Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Meet my friend Karen

Karen is a friend I met on twitter (@Karinaink) whom I just adore.  She was one of the first people I met, actually.  A few months ago I found out she has a delightful blog where she writes about her family and her creativity.  She shows the world how to be graceful and thrive, even when struggling with MS and 4 little boys under the age of 6- a couple of whom are autistic.  Instead of wallowing in difficulty, she embraces life.  It is truly inspirational.  You should totally check her out!

So when she had a giveaway on her blog with one of her creations, I knew I had to participate.  Even if I'm too late writing this post to even get what she offers, I still love helping out my friends, especially the really cool ones.  She makes lovely letter banners that look something like this:

She sells the banners in her Etsy shop (Karina, Ink) for $2.50 a letter.  Really, they are gorgeous, aren't they?  You could go for the entire alphabet (she gives you a deal for it!):

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P.S. Did you notice I used "whom" twice in this post? I know, totally geeky, right?

Monday, June 21, 2010

I might have to break up with playlands

Well it finally happened for me.  About 100 days after everyone else in the country finishes their school year, my kids finally started summer vacation.  I was trying to find the best way to celebrate, but couldn't chose between hiding in my closet or curling in the fetal position on my bed.  So instead, I took my elementary kids out of class early and brought them to McDonald's for lunch.  Yeah, I really was that tired of packing lunches and that ready to not send in more lunch money.

Now McDonald's and I have enjoyed a mutually beneficial relationship for many years.  They not only provide me with extra padding around the middle and backside, they are also my sanity keeper on days when I need a break (especially rain days).  I think McDonald's Playlands may be the greatest invention since earplugs or duct tape.  It may qualify for the single greatest reason all my children and sanity survive summers.

In return for these lovely benefits, I provide them with astronomical sums of money.

Our relationship was so strong, it survived the my childen's discovery that McD's sells more than dollar sandwiches and even has options with cheap toys included.  It later survived half the kids graduating from Happy Meals to Arm-and-Leg-Costing Meals.  It (barely) survived fries cooked in non-hydrogenated fat. It even made it through that rough patch where they got my order wrong every single time I went for an entire six months.   But it may not survive my children's discovery of a height limit sign for the Playland.

How can I get a moment alone in the middle of a chaotic summer day when half my kids no longer fit on the Playland?  "Can I have your iPhone? " asked in triplicate is not my idea of fun.  Neither is a chanted rendition of "When are we going home, I'm bored."  I can't very well pretend the kids aren't mine when they are draped all over me, feigning death from lack of sliding.

I just paid tens of dollars for a moment's peace and now I get nothing.  Well, I still get the extra padding, but I could get that in the drive through without unnecessarily burning calories by walking inside!

So my summer plans have been dashed.  I'm going to go with my original plan of alternating between the closet and the fetal position with short breaks for chocolate.  Better make sure I've stocked up on extra earplugs and duct tape.  If some kids don't survive the summer, I'm blaming McDonalds.

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Saturday, June 19, 2010

A jungle birthday party and my idea of slightly overboard.

So Kirsti's party was today and was a huge hit.  I had 12 kids (plus my 6 for 18).  I thought I would give you an overview of what I consider "a slight bit overboard" on birthday parties.  If you look closely at the background, you can also see what happens to a house when mom is busy planning a birthday party for two weeks.

First of all, the cake.  She wanted a 3D monkey cake and she got it!  I had extra cake mix so she had some cupcakes, too.  Good thing, because I had to write happy birthday somewhere!
This cake was made from a 3D Wilton Teddy Bear cake pan with the ears cut off and reattached lower and hand molded Rice Crispie Treats for the hands, feet, and tail.  I came close to just adopting it and making it part of the family; I loved the outcome that much. Also, it took nearly as long as my labors to get it here.  Especially since the first go around fell apart.  When in doubt, use this recipe for 3D cakes, I guess, because that is what made it  work.
Next came the goodie bags.
  • I designed and made the actual bags myself.  Fabric stores now sell gorcery bag material and mine carried it in zebra stripes.  Awesome!!  
  • I also designed and made all the monkey masksThis site has great blank templates for masks.  I'll be coming back later in the summer for crafts.   
  • The foam puppets were bought in bulk and separated out.  
  • The monkey keychains were the craft.   I judge age appropriate craft by my kids' ability to do it, forgetting they have extra practice in crafts, but it turned out okay and the kids liked them. You can make your own with this pattern.  Due to a lack of brown beads in all three local craft stores, I special ordered the beads. Kwik crafts had a fantastic deal and they arrived 2 days after the order was made.

Then there were the decorations.
  • I printed out coloring pages of animals and enlarged them onto poster board with my tracer.  What?  You don't own a tracer projector?  I'm on my second already.  Then I traced over the lines with a sharpie, colored them all, and cut them out.  
  • I filled 23 balloons with helium, 5 of which survived till the end of the party.  
  • I also bought animal birthday hats, animal shaped paper plates with matching cups, some table covers.  
  • God provided the rest of the decor, it was lovely.  I wrapped all our presents to her in brown paper with animal print ribbon and thought it looked fantastic!

And finally, the party itself, where I forgot to take pictures until lunch time).

  • We began with coloring bookmarks backed with animal print that I laminated during the party, added a hole and some hemp rope.  
  • Then we played pin the tail of the Zebra (I was particularly proud of the zebra I made, almost wanted to adopt her, too).  Then onto the beach for an elephant race. Basically you reach between your legs and take the hand of the person behind you who does the same until there is a long chain and then race.  
  • We settled down for the keychain craft and then headed onto the beach/sandbar for several minutes of play.  
  • Then pizza, pinata, cake, & presents.  (Sadly I could not think of a word for cake that started with "P".) 

Was that as exhausting for you as it was for me?  Probably not.

Too many hours to admit to prepare, 2 hours set up in the morning, 3 hour party, 1 hour clean up.  Four more years till her next friend party.

Here is a picture of the birthday girl opening our family presents because we ran out of time before the party ended.  Happy birthday Kirsti!!

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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

I Run So You Can Fly

I remember now why I only do friend parties every four years.  I tend to go a slight bit overboard.  The last week filled itself with googling ideas, running to 5000 stores to see if they have what I need, sewing, cutting, glue gunning, and (truth be told) a whole lot of talking to myself out loud as I figure out how to do what I want.

On top of that, there is the normal end of school year activities, preschool, extra trips to school to drop off forgotten items and various other regular-life-with-six-children running around.

In short, I've been running myself exhausted for the last week.

One day, after getting home from several errands, I found myself with an entire spare half hour before the school bus started dropping off children.  I settled onto the couch to relax, but it wasn't long before Matthew climbed on my lap and asked me to let him play on the beach.  Now "let me play on the beach" is code for "play with me on the beach."  Being ever so tired, I at first refused.  Then I remembered that running all these errands is doubly tiring and boring for a (almost) 4 year old.  Thinking of the little jellyfish we'd made in preschool the day before, I suggested we take it for a walk.

In absolute glee, he accepted my offer and we headed outside.

 The slight wind took hold of the streamers as Matthew ran and the fish flew with abandon behind him.  "Mom, my jellyfish is flying!  I'm going to let go so it can fly into the sky." 

I explained to him that it could only fly because he was running so hard.  Without his work, the jellyfish would be a crumpled mess on the sand.

At that moment, I realized my running around was worth it.  I run so my kids can fly.

Magical childhoods don't just happen.  There is a lot of work that goes into making all those memories.  The kids remember highlights and enjoy the safety of their bubble. I maintain the bubble.  They don't see the effort behind taking them to the zoo, making dinner every night, providing the environment that allows them to flourish. 

But that is okay.  One day they will gain their own feet.  Then they must run to feel the wind on their face.  Right now I'm content to run for them, giving them time to fly.

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Friday, June 11, 2010

My Mind is Fixated on Making Birthday Cakes

My kids get a friend birthday party every 4 years, but my timing of children means every other year half the kids get a party.  This year two of those kids get them in a row, starting next week.  So I have birthday party planning on my brain.  So anyway, I thought I would post something relevant.

My birthday cake making skills didn't really start until midway through my husband's medical school.  That is when I took a class the taught how to turn any coloring page into a cake.  It is so EASY!! {I found a link to a tutorial}  This is how I did cakes for years.  Then last year I found a website with video of step by step instructions for easy dimensional cakes.  So I made a train cake for Matthew's birthday and then a pirate for Joseph's.  Suddenly all the kids wanted 3D cakes, culminating in the disaster of Elise's 13th birthday.  Still, we've recovered and I will be making a  monkey cake next week.  Hopefully it doesn't explode!

It does take time to figure out how to make the shapes and a bit of time to decorate, but my kids put their plans in months ahead and look forward to my creations.  I'm not perfect, but I'm good enough to make happy memories for the kids.

Below are some of my favorite cakes from years past.  You'll notice even Peter asks for special designs.

If you're interested in stepping up your cake making skills, but are not ready for fondant or Cake Boss, these are some sites with (easy-ish) but fun ideas:

Betty Crocker  (with videos and great tips!)
Coolest Homemade Birthday Cakes
Family Fun

Sometimes the kids are quite specific with their wishes, but google has yet to not give me at least a starting place for how to do it!

Again, I found someone who already did a tutorial for the coloring page technique and it turns out I had forgotten some steps over time, so I'm glad I found it!

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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

They've taken over my bathroom

I must confess, I have a few idiosyncrasies.  Which is the nice way to say I'm on the path toward being the eccentric lady at church.  Which is itself the nice way of saying I'm borderline nuts.  One of these little, slightly odd behaviors involves using the bathroom.  In our house we have 4.5 bathrooms.  I use only one.  The one true bathroom is connected to my bedroom; I pass 3 other options every time I go there to use it.

But it is mine!!  I know it is cleaner, it has my Sudoku puzzle book in it, and it is in the far corner of the house so it takes longer for the kids to find me.  The other day, though, in the middle of my shower, I noticed something that disturbed me greatly.  I took a picture to disturb you, too.

See those name brand shower gels?  That was our (unsuccessful) attempt to trick our preteen boys into thinking it's cool to use soap.  Don't laugh too hard, it worked with deodorant.  Well it sort of worked with the deodorant, anyway.  The shampoo is the kids', too.  The point is that is MY shower and those are MY BOYS' toiletries. 

To make matters worse, I noticed this pile of clothes when I got out.  It includes clothes from at least 4 of my 6 children.  FOUR kids have undressed and thrown their clothes in MY BATHROOM in the last day.*

See the brush peeking out from under the cabinet, my DAUGHTER's brush?  In fact, looking around the sink, I notice 1/3 of the mess is hers.  Why no picture?  Because of the other 2/3 of the mess, duh.  Although I can guarantee you a mere 1/3 of it was still sizable.

So anyway, my kids have caught onto the one true bathroom and have decided to join me.  That sort of defeats the point.  It does explain, however, why the toilet seat is sometimes wet: even the three-year-old, whose bathroom experience can be summed up with "What's the point of lifting the seat, anyway?", has been venturing upstairs for bathroom visits.

My sanctuary has been invaded, time to buy a padlock.  Maybe I really should just go with my long considered plan for outhouses?

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* Honesty guilt is telling me I should mention that the red striped thing on the end is actually my swimsuit.  As for the plastic bag?  I have no idea, but it wasn't easily photoshopped out, so it stays.  Um, not that I'm prone to photoshop out unsightly messes or anything.  Not even honesty guilt is enough to admit that...

Friday, June 4, 2010

You Can't Go Home Again. Not Without Directions.

You know that saying, "You can't go home again"?  I always thought it was a statement about the difficulty of returning to a place of strong memories when you are not the same person you were when the memories were made.  But it turns out that in my case I can't go home again because I wouldn't be able to find it.

The conference I went to last weekend was held about three (four?) blocks from the house I lived in during high school.  The hotel I stayed in was on my old street.  Sure my street used to end only a 1/2 block from my house, but how hard could it be?  It's still the same road, just extended, right?

(Um, also the road technically isn't the same name as when I lived there, but I knew it was the same street.)

Of course, my old high school is now a movie theater, the new high school is where the local polygamous house once stood, and the rarely used train tracks down the street are now a major monorail.  But, all this happened while my parents still lived there, so I was okay with the changes. Or so I thought.

Silly me. I really thought I could find my way without much effort. 

I got lost. I somehow ended up pretty far east in the valley and when I finally thought I was headed west on my old street, I was a mere four turns away from actually being on the right street.  While aimlessly finding my way , I remembered I'd accidentally picked up travel sized mousse instead of travel sized hairspray.  The local Walmart was just around the corner from my old house, so I could just stop and pick up the right stuff. 

Unfortunately, the local Walmart is now a strip mall full of trendy eating places.

It took me 45 minutes to find another Walmart (Is that even possible?  I thought there was a law that there must be one within 5 minutes of every spot in the USA.)  I ended up at one on a street that didn't exist when I lived there.  In fact it might have been in a town that didn't exist when I lived there.  I later learned my problem was going the wrong way out of the parking lot.  The nearest store was actually where the old sand dunes once existed.

Why didn't I think of that?

I then got lost trying to find my hometown street again so I could check into the hotel.  Like 30-minutes-trying-to-get-to-the-right-road-again lost.

The next morning I woke up craving nothing more than a donut and hot chocolate. So I called my mom and asked her for the nearest Krispy Kreme.  After getting lost AGAIN, I found the spot.  It's now a Sweet Tomato.  Turns out the nearest KK is now 45 minutes away.  So I decided to go to Panera.  Or would have if the closest wasn't in Colorado.

Declaring defeat and calling my mother AGAIN for directions to Albertsons (I knew where it used to be, but this town likes to move things around), I passed a Starbucks.  At the old sand dunes by Walmart. 

With my drink and pastry in hand, I only got lost one more time trying to get to the convention center.  Oh, and once more the next day trying to get there again.  Oh, and one more time trying to get to the freeway after it was over.  That one took me a while to get out of.

So yes, I really can't go home again.  Or maybe I'll take my GPS with me next time.

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Thursday, June 3, 2010

Good bye comfort zone, hello CBC.

Pushing out of my comfort zone always seems like a good idea in theory, but by the time it comes to actually push, I usually decide I'd rather not.  Kind of like labor, only I can't change my mind about pushing out a baby, but almost always back out of pushing my comfort levels.  It stinks, too,  because my comfort zone is a little teeny bit small.  It doesn't include talking with strangers or socializing in large groups.  The last time I moved and had to go into a new congergation, I was so nervous I paled to the coloring of vampire.  Unfortunately, this was pre-Twilight days before that would be cool.  Although now that I think about it, I was wearing some glittery mineral foundation, so I even slightly sparkled.

Well that paragraph got a little off track, didn't it?

So, anyway, part of the reason I wanted to attend the Casual Blogger Conference last week was because I'm sick of my teeny tiny comfort zone and wanted to expand it a little.  What better way than to try with a group of women who I already sort of knew online?  Plus, being held in Utah, if I failed spectacularly, I could always conveniently never see them again.  Besides, after spending the money on tickets, flights, and hotels, I couldn't exactly change my mind.

I was able to convince myself of this when I bought the tickets, when I got on the plane, and as I drove down the freeway to the hotel.  But about an hour before it started, I began to feel a little anxiety.  Hyperventilating, feeling nauseated, and curling into the fetal position on a hotel bed is considered "a little anxiety", right?  When I walked into the Girls' Night Out the first evening and there were no name tags and I recognized no one, I almost turned around and walked back out. What's a little money wasted in the long run anyway? My comfort zone was about 3 galaxies away from where I stood.

Hyperlinking Gone Wild Alert!

And then, someone I didn't know sat down and talked to me.  (I will always be thankful Kara). 

And several minutes later I heard my name called from across the room.  I looked up and there they were.  My friends.  I had often wondered what it would feel like to meet a cyber friend for reals.  Would it be awkward blind date-ish?  Can I tell you, it was wonderful!  More like a reunion of long time friends you hang out with all the time.   We embraced, we laughed, we asked of each other's families.   Suddenly, my comfort zone had decided to join me.

The rest of the time I thoroughly enjoyed myself.  Didn't meet a lot of new people, but definitely had fun with the ones I already knew.  That first group of friends who hailed me from across the room included Amber, Serene, and Linda.  We then met Rachel, the Damsel, Inkmom, and MommyJ.  The next day I met Living the Scream, Tauna, Karen, and T  (who I talked to at least an hour before I realized I read her blog and "knew" her).  I also got to spend time with Shannon, aka Jane, who I've wanted to meet for a long time and is just as wonderful in real life, if not even more so.

I even got to meet Amber's lovely family, our lives really are as eerily similar as I thought, and I love her even more now.  The only person I really wanted to meet and didn't was Momza, who I saw once the first night, but it was before my comfort zone decided to join me and I was too afraid of introducing myself to the wrong person and after that first evening I never saw her again.

The question I didn't realize I needed answered:

What I really found was the answer to a question I didn't consciously form until afterwards.  These people I've met and like online, are they really friends or is it my imagination supplying such a deep connection?  Turns out they are who I thought they were.  Meeting them was as natural as meeting any friend for lunch.  Their online voices blended perfectly with their real life personalities.  That connection is very real, and now I know these cyber-friendships are definitely worth developing.

In short, I think I need to work on this separation anxiety with my comfort zone.  I can live outside its boundaries and not die of nervousness. Thank you ladies, for helping me survive the experience and enjoy it! 

Proof I'm Lame at Taking Pictures:

The entire 2 days, I took one picture.  Here I am at lunch with Amber, Shannon, Serene, and Linda.  I am aware that I am NOT in the photo.  There are other pictures of me other people took.   So if you want more proof I was there, look here, here, or here- (Amber was nice enough to email the photo so I'm posting it).

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An update on my parents

I wanted to express my gratitude to all of you for your kind thoughts and prayers after my last post.  It was very hard and stressful, but every comment was a blessing to me those first days.

My Dad is still in the ICU, but seems to be doing better.  I haven't been able to talk to him yet, but my brother says he is joking around and alert.

My mom was readmitted after the first night because she passed out and sprained her ankle.  They are just taking precations with her heart and getting a lot of tests done.  The hardest part was that she wasn't allowed out of bed and couldn't see my dad.  Luckily, they finally let her last night.

Recovery will be long and painful, but they are alive (thanks to their helmets) and on the road to getting better.  I'll let you know when they are out of the hospital!

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