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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Coryn's Halloween Party: a busy day in the life of us

Last Thursday was a crazy day for us. It was the day of our second annual Costume Ball, aka Halloween party. I love doing these parties. Last year I put one together for the first time and learned three important things:
1. I really don't like relying on people to bring food in a potluck situation
2. Little kids make a huge mess at parties (something I knew already from working at a pizza parlor after high school, but had somehow let slip my mind).
3. I hate making pinatas . . .
So this year my plan involved
A. Telling people bringing food was not required but not guaranteeing them a meal.
B. Using my husband to spot check the mess afterwards because he has a more critical eye than me, especially "tired, I just supervised a party with 15 children under 5 in attendance" me and help me clean up.
C. Buying a pinata from Oriental Trading Company.

The funny thing is when you require people to bring food a lot of them try to get out of it or are unwilling to let you know what they are bringing, etc, but if you just provide a party a lot will ask if they can bring something, and since they volunteered pretty much all of them come through. . .Last year I made a whole bunch of food last minute because only two or three people had actually told me what they were bringing (over half still brought something, but most settled on cookies and with a candy loaded Halloween party that wasn't quite what I wanted), and I was worried we wouldn't have enough. This year I just brought drinks and a veggie tray but people brought enough stuff to make a full meal. That took care of A.

B went as planned as well, but to discuss C and remain chronological I really need to skip over B for now, and maybe altogether. Do you really want to hear about sweeping up?

I had made most of the decorations last year as well, bought some on base, and bought some out in town at Daiso stores. Daiso stores (also called 100 yen stores, everything is 100 yen plus tax) are sort of the Japanese equivalent to dollar stores, though with the exchange rate they are really about $1.40 stores. Halloween is not a Japanese holiday, but Japanese people really like holidays of any sort for any reason, and while they don't trick or treat they always have a small selection of Halloween specific decorations and some costume items (Also if they know someone on base they come here to trick or treat. . .sometimes not bothering to wear costume, sometimes giving candy as well as taking it; like I said they don't really understand the whole concept). This year, a little over three weeks before my party, I ordered a pinata, some streamers, some orange plastic table clothes, and some paper pumpkins . . .along with some creepy crawly treats/prizes and considered my work done for the most part. No hand crafting dripping, flour coated paper machete pinatas. No searching the Daisos attempting to get enough decorations to decorate a community room. No paying for the overpriced Hallmark stuff that seems to be all our base is willing to stock as far as party/holiday decorations are concerned. All I had to do was wait for my package, the delivery estimate for which was the 10th, 10 days before my party.

Well, that didn't quite work out. I started to get nervous with the 10th came and went, and that weekend I ended up begging Matt to take me to the Daisos because I was worried we wouldn't have any decorations at all. Calmer than me, Matt told me he'd take me the day before the party if they still hadn't arrived by then. They hadn't, and we did go to the Daiso and picked up some garland and a jack o'lantern candy bucket that made a decent center piece and a banner. . .I also made some decorations at home, cutting out bats out of black felt and spiders out of construction paper. . .oh and I had some purple decorative lights that I brought out and a bunch of small candles I worked into a center piece somehow. I was still concerned it wouldn't be enough, and I was also really bothered that I never got my pinata.

My last minute fix was this paper bag pinata, though mine didn't even look this good. . .but it didn't take four days to make and destroy my kitchen in the process. The one I made last year ended up being too strong and I had to kill it myself for the kids to get the candy out. . .I ended up having to do that this year too, but at least they got to hit something for awhile.

Oh, and of course the candy that came out of it was important too. I also put in about three packs party poppers (six per pack), I'm not sure if they have a more technical name or if they are widely available in the states. They're cone shaped paper fire crackers where you pull a string and they make a loud popping nose and spray a small amount of streamer-confetti out in front of them. Coryn has gotten these at birthday parties as favors and she loves them. Normally, though, she only gets one per party, and when the pinata finally went down she zeroed in on the poppers. Like I said, I'd bought 18 and I'd say there were maybe 15 kids there, so she should've been lucky to get two or three. She ended up with six in her bag. She completely by passed the candy and grabbed every popper she could get her hands on, and then she blissfully went and pulled their strings, one at a time. The other kids were also going through their poppers, but no one else had Coryn's impressive collection. . . and I'm serious about the impressive. Her focus in getting exactly what she wanted blew me away just a little bit.

Of course costumes were important. There were a lot of toy story themed costumes this year and vampires and ballerinas, etc. Coryn was Lady Bug Girl, a super hero/ballerina/bug combination that I picked out of one of her favorite story books (mentioned in an early blog post). I bought the majority of the costume from a tutu crafter on Etsy who was selling a lady bug spotted tutu, some ladybug "wings," and a red head band. The rest was just a red shirt and black leggings (I wanted some ladybug rain boots, but I couldn't find any for a reasonable price and so she wore her black ballet flats). It was simple, but I was proud of it. . .and really annoyed with the base finally got their Halloween costumes in and there was something very similar available here. They only sell three or four costumes in each size, so there are a ton of repeats from people who try to buy "locally." I really wanted her to be unique. Still, it was a cute costume.

I ended up buying a pirate costume online. There are only so many maternity costumes and this one was pretty cute.

The day of the party was also a MoPs day. I've been involved with Mothers of Preschoolers for awhile and this year I have a planning position as the "Creative Activities Team-leader" (I want team-leader to be one word so that the initials spell CAT, but that's just me. . .). This meeting involved an Este Lauder rep giving a make up demonstration and I was one of her guinea pigs. . .because of this I had full "evening gown" make up from about 10am on. . .I was going to wash it off, but decided it might go well with my costume, sort of a female Jack Sparrow look. Coryn is fascinated by make up so when I picked her up from the volunteers who watch the kids during the meetings she stared at my face in awe, touched my face, tried to smell my face, and told me over and over again how pretty I was (the next day she also wanted to know why I hadn't put on my "pretty eyebrows.") . . .so Coryn loved it. I liked it at first, but as the day went on and I had to run more and more errands all "dolled up" I began to feel a little self-conscious. I wanted somebody to comment so I could explain the whole face thing . . . I considered putting on my costume early . . .or maybe a ballgown. Also, after a day of errands and decorating the room, I felt more like Michael Bolton as Jack Sparrow than the sexy female Jack Sparrow I'd hoped to be. . .and I'm sorry for referencing an online video with as much swearing as the Jack Sparrow/Michael Bolton video, Mom, if you are reading this, don't google it. It's hilarious but awful. I did get a lot of compliments, but I was also one of two adults who actually dressed up.

So what else. . .oh games!

Other than the pinata (as pathetic as that was), we had a few games. Coryn and I painted a poster board jack o lantern and the kids played pin the nose on the pumpkin. I filled my largest pot with beans mixed with candy (I'd meant to also include plastic insects and worms to make it creepy, but as said before, my box never got to me. . .still hasn't a week after my party) for kids to sort through and find prizes, and I slipped candy into balloons which I then allowed kids to pop to get the "prize" inside. The balloon popping game drives some parents crazy, but the kids all love it. Other than that they ran around like crazy.

Coryn slept in until 10am the next morning, which Matt and I really appreciated. I'm already thinking of a Christmas party. I might just be crazy.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Managed to Read "The Shack"

It's a big deal, as I believe I have mentioned before, for me to finish a book these days. It took me a couple of weeks to get through The Shack by Wm. Paul Young, which I would've considered a long time to complete an under 300 page book back in the days before Coryn, but which was rather an accomplishment as things currently stand. Still, I don't have the time or energy to write a "review." I just thought I'd share a few favorite quotes to mark the occasion.

". . .an emphasis on fathering is necessary because of the enormity of its absence."

"A bird is defined not by being grounded but by his ability to fly. Remember this, humans are defined not by their limitations, but by the intentions I have for them; not by what they seem to be, but by everything it means to be created in my image."

"To begin with, that you can't grasp the wonder of my nature is rather a good thing. Who wants to worship a God who can be fully comprehended, eh? Not much mystery in that."

"Being always transcends appearance-that which only seems to be. Once you begin to know the being behind the very pretty or very ugly face, as determined by your bias, the surface appearances fade a way until they simply no longer matter."

"Grace doesn't depend on suffering to exist, but where there is suffering you will find grace in many facets and colors."

Friday, October 14, 2011

Keeping Busy

I've been crocheting non-stop lately. I'm supposed to be building up my stock for a craft fair next month, but I've gotten a lot of special orders and since those are guaranteed sales, I move them to the front of the line. Most of the time special orders start out as a challenge. Someone sees something I've made and ask, "Hey, can you make ___ too?" Sometimes I give a cagey answer, like "maybe" or "if I can find a pattern, I'll have to look into it." I've had too many instances of people asking me if I can make something and then when I finish it and show it to them they don't express interest in buying it, and that drives me crazy, so unless they state that they'll be willing to pay for it when they make the inquiry, I don't usually bother crafting it (though I may send them links to patterns to give them an idea that I can do it if they are so inclined). A lot of times if I make one for that person and then post the picture on my Critters Facebook Page other people will ask me if they can order one too. That happened with my dinosaurs. I have made six so far for orders after the one initial order. I've also made a few hats, which aren't part of my usual repertoire (I was planning on selling only critters, scarves, and Christmas stockings at my craft fair table, any more and I think it will be too crowded.), but I have gotten orders for a "Hello Kitty" and a "Boots from Dora" hat. . .and my next project is a dinosaur hat, though I'm taking a break to make Coryn her own dinosaur.

I've made a ton of toys specifically for Coryn, but I know she doesn't like seeing me make something cool that she really wants only to sell it to one of her friend's mothers. She's watched me make the dinosaurs for the orders, and now she wants one of her own and I'm finally taking some time off from commercial orders to make it. She wants it to be purple. I just hope it doesn't look too much like Barney.

I have an etsy shop but so far I've only used it to sell special orders to people I know who live too far away to hand me cash. I posted some items there, but their time on Etsy expired without any sells. It's the sort of thing no one goes looking for, but when they see them they generally want one, which works well for me at craft fairs.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Book recommendation and quote

Coryn's favorite book from our last library trip is The Twins' Blanket by Hyewon Yum.

It's a sweet, short story about two "look alike twins" who share everything, including the same bed and special blanket. When their mom decides it is time for each to have her own bed, neither can decide who gets the blanket. Coryn likes to watch the little girls fight and make up thanks to their mother's creative solution.

Oh! And I finally finished the book I've been working on for the last three or four months: The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean. It took forever (mostly because I left it in the bedroom and read for five minutes every night which wasn't getting me through very quickly. .. I finally got Matt to take Coryn out of the house for an hour and I was able to finish off the last three or four chapters). It was an interesting read, though sometimes a bit technical (what did I expect of a book about the periodic table of elements. . .). I'm a big useless trivia fan plus it is interesting to hear more about the personalities behind the discoveries I learned about in high school. I thought I'd close with a quote from the book because I'd never known the second half to this conversation though just about everyone knows the first:

One, as he got older and crustier, Einstein came to distrust quantum mechanics. Its statistical and deeply probabilistic nature sounded too much like gambling to him, and it prompted him to object that "God does not play dice with the universe." He was wrong, and it's too bad that most people have never heard the rejoinder by Neils Bohr: "Einstein! Stop telling God what to do."

I think the author means Einstein had been wrong to doubt quantum mechanics rather than that God really is deciding things via a cosmic dice game, but I do like Bohr's clever retort.

Carving pumpkins

I think even if she didn't know about jack o'lanterns Coryn would still want her own pumpkin. I remember last year (she was two and a half) when they first got them in at our commissary she was in awe of the large, orange globes, and even more excited when I let her pick out one to take home. However, when we got home, the first thing she did was ask to eat it, and I realized she had no idea why we'd gotten a pumpkin and just assumed since it came from the produce section of our commissary that it must be some sort of large apple. It took some convincing to get her not to take a butter knife to it. Over the course of carving the pumpkin she got a few tastes of it, and she knows better now.

This year we picked out a smallish one because I didn't want to spend a lot of money on one this early (last year we got one about a week into October and it was moldy over a week before Halloween. Oozy black moldy. . .) but there is always a chance that they won't get more in after their first shipment in which case you are stuck buying early or risking not getting one at all (we ended up getting a fake Christmas tree last year because they never restocked even after the ones they had were all dried out; they just assumed we were desperate enough to buy dried husks, I guess.). I think she liked having one that she could carry on her own and it was a little bit easier to clean (Only a little easier because it had as many seeds as the big one she got last year, I swear).

She told me she wanted it to be a “sad” faced pumpkin and even asked for “drops” running down its face. I'd never carved pumpkin tears before, but she was right, it really brings out the sadness of the pumpkin, though I have no idea why he is sad. She named him Quincy, after a boy in her Sunday school class (I have no idea if he is also a sad pumpkin). We lit a candle and took his picture a few times. . .then I kept having to put it back because she would run off with it or move it, lit candle and all.

Growing up a lot of our friends weren't allowed to “celebrate” Halloween, but I've always been fond of the holiday. A lot of our harmless traditions come from pagan roots, and I'm not going to stop using the word Jovial because it refers to a Roman god, and I'm definitely not getting rid of my cat because some ancient Egyptians might show up at my door requesting to worship her. Sometimes I feel we give things a power over us by making them taboo. I remember being in a church for a social event with some other home schoolers and having one of them question why a Christian church had a pumpkin (not a jack o'lantern, an uncarved pumpkin) as part of a table display. As if somehow pumpkins have magical powers or pagan significance. Now, I'm not condoning all aspects of the holiday. I don't even like scary movies and I have seen people get carried away on the scary or occult sides of decorating/costumes. However, I remember reading stories where Puritans made jack'o lanterns in the colonial days and I figure if the world's most infamous witch hunters didn't see them as “occult” than they are a fairly harmless tradition.

I guess the main reason I like Halloween is because it allows for a lot of self-expression. I got to design a pumpkin and choose a costume (usually hand craft it as well). I normally knew what I wanted to be by the end of July. While I tried to work as much creative expression into all my holidays as possible (hand drawn Christmas cards and Valentines, figuring out what that weird wax pencil that came with the egg coloring kit was for on Easter. . .wax resists are fun.), with Halloween I could completely rewrite myself for a day and go in character if I really wanted to. I still like to dress up. Last year I went as a Star Trek crew member (original series, male costume because I didn't feel like a mini-skirt. . .though I feel justified in this decision because of the creepy man-in-a-female-uniform who haunts a few background shots in Star Trek: The Next Generation season one. . .google it some time. It's true. I figure, if Picard let a man romp around in a short skirt on his Enterprise, some lenient captain in Kirk's era must've allowed a girl or two to wear the pants.). This year I'm a generic pirate, even purchasing a maternity pirate costume rather than constructing something. Lazy, I know, but I still want to dress up even if I don't have the energy this particular year to make up something more elaborate.