Throwback Thursday: VUT’s Caucasian Chalk Circle

Over Valentine’s Day weekend 10 years ago, I was fortunate enough to be a part of an incredible production at Vanderbilt University: Bertolt Brecht’s The Caucasian Chalk Circle. Not many people know (or remember) that I actually spent my first year of college as a Commodore before transferring to Virginia Tech. While my freshman year of college was full of homesickness, trips back to Virginia, and illness, I had some amazing memories, especially of my hallmates and my fellow actors with Vanderbilt University Theatre (VUT).

For those who don’t know, Caucasian Chalk Circle is a parable about a peasant girl (Grusha) who rescues a child (Michael) from his unfit mother (Natella Abashvili). When Natella finds the girl and the child, she wants the child back. A judge (Azdak) decides that, in order to find out who the best mother is, he will allow the two women to pull on the child. The true mother will be able to pull the child from the circle. Grusha, fearing for the child’s safety, cannot go through with hurting him and lets go. This proves that she is the true and fit mother, and Michael is allowed to stay with her.

I loved being a part of this production. Even more so, I was fortunate enough to play the role of Grusha as a freshman, among countless other talented performers. This was a stage full of amazing actors, and I still feel lucky to have been a part of the show. If only we were allowed to tape the production! Instead, during a Facebook “reunion” of sorts as we were remembering the show via a thread on someone’s wall, all of these pictures resurfaced.

 

Caucasian Chalk Circle VUT

Caucasian Chalk Circle VUT

Caucasian Chalk Circle VUT

Caucasian Chalk Circle VUT

Caucasian Chalk Circle VUT

Caucasian Chalk Circle VUT

Caucasian Chalk Circle VUT

Caucasian Chalk Circle VUT

Caucasian Chalk Circle VUT


Caucasian Chalk Circle VUT

The story of The Caucasian Chalk Circle is a particularly touching one about the power of a mother’s love (along with many other subplots and messages, as Brecht does so well). I hope that, 10 years ago, I could play the role of the young mother who was so lost, but so determined to protect her child at all costs. Looking back as a mother myself, I am particularly drawn to the strength that she summoned, time and time again for her baby- never giving up, never stopping, always putting her child first (even when the audience may think her a fool for it). So is the power of being a mother. In my 4 months of motherhood, I can say that I get it.

Ouch

Ouch! - DoyleDispatch.com

From pregnancy to infancy (and I’m sure beyond that as well), motherhood is painful and very unglamorous.

We go from:

  • morning sickness
  • to sore muscles
  • to achy hips
  • to rib and bladder kicks
  • to contractions
  • to childbirth
  • to stitches
  • to all-over soreness
  • to jelly bellies
  • to oh-my-gosh-my-nipples-feel-like-they-will-fall-off
  • to exhaustion
  • to bags under your eyes
  • to emotional roller coasters
  • to you-can’t-really-tell-that’s-spit-up-on-my-shirt
  • to hurt backs
  • and hurt shoulders
  • and pain while working out
  • and guilt
  • and clogged milk ducts
  • and rib and bladder kicks from the outside.

No, mothering an infant isn’t glamorous, but it is oh-so-rewarding!

Rewarding Moments - DoyleDispatch.com

 

 

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A Mother’s Love

A Mother's Love - DoyleDispatch.com

Contrary to what is “out there,” love for your babies isn’t immediate. It is gradual over the hours, days, weeks, months of their early lives. Suddenly one day it hits you like a ton of bricks how much you love your babies. The feeling becomes so intense that you break out into tears because of this love.

No, love isn’t immediate. You know what is? Protection: The overwhelming urge to protect your babies against all of the dangers and horrors of the world. Awe: The incredible sense of amazement over perfect fingers, perfect toes, perfect faces. Wonder: How in the world can we be blessed with such gifts as these amazing children. Completion: The feeling that you are finally whole, when your heart never actually knew that you weren’t a whole being before.

Love is the compilation of these feelings and so much more. It is the indescribable. It is the utmost joy. It is simply what keeps us going through spit-ups and blow-outs and screaming fits and sleepless nights.

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Scenes from a Feeding

3 Months Old

I love how much our babies can make us laugh over the simplest things. Here is a scene from a recent feeding:

—————————————————————————————–

Curtain opens to both babies nursing atop our Twin Z pillow.

Dory: “Tim, can you get me a bottle of Coke?”
Tim: (hands the Coke)
Audrey: (breaks latch and stares at Coke bottle)
Dory: (laughs)
David: (breaks latch and stares at Mommy/Dory with wide eyes)
Dory: “Audrey, you can’t have that Coke. David, you need to eat, honey!” (gets them both latched on)

Both babies start eating again.

1 minute later:

Audrey: “Mmmm, mmmmm, mmmmm, ahhhhh, mmmmm”
Dory: (laughs)
David: (breaks latch and stares at Mommy/Dory with wide eyes)
Dory: “Babies! Eat, please!” (helps them get latched again)

1.5 minutes later:

Audrey: “Mmmm, mmmmm, mmmmm, ahhhhh, mmmmm”
Dory: (laughs)
David: (breaks latch and stares at Mommy/Dory with wide eyes)
Dory: “Babies! Eat, please!” (helps them get latched again)
Audrey: (big smile while she’s eating)

0.5 minutes later:

Audrey: “Mmmm, mmmmm, mmmmm, ahhhhh, mmmmm”
Dory: (laughs)
David: (breaks latch and stares at Mommy/Dory with wide eyes)
Dory: “Ok! I guess you both are done!”
David: (starts eating again)
Audrey: (starts eating again and humming)
Dory: (stifles laughter)
David: (breaks latch and then pretends to keep sucking so he won’t get taken away)

And scene.

—————————————————————————————–

Yes. That really happened.

 

 

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Mommy Anti-Filter

3 Months Old

My filter that existed pre-pregnancy still hasn’t quite returned.

Just last week, as I was nursing the babies in the playroom, there was a knock on the front door. My mom, who was here to help out with the twins, answered it. I overheard the man (I started to write gentleman, but I quickly had to delete it) starting to say “Hi. I work with TruGreen…” and I instantly yelled “No! We don’t want TruGreen!”

I’m sure my mom was much nicer than I was and apologized before she closed the door.

Then she came back in the room and we erupted into laughter at my rudeness, joking that my filter hadn’t yet returned. Our laughter made Audrey stop nursing and break out into a huge grin as well.

You see, we used to employ TruGreen to take care of our lawn ages ago… but they basically stole money from us, as they would come at the worst times to “take care” of the lawn… knowing that what they were about to do would actually do no good… which would mean we would need to pay them longer for work.

And then I got smart and fired them. I fired their butts and told them never to bug us again.

But they kept coming back. And over time, I lost my patience. I especially lose my patience when I have twin infants nursing and they come to ring MY doorbell.

So, apparently my filter hasn’t returned. You can read about my pregnancy lack-of-filter here. Now we can add Mommy Anti-Filter too. Oh well. At least I’m polite MOST of the time.

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Fool Me Once…

Fool Me Once - DoyleDispatch.com

Fool me once, shame on you.

Fool me twice, shame on me.

Fool me three times, that’s parenting.

-Tim to Baby David

Fool Me Once - DoyleDispatch.com

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Say What?

Say What? How to Respond to Rude Questions and Comments - DoyleDispatch.com

As a twin mom, I feel like a celebrity when we go out with the babies. People stare. They point. They make comments (some good, some bad, some they think we won’t hear but we are right next to them). They tell their kids to look our way. They also approach us more than if we only had one baby.

Yes. All of those have happened to us.

There was a middle-aged woman at Macy’s that said, “Oh. My. Gawd” in disgust. I gave her a dirty look and then quickly started cooing to my beautiful babies and walked out of there.

There was a 30-something mother in Target that said to her 7-year-old daughter, “Hey, hey, hey, come here! Stop what you are doing and come here! You have to look at this. Those are twins!” Um, as if the daughter doesn’t go to school with 4 sets of them. We aren’t that rare anymore!

Then there was a cashier that said that she was a mom of 18-year-old twins and “Oh my, how small your babies were when they were born. My babies were 8 pounds each, and I carried full term…” and on and on about how wonderful her twins were and how pitiful ours were.

Then there was the sales woman at Athleta that asked us, “Did you do anything special to get them?” Thankfully, her co-workers were horrified that she asked us this, and they lamented this after she turned and walked away (with us standing with our mouths open).

Did we do anything special to get them? 

She was asking if we went through fertility treatments. None of her damn business, really. I don’t mind talking about my reproductive prowess with friends and family, but with a stranger? No thank you!

So it made Tim and I laugh in the car on the way home. What SHOULD we have said to this woman? How should we have responded? Leave your responses in the comments section. I can’t wait to hear what you have to say! They can be humorous, snarky, or kind-hearted.

 

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“Always Go to the Funeral”

Someone posted this on Facebook a while ago, and I saved it so that I could post it here. I think it is such a fantastic message! You can see the original post and audio clip here: http://www.npr.org/2005/08/08/4785079/always-go-to-the-funeral

Always Go To The Funeral

by DEIRDRE SULLIVAN

I believe in always going to the funeral. My father taught me that.

The first time he said it directly to me, I was 16 and trying to get out of going to calling hours for Miss Emerson, my old fifth grade math teacher. I did not want to go. My father was unequivocal. “Dee,” he said, “you’re going. Always go to the funeral. Do it for the family.”

So my dad waited outside while I went in. It was worse than I thought it would be: I was the only kid there. When the condolence line deposited me in front of Miss Emerson’s shell-shocked parents, I stammered out, “Sorry about all this,” and stalked away. But, for that deeply weird expression of sympathy delivered 20 years ago, Miss Emerson’s mother still remembers my name and always says hello with tearing eyes.

That was the first time I went un-chaperoned, but my parents had been taking us kids to funerals and calling hours as a matter of course for years. By the time I was 16, I had been to five or six funerals. I remember two things from the funeral circuit: bottomless dishes of free mints and my father saying on the ride home, “You can’t come in without going out, kids. Always go to the funeral.”

Sounds simple — when someone dies, get in your car and go to calling hours or the funeral. That, I can do. But I think a personal philosophy of going to funerals means more than that.

“Always go to the funeral” means that I have to do the right thing when I really, really don’t feel like it. I have to remind myself of it when I could make some small gesture, but I don’t really have to and I definitely don’t want to. I’m talking about those things that represent only inconvenience to me, but the world to the other guy. You know, the painfully under-attended birthday party. The hospital visit during happy hour. The Shiva call for one of my ex’s uncles. In my humdrum life, the daily battle hasn’t been good versus evil. It’s hardly so epic. Most days, my real battle is doing good versus doing nothing.

In going to funerals, I’ve come to believe that while I wait to make a grand heroic gesture, I should just stick to the small inconveniences that let me share in life’s inevitable, occasional calamity.

On a cold April night three years ago, my father died a quiet death from cancer. His funeral was on a Wednesday, middle of the workweek. I had been numb for days when, for some reason, during the funeral, I turned and looked back at the folks in the church. The memory of it still takes my breath away. The most human, powerful and humbling thing I’ve ever seen was a church at 3:00 on a Wednesday full of inconvenienced people who believe in going to the funeral.

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The Invitation

Thank you so much to my sister-in-law Kathleen for sending me this poem. It is so beautiful.

It doesn’t interest me
what you do for a living.
I want to know
what you ache for
and if you dare to dream
of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me
how old you are.
I want to know 
if you will risk 
looking like a fool
for love
for your dream
for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me
what planets are 
squaring your moon…
I want to know
if you have touched
the centre of your own sorrow
if you have been opened
by life’s betrayals
or have become shrivelled and closed
from fear of further pain.

I want to know
if you can sit with pain
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it.

I want to know
if you can be with joy
mine or your own
if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you 
to the tips of your fingers and toes
without cautioning us
to be careful
to be realistic
to remember the limitations
of being human.

It doesn’t interest me
if the story you are telling me
is true.
I want to know if you can
disappoint another
to be true to yourself.
If you can bear
the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless
and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty
even when it is not pretty
every day.
And if you can source your own life
from its presence.

I want to know
if you can live with failure
yours and mine
and still stand at the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,
“Yes.”

It doesn’t interest me
to know where you live
or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up
after the night of grief and despair
weary and bruised to the bone
and do what needs to be done
to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me
who you know
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the centre of the fire
with me
and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me
where or what or with whom
you have studied.
I want to know 
what sustains you
from the inside
when all else falls away.

I want to know
if you can be alone 
with yourself
and if you truly like
the company you keep
in the empty moments.

By Oriah © Mountain Dreaming,
from the book The Invitation
published by HarperONE, San Francisco,
1999 All rights reserved

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Love and Marriage (and Parenting Twins)

Love and Marriage and Parenting Twins

 

Happy Valentine’s Day! While this is our 11th February 14 together, it is our first as parents. So we can expect the next few years to be filled with sticky pink and red cards and footprint heart cards. We can’t wait!

We’ve never been big Valentine’s Day people. We would go to Red Robin for dinner (surrounded by kids when we didn’t have them yet? yes, we were weird) and enjoy a no-wait/non-expensive dinner out. Last year to honor Valentine’s Day, we didn’t really feel like our normal spot of being surrounded by kids (we wanted our own and weren’t having any luck), so we did some special things on the blog instead.

This year, I want to reflect on how we can focus on our marriage and raising twins. It’s not easy, but if anyone can make this work, we can. First of all (I’m a little biased), we have one of the strongest relationships I can imagine. The statistics for couples raising multiples isn’t encouraging, however, so we have to always keep an eye on our relationship-meter. Here are some things that we’ve done to focus on each other, as well as our babies during these first few months:

1. Communicate: Of course this is #1 on the list (as it should be). You have to talk to each other daily to make sure the other has a handle on the new adventure that you have started.

2. Apologize: Tim and I are both really stubborn and don’t like to give in. Still, I have swallowed my pride many times and apologized, even when I felt like I didn’t need to. You see, I just didn’t have the energy to be stubborn. And you know what? It felt good to let it go! So while I am still stubborn as an ox, I am a lot faster at giving in.

3. Laugh at the Crazy: Oh, is there a lot of Crazy up in this hiz-ouse (house). From imagining that I was breastfeeding the babies in the middle of the night while both were safe in bed to Tim talking in his sleep about his job to us waking (nightly) to think there were babies in the bed with us, we are 110% crazy. You have to laugh at it or it will get soooooooo much worse.

4. Accept the Crazy: Tim learned this lesson early on. I would have horrible mood swings during my 2nd trimester. If he just let me be an emotional wreck, I got over it in 5 minutes, and I was the most pleasant person on earth. Try to interfere, and you might need to fish an icepick out of your skull. Once you give in to the craziness both before and after baby, you will fare so much better!

5. Name Calling: Not mean name-calling, but loving names… towards your children. Now, before you think me an awful mommy and Tim an awful daddy, remember #3. Humor! We have called our babies some names (my personal favorites are Prince and Princess Poopy Pants), but we do it lovingly. An all-time best moment was when Tim just finished changing Aud’s diaper and she managed to poop again. And then he changed her. And she did it again. He called her a word that we will not use when she gets older and can repeat words. I just laughed and laughed.

6. Talk about Poop: Speaking of Princess Poopy Pants, be okay with talking about poop- specifically the color and consistency of poop. Also, be okay with talking about your own bathroom habits and post-birth issues and types of spit-ups. Nothing is off the table. Speaking of table… you will be talking about these at every meal. Get used to it. If you will be embarrassed, don’t go out in public. You will talk about poop at a fancy restaurant. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

7. Take Time Away: You both have to be able to get away, both together and separately. Whether it is for a long, hot shower, an hour, or a night, you must get away. Do it sooner rather than later. You will appreciate each other and your babies so much more that way!

8. Call a Self Time Out: Be self-reflective, and know when to step away and ask for help. This goes back with communication. After almost 11 years together, Tim and I have gotten good at reading each other. I can tell when he needs relief, and vice versa. Whether we are able to admit it or not, the more sane one will force the other one to take a breather. 2 minutes of being “mean” and forcing the other parent away will save you from a huge meltdown or blowup later.

 9. Say “I Love You,” and Say it Often: There will be times when you can’t think straight, you are mad about something (probably inconsequential but which will seem really big at the time), and plus you have spit-up in your hair/on your shirt/inside your socks, but still make sure to tell each other that you still love them. Even if you don’t quite feel the love at that moment… say it. Remember why you started on this crazy journey in the first place.

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