Category Archives: field trip

Nitpicking in general and Les Mis in particular

I am a nitpicker. There, I’ve admitted it. It’s funny, because I’m not good at details. I mean, my memory consists of general impressions, emotional responses, and odd, random facts floating for the most part aimlessly.

I am good, however, at noticing details that I find annoying. (Maybe that’s not such a unique trait.)

We were privileged to see Les Misérables over the weekend, with the 25th anniversary touring company. It was a thrill, because while we’d been planning for years to see it with the girls, since seeing it nearly 20 years ago without them, the ticket prices were numbing. Even the cheapest seats were out of reach.

And then… a miracle occurred. Okay, not really a miracle. But it seemed like a miracle. I checked my spam folder and saw an announcement that Fred Meyer was sponsoring discounted tickets. We paid half-price for our “cheap” seats. It was still a strain on the budget (we won’t be going out to eat for birthday meals for the next year) but it was doable.

Last time dh and I saw the show, we were in cheap seats in the second-to-the-last row in the farthest balcony behind a pillar. Seriously. I sat back, folded my arms, and sulked. What a waste of money! …and then the music started, and within five minutes we were leaning to our respective sides of the pillar and as far forward as possible, riveted. The stage was impossibly small and far away, the figures practically microscopic, but we were pulled in by the power of the story, the music, the voices, the staging.

The cheap seats for this visit were five rows back from the stage, way over on the right side, which meant we could see the left side of the stage, all the way to the center and a little beyond. The show was staged in a way that we didn’t feel as if we were missing a whole lot. We know we missed some things, but didn’t feel bereft.

Actually, I was glad of some of the things we missed. Youngest was at the far end of the row, so more of the stage was cut off from her sight, which meant that she missed some of the more lascivious action during “Master of the House” and “Lovely Ladies.”

(While we’re on the topic of grumbles, I was mortified that someone leaned over to shush the girls, who were apparently talking to each other, maybe whispering, maybe not, during the show. We had seats in two different rows, so dh and I weren’t with the girls. They’re not little, so I’d expect them to know how to behave.)

(Don’t misunderstand me; I wasn’t mortified at the shusher, I was upset at the girls for not having the sense to keep quiet. I was very glad that the lady in their row leaned over and asked them to be quiet. They learned a lesson (seeing a public event is a lot different from watching it in your living room), and I think they were quiet for the rest of the show because I didn’t see her lean towards them again.)

We could see a little of backstage, dark-clad people moving about adjusting things. It wasn’t too bothersome until the last fifteen (?) minutes or so — the climax of the show. Someone apparently didn’t pull the back/side curtain all the way, which left us staring over Valjean’s shoulder at a monitor with a bright image of the conductor, waving his arms at the orchestra. Come to think of it, we could see the conductor through the whole wedding scene that preceded Valjean’s death scene. It was a distraction.

So don’t let me give you the impression that I thought we wasted our money. Les Misérables is amazing. The composer is a genius. The translator did a masterful job. The performance earned a prolonged standing ovation from the audience. (Girls grumbled a little that not all the voices were as good as on our original cast CDs.)

It was worth every penny, and more (I want to move up a seat category, next time the show comes to town, if it does. Maybe if we start saving now…).

I just wish I could get that white waving figure out of my head!

But seriously, great show. And now I’m enjoying the music all over again, as the girls have hauled out the book of Les Misérables sheet music and are getting piano time in sight-reading and learning the pieces.

Contented sigh.


Recap: Do Hard Things

We went to the Do Hard Things conference over the weekend. Quick takes:

– inspiring and motivational
– disappointed that we had to leave early (previous commitment in conflict with the conference schedule)
– good books and resources available: We took some for “homework” and so our conference experience will continue as we read.

First impressions:

We arrived a bit late, but the conference organizers had things under control in the front lobby. Since we were preregistered, check-in went quickly. We were directed to create nametags and head in to the auditorium where we could hear praise music already blasting. On the way in, each of the youthful participants received an audience-participation gadget.

The main floor was full, and those who seemed to be ushers (I think they were ushers. They looked like ushers) didn’t seem to know what to do about it. They hovered in the back, by the doors, paying little heed to the conference attendees who were also hovering in the back, by the doors, trying to figure out the seating situation. (A large bank of seats near the back sort of fooled the casual observer, appearing empty as you entered, but proving to be “reserved” with personal possessions.)

I finally asked an usher if we could find seats upstairs, and she (seeming surprised) gave it a moment of thought and then said, “Sure!”

Since we weren’t familiar with the church, it took us a minute or two more to find the stairs, but intrepid, intelligent home educators that we are, we managed to solve the problem despite the fact that we were still on an adrenalin high from rushing there (belated), we were tired from a late night the night before, and the music was blasting our senses.

Why is it that teen music, even teen praise music, is so LOUD? Is the stereotype that all teens are deaf? Are teens deaf because they listen to music that’s so loud? Is the volume turned up to ear-tingling levels because teens are used to tuning things out? Do teens enjoy painfully loud music? (Mine don’t.) Is the volume kept high so that deaf participants can enjoy the music vibrating from the floor?

Wish we’d brought earplugs, at least for the musical portion. The lyrics were good, the tunes singable, but we sang along with our fingers in our ears to protect our hearing. Did you know that if a sound is loud enough to be uncomfortable, even painful, that you need ear protection, to keep the delicate mechanism inside your ears from damage?

(We had the same problem at the homeschool co-op, the last couple of years. We got in the habit of arriving late and skipping the praise-and-worship portion, because the music was painfully loud. When I say “painfully” I mean exactly that. Pity. The organizers try to set the tone for the co-0p day, but the praise portion is so loud that it’s damaging the hearing of those who come to hear, whether they realize it or not.)

Since I don’t want to leave this on a negative note, let me reiterate that the messages were good, encouraging teens to rise above modern society’s low expectations. I wish we’d been able to stay the whole day.

A friend loaned us the conference on video, so we can watch the session we missed.

Last word:

If you have a chance to get to one of the remaining conferences, GO. There are conferences coming up in Kansas City, Indianapolis, and Baton Rouge. If you live some distance away, be encouraged by the group that traveled from Dubai to get to the Portland conference. Besides that group, there were others who came from hundreds of miles away, including Arizona, southern California, and Alaska.

If you do plan to attend an upcoming conference, expect to be challenged and encouraged.

Oh, and bring ear protection.

(As the Lord allows, come back tomorrow for a more in-depth look at the message of the conference.)

Vintage Baseball at Fort Vancouver!


There will be two 1860s-style baseball games at Fort Vancouver this summer, July 16 and August 20. Here’s the schedule:

5-6 p.m. Period games (west of Bandsstand)
5:30 p.m. Whiskey Flats Band pre-game concert
6:00 p.m.
Howitzer firing
Rules of the game (they were different back in 1860)
First Pitch by City of Vancouver Elected Official

6:15 p.m.
Game begins between the Occidental Base Ball Club of Vancouver and the Sherman Base Ball Club of Fort Vancouver

There will be young ladies in hoop skirts and dashing gentlemen in the latest styles of the time, including the players with their woolen Base Ball uniforms. Come one, come all!

Back from vacation!

I ought to have scheduled posts for each day we were gone, but I didn’t think that far ahead… Sorry!

Anyhow, it was a lovely week away from the usual routine. We had out-of-town relations staying with us. We rented a larger car so we could all fit, and proceeded to drive down to see the Redwoods (stopping at antique shops along the way) and then back up the Coast. Incredible!

The weather was perfect, if a little bizarre at one stop. I have no idea where this was, but it was somewhere on the southern Oregon coast, a little rest area/pull-in with grassy dunes between 101 and the ocean. The wind was blowing at a steady rate, and gusting higher. Middlest jumped into the air and almost got blown away! Standing in the shelter of a dune was windy, but climbing more than halfway up gave you a real sandblasted feeling. We never did get to where the waves were breaking…

For several hours afterward, in the car, resuming our drive, you’d hear occasional exclamations like, “I’ve got sand in my hair! It’s plastered to my scalp!” or “I’ve got sand under my waistband!” …or somewhere else. We were coated with sand (under our clothes) even though we’d worn jackets. The sand just blasted its way in.

If I can figure out how to transfer pics from the new camera I’ll upload some here.

What special thing will you do this summer? Or have you already done something special?

1840s Cookery!

Spent the first part of Wednesday at Fort Vancouver, dressed in 1840s costume and acting as a kitchen worker in the Fort kitchen, chopping wood, hauling water, cutting up vegetables, carving the roasted chicken, beating up baked squash with sugar and cinnamon, getting different foods into serving dishes and handing them to another worker who was setting the table.

It was interesting, and yummy, too! (As volunteers, we get to eat the food we cook…)

I wish I’d brought the camera to document some of the work. I’ll try to remember for next time.

Second Tuesday: $2 Zoo Admission

Today is the second Tuesday in September. That means $2 admission and $2 parking at the Oregon Zoo.

If you’re celebrating Not-going-back-to-school Day, the zoo might be a fun and educational place to spend the day!