I’ve been taking ballet classes for one week now (a total of 5 classes), and it’s been a lot of fun. Tiring, but fun. There are a lot of things that come fairly naturally to me, but because I’m not as thin as I should be, a lot of things are difficult too. I find stretching and pointing my toes fairly intuitive, but doing the demi-plie (dem-ee plee-ay) and even more so the grande plie, are quite difficult for me.
Left: First Position Center: Demi Plie Right: Grande Plie
The classes are teaching me a lot. It’s especially nice because I’m taking classes at two different studios, so I’m getting a variety of methods of instruction. I can see how this might be good or bad, but because I don’t have aspirations to become a world famous ballerina (lol), I’m totally okay with “good enough.” I’m thrilled to simply be learning the basic techniques of the art of ballet, even if I never get the opportunity to really do anything with it because of my age and current physique.
So, what have I learned? Ballet moves, obviously. Some French terminology, since ballet originated in France. And perhaps most surprising to me, that even when you’re barely moving at all doing the ballet moves, you get really hot and sweaty! It’s such a workout for the muscles that even when you move slowly, it’s definitely not an easy, low impact task. One of my classes focuses more on technique, and I sweat slightly less in that class; the other focuses on choreography, and we move all over the dance floor in that class, so by the end, I’m definitely ready for some cool air.
If you’ve ever considered learning ballet, I highly recommend it, even if you’re older and not in that great shape. It’s very rewarding. So rewarding, in fact, that we started taking the boys to the “Boys Dance and Movement” class where they learn ballet and gymnastics basics, and which is immediately followed by the Partnership class where they truly become male ballet dancers themselves, lifting and holding the ballerinas during their jumps. In just one short week, this has truly become something our whole family enjoys doing.
My favorite classical composer is one who is often forgotten these days: Gioachino Rossini. He was a master of opera in his day, writing over 35 operas in barely 20 years. When I was in high school concert band, we played a few of Rossini’s overtures (the part of the opera that the orchestra plays before the actors come on stage – the “opening credits,” so to speak), and my very favorite one was L’Italiana in Algieri – The Italian Girl in Algiers. The piece was difficult, but once mastered, it was so beautiful that it quickly became my favorite, and remains thus to this day. Outside of the overture, though, I knew nothing of the rest of the opera.
A few months ago, we looked up Rossini operas, thinking that it might be something we’d (well, I’d) enjoy since I already love his music so much. The closest one was in Paris. That’s a bit far for a date, so we tabled the idea for a while. Then randomly a few weeks later, Will checked again, and guess what? The local opera house was doing a Rossini. But not just any Rossini opera… The Italian Girl in Algiers. We bought tickets about a month out from the event, and anxiously awaited the date.
When the time came, we left the kids with a babysitter (Seahawk is capable of babysitting, but we didn’t want to pressure him by leaving him alone with the littles – especially the baby – for so long by himself) and left for our date. We dressed in our formal clothes and had dinner at one of our favorite places. Then we headed into the big city for the opera. We arrived in time for the pre-show, which was quite interesting. It was a college professor giving a speech on both the composer and the opera. She also explained a bit of the director’s vision for this particular rendition so we wouldn’t be taken aback. (It was an interesting blend of current and timeless.) After the pre-show, we headed up to our seats – officially the “worst seats in the house.” To stay on budget, we were seated in the very back row of the second balcony. Our seats were a tiny fraction of the cost of anything on the orchestra level. Even though we were so far away, though, the way the theater was set up, our view was still great.
The story of L’Italiana in Algeiri is one based in reality in that it takes place during the early 1800s when the countries of northern Africa were taking Italians captive as slaves. The opera opens with Elvira, the wife of the Bey (king), in despair that her husband no longer loves her. Mustafa, her husband then comes in and confirms her laments; he talks to Haly (his servant) and tells him that not only is he tired of his wife, but he’s also tired of the rest of his harem. He wants Haly to find him an Italian girl. Haly is given six days to accomplish the task. All of these characters exit, and Lindoro (an Italian captive, and my favorite character) comes in to clean up the mess. He sings an aria about his lost love, Isabella. Mustafa comes in and tells him that he’s got a wife for Lindoro – the queen, Elvira. They have a comical duet where Lindoro tries to explain that he doesn’t want a wife because he loves Isabella, but Mustafa convinces him that the woman he has in mind for Lindoro is wonderful in every way.
The scene changes after Lindoro’s aria, and we meet Taddeo and Isabella, Italians who have been captured by Haly and his men. Haly is sure that Isabella is the perfect Italian girl for Mustafa, so he has kidnapped her and is taking her to be the king’s new woman. Taddeo, Isabella’s lover, is captured simply for having been with Isabella at the time. To keep both of them safe, they decide to pretend to be uncle and niece rather than lovers. The first act ends with a huge number featuring all of the characters singing about their various situations – Elvira mourning the loss of her husband, Lindoro and Isabella shocked at the sight of each other, Taddeo still trying to figure out what’s going on, and Mustafa and Haly talking about how perfect Isabella is for the Bey.
The second act focuses on Isabella’s plan to escape with Lindoro (you see, she was THE Isabella he sang about during his solo). At the same time, Mustafa makes Taddeo his “kaimakan” (kye-mah-kin) – essentially a made-up title meaning “second in command.” Taddeo is given a new uniform to wear to denote his position, and he asks Mustafa if he was given this position simply to impress Isabella, whom the king has decided he loves. His answer is a resounding, “Of course!” Meanwhile, Isabella and Lindoro come up with a crazy idea to distract the king so that they can escape together back to Italy. They will tell the king that Isabella wants him to be a “papataci” (pa-pa-tah-chee). This is another made-up title, and it means that the king will join the ranks of Isabella’s own male harem (basically). His job as a papataci will be to eat, drink, sleep, and enjoy Isabella’s company. He readily accepts, and the plan is in place. Lindoro keeps Mustafa occupied while Isabella plots their escape. The opera ends with Isabella telling Mustafa that she and Lindoro are leaving and that he should get back together with his wife. And they all do just that.
Prior to attending this opera, I had no idea that some operas are comedies, but this one definitely is. There are so many funny parts (and my summary didn’t really do justice to any of them). While L’Italiana was produced by the local opera house here, very few of the main players are actually from around here, which actually made it feel even more “legit” than it already did. The cast and crew hailed from all over the world (the man who played Mustafa is from Cairo, Egypt), including the director, who is German.
I’ve rambled on far too long for one post already, but I have more I want to say, so I’m going to add more in a post next week. The focus of that one will be “why I think you should go to the opera (and take your kids with you).” I hope you’ll join me for that one.
Baby Dragonfly had his first experience at the beach last week. He’s the only one of our children to not hate the feeling of the sand. (The others like it now, but always freaked out when they were babies.)
While we were there, Will and the big boys decided to build a sandcastle. Overall, a fun day for everyone.
Many of the blogs on the list of blogs that I read (fairly) regularly are other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew. One blog in particular, Mom’s Heart, has been writing along with the 52 Lists linkup created and hosted by Chasing Slow. I didn’t realize until recently that it was a “public” linkup, but now that I know, I’m going to work on including one of these posts each week. (I don’t know exactly what I thought it was. Some sort of by-invitation-only thing, I guess.)
This week is quite an emotional one to start with; maybe that’s a good thing. This is an especially difficult list for a couple of reasons. First of all, most of the time, I feel like I live a pretty charmed life. There’s not that much that’s “bad enough” to be considered one of life’s trials. The other reason that makes this such a hard list for me is that one of the things I want to talk about is incredibly sensitive. This item is extremely personal – something I haven’t really talked to anyone about outside of one friend via email. This item in particular might even be considered “controversial,” especially if it’s something you’ve never experienced. Knowing that there are some people I know in real life (including my husband) who read these pages makes it all the harder. Part of me is concerned over potential backlash for some of my feelings. But as hard as it will be to get it all out there, I’m confident it’ll be okay in the long run.
So, here are my Life’s Trials that Made Me Better.
Many Broke Years
We spent many of the early years in our marriage completely broke. For about four or five years, we lived in government subsidized housing, and for one of those years we were literally so poor that our landlord paid us each month. It wasn’t fun at the time, but now I can look back on those days and understand that going through it made me appreciate the more comfortable lifestyle we now lead.
My First C-Section
When I was in the hospital for Munchkin’s birth, I expected nothing less than to have a fairly uncomplicated, medicated, vaginal birth like I’d had with Seahawk. Things fell apart about 8 hours into my (induced) labor, though, and I ended up with an emergency c-section. This event nearly 10 years ago has set the stage for all of my successive births to follow suit. I’ve had two c-sections since this one, and I embrace the idea of them a little more each time.
Gender Disappointment During Pregnancy
This is the one that I mentioned might be controversial. It’s a difficult thing to bring up, but it’s something I’ve been living for quite some time (despite the fact that my most recent pregnancy ended nearly 8 months ago). First, please understand that my feelings and emotions regarding this particular “trial” have absolutely no bearing on my children; I love them more than I can even express. But the fact remains that I never in a million years envisioned or expected to have children of only one gender. For the first half of my pregnancies with both Small Fry and Dragonfly, I’d convinced myself that after two (and then three) boys, I was finally going to have a girl. At the same time, I told myself over and over again that I’d be okay with another boy, but then when the doctor said the “magic” words, I was completely overwhelmed with emotion (not in a good way). I don’t despair over my children, but sometimes I do despair over the daughter I may never have.
So. Maybe that last one isn’t something that “makes me better,” especially since it’s not something I’ve allowed myself to get over, but it is a pretty huge trial. If you’ve never experienced it, you’re lucky. If you have, then you understand where I’m coming from…
Thanks again to Chasing Slow for hosting this linkup.
A few weeks ago, Will’s new book hit the market. Casey and Kyle: I Think We’re Going to Need More Towels!!! is the fourth comic book featuring his characters. To celebrate, we had a book launch party at the library. They graciously offered not only to let us use the room for free, but to be the official hosts for the party. This meant that we were included in all of their email blasts, on the official calendar, and got a spot on the reader board for a few days prior to the event. They even purchased a cake with the book cover on it!
We provided a giveaway (Will donated two of his original “Sunday” cartoons as prizes) and a few games: draw your own Casey and Kyle, “The Rejected Idea Toss” (bean bag toss with crumpled paper instead of bean bags), and get your picture taken with Casey and Kyle (we had life-size cutouts of the characters made).
There was quite a good turnout (better than Beverly Cleary’s 100th birthday celebration, but not quite as many as the Elephant and Piggie party). There was a lot of good feedback from the librarians as well as fans of the books, and Will sold quite a few books which was a blessing for our family, too.
If you’re interested in learning more about Casey and Kyle, check out Will’s website. If you’d like to buy a book, you can do that in his online store (or email me, wmr1601(at)gmail(dot)com, and I can hook you up).
One of our very favorite book series is Elephant and Piggie by Mo Willems. Have you read those? If not, stop reading right now, go to your library and pick one up, read it, and come back.
Sadly, with the publication of the most recent Elephant and Piggie book, The Thank You Book, the series is over. There are 25 adventures featuring these two, and it’s been a great ride. In honor of the event, our local library hosted an Elephant and Piggie party, which featured loads of different crafts and photo opportunities for the children. There was also a drawing, the prizes for which were a selection of books (one per winner) or a stuffed toy (one Elephant Gerald and one Piggie).
We took the boys to the party, not entirely sure what to expect. But we knew that we wanted to attend because Small Fry is a huge fan of these books. It was really sweet to see him getting so involved in these activities. Even today, almost a week later, he’s got all of his paper crafts (paper bag puppets, learn to draw the characters, write a letter to the characters, things like that) in a place of honor at the foot of his bed for “safekeeping.”
And on Tuesday (the first day the library was open after the party), we got a phone call letting us know that he’d won a book. That was one happy boy!
Baby Dragonfly is 6 months old today. I’m always amazed at how quickly the time goes, especially the first year of a baby’s life. They change so rapidly that it seems like the time is gone in the blink of an eye. I think back to my birth experience often (always fondly), and I long for the days when he was tiny enough that I just wanted to hold him all day long. Now he’s heavy (over 17 pounds!), he’s grown 7 inches since his birth, and he’s a wiggle worm. He doesn’t crawl up on all fours yet, but he inchworms his way around the living room. He hasn’t figured out that he can go around walls, but I know that’s coming.
In honor of Dragonfly’s half-birthday, I want to share a picture of him at birth (technically, he’s two days old in the picture; he was born on Friday, and the photographer came by on Sunday) and a current picture.
A hospital picture
As a side note, I find it coincidentally appropriate that he was born on Friday the 13th, and his very first half-birthday also falls on Friday the 13th. How neat 🙂
As you may know, I’m a member of The Schoolhouse Review Crew, which is run by The Old Schoolhouse magazine (TOS). An opportunity arrived recently for me to choose some of the digital content that TOS produces (which is wonderful!) that I could give to you for free! I’m so excited to be able to offer this to you, and I truly hope you’ll take advantage of it. The only thing I ask in return is that you head on over to Facebook (if you have an account there) and “like” the TOS page. They’re trying to up their numbers, and every little bit helps 🙂 There’s no obligation to do so in order to take advantage of my offers today, but it would be much appreciated if you did.
Here are the products I’m offering for you. I took care in selecting these items, and I hope there’s something for everyone. I’ve chosen one for spiritual health, one for homeschooling, and one for homemaking. Make sure to read all the way to the end of the post in order to get the coupon code. Enjoy!
Hey Mama! 31-day Devotional
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God Made Them All Wonder bundle
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Molly Green Magazine: Canning, Pantry, and Food Preservation Planner
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I hope one, two, or all three of these items will bless you and your family today!
With the coupon code WRCREW16, you can get any of them absolutely free, just for being my reader. But hurry – the code is good only for the month of April.
Thank you from me, and thank you from the Old Schoolhouse.
1. Today is my sister-in-law’s birthday. She’s joining the 30+ club 🙂
2. I spent last Friday morning getting a manicure and pedicure with my mom. She had wrist surgery on Wednesday rendering her unable to drive for a few weeks, but she didn’t want to give up her nail appointment (the surgery was scheduled at the last minute for some reason), so she called me and offered to buy me a mani/pedi if I drove her to her appointment. Score!
3. My double-pointed knitting needles just arrived yesterday. I feel lucky that they didn’t get confiscated at customs since the company I bought them from (in Hong Kong, off of Amazon) mislabeled the customs declaration as a “phone case.” I’m glad to have them so that I can continue work on Dragonfly’s sweater I’m knitting for him. I needed the DPNs in order to work the sleeves (double pointed needles is one way of making round things like hats and sleeves and pants legs).
4. Speaking of Dragonfly, he’s learned a new trick: rolling over. He mastered this prior to his 4-month “birthday.” Overachiever! 🙂
5. We finally figured out a cloth diaper solution that actually keeps Dragonfly dry. This is a big deal for me. We did cloth with Small Fry as well, but he was constantly wet, too. I’m so glad to have found a solution that works, especially since it’s been exceedingly cheap.