Wednesday, March 31, 2010

2nd Place Parents

I think every parent wants their child to succeed. In all their extra-curricular activities and even the not so extra ones, you want them to do their best and feel that all their effort paid off with the promised end result of first place. First place comes with many benefits; trophies, ribbons, bragging rights, and sometimes continued competition.

The continued competition is why Gary and I are terrific second place parents. We love to support our kids in whatever they choose to do. We run them back and forth from school. We buy the miscellaneous supplies they need to be successful. We take long lunches volunteering with their activities. We attend performances, competitions, exhibits, you name it. We cheer. We take pictures. We tell our friends and family and neighbors.

And then we secretly hope for second place. Second place has amazing benefits. Second place says you did a fabulous job. Second place says you can keep trying next year to get even better. Second place says, most importantly, you have more free time because the competition has come to an end. That is why we are second place parents.

Our boys are not doing so well with the second place theory lately. It started with the science fair. Tom and Logan both entered. Their projects had to be completed at school. There would be one night that they would be displayed and you could see how you fared. I loaded up the boys, crossed my fingers, and headed for the school. There is always that knot in my stomach when they both are competing for something. What if one wins and the other doesn't even place? What if they both win? What if they both lose? I always have some sort of parenting lecture running around in my head, ready to give at any moment depending on the outcome.

We walked into the science fair and saw Logan's display first. Honorable Mention. Not bad and, more importantly, it was an award that didn't mean more competition. We had to explain to him that it didn't mean last place but more like third place since they only awarded first and second place.

We continued looking until we found Tom's project with a big fat first place award. There it was, larger than life, staring at me, taunting, telling me there would now be a regional competition to look forward to. I tracked down the teacher in charge and learned that it would be in Prescott, Arizona the night we had already booked a hotel room in Flagstaff, Arizona. Opposite directions from our house. The awards ceremony would be that night at 5:00 and they wouldn't let us know before hand if we needed to be there. If we were going to Flagstaff just for the fun of it, we would have easily changed our hotel to Prescott and played there instead. We weren't going for the fun of it.

We had booked our hotel room in Flagstaff because the boys needed to be at their Odyssey of the Mind competition by 8:00 the next morning. There would be no science fair the night before for us. We would just have to ask how it turned out.

Odyssey of the Mind is an amazing program. The team of kids are given a problem that they need to solve through a sort of play. Logan's team would be presenting their problem but they didn't actually compete because they were the Primary - or young - team. The seven kids from first and second grade had to come up with a surprise party that wasn't a normal party and it had to have gifts and unique noisemakers. The kids do it all. They write the script, sew the costumes, and make the props. It was awesome! They all did such a good job and it was incredible to see what the kids could do on their own.

Tom's problem was a food court where one food was accusing another food of being unhealthy. They had to create their set, costumes, script, and a jury that wasn't one of the team members. Tom had spent countless hours after school working on everything with his team. His science fair project was about using batteries to light up bulbs so he incorporated it into the jury box. The time came for their performance -they are only about eight minutes long - and they brought all their props into the room in time. They are only given a short amount of time for everything to be in before they are penalized. They then can set up their props and begin their performance. Everything was in - everything except the jury box. Tom was devastated but they acted like nothing happened and the performance was great.

The awards ceremony began and finally Tom's group was announced. The top two teams go on to State in Tucson and, if a team took first place in one of the judging categories but didn't place first or second, they would also go on to State competition. Sixth, fifth, and fourth place were announced. We still had a shot that this would end here with great memories and plans for next year. Nope. Their team took first place in style and took third overall so they would also be going on in April. The long hours would continue. The Friday practices would continue. The hotel rewards points would continue to add up. Off to State we go in April.

Next came the Pinewood Derby. Once again Tom and Logan would be competing. It was Logan's first time and he had a design all ready for his car. They raced by dens first. Tom took second in his Webelos den. Logan didn't lose a race. First in the Wolf den. Next came the overall races between the four dens. Logan didn't lose a race. First place overall. The regional competition was in Flagstaff at 9:00 the next morning. Gary loaded the racers and Dylan in the car and left at the crack of dawn. Tom didn't place in his class but did win a couple heats. Logan didn't lose a race in the Wolf classification. First place among all the Wolf scouts. Overall races began and Logan finally tasted a bit of defeat but still placed fifth overall with over 120 cars competing. Not bad! State competition is in Phoenix the week before we head to Tucson. We've finally had to call it quits. No state competition for us. It's actually open to everyone so it will be more like a pack Pinewood Derby with fast and not so fast cars competing.

Gary and I are ready for some free time. We are ready to not be running all over the state for competitions. But......if Tom wins at State......Worlds are in May in Minnesota I think and what a memory that would make. We love seeing their success and we love they are enjoying competing. Maybe we should start being better first place parents?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Yummy Dinner

I sign up for a fruit and vegetable co-op every two weeks called Bountiful Baskets. It's amazing. you never know what you are going to get and it often leads me to new recipes in order to use some of the ingredients. This past week I ordered an Asian pack in addition to the regular things. It came with Napa cabbage, bok choy, ginger, mushrooms, cilantro, and garlic and maybe some other stuff that I can't remember right now. Anyway, it led me to a new recipe tonight that was yummy! Even the boys ate it and ate more than most nights. I was a bit worried just making salad for dinner but it seemed to satisfy everyone's appetites and it was very healthy. Try it, your family may love it as much as mine did!

Chinese Chicken Salad Recipe from Simply Recipes
1/2 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast, sliced into strips

Salt and pepper
1/2 head of Napa cabbage, thinly sliced

1/2 red bell pepper, thinly sliced

3-4 scallions, sliced (I used green onions and only used about half what they called for even though we like onions)

1 carrot, julienned

1/2 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves, chopped

2 Tbsp sesame seeds, toasted (These are usually pretty inexpensive in the Asian - NOT SPICE - aisle of the grocery store and you can buy them already toasted or toast them in a dry pan on the stove for a few minutes stirring often.)


2 Tbsp tamari (a wheat-free concentrated soy sauce, can also use 3 Tbsp regular soy sauce)

2 Tbsp dark sesame oil (I only had regular sesame oil and it worked for us.)

2 Tbsp seasoned rice vinegar (or plain rice vinegar with a teaspoon of sugar)

1 Tbsp grapeseed or canola oil (I used canola and it worked just fine. Grapeseed was pretty expensive here.)

1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon chili pepper flakes

1 Sprinkle chicken strips with a little salt and pepper and cook them in a small skillet with a little bit of water (just enough so the chicken doesn't stick). Cover and cook until cooked through (3-5 minutes), turning the pieces over half way through cooking. Drain and set aside.
2 In a large salad bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients. Adjust to taste. Add the chicken and salad ingredients and toss well. (If you don't have toasted sesame seeds for the salad, add a tablespoon of tahini or peanut butter to the dressing before tossing.)
Serves 4.