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    February 18, 2015

    The Annual Lenten Whine

    Long time blog readers are well aware that this is my absolute favorite time of year, a solemn and profound forty days of reflection, sacrifice, and personal growth. I am so looking forward to sharing my many insights and revelations with you during this season of penance and fastHA HA HA NOPE. 

    Oh Lent. You're here again. 

    One thing that is a teeny bit different about THIS Lent as opposed to all my other Lents is that I actually DID think about it BEFORE it arrived. I wondered what to do with the kids, what I should give up, what I should add to my life, and wondered all of it BEFORE this morning. Progress!

    Which isn't to say I came up with any ideas or made any decisions. Of course. I am still not sure about the kids, for example. I have read a bunch of suggestions from helpful People Who Observe Lent Properly and I hope I can put a few of those into action. As for myself, I deleted the Twitter and Facebook apps from my phone, as a way to be more present in my real life and with my kids. And I decided to give up chocolate. Real chocolate. Actual chocolate. Chunks and bars and bites and bags of bittersweet Ghirardelli chocolate chips, aka Maggie's Lifeline When The World Is Going Kaput. 

    I spent a long time trying to figure out what I would give up. Giving up food always seems so EXPECTED. Heaven forbid I give up something boring, right? Giving up social media seemed like a good idea until I thought about all the people with whom I communicate purely through social media, and how those are IMPORTANT people, not people I can ignore for 40 days. So deleting the apps from my phone makes it possible to keep in touch with those folks while curbing the actual issue, which is the incessant scrolling through Twitter whenever I have a free five seconds. But it wasn't like I felt EXCITED about my sacrifices, right? There was nothing I thought of that burned brighter in my brain, all, "YES! I am the thing you should sacrifice! Giving ME up will be the MOST meaningful!"

    But when I thought about this a little more I realized that there was probably NOTHING in my life that was going to stand out as The Thing I should sacrifice because (dum de dum dum ) I DON'T WANT TO SACRIFICE ANYTHING. Duh. This is why it's called a sacrifice. I am not going to be EXCITED to give up ANYTHING. And so I decided to go with something that, while embarrassingly un-original, would definitely be the most day-to-day sacrificial, and that would be my handfuls of medicinal chocolate. It's going to be horrible. Prepare yourself for plenty of whining. 

    What are you doing? I bet you're DOING something. (Let me copy?)



    February 09, 2015

    In which I tell my own self how fast it goes

    I forgot about our big trip there for a second. Then yesterday I realized we have no tickets for Venice to London and I should probably get on that and then I got frustrated with my options (suuuuuper cheap for an 11pm flight, nearly 3x as much for a daytime flight) and now I'm done again. My dad keeps asking me about cars and car seat regulations and of COURSE I haven't figured that out because that's got to be the most boring part of our trip to research. But we booked the London apartment. We have tickets to cross the Atlantic there and back. The Paris flights are purchased. Big stuff accomplished. 

    (Except for the packing. Oh my God, the packing. Every time I start to think about what suitcases or what kind of carryon bag or how many pairs of underwear or if I need to buy the kids new things because maybe they've grown out of their summer clothes I MAYBE start to cry. A little bit. Paging Emily Cassee.)

    I was thinking February was going to be a nice drifting back into routine, but NO, have you heard of Valentine's Day coupled with 100 Day and (imagine Jack motormouthing excitedly) PAJAMA DAY TOO! I did not think about Valentine anything (except for bakery stuff, I suppose, and barely even that since I took our store down and we're not shipping anymore SORRY), until maybe yesterday. Oh right! I have to get the kids valentines! (See how I didn't even CONSIDER helping them MAKE valentines?) 

    Also 100 Day. Yippee. And Pajama Day is stupid. There. I said it.

    Also there are LOTS of February birthdays I 1) have already forgotten and 2) am bound to forget. And did I tell you I'm going on a little road trip with a friend at the END of February? Which is actually not that far away? I did plan out the whole thing and everyone's been notified and I know what's going on, but still, whoa. That's coming up quick. (Church conference. Redding, CA. DRIVING. God help us.)

    My parents took Emma overnight last week and it was freakishly quiet for almost 48 hours in my house. I could THINK! I started to wonder if this is what it will be like when she goes to kindergarten. Preschool, when she starts, will just make everything worse. I want very much for HER to go, but it's not a convenient schedule and will involve lots and lots of driving back and forth for pick ups and drop offs. But it can't be worse than the year I had a kindergartner and a preschooler and a BABY, so chin up, Maggie. No, the rest of this year (we're attempting to start her in preschool at the end of February, early March, just until we go on the trip) and all of next will be all about the Annoying Schedules. MAYBE the following year, if we decide not to test her for early entrance to kindergarten (born 3 weeks past the cut off). But the year she DOES go? Whatever shall I do with myself? 

    MAYBE the bakery will be ready for world domination and I'll be very busy indeed. Even if it isn't, our hope is that we get busy THIS year and will need a sort of on-call additional baker. That's the goal. So it's entirely possible that even a regular baby bakery will keep me busy. 

    But what if it doesn't? Or what if we don't HAVE the bakery then? 

    See how I was all whiny about being busy at the start of this post and now I'm freaking out about NOT being busy? I must be excruciatingly difficult to live with. 

    My big kids are getting SO. BIG. and my little kid is getting big too - she wanted me to hold her in church and my arms wanted to die. I keep thinking about how when JACK was 3 he was a BIG BOY and I sent him to preschool and he had to be nice to his little sister. And now his littlest sister is 3 but she's still my BABY. Junior high me is severely unimpressed with my lack of attention and care for birth order unfairnesses. 

    I was telling my mom how it suddenly got hard staying home with just Emma. I think that has MUCH to do with the fact that she stopped napping, if not EVERYTHING. But also the not being potty trained, the not having a preschool or class or regular outing we do (besides, ah, coffee and pink cake pops.) I've been thinking so much about preschool and mother's helpers and childcare at gyms and stuff like that, but I know from having the older two, once it starts it just keeps going. No more little kids at home with me. 

    It hasn't even happened yet and I'm still marveling at how fast it went. 


    February 03, 2015

    Things At Which I Do Not Suck Volume One Million

    Today, which is not yet over, was a TERRIBLE HORRIBLE DAY. Many many things went wrong today, including: 

    • my treadmill flat out STOPPING in the middle of a RUN! And it was quite possibly the slowest run I've ever run on that stupid treadmill! What gives, Treadmill?! Has my girth finally become too girthy for you? Do you completely reject the notion that I will ever lose any weight? I GET TO REJECT THAT NOTION, NOT YOU. FTLOG Treadmill, GET IT TOGETHER.
    • Emma was a huge PILL. Clingy, whiny, and forevermore un-potty-trained. On the frillionth changing of the pull up I groused at her, made a few unnecessary Vehement Gestures, snapped, complained, whined back, and made my three-year-old cry. WELL DONE, ME! That's a surefire way to encourage using the potty! 
    • I bought this wire shelf thingy that was going to be the reason why I could bring myself to clean the bathroom. I was going to put all my daily lotions and potions in it, thereby permanently-ish clearing off the bathroom counter, aka one of the most tedious cleaning-the-bathroom-tasks. But when I drilled the hole it wouldn't go all the way through. I could put an anchor in the second hole, but the first hole wasn't deep enough. In my frustration I stuck in the anchor in there anyway and whaled away with a hammer, thereby BENDING THE ANCHOR and now I have two useless holes in my bathroom wall and it's still filthy.
    • I forgot to buy the next level piano book. And then I forgot that we HAD piano today.
    • Emma fell asleep in the car on during the two-minute ride to school pick up. This means she will not go to bed until, oh, midnight.

    I am feeling VERY FAILY, Internet friends. I have FAILED at exercising and will wear leggings FOREVER. I have FAILED at potty-training and Emma will be wearing Doc McStuffins pull ups FOREVER. I have FAILED at keeping my house clean and my family is going to live in squalor FOREVER. I have FAILED at a home improvement project AGAIN which means Phillip has another thing to add to his forever-long list of WIFE HOUSE FAILURE. I have FAILED at keeping track of my kids' one and only extracurricular activity and now they are NEVER going to get to play soccer or learn Russian. And I have VERY MUCH FAILED at this new no-nap situation and I am NEVER going to figure out how to get my stuff done with Emma 1) playing iPad all day or 2) randomly falling asleep during the day when I am helpless to prevent it. EVERYTHING IS HORRIBLE. 

    It is most definitely time for A List Of Things At Which I Do Not Suck (And Some At Which I Am Downright Ass Kicky.) 

    • Ordering Costco groceries from Instacart. It took me about five minutes to place my order. It will be here at 7pm. ROCK ON.
    • Not following through on Potty Training Threats. "I know I said you don't get a marshmallow, but you look so pathetic, here, have four."
    • Typing one-handed on account of holding a mopey clingy three-year-old in my lap. 
    • Not freaking out about cutting all my hair off. (GOODBYE, LONG DEAD-ENDED BOB! HELLO UNDERCUT WITH SUPER SHORT SIDEBURNS!)
    • Planning Europe trips. 
    •  Accruing frequent flyer miles I cannot use. 
    • Calling my mother when I have a spare 5 minutes and cutting her off when I have to go pick up a kid.
    • Binge-watching television. 
    • Collecting stuff for Goodwill. 
    • Not waking up when Phillip's alarm goes off. 
    • Scrounging enough food to compose two grade schooler lunch boxes. 
    • Texting despairing messages to my friends. 
    • Sending invoices for macarons. 
    • Saying, "Huh! Wow! Neat!" when repeatedly asked to admire a Minecraft creation/drawing/interpretive dance to 'Let It Go'.



    February 01, 2015

    On losing

    Because I am only interested in football to the extent which my husband is emotionally invested, and as it is a begrudging, reluctant, and generally suspicious-of-rabid sports-fans interest, I will not be writing about The Big Game that just finished a bit ago. I hoped you'd humor me for one more post about my grandmother - her funeral was Saturday afternoon and I wanted to write down some thoughts. 

    At some point my grandma disappeared into herself. I didn't see her often enough to know when it happened or what it was like - I was very busy with my own life an hour away from hers. When I saw her it tended to be at my parents' house, usually with other people around, and she sat in her chair with a cup of coffee and a cookie - or, if she was lucky, one of the new babies that keep showing up in my family - and didn't speak unless spoken to. And even then you couldn't be sure that she actually heard you. It wasn't that I didn't remember the grandmother that used to cook massive meals for her giant family, or the grandmother who spent all her time sewing her granddaughters' wardrobe or playing cards with her neighbors or writing us cards. I just... well, that wasn't her anymore and while I missed that grandma, I wasn't around as much to have cause to WANT that grandma back. If that makes sense. I hope it doesn't sound harsh. I think I'd grown up and I didn't need or even necessarily want a giant dish of ice cream and a card game or black and white movie on a Saturday afternoon. 

    I would also add, though, that I still liked and enjoyed this older more forgetful and frail grandma. She was sweet and loved my babies and I could still make her laugh. I also spent my senior year of college working in an adult family home where I saw dementia and loss of independence and dignity and degenerating bodies to an extent that was sobering and sometimes frightening and I was always very VERY thankful my grandma did not need the level of care that these ladies did. Always in my mind was, "Well, at least she's not like THEM."

    So it's been strange for me to spend the last couple of days thinking about my grandma the way she USED to be. I had to think back to those times in order to write the reflection I was asked to give at the funeral. What memories did I want to share? What stayed with me? 

    It honestly wasn't until I'd written what I wanted to say and then actually said it - so, halfway through the funeral - before it hit me that this was a whole person who left us. A busy, competent, productive woman who, in the last years of her life, was none of those things. As I listened to my own self speak I realized how I'd packaged my own grandmother into a nice White Fluffy-Haired Forgetful Old Lady box. A TV grandma. A character. And while I'd loved that grandma, she had been so much more. She'd been so much more in my own life

    I don't know why or how I did that. Maybe it was easier to think of her this way when my parents would sometimes seem angry or grieved about the things she no longer was. Maybe I was too busy to be sad about it. Maybe it just wasn't something that affected my present day life. Oh, that sounds awful.

    I think this is why I was so relieved when she died. Relieved because I believe in Heaven and eternal life and she was free from that frail body and Alzheimered brain. I was only a little bit sad. A little bit affected. I mostly felt happy for her and not much like I'd lost anyone. 

    Then, at the end of the ceremony, when the priest waved the incense around her casket and laid his hand on the top while he prayed, when they began to wheel it out of the church, that's when everything became blurry and terrible. This was it! This was the end. And she was gone now and I saw my sister crying in the pew behind me and I thought, Oh, we don't have a grandma anymore. 

    We had such a good grandma, you guys. 

    This is what I shared at the funeral. I'm typing it here because I will for sure lose the paper I scrawled it on and I'd like to remember what I wrote. 


    Just wanted to share a few memories of my grandma.

    Because of her, my favorite movie star, for a very long time, was Shirley Temple. And Shirley Temple movies at her house were accompanied by ice cream cones. There really was no better place to be than Grandma's house, where there was always a beater full of frosting, just for me. And then when I was older, when I'd grown out of the frilly dresses she used to make for me, we played cards - usually Spite & Malice. I know she taught my sisters Hand & Foot, but with me it was Spite & Malice. Always with a dish of candy nearby to keep up our strength. 

    But what I really associate with Grandma is Christmas. When I was a kid, Christmas wasn't about Santa or the Baby Jesus, it was about Grandma and Grandpa's house. Her crazy red tree, the piles of presents - half of which were slippers, the coffee table covered in snow globes and music boxes, the nativity scene surrounded by that weird angel hair stuff, and a table extended as far as it could possibly go. My Christmas attire was always, of course, a Grandma Original. One year she made a matching Christmas dress for my Cabbage Patch Doll. It was taped to one page of a scrapbook full of doll clothes, like a mini fashion portfolio of all the outfits she'd ever made for me. Christmas, in my mind, was tied so closely to Grandma that when my family moved overseas when I was 10 years old, I wasn't sure what we would DO at Christmastime. I strongly doubted a holiday without my grandmother was possible. 

    Earlier today my mom reminded me that she sent cards for every holiday - Valentine's Day, Easter. It really WASN'T possible to celebrate without her. 

    Many years later I've learned there are lots of ways to celebrate holidays and special occasions, but Grandma's style continues to be the one I prefer. I've been known to color coordinate a tree and I often buy two bags of candy - one for my guests and one for me. As I reflect on what my grandmother meant to me, I'm reminded that in my home there's no such thing as too many decorations or too many slices of cake, and there are never too many people. 



    January 27, 2015

    I wrote this instead of napping

    It's not normal to want to take a nap evvvvery day, right? I don't have tiny babies, I am not up all night, I do not go to bed fantastically late or get up horrifically early. But I am tired ALL. THE. TIME. I started taking iron pills again. Well, I started last night. So only one so far. 

    I'm also trying to figure out when I can get some exercise. And I'm not even talking a run or a TV workout in my living room. Just WALKING, at this point, would be good enough. I think I've identified my pitfalls. The biggest one is that I absolutely hate changing out of my clothes into workout clothes. This sounds really stupid, but I HATE IT and in the time it takes me to change I can almost always talk myself out of whatever I planned to do. I hate ruining whatever hair and makeup I did that morning. I hate exercising WITH a kid, ie: a workout video that they "do" with me, a kid in a stroller, etc. I have to make exercising as easy as it can possibly be.

    What worked for me in the past was exercising during nap time BUT! That was when I had absolutely nowhere to be, no school schedule to adhere to, no reason to put real clothes on ever. And I may have had two babies then, but they both took hours-long coordinated naps, leaving me a half hour to run and another two hours to sit around doing whatever the heck I wanted. The child at home with me NOW has recently quit her nap and alone time is PRECIOUS. 

    I haven't wanted to work out in the mornings because after I buckle all the kids in the car and drop them at school, Emma and I are ready for our DAY. We grocery shop or regular shop or coffee shop. We visit friends. We do our thing. 

    THAT SAID. Mornings are getting rougher for me (see: Always Tired) and it occurred to me that I don't HAVE to get ready before I have to take the kids to school. I COULD drive them to school in my pajamas. Or pajama-like workout clothes. I don't HAVE to wash my hair or layer concealer over the dark circles under my eyes. I COULD take those kids to school, stick Emma on the playroom couch with the iPad, and get on my treadmill. Which is what I did this morning. An hour of that, a shower, and there was still time to sweep the kitchen floor and write bakery emails and let Emma write all over a kindergarten workbook. Was it as awesome as going to Target? Not really. But we hung out with friends after lunch and went to the library during piano lessons and I was still Really Freaking Tired, but I exercised! 

    Maybe this could be what works? For now? 

    I've got a lot going on this week. I'm helping Katie with my grandma's dessert table. My house is pretty gross since I fired my housecleaners. I'd normally ignore the squalor for another week or so, but my Colorado brother is flying in for the funeral and staying with me Friday night at least, and while his bed has clean sheets, the shower situation is not so stellar. I need to pay my kitchen rent and write whatever I'm going to say at the funeral. (Something short and sweet, nothing big, but still, I need to come up with whatever that is.) The kids don't have school on Friday, but Phillip is going to take a bereavement day and I'm going to get my hair cut. I'm not sure this is a wise or thoughtful thing to do, but the fact is that this long-ish bob STILL feels foreign on my head and the more grown out it gets, the more I hate it. I feel like my face has grown too fat for short hair, but so be it. Short hair is for me. Oh, and a brow wax, because I feel my most confident right after my eyebrow hairs have been forcibly ripped out by the roots.

    Morning exercise. Iron. Faking experience and know how in bakery emails. I GOT THIS.


    January 23, 2015

    Grandmas and beaters full of frosting

    My grandmother passed away early early this morning. I woke up to an email saying she went quietly and calmly and then I laid in bed a while longer feeling... relief. Joy, even. I keep wondering if I'll cry and I haven't yet. I did so much crying last week, just over the messiness of dying, and I've cried before over how old age and Alzheimer's slowly turned my grandmother into someone near-unfamiliar. But today I am relieved and a sort of tiredhappy. Last week I had a dream about a cathedral with its doors wide open and I feel like my grandmother went through those doors this morning. She's there. She's in peace. She's in Love. 

    And then I had to do a bakery event. A pretty big one. It went so well, you guys, SO WELL. I said a lot about it on Twitter and Instagram, but I didn't know how to say anything about my grandma. Or if I should. But I wanted to say something eventually - I know many of you helped pray her through this.

    Thumbprints is in charge of funeral reception desserts (which, if we're truly honoring my grandmother, will be the only food there.) I hope to write much more about my grandma and what she means to Thumbprints. (Katie: "She taught me how to bake." Me: "She taught me to appreciate a good batter-laden beater.") 

    Phillip just left for his ski weekend which means there's no one here to judge me if I make a batch of Grandma's fudge frosting (from the recipe book my aunt made for all the grandchildren several years ago) and eat it with a spoon. I bet my grandma would. 



    January 22, 2015

    A SAHM shrieks into the empty not-listening evening, then sucks it up (she promises)

    I'm going to write myself a small, indulgent, self-pity post, okay? And because this is the internet and it CAN'T go without saying, I LOVE MY FAMILY and I ACKNOWLEDGE MY PRIVILEGE, but I'm still going to whine because MY WEBSITE. 

    Also because OH MY GAWD if my three-year-old doesn't start using the potty soon I'm going to need a padded room. She is almost always dry when she wakes up. If I stick her on the potty at regular intervals, all is well. But I can't think of a single time she's told us she needs to go BEFORE SHE'S ACTUALLY GONE. I swear, we are going to be buried alive in filthy pull ups. (I'M SORRY FOR THAT IMAGE.) Memories of potty training the other two are vaguely unpleasant and I know for certain that I never felt like there was a method or rhyme or reason or trick or ANYTHING other than persistence and hope and the knowledge that they wouldn't go to COLLEGE in diapers. But I'm also getting onto myself for not going whole hog and committing a week to getting this over with, you know, like clearing the schedule and wearing underpants or going without and working with her. Except DEAR GOD I can manage, like, one day of that. Then I'm bouncing off the walls. I cannot stay home all week. I cannot give potty training every ounce of my attention and effort and maybe THIS is why she's not trained yet and etc. etc. horrible mother. 

    Also, just my three-year-old in general. Anyone who follows my instagram account knows how very sunk in love Phillip and I are with our BAYBEEEEE, but this kid never shuts up and guess who gets to hear eeeeeverything. Emma has never had a thought she hasn't expressed out loud. She's never heard a Katy Perry or Taylor Swift song she hasn't needed to shoutsing (again: stellar parenting). I absolutely adore her, but sometimes I need some QUIET. I'm like Davis in White Christmas. I need her to get married and have five children and if she only spends five minutes a day with each kid that's FORTY-FIVE MINUTES FOR ME. 

    I know I'm supposed to find myself a mother's helper or childcare so I can work at home, but there's not a lot of room in the budget for that. So I ask my in-laws for help a lot (and they always say yes, THEY ARE LOVELY), but right now I'm still feeling frustrated that I haven't been able to do the website updates for Thumbprints. The day I planned to spend working on my own, for which I had childcare, I ended up spending with my family while my grandmother was in the hospital. Obviously I am not sorry I did that! But it's been really hard to find any time to do real things I need to do. I feel GUILTY that I haven't secured a regular babysitter or childcare, because that's what everyone tells me to do, and I feel guilty for WANTING to secure a babysitter or other childcare because we can't really add that into our budget! 

    ALSO Phillip is leaving tomorrow night for a long weekend with old friends, skiing in Montana. This was his Christmas present. I am not at ALL begrudging this trip and it's fun to see how excited he is. But I AM begrudging the fact that he's leaving for a long weekend without having to think AT ALL about how to manage everything at home. He doesn't have to! I am here! I will take care of everything! All he had to do was get the day off work on Monday and boom. He's off. Whereas I am going to a conference at the end of February and had to move mountains to figure out how to take care of the kids while he's at work. Like, actual mental gymnastics. Getting people cars ahead of time, asking in-laws to get Emma on certain days at certain times, writing out a schedule for my sister, and of course I'm going to freeze some dinners and leave notes on the refrigerator, AND THEN FEEL GUILTY THE WHOLE TIME because I'm taking four days away from my family to do something unnecessary and totally for my own self. 

    My family makes fun of me a lot for being The Guilty One. So I know. I know that I maybe feel more guilt about this sort of thing than the average SAHM. But maybe not. I don't know. I feel guilty that I don't have a job that contributes financially to our family. I feel guilty for asking other people to take care of my kids so I can go away and do something fun, or asking my husband to adjust his work schedule. I feel guilty about not wanting to spend the money for childcare when I am already home. I feel guilty for not having my website updated yet. I feel guilty about ALL THE THINGS, ALL THE TIME, and then I feel guilty for feeling guilty. 

    I mean, I PREVAIL. Guilt is not STOPPING me from going on my mini road trip to the conference in February and it's certainly not stopping me from dumping my kids with my mom and dad when all the Blathering ladies are here (where in the world is Phillip going to go?!) And I'm clearly not so guilty that I can't feel frustrated with the world for being the one who has to manage it all. 

    I'm just feeling like there's things I wanna get DONE, but NO, I have to change yet another three-year-old diaper and everyone is TALKING at me and the sink is full of dishes and when am I going to cross this stuff off my list and why do I bother cleaning anything up when everyone is going to mess it up again and WHY IS THIS ALL ON ME (AND WHY I CAN'T I DO IT BETTER?)

    GAAAAHHHHH ok I'm done. I'm going to put on my grown up mom pants and figure out what we're going to eat for dinner (it IS 5:40pm) and run to Target tonight for last minute catering open house supplies for tomorrow, for which my in-laws are babysitting, and then OK YES I CAN DO THIS.

    January 20, 2015

    Reads & Recommends

    I can't remember the last time I did one of these. I only thought of doing it tonight because we've found a book series that Jackson really likes AND THAT I LIKE TOO and I felt that that was noteworthy. 

    (And here I am, editing my own post after reading through everything - you won't like these. SORRY. God, I am depressing these days.)

    The Secret Agent Jack Stalwart Series. My sister bought Jack the first book in the series for Christmas and two miraculous things happened: he liked it and he read it (mostly) by himself. !!! Then the other day she texted me a link to the fourth Jack Stalwart book because in that one he goes to LONDON which is where Jackson Cheung is headed in a few short months. I ordered it right away, it arrived today, we hammered out three chapters before bed. It's about a 9-year-old secret agent for the "Global Protection Force". He's sent on missions all over the world (very educational ones, obvs) and is ultimately looking for his older brother, also a secret agent who has mysteriously disappeared... I hadn't heard of this one anywhere else, so here's your heads up. (P.S. Jack and Molly have also discovered the Boxcar Children, which, barf.)

    I finished David Downing's WWII spy series (starts with Zoo Station) and I haven't read anything I've liked since. I've been reading a sort of anthology of personal experiences during WWI, but... eh... I have a handful of books on hold. Oh, and I borrowed No Vulgar Hotel from my mother; it's Judith Martin's take on being a Venetophile - but if you're not in the section of the Venn diagram where "Miss Manners" and "Forget the rest of Europe, I'll rent a palace in Venice" meet, I'm not sure it's up your alley. I don't know why I don't immediately read what everyone else on Twitter is reading... I'm very happy in my war book/murder mystery rut, to be quite honest, and I could use a few more of those. There's IS a new Inspector Rutledge out, but I'll bet you a million dollars Meredith Channing isn't in it and I'll just get annoyed all over again that they're never going to let Rutledge be HAPPY FTLOG. All right all right, I know no one wants my BOOK recommendations. Harrumph. 

    How about an app? The only phone games I like are Bejeweled, the NYT crossword to which I've stopped subscribing because it costs more than ninety-nine cents, and mindless-ish logic games, like Hashi. I finally found a new app I didn't delete after the first try. It's called Logic Dots and I don't know, maybe other people know it already or it's crazy boring? It's the perfect amount of puzzle and automaton swiping that I like to do before I turn out my lights. The first sets of puzzles are pretty simple, but I have a feeling they're going to get bigger and more complicated and start laughing at me. I don't love it like I love Hashi, but it's filling an App Void right now. 


    Have you not seen the Taylor Swift Blank Space video? (Why haven't you?!) Okay, so I basically want to be Taylor Swift's character in this video. The clothes, the hair, the makeup, the style, the furnishings, the drama, the opportunity to whale on a fancy car with a golf club - YES, PLEASE. 

    Think anyone is going to let me have my very own afternoon at Bletchley Park when we go to England? I'm guessing no. But this was a great article about an amazing place that no one knew about: Where The Real 'Imitation Game' Happened.

    This is a really long, super geeky link about "advanced" enneagram stuff - moving towards, against, away from) and maybe skip this one? (I read it in chunks, bookmarked for future reference.) (Nerd.)

    Why Asian-Americans Might Not Talk About Ferguson. I still don't have words for this topic, but it's been helpful to read a lot of what Asian-American leaders are saying to Asian-American churches. My general direction to myself is Listen. 

    In a similar-ish vein, Why Can't Critics Talk About Fresh Off The Boat? Phillip and I eagerly and nervously await the debut of this network sitcom. 

    I've been reading a lot about France... this was really interesting (I promise), about French secularism... and here's a piece on about why it was okay Obama didn't go to the demonstration in Paris

    Trying to parse all of that is HARD. 

    To cap off a bunch of links you don't want to read, here's another! On that football game this past Sunday, the one during which I washed and changed everyone's sheets because I couldn't stand being around my overinvested husband shouting at the television. But this one made me want to hug the dude that couldn't hold onto that onside kick, man, I feel SO BAD for that guy. SO BAD.


    January 16, 2015

    Thumbprints v2.0

    Or maybe 3.0 or 4.0 - remember when it was going to be a mom and baby-friendly coffee shop?! HA HA HA WHAT WAS I THINKING (Answer: CLEARLY NOT THINKING!)

    We learned a lot during December, aka Macaron Madness Month. 

    We both thought December was going to be this huge month for us, and I spent a ton of time setting up that stupid online store to make it easier for people (therefore making them more INCLINED) to order from us. We thought a lot about our holiday menu and what we thought people would want and how we would accomodate all our holiday cookie orders. I was very worried about managing local deliveries and mailing cookie packages on time, etc. And then... no one ordered anything. Oh, we had one or two large assorted cookie orders for a holiday party and an engagement party, but otherwise it was a cake and a few custom sugar cookie favors and that's it. I was a tiny bit embarrassed, wondered what we did wrong, felt stupid. 

    When I had TIME to feel and wonder those things, that is, because OH MY GOD THE MACARONS. 

    You see, thank goodness we didn't have anyone ordering anything else because for about four weeks straight, Katie was making macarons. Like, 8 hours a day. Longer. MACARONS MACARONS MACARONS. I dropped my kids at school, drove to Katie's place, picked up Temperamental Niece, and kept her until her dad picked her up in the evening. Because macarons. 

    We had a very well placed connection at the company that manages the catering for a little local biz that goes by AMZN on the stock exchange. Whatever we were making, we'd send the leftovers with him to work and one day his boss wanted to know if we'd come up with some macaron flavors for their holiday menu. We chose gingerbread (gingerbread shells, vanilla buttercream filling), candy cane (red shells, peppermint buttercream filling, rolled in crushed candy cane), and clementine (orange shells, orange cream filling). Those flavors made it on the menu plus "assorted holiday cookies" which mean decorated sugar cookies. And orders started rolling in. Orders for HUUUGE numbers of cookies. And it wasn't that we didn't really anticipate huge numbers, we just hadn't ever DONE it, you know? And it was kind of nuts. SUPER nuts. 

    That said, we made a [relative] buttload of money.  

    It was good to take a few weeks post-Christmas to ignore the bakery and settle down and think. When we finally did the December bakery post-mortem, a few things stood out at us. 

    1. Whoa, we were way profitable in December. Way WAY profitable. 
    2. We totally want to keep this gig going.
    3. Whoa, we canNOT do that again. At least, not the way we DID it. 

    And this is where I hear my dad saying, "Think about how much you're learning!" Because what we want to do next is not something I even knew existed last year when I was running around trying to get permitted and licensed. 

    We're gonna get rid of most of what our website says we do. On one hand this is sad. We love taking orders from all kinds of people with all kinds of celebrations! I, personally, LOVE when an internet friend orders a box of cookies for another internet friend. We love thinking up cakes and cookies and new treats and I love thinking about ways to package them and I REALLY love thinking about branding and image and ways to get ourselves known to our local customer base. On the other hand, THAT DOES NOT MAKE US ANY MONEY. 

    We haven't really LOST money on anything we've done, but those subscription boxes? For most of the boxes we do, at least a third of what we charge per month goes to postage. A THIRD. And those are a lot of work. Like SO MUCH WORK. And while starting that service drummed up a lot of capital in the summer, it's no longer worth it. (Obvs we will keep our current subscriptions! We just aren't taking more.)

    I think all these assorted cookie boxes that we wanted to do make sense for a bakery that is baking those things ANYWAY. A lot of our ideas I think would work in a real bakery. And I did spend some time in the last few weeks thinking over a physical location. But our kitchen landlady was all, "Are you crazy? If you can find a way to earn money without paying RENT or getting a LOAN..." and I was all, "You are right, what am I thinking, time to LET GO." 

    We probably wouldn't have changed anything, except the corporate caterers asked us, before December was over, if we wanted to be on their REGULAR menu.


    Thumbprints v2.0 is gonna streamline, refocus, and get flexible. We will still do large sheet cakes, smaller and fancier celebration cakes, and treats for crowds (ie: dessert bars at weddings and custom treats at parties). We'll still make lots of cookies, but we'll now sell them by the dozen or two dozen, no more individual cookie boxes for sale. We are not a boutique doing wedding cakes. We are not a local bakery where you can drop in for a cookie platter to take to Grandma's. (Unfortunately.) We are not excited about shipping and ordering. What we've seen work for us is bulk orders, lots of them, with no frills. We are going after the caterers. Next week we're doing an open house where all the AMZN event planners can sample our stuff and find out what else we do. In two to three months, we'll do a presentation for other catering managers - this group manages catering for LOTS of local companies - and see if we can get on the menu at other locations. Macarons are trendy right now, people like ours, they're profitable, and we have some good ideas for how to do it smarter. (We HAVE to do it smarter.)

    This is also something we can do, with some adjustments, if Katie moves out of Seattle, which is a definite possibility. 

    This is ALSO also something that, if it gets off the ground, Katie can do with minimal involvement from ME. Because I'm still in the "hey, maybe I can help make something successful! And then I'll be bored and want to do something else!" mindset. 

    We feel really good about this. We've worked hard AND we've been lucky. And shopping macarons around... well, for one thing, it's nice shopping a product that everyone LIKES, you know? Like no one is going to be annoyed with me for bringing free cookies to their office or whatever. But also, I keep learning that people aren't the hoity toity intimidating professionals I expect them all to be. They're just people getting along in a business and interested in newcomers, usually happy to talk or help someone out. I have yet to talk to one single person who thinks Thumbprints is lame. (Shallow, I know, but probably my biggest fear.) If anything, they're interested and know someone who knows someone. And sometimes those someones turn into real somethings. I've seen this happen SO many times this year. Just the other day a dad at school ASKED for my card because he knows the person who plans events at the Gates Foundation. WELL, GOSH, HERE YOU GO.

    I feel like, as long as SOME part of my brain is tuned into smart businesslady thinking (ie: profit-oriented, not fun-and-cute-oriented) and as long as I don't get caught up in the EVERYONE IS SMARTER THAN MEEEEEEEE trap, I can get this done. As long as we make smart changes in how we operate, Katie can get this done. 

    We turned a $1200 profit for 2014. I am incredibly freaking proud of that profit. We had some stellar months and some dismal months and some anxiety-ridden months and some mysteriously busy months and we learned SO much and we still have all the money we started with PLUS $1200and HOT DAMN I am proud of us. 

    AAAAAND as I wrote that last sentence we got our first regular menu order. WOO!

    January 09, 2015

    In the tired place

    In about an hour and a half Phillip will get home from work and I will FLEEEEE this house. My real life friends and I have booked a fawncy hotel room right across the street from Bell Square (which is a fawncy mall in the fawncy Seattle suburb) for two nights and honestly, I don't care if I spend two days in my pajamas reading and sleeping. Actually I think I would PREFER to spend the next two days in my pajamas reading and sleeping. 

    I feel terrible because THIS IS JUST NORMAL LIFE, YOU KNOW, but Macaron Madness, Christmas, Winter Break, starting school again, helping my brother and sister-in-law with their move (baaaabysitting), taking Christmas down, getting life back on track - I kind of feel like I've got everyone's life back on track except mine. I am SO TIRED. I have been tired forever, but I feel like I'm reaching new heights of tired. So Christmas is put away, kids are settled back in routine, things are moving on the trip planning front, I earned some family brownie points, even the BAKERY is refocused, tightened up, strategized. But ME... I'm an overweight tired mess with straggly bottle blond hair and nails bitten to the quick and mountains of laundry following me around. 

    We booked this weekend a loooong time ago. One of us is super big on Friend Weekends Away and the other two of us are happy to make them happen. One of us is a super strong believer in taking breaks and resting and relaxing and taking care of yourself and the other two of us are grateful for her because otherwise we probably never would. We were supposed to go this summer and then I, uh, booked the bakery for the street fair. Oops. 

    The kitchen is cleaned and I stocked the fridge with fruit and cheese, the freezer with pizza, and the cupboard with bread and peanut butter. Phillip should be just fine. And there's a big football game tomorrow night and while I do enjoy a house full of people all excited about something and drinking adult beverages, I find this football stuff stressful and it'll be nice to be hidden away with friends who probably have no idea this football game exists. 

    I sort of hate the book I'm reading, so if you read this this evening and have a book rec, let me know. I'm finding I don't love a lot of the books Twitter loves, but I'm not sure why. I have this "no disturbing movie" policy that has now crept into what books I read. Except I still read heaps of war books? And fiction set during war? So I don't know what that's about. I kinda set you up to fail there, didn't I. Maybe don't recommend books to me. 

    I am just so tired. But even when I'm dead tired I still wake up during the night, so I'm bringing my trusty bottle of Target brand sleep aid. I'm not sure if I officially announced that my brain medicine is working. They told me "sometimes it takes up to 12 weeks". It got worse at 12 weeks. Like, a lot worse, and I was working myself into a place where I could go BACK to the brain doctor and say I have to try something else, do this whole thing ALL OVER AGAIN NOOOOOO, except things clicked into place around the 15 week mark. Which is crazy to me. When I went back on meds after Emma and they didn't work and I got on the massive hamster wheel of SSRI experimentation - I wonder if I'd just stayed on them a little longer, if it would have worked out like this one. Not that it matters NOW. Now I am feeling pretty un-anxious and just like myself. I have tons of weight I want to lose and I'm not sure I can - due to the medicine and my own lazy self. I want to cut my hair off, but I can't afford haircuts every 5 weeks AND bleach. I have a simple wardrobe of stretchy pants and slouchy tops that I attempt to improve with many scarves and expensive eyeshadow. I am close enough to the miserable anxiety place that I would not hesitate for a split second if I had to choose between Chubby and Anxious. So I feel thankful for that. And thankful I feel well. It took so long! and then I can't believe that it's gone! (For now.) (Always have to add that "for now".) 

    I should go pack. I should probably think of something other than pajamas to pack. Like I think I might be expected to go out to eat. Or shop. Or be in public. 

    I have such good friends. Here and in "real life". In the throes of planning another friend weekend (though that one's more the type to close down bars while wearing heels. So. I'm lucky to have both, aren't I.)

    P.S. I will tell you about the bakery next week. Please prepare your commenting fingers.