7 October 2010

So yesterday I had my thesis proposal defense meeting. This is really the beginning of the thesis-writing process. I submit a thorough proposal and then I have to meet with a committee of professors (that I chose) and together we all decide if it is solid enough for me to continue. I was really nervous about it, but it all turned out really well. They approved my topic with flying colors and offered me some very valuable insight on how to organize my ideas and write it.

This is actually a huge milestone for me. Even though I still need to write the thing, I didn’t plan to do it before the birth of this child. I really, really, really wanted to just get it proposed and defended. But for a while there during the summer when I felt I was slacking off, I began to doubt myself. I thought I wasn’t working hard enough and it would never be finished on time. My “practice proposal” that I wrote for the first class I took in grad school was nearly 20 pages and very in-depth. This one ended up being only 7. I guess I can chalk it all up to learning better how to work smart, not just hard. I was actually very surprised that my adviser approved the first draft of my proposal that I sent to her. The only glitch in the process has been that my third committee member, a prof I chose from the English department, didn’t show up and has been quite unresponsive. So we are going to try to proceed with a two-person committee. I don’t see how this will be a problem, unless the grad office just doesn’t like change!

My new title is: “Birthing Conflict: Childbirth and the Battle of the Sexes in Elizabethan and Jacobean Drama” (it used to be Early Modern English Drama, but this title’s more specific and accurate)

So now I’m going to put it on hold probably so I can focus on getting ready for birth and baby. But I’m actually now really excited to write it. The meeting yesterday was actually a lot of fun, and it felt great to be back in the academic world again. I’m glad this chapter of my life isn’t completely over!

Our Vacation 2010

25 September 2010
SATURDAY: The Road Trip Begins

This year we took our fourth trip to Ashland, OR to visit the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. I never thought I would be the type of person that vacationed in the same spot year after year. But we really love it there, and every year there is new theatre to see of course. And this is some of the best theatre in the country. Especially for a classics lover like myself. It’s been exciting following the festival in a new direction under the leadership of their new Artistic Director, Bill Rauch. His perspective on classics and his vision for the future is astounding, and he has been doing some really exciting work at OSF. This year, since we couldn’t afford to fly, we road-tripped it up the entire way. This is something I’ve been dreading, since I hate road trips, and since we now have a toddler. (Preschooler?)

Part of our plan included a very detailed listing of local parks to stop at along the way. This was to give Peer a chance to play, and give us a small break as well. Plus, being 7 1/2 months pregnant and with a tendency to motion sickness and pregnancy nausea, I didn’t expect to do so well either. We packed some sandwiches to make our lunch quick on that first day.

Our first park was a big hit. The others were not as good as this one. And actually, we made very good time the first day, traveling much farther north than Sacramento, which was our original goal. We made it to Red Bluff by dinnertime and while Peer and I waited for our table and waiter, Andy took his laptop to a nearby Starbucks to mooch off their free wifi and book us a hotel on priceline. Andy is a wiz with priceline. We really debated about whether or not to book a hotel room ahead of time in Sacramento. We eventually decided not to, in order to give us the freedom to keep driving if we felt like it. We did, and also ended up with a fabulous hotel room in Redding, at which we arrived just in time to put PJ to bed a tad late.
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Summer of Theatre (hopefully)

4 August 2010

Despite dedicating my career to the craft, and my two degrees in the subject, getting off my butt to actually see theatre is always a difficulty. This has a little to do with me being cheap, and a little to do with being busy (especially before the kid– when you are constantly performing in shows, spending your little free time viewing one isn’t exactly top priority), and a lot to do with just being a homebody. Don’t get me wrong– I’d still see theatre on vacation and such. But not really without a special occasion. Last time I was pregnant, I had no idea how little I would actually get out once I became a mom. (I had no idea about a lot of things…) But this time around, I’m feeling an urge similar to nesting that tells me to see all the theatre I can before this baby arrives. Andy has been particularly eager to support me in this. I think he gets it too. And he loves having a wife that is current in her field, I think. So anyway, I haven’t gotten out a lot this season, but so far we’ve seen Opus at The Fountain Theatre, and last night I went by myself to see a workshop production of Lorraine Hansberry’s Les Blancs at Antaeus. And we’ve also got another trip to Ashland, OR planned where we will both see three productions at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Last year I only saw two and regretted it. We’ve got plans for Hamlet, Pride and Prejudice, and Throne of Blood for me, and then Hamlet, Merchant of Venice, and a new play called American Night for Andy.

Opus is a somewhat new play about a famous string quartet who must replace one of their members after an internal conflict. The small ensemble cast (only 5) included Gregory Gifford Giles, one of Andy’s actors from THE MAN WHO WAS THURSDAY, the radio play he is currently producing and directing. I’ve auditioned at The Fountain before, but I’d never seen a show there. It’s one of those cramped 99-seat houses that uses half of their space for stage and the other half for audience (which, btw, was sold out completely for the matinee we saw and we were the only ones in the audience under the age of 60). It’s actually a very wise use of the space. The stage was the perfect size and the set design was simple but brilliant. All the performances could best be characterized as precise and well-crafted, fitting to the characters’ all being classical musicians. The actors approached their roles just as a musician in a string quartet would approach a piece of music. It’s being extended, so I highly recommend catching it before it closes.

Les Blancs is a Lorraine Hansberry piece that I had never read or seen before. If you recall, Hansberry is the playwright who famously penned A Raisin in the Sun, but none of her other works reached near the popularity of that one. Les Blancs takes place in Africa on a mission compound, and for some reason, I’m really attracted to plays that are set in Africa and deal with the racism issue on that front. I find it really fascinating. My biggest reason for vacationing to OSF last year was to see Soyinka’s Death and The King’s Horseman and I think this play surpasses that one in depth of thought, in my opinion. This show was a workshop production, which for the audience, basically only means that the actors carry scripts around in their hands. All of the acting, set design, costumes, props, etc., are in place and used and are certainly good enough for a “fully staged” production. It’s quite easy to forget the actors are even carrying scripts. Antaeus does this sort of workshop production quite a bit, as part of their goal is to allow their actors to explore a brought range of classical texts. I’ve always loved the work Antaeus does and really enjoy following them. I really hope they bring this show back– I think it deserves another look.

I’m also really hoping to get out to a staged reading at A Noise Within this summer. I believe this is the first year that they have been doing these readings and they look really cool. That theatre used to be completely dark over the summer and it seems they have slowly been increasing their summertime activity. And hopefully I will get to see a few more things before the birth of this child. But I must admit that toward the end of the show last night I was getting quite uncomfortable, and as much as my mind was enjoying the play, my body was determined to spoil my fun. Hopefully I’ll be able to make it through a few more before I get too uncomfortable to even try.

Breastfeeding through Pregnancy

21 July 2010

So Peer obviously did not wean before I got pregnant, so I have now ended up nursing through this pregnancy. It’s been quite the adventure. I immediately borrowed a book from my local La Leche League group, Adventures in Tandem Nursing: Nursing Through Pregnancy and Beyond to aid me on my journey. I remember not long after he was born my doctor telling me that if I got pregnant again I would have to stop breastfeeding. I thought this was absurd. How could the human race sustain itself if that was truly dangerous? Later on as I learned more, I discovered why some in the medical community hold this line: breastfeeding does release oxytocin which can cause uterine contractions. But since then, I have seen so many moms nurse through pregnancy that I maintained my original position that to insist a mom must quit breastfeeding when she gets pregnant is just lame. The book is both clinical and practical, so it spends a considerable amount of time going through the research on breastfeeding during pregnancy (and nursing two children at once), explaining each position, the research involved, and arguing why tandem nursing is usually safe. It also gives explanations of situations in which it would not be. The bottom line is essentially that if a woman isn’t starving (as in third-world country type of starving), breastfeeding during pregnancy is safe for mom, fetus, and nursling. And yes, the uterus does contract. It is always contracting– this is good, as it is practice for labor. It does not produce any more oxytocin than having sex, so if a woman is healthy enough to do that during pregnancy, then she can certainly breastfeed.

So, safety and medical issues aside, the body goes through a lot of changes during pregnancy, and those changes definitely effect breastfeeding. In the first trimester, my breasts were extremely sore. Nursing hurt a little the first month, and A LOT in the second and third month. Once the initial tenderness got better, nursing was a little easier. But it still hurts. Every time. It hurts at first, and then after a few minutes the pain subsides. Also, his nursing habits have changed. He now digs his teeth into me more than he ever did. I think as my milk is drying up, he is adjusting his suck so that he gets more, maybe. So now he employs his teeth. We are working on fixing this. It’s obviously unacceptable! Also, breastfeeding him down to sleep at naptime has become sometimes ineffective. This is very sad. I’ve taken to walking him to sleep, but now it’s getting hot outside and I am getting too big to wear him in front in the carrier. The next time I need to do that, I will either take him for a drive or try him on my back. Sucks. Nursing him down to sleep at naptime used to be about my favorite time of day. So it’s sad when it doesn’t work anymore.

Oh, and he also kicks me in the belly a lot. But that also happens in the shopping cart, in bed, and at other random times of day. THAT sucks.

After a lot of soul-searching and pouring over that book, I’ve come to the conclusion that there is nothing wrong with the parent weaning the child during pregnancy. I always wanted him to wean himself, but he’s almost three now, and if it gets too painful I feel I have the right and maybe even the duty to cut him off. I don’t want to have negative feelings toward him or toward breastfeeding in general. It must always be pleasurable! Peer is old enough to be weaned, so if it comes to that, I will do it with a clear conscience, knowing that I have accomplished all my breastfeeding goals with this child, and have done more for him in this area than I ever thought I could. And knowing that he is ready. And acknowledging that he may come back to the breast after the baby is born. That is okay by me. But for now, we are still going. With God’s guidance and grace, we may go all the way up to the birth and beyond. Or not.

Training for Childbirth

19 July 2010

So the last time I was pregnant, I was just coming off of being an actor “full time,” so I was pretty used to prioritizing taking care of myself, since that is an essential part of an actor’s job. Even though I was not as educated as I am now in the area of nutrition, I was very disciplined. I rarely ate desserts or sweets and overall ate very healthy. Even though I did consume a lot more preservatives, processed foods, pesticides, and artificial hormones, etc.

The best thing, though, that I probably did to prepare for childbirth was exercising like crazy. I always enjoyed exercising since long before I became pregnant, but once I got it in my head that I was going to have to accomplish the greatest physical task of my life, I really kicked the exercising into high gear. I continued my jogging regimen until I was 5 months pregnant and my back no longer allowed me. Then I switched to walking and ended up walking twice a day. I went to Curves twice a week at least, sometimes three. I did prenatal yoga for the last 4 weeks of my pregnancy (it would have been six if Peer hadn’t come early, causing me to lose the last two weeks of my package!). On top of all this, I religiously did all the exercises in the Bradley workbook with Andy’s help. I felt great. And I never loved my body more.

But this time around I am a full-time mom, which means I have become accustomed to putting my own needs on the back burner, in order to cater to the needs of others (namely, my child). One of my apprehensions toward getting pregnant was my fear that I would not be able to get into shape like I did last time. I do eat healthier, more natural foods now. And I gave up meat. But the discipline seems to be gone. After I’ve had a crazy day with Peer, I desperately want comfort food! I don’t think I really overdo it, but when dessert is offered, I take it! I tried jogging at the beginning of my pregnancy, but I was so sick and fatigued that I just couldn’t. (I was sick last time too– how did I do it?) I obviously can’t go to the gym anymore, especially not Curves because of their crazy hours.

So here’s what I am doing: I exchanged the possibility of jogging with the certainty of daily walks. And they are long– about an hour every day. And by every day, I mean about four days a week. ‘Cause Friday is Funday. I started doing prenatal yoga a few weeks ago. This is much earlier in the pregnancy than last time, so I’m hoping that covers some of the other exercise I’m not getting. I’ve been trying to do the Bradley exercises again, but it’s been sporadic. Again, a discipline issue. I’ve been writing down what I eat, and that helps. I count my proteins and try to get 60-80 grams per day, spreading the protein out over as many food groups as possible. Last time I did 80-100, but my midwife and others all agree that 60 is sufficient. But I don’t write this stuff down every day. Maybe a few days per week. Again, a discipline problem. That’s about it.

I’m trying not to freak out, and accept the fact that I will probably gain more this time than I did last time. I only gained 20 lbs last time, which is very low. I’ll probably lose a lot while I’m exclusively breastfeeding, although I don’t want to depend on that. And I’m also reminding myself that theoretically, this birth should be easier since it is my second. Even if I’m not in tip-top shape, the rest of my body is much more familiar with the task. And that perhaps, it is more important to train my mind and spirit than my body.

So does anyone else have tips for exercising during pregnancy? Especially any habits that can be implemented with a toddler running around? Or any other childbirth preparation in general that they’d like to pass on? It’s just so different for your second– I feel like I’m treading new water!

Potty Training!

7 June 2010

I’m excited to report that we finally got our little man out of diapers. This was a transition I’d been dreading because it seemed so hard, so I’m very excited that we actually did it! I read this wonderful book, Toilet Training in Less Than a Day and I thought the methods in that book were really helpful. It definitely took us more than a day, though. We didn’t do everything precisely the way the book called for, and our child isn’t quite as perfectly compliant as the book describes, either. But lucky for us, within about a week we were at a point where we could leave the house in big-boy underpants.

When I first started, I had a really bad attitude. I didn’t want to do this. It sounded really hard. I had a serious lack of energy between school and morning sickness and I was just at the verge of getting VERY sick. And on top of all that, everyone says that once you start potty training, you can’t go back. That was very intimidating. I think I was doing it partially because I saw that many of his little friends were potty trained and I felt pressured. I did believe he was ready, but I wasn’t ready. But I gave it a shot. I tried the methods in the book and they semi-worked. It was exhausting. He peed on the floor while I was throwing up once. He peed on the carpet a few times. But he did start to understand the routine. It finally got so hard that I gave myself a pass. I was sick. I was in school. We don’t have to do this right now. I gave myself about a month until graduation was over and said I’d try again then if I felt better. Screw this idea of you can’t go back. I must be willing to own up to my misjudgments. We’re going back to diapers.

Well, right on time, the day after graduation I was feeling better, and feeling excited about moving on with my life. But I was still exhausted from a long weekend. I said to Andy that morning, “I don’t want to potty train today. I’m too tired. We’ll start tomorrow.” Then I went into the bedroom to get him a diaper and remembered– most of his diapers were falling apart. Finding one that’s in good enough shape to wear is kinda hard. So much easier to just put underwear on him. So we did it! Potty training went great that day and we continued on. He did a lot better and I did a whole lot better!

Like I said, within a week he had made quite significant progress. He still had occasional accidents, but the biggest problem was that he still wouldn’t tell us when he had to go. But we would put him on the potty regularly and he would go. Then all of a sudden this weekend, he just started telling us. Over the past few days he has told us many times that he has to go, and sometimes he even beats us to the bathroom. He can do most of the work himself– pulling his pants down and everything. But he still of course requires supervision.

This process has been such a wonderful parenting adventure. I had to grease up my old parenting skills of being really in-tune with his signs and cues, following my instincts, and balancing sensitivity for him with my own knowledge of what is best for him. The biggest lesson I learned, though, was to always own up to my mistakes and misjudgments and that Peer will respond best when MY attitude is right.

Finishing Strong

2 June 2010

I graduated with my MA in Theatre from Cal State Northridge on May 18th. It was a very exciting time. I won’t officially be done until I write my thesis, but since it is unknown when that will happen, I decided to walk early and celebrate my accomplishment.

This is Dr. Kim, or AJ as we call her. I spoke of her earlier. She is the head of the graduate program and she has been extremely influential and important in my life. Major inspiration. I credit her with nearly all I have become as a scholar and she has also greatly inspired me personally. I could not have gotten through grad school without her. I probably would have never started at all. Here is us at Honors Convocation. I really don’t know how I did it, but I did graduate with honors. This is very difficult for grad students, as the standards are quite high. My final GPA was 3.92. Amazing considering how hard it was for me and how much I grew as a student and scholar.

This is me with my colleague Mary and Dr. John Swain. Dr. Swain is definitely the toughest prof in the department. All of the faculty were challenging, but Swain always had the heaviest workload and had high critical standards. I learned a lot from him. He noticed my honors medallion at graduation and commented about it. That made my day. His giving me a 99 on my final term paper of my graduate career also made my day. I didn’t think he ever gave 99’s to anyone. Mary is a wonderful friend with whom I started this program 4 years ago. In fact, one reason why I really wanted to walk this semester is that many of the students walking were ones I started with, so it was especially meaningful. Mary had to do prerequisites like me (only a lot more) and specializes in children’s theatre, or TYA as we call it. She’s awesome.

There’s a lot I could say about graduation, grad school, scholarship, and my future, but I’ll save the rest for future posts…. or for re-edits later, since I seem prone to do that.

A Sobering Blog

1 June 2010

Today I hugged and kissed my little one more than usual and showered him with “I-love-yous” and spoiled him perhaps a little too much. Today I didn’t care about the minor imperfections that often bug me or about the smallish concerns about my parenting ability. Today I simply celebrated the fact that my little boy is alive, is healthy, and that we can spend our days together.

Last night I had a dream that Henry Granju, the teenage son of a popular blogger mom I follow had died. The dream was so vivid, and I was so sad and couldn’t believe this was happening. When I checked my email this morning, I found out that it was all true. This didn’t come out of nowhere– Henry had suffered a horrible brain injury as a result of the combination of a drug overdose and a cruel assault all within the same incident. I knew that although he had experienced some improvement, he recently had taken a turn for the worse and his life was in serious jeopardy. So he must have been on my mind… or perhaps it was a sixth sense that I occasionally do have. Either way, his death has really affected me.

It seems silly, really, to be so affected by this young man’s tragic death. I don’t know him, his mother, or their family. I read her book, Attachment Parenting, when Peer was a baby and liked it. I googled her and started following her blogs and on facebook. She never came out about her son’s addiction until very recently, after his injury. While the tragedy of his injury and death would be equally as haunting even if I had read it as a tiny blurb in a newspaper, it has been very moving to read about the whole thing through the eyes of his mother. She tells stories about his life, his childhood and her efforts to help save him from his addiction. She talks about her feelings of guilt and inadequacy, her fears of judgment from other parents, and that those other parents might be right. She has given both medical information about his condition, and explored her anger at God for the horror that is happening to her son.

It’s all been very moving for me. Maybe because I watched it all unfold daily. Or maybe because I identify with this mom. In some ways, she seems like a lot like me in maybe 15 or 20 years. She is passionate about parenting and we share a similar parenting style. Or maybe because if this could happen to her, then it could happen to anyone– even our family. She has tried so hard to help her son, to guide him, prevent him, discipline him, do anything to prevent this from happening. She is a very good mom. But this still happened to her. It reminds me of cheesy sentiments that carry a lot of truth. Like how these things can happen to anyone, or that every day is a gift and you should cherish every moment with your children. Or how I must be the best mom I can possibly be and leave the rest up to God. And also that every druggie out there is not just a druggie. Even though many people who OD in essence do this to themselves (excepting, of course, in this case where the OD was coupled with an assault by horrible people that need to be brought to justice), they still have a mother who loves them and would do anything for them, even take the blame herself.

Rest in Peace, Henry Louis Granju (1991-2010), and may God comfort those whom you have left behind.


30 May 2010

My little boy loves little Latinas. There I said it. It’s true. Maybe it’s a fascination with Dora the Explorer (whom he cannot bear to watch on TV, see a picture of, etc. because he’s too embarrassed), but the fascination has definitely extended to real live people. He enjoys playing with and socializing with little girls of his own race, but they are just people to him. Little Latinas are a totally different story. Case in point: today we were at the juice shop waiting for our order when Peer suddenly started cuddling in Andy’s arms, unwilling to show his face. As if he was sick or tired or something. He never does that. Suddenly I realized. There was a little girl to his left and another to his right. Both striking Latina princesses. It’s incredibly fun to tease him in this aspect. For a long time we had a Dora birthday card sitting around waiting to be mailed to his cousin. Every time he saw it, he would run into the other room. This eventually became a game, where he would ask to see it and then run away. Andy once asked him why he always ran away when he saw Dora and Peer responded, “Because I get so excited!”

We must come to grips with the fact that we live in a cosmopolitan society (something we like), and our child will probably not bring home a girl of his own race. I think we are being prepared for this at an early age! But until then we will definitely keep teasing him and I will cherish being the #1 woman in his life! (despite my pasty complexion)

What Should I Be When I Grow Up?

11 April 2010

I had a really awesome heart-to-heart with my advisor a couple weeks ago. This occurred after we mutually decided to postpone my thesis proposal until the fall because of my heavy workload this semester. I don’t know if you all know this, but my advisor, Dr. Kim is probably one of the most influential women in my life ever. Aside from maybe my mother and grandmother. She is amazing in so many ways. But anyway, she encouraged me not to rush and to really make the proposal good. She also encouraged me to be concurrently thinking about what my career plans are for after I finish this degree and really pushed for me to think about a PhD program. This is something I never really intended to do, but it is the focus and “purpose” of our program. I think I never really thought I was smart enough, but she seems to think I would do well. =)

She knows me so well, it’s crazy. It’s true that I don’t really have much direction and I don’t even really know what I’m going to do with this degree. But she encouraged me to take this time to think about it. She said something to the effect of not getting so distracted with a family that I lose sight of my full potential. Now this is a woman who is also a mother and has always been extremely encouraging of my family needs and so inspiring as a mother. She also nursed her child into toddlerhood and encouraged me to do the same even while I was still pregnant. But she doesn’t think I’m the type to “only” do just the mom thing and said that the academic world would be missing out if I abandoned it. It was so encouraging to hear that from her. As much as I respect full-time, stay-at-home-moms, I agree that I’ve never really been that type. Even though I am a SAHM, I always seem to also be doing something else. School, directing a play, both. whatever. So I was very encouraged by her to hear confirmation that perhaps I should continue to pursue my creative/intellectual life while I’m raising kids. Still not sure about the whole PhD thing, but I am newly inspired to make tentative plans for the next few years.

My other reservation is that to me pursuing a doctorate seems to be another postponement or perhaps permanent retirement of my acting career. Not sure that I’m ready for that yet. Maybe because I never really knew I was giving it up? I always thought of myself as just taking a break to have a kid or finish my degree. So am I an artist or an academic? Beats me. I do find myself thinking about directing quite a bit, though. I think this is where my intellectual ideas really flourish. I get tired of writing papers all the time, but I do enjoy the intellectual pursuit of them. Directing is where the actor and the intellectual collide, for me anyway. So maybe I should think more about that. My colleagues at school say there are a few PhD programs out there that have a directing aspect to them. Maybe I ought to check them out.

What are your thoughts, people? What do you think I should do with my life? =) Seriously– I’d love your feedback.

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