Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Name Game

We have a dinner game we like to play at our house.  Well, actually, we have many. But the one I'm referring to is called Table Topics, the family edition. Balthazar's mother gave it to us one Christmas, and we drag it out every so often, when we remember to.

Each card poses a question and every family member gets a turn to answer it.  Some of the questions are serious: What do you like best and least about your life?  Some are thought-provoking: When are old things better than new things? Some are fun: What's the best birthday party you can imagine? Some are silly: If you could, would you rather live in a boat house or a tree house?

The point, of course, is to encourage conversation amongst the coop, and to help us to continue to know each other as we grow and change with the years.  Quite often, I can predict the answers I'll hear, but every now and then, they'll surprise me. 

I love when a question invites us to consider something that we might not have before: What personality trait has gotten you into the most trouble? was an especially good one for me and The Storm. Balthazar, too, if I recall.

Is it better for parents to stay together or to separate if they're unhappy? prompted a long family discussion, and broadened everyone's perspective--mine included.

Anyway, communicating, and learning, and growing is all well and good, but nothing beats a good, old-fashioned, fall-out-of-your-chair-holding-your-stomach-to-roll-around-on-the-floor-under-the-table laugh, at the family meal. And this game inspires that, too.

It was in 2010, shortly after its release, that the coop had seen The Sorcerer's Apprentice (Did I mention Balthazar's a nerd, and he loves science fiction and fantasy movies about as much as I can't stand them?)  As predicted my husband loved it. And I hated it, which prompted him to go on and on about it for days, partly for my benefit, and partly because he truly is a nerd. 

"Just call me Balthazar Blake," he said, repeatedly, and for days--referring to Nicholas Cage's character, a sorcerer in modern-day Manhatten, fighting the forces of evil.

Then we pulled out the Table Topics: Who is one of your heroes?

"Balthazar," said my nerdy husband.

I groaned.

The kids laughed.

Next: What nickname would you like?


More laughing

If you could rename yourself what name would you choose? 

This time the laughs drowned out his answer, which, of course, was Balthazar.

That was two years ago, and we'd all but forgotten about it, until several weeks ago, when I announced that I was going to be Mommy Blogging, and everyone would need a pseudonym.

A grin crept across my sweet nerd's face until he couldn't contain it any longer: "Balthazar."

And we rolled on the floor some more.    


Anyway, two points here:

1. If you were thinking of another Balthazar, you are mistaken.

2.  I highly recommend Table Topics. Here's a link where you can get yours:

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Enter The Heedles

It all started with the fudge.  Sunshine saw me taking pictures to post here, then she snapped a few of her own to share with her Tweedles. (See definitions below and right.)  While I was still writing yesterday's post, "Oh, Fudge!," she asked if a certain Tweedle could come over. This certain Tweedle is of the opposite sex.  Let's call him a Heedle.

Sunshine is 15. She has, and has always had, many Tweedles.  Ever since I can remember our home has had countless kids coming and going; hiding-and-seeking in our closets; performing skits in masks and capes and tutus from our exploding costume box; draped across our couches to watch movies; and staggering down for pancakes after a sleepover. But, not since she was 7, has Sunshine invited over a Heedle.

"To try our fudge," she said.

I looked up from the screen, cocked my head and bit my lip to give her question the weight it deserved.  She's a good kid. She's 15. I'm home. "Sure," I said.

"Really?" she said.


"No going to your room," I added.

"I understand," she said, already texting an invitation.

Before I'd yet to press Publish, the doorbell rang.

I've met this particular Heedle on three previous occasions and he is easily the most polite and respectful Tweedle I've ever come across: "Hello, Mrs. Corcoran. Would you like me to take off my shoes?"

A half hour later, when Sunshine, the Heedle and The Storm were gathered around a plate of fudge, well into their third round of crazy eights, it was time for me to head out with Hollywood for his lacrosse camp.

"Your father will be home in twenty minutes. Make good choices." I didn't point a stern finger, but my eyes, locked on Sunshine's, did.

Then we left.  Only fifteen minutes later, did it occur to me to warn Balthazar.

"What?" he said, from somewhere deep in traffic, after his long day.

"Honey, she's 15. They're playing crazy eights with the kid sister. Be cool."

When I finally returned, hours later, Balthazar and The Storm were sitting together, watching sci-fi reruns, the way he and Sunshine often did. (His plan, since the beginning, has been to grow them nerdy, in order to ward off Heedles. It obviously isn't working.) I grabbed a slice of cold pizza from the open box on the counter.

"Where's Sunshine?"

"They went for ice cream."



"He stayed for dinner?"

"Yep," he said. Stone cold.

"How was it?"

He looked up from the screen. "It was awful."

"He's a nice boy," I said.

"I know," he said. "But this can't go on. It's not right." There was agony in his voice and in his eyes.

This is how I imagine Blathazar still sees Sunshine.

"She's 15, now. It's actually absolutely right."

Returning to the screen, and settling deeper into the sofa, he said. "I don't like it."

"Of course, you don't."

I imagined how the evening must have played out. I know they would have roped him into a few games of cards. Sunshine would have suggested the pizza. The meal Balthazar would have preferred was still in the fridge: Three potatoes wrapped in foil for baking, filets wrapped in butcher block, and asparagus still banded in rubber. He would have been cordial on the outside, seething and suffering internally.  He would have played his cards without conviction.  I hoped the Heedle was polite enough to lose the game, but I didn't dare ask.   

"You're a good dad," I said, and I kissed Balthazar's beautiful forehead.


Monday, June 25, 2012

Oh, Fudge!

When I tired from lounging about the house on the long summer days, when I was a teenager, I would make fudge, my mother's recipe. Or rather I would attempt to make it.  It's a tricky business, fudge is. Timing is crucial. If you don't boil it to just the right temperature, it won't harden, or it will turn the consistency of rock.

So, today, when I saw Sunshine still in her pajamas at noon, stretched across the couch, her nose deep in book, I suddenly recalled my mother's fudge, and decided that the girls and I must make it! (Hollywood doesn't like chocolate, if you can imagine!)

"Fudge brownies?" asked The Storm.

"No, just fudge."

"What's fudge?" 

"Oh, you poor deprived child!" I said, pulling out the sugar, two cups, to boil with a half cup of water.

My mother's recipe requires that you bring this to soft-ball stage.  I didn't know what this meant, thirty years ago, which is why I would often end with a thick chocolatey goo, instead of fudge.  Eventually, I learned just how long to boil the sugar and water, but now we have the internet and just this very second, I've learned that the soft-ball stage refers to: "A method of testing sugar syrup to see if it has boiled to the proper stage of cooking. It is the point when a drop of boiling syrup is dropped into cold water and forms a soft ball which will flatten on its own when removed. On a candy thermometer the temperature would have reached at least 234°F. but no more than 240°F."

We didn't have a candy thermometer, but I knew from the few hundred times I'd tried, that this hadn't boiled long enough.

Nor had this.

But, this, I suspected this had.

I was right! Our fudge turned out perfect! I knew long before it had set in the fridge, when the girls were scooping the remains from the pot, and it was already hardening.

My mother can't remember where she got her recipe, but it was an important part of each every childhood birthday I had, perhaps moreso than cake. And now, I'm sharing it with you! Enjoy!

Mom's Fudge:

2 c sugar
1/2 c water
1/2 c butter
1/2 c cocoa
1 c flour
1 tsp vanilla

1. Boil sugar and water to soft-ball stage. (It should be well-boiled, so the mixture turns clear, but no too long beyond this.)
2. Stir in butter and cocoa.
3. Remove from stove.
4. Stir in flour and vanilla.
5. Refrigerate for 1-2 hours.
6. Cut into small squares to serve.

Sunday, June 24, 2012


Is there anything more delicious than falling asleep on the couch in front of the television, on a Sunday evening?  

No. There is not. Unless, it is to be a mother chancing upon a scene such as this.


(Ballerina feet, even in her sleep.)

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Big Dreams

It's been a big week, each day jammed with one thing after another, and each night the same.  So big that, late in the evening, when I finally would sit down to blog, I found that I couldn't manage to get a good enough handle on the day's events, or couldn't possibly focus on a single moment, or philosophy, to manage a post.  The Art pics? They were from last week. Sorry. Cheated, I guess.

Anyway, that was part of the problem. But, if I'm honest, there is a second reason that I didn't share this week's events--which included Hollywood's first lacrosse stick; a lovely day at the pool; huge confidence issues all around (mine included); bold confrontations with fear; a day of haircuts; and I still haven't written about Sunshine's beautiful Father's Day performance in Giselle.  Anyway, all coming soon, I assure you.  But first I need to dig a little into Hollywood's child acting thing, which sits at the foundation of all my missing posts, and which took center stage this week.

Here's how it happened: Since he was a boy of five, Hollywood's want of fame and fortune had him asking to be on television.  I continually dissuaded him.  What kind of a life is that? What kind of a mother would encourage her children to get into that business? And all the while Brittany Spears was trainwrecking, just like everyone anticipated she would, and Miley Cyrus was coming up fast behind her to join the multicar pile up that is childhood Hollywood (the city.)

Then, when he was in the fifth grade, Hollywood (the boy) heard a radio commercial soliciting one of those talent scout conventions.  "Bud, they're all scams," I said.

"Please, Mom," he said. We went. He paid the $30 it cost for them to tell him he was cute enough to move to the $600 or $800 round. Like I didn't know that. (That he was cute enough, I mean.)

"Please, Mom," he said, again, with enough passion to cause me to look into it all. It seemed legit, as far as I could tell, then we packed our weekend bags, and drove the 4 hours to the Proscout Convention, where Hollywood landed himself a bigtime agent with Coast To Coast LA, the company which represents half the kids on Disney, and that cute little Haley Steinfeld who was up for the Academy Award, a year or two ago.

Yeah! I know! It happened that fast, and I'd put about that much thought into it, as if he'd merely asked for ice cream. 

Hollywood began acting lessons in Hollywood. He found a second agent for local work. He went on auditions in both Vegas and LA. He landed a little local commercial, and still he toils, rejection after rejection, honing his craft, pulling his shoulders' back and heading out, again--ever the consummate professional. 

And I'm proud of him, I really am, for dreaming so big and having the courage and conviction to go tackle these mighty dreams with his small hands, but..., but.

But, c'mon, who does this? And what kind of a mother lets her kid get into this industry that we've all seen chew and spit kids, for years. Remember Danny from the Partridge family? Oh, and Wilis from Different Strokes?  And even the success stories, slapped across the tabloids' headlines, are frightening. So, yes, every time, I need to admit what it is that Hollywood's doing while Sunshine's dancing ballet (a whole other nightmare, just not so overt) and The Storm is kicking balls, I do so with more than a small amount of embarrassment.

But, we've learned a lot about the business, he and I, and it isn't all bad.  There are good people and bad people within it, and we've met both, and the good people are really good, and the bad folks we steer clear of.  What I find most inspiring, from what I've seen, is the everyday people both behind and in the scenes, who are working day in and day out, just like everyone else--to put food on the table and because it is what they love to do.  The people that someone living in Des Moines, watching television in the evenings and going to the movies on weekends, will never know exist--but regular people as crucial to the overall machinery that is the entertainment industry as any bolt on any machine.

So, what does all this have to do with this week's minimal blogging?

Well, you know what happens when one kid has ice cream, right? Everone wants one!

There's another convention, a local, much smaller one, run out of Hollywood's Vegas agent's office, and since Hollywood is in the market for a new agent--the Coast To Coast thing was good until his agent moved on, and then it wasn't anymore. And the girls want in!  All week, they've been brushing up on their monologues, Sunshine's polished a dance, and everyone's singing. It's crazy! Happy crazy. Frightening crazy.  Crazy crazy.

I suspect they'll do their thing, maybe land themselves agents, maybe not--but, I suspect that, inevitably, the girls will pass on it all; it's a business requiring a dedication and perseverance, that only the truly passionate have.  

Hollywood is truly passionate about acting. He still dreams of fame and fortune. And I know one day he'll find it. For better. Or for worse. But for himself, nevertheless. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Monday, June 18, 2012

Audible Sighs

Like a lot of people, Balthazar and I were hit pretty hard by the last four or five economic years. 

Not so hard, that we couldn't get back up again, so we feel fortunate in that respect. Still, still..., during these difficult years we've both entered our forties (me before him, which he loves to remind me) and so we've arrived at this fragile and pensive state in our lives, the point where you realize there may be more years behind you than ahead of you; the place where you stop to take stock of your life, a little behind where we were. 

Why we do this to ourselves, this midpoint measuring? I'm not sure, but we all do, and this is where we gather seed for our midlife crises.

When you are a man lifting your head to inspect your life..., or at least when you are a 42-year-old man in Vegas...., or at least when you are Balthazar..., raising your eyes from the bills you're busy paying; or the emails that bombard your inbox; or when you come up from under the sink where the garbage disposal unit has broken yet again; when you are Balthazar looking up, you see cars. A lot of uber expensive cars. Everywhere.

And when you are Balthazar, you remember the BMW you sold a few years back and how nicely it drove, and how happy you were in that car. But, if you are the good Balthazar, you remind yourself to be content in your downgraded vehicle because you love your family and they are your priority, and you don't admit it, but you are proud to have managed so well given the mighty blows.

But then, if you are Balthazar, driving along in your perfectly reasonable downgraded vehicle, another Porsche flies by, and then another, and then a Ferrari, and maybe a Mustang.

Your sighs become audible.

After several months, you find yourself looking past the shiny paint and gleaming fenders, into the dark tinted windows, to discover just who it is driving these cars, if it isn't you, Balthazar.

Dropping The Storm off at school one morning, a Porsche pulls into the kiss-n-ride behind you, and you recognize the driver from another Porsche you saw earlier in the week. You begin to see him more often. At the grocery store. The soccer field. Then he is beside you at the pool, his bombshell of a wife laid out in a lounge chair, scowling furiously; his children, the same age as yours, whining and fighting on deck.  He looks tired, beaten.  He's hung over, you want to tell yourself, from the incredible party he hosted the evening prior. 

Several weeks later, you come across him inside the pages of a glossy magazine.  The article boasts of his success as the owner of a big business on the strip, as well as his plethora of cars, an "impressive collection, including three Porsches."  If you are Balthazar, you read his story, and you begin to question your own choices--different choices, good choices, but choices not so lucrative.

"But, he isn't happy," says your wife--who would love nothing more than to have a brand new car, wrapped in a big shiny bow, parked in the driveway for you for Father's Day, because, Damn! You deserve it, Mister!

And something in the way his children were tantruming so fiercely that day, poolside; the body language of his buxom wife; something in his own audible sigh tells you this is true. And you realize it so thoroughly that you speak it out loud.  "You're right. He isn't happy."

And, if you are Balthazar, you can hear your wife sigh, also audibly, in relief.    

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Where To?

As a mother halfway-there, you can expect to do your share of driving. On Friday I spent a total of  8 hours, 14 minutes in the car dropping the kids off and picking them up again. That's versus 8 broken hours, 27 minutes out of the car.  Which means I spent only 13 more minutes out of the car then I did sitting on my butt in the driver's seat. No wonder I'm getting fat.

Here is a recap of my day.  If you think it's boring, I'll tell you what I told Balthazar when he questioned the state of the house. "I was in the car all day! What do you expect?"

I woke at 5 am. By 7:10, I was driving the big kids to the Jr. Guard pool. Round trip: 30.03 miles

I arrived home at 8:24. The Storm and I were back in the car exactly an hour later.

We were climbing out again at 9:36.

 Back in again, after the doctor confirmed she was strep free. 

Quick Farmer's Market stop at about 10:33. I forgot to take that dash pic, but I got some cute shots of The Storm, who seemed suddenly well again because the doctor told her she was.

Back in again to fetch her siblings from the pool.

Home at 11:41. Out again at 12:56 to take Sunshine to a dress rehearsal.

She got out. I went home.

Ready to go again after an hour and a bit.

Big trip this time: I fetched Hollywood from a friends; The Storm from another friends; made a bill payment; dropped Hollywood off at acting class (Balthazar met me there to grab up The Storm); then I picked up Sunshine, but not before I snapped a pic of her looking ballerina beautiful.  I covered almost 80 miles, this time, before I was back home again.

A quick visit with Balthazar, who'd been away all week, then it was time to pick up Hollywood: 29.75 miles, round trip.

He looked as tired as I felt.

"Home, James!"

Wow! This really was boring! I promise never to do this to you again.

Friday, June 15, 2012

On Location

Hollywood and I spent most of Thursday morning on location, where he was filming an episode for a local kids' television show. He played a news anchor gone rogue at a go karting track on Vegas Kids TV, a Cool Blue Talent project. 

It was a long morning of standing around for Mom, but Hollywood claims he had the most fun he's ever had. Ever!  This from a kid who's had his share of fun through the years!

Since he was a wee kindergarten boy, Hollywood has pleaded with me to get him into acting.  I put him off for as long as I could.  Then I couldn't put him off any longer.

Sometime soon, I'll share the story of how he finally convinced me to let him get into this crazy business, how he found some awesome acting coaches, how he landed his first agent, and why I have so much trouble admitting that he's a child actor.

But for today, I'm just going to share a few more pics. (It's late, and I'm really tired.)


Oh, and when the episode hits YouTube, I'll share that, too.