Crochet: Blue Swirl Hat

I made a quick swirled hat, basically designed by the almost-seven-year-old intended recipient, a friend at church. She flipped through my book with designs I'd crocheted and picked out this Divine Hat pattern. I used the exact hook sizes as the pattern recommends and worsted weight yarn.

But she wanted to make specific edits - with the colors and adding the dark blue lines on a light blue background. I put off doing it for many weeks but started it while she was at our house on a play date, to ask for some specifics (what color do you want the band at the bottom - light blue, is it OK that one of the stripes -- my beginning/ending of each round -- is thicker than the others? yes, do you want a pom-pom added to cover the light blue circle at the top? no). It took me a few hours to finish over the course of a few days, very quick and it turned out great. A little big on her but not too big, probably sized for a small adult or tween because of the length. I like when hats can be worn for longer than just today (I've made one or two for my girls that are outgrown within a month ... what a waste).

Anyway, I like the way this turned out and think it would be really cute with white background and red stripes, as a peppermint, and with a striped band at the bottom, although that would be even more of a struggle!

Taco Soup in the Crock Pot

So I don't forget -- I made a delicious taco soup in the Crock Pot while my mom was visiting over Thanksgiving break. I am making it again today and don't want to lose the recipe in and among the hordes of similar recipes. This one is probably the easiest out there, but I might have added too much water today! I eyeballed it until the crock pot was full, egads. Here's my slightly modified version, mainly that I cook the meat with the taco seasoning instead of adding it with the liquid).
  • Brown one pound of ground beef and one chopped onion with packet of taco seasoning until meat is brown.
  • Put the mixture into the Crock Pot. 
  • Add 2 cups of beef broth (about half of a standard size box); a 28-oz can of Rotel, undrained; a 15 oz can of pinto beans, undrained; a 15 oz can of corn, undrained; and one cup of water. 
  • Stir it up, sprinkle on a dry packet of ranch dressing and slowly stir in. (There's probably a smarter way to do that too without sloshing the liquid! Maybe sprinkle the ranch over the meat after added?) 
  • Cook on low for 6 to 8 hours.
  • Put shredded cheese and sour cream on top to cool it down and cream it up. 
  • Eat with Tostitos Hint of Lime chips (Jane's favorite) or Fritos (maybe my favorite).

Tastes even better the next day heated up. Nom. Nom. Nom.

Just Pretending

The first decoration of Xmas 2019
We are slowly getting our Christmas stuff out. It feels like pretend. I don't know if it's the calendar, the weather (so hot, and our A/C is on the fritz!) or a combination of everything, but I don't feel merry yet. Just kind of stressed, which I guess is in keeping with Christmas, at least the secular version.

My first decoration that we hung up is a new one, from my friend Paige's business called Beezus & Roux. She started making art from Mardi Gras beads, and they're beautiful. Epoxy means they'll last. I'm not sure about the bow -- if I were more decorative myself I could fluff it or something, but it's fine for this year. I'll need to keep it inside in the linen closet instead of outside with the other Xmas junk to keep it from melting. A small price to pay. (It is a small piece, so not a huge space sacrifice either.)

I did some Christmas shopping today, buying a bunch of small Frozen II items. The girls both want a BIG Frozen thing -- a vanity (plastic, blech) or dollhouse (too big, and we already HAVE a dollhouse -- a friend just gave us a dollhouse bookshelf). Jane wants a Nintendo Switch, but I don't see that as a good idea, or this learning catalog teacher set that I wouldn't get last year. (She did get a teacher set, the cheaper Melissa & Doug version PLUS my sister, actually a teacher, made her a set of some of the materials she uses, like red pens, name plates for desks, etc.) Livia circled half the items in the Target and Amazon catalogs -- she'll be pretty happy with any toys I think. I now have more than enough for them, although almost entirely TOYS. And none seems "big." But do they really need something BIG? They got Kindles last year, but we still monitor their use and it's not something they have constant access to.

Many things to consider.

Advent is going to fly by. I'm not sure that I'll miss blogging daily -- I know most Decembers I feel that reflexive muscle kick in. I have a LOT of magazine writing to do though, so that should keep me busy and quell any urges. TBD. TBD. TBD.

Happy end-of-November.

Skin Sins

No Filter
Beauty Filter

I hardly took any pictures yesterday, certainly none at our dinner with friends. What is wrong with me? Anyway, I did some "beauty filter" shots -- above left is with the filter and right is without. I'm not really self conscious about the lines on my forehead, but definitely notice them more now and hate them. Look how the filter even blurred my neck a little. LOL.

I am interested in more serious skin care -- a regime to give a glow up perhaps. BUT I think what that really is -- young people who use expensive skin care but have great skin mainly because they are young. I am aging out of the young range, but will still probably throw money at my face. Really if I would just be more consistent with sunscreen I'd look a lot better. I don't go OUT in the sun regularly (and when I do there's sunscreen involved generally), but every day exposure is something I slack on.

Gobble Gobble Wobble Wobble

Back from our friend's house and it was a lovely holiday. I am very full and tired. Still have to get the girls showered and in bed. I took corn casserole, pumpkin dump cake with ice cream and cranberry Jello salad.

I thought of a sort of good blog post to write, but I'm going to try to use it for the magazine, i.e. get paid a little bit for my writing. We'll see where it goes though. I haven't been writing the last few weeks much. Been busy/distracted/boycotting a little. I don't know. Will catch up me next week for deadline!

Only two more posts to go before December. I'm really scraping the bottom of the barrel here. I had an index card somewhere with some post ideas. Kind of in a food coma now and just want to watch TV after the kids get in bed. We watched 3 hours this morning with the Thanksgiving Parade. Screen time is my favorite.

Lack of Cooking

In usual Novembers, and NaBloPoMos past, the day before Thanksgiving has been another free space for me because I can catalog what I've been cooking. Today all I made were deviled eggs. I have some cooking to do tomorrow and actually a couple easy things to make tonight because I forgot. (Cranberry salad and pineapple cream cheese ball.)

Instead of cooking the full meal for the five of us (my mom is visiting), we decided to accept an invitation to a friend's apartment. I hope it goes OK, and I'm not sure my mom totally wants to go. But the allure of not having to do the entire meal (turkey included) was too much to pass up. And we had Thanksgiving with this friend last year and it was pleasant. I've gotten to know her better this year too. I just hope the worlds colliding (of family and chosen family) goes OK.

My face at "Defy" - LOL, jk
We went to "Defy," which used to be "Area 51," which used to be something else. It's a trampoline park. The girls had a great time -- I knew we couldn't just stay home all day. They also got to go to the park, and I got some time at home and tidied (cleaned filthy bathrooms and vacuumed) plus got a huge chunk of my website together. All still drafts, but I have posts with my magazine content and blog posts ready. I just need to fool with the layout and colors I guess.

I may re-do this site's template too. There's a way to have a Featured Post in the layout at the top with some of the choices. There are only a few choices on Blogger -- so if I'm planning to stay with it (might as well?) -- I can pick one that's got that on the top built in so I can have my How to Buy a Crochet Hat post at the top -- so when people get my card at a maker faire or otherwise are looking for me because of crochet that will be easy to find.

News you can use: the entire Frozen 2 soundtrack seems to be available on Amazon Music for free. Exciting. I adore Unknown.

Thirty Nine and Feeling Fine

At the start of my 40th trip around the sun
Another birthday, nothing much to report. I woke up pushed to the very edge of the bed by a little 3-year-old. I stayed up too late and got up early-ish, so still pretty tired. I got some presents, which are fun, and I will start wearing my new Mama Bear slippers tonight I think.

We went to the 9:20 a.m. showing of Frozen 2. I liked it very much but would have liked it better without that same 3-year-old climbing all over me. And out of the theater they ran after the movie, including out the door of the entire place before I could stop them and herd them to the bathroom (I always have to pee after movies, even if I haven't drunk anything). Very irritating, and it's like they act even worse when my mom is here (or really any company).

Next we went to Superior Grill for lunch. I ordered large queso, which would have been enough for a meal. It cost more than my meal - LOL, whoops. Girls were mostly OK, although Jane still pushed my buttons due to being hungry (both of us).

We stopped to look for shoes for Jane. She's a 3.5, and there weren't any options that didn't have shoelaces. There were in 3s, but not 4s either. I don't want to buy an expensive (i.e. Nike) pair that she'll outgrow in a month. So the search continues. I thought I could just find the shoe we liked in 3s online in 3.5 but nope. So aggravating. Will keep looking I guess. Blugh.

Shopping Luck: Mama Bear

I saw these slippers on a deal blog with availability at Walmart, but they were sold out by the time I read the post. They were about $25, but I was willing to buy because I love em! I never ran into them at Walmart either.

On Saturday when my mom, aunt and I did some shopping we went in Tuesday Morning looking mainly for Advent calendar goodies and I found these for $10. I didn't think they would have my XL size but they did!! And I'm pretty sure I have a matching set of jams I got at Target on clearance last year after Xmas. Huzzah!!

They were on another deal blog today. They are Dearfoams so I think it was from their site. Still twice as much as my score!

Happy birthday to me! LOL

Photo Cards

It's feeling like crunch time for Christmas and it's not even Thanksgiving! We are one month from Christmas Eve, but the turkey hasn't even hit the oven... It's just a calendar quirk, and usually Thanksgiving falls earlier in the month (hello, Friday November 1). But the realization is still sharp, and it will mean less time listening to Christmas music (I haven't been able to avoid it while shopping). I can continue it through Advent and maybe won't have the itchy feeling to get all the decorations down and the house back to "normal."

I have purchased a few gifts but am nowhere near done on my list. I also don't have gifts for family in Alabama, and one of them is here visiting while my mom is here. So I could save some bucks on shipping if I'd planned better or thought ahead. D'oh.

I DID take Christmas photos of my girls yesterday. I had bought buffalo check plaid flannel shirts when they were on sale at Old Navy, and they consented to wear them with jeans for about 20 minutes while I snapped some photos outside. I am not a great photographer and have next to zero editing skills. So the photos themselves are meh. The shirts are wrinkled, adding to the slap-dash effect. BUT I got them taken, there were three that I loved enough to want to see them on a card. Minor consultation with Shawn and voila, they'll be on their way and arrive in early December. So that's SOMETHING checked off.

An outtake, although the lighting isn't bad in this one (as it is in some others)

Advent Planning

Every year after Christmas I wrap children's Christmas books in tissue paper, and my girls can open one each night of Advent. (I wrap one for each of them, for a total of 48 books wrapped). We also have been doing separate calendars too. Trader Joe's sells chocolate ones for $.99, so that's a win-win. Last year Jane had a LEGO Friends calendar, and Livia got a Paw Patrol one. Both were good.

This year I thought I'd just do books and chocolate, because when I asked Jane that's what she said she wanted. (She just wants candy, frankly.) But then I was in Ollie's shopping and there were two Frozen Advent calendars. They're big castles and look pretty neat and sturdy, so reusable. But what I wasn't sure of was whether there were any Frozen contents or gifts inside. I bought them anyway, but some internet sleuthing made me realize they are empty.

SO - do I return them ($12.99 each)? I could surely find 24 times two little do-dads to go inside the cubbies, although not all Frozen (maybe no Frozen actually). We went shopping today and I found some things -- some washi tape in a pack and a multi-pack of tiny nail polish. I also have some chapsticks that I bought for their stockings, and there are surely other little things that I've squirreled away. And I can always make some days super great (maybe just the weekends?) with actual candy. The Trader Joe's candies are fine, but small and just plain. (We're still eating Halloween candy though, so ...)

The Frozen calendars are also big, so they'll be hard-ish to store. I had a poke around in Shawn's shop when I was looking for a specific Christmas book (it's definitely one of the ones we have wrapped up), and he has some shelf space still available. LOL.

I'll probably go for it, and I guess I don't have to have all of the cubbies filled on December 1, since I can add to them as we go. Scrunchies for Jane are another idea. Maybe little blind bag things from the dollar store, or stickers I have saved in my Christmas stuff once we get it out.

Hard to transition from turkey to nativity, but here we go...

Cooking for Crowds

I'm kind of a terrible housewife in that I hate to cook and hate to clean. Cooking isn't SO bad, and I definitely like to eat. But the clean up is annoying and the constant cycle of come up with ideas, shop for the ingredients, make the food, rinse and repeat, is a less-than-delightful part of my life.

Today I cooked multiple things. Tomorrow we are going to a Friendsgiving dinner, so I made a cornbread dressing and deviled eggs. The dressing is the kind Gran made for holidays -- cornbread, a stuffing mix, butter, onion, celery and seasonings. I hope I didn't make it too salty. Meh. It makes two big pans, so I'll save the other either for Thursday or for Christmas, depending on what we end up doing for Thanksgiving proper.

I also made a Mexican black bean lasagna that we'll heat up for tonight. It's basically onions, jalepeno, red bell pepper, corn, black beans, garlic, chili powder, cilantro and lime juice as a cooked filling layered with red enchilada sauce, corn tortillas and cheese.

I'm tired from it -- took a couple hours multi-tasking -- and the kitchen is still kind of dirty. Ran the dishwasher once, but have another load after we've eaten. So first I have to empty the clean dishes. Ugh.

Shawn's home from his latest trip, my mom and aunt are here too. Shawn hasn't had any time at home yet though, so things like my tire's air pressure, the leaves all over the yard, etc. haven't been addressed yet. More failings of house-wifery.

A Very Online Life

I've started working on a task I've had on my to-do list for months: updating I want to have links there to all my work -- the articles and blog posts from BR Parents and past blog posts that have been published (anywhere but here basically). I want a place to easily find them (and still link to the actual sites where the full articles and posts live). And it would be a nice portfolio of sorts.

I wrote a few blog posts for Woman's Hospital during and after my second pregnancy. They have since moved to a different blog, and not all of them have my by-line. I've figured out which ones I wrote though (I have the emails I sent to the blog editor). That was the first step. I've got draft blog posts linking to each one.

Next step will be making posts for all my BR Parents content -- and there is a lot. Several blog posts but even more articles. On the site my byline search comes up with 45 hits. And that doesn't include the content sections I write (my title is "Section Editor" now), as those aren't online articles but mainly in print with a web layout version also posted (and which I can link to). I've been writing there for more than a year, so it's a lot of posts to create and links to get in order. Then going forward it would be a little easier.

There are other projects and jobs I could write up little summaries of and link to the published bits even without my byline. Will think through those and see what makes sense.

I'm making them all as drafts and back dating them appropriately. Then I'll launch them all at once I guess. I also need a new look to my site. I used to have a WordPress site, but the hosting felt expensive and it is literally a one page site right now. So I switched to Google Domains and used a free blogger blog to become the site itself. I don't like it nearly as much as WordPress for a professional site, but I may be able to use one of the templates to make it a little easier on the eyes and look moderately professional. I want it to go to rather than redirecting to a page URL that's longer and less clean. But I don't think I'm willing to pay more money and pick up the site and move it back somewhere else. Will keep thinking though. If you want a professional site you have to pay professional money.

I wonder if I should make a professional-ish Twitter account. Not that I say anything problematic, but maybe people wouldn't want to hire or work with me knowing just how liberal I am. Radical even? But only about some things. I also wouldn't want to apologize, so who knows what's good.

I am who I am on Facebook and LinkedIn, although I could look at LinkedIn especially and add info about BR Parents, especially since I have a title. I don't want to lose any momentum I might have toward getting back into the workplace, although the struggle is real.

Two Little Pumpkins

My latest commission is two pumpkin hats for an aunt to gift to her nephews who live somewhere much colder than south Louisiana. They are pretty cute and I hope they fit -- still working on arranging delivery and payment. The vertical crochet makes for a nice stretchy hat, and the brim lets you roll it up or down to further customize the fit.

This pattern is really just a method -- chain until it's about the height you want the hat to be (because adding the top will allow for the brim fold) and double crochet in the back loop only back and forth until it's as long as the hat needs to be around. Sew up the two sides to make a tube. Then attach the green to one end of the tube and single crochet evenly around. Decrease every 10 stitches, then every 9 stitches, etc. until maybe 8 or 9 stitches left and single crochet around to make the stem. Decrease until you sew up the top. The curlique vine is easy - chain the length (knowing that it will curl up) and put three double crochet into each chain. Sew it onto the stem. If desired or needed you can reinforce the green-to-orange attachment with simple sewing. Weave in ends.Voila.

I use 100% acrylic yarn so my hats are washable. I dry them flat because the dryer makes the yarn a little fuzzy and can break it down faster.

I've made this hat in stripes - changing colors every-other-row and leaving off the stem but adding multiple curliques. You could maybe decrease faster to make a smaller top section. If you made a longer tube you could cinch it by weaving in and out -- maybe even with a long chain. I bet a rainbow, multi-colored hat would be cute like this. I probably have every color of the rainbow after my fury of crocheting before the maker faire so I'll put it on the "to make" list. I have two-toned blue swirl hat to make for a young friend. I need to measure her head and I keep forgetting. It's probably standard kid sized and it would be fine if I make it to fit Jane's head.

Keep that hook flying!

Beauty Filter

Foundation in a filter!
I take selfies with Livia while we wait in carpool sometimes, and I noticed a button on the phone's camera. It's a beauty filter and basically smooths out all wrinkles and takes away freckles! What a way to see myself. I am making a totally goofy face, but damn, I look young!

I always thought I would age gracefully and that I didn't really care that much about appearance. That did not turn out to be true and it turns out I was just young and cute. Maybe I thought I always would be?

My forehead wrinkles are the thing I notice most of all now. They're all lines from raising my eyebrows. Not so much frowning lines, so I guess that's good -- maybe a sign of more happiness than sadness? I've started trying a Clinique serum that a cousin gave me (someone gifted it to her and she doesn't need it). I don't know if it will make a difference. I am thoroughly tempted by the Sunday Riley Good Genes serum, as I've heard it really does great things. But the price tag is enough to keep me searching for ways to like forehead lines!

For a while I worried about my eyelids - I watch a lot of "how to" videos on Facebook from pages like Crafty Panda or 5 Minute Crafts - and there was one about using a tiny piece of tape to hold up an "overhanging lid" to make makeup look better. I didn't know that was a thing and then I couldn't UN-see it on my face. My eyes are still my best feature, even as they age and even with drooping lids.

I loved every line on my grandma's face and hands. They were her and were meaningful to me. As much as I like feeling and - yes - looking young, I want to try to embrace my aging face. But sun protection is still a must, and I'm not the best about that. (Much better at putting it on the girls, and I've even been slacking on that, frankly.)

I'm still going to keep using that serum and buy more if I see results (even if only in my mind!). I'm tempted by some "frownies" stickers on Amazon too. Shoppers gonna shop, I guess.

Do you have any anti-aging secrets?

Second Grade Realizations

I was in second grade when I had a crush on a boy that I remember. Or maybe just the first crush that liked me back -- just for a little while. He wrote me a note on a slip of paper saying he liked me. We were in the Halloween carnival together a few weeks later, so it was in October. I remember roller skating with my Girl Scout troop the night I got the note and we'd been chosen as our class' carnival king and queen. I was skating on air - what a funny feeling and memory.

(I have a second grader right now - look out world!)

Just that memory, of my nascent opposite sex attraction, keeps my wheels turning. Obviously it was just who I was, who I am. Not something I wanted or chose. How can we deny other people's experiences? Especially when they're so similar to ours in the core ways? Love is love is love is love.

This is me, about Jane's age. (Undated photo)
And the same stupid cropped-in-the-front bangs.
She is her mother's daughter.

Great Haircut

The Pretty Good Hair Day
Captured on webcam
At church today at least three people, maybe more, commented on my hair -- great cut, looks great, etc. I have been cutting my hair off for a while, and this is the same general style. My last cut was in October. It's already growing out, which is good, because as per usual my cut was initially simultaneously too short and too long. (Mullet seems to be what stylists hear when I say I like it choppy and layered.)

Don't get me wrong - my hair looks great today. It is clean - washed and dried it last night (with my amazing Revlon brush dryer), smoothed it a bit this morning with the flat iron to make it a little less flippy (the round brush dryer gives a lot of body and flips the ends in the front, cute but I prefer straight ends).

But what's REALLY happening, and why people are commenting is that I've lost weight and my face is much slimmer. That makes my hair look better in general, based on our societal standards. The weight loss is intentional, after a weird injury to my right foot this summer. I was exercising regularly, and doing Fitness Blender workouts that included plenty of jumping. I also weighed a lot a lot, so the impact on my foot was astounding. The injury was a Morton's neuroma, so there wasn't an actual injury like I tore anything, just a nerve in my foot acted up to the point where I could hardly walk due to the pain. In the aftermath of that I've been trying to reduce weight in order to prevent anything like that happening again (it's a matter of time though). I stopped exercising in that way, and I honestly haven't picked up anything else other than a bit of light walking with a friend while our girls are in a class together. I love being strong and having cardiovascular endurance, so maybe I can find a way to get that with low impact. Or maybe if I can get my weight down enough I could jump again (can I be thin enough to exercise?!).

Part of it is a plan to be as healthy as possible for my 40th birthday (next Thanksgiving - the ACTUAL Thursday!). Part of it is just doing it, and the process to do better for my insulin resistance, keeping it from becoming anything worse. I'm working with a doctor, and she just seems all about losing weight. Her diet advice isn't that great or consistent (try keto! try intermittent fasting!). She sends me lots of videos to watch (and I haven't been really). I guess it's fine, but I wonder if I'll be able to maintain limiting my food intake. I still eat all kinds of things, including sugar on occasion. But I also know that DIETS FAIL and almost all weight that is lost is regained and then some.

For now I'll enjoy my "great hair" compliments. Even as it's getting greyer it does still have a lot of bounce. Maybe that describes me a bit too.

Geauxing To Vote

It's Election Day here in Louisiana. I early voted, and I'm team John Bel Edwards in the Governor's race, even though he's not nearly progressive enough for me. Even so the attack ads against him are saying he's "too liberal for Louisiana" and is in the pocket of national Democrats. Kind of a joke. He's pretty popular in general (he's a Democrat in name only basically), but there's a very real chance he will lose this election because of that party name. I am heart-stricken knowing that, as the opponent is just a mini-45, spouting similar racist and hateful catch phrases, dog whistles that are basically screams. How can you miss it? People I know and thought I respected campaign for him, post about his parties and generally gross me out.

I early voted last Friday so that I wouldn't have to worry today or take both girls with me to the polls. Our polling place rarely has lines and is easy in-and-out. But we had a church event in Lafayette today. We left at 8 and got home at almost 5. It's been a long day and I'm exhausted. I'm sure the election results won't make me feel any better.

There were two other races I cared about on the ballot - our state Senator race and our state House race. Both votes went to women Democrats who were both similarly maligned for being too liberal despite being pretty moderate Democrats. I get that it's politics, but it's also disheartening that being "liberal" is a smear here. Gerrymandering makes it very difficult for progressive (or even just non-lunatic) candidates to get elected around here.

Why does the state, in general, tend to vote against the best interests for the majority of its people?!

I wore my sticker as intended today.
I accidentally held it with this finger for the picture and then found the symbolism apt.
Bonus that it covered my forehead wrinkles...

Decade Accomplishments

A social media question that has come around and around this week was something about how the decade is coming to an end and what have you accomplished. People have written about amazing successes. Ten years is enough time that things certainly change. But I know not always for the better. For me, I'd say yes in a personal sense. (For our country, OMG, this is the authoritarian, Nazi-driven pits.) But for fun, and an easy blog post here's what's different about my life from the end of 2009 to end of 2019.


Thanksgiving 2009
  • 28 years old (nearly 29)
  • Been married for just over a year
  • Lived in New York City in a studio apartment, rarely drove
  • Worked from home full-time doing communications work for a non-profit organization
  • Worked out, ate fairly well - beginning the cycle of weight loss
  • Attended Park Avenue UMC in Manhattan, minimally involved - I think by then we'd gone to a young adult event/volunteered at a food pantry and I'd designed a logo of sorts


  • 38 years old (nearly 39)
  • Been married for just over 11 years, love him more day by day
  • Mother of two girls, 8 and 3 (so two pregnancies and births in this decade), finding parenting to be simultaneously like breathing and the biggest chafing challenge of my life
  • Live in Baton Rouge in a home we own, drive constantly as a carpool chauffeur
  • Work from home part-time writing for a local parenting magazine
  • Not working out after a foot injury (oh, another free blogging idea!), eating less although not necessarily better - in the cycle of weight loss after tremendous swings over the decade
  • Attend St. John's UMC in Baton Rouge, more involved than I ever thought possible
More wrinkles, much less sleep, more crocheting, more loving, more fighting, more cooking and lunch packing, more LIFE.

I can only vaguely picture what life might look like in another decade. I'll be nearing 50, Jane will be graduating from high school. (She's a decade from adulthood with her eighth birthday.) Livia will be a teenager too. Where will we live? What kind of work will I do? Will I still be as embroiled in politics of The UMC? I'll take it day by day and just enjoy every day where I can ... and get through the others by hanging on.

October 30, 2019
Fifteenth Meet-a-versary

Written Words

So ridiculously tired. I had a church meeting tonight, hired a babysitter since Shawn left for a trip. Ca-ching.

Then I stayed up doing some ads for the school play. Jane's not even in the play. I don't have to do them all tonight. I hate having things hanging over me though.

So very, very tired and this shouldn't count for NaBloPoMo, but it's rounding to midnight, I'm already running on fumes every morning. Every morning I say to myself "tonight I'll go to bed early!" And every night I manage to keep myself awake...

Here's me from earlier in my lumberjack shirt. I'm still wearing it -- gotta take my shower before I can hit the sack!

Going Home and Online Safety

I've been a Twitter user for more than 10 years, joining in mid-2008. I've never gotten into real heated arguments or had much trouble with "trolls," although I've certainly seen their work on others' tweets and threads. I mostly post innocuous stuff and even when I'm upset it's vague or about something offline most often. Retweets don't usually get hate spewed back to the retweeter.

I had a weird experience this week in that I retweeted a post with a comment. It was a request for female clergy and their allies to retweet their support and that women pastors should not "go home," as a powerful white man (or men?) has recently said. My comment with the tweet was "A woman's place is in the pulpit."

A man I don't know commented back about "the Bible says" women are only allowed to teach younger women and never in a church so #GoHome. Kind of hilarious, as I am a homemaker/stay-at-home mom basically doing what he advises. But I'll be damned that people still think this ... and even crazier that you'd go find a stranger's tweet to tell them your (incorrect) scriptural interpretation in such an ugly way.

I just blocked, because I don't want to deal with it. I did reply to another person who tweeted in support (something like "you're answering the call to preach") but deleted it because I worried the troll might see it and pounce more. My drafted/deleted response was about how I'm NOT a pastor, but a UMC laity formed by the work of women responding to God's call on their lives to be pastors and preachers. That work began when I was a tween (before tween was a thing though!), and I have always known God could use women and their gifts everywhere including in the pulpit!


(I have preached one sermon in my life, when I was about 12 I think, as part of a youth group organized by our pastor's husband. Maybe five people in the audience at the time - LOL.)

So I've stewed a bit about it today, just aggravated because women have made great strides in general but there's still so much bullshit and patriarchy to wade through even among those who claim God.

I worry some about my safety -- have I revealed too much of who I am being lulled into the idea that I'm a non-controversial person so no one would ever bother me? But it would not be hard to piece together where my children go to school or even where we live (as a homeowner some of that info is public record if you know where to look #journalism). I've written so much over the years, and just before no one has ever really read it doesn't mean no one ever will I guess. My kids' safety is paramount, but neither do I want to be silenced.

It's also not my responsibility to enlighten the trolls or make sure everyone thinks correctly or believes what I believe. That's too big of a job anyway! I don't want to shirk responsibility by saying "that's too much" because everything really is too much. I want to be a conduit for good somehow.

I know that women belong as pastors. That is good. And I know that LGBTQ+ persons belong as pastors. That, too, is good.

Cutie Crochet

A friend from church commissioned two hats for her one-year-old great niece. I added bows, although they are removable on hairclips. Thinking now I should have just sewn them on since it's basically a baby going to wear them, but a baby who can unclip things for sure! Oh well. She seemed happy with them, and hopefully I'll get to see a photo of them in action later on. She originally asked for "whatever Christmas-y hat you have left over that would fit a one-year-old," but didn't like what was left (I even had an adorable gingerbread girl!). I was happy to make these, even though they're not really Christmas-y (I added the red sparkle bow to the penguin to try to make it so!).

My friend said she could be my agent and get lots of people to buy tiger hats, but they're very fussy to make -- the stripes aren't terribly hard, but figuring out the sizing with two different stitch heights (black is single, orange is double), plus the ear flaps and braids, 10 circles (two striped for ears, two black for inside ears, two whites of eyes, two pupils, two white cheeks) and a triangle (nose), sewing everything in place and adding whiskers. It's a lot of work. On the other hand the penguins are much simpler and with varied eye placement they can have different expressions.

I need to buy some alligator clips for the bows -- I just used regular barrette type clips that I use in the girls' hair, particularly Jane's to clip down her self-cut micro-bangs when she'll let me (which isn't often). Before they'd been clipping down the other hair she'd chopped short, which finally grew out just before she did the micro-bangs. Ugh. A digression.

I heard back from the preschool director and we had a conversation that made me feel less bad I guess. Certainly not ignored. The kids do have "Indian" names -- Livia's is Smiling Kitten -- which is egregious and upsetting. The director said she'd understand if we didn't want to be part of the gathering. So I'm just sitting with it, praying about it and stewing. What good will it do, what good will anything I do do?

Myths & Stereotypes - Thanksgiving Conversations
While reading for magazine ideas I came across a great curriculum put together by Oklahoma City Public Schools about culturally appropriate ways to teach young students about Thanksgiving. It lists myths and things to avoid and has suggestions of alternatives plus plenty of craft ideas and book recommendations.

Liv's preschool has an annual Thanksgiving program of some sort, and they dress up the three-year-olds as Indians. I am NOT about that, so once they tell us the details (it's next Tuesday!) I'll make a decision about whether Liv can participate at all. I'm not sure a boycott will do anything but soothe my conscious, but that might be enough. It certainly will mean disappointing Liv, since they've been working on all kinds of things for the program. So far I've only heard about hand-print turkeys and painting feathers, but I definitely don't want my kid to sport a feathered headdress or anything else that basically makes fun of another culture even if it's not meant to do that (and clearly that's not the intent of the preschool). We would never dress up our kids in black-face, and this is a similarly offensive thing.

I sent the link to the curriculum to our preschool director, but I haven't heard back. (I kind of expected a generic "thanks, I can take this into consideration for next year's program" or something similar -- not just ignoring me. I didn't say Liv couldn't participate in my email either. I don't actually have any concrete information about what it is other than seeing another parents' celebratory photos from last year.)

I don't want to be the problem parent, but in many ways I am. I am the "too liberal for Louisiana" person pushing back against commonly held ideas that are wrong. Even some of my like-minded friends think this is going too far somehow, or trying to assure me that because Liv is young it won't damage her. But white supremacy and devaluing other cultures begins young and is so baked into everything everywhere. I definitely do not spot it everywhere, but when it's so egregious I have to say something.

Unpleasant: Feeding My Family

I've been a stay-at-home mom for about eight years (I worked part-time from home for a half year after maternity leave when Jane was a baby, and I'm definitely working from home now). Even so, I still don't have the hang of the homemaker duties. Cleaning definitely is not something I enjoy or excel at. It's never ending, of course, and my piling tendencies and just general I-want-stuff desires makes for clutter. And I just don't have patience to deep clean, although I much prefer a deep cleaned house. I keep up with vacuuming the floors, cleaning bathrooms as best I can and laundry of course. Shawn manages dishes and most kitchen cleanup.

Another awful-to-me chore is cooking. Day after day, coming up with meals that my family will eat and that are somewhat nutritious is grating on me. When Jane was little I was much more thoughtful about varying things, making sure there were veggies on every plate, that fruits were colorful and plentiful. The girls still eat fruit, but they're less keen on vegetables. Rather than dumping things out or doing showdowns I haven't been making them as much, except for whatever Shawn and I might have. We have a few standards -- spaghetti, meatloaf, a chicken casserole -- and fast things like frozen pizza or scrambled eggs with toaster waffles. When Shawn's out of town sandwiches are features for most meals -- girls are happy with toasted cheese or peanut butter and jelly. I eat cereal and just hang on.

Did I ever enjoy meal planning? I don't remember it being so awful and feeling like such a big hole for me. Grocery shopping is also getting me down. I know I could do online shopping now and there are delivery and drive up services that would save time (although not money). It's not the time it takes to shop, although it's been difficult to find the time these last few weekends and I end up using some of my precious girls-in-school time for shopping, meh. It's really the monotony and the fact that I do it and do it again and again and again. Maybe with some new recipes or when the holidays hit and I'm cooking yummy foods I'll feel better about it.

But for now I am feeling very blah and overwhelmed and tired, so this is the word vomit I have for today.

A Main Event Party

After friends had left she got her free gelato,
which the host never brought during party

A new "entertainment venue" opened near the mall, and we decided to have Jane's birthday party there. It was today, and I'm over-peopled and wiped out. We had about 12 kids show up, plus Jane and Liv, so it was a lot to keep up with. More parents stayed than I expected.

The party host was new, only her second party, so some things didn't happen the way they should. The experienced host who helped dragged things out (opening presents?!) and we ended up feeling rushed out of our space because the gravity ropes started late. Kids were wandering around wanting to play games and parents wanted to leave to get home for the LSU game.

Because of when I scheduled the party it was over the lunch hour, and there really wasn't food included for parents -- and a LOT of parents stayed, more than I would have expected. By 3 pm when our family finally left (over an hour after the party was supposed to have ended) I was dehydrated and hangry. I kept it together mostly, but it was difficult. The loudness and bright lights of the arcades didn't help matters.

We bowled for an hour, then we fed the kids pizza and cookie cake. There were a few pieces of pizza left, so some parents did eat. I like being extravagantly generous and a good host, but it wasn't something I could pull off in this situation. I kept saying "I'm not in control of the schedule - I just paid for the party" when the kids said they were hungry or wanted to go do the arcade now. After the cookie cake there was supposed to be a scavenger hunt for Jane with pictures, dance off and more. But that didn't happen because of how slow it was for the pizza and drinks to get doled out.

The kids loved the gravity ropes, although one kid was too short, one kid freaked out and changed her mind and another kid freaked out ON THE TOP and came back down without really doing it. Livia was definitely too small. There were "shorty cards" that they were supposed to give with $10 extra for game play, but they were only $5 extra on top of the $5 cards I had for all the kids. Jane's VIP card didn't have any game play on it either. We ended up having enough to do a few games, which was fine, but it was a let down to me. Jane and the other kids didn't know any different so were fine.

We stopped at Sonic on the way home, got the wrong drink and only one water (the girls were dying of thirst), so were meaner than necessary to the car hop. That got sorted out and we came home to watch some TV -- screen time at last for the birthday girl.

I'm glad we did it once, and we might go hang out there sometime just for a day of family fun, but I don't think we'll spring for another party there. It was more than $400 all in I think, which is a bit more than a backyard bounce house was to rent. But I didn't have to clean my house (seriously it's in shambled right now), so that saved me some work. Maybe we could take three friends to the movies next year?! LOL.

Eight is Great

Today is Jane's GOLDEN birthday. She turns 8 on the eighth!

We celebrated by visiting her at school for lunch, going to Knock Knock Children's Museum after school (and showing up at carpool early so she was one of the first kids to leave), supper at Red Robin and plenty of presents.

Tomorrow is her birthday party, and most of the girls in her class are coming plus a few friends from church. I'm hoping it will be a good time, and I can get another "free space" NaBloPoMo post by writing about it tomorrow.

Today I took Liv to swim and early voted in addition to the birthday shenanigans. I also did a phone interview and wrote a quick draft of a story. I baked Jane's birthday cake, which is a cookie cake. I hope it tastes OK. It sure LOOKS great and smells fantastic. I used this sheet pan chocolate chip cookie bars recipe and then added my standard buttercream frosting. I put yellow sprinkles on the 8, and I wish I had used white frosting for the 8 or left the sprinkles off. I let Jane help me decide what to do. I don't know that it's so great. It probably doesn't matter, and it will almost definitely taste great.

Now there's a rocking party going on around the block from us, and they're so loud that the music and their screams are reverberating in the sun room. Presumably  I don't want to call the cops because I don't want anyone killed (fairly certain it's just a bunch of white boys, so no risk to them if cops show up). That's really where I'm at when thinking about police. Not so much community helpers...

I've been a mama for eight years (maybe more depending on when you think motherhood "starts" -- perhaps the first time I threw up during pregnancy?!). My hair is a lot greyer, I'm a lot more tired -- but both of those could just be aging. I love much more and am much more tenderhearted.

Happy birthday to my very best big girl from her biggest fan!

Twitter-Guided Shopping

We live in a consumer world, and being online makes it that much easier to find out about cool products, things that work and what should be avoided. I've been a Twitter user for more than a decade, but it's only in the last couple years that the people I follow have given recommendations I've actually taken. Here are some of the things that I bought that I loved because I read about them on Twitter, and a few that I'm considering...

Nivea Hand Cream, 79 cents at Target or Walmart. This was in a thread about proper skin care and experiences in elementary school teaching other children how to use lotion. I didn't learn that as a kid and always had rough elbows (I actually thought it was from the way I laid on the carpet to do homework or color). Since using this little tin my adult elbows are nice and smooth, and as the air has been getting a little cooler and drier it's helped my legs too. I even bought the bigger tub, which is still very reasonable.

Me using my Revlon dryer
Revlon One Step Hair Dryer and Volumizer Hot Air Brush, $40 on Amazon. About a year ago this thing was mentioned as being incredible. I put it on my wish list, and my mother-in-law got it for me for last Christmas (or birthday?). I've used it weekly or twice weekly since, depending on whether I can handle a curly hair few days. It makes blow drying so fast and it adds a nice bounce to my hair. I have to use a flat iron to really get my hair the way I like it, but this makes for a cute style. It also goes on sale often and I've been tempted to buy backups because that's how much I love it. I section my hair and blow dry bits at a time, and I'm able to read while I do it because I'm not juggling a brush and a blow dryer at the same time.

Gap Basic Leggings, $20 from Gap. I was not a leggings person until these pants. I wear them under dresses and longer tunic type shirts and they are super comfortable and stay up. They have a thicker waist band at the top and don't move. I have had these for just about a year and wear them regularly when it is not blazing hot. I got grey and black, and I paid $15 each shipped with a promo (the recommender tweeted the deal, which got me to pull the trigger).

A couple I'm still considering are Sunday Riley Good Genes (its exorbitant price are what's stopping me really) and fun tie dye socks from Amazon. I should probably be giving credit where credit is due, but I really don't remember where all the recommendations came from, which is just bad journalism on my part.

Do you have any product recommendations for me? I'm looking for wish list items. Christmas is coming...

Jump Scare

Angsty HP tween
Jane is reading Harry Potter, and tonight I was reading a chapter aloud. Shawn had been at a work dinner, and Liv was in bed. Shawn came home but I couldn't hear him. He opened Jane's bedroom door and I screamed, rolling off the bed to assume a defensive position. That ended up with me  flat on the floor having bounced my butt on the bedframe. It wasn't even a scary part of the book!

Just a scene from a life, as I keep forgetting to write. Although ideas are bubbling my writing time is limited. Busy-ness...

Visiting a Temple

By Dmm1169 at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0
The Baton Rouge temple of the Church of Latter Day Saints was renovated and they had an open house, inviting members of the community to come visit it. Once the temple is re-consecrated non-Mormons won't be able to go inside and there aren't temples in every city, so when our pastor mentioned it as something worth seeing I thought I'd check it out. This temple services people in Louisiana and Mississippi.

I went with a friend, and we had to go when we each had a kid with us. Hers is a newborn, and mine was a 3-year-old, who I carried on my back. I've recently lost some weight, but she weighs more than what I've lost, so I definitely was feeling it for the hour she was back there and we were on our feet the whole time. Livia did really well despite it being really boring for her. She got many compliments on her behavior. My seven-year-old would have been a disaster.

I came away with way more questions than answers, and they weren't really encouraging questions. I was surprised there was no central meeting space and that the rooms were all very small, although finely appointed in rich styles. Wild to me that it was renovated after being less than 20 years old. They didn't talk about their missions or outreach to the world's needy, but that may not mean they don't spend money on those things (?). I am also very confused about how their church can grow when you have to be a member before entering. I guess you become a member at the other buildings/smaller churches before being cleared for the temple. It was weird to hear people using Jesus' name and God the Father but in such incongruous ways to my theology and faith. Being baptized in the place of people who have died was a new one to me, and because of the "marriage is eternal" thing it's unclear about re-marriage, although I guess it's a polygamy religion in its history so maybe that's explained that way.

Anyway, an interesting thing I'll never do again, and hopefully my questions aren't offensive if anyone ever reads them!

Where Are My Gloves?

A little wine for
NOT Marianne
I'm in a Bible study at my church on Monday mornings, and a lady there calls me Marianne. I hadn't fully registered it, but today when I walked in she said it clearly and I said "MY NAME IS MARI." She thought it was funny and was maybe embarrassed she'd used the wrong (almost right) name for so long. I've been at this church for more than eight years, and she and I were at a conference together in May. My name also appears in print sometimes as webmaster/communications volunteer.

I had a conversation about my name -- actually I'm Marilyn -- and why my mom chose to use Mari rather than Mary. (It all came together for the best I think!) No one's ever called me Marianne except her -- usually I get Mari rhyming with sorry or Marie, and once in a while Murray (but that's more of a southern Virginia accent thing, LOL).

Today's name mistake it also reminded me of Alice in Wonderland, which my girls love and Jane was in the school's production last year. The White Rabbit calls Alice "Mary Ann" several times when he thinks she's his assistant (maid?) and asks her to find his gloves. Funny to have a mistaken identity -- a common plot point in comedies everywhere. This will probably just become a running joke between us, and it certainly wasn't offensive.

I'm not Marianne or Mary Ann. I'm Mari, and I like it.

For All the Saints

An All Saints Day Altar
This morning was our All Saints Day worship service, and we remembered those who have died, going before us, specifically those who have died in the last year. I am a teary-eyed person anyway, and I weep easily during worship even on "regular" Sundays. No one who is close to me in real ways died in the last year, but I still cried.

There is Rachel Held Evans, my favorite Christian author, a contemporary, and prolific writer and theologian who died in May. I had been praying fervently for her recovery after learning of her unexpected and terrifying illness that left her in a medically induced coma. I learned that she died the morning of Jane's first piano recital. We were in an Episcopal church and I was helping my three-year-old potty before we left. Rachel had left her evangelical church tradition for the Episcopal church, and she was a mother who left behind two small children and a beloved husband. And she left a hole in my life, even though we were strangers. (We were mutual Twitter followers, and I was on the team to read and promote her last book, Inspired.) I am a fan and a member of her online church, ministered to through social media and her blog.

I grieve for the books I'll never read and the complex thoughts she would have wrestled with and come away with clarity for herself and others. But mostly I grieve for her family, and feel that pin-prick of fear for my own. My own mortality is something I don't consider often, but it's a certainty even without knowing death's timing.

I remember you, Rachel Held Evans. And I expect that I will every year as candles are lit and bells are rung. Just as I remember my grandparents, great aunt, baby cousin and others.

Being in Charge

I like the giant drinks
(That's diet coke, not margarita!)
My girls are growing up. Their stories are less MY stories to tell, so it's fits and starts when I sit down to write or think of ideas. I'm a bit out of practice. I share too much on Facebook, but always running commentary "here's what we are doing" kind of thing. Nothing intense.

My husband is out of town on the second of four trips (actually three because the last two got merged because it didn't make sense to fly home from the East Coast to be home for less than a day before flying back the same way ... plus they have Amtrak!). He hadn't been traveling as much since the summer, so I was spoiled in a way of having ongoing two-parent lifestyle. His job is flexible that he can be relied upon when things come up -- a sick kid but I can still get my scheduled doctor's and hair appointments done. I even took a trip for a church conference (his parents came to stay with the girls and help with carpool and all the sundry activities).

We always eat at Fuzzy's Taco when he's out of town because he doesn't like it and the girls and I do. It's become kind of "a thing" (also because of Facebook and me posting about it!), but I'm also kind of over it. The girls are not, but it's expensive for the small quesadilla they each get, although the carrots and queso are good too. We will persist I suppose.

Otherwise we're mainly white-knuckling it to get through day-by-day. I try to provide grace and smooth things along as best I can. It doesn't always work, and I yell more than I should when I'm on my own. I wish I weren't a yeller, as it is totally ineffective and just a stupid way to behave. I'm really seeing too much of my negative behaviors show up in Jane too, but perhaps that's another post. (Again more her story than mine, though, and where do I draw the line.)

This isn't a very useful post, but perhaps with some practice I can get back into the momentum of writing for this, for myself. I really need to get in bed. Even if there is an "extra" hour tonight I am zapped! We were at the zoo for four hours today, and I didn't wear enough sunscreen. Boo. And I've been eating too much Halloween candy so I don't exactly feel great either (had been carefully monitoring my calorie intake for reasons, so not much sugar and the onslaught is like woah in a bad way). Double boo.

Remembering November

In a wig at a fall festival with my girls
Nose crinkle and crooked smile
It's the start of National Blog Post Month, or NaBloPoMo. I've done it for several years, mostly successfully. I figured last year would be my last because it was so hard, and it still might be. But I didn't want to say no for sure today, and so here is a post.

I barely wrote at all on this blog since last November. Really a conflagration of things -- church volunteer work, actual work for both a magazine and some other clients, my girls being in lots of activities and needing lots of parenting, some crocheting. Mostly I've written so much for the magazine, and I've been blogging for them about twice a month since the summer, taking all my best ideas. There are plenty of non-parenting things I could write about here, or delve into things in a different/perhaps more political or even religious way. But I just haven't. Maybe November is the time. Maybe.

Writers are going to write, but I just haven't been writing here. I still do my weekly emails chronicling my girls' lives, plus my work writing. There's a fair bit of reporting involved in that too, which is exhausting and actually the harder part for me. Hard things are worth doing and doing well though, so I persist.

I also haven't been reading as much. The number of books I've read this year is a measly 58 books. I put my goal at 75, and if I turned on my real reading skills maybe I could get through another 17. But I don't think that's likely given my workload and a few crochet projects and the general goofing around on Facebook (watching those "people videos" as Liv likes to call them -- cooking or how to do crafts) or reading Twitter (as a lament and/or to terrify myself about how bad things really are in our world). I've seriously given over so much of my life lately to this, and for what?!

Other things I've been neglecting include my site, which I'd like to turn into more of a blog, basically a round-up of my professional work. On the magazine's website you can't see my work in any sort of order, particularly not chronologically. You can search for a particular article and find everything written by me, but there's no way to sort it. I can fix that and have a more permanent (for the web anyway) record of my writings by posting first paragraphs dated as when they were published, and linking to the full content on the magazine site. A project that wouldn't take too long (but takes longer the longer I wait because I keep writing and publishing stories), but I still haven't found/made the time.

Welcome to the best month. We'll see where it takes us.

Hats: The Characters

See the post Want to Order a Crochet Hat. These are the "character" hats. Faces and embroidery take more time, so the cost is a bit more. Contact me for details, but generally $15-$20 per hat.

Baby Shark - 3D fin, teeth and gums -- can add ties to ear flaps
Three sock monkeys - can be customized with bow or flower - can add ties to ear flaps
Dinosaur or dragon hat, Baby reindeer, Penguin option
Crazy turkeys -- can add ties to ear flaps
Baby froggy
Twitter bird
Froggy beanie
Gingerbread girl - bow can be customized
Grumpy cat
Panda bear
Penguin option -- can add bow
Baby owl beanie
Ear flap Owl Hat - colors can be customized
Siamese cat
Sock monkey
Tiger - can add bow in team colors
Lambie from Doc McStuffins - this is a copyrighted character, but it was something I made for my daughter. For display only/not for sale

Want to Order a Crochet Hat?

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...