Back to Four

Well, after what felt like an extended play date, Whit has gone back home.  There was a lot of playing and laughing and running around while he was here and the kids had a blast together.  I was a little surprised, but so thankful, that we didn't have any major meltdowns from any of the kids during Whit's stay.  It really was about as smooth as possible.  

We turned our Harry Potter closet into a room for Whit.
He had the idea of putting his bed in the Thomas tent
and he really wanted the play kitchen in there too.

Whit got out the art supplies every chance he got.
This is a little note he made for his mom and dad.
I'll give it to them as soon as I find it.

Day One:

 Day Ten:
Fun surprises from Ben and Suz's trip!  Real flower leis, a palm frond crown and fish for
Jack and Luke, pineapple lollipops, lava rocks, and a small turtle and Hula dancer pin for Eliza
and Cat.  Oh, and Whit's favorite: Petey the Happy Pineapple, who is wearing an octopus.
(Not pictured: cacao beans, Hawaiian honey, delicious cookies, and a cool necklace for me.)

Thanks for sharing Whit with us during your trip, Ben and Suz!
And thank you for the gifts!

Weekend Fun

On Friday afternoon I took the younger kids to The Bounce House and they played happily on the inflatables, the rock climbing wall, and the Beam projector for almost two hours.  (Thanks for the punch pass, Suz!) I think their favorite thing was trying to bury each other in the foam pit at the rock climbing wall.  Can you spot all four kids in the top right picture?

We had great weather on Saturday, so Ben actually took the younger kids to a playground for a while in the afternoon before we started getting ready for Oma's concert.

But the weather did a 180 the next day, and a big snowstorm hit Sunday night.  We decided on an indoor activity for Monday (President's Day), taking all the kids to a little family fun center where we all have passes.  We played a game of laser tag and the kids took advantage of the free arcade games, but then we had to leave so Cat could get to her friend's house and Ben needed to go into the office.  Once I'd dropped off Cat, I thought I'd find something else to do with the younger kids.  I asked if they wanted to go sledding but they were adamant that they did NOT want to be in the snow.  It was too cold and they'd had enough of it.  They wanted to go back to the family fun center and enjoy more free arcade games (free because the arcade part of the facility is in a state of transition right now) and rock climbing and Frog Hopper riding.  So we did.  And they loved it, and they were sad again when we left the second time.

Oma's Concert

A few months ago, Oma asked me if Cat could perform at her Senior Living Apartment, since the activities coordinator regularly schedules musical acts to entertain the residents in the afternoons and evenings.  It was too late to get on the calendar for Christmas, so we looked ahead and saw that there was a time in February between the Junior and Senior Solo Festivals, which would be perfect.  Since Cat was learning two difficult pieces for her festival, I didn't have her try to put together an entire program by herself.  Oma said the typical program was between 30 and 60 minutes - that's a lot of music!  Thankfully, another family in our piano studio agreed to perform with our kids and the full program was about 35-40 minutes long.

It worked out perfectly that the younger kids' festival was the weekend before, so they'd learned their pieces already, and the older kids' festival is in a week, so those kids needed to practice performing anyway.  Unfortunately, though Jack and Eliza had both continued to play the pieces they competed with the previous weekend, Jack never did solidify his "Sonatina," so we decided to cut that.  And his "Wild Horseman" just wasn't sounding good the morning of the concert.  I told him he couldn't perform at Oma's if it wasn't really good, expecting that he might decide to bow out, but he didn't.  I decided that if he could play it three times almost entirely perfect, I'd let him perform.  He continued to work on this for about 20 minutes AFTER he'd done his 30 minutes of piano practice for the day, which really impressed me.  And he did a great job at Oma's, as all the kids did.

Oma wanted me to sing as well, so I asked Cat to learn the accompaniment to one of my tried-and-true performance favorites, "Caro Mio Ben," and then I put together a little jazz long-song medley of "Someone to Watch Over Me," "Fly Me To the Moon," and "Paper Moon," for which I also played the guitar.  The guitar playing wasn't great, but oh well.

Oma brought one of the three bouquets of roses she had in her room from Valentine's Day and the flowers adorned the piano beautifully.  She'd been asked to introduce the program, which she did, and the kids and I took over from there.

Ben had stayed home with Whit and Luke, thinking they would have more fun at the house than having to sit quietly and listen to Classical music.  But I was worried about Jack being able to behave during the 33 minutes he wasn't performing (he struggles during piano recitals).  Thankfully, bringing a book was the perfect answer and he didn't make a peep the entire time.

I didn't take any other pictures of the performance or try to make any videos, as I didn't feel I could without being very conspicuous.  But just trust me that it went well.  20 or so people were in attendance and we received lots of positive comments.  Most importantly, Oma was pleased and before we left she started talking about doing it again.  Gladly!

Luke's Valentine's Day Preschool Program

Luke's Preschool Program on Valentine's Day was just adorable, with perfectly age-appropriate and holiday-appropriate songs and skits.  I loved it.

Luke started things off as the flag-bearer for the Pledge of Allegiance, which the preschoolers recited without any help from the adults.

Then he and his classmates did some great songs/dances for us.  He said his favorite was "If You're a Boy/If You're a Girl," but I'm pretty sure he just enjoyed the whole thing.  He was into it, grinning the whole time.

The little girl Luke Square Danced with was the one he told us he might ask to be his Valentine, but I don't think he ever went through with it.  Also, after the kids danced with their kid-partners, they were told to choose someone who came to see their performance to be their partner for a second round.  I tried to convince Whit to dance with Luke, but he wasn't interested, so Luke and I did the Square Dance together and it was so fun.

Excited to start the Square Dance!

Then the kids worked together to perform two skits based on clever fractured fairy tale children's books, The Paper Bag Princess and Falling for Rapunzel.  For the first, Luke was part of the dragon.  For the second, his job was to throw socks off of the tower.  (It will make sense if you read the book.)

And they closed with another great song, perfect for a kid to sing to his mom on Valentine's Day, "Skinnamarinky Dinky Dink." 

Once the program was over, there was a quick Valentine exchange, and Luke thoroughly enjoyed all of the treats he received from his friends and teachers!  (The bummer of the day was that he dropped his entire bag of Jolly Rancher Lollipop Valentines on the sidewalk as we were walking into school, so many of them got completely crushed.  Oh well.  Hopefully the kids still enjoyed the little candy bits.)

Happy Preschool Valentine's Day!

Can you Feel the Love?

The Monday before Valentine's Day we had a little Family Home Evening and named things we love about each child.  Since Whit is staying with us while Ben and Suz are traveling right now, he got his own heart too.  It was sweet to hear what the kids said about each other.

Cat: I love her; I love her faith; I love how she does her hair; I love her songs; She's smart

Jack: He's so fast; I love how he always keeps trying; I love how funny he is; I love that he's willing to help a little bit; He's playful and cuddly like a puppy

Eliza: I love that she is my friend; I love how kind and smart she is; I love that she loves babies and children; I love that she's all about math; She plays with me a lot

Whit: I love how imaginative he is; I like how his favorite thing almost in the entire world is friends; I love that he's fun and playful; He has a funny laugh; He goes with the flow when he comes over

Luke: I love that he plays cards; I love that he loves to learn; I love that he's crazy; He is such a good reader; He's my little buddy

Tuesday night I made a Hershey-Kiss-shaped Rice Krispies Treat for each kid, with his/her name on it.  It was a fun little surprise for them on Wednesday morning but the treats were so big that none of the kids ended up finishing them, haha.  Many of them were hardly eaten at all.  But that's okay.

I picked Whit up from Kindergarten just before Luke's Preschool Valentine's Program was to start, so Whit accompanied me to Luke's school.  The program was adorable and deserves its own post, so I'll share more about that later.  But here's a picture of Luke handing out Valentines for the first time.

Then it was time to get the other kids from school and everyone was really excited about all of the Valentine's Festivities and, of course, the candy.  Whit was also really proud of this sculpture he made during his class party.  I wanted to commemorate the day with an appropriate movie, so I turned on the new Cinderella, which the kids weren't really excited about, but they hung out with me anyway, watching the movie with varying degrees of interest (though they never lost interest in their Valentine's candy).  Only Eliza managed to stick with me through the whole movie.  Atta girl.

Jack and I came up with his shark box together and we love the way it turned out!

For dinner we had pink heart-shaped waffles with fresh whipped cream and strawberries.  I also attempted to make heart-shaped bacon again and failed once more.  I will conquer it one of these years.

(And for the record, Cat and Ben were around too, more or less, but didn't make it into any of the pictures.  Cat has a different morning schedule than the other kids, and she had a regular full day of school so she didn't get to watch the movie with us.  Then in the evening she rushed to eat a few bites of dinner before going to the temple with the Youth.  Ben had been out of town for a few days and arrived home just in time to change clothes and go to the temple as well, then he and Cat got home around 8:45 that night.  What a day for everyone!)

Valentine's Dinner 2018

On Sunday night we continued our Valentine's tradition of having a big, fun, fancy-ish fondue dinner followed by DANCING.  I think this was the biggest dinner we've ever had, both considering the amount of food and the number of people.  Ben, Suz, and Whit joined us, as well as our friends Tony and Teri.  It was great to share our little tradition with family and friends!

What fancy-ish dinner would be complete without sparkling cider?

Happy Couple #1

Happy Couple #2

Ms. Teri with the kids and the dessert spread.  Whoa mama, it was a spread.
Thank you to Uncle Ben for prepping all those strawberries!

We only lost one champagne flute in the course of the evening.
Lesson learned: Rey's staff should NOT be part of the dining experience.

When Tony was occupied prepping the bacon to be dipped in chocolate
(which was better than it sounds) Ben helped him enjoy some of the other dessert options.

Ben taught Tony how to brûlée the crème brûlée Suz brought.

Does flinging children on to the couch count as slam dancing?

I think it's safe to say a good time was had by all.
Plus, the dancing helped work off all those calories, right?

Junior Piano Festival 2018

When the kids finished their fall piano recitals, they immediately began preparing for the February solo festivals.  We brought the music with us to St. George over Thanksgiving and to Florida over Christmas so that they'd be able to learn (and not forget) and do their best at the festival.

Jack learned his music pretty well at first, making progress really quickly.  "Wild Horseman" is fast and intense and right up Jack's alley.  He started learning "Sonatina" first, though, and loved playing the first page with its quick finger movements.  Unfortunately, the second page of "Sonatina" is just a variation of the first page, with the same themes arranged a little differently and in a different key, and he ended up getting confused in the last few weeks as he finished learning the whole piece.  So unfortunately, that one wasn't as good as the other one.

The interesting thing was, though, that his performance for the judge was one of his best ones.  Even though he was shaky on "Sonatina" he really did about as well as he could.  I think he might have Cat's natural performance ability, doing well under pressure.

Eliza learned a simple piece called "Allegretto 2" from her Suzuki book, which only gave her trouble because of the sixteenth notes/eighth notes and it was a little tricky to remember which part she was in because it was so repetitive.  The other piece, "Lullaby" had some tricky parts but it helped that the opening theme repeated three times with the notes being identical.

Eliza was pretty solid on both pieces and I was hoping she'd finally have a really great showing for the judge.  But, alas, nerves to got to her, and she had to start over a few times.  I guess not everyone can be blessed with calm and presence of mind during a performance.  Hopefully practice and maturity and experience will help.

I made the above videos Saturday morning, just before the festival.  Eliza's time slot was first, then we had extra time before Jack's judging, so we got our post-performance treat a bit early.  No complaints about that.  Then when we arrived at the store where Jack would be performing (they have a recital hall in the store) they were about 25 minutes behind, so Jack had lots of time to play his pieces on the various pianos on the showroom floor.

I'm really proud of the work both of them did to prepare for this festival!  And even though there were definitely complaints during the learning process, when we selected music for them to learn for their spring recital in May, they both chose pieces that are noticeably harder than their festival pieces.  Here we go again...