Update on 30 Days of Giving

Day 1 – Freezer to Girl Scouts

Day 2 – 1 hour at the pool for the littles

Day 3 – Thank you cards to my folks and a friend

Day 4 – Text to Sunday School parents and Sophia backrub

Day 5 – Played board game with Soph, Ros and Jules; took Mer to the midnight showing of Spiderman: Far From Home.

Day 6 – Watched fireworks on youtube with little girls in prep for the Fourth of July (one hated fireworks the past five years, so I’m hoping she can enjoy herself a  bit more this year).

Turtles All the Way Down book review

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

I liked this book tons until the last couple of pages.

It relates a summer in the life of a teen girl with obsessive compulsive disorder and/or anxiety.

I thought Green conveyed dignity for the character suffering from the disorder(s) and did a great job illustrating “for the rest of us” what it may be like for someone suffering with the condition. Both achievements in depicting persons with mental illness are welcome and notable.

The writing was good and I have a vivid sense of the White River in Indianapolis and will remember a bit of it’s history forever. Few words, big impact. Well done, John Green.

My trouble was the last two pages, where there was a huge time warp and a somewhat depressing ending. Apparently I like happy endings and resolution. The protagonist doesn’t outgrow her mental illness, and struggles through her adult years. All this is covered in only a few paragraphs, which skips a lot of stuff I’m interested in (what happened to the lover/husband, the kids?).

Frankly, I think the book will launch more medical interest in developing better medications or cognitive therapies for people suffering from mental illnesses.

For all it’s realism, the resolution segment lacked a certain feel-good quality I prefer.

It’s my first John Green book.

My fifteen-year-old asked if anyone dies. She said someone always dies in a John Green. I told her “No.”

Upon reflection, there was a death, but it wasn’t a main character, more of a plot development.

With more reflection, perhaps John green has stuck to his reputation. While our protagonist doesn’t die physically, I felt great loss as she never-quite-made-it to the life she wanted. Heart-wrenching.

30 Day Giving Challenge

I listened to about half of Cami Walker’s 29 Gifts: How a Month of Giving Can Change Your Life 29 Gifts on Audible this Spring. It was recommended by Jen Sincero in You Are a Badass®: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life.

I estimate that I give a lot regularly, so I haven’t made a study of it. But the idea was coming back.

Day 1: Yesterday I decided to drop the price on an upright freezer I was selling online and get rid of it already! So, when one of my potential buyers asked if I’d be willing to donate it to the Girls Scouts, I said yes. Another buyer came by before the Girl Scouts. They left without buying, saying they’d get back to me.

The freezer was still here when the Girl Scouts Ranger showed up to collect it. I was thrilled: it was my lucky day and I got to start my thirty days off with a gift I couldn’t have imagined!

Day 2: Today I gave my three youngest kids a trip to the swimming pool for an hour. I don’t love the pool (although I do love taking photos of “the littles” poolside), and spending a couple of hours at the pool is all about them.

As I parked the car the thunder rolled into the area and we didn’t even have a chance to get out of the vehicle. It was 86 degrees and sunny. The tears started. The three-year old said “Look at me! These are real tears, Mom! I’m not fake crying!”

We drove home past Burger King, where I tried to soften the blow with ice cream and french fries. I promised to try again after their dad got home from work.

We got there again around 6:00 p.m. We were able to swim for 25 minutes before distant thunder rumbled through again. We were able to play in the sand pit until 7:00 p.m. It was far from perfect, but an hour at the pool today was my second gift.

I’ll put up a short list at the end of the 30 days.



Sophia’s a teenager!

Sophia turned thirteen!

Sophia found a few photos of Tiki cakes and we came up with our own version.

Her dad convinced her to go with funfetti-flavored cake mixes, which we made last Sunday. Six 9 inch layer cakes from three box mixes. Cooled, leveled and into the freezer Sunday night. Freezing preserves them, crumbs are brushed off without the possibility tearing the sponge, and during assembly the icing sets up fast between cold cake layers.

Wednesday I made easy homemade fondant and two batches of buttercream frosting I assembled four layers but Soph wanted five, so on went another layer. With a light crumb coat, I was out of frosting! It was nearly 10:00 p.m. and we loaded the cake in the fridge and went to bed.

Thursday we whipped up another batch of buttercream, a batch of rice crispy treats for the Tiki base, dyed, rolled, wrapped, and painted fondant. We put everything in place and finally we were done!

Happy birthday, and the best year yet, my Texas darling!

Sophia at her second birthday!
Sophia turned seven!
Sophia turned thirteen!

Columbus Temple Road Trip

Saturday we drove to Columbus, Ohio from the Pittsburgh area for a temple trip. Quite a few folks from our congregation also traveled there, in their own private vehicles.

A three-and-a-half-hour drive with seven children is not for the faint of heart. Making that trip twice in one day? You’ve got to have nerves of steel.

Apparently we have.

Case in point:

Friday morning Liv asked, “Does Dad still have my temple recommend?” Josh always keeps the kids’ paperwork in his wallet for safekeeping. Except I find out he doesn’t have it.

Then, after school, Mer said, “My recommend expired last month.”


Getting into a Mormon temple without a paper recommend is like trying to break into Fort Knox. Without gold bullion as motive, of course.

Years ago, in Boulder Colorado, mom and I had to explain the philosophy behind our high security temples to the husband of our Ayurvedic doctor. He said he had gone to Hindu and Muslim temples all over the world as a welcome guest, and yet, when He tried to gain admittance to a Mormon temple, he was denied entrance. What gives?

Well, yeah, Latter-Day Saint temples are only accessible if you’re a card-wielding, baptized-and-confirmed adherent of the faith.

Mer and Liv knew their recommend problems threw a major monkey wrench in our plans. With twelve hours remaining to resolve the problem, Josh started texting our Bishop to try and get interviews set up.

Bishop G obliged.

All four age-eligible kids and their Dad got up Saturday morning before dawn and head over to Bishop G’s house to answer a series of questions (about their faith in Jesus Christ, etc) to get those recommends renewed. 7:00 a.m. appointments Saturday morning. He-Man and Soph went along to get them done at the same time, since Soph’s recommend was set to expire next week, and why not get everyone in at once?

Paper recommends in hand, they returned home. We ate and gathered Hunter, Ros and Jules, and loaded in the van.

He-Man did the driving on the way there. Liv was scheduled to drive back. Nothing like hours of highway driving to prep for a driver’s test. . .

My review of the riding in the back seat of a 2015 Ford Transit: it’s for the birds kids.

Josh helped out inside the temple with the big kids and I helped outside. The younger ones and their church friends were occupied in a nearby building with a few toys, Disney movies projected onto a wall, and plenty of snacks provided by H.K. A handful of we adults made sure the younger set took turns fairly on the highly prized indoor slide.

After a screening of Robin Hood and half of The Aristocats, the big kids were done! We were ready to hit the road again. H.K. invited invited to join the K. family for barbeque near a Tesla charging station they like to use. There was a delay because H.K. was still babysitting small children while their parents attended the temple. But I couldn’t remember the last time we were invited to join anyone as a family, so we took him up on his offer. Yay!

We headed to the supermarket to buy a few things while we waited. Soph turns 13 in less than a week and I wanted to get supplies for her birthday cake. We bought three cake mixes and headed over to City Barbeque in Grove City.

Juliette fell asleep in the van, and when I carried her in and set her down in a chair, her eyelids didn’t even flutter. She just rested her arms on the tabletop, dropped her head on her arms, and slept away.

Josh ordered the “Motherload” to feed our family of 9 and we had meat and sides leftover.

My review of City Barbecue: best bbq I’ve had since leaving Texas. Totally amazing food and ambience with attitude. Check it out.

The place was busy, but we were able to scooch two tables together when the K. family joined us.

Great friends, great food, what could be better?

Well, Juliette could have slept a little longer.

She woke up in a strange place and wasn’t happy about it. Everybody heard her wailing. No fries, nor mac n cheese, nor soda would soothe her, so I took her out to the van where her cries faded to whimpers. She was soon playing happily in the driver’s seat.

A few minutes later we all were back inside the restaurant and finished a great meal.

Leaving City Barbeque, Liv and I sat up front so she could get practice driving on highways. Highway driving is straight and flat, without stop lights or stop signs. “It’s a piece of cake,” I told her.

She pulled onto a highway under construction, with concrete barriers at the side and traffic merging from every direction.


She nailed the complications and we were soon on the kind of highway I had described. I loved the front seat, with a reclining back and shock absorbers under my ride. After a few hours, I got sleepy and couldn’t be a good co-pilot. Josh and I switched places at a rest stop after dark. I fell asleep in the back of the van.

About an hour later I was rousing in the back when red, white, and blue lights began flashing behind us. Josh advised Liv to pull over to the side of the road to allow the police car to pass.

The whirling police lights followed our van to the side of the road and parked behind us.


An officer approached Liv’s window. She said our tail-lights weren’t on. Josh told Liv to turn the left knob controlling the lights to automatic and the officer stepped to the rear of our van to check that they were working. As soon as the window rolled up, everyone started talking at once.

“I thought the lights were always on.”

“They’re supposed to be on automatic.”

“I didn’t even know you could turn off  just the tail-lights.”

“I didn’t know they were off.”

“You couldn’t know, the headlights and dashboard lights are on”

“Why would the knob be moved?”



“Mom, did you let Juliette play with the controls while we were in the restaurant?”


The officer returned with good news and asked to see IDs. Liv handed over her permit and Josh, his license. She returned the documents and instructed Liv again on the importance of turning on her headlights at night.

I’m proud of how Liv handled this first getting-pulled-over interaction with police. She didn’t blame her deficiency on her little sister, just assured the officer she’d be careful in the future.

For the record, this is going down in my book as the incident Juliette built. I really had nothing to do with it.

And I’ve got to hand it to her: for a three-year-old, she can create quite a story.


Handmade Boy Scout Patrol Flag

In the Boy Scouts of America, each patrol needs it’s own name and flag. My current scouts agreed on the name Snow Leopard Patrol and weren’t very interested in designing a flag to suit the name.

Which left all creative power in my hands. . . mwahahaha! (That’s an evil sewing genius laugh, in case you couldn’t tell.)

Let’s start with images and legal basics.

When looking for an image online, you are legally constrained by copyright. Most images are copyrighted and you can’t replicate them, even in another medium, without obtaining permission from the copyright owner. Obtaining permission isn’t always difficult, but there are expenses that individuals and studios need to recoup, so obtaining permission isn’t guaranteed. Free clip art isn’t always copyright-free, so check carefully.

I found this little gem at  which clearly stated, “This nice snow leopard clip art is free to use on your personal or commercial projects. This clip art is perfect for use on your school projects, animal projects, magazines, reference books, websites, etc. This clip art belongs to the public domain so use it freely on any project that you desire without restrictions.” Bingo!0322181648a

How to re-produce an image on fabric:

You can print your public domain image in reverse or tape your printing up to the window backwards, but you want your fusible product to be traced in reverse, or mirror-image.

I used paper-backed fusible web (WonderUnder) to trace the image with pencil. An external window makes a great lightbox for this purpose. I taped the image and my paper-backed fusible paper (paper side up) to the window. Rough cut around your tracings; do not cut them out precisely until they’ve been fused to your fabric.


Iron the fusible web to the wrong side of your fabric, following manufactures directions for heat and time. Now cut out precisely along your tracing lines and pull paper backing off. Iron the image to the background fabric, right sides of both showing.

For this flag, I layered multiple fabrics to create more depth and texture. I traced the entire back out in one piece, then the cheek and jawline piece. Next came the grey nose and I topped off with near-black pieces. I chose 100% cotton batiks and tone-on-tone fabrics to give a natural appearance to my snow leopard. I skipped a few spots so I could finish before these scouts move onto the next patrol!


I finished the edges with a zip-zag stitch on my machine with about a .25 left-right allowance and a .1 stitch length. I lengthened these measurements when I finished the rock-like landscape. You can see the difference in the stitch appearance. Always practice on scrap fabric to determine the left-right allowance and stitch lengths you prefer before applying them to your finished product.

I’ll install 3 silver grommets along the left side for hanging. Fabric loops would work as well, but I prefer the clean look of grommets. They’re commonly found at the top of shower curtains and not hard to apply.

I’d love to post pictures of patrol flags you’ve made or seen. Send them my way and they’ll be added to the collection!

PFMC Music Club Opus One

One of our highlights each month is attending a local Pennsylvania Federation of Music Clubs chapter in our area, Opus One.

The attendees are current piano teachers, singers, professors, and music enthusiasts. We attended when I homeschooled all my children four years ago and Hunter immediately requested a return when he began homeschooling this year.

The source of his enthusiasm remains a mystery.0312181054

Besides the treats, we have concert-quality performances and great lectures or audio-visual presentations. Each year the club determines a course of study. We’ve enjoyed live ballet performances set to Russian classical pieces, watched clips of Broadway musicals, and learned about the spiritual lives of great composers.

This month we learned about Ludwig van Beethoven and were treated to at least four live performances during a fabulous PowerPoint presentation.

Naturally the little girls struggle to keep still and quiet, but I’ve found this venue welcoming and understanding of their learning process. I take them out into the hall when necessary, but have never felt anything but a warm welcome when we’ve attended. I’m so grateful!

For more information on Opus One, see this news article

I recommend seeking out a music club in your area. It’s great for anyone with a love of music.


Visiting Dad’s Office

As I drove Hunter to school for band lessons Rosalyn announced her sudden, urgent need to use the potty. Never mind that I asked her about using the restroom before we left the house.

Josh’s workplace is only a few minutes away from the elementary school, so I got Hunter into his school and raced over to the office.

The little girls were a big hit at work.

After a loud trip to the ladies room where I had to give instructions on the locking of stall doors, describe the varied hand soap options available, and the girls were rewarded with suckers, I suggested we visit their dad’s actual office.

We climbed the steps to the second story and I took a few photos. Yes, Josh joined the littles in rewarding himself a sucker.0312181149

I love this wall hanging quilt I made for Josh a few years ago. I made it in a week and kept it a surprise from him until Father’s Day.

I forget about it, having only had it completed at home for a day before it made it’s way to his office wall. It was about time to get a snapshot!0312181149a

Snow Day

It was to be my busiest day of the week: 3 visiting teaching appointments in the morning, run the baritone to the music shop over the lunch hour, the local library’s homeschool activity at 2:00 p.m., Garden Club at the elementary school at 3:15 p.m., Financial Aid lessons at the high school at 6:00 p.m. and then volunteer with the Boy Scouts at church at 7:00 p.m.

Instead, it was a perfect snowday!

I got up occasionally, but kept returning to bed until nearly noon. The kids played happily together and separately, watched some television, and satisfied themselves with cold cereal all morning.

The snow fell softly, insulating us from the usual pressures of the outer world. I lay quietly listening to the laughter and chatter, deeply contented by their presence and love for each other.

In the afternoon I began tidying up the house and moved furniture around. Juliette loved her new tiny house.0321181551

It’s on it’s way to the firepit.

I made Greek chicken and pitas for dinner. Juliette helped set the table.


Tonight Josh and I headed to the store for a few necessities.  The roads were clear and tomorrow we’ll return to our usual busy lives.

Tonight I’m so grateful for the break, and the peace of this early Spring snowday.


Baritone Bell Bash

Note to self: “fine musical instrument” means “extremely delicate musical instrument.”

Last week the two-year-old dropped something into the nine-year-old’s baritone. Hunter and his dad looked for the item from the wide end, but couldn’t see anything or shake anything out. Josh declared nothing was in there.

Hunter went to sectional practice yesterday and his teacher agreed something was in it, but she couldn’t get it out. She gave Hunter a loaner baritone to get through his lesson.

He pulled out his horn today and told me something was still in it. I started calculating which day I can go to the music rental shop this week.

Next thing I know, Hunter shows me this:0320181433a

He said he had no idea what happened, but his face told a different story. Eventually he told me a more accurate version of the truth. He was tapping the bell on the floor to get the object out. Then his sister ran into him and he fell on the instrument.

It looks like a cabbage leaf!

I have no idea what the expenses will be, but I’m pretty sure I’ll be crying after we visit the music shop tomorrow.

It’s past time for the kids to switch from band to chorus.