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Friday, January 25th, 2013
Today is my darling boy’s 1-year birthday. Wow. I have lots of thoughts, but will write them down next week when I have a moment (like I did when Fia turned three). Right now I am cleaning up crumbs from a great cupcake celebration just with our family and Phil’s brother who is visiting. Figured I’d post these pictures really quick while they are napping!
Happy Birthday Baby Bubsy! We are so glad you joined us in this world. The journey of your first year is complete. You are pure joy. And a beautiful birthday boy at that.
And because we can’t forget about the Fabulous Fi… here she is, captured in mid-thought. I just love this picture. I feel like she looks so grown up!
This was earlier in the week on a jog with Emmett… the fresh air always puts him fast asleep.
Categories: Fearless Feisty Mama, Fia Friday, Milestone Monday, Mom Situations, Mom Tricks and Tips, Must Read | Tags: 1-year birthday, birthday, cupcake, jogging stroller, journey, sleeping, three year old birthday
Friday, January 4th, 2013
I turned forty-whexianoehna (that’s a giant sneeze sound for “something”) over the holiday. Phil and I have a tradition of going to a museum on my birthday. One year, to gain perspective on how little I mattered in the scheme of the universe, we went to the Natural History Museum. We were living in New York and it was a time that I was questioning my purpose in life (pre-kids, clearly). Just walking through all those exhibits documenting civilizations past really did help pound home the idea that I’m just a blip. We all are. Depressing? Maybe. Or just a good way to stop taking yourself so seriously.
This year we were immensely enjoying our first “staycation.” We kept toying with the idea of going to San Diego for a night with the kids, or to Palm Desert. We couldn’t make a decision/commitment, so we just left everything loose (which resulted in the best week we’ve had in years).
Phil kept asking what I wanted to do for my birthday, but I remained noncommittal. I was having too much fun just “winging” it. On my birthday it was raining. Here’s how the day shaped up:
Me: “Hmm…what should we do today? It’s raining.”
Phil: “It’s not raining in Death Valley.”
An hour later we had packed up the kids and were heading off on a 5-hour road trip to one of the most extreme places on earth. We had booked the last hotel room at basically the only hotel in Death Valley: Furnace Creek. (They have a sister property down the road as well).
In case you didn’t know, Death Valley holds the record for the hottest place on earth (134-degrees back in July 1913). This time of year though, it’s chilly. As in 54-degrees or so. The week between Christmas and New Year’s is also their busiest. But by busy, that only means one hotel in a huge swath of desert. The hotel isn’t even that big. We didn’t fight RV’s for road space or gobs of tourists at the 3 restaurants. It was the perfect time to go.
A friend of mine asked, “How did you entertain kids in that place?”
For us, it was easy. We told Fia we were going on an adventure. We’ve done it before to other stranger places, like the Saltan Sea. Someday when she’s a teenager, she’ll probably roll her eyes and beg to stay home. But at this age, she is totally game and gets as excited as we do (though she doesn’t know over what). And Emmett, well, he is the easiest, most chill baby in the world. So we were golden.
On the way up we stopped in two ghost towns and explored.
By the time we arrived at the hotel it was dark and their restaurant was sold out. So we just plopped down at a table near the lobby-bar and enjoyed a lovely birthday dinner. With wine of course. (I know this is starting to sound like a book report, but I am a bit rusty from taking so much time off.)
The next morning we began our adventure. We started off at the Sand Dunes (where George Lucas shot some of the scenes from Star Wars…remember when C3PO and R2D2 crash in the escape pod?). We said to Fia, “Look at this!! This is like the biggest sandbox ever!”
She screamed in delight and took off running. We played hide and seek. We played chase. Emmett giggled on my back as I ran after her and Phil. It was a blast.
An hour later, we headed to the lowest point in the U.S.: Badwater Basin. It’s basically a lake of hardened salt, 282 feet below sea level. There, we played catch with rocks of salt. We even licked some. We ran all over, feeling it crunch under our feet.
From there, we pulled over spontaneously at what’s called Devil’s Cornfield. It was an even more extreme feel of crunching land. I honestly could have stayed in that field and crunched all day.
On the way back home, we stopped at the famous Amargosa Opera House in the ghost town of Amargosa. By famous I mean you probably have never heard of it. Fia and Emmett were both sleeping, so Phil and I took turns getting out of the car and checking things out.
We got home at 9 pm, thus concluding our 2-day, 1-night, whirlwind tour of Death Valley. And another year where I got tremendous perspective on the day of my birth: I am the luckiest woman in the world.
Above: Em standing on sand. Below: Fia being tossed (I was more gentle than it looks) down a hill of sand. By choice.
Categories: Fearless Feisty Mama, Fia Friday, Have Baby, Will Travel, Mom Situations, Moving to Los Angeles | Tags: amargosa, Amargosa hotel, Amargosa Opera House, Badwater Basin, ballarat, below sea level, birthday, borax, Death Valley, furnace creek, heat, Holiday, salt, sand dunes, Star Wars
Wednesday, December 12th, 2012
Cynthia Roelle, mom to a 2-year-old daughter and award-winning photographer, shares her own birthday cake disaster.
I don’t know about you but I laughed the entire way through Jill’s Birthday Cake Disaster. Not for reasons you might think. I wasn’t wondering why she thought she could pull it off when she nearly failed Home Economics (though I was wondering how in the world…I thought everyone got an A).
I wasn’t wondering why she thought flipping the layers would work, or why she didn’t just let Phil buy a cake (or why Phil thought Reddi-Whip was a good idea—it wasn’t). I wasn’t wondering why she didn’t give up, or even why she wanted to do it in the first place. I’m with you Jill, I get all that. I too want to bake my own cakes for my daughter’s birthdays. All two of them, to date.
Unfortunately, I hate to bake. It requires far too much precision for my taste. It’s tedious and time consuming and after I’ve used every last bowl, appliance, and utensil I own, my kitchen is a disaster. Plus, I don’t really like cake.
Notwithstanding, I set out to make a 3-layer cake for my daughter’s 2nd birthday. From scratch. I made the flowers and leaves from smashed gumdrops so it required absolutely no skill whatsoever in the decorating department, which was convenient because I have none.
I’m happy to report it turned out beautifully. If you will, please refer to the lovely photo above. I made that cake, all by myself. Please keep that in mind as you continue reading.
So the real reason I laughed my way through Jill’s Birthday Cake Disaster is because all I could think was that it could have been worse. Much, much worse.
After completing my daughter’s lovely cake, I found myself with a left-over layer. My sister’s birthday is only a few days before my daughter’s. We celebrated their birthdays the same weekend so I thought I would decorate the extra layer for my sister. After all, I didn’t want it to go to waste. But what to do with one measly layer?
My sister was turning 40, so I got this brilliant idea (the brilliance part is debatable) to chop the layer in half, smoosh the two half circles together and stand them on their sides to make a hill. Get it? Forty and over the hill?
Next, I slathered the entire blob in green icing. Only I couldn’t achieve grass green, just an unnatural mint green.
I then populated one slope of the hill with 39 candles. Using pipe cleaners, I fashioned arms and legs for each candle to make them look like little people running up the hill. The 40th candle, representing my sister, was positioned in front of the others, just over the crest of the hill. Lest the message not be crystal clear, I made a banner that said, “Happy 40th Birthday” on one side and “Over the Hill” on the other.
It wasn’t pretty, but it was pretty funny. At least I thought so.
It takes some time to light 40 candles, so my husband, my mom and I started lighting them as soon as my sister and her husband pulled into the driveway. It was instantly clear we would have only seconds to get the show on the road.
I don’t know if my sister and her husband took time for some backseat snooky, if they took a scenic detour from the driveway to the front door, or if they were abducted by aliens and taken aboard their spacecraft. All I know is that all the candles were lit and my sister was nowhere to be found.
I yelled for my husband to find my sister and get her inside. In the next instant all the pipe cleaner people were ablaze. Then the paper banner caught fire and it, too, went up in flames. We’re talking flames that were at least 2 feet high. Still no sister.
As I stood there watching the pyrotechnics, I vaguely wondered how long I could wait before getting the blaze under control. It wasn’t until the flames started lapping the balloons hovering above the cake that I really started getting worried. Holy s–t, is helium combustible? Visions of the Hindenburg flashed through my mind. Are those balloons going to explode and burn down the house? WHERE IN THE HELL IS MY SISTER?!
Just as I decided enough was enough, my sister materialized in the kitchen doorway. She didn’t appear surprised by our little party or the least bit alarmed to see 2-foot flames shooting from her cake. Instead, she had this look of disgust on her face that said: “WTF is that hideous blob? Oh Cindy, Martha would not approve.”
Turns out, that is EXACTLY what she was thinking. That and, why I would make her a flaming pile of crap when I made such a pretty cake for my daughter. I don’t know how she managed, but damn if she didn’t blow out the candles, too.
So Jill, all I can say is yay for your effort. You can water the lawn with Fia any old day, but she only turned three just that once. It looks to me like she had a grand time, so it wasn’t a complete disaster by any stretch. At least not on the order of this:
I feel compelled to add two things that my scientist husband pointed out. First, helium is not combustible and, second, the Hindenburg was actually filled with hydrogen which, unfortunately for the airship, is highly flammable.
If you have a birthday cake disaster that can top mine or Jill’s by all means, make us feel better and share it!
Categories: Cynthia's Guest Blog, Mom Situations | Tags: 40th birthday, bake, birthday, birthday cake, cake, cake on fire, candles, decorate, disaster, fire, over the hill, toddler birthday
Monday, December 10th, 2012
I failed Home-Ec in junior high. Well, didn’t fail, but I did get a D on a lot of my projects.
My first week on the air as the morning anchor in Omaha, Nebraska, we had a cooking segment. My scripts caught on fire. On live TV. I didn’t realize the stove top was that hot.
So it’s no surprise that I have never been very good at most domestic things, especially sewing or baking. Give me a vacuum and some rags though, and I’ll blow you away. I actually enjoy sweeping my floors. My obsessive behavior of picking up crumbs–that made me so loony I had to seek professional help–still gives me great pleasure. (But not obsessive. There’s a difference. Sometimes I challenge myself to look at the same crumb for days in a row. I smile when I walk past it knowing I’m the boss of it and not vice versa. Yes, I anthropomorphize crumbs.)
So why oh why did I think it was a good idea to bake a cake for Fia’s birthday? Honestly, I wanted to do it with her. I thought we’d have fun writing things on it and placing the candles just so. I wasn’t thinking about how it would taste or what it would look like. That’s part of not being domestic. Those things don’t cross your mind.
It did, though, when we were 30 minutes out from people arriving, and Phil walks in the kitchen. The whole place, along with Fi and me, are covered in cake crumbs (chant chant…they’re not the boss of you, they’re not the boss of you…) and chocolate frosting. None of the snacks were prepared. I hadn’t showered and even if I had, I’d need another one.
“The cake looks like it’s brain-damaged,” Phil says, aghast. His mom is known for making these super-elaborate birthday cakes. Trucks, buildings with pillars…anything her kids were obsessed with at the time of their birthday, she’d make into a cake. I see pictures of them every time I’m at their house. I am always in awe. And curious of how hard it can really be. You know they say men marry their mothers…um, except my husband.
“How did I marry the anti-Martha Stewart?” he asks, looking around at the disaster. “And remind me again, why didn’t we just buy a cake?”
He thinks I was being cheap, but honestly, I really wanted to do this with Fia. And we had fun, though I’m not sure it was worth it. We could have had just as much fun watering the lawn…and not ruining it.
Here’s where everything went awry. I didn’t realize when you have two round cakes, you put them together by first cutting off the tops to make them flat. Or put the rounded side on the bottom of the plate.
I popped them out of their pans, and iced both tops, which were the rounded ones. Like two little hills. When I went to “glue” them together, there were these huge gaps. It was like two weeble wobbles trying to hump each other, but not being able to reach because their stomachs got in the way. Does that make sense?
Phil told me right then and there that he would go to the grocery store and buy a cake. But I refused.
“No, I just need two more containers of frosting and I can fill it all in.”
“Jill, there is no way you can fill all that in with frosting without sugar poisoning everyone. You could fill it in with Reddi-Whip though.”
“I’m not using Reddi-Whip,” I said indignantly. “That stuff is so fake tasting.”
“And a cake out of the box is what??? Gourmet????”
He had a point.
“Fine, get the Reddi-Whip, but also get me frosting.”
When he left, I decided that if I could somehow get the flat bottoms to go together, then I could pull this off. So I started flipping the cakes onto plates to try and get the flat side face up. If you can envision at all what I’m saying, you know it didn’t work. Because then both flat tops were facing up on plates and I couldn’t plop one on top of the other from a plate. So I slid it. Yes, I grabbed a cookie tray and used two spatulas and slid it on top. Fia was at the counter watching me wide-eyed as the cake began to break apart.
“Fia, mama can do this. I know I can,” I said, sweat dripping from my brow.
Silence. Even she had her doubts.
Somehow I managed to get the flat sides together and only lost about 1/3 of the top. When Phil came home, I grabbed the frosting and used it as glue to piece it together. Then I coated an entire other layer on and handed Fia the gel icing things.
“Go to town, honey. This is your cake. Happy Birthday!”
She looked at Phil, who was standing there armed with Reddi-Whip. “I’m not putting that on the cake,” I said. He sighed. “Okay, I have to get out of here. I can’t watch anymore.”
Fia took the reigns and began to squirt. About 30 seconds later she was done. Our project was complete. 30 seconds of semi-fun, a deeply defective cake, and a giant mess.
We had a few of her friends and parents over. I poured the champagne nice and full. I told them the story so they had zero expectations. But I will admit, I was honestly embarrassed when the cake came out. I didn’t even eat it. Fia only licked the frosting. And most people just took a bite or two.
Oh well, I tried. Next year I’ll buy a cake and just stick to cleaning.
Categories: Fearless Feisty Mama, Mom Situations, Mom Tricks and Tips, Must Read | Tags: 3rd birthday, alcohol, baking, birthday, birthday party, cake, cake decorating, decorating, domestic, licking
Thursday, December 6th, 2012
I want to share the first half of this Winnie-the-Pooh poem by A.A. Milne:
When I was One, I had just begun.
When I was Two, I was nearly new.
When I was Three, I was hardly me….
They say three years old is one of the most magical years of childhood. I can believe it. You are gushing with creativity, curiosity and imagination. You are forming into a little person. Yet, the world is still so big. You know your space in it, but you don’t know how vast that space is. You know you’re loved, but not how much. You know you’re safe, but not from what. It is magical for me too. I want bottles with each year of your life in it. Someday when I’m old and gray I can open up your three-year-old bottle and breathe you back into me.
It is hard to fathom three years have passed since that snowy day at Columbia Presbyterian. In some ways it seems like you’ve been with me forever. In other ways, it’s like you are this gift that I’ve only just begun to know. Both are delightful scenarios because while the feeling in my heart is timeless, I get to keep on loving you for years and years to come.
I said to you the other day, “You’re my sunshine.” You looked right back at me, shook your head and said ever-so-earnestly, “No Mama. I’m your daughter.”
You charm me (and maybe manipulate??) in a way no one else can. When I put you in your crib for a nap or bedtime, hug you many times, and walk away, you always stand up and say, “Mama, hug!” as if I hadn’t yet. But I always have more hugs for you. “Hold you tight,” you say, squeezing me as hard as you can. Then, “One nice kiss.” You kiss my cheek. Lately, in keeping me there
with more manipulation, you say, “I love you soooooo much.” And hug me even tighter. I don’t want to let go either. Like I said, I need a bottle…
When I finally get you to lie down, the tickling begins.
“Tickle my forehead.”
We started the “tickling” about 6 months ago. Now it seems to expand weekly to every body part. Last night it went like this:
“Tickle my back.” (shirt raised, butt in air). Okay, done.
“Tickle my stomach” (roll over, lift shirt up). I had a slight hangnail.
“Mama, your nail is sharp.”
“I know, so no more tickling. Night night.”
“No Mama, go cut your nail,” you order, pointing to the clippers and emery board on the dresser. Huh? How did you…? Oh, never mind. Just do what she says. I do. Tickling resumes.
“Tickle my knees.”
“Yes Mama,” you reply, as if this wasn’t becoming a tad ridiculous. You pull up your pajama pants and I tickle each knee.
“Okay honey, goodnight.”
“No Mama, what about my elbows?”
But even if I’m exhausted, I never tire of this routine. That’s because someday, when you are a teenager, (with a STRICT curfew), I will yearn for these days. Another mom who has a 16- and 18-year-old told me, “As exhausted as you are now getting them to sleep and waking up at 6 a.m., it’s a lot better than waiting up for them to come home. Trust me.” I do.
The mere thought of it breaks my heart. So when I’m really desperate for you to go to sleep, I channel my new mantra: How lucky I am to have this and not be staring at the clock, hoping you are okay.
At three, you also delight in letting us know if we forgot something. The other day you and I went on our thrice-weekly grocery run.
“I need to get baby food.”
“Oh-O-o-kkay!” you say, brimming with enthusiasm. “I-I-I will pick it out.”
We shopped for all sorts of things. We pay and are in the parking lot when you start giggling and announce with glee, “Mama, you forgot the baby food! Silly Mama!”
You were right. And strategic in making sure we already left before you called me on it. “Logical Consequences,” as my father would say. We head back in, and you continue to repeat “Silly Mama!”
The old adage, “Would you rather be right or happy” may apply to you someday. But for now, you are both right and happy.
Woe to the person who shuts your door all the way. (Which by the way, began when your favorite TV show made you afraid of the dark.) One time I had it almost shut and the air conditioning blew it the rest of the way. From the wailing I heard, I thought your crib had collapsed. I ran in and found you sobbing. “Mama, you aren’t supposed to shut the door!” Tears were streaming down your little face and once again I was reminded what my love for you does. It takes me to my knees. Not because you will be scarred for life from this, but just seeing you so genuinely upset (and feeling betrayed) tugs so deeply at my heartstrings. To anyone else this scenario may sound absurdly dramatic, but feelings aren’t facts. However, they are real.
Since then, I have paid the price. Not a day goes by without this:
“Mama, you need to leave the door open this much, not this much. This much,” you say, as if you’re explaining and demonstrating with your little hands for the first time. Sometimes you insist on getting out of your crib and showing me, just to make sure I really am not an ape.
“Fia, I know honey.”
“But Mama, you left it open.”
“Fia, that was months ago.”
“Mama forgot! Silly Mama.” And we’re back to the glee in being right. Nothing will slip past you, my girl.
You are so articulate. It doesn’t hurt that you have a screenwriter for a father. But still, you understand the meanings of big words. After Wayne–our transexual cat–freaks out batting around a tennis ball, you’ll shout, “Wayne is cantankerous! And feisty!” (Apparently the cat takes after his mom). When Emmett hurls himself into a wall you’ll yell, “Mama! Emmett is being rambunctious!”
I keep saying it can’t get better than this. But apparently it does. Right now you are three and you walk with me. But what I hope for most of all is this, from Winnie-the-Pooh:
“If you live to be a hundred, I want to live to be a hundred minus one day so I never have to live without you.”
Categories: Fearless Feisty Mama, Fia Friday, Milestone Monday, Mom Situations, Mom Tricks and Tips, Must Read | Tags: A.A. Milne, birthday, creative, curious, expressions, imaginative, manipulation, party, sleep, sleep training, three, toddler, toddler manipulation, winnie the pooh