Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Homemade Gifts

I had a difficult time coming up with gift ideas this year. A lot of relatives got gift certificates. But for some, I decided to go the homemade route, and I ended up having a lot of fun making these gifts. I wish I'd been inspired earlier so I could make more gifts like this for more of you. But since I didn't, if you like something you see, let me know and I'll make you something for your birthday.

For Kent's brother's family, I decided to dress up a plain glass vase. I like the shape of the vase, which is tall enough to hold some long-stemmed poppies or even branches. I wanted to add color that would make it interesting on its own and add some green to the foliage. I think the bottom half of flower arrangements are too often too boring. The decorations are vinyl that I cut on my Cricut and then reshaped a little by hand with scissors. I suppose this vase could work as an interesting fish bowl, too. Here are the before and afters.

My masterpiece was a tall table lamp I refurbished for my sister. I got the idea from a friend who covered her lamp shade in a cute fabric. I was very excited for you to see the "before" pictures because I found this lamp at DI. But some dead batteries in my camera zapped the files before I could upload them, and they are gone. You'll have to imagine the lamp stand in an outdated shiny bronze with a plain, beige shade. The greatest part was the dusty old Saltine cracker that had fallen into the "cage" part of the stand!

First, I dismantled the stand and spray painted all the pieces gray followed by a spray-on matte finish. I was surprised how easily the paint scratched, so the protective finish was a must. (Tip: the finish is much cheaper in a paint department than in a craft store.)

For the shade, I found some fabulous black fabric at Hobby Lobby, for which I used a coupon and got a great price! I bought 1 1/2 yards, which was way too much. Half a yard would have sufficed because the fabric is stretchy. With woven fabric, you would probably need a yard. I decided to only use ten inches of the black fabric so I would have enough left over to make an evening gown. (I'll post that creation when it comes to life.) To cover the rest of the shade, I selected a gray fabric that matched the stand. (42 cents at Wal-Mart for a ten-inch-wide strip. Woo hoo!)

I tried making a pattern on butcher paper to cut the long curved piece of gray fabric, but the pattern didn't fit. So instead, I drew a pencil line all the way around the lamp shade, five inches from the top rim. Then I ran a bead of hot glue (four-inch lengths at a time), glued down the middle edge of fabric and worked my way around. That method worked quite well, and all I had to do was trim the excess fabric below the glue line and one inch above the rim.

Then I ran glue inside the top rim and tacked down the top of the fabric.

At the seam, I folded the fabric over and held it down with double sided tape. (I didn't want a lumpy line of glue under the seam.)

As you can see, the seam didn't stretch quite right, but I was able to mostly hide that later.

Next I took my ten-inch wide strip of black stretchy fabric and tacked it with hot glue under the gray fabric and to the bottom edge of the shade. The stretch allowed me some wiggle room for imperfections. And the ruffles on the fabric camouflaged where I trimmed it, so I didn't need a neatly folded seam.

Lastly, I wrapped the shade with a silver embellishment that I found with the spools of ribbon at Hobby Lobby. It was dumb luck that I didn't pick something sheer, which would have looked really messy with hot glue. The silver ribbon's texture hid the glue lines and cut edges of fabric, and it was wide enough to cover the imperfect seam in the gray fabric.

I was so pleased with the finished product, and happily surprised at the shimmery effect of the light through the black fabric. My sister loved it! And I loved making it.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


I'm pretending that I posted this a few days ago when I found symbolism in being buried in snow on the first official day of winter, which also means the longest night of the year. I wrote the following poem earlier this month, and the solstice snowstorm reminded me that this is a good time to share these thoughts. I snapped the pictures from my yard in the gray of the morning on December 21 while it was snowing.


It comes quietly in the dark of night to blanket the world in clean peace. Underneath its gentle touch, the trees pull life into their centers, and they rest. They had labored since the time of the green bud producing shade and good fruit. Some had remained selfishly sterile. Still others worked to grow thorns, or immature fruit given to worms. The seasons passed for both the strong and the diseased. The long nights and cold of The Fall came. It stripped the life from their branches and eventually, they all gave in to its death.

Now the dead leaves of the Fall are covered and forgotten under its whiteness. The snow covers them all in its thick, graceful embrace. It gives them time. Time to heal. Time to collect life and strength within. It clothes them in white that trails to the tips of their branches, and all the trees are again beautiful. Under its influence, the dead limbs break away. Its water dissolves the abandoned leaves and returns them as nourishment for the roots. The trees will use their life of the past to be stronger in the coming spring. Already, beneath the covering of white, their core is resurrecting to new life, ready to burst with joyful fruit. They are redeemed, renewed. The warmth returns and the light of The Son reveals the transformation.

Monday, December 20, 2010

No Christmas Letter

I have come to accept that I'm just not getting a Christmas letter (email) out. If you've been following my blog, you have a pretty good idea of what our family has been up to anyway.

To show a little Christmas cheer, I'm including this fun Christmas music video (about 3 1/2 minutes). I've always liked a cappella groups. Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Secret Agent in Training

I have to announce to the world the cool new thing I did recently. (You'll probably read this, roll your eyes, and then pity me for my pathetically un-cool life. But I'm a mom, so not only can I take it...I expect it.)

Last summer I organized my craft and art supplies in a locking cabinet. As a mom of five young children, there is really no point in organizing anything--especially art supplies--unless there is a way to prevent said children from un-organizing. I have been so happy to have a space that stays neat and clean. Somehow, my kids never found where I kept the key, so they're not as clever as I thought they were; but at least I had a reason to be grateful for their ignorance.

*Tangent* We have one of those bulk bags of chocolate chips from Costco. My children found its hiding place in the laundry room, and they've slowly pilfered a sizable amount of the chips. Yesterday I decided to do something about it. I moved the bag to an open shelf where it's quite easy to see the contents from several angles. I put the bag in the front of the other food, and turned it around so the back of the package is facing out. Tonight when I asked #2 why she left chocolate chips out of the FHE treat, all the kids replied that they couldn't find the chips. Poor dumb children. Lucky me. Okay, back to my story...

A few weeks ago I pulled out my supplies for an etching project. I locked the cabinet and put the key in my pocket, which was my mistake. I figured I didn't need to put it back in hiding until I had returned the supplies. Well, I remember playing with the key every time I put my hand in my pocket...until I fished around for it so I could put the supplies away. I've searched everywhere! I grilled my kids to see if someone somehow stole it. I even cleaned my room!!! It was all to no avail.

Last week I started panicking. (Well, as much as one can panic over art supplies.) For Christmas I had to ship scrapbook pages to my niece in England, and the page protectors were in the cabinet. Sure, I could have just bought more page protectors, but eventually the cabinet would need to be opened for something else anyway. My choices were down to ripping the doors off the cabinet, which would really not be too difficult, or hiring a locksmith. And then I thought, "Why should I pay someone to pick this simple lock? I bet I could do it!"

You can find all sorts of helpful information on the internet! My first Google hit gave me what I wanted to know, and I checked it against the second hit to get a little more confidence. After about ten minutes with a paper clip and push pin, I turned the lock halfway. Then I subbed a tiny screwdriver for the push pin and turned it the rest of the way!

I was overly excited and went so far as to wake Kent from a nap and tell him my victory! He was groggily happy for me. Then I realized something interesting: I'm on my way to becoming a spy! First I started practicing with firearms. Now I'm picking locks. I've even been working on hand-to-hand combat: last week I bested Kent at arm wrestling. (I think he threw the match, but he swears that I tweaked his tricep and won for real.) And I can keep secrets so well that I keep them from myself! I mean, I didn't even know I was a secret agent in training until now that I'm at least halfway through the training. Except, I just announced it to the world, so maybe I need to work on the secret part. Or maybe I should just become a locksmith with a gun permit...minus the gun...but plus the bullets, which I should probably go lock up in my cabinet! See, now I've diverted you attention and pysched you out. (I am so sneaky.)

Sunday, November 28, 2010

THIS is what I'm talking about!

Oh yeah! (Scroll down to previous post for comparison.)

I love how quiet snow is. With the curtains pulled while we sleep we have no idea that the world is being blanketed in white. I love the surprise--mostly because I'm not usually the one who has to shovel it. :)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Emergency Drill?

For the past few days, the weathermen in Utah have been warning us about the coming arctic blizzard which was predicted to arrive yesterday evening. We were told of 50 mph winds and temperatures in the single digits, as well as half a foot or more of snow. In response, I went into preparation mode yesterday. I bought new tires for the van to replace the bald ones. I did a quick run to the grocery store to stock up for the week. I brought firewood inside to keep it dry and ready. And the school canceled #3's after-school karate class to allow teachers and students to safely get home ahead of the storm which was coming between 3:00 and 4:00.

At 5:00 we were ready! The kids and I snuggled on the couches to watch the local news project how bad things were going to get. Even though our picture windows revealed only a gorgeous sunset closing the day on blue skies, I was excited about what was coming! By the time we turned off the news at 5:20, the storm was picking up north of us and was expected to take snow all the way south to St. George.

At 6:00 we could hear the wind whistling in the dark. I turned on the radio to hear a talk show host passing on the governor's advice to check on our elderly and single neighbors. I went so far as to pass that advice on through our neighborhood email.

At 7:00 I built a fire in the wood stove and we snuggled in again for a movie.

When I went to bed at 10:30, I heard an occasional wind gust and saw a dusting of snow. I anticipated waking to a quiet, white marshmallow world.

Here's the view from my back deck this morning:

My four-year-old is pretty disappointed that my promises of building a snowman are not happening today. I've checked the news, and all I can find are reports of slick roads and snow being dumped north of us. How many inches is that? Our street is dry, and even the dusting of snow we got last night has blown away. So we have a cold day with no fun white stuff to play in. Did any of you get "dumped" on?

I'm beginning to wonder if this was just a state-wide emergency drill, because not much panned out here. I really am grateful to not be shoveling today, and to have clear roads for Thanksgiving travelers...even if we missed out on an exciting storm.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

...Outside the Box: Fear Factor

First to appease my guilt...yes, this is a Halloween-themed blog post. I almost skipped it, but I had so much fun with this that I just couldn't let these photos sit unviewed. At least it's getting posted before Thanksgiving. That would have been the point of no return.

For their classroom Halloween party, my #2's fifth-grade classmates voted to have a Fear Factor theme. (If you're not familiar with the show, I can sum it up by saying that the contenders do a series of disgusting tasks to win cash.) The Room Mom (she definitely deserves capital letters in her title!) came up with a few games, but I got really enthused about grossing the kids out and she let me put the following activity together.

I told #2 for a week previous to the event that I was in charge of finding gross things for the kids to touch, and I had some pretty good ideas. After my grocery errands on that Wednesday, I told her that I'd gone to the butcher and couldn't wait for Friday! She asked me where the stuff was that I'd bought. I told her she would never find it beforehand. I didn't add that I hadn't made anything yet, so she just assumed I'd picked up some disgusting animal parts and hid them at someone else's house. My plan to let her imagination get the best of her was working! The next morning on our way to school, #1 asked what I'd gotten at the butcher's. I refused to answer her question directly, but told her I'd seen plenty of things to choose from: cow tongue, fish heads, pig feet, squid, eyeballs, etc. The Room Mom later reported to me that while at school on Thursday, she'd overheard #2 telling her friends about my visit to the butcher. My deceptive devices were perfect! Bwah ha ha!

Friday morning I put it all together.

I hot glued pieces of lawn bags to the black Nissin noodle meal boxes. (The lunches are pretty good, but digesting four of them in one week was a bit much. But what can I say? I'm just one of those moms who will do anything for her kid.) I left a hole at the top so the students could reach their arm down into the container without being able to see what they were touching.

Then I labeled the containers and added the contents: Pig Intestine, Lamb Eyes, Turkey Hearts, and Maggots.

I was not able to be at the school Friday afternoon to run the game with the class, so I recommended to the Room Mom that she tell the kids the point of the game was to figure out which items were real and which were fake. I assumed the kids would realize they were not all real, but wanted them to psyche themselves into thinking some of them were.

#2 was so worried by the reaction of those who touched the turkey hearts, that she wouldn't even give them a try. Even one of the fifth grade teachers exclaimed at how gross the hearts were, and when she took her hand out of the sack it had red fleshy stuff on it.

Here are the items right before I contained them. Can you guess what I used for each?

Here's a hint: everything is vegetarian and edible.

Here we go clockwise from the top:

The "maggots" were jasmine rice that I dried slightly in the toaster oven at 200 degrees until it wasn't sticky but still had some softness in the body. Then I coated them with non-stick spray to make them a bit slimy and added a bit of peat moss for good measure.

The "lamb eyes" were large, cold, peeled grapes. I really liked how the indentation where it connected to the stem felt a little like an eyeball lens. The peel also came off in strips that felt a little like veins.

The "turkey hearts" were Roma tomatoes that I blanched to remove the skins. These worked better than regular tomatoes because of their pear shape, and they are fleshier and less juicy than other tomatoes. (I had quite a few kids convinced with these.)

The "pig intestine"...this one was my masterpiece...any final guesses? pie dough! I rolled it into a rope, which was tricky because it didn't want to hold together; so I added water as I went, which improved the slimy feel. After I looped and coiled it, I was quite pleased with the weight and the way the dough had enough give to feel like guts when pressed. I outdid myself by painting light streaks of blue food coloring and coating it with Good Value brand butter-flavored non-stick spray, which has an awful smell similar to old vomit. I don't know if the kids appreciated my artistic details, but I sure did! #2 said that at the end of the game, the Room Mom opened the containers to reveal the true objects. The kids were still pretty grossed out by the "intestines", but one brave (?) boy took a bite out of them to prove they were edible. No one else could get past the look of the pie dough.

I hope I'll get to do this activity for a future fifth-grade class. The kids are the perfect age to buy into the grossness, and I had tons of fun putting it all together!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Our Harvest

Please excuse my blogging absence. I've been busy with a lot of projects, including preserving the food we've grown. Our garden was not as productive as I'd hoped it would be, but I've learned a few things to improve output next year. Still, though, I am grateful for a little land where I can plant seeds that turn into food for my family.

Our tomato plants did well, and I canned homemade spaghetti sauce and stewed tomatoes for the first time. Considering how many tomatoes I picked, I was a little disappointed with the amount of sauce produced. Next year I'll put in several more plants.

I did save the juice from the tomatoes I processed and ended up with a full half gallon. That stuff burns going down, so I figure it must be good for us!

Besides the tomatoes, I've frozen beet greens, green beans, snap peas, squash, and edamames. I've bottled apple sauce, apple butter, and apple pie filling. We've eaten yams and potatoes and beets. I've dried fruit leather and apple slices. The lettuce, onions, carrots, and strawberries have agreed to be happy outside. I even picked 13 cantaloupes just a week ago, and they are slowly ripening in the garage.

Now my weeks of preserving are over. This year I have a better sense of the gratitude felt by the pilgrims who had stores of food to see them through the winter. Just as they were grateful for the generosity of the Native Americans, I am grateful for my in-laws and four neighbors who shared their surplus with us and helped me process some of it.

Even Kent got in on the canning action. When his brother brought over two jalapeño plants loaded with peppers, he got inspired! Our friends came over a couple Sundays ago and helped us pickle the jalapeños with carrots and onions. While the peppers were processing, we enjoyed a tray of homemade jalapeño poppers dipped in strawberry jam. So good!

Now that my food is harvested, I can get back to storing up family stories on the blog. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


My little sticker proves that I voted today, and my ballot proved to me that my political views are changing. For as long as I can remember, I've skimmed over the qualifications of the Republicans and, being satisfied, I voted straight ticket.

I continue to listen to Glenn Beck, though maybe not as fanatically as a few years ago. (I'm balancing him out with NPR a few days a week.) Since the 2008 election, Beck has been asking his listeners to do their own homework and pull away from the parties in order to vote the candidate of choice. So I read the candidates' statements in the voter booklet and visited their websites to learn what they thought about various issues.

Today I found myself voting for two Democrats (and there would have been a third had I been in a different precinct). In Utah County, my votes for those Democrats didn't go far, but I am happy to find out that I am more discerning with my vote than in the past. I still consider myself generally Republican, but now a little more Independently minded.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Skipping School

Call it sluffing or playing hooky--I actually don't know what the kids today call it--at our house, we call it boredom.

Yesterday #4 took her time getting ready for school. So much so that when I drove away in the van with her siblings, she was still lounging around in her underpants. (Kent was upstairs, in case you wondered where her supervision would come from.)

When I got back from dropping off her sisters, I promptly turned off the TV--which of course was turned on in my absence--and asked her to get dressed. She was happy to learn that she could wear whatever she wanted, i.e. no school uniform. I reminded her that meant that I wasn't going back to the school until the end of the day, and she didn't seem too bothered by an unexpected day off. Then I told her what I do all day at home: clean. I invited her to clean with me, but also gave her the option of sitting in her room. After all, since she wasn't sick, I was going to pretend she was at school and go about my day as usual, which includes not seeing or hearing from her until school is over. Not surprisingly, she chose to stay in her room.

About an hour later, I cracked her door open to find the scene above. I was pleasantly surprised that she had cleaned her own room, though I don't know why she wasn't reading one of the many books in her room. Oh well, I'm glad she didn't think to un-bore herself.

After taking the photo, I again offered the cleaning option, and she went for it. I got a clean dining room floor out of the deal. The consequence faltered a bit while she played with preschoolers during a presidency meeting, but I reinstated the boredom by taking her to two meetings at the school for the rest of the afternoon. She did her homework there, and then sat for over 30 min. watching her friends in the hallway while I met with more boring adults.

The icing on the cake came when her sisters all brought their report cards home and asked to go to Krispy Kreme. (They give up to six glazed doughnuts, one for each A on a student's report card.) That pitched her into a fit, and I just gave her a hug and expressed how sorry I was that she had missed getting her report card. We headed out for our FHE treat, and though we did buy her one doughnut, it really didn't make up for the boxes of doughnuts that her sisters brought home.

Guess who was the first one showered and dressed today? :)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Home-Grown Dinner

One of the things I love about this time of year is harvesting the production of my garden. Sure we've picked a little here and there since spring, but the amount of food we've been able to harvest these past few weeks for our own food storage is encouraging. I'll plan next year's garden around those plants that take up a small amount of space in comparison with the amount of food they produce.

Here is a dinner we had recently. There is nothing like eating fresh and homemade food. (I don't know why my computer refuses to rotate this photo, but it's a round plate, so hopefully you aren't offended by the fork at the top. I promise, I ate with it at the side of the plate!)

I tried pole beans this year. They are stringless if picked on time. So tasty with a sprinkling of lemon pepper after steaming.

My kids love these sandwiches. We spread Kent's homemade oat bread with mayo, lay on some freshly picked basil and sliced home-grown tomatoes, sprinkle with cheese and broil in the oven until the cheese is slightly melted.

I was excited to come up with this other side dish. It's mashed crookneck squash and potatoes. I cut up the squash (any summer squash would be good) and boiled it until soft. Then I drained off most of the water and added about a half cup of potato pearls, which are dehydrated mashed potatoes that are already seasoned with butter and salt. Then I mashed. The potato pearls rehydrate in the squash's liquid, and the flavors are great together. This is my kids' new favorite way to eat squash.

So good! And so nice to have this meal from our own back yard and food storage.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Frantic Family: Part 4

The last step we took in answering the Three Big Questions for a Frantic Family was to define our Rallying Cry.

The Rallying Cry is a family's current top priority. When a family gives a second of thought to this, it is pretty easy to know what one thing needs the most attention at the time. This Rallying Cry is something that will take between two and six months to tackle. In the book, one family identifies their top priority as getting the husband/father healthy. Another decides to get serious about a house remodel. For Kent and me, we knew ours is to put our finances in order.

Once the Rallying Cry is defined, a family decides what four or five things need to happen to accomplish that priority. We attached a timeline to ours because one step generally feeds into the next. However, if we had decided that our family needed more quality time together, we could make time for each other without deadlines. (Note: The Rallying Cry can focus on a Standard Objective, although it doesn't have to.)

To achieve our Rallying Cry of Putting Finances in Order, we defined the following points:
Update our Books by Oct. 15--this means categorizing all receipts in Quicken and balancing all account statements
Increase our Income by Nov. 1--this step stands on its own, but it was very helpful to have a deadline for it
Establish a Budget by Dec. 1
Create a System for Handling Bills and Mail by Dec. 31--so we don't get overwhelmed and lose track of our financial health again
Clean the Office by 2/28--this long-term deadline may sound silly to you, but the whole thing still sounds daunting to me because we have to Purge All Old Paperwork and Create a Working Filing System

(Another note: If you have a system for mail/bills or filing that works great, I would love your input.)

I have loved having a Rallying Cry. For years I've muddled through with a huge to-do list. The only items that ever get done are the ones with looming deadlines that stress me out. With no deadlines on family finances, home repairs, cleaning, etc., I get very little accomplished on any of those things and I felt guilty about my snail's-pace progress. The Rallying Cry has given me permission to neglect the rest of my deadline-less to-do list (I love hyphens!) and has focused me on the finances. When I have 20 minutes to kill, I don't wander around trying to sort mail and pick up the family room and load the dishwasher and water the roses. I know that time is now dedicated to entering receipts in Quicken. And we are making progress! The Oct. 15 deadline has me a little stressed this week, but I think it will propel me to get our books caught up and ready to serve our financial decisions again. Go finances! Yeah!!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Frantic Family: Part 3

It's about time to finish this series of posts. I suppose my inability to find computer time for this demonstrates the franticicity of my life. (Yes, I know the word is supposed to be "franticness", but I like my coined word better. Even the sound of it is frantic!)

After we came up with our family's statement, we listed those things that must be underlying to all we do. In other words, the things that are are necessary for our family to be on the right course. When those things are neglected, we experience problems. These objectives are based on our values, and they tended to be the things that Kent and I both identified as necessary on an individual basis and overall for the family. The most important part of this step was agreeing on what these words mean. The vocabulary doesn't perfectly portray what we are getting at, but after discussing these objectives, Kent and I know what they mean and we can communicate their meaning to our children. The point is to have categories of family health that we can look at objectively on a weekly basis to determine if we are getting off track.

We call this list our "Standard Objectives". Here are ours.
Individual Well-Being (of every family member)
Maintaining our Household--we broke this category into Finances and physical Home Maintenance (cleaning, repairs, etc.)
Education--with subcategories for formal Schooling and other Individual Pursuits
Relationships with Others--we consider this on several levels: Date Nights (for spouses and parent/child), Family Time for all seven of us, and time with Extended Family and Friends

Your own list might include descriptions or not. Kent likes to think of these items as a dashboard. Just as the dashboard tells a driver if the oil is low or the engine needs to be checked or the radiator is not cooling--all things that could spell disaster for the whole automobile--our standard objectives give us critical points to look at that indicate how well our family is running according to what is most important overall.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Beehive Stories

I've started watching a series of short documentaries called "Beehive Stories". Each 5-10 minute film in the series interviews someone from a county or national park in Utah to get a collective look at what it means to live in Utah. They are nice, feel-good stories and I like to see how my fellow Utahns view their hometowns, which vary greatly across the state.

I heard about this project while listening to a KBYU "Thinking Aloud" interview with BYU professor Brad Barber, who created the series with his film students. (I also recommend the "Thinking Aloud" program. The archived interviews are the perfect length to listen to during a workout.) The documentaries air occasionally on KBYU TV, but you can also stream them from here. Take a look. (My favorite so far is the Sanpete episode.)

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Shooting Things

One of the items on my list of things that give me energy is "shooting things". Here's where I confess that I've never shot anything with a real, bullet-loaded gun. Or rather, I hadn't. In my sheltered life, all I've handled are laser guns, BB guns (I got one shot as a demo for the boys when I took the Cub Scouts to Day Camp--and I knocked a bottle off a rock!), and Airsoft guns. Though I've wanted a taser for awhile, I've never wanted to handle real guns. Frankly, they kind of scared me. But since I recognized that I really love taking aim and hitting a target, I thought it was high time that I face my little fear and pull the trigger of a loaded gun.

So for our date night last night, we went to the gun range at the Orem Rec Center. Our friends, the Gonzalezes doubled with us, which helped to defray the cost of ammunition. That stuff is pricey! Kent picked up a box of bullets for a big ol' Magnum revolver that belongs to our friend's dad. That beast of a gun takes huge bullets that cost more than a dollar a piece! I thought going to the gun range, where you can rent a .22 caliber rifle for $2.50 an hour, would be a cheap date. Not so; we managed to spend $40 in ammunition for both guns. I guess if we go back a few times to use up the bullets, then the dates will each be cheaper on average.

Anywho, we had a fun time. While everyone else gave the revolver a try, I decided against dislocating my shoulders and just stayed content trying the rifle. Here's Kent taking aim with the revolver. (ha ha) He really did try it from 15-20 feet, and was not able to hit the target because of the kick from the gun, (although David hit it with both of his shots). I still love you Kent.

Here I am looking armed but not so dangerous with Mindy.

I was at first frustrated that all my shots were hitting above the target, or missing my paper all together. Kent kept telling me to line up the sights, but I just could not line the tip of my gun and still line up the target. Finally, Kent realized he had left out a minor detail: I needed to sight with my right eye, not my left. Then I got a lot better! I even got one shot at the bull's eye!

After about an hour, we made a quick trip to the hospital. Not typcially a great way to end a date at the gun range. Here's what happened...

...nothing notable.
(Did I scare you?) We went to visit Kent's dad who had heart surgery the day before. Unfortunately, we got there when his pain meds were wearing off and the crew of nurses needed to check on him. So we stood in the hall for ten minutes before deciding to come back later. (He was in much better spirits tonight when I took the kids, and he's recovering well.)

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Frantic Family the Sequel: What I've Learned About Myself

I'm not going to bother catching anyone up to speed on why this post is a sequel. You'll have to read Frantic Family: Part 2 for that.

Writing the list of things that give me energy got me thinking about myself. (This post might not be interesting to you, especially if you have never met me. But I hope it might motivate you to reflect on yourself as an individual, too.) It's been interesting to step back and analyze myself as a person in various roles and groups.

First, the process of listing those energy-giving parts of my life really awakened me to the fact that I'm an interesting person. Or at least I think so! (I'm not going to waste writing time trying to be humble, because I don't think I'm being prideful either.) It was nice to deeply feel passionate about a few of the items on the list; editing, for example. I really enjoy correcting grammar on a page and rearranging words and sentences to flow better. Meetings also give me energy, because they often bring out creative ideas, and I love forming plans of action and delegating. Kent pointed out that he doesn't know anyone else who likes meetings, which caused me to look at the whole list and admit that no one else I know would have that same list. I felt like I was remembering that there is a "me" underneath my roles of wife and mother and Latter-day Saint, etc. Those roles certainly force me to grow and be a better person, but there is still a me that is different than all the other wives and mothers (etc.) out there. Even though I posed the question last month about the real me, I hadn't given that subject more than a few days' thought; so it was interesting to find a big chunk of the answer in just making a simple list.

Second, I was recently with a group of friends and we were talking about a variety of topics, many of which came around to parenthood and birth stories. I started to realize that my experience of life is very different from my friends'. Ever since I was a young girl, I've assumed that most everyone thinks the way I do. (Here's where my pride becomes apparent.) I figured that if others saw the facts I saw, they would obviously come to the same conclusion as I. Over the years, I've learned that isn't necessarily true. Take political parties for example. I've come to understand how people can look at one issue and vehemently take opposing sides on that issue. I attributed most of that disparity to the different backgrounds and lifestyle choices of various parts of American culture. Still, I generally held that people raised similarly to the way I was raised, with similar schooling, who share the general principles of my faith probably agreed with me on most issues--and non-issues too. But as I sat and listened to my friends share stories from their lives sprinkled with, " know what I mean...", I found more often than not that I did not know what they meant. Not that I couldn't understand what they were explaining, but that I often did not experience things the way they did. Let me give an example.

Two of these ladies were sharing parts of their experiences giving birth.

Okay; detour. I have to comment here on this topic. I find it interesting how frequently women come back to birth stories in their conversations. I don't think it's a right-of-passage thing so much as it is a very defining and life-changing moment in a woman's life--the labor itself and the effect of a baby to change just about every aspect of the mother's daily life--and it's something many of us have been through and can therefore use to relate to each other. I usually enjoy the stories themselves, but sometimes I wish that we talked more about ideas. Maybe this is another way that I differ from many women.

Back to the birth stories example. One friend talked about staying focused on her husband for support during a scary decision she was faced with at the delivery of her son. My other friend shared how she absolutely could not have gotten through labor and delivey without her husband there, and the group in general expressed how difficult it must be for military wives to have a husband deployed when their child is born. They all agreed they could never do that. I suddenly realized that though I had been through basically the same event as these women in giving birth, I did not experience it at all like they did. I was certainly glad that Kent was there for each birth, but more because it was an exciting thing for him and because I needed someone to take pictures! That sounds weird to say, but it's true. I don't doubt that I could deliver those babies--both my natural and my anesthetized deliveries--if he had been gone for some reason. When I later talked to him about it, he readily agreed that I didn't need him there (and it didn't bother him that I thought that way about it).

So I've started paying more attention to interactions with my friends, and I've learned that I am in the minority in many respects as to my way of thinking and experiencing life when it comes to my general group of friends and associates. Is it because I am attracted to people that are different from me? I do have two friends that I can see eye-to-eye with on just about everything, and I appreciate that aspect of those friendships. So maybe it's because I really am just more unique that I've always supposed. I think I like that, because it makes other people all the more interesting to me. I want to understand their thought processes and how their experiences have shaped who they are.

That's one reason I enjoy blogging. I think people generally open more in their writing than in person. (At least that's my experience because although I'm never opposed to it, I rarely have a heart-to-heart with anyone besides my husband or God. I simply don't make enough time for developing those friendships. I would like to, though.) Those of us who blog generally wait until we have uninterrupted quiet and thoughtful time, which doesn't happen face to face when small children are running about or waiting for our attention. For that reason, I really want to develop the art of great conversation. I don't want to waste the few moments I have to really get to know the people around me by simply talking about how their day went, etc. I want to find out what has shaped the people around me who I care about and with whom I find camaraderie, and yet who are apparently so different than I am. I think there is great value in our differences, and I want to learn from them.

Any tips for developing a great conversation in five minutes or less? I often want to discuss art or cultures or articles I've read, yet I worry that my first sentence about a topic that no one else has researched would be a quick conversation killer. Maybe that's why I like book club so much: everyone comes prepared to discuss the same topic, yet we enjoy each other's view points as we open new angles and possibilities to each other. If only my busy mom schedule would allow me to join/start some other groups.

What do you think? Am I way off here? Do we all feel quite unique, or do you find that you easily relate to your friends and associates?

(P.S. Anyone who made it to the end of this long and meandering post should get a prize. Go ahead and give yourself a spoonful of ice cream. What flavor did you get?)

Saturday, September 25, 2010

A Pair of Great Babysitters

A couple weekends ago we hosted three of our friends' children overnight. Their three girls get along really well with my children and we love having them in our home. Still, I was hesitant to leave eight children alone while I attended a Church meeting that evening.

Think about it.

Eight children alone for three-and-a-half hours.

Eight children ages three through twelve.

Eight children who are used to roaming the neighborhood together.

Eight children who would have their "responsible babysitter" mode switched off because they were with friends, not on a job.

Sure, I would just be across the street, but that proximity wouldn't guarantee the lack of flooding! Or fire!! Or kidnapping!!!

So I brought in the reinforcements. A couple of sweet guys who work well together: Mike and his friend Ike.

Now, Ike is rather a "Wimpy Kid", but Mike brought along his neighbor, "The Spy Next Door", who happens to know kung fu. Their fee was great! Since I also had some cute Sugar Babies at my house, they were happy to come and agreed to babysit for only $4--for the whole evening!

They weren't the perfect babysitters. They did let the kids eat in the family room, which meant I ended up vacuuming popcorn kernels out of the couches. And when I got home, no one was in bed. Or even sleepy. In fact, the three-year-old was dancing around and giggling hysterically, almost as if she had been pumped full of candy all night.

But for $4, I really can't complain. Besides, these guys kept all eight children entertained AND sequestered to one room in my house for almost four hours, which meant that all the other rooms survived well.

I will admit that when I noticed a faint scent of smoke drifting into my area of the choir seats during the meeting, I hurried outside to see if my house was in flames. But it was just a neighbor's fireplace. Whew!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Frantic Family: Part 2

When I started this series of posts, I didn't intend to drag it out over the course of a few weeks. I guess prioritizing the elements of our frantic life has pushed blogging down a few notches. It's good that life is a lot less frantic at five in the morning so I can send some thoughts out to the world. (That's an early morning yawn, not my operetta impression.)

After reading the book, Kent and I sat down for several conversations to dissect those things that make our family unique and to identify the values we hold. We used a couple of date nights to this purpose. One date was to Kent's office where we used the conference room's white board to draft some lists. Another night found us in the Cafe Rio--do I have your attention now, Christy?--parking lot where we hashed out value statements over take out. Talking and writing together was nice.

Kent added a first step to Patrick Lencioni's process. He (Kent) suggested that we could identify our family's unique qualities by looking at those things that give him and me energy. So we began some lists, which became fuel for thought and observance about me as a person. I'll include my other thoughts on that subject in a sequel post titled "What I Have Learned About Myself".

Kent had three lists for himself: "Who I Am" (finder of information, humorous, night person, etc.); "What Gives Me Energy" (reading, serving, work projects, etc.); and "What Sucks Away Energy" (half-hearted effort, lack of down time, etc.). In compiling my list of "What Gives Me Energy", I felt complete enough to not need the other two lists. Of the 26 items I listed, I was surprised how deeply important some of the items were to me, to the point that tears came to my eyes, for example, when I thought about how much I need date nights and girls' nights out of the house. Following are other items on my energy-giving list that initially surprised me by showing up there:

-Clean stand-up comedy
-Bike riding
-Personal devotional time
-Having meaningful discussions
-Editing the written word (mine or others')
-Attending meetings (except sales pitch meetings)
-Shooting things (I don't do this often, but I do like aiming a laser gun, arrow, or Airsoft rifle at a non-living target)
-Eating meals that I didn't have to prepare
-Pursuing passing interests (photography, inventions, and so forth)

I truly enjoyed putting this list together for its own merits as well as the aim to recognize traits and values that our family holds. I'll come back to that first thought in my sequel post.

Next, we put together a list that represents our family currently. We left aspirations out of the list and tried to get a snapshot of the family we really are with all the constraints we face. Here is a sampling:

-We aren't helicopter parents.
-We don't watch much TV.
-We all work in our garden.
-We like game nights and having friends over.
-We volunteer in the school, community, and Church.
-We read to our kids at night.
-Kent resents the pets.
-We have holiday traditions.
-We eat dinners together.
-Our kids take piano lessons.
-We are entrepreneurial.

Kent and I merged all the lists to identify those things that make our family unique. We considered involving the children in this process, but as we talked about our observations of the children's values, we recognized that our values represent pretty well what they would contribute. This is probably partly because they are young and have not developed their identities much, and partly because as their parents, we model our values and they incorporate them into their own lives. We came up with four stand-out values and three others that are important to us and put them all together in the following statement:

"In our family we each work to better the household, and we like to play together. Our home is open to friends and family, and we deeply value intimate relationships. We strive to be grateful and to serve others. We pursue our passions and interests. We take care of our minds, bodies, and spirits; we make time for self-renewal. We value humor, even when it gets us into trouble!"

In his book, The Three Big Questions for a Frantic Family, Lencioni encourages writing a statement so a family will have a basis for making decisions and so we won't try to be all things to all people. You can see more examples of family statements here.

To keep these values at the forefront, Kent and I hung a whiteboard in our kitchen so all family members will see it frequently. We wrote our statement at the top, and then moved on to the other two steps in the process...which I would really like to blog about now, but reality will probably postpone that by several days. We asked each of our children if they thought the statement applied to us well, and they nonchalantly agreed with a shrug, or a "Sure". (I'm glad we didn't waste their time or ours involving them in our processing conversations!)

Friday, September 17, 2010

Don't Let Her Sweet Smile Fool You

Last year in school, #2 had a problem with a bully who used manipulation to try to be #2's friend. The bullying included hair pulling, kicking in the stomach, damaging #2's property, and calling her really awful names. Most of this came to a head toward the end of the year, so when I spoke with teachers about it, they said they had not noticed it but would watch for it...and then school got out. The bully made the mistake of continuing her abuse of #2 in emails, which I read. Over the course of the summer, Kent and I coached #2 on how to deal with friends who really aren't, and she decided to cut off contact with this friend. After screening this girl's phone calls for a month, I answered one day and told this girl I had read the emails she'd sent and didn't think #2 would ever call her back after the really mean things she had said. She stopped calling. When class assignments were announced, she called again and #2 decided to take the call. This girl apologized and #2 forgave her. At least thrice a week I ask #2 how things are going with this girl, and the answer usually is that she is much nicer. When she does slip up and say something not so nice, she now catches herself and apologizes immediately to the offended party (who often is some other kid besides mine). I'm happy that the bullying has stopped and that said bully seems to be changing her ways.

What I'm even happier about is the empowerment #2 has gained.

Every year since Kindergarten she has had some boy in deep crush over her, and it always makes her uncomfortable. When they were five, it was A. who would call her name and lift up his shirt when she looked his way. J. in first and second grades was really sweet. He would write her notes and give her a special Valentine present. (I was sad to hear that he left the school.) In third grade, S. showered her with presents and smiles. This year, her admirer is more bold. T. is new to the school. He started with smiles and quickly progressed to telling everyone he had a crush on her; then to calling out, "Hey Baby! How's it going?" in the halls; and a quick hug-type grab on her arms at lunch last week. When I picked up #1 from an after-school activity on Wednesday, she asked me if #2 had already told me that T. had kissed her that day. !!! (That means "What?!" and "No!") When we got home, I asked #2 about it and she said he hadn't kissed her but was telling everyone he had. She was not happy about it, and I could sense he was working up the nerve to plant one on her.

We had a talk about whether she had told him to stop, and though she thought she had repeatedly been firm with T. on that point, it obviously wasn't working. Kent and I talked about her predicament that night.

Thursday morning after our family devotional time, Kent asked #2 about T. and told her she should "kick him in the balls" if T. ever touched her at all. She had given him fair warning to lay off, and defending herself would give a clear message. #2 smiled uncertainly and said she could never do that. Kent reassured her that sometimes that's what it takes to get a message through to a boy. She just shook her head and left to get ready for school.

Kent explained to me that he didn't really think #2 would kick the boy, but he wanted her to know it's okay to be REALLY strong and clear in her communications.

Thursday afternoon she came home with a triumphant story.

After arriving at school, she walked up to T., who was with a group of his friends, and said, "My parents gave me permission to hurt you if you ever touch me or talk to me inappropriately again." ("You used the word 'inappropriately'?" I asked. "Yep.") T. left her alone for the whole day. When classmates asked if T. had really kissed her (Wednesday's rumor), another classmate would interrupt in the negative and brag about what #2 had said to T. that morning.

She was very proud of herself. I am proud of her too. She handled the situation in a clear manner with witnesses, without hurting anyone, and now has a reputation of taking care of herself. You go girl!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Little Miss Loophole

#3, who I'm going to nickname Little Miss Loophole, is off to a good start with the new school year.

For starters, last night when I was attempting to put her to bed, she announced that she had a few questions about her math homework. So I agreed to quickly look at the four problems she had "questions" about. Not until the last one, #30, did I realize that the other three she needed help with were numbers 27, 28, and 29. She knew I wouldn't let her stay up to finish homework that she had procrastinated; but I would be more than happy to help with her "questions". She's a talented manipulator.

What really cracked me up was her answer to #30. The problem was stated thusly:
"How many different three-digit numbers can you write using the digits 0, 4, and 9? Each digit may be used only once, and the digit 0 may not be used in the hundreds place. Label your numbers as even or odd."

So what do you think was #3's answer? (I'm happy to say I mentally came up with the same answer while she was writing it.) Here's what she wrote:

"Four, even."

Do you know why she is right?

The question asked for an amount of three-digit numbers. Though it implied that she should write out those three-digit numbers, it technically didn't ask for that. And of course Little Miss Loophole is only going to give what it asked for. And since her answer, 4, is an even number, that is how she labeled it.

After writing her answer, she looked at me and said, "They're not asking the right question." We had a short discussion during which I made sure that she did know what they were looking for and what the three-digit numbers were. I also applauded her thinking and said that even if the answer book said she got it wrong, we both knew she had it right.

Many times I find myself frustrated by her thought processes because her brain is usually on a different wavelength than mine. Then there are times like these that I really enjoy the creative thinking she demonstrates. I need to be careful to not squelch that, but rather, to encourage it.

Update: On my last loopholes post, I wrote about her manipulation of the school's uniform policy. This year at back-to-school night, the PTO re-emphasized their policy (new as of #3's first-grade year) that only sweaters and jumpers may be layered, not shirts. She's still keeping everyone on their toes!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Frantic Family: Part 1

Kent and I recently read "The Three Big Questions for a Frantic Family" by Patrick Lencioni. The author uses a fable to demonstrate how most Americans "wing it" with their family life. Literal tears welled up in my eyes as I empathized with the main character, a mother who was barely balancing all the demands of running her family: volunteering at school, chauffeuring children to extracurricular activities, keeping active in their faith and church, hosting get-togethers with friends, maintaining a semi-clean house, and on and on. I felt her stress because it described so much my own feeling of barely keeping up with life. Frantic is the perfect word for how I've felt for at least five years. The husband in the fable, who owns a consulting firm, mentions that if his clients ran their businesses the way he and she ran their family, those clients would quickly be out of business. The story develops from there and gives the protagonist and the reader some tools for bringing clarity and purpose to the running of any family.

(Side note about the book. Kent loved it. I could have done without the fable and skipped right to the summary at the end where the author leaves the story and gives real-life examples of families who have practiced the points of the book. Either way, it opened a conversation for Kent and me and as a result, I think we'll make some great progress as a family.)

I have a degree in business management, so the idea of running a family the way a manager would run a business makes a lot of sense to me. In fact, I'm surprised it didn't dawn on me earlier. For the past few years, I've embraced the idea that motherhood is my full-time job right now and I answer to my Father in Heaven as my "boss". I've taken parenting courses and tried various job charts, reward systems, etc. to run my household as a good "employee" would. However, this book helped me shift my paradigm slightly. I am not an employee. I am the co-owner, with Kent, of this business of running a family. Heavenly Father is a stock holder in our company (though the parallel falls apart a little there). Basically, He wants me and Kent to be successful in running our family because the "dividends" that come back to Him are our righteous children and those whose lives they will affect for good.

The book also gave me permission to not be a perfect parent and leader of this family. Part of the process outlined in the book is to set goals toward strengthening one familial weakness at a time. Throughout our marriage as I've looked at all the things that we could do better at (more time with our children, organized finances, a finished landscape, decluttered house, etc.), I never know where to start. I chip away at each problem area simultaneously, but never really conquer any of them. I now feel free to let some weak points wait while our family defines and tackles whatever one weakness is taking the biggest toll at the time. The strategy doesn't have to be perfect. We just need a strategy.

Stay tuned... I'll cover this topic more over several posts (with the label "Frantic Family") and let you know our experiences going through the process and fixing our first weakest point. Kent knew this book would be helpful, so he purchased an extra copy to loan out. Let me know if you'd like to be on the "waiting list". (It's already on loan to one family and another is in line. But the wait should be short because it's a very quick read.)

Monday, September 6, 2010

More of a Man

I know this is a sexist stereotype, but what is it about guys and barbecuing?

We've never been much of an outdoor-cooking family. Sure, we occasionally roast something on a stick at our fire pit or cook up a stew in our Dutch oven, but our grill has been sitting under its cover on our deck for over a year now. (A neighbor was giving away her propane grill last summer. We snatched it up with her warning that a fuel line or something needs to be repaired.) We still haven't gotten around to buying a tank of fuel for the grill, and I'm pretty sure it must be housing a nice yellow jacket nest by now. Maybe I'll open it up in January and take a peek.

Regardless, I've always been a little jealous of those households who send the smell of burning briquette wafting through the neighborhood. I'm especially impressed by those who barbecue in winter months.

Let's go back a couple of years. Kent started cooking carne asada and chicken over mesquite charcoal for the young men in our church. He would always bring me some leftovers, and I started wishing he would cook for our family once in a while. But being 95% vegetarians puts a damper on that. So we've had little reason to barbecue...until now!

We borrowed our friends' large hibachi a few weeks--okay maybe a month--ago. They had our patio chairs, so it seemed like an even trade. We needed to finish off some Boca burgers leftover from a company picnic, and I couldn't bring myself to pan searing what might be our only burgers of the season. Well, we never returned that grill. So last week, being desperate to use up some of our zucchini, Kent started some briquettes. I sliced and took a tray of food out to him and the grill. He promptly returned to the kitchen to add some seasonings. Did you hear that?! I stared in disbelief and wondered what the grill had done to my husband. Not that he has never seasoned anything before--but almost. (He does make a good mashed potato. Period.) Before I knew it, the zucchini spears were brushed with olive oil and had a sprinkling of cinnamon and cumin. The peppers (the red ones have a little heat to them, and I wish I hadn't messed up labeling them at planting) were stuffed with cream cheese and strawberry jam stood by for dipping. He let the pineapple stand on its own: my was it good! And yes, you do see some Colossimo's sausages browning with everything else. We bought those during a moment of taste sampling weakness on a rare trip to Costco with a friend. Those sausages are so good that they turned us vegetarians carnivorous! (We bought the red wine flavor. Yummy!)

So now my man is a barbecuer. We might have to make this a weekly ritual. I loved sitting by while he proudly served me his masterpieces. With each delicious bite of hot food--that's right ladies, HOT, as in I got to eat before serving everyone else--my taste buds were satisfied and my resentment at being the sole cook of the household dissipated.

Sidenote: By the look of #5's face, I might have a second grill cook in another decade. That will be heaven!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010


Tonight I watched a home in my neighborhood burn and was overcome with a sense of helplessness that brought tears to my eyes as I walked home. I arrived at the scene, which was marked by a huge, black smoke cloud, before the firefighters did. I heard explosions from the fully engulfed carport and watched beams collapse to the ground as dozens of neighbors and drivers stopped to witness the disaster. The gardener in me noticed the backyard trees in flames as the fire spread across the dry weeds on the property. It was a little surreal to see neighbors running to the scene while firefighters arrived and calmly walked about their business, which, incidentally, was to first put out the yard flames before the fire could spread to other homes.

The sense of tragedy for me was amplified by the fact that this home is only a few houses up the street from the home of the family in my ward who lost their wife and mother in a plane crash at Mt. Everest a week ago. Both incidents left me feeling deep sorrow for the families and completely at a loss for any help I could offer. My friend Mindy expressed my helplessness well when discussing our friend's passing: "How can my life be essentially unchanged when only a few yards away, their lives are forever altered?"

I do know the power of prayer and united faith. However, in the midst of witnessing tragedy, I don't know what I expect my prayers and faith to do. All I can think to ask of God is to comfort these families as they work through their losses, and to help me see any small need I can fill. I am reminded how blessed my own family is, and I don't want to take my blessings for granted. Life as any of us know it can all change in an instant.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Outdoor Concerts

In the last two weeks, Kent and I attended two outdoor concerts. Two very contrasting concerts. I just wish the audience behavior contrasted as much as the music did.

We joined some friends at the Scera Shell in Orem for the Utah Symphony's outdoor concert. I haven't heard the symphony perform since 2008, and it was wonderful to hear their precision and clarity. Attending only middle school and other amateur performances had really "dumbed down" my ears.

Sadly, too many audience members were also dumbed down on concert etiquette. Several times a handful of people clapped in the middle of a piece, which I've come to expect at all concerts now. But seriously, how difficult is it to watch the conductor's baton come down before slapping one's hands together? What bothered me more was the couple behind us who couldn't stop talking. I think when a concert is moved out of the hall and into the outdoors, the audience gets very casual in their behavior. I have no problem with people wearing jeans and T-shirts to an outdoor concert. However, I do have a problem with those who act as if the symphony is there to just provide nice background music for their romantic evening. And when that romantic evening leads to making out on a blanket in the middle of a huge crowd of people, as did the couple in front of us, it makes me want to gag.

I also noticed a new trend. At least one quarter of the audience distracted themselves by playing games on their phones during the concert. I will admit to playing a game through one piece as well. It seemed harmless enough; the sound was turned off and the game doesn't bother anyone else. But those few minutes I spent concentrating on the tiny screen proved to me how much of the show I was missing. I couldn't pay close attention to the swells and melodies of the piece or pick out the bass fiddle or horn parts with my ear. And most of all I missed the dance of the conductor. David Cho was the conductor that night, and it was thrilling to watch his movements. I could barely follow the beat he was setting because his body was so busy acting out the motion of the music. Most interesting to me was that many times he seemed to be out of sync with the instruments, almost as he were giving clues as to what was just about to follow. The symphony played a piece with a western theme (I can't remember it's name!), and as Cho bent his knees in rhythm, I kept hoping he would really get into it and do a full squat. He didn't disappoint! I loved it!!

The second concert was more Kent's choice of music. We went to the final performances of the Salt Lake Summer Concert Series to hear Dum Dum Girls and She & Him, which has Zooey Deschanel as the lead singer. You would know her from "Elf" and "100 Days of Summer". I liked She & Him's music okay, but I've finally decided those concert scenes are just not for me. I did enjoy the company of the friends we went with, and I really had fun people watching. I caught myself staring at a dyed platinum blonde with a spiky pixie cut whose eyes seemed to be smiling; I determined it was because of the way she drew her thick black eyeliner, and it made her pretty in an in-your-face kind of way. I spent most of the concert trying not to get separated from our group as the crowd continually stirred around us. I found it fascinating that even with the masses pressed into a tight, standing mob, we each had a small amount of personal space. At any given time I had a dozen people within arm's reach of me, yet everyone was careful to not actually touch anyone else. I was also fascinated by the group of drunk college boys in front of me. I finally put Kent between us, which meant I couldn't see the stage, because I was afraid one of them might fall on me and I would end up smelling like him. I found myself seriously questioning the admissions decisions of universities, and then wondering if these people would actually grow up to be a contributing member of society. What part of our economy rests on these young men's shoulders? Scary!

In contrast to the symphony's audience, most of the rocker audience was very tuned into the show and didn't distract themselves with cell phones (probably to avoid dropping them in the crowd). I found it slightly humorous that the crowd constantly pushed closer to the stage, yet they could have heard each "intricacy" of the music from a block away what with the huge speakers amplifying every twang of the guitar. I left with my ears ringing and a determination that this just isn't my cup of tea. I hope Kent has fun at The Black Crowes concert tomorrow, and I'm glad he has lots of friends who like those sort of venues. I look forward to an evening with a quiet book. I'm sure sure we'll both love our choice of entertainment.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

A Deluge of Posts Soon To Follow

Hello to my four blog followers!

I know my posts this summer have been quite scanty. That fact speaks to a busy summer. I've had plenty to post about, both as a participant of events and as a thinker of random, and sometimes deep, thoughts.

I'm just taking a minute here to commit to recording some of the posts that have been floating around inside my skull. In fact, I'll take a moment to record one that just came to me.

On the subject of deep and random thoughts...

During my two summers in Oregon when I was a teenager, I had a group of friends that loved to quote Jack Handy. One of my favorites, and it has stuck with me for 20 years, goes as follows:

"The face of a child can say so much. Especially the mouth part of the face."


As my children mature, they don't say so many quirky things. However, a recent funny from #5 is based in his current propensity for assigning number values to things. When I told him that google is the biggest number there is, I had no idea how his little mind would clamp onto that concept. For the past month he has introduced google into at least google conversations each day. Earlier this week he asked, "If we had google of something, we could reach up to Jesus, because he lives in outer space, huh?" I could only agree (rather than introduce any other mind-bending concepts to him.

But that's not the quote I planned to share. The funnier one was when we were boating with my relatives at our family reunion two weeks ago. My dad was in the process of taking off his life jacket and replacing it with a shirt. In the middle of that transfer, #5 pointed to his grandpa and proclaimed (because he says nothing in an appropriately quiet voice), "Gross!! You have zero shirt on!"

It's really hard not to laugh at Jack Handy's deep thoughts or the real-life proof of their validty.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Where Is the Real Me?

Caveat: I did not major in philosophy, so the following bumbling mess of words and thoughts might annoy you deep thinkers out there. I offer you my apology in advance.

A couple nights ago I was talking with two friends; both are full-time moms. One recently returned from a cruise. She mentioned how wonderful it was to relax, enjoy being with her husband, and rediscover part of her real self again. The other commented on recently gaining some discretionary income with her husband's new job. Less restrained by their budget, she is enjoying the process of discovering her tastes in clothing and color, and looks forward to finally owning a home that she can decorate as she wishes. She compared herself to a butterfly who wants to be a dragonfly.

I've been mulling over these comments since our conversation. Both women expressed having found or rediscovered a part of themselves that has been MIA for a long time. I'm pretty sure I, too, have talents waiting to be discovered that will reveal tastes I don't know I have; or maybe personality traits that don't currently find a sufficient outlet in the day-to-day running of my household. What bothers me is whether now is the time to look for parts of me that are hidden, or whether I wait for an impetus to reveal those things, as happened with my friends. They each had a change to their routine that uncovered exciting parts of themselves. I don't forecast any change for my near future. I don't even think my schedule allows me time to search for new pieces of me.

Or maybe I'm just not seeing the change because it is subtle.

I can definitely say I am not the same person I was 15 years ago, and I am happy about that. I am now more patient and kind. I have thrown off the shyness that for years hid my personality from all but my family members. I still have my competitive nature and stubbornness intact, both of which serve me well at times in various roles I take on. But has my routine as mother squelched part of me that I should miss? I don't remember.

Kent often says he wishes I let others see the person I am with him. Maybe I still carry a little reserve or shyness around. Or maybe it is the short time between the children's bedtime and ours that I can set down my other concerns and be myself a little. What holds me back? What part of me have I put away to be a mother? What part of me would emerge if I set my routine aside, even for just a few days?

I don't have answers for these questions, other than to say I am quite content with the person I am in general. Sure, I have flaw as well as relationships I want to improve, and that will require changes on my part. I guess I can at least look forward to always changing and discovering new interests as I mature.

What are your thoughts/experiences? I'm going to bed--one part of me that is always consistent is that I'm still a morning person!

Friday, July 30, 2010

The New White House Security

Before I begin this post, I have to say that I had way too much fun coming up with titles for the post. Rather than just stick with one, I've decided to incorporate all of them throughout.

Sure, a lot of people loved seeing an animated viking "train" a fictional dragon. But have you ever seen someone train a fully loaded skunk? I've accidentally discovered how easy it is to do. First, it helps to live next to a field (if you can call the giant weed patch next to us a field). Then, just leave food in bowls for your outdoor cats, and eventually you'll have nightly visitors.

Kent heard one chowing down at 2:00 a.m. under our balcony a few weeks ago. Then on Tuesday night, I walked home at 10:00 p.m. and came within a couple yards of a white striped "cat" on our front porch before I realized what it was. I slowly backed away with it eying me, and made a safe escape. Tonight, we got another visitor on the deck. #1 and I watched it amble around, under tables and benches, barely taking notice of Brownie the cat lying and watching from literally a foot away. Now I'm wondering if there is

TREASON WITHIN THE WHITE HOUSE. (Okay, that title is a little weak; but what do you expect this late at night?) MY CONSPIRACY THEORY is that Brownie alerted the neighborhood skunks to the free food at the White House. All you have to do is lay around all day and the people deliver food and water for free. Maybe I'm seeing THE WELFARE SYSTEM IN ACTION on my own front porch. I haven't yet figured out what Brownie gets out of the deal. Maybe he's worked out some sort of protection contract with the local skunk mafia.

That brings me back to my original title. Upon my discovery Tuesday night, I started wracking my brain for creative ideas to rid ourselves of these little guys. My memory kept coming back to this hilarious post by my friend Charlotte, which I am using without her permission, but I'm pretty sure she won't mind. (Seriously, when you finish reading my post, click over to hers. Funny stuff.) As I thought about it--again, late at night--I wondered if I truly wanted to get rid of the skunk/s. I mean, if they're roaming around my yard all night, that seems like a pretty cheap security system, doesn't it? Some intruders might risk dealing with yapping dogs, but I don't think anyone would be dumb enough to cross a skunk.

Wednesday morning I talked some sense into myself and we stopped leaving the cat food out all night. Our two resident welfare recipients were pretty put out and meowed at us the following morning until we returned their bowls. The skunks are still visiting, but I hope they move on soon. On those nights that the kitchen trash must be emptied before bed, I am simply petrified of walking to the big trash can. It's almost like being in a suspense film: walking quietly and slowly so I don't startle "anyone" while my instincts (ha!) tell me to just run and get it over with. Maybe I should start tossing bags of cat food into the field to encourage them away. THIS SITUATION REALLY STINKS.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Neighborhood Kids

One of the things I love about my neighborhood is all the great kids. With my kids--and their friends--getting older, I really enjoy having lots of children playing at our house. Honestly, once I was outnumbered by my own kids, adding a dozen more to the day didn't make a big difference. (I don't usually have that many here at one time, although it's happened on occasion.)

My own children like to play elaborate games of House or School or City. Recently, they divided themselves and their friends into various members of the community: librarian, storekeeper, postal carrier, pet store owner, parents, etc. All the "business owners" set up shop around my house and then they all frequented each other's businesses. #1's version of Wal-Mart in the front room was very creative. However I didn't appreciate losing some of my actual groceries when they cleaned it up. A month later we found my strawberry jam and whey protein stuffed behind #4's bed.

The kids also have fun playing outside. #5 and his friends like to play in the dirt, so they were happy when I outfitted them with trowels and hand rakes and they dug a nice hole for a tomatillo plant. Running through sprinklers and riding bikes are also favorite activities. Brownie the Cat likes

the neighbors who come to brush him or read to him. (I love this picture of #3's friend who found a picture book about a cat and decided Brownie wanted to hear the story.)

Part of what I love about having all these kids around so often is that I know where my own children are and what they are up to. It's not much extra work for me because they all entertain each other, and everyone is

good about cleaning up and going home when I tell them it's time. Truly though, I really enjoy most of the neighbor kids for their own personalities. I have fun being silly with them and I hope they will always feel comfortable in my home and want to hang around through their teenage years.

From what I've seen, the teens in our neighborhood are a tightly knit group that is welcoming to newcomers. They are out in small groups almost every night playing night games. My own kids talk about when they will be old enough to join in. Lucky for me, I already am.

Last night I met with my piano-playing friends to figure out some duets we can play together. When I arrived, one mom was on the phone with her teenage son who was trying to buy ammo for his Airsoft gun. He was frustrated that the store would sell him the gun because he's over 16 but not the ammunition because he's under 18. He eventually returned to his house and complained about it while the four of us moms listened. Then he and his friends decided to abandon their planned Airsoft war and start a game of Capture the Flag.

I pointed out that we moms are all old enough to buy the ammo, and one other mom jumped on that idea. We all drove to Wal-Mart and bought the Airsoft pellets (without being carded), and then "delivered" the ammo to the boys.

When we found them, we yelled, "Hey boys! Guess who IS old enough to buy ammo!" The whole group of boys just stood there staring at us. I was kind of disappointed at their lame reaction. We drove past and then flipped a U-turn. When they saw the minivan turn around with the moms waving the boys' own Airsoft pistols (and one rubberband gun), these boys took off for cover. Yes! That's the reaction we wanted. We hopped out of the van and cornered them in the back yard. After a few minutes, we called a truce as they told us about their confusion at figuring out who was coming for them until two of the boys recognized it as their family's van being driven by their own mom. It was great! We handed over the containers of pellets, which they happily agreed to trade for lawn work. Then we ladies hopped back in the van, reminded them that curfew ended in three minutes, and took off.

It's nice to know I'm not too old to play with the neighbor kids.

P.S. Today as I read about Airsoft laws, I realize we shouldn't have been brandishing these toy weapons in public--even late at night--because they look real. I can see how Airsoft would be fun to play on a course with everyone wearing goggles, but I do not encourage anyone to play with these guns in a neighborhood. Water fights and Capture the Flag are just as fun and much safer.