Saturday, May 31, 2008

Surviving the Suzuki Concert

We had a Suzuki violin concert this week and when we came home, I just crashed on the couch! We've had rehearsals since last week, which required me to leave work at 3:30 (had to walk out of meetings), pick her up from one school and shuttle to another.

Last year in Kindergarten, her role in the concert was minimal, more of a demonstration. She doesn't even recall going to rehearsals. Also, during the concert last year Annika was extremely unfocused, looking around at everyone, missing her cues. We were quite frustrated.

As I said in a previous post, the difference between Kindergarten and First Grade is huge. This year, she had Twinkle variations and 3 songs under her belt. We were given a 4th song to learn, but not for the concert. I decided we would focus on refining the 3 songs. The other boy in her class, Andrew, is very good and picked up the 4th song.

A Suzuki concert is based on the Suzuki philosophy . They start with the advanced songs and continue to the beginner songs. They announce each song and whoever can play those songs will go to the stage.

In the parking lot, I saw two boys (1st and 3rd grade) getting out of their car. The older boy was hanging off the station wagon and trying to climb to the roof . (Since I don't have a boy, I don't get this urge they have to climb vehicles. I remember Annika at 3 giving her friend a bizarre look when he was climbing a car - what is wrong with you?) I felt a little bad for the mom who was trying to lock the car, balance the violins and pull these two boys off her car in the middle of the street.

On stage, these two boys were brilliant! The younger one walked around as if the violin was part of him. They both played at least 1-2 years ahead of their peers. They really were talented and serious when it came to music.

Anyway, at the previous night's rehearsal, the teacher asked Andrew (the classmate who knew the 4th song) to play on stage with the group. When they announced the 3rd song, Annika walked up to the stage. She was very excited and proud walking up there. Then she realized no one else walked up with her. She was distracted and worried, so she played badly.

I was feeling for her, and also blaming myself -- we should've practiced more, why didn't I teach her the 4th song, how can I make practices more interesting, why don't I leave work early so we have more time, I'm not supportive and loving enough during practices (I yell, threaten, beg, plead).

That night, Annika and I practiced a lot. She wanted to learn the 4th song so she could play it on stage the next day. I told her we could try it, but she won't be allowed to play on stage. Since the class stands on risers to perform, she stood on a stepstool at home.

The evening of the show was hectic and a lot of rushing to be there by 6:40. Unfortunately, family called that morning to say they couldn't make it for various reasons, though they were there in spirit. My husband was an hour away at a meeting. I was the cheering section.

Annika looked very pretty in a lavender spring dress and purple nailpolish ("Isn't it beautiful?" she said breathlessly). Once we got there, I had her warm up to the songs. One of the songs, she practiced in pieces, not completely. I had a flashback to my junior year in high school. I had to recite a French poem for a language competition. I kept rehearsing it in pieces, not completely. When the moment arrived, I stammered and forgot the poem. It was horribly humiliating and the biggest public speaking lesson of my life.

I told Annika to play the song in entirety. My mantra to her is "the more you practice, the better you are." She argued and said she didn't want to do that. I let her go. I have to, right?

The evening opened with one of the principals announcing she was a Suzuki parent, too. "I remember when my son was in 1st and 2nd grade and learning the cello. I used to hit the book on the floor so I wouldn't hit him! I know that's not the way to teach, but it was so hard. I must've done something right since he played all the way through high school and now is at L. College."

So it's not just me?

As we waited, Annika was bouncing and squirming in her seat. She whispered excitedly her stomach was in knots. When the 4th song came, she whispered that Andrew did not go and he was going to walk with her! However, she told me she noticed some other kids had walked up alone, too. So either way, she was fine. She needed that boost of confidence.

She was excellent! She wasn't distracted by the audience, played in step with everyone and really did her best. My husband arrived during the Twinkle finale, which has the children strolling and playing their violins. Her eyes lit up when she saw him. We all had punch and refreshments afterwards.

Do you see why I came home and crashed on the couch with a glass of wine?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Tudor Me

What a brilliant idea! Where else can you find adultery, political conspiracy, religious power plays, innocent executions than 16th century England? Plenty of opportunities for busted corsets, toppled heads and stunning costumes and tiaras.

I've started watching "The Tudors" during Season 2 and am totally absorbed. I read Antonia Fraser's book "The Wives of Henry VIII" a few years ago. I don't read historical nonfiction, but I was captivated by these historical events and the people involved. So, I considered myself somewhat of a "Henry VIII authority".

Now, with this series, Anne Boleyn lives again (full headed). I'm absolutely impressed with Jonathan Rhys Meyers who I still remember as the cute soccer coach that kissed Parmindar Nagra in "Bend it Like Beckham."I loved him in Woody Allen's "Matchpoint," where he really stepped up to the character portrayal. Now, as King Henry, his acting is flawless - he'll do a small movement such as a flick of a wrist or raise of an eyebrow. I'm always impressed with actors who show ranges of expressions on their face, not their words.
Then, there's Natalie Dormer who is devastatingly cute, but so passionate in every sense. She's brought Anne Boleyn alive as the woman who could persuade a king to create his own church and laws at any cost. And, she becomes a woman who steps into her role as Queen of England so confidently. I'm really going to miss her. We have to wait for Katherine Howard to come along for some more passion.

Now, there was a piece on NPR some time ago that history scholars were upset by the historical inaccuracies. The show's screenwriters say they're exercising creative license. I won't make a fuss that they changed a Mary to a Margaret because there already was one Mary. However, the language strikes me odd when they use modern curses and humor. For example, someone made a flippant remark about "bondage" as a kinky fetish. Yet, in 1500's, bondage was an interrogation technique. Also, if they used the swear words of that era, it won't have the same impact on the audience of today. It was religious blasphemies that were powerful, while today it's more sexual nature.

There as also a woman who protested the Catholic Church and she talked about their influence on people's bodies. I thought that was anachronistic.

One thing I remember from the book how complicated the King's "administration" became with every new wife. It was as if there's a new wave over the land, as his moods changed.

It's great to have a series that transports you to a different time and place.

If there are fans out there, can someone explain to me who the woman is that has to travel in a box? I missed something there.

Shaping Our Daughters

Grrls Can Do Anything -Right?
I've mentioned before that my daughter is a Hillary Clinton fan, and now there's a change in direction of the political winds. This is a good article,"The Hillary Lesson" by Peggy Orenstein on the impact of Hillary's campaign on our daughters.

Girls in white dresses with blue satin fishnets?
I've talked about the issue of media and self-esteem and being the antiBratz mom . I would encourage and invite the whole group of Disney Princesses than one slutty Bratz doll. Here's another interesting article "Little Girls Gone Wild" and how the marketers are aiming lower and influencing girls' images of their own sexuality and self.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Positive Momentum

Our lives go through cycles. And with each rotation, something new comes out -- we're much dizzier, but we know how to regain our balance better!

There's a quote from the dumbest source, the soap opera "General Hospital" that I remember from years ago: "Good times end just like bad times." I always keep that in mind when going through a bad period. Maybe that's the source of super-optimism. I shouldn't neglect to say it adds to my worries when things are good, I wonder how it will end.

This week has been rough with a midnight call from an old friend whose husband passed away after an illness. I've been crying for the mothers who pulled their lifeless babies out of the earthquake rubble in China.

On the other hand, I received an invitation to read my poetry in public reading this summer. (Will post details later!!). The people in my inner circle are making excellent strides in career and personal relationships. A few months ago, they were frustrated and negative about their situation, which inevitably takes a toll on their self-confidence. They asked, "How much longer do I have to take this?" And, the bad times ended.

When I learned to drive, my father complained I jerked a lot on the highway, especially over bends. We were on a roadtrip and he was jostled awake when he was to rest. He said, "These roads are designed by highly skilled engineers. Trust them that they know where they're going." In a way, I let go of trying to control the car and let the road lead me along the bends. I got it!

I applied that advice to the "road of life." We need to know where we're going, but we have to trust that we'll get there.

My father had another driving analogy. On the way to college, he said "Life is like driving on a highway. People will pass you, you'll overtake others. But you know where you're going and need to get there. Don't worry about them." So, when people start fretting about other's successes, I remember we're all cars on a highway and we'll just get where we need to.

My father also taught us how to change tires so we wouldn't get stuck. Fortunately, I haven't had to apply that advice. Thank you, AAA!

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Indigo Bubbles - The Green Issue

Every single magazine I pick up has a "Green" issue (once you remove the plastic wrapping encasing the magazine). By the way, the plastic wrap is there due to the loose postcards and inserts. Advertisers find it effective and the Post Office finds it annoying, which leads us to the plastic wrap. (Think of how much plastic and money they would save if the magazine publishers didn't have to spend on the extra step prior to mailing. Someone should do a Cost Benefit Analysis on this against the profit raised by the fall out postcard.)

Anyway, I've become very cognizant of my carbon foot print. And, living my suburban yuppie lifestyle, I've tried to incorporate a few measures.

We have an issue without garbage pick up. Our waste management company offers recycling pick up, but they've never come. We believe it's the awkward location of our house. Sadly, we have not been recycling. However, I'm remedying that situation!

o Newspapers and magazines come with me to work. My company recycles huge quantities of paper, and there's an agreement with the recycling company where we receive a bit of kick back from them based on the quantities. We use those extra funds for pizza for the holiday party. So, now my garage is clean, my company gets a little extra and paper gets recycled! Win-win-win!

o I am carrying my canvas totes to the store. I'm trying to leave them in the car so I have them when I need them. I found these bags shoved in my closet since they are freebies from conferences. These are excellent for heavy items like juice and milk! As for the plastic bags, my grocery store has a recycling bin. So, I'm collecting those in the garage, too. When shopping at the mall, I refuse new bags if I can combine into one bag.

o With the change of seasons, my daughter's growth spurts (and my recent weight loss!), I'm removing a lot of old clothes from our closets. I save some as giveaways to friends/family, or else I drop them off at the clothing collection boxes in the area. My husband likes using my daughter's soft old cotton tees for polishing the car.

o At work, my water bottle is a Snapple bottle with a rubber cover. This is great because I have dropped the bottle on occasion so the cover protects it. Plus, it's better to use the glass bottle since it can be washed.

o Plastic containers, oh how we desi women love them! I've got yogurt and sour cream containers, and a whole line of matching containers from Gourmet Wok. Ideal for takeaways after a dinner party. When my kitchen drawer becomes too full, I move them to my basement. I usually share my store with my mother who somehow loses the best of her containers. I also use rectangular containers for drawer separator as well as for small toys.

There have been other daily things we've done for years that are considered "being green."

o Before Select-A-Size paper towels, we were tearing paper towels in half to use. Also, get double uses out of one towel - if a towel was used to wipe a glass, use the same towel to wipe the counter or floor since it's a little wet. I realized the impact of this action when we had a family member staying with us and I needed to replenish the paper towel roll more frequently.

o Turning off excess water when brushing teeth or washing dishes. I've been aware of this since I returned from India in college. I realized how fortunate we are to having running water and try to use it wisely.

o Reuse plastic utensils. This is another Indian thing, which makes sense now.

o Share the love at work. We're particularly conscious of throwing away food when so many people don't have it. So, I bring in extra packets of teas, soy sauce, cookies, or whatever that comes my way and leave it in the lunchroom. It'll be gone before noon.

o Adopt Feng Shui . We're Feng Shui enthusiasts, and one of the key factors is to remove clutter. We try not to bring in new stuff unless there's a place for it. And, there has to be right place.

o Share the love with friends. Just about all of Annika's baby equipment (crib, bassinet, strollers, entertainers, chairs) are distributed among friends. We joke about how many babies have slept in her bassinet, since the average use is 4-5 months. I share the children's books she has outgrown, too. Her shelf is cleaner and has more space for the new books. Plus, it helps her learn to give and share. She gets very excited about designating who gets which book.

o We've been using fluorescent bulbs for a few years now, since we found them at Ikea.

o Save on office supplies. Currently, I've been receiving FedEx packs with CD inside. The sender is putting the CD in a bubble envelope and not really sealed. So, I'm saving those envelopes and I can slap a label and tape it up.

Visit Earth911 for lots of ideas. You can also plug in your zip code for recycling centers and services. Check out How Can I Recycle This for creative solutions.