Friday, June 27, 2014

Kids Are Like Mirrors

I FaceTimed with my sister and nephew this week, and it was a great way to spend a week night. Summer told him to say hi to his Auntie Lindsay, so I started talking to him. I blew kisses to him, and wouldn't you know -- his precious little self tried to kiss and hug me through the phone! It was the sweetest sight on the planet. I just love that rugrat!

He is at the age where he mimics things he sees and hears. We spent a great deal of time going back and forth repeating after each other, and while that may sound so boring for an adult, it is exciting to observe a child engaging and learning like that!

He matched my pitch! 
He said it just like you! 
He knows how to do the things he sees!

He made something glaringly obvious to me that night. When I laugh really hard (which is a lot of the time I talk with Summer), I throw my head back. It's as if the joy is so strong that it can only shoot upward, not just outward. During one of our fits of laughter, we noticed that he smiled, tilted his head back, and opened his mouth. At first we thought, What is he doing? 

And then he did it again the next time he laughed.

And the next time.

And then it hit me. He was imitating me when I laughed with Summer! Of course, that only made me follow suit, because we laughed so hard. (It's an endless cycle with us, this laughing thing!) I now call it The Peanuts Gang Laugh, because it reminds me of the Peanuts Gang characters when they laugh, sing, or yell. My nephew is now an official Peanuts Gang Laugher, thanks to me.

He reminded me that kids are like mirrors. It is true that they learn from what they see and hear. (Lord, may he never see me during road rage.)

Monday, June 23, 2014

Knox Life: When Visitors Are in Town

How much time can pass before the window of "Let me tell you about this thing I did/trip I took" closes? One week? Ten days? A month? I hope you didn't scoff at one month, because that's what I'm going to do. We're going to pretend that my MIL's baked treats are still sitting on our kitchen counter and that I just sent my parents on their merry way after a ten-day visit. Yup. That's what is going down right now, people. In brief, here are four things we did with my parents during their visit to Knoxville.

It's a given. If you visit Knoxville, you visit Dollywood. Being from Southern Californian family and being married to a man who has worked at three major theme parks, our standards are high. We want to be wow'ed, and we want to have a smooth, enjoyable visit. While Dollywood is much smaller than other theme parks, there were definite perks. First of all, we attended on what employees called "the busiest day of the year, because Dolly is visiting today," but it was still less crowded than Disneyland on a rainy Wednesday in February. It was amazing! The wide open paths and short lines made for a wonderfully leisure day. We have a new appreciation for smaller theme parks. (The parking situation was ridiculous, but I'm attempting to forget how inefficient that mess was.) Second, the park was easily navigable. Good flow for rides, restaurants, shops, and exhibits. And third, the food -- namely Dollywood's Famous Cinnamon Bread! I'm salivating just looking at the picture below. It's the perfect pick-me-up after one too many loops on a rollercoaster. ;)

It looks like he has butterfly ears! ;)

 The Great Smoky Mountains make Knoxville for me. We had a relatively quick morning/afternoon driving through Cades Cove, but I'm looking forward to a longer visit this fall when my MIL and BIL are in town. The sights are breathtaking and expansive, and I enjoyed the churches and historical buildings along the drive. We came upon a church service in an old, white chapel. With no modern conveniences, it was like stepping back in time with the pastor's voice filling the space over a cappella hymns. For anyone who enjoys the outdoors or a good picnic, Cades Cove will undoubtedly feed your soul.

Dixie Stampede is at the heart of Knoxville's major tourist attractions. This was my second time going to the show, and I loved it just as much. This show features horse riding stunts, country music, and singin' and dancin'. Its interactive nature keeps the energy high, and it is appropriate for all ages. There is a pre-show with a musical trio, and once inside the arena for the show, dinner starts! The audience eats a four-course meal during the show. Yum! It's a great night for the whole family!

My mom is an avid traveler, and she had her heart set on visiting this place. Every vacation with my family is more like a "field trip," so I've grown accustomed to going along with whatever itinerary my mom whips up. To call this a museum is an understatement. True, there are buildings with artifacts, but land is designed like a village of Southern Appalachia. I love "immersive" museums like this one. For as technologically advanced as the world is today, it is fascinating to get a glimpse into how resourceful and creative people were in the old days. This museum could easily invite a 4- or 5-hour visit. Take your time in each building, down each path, and with each little animal (goats, chickens, peacocks!).

It was a great time had by all. Make sure to hit up these spots if you're ever in Knoxville!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Musical, Not the Scripture: Thoughts on The Book of Mormon (Also, this is the longest title ever.)

When we approached the entrance of The Kentucky Theater in Louisville over the weekend, a cascading banner quoted The New York Times: "THE BEST MUSICAL OF THIS CENTURY!" To all other musicals, them's fightin' words. I looked at S with a very sassy, "Wow. How bold of them." I had been waiting to see this musical for two years, and although the Broadway tour didn't quite come within arms reach of Knoxville, a four-hour drive to Louisville, KY, seemed justified. That would be four hours one-way, y'all. I'm not kidding about my anticipation of this show. Thankfully, S was impressed with the 2012 Tony Awards televised performance and read rave reviews, so he committed to helping his wife see this warm yet subversive production.

To Louisville we went, and we laughed our asses off. To say that it was hilarious and witty doesn't do it justice. I've seen a lot of spectacular theater in my life, but The Book of Mormon stands out in such a unique way. Granted, we are only 14 years into this century; that cascading banner did not overstate. This show is killer. From script to score to choreography, it takes the cake!

I was asked on Instagram, "What did you think? I'm LDS, and this always makes me a little nervous but I don't actually know much about it." So without subjecting myself to a huge religious or political debate on this blog, I want to address this concern about this musical -- or anything that questions a religion, really.

Don't be nervous. Those nerves just come from the unknown, so a big part of the puzzle is simply looking up the synopsis and reading a few reviews. You will quickly find that it is written by the writers of South Park and Avenue Q, so that's your first clue. As the states, this show is "an equal opportunity offender" with its jabs at religion, sexuality, race, social classes, and really, human nature. I know, I know. You're probably like, "Linz, this isn't making me feel any less nervous. You're making me feel worse and borderline offended." Right. Hear me out. This is the key to understanding this show:

See the show with an open mind and the acceptance that although the plot follows Mormon missionaries, the essence of the show actually highlights religion as a whole. Most people aim to be better through their religions and have the best intentions. I think we can agree on that. Those beliefs guide life decisions, and of course, it is threatening if someone or something wants us to believe otherwise. Yet, we often try to make others see our side, even if only a little bit and without saying the exact words. And that is where things get tricky and messy and offensive. Rather than trying to explain why your side is better, why not prove it? Why not simply live your life through the positive influence of your faith? People of good faith carry more clout in their actions than in the labels they use when identifying themselves to others. (Look at me gettin' all deep about musical theater!)

On top of that all fluffy stuff I just said, you must also accept the F word said several times over, politically incorrect terms from the mouths of innocents that will make you gasp, gay jokes, and a whole lot of good old-fashioned belting and tap dancing. I promise they're in there for more than just shock value. It's a super witty show! 

From what I've read from LDS people and looked up for myself, the show does not say anything about the Mormon church/faith that is untrue, so there's that.

To me, life shouldn't be taken so seriously that you refuse to see the world through a wider lens or that you can't laugh at your own hardships (and choice words and provocative humor). I'm going to say this loud and clear: You don't have to agree with everything you see/hear, but sometimes you'll realize by seeing/listening that you're being called out on your own BS, and that is a good thing to recognize. It was evident that the Mormon Church was not too offended to take out a three-page ad in the program, complete with the crafty text "The book is always better. You've seen the show. Now read the book." No joke. Mormon Church, I applaud you for "sticking it to the man" with that one!

That is all. Clearly, I need to find the Broadway/theatre-lovin' niche of the blogosphere, because I highly doubt 99.2% of you made it to the end of this post. C'est la vie. I was going to sing and dance for you, but now my feelings are hurt. ;)