Wednesday, November 16, 2016


It's been a rough week, hasn't it?

I have been avoiding social media for the last several days, finding it simultaneously infuriating and heartbreaking, and for an introvert like me, I had my fill of everyone's emotional outbursts.

Back to YouTube.  Cat videos never offend.

I consider myself "apolitical", and I do so mainly by necessity.  With my husband on one side of the issues and my own family on the other, I play the role of Switzerland at family dinners, awkwardly coughing and changing the subject when controversial subjects arise.

For the sake of all of my Facebook friends, I wish they could do the same.  Not because their political beliefs are wrong or invalid, but because so much heartbreak could be avoided.

That friend you just cut down in anger.
Those generalizations pointed in your direction.
A relative you accused of something horrendous.
The pang of hurt when someone called you stupid.

Can't everyone be passionate and understanding?

Cael and Graham would occasionally repeat political soundbites they'd overheard from commercials and had what can only be described as "debates" as they ate their cereal or played with Legos.  And while they were all over the place --like seriously mixing up the details-- occasionally a little bit of insight would poke through.

"Graham, they want to build a wall so that there's a real border.  Like, nobody knows where America starts if there's no wall."
"No, that's not right, Cael.  And that's not what Hillary wants.  She said so in her emails."
"You know, she's gonna be in huge trouble because she sent thousands of emails.  She's gotta be way over on data and someone has to pay for it."
"Who, like us?"
"You, Graham.  You're gonna have to pay."

That's where I jumped in, and where Cael hit me with the fat truth.

"Boys, don't fight about stuff you don't even understand."
"We're not, Mom.  We have way better stuff to fight about."

Isn't that the truth.

Aside from guarding the Swiss flag, I've decided that this should be my new political role.  When I log onto Facebook and see friends arguing, I'll point out one of the many issues that require real debate, like the proper pronunciation of the word "mature".  When politics come up at Thanksgiving dinner next week, I'll artfully redirect the conversation to the raging battle between mayonnaise and Miracle Whip.

This week has been hard for everyone, but it's not too late to start addressing the real issues in your home and with your friends as well.  Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Shia LaBeouf's celebrity status.
Texting someone to say you're about to call.
The final episode of Seinfeld,  (Or for those that are daring, the entire last season of Lost.)
Fruit suspended in jello.
"Elf on the Shelf"
The sorcery of Mr. Clean Magic Erasers.
Buying Christmas gifts for pets.

Be passionate, but be understanding.  Even good people like Miracle Whip.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Carving Out Time for Halloween

I always got a little offended when people would tease me about first birthday parties being more about the mother than the child.  I still maintain that I reeled it in and didn't let any of my boys' parties become about me, but after this Halloween, I see the potential.

I've somehow inserted myself into Halloween.

HalloMEen, perhaps.

It's just... pumpkins.  I love them.  I love to display them.  I love to have a variety.  I love the smell.  I love the mental image they evoke.  And I really, really, love carving them.

I consider it just another extension of my creativity, just as I enjoy decorating my boys' cakes and creating our Christmas cards each year.  The difference is that, in years past, I would carve a pumpkin for each of the boys depicting whatever animal, vegetable, or mineral that captured their fancy.  They were too young to use a sharp knife and I still felt that this event was completely about their experience.

Over time, however, I discovered that I was kind of good at it.  Or maybe I'm not that good, but I am willing to dedicate six hours to one gourd, so that's got to be worth something.

For the last several years, I've been less receptive to traditional jack 'o lantern faces and more excited for challenged that involve varying depths or textures, which is even more of a feat considering that I have NO tools whatsoever, not even the cheap ones that come with templates at Walmart.

That's right, it's just me, a pumpkin, one sharp knife, and 8-10 hours of red-eyed dedication.

This year I originally planned to let the boys choose a design as I always had, but after helping me clean them out, Graham decided he would rather play outside in the unseasonably warm weather than design his jack 'o lantern.

All good, more for me.

The only issue was that I already had the pumpkin to carve for Adler (who couldn't verbalize it, but surely wanted an owl with textured wings)...

...a pumpkin for Cael, the pumpkin Graham abandoned, and one beastly giant.

I picked him up from a house outside of town that had large pumpkins for sale, and I could immediately envision the outstanding imagery I would lovingly carve into his face.

My first idea was a delicate, script font reading "Happy Halloween", but then I remembered that I'd done that text in 2014.

I considered "Trick Or Treat", but after making the first cut I discovered that the jumbo pumpkin had very soft flesh and wanted to split, so something with curvy, rounded edges probably wouldn't work.

I settled on a large tree, but 12 hours later when I had it finished, it looked incomplete.  I perused Pinterest until I found this photo of a beautiful sculpted leafy pattern, so I modified the shapes to curve around the tree.

The two days before Halloween passed by in a blur of seeds and slippery pulp beneath my feet, but I managed to finish the tree, the owl, a menacing toothy-grinned face, and even loosened my Halloween control enough to let Cael attempt his first jack 'o lantern.

He did a fantastic, smooth, clean job.  I'm probably going to have to purchase twice as many pumpkins next year.

When it was finally trick-or-treating time, I lit them up and stepped back, please with my work and thinking that the results were almost worth the 18 hours of effort.

And even though it was a little less about them and a little more about me, the pumpkins made the smile, so I'll call this a successful "HalloMEen".

...even if it took me a full 24 hours.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Halloween Procrastination

I've had a hard time maintaining a posting schedule lately, because Halloween.

I actually only had Halloween listed as one item on my "to-do" list among other tasks like "send out thank you notes for Cael's party that was almost a MONTH ago", "dog haircut", and "finish painting" (another project that got back-burnered).

It also appears that someone wrote "poop" in shaky handwriting on my to-do list, but I would have to make time for that later, because as of Friday afternoon, my boys had no costumes, no carved pumpkins, and no candy to pass out.

There was time to resolve the latter two issues, but the boys were pretty unhappy when I announced that I would not be purchasing costumes this year, and they would have to come up with a plan using materials we had on hand.

We spent literal hours googling "last minute costume ideas".  No thanks, I don't want my nine year old son to be a sexy pirate!

We tried "last minute costume ideas FOR KIDS".  Who has 20 feet of extra sofa batting and a gallon jug of aubergine glitter?

Okay, maybe we'd have better luck with "EASY last minute costume ideas FOR KIDS".  Sure, that cardboard box vending machine was cute, but it was too late in the game to construct a 6-piece harness.


Finally.  Our final search yielded two results: a lumberjack and an iPad.

Graham latched on to the iPad idea, and Cael was ready to channel his inner lumberjack as soon as I agreed to draw him a beard for trick-or-treating.

He really is his father's son.

It was easy enough to pull off this look with a plaid flannel shirt, jeans, some suspenders ( I did break down and buy these), a beanie, and a plastic axe that actually came with a store-bought fireman costume from a few years ago.

Graham's would be harder to execute, but as soon as I had the image in my head, I started to get excited.  I cut up an old computer box, spray painted it with some metallic spray paint I already had on hand from that painting project I had put out of sight and out of mind.

Unfortunately, it has also put me out of hardware.

I covered the front of the cardboard with some black posterboard, measured and printed out some app icons for the iPad screen, and glued them on in the proper position.  A few more details like the battery and signal strength gauges pulled it together, and I was finally able to sleep knowing that I could throw any old costume on Adler.

When the time came for trick-or-treating last night, I was proud to see my kids so happy, excited, and sufficiently costumed for very little money.

And the money was a very important part, because not only had I not forgotten about the pumpkin carving, but I went a little overboard.

Check back tomorrow for a photographic explanation of my orange hands...