Yo Gabba Gabba Birthday Cake

I made a Yo Gabba Gabba cake for little girl’s 3rd birthday. The family was really happy with the outcome. I had an absolute blast making it, although it was stressful at times. And there was one unfortunate incident involving Brobee (the green one). So below you’re seeing Brobee 2.0. But overall, it went really well. I was in my happy place the whole time. I’d love to do this for a living. And I think I might actually try.

Throwback Thursday: A Series

I used to save ticket stubs. I started back in the early 1990s. I kept them in a ziplock baggie. I did this for over 15 years.

I’m not sure why I stopped, but I did. Maybe it was when I started having kids and didn’t make it out as much. Either way, the ticket stubs stopped making their way into the baggie and then I lost the baggie. This was an awful realization because these stubs are much bigger than tiny pieces of paper. They’re scraps of memory; tangible strips of emotion.

Sally Mann recently said, “Using photographs as an instrument of memory is probably a mistake because I think that photographs actually sort of impoverish your memory in certain ways.” And I have to agree with her. I started saving these ticket stubs long before we carried cellphones everywhere. You weren’t allowed to take a camera into a show. This was a huge no-no. When you attended to a live show, you simply watched the show. You didn’t snap pictures from your iPhone and then upload it to Instagram proving to a group of people (who ultimately don’t give a shit) that you were there. Back then, you simply watched the damn show. And you listened to the show. And your memories of that show became richer. (At least for me.)

I know. I’m coming off as some crotchety old fart with this crap. And that is a shame. Because I’m also so totally guilty of this. Just last month I found myself snapping pictures while at the Mountain Goats show. Why did I feel compelled to do this? It was an awful shot. And yet I found myself, much later, on a train home, uploading it to Instagram. Why? The answer to that question isn’t, “Because my picture is journalistic!” The answer to that question isn’t, “Because people want to see my shitty picture of John Darnielle.”

The answer is more along the lines of, “Because I want to show people that I was at the Mountain Goats show.”

To which I would ask, “Why do you care?”

I understand why we upload the hell out of our memories. But I also get to question it. I question my motives for doing so. And maybe if I leave the phone at home, I’ll come away with richer memories.

But I digress.

I lost the baggie. Or so I thought. On Sunday, after my latest NYRR race in Central Park, I got home and decided to gather up all my recent bibs. (I save them as well.) I went to add them to an old filing cabinet I used to use for graphic design projects, recipes, and the like. That’s when I saw it, peaking out at me. The pink ziplock baggie!

I dove right in.

You know how when you receive too much stimulation all at once it can be too much and it leaves you feeling vulnerable? That happened to me as I sifted through all my old ticket stubs. I became overwhelmed with emotion. It was too much. So I put them away.

So I’m going to go through it weekly and upload them here. I’ll tell whatever story I can tell about each show (there are movies in there as well); who I went with; what was happening at the time; where I was living; and anything interesting that took place. I’m going to do this every Thursday.

So, without further ado, I give you my first post: Fugazi.

I attended with Missy and my brother Rob. We all lived in D.C. at the time. I walked there from my apartment on 16th Street. It was a chilly December evening.

An Honest Giveaway. What’s Your Poison?

Hello, guys! It’s been a while. And I’m not sure anyone even visits here anymore. ::crickets:: But I made a promise to the only brand I’ll shill for, and so here goes.

We are huge fans of Honest Kids Juices. So much so, we made them permanently available to our kids on our breakfast bar. They sit to the left of the tea and coffee fixins; they’re directly above the wine and liquor; they’re caddy corner to the seltzers and soda. Yes, we currently have our breakfast bar set up like we manage a bed and breakfast. I guess that’s kind of weird. But I set it up like that for Elliot’s birthday party and both Toby and I thought, “Huh. Why not leave it like this for a while? It’s rather useable this way.” So it’s been that way ever since.

But I digress. Anyway, Honest Fizz!

So, the folks over at Honest Tea sent me some free samples of their new, sugar free soda. And they want to give away two cases. Now, I’ll be frank with you because I always said that I would be: I don’t like fake sugar. I’ll take the real stuff any day, all day. I am a baker, after all. And I make and sell lollipops. I have TWO very large glass jugs of sugar permanently on my kitchen counter. (True story!) What I’m trying to say is: I use A CRAP TON of sugar. I buy it in bulk.

But some folks don’t like sugar for a plethora of reasons and cut back on their sugar intake. I get it! And I admire it. So, that’s where this soda comes in. Honest Fizz is made using organic stevia and organic erythritol. They offer 12 different flavors all with zero calories. And I want to give you a case! Free stuff, man!

So, if diet soda is your thing then I would love to offer you a case. My husband drinks it and particularly enjoyed the Honest Fizz Root Beer. All you have to do is tell me in the comments what you’d like to see on our breakfast bar when you stay with and we pamper you.

You have until Sunday evening at 6 PM to play. I will pick two people at random at that time.

IMPORTANT! Don’t forget to leave me a valid email address!

So, here’s my question to you: what’s your poison?

Because I Live In An Asylum.

This morning I called into The Brian Lehrer Show to discuss my Etsy shop. The segment was called Checking In On the Maker Economy. Etsy was brought up and how they’re going public. So I figured what the hell? I make things and sell them on Etsy. I have a unique product. I am a “Maker”. Let’s do this!

So I called. The line was busy for a while, but I kept trying. After several attempts, a woman answered. She asked me my name, where I was calling from. She asked me what it is I make. I answered. She put me on hold.

Today is another snow day. Which means all three kids are home with me and they are all also completely insane. They are always completely insane, but throw in some cabin fever, the excitement of being home instead of at school, and Walter’s recent round of vaccinations, and we’ve reached asylum levels of insanity. Come to think of it, there are moments where I feel like I live in an actual asylum. It’s perfect madness. I live in a house surrounded by perfect madness, the madness of children.

As I sat on hold I began looking around the room, taking it all in. Walter was crying and drooling from underneath my desk. The other two were riding wheeled office chairs around the living room, dueling like they were on horseback. What had I been thinking? Calling into a radio station to talk about “making stuff”. What had I been thinking? I can’t have a conversation about my business right now, not one with any order or decency. How was I going to hold an adult conversation with another adult while on the radio as countless others listened in?

What the hell is wrong with you, Michele?

And then it happened. Brian Lehrer introduced “Michele from _______” and BAM! I was on the air.

I swooped down, picked up Walter and made a mad dash to the other side of the house, in search of the most quiet corner I could find. And I think I began to talk. I can’t remember what happened actually because I live in an asylum. But I think I mentioned that I make lollipops. That they are unique—blah blah blah. There is one called “The First Trimester” made from lemon and fresh ginger—blah blah blah. I think I mentioned “Rise ‘n Shine” and maybe a wine or two. I can’t remember what I said, really, because I live in an asylum.

What had I been thinking?

I think I kept talking and so did Walter, fussing in the background, endlessly whining from my right hip, directly into the telephone.

What had I been thinking?

And then without missing a beat (which is incidentally why I listen to him every day) Brian Lehrer quips, “Sounds to me like you’re in the fifth or sixth trimester right now!”

I think I laughed, but I’m not sure. But that doesn’t matter because the best part about this? The part that surprised me the most? I GOT IT. I got his joke, like, immediately. I didn’t have one of those parent moments where you’re like, “Uuuuhhhhh duhhhhhh, whaaaaaa?” No. I GOT IT. There wasn’t a brain delay at all.

I got it.

And then it was over. Just like that. Probably because he didn’t want to hear Walter fuss into the phone, or listen to my other two children beat the shit out of one another while riding around on office chairs. And I can’t say I blame him; that doesn’t make for very good radio. But it does make for a good asylum.

After I hung up, and then after some time went by (because of course it did), it occurred to me that I completely failed to mention the name of my shop. Because…

Elliot Turns Four

Elliot turned four a couple of weeks ago. We decided to have a party for him and invited his entire class. Prior to this year, we’d only ever invited the immediate family.

Anyway, last year, he wanted an Emmet cake. And so my massively pregnant ass made him an Emmet cake. This year, he wanted a dinosaur cake. And a dinosaur cake he would have.

This is how it turned out.

The party wasn’t great. I mean, I guess the kids had fun and the parents were gracious and kind. We used Fresh Direct to cater the party. They did awesome. I will definitely use them again. I opted for a “Pass The Parcel” game for the kids, where you wrap up a bunch of small gifts and every time the song pauses, whatever child has it on his or her lap unwraps one layer taking the gift inside. That went over REALLY well except that Elliot didn’t understand what was happening and thought we were giving away HIS birthday gifts. What a disaster. Needless to say, Elliot became overwhelmed and had a massive tantrum. I felt terrible. He’s growing up and he’s trying so very hard to be like his older brother, which is problematic to say the least. Anyway, we’re working on things every day and I have seen some progress. He’s got so much going on in there, so many emotions swirling about, emotions he’s not really sure how to communicate just yet.

What can I say? It’s been hard. Living with a three-year-old has been hard. But we’re hoping age four brings some calmer waters.

Sorry I haven’t updated in a while. It’s been a crazy couple of months and the weather isn’t helping. I’m not one to complain about winter, but it’s just been far, far too cold. I’m ready for spring.

Living In The Suburbs Feels Like Waiting.

There are days I wake up and I wonder how it is I got here.

How do I live in the suburbs? How is it I have three kids? Where has the time gone?

I turned forty last year but because I was pregnant and fairly miserable with sickness, I didn’t realize it. I didn’t have a big party, or invite anyone over. I think I spent it on the couch, horizontal and probably whining about heartburn. But I turned 40. Had you asked me when I was 35 what I would be doing for my 40th birthday, I’d have said I would be at my favorite restaurant surrounded by close friends, celebrating a pretty momentous milestone. But no. Instead it was just another day, one I barely even realized. A day that came and went.

You’re supposed to realize you turn 40, right?

I turned 41 last week. And if it hadn’t been for Facebook, I’m not sure I would have remembered.

Sometimes living in the suburbs feels like waiting to die. I know that comes off as horribly depressing. And overall, I’ll contend: it’s a depressing thought. But it’s also darkly comical. Living in the suburbs feels like waiting, waiting for what? I’m not sure.

I think we plan vacations and then look forward to vacations so we don’t remember that the bigger picture—or some ultimate goal—doesn’t actually exist. There are lessons for the kids, countless practices that include balls and expensive equipment coached by parents with unfulfilling day jobs. We schedule date nights at mediocre restaurants and drink overpriced wine. We discuss the kids’ practices or that upcoming vacation. We go home, pay the sitter, and then continue to wait some more. We make schedules that repeatedly fail because of course they do when you’re dealing with snow days, sick days, train schedules, kids and other people. And when those schedules fail we come up with ways to make sure they don’t fail in the future because failing makes us feel bad. And it sucks to feel bad.

Our walkway needs to be shoveled. And the trash needs to be put out. Recycling comes every other week and if you miss the alert that they moved it due to a possible snowstorm, your garage starts to look like something out of an episode of Hoarders.

Small rodents break into your garage and lick clean the cans you didn’t properly rinse but since they likely got a big dose of dopamine and left with a full stomach it’s hard to hate them. Good for the small critters who don’t have vacations to look forward to or date nights at mediocre restaurants. They don’t have plans that fail or Common Core math tests to bitch about.

Living in the suburbs feels like waiting—waiting to return to something that matters, something bigger than yourself, something you pictured when you were 21 and graduating from a college you paid a ton of money to so they would repeatedly tell you that after you were done you could do anything; that you could change the world.

Today I grabbed a single trash bag from below our kitchen sink and went around the house tossing random pieces of crap into it. I filled that bag up within 10 minutes while the baby babbled gleefully into an empty box of tissues. That felt great so I made a plan to do it every day for two weeks. I’ll fill up a trash bag full of our shit. And items from that bag of trash will eventually end up in the middle of the Pacific Ocean floating on a sea of garbage the size of Texas because that’s what we do in the suburbs as we sit and wait for upcoming vacations: we give up gluten, wear yoga pants from lululemon, fight about parenthood, drive big cars and destroy shit.

Then one day you find yourself in the quiet car on a train headed north on the way home from a job that brings you nothing but stress and someone makes a thoughtless mistake and you think to yourself right before the car explodes into a burning inferno, “What was I waiting for?”

I want to dig through the empty cans in a drafty garage and discover happiness. I want to run these thoughts out of my head. I want to find meaning in an empty box of tissues and not spend another dime at a mediocre restaurant. I want to walk among a sea of strangers in a city where you don’t realize you’re waiting because the backdrop is forever changing and its inhabitants are fooled by distraction.

Quick Passing Thought.

“In today’s economy, when having both parents in the workforce is an economic necessity for many families, we need affordable, high-quality childcare more than ever. It’s not a nice-to-have — it’s a must-have. It’s time we stop treating childcare as a side issue, or a women’s issue, and treat it like the national economic priority that it is for all of us.”

How about instead of looking to create more “high-quality, affordable childcare” we work to make it so both parents don’t HAVE to work as an economic necessity. I know many, many people who would love to stay home and raise their kids but simply cannot afford to do so.

I gave up my job because we ran the numbers and at the end of the day, after paying someone to care for the kids, it meant I would bring home a profit of about $10,000 a year. Was that amount worth it? Not for us. Now, I’m lucky; Toby makes enough for me to stay home. So, why don’t more families have that option?

I’m all for having affordable, high-quality childcare. But I also think that in many cases if one parent could financially afford to stay home and raise their kids yet still make ends meet, they would.

Similarly, for those of us who do stay at home, we shouldn’t be penalized or tossed aside when we reenter the workforce and start applying for jobs. This is my latest fear. While I care for our kids (make lunches and dinners; draw baths; do the laundry; clean the house; schedule doctor appointments; juggle soccer practices, swim lessons, piano lessons and play dates) I also try and keep myself on top of what I was trained to do in the workforce. Yet, since I have years of “nothing” on my resume, I’m probably facing great difficulty no matter how much I know or how good I am at what I do. Couple that with my age and my gender, and I’m probably screwed.

It’s scary.

Friends and Neighbors

We’ve lived in the suburbs for a little over a year. And it’s ok. I’d be lying if I said I loved it. The truth is, I miss living in the city. I miss it for so many reasons, and someday I hope to tackle them all, but today I’ll stick to one: friends and neighbors.

(Please forgive me for this post. I’m going to “belly up” for a bit and expose a side of me that’s difficult for me to expose. And I could very well delete this post in a minute, an hour, tomorrow. But for now I’m throwing caution to the wind and going for it.)

We live on a very kid-friendly street. There are so many kids. And most of the kids are right around the same age, which means the parents are all right around the same age as well. And many of us moved here from Brooklyn. I feel as though we should have a lot in common, but I don’t know that for sure since I don’t know anyone that well. And I’d like to think that Toby and I are pretty ok people to spend time with. We have our issues, and we are far from perfect, but we are ok. And I think we are friend material, not just someone you’re pleasant to because your kids play together.

So then why aren’t we becoming friends with our neighbors? Why has it been so hard for me/us to slip in with this group? I know they’ve likely been close for years and we are relatively new. But it all just feels so not ok. I can’t put it any other way. It just feels not ok. I feel like I’m in high school again, like I moved into a new town and I’m not being included as much as the others and I just want to go back home already.

Here’s the deal: there have been several parties around us that have included most of our immediate neighbors (and bus stop families) that we haven’t been invited to. And it’s starting to make us feel uneasy. We are questioning ourselves: Do we talk too much? Too little? Are we seen as too dorky or awkward? Are our kids awful? Did one of us say something? I feel ridiculous for caring at all. Sometimes, like when I’m feeling really great about myself (usually at the same time every month) it doesn’t bother me at all. I think, “Their loss.” But at other times, when I’m hating on myself (like today), I feel really gross. Like an insect, ugly and intrusive and just gross.

I know. I sound pretty sad, probably a lot pathetic and arrogant suggesting people need to take me into their inner circle. They’ve been friends for years. We have only lived here for a little over one. And for the first 6 months of our time here I was pregnant and stayed to myself quite a bit. But as soon as Walt was born, I started trying. We’ve had people over for dinner. We’ve hosted playdates. I even volunteered to help out with the Halloween block party. The point is: I’ve tried. And this is a huge deal for me. I am often crippled when it comes to being social and putting myself into a group of people I barely know. My anxiety is so high when it comes to such things. But I tried overcoming all that this time. And it hasn’t really paid off. And that sucks. And it sucks that I care.

Toby keeps reminding me that proximity does not automatically mean friends. He’s mentioned how many of the friends we do have (or could have, with a bit more persistence) live elsewhere in the neighborhood. And he’s right; I’m not sure why I’m so fixated on NOT fitting in with those I share a sidewalk with instead of cultivating the friendships we have elsewhere, because we have friends elsewhere.

And I know I need to let this go. And I know I sound pathetic.

I miss city living. City neighbors kept to themselves mostly. People weren’t up in one other’s business, at least not where we lived. And the friendly neighbors we did have always invited us over for a drink whenever they had a party. That just seems like the right thing to do.

I’m sitting here trying to figure out why it’s different. Is it suburban yards and porches that make things different? Is it that city space is limited so you go out with friends instead of having them over? Is it that space is limited so you understand that not everyone gets an invite? Is it the bus stop that makes suburban life more intertwined, yet catty and sometimes uncomfortable? Did we just happen to buy a house near to a group of people who simply don’t want more friends? Or has it been us all along and we didn’t know because we have always lived in the city? (God, what a horrifying thought!)

I think that’s the scariest question I am asking myself: is it me? Why am I being excluded? And why do I give a shit?

I want to not give a shit. I wish I could make that my New Year’s resolution: stop giving a shit about petty crap that ultimately doesn’t matter. It’s just a party. They’re just neighbors. Move on, mihow. Go for a run or something.

Santa: 2014

Try and imagine how much in the way of bribery it took to get Elliot into frame at all. OK, now double that.

New Year’s Resolutions

For the first time in my life I’m making a couple of New Year’s resolutions. I need to make some changes around here for the health of my brain.

1). I will no longer read news stories filled with tragedy and heartache.

I’m done. I will not be clicking this type of link from my Facebook or twitter contacts any longer. I will avoid all the bullshit CNN throws my way as well. I am done reading about horrific crimes at 4AM whenever I can’t sleep. I simply can’t take it anymore. There is way too much horribleness out there. This may mean unfollowing some of the worst offenders. And it’s nothing personal. I just can’t keep doing it. I know horrible stuff happens. But I’m still trying to work through new stories I read decades ago. I just can’t know anymore of the gruesome details right now. I don’t need help feeling sorrowful; I bought it in bulk years ago. (Please note: this doesn’t include personal stories. I am, and always will be there for my friends/contacts/online buds.)

2). I will pet every single animal in my house every single day for at least five minutes.

I don’t care if I have to sit in the middle of the hallway with my coffee first thing in the morning, or postpone wiping human pee off a toilet seat: my pets will get more attention. I have a great deal of regret for not paying more physical attention to Pookum over the last couple of years. I got busy with the kids, cleaning the house, whatever. And the pets are often the last to get my attention. That’s going to change. I want the remaining three to know that they will not only be cared for, but they will receive affection every single day of their lives.

3). I will travel (at least) twice in 2015 to see old friends.

Pookum’s passing shot me right back through time. Suddenly I was thinking about who I was with when I adopted her, the places I lived with her. That got me remembering all the friends I made over the years. I have let social media make me lazy. I don’t hate social media. I quite like it. But I need to figure out how to bring back the person I was before all this instant gratification and Internetting came to be. I need late nights on S’s porch with a bottle of wine. I need a movie with N. I need to trot around Detroit with G. This will happen. The health of my brain depends on it.

That’s all. I figured if I wrote it down, I’d hold myself accountable and follow through. At the very least, should I fail, next year Michele can kick this one’s ass for it.