Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Somewhere there's an orphaned Elf looking for me.

OK. I warned you, in my Halloween post, that my Halloween obsession was nothing next to my Christmas mania. I. Love. Christmas.


You guys? It's Christmastime. It is! Thanksgiving is over and it's Christmas!

Last month I entered (ok, I obsessively entered every. single. day) a contest over at Periwinkle Papillon to win an Elf on the Shelf.  Now. I had never heard of an Elf on the Shelf before. I had fully enjoyed my holidays for 30 years now without an Elf. But now that I'm aware this magic little creature exists, I need one.

Sara at Periwinkle Papillon foolishly allowed multiple entries to her contest, and I called her bluff. I've done the math (shocking, I know) and my entries totaled 28% of ALL TOTAL ENTRIES. I should have won that thing.

Here's a small sampling of my 17 entry comments:

It begins.

Don't think I won't.

This right here had to be what killed it for me. Stupid!

Did you miss me? 

Why is the universe conspiring to keep me from my rightful Elf?? WHY??

Through it all, I felt Sara had my back. She wanted me to win this Elf, I really think she did.

I'm a prophet. I really am. Pretty sure the girl who won really DID only enter once.


Alas. I did not win. Sara recognized my passion and dedication and expressed her remorse that I hadn't won, but apparently she was not remorseful enough to fix the contest and give me my Elf. Whatever.

So here I am. November 30, and no Elf. I don't even know how I'm going to make it  my kids are going to make it 26 days without an Elf watching their every move and threatening to tell Santa when they whine. Like I can be bothered to discipline them?! Please! I have Christmas movies to watch! Plus, why would I want to be the bad guy? That's why we have Santa. And Elves.

So I've been whining about how badly I want an Elf, but how I don't want to actually pay for one (where's the fun in that?) and then Twitter brought me this:

Elves from Catie. 
Pros: it's an Elf! It's cheaper than Elf on the Shelf. And it supports a good cause.
Cons: Less creepy.

So. In conclusion: who wants to send me my kids an Elf? I don't even need the book, you guys. I'm a writer. I can make up my own story. I just need a seriously creepy Elf to scare my children half to death and instill in them the holiday spirit. Is that so much to ask?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Save Our Sam

Remember Sam?

This is Sam. He's adorable and people love him and he has cancer. No fair.

If you haven't read the story, you should. Sam was brought into this world and into the arms of his loving parents through a gestational surrogate, JW Moxie who blogs at The Smartness. Now he's been diagnosed with leukemia (no fair), and Moxie is going all out to rally the troops in his support. Please take a moment to visit the Save Our Sam website and find out how you can help, even if it's just to leave a note of encouragement for Sam and his family. And please, keep praying!

How to help:

To send love from afar, sign up for SOS Care Mail and give little Sam something to look forward to and distract him from the yuckiness. He's a kid, you guys! Kids love mail and presents! And kids with cancer need stuff they love coming at them every day.

If you're in the Savannah area (I'm totally not, but maybe you are?), show some local love.

If you make stuff and sell it, or if you have the talent to make stuff that people might potentially want to buy, or you know someone who does, and you and/or your friend like self-promotion, brand exposure, saving lives, and good karma, consider joining the SOS Online Store.

Visit Sam's Caring Bridge site and leave a note for Sam and his family. They read them and they love them.

And of course, follow Save our Sam to keep updated on other ways you can help. 

Friday, November 18, 2011

Twilight. I Love it. Also, I hate it. But man do I love it.

I think the Twilight series is awful. It's a terrible example of how to be a woman, of how to love a man, of how to live your life. Worse, it's poorly written. It's full of plot holes and angst and purple prose. The movies are poorly acted, poorly directed, and somehow even more poorly written than the books. They turn Robert Pattinson, a beautiful, charismatic man in other contexts, into somebody I want to punch in the face.

I fully intend to go see Breaking Dawn: Part I as soon as possible.

I'll do this in spite of all the awful reviews. I expect awful reviews. I believe the awful reviews, and anticipate that I will agree with them wholeheartedly. But I'll put down my $10 to see it anyway.

Because I love Twilight.

No, you don't have to "love it or hate it," as seems to be the popular opinion. I do both, simultaneously, and enthusiastically. As do all my most awesome friends. YES, I recognize the pure awfulness of it. But you know what?

I have a sense of humor.

You know what else I enjoy? Plan 9 From Outer Space. "The Bachelor." Harlequin romance novels (yeah, that's right). Quentin Tarantino movies. Maple donuts. "Family Guy." Also? Pride and PrejudiceMcSweeney's Internet Tendency. Shakespeare (seriously). The Bible. T.S. Eliot. Jack Kerouac. Edith Wharton. Hemingway.

I'm a smart chick. I have a college degree. Magna cum laude, y'all. It's even in literature. When asked to list my favorite authors I'll give you names like Marilynne Robinson, William Faulkner, Dave Eggers, and Toni Morrison, and I won't be posing. They really are my favorites. When asked what I'm doing this weekend, I'll tell you I'm going to see Breaking Dawn: Part I, and I am stoked.

Here's a text message from Ashley (I know, it's been awhile, and it's not even Tuesday):

Why do people have such a hard time accepting this whole franchise for what it is? Bella IS sad sullen and wincing. Why should she be anything else? Why does every heroine have to be the cookie cutter strong independent feminist? That's not real life. And speaking of which, neither is any other aspect of this story! So why does it have to model marriage and love? If it did, it wouldn't be Twilight. If we all wanted to see accurate portrayals of family and marriage, we'd just stay home and stare at each other.

Will I see you at the cinema?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Rainbows and Unicorns: The best. Party. Ever.

So, the lovely Ilana over at Mommy Shorts is wondering if it's possible to have a themed birthday party without selling your soul to Elmo. Whether it's possible to dive headfirst into themed birthday goodness and still be awesome. I'm here to tell her it is.

The Princess has had birthday parties featuring Blue's Clues, Tinkerbell, and Fancy Nancy. I've featured some of those cakes in a past post (that post also, weirdly, features Ilana and Mommy Shorts. I don't only blog about her, I promise. That would be creepy, right? Ilana? Would that creep you out? It would, right? OK I'll find another topic). 

Today I'm going to share with you the greatest little girl party theme of all time: Unicorns and Rainbows.

I'm starting with the best part: rainbow cupcakes.
Those are sour Airheads, if you were wondering (you know you were). Simple, adorable

Unicorns. And rainbows.

Rainbow gumdrops.

Unicorn coloring table. I just Googled "unicorn coloring pages" and printed out a bunch.
I do this for pretty much every single birthday party I throw.
Cheapest craft project ever and the kids love it.

The birthday girl and her BFF.

Eating jelly beans! And coloring! And eating jelly beans!
(Also? Did I mention? JELLY BEANS!)
(It's common knowledge that unicorns love jelly beans.)

The cupcakes on their stand. Should have probably dressed up the stand a little.

A little free play time.

"See? This is the unicorn's horn. You throw the ring on the horn."

That's one way to do it.

Pin the horn on the unicorn party game. Bought it at Oriental Trading, I believe.

I won't name names, but #7 cheated.

Present time!

New skirt from Ashley. Handmade, of course. But hey, I'm no slouch myself!
I made that Unicorn ring toss, OK?  I found a picture I liked online and used a projector to blow it up and trace it on butcher paper, glued the paper to cardboard, and painted in the colors. Then I cut it out and taped a wooden dowel to the back (all the way up the horn for reinforcement). The dowel is then shoved into a styrofoam block which is in turn shoved into a Christmas tree stand.
I know. Brilliant.

My husband made the t-shirt. It's an iron-on transfer. The kind made for dark fabric.
He found the rainbow and unicorn separately and Photoshopped them together for the perfect image.
He then meticulously cut that image out with an Xacto knife. I know.
She still wears it constantly.

To whomever bought her this game (yes I've forgotten, this was MONTHS ago, ok?), she loves it.
She really does.
I'm the one who isn't a fan. But I play it anyway.
Because I'm an awesome mother.

(An even more awesome mother would have covered that Christmas tree stand with something pretty.)

(Oh, you knew it was coming.)

I wish this one still had the candy rainbow on top, it's such a great photo otherwise.

Oh, go on and hit your "Pin It" button. You know you want to.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

How writing is like cake decorating.

Just read this and got inspired.  "Are the Rules of Writing Killing Your Creativity?" by Asrai Devin.

The rules of writing include all those "do-nots."  Don't overwrite.  Don't overtell.  Avoid purple prose.  Stop describing things that don't matter.  Get to the meat.  YES.  This is all important.  But this is not how creativity works!  Here is the line that hit me hardest:

"It's hard to go back and add details.  You lose the voice of the story."


And that's the key.  The rules of writing are really the rules of editing!  And you cannot edit what you have not written!

I've mentioned before that I've been known to decorate cakes.  Here is one of the cardinal rules of cake decorating, the rule that ensures your buttercream is satin smooth with no lumps and cracks and inconsistencies, no unsightly cake crumbs marring its surface:

Start with way too much icing.  

After the first application of icing, only remove, never add.  Never.  Add.  More.  Icing.  Only remove the excess until you're left with perfection.  And if you don't add enough excess in the first place, you're screwed.  So you have to really pile it on thick.  Lots and lots of icing has to go on that cake, icing that you know full well is just going to come right back off.  But it has to be there!  It serves a purpose!

And it works.

And that's how writing works, too.

And that's why NaNoWriMo works.

These 30 days are your first application of icing.  The dumping.  The huge scoop, scraping the entire bowl of icing onto the top of your cake, leaving nothing behind, never worrying that it's too much.  Dump it all.  Write everything.  Write the nonsense.  Write the garbage.  Write all the possibilities, every ounce of plot, story, character development, overanalyzation.  Put it all down.  Because you cannot go back and add substance later, not really, not consistently.  You'll end up with cake crumbs marring the surface of your cake.  You'll end up losing the voice of the story.  All you should be doing in draft two is removing.

Or, as Stephen King put it in his book On Writing:  "2nd draft = 1st draft - 10%."

Only removing.  Never adding.

But before you can remove?  Before you can edit and whittle and shape and carve and smooth it down to perfection?  You have to DUMP.  Empty out the bowl on top of your cake and leave nothing behind.

I need to go write now.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Big Reveal

Thank you to everybody who voted for the new header!  I tallied up all your votes and...decided to go with something completely different.  :)

After hearing all your feedback and living with them both for a bit, I decided I liked elements of each, so I asked Melanie at Mommy Doodles Design to make me a couple more options to look at.  She complied, because she's awesome like that.  I was a pretty demanding client considering this is all FREE and I must say she's been patient and wonderful the entire time; responsive, creative, and always willing to go the extra mile.  So thank you, Melanie!  If you're looking for any graphic design work I recommend checking her out (and no, that recommendation was not required or requested as a condition for winning the giveaway; that's totally my own opinion, given totally voluntarily!).

So.  I think what you see now is the final header.  I decided against the darker ones in the end because I do like the lighter, brighter feel.  Also as one commenter noticed, the pink lady was facing the opposite direction in those ones.  I like her facing this way, for whatever reason!  LOL.  So overall this is my choice; I like the lighter colors, the placement of the pink lady, the fun font, and how it kind of flows with the rest of the blog's design.

I love my new look!  It feels grownup and professional.  And since my entire purpose as a blogger is the acquisition of wealth, fame, and power, grownup and professional seems only fitting.  I'm sure my book deal and big-brand advertisers are right around the corner.  :)

What do you think?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Vote on my new header!

Option 1 
Option 2

Well? Which one do you like better?  (Option 1 is currently up on the blog, but not because I like it better.  I honestly don't know which one I prefer.) (Update...and now I've changed it to option 2. I seriously cannot decide, people!)

Both headers are designed by Melanie at Mommy Doodles Design, and I won this opportunity in a giveaway on her blog!  Go check her out.

Thursday, November 10, 2011


Last week the wonderful and talented JW Moxie of The Smartness emailed me and asked me to guest post for her.  I was beyond flattered.  I first discovered Moxie via Twitter when somebody posted this.  It cracked me up.  Then I poked around her blog a little and found this.  And it made me cry.  Seriously.  Go read it.  It's an incredible story.  She's an incredible woman.

OK, if you're too lazy to click, just know this: after battling and overcoming infertility herself, Moxie became a gestational surrogate and gave birth to a beautiful baby boy for another infertile couple.  It's a fantastic story and I highly suggest you read it yourself.

So I was very excited to guest post for her, and asked her to do the same for me.  Everything was rolling along smoothly, and then today she posted this.  In short: Sam, her surrogate son, is 4 years old now, and he has been diagnosed with leukemia.

I can't describe how devastating I find this news.  Especially considering I have never met Moxie in person, have barely communicated with her at all, really.  But I know her.  And I consider her a friend.  Blogging is like that. She's my kind of people.  And she's done amazing things, and has inspired me with her story and her words.  And she loves this little boy with all her heart, as if he were her own, because really, he is.

So instead of the guest post we had originally planned, I'm dedicating this little corner of the internet, my little bit of real estate, to her and to Sam.  Please read "Please."  Please.  Read it, and pray.  For Moxie and for Sam, and for Sam's parents, who waited so long and went to such lengths to bring him into their family.  I have faith in God and in the power of prayer; if you do, too, please use it for this little boy and the people who love him and who waited so long to call him theirs.

Thank you.

This conversation happened.

"What's the opposite of hands?"

"Um. There is no opposite of hands."

"Yes there is."


"YES! Now what's the opposite of feet?"


"YES!  Now what's NOT the opposite of hands?"


"Oh! What's not the opposite of feet?"


"You mean cats?"

"Yes.  Cats.  Of course."

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Native American Day and why I don't homeschool

Thursday is "Native American Day" in the Princess's kindergarten class.  Parents were asked to volunteer.  Every time parents are asked to volunteer, my daughter expects me to be there.  And every time, I have to explain to her that Mommy has to go to work, and some other parents don't have to go work in an office, because their job is to stay home with their kids, and those are the parents whose job it is to come volunteer at school.  And she's usually ok with that.  But she needs it explained every. Single. Time.  Yes, eventually I will have to request an early lunch or a vacation day and go take part in one of these kindergarten activities.  But in general?  No, I will not be the room mother, the crossing guard, the Girl Scout leader, or the PTA President.

And this Thursday, I will not be helping to facilitate Native American Day, whatever Native American Day might entail.

But.  Because I'm an involved and engaged mother who cares what her child is learning in school, I asked the Princess this morning in the car: "What is a Native American?"

She said, "I don't know. OH! Are they Indians?"

"Well.  Yes, they are American Indians."  (I know scenes from Peter Pan are running through her head.  You know the one.  "Squaw get-um firewood!"  I knew that movie was a mistake, cringed every time I heard that horribly, horribly catchy song.  But I let her watch it anyway, didn't I?  Grrrr.  Disney!)

"What do you know about them?" I ask.

"Um. I forget that one guy's name..."

"Christopher Columbus?" I say, because in addition to being involved and engaged (and culturally sensitive), I am psychic.

"Yeah! Was he a Native American?"

"  He was not.  He...met the Native Americans when he came here from Europe.  Across the ocean."

"What IS a Native American then?"

"Well.  Native Americans were the first people to live in America."

"Are WE Native Americans?"


"Then who is?"

OK.  You'll be relieved to know that at this point, before I could do anymore damage, we arrived at school.  I said, "Well, I guess that's what you'll learn in school this week!" as I kissed her goodbye and sped off towards my grownup job, leaving her in the hands of the kindergarten teacher and her arsenal of workbooks and curriculum and training.

I used to think I wanted to homeschool my children.  You know, violence and bad influences, not to mention the gross failure of the public school system in America.  I had rosy visions of nature walks and family poetry slams and collecting bugs in jars and instilling in my bright-eyed children a genuine, independent love of learning that would guide them through life, allowing them to educate themselves.  I still believe homeschooling is a viable and wonderful option for many, many families, and part of me sincerely wishes I was in a position to do it myself.

Some days more than others.

Then there are moments like this, where I'm faced with what seems like the most simple little history lesson ever.  The first Thanksgiving!  Christopher Columbus!  Pilgrims!  The Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria!  These are all magical phrases in my mind.  Costumes and crafts, buckle shoes and feathered headdresses.  Multicolored corn.  Handprint turkeys!  Obviously I don't remember too many actual facts about this stuff, OK?  And facts are apparently what my five-year-old is interested in.  Go figure.

No, we're not Native Americans.  Who is?  Well, honey, I'm not sure you know any.

No, I know you have Indian friends in your class...Native Americans are not really Indians.  Indians are from India...Christopher Columbus just thought Native Americans were Indians and people have called them that ever since.

How could Christopher Columbus have discovered America if there were already all these people living in it?  Well.  Um...he didn't, really.  He was just the first European...No, we're not European.  We're American.  No, not Native American.  Well, our ancestors were European and they came over here after Christopher Columbus.  Ancestors?  It means...our grandparents' grandparents' grandparents.  People who lived here a long long time ago, and they had kids and they had kids and they had kids and then we were born, you still listening?

I realize I'm trying really hard not to let the word "white" into this conversation, and I'm not entirely sure why.  I mean, we are white.  She knows we're white.  We live in California; it's diverse.  So she has plenty of friends who are not white and this is not a revelation to her, that people are different colors.  But somehow in this context it seems so wrong, to delineate "Native American" and "white," "them" and "us."  "No, honey, THEY were already here, but WE weren't here yet, so it wasn't discovered until WE got here. And by WE I don't mean WE, I just mean people who lived a long, long time ago and happened to have roughly the same skin color as us."  What?

Maybe I should go to Native American Day.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Wordless...Monday. Dude, shut up. It's my blog.

From Ashley, my dear friend and personal photographer:

"Why do I get the feeling that your son has some evil plot to take over the world?"



Friday, November 4, 2011

I'm such a winner. At last the universe confirms it.

I won a contest!

LOOK.  See that?  I won!

What does that mean for you?  Because of course this is about you!  It means that in the next few weeks you will be seeing an all-new, professionally redesigned blog header here at Near Normalcy.

I know, I know.  You LOVE the one I have.  So do I.  I mean, I made it myself, so it has sentimental value and all.  Plus the little pink chick, the one who's probably not really me but could be?  I love her.  Expect her to stick around in some form.

Because Melanie at Mommy Doodles Design?  She's talented.  She'll take good care of you.  I promise.  Go check out her blog, like her on Facebook, follow her on Twitter.

So, any thoughts?  Elements you would hate to see go?  Elements you would hate to see stay?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Karma Cupcakes.

If you aren't following me on Twitter (or were, you know, sleeping last night), here's what you missed:

That link leads to my post entitled "Humiliation and volunteerism. Also Girl Scouts don't eat cookies."  You may want to check it out before you continue.  And I'm not just fishing for clicks here, ok?  It's actually relevant.  And entertaining.  We'll wait.

Yes, Girl Scout leader suggested cupcakes.  I was relieved at first until I realized that instead of one big Girl Scout daisy, I now have to make 48 tiny Girl Scout daisies.  Doh.
Why do I always think cupcakes are easier??  They're not.

Buy one get one FREE, you guys.  It was clearly a sign.

The highlight of my night.  Who am I kidding?  The highlight of my week.

Oh yeah.  NaNoWriMo started yesterday.  Without me.
Twitter finally responded to my cries for help.
And no, they do not have fewer calories.  But I plan on telling Nike Mom they do.
Thanks, Mom.
This is important because I was making all the little daisy pieces out of fondant, and without white I couldn't make any colors other than the pre-colored red and blue I had on hand...which leads to some really poor imitations of the Girl Scout daisy.

Just for reference, this is what the Girl Scout daisy is supposed to look like.  Remember this for later:

Another link back to the Humiliation and volunteerism post.
Because seriously, if you haven't read that, none of this makes any sense.
Possibly none of this makes sense even if you have.  I was up really late last night, ok?


And...there goes my plan to make up for the humiliation of putting my daughter's Girl Scout membership on layaway by providing a super awesome cake for Founder's Day.

The good news?  They will never ask me to do this ever again.

Here's a closer shot, just so you can really see the full wreckiness.  Sorry for the terrible photography, I was pretty much over it last night:

OK.  Now my pride requires me to show you these, to erase those cupcakes from your memory and prove I'm legit:

I made this.

I made this.

I made this.

Whew.  I wonder if it would be weird to print these photos out and distribute them at the Girl Scout Founder's Day party?