Monday, December 31, 2012

The Fun and Frustrations of Facebook

Facebook is a treacherous place sometimes.

I follow about a dozen blogs, but I don't do anything with my Twitter account (other than occasionally check in on Horse eBooks because it's hilarious), and I put up three lizard related images on Pinterest and I was done with that.  I'm online most of the day with email and Hulu as I work, but it's more in the background.  I can't even imagine how many other social media things there are that I've never even heard of that I'm not doing.  Then there's Facebook.

Initially I joined Facebook simply to see what my brother's page looked like.  He has a vast network of friends and colleagues spread across the globe and it made sense to me why he would use it.  But I didn't think I had any use for such a thing and decided it would be funny to have a Facebook page with just one 'friend' on it.

But anyone who has ever used Facebook knows that's not how it works.  Everyone else who might know you is instantly alerted you are there, and there are friend requests that seem impolite to turn down, and Facebook scours the far reaches of itself even for people with names like yours to offer up as potential 'friends' you should connect with.  Eventually you end up with weird strangers in your news feed who you can't imagine how they got there, and on occasion post in a language you don't even recognize.  It's bizarre.

And beyond that there are moments when Facebook is downright creepy.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Sometimes Sparkle Cellos Have to Happen

When we last met our half size (damaged beyond all reasonable repair--trust me) cello, it was being covered with plastic jewels.  Turns out sorting fake jewels by color is strangely enjoyable and a somewhat addictive activity.  Only Mona tired of that task quickly.  Aden and Quinn and I felt as if we could have sorted jewels forever.  (It probably qualifies as one of the chores the Terrible Trivium from The Phantom Tollbooth would have devised, so best we moved on no matter how soothing it seemed.)

I duct taped the sides of the cello to cover holes and got a basic coat of black spray paint on most of the body before using titebond to attach jewels.

I started with the sides, then moved on to the front, back, and finally the scroll.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012


So, this is one of those posts where I'm kind of counting on the fact that my children don't see my blog.  Nothing bad, I promise, but this made me laugh and I feel like sharing.

My kids went to bed last night before we had a chance to finish baking the stollen that we usually leave out for Santa.  But no matter, they left something else out for him:

Mona had created a little duct tape snowman on a 'snowy' plate with a pencil and a note.  I will spare you most of her atrocious spelling (ask me how many times I just tried to type 'atrocious' until spell check liked it and you'll know where her problem comes from), but it began, "Dire Santa."

Anyway, I didn't dare look at the note until all the children were asleep and I was filling their stockings.  (At which point I also discovered Mona had put out a stocking for her beloved fish, so I filled a teeny tiny bottle with water and sealed it with a twist tie bow.  Because seriously?  What do you get a fish at midnight?)  The note began with, "Do you see the snowman?"  And then continued on to say that if he liked it he could have it, but if he took it he had to sign the red slip at the bottom.  I suppose like a receipt, but I suspect it had more to do with procuring proof of Santa's existence.

Friday, December 21, 2012


I love this time of year.  Despite the shortened days and the stress and the hassle and the fact that all my kids' birthdays fall into this same avalanche of figuring out gifts and logistics and trying to remember that this is supposed to be fun.

This year for holiday cards Mommy's Sweatshop cranked out dozens of snowflakes cut from origami paper.  The kids did a nice job, although they didn't point out until after we mailed them all that maybe it wasn't good to have made some from yellow paper since what kind of a message is that to get yellow snow?  (Ah, well, too late.  Anyone who got an inadvertent pee card, we still love you I swear.)

It's funny with holiday cards because I read all the time about how social media has killed the need for them and who uses the post office, etc.  But for a dying practice there are a surprising number of cards on our mantle.  I think we're up to at least 20 and it makes opening the mail a really pleasant part of my day.  I don't expect anyone else to bother, but I enjoy going through my whole address book and thinking about everyone I've collected there and sending along a card and sometimes pictures of my kids.  I like to think it's brightening someone else's day when they bring in their mail.

We've made spritz cookies in the shapes of wreathes and trees like my grandma used to do, and this weekend we will make her stollen (which is a bread with a glaze on it and decorated with candied cherries).  When Aden and I make grandma's stollen we don't include the citron that none of us like, but I miss picking those bitter little pieces out of my slice while chatting with my grandma at her kitchen table.  I'm not a good enough writer to express how much I miss my grandma.

With so much tragedy in the news lately I'm appreciating more than usual the comfortable bubble that is our home.  Inside our walls we've been lucky that traumatic events have been few.  There are coughs and runny noses, bills to pay, frustration with homework, repeated reminders about chores or violin practice, endless laundry....  But with the tears over practicing or homework come the breakthroughs, and we often dump the clothes that need sorting onto my bed and make it a folding party while we watch cartoons together.  There are annoyances and irritations in the day to day no matter who we are, but I'm fortunate that my life is filled with more hugs than squabbles, more dog nuzzles than messes, and after two deployments I never take for granted that my husband is home.  Compared to real problems in the outside world the things we tend to fret about currently rank as mere concerns or issues.

One of my concerns in the bubble at the moment is that Aden is conflicted about Santa Claus.  She's eleven, so she's choosing to be conflicted.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

My Ten Cents on Guns

I am heartbroken following the news about the children and educators shot to death in their school in Connecticut recently.  It's beyond horrible and impossible not to get emotional about.  My son curled up in my lap at the end of that day, exhausted after the happy work of kindergarten and then picking out a Christmas tree and hanging stockings and untangling strings of lights.  He fell asleep almost as soon as he nestled into my lap there in the dining room where I was trying to get some tasks done at the table.  Such a sweet, perfect, innocent face, freckles across his nose, breathing softly, safe and innocent and alive.  I burst into tears thinking of the parents who weren't going to get to hold their children anymore and wondering how someone could look into such a face as my son's and choose to destroy it.  I struggle every day to err on the side of compassion whenever possible, but I have very little to spare for people who harm children.  As the most obvious of baselines I would hope we can all agree that protecting children from brutality and vicious murder is a worthy goal of our society.  Just because there is an emotional component to this position doesn't make it less valid because arguably violence is damaging to many levels of our well being.

I've written before how I believe there is a distinction between rural use of guns versus their role in densely populated areas.  I still think that's true, but today I am thinking about cities.  Because I think we have come to such a dangerous and twisted place that I don't even understand the arguments coming from people about why we should all have such easy access to guns.  We need to stop and reassess without being immediately defensive.  We need to weigh the truth of what is happening now against our preconceived assumptions of what we want or think we deserve.

Because if we have reached a point in our society where the murder of twenty children in their school seems like just the unfortunate price we must pay for a particular interpretation of an amendment of our constitution, then something is very wrong.

Friday, December 14, 2012


The news of the school shootings in Connecticut has me in tears at my desk.  I'm resisting the urge to go the four blocks to my kids' school just to hug them as hard as I can.

What sort of person turns a gun on a room full of kindergarteners?  Who thinks that up and goes to the effort to carry out that plan?  Did that really make him feel powerful?

My thoughts on gun control written after another mass shooting are here, but I'm feeling less generous about it today.  As a culture we must set better priorities.  We have created an environment where an abstract sense that everyone is entitled to own guns in this country trumps a safe reality for our children.

Kindergarteners.  The line in the news feed that did me in was "An entire kindergarten classroom is unaccounted for."

You know what I did last night?  I went to Quinn's holiday concert at his school.  It was just the half dozen kindergarten rooms in performance in an overly packed auditorium.  Hundreds of people crammed shoulder to shoulder just to hear small, adorable children sing sweet songs out of tune.  The first piece was a class carrying electric candles singing, "Light a candle for peace, light a candle for love...."  I didn't even know any of those children and I was in tears the whole time.

It's like someone today literally gunned all those tiny singers down.  Different adorable children I don't know.

I just don't understand.  I really don't.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Last Baby Tooth

My oldest child just turned eleven.

I still remember her as the beautiful baby she was over a decade ago.  Aden was the perfect training baby.  She was patient, seeming to forgive all our bumbling as we taught ourselves what to do as new parents.  She ate well and was sleeping through the night at about four months.  She was bald for a long time and her eyes were (are) incredibly blue.  And I don't care what any expert says about when children develop empathy because in Aden's case she was sensitive to the feelings of others from very early on.  Anytime she saw me cry she would cry too.  She's my tenderhearted girl.

Ready to decorate!
We had a sleepover party for her this past weekend that included the girls making their own pizzas for dinner, a couple of games of Aden's own invention, and our own version of Cupcake Wars.  That was fun.  We baked a gabillion mini cupcakes and set out frosting and marshmallows and fruit and sprinkles and sugar paper and modeling chocolate and then set a timer for different decorating challenges.  (One round was 'the ocean', then 'zombies', then the holiday of their choice....)  They had a five minute time limit on each round and the judges were me, Mona, Quinn, and our dog Chipper (who gave everyone a ten each time which we assumed was correct based on the level of tail wagging he exhibited when we held him up to look at the cupcakes).  Ian got to judge the final round of displays.  The winners got to eat their cupcakes.  The losers had to eat their cupcakes. 

I was impressed at Aden's party how inclusive she was of her siblings.  Mona and Quinn did not get pushed off to the side just because friends were over.  She's a good big sister, and she may not be the best example for getting her chores or homework done without prompting, but she's wonderful about leading her little pack of siblings in a harmonious way.

Earlier this week on Aden's actual birthday she lost her final baby tooth. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Sparkle Cello Progress

Sides are done, top is done, and tonight I'll work on the back.  I think I like it better up close than I do when I step away from it, but we'll see.  The kids like it, and I'm sure in the store window in the sunshine it will be quite a sight!

(Oh yeah, and my daughter turned 11 today.  That's almost too much for me to wrap my head around right now, so easier to just post about the sparkle cello.)

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Do Graffiti Artists Wear Gloves?

Because I have a HUGE blister on the tip of my right index finger after using spray paint the other night.  (Well, half an inch long, but for a blister that seems huge.)

I decided to convert a defunct half size cello into a sparkly wonder work for the front window, and it seemed like a good idea to get a rough coat of black down on the whole thing before I started gluing on fake jewels.  So I picked up some cheap spray paint on my way home from work, then took all of a minute and a half to spray the cello in the dark in our backyard and now my finger HURTS.  Like, I need to stop typing in a minute because OW.

Seriously, do people who do a lot of spray painting do something different?  How did I do this so wrong?

Anyway, pictures soon of sparkly cello progress.  I've already jeweled up the ribs and it's looking very Vegas.  This cello is Fat Elvis all the way.

(And Ian said to me when I was sorting fake jewels by color at the dining room table that when I start freaking out about how little time there is to get everything done for the holidays he will remind me that I chose to add the sparkly cello to the agenda.  But when inspiration hits sometimes you have to run with it, even when it's inconvenient.  Sometimes sparkly cellos have to happen.)



Sparkle cello progress:

Monday, December 3, 2012

Theme: Lizard

We are over the birthday season hump having successfully turned Quinn into a six year old and advancing Mona to the significant sounding age of nine.  Just Aden's sleepover this coming weekend and I can take a deep breath and then figure out what we're doing for Christmas.

Quinn's birthday event was low key.   But Mona's party invitations went out with large print stating:


One mom called sounding slightly worried since last year's theme was fish and everyone got a fishbowl.  I was not cruel enough to actually send live fish home with everyone, but they did get little wind up fish to put in their bowls.  My friend said, however, that the bowl was kind of crying out for a real fish and she ended up having to go out with her son and get him one.  She does not want anything that cries out for a lizard.

Essentially all Mona really wanted was a cake like her dragon cake from a couple of years ago, but as a simple, green lizard instead of something purple with horns.

(The dragon cake remains my favorite, though.  And the aquarium cake was fun because it was such a collaborative effort.) 

The most amazing part about making the lizard cake was that I only had to assemble it.  I had to be at work all day the day before the party, so I asked Aden if she could help.  She baked me two sheet cakes, made butter cream frosting from scratch, and even made me a batch of fondant.  The girl is good, I tell ya.  We had a lovely evening together in the kitchen when I came home and we watched "It's A Wonderful Life" on TV while I spread frosting and rolled out fondant.

Anyway, step by step lizard cake!

Saturday, December 1, 2012


Thanks to everyone who contacted me about my last post.  It meant more than you know.  I wasn't fishing for the compliments I got--just some reassurance that I wasn't crazy--but they were certainly appreciated.

I was already starting to feel better by the time I finished the post, but felt like I still wanted to get that out there while the mood was in my mind.  We can be so self-selective in social media that it can border on dishonesty.  I don't want to imply by not discussing negative things in my life that there aren't any.  I have good days and bad days just like anybody else.  My house is never quite clean, we opt to just grab a pizza for dinner more often then I'd like to admit to, we don't regulate our kids' screen time, and the dog has started pooping in the house again for reasons unknown.  Some kind of oasis of family perfection we are not.

But I am definitely out of my funk and ready to tackle things in a more productive manner.  You know the old adage about how the surest cure for hypochondria is a real disease?  Well my husband became suddenly ill, and there is nothing like a real problem (and some vomit) to put non-problems in perspective.  (He's doing fine now but it wasn't pretty there for a day.)  The things that were bringing me down aren't real problems, just low points in a larger process.  I was wallowing in the empty half of the glass, I guess.  Because it's not about that I can't find an agent and that my violins could be better, it's that I get to write and that I will improve my violins.  Yes, the weight thing is frustrating but it's also sometimes stupid to turn down pie.  There are people in my own zip code suffering food insecurity and my 'problem' is too much pie?  Yeah, I'm over myself for now.  Life is too short to choose to be sad.

Moods are interesting, though.