Monday, October 13, 2014

Frozen Party

For Ellie's 11th birthday, she wanted a Frozen party.

I don't know how to do a birthday party except like this: I look online and save ideas I find interesting, often using them as inspiration for my own versions of games/food/decor.  I figure out when and where and who.  Then I break the timeslot down into appropriate blocks of time for each activity.  It's all about manageable chunks.  :)

1) Crafts and Photo Booth.  All three of these activities turned into Big Deals instead of ice breakers/warm-ups as guests arrived.  The primary craft I had planned was Frozen snow globe rings.  I figured some kids wouldn't be into that, so we also had recipes for glittery silly putty and fake snow.  The kids wanted to do both of the main crafts (we didn't get to the snow) and they both turned out awesome.  The photo booth was the surprise hit of the day!  Paul hung white sheets and blankets in a corner and decorated the area with white Christmas lights and some swirly glittery blue things I found at Michael's.  I thought some props would make it more fun, so I knitted an Elsa hat (glittery off-white hair and long braid), set out a few carrots, and bought some other things from the party store: long satin gloves, a glittery scepter, a tiara, sticky mustaches, blue and glittery hair sprays, and glittery/glossy makeuppy stuff.  The kids kept coming back to this station throughout the whole party!  Paul figured out how to print out photos from his phone directly to our printer and he taped them to the entertainment center so kids could grab them at the end of the party.


2) Do You Want to Build a Snowman?  As the crafts wrapped up, all the guests went outside and counted off into teams of about 4.  One person on each team was the snowman, another hustled over to a box of supplies (scarves, hats, carrots, toilet paper, and black paper "buttons" with tape on the back).  Teams raced to build hilarious snowmen. 

3) Freeze Your Face.  Doughnuts on strings!  Paul hung powdered sugar doughnuts on strings from a cord across our driveway.  The kids had to each eat their doughnut without using their hands.  Hilarious! 4) Frozen Elbow Tag.  This was really just elbow tag, which is way more fun than the more thematically appropriate Freeze Tag. 5) Snowball Fight.  I really wish I had pictures of this one!  I ordered "snowballs." Paul bought three large pieces of craft styrofoam at Lowe's.  Across the top of two of them, he cut crenelations.  The third piece he cut into four triangles to make supports for the "castle walls."  The kids threw snowballs back and forth at each other across the driveway.  Each wall was 4'x8' and we sprayed the already white styrofoam with sparkly paint to make them look more frozen.  6) The kids were ready to sit down inside for a bit so we skipped Anna vs. Elsa (red light/green light) and went inside for Let it Go (telephone) which was a perfect change of pace.7) Fortunately, that's when the pizza arrived!  We ate lunch, sang to Ellie over cake and ice cream, then watched her open her "Coronation Gifts."  She insisted on reading each card aloud, very slowly, so this took a while.  But I was so impressed and proud of her!The food - excepting the pizza - was just as themey as everything  else about this party.  We had blue and white rock candy crystal sticks, sparkly marshmallow pops, yogurt-covered pretzels, string cheese snowmen, melted snow (Sprite or water), Frozen jello ice cubes, purple grapes, and baby carrots.  The ice cream was vanilla, and the cake was, well, it was North Mountain with Elsa on top, of course!  Links to most of the food inspirations above on Pinterest.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Meatless Monday, Cinco de Mayo Style

Subtitle: a day late and a jicama short

Yesterday we were that family, out to eat at a Mexican restaurant on Cinco de Mayo. Normally we avoid this madness. I'd planned to avoid it. But we were excited by our new knowledge about the holiday (and country) and we were eager for salsa. 

This is why we decided to try out Fuzzy's Taco Shop when dinner fell apart. Fuzzy's was pretty good, and I figured that I could try again today with dinner. I did ... with limited success. 

First, the Mexican flag. I was very excited to introduce the kids to one of my childhood favorites, jicama. Sadly, the one I bought turned out to be rotten inside. For some reason it didn't occur to me to use apple as a substitute.

Second was the main dish problem, the very one that caused Monday's dinner desistance. The recipe for "cheese flautas with cilantro pesto" lies like my junior high boyfriend when it says "5 minute prep, 30 minutes to cook."  I expect a little lying in recipes, but this was ridiculous. 

Step 1) Make a homemade pesto, a 4-step process after all the ingredients are prepped/sliced/chopped/juiced. I stopped here Monday night, figuring Tuesday's prep was half done. 

Step 2) Soften corn tortillas.  I attempted to do this with water as per the instructions, but that never works. Hot fat is the only way. Then all the smearing and filling and rolling and frying. While cooking corn on the cob and putting out condiments (salsa, guacamole) this part took me an hour and the results - even after I abandoned the disastrous water plan (first photo) - were pretty ugly. Tasty, though!  


Friday, February 28, 2014

Three Is Greater Than Two

"Three is greater than two," I say apologetically when people ask me about my writing.  In other words: I'm not writing.  I . . . underestimated . . . the difference it would make in my life to move to three children from two.  Misunderestimated.  I love being a mom and I am besotted with these unique, amazing little (not so little!) people I'm getting to raise.  But I've yet to find space for myself in all the physical, temporal, and mental chaos of my life, so I'm not writing.

That's true and also incomplete.  I can write anecdotes and passionate arguments on Facebook all day.  But I'm not writing creatively.  The difference between a Facebook post and a blog post highlights the other reason I'm not writing.  The Big reason.  The Real Reason.  A Facebook update can be quick, funny, incomplete, utterly lacking in context.  It can simply be a picture.  It can be a short conversation.  It's a snapshot of a moment.  The way I blog, on the other hand, tends to be to collect anecdotes for a few hours or days or weeks or years, then assemble them into something that makes a sort of narrative or point, even if it's a very short or simple one.  Blogging - let alone writing memoir or fiction - requires perspective for me.

Perspective and some sort of connection to emotion.  But emotion is painful, y'all.  I feel like I barely get through my days doing the things that I need to do.  Children dressed and off to their appropriate places with their appropriate things (snacks, water bottles, lunches, signed permission forms, money for this that and everything else, dance gear, gymnastics apparal, instruments, music, themed hats).  Weekly schedules created and maintained.  Meals planned, shopped for, and prepared.  I've given up on cleaning up altogether.  Committees worked.  Summers planned down to the minute.  These classes, these camps, these vacations, these meals, these structured free times.  We don't do so well with unstructured time.

And as for me, I find a sense of accomplishment in managing and balancing all of this.  I call it My Life.  I also have something to pour into the space where I used to keep writing and dealing with emotions and exercising and tidying my house and whatnot.  That something is food.  I look forward to what I get to eat next.  Predictable results, etc.  But doing My Life and then eating and reading or watching TV or playing Nintendo or whatever else I do after the children are in bed and before I turn into a pumpkin (more committees) - in the space I used to use for writing or running or both (in addition to reading - there's always reading, for better and for worse) all of that allows me to mute my feelings.

And muting my feelings is a relief.  As a teenager I felt so much, so acutely, it was unbearable.  I filled notebooks with scrawls of rage and pain, pages warped by tears.  Becoming an adult - and this happened gradually in my early-to-mid-twenties - was a relief.  I could feel it happening.  I sought it out.  I called it perspective, I called it a mature ability to organize my thoughts logically, to present arguments rationally, to exist in a world with lots of pointy edges.

When I'm feeling a lot of pain, I can distract myself with TV or books or games or busyness and try to think about the pain as little as possible until a skin forms over the gaping wound, until I can examine it from afar without pressing too hard on the tender spot.  This is a coping mechanism, and it works - to an extent - but it's not conducive to good writing because to write, I have to feel.  I'm not sure I even remember how to turn that back on, anymore.

It's not that anything so bad has ever happened to me.  I've lived a pretty charmed life.  But it's cumulative, you know?  I was a kid, and I was hurt by things I'd shrug off, now.  I've had friend drama (and loss), relationship drama (and loss), family drama (and loss).  I have a child with disabilities.  She's great, but it's a lot to manage, sometimes.  I have children, and that really is sort of like letting your heart walk around out in the world unprotected.  I lost my dad too soon.  It's easier to just . . . mute that a little.  Let the skin grow closed, just a thin layer, so that light gets through but not too much.  A manageable amount.  That's how I'm living my life these days: in manageable amounts.  Later, I'm sure, there will be more writing.