Tuesday, June 28, 2011

La La... Lollies!

For the past few days, I've been playing with five very beautiful children. Of course, I'm biased; those five children came from the wombs of my sister and me. Since I think they are all as sweet as can be, I decided to do  a fun little project: Homemade lollipops.

The concept is really quite simple. I went to Michael's and spent only $11 on more than enough supplies (it could have been cheaper, but I got the fancy foil wrappers...). And as an added bonus -- Teachers get 15% off! Whippee! I purchased the following:

  • a bag of assorted Jolly Ranchers
  • a bag of old fashioned cherry hard candy
  • lollipop sticks
  • parchment paper
  • fancy colored foil candy wrappers
For our first set of lollipops, the kids and I arranged the Jolly Ranchers in rows of three, whatever colors/flavors we wanted, on parchment paper. Then we put the tray in the oven for about 7 minutes at 275 degrees. When I pulled them out, we stuck in the sticks quickly before the candy re-hardened. 

I put them in the fridge to cool faster while we worked on our second set of lollipops. This time, we put different colored candies in plastic snack bags, and I crushed the pieces a few times (with a wrench because I couldn't find a hammer at my sister's house...). 

Then we all arranged our candy pieces mosaic style on the parchment paper. Elena and I made flowers, Micah made a blobby man, and Christian made a colorful pile of something-or-other. 

Those melted for a few minutes in the oven; then we admired our delicious handiwork. 

Ahhh yes, vibrant globs of un-uniform candy. Simply perfect. 

While they were cooling, we taste-tested our first lollipops. They were, as expected, absolutely delicious. 

(The babies got a little lick too.)

We wrapped the remaining lollipops in colorful foil to save for later (or, as I encouraged, gift-giving). 

It was a quick and easy, inexpensive, undeniably and deliciously fun afternoon activity. And in between licks of her lollipop, my niece exclaimed, "This is the BEST day ever!" (The boys were too busy licking their lollipops to say anything at all). 

Friday, June 24, 2011

Kara's Adventures in Unadventureland

I came to the conclusion a while back ago that I am a strange sort of perfectionist. Not that I do anything perfectly (at all!) but that I often expect perfection out of myself, and even sometimes out of others as well. I won't go into how unrealistic and unfair that is of me... this time. No, today I am thinking about my strange perfectionism, and how I allow it to cripple me. So often I want to make changes in my life, but I am petrified of messing up or not having the desired outcome, so I fear to make that first step.

When I used to work my Dream Job, I would often counsel with students who were struggling beginning to write a paper. So often over the years I heard, "I just don't know where to start!" Perhaps somewhere along their life journeys they heard the absolutely wretched advice to "begin at the beginning... and go on till you come to the end: then stop"  (Alice's Adventures in Wonderland). My go-to counsel for such a frustration was simply this: Start anywhere! Start in the middle, or even at the end! You can always go back and build around wherever you start. Sometimes it would take a lot of coaxing to get a student to relax enough to start writing a paper in the middle. Wasn't that cheating or somehow not following the rules? In one of my finer moments in teaching (tongue in cheek) I told my students that freewriting was like Outback Steakhouse. No rules. Just write (/tongue in cheek). I saw many students go from frustrated and bound with tight ropes by writer's block to writing fabulous papers.

*Ahem* I give others such very good advice... Why don't I follow it? I allow fear of failure to dictate how much of my life I am really living. I allow fear of getting in over my head to keep me from actually trying to accomplish my goals and desires.

I decided I'm going to try to break free from these constraints and start accomplishing the goals I set years ago. I'm trying not to be petrified of falling on my face in dirty old mud and risk looking like an imbecile in front of family, friends, and perfect strangers. I decided a good place to start was in the middle -- my blog... and writing, which has been a life-long goal -- and I can always go back and build around my small successes. I don't want to be afraid of taking that first step, or fifth step, or 100th step anymore.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Grind 'em Beans

Sometimes I get caught up bemoaning that my life doesn't seem, at first glance, to be spectacular or even interesting for that matter. The daily grind, the routine my life seems to follow, feels more like survival mode than experiential living. I'm stuck in the cycle of invariably chasing that next cup of coffee to get me through the day.

I'm mostly at home, unconventionally educating my son, chasing the tot... always getting someone a snack, always taking on the Laundry Monster (whose hp continuously regenerates), forever picking up toys and putting them in bins, only to turn around and see that one kid or the other has dragged out 10 more.

Even as I sit on the couch to write, I have my daughter offering me toys, and she resorts to bellowing when I'm not interested in pushing the buttons on her pretend phone for the 100th time. She's so offended that I would want to carve out a few minutes to write or check my email or stare blankly off into space pondering how I can survive the crazy years with my sanity intact. She hands me the phone, again, and I push a button, again, and she giggles over the obnoxiously peppy music that erupts from the speaker. Again. She's heard that perky tune 101 times now in the last 10 minutes. Why is she still giggling? Why doesn't she throw down the toy in disgust and say she can't listen to it one more time without being committed to the looney bin? She holds some secret I've forgotten.

I realize that I want to learn from her, even as I constantly mold her young, forming mind. She's watching me -- brush my hair, cook dinner, read to her brother, scoop up handfuls of small wooden fruit and put them away in the small, pretend market basket. And I watch her -- tuck her favorite doll under her arm as she searches for a hair brush, stand at her play kitchen piling play dishes in the play sink, hold a book in front of her doll's face, tuck the pretend market basket in the cabinet where it belongs.

We do this every day. And it is spectacular. If I could freeze these moments, I would want to go back a hundred or more times to look at them, to remember with fondness the wonder of this experience. Even though the daily grind can get monotonous and tiresome in its tediousness, I'm encouraged to grind away at these beans anyway.

Because after all, every peppermint frappuccino started out as a handful of beans that needed a good grinding.