Thursday, August 30, 2012

Tardis Cake

It's Spiff's 31st birthday today!  Happy Birthday to a great guy!  

We love Dr. Who in our house.  So when I came across this awesome Tardis cake online one day, I knew it would be the perfect birthday gift for Spiff.  I'm such a newbie at caking, and it took me months of planning to pull this off.  I moved away from my sister and all of her cake supplies, so I had to purchase my own supplies.  Then, since it was a special design, I had to buy some special tools and supplies.  I enlisted my graphic designer friend to format the text for me.  I almost can't believe that it turned out so well!

It started out like this.  
This puppy is 16 layers (4 cake mixes!  Spiff's traditional birthday treat is a lemon meringue pie, so I made him a lemon cake), four cake boards, and supported with Bubble Tea straws.
At this point, it looks like a Dr. Seuss hat that could never be an awesome cake.
*Note that Square in the corner.  I bought that at the hardware store for $4 in order to frost the tall cake.  It turned out to be the most invaluable tool for making this cake.  I could not have done it without it.  Money well spent.

Two batches of buttercream frosting and hours of straightening later, and we have this beautiful straight-edged column!
I used the Aussie Smoothing technique to get the sharp corners.

It took me about two hours to cut out these panels for the side of the cake.
I used this wax-paper transfer technique for applying the fondant to the cake.  Loved this technique!

All four panels on the cake...finally.

Top, corners and signs on!

And done!
I used the wax-paper technique to put the window panels on, too.  It saved me a huge headache!  I will use it for any pattern I ever put on a cake.

And Ta-Da!!!  Here's the finale!  Complete with candles, cobblestone-covered cake board that I painted with color dust, and David Tennant himself (dressed as Christopher Eccelston, for any Dr. Who junkies who will question that detail).  If you look closely, there's even a little light on top, although it didn't show up very well.  I bought a pack of tiny LED fingerlights online for 48 cents in order to put a working light on the top of Spiff's cake.

My lessons-learned on this cake:

1.  Caking is way more fun and goes a whole lot faster with a buddy.  I miss my sister!

2.  A 16-layer cake requires a whole lot of frosting.

3.  This marshmallow fondant recipe worked like a dream, as long as you only add 1 1/2 pounds of powdered sugar to the melted marshmallows, not the full 2 pounds.  It was perfect.

4.  Swiss-meringue buttercream frosting melts in a warm kitchen.  It's very stable as long as it's cold. As soon as it warms up, though, the frosting will melt and the cake will get bubbles.

5.  A fondant-covered cake that is stored in the refrigerator will sweat and be tacky when removed from the fridge and warmed.  You are not supposed to touch the fondant until it stops sweating.  If your kitchen is too warm, like mine, then the frosting will start melting, and you realize that you need to get that cake back in the fridge ASAP, but you need to get it on the cake board, which was the reason you got it out of the fridge in the first place.  You will smash your carefully-created, sweated-over cake with a huge handprint while transferring it onto your cake board if you handle it while it is sweaty and gooey.  This will also make you mad and want to cry.  The lesson here is this:  Transfer the cake onto the cake board while it is still cold, directly out of the fridge.  You can touch the cake while it is still cold.  Then you can put it back in the fridge before it all starts to melt.  You will wish you had thought of that after you are trying to repair the damage to the cake from that ginorous handprint.

I'm so happy with how it turned out, and I am happy to have poured so much creative energy into something that I gave to my wonderful Spiff.  I sure do love him a whole lot.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Word Switch

It has happened!  Hobbesie's little word switch has gone off.

It all started on a little family camping trip we took a few weeks ago.  Gunner, Hobbes and I were snuggling down in the tent, reading books, and trying to get the kids settled down for bed (an almost impossible task when we're camping!!!).  Gunner and I sang a Raffi sing-along book of "The Wheels on the Bus" to Hobbes.  I remember this book being a favorite of Gunner when he was Hobbes's age.  The next day, after we got home from our little trip, Hobbes found the book lying on the floor, picked it up, and said, "Rouw rouw rouw."  Over and over.

Since then, it has been about three new words each day.  I love this phase of baby.  It's so fun to finally hear what's going on in their little minds.

Yesterday, we were playing outside in the yard with balls, and I heard this complete phrase, 
"Mama, baba down."

So awesome that he can finally tell me that he needs help because the ball he was playing with fell down through the stairs, and he can't reach it.

I seriously love this kid.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

I Am a Mother

Okay, I'm baring my soul here, people.  Please bear with me.

I have been thinking a lot about motherhood lately.  I have been struggling a lot with my job: my kids, feelings of inadequacy, lack of motivation, loneliness, fatigue, anger, lack of control, guilt, and the monotony of taking care of my children and house.  It feels like an never-ending cycle of preparing food, trying to get the kids to eat it, and then cleaning it all up.  Five times every day.  My sweet little Hobbes is the worst eater.  He would much rather play with his food than eat it.  It is always, Always smeared all over his tray, his shirt, his face and hair, and all over the floor.  And I am going to admit that I hate cleaning it up fives times a day.  And at the end of the day, when I'm cleaning it up again, the monotony of it all gets to me. I feel a flood of all of those negative emotions, I'm feel tired when I'm doing bedtime with the kids, and then I am not at my best with my children.  My poor, wonderful children who deserve the best from me at all times.

My good friend wrote a beautiful post on Mother's Day.  She wrote about how natural it is for her to be a mother, like she was created for this specific purpose.  I have thought about that often and thought how lucky she is.  How lucky to be so natural at something that is so all-consuming in life, and something that is so very important.

I have also felt a bit envious because I have never felt that.  I have always wanted to feel that, but I never have.  I always wanted to be a mom.  I always thought I would be great at it, that I would love every moment, that there was nothing else I could ever do.  Then I had Gunner.  He was so hard from the very beginning, and I suffered from severe PPD.  Gunner continues to be a challenge.  I still struggle almost every day, and I have realized that I'm not what I always hoped I would be.  Mothering has never felt natural to me.

It is hard for me.  There are days that I don't think I can continue.  There are days I want to quit.  There are days I think my children deserve better than me.  There are days I think I should get a full-time job and hire professionals to care for my kids because they would do a better job.

My friend, Chelsey, just wrote a great post about stay-at-home-moms.  What impressed me about this post was how she described her desire to raise her children.  She wants memories and good relationships with her children.  She chooses to stay at home with her kids because it is the best thing for her family.  She takes pride in her job and does everything she can to do her best.

Lately, I have had to redefine what I want from this role in my life, what I want to give, and how I want to accomplish it all.  I have talked with Spiff.  I have gone to the Lord for help.  I am still working it all out.  I desperately want to be a good mom.  I want my decision to stay home with my kids to truly be the best thing for my family.  I want my kids to know how much I love them and that they are so very special.  I want to have good relationships with them so that I can help them become the very best they can be.  I want to be able to look past this difficult phase of young kids needing me constantly and see my boys as responsible, happy, healthy adults.  Because that's what it's all about, isn't it?  Helping our children become self-sufficient contributing members of society.  And hopeful ones who will return home often and hug their proud mama.

If you read Chelsey's post, then you read this next part already.  In case you didn't read it, I'm posting it here.  I just loved the advice she passed on from a friend.  It encompasses so many things I struggle with as a mother.  It shows me that I am not alone in my feelings.  It reminds me that I have tools to work with when things are hard.  I have printed this out to post in my home.  I will read it every day until it becomes so much a part of me that I hopefully won't have to work so hard to be better at mothering.

I am a mother.  It was my choice to have children, and it is my choice what kind of a mother I will be.  I choose to try my best for my children.

1. In homemaking and mothering, what matters most is that your home is happy. If you have to let everything else go to get this one thing right, you will have traded well.

2. Kids can't hurry. They try, but...they fail. (I usually like to move at Cheetah Speed, in accomplishing household things and running errands. Let's get it done. I wait for no man. But doing things with little kids has turned my cheetah into one who one only has three legs, one of which is broken and one of which is five inches shorter than all the others. And also the cheetah is carsick, and shedding weird patches of hair, and drooling a lot. Whatever. Anyway, it's inefficient and s-l-o-w.) If you can only accomplish something by hurrying, don't. It is not worth the frustration that will ensue. Try again on a different day when you have more time.

3. No phase (or day) lasts forever. To me this is a reminder to breath it in deeply when it's fun and let it go with a sigh, when it's hard. This, too, shall pass.

4. It's easier to preempt a problem than to deal with its aftermath. (Following this advice could mean almost anything...hiding extra diapers in the car, giving D a nap when he has to stay up late for E's baseball game, separating tired children at the dinner table because they WILL start fighting if they're sitting next to each other, packing a snack or some crayons and paper if we're going to be out for a while, etc.) It is worth the time it takes to look at a situation that you know will push your limits and say, "What will make it hard? How can I make the hard stuff easier?"

5. Sometimes (a lot of times) the kid who did the hitting needs to be held even more than the one who got hit.

6. Be consistent. Follow through with consequences. Do something when you're counting and you actually get to "3". No means no. And praise, praise, praise the good stuff!

7. Smile at your husband and children. Just out of the blue, for no reason other than that they exist, they are yours, and that is a blessing. Wink. Mouth a silent, "I love you." Consistent, small displays of affection go a long way.

8. Pray together with your kids. Especially when you are grasping at sanity and self-control. Gather them around you, hold hands, and pray, even if you have to sob your way through it. Tell God that you are having a hard time. That you can't think clearly or don't know what to do. Ask Him--right there, out loud in front of your children--for forgiveness, to give you more love for your family, for help becoming a better mother. I've tried this a number of times. Every time, I have been changed. I finish praying and my instinct is to draw my children to me, hold them, apologize, and express my love to them. We get up and we try again, but it is better. Different. This is a magical piece of advice from a very dear friend. I wish I remembered it more often.

9. Admit when you blew it. Tell your kids you're sorry. My great sister-in-law put herself in time-out once after she lost her temper...chair facing the wall, timer on and all. Kids learn from parental mistakes and how they're handled. They are quick to forgive. Apologizing to them teaches them to apologize, and that everybody makes mistakes.

10. If you need time to yourself to get stuff done, you can usually get it by spending some undistracted time with your kids first. I read once about a mom who swore that if she took 15 minutes helping her kids get started in a play game (building a couch fort, making a Lego creation, helping them put on dress up clothes and makeup, gathering sticks and rocks for a pretend campsight, etc.) they would then play happily with that thing, alone, for at least 45 minutes. Fifteen minutes buys you forty-five. Not bad. I've tried this one a lot--it usually works nicely. Also, turns out it's super fun to forget about the phone and the laundry for a little bit and just play with your kids. Like a kid.

11. You're doing better than you think you are. If your kids know you love them, and if you're just trying to do a good job, that's enough. Forgive yourself for the stuff you aren't getting right quite yet.

My New Costco Problem

I love Costco.  I love shopping there.  I admit to having a Costco Problem.  I developed my problem over the last year.  I spent more money at Costco, and less at my local grocery store.  I felt guilty about the large amounts of money spent there, but enjoyed the delicious food and fully-stocked pantry we had in our home.  I dragged my boys to Costco 2-3 times per week.

My new problem is that there is not a Costco here.  Not yet.

Not until November 16.

There is a Sam's Club here, and Maggie has agreed to let me go with her sometimes.  I'm incredibly grateful for that.  But I'm holding out for a membership for when Costco opens.  How am I going to make it three more months?

Oh, Costo, how I miss you!  How I miss your $5 rotisserie chickens!  How I miss your delicious try-outs!  How I miss buying crackers and toilet paper in bulk!  How I worry that I will run out of my favorite Kirkland brand garbage bags before you open!  How I dislike buying everything at the grocery store!!!  Everything is so small and expensive there.  I feel like they are sucking me dry with every food purchase.

I can do this.  Three more months.  Those construction guys better not slack off.  I'm expecting a prompt grand opening, and I'll be there at the door.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012


My mind and heart are grieving today for a sweet family friend who lost her husband last week in a tragic accident.  He and his 6-year-old daughter took their motorcycle on a ride around the block.  They hit a car driven by a drunk driver who ran a stop sign.  The daughter was thrown clear (she tells people that her daddy threw her off the motorcycle) and miraculously came away with a few bumps and bruises.

Today, Emilie is burying her husband and the father of her five small children.  My heart is broken for her and her family.

My family is all attending the funeral this morning.  I wish I could be there to grieve with them and show my support for these people who were so important to me during all the years I lived at home.

I am so grateful for the Gospel this day.  I am so grateful for forever families and for knowing that Emilie's children will get the chance to know their daddy in the afterlife.  I am grateful that I will be with my family for eternity.  I am also reminded that anything can happen, and that we need to try out best to show our gratitude for our loved ones every day.  

Things He Says and Things We Do

Our two friends we have here in this new little town are both on vacation.  When Gunner found out that both Tommy and Charlotte & Greg were going out of town, he got so sad.  "But I won't have any friends to play with!"

And then he spent few days in a row being super naughty.  Super naughty.  It was miserable.  He was just in the worst mood, doing all sorts of things he knows he's not supposed to, fighting with Hobbes constantly, throwing tantrums of all shapes and sizes, ect.  After a few days of this, I finally asked him, "What's going on with you?  Why are you being so naughty?"

His reply: Charlotte is on a trip, and I miss her.

So, that's it.  We got to the bottom of that one.  Apparently, his behavior is directly related to how much fun he thinks he is going to have with his friends.  No friends = a big case of the naughties at home.

He seems to have snapped out of it, and we're back on track here in Casa Spiff. The kids are getting along better.  All moods are bright.  I have been making efforts to make new friends.  I even cleaned my house yesterday.  Think all laundry cleaned, folded and put away, all bathrooms cleaned, and ALL floors cleaned.  I am a rockstar.

We went on a little family campout last weekend.  We tested Spiff's spiffy REI tent in a real deluge, and it passed with flying colors.  There was a huge storm that rolled in around 11 pm, and it lasted until 8 in the morning.  There were at least four thunderstorms that came through, and it rained all night.  I kept waiting for it to rain less hard, and then it would rain even harder!  It was a storm that caused all sorts of damage up and down the state.  And our tent didn't get a single drop of water in it.  That's a good tent.

In other news, I am still recovering from my running injury.  I have run just a couple times in the last month, under two miles, all really really slowly.  I am still sore and aching, and I'm trying to take it slow as I hopefully get back into it and recover completely.  In the meantime, I am struggling to get good cardio workouts without being able to run, bike (I don't have one), or swim (I can't swim).  I have been doing workout videos in my living room.  My arms are a lot stronger form all the strength training, but I miss the cardio benefits of running.

For a couple of months, I had a good routine of cycling through the workouts available on Netflix.  And then one day, I woke up to find the message that they were going to be available only through August 1.  Total bummer!  So, I got online and bought myself a few new videos.  Since we have become fans of the Biggest Losers in our little house, I decided to try out the Biggest Loser workouts.

As I did one this morning, Gunner woke up and started participating with me.  I guess Gunner didn't realize it was a home workout video.  As Bob gave instructions into the camera, Gunner looked incredulous and said, "He pointed at me!  He's looking at me!  Why is he talking to me?!"

Love it.