Friday, November 30, 2007

Christmas Memory--A Celebration of Christmas

My freshman year at BYU, I auditioned for the BYU choirs. I knew the competition for getting into the choirs at BYU was stiff, and I thought I was prepared for the auditioning process but I really wasn't. I literally could feel the tension outside in the halls as people waited. I also overheard a lot of people talking about how this year we were going to be filmed for TV during the Christmas concert. I didn't know if that was a regular occurrence or not but it was "all the talk."

I went in for my audition and BUTCHERED the sight reading part. That is standard procedure for me, keeping me out of "All State Choir" my senior year and I could see on the director's face that she was sorely disappointed with me. After the audition, she said, "I am going to to bring you back for call backs but just so you know, your sight reading is one of the worst I have heard. It is not likely you will make Woman's Chorus." I was very disappointed and while I held it together in the audition room, I cried on the walk home. And, I cried on and off the rest of the night. I don't really know why it was such a blow (I hadn't made other things before) but I felt it hard and even my roommate, who had only known me for a few days, seemed shocked at how disappointed I was.

By the time of call backs, I had accepted my lot of not making the choir but decided to go to call backs anyway. Again, I was amazed at the competition. Everyone was VERY good and it was very intense and intimidating. I didn't even go and look at the "Who made it list" because I was sure I didn't make it. And, I was right, I didn't make it. Then, about a week after rehearsals started, I got a call from the director. She told me, "I haven't been able to get your voice out of my mind. I had girl drop out and I want you in Woman's Chorus. Will you promise to work on the music outside of class, so your sight reading won't hinder us?" I said yes and much to my shock, I was in Woman's Chorus!

Almost immediately, we were informed that BYU had been selected to be filmed for a PBS Christmas special. It was a huge honor and it was taken very seriously. Our Christmas concert would be on every PBS station across the United States. And, while we had other concerts as well as BYU devotional performances, everything seemed geared toward our December concert. That December of my freshman year was a blur of practices, extra practices, wardrobe fittings, hair and make-up instruction, posture correction, oh and my first semester of college finals and it was one of the most magical Christmas' of my life. The stage was decorated exquisitely. The music was uplifting, inspiring and awe-inducing. I would walk into practices and be struck by the beauty and divinity of music. I couldn't believe that God had given man this amazing gift of music and we were being allowed to be a part of His genius. And, little me, all 5'3" was standing on the stage performing these amazing wonders of music. While I have always considered music as a divine gift, it was during those months of Christmas music with the BYU choirs that cemented my love and appreciation for the divinity of it.

I continued to sing with the BYU choirs until I left on my mission two years later (making Woman's Chorus the next year without any special concessions, thank you very much) and I consider it a privilege to have been part of the BYU music magic. You can still purchase the Christmas CD "A Celebration of Christmas" here and occasionally they still run that Christmas concert on PBS. And, very briefly, you can see me (very skinny with a short blond bob hair cut on the farthest left, front row) when Woman's Chorus is singing. I listen and watch it with reverence. My soul changed my freshman year singing at BYU and I have never been the same--thankfully.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Christmas Memory--Gift Wrapping

***As I started writing this story, I realized I needed to explain some basic family information. I come from a family of five kids, with me being the youngest. The oldest, my brother (only brother) is 12 years older than me. By the time I was 12, three of my older siblings were married. My closest in age sister is 4 1/2 years older than me. She and I were the bottom two and we did a lot together. She didn't get married until I was on my mission (I think she was 26) and so we were "the little girls" together in our family for a long time. We did a lot together and while my older siblings were definitely part of a lot of my memories, she is a constant presence in most of my stories.

Christmas Wrapping
Usually starting around the middle of October, my mother declared my parent's closet off-limits. Not like we went in there very often but we knew after her declaration, that we could not for any reason, open that closet door. My mom stock piled all of our Christmas presents in there and unless we wanted Christmas ruined, we knew it was best to stay away.

In early December, my mom would walk up from the basement with a pile of boxes (saved every year from Christmas to Christmas) and go into her closet. We knew that our special job of Christmas wrappers was about to start. My mom would put each gift in boxes and write on the box who it was to and who it was from. Usually it said "To Janice, From Mom and Dad" but sometimes she would get creative and write, "From Santa's Helper" or "Christmas Elves". She always sealed the boxes with tape on all four sides and I can honestly say that I never peaked--even when I really wanted to. My sister, Goddess number 4 and I would set up the wrapping center in the laundry room (we had a huge laundry room with lots of counter space and a great ironing board we would use) and my mom would bring us boxes to wrap. Sometimes my older siblings would participate but it was mainly my one sister and me.

My sister and I would pretend we worked for a fancy store where shoppers would bring us their packages for us to wrap. Sometimes they would be nice shoppers and sometimes they would be mean and very persnickety. Sometimes it was a husband with a gift for his wife, or a harried mother with lots of kids under toe. They often had very specific ideas in mind on how they wanted their packages to look and sometimes they would tell us to do whatever we wanted. I remember bringing out various wrapping paper selections (my mom would usually shop the wrapping paper sales after Christmas and we seemed to have an endless supply of fun wrapping paper and bows to use) and saying out loud "Which one would you like me to wrap your present in, my lady?" during the whole pretending process. I have many fond memories, listening to Christmas music blaring from the kitchen while my sister and I wrapped presents. After the present was wrapped, we would go and take them to the tree and find just the perfect spot to put it. Sometimes this would take many minutes, as we would look for the right spot. Oh the countless hours we spent selecting paper and bows, pretending, placing presents under the tree!

I have found out later from my mom that she often felt guilty passing on the wrapping duty to us but we LOVED it. It was one of the highlights of Christmas for me and still is. I love to sit down, pull out all of the wrapping supplies, play Christmas music and yes, even sometimes pretend I working for a fancy store and wrapping other's presents. It is part of the magic of Christmas for me.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Christmas Fun

For the last few years, I have sat down with the kids and we have made what we call our "Christmas Fun" list.

Here is what we came up with this year:
1. See the lights at Thanksgiving Point and eat dinner there.
2. Watch all of our Christmas shows.
3. Go see the lights at La Caille
4. Polar Express in 3D
5. Ward Christmas party
6. Watch toothsome #2 in the Nutcracker
7. Read all of our Christmas books
8. Breakfast at Mimi's Christmas eve morning
9. Watch Luke II
10. Drive around the neighborhood and look at everyone's Christmas lights
11. Ice skating
12. Go caroling (with toothsome #1's pack meeting)
13. Deliver neighbor gifts
14. Make fondue
15. Do fireworks (?) We have to find out what one's we can do without getting into trouble.
16. Go downtown and see all of the lights.
17. Deliver friend gifts
18. Make some yummy goodies.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Christmas Tree Purchasing

Why, every year, does there have to be some major drama around Christmas tree purchasing and set up? I cope with life by really having low expectations because if your expectations start low, then usually things turn out much better and I am happy. So it is not like I expect us to be singing carols, find a perfect tree for 1/2 the going price and the people offer to follow us home and set it up for us. I would like one year without the drama.

Some past years:
--The first year we purchased a tree, dentist husband and I got into a huge fight because I actually wanted a tree. Toothsome #1 was only baby and in Dentist husband's logic, and since toothsome #1 wouldn't remember his first Christmas, why should we bother? We did end up with a $16 tree from the local grocery store and a very cheap $3 stand.

--Another year we decided to go out to dinner first. We couldn't decide on a restaurant and finally with kids crying for food, we stopped at an Arby's in a really bad section of SLC. We ate cold Arby's Roast Beef sandwiches surrounded by really scary looking people.

--Last year, after purchasing the tree, we could not get it to fit on our stand. Poor dentist husband was outside in the snow for over 2 hours reworking and reworking the tree and stand. I finally had to put the kids to bed with promises that they could see the tree set up in the morning.

So, this year, they put in a Home Depot very close to our house and we thought, this might be the year that things would go smoothly. Not so. Being a bad mom, I left the kids coats at home and we took turns running from the warm store to the very cold lot and coming in and reporting which trees we liked. Once we all agreed on a tree, for some reason, we picked out a very heavy tree and it took two workers, plus my husband to load it on top of our mini van. Once home, we discovered it was too heavy for the stand. So, my husband left the tree home and went back to Home Depot. $42 later, we have a very nice tree stand that holds 4 gallons of water. An hour later, it was in place after multiple reposition efforts all the while trying to keep toothsome #4 from interfering and I had actually filled the whole thing with water. Yes, it took me an hour to drizzle water into the very small opening. Again, it was too late to decorate, so we will do that today after school. That said, the wonderful fresh tree smell I woke up to this morning, made purchasing a fresh tree worth it.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Christmas Memory

For the last few years, I've been trying to write down my Christmas memories. Here is one in honor of my wonderful BYU roommates.

Christmas CD

My sophomore year at BYU, I lived in the King Henry apartments. They were super far away from campus and I had no car. King Henry had various levels of not so nice to nicer apartments and we lived in the crappiest of them all. Six girls, one bathroom. Concrete walls, small rooms. In spite of that, we managed to have a great time living there and the friendships made there have continued 15 years later.

Anyway, it was a cold December and I had walked a long way home after a long difficult day at school. I wanted nothing more than to come home and take a long hot bath. At some point earlier, I had purchased a new Christmas CD--A Very Special Christmas II. I hadn't opened it yet because of school stress and business. I was waiting for the right circumstances to open it when I felt more on top of things so I could really enjoy it and hopefully soak up some Christmas spirit.

I walked into my apartment feeling very sorry for myself to find L dancing and laughing. She looked up at me and said full of enthusiasm, "I love this CD. (My brand new, I thought unopened, Christmas CD) M and I have decided that we like songs 9 and 15 the best." I was furious. She had opened my new CD without asking? Where had I left it? I was pretty sure it was in my room--not out in the open. I could feel my frustration about everything boiling to a breaking point. Then, for some reason, I relaxed and laughed. L was actually enjoying things--school, the Christmas season, our crappy apartment, and especially at the moment, my new CD. L, who in her personal life had a lot more on her plate than me was laughing and happy and I realized I needed to not be a Scrooge and not only let her enjoy it but enjoy it with her. I remember putting down my bag and saying, "Ok, play for me songs 9 and 15. I want to hear them." It was a turning a point for me. I so enjoyed the rest of the semester and the Christmas season with her and my other roommates. We all had a great December (three of us having birthdays that month)and managed to focus on school and having some fun as well. I credit L for that. She opened my eyes that difficult day and I often reflect on it. Regardless of what is going on around me, I can enjoy the ride and take time out to dance, sing and laugh. Thanks L!

Great Thanksgiving--now onto Christmas fun

We had a WONDERFUL Thanksgiving. Normally, we head up to my father-in-law's house in Heber City, UT but this year, for various reasons, he decided to host Thanksgiving at his home Salt Lake City. I was very forlorn about it because Thanksgiving is always super fun up in Heber with most of us arriving the night before and staying up late talking and playing games. However, it ended up being a really nice fun day and dentist husband and I were able to spend a nice morning with our kids before heading over to my Father-in-law's house. My father-in-law remarried a year ago and she introduced some wonderful new food items into the Thanksgiving meal--the pan fried yams being my personal favorite addition. It was a nice and very crowded Thanksgiving. On Friday morning, dentist husband and I took the kids up to Heber and went bowling (an annual tradition we couldn't break) and then ate a Canton City for lunch. That night, we played Charades (Parades as toothsome #3 calls it)and got everyone to bed at a good time--which hasn't happened for the last two nights and I was able to clean out my office area which has needed it for months!

This morning, the first things my kids asked me was "When do we get out the Christmas decorations?" So, after Saturday chores, it looks like we are onto Christmas fun.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


My husband is actually a much better natural cook than I am. He often invents recipes and then doesn't remember how he made them. I have learned to follow him around the kitchen with a pen and paper in hand and write down what he is doing, so if we like it, we can make it again. This, in my opinion, is the best way to make and eat salmon. Super easy, super tasty and fast.

"Grilled" Salmon

Salmon with skin
Liquid smoke
salt and pepper

Rinse salmon in cold water. Make an aluminum foil tray (making sure all of the sides are folded up, so it keeps things in) and spray inside with Pam. Set the salmon on it. Drizzle a little liquid smoke on each salmon and rub into the meat. Sprinkle on salt and pepper.

Place on top rack of barbecue and let cook for about 20 minutes. Salmon will be opaque when done.)

That is it!

FYI: The skin will stick to the aluminum and salmon meat comes off easily.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Great Weekend

What a wonderful weekend! It started out very rough because I had been hit with a bad cold Thursday evening. Friday morning, I was functioning at about 20% but fortunately, by the evening, I was at 80%. My son had an indoor soccer game downtown and beforehand we went to Barbacoa for dinner. Some of the greatest experiences with my kids have taken place at Barbacoa. For whatever reason, that restaurant brings out the great conversation with my kids. Maybe it is my Diet Coke induced high (they really have the best Diet Coke in the valley and a serve yourself lime container on the side) but my kids and I laughed, joked and had a great time before we had to head downtown.

I am not a big fan of indoor soccer. The ball is out of play more than it is in play and it doesn't appear their soccer skills are really helped much by chasing a really fast ball around the court and it seems like we are always just one fall way from a concussion, but anyway, my son played well, I had some great conversation with the parents on his team and it was a fun night (maybe helped by the many Diet Cokes at Barbacoa beforehand).

Saturday morning, we saw "Mister Magoriums Magic Emporium" with a bunch of friends and then had a fun lunch out. Sunday, after the Primary Program, the weather was perfect outside, we spent the afternoon playing catch with the kids. Later, we went to dinner at Dentist husband's dad's house. It was a great weekend.

Today, I am going to try and be super woman and get more done that I usually do. I hope my kids are on board.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Give Away!

Christmas Giveaway 2007 Sweepstakes

Five Minutes For Mom is having a great giveaway. Go check it out! They are also giving away some great retro items. Check out their store here.

Monday, November 12, 2007

I'm Not Coming Down until that Ceiling is Bluer!

About three years ago, I was looking in a Swedish design book and saw a few instances where the ceiling had been painted a bright blue or green color. I love Swedish design and for whatever reason, I could not get that idea out of mind. It has been a long time in coming but we finally painted our front room ceilings a bright blue color. It is a pretty drastic look but I am loving it.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Public Schools

Let me just start out by saying, how happy I am with the public school my children attend and the teachers that my children have had while being at this school. I am a firm believer in the public school system. Just so everyone knows, I attended both public and private (to be clear, private while my Dad was a mission president in Costa Rica--so it wasn't US private schools) and so I saw both sides of the coin. I live in a neighborhood where there is this frenzy of discussion every year about where to send their children. Do we keep them in our "boundary" public school or send them to another one that people have heard about it? (We could all go together and car pool.) Do we have our kids take the ALPS (Accelerated Learning something or other) test and assuming they pass, send them to an ALPS school? Can we afford private? If so, which one? What about one of the new charter schools? Etc. I have decided a lot of people move their kids out of our boundried public school because it is just a different choice and it makes them look like they care more. Not necessarily because the different school offers a better education.

Anyway, last night was parent/teacher conference and as I met with each of my children's teachers, I was amazed at what they do for my kids and I am sure they do they same of all of their students. Toothsome #2 has always been a reader and is reading way above grade level. So, what does this teacher do? She provides books for her to read at her reading level. She also suggested, since her reading is so strong, that we focus on handwriting and sentence writing. How wonderful to be so strong in a subject, that we have the extra time to focus on ones that she is not so strong in!

Toothsome #1 is having a great year all around. He has his strengths and weaknesses but he is happy and loving school. His teacher feels he has a very creative mind and is really encouraging him to explore it by working on writing creative stories in class. She also does individualized spelling lists for each child, so my child is working on words that challenge him regardless of where the rest of the class is--either below or above him.

I realize I am fortunate enough to live in a great spot in the SLC valley and I have been blessed to have my kids in an outstanding public school, but I know these same type of creative, wonderful teachers are working all over the valley. I also don't have any children with any special needs and I know there needs to be different options available for them but for just the run of the mill, typical child, why aren't people supporting their local school? I feel there is so much fragmenting caused by parents by constantly searching for a different option than "just the public schools." In my ward alone, we have kids attending 7 different schools. And people are wondering about problems with ward and neighborhood unity? Why don't we all just support our public schools and work with each other and each other's children more? We would have that unity and public schools would be better for it. Ok, I am off my soapbox now.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Fall is ending and Christmas is coming

Well, I am finding myself a little forlorn today. The fall is my favorite time of year and I was driving around doing errands (and voting, thank you very much) I noticed that while we still have some great fall leaf color, the season is ending. My life seems to be zooming by. How did another year go by? I have made every effort to really soak up this fall and still, it feels too short.

That said, I can pat myself on the back because we got our Christmas card picture taken Sunday morning. Everyone was up at their usual time, so I took advantage of the extra hour and got everyone ready and took it. I won't post the actual photo but one of the rejected ones.

I also have purchased several Christmas gifts today. I can't enjoy the season unless most of the gifts are purchased by Thanksgiving. I have a good head start, so that feels good.

Oh, and one big stack of paper has been sorted and processed. What a great feeling!

Friday, November 2, 2007


My mom is a list person. Growing up there were always lists posted around the house. There were "to do" lists. There were "How to do" lists. There were lists of errands that needed to be done. There were lists of good information, such as, "Food to have on hand when guests come" or "Good and bad fats to eat." I loved the lists because it made things so simple. If we were leaving on errands, I knew exactly where we were going and in what order. If my mom wanted something done while she was gone, there was a list. No guessing. I read the list and just did. As a result, I have become a list person myself, while not as proficient as my mother, I make great lists.

Anyway, while visiting my parents, a new list appeared. I loved this list so much, I had to photocopy it and bring it home with me. My mom made this as part of her "keeping the house disinfected to make sure my dad doesn't get another infection" plan. It really is good information, so I thought I would post it.

To Clean the Shower
1. Just outside the shower door on the floor set: 1. Can of "Scrubbing Bubbles" (just so you know, Scrubbing Bubbles has almost mystical qualities in my house. We use it to clean EVERYTHING and all five us kids kids have a can of the stuff in every bathroom and several in the kitchen in our own houses 2. Sponge 3. Roll of paper towel
2. Take your shower.
3. Turn water off but stay inside the shower.
4. Open shower door just a little bit--(to keep the warmth in) and 5. Bring the can of "Scrubbing bubbles and spong into the shower with you.
6. Shut the door. Stay in the shower.
7. Shake the can of "Scrubbing bubbles" well and spray all the walls and the door from top to bottom.
8. Wet the sponge (turn on shower just enough) to wet the sponge.
9. With the sponge, scrub all the walls and the door and floor. Be careful not to slip!
10. Turn on shower (nice and warm) and rinse out your sponge and with your wet sponge, slosh off all the walls and door and floor.
11. Turn off water. Wring out sponge
12. Use the squeegee to slick the water oof the walls, door and floor into the drain.
13. Get out of the shower and dry yourself.
14. Take all of your tools (Scrubbing bubbles, sponge and squeegee) out of the shower.
15. Tear off some paper towel and wipe off the still wet places in the shower. Especially--corners of the floor, faucet, around the drain, the whole floor, the metal trim and strip along the bottom of the door.
16. Throw away wet paper towel and put the rest away.

I can say that having done it at my parent's house and now in all three of my showers at my house, it is one great way to clean a shower!


Well, Halloween is over, the decorations are put away, the suitcases are put away from my Colorado trip, our soccer party finished, only a few piles of laundry left to sort and put away and the what I am calling the "Great House Disinfecting Project" has begun!

I think it is partly because of being home and seeing my mom disinfect every surface so my dad remains infection free, but I have decided that between Halloween and Christmas, every inch of my house needs to be cleaned. Also, poor toothsome #3 is still battling some stomach upset. He is fine for a few days then throws-up again. My older two kids had this same thing about a month ago and it finally hit him. He is very good natured about it, but I am ready to banish from the house any unnecessary germs. I have started in the kitchen and am working my way around the house.

So, give me a few days but hopefully, by the end of next week, the house will be in good shape.