Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween Costumes for Kids and Families

Life is Good: it's not about me!

Happy Halloween! I love this holiday. Especially the costumes. One of the best parts of my position as CEO of this house is getting to play dress up everyday! So I love to dress our family up and see everyone else out and about in their creations, too. Though I could totally do without witches, tombstones, and ugh, skeletons.

This is our family last year on Halloween:

I always say that this photo proves how much Grant loves me. ; ) Not because he dressed up (we decided to make it a tradition to dress up for trick-or-treating with our kids on the big kid's second Halloween). But rather, because this was the first costume that required real effort on his part. Not just throwing a wig on with the suit he wore to work (to be Einstein's dad) or a cape over his t-shirt and jeans (to be super dad), but real face-paint-itchy-raffia-effort. And our kiddos loved it! So much so that the big kid started plotting this year's costumes on November 1, 2012! (I think I probably did, too!)

As I have mentioned before, our big kid has been in a dinosaur-obsessed phase for a couple of years now. So I just assumed that he would want to be a dinosaur this year. And since little brother likes to stay right there beside him, I assumed he would also want to be a dinosaur. Okay, then. Grant and I will dress in khakis and be paleontologists. That's a comfy costume. Easy peasy. About six or eight weeks ago, I found a cute, warm-looking (it's Minnesota, remember!) dino costume for the little guy. All I needed to do was find one for the big kid...

Wait. Put on the brakes. The big kid had other plans...

He knew exactly what he wanted to be. And it wasn't a dinosaur. After two years of dinosaur university (seriously, we know evvvvvvvverything about dinosaurs!), this was not met with disappointment! And yet, his idea...that was going to take some thinking to make it work. So for the last month, I've been working on costumes for our family, here and there, as time allowed. My mom always made my costumes and like everything she made for me, she would say, "Every stitch with love." And I feel the same way. Every moment spent on these costumes was with love and satisfaction as I imagined the happiness they would bring to our kids.

But because I am making the costumes...I bought costumes for the kiddos online, just in case my masterpieces became monstrosities. Mom rule # 8: always have a back up plan! (What are #1-7? I haven't written them down!)

So every stitch with love...and anticipation. When I've worked on the costumes, the big kid will sit with me and draw or play with his "guys" and talk about how fun it will be on Halloween night. Those are moments I will never regret. Time shared. Quieter, calmer times. Mostly the two of us when Grant is at work and the wee one is napping. Ideas exchanged. Grins traded. Hearts filled up.

A couple of days ago, the little one had his "final costume fitting". He bounced around in it. Captivated by his reflection in the mirror, he smiled and shrieked in delight. He pronounced it, "Good." Ah, satisfaction. It's a comfy, warm (looks like Halloween night in the mid 40s here. Boo.) costume that makes him smile. Mission accomplished.

When the big kid got home from kindergarten, I had him try on his costume, too. Everything fit well. He, too, admired himself in the mirror. He told me I did a great job. He hugged me and said I was the best mommy in the whole, wide world. And then he said, "But I want a store-bought costume instead."


He explained that store-bought costumes are really cool. And this homemade one "is cool. It's the same cool for homemade as the cool for store-bought. I think I'll wear the one you made next year."

Hmm. Okay.

I told him that he didn't have to decide at that very moment. Let's have a snack and talk about it later.

Yes, I was confused. And after more discussion, disappointed. I sew with felt and glue, so it's not as if I have spent hours at a sewing machine creating a work of art. But I did spend time on these costumes. Mostly, in anticipation of my two children smiling with delight. And one of them wants something made in a factory instead.

But this isn't about me. The costume isn't about me. The parenting isn't about me. It's about them. Everything. Every single, little thing is about them. Every thought. Every breath. I remind myself that when your parenting starts being about you and your needs instead of your child and your child's needs is when you have messed up, selfish grown ups walking around in this world. Grown up in bad relationships. Or no relationships at all. Grown ups who put "me" before everything. Grown ups who are unfulfilled, unhappy, unable. Because they learned that from you. I want to teach my children to be thoughtful and giving and selfless, among a host of other things. And if that's what I want, it can't be about me...

So last night, I pulled out the "Plan B" store-bought costume. When the big kid gets home from school today, I'll show it to him. I don't know which costume he will choose to wear. But either way, I am okay with it. It's just a costume. For a silly holiday. And it is not about me.  None of it. It's about him. And I am not going to forget that.

Happy Halloween to homemade costume-wearers and store-bought ones alike! : )

Friday, October 25, 2013

Things to do on rainy days

Life is good: where's the beach?

A mama friend emailed me and said they were going on a beach vacation soon.  And NO, she did not invite me to go along. I know, RUDE! ; )
She knows that we try to say hello to the ocean once or twice a year and asked for ideas for rainy vacation days. So I decided just to make it a post so that I can share my experiences with everyone!

When we go to the beach, we plan to go to the beach. Our vacation typically entails waking up, eating breakfast, applying sunscreen, and then jumping in and out of waves over and over again. But in case of inclement weather, I usually turn to my friend, the interweb, prior to our vacation and scope out a place or two to go just in case. Whether that is the Maui aquarium, a mammoth site in Rapid City (ooh! I need to write a post about that trip!), or a great library in Nantucket, it's always good to have this info bookmarked. And pray for no rain!!!

We usually rent a house when we travel. It is just easier for us. With two kids under five, we need space for them to roam. And because of their allergies, we need a kitchen to cook their meals even if we dine out. When you rent a house, it usually comes with beach toys and maybe even house toys, which is nice. But I always bring along some books and toys of our own, too. You can fit quite a few Little People, Imaginext guys, Hot Wheels cars, and Playmobil dudes in a small baggie!

For rainy days, I love the game, Obstacles. Our big kid could play this endlessly. And his daddy and I enjoy it, too. You make the game your own. It is all pictures, so you don't need to know how to read. Little brother isn't quite old enough to play the game, but he thinks he is! The great thing about this game is that you can play it the way the instructions suggest, but you can also make up your own rules, your own different game. You can also just use the game cards to discuss objects and colors with a younger kid or make up a story with an older kid. Love it!

I also like to hide some toys a few weeks before we leave on a trip and pack them. Then, when we get to our destination, everyone is overjoyed to see the missing items and it is like getting new toys!

Don't forget that a small container of (new) Playdough is fun for everyone!

(pic courtesy of

With that said, I buy a few, small, new toys. My kiddos love Pez dispensers like these.

They are only about a dollar, so I sometimes pick up a couple of them for the plane ride. They don't eat the candy and use them like action figures. We are big in to pretend play at our house, if you haven't figured that out yet...

I also like to bring a baggie of odds and ends that can be made into "an invention" or "a sculpture". This baggie doesn't take up much room, but can keep little people busy if you need them to be. Make sure you have a brand new glue stick if you want to make a sculpture. Items for the baggie could include:
Popscicle sticks * Chenille stems (pipe cleaners) * rubber bands (for older kids) * recycled pieces of cardboard or paper * wine corks * paper clips (for older kids) * pieces of ribbon or yarn * scraps of fabric * thin, wood craft shapes * stickers * recycled bottle caps and lids * tiny boxes

The ideas are as endless as your imagination!

I always bring along a couple of favorite books as well as some new ones. Books are slim enough that you can slide then into bags and not take up much room. That said, I don't travel light. I would rather be prepared for anything and pay for an extra bag than have an issue on vacation. I love the I Spy books and Busytown books for keeping eyes and minds busy. When you're done finding items in the I Spy books, you can use them to make up stories or talk about shapes and colors, just like the Obstacles game.

Of course, we never go anywhere without paper, stickers, crayons, and markers. Coloring books are great if you have room for them. Sticker books, too. A roll of painter's tape can keep little fingers occupied and encourage young inventors to push ideas further. I also mentioned a few other ideas in my post about car trips.

You've probably noticed that most of these ideas are interpretable and not designed to stick the kids in a corner. We look forward to a slower pace on a beach vacation, but we also always plan to spend that time with our kids. I often think that we are "making memories" and I want to make sure that my kids remember that we loved spending time with them.

Enjoy the beach for me! (Never have figured out if the ocean waves hello or goodbye?)

Thursday, October 24, 2013

How to clean your dishwasher and kitchen sink drain the green way

Life is Good: everything is clean!

Nerd alert! This post is about cleaning. Borrrrrring, I know! But it is a necessity. And when your house is clean, life is oh, so...wait for it...pleasant!

Because this is about the boring topic of cleaning, you might want to stop reading right now. OR, if you want to discover something BRILLIANT, easy to do, and good for the environment, please feel free to keep reading.

Typically, the adults in this house don't get sick. And the little ones seem to only get sick with major, rush-to-the-ER-in-the-middle-of-the-night kind of illnesses. (I know, it's a swervy ride, remember?) But last week, Grant went down. And I mean, boom. We thought he had the flu, but as it turns out, he caught an infection and it turned into pneumonia. He got meds and is on the mend. We feel fortunate for first world medical access and a big house where he could be quarantined. Literally, he was on our third floor for a week in an attempt to keep everyone else healthy.

While parenting two kiddos under the age of five, maintaining my position as CEO of casa de How to be Pleasant, and playing nursemaid, our dishwasher stopped working well. It was still working, but the dishes weren't all coming out looking clean. Great timing, huh? I ended up doing several loads twice. Not the most efficient use of my time.

I remembered reading that you can use lemonade mix to clean out your dishwasher, so I tried that. I thought maybe there was some kind of build up in there. The inside of the dishwasher looked a little shinier, but it didn't clean the next load of dishes any better. A quick search of the internet told me that you are supposed to use sugar-free lemonade mix (duh, the sugar could gum things up).

I also remembered that the combo of baking soda/vinegar is a great all-purpose cleaner. So I threw some baking soda in the drain hole at the bottom and doused everything with vinegar. Again, the inside looked shinier. I think the dishwasher seemed to work a wee bit better (very wee?), but I was still having to re-wash items twice.

So I decided that it might be my kitchen drain that was the problem. I googled "how to clean your kitchen drain" and found this post. My mom had suggested using vinegar and baking soda in my drain a few days earlier, so I took this as a sign that it should be done! I adjusted the other blogger's instructions a little.

Here's what I did.

Boil a pot of water on the stove.
While the water is boiling, measure out 1/2 cup baking soda.
Also, measure out one cup of vinegar.
In a separate vessel, measure out one cup of water and heat the water in the microwave.

Let's begin!
1. Pour one pot of boiling water down your drain. Fill up pot with water and put it back on the stove to boil.
2. Pour 1/2 cup baking soda down your drain. Use a fork to get all of the soda down and not trapped aboved the drain.
3. Set your timer for 3 minutes.
4. When the timer goes off, pour your pre-measured vinegar and microwave hot water into a bowl. Pour that mixture down your drain.
5. Cover your drain with a drain cover (or a saucer, etc).
6. Set timer for 8 minutes.
During this time, I could hear some bubbling going on down in the drain, but it didn't bubble up above my sink.
7.  When the timer goes off, pour your second pot of boiling water down the drain.

I did this twice--once for each side of the sink. I didn't think my sink was clogged, but one side bubbled a little more than the other, so there was a little debris down in there.

I don't know that I would use this method to unclog a clogged drain. It might not be powerful enough. However, this is a great way to clean the muck and guck out of your drain.

I ran the dishwasher once without any dishes in it. Then, it was time to see if the dishwasher was back to cleaning everything.

Drumroll, please...

The first load of dishes was clean! Every single dish was clean!

*Imagine me doing a happy dance.*

This ends our self-professed nerd alert. Now, back to your regular, scheduled programming.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Parenting is a Full-Contact Sport

Life is Good: here's a thought for the day

At the bus stop this morning, I was talking with another bust stop mama (that sounds like a great name for a band, don't you think?) about a couple of bumps in the road we have had with the big kid riding on the bus. Not anything monumental, but rather just navigating alongside other kids who come from families with different rules, different dynamics, different lives. Then I flippantly said, "Parenting is a full-contact sport, after all, right?" And added, "It wouldn't be important work if it weren't hard work."

We wished each other a lovely day and bid our farewells. And as I walked a half-block to our house, I realized that my words deserved a more intentional tone. The fact is, parenting, the way I want to do it, is full-contact, 24-7-365, intentional, dedicated, non-stop, always thinking about it, always doing it, world making, life changing work.

And it is hard sometimes. It's hard to have to deliver consequences. It's hard to watch your child struggle or hurt. It's hard to maintain your own family's standards and morals and beliefs and rules in a world of families and people who think differently. Or don't think at all.

But it is also amazing. Wait. It is mostly amazing. Most of the time, it is the sweetest, most fun, most exciting way to spend your life, to use your breath. It is like sunshine and cotton candy and tickles, giggles, and summer break meets the ocean waves, hot air balloons, rollercoaster rides, and Christmas-morning-going-through-your-stocking all rolled together into a superb kind of wonderful.

Like I said in this post, this parenting thing is not for the faint of heart or the weak of spirit. That is for sure. The ride can be curvy and swervy, but it is also an exhilarating, wondrous one! Enjoy your ride today. And hug your passengers!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Find me on Facebook

Life is good: what did we ever do without Facebook?

If you liked yesterday's inspirational quote, please LIKE How to be Pleasant Blog on Facebook. I put more stuff like that on the blog Facebook page.

I'm also on Pinterest and Twitter.

Have a great day!

(with gratitude to

Friday, October 18, 2013

Friday inspiration

Life is good: make stuff happen!


In case you have forgotten...


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Acknowledging Gratitude, Celebrating Joy

Life is good: it's my Godson's birthday!

Today is a very special day. Today is the day that my eldest Godson was born. It is a wondrous, marvelous, meaningful day. It made one of my dearest friends, Pip, a mother for the first time. The awe of that all is too much for words. I was young and unmarried and so this little boy's entrance into the world introduced me to a whole new world, too. He was two months old before I got to meet him, but in the eight weeks previous, I had soaked up every morsel of tidings, tidbits, and information his mother was willing to share.

My darling Godson is a dear, smart, thoughtful, interesting boy. His voice is as sweet as honey. Being named his Godmother is one of the greatest joys and honors of my life. What a wonderful gift to have parents of a precious little one say that they want for you to be in their child's life forever! To join their family in such a perspicuous, yet interpretable, position. What a treasure to get to stand alongside them as they baptize their child and present him to the world. And what a beautiful feeling it is to know that you are connected to another person in such a distinct, unique way. Not by blood, but by love, which oozes and flows and invigorates just the same. For always.

My dear, darling Godson lives a phone call away. But today, he and his mama will be in my every thought. As she celebrates her birthing day and he celebrates the day he graced our world with his precious little face. I will not get to watch him cut his cake, I will have to imagine him blowing out the candles. And my wish for him? The world. His heart's desires. The mindfulness to live in the moment. The bravery to take the next step. The discernment to listen to his heart. Gentleness, empathy, and generosity with others. Especially those who have the least. The strength to ask for help. The sensitivity to offer it. An endless curiosity. A sense of adventure. A heart always open to God's infinite love. Blessings, blessings, blessings. And years and years and years of good health and happiness that he might taste and smell and see and hear all of the wonders of this world with which we have been graced. And so much more.

Dear Godson, you are my gift. On your birthday. And every day.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Easy Knight's Costume

Life is good: it's almost Halloween!

I have always loved dressing up for Halloween. The haunted houses, bloody stuff, tombstones, and creepy witches... not so much. But the costumes...YES. YES. YES.

My mom always made our Halloween costumes. Not because of budget, but rather, out of love. She made some outstanding pieces of creativity including a Pac Man made out of chicken wire stuffed with, what had to be, a thousand yellow paper napkins and a Superstar Barbie full-length fuschia sequined gown complete with Barbie's gigantic diamond necklace made from a macrame bauble. Yes, she made my costumes even when I was in college.

So of course, when I became a mama, I felt compelled to make my own kiddo's Halloween costume. And I have enjoyed each moment of the process each year and have saved each one in a bin so that they can open them up and look at them when they are adults. (And then throw them away, probably!)

A few days ago, another mama was looking for a way to make a knight costume for her kiddo. Our big kid was a version of "Sir Lancelot" when he was 18 months old and I offered to give her the details.

Let me preface this by saying that I sew with glue. My mom is a magnificent seamstress. You can make a crude drawing on paper and she can turn it into a work of art. She can see an item in the store and know how much fabric she'll need and then with some zips of the sewing machine, voila! It looks just like the store-bought item. However, she did not teach me that skill. And a bad experience with an apron in 8th grade Home Ec. class sealed my fate never to be a seamstress. And it is a regret of mine. And I do want to learn. Someday. Soon. Until then, glue is my friend.

I used to sew with hot glue. In the past couple of years, I have graduated to fabric glue. Hot glue is faster and requires less attention, but it can pull apart. Fabric glue is like white glue, so it is wetter and takes longer to dry, so seams have to be held together, which takes longer, but I think it makes for a better finished product.

Here's my easy-mama-can't-sew-kiddo-was-too-little-to-care princely knight's costume:

And here's how I made our "Princely Sir Lancelot-type knight's tunic":
1. Measure child from shoulders to wherever you want the tunic to end (around the thigh region)
2. Measure child from shoulder to shoulder.
Now add two inches to your shoulder (width) measurement and two inches to your length measurement. This will be the foundation for the tunic.
3. Double that amount of fabric and purchase that amount of gray felt. Felt is super easy to "glue sew" with! (That said, if you have never done something like this before, I would purchase extra felt just in case you make a mistake. The leftover felt can always be used by your kiddo for an art or craft project!)
4. Purchase a small amount of colored felt for the "crest" on the knight's chest. The measurement from shoulder to shoulder is good for width and about half the length will give you enough felt for the crest.
5. Gather together your glue gun and hot glue sticks or two fabric glue bottles, two safety pins, some scissors, and some pinking shears. *

Now you are ready to start!
1. Cut two pieces of gray felt using your width and length measurements. The pieces will look like rectangles.
2. You will need to measure your child's head to know how big of a hole you will need to cut for their head to slide through.
3. Glue one of the "short" sides of the gray felt rectangles.
4. When this is completely dry, turn the fabric so that the glue seam is now on the inside and then cut a half circle (It will end up being a full circle because you are cutting through two pieces) into the glued side of the gray felt. (I cut a v-neck for mine, but I think the circle might be easier.)
5. Slip this gray piece over your kiddo. Be sure to dress your child in whatever you will have them wear under the tunic. I chose striped jammies. I thought it looked cute, would be comfy, and would be easy to get him into bed at the end of Halloween night.
6. Now, pin your safety pins under your child's arms, leaving enough room for them to wiggle around comfortably. This will be the arm opening so you will NOT glue the fabric from the safety pin up to the shoulders.
7. Remove the gray felt from your child and flip the tunic inside out. Glue the two long sides of the rectangle together, leaving the opening from the safety pin up to the top of the fabric.

Once this is completely dry, you have the foundation for your tunic. Make sure it fits well and is roomy enough for your child to have lots of fun moving around!

After reading this far, you may think,"What have I gotten myself into?" I know there are a lot of directions to this, but it is a pretty quick project. I am just trying to be as deliberate and precise as possible. The directions are long but the process goes by pretty quickly. Really!

Now it is time to make the textured "armor" of the knight's tunic.
1. Gather the rest of your gray felt and using your width measurements, cut strips of gray fabric with the pinking shears. I think my strips were about 1 or 1 1/2 inches wide.
2. Glue the "pinked" strips to the tunic beginning at the bottom and overlapping to create texture. If you are using fabric glue, this will take longer because you will want to make sure the glue is pretty dry before adding another strip. (Working in a warm room or using a blow dryer will speed up the process.)
3. Trim the strips where you need to.

I only applied the strips to the front of the tunic, but you can do the entire thing if you want. Allow this to dry overnight.

Now, you can cut out a crest if you like. I freehanded mine. You can look online and find an image of a crest, print it out and use that as a stencil if you don't want to freehand a crest. Here is an example:

Once you have cut out your crest, you can put anything on it that you like. Maybe your child's monogram? This one looks simple, but royal!

Or you could write out your child's entire name OR better yet, add "Sir" to it! Very round table-like!
; )

We added a crown to our knight's tunic to complete the costume. Our kiddo was only 18 months old and we wanted to keep the costume simple and comfy. The crown was a favorite of his at the time, so we went with it even though Sir Lancelot never became king of Camelot. (We improvised the story a little!)

You could add a gray hoodie under the tunic to make a "knight's hood". Or you could make a hood out of gray felt to complete the ensemble. Just cut out two pieces of gray felt into a sort of "D" shape. Glue the rounded part together and then the "bottom of the D" to the tunic. It would be really cute to glue the textured strips onto the hood. Do that before you attach it to the tunic. Use a hoodie you already have as a guide and pattern.

Remember the cartoon of the knight at the top of this post? You could also cut out a piece of gray felt to glue to the bottom of your tunic to mimic the bottom of that knight's tunic (kind of looks like a skirt, but don't tell your son that!). If you want to make a border on it like the illustration, use ric rac. If you don't want to use jammies, gray sweatpants would look like a softer set of armor!

Helpful Hints: If you are using fabric glue, I would plan to make this costume in several increments over several days' time. If you are hot gluing,  I would plan to make the costume in at least two increments: the foundation and then the "armor".

*Please remember that I am not a professional seamstress, so none of these instructions are fool-proof. Remember to measure twice and cut once and always have extra fabric "just in case"!

Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Happier at Home

Life is Good: everything is a phase

I recently started reading a book called, "Happier at Home" by Gretchen Rubin. I'm not sure how I happened upon the book. I may have just liked the title. Or the cover. Yes, I judge books by their covers. There, I said it. Now you know my one flaw. ; )

I've had the book for about nine months, just sitting there, begging to be opened. I ignored it for other books which are in a rotation depending on my mood, level of interest, amount of time I can devote to reading (or rather, smidgen of time) and most importantly, how much sleep I have had (brain capacity for reading comprehension).

I don't subscribe to making new year's resolutions, however, I do think the beginning of the year (as well as my birthday) is a good time to look back and look forward and evaluate what's working and what isn't. I committed to reading more this year. I was still nursing this time last year. (Sorry for the TMI.) The first 18 months with a child allow very little time for anything else but raising them and tending to their every breath and need and when there was time for "anything else", it never meant books for me. So reading more became my non-resolution resolution. I've only actually completed one book so far, if that tells you anything about the aforementioned anything else time. Or my brain capacity and attention span. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Well, I have started and stopped and started this book again and who knows when I will finish it, so don't hold you breath for a review! It seems like a perfectly sweet little book. It's easy to read and I was thinking it was nice and kind of benign when...the author wrote the words that I had been trying to articulate for the past five years. "The days are long, but the years are short."

Yes! Yes! That's exactly it. Reading those words felt like someone had unzipped my heart, held it in their hands, and read it like a piece of poetry--slowly and intentionally. Indeed, the days are long, but the years are short. This sums up my assessment of parenthood. At least for the phase we are in with a toddler and a kindergartener.

Some days, especially those days in the first 3 months of life or the first year of your child's life seem so.very.long. Mostly because the nights are so short! Getting up multiple times for nursing...oh, the toils of interrupted sleep. Sleep deprivation aside, those days can also be long with snuggles and smiles and my favorite...laughter. I remember wishing away the first three months of our oldest's life. It was so difficult to go from my fast-paced job where my measure of success was how many millions of people bought a product that I created the TV spot for to how often and for how long my child nursed. Admittedly, I felt like a milk machine. And the pain of it all! Excruciating! (Fortunately it doesn't last forever!) I was also so very anxious for our child to "communicate" with us...smiles, rolling over, gurgled replies. To be sure, I loved every minute of being a mommy from the time the stick showed a plus sign. But I wasn't always in the moment those first few months of the big kid's life. Often those first couple of months, I was thinking forward and looking ahead and excited about or anxious for the next big (or better) thing instead of basking in the current one. And why not? It's the only thing I've ever known. I've always been a planner. And my job required a delicate balance of getting today's work done while keeping one eye on what was due next week. But then I discovered how time begins to race once you enter parenthood. It's as if the clock gets reset to double time but nobody tells you and then all of a sudden, a year has passed. And another has whizzed by. And another. Again, the days are long, but the years are short.

Our big kid was three years old when I had another chance to mother a newborn. This time, I knew how fast those first moments go by. I knew that everything is a phase...even the good stuff. So I vowed to savor the moments. I knew that he would eventually sleep longer at night and nurse less often in general. I knew that the sleep deprivation and interrupted sleep was (relatively) short. I also knew that he would only be that tiny--so very, very tiny--for a fleeting instant. Perspective. Attitude. It really changes, or at least affects, everything.

The other day, my dad suggested that Grant and I might like to go to Hawaii for a week, just the two of us. He and my mom (emphasis on "my mom"!) could take care of our little boys and we could have a truly relaxing vacation. It was a generous, loving thought and gesture. And the idea, in my head, of sleeping in and lying on the beach UNINTERRUPTED for an entire morning, even an entire day (WHAT?) sounds amazing! In my head, it does. But honestly, right now, we (yes, I am speaking for my husband and me) couldn't imagine being in Hawaii without our kiddos. We were married several years before we had a child. We traveled, we stayed out late and slept in, we watched movies. We went to quiet restaurants where everyone whispered and ordered in a different language. We had space in the closets and on the bookshelves. We read books and listened to music without interruption. And we felt like something was missing. And it was.

Nothing is missing now. Our lives are full and spilling over. We know that this is a wonderfully special time. We. are. blessed. And after five+ years of parenthood, we know that five+ years goes by in a flash and that there will be a day and time when we will sleep in again, we will watch more movies, and even vacation alone. Sure, I occasionally have a girls' night out and my hubs will go to a ball game with a friend. And of course, there are date nights (not enough of them!) because that is important to a marriage. But for now, we love being together as a family more than anything else. We like each other. And we like being together. I am grateful for that. I acknowledge how fortunate I am that my husband doesn't have hobbies or interests that are self-centered or take him away from our family time. I acknowledge how fortunate we are that neither one of us has to work evenings or weekends away from home. And for now, things like being on a board of directors or volunteering for a fundraiser gala or sitting on a committee for this or that will just have to wait. All of those things and more will still be there for us in five or ten years. Or twenty years. And after that, too.

We know that these precious little people will be precious big people in the blink of an eye. So we willingly will trade lying on a beach uninterrupted for building sand castles and jumping in and out of waves no less than one thousand and fifteen times. Because the days are long, but they are filled with love and wide eyes and, did I mention, laughter? And the years are short, so very, very short, as we have discovered. 

Sunday, October 13, 2013

How to make a cardboard spaceship

Life is Good: we built a rocket ship!

There have been two unwavering obsessions in our house for the past couple of years...dinosaurs and space. So with the big kid turning five, we decided a space-themed birthday party sounded...wait for it..."out of this world"!

I don't like to feel rushed or stressed about anything, but especially when it comes to something that should be enjoyable like a birthday party, so I began party prep a couple of months in advance. I know, I know. This might sound crazy to a lot of people, but it is the way I get things done and stay sane and enjoy the process. I don't want birthday party prep to take away from time spent together, so starting so far ahead guaranteed that. We didn't work on party prep every day for two months-- just every once in a while. And this year, the big kid helped me make a lot of the decorations, so I felt like I was teaching him to plan ahead and not be a procrastinator. It also extended the celebration, in a way. He really enjoyed brainstorming ideas and making things. And I loved the time we spent together.

So remember how I said that I don't like to do things last minute? Well, the big kid decided that we needed a rocket ship just a couple of days before the party. And frankly, I thought it was a great idea! But with only a few days to make it, bake cupcakes and finish all of the final preparations, my eyes bugged out and my brow furrowed wondering when I was going to make that happen!

I called our grocery store and asked if they had any big boxes that I could have. They did and the size they described sounded like I only needed two, but I asked my husband to grab a few extra in case I made a mistake with one. 

Well, when he got home, the boxes were much smaller than described on the phone. BUT! He had five of them. A few hours later, he left on a business trip, so I knew that I didn't have time to run around looking for a bigger box and I needed to make this work. 

First, I taped all of the boxes together with shipping tape. Then, I gathered together scraps of paper and some black electrical tape and then looked around the house for anything else that looked like it could be used for a rocket ship gadget or gizmo.

I cut a lot of pieces of paper into geometric shapes--mostly squares and rectangles with a few triangles. I figured those would make good "buttons".

I had some paper circles in my scrap box, so I decided to make those into "dials" and "gauges". But of course, since I am not mechanical in the least,  I turned to the interweb for visual inspiration and found this nice example:

Thank you,!

I cut a hole in two of the boxes for "portals" so that the astronauts could see inner space. Then, I just started thinking about what might be inside of a rocket ship and wrote things like "Orbit" and "Eject" on a few pieces of paper. Then, I grabbed the glue stick and got to work!

Because of the size of the boxes, I had two sides of the "spaceship"...

As you can see, I added an old gift card to the right side. I thought the bar code looked technical. I found some other bar codes on packaging and put those on the left side. The black electrical tape (that probably cost a dollar or less) was what made everything look like a command center, though. And the tape made making the whole thing easy and go really quickly!

If I had planned on this, I could have spent HOURS (I mean, HOURS!) perfecting it. But gratefully, I could only devote about two hours or so to it. I had to accept that it was all it needed to be when the big kid jumped for joy at the sight of it.

Originally (when I thought I would be using one, big box), I had planned to paint the front of it, but because I had to tape five "apple" boxes together, I decided to use poster board to create the front of the rocket. I freehanded everything because I am too impatient for rulers and frankly, I just like the imperfection of doing things myself. It "keeps me honest" and reminds me that I am oh, so flawed. 

In the pic above, you can see the cardboard boxes behind the posterboard. I would have added stars to the black "space" background, but the big kid asked me not to do so.  He liked it just the way it was. Sigh.

I found a couple of blank CD holders that I thought looked like steering apparatuses (or video game joysticks?) so I taped them on, but they didn't last long up against one particular party guest...

But, no worries! They are kids, after all! And what's a party without some destruction? ; )

The kids at the party thought it was fun and played with it a little. I thought that we would keep it around for a week or two and then it would be something surprising for the trash men to take away. But, no. Can you believe that five months later, these kids still want to play with their cardboard rocketship? We have been to every planet at least fifty times. Somehow, we always have to stop on Mars.

Every time I mention that it might be time to get rid of the thing, the big kid begs me to keep it just a little longer because "we have adventures to go on!". Thank goodness we have space for it (no pun intended) and enough room in a closet when we need to hide it out of view.

This rocketship is one of those things that I hope my kids will remember when they are all grown up. I hope that they will remember that I was the kind of mama who respected her kids' ideas and did what I could to make stuff happen. I hope they will grow up feeling like if they can think it, that they can do it. I hope they come to believe that enjoyment doesn't have to come from expensive things but rather, ordinary stuff around the house that you can make into extraordinary things. And that your imagination can take you anywhere. Absolutely anywhere.

And I hope that they will remember that I was always up for fun and an adventure into space.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Where to go for doughnuts in Minneapolis

Life is good: we have The Baker's Wife!

Since the big kid has started kindergarten, we have learned to covet sleepy Saturday mornings. Monday through Friday, I get up at 5:45 AM. Not particularly being a morning person (this may be the greatest understatement known to man), I especially have enjoyed getting to sleep until 7 or 7:30 on Saturdays.

Oh. My. Gosh. I cannot believe that I just typed a sentence that says how grateful I am to sleep in until 7:30 AM!!! My, how the times have changed!

Today was not a sleepy Saturday. This morning, we had to be up and at 'em for a fundraiser walk at the big kid's school. It was a crisp Autumn morning. One of those mornings that proves the existence for puffy vests. I never really understood those vests until I moved to Minnesota.

The big kid had a lot of fun. There was a scavenger hunt for the school mascot along the walking route. Kids signed their name when they finished the first lap.

They also had a bouncy house stop, a hula hoop stop, and an "army crawl" stop along the way.

After we finished, Grant and I decided that we had "earned" a treat. So we headed over to The Baker's Wife pastry shop. Because of the kiddos' allergies, we couldn't eat there, but we were happy to bring our goodies home.  The little ones had a treat of their own...homemade eggless sugar cookies. And before noon, mind you. This is a big deal at our house! I have promised several of you the eggless sugar cookie recipe and I will do my best to post it this week, so please check back for that!

Grant and I decided to share a creme brulee danish. It did.not.disappoint. It had a small amount of custard (I could have eaten a vat of it!) plus the burnt sugar top just like the dessert.

Of course, I had to snap a pic of all of the delectable delights. 

These sweet treats almost look good enough to make me give up my sleepy Saturdays every week. 
Or maybe not!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Devotion about Parenting

Life is Good: Parenthood is the best!

As I mentioned in my pumpkin bread post, I recently joined a new mom's group. Last week, it was my turn to provide a devotion for the group before we heard our speaker talk about "God, Girlfriends, and Chocolate".

As I considered what I might do for a quick, but meaningful devotion, I pondered parenthood. I know that being parents has changed Grant's and my life. But has it changed me? Has it changed who I am at the core? Indeed, I am less self-centered. But this was no higher plane, awakened, enlightened, Mother Teresa act of self abnegation. It was out of necessity, really. I had no choice. Motherhood means that I am now number four on the totem pole.

I really don't think parenthood has changed who I am. I think it has only emphasized it. And made me more aware of who I am, of my actions, of my words, of my influence on my family.  I feel fortunate that I had kind of "figured out who I was" before I had children. I have confidence in that. I'm not trying to be someone else or figure out who I want to be. I'm not telling other people's stories or chasing someone else's dream. I'm also not trying to fit into someone else's shoes. Or jeans. That doesn't mean that I don't have things that I need to work on. Oh, yes. There are plenty of flaws there and work to be done. But they are my flaws. My imperfections.

As I sat with my own thoughts for a moment (the little one was napping and I had a few short minutes before I had to pick up the big kid at the bus stop), I considered the difference between parenthood and motherhood. Motherhood is such an enormously juicy notion to me. Too wondrous and magnificent and complicated and full to even attempt to wrap my brain around in a few moments. Parenthood, too, so big and layered and deep...

One thing is for sure. Parenthood has helped me comprehend my own parents' love for me. It's made me appreciate their feelings more. It's made me read into their thoughts a little better. And made a deep, loving connection even stronger.

Parenthood has also helped me understand God's love for me even better, too. Me, His child, His creation.

I love the quote from Elizabeth Stone that says, "Making the decision to have a child - it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body. ” (I used it in my "second week of kindergarten" post.) And the quote is so true! The moment you give birth, you lose a little bit of control, your child gains a little bit of free will, and the outside world gets a little more involved minute by minute by minute.

And now I understand that it is the same for God. He created me, envisioned a perfect path and enormous blessings for me, and then sent me off in to life armed with free will and into a world that slowly gets more involved minute by minute by minute.

Grant and I are going through the same thing with our little ones. Especially the five-year old. We do all we can to provide a strong foundation for him and then we send him off into the world each day. We hope and pray that he will put his best foot forward; that he will make the right choices and have good behavior. We celebrate when he does. And when he doesn't, we do our best to help him get back on the right path and support him through it all. And as I watch these children try to navigate through this life, I realize better that God is doing the same with me. He's watching over me, hoping and praying that I will put my best foot forward and make the right choices and He rejoices when I do. And when, instead of putting my best foot forward, I stick my foot in my mouth or something else, He's there to steer me back into the right direction...supporting and uplifting me through it all.

This notion reminded me of one of my favorite bible passages, Ephesians 3:17-19 (New Living Translation) "Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in Him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God."

These words have always filled me up. I find them so encouraging and awe-inspiring and thought-provoking. God's love for us truly is baffling, unintelligible, incomprehensible, beyond human capabilities. And yet, it is there. Surrounding us daily. Wrapping around us. Lifting us up. Carrying us through it all. I think the unfathomable aspect of God's love is what is most empowering to me.  Too big for my mind, it fills my heart up until it overflows.


So the pondering continued. You know, this parenthood thing is not for the weak of heart or delicate of spirit. I find it so exhilarating and gratifying. I think it is the most important work that any one person can do in this world. It fills my heart up with joy so much that it feels like it might burst at any moment. But it can also be heart-wrenching and exhausting and stressful. And sometimes, it can be all of the aforementioned emotions in an eight-hour period of time!

I have a piece of prose that I printed out several years ago. I think it is a lovely meditation and perfectly apropos for parents:
"O, do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger! Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers. Pray for powers equal to your tasks! Then the doing of your work shall be no miracle. But you shall be a miracle. Every day you shall wonder at yourself, at the richness of life which has come to you by the grace of God."(Phillips Brooks)


May you always be empowered and inspired, knowing that you are a celebrated child of God. Knowing that He created you exactly the way you are for good reason and to live a richly blessed life full of purpose. May you feel comforted and strengthened knowing that God loves you and watches over you, delighting when you stay on the right path and cradling you when you make a wrong turn. All the while, loving you, His precious, precious creation. 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Sins of the Supermarket

Life is Good: and so are Pringles!

Oh, I did it. I committed the greatest sin known to man. I went to the grocery store hungry. And right before lunch, to boot.

I got all of the intrinsically healthy foods that were on my list. Organic fruits and veggies and proteins. Organic milk, cheese, and yogurt, yogurt, yogurt. Heart-smart, sensible, nutritious foods.

And then, I started circling the middle aisles---the ones I never stroll through when my grocery visits are properly-timed. Circling like a shark around its prey. Oreos, Fritos, Wheat Thins. Pop Tarts! I forgot about those! Hot chocolate mix looks good. Hmmmm. Candy Bars. Miniature ones. But they don't make your behind look miniature, do they? Just then, the wheel on the grocery cart locked a little--just long enough to wake me up from my gaze.  Carrie Underwood's "Jesus, take the wheel" started to play in my head. And phew! I kept walking. Past the snacks, out of the middle aisles. Straight to the checkout. Crisis averted. Kind of. (See below.)

In other news, Reduced Fat Pringles are delicious!