Another November in the Books

Our Boy Scouts wreath was delivered today, and it is a gorgeous day. In a normal place it would be early fall or even late summer. Tons of leaves on the ground, warm breezes and sunshine. I thought it was supposed to rain, but I guess I don't pay enough attention to the news while it's on! Maybe it shifted to rain overnight instead.

I'm doing my annual calendar creation, and it's hard to whittle down a year's worth of photos into a couple dozen (I stretch it to 3 or 4 dozen because I put multiple on each calendar spread).

And I'm trying to decide on Christmas cards. The girls had photos taken at Livia's school and they came out cute so I bought them digitally. They're black and white, which is supposed to be arty. But I wish they were color anyway. Oh well.

Our house is mostly decorated for Christmas/Advent. We have a few things to add -- Jane would like some more felt ornaments for the tree, and there are Advent decorations that we will make as the season progresses (assuming my sanity doesn't lose its grip any more than it already has).

I have a Christmas party tonight for the moms at Livia's school. I am trying to be someone I'm not -- or at least someone who attends social gatherings without anxiety or upset. It might end up being fun, but we'll see. I'm taking wheat thins and plates, so I have an excuse to get there on time... It starts at 7:30 so I won't get out of most of bedtime routine!

I've found pleasure in writing daily, and I always think at the end of November that I'll keep up the momentum. Not writing daily but perhaps twice weekly or so. So far that has never held out, and I'm sure with the busy-ness of December the blog will also fall by the wayside. I love it too much to EVER give it up I think.

Time for carpool. Peace out, November!

Bible in 90: Accomplishment UNLOCKED

Kindle Screen adding CEB to my "read" shelf on GoodReads
I finished the Bible in 90 today, which I started on September 1. I read from Genesis through Revelation in 90 days.

Being a rule follower I read the prescribed passages each day and didn't jump ahead (and luckily didn't fall behind). The only day I broke was when I finished Ruth instead of leaving a chapter unread. (I did a study on Ruth with our most recent former pastor, so it makes more sense to me and reminds me of him.)

Shawn asked me for my favorite part to prove I'd really read it all -- LOL. I highlighted several passages in my Kindle -- I read the Common English Bible version on my Kindle so there were few footnotes (and they were all hidden/you had to click the superscript letter, which I only ever did accidentally). My favorite, weird/never noticed them passages were:
All the tables are covered with vomit, filth overruns the place. Isaiah 28:8

I will scatter feces on your faces, the feces of your festivals. Malachi 2:3
Maybe I'm into the prophets (nah) or maybe just bodily functions (nope again). Really I just love good potty humor?!

It will be WEIRD to not have to read tomorrow. Each day took 30-45 minutes to read (I'm on the faster side), and I did it in all different places. I wasn't good about a routine, but I always got it done in the 24-hour day. I read in carpool, with kids bouncing around me and on my own when both were at school and my work/volunteer stuff was under control.

Bring it on, Advent!

What to Expect at the LSU Holiday Spectacular

Last night I took the girls to the LSU Holiday Spectacular, which is a kick off event for the holidays hosted by the LSU Faculty & Staff Senate (I think). Like with the trick-or-treat down the row there is little information online about what to expect. But now that I've been I know! Although it's likely that they change things year-to-year, but here's what happened this year.

For parking I think the Barnes & Noble parking garage is the easiest. It's just a few bucks and you have covered parking that's an easy walk to the Student Union, where the event took place. The girls also love any chance to ride in an elevator (on our way back to the car we rode to the top floor -- looked out over the campus at night -- and then rode back to 2 for our car). A lot of the people who come are already on campus though, so it's less of a deal for them to find parking!

The event took place in the lobby area -- just up the middle outside stairs that face the quad. There weren't really signs or hordes of people streaming in, and there was some other Christmas-themed event with the Coca-Cola holiday truck and music playing outside. We figured out where to go when we saw the lighted Christmas tree inside.

There was a front desk where we checked in -- handed over the food item donations (or you can take a toy for Toys for Tots) -- and the girls were each given a bag and a treat bag with candy and a coupon for something -- pizza and games at Mr Gatti's maybe. Then we went to the craft areas at different tables. Lots of different on campus offices were represented. The girls made ornaments, picture frames and colored some pictures. Jane even got to play the drums (thankfully while wearing headphones so only she could hear her stylings).

After we did that section -- which was arranged around the line to wait to see Santa Claus (who we did not wait for -- if we'd had another adult to do the waiting that would have been fine, but we had to maximize our time and get home for bed at a reasonable hour) -- we went to the food area where there was free pizza, balloon artists and door prizes.

A hot tip: go directly to the door prizes. There's no actual drawing. What you do is turn in your raffle tickets (and if you do it directly there's less chance of losing them!) and you get to pull a sucker from a foam tree. If your sucker's bottom is colored you win a prize! Livia and I both won, and we were lucky that they still had prizes left. They were running out by the time we made it over close to 7. I got a $20 Walmart gift card (the prizes are separated between kids and adults), and Liv's was a wrapped gift that turned out to be an Emoji game of some sort -- it has two vests with Velcro and several Velcro balls and you play tag with your sister trying to get the balls to stick to her vest. We're planning to try it out this afternoon -- I'm glad it's something the girls can share and seems like a good back yard game. Jane's sucker did not have a colored end, so she didn't "win," but they did give her a little bag of additional treats and candy that seems just as fun.

There were also free drinks - as in Coke products and Dasani water. There was a lot of pizza, although we had eaten before we went to the event so we didn't try it. It was pretty crowded and with only one of me and two of them it was hard to maneuver and keep us together, especially as my hands got filled up with drying crafts, balloon creations and such. Another tip would be to bring a tote bag for your loot -- something you can sling over a shoulder instead of in your hands and would fit more than the small plastic bags provided.

The event was 6-8 and we were there about 6-7:20. In addition to Santa there was Mike the Tiger, the Chik-fil-A cow, the Grinch (eeek!), Mrs. Claus, a snowman and reindeer wandering around for pictures. I'm glad we checked it out, and I hope next year Shawn can come with us to help with the juggling of the stuff.


December 2011
I am the luckiest.
In Sunday school we veered away from our usual topic (which is whatever the sermon is about) because there was no sermon during the Hanging of the Greens service. We also talked about steps to become a reconciling community and how our Thanksgivings were. But toward the end one friend asked a question she asked during Thanksgiving -- what's a day in your life where you remember being your happiest?

I did not answer. Others talked about unexpected free days with nothing to do/nothing planned. My answer has to do with my babies. And this friend who asked the question happens to be walking through a time of infertility. I remember what it feels like and wouldn't want to blindside her. I remember the offhand remarks people made when it took so long for me to become pregnant. (Specifically cutting, and probably something I've mentioned on here before: "you know, Mari, babies grow up," as if I only wanted a baby and didn't ACTUALLY want all that parenting entails.)

It's hard to pin down a specific day, but my happiest times were sitting in my nursing chair with a new-ish baby. I was on maternity leave with Jane, had no responsibilities other than keeping her alive, and I was good at that. I had a great, still-new-to-me back yard view, the temperatures were nice after she was born and stayed cool/comfortable for a while. (Weather affect my mood more than I'd like to admit I think.)

I remember my girls' early babyhood as happy and content times in my life. Livia's is less vivid in my memory, probably because the juggle with Jane and that transition takes up some of the computer memory space of my brain's hard drive. But I know the bone-deep joy from caring for the baby you created, carried and birthed. And that was certainly my happiest time, even with sleep deprivation that I know I was experiencing simultaneously.

Speaking of happy -- I got a lot of happy birthday wishes on social media, mainly Facebook. It STILL kills me that some people write "Happy Birthday, Mary" even though my name is RIGHT THERE. That Indiahoma education for you I guess... For the last 2 years or more I have not written anything on most people's Facebook pages for their birthdays. There are exceptions - immediate family mainly, and even then I probably post ABOUT them and tag them on my wall. (Of course people I am close with in real life get a direct email or text birthday wish!) But seeing the cross-section of people on my life who remembered me (even when it was just Facebook saying "hey, it's this dummy's birthday") made me feel a little happier actually. So perhaps I should resume the ritual of "HBD" on others' walls. MAYBE...

38 Trips Around the Sun

Hello to being a 38-year-old lady. In all its no-makeup, blotchy and wrinkled skin, but still fairly happy glory. Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose!

I bought myself new Nike tennis shoes, because I wore out my previous sneakers in all the walking and activity in Minneapolis. That Kaep ad really got me. (Actually these were just a good enough deal on early Black Friday Penney's shopping.)

I have a present from Shawn and a couple from my mom to open later. Because Jane has piano lessons tonight we can't go out to eat. We'll probably go out to celebrate on Wednesday (tomorrow evening we have something else!).

Livia gave me the best birthday present with a nice potty experience! We're not there yet, but we're definitely on our way to potty training goals. She's filling up a chart with stickers and likes to say she's "pee trained"!

A Life Lived in Books

I just finished the book "I'd Rather Be Reading," by Anne Bogel. It was a QUICK read, but I enjoyed it. She writes a blog and has a podcast focused on reading, and this was a memoir-ish retrospective about reading and the reading life. I liked it, and it made me think about my journey as a reader. This would be much better as a thought-out, drafted and edited piece, but this can just be my initial, quick reactions because NaBloPoMo content doesn't write itself, you know?!

For one, I was SUPER jealous that for a time she lived in a house next door to a library. What a great real estate perk! I am an avid library user, but as time goes on I mainly do my reading on my Kindle. So in a way it's like the library is even closer since it's always in my house! For the girls' books of course we visit the library weekly, and we are on first-name basis with our librarians. We are working our way through the children's picture book section, and Jane is graduating to chapter books. But I'm realizing that all the series we loved with Jane (Elephant and Piggie, Biscuit, Fancy Nancy, Olivia, etc.) we need to revisit for Livia. And I get confused about which books we've read recently and which we read once-upon-a-time when Jane was Liv's age. Keeps things interesting!

Bogel had a chapter (they're really stand alone essays collected in a book, but they're all on the theme of reading and the reading life) about wishing she could see her library check out history. I agree that it would be a trip down memory lane. I have a Swiss cheese memory, as those close to me can attest, and I don't remember most of what I read I'm sure. But being able to see the title and date would bring at least some of the content and messages back to me. Of course there ARE books that stick (Ramona will forever be tied now to Jane's early elementary days, and I re-read Anne of Green Gables and ALL its sequels while I was pregnant with her), but being able to review my history back to childhood would be amazing.

I realize there are privacy concerns of course, and we don't ACTUALLY want libraries to keep that intel (because it could theoretically then be used against us in a court of law?!). Bogel recommends -- strongly recommends -- keeping track of what you read, and I do that via GoodReads. Since I do most of my reading on the Kindle I can just click a button (add to shelf or something like that) at the end of the book and it's auto-magically added to my GoodReads shelf on the correct date. I add any books that I read in hard copy manually to the site. I've got a few years of data this way, but I certainly don't have my reading logs from my 20s or childhood. It's probably the best that's lost to history?! I like the idea of a beautiful reading journal, but I would be less likely to fill it out (as both girls' hard copy baby books can attest!)

I have a whole slew of books to add to my To Be Read list, because Bogel wrote about some of her favorites or things that really touched her. Some things I had read (like Anne of Green Gables), but others were new recommendations that I'd like to check out.

One thing I just realized is anything I highlight in my Kindle shows up on GoodReads. Thankfully it's private/not shared with my friends on there, but that's great to know. I knew they were still available to me because I get a daily email from Readwise with a couple highlighted passages from books past. It's nice to unearth things that were important, and again I wish I had that data/info going back longer than just a couple years. Anyway, in the book I highlighted every book she mentioned that I wanted to read too, so that's an easy way to capture them.

Two baskets of Advent books
waiting for Dec. 1-24
One quote that I highlighted was that "taking those photos are a gift I give my future self," and I so believe that's true. (This was part of her argument for documenting what you read -- the parallels to taking photos to capture and re-remember events down the line.) I absolutely am on board with both those things, and I appreciate my past self's gifts very much.

One concrete - and very relevant - example isn't photos but books. Advent books wrapped for this season, which I did late last year when I was packing up the Christmas stuff before our sabbatical move. I wrapped 48 Christmas-themed books in tissue paper. One for each girl for each day of the Advent season.

Waiting is hard, but a good book ALWAYS makes the waiting go faster.

Making Merry Early-ish

Gran's Ceramic Christmas Tree
Plays White Christmas
It feels weird to be decorating the house for Christmas before my birthday, and with a FULL week of November left. But if we didn't do it this weekend we would have to wait until NEXT weekend. This gives us extra time to enjoy the decorations (and extra time for me to spot and fill any gaps!).

Shawn decorated our walkway with the lights and lighted candy canes (Candy Cane Lane as we call it) and got the tree up, although it still needs to be decorated. I've got the various other decorations out -- stockings, kid crafts through the years hung on the walls with tape, stuffed animals, tchotchkes, framed photos.

And one of my favorites: Gran's ceramic Christmas tree. It has a wind up in the back that plays White Christmas. I coveted this thing for years, and toward the end of her life Gran didn't get it out anymore (it's fragile and fussy to get all the little plastic pegs in their holes). She gave it to me when I asked about it, but I haven't always gotten it out when I have little kids running around. Hopefully I'm not running too big a risk this year! The wiring is ancient -- that cord is probably older than me -- but it still works. I think I have replaced the bulb, but it shines brightly now. It adds a nice ambiance when the lights are out -- the regular tree lights plus this. I have it on my crochet cabinet that Shawn made me last year for Christmas, so it's nice and sturdy and the girls so far seem OK to just look at it.

Our regular tree is one of the pre-lit kinds, and we've had it for several years (maybe 6 or 7?), so some of its lights have died. We bought some strands of lights at the end of last year and used those -- they look a little weird (some are huge bulbs and others are small, neither match the lights that came with the tree itself). And one of the strands can switch from multi-colored to white. So you know Jane picked multi-colored, making the tree look EXTRA crazy. Once we get our ornaments on I'll take a picture. I plan to start this evening -- have got baking to do for our church's Advent festival tomorrow plus groceries don't make themselves. (We still have an overload of Thanksgiving leftovers, but the girls won't eat any of them, and I am nervous about eating them too long because they were left out for HOURS after the meal on Thursday -- a risk when you're eating at someone else's house!)

Movie Going

The girls and I went to the movies today (rather than clean or set up Christmas stuff -- maybe I'll tackle that tomorrow).

We saw Ralph Wrecks the Internet. We'd never seen the original, Wreck-It Ralph, but our friend gave us a synopsis last night when we said we were going. It was OK, and the mildly tense parts weren't too scary for Jane.

We went to the Movie Tavern because it's so convenient to knock out a movie and lunch together. But man it's expensive. There was also a 9:30 at a regular theater type, and that might have been better. But we had such a late night (not in bed until after 9 for the girls since it was bath night and we'd been hanging by a wood burning fire so hair needed to get washed anyway), I didn't know that we'd be able to rally and get around by then. (We were almost ready by 9:30, but it would have been pushing it.)

It wasn't as crowded as I expected, and there were many free seats. This theater isn't really near shopping, but I'd still think today would be a big movie day. I'd preferred to have seen something else, but kid choices are limited.

The movie crossed over into Livia's nap, so after she ate her food (and she demolished the chicken tenders and fruit cup), she climbed into my lap. I ALWAYS have to go to the bathroom in movies -- no matter how much I do or don't drink -- so it was tricky at the end. She melted down on the car ride home, and we were able to get her a short nap. Hope that doesn't wreck bedtime tonight!

I like doing out and doing things with my girls, but I hate when it's not appreciated and I have to deal with yelling on the way home. (Liv wasn't the only one who melted down.) Screen time in ANY form seems to do a number on my girls.

All is fine now, and they're playing play doh. I'd really like to see Mary Poppins Returns -- maybe something we can do during our trip to see Shawn's family right after Christmas.

Speaking of, I think I'll start unpacking some boxes and decorating here and there. (Tree isn't up yet -- that's a Shawn job!)

Turkey Day

Two gobblin' turkey hats
In addition to my meal preparations, I also got to work crocheting a couple turkey hats for my turkey girls. I started yesterday, so it was a rushed job. I finished just a few minutes ago, cutting it close before our 3 p.m. meal.

They're reminiscent of hats I made when Jane was little -- her second Thanksgiving, and she had just turned 1. (That was the year I wrote about all the TV shows I watched as my NaBloPoMo fodder. HA.) But I did change things up a little, giving the turkeys cross eyes (reminiscent of Hei Hei from Moana, which incidentally is leaving Netflix soon so I think I'll probably buy a copy -- should I get an actual DVD or just a digital/streaming version, like from Amazon?).

I made Jane's hat too big because I was working on it after she went to bed. It's big enough for my giant melon, which should have been a clue it was too big. She wants to wear Liv's, which is only slightly small for her. Crochet stretches so it's not bad. The feathers were the last things added, and if I'd had more time I could have devised a plan to crochet around pipe cleaners to give them some structure. I tried but couldn't work it out in the 30 minutes of crochet time I had left. So floppy feathers it is. The snoods on the beaks are pretty cute though -- I didn't crochet them down so they're a little floppy too, but in a good way.

Not sure if the girls will actually wear them (please, please, please let me get a Facebook pic!), but I'm hoping we'll still have a pleasant Thanksgiving experience at our friends' house.

Happy Turkey Day!

Preparing for a Feast

We're going to be home, just the four of us, for Thanksgiving. I bought a smallish turkey (11 lbs), the smallest I could find anyway. And I got ingredients to make deviled eggs, cranberry salad, green bean casserole, cornbread dressing, pumpkin pie, sweet potato casserole (at Jane's request) and mashed potatoes & gravy.

On Monday we got an invitation to come to Thanksgiving at a church friend's house. Regular Mari's knee-jerk reaction was NO. I've planned, I'm cooking and I want to have the leftovers. But after talking to Shawn and then Jane, and finding out they both definitely wanted to go I decided "OK."

Look at me being flexible! (HAHAHAHAHAHAHA)

When I told our host that yes, we'd like to come, but I that already bought a turkey, she said to bring it and she would be glad to not have to make one! (She will have ham, sides and desserts.) In my reply I said OK, and that I would also have to bring the dressing and cranberry salad (can't eat turkey without dressing, and the cranberries are fresh so they wouldn't keep -- although can you freeze berries? Maybe so). Then I told her the other things (minus the deviled eggs!) I'd been planning to make and she said to bring all those too.

My little sous chefs!
SO, now I am halfway through my Thanksgiving feast preparations, AND I have to figure out how to transport them all. Today I did the deviled eggs and pumpkin pies (both with help from Jane, who is 7 and able to actually be helpful -- although our kitchen is much to small for more than one cook), sweet potato casserole, cranberry salad and cornbread dressing. I took zero pictures of the food -- before, during or after. Hrm. Looking back looks like the last time I took pictures of food was 2015. Can't imagine why...

At first I thought I would use one of the many delivery boxes we've got and stack the casseroles with cardboard between. I may still use a carton for the turkey (which I'm debating carving here for ease of transport and I've NEVER made a beautiful bird), but I pulled out my casserole carriers and I happen to have 3, one of which is a double, so I think I can carry the sweet potato casserole, dressing, green bean casserole and mashed potatoes (I guess I'll put them in a casserole dish too). I'm mostly using my disposable pans, although my cranberry salad is in Shawn's grandma's bowl as usual. I can probably put the sliced up turkey into another disposable casserole pan, but I'd have to put it in a box/carton to carry it. The pie and cranberry salad will have to be separate. Oh, and I plan to whip cream so I'll need a way to carry it. I wish I had a thermos to carry the gravy (either making it or warming from a jar -- although maybe if I do the jar I can just do that at the hosts' house).

The meal will be at 3, which is a weird time for us with kids. Usually I make my meal about noon, just as the parade is ending. So I plan to serve deviled eggs and pigs-in-a-blanket (both Shawn's faves) around 11 to tide us over to the big meal at 3. Livia will be able to take her nap while I finish up everything.

After the turkey roasts I need at least an hour to bake the other things (dressing, sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole), so the turkey needs to come out by 1:45 at the latest. (Our hosts' house is about 15 minutes away and we should probably get there a little before the meal starts since we're bringing a lot of food!) If it takes 3 hours to cook that means it needs to go in at 10:45, so I'll probably try to put it in at 10:15. That's much better than waking up to put it in at 7! My oven can hold the three casseroles at once so they can bake together. The disposable pans mean they need cookie sheets under them, so I should probably double check that I can fit that many in. I'll have to use the toaster oven for the pigs-in-a-blanket, so I'm glad I have that as an option.

Wish me luck - GOBBLE GOBBLE.

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?

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!

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.

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:

The Meaning of Thanksgiving

(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!

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.

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!

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!


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.

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.

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

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

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!

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.


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.

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.

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.

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Thanks for your interest in silvermari crochet hats . Most of what I make are sized for infants and toddlers, although I can size up and dow...