Thursday, May 31, 2012

Producing a Show

"Sunrise, Sunset"
I had a sweet lady ask me how we are able to put on Shakespeare plays and other shows, and so I wrote her the following in an e-mail. (And I thought I'd share it here with any of my other readers in case you're curious how a bunch of homeschool families can put together a great show!)

Some of our awesome Mom Volunteers (from l. to r.)
 cast photographer, set designer (with her husband, not pictured),
backstage mom, choreographer/music director, assistant director/stage manager

Honestly, I am NOT a one-woman show! I could NEVER direct the shows I do without a MASSIVE parent volunteer effort. I make it a REQUIREMENT of every student involved in the show to have their parent take on a responsibility to help with the show. And this is not just hand out programs or something. These are BIG things!

Tevye getting his mike put on by his mom (who also applied his beard)
and his aunt who did the music and sound.

Here's a list of volunteers we had for our last show, "Fiddler on the Roof":
Producer: Finds a location for the show and is the go-between for everything that has to do with the location-- rental fees, lock up, making sure everything is clean, etc.. I have been known to really work my producers hard! But their job is to make sure that everything the director needs done gets done. It is NOT an easy job!
Assistant Director: This is the director's runner and hands-on helper. I have used youth for this position, as well as parents. This year, my assistant also acted as the Stage Manager.
Stage Manager: This person makes sure all the actors are where they are supposed to be, which is really important when one is working with children and teens. (They're not always very responsible actors. Oy!) They help run rehearsals, work with actors when the director is working with others, keep things orderly and QUIET backstage. This position can also be done by a VERY responsible and mature student.
Costume Director: I usually do this in addition to directing, but I'm REALLY grateful I had someone else do it this year. She did a phenomenal job and took a HUGE load off of me. This person designs, sews (not ALL, but some), stores, transports, and cleans all the costumes for the show. They also oversee and coordinate any costume changes that need to happen backstage. They also gather, inventory, and dry clean all the costumes at the end of a show.
All the girls in the number "Matchmaker"
with their colorful, traditional Russian sarafans and headscarves.
Music Director: If it's a musical, this person is in charge of teaching all the songs for all the actors singing in the show. They also coach the actors on their vocalization. In our show this year, we had two ladies that did this job, and they were very different, but we all learned a lot from both of them. These ladies also took care of the sound for the show for us, since we used a CD accompaniment for all our musical numbers. (One comes with all MTI "Jr." versions of musicals.)
Choreographer: Our choreographer this year was also one of our music directors. She taught and rehearsed with the kids through all the songs that had dancing-- which was most of them. If it had music to it, she told the kids where to stand and what to do. If there was dialogue or other action, I blocked their positions and placement.
Prop Master/Mistress: Gathers, places, packs up, cares for, and stores all the objects the actors use in the show. Usually, my Shakespeare shows don't have many props, but "Fiddler" had a LOT of little things that were mentioned in the script, and so it ended up being a HUGE job this year! 
Set Design: This person designs, builds, paints and decorates the background and large structures for the show. For Fiddler, we didn't have ANY back or side curtains, so our set person made 8 foot high wooden frames that were covered with thin sheets of luan and painted black. We also borrowed some wooden houses on casters for the house exteriors and interior. We had to repaint them, because they had been made for a local high school's "Beauty and the Beast," and so they looked a bit too cheerful for our little Russian village.
Lliam, our "Constable" in his handlebar mustache
Makeup and Hair: We had three boys who needed beards and mustaches for the show, and we also put a handlebar mustache on our Constable. This was a much more involved process than the regular makeup normally is, though I have usually also dealt with wigs or SOMETHING else in other shows. We had two moms that helped apply these beards each night, after a professional makeup person came and showed them how to apply them correctly. (They were made of human hair and were attached with spirit gum. We bought them online through a theatre supply store.)
Graphic Design and Printing: We had one lady who took care of all the graphic design and printing of our posters, our programs, and our cast t-shirts. 
Ticket Captain: We usually have a contest with the students to try and get them to pre-sell as many tickets as possible. The ticket person comes up with prizes to give out, as they sell tickets, reminds the kids to sell, sell, sell, and they keep track of how many tickets are sold. They also handle all the money for the pre-sold tickets and take money for tickets sold at the door.
Backstage Helpers: We had at least two moms helping backstage for every performance, just to keep the kids quiet and the actors and props where they needed to be when they needed to be there.
Backstage moms in action during the show
Videographer: We had a dad filming the show at the back of the audience during each performance and then we showed the best recording at our cast party. Due to licensing restrictions, plays or musicals bought from a licensing company like MTI cannot legally be filmed and certainly cannot be distributed on YouTube or anywhere else. We have tried to do all we can to meet our licensing agreements, even though we had sad parents who didn't get a copy of the show.
With Shakespeare shows, however, since it is LONG out of the public domain, we can film whatever we want! (I also like Shakespeare because I can change whatever I want in the script without any problem. Any show done with a license cannot have ONE WORD changed!)
Photographer: This is usually a mom with some camera skills, who takes a headshot of each actor to put on display in the foyer during the show. They also come and take candid snapshots during rehearsal. They also take photos during dress rehearsals and performances for the cast. The headshot photos are included in the program for the show. The photographer also makes sure to take a picture or two of the entire cast together in full costume, and makes print copies to give to everyone after the show.
Concessions: We had two moms at each performance selling treats, snacks, and water before and after the performances, as well as during intermission. The treats and snacks were donated by the parents and students. (We made over $400 total on all our concessions.)
Other Helpers: We also had a few homeschooled kids helping with lights and props backstage. 
Our lighting guy, Mark, with our busy and amazing prop mistress, Sara with some of the actors backstage during one of the performances.

As you can see, there is NO WAY I could ever do one of these shows on my own! If I don't have parental commitment and support, I won't do it. 

I also make every student sign a contract, saying that they will attend all rehearsals and behave appropriately while at rehearsals and performances. I  make sure parents know that they should not try and keep their kids home from rehearsal as a punishment. So parents have to sign the contracts, too. I may be a stinker about this, but I have found it VITALLY necessary in order for everyone to be committed to the show, no matter what. This year, half the cast or more got sick, but the show went on!!!

Now you know how much work and how many people it takes to make a show work for everyone. And everyone is happy that it doesn't happen more than once a year, because it's such a BIG effort for one and all.

As for me, I promised my husband I'd take a break next spring, and since I'm having a baby in October, I'm going to bow out of directing in 2013. :-)


Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Merry Month of May

Fun at the Cast Party

The play may be over, but time marches on. I must admit I've been enjoying the luxury of taking an afternoon nap each day, in an attempt to finally kick this nasty illness I've had for four weeks.

Bonny (2nd from left) with her classmates and her beloved teacher, Chandler (far right)

Bonny had her ballet recital and once again did a lovely job. She was only in one number this year, but she loved her gorgeous costume. (She's on the far right throughout most of the number.)

The kids have been missing their "Fiddler" buddies-- there's always a sag in spirits after a show ends. But they are excited for their classes to pick up again in the Fall. We've been bracing for the summer heat, but had a pleasant surprise of mild weather today. The high is only going to be in the mid-eighties!

Didn't she do a good job?

Bonny had a great idea for a Young Women's project last week: She decided to cut out and sew swim skirts for our little girls, and one for herself. (WITHOUT a pattern.) I wasn't necessarily ready to give a sewing lesson, but as usually happens with our Miss Bon, she will plow through and bug Mama until she gets the help she needs. What a clever girl!

Lovely Bonny Dianne
(Yes, she is wearing a flesh-colored leotard under her costume. So much more comfortable for her!)

I am looking forward to a weekend of rest and projects. I need to finish writing for our Commonwealth School website and Russell is checking items off his "Honey-Do" list. (YAY!) Then he and I will finish up the website together. We WILL meet our deadline!


Love, Rachel

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

On Asperger Syndrome: Morganne's History Part 1

Morganne before showtime
Because I've never shared Morganne's history on my blog, I'd like to record it here, both for my readers and for posterity. She is eighteen, and would be graduating high school this year, had we done things in the typical way. But then, Morganne is not a typical senior. 

I am not recording this history to start a debate or to blame anyone but myself. I am simply trying to record my life's experiences with Morganne and write down her history for her and for our family. Please do not read more into my telling than I am trying to say. I am simply writing these experiences down as I remember them. If what I have to say offends, please forgive me and move on to read something else. Thank you! 

To understand more about Asperger's and autism, see this link

Like other mothers, I have learned much more than I ever could have imagined from my children. I seemed to get immediate lessons in patience, thanks to my sweet and special daughter, Morganne.

Sweet Baby Morganne

Life Before Autism

When Morganne was a baby, she was loving and responsive. She was a bright little one, curious and full of energy-- like most babies. She spoke at an early age and was using full sentences at about eighteen months old. She loved her little brother when he arrived and was always very concerned about "the bebe," dragging me in to check on Brennan whenever she heard him make a noise while sleeping. She was never jealous-- not even for one moment. She was a protective big sister, and was already showing lots of motherly intuition at her very young age.

She also never had temper tantrums-- she was so laid-back and patient. Sometimes, she was so content to be playing or watching movies, that she would not tell me she was hungry, and I would feed her too late. (I was a young, first-time mom-- silly and clueless!)

When Brennan was about 3 months old, we decided to move back to Idaho to be near family. For quite a few months, we stayed with my parents in their home. It was a pretty stressful time for all of us. Soon, Morganne turned two, and out of concern for her health, my mom suggested that she should go and get her vaccinations caught up. (She had received her shots on schedule when she was tiny, but I had not taken her for some time.)

We packed up little Morganne and tiny Brennan in the car and headed to our local health clinic. Something that day kept bugging me-- I couldn't explain why I was so reluctant to get Morganne her shots. I justified it as not wanting to see her in brief pain, not wishing to make her cry. And then I told myself to quit being a baby-- that getting her shots was the way to be a "good" mother. As I look back now, I can still feel the sick drop my stomach took as we waited for Morganne's turn. How I wish I could go back now, and march my little ones back out the door...

The look of distrust and betrayal on Morganne's face when she was stuck will forever remain with me, but even more clearly will I remember her screams of terror when they took Brennan back for his shots.

"NOT THE BABY!!!" she screamed. "NOT THE BABY!!!"

She threw herself uncontrollably, trying to get to the baby to stop us from taking him back. It was so unlike her, so heartbreaking. I didn't know what to do, except to continue. After all, I was being a "good" mom!!! She just didn't understand.

Later, I would find that it was me who did not understand.

A Changed Child

Almost immediately, Morganne became a different child. Because her trip to clinic coincided so closely to her two year old birthday, we all blamed "the terrible twos" on her erratic behavior.

For the first time in her life, she was throwing temper tantrums-- for HOURS every day. And she was not just screaming and crying, she was banging her head on the floor and flailing herself out of our arms and into walls. She could not calm down, and would scream herself to exhaustion.

Russell and I and my parents were overwhelmed, but again, she was two now! This was just what two-year-olds did, right? She was our first-- we had nothing to compare her to. She must just be a difficult toddler!

An interesting side story is that she had been entered into a drawing at the clinic for a t-shirt with a logo about "remember to vaccinate" or something like that. She WON. And when we gave her the shirt, she became enraged, kicking it, screaming, trying to get it as far away from her as possible. She hated it, reacting the same if ever I brought it out again. Finally, I simply threw it away.

But there were lots of clues that things weren't right. Her speech stopped almost immediately. She no longer used words, she only screamed. She stopped wanting to be snuggled. The smallest things would set her off screaming uncontrollably-- she was frustrated by anything and everything.

Our little family just after Lliam's birth, just 13 months after Brennan's

Morganne no longer responded to anyone when they spoke to her. She played by herself, and ignored Brennan completely. Going to Nursery, which she had loved before, was an impossibility. She would react by screaming and flailing her body when we even walked down the hall.

Just before Lliam was born, Russell and I were called into the Nursery, where we stayed with our three kids for over a year. She would go and play on her own, never interacting with anyone-- not even Russell and I. But she would not scream as long as we were there.

Morganne continued in the same state for years. We always expected and hoped she would get better, grow out of her irrational behaviors, but she never did. Any social pressure-- especially things like getting her pictures taken-- would dissolve her into a fit. We all walked on pins and needles around her, avoiding anything that would set her off.

Many family members came to me, asking if I was concerned. YES! I was worried. I knew that something was wrong, but I didn't know what to do! I started to wonder if she couldn't hear, so I tried all kinds of tests to see if it was her hearing that was "off." It wasn't-- she could hear just fine.

But she wouldn't look me in the eyes, she would never say "I love you." She would rarely smile, and when she did, it was to a void, to where no one one standing. She seemed to live in her own little world and we simply could not reach her, wherever she was.

I felt as though I had forever lost my daughter and all she could have been. I mourned, but didn't know what else to do, or where to turn for help. I had never heard nor seen of anything that gave me any clues about what to do next. So I did nothing but hope and wait and pray.

In the meantime, we were busy parents of little ones, while Russell going to school and I was trying to figure out how to be a homemaker and mother of babies that we felt prompted to bring into our family circle. I was overwhelmed by Morganne's problems and so I would not, could not, face them at the time. We were just struggling to get by.

A Glimmer of Hope

By this time, we were living in Provo, Utah. Russell was finally starting to work full time at a job that was supporting us better than before. I was pregnant with baby #4, and Lliam was talking a mile a second! He knew all his colors at age two, and was a bright and curious busy guy. One day, when he and I were having a funny conversation, I turned to see Morganne watching us, with pain in her eyes and frustration in her face. I could tell that she wondered why the baby could talk, but she, who was now five, could say so very little. That little glimmer I saw of her old self gave me hope.

My heart ached. She WAS in there, somewhere. How could I reach her? What should I do???

Finally, I screwed up my courage, and gathered up all my determination. I didn't know how to help my daughter, but I knew that God did. And I was willing to use every ounce of my faith to get her well!!!

I got on my knees and poured my heart out in the fiercest prayer I have have ever said, before or since. I pleaded with God to make my daughter well-- to let her come out of the fog she was in. I told the Lord that I was willing to give every bit of faith in my soul to work to free her from her bondage. I felt I was paying a price, making a deal. For an instant, I had seen my real daughter, and I wanted her back, oh, so much!

The Lord answered my prayer with force. I had to show him my resolve and use all my faith in her behalf. I was to ask my husband to give her a Priesthood blessing, and I was to devote all my faith into believing that she could be healed.

I was to expect a miracle.

So I tearfully explained it all to Russell. He retreated to our room to pray, and I did everything I could to believe, to remove all doubt and trepidation from my mind. I prayed mightily every instant that I waited. I KNEW God had the power to do this great thing. Now it was my turn to give God all the faith-- even if it was just a little mustard seed-- that I had.

Russell came out from praying. Morganne was strangely calm as Russell explained to her about what he was about to do. She listened, never looking at our faces, but her peaceful demeanor led us to believe she understood, somehow. She obediently sat in a chair and held perfectly still as Russell placed his hands on her head.

I don't remember much of the blessing, but I do remember that she was told that "The dark cloud would slowly be removed from her mind." It was the perfect description of her condition.

As the blessing ended, I held my breath. Morganne raised her bowed head and looked at her Daddy.

Then she came to me.

Looked me directly in the eyes.

And smiled.


Thursday, May 17, 2012

Blog Remodeling!

My good friend has been very busy!

I am so blessed to have a very talented and willing friend who has revamped and upgraded this blog in a way I never could have dreamed possible! Don't you just love it?

THANK YOU, Misty!!! You've done it again. I am so grateful that you so willingly share your amazing talents with me and my readers. You are awesome!!!



Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Our Summer "School"

An Arizona monsoon sky (We often see this in the evenings in late July.)

 We are year-round homeschoolers. All that means is we simply don't follow the typical school year timing.

Because we live in the hot part of Arizona, it makes no sense for us to take the summer months off. It's simply too hot to play or do anything else outside! (Except swim.) There are usually at least 100 days of 100+ degrees every summer. We begin staying indoors from mid-May until Halloween, at the earliest.

One of the principles of Thomas Jefferson Education (TJEd) is to try to be more in tune with the seasons. The DeMilles talk about what our ancestors would do in the Winter: they read, discussed, and studied around the fire, cared for their animals, and snuggled in to wait out the weather until planting began again in the spring.

We took this principle and turned it on its head to fit our family's circumstances. We consider summer our "winter"-- the time when we need to hunker down and avoid going outside too much. So we also take time to read, discuss, and study in the hot summer months. It works out great for us, because then I can also feel free to let the kids play and explore outside in the later fall, winter, and spring-- which is also when science is more emphasized.

We also participate in supplemental homeschool classes in the Fall and Winter semesters, as well as high school seminary, and that means our schedule is now free from outside commitments. Our ward choir even takes the summer months off! (I am the director.) We get to do homeschool in the summer, free and unrestrained!

I have spent a few days thinking and planning about what what we want to focus on this summer. Below is what I hope to do with each of the age groups in my family. (Though all the kids have some math to catch up on.)

Little girls cooling off in the water
Core Phase Kids (Under 8 years old):  
Keywords are home, love, play, truth, fun, and work.
  • ABC's and 1,2,3's-- My older little girls need more practice writing their names and other letters. They are showing a real interest right now, so I want to strike while they are asking.We'll also play some phonics and reading games.
  • Months, days of the week, seasons-- Even my 8 year old needs some review in this area. I want to make this fun and really hands-on. We'll be doing lots of singing, games, and artwork with this subject.
  • Scripture Stories-- My little ones LOVE the "Scripture Scouts" CD's, and so do I! We need to get the "Old Testament" CD, since we got the "Book of Mormon" and the "New Testament" CD's for Christmas. The kids also really like watching the videos and playing the games on We may need some more scripture story picture books from the online LDS Distribution Center-- ours are really worn out from all the many years of use by our older kids!
  • Housework-- The younger kids need to learn how to do some of the harder jobs around the house. I will be their mentor and coach. The little girls can do more, and I need to train them how. This summer will be the perfect time!
Making a nest out of grass clippings at the park
Love of Learning Kids (8 years to about 13-14 years old):
 Keywords are exploring, adventure, curiosity, reading, learning, and fun!
  • Resources-- The Love of Learning phase has been a bit neglected in my home for a year or two. Balancing all the different ages and phases is not an easy thing, especially when the big kids keep us so busy! I just got a GREAT book I am looking forward to learning from and using. It's called "For the Love of Learning" and it was written by a fellow TJEd mom named Amy Edwards, who has done some great things with her Love of Learning kids. I am loving everything I've been reading so far!
  • Unit Studies-- I want to focus on U.S. history this summer with my middle kids. I plan to get Janeen Brady's "Take Your Hat Off" music, and hopefully some other American folk song music. We have some great American History story books I can use, too.
  • Reading-- I'm making the middle kids a reading chart to encourage them to do more independent reading this summer. I also need to make some weekly trips to the library so the kids can pick some non-fiction books and movies to study.
  • Projects-- I plan on the kids making lots of messes with art and craft projects this summer. I love their creativity!
  • Swimming Lessons-- I need to find a cheap alternative to regular swimming lessons at the pool. I'm hoping to convince one of our family friends to teach a few of our kids at a neighborhood pool. It's what we've done in the past, and it was such a blessing! Community lessons for multiple kids is just way too expensive for us!

Bonny finishing up a report for her WWII class

Scholar Phase Youth (13 years old and up):
Keywords are Independent Study, reading, writing, intense, motivated, difficult, and time.

  • Math-- The kids have been working through their math gaps at Khan Academy. They do math for at least one hour every day. The big kids are especially motivated to improve in this area, and that makes me happy. The only trouble I've had with this amazing program is to keep one of my kids focusing on his math before he moves on to other fun stuff like chemistry and physics. :-)
  • Latin-- My husband got us the program "Visual Latin," but due to all the busyness our extra classes added, we never seemed to get to it. This summer will be the time! I have watched one video and really like the instructor's style. I'm excited to start this program!
  • Reading-- Morganne and Brennan will be tackling the unabridged Les Miserables this summer for their class in the Fall. Another book the kids are looking forward to reading this summer is the new "Michael Vey" book. But it doesn't come out until August. Everyone else will continue to be encouraged to devour the classics on our shelves. 
  • Audio Books-- I will also be adding some audio books to the mix this summer, as well. I love Librivox for this purpose! Classics for free are great, though I have to be careful to double-check the readings. One time, I downloaded all of War and Peace only to find that it was read by someone with the thick Indian accent I could not understand at all! And if you've read the classic, you know that there are phrases in both Russian and French throughout the novel. And the Indian accent just made them REALLY confusing! (And too funny!)
  • Driver's Education-- It's time for Morganne and Brennan to get enrolled in a class and take their drivers' tests. Morganne is still not anxious to drive, but Brennan has been for a long time. I've finally decided that it's time to push Morgie into being more independent. (She hates being pushed, but sometimes it's necessary!) 
  • College Classes-- Morganne is not planning to leave home in the next year, but she will start LDS Institute class in the Fall, and I'm also hoping to enroll her in BYU-I's new program called "Pathway." It's a great fit for her, since she wants to stay at home and ease into college gradually. I'm excited and she's sincerely willing to try it out. HOORAY. Progress is good.
  • Personal Projects-- Brennan is working on a new club for young men, and wants to have it all organized before the Fall. He also plans on FINISHING HIS EAGLE PROJECT. (ahem.) I have lots of sewing I want to get done. I think Lliam will continue to improve his art, and Bonny wants to continue her ballet lessons. I also plan to add more voice students, including Brennan and Morganne, if I can talk her into it.

Today I'm cleaning and resting as I go. I'm still not fully healed, but I'm feeling much better every day. This afternoon, a lady is dropping off her daughter's dance costume for me to alter before her recital this Saturday. I'm also working on some fun sewing projects for a friend who's helped me a lot. But they're a surprise! So shhhh...

Now that my summer is planned "spiritually" (Thank you, Misty!), I hope we will be able to accomplish more in the physical world. I'm excited by all the possibilities! 

Thank you, Tristan, for inspiring me to write this post. Accountability to my friends is a great motivator!!! :-D

Love, Rachel

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

What now?

Life has slowed down significantly since the play ended.


I am finally starting to heal, thanks to the rest I'm getting. My ear infections are slowly going away, and I'm almost able to talk like a normal person! (almost...)

"On the other hand," (I just can't help quoting Tevye here!) I'm feeling a bit like a lazy slug.

There's lots of housework to be done, but I'm going to do it little bit by little bit. It's marvelous to NOT be in a hurry!

Yesterday, I was really feeling "the-show-is-over-depression."  I wasn't really thinking about the show, I was just feeling like a failure. My kids missed "Mormon Prom" on Saturday night due to the show, my Morganne will not be graduating from Seminary due to my choice to not send them last year (Home Study does not count, in our case),  and my normally happy time on Pinterest just resulted in making me feel that I could never measure up.

So I pulled myself together and sat down to read some good stuff and make some lists of "what next." ("Large Family Logistics," "A Leadership Education" and "Love of Learning".)

Funny how little things like that can bring much relief!

Washing, drying, and folding a few loads of laundry helped, too. (I can almost see a dent in the laundry room!)

I'm making plans for our homeschool this summer, and thinking about paint colors and all the sewing projects I can now enjoy.

I really should MOP first, though...


Sunday, May 13, 2012

Fiddler Update

The Cast!

Our Opening Night was a rousing success-- the house was FULL!!! The kids did such a wonderful job. I am so proud of them all!!!

Tevye and the Fiddler

We still have a few sickies in the cast, but most of them are much better. Luckily, we found some personal mikes for the lead characters, which was good since our Tevye wasn't in full voice last night.

A weak "Mazel Tov"

Me, I still sound like a chain-smoker, but I feel much better. (And I'm sold on the miracles of cayenne hot lemonade!)

Chava and Fyedka

More details to come... We still have two more shows today!

Perchick and Hodel dancing at the wedding

'Nother Update:

It went splendidly! We had three big audiences, very few glitches, and a marvelous time!!! I am so glad we did it-- and it was wonderful to feel the burden lift as I drove home late last night.

My boy got married-- again! (He's Motel, shown here with Tzeitel)


Mazel Tov!!!

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

In Which We Are Sick

"Breakfast in Bed" by Mary Cassatt

I've been sick for a week now, a few of the sick kids in our family have recovered, my tiny girls have fevers, and HALF of my cast-- including our Tevye, Golde, my Lliam, and Lazar Wolf-- are not able to talk or sing at present.

Did I mention the show opens on THIS Friday?

I was able to speak at the Forum this past weekend, but only just. I think at least one of my recordings will be unusable. :-p (Darn coughing fit!)

I sit here hardly able to breathe, my throat feeling like I've swallowed shards of glass.

We need a miracle.

And since I know the power of prayer and have experienced first hand the awesome effect that faithful friends can have, I humbly ask any who can to please send up a little prayer or two...