Sunday, September 28, 2008

Family Auditions

I have mentioned over the years our triumphs in getting the Woodyettes to sing in church. Every year for the Primary presentation Mrs. Woody and I sit and watch our girls struggle with the concept of singing (or even appearing to sing) in public. The first few years were downright painful. In fact, Jelly actually had a pained expression on her face (when we could see it through the crowd of kids behind which she was strategically placed) as if making her do this were a form of punishment.

Then, over time, both girls got to a point where — perhaps not quite willingly — they both will sing. They even move their mouths to show that they have learned the words as well. And each successive year gets a little bit better. (Important note: this year will be Jelly's last ever Primary presentation. Next year she will have become a Beehive and even attended her first ever Girls Camp. Yikes!)

A few months ago we became aware of our Stake's desire to produce the Church's musical presentation called "The Savior of the World." This is the production for which the Stake Presidency asked me to present a series of lessons giving the historical and spiritual background of the events covered by the script. We were also aware that, as a member of the Anaheim Mormon Chorale (which is based in our stake) I was already considered a member of the chorus.

When they announced open auditions for the Angel Choir, Mrs. Woody expressed a desire to participate. There are some logistical challenges to be considered, but Mrs. Woody has a wonderful, sweet alto voice and will be a valuable member of the choir. What surprised us, however, was Jelly's desire to be a part of the show. Over the summer, perhaps as a result of listening to Daddy's lessons, she had begun to ask whether she might be able to participate in the chorus, so long as she didn't have to do any real, you know, acting.

Of course, this sets up a huge paradox. Performing in a production like this requires auditions. Auditions require the candidate to sing, generally alone, in front of several people. Jelly's shyness is such that we knew she would struggle mightily with this concept of auditioning, even for a relatively safe chorus part. However, we also knew that she can sing, in key, and has a wonderful, sweet voice just like her mother. So can the Doodle, but she had already stated her intention to be a member of the audience. She did NOT like the idea of singing, even in a chorus, in front of other people.

Auditions were set for this weekend. There were three slots available on Friday evening, Saturday afternoon, and tonight. In typical Mormon fashion, about 90% of the aspirants waited until tonight to audition. So we decided to go tonight and have Mrs. Woody audition. We also encouraged the girls that, if they wanted to, they could audition as well.

That's when the stomach aches began. Headaches, too. Loss of sleep, even. It got worse yesterday when we actually picked out songs on which to audition. Mrs. Woody went with "Lead, Kindly Light" because it was one of few songs in the hymn book that keep the melody low enough for her alto voice to shine through. Jelly's favorite song is "I Am a Child of God," and we sing it nearly every night as a family as part of our bedtime devotional. When we tried to get her to practice it, however, the lock-jaw set in. So did the headache. Ultimately, as the Woodyettes are wont to do, Doodle offered to sing with Jelly, even though she wasn't intending to audition herself, if it would help Jelly feel braver.

Throughout the day today Jelly vacillated between wanting to audition, and wanting instead to be in a completely different time zone when the auditions happened. Right up until Mrs. Woody and I walked into the audition room we had no idea if Jelly was going to audition or not. I had actually filled out an audition sheet for her on the off chance that she might change her mind. However, she had spent the time waiting for the audition turning various shades of green.

Mrs. Woody went first. I should mention that JoLane Jolley, the music director, is also our director for the Chorale. A sweeter, more gracious lady you could not hope to find. She knows exactly how to make people feel at ease (or as much as is physically possible under such circumstances), and was at the piano herself tonight. Mrs. Woody did a wonderful job, and I am sure will be an anchor in the alto part of the choir. They had me sing because, I think, they're looking into some of the other ancillary parts that require singing in the production and want to know what they have to work with. (Asked if I was willing to grow a beard. Well, yeah, I am, although they get pretty itchy. But Mrs. Woody loves 'em, so there are benefits.)

Then we asked the Woodyettes if they wanted to sing together. Doodle had been watching Mommy and Daddy audition and was having second thoughts about auditioning herself, but only if she could sing with her sister. So, with great trepidation, Jelly and Doodle stood side by side next to Sis. Jolley and sang "I Am a Child of God."

They by no means belted it out (Daddy was hovering over their shoulders encouraging them to sing out, and even Sis. Jolley was trying to help them sing a bit louder), but it was sweet and on key. Mommy and Daddy were absolutely thrilled. As much because they scraped together enough courage to actually audition as by the performance they gave.

We have little doubt that the girls would do well as members of a larger chorus. So long as they aren't required to do anything that would get them noticed in any way, they'll be cool. Mrs. Woody is excited about the prospect of performing in this production. She's been feeling some promptings that I feel certain come from the Spirit, and this will be a good experience for her.

Daddy is thrilled to think that his whole little family might be in this play together.

But most of all, we are so prilled (proud and thrilled, so we don't have to actually say "proud") of our Woodyettes. They both overcame a huge monster that lives in their bellies tonight, and that counts for a lot in this life. My patriarchal blessing tells me that on occasion I need to make myself do things that I know are right, even if my natural inclination is to avoid them. That's what my (not so) little girls did tonight.

What a family!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Pease Porridge Hot

There are risks involved with being a homeschool Dad. My situation is especially risky since I happen to work from home quite a lot of late. My job is one of those that can literally be called in most days, so I find myself sitting at our dining room table in a sort of mini-cubicle (albeit with a better view) whilst the girls take up the nice, comfy seats on our couches in the living room. But, hey, I'm willing to sacrifice for the sake of their education.

Most of the risks are minimal, really. We occasionally have focus issues whenever I have a telecon while they're trying to read, or do math. One of the girls might not take note of the ear-piece in Daddy's ear when she sits at the piano and tries to practice. "What, Boss? That? Nothing. Just the sound of my blood pressure going up."

However, these risks are small and easily dealt with. Most of the time, Mommy is pretty good about scheduling things around my meetings. That way my noise doesn't conflict with the girls' studies. If I'm not on the phone they can do whatever they please because I do, after all, work in an office that is never quiet.

Along with the risks, however, there are perqs. Primary of which is that I get to be with my family all day. But next on the list, in my estimation, is the food.

Mrs. Woody is big on unit studies. She'll pick a primary topic or period of time to study, then build her curriculum and lesson plans around that topic. Lately the girls have been working through a curriculum called Learning Adventures and they're well into their world history tour right now. They've studied ancient civilizations, and with each culture they've been able to sample some of the cuisine that was typical of the time and place of study. Rome, Greece, Egypt. Each with its own culinary delights and traditions, and many of them sampled in the Woody classroom.

Right now the girls are wrapping up their study of the middle ages. Mrs. Woody decided on a meal of bannock and pease porridge. Bannock is essentially a heavy unleavened bread that uses fat from butter and buttermilk and is perfect for dipping in the porridge. Pease porridge is just an early version of split pea soup, and every bit as tasty. We didn't have ham to use, but we did have a can of corned beef in the cupboard. Quite tasty, I must admit.

One thing about healthy soups: they have a wonderfully cleansing effect, if you catch my drift. It started several nights ago when Mrs. Woody whipped up an Italian soup (similar to minestrone) in the crock pot. Lasted us for three meals. We're on our second meal of the pease porridge today, and will likely have it again tomorrow. Needless to say, I've been spending a lot of time in the loo cleansing room. With all this cleansing action, I should have dropped about 15 pounds this week. Alas, the scale will only give me 2 over which to rejoice.

Progress is progress, I guess.

Anyway, I'm certain Mrs. Woody will expound further on this particular study. It's been a lot of fun, but she's anxious to move on to the Renaissance. Huzzah! More food!