Monday, March 30, 2015

Mary Poppins

How many activities have I signed my kids up for in the past 20 years? I should have kept a tally. Fall Soccer, Winter Soccer, Spring Soccer –times 1000, Baseball, Basketball, Dance, Dance and more Dance – Parkour, piano, Special Olympics, Football, Karate…..OK, I’m just going to stop. This will take forever.
As I look back at everything we have ever done, there is something they all had in common…
I was always thrilled when a practice or game was cancelled!  That always meant that I had a free day or night at home where I could do whatever I wanted! Well, I mean – I got to do the laundry or wash those stains out of my carpet:/ How sad that I get excited about that!
There is one activity that I didn’t put in that list. This activity didn’t have that common denominator. This activity took up every single evening, Monday thru Friday. Eventually, it even took up our days and Saturdays too. You would think that eventually, any one of us would grow weary and look forward to the day that this would end.
We never got to that point. No one wanted this to end. This was –
In November, 4 of my kids, Samantha, Max, Theresa, and Ben all auditioned for Mary Poppins that would be performed through Calvary Bible College. We LOVE the director whom we affectionately call, Ms. Bobbie. She was the director for the homeschool theater several years ago until she cut her schedule down to one directing job at Calvary. Now, whenever she needs younger people for her performances, the Christys are on that golden e-mail list.
I had high hopes that Samantha, Max and Theresa would make the cast list. I was unsure about Ben. He was called back for the lead role of Michael Banks and nothing else. If he didn’t get this role, he may not be in the play at all. When the kids went to the 2nd audition (the call backs), Samantha, Max and Theresa circled Ms. Bobbie to tell her of their reservations about Ben. They warned her that he was obnoxious, couldn’t focus, disobedient, goofed off too much – the normal complaints anyone has toward their little brother.
Apparently, Ms. Bobbie saw something in Ben that appealed to her. Little Michael Banks was an obnoxious, disobedient goof ball. Hmmmm. Jackpot!
The cast list was sent out that Ben got the part of Michael Banks! I was jumping and screaming in excitement while Samantha, Max and Theresa were moaning and sighing and pleading their case that Ben could never last in this role. Truth-be-told, I had my reservations too. OK, they were more than reservations. I was pretty confident that he would be booted from the play within the first week. Two weeks tops! Fortunately, there were 2 roles for Jane and 2 roles for Michael. If Ben couldn’t step up to the plate, there was another Michael to take his place.
Days and weeks of rehearsals were going by. Each time the kids stepped inside the door, I asked, “How was rehearsal?” accompanied very quickly with, “How was Ben???!”
Night after night, I heard, “Ben was fine.” Then the answers turned to, “Ben is really good.” Then, “I can’t believe how good Ben is at acting.” –  “Ben is really funny and cute.” –  “Everyone loves Ben.” – “Ben likes girls now.”
WHAT?! These are words that have never been spoken in this house. Things were changing around here. Everyone was seeing Ben in a different light. I had been telling him for years that he has what it takes to make the greatest saint or the greatest sinner. God gave him the qualities to be exceptional at whatever he desires. These are the same qualities that can drive a multitude of people into utter despair and emotional turmoil. My job is to steer him to use these qualities for what is good and holy. It’s a slow process.
 My entire household is turning upside down. The complaints were turning into compliments. It had been several weeks and I haven’t gotten that expected e-mail about his behavior. How long will this last? I was having proud mommy moments that I didn’t want to end.
The rehearsals were coming close to the end and Ben never showed any signs that he was in Mary Poppins at home. He didn’t come home laughing and giggling like the other kids. He didn’t tell me every detail about rehearsal. This is Ben…….
This is Ben while everyone talks and laughs and tells me how wonderful he is. Stop. Wait…..I am having a de-ja-vu moment right now. He is just like his brother, Nick. This is Nick……
This is Nick while everyone tells me how social and wonderful, kind, and mature he is.
Shake it off Katy! God will explain this to me later.
It is time for the very first Mary Poppins debut! 15 minutes before we leave the house and head off for the play, I get an e-mail saying that the lead character for Nelius (the talking, singing statue) was out of the play and Max will be taking his role. Max’s eyes light up. He is shocked. Then scared and nervous. He had been the understudy for only a couple weeks and was convinced that nothing would come of it. He had never even worn the costume or make up. Would he even be able to do his back flip while dressed up like a stone?! I’m so glad he didn’t tell me how nervous and stressed he was until after the play was over.
Friday night arrives. It is night #2 for the kids but #1 for Ben. I was more excited than I had ever been in my life. I got there an hour early but it easily could have been 2 or 3 hours. All I did is wait for time to pass so I could get to this play. Every person I made eye contact with made me want to shout, “I’m Michael Banks mom!!” I held back though. What if he totally bombed his part and embarrassed himself on stage. OH. MY. GOSH! ……What if he passes gas on stage??! That will totally RUIN the next 3 scenes as the stage managers try to get him to stop laughing! I would have to leave with a bag on my head. Better not announce that I’m related until the end of the play.
The play was FAN-TAS-TIC! Ben worked the crowd (probably more than he was allowed to) but was able to make them laugh and “awe”. I even caught him winking at an old lady in the front row and I watched her heart melt for him. You don’t know him lady!
All of the plays were great! I know that Ben had to have made the director nervous. He was a little unpredictable. The other actors were never sure what to expect from him. Ben acted like an ornery boy even when it wasn’t in the script. I’m quite sure Ms. Bobbie was not biting her nails when the other Michael Banks was on stage. He was professional and obedient. Ben wanted to venture outside the box and test how far he could go. It was VERY clear to the audience that he was having fun on stage.
We can’t forget that I had 3 other kids in the play! Max played a triple role. He was a banker, a chimney sweep and Nelius. He told me that it was absolutely crazy back stage. Two people were trying to dress him while a third was painting his face or cleaning it off…..or painting it again. He said the only time he got to relax was on stage. That is the story of our life anyway. Roy can only really relax at work – or in Iraq or Afghanistan. Max is just taking after his dad.
Theresa played 2 adorable parts besides her main role as a chimney sweep. She got to poke her head out of Mary Poppins purse & she got to be a shooting star, if you can imagine that.
Samantha was a chimney sweep which seemed like the climactic scene in the entire play – the scene that puts the audience on the edge of their seat.
The magical experience of the performances was not why we didn’t want the play to end. That was just a bonus. Roy & I got to hear 3 little chatterboxes (Ben just played CandyCrush) after every rehearsal. My kids were talking and laughing and sharing stories. Even unpleasant stories were enjoyable to talk about.
Calvary Bible College is a non-denominational Christian college. The Christy’s were the only Catholics in the bunch. What I enjoyed the most about this experience is all the conversations my kids had about their Catholic faith. If they couldn’t answer a question, they asked me, but THIS TIME, they cared about the answer! It makes this momma’s heart happy when my kids care about their faith and share it with others. My kids weren’t questioned just here and there. Every night, they came home with more topics of discussion. Even during the day, they were texting apologetics to their fellow cast mates. It was AWESOME! I wouldn’t be as strong in my faith if it wasn’t for my Protestant brothers and sisters questioning me. I had no choice but to read and learn. Mary Poppins has made my kids learn and love their faith.
God was a visible reality in this show. I couldn’t step into that building without feeling God’s presence all around. His grace was showered upon the students and staff. All of the students were filled with the love of Christ and would shine through to each other. That makes for a building full of blissfully happy people. Who would want that to end?
I rushed. I left the house frequently. I misunderstood the schedule a couple times which got me in troubleL I packed loads of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Roy spent his weekends building the set. I signed too many papers to count. I sprinted out of co-op – screaming for Ben to get in the van because we were late for a scene show I forgot about and yelling at the closest teenage to take over my Science class lab. I had to stay home with only little kids every evening with no older kids to help me. We didn’t eat dinner as a family more than once a week. We didn’t do this – or that – or the other thing. We were late for everything outside of rehearsals from January to March. And guess what? We still did not want it to end! De-ja-vue moment again…..This is a lot like being open to life. God’s presence and graces, trusting Him, and letting Him work HIS “magic” makes all the sacrifices joyful. Joyful sacrifices!
The only thing that kept me from weeping like a baby when the final performance was over is when I thought about the few students that had their final performance after spending 4 years at this wonderful college. While my kids played in 3 musicals in 5 years, these seniors participated in every play throughout the school year, lived in the dorms with their cast mates, and took acting and other classes with the same people – for FOUR years! They ended the best years of their life with a bang and the tears were flowing.
These are 3 of the seniors. Inseparable twins, Luke and Paul and their good friend, Moriah. They are awesome people. They have already had an amazing youth. I can only imagine what God has in store for them as adults. God has a unique plan for everyone but only a few are open, ready and excited to dive right in and find out what it is – and these are 3 of them. What a blessing to have known them as long as I have.
Ms. Andrew tries to give Michael Banks cod liver oil but for a brief moment, Winifred thought it was for her. LOL
Mary Poppins was played by Ben's Mama Kangaroo in Seussical
A lot changes in just 2 years
By the way – I DID get that behavior e-mail about Ben just a week before the play was to debut. But look how long it took! He had a good run and had an extraordinary ending.
This is Ben as the audience was trying to tell him how wonderful he was.

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