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The realities of competition

By Robin Dearing
Tuesday, March 6, 2007

She hurried toward me with a look of disappointment on her face. She crawled on to my lap and whispered, "I'm glad that is over." Me, too. Saturday, Margaret participated in her first piano sonatina competition. She was required to memorize all three movements of the sonatina and perform them in front of three judges and an audience of contestants and their families. The children were grouped by age. Margaret was in the youngest group which had over 20 competitors. I was amazed at the caliber of performances by these children. Since Margaret begun taking piano lessons last August, we've been impressed by her progress — thanks to the tried method her experienced teacher uses and to the hours that we've spent in front of her keyboard. Margaret and I worked so hard getting her sonatina memorized, but I was still worried for her. With the hectic schedule that we keep, it never seems like we have enough time to properly prepare for anything. Saturday morning we ran though the piece a couple more times and then tried to focus her attention away from being nervous. We got ready and dashed to the competition venue. When it was Margaret's turn, she looked so little climbing up on to the piano bench all by herself, then sitting, hands in her lap. After a few seconds, she positioned her hands and she began to play. She was playing very well. The first movement went just fine. Somewhere in the middle of the second movement she got a little lost, but was quickly able to get back on track without appearing visibly flustered. She soared through her third movement without a problem and then she was done. I was so happy for her. She prepared and performed a complicated musical arrangement with grace. I felt her frustration knowing that her mistake in the second movement meant that she had no chance of placing in any of the three levels. We told her over and over again that it didn't matter that she didn't place. What did matter is that she did it and did a fine job. Mar%20Tori.jpg As much as we meant it, I knew that it did matter to her. She wanted to be good enough to place well. So I told her that this year was just a practice run and that next year we'd be better prepared and next year we were going to knock 'em dead. Here's to next year! 2 comments


By Richie Ann Ashcraft
Monday, March 5, 2007

Well, it's official. I'm pregnant and I'm wearing the clothes to prove it. richie.jpg I had to sacrifice a pretty penny for this tent shirt. For the moment, I now have shirts free of sticky peanut butter stains from groping hands, but it won't be long before all my shirts have that perpetual stain across the stomach from washing dishes and cooking dinner. Thank goodness that a Motherhood Maternity came to this town. I don't know what a working girl would do without that store, although Sears was pretty good to me this time around. I guess it didn't used to be so nice. According to this website, Sears used to offer some sew your own patterns. Sew My Own?? What the hell? Whatever! clothes.jpg As the website points out the models aren't actually pregnant. Yeah, I bet that pantsuit looked great over a big belly. Other products of days gone by on that site are interesting like this first class throne. potty.jpg Every kid will learn to potty within just a few days of being strapped down naked for a few hours. I have to try on a million clothes before I finally pic a few pieces. It sure isn't easy to cover an odd shaped pregnant body. But, it's nice that they label clothes medium instead of the XXXL that they really are. The sales girls are sympathetic and never cast a judgmental eye when you ask for a larger size. It's worth the extra money to feel pretty when you're body is changing into a giant incubator. 2 comments

Second Child Syndrome

By Richie Ann Ashcraft
Friday, March 2, 2007

Daily I get asked by interested friends how the pregnancy is going? I usually answer with a "Good, I feel good. Everything's fine." And the subject changes to Soren's latest feat of toddler strength and superior mental capablities. I can't help but feel bad about that. Another lady in my office is one month ahead of me with her first pregnancy. She is indeed glowing, placing a protective hand over her perfectly round belly. She beams with happiness whenever asked about how things are going. I remember those days. I feel bad because I just don't have the time to dote on my new pregnancy. To be honest four months is a weird stage for me. Not yet showing enough for it to be obvious; it just looks like I eat too much. Nobody is opening doors or offering to carry my groceries yet. I lug a toddler on one hip and a gallon of milk on the other. I try to sit down at night and think about my new baby. I usually end up wondering how a mom with two kids gets the grocery shopping done (I mean where do the groceries go in the cart?) or how the sleeping arrangement with the new baby will be. Will we need another crib? Is Soren ready for his toddler bed? To be honest, I'm so busy with work, chores, and toddler needs that I don't really think about being pregnant much. I sort of forget. I don't want it to be this way. This baby was just as planned and thrilling as the first. I don't want my second baby to suffer from second child syndrome. I really want to try to keep up on baby books and photo albums. But most moms tell me it's pretty natural to let things slip. Everyone has told me that my feelings are normal and there are articles to back it up. How do other families divide time and attention between two? As an only child myself, I'd really like some practical suggestions. 3 comments

Brace Yourself

By {screen_name}
Wednesday, February 28, 2007

When I was a little kid, my siblings and I used to pretend that we had braces. OK, maybe it was just me that pretended but I remember showing off my “braces” to my brother and sisters. They consisted of the foil wrappers from my pack of Wrigley’s gum that I folded into thin strips and pressed onto my teeth. I would wear them for hours. (Yeah, I know what you’re thinking.) In a large family, my peppermint scented braces were the closest I was ever going to get to the real thing. Alex, being my only begotten son and having inherited the wrong size mouth for his teeth, is much luckier. Though he may argue with the "lucky" part. About five years ago his dentist sent us to an orthodontist. The road to beautiful teeth has been paved with broken brackets, painful tightenings, extractions, missed mornings of school and work for appointments, nagging about brushing, and a lot of dollars dropped along the way. But he’s now on the downhill slide towards getting his teeth freed from years of entrapment behind bars. He’s so close . . . and his moment of freedom is completely in his hands. That’s the frustrating part. He is supposed to be wearing these little rubber bands 24/7 and IF he does that, he could be all done by this summer. So I do not understand why he is only wearing them like 7/3. I mean come on dude! Do you like this torture? Do you really want to be like your mother with the gum wrappers? Every trip to the orthodontist is the same. They tighten. They admonish. I frown. He scoffs. I lecture. He ignores. What the heck? This is one area where parental discipline seems to be failing me. I can’t tie him down and stick my fingers in his mouth and glue them on! Logic and reasoning have no impact. I told him this week that he better find a way to wear them like he’s supposed to or I’ll find a way for him. Yeah, that worked. So what do I do? Take the money I paid Dr. Happyteeth out of Alex’s allowance? Forbid him to leave the house unless he’s banded-up? Cry and stamp my feet? I need some help here people. Any advice? 4 comments

“Eye Yeye Eye”

By Robin Dearing
Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Note: We had a little technical difficulty, so I'm posting Richie's entry for today. 5:32 a.m.: Babycakes is crying in his crib and I stumble in to retrieve him. “Eye … Eye” he says. We lay down. “Eye Eye” as he pokes my face. “Yes, that’s mamma’s eye honey.” “Eye Eye Eye Eye” “Shhhh son, go back to sleep.” 7:15 a.m.: Breakfast “Eye Eye … Ooo Ooo” “There’s no dog in here.” ("Ooohh oohh" means "dog" because we have a neighbor dog that howls All DAY LONG. He thinks dogs say, "Ooohh ooohh." I’m lucky he doesn’t think it’s called a “Shut the hell up!) Noonish: Walking around the house. “On On On,” pointing to the light as he clicks the switch up and down. “That’s right … light on.” “Eye Eye Eye Eye ... On On On.” “No, light on ... not eye.” Bathtime: “Eye Eye Eye Eye Eye,” gulp of bath water. He lifts his head to show off a beard of bubbles grinning. “Eye Eye Eye.” “Hey, see mamma's nose. Say nose, nose.” “Eye Eye.” Sigh. 5 comments

Our Denver trip - Part two

By Robin Dearing
Tuesday, February 27, 2007

I could hear the excited giggling as soon as they got off the elevator. It got louder as they raced across the floor to the door of our hotel room. As I opened the door, I saw Margaret’s glee-filled face as she careened down the hotel corridor clutching the speeding luggage cart with all her might. “Daddy let me ride on the luggage cart all the way up the elevator,” she announced so everyone on the floor could here. They were both breathless as they maneuvered the cart into our hotel room. As we stacked our luggage onto the cart, Margaret began recounting her favorite parts of the trip: “I loved the museum, especially the kid’s activities.” “I liked eating at the fancy restaurant.” Mar's dinner.jpg Of course, she loved eating at the fancy restaurant, we let her order a genuinely caffeinated Coca-Cola — which turned out to be Pepsi, but she didn’t let that dampen her spirits. She’s had her share of non-caffeinated sodas, but never the dreaded soda with caffeine, so this was a big deal for her. She spent the time waiting for our meals to come by meticulously and enthusiastically coloring her clown-adorned placemat and claiming, “ This is the best restaurant ever!” — ah, the powers of caffeine. Bill and I revealed to the other restaurant goers that we truly never learned to act right, as evidenced by these photos: Bill's dinner.jpg my dinner.jpg The food was oh-so good, I’m still dreaming about it. The last thing on her list of things Margaret loved about our trip to Denver was the hotel room itself. “I sure am gonna miss this place,” she said mournfully as we headed down the elevator to check out. the room.jpg Out the window.jpg This was our view out our window. Originally these giant double-hung windows were made to open. Even though they were hermetically sealed shut, just the idea of having a giant perforation in the wall of our 12th-floor room made my head swim with vertigo. I required that none of us get too close to the window. But it was a nice hotel, nestled downtown a block off the 16th Street mall. The staff was helpful and friendly and most important, the beds were so comfortable with lots of pillows and nice linens. We might always look like a family of bumbling hill-billies who dun gone off to the city, but we sho’ did appreciate all the niceties it had to offer. 3 comments

A day at the museum

By Robin Dearing
Monday, February 26, 2007

Needing a little break, we planned a trip over the hill ... to the big city. As much as I love the Grand Valley, I like to visit large cities regularly. I like the hustle and bustle, I like the variety, I love the culture. We decided to plan a quick trip to Denver in order to see the continuous scroll of paper on which Jack Kerouac typed his first draft of "On the road." It's on display at the Denver County Public Library. I wasn't allowed to take any pictures but if you click the above link, there are pictures on that page. Seeing that literary artifact was really cool and we were glad that we took the time and effort to see it. While we were at the library, we decided to take a look around. library.jpg I am really impressed by what a wonderful facility Denver has in its public library. The children's library was huge and comfortable and loaded with fun activities. It made me realize how important a good library is to a city. After the library, we walked across the way to the Denver Art Museum. The museum has been greatly expanded by the additional of the Hamilton wing on the south side of the museum. Having studied art and architecture in the past, I was very interested to see how they expanded an already nice museum. I was pleasantly surprised. exterior.jpg The new wing is very interested in its angularity. We enjoyed spending a little time just walking around the exterior, watching its point of view change with every turn. But the interior is even more wonderful. interior.jpg The filtered light is subtle and the galleries all have strange angled walls and floor plans. The walls would angle inward and outward and form a variety of geometric shapes that seem like an engineering nightmare. It was perfect for the display of the modern and contemporary art displayed there. This was the first time we've taken Margaret to any major museum. I've dragged her to exhibits around town and other places we've visited before, but this was her first experience was a major museum. Let me tell you that the Denver Art Museum is a truly wonderful place to take a 6 year old. They had so many children's activities that she was eager to go from floor to floor to see what she could do and see next. bubbles.jpg (This interactive display would reveal more and more portions of a picture projected on the wall whenever Margaret would step and burst one of the bubbled projected on the floor.) In the orignal portion of the museum, they had family activity backpacks that are geared toward different displays. We chose the Pre-Columbian backpack which found us sitting on the floor of the Maya gallery looking at snakes, birds and jaguars (glad we didn't go to the zoo that day to see the real jaguar). activity.jpg Margaret made a bird mask and learned about how animals were represented in these ancient Mesoamericana cultures. bird mask.jpg Even after spending the majority of the day at the museum, we still didn't see all of the kid's activities nor all of the art. We left that afternoon, tired yet rich with all the things we saw and did. And for me, the best part of the trip was sharing with my daughter my love of art and helping to build a foundation of interest and interaction in the cultural realm that hopefully will last her a lifetime. 3 comments

Banana or Peapod…Hmmm?

By Richie Ann Ashcraft
Friday, February 23, 2007

It's that time of year again....Spring...where the great naming game begins. It took my loverhubby and I months to find a suitable boy name. We tried everything to find the perfect word to describe our new arrival. We have had a girl's name picked out for over ten years. I'm not very happy that the name found its way on to the top ten most popular baby names list but that's the way it is. If this next baby is a girl, her name is an easy done deal. But boy's names are extremely difficult for us. We tried everything. We made lists. We thought of our loved one's names (sorry everybody but your names are really uh...bland.) We walked up and down the aisle of the bookstore looking at author's names. Our ears were on high alert listening for that perfect boy name. We'd find one we sort of liked, use it awhile, then discard into the reject pile. Of course finding something unusual is the trend nowadays. Long gone are the normal names of Jerry and Joe. It's great for me as people seem to question the name Richie less but bad for the kids these days. Now, thanks to Gwyneth Paltrow, kids have names like Apple or Bannana. I'm seriously not making that up. Then there's the unusual spelling...Jay'Den orJaz'Min. I hate to critisize, but changing the spelling doesn't really make it anymore unique...it makes it um...normal. Your kid is still going to be called Jay'Den M. or Ky'Lee R. because every little person in the kindergarten class was given the same name. And naming your kid Peapod is seriously just wrong. I guess parents these days just try too hard, myself included. The thing with the boy name is it needs to be manly and respectful. How is a man to be taken seriously when he's named Jaxx'son? Two weeks before my baby boy was born my husband came up with Soren after Kierkegaard. I liked that it was unusual but not made-up. I like that we could tell him that he was named after a smart man. And I liked that it went so well with my late grandfather's name Josef. Who, by the way, really spelled his name in the old style. I wasn't being creative with the spelling. I fell in love with the name Soren Josef and still love it today. I can't imagine him being named anything other than our precious SoJo. So, any suggestions as to picking the perfect boy name? It's a lot harder you'd think and I figure I'd better get started now just in case. 8 comments

A noble battle

By Robin Dearing
Thursday, February 22, 2007

The gym at Dos Rios Elementary was packed at 5:00 Tuesday night, filled with parents and grandparents of 1st graders from around the district. It was the annual Battle of the Books. The Battle's participants qualified for the competition by reading at least 10 books from an assigned reading list then writing three questions for each book. Each school could have a team of up to three qualified students. The district’s gifted-and-talented teachers organize the event. Margaret and her classmate/neighbor friend, Cora, both qualified to represent their school. There were 10 other teams three. Mar Cora Battle.jpg Bill and I sat nervously along side Cora's parents and siblings and waited for the battle to begin. We watched the girls fidget and squirm with excitement and nerves. The rules were announced then each team was asked one question in a practice round. I zoomed in on the girls' faces with the video camera as they tried to answer their practice question. They didn't know it. We all got a little more nervous. We didn't care about them winning so much as we wanted them to do well enough to be proud of themselves. The competition began and the teams began answering questions. Then it was the girls' turn. They answered and were correct. We congratulated ourselves and braced ourselves for the next round. Again and again the girls answered their questions correctly. As they entered the final round, they were tied with five other schools for first place. They were read their final question and they gave an answer. It was incorrect. They missed one question and that moved them back to second place. First place or not, they are both winners in my eyes! Mar Cora Battle 2.jpg Battle of the Books was a wonderful experience for Margaret and Cora. They were disappointed they didn't win (the winners got pencils, after all!), but they were really proud of themselves and so are we — immensely so. You can watch the girls answer their questions here. 4 comments

Making Choices

By {screen_name}
Wednesday, February 21, 2007

It’s 6:30 a.m. and I’m at work. I’m entering one of my slightly manic phases where I wake up before the crack of dawn and can’t go back to sleep. At least the traffic negotiating the 4,875 detours in the three miles between work and the Sentinel is much lighter at that time of day. Today is Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the Lenten season for Christians. This evening I am faced with two choices. To go to Mass with Alex or to go with him to an equally important event that will be held here in Grand Junction at the same time. The event will be held at Canyon View Vineyard church (736 24 ½ Road) and features a free presentation by Barb and Rick Wise of Wise Choices www.wise-choices.org from 7:00 - 8:30 p.m. in the middle school youth building. Theirs is an interesting story and their message is one we don’t hear often. They encourage kids to abstain from sex until marriage. OK, this is not a lecture from the radical Christian right wing conspiracy. It’s just some encouragement to keep this issue on the front burner and to talk to your kids about it. It’s a tough message to sell and parents can feel like they are swimming upstream and against the tide. I am grateful for any help I can get from outsiders on the topic and want to pass that along to other parents as well. Back to Barb and Rick Wise. When they started dating, they agreed to be tested for the HIV virus. Her test came back positive even though she had no current or prior symptoms of the virus. Long story short, they ended up getting married and now share their life and love story with teens across the country. If you can, be brave and go with your kid. They deserve to hear it and you deserve to treat yourself to resources like this. Yes, they talk about sex and its’ place in the adult world. And yes they tell your kids its best to save it until they’re married. And yes they talk about the negative consequences of having sex while you’re too young and with too many people. Obviously, you can deal with the whole subject however you want to with your own kids. Personally, I put it on the same plane as drugs and alcohol. I really don’t want to tell my kid that he probably won’t be able to resist having sex so here’s a condom. Just like I wouldn’t want to tell him he won’t be able to resist doing meth so here’s a clean needle. Or he won’t be able to resist getting drunk so here’s your own bottle opener. We tell our kids all the time not to do drugs or drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes. Why do we get all skitchy when we want to tell them not to have sex? Or at least wait until they’re adults to engage in adult behaviors? Our teenagers have a lot more to negotiate these days than I do on my drive to work. Hopefully we’ll help them take detours that keep them safe physically, emotionally and spiritually. 6 comments
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