Month: June 2013 (page 1 of 2)

Behold the Nine Year Old Cake!

It’s FOR my nine year old child. It’s not nine year old cake, silly. The cake is fresh. And so is my nine year old – as in she is newly nine. Like, today. What I’m trying to tell you is today is Julia’s ninth birthday and this is her cake.

Julia's 9th Birthday Cake

I made it. Almost twice. The first batch of cake layers I made crumbled apart. Still, we ate them. Because throwing away cake is like breaking a commandment. And I began anew. My body is comprised mostly of cake at this point and not even in a they-say-you-are-what-you-eat kind of way, but in an I-have-swallowed-that-much-cake kind of way.

I made the fondant myself, and folks, THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING. My life is transformed, at least as far as cake-making goes. This homemade fondant is spectacular. I have total control over the consistency and I can color it earlier on in the process when the marshmallow is liquid, so no kneading it in. You guys, I hated kneading the color in. It was hard to get it uniform and it’d get all over my hands and just NO. All my problems are solved or at least I have one less problem!

If you aren’t totally impressed by the fondant from the picture, you should consider that my application skills still need work. It wouldn’t look any better with bought fondant. In fact it would have looked worse, because when I buy my fondant, I’m so afraid of screwing it up that whatever I do the first time is what it is going to be. Since I made my own fondant and knew I could whip up a new batch in minutes, I didn’t just settle for screwed up, until I got tired and was like, whatever. But before then, I was like, “That’s not quite right. Let’s try that again.” And if I had more stamina, this cake would be so much better and we’d all be thanking the fondant for that.

Julia likes it. She plans to pick up the softball (that’s supposed to be a softball on top) in her hand and eat it like an apple once the birthday song has been sung. And she may, my friends. She may, praise the fondant!

As Phoebe Naps

A couple of Julia’s friends were here for a sleepover last weekend and I’m not sure anyone enjoyed it as much as my little guy.

My baby boy

At one point, he was on my lap, surrounded by little girls smiling and cooing at him, their voices soft and lilting, and he had never seemed more pleased.

The girls were celebrating the end of the softball season that never really ends because now Julia is playing for a 10 and Under team. And then in an 8 and Under tournament. And possibly a fall league. All the while Lucy is still playing t-ball. And BALL. BALL BALL BALL. BALL! All the time. Forever and ever. BALL.

I’m contemplating Julia’s birthday cake. I’m planning to use homemade fondant, meaning I will be making it myself. I gave the recipe a test run on Father’s Day. It’s sort of messy to make, but it seems I can make fondant, you guys. Fondant cakes for everyone!

We also tried some shaving cream painting, recently, which is pretty cool.

This –

Shaving Cream Marble Art

– resulted in this:

Shaving Cream Art

And this –

Shaving Cream Marbling

– made a big freakin’ mess, which is kid code for FUN and mom code for LET’S DO THIS OUTSIDE NEXT TIME.

Messy!

Also THANK GOODNESS PHOEBE WAS NAPPING.

Home Decor

Julia found my stash of picture frames yesterday and asked if she could use one. This morning, I found this hanging in the stairway.

Our Family by Julia

(Below “Our family” she had written “sticks together,” but the frame cuts it off.)

And as I type this to you, this is happening next to me.

Jackson and his Bee

Love is all around me.

Not Your Stepping Stone

Stepping stones are bullshit. I’ve been trying to makes those things for three summers now and they never turn out. I don’t know if it’s me or the materials, but clearly, I’m not meant to have beautiful, painted impressions of my children’s sweet baby hands decorating my flower bed!

Fairy Jar

Making Fairy Jars, however, is a lovely way to end a day of epic stepping stone-making failure.

Fairy Jars!

Bee looks for fairies.

A-well-a bird, bird, bird, the bird is the word.*

Well, we’ve finally checked something off on our Summer To-Do List (other than SLEEP IN). We made Cookie Cutter Bird Feeders!

Phoebe and her bird feeder

Julia and her bird feeders

Lucy and her bird feeders

The girls each made two and we hung them all over our yard and let the birds discover them.

Cookie Cutter Bird Feeder

The next day, I made our Fact of the Day about birds.

Fact of the Day

And after breakfast, we went outside and sat as quietly as our bunch can and waited to see if we could catch any birds eating from our feeders. When it started to get a little boring, we hopped in the car and went to a place where we knew we’d see a bird.

Baby Bald Eagle

That’s a baby bald eagle. (Check #2 off our list!) My friend April tipped us off to a nearby nest and it’s pretty incredible. And popular. There were three people there when we showed up. One was a kind woman who stayed a while and helped the girls to spot the nest. Six or seven more people showed up before we left. One woman, who told me she’d been visiting there since the birds had started building the nest, let the girls show her where it was and tell her all about it. Then she told us about her son who had just graduated.

“I remember when he was that small,” she said, nodding toward my crew. “You know, when they want you all the time.” Her eyes got misty. “That goes away, you know.”

She looked at me and smiled. “You are so very blessed.”

“I really feel that I am,” I said. I wanted to hug her. Lucy did instead.

We didn’t see either of the adult eagles while we were there, but we’ll go back again.

After a few days with our bird feeders up at home, we’ve found a pair of cardinals are our best customers.

Here’s the male.

Male cardinal

And the female.

Female cardinal in a tree

(She’s in the tree and her colors aren’t as bold as her partner’s, but you can see her there.)

I’ve been trying to snap a picture of them actually eating from our feeders, but they just won’t stick around when we shout, “THERE THEY ARE!!!!”

I keep telling myself that, one day, I’m going to get up before the kids, sit out on the porch in the early morning sun, in the quiet, and get the shot. But, I don’t know. Right now I’m pretty committed to sleeping in.

*That’s a lyric from the song “Surfin’ Bird” by The Trashmen, also remade (even cooler) by the Ramones.

When was the last time you played in the rain?

I was 17 years old. Ilka and I had gone for a walk and got caught in the rain. We were too far from home to even think about making it back dry, so we shrugged and said, “Let’s get wet!” We jumped and splashed in puddles. We opened our mouths to the sky and tasted the rain on our tongues. We danced. We played in the rain like children. And at 17, I guess we still were, though I would have argued with you about that at the time. The photograph my mom took of us when we got home, soaked and smiling, is one of my favorites.

I thought about this when the girls and I were eating french toast this morning and Lucy said, “We can’t go outside. It’s raining.”

So I said, “Why not?”

It's Raining!

Playing in the rain

All wet!

Maybe one day, when my girls think about their childhood, the summer, their sisters – one of these photographs will be their favorite.

When I wonder why my kids don’t listen, I guess I should consider it’s because they’re following my example.

Play At Home Mom’s Redneck Waterbed has been on my Amazing Things I MUST Do list since the day they published it on their blog. In fact, I’ve had the supplies sitting in my garage since last summer.

We finally got around to trying it. I envisioned it would look like the gorgeous pictures at A Giggle A Day.

Lucy on the "Redneck Waterbed"

It did not, obviously.

Bee and Lucy on the "Redneck Waterbed"

The kids still had a great time with it in spite of my many mistakes. Like filling it on a surface that wasn’t flat (even though the Play At Home Mom instructions stated in giant red letters “**MAKE SURE YOU FILL IT ON A FLAT GROUND**”). So it pretty much rolled and rolled and kept on rolling down the hill. Then I dragged it partially filled to a flatter-ish area which put a bunch of holes in it.

Bee on the "Redneck Waterbed"

We ended up draining it, cutting the plastic in half and then trying again with the least holey portion.

Jumping on the "Redneck Waterbed"

It never filled completely because HOLES, but it was still fun. And cutting a corner open and “making a waterfall” and, consequently, a mud pit was their favorite part.

We’re going to give it another try. And maybe also the Walk-in Bubble.

The pool

Until then, there’s always the pool that only took me two tries and four hours to inflate because DAMMIT WHY IS IT SO HARD FOR ME TO FOLLOW INSTRUCTIONS.

I’d already used lyrics from Summer Nights from Grease for the title of another post, so…

Julia was gone most of the day yesterday for rehearsal for her dance recital, so the little girls and I made slime – a.k.a. Gak, a.k.a. the stuff Julia once got stuck on our friend’s vaulted ceiling. (Warning: this stuff sticks to ceilings.)

Slime, sweet slime.

"Slime!"

You guys, this stuff is so fun and not as messy as you’d think. And Bee and Lucy really tried to wreck things with it. Lucy stuck it all over her shirt and on the rug. Bee put hers on the cat and over the return air grate. It all cleaned up! Just know this fact about slime: the longer it sits on a surface, the more it sticks to it.

Ewww, slime.

Sliiiiiime!

Slime!

Julia and I made this stuff years ago with her playgroup friends. We’d found the recipe in my Moms’ Lifesavers: Tips to Help Make Life Easier for New Mothers book. You can find the same one with cool pictures at Lil’ Luna.

Juila and her purple slime.

She still had to make her own when she got home.

After dinner, Dave made a fire he was immensely proud of, because this is what men do.

"I am man!"

“I am man!”

"I make FIRE!"

“I make FIRE!”

"Fire good!"

“Fire good!”

We roasted marshmallows.

Marshmallows

Julia roasts a marshmallow

And went to bed very late and sticky.

I don’t want to end up having an Almost Famous conversation with my teenagers, one day. “Darryl says that you use knowledge to keep me down. He says that I’m a “Yes” person and you are trying to raise us in a “No” environment.”

I’m a very rules-oriented person. Thinking outside the box isn’t something I do well. If I’m cooking, I need a recipe that I will follow to the letter. If it calls for cream of chicken, but I only have cream of celery? The thought that I could just substitute it will short circuit my brain because that’s not the recipe! (I know. I’m adorable to live with.) Since becoming a parent, I’ve really tried to loosen up and be more discerning about the rules I follow, because a lot of them are arbitrary and for the convenience of someone else. But if it’s how I’ve always done things, it’s hard to turn that around. In fact, there are some rules and routines that are so ingrained, I’m actually shocked at the idea that I could do things differently, so it’s something I’m always working on.

I try to say yes to my kids more than no, which is a challenge, because my initial reaction is often NO, thanks to all those crazy rules.

“Can we dump this bucket of sand down the slide?”

My instinct is to say no. The rule is: sand goes in the sand box.

But why not? Why not let them dump the sand down the slide? Yes, it will probably make a mess. And there may be less sand in the sand box to play with next time. But, what a great way to learn that lesson, right? Truly, where’s the harm?

So, I let the kids dump the sand down the slide.

And I let them play with rice, even though rice is food and food is for eating. Folks, I even colored it for them.

Phoebe can't wait to play with the colored rice!

I followed the how-to at Powerful Mothering, but the idea totally came from my friend who has always had some colored rice on hand for the kids to play with every time we’ve been to her house. And my kids remember this. They call her house The Fun House.

I want to have a Fun House.

Orange is her favorite.

Phoebe could hardly wait for it to dry so she could stick her hands in there. And yes, I’ll confess, when she gave in to temptation, I stopped her and starting sorting the rice she mixed together grain by grain back into their respective containers. I have no idea why I did this. I heard myself say, “Oh, no! You mixed them up! We’re not ready to mix them, yet. It’s not time to start!” And in the middle of that knee-jerk reaction, I had a thought. “Wait. Why do we have to wait? We don’t have to wait. You know what? Go ahead! Play!”

Yesterday, we took it outside and did just that.

Colored Rice Play

Even the big kid couldn’t resist playing.

Even the big kid can't resist!

Lucy plays with colored rice.

Playing with colored rice.

Funnel fun

“Hey Mom…

Jackson and Julia

Do you think Jackson would like to play in it? We could put his feet in it or something.”

Jackson's foot in colored rice.

Yes.

Treasures? from My Drafts Folder

The idea of sharing your life with someone sounds so romantic, doesn’t it? The truth is, nothing could be less romantic than everyday life. Taking out the trash. Doing the dishes. Laundry. Skid Marks. Pimples. Toe Nails. Blobs of toothpaste in the sink. Leftovers for dinner. Romance requires a little less reality. That’s why there’s usually candlelight involved.

***

I could be a Jeff Foxworthy-ish comedian with my one-liner being, “…you might be as broke as me.”

scrounging up my change
putting the pennies in rolls
to pay for my gas

***

After school, I send Julia directly to her room to change out of her school clothes and into play clothes. Yesterday, she came downstairs in nothing but underwear and her Snuggie.

Me: “Julia, why are you just wearing underwear?”

Julia: “Well, I was hot.”

Me: “But you’re in a Snuggie.”

Julia: “Yeah, ’cause then I got cold.”

***

Mother’s Day List

I do not want breakfast in bed.
I want to sleep in.

I do not want another pair of slippers.
I would like a foot massage.

***

Cats are cute and furry and loving and frequently entertaining. But the stuff that comes out of them and goes, hopefully, in the litter box? It is the foulest, most horrific substance in the known universe. It damages everything it touches. Nothing smells worse and it never, ever EVER goes away, no matter how much you clean it. If a cat pees on your carpet? The only way to get rid of the odor is to get rid of your carpet. Or burn down your house and start fresh somewhere else.

***

I cannot sit down,
take a bath, or even pee
without someone there.

They are in my lap,
or at my feet; in my face,
or trailing behind.

“Mommy, look at me!”
“Hey Mommy, listen to this.”
“Mom, watch what I do.”

***

Remember that movie Defending Your Life with Albert Brooks and Meryl Streep (whose character’s name was Julia, by the way [and when you see “Julia,” you should imagine it scribbled on a notebook with hearts and squiggly doodles all around it])? Yes? Well, if that’s how the afterlife begins, I certainly hope no one chooses an excerpt from today to show on a great big screen for the powers that be to judge me by, because I’d be headed straight to hell. Or back to earth as a bug to try it over again. Or whatever you believe happens if you’re very, very bad. Unless of course you think we’re all just a big worm feast when we die in which case this is a terrible introduction to the story of what just may be my worst parenting moment moments about twenty moments, ever.

***

If I were ever to write a horror story in which there is a killer, the most suspenseful scene would take place in an automatic car wash. The doors would close, the driver would glance in the rear view mirror as the nozzles begin to spray and see the killer through the mist. Cue the screechy scary violin music! Because maybe it’s a movie! Heavy breathing. Frantic scrambling and door locking, then scrunching down and hiding and more breathing. Maybe the driver will secure a weapon like…ah, a t-ball bat as she waits. Quiet. Heart pumping. Breathing. CRASH! The killer starts busting windows with a tire iron or some other weapon I have yet to think of! The driver struggles out of the car, gets off one good whack to the killer’s head with the bat, then heads for the door which she cannot open! She bangs on it and screams, “Let me out! I want out!” for dramatic effect. Meanwhile, the car wash runs. The killer gets on his feet. The driver gets back in the car. The killer gets in front of it. It’s a stand off! The driver revs the engine, then shoots forward pinning the killer between the car and the door which still won’t open, by the way. Silence. It seems like it’s all over and the killer is dead, but we know he’s not. The killer has to kill the driver. That’s what makes him the killer! I don’t know how he’d do it, yet. And there has to be more details incorporating the car wash that’s happening all around them, but that’s the gist.

Also, I think a storage unit would be a great place to hole up in the event of a zombie surge.

***

The Day I Landed My Helicopter and Put My Feet on the Ground

I fell for the whole song and dance. I went to the concert and bought the t-shirt. Then, I went home and formed a cover band.

When my daughter was born, I slipped right into hover mode. It felt natural. It was all about her. I didn’t have much experience with babies, so I was learning. And I had fallen absolutely head over heels for this child. I wanted to be there and experience everything with her. I loved the view of the world through her eyes. I wanted her close. I wanted to be involved. I didn’t want to miss a thing.

As she grew older and we started venturing out into the world, I quickly understood the judgment surrounding me. I knew if my child made a mistake and I wasn’t swift and firm with my correction, people would think I hadn’t taught her better, that I didn’t know any better. Or worse, that I didn’t care. So I hovered, ready to swoop in and make things right. To protect her from being the bad kid. To protect myself from being the bad mom.

But by filtering and mitigating everything that came her way, I was robbing her of real experiences.

It crystallized one sunny day in a sandbox. The kids were playing when the announcement came, “Leslie, Lucy isn’t sharing and she’s throwing stuff.” True to form, I sprang to action.

“Oh, now we don’t throw things. You hurt your friend. Please say you’re sorry.”

“Now tell her that’s okay,” the other mother told her child who ignored her in favor of building a moat.

The kids were already on to the next thing.

As Lucy struggled to move from my grip and delve her hands back in the sand, I realized how ridiculous the whole scene was. We weren’t letting the kids play. It was us, the parents, who were playing. The kids had simply become puppets in our show, demonstrating our “good parenting.”

***

I do not like to be wrong and I can’t stand it when someone thinks I’m dumb. And if that’s not a recipe for likeability, I don’t know what is!

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