Sunday, December 21, 2014

Cake 4 Kids

This 17 yr. old girl requested "cheerleader brownies" instead of a cake.  When I googled it..."cheerleader brownies" are "pot brownies."  Hmmm...I'm as drug-free as a person gets.  So I found some cheerleader themed cupcake papers and pics that looked like megaphones to use as decoration.  Three different varieties of brownie, because she didn't specify and "brownie" has a lot of options!  It's hard to pipe lettering on a non-smooth surface.  
The past year, I had a goal of baking once per month for the charity Cake4Kids.  I can't get the link to work. so just go to  While I skipped a couple of months, I did some other charity baking to make it all even out so I feel successful in reaching my goal. Here are some of the results (not necessarily all my favorite success stories, but the photos that I could locate quickest).

Apple cake with real caramel topping.  I free-handed the logo.  

These cupcakes were the only submission that earned me a "thank you" and report back from the social worker.  She said the 7 yr. old boy was thrilled with his requested LEGO cupcakes, carrot cake just like he asked.  

First time doing fondant.  I love it, but don't have the KitchenAid to help me make it on a regular basis.  No, I am not going to try hand-kneading the stickiest mixture on earth (marshmallows and Crisco).  I'd add a nice big eye for the middle "Mike Wyzowski" (sp?) layer if I were to do this cake again.  

top view through the cake box plastic looks cool.  :)  Like a nightmarish sunflower.  :)

An "emergency cake" i.e. the night before delivery was due, the other baker got sick and I accepted the last-minute role to fill-in.  So I wish I'd had time to pick up a soccer form pan from the cake library.  It's harder to free-hand soccer pattern than I first thought.  Pretty much everything about cake decorating is harder than I thought.  

This one was for my visiting teachee's kids, not the usual Cake4kids foster/homeless recipient.  Her twins were turning 2 and I begged her to let me do the cake.  She said, "the only word they know how to say is DOGGIE, so they'd love a cake having something to do with a dog."  And I love how this one turned out.  Very cute!  

This has been a very rewarding hobby. However, it has also make my family eat 10 times more baked goods than we otherwise would have consumed, because I tend to always bake a little extra, or do a "practice cake" if trying a new technique, etc. So I think I'll be taking a bit less cake decorating projects for the year 2015. Maybe try for every-other-month?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

homeschool musings

Christmas cards/letters are not happening this year, mainly because we moved this past September and I'm still reeling. Do we ever have a year when we do NOT move?? We are all still adjusting and truthfully I've been battling some depression/anxiety flare-up. It doesn't seem to matter how many times we move, I'll always feel overwhelmed about having to get new doctors, dentists, shopping places, schools, congregations, friends, favorite parks, libraries, etc. So I've noticed this past move went better for a month or so, because we kept strong ties to Santa Clara. I kept driving an hour each way to take Mr. Lo to school out there, because we'd already paid tuition for the term and loved the school so much. But now that we no longer go back to our old neighborhood on a regular basis, I've started to feel the reality of the move sink in. Ugh.
My kids with two of the "joy school" classmates on my day to teach
Lo Lo did FOUR different schools in 2014. We did a homeschool "joy school" type of co op January through May, followed by Wilson Parent Participation Preschool in the Fall. Also, I did concurrent enrollment in Ocean Grove Charter Homeschool (OGCS) this Fall. He's considered Transitional Kindergarten in this state and could have attended 5 days/week in a regular elementary school TK classroom. Then, after our move, we enrolled him in another parent co op preschool (I'll forego specifics on the name for security reasons, because he is currently attending). I am in a total quandry about what to do for school next year. I need to decide soon... Homeschool is great because we have a lot of support (i.e. funding) through OGCS. And I love that he could move at his own pace, with the benefit of one-on-one instruction. But, lately I've been so overwhelmed with just the basics of life like dishes, laundry and meal prep, I have a hard time picturing how I could manage to direct my son in any type of educational pursuit. Jerry is a lot better at getting our son to be excited about reading/writing/rithmetic. He is young still, I know, but I want him to move along and learn if he's ready--and sometimes it seems that the group momentum in a classroom setting really helps him stay motivated to keep working and learning with joy. He is the most extroverted person I have ever met. So I wonder if I could fulfill his HUGE quota of social need in a homeschool setting. There are not many homeschool co ops in our area where we could hang out with other kids his age.
All my siblings, their spouses, kids and my parents--the whole family in one place!  It will probably be years before that happens again...
Last month we traveled to Boise for my brother's wedding. Which brings me to another benefit of homeschooling--freedom of schedule. I would love to be able to plan trips, doctor appointments, etc. without any consideration for my children missing class. In fact, the trips would often turn into enhancement of their curriculum! It's such a wonderful concept. I love the idea of homeschooling. Just not sure if I'm the capable sort of person who could handle doing it. *sigh* Oh, and one more thought on homeschooling: most of the homeschooled kids I've encountered have been amazing. In a noticeable, shining light sort of way, they stand out from the crowd. I don't have statistics on that sort of subjective observation, but I cannot deny the impression I've received that homeschooling can bring out a child's glorious potential in ways that herd-style public education cannot. I'm a product of public school. I turned out "fine," graduated from college, had only a few years of being bullied/friendless, and mostly loved my teachers and classes. I think my kids would be "fine" in public school. Probably. But they likely would have some special benefits from homeschooling. I hope I can do it. Being prayerful and hopeful.
We visited Chinatown and Lo Lo started speaking Chinese because all the kids there did not understand English.  Behold the power of positive peer pressure...maybe I need to find him another good Chinese bilingual school...

Friday, October 24, 2014

Is a smile too much to ask?

My kids are very smiley. But after two different sessions for family Christmas card photos, we ended up with nary a toothy grin. I'll forego posting the Christmas card photo just yet, but suffice to say baby Ro looks like one of those pioneer photos--somber and starving. And Lo looks like somebody told him to smile but he didn't want to. Oh, wait, that isn't just "what he looks like," that's reality. All I wanted was a few cheesy happy faces--why are they so much easier to capture on the fly? Observe:
The photography studio was playing Tom & Jerry in the waiting area. I eventually asked for a change of video, because MAN that show is violent--but I wish I had filmed Mr. Lo's reaction before we switched to Dora the Explorer. He was watching the cat and mouse antics with all the energy of a crowd at a championship game. He leaped off his seat, cheering, screaming in delight, giggling and crowing with abandon. Everybody in the waiting room was watching HIM instead of watching the show. :) I think it was his first time to be exposed to "old style" 2D animation. There is something extra entertaining about the classic stretch effects, slap comedy, exaggeration, etc. that makes me convinced 3D animation will never quite replace 2D. Anyway, of course all Mr. Lo's smiles faded the instant we left the waiting room and got our photos taken. :/

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Let the Blogging Resume!

Baby Ro's morning hair and Lo's "American Symbols" wall for homeschool (he can tell you all about Mount Rushmore and the Star Spangled Banner)
We went about a year using limited internet, so now that we just got "regular" internet, I'll probably start blogging again with some regularity. Yay! Not sure how to handle the backlogged photos and news. I'll start by just giving a semi-recent photo of each kid and brief update on what's new with them.
Her favorite ride at Happy Hollow
Baby Ro is not so much a baby anymore, though people often guess she's younger than her real age of nearly two. She's short and has a big head (aka cute) and makes us laugh all the time with her efforts to communicate. She usually talks in sentences that contain a 2-5 words with good enough pronunciation that strangers often know what she's saying. She talks herself to sleep at night, which I know from listening on the baby monitor--very amusing to hear her chatter on to herself about her friends, what she did that day, etc. She's a stationary sort of girl, loving to sit and watch her brother at gymnastics, sit at the library storytime, sit in the grocery shopping cart, sit in the stroller, sit and color, sit and read, sit and...think? She pens the most elaborate drawings, even starting to do a classic circle with a cross in the middle (a developmental stage of drawing). She is naturally conscientious about putting the cap back on the marker when she is done using it. She has a tender heart and if she sees someone crying attempts to give them a hug or toy, etc. to cheer them up. Her favorite song is "I am a Child of God," which she sings! Her singing is so adorable! It sounds something like, "God...Child...Ahhh..." and she repeats those words a bunch in a melodious manner. :) The first words out of her mouth each morning are something along the lines of "Daddy awake? Ge Ge awake?" (Ge Ge means "older brother" in Chinese). She is old enough now to have some good playtime with her brother each day.
Since we don't have a yard, we have a liberal indoor play policy. 
That Lo is still as intense as ever. He has activities every day, from preschool to gymnastics to swim class. However, we are also homeschooling him through Ocean Grove Charter, because he could have done transitional kindergarten this year since he turns 5 in a month. At his preschool, which is the parent-participation type, I am always proud to respond when people ask, "which child is yours?" He is a noticeable child in the classroom, in a good way. He is enthusiastic, confident, and a good friend. By the second week of class, I had multiple parents approaching me to say, "Your son plays so cute with my child--when can we set up a playdate?" Besides his social development, I delight in noticing his mind growing and expanding. His view on the world is original and thoughtful (as is the case with all people I suppose?). Recently he was fighting off a cold and told me, "There are lots of germs in my belly. But I'm KILLING them with water! Because water is some kind of medicine." :) He listens to the Book of Mormon stories which Jerry put onto an old phone for him (Lo uses it like an MP3 player). He takes it with him to the park, in the car, etc. and knows the stories so well now, he corrects his parents sometimes on the order of scriptural accounts, like the fact that the king-men rise up before the Army of Helaman, and THEN comes the Pahoran/Moroni exchange. He sings church songs to himself at random times--while falling asleep at night, while in the car, etc. which always melts my heart. The songs I hear him sing most often are "Our Father has a Family, It's me...It's you..." (what is the real name of that song?) And "Army of Helaman."

This was actually a whole year ago at gymnastics.  I don't have an updated photo.  But he's still at The Little Gym, learning the same basics skills.

I am overall feeling at peace about how our family is doing, though I am prayerful and concerned about the effects of our moving so much and having limited outdoor play opportunity. I am thankful the Lord has given our children healthy development and so many natural talents that help them succeed through the challenges of life.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Mother's Day

I need to record this one tidbit of a memory, because it epitomizes what being a mother means to me right now. Lo told me before church on Mother's Day, in a generous, polite tone of voice: "You can dress me today, Mom." (I raised my eyebrows--whatever happened to mom getting a break on Mother's Day??) He elaborated: "Usually I dress myself, but today is a special day! It is Mother's Day! So you get to dress me!" He honestly thought he was doing me a favor. Putting socks on floppy kid feet has got to be one of my least favorite chores of the day. But I had to smile at the innocence and truly good intentions of my sweet son. I thanked him for the opportunity to dress him, and have to say it was satisfying to dress someone who stood relatively still during the process. Little Miss Ro generally runs like the wind while I try to button her clothes on. I expect a lot out of my 4-yr-old because of having his younger sister around. But they are both so young! I forget sometimes how much Lo Lo does not yet understand, until he says comments like he did this past Mother's Day.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Insomniac musings: work; hiking; ironic deaths

This "low data allotment/no photos" bit is killing off my blogging desire almost completely. I am watching my baby on the video monitor right now. She is talking cutely in her sleep, "Dada," while laying face down in her crib. I am awake after trying to go to bed early last night (7:30pm) following which, Jerry came home from work sometime around midnight and inadvertently woke me up. I tried to fall back asleep for a whole hour. Finally I got up and unloaded the dishwasher, studied the scriptures, and am now currently wasting time online. There is something about the husband working 80-ish hours per week that unsettles the whole household. It is almost like he is out of town, gone, except worse. Did I mention he averaged 80 hours/week for more than the month of January, even having to work a whole month of weekends. Then, he started a different client the second week of February which is a longer commute but slightly better hours. Trade-offs. And yet, despite the unpleasantness of his work hours, I have felt mostly content. Now and then I freak out and have a (minor?) breakdown but overall am feeling happy. Perspective matters. Yesterday a few friends (three other moms and our collective 10 kids) went on a "hike." It was the sort of trail that readily accepts bikes and strollers. We had glorious, spring-time weather--even summery--and I don't know what everyone elsewhere in the nation has been saying about a cold winter?? It has never been winter for one single moment here in the Bay Area. Yes I am gloating. Though I missed having snow for about 2 seconds on Christmas morning. We saw lots of cool wildlife on our hike including: a coyote (50 yds away); several hawks (30 yards away on the ground, one of them, and it was picking at a kill in its talons); plentiful butterflies (even a bright blue one!); and baby goats. Okay, the latter wasn't wildlife per se but we had lunch at a farm and there were all kinds of cute animals there. Baby Ro is totally an animal person. She was fussing for the majority of the hike (teething? has a cold? uncomfortable jeans? I don't know???) but at the farmyard, she brightened right up and kept pointing, laughing, etc. at the chickens and pigs especially. The pigs were just laying motionless, so I'm not sure why she loved them so. But I'm glad she likes animals, because Liam as never had any particular interest in them except for dinosaurs and I need at least one of our kids to be an animal person with me. We have a tank of fish. At first, it was beautiful. Then one of the goldfish, the hulking 4 inch long giant bully of the bunch, tried eating the catfish. I say "tried," because he only got the poor baby catfish halfway down his gullet before it got stuck in transit. He had a catfish tail poking perpetually out his mouth. The fish looked absolutely disgusting, swimming pathetically with ever slower pace as he gradually starved himself to death due to his gluttony. After a few days of watching him, agonizing over what I should do, Liam and I finally released him into the pond near our home where I hoped he would be quickly eaten and put out of his misery. Liam asked me, "Why are you being mean to the goldfish? Now he will be cold in the pond." I tried explaining the dilemma and principle of my kindness, being that a quicker death might be more merciful to the goldfish than a slow starvation in our tank at home. This is why we have pets. It raises all kinds of great topics to discuss with innocent children. Ugh. Sort of wishing we could have a dog or something less brainless than a goldfish.