Check Out What Our 6th Grade Son Says When We Ask Him to Take Ballroom Dance Class

We’ve been thinking about signing up Davy for ballroom.  It’s two days a week after school, and they desperately need boys.   But we weren’t sure whether Davy would be game for it.

IMG_3557

Davy in his natural habitat.

Davy is our boy who begged not to go to the Jane Austen play.  Davy hates classical music.  Davy is not a big fan of art museums. Davy is more of a bottlerocket, swimming, fireworks, airsoft gun kind of boy, and he is not what you would call a passive resister.  So even though we weren’t sure how Davy would respond to our ballroom class invitation, we had a pretty good idea.

We decided to put a hidden camera in the room.  (More like the captain pretended to be playing his Word Scramble game on his phone).  As you can tell, this is very unrehearsed.  If it were rehearsed, I would not have walked right in front of the camera at the beginning.  If it were rehearsed, we would not have had screaming children in the background.  If it were rehearsed, my voice would not have sounded quite so squeaky.  But here is how it all went down.         

Ha!  Ha!  

 

 

Should I Force My Sixth Grader to Take Ballroom Dance Classes?

I went to my first Back to School Night last night without children.  (They weren’t invited, bless that wise administrator.)   There were several sign-up booths out in front flanked with recruiters.

good painting 015

My sixth grader.

I stopped at the after school ballroom dance program table.  “So you’re teaching ballroom, huh?” I asked.  “That is so cool.”

“Yes.  Is your child a boy or a girl?” she asked anxiously.

“A boy.”  I wish I could have captured her reaction on camera.  It was seriously better than a Bob Barker, You just won a new car! moment.

“”What grade is he in?”  she asked.

“Sixth,” I answered.  And now she just won the new refrigerator, the patio furniture, and the trip to Europe.  Even I was getting a rush out of this and wondered why I had never considered game show hosting before.

“Do you think he will want to do ballroom?” she asked.

“No,” I answered.  “He will hate it, but he’s not the decision maker on this matter.”

Another lady interrupted us.  Rude.  (Obviously, she had not been reading enough of her Jane Austen lately.)

“So can my daughter sign up?” she asked.

“There is a very long waiting listing for the girls,” the recruited rather curtly.  “We only have five boys that have signed up.”  Then she looked hopefully back at me.  Maybe six.

This intrepid lady was not about to give up though.  “When my daughter took lessons before, they let her dance without a partner.  Couldn’t she dance without a partner?” she begged.  How sad is that?

DSC_0285

Girls love to dance. If only they could find a partner!

“No,” said the recruiter firmly.  “They will be entering competition, and they must have a partner.”  Then she smiled again at me.

How could I let this recruiter down? I signed my boy up although there was a still thinking about it escape clause included.

I told the captain all about it when I got home.

“What are you trying to do?” he asked.  “Torture the boy?”

Now if this was year 1798, my husband would not have said this. He would have said something like, “Well done, my lady, and will our chap be learning the quadrille as well?”

But my husband had just finished a game of Word Scramble on his phone and so he was not at all in a Regency England mindset.  I should have whipped out the Jane Austen and started reading to him right there.

But instead, I tread carefully.  “Well,”  I said.  “I was thinking maybe we could strike up a deal with Davy.  Maybe we could agree that if he will do ballroom dance, we will also sign him up for the Lego Robotics class and the snowboarding class.”  (Just so you know, I am not usually so gung-ho on extra-curricular activities.  The fact that our new school is in walking distance from our house has dramatically changed my opinion about the value of these activities.)

“I don’t know,” he said.  “That’s a tough sell.”

So I lost my nerve, and I haven’t even pitched the ballroom classes to my sixth grader yet.

What do you guys think?  Should we try to get him to do it?  Do we need to bribe him?  Or twist his arm?

Why Don’t Young People Know How to Talk to Each Other?

We recently visited our pediatrician.  He serves in a church congregation of single people, and he told me how hard it was to get the men and women talking to each other.  Many of the guys had never asked a girl out, and they didn’t have plans to ask any girls out either.

20140605_195827

A few of our dear friends that were recently married.

The local church finally started a social skills class on Wednesday nights.   The men and women practiced role playing different social scenarios with each other.  Guys were taught that texting was not an acceptable way to ask girls out on dates.   The guys were also encouraged to shower.

Our pediatrician said that before the class, their congregation was seeing about 10 marriages a year.  But since starting the class, marriages had jumped up to 45 marriages that year.

Amazing, isn’t it?

I asked him why he thought these singles needed these classes.  He said that young people spend so much time on their phones, their iPods, the internet, and video games that many have not learned how to interact with other people.

He also told me that children are now on average spending seven hours of screen time a day in front of a screen.   The American Association of Pediatrics recommends that children be exposed to less than two hours of screen time a day.

So what does all of this have to do with Jane Austen?  Austen lived at a time where good manners were essential.  How you interacted with other people reflected on your upbringing, your station, and even your character.

It helped parents that they didn’t have to worry about limiting their children’s screen time.  But children were taught not to interrupt each other.  They were taught not to slump and they were taught to look at their superiors when they were being scolded.  Both boys and girls were taught how to dance with each other, and boys were taught that they must ask the girls to dance.  If the boys sat out on too many dances, they were considered rude, and would be subject to the town’s gossip. 

Jane Austen understands these rules, and she plays with them.  That’s why her books are often called a comedy on manners.  You see just what fools people make of themselves when they don’t live by these rules. And that’s why they are so fun to read with our children.  Not only can they laugh at those that are completely clueless, but our kids can become just a bit more clued in themselves. 

Our elementary school is teaching after-school ballroom dances.  Do you think we should encourage our 6th grader to go?

Let me rephrase that.  Do you think we should require our 6th grader to go?

Why Don’t Men Read More Female Authors?

We took our boys to see the plays Henry IV Part I and Sense and Sensibility.    

But while Shakespeare is considered the universal playwright, Austen is supposedly the pioneer of chic lit.  Why is Austen so often categorized as a women’s writer?  

DSC_0247

 

It’s not fair.  

Henry IV is hardly a play that gives equal attention to the sexes.  While the men play a king, a prince, several earls, and a fat guy that steals the show, the women play a wench, a few singing Welsh women, and a wife.  They have maybe 1% of all of the lines of the play.  None of these women have any power or influence.  Only men are allowed in the rooms where the politics are really going on.      

Sense and Sensibility, the girlie book, is stuffed with male leads.  There’s the charming, but untrustworthy Willoughby, the ever loyal Colonel Brandon, the stumbling but endearing Edward Ferrars, and the loud and generous Sir Middleton. The male leads are actually given quite a few lines which just proves that a woman wrote the story because we all know that men don’t talk that much.  (But Austen can feed women their deepest fantasies, can’t she?  A man that reads poetry? Sigh.) 

While I had no problem going to see Henry IV, my youngest boy threw fits about Austen while the other two seemed uneasy about it, like they were worried someone they knew might see them going into the theater.  

After the play was over, I asked my oldest what he thought.  He was sitting in the passenger seat of our van, looking out the window.

“I liked it,” he said.  

“You did?!” I answered too excitedly.

“I mean, well actually, you know Austen is all the same though.  It’s like the same plot every time.  Why did she have to write six books?  She could have just written one.”

“You liked it!” I sang.  Ha! Ha!   

I can’t think of a time where Austen is more relevant, especially to boys.  The book/play is a comedy of manners, and Austen’s whole message seems to be, “This is how you treat people.”

Be polite even when you’re feeling cross.

Help your local farmer when he’s stuck int he mud.

Ask people about themselves.   

My youngest son was still groaning about the play afterwards,but today, when I stopped on the side of the street to pick him up from school, he asked, “Should we offer those girls a ride?  They live in our neighborhood.”  Then he actually rolled down the window and did it.   Money well spent if you ask me.  

Do you know men or are you a men that read books written my women?  What are some of your favorite books? 

 

And Your Kids Can Enjoy Shakespeare Too!

Phew!  I’m here at the library if you can believe it.  Alone.  I don’t know what to do with myself.  Ah, but I do!
 
We had a breakthrough this weekend, and I can’t wait to tell you all about it.  As you know, I’m a blogger with great ideas, but the execution is a bit challenging.  But this 101 children’s classics idea had to be a sure winner.  After all, I love to read, and it’s such a noble goal to read 101 classics to my kids, right?  But then I posted sporadic entries moaning about how crazy life was and that government institutions were requiring birth certificates and immunization records, and everyone must think I am very good at filling out forms because they sure keep handing them to me.  It was hard to get to that reading.      
 
DSC_0247

We made it to the festival!

Ah! But then there was light.  We went to the Shakespeare Festival in our big red van, and as much as they tried, the boys just couldn’t wander off too far from me.  Grabbing the opportunity, I told them all about Henry IV Part One.  Either I was a good story teller, or else I had seized all of their iPods (it’s hard to tell), but I actually held their attention!    
 
Henry IV is such a guy’s play. 
 
You’ve got Hotspur who acts like he’s all that and wins all of his battles, but he has a really hard time keeping control of that temper! He’s also dealing with anxiety and even trying to stave off depression.  He’s basically an insecure jock.
 
Then you’ve got Prince Hal who is your classic underachiever.  He’d rather party than face his royal responsibilities.  Deep down he has no respect for his loser friends, and he despises himself for not manning up.  But when he does finally accept his noble birthright, he is a shining star.   
 
Hotspur stages a rebellion against the prince and everyone must choose sides fast!  Then you add Gandalf, a crazy king, some good Welsh/Elvin songs, a funny fat guy, thieves, lots of sword play, and you’ve got something boys like.  You also know where Tolkien got all of his ideas.  
 
DSC_0268

Debi loving the puppet show!

Here’s an example of how to summarize a scene of Shakespeare so your kids will get it.   
 
“So Hotspur is now freaking out because his dad and Gandalf are not showing up to the battle.  The only guy that is showing up is the spy.   Hotspur’s all,  ‘So is Prince Hal so drunk he’s falling off of his horse?’  The spy answers  ‘The prince looks GRRRR-e-a-t!  Like a knight in shining armour!  A Greek God!’  So yeah, Hotspur is flipping out now, but he’s still got to hold it together for the rest of the team.”  
 
My boys get these characters, and they want to know how Hal and Hotspur deal with all of their emotional junk.  The two H’s have got to keep up a good front while still trying to suppress their fear, failure, jealousy, and self-doubt. Shakespeare’s really good at showing that internal struggle which is one of the reasons he’s a certified genius.  Sure beats Ironman.
 
Anyway, the story captured my boys.  They want to be cool, win their games, pull off a good practical joke, and find some awesome friends.  Henry IV teaches them how to do all of that.  
 
DSC_0256

I had to get these two girls together. Aren’t they beautiful?

We got to the play in plenty of time to fish and chips, smoked turkey legs, and shortbread.  
 
Did the boys actually like the play that night?  Some more than others.  The captain loved it too and then shared some brilliant insights that were worthy of a PhD dissertation.  
 
Am I going to count this as one of their 101 Classics?  Yes!  After all, they heard the whole play did they not?  

Really, Seriously, I Do Have Control Over My Life

Keeping up with this blog has been harder than I thought.  So has reading with my children.  Life is just too crazy.

IMG_3636

Yesterday I was at the grocery store picking up a few things, and I noticed that their Tide Detergent was only $8 if you had the online coupons.  Not understanding how this worked, I took the detergent up to the register where the clerk told me that I could print off their online coupons and then bring them into the store for extra savings.

“Wait a minute,”  I said.  “So I need to go home and print the coupon off and then come back here to get the discount?”  The clerk acted like this new policy was very reasonable.  I don’t know if he felt that way after I left the Tide detergent with him at the checkout.

I called yesterday to see if the mountain of paperwork had finally been approved so that Ben could run cross country.   He had a meet that day.

“It hasn’t even been to committee yet,” the lady answered.  What?  This transfer student request has to go to a committee?  Who pays these guys?

Oh and did you know that if you call Comcast to order services, not only do you get to talk to a robot at the beginning of your call, but you get to talk to a robot at the end of your call too?

These little annoyances each day add up and take away precious time, and I struggle to not let it get me down.

But I’m still trying, finding pockets of time to read at least to Deborah.  We checked out a stack of Brothers’ Grimm Fairy Tales from the library this week.  It seemed a decent way to prepare for our trip to Germany next month.

It’s truly a delight to read to her.  I love snuggling.  Feeling closer to her.  We found this darling comic strip style book at the library.  It’s really hysterical although a lot of it went over Debi’s head.  Still, we both got a good laugh out of it.  And there were no cable companies, coupons, or committees involved.  You guys have got to check it out!

61CfDri-rCL

Since When Did School Registration Become Such a Nightmare?

I set out to read 101 children’s classics to my kids.  I figured I had another fourteen years, and I could use picture books if I was falling behind.  This goal seemed noble, wonderful, and quite reasonable.  IMG_3050

But then I had to register my children for school.  There were a gazillion forms and many documents I had to produce.  We needed birth certificates to prove my children were born, vaccination records to show they didn’t have polio, and utility bills to show we weren’t trying to sneak in from Spanish Fork.  

I admit that I’m not highly proficient when it comes to filling out forms and producing documents.  The secretary always returns the form to me, saying I forgot to filling in this part or sign here or that my handwriting is completely illegible. Which is totally not true.  I taught myself calligraphy in the eighth grade.  

On Thursday, I tried to reason with a school secretary.

“Can’t we still at least let Eli choose his classes today?”  His back to school night was that night, and it would be nice if he could meet his teachers.  

“I cannot let him meet with the counselor until we have all of his vaccination records.”

“I just had his vaccination records yesterday.  But I have them in this big folder with birth certificates and forms and utility bills and I have five kids and—“

“We can’t do anything until we have his vaccination records.”  

“But I’m taking another son to the doctor tomorrow.  I could get the vaccination records then.  You would have it before school starts. Can’t he select his classes today?”

“I am sorry but we cannot process anything until we have those vaccination records.”  

And then I started bawling.  I told her about how tough our move was, but the secretary didn’t soften one bit, and that’s when I started to wonder if I was talking to a robot.  

Whatever the case, this woman was one formidable gatekeeper. 

As you can imagine, I’m not a huge fan of gatekeepers.  I’m the kind of girl that looks for a place to climb the fence. Naturally, I don’t get along with librarians, secretaries, German airline ticketing agents, or anyone that asks for a form of I.D.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I find all of this stuff so draining.  Am I the only one who finds it so?  Trying to get our son registered for cross country was another ordeal.   They required us to register online where they asked me what I had done on September 3, 1978.  

OK, so it wasn’t that bad, but close.  It was one of those deals when you get stuck on a page, and it won’t let you advance, and you have no idea why, and there is no one to call for help.  Fortunately for me, I could call the captain, and he got it straightened out.   He also has the scanning documents skill set, which this registration also required.  

However, on Friday, the day before his race, we got an e-mail saying that because the scanned transcript wasn’t official, the application had not been approved.  

“What?” captain asked.  “The registration specifically said that the transcript did not have to be official.”  

“Welcome to my world,” I said.  So Ben did not get to run in his first meet, the meet that might have helped him get to know a few kids before school started.  

Sorry about the whining.  I guess the point I’m trying to make is that I sometimes get frustrated because I have this vision of what I want to do, but I get so inundated with demands, requirements, deadlines that the things that want to do always get put on the back burner.

I was so tired last night, that I asked Eli at 9:00 p.m. if he could put Deborah away.  And no, I hadn’t read to her.  

The kids busted up. It wasn’t that funny.  Still, on the bright side, there was one wonderful secretary who got Eli’s vaccination records faxed over from the doctor’s office.  They were faxed before I hung up the phone with her, and next time I see her, I am going to HUG her.  We did finish Charlotte’s Web this week.  We started Heidi, although it reads like a grown up book to me.  I read many chapters of The Whipping Boy to one pouting son and started A Wrinkle in Time.  

Maybe I’m doing better than I think.  

What things drain you?  

We Made It to Shakespeare!

So last time I talked about how excited I was to go on my Shakespeare trip with my friend and then how bummed I was when she told me she didn’t think she could go (after I bought the non-refundable tickets).

The worst part was that she couldn’t give me a yeah or nay until the night before we had to leave.  Yeah, and I’m not so good at suspense.  I love it in a Masterpiece! Mystery, but dealing with suspense in real life is the pits!  Inspector Poirot never had to figure out whether or not to hire babysitters or whether or not to book a hotel or whether or not to RSVP to a wedding dinner scheduled smack in the middle of Henry IV.

In the end, my friend was able to go.  Everything fell into place.   We laughed a lot on the way down.  I felt like a giddy nineteen year old again, and unlike my boys, my friend thought me hysterically funny!   I loved the plays so much that I booked tickets in two weeks for the fam.  I’ll be writing about those as soon as I have some time.

shakespeare

We made it!

picture

Little Mermaid at Tuachan was fabulous and Ursula stole the show!

That went over really well.

“Hey guys, I thought we’d take a little family vacation to Cedar City and see some Shakespeare.”

“No-ho-ho,” as the boy make fake gestures of dying.  And he claims he’s not a thespian!

“Well it’s not all Shakespeare.  We’ll be seeing a Jane Austen play too.”

“What?! That’s even worse!”  But I know he’s secretly excited.  Anyway, he will not be able to claim that something’s come up, and he won’t be available to go.   We ARE going!

Yeah!!!!!

Just so you know, I have yards and yards and yards of stuff I want to write.  But school registration and broken dishwashers and loads of doctor’s appointments have kept me pretty busy.  Please stay in touch with me because next week the kids will be in school and I will have two hours to myself everyday.  I can’t wait!

What’s been a favorite road trip you’ve taken with a friend.

What Moms and Pulled Taffy and Apparently Spiders Have in Common

I’m back!  I was on a bit of a vay-cay last week, and boy did I need one!  One morning I just thought, “I need to go to the Shakespeare Festival,” and then I was calling a good friend and booking tickets.  (I had invited the captain to come, being the literary genius that he is, but he had to work. Thank you, good captain for always manning the fort.)  

december 012

We give up a lot for these precious vessels.

I booked decent tickets for Henry IV, great tickets for Comedy of Errors, and the best seats in the house for Sense and Sensibility!  I couldn’t believe it!  We were going!  

And I should have known better than to say at dinner, “I’m so happy, happy, happy! I can’t believe I’m going to the Shakespeare festival!  I can’t wait, I can’t wait, I can’t wait!  This is the best day ever!”

Did I not remember the movie where the guy said, “This is the best day of my life!”  

Did I not remember the captain whispering to me, “It’s all going down hill from here!”  I about dumped my whole bucket of popcorn on the captain for thinking such negative thoughts, but he was right.  The happy guy got struck by a bolt of lightening twenty minutes later.  Captain has some amazing prophetic abilities when it comes to film and literature which means that he can be a bit of a downer when I drag him to the local Cinemark.    

Anyway, I forgot all of this while I was chirping like a bird, singing little ballads about my upcoming Shakespeare trip, and the Cap didn’t say one word to me.  But he thinking it.  I know he was thinking it, because the next morning I received this text from my friend.  “Something’s come up, and I don’t think I can go.”  

What???!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Her family needed her at home, and I couldn’t help but think, “Oh my goodness, this very thing happened in Charlotte’s Web!”  

1 charlotte's web

Wilbur, the pig, needs Charlotte, the spider, to go with him to the state fair so she can weave a web over his head that says, “Humble” and everybody at the fair will come to Wilbur’s stall and the judges will sigh in wonder and Wilbur will win first prize and Mr. Zuckerman won’t butcher Wilbur for bacon.  

So the spider here is critical.   

But the spider’s not sure she can go to the State Fair because she’s got to lay all of those 514 eggs.  In order words, her maternal duties are calling.  

I wonder if E.B. White meant to hit on such a big issue.  This is a children’s book, but wow, does he nail it on some major women’s issues.  Don’t we all feel this tension as mothers?   Don’t we feel like that taffy we see buying pulled at the fair?  We want to help our friends.  We want to leave our mark on the world.   But our children need us.  And our kitchen sink really needs us.  Pull, pull, pull.  Stretch, stretch, stretch.  Sigh.  The only solution is to eat lots of pulled taffy.

Must sign off!  The children are calling!

When have you felt most pulled between motherhood and friendship and just trying to be a decent super hero in general?   

Tune in tomorrow for the rest of this cliff hanging story!  

 

Why Moms May Need Friends Most of All

Our children’s books are filled with great friendships, and I’ve been quite moved by the sweet relationship of Charlotte and Wilbur in Charlotte’s Web. 

My dear friend from high school, Melissa,  was moving to the East Coast, and she tried to gather us all for one last hoorah! before she left.  We were supposed to meet for lunch—it would be about a 35 minute drive for me, very doable, but then life happened, and I told them all I couldn’t make it.  Another friend was depending on me for a ride, and in the end, the lunch just didn’t happen. I assured everybody that as soon as things “settled down,” we’d have to get together again.  We never did, and now Melissa  lives in Virginia.  I look back and the reasons I decided I couldn’t go now seem pretty trivial.  Yes, we were trying to get our house ready to show, but you know, I could have made it all work,  and the house would have still sold if I had gone to lunch.  But I missed an opportunity to reconnect with those dear women.  Goodness, Melissa and I were going through the same emotional draining experience of a move, and I could have cried on her shoulder or at least laughed about it all.   Instead, I decided to tackle my challenges alone, thinking friendship needed to be saved more sunnier days.   And yet friendship is just what makes our days sunny.

securedownload

So, when a friend called the week we were moving in, saying she was going to only be in town for the week, I guess I wised up.  When she came, my dryer wasn’t working, the lawnmower wasn’t working, there wasn’t a lot of food in our fridge, and except for a few public spaces and our underwear drawers, our house was still mostly unpacked.

She had her concerns too—the usual, “One of my kid’s is snotty, and the other has diarrhea,” but I told her it didn’t matter.  Come anyway.

We hung out together all day, just like teenagers.  We even ordered pizza.  And then we really talked.  We didn’t talk just about the surface stuff, but about the stuff that really mattered—our families, great books, religion, God, and the crazy world we lived in.

I was already appreciative that she read my blog, and frequently left comments, but I was really touched when she said she was actually doing some of the things I promised you guys I was going to start doing.  She was playing tennis twice a week with a friend, while I am sure I’ll be getting to that any day now.  She was teaching her son to be a gentleman and open doors for her, where I had kind of forgotten that goal.  And she had already finished Charlotte’s Web, listening to in on the way from California to her kids.

“What?” I asked incredulously.

“Well you told us we should read it.”

“Well I haven’t even finished it yet!” I retorted.  “I should have finished it first!”  She shrugged her shoulders.

So basically, Rach and I are are the yin and the yang—I come up with the ideas, and she actually executes them.  So I got back on track with Charlotte’s Web.  Tennis, anyone?

Seriously guys, friendships and happiness are closely linked.  Get the list on happiness here.

How do your friends help you?