This is a story about crafting gone wrong. And right. And then wrong again. And then very right. Do this back and forth for many months, add in some glitter and spray paint (a little whiskey, and many, many curse words), and you’ll eventually land in a corner of my dining room.
When we finally moved into the house, we were lucky enough to purchase a lovely antique dining room set from Greg’s parent’s neighbor. Random enough for you? Her parents received it as a wedding gift in 1938, and it’s in stellar condition. Eventually I will refinish this set and recover the chairs, but for now, I’m just happy to have a place to eat. As a cook, I take dining rooms rather seriously. Greg prefers homes without dining rooms, and when he suggested we leave it out of the new home, I turned on my laser eyes and burned a hole right through his forehead. No dining room? Was he having a moment of mental instability? Um, HELLO cherished memories of breaking bread over candlelight for decades to come while surrounded by quaint trim work; I think I’ve made my point.
The sideboard functioned as a traditional sideboard “sans le decor”, until I ripped a picture out of Better Home and Gardens, and decided STOP EVERYTHING! THIS WHOLE SIDEBOARD MUST BE DIFFERENT! It must have lamps and mirrors and tall, wayward flowers! It must have candles and interesting shapes! It must be covered in things I DON’T CURRENTLY OWN! We might be touching on the reason Greg didn’t want a dining room.
Before we even signed on the house, Greg’s Mom gave 2 brass Stiffel lamps. If you don’t want to use Stiffels for lighting, you can use them as hand weights, because Stiffels weigh more than my children. When she offered them to me (Lori, would you have any use for these Stiffel lamps? I found a picture in Southern Living, and I must CHANGE EVERYTHING!), I slipped into a gigantic flashback from 1982: I could see my Mom rifling through her purse at the bank drive-through window. Every week, she’d cash her check, and she would carefully take out a few bills and slip them into a separate envelope in her purse, designated for her treasure dujour. One does not easily forget the Stiffel lamp envelope. She saved and saved and saved. She would visit them at the furniture store and whisper sweet nothings into their brassy-goodness, “Lori! Lift these! Just try! These are QUALITY lamps. They will last forever. And THEY WILL BE MINE.” And eventually, paid entirely in cash because that’s how my family rolls, they were. I dusted those things FOREVER, so I can attest to their lifespan. When Carolann offered hers to me, I laughed oh-so-loudly, and told her I’d be terribly grateful to inherit the forever-weighty-quality-ness-est of her Stiffels.
New paint and lampshades, and these would work perfectly in my “imitate the random picture I found in a magazine” plan. Problem #1: It was COLD in my garage this winter, and I wanted to spray paint the lamps. I rigged up an elaborate plastic tent and heater system. For every coat of paint, I warmed up my tent to 50 degrees, and slowly…ever so slowly…turned brass into “burnt amber”.
Problem #2: Until the final coat, when I warmed up the tent, but forgot to warm up the paint. THE WHOLE MESS CRACKLED.
Not in a good-crackle-way. In a very, very bad crackle-way.
I gave up and waited for the weather to turn, as I was disheartened.
I spent my free time looking for the “perfect sideboard mirror”. It had to be interesting, antique-y, and the glass had to be almost perfect. I repeat: I don’t do “crackle”. Also, it had to be damn-near free, because the new house was turning out to be less-free. What’s the opposite of free? Oh…yes…my mortgage. In January, I found it. It was on clearance at my favorite antique mall for a whopping $35. And much like those lamps, it weighed more than my children combined. But Sara, Kelly and I knew we’d found “the one”, and the 3 of us managed to get it home. I’m often heard calling back to antique mall attendees, “Trust me! When I finish with this thing, it will be AMAZING! If I don’t drop it first!” I think they slap clearance stickers on heavy stuff as I walk through, just to watch me squeal and risk life and limb. That’s right Cheryl! I’m onto you!
The wood frame needed some repair. Well…many repairs. It sat on the floor of my dining room for so long, my friends assumed I was trying to start a new trend in floor decor. Truth be told, I have taken on all NEW fix-it tasks since building this house, and my plans intimidate me.
One day I finally got the cahonas to mix up the epoxy, and voila! Using a plastic spoon as the tool-of-choice (all professional furniture refinishers swear by “la spoon de plastique”…kidding…I made that up), I filled all the cracks and molded the repairs to look like the original frame. My sister and I thought painting it the color of the kitchen (SW’s Chinchilla) would be a nice contrast against the brown lamps and brown furniture.
Problem #3: That plan fell flat. We ended up at “purple mirror”. Not good.
No problem: my roomie from college is an architect with a deep background in interior design, and she recommended adding depth with a deep gold glaze. YES! I didn’t “unlike” the original gold…it was just…too gold. Something in between flat purple and Louis XIV was my plan.
Problem #4: Oops. I accidentally turned it back to gold.
No problem: I still have the chinchilla paint. PURPLE. GOLD. PURPLE. GOLD. I painted. I blotted. I swept it over with every type of brush known to man. I bought different gold. I bought gold spray. Gold varnish. Gold glitter. Antiquing gold. I bought lambswool. Sponge applicators. What tools did I end up using on the final product? An old rag and a 75 cent sponge.
I finally gave up and just sat this behemoth on the sideboard. I thought maybe if I stared at it a while, the answer would come to me.
Back to the lamps, which had to be stripped, repainted, and new shades applied.
10th time was a charm.
Problem #5: Paint stripper will kill the new grass your husband planted. He will claim it was worth it if it means you’ll shut up about the lamps, and stop killing yourself with spray paint fumes.
My sister suggested a dark brown antiquing glaze, barely applied, was the depth we needed. Looking through the now ridiculous stash of stains and paints and I owned, I found one. Using the edge of lambswool and an old paintbrush to rub it in, I found the mirror I had been seeking. The final step took me about 10 minutes. I applied a tiny bit of polyurethane, and rubbed it as well, to downplay too much shine.
After spending 6 months under newspaper, my friend Lydia forgot there was a mirror under this mess, and asked what kind of picture I would be putting in the frame. OH! That’s a MIRROR! She assumed it was a wicked mess of tape, paint, and glitter that I would eventually throw in the trash, and then force her to ease my pain over margaritas. RIGHT. Like Lydia and I need an excuse to go out for margaritas.
This simple sideboard decor cost me 6 months of grief, but less than $100. I learned a lot, mostly about persistence, and about not asking the guys at Home Depot for advice. In fact, I’m working on a project now that I fully blame on the Home Depot paint guys, and I may picket. Now that this sideboard is done, I have that kind of time.
My point here is this, my friends: if you find a random picture in a decorating magazine, THROW IT AWAY. When we put it altogether last night at 10 pm, I screamed out loud with happiness, but for the rest of my life, I’ll never know if I love it because it’s pretty, or if I love it because of the blood, sweat, and tears that went into it. I guess either way, it doesn’t really matter, does it? I love it. When can you join me for dinner?
Wisdom Comes Suddenly.
Tags: The Girls
June 16th, 2015 · Comments Off on The Queens Of Summer, A Photo Essay
Sweet, chewy, humid summer, I love you. I know it’s popular to post links on FB about “Having a 70’s Summer”, wrapped in nostalgia and topped with a b-o-l-o-g-n-a commercial. I loved my childhood summers, but in all honesty, I don’t feel my kids need to repeat mine:
- Drink water out of a hose! I sure did, which led us to believe we could drink water from anywhere. In fact, my sister’s best friend did, and after a colorful game of “Pioneers”, she spent a week in the hospital after filling up on creek water.
- Don’t come home until the street lights come on. My family had this philosophy…and a farm…and lots of ATVs…and numerous trips to the ER…and why don’t you ask my cousin Eric where his spleen might be? Lack of supervision. Beautiful. How did we survive it? We almost didn’t.
- Get bored. Oh…wait. Yeah, we’ve definitely repeated that.
My kids are running with a saucy crowd, and would like to know why they aren’t in India or London or even Disney World this summer. Um? Because we’re not land rich? My patented response is, “I’d like you to look forward to those things in adulthood, and please send me a postcard. The education your Father and I are providing should get you there. If not, you’ll have something to share with your therapist.”
I’ve decided to create a summer somewhere between “this hose is our pool” and “let’s meet up in Paris for a smoothie”. Here goes:
We’re hitting all the parks. I grew up in a town with one park, so I’m fascinated by this city with endless parks and hiking trails. THANK GOD Sara never forgets the bug spray. I always pack Sara because I never remember bug spray.
Cook a whole bunch of stuff. You know what I mean by “a whole bunch” don’t you? Like…EAT YOUR WAY THROUGH SUMMER, guys.
But help your Mom with the dishes.
Definitely cook some things you’ve cooked before. You’re getting good at this cooking thing!
Watch a boatload of movies with popcorn on rainy days. If you get a cold, watch some more. Keep your cat nearby, because cats LOVE movies. Or just take a nap with the cats, because cats LOVE naps.
Stain so many pant butts, you designate a fruit-picking outfit. Make sure your hands are always covered in fruit, paint, dirt, or popsicle juice.
Eat things flavored “blue”.
Work out as a family until it hurts!
Until you’re strong!
Until you’re dressed like a ninja on a balancing ball while wearing a stopwatch and your cousin is photo-bombing you.
Hang out with a nutty amount of friends. Playdates, Stomp Dates, Swim Dates, Sleepovers, Ice Cream Dates; summers with friends are the best! Friends who can move rocks are even better!
Play every board game 100x or more. Or until Kelly cries and the kittens destroy the game.
Never give up on a puzzle. Or do, and let Momma get you out of a jam, and then BACK AT IT Puzzle People!
Swim until you are so tired and cold, you are out of your mind with grief. This has been achieved with all 3 Campers, and we’re not even to late June yet. SCORE.
This picture has nothing to do with summer or this essay. Rufus asked that I put in a small public service announcement about his balls: Neutering puts kittens in a BAD MOOD. You’ve been notified.
Read while balancing a water bottle on your foot? I don’t make all the rules.
Read under blankets?
Definitely collect proper Creek Stomping attire (not what you see above, as this is rather “Kelly-esque”). When I was a kid, this was called, “playing in the creek”, but city-slickers have formalized this game and call it “creek stomping”. One low creek can occupy kids for HOURS. I always pack a girlfriend, and we wile away the day in the breezy shade, watching the kids go nuts…for free. It’s.so.great.
Go to outdoor art shows and flea markets with your Momma. You’ll learn all kinds of zany trivia you’ll never use again. But she pays for your patience in Lemon Shake-Ups, so you’ve got that going for you.
Calico Critter Land now has a dentist AND doctor offices (handmade with fabric and Sara’s glue gun). Some afternoons I don’t see or hear children for hours. The village has found a permanent home in the corner of the attic, and after 5 years in play, I can say hands down, as long as they live, nothing will top these toys.
Mostly, we’re just goofing off. Do I allow “electronics”? OF COURSE. My children are growing up in their generation, not mine. Do I allow TV? YEP. A little vegging is good for the soul. Do I have a rough idea of a schedule on the dry erase board? You bet. Kids do better when they know what to expect. Are they doing academics? YOU KNOW IT! Learning is wicked cool! Are they doing school work every day? Nope. Against the laws of summer. Look it up.
Am I concerned about the lack of “enrichment camps”, and the fact that my crew will come out of summer without a black belt and a mastery of robotics? Not really. They will have a mastery of “putting away dishes” and “folding laundry“, so their life skill sets are definitely growing. I’m thrilled for any kid who learns to sail and swab the deck, but in a landlocked state, I think it’s equally important to learn how to SWAB YOUR BATHROOM FLOOR.
In this last photo, the girls and their buddy are making curly-q’s with dandelion stems. I wish for everyone this kind of richness: Friends. Sunsets spent outside. Beach Towels. Giggles. A summer just overflowing with God’s goodness and things that taste like berries. (Real berries, not fake Kool-Aid flavored berry drink from the 70’s. Nostalgia tastes like cancer-causing juice when you think about it…OK. I’ll go to bed now before I give you nightmares about the Tang Astronaut and the Kool-Aid Pitcher Character chasing you through the clown head that shot water through its brain so hard, it could take your eyeball out. Oh yeah…a 70’s kind of summer, what a treat.)
Tags: The Girls
I have very strict rules about crying in the kitchen. If you’ve ever read “Like Water For Chocolate” you know why one must not cry into food. The main character weeps into her sister’s wedding cake (because her sister is marrying the main character’s true love), and lo and behold, every wedding guest gets food poisoning. Cooking is serious business you’all.
We’re in peak strawberry week in Indiana, and what a season it is. These strawberries are HUGE, and just right. Out to the fields we went, as we do year after year. In an odd twist of fate, the winds blew smoke from a Canadian forest fire, blocking the heat. Everything was in place for a perfect year of jamming and making pies in my kitchen. The kitchen where no tears are shed.
You gonna give me that applesauce Old Man? -Sara
But picking day wasn’t perfect. My heart HURT all day; a deep sorrow had settled into my chest, and I could feel the pain reverberating through my entire being. My Grandfather, a man who has been my second father, is dying. Little by little (or large by large?), his organs have started to say their goodbyes. He’s still at home, doing small things like playing his guitar and making his breakfast, but we are coming to terms with his now frequent “heart hiccups” (what I’m calling his unremitting chest pains, as he has NOT come to terms with his current reality).
Papa Bump and a Chubby Kelly who shares his name. And apparently, his hat.
As the girls screamed each time they grabbed “the jackpot strawberry”, I could hear his voice in my head:
“Always pay yourself first. Put that money in savings, so when problems come, your safety net isn’t in the hands of your debt. That’s the only way to STAY out of debt.”
“Always pay cash for your cars. No cash? You can’t afford that car.”
“Roses take patience. Talk to them every day. Don’t be in a rush with your roses, because they can’t be hurried.”
I wanted to laugh with the girls, and applaud their efforts to estimate our yield. But above me, the heavens were ripping apart, and I was in a stunned silence knowing only I was hearing the winds change. I knew I had to stay steady. Hold the course. Keep the traditions. Let the girls see my unchanging smile when they asked about Pa Pa Bump and his hiccuping heart.
“You have to have a lot of friends, and different kinds. The guy you go bowling with may not be the guy you want to go fishing with. Those are different people, Lori. Have many friends.”
“You got to learn to get along a little bit in life. It’s OK to be different. I know you don’t run with the crowd. But it’s going to be a long life if you don’t…you know…get along a little bit.”
Avery shares his birthday. This kid OWNS Papa Bump.
We picked 20 lbs and got some ice cream. I enjoyed my annual Sarsaparilla Root Beer. My bones were screaming at me, “Your last Grandparent is in his last days. After defying death for 20 years, his luck has run out.” I knew it. After decades of watching him beat the odds…I knew it. Not for one more second could I find comfort in my usual rationalizations:
– He’s had a wonderful, long life.
– He changed his lifestyle and bought himself 20 truly good years.
-He’s never been the same since Grandma died.
-I’ll see him in heaven.
-How many times can any one person outrun Fate?
-He survived the South Pacific Theater! He’s been around the world twice!
-He didn’t outlive his children or his grandchildren, or even his great-grandchildren. That was his biggest wish.
-His body is gently letting go. He didn’t outlive his legs…his biggest fear. He didn’t end up in a nursing home…his second biggest fear. He didn’t didn’t have a stroke…his third biggest fear.
Wallen x2 is A LOT of Wallen.
My soul didn’t want any rationalizations. My soul wanted to grieve. My soul wanted to come to terms with the things I cannot change. He’s had the very best medical care on the planet. I have recommended and suggested and consulted his medical charts since the moment I took my nursing oath (in fact, he was one of my first patients in Cardiac Critical Care). And after all these years and surgeries and medications, I was left in the middle of a strawberry field with nothing but my grief and sorrow.
If Grandpa were there, he would have disagreed:
“Nothing but your sorrow and good looks. Damn Lori, you always clean up so nice. You are lucky to have inherited my genes. I know we make it look easy, but it’s hard work being this pretty.”
“When you walk into a fancy restaurant, hold your head up, because you know what you’re doing. I’ve taught you how to order and drink and cut a steak. If you can afford that steak, you have just as much a reason to be there as the millionaire sitting next to you. We all put our pants on the same way, so don’t go thinking you have to be rich to have pride in who you are Shorty. I’ve met a lot of poor rich people who don’t know a thing about saving or investing. They are eating that steak, not knowing if they are going to die in the poor house. I may eat fewer steaks, but I know full well I won’t outlive my money.”
I drove us home and accepted there was only one thing left to do: Make a pie.
And because it was Grandpa’s pie, I did NOT cry. I DO NOT CRY INTO PIE, because tears ruin the whole point of pie. Pie isn’t just a dessert. It’s a gesture. It’s a symbol. It’s a tradition. It’s the way one says, “I bring you my heart and best wishes, wrapped up in a dish of goodness. With every bite, feel the echoes of my love for you.” There is a reason we refer to the best of the best worlds as “pie heaven”.
Ah, Sara sleeps. Of all days, I would relive this one with my Grandparents OVER and OVER, if only I had a wish-granting machine.
I went to bed, settling into a wicked sleep. The stabbing pain wouldn’t subside. By daybreak, my phone was ringing with the news Grandpa was back in the hospital (his second trip in a week). Those heart hiccups just won’t stop their forward marching. The doctors let him know he’s not a candidate for anything other than morphine and blood pressure pills.
“You’ve got to move every, single day. Work in the yard, get on the treadmill. You’ve got to keep up with current events. Read. Yell at CNN once in a while. But don’t be a hothead like me. Do you have any idea how many nitros I’ve taken during Yankee games? Too many Shorty. Way, way too many.”
“Don’t be afraid to split a pair and double-down. Hitting 16 rarely pays off. You’ve got to work on your poker face, because you never know when you’re playing with a shark. Know your tells. I know you like to bet low and go slow, but Shorty, when the table is hot, PLAY the game. Win and cash out!”
I took the pie to the hospital, which wasn’t what I had planned for his pie, but it tastes the same in Cardiac Critical Care as it does in his kitchen. I also took Grandma’s Butterscotch cookies, which he inhaled before I even sat my purse down.
I got to watch him savor every bite of his tearless pie, and we had that moment together. Who doesn’t look at that last bite of dessert and carefully wish to savor its lingering flavor? Who doesn’t finish a wonderful meal with wonderful people, and hear their heart wish for a repeat?
I know I do, but my tears on this subject will have to wait, because for now, we’ll be having pie. I wish for you the same goodness of a tear-free pie, shared with people you love. And until we speak again, Godspeed this summer, my friends. Godspeed.
Tags: The Girls
June 5th, 2015 · Comments Off on Summer Fridays
When no one really wanted a fancy croissant breakfast sandwich (except Mommy). When no one could decide on a board game (except Mommy). When a board game was chosen, and no one could agree on playing pieces (except Mommy). When no one was too enthusiastic about folding laundry (including Mommy). Only one choice remains: turning Ball Jelly Jars into Pencil Holders.
Mommy knows, Mommy knows.
Tags: The Girls
If you could paint the month of May, it would look like this.
All 3 girls awoke by 7:45, and started the day by screaming through a game of Connect 4, while attempting to sneak soda for breakfast. Yesterday started with their attempts at making waffles along with a cat throwing up all over the living room.
Summer has made its official entrance.
I thought, “Another day…no wisdom to share”. The past month has been so full to overflowing, I haven’t found a second for reflection. Every day, I open up the to-do list, and desperately look for time to feed people.
Auntie Amanda is officially, “Mrs. Auntie Amanda”!
It was a great month, but in a rock-concert-that-wouldn’t-end kind of way. A new friend at Bible Study remarked, “May is the new December”. Oh, how I identified with those words: After collecting the research books for the final projects, and then returning the books, I only found more books hidden under beds to return…which was fine because I had to make 2 different trips to the shoe store to undo the snafu with the flower girl shoes, and that was on the way to the library and the dress-makers, where 1 of 3 dresses was ready to go. Find an ATM, because they only take cash! You passed a grocery store! STOP! Find DINNER! Do lunges into the check out line, hoping to fit into the dress for the wedding…
I darkened my skin, but whitened my teeth. I grew out my hair, but waxed any hair not on my head. If it stood still, it was probably painted. Between the 3 women in this picture, we used over 70 bobby pins. And yes, I’m sucking it in…BIG TIME.
Did I remember to donate to the end of year teacher gifts? Did I remember to pay for Sara’s Girl Scout Dude Ranch Trip? Did I get the camping supply list from Greg so I can spend Sara’s entire college fund at Costco? Did I use my Kohl’s cash to get a dress for the rehearsal dinner? Run Sara her Ukelele, as it was my fault she forgot it (no moving an ADHD’s stuff after she carefully lines it up the night before). Run Kelly back a bag to school she asked me to grab on the way out the door, and I forgot. I remembered the frame for Sara’s teacher’s gift! And then I broke it. On the way to deliver it.
Goomommy is designing my flowers for all of my future weddings. I’m married to her son, so is that a conflict of interest…???
Mother-Daughter Tea at the world’s most quaint barn. Mother’s Day Spa Trip with my girlfriends. Organize the going away Champagne Toast for a friend I will miss dearly. Host a prospective parents coffee at school. Help with the Retirement Reception. Volunteer at the Pancake Breakfast at church. Collect art from the school hallways so I can make greeting cards for Grandparent’s Day in the Fall. While I’m there, help take down the art for the entire school. All good and wonderful things…an amazing and blessed life…one I’ve carefully designed and chosen.
This barn was as Pin-interesting on the inside as the outside. I want a party barn. Strike that. I want a party barn if it comes with cleaning gnomes. This one was so spotless, I’m sure magical elves were involved.
Even in my contentment, there are seasons that simply become a runaway train. I was sure if I could find 5 minutes alone, I would find the words. I would find the wisdom to tell you it’s OK to fall into madness and wash away in the tides of May. Of course, if I could find 5 minutes, I should probably take a shower. Speaking of soap, when DID I last wash my hair…?
Always do Retirement Receptions 2 days AFTER Mother’s Day. It stretches a PTA Budgets to new and exciting places.
Maybe I could tell you there is value in staying focused in the moment. I’ve had very little time to worry about any single thing. Girls don’t want to wear hosiery with their dresses? WHATEVER! No hose! Cheese plate I ordered for an event is half the size I planned? Give me more bread! I can feed 15 with this tiny plate of cheese! Jesus did it , ERGO, stretching out a cheese plate is BIBLICAL.
After hosting a party at Cake Bake Shop, I have only one thought: when I can throw another party at Cake Bake Shop?
It felt good to stretch my skills (literally?) and contribute to the world around me. It felt good to collect so many gorgeous memories I could share with you. It felt good to welcome summer with open arms, even if those open arms looked more like flapping wings, dropping centerpieces, screaming, “WE HAVE TO STOP FOR COFFEE NOW!!!” I was full of love this month, but not always full of gracefulness. I kept a relative calm, even if Sara woke me up yesterday, looked at my face and remarked, “Is the skin below your eyes supposed to be black? You look kind of bad Mommy.”
It didn’t clean itself, but I recruited a couple of adorable gnomes to help me. We survived it…barely.
“Honey, I didn’t get back from the hospital until midnight. Papa Bump had another heart attack. He’s doing really well, and he’s pink and chatting away, but I think it’s time we come to terms with what little time we have.”
So while May played out exactly as I planned, and while I had planned for June to be spent lounging in the shade by the pool, telling you all nutty seasons come to an end, it seems God may have other plans.
Hopefully, there will be more late night bedside chats with my Grandfather, who promises “no more fried fish”, as this would be his SECOND heart attack brought on by his fish recipe. Then again, if I make it to 89 after having countless heart attacks and bypasses, God knows I’m eating all the fried food I want.
That’s it. That’s what I want to tell you: when life hands you rose champagne with a hibiscus flower floating in it (who invents this stuff?!)…drink it up. Savor it with friends and family. Say yes to the good stuff: to the trips, the memory-making with girlfriends, the over-the-top-ed-ness a wedding brings. Say yes to the open houses, the teas, the school carnivals, and the gals who would love a friend to break bread with them and lend an ear. I’m only going around once, so I don’t want to miss the outdoor movies, the birthday parties, and the chance to tell a retiring teacher she changed my story. Unfolded laundry can wait. A friend who needs a ride to a doctor’s appointment cannot, because that’s the good stuff too. I’m not skipping the fried fish. Apparently I have the DNA to survive it. In fact, in my family, heart attacks only make us stronger (he hasn’t looked this good in years!)
And, if on your journey, life hands you a champagne flute with a monogrammed light up ice cube…drink 2 of them, because you’re unlikely to get that chance again.
Godspeed, my friends. I pray overwhelming goodness is meeting you on your summer journey as well.
Tags: The Girls
May 17th, 2015 · Comments Off on Christmas Card Photo, Draft #1
Oh my gosh! We got it months early! We’re all clean, looking at the camera, and the Washington Monument is perfectly placed in the background. This is just winning. The camera bag is hiding my pooch, and for some bizarre reason, I’m even wearing lipstick.
WE ARE ALL SO HAPPY AND SMIIIILLLLINNNNGGGG!
wait…OH. Hold the phones.
Tags: The Girls
May 12th, 2015 · Comments Off on Pinterest Can Call Me. Maybe.
So here is the conundrum, should you choose to accept it: You would like to make your PTA President a birthday treat, and present it to her at the last PTA Meeting of the year, which also falls ON her birthday. She loves M&M’s. Easy. Have a TON of M&M’s. Should be golden. Knowing her sons really, really want to win the M&M cake, you’re thinking you’ll make a second one, making everyone happy.
But there’s a catch: Her son WINS the M&M cake (aforementioned T.S. Adam), negating the plan ALTOGETHER.
Dare you date Pinterest? Pinterest is a lying, cheating boyfriend, who swears by his plans, and then halfway through a date, disappears into thin air, leaving you stranded, without a ride home. OH, but he WOOS you back, time and time again, with his sweet promises of delicious dinners and a dream home with the world’s largest veranda-deck-thing.
I was a sucker for the bad boys in my 20’s, so I couldn’t help myself but give Pin a 2nd chance (or 10th?): M&M cookies on a lollipop stick, balanced across a glass of milk with a chocolate and nonpareil rim.
(1) I used melting chocolate and EVENLY dipped the rim. I had Sara on guard, monitoring my dipping. DO NOT upright the glass. [We used Ball Jelly Jars, because after exhaustive searching, we could not find the shape of cocktail cup we so desired. Sara to the rescue…reminding me I have about a hundred jam jars, just begging to be used.]
(2) Dip the wet chocolate in a bowl of the tiniest nonpareils on the market. Anything larger than a pinhead, and it will gloop up. This has happened to me in the past on “Pinterest Decorate An Apple” Night. DAMN YOU, PIN! Immediately place the jar in the fridge for a few minutes to harden. It won’t need to be stored in the fridge. In fact, it will be so well secured, you’ll have to chip it off with a sledgehammer later.
(3) I used this M&M cookie recipe, and I always read the reviews: Instead of all shortening, I went with half shortening and half pure butter. I don’t trust any recipe that doesn’t call for butter; however, I really love shortening in a cookie as well. I kept the dough cold. This is a must, or it will spread out too far as it bakes. I did press a few candies into the top of the cookie for effect. [Always pull your cookies out before you think they are done. Even if you take them off the sheets within a minute of oven-removal, they will continue to bake.]
(4) After much thought and contemplating, I realized these cookies were baked with the lolllipop stick already inserted. This was a huge a-ha moment. Make a round ball of dough, slide it through the middle, form it a bit around the stick, and put it on the baking sheet (using parchment or a silpat).
(5) You must lift the ends of the sticks, or they will punch through the cookie on the lower third. Nice try, Pinterest. That wasn’t in the directions, but I’VE GOT YOUR NUMBER, ASSHOLE. I just slid a lollipop under the sticks, and they held up beautifully.
(6) In the original instructions, the cookie was centered on the stick, and was balanced across the top of the cup. My jar openings were too narrow, and the cookie would have covered the opening entirely. SO, I put the cookie at the top of the stick, and made it look more like a straw.
(7) I stored the cookies overnight, wrapped in parchment, and sealed in tupperware. I covered the glasses with foil, and transferred them to school on the tray. I packed my funnel, so that when I got to school, I could easily pour milk in the jar without spilling it all over the rims.
(8) Present your “Milk & Cookies” treat to the Birthday Girl (who did a FANTASTIC job as the PTA President, and can now sleep through the night without waking up in cold sweats, dreaming she showed up at school AFTER an event occurred, completely unprepared, and mass chaos has broken out.) Not that I ever did that. More than once…or twice.
So Pinterest sticks around to see another round. I tried, you guys. I really did. We had “the talk” about not meeting each others needs, and how we should move on. See other websites. He all but begged me to stay, showing me cozy library nooks at the tops of stairways I’ll never own, and garden beds even Martha Stewart couldn’t maintain. I KNOW! I know it’s a LIE, but I can’t help myself. The whole thing is such a tease. So tell me girlfriends…tell me about the greatest lie Pin has told you, and then make me feel better about giving it another shot!
Tags: The Girls
Let me start by saying I had NO idea this anti-gravity cake would create such a stir. I try to make a cake-currently-in-vogue every year for the school carnival (remember these?). In 2015, “anti-gravity” cakes are all the rage in the cake-making world. Cake Pops are just SO 2012, guys. Per usual, Pinterest is a lying whore, and this project took 4x the amount of time and M&Ms as was written in the instructions, but this isn’t my first trip to the Pinterest Prom. I came prepared with Plan A, Plan B, Plan C, and Plan “I hate Pinterest and I’m buying cookies”.
I bought the cake already iced at the grocery. For 8 bucks, someone else can make the cake, because I think we can agree: this cake has very little to do with the actual cake.
Sorry, I didn’t take step-by-step pics: I used a bag of melting chocolate, a dowel rod, a hot glue gun, 2 large bags of M&Ms, plus a smaller bag for the cake (all carefully chosen to as wrinkle-free as possible), and marshmallows.
Slowly paint the dowel rod with melted chocolate and attach the M&Ms one at a time, waiting for it to harden before adding a new row…this method does work. But it’s MESSY. It looks MESSY after it dries. I used tweezers, spoons, basting brushes, Q-tips, plates, and bowls. Getting hot, wet chocolate on the back of a tiny M&M, and then attaching it to wood…is REALLY HARD.
Other crafts made when I wasn’t covered in chocolate: tiny pillows to match a baby boy shower theme I hosted with family members.
Knowing this cake had to be transferred to school, I switched to Plan B: I hot-glued the M&Ms to the rod. Trim the M&M bag, empty it out, fill it with marshmallows, and then glue the dowel rod into the bag (fully inserted for support), but at an angle (it should appear as if it’s being poured); finally hot glue the sides shut around the dowel rod. Stick it in the cake (or wait until after you placed down the horizontal candy, so you aren’t fretting that this thing will fall over the entire time you work on the cake).
At this point you’ll realize this your contraption is top-heavy and will need supports. I glued ladders of candy together, attaching them to the rod, circling the stick. I filled in with smaller ladders and loose M&Ms to give the appearance of a pile.
I made 45-feet of pennant banner for the baby shower, and managed to take a picture of 2 feet of it. Well done. I’m calling my little flowers, “zhuzh pots”, of which I made 5. All different, all with coordinating flags. Got a picture of how many? ONE.
The M&Ms on top need to be laid out like a spill, one at a time; otherwise, you won’t get a good dispersing of colors. Oh yes…ONE-BY-ONE. You can’t use the bag as it’s packaged, because it’s not an equitable number of colors. For some reason, this company hates yellow. Use melted chocolate on the backs to create a 2nd layer, covering all of the white icing. ONE-BY-ONE. The lower layer on the side of the cake can be pressed into the icing, but the rest will have to be glued with melted chocolate. I can lift off the anti-gravity piece and chuck it, but I needed the cake to be edible.
I stood with anticipation at the bakery counter, explaining this cake to someone whom I’m certain meant no harm…BUT he also meant no good (while I won’t name the guilty party, I will say it’s not Greg, who applauds 99.9% of my efforts, and usually ends up helping). The response I received was, “This project sounds very…Suburban Housewife.” Those words stung…and then left a mark.
How much time do Suburban Housewives have to spend on creating paper banners from scratch? ALL THE TIME. We can think about this stuff for WEEKS.
I delivered the cake, not thinking very much of it, or of what it meant to donate a cake to the Carnival. It’s just a cake, after all, along with 3.5 hours of candy-coated giggling while dancing to Motown, followed by a kitchen covered in chocolate. As I walked through the halls, balancing this rather bizarre creation, my life turned to slow-motion. Kids just…STOPPED. And SCREAMED. And BEGGED to know how was this HAPPENING?!!! THEY HAD TO KNOW! NOOOOWWW!!! THEY MUST WIN THIS CAKE!!!
Kids are fun, when they aren’t in my backseat at the end of a long day, singing La Bamba in Spanish at the tops of their lungs with fake Dracula teeth in their mouths (not a made-up story).
The next evening as the Carnival began, I worked my way out to the lawn and spied my gal pals. They were gathered around the Cake Walk, watching a huge gang of kids, waiting in anticipation for the games to start. Again, I didn’t give any of this a second thought, until my friends announced the students had not stopped talking about the cake, to the point it had to be protected. Apparently this cake needed security detail. I mean…COME ON…I DEFIED GRAVITY.
Don’t be silly, I said. It’s just the gimmick of a Suburban Housewife.
Before I could explain, the first round began, and the music ended. Tiny-Sweet-Adam (my actual nickname for him), suddenly morphed into Brandi Chastain winning the Olympics. He jumped off the Cake Walk, screamed at the top of his lungs while pumping his arms, grabbing the attention of the entire school, “MOOOOMMMMYY!!!! I WON THE CAAAAAKKKKEEE!!!!!”
And then he ran full speed towards to the cake table, with such force I feared he would knock the entire thing over. I dashed after him, making sure he didn’t eat hot glue before he read my note about the inedible dowel rod.
Who has time to collect an entire basket of the world’s best books at discount bookstores all over town? Seriously, the good stuff folks: If You Take A Mouse…, Curious Garden, How Does a Dinosaur…, the entire collection of Kate DiCamillo (you saw that coming), Library Mouse, Rainbow Fish…WHO has this kind of time?! Suburban Housewives.
Watching T.S.Adam win his cake made my entire year, and quite suddenly my “job” became crystal clear: I am a Suburban Housewife, and I make magic. I can make a memory for a 6 year old, so full of fireworks and mayhem, that I’m fairly certain for the rest of his life, he’ll never forget the night he won the Anti-Gravity Cake at the school carnival. The sweet memory this created for me is absolutely priceless.
So hear this Cliché-Swinging Nay-sayers: I’m a SUBURBAN HOUSEWIFE, and it’s absolutely awesome work if you can get it. Magic Wand not included (but available in the form of wood dowel rods for $2.49 a bag).
Wisdom Comes Suddenly.
Tags: The Girls
Every Mother in America knows it’s spring, not by the blooming of tulips, and not by the pollen-bombed red eyes filling her minivan. Moms know spring has come because it’s…PROJECT SEASON.
Field trips and field days, independent reports and dioramas, poster boards and powerpoints, spring recitals and plays…spring is a veritable potpourri of almost schizophrenic project and performance energy.
Sara is studying Indiana history, complete with a full day spent in character, as if it were 1892. Her class took a trip to one-room schoolhouse, in costume, with authentic lunches packed in baskets. Sara didn’t even want colored rubber bands in her hair (I did not point out she wore an Under Armor shirt under her Prairie Dress, because I’m not one to split fine hairs…or her ends).
Sara was quite clear: it MUST be authentic! No color! Only browns and creams!
I was quite clear: make it yourself! I’m not sewing a full Laura Ingalls dress from scratch! Get creative!
And she did. Sara traded me a full summer of math tutoring, no complaints, for the work I put into making her a dress. I can’t help but feel I made quite the deal.
The back of the dress is my favorite. I don’t know why. It just felt…satisfying to finish that tie and have it knot so nicely.
After matching the apron trim (BROWN! I promise!) to the sleeves (which had to be redesigned from a $1 pattern I snagged at the fabric store), I was in no mood to look at a bonnet pattern. But Sara really wanted a bonnet, and…math tutoring…without complaint. I gave this bonnet a solid 1-hour effort, freehand, screw the overly complex internet patterns. It has plenty of raw edges and looks a lot like a hat I might wear to mow the lawn, but I doubt 1892 was full of perfectly crafted bonnets. I’ll bet Ma Ingalls got pretty tired, trying to make hats for growing heads by candlelight, and more than once said, “Screw it. I’m not missing Flip or Flop for this thing.” Oh mark my words, SHE SAID IT.
Sara said 1-Room Schoolhouse Day was the greatest field trip of all-time, and spending a day learning from an 1892 teacher with 1892 supplies was one of the top 5 experiences of her life. So glad we bought her that computer. It now seems we could have bought her a quill pen and a small chalkboard instead.
On the very same day, at the very same time, another little bird in my house needed a costume. But not just ANY costume, as she was portraying half of a duo, so TWO costumes were next on the to-do list. Quotation Marks #1 & #2, coming right up.
I’ve written at length about our creative differences regarding my choice of bow ties, and how she wanted tuxedo jackets with tails. TAILS, guys. Some kids didn’t even WEAR costumes for the Grammar Musical, and my daughter wanted tuxedo tails! WHERE DOES SHE GET IT? [Insert my most sincere smirk and wink.] I told her top hats and bow ties were my limits, and NO TAILS! I felt like Edna E. Mode from “The Incredibles”: NO CAPES!
I used Daddy’s bow tie as a pattern, traced it onto freezer paper and then ironed it onto felt. Cut it out, tie it as a bow tie (and by “tie”, I mean Daddy did it), and add velcro to the back. Done. Kelly was thrilled when she put it on. Of course she was. I didn’t spend a summer as a Theater Costume Shop Apprentice, chasing an Auntie Mame character around with a white velvet gown I was instructed to make “from the recesses of my mind” while my crazy Actress engaged in a grapefruit diet (How many times can you take in white velvet in the heat of summer stock? It cannot be calculated. It is the Chinese Postman’s Problem of Costume Design), to not be able to envision the most perfect way to turn a child into punctuation.
I found simple top hats for nothing, but kid’s sizes? Those are ridiculous. $17 for one top hat, and I don’t want to tell you what these online stores charge for prairie dresses. Wait. I don’t need to tell you. You’re knee deep in hot glue right now, trying to make a pterodactyl fly through a diorama, aren’t you? We’ve all been there. You’re out of Michael’s coupons, you just discovered your 10 year old used up a jumbo bag of hot glue sticks, and the clay dried out over the weekend, sitting on your dining room table. Hugs and wine, honey. Hugs and wine.
I solved the big hat problem by gluing a large piece of felt across the inside of the hat, so when they wore them, they wouldn’t fall down over their eyes. Perfect, considering Quotation Mark #1 was wearing the largest neon orange arm cast I’ve ever seen on a 2nd grader; these costumes had to be easy-on, easy-wear, easy-off.
The Quotation Marks were absolutely ADORABLE, in their little Groucho-Marx-esque duet. It was downright yummy.
When all was said and done, I spent a total of $20 on all 3 costumes, and about a week of free-time in Mom hours. Like my joke? Free time? Ha! A week of time I should have spent doing laundry and grocery shopping. Oh sure, my kids looked amazing, with their bellies full of take out and their butts covered in 3-day underwear.
There is no time to rejoice, as Independent Projects are next. Kelly is insisting she can glue SAND, and Sara is making a power point on the Lincoln Memorial before switching to her Independent Project; something involving the stratification of the cat family? She’s already done genus work, so she wants to expand up the family. Um? I kind of skipped that day in college? Here’s a hot glue gun and 10 bucks. Good luck to you sweetie.
Godspeed fellow Mommas. Godspeed.
Tags: The Girls
I talked about my relationship with God in relation to having a child with Special Needs, but I didn’t address Sara’s relationship with God. I thought the whole “Jesus & Children” thing was simple: you go to church, drop the kids off at Sunday School, they are taught that Jesus died on the cross and therefore, you get chocolate bunnies on Easter. Voila!
Jesus loves the little children. It’s IN the SONG, and [insert delta] kids love church. I can do parent-math all day long. Here’s one: Monday Morning + Uprighting of the house = Chaos Theory was applied by my family over the weekend + Don’t touch anything without gloves which I cannot immediately identify. Multiply that warning x2 for anything green or brown, and x3 for anything which appears to be wet.
Sara had other ideas about church. Her main outline for Spring 2015 was titled, “I will not be going to church, no way, no how, go ahead and try to make me, and WATCH THIS…”
Has she been the only 9 year old in the crying room during service? Yep. Did she melt down right in front of her visiting Grandmother while sitting in the pew? OH YES. How many headaches has she had on Sunday mornings? All of them. Have we dragged her into church with unbrushed hair and partially dressed in pjs? YES-SIR-REE.
We’re used to embarrassment, but I struggle when strangers are subjected to it. The weekly ritual of standing and greeting thy neighbor at the beginning of service is akin to having my eyelashes yanked out, one by one. Well-meaning people lean down to shake Sara’s hand, and my child who is clearly old enough to shake a hand, scowls like a tiger and turns into my waist, week after week. As a parent, what can you say? “I’m so sorry. She’s an extremely complex child who can behave normally at times, and is actually quite gifted, but has a crippling LD in Math, ADHD, and horrid stranger anxiety. And migraines. And well…you know some other stuff which causes loud spaces and crowds to make her skin crawl.” Oh! Is she Autistic? “No. It’s…her specialists…she’s the only….GOOD MORNING! How are YOU?! God Bless!” (Divert! Change the subject! Look! It’s Jesus!)
Does this seem like a bit much for a Sunday morning how-do-you-do? Because seriously…I THINK IT MIGHT BE A BIT MUCH. But we kept going, because we hoped Jesus would come.
I asked advice of my Special Needs Support Group, thinking they’d know the App to download. It’s probably got some catchy-title like, “Get God”. Kids follow a map of the church on an iPad as they wind their way through the donut line, earning virtual treasure-in-heaven points if they make it to Sunday School dismissal. One-by-one, we went around the circle:
“We gave up years ago.”
“Never had the guts to try.”
“We tried. What a disaster.”
“We go, but I’ve never gotten him into Sunday School. It’s a weekly battle.”
This repeated around the entire circle. No one had survived the pressures of getting through church. After struggling for 5 days each week to get through school, therapies, meals, and things ONE MUST SIMPLY DO, why would you add to it? Some kids need the weekend off to simply decompress. This has been our 9 year story too. Would Jesus help us this time? Would Jesus come?
Greg and I are determined for Sara to know Jesus. She NEEDS Jesus. He has a purpose for her, a promise, and well…this kind of important thing known as “Salvation”. We’ve tried showing her God’s love at home, but we knew it was a big, fat failure. Parenting failure…we may know a thing or two about that subject. But I digress.
Last Sunday was 3rd grade Bible Dedication, and above her screams (literally) and fits, we ordered the Bible and inscribed it. We attended the information session (where Sara rubbed her eyes non-stop and fell asleep with her head on the table, right in front of her teacher, but not before she fidgeted so hard she almost fell off her chair.)
Saturday night we held hands and prayed for God to give her the strength to walk forward and accept her Bible, and maybe even survive 2 seconds of the receiving line. I warned her teacher it might not happen, who smiled (I love her already…she was put in my path by God, I just know it) and said, “She won’t be the first child who can’t do it. It’s totally OK. It’s ALL OK, no matter how it plays out.” We prayed so earnestly, but we’ve prayed before. So, so hard we’ve prayed. I won’t say our prayers have gone unanswered, because I now know God needed us to grow in a certain direction through the experience of parenting Sara. But some days those prayers have felt unanswered.
The morning of, Sara put on her dress at the last minute, and shot looks of fire at her Bible, which I carried for safe-keeping. Again, literally. At the end of the service, Sara took a deep breath (giving me a look like she was jumping off a 50-foot diving board), and walked forward. Greg and I held our breath, for fear even a molecule of air moving would wake us from this dream. Upon being called, we walked forward and presented her with her new Bible. Her smiles were downright contagious! She even smiled and shook hands in the receiving line! (Not willingly…not without serious bribing and coaching, but it should be noted that Sara has never responded to bribing. Show your cards, and she’ll gladly share her “thoughts” on overt manipulation.)
I assumed when we got home, she’d toss the Bible aside, telling me that was the worst experience of her life and I HOPE I’M HAPPY FOR NEARLY KILLING HER WITH GOD-STUFF, IN FRONT OF GOD! But no. That’s not what happened at all.
Quietly, with a grace too pretty to describe, Jesus came.
Sara sat down and started reading. She started making notes. She started flagging that entire Bible with post-it notes. Since Sunday, she’s been hanging post-it notes with verses that speak to her all over the house. She sat me down last night, hugging her Bible, because she just had to tell me that church makes sense! SO THAT’S what you’ve been talking about! These stories…they are in a special order…and the wording is so different and poetic…I SEE! And when the Pastor refers to them, I know how to look them up now! Now I know why you like the sermons so much! It’s supposed to be stories about how we live!
This miracle isn’t me, and it isn’t Daddy, and it isn’t our collective wishing or prodding. Jesus came to Sara, and he showed her his words. He opened her heart in a way we never could. Jesus came even when my heart doubted through prayer. Even when I felt deflated, and lacked enough faith for my own child, Jesus loved Sara right through my fears and showed me he’s more powerful than any diagnostic list of special needs.
So what’s next? We bought Kelly “The Jesus Storybook Bible”, thinking we could do a better job of preparing her for next year’s Bible Dedication. She read it in 3 days, walked downstairs at bedtime, tossed it on Daddy’s lap and said, “Here. Finished your Bible. Good stories, but no fairies. Does Jesus not believe in fairies? Fairies are REAL, and I’d think Jesus of all people would KNOW THAT…And by the way, the DEVIL is really scary, and I don’t know why he has to be included in ANY stories.”
OK Jesus. ‘Member that time you showed up with some grace and understanding? Might need to double the dose on this next one…I’d like you to meet a child known simply as “The Kelly”…
Tags: The Girls