Thursday, June 28, 2007

The agony is put to rest!

I got the news - I passed the comprehensive exit exam! Which not only means that I do not hold the distinction of being the first person in the TWU graduate counseling program to fail the exam (whew!), but also means that I get to graduate in August! Yay, me!!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

I heard on the Today Show that mobile phone salesman cum opera singer Paul Potts was the big winner of the show Britain's Got Talent. I saw a clip of the program and, try as I might, couldn't hold back the tears. Such a lovely voice. Such a surprising result. I'm no Anglophile, but I have the utmost apreciation for the decision to award this bashful belter.

In our fast-paced, in-your-face, youth-oriented, it-doesn't-thrill-me-unless-it-sets-off-the-burgler-alarm pop culture, I hold out no hope that an opera singer would ever win a televised talent search in the US. Especially a pudgy, middle aged opera singer. But the Brits loved this guy. They gave him a standing ovation. Even Simon had to smile.

Don't get me wrong - I love popular music. Spent some time with a cover band. But it was my early classical training that laid the foundation for any vocal skill I may profess today. The appeal of opera to me is the sheer difficulty of the art form. Sort of the same reason I am glued to the television during the olympics. Don't know a darn thing about snowboarding, but love to watch people do really difficult things really well.

You go, Paul Potts. Way to go!

A Freudian Slip?

I forgot the most important "first" of all! I took the exit exam for my master's degree earler this week. Basically, it is a monster of a comprehensive test that means the difference between graduating (and putting an end to this misery called graduate school) or not. No pressure.... Anyway, it was hard. Some of the questions may have just as well been written in Swahili, for all the familiar they were to me. For the first time in my life, I walked away hoping for a passing grade rather than an A.

The department secretary tells me it will take 3 to 6 weeks to get the results. Agony! I feel an ulcer coming on...

Some Firsts

Recent weeks have brought about some "firsts" for me. I love the exhilaration of trying new things - exotic food, cultural experiences, fresh faces - but I learned the hard way that not all firsts are fun.

My girls' dance studio does a cute thing at recital each year. For a nominal fee (and a whole lot of sweat equity), moms and dads can learn a dance routine with their child to perform on the big day. The not-so-little one talked me into dancing with her. Although I have appeared on stage many times as a vocalist, and I have even danced a bit while singing with my Sweet Adelines chorus, I have never really danced. It was a total blast, and I can't wait until next year! (Note: next year I plan to take about 20 lbs less of me on stage...)

My husband has danced with the girls for a few years, and we always get a big kick out of seeing all those middle-aged white guys "strut their stuff" in front of all the squealing moms in the audience. But this year was tops. This year the middle-aged white guys were transformed into hip-hop hotties, hamming it up to the likes of Justin Timberlake's Sexyback. I laughed so hard I could barely breathe when the pack of 'em came at the audience lipsynching, "This is why I'm hot... this is why you're not..." Unforgettable.

We took a short vacation to San Antonio last weekend to celebrate another first. The little one was being honored by the Texas PTA with Overall Achievement of Excellence for her entry of a choreographed dance. The entry did not place at nationals, but not a shabby accomplishment for a second-grader. She thinks it's pretty cool to be Best in Texas. I agree.

Another first for me was riding The Rattler with a high temperature. I have been sick for a few weeks, and fever spiked while walking around Fiesta Texas. It was probably 95 degrees and 98% humidity outside, and I was burning up from the inside out. I'm a roller coaster nut, but I was really hurting when I got off that ride. Bad idea...

Monday, June 11, 2007

Dancing and apples

My girls dance. I don't just mean in the living room. They have been studying ballet, tap, jazz, and lyrical for six years. The little one was two when she donned her first pair of ballet slippers. As she is petite, we had to go to a specialty shop to find real ballet tights in her size. I thoroughly expected them to attend class for a few months and lose interest. At their first recital, I held my breath and told myself it would be just fine if the little one wandered all over the stage and her older sister stood stiff as a board while the other ballerinas twirled around them. This was not the case. They danced, they really danced! And they smiled! And they came running off the stage shouting, "That was fun! Can we do it again?" We knew at that moment that we were in this for the long haul.

The not-so-little one served her first "sentence" in the performing company this year. Extra rehearsals, performances nearly every weekend, competition, convention... wore us all out and nearly broke the bank. At times it appeared she was in over her head - several of the girls have been competing for years. But she never lost heart, and she never stopped smiling. No one smiles like she does. A million watts that girl emits from the stage. You can barely see her dimples through the glow.

Maybe she never lost heart, but her mother did. You remember those girls I mentioned earlier, the ones that have been competing together for a while? Well, who knew they were members of an exclusive club, impervious to newcomers? No matter how hard my daughter tried to befriend these girls, there was no breaking through. During rehearsals the "core" would gather in a little circle, point at the other girls, and snicker. Prior to contest they would ridicule the girls who were "holding them back." At performances they would stand apart from their teammates. Even in the dressing room at the recital this weekend they marked their territory. And yesterday at the celebratory swim party, to which all the company girls were invited, the snubbing continued. There is nothing more heartbreaking than watching your daughter repeatedly swim up to a group of girls, hang out in the periphery, try fruitlessly to join in the conversation, and quietly swim away again. She had to tell them "goodbye" twice to get a response. And yet she insists that she had a good time.

Let me tell you, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. There was one mother who tried to join the other moms, couldn't get a word in edgewise, and stood quietly watching from the periphery. Whether we were inside or out, we always seemed to be one chair shy of what we needed, so that one mom was left standing. I'm sure you can guess which mom was the "outsider." Thankfully this mom is mature enough and experienced enough to walk away relatively unscathed. It is easy for this mom to write these women off. She only has to see them occasionally. But this mother also knows that so much more can be accomplished when a team works together - whether we are talking about the players (the dancers) or the support staff (moms).

Don't worry - I didn't rescue. I stood by all year, watching in silence as my child was ridiculed and ignored by the "core." It's her lesson to learn, after all. But I sometimes wonder why we take this attitude about emotional injury when we wouldn't dream of just standing by and watching our children get burned by a fire or chop their little fingers off with a knife. Do we really believe that psyches heal that much more quickly than body parts?

Thursday, June 7, 2007

What happened?

When the not-so-little one was a toddler, she breezed right through the terrible two's, thumbing her nose at them as if to say, "Not me!" She was a wonderful toddler, and I foolishly thought I had something to do with it. As if I had unearthed some deep, dark, highly-coveted secret to parenting toddlers. When her sister, the little one, came into the world, I knew I had everything under control. After all, I was Supermom, able to leap small two-year-olds in a single bound. Alas, the little one proved me wrong 10 times over. She followed all the rules of terrible two-dom, and invented a few of her own. (I fished her out of the fireplace twice...) I removed the little one from the fireplace, threw the parenting book I was writing directly into it, and used it to bake my humble pie...

Then they started school. I began to get those nasty little notes from the teachers telling me that my sweet, quiet, self-sufficient firstborn was talking - a lot! She was disrupting the classroom. And yet the little one wasn't bringing home those notes. She was allegedly an angel. Huh?! No way! This was the polar opposite of what we were experiencing at home. Those teachers were obviously whack. Maybe they had the two mixed up somehow. Oh, wait, they aren't the same grade level...........

As if all of that weren't confusing enough, they've turned the tables on me. The not-so-little one has become argumentative (we call her the Negotiator), demanding, defiant, and just plain ol' gripy. At home. She seems to have conned the teachers into thinking she is perfect. The little one, on the other hand, is helpful, sweet, and generally easy going. At home. Now she's bringing home those nasty little notes...

What's the deal?! How did this happen? How am I supposed to function in such a chaotic system? Doesn't it seem to you other parents out there that the rules keep changing? Sheesh.... well at least for now all is calm on the home front. They're asleep.