Thursday, May 26, 2011

Meeting James Taylor!

The one, the only James Taylor!
Well, Eric and I had a lifelong dream come true on Monday, May 23, 2011 when we went to our first James Taylor concert. Little did we know when we bought the tickets in February that we'd not only get to see him in concert, but acually get to MEET him after the show!

Here's the story...

Eric and have always been big James Taylor fans. On the rare occasion he'd make it to Nashville or near Knoxville, we were never able to go. We were thrilled when it was announced in February that he'd be playing Knoxville in May. The tickets were expensive, but we thought it could be a Valentine's Day/early anniversary gift rolled into one since our anniversary is May 15.

We started the evening with a delicious dinner at Nama Sushi in downtown Knoxville. We had the JG roll and crunchy shrimp roll, along with miso soup and the house salad. For dessert we had truffles with kiwi/strawberry compote and raspberry sauce and topped off our meal with beer (for Eric) and Riesling (for me). 

We got to our seats right as the show started because James Taylor actually took the stage when the ticket said he would -- 8 p.m. sharp with no opening act. I appreciated the fact that latecomers were not allowed to take their seats until between songs.

During the intermission, we went to the lobby, looked at the tour shirts and headed back to our seats. All of a sudden Eric noticed that James (yes, we're on a first-name basis now) was sitting at the front of the stage signing autographs! We rushed to the front, but got cut off because he needed to start the show again. We were at least excited to be able to see him up close even though we thought we'd missed our chance at getting an autograph.

After the show, we left in awe after several goosebump moments during his set because he was SO great! I noticed the buses were parked next to the side entrance to the auditorium so I told Eric that we should hang out for a few minutes to maybe catch another glimpse of him.

A few others had the same idea and before we knew it, there was a small crowd waiting to see if James would come over. Well...he did! The guards had put blockades around the bus entrance, but James came right up to where we were standing. Some people got a little pushy trying to get to the front, but his bodyguard kept saying, "Be patient and he'll get to you." This was definitely a good sign, so Eric and I got our ticket stubs and the set list the sound tech gave to us and waited for our turn to say hi to James.

I talked to him first and told him that the show was our first James Taylor concert. He said, "Oh, really?" and then proceeded to sign my ticket. We touched arms :) I then asked if he'd take a picture with me which he did. Then, Eric got his chance to talk to him and get the set list signed while I snapped a photo of the two of them.

James Taylor was so gracious, patient and reciprocated every kind word said and told everyone in the crowd, "Thanks for coming." What a refreshing and wonderful experience to meet someone who's been in the business so long, yet takes the time to be grateful to those who so dearly love and appreciate his music.

It's was an experience we'll never forget. Now we just need to figure out where to frame our pictures and signed memorbilia!

My favorite songs from the eventing were "Something in the Way" and "Copperline" although we both had chills during much of the performance. His tone was impeccable and his voice sounded as if he's not aged at all. He introduced many of the songs and told a little background on them. His 11-piece band was phenomenal, including the four back-up singers. He sax player, Blue Lou, was a founding member of the Saturday Night Live Band and the original Blues Brothers! Very cool. James Taylor is definitely a national treasure!

Monday, May 23, 2011

A Busy and Fun Month of May

It's been way too long since we updated the blog! With two on-the-go boys, it's tougher to keep this updated, but we will try to start blogging more often. There is so much to catch up on, but we'll start with this month, which has been incredibly busy and loads of fun! We celebrated Mother's Day, Brenton turned 1, Andrew and Thomas graduated from UT, Tyra starred in a play called "The 39 Steps" at the Oak Ridge Playhouse, we celebrated our 7 year wedding anniversary, and took a week-long vacation to the beach!

Brenton turned 1 on May 13, and it was so much fun to celebrate his special day. I can't believe he's already a year's really unbelievable. He and Noah are ideal brothers...they love each other so much and enjoy being together all the time. Brenton's 1st year was much different than Noah's first year, and he certainly had to sacrifice some of the attention at times, since Noah loves to be the star of the show and the ring-leader of most things...but I don't think Brenton would have it any other way. He adores Noah and looks up to him so much. I pray that they will always be as close as they are right now!

Here is a great photo from Mother's Day -

Here are the boys at Andrew and Tom's graduation. They were really good sitting through most of the ceremony. Thomas is headed back to Texas, and we're glad Andrew will be staying in Knoxville to get his MBA at UT!

Noah, meticulously reading the program

With the graduate

Brenton and Andrew

We celebrated B's big day with family and friends at Sweet CeCe's in Knoxville. It was a perfect location and everyone seemed to enjoy it. It was great that so many family members were already in town seeing Andrew (Eric's brother) and Thomas (Eric's cousin) graduate from UT, so they were able to come to B's party and see Tyra perform in her show the same weekend.

He loved making a mess with his cupcake.

The birthday boy

He loved getting kisses from Uncle Charles

Brenton inhaled the Cake Batter frozen yogurt

A cupcake? For me?

Noah kept wanting to sneak bites

Making a fun mess

Last year, we celebrated our anniversary at Mercy West Hospital, as Brenton was just 2 days old. This year, we spent a lot of it in the car driving to the beach! As usual, we were so excited to head back to Seabrook Island, and we are grateful for our dear friends who make it possible for us to stay at their beautiful beach home.

Since we didn't go to the beach last year, this trip was even more special. Noah had an absolute blast doing everything and Brenton loved the ocean and swimming pool. A picture is worth a thousand words, so here are a few snapshots of our trip to Seabrook...

Both boys were awesome on the 6 1/2 hour car trip

First time in the sand

Brenton LOVED the ocean

The bikes and Burley trailer were so much fun. Noah fell asleep on many of our bike rides.

There was a full moon over the ocean on each of the first 3-4 nights.

View from the pool

Gone Fishin'

Perfect kite-flying conditions

7 years of married bliss

Click Here to view some more photos:

Monday, May 16, 2011

The 39 Steps

This spring, I was cast in "The 39 Steps" at the historic Oak Ridge Playhouse. It was fun to be back on stage after a nearly two-year hiatus. We had five weeks of rehearsals to prepare for what became my favorite show I've ever done. There were only four actors in the show, but three of us played multiple characters. I played a Brittish gal, German spy and Scottish farm wife.

I couldn't have done it without such great support from Eric though. There were MANY nights when Eric had to fly solo with the boys while I was at rehearsal or "play practice" as we explained to Noah. Rehearsals started at 6:30 and ran until 10 p.m. or later some nights. I missed my three boys like crazy. At first, Noah would ask me not to leave, but then he started pretending that he was going to play practice with his "friends" (Grover, Buzz, Woody, Thomas the Train, etc.) during his own playtime. One morning, Noah came into our bedroom, put his hands on his hips and emphatically proclaimed in a serious tone, "I'm going to play practice!" and turned around and walked out of the room.

The show opened Friday, April 29 and I learned first-hand the meaning of "The show must go on." A few hours before opening night, I came down with a stomach bug at 3:30 p.m. I was supposed to leave for Oak Ridge at 6 p.m. for our 8 p.m. show. I called Eric to see if there was any way he could come home a little early to watch the boys. I called my doctor to see if there was anything I could take, but the only anti-nausea med they called in would have made me loopy and unable to drive. I then called our stage manager, Lindsay, who called our director to let him know of the situation. Since postponing the show was not an option, and because I had no understudy, we devised a plan to get me through the night. After Eric got home, I rested for about 30 minutes, gathered my things, grabbed two empty plastic cups for the 30 minute drive to Oak Ridge (in case I needed to throw up while driving) and made it to the green room by 7:15 p.m. Lindsay was there to greet me with gatorade, crackers and pepto bismol tablets. She'd also put a bucket, bottled water, towel and mints on both sides of the stage in case I needed to run off in the middle of a scene to throw up.

With lots of prayer, support from our sweet cast and crew and a little luck I made it through the performance without "losing it." Our director gave me a pep talk right before curtain and said how often things like this happen to actors, but somehow your adrenaline kicks in and you find a way to get through the show. I'd never been so nervous before a show in my life, and never more disappointed that I wasn't able to give my best after so many weeks of rehearsal. There was a reviewer in the audience that night from the local paper too. You can read her review HERE -- thankfully she didn't pick up on my ailment and no one else in the show caught my stomach bug!

Here are a few photos from backstage and some that we did for a publicity photo shoot. I created an album on my Facebook profile with lots more photos to if you want to check them out. Trying to find time to memorize lines was laughable, but I'm thankful for being part of such a wonderful experience and getting to know some fantastic and super-talented people. Maya Angelou always says how important it is to do something sacred that's just for you. For me, it's always been theatre.
Our huge cast -- Josiah Rowe, me, Tony Cedeno and Rollin Prince

Here we are all sweaty after our very last performance

Scene from the Crofter's house in Scotland

The train scene was the most complicated to rehearse, but seemed to be everyone's favorite.

Playing Annabella (a German spy) although my accent was more of a Russian/Spanish/Italian combo :)

To say April and May were jam-packed months is an understatement. Not only is April Eric's busiest time at work, but in the first two weeks of May we celebrated Mother's Day, Brenton's first birthday, Andrew and Thomas' graduation from UT, our 7-year anniversary, my play and headed to the beach! We're thankful to be so blessedly busy :)

Friday, May 13, 2011

Happy 1st Birthday, Brenton!

Happy 1st Birthday, Brenton! Our sweet second born officially turned one at 6:13 p.m. today -- Friday, May 13. He entered the world at 8 lbs 4 oz and 21.5 inches long. He is such a beautiful addition to our family. We are so grateful for the significant impact he's made in our lives. His temperment is definitely similar to how he was in utero -- calm, easy-going and mama's boy all the way!

The birthday boy!

Since Brenton's birthday fell on a workday (Friday) and Tyra had a play later that night, we had a family birthday breakfast on the 13th. Eric made pancakes and eggs. After breakfast, we took the boys outside on our deck to see Brenton's gifts!

We got him a picnic table and a water table. Noah enjoyed the water table just as much as Brenton...and in true Noah fashion, he created a game with the top opening of the table. He took the water balls from the table and tried to shoot them like basketballs into the top of the table.
Noah really got into Brenton's birthday and was so excited for him. He helped him open his cards and gifts and kept wanting to sing Happy Birthday to him. At school yesterday, Brenton's teachers had a yogurt party for him, made a card, gave him a balloon and puffs and ended up having to give him a bath because he got so messy during the yogurt party. He loved it though!

1 Year Check-up: Weight: 23 lbs. (51st percentile); 30 in. (45th percentile). At this time he still has NO teeth, but should be getting them (hopefully) by his 15-month check-up in August. He's hitting all other milestones, so this is only little issue he's having. He gums his food pretty well, but we just need to be better about introducing more table foods into his diet. We're switching him to whole milk now that he's one.

Other than that, he loves bananas, yogurt, apples, pears, oatmeal, sweet potatoes, squash, carrots, yogurt melts, puffs and diluted juice. He certainly knows that the green colored food is not as tasty or sweet, so those food items are tougher to convince him to heat sometimes. Sometimes I'll mix applesauce with green beans or peas just to get him to eat them. Earth's Best makes really good soups/bisques that he enjoys as well. He's starting to want to hold the spoon during feedings and wants to put the spoon into his mouth himself. He can certainly have grumpy streaks when he's tired or hungry, but is truly just a great baby!

He's very social, likes to wave, pretend he's talking on the phone, give hugs, pats on the back, looking at himself in the mirror, reading books, singing songs and clapping his hands. He's getting into TV more since Noah watches it. He recognizes characters and dances when he hears a favorite theme song. He loves when you sing to him and his favorite tunes are "If You're Happy and You Know It," "Itsy-Bitsy Spider" and "Patty Cake." He'll even do the motions most of the time and gets a big grin when you start to introduce a song he knows.

Although he doesn't say much -- mainly mama, dada, mama, bah-bah, mama, gah-gah, mama, ah, and mama -- he definitely knows certain words. He loves to hear "bath" and gets so excited when we say, "Do you want to take a bath?" Noah talked more at this age and could say a few more things (even "Elmo"), so he's lucky to get a word in edgewise around here anyway with his daddy and brother who were blessed with the gift of gab! He'll look around when you ask him, "Where's Gabi? Where's Noah?" Then, when we show him and object and say what word is associated with that object, he looks very intently at us like he's filing it away for later use.

He started walking in March at 10 and 1/2 months (Noah walked two weeks later at 11 months). I think it helps that he has his big brother to keep up with. We have really cute video of Noah "helping" Brenton walk. It's such a blessing to see how much Brenton adores his big brother. Noah keeps him laughing and is always concerned about his well being, except when he's playing too rough or in a bad mood :) We have loved watching their relationship grow during the past year and can't wait to see it mature even more as they get older. Whenever Brenton is upset, Noah will go over to him and try and console him by saying things like, "It's okay B, no need to cry," or "Noah's here, mommy's coming."

We also have lots of nicknames for Brenton -- B, B. Russ, Brenton Russell, Baby Russell, BB, Sweet T McB. He answers to all of them, but "B" is the main one he likes.

We can't wait to see what the next year holds for our little Brenton Russell Haag!