Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Knowledge Bowl

Each year the 3rd and 4th graders in our school district compete against each other in a Knowledge Bowl. The kids who want to participate, divide into teams of five and spend months of their own time studying a specific subject. Then, on a Saturday in March they gather from schools all over the district to compete in the Knowledge Bowl. When we heard that the subject this year was geography we knew that Neal needed to be a part of a team.

For Neal's second birthday he picked out a talking puzzle map of the United States of America for his present. Within weeks not only could he finish the puzzle, he could correctly answer any of the state capitals. A few months later he wanted to look at the large map of the world I had purchased for a Primary activity. Every day, he asked me to get it out and he would spend hours asking me to identify countries (I had hours to do that, back then). I got tired of rolling it back up and stuffing it back in the tube so I finally tacked the map to the wall by his bed. It has remained on his bedroom wall ever since. If you knew Neal back then, you will surely remember his near-obsession with maps (he does come by it honestly--Utah Dad keeps an atlas by the toilet and another one under the bed).

It wasn't long before Neal discovered the large World Atlas. The first fifty pages were about space and he asked me and anyone else to read it to him. At first I tried explaining the various features in simple language, but he would protest, "read the big words." Fortunately for me, he was reading the big words by himself by the time he was three years old. He requested and received a globe for his third birthday. (He wanted a microscope when he turned four and we insisted that he get a bike when he turned five.)

So, obviously the kid had an advantage.

His team studied and practiced during lunch once a week at school and at a teammate's home on some Saturdays. Because he practically refused to let us quiz him at home and had opted to ski instead of attend some of the Saturday practices, I really didn't know what to expect when we arrived at the junior high school last Saturday.

Utah Dad gave him one piece of advice before the matches began: just have fun. And I think he really had a good time. During the first match, his team seemed tentative to hit their buzzers and they were falling behind the opponents. I saw Neal glance up at the score board. Then, there was no stopping him. He answered question after question correctly. He won the first match single handed. Fortunately, during the next matches the other kids on his team started answering questions as well. Together, they won the other three matches.

Neal was having so much fun. I didn't realize that he had such a competitive spirit. After years of watching him halfheartedly play soccer and other sports, I was so pleased that he could have his moment to shine.

To protect the integrity of the questions used, we couldn't use any recording devices during the matches but his team posed for pictures following their final match.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Molly's Birthday

I've been offline for a few (harried) days but then--miracle of miracle--today my computer finally connected to the Internet and has appeared to heal itself. While it's actually working, I better blog a few important things.

Molly turned one last week and we invited my parents, siblings, (they were all invited but only two live close enough to make it) nieces and nephews to join us for a celebration. The other kids wanted to have an Up! party. They've been planning for months. They wanted to see how many helium filled balloons it would take to lift Molly off the ground. I didn't want to pay for that many balloons but we did buy some.

Utah Dad made a big pot of his delicious chili. I baked four dozen cupcakes because you can never have enough cupcakes. It was a pretty typical, simple, loud birthday party. Molly was fascinated by the flame on the candle. She really wanted to touch it. She delicately stuck one finger in the frosting of her cupcake and licked it. She ate it pretty ladylike for awhile but was eventually shoving the cake in by the fistfuls.

I still can't believe she is one year old.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Disney on Ice - Out and About in Utah

I saw an ad for Disney on Ice in January and I set it aside. I knew Amberly would love it but I wasn't sure I could really justify the cost. The ad was still sitting on my desk a few weeks later when my sister called to say that she had won eight tickets to the show at a Super Bowl party. She invited Amberly, Lilly and me to join her and her oldest daughter. She also invited my sister-in-law and her two girls. We were so excited and marked the date on our calendar. (Amberly was a little disappointed initially because she misunderstood and thought that we were going to Disneyland, but she got over it quickly.)

The big day finally arrived. I curled Amberly and Lilly's hair and we left the minute Amberly got home from school. I promised Amberly a new dress so we stopped at Target before meeting at my sister's home in Bountiful. My sister made us a delicious dinner so that we wouldn't be hungry and tempted to buy outrageously over-priced concession food. After dinner, our pink group loaded in the cars. Amberly and her cousin K giggled all the way.

We had great seats on the tenth row. The tickets weren't all next to each other but the kind and helpful usher talked the people who would be sitting between our groups to scoot over so that we could all sit together. The girls were excited and possibly a bit overwhelmed. We watched as other paid seriously ridiculous prices for cotton candy and flavored ice ($12 and another $1 for the spoon). Thankfully, my girls heeded my earlier warning and didn't even ask.

Lilly was especially excited when she saw Minnie Mouse--her favorite. The show--which featured Minnie and Mickey Mouse and friends; Cars; Little Mermaid; Lion King and Tinker Bell--was very entertaining and the skating was good and sometimes even great. Tinker Bell is from Utah. Actually, the actress/skater (BreAnn Brown) playing Tinker Bell is from Utah. Which is cool. The kids know the stories, characters and music already so it makes it especially fun and magical to see it again on ice. Everything Disney does is magical.

We had a great time. We're so grateful that my sister Aunt A invited us to go and that she shared her pictures.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Romney and Bennett - Out and About in Utah

Last Saturday evening, Utah Dad and I were privileged to attend Mitt Romney's No Apology: the Case for American Greatness book tour speech in Salt Lake City as guests of Senator Bob Bennett. We got dressed up, left the kids with Utah Dad's parents and headed downtown. Since our regular date nights generally include putting the kids to bed, cooking up some steaks and watching a movie together, this was sort of a big deal for us. What could be better than listening to Mitt Romney? He's brilliant. He knows the global economy and foreign and domestic policy in details that I can't begin to fathom. Yet, he spoke clearly and wisely on foreign policy, health care, the budget and a host of other pertinent topics so that the audience could understand and also have a deeper grasp of the importance of these for our nation. Romney is experienced in the real world. He saved businesses and the 2002 Olympics and then he got into politics. Romney is a true patriot. He loves the United States of America. He recognizes and makes "no apologies" for her greatness and recognizes her potential for more greatness. I'm anxious to read his book. I started it this morning and I'm impressed so far.

A few quick observations that I made during the evening:

1. Republicans look a like. Generally. People watching at a republican event is not nearly as interesting or amusing as an afternoon of people watching at the state fair, the mall, or a Democratic convention.

2. There were a lot of younger "kids" and the usual crowd of "mature" people but I didn't notice many 30-somethings in the crowd. One commenter during Bennett's reception said that the "Generation X stood for nothing". I think in Utah, we're generally busy with our families and feel that we don't have time for politics. It isn't that we don't care. But we need to make time. We need to get involved before the 20-somethings steer us into more disasters. Your neighborhood Republican caucuses are coming up on Tuesday, March 23rd. If you live in Utah County you can find out where you should meet and when by clicking here. If you live in other counties in Utah, find out by checking your county's Republican website. Be sure to attend and let your voice be heard.

3. Clearly, Mitt Romney would make an amazing president of the United States. If he decides to run in 2012, he has my vote.

4. Utah needs Senator Bob Bennett in the Senate. Antsy, angry people who listen to out-of-state propaganda will be hurting themselves and the rest of us if they elect any of the other inexperienced candidates instead of Bennett. Senator Bennett has the clout and the record to prove that he is not only the conservative choice but also the best choice to lead the fight against Obama and the socialist movement. Bennett is fighting to save ATK Thiokol and Utah jobs. He's fighting to keep Obama from grabbing more energy-rich Utah land as National Monuments. Like Romney, Bennett is experienced. He was a successful businessman in the private sector before serving in politics. Besides all that, Utah Dad and I have known him personally since we were first married. Senator Bennett is a good, humble man who loves the United States of America and Utah.

After Romney's initial speech we joined Bennett and Romney for dessert and another speech in behalf of Bennett's campaign.

I borrowed my father-in-law's camera so that I wouldn't have to lug my huge camera for the evening. Unfortunately the quality isn't good and we were so close that I didn't feel right about using the flash in the picture below. It's blurry, but you get the picture--Mitt Romney supports Bob Bennett.

 It was snowing. That's not dandruff on my coat. I promise.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

I love when the weather gets warm enough for the kids to go outside and play wearing only jackets instead of coats, gloves, boots, hats and scarfs. It was a toasty 50 degrees yesterday. Of course, while I write this gigantic, fluffy snow flakes are falling.

I do not love the mud or what Thomas calls "quicksand".

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Free at Three at Alta - Out and About in Utah

Neal learned to ski this winter and he loves it. In fact, last week he told me that he would rather ski for one afternoon than play the Wii for an entire week. Apparently, he's pretty good too and possibly a little too brave for his mother's comfort.

I am especially glad that Neal has learned to ski as a child because I've never been skiing. My family doesn't ski and then when I went to college and wanted to ski, I didn't have the cash and my friends were already good skiers. I didn't want to be left alone on the bunny slope. 

I'm also glad that he's learned to ski because it has given him so much confidence. He's not really an athletic kid but skiing he can do. He's learned to balance and trust himself and overcome fear. I don't know if he has any fear on the slope. He tends to overheat easily in the summer. Cold, however, seems to have no effect on the kid.

This winter he's been taking advantage of the "Free at Three" deal at Alta Ski Resort.  Monday is the early-out day at school so he has time to hit the slopes. This week, we decided to go watch him ski for Family Home Evening (sort of a twisted family activity). There were families all over the slope. Amberly pointed out every kid that she thought was younger than her and complained that she hasn't learned to ski yet. I saw one mom with a baby in her backpack carrier and a four year old skiing along beside her. Another dad skied with his baby in a front carrier. There were toddlers on skis being pulled along with ropes. Dads and Moms straddled beginner skiers between their own skis. I have never wanted to know how to ski so badly. Neal insists that he can teach me.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Internet Quizzes

Last week when Utah Dad was in the mood for a dog (read about it *here*) he made me take a quiz on the Iams Dog Food website. After I answered a few simple questions it gave me a list of the perfect dogs for me. On the top of my list:

the Basset Hound

I quote from the breed information included on the Iams site: "Needs a lot of exercise, despite his low-energy demeanor. Has exceptional stamina and is more agile than his appearance suggests".

Yesterday, Utah Dad took one of those quizzes on Facebook: "What breed of dog are you?" The result:

the Basset Hound

Obviously, I don't really need a dog.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A Day in my Life . . .

Inspired by my niece Anna's recent post, I thought I would share a day in my life. The following took place yesterday . . .
6:45 a.m. Utah Dad wakes up and gets in the shower. I hit the snooze button two more times before rolling out of bed and putting on my comfy robe.

7:00 a.m. Wake Neal. He gets to ski after school so it's not too hard.

7:05 a.m. Molly wakes up. Change her diaper. Wake Amberly.

7:11 a.m. I take my thyroid pill. I don't function very well without it. I can't eat for at least a half an hour.

7:15 a.m. Picky kid #1 eats a spoonful of peanut butter and a vitamin. Sometimes he eats his peanut butter with toast, not this morning. Picky kid #2 claims that she isn't hungry. Good thing the first graders eat lunch so early.

7:22 a.m. Kneel for family prayers.

7:25 a.m. Utah Dad and Neal leave to drive the carpool to school.

7:30 a.m. I comb Amberly's hair, pack her backpack, help her find her coat, gloves and scarf--she gets to walk to school this morning.

7:50 a.m. Amberly leaves to walk to school with her friends.

7:51 a.m. I check my email (I won a book from; check Facebook; write a blog post.

8:35 a.m. Feed Thomas, Lilly and Molly their breakfast. I eat a piece of cinnamon toast.

8:40 a.m. I put in my contacts (I can SEE! It's a miracle) and brush my teeth.

8:45 a.m. I nurse Molly and read from "Theodore Rex". The suspense is building. Will he get to build the canal in Panama or will he have to build it in the less desirable location of Nicaragua? I put Molly back to bed.

9:11 a.m. Take the turkey from the fridge and put it in the sink because it's still not thawed completely.

9:15 a.m. Change the laundry. Molly doesn't really want to sleep. I fold and put away clothes in the kids' new dressers. It's so nice that the little girls' clothes aren't in bins under their cribs any more. Thomas, Lilly and Molly look at books, build a Lego tower, and play with the kitchen that gets more use now that I moved it from the real kitchen to the loft.

9:30 a.m. Walk by the computer and check my email. Did I get a message from the outside world? No. Read some blogs. Using a laundry basket and a chair Thomas rigs up a garbage truck that he pretends to drive.

10:15 a.m. Nurse Molly again on the couch in the boys' bedroom snuggled between Thomas and Lilly. We read six books.

10:45 a.m. Change the laundry again. I leave the dry stuff in a basket in the laundry room.

11:15 a.m. I turn on Shrek the Third for Thomas and Lilly. Yes, I let me kids watch Shrek--because it's funny and I can only stand so many years of "Baby Mozart". I unload the clean dishes from the dishwasher and refill it with the dirty dishes from last night. Start the dishwasher.

11:54 a.m. Utah Dad calls to ask me to look up the address for a Mr. Mac. He desperately needs new church shoes. I check my email while I'm at the computer.

12:00 p.m. I catch Molly eating food from under the table. I put her in the high chair to eat some Cheerios and sweep the floor.

12:10 p.m. Nurse Molly, read a few pages of Theodore, put Molly to bed for her nap. Check my email again.

12:30 p.m. Get lunch for Thomas and Lilly. I eat a yogurt.

12:40 p.m. I get in the shower. Get dressed. Put on a little make-up (foundation, mascara, Vaseline). Let my hair air dry.

1:00 p.m. Check my email again. It should only take a minute since there isn't any. Check Facebook and the news. My heart aches for the people of Chile.

1:22 p.m. Since I'm dressed, it's only right that the kids get dressed too. Help Thomas get dressed. Thomas wants to know where we're going.

1:30 p.m. Amberly gets home from school. I look at her papers. She's such a good writer. She tells me all about her teacher's honeymoon to Costa Rica.

1:35 p.m. Go out and get the mail. I forgot to put the Netflix movies in the mailbox this morning.

1:37 p.m. Call the U and pay off the hospital bill for Molly (her first birthday is coming up, so it's about time). Pay some additional bills and fill out the form for reimbursement from the Flex plan.

1:50 p.m. The kids wake Molly from her nap. I nurse her and read while they play an elaborate pretend game dictated by Amberly.

2:20 p.m. While the kids play, I lay down for a rest.

2:22 p.m. Molly needs me. Kiss an "owie" for Lilly.

2:40 p.m. Utah Dad gets home. He bought new shoes and cologne. He has never worn cologne before. He smells good.

2:45 p.m. Put the turkey in the oven. Empty the dishwasher.

3:00 p.m. Make myself a fried egg sandwich. The kids smell it. Make Amberly and Thomas fried egg sandwiches.

3:30 p.m. Enjoy a bowl of ice cream too because the piece of toast and the yogurt just aren't cutting it.

3:35 p.m. Get the little girls dressed. The sun is shining. Utah Dad and I take the kids on a walk to the playground. Visit with a lady, who used to be in our ward before the last ward split, while the kids play on the slides.

5:05 p.m. Get home from the park. The house smells like turkey. Everyone needs a drink of water.

5:30 p.m. Play a game of Dr. Seuss Green Eggs and Ham with the kids.

6:00 p.m. I make gravy, mashed potatoes, stuffing and corn to go with the turkey for dinner. Amberly pulls out a tooth.

6:30 p.m. Utah Dad's parents and Neal arrive. We eat dinner. Thomas says it reminded him of Thanksgiving so we all take a moment to say what we're thankful for. The food is delicious. I eat too much.

7:25 p.m. I take two Tums. Amberly and Utah Dad's mom clean the kitchen.

8:00 p.m. Utah Dad's parents leave. Fortunately, Neal's teacher has just had a baby and he doesn't have any homework tonight. It's way past the kids' bedtimes. We hurry to get them ready for bed.

8:10 p.m. We read Jacob chapter four in the Book for Mormon. We say family prayers and rush the kids to bed.

8:30 p.m. I nurse Molly and read Theodore. Utah Dad responds to emails from students.

9:15 p.m. Molly goes to bed. Amberly is still awake and sings to her. I check my email and the news.

9:35 p.m. Molly refuses to go to sleep. I'm nice and nurse her again. She suddenly stopped sleeping last week.

10:06 p.m. I put Molly in bed again. I can hear her making funny noises. I think she is trying to wake her sisters.

10:14 p.m. I get ready for bed.

10:25 p.m. Get in bed. I want to read but Utah Dad wants to talk.

10:30 p.m. We're really too tired to do either, so we turn off the light after praying and go to sleep.

11:00 p.m. The tooth fairy forgets to come.

2:37 a.m. Lilly wakes up. She needs a drink and her covers straightened.

5:23 a.m. I wake up from a horrible dream where Molly has been stolen. I have trouble falling asleep again because I can't stop thinking about the dream.

6:45 a.m. Push the snooze on the alarm.

Monday, March 1, 2010

"I've Got Something to Say"

We're a family of talkers. The kids come by it honestly. It's a fight we have a lot. Whose turn is it to talk? Now, granted when Utah Dad or I get on one of our "topics" at the dinner table or in the car it can be hard to get a word in. But apparently we all have a lot to say. We hear the following phrases on a daily basis:
"It's my turn to talk."
"I was talking first."
"Don't interrupt."
"You interrupted me."
"I thought you were done talking."
"I just took a breath."

Lately, Lilly, who has a large vocabulary and generally communicates quite effectively, has been following me around and with her hands on her hips announces: "I got something to say." Then, she starts talking so fast and waving her hands. And her little monologue is completely lost to me. I feel like Marlin in Finding Nemo staring at the little sea turtle, "You're very cute but I can't understand a word you're saying."

Unfortunately, the older kids probably feel like I miss so much of what they're saying too. It seems like they always want to talk to me when I'm cooking dinner and the baby is crying and the phone rings.

To try to combat this we have attempted to have "conversations" at the dinner table and on Sunday evening each child gets to come into our bedroom for a private interview. This is our chance to go over the week--their behavior, school work, goals and chores but it also allows us some time to listen to them. We sometimes have to fight the natural tendency to turn these times into lectures. But when we just listen, really listen, we generally learn some fascinating things about our children. And boy, they all have something to say.