Thursday, August 14, 2008

Movin' on Up

Well, the end is near as we say good-bye to Chicago land. There are so many friends I haven't even been able to contact to say a personal good-bye to since the move came upon us so suddenly. Our PODS unit pulled out of the driveway on Tuesday and we are now doing some heavy duty cleaning to get ready for some open houses this weekend.

I've done two special things in the last two days that help me bring closure to my performing career in Chicago. Yesterday, Writers' Theatre let me raid their publicity photo database for the shows I've been in there and I collected quite a few wonderful pictures for posterity or perhaps my office so that the students will believe that I've actually had a career before teaching. (When I have time to fiure out how to download images to the blog site, I'll include some.)So many powerful shows with so many generous people and fellow performers. It made me cry a little as I looked through so many tender memories. Then, I went to say good-bye to my friends who were in the middle of Tech rehearsals at Writers' Theatre bookstore space. All of my Chicago mentors happened to be in that one room: Bill Brown, Larry Yando and Michael Halberstam, my teachers, directors, fellow actors and friends. All of whom have guided my career and life with such love and humor.

Then today, I took my two girls, Sunshine and Bonuts, to see The American Girl Revue at the Chicago American Girl Place store. That was my best non-Equity performing gig for two years. I also helped originate the original production of their following show: Circle of Friends. I don't know that I approve of all the merchandise or the exorbitant prices - but the stories from the American Girl series are great for teaching empathy and awareness of girls living in another time and place struggling to learn moral lessons. The musical is great. My daughters have been listening to the CD since they were babies and were singing along with the performers.

I can't believe that my children are old enough to watch a show that I was in seven years ago or that the child performers I worked at while in the show have now graduated from college. My heart was very full and I fought back tears as I thought about not only the lyrics to certain of the songs but how blessed my life has been in the last seven years since I had children to teach me to re prioritize. As much as I will miss the thrill of performing, I am looking forward to being more a part of their lives and a mother who can tuck them in at night.

Friday, August 1, 2008

My Loves - July

I am stealing this idea from my friend Kristy Glass. It seems like a great way to catch all the lovely things I missed blogging about during the month:

So here goes:

Being so brave at the Dr.'s.
Working so hard on the house to get it ready to sell: painting the house and barn blue with white trim, sealing the drive-way, and re-tiling the kitchen floor (with all the mental stress that conflict entailed).
Late-night hours finishing those Yaskawa videos so that we have enough money to cover rent and a mortgage for a few months.
Coming to my opening night party and being so proud of me.
Coming on a date to the theatre and leaving during the performance to take the emergency "Your cat has a tick!!!" phone call.
Letting me stay out late to "party" with the theatre friends, since this is my last show for awhile.
Being nothing but enthusiastic about moving to Utah and my new job.
All the yummy meals he is cooking trying to empty the freezer and our pantry.
Helping me with the diapers in the church parking lot.

Going on the airplane all by yourself and making best friends in that 3 hour trip.
Your lemonade stand and cookie selling.
Your excitement over the new $1.00 gold coins.
Living without Ducky in the week we was lost prior to your trip and almost the entire time you've gone since you left him at Gma Mellen's house.
Walking in the parade and throwing candy in your Daisy smock and baseball hat.
Dunking your head in someone's kiddie-pool to cool off.
When asked if we should keep a stuffed Elmo when sorting toys, answering "No, Elmo's a loser."

Being such a big girl and Mommy's helper while Sunshine is gone.
Always trying to barter for some "Beserk" (dessert) in exchange for being good.
Being so worried about Geogie's boo-boo on her neck.
- After a day of being contrary while at the babysitters, being asked "Do you want to dance?" A - "NO!" "Do you want to sing?" A- "NO!" "Do you want a cookie?" A-"NO!" "Wow, you sure have some opinions don't you?" A- "NO! I have a COW!"
- Insisting that you are NOT 3 yrs. old but actually "3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,....26!" while measuring the height of your body with hand slaps traveling up your body and over your head.
-Demanding a killer hug and kiss, both given and received, before I leave for work each evening.

Bragging about your "Big Dick" (stick) while swinging a branch twice your size around while the Elders Quorum were painting the house.
Finally taking your medicine like a big-boy without a screaming crying fit.
Snuggling with Mommy every night.
Your two-fisted hot-dog buffet.
Coloring with permanent marker all over your bedroom door.
Singing the ABCs perfectly in tune, only repeating A,B,C,D,E,F and G through to the end.
Demanding to sing ABCs every time we get in the car. And "Happy Family."
Demanding that your seat belt be done up completely before we leave to start driving.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Back on the Blog Wagon

I can't believe it's been 4 months since my last blog! Where did my life go?! So much has happened. I did indeed get the job teaching Acting at BYU after a very lengthly process (which perhaps I will go into later...) so we are packing up and preparing to move. The pullout date is August 18th and I need to be in my new office at the Y on Aug. 21st.

Until then I am performing in a new show, The Full Monty, at Marriott Theatre. I am playing Vicki Nichols, the crazy , fun-loving wife, if you are familiar with the show. It is a lot of fun and a lovely cast of people. It sounds sordid, and there is a bunch of skin shown, crass language and adult subject matter but more people from church have asked for tickets to see this show than anything I've done in my 8 year Chicago career. Perhaps it's because they know we are leaving and they want to see me onstage while they have the chance, perhaps it's because I'm finally working at a theatre 15 minutes from their homes instead of a 2 hour drive - but I think it's because they hope to see a little something-something... :) The show is not really about stripping at all - the larger themes are body/self image, realtionships, career disappontment and facing your fears, creating your own future. It's very inspiring and will provoke a lot of discussions about relationships.
I'm actually writing this blog backstage during intermission.

We had a garage sale on Monday and got rid of a lot of junk. Sunshine had a lemonade stand and sold cookies. She cleared a good $40 on her own - quite a salespitch she had "Won't you please buy lemonade from a little girl who just wants to go to Disneyland? Or cold water? Or homemade cookies? Please.... PLEASE!!" She set her tall bar stool up along the side of the road and held up an illegible handmade sign and waved furiously to the cars as they passed.

Saturday, March 15, 2008


Today Sunshine had a 2 1/2 hr. "Cheer leading clinic" for ages K-4th grade. She was so excited about it all week and when we got there she loved the t-shirt they gave her and then the teenage staff whisked her off the join the group. I had Bonuts and Babe with me too since DH is out of town in Las Vegas till Monday evening (attending a mission reunion of sorts), so we got ready to leave. But Bonuts threw a fit because she heard the girls chanting inside the gym and wanted to see what was going on. So we went inside to watch from the bleachers for awhile.

I expected to see Sunshine cheering away with all the moxie and confidence she usually has in dance class or during our home talent shows, but she was standing stock still with her little hands clenched at her sides, big tears welling up in her eyes in the middle of 150 or so little girls all jumping around. She looked so scared and alone. She didn't see us come in and I debated calling her over and giving her a pep talk or a reprimand. I watched for about 3 more minutes as the teenagers tried to get her to participate and she just shrunk further and further inside her shell. Finally she saw me and came over. She said that she was embarrassed and that she didn't know what they were talking about and that she had no friends there and that she didn't want to try something new in front of everyone. We said a little prayer asking for courage but she just wanted to go home. Meanwhile Bonuts is on the floor trying her darnedest to do the cheer routines. So I get up and try a few moves too and Babe joins in and we find a spot near the back where Sunshine can stand on the mat and we cheer behind her. Then a neighbor girl spots Sunshine and comes over to cheer by her. And a teenage staff member takes Sunshine under her wing and moves her up where she can see the big girls better and soon Momma is no longer necessary and Sunshine tells me we can go. Crises passed.

It reminded me of when I was her age and Mom and Dad signed me up for soccer. Which I sucked at, mainly because I had never played or practiced before so of course I had no talent at it. I remember just standing there crying and feeling all the same feelings that Sunshine explained to me today. My Dad told me that he had already paid for the practices and the uniform and the cleats so we would be coming every Saturdays for the next few months so I could either stand there and cry the whole time or start practicing and learn something. I remember him trying to reassure me by saying something like "Don't worry about how bad you are right now. People will just be all the more impressed when you finally get the hang of it because they'll know what hard work it was for you to learn." That theory of comparative progression has never held much interest for me. I hate doing anything in front of people that I haven't mastered.

I don't know why I expected Sunshine to be able to "suck it up" and eagerly enter a social situation where she knew no one and had no knowledge of what to expect just becuse she is 6! I felt such empathy for her when I realized that I was asking her to do something that most of us adults still struggle with. We just have better coping and camouflaging techniques so that no one knows how scared and nervous and insecure we really are. One of DH's favorite sayings is to "Face Your Fears." Sunshine did that today and by the end of the event was very proud of herself. I was proud of her too. She teaches me so much.

On another note, I am up for a 1 yr. full time Acting teacher position at BYU. I should find out within the next few days if I have been chosen or not. DH and I have very mixed emotions about the whole situation - so we'll see how it all falls out...

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Week's Quotes

Bonuts, after a hard day at PreSchool. Dh asks her what would make her feel better. She tearfully replies "I want to ride my bike... to MEXICO!... and get some beans and rice." We figure out that Mexico is code for the Mexican restaurant down the street. She gets her wish and is sated.

Sunshine,in an attempt to cheer me up on Tuesday when I has sick with a stomach flu and even missed a show because I couldn't control my bowels. "Some men might not think you're the most beautiful woman in the world, but I do." And as an afterthought, "I'm talking about those men that all ready have wives."
Glad for the clarification. If those men weren't married, I'd be the fantasy of every man I guess.

And a sweet gesture combined with sweet words from Babe with his growing vocabulary. Also trying to comfort me as I lay face down in bed under a pile of heating blankets, shivering, "From me... To you... Here you go." And he gently placed a pile of yellow posty notes next to my face and stroked my hair. What a sweet little man at age two, concerned about his Mama.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

"There's a Monster in my Pants" and other games the Mellens play

This is not as naughty as it sounds. Dh makes up hundreds of original games to play with our kids and his nephews. There's even been an 7-year ongoing "Monster Wars" event including such games as: Sleeping Giant (they try to push him off the bed), Hot Sock Meteor, Million Alien Hand Attack, Ticking Bomb Monster, Marshmellow Gunnery, etc...

This particular incident started because Dh has big holes in his sweat pants that he pads around the house in. The pockets on this specific pair are ripped and hanging out so you can see his underwear. At least Bonuts could. She shrieked "I can see your underwear" and tried to reach into her Dad's pockets. Dh warned her "Watch out, there's a monster in my pants," as he reached through the torn pocket on his other hip through to grab her hand. She screamed happy murder and proceeded to make a repetitive game out of it. She, reaching timidly with suspense; He, grabbing little fingers and yelling "There's a monster in my pants!" with his face writhing in pain as if an alien was trying to burst out of his body. Then Babe tried to join in the fun too.

I was like, "Great, that's just the image and accompanying dialogue we want to implant in our children's memories: sticking their hands in their father's pants expecting to be bitten by a monster." I can see the therapist and sex counseling bills adding up in the near and far future.

Since we're already going blue with the recounting of this incident, I've got one more story regarding Bonuts and her tampon obsession. She is fascinated with all things genital - very interested in the differences between boys and girls, etc. She has also watched many of my natural childbirth videos and knows exactly where babies come from, or at least out. She is perplexed about tampons and where they disappear to. I explained to her that ladies have three holes: one for pee, one for babies and tampons and one for poo-poo.

So, Dh is tucking the girls into bed one night last week and finds Bonuts busy with her hands down her pants. He asks her what she is doing and she replies "Playing with my holes." He tells her that is a private thing and suggests she stop and wash her hands and go to sleep. I check in on her 5 minutes later and she is still scratching around down there with a a very strange and concentrated look on her face. I pull the covers back and pull down her pants to check for a rash and find a much abused and worse for wear OB tampon. She tells me "I was trying to find my baby hole in my pee-gina." (She calles her vagina a pee-gina, ie.) boys have a pee-nis and both anatomies are for pee-ing.) A heated debate followed in which I argued that she didn't need tampons yet becuase she wasn't ready to have babies and her arguing with me that she was a big girl already and there were lots of babies inside her right now that would probably be born next month.

My goodness, she's 3 going on 13 going on 30. I hope this isn't a sign of things to come! And now I remember that Ellie used to try and eat tampons she found in my purse. She called them "vagina-candies." :)

Friday, February 8, 2008

Winter SUCKS!

I am sooo sick of winter! I think I might have sunlight deficiency syndrome - where you get depressed when you haven't been in the sun long enough. No, on second thought, I have been outdoors plenty and gotten all the fresh air I need - I just hate being COLD!

And driving in snow with idiotic commuters. I feel like I have three near death experiences a night just driving to work! They actually canceled an evening performance on Wednesday which is unheard of. Good thing they cancelled because it took Dh 3 hours just to snow blow our driveway and there's no way I would have made it out of our driveway, let alone to work on time.

We have had three days of school canceled so far due to snow. Probably a foot of snow has fallen in the last big storm on Wednesday. The problem is that there is an inch of ice underneath it all. The highways are great but the neighborhood roads are dreadfull. Our mail-lady had to be pushed out of an enbankment yesterday losing her bumper and back license plate and the school busses were running over a half hour late. Yesterday, Bonut's school bus got stuck and needed a push from parents at the bus stop six times before it actually broke down and the kids all had to wait before another short bus could be sent.

We went outside to make snowmen earlier in the week, but the snow wouldn't stick. Fellow parents, I've learned a great trick for keeping gloves and snow boots on toddlers - DUCK TAPE. Just wrap it around the edge of the pant leg or coat sleeve - nothing budges. No snow in wrists or ankles. The times I have not done this, I have found Babe bootless and mittenless in the snow,(for I don't know how long)while his sisters were supposed to be watching him. Snot and tear icicles stuck to his face and coat, wailing. Good thing he didn't get frostbite.

We lost major portions of two large trees in our front yard, a tulip tree and a pine tree. The weight of the snow and ice was just too heavy and they snapped right off, narrowly missing powerlines. Dh got very worried after this happened and made me go outside with him and his super-duper long painting poles to try and knock snow off other trees that looked particularly dangerous. The technique consists of standing underneath the tree, sticking your pole up there as high as you can and waving it like mad while heaps of ice and snow fall on your head and you hope you don't get knocked out by a deadly icicle. Fun! Fun! Fun! - NOT!!!

Oh, and the power just went out. How fitting. OK - enough complaining. I'm off to blow my nose, take some decongestant and crawl under my heater blanket.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Scarred for life

We've gone six years of raising children without a visit to the emergency room, so I guess we were long overdue. The incident actually happened about 2 weeks ago, the stitches are already out.

I was running errands with Bonuts and Babe. We had gone to the post office and stopped for some treats and were on our way home. Babe was doing his crazy monkey walk and running off in the opposite direction from where we were headed. Bonuts tried to steer her brother in the right direction by tackling him (her normal M.O.). They happened to fall against the bottom rim of a storefront window trimmed with sharpe metal and .... the blood began to flow.

Babe only cried for a minute - he couldn't see the gash or the blood - and couldn't figure out what the big hoopla was about. Bonuts, on the other hand, about lost it. She knew the accident was partly her part and was frightened of the blood and began a guilty chant of "I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry....." - with her big blue eyes looking so very worried. She almost started to hyperventilate and wanted me to carry her and reassure her. Meanwhile, we were a ten minute walk from the house and I was trying to jog along holding Babe while stopping the blood flow. Ironically, having Bonuts near hysteria help to keep me calm because I didn't want to upset her any further. We walked home and arranged for a babysitter for Bonuts and to have Sunshine picked up off the school bus and then Babe and I headed for the hospital.

By this time the blood had congealed his right eye closed and mixed in with his tears and boogers so it looked a lot worse than it really was. All the nurses at the emergency room were amazed at how calm and collected he was. He was very intrigued with his image in the mirror. His "Pinky the Pig" got some blood on him (his winter coat was really gross) and Babe concerned himself with trying to wash and dry the blood off Pinky. He would tell Pinky that "It's OK," and give him lots of kisses and stroke his head just as I was trying to comfort Babe.

The emergency room doctor asked if I wouldn't mind waiting a few extra minutes while he cleared the emergency room of other toddlers and children who would probably get more frightened when hearing Babe's screams as they stitched him up. They brought in a bright blue gurney with thick velcro strapes to tie down toddlers' arms and legs while the doctor works. I tried to butter Babe up by explaining that that was a "Blue Bed for Big Boys with Boo-Boo's" but he wasn't buying it. "Scared! Scared!" he whispered with his arms clasped hard around my neck. I didn't even know he knew that word or how to describe his feelings that way. He was too small for the gurney so they made a makeshift straight-jacket out of a pillow case to tie his hands up under the velcro straps. Oh, he HATED that!

The doctor warned that most kids will treat the parent that accompanies them to the ER with distain because they associate them with the trauma. But Babe just crawled right up into my arms and held on for dear life. Between me and his thumb and Pinky he recovered fairly quickly.

The grand total was 7 stitches on the surface and two underneath. They were in for 5 days and came out last Wednesday. Looks a little like baby Frankenstein, especially on his perfect little head, but with sunscreen and vitamin E, I think he will turn out OK.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Return of the "Prodigal Cow"

All the children have a "special friend" - a favorite stuffed animal they have loved to death and cuddled till there are bald patches as if the creatures are in the midst of chemo treatments: Sunshine has "Duckie," Bonuts has "Cowie" and Babe has "Pinky" - the Pig. Not very original in the naming, I'm afraid.

Anyway, Cowie went MISSING over a month ago - disappeared into thin air. We searched everywhere, tore the house up and down, looked all over Bonut's usual haunts: church, the mini-van, the playroom, closets... But he was gone.

Bonuts bore it like a champ with a few tears and the self-preserving explanation the he had gone off with the Wonderpets, from the kids' TV show of the same name. They save other baby animals that are in danger while singing all their lines in childish operatic lisps. Bonuts loves the show. She said that Cowie was somewhere in the wild performing noble feats and when his job was done, he would be home to tell her of his adventures. It was a better explanation than I could come up with.

Yesterday, the snow finally melted. DH was cleaning up the backyard and came across Cowie frozen solid as an ice sculpture on the horsey swing. A noisy half hour banging around in the dryer to thaw and he was human again. Dh put Cowie under Bonut's covers to suprize her when she came home from school.

Oh, she was ecstatic!!! Dh told her that Cowie had been on adventures in Africa and was exhausted from his fighting and the journey home. But over the course of the next few days, when Cowie had rested, he would tell her of his exploits - one story a night till all was confessed.

Tonight Cowie told of his rescue of a baby snake by using the Mother snake as a rope. He had wanted to return home to the Mellenpatch, especialy for the holidays, but the Wonderpets begged him to complete a few more secret missions and he complied.

Dh is such a wonderful father. A storyteller. His children adore him.

Friday, January 4, 2008

New Year's Eve/ Sunshine's B-Day celebrations

January is always a very busy month for us. Sunshine's birthday is the 3rd, Dh's is later in the month and of course New Year's celebrations. We were intending to go visit Dh's sister and family in Kalamazoo, MI since I had two nights off the show, but with snowfall predicted, we cancelled those plans and just stayed in. At the last minute, we had our good friends and neighbors, the Arrigos, over for a quick dinner and play date and small 9pm New Years Eve celebration. The kids don't know the difference in time. I had hats and silly string and poppers and horns to blows - plus pots and pans to bang. What more could infants through 6 year olds need to party hard?! We had a little dance party and then a count down and all children were in bed by 10pm. Dh and I just watched the ball lower and piddled around working on our own things.

Dh has made me the most wonderful XMas present - a compilation of all our video footage and best snap shots going back 6 years to when the first child was born. It's a 2 DVD box set and Grandparents - Yes, you will be receiving your own private copies to enjoy. It's been wonderful to see all the old footage and watch the kids grow and thrive and entertain. It makes me realize that we are OK parents when I see all that joy and attempts to create fun memories.

Sunshine turned 6 this week. The day before her birthday she asked for an American Girl doll. To which I responded that they were way too expensive and would cost half of the Disneyland money she has saved up. I reminded her that IF she read all the books (meaning 5 books for each doll and I think there are 7 or 8 of them by now) - then she could choose her favorite and I'd get it for her then. I figure that gives me a good 2-3 year window of savings. Then, out of the blue, one of her babysitters, Melanie (age 13 and far to mature for American Girl dolls now), overheard her request and offered her old Kit doll with broken legs to Dh to fix and give to Sunshine for her birthday. Dh fixed the doll up just fine (if you don't mind a phallic plastic piece between her legs holding them on) and we snuck the doll into Sunshine's bed to surprize her. She LOVED it! "See Mom, you just have to have faith! You ask for something out loud and Heavenly Father makes it happen sooner or later." Of course, it helps when Mom and Dad overhear the request and put balls in motion, but Yes, another child's prayer was unexpectantly answered.

Another reason to celebrate - I was able to help at the birth of one of my Bradley couples Jan. 2nd and help them achieve their goal of a drug free birth. It's so empowering to me to see these amazing couples work so hard to bring life into the world and see them grow in self-confidence. The moment when a Mommy first gazes into her baby's eyes makes it all worth it. What a rush for everyone involved!