Sunday, June 30, 2013

the heat

(Language warning: this post is not rated PG!)

Last night I went out with my friend Rebecca to see a movie. That's right, two things I almost never ever do rolled into one fantastic evening: go out with a friend and see a movie, as in, the kind in a theater. She had emailed me the day before with a link to this review and wanted to know if I was interested in going with her to see it. Hells yeah, I wanted to go with her to see it! Last movie I saw was a year ago, and it's been at least six months since I've been out after dark, at least for anything fun.

So we went to see The Heat, which is best described as a female buddy-cop movie featuring Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy as an uptight by-the-book FBI agent and unconventional street cop, respectively, who end up teaming up to take down a Boston drug lord. You can read the review I linked above for a better and more detailed synopsis. In terms of plot, The Heat follows the formula of many a buddy-cop/odd-couple flick before it. Only it's way better.

First and foremost, it's really, really funny. In fact, it's fucking hilarious. (Yeah, I dropped the f-bomb. If that bothers you, you might want to brace yourself before seeing this movie.) I've read some criticism of The Heat that it's just like a guy movie with women substituted in the lead roles instead of men and McCarthy's prolific use of profanity is an insult to her talent, and so forth. Did they ever say that about Denzel Washington in Training Day (which is referenced in The Heat), by the way? No, they did not. There was a lot of swearing, but it had its place and didn't bother me. McCarthy actually delivers all her lines, profane and otherwise, brilliantly. She has a knack for extending a funny monologue into something funnier the longer it goes; her timing is perfect.

Even better than that was the physical comedy. McCarthy is so strong and comfortable in her own body, and moves so easily, that early on when you see her drag Tony Hale out of a car window and then climb over a chain link fence while chasing a drug dealer, it's totally believable. Sandra Bullock's character is so emotionally and physically uptight that she didn't have as much opportunity to exercise her physical comedy chops until the last half hour or so of the movie, but it was worth the wait. Rebecca and I were doubled over in our seats.

There were a lot of other things that made The Heat a good movie, too. The lead characters are smart, good at their jobs and passionate about their work. I think a lot of comedies rely too heavily on poking fun at incompetence (especially incompetent men), and there was none of that in The Heat. They had emotional depth. Also, there was only one car chase and it lasted, like, 2 minutes. In fact, all the fight and chase scenes were appropriately timed. One thing I find tiresome about action movies is that car chases and fight scenes go on waaaaay too long, I think to make up for really weak plot-lines; it's actually a pet peeve of mine, but I guess that's why I don't watch action movies.

I kind of want to see it again, maybe with Stuart. I wonder what he'll think?

Thursday, June 20, 2013


We just spent five days on the North Carolina beach with Stuart's family (his brother, brother's wife, their two kids, and Stuart's parents). Anya still had a fever the day we left, Daniel had a trip to the ER within the first 24 hours (that was resolved quickly enough, everyone's OK, so don't panic), there's a possibility Daniel has a mild ear infection (unrelated to the ER trip), my flight home was delayed by hours (I am home a few days early  for work reasons and the rest of my family is still in NC), we all got sunburned, my BIL's canopy was ripped apart by the wind...

...but really and truly, we had a great time.

We really did. Fun was had! Shells were collected! Cousins bonded! Beer was consumed (by adults)! Ice cream was consumed (by kids and adults)! Dolphins were sighted!

It was just what a vacation should be.

And now I'm preparing for the biggest luxury a mother of young children could ever hope for in her wildest dreams: two days. Alone. In my house. I will be accompanying some auditions this weekend, so I had to come home earlier than the rest of my family, but I have a couple days to chill before those happen. This is the first time ever, EVER, that I've had this freedom. I'm so tired from spending 12 solid hours in airports (thank-you-very-much-Delta-airlines-NOT) that I can't properly enjoy it yet. But after a good night's sleep and a hot shower I plan to spend a whole day doing just what I want. I'll get up when I feel like it, prepare food only when I'm hungry, run errands at my leisure, maybe even read a book in the middle of the day...and I'll do my best not to feel guilty about any of it.


Friday, June 14, 2013

tomorrow has got to be better

You guys, it's been a shitty, shitty week. Anya's had a fever for 4 days, we're supposed to leave for vacation tomorrow, the house is a disaster, and the woman next door is threatening legal action against us because we have been parking too close to her garage. (Yes, she's nuts.)

Tomorrow has got to be better. It just has to be. 24 hours from now I hope to all goodness I'm relaxing on the North Carolina beach with two healthy children, a beer in my hand, and no pending lawsuits.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013


The other day in the car I started to tell Daniel something, and he interrupted me: "Be quiet, mom. I'm in the middle of a daydream!"So I let him be. Sometimes in the morning I can see that he has woken up early but occasionally I have to coax him out of bed by 7:00 to eat breakfast with the rest of us because he likes to spend that time alone in his daydreams.

Daydreaming. It's a lovely way to pass the time, isn't it? Daniel will tell me about his daydreams from time to time. They usually involve him being more or less omnipotent and possessing a wide range of superpowers. I suspect this is not at all unusual for a 7-year-old boy. I remember when I was his age I would daydream over and over that I was riding horses (yes, I was one of those little girls obsessed with horses, and growing up in Kentucky only intensified it) or that I could fly.

Freedom, that's what daydreaming is all about. I often catch myself imagining that I am stronger and faster than I actually am, that I could run all day without stopping or move boulders with my bare hands. Can you imagine that kind of physical freedom?

Or sometimes when I'm in the middle of some mundane chore - which is often - like folding laundry or sorting the pile of shoes by the back door (seriously, where did they all come from? it's not like we even own that many shoes!) or picking up the junk from the living room floor at the end of the day, I find myself imagining that after college I had gone to Europe or New York or Brazil to stretch my soul and have some adventure instead of coming here for grad school and settling down right away.

When I'm pulling weeds in the garden - an activity I do actually enjoy, believe it or not, in part because my mind is allowed to wander while I take on an utterly necessary task - I daydream that our backyard has an apple orchard, a treehouse and a chicken coop instead of a bunch of weeds and a thousand bunnies.

What do you daydream about?

Friday, June 07, 2013


Today was Anya's last day of four-year-old kindergarten. There was a short ceremony at her preschool this afternoon, where all the children were presented with a book, a diploma, and a graduation cap made out of a plastic serving bowl, bright green cardstock paper, and some curly ribbons.

The book for the kids going to kindergarten is the ever-popular Oh, the Places You'll Go! by Dr. Seuss. What made it special was that the teachers had written a personal note for each child on the inside cover, leaving room for all her future teachers to write a note at the end of every year as she goes through school. Isn't that cool? I should get a copy for Daniel and have his teachers do the same thing...

The kids sang a song for the assembled parents and had a special snack before the mini-ceremony. I do not remember feeling so emotional about Daniel finishing preschool. Maybe it had something to do with the cold medication I'm taking (this particular virus is a real doozy - I don't think I've felt this bad all year), or maybe it's because Anya is my youngest and therefore my last child to go through this preschool, but I am telling you, I could barely keep myself together. I managed not to cry, though, which is a good thing. I hate crying in front of people.

When I pulled everything out of her folder for the last time, I saw this and just about lost it for real:

That picture right there tells you a lot about our relationship.

Words are barely adequate to express how much Anya has grown in her two years at this preschool. She is such an individual, strong in her opinions and desires, but quite sensitive and often so shy about expressing herself that I find myself worrying about her social development in ways I never even thought about with Daniel. (Daniel, who is so extroverted and emotionally resilient, causes me anxiety in many other ways, but never in the case of social skills.)

I think about Anya in kindergarten, and I am flooded with a mix of emotions. I worry that the crush of children and crowded, noisy lunchroom will terrify her. I puff up with pride knowing she's better at math and reading already than some kids entering first grade. I am anticipating a much longer period of adjustment than Daniel had, and I know I will miss her like crazy being at school all day long instead of for just a few hours at a time. It's just like they say: parenting is bittersweet. They grow up so fast. Et cetera.

I also know that Anya has many special qualities that other people recognize and often tell me about. She is very intelligent. She is extremely conscientious about rules, though never bossy. She is gentle.At her preschool, many of the younger children in her class (her preschool has mixed-age classrooms, so not every child in her class will go to KG in the fall) look to her to learn the rules and routines. I can't tell you how many parents have come up to me to tell me that their children come home and say, "Anya is so nice," and "Anya is so helpful," and "Anya is a good friend."

Yes, I think she is ready. Entering a large public school full of big kids, rough kids, noisy kids - that will be a big adjustment for her. She will also have to get used to being at school for seven hours at a time, which will be exhausting. (None of this seemed to bother Daniel at all, surprisingly enough.) But, in part thanks to the amazing teachers and classmates she has known at her current preschool, Anya knows and feels confident about who she is.

I think she'll be just fine.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

la la la

I've decided to start taking voice lessons this summer. This is something I've wanted to do for a while. I work with singers all the time, after all, and as a result I've learned a lot about the repertoire and the singing process. I know a bit about technique from sitting through hundreds of hours of other people's voice lessons and master classes, but it's time I had some experience with it myself. I think I won't really understand sound production until I've tried it.

I know a few things about my own voice. I can hear it crack if I'm tired. I can hear if I'm out of tune. I know I can sing rather high, but it sounds unrefined, like a shriek. I know I can sing loud, but it's not pretty. I've always been better at singing new music at sight than sight reading at the piano, despite two decades of training in the latter. (Though now I'm actually pretty good at sight reading piano, finally.)

I'm really not sure what my end goal is here. I don't want to be on American Idol, or even have a small part in a local musical production (did that in high school already). I'm generally shy about singing in front of people and I have no desire to perform in public. I mean, I've led hymn sings and sung in plenty of choirs, but there you have this giant, living security blanket made of lots of people singing in a group around you. I guess I just want to learn and I'm not getting any younger, so I might as well start now. Plus, I know this really great teacher in town and she's happy to take me on.

I am looking forward to singing in the car, though. I don't think my family knows what they're in for.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

again with the mommy wars

Now that the issues surrounding motherhood and paid employment are back in the news for the umpteenth time, I can't resist an opportunity to put in my two cents. This is a topic I think about constantly, even though I don't post about it much here, other than alluding to it from time to time. Much of the discussion just gets me angry and defensive. A lot of op-ed pieces on the subject just cherry-pick statistics to back up whatever arguments they're making. They almost always leave men off the hook and make a half-hearted call for better workplace conditions and subsidized childcare, none of which will happen.

Here's where I stand: I am a white female with a lot of education. My husband is the breadwinner for the family. We have two children, ages 7 and 5. I earn a little money as a freelance musician, but my primary work is at home, for which I get paid nothing.

The truth is, I am ambivalent about a lot of this. My kids are great and Stuart is a wonderful dad and totally supportive of me and helps out at home. Really, I can't complain about the people I live with (except that some of them still haven't gotten the memo about putting their dirty clothes in the hamper). I love spending time with Daniel and Anya. And fortunately I like to cook and I don't mind laundry too much, so for the most part I don't even find housework too soul-sucking and unbearable. Back when they were in diapers and I  had to spend all day playing hide and seek I just about lost my mind, but things are better now.

Here's the other side of it, though. I wish I were financially independent. I wish I could find more meaningful work doing the things I spent years in graduate school training professionally to do. I wish I could make a name for myself.

I think what I'm really so sick and tired of hearing is how mothers "make the choice" to seek paid employment or not. This decision was essentially made for me. You don't need to know all the details about why and how, but I had both my kids when I was in graduate school. I was pregnant for three out of my six doctoral recitals. I wrote my dissertation with a toddler who barely napped, a growing belly, and only 5-6 hours of babysitting per week because that was all I could afford.  I gave birth to my daughter literally the day I finished my doctorate. Neither one of those pregnancies was intentional, either, and when I ended up pregnant with Anya even the doctors were shocked.

The point of my story here is that I had kids before I had a chance to build a career. I didn't have a choice about it, either. Obviously I wouldn't trade them for anything, but the timing and circumstances do make me feel hemmed in. I had to give up any chance at a real career because I became a mother.

Sometimes people congratulate me for the "choice" I made to be a stay-at-home mom. When that happens, I grit my teeth for a moment, then smile and say something generic and bland about how it's working out well and I'm glad we got stuck in a city like Madison. No one has ever ever said to me "Oh, it's too bad your schedule doesn't allow for more time to perform/teach/write because you always did so well at that!" I never hear that, and as a result, I sometimes honestly feel that those years I spent studying music were just filling up the time until I had babies.