Category Archives: Holidays and celebrations

Sacrificial Celebration Cake to honor one month in Indianapolis.

Making cake

Mixing the ingredients.

A month ago today, our family arrived in Indianapolis. We wanted celebrate somehow and when Sandra Dodd brought up her page on cake as sacrifice, a page I’d read before but particularly spoke to me this time, we decided to make a cake today. We’ve been calling it the “Sacrificial Celebration Cake”.

This cake was a bit of a sacrifice. Kai put in a lot of hard work making this cake (I helped, but only minimally). And then, there’s the cost of the ingredients (because, with our food allergies, cake is not cheap – and money is tight right now). But also, there’s the concept doing something specifically to honor something that’s pretty big for us.

Making cake

Decorating the cake.

Note: this is not in any way a “religious offering”, but I do think that it does people to good to honor and celebrate things – big events, rites of passage, even just the passing of time. So we’re celebrating. Because we can and because it makes us happy.

Sacrificial celebration cake

Happiness is making a Sacrificial Celebration Cake… at least it is today, anyway.

And even though we’ve had some struggles getting here, we’re happy to be here.

My focus word for 2014: Savor.

Savor.

2013 was hard. It was really hard. And even before that, I’ve struggled for longer than I care to think about, with many, many things. When you struggle for a long time, it sometimes makes it hard to see the good things. And there are a lot of good things in my life, too.  This is true now probably more than any other time in my life.

So while I was thinking of a word to focus on for 2014, my first thought was “gratitude”. But then I thought, “I don’t want to just be thankful for things in my life. I want to make sure to enjoy them.”

Then I thought of some other things… how I’ve often “hurried” through things, sometimes wonderful things. How even with my loved ones, I’m often hurrying to the next thing, not really stopping to enjoy the person. I’m always looking to the future, “When this happens, I will be happier.”

In early December, I decided I did not want the rushed, stressful holiday season that we had experienced for the past few years. I wanted to slow down, enjoy it. So I did… mostly. (Old habits die hard. And sometimes, stress happens.) It felt better. It felt… right. Enjoyable, even. And because I wasn’t rushing, wasn’t trying to be perfect, I could savor the season.

I want to enjoy life, enjoy my family, be grateful for them, for all the good things I have in my life. This also means that I need to be willing to make some changes, let go of some activities, people who aren’t good for me, stop doing things I don’t enjoy… or find a way to enjoy them.

So when I as I considered what my word for 2014 would be, savor seemed appropriate.

As if to confirm my decision, Kai and I had an awful, absolutely awful experience at the store. Again. One of the biggest points of contention was that he kept dragging his hands over everything – and some of the endcaps had some fairly expensive beverages in glass containers. Several other things that happened, but that was particularly upsetting – if those broke, it would be a lot of money and he could be hurt. I left frustrated and upset. I appealed to my friends for advice. I worried he’d never learn not to do that. And I got lots of good advice, from many people. But one thing really stuck out.

Kelly Hogaboom, who is one of the wisest people I know (and you should read her blog if you don’t already), said, “Have a sense of humor, hold you and your child as worthy to be in public, and enjoy time with the kiddo. Don’t be afraid to ask for help! Go slow. There’s no need to teach him to know how to respect property today. Today you just need to keep him & everyone safe. Some take a long time & much repetition to learn how to handle things non-destructively. I parent best when I take the long view… I can tell you w/o a doubt, yes they learn. On THEIR schedule! When we are patient & persistent.”

That struck a very deep chord with me.

I realized that I’m still trying to “prove” we’re doing things right, that Kai will be fine with us – I had to do that once for a Guardian ad Litem when final custody was being decided for Kai and, even after that, there was a constant threat from Kai’s bio-mother that she’d put him in school if we weren’t doing things the way she wanted, and, for a while, constant threats of courts and lawyers and whatever, for even the tiniest thing. (Being a step-mother is not for the faint of heart. Being a stay-at-home “custodial” homeschooling step-mother even moreso.) And now… I don’t have to prove myself to her anymore. While I never wished for her death (and we were starting to come to more of an understanding between us), it does take a load off my shoulder that I no longer have a person to whom I constantly have to prove my worth and the worth of what I do. The problem is, though, that sometimes, when we get into a pattern, it is hard to climb OUT of that pattern. It’s been hard for me to just SAVOR life, because you can’t, not everything has to be right and perfect, not when you constantly have to prove yourself and live up to someone else’s constantly changing standards. You have to move quickly, think ten steps ahead, and, above all, be perfect.

It’s time to let go of all that. It’s time to enjoy life, even when it’s not perfect. Even when we’re not perfect. Even when it’s hard. It’s time to look for the moments of joy. To find joy, even when it’s hard. To be grateful, even when times are trying. To slow down. To stop constantly worrying. To not take things for granted. To look around and notice that, hey, my life right now? It’s actually pretty great.

It’s time to savor life.

Why you should watch my favorite childhood Christmas movie, even though it is epically horrible, yet fabulous

Depending on whether you believe the box or the title screen, my favorite Christmas movie from my childhood is called “I Believe in Santa Claus” or “Here Comes Santa Claus”. I’m sure that’s part of why it took me so long to find it when I went searching as an adult.

Yes, that’s an affiliate link. Do I even have to say that? Anyway, it took me YEARS to find this movie as an adult, so I’m linking right to it on Amazon, which is where I got it.

First, let me start off by saying that if you want a high-quality fantastic movie that makes sense, this movie is not for you! I used to watch this as a kid in the 1980s on our video player and, let me tell you, this sure brings back that experience. I imagine the DVD was created from a tape sitting in somebody’s basement because the quality is just dreadful. This movie was made in 1984 and was a low budget French film called “J’ai Recontre Le Pere Noel” that has been dubbed into English. Badly. But I love it. I’ve loved it since I was a kid. I think even today’s kids would love it.

My husband sat on the couch and kept going, “What? This makes no sense!” I asked him to describe it, “It’s like a play put on by a community center with a $5000 budget. I don’t know. It’s not bad. But it’s different. Very different. The only other thing I could say about that movie is that it is very European.”

This movie follows the story of Simon, whose parents are being held as political prisoners in Africa. Because it was the 80s, I assume. They never tell us why. As a child, I didn’t question it. Your kids probably won’t either. Just remember it was the 80s and go, “Okay. I accept it.” I’m not sure that Simon knows exactly where his parents are. That part is very fuzzy, but the important part is that all Simon wants for Christmas is for his parents to come home.

Simon’s school class goes on a field trip to the airport (yes, you heard that right) and Simon and one of his friends, Elodie, end up on a plane bound for Rovaniemi to see Santa Claus. (This made no sense to me – everyone knows Santa lives at the north pole! Not so in some places, I guess. That’s right, Santa lives in the Laplands in Finland.)

And it’s at this point that I must backtrack. There’s a mean janitor at Simon’s school (stay with me, this is relevant) who, at one point, locks Simon in the cupboard and says he’s going to eat him for Christmas dinner. But Simon’s teacher is nice. Very nice.

Okay, back to the Laplands. In the Laplands, the kids encounter an Ogre, played by the same actor as the guy who plays the Ogre. Is it meant to be Ogre? I’m still not sure. Likewise, there’s a good fairy. Played by the very nice teacher. Or maybe just the actress?

Also: there are songs! At weird and almost inappropriate times. And children being kidnapped. And Santa. And weirdness. Did I mention this film is weird? This film is weird.

I highly suspect this movie was MEANT to be a comedy in some ways. But I think it’s funny in ways it didn’t mean. It’s magically dreadfully funny, but still absolutely amazing. And you should watch it.

I leave you with two scenes from the movie:

The teacher sings on the bus:

The teacher as fairy or little red riding hood or whatever she’s supposed to be. Stay through it to the end, because you’ll see some “high-quality acting”:

Minecraft Cakes!

For Kai’s birthday, Joe and I wanted to do a Minecraft cake for him, because Kai loves Minecraft. (For those of you who have not yet heard about Minecraft, you can find out about it here.)This proved to be more difficult than we had imagined.

First, we needed supplies. We’re gluten-free, so that is even more challenging than normal. We ended up going to Fred Meyer, to Joann’s, and to a local cake decorating store. Now, this cake decorating store? I love what you can get there, but it’s like walking into a hoarding cache of cake supplies. Everything was so difficult to find. We ended up getting the dye we needed (both black and white), then had to head back to Joann’s (we’d seen some Colorburst Bits that we wanted to get). After the running-around craziness was done, it was time to actually bake.

We made two cakes, one colored grey (stone), the other chocolate (dirt). We also mixed in some color bits to the grey (for diamond or lapis lazuli, redstone, and chocolate sprinkles for coal), to make cupcakes.

Cupcakes

Then, Joe got to work cutting.

Joe, making the cake

My husband, by the way, is very meticulous. Very.
Organized cake station

See?

So, he built this cake, glued together with jam.

Cake, before disaster

BUT (dun dun dun)… we forgot the frosting. (Ugh.) So, he tried using the only frosting we had in the house: pecan frosting (a la german chocolate cake frosting).

DISASTER HAPPENED.
Disaster

Actually, this was good, in a way, though. Because we thought we’d try the cake.

AWFUL.

It was soooooo sweet we could not eat it. JAM IS TOO SWEET.

Not to be deterred, we pressed forward. More cake making. Different plan: we would make a twice-baked cake so that the stone would be nestled inside the chocolate cake.

Once again, Joe cut the grey cake. I put in the pan, poured chocolate cake batter over it, and baked it.

 

Attempt two

And this is what it looked like after the twice baking.

Twice-baked

After it was cooled, it got frosted with green (grass, you know). And a creeper face.
Kai's Cake (actual day of)

And this is what the inside looked like.Inside cake

So, that was the first cake. It worked well! Kai was happy. YAY!It's a hit

Kai was so happy with it, in fact, that for the (family) party on Saturday, he told me he wanted lots of Minecraft-related things on his cake. We compromised. Creeper face and a skeleton face. And even though I think it looks horrible, Kai loved it. And that’s what matters.

Cake for the party.

Oh, and by the way, for those of you keeping track, that’s NINE boxes of cake mix in all (one chocolate, one vanilla for the first, two chocolate and one vanilla for the other two). (And, yes, we used mixes because, you know, gluten-free cake is a lot of work to do from scratch and we were more concerned about the outside. We’d tried the cake mixes before and knew they worked well.)

If you’re going to double-bake a cake like this, I suggest slightly underbaking the first cake, so it doesn’t dry out. I noticed a difference from the first one to the second one, but neither was particularly bad.

The Minecraft cake was not a lie. But, now, we’re pretty done with cake for a while.

Now, You Are Five

Kai

Dear Kai,

Now you are five. Five is such an exciting age, isn’t it? You came to me the other day and said, “FIVE WILL TAKE MY WHOLE HAND, MOMMY!” At least, I think that’s what you said – you were so excited it was all pretty much just a blur.

In the nearly two years I have known you (how can it have been so long already?!?), you have grown by leaps and bounds. When I met you, you were still in diapers. You napped a lot. Often, you’d climb into your dad’s lap and fall asleep, the two of you watching car races together. You spoke somewhat, but were mostly quiet.

Now, you’re potty trained – accidents are few and far between, nearly always while you’re sleeping. You still nap, but not every day and I can see that changing quite soon. When the races are on, you watch, you ask questions, you act them out with your cars and question why you do not have all the cars in the races. You talk. Constantly, all the time, as if you have no internal dialogue.

Language seemed to come to you not in small bits and pieces, but in whole sentences, big words. Reading was the same way. For quite some time, you read a handful of words. Now, seemingly overnight, you can read so many things – and it only takes one or two times for a word to stick in your brain.

Back in July, we moved, into the city. The move meant some changes, but on the whole, they’ve been positive: more park days, more playdates, trips to the zoo and the Pacific Science Center, “field trips” with other kids, clay class, made new friends.

Your interests have changed: last year, it was mummies and Yo Gabba Gabba. I suspect you’ll always be fascinated by mummies, but now, you’re playing with LEGOs, doing computer and phone games and board games, and you’ve just recently acquired an interest in Pokemon. You’ve been focused on space and the solar system. Meals often drop off into an astronomy lesson with your dad. I’m excited to see where all of that leads.

Two years ago, I could not have imagined that my life would be like this. But I would not trade my life with you and your dad for anything. Thank you for being a wonderful, sweet boy. Thank you for lighting up my life.

Happy birthday, Kai. May every day be better than the one before. And may all your dreams come true.

Love always,
Mommy

Gifting Philosophy

We ended up going shopping today – this was something we didn’t think we’d do until yesterday. We went to one store at about noon. We didn’t buy a lot. We didn’t get into the “Black Friday” rush. I think we also bought something online that Joe saw was a great deal, that we’d already planned to buy.

Last year, we ended up doing mainly board games. We’ll do a few this year and a few other things. But we try to get gifts that encourage interaction with the family – most of the games last year did this (not just Kai’s gifts, but ours as well).

We also like doing “educational” gifts, though we take a very liberal definition of that. (Games, at least the ones we get, almost always fall under that category.)

We’ll also be getting some gifts for Kai that are for things we KNOW he likes or things he’s asked for repeatedly – either building on an interest he already has or investing in something we know he’ll be able to build on.

We also do things that are functional/that we know he needs – for example, fun clothing/pajamas to help replace some of the stuff he’s growing out of. I’m hoping to do pajamas on Christmas Eve, for example.

This time of year is very “gift-heavy” in this house – Joe’s birthday and my birthday are both in November, Christmas is in December, and Kai’s birthday is in January, so we do a lot of talking/planning for this. This year, we’ve done a lot more “compass” planning (general) versus GPS planning (step-by-step or specifics) planning.

I like doing it this way, though it’s not my natural inclination. My mother was a dedicated Black Friday shopper and planned everything in great detail and bought lots on Black Friday and my dad and my stepmother went Black Friday shopping, though they usually didn’t buy much – often, it was for the door prizes and freebies and such. But this is far less stressful. Last year, we didn’t do shopping at all on Black Friday. We got a cute little kitty from the shelter – Zelda. It was my birthday and we were heading over the mountains, so this is the first year I’m really experiencing this with Joe. I hope it’s how we continue doing things.

Does your family have a gifting philosophy for holidays/birthdays?

Happy Thanksgiving 2012

It’s Thanksgiving here in the USA. We had a LOVELY holiday.
Last night, Kai helped us write up the ingredients we needed to make the brine for our turkey (we found a turkey breast with no additives that we could eat – so happy about that!). He doesn’t usually like to write but I’ve found that if you ask him to “help you” and it’s useful, he will, no problems.

Thanksgiving 2012

Then, we went shopping for the things we needed.

Thanksgiving 2012

Brined the turkey overnight.

Thanksgiving 2012

We had a “volcano pancake” for breakfast.

Thanksgiving 2012

And watched the Macy’s parade.

Thanksgiving 2012

He played with his cars.

Thanksgiving 2012

We all stopped to watch the Chica/Sprout float.

Thanksgiving 2012

Then, he helped cut up bananas for our fruit salad.

Thanksgiving 2012

And had dinner.

Thanksgiving 2012

Kai ate all of the dinner dishes, tried three bites of pie, and ate most of his crust. He said he wasn’t “a big fan of pumpkin pie”, which is way better than “I don’t like it” before even trying it. And, for our own personal Thanksgiving “miracle”, he liked every single dish served during dinner – except the pie dessert, of course. I’m pretty amazed. We had turkey, fruit salad, homemade cranberry-orange-pineapple sauce, potatoes baked with the turkey, sparkling apple cider, and sweet potatoes w/marshmallows.

He and I both ended up with naps (no nap for Joe!).

I’m so thankful we all got to spend today together as a family. Joe and Kai have brought so much happiness to my lives. They, along with our three kitties (I’m thankful for them, too!), have made our home a wonderful place to be. Kai always says we’re a “happy family”. I’m so thankful to be part of a happy family. I’m also thankful for all of my loved ones, my friends, and the online and in-person communities I’ve become a part of.

I’ve got a pretty amazing life. Thank you all for being a part of it.

Husband’s Birthday Today

Today is my husband’s birthday, so I’m not going to spend a long time writing. Instead, today, so far, we have:

Addressed the birthday cards.
Addressing his card to his dad.

Brought out the presents.
Kai's present to  his dad.

Baked a cake.
The best part of making cake.

And had to clean up from the mess!
It is definitely time for a bath.

This is another example of not being able to go a day without learning. Kai read off the ingredients (we helped him figure out what 1/2 meant and he sounded out the word “oil”, though “large” came easily). He helped figure out which measuring cups we needed. I put in some of the liquid ingredients then asked him how much more I needed – we were working with adding and subtracting fractions. We talked about how to divide the cake batter evenly into two pans – used measuring cups. We talked about why using parchment in the bottom of a cake pan was a Very Awesome Idea.

And it’s only noon!

I’m off to enjoy the rest of the day with my family. I hope you guys have a fabulous day, as well.