Wishlist Wednesday: The Boy’s Christmas List

The Boy finally wrote his letter to Santa last night. Unlike prior years, he only asked for one thing: The LEGO Lord of the Rings Battle of Helm’s Deep.

LEGO Lord of the Rings Battle of Helm’s Deep, the only thing on The Boy’s list to Santa.

Yes, The Lord of the Rings is pretty big in my house right now, so much the he asked me if I had The Lord of the Rings series on my Kindle.

He hasn’t specifically asked for anything from Cute Husband, but he’s told me that he wants an acoustic guitar for Christmas. I made a deal with him: if he masters the F chord (arguably one of the most difficult chords to play on the guitar) and if he agrees to take lessons until he is 9 years old, I would get him a guitar. And look what he chose:

Martin LXM Little Martin Acoustic Guitar

Martin LXM Little Martin Acoustic Guitar

It’s a Martin & Co. guitar; no cheap toy acoustic guitars for my little man. And it will last him well past the age of 9.

A part of me thinks we got off easy this Christmas since we aren’t searching for specific Beyblades or scrambling to fulfill surprise wishes like we’ve had to in years past. But even though what he’s asked for is very durable and will last a long time, this is by far my most expensive Christmas yet.

I’m afraid to see what’s in store for me in Christmases Yet to Come.

What authors can learn from musicians

I was reading a rather intriguing article today on the Huffington Post site. In it, Steve Gottlieb, a fairly well known player in the music industry, talks about the need for publishers to embrace the digital platform when reaching consumers.

And as I read it, it occurred to me that there is another message within this article, but one meant more for authors.

What do I mean? Well, allow me to explain.

Bands don’t write songs and seek out agents and labels right away. Well, maybe some artists wait for their chance to be on X Factor or American Idol or something, but even factoring in those shows, musicians don’t just put something together and say, “Ooh! I know! Why don’t I find a label to audition for!”

And yet that’s what so many authors do. We write these fantastic books and try to get them out in front of people who can make or break our dreams, often without letting anyone besides friends and family read our work.

Struggling musicians try to find places to perform, seek out that feedback, work hard to build a fan base and interact with anyone and everyone who comes to their early shows because – hey! If that guy liked our show, maybe he’ll tell two of his friends, and they’ll tell two more, and they’ll tell two more, and the next thing you know, you’re filling tiny clubs to capacity and have A&R guys tripping over themselves to see why there’s so much buzz about you.

So, shouldn’t authors do the same?

(Allow me to make a shameless plug now for my own recently completed NaNoWriMo project tentatively called Will the Real Prince Charming Please Stand Up?, the second chapter of which is now up on Wattpad for your reading pleasure and feedback.)

I’ve currently sent out four copies of my first draft to friends with another going out this weekend, and I fully expect two of those copies to come back covered with red marks as I’ve sent them to teachers. (It’s feedback – I welcome it.) Two other copies are being read by my target audience and their mothers; I fully expect feedback there, as well. And the fifth is being read by my bestest friend from high school, mostly because she’s awesome like that but also because she’s the mom of middle school boys and can provide some feedback, as well, but from a slightly different perspective. (Note: No family has read this. Yet.)

What’s my point? Well, I’ve written something I think is pretty good, even if it is just a first draft. Yes, it needs some polish. But it’s kind of like a musician writing a new song. Is it going to sound exactly right when you play it for the first time? No. Is the crowd going to love it as soon as they hear it? Maybe, but quite possibly no. But that’s when you welcome criticisms and take them to heart and transform what is pretty good into something amazing.

And those people helping you along the way with criticisms? Maybe they’ll tell two friends that they like your work. And those people will each tell two of their friends. And the next thing you know, you’ve got a book that’s clawing its way up the Barnes & Noble and Amazon charts, and agents and publishers are now tripping over themselves to see what the buzz is about you.

So it’s not just publishers that can learn from the music industry. It’s authors, too. And while I can’t very well stand up and read the entirety of my 195-page novel (still can’t believe I wrote a novel) at an open-mic night, when I’m satisfied that my novel is ready, I can at least share copies in hopes that someone thinks it’s good enough to share with their friends or (gasp!) even post on Facebook about what an awesome book they just read.

Hey – a girl’s gotta dream, right?

Mean Mommy Award – I’ve still got it!

I was told this morning that I am a Mean Mommy. And odd as this may sound, I did a happy dance inside because it was affirmation that I’m doing something right.

The Boy woke up this morning before 6 o’clock with a nosebleed. I was able to get him to lie back down in bed and rest for a bit longer, but I doubt he actually went back to sleep. At around 6:15, he bounced out of bed and was ready to start his day. (I, on the other hand, wasn’t quite as eager to crawl out from beneath my warm, cozy covers.)

Since he was up so early, I took advantage of this and encouraged him to get dressed and have breakfast. And since we didn’t need to leave for school for a while, I also suggested that he practice guitar to get it out of the way and give himself more time to play when we get home tonight. Surprisingly (or perhaps not so surprisingly), he agreed to practice.

We began with “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”. Since this song is now all about practicing chords, I’ve been taking it easy. On Monday, I had him practice the first line of the song. On Tuesday, Cute Husband worked with him on the second line. On Wednesday, it was the third line, so this morning, I had him work on the fourth line.

Now, for readers who don’t play guitar or haven’t seen the music for it, the beginning of the song (before you get to the chorus) is fairly easy. There isn’t a whole lot of strumming, though you do need to change chords at the beginning of almost every measure. So this morning, I was really only asking him to play three different chords (D, Dm, and F) and strum F six times.

As you may guess, he pushed back. And I pushed back harder. And I won, but at the cost of being told that I was mean.

[sigh]

Once he played the fourth line three times, I let him play the melody lines once through before moving to “Minuet in G”. He can read the music and play all the notes, and he does quite well playing the first half of the song with the correct rhythm, but he struggles with the rhythm of the second half. And so I drilled him on that. And he didn’t like it.

So he pushed back. And I pushed back harder. He threw down his pick. I calmly gave him a new one with a firm reminder that throwing it one more time means losing all gaming privileges for the day. He played. I corrected. He sulked. I reminded him that practicing was non-negotiable. He told me he was mad at me. I accepted this and pointed to the music. He played well, paying close attention to rhythm this time. I praised his efforts, and he unplugged his guitar and put away his pick, pouting all the while.

I don’t like making him mad. I don’t like hearing him tell me that I’m mean and that he doesn’t like me. I don’t like when he runs away from me when I try to give him a hug.

But I do know that he lashes out when I’m firm with him because I’m making him do something he doesn’t want to do. And I also know that in a few months’ time, when he’s playing “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” for fun because it’s an easy song for him compared to “Hotel California” or whatever song he’ll be working on then, I’ll remind him of this morning and he’ll roll his eyes and say, “I know, Mom.”

And that’s when I’ll know I’ve done my job.

Practice, practice, practice

I’m listening to Cute Husband take The Boy through his drills on the guitar. Tomorrow will be The Boy’s fourth guitar lesson, and while he has improved dramatically, I can still hear him struggling a bit as he practices E, F ,G, F, E, F, G, F, E over and over again. These are important drills, and Cute Husband and I both know this. These help him build finger strength and get accustomed to moving his fingers along the fret board. It’s tedious, it’s kind of boring, and, no, it’s really not much fun, but it’s necessary.

The Boy is, for the most part, a good sport about practicing. He knows it’s important. He knows he has to do it. He also knows (partially because I’ve reminded him of this) that it’s the result of a choice he made. But what’s pretty cool to see is the pride in this child’s face when we remind him that none of the other kids in PreK at his school are learning to play the guitar. In fact, no Kindergarteners or First Graders or even Second or Third Graders at his school are playing the guitar. And this knowledge seems to push him to work that much harder.

It’s not easy, and there are times he just doesn’t want to do it. But he does it anyway (mostly because we won’t let him weasel out of it). And he knows that the more he practices, the better he will get.

At least he hasn’t lost his enthusiasm.

Unleashing the Tiger Mom’s mighty roar

Cute Husband and I have agreed to split the duties in helping The Boy practice guitar, at least for the time being. Right now, he is learning to read music, which means understanding the different symbols (whole note, half note, quarter note, etc.) and being able to decipher the note based on the symbol’s placement on the scale. This is all in addition to learning to actually play said notes on the guitar.

Yes, it’s a lot for The Boy to process. I’m well aware of this.

Since Cute Husband bought himself a guitar this weekend to learn beside The Boy, I asked him to take on the responsibilities of drilling him on technique (actual play) while I drill him on theory (sheet music, using the metronome, etc.). I suppose I could drill him on both, but Cute Husband suggested (and I agree) that it’s better, at least right now, to separate the two.

Anyway, this morning’s practice was rough. I set the metronome on my phone (because, of course, there’s an app for that) to a very slow tempo, and asked him to read the sheet music with me. After countless pleas of “Listen!”, The Boy put away his guitar and informed me with a pout that he didn’t want to practice anymore.

“Why?” I demanded. “Because it’s hard?”

He nodded, tears welling in his eyes. “I don’t want to play the guitar anymore.”

I froze and pursed my lips. (This is my “Mommy is not pleased” look. I learned it from my own mother, and The Boy knows better than to argue with me when I make this face.) “Who wanted to learn to play the guitar?” I asked.

He looked down at his feet. “I did.”

“Who asked for this?”

His eyes still wouldn’t meet mine. “I did.”

“And who knew, before we even signed up for lessons, that this would be really hard?”

He finally looked up at me, and I noticed his eyes were dry. “I did.”

“So who needs to practice?”

He nodded once, and I could see that familiar spark of determination returning to my little boy’s face. “I do,” he replied.

“That’s right.” I opened my arms and invited him to sit in my lap. “Now come here and let’s review your notes again.” Once he sat down, I wrapped my arms around him and held his music book so the two of us could view it together. “Now listen to the rhythm of the metronome and count with me. One, two, three, four…”

It made me think of the excerpt from Amy Chua’s book that appeared in the Wall Street Journal early last year. Though I’m American-born and not Chinese, is it possible that I, too, am a Tiger Mother? I mean, I’ve taken him to baseball games!

This isn’t the first time I’ve felt like I’ve been really hard on The Boy. I do the same thing when he’s reading one of his books or when we’re reviewing simple addition concepts. And yes, I’m fully aware that he’s barely 5 years old, but if I relent now, what’s to keep him from thinking later that it’s okay to quit when things get too hard? If I make excuses for him now, what’s to keep him from making his own excuses later? (And I can’t stand excuses. Yoda had it only partially right. “Do or do not. There is no try.” He should have also added, “And no excuses.”)

You know, I really don’t care if he learns to play the guitar well. I’d prefer that he does, of course, but if he’s a mediocre player at best, I’ll be pleased. Why? Because the real lesson he will learn after a year of guitar lessons is perseverance. The real gift I hope I’ve given him for his fifth birthday is not a guitar (and amp and the rest of the accoutrements) but dedication and a sense of accomplishment.

Practicing guitar in Daddy's car before Saturday's lesson.

I want him to work hard at this. I want him to achieve it. I want him to learn that if he works really hard at anything he wants to do, he’ll be able to do it. I want him to develop that kind of confidence. And I want him to know that you simply cannot quit just because something is “too hard”. After all, very few things in life come easy, and those that do are things we tend to take for granted. (When was the last time you really thought about the mechanics of breathing?)

I also have to step back and remember that he’s his own person, that he’s still just a little boy, that I’m asking him to do things most of his peers don’t have any interest in learning right now.

But when it comes to guitar practice, at least I get to remind him of whose idea this was to begin with. While I may very well be a Tiger Mom, that’s the Filipino Mom in me coming out.

One day he’ll thank me for this.

Right?

The first lesson

The Boy has been asking for this since he was three years old, and today, he finally had his very first guitar lesson.

I was extremely nervous – and anxious – this morning. When I called George’s Music last week, I was informed that they typically don’t start lessons with kids until they’re at least 6, but they agreed to let Nico, one of their instructors, meet with The Boy to assess his readiness. I guess I was as nervous as I was because The Boy wants this so badly, and it would be heartbreaking to hear someone tell him, “Look, you’re just not ready for this yet.” It was bad enough that the music teacher at his school was trying to dissuade me; I didn’t think I could handle another letdown.

But as it turns out, all my anxiety was for naught. Nico told me he was pleasantly surprised to see how well The Boy was able to focus on learning to play, and I was pleasantly surprised to hear The Boy creating different sounds by holding down the strings at different frets. (That was the vocabulary word of the day.)

I’m getting ahead of the story, though.

There was crazy traffic on the freeway heading to George’s Music, so we were about 5 minutes late. Nico met us as we walked in, and the three of us headed upstairs to the music rooms for The Boy’s first lesson. I helped The Boy get his guitar out of its case (I don’t mind playing the part of “Roadie” right now) and let him choose a guitar pick. He sat down on the chair with Nico, and they began to talk.

“So, what made you decide to learn to play guitar?” Nico asked him.

“Well,” The Boy said, “at first I didn’t know if I wanted to play guitar or drums. But then I decided on guitar. And I’ll learn to play the drums when I’m 12.”

Nico smiled. “That’s cool. You know, I play the drums, and I play guitar, too. And I think guitar is a great first instrument for you.”

And with that, the lesson began.

If I didn’t know that this first lesson was also an assessment, I wouldn’t have guessed it. Nico very casually tested The Boy’s finger strength (and was pleasantly surprised – as was I – to find The Boy was able to hold down a string with all his fingers, including his pinky), his reading skills, and his memory.

“Eddie ate dynamite. Good-bye, Eddie!” is the mnemonic device used to remember the notes that the open strings on the guitar make. (Nico was very sweet and offered to come up with something different, but I assured him it wasn’t necessary.) The Boy needed to hear it a couple of times, but by the time we got home, he remembered the notes on the guitar, even out of order.

Nico gave The Boy some very basic homework for next week’s lesson:

  • Practice playing E and F. (E is easy; F is a little more difficult because he has to hold down the string.)
  • Memorize “Eddie ate dynamite; good-bye, Eddie!”
  • Remember the word “fret” and what it is on the guitar.

“So what do you think?” I asked Nico as The Boy put away his guitar and pick. “Is he ready to take lessons?”

Nico nodded enthusiastically. “Oh, definitely. I have to say I’m always skeptical when parents want to bring in a really young kid, but I was pleasantly surprised at how well he can keep his attention. I mean, most kids his age are squirming all over the place.”

I breathed a sigh of relief. “Okay, good. I just want to make sure it won’t be too hard for you to work with him.”

He shrugged. “I don’t get frustrated working with little kids. I just don’t want parents to waste their money when their kid isn’t really into it. But I think he’ll be fine.”

The Boy finished packing up his stuff and we went downstairs to pay for this session and complete the paperwork to enroll him in continuous lessons. Nico spoke very quickly to the manager before we started filling out the forms, and I later found out that Nico said he thinks The Boy has some real talent.

And as proud as that makes me as a mom, I also think back to a quote I’ve heard many times:

Hard work without talent is a shame, but talent without hard work is a tragedy.

– Robert Half

The Boy was eager to practice when we got home, and he wanted to practice tonight before bedtime, too. It’s only the first day and the first lesson, and it’s going to get much tougher as the weeks and months pass. So all I can hope is that he really works hard at this.

After all, he promised to stick with this for at least a year, and that means he’s got at least 51 more lessons to go.

Great customer service is not dead

There are lots of music stores out there. There are lots of places I could have gone to buy The Boy his guitar. But I had such an awesome experience at Guitar Center in Hunter’s Creek last week that Cute Husband and I took The Boy back there this morning to get his guitar.

Last week, the associate helping us with guitars was Ray, and, thankfully, he happened to be working there this morning. He remembered us, even remembering The Boy’s name (huge bonus!), and hooked us up. Ray grabbed the black ¾-scale Laguna that The Boy played with last week, hooked it up to an amp, and let him play. Meanwhile, he collected all the other stuff we would need: a carrying case, an amp, a cable, and a little tuner – everything The Boy will need for his first guitar lesson next week. And if that wasn’t enough, he even gave The Boy a set of guitar picks as a birthday present. Really? How freakin’ awesome is that?

Honest to God, I can’t say enough great things about the level of customer service at Guitar Center. I just finished writing a rather lengthy comment on the Guitar Center feedback site, just to gush about the amazing experience we had this morning. I don’t think enough people call out the positive things, and Ray was just beyond awesome.

So yeah, if you happen to be in the Central Florida area and are in the market for a new guitar or anything guitar-related, go to Guitar Center on Orange Blossom Trail. You won’t be disappointed.

One excited little boy

There are many times I wish my eyeballs were video cameras. There are also many times I wish I could photograph instances at will. Driving The Boy home from school today was one of those times.

This afternoon, as I was fighting at work with some reports I needed to run, Cute Husband texted me with a surprise:

We have butterflies!

This is exciting. Since receiving the little yellow box two weeks ago, we’ve watched the butterfly larvae scoot around and eat some weird brownish gunk (which was pretty amazing; I had no idea caterpillars have 6 arms!) and turn into little chrysalises. Cute Husband moved them from their little plastic cup into the butterfly environment, and we’ve checked on the chrysalises every day.

Yesterday, The Boy noticed a change in some of the chrysalises and pointed it out to Cute Husband. Apparently, when the butterfly is almost ready to hatch (for lack of a better word), the chrysalis darkens. (We’re getting our money’s worth from this school.) Sure enough, when I looked this morning, it looked like four of the five chrysalises were noticeably darker than they were when they first formed.

I told Cute Husband that I would let The Boy talk to him once I picked him up from school; I’d let The Boy hear the news directly from him.

Cute Husband was on speakerphone when The Boy called.

“Guess what we have now!” Cute Husband said.

“What?”

“We have butterflies!”

The Boy opened his mouth in a kind of exhilarated awe and didn’t say anything, so Cute Husband, who couldn’t see him, didn’t quite witness the level of excitement that resulted from this news. The Boy was super excited, and if I wasn’t driving (and if he wasn’t talking on my phone), I would have been ready to take a picture of his reaction.

The news I delivered as we drove home was equally well-received.

“Guess what you’re going to do a week from Saturday?” I said.

“I can’t guess. Can’t you give me a hint?”

“Well, we have to go back to that place we went last Friday to make sure you have what you need for it.”

The Boy furrowed his brow. “We have to go to the market?” he asked.

I smiled. “I guess we can go to the market again if you want, but wouldn’t you rather go to Guitar Center?”

His entire face lit up. “Yeah! And can we buy my guitar this time?”

“Of course!”

“Okay, but I’m gonna want to test it out first to make sure it works good.”

Anyway, once I told him about finding him a guitar instructor, he was beside himself with excitement (again). What I didn’t tell him, though, is that this first class will be an evaluation; the instructor will work with him for a half hour and determine whether he feels The Boy is ready for lessons or if we ought to wait. George’s Music doesn’t typically teach kids younger than 6 (some of the other schools I’ve found start at age 7), but the store manager understands that kids are certainly all different and my might-as-well-be-five-year-old may well be more ready for guitar lessons than an older kid.

So while I’m sure The Boy will prove his mettle, I may do well to keep looking for instructors just in case this particular instructor disagrees.

In the meantime, The Boy has informed me that he plans to play guitar for the next 12 years so that he’s really good at it, and then he’ll switch to drums.

“And then you’ll have to find me a drums instructor, okay, Mom?”

Well, by then he’ll probably know a number of musicians and music instructors, but I didn’t want to point that out to him.

“Okay, honey,” I replied.

Sometimes it’s just easier.

Unleashing the inner Rock God (or, The last day of Spring Break 2012)

I felt really bad about putting The Boy in day care all week, especially since he was so unhappy the whole time, so I hurried to finish the critical things at work early this week and took today off. When I asked him yesterday what he wanted to do today, after some thought, he asked, “Can we play Star Wars Monopoly?”

Monopoly? Really? How geeky am I that my not-quite-five-year-old wants to play Monopoly on his last day of Spring Break?

But if Monopoly is what he wanted to play, then that’s what we would do. For part of the day, anyway.

Playing Star Wars Monopoly (the Classic Trilogy edition, of course). Cute Husband and I counted; we have six different versions of Monopoly in our house.

Cute Husband’s schedule was such that we were able to have lunch with him today, so we paused our game for a while to meet him at his work. After devouring half of a hot turkey and Swiss sandwich (I had an over-dressed Caprese salad) with Daddy, The Boy was eager for our next adventure. After all, I promised that I would let him choose an instrument when he was five and let him take lessons – on the condition that whatever he chose, he had to stick with it for a full year.

When he was three, he said he wanted to play drums. He would jam on my Rock Band drum set whenever he had the chance. It’s not the same thing, but he really loved playing with it. Then he decided that he wanted to play guitar. For the past six or seven months, he’s been pretty consistent: when asked what he wants to play, The Boy replied, “Guitar.”

But then we saw Blue Man Group last week, and after watching the show, he was suddenly torn between drums and guitar once again.

As a mom, I’m good with either instrument. Both can be loud, the cost of the instruments are about the same, and the cost of lessons would be about the same. Drums would take up a larger footprint, but if that’s what he ultimately wants to play, space is negligible. We’d find room for a drum kit.

So, for our post-lunch adventure, The Boy was willing to skip a trip to the Lego Store at Downtown Disney (which is a very big deal for this kid) to head to Guitar Center instead.

When we arrived, he wasn’t shy at all. Sure, I did the initial talking, but once the guys in the store started letting him test out different instruments, all inhibitions were lost. He was good to go.

That face says it all: he's pretty stoked.

He tested out a half-size guitar first. Now, I’ll be the first to confess that I know nothing when it comes to guitars. I’ve always wanted to play guitar but could never get the hang of it; my fingers don’t move the way I guess they’re supposed to. So in my mind, I pictured The Boy learning on a nice acoustic guitar. What I learned, though, is that at 5, The Boy doesn’t quite have the finger strength for an acoustic guitar. So if he was going to learn to play the guitar right now, it would be an electric guitar.

He played the guitar for a few minutes before he (somewhat reluctantly) returned it to Chris, the store manager, and followed him to the drums section. There, Chris set up an electronic drum kit for The Boy to play.

He was having such a great time playing the electronic kit that I was sure drums would be the instrument of choice. Danilo, the associate helping us in the drums section (who, go figure, is a drummer, too), talked to me a bit about what The Boy would need as a beginner in terms of equipment. That’s when he let The Boy play on an acoustic drum kit.

“He’s a natural,” Danilo told me while he watched him play. When Chris came by to check on us, I asked The Boy, “Okay, what do you think? Do you want to play drums?” He nodded excitedly. I took that as a good sign.

Then, as we left the drums section to return to the main store, The Boy tugged on my arm.

“Um, Mom, can we see the guitars again?”

“You’re not sure which one you like better?”

“Yeah. I like the drums, but I think I like guitar more.”

Uh-oh. This could be a very long afternoon.

I flagged Chris down and told him that The Boy wasn’t totally sold on the drums yet and wanted a second look at the guitar. Chris was kind enough to have Ray, another associate (who’s been playing the guitar since he, himself, was 5), help us. He gave The Boy the same guitar, plugged it into a small amplifier, and stood beside me as we watched him play.

The Boy on guitar - Take 2

“I love how he moves his hand up and down the neck as if he knows what he’s doing,” I said to Ray.

“Oh, he’s a natural,” he responded. “He just needs to learn fundamentals and technique, and he’ll be great.”

At the end of our visit, The Boy was sold: he wants to play guitar. He also wants the black guitar that he was playing. And he can’t wait to take lessons.

I promised him I would spend this week researching music schools to find lessons that would work with our schedule, and before he starts taking lessons, I promised to get him his guitar.

And he, in turn, promises to practice every day. We’ll see how long that lasts.

(As an aside, if you’re in the Central Florida/Orlando area and interested in buying (or just letting your child test out) a guitar and/or drums, I highly recommend Guitar Center in the Hunters Creek area. They’re truly fabulous, and I can’t say enough things about their staff. Any group of guys willing to put up with a Type-A mom and her smallish offspring – even after I explained that we really weren’t buying anything today – are top-notch in my book.)

Blue Man Group: An unexpected treat

This afternoon, as I was working on a weekly report, the CEO’s Executive Assistant passed my desk.

“Do you want Blue Man Group tickets?” she asked. “They’re for tonight and you have to be there by 5:45.”

I froze like a deer in the middle of a suddenly brightened street and blinked a few times before I replied, “Um, let me call my husband and see if he wants to go.”

Cute Husband answered on the first ring, and I asked if he wanted to see Blue Man Group tonight.

“With C?” he asked.

“Um, sure.” I thought he might want to go alone or ask someone from work to join him, and the show would end after The Boy’s regular bedtime but, yeah, I guess he could bring The Boy.

Cute Husband answered in the affirmative, and I ultimately received three tickets.

“Make sure you use them, though, or they won’t give us tickets anymore.”

About two hours later, Cute Husband and The Boy were in the lobby at work. Cute Husband hadn’t told The Boy what we were doing, so I let The Boy read the tickets and watched his eyes light up with excitement. I gave them some black beans and rice and an kale salad with apples that I bought at lunch from a local food truck to eat while I finished my work for the day. After checking with my VP to make sure she didn’t need anything from me for her early morning meeting, the three of us left for Universal Studios.

Here’s the thing I don’t like about Universal Studios: you have to pay for parking. Sure, if you’re a Florida resident and it’s after 6pm, you only pay $5, and after 10 o’clock, it’s free. But if it’s before 6 (as it was when we arrived), it’s $15. Tickets for Blue Man Group are expensive as it is, but I guess if you’re already paying $170 for your family of three to go to a show, what’s another $15? (This is another reason I prefer the Disney Marketplace.)

But I got these tickets for free, so I really had no right to complain.

Cute Husband and The Boy waiting for the show to begin.

Once we got to the Sharp Aquos Theater and got settled in our seats, The Boy fidgeted with nervous excitement. The lights dimmed, and he joined the crowd in applause.

I kept glancing over at him throughout the show to see how he was reacting to the show. I could hear his squeals of delight and infectious laughter, but more often than not, those large, luminous eyes were fixed on the stage, taking it all in.

I managed to sneak a few pictures of The Boy, very careful to turn off the flash on my iPhone, but one lucky shot summed up the entire night.

The photo that captured The Boy's reaction to the entire show.

As the show ended, he was euphoric.

“Mom,” he gushed as we left the theater, “the funniest part was when all the balloons dropped and then toilet paper went everywhere.” Later in the car (before falling asleep), he announced, “I also liked when they played on the phones.”

This was definitely a special mid-week treat for all of us, but especially for The Boy. Here’s hoping I’m not regretting this tomorrow when he’s so tired after his late night!