Friday, April 29, 2016

The Lion King Jr

Last year when Joey and Tommy and I were in The Wizard of Oz together I promised to post video of the performance here on my blog. Unfortunately, I never got the video. I'm told the video was made and given to the directors and stage manager but copies were never made.  I brought it up to the directors and hopefully they will get us that video someday soon.

However, this year I wasn't going to wait for the video. We were given instructions not to take pictures or video of the performances but, as you all know, I am not a rule follower. Obviously, I couldn't sneak into the theater on performance nights but I did on Thursday at our dress rehearsal. I could only get little snippets here and there because many times I had to stop recording to run through the school, through the gym, and down the back staircase to get in place for my next scene. And obviously, I couldn't record any scenes that I am in. No biggie. But I did manage to record a little bit of my boys' solos. Yay!

Keep in mind that the sound isn't fantastic. This was recorded using my cell phone. 

This is Tommy in "I Just Can't Wait To Be King"

Tommy was very concerned about this solo because it was very high for him but he nailed it.
I wish I could have gotten Joey's solo on this song but I had to get in place to go on stage. This song was very special to me because Tommy sang in the beginning of it and then slyly exited stage as Joey sneakily entered the stage and sang the solo. It was young Simba growing into adult Simba and it was so amazing that my boys were able to share that role. And the switch was so smooth that many people in the audience didn't even know it happened. So many people came up to me after the show and said that they were suddenly wondering why Simba looked so much taller and his voice was lower. Then they checked their programs and saw they were brothers and they were blown away. 

The next four videos are from "Can You Feel The Love Tonight" and Joey's solos. I had to break it down into 4 videos because it was too large a file to upload all as one video.

Yep. Those are my boys. Proud mama, here. They worked so hard and it all paid off.

I was a lioness (and vocal leader) in the show and the lioness' had some of the coolest songs and dances. The songs were very difficult (some were acapella chants with harmonies) but the kids that were put in the lioness roles were good, strong singers. It was a lot of fun. I don't have video but I do have a few photos that our school photographer sent me.

Sending Nala out with our prayers.
 The Lioness Hunt
 Attacking the antelope (don't worry she came back to life to sing in a later song)

Young Simba, Timon and Pumba

 Adult Simba, Timon and Pumba

 Adult Simba, Adult Nala, Timon and Pumba

 Making a plan

 Young Simba and Young Nala

 Young Simba, Young Nala, and Zazu

 Posed Pics of Young Simba and Young Nala

 Adult Simba and Adult Nala

By the way, that is their real hair. They were not allowed to get haircuts for the last 2 plus months so that we could do this to their hair. THEY HATED their long hair. They wanted me to cut their hair after the last show on Saturday night but I wasn't having it. We had a cast party to get to and it was getting late. They had to wait until Sunday morning for their haircuts. 

The Simbas

 Tired Simba

Timon and Pumba find sleepy Simba

 The second half of Hakuna Matata when Adult Simba first appears on stage.

 I love this pic.

Adult Simba with Rafiki, being shown his reflection right before "He Lives In You". The girl who played Rafiki has an AMAZING voice. She rocked it. She was the Cowardly Lion last year and was Annie the year before that. Talented young lady.

The bows. The camera couldn't even fit everyone in the pic. Big cast. 

 After the bows singing an encore of "Circle of Life"

The whole cast.

It was an amazing show. I am so proud of all of the kids. They all worked so hard. It was quite a production and so many people chipped in to help out. So many moms making costumes (did you SEE the GIRAFFE costumes???) and sets and dads helping with the construction and the stage crew. It is such a great community at this school. I am so proud to have my kids be a part of it. 

We have been SO busy these last few months. Well, maybe since fall. From football to basketball to the musical. It has been at least one activity every single night. Plus all the crazy homework. Nuts! How my boys managed to get themselves on the honor roll with all this madness going on is beyond me. But I am SO thankful we now have a bit of a reprieve before Ben starts baseball this summer. Unfortunately, our first week of freedom was/is painful. Todd and I both got terribly sick. I mean SICK. It must be respiratory flu. Aches everywhere, lungs hurt, headache, horribly sore throat (feels like I am swallowing knives over a hole in my throat), fever and chills, temperatures, the works. I don't remember the last time I was this sick. I don't usually get sick at all. Todd has been sick since Sunday night and I got it on Tuesday. I'm just glad the sickies held off until the show ended. Todd just started to feel better yesterday and is now up north with the boys planting trees and such during the long weekend. Grace and I have a lovely ladies weekend planned if I can just feel a little better. I am taking Grace to see a theater production of Ella Enchanted in Milwaukee tomorrow. We are both very excited. 

Anyway, if you got through yet another long winded post of mine, I applaud you. Thank you. I promise my next post won't be so epic.  

Friday, April 22, 2016


I turned 40 today. Forty. Yikes. 

Still not sure how I feel about that. It is better than the alternative though, so I guess I won't complain.

Plus, I do get to do something pretty special for my birthday. I get to be on stage with my two oldest and watch them perform lead roles in The Lion King. That is a pretty fantastic way to spend a birthday!

I remember years ago when I figured out that my 40 birthday would fall on a Friday. I was very excited because I thought maybe I could have a party or go away for the weekend or even just have a nice night out with the hubby at a fancy restaurant. Well, that is definitely not happening. But this probably tops them all.  
 Being in so many plays and musicals over the years I always hoped my kids would have a love and respect for the arts. And they certainly do. I only wish my two little ones could get up on stage with us as well. Until they are a little older they will settle for helping paint the set and handing out programs.
I am so proud of them and all the hard work they have put into the show while maintaining their good grades at the same time. It hasn't been easy. Our schedule has been nuts. This week our rehearsals have run from 6 until 10 every night and this weekend will be even crazier. But it will all be worth it. 
Watching Tommy leave the stage as Young Simba and Joey enter as Adult Simba always makes me teary. What an experience. And what a birthday!

Side note: One of the funniest birthday cards I've ever gotten. Created by my youngest son, Ben. I think he has a future in greeting cards.

Apparently my being 40 is as funny as a deer farting on a bunny.  Who knew?  HAHAHA!

Monday, April 18, 2016

Around The World In 8 Days

Okay, maybe we didn't go all the way around the world in 8 days but we did drive over 4000 miles in an RV with the kids for spring break. We drove from Wisconsin to Vail, Colorado then down to The Grand Canyon in Arizona, over the Hoover Dam and into Las Vegas and then all the way back home again. In eight days. In hindsight it would have been a bit more relaxing had we taken a few extra days, or even a week, to complete the trip. There really wasn't very much spare time to sit around and relax. But it was an epic adventure.  

I'll show you!

A couple of months ago Todd asked his friend if he could recommend an RV rental place since we'd always wanted to take an RV trip with the kids. Todd's amazingly generous friend told us that we should just use his RV. The RV had only been used for short little camping/hunting trips around Wisconsin but was in good condition for a longer trip. Todd let his friend know that we were planning on going all the way to The Grand Canyon but the friend was not deterred. 

Two days before we left Todd and I drove to the friend's house to pick up the RV and go over all the details. When the kids came home from school that day and saw the RV parked in the driveway they lost their little minds. It was a pretty exciting day.
The kids' break started on Friday the 25th and we left very early in the morning. We could have left on Thursday since school was cancelled due to a snow storm (yeah! driving a borrowed RV in a snow storm!) but I was busy packing everyone up and Todd had to wrap up many loose ends at work. So, Friday morning, at the crack of dawn, we all bundled into the RV and took off on our adventure.

That first day we drove all the way to the western edge of Nebraska. We got to the RV park pretty late and had to set up the RV and hook ups in the dark. The kids were super excited to spend the first night in the RV and it worked out pretty well. The RV park had super nice bathrooms, very friendly owners who gave the kids a ton of free stuff, and a lovely horse in the field next door that came over to the fence so we could pet her every time we called. 

The next morning we slept in just a little bit and then continued on our way to Vail. It was a short but very nerve wracking drive through the Rocky Mountains in an RV. Many prayers were said. It was snowing (our windshield wipers did not work well) and we begged and pleaded the RV to make it up and down the steep mountains. Some hills were so steep we topped out at 40 mph on the way up. 

We did make it to Vail and found a convenient and easy place to park. Parking for an RV is not always available so this was very exciting.  

We walked around beautiful Vail, ate lunch , went shopping, and took in the sites. 
It was a really fun day. The kids fell in love with Vail. It is just so charming. 
We only spent a few hours there before we were back out on the road but it made a big impact on the kids. They loved Vail.
That night we stayed on the western Edge of Colorado so that the next day is was another short drive (short being 6-7 hours) to our next stop.  

Easter Sunday (and strangely enough I don't have any pictures) we found a lovely church so that we could go to mass. The priest was fantastic and the church was beautiful. It was an unusual Easter for us to be away from the rest of our family and our church but this church was a great substitute. 

After mass we left Colorado and drove through Utah. Utah was amazing and I loved Moab. It is a tiny little town but has amazing views. We stopped at the Moab Brewery and I had one of the best wraps of my life. It was one of my favorite things I ate on our entire trip. They had yummy gelato too. The kids were happy campers.
That night we arrived in Williams, AZ where we would be staying the next two nights. It was a beautiful RV park called The Grand Canyon Railway RV Park. It was located on historic Route 66 and had a train that would take you right to The Grand Canyon. Which is exactly what we did Monday morning.

We finally got to sleep in a little bit on Monday morning and then lazily made our way over to the train that would take us to our much anticipated destination. 
The train ride was fun. It was the first time the kids had been on a real train (except for the Hogwart's express at Universal) and our guide, Kathy with a K, was fantastic and filled our heads with amazing facts and statistics. There was even a singing cowboy that entertained us with Johnny Cash and John Denver sing-alongs. It made the almost 2 hour train ride fly by.

When we planned our Grand Canyon trip we booked a guided tour at the Grand Canyon instead of wandering around by ourselves. So, when the train arrived at the canyon we boarded a bus and immediately were led to a lovely buffet lunch. Great timing because the kids were starving (what else is new?). After lunch we hopped back on the bus and the driver (who was not only knowledgeable and personable but funny too) took us to multiple stops alone the top of the Grand Canyon.  

I don't think I could ever properly convey the Grand Canyon to anyone who hasn't seen it. It is indescribable. It blew me away. It was far more than I ever expected. It was breathtaking and majestic and awe inspiring. It was unbelievable.  And a bit scary.
When I checked the weather that morning it was supposed to be near 70 and sunny. Instead the weather decided to be 52 and windy. I mean WINDY. I'm talking 50 mph winds. Now, having my kids running around by the railings was scary enough. Adding a crazy wind to it was enough to make me lose my mind. I was making them hold my hand every time they got anywhere near a railing. And sometimes when they weren't. Poor Grace kept saying, "Ow, mom. You're hurting my hand!" I was holding on pretty tightly. 
I took so many pictures but the pictures don't really do it justice. It was just gorgeous.
Many of the pictures look scary but I can promise you that it is all camera tricks. My kids really didn't get anywhere near the edges. I barely even let them get close to the railings. I nearly had a heart attack when I saw one kid (I'd say about 10 years old) sitting on an out cropping of rock right on the edge of a cliff where there were no railings. WHAT??? WHERE are the PARENTS?????  I nearly threw up. And our tour guide warned us over and over to please be careful because they have approximately 10-15 people fall into the Canyon every year. No lie. Oh. Mah. Gawd.
This is a cool pic of Todd and I because it looks like we were right on the edge. We weren't. There was a viewing area below that rock wall behind us. And I was STILL freaked out. Again. The wind didn't help. A few times I thought I was gonna get knocked over.
I was in picture heaven because each of my kids kept WANTING to get their pictures taken. That was a first. I think they could just sense how amazing this place is and they wanted to document it too.
My kids are obsessed with my camera and are always asking to use it. I think Ben has a flair for photography. He took this picture of me.

It was a pretty epic day. We were all so pumped. I never expected to enjoy The Grand Canyon this much or be this blown away. It was fantastic. 

Next on our agenda was Las Vegas. Just a short 4 hours from The Grand Canyon we decided to stop and see The Hoover Dam. However, once we got to the dam we decided we had seen enough from the RV. We drove the RV all the way across the dam and then turned around, drove back over it, and got back on the road without ever getting out of the RV. It was huge. It was massive. But after just coming from The Grand Canyon we didn't feel the need to get out. Besides, the only place to park the RV was on the Arizona side of the dam and it was quite a walk back down to the dam from the lot. It was a feat just getting the RV over the dam.
So, we continued on to Vegas. 

Vegas was not in the original plan for our trip. We had been planning on going from The Grand Canyon up to Yellowstone Park and then to Mount Rushmore on our way back home. However, all of the RV parks were closed at Yellowstone and many of the roads as well. The roads that were open were not great for RVs. So we went on to plan B. Las Vegas.  Neither Todd nor I had ever been to Vegas. Never really had any desire. But the more I looked into it the more I found out about things to do with kids in Vegas. I thought it might be fun. 
Driving the RV and parking the RV in Vegas was not fun. And that is putting it lightly. But we finally managed and then had to drag all of our bag (we had a ton of stuff) about 5 blocks from our RV, through the hotel, and to our connecting rooms. BUT! It was worth it. The kids were very happy to be in a hotel room with big beds and nice bathrooms. And our hotel was right in the middle of everything. It was across the street from the Bellagio and Caesar's Palace right in the heart of the strip. And we had great views from our windows.

We relaxed for a little while before heading out to our first Vegas buffet at Caesar's Palace.  The buffet was amazing as you would imagine. The kids were adventurous and tried all kinds of new foods. It was fantastic.
After our meal we walked off our food frenzy and went over to see the Bellagio fountains. On the way we stopped for many pictures of the strip, including one with Chewbacca!
The kids and I really enjoyed the fountain show and we ended up staying there to see three or four different shows.
And thanks to the kindness of strangers we even got a few pics of our entire family!
The next day we went to Circus Circus to watch a circus trapeze act, we moseyed around in the botanical gardens at The Bellagio before eating at our second buffet this time at The Bellagio, and we went to a fantastic aquarium at The Mandalay Bay Resort. It was awesome. So many sharks! It was fabulous!
Las Vegas turned out to be so much fun! I never thought my first trip to Vegas would be with four kids in tow but it was a great adventure. Todd and I had to laugh as we reflected back on our time in Vegas. Neither one of us placed one bet nor did either of us have one drink.  Ha!

After two short days in Vegas it was time for us to hit the road and head back home. This time we took a route away from the mountains. Unfortunately, Todd still had a rough go of driving. For 16 hours through the eastern part of Colorado, through Nebraska, and into Iowa Todd had to fight 50-60 mph winds. We almost blew off the road multiple times. We felt like a sail in the wind. Todd's hands were red and swollen at the end of the second day from having to fight the wheel. We even saw a semi that had tipped over from the wind. It was scary.  So, a huge thank you to my wonderful husband for driving us on this epic journey and getting us back safely.

It was a trip of a lifetime and I'm so grateful we were able to do it, but I have never been so happy to see my house. Regardless of the 8 piles of laundry that needed to be done, and all of the STUFF that needed to be put away. We were home.  Home is good.

This post has taken me weeks to put together. There has been SO MUCH going on around here.

Unfortunately, we came home to major drama. My mom had not been feeling good for weeks but we had just chalked it up to a change in her medication. Well, two days after we got home mom kept passing out and could barely move. She went to the ER and from there she was immediately transferred by ambulance to a larger hospital an hour away where she had a pacemaker placed. She had had a 3rd degree blockage of her heart. Once again, my mother beat death. I did not think she would make it this time but she is now back at home getting stronger.  As if that wasn't stressful enough we also had MAJOR family drama while my mom was in the hospital. It was awful (still is, really). It made everything a thousand times harder. I'm still praying over that situation but I don't know if it will ever be okay.

Also, while we were gone our beloved dog, Molly, was attacked by another dog. My sister in law was watching Molly for us and she and Molly were out on a run together. A dog came running out and attacked Molly out of no where. Luckily, Molly was okay. She was checked over by the vet and given some antibiotics and pain meds.  Poor sweet Molly.

Add to all of that the constant rehearsals for the musical the boys and I are in together. Tommy and Joe are sharing the role of Simba in The Lion King (Tommy is young Simba and Joey is adult Simba) so they have to be at rehearsals all the time. I am a lionness and in many of the songs and dances so even on a rare night when Joey and Tommy could stay home I had to be there. Now this is the final week before the show opens on Friday. It has been a massive rush.

All this to say, if you made it all the way through this ridiculously long post then you deserve an award.  Well done! And thank you!

Words To Live By

Be grateful for each new day.
A new day that you have never lived before.
Twenty-four new, fresh, unexplored hours to use usefully and profitably.
We can squander, neglect, or use them.
Life will be richer or poorer by the way we use today.
Finish every day and be done with it.
You have done what you could;
some blunders and absurdities crept in;
forget them as soon as you can.
Tomorrow is a new day.
You shall begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be
encumbered with your old nonsense.

-Ralph Waldo Emerson