Sunday, November 29, 2009

Traditions and Obsolescence

I come from a family steeped in tradition. Not like the Mayflower or anything, but what we do when. What we eat. How we celebrate. All full of traditions.

One of the traditions we have is that on Black Friday, the kids and I build gingerbread houses.

Once Sprout and I went to a fancy gingerbread decorating event at a fancy schmancy bakery. And that was way fun. But the next year, when we tried to go back, the fancy schmancy bakery had gone belly up (the nerve). There we were, wandering the streets of Downingtown wondering what we were to do to fill the gaping tradition void (for the tradition that had been started only the year before).

Luckily our wandering led us to a store with Gingerbread House kits. And that has been our traditional mode of gingerbread house construction for lo these many years.

This year, we were a little late on getting the houses built. We were busy doing stuff like this. That's Sprout sitting in Tony Romo's locker. Eat your heart out Jessica Simpson! Tater and our favorite Texan are sitting in Jason Witten's locker. How fun is that?

They didn't actually sit there all week. But we were traveling home from Dallas on Black Friday and, strangely, Southwest isn't big on building Gingerbread Houses during the flights.

But today we finally had some time and went to Target (oh, I love you) where we purchase two of these fine Gingerbread House kits ($9.99 each).

With...wait for it...premade icing!

Now, if you have no experience with the powdered Royal Icing that usually comes in these kits, that may seem like no big deal.

But, really...big deal.
Last year I attempted to use spray icing. I do not recommend this. Too squishy. Too slide-y.

The pre-made icing was an excellent upgrade to the already convenient nature of the kit. So convenient in fact that my darling children decided that, after the initial construction phase, they did not need me to help.

Sniff. I am not needed. I'll be over here feeling sorry for myself. Or, maybe taking pictures.

Sprout was carefully doling out her candies. Attempting to use as few as possible without me noticing her evil scheme to have lots of leftovers to eat.

I'm on to you...
She was also trying to watch Star Wars while building. Multi-tasking with frosting can be trouble!

This guy has trouble written all over him. Or maybe that's frosting. Definitely frosting.

I think the end results were quite festive. This one here is Tater's. The one at the top is Sprout's. I did manage to get her to put most of the candy on - but it wasn't easy!

The tradition carries on. Despite my apparent obsolescence.

We did have an unfortunate incident with some roof slippage on Tater's house. And I was summoned to help with the repairs - so I guess I do still have some role to play. Whew!

Next year I am going to break out the spray icing again so there will be lots of repairs for me to help with. Gotta stay relevant!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Cookie Decorating Event - December 6th

I wanted to let you know about this great event that benefits one of my favorite charities. Mommy's Light helps kids who have lost their mothers (sob) remember special traditions that they enjoyed with their mothers when they were alive (sob again).

They are also some of the most wonderful and committed women you will ever meet, working tirelessly to help these kids. I do some volunteer work in their office each week and I am in awe.

The Embassy Suites in Valley Forge, PA is hosting a Holiday Cookie Decorating Party on Sunday, December 6th from 2 - 4PM and the proceeds will go to Mommy's Light to help them do all of the good work that they do.

I can't get this little flyer to be any bigger - but hopefully if you click on it, it will get big enough to see the details. I will list them out here just in case...

When? December 6, 2-4PM

Where? The Grille at Chesterbook - Embassy Suites Valley Forge
888 Chesterbrook Blvd, Wayne, PA

How much? $15 for each adult/child set (1 adult + 1 child)
$5 for each additional adult or child

What? Hot chocolate, decorating holiday cookies and making holiday crafts.
Entertainment by Sally's Music Circle and a special visit from Santa!

How to Sign Up? Call 610-407-7106 OR e-mail by December 1st.

We'll be there.

Tater will be the one running away from Santa.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Christmas Gift Idea - Oxfam America

Want a great gift idea that will help your kids learn to help others? Check this out.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Slumber Party

First, I have to get all braggy because I am excited that I am now a contributor over at Chesco Moms. So, it isn't that I haven't written in more than a week. I just haven't written HERE. Which is inexcusable, yes. And yet, I am making excuses.

But I did want to share with you the events of last Friday evening when, in honor of Sprout's 10th birthday (with which I am still coming to terms), we hosted our very first SLUMBER PARTY!

And yes, there was even actual slumber involved!

So, let's run through this in chapters...

Chapter 1: Arrival

We had sent invitations to 5 of Sprout's friends, so our total planned number was 6 including Sprout herself. The invitations were for 5:30.

Except apparently they weren't. My friend and assistant, the lovely Ms. Jess arrived just before 5:30, but no kids. Not even one. And then it was 5:45, and I was getting a little nervous.

Did I write the wrong date on the invitations? (Because it is entirely possible that I would).
Did they all catch the Swine Flu? (Although I would guess they would call if they did).

Tick. Tick. Tick...Tick.

And then at 6:00 all of the kids arrived en masse. So apparently I got the date right, but the time wrong. Oh me, you suck at planning...

Chapter 2: Dinner

Tater and Mike (aka Daddy) stayed and had some of the pizza and chicken fingers (that had arrived just before 5:30 and were now approaching old). Yum. Then the boys took off to go see Disney's A Christmas Carol so they wouldn't get a whole bunch of girl germs on them.

Wine was poured. No, not for the kids. Courage was mustered.

Chapter 3: Make-Overs

In preparation for this momentous event, I procured for young Sprout the vast array of cosmetics shown at the left there. Yay for Ulta! This monstrous kit was only $19.99 and I think I may need one of my own.

I figured that I would de-mystify make-up for her, she can play with it as much as she wants. She can't wear it out of the house for a few years, but she can play.

And I can borrow it. Woo Hoo!

Anyway, we set up two chairs and Ms. Jess and I set about making over those innocent little faces. Not that they needed it, but it sure was fun. Ms. Jess even brought her own can of hot pink hair spray, because that's the kind of girl she is.

So here is Sprout before:

And here she is after.

Most notable surely are her raging red lips. For all of the other girls we carefully applied sparkly pink lip gloss with Q-Tips, to be sanitary and not spread illness all about the place. But Sprout felt that since the make-up kit was hers, she could go full-on with the lipstick and applied her own.

I am in very, very much trouble in the near future.

Unfortunately, I am not going to show you the other girls, because they aren't mine and I don't know how their parents would feel about that sort of thing, but trust me, priceless. Many sparkles were involved.

Chapter 4: Craft Project

We ordered these very cute monster pillows from Oriental Trading. The fleece pieces have little strips that the kids tied together to put the front and back together and they came with the stuffing and face parts.

Unfortunately I didn't have the right kind of glue, so there were face parts everywhere except on the pillows. But it was fun while it lasted.

The girls were giggling and chatting and comparing cell phones (!) Ms. Jess and I attempted not to eavesdrop. Sort of.

Chapter 5: Cake

I purchased an unfrosted 1/2 sheet cake (effectively wigging out the bakery department at the Acme), and the little cardboard circles that bakers use to display cakes.

I cut the big naked cake into 8ths, so that each child (plus Tater) would have their own smaller naked cake. The cakes were placed on the fancy little circles and passed out to the girls along with tubs of frosting, spreaders, sprinkles, and decorating icing.

And so they set about decorating their own cakes.

Ms. Emily decided that she didn't really want to decorate her cake and entertained herself by eating her naked cake without a fork. This set a dangerous precedent for later, as you will see.

Sprout applied a liberal layer of vanilla frosting and attempted to created a waterfall of blue. I took the blue away from her, much to her dismay. Mean Mommy. But she was still smiling.

Here is the finished product for one of our other guests, I believe it was Ms. Maddie.

And about 30 seconds later, THIS was Ms. Maddie.

Need a fork?

And then about 10 seconds later, Ms. Maddie's twin sister, Ms. Lexi got in on the action.

Oh my.

Of course the other girls thought this was HYSTERICAL and they continued to face plant in their cakes to the wailing laughter of the crowd. Ms. Jess attempted to be of assistance by pulling their hair back and pinning it.

And then their hands went into the remaining frosting tubs and there had to be an intervention and some serious frosting removal.

I never really want to have to investigate the nostrils of another woman's children in this kind of detail again. Just sayin'.

Chapter 6: Singing

While all of these shenanigans were going on, I quickly frosted the last piece of cake (8 pieces - 6 for the girls - 1 set aside for Tater = 1 left over) into a quick "real" birthday cake so that we could sing to Sprout.

I only put one candle on it because of the very real fire risk of children randomly sticking their faces into cakes. Safety first.

Then the kids went down into the basement and commenced some enthusiastic Guitar Hero/Karaoke. Eye of the Tiger and Living on a Prayer never sounded quite like that before.

Meanwhile, Ms. Jess and I attempted to remove the wayward frosting from every kitchen surface. Rug, table, dog.

More wine may possibly have been drunk. More courage mustered.

A couple of our guests had early morning soccer and left around 10:00. I had to make Sprout drag herself away from the singing to say good-bye.

Because Ms. Jess is violently allergic to dogs, she had to leave me to go home and breathe. I allowed her to go. I am a nice friend.

Chapter 7: Movie

Luckily, Mike and Tater returned from their movie excursion just moments later. Reinforcements!

Around 10:30 we had the remaining partiers in their jammies and sleeping bags and draped all around our family room. Tater joined the girls (who kindly accepted his presence with no fuss) and the lights were all turned down/off. And then they settled in to watch Aliens in the Attic.

I retired to the office to do some work. Really.

There was giggling and laughing. A few requests for water.

At midnight they told me the movie was over and I took Tater up to bed. He asked if he could read. Um, no.

The girls were really winding down, they watched some of the special features/deleted scenes/bloopers type stuff.

I did more work. Really. Why are you looking at me like that?

At 1:11 I finished my work and went out to check and it appeared that everyone was asleep except for the birthday girl. I gently removed the remote from her hand and clicked off the TV and went to bed.

Chapter 8: Sleep

Chapter 9: The Morning

At 7:30 in the morning, Tater came to my bedside, poked me and asked, "Do you know where the girls are?"

My first though was, "OH NO - They are gone!"

But then I suggested that he check the basement. And he found them.

I got up around 8 and my rock star of a boyfriend (aka Daddy) had gone out and gotten donuts, bagels and (YAY!) an iced coffee. He is awesome.

So the kids ate donuts. They rejected the bagels because we didn't have cream cheese. Drat. And then they went downstairs to play.

Chapter 10: The End

Parents came for the remaining partiers around 9:30 and found them in the midst of a rubble of toys and dress-up clothes in our basement.

Party favors were these super-cute little monster boxes (coordinated with the pillows), with candy and a little LipSmacker Lip Gloss inside.

Sprout and Tater and I cleaned up the basement later in the day.

By late afternoon there was little evidence that anything exciting had taken place.

But Sprout was smiling all day!

Thursday, November 5, 2009


My baby girl turned 10 today.

I know this sort of by definition means she isn't my baby girl.
And yet, she is.

I am having trouble getting my head around the facts that:

a) My child is 10.
b) I have been a parent for 10 years.

I still remember being amazed that they would let us leave the hospital with her. And wondering what the heck we were supposed to do with her once we got her home.

She was very round. And very cute, I thought.

In honor of this auspicious occasion, I thought I would share with you some of the many sides of my Sprout.

She can be very weird.

She is musically talented.

Sometimes she can be a little bit stubborn and grumpy.

She is becoming a fan of fashion. She comes up with some unique statement looks.

She loves to have fun.

She is a superhero in many ways. Super smart. Super funny. Super cute.
Sometimes super gross.

She likes sports. I think mostly because she can share it with her dad. And I will have no idea what they are talking about.
She is a good sport. Going along with most of my ridiculous ideas.

She adores her brother, even though she'd deny it.

She's a ham.

Overall, an excellent all around package of kid, if I do say so myself. Not that I had any control over the situation. She is who she is and she isn't changing that for anyone. Not even me. And I think that is very cool.

I know 10 isn't really all that grown up. There are plenty of milestones to come.

But I realized that we are more than halfway through the time she will live with us (!) She does have a signed contract from her parents that says she will always have a room in our home.

Although that room may be full of my shoes.

But she could borrow them. Maybe.

This is all assuming we survive tomorrow night. The first slumber party.

I don't think 10 years of parenthood has prepared me for this moment.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Election Day

Today was election day. I am sorry to admit that I was an irresponsible citizen and did not go and vote in my local elections. But I would like someone to explain to me whose idea it was for the kids to have the day off for election day. Is that supposed to make it easier for me to vote? It does not.

We spent the morning waiting for a service to come and clean our carpets. I will not name names, but I was not happy when they did not arrive within their allocated 4 hour time window. So I told them to forget about it. I was tired of waiting and it was noon and we were all still in our jammies.

Spending the day in our jammies isn't a bad thing. We are big fans actually.

But today seemed like a doing day. Except that it turned out not to be.

We started out by not having our carpets cleaned. Progressed to not going out for lunch. Not going to order the cake for Sprout's birthday. Not picking up the movie for the same party. Not getting the gifts for her class. Not really going anywhere beyond our cul-de-sac.

Inspired by my burning desire to get the candy OUT OF THE HOUSE, we did try this science experiment. We used Skittles. We dipped each Skittle in water and drew a line across a strip of coffee filter with the melty color.

The wetness of the Skittles in no way dissuaded my children from eating them. So, the whole idea of this activity as an alternative to eating the candy was a bust. Should have dipped them in spinach. They wouldn't have eaten them then!

Anyway, then we stuck the striped pieces of coffee filter into plastic cups with a little water in the bottom. The bottoms of the strips were in the water, but the stripes were above water.

The idea here is that as the water is sucked up into the coffee filter strip it causes the colors to separate out into the individual dyes used. Unfortunately, this process was not at all exciting to watch. Slow. Watching water seep. Boring.

We went outside to play, and when we came back a while later, the strips looked like this.

The top one was yellow - which stayed yellow.

The next one was green - which separated into blue and yellow. Cool!

The next one was purple - which separated into blue and red. Also cool!

The other ones were orange and red - they didn't do much.

The kids looked at these and said, "Hmmm. Cool." and then went to watch some SpongeBob. So I can't say this was a huge success. But it was sciencey. And we tried.

As I said, while we were waiting for our colors to separate, we went outside to play. Both kids started to ride bikes and scooters, but then Tater found his kite in the garage and asked if it was windy enough. It didn't seem like it was, but we decided to give it a shot anyway.

He was so excited he never stopped to take his helmet off.

First we had to get out the kites. We have four. We have never successfully flown any of them.

Then the launch. Run Tater...Run!

Sprout decided to just watch...and strategize.

OK. Maybe just a little more running...

Maybe uphill would work better...

Uh oh...wipeout...

Take a little break...relax...rewind...

Then run some more...

That boy ran and ran and ran...and the kite never quite took off. But he was smiling and laughing and having a great time.

Then his big sister asked if she could try. And up it went.

And he wasn't even mad. They were both so delighted to see a kite IN THE SKY that for a moment there was no competition. No "it's not fair!"

She even let him hold the string.
It was a beautiful moment.

I guess it was OK that they stayed home. Even if I didn't get to put my vote in for Registrar of Wills.

Whatever that is.