My online journal.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Christmas with children

Hi gang! I'm going to try to post this today... I really want to recap our Christmas break but I just don't know if I'll be able to get it all written down today.

Life was starting to get REAL hectic the last couple weeks before Christmas. The Christmas musical I was performing in (and choreographing) was supposedly in rehearsals, but those rehearsals were few and far-between... and not always well-attended. I went into our tech week with my undies in a serious bunch, but I think the show actually came together really well. The dances I made up were all rehashes from last year, but I always like the opportunity to fix things that didn't work well the first time. The dances I performed in were also rehashes from last year, with again only minor changes (not that I ever felt totally confident doing them last year, either!)

And I spent a bit of time worrying about AYP, the youth performance group who, Lord love 'em, are a bit of a ragtag bunch. They're kids grade 1-8 (so you can imagine the range of sizes and experience represented) and they performed the "pre-show" before the Christmas show began each night, and I'd been the one running most of their rehearsals. So they were at every performance, mostly being their adorable and clueless selves.

I also got to sing in this show, so I had to learn alto harmonies for nine songs, plus I had to mentally prepare myself to sing a couple lines of "Winter Wonderland" all by myself. It was a frightening and exhilarating and, ultimately, incredibly rewarding experience -- many of the other adult singers were names I'd heard in theatre circles, but had never met, and they were all just LOVELY people. And some old friends turned up, too. All very talented.

The biggest challenge for me, though, was that I got to do a lyrical/liturgical/contemporary/modern (I don't know WHAT you call it!) dance solo to "Breath of Heaven." Joan played piano and Paige sang, both beautifully. It's rare for me to get to perform with live music, and I don't think I've ever done a whole solo routine before! I got some really lovely compliments on it afterward, and I was proud of how it came together, especially with such limited rehearsals.

So the 2 weeks before Dec 19 were hairy ones -- also because my sisters and our menfolk and I went skiing at Lutsen, and I just seemed to have several assorted meetings to get to... OH, and I'm co-directing/choreographing three different productions of Pirates! The Musical for Ashland's in-school program. Phew! So I kind of thought I was going to perish from anxiety before Christmas.

But once the show was over, golly did I get to enjoy it! The kids had a little Christmas program at HopeSpring church the Sunday before Christmas, and Joel's folks came out to got to church with us and watch the kids. They sang "Away in A Manger" and "Angels We Have Heard On High" and "Joy To the World" and it was super cute. They also recited some Bible verses that my kids wanted no part of practicing (they don't rhyme!). The Gronaus, along with Jamie and Julie and her new fiance Jeff, also came to watch the show, and John was actually inspired enough to tell me that I didn't stink! That is a gigantic compliment, coming from him.

Lu and Ed had their final dance class of the session, so Joel and I went to watch. They were hilarious and I am sad to see our time with Miss Amy Lee end. I'll be teaching a kids' dance class starting Jan 5 at the Dayton's Bluff Rec Center -- I'm excited for it, but I know the kids and Amy will miss each other. Her classes are wonderful.

I took the kids to see a morning performance of "You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown" at Youth Performance Company in Minneapolis. The kids LOVED it and were absolute darlings. And the show was very good, as an added bonus.

We enjoyed a couple quiet days at home, all activities on a blessed and much-welcomed break, before we headed to Monticello on Christmas Eve Eve. Donna was "producing/directing" our first-annual Gronau Talent Show and Pageant, which was surprisingly jam-packed with volunteers. Donna played "Rudolph" on piano with Lucy singing merrily along. Joel read the Nativity story from the Bible while Ed and I did an impromptu interpretive dance. Lucy did her own impromptu interpretive dance to some taped music, and Eddie and I did some Feats of Strength. For the grand finale Julie and Jamie did a tap dance to "All I Want For Christmas is You" and we all (J and J included) had one of those laughs where you feel like you've just run up a flight of stairs.

Christmas Eve night, we looked out in the yard and saw actual deer (including one at-least-10-point buck!) grazing in the neighbors' backyard. We all got a giant kick out of that.

OK so I want to write down what the kids got for Christmas, but here's the caveat: I don't want this to seem like some kind of comparative list by which you can judge our family. I also don't want to hurt any of the givers' feelings by omitting anything, but that is inevitable as my memory is imperfect. But so many of the gifts were SO thoughtful, so perfect for our kids -- I wanted to write them down so I can remember them and express my gratitude. And I'm doing it here.

Chalkboards with chalk and erasers -- 2 complete sets, for no fighting
A Barbie computer for Lucy -- the games are the perfect degree of challenge for her
An assemble-it-yourself gingerbread house for the kids
A train set and a set of wooden blocks
Three goldfish! Who have already lived three whole days!
Kid tents -- Princesses for Lucy and camouflage for Ed
Wind-up rechargeable flashlights
A tennis racket for Lulu. Pink, of course.
A bird feeder -- can anyone explain to me why we don't have a single bird visiting yet?? HELP!

Christmas day, we drove back from Monti and went over to Jean's house for turkey dinner and Ryan family gift-exchange. The next day, we took the kids sledding in Jean's backyard -- what a hoot!

Last night Joel and Jean and I took Lu and Ed ice skating for the first time ever at the Wells Fargo rink in Rice Park in downtown St. Paul. Lucy was AMAZING -- falling down dozens and dozens of times, but getting back up, learning that "dust yourself off" was more metaphorical than literal, and plowing ahead. By the end of our time there, she was moving along all by herself. It was wonderful watching her start off, check her balance, shuffle her skates along, and grin ridiculously when she made it from Jean to me, or back again. Ed, on the other hand, was a 35-pound wet noodle. He LOVED getting dragged around, but all of our backs were a little sore by the end. Might have to get that kid one of those empty goals to use like a walker on the ice.

OK my next task here (in addition to getting dressed and trying to finish some laundry) is to add some photos and video, so check back a little later. May the love of Christ shine on you and your loved ones as 2008 draws to a close. Merry belated Christmas!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

"Say 'Go, Lucy!'" ... "GO LUCY! I'M SUPER-COW!"

Worlds Fastest Update:

I'm in a Christmas show this weekend (Dec. 20-21) -- www.ashlandproductions.org for details.

Ed is 100% toilet-learned (I understand that's the preferred term, over "potty trained"). Including overnights. Anyone want to buy some well-loved large cloth diapers??

It's snowing and it's so gorgeous and I am totally in the holiday mood.

The kids say hilarious stuff all the time and sometime I'll record some more of it.

The biggest news probably is: JOEL'S SISTER JULIE GOT ENGAGED!!! Congrats, Julie and Jeff -- we are SO HAPPY for you!!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

It's "Gronau" with an "uno"

I KNEW I would forget something.

I forgot, that was going to be my new Lastname Pronunciation Guide. In this ever-shrinking world in which we live in (as Paul McCartney didn't exactly say), most people know how to pronounce "one" in Spanish, right? Well if they do, they can also say Gronau. OK, it's way funner to say it out loud. Go ahead and try it, I won't tell anybody.

Also, Lucy eschewed the Maplewood Community Center day care services (saving me $3!) this afternoon to hang out with me and Joan and the kids in the Ashland Youth Performers. It was really fun to share that time with her. She mostly sat and drew her wonderfully weird little shapes (she's into roads and purses, this week) but then she was singing the songs the whole way home.

24, minus Kiefer Sutherland and anything sexy or dangerous whatsoever, unless you count bunk beds.

I have so many good excuses for not keeping up on here. Here's a sampling of things on my mind. If you want elaboration on any topic, please leave a comment or drop me an email. I'm sort of having trouble narrowing my focus.

1. Thanksgiving! Awesome holiday. Happy times.

2. My right tonsil hurts real bad.

3. We picked up a bunkbed for the kids, via Craigslist. It is not set up yet, as we do not own twin sheets.

4. I'm singing AND dancing in the Christmas show. It's in 2 weeks and I've had 2 rehearsals.

5. Ed has, according to our very scientific pencil-marked wall-chart, grown 2 full inches since September.

6. I'm reading Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn. Amazing book.

7. My book club's cookie bake is this Friday! I totally can't wait.

8. Lucy might start Kindergarten next year. Or not. And St. Paul has about 7,500 public schools to choose from.

9. I'm also working on at least 3 different productions of Pirates! The Musical. It's hard to keep them straight. Yaaarrrrrr.

10. I HATE driving on icy roads. Especially when I'm running late which is always.

11. I have to go collect money from my neighbors, to pay the alley-snowplow people.

12. My body is crazy-sore from taking 2 dance classes last night. A really good sore.

13. I beat my Amazing Athlete-Sister Ellen in a sprint last week. THAT was a really good sore, too.

14. Golly, do I love those kids of mine.

15. Lucy's face is sharpening -- her nose and cheeks are much more angular than just a few months ago. Her latest quirk is threatening not to be a part of our family anymore, if we don't do something she says (like give her a cheese stick, or pick up her shoes for her). She's testing us and it's fascinating and wonderful.

16. She also is way into letters, asking how to draw them and what words start with which letters. And the difference between rhymes and opposites. It's so cool.

17. Ed joined Lucy's dance class this last month and Miss Lee says he's doing just great, despite his standing at the threshold of the studio before each class, crossing his arms, and growling "I'm not dancing. Hmpf." He just loves being with Lucy and doing the things she does.

17a. I'm afraid Lucy's ECFE class (to which she goes solo on Monday afternoons) is messing with Eddie's psyche. EVERY time we go to ECFE, he asks in this pitiful voice "Can I come too?" even though he does, indeed, "come too" at least 80% of the time, if you include all the extra ECFE meetings we hit.

18. On Monday, Ed put on a costume warrior helmet and shield we had laying around, and announced "I'm a BAD GUY!"

19. Today he wrapped his special blanket around his shoulders and hollered "I'm a SUPER COW!"

20. I forgot to mention this, but we started doing a bedtime prayer with the kids, maybe a month or two ago? I had the thing written out ahead of time and I asked the kids to repeat after me. Ed typically conscientiously objects every night (that kid's going to wind up a priest, mark my words) though tonight for the first time he actually agreed to join in. Lucy surprised me the very first night we did the prayer. I'd written a line that went "Thank you for our food and toys" and she stopped me right there and said she didn't want to thank God for her toys. I thought quick and said "our house?" and she agreed to that. I'm intrigued as to why she insisted on the change -- but she's totally right, of course. Our house is a much larger and more-important blessing than the toys; not that the toys aren't lovely.

21. Thank you, Lord, for our food and toys and clothes and house, and for our general health and our loving families and for the opportunities you've given us to serve others. Thank you for your Love and Grace and Peace. Jesus loves me, this I know.
22. Oh golly, I have to do Christmas cards yet. Hey Jesus, sometimes your birthday parties get blown a little out of proportion.
23. Oh boy, and I bet there's wet laundry in the machine.

24. I ought to have a #24 but I'm real tired. Oh! Jean the Wonder Aunt is coming over tomorrow afternoon so I can get a haircut and *maybe* even those elusive twin sheets.