Sunday, June 30, 2013

Mom-high: Euphoric feeling resulting from intense pride and love for your child

When #1 received an invitation to participate in the National American Miss pageant I thought she'd laugh at the idea.  #1 is not a girly girl. She loves black and red, reading about dragons and studying birds.  She hates pink and looking too pretty. She's not a cheerleader or dancer and typically avoids the spotlight.

I was surprised when #1 told me she wanted to try out.  Believe me, I was more than skeptical.  I asked her to think and pray about it and we'd talk about it in a few days.

I spent some time researching National American Miss and pageants in general.  It seemed to be a legitimate group with tons of praise all over the internet from previous participants.  I tried to resist my instinctual repulsion of pageantry and look for facts in an objective way.

I concluded that if #1 wanted to be in a pageant, National American Miss was probably the least objectionable for these reasons: 1) #1 had been tagged because of her academics  2) No swimsuit competition, no talent competition, and no make up allowed for her age group 3) judging would be based upon presentation, poise and confidence, not beauty or fashion.

#1 sent in her application and was given a try-out date a few weeks later.  After her audition (which was 5 minute interview), she was told to expect either a letter of rejection or a phone call of acceptance within 10 days.  Until then I hadn't realized how much #1 really wanted to do this.  She anxiously went to the mail box and jumped whenever the phone rang.  Eight days went by and disappointment settled in.  It was day 10 when she received a phone call that made her very, very happy.

Before I could commit to helping her I needed #1 to understand my worries: that she view this competition as a learning experience and not as a measure of her value or worth.  We talked about the things she could learn like confidence, responsibility and a chance to be an example of her values.  She heartily agreed and promised to not pin her heart or her self esteem on winning.

So we started preparing.

She needed to raise A LOT of money.  #1 designed an advertisement and gathered orders for homemade cookies which she baked and packaged herself.  She made and distributed a flyer asking for soda cans for recycling.  Over the last four months she made regular trips on her bike collecting the cans, then consolidated them at home for weekly trips to the recycling center.

She also wrote letters to family members asking them to help sponsor her.  Any money she received from her report card or in Easter eggs or from the tooth fairy went into her pageant jar.

I was not looking forward to shopping for dresses.  She would need a dress for the formal wear competition and a dress for the interview and personal introduction competitions.  I already mentioned that #1 hates pink.  She also hates ruffles, sequins, flowers, sparkles... pretty much anything one would wear at a pageant.  Modesty was another factor that would temper our dress shopping.  And even though her Grandma had offered to pay for her dress, I was not excited to spend a lot of money on a one-time-wear dress.

I felt a little better after we attended a NAM workshop.  They encouraged the girls to look for age appropriate dresses that weren't over-the-top fancy.  Just nice dresses they could wear to church.

One trip to Macy's and we left with two modest, black and white, non-ruffly, non-sequiny, marked-down dresses.  #1 loved them and it couldn't have been easier.  What a relief!

Spouse escorting #1 in the formal wear modeling competition
We attended a training session where #1 was taught how to model her formal dress, how to sit prettily in her interview, how to hold a microphone and look judges in the eye.  It was essentially a two hour clinic in posture and poise.

I really appreciated this training.  Etiquette and polite posture isn't taught anywhere if it isn't taught by your mother.  Although contemporary culture doesn't support the idea, acting like a lady is still very important. Sitting up straight, crossing your ankles and looking someone in the eye shows self respect and asks for it from others.  I was happy that #1 was able to have these values reinforced.

This past month #1 wrote, re-wrote and memorized her personal introduction. We practiced hundred of interview questions.  She wrote, edited and polished her resume.  I watched hair tutorials on YouTube.

Finally, pageant weekend arrived.

It was a hectic two days for me.  I juggled babysitters for kids at home, rehearsal and competition schedules with clothing changes and hair touch ups, drives to and from the hotel with traffic, all while trying to keep my nervous girl upbeat and relaxed.  I'm not ashamed to admit it: I'm so happy it's over!

Friday #1 rehearsed for and competed in the formal wear competition. Spouse donned his suit and walked her into the spotlight as her escort.  She walked slowly and kept her eyes on the judges and turned her head just right.  I knew she was nervous by the way she was smiling and from her tight shoulders.  But she was beautiful and perfect.  Mom-high.

Saturday morning before the personal introduction and interview competitions #1 was nervous.  She was stressed and snapped at me a few times.  On stage she spoke in her super high, super nervous voice and mixed up some of her lines.  Instead of getting flustered or running off the stage in tears, as some of the other contestants did, she gracefully ended her introduction and exited the stage.  I told her afterwards that she and I were the only ones who knew it hadn't gone as planned.

#1, from Gilbert, AZ giving her 30 second personal introduction
#1 loved the interview portion.  She burst out of the room beaming a big, relaxed smile.  I knew she would do well interviewing.  She is mature, articulate and probably has a broader vocabulary than the judges.  She was relieved because the judging components were over.

Waiting for rehearsal, making friends
The rest of the day was spent rehearsing for the production number (ie: group dance) and staging for the final pageant.  In the breaks we grabbed some lunch and #1 decompressed playing on her iPhone.

Goofing off in between rehearsals

my attempt at the waterfall braid
I was anxious to see how #1 would handle the production number.  She does not love dancing and she struggles to feel rhythm. I'm looking for a kind way to say, she cannot dance. 

She did great.  Really.  For a girl who can't keep a beat, she held her own.  She kept looking at me and smiling like, "what the heck am I doing up here?" I loved it!

#1 getting her groove on
She changed into her formal dress and was presented on stage again with her state finalist trophy.  All the girls stayed on stage while the semi-finalists and winners were announced.

#'1's age group was tricky.  It was called pre-teen for girls from 10-12.  However, many of the girls had turned 13 after the January 1st deadline had passed.  So #1 was one of the youngest, if not the youngest, in her division.  Her age group would have been more appropriately divided by "developed" and "undeveloped." She was on stage with some very womanly looking 13 year olds!

Accepting her trophy and taking her place with the group
At the conclusion I went backstage to find #1 and found a I'd stepped into a weeping zone.  Poor, broken-hearted. "pre-teens" everywhere!  I worried maybe #1 was one of the criers, waiting for my comfort.  Just then I felt a tug on my arm and turned to see the happiest, most fulfilled face of my sweet #1.  She was beaming! We hugged and I told her how proud and happy I was for her.


Spouse took us to the Sugar Bowl (#1's choice) for dinner and ice cream. We talked about our observations and #1 told us things she felt she'd learn.  There was a pause in the conversation then #1 asked why so many girls were crying.  Although she has a big heart, #1 is more of a stoic.  She doesn't often display extreme emotions, so I wasn't surprised she didn't understand the crying.  I explained that the girls were disappointed, that they had hoped they would win.  She replied, "Well, I wanted to win too, but there were 130 girls.  Didn't they know the likelihood of winning was 130 to 1?"

Ha! That's my girl with her head on her shoulders!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Its Summer!

Summer! Arizona summers are not to be compared with what most people experience. Summers here are very long, dangerously hot and quite difficult. Considering the circumstances (four kids at home, 110 degree heat outside, tiny house) we are doing OK.

Way back in May, we celebrated the end of school with an extended weekend trip to St. George to meet up with some of Spouse's family.

Warm, red rocks were explored.  The kids marinated their school weary bones in a cold pool for hours on end.  Baby showed off her thickening thighs and high speed crawling to adoring grandparents and cousins.  We surrounded ourselves in relaxation and love of family.

Lest you think our lives are all sunshine and unicorns (stole that one from Spouse), we also enjoyed one serious case of explosive diarreahea from one child who shall not be named on the 8 hour drive home to the desert. We left a trail of spoiled underpants in roadside gas station bathrooms.

Since returning we are attempting to accomplish a few daily academic pursuits, a few domestic chores and lots of reading and imaginitive play.

Baby is getting used to the constant noise and commotion of having all of her siblings home at once.  The first week she clung to me like a spider monkey. 

#3 just completed her two week session of swim lessons.  She says she is ready for swim team next summer.  She had her first piano lesson last week and has practiced her simple drills with much seriousness and concentration. 

Being cooped up is difficult for #2.  He's like a puppy scratching at the back door, needing to be let out. Despite the heat he rides laps on his bike around the block.  Basketball camp next week should help.  

#1 thrives at home in the summer.  She loves to be able to read all she wants and sleep later in the morning.  She relishes her position as Queen Organizer  (or Boss) of play and fun. #2 and #3 (almost) always defer to her imagination and leadership.  She has been my life/sanity saver, since I can leave one or two of the kids with her so I can grocery shop or run an errand without having to pack up the whole crew. 

Summer doesn't mean much to Spouse; his schedule and daily life go on as normal.  One happy change is that the children's later bedtime means that they are all awake when he gets home and get to enjoy his company for an hour or two. 

 Me? This summer is making my school year life seem like a vacation. But all is how it ought to be and despite the noise and chaos, we are happy to be tucked in our tiny (now very messy), (but air conditioned!) house together.