Posts Tagged ‘my baby is growing up’

It is hard to believe that the year – nay, the decade – is ending tonight. The date has been set since time began, but – like Christmas – it feels like it’s just sort of caught me by surprise. Such is the mystery and irritation of the passage of time.

Along with the closing of the year comes my annual recap. I don’t know why this is something I continue to do, year after year. I don’t particularly enjoy it. I enjoy reading other people’s versions of this post, though, (if you do any sort of year-end post, please link to it in the comments!) so maybe that’s part of why I force myself to endure these same questions, every December. Reciprocity, right? Also, I am nothing if not an enthusiastic resolute cog in the unceasing wheel of tradition.

I am especially dreading the recap this year because it feels like I have so little positivity to contribute. And that’s not really true – I feel fairly optimistic about the future, looking into 2020. (I mean, as optimistic as a person can be, with all the doom and gloom we carry around on a daily basis.) Plus, when I look back on the year, there is MUCH to celebrate.

But… the fourth quarter of this year has been really hard. Two specific things have made outsize contributions to how difficult it has been, I think. First was the loss of my dear friend in September. Second is an unbloggable, ongoing thing of the sort that is lifelong but not life-threatening, common enough to feel like it should be no big deal but new enough to me that it feels like a very big deal indeed. I have been struggling and worrying and grieving a lot these past few months. It’s really hard not to allow that to color the whole year.

Anyway, I will try to inject some happiness and light into this survey, where I can – while still being true to both the year and to my current emotional state. Because this blog is as close as I have to a diary, and it might be useful for Future Me to look back on the truth, rather than a chipper, sanitized version of 2019.

This is all to say, I don’t know if you ever read these, but if you do, this year’s might not be particularly fun. Feel free to skip it.

(This yearly recap originated with Linda of All & SundryIf you’re so inclined, you can read past versions of my responses: 2018201720162015201420132012201120102009.)

  • What did you do in 2019 that you’d never done before?

My husband and I left our baby (read: self-sufficient nearly-six-year-old) for eleven whole days to traipse off to Europe, that was something we’d never done. (We left her with my capable and loving parents, by the way, not, like, on her own.)

I attended the funeral of a dear friend, which was awful and something I’d never like to repeat.

I made a leopard spotted cake.

I (silently) celebrated the ten-year anniversary of this blog. Outside of marriage, I don’t think I can say I’ve ever put so much of myself into something for so long.

I made a big, fancy Pinterest-style cheeseboard.

  • Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

Let’s revisit some of my goals from last year’s survey:

As for 2019, I have decided to make some very specific goals, which I hope means they are easier to accomplish.

  1. I want to learn German. Maybe notfluent German, which seems like quite a stretch. Especially for someone who took four years of high school French and another year in college and never actually learned more than basic vocabulary. But I want to learn enough that I don’t feel like a complete floundering oaf when I visit Munich and Vienna later this year.
  2. I want to finally, after seven plus years in this house, hang up the gallery wall that I’ve been planning to do. All of the photos and artwork exist, in frames, in my basement. The lovely blank wall is just sitting there, ready for decoration. I just need to DO IT.
  3. Last year, I lost 10+% of my body weight. And then gained it all back. I would like to do the former again without the latter.
  4. I want to cut back on the amount of time I spend on my phone. My Reach Goal is to put my phone in my bedroom when I arrive home with Carla after school and not touch it until I set my alarm before bed. But I’d be happy to just keep it out of my hands until she goes to bed.
  5. I want to invite friends over for dinner. I ENJOY this. But I always think about it and then never invite anyone over and they magically never invite themselves, so I am going to remedy that.

That seems like a good place to start. The bigger goals are in play, too – let’s not forget about patience and quality time and THE NOVEL. But throwing in a few specifics shouldn’t hurt.

Well, I have had very limited success with all of these. The big one, first: I believe – very tentatively – that I have completed the first draft of my manuscript. It’s just a DRAFT, so there is still much, MUCH, MUCH work to be done. But I feel like it’s all there, ready to be shaped into Draft Two.

I think I have made some big strides toward being more patient. I certainly am less YELLY than I have been. (Not to be confused with being less ALL-CAPSY which is more of a personality trait and probably not going anywhere.) But of course I can continue to improve.

I did NOT learn German. I learned a few words and phrases and that was it. It turns out that not only do I have no facility with languages, I also just plain do not like learning them.

I have not yet hung up a gallery wall. The closest I came was to gather a selection of paintings and arrange them against the wall on which I want to hang them. However, my plan is to FORCE this to happen this weekend, once all the Christmas has been expelled from our house.

I did not lose 10% of my body weight. I did not lose anything, except the same six pounds over and over and over and over.

I did NOT cut back on my phone time. It is disgraceful. I am really and truly addicted and I need an intervention.

I did invite friends over for dinner. We had the epic dinner party and there were two or three other occasions when we had people over and it was stressful and fun. (And don’t you love how BREEZY I have become, that I didn’t even make full-blown posts out of those other dinners? And I know for a FACT that there was a fourth occasion during which we had people over that I didn’t even mention – but if I am remembering correctly, we just had tacos so it was totally a non-issue.)

Will I make more goals for the coming year? Sure. I am not ready yet. Part of me wants to Make Serious Goals and Track Them… part of me worries that that is a recipe for failure since I am not and have never been a Serious Goal Making and Tracking Person, and that I should probably just… have some gentle aspirations, as I did last year.

  • Where did you travel this year? (This is my own recasting of a question I could never answer which was How many countries did you visit this year? Of course, this is the year that I visited THREE countries. But that is unlikely to repeat, so I will keep the revamped question as it is.)

This year, I visited Austria; Germany; Ontario, Canada; Florida; Kentucky; New York; and my home state out west. Is that really it? I feel like I am missing something, but I don’t know why or what.

  • What would you like to have in 2020 that you lacked in 2019?

A clear, measurable plan for the unbloggable stuff. A strong second draft of the manuscript. More time alone with my husband. More fun adventures with Carla.

  • What dates from 2019 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

As I said last year, the specific dates don’t necessarily stick… but I do remember specific THINGS. This year: My wonderful anniversary trip with my husband. The day my friend died. And the two days I spent in New York for her wake and funeral service.

  • What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Finally finishing a first draft of my manuscript? Honestly, it feels less momentous than I thought it would, because it happened sort of without me noticing? (I don’t write in a linear way, so it wasn’t like I wrote the final chapter and said, “There, finished!”) Plus, there’s still so much work to be done.

  • What was your biggest failure?

What I have said the past two years applies here:

Not getting enough words on the page each day! I can trot out a 7,000-word blog post of a morning, but I seem to spend hours and hours coming up with a measly 200 for my manuscript! What gives? 

  • Did you suffer illness or injury?

Nothing serious.

  • What was the best thing you bought?

Technically, my husband bought it, but I love the eternity band he got me for our anniversary.

  • Whose behavior merited celebration?
  • Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
  • Where did most of your money go?


  • What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Our big anniversary trip to Europe!

  • What song(s) will always remind you of 2019?

The soundtracks to all three Descendants movies, which have been playing around here nonstop.

The soundtrack to Frozen 2.

The entire Jonas Brothers oeuvre, as The Brothers and as solo artists, particularly the Happiness Begins album.

I Could Use a Love Song” and “Sugar” by Maren Morris

Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X featuring Billy Ray Cyrus

Bad Guy” by Billie Eilish (which I hated, briefly loved, and then hated again)

Everything by Post Malone, whose songs played constantly on the radio this year.

  • Compared to this time last year, are you:
  1. a) happier or sadder? 
  2. b) thinner or fatter? 
  3. c) richer or poorer? 
  • What do you wish you’d done more of?

My answer is identical to last year: Writing (evergreen item)!!! Keeping up with out-of-state friends. Doing fun things with Carla outside the house. Going on dates with my husband.

  • What do you wish you’d done less of?

Feeling sad. Eating my feelings. Worrying. Driving to various appointments and activities. Trying to fix my leaky toilet.

  • How did you spend Christmas?

My parents came to town this year. My husband did not have to work. We had a wonderful warm, partly sunny Christmas together and it was lovely. We ate a LOT of cheese and drank a LOT of wine and had a really nice time together.

  • Did you fall in love in 2019?


  • What was your favorite (new) TV program?

TV is so great! I really love it. My husband and I discovered Schitt’s Creek after a billion years of people recommending it to us, and it’s so, so excellent. We re-watched the entire American series of The Office, which was so much fun. We fell in love with The Masked Singer, which is a pretty great (and fairly family-friendly) show to watch when you can’t agree on a movie for Movie Night. And my husband and I also LOVED Songland, which I hope will restart again soon. We watched the first season of Fleabag, although I think I enjoyed it more than my husband does. The second season of Mindhunter was pretty great. I really like the new Cobie Smulders private investigator drama, Stumptown. Is that it? That might be it.

  • Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?


  • What was the best book you read?

I really did a terrible job of reading this year. You can go ahead and blame my phone addiction on the low number of books I finished in 2019 – because it was just so much simpler to reach for my phone and read Ask a Manager posts than engage my mind in real literature. But I did read 23 books this year, which means that I can at least answer this question.

My favorite novel of the year was easily The Friend by Sigrid Nunez. SO GOOD. Another favorite was Inland by Téa Obreht,  which was one of the most well-researched and beautifully plotted books I have ever read. As far as top of my favorite genre – mysteries – goes, I loved The Lost Man by Jane Harper and The Next to Die by Sophie Hannah and Big Sky by Kate Atkinson. I was delighted and honored to beta read my friend Kristina’s first novel, Weight of Memory, as well.


  • What did you want and get?

Freelance assignments from great clients. A fantastic trip to Europe with my husband, and a really fun weekend jaunt to Toronto with my husband and kid. An eternity ring. The Megan Follows boxset of Anne of Green Gables which is EVEN BETTER than I remember it. A bottle of Tiffany Sheer. An answer to a perplexing issue that’s been cropping up for years (sorry – I know this is vague); it’s not the answer I WANTED, but I wanted An Answer more than anything, so now I have it.


  • What did you want and not get?

A flapper that will fix the leak in my toilet. Seriously, I have gone through three of them and I need to find another option. My dad thinks I should go to the hardware store, buy one of each, and just try them, one after another, until one works. As dreadful — in so very many ways — that sounds, I think that may be my best course of action. Either that or buy a new toilet, I guess?

On a more serious note, I wanted to see my friend again. She went into the hospital in July and we talked about my coming to visit her at some point. Obviously, when we were planning the visit, we both assumed she would be healthy (or on the way to being healthy) when I did. But I didn’t get to see her and then she died and my heart is broken.


  • What was your favorite film of this year?

Frozen 2 was pretty great. So was Chasing Happiness, which was a documentary about the Jonas Brothers and really made me fall in love with all three of them. I honestly have no idea if I saw any other movies.

  • What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?


  • What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

If I had been able to see my friend before she died, I think I would feel… better, in some ways. Of course, maybe not. I would still be so very sad that she is gone.

  • How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2019?

I’d call my 2019 Lewk “Trying to Appear Carefree and Nonchalant About Being Unshowered Whilst Simultaneously Envying the Moms Who Actually Put On Makeup and Curled Their Hair and Did So Despite Appearing to Have Double Or Triple the Number of Children I Do.”

Does it really require such an effort to just… put on some cute booties and a non-sweatshirt top and maybe brush my hair? A burning question for the new decade.

  • What kept you sane?

My husband. Exercise. My terrible, ubiquitous, addictive phone. Recipe blogs. Freelance work. Alone time. Good TV. Writing here.

  • Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

Dan Levy from Schitt’s Creek. Also Paul Rudd.

  • What political issue stirred you the most?


  • Who did you miss?

My friend who died. We were roommates for three years in college. We stayed in regular touch via phone and email and occasional visits for probably ten years after that. But then work and family and distance put bigger gaps between our conversations. We’d have marathon-length phone calls that we would schedule in advance, and we’d try to catch up on every last detail of each other’s life before we got exhausted from talking. I got to see her in 2018 at our college reunion, which was really great. She got to meet Carla, which is a memory I will cherish. Late in 2018, she began having some severe health problems, and they continued to increase in severity throughout 2019. Our conversations were more anxious than I remembered – she was worried about changes with her work, her health, and what lay in front of her. I think we talked more frequently than we had in years, which is a blessing – although, still, months would go by with just texts between us. (She was a busy, vibrant woman who was always traveling somewhere or going out to a new restaurant or attending a concert or giving a presentation or meeting someone for a date – she lived a jam-packed, interesting life but man was it hard to fit a phone call in among all her events and activities!) We knew each other for twenty years and I had planned on being friends with her for many, many more. I’m really sorry she’s gone.

  • Who was the best new person you met?

The new mom friend I met last year didn’t pan out as a longterm friend. But I met another mom earlier this spring, and we’ve gotten together a few times which has been really nice.

  • Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2019.

I don’t know. That things could always be worse? Ugh. That’s a terrible life lesson, true as it may be. That sometimes things seem pretty grim and you just have to keep going? I am still processing the past few months and I don’t think I’ve fully wrapped my head around what’s been going on… or how to apply what I’ve learned (what I’m learning?) to the future. So that grit-your-teeth kind of thing is all I have right now.

  • Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

“This grief has a gravity, it pulls me down / But a tiny voice whispers in my mind / You are lost, hope is gone / But you must go on / And do the next right thing.” – The Next Right Thing


Well. That wasn’t the most uplifting note to end on, although I do find that lyric to be a very good Coping Thought.

One of the very best things of the year — one that defies the questions on this list — has been Carla. She is officially six-and-a-half and so… creative and interesting and funny and curious and loving and energetic and fun. I just love her so much. I feel like it’s really an unfair thing, to be a student of your child’s — but the truth is, she is teaching me so much about how to be a better parent, how to be a better person. I owe her my strides in patience and my attempts to be more outgoing. She is such a wonderful human being and she becomes more herself every day. Right now, at this very moment, she is on the kitchen floor, wearing the tiger onesie we got her as a Halloween costume. She has her new artist’s studio spread out around her on the floor and she is making a (second? additional?) tiger costume out of paper and colored pencils and copious amounts of Scotch tape.  The Descendants 3 soundtrack is playing on our Echo. Just a few minutes ago, she showed me these tiger paws she created, complete with claws and paper armbands so she can wear them on her own hands. She is endlessly inventive and imaginative and I am so lucky to be her mom.

Tiger craft

A new decade lies before us, Internet. Fresh and unwrinkled, with no mistakes in it yet. I hope it brings all of us health and happiness and grace. Happy 2020, thank you for reading.

Read Full Post »

I have been feeling a little melancholy the past few days. I think I’ve pinpointed some of the sources: It’s that odd time of year, between holidays, where I am sad and exhausted after my full-of-family house emptied out, and the pressure of All Things Christmas is already hot and heavy. I have been rewatching The Closer, which is one of my favorite television shows, but I had forgotten how dreadfully stressful and sad the final season is. I haven’t been writing (paid work and then company/Thanksgiving), which always makes me feel unsettled and off. I read a well-written and deeply sad article in The New Yorker about dementia that hasn’t left me. My husband and I are going to see a lawyer to (FINALLY) do our estate planning. And, of course, the clouds have settled in for what promises to be many months.

It all adds up to feeling extra sensitive to silly things – a probably offhand but seemingly poignant comment from the checker at the grocery store; the way Brenda’s team is so loyal to her on The Closer; having to throw away gobs of carefully, lovingly made Thanksgiving leftovers that no one will eat; that sort of thing – and feeling a little mopey and down.

One of the other sources of my broodiness is a current heightened awareness of the juggernaut of time.

The retail sector is at least partially to blame, I think. All the frenzied emails about Christmas began what feels like months ago and have only increased in intensity. I get anxious just checking my email – all those companies yelling at me to hurry! Going fast! Don’t wait to get in on this! Shop more, save more! Ends tonight! Extended! Don’t miss out! Such a ceaseless cacophony of urgency that I am somehow unable to ignore.

Hanukkah is early this year, which makes me feel like I’m already behind.

My parents were looking at retirement homes when they were here for Thanksgiving. While I am grateful to them for preparing for their old age, and for being so open and frank about the subjects of aging and infirmity and death, it makes me sad and panicky. I may be nearly middle-aged, but I still feel like I’m somewhere in the big swirl of age twenty-to-thirty, and I’m not ready to think seriously about my parents being old.

As I literally just mentioned, I am rapidly approaching middle age, with its attendant anxieties. My skin has frequent eruptions of pique. I vacillate between feeling delighted about my middle-age invisibility and feeling angry about the fact that my husband grows increasingly attractive while I do the opposite and feeling depressed that I am fading into the wallpaper and winding inexorably toward death.

Plus – and, although it may seem like the least important item on my list, it is not– my child has her first loose tooth. As with so many childhood milestones, this feels remarkable and significant. Her little face will change so much once she loses teeth. Teeth she’s had since she was a BABY. And I’m suddenly hyper-aware that she’s five-and-a-half, which is almost six. And while five felt So Big – kindergarten!!!! – six seems practically ancient. This loose tooth has me all in a tizzy of Childhood Is Fleeting and I am simultaneously frantic about making Christmas Special While She Still Gets So Excited About Everything and mooning over all the times I failed to Cherish Every Moment. And now her babyhood is really and truly GONE. She’s practically a GROWN UP.

Of course her growing up is tied inextricably to my own mortality. It all comes down to this: This feeling that I want to keep my baby little – even while I love, LOVE how she is growing. The knowledge that it’s impossible to do so. The desperate need to take in everything – soak up every little bit of her – all the time, and watching as the moment steamrolls past even as I grasp for it.

Last night, I went in to her room to take her to the bathroom before I went to sleep. Usually, she climbs out of bed – she’s really getting too big for me to carry – but this time, I picked her up. She turned her little face up to mine for a kiss, and then draped herself over my shoulder. I stood there for a moment, just holding her. The weight of her in my arms. The warmth of her body, the baking-bread scent of her skin, the gentle sound of her sucking her thumb. Just a minute ago, she was small enough to fit in the curve of my neck. Now, her long legs dangle down to my knees. My big girl. My baby.

Well. Melancholy.

There’s a fresh layer of snow on all the trees, and a steady soft flurry. I got a bright assortment of bell peppers from the grocery store yesterday – the bright green and yellow and orange and red are a nice contrast to the grey. I’ve gotten my meager “fall” décor put away, but am allowing myself a few days before I put out the Christmas stuff; there’s no hurry, and I want to stave off that closed-in feeling I get after too many weeks of Christmas Everything Everywhere I Turn. But because I am a woman of contradictions, I put on a Christmas music station – and Mariah Carey and Tony Bennett and Wham! have done a lot to help chip away at the glum. I have coffee planned with a lovely friend. Just now, I have answered the door to find a beautiful wreath from my mother – it smells like Christmastime and is now hanging proudly on my door. It all helps.


So too does the knowledge that this feeling shall pass, and the hope that maybe someday I will be able to enjoy the present moment without mourning its eventual passage.

Read Full Post »

Carla’s rainbow cake turned out FAR better than I had hoped.

Rainbow Cake Final 4

Firstly, I asked Carla which order the layers should go. I said, “Do you want it to go ‘purple, blue’ like the Bubble Guppies song?” And she thought about it and said, “No, that’s wrong. I want it to be like a real rainbow.” Although she then asked “Where’s the white layer” and I had to assure her that there would be white frosting. (She has also since begun singing the song “blue, purple” despite the Bubble Guppies’ maddening insistence on “purple, blue.”)

Let’s back up a bit now. Because while the title and the first sentence of this post indicate Unadulterated Success, I will admit that there were some small setbacks. Especially when it came to the cupcakes. But a bit when it came to the cake, too.

For some reason, I am determined to make Carla’s cakes from scratch. I don’t know why. My husband (indulgently) thinks I am a wacko. My mother, who intuited my birthday-related stress from thousands of miles away, understood completely. She – who worked a demanding, full-time job throughout my childhood and beyond – made all of my Halloween costumes from scratch because of the same genetic quirk.

So I used my tried-and-true Sally’s Baking Addiction recipe for Carla’s cake. It is a good recipe, and it makes a very nice vanilla-y cake. But I realized only very belatedly that it is an oil-free cake. And – possibly because of that, although I can’t say for sure since I am a baking amateur at best – I think that makes it kind of heavy. I comforted myself for the heaviness of the cake by choosing to believe it makes the cake very easy to cut and layer. But I think perhaps next year I will try a different recipe. OR I will try to force myself to use boxed cake mix, which is what I used for the cupcakes, and which turned out light and fluffy and yet perfectly moist.

Of course, I was converting Sally’s recipe – which was for cupcakes – into what I needed for a six-layer rainbow cake. So I instantly made a mistake. My model cake used 8-inch cake pans. But I didn’t have 8-inch cake pans. I had three 9-inch cake pans OR two 6-inch cake pans. I decided to go with the 9-inchers, which resulted in super thin, super flat layers.

Rainbow Cake Layers in Oven

Too thin! Abort! Abort!

But! I stopped while I was ahead! I only made those two layers, and when I realized they would result in a very thin cake, I recalibrated. I mixed up another batch of Sally’s cake batter. And I went with the 6-inchers.

IMMEDIATELY better. They turned out very even in size.

Rainbow Cake Layers Six

They are not in ROY G BIV order here and it is Driving Me Crazy.

To get the color to be so vibrant, I used Wilton gel food coloring. And I ended up using a LOT of each color. Maybe 1/4 to 1/3 a teaspoon of each, which is a LOT. (Note: Sally’s recipe uses only egg whites, which I think definitely helps with the brilliant colors. Using egg yolks makes the cake more yellow than white.)

Rainbow Cake Batter Colors

I used my new Wilton cake leveler to cut the tops off the layers.  Okay, correction: MY HUSBAND used the Wilton cake leveler to cut the tops off the layers.


I carefully studied the directions (“directions”) for how to use it. And then I watched a video about how to use it, but I still couldn’t get it to work. My husband on the other hand got it to work just fine, and he did all six for me, which made me feel like he was being involved which was a nice feeling, and plus, I ended up with nice, flat tops to all the layers. I saved the tops in a Ziploc bag; they are in my freezer. (It turns out there are a lot of things you can do with leftover cake. I tried one of them – making a cake-pop-within-a-cupcake – with limited success, but there are other things to do as well. Might make for a fun project to try with Carla.)

Then I made the frosting – the same recipe that Sally used for her cupcakes.

Oh! And this is where I tell you my Shocking Vanilla News. Sally’s cupcakes and frosting both call for vanilla beans. And vanilla beans have always been expensive. I think the grocery store brand usually was about $11.99 for one decrepit bean. But last year I discovered that Penzey’s sells vanilla beans, and I was able to get two nice, plump beans per jar for $8.99.

That’s what I assumed I would pay this year, too; I have no concept of the changing price of vanilla beans. But this year, two beans was $18.99. EIGHTEEN NINETY NINE. I expressed my shock to the Penzey’s salesperson, who said that there’s something going on in the region that produces Penzey’s vanilla, and it was pushing the price up. She said she thought it would be temporary. But SHEESH. (Listen, I am selfishly NOT looking up the details about why the price is so high; I am hopeful it is something like an unusual drought and not a horrible civil war or something, but there are only so many things I have the capacity to worry about, you know? I am trying to limit the number of things I cry over these days.) It turned out it was a good thing I spent the $18.99 for two beans, because, as I noted above, I ended up having to make a second batch of cake batter.

Having learned from previous mistakes, I did a crumb coat of frosting and then put the whole cake in the fridge overnight. This is what it looked like right before I did the crumb coat.

Rainbow Cake Pre Crumb Coat 2

And then the next day, I added another layer of frosting and decorated the whole thing with these little rainbow-hued non-pareils.

It was hands-down the best looking cake I’ve ever made.

I don’t think it was the best tasting, though. First of all, the cake was dense and heavy as I mentioned above. Secondly, the frosting was VERY sweet. I mean, it was just sugar and butter, so it wasn’t a surprise; I didn’t expect it to taste like pickles or something. But it was too much. Probably the thick top layer on top of the crumb layer didn’t help. If I were to do it again, I would find a less-sweet frosting to use. Maybe a cream-cheese style (which is my personal favorite) or something that was more like a traditional buttercream, with less sugar. A third option, I suppose, would be to layer the cake with something other than frosting. I would normally go for a curd of some sort, but that wouldn’t really work with the aesthetic of this particular cake. Maybe a whipped cream frosting would be okay.

The cupcakes were another matter.

If you will recall, I made the rainbow cake for Carla’s actual birthday. She and her grandparents and her father/my husband and I went out to her favorite restaurant for dinner, and then we came home to eat cake and open presents.

But her birthday party was several days later. It was a make-your-own-pizza-party at a popular chain and we invited twelve of her friends and it was DELIGHTFUL. But I wanted to make cupcakes for that party, see above RE: wacko, so I did.

Rainbow Cupcake Tray

I think I’d gotten a bit cake-saturated by the time I got to the cupcakes, so my head wasn’t in the game. Plus, I’d decided to use a store-bought cake mix, which made me a little cocky. So I kept making stupid mistakes. I forgot to add the water to the first batch. (I was able to salvage that one with math; I’d already separated the oddly too-thick batter into its separate colors. When I discovered my omission, I simply divided the required amount by six and stirred the appropriate amount into each color.) Then I forgot to add the eggs to the second batch. (That one I had to throw away.) Then, when I finally got to the frosting, I’d left the cream cheese out all day… and despite varying reports online about whether cream cheese is safe to eat after that long (answers ranged from “it’s only okay if you’ve left it out for no more than four hours” to “I’ve left it out all night and it’s fine!”), the resulting batch of frosting I made had a very weird texture and I couldn’t in good conscience feed it to twelve of Carla’s preschool friends. (I ate some of it and have lived to tell the tale. But I’m not going to use preschoolers as guinea pigs.) So I scrapped it and made some more too-sweet icing – although this time I used a Martha Stewart recipe because I was plum out of vanilla bean.

Making the cupcakes into nice even rainbow layers was HARD. I tried the “use a spoon” method. And then I tried the “put each color into a separate sandwich bag” method. And then I tried the “drop whatever you have in wherever it fits” method. I kept running out of one color or another, so that the layers were never perfect.

OH WELL. They were all pretty. And they were all super delicious as well.

And hopefully Carla is DONE with rainbows. Because I don’t know that I will have the kind of patience that comes with novelty if she asks me to do it again.


Read Full Post »

It is hard to believe that, four years ago today, I was officially 42 weeks pregnant with Carla… 14 days past my due date… and yet I wouldn’t meet her for another two days.

My Dealing with Birthday Feelings therapy is, apparently, making an elaborate homemade birthday cake for my child. I don’t know how, exactly, panicking over measurements whilst being covered in flour is therapeutic, but it is my thing.

Carla has requested a rainbow cake this year. Which is an improvement over what she asked for previous to settling on rainbow cake, which was a purple cake with black frosting. I am not opposed to that combination, but no way am I cleaning black frosting out of a fancy birthday dress. I doubt there is enough OxiClean in all the lands for that task.

My model rainbow cake looks like this:

I am going to follow The Little Kitchen’s strategic plans to the tee. But I am going to kick the crazy up a notch by not using boxed cake mix and instead making my own cake, using the recipe I used last year: Very Vanilla Cupcakes from Sally’s Baking Addiction

Since the cake has many layers (SIX), and since I have proved to be terrible at making straight cuts to the top of a cake, I got myself a little helper. It is a Wilton cake leveler, and I bought it at JoAnn Fabric for $7.99, although NOW I see that I could have bought it (as an add-on item) from Amazon for $4.98. Ooh! I also see it is now on sale at JoAnn Fabric for $5.59. I have not used it, so I have no idea if it will work or if it is destined to become one of those things that languishes at the back of the bottommost cupboard, only to be glared at disdainfully the three times a year you spot it behind the food processor. I will report back.

Speaking of disdainful glares, we have now come to the Bubble Guppies portion of this post.

Listen, I have a lot of problems with the Bubble Guppies as it is. But my current problem is rainbow-related.

Bubble Guppies Venn

I don’t know why this image is so huge, nor why the circles themselves are so THICK, but we do the best we can with the tools available.

My daughter has been singing a little song regularly for the past few months. It’s very catchy, so you can imagine that sometimes I awaken at half past three in the morning with it running in maniacal loops through my brain. It basically goes, “Red orange yellow green purple blue white! Something something something just right!”

That can’t be right, I thought. So I kept correcting her. “It’s not red orange yellow green purple blue white,” I would say, secure in my knowledge that of the few things I can truly accept as fact in the world, Roy G. Biv is one of them. “It’s probably red orange yellow green blue purple white.” Even though I don’t know why they’d tack the white on there, I guess I could ALLOW for it, because of rhythm. And yes, “blue purple” has a different rhythm than “purple blue,” but so what? Children’s songs have made more with less.

But Carla would become quite adamant. She would screw up her face and stomp her foot if she was in foot stomping position, and she would say, “NO Mommy, it IS red orange yellow green purple blue white!”

And I would calmly explain to her about Roy G. Biv and the rainbow and blah blah she’s not yet four so you may already know how well those conversations went.

We did end up seeking out the song on YouTube. And my dear Carla was finally vindicated! The song DOES say “purple blue white” and so now I am furious with the Bubble Guppies for passing on misinformation in such an ear-wormy way. WHY, Bubble Guppies? WHY? (Also, “orange like an orange”? You couldn’t think of ANYTHING ELSE that’s orange? Um, pumpkins? Tangerines? Velveeta?)

I would like to publically acknowledge that the song is not about rainbows per se. But it has insinuated itself into Carla’s brain as Fact. Color Order Fact. So she looked at the picture of the rainbow cake and told me that it was in the wrong order. And that her cake needed to go purple blue, NOT blue purple.

I don’t know if I will be able to misorder the layers of the cake. It will look so horribly WRONG, you know? (Although it will look horribly wrong to Carla if I do it the Roy G. Biv way…) And, more importantly, it will BE wrong. Plus, I don’t want her to go through life thinking that this is the way the rainbow goes! I can envision her failing all sorts of rainbow-related tests in future years, and her teachers shaking their heads and recommending rainbow remediation and our dreams of an Ivy League education disappearing into a bank of cumulous clouds.

We watched a YouTube video of Bill Nye, explaining rainbows. We looked at an actual rainbow. We discussed how mommy is a bit older than Carla and knows a few more things.

Nope. Bubble Guppies are apparently the Final Word on color order.

Basketballs are also orange, BUBBLE GUPPIES.

Read Full Post »

Yesterday was Carla’s last day of preschool. It was a short day, so I ran to Target after I dropped her off. I had a list of things we needed, and a stack of coupons, and a cartload of Feelings, and where better to go when you have Feelings, I ask you, than to Target, where you can mindlessly wander the aisles and also participate in the soothing act of buying things?

It surprised me – which is surprising, knowing me – how much I was affected by The End of Preschool. I’ve been having terrible dreams for days: the one where I’m trying to save Carla from an active shooter but the only path away is riddled with motorcyclists and highways full of speeding cars; the one where I’m trying to save her from a furious grizzly bear lumbering toward us at the terrifying speed of bears; the one where she’s swimming with her face in the water and I’m terrified she’ll drown (way to be super original in your choice of metaphors, sub-conscious).

It’s pretty clear that this little milestone is presenting as a more significant marker of The Ceaseless Passage of Time than maybe it should be.


Right after I yanked my cart from the corral (and wiped down the handle with my own sanitizing wipe; I am nothing if not a germaphobe, and the wipes provided by Target say NOTHING about being sanitizing), I heard the two part harmony of children crying. The volume and intensity ramped up as I rounded the $1 section, and as I trekked down the aisle between the purses/jewelry section and the bank of checkouts, I could make out words. The older child was wailing, “I want the candy!” Her younger sibling was crying, too, but – it seemed to me – in sympathy rather than in any sort of personal outrage. The older child was really getting into it, hysterical sobs punctuated by very loud, very insistent screams of “I want the candy!” Her timbre and noise level read full-on meltdown and I am sure her mother was glad of the early-morning dearth of shoppers.

I felt, as one does, great affection and empathy for the mother, who was calmly unloading her cart onto the conveyor belt as her child railed and flailed.

As I passed, I overheard the person behind the family note, to the mother, “She wants the candy!” in a tone that conveyed bewilderment as to how the mother had missed this crucial point. And the mother responded, with great patience, “I know, but she can’t have the candy because she hit her sister. And I can’t give her candy just because she’s upset.”

Oh, internet! I was already weepy with all the sunrise, sunset feelings that The End of Preschool had brought on. But now, here was a mom who was just doing her best to teach her children, who was being scolded – albeit very gently, it seemed, from my in-motion and distant eavesdropping – for allowing her child to scream rather than just giving her the damn candy, and, in addition, she was calmly and steadfastly defending her actions to said scolder. Like she really needed a THIRD person to instruct when all she wanted was to buy her diapers and her chicken dinosaurs and get the hell out of there. I wanted to wrap my arms around her, internet, and tell her she is doing such a good job. That it will be all right.

But I don’t know that it will be. And especially at that moment, when I had to suppress the urge to shout, “Give her the candy now because she’ll be off to college in an eyeblink and you need to ENJOY EVERY MOMENT!”


We’ve been enjoying some really glorious weather the past week or so. Low humidity. Cool breezes. Warm sunshine. Carla and I have been spending as much time outdoors as possible.

One of our favorite activities of late is “bubbles.” I have this enormous bubble wand (from Target, obvs.) that produces excellent bubbles, both in size and quantity. I stand in our front yard and wave the wand, and then Carla chases the bubbles and tries to pop them (often with her face, which I have tried explaining is not the smartest plan).

It’s good from an energy-expenditure standpoint; Carla really throws herself into the chase. She runs hard, she leaps, she twirls, she dives. I contemplate her future as a soccer star. After fifteen or twenty minutes, she’s breathing hard and I know she will sleep well.

But aside from being good exercise (for her; unless you count “mild upper arm tiredness” as exercise on my part), it’s also kind of magical. The bubbles have their own sort of childish beauty, shiny and round, bumbling around the yard on air currents, nudging into one another, popping on the grass. When a breeze picks up, they erupt from the wand all at once: a flock of smooth and iridescent birds, bobbing this way and that in luminous clusters. When the air is still, they form slowly, elongating shimmers that finally coalesce into globes, unsure of their shape as they stretch and wobble through the air.

I love watching them burst against Carla’s hand, her cheek, her blond head. Even more, I love watching the gleaming orbs drift skyward, growing smaller as they rise, pinpricks of light against the clouds.


Preschool ending must have really messed me up, because – despite my list – I kept forgetting things. So I’d be in the pretzel aisle and remember that I forgot to pick up vitamins. And then I would schlep all the way back to the vitamin aisle… and realize I forgot all about Carla’s shampoo, on the complete other side of Target. And then I’d get to that side and remember I needed aluminum foil, which was way back in the opposite corner. It was a good thing I had a couple hours to kill, because I traversed that Target many times over.

One of my coupons was for 20% off Cat & Jack toddler clothing (ONE item, which at least they now state on the back of the coupon; harrumph). So I searched for awhile among the toddler clothes. But really, Carla is big enough now to shop in the older children’s section. (Of course, a pair of shorts in size XS or 4 may be identical in price to a pair of 4T shorts in the toddler section, but the coupon is applicable only to the 4T shorts.)

A whole end-cap of socks was on clearance. The display was in disarray, with all the sizes out of order. I dug around until I found the style I liked in size medium — lots of colorful stripes; pom moms on the back of one pair. A pack of Frozen socks caught my eye; Carla has a set that she’s outgrowing, so it would be nice to replace them. But they only had XL and XS – enormous socks for much older children; little teeny socks for tiny baby feet. So I had a little cry right there in the clearance section.

A whole wall of Carlas, at every age. Little wide-eyed infant with the jerky kicks and the balled up fists. Soft blond fuzz and chubby thighs crawling across the carpet. One-year-old Carla shrieking with delight as she clutches a blue carnation in her fist. Eighteen-month-old Carla saying “Hi, hi, hi” into a toy phone or digging into a baby-Carla-size pumpkin with an enormous spoon. Two-year old Carla eating snow by the bowlful, cheeks pink from the cold. Three-year-old Carla jumping gleefully on a trampoline in the backyard, blond curls taking flight around her. Three-year-old Carla in her polka dot dress and backpack posing with her chin up on her first day of school. Three-and-a-half-year-old Carla, fearless on skis, twirling with her father on ice skates, arms wrapped around the neck of a tolerant neighbor dog. Nearly-four-year-old Carla, chasing bubbles in the sunshine. Lifting her feet off the ground and gliding on her balance bike. Bending over a drawing – real! recognizable! – of a person. Skipping down the hall toward her classroom for the last time, “Elsa” braid swinging at her back. Slipping away from me, ever forward, not a glance behind.

Me, running to catch up. Never having mastered now enough to fully enjoy it. Grasping to hold onto each glimmering moment, even as the breeze catches it and pushes it up into the sky.

Read Full Post »