Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Price is So Right

As a kid, I watched "The Price is Right" most mornings of summer break. My kids are now hooked, and though I know, as a parent, that I should limit their waste of time in front on the TV, I'm okay letting them build their own fond childhood memories of summer mornings. In my youth I actually got quite good at picking prices and dreamed of someday making it on the show.

When I started shopping for myself in college, I made a little game out of predicting the total of my receipt at the grocery store, sales tax included. I didn't use a calculator or total things in my mind. But as I unloaded my cart, I could usually guess within a dollar or two how much I would fork over. Frequently, I can guess within twenty cents.

Well, my sister beat me to my longtime dream...sort of. My youngest sis and her boyfriend were in the audience for a taping of "The Price is Right" that aired today. So I sat with my kids this morning to watch as each contestant who had the most correct bid for initial prizes ran right past my sister. (She is in the second row behind the guy with the glasses and sitting by her cute boyfriend, who is wearing plaid.)

We had fun looking for her in the audience. (The clip is of me calling another sister to help her and her kids know where to find Jenny.)

I also had fun discovering that I'm still pretty good at the game. As I tracked prizes with today's show, I discovered that I would have won all but one prize.

My girls told me as we watched today, "Mom, we'll all take you there for your birthday when you're old, like 40, and we can come with you." Nice. First of all, that's five years away, WHICH IS NOT OLD! Secondly, they still won't be old enough to be in the audience with me. BUT, watch for me and my kids fulfilling our dreams on TV when they are grown...in 15 or 20 years!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Airing Our Dirty Laundry

I don't know why I felt like blogging about this. I think it finally struck me that what passes for normal in our house is anything but in more civilized homes; and I do like being unique. Part of my desire to share this part of my life is also to create a record of my current life so I can read this in a decade and be grateful to be done with this part of raising my children.

My tale of sorting laundry begins with "The Dirt Pants".

Despite the well-meaning patches placed preventively inside the knees of these jeans, #5 had shredded through the extra layers in a manner of days. You see, we have an empty lot next to our house. That is, empty except for the piles of fill dirt and broken concrete and rocks. It truly is an adventurous and wonderful place for children to play and climb and forge trails through the head-high grass and just get dirty. Miraculously, #5--who turned five last month--recognized my displeasure when he ruined a series of outfits in a matter of days. So he began calling his hole-filled jeans his "dirt pants". He puts them on whenever he heads for the field, and he makes sure they are in the laundry every Thursday.

With the improved weather, the dirt pants have been put through a lot recently. I didn't even want them coming in and out of the house and transferring their sand and dried mud to my carpets. So I confiscated them a few days early, which left #5 to his other clothes. Here is a sampling of what I get to face on laundry day:

Yes, he was wearing his shoes with those socks. And yes, that is blood on the pants.

This sampling is pretty typical of several other outfits worn by the same boy.

And this is where my house probably differs from those of singles, newlyweds, and empty nesters.

I used to sort clothes by color, and sometimes fabric type. Now I have an added pile of clothes that are too disgusting to be washed with mine. I envision the dirt and blood and sweat and other residues* left by my children in their clothes, and just can't bear to think of my clothes sharing the same water.

*Short tangent: I won't name names or even name "residues", but let's just say that one of my children got to help prep the laundry yesterday. I secured disposable plastic gloves to her hands by snapping rubber bands on the wrists in an effort to prevent contamination. Then she worked at the sink to get two pieces of her particularly offensive clothing clean enough to be allowed into the extra dirty pile.

After pre-treating the clothes with stain remover and/or vinegar and/or alcohol, this impressively dirty pile soaks in the hot, soapy water in the washer for at least 30 minutes before I turn the cycle back on. Then the wash cycle always finishes with a double rinse.

I'm telling myself there must be others like me. Do you separate the especially disgusting clothes from those within normal dirt limits? Any hints on how you get it all clean? Despite my efforts, the clothes from this extra pile come out with dirt ground in and faint stains that mock me.

As I was digging out summer clothes for my kids this week, I found some very nice hand-me-downs that look new. And they come from a house with two boys! How is that possible?! (I was tempted to just hide the beautiful clothes in my room and prep them for sale on ebay so I could buy pre-stained clothes at DI with the money.) PLEASE! Don't hold out on your laundry secrets anymore! Is it possible to get clothes spotless? Or must I simply wait for the first Thursday following #5 getting his pink slip on life as he heads out the door for adulthood?

I really can wait that long. I just wonder if I should hold out hope in the meantime.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Recipe for a Summer Nap

1 ridiculously early morning trip to the temple
--BTW, those of you who balked at 6:30 a.m. bike rides with me should be thankful I would let you sleep in that long. My temple buddy had me up at 4:40 a.m.!

1 freshly cleaned, portable hammock
--Place hammock in a shady spot near lovely irises and between the scents of the heady lavender bush and the pollinating pine trees.

2 pillows, borrowed from the sofa
1 blanket
--Use pillows and blanket to achieve maximum comfort and protect against the slightest cool breeze.

1 book club book
--It helps if the book is about a girl who sleeps for centuries. (Enchantment by Orson Scott Card.) Funny and clever, but still nap-time inspiring.

Mix the above ingredients and warm at a perfect 78 degrees for 90 minutes. Occasionally check for sounds of crying children. (Fortunately, mine are wise enough to recognize when I'm not monitoring the TV, and they take full advantage of that situation.)

After 90 minutes, open eyes to the fluffy clouds in the bluest sky witnessed in months, and doze for another 15 minutes.

This recipe serves up one refreshed mother who is ready again to listen to a stream of children's requests while simultaneously folding five loads of laundry and making dinner. Voila!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Piano Recital and Family Music Night

Every year the amount of piano students I teach fluctuates. This year, I teach children from three other families, and one of those families is currently traveling out of the country. So with such a small group, I thought it would be fun to have a slightly more casual spring recital and turn the Monday evening into a family music night. I was happy that the other two families were on board with that.

Everyone came to our home, and I was happy that all six students chose to dress up for the occasion, even though that had been optional. Since we were in my home, I took the opportunity between pieces to show parents some of the things we work on at lessons, and to brag about each child's musical strengths.

Each year I play a piece after my students perform, and this time, to transition into the "open performances" by family members, my piece was a duet with Kent, who played the tuba. There aren't many classical pieces arranged for piano and tuba, but this Sonata by Vivaldi was fun.

Because all his sisters performed a recital piece, #5 also wanted in on the action. #4 has been teaching him semi-regular "lessons" with some input from #1. #1 helped him place his hands on the keyboard, and I was impressed that he actually played the little song he had chosen. (Not impressed to start him on lessons early, but it was still sweet.)

The girls each played an extra number, and #1 accompanied them all singing "Part of Your World" from The Little Mermaid. Another of my students played a violin solo, and my friend, Mindy, played a Primary song on the ukulele, which doubled well as our closing song. I had to laugh that as soon as we closed with prayer, all the kids made a beeline for the dining room where I had set out the makings for brownie sundaes.

While everyone visited, I noticed #5 sneaking a try at the tuba in the hallway. Check out those cheeks! He's a natural.

It was an enjoyable evening, and I'll probably repeat this type of recital in the future. Each student performed well and I think my own kids have a renewed interest in learning to play the piano. Hmm...maybe I'll add a Christmas recital to the end of the year.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Kent's Carne Asada Extravaganza: I & II

On a whim inspired by his recent success at perfecting an authentic carne asada burrito, Kent decided to share his success with pretty much everyone he knows. A few days after returning from a weekend training with some of the Young Men in our ward--they have been the tasters for his repeated attempts at making carne asada that tastes like the burritos at his favorite taco stand in Baja California--Kent and I sat down to estimate the cost of throwing a barbecue. It worked out to about $5 per person, which sounded like a reasonable amount per person for dinner...if they paid their own way. Kent wrote up an email and sent it to family and friends from all parts of his life, including the entire neighborhood! 109 people replied that they would come, and I think a few more besides that showed up too.

After a week of planning, collecting money, borrowing extra grills, shopping nine grocery stores for the best prices on various items, and barely claiming a pavilion on Saturday morning before they were all taken...the anticipation paid off and the party was on!

We spent a good chunk of time on Saturday at our friends' home, the Gonzalezes, chopping, blending, dicing, stuffing, and otherwise prepping the food. David put a ton of time and effort into fulfilling this dream for Kent, and I appreciate that his help saved me from doing it all!

#1 offered to help as a (successful) attempt to be included in the high-school-and-older party.

I promise, Kent washed his hands before serving the food...

...in fact, we wore gloves.

The menu included lime-soaked cucumbers, seared radishes, chips for the guests' favorite salsas, Mexican Coca-Cola, limeade, and lots of grilled goodness: green onions, jalapeƱo poppers, pineapple...mmm!

But what everyone really came for was the smoked meat.

They lined up...

...and at Kent's encouragement/insistence, they continued to line up all night.

We had one little glitch when we ran out of cilantro, but other than that, the night was a success and we think everyone left full and happy to have visited and enjoy the gorgeous weather.

Everyone better have left with full stomachs, because we ended up with 100 tortillas and about 60 lbs. of meat left over, not to mention a fridge full of everything else--except Coke; #1 finished the last one during clean up. So what do you do with enough extra food for another get-together? You have another get-together!

At Church, Kent invited families who had expressed their deep regret to him at missing Saturday's party to come for the "after party", which reminded me of a college "break the fast" event.

Friends showed up with side dishes,

and helped out in the kitchen.

Kent stoked the grill...

...and we enjoyed another lovely summer evening with 51 more of our favorite people.

Thanks everyone who could come! I love that we had friends of all ages and connections at our dinners. I hope you all enjoyed yourselves, and if you missed it, post a comment and we'll be sure to invite you next time. Now that we know the quantities and pricing, we will likely make this an annual tradition. (Thanks also to Angela for buying the meat that was still left over after Extravaganza #2. The irony that we, the people who are supposedly mostly vegetarian, hosted a steak fest was not lost on me. But I surely would have been lost figuring out what to do with another 20 lbs. of steak!)

Thursday, June 2, 2011

At the Races

Sports were not my thing as a child/teenager/young adult/person. It may have something to do with the time I was playing goalie for my fifth-grade soccer team and my jersey got caught on the goal post, so I watched helplessly as our opponents trotted the ball down to score. Or maybe it was when I bit my tongue about halfway through the mile run during field day as a seventh grader and I ended up swallowing my own blood for two more laps around the track. I did like my middle school P.E. teacher, though, who recognized my natural inabilities and offered to give me an A in the volleyball unit if I could just bump the ball to myself 20 times in a row. I barely passed that test after several attempts, and she just pretended like I could spike, serve, etc. like everyone else who passed. Sports were just not my thing. (Though I did like badminton.)

So I was surprised when three of my children wanted to be on running teams this year. #1 joined the cross-country team last fall and ran a 5K, beating more than half the adults in the same race. This spring, #s 2 and 4 asked to join the school's track team. I figured they'd have to learn about their genetic incapacities sooner or later, so why not let them get some exercise in the process? Last week were their track meets. Imagine my surprise to discover that we do have some athletes in the family!

#2 competed at the Hershey Track and Field Meet last Wednesday, which was open to youth from all over the county, mostly Provo. She was up against some tall 12-year-olds, and though they beat her at running, she placed 6th out of many more than that in the standing long jump.

I was most proud that she stepped up and ran the relay after getting pretty shaken by the 200-meter dash. Truly, she is more a long-distance runner than a sprinter. Up against her peers at school, she ended up with a handful of ribbons, including a first place in something.

#4 is the one who blew me away. At the school's track meet for the younger team members, I helped record measurements at the long jump, and so didn't get to see her compete in all her events. When ribbons were handed out, her name was called again and again. Looks like we have a good little softball chucker/runner/jumper on our hands.

That's #4 at the head of the pack of dashing seven-year-olds.

So what does the rest of the family do at a long track meet? We all found ways to entertain ourselves.

#3 played with her food, which oddly resembled a favorite Provo landmark. (That's a carrot.)

#5 played on the playground...and made a playground out of the long-jump sand pit. (He was quite proud of his sand booster seat.)

#4 convinced Edwin to be her human monkey bars so she could practice flips.

#1 chatted it up with the boys...and then took them on to help them warm up for their events.

And I played with my camera, getting some good shots of my athletes and their coaches. Good job girls!