Kate reads…

There are two things that I have always wanted and known myself to be: an actor and a mother. Before I had kids, I scratched the maternal itch as a teacher, a nanny, a children’s theater director. I am very grateful to now have both things enriching my life.

When I was young, I was the kid curled up all day Saturday with a new book. I was the kid who brought home a grocery bag of library books and who could endlessly browse in a bookstore (ok, I’m still that kid). Reading, storytelling has a special place in my heart. I LOVE reading to my children. And as an actor, (and just general believer in sillyness) I am PRO doing voices. 🙂 So! I decided to put that joy and passion to use with a simple project, reading some of my kids’ favorite stories and sharing them with other families. This is “Kate reads…”

If you have children in your world, please enjoy this story-time with them (or use it to buy yourself a bathroom break alone! What a thought!) If you do not have kids in your life currently, I’d so appreciate you passing it on to friends who do.

Please enjoy one of my son’s favorites. Kate reads,,, The Pout Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen

Weirdest. acting challenge. ever!

Q: What’s the weirdest acting experience you’ve ever had?

A: I’m sure there are a few that I could throw in the running but as I’ve been reviewing footage to update my drama reel (see the new version here!), I was reminded of this little doozy. A number of years ago I played the romantic lead in this super cool, black and white noir film called “The Invisible Man Departs”. Perhaps you can see where this is going already. Romantic lead… Invisible Man…

The team did a great job making the scene look believable. BUT! I had the very weird job of kissing no one… In front of the entire cast and crew. And taking it very seriously (NOT a comedy.)

It was… a bizarre and ultra specific challenge, lol.

Try it. Do it right now, I dare you. Try to kiss the air in front of you in a romantic, saying goodbye sort of way with nothing to press your lips against. Pursed lips is sorta juvenile. Open mouth is sorta gross… Surely not with tongue? WHAT DO YOU DO!?

 

You’re doing it too right? I’ll wait…

Wanna watch the whole short film? Check it out here!

A Mommy and Me Milestone

Last week we crossed a major milestone in my overlapped parent/actor life. My 4 year old daughter #BabyABC was in a movie with me! In fact the whole family was, but #OBaby is voiceover only and Joe’s been there, done that. I must say, one of my proudest moments was this one right here: ABC highlighting her own lines. 

Ugh! Heart explosion! She has been watching me work on scripts her whole life and around 3 years old even started “writing scripts for Mama” to work on. *swoon* So to see her with her very own script, highlighting her lines like a little pro really moved me.

In the weeks leading up to the shoot she would often resist working on her lines (she actually had quite a lot to learn!) but then I’d find her wandering around the house muttering them… along with whoever’s lines she found funniest.

Pretty much from start to finish, she identified as being “excited but also worried about acting”. I, Daddy, and the director assured her this is exactly what prepping for a role feels like!

I shot most of the script, the parts that didn’t include the family, earlier in the week.

 

When Sunday rolled around, it was on. ABC did great. But let me tell you, the shoots that were me only were a loooooot easier on me. Ha! It’s pretty hard to focus on acting when you’re also trying to wrangle 2 kids as both a parent and acting coach.

Imagine that! Plus the fantasy of “being in a movie” didn’t appropriately prepare her for doing the scene over and over. After about 3 takes, she announced “I’m done with this scene”. Ah, 4 year olds. Guess you’ll have to become a director, sweetie!

I’m so glad we shot this film together. It was really cool having my daughter “at work” with me (We actually shot from our home), to experience what I do. Afterwards she asked “So am I an actor now?” I told her that was completely up to her. If she’s interested in doing more, I’ll support her. And I’m happy for us to work together but I’m certainly not pushing her. I sure am proud though! I’ll have more details about our comedic short film, “You’ll Be Doing Alright” over the next few weeks.

 

 

Meditation on Meditations

I created the short film “Meditations By Shadow” a few years ago now, but I’ve been thinking about it a lot recently. 1) (Obvi) Because Halloween is upon us and 2) because this is a short that could have been created under COVID circumstances. I shot it in my own apartment, using my own props, lights, sound, and my husband as my Director of Photography. I recorded the voiceover in my clothes closet and edited it all on my home computer. We made do with what we had and had a lot of fun doing it! Of course, at that time I didn’t have littles running up and down the halls. (I was actually pregnant with my first at the time.) I just had a curious kitty photobombing the shoot. 

Another reason I’m revisiting this project is I know a lot of us are turning to meditation and other methods to retain as much calm and sanity as we can in these tough times. As I’m trying out new apps and streaming meditations, I am reminded again how something so relaxing can really be blown by the wrong voice, lol. 

So Happy Halloween! I hope you are finding some time to enjoy the pretend scary season amidst the real scary stuff. And I hope you find time to laugh. May “Meditations By Shadow” help with all of the above.

Click the pic!

 

The Dread Pirate Tina

I was watching an episode of Sesame Street with my 4 year old the other day. I stepped away for a minute and suddenly heard her screaming “Mama! Turn it off! Not this! Turn it off!” She’s at this age where there are a lot of things on shows and movies that freak her out, so we have an agreement that I will fast forward through whatever she wants. 

So I rush back into the living room figuring it was Cookie Monster (scary), someone fighting (scary), maybe someone making a mistake they get upset about (scary). But no. 

It was Tina Fey singing a delightful song with some muppets. Wait, was one of the muppets too freaky? I didn’t see cookie monster…

“What’s wrong kiddo?,” I asked “What don’t you like?” She pointed at the TV and whimpered “The pirate.” I looked again. Ah yes. In fact, Tina Fey was wearing a pirate hat and an eye patch – but also a big smile. 

“That’s Tina Fey!” I said, excited to clue my daughter in on a strong funny female role model “She’s an actor like mommy. In fact she’s sorta one of Mommy’s heroes.” 

“Why?” 

“Well, she’s really really smart and funny, and she’s a wonderful actor and writer. I just really admire her. Don’t you think she’s funny wearing that hat and dancing with those monsters?” #ABC eyed the TV warily. “No. I don’t like the pirate.” 

“But it’s Tina Fey, she’s not a real pirate-“

“I don’t like the pirate!”

Alllllllll righty then. My daughter is officially scared of Tina Fey. Damn. So is this a ding to my mom cred or my comedian cred? 

#momfail #comedyfail

 

Left turn at Albuquerque

Ok, let’s just get right to it and bring everyone up to date. We are leaving LA and moving the family to Albuquerque, New Mexico.

What? Why!?

Well, it’s a complex answer. Let’s start with cost of living. LA’s rental costs are getting out of control. You can see it in the rising homeless population and the number of middle class who are living paycheck to paycheck. It’s real bad. It’s always been important to Joe and I to be saving regularly for rainy days, emergencies, retirement. We’ve been making that work while in LA by living below our means for many years now but with a pair of young kids, our needs have changed.

We’re currently walking sideways around our small apartment to accommodate 4 people and their things (and their wiggly bouncy bodies). To go play outside is a big production which involves making sure both kids are awake at the same time, properly attired, that we have snacks and diapers and water and and and… By the time we walk to the playground or park after all that, it’s almost time to turn around for somebody’s nap or lunch. It’s an event. We need easily accessible outdoor space. We need more indoor space. And we need all this without jeopardizing our savings because we now have 2 little ones who are depending on us being able to feed them in an emergency, ya know? (Pffff kids are so NEEDY!)

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Now, there is a chance we could find all this in LA for the low low price of Mommy getting a full time non-acting job or Daddy quitting the freelance life and working for a company that requires he be out of the home 9-10 hours a day but that completely defeats the purpose for us. We are in LA for my acting work. We started a family to spend time with them. Neither if us are willing to trade away either of those things.

…Plus earthquakes. Plus fires. Plus summer air quality (see fires).

OK that’s why not LA anymore. Why Albuquerque?

ABQ has acting work. A number of shows already shoot there. Netflix just bought ABQ Studios and the new film-friendly governor just expanded tax incentives. It’s a market with a TV/film scene and all signs point to it growing over the next few years.

ABQ is really not so far from LA. A 2 hour flight or 12 hour drive. When I need to get back here for work, callbacks, meetings, I can. It’s closer than Atlanta and Chicago, 2 other promising smaller markets.

And of course, affordable housing. We are renting a 4 bedroom house with a yard (see easily accessible outdoor space) in ABQ for the same per month as our 1 ½ bedroom apartment in LA. And that’s before June 1stwhen our LA rent is scheduled to go up 10%.

Plus honestly, I’m drawn to the slower pace of life. This has been a surprising realization for me. I am no stranger to hustle. But my kids are too young for hustle. I’m hoping that by putting a little distance between my family and LA, we’ll all be able to slow down and enjoy these early years together. I don’t want to miss them.

This is a very strategic move. We plan to try it out for a year and reevaluate. I am feeling very optimistic and my LA agent is completely on board, reassuring me that as long as I’m willing to travel there’s really no reason I have to live in LA as an actor/writer anymore. Things are changing. Most first auditions are self-tape, even if you live right next to the casting office.

And just to be clear, I’m not an LA hater! LA has been very good to me and if it were still just Joe and me, I doubt we’d be leaving. I look forward to visiting and working in LA every few months. It’s just not fitting our current goals.

I’ve got a vision of a new way to do this actor/mom juggling act. I’ve thought about it a lot (like A LOT!) and I think it’s going to work. But there’s only one way to find out. Wish us luck!

Don’t Panic. (A reading list for new and expecting parents)

I am Type A. When I’m excited about a topic or jumping into a new venture, I like to research the shit out of it. So when I got pregnant, my nightstand looked like a library. I have a few amazing people in my life who are expecting babies right now so I put together this list of what I found to be the best and most useful books.  I call this list “Don’t Panic”. As in, “yes, I know it’s a long list but it’s organized in the approximate order you’ll need the info so just start wherever you are in the journey and DON’T PANIC!” Also, some of these books won’t be for everyone so I tried to give an idea of what I found helpful. That way if you’re like “No way, hippy! I’m demanding the best and most high tech drugs as soon as I walk in the hospital door!” you can skip the books that don’t apply to your needs.

PREGNANCY
Expecting Better by Emily Oster: A look at pregnancy conventions in America and the studies that back them up (or don’t). This is a great read for pre-pregnancy or early in pregnancy to help you effin’ chill about many of the dos and don’ts. (Ignore the kitty litter part. Your partner should still take over scooping the box. Cuz you’re fuckin’ pregnant!)

The Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy: Written from the “childbirth is natural, your body is capable” angle, this book is less fear-based than “What to expect when you’re expecting”. It covers all the pregnancy basics from the medical standpoint.

CHILDBIRTH
The Birth Partner by Penny Simkin: This is essential reading for partners with everything from how to remain calm during a hospital delivery to how to deliver a baby in an emergency situation. My husband read and highly recommends this.

The Thinking Women’s Guide to a Better Birth by Henci Goer: This book details what can happen when one medical intervention sets off another. If you’re one who wants to show up and take the delicious drugs as soon as they can get them, thank you very much, then this is not the book for you. If you want medicine-free delivery and to be involved in the medical decisions during your birth, check it out. You’d be amazed at the variety of interventions that can come up. In the midst of contractions is not the time to be hearing about them for the first time.

Birthing From Within by Pam England: This book is a bit woo-woo. But honestly, so is natural childbirth. If you’re not depending on drugs and the doctor to lead you by the hand, then you’re depending on yourself and your amazing body. So you’d better have faith in it. The art stuff in this book was not for me but there were enough things in here that rang true (and made me tear up because of it) that I sought out a Birthing From Within class in my city. It’s about letting go, trusting your body, and realizing the rich storied history of women that you are becoming a part of. It’s kind of magical. And again, so is childbirth.

BABY “STUFF”
Baby Bargains by Denise Fields: This is basically a book about how not to spend a bajillion dollars on your baby. I found it handy.

Lucie’s List: Great site for baby stuff reviews. This is the first place I look when I’m shopping for a new item. There’s also a “crib sheet” on here that gives a decent jumping off point for what you actually might need to buy for baby. I used that, and another from a friend, as well as my own nanny experience, to fill up my registry.

PARENTING/INFANT CARE
Baby 411 by Ari Brown and Denise Fields: We referenced this book, like, weekly during ABC’s first year. Health, growth and development, when to call the doctor, how to bathe and swaddle. It’s all in here. Their Toddler 411 is great after the first year.

Baby-Led Weaning by Gill Repley and Tracey Murkett: We loved this method for starting solids. Baby feeds herself and eats what you eat (modified early on). It made more sense to us than doing the “Stage 1 – 2 – 3” foods.

The Happy Sleeper by Heather Turgeon: We were lucky. We got a good sleeper. I know some people read a million books before they find one that helps with a baby who struggles with sleep. This one worked for us immediately. It’s somewhere in between the “cry it out” method and the “go in whenever they peep” method and I felt it was a perfect happy medium. Lots of other good info about sleep stages before you get to “sleep training” age, as well as up to school age.

DEVELOPMENT: It is invaluable to understand what your kid is going through and WHY they are so crabby (or clingy, or won’t eat or won’t sleep) some weeks. Seriously, understanding this stuff is what keeps us sane and empethetic. These 2 books track different leaps in an infant/toddlers development. I highly recommend them both.

The Wonder Weeks by Hetty van de Rijt and Frans Plooih: Ok, so this is actually horribly written, but the info is good. There is also an app available with less info but better than nothing if you can’t stand to read the repetitive writing.

Touchpoints: Birth to Three by Joshua D Sparrow: This thing is great. Well-written and from a pediatrician’s perspective.

I know, I know, It’s A LOT! But these aren’t all cover to cover readers. Many are reference or ones that you work your way through as the kid progresses through the first year. Stick ’em on your book shelf and pull them out when the questions come up (oh my lord, the questions that come up. “Is that blood in my 3 week old daughter’s diaper?! (See Baby 411))

But guess what. The information is out there. You’ve got this! Just love them hard, know the learning curve is steep but not impossible, and DON’T PANIC!

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A hard sad post I needed to write

This is not a funny post. It is not a helpful post or call to action. This is a hard sad post that I need to write because I need to stop writing it night after night in my head.

This isn’t my story to tell, which is why I’ve resisted writing about it. It is not my tragedy. But it has affected me greatly and I need to talk.

Two weeks ago, a little boy died. A sweet, beautiful, observant little boy, four days older than BabyABC, a playdate friend. We knew him only casually but somehow, I’d made enough room for him in my heart that there is a noticeable hole now. He died very unexpectedly for unknown reasons. Those who were there suspect mistakes were made by the medical professionals trying to save him. An investigation is pending. But whatever the cause, he is gone. And his parents are left behind.

What his parents are going through… I stay up at night thinking about it. Horror. There is no other word for it. It is unfair and unnatural and sickening and terrifying. It is horrific. To be ripped out of the active role of parent in this way. To be so suddenly without a piece of your heart. It keeps me awake.

His mother is not my best friend. We were connected by our children. We mostly talked about our children and things related to them. So are we anything to each other now? Is there any way I can help her find even a tiny bit of peace? Or would hearing from me now add to her pain?

I went to the funeral. I struggled with that decision. I honestly didn’t know if I could handle it. The thought of going made me feel sick to my stomach and terrified, while the thought of not going made me feel sick to my stomach and ashamed. In the end I decided I could live with terror, but not shame. Sitting there, saying goodbye, watching his parents say goodbye was one of the worst, most painful experiences of my life. The stark contrast between his photos, full of life and curiosity, and him actually there in a child-sized casket, his mourning parents standing before us, made it unbearably real. Unfair, unnatural, horrific, and real.

Every time someone asks me how I am lately, I want to tell them this story. I want to pour some of this horror out at their feet in the hopes that they’ll take some of it away from me. I want to say “Don’t you know? A little boy died. How can anyone be ok?” I want to tell them that even though this is not my story, I am a little bit broken by it. And I think maybe I always will be.

What’s the Worst That Could Happen?

BabyABC is fighting a bit of a diaper rash so I decided to give her some diaper-free time. We bought this excellent waterproof blanket* so we don’t have to worry about her having an accident on the carpet (is it an accident at this age? I mean, it’s not like she ever tries not to pee so…)

The trick these days is getting her to stay on the blanket. She’s so busy she wants to run all over the house shouting “I’m naked! I’m naked!” (Ok, she actually shouts “Eeeeeeee! Eeeeeee!” but I’m her Mom. I’m an excellent translator.)

I thought I was being pretty darn clever when I opened a new bag of diapers and had her hand them to me one by one to put in the changing table drawer. It kept her in place for a full 2 1/2 minutes! Clever right? Thank you. I know. No please, stop, you’re embarrassing me!

Any time we commit to diaper-free time in this house we know there is a risk we’ll spend a few minutes afterward wiping her down and cleaning up pee. However, for a diaper rash I decided I’d make the time, take the chance. “What’s the worst that could happen?” I said, “I can handle a little pee clean up if need be.”

Then she crapped on the floor.

Touché, ABC… touché.

 

 

 

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