Hell Has "Frozen" Over

Posted on 12/15/2014 11:24:00 PM In:
The Ornament Quest this year proved to be difficult.  I could think of a lot of things that might speak to who each of The Shortlings is this year, but they'd also been done in previous years and I like to think I'm better than that.  We all know it's not true; I am better than no one, but I tried anyway.  I spent many a late night (because that's just how much I've been sleeping lately) scouring the Etsy for ideas. 

Then it hit me.  The one consistent thing that my kids have focused on since late last year is that horrible movie that I kind of liked when I saw it in the theater, but I don't care how great a movie is, when you hear it repeated and acted out and sung and referenced in front of you eleventy-billion times, you get a little sick of it.  So.  No Frozen ornaments was my mantra.

But then I perused about eleventy-billion pages of handmade ornaments on Etsy and Amazon and I even went into a Hallmark card store to look at their 2014 ornament collections and I could. not. find. one. ornament. that pleased me enough to call it "their ornament" for the year.  The only thing that I could think of that really made sense for either one of them this year was that damn movie.

So I went back to Etsy and found the least objectionable Frozen-themed ornaments I could because this really is the best thing to represent who these girls have been this year and in the end, it's not about me.

The Dormouse's ornament had to be Elsa because she identifies so strongly with that character.  But I wanted something more than just a decoupaged picture cut from a Disney indicia box, stuck on a styrofoam ball.  I happened upon this Elsa-inspired doll ornament and I think it's fantastic.  She's definitely Elsa, but she also kind of reminds me of one of those Amish dolls.The Dormouse loves her.



I also acquiesced to Frozen with The Caterpillar and this Olaf ornament.  This, The Caterpillar says, is her second favorite line from the movie, "Some people are worth melting for..."  Her first favorite line is, "I don't have a skull... or bones," but it's surprising how few touching keepsakes are created with sporting that line.



For my birthday this year, The Dormouse decided that I should also be in on the ornament tradition (I am, actually.  I have a box of them from my childhood.) so she got me my very own 2014 ornament as a present.  I was touched by this because I've become convinced in recent months that if I were to die in the house without anyone else noticing but the children, my money would be on this one to eat me and then learn to write checks from my checkbook rather than alert any emergency personnel.



So now.  The tree is up.  The lights are lit.  Ornaments are on the tree. Cards sent. That's about all you have to do for Christmas, yes? 

Wait, what? There's more?!?

I'm gonna have to enter a mall this December aren't I?

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Christmas 2014

Posted on 12/13/2014 07:18:00 PM In:
I had the idea for this photo on this card quite awhile ago, maybe even last year; I just could never came up with the caption inside in a way that was brilliant or made sense.  Then this year came around and I still couldn't come up with anything clever, so I just relied on my weird, genetically predisposed, quirk of knowing every movie made before my birth, but not so much what's in the running for this year's Academy awards.  In the end I just put my kids in the Robert Mitchum role and stole the title.  So if you're older than me, you're going to get the joke right away.  If you're my age, and watch too much reality television, you're going to think I stole the idea from Duff Goldman.  If you're younger than me, you probably are too busy texty-talking on your smarty-phone to care one way or another.

The best part of this year's Christmas card was that it took a sum total of one hour to plan, pose, take the picture, Photoshop and upload to Snapfish to place a card order.  The cards arrived neatly packaged in the mail four days later and I stuck labels and stamps on.  I love love love how little time this took because I am LAZY. 







If you, like some of my family, take exception to the "Happy holidays" on the inside of the card, may I remember you to the fact that we are also wishing you a Happy New Year, so whatever holiday you celebrate, this is basically the plus one.  Also that word holiday comes from the Old English word hāligdæg (hālig "holy" + dæg "day"). The word originally referred only to special religious days. In modern use, it means any special day of rest or relaxation, as opposed to normal days away from work or school.  So if you like, you can consider that I've wished you a happy Holy Day, rather than declared war on Christmas.  Does that make you happy, Kirk Cameron?

I took a total of seven pictures and the first one I snapped ended up being the best one. But some of the others are quite fun, if only because of the expressions on The Caterpillar's face when I told her to "look menacing."  So here are extra bonus shots for you, internets.  Because you're so special to me.

Merry holidays from all of us, but mostly these two hoodlums.





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This IS the Status Quo

Posted on 12/12/2014 05:27:00 PM


I've been taking a self-imposed break from the interweb lately, because the status is... NOT quo and because the world is a mess, but I have zero desire to rule it.

Two Dr. Horrible references in one sentence.  That's gotta be some kind of record.

Smells like cumin.

I've fallen into the trap that bugs me so much when people at church do it, where they can't focus on or talk about anything but how awful everything is right now and how they need to shield their children from the evils of this world and how this clearly means the End of Times and how we should all just hunker down in the basement with our food supply and our homemade bullets and pray until Armageddon is over.  When the reality is that this time? well, yeah, it sucks... but once you live a few years beyond early adulthood, you realize that, hey, remember that time a little over a decade ago when planes flew into buildings?  That time sucked too.  And remember that other time a couple decades before that when there was a plane hijacking or a terrorist attack per week?  That time sucked too.  And remember that time when a President was shot and most of your seventh grade class applauded?  That time sucked a lot as well.  In fact, all of those times sucked just as much as this time.  Maybe in different ways, but not any worse or any better. (Can things actually suck better?)  But interspersed with all those sucky times were some true moments of charity, love and understanding. Many, in fact.  The moments where someone I know who lost their entire home and all their belongings in a fire and was benefited by the disaster response fund I help manage, turned around in the following year and donated hundreds of dollars to that same fund to support people who lost their homes in a super storm.  There are a lot more of those moments, in fact, than the sucky ones and you have just been focusing on the bad stuff, dumass.

I'm usually the one who speaks up in Sunday School to contradict the fearmongers, but it's been hard for me to stay focused on that lately.  Not even because such horrible things are happening, but because I'm worn out by it and I wished for better from us by now.

But then one of the girls I teach at church had some stuff happen, which is not my story to share, and while I was trying to help her through that, she tried out for a special touring sports team and made it.  She was ecstatic.  This kid is smart and totally capable of going to college after high school, but finances are going to be an issue and this will be the best chance for her to work toward a college scholarship.  The euphoria of that lasted for about a week until she realized that it would cost almost a grand to participate.  Money she did not have.  And she needed it in a week.

I helped her with some ideas for ways to raise money, garner sponsorship and with online fundraising websites.  She worked hard, but still only had a fraction of what she needed.  So I shared her website with my friends and family and I sent an email to my workmates and promised them that if they simply read my email, I would consider this a replacement for whatever school fundraiser/wrapping paper/cheese pot/pizza dough sale my kids' school was having this year. 

And you know what happened?  People came out of the woodwork.  The donations came rolling in, slowly at first, but then a couple of my friends took a real interest in this girl who was not my kid, but somehow connected to me, and kept asking about her.  They told other people and dug into their pockets to throw a little cash her way on my recommendation and suddenly, she was within a few hundred dollars of her goal.  And then the other kids at church all decided to babysit for a week and donate the money they earned to her fund and then a couple of my friends and coworkers donated what I would consider large sums of money.  Between that and the money she earned off line, she got close enough that she was able to be a part of the team.  Oh there will be travel expenses to come, but there's a lot longer lead time on that for her to plan on earning it.  

It was wonderful to see, yes, because my friends stepped up to the plate when I asked, but mostly because I watched this kid who thought no one, including close family members, cared about her and her aspirations, and then she just observed while anonymous people donated to help her out.  You cannot believe the change in countenance that happens when someone thinks others believe in them.

I was touched by a couple of these donations in particular.  They were made anonymously online, so my little friend had no idea who they were, but I knew who and in some cases how much because of the string of events that happened.  And because I know these people, I also know how much of a privation a commitment like this might mean.  I wrote to everyone I personally knew who had donated to thank them, a) for making a very real difference in this girl's life and b) for helping me to see some good in the world during a much needed time too.  One person wrote me back to basically say, "Your welcome; I decided to put another couple hundred dollars in."

Wait a second, I thank you for doing something good and you respond by doing some more good stuff?  People, what am I gonna do with you?  This is not the narrative I hear when I flip past the block of news channels on my cable box.  

But what they reminded me was that this... this is far more my experience with people in the world than not.  And if I don't like the world the way it is, well I need to work to change it.  It doesn't have to be hard.  I might not be able to do everything to directly affect issues of social justice and fairness that I feel need to be addressed. But I can do something.  

It might not make a difference to everyone that I tried to do something, but it does make a difference to the ones for whom I do it.


Once upon a time, there was an old man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach every morning before he began his work. Early one morning, he was walking along the shore after a big storm had passed and found the vast beach littered with starfish as far as the eye could see, stretching in both directions.  

Off in the distance, the old man noticed a small boy approaching.  As the boy walked, he paused every so often and as he grew closer, the man could see that he was occasionally bending down to pick up an object and throw it into the sea.  The boy came closer still and the man called out, “Good morning!  May I ask what it is that you are doing?”

The young boy paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean. The tide has washed them up onto the beach and they can’t return to the sea by themselves,” the youth replied. “When the sun gets high, they will die, unless I throw them back into the water.”

The old man replied, “But there must be tens of thousands of starfish on this beach. I’m afraid you won’t really be able to make much of a difference.”

The boy bent down, picked up yet another starfish and threw it as far as he could into the ocean. Then he turned, smiled and said, “But it does make a difference to the ones I throw back!”

- adapted from The Star Thrower, by Loren Eiseley



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Thankful for a Place to Sleep

Posted on 11/29/2014 06:48:00 AM
Because we are stupid, or gluttons for punishment, or just stupid, we decided this week would be a good one in which to evict all the wall to wall carpeting from our house and refinish the original hardwood floors underneath.  We've been talking about it for awhile, but fate kind of forced our hand and gave The KingofHearts some time off in between jobs thanks to an impromptu layoff in November.  (Still pretty miffed about that one.)  I also had a couple of days off after my conference ended, so we decided to use the time to our advantage and declared this a good week to embark on that project - before he started the new job that he was offered less than two weeks later because he's awesome like that.  What we didn't count on was snow in November and how long polyurethane takes to dry.

Everything got stacked in the kitchen and our beds were disassembled and placed outside on the deck.  



Then we began the not difficult, but long and arduous task of removing about a kajillion staples (yes, we counted) placed in the floor by overzealous carpet installers.  Everyone helped (well, everyone but The Dormouse, who was pretty bothered by the change overall so she pouted and read books in the other room while the rest of us worked).


Then, because this is how all projects go, we took two steps backward and decided that while we had the room empty and the floor bare and unfinished, we'd better oughta paint the walls first.  So my beloved sage and cherokee red colors got changed to this:

 
I still don't love it, but it's nice and we changed it because Reasons!

After that we began stripping the floor down to its bareness with a floor sander.  I have no pictures of this stage of the process because it was back breaking and unpleasant and I do not wish to remember it, or do it ever again so don't suggest I come help you refinish your floors unless you plan to do the Sanding Step yourself.  Come to think of it, I also do not like the Painting The Trim Step as The KingofHearts can testify due to my complaining. 

Once that was done, we began staining the bare floor a less objectionable color,


then applying a polyurethane coat, (smelly!),



until we had a finished product.


The cats are still bothered by the change and refuse to lay on or walk on the new floor whenever it's an option.


Then just for good measure, The KoH did this in his spare time:


Our plan was to be finished before the snowfall on Wednesday, but that also didn't work out too well because Reasons!  So we ended up finishing on Wednesday evening and then trying to put the house back together and bringing in sodden doors and bed frames from the deck while simultaneously preparing a Thanksgiving dinner.  We finished around noon, with just enough time to put the turkey in the fryer and to eat by dinner time.  The Caterpillar declared this Thanksgiving "the best day of the year;" I have yet to understand why.  Probably because we let them watch an insane amount of television this week.  For me, the day didn't really get good until desert:



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Philosophy from a 7 Year Old

Posted on 11/26/2014 09:03:00 PM


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Mommy's Little Busker

Posted on 11/24/2014 04:02:00 PM
That...



is my daughter, who has made a jar that says "Tips" on it and is now playing viola in the driveway for the neighborhood afternoon traffic.

Finally, I can rest, assured that I will be taken care of in my retirement.

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Sunrise

Posted on 11/10/2014 04:03:00 PM
I've been away for the last week and got home late last night, exhausted. The Shortlings were already in bed when I got back, so I put my feet up, laid my head on The KingofHearts' shoulder and stared at the television show he was watching in a sort of comatose, post conference stress disorder.  Things have not been going well lately and I've been cranky about it to say the least.  That's another post, but if anyone knows a new, miraculous way to stop time while we get a few ducks in order to meet a deadline, or maybe a few hundred thousand dollars they aren't using just now, I'd really love to hear about it. 

I looked over at the footstool and my foot was resting on a purple index card with The Caterpillar's handwriting on it.  

"What's that?"

"Oh, that's something The Caterpillar wrote while you were gone," said The KoH idly, "It's a poem."

"You told her to write a poem?"

"No, she just wrote it. I don't know why."

The Dormouse is working on a book of poetry for her write-a-book entry this year, so I asked, "Did The Dormouse help her write it?"

"No, she just did it all by herself. I just looked down and she was finishing it up the other day."

I picked up the card and read it.  It was full of seven-year-old's spelling-isms and not written in verse, but once I figured out all the words, I was floored by the depth of eloquence in her little brain.  

They fill up your life, these kids.

Sunrise 

It is one of the most remarkable things.
When beauty rises with the colors of the sky, it makes the sunrise.
With all the colors of dawn it makes the morning 
filled with joy, happiness, beauty, quietness, 
but above all,
love.


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We Tank You for Your Patronagery

Posted on 11/10/2014 05:40:00 AM


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Raising Awareness

Posted on 11/09/2014 07:58:00 AM
I think our Movember effort is coming along nicely, don't you?





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Happy, Cheesy Kids

Posted on 11/08/2014 07:52:00 AM
These are photos from a talent show they competed in a couple months back. There was a story I intended to write to go along with these, but we've entered the season of Big Work Things and My Brain Is Mush (the two may be related). I do not remember it now.  What do they say?  A picture is worth a thousand words.




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An Audience with the King

Posted on 11/07/2014 07:48:00 AM
Henry VIII, in fact. Let's hope he doesn't marry either of them any time soon.




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No Excessive Spinning, No Excessive Fun

Posted on 11/06/2014 07:47:00 AM



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Mommy's Little Circus Performer

Posted on 11/05/2014 05:52:00 AM
Last month, we took in this act at the Pennsylvania Renaissance Fair.  If you ever have a chance to see Circus Stella, I suggest you go, because they are hella fun. And because I'm considering leaving her with them so she can earn her keep and/or support us in her old age.




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Performing Artists

Posted on 11/04/2014 08:21:00 AM
The Dormouse switched to playing viola in the school orchestra late last year so she's been playing just under a year. Playing strings for just over two years.  One of the reasons I encouraged the switch is because in middle school and high school, strings get competitive and mean.  The Dormouse has a friend at a different school, also in sixth grade, who got challenged for her chair and lost it.  It was devastating for her.  I know sixth grade is middle school here, but it wasn't for me and I feel like this age is too early to start turning a love of music into some dog-eat-dog competition where only the rich kids who have money for private lessons and professional quality instruments get to be on top before they've even learned how to work together in a group.  This probably sounds like sour grapes, and maybe it is, but it beats the love of music out of so many kids and they quit playing in middle and high school partly because it becomes not so fun anymore.

The Dormouse's school doesn't challenge for chairs, which is nice, but having her switch to viola means that there's a) less competition in future years and b) it puts her in a group of people that's a little more relaxed about things while still caring about making music.  I realize that's stereotyping, but I've spent a lot of years in orchestras.  Stereotypes don't apply to everyone but they are sometimes there for a reason.  Viola players are just less high strung (pun intended).

The other thing it did was give her a greater chance for stuff like this.  This county has a middle school, audition-only honors orchestra.  I heard that 160 kids auditioned on violin for less than 40 available seats.  I know 8th graders who auditioned and didn't make it.  But there aren't that many viola players, so my too-young-for-sixth-grade sixth grader won a seat.  

This is cool, but not for the reason you'd think.  Yes, I'm a braggart, as I was told thanks to the FacePlace after I made the mistake of not considering my audience before hitting "post."  I'm proud of her.  That's my job as a mom, so while that comment was hurtful, I'm not gonna apologize for that.  But more importantly, what this did for my kid who has yet to play anything in her particular school orchestra that was more than about twenty seconds of Hot Cross Buns-type material, was to give her an experience of playing above her level and making real music.  Of playing with a group of musicians who all cared about making good music as much as her.  Of seeing a possible future for this instrument.  I never saw that for myself until I started auditioning for county and state orchestras and heard the difference in the level of musicianship.

I wish every kid who auditioned could get in.  I know that's not possible.  I wish there could be two orchestras. Or three.  If I had a butt-load of money to donate, I'd make that happen so more kids could have this type of experience.  Because even if these kids don't eventually go into music professionally, they just had the experience of a whole that's greater than the sum of its parts, which is an amazing life lesson.

A couple of months ago I got to go to see Ben Folds with the Baltimore Symphony orchestra.  It was amazing.  He stopped the concert to talk to the audience about the need for cities with good, professional music and why that makes a difference to the overall health of the city itself.  He gave a long speech about the things he learned while playing in a group as a kid.  I could have hugged him (I actually did after the concert, but that's another story).  And then he said he had a short version of that speech.  Here it is:

"Some cities don't have a symphony orchestra... and some cities have bad symphony orchestras... and... those cities suck."

Here's to a county school district that doesn't suck.

  


 

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Halloween Roundup

Posted on 11/03/2014 05:36:00 AM In:
Meant to do this earlier, but this month has been extremely busy. Here's a round up of our Halloween festivities. Minutiae style.


Pumpkin carving goes much faster with power tools.






Here's a roundup of the pumpkins that got completed that night.  Minus the Elsa pumpkin, which I never got a picture of due to it's labor intensive, three day, production schedule.






My pumpkin needs to be seen in the light for its proper effect.




 
Someone does a nice impersonation of a pumpkin.


 In all its forms.


 
 
Our costumes have really very little to do with each other.



But the phase "You killed my father, prepare to die" works for both.


This is Glinda.  No, not the one from the Wizard of Oz.  This Glinda. It was difficult explaining this to neighbors giving out candy.


 

This one went as RapunzelWitchCatWomanWithASpiderTattooOnHerFace.  It's high concept.



This game was followed by Halloween Pictionary.  We grown men and women really know how to party.

  

Halloween was a month long celebration at the Renaissance Fair.








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Proof She Wasn't Switched at the Hospital

Posted on 11/02/2014 07:14:00 PM In:
"Gimme and L... 

"Gimme an A... 

"Gimme a Z... 

"Gimme a Y... 

"What's that spell? 

"Eh... I don't really feel like saying it."



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Bewildering Conversations in the Car

Posted on 10/30/2014 05:27:00 PM In:
"Hey, momma!  Did you see those kids in that yard?  I think they were playing soccer... or maybe it was..."  

*looks back again at children kicking soccer ball around* 

"Yep, it was football."

Me: "Well, soccer and football are the same thing honey.  It's just that Americans say soccer while almost everyone else says fútbol."

*rolls eyes and sighs audibly*

"I KNOW that, mom.  I looked back to see if they were Hispanic.  That's how I knew it was football.  I was saying it Spanish-ly."

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Ichabod Was Horror Struck on Perceiving She Was Headless

Posted on 10/27/2014 04:39:00 PM



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Married, 40ish mom of two (or three, or four, depending on how you keep score) who stepped through the lookinglass and now finds herself living in curiouser and curiouser lands of Marriage, Motherhood, and the Washington, D.C. Metro Area.

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