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    August 14, 2014

    Room Update (snore) + Recently Improved Parenting

    I'm done painting YAAAAAYYYYY MUPPET ARMS!!! Painting is not the WORST thing in the world, but halfway through all the cutting in it starts to FEEL like the worst thing. But anyway, thanks for the Barely Pink recommendations - I went to Home Depot, asked for 2 gallons, and you were right, it is PERFECT. I wouldn't have picked it out at the store, but it's the perfect color on the wall. That room already feels so different. I don't think the previous paint color ITSELF was super ugly, but in that room? SO dreary and BLAH. The pink has brightened and livened it up a little. The bed should get here on Monday and I CANNOT WAIT. 

    I cannot wait so much that I dragged Molly's pink and white desk into the room, taped up my beloved elephant fabric (from my super botched Homemade Roman Shades project), and then decided that the kids should all camp out in there tonight because I PAINTED THIS ROOM GOLDARNIT IT MUST BE APPRECIATED! 

    The challenge is: decorate this room without spending any! money! (gaaaahhhh) This shall prove to be difficult since I've decided I need to throw some navy blue in there, to de-sweet-ify the pink, and then per Twitter, maybe some GOLD? Or some MINT? Things I already have: a two-toned pink rug, a pink and white Eiffel tower lamp, a giant hot pink 'E'... My mom is going to salvage my elephant fabric for curtains, adding some material to the top and bottom to make the panels long enough. Plus I have a white dresser and a white bookshelf and a white doll bed (which my mother's godfather built for her when she was little AWWWW) that we will fill with EJ's nine hundred stuffed animals. Yes, I definitely need some navy/gold/mint. I forsee a lot more standing around and surveying the room landscape in the next couple weeks. 

    And you guys, I haven't even STARTED planning Emma's old room, the new guest room slash Room Of Bakery Storage And Staging aaaiiieeeee!!!

    Even though I've been painting and I'm anxious and it was Cookie Weekend I'm not totally All There right now, I've been trying hard to spend time with the kids, especially the big kids. We're managing to do a Fairly Fun Thing each morning, but the afternoons are shot. Emma still sleeps for hours so we can't go anywhere and I don't want the big kids being loud or bothering Emma, so they end up playing a lot of Minecraft and I end up reading a lot of Twitter and watching cable news. I don't think any of those pursuits are particularly GOOD for us, but the kids are 1) quiet and 2) happy and I'm grateful for time to myself during these days when we are together 24/7. Then I end up making something boring and easy for dinner (this is what the kids prefer, at least) and Phillip gets home at 6 or sometimes later and then it's bedtime... I spent a lot of July feeling like I was totally ignoring my family, mainly to get bakery stuff done. I haven't figured out a schedule for myself (there IS no schedule with the bakery) and my tendency is to work work work work work work until the task is finished - no breaks, no wondering if I should take 2 days instead of 1... that kind of thing. 

    So I guess I'm trying to make up for that now? We've done the summer dollar movies twice (Rise of the Guardians and Turbo - thumbs up from my crowd for both), we got a membership at the science center so we did that this morning. A big crafty project at the library, just GOING to the library which is getting to be more and more enjoyable (for me, at least). And I've been trying to find a Big Book to read to them at night. A year or so ago I tried Harry Potter, but my kids hate anything scary and they didn't GET Harry Potter and now they say they don't LIKE Harry Potter, so I wonder if I basically ruined Harry Potter for them. I tried Beverly Cleary, one time I tried the Best Christmas Pageant Ever - they don't like anything. I totally feel like I've failed in the Raising Children Who Love To Read department HOWEVER! The other night I thought I'd try The Lion The Witch And The Wardrobe. WHICH I DO NOT LIKE. I did not like the Narnia books as a kid and fantasy books, in general, are not my thing. Lord of the Rings - snore. SORRY. I just... not my thing! But I know that MOST PEOPLE DO like the Narnia books and MAYBE JUST MAYBE my kids might like them? So I started reading the first one and GUESS WHAT THEY LIKE IT. I am shocked. Mostly because they haven't liked anything I've read to them so I wasn't expecting that to change. But they BOTH like it and they BOTH want to keep reading when I say it's time to go to bed and THIS MAKES ME SO HAPPY. 

    Also the fact that I am reading a significant amount of story to them each night - that makes me happy. The big morning things we manage to do, the reading at night, the puzzle I helped them put together yesterday, hopefully all of these things are making up for my complete disregard for them during July and also all the Minecraft. 

    I just tell myself that if my kids are super awesome at Minecraft it's more likely they'll major in something Useful in college and get decent jobs. As opposed to English majors such as myself, a degree which is last on the List Of Lucrative Degrees. 

    Or maybe they'll take over a family bakery business MWAH HA HA oh man I'm tired. LATER INTERNET.

     

     

     

    August 12, 2014

    No one should care this much about bedroom rearranging

    The Bedroom Indecision of 2014 has CONCLUDED. Boom! Feels good. After many minutes standing in the middle of the room hemming and hawing, saying, "What do YOU think, Emma?", and emergency-texting Emily who knows about these things, I finally decided on what to do about beds. The arrangement is as follows:

    JACK'S ROOM: He will keep his overpriced twin bunk beds. Maybe one day we'll get him a full size loft and put a teenager-worthy desk setup underneath, but for now the seven-year-old has a COUCH in his room, HE IS FINE. 

    MOLLY & EMMA'S NEW ROOM: I just placed an order for a spiffy white twin-over-full bunk bed from Walmart. It will be delivered to my house by Monday for FIVE DOLLARS. I measured and taped out lines on the bedroom floor to see how the Ikea daybed-that-pulls-into-a-King-bed AND another twin bed would work in that room. And while there were two arrangements that would WORK, both would require one of my kids sleeping against the wall of windows in that room - maybe not the most terrible thing, but the windows are BIG and one of them is a DOOR, and this just bugs me, perhaps irrationally, whatever. Also, even though that room is BIG, two twin beds were going to eat up a lot of space and I haaaaaate giving up space. I could have put Jack's bunk beds in there, but leaving the full (which the sellers left when we bought the house - WIN) would mean I could still use it as a guest room. Also, the twin-over-full bunk was cheaper than the daybed/trundle I wanted to buy when we factored in having to ALSO buy new mattresses.

    NEW GUEST ROOM UPSTAIRS: No bed for now. Eventually I WILL want to buy the Ikea daybed so we can use it as a guest room, and since that room is the smallest, it makes sense to put a daybed/trundle in there instead of a bigger bed. I will probably need every inch for bakery stuff! 

    So now there are NEW THINGS TO CONSIDER, those being: we have our regular guests coming to stay at the end of August. I'd planned to give them the option of staying up or downstairs (privacy vs. not so much), but now they'll just stay in the girls' new bunk since we won't have anything else. OH WELL! I am shockingly fine with this. I am embarrassed by how much I care about what my [infrequent!] guests think, so I'm feeling proud about feeling fine this time! ALSO THEY TOTALLY DON'T CARE. I could probably put these people on an air mattress in the living room and give them a timetable for when they're allowed to use the bathroom and they would be fiiiiiine. Best guests ever. All the more reason to leave chocolates on their pillows. (Oh, and I won't need to figure out what to do with the girls since they'll be with grandparents that weekend. Excellent plan.) 

    The other thing is that the two sets of girly matching twin bedding - that I've been SAVING! - suddenly won't do! OH DARN. A stronger more well balanced person would just put one set on the twin bed and use the bedding I already have for the full bunk but NOOOOO THEY NEED TO MATCH OR AT LEAST COLOR COORDINATE AM I RIGHT?! I will probably have to sit on this for a while as we have A Budget, but that just means more time to fill up a Pinterest board. 

    One other thing might be that Molly would sleep on the top bunk and Emma would be swimming in a full. The part of me that wants everything to be as it should be for all time is annoyed by that, but this weekend the girls stayed with my parents and I learned they slept in the same bed because they WANTED TO and I am CHARMED by this development and now envision them sharing the full bed and having lots of good sister time. Until Molly comes to her senses and climbs into the top bunk. 

    In other news I bought three pale pink paint samples this afternoon and all of them are terrible. One is too dark, one is too PINK, and one is basically white. I actually really like the pink one, but Phillip and I looked at it and we both had the same reaction - in that room, with all of that wall space, that is a LOT of pink. I'm going back for a pink in between the PINK and the basically white. The new bunk bed is white and most of their furniture is white with hot pink accents... BUT I LIKE PINK, OKAY. So do my girls. If you can't have a pink room when you're practically 6 and 3 years old, when can you?! 

    BORINGEST POST EVER I'M SORRY JEEZ. Did you want to know about MIss Julie? Miss Julie was a beautiful wonder floating on a cloud made of spun sugar, around whom we all hovered worshipfully. Also, Miss Julie drives an aqua Mini Cooper. I MEAN COME ON. THAT CAN'T EVEN BE REAL. 

    It was a lovely morning and then, out of nowhere, my body cranked back into Super Anxious Mode and I'm back to being upset about it. No bakery stress, no hormones, nothing on my calendar, no relationship strife, nothing! Being mad is not helpful, but I am, which is all the worse because there is no one to be mad AT. 

    Tomorrow we're going to the summer dollar movie at 10am and then they've all decided they want to watch me paint. Should be an exciting day, don't you think? Three more weeks until school starts and I sincerely hope we make it that far. 

    August 11, 2014

    'Julie' reminds me of 'Hey Julie' which is a terrific Fountains of Wayne song FYI

    Tomorrow morning Miss Julie is coming over and the Cheung Children are exCIIIIIIIIIted! Miss Julie is Jack's first grade teacher, soon to be Molly's first grade teacher, and possibly our whole family has a crush on her. I didn't make much headway on getting to know the other parents last year, but in true Maggie Form, I succeeded in getting the teachers to like me. Glad to know I've still got it!

    So she's coming over and it's been decided we're making scones, even though it is a million degrees, and I think I'm going to use the occasion to coerce some help out of the kids. As in, "Hey Jack, you don't want Miss Julie to see all the bits of AstroTurf that's still in our entry way from your week of soccer camp, do you?! Better sweep that up!" And, "Oh Molly, I bet Miss Julie will want to see your room! Are all your toys put away?!" I mean, no one cares if MOMMY wants things to look nice, but MISS JULIE? HECK YEAH we'll spiff up for Miss JULIE.

    When Miss Julie has had enough of us, we'll have some lunch and put Emma down for her nap and then I will go stare at the empty guest room and Decide What To Do. Over the weekend we took the guest bed apart and moved everything out (into the playroom, poor playroom) because Phillip had a bee in his bonnet about shampooing the carpets. I don't know why, but that carpet HAD TO BE CLEANED. Sometimes Phillip gets bees, you know? And then stand back. So we cleared it out and he rented a Rug Doctor from Home Depot and now the former guest room and office/future Molly and Emma's room is the cleanest room in our house. HOW NICE FOR IT. And because Phillip and I can't leave well enough alone, we joint decided (key word: JOINT) that we should paint. Not just because it's got the same sickly yellow green paint that I've been slowly painting over since we moved in, but because it's our BABIES' ROOM and it needs to be FRESH and CLEAN and NEW. Today we collected some paint chips (mainly to hang out in an air conditioned store instead of our house) and I'm deciding between several shades of Pale Pink and possibly Pale Spring Green, But Probably Not. Molly has suddenly decided that her favorite color is Turquoisey Aqua Greeny Elizabeth And Jessica Wakefield Blue Green Eyes and desperately wants a room THAT color. I am thinking no. Mainly because it's not the lightest room and I want to keep the wall color light. But also because I've ALREADY picked the signature Aqua Blue color for this house and THAT IS THE ONLY AQUA BLUE. (Also the bedding wouldn't match. Obvs most important consideration.)

    SO ANYWAY. That's the next already-started project. Moving the girls in together. And for right now I'm still going with my Ikea Brimnes day-bed-with-trundle for Molly, so that it could still be a guest room if we wanted. But I'm not sure how to position EMMA'S bed, if we want to make it so we could pull out Molly's bed whenever, and now I'm having the whole Why Are You Planning Your BABIES' ROOM Around A Situation That Happens Once Or Twice A Year And Besides Your Guests Could Stay In the ACTUAL Empty Bedroom Upstairs. I won't drag you through all of that again, just thought I'd give you the update. Update: Still impossible to live with. 

    Today was Package and Ship Our Cookie Subscription Boxes Day so I am... sweaty. I swear, the two weekends we've done this so far have been the HOTTEST WEEKENDS. I feel like this was a super bad idea to start in the summer, not just for us but for the cookies! I own a giant freezer now, though, so that's good. Wish I could have climbed inside it. 

    It was a restful week, lots of Cake Boss on Netflix (Katie wants me to watch it for market research, also so that I won't always be totally clueless when she references it), lots of not doing much. I saw my naturopath on Friday and came up with a Plan. I'm feeling better now, which I suspected might be the case, but it feels very comforting to have a Plan. (And to have her say, "Oh yeah, I always need a Plan, YOU NEED A PLAN" and not, you know, shrug and tell me I'm up a creek or something.) We have a few more weeks of summer and those weeks are blissfully empty. I feel like I've POWERED THROUGH and now I get to REST (if possible). I've even cranked up the "the bakery needs to do THIS!" part of my brain again, which is a very good sign. (This part was woefully broken last week.) And MISS JULIE is coming over tomorrow! Everything is looking up. Tomorrow is basically Rex Manning Day. 

    August 06, 2014

    And now for a very long nap

    After some messy conversations and a day of rest, I have pulled myself together and will Keep On Keeping On. Even though I feel guilty/wussy/lame/embarrassed to say so, the last six weeks have done a number on your trusty blogger and, in the words of a good friend, I am BURNED OUT. 

    So when it seemed like the obvious next step for the bakery was to sign up for a bigger, longer, faster, more intense fair - a FOOD AND GIFT SHOW IN AN ARENA OMG - well yes, I did lose what little sanity I felt I had retained. It was basically me making nine million excuses for why I didn't want to do such a thing and my sister and my husband and my mother and everyone else saying, "...but..." 

    We signed up. I had a furious email discussion with the producer of the above mentioned food and gift show re: discounts and electrical outlets and booth size and boom, I paid the money, we are IN. 

    And actually, having made the decision, I feel much better. I am still burned outy and PMSy and slightly anxious ETCETERA, but I feel good about signing up. I think one of my big fears was that if we signed up I wouldn't have space to stop being anxious. I don't know if that makes sense. I was looking forward to getting EVERYTHING off my plate, summer- and vacation- and family- and bakery-wise. I thought if I had that week or two to free up my brain, I might actually be able to DEAL and GET OVER IT. (Maybe.) (Not that it ever really works that way.) And even though the food fair isn't for SIX WEEKS, I would start thinking and planning for it NOW. (Obvs. Have we met? I like to plan.) But now that we made the decision and it's set, I feel good! Decisions are good!

    But I was also super mad at myself for wanting to work around my stupid anxiety stuff. I AM VERY AGAINST THAT! I mean, I feel like there's a difference between making choices about what would be best for my mental health and what would be anxiety running my life. And to choose not to do something because I might be anxious - when the thing in question is totally a RIGHT AND GOOD THING - isn't really like me. And I knew that. And I was ashamed of that too. 

    This is why I have People. I have to ask Phillip and my friends and then I call my mom and all these people said the same thing: "yeahhhh you should probably do it AND WE WILL HELP YOU."

    It was the "help" part that was the kicker. I thought: ok. I can do this. 

    Anyway. We are doing it. And I feel pretty good about it. Talk to me again the week before the show. 

    August 03, 2014

    STREET FAIR RECAP WITH LOTS OF CAPS

    I am DYING to write the "what do we do next" post, but if I do that I'll never get to the street fair recap post and then my mom will be mad. So. 

    THE STREET FAIR. 

    The street fair weekend was: waking up at the crack of dawn on Saturday, hauling a 10 x 10 foot tent, four folding tables,a mini kid-size folding table, tablecloths, dishes, jars, signage, bunting, a banner, tape, pens, a toolbox full of one dollar bills, paper bags, wax paper, plastic wrap, wooden display crates, toothpicks, washi tape, scissors, cinder blocks, baskets, business cards, a framed "This Is Who We Are" info sheet, a hastily made photo album of the bakery's greatest hits, AND TEN TONS OF BAKED GOODS to our site. Having never done this before and being the sort of person who absolutely HATES looking like she's never done something before, I was pretty nervous about the Load In and Set Up situation. This, however, was cake. CAKE. We were set up SO EARLY. We did have to make two trips - I fussed with tablecloths while Phillip went back for the nine million sheet pans of merchandise - but it was actually totally easy. It is my favorite thing to set a table and decorate and FINALLY WE HAD COME TO THAT PART. 

    My next door neighbors were three burly bearded dudes selling delicate silver jewelry and a local TV news reporter selling candles that looked like slices of pie and root beer floats and dishes of mint chocolate chip ice cream. I was in awe of these [EXTREMELY REAL-LOOKING] candles while also wondering who in the world would BUY these candles. (Lots of people, as it turns out. My bad, local TV news reporter. I bow before you.) Across the street we had a nearby church handing out information about their preschool (this would be the preschool Molly dropped out of at age 3) with lots of sidewalk chalk and jump ropes and kid-friendly stuff, and something called Combat Flip Flops. I was APPALLED when I found out their flip flops were SEVENTY DOLLARS DEAR GOD and then totally, completely, overwhelmingly sold when one of their sales dudes (he was SUCH a dude) came by to buy a brownie and tell me their story. You should really go read their story. I'll wait. 

    Anyway.

    The day amounted to a million frillion "Yes, you can EAT ours!" in response to the million frillion people who saw the candles first (omg, it was like they all thought they were the first one to say something so clever), collecting amusing and sometimes appalling data on how people partake of your free samples, and saying, "The internet!" in response to "Where are you located?" 

    Saturday was the busier day. This was a new street fair in the least cool neighborhood in Seattle (I can say that because I live here) and we had no idea how many people or what kind of people. Although that would have been true of any street fair we did, I suppose. WE KNEW NOTHING. We totally guessed amounts of food. (We guessed perfectly. More on that later.) There were lots of families, lots of Weird Older People (omg, the weird older people), lots of funny people, lots of parents who let their children touch allll the samples (OR THE STUFF FOR SALE WITHOUT BUYING, UGH), lots of friendly folks who wanted to know a little about us, some people who wanted to know a lot, a handful of people who were very interested in ordering cakes in the future, and a few who asked if we "do events". We got one girl today who spent a long time talking to us about different options for her wedding other than cupcakes and this was super exciting because 1) A WEDDING FOR 200 PEOPLE and 2) WE DON'T LIKE CUPCAKES EITHER, YAY!

    My original and main reason for wanting to do the street fair was to get our name out locally. WE LOVE YOU, TWITTER, but we do not want to be shipping boxes of cookies forever. And I feel like we did a good job of that this weekend. I did take a quick walk through the fair and except for a chocolate maker selling truffles (who was SO GREAT TO US, YAY VENDOR CAMARADERIE), we were the only people selling treats and as far as I could tell, we were pretty popular. The second day we got a lot of people saying they'd heard about us, or we had people saying they saw someone eating a whoopie pie and they had to have one too. There was not one single person who tried a sample and made an involuntary grimace, you know? We got SO MANY positive comments and lots of raves. (I can say this because I'm not the baker!) I know these people aren't special foodies and standards are low at a street fair (omg the people buying end-of-day-2 whoopie pies yuck) (I mean, thank you for buying them) but STILL. It felt pretty great. Also great were the number of people-my-parents'-age asking us who we were and how we're doing and capping off our chat by saying, "That's wonderful, good for you guys, good luck!" because I EAT THAT PARENTAL AFFIRMATION UP, PEOPLE.

    Saturday morning I was a huge stress ball. Saturday afternoon I was on my zillionth hour of standing and saying "THESE are edible!" and passing out samples to people who wouldn't buy anything and I was LOOPY. Saturday evening I consolidated our leftovers, repackaged some things, printed new labels (DID I TELL YOU ABOUT THE THUNDERSTORM THAT DRENCHED EVERYTHING HA HA) and basically reworked the plan for Sunday. (Phillip washed dishes, God bless him.) Sunday we thought the fair started at noon until 10:10am when Phillip was looking at the website and said, "Um, I think it started at 10" and we BOOKED IT to the fair to set up. (We live 3 minutes away. So.) We set up in amazing time and people were immediately buying things and I have to admit, the last week, which I haven't written about yet and this blog post is already SO LONG) just floated away and I was all Bakery Bad Ass. And when an elderly gentleman came along inviting us to be in the Everett Food and Gift Show for a discounted rate and blah blah blah I was all YEAH, TOTALLY, WE ARE ROCKING THIS. 

    By Sunday afternoon Katie and I were donnnnnne and had knocked most everything down to one dollar and we were hollering at the teenagers walking by, "HEY, THIS WHOOPIE PIE IS ONLY ONE DOLLAR YOU KNOW YOU WANT IT." It was hot, the food was looking disgusting, it was a LOT slower on Sunday... yeah. But you know what the great thing is about selling food? (The only great thing.) You don't have any left when the fair is over! Or if you do, you give it away to the nice ladies at the church tent. We were practically giving things away the last hour and then, at 5 when the fair was officially over, for real giving things away to our vendor neighbors. Except for three whoopie pies I saved for my kids, we took nothing home. THAT WAS AWESOME. So it took us, like, negative four minutes to take down and load the car. WIN.

    I think it was probably a good fair for our first fair. It wasn't crazy like some of the summer street fairs around here, and mostly regular people strolling about instead of, say, the crush of street urchins at the U District street fair. We sold about two thirds of our stuff on Saturday and opted not to make more for Sunday (because we were exhausted) and good thing, because Sunday was MUCH slower and we probably only sold most of it because we discounted so much. 

    Even with the discounts (and the piles and piles of cookies and brownies we cut up for samples) we came out ahead. Even when I factor in the freezer and sheet pans and other things we will use over and over for other orders and events besides the street fair. If we were just doing it to earn money we did not make NEARLY enough for all the time and effort to feel worth it, but in terms of Trying To Get Other People To Hear About Us? Yes. It's hard to say whether all of that will turn into people actually ordering things, but right now I'm optimistic. Not to mention all the people who assumed we had a store, wondered why we didn't have a store, thought we could TOTALLY have a store, who misunderstood me and thought they could get our stuff from the bakery where we rent the kitchen and they'd buy our scone there, and the president of the North Seattle Chamber of Commerce who gave me some Real Talk about opening a store and how his organization could help. (He was hard for me, since he was completely lacking the Cheery Affirmation Vibe, even though the content of his speech was TOTALLY affirming - do you know what I mean? It was like my volleyball coach saying my serve is great, but COULD be awesome if I did this and this and that but I wasn't sure if I WANTED to do this and this or that and what if I don't have time or how much will it cost omg this is suddenly moving too fast - wait, did I lose my metaphor?) 

    I think I would do this again? This morning I would have said MOST DEFINITELY NOT. This evening looks better? I don't know. We're in talks with the TV news reporter because if we use her referral for the Everett Food and Gift Show we both get $100 off the booth fee and I told her we'd decide in the next day or two and I DON'T KNOOOOOOOOOOOW. See! That is the post I have to write! The post about What If We Keep Doing This AND IT WORKS?

    Maybe before that I have to write the post about how this month nearly did me in. Managing anxiety AND prep for your first street fair kinda sucks. You=so excited for THAT post, I KNOW. 

     

    July 29, 2014

    My always forever answer for the "what's the best thing about blogging" question

    Long long ago I gave a toast at a wedding and it was awful. Awful. I'd stressed about it for weeks, was still writing it while having my hair done, and then when it was finally time to speak, no one understood what I was saying through all the CRYING. I have no memory of what I said, only the crying and the pausing to control the crying and the feeling like an utter FOOL. A few tears during a wedding toast is charming and sweet. Not being able to HEAR the wedding toast for all the SOBBING is just embarrassing. 

    But when Liz and Adam invited all their people to a farewell gathering a week or two ago I was determined, for the first time in my life, to try this toasting thing again. I even had notes, which I'd typed up on my phone for easy access. I had ten years on my previous toasting experience, which is ten years' worth of increased not-caring-what-people-think. Also this gathering would be in a bar, so I would have ample opportunity to liquor myself up. BONUS.

    The farewell gathering at the bar, however, was very loud and very crowded and I would have had to stand on top of the table and shout at the top of my lungs for my toast to be heard and, well, that required a kind of bravery even ten years older and liquid courage could not provide. So I had fun chats with the people sitting near me and then I went home, not even speaking to the host and hostess beyond "hello" and "goodbye". 

    You know where introverted awkward people end up giving thwarted toasts? 

    Ahem. 

    TO LIZ (and Adam, whom we so very much adore, but mostly) TO LIZ, without whom the last six years of my life would be shabbier, duller, and a lot more sober.

    As a blogger, one's dearest wish is to be taken seriously by your corner of the internet, to inspire, to lead, to say fresh and refreshing things, to speak truth, to be KNOWN as a speaker of truth, and ABOVE ALL to MONETIZE. I had hoped, as a blogger, my byline would one day be seen by all the mommies in all the internetland, and that my ad network would reel in for me many hundreds (dozens?) of dollars. I hoped the hope that any woman - frazzled and exhausted, with a baby and an internet connection and an English degree - hoped: to be PAID to WRITE. And for a few years, inexplicably and randomly, I was paid the grand sum of $20 per post for contributing to a Parenting.com blog. This, I felt sure, would propel me up the massive slope that was Internet Rockstardom. LOOK OUT, DOOCE!

    I go to Mass on Sunday mornings - a fact I've never managed to integrate smoothly into my scintillating online musings - and on one of these Sundays, as I was packing up the diaper bag for my one single baby and getting ready to leave, a bright and cheery woman accosted me. 

    "YOU'RE MIGHTY MAGGIE!" 

    "I am?" I said. "I am!" 

    "I READ YOUR BLOG!"

    "You do!" 

    "I RECOGNIZE YOU FROM YOUR PICTURE!"

    "Oh!"

    "I SAID TO MY HUSBAND, OH HERE HE IS, THIS IS ADAM, ADAM THIS IS MIGHTY MAGGIE, I TOLD HIM I THINK WE GO TO THE SAME CHURCH AS YOU AND I WAS RIGHT!"

    I had gathered myself enough to realize I should introduce her to my husband and my one child - "This is my husband -" 

    "OH, I ALREADY KNOW THEIR NAMES! HI JACKSON!"

    (Maybe I am not remembering this exchange accurately, but eh, details.)

    This was Liz. She became my friend. An Internet Friend, a real life friend, the Catholic friend I'd always hoped to have, the local stay at home mom friend I needed, the friend whose kids were the same age as mine, the friend who knew all my other friends, the friend I invited to my sister's wedding because my sister said, and it was true, "Oh sure Liz can come, she's practically family."

    My longtime best friends, the Asian-American ladies I've had since my college days, well, they LIKED Liz (see above: Liz knew all my other friends), but they referred to her as my "white best friend", usually with a tinge of sourness. Of course I delightedly told Liz this, knowing she would enjoy the moniker as much as I did. 

    I had a baby, then she had a baby, then I had a baby, then she had a baby. Then two more. We moved houses. Twice. We got involved in church stuff and regretted getting involved in church stuff. We did Blatherings together - can I just say how crazy special it is to have a Real Life Friend who speaks Internet? We enneagrammed ourselves. And our husbands. Oh, and when our HUSBANDS became friends? That was even better. 

    I had my amazing online community, I had my amazing real life community, and God saw fit to give me Liz as well. Liz really IS a testament to the goodness of God in my life. It was as if the relationships he'd already blessed me with were not enough, as if there were a gap, as if he said to himself one day, "Maggie appears to be lacking in the Wine-Drinking Friend With Whom To Bitch About Twitter And Church Committees Department, let me see what I can do about that!" And lo, Liz appeared after Mass, daring me to deny that was MY picture on Parenting.com.

    I fear I've been a shoddy friend this past year. I decided my small amount of free time would be best put towards opening a questionable business. My disinclination to drive anywhere grew, my aversion to playdates anywhere but your home or mine solidified. Our kids went to different schools. I started going to a different church. I was nowhere to be found these last few months as the this-move-is-actually-happening drama grew large and unwieldy. Had the situation been reversed Liz would have brought me dinner at least three times a week. I wish I had at least shoved a case of wine out of my van as we cruised by her house. 

    Growing up on military bases, your good friends move away every summer. And then when you graduate college, your good friends might leave for new cities and opportunities. But it's been a very long time since a good friend moved away from me and I am out of practice. I have not yet processed what this means. I have not really explained it to my kids. I have mostly decided not to think about it. 

    This is probably not a good plan. 

    TO LIZ. To the time we almost missed our flight to Sacramento. To being the awesome moms in the moms group, back when the moms group was fun. To Twoness. To being my plus one for nearly everything. To the post-committee meeting texts. To bringing dinner out of the blue. To the time we prayed over your bedroom, before Fritz was born, when everything was about to happen. 

    To Chicago, and husbands who are home more than they are away. So thankful. 

    To the best thing I ever got out of blogging. 

    At this point in the toast, know that I am gurgling all my words and no one understands me. It occurs to me that Liz's dad would have an appropriate inappropriate remark to lightheartedly cap things off, so I'll let him end it. He'll whisper it, and add something about an exciting and bright and joyful future that I would be too sad and selfish to add myself. 

    All the best in your new endeavors, Liz and Family. All of us love all of you. 

    July 28, 2014

    Street Fair: Ready Set Go

    Before I left for Edel, Katie and I tried to have a Street Fair Meeting and I say "tried" because we ALWAYS have at least two children underfoot, if not my big kids as well, and also it's not like we're in an office or something. It's HARD to have a focused and productive conversation about ANYTHING, let alone the fact that your baby baking business will have a booth at a street fair in one week and GUESS WHAT WE HAVE NEVER EVER DONE THAT BEFORE. 

    I was nervous on the plane, is what I'm saying. 

    But this morning I dropped the big kids at VBS and MIRACLE OF ALL MIRACLES, Emma and Rosie, my sweet yet terribly temperamental two-year-old niece, played together. Away from us. There is no way I can overemphasize the hell-freezing-over that is Emma and Rosie playing somewhere other than where their mothers are, let alone PLAYING TOGETHER. I MEAN. But Katie and I had been hauling ASS through our street fair agenda and suddenly we were both like - huh? wuh? And we spy EJ and Rosie in Rosie's room, trying on hats and laughing. For the teeniest tiniest second it seemed like we could actually pull this off. 

    Our street fair "menu" consists of things we rarely sell and, in one case (whoopie pies), things we've NEVER sold. And this is because of time and storage and lack of refrigeration at the site and whether we want to individually package things. We are not selling cupcakes because we have Opinions about how cupcakes should look and we can't manage cute cupcakes that are also fresh and soft and not dried out with the amount of time and storage space available. (Hence whoopie pies - cake and frosting, just in a different order!) And we considered selling SLICES of cake, but the difference between selling someone a slice of cake and selling someone a slice of cake with a plastic FORK so they can EAT it is (dum de dum dum) sales tax. WE CANNOT BOTHER WITH SALES TAX. (Also, yes, this is the rule. Baked goods sold with UTENSILS must include tax. Baked goods tossed in a bag and thrown at the customer do not include tax. BEATS ME, INTERNET.)

    So. We are looking at some scones and quickbreads, our sugar cookie rosettes frosted in rainbow colors, whoopie pies, brownies (s'mores and raspberry), and little bags of mini espresso shortbread and almond bars. Not at ALL what we first came up with to sell, not a selection that necessarily speaks to who we are, but we can 1) DO THIS and 2) STORE IT. I'm hoping to have enough time to put a photo album together of the fancier stuff we've done and set it out next to a stack of business cards and some of those foam shapes from JoAnn's frosted like a cake. I have the tent set up on my deck, I'm borrowing some tables, and this week is basically daytime: street fair practice/setup/prep and nighttime: baking. 

    Anyway. I am feeling more confident than I was last week. I mean, I ALWAYS believe we can pull something off, it's the just QUALITY of what we pull off, right? I have no doubt in my mind that we can DO IT, but will it be GOOD? Now I'm feeling like HECK YEAH, this is going to be awesome. 

    Of course my sister, Miss Pessimist, is looking at her list and saying, "We're just going to SIT THERE and watch people just WALK BY". And here I am Miss Eternally And Maybe Occasionally Foolishly Optimistic saying, "But we're the ONLY booth selling SWEETS! We will make a KILLING!" 

    (I mean, if the fair is attended entirely by people with my sort of palate, yes, we will make a killing.) 

    (I just want to break even at this point. We had to buy a FREEZER. It's our first fair! We'll make money at the second one! Maybe!) 

    I mean, I am not wondering how early I can start drinking! This is good! Things feel POSSIBLE!

    This has been the busiest month of my entire life, you guys. Well I don't know, maybe not, but in my own personal recent history, this has been the BUSIEST MONTH and part of me is totally digging it and part of me wants to lay down and sob "uncle". Power through! Power through! 

    The kids are eating lunch and watching some DVRed Ruff Ruffman and I don't have anything I absolutely have to do this second so I might try to pound out an Edel recap over on the Catholic blog. I'll let you know. (And by "recap" I mean "the processing of an event entirely as it pertains to MEEEEE" so, you know, possibly not full of the recappiness you expect of an ACTUAL recap. FYI.)

    July 24, 2014

    Being an anxious and blond small business owner

    This has been a REALLY weird week. And I think we should, in part, blame it on the weather. For two days now it's been pouring like it's November or something and it's VERY disorienting. More disconcerting than the rain is the DARK. It's DARK and I don't LIKE IT. 

    But also this has been a hard MONTH and I am feeling it. I'm not sure if you're allowed to say you've had a hard month if part of your hard month was a week-long expenses-paid cruise to Alaska. Still, it's been a month (more like six weeks) of tough conversations, lots of business decisions, hard work to keep that business going, no routine, and lots of things keeping me and distracting me from things I want to focus on. It's no big shocker that my kids are pretty awesome at Minecraft at this point. 

    AND I'm anxious again. Super! I am disappointed - I was hoping more than I wanted to hope that the supplements I'm taking for the MTHFR mutation were the Magic Cure. Then again, the anxiety I'm experiencing this month is so fantastically different than the anxiety I experienced even two or three years ago, that I can't sit here and say Oh Woe Is Me, Everything Is Back To Horrible. Because it's not. Even the handful of days of spectacularly bad anxiety this month have only been a handful - it used to be weeks upon months of this. But today I feel SO much better than I did yesterday, so much so that when I'm anxious now I have to say to myself, "Self? Don't decide anything today, wait until tomorrow." And it won't be just something I say to keep going, but something that is truthful. Yesterday I wanted to call the nearest quickest easiest doctor and beg for horse tranquilizers. Today I think, "Eh! See how it goes!

    The way my body does this anxiety nonsense is SO much clearer to me now. I feel confident explaining how it works - IN ME. When you're in the middle of it rational thinking kind of disappears and I rely on my people to cheerlead me through it. But today I can look at yesterday and go, "Okay, so this is what was happening: X, Y, Z." And know that if the conditions are right, it can and will happen again, but that those conditions tend to improve and dissipate. 

    It kicked in the night I bleached my hair. That night my hair - and I know this is stupid, but it's true - came to represent the stress of things that happened in the days before. I went to sleep feeling off and uncertain and woke up a few hours later, drenched in fear. It's so chemical! And fueled by circumstance! It's just awful. And the next day I could barely function, knowing that I had to go on a cruise in a few days, I had to pack, I had to take care of my kids, I HAD TO DYE MY HAIR BACK because every time I looked in the mirror I saw shame, guilt, irresponsibility, all sorts of terrible things. Everything except HAIR.

    My friends prayed for me, that all the stuff that wasn't biochemistry would just leave me alone. And also that my biochemistry would start behaving. And it did. But this month has been so crazy that The Conditions are still "right" and there's been a low anxiety buzz in the background for weeks now. It kicked in again yesterday, and I think I know why, but it doesn't really matter, and I can't really control that anyway - what I can control is putting myself in places where managing it is easier. So I've been doing that. I've been a little bit worried about traveling to Austin tomorrow for the Edel Gathering (the gathering of Catholic lady bloggers, and while I am all those things, I have never been in a Just Catholic Lady Blogger setting, eep) but you know what? Today I feel fine about going to Edel. I am armed with sleeping pills, two different herbal remedies for anxiety that don't work but make me feel like I can take something to help, and also roommates who will take care of me if everything goes wrong. Except nothing has ever gone so wrong that I can't hang out with my friends and drink a glass or four of wine. 

    This weekend is Edel. Next weekend is the street fair. The next weekend is the baking of 700 some cookies for our second subscription box mailing. I am OVERWHELMED. Katie is too. This is so so much for two moms of young children who have a million other responsibilities. Today we sketched out what we want to sell at the street fair and the menu is SO different than what I thought we'd do, but the reality of time and storage space and capability and heat etc. compelled us to choose items that would be gentle on our souls, instead of Presenting A Picture Of What We Can Really Do. 

    And this weekend while I'm gone I might send Phillip to Costco with the bakery debit card to buy a chest freezer, of all things, because there's no space in our rental kitchen freezer and not NEARLY enough space in our home freezers and when I started a bakery business this is not something I thought about. 

    OH THE THINGS I SHOULD HAVE THOUGHT ABOUT!

    Not that I am regretting anything. Not at all. I think what we are doing is NUTS and perhaps not good for my mental health or the cleanliness of our houses or having time for absolutely anything else (I MISS MY FRIENDS), but it's also been amazing. I mean, if we were to shut everything down today, it would still be amazing and one of the experiences I'm most proud of. I mean, WE KNOW NOTHING. But we've done THIS. And God knows what our street fair booth is going to look like, but dammit, WE ARE DOING A STREET FAIR BOOTH. 

    Also? I freaking love my blond hair. I just do. It is not natural-looking, it will grow out, it has completely damaged the front chunk of my hair, but I REALLY LIKE IT so there. 

     

    July 21, 2014

    Maggie Cheung's Tips For Cruise Ships

    1. Find a ruler. Now hold this ruler perpendicular to your body, maybe about chest level, and slowly move it around your personal circumference. Mentally deduct two to three inches from the ruler's length and this will give you a rough approximation of how much space you will have in your stateroom shower. In preparation for showering in this space may I recommend some sort of juice cleanse or fast, to shrink your body and add precious room to move in your Shower Closet (TM Lisa). 

    2. Also, if you were to prepare with a juice cleanse or cabbage soup diet or some other suspicious crash diet, the 20 pounds you gain on a cruise could possibly just be a net gain of 10 pounds. Something to think about. 

    3. Also in the shower! (A lot of my tips are shower-related.) There is just a plain fabric drop cloth hanging between you and an absolutely soaked bathroom. Try to position your showerhead so that you don't totally soak your Shower Closet, but more importantly, stuff the edge of your curtain into the little metal ridge running along the wall so that the shower curtain itself doesn't submit to the laws of physics or gravity or thermodynamics or WHATEVER IT IS and attempt to smother you while showering. That is the GROSSEST FEELING, is it not? The Wet And Used-By-Others Shower Curtain Saran-Wrap-Attack? UGH.

    4. Bring a lot of cash. Lots and lots of cash. This is not for shopping in the glorified duty free stores on board the ship or for purchasing any drinks that are not water, coffee, or Unidentifiable "Juice" Drink (these are easily charged to your Sea Pass ID card!) no no no this cash is for TIPPING. Keep it in your suitcase until the very last day when you will spend hours partioning it out into little envelopes for the dozens of waitstaff who prevented your children from erupting into horrid twerpy brats the dining room, thereby enabling your SURVIVAL AT SEA.

    5. Sea bands. OMG SEA BANDS. Curses on all those people who said, "Oh, cruise ships are so BIG! You won't feel it rocking at ALL!" These people are big fat humongous liars. Even people less sensitive than your trusty blogger felt the ship rocking at times, and you know what keeps you from barfing over the edge on a regular basis? SEA BANDS. They are some sort of Weird Alternative Medicine contraption that appear to make no sense, but they 1) won't put you to sleep like Dramamine 2) aren't prescription like that patch you can put behind your ear, but are 3) just ugly. But would you rather wear sweatbands with your formal dress or spend that evening throwing up in your Shower Closet? I'm just saying. 

    6. The cruise ship will make a big stinking deal about their award-winning children's programs, but YOUR children, who love nothing more than Structured Guided Playtimes, will mope their way out of the first Adventure Ocean session mumbling about "boring". AND THEN WHAT DO YOU DO? At your first stop in Juneau you take the Courtesy Shuttle to WalMart and buy packs of cards and board games. And then: 

    7. Find a Nice Quiet Place. There are dozens upon dozens of places to hang out on a cruise ship. This is because your stateroom is the size of your college dorm room (only with a king sized bed AND two bunks AND a Shower Closet) and no one in her right mind will choose to hang out in her stateroom WITH HER CHILDREN. HA HA HA. Plus, if you hang out in your stateroom, how will you hand over your Sea Pass card willy nilly to all the crewmembers happy to charge it for you? HOWEVER. You are sharing this cruise ship with TWO THOUSAND STRANGERS and they, too, are looking for a Nice Quiet Place. (Unless they are childless white folks in their late 40s to early 60s, and then they are Wild and Crazy, hogging the hot tubs and all the beer.) What I'm saying is: you need to find The Place where you and the kids can camp out for a few hours with games and books and iPads, where snacks are readily available. Don't wait until Day 3 or 4 to realize you need this place, Future Cruisers, DO IT IMMEDIATELY. The sooner you find Your Place, the sooner you will begin to ENJOY your cruise rather than wondering what in the HELL you have gotten yourself into for an entire WEEK.

    8. We have now come to the How To Manage Mealtimes section of Cruise Ship Tips. ARE YOU READY? Okay, so for breakfast? (And lunch and dinner.) Your sit down meal will take, on average, two hours. TWOOOOOO HOURRRRRSSSSSSS. Now! Your trustly blogger is the type who thinks civilized people eat their evening meal at 8pm, that it SHOULD be a loungey easygoing time with plenty of wine and dessert. However! CHILDREN WILL NOT AGREE WITH YOU. Thank God you signed up for the First Seating (5:30ish mealtime) because you won't ACTUALLY eat dinner until 6:45. Bring your crayons! The kids' menus from the previous night and the night before! BRING THE IPAD, NO ONE WILL CARE. What is a lovely luxurious Nice Restaurant Dinner experience (every night!) for the adults is near torture for the kids. Even if they are delightful and well behaved kids. Two hours in a restaurant shoved up to a table full of food you don't want to eat is hard for one night let alone SEVEN. 

    8.5 This is where you find out your dinner waiter is made of solid gold and deserves his weight in tips. 

    9. BREAKFAST. We did sit down breakfast once. Because the cafeteria/buffet-style option is SO VERY CROWDED. However! Again! Your kids just want to eat cereal! (Or pancakes loaded with whipped cream and chocolate sauce and chocolate chips - hey, you're on a cruise ship) and both of these options are readily and quickly available in the cafe. DO THIS, even though it's crowded, because you are traveling with a whole bunch of other people and it's been agreed that Sit Down Dinner is your one big gathering time. Save your Sit Downs for Dinner! DO IT! Dinner is where you get your made-of-gold waiter, the one you think is super cute and sweet and kind and charming and friendly and helpful and MAYBE he is the best part of the cruise. Do not waste your sit downs on BREAKFAST!

    10. Lunch! SKIP LUNCH. OMG, people, the eating eating eating. Phillip described the cruise the other day as, "Oh, and then I look at my watch, and it's already time to eat again!" YES. THIS. The last two or three days  of the cruise we realized that a big pancakey breakfast, a light snacky lunch from one of the snack bar type food acquiring areas, and a Sit Down Dinner was the way to go for us. One day we did the Sit Down for each meal, most days we did the buffet for breakfast and lunch and the Sit Down for dinner - our best days were the days we more or less skipped lunch. 

    11. If your kid wears diapers they are not allowed in cruise ship pools. My experience hauling an indignant, confused, and CRUSHINGLY SAD Emma out of the pool - because a crewmember noticed she was wearing a diaper (A SWIM DIAPER) and people who are not potty trained are not allowed in cruise pools - soured at LEAST an entire day of our vacation, maybe more. The rule makes sense to me, but I DID NOT KNOW IT EXISTED and I felt TERRIBLE for HOURS. This was our first afternoon on the ship and I had no idea what to do with us or where to go or WHAT and it was TERRIBLE and I BLAME YOU, ROYAL CARRIBBEAN. (Maybe I should read up on vacations before I take them.)

    12. Don't waste half an hour wondering where the pull down beds in your stateroom are, and fretting over having to ask for a different room - your stateroom attendant, whose entire world revolves around your hallway of rooms, will blithely enter the room and pull the beds down from the CEILING and say, "No worries!" And you will feel stupid!

    13. Speaking of your stateroom attendant: a large chunk of that cash I recommended you bring will go to him. I am not sure what kind of creature the stateroom attendant is. Nocturnal? WIthout need for sunshine? Every single time we left our room we returned to find it in pristine condition - linens straightened, towel animal amusingly propped, our pajamas folded, our toiletries lined up, our things moved to more sensible storage spaces. If you care very much about privacy may I recommend not getting your period on the first day of your cruise? Pro Tip. 

    14. Shore Excursions. I have no tips for these because we did not do them. Ha! Maybe that IS my tip, since I will guarantee we spent less money than those people. I did throw some money down so my middle child could pan for gold in Skagway, Alaska (for three minutes) (with a pre-filled pan) and she enjoyed this, but we found this opportunity without the middle management of the cruise ship and I was with my Bargaining Is Always An Option! SIL so we paid, like, half price. 

    15. I assumed that part of the draw of cruising is the tropical weather... which you don't really get on an ALASKA CRUISE. Those you take for the scenery, yes?! Try to go on your cruise when the scenery is not shrouded in clouds! Pro Tip!

    16. All right, all right, I am a giant pain in the ass about weather and scenery and blah blah NATURE, but the Tracy Arm Fjord? With the glacier that comes down right to the water? I quickly forgave the ship captain for waking me up on my stateroom loudspeaker at 7am, imploring me to "Get up! And enjoy the beautiful view!" I mean

    17. The Cruise Ship Thing the Cheungs As A Whole enjoyed the most was the live music and dancing. The Cheung brothers are a musical pair and their children like to boogie. Quite possibly the best moment of the cruise was watching all the grandkids own the dance floor in their "formal" wear while the nightly easy-listening band crooned Killing Me Softly and Oye Como Va.  

    I suppose those are my thougths on Cruise Ships In General. Tomorrow I may have some Alaska-Specific Tips. And maybe some Grown Up Specific Tips. Like how the dude at the pool bar will pour you a glass of wine TWICE the size of what you get in the restaurants. Pro Tip! 

    July 20, 2014

    Life Fails and other quick thoughts I must dash off so I can think about something else

    I owe you a huge, no really, HUUUUUUGE, cruise review post. And I have a LOT to say. 

    But! Right now! I am feeling so overwhelmed and upset-ish and wondering if there's anything I can do... see, since I started a business

    my hopes for a deck container garden have crashed and burned, as in nearly all the plants are dead or on their way to dead

    my yard is more overgrown and hideous than when we moved in

    the laundry room has become a I Really Need To Throw This Out room

    Emma's room is half kid room, half playroom disaster, half bakery storage (that totally adds up to a whole)

    I never clean my kitchen anymore, beyond doing the dishes, and it NEEDS it, even with professional housecleaning every other week

    I haven't done a single house project and my house NEEDS ME

    It's the yard stuff that's getting to me this week. I came home from the cruise and looked outside into the backyard and with an extremely sinking feeling I realized it's the middle of JULY - another year I don't fix up the yard and make it decent. 

    My excuses in previous years were 1) pregnant 2) immobile baby 3) I planted a garden but the damn raccoons ate all my seedlings AND we redid the deck creating backyard havoc for months. This year it's the bakery. My top priorities are Handing Out Snacks and Keeping A Baby Bakery Business Running. Everything else is TOTALLY COMPLETELY HORRIBLY falling by the wayside. 

    Even seeing my friends. And I am normally extra super good at making time for friends. 

    I just... it's OKAY that my yard is a mess. It is. I am not a bad person for having a disaster yard. I am not even an IRRESPONSIBLE person for having a disaster yard. Or dead plants. Or nothing pretty by my front door. Or only a handful of green beans to show for the $$$ I spent on plants and containers for the deck this summer. Or the fact that I don't feel we have properly USED our outdoor space this summer. THINGS HAVE BEEN BUSY AND I CAN'T DO EVERYTHING RIGHT? RIGHT.

     

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