The Glass-Half-Full Perspective

We had a run of bad luck recently that had me wallowing in negativity — until I finally decided to appreciate what I actually have. Here’s a look-on-the-bright-side rundown of what’s been happening in our house:

The furnace died. I’m grateful that we never lost our electricity. And that we have friends with space heaters.

I keep having to buy more gifts for Christmas and an endless string of birthday parties. I’m grateful that my kids have friends who include them in special celebrations. And that we’ll be spending the holidays with family members we don’t often get to see.

Both vehicles needed repairs. I’m grateful that my kids can walk to school and that my husband can work from home. And that we’re fortunate enough to own two vehicles.

The kids have had a ton of homework I have to help with. I’m grateful that the schools are open and that my kids are getting an education. And that I’m not so crazy busy that I can’t help.

Justin insists on getting up well before dawn. I’m grateful that he seems to get all the sleep he needs and that he’s old enough that I don’t have to get up with him. And that my loved ones are all healthy and happy.

Seriously…my life ROCKS.

Confessions of a Narcissistic Showoff

Considering I write documentation for a living, it seems bizarre to admit that maintaining my private journal has become more work than it’s worth. I celebrated 25 years of journal keeping a few months ago — but I haven’t written a single entry since. And when I read over entries from the past few years, most of them are simply copies of what I write in this blog.

Why the shift to public writing? Because I got hooked on the feedback. I’m like the kid who gives a presentation to the class and then won’t leave the stage until everyone has complimented it (my nine-year-old does this; I know where he gets it from). Every “like” I get on a blog post is another brick in my personal affirmation wall.

But writing for an audience is different than writing for yourself. The up side is that I’m forced to think about how to connect with other human beings; the down side is that I have to filter my thoughts for public consumption. And sometimes I get paralyzed wondering why anyone would care about what I have to say.

That’s a 200-word way of saying I’ve had writer’s block. It will get better. Don’t leave me.

 

Everything Was Awesome: The Lego Movie Birthday Party

Could any party theme be more fun than Lego? The colors, the shapes, the endless activities…I had a great time putting this one together.

The kids started by coloring their own minifigures, but they clearly needed to do something physical, so I sent them out to the trampoline to burn off some energy. Then we came back inside to build with the giant Lego blocks I created out of cardboard boxes, wrapping paper and foam. I worked for weeks gathering and wrapping boxes, and it was totally worth it, cause the kids had a blast stacking those things up and knocking them down.

I’d come across a website that lets you download and print out masks for many of the characters from The Lego Movie, so the kids put those on and posed for the camera. I had them draw names to see who got which mask, but there were still some unhappy customers, namely Brayden, who really wanted the Batman mask but who ended up with President Business. But we got past that and moved on to the next activity: a team Lego building challenge. I split the kids into two teams, gave them each a bucket of Lego, and told them to design a spaceship. The idea was to build as a team, but most of the kids ended up doing their own thing anyway. It kept them busy for half an hour, so whatever.

Finally, we did a treasure hunt to find the Piece of Resistance (which I made by wrapping a toothpaste box in red wrapping paper). I made up nine clues and hid them in various places around the house, and the kids had to solve a little riddle in order to find the next clue. I wasn’t sure how this one would go, but it was actually pretty popular. And I designed it so that when we found the Piece of Resistance (in the fridge!) we were in the kitchen, ready for snacks and cake.

As for snacks…I made some adorable crackers and cheese that looked like Lego bricks. I’d read online somewhere that you could slice string cheese and it would be round like Lego studs, but I tried that and found that the studs weren’t really round at all. I ended up taking the lid from a marker and using that to cut circles in the cheese slices. They were labor-intensive (each cracker took eight studs) but they turned out great.

I was pretty proud of the cake. I ordered a plain white cake from Wal-Mart, then decorated it with Lego chocolates I made with a mold I got online. The chocolates look so much like the real thing that when I took a bunch to my autism moms group the night before the party, no one realized they were actually edible. Very cool.

So anyway, the cake — and the party — was a roaring success.

Happy 7th, Brayden!

An All-Star Hockey Party

This was one of the easiest birthday parties ever — at least for me. Justin had a couple friends over for burgers and cake, and then Chris took them to the hockey game. All I had to do was decorate a bit and make the food.

And even that was pretty simple. I used a white plastic tablecloth and red and blue electrical tape to turn the kitchen table into a hockey rink, with Justin’s Stanley Cup piggy bank as the centerpiece. I also bought black paper plates and used the extra ones to make a Happy Birthday banner (the first “H” kept threatening to fall down, prompting Dave to comment that an “Appy Birthday” would be OK too.) The overall effect was pretty cool.

As for the food…baking is not my forte, but I had an idea for a hockey cake, so I decided to give it a try. I made a round cake with white icing and stuck a Hershey’s chocolate Stanley Cup on top; I also bought mini Oreos to use as “pucks” around the edge. That was my “Cup” cake. Everybody ate it, so I’m calling it a success.

And now my first-born is nine!

The Back-to-Work Experience

It took two or three days to settle into things at work, but overall it really hasn’t been too stressful. It helps that I vaguely recall most of the key things about at least one product, and that management lives in LA and has no contact with me whatsoever, and that the person I work most closely with is a good friend of mine. Plus I’m only there five hours a day. It’s a charmed life.

A few observations from my first week:

1. Looking at the products and systems now after being away for so long, I’m appalled at how complicated everything is. In the old days I was so immersed in my little niche that I couldn’t see the big picture from an outsider’s perspective. Now I can, and it’s a real eye-opener.

2. I’m excited to have a role that is much more expansive than just copy editing. Everyone seems to have their hands in a lot of different stuff, and that’s cool. I’ve even been given the chance to review some user manuals, which is exactly what I spent the last two years doing in my tech comm program. Awesome.

3. A big difference between way back when and now is that now I don’t look to my job to be my whole world. I don’t go for office gossip, I don’t waste (much) time on Facebook, and I’m not looking for a new social circle. Why? Because I’m only there part time, and most of my life is outside the office. That definitely wasn’t the case last time around (I even met my husband at work). But things are different now. In a good way.

4. Having just come from a school setting, where I had to produce top quality stuff to get decent marks, it’s slightly surreal to now be in a situation where the project might succeed or fail, but either way I get paid the same. Fear isn’t even a factor, cause I could take or leave this job, and I’m not in it forever. It’s very liberating.

And so begins week 2…

Clearing the Cobwebs

I started a new job today, although Justin keeps insisting I was actually restarting an old one. He’s sort of right — I’m covering a mat leave for an editor at the company where I used to work. But things have changed enough that I think we can call it a brand new position.

It was actually a curious blend of old and new. There are many new products and systems to learn about, but for some things they’re still using the manuals I created 10 years ago. So it’ll take me a while to get comfortable with everything, but at least I’m familiar with some of this stuff. How they would ever explain it to a new hire, I have no idea.

My having a job makes absolutely no difference to the kids, however. I work 9-2, so I still drop the boys off at school and pick them up afterward, and continue on with our after-school activities (today was Justin’s social skills group, tomorrow is floor hockey…whew.) As far as they’re concerned, nothing’s changed.  But I’m exhausted. I know I’ll find my groove eventually, and I’m really not stressed about it, so it’s all good.

Plus, when I was leaving the office, I mentally calculated what I earned today, and that made me smile. I’ve been working hard for years without earning a dime. This will be a nice change.

Jedi Training: The Coolest Birthday Party Ever

Not to toot my own horn or anything…but this one was awesome. Brayden had long insisted he wanted a Pokemon party just like his brother’s, but when I suggested a Star Wars theme with a lightsaber battle, I won him over.

The awesomeness started with the super cool invitations, which were really more for the parents:

Technically I was Yoda, IMG_2612 but it was so hot behind the mask and I had so many other things to focus on that the role playing kind of went by the wayside. Chris was Obi Wan Kenobi, however, and amazed me by being willing to:

  • wear a costume made from a plastic tablecloth
  • lead a group of kindergarteners in lightsaber training
  • let said kindergarteners beat on him repeatedly with those lightsabers

 

When the kids arrived, the first thing they did was decorate their goody bags. I’d printed each kid’s name in a Star Wars font (a free download that came in very handy) on a paper bag, then gave them markers and Star Wars stickers and let them go wild. I had envisioned this as something for them to do while they waited for everyone to show up, but it was actually a very popular activity.

Next was fitness training. We set up an obstacle course in the gym and told the kids that each Padawan would have to prove he was worthy to become a Jedi. They had to jump through a few hoops, walk on a balance beam, crawl through a tunnel, negotiate a maze and guide a soccer ball around some cones. That kept them busy for a good 20 minutes.

Then it was time to suit up for lightsaber training. I bought $5 worth of plastic tablecloths and made Jedi robes for each kid. I also cut pool noodles in half and decorated the hilts with duct and electrical tape to make the lightsabers. The pool noodles came in blue, green and purple, which also happen to be the colors of the Jedi lightsabers — nice. Obi Wan taught them a few moves, let them show him their stuff, then set them loose whapping each other. I think the highlight for the kids was chasing Chris around and beating on him. Talk about taking one for the team.

After that it was time for snacks and cake. I am hopeless at cake decorating, so I compromise by making cake toppers. Kids could choose the Light Side (vanilla cupcakes with Yoda toppers) or the Dark Side (chocolate with Darth Vader toppers). I don’t know if it was the good-vs-evil thing, but the vanilla cupcakes were by far the most popular. Justin likes to point out that he chose the Dark Side, however.

IMG_2568Then came the piece de resistance: my homemade Death Star pinata. I was pretty proud of how this turned out. I found a “bubble balloon” at the dollar store that inflates like a beach ball (big and round, not oval), so I used that. To make the indent, I cut a circle out of the side, inverted it and mached it back into place. Then I spray painted the whole thing grey, put masking tape on to mark the lines, then spray painted it again with a granite-type paint and removed the tape. Everyone got a turn whacking at it before it broke, so it all worked out pretty well.

A truly awesome party! (A huge thank you to Teri for taking the pictures!)

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