurant we had was called Mos Burger! (Yes, I kid you not!)
But Namba station, which was the Osaka terminus of the train from Wakayama, had a rare treat: a Haagen-Dazs ice cream shop. (It appears that Haagen-Dazs has shops all over Japan now!) I had to go into Osaka weekly to teach a class of Japanese businessmen, and the visit to Haagen-Dazs was always a highlight of my trip! My scoop of choice? Rum raisin!

The other reason Haagen-Dazs brings up fond memories for me goes back to when Mike and I first started dating. After we first got serious (and we got serious quickly--some of you know this story), we didn't see each other for a month. His university friend was visiting him in Osaka, and she had a bit of a crush on him. He wanted to let her down gently by waiting until the end of her visit to let her know about me. So we spent the month writing romantic letters to each other. A month later, I took the train to Osaka so we could finally see each other again...and where did we meet? Haagen-Dazs, on the first floor of Namba Station! I won't go into the details of how sickeningly affectionate we were on that first reunion, shocking those poor Japanese around us (affection is not publicly shown in Japan, except by careless foreigners!). Nevertheless, a fond memory for me.
Mike and the boys are HUGE ice cream lovers, so imagine all of our delight when I received an e-mail asking me to be a test blogger for the new varieties of Haagen-Dazs ice cream! It's all natural, made with only five ingredients (and less fat). It comes in seven varieties, and we were sent four pints, packed in dry ice, to taste test (plus some gift certificates for more!).

We sampled Mint, Ginger, Passion Fruit, and Brown Sugar. (I'll bet the coffee and milk chocolate are amazing!!) Here are photos of our family taste test:

As you can see, Chris LOVES ice cream...and his lei was a perfect fit for his favorite flavor, PASSION FRUIT:

Two-year-old Nicholas loved it all, and didn't name his favorite flavor.

6-year-old Kieran also declared passion fruit to be his favorite!

Mike and I both preferred the more "mature" flavors of mint and ginger. I've always liked any kind of mint ice cream--chocolate chip mint, peppermint, etc.--and we also both love ginger. They were both exceptional.
Thanks, Haagen-Dazs, for reminding me of why I enjoy your ice cream! Not only for the great, simple flavor...but also for the sentimental memories! I think I will go buy some rum raisin Haagen-Dazs--I haven't tasted any for about 20 years!