Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Hills Are Alive: The Sound of Music 45th Anniversary

 On the anniversary of my birth I thought I would write about the anniversary of something older than me and that also happens to be one of my favorite things. I first fell in love with The Sound of Music after my family immigrated to the US. I loved it so much that I bought the VHS tape with the spending money my grandfather gave me for Christmas one year, which was the first purchase I ever made with "my" money. I was so in love with Maria and the music of the film that I even sang "The Sound of Music" at my church's annual talent show.

My love affair with the film continued through the years. I took a year of German in college (painful 8:00 AM class) so I could pick Liesl as my German name. I begged my friend Gleester to name her daughter Liesl (it makes sense for her since her husband is German!), but she politely refused. I've been to the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, Vermont to go cross-country skiing and to eat an authentic Austrian meal. I reread Charmain Carr's memoir of The Sound of Music, Forever Liesl, every time I need something uplifting to feed my soul. When I come to the part where she recounts woman in Wales watched the movie 307 times in the first nine months of its release, I can understand why. The film makes you believe that there is good in this world, even in times of great evil.

I've tried to pass on my love for the film to the boys. H learned to sing with the song "Do-Re-Mi." The Sound of Music was the first non-animated movie that H sat through from start to finish. I wanted so much to go to the special Sing-A-Long Event showings of the film this month, but was unable to make it because of the boys. H would have been fine, but our last attempt to watch a movie in the theater resulted in R's intermittent crying for an hour and we finally bailed. With our recent move to San Jose, I haven't been able to build a list of reliable babysitters yet. I hope they will have a similar event for the 50th Anniversary. Perhaps by then, I'll have a girl in a white dress with a blue satin sash to take with me. Or I can borrow Gleester's daughter!

I've bought every special edition anniversary VHS, DVD, and CD as they've been released. Unfortunately we don't have a blu-ray machine, otherwise I would be buying the Sound Of Music 45th Anniversary Edition coming out for the first time on blu-ray next Tuesday, November 2 from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. Instead I will be enjoying the 45th Anniversary Celebration in other ways:

Oprah Cast Reunion
For the first time in 45 years, the entire cast of The Sound of Music will gather for a once-in-a-lifetime reunion on the “Oprah” show stage tomorrow Friday, October 29, 2010.  The show will also include a performance from the singing group The von Trapp Children, which features members of the real von Trapp family.

VH1 Holiday Gala
On Monday, November 8th, the VH1 Save The Music Foundation will honor, a living legend, JULIE ANDREWS along with previously announced Grammy® Award Winners John Legend, John Mayer and The ASCAP Foundation. The program for the evening will celebrate music as universal language that shapes our life stories and include a special tribute to the 45th Anniversary of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music.

Anniversary CD To mark the 45th Anniversary of the most popular movie musical of all time, Legacy Recordings, Rodgers & Hammerstein, and Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment are proud to announce the release THE SOUND OF MUSIC: 45th ANNIVERSARY EDITION.  The CD will include the soundtrack from the much-loved film, plus a vibrant new recording of the film’s signature tune, “My Favorite Things,” sung by Lea Michele from the popular FOX-TV series GLEE. (Two of my favorites on one CD, bonus!)

I did not receive any compensation for this post. I'm sharing this information because of how much I LOVE this movie. I recently met a teenage girl who had never watched it. I was incredulous! Her first comment was, "oh, she's Mary Poppins." I hope by sharing this information, I will never meet another person who hasn't watched The Sound of Music. The Hills Are Alive!!!!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Cats, Dogs, and GARFIELD DVD Review

When I was growing up, my parents never let us have a pet. First of all they had to worry about making enough money to feed us and second, my mom had been bitten by a dog as a child so was deathly afraid of them. When my parents finally advanced themselves financially enough, my mother found out she was allergic to animal fur when she tried to buy a mink coat. She actually did buy it, but then had to return it when her neck broke out in hives and she had trouble breathing. My father is a Buddhist and unable to kill any living creature. My mom has to kill all the spiders and bugs that come into the house. There is no way that my father would be able to handle having to euthanize a sick old dog or cat, so to avoid the situation he can never have a pet. So for all these various reasons, I grew up without a great love for dogs or cats or birds or any creature that could be a pet.

When I went to college, I trained myself to like dogs. One of my best friends had an illegal dog in her dorm room and there was no way I could go over there if I didn't like dogs. After college, the few encounters I had with cats (a roommate's cats came to live with us for a few weeks and I cat-sat for a friend during law school) left me with the distinct impression that cats are not friendly and want only to scratch my eyes out. And of course it didn't help that, in the first house we bought, there was a corner of the hardwood floor that was completely disintegrated because it had been the previous owner's cats' favorite place to relieve themselves. For some reason, dogs seemed friendlier. H&R have always had a great affinity for dogs. H would go up to the biggest dogs in Manhattan and put his hand in their mouth. The only stuffed animal he ever picked out in a toy store to buy was a Gund puppy. R's nickname is R-Dog, so we've conditioned him to love dogs.

Where am I going with this? We've just moved into a townhouse complex in the San Jose area. Our next door neighbor has five adult CATS, one of which recently had a litter of kittens. (Yes, she's older than me and unmarried. I can only imagine how many cats are actually living inside her home.) She also feeds a stray cat that comes by every day. I did not have a good feeling about this. I thought for sure H&R would say things like, "I'm scared of cats. I don't like cats. I only like dogs." I thought they would run away from the cats. But no, they LIKE the cats. They always look for them and want to see them sitting on the eaves of the roof next door. They want to pet the cats and feed the cats. I think they would even play with the cats if the cats ever allowed H&R to catch them. Instead of saying, "woof, woof," now R says, "meow, meow." I can only think of one reason why they are suddenly displaying such affection towards cats: GARFIELD!

When we moved to San Jose, we were in corporate housing for a month. The apartment was furnished and came with cable. The only kids show that they could watch after dinner was back to back episodes of Garfield on the Cartoon Network. At first they were scared of it--after all they had never had any positive experiences with cats. Then they tolerated it. Then they started to like it. I think the show helped them incorporate cats into their everyday consciousness. So when the boys and I were given the opportunity to review the new Garfield DVD, I had to say yes.

Jim Davis’ classic cartoon cat is back in action (or is it inaction?) in “The Garfield Show: Odie Oh!”, which pounced on DVD October 5 from Vivendi Entertainment. Named one of the best new kids’ shows by People magazine and voted favorite comic strip by Nickelodeon magazine readers, “The Garfield Show” offers a fresh and funny look at Garfield’s day-to-day life, blending the modern look of CG animation and the familiar humor of Garfield, Odie the dog and Jon Arbuckle. Currently airing on the Cartoon Network, the vivid series follows the lasagna-loving, Monday-hating fat cat as he gets in and out of sticky situations, learning important lessons along the way.

“The Garfield Show: Odie Oh!” DVD contains six episodes. Parents might want to preview the episodes before showing it to children who are sensitive viewers because a couple of the episodes could be a bit scary for the littlest viewers (R kept saying he was scared but at the same time he wouldn't stop watching). In "Pup in the Pound," Garfield finds trouble after accidentally getting Odie sent to the pound and learns what friendship. "Odie in Love" is an endearing episode in which Odie falls in love with a very unusual object. "From the Oven" and "Neighbor Nathan" are perfect for some Halloween-scary, innocent fun. "Up a Tree" teaches some good lessons about the dangers of negative stereotyping, and "Flying Dog" shows the importance of having dreams. H's favorite was "From the Oven" because he loves baking cakes! For me, one of the great aspects of the show is that it is not a closed universe. New characters can appear in each episode, which makes it seem more like real life.

I'm glad Garfield was able to change my boys' attitudes towards cats. Without that change I think living here would be pretty difficult because cats are everywhere. They even come into our garage and stare at us if our door is open. The Cat Lady Next Door already offered us a kitten, which I politely declined citing my mom's allergies. I really hope she finds homes for them instead of keeping them herself. For now, I'll stick to watching a pretend cat that I can turn on and off and not have to worry about feeding. MEOW!

I did not receive compensation for this post. I received a product sample for review purposes. Cat photo obtained from Flickr, taken by Luis Miguel Bugallo Sanchez from Santiago de Compostela, Galicia.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

San Jose Half-Marathon Recap and Thank You!

I can't believe that the race was just two weeks ago! The day started at 5 AM for me since I woke up early and couldn't get back to sleep because I was so nervous. I went to Eunice and Wonki's house to carpool with them and a few other members of the team. If you ever run this race, seriously consider taking public transportation because we were stuck in the off-ramp traffic for half an hour. This is not good when the race is starting at 8 AM and you are still on the ramp at 7:45. Somehow we made it off the ramp and drove to a parking structure close to the start line. Because Sophie was with us, we were able to park in a handicapped spot, which made it possible for us to catch the other members of the Cure CMD team to take a photo before we all ran to the start line.

While we were stuck in traffic, we all compared notes to see what songs we had on our various Apple devices. I had loaded on H's iTouch all my favorite Korean gayo dance songs and the songs that my FB friends had recommended, including both Eye of the Tiger and the Theme from Rocky. When we ran to the start line I took out the iTouch and put the headphones into my ears. I tried to start my playlist. I looked and looked and then suddenly realized that I HAD THE WRONG ITOUCH! It was R's iTouch, not H's! (Don't think my kids are spoiled; we didn't buy either of these devices, one was a gift and another was won at a golf tournament raffle.) And of course the only songs on R's iTouch were their favorite Laurie Berkner CDs, Victor Vito and Whaddaya Think of That, and Dora's World Adventure. Somehow I just couldn't run while listening to these songs so I put the iTouch back in my Gu pouch.

It really was a good thing that the race was the Rock N Roll Half-Marathon because there were bands every few miles that helped break up the monotony of running. It was also a good thing that Stewart met me in mile 7 and gave me turbo boosts whenever I started feeling tired. Having someone push you from behind when you're running uphill helps immensely!!!! I finished the race in 2 hours and 16 minutes, only 11 minutes slower than I had run as a 22 year old. I thought of Sophie and how I couldn't let her down and ran the entire way. By the time we got to the finish line, I was so tired I had no kick left. When I was 20-something I always had something left at the end of a race and would speed up to finish strong. As a 30-something mom of two kids, I was glad just to finish!

After we crossed the finish line, Stewart helped me walk to the bag check. I didn't see any other Cure CMD team members so I started walking with Stewart to where he had parked the car--at the mile 7.5 mark. I knew if I sat down I would be demolished. This turned out to be the smartest thing I could have done. After my previous long races, the next day I wasn't able to walk and my legs took weeks to recover. Because of the long walk back to the car (it was only 4 miles from the finish line because of how the course was set up), I was tired and had a bad headache that day, but the next day I felt pretty good. I could walk without support!

I am proud to have run this race as a member of Cure CMD. When I received Sophie's thank you video, I knew I had to share it with everyone who had sponsored me and contributed to the effort. Thank you! Your donations will help find a cure for Sophie and all the other children with Ullrich Congenital Muscular Dystrophy. Every dollar makes such a huge impact because this is a rare disease that does not get much attention or funding. Thank you for helping Sophie!

Monday, October 11, 2010

From Left to Write Book Club: The Kids Are All Right

Today’s post is part of the From Left to Write online book club. The idea of this book club is not to write a book review but to write a post in which the blogger connects that month’s book to an experience from his/her own life. October’s book is The Kids Are All Right, a memoir written by four siblings: Diana, Liz, Amanda and Dan Welch.

When I first saw the book title "The Kids Are All Right" I thought that it was somehow connected to the movie with the same name. It's not. It's a memoir in which the four Welch siblings, orphaned in their youth in the mid-1980s, recount by turns their memories and impressions of that painful time. What really struck me while I was reading this book was the amount of drug use that went on among the older siblings. It's really amazing that they are all alive, much less "all right." I think if I had read this book a few months ago, I would have judged these siblings very harshly because of it. 

Two months ago, I went to the GYN for my annual check-up. I talked to the doctor about how seriously ill I felt for two weeks out of every month right before and during the monthly gift from nature. I had spoken with a male GYN about six years ago about this and he did not take me seriously at all. He told me to take some B vitamins and exercise more. I ended up leaving that practice because of his callous attitude, but his dismissal of my symptoms prevented me from bringing it up until this last visit. Well, this time around, my female GYN did take me seriously. After listening to all my symptoms the doctor said I had premenstral dysphoric disorder (PMDD). She prescribed a drug that I should take during the two weeks every month. I was hesitant to do it, but I knew I had no choice, at least this month, because the two weeks coincided with the San Jose Half Marathon. I knew I couldn't run it if I felt half-dead. So I took the drug. And it was AMAZING. I couldn't believe I had suffered with the extreme pain and fatigue I felt every month for the past TWENTY years (other than the months I was pregnant and the two months after giving birth each time). In high school I would go to the nurse's office and sleep there for half the day because of the pain. At work, when I had my own office, I would lie down on the ground because of the dizziness and fatigue. Sometimes I would feel like I was unfit to drive. And Stewart can tell you how irritable I would get during those weeks. I can't believe there was something that could have helped me avoid all that agony, maybe not in high school but at least during my adult years.

During those two weeks this past month, as usual every morning I woke up and felt like digging my way into the ground so I could reach my final resting spot. Then I would take the pill and about 20 minutes later, I would feel energized and myself again. It was like magic. I couldn't believe how effective it was! I would not have been able to complete the race training or made it through the move to San Jose if I hadn't taken the drug. If a little tiny pill could make such a difference, I can only imagine the euphoria and high from something like cocaine or amphetamines. And if both my parents were dead and my siblings and I were all separated like the Welch siblings, I can understand how those drugs may have helped me survive. I'm not excusing their illegal drug use, but I can empathize as to why they needed to do it. I'm glad that the Welch siblings made it through the years alive and are now sober.   

I don't know if I will continue to take the drug now that there is no compelling reason like the race to do it. I don't want to become dependent on it and need to get an increased dosage over time. But I'm glad I did it because it gave me an insight I didn't have before, since I had never taken drugs or smoked anything in my life. I had been so reluctant to take the drug because I felt there was stigma attached to it and that I was somehow weak for doing it. But sometimes it takes more strength to admit you need help, chemical or otherwise. This is a very personal topic and I debated whether I should blog about it. When I thought about the past 20 years where I could have had relief if someone I knew had talked to me about it, I knew I had to share. If you are a silent sufferer of PMDD like I was, there are options out there. You don't have to be in pain! It is a recognized illness and treatable with medication. You can find more information and see if your symptoms correlate with the disorder here and here. Good luck!

I received a free copy of The Kids Are All Right as part of the book club. If you would like to read the story of how these siblings made it through incredible hardship and pain, you can buy the book here. More information is available on their website.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Do You Know the Way to San Jose?

Random Mommy and family moved last week to San Jose. And I made the drive by myself because Stewart had to drive the other car. This is my top ten list on what to do on the drive to prevent complete meltdown of toddlers in the backseat:

1) Buy or rent a minivan. We bought a minivan right before our move so we could transport a lot of the things we would need initially before the movers would be able to bring our stuff. It gave the boys a sense of continuity to have so many familiar things with them in corporate housing so I'm really glad we did it. It also helped with the drive because they loved being in it.

2) Stop at the McDonald's off I-5 when you pass Castaic. It has a Play Place so the boys were able to run around and burn off some energy.

3) Ration the entertainment. The first two hours we listened to Wiggles and Elmo CDs. Hours 2-5 they watched Blues Clues on the minivan's built-in DVD. Hours 5-7 they alternated took turns playing the small black phone (iTouch) and big black phone (iPad). Yes, it took seven hours!

4) Stop smartly at the Kettleman City fuel/food area. Don't make the mistake like we did in the past of stopping in the McDonald's because it's the first turn off. Go all the way to the Jack in the Box and you will be rewarded with CLEAN bathrooms and functional A/C.

5) Bring cash. The gas station in Kettleman City posted $3.19/gallon. Of course you can't see on the sign from the road that this is a cash price. I didn't even see the credit price until I swiped my credit card and I noticed the price was $3.34/gallon. A big difference but one most people would probably pay since it's just a one time deal during a road trip. I just didn't like the dishonesty of it so I stopped the transaction and went inside and paid cash. Luckily I didn't give the movers as big a tip as I had planned so I had enough to get us to San Jose!

6) Save a secret goody bag for hour 5. My good friend Carmen had given the boys new lunch boxes as good-bye presents. When they started melting down, I passed back the Cars and Spiderman lunch boxes filled with all the things little kids love, namely chocolate chip cookies and fruit snacks. Gracias Carmen!!!

7) Have someone call you every hour. Stewart didn't make the drive on the same day so he was able to call me every hour to keep me alert. Even with a huge iced coffee at the McDonald's stop, I was still fatigued from working all day before with the movers and then running 3 miles that morning to keep up my half-marathon training. Built-in minivan bluetooth--sweeeeet!

8) Pack comfort items. They had their new pillow pets and Aden and Anais swaddle blankets. I had received the blankets at a celebrity mom/blogger event the week before and these blankets were absolutely perfect. They were soft, yet not too hot since they are made of muslin.

9) Everyone wears diapers or at least a towel on their seat. R has just started potty-training but I didn't want any accidents so I had him wear pull-ups all the way up. I also covered H's seat JIC.

10) Freeze juice. If you put some frozen juice boxes or pouches in a hot/cold bag along with some from the fridge, then the frozen ones will melt so that they are still cold during the last phase of the trip.

And one bonus tip that I think is essential:

11) Drive during daylight. Especially if you're driving somewhere unfamiliar, being able to see where you are going is a huge plus!

Hopefully some of this will help you the next time you have to drive long distances with your kids without other adult assistance. Now that we've found our way to San Jose, the big unpack has started. My back is already in pain!