In other words..please shut up...

So I'm lying on the couch with Finny. He is watching Wonder Pets. I join the little characters in quietly singing the theme song. He stops, looks at me, not unkindly, and smiles. I do not take the hint, I resume singing, "what's going to work? Teeeeeeam work!"

He stops singing again and pointedly places a kiss right on my mouth (clearly intended to muffle the sound). Then he pats my head and says (in that sweet cajoling voice we use to lull children and animals into thinking that doing something they don't want to was their idea in the first place), "why don't you take a little nap? You don't need to sing or talk. Ok?"

And because he is the most charming child on the planet I chuckled and obeyed. (Sshh please don't tell! I'm supposed to be taking a little nap right now).

Halloween weary

It's my marathon tomorrow and I'm already Halloween exhausted. Can you tell? How d'ya like my super clean van? And Aaron? Never had a chance to ask but what was with the pumpkins and the jumper cables babe?

Last night we had trunk or treating and the little carnival that follows it. I usually love it. When I don't have to organize it. Organizing stuff tends to make it less fun.

BUT! People! Progress!!!!
I did not, I repeat I did not fail to delegate the class party to the various mothers who signed up for it! I am bringing....NAPKINS! SERVIETTES for us South Africans! And PAPER PLATES! And that is all! Apart from a couple of dozen cupcakes I will bake just in case, and my camera to take photos for the year book, and make up so I can do it for my boys before the Parade. But that is all!! I am so proud of myself. Truly.
Tomorrow I really am going to have fun!

Mormon Democrat. Why?! How!?

My new friend Aunt Lolo asked me why I am a Democrat. I'm so glad she did. It is somewhat unusual to be a Democrat and Mormon although there are several prominent Mormons who are Democrats (including Senate majority leader Harry Reid and church leaders like the late President James E. Faust and the late President Heber J. Grant).

It is also important to understand that the Mormon church has a policy of neutrality regarding politics. So the Mormon/Republican thing is strictly a cultural thing. We do not discuss politics except in very broad terms in church meetings and are not encouraged to vote for any political party.

To those who think that I am on the brink of outer darkness trying to pass myself off as a good Mormon while being a Democrat I say this: Until there is a temple recommend question asking me if I vote Democrat, I will assume that I can be considered an equally worthy member of the Mormon church as any Republican who is trying their best to the right thing and voting their conscience. I also assume that the church would take a strong stand against a candidate if they believed they were into "killing babies". So I am going to trust my Prophet that it is ok that I am a Democrat and would thank my fellow church members to do the same.

Like most people I know in this country, I don't consider myself especially well versed in political matters, I do my best to know what I need to know but I do not make politics my hobby.

Unlike most people in this country, I have the point of view of someone who did not grow up here. This meant that I did not have my American political leanings shaped or influenced by any one in any way. I had no idea Mormons were "supposed" to be Republicans or that they were more righteous then Democrats :P So when I got here as a young adult and I wanted to figure out which party I most supported, I relied only on my personal, religious and moral convictions to make that decision. I studied the scriptures to make those decisions.

Here are some of the convictions I have reached:

On Taxes

1. I believe that we should help others as much as we can. I don't believe that what I earn is my God-given right to keep. I don't believe in the "I pulled myself up by my bootstraps and so can they" theory. I think, quite frankly that this is judgmental garbage. You did well because you worked hard (maybe) and you were lucky (for sure). How can I say that? This is how. Give me one person who is making over 60K a year and I will show them 10 who make less then of half that and work a heck of a lot harder then they do, people who can't heat their homes. So that argument holds zero weight with me, and I just find it very uncompassionate, closed minded and arrogant. Maybe because I grew up in South Africa and I saw how hard some people worked and how little they have. and will always have. This "I worked hard so you can too and be just as well off as I am" is just not realistic. I don't believe that I should be able to be rich at the expense of other people. I have no problem with people becoming successful and independently wealthy. I hope to be myself one day, I like to think I could do a lot of good with some money, but I don't view it as my inalienable right to have more then you do or to hoard it to give to my kids one day. At the end of the day, you can't take it with you so if it comes down to helping others or being rich, I'm going to invest in helping others. I am aware that not all Mormon Republicans hold this view, I'm just saying that this is an argument I am frequently given for their views.

I believe that what we have is not ours at all actually. According to my religion all we have been given is a gift from God and we are commanded to share it. The Mormon scripture upon which I base my belief is found here:
24 And again, I say unto the poor, ye who have not and yet have sufficient, that ye remain from day to day; I mean all you who deny the beggar, because ye have not; I would that ye say in your hearts that: I agive not because I bhave not, but if I had I would cgive. Mosiah 4:24

One of the many Biblical scriptures on the matter:

  1. 4 He shall judge the poor of the people, he shall save the children of the needy, and shall break in pieces the aoppressor.
    • • •
    12 For he shall deliver the needy when he crieth; the poor also, and him that hath no helper.
    13 He shall spare the poor and needy, and shall save the souls of the needy.
On the much recently maligned matter of "spreading the wealth" I cannot for the life of me figure out why this is referred to in such horror and disgust. Funny, I was always under the impression that Christians (and particularly Mormons) believed in that:

2 Cor. 8: 14 But by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want: that there may be equality:

4 Ne. 1: 3 (Also Acts 2: 44; Acts 4: 32-37; 3 Ne. 26: 19; ) And they had all things common among them; therefore there were not rich and poor, bond and free, but they were all made free, and partakers of the heavenly gift.

Moses 7: 18 And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them.

The main Republican argument I have heard regarding taxation is this: Republicans believe that taxing people to support welfare programs or any program help those who are in need, violates our free agency. They believe that we should help others according to our conscience. That the Big Government should stay out of it. Since Mormons voluntarily give 10% of their gross incomes in tithes and an additional amount in fast and other offerings each month, they can argue that they would choose to give voluntarily as they saw fit, without the government telling them to. Fine, I can't tell you you wouldn't, but I do want to point out that the vast majority of the country do not give 10% of their incomes as a charitable donation and I don't think that the welfare programs could be run by just those who are inclined to pay tithing (Mormon or otherwise) or even by those who are inclined to make even significant charitable donations. I believe we all have to do our part to help the less fortunate and to run our country efficiently and that has to be regulated in some way. Just like tithing.

All that aside, if you are going to use the "give me my free agency, go away Big Government" argument, I still have a really hard time understanding why the same people who feel that the Government should have a say over who marries whom, the issue of abortion, and the doling out of the Death Penalty, don't also believe the Government should have a say in how we as a nation help those less fortunate then ourselves. To me it is like saying "How dare the government regulate how we take care of the teacher who educates our children, as well as it does the Oil Tycoon! But they'd better make sure they have total control over who has an abortion!"

This is a glaring inconsistency to me and try as I might, I have never been able to wrap my mind around it. How can one be willing to allow the Government to be "big" enough to further your moral agenda, but not willing to let it be "big" enough to protect and help the least of this nation's people. I don't get it.

The Christian in me believes that "where much is given, much is required." This is what Progressive taxation means to me. Many Republicans like to call Progressive Taxation da da daaaaaaummmmhm..... Socialism. Especially lately. .It's become the big scary (why so scary, I don't get that either?) buzz word and lots of people are throwing the term da..da...dummmmmm "socialism" about with gay abandon. Before they do that too much more, I think they should research socialism to find out how different it is from Progressive Taxation. They are not one and the same.

And while we are on the topic of "socialism" (eeeeek!!!) here's how consistent John McCain has been on that issue over the years. It seems he used to believe in Progressive Taxation (aka socialism in McCain 2008's world), quite strongly himself That is until he was able to twist it into a smear on Obama and rename it socialism. No really, you should see this. Really John? Wouldn't that be da da daaaaahm..EEEK....."spreading the wealth??" Again, I was always kind of under the impression that Jesus wanted us to do that. (See the above scriptures again.)

On purely selfish economic grounds, Obama's tax plan will result in me and pretty much everyone I know getting a major tax cut, far bigger then the one McCain is offering. And heck man, I can use it!! (Speaking of which, if I know you and you are making enough money that you will come out ahead with McCain's tax plan, please email me immediately so that we can talk about you giving me a job as your maid or something ;)

Not only this, Obama's health care plan will also put the average American family ahead by about $2500. I'm not going to sneeze at that. Haha, get the pun, man I slay me.

Let's move onto the horrible topic of

I am in the business of birth. I feel that I am on sacred ground when I attend a birth. One of the reasons why I became a doula was so that I could have that spiritual experience more often and that I could help the expectant parents to be able to focus on the sacred aspects of that experience. I help pregnant mothers to have as healthy babies and as meaningful pregnancies as possible. I do not believe life begins at birth.

I also support a pro-Choice candidate. This makes me a baby-killing monster according to some. Yes, I think that is pretty ignorant and judgmental too. Whatever.

Here's the thing, people who are pro-choice are not automatically pro-Abortion. Many of them abhor abortion. I am personally repulsed by abortion. Just typing the word sort of sickens me. Which is why I would like it to happen a lot less often. Which is why I am willing to get off my high moral horse to support programs that I believe will actually lower the incident of abortion. I'm practical that way. (And I say get off my high moral horse because I used to be on one before I actually studied this issue a bit).

And let's be clear about one thing. Legalizing abortion will in no way ever make it an acceptable birth control option for me. Pre-marital sex is legal too, drinking and smoking are legal too. I don't support those things. As a Christian himself, I don't believe Obama takes the idea of abortion lightly either. At all.

Let me reiterate this one. more. time. : I don't want abortion to happen. There are cases when it is necessary to save the life of the mother, but like I'm sure pretty much everyone else, I want there to be as few abortions happening as possible.

I strongly believe that abortion destroys lives. Studies show that apart from the fact that an innocent life is lost, women have a harder time emotionally recovering from having abortions then they do any other trauma. I have been to great lengths and spent much emotional energy to share this message with others, fervently praying that they would not make this decision . But making abortion illegal will not, in my opinion (and according to quite a lot of scientific research), lower the incident of abortions. It will definitely though, result in more unsafe abortions where the mother's life has a good chance of being lost as well.

I believe when programs are put into place where women and girls who may be considering this awful option can go, to speak to trained professionals and understand what it really means, and what it will do to their life, that the incidence of abortion would be lowered. I also believe more programs (funded by our tax dollars) will go towards counseling programs which will increase the number of women who choose the adoption option, something that is so often not even considered by women carrying unwanted pregnancies. Adoption is something I believe is a great blessing. I can't think of anything better then spending my tax dollars so that good loving parents will have an easier time adopting babies. Heck yeah, spread my wealth all you want over that.

Once again, according McCain/Palin we should have our free agency regarding who we share our money with, but nobody, not even women who have been raped or victims of incest, should be allowed the agency to make that choice about her body? I disagree, and the leaders of my Church do too.

While it is clear that the LDS church takes a tough stance on abortion, they do acknowledge circumstances when a women who has been properly counseled, and engaged in earnest prayer, should be able to make that decision for herself.

One last word on this topic. I humbly request that if you are in the habit of telling your children that Barack Obama (or I, by virtue of supporting him) kills babies, please stop. That is just not true and I think you know it. I consider it slanderous at best and extremely offensive. Obama has never participated in an abortion.

It also strikes me as ironic that I hear this line a lot from conservative NRA supporters who are so fond of the slogan, "guns don't kill people, people kill people". By supporting the free agency that so many Republicans hold so dear as long as it pertains to tax, Barack Obama does not kill babies. People make their own decisions where that is concerned.

The war.

I support Barack Obama because wars of aggression are against my religion. Does that mean that I am a concientious objector? No. There are cases when countries have no option but to go to war, if they do not, it will mean utter destruction for them, or for their allies. These situations do arise and those that are loyal to their country must then be willing to fight for it.
"The Book of Mormon implicitly condemns wars of aggression. Until their final calamity, all Nephite military objectives were strictly defensive. It was a mandatory, sacred obligation of all able-bodied Nephite men to defend their families, country, and religious freedoms (Alma 43:47; 46:12), but only as God commanded them"
I do not classify the war in Iraq as one of those cases. I believe the War in Iraq was a war of aggression and it was started under false pretenses, and good patriotic Americans were, I believe, duped into thinking it was the only way to protect our country against another of Bin Laden's attacks. In case there are still people who believe that 9-11 had anything to do with Iraq, it did not. Osama Bin Laden lives in Afghanistan. Al Qaeda is based in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Osama Bin Laden is still believed to be alive in Afghanistan while the majority of our troops remain in Iraq.

I strongly believe that George W.Bush and his advisers rode the wave of the horror and anger after 9-11 to start a war that furthered agendas and vendettas which had no connection to 9-11. They took advantage of a country in shock and pain and got them to support a war they (Bush and co) had been wanting for a long time.

I cannot support a candidate who will continue the tragedy of this deception, and who will allow even more innocent people on both sides to die, who will sacrifice the lives of our loyal soldiers for the sake of "victory". I don't believe there ever will be true "victory" for the perpetrators of a war of aggression.

Finally, I support Barack Obama because to me he represents the most Christ-like of the two individuals. He refrains from sarcasm, anger and eye rolling and is capable of being respectful when he addresses his fellow candidate. Barack Obama has shown himself to be even-keeled, calm and consistent in his bearing and behaviour, even under extreme duress and false personal attacks so vicious that they have been denounced by people in the party opposing him.

The same can not be said of McCain. Republicans themselves admit that he is angry and volatile. But , they tell me, they like this! Maybe the "fire in his belly" will be a good thing, motivate him to bring about make some real change.

I disagree. Again, on the basis of my religion. I don't believe anger or contention ever solve things, they merely beget even more anger and contention. Something we cannot afford. Jesus was very clear on this matter.
“He that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another. Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away” (3 Nephi 11:29–30).

I don't want someone as full of rage as McCain, or as reckless in riling up a crowd to murderous anger as Sarah Palin, negotiating with people who aren't feeling good about us to start with. I would far prefer someone with a calm and calming demeanour take on that task. I would rather someone whose demeanour allowed them to be led by the Spirit, take on that task.

From the international perspective again, I can tell you that having Obama elected to office will go a very long way towards restoring the view the world has of America.

The environment. I believe it is our stewardship and we have been commanded to care for it prudently. I don't believe that John McCain or Sarah Palin place very much priority on this charge and disregard good Science which points to why this is very dangerous.

I am done (for now). You are free to disagree with me, but when you do, please consider that I came to these convictions through personal study and prayer. They are strictly my opinions, I do not represent other Mormon Democrats or anyone other then my very own little self.

If you read this truly epic post, I truly appreciate it. Particularly if you aren't a Democrat. I think that shows admirable open-mindedness. It took a lot of work and thought on my part, and frankly it takes quite a bit of courage to post it. I have no interest in getting into a political fight with anyone, I have no interest in contentious confrontation but respectful discussion..always.

I hope that if you choose to leave an angry or ugly comment, that you will consider your motivation for doing so. If it is because you think I undermine your Christian values, then you should consider if you are being Christ-like in the way you address me and my personal beliefs or not. Again, you are free to disagree but I will not publish anonymous comments or any comments I deem inappropriate, vulgar or hateful. That includes anything that calls Obama a baby-killer. Fah gosh sakes.

Strokes and Props for Mad Skillz

I'm not going to brag, well heck, sure I am. Why else would I have a blog? My kids are pretty together. They bring home good grades frequently, far more frequently then I ever did as a kid (like maybe 100% more frequently) and each test and homework assignment represents quiet, steady dedication and pride in their work.

However each test and homework assignment also represents one more piece of paper to add to The Paper Mound That Never Goes Away. When I sort through The Mound every week or so, with the goal of tossing most of it in recycling, I will often find a 100% test score just shoved in with a bunch of worksheets and newsletters, totally ignored and unacknowledged.

Fortunately my kids take after their father in brain power, and the fact that they are not needy in the praise arena, so they never complain about this, (which really is only fair, since they are the ones that shove them there.) That's cool and all, but I think that acknowledging and appropriately praising good things begets more good things. I also think it is dangerous to fall into the trap of taking good habits for granted. I have been in enough school classrooms to know that the struggling kids get the lion's share of the attention.

Now of course we can't have a special dinner each time someone gets 100% on a spelling test, nor should we methinks, but I do think we should show our kids that we see, and care, that they are plugging along diligently, and we are proud of them for that. Which is why I made the:

poster for the trusty pantry door. Sure we could use a magnet to stick that test score on the fridge, but does this not seem that little bit more celebratory? It also puts that photo I take into a little more context, when it is time to replace that masterpiece. (I take a photo so that I feel less heartless when I relegate the current one to go the way of all things of the earth....I have issues, of this I am well aware.)

There is room for more then one honourable mention on the pantry door. One kid's accomplishment does not replace another's (ack!-holy quick 'n easy recipe for some hot sibling rivalry!)and usually there are 3 or 4 things up there at the same time.

Make it work for you, but keep it meaningful by moving things around with some regularity. It won't mean quite so much if it becomes a dusty dumping ground and Jimmy's 3rd grade report card is still on there when he graduates elementary school.

Simple and a bit silly but it works for us!

Her Blue Period

The other day I noticed some clutter on Gracie's bookshelf. I was getting ready to clean it up when I realised that it was not clutter at all, but a very deliberate and pretty impressive art installation:

When I questioned her about it she said yes, she had been finding things that were blue to add to it, and that she planned to do a different colour each month. (Next month is purple.) When she noted my enthusiasm for the project it grew somewhat..

I'm not sure which version I prefer although the pearl handle of the blue satin bag draped so artfully over the blue goblet is exceptionally pleasing to the eye. But my favourite would have to be the humble cotton ear bud placed unabashedly next to the sapphire princess earrings.

I so love the artistic heart that beats in my independent little girl. I am always finding little books that she has made quietly in her room as she happily hums little made up songs. Their pages are always filled with stories and illustrations by her own hand. A never ending stream of lovely collages and cards, paper decorations to hang on the door and sweet little bookmarks are produced by the prolific artist each day. But best of all are the really flattering portraits of me, always with her by my side, a big juicy heart between us and an elaborate proclamation of love and adoration carefully written above that. Oh how I will treasure those when she is a teenager.

I hope her creativity will always flow so easily and joyfully. It is already such a gift to us all.

Ghoulishly Great Halloween Birthday Bash...

I forgot to take pictures of mine, but I copied these invitations from this clever lady

Setting the scene...our hunchback butler lights the wax lumanaries

This is the most macabre thing I have ever had in my home. I just did not think a cute jack o lantern would cut it with this crowd. Within 20 minutes the water had been spilled enough to short circuit the poor skull. He seems to have recovered now that he is dried out and is resting comfortably.

The Monster (cup!)Cake

I love how it appears to be eyeing the skulls with such trepidation here

Benjamin was a Vampire

Gabe was a bat. Here he is before his first of three parties that day. He has a swinging social life for a bat.

After a break-the-ice game where they had to find a partner by guessing who they were (they had labels on their back and could only ask and answer yes or no questions). There was Scare/Crow..Vampire/Blood....etc

We had a rousing game of...Zombie tag. (Marco Polo with a twist)

Then a little donut eating contest in my living room. (Which is why you will see the vacuum cleaner in subsequent photos)

Time for some pumpkin bowling

Then we turned out all the lights, and equipped everyone with a glow stick (glow stick figure was at a distinct advantage) to play an adaptation of my favourite game as a child, Sardines. We called it Skeleton in the closet. One kid (the skeleton) hides and is quietly joined by more and more people. The idea is not to let on when you have found the skeleton so you can join him quietly when everyone else has left and you don't have to spend too much time being squished in a small space like this

or this

It looked pleasantly eerie as they all wandered around in silence

After some sustenance...

It was time for a visit to...

They were blindfolded and sent into a room where there was some very creepy music and sounds. Then they heard a hideous voice telling them that if they could identify some body parts by feeling them, they could be the Professor's apprentice, and come back after midnight to make a CREATURE. They all agreed to this, half horrified, half thrilled. They touched ears (dried apricots), eyes (olives), a tongue (banana peel with olive oil on it..eeuw), brains (spaghetti) and even a heart (half of a tomato). Then their blind-folds were removed and they saw this face sans Finny) in the creepy glow of the lab.

Finny did not know who was holding him in this picture.

Most of them were sufficiently freaked/grossed out by this time and as they beat a hasty retreat but not before this creature lunged out at them from the closet, calling their name...

In this particular photo, Finny and Gracie have just stopped screaming for all they are worth. It was like the scene from ET when Drew Barrymore and ET meet each other. And this was just from the sight of Prof. McManiac. We skipped the touchy feely box of horrors and I gestured to the Creature to remain in the closet for this visit. I wanted us all to sleep again sometime this year. The brave boys who entered with quite a swagger were literally tripping over themselves as they ran screaming out of the door. We appreciate the Creature for staying up late enough to give our party that little extra horror. We hope his basketball game the next day did not suffer for it.

By this point, everyone was so emotionally and physically exhausted (it was 10pm) that we thought watching a movie would be appropriate. The Nightmare Before Christmas was a hit.

Mid way through we presented the monster all aflame

we sang and watched as a bat and a vampire made some birthday plus 3 months wishes.

It was a MADHOUSE but it was awesome. Four hours flew by even though the weather prohibited us from going outside as planned. We are considering putting off their birthday party for a few months again next year.

Things borrowed from Tiffany for this party:
Decorations, bowls, cookie sheets, husband.

Dear Anonymous Commenter..

Since I haven't before, I wanted to make clear that I will not post anonymous comments unless they are of a completely benign nature. It is my opinion that if you are going to judge the views of someone else, you should show enough character to put your name behind that slamming. You clearly consider yourself a superior Christian to me, and I am comfortable with you going on believing that.

However, I just wanted to point out that your argument loses some power, and I have a tough time taking you seriously, when you post something very judgmental about an issue you clearly feel very strongly about, but not strongly enough to sign your name to that post. Hmmm.....WWJD? I'm fairly confident in saying-not that.

I would have enjoyed discussing what you had to say, but because you did not leave your name, I can only assume that you are not interested in respectful debate, only in leaving vitriolic comments and running. Hey man, whatever works for you. :) Have a great day!

Because tonight is all about the deep and meaningful posts...

Got this from Tiffany and then Jen Lynn..
I am: insane for not being in bed.

I have: half of a monster cake left

I Think: I'm going to regret this in the morning

I Know: that I have an saint for a husband

I Want: Obama to win!

I Have: four ridiculously awesome kids. Seriously, it can get embarrassing.

I Dislike: the ugliness of this election and I wish it was ending tomorrow.

I Miss: my family in SA and Oz. Although none of them miss me. Do you? No you don't. Because if you did you would read my blog and comment on this statement but you don't, and this will be my proof. Ha! HA! Slackers.

I Fear: anything involving rodents and harm to my children.

I Feel: as though I have made exceptionally bad nutritional choices today. Bleh...

I Smell: of the perfume Beautiful (thanks Marmie :)

I Crave: a run and the feeling of having eaten healthily.

I Cry
: more easily all the time. Like Jen Lynn I often tear up if I am saying something really nice to someone.

I Usually: go to bed too late

I Search: for hair pretties, brushes, scissors and socks a lot.

I Wonder: what I will be when I am grown up.

I Regret: every time I say something in anger.

I Love: a clean house, a clean car, clean insides and the dream of having a cleaner.

I Care: less about what people think about me then I used to.

I Always: take out my contacts, wash my face, brush and floss my teeth before bed even when I tell myself I am just going to the contacts, or the contacts and brush. It is probably why I go to bed so late, I dread all I have to do before then.

I Worry: too much. I worry that I worry too much. Then I worry that I am too introspective/self absorbed.

I Am Not: uncomplicated

I Remember: conversations and experiences that other people don't which makes me wonder if I need to get more of a life.

I Believe: that exercise will almost always make you feel significantly better in every way.

I Dance: with my kids

I Don't Always: practice what I preach.

I Argue: quite well but not as much as I used to.

I Write: for posterity (how original). Also to dump my feelings.

I Win:very rarely

I Lose: my mind with some regularity.

I Wish: I could be more naturally disciplined

I Listen: to NPR in the car because I find it soothing.

I Don't Understand: the whole Mormon/Republican thing. I'm a Democrat because I'm a Mormon, not in spite of it. I may have mentioned that before ;)

I Can Usually Be Found: awake

I Am Scared: of flying no longer! (Although I'm still not a huge fan)

I Need: more money. Or fewer bills. Fewer bills works fine for me too.

I Forget: People's names. I refer to people as "Thingie" more often then not. Not to their face though.

I Am: irresponsible for not being in bed. And going there now.

Troubling to consider what may happen if I DID actually ingest caffeine..

One day I'm going to step over to the dark side and have a sip of Diet Coke. Don't you wish you could be around for that?! No I didn't think so. Can you beat my score of 194 clicks in 30 secs? This is important, people.

The Caffeine Click Test - How Caffeinated Are You?
Created by OnePlusYou - Free Dating Sites

Cute cake making for dummies

I am one of the somewhat irrational breed of moms who feels inadequate if I do not produce the cake for my kids' birthday parties. Never mind that I let my husband cook dinner on most nights. Birthday cakes must be original masterpieces made by *moi. ( I use the word "masterpiece" very loosely here).
*I will give credit to Tiffany who made Finny's first birthday cake. But that cake was 3D so it does not count.

Last year, good sense overcame the urge to over-achieve and I bought my daughter a cake. On the way home from the store it met an ugly fate involving a soccer ball rolling around in the van. (My husband had been the errand boy for this particular task and oh my dear, did he hear about that ). I also bought a cake for my boys' combined birthday last year. It was ok but sort of boring and the vast quantities of lurid blue and green icing which appeared to have been spray painted was somewhat off-putting to me at least. I thus remain unconverted to the school of store- bought cakes.

Some of my cakes have turned out better then others.
There was the unfortunate incident of the Diego cake earlier this year. But then again, I saw this cake show up on my computer screen today and it held only happy memories. It was one of those rare cakes that came together easily, looked quite cute and tasted pretty good too. Behold the Pink Parisian Poodle who came to Gracie's 5th birthday party. Gracie had a large part in her creation.

There was a tea-pot cake from when she turned 3

Another low stress, high impact cake. Results not necessarily typical.

The other night in the official kick-off to Chaos, I had an (extremely) limited time to make a cake fit to be in a raffle for our school's ice cream social. I know my limitations so I decided to go as simple as possible. What can be simpler then a cute ghost? It's all white, and the shape is pretty much open to interpretation. It fit the bill. So my ever-helpful husband baked a sheet cake which I intended to cut in the shape of a ghost and frost and call good. Well naturally, the cake got stuck in the pan. And came out in non-ethereal chunks. So much for that. Onto Plan B. The cupcake cake. I had not ever tried one before but this is what I discovered:

There are many advantages to the cupcake cake. My top two are these:

1.You can make a shape without cutting. And rearrange that shape. Again and again. Til it works. No sweat.
2. This means you don't have to frost cut, crumby bits of cake. AND you don't have to frost the sides! Score! And Score again!

In less then 15 minutes after my easily-removed-from- the -pan cupcakes had cooled, this little cute little fellow emerged. Hardly inspired but for the time he took to create, he turned out just fine. You can't tell, but he even shimmered a bit thanks to the miracle of sparkly sugar (I love me some sparkly sugar). Someone asked me if I poked my finger in the middle to make the mouth but actually no. (Not that I am above such measures). It was the one spot where the cupcakes didn't meet and behold! A serendipitously placed mouth.

Here are some of the other advantages of the cupcake cake.
  • No more guessing how many people the cake will feed. One cupcake each. Even I can do that Math.
  • No need for slicing
  • I am just really very fond of the cupped cake. I believe it may be cake in it's finest form.
Now, yes, yes worldly ones, I do know that the cupcake cake is not exactly the freshest idea on the block, but it is to me since I never really considered doing it before. I guess I just thought it was a bit gimmicky and, well...why? 'Cos it's easy man! That's why! And easy- that always works for me.
PS: I have a party coming up on Friday. I cannot tell you how much of a comfort it is to me to know of the cupcake cake at this slightly insane time of year. The cupcake cake will be my salvation.
PPS: BONUS TIP: When I frantically called Tiffany looking for something to put my cupcake Ghost on, something I would not mind never getting back (my taped together cereal boxes just weren't cutting it), she offered me a Priority Mail box. Perfection! I plan to cover a few with foil and keep them for just such future occasions. Don't you wish your neighbour had stuff like mine?

I am moved

Partisan politics aside, pumpkins aside, watching this grassroots effort, this passion and unity has been so touching and refreshing for me. I am frequently teary eyed lately. Let me tell you about the one and only time I got to vote.

I was born in a country where the majority only recently got the vote. On that first free and fair historic election, I had just turned 18 and I was eligible to vote for the first time too. On that day, when I drove in a comfortable car with my mother and waited in a short queue to cast my ballot, I watched as thousands of my countrymen walked great distances, rode in suffocatingly crowded busses, and stood in the dusty heat for hours for that privilege. The image of some of the oldest amongst them stays with me the most clearly. Sitting, shuffling, hot, exhausted for hour upon hour with radiant smiles on their faces. The image of them weeping, jubilant even slightly incredulous, after they had the opportunity to make their voice heard for the first time.

In the first election I experienced here, I was shocked, saddened and honestly, disgusted by an apathy that was marked in contrast. Many people just did not care about the election. I saw a lot of the same for the next two elections. I heard, "I'm not very political" from more people then not, almost as if that was a virtue. I have always wondered what this claim, "I'm not political" means. Do we all have to be pundits? No. Do we all have an incredible responsibility to do all we can to understand the issues, to check the facts rather then just listen to the politicians, to vote our conscience and encourage others to do the same? To care.To care deeply? About something that will affect every one of us, every single day, change the course of history, change the world? Absolutely! Absolutely.

Seeing some of that spirit, that drive, the excitement, the hope and the gratitude for the voting process is exhilarating for me. The understanding of what a profound opportunity and responsibility it is to vote your conscience seems to be stronger now then I have seen since moving to this country. People care. And it moves me. I hope it moves you too.

May 10, 1994 South Africa.

Speaking of growing up too fast...

These are Benjamin's shoes. He got them for 5th grade camp. Those are my feet. My kid has feet the same size as mine! (Actually, he doesn't, his shoe size is 3 so those fake crocs must have some give but still..that's kind of sad). Gracie has recently appropriated a couple of my shirts into her own wardrobe . It's too soon. But they do look much better on her. It's hard to pretend they are still newborn when they share your clothes.

PS: Aren't those the ugliest shoes you have ever seen?

Babies come from pumpkin patches..

My beautiful children

A sublime Autumn day

Mom and Dad with their pumpkin counterparts. Does life get any better then this?

This pumpkin patch is at a working farm. The most charming working farm you could hope to see

Finny was obsessed with this "huge giant cow"

I felt sorry for this mom. And decided I did not miss the newborn stage all that much.

Babe and his buddies. Don't you just love those curly tails?

Gracie hoists a pumpkin

Hay jumper

We made the acquaintance of Duke the Dog over cider and doughnuts

Duke is clearly disgusted with how low he will go for a doughnut

Gorgeous gourds

Hay cutie!

The kids called me over to the bunny house. And introduced me to "the cutest baby bunny in the whole world"

The rest of the pictures tell a bit of a story. Bet you can't guess how it ends.

Maybe I am not entirely over the newborn baby craving

Welcome home baby Thumper! Our first pet! Our first incredibly sweet soft pet. Long awaited, (deliriously) joyfully, received.