I took my kids to see a play, and it wasn’t a disaster

I had the opportunity through Tampa Bay Bloggers to see Annie at the Straz Center, which used to be the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center when I was a kid. I rarely attend these kinds of events because good lord so busy and single mom and blah blah blah but I wanted to do this because theater has been part of my life, always. No one in my family had any involvement on stage, but my mother and grandmother introduced me to musicals very early on. My godmother in California also introduced me to Sondheim and obscure musicals like Metropolis. I grew up wanting to a limber dancer from Cats or a winsome soprano from Phantom of the Opera.

In reality, I was always awkward, tone deaf and terrified of being on stage. But that didn’t stop me from being a backstage part of productions throughout high school.

Like any parent, I not so secretly want my kids to like the things I like. So I brought both my kids (6 and 8) to Annie last night. The kindergartener isn’t really into plays. Last year, he sat in the front row at The Velveteen Rabbit and shouted, “I WISH I DIDN’T EVEN HAVE EARS.” I didn’t have high hopes for his Annie experience. As expected, he fidgeted and got super bored and face-planted asleep in his chair after the first act.

asleep at Annie

But my 8-year-old, ever the wild card, sat up riveted throughout the entire play. I watched him almost as much as I watched the action on stage. (Partially because The Book of Mormon is a little more my speed than Annie, and it was difficult for me to stop comparing it to the film I grew up adoring.)

He loved it.

As someone who is constantly trying to drag her kids away from the pied piper pull of TV and video games, I couldn’t be more thrilled that I got at least one kid to enjoy the theater. Now we already have plans to see Newsies and Matilda when they roll through Tampa. My dream is to take him to Broadway to see a few shows, since he already loves NYC.

Annie was cute, and definitely a touring production I’d recommend for elementary-aged kids as a nice introduction to Broadway shows. Since a lot of the performances are at 7:30, littler kids may be too zonked out by intermission to make it through. Next time I’ll leave my youngest at home. Since it’s a show for kids, there’s a little more tolerance for wiggly children, but it’s still theater. I wouldn’t bring a toddler, for example. Hit a matinee if you can, and don’t forget to grab a booster if your theater offers them.

If you live in the Tampa Bay, you can check out Annie at the Straz. Call 813.229.STAR (7827) or 800.955.1045 outside Tampa Bay, in person at the Straz Center Ticket Office or online at www.strazcenter.org.  At all performances in Tampa, donations of primary school uniforms and other children’s clothing will be accepted at the Straz Center. I was given four tickets to the performance we attended. 

New Year’s Quiz 2014

Seventh year of recapping!

1. What did you do in 2014 that you’d never done before?

I moved into my forever-home. I know forever isn’t really a thing, but I’ve moved many times since I moved out of my parents’ house in 1998. Three dorm rooms in college, two apartments in college, one townhouse after I graduated. My oldest son has lived in a house in Sarasota, my brother’s house briefly, a rental across town, another rental nearby, and now here. Five moves in 8 years for him, 3 moves in 6 years for his brother, and 10 moves in 16 years for me.

We’re done moving.

It’s the happy answer to the question, but what lingers like the aftertaste of a bad dream is the knowledge that this year I watched someone die. I rubbed his hip as he took his last breath and went still and it’s an experience that will stay with me for the rest of my life. The hardest part of seeing the end of a loved one’s life is knowing it’s a first, but likely not a last. I’ve done a lot of thinking about life in general since September.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

 

I bet I resolved to write. Again! Well, I did and I didn’t. I didn’t write enough, but I did write a little. This year I will write more. Of course as always if I’m counting my actual job I’ve written a billion things.

I didn’t make a resolution this year but I’d like to get back into the awesome yoga groove I had going for a while there. Work has been interfering and also the part where I rarely have child-free evenings, but I know how much it helps me so I can’t make excuses. Gotta hit the mat and do the work.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

No one close-close to me gave birth, but many of my pocket friends did and I sure love their squishy internet babies.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

My grandfather died.

5. What countries did you visit?

I didn’t visit any countries WHAT IS TRAVEL but I did go to Detroit for the first time, and I had a lovely little road trip from Detroit to Chicago and I got to spend time with my sister and one of my best friends, two of the most amazing women I know.

6. What would you like to have in 2015 that you lacked in 2014?

I’m gonna be real here. A boyfriend. It’s time.

7. What dates from 2014 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

My grandfather died on September 13. Closed on the house on November 7. My son had his first tonic-clonic seizure on December 3 at 2:40am.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

I’ve accomplished a lot at work in my first full year in an editorial role. As far as parenting merit badges go, just keeping on keeping on with some of the shenanigans I’ve handled with my kids feels like a big achievement. I also went on my first almost-week-long trip away from the kids since being on my own over two years ago. (Travel gives me The Anxiety so even though it’s technically something fun it’s an achievement.)

Also, I drove the kids to Tennessee. By myself! And we actually had fun.

9. What was your biggest failure?

I’m all about self-examination but I spend enough time engaging in negative self talk. Every year this question reminds me to nope.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

I did not! Which was a lovely break after last year. I’ve had a few colds but nothing too seriously and I truly believe yoga has helped a lot.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

I bought myself a paddleboard and I haven’t used it much yet but I’m really excited about it. I’ve been paddling several times and every time I loved the hell out it. My board is big enough for the kids to sit on with me.

I’m still excited about the memory foam mattress topper from last year.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?

My mom and dad. They have done so much for me and my boys this year. I really enjoy the dynamic of being a parent and being close to my parents and seeing them with my kids and I’m just so incredibly fortunate to have them.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

Internet.

14. Where did most of your money go?

Bills, bills, bills.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

  • Taking my kindergartener on big(ger) kid rides at Walt Disney World.
  • Having a date on my birthday. The not-quite-relationship only lasted a few more weeks but it was a lovely birthday that involved all the things I wanted it to involve in my pants.
  • The house — which was an insane whirlwind that involved suddenly co-buying a house, partially renovating it and moving in the span of three weeks. I need to share a zillion pictures.
  • Friends and their inspiring achievements and general awesomeness.
  • Going to Detroit and Chicago and eating all the things.
  • Getting sushi to go after going to yoga class.
  • Juice.
  • Catching fish in my back yard.
  • Playlists on Songza.
  • Seeing The Avett Brothers with my mom.
  • Having both kids at the same school.
  • Cleaning my house. Why do I enjoy it and how can I learn to enjoy folding laundry?
  • Broad City.
  • My iPhone. I know.
  • Hockey.

16. What song will always remind you of 2012?

Anaconda.

Also anything by Bastille or Hozier.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:

  • happier or sadder? Happier
  • thinner or fatter? The same, but slightly stronger.
  • richer or poorer? Richer in the ways that matter the most.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?

BONING. Okay? I wish I’d done more boning. I’m already sorry I’m saying this on the internet but it’s true.

I also wish I’d gone to barre class or yoga more often, but mostly boning.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Nail biting. I fell off the wagon a few times, most notably the entire previous four weeks. I bit all the nails off when I read Gone Girl a few months ago and again last month when S was in the hospital and I haven’t been able to grow them back since.

Worrying, which kind of goes with nail biting. Also stressing. I don’t want to do these things.

20. How did you spend Christmas?

I had a lovely Christmas morning with the boys. They were both exceedingly sweet about what Santa brought them (a giant bean bag and a scooter) and they loved the gifts I got them. Later we went over to my mom and dad’s for our traditional sibling-tacular pajama-wearing Christmas morning breakfast and presents. In the afternoon we headed over for more family Christmas stuff and my kids played with their cousins. Then I took the tree down literally that afternoon because it died. Dramatically.

21. Did you fall in love in 2013?

I fell in love with life. Dead serious. And it kind of scares me. When things go well, I assume they’re about to fall apart. In fact, when S had his seizures and was hospitalized my worry brain lizard-ass-face-anxiety-monster said see? This is what you get for moving into this gorgeous house. But I have to crawl out of that awful bad place. I love my life right now and I think that being very secure in who I am and my life and my relationship with my children means I’m finally at a place where I don’t need a relationship — but if I started one I’d be solid and not looking for something to fill a void.

22. What was your favorite TV program?

I’ve been watching the hell out of Brooklyn 99 lately. It’s so charming and sweet and funny! I also enjoyed Top Chef Duels.

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

No. I get mad and I stew and I’m a grudge-holder but I’m not a hater.

24. What was the best book you read?

I didn’t read too many books this year. I read some delightful smutty m/m romance novels and I read Gone Girl which I did not actually like. For someone who writes for a living I spend an embarrassingly small amount of time reading for pleasure.

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?

I’ve really gotten into folk/americana this year. I don’t love country music but I do love bluegrass and twangy folk. I’ve had a lot of fun with various indie playlists on Songza too.

26. What did you want and get?

Broken record here but yeah, the house. I wanted it, but I wasn’t even comfortable vocalizing that desire because I wanted it so much and it did not seem like something I deserved. I agonized about it and had some majorly un-fun panic attacks over it and now everything is settled and woah, we’re here. And I adore it. It continues to scare me how happy it makes me to be here which is a fun little mental tug of war. This was an unnecessarily long answer.

27. What did you want and not get?

I wanted to spend more time dating than I did, but I didn’t date between May and now. It’s time to get back out there.

28. What was your favorite film of this year?

Guardians of the Galaxy. Oh, I loved it.

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I turned 34. I hung out with a dude and we enjoyed each other’s company and that was all I wanted on that day so it worked out nicely. And I wore a cute pink dress.

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

I wish that I could make things easier for my older son as far as his behavior and health challenges go, but only in ways that would make life more satisfying for him. I have no complaints about my life. And I don’t want to change him. I just want him to be happy and healthy.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2014?

Skinny jeans, tank tops, layering. Hair becoming unmanageably long. Occasional makeup. Scarves all year. Dresses like 6 times a year so why do I own 12 of them?

32. What kept you sane?

  • Pocket friends.
  • Texts.
  • My mom.
  • Yoga.
  • Escaping on little weekend trips to Disney when life was really hurty.
  • My support system.

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

I am weirdly adrift when it comes to celebrity crushes. Usually I’m stuck solidly on one but right now I’m between pretend-boyfriends I guess.

34. What political issue stirred you the most?

Guns, #blacklivesmatter.

35. Who did you miss?

I miss my sister. I only get to see her during the holidays (and this year when I went to Chicago and when she came down for the funeral.) We’re 10 years apart and we’ve gotten much closer over the past couple of years and I sure love her a hell of a lot and it’s hard that she’s so far away.

36. Who was the best new person you met?

My editor at work. I was nervous about working with someone totally new and now we’re friends and it’s pretty awesome to be able to collaborate professionally with someone you really dig personally.

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2013.

I don’t think I’ve learned any lessons that can be neatly wrapped up in a sentence or sentiment. This year was full of an abundance of blessings. Losing Papa and the night that S had his seizure made those blessings stand out much more. Everything is a lesson.

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

Wellllllll.

“It’s like I’ve got this music in my mind saying ‘it’s gonna be all right.”

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Today you are six

My Maxy-Moose, today you are six.

You false-started into the world a few days before 11/18/2008, sending me to Labor and Delivery not once but twice.  On the 17th, I dropped your brother off at Grammy and Papa’s and had a light dinner and chatted through contractions that felt like they were starting to mean business. They kicked into gear as the sun went down, and I labored alone on the green couch, clutching your daddy’s iPod and timing contractions with an app that felt very futuristic.

In the middle of the night, they were three minutes apart and I woke up your dad and he drove me to the hospital. It only took a few hours for you to arrive. I remember resting on my left side and clutching the rail tightly and knowing exactly when it was time to roll onto my back and push. Your dad helped catch you, and it was peaceful even though it hurt. I reached for you and held you and nuzzled your sticky face while you nursed. You were always an easy nursling, even from that first moment we met.

Baby boy, you’ve always been my cuddle bug. You still purse your lips and “sucky face” when you’re sleepy and cuddling. You still carry around the blankies that I used as rags when I nursed you.

You make adorable noises when you’re making believe. You talk to yourself. You talk to everyone. You talk all the time. But you’re shy when you realize people are watching. My birthday wish for you, joyous little boy, is that you move through life without the brakes of self-consciousness. Don’t be shy, precious boy.

And always let me give you kisses.

And never cut your hair.

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On failure

I didn’t write last night because I sat down with my kids and watched Willow and folded so much laundry it no-shit took me the entire movie to finish. And I didn’t even have time to put it away. When I went to bed at the same time the kids did, I thought, “I didn’t post today. I failed.”

Then I thought about how absolutely bullshitty it is to place that much weight on an arbitrary challenge. I’ve blogged more this month than I have in two years, so it’s a success. I spend loads of time writing for others’ gain and very little time writing for the simple joy of expressing myself. This challenge has been challenging, and it’s been very good to have that extra boost that makes me write even when I don’t feel like it. But I’m not going to beat myself up — as strong as that instinct is — just because I wasn’t 100% consistent.

When I sit down and force myself to put words on the page, they’re not always pretty words. But it’s a satisfying feeling, like nailing a particularly stubborn blackhead or riding a bicycle that had gathered dust for too long. I can still do this. And maybe if I do it enough I’ll form a habit and maybe if I form a habit I’ll get back to my fiction and finish my novel and write more novels or short stories or anything that’s for me.

This is going to be a hard week. I might write or I might not, but my mind will be whirring one way or another.

(I HATE PACKING.)

(But I like unpacking?)

A towel with sleeves

My soon-to-be 6-year-old hates getting out of the tub because he doesn’t like to be cold. I dry him as fast as I can, but he still freaks out. The other day he saw a Critter book with Critter in a robe. “HE HAS A TOWEL WITH SLEEVES!” Ever since then, he’s wanted his own sleeve-towel. I ordered him one for his birthday and gave it to him early tonight because he was so cute shivering after his post-soccer shower.

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This kid is such a doll.

Second son

It took me a while to catch on the fact that Moose is pretty smart. Growing up alongside a brother who began talking at 10 months old and mastered full, adult-like sentences before 2 means being plain old smart doesn’t get noticed. I felt like a dick when his preschool teacher said he’d be a good candidate for gifted testing. He wasn’t reading yet, so nothing he was doing felt particularly eventful. I was just happy that everything was developmentally on track and he wasn’t on the fast-track to loads of therapy. It’s an interesting balance raising a neurotypical kid and a kid on the spectrum.

Moose may be neurotypical but he’s anything but typical. I love listening to him starting to read and sounding out words. He tries to write a lot, and it’s so cute. He plays pretend in a way I didn’t experience with his brother, and I find it endlessly entertaining. (Boy he can talk a lot.) He is bright, and also hilariously absent-minded like I was as a kid. His kindergarten teacher says she’s struck by the way he thinks about things and the questions he asks.

I feel so fortunate to have two kids who are very different. I won’t have a girl, but I feel less wistful about that now, because raising two boys doesn’t mean raising two of the same kid. Their personalities are very different. They like a lot of the same things (Sanjay and Craig, Minecraft, Pokemon, Mario Bros.) but the similarities in there. And it’s pretty cool.

zelda