20 November 2018

Movie Memory Lane

We have been watching old musicals around here, mostly checking out from the library. It started with Mary Poppins, which we watched because one of the girls' friends dressed up as her for Halloween (and coincidentally so did our cousin's family, which we saw on Facebook later!). The girls both liked it, and Jane especially liked that the little girl was named Jane! The songs were a big hit, and we've listened to the sound track multiple times (it's available free with Amazon Prime music). It was just a REALLY long movie, at more than 2.5 hours. Many scenes could have been edited tighter and some eliminated. But times have changed, as have attention spans I guess?! Jane had no trouble watching it all the way through, but Livia was bored in some parts. Not sure if we'll try to see Mary Poppins Returns in theaters, but I do look forward to watching it at some point.

From there we watched Bedknobs and Broomsticks and then Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, which is one I probably had seen at Great Aunt Norma Lee's house because we would rent and watch movies often when we would stay there. CCBB wasn't a favorite, but it does have a couple of great songs. It too was a LONG movie, nearly 3 hours, and could have used editing even more than Mary Poppins. The first copy we got was scratched, so we had to track down another copy at a different library branch. And just yesterday I noticed it's available on Amazon Prime, so Jane wants to watch it again. Since we're on Thanksgiving break we plan to do that this afternoon (starting before Livia gets up from her nap so she doesn't have to watch ALL of it again, even though I'm sure she'd say she does want to see it all).

I've started thinking about other movies that were old when I watched them as a kid that Jane hasn't seen. She's kind of sensitive and gets scared easily (let's not talk about The Grinch - Jim Carrey version - shall we?), but the older movies, especially musicals, seem to have enough whimsy and make it clear what's pretend scary (or even what they try to show as scary is just silly when it's being sung!).

There's The Wizard of Oz, and also Heidi, the Shirley Temple version. I looked that up on Amazon and there was a DVD available for about $4, so Jane's getting that in her stocking! I know we watched a few other Shirley Temple movies on repeat, but I can't remember now. I'm sure I could find them just by looking at her Wikipedia page. Sound of Music is another one (and also LONG!) that Jane might enjoy. There are also a lot of Disney movies Jane hasn't seen (Beauty & the Beast, Lion King, etc.), and we can probably find those via the library.

Do you have any movie recommendations that would be suitable for a 7-year-old with a sensitive side -- either from when you were a kid or current favorites?

19 November 2018

Ramona Forever!

(I wonder if Johnny Depp got his Winona Forever tattoo because of it sounding like Ramona Forever? LOL, just kidding. And now it's "Wino Forever.")

One of Jane's birthday gifts was the complete set of Ramona books by Beverly Cleary. We've listened to the entire series on audio from the library (oh, how we love Overdrive!). Stockard Channing is the narrator and she is AMAZING. I would listen to anything she read, but sadly this is the only audiobook I could find that she has ever narrated. She doesn't even have a celebrity memoir! C'mon, Stockard, get on that! I tell everyone about the audio when it comes up -- it is really that good.

We have also worked our way through reading the series via the library. We've found there are different illustrators for different versions of the books. They were written over a span of 40 years or so (1950s until 1990s), but they keep being re-released with new illustrations. Jane likes the most recent illustrations best, probably because those are the main ones we've been reading. The set she got for her birthday has different/probably older illustrations, so when she re-reads them she'll get to see new-to-her pictures! (Livia is also "reading" them, which is pretty funny. She calls them "Mona" books.)

As a treat we checked out the Ramona & Beezus movie that came out a few years ago - we checked it out at the library. It was full of somewhat famous people, but it wasn't a good movie by any stretch of the imagination. They tried to cram in too many of the stories from the book into the movie, and do it within a month or so of Ramona's life onscreen. It was still fun to see some of our favorite stories acted out, and I think Jane liked it more than I did. Was a little disappointing.

I remember a Ramona movie or series or something that starred Sarah Polley when I was a kid. I may be mis-remembering, but the Ramona journal I had as a kid had her picture on it -- whether it was Sarah or a different actress. Aha! Wikipedia for the win, it was Sarah Polley! It looks like you can buy the series for $30 on an unknown-to-me website.

Jane and I are almost finished with Ramona's World, the final book in the series that came out in 1999 (!). We read a chapter or two each night before bed. After that we have plenty else to read, but Ramona will always, always, always have a special place in my heart. And I guess I'll get to read through them at least once more with my baby girl Livia!

18 November 2018

Sundays Are So Hard

Open Sunday
Sundays are my busy work days, even though I don't actually work!

We go to worship on Sunday mornings, then Sunday school afterward. Getting the kids out and where they need to be, back and forth, and keeping them mostly quiet and entertained is exhausting. I also record the sermon almost every week (I do have backup who did it while we were on sabbatical), so I'm moving the camera around and setting all that up. Then after we get home I have to edit, save and post the video to Vimeo using iMovie (not my favorite program). I also publish it 2-3 places on our website plus Facebook and Twitter, and I make a matching slider for the website home page. The video takes forever to save and upload -- such a time suck.

Each Sunday I write my weekly email about my girls that goes to their grandparents and some aunts and a cousin. That takes a long time to process photos and write about our week (using the photos to remember!), and sometimes I make a video mash up of the video clips I've taken in the week. (I have not done this today yet!)

Sunday evenings at 4:30 the girls have swim lessons. Luckily we have them in class at the same time (different teachers, same pool) so it's time efficient. But it's still one more thing to do and a time point/thing to rush to when I'm usually not quite finished with things when it's time to start getting suits on and into the car.

Today was a special church conference, so I had to go back to church at noon. That sucked up about an hour. I also still make the meals for everyone - lunch and supper (just sandwiches at lunch and leftovers at supper).

Jane has not been feeling well, and on Tuesday we had her well check at the doctor who said she had an ear infection. (She'd gone to urgent care last Sunday and they said it wasn't an infection -- I'm inclined to believe our pediatrician!) Our doctor prescribed an antibiotic but said since Jane was feeling better she might not need it. Well, Jane is still feeling bad and crying off and on. Although she says her ear doesn't hurt (but will sometime admit it feels weird), we're starting the medicine. So I had to go to the pharmacy to get it. It's not far away, but it's another errand to add -- about 15 minutes.

Livia had trouble falling asleep for her nap, so I had to rock her a little bit, even though Shawn was the one who put her down. That's just another 15-20 minutes eaten up (I do normal child care of course, but on the weekends I have Shawn's help and like to do LESS!).

Also today I had a special request to make a flier for a food drive being done at Jane's school for our church's food pantry. I like doing things like that, but it sucks up more time than I should let it (and I'm still not done).

There's a free (just pay $7 shipping) calendar on Shutterfly that I want to make, and I had to write this blog post. I stayed up too late last night watching SNL (which I didn't find that funny -- I turned it off after Weekend Update). OH! And I haven't read my Bible reading for today (that takes 30-45 minutes). At least we're in Acts, which is interesting and story-like. I have ONE more Rizolli & Isles to watch on Hulu, so I hope I can get everything done in time to do that!

Just hope the girls get in bed on time, that Jane falls asleep and STAYS asleep. We have a special church thing in the morning (thankfully no school all week so if she's sick we can manage without missing much). Shawn can stay home in the morning so I can still go/take Livia, but I really want Jane to come as she's finally old enough to understand what we're doing by buying other kids gifts so they can have a good Christmas. We still have Angel Tree kids to shop for, so I guess I can include her in that if this thing tomorrow doesn't work out.

After a nice, lazy day yesterday with only laundry, groceries and watching a DVD, today has been a real grind. And I'm ready for a rest.

17 November 2018

Eye Makeup Artistry

I fall down rabbit holes of time sucks on the Internet, and one of my favorites is Facebook video. I can scroll, scroll, scroll and watch (muted) videos of people making cakes, painting nails, giving various life hacks and tips, and -- maybe my favorite -- putting on makeup.

Krystal Clear Makeup might be my favorite of those. She has that vacant, weird stare after she puts on the makeup, but then just before the video ends she cracks and does a big smile that's so cute. She's also really good at putting on makeup!

Wedding Makeup Attempt
Unfortunately, I am NOT good at putting on makeup. I went to the Clinique counter to get some foundation -- so I could get the right color and hoping it would work better with my dry, aging skin. The stuff I bought is fine, and I'm nervous about going through it too quickly. It's very light, and I didn't realize how pale I really am -- it matches my neck according to the counter lady who helped me. It really covers up the redness I wasn't aware was so prominent. But it also makes me look a little chalky and highlights the "flaws" of my skin. If you don't look too closely though it looks great, so that's that. (I have a back-up CoverGirl foundation that I use too.)

Last night we went to a wedding of a church friend, and it was a fun, happy night. I didn't think about what to wear until this week, not wanting to buy something new when I have clothes in my closet that I rarely pull out. I wore a dress I hadn't worn in a while - white lacy top and black skirt, black tights and black oxford-type laced shoes (weird but fine -- my tall black boots I wanted to wear had disintegrated -- they were that "bonded" leather so had just fallen apart, much like our loveseat). I had my purple Turkish pashmina and my purple sparkle clutch purse (really only use at weddings because Mama likes to tote a LOT of stuff normally).

I put on makeup, and I tried a little "special" eye make up using various palettes I have, mostly from Clinique Bonus Time (although I don't normally wear makeup I have used moisturizer and eye cream from there for several years). It didn't turn out terribly, but neither was it great or really all that special. I need to watch more videos and practice more. It really is artistic, and I am not very artistic, especially with paints or things like that. I am also lazy and impatient, which isn't conducive to a good final product. Possibly I need different brushes for the different colors? And probably different sized brushes too.

Here's how my eyes looked at the end of the night and after I'd scrubbed them as much as I could:



16 November 2018

The Meaning of Thanksgiving

GOBBLE, GOBBLE
(When I typed the title I first wrote "meatning" -- what a funny Freudian slip ... although really it's just fat fingers trying to fly. I still need to buy my turkey for next week!)

Yesterday I went to Jane's class's Thanksgiving feast. All four first grade classrooms do that every year. Other grades do other holidays I guess -- Kindergarten was Spooky Science with Dad on Halloween, and we'll find out what the other grades do when we get there. Shawn couldn't come with me because the feast was scheduled during the time he teaches. It was OK on my own though, despite the fact that I feel the twin emotions of inadequate and better than when I'm around the higher class parents who predominantly make up the school we attend.

The program was very cute -- the kids had memorized poems, which they said together, and each had an individual part of a single poem said with two or three others from the class. Jane's part was about a wishbone and the poem was about pulling it, making a wish and the sister gets the bigger half. All of the kids remembered their parts and only a few were nervous (including Jane, who swayed while she recited, something I did EXACTLY when I was Mary in my ~5th grade Christmas play at school ... I remember someone asking me after if I was supposed to sway with the music like that ... nope!). Jane could still be heard and said every word in time!

A few things were problematic, just in the poem selections and the lack of curriculum that discusses the actual horrors of Thanksgiving -- the arrival of pilgrims and what it meant to the Native American populations. There were some cutesy lines about friendship and love between Indians and Pilgrims, and I understand that the full thrust of American history doesn't need to be on display at a first grade recital, but neither should it be sanitized in such a way that we forget (or in many cases have to wait and learn when we're much older, if we learn at all).

This Decolonizing Thanksgiving toolkit has popped up in several places online for me. I have briefly perused it but need to dive deeper, to learn for myself so I can talk about it more clearly and age appropriately with Jane, and possibly steel myself to make suggestions to the school (apparently schools because I saw some pictures from Livia's school's 3-year-old program and there were kids dressed as Indian caricatures and NO NO NO).

There were also a few poems that were subtly sexist -- making fun of "bumbling dad" for not carving the turkey well and being preoccupied with football on Thanksgiving. #NotAllDads? It was minor, but for whatever it's worth (not much), my brain is in tune to spot things like that. If not able to articulate WHY I can at least notice them and realize I'm uncomfortable with it for SOME reason. It was a weird deal.

The feast itself was Chik-Fil-A chicken nuggets, fruit and mini bundt cakes (i.e. the most expensive cupcakes possible, which they asked for by name). I brought half the needed mini waters. My kid is one of the few who does not like chicken nuggets, so it was a struggle. She hasn't been eating breakfast lately (says her stomach hurts so it probably does -- maybe from the ear ache), so I negotiated her to eat one nugget. She had a cookie and one of the bundt cakes, and although multiple kids were having multiple treats the girls across from us pointed out Jane eating two, as if I was supposed to stop her or say something. I have some thoughts/feelings about that too, but no time to unpack them now!

15 November 2018

Books for a Younger Me

Books from Flickr via Wylio
© 2007 Heather R, Flickr | CC-BY-SA | via Wylio
We've joined a new Sunday school class, and it's still trying to find its footing. We left our previous class after the sabbatical mainly because we wanted a more progressive study of Scripture. I know it's hurt some feelings, and I am disappointed because I loved the people in our previous class and have deep relationships with them. We still see them, of course, our church isn't so big that you can really avoid anyone if you wanted. But it's a different season in our life and things change. Minneapolis certainly changed us.

Anyway, in the new class we're trying out different things and one we're considering is The Wired Word, a resource that takes current events and turns them into Sunday school lessons. For $80/year the leader gets a weekly email with a LOT of information plus discussion questions about 2-3 topics. The one we looked at this last week was about books and their impact on us as people of faith.

One of the questions that stumped me was something like "What book (other than the Bible) do you wish you'd read at a younger age?" Others in the class had good answers, but because of my Swiss cheese memory and despite being a pretty voracious reader, I couldn't think of a good answer. Even now a few days later I don't have a single book I could point to. (One that did come to mind but is not the point is my favorite breastfeeding book by Dr Jack Newman and how I wish I'd had that resource when I was in my nursing relationship with Jane!)

Something I wish I had been more aware of is the colonization of Native Americans in our country. I grew up in a place called Indiahoma, i.e. home of the Indians, and had many classmates and friends who were of Native descent. My attitudes toward them were not always fair, especially when they received school supplies and shoes from the government. Knowing what I do now changes my perspective significantly. But I'm not sure a kid brain could process it fully? But I certainly could have been a less snotty little kid to others!

There's no one book I can point to that's shifted my thinking on this or other matters. But I have read books! I also follow people on social media, especially Twitter, who open my eyes to others' experiences and how words and actions matter.

I signed up to be a Reconciling United Methodist today (who knew you could do that?!), and I think the new Sunday school class will work together to gain a reconciling designation as well. It's a small step toward a reconciling CONGREGATION, which I don't see happening for our church any time soon as much as I wish it would. I will continue to seek steps to seek justice and reconciliation for all people within the United Methodist Church.

14 November 2018

Pumpkin Hats and Thank You Notes

I haven't been crocheting much, but I did make a monkey hat for the new sibling of some friends I'd made monkey hats for the first three kids. And I made a couple pumpkin hats -- one for Livia and one for a friend from her school who had a pumpkin-themed birthday party (I also gave her a pumpkin book from the book fair). I didn't get to see the reaction when it was opened, and I haven't seen the mom since, but I hope they liked it. Livia's is super cute, and it's actually cool enough right now to wear hats here!

Jane had her party, so we're slowly working our way through thank you notes. It's so important to me to express gratitude in a written form, even if Jane said thanks when she opened the gift at the party. (And some of the children had left by the time she started opening.) Jane's 7 so can write and is writing the notes. She's also drawing pictures and making it take entirely too long! But they will get done.

The parties we've gone to recently - both for Liv and Jane - haven't come with thank you notes afterward. Some of that is definitely logistics - without an address or a reliable way to give notes what's the point? And another, probably bigger, part is culture - it's not that important here to give written thanks for something small like a $10 birthday gift.

I'm OK with that, but as for me and my girls we'll keep writing our notes!

Edit to add: We got a thank you note for the pumpkin party! The mom didn't know who gave which presents but she did send thank you notes!

13 November 2018

Seasonally Appropriate

frost on the windshield from Flickr via Wylio
© 2013 liz west, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio
We lived in Minneapolis during our sabbatical, and I sadly barely blogged about it. I intended to write posts about each of the major (and minor) tourist attractions we visited - what we liked, what we didn't like, tips for them, etc. And *maybe* I still will? Could be good NaBloPoMo fodder.

While there we had very different wardrobes, especially for the girls. We stayed long enough that the cold broke and we were there for a nice spring and verging-on-hot summer. So we got rid of most of the cold-weather gear and clothes, including the girls' snow boots, snow pants and heavy coats.

Unfortunately I also garage saled/consigned/donated all of the layering shirts I had bought for Jane. I'm sure I was mainly thinking that she'd outgrow them before we would need them down here, and also I was trying to "cut weight" and eliminate some things to make packing easier to come home. But I didn't make a mental (or real) note that I would eventually need to replace the long sleeve shirts for Jane!

Enter: COLD SNAP.

Today the high was 43, and it stayed that way all day basically. It's not like I didn't know it was coming, but rather I thought I had long sleeve layering shirts in a bag of Minneapolis clothes (because you know I saved ALL the cute, fleecy pajamas). There were a couple of long pants, some sweatshirts (that aren't uniform-approved) and the jams, but no layering shirts.

Jane went to school today in a tank, her jumper, a sweatshirt (from the used uniform sale), long pants and her jacket, which isn't that warm on its own and she will soon outgrow it too. BLAST these uniform restrictions (must be black or grey, must have the logo attached).

I went to Old Navy and bought 4 layering tops and a couple more bottoms. It was weirdly busy on a Tuesday, although I guess it was during the lunch hour? It was a crowded, yucky feeling store (you know the type with clothes strewn everywhere), but I was able to find what I needed even though the sales weren't THAT great. There's some kind of "Old Navy bucks" deal going on, but the cashier didn't give me mine even though I spent more than $25. ANNOYING.

12 November 2018

They Mean Well...

On Facebook, when I posted about my mermaid tail cake someone posted "#nailedit," which is a hashtag of things that are definitely NOT good, meaning you jokingly "nailed" it and in reality failed. At the party we laughed about it and she said I should really do a "#nailedit" post with my cake side-by-side with the professional photo I was trying to copy. I was really proud of the cake, so that hurt my feelings a little. (And if I made it again I could do it a lot better!) But here you go:



At church on Sunday I wore my hair down and curly, something I can do when it's A) clean and the weather is B) not hot and humid. (So those don't align too often.) The top is starting to get VERY grey and silvery. I spend some time thinking about whether to start dying or to just grey gracefully. (I've written about that before...)

ANYWAY (a different) someone asked me what was putting all that grey in my hair. I laughed and pointed to Liv and said "her and the other one." She laughed too, and I said something about thinking about dying my hair, not sure about it, whatever. She is an older lady with almost fully grey hair, and she laughed and said "OH NO! God doesn't make mistakes. He put that grey hair there for a reason." It was the weirdest thing. Like God would be opposed to me dying my hair? (As if!) Or my hair matters one way or another?

I don't know, it didn't sit well with me, and I've been thinking about it off and on. When my hair's pulled back in a pony or bun the grey isn't as noticeable (although it's definitely still there, and if I have a part it's visible no matter how the hair is behind it. My reasoning behind not dying my hair has nothing to do with thinking God made a mistake (or anything about God really). It's more about sheer laziness and cheapness, because good-looking colored hair takes time and money.

11 November 2018

Making a 7 Pinata

The rough pinata from cardboard and tape
Jane said she wanted a pinata for her birthday party, so I started pricing them. They were like $30 unfilled. For something that was so temporary and destined for the trash I thought I would make my own instead. I'm not sure it saved money, if you consider that my time has monetary value (does it?), but it was a fun project and worked out OK. Originally Jane thought a mermaid or mermaid tail would be a good pinata shape, but I didn't like the idea of hitting something person-like (not to mention that shape would have been way too hard to make at home!).

Shawn had been in a fender bender (he wasn't at fault, and he and his car are fine now), so we got new car seats. So I had plenty of big cardboard lying around. I used my X-Acto knife (purchased in Minneapolis when I made Jane's slap bracelet Valentine cards) and cut out two 7 pieces, plus the same width pieces to make it 3-dimensional. I left a flap on the top to be able to put candy and treats in.

I initially used scotch tape to close everything together, and I added some packing tape for extra security (probably unnecessary because the pinata was very hard for the kids to break in the end).

Finished pinata - pennies for scale?
For decoration I used tissue paper -- cut into strips and then the edges cut to make fringe. I used "mermaid" colors of teal, pink and purple. Jane helped me decide on the placement. I used tape to put the tissue paper on in layers, although glue stick might have worked too. Crepe paper would have been another good alternative, since it's already in a strip. But tissue is what I had lying around! I used some shiny purple tissue paper for the flat parts on the bottom (bottom square and the underside of the bar) so bare cardboard wouldn't show and so I didn't need to have fringed paper all the way on the bottom. I did most of the project while watching TV.

I poked holes in the top to put rope through for a handle, and Shawn was able to hang it from a tree using some cotton rope we had from our sledding days.

I probably should have roughed up the bottom of the pinata a little bit to give it a chance of breaking. As it was each kid got a turn with the "bat," which was a wooden closet rod. The pinata was hanging a LITTLE too high for my tastes, but not as high as Shawn had it at first! He finished it off and in the end the top is what busted to another mom flipped it over while the kids scrambled for candy on the ground.

Parents joked I should have filled it with our leftover Halloween candy. If I'd been smart (and if my kids hadn't been sick!) I could have gotten candy and treats at rock bottom prices after Halloween. As it was I had some gummy bears (Halloween themed) that Jane picked out, some Hershey Kisses and Dum Dum suckers (also Jane's choice). I like the idea of non-candy treats too. I gave each kid a brown bag to put their loot in. We also gave away "mermaid swag" at the party, so the candy was just a bonus treat.

Jane seemed to like the pinata, and I think she appreciated the work I put into it. A 7 is an easy shape to make. I don't think I could make anything with curves. According to tutorials you need to get corrugated cardboard that will bend, and probably tracking that down would cost as much as a finished pinata! What I'm saying is I won't be making a 3 or an 8 for next year's parties!

The pinata as hanging decoration

10 November 2018

Seventh Birthday Party, Mermaid Style

The weak ass decorations
By the time it came to decorating for Jane's party I was kind of over it and half-assed things. We decorated the sun room and I did the crepe paper on the awning by the back door (otherwise plenty of people, including me, would bonk their heads). We did some tissue paper fish and this swirly crepe paper swag I'd bought from Oriental Trading and called it a day.

Because it was so chilly (forecasted high 56), I figured we might be inside some so I set up a coloring station by tearing apart a mermaid dollar store color book and getting out the girls' crayons and markers. No one used the coloring station, although plenty of people came inside and played in the living room. There's a draw to other people's toys, and it was a mess! I should have put toys away or at least gotten out things with fewer pieces! Ha.

The food.
For food we had a popcorn machine with the bounce house (and chairs and tables), and I made hot chocolate in the crock pot, had chips, carrots and ranch dip and a "7" cheese plate of grapes, sliced cheese and crackers (all things I already had/not specially bought for the party). The hot chocolate (with marshmallows, of course) was a major hit, and the kids ran through it quickly. I also made a pot of decaf, and several adults did half hot chocolate and half coffee. YUM. I quick made half a batch again, although it didn't really get hot (the recipe calls for 2 hours of low cooking time). The kids didn't mind and basically drank chocolate milk.

The pull apart cupcake cake was a hit, although I forgot to take it out of the fridge early enough so the frosting was pretty set up still and it was hard to pull the cupcakes apart. (We used a spoon, although a knife would have worked much better.)

7 Pinata by Mari
The homemade 7 pinata was a good thing too, and I liked it as decoration too. I built it a little TOO sturdy, as it was hard for it to come apart, and in the end the top was what busted and we tipped it over to release the candy (Hershey Kisses, gummy bears and dum dum suckers - Jane's choices).

Everyone went home with a few pieces of candy, some mermaid-themed swag (pencil, stamper, glow bracelets from Halloween clearance, punch balloon and mermaid craft). Jane got some very nice gifts and had a mostly good time. There was some scuffling, as happens when over-sugared kids are in a tight, bouncy space! But in the end she was glad to see all her friends and is bouncing as long as possible until the rental guys come to pick up the bouncy castle.

Bouncy castle of our dreams

09 November 2018

Mermaid Pull Apart Cake

Jane got the idea for a mermaid party by looking at the Oriental Trader catalog, so we've run with the idea as best we can. We have mermaid-themed goodie bags, and her invitation had a mermaid on it. The bounce house place didn't have a mermaid-themed bouncer, but they did have a castle that we decided could look like it's under-the-sea. (If the rain doesn't stop we'll really BE under the sea for crying out loud. It is supposed to be clear and cool tomorrow.)

Cooling cupcakes
For the cake Jane originally wanted a sheet cake with mermaid pictures on it. I MAYBE could have done something like that (using cut outs or toys on the top), but after a perusal of Pinterest I found a cupcake pull apart cake in the shape of a mermaid tail. I showed Jane several versions, heavily influencing her to pick the one I liked/thought looked best and easiest. I also liked the idea of a cupcake pull apart cake in the shape of a 7 using the mermaid colors of teal, pink and purple, but she liked the tail better. So here we go!

I baked two boxes of cupcakes, and I got 23 out of each box. I used an ice cream scoop I bought specifically for this project to try to keep the cupcakes the same size. It didn't really work because I was impatient and sloppy. But in the end it was OK. I let them cool while Liv and I went to her Spanish class, ate lunch and she laid down for her nap.

I'd made the buttercream frosting Wednesday -- I made it and the chocolate frosting for Jane's birthday birthday cake on the same day. One batch of chocolate and three batches of vanilla -- dyed two batches pink and split the third between teal and purple. I was making the frosting just before we left to go to supper at church on Wednesday, and I couldn't find my specifically purchased food dye. (It was with the party favors instead of in the pantry!) So I put the buttercream in the fridge, went to our meal and came back to try to dye it. I let it warm up but not enough -- dying it was SUPER hard. Today I left the frosting out all morning -- so probably 4 or 5 hours -- so the icing was smooth and spreadable, and I could have easily added the dye today. Oh well. (Remember how anti-food dye I once was? I still am, but I've kind of given in somehow and not sure how to return to my puritan ways.)

In formation!
After Liv laid down I got to work. I tried laying out empty cupcake wrappers to get an idea of how the cake would look, but they didn't hold their shape. So when I was ready to frost I just laid out the cupcakes, following my inspiration picture. I had read some tips online, so I knew they might slip around. I didn't want to waste icing (or make things even messier when we eventually EAT the cake), so I tried double sided tape on the cupcake wrapper bottoms to keep things stable. It didn't really work, but luckily the cupcakes didn't move around too much.

I had a ton of frosting, and I scooped it on before using my offset spatula to spread it around. I worked from top to bottom - purple, teal and pink. I added white sparkle sanding sugar and then tried to pipe on scales and details like the picture. I had bought a Dollar Tree piping bag to try, and it was the PITS. My frosting was too thick and it broke the "reusable" bag. I salvaged what frosting I could into a regular piping bag (because of course I got those too) and almost ran out. In retrospect I should have laid out my lines with a knife -- just sculpting it in the frosting before I piped on the lines. I've seen videos where they do that for details, and it's such a smart idea. Luckily Jane doesn't mind unrealistic scales! I also need to buy more couplers to use with the regular piping bags -- I only had one, even though I have many types of tips.

The finished product!
I made quite a mess of the kitchen and had enough frosting left over for the 10 extra cupcakes that I didn't use. (Nine are available for the party -- I snuck one of the butter yellow ones -- YUM.)

I used a cake box made for a sheet cake, and it worked fine. I didn't get the cake exactly centered, but it's not bad. The box was able to fold up around it, and there's a lid. I put the whole thing in the fridge -- will take it out before the party to come to room temperature, but this way it will stay fresher I guess?

Not sure how eating the cake will go, and I definitely could have made things neater and prettier (those scales will haunt me). But it was fun to research and execute, and Jane is happy! Hope it's a hit at the party!

08 November 2018

A Perfect Age

The two-layer chocolate cake I made this morning.
Seven is my favorite number. I like crossing it when I write the numeral. I like 14 as well, which is 7+7. Jane thinks that's pretty funny -- that I have a favorite number plus I like its double. (She's learning about doubles now, in addition to lots of great math skills.)

Today Jane is 7.

I don't know that it will be the perfect age, but I know we will hold on by our fingernails and toenails whatever it brings us. After being sick last week she's been even grumpier and grouchier than usual. My Baby Center email today wishing her a happy birthday said seven is a great age -- kids are more independent but still look up to you and seek your guidance. Maybe Jane is ahead of the curve, because she HATES when I tell her what to do. So I'm doing my best to regulate myself and give her the chance to do what she needs to do without me nagging.

Jane and I ate lunch together at her school. It was fun to drop in and spend time with her in the middle of the day. She got new Chucks from her grandparents, something she'd wanted after seeing a classmate's high tops, so I wore mine too.

We're planning to hit up the Knock Knock Museum after school (there's a special mini book making class, and she can do it because she's not scheduled for play rehearsal today). Tonight we'll have supper at Red Robin ... yum! ... because we have a free kids meal coupon (and Jane loves it). We'll eat the cake and open presents from us this evening too.

The birthday party is Saturday. It's supposed to be dry but cold. We'll have a bouncer in the back yard (really hoping the lawn people will come and take care of the leaves and grass in time -- Shawn told them about the party, and it needs to be done). We'll have hot chocolate and hot popcorn plus inside activities. Oh, and I made a #7 pinata (which will be its own post). I'm trying to scale back the food -- was planning to do cheese, grapes and crackers in the shape of a 7, chips, carrots and ranch dip, etc. Of the 12 girls in Jane's class only 2 RSVP'ed (one yes, one no). Perhaps first grade is when all-class parties are less of a thing? We invited plenty of non-school friends, so we won't be alone at the party. But still a weird deal.

A birthday girl and a birthday balloon. My heart, my love, my baby girl.



07 November 2018

Nightmares

We are on the other side of mid-terms; election results were not surprising to me. Here all of the people I voted for lost, and only a few of the amendment votes went the way I wanted. I'm heartened by the Democratic control of Congress, and I hope there will be SOME kind of check and balance of this terrifying, authoritarian presidency.

The most disheartening thing is the gerrymandering and how, once again, Democrat candidates as a whole received many more votes than Republicans. It's just that the Republicans drew the maps to be sure their candidates have a stronger hold. I realize a vote for Candidate A is not always a vote for Party B, but it's still a disgusting reminder of the crappiness of this system.

Some white guy on Twitter posted something like "elections are important, but remember than 99.9% of your every day life will not change based on what happens tonight." I saw that retweeted with comment so many times dissing it because what a privilege to say that. And that's *probably* true for me, but it would take one bad accident, one diagnosis, one job loss to put me in a bad situation. But even more than that I CARE ABOUT PEOPLE OTHER THAN MYSELF. I care deeply about the vulnerable populations of people who are being abused and mistreated by our government.

In another kind of nightmare, I had a "divorce dream," not necessarily about an actual divorce but certainly dreaming about Shawn leaving me for another, younger, beautiful woman. There's nothing in my life to suggest that actually happening other than my insecurities and general misfiring brain. But it still tinges my day with sadness even though it isn't real. The human brain is wild, man.


06 November 2018

Mortality in a Kids Book

A Special Trade
Livia picked out this book when we were at the main library on Saturday. There was no reason to get it other than it was at her eye level and was small. She pulled it off the shelf and said "I want this one." So we checked it out.

It's pretty long/wordy, but a nice story. I was not prepared though because it's about a girl and her old man neighbor, their friendship and how it changes as she grows up and he gets even older. I started crying while reading it out loud for the first time.

[Spoiler] The old man doesn't die in the book, which was what I was expecting/why I was crying. He has to start using a wheelchair, so their roles reverse from when he pushed her around in her stroller to now her pushing his wheelchair. It was still pretty emotional, at least to me. There's nothing like being a snotty mess while your kids look at you like you're a lunatic!

Jane's reading progress now is about fluency and looking for messages in the books she reads. What was the author trying to say and do you have a personal connection to the story? Jane started talking about her personal connection about her Popeye and his recent health things. (He fell in an open manhole and had a kidney stone, both of which have worried Jane terribly -- he is on the mend now from both things!)

But then as that sat with me I started thinking about loss and explaining that to a kid. I was lucky enough that all four of my grandparents lived until I graduated high school. When I graduated college I was down to two living grandparents, and when I finished grad school I had only my Gran left. She died when Jane was 3, so she got to directly know and love the person who made me a mama. I know she loves/loved/will love Livia too.

I recently read a couple great books about death -- Smoke Gets in Your Eyes and From Here to Eternity, both by Caitlin Doughty -- so it's been on my mind, at least the back of my mind. But this was my first time really connecting the idea that my daughters will EXPERIENCE loss like that and it shook me a little bit. It's just the nature of life, and how things go. But it wasn't something I was expecting to be confronted with when reading to my girls from a random, 1978 library book.

05 November 2018

Germs, Germs Go Away

Love is in the air 80/366 from Flickr via Wylio
© 2012 Dennis Skley, Flickr | CC-BY-ND | via Wylio
Shawn came home from his trip sounding worse than all of us -- coughing and very hoarse. I hope he gets better soon, and I pity his students who have to listen to him tomorrow. Jane returned to school today and is feeling better, although she's still having attitude issues -- just rage-y and very mad about things for no apparent reason. No sure if that has to do with being sick, being almost-7, Daddy being away for a few days, or too much Halloween candy. I am dealing with a raging headache and some cold symptoms, but nothing like the hard, hurting cough the others have ... so far.

So it seems like we're all on the mend, or at least not getting worse.

Until about 10:30 last night when I was getting into bed and Livia started crying. I went in and she was very warm. At first I thought it was being buried in blankets in too hot jams. I changed her dipe, cooled her off but she was still warm so got the thermometer -- 101 fever. Tylenol, cooler jams and back to bed. She cried off and on more in the night -- laid in our bed for a while before the Tylenol worked to break the fever and she wanted to get back in her crib to sleep.

This morning she woke up still warm, so more Tylenol. She was lethargic and didn't eat much breakfast. She laid on the couch and watched Daniel Tiger for an hour, then got up and played/acted almost normal. She ate a good lunch then took a solid nap. When I got her up for Jane's carpool she was happy and seemed fine. By the time we got back home she was very warm again -- 102! -- so more Tylenol and now she's back on the couch.

I have SO MUCH to do for Jane's party this Saturday (at our house/in the back yard so I need to clean the house/hide a lot of clutter and toys -- pray the forecast holds and no rain on Saturday so we can definitely be outside for the bounce house!). I can't really handle Livia being home from school and get everything I need to do done without driving myself crazy. So I guess crazy is what I'll be, at least tomorrow. And I hope Livia can fight off whatever new germ this is so she can get back to school for Wednesday and Thursday.

04 November 2018

What to Expect at Trick-or-Treat Down the Row at LSU

I took the girls to Trick-or-Treat Down the Row at LSU's Sorority Row for the first time this year. I kept googling, thinking I would find a post about what to expect, where to park, etc. But nothing other than a few LSU communications posts that were vague and mainly about cute costumed kids and some departments that come out to pass out candy too. So I thought I'd write what I found out after checking it out last Sunday.

The parking was kind of a madhouse and what I was most worried about. We were lucky because Shawn just dropped us off then went to his office before picking us up. There's a parking lot by the U-Rec, the student recreation center - and where Shawn works out, very close to the south side of the row. We were able to pull in there so we could get the girls out of their car seats.

We were only able to stay for one hour, from 3-4, although the event goes 3-5. By the time we left in the middle the parking situation was insane -- people parked on the grass and lots completely full. There was a police officer at the barrier blocking the street for pedestrians, but it didn't seem like parking tickets were being given out. There might be more parking on the other side near U-High, but we only saw that end of things on foot and didn't make it to any parking lots.

The event itself was really fun, and an hour was almost enough time to see everything. The LSU athletic department was at the Lod Cook Hotel parking circle, at the opposite end of where we started. They had lots of activities that took more time, but Jane only did a couple (throwing a football with football players and bouncing a volleyball with volleyball players). If we hadn't been in a time crunch because of swim lessons at 4:30 we could have stayed until 5. Some of the houses had activities like crafts or face painting. The girls did one pumpkin craft but we didn't wait in any face paint lines (it would wash off at swimming anyway so I didn't have to fight with them about it).

We did go up to every house and get candy. For the most part the candy was just fine. When we sorted it -- mainly non-chocolate candies, although there were some Reese's and Snickers. The girls were just happy to have full pumpkins for their effort -- and they like non-chocolate candy just fine. At most of the houses the kids would stop at multiple girls (or boys) to get candy -- so each house could net several candy distributions. Some even let the kids reach their own hands in, which is a good deal for Liv who will take 1 or 2 and a bad deal for Jane who will grab as much as she can!

When we started there was a huge line at the first house on the row waiting for the 3 pm start time. Rather than wait in the line we walked to the second house, and were able to go up just before 3. We were in crowds, but we avoided having to wait very first thing. We hit the first house on our way back out so we got candy from every sorority/fraternity participating.

The costumes were really fun, and a lot of grown ups were dressed up too. We saw a LOT of other Wonder Women and Super Girls, including at least one dog dressed as Wonder Woman. Every time I'd say "Super Girls unite!" or "Wonder Women unite!" Some people thought it was funny, others didn't (including Jane!).

The weather was absolutely perfect -- warm enough but not quite hot with a light breeze. I should have worn sunscreen (I don't know what's wrong with me because I put sunscreen on the girls every day before school for their 15 minute recess!). We had the stroller so had water and a place to hang the buckets as they got heavy (and to push Liv as she couldn't walk the whole way). Walking back was faster because we walked on the sidewalk by the lake, away from the houses. It was still crowded with people, but we were able to maneuver back quickly enough to meet Shawn and scoot off to swim lessons.

If the weather and timing is right next year I definitely think we'll check out Trick-or-Treat down the Row at LSU again!

03 November 2018

Routines, Not Just for Babies

Baby Feet
I loved being a mama to a baby, both times. Having a baby was so sweet and fun. I love sleeping through the night again, and having time to myself to work and write and shop. But there will never be a time in my life to compare to the bliss of being a true baby mama. (Liv and I have been watching videos on my phone, and we've scrolled back to many from her babyhood.)

One thing I was very good at (besides breastfeeding, which turned out to be a natural talent) was maintaining routines. We still stick to routines around here -- solid bedtime routine step-by-step, mealtimes together, do the same thing every Sunday, etc. It's not boring or monotonous, it just lets us all know what to expect.

And I for one find great comfort in that. Routine, schedule, knowing what to expect are all part of my preferences for how life should be and what makes me happiest/most comfortable.

I know routines can be broken without problem. We do have *some* flexibility of course. But I'm also finding that routines are good for more than just babies and kids. My routines make a difference to me, a positive difference mostly I'd say.

Beyond the typical grooming routines -- nightly shower, twice a day brushing, couple times a week hair washing and styling, etc. -- and daily coffee, I also am experiencing routines that are specific to this season.

One is the 90 Day Bible Challenge, which has been a really great thing for me. I want to actually finish it and reflect AFTER I'm done, but I'll say it's been a balm to read Scripture every day even when (or perhaps especially when) I don't understand.

And for six weeks of that challenge I was also doing a Cup of Our Life book study, which was more reading and intentional prayer and reflecting. I didn't do the study correctly, as I never set aside enough time, sometimes raced through the prompts, etc. But I always thought about the lessons and I certainly got something out of it. The routine of it all was important to me too.

So now I'm back to the NaBloPoMo routine, and firing up my computer every day. (I do turn it on most days, but some days I just don't need to because I can check any emails via phone or Kindle Fire.) This is day 3, so not really a routine, but it has made me start remembering things I wanted to write, realizing 30 days is a long time!

02 November 2018

Flexibility, Lack Thereof

Medicine (oversaturated remix) from Flickr via Wylio
© 2006 herval, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio
As a parent I should be used to last-minute changes of plan, and I guess I am. But I will never LIKE them. I like to plan things and get way too upset when things don't go the way I expected them to.

Jane has stayed home from school three of the five days this week, including today. I had to get groceries Tuesday evening rather than during the day as I'd planned, after I had to pick up Jane early from school (talking 8:30 a.m. early). (Thankfully Shawn wasn't on his trip yet.)

She rallied enough to go to to school on Wednesday, Halloween, because they could wear their costumes. But she didn't wear hers long, she said. She got hot and took it off (the rule was they had to wear uniforms under costumes, which is a good rule). The nurse called me at 2:30, just before carpool, to say Jane was still sick, but it wasn't fever, just cough and elevated pulse.

We took her trick-or-treating around our neighborhood, and she mostly rode in the stroller. It's tough pushing a 50+ pound kid! Liv didn't complain, although we did take turns carrying her since her stroller was occupied. For a while Jane said she didn't want to trick-or-treat, so I was dealing with my disappointment about missing it. I was glad she rallied enough for that, although I know she is really sick because she STILL hasn't sorted her candy!

Since she did trick-or-treating, I took her to school on Thursday, but within an hour the nurse called me again, suggesting I take her to the doctor. So we did that yesterday and Jane likely has a bacteria that's going around, and we have some medicine now. I got Livia some medicine too, because she has a cough too. I called the doctor for Liv after her teacher woke her up from her nap because she was coughing and made me pick her up (meaning no nap for Liv!). I guess it was to not wake up the other kids, but I was annoyed about that too!

Now today Jane still doesn't feel great. She's got a come-and-go cough (and when she coughs it sounds terrible), so Livia will miss her Spanish class because I don't have anyone to stay with Jane. Livia still has a come-and-go cough, but she's not acting like she's sick at all -- she's running around and being herself.

I have the beginnings of a chest cold too, but I don't feel that bad. Mainly annoyed at having plans dashed and that Jane is still sick despite staying home and resting. I really wanted to go to Livia's Spanish class (it was expensive and is only six weeks -- we have one more class next week), and I wanted to go to Walmart to look at their clearance Halloween costumes.

I just hope this medicine takes hold and makes the girls' coughs go away and for Jane to feel better. This is my first time being sick since I stopped nursing, so I can take whatever medicine I want...

01 November 2018

Do I Write?

This is what I look like today.
I am a writer, and I'm even being paid for writing lately (well, I have an overdue invoice with the magazine, but in theory anyway -- and they are definitely publishing my writing). I haven't made time/haven't felt like writing much here. My girls do plenty of cute things still, and I could easily use this blog to document our lives.

For life documenting I still do the weekly email, which goes to both girls' private inboxes, with photos of our activities. I post frequently on Facebook in a "isn't my life fun" and "aren't I a good mom" type fashion. I use Twitter for bitching and moaning, and some light life documentation. I also try to amplify other voices on Twitter when they say things in ways I wish I would. (Amplify to my 3-4 regular followers, but amplify none-the-less.)

I haven't NOT written in November in a decade, right? I remember last year I made some mistakes and didn't do all the posts on the actual days, but otherwise I've been pretty consistent.

I still read a lot. (Catch me on Goodreads to see exactly what I've been reading.) I'm doing the 90 Day Bible Reading Challenge -- reading from Genesis to Revelation in 90 days. I've kept up, although certainly not understanding or retaining as much as I would with a deeper, slower study. (Although coming to understand the whole Babylon exile story line a bit more by slogging through the OT at a rapid pace.)

Reading Scripture anyway has sucked up time I would normally be scrolling social media (although I still do plenty of that), and in some places I can gain perspective -- the crumbling of our society due to fascist rule is not God's plan, but there's a larger arcing story. Not sure that's the message I'm meant to get, but there you go.

That's not to say I don't stay up twisted in knots about all the horrible policies, the racism, the sexism, misogyny and white supremacy that pervade the government and the awful, incompetent people in power. I do. I grieve for those who are impacted so much more than I am, and I know I'm not doing enough to make a difference.

So I write. And I guess I will write this month too.