African Cats!

April 21, 2011

I’ve been so excited about this film. For months, I have been anticipating Earth Day – April 22nd, 2011 because that is the official opening of Disney Nature’s African Cats. It’ll be showing at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood for numerous performances throughout the day. Prior to each show, Wildlife Learning Center will be presenting their wild animals on stage. Wildlife Learning Center is a locale not for profit animal rescue organization located in Sylmar, CA. (They offer family visits as well as educational tours for pre-schools, schools, homeschoolers, and any children and children at heart organization/group.)

If you purchase tickets to see African Cats in its first week, a portion of your ticket sale will be donated to help preserve wild animals in Africa to African Wildlife Foundation.

Today, Today, I just saw on Family Finds they are having a deal today – $16 for  2 admission to see African Cats, plus $5 to spend at the Disney store near El Capitan theatre.  This is an excellent and affordable opportunity to see this educational and entertaining movie. African Cats is rated G and is a documentary. Please see all aspects of the deal via  this link:

http://fmlyfnd.us/hNv1mP

We will be going on Monday, April 25th because I arranged a field trip for 40 of my community of friends and family – prior to hearing about this deal!

For those unfamiliar with the El Capitan Theatre, parking is very easy and affordable. If you park at the Hollywood Highland Complex, which is across the street, parking is $2 for four hours and the El Capitan validates. Go walk up to the street level, cross the street and you will find the El Capitan Theatre. It’s beautiful in a Hollywood, glamourous night at the movies way.

Mishy jumping from bed to bed in our Toronto hotel.

I am sitting in a hotel room in Montreal while my husband and daughter are fast asleep. It is 1:13AM and I am thinking – what I am doing with my life? We’ve been in Canada, where my current citizenship is, for almost five days now. It feels like I have been on this trip for longer. We first stopped off in Toronto to see my family – my mother, father, oldest sister and her long time boyfriend. My father is going through a transition, having recently sold his business. He is in between jobs. Though he is past the age of retirement, he will never retire and has another job lined up. My sister, who is an actuary, told me most retirees get depressed after six months of retirement. My father will never get depressed. At least not from retiring. He has a need to keep the American Dream alive.

Sometimes I wonder how my life would have been if we stayed in Korea. Of course, nothing is a better life without my daughter – yet, I do think about choices we make and choices we had no control over or say. My first memory is of me waking up in the middle of the night. It is our first night in Toronto and I cannot sleep. I remember my uncle’s brown sofa and how ugly I think it is. Where’s the color? I wake my oldest sister up because I want to go back home. She tells me we are home and it doesn’t make sense. I stare at the brown sofa for what feels like a long time while I hear my sister progressively breathing deeper. I just want to go back home. That was my first heartbreak. I don’t know if we ever get over our first heartbreak? Maybe through tears? Over and over again?

Mishy with my oldest sister, the actuary.

My sister and my daughter adore each other. My daughter couldn’t stop holding her hand or wanting my sister to carry her or kiss my sister or tell her to give her airplane rides or jump on the bed with my sister. We had two double beds in our hotel room in Toronto and my daughter instantly made up the game of jumping from one to another. They were spaced over two feet apart. My husband likes to call my daughter a dare-devil. To me, she’s a toddler. My daughter showed my sister how to jump from bed to bed – by balancing on one end and then jumping and rolling. My sister remarked how much weight my daughter must have on her head because of the way she rolled on the bed, while I was watching closely to make sure she was safe – the differences in observations an aunt makes as opposed to a mother. My sister doesn’t have any children of her own right now. She has already done her share in raising them – me and my middle sister. We live 3000 miles away. It’s hard for family to be so far apart. I know. I always wished for family – a large extended family who would relieve my mother’s burden of caring for three young children only 2.5 years apart.

In Montreal, I am not a part of my husband’s family. Despite being with him for 14 years, they do not know me and I do not know them. Maybe like family, we don’t really like each other. They put up with me because I married their son, grandson, nephew, cousin, etc. and now I am the mother of their great-granddaughter, granddaughter and I put up with them because they brought my husband into this world, or helped raise him, or grew up with him. While everyone talked, I was alone. There were 34 people at dinner and aside from playing with my daughter, I spent most of my time talking to a stranger I had just met, a family friend who was interested in finding a place to stay while she visited Santa Monica in the summer.

I wish I could give the gift of a larger family to my daughter for longer periods of time. I wish I could start trusting my mother-in-law again. Prior to me becoming pregnant, we were very close and then I became pregnant and things changed. After I gave birth, a lot of things were said and done and it made me believe the person I had known before was false and only befriended me because she was scared she was going to lose her son. A psychiatrist told me my mother-in-law has deep issues which will never be resolved because she does not want to investigate. A mediator told me she is in a place of pain and while forgiveness is not the answer, acceptance is. Do I accept my mother-in-law for all her faults and her inability to take any sort of responsibility? Clearly, I am not in an emotional place to accept right now. Maybe it’s because I have the thought in my head that she secretly wants to destroy my marriage so she can have her son back. She has a history of having family members take sides and during the first two years of my daughter’s life – she made it very clear she was on a focused desire to turn his family against me one by one. That is my opinion. To many times I remember coming home to my husband in a yelling match with yet another relative in the early months of our daughter’s life.

So here I am with a daughter I adore and a husband who loves me and an older sister who is loving to my daughter and whom my daughter adores. Perhaps that is what I will focus on and everything else will fall into place – including what am I doing with my life? Or maybe the question is – what will I do with my life? Now that my daughter is getting older and needs me less – needs me in the sense of the first three years when she needed me every second. Now, she plays by herself and motherhood has become, well, less exhausting. Maybe it’s time for me to return to my writing. My creative writing of plays and screenplays and make a mark for myself outside of motherhood. There – I am declaring it to the world – I am going to return to writing – not just writing on the blog – but writing to explore, to let go and live – in a different way that is so fun and freeing and sometimes so hard to start. Just begin. Just begin. Just begin.

Cowboy Festival Giveaway

April 18, 2011

The Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival is once again coming to Melody Ranch™ Motion Picture Studio and other venues throughout Santa Clarita. Saddle up and step back to a simpler time of chaps, saddles and old-time saloons. This year’s festival will include a mix of new attractions and returning favorites, including dutch oven peach cobbler, trick ropers, authentic gear and a show stopping musical talent lineup.

Festival guests can expect to see some of the Cowboy Festival’s most beloved returningperformers. Grammy nominated singer-guitarist Don Edwards will hit the stage, as well as Hot Club of Cowtown and Wylie and the Wild West. The Sons of the San Joaquin will also head back to the Cowboy Festival in 2011, entertaining guests with their fantastic Western harmonies.

In addition to the list of musical performances, guests can expect the full Cowboy Festival experience. Fun activities are set to take place for guests of all ages, including living history exhibits and leatherworking for children. Multicultural entertainment will also make its return to the Cowboy Festival. Enjoy North American Indian performances by the Eagle Sprit Dancers, accurate portrayals of Civil War era music by The Band of the California Battalion, and authentic Hispanic cultural performances.

As always, the Cowboy Festival will feature the best in Western gear, food, clothing, and living history exhibits.

*Natural Traveling Momma is excited to be giving away 4 all day passes to attend The Cowboy Festival on your date of choice – either Saturday, April 30th or Sunday, May 1st, 2011. These four tickets have a total retail value of $120. To enter, please comment below. For an additional entry, click on the link about The Cowboy Festival and make an additional comment on this blog page. The giveaway ends on April 25th, 2011 at 5PM. Good luck!

UPDATE: Congratulations, Lori! You’ve won the four tickets to attend the Cowboy Festival!

Cowboy Festival

http://www.cowboyfestival.org/

I was recently given a copy of Scholastic Book Treasures, Tikki Tikki Tembo and More Stories to Celebrate Asian Heritage, to review in anticipation of celebrating Asian Heritage Month, which is in May. I was especially interested in watching these stories with my daughter, who is half Asian. While both my daughter and I have consistently enjoyed viewing  Scholastic Book Treasures DVD collection for their entertainment and educational qualities, I was surprisingly touched by this collection.

Here is a summary of our favorite stories in this collection.

The Journey Of My Grandfather, written and illustrated by Allen Say, reminded me of my journey of identity in the two worlds I had considered “home” during my formative years. I came to Canada when I was 2.5 years old and when I was 19 years old, I visited Korea for the first time since my immigration. In Korean, little things fit – the juices and snacks came in smaller containers, and of course, the clothes fit. Yet, everywhere I went, Korean shop owners asked me if I was Japanese. They said while I looked Korean, there was something different about me. And when I returned back “home” to Canada, I still continued to feel something was missing. In Korea, I was homesick for the country I left and in Canada, I was not completely at home. The Journey Of My Grandfather is a much more uplifting story than mine – it simply tells a story of how a man and subsequent generations of his family find their home.

My daughter has enjoyed The Stonecutter, written and illustrated by Gerald McDermott for a couple of years. This version features the same illustrations and bold adaptation of this Japanese folk tale about a stonecutter’s wish to become more powerful. Mishy was fascinated to see the story re-told.

After we first played Lon Po Po: A Red-Riding Hood Story From China, my daughter wanted me to play it again and again. She loved the story of the three sisters who out-wit a wolf while their mother goes to visit their grandmother. Since I am the youngest of three daughters, it reminded me of the many times my oldest sister was left in charge while my parents were away.

Tikki Tikki Tembo and More More Stories to Celebrate Asian Heritage features stories by Allen Say, Karen Chinn, Gerald McDermott, Katherine Paterson, Ed Young, and Arlene Mosel with work by illustrators, Allen Say, Gerald Mc Dermott, Ed Young, Blair Lent, Leo & Diane Dillo, Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu. The stores are narrated by Ming-Na Wen and B.B. Wong.

*Natural Traveling Momma is excited to giveaway one copy to a lucky reader of Tikki Tikki Tembo and More Stories to Celebrate Asian Heritage. To enter, please comment below. For an additional entry, please click on the link below and once again comment below. This giveaway ends on April 30th, 2011 at 5PM. Good luck!

UPDATE: Congratulations, Sarvi!

Details:

Tikki Tikki Tembo and More Stories to Celebrate Asian Heritage

http://www.newkideo.com/scholastic/tikki-tikki-tembo-and-more-favorite-tales/

Going to the Farm Walk

April 17, 2011

Pierce College Farm Walk

I impressed my husband when we attended Pierce College’s Farm Walk. This is an annual event where they turn their 235 acre animal learning/teaching center into a farm. They had wagon rides, a petting zoo, an equestrian show, pony rides, students walking around with animals – a parrot, a python snake were two we saw, as well as food – including farmers market fresh strawberries, which we gobbled up, and a special surprise – a guest found a baby opossum.

Mishy feeding the Momma goat.

Mishy gathering hay to feed the wild burros.

Pierce College recently brought the wild burros from Nevada to protect the goats and cows from coyotes. Coyotes are scared of them.

Cows grazing.

They do sell the cows for beef to raise funds for their school. This Farm Walk is one of their many fundraisers they have throughout the year. Just to cover the cost of feed, they need to raise over $50, 000. Due to budget cuts, they have been forced to close down and lessen some of their stock of animals. They currently only have one pig because it was too costly for them. They did recently open up a chicken coop.

A tractor.

Wild sheep.

The animals are able to graze on much of their 235 acre property and the students are continuously planting seeds to grow into grass so they don’t just depend on hay as their primary source of food for the animals. The animal college would like to become as self-sufficient as possible.

Taking a rest.

Walking through the fields.

On the wagon ride.

Touching the Do Not Touch pretend horse.

Finding a baby opossum

Mishy petting the baby opossum

Playing with the hoola hoop set for a pretend horses and children to jump through.

Farm folk, fire fighters and the Forestry Division of the Los Angeles Fire Department, and the group, California Woman for Agriculture and Agriculture in the Classroom were also on hand to answer any questions.

Details:

Pierce College

http://www.piercecollege.edu/

First Dentist Appointment

April 17, 2011

Getting her teeth cleaned.

Last Monday, Mishy had her first dentist appointment. She looked forward to it because a friend, Clara, had recommended her dentist, Dr. William Pratt in Santa  Monica, who is known for being gentle and personally cleans his client’s teeth.

Swishing the water in her mouth to spit.

We brush her teeth twice a day and sometimes even more. It is a game to brush Mishy’s teeth. She likes to eat the toothpaste. We use Weleda children’s toothpaste and  Kids Spry Tooth Gel, because they both don’t contain any harmful chemicals and are safe, if eaten. At the appointment, my husband asked Dr. Pratt if she needed flouridated toothpaste. A dentist he had met at a drugstore said our daughter did. Dr. Pratt said children get plenty of flouride in the foods they eat and it is unnecessary to give them toothpaste with flouride in them.

Getting ready to have her teeth flossed.

Her teeth after her first professional cleaning and flossing.

Details:
Dr. William Pratt
http://www.healthgrades.com/directory_search/physician/profiles/dr-md-reports/dr-william-pratt-dds-a84b0ca6.cfm
Weleda Children’s Tooth Gel
http://www.vitacost.com/Weleda-Childrens-Tooth-Gel-1-78-oz
Spry Kids Tooth Gel
http://www.xlear.com/spry.aspx
(Full disclosure: I do not benefit in any way by offering the links.)

Rhythmic Circus

Sunday, April 17
2 PM • $35
$20 for kids 17 and under

Smothers Theatre

TICKETS

More Sensational Sundays

Rhythmic Circus

There’s tap dancing and then there’s Rhythmic Circus, the percussive-dance phenomenon that electrifies audiences with its hard-hitting tap and high-spirited music. This family show is spiced up with a variety of musical flavors, from Minneapolis funk to salsa, and enlivened by a seven-piece band, vocalists, and a beat-boxer. “Flat-out amazing!”—Minneapolis Star Tribune.

* Natural Traveling Momma is excited to be giving away 4 tickets to one lucky winner to see Rhythmic Circus at Pepperdine’s Smothers Theatre on April 17th, 2011 at 2PM. To enter, please a comment below. For an additional entry, click on to The Center For The Arts/Pepperdine University’s website. The giveaway ends on April 13th at 5PM. My daughter will pick out one winner. Good luck.

http://arts.pepperdine.edu/

I’m giving away 4 tickets to the April 16th show at 1PM of Swimmy, Frederic, and Inch By Inch. It is at the Smothers Theatre at Pepperdine University – which is a lovely theatre and there’s a small and interesting art gallery nearby – interesting because they showcase work by  amazing artists. That day also has a free family day from 10AM-3PM.

The show is performed by Mermaid Theatre from Nova Scotia, Canada. I started working in children’s theatre both as a playwright and actor and while I never worked at The Mermaid Theatre, it has an internationally known reputation of producing high quality work and this is one theatre’s work I have always wanted to see – as an adult with a child’s heart.
Many of my friends have gone to Nova Scotia to see their work. It was something to do as a Canadian theatre artist. We are so lucky they are touring more and coming to Malibu. Don’t pass this opportunity to see their work. Really. If you can’t make the 1PM show, plan to make it to the 11AM show. Tickets start at $10. There is not a bad seat in the house. Bring your lunch and have a picnic with ocean views. 

Parking can be a big confusing. Sometimes you may park in their parking lot. If you park on the street or in a neighboring parking lot in the Pepperdine University area, there are shuttle buses which come every 10 minutes. Give yourself plenty of time to park and walk or shuttle. It’s beautiful there so personally, I find it fun to walk or shuttle to the theatre. So does my daughter. It’s part of the ritual of going to the Smothers Theatre.

(We will miss this show, unfortunately. When I found that out, I wrote to them trying to figure out when they will next return to Southern California. Suddenly, I wished I was a theatre producer again who can host them 🙂

*Natural Traveling Momma is happy to giveaway 4 tickets to see the Swimmy, Frederick, and Inch by Inch on Saturday, April 16, 2011 for their 1 p.m. performance at Pepperdine’s Smothers Theatre in Malibu. To enter, please comment below. For an additional entry, click on Pepperdine’s Smothers Theatre’s website and then comment once again below. Good luck! The giveaway ends on April 12th at 5PM. My daughter will pick out one winner and the winner will be notified by April 13th, 2011.

Pepperdine’s Smothers Theatre

http://arts.pepperdine.edu/

Pepperdine University Kids’ Playhouse Series will feature a magical production of “Swimmy, Frederick, and Inch by Inch” on Saturday, April 16, at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. at Pepperdine’s Smothers Theatre in Malibu. Drawn from Leo Lionni’s exquisite Caldecott Honor Books, this trilogy brings to life the tiny fish that fends off danger using ingenuity, the poetic mouse that warms hearts, and the loveable inchworm that shares his facility for measuring absolutely everything. The stories unfold gently and are told with innovative puppetry and original music. Best appreciated by ages 3–8 and families. Presented by Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia. I have friends who have seen their work and have raves to say about them.

Don’t miss Family Art Day in the Gregg G. Juarez Palm Courtyard! Join us for special art projects and Weisman Museum tours from 10 AM to 3 PM on each Saturday of the Kids’ Playhouse Series. Family Art Day is free and open to the public.

UPDATE: Congratulations, Deirdre Nagle for winning the four tickets!

Bob Baker Marionette Theatre has been on my list of things to do with my daughter since she was a few months old. This past Thursday, we were invited to see their show, Magic Strings, at their theatre in downtown Los Angeles. The show is a series of vignettes devoted to showcasing the puppet’s magic strings – how a puppet sings, woos, dances, plays piano, nuzzles, tickles, inspires laughter, amazement, and delight.

Bob Baker has been a professional puppeteer for most of this 87 years. While he wasn’t performing in this show, his five apprentices carried on his tradition of entertaining children of all ages. When we sat down in his charming theatre in the round, I smiled watching all the expectant audience members. They ranged in age from a newborn to several groups of elementary students to a group of senior citizens. They were all excited to see, for their first time, a marionettes show.

This show features over 100 puppets, including some that have been in his collection for over 50 years.  He has 3000 puppets in total and one day hopes to create a full-time Academy of Puppetry and Allied Arts adjacent to the theatre so many will learn the craft of puppetry. Right now, his not-for-profit Academy of Puppetry, subsidize tickets for students from local area schools to attend performances and helps develop languages resources so the experience of seeing live theatre may be brought back to the classroom. Bob Baker Marionette Theatre has been declared a historic cultural monument by the City of Los Angeles on June 3rd, 2009.

Dancing ostriches.

The puppets interact with the audience throughout the show. As soon as a puppet approached an audience member, Mishy wanted the puppets to come to her. “How come she’s not coming to me?” she asked. When the puppeteer with one of the ostriches puppets was nearby, I motioned for him to come to Mishy and he did. The ostrich nuzzled and nibbled on Mishy’ hair. She loved it.

The only section of the show that was a bit slow and too dark for Mishy was the fan dance. She wanted to know where their eyes were.

Cafe/Birthday Party room.

After the show, the audience was treated to ice cream in their cafe/birthday party room where you may also purchase hand-made collectible marionette puppets, as well as Mexican made puppets, Bob Baker coloring books, posters, and other fun stuff. When Mishy expressed she would love to see some of the puppets, I asked one of the puppeteers who asked us which one would we like to see. Mishy said the dog, who was the Master of Ceremony.

Mishy meeting one of the horses.

First, we met one of the horses because another puppeteer brought it out for other children to see. The puppeteer, Alex, showed how the horse’s mouth moves.

Mishy with Alouwishes

Meeting Ostrich

Details:

http://www.bobbakermarionettes.com/

If you use the code “Mom Blog 04”, you will get tickets at the special rate of $12.00 per ticket*.

This code is good for available weekday performances only (Tuesday through Friday) during the month of April 2011, and can only be used by calling the Bob Baker Marionette Theatre box office ahead of time to make a required reservation at 213-250-9995.

The theatre itself is situated in an unusual spot and reminds me of going to independent art galleries in New York in the late 1990’s – slightly remotely located and with buildings with barbed wire on top of their walls. Nevertheless, it is safe and they have a private parking lot where it’s $3 to park. We parked on the street for free.

Cool tip: After seeing the show, you may want to go for a hike at nearby Vista Hermosa Park. It is just kitty corned to Bob Baker Marionette Theatre.

(I was given complimentary tickets to see the show with no obligation to review.)

Mishy hiding in the wooden pyramid.

On Friday, I organized three tours of 200 people in total to visit a local matzah factory located in Westwood, near UCLA. It’s part of my need to offer families educational and fun experiences.

Every year for ten days, as a lead up to Passover, a local Chabad gives the opportunity for children and adults of all ages to watch a re-enactment of the exodus of Israelites from Egypt and then let all the children make matzah. It is a secret field trip destination for those in the know – if you’re not affiliated with a Jewish organization.

Moses telling us his words from God.

The first room we sat in was decorated with images of pyramids, with a wooden pyramid/door. When we entered, my daughter quickly wanted to go inside pyramid and hide. We hid until I had to check people in and then short video played where we went back in time and met Moses, who told us God has mentioned it was time for him to ask the Pharaoh to free the Israelites in  Egypt. He said we must all go to see the Pharaoh and if he doesn’t free the Jews, to boo him.

Moses mentioning the coming plagues.

We were led into another room where we met Pharaoh and his sidekick. This section, while informative, had some humor I wished could have been left out – references to Charlie Sheen and other current events that took me out of the re-enactment. Being a mother of a three-year old, there were also certain aspects of the plague I would have liked if it were handled simpler. That being said, I was impressed with the actor’s commitment and production values. The Chabad didn’t skimp.

Exiting Egypt.

After the Pharaoh agreed to free the Jews, we were free to learn about making matzah.

Mishy feeding the ram wheat.

Another actor, dressed as a farmer, introduced his ram and talked about why matzah was made – because the Israelites did not have time to make bread due to the time constraint in leaving Egypt. He then talked to us about the ingredients of matzah – any type of flour and water and showed us how to separate the wheat from its chaff. We all got a chance to do that with our own individual piece of wheat.

Grinding the wheat kernels.

Asking for two volunteers, he demonstrated how to grind the wheat kernels into flour and then lead us into another room where another volunteer got us well water.

Is that a nail in the water?

Mixing flour with water and getting his hands dirty, he told us how long it takes to bake matzah – 18 minutes.

Mixing the flour with water.

Finally, it was time for all the children who wanted to, to make their own matzah and we were led to our final room – the bakery!

Rolling the dough.

Each child was given a work station with a small amount of dough, a rolling-pin, and a special instrument to create holes into the flattened dough.

Putting the holes into the dough.

Carrying the raw matzah to the baker.

Placing the raw matzah on the pan.

The baker puts it in the oven.

Then we ate the matzah! No pictures of that. We were too busy eating. Mishy said it was yummy.