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Last Dance for the Class of 2015

*It’s been awhile here on the old blog. Of late, we have been crazy busy with dance. I ran into my former boss at Target a couple weeks back and have been inspired to try writing again. While this piece didn’t make the cut, I thought I’d share it anyway because the show is so good and the directors, staff and kids at Civic have worked very hard. I am continually blown away by what they accomplish each time my kids get to play a minor part in the work they do.

The caps have been thrown, inspiring speeches given and diplomas handed out, but for a group of local graduates there is still one last act for the Class of 2015: dancing their hearts out for Civic Dance Center’s 47th Annual Gala.

The studio responsible for putting on The Nutcracker in conjunction with The Bakersfield Symphony Orchestra, also puts together a lesser known spring show which features all of their dancers from the tiniest preschoolers to staff members, the senior Class of 2015 amongst them, of course.

The first half of this year’s show is an original storybook ballet. In “Once Upon a Time,” a group of orphans can’t decide which bedtime story they want to hear and instead pieces of each of their favorite fairytales – Cinderella, Frozen, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Aladdin, and Beauty and the Beast – are woven together.

The “princess ballet,” as some of the seniors referred to it, with lots of tutus will likely appeal to little girls, said Jennifer Barnes, 18, a Liberty High grad that will play a stepsister in the Cinderella portion of the story (Cast C). However, she notes, “I think there’s something in it for everyone because there are so many different stories, there’s a lot of action to keep people interested.” Fellow senior studio member, Hannah Contois, 18, a Centennial High grad, agrees, “Even if you are not into princesses there are several other characters to identify with, plus the opening number and the second half of the show with jazz and tap, there’s something for everyone.”

If your child is into the Frozen craze, Contois will likely be a favorite as Elsa (Cast B). Annalee Fanucchi, 18, a Liberty High grad said, “Definitely younger kids are going to love this show because it has all the Disney stories in there and Frozen is really popular.”

Contois said she’s planning to dance the roll with “no regrets.”

“I’ve always seen the seniors each year and just brushed it off, but yesterday I think it really clicked for me that this is probably my last show so I’m really trying to put so much more into it.”

Giving it your all is just one of many life skills the seniors say they will walk away with because of dance. Fanucchi who will play Snow White (Cast B) noted responsibility, staying focused, and time management.

“Discipline. You have to be there every day, on time, in the proper attire. You don’t talk back,” added Contois.

One of the traditions for seniors during all four Gala performances is to exchange gifts and memories during the cast call just before each show.

“We share our favorite memories and we get to say our goodbyes. We can’t wear makeup before that because there’s usually a lot of crying,” said Barnes.

Since they have all been at this studio for 12-14 years, from the time they were 4-6 years old, the seniors all noted the studio is like a family.

“It is one of the things I am going to miss the most, walking into the studio every week and having people that you know support you,” said Fanucchi.

Contois had a similar sentiment, “During busy seasons I am there for about 25 hours a week with my friends. I’m closer to them than any of my other friends at school or anywhere else. It’s so cool that dance is what brought us together, but we found that we have so many other things in common. I know I can talk to them about anything and they will always be there for me and they will always be my friends for the rest of my life, we are just that close.”

Life skills and a second family, why these seniors say their advice to younger dancers is to stick it out.

“It’s hard to make it to being a senior. There were definitely points when I thought maybe it would be OK to not do the jazz company and so many classes, but it is so worth it, to be on stage with your friends and hear the applause and do what you love. So my advice would be don’t quit,” said Contois.

As to whether they will continue dancing, the senior class is a bit mixed. Barnes who plans to stay in town and to start out at BC in the Fall said she thinks she is done. Fanucchi will be attending Fresno State and be on the dance team there.

Contois, who is headed for the pre-Med program at UC Davis said, “It’s been such a huge part of my life, I can’t imagine not doing it, not going more than a week without dance. So they (UC Davis) have a small dance program there and if I don’t do that then I will at least find a studio up there to take classes.”

*Disclosure: There were other studio members of the Class of 2015 that were unavailable for comment.

Civic Dance Center’s 47th Annual Gala
Bakersfield High School’s Harvey Auditorium, 1241 G St.
Tickets: Adults, $20; Students (7-18) and Seniors (65+), $14; Kids (6 and under) $5
Cast A: Thursday, June 11 at 7 p.m.
Cast B: Friday, June 12 at 7 p.m.
Cast C: Saturday, June 13 at 1 p.m.
Cast D: Saturday, June 13 at 7 p.m.

*****
And here is what rehearsing for Gala has looked like for my little crew.

Ethan’s class gets to be little genies (Aladdin). The other boy mom and I sewed some pants because the original sequin pants were a no-go for the dads.
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Jilly gets to be a little fairy (Sleeping Beauty).
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“Notes” (where the directors go over things that need to be fixed and praise things that were really great) at the end one of Ethan’s dress rehearsals.
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Keeping a 9-month-old happy, not screeching happy, but also not screaming crying unhappy during hours long dress rehearsals for older siblings is a bit of a challenge. Luckily he’s easy and the fourth child so crawling on the floor of a century-old theater doesn’t bother me like it would have when Jilly was a baby:
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The theater stage is a lot bigger than the studio, so one of the first things they do for the first theater rehearsal is blocking without music so the dancers can get used to being more spread out.
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This was Jilly’s last dress rehearsal on Tuesday night. She’s so excited for the big show!
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Peeking through the wings at the contemporary piece’s rehearsal just before we left for the night after her last dress rehearsal.
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Children’s Book Review: H is for Holy

Like most homeschooling families, we love books and there are never enough shelves for all of them. So when a friend at Ancient Faith Publishing asked if we wanted to review a copy of the new book H is for Holy, we were all so excited and we of course said yes. We’ve been checking our mailbox every day waiting for it to arrive and yesterday it got here, yay!

We sat down on the couch together after ballet and I started to read with all three big kids crowding in to listen and see the pictures.

Would you believe that a couple years ago when we started looking into Orthodoxy that it was a children’s book we found to be one of the most helpful? It had a way of explaining things so simply rather than the sometimes heady comparing and contrasting of Orthodoxy with other confessions or the rich theology of the Church. H is for Holy is like that with little nuggets of simply put information about the Church, theology and icons woven throughout.

We especially loved all the beautiful artwork in H is for Holy. One of the things that was a bit of a disappointment about that primer book a couple years ago was the lack of beautiful artwork especially coming from a faith with a heritage of such beautiful artwork. H is for Holy does not disappoint in that regard. Bright colors and beautiful depictions of the church and icons fill the book from cover to cover.

I was caught off guard by the way my children responded to the interactive questions sprinkled throughout. Normally, getting my kids to respond to a question in a book or even in our schoolwork brings forth “I don’t know” or they just want to skip over them. As we were reading through H is for Holy, however, my kids were quick to point out crosses on our icon corner, recount Bible stories and all of the other directives we came across.

In the last six months or so I’ve been collecting some Orthodox children’s books both for use by our little mission parish and for our own homeschooling use. Quite a few have recently gone out of print (I found a great little stash at our favorite monastery this weekend), so I am really glad that publishers like Ancient Faith are still making great books like H is for Holy for our kids. This one is a keeper for sure. I even found J looking over it again all by herself this morning.

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December 2014

This month has been marked by trips to the beach and St. Barbara’s Monastery with my Godmama, Peter being three months old, Nutcracker rehearsals and performances, crafting, glorious rain, opening presents, and church feast days.

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School days

I am definitely starting to feel the winter burn out, but am managing to press forward with school most days. Here is some of the stuff we’ve been up to on those days…

Edible DNA models:
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Stethoscopes:

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A field trip to the San Diego Museum of Man:

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Peter love.

I probably say this way too much, but Peter is the BEST baby. We won the baby lottery, guys. I’m not the greatest about updating this blog anymore and instead tend to throw a bunch of photos into albums on Facebook these days or a quick shot here and there up on Instagram. But I know some of my family and friends still check here from time to time and are not checking those other ones. This space is an album and journal of sorts for me, so many memories and years marked here and in one place. As such, it is still worth keeping up as I am able.

Newborn pictures my sister took:

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1 month old:

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2 months old:

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Baptism:

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Because learning with a Kindergartener and First Grader is awesome

We are about five weeks in to our school year and it really is my favorite year so far. I mean ask me after the December burnout sets in, but that is how I feel right now. Some pictures and highlights…

Second day of school pictures:
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The Buena Vista Museum of Natural History:
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Nurturing my boy’s love of collecting things and connecting our lesson about archeology finding over 100 bottle caps by the Kern River:
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And this hilarious exchange which followed during the car ride home…
“Remember how archeologists like trash?”
“Yeah, but they call it midden.”
“So what would archeologists think about what people did by our river if they dug by it and studied the trash?”
“People drink a lot of beer by the river!”

Cave paintings like nomads made only ours were on grocery bags:
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My favorite Garden of the Theotokos art because it is so high sensory depicting Kolliva for Saturday, the day of the departed:
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Hieroglyphics and cuneiform:
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Henry loves to paint! Tagging along for “On the first day God created the light.”
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Excavating mummies:
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Sugar cube pyramids:
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Henry surprising me by being incredibly well behaved and the sweetest big brother at the symphony:
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Having fun with ‘dem bones, ‘dem bones:
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Celebrating the end of five weeks of awesome with ice cream and time at our favorite park:

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Children have a way of sanctifying everything

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Once, after a Saturday of the Souls service while we were all sitting around eating kollyva (wheat or rice cooked with honey and mixed with raisins, figs, nuts, sesame, etc. that is blessed in church on these Saturdays. The kollyva reminds us of the Lord’s words, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” John 12:24. The kollyva symbolizes the future resurrection of all the dead.), a priest told us of the practice in monasteries of having to do a certain number of prostrations for every grain that hits the floor, even accidentally. Then he added, “But don’t worry about the kids, kids are always doing prostrations,” as ours rolled around and did summersaults all over the church hall in between bites of kollyva.

“Then they brought little children to Him, that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked those who brought them. But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” And He took them up in His arms, laid His hands on them, and blessed them.” Mark 10:13-16

As a parent and a Christian, it’s hard not to go through our days and activities without thinking about these verses in the Gospel of St. Mark. I think about them a lot lately.

We received Disney season passes this year as a Christmas present. This last trip my kids sang the Paschal hymns throughout the Magic Kingdom. Stephen said it was like they were going around sanctifying the whole place. That so much of Orthodoxy, he said he is finding, is about loving people (and loving kids especially) and if you can’t love them, then you are probably going to have trouble loving God too.

Then yesterday I found sidewalk chalk crosses all over the backyard. More reminders to seek God everywhere and always.

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One of our favorite Orthodox children’s books right now is The Boy, a Kitchen, and His Cave by Catherine K. Contopoulos about the life of St. Euphrosynos the Cook. Just after the climax of the story where the abbot of the monastery has met Euphrosynos in paradise and received a branch of an apple tree, there is this:

That Dawn at matins, the Abbot brought the apple branch with him and excitedly described his vision of Euphrosynos to the other monks.

“Dear brothers, I prayed last night for answers following our great discussion. And The Lord has answered my prayers.”

“What could that peasant boy possibly teach us?” said one monk, with some indignation.

“Brother, that simple peasant boy who cooks our meals and cleans our kitchen lives his life in the true spirit of Christ. He is content with all that is before him. He sees plenty in everything, even when he has nothing. He appreciates all the small things of his day–how well his spoon ladles our soup, the sweetness of a carrot. And he praises The Lord at every turn!”

“Yes, it’s true,” said the monk who had slipped on Euphrosynos’ soapy water. “Even when he spilled water from his bucket and made a mess, he thanked God for teaching him a new lesson. I was so annoyed with his carelessness, yet he was able to transform the mishap into a gift from above.”

“You see, brothers,” said the Abbot. “Our cook asks for nothing more than what is given to him. Everything in his life, each new day, is a chance to participate in the Kingdom of Heaven. Is this not what Jesus meant–that God’s Kingdom is in our midst on earth?”

“I am convinced,” continued the Abbot, “that God has blessed us by bringing Euphrosynos here to us. It is we who must learn from Euphrosynos, brothers! God’s love knows no distinction of rank. Who are we to decide what or who is holy in God’s eyes?”

I don’t want to say my kids are on a level with St. Euphrosynos, or that they are not because both would be a judgement I’m not fit to render. However, like St. Euphrosynos, they and so many other kids do remind me of this favorite quote that has been an e-mail signature of mine for some time now,

“We’re always frowning, always pouting; we don’t feel like singing or doing anything else. We should follow the example of the birds. They’re always joyful whereas we’re always bothered by something.”
— Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica

I want to be like my kids, the Paschal Troparion joyfully on my lips throughout my day, like Henry that sings the Vespers hymn Oh Gladsome Light to send himself to sleep, like Jillian singing The Angel Cried as she climbs a tree in some of our very best friends’ front yard, or telling me that the saints in icons look sad when she’s angry, or our boys that turn anything that jingles into a censor to bless our house and all the people in it several times a day, or a sweet two-year-old that says, “Mama, I picked a big clover for you: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”

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