March 6, 2009

The Things That Scare Us Most

Posted in Artsy Stuff, Days of my life, Deep thoughts, Just thinking..., Parenting, Something exciting! tagged , , , , , , , at 12:35 PM by Robin

book

As I mentioned a couple of posts ago, in a brazen fit of ambition, I have decided that I am going to write a short story.  Since that first post, I have actually managed to sit down on two separate occasions and begin fleshing out the little idea in my head, turning vague concepts into characters, researching a few things on the internet that reinforced the idea for inspiration, and have gotten to the point where I actually saw the opening scene of my story unfold in my head as if I were watching it on film.  I have written three pages.  It doesn’t seem like a lot, but that’s three more pages of fiction than I have written in twelve years, so I guess I’m off to a good start.

The main obstacle I find myself facing is my own criticism.  I hold pretty high standards for the books that I read. I expect not only a certain level of literary fluency from the authors I enjoy–an ability to describe images, events, and dialogue in a way that you actually forget that your eyes are looking at words on a page and instead, feel like you are “watching a TV in your head”, as Parley put it–but also a bit of meaning, some sort of insight into human nature, or at the very least, something about the characters or story line that I can relate to, that I can see myself in.  It is very hard to write something knowing that what I write might not meet those standards.  I know, I shouldn’t expect to be brilliant at something the first time I try it.  You can’t expect to play “Flight of the Bumblebee” the first time you pick up a violin.  The hurdle is in getting yourself to press forward and do it anyway, even if your first attempt, and even your second or third, totally sucks.

I’ve found that I have this problem in quite a few other parts of my life. I’m pretty adventurous and am always up for trying something new.  But I find that those things that I am most interested in doing, my real dreams, I tend to shy away from. Not because I am scared of the thing itself, but because I am afraid of not being good at it.

For instance, I have always wanted to learn how to paint.  Ever since I took my first “real” art class in seventh grade and learned there was more to artistic expression than crayons, markers, and construction paper, I have longed to be able to use those oil paints and water colors to create something beautiful. When I was in high school, I worked at a hobby and craft store, andpaint there became acquainted with the tools of the trade–cadmium blues and sulfur yellows, different textures of paper and canvas, gesso and turpentine and about a million different kinds of brushes, natural and synthetic.  They all fascinated me, but with no training, they also scared the heck out of me.  I knew I would never be able to do anything right without someone to tell me what everything was for, and since the supplies were so expensive I didn’t want to buy them and just fool around on my own.

After that, in college, even though I had chosen an English major, I could still choose a certain number of electives.  My eyes always lingered on the art classes, but there was always a materials fee that seemed too high for my student budget to do just for fun, and so I never took the opportunity.  I’m really kicking myself now.  It would have been worth the $150 or whatever it was.  I mean, it wasn’t like I was paying for tuition or anything! (Seriously, I had two scholarships. )

Anyway, my point is, that I long to take painting lessons now, and yet I’m scared to death to do it in case I’m not very good at it.  Because I’m scared, I use money or lack of child care at the appropriate time as an excuse to avoid having to put myself to the test. I’ll admit, I’ve found that I do this in many areas of my life. The things that I want most are the things that scare me the most.

So, how do we get past this excuse-making and get to the point where we can take that leap to pursue our dreams?  I think the key is having someone who not only says, “I know you can do this,” but who is also willing to give you a kick in the pants and say, “Just do it, already!”  Someone, like the mother bird, who will push us out of our comfort zone in the nest and force us to try out our wings.  We have to stop making excuses and confront our fear of failure.

Most importantly, especially as mothers, we have to remind ourselves that following our dreams is a worthwhile endeavour, and give ourselves permission to do things that may not be practical or essential to our family’s well-being, but will stimulate us personally and allow for our own individual growth and happiness.  I think, sometimes, it is very hard for a stay-at-home mom to separate herself from her home and her role as mother, wife and housekeeper, especially if she’s been doing it and nothing else for several years.  I think that we have a hard time allowing ourselves to have outside interests that take us away from our family for any length of time.  We get out of the habit of doing things just for ourselves.

So, despite my fear that the story I’m writing is a total crock of …ahem… not very good…I am forcing myself to write it.  I am trying to consider it an assignment, like a school project, that I have to get finished.  I’ll do my best, but I’ll try not to worry about what other people will think of it until it’s actually all done.  I have to remember that while making excuses prevents me from failing, it also prevents me from excelling.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.  Do you feel this way?  Do you put off your dreams?  What helps you to overcome your fears?  Thanks!

learning-to-fly

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February 15, 2009

A Day (or two) Off

Posted in Days of my life, Parenting, Something exciting! tagged , , , , , , , at 4:23 PM by Robin

hearts-border

I have to tell you about my Valentine’s Day present.

Instead of getting me chocolates or flowers or jewelry or sexy lingerie (good call, there), Andrew got me something much better this year.  He gave me the gift of… my sanity.

In two weeks, Andrew will be taking all four of our children up to the timeshare condo the Lambert family has enjoyed for the past twenty or so years up East Canyon.  They will stay up there Friday afternoon through Sunday morning, having a sleepover with the cousins, watching movies, eating candy, maybe sledding or hiking, depending on the weather.

I was already looking forward to this event as one that I would get to miss out on.  But, in honor of Valentine’s Day, Andrew made it just a little bit more special.  I came home from the gym that day to find a cute little note taped on the shower wall, surrounded by pink paper hearts, that told me that he had made a reservation for me at a downtown hotel for the Friday night they would be gone.  I can stay up all night and sleep in the next day, if I want, and then continue to do whatever I want without interruption for 24+ hours.  No schedule. No chores. No kids.

I’m quite impressed with Andrew’s decision to give me this gift.  For one thing, he simply has a hard time understanding my desire and longing for time alone.  Being completely alone, with no one to talk to, for a day and a half, would be sheer misery for him.  To me, it sounds like heaven.  I had actually read an article in a magazine about a mom who took a little weekend escape to a nearby hotel all by herself.  She said she spent three hours playing with her hair, and two hours giving herself a thorough mani- and pedicure, then spent the rest of the time taking long bubble baths and reading frivolous magazines and romance novels.  Completely uninterrupted and guilt free. When she was done, she was able to come back and be a better mom because she was no longer so stressed out.

Wow, I thought, now that’s a vacation.

I believe I mentioned the idea to Andrew once or twice, but I certainly wasn’t expecting to have it given to me.  Now that I have the opportunity before me, I find myself wondering what to do with the sweet isolation that has been given me (bearing in mind that we do not have the money for me to spend all day long at a spa of any kind).  Should I soak in the hot tub without worrying who is too short for the shallow end of the nearby pool and who else is violating the minimum age rules of the hot tub?  Should I hit the library for a stack of novels and women’s magazines to read? Or should I hit the town and visit a whole bunch of artsy museums or knick-knack shops lined with shelves of adorable, breakable items, taking as much time as I like to admire anything that catches my eye, without having to worry that someone under my stewardship might knock something made out of glass and costing $500 to its doom on the hard tile floor? Sigh…the possibilities are endless!

So, I ask you, all you mothers out there (and anyone else who feels they need a little “me” time), what would you do, when faced with this kind of freedom?  How would you spend an entire day off of children and housework?  What do you dream of doing that can never get done with one or more little people in tow?  Let’s hear your creativity, ladies! I need something to do after I get out of the tub…

January 30, 2009

When is a vacation not a vacation?

Posted in Days of my life, Family life, Something exciting! tagged , , , , at 5:30 PM by Robin

donald-tantrum1

I think any family that has traveled with young children knows the answer to this question, which is, of course, any vacation in which you travel with your children.  This is especially true when your children have all been out of school for an entire month before you even leave on your fun-filled trip of family togetherness and all five of you can no longer stand to be in the same room with each other for more than five minutes, much less a five- hour plane trip.

As I mentioned in a previous post, Andrew and I surprised our kids with a week-long trip to Disney World for Christmas.   After much anticipation, the day finally came, and we whisked the children off to the airport (minus our one-year-old, James, who we left at home to be traded off between various relatives all week) for their first flight on a plane and their first glimpse of the fairy tale land created by Walt Disney in Orlando, Florida.  Andrew and I have tender feelings about Orlando, since that is where we went on our honeymoon eleven and a half years ago.  It was a magical experience for us, especially for me, since I had only even been to Disneyland once in my entire life when I was like twelve.  Oh, and because it was our honeymoon! Anyway, we were really excited to share the Disney magic with our kids, and to see all the new changes that had come about in the past decade, including a whole new park, Animal Kingdom, which opened two or three months after we left.

Suffice it to say, it was an entirely different experience this time around.  We had purchased five-day park tickets, not park-hoppers, which were fifty dollars more per person, but just one park a day tickets, which was really plenty.  I think that is the way to go unless you are a Disney regular and have already seen everything a few times already and just want to hit your favorites.  Our hotel was pretty nice–we had a two-room suite with two queens in the bedroom and a sofa bed in the living room area, which worked okay, although it was fairly small and it sure didn’t help us get any more privacy as a couple.  Not that that mattered, since we really only were there long enough to collapse in exhaustion at the end of each day and drag everyone out of bed in the morning. They did have a free breakfast buffet, which, although not particularly nutritious, was ample in quantity and adequate in quality and saved us a bunch of money.

(If you bore easily, you may want to skip the rest of the post, as I go into far too many details which you may or may not care about.) 

We planned to hit each park as soon as it opened in order to avoid most of the lines.  Unfortunately, with the time change, it was really hard to drag any of us out of bed, with the exception of Andrew, who always wakes up way early anyway.  Right from the start, we knew we were in trouble with Lily, who began our trip by throwing a temper tantrum the minute we got out of the car and started walking up to Epcot, our first park.  She didn’t stop until we got home a week later.  Day after day, hour after hour, there was always something to set her off.  I’m talking full-fledged screaming at the top of her lungs, usually something embarassing that could be heard for miles around.  And that was at the beginning of the day, after a full breakfast, so we couldn’t even make the excuse that she was tired or hungry or anything.  When she wasn’t crying, she was complaining, or begging for Disney merchandise, or hitting her brother and sister.  I don’t like to say mean things about my kids, but, boy, she was a total brat the whole time and really almost ruined the trip for everyone else. We did manage to have some fun in the brief intermission between tantrums, but it definitely heightened the stress level for us all.

Of course, there were some things beyond our control that probably didn’t help the situation, such as the fact that a rare cold spell had hit Florida and sent temperatures plummeting to near-record lows.  We had packed anticipating  somewhat warm days and cooler nights, but nobody had anything heavier than a light jacket and a few long-sleeved shirts, and we were getting highs barely in the forties, with a wind-chill factor that made it feel twenty degrees colder.  The big news story was how they were actually cold enough at night to freeze a tray of ice cubes (seriously, I saw them do that on the news).  Needless to say, our first couple of days were quite uncomfortable.  It wasn’t all bad, though–a lot of the stuff was inside, and the lines were pretty much nonexistant.  We went on everything with no more than a ten or fifteen minute wait.  We even walked right on to Splash Mountain twice without having to wait at all (I guess most people don’t like getting soaking wet in forty-degree weather.  Neither do we, we just ducked really well.) 

The third day the temperatures warmed up quite a bit, and out came all the people.  We had a lot harder time getting to see everything at Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom, and had to miss out on a few shows, but we saw all the important stuff, and rode on most of the good stuff twice.  In fact, the big kids got to ride on the good stuff like Space Mountain and the Tower of Terror four times, because we had to child-swap Lily, and they let the two of them ride again with the second parent.  We actually talked Lily into going on a couple of scarier rides that she was big enough for, like Big Thunder Mountain, the Haunted Mansion, and the Tower of Terror.  She went once, and claimed that it was “Awesome!” But I think that it was all a show because she refused to go on them more than once. We ended up going back to Animal Kingdom for our fifth day, and were able to ride our favorite, Expedition Everest, a few more times.  That’s a pretty cool ride.  I love how it goes backwards.  Although Andrew and I agree that Space Mountain still wins out for sheer uniqueness and fun. I think Animal Kingdom was our favorite, not just for the roller coaster, but for the lush, jungle-like landscaping, the slower pace, and for our favorite Disney moment of the trip: Finding Nemo: the Musical. 

I’m not kidding.  This was not just an abbreviated rehash of the big production numbers of the big Disney cartoons.  It was the Finding Nemo story, of course, but what made it unique was that all the fish were puppets and all the singing and acting was done live by the puppeteers, who were findingnemothemusical5dressed in tropical reef-colored body suits that only exposed their faces, but were in all other ways completely visible.  They were singing live, not lip-synching, as it was obvious the voices were not the same as those in the cartoon (a fact thatbruce might bother some small children, but one that you get over pretty quick).  The music, although unfamiliar, was TOTALLY SWEET!! That’s Turtle Talk for AWESOME, DUDE!  And the puppetry was innovative and amazing.  We loved it.  That was worth the price of admission right there.  You can get an idea from this official bunch of clips, and of course you can find the whole thing on youtube, if you want, although most of the video quality is pretty poor.  I hope they do performances of it outside of Disney World in the future, I’d love to see it again.

Anyway, after four and a half days of Disney, we drove off to Cape Canaveral, and let the kids play on the beach for a couple of hours. The next day, we went to the Kennedy Space Center, which was fascinating.  The tour kennedy2didn’t get us as close to the launch pad as I would have hoped, but the 3D IMAX film we saw, Magnificent Desolation, was spectacular, and they had some really cool effects on their shuttle launch simulator (note: the preshow is actually cooler than the actual “launch”, which is nothing compared to Mission:Space).  The best part of that tour was definitely when they put us in the “firing room”, which is a re-creation of the “mission control” used during the Apollo moon flights, using the actual original computers in the room.  They do a countdown for a mock blast-off while showing you a  video of the reminiscences of those involved with the technical part of the process, and you can actually feel and hear the explosion of the rockets, right down to the rattling of the glass in the windows.  Then the doors open and you go into the next room, where they have one of the actual Saturn V rockets used to go to the moon on display.  It’s about the size of a football field, hanging horizontally from the ceiling.  The “bottom”, where the rocket thrusters are, is probably three or four stories high.  That there was one big rocket.  Actually, I guess it was like three big rockets all stuck together that dropped off one at a time.  It was pretty impressive.  Unfortunately, we weren’t able to see all of the Space Center before we had to leave to drive back to the airport and catch our plane, but I think we did manage to see all the coolest parts.

By the time we got back to the airport and got on the place, everyone was pretty much worn out and ready to go home.  All the kids were complaining how homesick they were, and how they missed James and Buddy and Shadow (our dog and cat).  The flight home was interminable, and Lily managed to pull off one of her best tantrums of the trip as we were waiting to get off the plane.  It was cold, snowy, and slushy in Salt Lake City, but boy, were we glad to get home. 

It’s been almost a week now, and I think I have finally recovered.  The big kids went back to school on Wednesday, and things are finally starting to mellow out a bit.  I think, overall, the good things outweighed the bad, and we managed to actually have a good time.  However, I don’t think we’ll be going back for at least another ten years!

January 5, 2009

Whew! Made it through another year.

Posted in Days of my life, Family life, Parenting, Something exciting! tagged , , at 11:53 AM by Robin

happy_new_year_2008

Wow, guys, I’m sorry about the slow December.  But I’m sure you all know how busy December is.  All that planning, shopping, cooking, wrapping, sneaking, deceiving, outright lying…yes, Christmas brings out the best in us all…

Well, to tell the truth, Christmas was really just kind of so-so for me this year.  The presents on Christmas morning were not exactly what had been requested, partly because the letters to Santa got off a little late this year, after Santa had done the majority of shopping for our family.  Santa used Amazon.com extensively this year, and therefore the kids were stuck with what they got.  There was a little moping at first, but they bounced back fairly quickly and seem to enjoy what they got. 

The number of wrapped packages under the tree was also fairly limited this year.  In fact, Mom and Dad only gave the kids one real gift this year (Santa gives the majority of the presents right now).  We told them that the package was small, but it was worth more than all the other gifts combined! (No, the package was not from Tiffany’s) After we had opened all the other gifts, we gave them a note that sent them on a treasure hunt throughout the house.  Andrew had made up nine or ten different clues leading them from the bedroom, to the silverware drawer, to the computer, to the fireplace…uh oh, what happened to the clue that was in the fireplace?  Could that cheerful Christmas morning fire burning in the fireplace have anything to do with its disappearance?  Yes, that’s right, we burned up one of the clues.  Fortunately, Andrew remembered where it was supposed to send them, and the kids were able to pick up the hunt on the next clue.

Finally, after much eager running up and down stairs and in and out of doors, the last clue sent us all back to the Christmas tree, where, hidden underneath the skirt, was an unlabeled CD.  We popped it into the computer, and here is what the kids saw:

 castle1

(OK, so there was a little bit more to it, but I haven’t figured out how to put on videos yet, so I’ll have to show that to you later)

 That’s right, we’re going to Disney World, baby!  As soon as I get Andrew to tell me how, I’m going to have to post the video of the kids reaction, because it was not what I expected.  Rather than erupting into loud screams of joy, they just stared at the screen in stunned silence.  It took quite a while for it to sink in.  But every day now, they get more and more excited.  We just finished watching a History channel show on Disney World and some of the big rides there, and the anticipation is definitely building.  I’m excited, but a little bit nervous, too, especially about taking all the kids on the plane.  Actually, I’m more worried about James and Lily than the older kids.  Any tips on how to handle a fidgety toddler on a four hour plane flight would be greatly appreciated!

As for the New Year…we had a great little get together with some of our friends on New Year’s Eve.  We actually let Parley and Brianna stay up until midnight (Lily made it as far as 11:00, which wasn’t bad for her), and they had fun screaming and banging pots and pans and watching the South Jordan fireworks from their windows.  But then, all the commotion woke James up, and he would not go back to sleep.  Everybody else left and went to bed around 1:30, but James was still up and having a ball and refused to go to bed until after 4:00 AM.  I’m telling you, there’s no better way to ring in the New Year than by watching HGTV at 3:00 in the morning while your one-year-old merrily runs around the house. And to top if off, even though James was finally asleep by 4:30, I was having stomach problems and couldn’t get to sleep until after 6:00 AM, right about the time Andrew got up.  Fortunately, Andrew kept the kids quiet enough for me to sleep in until 10:00, but needless to say, New Years Day was a little bit hazy for me.  I guess that’s as close to a hangover as a good little mormon like me will get!

As for the future, I can’t guarantee that I will have much opportunity to regularly update this blog, since Andrew has all these video projects he’s working on, and all the kids are home from school for a month, and they all are fighting over who gets to play with their web-based toys first.  I’m kind of last in line when it comes to computer time.  But that’s probably a good thing, because after a whole month spent online shopping and planning a vacation, I could really use a break anyway. So, here’s wishing you all a glorious New Year.  And if any of you missed our family email/newsletter, check out Andrew’s blog at andrewalma.wordpress.com.

December 14, 2008

My Christmas List

Posted in Just thinking..., Something exciting! tagged , , , , , , at 4:28 PM by Robin

santaletter

Dear Santa,

 First of all, I’m sorry for not writing to you for all these years.  I hope you’re not offended, but once you get to be a mom, you really do come to understand that Christmas is more about giving than about receiving.  I’ve been much more concerned about what my kids want (and what I want them to want) than about what I want for Christmas.  And although I haven’t had a delivery from you in quite a few years, I want you to know that thanks to my generous parents and in-laws, my Christmases have not suffered from lack of incoming goods, although often in the form of direct financial donations. 

But you see, that’s kind of what I wanted to talk to you about, Santa.  You see, I pretty much know what I’m getting for Christmas weeks before Christmas morning arrives.  I would say that I personally select and purchase probably 90% of my own Christmas presents.  And while that has the definite benefit of getting exactly what I want, I find myself really missing the anticipation and excitement of not knowing what is in the wrapped boxes with my name on them under the tree.  

I know, I know, it’s hard to shop for presents for our friends and family members, especially if it’s an in-law whose name you’ve drawn that you don’t know very well.  Very often, we spend a lot of time coming up with what we think is the perfect gift, only to have it be a complete dud on Christmas morning.  This is why gift cards are so popular these days, and why our parents like to just give us a nice envelope stuffed with a check for our Christmas present.  It’s a lot easier all around; nobody stresses, and everybody gets what they want.  But don’t you think that you lose out on a lot of the fun of Christmas that way?

Well, Santa, I’ve figured out a solution to this problem.  Adults need to write Christmas lists. I know this is kind of frowned upon in society. Kids can draw up a list that goes on longer than Harry Potter #5 and everyone just chuckles and grins at their unbridled avarice, but if someone over the age of 18 has an itemized list for you to shop from, they are greedy, unsophisticated, and lack fundamental people skills.  Also, there’s not really much fun in telling someone to go out and buy you a specific item and it’s size and color.  There’s no anticipation, no surprise, no excitement when you already know what’s hiding under the wrapping paper.  You might as well have bought it yourself. 

But… if you give someone some several options to choose from, any of which would make you deliriously happy, you can’t go wrong!  Right?  See, most kids don’t actually expect to get every little thing they put down on those lists.  They’d probably be happy with that ONE thing they REALLY want, and maybe one or two others, and then the rest of the presents under the tree are fairly negotiable.  I don’t see any reason why it shouldn’t be acceptable for grown-ups to do this as well.  And so, dear Santa, I would like to humbly request the following things for Christmas this year.

*The Josh Groban Christmas CD

*New CLOSED-TOE church shoes, in either black or brown. (Had to go to church today wearing sandal-type shoes in the snow.  Brrrr….)

*One or two SMALL casserole dishes with lids that can fit in the microwave but are nice-looking enough to serve at the table.

*Any of those fancy scented candles, lotions or handsoaps that I love but can never justify spending money on.

*A gift certificate of at least $30 to spend on home decor of my choosing.

*New sheets for my bed.

*New furniture for my entire house.

*While I’m asking…how about a new house?  You don’t have to wrap that for me on Christmas morning, I’d just like to get it sometime before next Christmas, OK?

Of course, posting this list now doesn’t do me any good, Santa, since I have already bought the gifts for myself that my mother-in-law is giving me, and I pretty much told Andrew exactly what to get me at JC Penney, how much it was, where it was located at the store, and gave him a coupon for it, and all of our sibling gift exchanges are white elephants this year.  But I still hope that somehow there will be at least a little surprise at Christmas for me this year, and that’s why I’m writing you, Santa.  I know I’m a bit old for it, but just in case, I’ll leave a few extra cookies out on the table this Christmas Eve.   Thank you in advance!

Love,

Robin

November 21, 2008

What Should I Make For Thanksgiving?

Posted in Cooking, Something exciting! tagged , , , , , , , , at 9:54 PM by Robin

Thanksgiving TableOK, everybody, I’m hosting the Lambert family at my house for Thanksgiving this year, which, although stressful, is also kind of exciting, because I love trying out fancy new recipes that I don’t have a good excuse for the rest of the year.  I have finally gone out and bought brand new stemware, tablecloth, napkins and silverware, so that we will actually have an entirely matching table this year!  But I still need some help in deciding what to make.  Are you interested in a good old traditional standby recipe, or would you like to try something a little adventurous?  I’ve decided to use the polling feature here to take your votes, and the winning recipes will appear on our Thanksgiving table!  Feel free to vote even if you aren’t a member of the family–the more feedback I get, the better!  And maybe you’ll get some good ideas for your own Thanksgiving menu.  Here’s looking forward to some good eats!

There are links to the recipes following each poll.

 

Rosemary Roasted TurkeyTangerine Glazed Turkey, Turkey With Herbes de Provence and Citrus, Roasted Turkey with Rosemary Gravy

Sausage/Apple/Cranberry Stuffing, “Unstuffing”, Savory Spinach and Artichoke Stuffing, Caramelized Onion and Cornbread Stuffing

 Ginger Pumpkin Merengue Pie, Pumpkin Chocolate Cheesecake Pie, Cranberry Orange Cheesecake, Pumpkin Cheesecake

 

 

November 2, 2008

“I Could Hear You Over Everybody Else!”

Posted in Days of my life, Mormon life, Something exciting! tagged , , , , , , , at 1:53 PM by Robin

Last night I had the awesome and amazing experience of singing in the Salt Lake Tabernacle.  For those of you visitors who might not be familiar with this building, it is not only one of the most historic and sacred non-temple buildings to our LDS faith, but also an incredible feat of acoustic engineering.  The high domed ceiling and oval shape of the hall make every sound from the front resonate beautifully throughout the entire room, which can seat up to 2500 people.  Used for many years as the location of the LDS General Conference and other meetings, I believe its main use today is more of a concert hall than anything else.  Many musicians hope for a chance to play or sing in the Tabernacle, and lucky me, I was able to enjoy that opportunity as part of “We Also Sing.”

The ironic part of this is that my debut in the Tabernacle was in a women’s chorus, because you know what?  I’m not really much of a singer.  I played piano and violin for many years, and most of my performance oppurtunities earlier in my life were as part of an orchestra.  So, although I have plenty of music training, I have absolutely no actual vocal training.  I have no problem reading the music, and can carry a tune and hit the right pitch more often than not, but when it comes to all the various nuances that combine to make a truly beautiful singing voice–vibrato, breath control, vowel shaping, etc–I am really at a complete loss.  Fortunately, you don’t have to audition for this choir, so even the unexperienced like me can participate. That doesn’t mean that the music was easy.  On the contrary, some of it was very difficult.  But that’s what made it so fun, to me.  I need things to make me stretch and try harder and learn new things.  I really thrive on that.

By the way, two big differences between an orchestra concert and a vocal concert: in orchestra, we got to sit down the whole time!  After a two hour rehearsal and two performances, standing almost the whole time, my feet were quite sore.  Second, nobody really cares what your face looks like when you’re playing the violin.  Nobody cares if you’re looking down at your music the whole time (you develop your peripheral vision pretty well in order to read your music and keep an eye on the conductor at the same time).  Our choir director, Merilee Webb, would often emphasize to us in rehearsal to “share the love” and spirit of the music we were singing through our eyes and facial expressions.  So, I really made a valiant effort to summon forth my emotive acting skills and tried to look like the singers you see on taped BYU concerts (the ones that the camera always comes back to, because they have their eyebrows up the highest, or a touching tear trickling down their cheek).  By the second concert, I was really into it, too.  But afterward, my mother-in-law mentioned how cute I was up there and that she had been watching me, and as I often do, I started fretting about it more than if she hadn’t said anything at all, wondering if I had been overdoing it and making an idiot of myself.  The last thing I actually wanted to do was stand out from the other 360 some-odd women up there!  Fortunately, it wasn’t taped or anything, so I’ll never really know if I looked absolutely ridiculous or not.

Speaking of standing out, there is a long-standing joke in Andrew’s family, who have all participated in many different choirs:  “You were great!” they like to say to you after a performance, “I could hear you over everybody else!”  It might sound like a compliment, unless you are a choir person, and you know that the ideal as a choir is to blend together with all the other singers, so that you all sound like one voice.  I’m sure this inside joke originated with Andrew’s dad, Kent, commenting on one of Andrew’s early performances, since he has never been shy about singing out, as anyone knows who has ever sat next to him in sacrament meeting.  (Parley follows pretty closely in his footsteps, as anyone knows who has ever sat through a primary program in our ward.)  So, the funny thing was, as I went up to greet my family after the concert, my beaming mother (who has sat through more band and orchestra concerts of varying levels of musicality than I can possibly count, but who has not seen any of her children perform in an actual choir up until last night) came up to me and hugged me, and said, in full sincerity, “Oh, I was so proud of you.  And maybe it was my imagination, but I was sure that there were times when I could hear you over everybody else!”  Andrew’s family members were standing right there, and of course, they got a real big kick out of it. 

Anyway, it was a wonderful experience, and both performances went really well, and I had a great time.  I don’t know what excuse I’m going to be able to find to get out of the house and away from my family once a week from now on.  Suggestions, anyone?

October 24, 2008

Country Mouse in the Big City

Posted in Something exciting! tagged , , , , , at 9:17 AM by Robin

So did you hear that I went to New York?  Sure did.  For the past two or three years, Andrew and I have begun making a tradition of taking a little getaway trip together to foreign climes, leaving all the little rugrats at home with Granny Lambert and Grandma and Grandpa Brewer.  We’ve been to San Antonio, Texas, on a cruise to Key West and Mexico, and this year, we decided to go to the Big Apple itself, New York City.  Andrew had been once before for business, but had only one day to spend exploring the city, and I had never been before, so we planned to cram in as much sightseeing as our physical limitations would allow. 

In order to test said physical limitations, we decided to start out our trip physically exhausted.  You see, they had overbooked our flight in, and asked for people to bump, and we just couldn’t resist those $400 vouchers they give you for being willing to take a later flight.  Unfortunately, the next flight was a red-eye and left at midnight.  Even though I got upgraded to first class, I wasn’t able to sleep a wink, and even Andrew wasn’t able to sleep very well.  We got into the city at about 6:00 AM, and decided to go ahead and hit the sights until after lunch, and then try to check into our hotel early.  We did pretty well until about 3:00, when it really hit us hard.  We checked into our hotel in New Jersey and tried to nap for an hour or two before we went to see Mary Poppins on Broadway that night.  When we finally went to bed that night around 1:00 AM (I guess it was only 11:00 our time), we were so worn out that I was asleep the minute I lay down and slept like a rock, which I NEVER do in a hotel.

We decided to buy 3-day New York Passes, which were on sale for about $100 online. They get you into the top 40 tourist attractions for free (well, technically not free, but you know what I mean).  Considering that most of the attractions ranged in price from $20-30, we only had to hit two or three of them a day to get our money’s worth, and of course, we did way more than that.  For a comprehensive list of what we managed to accomplish, you can check out Andrew’s blog here.  He also has some pictures up (by the way, the humidity totally made my hair freak out, so I look like a blonde clown in most of them).  I’ll just list the highlights.

Statue of Liberty: You know you’ve seen a million pictures of it, but I’m telling you, being there in person is pretty amazing.  We couldn’t see her from where we were standing on the ferry until we were right up close, and when I turned around and saw her right there, in person, it sent a chill down my spine.  I couldn’t stop looking at her as we walked around the island.  I love the picture I took of Andrew there, too.  He looks inspiringly patriotic, doesn’t he? (see earlier link)

Empire State Building: a must-see.  Long wait in line, but worth it for the view.  NOT WORTH IT: the skyride attraction they have on the second floor.  Andrew liked it, but I thought it was a cheesy Star Tours ripoff.  I didn’t feel too bad about it because we had the passes, but I certainly was glad we didn’t pay extra for it!

Metropolitan Museum of Art: If you can see only one museum when you go to New York, see this one.  It was absolutely amazing.  It was awe-inspiring to see so many of the actual original pieces of art that I have seen in my art history textbooks, in addition to many others that I just couldn’t believe, from the grandiose gold-encrusted pianos and all manner of horns that looked like something out of a Dr. Seuss book, to the full scale Egyptian temple surrounded by a pool, to the entire rooms decorated in antique furniture of different periods, to the suits of armor and swords and crossbows.  We were in awe.  We had to come back a second day.  The Museum of Natural History was cool, too, but this one was better.  ONES TO SKIP: the Museum of Modern Art and the Guggenheim–unless you are really into and know something about modern art, you will not enjoy these museums and will probably be just wasting your money.  The Guggenhiem was 2/3 closed when we went, as they were installing some huge multi-artist exhibit, so maybe sometimes they have better stuff there, but what they did have there, we did not like.

Radio City Music Hall:  We took the behind-the-scenes tour, and if you’re a theater buff, this would knock your socks off.  It was cool seeing such a beautiful historical building, with its amazing art deco stage and auditorium that is meant to recreate the feeling of being on an ocean liner watching the sun set, but they also took us backstage to see the hydraulic system that lifts three different elevator platforms that make up the center of the stage. This system was actually top-secret for several years during World War II as the government copied it to use in some of its military projects.  Well worth it the time and the cost.  Not so much worth it:  the Rockefeller Center tour, which gives you a little history about the Rockefellers and many of the art pieces around the center, but doesn’t show you anything you couldn’t see just by walking around on your own.  The NBC Studio tour was worth it if you like Saturday Night Live, since that is its main focus.  We got to see that stage and the studio for Nightly News with Brian Williams, but I thought we were also going to see the studio for Conan O’Brien’s show, but we didn’t, so I felt a little bit gypped.  We did see the following celebrities, however: Kristen Wiig, Josh Brolin, and Howie Mandel.  And whoever the musical number was for that week, I didn’t recognize her.

Central Park:  Really cool.  Very pretty.  Could spend a whole day there, but we only had time to criss-cross it a couple of times on our way to something else.

Times Square: Pretty breathtaking at night.  Also very crowded and very noisy.  But all those lights and enormous T.V. screens…wow!  It’s kind of like Vegas, but less obnoxious and x-rated.  For a real thrill, go to the Marriot Marquis and ride on their glass elevator that goes up the middle of their 50 story high atrium.  It’s scarier than the top of the Empire State Building!

Double Decker Bus Tours: If you’re wondering if this is worth it, it is.  Don’t think you’re going to use them as your main form of transportation, however; they get stuck in traffic a lot and the subway would be a lot faster.  They’re a great way to see a lot more of the city and really get a better understanding of where things are.  The tour guide also makes a big difference, and we had a couple of really good ones that gave us a true New Yorker’s insight into the history and changes in the different neighborhoods.  We took the uptown, downtown, and night tour loops (bundle up for that night tour, folks) during our first two days there, but we used the subway for our last two.

So, obviously, we crammed as much into our four days there as we possibly could.  And it wasn’t just Andrew–I wanted to see as much as I could, too.  But boy, were our feet and legs killing us!  I mean, by the third day, my feet actually started hurting almost as soon as I got out of bed.  But it was worth it!  I mean, who knows when we’ll be able to go back there again?  It was a real thrill to see such a famous place and I can really understand why New Yorkers love their city so much. 

October 7, 2008

Free Concert!!! Please Come!!!

Posted in Days of my life, Mormon life, Something exciting! tagged , , , , , , at 11:45 AM by Robin

OK, everybody, I would love to see you all come out and support me and my sisters-in-law, Liz and Holly, by attending the performance of our choir, We Also Sing. (For those of you in my ward, Camille Bergstrom is also in it). We Also Sing is a 365-voice all-women choir led by Merilee Webb, and we will be singing in the Salt Lake Tabernacle on Saturday, Nov. 1st.  We are one of the largest all-women choirs in the country! There will be two performances, one at 5:30 PM, and one at 7:30 PM.  Tickets are totally and completely free, but they do go fast, so don’t wait too long to get yours.  You can either arrange for me to get them for you, or you can order them online at http://www.lds.org/events/info/0,8197,726-1-676,00.html  or by calling 801-570-0080 (locally) or toll-free 1-866-537-8457 (1-866-LDS-TIKS).

This will really be an awesome concert, guys.  All of the pieces we are singing are wonderful, and some are absolutely incredible.  There is quite a variety of music, from arrangements of hymns, to Josh Groban’s You Raise Me Up, to selections from Mass by Leonard Bernstein.   We will be singing in Latin, French, Hebrew, Italian, and Hawaiian.  There are some extremely talented people in the choir, and then there are some, like me, whose love for singing maybe outpaces their ability for it, but Merilee helps us all come together and sound great.  I promise that if you come, you will be inspired and touched by the music that we sing.  And it’s free!  What more could you want?  It’d make a great date!  You would be supporting me and the others in the choir of course (and come on, I NEVER do stuff like this anymore, right?), but I believe that it will be a truly great experience for you, musically and spiritually.  If you have any further questions, just ask!

(Normally, they ask that you don’t bring children younger than eight years to performances in the tabernacle, but they will make an exception in our case for the 5:30 performance.  If your child is over five and you feel that they are capable of sitting quietly for a ninety-minute performance, go ahead and bring them, but if your experience with them in sacrament meeting tells you that doing so is a near-impossible task, you might want to get a babysitter.)

If you would like a preview of some of the songs, I have found some youtube performances by other people (different arrangements), so you can get an idea of what to expect. (I don’t want to ruin the surprise, but Andrew always says that he enjoys a concert more if he is familiar with the songs).

How Beautiful 

Sure On This Shining Night

Cantique de Jean Racine, by Gabriel Faure

October 3, 2008

Getting Kids to Listen to Conference

Posted in Days of my life, Family life, Mormon life, Something exciting! tagged , , , , , , , at 3:38 PM by Robin

Well, folks, it’s General Conference time again, and I don’t know about you, but I’m girding up my loins to face the epic battle ahead.  Is it finding a parking spot in downtown Salt Lake City over the weekend, you ask?  No, I believe I have only once actually attended conference dowtown in person, sometime during my BYU years.  Is it trying to figure out how to stay awake during the second half of the Sunday afternoon session?  No, although that will probably be a minor skirmish.  No, my friends, the battle that lurks on the horizon is that of getting my kids to sit still and watch at least some of conference without claiming that their parents are the minions of Satan and are taking away their free agency by forcing them to be righteous (yes, Parley has actually tried using that argument, if not in those exact words). 

Now, I’m a realist.  I know that a seven-year-old’s attention span does not last for the duration of a thirty-minute talk by a member of the First Presidency, and I realize that the majority of what’s being said will exceed their listening comprehension abilities.  But Andrew and I are still determined to get them to listen and understand at least a portion of the words of our prophet and other leaders of the church.  Does anyone have any suggestions that have worked for you with your kids?  Do you remember something your parents did that helped you enjoy conference more?  For now, I’m going to search online for some sort of worksheets (there’s got to be something out there), and employ good ol’ bribery. I’m going to try getting some Halloween candy, and giving them one piece for every talk they sit through.  Hey, we’re operating on a pre-telestial level here, right?  There is that saying about catching more flies with honey than with vinegar (we’ve tried the vinegar, i.e. commands and threats, and it doesn’t produce the desire effect).  Anyway, I’m open to your good advice here, folks!  Help me out!

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