Thursday, June 24, 2010

Catching up.

Giddy from our last get together, myself and several of my college buddies met for dinner at Sal and Mookie's last night. (You KNOW I got my jumbo cocktail and my fried calamari, right? I finished it off with a chocolate tiramisu.)

It was wonderful to catch up, gossip about old times, and just relax a bit. I had a great time, laughed alot, drank some wine, and still got home to bed before 11-ish. What's not to love?

Plus, it was fun to fall back into that little family. When you do theatre, you form close relationships with the people you work with, primarily because theatre requires a TON of labor hours and you spend all of your time together. When shows begin, bonds are established quickly. And when shows end, it's like a family saying goodbye. I basically spent all of my time with these good folks for four years, and I have many very positive memories about them. I really enjoyed seeing them again, remembering all the nutty stuff we did and trying to figure out where all of our mutual friends ended up after college.

Here's to more nostalgia!

See Mom Cry.

We found out last week that the daycare booger's been going to, the one that we absolutely LOVE, is closing at the end of August. I am heartbroken.

First of all, it took me FOREVER to find that place. I toured many, many daycares, got information from the health department, etc. and so forth. And when I made my choice, I knew I was making the right choice. And booger loves it there. He loves his teachers. He's very comfortable with all the other kids there. He has a great space to play in, they feed him well in a separate cafeteria, and they have a nice little shaded play area out back. The building's new, and the daycare is family owned and operated.

Even if I find him a GREAT new place to go, he isn't going to understand why he's not going to his school. And I think he'll miss his teachers terribly.

We've toured two places, but neither of them have really wowed me. I've got a third tour lined up for tomorrow.

I'm just disappointed. And feeling rushed to find him a placement before it's too late. And I'm totally dreading the first two weeks of taking him to some place new, when he freaks out at drop off. Maybe I'm overreacting. Maybe he'll be totally cool. But my guess is that it will be a difficult adjustment for all of us.


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Life's a dance!

On Sunday night, I grabbed a college buddy and attended the final Round II performance of the USA IBC. We saw some amazing contemporary dance. I like Round II better than Round I because it's the modern dance round, and every piece is different. During Round I, when dancers are performing classical work, the competitors must all choose from the same repertoire. As a result, you'll see the same pieces danced over and over. I much prefer Rounds II and III, when the introduction of contemporary dance and the winnowing of competitors makes for a much more varied evening.

At any rate, we saw two hours of some truly beautiful art. (And Round III of the USA IBC begins tonight! Try to catch a performance this week if you haven't already!)

After the show, we met up with a third college buddy and caught up for a few hours. (Pity it was a Sunday night. Not much was open. I was totally jonesing {Spell check says jonesing isn't a word. What do they know?} for some calamari and a jumbo cocktail from Sal and Mookie's, but they closed at 9 p.m. Sigh. I suppose it was not meant to be?)

It's funny how everyone's lives take such a different path. One of my buddies teaches theatre in a high school in Tupelo, another one has lived all over the U.S. and is now back in Jackson, working as a paralegal. I've run into a few other college friends lately, too: two guys who started a political campaign consulting company, a girl who's pursuing her graduate degree, another friend who owns his own chain of restaurants. The variety of life choices and experiences is amazing, even within a tight-knit group.

We're going to all try to get together again later this week, before we all scatter to the winds again. Should be fun! (And maybe I'll get that calamari after all . . . !)

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Next

Had to weigh in quickly on the book I just read. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest is the third book in Stieg Larsson's trilogy about Lisbeth Salander, a Swedish woman whose constitutional rights are astonishingly violated. I'd already read the first two books in the trilogy, and I was thrilled to pick up the third book.

I am happy to report that the third book is just as good as the previous two. More character development on the part of Lisbeth in this book and a worthy outcome to many of the plot points from book #1 made this book a great read. I could not put it down.

I have no idea if Random House will use the outlines for future books the author left behind to try and continue the story of Lisbeth and her friends, but I can't imagine them not further mining the trilogy for profits. There is already work underway for screen versions of the stories.

Even though Larsson did not originally intend for this book to be the final end for the characters he created in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, I find that each of the three books in the series is a complete story in itself, with a satisfactory ending. Though I am sad that my relationship with these characters may be over, I feel the author wrote three full books, each with its own fulfilling conclusion. I hope Random House doesn't screw the whole thing up by handing the outlines over to a ghostwriter not up to the task to produce future books in the series.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Just direct your feet . . .

. . . to the dancing side of the street!

On Saturday night, the USA International Ballet Competition kicked off in Jackson, Mississippi. Fair warning - I am completely biased towards this fabulous organization, partly because I used to work there, but mostly because it's just plain wonderful. Hubs and I seized the opportunity to leave little man at the grandparents' house and enjoy a date night.

Every four years, the entire city of Jackson is transformed into a ballet mecca. (No, you read that right. I am totally not kidding.) Young dancers from all over the world gather here, along with artistic directors, master teachers, professional dancers, and fans, to perform in and watch some of the very best ballet that the world has to offer. For two weeks, 100 promising young dancers perform in three rounds of ballet competition, with the best of the best walking away with medals, cash, and professional contracts.

The competition kicked off on Saturday night with the traditional opening ceremonies. Hubs and I put on our fancy clothes and settled in for the show. There was lots of speechifying from the governor, the mayor, the honorary chairman of the IBC, the chairman of the board of directors, and more. The official USA IBC flame was lit, the dancers paraded in with the flags of their countries.

Then, Rasta Thomas and his Bad Boys of Dance company performed. What fun! Very athletic, with lots of jaw-dropping turns, spins, kicks, and general sultriness. The best number was at the very end, when the guys all tangoed to the famous piece from Carmen with a group of blow-up dolls. Hilarious! Personality to spare! Hubs and I laughed and laughed.

After the performance, we had a late dinner at Styx (onion soup, steamed dumplings, edamame, all the yummy stuff) before heading home and turning in.

And we SLEPT LATE the next day! What is this life of luxury that I'm living?!

Very first movie.

On Sunday, I took booger to see his very first movie! We have the first Shrek movie on the DVR at home, and he enjoys watching it from time to time. When I found out a new Shrek movie was coming out this summer, I figured it would be the perfect choice for his first movie in a real live theatre.

We got there just as the previews were starting and settled in to the first row behind the handicapped section. (That meant no seats were directly in front of us. Good, because he's a short little feller.) He was totally transfixed once the show came on. Shrek, donkey, and the dragon were all big hits. About 1:15 into it, he got a little restless. I asked him if he wanted to go home, but he said he wanted to stay and watch. So we did! He made it through the entire movie, and he seemed to be having a good time!

I wouldn't take him to anything much longer than 1:30, but if a movie is that or less, it's fair game!

Sultan of summer

On Friday night, Clay, hubs and I were playing in the back yard when we heard a noise. A noise that sounded suspiciously like an ice cream truck. Now, I've barely heard (or seen) an ice cream truck since I was a kid. They used to tour the neighborhood I grew up in every night. We'd all be playing outside, hear the faint jangly music, then scatter like leaves in the wind back to our own houses. We'd tear through the door shouting, "A dollar!! A dollar!!! I NEED A DOLLAR!!!" We'd rifle through the couch cushions or our piggy banks or mom's purse until we found the required sum, then dash back out the door to catch the pied piper of sweet, icy goodness.

Ice cream trucks don't come to the neighborhood we live in now. I've never seen one. So when we heard that siren song of frosty treats, I almost didn't believe it. Just in case, we grabbed some cash and headed out the front door. And there it was. A beat-up old van with "Ice Cream Truck" written clearly across the front, blaring its tinkly song, complete with a menu painted on the side.

Clay chose his very first ice cream truck treat, a Bugs Bunny pop. Hubs got a chocolate covered icea cream bar, and I had a yummy ice cream sandwich. By the time Clay got to the end of his treat, we'd put it in a bowl and given him a spoon, but he really did enjoy every bite!

Ahhhhh, summer!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Lean, mean cleaning machine!

Sometime on Saturday morning, hubs and I realized that our 15-year-old washer was no longer agitating. And not in that, "Hell, no! We won't go!" way. In the "I'm just going to sit here full of water and clothing and not wash anything," kinda way.

Now, when our matching dryer acted up a few years ago, we bought a few parts and fixed it. But on Saturday, we were in the midst of a busy weekend, the washer was not working AT ALL, and, quite frankly, I was ready for an upgrade. After checking out Consumer Reports, we headed to Lowe's and bought a Whirlpool Cabrio. It was one of the cheaper Cabrios, but it got great rankings in CR's testing.

They delivered it Sunday night, and I have been amazed at how much more clothing I can fit into a load. The new machine has a few fancy bells and whistles (It automatically senses how much water to add, based on how much clothing is inside.), and it's supposed to be much more energy efficient than our previous model. (We even scored a "green" state rebate on it! Woo hoo!)

Mainly, though, it's actually washing our clothing, which was a heckuva lot more than the old one was doing. What remains to be seen, though, is whether it will last 15 years, like our previous Whirlpool.

I can dream, can't I?

Snug in his bed

They delivered Clay's big boy bed last weekend! The delivery guys even set it up in his room, so hubs and I didn't have to put it together. (A plus for us, because we are tired, old and decrepit.) Clay immediately loved the fact that he could jump on the bed and watch himself in the dresser mirror. Due to that quality alone, the big boy bed became an instant favorite. He's slept in it every night since Saturday.

We were wary of his ability to actually stay on the bed throughout the night. We'd bought a set of rails, but we decided to create crash pads out of pillows on each side of the bed and see how it went for a few night before installing the rails.

Night #1 - fell out of bed two times. wailed like an Irish banshee set on fire each time.
Night #2 - fell out of bed two times. cried the first time. squawked the second time, then crawled back into bed and went right back to sleep.
Night #3 - not a peep.
Night #4 - not a peep.

We'll see how it goes tonight, but it's looking pretty good so far! We may just take the rails back to the store!

When I tiptoe back in to check on him before I go to bed, he's all snuggled up and looking angelic, his little golden head on the pillow, his soft fingers curled next to his face. I look at him, so small on the twin-sized mattress, and think about the day when it will probably be too short for him. One day, he'll probably need a double bed. Eeek.

Tonight, before he went to sleep, he said his prayers with me and asked God to bless all of his friends at school. Then, he looked at me and said, "Mama, you're my best friend." ~Sigh.~ There will be a day when he'll be embarrassed to walk through the mall with me. But for right now, I'm his best friend.

Grace is Gone - touching and real

I finally, FINALLY got around to watching Grace is Gone. It had sat in my DVR for a loooong time, and I got sick enough of seeing the title there that I settled in for a night of movie watching.

I really should have watched this film a long time ago. Grace is Gone stars John Cusack, Shelan O'Keefe, and Gracie Bednarczyk. As the film opens, we are introduced to Stanley Phillips (Cusack), a middle-aged man who is keeping the home fires burning with his two daughters while his wife, Grace, fights as a U.S. soldier in Iraq.

One morning after the girls have left for school, two uniformed officers knock on Stanley's door and inform him that his wife has been killed in action. Stanley is lost. Rather than tell Heidi (the eldest, played with precision by O'Keefe) and Dawn (a bubbly and sweet Bednarczyk) the horrible news when they arrive home from school that day, he decides to take them on a road trip to Enchanted Gardens, an amusement park in Florida. During the rest of the film, we follow Stanley and his two daughters as they navigate their way together and eventually connect.

Performances are what make this film. I thought Cusack, as always, was wonderful. He has an everyman quality in Grace is Gone that I really liked. Bednarczyk as Dawn was so peppy and natural, and she served as a wonderful foil to the darkness of the film. But the breakout star here is O'Keefe. Her quiet ways. Her unaffected mannerisms. The way she'd pull her small little mouth up. She did an amazing job as an actor. For such a young actor, her performance was nearly a miracle. I'm sorely disappointed that she hasn't put out another film since Grace is Gone (which was released in 2007), but I can totally see that she might want to go to high school and have a real life.

This film is really all about how this father finds his way with his children. It's poignant and sweet and delicate. If you haven't seen it already, I highly recommend it.

A strange (and awful) book

A while back, I needed to get an oil change. And the only time I seemed to have to get an oil change was on my lunch break. So, I headed to Banner Hall, grabbed a yummy lunch to go from Broad Street, and stopped by Lemuria to pick up a book I could read while I waited for my car at the shop.

I went in and told the lovely young lady behind the desk that I was looking for something funny. I mentioned a few funny books I'd enjoyed and named a few authors who I thought wrote funny material.

She led me to a shelf and handed me Life Is a Strange Place by Frank Turner Hollon. She said it was funny. Raves on the back of the book included an endorsement by Jill Connor Browne. I happily bought the book, in hardback, for $24.

Dude. I got ripped. I got about 50 pages into it at the auto shop before throwing it down completely in exasperation. None of the book makes sense. Other than an attempt to be completely bizarre (in a kind of "Meet the Parents" sort of way), I have no idea what Hollon's inspiration was for writing this kind of gross, nonsensical story about a character I have absolutely no concern for.

Here's the skinny - Barry Mundy only cares about sex. But after a particularly painful fight in a darkened movie theatre, he awakes in a hospital bed to find that his testicles are gone. This causes Barry to re-evaluate himself, and he sees that he hates his job, has no friends, and will never be a father. Then, he discovers that a previous one-night-stand with a woman he can't even remember has resulted in a pregnancy. He feels as if he's been given another chance, and he seizes the opportunity to turn his world around.

Throw in midget wrestling in a gay bar, a support group for men with genital mutilation, a jealous ex-girlfriend, an Asian exchange student, blocked toilets, dog turds, vomit and lewd scenes in showers, bathrooms, and the back seats of cars, and you've about got it.

And did I mention that it wasn't funny at all? Just WEIRD.

Against my policy of ONLY reading 50 pages of something if it sucks, I soldiered on. (That $24 investment had me wincing a bit.) It never really got any better. I wasted my time on this one, and I'm posting this review so you don't waste yours.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

From baby to boy

I'm crushed. My baby is turning into a little boy.

Booger will be 3 in July. And because he's practically hanging out of his crib, hubs and I decided to get him a big boy bed. (Sob!)

We went furniture shopping last weekend, and we will take delivery of a brand-new twin bed, plus mattress set, dresser and mirror, on Saturday. (My heart is breaking.)

We figured we may as well make it fun, so we're taking this opportunity to re-decorate booger's room in a safari theme. He loves animals, so we're painting the walls a goldy beige (I'll mix my tears into the paint.), ordering a few zebra/giraffe decals and sending him off into the African savanna.

I'm hoping that he won't be scared to sleep in his new bed, and I'm reallyreally hoping that he won't take this opportunity to go roaming around the house at night.

Mainly, though, I'm heaving big, deep sighs that he's old enough to sleep in a real live bed, and I'm hoping I'm smart enough to enjoy every minute that I have with him until he turns 14 and thinks I'm lame.


I see movies.

Watched two movies recently that I wanted to spout off about.

The first one was Up, the computer-animated feature that won all sorts of awards when it was released back in 2009. Carl Fredricksen (voiced perfectly by Ed Asner) is heartbroken over the loss of his wife, Ellie. The last holdout in a city block destined for high-rise office buildings, Carl is ousted from his home. Rather than turn over the house where he and his late wife enjoyed many years together, Carl ties thousands of helium balloons to the structure and lifts off for a grand adventure. Unbeknownst to Carl, however, over-eager scout Russell (Jordan Nagai) is trapped on the porch of the floating building. Begrudgingly, Carl teams up with Russell for a hair-raising, heart-warming caper through South America.

I loved this movie. LOVED. I laughed. I cried. I was completely charmed.

I'm not sure that very young children would understand many parts of the movie. Integral to Carl's character is the loss of his wife, which may make for some difficult explanations. However, the movie offers touching comment on love, loss and the true spirit of adventure.

This movie is sooooo worth seeing.

The second film I watched was Sunshine Cleaning, starring Amy Adams, Emily Blunt and Alan Arkin. Rose (Adams) is a young, single mother who works as a maid to keep body and soul together for herself and her son Oscar. But after Oscar gets kicked out of yet another public school, Rose finds herself in need of some quick cash to send him to a private academy.

Via the cop she's having an affair with, Rose finds out about biohazard removal/crime scene clean-up, a service that promises to bring in considerably more money than standard cleaning. She drafts her lay-about sister, Norah (Blunt), into helping her, and the two are on their way.

In many ways, this movie is about how the characters metamorphose to deal with the troubles in their lives. Each character grows throughout the film, and some of the scenes in which they exhibit that growth are beautiful to watch. By the end of the movie, Rose is a business owner who has found some self-confidence. Her father (Arkin), who hatches one crazy business scheme after another, is putting his money into something he believes in. Norah did less growing up, but Blunt performed so many of her scenes with such total credibility that I can hardly fault her.

Overall, I enjoyed this movie, though it's definitely not as accessible to audiences as Up.