Still Learning. And Perspective. And Other Stuff. And maybe Earworms. And Coffee. Aren’t You Happy You Stopped By?

23 May 2014 | 7 Comments

Most of you have been hanging out with me for eons.  This is a straight catch-up, brain dump.  You’ve been warned.  Also, I feel like maybe, one of these days I will have it all together and then I am reminded that no, I probably won’t, and I should totally practice what I preach instead.  Be the best of who you are and let the rest go.  No, that doesn’t mean let everything else go to hell, or be lazy or quit trying or anything like that, for you read-into-everything-ers in the bunch.  I mean, mentally let it go and put your energy into something more productive.

I should know this lesson already because my two year old sings Let It Go approximately 47 times a day.  It is indelibly on my brain.  You have to be the world’s luckiest blog readers.  You get an earworm!  You get an earworm!  You get an earworm!  Everybody gets an earworm!  Elsa and Anna 4-lyfe.  What!  What! 

When something bothers me, my first inclination is to "right" whatever injustice has occurred.  This is multiplied by oh, ten million, when it concerns either of my children.

First, I want to fix it.  Then, I want to write about it. 

Because there are things that I won't write about in this space, I sometimes have to just shut up.  I'm learning to do that, because I know this is going to shock you, but I wasn't born with the shut up gene. I was born with the shout it from the rooftop gene until the world's ills, real or implied, are cured.  Plus, shutting up is excruciating for me. 

Sometimes the bullhorn is effective, but not always.  I'm learning, at thirty-eight, that there are also ‘quietly put right behind closed doors’ meetings that can remedy a situation just as well.  Who knew?

It's a hard lesson.  One that I needed desperately to learn.  Which is probably why I keep getting myself in situations where I’m forced to learn the same lesson over and over again until one day, it clicks.  I’ve been upset and preoccupied and this morning I woke up and BAM… Perspective. 

In fun-ner news, we’re spending the long weekend doing things that are all OH. My. God.  Becky.  Look at her butt.  She’s like one of those rap guy’s girlfriends.  Summer is almost here and it’s a long weekend and the weather is crazy beautiful!  Cedar Point and Flower Days at the Farmer’s Market await. 

I’ve told myself that before we’re doing anything fun, I need to get through the mound of crazy burying my desk and clean our room since my suitcase is still sitting in the middle of our bedroom floor from three weeks ago.  It was funny when Dave was tripping over it, but now I’ve done it twice myself.  I always tell Tate that she can’t do anything until she cleans up her crazy two year old toy messes, so I’m imposing the same rule on myself.

It’s harder when you’re the grown up and you know that you can totally pull the airplane chute, pop a beer tab, and say see ya later, Suckas!  Except, I don’t drink beer out of cans, so I’d probably have to go searching for a bottle opener, but you get the point.

Coffee and cleaning our room, it is. 

What awesomeness do you have planned for this weekend?

The Mother-In-Law Clean.

20 May 2014 | 8 Comments

I am a maniac when my mother-in-law comes over to our house.  Certifiable.

Sue, you should probably stop reading now.

Regardless if it’s planned or an unexpected visit, three minutes before, you’ll find me running through the house with a vacuum.  Usually, I’m simultaneously hurrying the kids along to pick up whatever mess they’re currently concocting and yelling for Dave to please grab a broom.  This is usually followed by an entertained look from him, possibly followed by an eye roll because he knows his mother, but he grabs the broom anyway. 

Sue didn’t raise a fool.

She really doesn’t care what our house looks like on a Wednesday at four in the afternoon.  Not even a little bit.  My brain knows this.  My brain also knows that my own mother cares WAY more than my mother-in-law does. If Janet walked in to a spotless house, she’d walk right back out and ask where her real daughter is being held captive… then, probably tell Clean Michelle to stay instead.

You hear that, Dave?  It’s YOU who should be caring about a mother-in-law clean.

It’s me, though.  I care.  It’s as if the house being clean is going to make her think, “Well, I’m certainly glad he picked a girl who can keep the house clean!  What a good great choice for a wife to my beloved son and such a pretty mother of my grandchildren!  Have you tasted this pot roast?  It’s delicious.” 

When the house is a disaster, in my head, she knowingly glances at Dave with raised eyebrows while stepping over Legos and spit-fixing Finn’s wild, too-long hair and slowly shakes her head in disbelief.  “There are toys from one end of the house to the other, isn’t she home all day?  That’s what happens when you marry a mouthy Democrat who talks to her imaginary friends on the internet for a living.” 

Stop smiling, those imaginary friends… that would be you.

The reality is, when she calls to say she’s stopping over unexpectedly and hears me start the launch sequence of DEFCON MOTHER-IN-LAW, she tells Dave, “Tell Michelle not to worry about it!  I don’t care!” 

But, I do.  Now, be a dear and run outside and cut some lilacs for the table.

Am I the only one that does the mother-in-law clean?


13 May 2014 | 3 Comments

Before now, I really took our relationship for granted.  We’ve been friends for so long, but I’ve started to… well, I have feelings for you.

I mean, I know.  I know your friends think I’m clingy.  It’s like I can’t control how much I love you.  And no matter how hard I try, I can’t stop humming our song.  I’m trying not to stifle our love affair, I swear.  I just want you touching me, near me, holding me tight.

It sounds so cliché, but I just want to soak you up. 

I’ve never felt this way.  And even though, it’s been a long, hard few months, my love, I’m willing to look past all of that.  I can’t even talk about January, but you know, you already know.  Please promise me that will never happen again.  I don’t think I could take it, Sunshine.

My only Sunshine. 

You make me happy. 

You, and all 82 degrees of you.

You are my sunshine

Am I the only one having a love affair with the thought of summer?

Outside Kind of Girl.

12 May 2014 | 7 Comments

Outdoorsy.  Nature lover.  Frolicking in the great outdoors.

If someone were to describe me, these phrases wouldn’t ever be a first choice. 

No ma’am.  I was never an outside kind of girl.  You wouldn’t catch me camping, sleeping under the stars, or just communing with nature for the fun of it.  Or hiking.  Or canoeing for fun, playing in the dirt, climbing trees, or really, anything super nature-y.  

I was the brainy, bookish girl over there in the corner.

So you can imagine that I have no idea where she gets this…

010 019

Ever since she could walk, the second she was outside, she’d grab a leaf or run her hands through the mulch.  Every moment of every day, she wants to be outside.  Digging in the dirt, carrying a stick, laying in the grass, and jumping in puddles, it’s her jam.

Outside kind of girl.


07 May 2014 | 7 Comments

I stopped writing in my journal when I started dating Dave.  What I mean by this is not that I stopped my journal, but that I stopped writing altogether because that was all of the writing I was doing at that point in my life.  I thought that maybe, just maybe, the creativity piece of me was on hiatus.  It takes a bit of a fire, though that sounds so cliché to me, to fuel my creativity. 

It pains me to admit this, but I sort of thought, maybe it was Dave.  That sounds terrible to say out loud.  Just know, I wondered it. 

The relationship before him was tumultuous at best and the person I believed to be the great unrequited love of my life at worst.  I can say that now and laugh because it is amazing what perspective and life brings to the equation.  There was angst and emotion and the very moment I met this person there was this fuel.  I wrote tomes that I thought were inspired by him, but really were inspired by the storm he brought to my life.

Dave was calm.  Even keeled.  I was happy.

There was no magnum opus or tear stained journal pages.

I began to wonder if he was the anti-muse, he and his stupid happiness.  Would that piece of me just go?  Do happy people write?  I didn’t know the answer to that, but I was pretty sure the answer was no.  The words didn’t come for me.  There weren’t the torrent of feelings there, the dramatic mood swings, the life contemplations, the angst to push them from my brain onto the paper, there was just one feeling. 


He was unruffled through every attempt to take him on this roller coaster of emotion that I thought I needed.  And he probably thought I was a little crazy.

I found this space six and a half years ago.  And the writing, it came, the creativity did too.  I was as surprised as you might be that someone was going to pay me to do this.  This happens in real life?  I thought maybe that I had found my muse in the form of these little punks that he and I created together.

Except, I don’t know that is really true. 

This Dave of mine?  Last week, he moved mountains to put me on an airplane for five days while he handled everything at home seamlessly.  He did it so I could be in the room with the likes of Jenny Lawson, Mel Culbertson, Fadra Nally, Miranda Wicker, Liz Henry, Casey Carey-Brown, Kate Canterbury, Jana Anthoine, Stephanie McCratic, Kelly Wickham, Kristina Grum, and Heather King

Last year, it was Dave who was the least surprised that a post I wrote resonated with so many people.  It was he, who told me how proud he was that I was nominated for another BlogHer Voices of the Year when I cried {again} seeing my name on the list after getting off the plane. 

I see him urging me to shine, pushing me out of my comfort zone.  I hear him saying that I can do this, I need to do this, I can write for a living.  He inspires me and challenges me and some days, he believes in me more than I believe in myself.

When I came home and told him that I didn’t realize just HOW much I needed Mom 2.0, he squeezed my hand and said, “I know.”  And I believe that he did.

If that isn’t a muse?  I don’t know what is.

Harry Potter Birthday Party

01 May 2014 | 11 Comments

My newly turned seven year old is a hands-on party planner.  Each year, we sit down together and think of ideas for what he wants to do.  I think that is why I love planning his parties so much, he challenges me to figure out how to make his crazy ideas work.  We have been reading the Harry Potter books at our house.  Finn and I started over Christmas break, I read the Sorcerer’s Stone aloud to him.  The second Potter book, The Chamber of Secrets, we’re almost through, alternating me reading aloud and him reading it to himself.  The rule we have in place is, you read the book before you can watch the movie, so he’s only watched the first movie and a lot of the party has those elements.  I’m not going to lie, it did my heart proud when he told me that he liked the book much better than the movie.  We focused mainly on the lighter, more kid-friendly, newly discovered wizardry coolness rather than Voldemort creepiness for this party, though, my sisters are trying to convince us to do another one for Halloween.

And by ‘convince’ I really mean, it’s already decided in my head that we need to do another party soon!

Hogwarts Express Ticket Invitations

I created these Hogwarts Express-inspired tickets telling his friends to come to platform 9 3/4 for the party and packaged them in silver shimmery envelopes that I found on clearance at Target a couple years ago.  I used the Birmingham and Magic School fonts downloaded from and the fancy antique frame from Graphic’s Fairy and printed them on 110-lb cardstock at home.  I added an official looking, faux Hogwarts seal to the ticket and sent them out.  I only wish I had thought to order the USPS Harry Potter stamps in advance! 

Hogwarts Ticket Birthday Invitation

Harry Potter Birthday 019 Hogwarts Ticket Invitation

Potter Party Décor

I told Dave that I wanted to paint a faux brick wall across our French doors for the kids to walk through, just like you find at Platform 9 3/4 in the Harry Potter books.  After that, he ran with it and I was relegated to helper when he asked.  He did a tutorial that I will post next week, he’s not super crafty so he claims if he can do it, you definitely can too.  Needless to say, it was a BIG hit with the kids, they ran through it a ton.  I told Dave after the fact, that I wish we had thought to iron something on to the back where we cut it, to stiffen the fabric even more so the bricks would stay straight.  It held up beautifully regardless, and we can definitely reuse it for future parties.

Harry Potter Party Train Platform

Harry Potter Brick Wall Harry Potter Party

I decided at eleven pm, the night before the party, that we HAD to do the envelopes flying out of the fireplace.  Harry’s acceptance letter arrives from Hogwarts and his muggle {non-magic} aunt and uncle try unsuccessfully to hide it from him, until the owl post drops tons of letters that arrive in spectacular fashion down the chimney and out the fireplace.  I used 110 lb cardstock, cut to 5x7, and printed the address {from the RPF forum} on each.  Then, I printed the Hogwarts seal on round stickers to attach to clear fishing line that my incredibly patient husband taped from the ceiling to the fireplace.  It was my favorite part, there were letters flying everywhere. 

Harry Potter Envelopes in Fireplace.

Harry Potter Envelope Harry Potter Envelopes out of Fireplace

The dining room was our ‘Great Hall’ and the table was set in fancy Hogwarts finery.  We had Hedwig in her cage on the dessert table.  We had a ‘dragon egg’ at each place setting {though I was reminded by Finn that dragon eggs are NOT sparkly} along with a golden snitch made with a Ferrero Rocher candy and wings I cut out of vellum sitting atop a ‘house cup’.   We had flying keys {velum wings glued to metal keys I found at Michael’s in the bin section} hanging from the chandelier.  I printed the Hogwarts crest, cut it out, and attached it to a black felt banner and draped it over the painting that lives in our dining room, then had the house colors in plain felt banners hanging next to it.  The centerpiece was a few books from the series, tons of potion bottles, battery operated candles, Horcrux items like the Ravenclaw diadem and other things like Dumbledore’s pocket watch and Hermione’s Time Turner. 

Harry Potter Dragon Egg Mini chocolate frog 


Harry Potter Centerpiece Flying Keys

Hogwarts Crest Harry Potter Potion Bottles

Harry Potter Favors + Activities

There are some ingenious ideas I saw with the sorting hat, like sticking a baby monitor into it and having the hat ‘announce’ the house as the child puts it on their heads.  I also found some adorable ideas about dividing kids up by house and using house points throughout the party.  We skipped the hat, he had just a small group of friends {seven, one for each year} and the kids weren’t super familiar with the story, so the House sorting wasn’t really important to us this time.  Instead, we incorporated a little sorting in the form of plastic rings with the house crest on them, I put a little card in the pillow box that had the sorting hat rhymes from the first year sorting at Hogwarts.  {Did you know that the sorting hat sang a different song each year?}

Sorting Hat Rings

My sister Lyndsey and I made wands using a mixture of techniques and suggestions found online.  I’ll have a tutorial for you next week on just how we did them, each one was different and the kids LOVED them.  We made ours a little colorful, even if the ‘real’ Potter wands aren’t, and packaged them up in kraft wrapping paper that had gold stars on it.  I printed Ollivander stickers {from RPF} on full sheet label paper and cut them out.  Then I used Union Jack washi tape and some black and white baker’s twine to close up the packages.  The kids’ favorite part was letting the “wand choose the wizard” and unwrapping to see which they’d end up with.

Harry Potter Wands Harry Potter Party 014

Ollivander's Wand Packaging

After they unpackaged their wands, we played “Stupefy” Tag.  We yelled, “Stupefy!” and they had to freeze in place as if stunned.  If they had their wands up or pointing at someone while frozen, they could, “Ennervate!” their friends, who in turn, could “Ennervate!” everyone else.  They loved this game and we could have played it for an hour, but they needed a little juice box refresher before moving on to classes.

Please note these are definitely outside classes where they could make a big mess and we could just hose it off… I wouldn’t attempt either in the house.

First, was Herbology class where they got to scoop Dragon Dung {potting soil} and plant Mandrake {zucchini} seeds or Devil’s Snare {black beans} in a little cup to take home.

Harry Potter Party 329 

Then, on to Potions class!  We started with a quick chat about safety of not going near anything until we gave the OK that it was safe to do so.  We bought dry ice at the grocery and Dave did some experiments and {very carefully} used metal tongs to add it to potions to make them fog.  We also added a little Dawn and food coloring to some warm water to make a spectacular bubbly mess, then we let them stick their wands into the bubbles which popped in spectacular fogging action.  Then, we let them add the food color of their choice to some baking powder and pour vinegar into it to make their own foaming potion that went everywhere.  They refilled the vinegar several times until they were sure that all of the baking soda was gone and there were lots of squeals and shouts and wand waving.  

Harry Potter Potions Class

Harry Potter Food + Sweets

So, one of the ideas that Finn wouldn’t budge on was the ‘feast’ we were going to have for lunch.  He wanted roasted chicken because that is what they eat at the start of term banquet.  Despite my protests that maybe roasted chicken might not be the most child friendly idea, we went with it and added some strawberries and carrot sticks. 

Since Finn hasn’t read about Honeyduke’s Sweet Shop yet, he just wanted have the sweets from the tea cart on the Hogwarts Express.  We did Bertie Bott’s {box pattern RPF} Every Flavor Beans, mini Chocolate Frogs, cupcakes, Pumpkin Juice, Butterbeer, and of course, the mis-spelled, HAPPEE BIRTHDAE cake, that Hagrid brings to Harry… the one he made and likely sat on.  The Every Flavor Beans that we sent home were color changing Starburst beans only in the good flavors.  My friend Stephanie made these gorgeous Harry Potter-inspired cookies that included Harry’s glasses, scarf, house ties, golden snitch, Hedwig, sorting hats, & quidditch brooms.  I LOVED them.

Harry Potter Party Desserts

Harry Potter Cookies Harry Potter Every Flavor Beans

Harry Potter Birthday Cake

Butterbeer 024 Mini chocolate frog

There *might* have been a slight incident when mid-birthday singing, his little sister blew out his birthday candles on his behalf and we had to pause to re-light them.

Harry Potter Party Relight

At the end of lunch and cupcakes, we had them do a challenge with the Bertie Bott’s.  The flavors were totally gross and crazy, things like ear wax, dirt, and soap were at the top of the disgusting list.  If they tried one, they earned a bag of gold coins from Gringott’s, the Goblin run, Wizard bank.  The girls all randomly chose good flavors and the boys wanted to go around a few more times to try all the gross ones.  One of Finn’s buddies didn’t even spit them out!  I made the little bags by ironing they Gringott’s logo onto little muslin bags I picked up at Michael’s.  I ordered the gold coins from Amazon.

Harry Potter Every Flavor Challenge Gringott's Bag

Want a TON more Harry Potter Party ideas?  Follow my Harry Potter Pinterest Board!.

Harry Potter Birthday Party

I would like to say a special thank you to the amazingly talented peeps at the RPF Harry Potter forum.  Many of the printables I used were created by these unbelievable artists who do it for the love of Harry Potter and put them out free to other forum members to use and enjoy. 

Sources {all Amazon items are affiliate links}:

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