Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Suitcase Revelations...

So this week I was packing for an upcoming trip to Africa. (I am going with a team to volunteer at an "orphan care point" that our church works with through Hopechest.)  I was excitedly packing away until I realized that I was the ONLY person who was checking a bag. Huh? What? How in the heck are these others gals packing for 10 days in a foreign country with ONLY A CARRY ON??!?!
I soon realized that because we were taking lots of bins, bins full of supplies for orphans,the full time workers, etc. we needed every checked bag "credit" we could get. Basically, me taking a suitcase was going to cost my church $200 extra baggage dollars. Were my creature comforts worth that?  I thought, "YES!"... but after thinking and thinking, and yes, feeling like a real heel for being the sole taker of a checked bag, I decided to give the carry-on only a go.

I never thought of myself as "high maintenance" until that day.

I like my hairspray, my gels, my lotions, oh, and let's not forget pocket size lysol, and handi-wipes etc. What about my perfume? My shoe spray (no one likes stinky feet!) and my blow dryer, my blow dryer HAD to fit.
Suddenly I realized... I really like my "stuff" that makes me look like "me."

I didn't want frizzy hair.
I wanted to rub my special lotion into my heels at night.
I wanted to smell nice.
I wanted sparkly teeth.
I wanted my feet to not stink...

I had a realization. It happened when someone said, "It will be ok Jude, the kids at the carepoint don't care what we look like."

Oh. They don't? That was when I realized the fatal flaw in my totally me centered packing. Those kids want to be loved. They thrive, THRIVE off playing with us, hugging us, sitting in our laps, and sharing a smile.  They come to us in dirty clothes. They often haven't bathed in days or longer. Their heads are mostly shaved, even the girls, for health reasons. They don't have mouth wash, or loofahs for exfoliating, or special lotions. They are not trying to match the right shirt to their skirt to look more flattering. Yet... they are often full of joy and happiness. I found myself wondering... how?

Because they get it.
 They know happiness is NOT found in the outer person we see.

It made me question, how much of my outward appearance is there to overshadow and cover up the real me?  Do I hide behind uncracked heels, sanitized hands, and coiffed hair? Is my perfume trying to cover up the stank that would be my raw humanity? I am speaking metaphorically of course, but really... are these kids happier because they live in such a bold "here is what I am" way, that it allows them the freedom to be more honest and real with their creator and hence, with other humans?

What if I was stripped bare, would you still love me?
With frizzy hair, unshaved legs, and smelly armpits?
Stinky feet, dingy teeth, and dirty clothes?
Do you know what my eyes look like with no mascara? 

Christ lives in our hearts, not our gel bottles.
If the outer Jude is altered, or uncomfortable, can I still find joy and strength?

Or am I dressing up the temple in order to hide its corruption?

Just some random, and albeit "waxing eloquent" thoughts on this impending trip. I am trying to not let the outer appearance rob me of my inward happiness... and I freely admit, that is hard. Very hard.  Especially hard when you are packing all your beauty needs in "One quart size ziploc bag."

Your High Maintenance Friend,

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Sweethearts Dinner

For Valentine's Day we always stay in. ALWAYS. It started when we were living in NY, back in 1997, and despite Micah being sick, we felt compelled to go out for dinner, simply because the calendar read "February 14th." After a long wait, and an intensely crowded restaurant, I vowed, "never again."... and we haven't.
We stay in and as the boys have gotten older, I try to make the day special for us as a family. A "fancy" meal, special dessert, and little gifts at the table for all. I like doing this for my boys. Here is this year's set up...

I have been hoarding these little jars and candle holders for about 2 years... that's right, 2 years. But, now that I've used them, I can officially be taken off the line up for that show "Hoarders".

This year I also decided to make a heart garland out of old book pages and cardstock. I punched hearts whilst watching Downton Abbey, and then sewed them together. I may or may not also have been saying, "I'm sewing! I'm a seamstress!". (if you don't know the happiness that is "What About Bob" you will not think that is funny. Ok, even if you know that movie, you may still not be laughing. Whatever.)
Twinkle lights were strung as well, which made Alden ooh and ahh and proclaim, "Oh mama, that is bootiful! Good job!" Worth.Every.Penny.

We set the table and had a little gift bag for each boy containing goodies, and fun things. The toppers are just doilies and my beloved washi tape. I washi tape anything I can these days. Its sad what thrills your soul once you admit to being a nerdy mom. Which I am.

One of the gifts for each boy were a set of these photo books. (They are tiny, 2.75x 3.75.) But they weren't really for them... Remember when I told you all about writing letters to my future daughter in laws?  Well, I explained to the boys that they could keep one of these, but the other two would be set aside for their future wives. (Alden led the way with giving back all three saying, "No, I want you to keep all of 'dem for my wife, OK?" 

We had a lovely dinner with some of our favorite foods, and laughed and enjoyed just being together. Of course, we hauled out some new desserts for the occasion as well. This cake forced me to go where I have never gone before... the world of home made frosting. My mom makes amazing frosting, but I have always gone the duncan hines route. Well... no more. This frosting was really easy and really good. As was the cake. Believe me, if I can make this, anyone can! The boys LOVED it.  (PS I just looked for the site where this recipe was. I can't find it. Maybe it was my one hit wonder. Dang.)

Since Alden couldn't have the cake, and I am not a huge chocolate gal' I also made these. My friend Corey made it look so easy. It wasn't. The dough was really hard to roll out, and I am in awe of her perfectly made ones. They were good, but not as easy as your good ole' chocolate chip cookie ya' know?  (PS I will be making them again though, can you imagine how AMAZING they would be with my beloved trader joe's lemon curd!?!?!)

And that is that. Another Valentine's Day is in the books. I love these wild boys and am glad that at least for one day of the year I get to insist of flowers, hearts, pink and lovey dovey stuff.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Valentine Envelopes Part Deux...

Here are the rest of envelope days for the wild boys, brought to you again via iPhone photos.

 Day Seven: Fun Dip.It is fun for your children, not you. You will be vacuuming fun dip sugar from your table for days. As a bonus, Alden made sure to get his in the little teeny tiny space between the table's planks. That was great... fun.

Day  eight: Silly String. Or, if you are like me and buy it on the cheap, it will be called "Goofy String". The boys were beyond thrilled. After school we let them go crazy with it in the yard. You may want to look ahead at the weather and plan this one for a day before rain. I did not, and our yard looked like a B-horror movie entitled "Attack of the Killer Rainbow Colored Worms!".

Day Nine: Classic Books. Alden had already taken off to read his, which was a "classic" known as Batman. I think Lincoln already started reading Oliver Twist, and I am pretty excited about teaching him my solo part from the fifth grade chorus rendition of "Food Glorious Food."

Day Ten: Pop-it Surprise Bags. I admit it, I thought there was a toy inside. It shakes and rattles, which apparently is the chemicals that make the balloon pop out when one smashes the bag with one's fist. The smashing was far more thrilling for the wild boys than the balloons with "lovey dovey" sayings.

Day Eleven: Skittles. My Micah was not as thrilled about this being another non-chocolate treat, but the boys loved them.

Day Twelve: Pop Rocks. Again, the el-cheapo version has a groovy rename... "crack - ups". Whatever. How can you NOT love candy that pops in your mouth?  We at the casa sure do.

Day Thirteen: More scratch-offs. This time it was good for a trip to get ice cream. Well, except the dairy allergy laden Alden. He gets cookies instead. Have you made the scratch offs yet mamas? Seriously, kids love them. I plan on designing a few more to use as incentives round here. Incentive is another word for bribe, and I am fine with that.

All this envelope madness led up to our annual Sweethearts Dinner. We do it up right here at the casa, go big or go home and all that. That post is coming soon...maybe.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

The envelope please...

Did you get that subtle title-pun? No? Well, if you had grown up with a frenzied love of Michael Jackson, followed by an intense obsession with Prince, you would have watched every AMA and Grammy show you could, to get a glimpse of your crush and you would totally get that awards show envelope reference. Since it has now taken me an entire paragraph to explain that, I'll just move on. (*whispers... but I still love When Doves Cry...)

You know those crooked groovy hand-made envelopes I made the boys, I thought you might like to see what they have been finding in them each morning. Ok, I want to write it down or I'll forget by next month. So, in order of appearance, some with the SLR, and some with the phone camera, here we go...

Day one:  Message Heart Candy. (Gag, they were already hard. Can't we get some chewy sweet-tart message hearts in the candy realm? Or, at least, there must be some chemical that would insure these stay softer, longer? Fabric softener maybe?)

Day two: M&Ms. I had to photo Alden's pretzel ones as the other boys took theirs in their lunch for school, and my Micah's mysteriously disappeared... hmmm.

Day three: Finger Laser Lights. The boys thought these were only available at the local camp they attend, so when I found them I knew it would win me some big mom points :) (Micah got a cigar, he is not really into the finger laser-lights... much...)

 Day four: Hershey's Kisses. It's one of those candies you HAVE to get at Valentine's Day, ya' know. Plus I got the Hugs kind, which seem to bother Alden's dairy allergy less.

Day five:  Scratch-Off Coupons. I made them. This was super easy, and my boys LOVED it. You can find the directions HEREI have more of these coming for the envelopes. I put them together with some journaling cards I got off the internets, which I have no clue where to link to. Sorry, just google it. 

Day six: Glow Sticks. I told the boys these were especially for the tub. Em was home from school with his wheezy breathing, and let me tell you... Glow Sticks in the bathtub is the BEST IDEA EVER! They played for like an hour, and the giggles I heard made my heart happy. Did the floor get a little wet, yes. Was it worth it... totally. Such a great memory.

There you have the first six days of envelopes. This has been much fun for me and my wild boys, and I think it may be helping me overcome my status as the Worst Tooth Fairy Ever. ;)

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Valentine's Day Countdown...

So we take Valentine's Day very seriously around here. This year I saw these adorable pottery barn envelopes you can velcro onto a chair.
I wanted them to do a "Countdown to Valentine's Day", but the price tag for scoring four for my guys was too steep.
So I got busy making my own. There are lots of tutorials on the www for these. I just winged it with a quick sketch and some felt.
Here they are: I sewed them with a zigzag stitch as my amazing quilt making friend Sarah had told me the zigzag was the most forgiving of stitches. If that's true, I am pretty sure the zigzag is holding a grudge against me.
But I got them all done and then hand stitched the hearts and used twine to attach them to the chairs. Let me tell you, my boys are LOVING this! I put a treat in their envelope each night, and they are so happy when they discover them each morning. In another post I'll share what I've been putting in them.
So glad that someone smarter than me thought of this great idea!!!  (but don't tell my kids that, they think I am brilliant. Bwahahahaha )

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Photo Canvas ala iPhone

You all know I love photos.
I almost always have my phone with me,
so many of our memories get captured via
the iPhone.
I recently used a great app called "PostalPix"
to order 60, yes 60 prints from my phone.
They are 4x4.
I heart the throw back 4x4 size. Did you
ever have a camera that printed you a 4x4 and two smaller 2x2's?
We did, and I cherish those little bits of memory heaven.

So I got an idea, and a canvas, and some mod podge.
I got busy uploading some photos to PostalPix. Then... got to work...
(this is similar to the canvases I made for Christmas gifts. See those HERE. )

here is the canvas, yep, 24x36. Enough for 54 glorious photos.

Next you will need my friend and yours, Mod-Podge. We heart some mod podge round here.
Next choose your photos and lay them out the way you want them to look on the canvas. I sort of forgot to take a photo of this step, so use your imagination. Then set them aside in six little stacks of nine, in the proper order of the row. Oh how this made my little OCD heart grin.

Then, spread that whole bad boy over with some mod podge. While it was drying I painted my edges black. Make sure you "cheat"  onto the main canvas area about ¼ in or so. I missed going far enough in on a few places, and had to break out a fine tipped paint brush to fix it.

Then, start your adhering... I don't advising trying to paint a whole row across with the mod podge, go photo by photo. and be patient... if you move to the next one too quickly, your hands will be playing a game of Twister to hold them down.

keep on trucking along. I should also note, the canvas may be a bit lacking when you get to that final photo. I almost freaked out on the first row, until I realized, the frame on the last few photos could all be trimmed, just a touch, to make it work. All canvases stretch just a bit differently, so you may not have to do this.

Once that is dry, you do the scariest step of all... mod podge over the top of all your precious photos. You need to work quickly.

This is also where you may ask your eldest son to snap a photo of you working, and then remember, he is 9, so warn him "No booty shots pal."

 And... the finished product!

And someday this wall will be painted one of the groovy shades I have picked out, and this canvas will have a proper display of vintage goodness surrounding it. Until then, use your imagination and send a floor sander our way...

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Ride the Wind Bullseye!

This is my first try at iPhone blogging. We'll see how it goes, but there is no accounting for oddly placed photos and auto-corrected words.
Today I became a hero. Well... To Alden anyway. Bullseye had a broken leg. Why I had not already chucked him and his bum leg out, I am not sure. Today Alden brought him to me and asked me to fix him. I thought about explaining that most horses with a busted leg get shot, but refrained. "use your tape ma!" he begged.
I have a to do list a mile long today, and in my head I am thinking, tape ain't going to fix this china made piece o junk! But... I forged ahead and in the end tape AND some well placed rubberbands did the trick.
Alden was elated. "Thank you bootiful mommy! You are the best mommy ever!"
All that happiness and admiration for less than five minutes work and some tape.
Mamas, even if you know Bullseye will be busted again tomorrow, take a few minutes and fix him today... You might just be your little one's hero.
Now, ride like the wind Bullseye!!!