Sufficiently humbled.

Sundays always turn my thoughts to matters of a deeper nature. Like humility.  A few recent events have reminded me that I might–might–not be as cool and talented as I thought I was.  (I’ll let you decide.)

1. Zumba

I went to my first Zumba class at the church last Friday, led by our own lovely, Zumba-certified Monique.  She is young and hip and knows how to use her hips.  I am not young, nor hip, nor do I know how to use my hips, although they certainly provide plenty of material with which to work.  A “pear” like me really should be better at this stuff.  (And despite his repeated requests, my husband is stoned if he thinks he’s getting video for the ward facebook page.)

2. Serving as the Ward Relief Society Pianist

“This will be fun!” I naively said after the call was issued.  I’ve played the piano since I was young, and though I’m a bit, ahem, “rusty,” hymns are not usually a big problem for me.  I was excited to have a reason to dust off  these ‘ole fingers and start playing again.  And it’s just among my Ya-Yas in RS, right?  Surely I wouldn’t get nervous.

Turns out, I do get nervous.  Very, very nervous.

The real payoff came today after I played the opening hymn perfectly but missed a few notes on (okay, slaughtered) the closing hymn, essentially skipping over two full measures in my nervousness.  I had played the song perfectly this morning at home, and thus my blunders stung all the more.  I was determined not to wallow, however, and quickly regained my composure as the meeting ended. Nobody’s even paying attention, I told myself.  Just let it go. I left the room feeling proud of my maturity and confidence, painfully earned over twenty years of slaughtering piano pieces in front of church members everywhere . (I knew my lack of talent had a life lesson in it somehow.)  However, when several sisters stopped me to pat me on the back and kindly tell me how well I was doing, I knew I was in trouble.  People don’t pat good pianists on the back.


Got ’em last month.  Right now it’s a prescription for reading only, but my lovely optometrist assured me that

a) my eyes would quickly keep deteriorating until I needed glasses full-time, and

b) I shouldn’t feel bad because, you know, “most people’s eyes start going as they near the big 4-0.”  (You can imagine how much better that made me feel.)

If I can’t look pretty, I can at least look smart.  (And btw:  who needs an eyebrow wax and her roots done?  Eww.)

It took a lot of humility (okay, narcissism) to post this less-than-pretty picture, but I figured I may as well end the week on a high note.  Besides, I’m banking on everyone writing in and telling me how young, hip, and less than the big 4-0 I look in these old-lady spectacles.*

*As I’ve said before, your praise never, ever needs to be sincere.  It  just needs to be lavish.  I’m not picky.

Battle Hymn of the Kitty-Cat Mother

So I’ve been hearing a lot  about the Tiger Mother lately.  Have you?

It seems there’s a new controversial bestseller on the market wherein a Chinese-American mother tells it like it is:  if you want successful kids, you need to make them work.  Superduper hard.  From the cradle to college.  And not work hard in the American sense.  Work hard in the practice-your-instrument-three-hours-a-day and get pummelled-if-you-get-an-A-minus sense.    I read several articles about this book the other night and drew a few slightly sobering conclusions:

1.  The author is right.  Good results (top grades, musical expertise, the best colleges) come from freaking hard work.  And that work must be imposed by the parents, because children will not choose the hard work themselves.

2.  I would be doing my children a great service by pushing them to excel now.  When they get older, they will be stronger and better equipped for life–including the freedom to make more choices–because of the work ethic and education I have helped them obtain.

3.  A child’s self-esteem comes from accomplishment and self-mastery, not flattery.

4.  It would actually be a good thing for my children to have a Tiger Mother.

5.  But.

6.  I am not, nor will I ever be, a Tiger Mother.

7.  Ain’t happenin.’

Are you a Tiger Mother?  Are you even close?  Forget the Chinese version, are you an American version of a Tiger Mother (which would be about half as strict as this woman is)?  I really want to know.  If you are, I admire you.  I envy you.  Your kids will surely thank you.

It’s just not me. I wish it was.

I do make a mean chocolate-chip cookie, however. Maybe after your kids finish performing at Carnegie Hall, my kids can bring them a plate of cookies.  A brush with greatness is all we’re really shooting for over here.

She’s twelve. I’ve earned my bragging rights (and another long post.)

Rachael turned twelve last Saturday.  Twelve.  And she wanted only one thing for her twelfth birthday: to spend the day in Seattle visiting the Space Needle, Pike’s Place Market and, most importantly, the Harry Potter exhibit at the Pacific Science Center. (Wait. I guess that’s three things. But who’s counting?) Since we visit Portland and the Oregon Coast quite often, we haven’t spent a lot of time with the kids in Seattle, so this was an exciting adventure for us. My mom took Megan and Ethan overnight so that Rache could have her parents to herself for the entire day, and I think it was as close to a perfect day as we will ever come. No kidding.

We explored all of Pike’s Place Market, where we sampled seven different exotically delicious  foods (we counted ’em) before eating a lunch of fish and chips while overlooking the ocean; spent two hours at the top of the Space Needle, which is always breathtaking (especially when you’re twelve and have never seen it); took a cozy midday nap in our lovely hotel with a view of the misty city; had dinner at the Cheesecake Factory which is always fun (especially when you’re twelve and have never been there); window shopped downtown (during which her father lectured her on the evils/stupidity of Anthropologie); visited the Harry Potter exhibit, which was even more spectacular than Rachael had hoped; had dessert at the Cheesecake Factory (yes, we went twice in one night), then shook off the damp chill with a soak in the hot tub back at the hotel, followed by a family reading marathon that lasted well past midnight. It was such a great day. Though the trip was meant as a gift for Rachael, I don’t think she could have enjoyed it any more than her parents did. It was surreal to spend the day alone with her, listening to and looking at her as a new young lady, not just Part I of “the kids.”  She is just about all grown-up, and though I’m thrilled with who she is, it still hurts a little bit. (Gotta get over that.  Sheesh.)

This darling pre-teen was enthralled with the city, the buildings, the restaurants and shops and lights and people, and thanked us every ten minutes for giving her such a special birthday.  She was kind and gracious and funny, and I had to talk her out of using her hard-earned babysitting money on souvenirs for her friends and family.  Spend it on yourself for once, I told her.  It’s your birthday! (Do I get mother of the year for preaching selfishness or what?)  She finally conceded when I assured her that I’d take care of the souvenirs for the others.  Rachael can’t bear to buy things for just herself.  It’s one of the ninety-seven things I love most about her.  That, and her new braces.

Here’s a recap of our Big Day:

Grandma Cindy got her a pillow that hooks up to her new Ipod, so she can listen to music while she sleeps.  She is in LOVE with it, and listened to it all the way there and back (bringing it with her for the night in the hotel, too.)
Jamming around downtown.  It has been decided that if Harvard or BYU doesn’t work out, Rache will be attending the Art Institute of Seattle, majoring in fashion design.  I jokingly said, “Yeah, then you’ll get an apartment downtown and get heavy into the art scene and we’ll lose you while you go “find yourself.”  Without missing a beat, she replied, “You’re worried I’m gonna go Eat, Pray, Love my way around the world?”  Hmm, guess she’s overheard my tirades against Elizabeth Gilbert.  (At least I’ve taught her something.)
Having fun at Pike’s Place.  Turns out this was a huge piggy bank.  (The pig was rather fitting for the way we spent our day.)
Beechers Gourmet Cheeses at the Market.  Their “Flagship Cheese” is incredible, and it should be, for what it cost.  We found it at a grocery store for a third as much on the way home.  Needless to say, it was promptly purchased and consumed.
On the waterfront.
Perfect picture.
Perfect day.
In the outdoor elevator downtown–perfect place to trap Rache for a photo of her new braces.  In case you can’t tell, they’re hot pink.  Perfect.
Enjoying the Space Needle–but not the weather!  This really is a spectacular sight, though.  It was fun for Derrick and I to visit it again after so many years.  Rachael was enchanted.
Outside the “Music Project” building, which will certainly be our first stop the next time we’re here.
The view from our hotel.  It was beautiful at night.
A child’s induction to the Cheesecake Factory. We debated, then settled on the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Cheesecake, but only after Rachael asked repeatedly if “everyone felt good about it.”  (We take dessert very seriously in this family.)   We split it three ways and still had some left over.  It hurt not to be able to bring it home in a box.
Rache’s first monorail ride, on her way to the Harry Potter exhibit.  It was all so exciting!

Unfortunately, they wouldn’t allow any photographs of the exhibit.  But here’s a little taste of what we saw, though the photos don’t do justice to the enchantment that was in the air.  It was so much more than just viewing props.  We felt like we had just stepped into the movie; it was dark and misty and magical, with the musical score playing in the background and scenes from the movie showing on numerous screens to augment the sets we were viewing.  At one point a dark, foggy entryway began to hiss, and the steam then rose up to reveal the Hogwarts Express behind, as shiny and imposing as it is onscreen.  It was like stepping into the story.   The tour guides even had British accents, for pete’s sake!

Believe it or not, as soon as we entered the exhibit, Rachael was chosen from the crowd to sit beneath the Sorting Hat and be assigned a house.  Her time under the famed hat looked very much like this photo.  Can you guess which house she belongs in?  You’re right. Three cheers for Gryffindor!

Still glowing from the exhibit.  Ready to hit the hot tub and relax in the hotel room.  Perfect.

Next on Rachael’s agenda:  going to Young Womens (she’s thrilled,) getting her ears pierced (she’s thrilled), working hard at swim team and piano lessons and keeping her straight As (we’re thrilled), and painting a mural in her new bedroom (which I guarantee will look professional.)

Am I bragging?  You bet.  I’m thrilled.

Happy Birthday to my not-so-little-girl with the not-so-little heart.  We love you!