Saturday, February 27, 2010

What's New?

Big news this week! First of all, the kids got exciting news from the director of Willy Wonka Jr., this year's musical. Sweet Pea made the cut and will be an orphan girl named Annie. This will be SP's second play and her first role with a speaking part. Her director said that she will get to say 'Leapin' Lizards!' multiple times. Which begs the question, "Which play are they actually doing?" It sounds an awful lot like Annie. I guess we will see in May when the performance is scheduled.

Number One Son also got a call from the director informing him that he will play the role of Grampa Joe. At least that's a name I recognize from the movie. Needless to say, he was quite excited to get the part he was hoping for. Lady Di and I were just glad each kid got any part. Even though there were three casts with sixty roles per cast, over ninety kids had to be turned away. Which speaks very highly of the popularity of our local children's theatre program.

That was our first good news of the week. The second news we got was a call from school. This week they informed us that N1S had been nominated for student of the month. This is the first time this has ever happened and we couldn't be prouder. Wednesday morning we were invited to the middle school cafeteria for a Student of the Month breakfast before classes. We dined on cinnamon rolls and cartons of milk with about a dozen other nominated kids and their families. The teachers then presented each student with a laminated certificate and a laminated picture of the student which will go on the bulletin board at school. They also put together a short slide show for each student on the big screen. Lady Di had submitted some of her favorite photos of N1S for the slide show. Too bad the school used this one instead. It's a nice enough picture but it looks like his hair had stocking cap static just before the flash went off. I guess you have to expect haystack hair in a Minnesota winter. With hair like that he won't have to do much styling to match Grampa Joe's hair. Or even Annie's hair for that matter. Oh well, since his hair looks like this ninety percent of the time anyway, at least the kids in school will recognize him on the bulletin board.

After N1S had received his congratulations from the teachers he came back to sit with us and show off his laminates. Lady Di shuffled through the papers looking for the item she had been anxiously waiting for. Then she found her golden ticket. The Student of the Month bumper sticker. She was so excited to now be able to drive a van with a bumper sticker stating, 'Proud parent of a Student of the Month'. Now we can finally cover up the 'Honk If You're ..... , (Author's comment deleted due to severe spousal embarrassment).

We finished up the week on yet another high note. Saturday afternoon found Sweet Pea and myself at the Girl Scout Pinewood Derby. This is our second year of racing and instead of striving for speed, we opted for design.

SP designed her Spongebob bathtub car from the color to the shower curtain. I shaped her block of wood a little bit and attached her wheels but SP completed everything else. And her hard work paid off. Out of 126 entries, her car was voted 'Funniest Car'.Her car beat out a 'brownie, birthday cake, crayola box, roller skate, piano and a host of very creative cars. She was so excited to get her 'first' real trophy. She made me promise not to tell Lady Di until we got home so she could surprise her.

So as you can see, we're just a house full of winners this week aren't we? Well, I guess I didn't technically 'win' anything. The kids did all of the winning this week. But when the kids win, Lady Di and I feel like even bigger winners.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Where's The Lifetime Supply Of Chocolate?

Last Tuesday, the kids had auditions for the upcoming community children's theatre musical, Willy Wonka Jr. This is Sweet Pea's second try out and Number One Son is trying to land his fifth role. This was also the first time that I was able to attend the auditions, luckily having the night off from work.

Auditions are pretty simple in that the kids get on stage in front of the directors in groups of five and sing a verse from a favorite song to show where their voice range fits, and recite a few lines from the play to gauge their expressiveness. Three years ago when N1S tried out for Kokonut Kapers as a second grader, he sang Jingle Bells and got a role as a dancing pirate. Even way back then, Lady Di noticed how comfortable he was on stage. For some reason, he doesn't get nervous at all while performing.
Our kids were about the sixth group to audition. I didn't know how excited they were until their names were called. I leaned over to offer some last minute encouragement only to find two empty seats and a small whirl of dust. They ran up on stage and N1S got a small whoop from a few of his friends which he answered with a 'rock-n-roll' hand sign. Did I mention how comfortable he is on stage?
SP sang 'You're A Mean One Mr. Grinch' complete with her own original choreography. N1S sang 'Benjamin Calypso' from Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat musical. They each read a few lines from the play and were done. I'm glad we got there early and were done early because I heard auditions went pretty late into the evening.

That night you could sense quite a bit of nervousness from some of the kids. I guess I would have been nervous too since the auditorium was full of kids and parents watching all of the auditions. This year's production has two casts of sixty roles each. On the first night of two audition nights, over one hundred and eighty kids tried out. The unfortunate thing for Sweet Pea is that about one hundred and sixty five of them were girls. She has much more competition than her brother. It's really too bad that more boys don't get involved with theatre as much. Our kids have had a blast with it! They learn music, dancing, teamwork, discipline (it can't be easy keeping 60 kids quiet back stage) all while having fun.

One of SP's friends was all ready to try out until he heard that he had to sing a song on stage. N1S also has a friend from church that said he was excited to try out this year. Unfortunately, on Ash Wednesday we found out that he had changed his mind also. His mother told us that he too was intimidated by singing a song in front of people. He said, "Singing? Nope, I'm not singing on stage." His mother then asked him, "You did read it was a musical, didn't you?" She then confided to us that she thinks her son only heard the word 'chocolate' and figured that would be the extent of his involvement with the Willy Wonka Jr. production. I hope that both boys attend this years play and change their minds for next year.
We are really lucky to have such a strong children's theatre program. This year they had to limit auditions to only our local school district and the turn out was still overwhelming.

We will find out next week whether the kids get a role in one of the casts or not. With that much competition for roles I'm guessing that there will a lot of Oompa Loompas on stage.

As a side note, I mentioned that we talked to N1S's friend on Ash Wednesday. Two years ago SP was nervous about going to service because she thought the ashes were going to hurt. This year she had no such worries. In fact, when people were lining up to receive their ashes, SP noticed some people lifting up their bangs to expose their foreheads. I then noticed SP immediately pull her headband out of her hair and comb some of her bangs down. She was deliberately messing up her hair just so she could lift her bangs for Pastor. When I told her to put her headband back in she complained that it hurt her behind her ears. I guess it only hurts on Ash Wednesday, because she wears one to school every day with no complaints. She reluctantly replaced her headband and we all received our ashes.

Don't worry, our pastor didn't get overzealous with the ashes. This is SP from last year's production of 'Alms For The Poor'.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Did You Know...?

This week I've been perusing a book that Number One Son received for Christmas this year. It's a book called 1001 Cool Freaky Facts. This type of book is right up N1S's alley. He loves reading and memorizing facts. A few years ago he was into Presidential trivia. Did you know that George Washington died in 1799? Or was he born in 1799? Or maybe he had 99 kids. I can't remember which. I really need to listen to N1S more.

Then N1S switched to 'Crazy Laws' trivia for a while. That's when we heard all about some state that would throw you in jail if you told an Ole and Lena joke to a skunk on Sunday.

And almost since birth, N1S has been spitting up geysers of Star Wars minutiae.

So last week, I was sitting in the living room trying to find something on TV. Since NBC gave Conan the axe, I have been left with nothing to entertain me. So I picked up N1S's 'Freaky' book and idly paged through. As they say, 'The acorn doesn't fall far from the tree'. I got pulled in and trapped by this book. I could feel my brain growing stronger with each page. Did you know that diamonds are flammable? It's under fact #697. I also found out that Donald Duck's middle name is Fauntleroy. (#489) And Barbie's full name is Barbara Millicent Roberts.(#466) Butterflies taste with their feet (#96) and robots in Japan pay union dues.(#950)

My favorite section of the book was about words and languages. I learned that Zorro is Spanish for fox.(#814) and the dot over the letter 'i' is called the tittle. There are also no words in the English language that rhyme with the words 'month, silver, orange and purple'.(#802) And we all have Dr Suess to thank for inventing the word, 'nerd'.(#812)

So we now have two active information geysers in the house. When N1S takes a fact break for school or bedtime, I'm right there to take over for him, much to the enjoyment of Lady Di.

And speaking of Lady Di just reminded me that I haven't written my Valentine's Day poem to her yet.

Ode to Lady Di-2010

I practiced and practiced every month,
but won the lisp-contest only oneth.

The prize I received was a grill colored silver
So I threw on some steaks. What else is a grill fer?

I guess silver is better by far than orange
but Sweet Pea said my poem so far is bor-inge!

You need to spice it up now, add some Va-Voem!
So I copied a line from my Father-in-law's poem.

Roses are red, violets are purple
I love Lady Di more than maple syrple.

With my ode concluded. It is now time to go.
Just remember LD, you're still a 'Zorro'.

Happy Valentine's Day, Honey.

And remember, candles burn better when they are frozen(#121) and apples are members of the rose family.(#308) So don't tell Lady Di about my surprise romantic dinner outside in the snow with a lovely arrangement of a dozen apples. Yellow ones, of course. Her favorite.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Old Man Runner

For the last six months, I have tried running to keep in shape. When I reached the big 4-0 earlier this year, I was forced to face some facts. Number one is, I am no longer an athlete. Oh I used to be one, around twenty five years ago. From ages 14 to 18 I could be found competing in year round sports. Football in the fall, basketball in the winter, track in the spring and baseball in the summer. In all of those seasons I loved to compete. But I hated practicing. More specifically, I hated running.

So why did I quit participating in these activities once I graduated? They're just too much work. Does that make me lazy? Of course it does. I just kept thinking, I'm an athlete. I can always start up again whenever I want to. All I would have to do is a few stretches and pick up right where I left off.

Well, at 40 years old, I found out that I am much stiffer than I remember from twenty years ago. My joints don't loosen up as quickly or as completely as before. I quickly realized that an athlete I am no more.

So back to the present and why I decided that now was the time start exercising. Lady Di had much to do with my motivation. She has been running, walking and exercising for the last few years. She also works out with an Ipod. That was the final incentive to get me off my butt and into my ten year old sneakers.

Ipods are just too cool. Twenty plus years ago I had tried running with a radio, but growing up in South Dakota you quickly learn that if you don't listen to country music, your radio choices are limited. I also tried the ultra cool Sony Walkman. Then I could choose my own music as long as I listened to every song in order and stopped halfway to flip the cassette. My Walkman was also always trying to pull my running shorts down when clipped to my waistband. The only other choice I had for running music back then was singing to myself in cadence with my stride. But who wants to run to a marching, wheezing, out of breath Bon Jovi song?

So Lady Di's Ipod was a new toy for me to tryout. Her Ipod has a list of 80's music and once I figured out how to work it, I took off running. It was amazing how pumped up I was just jamming to the first Gun's and Roses song. Half way through the song, however, my body started to complain that the novelty of running for fun had left. My lungs wheezed, my heart pounded and my legs screamed. But the music kept me going. I stopped multiple times to walk but was still able to make it back home. The whole run/walk round trip took 18 minutes. And my head was thumping from my overworked heart for 17 of those minutes.

Well since then, I have gotten my own Ipod because Lady Di was tired of sponging my perspiration from hers. My Ipod is loaded with Sinatra, Oingo Boingo and 80's songs. It was this Ipod that has kept me running. This type of running is so much different than the running I did as a teen. As a teen, I ran to exhaustion to get faster and stronger. Now I can enjoy nature and work muscles that don't get as much use during the day. Listening to music also allows me to pretend I'm in a music video. For some reason I think it would be cool to film Billie Joe Armstrong jogging the entire song of Boulevard of Broken Dreams. Or I can listen to St. Elmo's Fire and envision myself in an 80's movie, running to meet Lady Di at the bus station before she gets on and I lose her forever.

Anyway, whatever the reason is for running, I am starting to feel better. I am running longer and don't feel as terrible after a run. On the contrary, I am actually starting to feel better after a run and can notice myself feeling worse when I don't run. I have competed in two 5K races and am looking forward to this summer to see if I can lower my time. I will never get the body of the athlete I used to be, but in my mind, I still am an athlete. I wasn't able to pick up where I left off, but at least I am moving in the right direction. I became an athlete once. I can become one again.

Thank you Apple, Inc.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

I Wanna Be A Canadian Idiot

The Winter Olympics are fast approaching. Everyone get ready to be suddenly caught up in all the excitement of cheering on athletes you have never heard of, in sports that you never cared for before. I know that sounds negative, but I truly love the Olympics, Summer and Winter.

So why is it that in any other non-Olympic year, I have no interest at all in Olympic sports? With all of the sports channel options on television I have no trouble finding athletes competing in track and field, gymnastics, skiing, skating, etc. all through the year. Why don't I care? Sure it's fun to watch these sports once in a while, but I'm not keeping stats in a fantasy bobsled league or collecting cross country skier cards.

I think there may be two reasons that the Olympics are different. The first reason is that since each of the Olympics happens only every four years, I feel a sense of anticipation and importance for something that I can't experience everyday. I'm sure the Olympics would lose some of it's luster if it occurred every year and if it did then I would probably only watch the Olympics for the commercials. I think this is the reason that Olympic hockey doesn't interest me much either. The same goes for Olympic basketball and baseball in the summer. I can watch those sports pretty much year round every year and don't need any more.

Reason number two is that the Olympic news coverage goes out of it's way to find the personal stories of the athletes. The type of stories that illustrate overcoming obstacles, striving for greatness and incredibly hard work over many years all for one brief shining moment on the medals podium.

Or maybe it's possible that I can only stand about ten days worth of these less popular sports every four years. Whatever the reason, the fact remains that for a couple of weeks I will be eagerly following all of the cold weather action.

Four years ago, I got caught up following the US curling team. I initially watched them because they were from Bemidji, MN and because Lady Di had dined at the curling team captain's pizza restaurant back in college. I watched just about every match they had. I learned the rules and scoring to curling and found myself shouting advice at my TV to help the team. (Sweep faster!) Now with the next Winter Olympics only days away, I couldn't tell you if curling actually involves hair curlers or not.

But here I go again, getting all excited for the Vancouver Games. Lady Di shares my enthusiasm, but for some reason she is only interested in speed skating. I like speed skating too, but I will also try to squeeze in some ski jump, bobsled, downhill skiing and snowboarding.

The Flying Tomato!

U-S-A! U-S-A!

Stuff About Me

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I'm a 40 year old dad of two. My wonderful wife, Lady Di, and I try to keep the kids from blowing things up here in central Minnesota.