Category Archives: Family biz

Info about my family

Questioning and self-critique

There are some people out there that I consider acquaintances, even though I have never met them in person. One of those people is Lisa Lazar. She is scenic artist at Berkley Repertory Theater and i know her thru the Scenic Artists email list on Yahoo. She has a blog that she sometimes posts about her scenic painting, and also gardening, beekeeping and photography. She is one of those intensely cool artsy people that I wished lived nearby. A recent post of her’s struck a chord with me. Hows Robb?: How I Suck The Joy Out Of Everything. In it she talks about seeing the imperfections is a sweater she has knitted and subsequently loses all sense of accomplishment and satisfaction in what she has created. She traces it back to criticism from growing up:

I grew up in a very unhappy family. My mother was violently abusive, and my parents lost no opportunity to let me know that they considered me an utter failure, someone who would never amount to anything. I was a shy, clumsy child, and my family took never failed to miss an opportunity to taunt me for my failings. To this day, I hear their voices in my head.

This sparked two thoughts in me. One, I hear nagging doubts in my head all the time, and everything I do on stage, I always see what could be improved. I would be surprised if there was someone out there that doesn’t have any doubt about what they do. Questioning your own work and looking for improvement isn’t a bad thing. It is what keeps you striving for improvement and searching for more. But that of course can be taken to an extreme. If you look at her sweater that she made:

Isn’t it beautiful? That would be an amazing gift to receive! The questioning voices she hears about her own work and adequacy make me so sad. She has been given an unfair and unjust burden for the rest of her life.

This is the second train of thought that came to me. Parenting is such an awesome (in the definition of “Extremely daunting; inspiring great admiration, apprehension, or fear.”) responsibility. I feel parents can’t just tell their children that everything single thing they do is perfect and world class, there has to be a bit of reality mixed in with the support and praise. But the love is always unconditional. This is something I need to be aware of with my kids. I think I am, but it can’t hurt to be reminded every once in a while.

The Universality of the Beautiful by Matthew James Collins

My talented brother, Matt, found something unusual while on vacation:

The sound quality of bad. My amateur filming skills on an now outdated digital camera are even worse. However I felt compelled to preserve this experience and share it. Maybe these things happen on in Venice. I don’t know. But that is where I happened upon these two violinists that included ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ by Nirvana in their repertoire.

What struck me was the power of the 90?s grunge rock was (in my opinion) quite successfully translated in an arguably vivaldesque arrangement.

via The Universality of the Beautiful « Matthew James Collins.

This goes to show that beauty is out there in the world, and that you can pull inspiration from anywhere. So even something totally crazy like, “I wonder what that Nirvana song would sound like on my violin?” Can create something amazing. Take the leap, and maybe it can.

14 years have gone so fast

I can’t remember when it was that I got glasses. I know it was in the 5th grade. My eye doctor then was in Chicago. We took the El from Oak Park into the Loop. I guess it was easier and cheaper than trying to park down there. The eye doctor was this old guy, although every grown up was an ‘old guy/gal’ to me then. Super nice. I think he even did eye surgery on a Central American Dictator once. He was evidently top notch.

I remember when I actually got to put on my first pair of glasses and looked around the room, it was amazing. Until then, when I had gotten my eyes checked I could only read the letters on the chart clearly. And when I looked around the room I was clearly blown away, because the nurse just laughed and said she had never seen someone’s face light up like that. But everything was different, it was there now. It was sharp, and textured and detailed. Glasses changed everything. The world was better and more exciting and more interesting. I would never want to go back to not having glasses.

I think about that today because of another event that changed everything for me. 14 years ago I got married. Walking into to it I knew to would be a great thing, and my life would be better. But it was like that first pair of glasses. I never knew walking down that brick path at the Faculty House in Columbia South Carolina how much it would change everything. But it did. My life is better, more exciting and more interesting because of Ann. The quality of my life has improved a hundred times over. And I can only hope I have done the same to her. Happy Anniversary Ann.

Breakfast is more important than ketchup

We were having a discussion at dinner last night and talking about good eating habits. What came up naturally was how breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Which inspired Arden to say: “Breakfast is more important than … ketchup!”

From the mouths of babes…

The Gift of sleep

My son fell asleep in my lap. It happens sometimes. When it does, I just carry him to his room and set him down. But today was different. Not for Liam, he slept the whole way and the night. I was different, I just saw how amazing it was to sleep like that. To have such utter deep and relaxing sleep that you can be lifted up, moved around and set down in a bed all without waking up . That is pretty amazing. To not have to worry about what is happening, to just trust the the world deposits you somewhere other than where you fell asleep and that is OK. I don’t sleep thru the night. I hear the noises of the kids, murmuring or stirring in their sleep, and it wakes me up. I wake up before Ann, mostly she sleeps thru their little noises, but I hear them. I get up and see what they need. Some of the time they are just asleep. Some time they need something. I worry that they need me. Do I know too many things that can go wrong and I have to check on them? Are they sick, do they need to throw up, are they scared and need to a hand to hold before they can fall asleep, do they need to go to the bathroom and I need to get them there so they don’t have an accident( this doesn’t really apply anymore though). Could it be something else, in that strange way that some describe as fate, or god’s will, or the random workings of the universe that something could affect them and they would need me to be there? Or even worse, that I would be there and not be able to help? Do I just know too much of the world to sleep deeply?

Seeing Liam sleep in my arms is a gift. I could never sleep like that anymore, but at least I can be there for my children so they can. And it kinda makes it worth it to be woken up during the night.

Obligatory thanksgiving post

It is almost thanksgiving which means the most American of traditions, traveling by car. Since the rest of Ann’s family is near Philadelphia, we will be traveling up there to visit. We will also drive up to NYC for a day while we are there. McKelvey is interested in seeing the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and I think we will go around Central Park as well. Luckily, we all travel pretty well by car. The dogs take naps, the kids can get pretty far with music and audio books before asking for a movie, and we don’t have to stop for bathroom breaks every half hour (knock on wood).

So it’s exciting to go on a trip, and this year I feel like I have actually had time to enjoy the holidays this fall. Our kids had some awesome costumes, Ann and I actually dressed up and went out too. We didn’t get to fully carve my pumpkin, so everything wasn’t accomplished. But all in all, having a sabbatical has really allowed me to get some work done and connect with my family. I miss most of the people at work, and am looking forward to working with them again. And having the time away from work has really helped me put my previous department head work into perspective. By thinking about my job and teaching theatre with a little distance, I really think I am going to have some new energy and ideas to bring to the table. So I am thankful for that.

You know looking back, I have lucked out immensely. Looking at the awesome family I have, this great job with people a love to work with, having a house in a great town, I can’t help but be thankful.

Our Friday Night Fun

Every Friday we have a family movie night, with each member of the family getting a turn to choose the movie. The week that R.E.M. broke up we watched some music videos on youtube.

Now the kids really like some of the songs. It is fun to see their enjoyment of these songs from my youth. Although now that I think about it, I wasn’t 4 or 7 or 10 when I listened to them.

Here is one of McKelvey;s favorites:
Dead or ALive’s You SPin Me Right Round

Culture Club’s Karma Chameleon

We also watched Aha’s Take on Me, and then I remembered someone made a spoof of the video, making the lyrics talking about what is shown in the video. Pretty funny.

Aha’s Take Me On Literal version


Then we looked up the literal video of one of Liam’s constant requests, Men Without Hat’s Safety Dance. Although the literal version we discovered was a little racy, at least for 4 year olds.

Men Without Hats Safety Dance Literal Version


That is a glimpse of our action packed Friday nights.

Parenting score

This week is a week where Ann is working while I don’t have school. Since when W&L is not in session is the only time that outside groups can book the theatres, this is not that unusual.

So what this effectively means is that I take a turn taking care of the kids and Ann takes a turn at the theatre. I get the hang of it ususally by the end of the week. There are always things I flub and things I get right.

Just to keep score here is what I have done right so far this week:

Washed and sorted all the laundry
Done the dishes
Made a foot long toy U-boat for Liam with my 3d printer
Gotten Arden to eat aspargus

What I have done wrong so far:

Ran out of fruit and all veggies for the kids lunches
Gotten into arguments with the kids over minor things

So all on all, I would say I am getting pretty good at this parenting thing. It only took me ten years.

In sickness and on health

It seems like the past three weeks we have had at least one of the kids sick every day. I guess that is not true I think one day a week all the kids have been ok. After the tonsilitis and fever last week the littlest one had a fever and some vomiting during the night. That’s never fun, especially for him. Today all productivity is blown since Liam is only comfortable when he is right on top of me. He feels so bad that he doesn’t even want to watch tv. I’ll be happy when every body is back on Their feet. As I am sure they will be too.

Life in Lex – Saturdays in October

One thing is true for Saturday mornings in October in Lexington when you have children, have a lawn chair. October Saturdays mean soccer games. Which means usually no sleeping in. Now that we have two kids playing in different teams it makes the mornings even more hectic. They are having a great time, they don’t keep track of which teams win and just encourage fun. Different than when I was a kid.

Arden’s team was invited to play on the Washington and Lee soccer field during the halftime of a game. So I guess she was part of the halftime show for the crowd. Another father recorded it with his iPhone. Look for Arden as #7 and her friend Braden who is #22.