Saturday, October 31, 2015

Family Halloween Theme

Every once in awhile I sell my soul to the internet and Pinterest in exchange for the promise of happiness. It never works out for me.

This year, instead of encouraging my children's natural creativity I decided to put together a family costume theme. I'm not sure how it works out for other families, but let me give you a rundown on how it works for ours, and then you too, can sell your soul for one day that turns into 5 days of dressing up for a holiday that you loved when you were a child, but now hate.

  1. Wait until the children already have decided what to be for Halloween (September 1 for my children), then bring up some absolutely adorable idea you are sure will be easy to pull together and cheap. 
  2. That one child of yours that is a rigid thinker? Well, try to placate her by telling her she can be "Bat Agnes," because she wants to fit in with the theme, but really likes her own idea too. 
  3. Mediate a few almost-slap fights as your children duke out who will get to be what in the theme.
  4. Spend a ridiculous amount of time at thrift stores trying to find the perfect accessories and clothes that match a cartoon character's clothing. 
  5. Pretend you have craft skills, because this costume is going to be waaaaaaaaaay cheaper than one you could buy at the store. Plan to make wigs and special accessories.
  6. Spend more money than you ever intended and lots of time making wigs and accessories that really you should have just bought because they are "Pinterest Fail" poster children that you hot glue instead of sew because OHMYGOSHITSTIMETOLEAVEFORTHEPARTYANDNOONEISREADY.
  7. Bribe the three-year-old with whatever she wants if she'll just wear the costume you spent a few hours pulling together with awesome accessories such as a purple minion goggle eye. 
  8. Endure the worries of your oldest children that no one will know who they are in the dang school costume parade (because if everyone in the family isn't together, the theme doesn't make sense).
  9. For Halloween go as "Zombie ____________________" (fill in the blank with your chosen theme) because by the time your family has dressed up for the city party, the church party, the school party and the family party, the costumes are stained (they're unwashable because you hot glued all the details on at the last minute), the wigs are ruined and all the accessories are lost. 
Happy Halloween.

Yes, I'm giving up on family themes. Until I get distracted next year by some really tantalizing idea and forget that really, I am not that awesome.

Monday, September 21, 2015

All Children in School (Kind of)

Today I had that empty, ohmygoshwhatamIgoingtodo? feeling that often concludes with crying. I dropped my three oldest children off at school and then sent Norah to Joyschool.
It's like standing on the edge of a cliff--sure it's a great view but what are you going to do? How do you keep moving forward? I better start fashioning a really nice hang glider.

So of course I came home and read the paper and wasted a lot of time on Facebook reading things like, "30 hilarious notes to thieves that will make you swallow your tongue while laughing."

They were mildly amusing. I did manage to make a phone call about a story I'd already pitched to the Standard-Examiner, which resulted in the story being put on hold until Spring.

Annnndddd, transition:

I'm going to get my cast off tomorrow at 4:40 p.m. Then I can start my real, new life. The one where I don't look at Facebook (except on Saturdays) and where I only eat nutritious, homemade food, and where I'm really healthy, and where I write meaningful and excellent stories that change people's lives, and where I resurrect this blog, and where I'm really kind to everyone, even my children. And especially Mike. That starts tomorrow. 4:40 p.m. (Or more like 6:00 p.m., since my Dr., who is otherwise very excellent, is always about an hour behind). It's a date: 6:00 p.m. Me with New Life.

Monday, February 16, 2015

36 Years!

Holy wow. When did my life get half way over? Okay, not quite halfway, but close. Once I turn 70 I plan to engage in all sorts of risky behaviors. No, I'm not going to go the sex, drugs and rock n' roll risky route, but more like skydiving, hiking alone in deserted forests and mountains, and riding a motorcycle risky, (although after a birthday conversation with my brother, apparently riding a horse is much more statistically and, considering the skill I have with horses, really dangerous). So I'm practically half way through.

Before I do all that fun stuff though, I've got a few goals I need to accomplish:

1. The 18 minute 5K. Seriously, if once upon a time (it does seem like a fairy tale right now) I could run a 4:33 1500, I ought to be able to put together three sub-6 minute miles and some change before I turn 40. Now if I could just get my foot to stop complaining, my knees to cooperate, and my new shoulder injury to calm down.

2. Write a book.  I've been working on this one for, oh you know, 15 years, but hey, the 16th year is the charm, right? That's what they say, isn't it? "Any (wo)man who keeps working is not a failure. (S)He may not be a great writer, but if (s)he applies the old-fashioned virtues of hard, constant labor, (s)he’ll eventually make some kind of career for h(er)imself as a writer."
- Ray Bradbury
3. Patience and Love. With the exception of when I'm trying to kill a 5K, I would like to exude more patience and more love. And that 18 minute 5K might take some patience.
I am patient. I am patient. I am patient. Got that kids? I am patient. Even if you keep tapping me on the arm while my arms are full and even when you pull at my new shirt, I am patient. And I love you. Stop yelling at me. I love you.

Friday, February 13, 2015

A Story To Illustrate My Child's Problem-Solving Skills

My children may be headed for brilliant criminal lives. Good thing I am here to thwart them.

Yesterday H was determined to find an outfit that matched her doll's. She tore apart the house looking for a shirt that she knew had a matching doll outfit. She couldn't find it. I figured she had given up when she started asking me for snacks.

"Mom, do we still have some cherries left?"

"Yes, but they're all gross and old. You don't want them."

"Yeah, I do. I looooove cherries," said H. "Please, please, please, can I have cherries?"

I was surprised at her sudden love of cherries. I mean, she likes cherries, but she was suddenly desperately in need of cherries. "Fine," I said shrugging. "Don't eat them if they're all shriveled up and moldy." I tossed the container on the counter. "And be careful to wash your hands after you eat them."

"Cherries stain? And they don't come out?" asked H.

"Yes," I said, surprised again that she had actually listened to one of my earlier cherry lectures. "They're terrible for staining clothes."

She began stuffing cherries in her mouth and I got distracted.

About a half hour later, I'm in the laundry room sorting socks and Hannah comes in, holding a dress. A nice blue church dress that I bought for K for Easter last year. A dress that has a matching doll dress. The dress has a bright red stain on it. It looks like someone took a marker and colored all over it.

"I don't know what happened to this dress," says Hannah. "I'm sorry, but is it a play dress now?"

I don't remember any markers missing. I grab the dress and stare at the stain. This dress has been hanging in a closet for awhile now. No one has worn it. How did this happen?

"You girls," I say, but since I have no idea how it happened or when, I just spray it and start scrubbing to see if maybe it will come out. If it is marker, it has a good chance. It comes right out. This is a fresh stain. And suddenly cherries make sense to me.

"H, it is not okay to take a nice dress and rub cherries into it to try and make it a play dress. You have to find some other clothes to match your doll, not ruin good clothes." I remain calm, amazed at the planning and execution that went into this.

Instead of fireworks of denial, which is the usual response, H is pretty contrite. She even admits to her diabolical plan.

Yeah, she's a problem solver alright.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Is my house full of drama while raising four girls? Noooooo.

Often, when I reveal that I have four little girls, people say, "Phew. You must have a lot of drama at your house."

Usually I smile and shake my head in the negative, "Nahh. It's great."

Or they say, "Ohhh, just wait until they are teenagers."

And I smile and say something non-sarcastic and hopeful, like "Oh, I'm sure it will be great. We're pretty easy-going."

But maybe I need to change my denial coping mechanism. I should just own it. We are drama. And I should start putting away money to build Mike a ginormous bat cave for the teenage years. Wait. What about me? Even though I'm a woman, who supposedly understands and is part of all this drama, I'll need some place to hide too. So I'll start putting away money to build a ginormous parent hideout with soundproof walls and a recording that repeats in a soothing voice, "You are right. You are so right. Thanks for working so hard at parenting." Is this a thing? It should be.

Tonight I spent TWO HOURS combing a doll's hair. Why did I do this? Because every time I stopped combing the doll's hair, to do something unimportant like make dinner, rescue the two-year-old from being beat to death by an eraser that looks like licorice, or take K a drink of water (she's currently dying, dying, dying because she threw up 24 hours ago), H would throw herself on the floor, "You promised! You promised! What about MaryLyn's hair? What about her hair? Her hair! Her hair!" And then she would grab my arm in a vice-like grip and refuse to let go. (This always brings out the sweet and calm mother in me.)

Now, normally I am a completely rational mother who always follows through with consequences, and never gives into whining. But sometimes, sometimes, my dearly beloved H (and K and E and N) pushes me beyond the limits of whining.

It's like I am the comet 67P, and they are the Rosetta, whining and skittering around space for 10 years, picking up momentum until they finally catch up to me and are able to launch a probe onto my surface. And the only way to emerge unscathed from this whole Deep-Space Whine encounter is to pretend that it was my idea in the first place to put all other needs aside and comb the *(%&# doll's hair for two hours.

I guess I will just chalk this up to another skill that I never thought I would develop, but now have, like cleaning up throw-up, or wiping noses, or tying blankets on as capes. My next job application is going to be pretty awesome:

Tissue application to unwilling noses
Cape-blanket tying
Doll hair care and maintenance
Disposing of and Cleaning up throw-up
Shutting the door and locking it
Finding teensy-tiny things in sandboxes
Matching socks
Dancing with short people, including the dizzy twirl
Wiping up spills
Speaking calmly while incredibly angry
Swearing privately
Ignoring desperate, soul-sobbing crying about suckers
Breaking up slap fights
High tolerance for whining and general unhappiness

Friday, November 7, 2014

Halloween 2014 Matryoshka Dolls

Just because everyone had to ask what the girls were doesn't mean it was an epic fail, right?

Can you guess what they are? Let me give you a hint: Russia. Okay, another hint: Dolls. Okay, okay, don't give up, they were Matryoshka Dolls, otherwise known as Russian Nesting Dolls. 

They're still adorable, even if you don't know what they are. My sister Alisha always has these great ideas for Halloween for my girls.  So even though every year I vow that I am not going to make Halloween costumes, every year Alisha has this great idea and then I have to figure out a way to make it work.  

I googled for some ideas on how to make the costumes, but only found elaborate things that looked difficult to sew or paint. I sew just about as well as I perform cartwheels (marginal at best, with one leg always crooked), and I don't paint, so none of those was going to work for me. But then I found a pumpkin costume tutorial, made from a too big shirt and I adapted it to fit my needs. 

Steps to Make a Matryoshka Doll Costume

1. Find a shirt that is too large. I used X-small women's shirts for my normally 7-8 oldest girls and 7-8 size shirts for my toddler and preschooler.
2. Using elastic thread, sew the sleeves and arms of the shirt. This is a fun technique to make a too-big t-shirt fit a little better. You just wrap the elastic thread on your bobbin and use regular thread on the top. Here's a tutorial on sewing with elastic thread that I found helpful.
3. From felt, cut out an "apron" (the large pink piece) and the flower pieces. I traced two different size Tupperware lids for my flower and freehanded the leaves. My pink bottom pieces were 14 inches tall and 9 and 3/4 wide at the bottom, and they fit onto size 7/8 t-shirts. The older girls (age 7 and 9) are in small women's tshirts and their "aprons" are 18" tall and 13" wide at the bottom circular part. I freehanded the pink aprons by tracing a giant lid on the bottom to get the circular shape.  
4. Hot glue, or sew the top of the flower together. I finished it off with a button.
5. Sew/Glue on the flower stem and leaves
6. Sew/glue on the flower top
7. Hot glue the "apron" onto the t-shirt. I hot glued it first to get it where I wanted and then sewed it on. (Be careful not to sew over the hot glue or it will gum up your needle.)
8. I cut out the head kerchiefs all the same size and I was going to sew them and make the edges all nice, but then I ran out of time so they just had raw edges and it was okay. Now they won't be able to keep them as treasured momentos of their fantastic Halloween, but oh well. They were triangles that measured 32 x 21.5 x 21.5. 
And there you go.

Friday, September 19, 2014

The Kidathlon

Three years ago, at one of our get-togethers someone brought up the idea of doing a triathlon for kids. I think it was Melissa, or it could have been Caroline. She had seen it on a blog and we thought, "Hey we always do a triathlon (the Spudman), we should do one for the kids." And thus the Kidathlon was born.

We begin with a strenuous swim in a friend's pool. The kids do half their age, rounded up in laps:

H, pausing for breath.

K, getting ready to take on one more lap.

E, getting ready for the start.

Next we bike an arduous 1.5 miles to the end of a neighborhood trail.

This is not an actual action shot. It's an after shot.

Then, we finish it off with a grueling .5 mile run. (.25 if you are 4 years old)

The girls had a great time, and I rode my bike and ran with E. She was delightful. When I asked her if she wanted a drink on the bike she said, "Only when I'm done with this race." And when she fell down in her first few steps on the run she said through great big tears, "I'm okay Mom! I'm okay." She ran almost the whole way and loved being cheered for at the end.

I only got to see the other girls during the swim, since that was my station, but I heard that Kenzie worked hard (she was a little sick at the end), and Hannah pushed herself to do her best. Way to go girls!